What's making us happy: A guide to your weekend reading, listening and viewing
Here's what the NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.
During the pandemic, I revisited my love for video games. I like playing online with other people, though – I get scared when playing alone and a character goes inside a house. So I came back to this little-known indie game called Fortnite. I got interested because my nephew plays it, so I started playing with him. But he destroys me.
The game is a third-person shooter in which you can also build houses and jump around places. It's a lot of fun, but I could never quite get the building aspect down. Though recently, in one of the new updates, the developers of the game got rid of that aspect, so there is now a "no build" mode. I've been playing with other adult friends who also don't like building, and Uncle Ronald is killing it in this universe. If you want to find me I'm @ohitsbigron. I'll play with you. — Ronald Young, Jr.
BTS album, Proof
BTS, my favorite group in the world, just released an album, Proof. It's an anthology that has three different CDs with both older songs and new songs that they made before their recent hiatus. It really is a journey of their music throughout the nine years that they've been together. Their new single, "Yet to Come," is a beautiful homage to that history, and to the next chapter. — Laura Sirikul
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
I am in love with Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, which came out just this week. It is such a beautiful film about a woman's sexual awakening, and it goes against Hollywood's ageism — how women are perceived regarding their sexual needs.
It's great to see Emma Thompson in the lead role. Her character really opens up to who she is, and her sexual desires. With Daryl McCormack playing Leo Grande, the sex worker she hires, this body-positive film felt like a play, and I really loved it. — Laura Sirikul
Shape Up by Leikeli47
This is the time of year when every music publication starts assessing the best albums of the year, and 2022 has been enormously fruitful. Right now, I am in love with Shape Up by rapper Leikeli47, which is one of the best albums so far. She put out a couple of great records a few years back that were part of a trilogy of albums about beauty. It's been four years since the last one came out, and Shape Up completes that trilogy.
It's a remarkably bold, catchy, dark, and kind of strange record, while having so much verve, life, energy, and grit (my favorite song on it is "BITM"). At NPR Music we put together a listening party for the album, and Leikeli47 has a fascinating conversation with Sidney Madden, co-host of NPR podcast Louder Than a Riot. Leikeli47 is such a striking presence, and she's great live. But we don't know her real name. She's always masked — she's been wearing masks before we had to. — Stephen Thompson
More recommendations from NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter
Here's a couple of first-performance-after-Tony-night-curtain-call Broadway moments that will make you whole week better: The cast of A Strange Loop, which won Best New Musical, and the cast of The Music Man, which brought on understudy Max Clayton when star Hugh Jackman tested positive for COVID.
STAND OUT: An LGBTQ+ Celebration is a 96-minute Netflix special capturing a packed night of stand-up comedy hosted by Billy Eichner, assisted by Bob the Drag Queen. Featuring 26(!) performers means each one gets only around four minutes of stage time, so the sets are tight and if you don't find yourself vibing with one comedian, hang in there a bit and a new one will trot out who's likely more your thing. It's a feast of smart, funny comedy, so gorge yourself: Mae Martin, Margaret Cho, Trixie Mattel, Joel Kim Booster, Sam Jay, Tig Notaro, Scott Thompson (as Buddy Cole), Gina Yashere, Matteo Lane, Eddie Izzard, Patti Harrison, hilarious-friend-of-Pop Culture Happy Hour Guy Branum, Solomon Georgio, Judy Gold, Wanda Sykes, Sandra Bernhard and more. (Too many favorites to pick, but Marsha Warfield's set is a thing of fierce, savage beauty.)
People I respect have been talking up the bird-identifying app Merlin for a while now, but I'm not a birder, so I merely noted this information in passing. Then I heard the app has added a feature where you don't have to faff around with identifying markings or coloring (to people with my kind of color-blindness, most birds classify as "Sort Of Mostly Brown-ish I Guess," which is not taxonomically helpful). No – you just hold up your dang phone and record the bird in question's song, and zap: That there's a wood thrush, baby! It's Bird Shazam, and it's spectacular. Also, somehow, vaguely disquieting.
I didn't much care for Spiderhead, the new Netflix movie based on George Saunders' 2010 short story about a prison in which inmates volunteer to test various psychoactive drugs. The movie is overwrought, overdetermined, tonally muddled and reaches for emotions it can't grasp, but the story? The story is lean, propulsive and darkly funny, a marvel of precision and economy, and you can read it on the New Yorker website. Warning: If you do read the story and then, against my explicit advice, you choose to watch the movie anyway, it will just make you angry, and mystified at how the film's creators could so wholly and profoundly Not Get It.
Oh, and: @billdancestonpr. Pretty great. Still hasn't gotten around to the theme from Pop Culture Happy Hour, but still, you know: Pretty great. — Glen Weldon
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