If you've been a sentient being at some point since 2008, it is pretty much impossible to not have crossed paths with the Marvel Cinematic Universe at some point in your audiovisual life. I've never been a massive fan of comic books, aside from a stint in the mid-nineties when I collected them from a store in Westboro Ottawa, but Marvel have been doing a great job of pulling in the skeptics. While I've never connected with the films (I've seen bits of pieces of the Iron Mans, fell asleep in Avengers, have no idea why Thor even exists or what accent Hemsworth is trying to do, but loved Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy), I've fallen hard for the franchises Netflix output. Jessica Jones got me hooked, more for its noir pedigree than its superhero stuff, and now I'm popping episodes of Daredevil like its Advil and I'm 33 and hungover (which, incidentally, I might just be). The world-building is truly something phenomenal, and while it is certainly dark and excessively violent, there is something very soft at the center of the show. I'm now on the second season, and four episodes in it is looking amazing. Oh and Jon Bernthal as The Punisher is one of the best bits of casting on TV in about a decade.
Given that I essentially consume all my "TV" culture through Netflix, BBC iPlayer and YouTube at this point, I've decided to go on a subscription binge, to make sure my feed includes something more substantial that Buzzfeed "Old People Try Pepsi From Japan" videos and Jimmy Kimmel pranks. One channel I've recently started following is the excellent Nerdwriter. Created and run by Evan Puschak, The Nerdwriter is a weekly web series that aims to cultivate worldview. Puschak, a former film student, covers a wide variety of topics through the prism of pop culture, from The Diderot Effect to Free Will and Reddit to Kintsugi. His series “Understanding Art” takes deep dives into specific cultural artifacts, my favourites being the ones that have to do with films.
Whether you get it through Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music or any other of the hundreds of platforms, music discovery is something we all do with various degrees of passivity or activity. In comes Radioooo, with its silly name and fun interface. The premise is easy: select a country, select a decade and start enjoying some hitherto unknown tunes. There's something about it that reminds me of using Encarta '95. A sort of limited guided exploration that we've lost with the web and its endless rabbit holes.
Eye In The Sky
Ostensibly about a single drone strike in Kenya involving Al Shabab militants, this film is actually a very important look at the wider state of contemporary warfare. Featuring chinless bureaucrats and politicians (who wouldn't be out of place on The Thick of It), bellicose and detached military brass, plenty of collateral damage in distant countries, it forces a long hard look at the way war is waged. I'm not sure how much of it is factually accurate, in terms of both the technology and the legal nitpicking that goes on in order to estimate how many kids are OK as collateral damage, but even if that accuracy is 45% (a number you'll understand the significance of if you want it) it is still a terrifying insight into the events behind the column inches in The Guardian that we try to make sense of. It is solidly acted, with the always brilliant Helen Mirren at its heartless core and the sorely missed Alan Rickman bringing a rickmanesque quality to proceedings.