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Among those who know me, my general ambivalence with regard to music is well-documented. It’s not that I don’t like music, it’s that I don’t have the same kind of connection to it that so many of my fellow creatively inclined types do. But there are exceptions, certain artists and eras that have worked their way past my general indifference and into my heart.

One such artist is David Byrne. From his early days with Talking Heads to his robust and varied solo career, I’ve always felt an affinity for Byrne’s work, a connection to his music and message – appropriate, really, considering the omnipresence of the idea of connection throughout his work.

That’s a big reason why I was so excited to check out “American Utopia” – currently streaming on HBO MAX – a filmed version of the stage show of the same name that Byrne launched just over a year ago. Another big reason is the fact that this concert film would be directed by none other than Spike Lee, another artist I admire – one who also digs deep into the idea of connection in his work, albeit from a different perspective than Byrne. Obviously, with two creative powerhouses like Byrne and Lee teaming up, this was going to be good.

Still, I was not prepared for just HOW good.

Published in Style

For many people, some of their most beloved memories are of amusement parks and the rides available there. Whether we’re talking about Disney World or the local carnival or anything in between, there’s a joy that comes from the combination of fun and fear that springs from a well-made ride.

But if the ride ISN’T well-made? Well, that’s where legends are born.

“Class Action Park,” a documentary by Chris Charles Scott and Seth Porges currently streaming on HBO Max, tells the story of Action Park, a notoriously wild and unsafe amusement park that operated in New Jersey from the late 1970s into the mid-90s. The film explores the park’s origins and the unsupervised dangers that turned it into both THE summer destination for New Jersey teens and the subject of numerous lawsuits for injuries and even death.

Combining (frankly terrifying) archival footage with interviews with those who worked at and/or enjoyed Action Park during its heyday, the film – narrated by John Hodgman – paints a vivid and occasionally shocking portrait of what happens when you allow hordes of teenagers to run rampant on a collection of poorly-engineered rides with inexperienced employees and zero accountability.

Published in Adventure

The American immigrant experience has been a subject of some truly great art over the years. Incredible books and films have spring from the exploration of what it means for people to come to this country in pursuit of a better life, as well as what happens in the course of that pursuit.

But to my knowledge, none have ever told that story through the lens of accidental pickle preservation. Until now.

“An American Pickle,” currently streaming on HBO Max, is a comedy that brings the early 20th century immigrant experience into the present day … by dropping someone into a pickle barrel for a hundred years. Yes, it’s as absurd as it sounds, broad and weird and a lot of fun.

Starring Seth Rogen as both a turn-of-the-century immigrant and a modern-day Brooklyn app developer, the film mines big laughs out of its bizarre premise (though it perhaps doesn’t dig as it deep as it could). It’s a twist on the classic fish out of water trope, giving us a look at our current world through the eyes of the past.

Published in Movies
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