Bald Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange
Tilda Swinton is often sillily revered as more than human, but have you seen her hair? The shapeshifting coif is dramatic in its minimalism, and entirely unassuming. We’ve taken the coif for granted. Here is Tilda, our parrot with a tortoise in her driveway. Here is Tilda, making our wishes come true by teaming with Bowie. Here is Tilda, looking like an alien. All of it with perfect hair, all of it just for us, never changing, always there.
And now here is Tilda as The Ancient One in a Marvel movie, Doctor Strange. Here is Tilda bald, supposedly stripped of her hair-given power. And yet she remains powerful, so powerful that she’s punched Benedict Cumberbatch from within Benedict Cumberbatch. Her baldness has not encumbered her; it may have even done the opposite. Her hair, all this time, may have been some kind of plaster, wrapping up and dampening her powers like Cyclops’ rad red shades. And now she is unleashed.
Bald Tilda Swinton is The Ancient One, and the world may never be the same. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor
Mitski’s “Your Best American Girl” video
Mitski has had my attention ever since the first time I heard “Townie,” from her 2014 album Bury Me at Makeout Creek; it starts out as a catchy punk song about a self-destructive night and transforms itself into a declaration of radical self-determination. “Your Best American Girl” (from her upcoming, gloriously titled Puberty 2) is another statement of purpose and another Mitski jam that’s about a thousand times smarter than it strictly needs to be. As Jillian Mapes wrote about the track at Pitchfork, “Like many real-life instances of self-empowerment, this is not the ‘go girl’ triumph of pop anthems, but rather a fraught conclusion reached after weeks, months, years of reflection.” That thought process is echoed in the way Mitski’s guitar slowly asserts itself, pushing a tentative ballad into the realm of rock ‘n’ roll assault. The newly released video adds yet another arresting layer, drawing out her lyrics about trying to become some white, all-American boy’s dream girl — and then rejecting that ideal and embracing her Japanese upbringing — by putting her face-to-face with a couple straight out of an Urban Outfitters catalogue. Spoiler: Mitski wins. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief
Suspicion on Blu-ray
The lovely souls over at Warner Archives have been doing God’s work with their Blu-ray upgrades of classics from Alfred Hitchcock’s middle (and many say best) period, following up their recent releases of The Wrong Man and I Confess with this terrific thriller from 1941. It marked Hitch’s first collaboration with star Cary Grant, dynamite as a lout and leech and perhaps also, his wife (Joan Fontaine, excellent) begins to suspect, a killer. The screenplay (credited to three writers, including Hitchock’s wife Alma) hops nimbly from boy-meets-girl to domestic comedy/drama to wildly theatrical thriller, and rarely steps wrong – at least, until the famously compromised ending, which still doesn’t satisfy. That complaint aside, Suspicion is a real treat, and it’s fun to watch Grant challenge the parameters of the romantic leading man. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor
CNN’s Race to the White House
Sure, this election season is bonkers, but most presidential elections have been pretty boring, right? CNN’s Race to the White House shows that our national vote has actually been the backdrop for real-life dramas rivaling House of Cards — or even Game of Thrones. The six-part documentary series answers some fascinating questions: How did George H.W. Bush, with an approval rating of 89% after the Gulf War, lose to a no-name Southern governor hounded by scandals? How did John Quincy Adams win the presidency in 1824 with 15 fewer electoral votes than Andrew Jackson? How did Harry Truman, an “accidental” president down 17 points in August, come back to beat the beloved governor of New York? Commentary from actual candidates like Wesley Clark and Howard Dean, along with clever re-enactments, make this series compelling TV for history buffs, political junkies, or anyone who thinks American politics couldn’t get any weirder. — Jason Ginsburg, Social Media Editor
Sasheer Zamata on This American Life
The SNL cast member recorded a segment on Sunday’s episode of This American Life, “It’ll Make Sense When You’re Older.” It starts with a clip of Zamata’s standup act, a joke that she often tells about how her mother hates white people. Through these standup clips, her narration, and recorded conversations with her mother, Zamata attempts to reconcile her experience growing up black with the experiences of her mother and grandmother.
The conversations with her mother are particularly compelling: Zamata tells us that her mother never told her very much about her childhood, about what it was like for her to be the only black girl in her class at school. Her mother describes how she had darker skin than her siblings, and that her own mother treated her differently as a result; she reveals her long-simmering resentment at her mother for making her go to school with white kids. The whole segment is fascinating, touching, and funny, a window onto one family’s relationship with race and how we either inherit or reject our parents’ hangups. — Lara Zarum, Contributor, TV
If you have friends or acquaintances involved in theatre, you will inevitably be invited to staged or un-staged readings of their in-the-works plays. And you will likely, even if you’re a theatre fanatic, dread the experience. The very nature of readings seems meant to induce sleep (actors detached from one another by their books, no sets or lighting cues to hold your attention), which would be fine, if not for the fact that you have to scrounge for something to say to said friend or acquaintance afterwards.
But last night, I was lucky enough not to have been too misanthropic to attend an acquaintance’s not-so-staged reading (no blocking, really), and was reminded more of what can be so powerful about simply being read a story (granted that the story is powerful) by a large group of people, who’re presumably coming into it without much more preparation than the audience, and likewise learning about it in front of you. It can be an overwhelmingly awesome, intimate experience of a playwright’s ideas, and can feel more complete and stirring than the mere “exercise” it’s often considered to be. It sounds obvious, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone express that they’re going to attend a reading without it being steeped in disdain; next time I’m asked to go to one, I’ll make sure I don’t. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor
The Adventure Zone
Look. I’m a nerd, but I’m not that big a nerd. I know this because I never crossed the ultimate retro-nerd threshold; I’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons. To be fair, I’ve played plenty of role-playing video games that are basically the same thing, but I’ve never done that.
And now I kind of wish I had, thanks to podcasts I’ve been listening to recently where comedians or other, generally witty people, make oddly compelling radio by simply playing D&D on mic. My favorite, The Adventure Zone, features three McElroy brothers — Justin, Travis, Griffin — and their father Clint getting together for funny bi-weekly adventures. The McElroys, who are already “podcast-famous” for their comedy advice show “My Brother, My Brother, and Me,” manage to find equilibrium between making up worlds and mining them for laughs. — Michael Epstein, Editorial Apprentice