Manchester by the Sea
The National Board of Review just named Kenneth Lonergan’s new film the best of the year, and it’s not hard to see why. Manchester by the Sea is a stunning feat, a movie about grief that deftly steers clear of melodrama. A terrific Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, who works as a janitor for a housing complex in the suburbs of Boston who’s called back home to Manchester, Massachusetts to take care of his teenaged nephew when his brother dies.
Manchester by the Sea packs a mighty emotional punch without sacrificing humor; Lucas Hedges in particular is excellent as Lee’s nephew, Patrick, who alternates between anger, nonchalance, and unspeakable sadness. Seemingly inconsequential details compound to give the film a worn-in texture, like when a pair of EMTs struggle to push a gurney onto the back of an ambulance, or when Lee’s nephew stops for ice-cream after attending his father’s funeral. The film takes its time explaining what happened to make Lee so stilted and emotionally shuttered; when it’s revealed about a third of the way through, it colors everything we’ve seen before. Do yourself a favor and see this incredibly nuanced, thoughtful film — and bring tissues. — Lara Zarum, TV Editor
Hrag Vartanian / Hyperallergic
The Hyperallergic podcast from Standing Rock
Hrag Vartanian, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic, just released the first podcast in a series about the violation of human rights at Standing Rock. (For anyone completely out of the loop, Standing Rock is an Indian reservation, and the protests taking place target the Dakota Access Pipeline, which threatens the reservation’s water supply.) The first episode features interviews with artists, nearly all of them Native American, revealing how they’re using their practices to contribute to the protest efforts and how protest art changes when the only audience is the oppressor itself and not a city full of witnesses. Vartanian promises extended chats with some of these artists in future episodes. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor
The Sorcery! moniker originally belonged to a series of four gamebooks — beefed up Choose-Your-Own-Adventures, basically — from the 1980s. I adored the series as a kid, and thus I was delighted to see that they’d been re-imagined as mobile apps by Inkle, the forward-thinking studio also responsible for 80 Days. The fourth book was only released a few weeks back, and it’s a suitably grand finale. Inkle’s approach to the books has made for a fascinating progression — the first two were relatively linear, basically recreating the gamebook experience on screen, but the third and fourth have been open-world type affairs, where you can backtrack, revisit areas, and retry puzzles and challenges. (No spoilers, but the narrative devices the writers use to facilitate this are inventive and clever, too.) Text-based games have been rebranded in the 21st century as “interactive fiction,” and this series is truly deserving of that label — it’s a fascinating exercise in using technology to find new ways to tell stories. — Tom Hawking, Editor-in-Chief
I finally watched Sing Street, John Carney’s sweet film about adolescence, music and romance (with a capital and small R) in 1980s Dublin. A boy starts a band to impress a girl; a kind of musical and social liberation, on a small but important scale, follows. This film — while imperfect — has real heart, instead of sentimentality. It made me wistful for being a teenager, which I almost never am, because those years’ occasional bouts of fun and frolic were padded by endless self-doubt and misery. So how did Sing Street awaken my almost unreachable nostalgia? It achieved this by refusing to glamorize teenagedom — it’s honest about the awkwardness and blindness of the age — while at the same time reminding us what it’s like to still care, still believe, and be just crazy enough to try to make your dreams come true. — Sarah Seltzer, Deputy Editor