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What's Making Us Happy: A Guide For Your Weekend Watching, Listening And Reading

Maya Hawke as Heather in<em> Fear Street Part 1: 1994.</em>
Maya Hawke as Heather in Fear Street Part 1: 1994.

This was a big week for sports, as the Milwaukee Bucks claimed their first NBA title in 50 years (Fear The Deer!) and a little overseas athletic competition got underway in Tokyo. It was a big week for Kanye West, who went from "dropping hints" to "dropping a new album" in the span of just a few days. And it was a big week for remembering — thanks to this newly expanded three-minute trailer — that Denis Villeneuve's Dune remake is finally, actually, literally going to be released in just three more months. But until then, here's what's making us happy this week:

What to watch

Fear Street trilogy, Netflix

I love horror, but I came into the Fear Street trilogy with no expectations. I think that really helped because it exceeded my expectations. There were lots of twists and things that I didn't expect because I wasn't trying to figure it out. I was just watching it, enjoying it for what it was. It's three movies set in different time periods with one narrative that they bring to a conclusion. They didn't have to do a lot with it, but I feel like they did elevate it. They have a gay romance between two teenage girls that anchors the trilogy. Whereas a lot of these movies can be very obviously not feminist, this team did the opposite of that and took the story into a more modern age and I really enjoyed them. – Ayesha Rascoe

Miraculous: Tales Of Ladybug & Cat Noir, Netflix

This is a French cartoon (dubbed in English) in which a pair of Parisian teenagers named Marinette and Adrien live double lives as superheroes. (Their identities are so secret, each doesn't know about the other; Marinette has a hopeless crush on Adrien, while Cat Noir has a hopeless crush on Ladybug. Watching them remain unaware requires a Herculean suspension of disbelief, but bear with me.) It's very fun, very silly, very bright and colorful and ridiculous, with a supervillain — who is, dun dun dun, Adrien's own father! I can tell you it's fun for the whole family because it's been so fun for mine; Netflix just dropped two new hour-long specials in which they take the show on the road, leaving Paris for New York City and Shanghai. They're slick but slight, which is... Miraculous in a nutshell, when you come right down to it. – Stephen Thompson

What to listen to

"Just a Friend" by Biz Markie
Rapper Biz Markie died last week — and what a loss that was. He brought such joy and oddness to his music in ways that were really transformative for the music that followed him. His 1989 hit "Just a Friend," managed to mix playful storytelling with a singsongy vibe and these choruses in which he sang very, very out of tune. He helped usher in and popularize the vulnerability of terrible singing in ways that gave him a longer shelf-life than you might have expected. – Stephen Thompson

Remembering Gift of Gab, Bullseye from WNYC

Rapper Gift of Gab died in June at 50. He was half of a duo called Blackalicious, and one of the most purely talented rappers ever. There was a wonderful tribute to Gift of Gab on Bullseye with Jesse Thorn. Gift of Gab was a hero of Jesse's and he talks about it more thoroughly than I will here. One of my favorite songs of the 21st century is a Blackalicious song from 2002 called "Make You Feel That Way." There's so much joy and perspective in that song. Ever since Gift of Gab died, I've tried to go back and revisit that song without getting emotional. It's still really hard to do. – Stephen Thompson

What to read

The Committed, Viet Thanh Nguyen
The pandemic really did a number on my reading abilities, making it hard for me to get through books. But I've been trying to get through The Committed, which is Viet Thanh Nguyen's sequel to his Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, The Sympathizer, that came out a few years ago. It's about a communist spy who in the first book was undercover in American, and now he's in France.

It's a really smart political thriller that's also a novel of ideas. The protagonist gets involved with gangsters in some of the immigrant neighborhoods in France, but he also has a lot of smart and incisive things to say about colonialism and the nature of violence. His voice is one of my favorites that I've read in a book lately. – Marc Rivers

There's more where this came from! Five days a week, Pop Culture Happy Hour serves you recommendations and commentary on the buzziest movies, TV, music, books, videogames and more. Subscribe here >>

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Marc Rivers
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
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