Andrew White (Managing Editor) recommends: Sense8 on Netflix
How many times have you received a text or request from a friend to recommend a Netflix show to them? Whenever it happens to me, I always panic—do they want something funny? serious? a documentary? will they like it? what if they’ve already seen it? Most seasoned binge-watchers have already exhausted the list of Netflix greats (Tiger King, Orange is the New Black, Stranger Things, Ozark, Tall Girl, etc.), but one show that I can always rely on is the original series Sense8. Directed by the Wachowskis and filmed in beautiful 4K, the show is absolutely gorgeous. It follows eight people around the world who begin to discover they are inexplicably linked to each other mentally, somehow able to see through each other’s eyes and share feelings. While that may sound a bit too campy sci-fi, it ends up being the exact opposite. The supernatural elements are grounded in intense reality, reflecting careful writing and execution of a complex plot. What makes the show exceptionally special are its eight lead characters. Each of the leads, hailing from the US, Kenya, Iceland, India, Germany, South Korea, and Brazil, come from wildly different backgrounds and bring a diversity of experience, humor, and expertise that give the show its heart. All of this culminates in a masterpiece that is equal parts thrilling and emotional, funny and dramatic, and altogether an amazing watch from beginning to end.
Abigail Glickman (Junior Editor) recommends: In My Room on IGTV
Three weeks ago, Rolling Stone launched an Instagram TV series with the goal of sharing musical performances in quarantine. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 3 p.m., they release a video, usually between 5 and 15 minutes long, featuring legacy musicians like Steve Earle and Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys), and new artists like Yola and Hinds. Over the course of this quarantine, I have been listening to quite a bit of Hinds, the garage pop girl band based in Madrid, so it was especially fun for me to watch their “In My Room” performance. Because the four women are not quarantining all together, they each recorded their parts separately and then merged the clips to create a harmonious performance. In this video, rather than seeing a group on stage, you see five screens (two of them consisting of the same artist performing two roles). The artists are isolated, but also cohere across their different private spaces. By welcoming us into those spaces, “In My Room” creates a public space that can feel strangely more intimate than an in-person performance venue.
Peter Taylor (Managing Editor) recommends: “Jon” by George Saunders
If you have spent any time with me, you perhaps know these two things: 1) I’m an aspiring fiction writer and 2) I rarely actually get around to writing any fiction. I chalk to this up to something like that whole Anxiety of Influence thing, where I read and love such good stuff that I’m worried about writing any fiction because I know it won’t compare to the greatness of the work of my heroes like Lauren Groff or Alice Munro or Carmen Maria Machado or whoever.
If you have spent any more time with me, however, you know I actually don’t write much fiction because I’m a lazy fool who would much rather spend his time writing little ditties about various folk-rock bands for everyone’s favorite college newspaper.
I bring all this up because 1) Why the hell not? good to get that off my chest to an audience and 2) one of my great writing heroes is George Saunders. Part postmodernist, part 21st century surrealist, part champion of the everyday, Saunders is an acclaimed writer of primarily short fiction. His short story “Jon,” originally published in The New Yorker and then in his collection In Persuasion Nation is tender, dark, and hilarious. I genuinely believe that reading it made me a better person, so maybe you’ll like it too.
Tara Shirazi (Senior Editor) recommends: Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
There is a shelf of books in my childhood room whose spines are immaculate and whose inside covers have my name neatly written in print. One glance at this shelf fills me with guilt. These are classics that were assigned to me in middle school and high school. They deserved significantly more time and devotion than what I mustered for them. I was too young to read many of these classics as well – seriously, who assigns To Kill a Mockingbird to a 7th grader? I have always wanted to give these books a second try. At the beginning of this interminable break, I decided to reread Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. I remembered loving the plot, but not having enough time to read through the novel thoroughly. The novel’s stunning details about late-18th century Paris and London have transported me to a completely different place. Dickens is slowly unveiling layers of dark secrets and twisted stories. The novel is impossible to put down. Two of the main characters – gallant Charles Darnay and sweet, frail Lucie Manette – are soon to be married. Neither are very compelling figures. However, Lucie Manette’s mysterious father and Darnay’s alcoholic and brooding lookalike, Sydney Carton, are exciting and complex characters. Through rereading this novel, I’ve noticed details I never picked up on the first time around. Reading this book has been a great source of nostalgia and escape.
Isabelle Casimir (Copy Editor) recommends: All American
I was doing my nightly scroll through tik tok and came across one with the blurb “and my parents wonder why I watch All American.” The video then proceeded to flip through images of all the hot characters on this show, and I thought to myself, “I will never watch this.” The next day Gabriella Union posted a #WCW on instagram for Bre-Z specifically highlighting her performance of “Coop” in All American. Gabriella flatteringly wrote, “Today’s WCW, @brezofficial, is the heart and soul of one of my favorite shows #AllAmerican…” And I thought to myself if Gabriella likes it, I should give it a try. A quick side note: if you don’t already, follow Gabriella Union on instagram for a constant stream of mushiness (her and Dwayne Wade’s family is cute as hell, and she is constantly posting content).
So the next day, I took some undeserved down time and started All American. The premise of the show revolves around the star player of South Crenshaw’s football team, Spencer James, transferring to a high school in Beverly Hills to play football. He moved schools at the request of the Beverly High football coach, Billy Baker, who pulled some sketchy strings to get him on the team. Unfortunately, due to high school football rules, Spencer had to move and live with Coach Baker’s rich family in Beverly Hill so that he could play. Spencer James’ arrival stirs up some tension with the Beverly football players, but eventually they all bond and love each other. When I first started this show, I thought “this is the most cheesy thing I have ever watched.” The character’s lines feel forced, there are so many clichés, and everyone has daddy issues, but, despite all this, I think the show makes a concentrated effort to highlight various black people and social justice issues. Not only are there scenes that focus on the numerous and untimely deaths of young black men and police brutality and prejudice, but there also scenes that highlight gangs and they don’t just say that gangs exist, but they try to show why a young kid would be tempted to join a gang and how difficult it is to leave one. Moreover, through Billy Baker and Laura Baker’s mixed race twins, Jordan and Olivia, and through Leila Faisal, the child of a largely absent but rich producer father, the show attempts to highlight the experience of black children living in a predominately white setting and how they relate to their race. The show also exposes issues surrounding addiction and mental health issues. This show is cheesy, but it’s also mushy and feel-good and heartwarming. If you’re in the mood for a teen drama that will make you laugh, cry, and roll your eyes all within the same forty minute period, I recommend All American.
Pat Macdonald (Senior Editor) recommends: The Blackcoat’s Daughter
The Blackcoat’s Daughter, a horror movie by Osgood Perkins (who happens to be the son of Anthony Perkins, the guy from Psycho), doesn’t have a single jump scare. Its incarnation of the devil is furry and faceless and, I’ll say it, cute. Usually we expect Satanic possession to be something unwanted to say the absolute least. Instead, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is the first ever (?) tragedy of Satanic dispossession. At its core it’s about an outcast losing her only friend. Only like four things happen in this movie so I’ll say no more. It’s bleak, it has Emma Roberts in it for literally no reason, and by never hitting you over the head it strikes a heavy blow straight to the stomach. But this is a horror movie about loneliness, so in all seriousness a post-quarantine viewing is probably the (healthy) move. It’s on Netflix. Add it to your list, and save it for a full moon.
Meera Sastry (Junior Editor) recommends My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
I’m sure many of the devoted Nass readership has already heard of and probably already read Ottessa Moshfegh’s 2018 novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation, given its trendiness, literary merit, and disaffected-recent-grad-of-an-elite-college protagonist. However, I’ve come to feel a certain kinship with its narrator in these trying times, and would like to extend and emphasize this recommendation for those of us who, like me, have fallen into a kind of anxious but dazed stupor. I can’t tell you if My Year of Rest and Relaxation will make you laugh or make you cry. But I can guarantee you that it will see the part of you that just wants to lie down and stare out the window at the unchanging sky until this is all over, and it will speak to that part excellently.
Tess Solomon (Editor in Chief) recommends: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Both my younger siblings are making fun of their English major sister for only just reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, but somehow I’ve never had it assigned before and never thought it was “my type of book” for pleasure reading—so here I am, reading this stunning work of late Romanticism for a seminar taught by Professor Susan Wolfson. The old, familiar story is exquisite in the original, baffling, un-self-consciously thought-provoking, articulating a natural science that can “penetrate into the recesses of nature, and shew how she works in her hiding places,” yet questioning the results of that very devotion, making us ask ourselves who or what we assume deserves friendship, compassion, or mercy. Professor Wolfson is the editor of my Longman Cultural Edition, and she includes hundreds of pages of culturally relevant texts, from Genesis and Milton to contemporaneous works of Romanticism and reviews of the work. With her guidance, the work attains a relevance for me I would never have expected—you might say (you guessed it), it comes alive.
Melina Huang (Assistant Design Editor) recommends Killing Eve
With long awaited season three premiering this Sunday, there’s no better time to start watching Killing Eve, Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s television adaptation of a spy novella. It explores the relationship between Eve, a sharp M15 officer who yearns for anything other than desk work, and Villanelle, a sophisticated assassin-for-hire who lives for the grand and luxurious. What starts as a cat-and-mouse hunt between the two women develops into a mutual obsession with dangerously high stakes that brings out an unhinged desire for the other. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, who play Eve and Villanelle respectively, showcase their dexterity and wonderfully portray the twisted dynamic between their characters. The series is filled with surprise, suspense, and dark humor, and will definitely keep you wanting more.
Drew Pugliese (Junior Editor) recommends Charli XCX’s “Forever”
Entering into full quarantine mode has severely zapped my creative energies. I now spend most of my day laying on my living room sectional, pacified by either Guy’s Diners Drive Ins and Dives or micro-influencer’s What I Eat in Day videos. And whenever I’m prompted to do something productive (e.g. writing this column), I usually end up distracting myself by binging on my mom’s latest gastro creation (usually some type of tasty loaf—right now there is mixed-berry yogurt bread and banana bread in front of me…yuppp), which sucks because I want to exit my quarantine hot …anyway. This mood is pretty resonant amongst everyone I’ve talked to, so that’s why I’m so, so impressed by Charli XCX’s endless, entertaining, and completely unparalleled quar-content. Charli started off HOT with a horny PC set on Grindr’s Instagram live. And then, a few days later, Charli hosted a fucking Zoom to announce the May 15th release of her aptly titled quarantine album, ‘how i’m feeling now.’ Charli dropped the album’s lead single, “Forever,” a highly produced, dissonant track that would sound right at home tacked on the end of her last full-length project, Charli. During the short 72 hours between Zoom-fest 2020 and the song’s release, Charli posted tons of content about her process and recruited the help of her followers, A.G. Cook, Caroline Polachek (!!!), and 100 Gecs’ Dylan Brady (!!!!) to produce the song and design the cover. As if making anything during isolation wasn’t hard enough, Charli went hard to launch an entire project and came out of the gate with an epic lead single. Everyone should be paying attention to Charli XCX right now.
Elliott Weil (Junior Editor) recommends Work From Home Fits
During this quarantine I’ve felt a big shift in my Instagram timeline. Our old pictures of luxurious vacations, “candid” moments from exclusive parties, and aesthetic masturbation in service of personal brand, while ultimately quite homogenous, were at the very least an attempt at differentiation. Now that we’re stuck inside though, we’re left with a lack of any unique content, an excess of time to spend scrolling, and a deep longing for connection outside the nuclear family and Houseparty. The solution? Pushup challenges and clip-art vegetables! While I certainly respect the “challenge” format– it’s some way for us to manufacture shared experience virtually– the never-ending cycle of “nominations” and uninspired tribute to campaigns as tedious as juggling a toilet paper roll in exchange for feeling included is, well, pathetic. I would be remiss not to mention the more personal “until tomorrow” challenge, but I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t equally turned-off by the, “it’s quirky because I look bad,” energy radiating from each photo of second grade derp face. However, amidst this turn towards indistinguishable Instagram Story spam, there has been one account that has responded to the crisis and adapted the “challenge” style in an authentically creative and individual way: @wfhfits, for those unfamiliar the the acronym, Working From Home Fits. Intuitively, the page is a compilation of quarantine “fit-pics”– pictures of yourself with a focus on the outfit you’re wearing and often times an aesthetically complimentary background. With 23,000 followers, the account launched to immediate appraisal from the insular community of the New York media class. (To be clear, pretty much every person featured lives in New York and works in media, fashion or the arts, although a lay person get a nod for especially outstanding taste.) Each photo that makes it past the account’s rigorous curation process provides a window into the fabulous life of the world’s most stylish with nothing to do but play dress-up. Beautiful silk kimonos, decadent sweatpants, poufy gowns, birthday suits, cargo shorts, and a truly stirring assortment of slippers are all riddled across the feed, each ensemble outdoing the prior in its campy clashing patterns and rejection of functionality for leaving the house. This is all not to mention the crucial component of posing, mirror positioning, and apartment arrangement that go into the framing of each post. The result is a mosaic of playful vestiary inspiration that affirms a government mandated lockdown doesn’t include the suspension of confidence, expression, and getting seriously huge fits off. @wfhfits is doing what these Instagram challenges could not. It disarms the crisis, reclaiming this anxious time at home as a chic evolution of the never-ending runway. Each photo is in conversation with all the others, trying to one-up the next just as these same characters might with a subtle flex of a new pair of penny loafers as they walk by their co-workers at One World Trade. The models share in the joy of getting dressed, and importantly find human connection without losing equally crucial individuality. While the personalities that populate Working From Home Fits might be a bit too pretentious and sartorially out of reach for you and I, we could take a page out of their book of posting. Let’s pursue an Instagram presence that creates solidarity through recognition of personal identity, not cartoon carrots. Let’s post some WFH Fits.