We live amid lot of uncertainty. After all, we're in the middle of a contentious election and an ongoing pandemic. Media is our comfort food, so if you find yourself needing to unplug, here's what 34th Street has been watching.
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
Boots Riley’s directorial debut is both inventive and insane. Sorry to Bother You follows a Black telemarketer that adopts a white voice in order to succeed at his job, which comes with immense wealth and consequence. Faced with this dilemma, he’s forced to choose between climbing up the corporate ladder and supporting his friends with activist ambitions. A scathing critique on not only Trump’s America, but also Obama’s America and the general institution of capitalism, Sorry to Bother You is a fantastic watch ahead of an election where we're forced to choose between the “lesser of two evils.” Plentiful in ideas—but slightly lacking in execution—it’s a fun watch with a fantastic soundtrack and a reminder that Hollywood can produce movies that aren’t sequels or reboots.
The Battle of Algiers (1966)
Released in 1966, The Battle of Algiers tells a story of revolution within the Algerian War of Independence. Shot on location just three years after the end of the Algerian War, this film mixes documentary and drama production styles to create a unique account of warfare. The film recreates the real “Battle of Algiers” using non–professional actors, accurate scenery, and voiceovers from real Algerian and French communications. This film shows how media coverage can help movements gain popular support in the public eye—something that's still reflected today. This film highlights both sides of a political conflict, demonstrating how the time and place of viewing can influence the viewing experience. Nonetheless, this film is a timeless account of revolution, nationalism, and political tension that entertains viewers all the while.
The Politician (2019- )
If there was some type of “most improved” award for screenwriters, Ryan Murphy should receive one. He’s come a long way since Glee—and one marker of his growth is The Politician. This show outlines the journey of Payton Hobart (Ben Platt) to student body president and, in Season Two, to senator of New York. It explores the game of politics—specifically, the moral and ethical dilemmas a candidate must face to form a winning constituency. If you’re seeking to escape the anxiety of the real–life presidential election, perhaps consider indulging in the highs and lows of Payton Hobart’s election bid.
Parks and Rec (2009-2015)
Obama-era optimism was a funny thing, wasn’t it? The ethos of Parks and Rec, a love letter to America and its government at its best, feels like a distant memory. It’s arguable that America never existed in the way Parks and Rec envisioned it to be, but perhaps that’s okay. The tricks and antics of Pawnee’s parks office is comfort food at its best—and it's something that’s desperately needed, considering the anxiety about our future in the face of the upcoming election. Although that future will never look like what Parks and Recs imagines it be—a world where the government is the agency of change, left to the leadership of the “Knopes” and “Clintons"—it’s a nostalgic relic of the past.
Quantico was a big deal when it came out. On the surface, it was yet another cop show, this time centering on the FBI's training program. However, it starred Priyanka Chopra, making her the first South Asian to headline an American network drama series. The show’s format has two timelines: the present in which Alex Parrish (Priyanka Chopra) must flee after becoming the main suspect in a terrorist attack, and the past, which revolves around her and her classmates training to become FBI agents. The show explores, with varying degrees of success, the impact of 9/11 on government agencies and governmental corruption. Despite this, it’s a compelling show to look back to, especially at a time where our political sphere seems just as unstable.
2020 was immensely stressful even before the global pandemic. Waiting and praying for an election that transfers power away from President Trump hasn’t been easy—but the podcast Hacks on Tap could ease some stress. It's hosted by David Axelrod, a former senior advisor to Barack Obama; Mike Murphy, a notable “never–Trump” Republican advisor; and, more recently, Robert Gibbs, Obama’s former press secretary. The bipartisan lens they provide in their political observations helps create an accurate picture of where the major players stand, and their insider experience leads to unique insights. In a time when our political sphere is so chaotic, the hosts and their guests can develop some level of reassuring order.