Jodie Foster and Kali Reis shine as a pair of detectives investigating an increasingly surreal crime.
In Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt mysteries, the title character is a brilliant, eccentric detective haunted by the unsolved disappearance of one of her closest friends. Her cases are vitally recognizable and beautifully surreal. When The Infinite Blacktop, the most recent entry in the series, was released in paperback, Gran held a giveaway, including a copy of the book and some fun feelies. On one of those, a pen, the following was printed: “Open your eyes and learn to see that truth lives in the ether.” In the course of thinking about Issa López (Tigers Are Not Afraid)’s excellent True Detective: Night Country, it’s a line that’s been on my mind.
It's the end of 2023. In Ennis, Alaska, the eccentric scientists of the Tsalal research station vanish just as the long polar night sets in. Ennis police chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and detective-turned-trooper Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) know that something is not right. Though bitterly estranged, the former partners share a drive to discover what happened at Tsalal and why. Their need to get to the truth only intensifies after the scientists are discovered in a ghastly, bizarre state—a collective corpsicle, all of them nude and visibly terrified. Continue Reading →
GREGORY HORROR SHOW
A quick overview of the high highs and middling disappointments in horror this year.
With the social media app formerly known as Twitter now a shell of its former self, horror fans have been forced to return to Facebook to continue such interminable debates as “What does or doesn’t qualify something as ‘horror’?” “What the hell is ‘elevated horror,’ anyway?” “Are remakes inherently bad?” “Have horror movies gotten too ‘woke’?” “Were we wrong for letting women make horror?”
In a year when both David Gordon Green and M. Night Shyamalan released new movies, the horror discourse was especially spicy, and that’s before we get to the really interesting stories, like the surprise viral success of Skinamarink, which, with the way time seems to be passing nowadays, feels like it was released five years ago. Both indie and mainstream horror made daring choices, not looking to appeal to as broad a range of audiences as possible, and treating the genre as a serious art form, as opposed to just a machine that prints money. But the biggest surprise came in October, with the release of Saw X, the tenth film in a seemingly unkillable franchise, which ended up being one of the best, most coherent entries in the entire series. Continue Reading →
The crime drama returns to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and rediscovers its best storytelling self.
Throughout the six episodes of Fargo Season 5 screened for critics, the series isn’t exactly subtle. From opening the season with an on-screen graphic defining “Minnesota Nice” as neighbor attacks neighbor during a school board meeting to Sheriff Roy Tillman (Jon Hamm) staring up at a campaign billboard of himself, the show loudly states its theses at the viewer over and over.
However, it never feels like creator Noah Hawley has lost control of the storytelling. It’s methodically over-the-top. The audience is on a roller coaster, but they can feel the quality of the engineering keeping them on the tracks. In other hands, this approach can feel alienating or blunting. Fargo Season 5 benefits from meeting Hawley’s signature energy with a game cast and impressively insightful art direction. As a result, the series turns in its best offering since Season 2’s near-perfect effort. Continue Reading →
Lawmen: Bass Reeves
Screenwriter Josh Olsen (A History of Violence) used to tell anyone who would listen that his passion project was an account of the life of Bass Reeves, a man whose life and career were the stuff of fables. Reeves was the first Black deputy sheriff west of the Mississippi, with an arrest record in the thousands by most accounts. Best of all, legends assert that he almost never killed or shot anyone he didn’t have to. Continue Reading →
Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields
The acclaimed documentarian joins The Spool to discuss Brooke Shields, her work, her life, and her relationship to "Brooke Shields" the image.
In 1981, Roger Ebert wrote a profile on Brooke Shields in which he—quoting a press agent—said, “She will be with us for the rest of our lives.” That turned out to be remarkably prescient, but neither the agent nor Ebert could have anticipated the myriad number of ways Shields has been with us in that time. Yes, she is extraordinarily beautiful. But many equally attractive people have come and gone, while Shields remains a consistent part of pop culture’s firmament. From her early appearances in films like Pretty Baby (1978), The Blue Lagoon (1980), and Endless Love (1981) and her controversial TV ads for Calvin Klein jeans, all of which focused on her sexuality while she was literally a child, to her shift in the later Eighties to become America’s Virgin to her reinvention as a comedic actress in the Nineties to becoming an advocate for those suffering from postpartum depression (and suffering the slings and arrows of Tom Cruise in full asshole mode as a result), Shields has been a persistently relevant figure in the American popular consciousness.
While Shields has lived much of her life in the public eye, Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields, a fascinating two-part documentary from Lana Wilson now streaming on Hulu, proves that she still has a great deal to say. Given access to nearly a half-century’s worth of archival material, which she presents alongside contemporary interviews with Shields, Wilson paints a fascinating, eye-opening portrait that demands a new consideration of Shields and her career. Much of her story is harrowing, be it specific to her life—her wrenching descriptions of sexual assault and her tumultuous relationship with her mother—or experiences too many young women in the spotlight share. (If you think having someone inquire about the state of your virginity sounds awful, imagine having talk show hosts do so on live television.) And yet, not only has Shields survived, she is thriving. She has found peace with herself and is able to look back on her life with a sense of control over it. Continue Reading →
There’s a subset of “Will they or won’t they?” stories that are perhaps best described as “They will, then they won’t, then they will again, then they won’t again, and so on.” There are certainly fans of this kind of story. Arguably the most popular sitcom of the past 40 years, Friends, had Ross and Rachel bouncing together and apart repeatedly. Hulu’s new musical series Up Here is the latest example of that rom-com subset of a subset. Continue Reading →
Welcome to Flatch
Welcome to Flatch feels, in many ways, like the kind of show that would’ve survived four seasons in the middle of NBC’s Thursday night lineup. It wasn’t your favorite, you didn’t know anyone who’d call it their favorite, but as part of a block programming where you loved the anchors, one could do a lot worse. It’s not terrible, it has its moments, but it isn’t exactly anything special either. Continue Reading →
Better Call Saul
Better Call Saul is a tragedy. From the beginning, it focused on a rough-edged, yet decent man whom the audience knows will one day become an unrepentant merchant of death and destruction. What makes it so tragic, beyond the known destination, is that the series is riddled with missed exits. Time and again, Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) faced situations where -- if he’d just pulled back from the brink, if he’d only taken his lumps instead of wriggling out of them, if he’d simply chosen not to push things too far -- all of this could have been avoided. Continue Reading →
Michael Schur’s no stranger to centering television sitcoms around complex topics. There’s the inner workings of local government in Parks and Recreation, the chaos and philosophy of the afterlife in The Good Place, and now America’s problematic past in the Peacock original Rutherford Falls. Co-created by Schur, Ed Helms, and Sierra Teller Ornelas, Rutherford Falls is the funny wake-up call we need. Continue Reading →
Mare of Easttown
Mare of Easttown may at times feel like it’s kicking a dead horse. It’s a grammatically perfect post-Cardinal Bernard Law, cold-case-comes-alive thriller with rich performances by its entire cast. Yet for a story about a maverick detective purporting to be about more than crime, it follows surprisingly predictable beats, leaving little room for illuminating nuance. Continue Reading →
NBC’s new sitcom Mr. Mayor will inevitably be compared to 30 Rock, the network’s previous sitcom from Tina Fey and Robert Carlock. Both feature rich men in power butting heads with their female colleagues. Both shows share a composer, Jeff Richmond (also an executive producer, and Fey’s spouse) crafting another bouncy score. Different from her New York-based shows (30 Rock, Great News, Kimmy Schmidt) Fey and company take on Los Angeles politics this time. While occasionally funny, the show fails to instill a vote of confidence in the future of the series. Continue Reading →