Stuff we liked this break

Winter break is all about recovering from finals, spending time with your family, and updating your Goodreads and Letterboxd accounts. Here are the best from the A&E team’s period of rest and relaxation.

Book: Jia Tolentino, Trick Mirror

To those unacquainted with Jia Tolentino’s writing, it might seem like an exaggeration to call her the voice of a generation, but Trick Mirror proves that she has earned the often overused title. Tolentino sharply analyzes the mess that is modern life from the perspective of a self-aware millennial, covering topics from reality television to drugs and religion with ease and wit. A standout chapter, “The Story of a Generation in Seven Scams,” breaks down the American pastime of swindling suckers for money, starting with the infamous Fyre Fest and ending with the 2016 American election. One thing is for sure, folks: We Live In A Society, and Jia’s the gal that will make you take a long hard look at how and why it is the way it is today.

Video Game: Disco Elysium

If you have ever wanted to be a badass ace detective, solving crimes and taking names in the big city, Disco Elysium is not the game for you. The player character is a drunken lunatic detective whose years of hard partying have wiped his memory clean. It is up to the player to piece together his identity while trying to solve the murder of a universally despised mercenary. The player can choose to be a communist, a superstar cop, a cop of the apocalypse, an ultraliberal, or can maintain the detective’s cripplingly depressed state if you’re feeling mean. Disco Elysium is the funniest—and most depressingly existential—game of 2019.

Movie: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

It is a little hard to be a Star Wars fan right now. With the current backlash surrounding Disney’s sequel trilogy at the back of my mind, loving The Rise of Skywalker, despite its glaring flaws, is an anomaly. But, the John Williams score, intergalactic dogfights, and lightsaber theatrics inspires the same awe and excitement as the originals. Maybe having to turn off one’s brain to enjoy the spectacle validates the film’s critical reception but expecting Star Wars to be a bastion of nuanced cinema isn’t the only way to enjoy the franchise’s spectacle. Sometimes enjoying the ride aboard the Millennium Falcon is more important than endlessly critiquing its shoddy construction.

Movie: Uncut Gems

Director duo Josh and Benny Safdie have followed up their 2017 cult hit Good Time with the equally exhilarating Uncut Gems. The film follows jeweller and pathological liar Howard Ratner, played to perfection by Adam Sandler, who constantly has to weasel his way out of trouble as he attempts to navigate a world of illegal debt collectors, high-profile clients, and secret girlfriends. The film’s relentless energy and frenetic sound mixing, along with Sandler’s anxiety-inducing performance, make for a searingly tense viewing experience. The film even features a scene where The Weeknd punches Sandler in the face—enough said.    

TV: Cheer on Netflix

If there’s one major take-away from Cheer, a six-part docuseries on Netflix, it’s that competitive cheerleading is very, very difficult. Following the 13-time national champion cheerleading squad at Navarro College in the tiny town of Corsicana, Texas, Cheer touts itself as an inspiring narrative about the uplifting power of sports, but soon turns that very notion on its head. Cheer is a bittersweet examination of the sacrifices that college athletes endure for the marginal successes and recognition they earn, all the while treating its subjects with genuine care.

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