Here we are, the final week of May and the final installment of my quarantine diaries. I’m not sure if I learned much during these past few months while writing these, other than that during difficult times it’s nice to have art and entertainment that can offer you some level of comfort. I suppose I also learned that even if the entertainment industry shuts down the way it has recently, there’s still enough content out there to keep you satisfied until the end of time. Like, it’s a little weird that there’ve barely been any notable movies to get released this year, and yet I’ve had a rewarding enough time revisiting older movies these past few months that I’ve barely been affected. Still, as we transition out of this period, it will be nice to go to movies and concerts again, though let’s hope the venues for these communal experiences will even be able to survive.
So yeah, things are a little grim and the future is quite uncertain, but for now, here’s the last bunch of things that have been getting me through quarantine.
Jeff Rosenstock came out with a new album on Friday, which I think I like so far. It seems to be a little more pop-punk than his last couple albums, which saw him veering between his punk influences and more acoustic singer-songwriter fare. But the Jeff Rosenstock album that really caught my ear this week was Thanks, Sorry!, a live album that was released last year that I stumbled upon. Live albums are an oft-overlooked format that have become more vital than ever right now, so getting to hear Rosenstock bring 10 megatons of energy to these performances is a thrill to hear, as is Rosenstock’s affable interactions with the crowd. It just makes me regret that I haven’t seen Rosenstock and his band live yet, but perhaps there’ll be a day when such a thing will be possible.
It’s doubtful that a Taylor Swift live concert put on Disney+ is going to replicate the live concert experience that authentically, but I don’t know, watching any kind of live performance these days feels refreshing. This Paris concert was filmed about a month after Swift’s last album Lover came out and it’s amusing to see that all of the die-hard fans in the audience had already learned all the lyrics to these still very new songs. The other most interesting thing about this concert special is seeing Taylor play a decent amount of her newer, more pop-oriented songs with just an acoustic guitar and a microphone. It brings to mind some alternate reality where Taylor Swift’s music was a little more Joni Mitchell and a little less Katy Perry, but I guess that’s what Swift’s acoustic performances that are released online (like her Tiny Desk concert) are for. Otherwise, ya gotta make pop records if you wanna make that pop star money.
I would’ve liked to spend more of my time in quarantine catching up with books, but since a lot of my time was spent working, playing Animal Crossing, and reading the epic Dune, things didn’t really pan out that way. Still, I was able to knock off one of the books that had been collecting dust on my bookshelf the past few weeks by reading Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids. It’s a book that belongs to a niche genre that I’m finding myself to be a big fan of, which I would call the “artist finding their voice” memoir. Just Kids recounts Smith’s early years living in New York City in the late ’60s and early ’70s, before she found fame as punk rock’s poet laureate. Much of it is about her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, as well as the cast of artsy characters who lived at the Chelsea Hotel during that era. There’s something really beautiful and tender about the way Smith writes about their relationship, and the specificity with which she recalls her early adulthood makes the book feel as vivid as one of Mapplethorpe’s polaroids.
After BlacKkKlansmen came out, I felt like I should probably see Inside Man, since it’s one of several Spike Lee blindspots that seemed worth filling. But then I kinda forgot about that until a trailer for Lee’s upcoming Da 5 Bloods dropped recently, and I finally was compelled to sit down and watch one of his biggest mainstream hit. Like basically all of Lee’s films that I’ve seen, it’s a film that certainly isn’t without a flaw or two, but those flaws are more than overcompensated by the thrilling energy that the movie radiates. It’s in many ways a pretty traditional heist movie, and yet it has plenty of unique flourishes to keep it from ever feeling stale. Also, along with 25th Hour, it shows that Spike Lee might’ve been the New York director best equipped to depict the vibe of the city in the aftermath of 9/11, even when he’s for the most part just having a lot of fun like he is here.
I already mentioned director Lynn Shelton’s passing last week, and it looks like we’re going to be talking about her quite a bit on an upcoming episode of The Pick, so I don’t need to dwell on her too much. However, I did manage to revisit the first Shelton movie I ever saw, Your Sister’s Sister, and though it was a film I was a little skeptical about (as one should be about any late 00s/early 10s movie about white people finding themselves), I was delighted to find it to still be a pretty charming little movie. Almost all of it relies on the performances of its three leads (Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass, and Rosemarie Dewitt), and luckily they’re all game for their character’s loose but tender dynamic. I’m not sure if I like this one better than 2009’s Humpday, but they both feel like great companions to each other as these very small-scale, human comedies that are heavy on improvisation, but without ever feeling too meandering.
Well, that’s it for me. Hopefully I’ll be able to find a thing or two worth writing about before we start up Criterion Month in July.