Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week, Hawk Ripjaw is watching Medical Police, Laura Stewart checks out the recent video from Richard Dawson, Jason Sheppard is listening to the score from 1917, Varden Frias is reading Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, and Johnny Malloy contemplates a candle that is supposed to smell like…Gwenyth Paltrow’s vagina?
Hawk: Almost a decade ago, the trajectory of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim was changed by one of its first live action programs, Childrens Hospital. Rob Corddry’s short-form satire debuted on the internet before being picked up by CN, and the show has enjoyed a handful of semi-related shows such as NTSF:SD:SUV, Newsreaders and Eagleheart. His latest, Medical Police, is a very goofy and exceptionally welcome addition to Netflix. It’s just what the doctor ordered.
Medical Police changes the formula of the original show, taking Dr. Lola Adolf Spratt (Erinn Hayes) and Dr. Owen Maestro (Rob Huebel) and sending them on a globe-trotting action adventure to stop a dangerous virus. This premise changes the format to a 20-30 minute serialized narrative that expertly transplants the short-form comedy of the original show to longer episodes. Given the new theme of the parody, this format works perfectly and never overstays its welcome.
What makes Medical Police so great is its commitment: it has those Netflix dollars to deliver high production value that realistically apes its target material. The action sequences pop—they feel realistic, but still exhibit the visual language to randomly pop off action sequence cliches.
In terms of the comedy, it’s essentially a non-stop riff on action thriller genre conventions and cliches, with characters delivering extremely stupid dialogue in even stupider situations, but all of it done so in absolute seriousness and deadpan perfection.
In an example, the stars have to spot two criminals involved in a hand-off, with their only intel being that they’re both wearing red hats. It turns out that the hats in questions are extravagantly conspicuous giant foam cowboy hats. The show’s secret weapon in regards to this style of humor is that this specific detail is not actually called out by anyone.
In another, an agent is recalling a situation in which she was off the grid, but “got cocky” and accidentally used her CDC-issued credit card to buy coffee. This situation is played completely straight but the performances are very overblown. It’s an impressive tonal balancing act that accomplishes several things at once but with tongue firmly in cheek, and rarely fails to be hilarious.
At the center is a strangely compelling relationship between Spratt and Maestro that does the standard trope of them falling for each other. But the chemistry between Hayes and Huebel is so strong, and their delivery so deadpan, that it is absolutely effective as both a genuine narrative element and a parody of the trope. It’s easy to forget where they begin and how their relationship evolves, but while some spoofs would drag it out of nowhere for the sake of the joke, Medical Police lays the groundwork from the first episode and builds on it in ways that would feel contrived in a straight-laced drama, but here play specifically into the show’s language.
Medical Police feels like something we need right now: an intelligently stupid and entertaining goofball comedy with no political or existential underpinnings, that knows what it does well and executes it perfectly. 2020 is off to a great start with such a clever and lovable goofball show. There is potential for another season, and I would love nothing more to join these characters for another hilarious globe-trotting adventure.
Richard Dawson, “Dead Dog in an Alleyway”
Laura: After an outstanding 2019 for Richard Dawson—the black-humoured bard of Newcastle—he now releases the video for “Dead Dog in an Alleyway”. The animated video comes directed by Ewan Jones Morris and reflects the powerful portrayal of homelessness conjured by Dawson’s evocative and startling lyrics. The track is taken from 2020, the sixth solo record from the much lauded, eccentric songwriter, released in October of last year on Domino Records.
Richard Dawson is a brilliant writer. His lyrics rise from utterly banal origins; people in vape shops, civil servants dreaming of better days, anxiety-addled joggers listlessly searching Zoopla for houses they cannot afford in their spare time, amateur footballers who think they’re Lionel Messi, and beleaguered pub landlords battling rising floodwaters.
But, of course, this is the very crux of our lives. This is us. Hence the massive and palpable pathos in evidence here. Everything is heartbreaking, violent, defeated, and yet majestic. His are portraits of human beings struggling with recognisable (and dare we say it, relatable) concerns, conflicts and desires, each reminding us that tragedy and gallows humour are not mutually exclusive, and that the magical can sit next to the mundane.
Richard Dawson is continuing to tour in support of 2020 across Europe for the next few months, including the special Delight is Right event at London’s Barbican on March 28. Check out the full list of dates here.
Johnny: Actor, musician, conscious-uncoupler, and founder of Goop, the world’s most bizarre online curiosity shop, Gwyneth Paltrow, has done it again by tapping into the zeitgeist of modern culture and giving the world more of what everyone is clamoring for, a candle that smells like her vagina—or someone’s vagina.
Not content to merely selling toothpaste squeezers, sex dust, and vaginal steamers, the entrepreneur now has a scented candle made to (as the website words it) “put us in a mind of fantasy, seduction, and a sophisticated warmth,” meaning this vagina candle is elegant and classy.
For anyone curious as to what a candle called “This Smells Like My Vagina” actually smells like, it’s described as being “made with geranium, citrusy bergamot, and cedar absolutes juxtaposed with Damask rose and ambrette seed”, which quite frankly, isn’t all that helpful to me.
The candle sells for $75 and is unsurprisingly sold out at the moment. I am Jack’s total lack of surprise the supply cannot meet the demand due to the fact things like this always have a way of finding people who have too much disposable income and an inability to start conversations without overpriced tchotchkes.
Perfect for lighting a room full of Georgia O’Keeffe prints, or for setting the mood when monologuing about a woman’s most private of parts. I would normally assume an item such as this was pitched with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but with Ms. Paltrow, one never knows.
Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye
Varden: Noir is the quintessential mystery genre. Its gloom and unrelenting sense of despair sets it apart from the rest of the mystery niches and none other has been hailed as a better noir author than Raymond Chandler. His novels churned up Hollywood classics during the 1940s and 1950s, most notably The Big Sleep. However, one of his noir novels stands out more than the rest in its style.
Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye is the sixth book in his Philip Marlowe crime mystery novel series. It’s the late 1940s in Los Angeles, and Philip Marlowe is a dejected, cigarette smoking, gumshoe private investigator who comes across a beat down drunk of a WWII vet named Terry Lennox who is blamed for beating his mistress to death. Marlowe assists Lennox like a good friend, looking into the case and covering up his tracks by taking him to the Mexico border to drop him off. In exchange, Marlowe received a heavy load of cash that he’s reluctant to dip into for the remainder of the story. A point he makes in accordance with his desire to help people. Put simply, he isn’t a PI for the money which is what makes this detective a diamond in the rough.
Marlowe’s case is far from finished when he learns Lennox killed himself only a few miles from the Mexican border where Marlowe dropped him off. Lennox’s means of death remains the central mystery throughout the novel as he doesn’t believe Lennox committed that crime. Along the way, a New York City publisher requests Marlowe’s assistance with one of their romance novelists, Roger Wade, who has gone missing. Marlowe spends a good chunk of the novel finding the lost writer and learning Wade is a hopeless alcoholic despite his commercial success.
Within the first quarter of the book, his case concerning Terry Lenox is “solved”. In reality, it’s just tucked away. The clues are speckled throughout the story, intertwining with other characters and piecing together parts that fit as the story goes on. however, there is existential dismal realities that haunt him.
Philip Marlowe’s story is a sad one. There’s a lot of things going on in this novel, and there’s plenty of well-written action sequences, but the overall mood of this story is just plain gloomy. Its a draining tale of a man lost in the romanticism that he can still be the good guy when the rest of the world is full of crooks and hapless addicts. He loses a woman he loves, he loses an old friend who’s lost himself to the drink and disappears, and he loses faith in the American Dream of financial prosperity. In the end, Marlowe says his final goodbyes to everything. Lennox, the woman of his dreams, and is left alone as when he began the story.
Raymond Chandler does an excellent job of taking the audience aside for a quick philosophical blab about how his world works, how his mind works, and it’s never pretty. There’s always a hint of grey in the silver lining. Despite his intellectual prowess, new details arise as insights into a grimier side of society that’s always kept under wraps. There is an interesting scene in the book that does a good job of saying what the real mood is and how sad everything turned out for him. For better or for worse. The detective Philip Marlowe is a romantic, he does his job because it’s what he wants to do. He still wants to see the good in the world, despite how ugly it’s really become and despite how ugly it has made him at times. If you like a healthy dose of realistic grit in your mystery novels, The Long Goodbye is sure to hit the right spot.
1917 Score by Thomas Newman
Jason: After a smash opening weekend at the box office and being bestowed this week with ten Oscar nominations, Sam Mendes’s 1917 is a critical and audience pleasing success. Mendes, an extremely gifted filmmaker is no stranger to Oscar wins having won Best Director back in 2000 for American Beauty. Nominated that year alongside Mendes was Beauty’s composer, Thomas Newman, a man no stranger to Oscar recognition himself, but has inexplicably never won despite 14 nominations throughout his career. Earlier this week, Newman was nominated for his 1917 score and we all certainly hope that 15 is his very lucky number.
Out of Mendes’s eight full-length feature films, Newman has scored seven of them (Mendes’ independent 2009 film Away We Go didn’t feature a score). The 21-year collaboration of Mendes/Newman certainly bares comparisons to other great director/composer partnerships such as Fellini/Rota, Burton/Elfman and yes, even Spielberg/Williams. In fact, when Spielberg made his first film without Williams since 1985, 2015’s Bridge of Spies (Williams was busy that year with Star Wars: The Force Awakens) Newman was chosen as the composer to replace Williams—a true testament to Newman’s talent. With American Beauty, Road To Perdition, Jarhead, Revolutionary Road and two 007 projects—Skyfall and Spectre—Mendes and Newman have created many indelible movie moments in recent years.
Newman’s score to 1917 is much like Road to Perdition in terms of mood than the more romantic tone he provided to his ’90s Frank Darabont movies (The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile). It’s certainly a more grounded work than Green Mile especially. I love the second and ninth tracks on the 1917 soundtrack album—“Up the Down Trench” and “Lighthouse”—which are both driving, percussion heavy tracks reminiscent of some of the suspenseful cues of Skyfall.
“Tripwire” is Newman at his heart-gripping best. And as usual, Newman’s tender piano pieces (especially “A Bit of Tin” here) provide the emotional, haunting and human aspect of the story in much the same way his classic scores for Shawshank and Cinderella Man both did. 1917 is the second war movie collaboration between Mendes and Newman, the first being 2005’s Gulf War drama Jarhead which featured a more adventurous, almost alien-sounding score—one adapted to a modern war with a modern sound including uses of an electric guitar.
For 1917, Newman took a more classic approach—there aren’t a whole lot of electronics in use here. The ten-minute long track “Milk” featuring piano and strings does however use electronics and it’s certainly a call back to more haunting parts of American Beauty. These primary instruments were also used wonderfully by Newman for last year’s Netflix film, The Highwaymen.
Over the past few years, Newman has incorporated international musical flavors in his film music such as for The Best Exotic Marigold movies and for his incredible work in the 2015 documentary My Name Is Malala (try listening to that one without being fundamentally moved—it’s nearly impossible), but as 1917 is the story of British soldiers during World War II, the sound here is indeed more classically fitting, especially in the last track “Come Back To Us”, a very string-heavy track incorporating French horns and more prominently, a cello (not an instrument Newman uses often).
Make no mistake, 1917 is classic Newman and as we approach the Academy Awards next month, we remember how 20 years ago, Mendes’s American Beauty won the Best Picture Academy Award but sadly, Newman did not for his now iconic (and much imitated score). Hopefully, this year, Newman finally receives what should have been his many, many years ago.
Those are our recommendations this week! What are yours? Let us know in the comments!