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 WandaVision, Rachel Stewart checks out David Bowie’s musical Lazarus, and Emma Gilbert recommends James Somerton’s YouTube channel.
Hawk: The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become such a monolith of pop culture that it’s almost literally impossible to avoid. While the generally vanilla mainline movies occupy the majority of discussion, their existence has given the fringes of the universe to really expand and try out some new things. Enter WandaVision, pitched as a quirky but straightforward concept but executed on a spectacularly effective level of production design and earnest writing, direction and performance.
WandaVision posits itself as a recreation of classic sitcoms: Wanda and Vision, newlyweds, have just moved into the neighborhood. The first two episodes strongly evoke I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver and other black and white sitcoms of the era. The pilot focuses on the well-worn “the boss is coming over for dinner” plot, and the episode nails every beat. Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany perfectly exemplify the ’50s sitcom couple—indeed, this might be some of Bettany’s career-best work. I also really liked how it did as much in-camera effects work as possible: for example, when Wanda conjures wedding rings for her and her husband, an easy VFX shot is rejected in favor of a very obvious cut between naked fingers and ringed fingers—just as filmmakers in that era would be forced to produce the effect. The attention to detail is intoxicating. Nostalgia hounds for old-school sitcoms are going to absolutely adore this.
It is strongly theorized that WandaVision is a mental construct that Wanda/Scarlet Witch has created to cope with the grief of losing Vision in Avengers: Infinity War (and inadvertently unlocking the multiverse, leading into the Doctor Strange sequel), and there are small but unsubtle bits in these first two episodes that something is very wrong outside of this sitcom world in which she and Vision reside. Kathryn Hahn as a nosy neighbor, for her part (and terrifically acted, as Hahn does in every role), is just omnipresent enough to arouse suspicion. Just the two opening episodes are absolutely littered with clues and Easter eggs that hint at some very tantalizing reveals as the series progresses.
Regardless of how things actually pan out, WandaVision is a truly exciting example of how the Marvel Cinematic Universe can expand into fresh concepts and tones; even if the movies continue to adhere to the same general framework, divergent projects like this can experiment with different ways to tell a story. If this sort of wildly creative content is what the future of Disney+ holds, I’m here for it.