Quarantine Pop Culture Recommendations

So, things are bad. Like, real bad. Bleak, dystopian-novel-bad. I live in Kansas, where some people are so hard-headed that they are ignoring the CDC and spouting “it’s just the flu” and mad that their gym is closed. I won’t get into a rant, but my point is that most of you are probably going to be spending an awful lot of time at home, and it’s going to get boring if you’re not careful. As an only child and an introvert, I’ve always been good at keeping myself occupied, so I guess you could say this is my field of expertise. I’ll have a few non-pop culture options for you at the end, but first, let’s talk about binging—movies, TV shows, books, music—this is your chance to catch up on things you’ve missed!

Television

Breaking Bad/Better Call Saul [Netflix/AMC]

I have always maintained that my favorite TV show of all time is The Sopranos, but if any show can challenge Tony’s squad, it’s Vince Gilligan’s outstanding meth-making drama. I didn’t start watching Breaking Bad until it was already on Netflix, and I had heard of it but didn’t know a whole lot about it. I consider this show to be almost perfect—from the writing to the acting, down to the cinematography—it’s the only show I can think of that kept getting better with every season.

When it was announced that there would be a BB spinoff, I was as skeptical as could be. What were they thinking? How foolish. Bob Odenkirk’s Saul Goodman was an interesting character in Breaking Bad, but the way they took his story and explored it in Better Call Saul has been absolutely incredible. And while the tone of the shows are quite different, they are both superior television shows that really should be experienced together. If you thought BCS was not for you because it was about a bunch of lawyers and didn’t think there was much drama in that, well guess again. Better Call Saul is extraordinary.

Music

Brittany Howard—Jaime [2019]

I wasn’t sure what to expect when Alabama Shakes’ frontwoman Brittany Howard released her debut solo album, Jaime. I liked her band fine, but that’s all—a couple songs I really liked, a lot I thought were kind of meh. Once I listened to Jaime, though, I wondered if Ms. Howard was holding back on us all a little bit.

Jaime is soulful, personal, emotional, and a delight to listen to. I can’t think of a better album to take you away from your (and the world’s) problems for a spell.

Book

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt [2011]

I previously reviewed Patrick DeWitt’s excellent novel after reading it initially almost two years ago—click here to read the full review. Full of incredible wit and beautiful dialogue, this tale of two brothers on the trail of a man they’ve been hired to kill, taking them from Oregon to California during the height of the gold rush. The story is more about the journey than the destination though, at least until greed takes hold of them and the story takes off in another direction entirely. Without a doubt one of my favorite books I’ve read in the last several years. Also, there is a movie adaptation that I’ve yet to see, so that’s on my own quarantine queue.

Movie

Nothing to Lose [1997]

Okay, so this one is my personal comfort food of a movie. It’s been one of my favorites since I saw it way back when I worked in a video store. It flew a little under the radar, which is a shame. I think this is one of the funniest movies ever made, and I can quote almost every line to prove it. Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence in a twist on the classic buddy comedy in the vein of 48 Hours. Robbins plays an ad exec who grows despondent after he catches his wife cheating on him. He drives aimlessly and winds up in a pretty rough neighborhood, when Lawrence jumps in his car in an attempt to carjack him. Needless to say it doesn’t go as planned and hijinks ensue. The less said the better, though I will say their foes in the movie are played by the delightful duo of John C. McGinley (Scrubs and many other things that are good) and Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, many, many other things that are good) and they are fantastic and hilarious. I recommend this movie every chance I get, and I’ll surely watch it again soon.

As for the other ideas I alluded to, get creative—literally! If you draw, draw! If you paint, paint! If you music, music! Hone your craft. Or, if you’re really feeling adventurous, take up something new! Start drawing, pick up a paintbrush, start writing a story or poem. Keep your mind active and create art. Because, you know, it’s still art even if it’s bad. Making it is the important part.

If this quarantine drags on as some suspect it might, I’ll make more recommendations soon. Stay healthy and wash your hands, everybody!

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