Butcher's beef diagram with movies and podcasts instead of cuts of meat

Curated Beef: February 2022


I’m writing this while staring down an imminent ice storm, so our slab of curated beef is frozen this month. Bad timing haunts my attempts to see rep screenings at Row House Cinema: they are showing The Thing (1982) (!!) this weekend just as the aforementioned ice storm is inbound. Another all-time favorite, Casablanca (1942), is playing at Cinemark but the North Hills is equally a bridge too far in the winter. I’ve at least had the fortune to see Casablanca three times at the theater. John Carpenter’s masterpiece will remain on my to-do list, it seems.

That’s ok. The freezer is loaded with frozen bean burritos and Red Baron pizzas, so we’ll get by. We have no shortage of good music/books/movies to enjoy once we are snowbound.


Moving Pictures

The Righteous Gemstones, Season 2


The Gemstones’ first season was damn near perfect. They created and performed a trashy, soapy miniseries while still being insanely funny. I have been waiting for what feels like a decade for season 2. And now it’s here, and we get to luxuriate in the tribulations of trash humans Eli, Judy, Kelvin, Amber, and Jesse Gemstone, as well as iconic hangers-on Uncle Baby Billy, Keefe, and BJ. This recommendation finds us halfway through the second season, so you have time to catch up before the finale. This season delves further into Eli’s past before he became a megapastor, and finds Jesse and his siblings chafing at the limits placed on them by their controlling father. Plus, it adds some old-school wrasslin’, a much-welcomed supporting role from Eric Roberts, and the reveal that a member of the family has a penchant for breaking thumbs.

If you are unfamiliar, the Gemstones centers on the titular Gemstones, a family of corrupt and venal megachurch pastors in South Carolina. Their church seats tens of thousands, they have their own streaming service and branded merchandise, and they are now shilling timeshares at their flock. The show might seem blasphemous at first blush, but the satire is aimed at tax-sheltered weirdos and hypocrites in 30,000 square foot mansions. Religion and the religious are not the objects of scorn.

(The Righteous Gemstones is yet another reason why HBO Max is the premiere streaming service. –Ed.)


Jackass Forever

February 4

I hesitated to put this on the list, because I assume that anyone who cares about Jackass has plans to see it in theaters or streaming… and everyone else probably wouldn’t go if their ticket was free. But I’ll make my pitch anyway.

I think that the charms of Jackass have been lost under the weight of its cultural footprint. The show begat three feature films and a dozen spinoff shows, to say nothing of two decades of imitators. And sadly, it has felt like the legacy of Jackass is the mean-spirited pranks, such as the old-man masks and the shitting in hardware store toilets. For me, the show’s stunts were the best. These moments reeked of a lust for life. It was impossible to see someone willingly climb on a slingshot bicycle and be launched fifty feet out into a lake and not be completely enervated for the rest of the day. Jackass gives the same freewheelin’ stuntman vibes that I get from the Burt Reynolds/Hal Needham flicks (Hooper, Smokey & The Bandit, etc.).

But time continues onward in one direction, and the cast of Jackass are now creaky and permanently disfigured from 20 years of injuries. So just as in Hooper, this sure feels like the end of the era for these stuntmen. Staring down fifty years of age, the stunts seem more dangerous, the chance of injury greater… but it also feels like that ups the excitement, at least this last time. I sure hope this stays in theaters long enough that I can see it there, as seeing Jackass: The Movie (2002) was one of my favorite moments of moviegoing.


The Nicholas Brothers and Cab Calloway

Video clip from Stormy Weather (1943)

I can’t speak on the entire film as I’ve never seen it. But I wholeheartedly recommend this clip from Stormy Weather. This video is dazzling, and maybe the most incredible display of human athleticism within the performing arts ever caught on film. The Nicholas Brothers seem unaffected by gravity as they leap from spot to spot and pull themselves up from splits like they are on marionette strings. You have to watch to the end because the staircase descent is unforgettable.

They are accompanied by a young Cab Calloway, which is also a genuine treat. We recently watched The Cotton Club (1984), and while actor Larry Marshall did an amazing impression of Cab for that film, seeing the real deal is even better.



William Gibson, The Peripheral

William Gibson, a singularly idiosyncratic writer and absolute titan of science fiction, is back on his mid-period shit. In The Peripheral (2014), he builds a convoluted narrative across two timelines, with both focused on the idea of celebrity in the age of online avatars and fans who spend more time in-game than out-. If you’ve read Gibson before and didn’t care for his cold prose, you won’t suddenly like him here. But for those who are in, it is a joy to see him still poking at the corners of humanity in cyberspace. If you have yet to read Gibson, I’d recommend starting with Count Zero (1986) or Pattern Recognition (2003).

Few people so elegantly elucidate how capitalism infiltrates and assimilates new technologies for its neverending churn. The Periperal  is interesting as a standalone story, but it does have a sequel, with a third book announced but not released. Agency (2020), the sequel, posits an alternate outcome to the 2016 US Presidential election. I found the setting too recent: there is insufficient detachment from that time for the book to work for me. But The Peripheral is a good time on its own.



Beach House, Once Twice Melody

February 18

If someone were truly weird and made me name three musical genres that I could only listen to for the rest of my life, I would say dream pop, cool jazz, and alt-country. These are the places to which I return the most.

Beach House has become one of my go-to bands in the dream pop realm. Depression Cherry and Teen Dream are always in my rotation, but I am excited for something new. And Once Twice Melody is a classic style double LP, sprawling and experimental and full of too many ideas. Beach House has dribbled out songs from the record over the past few months, but the double LP properly releases in mid-February. I preordered the vinyl and can’t wait to vibe out in the ethereal vocals and reverb.



Mission to Zyxx

Improvisational storytelling can, by its nature, be hit or miss. It can be hilarious (This Is Spinal Tap), upsetting (Climax), boring (Anchorman 2), but it is always revelatory. The performers don’t know where they are going either, which makes their enthusiasm infectious.

Mission to Zyxx is an improvised storytelling podcast about jobbers on a spaceship. The show is full of loving nods to science fiction but it rarely gets mired in topical reference. Even the most silly of homages are sewn into the show’s tapestry with no more than a quiet chuckle off-mic. The editing keeps each episode humming along, and the performers have incredible rapport.

I especially like how each season resets the status quo: in the first, the team are ambassadors for the Federated Alliance; in the second they find themselves in the Rebellion against the evil Federated Alliance; in the third they are positioned against the Galactic Empire which used Planet Crusher Crushers to destroy the Alliance and the Rebellion; and I have yet to listen to seasons 4 and 5.

I’ll get there pretty quickly, though. Beano wuv podcasts.



Valentine’s Day

Life is far too short, so this is just a reminder to do something nice for yourself or for a loved one. You are worthy of love.