Overrated/Underrated: the odd comic brilliance of ‘Futile and Stupid Gesture’
“A Futile and Stupid Gesture” on Netflix: A sort of companion to the 2015 documentary “Drunk, Stoned, Brilliant, Dead” (also streaming on Netflix), this biopic of National Lampoon co-creator Doug Kenney directed by “Wet Hot American Summer’s” David Wain builds a bridge between generations of the oddball vanguard of comedy. In addition to deploying Will Forte’s deadpan mania as Kenney, the movie also features Domhnall Gleeson, Thomas Lennon and Joel McHale (perfectly imperfect as Chevy Chase) in a story of twisted genius with both a raw sense of honesty and absurdity intact.
Calexico: There’s maybe no greater curse for a veteran rock band than to be considered “consistent,” but this Tucson band earns the label with its latest excellent album, “The Thread That Keeps Us.” Forever tied to the desert Southwest with a sound that has often drawn from the Latin music traditions of its border town home and beyond, the bent, horn-accented funk of “Under the Wheels” and the twitchy, trance-like groove of “Another Space” testify to how Calexico occupy a signature sound while feeding a thirst for experimentation that assures they never sound quite the same.
The Grammys’ awareness: For a show designed to celebrate what’s in part the wonderful alchemy of tone and timing, the Grammy Awards sure had a deficit of both after last week’s broadcast. In the wake of a study that found more than 90% of Grammy nominees are men, Recording Academy President Neil Portnow responded that women needed to “step up” if they want more involvement in the industry. He since walked those comments back, but after a show that again honored safe, throwback-leaning choices in most of its performances and winners, it’s clearly not women who need to try harder.
Bill Nye: Benefiting from a fuzzy glow of nostalgia and appearances as an advocate for the reality of climate change, Nye the onetime “Science Guy” is enjoying a renaissance with a hyperactive new Netflix series, “Bill Nye Saves the World.” As a result, Nye was a guest at the State of the Union at the request of a potential new head of NASA, a congressman with a history of denying climate science. The scientific community went on to scold Nye, but there’s a weird cultural symmetry at work in that a political figure’s first choice for scientific approval in 2018 was a TV star. (Oh, and it’s been 80 degrees in L.A. this week.)
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