Overrated/Underrated: W. Kamau Bell remains a stand-up standout, and R.I.P. Tomasz Stanko
W. Kamau Bell’s ‘Private School Negro’: Between hosting his Emmy-winning CNN documentary and travel series “United Shades of America” as well as multiple podcasts, it could be easy to forget that Bell remains a top-flight comic. In his new stand-up special released on Netflix in June, Bell flexes the same genial, conversational style seen during his far-flung interview segments for “United Shades” and stretches out on topics from the current political climate to his perspective on race and gender relationships, which continues to be shaped by his experience raising daughters.
Tomasz Stanko: If you’re a devoted watcher of the Showtime series “Homeland,” there’s a chance you’ve heard this Polish-born trumpeter, who died this week at 76. But more than an evocative soundtrack choice, Stanko was an expressive, far-reaching improviser and composer, whose elastic tone often eschewed barn-burning runs for more inward-looking ventures. Late-career albums on the ECM label such as “Dark Eyes” are worth finding but so are more recent albums with an experimental-minded group called his New York Quartet, which show Stanko as an artist who never stopped searching.
True crime: An ever-growing genre that has driven the popularity of Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” the podcast “Serial” and a sizable percentage of the I.D. Network (not to mention “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” and its documentary companion “O.J.: Made in America”), our fascination with murder shows no sign of slowing. While true crime has a rich history of compelling narratives, there’s something a bit unsettling in this very human fascination with our worst behavior, which includes an upcoming documentary on serial killer Ted Bundy. Reality has a way of outpacing fiction, but maybe we’d collectively be better off with a little more escapism in our TV habits?
The death of MoviePass: If you see a candle flickering among film fans this week, those are the hopes among the faithful for the viability of this service, which offered admission to unlimited movies for a monthly fee. After hemorrhaging money since its inception, which last week led to plans to raise prices 50% and limited access to in-demand movies, the future of MoviePass is very much in doubt. While there will surely be mourning among those who exploited the program to its fullest, on the bright side consider all the time that’s now freed from not needing to catch all those bad movies too.
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