Our staffers have some recommendations for what you can watch at the theater or in the comfort of your home this weekend.
K. Austin Collins: The beauty of Lady Bird isn’t in how well [Greta] Gerwig has made a movie about herself: It’s in how thoroughly and adventurously she’s imagined the inner life, anxieties, joys, insecurities, and everyday behaviors of other people. Lady Bird is full of characters who, like our heroine, just want the best for themselves, and for others.
Collins: Justice League runs about two hours long and is full of fire and bombast and rocket-grade armor. There’s a whole “End of Days” theme to think about, multiple plotlines to juggle, and a handful of backstories to tease out. But I never watched it more intently than when I was trying to figure out what the fuck was going on with Henry Cavill’s upper lip.
Justin Charity: [Hari] Kondabolu tells Kal Penn that he loves The Simpsons despite Apu, and Penn responds with a bitter laugh: “You hate yourself.” Penn speaks as an actor who humored some demoralizing roles of his own before he first played Kumar Patel, the adorable slacker from the Harold & Kumar films. Two years before the release of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Penn fit a much different bill in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, starring alongside Ryan Reynolds as his dweeby, oversexed, exchange-student Indian American sidekick, Taj Mahal Badalandabad. Penn says he hung up on his agent the moment she first told him the character’s name. But Penn took the role, and he even got his own, reviled spinoff sequel, Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj, released in 2006. Kondabolu sees Penn as an accomplished Hollywood actor who has shaken free of the worst stereotypes at this point in his career, but even so, Penn speaks bitterly, knowing that the role of Taj Mahal Badalandabad places him in lineage with Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, the black sheep of a family that has never claimed him despite how famously he claims them.
Adam Nayman: It’s a brilliant, moving bit of filmmaking that would work as a truly happy ending for Nathan for You, but it’s also so perfectly packaged as such that it’s hard not to feel like we’re being played one last time. Mistrust is woven into the fabric of the show’s universe, and the possibility that we’re watching a piece of carefully scripted, stage-managed wish fulfillment — for Nathan Fielder the character, or Nathan Fielder the artist, or some combination of the two — hovers over the end credits. If “Finding Frances” does turn out to be a series finale, it will send Nathan for You off into the sunset on its own shady terms, casting a longer, darker shadow on the television landscape than any other comedy.
Alison Herman: Going into the second half of its season, Discovery has kinks to work out, but it’s laid the all-important groundwork for a rich and tight-knit ensemble. If my ultimate frustration with a season of television was that between all the swashbuckling and strategizing, I didn’t get to spend enough time watching characters get to the root of their dysfunctions, then that’s less a complaint than a backhanded compliment. I’m excited to reboard with Discovery when it’s back this winter; I just want to see what kind of shape it will settle into.
Herman: Lady Dynamite is a deeply personal work in plot as well as sensibility. Its first batch of episodes chart the buildup, duration, and aftermath of Maria Bamford–the-character’s time in a psych ward, a subject Maria Bamford–the-person has spoken on freely in her public appearances. In the “Before” segment, Maria is in the midst of a manic episode; in the “During,” Bamford is in her home state of Minnesota; in the “Present,” Bamford’s attempting to get her life together. Each third also corresponds to its own radically different aesthetic, making the shifts in Maria’s life stylistic as well as narrative; together, the timelines form such an intricately structured portrait of mental illness that it was difficult to see how its impact could be replicated.