It’s the spookiest time of the year, but the scariest thing on my television lately has been the two presidential debates that have managed to occur despite the ever-increasing hellworld surrounding us, not to mention the endless emotional rollercoaster that is the nightly news. For a while, it was all I could do to catch up on current events and then switch over to The Great British Bakeoff, which is to say, a window into a world where nothing very bad can ever happen. Noel Fielding wears loud sweaters; cakes are occasionally too hot to ice but really only rarely fall, which is kind of amazing given the kind of pressure they’re under; and I ignore Paul Hollywood as much as possible: a recipe for a quiet mind.
However! I have managed at least one appropriately Halloweeny selection. Vampires vs. The Bronx is, frankly, one of the more adorable horror movies out there, and one of the reasons it balances between the twin poles of fear and sweetness so well is because it’s grounded in its specificity. Vamps v. Bronx is a product of today, which shows first in the generous way it uses technology to set the scene, and then goes on to make the theme — a not-so-subtle equation of vampirism with gentrification — feel stronger and more urgent by tying it to a very specific place and moment in time. Horror is at its best when it directly reflects the problems and fears of a society, whether it does so on purpose or more subconsciously and Vamps v. Bronx is conscious of the points it’s making each step of the way. The movie’s cast of characters may be familiar — the charismatic ringleader with the passion project, the kid with the troubled past, the nerdy one who is very aware of what genre he’s in, the Cool Slightly Older Girl — but as with the careful recreation of several generations of vampire lore that goes into the antagonists, this isn’t a sign of lack of originality so much as it is an appreciation of the established genre the movie builds off of to create something new.
2 Fast 2 Furious – A vastly underrated member of the Fast & Furious family, even if Vin Diesel isn’t in it. I know it’s a controversial stance, but I promise, there are occasionally good movies that don’t include Vin Diesel. It’s like the square-rectangle thing: the vast majority of Vin Diesel movies are a net-positive for Hollywood’s impact on the universe, but not all good movies include Vin Diesel.
Captain Fantastic – Friends, Romans, countrymen, I cannot stress enough how much of a Kanopy evangelist I have become. Check and see if your local library card offers access to streaming on Kanopy! You’ll find all kinds of relatively recent Oscar bait and wildly questionable indie movies. Like this one, where Viggo Mortensen is a way-outside-the-mainstream, back-to-the-land father of six, and we as an audience explore the sometimes-far-too-permeable line between an understandable level of political disillusionment and self-destructive extremism.
Enola Holmes – Helena Bonham Carter is predictably glamorously unhinged, although her emotional through-line of “I have to do mysterious child abandonment because of my loud politics” doesn’t quite ring true as a justification for the child-must-be-alone-and-unsupported-to-have-adventures trope. Millie Bobby Brown is cute as a button, and the eventual solution of the mystery was extremely heavy-handed in its allegory, but what can you do? @ the Netflix powers that be, a Henry Cavill-centered spin-off would literally just be Sherlock Holmes, of which eight million adaptations already exist, please try to read the room on the actual appeal of this movie.
Raising Hope – I’m not going to try to sound cooler than I am by hiding this from you, I agree as much as anyone that our cultural tendency towards reboots has gone far too far, but if some network wanted to resurrect Raising Hope, I would be 1000% on-board.
Champions – Three episodes in, the first scene is still the best scene, but that’s just because the first scene is very, very funny, not because the show itself is any worse than normally wildly uneven.
The Musketeers – By season two, a lot of the magic has gone out of this swashbuckle-a-thon, but will that stop me from occasionally dipping back in to try and see if it gets good again over and over until I run out of show? Absolutely it will not.
Entourage – Yeah, okay, you caught me, through some mysterious cocktail of internalized misogyny and a love-hate relationship with half-understanding Hollywood inside jokes, Entourage is one of my comfort shows. So sue me. But while you’re suing me, can we mutually entertain the question of how it must feel to be Adrian Grenier, and to be best known for playing the role of an actor who is more famous and successful than he, himself, the actor playing the actor, is ever going to be? Last night I got him mixed up with Emile Hirsch, so this is my formal apology to Emile Hirsch, too. The next layer of this ouroboros-like feedback loop of showbiz creations that pull back the curtain on the lives of the rich and the famous would be a sitcom about a fictional version of Adrian Grenier playing a movie star on TV. Of course, the success of this hypothetical venture would fully depend on whether Jason Momoa would be willing to cameo in the episode where fictional Adrian Grenier watches the actual Aquaman movie.
Last Tango in Halifax – a charming dramedy about two people who had wistful mutual crushes on each other in their teens and reconnected to get whirlwind married in their seventies, and the strangeness of how their two families blend and intersect over time. Word to the wise, this month, the season that isn’t up on Netflix is streaming on PBS in the US.
Silverado – A lower body-count than I expected, fun ensemble cast, and a scaffold gets burned down for fun and profit. For no very good reason other than rhyme and genre, I’ve had “Desperado” stuck in my head ever since I watched it. When I was twelve I was convinced that “Desperado” was a song about a horse.
Sweet Home Alabama – Surprisingly soulless for a supposed romcom, but who doesn’t like to see Patrick Dempsey occasionally romantically thwarted? The dog cemetery was the most genuinely emotional four minutes.
Sidney Dritz is currently reevaluating what to do with the rest of her life, which makes the angle to take in bios tricky. She finished her three-college tour of America at the University of Southern Maine, and her poetry has appeared in Glass Poetry Press’s #PoetsResist series, in Claw & Blossom, and in Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters.