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🎬 "How do you like them apples?"

🎬 "How do you like them apples?"
By Eric Johnson • Issue #66 • View online
What day is it?! I totally thought today was Thursday and I had an extra day to finish writing this — so, finishing it during my lunch break. Sorry for the late send.
Happy surprise Friday, everyone!

This week in quarantine: Two very famous movies, a TV show made for kids that adults can love too, and a funny punny new podcast about cooking at home.
📫 Reply to this email with your reactions and recommendations for what I should watch in the future.
🍎 Good Will Hunting
Good Will Hunting is one of those movies with such a big cultural footprint that you can go into it for the first time and already know several of the major scenes (see also: the other movie I watched this week, below). And yet, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s dramedy still works in almost every way. The famous lines are still funny, the famous therapy scenes between Damon and Robin Williams are still moving, and Affleck is still … present.
A couple elements have not aged well. Stellan Skarsgård’s Fields Medal-winning math professor — the first person to take an interest in Will Hunting — becomes a super-interesting character when we get glimpses of his ego and his history with Williams’ character, but I think his repeated attempts to hit on much younger female students were intended as comedy. Especially in a movie produced by Harvey Weinstein, that’s … not great.
To reference a different Ben Affleck movie (one where I actually loved his performance), it’s hard to think about Minnie Driver’s character without also remembering the famous “cool girl” monologue from Gone Girl. The movie is not about her, which is fine, but Driver is a talented actress who only gets one great scene to shine in here.
🐰 Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Every time I rewatch Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or for that matter anything by Monty Python, I have a bad habit of assuming it won’t be as good as I remember. But there’s a reason this movie has endured across generations: It’s the pinnacle of smart-stupid comedy.
You can watch Holy Grail for the (brilliant and silly) gags, which I did many times as a kid: “How do you know she is a witch?”; “You must bring us a shrubbery!”; “Answer me these questions three…”
But on repeat viewings, it really sinks in how anarchically creative this movie is. From the opening credits onward, we’re told not to trust any of our instincts about how the movie will play out, and the Pythons gleefully smash genres and mediums together: Adventure and musical, animation and live-action.
As regular readers of this newsletter will know, I also love self-serious characters dropped into ridiculous circumstances, and the late Graham Chapman is the MVP of this movie. His haughty, constantly-aggrieved King Arthur implicitly skewers people who seek political power, and yet he’s still a likable protagonist.
Other Stuff I Liked This Week
Home Cooking is a recently-launched podcast hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway and Samin Nosrat (the co-author of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) and, as you might expect, it’s about how to make better food at home while in quarantine. Hirway and Nosrat field questions from listeners and bring on their famous friends to get some outside perspective; I’m looking forward to trying the latke recipe from The West Wing costar Joshua Malina’s family. But the real reason to listen to the show is the chemistry between the hosts. Nosrat truly embodies the joy of cooking (move over, Irma S. Rombauer), and Hirway counterprograms her energy with quietly puckish — and pun-derful — asides.
I hesitate to recommend this one because of the sheer number of hours it has consumed, but consider yourself warned: The mobile game Archero (which I discovered through the Reply All newsletter) is an addictive action game with a well-designed “level up” progression. You play an archer clearing room after room of monsters and demons, all the while collecting experience points that can be used to upgrade your character for future levels. It’s a great time-waster when you have 5 minutes of nothing to do … or, sometimes, 12 consecutive 5-minute blocks.
Lastly: We’ve been rewatching our way through the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender as a sort of quarantine project (and if we make it to its sequel The Legend of Korra, it’ll be a Korra-ntine project). Although I remember the larger arc of the story, I’ve forgotten so much about this delightful Nickelodeon series, so sometimes it feels like I’m seeing it for the first time. We’re almost done with Season One, after which point I’ve promised to rewatch the abysmal live-action movie adaptation by M. Night Shyamalan … brace yourself for that review.
P.S. We’re watching on DVD, because physical media is great. But it was just announced that all of Avatar will be on Netflix starting May 15. Catch up!
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Eric Johnson

I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

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