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What's Making Us Happy: A guide to your weekend viewing and listening

Asa Jennings as Peter Watson in <em>The Swan.</em>
Courtesy of Netflix
Asa Jennings as Peter Watson in The Swan.

This week, Olivia Pope and a whole bunch of other potential murder suspects (or victims!) were welcomed into the Knives Out universe, the MLB’s history books became a little more legitimate, and a theater legend announced she’d be stepping into the shoes of an iconic Broadway role.

Here's what NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

The Swan, and Wes Anderson’s other Roald Dahl adaptations

In 2023, Wes Anderson released four short films directly to Netflix. They are all based on Roald Dahl short stories and feature the same company of actors: Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel, Rupert Friend. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar won Best Live Action short film Oscar in 2024. But the other three are darker and represent what I think is a perfect mix of sensibilities. Dahl and Anderson are both fabulists, they're both ironists, but Anderson's got maybe a skosh more belief in humanity. The film I keep coming back to is The Swan. It's about a young boy who loves birds, and gets bullied by a pair of older kids. It is beautiful in a very bleak way. The thing about Anderson's deadpan approach to this material in particular is that he's deliberately pushing down any strong emotions, keeping them below the surface. But they don't go away -- they just kind of wait in stealth mode so they can kind of sneak up on you in the very end of each piece. — Glen Weldon 

RAYE’s song “Worth It” from the album My 21st Century Blues

RAYE is a British singer-songwriter who, I think, is the closest we've come to a spiritual heir to Amy Winehouse. On her album My 21st Century Blues you really get a sense of an artist who just has fluency in so many different genres at once and swirls them together. She also did a Tiny Desk concert in 2023 that was totally terrific. — Stephen Thompson

Gasoline Rainbow

Gasoline Rainbow is a movie directed by Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross, a.k.a the Ross Brothers. This is a really beautiful movie about five close-knit teenagers who are from a small town in Oregon. They set out on a road trip to see the Pacific Coast. It's sort of this last hurrah of adolescence. The Ross Brothers are known for blending and blurring the line between reality and fiction. They tend to use nonprofessional actors in semi-scripted scenarios. This movie is subtly set against the backdrop of the pandemic, but it's not like beating you over the head with it. It has this very restless energy and it’s filled with a lot of beautiful moments with colorful characters. It's had a limited run in theaters, but it's also streaming on MUBI as of May 31. — Aisha Harris

Bad Bad Hats’ song “Meter Run” from its self-titled album

/ Bad Bad Hats
Bad Bad Hats

Bad Bad Hats is a small band from Minneapolis. They are perfect, female-fronted power pop with really shimmery guitars and incredibly funny lyrics. They just put out a brand new, self-titled album that they refer to as the “Flower Album” because it has daisies on the cover. One of my favorite songs off this most recent record is called “Meter Run.” If you like Josie and the Pussycats, you should be listening to Bad Bad Hats. — Margaret H. Willison 

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Aisha Harris

It’s highly doubtful anyone who’s as addicted to their daily routine of NYT puzzles as I am hasn’t already discovered Strands, but in the off-chance it’s passed you by, give it a try! (It’s still in beta mode, not yet integrated in the app.) It’s a word search with a twist; you’ll get a clue as to the puzzle’s theme – today’s is “on the yellow brick road” – and then you have to search for words in the puzzle that match the theme. Sometimes it’s very obvious (to me) and other times the themes are so pun-tastic as to be downright inscrutable, and I have no idea what words I might be looking for. It’s fun!

I was a little meh on Season 1 of Loot; Hollywood’s current obsession with satirizing the insanely wealthy has gotten increasingly less scathing. But by the end, it felt like the excellent cast of this workplace comedy – which includes Joel Kim Booster, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez and Ron Funches – were finally gelling. Plus, I’m willing to stick through pretty much anything for Maya Rudolph, who stars as a Melinda Gates-type who decides to devote her life to altruism after divorcing her cheating tech billionaire husband. I’m only about half-way through Season 2, but I’m fully committed now – the jokes are sharper and Rudolph is as endearing as ever.

Didn’t know I needed or wanted a SZA cover of “Lose Yourself,” but now I know.

Beth Novey adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment "What's Making Us Happy" for the Web. If you like these suggestions, consider signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.
Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
Aisha Harris is a host of Pop Culture Happy Hour.
Margaret H. Willison
[Copyright 2024 NPR]