Welcome to What’s the Buzz, 25YL’s feature where members of our staff provide you with recommendations on a weekly basis. In our internet age, there is so much out there to think about watching, reading, listening to, etc., that it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff, filter out the noise, or find those diamonds in the rough. But have no fear! We’re here to help you do that thing I just described with three different metaphors. Each week a rotating cast of writers will offer their recommendations based on things they have discovered. They won’t always be new to the world, but they’ll be new to us, or we hope new to you. This week, Sean Mekinda discusses the bizarre Greener Grass, Hawk Ripjaw recommends Netflix’s Green Eggs and Ham, Will Johnson saw Heavy Metal in the theater, Rachel Stewart checked out Tim Burton’s Lost Vegas exhibit, and John Bernardy offers us another Watchmen podcast: The Redford Administration.
Sean: When I saw The Lighthouse, I foolishly assumed that it was going to be the most surreal thing I’d watch that week. Then, a few days later I saw Greener Grass.
Walking out of Greener Grass, I knew I had seen something special. It was a bizarre movie, one that felt like Wes Anderson had a baby with surreal absurdism and shoved it into the suburbs of upper-class America. It was funny, it was strange, and it felt real. Every scene, no matter how outlandish, was grounded by a sense of truth. The underlying jealousy, envy, and disdain was palpable not just in the film, but in your own local suburb.
You know the one.
By pure coincidence, I saw Greener Grass on the same day as the five-year anniversary of Adult Swim’s viral hit Too Many Cooks. If you’re familiar with the short, you have a pretty good idea of Greener Grass’s vibe. The comparison between the two is immediate: bright colors, a sense of suburban ennui, and a continued sense of escalation, even as the world around us disintegrates.
But, unlike Too Many Cooks, which leaves you exhausted and yearning for death after only seven minutes of the 11-minute short, Greener Grass feels fresh throughout its entire feature-length runtime. Each scene brings something new. Jokes don’t repeat ad nauseum for a laugh and, for all its absurdity, it never goes as far off the rails as Too Many Cooks.
I’m not sure that there’s some great theme to Greener Grass beyond “boy, suburb culture is fucking bizarre, huh?” but it hasn’t stopped me from thinking about it for the past week. I’ve watched the trailer dozens of times, reliving scenes in my head. I’ve talked about it to everyone who will listen. I’ve marinated on moments, pulling apart motifs and ideas, attempting to glean new insight. I’ve chortled at “Twilson” more times than I’d care to admit.
Greener Grass is already available for streaming, and I highly recommend grabbing some friends, grabbing some beers, and letting yourself descend into madness.
And be sure to check out our interview with creators Jocelynn DeBoer, Dawn Luebbe, and Natalie Metzger as well!
Green Eggs and Ham
Hawk: Sight unseen, an entire Netflix series based on the Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham seems not only bizarre, but contrived. Having watched a few episodes, I can confirm that the latter is quickly dispelled, and the former becomes an engaging and inventive recipe for one of the funniest series of the year.
Essentially, Green Eggs and Ham takes the core premise of the book and transplants it into a Planes, Trains and Automobiles-esque buddy road trip movie. It shows its hand very quickly: in the opening moments Keegan Michael-Key’s whimsical rhyming gives way to a startled “Shut the FRONT DOOR” as a ninja cuts his own zipline, and Key remarks that he doesn’t remember this being in Seuss. So yes, it is very meta in many ways.
Here, the grumpy protagonist of the original gets a name as Guy Am I (Michael Douglas), a hopeful but failed inventor desperate to get his chance on a Shark Tank-esque invention pitch for SnerZco, this world’s massive conglomerate. Meanwhile, Sam I Am (Adam Devine) is attempting to rescue a rare Chickaraffe from the zoo. The pair are forced together when bounty hunters attempt to capture the Chickaraffe for the greedy CEO Snerz (Eddie Izzard). Along the way, they slowly befriend each other and fellow travelers Michellee (Diane Keaton) and her daughter EB (Ilana Glazer) through semi-single-setting episode such as “Here,” “Train,” “Fox” and so on.
The show hews closer to the sensibilities of modern WB Animation humor than it does of Seuss nostalgia, but there is a solid and exciting sense of self-awareness to how it exists in the Seuss universe. It respects the spirit of the story and modernizes the humor while still feeling like it earns the Seuss name: SnerZco HQ features literal pencil-pushers and bean counters, for example. It also looks beautiful: this is said to be one of the most expensive animated series of all time, with individual episodes costing up to $6 million apiece. The money is evident on the screen, with incredibly smooth and expressive animation, and the entire voice cast works very well together.
It’s very easy to dismiss the idea of a Green Eggs and Ham series as a crime, but it’s worth checking out. It’s funny, it’s creative, and has some wonderful moments of character development. It has no business being this good, but it just is.
Will: I had the pleasure of seeing Heavy Metal on the big screen at a local indie theater here in Phoenix last weekend. For those who don’t know, Heavy Metal was a 1981 animated film based off of the underground comix magazine of the same name. The magazine was a cult classic mixture of artwork, comic book storytelling, genre short stories, and pop culture reviews, with an international feel and a rebel edge.
The film aimed to do the same with its approach, providing the often youthful medium of animation with enough blood, sex, and rock ’n roll to have the kids clapping and the parents screaming. Coming out a full year before Creepshow, Heavy Metal used the anthology format to showcase the magazine’s wide range of sci-fi and horror storytelling. Aiding in that anthology process was the use of different artists and animation studios to produce each segment, lending the film a unique look, feel, and voice in each chapter all while sticking to the Heavy Metal house style, if there ever was such a thing (mainly: lots of boobs and ultra-violence).
There are six main tales as well as a rockin’ opening sequence and a framing story. Each segment includes popular music cues from the time, most in the metal or hard rock genre (like Sammy Hagar, Nazareth, Blue Oyster Cult, and Black Sabbath), though other bands, like Journey, Devo, and Cheap Trick make notable appearances as well (Cheap Trick having the stand out track, “Reach Out”, which gives the film a palpable energy and, to this day, can still shake your windows and loose change in the car).
Like most anthology films, there are some segments that don’t work as well as others but, overall, the film is surprisingly effective at being both rebellious and edgy despite being 38 years old. As someone nearly that old myself, I’m not quite as shocked by the novelty of seeing cartoons screw each other but, that said, seeing a film with hilariously childish scenes of nudity in a crowded theater still made me feel a bit self-conscious as if I was 12 and getting away with something.
One stand out segment is “B17”, written by Dan O’Bannon, which follows a World War II bomber jet that becomes infested with zombies and skeletons, set to the tune “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride) by Eagles guitarist Don Felder. Another segment, called Harry Canyon, is a post-apocalyptic noir in which a street-wise cab driver gets mixed up with a buxom blonde and the gangsters trying to retrieve a mysterious orb from her.
“Captain Sternn”, written by comics legend Bernie Wrightson, takes place in deep space and involves the trial of the titular officer for crimes such as murder, rape, and moving violations. The peers in his jury are a bizarre collection of aliens and Sternn’s paid-off witness to help him get off scot-free is a lowly looking loser who transforms into a hulking maniac.
The most popular segment, which earns poster time, is “Taarna”, featuring the headbanging soundscapes of Dio-led Black Sabbath coupled with a rotoscoped badass chick fighting demons while riding a mystical bird. The imagery is astounding and trippy and makes for an engaging finale.
So if you want to go back in time, do a little headbanging, and explore the strange and violent universe of Heavy Metal, it is only an Amazon rental away. It is worth your time.
Tim Burton Shares His “Lost Vegas” at The Neon Museum
Rachel: The first week of November, me and a friend jet set to Las Vegas. One of the sightseeing stops on our trip was the Tim Burton Exhibit at the Neon Museum. Just a couple miles away from Fremont Street (or the old Vegas strip) lies the Neon Museum, and within it, a Neon Boneyard of signage from long-gone or revamped casinos. As a child, Burton and his family would visit Las Vegas for weekend getaways and his love of Sin City’s neon spilled over into works like Mars Attacks!
For this particular exhibit, spectators were able to view Burton’s sketches and notes, as well as models before making their way to the Neon Boneyard to see special sculptures and signage embedded in the Boneyard, as well as a pod filled with digital installations and art.
This was my first time in Las Vegas, and the weird thing about the city is it seems to expand at night with all the neon lights, and our night time tour had the same sort of effect. Towering signs and letters of all sizes lined our dusty desert paths. Every so often a specific Burton touch would pop up among the Vegas iconography: a sculpture, some of Burton’s thoughts emblazoned in white neon, or—much to my inner 10-year-old goth’s heart—the Betelgeuse sign. The pod portion of the tour felt like I was stepping into Burton’s brain, with a mobile of colorful spirits swirling overhead and little portal filled with art around every turn. If you’re a fan of Burton’s poetry book “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories,” you’ll be pleased by some of the surprises.
Lost Vegas runs through February 15, 2020, and it’s well worth the $30 ticket. (The gift shop also has a full range of merch featuring Burton’s art.) Tours are offered during the day time and at night. I recommend jump(ing) in the line for the night tour, because that’s when the old beauties of old Vegas truly get to shine.
The Redford Administration (A Watchmen Podcast)
John: There are a boatload of Watchmen podcasts, all bearing similar looks and names, and to cut through some of the confusion, I’ll be reviewing one of them every week of Watchmen’s run on HBO. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your new favorite podcast along the way.
This week I’m looking into one of the easily recognizable ones, The Redford Administration. The show has three hosts, and their gimmick is that they discuss thirty questions over the course of one hour. That forced limitation keeps the hosts quick and concise, and keeps the show flowing at a good clip. I really love it, and I wish more shows worked with this format.
Though I will say, it takes a certain assortment of hosts to pull it off as well as they do. These guys remind me of the Wrapped In Podcast guys. They’re quick witted and sharp, and they explore ideas far from the path in measured thoughtful ways. How they are able to go off into the weeds of theory crafting yet come back in for the next question in line, I will never know.
Some of the early questions in this week’s podcast are: Are eggs Lindelof’s favorite food? Is Veidt’s story going to get weirder before the big reveal? What are the odds on Lady Trieu being Veidt’s captor?What’s the big clock really for?
Some details that come up during their answers: This episode is all about babies. Is Veidt the meteor Trieu is intercepting? Scene transitions are probably code to understand clues. They like the staggered pacing of smaller mysteries so that big mysteries are not figured out four episodes before the end. They ask if Veidt’s launched servants turn into squids and are the cause of squid storms. They also discuss the implications of time being told out of order or not. And there’s obviously more, but I want you to try these guys out without sharing all their material. If you’ve been liking our Behind The Mask theory round-ups, The Redford Administration will be right up your alley.
Those are our recommendations this week! What are yours? Let us know in the comments!