Welcome back! Each week in this space, our writers come together to offer their recommendations to you. Sometimes these things might be new, sometimes they might be older, but they’ll always be worth your time. Let us help you cut through the noise of our (post)modern world a bit and check back every weekend to see what we’ve been into lately. This week, Paul recommends Factotum, Lor has been playing Dorfromantik, and Caemeron gushes a bit about Better Call Saul, Barry, and Winning Time.
Film Recommendation: Factotum
Paul Keelan: Factotum is a film I avoided watching for countless years due to unwarranted trepidation. I was mostly concerned with the casting. I also anticipated and feared that the film would dilute Bukowski’s unfiltered and unseemly sensibility. The casting of Matt Dillon scared me: He is much too handsome to play the unprepossessing author, who spent most of his days blowing every penny of his paycheck drinking at dive bars.
I was wrong. Dillon is excellent as the dipsomaniacal bard—equally cantankerous and charming, disheveled and infused with the smarmy air of Bukowski’s signature ennui. He embodies the late proletarian poet with the perfect balance of sordidness and eloquence—capturing Bukowski’s weary, worn-out soul in spades. Sure, his facial features are smoother; but his eyes emanate the same down-and-out lethargy.
Factotum is not for everybody. The plot meanders, the characters inhabit the seedy underbelly of society, and it’s shot in dreary blues and greys (Minneapolis substitutes for L.A. in the film and it oddly works). Where it succeeds is in its tonal accuracy. Bukowski is notorious for many reasons—his wry comic wit, his mean and sometimes-violent edge, his subtle misogyny, and his caustic sense of irony. A deadbeat alcoholic who circled the dregs of blue-collar drudgery, Bukowski is an anti-hero at best.
The co-writer/director Bent Hamer captures these qualities subtly but exquisitely: finding a nice equilibrium of neutrality, empathy, and pathos. Through a series of sardonic vignettes and pithy tragedies, the film taps into the sourness, the rancor, and the beatific sloth of our protagonist’s demons and frustrated ambitions. By keeping the narrative epigrammatic and elliptical, Hamer replicates the essence of Bukowski’s writings—creating a biopic that transcends the fluff of your average tale of addiction, comeuppance, and redemption.
You can find Factotum on Hulu. Don’t wait a decade like I did—it’s well worth your time.
Gaming Recommendation: Dorfromantik
Lor Gislason: My partner knows me pretty well, I’d say, after a dozen years together. He bought me Dorfromantik on a whim, saying “oh this feels like a game you’ll enjoy”. Boy, how right he was!! Looking a bit like Settlers of Catan, you start from one hexagon tile, placing new tiles and trying to match up the edges. Forests with other forests, train tracks together, homes to create villages, fields of wheat and lavender, and water to make rivers. You’re basically building your own little villages and landscapes, which each tile adding space for more tiles.
Soon you’ll be tasked with quests (have six water tiles together, etc) that unlock new sets, like a windmill for fields and a beaver dam for water. You start with a stack of these tiles, and when it reaches zero, the game’s over. Completing quests adds more to your pile, as well as creating “perfect” tiles; i.e all sides of the hexagon match. It is insanely addicting—I think I played for four hours when I first launched it, without realizing how much time had passed. There’s also a creative mode, where you can build with no restrictions. I could genuinely see people using this for TTRPG layout designs, as it’s very easy to use! The only problem is pulling myself away from the game to get work done!
Some TV Recommendations You Probably Don’t Need
Caemeron Crain: As the world continues to be just awful in new and (un)surprising ways, I’m genuinely thankful to have some high-quality television in my life right now. Say what you will about escapism, but…oof…more escaping from reality, please!
You’ll hardly need me to recommend Better Call Saul to you (though if you haven’t watched it, now’s a great time to catch up before it ends this summer). It honestly remains the best show on TV and it’s not even close. It’s better than Breaking Bad and I’m endlessly impressed with how on the edge of the seat I am even though we meaningfully know what’s going to happen. Not entirely, mind you, but how do you make me fear for the life of a character I know with complete certainty isn’t going to die in these circumstances? It’s really impressive stuff, and Ali’s articles are a wonderful supplement as she really has expert-level knowledge of these shows and draws connections I wouldn’t have seen on my own. So maybe that’s the real recommendation here—that you should read her work. Also, watch Better Call Saul! And give Rhea Seehorn some Emmys!
At the same time, Barry has returned to our screens and I have the pleasure of writing on that this season. It’s as good as ever. The season premiere blew me away and I can’t wait to see where this is going. If you haven’t watched it, you might expect it to be funny, and it is, but Barry is so much more than that, as it deftly explores existential aspects of the human condition. Barry’s back!
Lastly, I’ve really enjoyed Winning Time, which wraps up its first season on Sunday night. It seems like this one has flown under the radar a little bit, perhaps because people aren’t interested in basketball, or perhaps because people are interested in basketball and hate the Lakers? I don’t know. Regardless, the show is a ton of fun and just really quality stuff all the way through in terms of television. The style is distinctive, visually, and it really gets across the vibe of the late 1970s when most of the action is set. Finally, the cast is just sublime.
I don’t know why more people aren’t watching this show, or if they are and I’m just not seeing them talk about it, but it’s been an exhilarating ride through its first season. It’s also enjoyable to read what Hawk has been writing on it each week, as he approaches the series as a fan of TV much more than as a fan of basketball. (Spoiler alert: He likes it!)
None of this is really enough, though. I need some new series to immerse myself in streaming, like putting my head under a televisual pillow for a while. Let me know if you have any suggestions.