Each week we gather to recommend things we’ve been enjoying lately. They might not always be new, but they will always be things we think are worth your time. This week, Paul recommends Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood, Hawk was inspired to check out Stath Lets Flats, and Tim is playing Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course.
Film Recommendation — Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood
Paul Keelan: Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood is Linklater’s painstaking portrait of an artist as a young man. It feels more akin to a literary masterpiece—rendered cinematic through the masterful work of rotoscope animation. With every frame, Linklater’s attention to detail is meticulous and lucid. He’s already proved his uncanny knack for reimagining small moments of youth with specificity and clarity (from Slacker to Dazed & Confused to Boyhood to the Before Sunset/Sunrise/Midnight trilogy). Apollo 10½ once again taps into this undeniable talent and motif, while adding an extra dose of autobiographic heft.
I absolutely loved every nuanced, information-rich second of this intimate, unfiltered movie. Sure, a ton of well-treaded ’60s regalia and memorabilia are rehashed, but everything is filtered through the authentic lens of genuine, first-person nostalgia. Linklater conflates the large-scale and small-scale stakes so seamlessly and wonderfully that the micro and macro feel as if they are cut from the same cloth. The tokens of depersonalized/public pop culture (Jello-O molds, the Vietnam war, NASA, pinball machines, littering hysteria, The Twilight Zone) truly become inseparable from the personal.
The minutia of childhood is all there, fully recreated. We acquaint ourselves with Stanley’s family, neighborhood, and hometown city (Houston) on a visceral level. We witness his father stealing construction plywood to build a Ping-Pong table and ranting about the difference between white trash and rednecks; we witness his friends lifting arcade games at the bowling alley to score a free play; we witness his elementary school teachers paddling students in detention or rolling out the TV for rocket launch days; we witness one grandmother spouting paranoid conspiracies and another taking the family to see The Sound of Music; and on and on. The film is a sprawling diary, writ large.
The cumulative result of all these indelible memories is remarkable. Linklater uses both trivia and triviality to cut to the core of lost time: to recapture the microcosmic details of an elusive, bygone world. His commitment to the trifling particulars and nonessential technicalities is what truly brings this fantastical, NASA-saturated childhood to life. The wizards at NASA may design Apollo rocket ships and manipulate physics to send men to the Moon; but Linklater accomplishes a similarly inspiring feat on a deceptively smaller scale: fully teleporting himself and his audience back in time by reincarnating the space age some 50+ years later with vividness and poignancy.
Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood is currently streaming on Netflix.
TV Recommendation — Stath Lets Flats
Hawk Ripjaw: Stath Lets Flats wasn’t anywhere near my radar until I was reading up on Tim Robinson and Zach Kanin’s (of I Think You Should Leave legend) new HBO show Computer School, the pilot of which is directed by Andrew Gaynord. Seeing that Gaynord was involved in Stath Lets Flats, I decided to check it out—and spent several hours marathoning one of the better sitcoms I’ve seen in some time.
Stath Lets Flats, created by and starring Jamie Demetriou, is a British sitcom focusing on Stath, a letting agent working for his father’s company. He is extremely terrible at his job and it is 100% clear that he is only still employed because his father puts up with his crap, though even his Dad admits how difficult it is to keep giving him a pass for his antics.
The most immediate comparison I could make to Stath Lets Flats is perhaps The Office, in that the main character possesses a downright painful social ineptitude. Stath consistently says or does the absolute worst thing someone could say or do in any situation, and is generally hated by most of the other characters in the show. He literally cannot hold himself back from every idiotic, self-centered decision, and literally minutes after he’s told he shouldn’t say something, it pours out of his mouth. Sometimes he’ll even catch himself immediately after uttering it. He’s also an absolute idiot who couldn’t find his way in life even if he was led by the hand. But in spite of his terminal self-centeredness, he is trying, and it’s difficult to hate him.
It’s also extremely British. I had to keep the subtitles on and still needed to interpret most of the slang through context, and there’s hardly a line that doesn’t have some sort of British slang I’m not familiar with. It doesn’t detract from the show; on the contrary, it adds to its odd charm. In terms of the oddness, I don’t know if someone more versed in the dialect would find the show significantly less weird, but if so there are still plenty of strange and awkward situations.
At the end of the day, Stath Lets Flats is just a very goofy, airy comedy that feels like a breath of fresh air from the stress of the world. It’s certainly not short on awkward moments and painfully uncomfortable events, but that’s what makes it such a delight. It takes me back to the days of both the British and American versions of The Office, and as such gives off immediate comfort blanket vibes. The show is currently “paused” but not canceled, so I’m looking forward to seeing Stath trip over his own feet as soon as possible.
Gaming Recommendation — Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course
Tim Glaraton: After almost five years since the initial game’s launch (and almost as many delays as it took to get the main game), this weekend I was finally able to dive into Cuphead’s long-awaited DLC pack, The Delicious Last Course.
I’m something of a Cuphead fanatic, having followed the game’s development from its initial announcement all the way back in 2014, so I would have almost certainly been satisfied with any additional taste of Cuphead, no matter how phoned in or half-measured it might have been. Thankfully, “phoned in” isn’t how Studio MDHR operates, and instead this DLC feels very much like Cuphead 2.0. Each of the new bosses somehow feels even more lively and animated than in the base game.
Developer Maja Moldenhauer has said there are as many frames of animation in this DLC as there are in the entire base game itself, and having played through the DLC for several hours I don’t doubt that for a second. There’s a gang of insect moonshiners you fight in an underground speakeasy, a giant who rips apart the very ground under your feet, a group of snow cultists who summon a zombie snowman, and a few others I’ll leave you to find for yourself—in true Cuphead fashion, all of them are extraordinarily difficult to conquer while never feeling cheap or unfair.
On top of all that, there’s a new playable character in the form of Ms. Chalice, a physical form of the Legendary Chalice who granted you various superpowers in the base game, coming with a completely different set of abilities. Her invincibility roll and extra heart might seem like an easy mode of sorts, and while she could certainly fill that niche for new players, I actually found playing her to be much more difficult than either Cuphead or Mugman—so much of the game is based on muscle memory that learning an entirely different character really does feel like having to learn how to play the game all over again.
Overall, The Delicious Last Course truly lives up to its name: not only does it provide another taste of Cuphead that might be even more satisfying than the first, it also cements Cuphead itself as my personal gold standard for indie games—and eagerly awaiting whatever it is that comes out of Studio MDHR’s kitchen next.