Larks & Recs: Gen V, Littlewood, and The Holdovers

A young woman covered in blood
Prime Video/Screenshot

Because somehow it’s February already, welcome back to Larks & Recs! Each week, members of the TVObs staff assemble to recommend cool things in the world, or sometimes go on a bit of a lark about whatever is on their minds. In this edition, Cat Smith recommends Gen V, Robin Moon has been playing Littlewood, and Clay Dockery continues to think about the Academy Awards nominations and what the Oscars will be like as a TV show with an entry on The Holdovers.

The Xtacles, a team of robot soldiers, bounce a beach ball around inside their airship.
Adult Swim/Screenshot


Injecting Gen V

Cat: I’m sort of glad I was a punk and slept on Gen V when it first dropped. If I’d watched it then, I wouldn’t have had it to use as virtual methadone while I’m waiting for The Boys Season 4 to GET IN MY EYEBALLS ALREADY. Ahem.

This whole franchise just keeps finding ways to make me love it more. Garth Ennis? Loved him since he took over Hellblazer. The Boys? I’m not into the superhero genre as a whole, but I LOVE what The Boys does with it (I describe it to people as Watchmen that goes to 11—taking the piss in the darkest way possible—and then I tell them about the Termite scene as a way to gauge if this is a thing they want to experience).

Gen V takes all that and goes a step further with it, by showing us what effects Compound V (the man-made injectable given to you as an infant that may make you a superhero…or may make you a freak with uncontrollable and dangerous powers, there’s no way to tell) has on the college-aged…or, Gen Z. All the angst and craziness that goes hand-in-hand with being 18–22 (I remember it well, and now my own kid is in that age group), coupled with superpowers? Yeesh.

What especially kills me is the way two of our main characters’ powers come from literal self-harming. Emma Meyer (Lizzie Broadway) can become either tiny or grow (like Alice in Wonderland) through purging or eating, respectively. And Marie Moreau (Jaz Sinclair) is hemokinetic—she’s essentially a bloodbender—not the puppetmaster kind. She does all your usual waterbending things, only with blood. In her case, it’s not just about exploding people’s heads (I like to think that if I had her abilities, I’d use it to be a doctor…though that probably would not have occurred to college-aged me). She’s always packing a switchblade, with which she slices her palms, and uses the blood as a weapon, Katara style. As a former cutter and a survivor of eating disorders…I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about that. I know how I DO feel about it (I love it, I find it weirdly empowering, in a backwards way), but that’s possibly because I am looking at those things in the rearview mirror.

So much of the world of The Boys is going to boil down to a race war—not black vs white, but supes vs non-supes, and that’s at work here too (Homelander showing up to chastise Marie for fighting against her “own kind”). Special mention has to be made of Jensen Ackles, who looks like he is having the time of his LIFE playing supe scumbag Soldier Boy in both shows. After SO many years as Dean Winchester, not only does he get to play a complete asshole…he gets to play a complete asshole with SUPERPOWERS, and lord does it look like he’s having fun.

The one (so far) season of Gen V is meant to be occurring at the same time as Season 4 of The Boys, and thinking about where Season 3 left off, the pieces should fit together nicely. I know they were held up by the strike and all, and I’m reading the graphic novels to tide me over, but COME ON (taps vein). It’s like Compound V…I need my next dose!

Hanging Out in Littlewood

Robin: For the first few weeks in January, I had some time off work to chill after the busy festive period. And I spent a decent chunk of that time playing Littlewood, a cute, low-stakes fantasy/cottagecore RPG. You play as the Hero of Solemn, someone who recently had a mighty battle with the Dark Wizard and defeated him, saving the land. Unfortunately, there was a complication—you lost your memory in the aftermath! So, you’ve moved back to your small town and your goal is to rebuild it as well as your recollection of previous events, garnering attention from citizens who wish to move in along the way.

The play style of Littlewood is very similar to that of Stardew Valley (which I also love); you grow crops in your town, tend farm animals, go mining and chop down trees for building resources, and increase your friendship (or relationship) with the people in your town by interacting with them frequently. An aspect of Littlewood which is different to Stardew Valley, and one which I greatly enjoy, is decorating the other residents’ houses with specific items. Not only do you need to buy or unlock the recipe for each item, but you need to harvest the correct items to craft them too. This means each quest of this sort requires a lot of attention, and the pay-off is extremely satisfying. Every item you collect (wood, ore, fish, bugs, flowers, etc.) will be needed for a recipe or quest at some point, so it means everything has significance and relevance.

In addition to the gameplay, the story unfolds the more you play. For example, as you increase your friendship with other residents of your town, you unlock cutscenes that play out between them, giving more insight into their backstories and personalities. You also discover more about who the Dark Wizard is, and what happened in your battle with him. It’s a kind of mystery plot that keeps you hooked as you continue playing.

As well as the cute style, fun quests, and intriguing story, Littlewood has a fantastic soundtrack. In general, it’s a very rewarding and addictive game. I miss playing it for hours on end now I’m back at work…

Previewing the Oscars with The Holdovers

Clay: Here is the next Lark in my series on what I think of the Oscar nominated films and how  I think the film’s nominations will affect the 96th Academy Awards as a television show.

This week: The Holdovers

The trailer for The Holdovers made it look like it was going to be one of those smaller, quirkier comedies that rarely get wide releases anymore. What I definitely did not expect was to step into the theater and be transported back to 1975. But that is exactly what Alexander Payne’s latest film does; in both tone and style.

Everything from the script, to the locations, to the film grain has a vintage sheen that evokes classic films from previous eras. The story is simple and character driven too, revolving around the central trio of characters to allow for an intimacy of storytelling that also feels completely out of date. It never hits the highest of highs, and sometimes I think the most emotional and affecting moments are cut short, almost as if Payne was worried that going too deep into the story would distract from the style. But, the movie creates a timeless connection that certainly has been key to it’s place as a frontrunner in several categories for this year’s Oscars.

As far as the Oscar ceremony goes, The Holdovers may not be helping the beleaguered telecast draw in viewers (though if there are a whole lot of Da’Vine heads out there who are going to tune in, I want to meet them all), but that doesn’t seem to be hurting its chances in several of the categories. All the film’s five nominations are in major categories—Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing—and the film seems to be a strong contender in several of them.

In Best Supporting Actress, Da’Vine Joy Randolph is the absolute runaway favorite to take home the award. Her performance as grieving mother Mary Lamb absolutely anchors the emotional side of The Holdovers. The undeniable power of the silences and moments of erupting pain play on Randolph’s face no matter what the character is doing. The character could have seemed pretty stereotypical and lifeless with a less vivid performance, Randolph avoids that and makes every moment that Mary is off-screen a moment the audience longs for her return.

For Best Actor, the race seems to have boiled down to Cillian Murphy for Oppenheimer vs Paul Giamatti as Paul Hunnam in this film. Both have done amazing work in these parts and are deserving of recognition. Giamatti famously somehow wasn’t nominated for his previous film with Payne, Sideways, for a performance many thought could have won that year. I’m not sure which way the race will go, but Giamatti is at his absolute best in this part. Hunnam is equal parts sage, mentor, sad-sack, and jerk, and Giamatti is able to keep hitting all the notes throughout. It’s the type of character and performance that certainly feels like it has existed forever, and the archetype surely has—that is both the great strength and real weakness of the entire film—but the way Giamatti brings the character to life still feels fresh.

The Holdovers had also been gaining a lot of momentum in the predictions for Best Picture, but that momentum seems to have come to a screeching halt after Payne missed out on the Best Director field (though at least that means he wasn’t the cause for someone else being pushed out). Also sadly missing out on what I think would have been a well-deserved nomination was Dominic Sessa. The newcomer, who had never acted in a film before, plays Angus Tully, who is basically the co-lead of the movie with Giamatti. Sessa has a lot of deep and introspective material and constantly has to share the screen with Giamatti and Randolph at their best, and he absolutely nails the performance. The Oscars were probably never going to give a nomination to a teenager in their first film, but it would have been a deserved nod if they had.

In the end, while The Holdovers was certainly not the flashiest of the Oscar contending field. It was clearly exquisitely crafted and I personally am always a sucker for a small character study of a film. We keep hearing that movies like this can’t and aren’t made anymore, and for the most part they aren’t. Yet The Holdovers is exactly that.

It is astounding not only that it was produced in the first place but that it was also pretty successful and is the frontrunner, or at least strong contender, for two major Oscar wins (and David Hemingson’s screenplay is a dark horse contender for Best Original Screenplay as well). The Holdovers probably won’t drive viewers to the telecast, but I think more movies like this would help get more people back to theaters.

Written by TV Obsessive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *