Larks & Recs: Review, Mother Mother, Poor Things and Past Lives

Emma Stone with bright poofy ruffles on her shoulders in Poor Things
Screenshot/Searchlight Pictures

Welcome back for another edition of Larks & Recs! Each week, members of the TVObs staff use this space to recommend things that we’ve been enjoying, or sometimes to go on a bit of a lark. This week, Caemeron Crain revisits Comedy Central’s Review, Robin Moon has been listening to Mother Mother, and Clay Dockery continues to preview the Oscars with looks at Poor Things and Past Lives.


Caemeron: Despite the fact that the series was critically acclaimed, it seems like virtually no one has seen (or perhaps even heard of) Review, which aired on Comedy Central from 2014-2017. That’s a shame, because the show is hilarious!

Review features Andy Daly in the lead role of Forrest MacNeil, who hosts a fictional show within the show that is also titled Review. The basic premise is that he reviews life experiences based on viewer requests, rating them on a scale of five stars. There is an element of this that feels like it is lampooning the creeping tendency in our world to be asked to rate everything from car rides to retail shopping trips, but the real humor of Review stems from Forrest’s willingness to take up almost any request, and to take it seriously, no matter what effect it has on his actual life.

Indeed, his co-host, A.J. Gibbs (Megan Stevenson), often encourages Forrest to turn requests down. But he views himself as a professional, and this job as what he signed up for. His producer, Grant (James Urbaniak), in contrast, will tell Forrest not to do things in a way that makes clear he actually wants him to do them, which is a nice commentary on corporate relations in and of itself, and Urbaniak is hilarious in the role.

I originally watched the first two seasons of Review as they were airing, in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and was left with the impression that it got increasingly dark as it went along. On a rewatch, I’d still say that this is true, but I guess I’d forgotten that the reviews actually get pretty dark pretty quickly. It’s black humor from the beginning, and I love it.

I missed Season 3 when it aired in 2017, for a variety of reasons, and that was the big impetus for me to return to the show now, using my Paramount+ subscription. It’s only three episodes, but I’d have to say the series ends perfectly. Five stars.

Mother Mother and Their New Album, Grief Chapter

Robin: Canadian alt-rock band Mother Mother have been one of my favourite artists since I started properly listening to them during lockdown. Their songs are frequently upbeat, providing a nice contrast with the introspective lyrics. They often reflect on topics such as mental health, life’s struggles, and navigating the world when you don’t feel like you belong. Main vocalists Ryan Guldemond and his sister Molly Guldemond both have distinctive, versatile voices that really tie their overall sound together. Now, I’m not a music reviewer, nor do I know any technical terms, so that’s about as far as I’ll go in terms of describing the production of their songs. Basically, they’re a lot of fun and their lyrics often resonate with me.

Recently, Mother Mother released their ninth album, Grief Chapter. The album has the running theme of—you guessed it—grief, which is specifically articulated in the eponymous song, ‘Grief Chapter.’ Other themes include the woes of working life (‘The Matrix’), processing emotions and responses to life (‘Explode!’), therapy (‘Head Shrink’), societal perceptions (‘Normalize’), and one’s own death (‘End of Me’). Naturally, I’ve been listening to it on repeat for the past two weeks, and I can confirm it just gets better and better with each listen. It doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of life and emotions; in fact, it directly confronts it and attempts to unpack it, or at the very least acknowledge it and go, “hey, everything sucks, but we’re gonna make music and have fun because who cares!” And I love that!

Not only am I enjoying the album, but I got to see Mother Mother live in my city last night as part of their UK tour. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen them in concert, and they were absolutely fantastic—they had so much energy and stage presence, it blew me away! Their setlist was a satisfying balance of songs from Grief Chapter and their older music from a range of albums. At one point, they performed a nice medley of a few songs from early albums, including ‘Touch Up’ and ‘O My Heart,’ which was a neat way of getting more of their music into the set. Of course, they also played classics such as ‘Verbatim,’ and finished with ‘Burning Pile.’

Now, I obviously can’t recommend you go to a gig on their current tour unless you’re within travelling distance, but I’d absolutely suggest giving Grief Chapter a listen. And, if you ever do get the chance in future, seeing them live was a wonderful experience I’d recommend.

Previewing the Oscars with Poor Things and Past Lives

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: Poor Things

Poor Things looks and feels as though it sprang forth from the mind of Yorgos Lanthimos fully formed, but it is a study about the details and steps involved in life as well as in craft and creation. Lanthimos certainly has the filmography and pedigree now to be considered one of the great modern auteur directors. His movies have also become increasingly accessible without losing the distinctive flair that sets his work apart. So it seems likely that some day a Lanthimos film will be rewarded with a slew of awards. But this year it certainly looks as though a different director will be celebrated in that position.

Instead, Poor Things is competing heavily in the races for some undersung, but still important in their own way, awards. The Production Design, Costume Design, and Hair and Makeup races are all likely to be tight, but Poor Things could win in any of them and it would feel deserved. The entire world of the film is distinctive, neither fantasy nor history but also very much both. Unfortunately, most people don’t watch the Oscars to see who will win in those categories. They do watch for the actors, though, and while Mark Ruffalo won’t win for his hilarious turn as Duncan Wedderburn, the woman at the center of the film just might.

Emma Stone in Poor Things
Screenshot/Searchlight Pictures

For the 2024 Academy Awards telecast the story of Poor Things comes down to one race: Best Actress. Emma Stone’s portrayal of Bella Baxter is incredible. She manages not just to create an emotionally affecting, physically transformative, and incredibly difficult character, she also manages to take that performance through a profound arc during the film. Bella at the end is nothing like Bella at the beginning (and neither are much like real life Emma Stone), and yet she remains real and believable throughout. In most other years Stone would be the shoe-in for the Oscar, but other years don’t have Lily Gladstone standing in the way.

Gladstone’s performance as Mollie Kyle in Killers of the Flower Moon is the fundamental opposite of Stone’s Bella Baxter, but equally as impressive. Which makes this race perhaps the closest one in the whole ceremony, both in popular sentiment and probably in the final vote tallies. Stone and Gladstone have also split many of the precursor awards, so it is the race that has the most buzz and anticipation. Gladstone remains the slight favorite, but the race still feels like the story of the telecast.

If anything there are too many storylines related to the race to follow them all. Will Stone win her second Best Actress Oscar? Will Gladstone become the first Native American winner? Can another lead performance in a Lanthimos film pull an upset win? If Killers doesn’t win here, might it get shut out entirely?

Add to that the outside chance that Poor Things could slip in and win Best Picture if the international voters decide to award Lanthimos and it all certainly makes the film a huge player in the telecast.

Also this week: Past Lives

Celene Song’s film debut, Past Lives, is a small but beautiful love story. Everything about it is different from the other movies up for Oscars this year. Past Lives is contained and interior, with a very moving story about the lives and experiences of friends, partners, and immigrants. Song’s life experiences both as a Korean and as a writer are a huge part of the story, and it is incredibly moving, even though the subtlety of the drama and the performances seems almost refreshingly simple. In fact, Greta Lee, whose profoundly centered performance absolutely carries the movie, certainly feels like she should have been nominated for Best Actress. And Song’s direction is solid and perfect for the story, but was also not nominated.

Instead, the movie is only up for two Oscars, Song’s script for Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. The movie seems exceedingly unlikely to win Best Picture, but I feel like Song has an outside shot. The academy doesn’t often award movies like Past Lives in the other big categories, but the Screenwriters branch can often go in more interesting directions. Of course, they have a lot of other really great options this year, though it would make for a great story if Song were to pull it off. Other than that slight drama, I don’t think Past Lives will have an impact on the telecast, but it would certainly be a huge story if it somehow did pull off an end of the night shocker!

Written by TV Obsessive

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