Larks & Recs: Fantasmas, Mind Field, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Quasimodo looking at a small figure in The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Welcome back to Larks & Recs, where members of the TV Obsessive staff assemble each week to recommend things we’ve been watching (or listening to, etc.). This week, Robin Moon has been delving into Mind Field on YouTube, Hawk Ripjaw has been revisiting The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Caemeron Crain offers a brief review of the upcoming HBO series from Julio Torres, Fantasmas.

Mind Field

Robin: When I was a teenager in my phase of spending all my free time watching YouTube videos, I used to love Vsauce. Alongside my love of fiction, writing, and the arts in general, I was actually a huge science nerd when I was younger. Vsauce (otherwise known as Michael Stevens) makes extremely informative videos about a range of subjects, a lot of which are focused on psychological phenomena. Recently, my friend recommended his Mind Field series that started in 2017, so I’ve started watching it.

Each episode covers a particular scientific, mostly psychological, topic, going into detail on research and even conducting some experiments regarding it. For example, the first episode is about social isolation, and what happens when you’re isolated not only from human interaction, but any kind of stimuli too. After discussing previous research, showing a mini-experiment about humans preferring negative stimuli to boredom, interviewing a man who was in solitary confinement during part of his prison sentence, and experiencing a sensory deprivation tank, Stevens underwent three days of isolation himself. Before and after, his heart rate, blood pressure, and cognitive activity were all measured to see the physiological effects. The results were quite disturbing, but incredibly fascinating. I also really respect that Stevens put himself in the position of lab rat for scientific purposes; it meant he could discuss the effect it was having on him first-hand as opposed to just conducting secondary research.

Mind Field is a perfect balance of entertainment and education. Watching it is really indulging my inner psychology nerd—it’s bringing me a lot of joy in addition to teaching me cool new things. Because science is rad! It’s also very accessible for all ages, whether you’re studying at school/college, or just wanna watch some interesting videos in your free time. Give Mind Field a whirl, and I guarantee you’ll learn some funky stuff!

Revisiting The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hawk: I remember watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame when I was a kid, in daycare, and liking it well enough for a kid in daycare watching a Disney animated musical, but not thinking much of it. I recently fell down a rabbit hole of YouTube creators talking about Disney movies and most of them citing the film as their favorite of the Disney animated entries, so I decided to revisit it. And holy crap, they were not wrong.

For a G-rated animated musical, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is remarkably mature. This movie goes hard. Prejudice, lust and Hell feature prominently as themes in the film, and there are many instances in which characters are in mortal peril in ways that seem more realistic than the standard Disney film.

The soundtrack is incredible. Everyone singing here, including the background chorus, have some serious pipes. Frollo’s villain song is the best Disney villain song, full stop. The music features a background choral arrangement singing in Latin, and the visual design of the song features towering hooded figures, sweeping fire and oppressive shadows.

Frollo wears a hat

And how about Frollo as a villain? Again, one of Disney’s best. The man is absolutely sadistically evil, but as established in the opening song, sees himself as righteous. He kills Quasimodo’s mother on screen and prepares to drown infant Quasimodo. He orders Phoebus to be executed when the soldier refuses to burn a family alive. He attempts to have Esmerelda burned at the stake when she rebuffs his advances. His eyes are literally red as he quotes Scripture when preparing to strike the killing blow on Quasimodo and Esmerelda atop Notre Dame in the climax.

If I have one mark against the movie (and I’m certainly not alone in this), it’s the comic relief. The goofy gargoyles (who may or may not just be projections of Quasimodo’s mind) almost feel like an afterthought, and there are moments of silliness in the visual and audio design in the legitimately thrilling climax that feel deliberately engineered to lessen the impact of what’s happening to make it more palatable for the kids. If there’s not an edit that exists to remove those elements, it probably wouldn’t be hard to create one, as they feel very out of place.

But as a whole package, The Hunchback of Notre Dame is an incredibly entertaining and satisfying movie. The animation and direction are beautiful, the writing and themes hit hard, and the soundtrack has some absolute bangers. I feel confident in saying this has become my new favorite animated Disney movie.


Caemeron: Fantasmas, the new series from Julio Torres, premieres on HBO on June 7. So, I’m early with this recommendation, insofar as the show isn’t available yet. But, we’ve passed the review embargo, so I thought I’d say a few words about what is shaping up to be my new favorite show.

The plot doesn’t feel like the point with Fantasmas; this series functions more on the basis of its style, tone, and cast of quirky characters. That’s my jam!

Steve Buscemi as the letter Q playing a keyboard in a subway station
Photograph by Atsushi Nishijima/HBO

Everything about Fantasmas feels like it’s in a space of play. There is a dreamlike quality to what occurs, even when the characters are awake, but there are also dream sequences, and fantasy sequences featuring the likes of Steve Buscemi employed to illustrate the unique way that our protagonist, Julio (Julio Torres), views the world.

Fantasmas may not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for something novel, I recommend checking it out. Then you can read the recaps I’ll be writing each week.

The trailer for the series does a pretty good job of giving you a sense of what you’ll be getting into.

Fantasmas premieres on HBO and Max on June 7, 2024 at 11pm ET

Written by TV Obsessive

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