Pomo Picks

What to Read, Watch, and Listen to This Week: July 1

The Portland Monthly team shares the content in our queues.

By Portland Monthly Staff July 2, 2020

Netflix's The Baby-Sitters Club

There’s a lot going on right now. Maybe you’re protesting, maybe you’re donating, maybe you’re keeping tabs on the way your representatives are responding to the present moment, maybe you’re buying from one of these Black-owned Portland brands. Keep doing that!

Our lives are not one thing, though, and you’re also probably looking to escape, however briefly, into a show or a book or an album that might help you shut out the world or understand it a little better. To help you along, here's the stuff filling our queues at Portland Monthly this week. 

I May Destroy You

Over the weekend, I fielded a text from my best friend about Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You, a BBC production that HBO scooped up for stateside distribution: “Just finished the second ep,” it read. “Fuckin ... fuck.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

The show—written by and starring Coel, who also brought us Chewing Gum—has garnered a fair number of Fleabag comparisons on Twitter. It's a solid reference point, but I May Destroy You is less laser-focused on a single character and more determined to paint a portrait of The Way We Live Now. 

Coel plays Arabella, a pink-haired London blogger-turned-author working on her second book. At the end of the first episode, she gets drugged at a bar, blacks out, and comes to at her laptop. The following episodes deal frankly with the fallout: Was she assaulted? Did her friends abandon her? Why does spending time alone suddenly agitate her so much? Through her supporting characters, Coel starts to weave a tapestry: there's the established couple uneasily looking for a third; Arabella's gay, app-addled friend who gives afternoon head in grocery store bathrooms; her actress roommate who has a sketchy threesome in Italy that leaves her cold. Sexual freedom is great, Coel shows us, until it isn't—it's hard to say no in a culture obsessed with "yes." 

Every 30 minute episode (there have been 4 so far, with 8 more on the way) is stuffed with belly laughs, gut punches, and incredibly complicated sexual politics, to say nothing of a soundtrack that bumps Little Simz and Tierra Whack. It has the warmth, yes, of Fleabag, and the frankness of early Girls, and a literary streak all Coel's own. Watching it unfold is terrifying and exhilarating in a way few stories manage. "May" feels like a stroke of British false modesty. It destroys me every week. —Conner Reed, arts & culture editor

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

It was my birthday recently. (Happy Birthday, Gabe. Oh, thank you, kind PoMo reader.) Typically, I don’t do much for my birthday. Maybe grab a drink or two with a few friends, or treat myself to coffee and pie at a local diner. But being that the world is in the state that it is (completely fucked and unreasonably terrifying), I opted not to sit in a very crowded restaurant with mask-less patrons chewing and sipping and chatting and cackling, and instead grabbed some takeout from the Matador, made myself a very delicious cocktail (a Boulevardier, thank you for asking), and watched a movie to make myself feel better as I spent my first birthday in Portland alone in my studio apartment. That movie: The Killing of a Sacred Deer (streaming on Netflix and Kanopy). It did not make me feel better. 
Don’t get me wrong. Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2017 psychological thriller is highly engrossing, full of mythological allusions and dark magic realism, the kind of horror that looms in the back of your mind and at the root of your soul. Based on the ancient Greek tragedy Iphigenia at Aulis by Euripides, the story follows Stephen Murphy, a cardiac surgeon (played by Colin Farrell) who befriends a naïve but disturbing young boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan). After Stephen’s son is hospitalized when his legs are inexplicably paralyzed, we learn Martin’s father died in a botched surgery and that Stephen may or may not be responsible. Regardless, Martin blames Stephen for his father’s death and forebodingly explains that balance must be restored. He tells Stephen, awkwardly and prophetically, that each of his family members will experience paralysis, starvation, internal bleeding, and death, unless Stephen kills one of them.
Everything, from the coldness with which the actors deliver their lines to the omnipotent cinematography, is deliberately crafted to unsettle. We watch almost voyeuristically as this family violently unravels, and it shakes us until we’re left quietly crying into our Boulevardiers—or maybe that was just me. —Gabriel Granillo, digital editor

Mr. Tfue’s YouTube Channel

Mr. Tfue works in a South American country—exactly where, I’ve been unable to discover. He builds elaborate pools and homes in the jungle using only primitive tools, materials, and techniques. That means scraping and digging and hacking water slides, tunnels, and plunge pools out of the ground with nothing but a pick. That means breaking up old anthills into powder to use as a cement and sapping trees for brightly colored “paints." That means turning abstract spatial plans into complex structures without the benefit of CAD renderer. The videos are typically about 20 minutes long and condense what must have taken weeks or months. Questions that will go through your mind: is he moving the cameras himself? Does he have someone help him? Is he actually superhuman? Why am I so lazy? Why can't be more like Mr. Tfue?

Now that I’ve binged nearly all of Mr. Tfue’s videos—believe me, it’s easy to do with a few cocktails—YouTube has started recommending other primitive building channels. As it turns out, it’s a whole genre. Some of these videos have tens of millions of views. And some of these other accounts produce equally stunning pools and jungle palaces. But I’m loyal to Mr. Tfue. He was my first.

Dig on, Mr. Tfue. Dig on. —Marty Patail, editor in chief

Netflix’s Baby-Sitters Club Adaptation

Disclaimer: I have yet to actually watch the new Baby-Sitters Club adaptation on Netflix, as it doesn't go live until July 3. But I have watched the heck out of the trailer in preparation for some serious weekend bingeing.

In my youth, I was a super-fan of the original series by Ann M. Martin. I had an "account" at the bookstore around the corner from my parents' house, and every month, like clockwork, they would call to notify me that the next book in the series had arrived, and I'd shoot over there to snatch it up, to follow the continuing adventures of Mary Anne (the shy one), Kristy (the tomboy), Dawn (the free spirit), Stacey (the sophisticate) and Claudia (the artsy one), and the gaggle of kids in their Connecticut suburb for whom they babysat, engagements arranged via an analog phone during their weekly club meetings. And yes, you can take a BuzzFeed quiz to determine which of the girls you most identify with, but I do not need any quiz to know that I am a Mary Anne, with perhaps a smidge of Stacey.

My daughter knows and loves the books mainly via the graphic novel adaptations, which are drawn by genre luminaries like Raina Telgemeier and Gale Galligan. Now comes the series, which updates the book in some areas (quintessential Cali blonde Dawn is now Latinx; Mary Anne is biracial, Kristy's mom is now played by Alicia Silverstone of Clueless fame!) but, if early and rapturous word-of-mouth is to be believed, maintains the entrepreneurial warm-heartedness of Martin's original series. If you call me this weekend, I'll break a BSC rule and won't pick up—I'll be too busy watching. —Julia Silverman, news editor

Trevor Noah’s Son of Patricia

Not sure how I’d never watched any of Trevor Noah’s specials before this week, but I’ve seriously been missing out. Trevor Noah pushes the envelope just enough to simultaneously raise your eyebrows and make you double over in laughter. You probably know him as the host of Emmy award-winning The Daily Show on Comedy Central (now The Daily Social Distancing Show), where he sits down with some of the biggest headline-grabbers in everything from pop culture to politics.

In this 2018 Netflix comedy special, which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album and is included in the streaming service’s Black Lives Matter Collection, he touches on his first encounter with tacos, racism immunity, lessons learned from his beloved mother, and accidentally asking President Obama if he has AIDS. Worth every second! —Lauren Carlos, editorial intern

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