PoMo Picks

Pop Culture Worth Your Time: Bridgerton, Sound of Metal, and More

The content in our queues, from steam-time in Shondaland to a Christmas zombie musical

By Portland Monthly Staff December 31, 2020

Regé-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor in Netflix’s Bridgerton

2020 is almost over (like, actually), but the pandemic is not. For at least the next couple of months, we’re going to be hunkered down inside, waiting out the short days till spring shows up and sets us free. One key to survival? A killer content queue. Here’s the stuff we’re obsessed with at Portland Monthly this week, from a sci-fi classic to a randy British Gossip Girl

Anna and the Apocalypse

If you like musicals and high school movies, you might have made the same mistake I did and watched the embarrassing nightmare that is The Prom on Netflix. The experience might have made you doubt all logic, as the conditional "If I like all the things/people/themes involved in a movie, then I will like the movie" just completely broke down. I like Kerry Washington, Meryl Streep, Keegan-Michael Key, Mary Kay Place, musicals, and high school movies, but The Prom made me regret even owning a TV. Luckily, "If I like the parts I will like the whole" holds with the 2017 film Anna and the Apocalypse (now streaming on Amazon Prime).
I like musicals, Christmas movies, self-aware zombie comedies, small-town British class tensions, gap years, Justin Bieber jokes, high school movies, teen romance, and the guy behind the “Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal” internet sensation (who created the source material but died before this film came out), and I loved Anna and the Apocalypse. So did my 12-year-old, who has demanded a sequel. Maybe Gosling can make it happen. —Margaret Seiler, managing editor


Hello to Regé-Jean Page, and only Regé-Jean Page, the absolute Adonis of an actor who plays the brooding, damaged Simon, Duke of Hastings, in Netflix's effervescent, eight-episode Bridgerton, which I binged in one delirious burst of joy over the holiday break. Regé-Jean, if you're reading this, I AM available to abandon my husband, two children, job, and myriad responsibilities to run off to your estate in the English countryside with you. What? Too thirsty? Listen, it's been a year. I needed this. And you, dear reader, if you have not yet discovered Bridgerton—which has ad nauseum been described as the crossover between Downton Abbey and Gossip Girl that we did not know we needed—trust me, you need this.
Bridgerton, based on a romance novel by Julia Quinn and brought to Netflix as part of the streaming service's deal with power producer Shonda Rhimes, centers on the lives of the eight charming Bridgerton siblings in Regency-era London, and their various romantic entanglements/forays onto the marriage market. At the center is Daphne, the oldest sister, who has been deemed "the gem of the social season" by no less a personage than Queen Charlotte herself—but Daphne's overprotective eldest brother, Anthony, preemptively rejects all suitors, leaving her a wallflower. To remedy this, she cooks up a plan with his best friend from Eton, the smoldering Duke of Hastings, who is tired of being swarmed by marriage-minded mamas at various balls. They will pretend they are enamored—and suitors, who always want what they cannot have, will flock to her. Will they fall for each other? And what of the duke's dark secret?
Other subplots swirl around them, including illicit affairs, men of honor being tricked into marriage proposals, gambling debts, and the show's central mystery—who is Lady Whistledown (voiced by JULIE ANDREWS!!!), the author of the uncannily accurate scandal sheet that chronicles every last coupling and snub among the social set? Like any bodice-ripper worth its salt, Bridgerton is steamy, lush, and festive, while also stirring complicated questions about race (in this world, the Queen is Black) and sexual consent, or lack thereof. Portland is gray and rainy right now; the show's bright lights and social whirl are the perfect end-of-year escapist treat. And Regé-Jean? Call me. Anytime. —Julia Silverman, news editor

Sound of Metal

On the list of 2020's tragedies, closed movie theaters are somewhere near the bottom. But still—it hurt. I could go into a whole thing about it. (In fact, I have.) I watched well over 100 new movies this year, and I watched them all on my very small, very old Vizio, where any visual poetry was, shall we say, diminished.

So for Christmas, I upgraded to something a little prettier, with a beautiful new sound setup, and I did so just in time to catch Darius Marder's Sound of Metal before we're plunged, unarmored, into 2021. This is a movie that lives and dies by its sound design. Ruben (Riz Ahmed, incredible) drums in a metal band with his girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke), until one day, he experiences sudden, severe hearing loss. Cochlear implants are an option, but they cost upward of $40K. Ruben is four years sober, and Lou's worried the news will make him use again. He doesn't want to stop drumming. He doesn't want anything to change. But everything already has.

This could be one kind of movie—an underdog story about a musician overcoming adversity and healing his heart with a power of music—but it's something much more raw and patient and difficult to classify. It's doggedly first-person (we hear how Ruben hears much of the time, in a way that's unpleasant and exhilarating), incredibly slow, and mostly unconcerned with narrative. Much of the action centers on Ruben's time in a deaf community somewhere in the middle of the country, but there's no real arc to his stay. He bonds with some kids, drinks coffee, develops a relationship with a deaf Vietnam vet in recovery. He comes close to accepting his hearing loss before turning away from deafness entirely. All the while, Ahmed tugs us along by the collar, fully inhabiting the frustration and frenzy of Ruben's affliction.

At its core, Sound of Metal is a recovery movie, and it absolutely pulverizes recovery movie clichés. It's about the things we need to help steady ourselves and what we do when we've outgrown them. It's about the seduction of control and how clinging to it impedes our progress. It's about turning slowly, painfully inward, not because we want to but because we have to, and emerging more whole on the other side, if not "better." It's exceptional—one of the best movies of the year—and you should stream it on Amazon Prime, even if all you have to watch it on is a shitty old Vizio. —Conner Reed, arts & culture editor

The Twilight Zone

Apart from Halloween, New Year’s Eve is the best holiday. Don’t subtweet me. Straight up @ me and let’s have a discussion about this. There’s really no obligation to do anything besides let one day fall into the next. You know, something we do every day, but on this particular day it’s a little more special because you can count it down if you want to, and you’re surrounded by lingering holiday lights, confetti, good music, and good people—well, maybe not so much this year, but you get my point.
As a kid, I particularly loved New Year’s Day, heading over to Grandma’s place for orange juice, chorizo, and eggs, and maybe even some pan dulce. I’d make myself a burrito and park in front of the TV where I’d watch the annual Twilight Zone marathon on what's now Syfy. Ever since then, I’ve been enthralled with these tales of three-eyed aliens in a diner, evil dolls and farmhouse children, doppelgängers, time travel, apocalypse, space exploration, William Shatner spotting a monkey-man-thing on the wing of his plane. Rod Sterling’s black-and-white exploration of the fifth dimension still transfixes me, even if it is rather silly at times.
Closing out 2020 with a Twilight Zone marathon might feel redundant, but I say we could all use the comfort of a heady, serious, silly, fun, and exciting series that gives us permission to exercise our moral imagination. So relax, make yourself a burrito, and set your TV to Syfy, which every year curates an all-day marathon. Or, heck, make your own on Netflix—Gabriel Granillo, digital editor