While other sites are telling you what you should be watching while the country huddles around the TV, we here at Psycho Drive-In decided instead to share what we’re watching to keep us from thinking about the potential end of the world as we know it.

In this installment, Rick Shingler shares the eclectic collection of shows and movies that have been filling his days and nights!

These are strange and pretty trying times. Frankly, things kinda suck right now. And while we do our best to monitor and filter the daily news updates, when the rubber meets the road, it amounts to one single solitary thing: this is the time that we need to sit our asses down and do fuck-all. It might even be critical to the survival of the human race as we know it that we spend a few weeks just laying around the house. The time has come to get seriously busy doing a whole lot of nothing for the ever-loving sake of all that we hold dear. We are all athletes in the Couch Potato Olympiad and I’m going for the Gold.

I’m not facing this quarantine alone, though. I’m married and a father of three kids aged 18, 16, and 11. And sure, we’re all doing our homework and our work-from-home stuff and cooking and playing games and putting together puzzles and getting some exercise and all that bonding hoo-hah, so don’t go having a hissy with your whiteboard schedule, Karen. We aren’t exactly what you’d call a schedule-driven family, even at the best of times. None of my kids show a particular interest in sports. This time together (so far) has been little more than an extended weekend. And on the weekends, we have family movie nights. And then the younger ones go to bed and the older one and/or my lovely bride stays up late with me and we watch movies or TV shows.

Since Governor Murphy instituted the 8pm curfew here in New Jersey and we haven’t had an alarm clock to throw across the room in the morning, we’ve been stretching the household’s bandwidth like it was a high note at a Celine Dion Vegas concert. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve been watching. I’ll start with the more kid-friendly fare.

The Cat from Outer Space (streaming on Disney+): This was a blast from my childhood, and made for a decent movie night with my 11yo. Released in 1978, this movie helped bridge the gap of Disney live action SciFi between 60s era flicks like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and Freaky Friday to their somewhat more ambitious movies like The Black Hole and TRON. Mostly a vehicle for TV comedy mainstay Ken Berry, it also stars Sandy Duncan, Roddy McDowell, and both MASH TV colonels, Harry Morgan and McLean Stevenson. Except in this, Colonel Potter is a general and Colonel Blake is a hen-pecked neighbor with a gambling addiction. Oh, and there’s a cat. I can’t explain or even recommend these old Disney flicks. If you like ‘em, you like ‘em. Me? I like ‘em. We’re hoping for a Herbie marathon next weekend.

Splash (streaming on Disney+): It was another family movie night! Mary and I weren’t sure how this would hold up after all these years, but there’s something timelessly universal about young Tom Hanks freakouts, John Candy playing the sleazebag with a heart of gold, and young Daryl Hannah running around New York naked (but tastefully so). This was a Brian Grazer/Ron Howard joint before Imagine Entertainment existed, and it holds up surprisingly well. We had to remind the kids several times that this movie predated The Little Mermaid, because they kept trying to accuse Splash of lifting elements from the animated mermaid story. It held the kids’ attention, and like any well-told fairy tale, holds up today as an entertaining and (dare I say?) touching story.

I Am Not Okay with This (streaming on Netflix): Certainly not one for the kids. The teens, probably, depending upon your level of chill as a parent. Sophia Lillis, who you’re going to recognize from battling Pennywise as young Bev in the recent It movies, is Sydney, a young girl in rural Pennsylvania who is discovering her emerging telekinetic powers. We thought we’d watch the first episode to check it out, and soon discovered we were four episodes in without coming up for air. I’ve always been sort of a sucker for teen drama, and this is exactly that, but done with a sort of dark twist on the X-Men. The characters are relatable and even pretty likable. It’s a quick season that you could (and will probably want to) binge in an evening. It just spirals deeper and deeper into darkness without ever losing its charm. It’s a little bit Carrie, a little bit Stranger Things, but still manages to find fresh perspective.

The 400 Blows (Criterion Collection DVD): So, this was our first salvo toward conquering our Criterion Collection shelf. See, we have this shelf in our movie collection where all the Criterion movies go. And once upon a time, we could claim to have actually watched all of the movies we owned. But then came the fateful Friends of the Library Sale of 2017. It was near the end of the sale, and the dregs had been gathered under a sign which read “$10 a bag”. What this meant was that one could pack and stuff as many things as would fit into a single bag and walk out with them for a mere sawbuck. As chance would have it, I discovered a treasure trove of movies buried at the back of one of the tables. I left that day with several Bergman films, our soon-to-be treasured copy of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, a few crime novels, yet another copy of The Odyssey to add to the pile (don’t ask, because I don’t understand this compulsion I have either), and a couple of French films, including Truffaut’s very first film, The 400 Blows.

This week, we finally got around to watching it. And it immediately felt like some missing jigsaw pieces in our cultural awareness fell into place. In this film we saw the seeds of the present-day auteur filmmaker. Robert Altman’s naturalism, Luc Besson’s gritty streets, even Wes Anderson’s lingering character studies all seem to nod in deference to Truffaut. He pulls us down to the streets of mid-twentieth-century Paris. The Eiffel Tower reduces to just another thing you can catch glimpses of between the buildings as you move along the street. It’s claustrophobic and dirty and no one really treats anyone all that well. This movie was Truffaut’s first film and it’s simply beautiful. It’s heartbreaking and funny and painfully realistic in its portrayal of a fairly naughty kid trying to find his way in a world whose lack of interest seems to be encouraging him to act on his worst impulses. By the way, I did a little research, and the title “The 400 Blows” turns out to be an awkward translation of the French sentiment “faire les quatre cents coup” which literally translates to “doing the 400 dirty tricks”, but is understood to mean something like “live the wild life”.

Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (streaming on Amazon Prime): Part of the contract you sign when you move to New Jersey is that you have to be fluent in Kevin Smith movies. I’ve been to Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash (a middling comic book store with killer memorabilia). The lyric “My love for you is like a truck (Berserker!)/Would you like to be making fuck (Berserker!)” pops into my head frequently and at wildly inopportune moments. I know that the first Stan Lee movie cameo that mattered was with Bankie in a mall in New Jersey. I can make finger guns just like Buddy Christ. And I know how to do “The Tuck”. The Askewniverse, for better or worse, has become a part of my DNA. So I was contractually obligated to watch Jay and Silent Bob Reboot when I discovered it on Prime. If you like this stuff, it’s sort of a seminal capstone for Kevin Smith’s filmmaking career. Every half-baked (and fully baked) joke from every movie Kevin Smith has ever made is rewarmed, rehashed, and remixed with some new material for an hour and a half. And I don’t consider that to be a bad thing. Sure, it might just be another paean to male adolescence and its refusal to grow up. But if you only see this stuff as juvenile stoner humor that relies too heavily on dick and fart jokes, then you probably don’t respect Morris Day and the Mother-Fucking Time either. So move along. Oh, and Affleck is THE BOMB in this joint, yo.

Project Blue Book (airing weekly and on demand on History Channel): In case you missed it, Project Blue Book is a historical drama based upon the work of Dr. J. Allen Hynek. In the 50s, the real-life Hynek was tapped by the Air Force as a consultant to investigate cases involving UFOs first under Project Sign, the Project Grudge, before the advent of Project Blue Book. This series picks up at the beginning of the Blue Book years. Years later, a young Steven Spielberg would hire Hynek as a consultant while filming Close Encounters of the Third Kind (a term the doctor himself created based upon his purported real-life experiences) If you have an X-Files-shaped void in your television landscape, this show goes a long way toward filling it. Hynek is paired up with Air Force Captain Michael Quinn. Despite Hynek’s exhaustive pursuit of scientific proof and Quinn’s inclination to follow orders, the two have developed an excellent working friendship over the course of two ten-episode seasons. Each episode explores a real-life encounter pulled directly from the files of Project Blue Book. While fictionalized and rather sensationalized, enough historical context is layered into the storytelling to make every episode feel grounded. Hynek is played by Aiden Gillen, who took this role after Littlefinger met his fate on Game of Thrones. This past season took us to Roswell, Area 51, introduced the Men in Black, and even onto the set of Close Encounters. It is currently unknown whether the show will be renewed for a third season, but I sure hope it is, especially after the cliffhanger at the end of this season.

Hereditary (streaming on Amazon Prime): Hoo-boy. Just when you thought the Gothic tradition was lost forever, along comes Ari Aster to reinvent the modern ghost story in the most classical way possible. I know I’m late to the game with this one, but my lady-love is a big scaredy-cat who loves horror, but has to mentally prepare herself to watch horror movies. She read some review for this movie back during its theatrical release and it took two years to convince her to sit down and watch it. I sort of feel like Toni Colette’s continued existence is unfair to every other actor working today, because she sets a bar that just can’t be met. You can trace her all the way back to Muriel’s Wedding, and she just isn’t capable of a bad performance. And this is one of her all-time best. Besides the acting, this movie is shot magnificently. The use of color and light throughout the film is both deliberate and masterful. Silence becomes an oppressive presence, as much or even more so than particular sounds. The Gothic Tradition seems to be alive and well and currently possessing the body of writer/director Ari Aster.

Booksmart (streaming on Hulu): Olivia Wilde made a movie. And she found a couple of spectacular young actors to carry the entire thing. Booksmart is another “last grasp at high school before graduation coming of age” movie, but there’s something more about it. When the two hardest-working, most dedicated, straight-A students in school discover that their idiot boozehound slut classmates have been accepted to colleges just as prestigious as they have, they have sort of a meltdown the night before graduation. And it truly becomes a night to remember. Wilde takes what should be a trope-fest and melds it into a symphony of crass teen humor and true human emotion. Sure, Lisa Kudrow, Jason Sudeikis, and Will Forte are creeping around the movie representing the adult element, but this movie belongs entirely to its two leads, Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein. As Amy and Molly, the success of this movie rests squarely on their chemistry. And it works. It’s hard to imagine that these two haven’t actually been best friends since kindergarten. Well, and Billie Lourd kinda threatens to steal every scene she’s in. It’s a fun, profane romp around southern California.

Dispatches from Elsewhere (airing weekly and on demand on AMC): I want to finish with this one because God-damn I love this show. I want to stand on the rooftops and shout about this show. As of this writing, only half of the first season has aired. But it grabbed the coveted “My Favorite Thing on TV Right Now” title as soon as Richard E. Grant completed his monologue in the first two minutes of the first episode and has yet to do anything to dissuade me from this opinion. It’s a puzzle box in an escape room made into a television series, and there’s just nothing else like it. The empty spot in my soul that had appeared with the cancellation of Lodge 49 has been filled to the brim by Dispatches from Elsewhere. It’s wacky and weird and touching as hell. Where else can you watch a deep bond of friendship develop between Andre 3000 and Sally Field? Jason Segal, the show’s creator and central character, has pieced together a perfect storm of heartfelt weirdness. I haven’t tracked down The Institute, the 2013 documentary noted as the inspiration for the series. There’s no clear view of where this story is going, but the journey to get there is making it entirely worthwhile. For the past five weeks, as this strange new reality has sucked us all into its whirlwind, this hour of television has been like a lighthouse of joyful humanity. The core ensemble of characters is inspired and I have fallen deeply in love with all four of them. If you’re looking to find your divine nonchalance in these times we’re facing, I fully prescribe this show.

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