Commentary

This review originally aired on September 14, 2017. It will be released on DVD next week.  

The humorist John Hodgman teaches us that nostalgia is a toxic impulse. He says the idea that things from our past are better than what we have now fuels the worst in contemporary culture. This doesn’t exactly capture the problems with the new adaptation of Stephen King’s It, but it gets close.

It’s now 2018! Happy New Year! I’d like to share my Arts Wish List for 2018 with you, so here it goes:

Each year at Botanica, from Thanksgiving through the New Year, thousands of people visit the garden for its Illuminations event to see more than a million holiday lights. Displays are set up throughout the park, Santa makes appearances, and visitors munch on popcorn and stay warm with hot cocoa. 

Lately it’s been hard for me to take a lot of pop music seriously, and one reason is that it has become so shockingly apolitical. As tumultuous as civic discourse has become, there’s not too much on the radio that even touches on politics. Current music has become too polite and well behaved, and that puts it in danger of being irrelevant. Unless we start seeing some acrimony in the coming year’s Top 40, I fear that future musicologists won’t have much to say about 2018.

As we kick our way through the holiday season, you may find yourself looking for something a bit different from the rest—a palate cleanser, perhaps, something that will dilute the ultra sugar while yet remaining sweet. The Theatre League in Wichita just might have what you are looking for—Kinky Boots, the story of Charlie Price, a shoe factory owner, and Lola, the drag queen who helps save his business. Ultimately, these two people from completely different worlds find that they do have something in common, after all.

There were plenty of great hip hop albums in 2017, but one series in particular stands out as a perfect way to end the year. The three-album series, Saturation, from the group Brockhampton, is an extended exploration of life after the end of history, not in Francis Fukuyama’s sense of the triumph of rational capitalism, but more like Mad Max in the desert—this is the soundtrack to life in Bartertown.

We’re taking a break from the grill this week, because what better way to ring in the new year than by diving into one of our other passions: spirits.

I’ve seen a lot of high-minded movies this year: A Ghost Story, Darren Aronofsky’s mother!... even Blade Runner 2049 dealt in some very lofty themes. So I decided to close out the year by going in the exact opposite direction—I decided it was time for Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

The game developer Jackbox has been cranking out fun trivia games for more than two decades now. For years, they kept updating their You Don’t Know Jack series with new questions and features, keeping it relevant year to year. But those games only supported a few players, and you all had to crowd around a computer keyboard and screen to play. So, a few years ago, Jackbox started releasing packs of party games that found a way around that, with a controller nearly everyone already has in their pocket - their smartphone.

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