Kumail Nanjiani and Medieval TV: The Week in Pop-Culture Writing

Highlights from seven days of reading about arts and entertainment

Kumail Nanjiani at the Sundance Film Festival
Kumail Nanjiani at the Sundance Film Festival  (Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP)

Is the New Mr. Right an Immigrant Rom-Com Hero?
Robert Ito | The New York Times
“Seeing a Pakistani American comic secure the romantic lead in a Hollywood film would be a rare delight under any circumstances. But what makes The Big Sick all the more remarkable is how little fuss is made of it. In the film, we see Kumail [Nanjiani] and his family eating and laughing and goofing off, fighting and (after a spell) making up, just like the actor’s real family. It’s a vision of a Muslim family, Nanjiani notes, rarely seen in American film.”

Pitch Got Only One Season, but It Was a Home Run
Alison Herman | The Ringer
“Like Sweet/Vicious, Pitch took on the standard empowerment narrative of a woman in a male-dominated space from an unexpected angle. And like Sweet/Vicious, Pitch had the makings of something addictive. These weren’t artsy gender studies seminars, or molasses-slow prestige fare. They were pulpy (who doesn’t like punching?) or crowd-pleasing (who doesn’t like a baseball game, especially when it’s edited down to just 10 minutes?). Representation was only part of the fun.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Is Still Alive
Amanda Petrusich | The New Yorker
“For the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the public reconciliation of certain paradoxes is impossible in part because it’s founded on one: the institutionalization of an inherently lawless and scrappy tradition. When I roamed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland, last summer, I was alternately made giddy by ephemera (Yo! Joe Strummer’s Telecaster!) and flummoxed by how incongruous the entire thing felt. It is plainly absurd to lionize and further the feral spirit of rock, and then to ensconce it behind archival Plexiglas.”

American Gods and The Leftovers: When Modern TV Gets Medieval
Kathryn VanArendonk | Vulture
“Where American Gods is a narrative about deities frantically scrabbling to exist, grabbing for lost power in an era of new, distinctly modern idols, The Leftovers is a gorgeous, elongated, fantastically illuminated question mark, asking whether faith and the search for meaning have any point at all. Underneath, though, the shows pose remarkably similar questions. Where does belief come from? What does it look like? What drives it? How do you create it where none was before? How does it get lost? And, of course, is it ultimately better to believe or to doubt?”

Who Let Brad Pitt’s GQ Shoot Happen?
Marina Hyde | The Guardian
“I am afraid this stuff is really what we want from our celebrities. We don’t want prudent periods of reticence. We don’t want them to hide the fact they are working with the healing medium of clay—more of this shortly—because it might sound radioactively affected. We don’t want them to think that the best way through pain probably isn’t standing knee-deep in the Everglades and talking about court-ordered visitation rights for the readers of GQ Style. We want this.”

The Strange World of Alice Coltrane
Stewart Smith | The Quietus
“The lightness of the melodies, combined with the density of the drone, is totally mind-bending, with organ and synth laying out huge blocks of chordal bass under the heavenly voices. Coltrane rarely solos, but occasionally adds subtle right hand variations and weird modulations. Best of all are the vast, sweeping synth glissandi she uses to ramp up the intensity of the music, an effect that recalls her orchestral arrangements of the 1970s, while elevating the listener to even higher planes of cosmic bliss.”

Selling Her Suffering in The Handmaid’s Tale
Francine Prose | The New York Review of Books
“What makes it harder to distinguish what we are seeing (women being brutalized) from what we are meant to think we are seeing (the patriarchy revealing its secret evil heart) is the fact that the series is so engrossingly dramatic and visually beautiful.”

Adam Pendleton’s Paintings Examine the Multiplicity of Blackness
Diana Sette | Hyperallergic
“Pendleton chooses to break down and fragment representations of blackness, because for him, becoming imperceptible where there is no immediate representation creates the potential for arriving at a totally new understanding. What might be possible if we consider blackness in a new way?”