The Perfect Popcorn Movie

John Hendrickson’s culture picks include the unsung heroes of the turn-of-the-millennium New York rock renaissance and a 1993 blockbuster that was among the last of its kind.

Harrison Ford in The Fugitive
“'The Fugitive' is as close as you can get to a perfect, for lack of a better phrase, popcorn movie.” (Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy)

This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.

Good morning, and welcome back to The Daily’s Sunday culture edition, in which one Atlantic writer reveals what’s keeping them entertained.

Today’s special guest is staff writer John Hendrickson, who has just published a new book, Life on Delay: Making Peace With a Stutter, which you can read an excerpt of here. John has written for The Atlantic about, among other topics, President Joe Biden’s stutter and, most recently, I Didn’t See You There, an experimental documentary about living with a disability that he calls “kinetic and compelling.” John will read anything by Richard Price, bought tickets for all five of The Walkmen’s upcoming NYC reunion shows, and has probably watched The Fugitive 50 times.

But first, here are three Sunday reads from The Atlantic:

The Culture Survey: John Hendrickson

The upcoming event I’m most looking forward to: I spent nearly a decade waiting and praying for The Walkmen to maybe someday reunite, doubting that it would ever happen. To me, they are the unsung heroes of the turn-of-the-millennium New York rock renaissance (think: The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV on the Radio, Interpol—all the Meet Me in the Bathroom bands). Recently, when The Walkmen announced a five-night run in Manhattan in April, I impulsively bought tickets for all five shows. I will be screaming every word to every song.

The television show I’m most enjoying right now: After cycling through The Office, The Larry Sanders Show, Parks and Recreation, a slew of Ken Burns documentaries, and several seasons of Alone, my wife and I have started watching NewsRadio at night before we fall asleep. Again: Unsung! Every line Phil Hartman delivers is masterful. Stephen Root, of Barry and Office Space fame, does deadpan humor like no one else. And it’s a bit surreal to watch Joe Rogan in one of his early roles, playing a meathead named Joe.

An actor I would watch in anything: Bill Hader

My favorite blockbuster: The Fugitive is as close as you can get to a perfect—for lack of a better phrase—popcorn movie. Brisk pacing! Snappy dialogue! A few huge action sequences counterbalanced with grizzled guys in frumpy suits working the phones! I’ve probably seen it 50 times. [Related: Hollywood doesn’t make movies like The Fugitive anymore.]

Best novel I’ve recently read: I’m currently reading Laura Zigman’s Small World, about two middle-aged sisters who move in together, bringing decades of family baggage into the house. I don’t want to give too much of it away, but I’m in awe of Zigman’s ability to weave biting humor and tenderness so closely together.

An author I will read anything by: Richard Price [Related: Two good old-fashioned young novelists]

A song I’ll always dance to: Le Tigre, “Deceptacon.” Hit play and try to keep your body still. It’s impossible!

The Walkmen performing in Washington, D.C., in 2013
“When the Walkmen announced a five-night run in Manhattan in April, I impulsively bought tickets for all five shows,” John says. Above: The band performing in Washington, D.C., in 2013 (Leigh Vogel / Getty for Thread)

My go-to karaoke song: Patti Smith, “Because the Night.” I’m a horrible singer, but singing is salvation for me. I like to belt this one out on a Friday or Saturday night at Montero’s, an old fisherman’s dive bar near the East River in Brooklyn. I usually throw in a kick when the pre-chorus starts. I write about this a little bit in my book, Life on Delay, but singing relies on a different part of the brain than we use for speaking, and I never stutter when I sing. It’s freeing. Scores of current or former stutterers have turned to music at some point in their lives: Elvis Presley, Kendrick Lamar, Carly Simon, Ed Sheeran, Bill Withers, Noel Gallagher—to name just a few.

My favorite sad song: Charles Bradley’s cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes” absolutely slays me. It transcends what you think of as recorded music—it’s as if Bradley’s soul is imprinted on the track. The full backstory about Bradley and his mother around the time of the recording makes it all the more poignant.

My favorite angry song: Thee Oh Sees, “I Come From The Mountain.” Whenever I’m stressed or anxious, I crank this as loud as I possibly can and head-bang at my desk. Colson Whitehead told 60 Minutes that they’re on his writing playlist!

A favorite story I’ve read in The Atlantic: Annie Lowrey’s deeply vivid, personal account of her experience with pregnancy was the most memorable piece of journalism I read last year, full stop. It’ll stay with me forever.

A good recommendation I recently received: David Sims recently recommended to me the Apple series For All Mankind, sort of like Mad Men crossed with Apollo 13. [Related: How the space fantasy became banal]

The last thing that made me snort with laughter: Watch this clip from “The PriceMaster.” It’s one minute of your life. Trust me.

Read past editions of the Culture Survey with Gal Beckerman, Kate Lindsay, Xochitl Gonzalez, Spencer Kornhaber, Jenisha Watts, David French, Shirley Li, David Sims, Lenika Cruz, Jordan Calhoun, Hannah Giorgis, and Sophie Gilbert.

The Week Ahead

  1. Maybe I Do, a romantic comedy starring Diane Keaton, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Luke Bracey, William H. Macy, and Emma Roberts (in theaters Friday)
  2. Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia, a posthumous book by David Graeber (Tuesday)
  3. The docuseries The 1619 Project, an expansion of the book by Nikole Hannah-Jones (first two episodes premiere Thursday on Hulu)

More in Culture

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Photo Album

A snow leopard against a backdrop of the mountains of Ladakh in northern India
A snow leopard against a backdrop of the mountains of Ladakh in northern India (© Sascha Fonseca / Wildlife Photographer of the Year)

Check out some entries in this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest (and vote for your favorite).

Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.