Between movies, books, music, comics, podcasts, and the ever-growing glut of TV, there’s a ton of pop culture out there.
It can be a lot to keep up with. So we here at Vox Culture — where we’re currently into low-budget crime capers, young adult thrillers, and workout videos — have a few suggestions for how to make the best use of your pop culture–consuming time.
Here are some items you should really consider adding to your culture diet this week.
Netflix’s Tramps is an easy, breezy springtime watch
Do you have 80-some minutes to kill? Then Tramps — a low-budget crime caper with terrific performances and a winning script — is the perfect addition to your Netflix queue. Danny (Callum Turner) has to deliver a mysterious suitcase at the behest of his jailbird brother. Ellie (Grace Van Patten) is a young drifter who gets dragged into his plan — and only further ensnared when it goes wrong. Director Adam Leon (whose Gimme the Loot is also great) keeps the pace brisk and the dialogue snappy, and Turner and Van Patten boast compelling, shambling chemistry.
Tramps is streaming on Netflix. —Todd VanDerWerff
Pretty Little Liars begins its end
The most delightfully bonkers teen soap on television has officially begun its swan song. Pretty Little Liars aired its final midseason premiere on April 18, and its series finale will air on June 20. The show has promised to answer any number of mysteries by the end — most pressingly, the identity of Uber A — but it’s a fool’s game to expect a truly satisfying reveal. The real reason to check out the last few episodes is that they offer a final chance to revel in the show’s weird, funhouse mirror take on the paranoia and objectification that come with being a teenage girl.
Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays at 9 pm on Freeform. You can also catch it on Hulu and the Freeform app. —Constance Grady
Cormac McCarthy waxes philosophical and fascinating on the relationship between language and the unconscious
You may know Cormac McCarthy as that guy who wrote The Road, who loves writing post-apocalyptic novels about cannibalism and hates punctuation. But this week, he published a long and fascinating philosophical article (sans apostrophes, of course) about the relationship between language and the unconscious, and it is well worth your time.
McCarthy’s thesis is that the unconscious works mathematically and in images, and it regards the relatively new advent of language with deep distrust, as a kind of virus that crept into a system that worked perfectly well for thousands of years. This, he argues, is why ideas come to us when we aren’t directly thinking about them, and why we struggle to put abstract thoughts into words. Even if you don’t agree with McCarthy’s conclusions, he works out his thought experiment so carefully and clearly that it’s a pleasure just to follow along the chain of logic.
Angaleena Presley’s Wrangled sets country music traditionalism on its head
The retro cover of Wrangled, with its fake record-wear rings and “In Living Stereo!” badge, is a reasonably good indicator of how Kentucky singer-songwriter Angaleena Presley’s new album sounds, but not how it feels. Though classic country-western instrumentation and references abound on Wrangled, Presley is anything but a throwback act; she engages with country music traditionalism by standing it on its head, lyrically tweaking (and occasionally scorning) the genre’s cultural signifiers.
This approach won’t be a surprise to anyone familiar with Presley’s work as one-third of the Pistol Annies (with Miranda Lambert and Ashley Monroe), but Wrangled takes a less shit-kicking and more thoughtful approach to its material, and features some interesting sonic risks — most notably a delightfully unexpected verse from Alabama rapper Yelawolf in the thumping, bro-country-mocking track “Country.” But the track that best encapsulates Wrangled’s unique approach to retro country aesthetics would be “Good Girl Down,” a scathing nose-thumbing of the male-dominated Nashville establishment, co-written with rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson.
Wrangled is streaming on Spotify. —Genevieve Koski
Nick Fury gets the comic book he deserves
Nick Fury doesn’t really get to have much fun in Marvel’s movies. He doesn’t wield Thor’s mighty hammer, nor does he have magic like Doctor Strange or an endless supply of money and gadgets like Tony Stark. His new comic book, Nick Fury, hopes to change that.
Writer James Robinson and artist ACO explore Fury’s super-spy side, giving him a world of heists, nefarious Hydra agents, and world-breaking weapons to play in. ACO’s art is reminiscent of his run on Midnighter, in that he takes a sledgehammer to time and space and builds up suspenseful pockets of action in jagged, thrilling pieces. And all the while, Robinson lets Fury tap into his inner James Bond and have the high-flying fun he deserves.
Download the first issue of Nick Fury at Marvel. —Alex Abad-Santos
Netflix’s Casting JonBenet makes us think about how our own experiences change the way we watch true crime shows
This is not a documentary about JonBenet Ramsey; it doesn’t contain a single frame of archival footage or explanation of the case. Instead, Australian documentarian Kitty Green set out to make a movie about how the Ramsey case continues to affect the residents of Boulder, Colorado, where Ramsey was murdered in 1996. And Green went about it in an unconventional way: by asking them to come audition for the roles of Patsy and John Ramsey, as well as other people who were involved in the case. As people audition, they begin to speculate about the case, offer their own interpretation, and tell their own stories. The result is deeply moving and surprising (and sometimes very funny).
Casting JonBenet is streaming on Netflix. —Alissa Wilkinson
Jane Fonda’s original iconic workout video turned 35 years old this week
Released on April 25, 1982, Jane Fonda’s iconic first workout video, in which she does frenetic leg lifts along with a room of peppy, leotard-clad aerobics enthusiasts, topped the video charts for three years after its initial release and essentially invented the market for home fitness videos. At a staggering 17 million copies sold (as of 2011, or the last time anyone actually bought a fitness video), it remains the highest-selling fitness video of all time.
Revisit the classic by watching the whole video above or on YouTube. —Aja Romano