clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

9 essential pieces of pop culture to catch up on this weekend

From Chance the Rapper’s awesome Stevie Wonder cover to an in-depth look back at A League of Their Own.

The ever-growing glut of TV, movies, books, music, comics, and podcasts can be a lot to keep up with. So we here at Vox Culture — where our current obsessions include a new indie movie about a ghost, the legacy of A League of Their Own, and Calvin Harris’s perfect summer jams — have a few suggestions for how to make the best use of your pop culture–consuming time.

Here are nine things you should really consider checking out.

Calvin Harris has been putting out some perfect summer jams

My Spotify Discover playlist keeps surprising me this summer with songs that immediately make me feel I’m lounging on a pool float, caftan wafting behind me — and almost every time, those songs have been produced by Calvin Harris. The DJ/producer/Taylor Swift ex has been quietly churning out some of the season’s best and catchiest jams, from the sizzling “Heatstroke” (featuring Pharrell, Young Thug, and Ariana Grande) to the smooth-as-hell “Slide” (featuring Migos and Frank Ocean). Throw these on your next barbecue playlist and thank me later. —Caroline Framke

Chance the Rapper writes poetry, beautifully covers Stevie Wonder for NPR

Chance stopped by NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series this week to promote his Coloring Book tour and play some music, and while he was there, he shared some spontaneous poetry he wrote on the way over from his hotel. Listen to the completely charming 12-minute set to hear him treat the NPR Music offices to a rendition of “Juke Jam,” off his own album, as well as read a poem called “The Other Side,” get hilariously interrupted by an intercom, and drop a sterling cover of Stevie Wonder’s “They Won’t Go When I Go.” —Aja Romano

A League of Their Own, the best sports movie ever made, just turned 25

A League of Their Own is a classic. It’s the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in World War II, and the women who played baseball and killed it at the ballpark while the men’s teams were at war. It’s about sportsmanship and sisterhood and friendship and betrayal, and it boasts some of the most quotable lines in pop culture history (“There’s no crying in baseball!”). If you’ve never seen it, you should watch it. If you’ve already seen it, you should watch it again.

And then you should take a moment to delve into the wealth of content the internet created in honor of its 25th anniversary. ESPN has an oral history of the film, from pre-production to reception. The Ringer explains why it’s the best sports movie ever made. And Cosmopolitan delves into the deepest and darkest mystery of the whole story: Did Dottie drop the ball on purpose? —Constance Grady

The Carmichael Show’s third (and final) season is tackling uncomfortable topics with grace and humor

It’s truly unfortunate that there won’t be any more new episodes of NBC’s The Carmichael Show once the currently airing third season (which the network has officially announced will be its last) concludes. There just aren’t many shows like it; the family sitcom is funny and bracingly honest, often taking on issues that most other TV shows wouldn’t touch, from gun violence to police brutality. But even though its subject matter is frequently serious, it never gets preachy — and will still make you laugh. Plus, with actors like Loretta Devine, David Alan Grier, Lil Rel Howery, and Tiffany Haddish rounding out the cast, the Carmichael family is just fun to hang out with. You can catch up with the show’s first two seasons on Hulu and Netflix, and the third season — which still has six episodes to go! — on Hulu and —CF

The spooky Sundance hit A Ghost Story is opening in limited theaters

A Ghost Story is more folktale than horror story, a simple and strong evocation of grief and regret. Directed and written by David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Pete’s Dragon), it was also one of the most acclaimed films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck (both of whom are reunited with Lowery here after starring in Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) play M and C, a couple living in a small house in what looks to be Texas.

One night they both bolt awake after hearing a crash on the keys of the piano in the living room. Nobody seems to be out there. Shortly thereafter, C dies in a car accident. And then something very unusual happens. To preserve the mystery, I’ll stop there, except to say that the movie goes nowhere you’d expect. Affleck is remarkably recognizable as an actor even when you can’t see him. And there’s a scene in which Mara eats pie that’s destined to become a classic. —Alissa Wilkinson

Netflix’s Okja is the zany-yet-ethical sci-fi movie you didn’t know you needed

South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, Mother) took his considerable talents to Netflix for his latest film, a wild and inventive tale that manages to be both an anti-corporation sci-fi chase and a heartwarming story of the bond between a young girl and her superpig.

With a stellar cast that includes Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Lily Collins, and Jake Gyllenhaal, as well as a commanding performance by young lead Ahn Seo-hyun, Okja is a genetically engineered antidote to this summer’s underwhelming popcorn cinema as well as Netflix’s first truly great big-budget film. If you prefer the multiplex over streaming, Okja is showing in a handful of theaters in New York and Los Angeles, but it’s just as captivating from the comfort of your own couch/chair/bed. —Grant Rindner

Hey Violet are summer 2017’s teen pop saviors

The origin story of Hey Violet may put you in mind of the Runaways. Or the Donnas. Or really any number of hard-edged all-teen-girl groups who unexpectedly kick ass. But where those earlier groups skewed more toward punk, Hey Violet’s new album, From the Outside, is straight up partly cloudy pop punk.

Every song courses with exactly the right blend of angsty teenage drama and perfectly chosen chord progressions. And that’s to say nothing of lyrics that will drag you right back to wondering when your crush would just turn around and look at you in study hall, lyrics like, “Still rocking your hoodie / and chewing on the strings / It makes me think about you / so I wear it when I sleep / I kept the broken zipper / the cigarette burns / Still rocking your hoodie / baby, even though it hurts.” —Todd VanDerWerff

The instrumental-only version of Hamilton’s soundtrack dares you to sing the show without any help

In a freestyle with the Roots, Lin-Manuel Miranda announced the release of The Hamilton Instrumentals, a vocals-free version of the hit musical’s soundtrack that challenges faithful Hamilton fans to sing the show, or whatever else they want, over the show’s original backing instrumentals. If you’ve ever wanted to prove you truly know all the words to “My Shot,” now’s your chance. —AR

Few TV shows pair so well with summer as The Rockford Files

Watching James Garner on The Rockford Files, which ran from 1974 to 1980, is like having your dad come home from work late, his suit a little rumpled, and then he gives you a warm, wrinkly smile that says, “Hey, I’m just glad to be done with that bullshit for another day.” Oh, and for some reason, it’s 1975, because why not?

Few shows work so well as lighthearted summertime watches as Rockford, which was TV super-producer Stephen J. Cannell’s sardonic spin on the private eye genre. Cannell never met a cliché he didn’t love, but with Rockford he found a way to spin that tendency into gold. Now, thanks to Garner’s winking performance, he had a character who would roll his eyes at the clichés and include the audience in the fun as he cruised through 1970s Los Angeles, solving cases to make sure he could cover his rent.

Now that The Rockford Files is newly available on Blu-ray, you can appreciate the best American drama of its decade — and Garner’s finest performance — in crisp high definition. Don’t worry though. Even the sharp edges of the picture can’t wash away all the scuzzy grime of ’70s LA. Then again, why would you want to? —TV

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.