The leaves are starting to change colors, which means that winter will soon drive lots of Northwestern students indoors for the winter. Though there is still some time to go apple picking or visit your local pumpkin patch, we put together a guide to keep you entertained (while keeping others safe!) on drearier days.
As a big Millie Bobby Brown fan, hearing that she would star as Sherlock Holmes’ fearless younger sister was enough to get me excited to watch Netflix’s Enola Holmes. Released on Sept. 23, the movie held the number one spot on Netflix’s Daily Top 10 list for movies for six days, the longest streak in September for a movie, and is currently sitting comfortably at number three.
When her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) suddenly disappears one morning, young Enola sets out to find her with only an obscure set of traces to follow. On her journey, not only must she learn to navigate and survive the real world, but she must also outsmart her two brothers, Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and (a very buff) Sherlock (Henry Cavill). Using her intuition and sleuthing skills — that clearly run in the family — Enola sets out to find her mother while finding herself in the process. With a fast-paced, clever plot and a star-studded cast, this movie is a bright spot in the otherwise dismal movie industry during the pandemic. Brown shined in her role as Enola and brought just the right amount of spunk, sass and humor. Overall, Enola Holmes is an entertaining watch and leaves viewers with positive messages on female empowerment, individuality, independence and freedom. If all of that isn’t enough to convince you to watch the film, Season 4 of Stranger Things isn’t set to release until sometime next April. So if you miss seeing Eleven on your TV screen, watch Brown in Enola Holmes — you won’t be disappointed!
Five long years have passed since singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and all-around genius Sufjan Stevens released his last solo album. On 2015’s Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan delivered 11 somber, stripped-down tracks with an emphasis on acoustic instrumentation. While I think that album is fantastic, I’ve missed the bombastic electronic orchestration of my personal favorite Sufjan project, The Age of Adz. On his newest album The Ascension, Sufjan returns to that sound, but it carries a different weight than it did in 2010.
While The Age of Adz used electronic production to create harsh, abrasive instrumentals, Sufjan uses the same tools to create a more haunting, ethereal soundscape on The Ascension. The album is lyrically sparse, allowing the lush instrumentation to take center stage as Sufjan’s vocals blend into the background. While this instrumentation occasionally reaches the grandiose highs of Adz on tracks such as “Tell Me You Love Me,” most songs on The Ascension are downbeat and somber. Thematically, Sufjan’s complicated relationship with religion drives the project forward — on the album’s title track, Sufjan positions himself as a prophet but laments the isolation this brings him. Sufjan has ascended to some higher level, but he only feels regret and shame.
The Ascension carries pain, but not anguish — its otherworldly sound creates a surreal atmosphere that makes Sufjan’s emotions feel disconnected from the world around him. Given the state of the world right now, that feels apt.
We Are Who We Are
Luca Guadagnino’s We Are Who We Are (new episodes Monday nights on HBO) is a love letter to adolescence and individual identity. The show follows Fraser (Jack Dylan Grazer), as he and his moms (Chloe Sevigny and Alice Brage) are relocated to an American military base in Italy and he’s left to navigate his teen years in a foreign place with an eclectic group of kids. The way We Are Who We Are handles heavy topics such as gender identity, sexuality, underage drinking and suicide make it the perfect ode to teenage years and a realistic depiction of Gen Z. Every scene conveys complex emotions, and the characters are diverse and multifaceted. If you yearn for the poetic realism of Call Me By Your Name, Guadagnino’s foray into TV does not disappoint (Plus there are subtle cameos from both Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer!). Despite its long takes and episodic format, there is never a dull moment in the show. After each episode, you’re left wanting more time with the characters. Sit back and envision yourself among these characters basking in the Italian sun.
Hoops is a newly released Netflix animated comedy, with 10 half-hour episodes in the first season. Starring the voice talent of Jake Johnson, most known for his role as Nick Miller in New Girls, Hoops is about an angry, sweary, incompetent high school basketball coach attempting to squeeze skill out of his equally incompetent team of misfits. In the vein of comedies like Brickleberry or Paradise P.D., this show does not shy away from dirty jokes and taboo topics, and instead, doubles down on them with glee. From sassy principals and gay bullies to f-bombs galore, Hoops has it all, and the best part of the show is that it doesn’t try to teach you anything. It is funny for the sake of being funny, and I think we could all do with a few easy laughs these days. I invite you to sit back, relax and let your inner 14-year-old revel in a half-hour straight of penis jokes and other “inappropriate” humour.
Saturdays are for the boys? More like Fridays are for The Boys on Amazon Prime *wink wink.* This quick-paced, action-packed and delightfully gory show is sure to make you clear out an hour of your Friday evenings. Based on a comic book of the same name, the show follows Hughie Campbell’s (Jack Quaid) journey for vengeance after his girlfriend dies because of one reckless superhero’s negligence. In this fictional universe, superheroes are managed by a multibillion-dollar conglomerate known as Vought. Vought manages to cover up the murder as well as many other things, and innocent Hughie joins a group of odd vigilantes working to take down the evil conglomerate. Over the course of the show, we start to learn more of Vought’s secrets and meet lots of badass superheroes along the way.
We’re too used to the “superhero fights the villain, saves the day and is beloved by all” trope, which The Boys tries to blur (no offense, DC). The show gives critical reflections of our world. In our capitalist society, who’s to say a conglomerate like Vought is such a stretch from fantasy to reality? The show is thought-provoking and captivating. The characters are witty, complex and down to earth. The Boys is a perfect balance of whimsy and truth, with the occasional person blowing up. If you're looking to scratch that superhero itch this fall: Watch. This. Show.
At this point, you’ve probably seen a Tiktok or other social media post surrounding little colorful astronauts accusing each other of being “sus.” If not, I applaud your lack of reliance on social media. Initially released in 2018 by developer InnerSloth, this multiplayer social deduction game has seen a surge of popularity recently for its quarantine-friendly format. Set against three different sci-fi inspired maps, up to 10 players are randomly sorted into two teams: crewmates or (a maximum of three) impostors. Crewmates run around the map doing tasks (little mini-games requiring minimal brain cells) and report when they see suspicious activity or dead bodies. Impostors have a simpler mission: to kill crewmates secretly (using special vents located around each map) and to sabotage by creating emergencies that require the crewmates’ immediate attendance. When a death gets reported (by either a sneaky impostor or a fellow crewmate), the entire group is forced into an emergency meeting where everyone still alive unmutes, discusses and votes on which suspicious character should be ejected into space. With a concept paralleling mafia, the game’s chief interest lies in manipulation and deceit that the impostors must employ to cover their tracks and shift blame on to the innocent. This game has brought joy into my life through its intense K-drama-level mind games and by allowing me to play with friends of friends who I would have otherwise never met. I highly recommend this little (free!) game to anyone who’s running out of options to entertain at their next virtual Zoom hang-out. You will definitely learn new things about members of your friend group after a few rounds of Among Us, I promise.
The Great British Bake Off
If there’s one thing to keep you calm during fall quarter, it’s The Great British Bake Off. Known in the U.S. as The Great British Baking Show, the pastel hues, lilting accents and upbeat score make the show a perfect piece of escapism. Every season, 12 contestants from across the U.K. come together to bake three stunning — and sometimes not so stunning — creations each week, with one baker sent home at the end of every episode. Many of the challenges are complicated to the point of frustration for the bakers. But the stress that comes with Bake Off isn’t the kind of stress that makes you want to tear your hair out. It’s the kind of stress you experience when you genuinely want everyone to succeed but know they can’t. Hosts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas crack goofy jokes that you can’t help but smile at to break the tense situations.
In this year’s season, Bake Off competitors lived in a bubble alongside judges Prue and Paul and the hosts as a measure against COVID-19. It’s easy though, when watching Bake Off, to imagine a world where this (read: everything) isn’t happening. It’s a nice reminder that, through it all, people will still add too much rosewater to frostings and overprove their loaves. New episodes are out every Friday on Netflix.
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V. E. Schwab
The tagline of The Invisible Life of Addie Larue is “A life no one will remember. A story you will never forget,” and I couldn’t have put it any better myself. This book tells the story of a young girl who makes a desperate deal with a demon: she gains freedom and immortality, but is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Until, 300 years after making that deal, she meets a boy who remembers her name.
V. E. Schwab has been working on this book for a decade, and her dedication and passion for this novel shines through. This book is gorgeous, enchanting and simply incredible. Schwab effortlessly jumps back and forth through time, weaving together a tale that’s simultaneously breathtakingly beautiful and utterly devastating. I’m hoping and praying that Schwab will write a sequel someday, but in the meantime, I can’t recommend reading this book enough.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
First airing in 1997, Buffy the Vampire Slayer centers around Buffy Summers, a teenage girl who struggles to balance her role as her generation’s vampire slayer with the “normal” life she so desperately craves. Some of the things that make Buffy revolutionary are its inclusion of a queer main character, its special effects (which are laughably outdated but charming nonetheless) and, most of all, its flawed yet lovable characters. From Giles, the British librarian who doubles as watcher (guardian of the slayer) and Angel, the blueprint for one Edward Cullen, each character is incredibly intricate; despite their many flaws, it is nearly impossible not to love and root for all of them, especially Buffy. Coming from someone who is not usually a big fan of main characters (I’m looking at you, Tori Vega), let me tell you: Buffy is the exception. She is witty, strong, relatable and impossible not to love. Sarah Michelle Gellar (yes, Daphne from the live-action Scooby Doo movies) is incredible in this role and I cannot get through an emotional scene with her in it without reaching for the tissue box.
Buffy weaves together episodic stories with season-long arcs seamlessly. At the end of each episode, finale excluded, there is always something unresolved, which makes it incredibly difficult not to binge. It is incredibly intelligent, self-aware and chock-full of symbolism. From dry humor to puns and (occasionally outdated) pop culture references, the show has humor that appeals to everyone. If you like shows with lovable main characters who make you scream at the TV with frustration and villains who, despite being undeniably evil, you often find yourself rooting for, this is the show for you. And if action, drama or comedy aren’t your thing, you should still watch it, especially its early seasons, for the fashion alone.
Over the Garden Wall
Fall is finally upon us, which means my annual rewatch of Over The Garden Wall is here. This may be a Cartoon Network show (don’t get me wrong, I love CN), but it is vastly different from any other show they’ve produced. It follows two lost brothers, Wirt and Greg, as they travel through the Unknown, a mysterious and fantastical forest, searching for a way home. Along the way, they meet many peculiar characters, including Beatrice, a snarky bluebird that helps the two, and a fan-favorite frog, Jason Funderburker. Each episode includes stories of new creatures like pumpkin people, the residents of cloud city, and a mysterious woodsman. Its animation, which evokes a nostalgic feeling through its aesthetic and mix of folklore and storybook inspiration (see Brothers Grimm) make it the perfect fall TV show. With 10 episodes and a 100-minute runtime, Over the Garden Wall is perfect for binging, and its impressive worldbuilding, beautiful animation and incredible character development warrant many rewatches. Grab a steaming cup of cider and start watching what I promise will soon become your favorite yearly rewatch!
The Promised Neverland
I approached the first season of The Promised Neverland with expectations of a simple, light adventure story and came out having survived an intense emotional roller coaster that was decidedly dark. The Promised Neverland follows three scarily intelligent 11-year-olds who blissfully live in an orphanage until they find out that the children living there all meet a sinister fate. The kids have to carefully dodge suspicion as they attempt to unravel truths that shake their lives. Their distinctive personalities, wit and determination make all three of the deuteragonists delightful to watch. The story masterfully entwines suspense, fantasy and adventure while portraying a visceral theme that true loyalty in found families can ultimately overcome any oppressive force. After I finished the first season in record time, I found the rest of the story in its manga form; I can promise that the story gets even better, but don’t take my word for it — experience it yourself!
They Wish They Were Us by Jessica Goodman
Written by Cosmopolitan’s op-ed editor, They Wish They Were Us is a whirlwind murder mystery that’s pitched as Gossip Girl meets One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus. It’s exactly the kind of book you can easily devour in 24 hours on a rainy weekend: an addictive page-turner that’s full of suspense and intrigue. It takes place at an exclusive prep school in Long Island and stars the school’s most elite friend group and not-so-secret secret society, the Players. Most of the characters in this book are incredibly unlikeable (think entitled, snobby bullies), but it was nonetheless an exciting and (mostly) unpredictable read. Definitely pick this up if you’re looking for something fast-paced and thrilling!
A fun fact to leave you with: They Wish They Were Us is also becoming a TV show starring Halsey and Sydney Sweeney of Euphoria.
Thumbnail photo: "Autumn"by Ramón Peco is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0