It’s been said that there’s more to life than music and, while we remain sceptical, we’ve decided to test the premise with our new bi-weekly Cool People Column!
Noyan and Eden already bring you great pop culture recommendations and discussions each week on the Heavy Blog podcast, but why should they get to have all the fun? (Just because they essentially maintain and run the blog itself? I think not!) Now it’s the rest of the staff’s turn to share all the cool things from beyond the world of music that have been tickling their fancy over the last fortnight; everything from books to films, TV shows, video games and beyond!
We also want to know what all you cool people out there have been getting up to as well, so make sure to let us know in the comments.
Color Out of Space
Maybe its the emphasis on the unseen and incomprehensible, or things that are enough to drive the viewer insane merely by catching a glimpse of them, but there really aren’t enough high(er)-profile H. P. Lovecraft movies—especially if Color Out if Space (2019) is anything to go by. The film is, surprisingly, one of the most “fun”—and, I’d argue, best—films to have come out of the recent “auteur horror” movement. It’s by no means as campy as Reanimator (1986) (few things are), but director Richard Stanley—making his long-awaited return to cinema since being booted from the disastrous 1996 adaptation of H. G. Wells‘s The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)—treads a careful line between the striking visuals and “mature” themes of scene-leaders like Ari Aster and Robert Eggers while also staying firmly rooted in the ridiculous, over the top, B-Movie aesthetics as well.
Color Out of Space is very similar, in tone and premise, to Alex Garland‘s adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer‘s Annihilation (2018/2014). Color Out of Space could very easily be a prequel to Garland’s film, in fact. Unlike Garland, however, Stanley expands upon his source material, rather than reducing it. Much like Luca Guadagnino‘s 2018 “remake” of Susperia (1977), Stanley take’s his source material merely as a starting point, and then really runs with it. Color out of Space is constantly reinventing itself; from a story of ecological alien invasion; to a reality-bending tale of possession and paranoia; through some truly shocking body horror, reminiscent of Evil Dead 2 (1982) and John Carpenter‘s The Thing (1982); before climaxing in a 2001-esque eruption of cosmic horror. Every single shift is as equally effective as the last, with Nicholas Cage—in his second neon-drenched horror renaissance role in as many years—increasingly elevating and unraveling along with the plot.
It’s not perfect. Why the main character (played by Madeleine Arthur) had to be some kind of depressive pagan isn’t really justified, and draws distracting parallels to Midsommer (2019). I also have no idea why a “hydrologist” knows so much about asteroids or has so much authority within the local jurisdiction (I kept waiting for the reveal that he was something more than we were led to believe, but I don’t think it ever came?) There’s also a Burzum song on the soundtrack, which is disappointing, to say the least. Of course, Lovecraft himself was also a big old racist—albeit one who’s not still around to profit off his material. Nevertheless, it adds an unfortunate and unnecessary taint to what is an otherwise outstanding triumph of modern horror.
The Beef and Dairy Network Podcast
I’m not really big on podcasts; in fact, this is the first time (I think) that I’ve written about one for the blog. It’s not that I don’t like podcasts on principle. It’s just that whenever I have the time or social context (like a car) to listen to a podcast, I’d rather listen to music instead. But there’s one podcast (OK, OK, and a couple more) that has been jockeying for my music time for years: The Beef and Dairy Network Podcast (2015–). It’s not only that the podcast releases “only” once a month. It’s also that it blends a very specific kind of British media, with bizarre humour, heart-touching moments, and weird.
At the core of the podcast is a very simple (but false) fact: somewhere out there, there’s a Beef and Dairy Network website, for those involved or just interested in the production of beef animals and dairy herds. Yes, that’s a weird way to say “cows”. The entire premise of the podcast is to make fun of the obsession we have with meat and dairy products; one episode features a doctor recommending that you self-isolate to save your loved ones if you’ve eaten a yogurt that’s one day past expiration date (we all know the people who do this). Another features a butcher literally rising to Messiahood. Yet another explores the secrets of the so-called “fifth meat” which definitely does not exist and if you say it does, don’t answer your door because the government is a-coming.
Sometimes, the show is just whimsical. It makes fun of local British radio and TV news. It tells quirky stories about rich beef sausages and misguided individuals. But, sometimes, it goes full Lovecraftian and plumbs and odd intersection between cosmic horror, carnism, British folklore, and mystery. It’s always funny, with high production values, a semi-improved script which keeps things natural and fluid, and recurring jokes that you find yourself waiting for. Give it a shot; episodes are not too long and if you let it, it will hook you in its meaty, meaty claws.
RuPaul’s Drag Race – Season 12
And now the time has come Cool People Column to serve its ultimate purpose of allowing me to backdoor a RuPaul’s Drag Race recap column onto Heavy Blog. The show’s twelfth (regular) season kicked off last month to a strong, if also severely regrettable start.
The season courted controversy before it even began, with there continuing to be a notable lack of trans contestants, following the vocal backlash toward trans-exclusionary comments RuPaul made in 2018. The season’s second episode was also tarnished by revelations that contestant Sherry Pie had committed several acts of physical abuse and sexual exploitation, via a prolonged catfishing scheme. The show’s producers responded promptly, immediately disqualifying her and barring them from the season’s finale, due to be filmed later this year. She has since been removed from most of the season’s promotional material and appears to have also been largely edited out of the most recent episode, even while still receiving high praise in the critiques. The whole situation is made even more unfortunate in that the other twelve contestants (and everyone else involved) have so far been delivering what feels like one of the most refreshing seasons in some time.
Season 12’s first episode was one of the strongest in the show’s history. Repeating the much-lauded Season 6 trick of splitting the contestants into two groups, across two different episodes, allowed everyone a bit more air-time and breathing room during the usually-chaotic early stages of the “competition.” Each episode was also jam packed, with each queen rocking five separate looks in the one episode, along with performing the kind of musical numbers usually reserved for season finales and some extra tricks and turns to help keep things fresh (at least the first time around).
The first group (which were thankfully Sherry Pie-free) appeared to be by far the stronger of the two, with obvious top contender GiGi Goode comfortably dominating the competition along with Widow Von Du, who proved she was a force to be reckoned with following a rough promotional showing. The surprise standout, however, was the clownish Crystal Methyd, who shocked in a stunning Freddy Krueger-inspired Fall look, replete with band-aid “wig”. Crystal, who would fit right in on Dragula (along with some other of this season’s contestants), is quickly becoming a personal favourite (along with GiGi), and I hope she stick’s around longer than Michelle Visage’s legendary (more like leg-and-dairy) intolerance for un-conventional make-up might suggest. GiGi also showed she was more than a “look queen” during the performance and put off some distinctly Alaska vibes during the final lip-sync that’s put me fully on board with her. Nicki Minaj was also great as a guest judge—offering specific, insightful critiques, and not being afraid to be blunt when necessary.
Episode two was less exciting, both because of the over-bearing presence of Sherry Pie, but also because it re-tread a lot of the same ground as the first. Although it replaced the first episode’s hip-hop track with a Fosse-inspired number, the Spring and Fall runways remained the same, when it would have been more varied and complete to swap them for Summer and Winter ones, and there was nothing quite as striking as Crystal’s Krueger or GiGi’s anything. Jaida Essence Hall definitely left an impression, however, with her glamorous “female impersonation” and self-constructed garments; as did (just) Jan—who really is more of a Marsha—and who, despite being a bit overwhelming in her enthusiasm, has come out firing on all cylinders is yet to deliver anything short of impeccable (oh, except her Spring runway, which I hated). Rock M. Sakura—owner of the season’s meatiest and most distracting “tuck”—also proved charming, especially when she wasn’t trying to be, and impressed with an incredible anime kimono she drew herself. The less said about Sherry the better, but I must point out that she looked like a poor version of Detox during her “jelly fish” lipsync, complete with saggy tutu and attempted lip wobbles, which was really rather embarrassing next to Jaida’s powerhouse performance.
Episode three saw the two groups merge together, which immediately felt more chaotic and less personal, although somehow it still seemed to drag, which might be due to the retrospective editing. Even so, it’s main sketch/improve challenge was more “Gaff-In” than “Bossy Rossy” (which is to say it was excruciatingly bad), even with the latter making his long-awaited return. The “Bows and Buttons” runway was also one of the weakest in the show’s history, with only GiGi’s incredible orange business (which she (and some friends) apparently hand-made out of 24,000 buttons) and Jan’s unconventional voodoo doll look hitting the mark. Yet, for all the episode’s weaknesses, the cast remains compelling, especially coming off the back of the lacklustre Season 11.
Maybe it’s just the extra familiarity but, so far, Season 12 appears to have one of the strongest casts in a while. It’s usually pretty easy to pick the top, mid and bottom tier queens from the beginning but there doesn’t really seem to be any “filler” this time around. Even the apparently “weaker” queens, like Heidi N Closet and Aiden Zane, are breaking through thanks to their added depth and heightened personalities, and the first-eliminated contestant also managed to leave an impression via some striking looks before being sent packing. Having said that, I can’t see anyone other than Gigi or Jaida, who are clearly more polished than the others, taking home the crown. If Gigi wins (which she probably should) it will be the third main season in a row that the youngest contestant has won, so she might miss out if the producers decide to shake things up, or someone pulls a bunch of rose petals out of their wig (although, at this stage, she seems the most likely to pull something like that anyway). Either way, I’ll be checking back in at some point to let you know how the rest of the season pans out.