The Eyes Have It

5 Things We’re Reading and Watching

Or Houston, We Have Recommendations: Part III.

Edited by Emma Schkloven July 31, 2020

You’ve had almost six months to figure out the dos and don’ts of living almost exclusively inside your home. You’ve struck the balance between work and play within your finite space (yeah, right) and now know exactly what entertainment sources to turn to when the mood strikes. Or you’ve run out of everything in your Netflix queue, read all the books on your shelf (twice), and have taken to boredom shopping online to get you through the night (you’re not alone).

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Black Is King

Okay, so we technically haven’t checked out Beyoncé’s new visual album—it only started streaming on Disney+ this morning—but you bet it’s how we’re kicking off our weekend. In case you somehow missed the pop culture explosion news of the project made when it was announced in June, Black is King is composed of music videos for songs from The Gift, an album the (Sasha) fierce singer executive-produced as a companion to the 2019 live-action remake of Disney’s The Lion King. According to Queen Bey herself, the project is “meant to celebrate the breadth and beauty of Black ancestry.” —Emma Schkloven, associate editor 

Timely Tomes 

We’re in some unusual times to the say the least, so I have a book on deck for every mood: I opt for The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson’s new biography about Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz (because the cigar-smoking, brandy-swilling British prime minister always inspires me) when I need a lift. Then, I page through How to Cook a Wolf, M.F.K Fisher’s guide to making the gastronomical best of wartime shortages during WWII, when I just want a bite of something; her matter-of-fact tips on ways to make the best of a lack of just about everything can’t help but give a person perspective, and right now perspective is key. When none of the aforementioned will suit, it’s George Eliot’s Middlemarch, the classic I put off reading until roughly a year ago and am now continually shocked I hadn’t picked up before. —Dianna Wray, interim editor-in-chief

Renovation Island

There’s nothing like a reality TV show set in the Bahamas to get my husband and I through this most trying summer. HGTV’s Renovation Island captures all of the highs and lows (there are many) of buying and renovating a long-deserted resort on the tiny island of Andros. Termite infestation? Check. Broken marble tile shipments? Check. Postponed grand openings? Check. The show's stars, successful Canadian home builders Sarah and Bryan Baeumler, seem to make our little home improvement trials a bit easier to stomach. But the weekly trip to paradise doesn’t hurt either. —Monica Fuentes Carroll, art director

100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912–2012

I’ve been making up for the lack of Olympics this summer by delving into some of the Criterion Channel’s 100 Years of Olympic Films. Spanning 41 Games, this 53-film collection includes at least one infamous (yet cinematographically legendary) item: the Leni Riefenstahl-directed Olympia, which was filmed during the 1936 Games in Berlin. Released in 1938—directly preceding Kristallnacht—the movie is both hauntingly beautiful and horrifying. Riefenstahl used many techniques that were groundbreaking at the time (underwater cameras and balloons, among them), but the sheer amount of nationalist propaganda is grotesque—even if it does appear alongside some incredible footage of America’s famed Black sprinter and jumper, Jesse Owens, who shattered records and myths about Aryan athletic superiority during those Games. Best to palate cleanse with one of the later films, like 16 Days of Glory, centered on the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, with epic footage of our hometown hero (and UH alum and track coach) Carl Lewis, who matched Owens’ astonishing feat of four gold medal wins. —Gwendolyn Knapp, associate editor

Umbrella Academy

Last Saturday, I sat down on my couch to watch Umbrella Academy on Netflix. I’d heard it was good and knew some of the actors from other things, so I figured I'd try an episode or two. After all, it was raining and, you know, there's a pandemic going on, so I had nothing better to do. Cut to 10 hours later, and I had finished the entire first season. It was captivating with its gritty, washed-up superhero premise, weird family dynamics; awesome soundtrack; and occasional moments of pure silliness. Did I plan to watch 10 hour-long episodes in one sitting? Nope. Am I glad I did? Yep, because now I can watch season 2 when it comes out this weekend. —Catherine Wendlandt, digital editor 

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