TV Show: American Odyssey (2015) created by Peter Horton
It’s been a while since I’ve mourned a canceled show quite this much, especially since this show is not really “in my wheelhouse” (which, I hate to say, is some combo of Spanish soap operas and period dramas). I’m the furthest thing away from into all things #merica, but this show manages to encompass a lot of the current political mood in the US without taking a political side. The main character, Sargent Odelle, comes across some suspicious info on a terrorist’s computer while on assignment in Mali, and spends the rest of the show trying to survive being killed for having unwittingly uncovered a vast web of corruption involving the US military and a large investment firm in the US. One review I read said that with a “been-there-seen-that premise and multiple muddled plots, American Odyssey can’t escape the shadows of its superior predecessors in an age of solid spy/action television.” Again, I haven’t watched loads of spy/action thrillers, but the thing that set this show apart for me (beside the government conspiracy thread, which feels eerily timely) was that is did an excellent job of humanizing the characters in Mali. There’s even a subplot about a man who has been framed as a terrorist and the impossibility of proving himself innocent when most people only want to believe the worst of him. I read that the show tacked on the “American” part to its title to come across as more patriotic, but frankly, I think this show is too fair to non-Americans to do well on American TV. BOOO. It stands alone pretty well as a single season, none the less.
– Karissa Tucker
Musical: Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda
One of the biggest broadway hits in the past few years, Hamilton is the story of the founding father who was never president. It covers his whole life: the drama, how he wrote like he’s running out of time, the scandal, and *spoiler* his death.
When I saw the show on Broadway, my friend told me to not listen to any of the music before the show, so the whole experience was completely new to me. The musical was a blend of hip hop, R&B, and rap (genres I don’t usually listen to). After a few numbers, I was able to keep up with the fast rhythms and lyrics, catching and following the story.
Hamilton uses a fairly minimal amount of props, instead using lighting, backup dancers, and a spinning stage to portray the action. Unlike some musicals that have plot-song-plot-song structure, Hamilton’s songs are the plot. If you listen to the soundtrack online you’ll essentially hear the whole show and know the story. However you can’t pick up on things such as who Peggy’s actress plays in the second half and their lyrical connection, witness King George take full command of the theater, or follow the final bullet as it heads towards Hilton himself. Tickets are hard to come by, but it is well worth it!
– Richie Gowin
Documentary: Hot Sugar’s Cold World directed by Adam Bhala Lough
Hot Sugar’s Cold World takes you on a creative quest with composer/producer Nick Koenig, known by his stage name Hot Sugar, as he answers the question, “why do we need instruments anymore?”
Director Bhala Lough follows the producer in the field as he hunts for interesting sounds in non-musical environments and adapts them into melodies. Some examples of these recordings are: the sound of human skulls bouncing off each other, the first computer that went on the internet, ordinary traffic noises, Pop Rocks in someone’s mouth, or the sound of silence at a funeral. The Associative Music he ends up with are beautiful, layered, emotional pieces that subtly reference their source sounds. These songs will end make up Hot Sugar’s debut album, God’s Hand.
Though slow at times, the documentary moves along with visits from director Jim Jarmusch, a break up, conversations with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, a trip to Paris, a fully tattooed Word War I veteran, and a sketchy craigslist meet up to buy illegal fireworks with actor Martin Starr.
Hot Sugar’s Cold World is a must see if you’re looking for some inspiration this fall. After a long dry spell, watching this documentary kickstarted a several month long burst of creativity for myself and my husband. The entire documentary is free to stream on youtube. It is split into eight parts, each around ten minutes long.
– Riayn Grey