Welcome to Culture Hound, InsideHook’s deep dive into the month’s most important (pop) cultural happenings, in town and elsewhere.
Great artists challenge.
Star Wars, The X-Files, even Kanye — pop culture comforts we’ve recently welcomed back.
All well and good, but this month, we’re tackling wonderfully unfamiliar territory.
• The Nether: Like the Internet, only much, much worse
• A pirate Super Bowl broadcast MCed by Key and Peele
• The author who outsmarts (and out-Gladwells) Malcom Gladwell
And the young year’s best war documentary, coming straight out of Sundance to your home television screen.
GO: The Nether
The Nether might have originated in London, but this play is a creepy cautionary tale tailor-made for S.F. One of the deepest, darkest holes of the titular digital network — a futuristic Internet reborn as The Nether — is called The Hideaway, where users can virtually subject children to endless variations of abuse. Bringing to question: Is digital depravity an actual transgression? (Through Mar. 5 at the San Francisco Playhouse)
STREAM (DURING THE SUPER BOWL): Key and Peele
Look, nobody seems to love the idea of Phil Simms calling the Super Bowl. Worthy alternative: website DIY-ers Squarespace are allowing comedians Key and Peele to provide live commentary during game...as Real Talk, or “Lee and Morris, aspiring sportscasters from Atlanta.” Now, they won’t talk about the actual game—a pesky rights issue—but they will improv the hell out of the night. As Morris says, “My father may not love me, but he taught me everything about football.” (Feb. 7)
Fresh from winning an Audience Award at Sundance, Jim is the devastating portrait of James Foley, the fearless photojournalist murdered by ISIS in 2014. Director Brian Oakes was one of Foley’s childhood friends, and the tone is elegiac, not critical — though there is plenty to consider, as Foley's mother grievously contrasts vigorous efforts by foreign governments to secure their hostages with those made by our own. Regardless, Oakes is uniquely positioned to provide what another filmmaker could not: the sharp insight and visible heartache of Foley’s family and friends. (Feb. 6)
LISTEN: The Prettiots
On their debut Funs Cool, the fetching NY duo melds pop harmonizing, ukulele (!) and punk rock aesthetics. Result? Haim by way of the Misfits. Boy crush songs (including an ode to Law & Order’s Elliot Stabler) with dark undercurrents and cool tattoos. And all fun and decidedly cool: as singer Kay Kasparhauser notes about her band’s lyrics, “I like to talk about Werner Herzog and sex.” (Feb. 5)
WATCH: The VVitch
And you thought The Revenant was bleak. Try this haunting tale from 1630s New England, where a Puritan family deals with black magic, a disappearing child and possible possession. Neither CGI-laden nor doomed by found footage, The VVitch is a slow burn in horror. And the year’s creepiest trailer. (Feb. 19)
READ: Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World
Author/professor Adam Grant (Give and Take), a favorite of Malcolm Gladwell and Richard Branson and more ridiculously smart than you and me combined, tackles the idea of originality, exploring how and when to act on a good, non-groupthink idea and utilizing real-world examples, from challenging Steve Jobs to what saved Seinfeld. Read it before it becomes a must-watch TED Talk. (Feb. 2)
LISTEN: Mountain Goats, Metric, and Vince Staples
Maybe you were smarter than us and picked up tickets to see the Mountain Goats at Cafe du Nord — there’s none to be had now, for love nor money/Stubhub, though we’re pretty sure some skeevy offers on Craigslist are on the way. We’ll be at Metric (Feb. 23); if you’re looking for the opposite of Metric, try Long Beach rapper Vince Staples at the Independent (Feb. 27).
Elsewhere, our monthly playlist highlights the best 60 minutes of new music for February, featuring a bevy of young talent (Wild Nothing, Anderson Paak), returning favorites (The 1975, Santigold) and, with the passing of David Bowie, a solid new track from his friend and compatriot Iggy Pop.
Also out this month: For a 90s superhero, Deadpool is the foul-mouthed, hyper-meta, hilariously violent superhero we deserve today (Feb. 12) ... Triple 9 might be the coolest heist movie of the year (Feb. 26) ... 70s rock’n’roll gets its due from Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger in HBO’s Vinyl (Feb. 14) ... Judd Apatow hits Netflix, searches for Love (Feb. 19) ... Former Daily Show reporter Samantha Bee crashes the male late night scene with Full Frontal (Feb. 8) ... And finally, a welcome return of John Oliver (Feb. 14), The Walking Dead (Feb. 14), Better Call Saul (Feb. 15) and Broad City (Feb. 17).