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What's making us happy: A guide to your weekend listening and viewing

Willem Dafoe stars as Nemo in <em>Inside, </em>directed by Vasilis Katsoupis.
Wolfgang Ennenbach
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Focus Features
Willem Dafoe stars as Nemo in Inside, directed by Vasilis Katsoupis.

This week, we rooted for drag queens who refuse to be silenced, mourned the lossof Bobby Caldwell, and enjoyed a satirical novel that skewers religious institutions without mocking faith itself.

Here's what the NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should check out this weekend.

Inside

Inside is a film that's in theaters now in limited release. It stars Willem Dafoe as an art thief who gets trapped inside this amazing high-tech penthouse apartment that's filled with priceless works of art, when he trips the alarm. The entire film is just Dafoe on screen for 105 minutes minus a dream sequence or two, and he's there trying to figure out how to get out. As the days pass and his food and water run out, the temperature controls in the apartment start going nuts.

Dafoe. It's Dafoe. He's always fascinating to watch. He makes big choices, and here he's playing someone who gets increasingly desperate and increasingly unhinged as the days pass. I've read some reviews from folks who aren't willing to go on this journey, and that's fair. I mean, understand, you will feel those days pass. You will feel the weight of them. That is the entire point. And as it goes on, the film starts to play with notions of art and life and death and whatever might lie beyond it. It is a very small film with great big ideas, and Dafoe really holds your attention. So if you're up for it and not everyone will be, it is definitely worth seeking out. That is Inside in theaters now.

— Glen Weldon

Louder Than A Riot

/ NPR
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NPR

What is making me happy is the long awaited new season of Louder Than A Riot, an NPR music podcast. The first season was about the intersection of hip hop and incarceration in America. Obviously, I am biased. These are my colleagues. These are my friends, but this is a phenomenal show. Season 1 took this fascinating deep dive into the way that hip-hop lyrics can be used as evidence in criminal cases. It reported news, it made news, and it won awards. It generally made us proud and made us very excited about Season 2.

The first episode of Season 2 dropped this Thursday, and it goes even deeper. I maybe already even like it more. It starts with the trial of Tory Lanez, who was convicted of shooting Megan Thee Stallion. It uses that trial as a jumping off point into some kind of surprising directions. It examines hip-hop's relationship with women and, as the season progresses, with queer people.

It's amazing how much this show sounds so effortless and conversational. Sidney Madden and Rodney Carmichael are the hosts and they talk to each other and to producer Gabby Bulgarelli, who was great here. They're untangling extremely complex ideas about race and gender, fandom toxicity and so much more in a way that feels effortless but clearly is not effortless. So much reporting and editing and hosting talent went into making this show great. I just savored that first episode. I can't wait to hear more each week.

— Stephen Thompson

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Stephen Thompson

One last bit of Oscars reading: If you hated The Whale like I hated The Whale, you'll love how much – and with how much profanity – Lindy West hated The Whale.

In need of a new bit of reality-TV escapism, I discovered the Food Network's Tournament of Champions, in which Guy Fieri – that most underrated Mayor of Flavortown – presides over a (seasonally appropriate) bracket-style competition among famous chefs. Season 4 is going on now, with a supersized 32-person field, but I'm still on Season 1. Among the many joys here, the casting pays off my many years spent watching TV cooking competitions: You get Top Chef winners galore, ubiquitous cooking-show judges and other names you didn't know you'd retained. It's lively and friendly, which is crucial.


NPR's Teresa Xie adapted the Pop Culture Happy Hour segment "What's Making Us Happy" into a digital page. If you like these suggestions, consider signing up for our newsletter to get recommendations every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
Glen Weldon is a host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. He reviews books, movies, comics and more for the NPR Arts Desk.
Teresa Xie
Teresa Xie is a reporter who specializes in media and culture writing. She recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied political science and cinema. Outside of NPR, her work can be found in Pitchfork, Vox, Teen Vogue, Bloomberg, Stereogum and other outlets.