Redemption, discipline, and out-of-this-world animation are all here in this week's Friday Five. And, of course, there are plenty of laughs to go around! So dig in and enjoy Volume 93!
We're excited to kick off the week with multimedia project that pushes some boundaries in not just music, but animation as well. Kid Cudi has always been on the cutting edge of the industry, making things that are very different from his peers. Entergalactic takes that to the extreme, though. First off, the project is a stellar new album from one of hip-hop's most interesting artists. Then, on top of it, there is a comprehensive animated musical that serves as the visual component on the album, and lives on Netflix. Cudi didn't half-ass this one; he got some high-end creators from the TV/film industry to collaborate on the feature. The album itself plays best as a whole piece, letting it flow through, one song to the next. But of course, it all works best the way it was intended to be experienced: on Netflix, with the visuals and the music. The creative process behind it all is really cool, as Kid Cudi started with the music before moving to the storyboard, and finally approaching writers to work through a script. That's a total reversal of most projects, and in this case, it really works. We love talking about creators doing things we haven't seen before, and not only did this accomplish that, but it also combined so many of our interests that we had no choice but to highlight it.
The Redeem Team
Apparently we were really into Netflix this week, because we had our eyes on a new doc on the streamer, too. While it's hard to think of the US Men's National Basketball Team as being underdogs in any form of international competition, in the 2008 Olympics, there were a lot of doubts about the squad. A major disappointment in the 2004 Olympics led to a total overhaul of the program, and The Redeem Team documents the turnaround. It's wild to see that such a collection of talent was ever doubted, but in the moment, people really weren't sure it would work. The documentary is special for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is getting to watch the late Kobe Bryant in all his greatness, pushing his teammates to victory. We also get to see how a young LeBron James was at the pinnacle of the sport, and how he interacted with his future teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The doc features interviews and game action from a mix of active and retired players, all superstars in the league, who all managed to mesh and win gold. The creative team was also behind the 2020 hit The Last Dance, so we definitely trust them to come up with another compelling way to tell an old sports story. It might be a surprise to find inspiration from such a loaded roster, but it is refreshing to see that even people as talented as that have their moments of doubt.
Studio comedies, and studio rom-coms, have definitely suffered in recent years, but Billy Eichner is here to put a new twist on the genre. The Billy on the Street star is out to change the game, with a revolutionary rom-com centered on a gay romance. Bros is directed and co-written by Nicholas Stoller, who delivered some of our favorite comedies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Neighbors, and obviously Eichner's fame precedes him. It's also produced by (and has the blessing of) Judd Apatow, the king of the 21st Century studio comedy, so it's safe to say Bros was in good hands. We don't often get to go see a big comedy in theaters, so we definitely recommend going to check it out, especially because they play better in a theater with communal laughs. Beyond that, a lot of the big-name, Oscar-bait films are absolutely tanking lately, so you can take a beat and go check out a comedy that will actually leave you feeling good about your trip to the theater.
Saturday Night Live
Speaking of laughs, the longest institution in mainstream comedy started back up this week, and it had a refreshing start. The season premiere kicked off with a great cold open parodying the Manningcast, with Miles Teller pulling off a great Peyton Manning impression. They were also more than happy to make fun of themselves, taking aim at both the "rebuilding" nature of the season, and the perhaps over-reliance on political sketches in recent years. SNL also let themselves get weird with a couple of sketches, including a McDonald's commercial parody and a parody of finance bros out at a New York bar. Everyone from newcomer Michael Longfellow to 20-year vet Kenan Thompson had a big role to play, and they all played it well. It shouldn't be a surprise, but host Miles Teller more than held his own on the show, showing off some comedic chops that he usually saves for the big screen. And, to top it all off, Kendrick Lamar was the musical guest! It was a great start to a brand new era of SNL given the roster turnover, and we can't wait to see what else the season has in store.
It's been a while, but this week, we've got a creator to highlight on Instagram. Justin Rasch, the director, animator, and co-owner of Stunt Puppet Pictures, has an account that immediately caught our eye this week. Rasch has worked on some really cool stop-motion animation projects, but beyond just the animation, we love his account for the revealing behind-the-scenes videos he posts. He posts time-lapse videos of the insanely time-intensive process that it takes to just create a simple animated video with puppets or models. Such intricate movements and precise attention to detail are really impressive, and it is super inspiring to see a creative give such focus and time to the process. When we see animation on our TV, we might not think about how intense the creation of it is -- Rasch's account is a good reminder of the work that goes in.