Dear Patsy is your new one-stop-shop for any and all questions about music, movies, drinks, TV, comedy, videogames, celebrities or whatever else you want to ask our pop culture expert. Send Patsy your question to firstname.lastname@example.org with a snappy subject line including the words “Dear Patsy,” and you could be featured in Paste’s newest weekly column. Simple as that! We want to hear your questions—or, Patsy does!—and we want to be your guiding light in the ever-foggy, fast-changing world of pop culture.
This week Patsy provides some much-needed recommendations for easy-goin’, comforting, low-stakes movies to watch during quarantine and advice for making crowd-friendly playlists. She also speaks to the purpose of this fine column, which can act as a vehicle for personal, customized discovery should you send Patsy a few things you already like. Find all that and more below, and don’t forget to send Patsy a note at email@example.com.
Dear Patsy: “Movie Violence Got Me Down”
In the time of Covid-19 I have been having a very hard time coping, as have many other people. I’ve been trying to find movies to watch that will refresh my spirit and transport me to a better place for a while. I can’t watch any more horror/action movies with blood and gore and guns and explosions. I need something gentler, kinder, something to reach inside me and stay there.
For example, I watched the new adaption of Little Women and I was enchanted, I came away with a warm glow that lasted days. I’ve also watched some wonderful animated movies, things like Song of the Sea, Boy and the World and Lu Over The Wall. I love animation and these movies really moved me.
So my question is, where do I go next? I’m a 63 year old man with a young soul that has been around for a long time. My dog Choopie and I love to watch movies together, and we really need some things to help ease the pain of modern day living.
Thanks for your help and advice.
Dear Choopie’s Dad,
I. Feel. You.
There is, of course, real enjoyment to be found in the sheer spectacle of movies—in the choreographed automotive mayhem of Mad Max: Fury Road, the ridiculous killing sprees of the John Wick trilogy, the arrival of honest-to-god superheroes on the Big Screen. But these are loud times, abrasive times. On-screen body counts are no match for the actual body counts being racked up by the confluence of COVID-19, political corruption and “business-as-usual” racism that define this current iteration of Home of the Brave, Land of the Free. So where to turn? Well, when life is a sunburn, fetch the aloe vera.
Fortunately, when it comes to soothing relief for what’s burning us all, there are plenty of options out there. Rather than get too cute organizing them, let’s just give you options. Lots of options.
In the realm of fairy tale and fable there is Alfonso Cuarón’s A Little Princess (1995), which can be rented for $2.99 on Amazon Prime and The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) for just $3.99. My Neighbor Totoro (1985) costs a bit more, but while not all Studio Ghibli films will provide you solace, this one is a good bet. And in case you missed it, 2017’s Paddington 2 is, in its own calm, endearing manner, as astounding of an achievement as Fury Road. (And it’s also just $3.99 to rent.)
If you’re searching for more adult-oriented fare—or at least films populated by adults—there’s Krzysztof Kieslowski’s haunting, hopeful The Double Life of Veronique (1991) ($3.99, Amazon Prime)) Jacques Tati’s Jour de Fête (1952) ($3.99 Amazon Prime) and, if soaking into 1920s Paris with a soothing soundtrack and amazing cast is your thing, I highly recommend The Moderns, though you may have to buy a copy—I’m not sure it’s streaming anywhere currently. There is also solace to be found in screwball classics like 1938’s Bringing Up Baby (Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn a steal at $2.99) and 1940’s The Philadelphia Story (Hepburn, Grant and Jimmy Stewart, $3.99, Amazon Prime).
The good news is that, with most of these choices, if one “lands” and really helps, there will be plenty of others to pursue— Kieslowski’s Trois Couleurs trilogy, Tati’s whole career following his Jour de Fête, the world of Miyazaki…
The bad news? I wish I could promise that, applied liberally enough, these cinematic balms would cure what ails us. They won’t. They can’t. But they can make it all a little easier to bear. If you find your supply running low, check back in with Patsy.
Dear Patsy: Making pop culture personal?
I generally feel that Paste is a good source for recommendations in pop culture. However I do find that the best suggestions come from many different sources. Computer Algorithms are rarely useful or relevant.
If Paste subscribers were to provide profiles on what they watch/listen/read/play, could “Dear Patsy” provide a personally curated list of relevant media recommendations?
Firstly, anyone who has been with Paste since the days of analog tech is a true believer in the power of our pop culture commentary. We appreciate you!
Secondly, while we do have plenty of lists and resources on the site for what to watch or listen to generally, we are always happy to help give personalized recommendations for what you may like specifically. So how about this: If you (and other readers) want to send in three examples in any one category (music, TV, movies, games, books) of what you currently enjoy and would like to see more of, we’ll provide a few custom recs.
Algorithms have nothing on us!
Dear Patsy: Seeking “more ‘ooos’ and less ‘ohs?’ out of my playlists.”
I absolutely love talking and sharing music with other people. I also LOVE creating playlists for gatherings of friends to play as we hang out.
However, what I’ve noticed is that my playlists almost always seem to be a bummer. I have a lot of emotional investment in them, but they always seems to get either a muted response or raised eyebrows in the not-so-flattering way.
I’m not stuffing black metal or grindcore into their ears mind you – it’s normally just the latest and greatest indie rock, a little hip hop, maybe some tasteful jazz or ambient music to shake things up.
How do I make playlists that are enjoyable while also turning people on to new stuff? Is there a magic formula that doesn’t just induce shrugs? I know it’s silly to put so much stake in what is basically background music, but a compliment or a “Hey, I like this…what is this??” just really sends me over the moon.
Dear Doubtful Deejay,
I myself have experienced this fear many times—and I agree that receiving positive affirmation from fellow music fans is a high all its own. While there’s no way to ensure success in a room full of different people with infinite tastes, my best piece of advice is this: Make just one party/hangout playlist specifically to be used in a room full of people. If you intentionally create a playlist that’s made for many ears, chances are it’ll perform better in a crowd than something already in your library full of random music. Add songs to this playlist as time goes on with this goal in mind. And the good news is you have lots of time right now to perfect it, since you’re probably not around many large groups at present.
It sounds like you’re already on the right track here, but make sure it’s genre-fluid with nothing too abrasive (Take it from me: Your friends actually don’t want to hear Death Grips at the pre-game) and long enough that you can skip a song or two if you start to hear snores. But make sure it’s still true to you. This may seem silly or like I’m taking this all too seriously, but study the playlist beforehand so you’re armed with the ability to answer any of the many questions that will surely be thrown your way when your friends hear this incredible feat in music organizing. Here’s hoping we’ll all be able to gather again soon, and this magical playlist you create will someday be heard independently of Zoom happy hours.
Yours in mixtape-making,
Reminder: If you want to chat/probe/wax poetic about your favorite things, email Patsy at firstname.lastname@example.org. This can be anonymous—sign your letter with a nom de plume of your choosing. Be nice please. And see previous columns, which are published weekly on Wednesdays, right here. Adieu for now!