Stuff I’m Digging This Week

Acne Studios Cotton-Linen Sweater

Light sweaters have become a legit fashion trend this season with the knitwear showing up in nearly every label’s collection. This linen-blend pick from Acne will keep you looking stylish until summer gets here.


Ovadia & Sons Cargo Pants

These pants are perfectly made for the warmer months out of ripstop fabric, which is light and airy while simultaneously durable.


Thomas Pink Vintage Shirts

The styles of the 90s are back in full force, so the premier London shirtmaker decided to revive some of their classic shirts from the period. Some of them are spectacular and look like shirts Balenciaga would make, but these are a quarter the price.


Ruined by Design by Mike Monteiro

I am a stickler for good design. In fact, this entire blog is centered on the concept. So I love to read take-downs of how our society has abandoned the concept of designing with purpose and how we might restore those precepts. Preorder today.


John Elliott Long Sleeve T-Shirt

I’ve had this one on hold for a while, but I figure I better feature it before it sells out. The marble print has been popular for a minute, and Mr. Elliott does it so well.


Cav Empt Sweatshirt

I’m lusting over this sweatshirt. Its super wide cuffs, its faded black wash…it’s just funny how tweaking a few details can completely change a garment.


Castañer + Missoni Espadrilles

So Missoni’s thing is space-dyed clothing. They put it into practically everything they make. I used to not be keen on it, but since menswear got all maximalist, it’s grown on me. I am especially liking these shoes which, given the color scheme, would go with your entire summer wardrobe. They’re also a steal at the price.


Sunspel + Lemaire Mesh Tank Top

As I was researching for my recent article covering wardrobe essentials, I happened upon this exquisite collaboration. I would wear this tank top so hard.


NOHrD Exercise Equipment

So you want to have a workout room. Great! Nothing wrong with being healthy. But then you realize that your home is beautiful and workout equipment…well…isn’t. NOHrD has changed that. Combining excellent design and attractive but durable materials, you can now leave the door to your workout room open when company comes over. I especially love this minimalist pull machine.


Oakley Sunglasses

If you would’ve told me 5 years ago that I’d be eyeing Oakleys with reflective lenses, I’d think you were crazy, but them’s the shakes. Rowing Blazers and Vetements have convinced me that I need to keep an open mind. Oh, and be sure to pick up a couple more lenses while you’re at it so you’re not stuck with just one.


Best Brands for High Quality Wardrobe Essentials

One thing I probably don’t talk about enough on this website is wardrobe essentials. You can’t build a fully functioning wardrobe on flashy pieces alone, you need basic pieces like white t-shirts and khaki chinos to help balance things out. Sometimes, you don’t want to think too hard about an outfit and just want to throw something on. Other times, especially if you have to go to work or an interview, basics are your only option. Whatever your reason for wearing them, these unsung heroes of your clothing collection must be dependable workhorses that can stand the test of time, thus saving you money in the long term because you won’t have to replace them as often.

I should make a slight distinction here between what is considered minimalist and what is considered basic. There are some brands who have been defined by their interpretations of minimalism, like Acne Studios, Our Legacy, and AMI, while there are others that are built on providing quality basics, like Everlane, Basic Rights, and Mack Weldon. Though these are two different approaches to fashion, the mentalities often cross paths and get conflated. Some minimalist brands will therefore offer basic clothing as well, which is why some of those fashion forward labels made it to this list. Nonetheless, all the below brands offer wardrobe basics at a price point that won’t break the bank. Feel free to take your pick.

Everlane

Everlane broke the mold when it comes to building a brand around transparent business practices and sustainability.


Jomers

Jomers has developed quite the following in menswear circles for their extremely inexpensive chinos of decent quality. It used to be difficult to buy anything on their site because people would nab them as soon as they dropped, but it seems they’ve ramped up production a bit since those days.


Buck Mason

Buck Mason began their brand with perfecting the humble t-shirt and have since moved on to every other article of clothing. Their leather jackets are particularly nice.


Mack Weldon

Mack Weldon started with the most basic of basics–underwear and socks–and created some of the best with their own proprietary fabric. They have since expanded that mentality of creating the best basics to every other kind of garment you would need.


Basic Rights

Per their website, Basic Rights was launched in 2016 by guitarist Freddie Cowan to make staples with an attention to detail.


Taylor Stitch

This brand was built on the mentality that you don’t have to sacrifice sustainability for quality, Taylor Stitch ensures that your purchase won’t weigh on your conscience.


NN07

NN07 is brand based in Copenhagen that offers quality wardrobe staples. Their name stands for “No Nationality” lending to the universal transience of their style.


Reiss

Originally founded as purveyor of men’s suits, this minimalist label has branched out quite a bit since 1971, resulting in several fashion awards over the years.


Vince

Well this is awkward. Established in 2002, Vince is a great brand to turn to for casual basics. But the company has had a tumultuous time since they went public in 2013. As recently as 2017, staff were doubtful that the label would survive much longer. Best to buy a few pieces now while you can!


Norse Projects

Originally envisioned as a fashion boutique, this brand out of Copenhagen decided to begin offering their own low-priced, basic clothing alongside the other brands that they carry.


Les Basics

I can’t find much information on this brand which leads me to believe it’s pretty new. Their website doesn’t have a lot for sale in the way of menswear, but End has much more available. Be sure to keep this one on your radar.


James Perse

If you like your basics with a slightly relaxed inflection, you should give this LA brand a look.


Sunspel

A minimalist heritage brand, this one hails from Britain and is particularly well-known for its range of boxer shorts, T-shirts and polo shirts. They use long staple Pima cotton which reduces pilling and increases durability.


Håndværk

I only just learned about this brand today. I’m having trouble finding much information on them, but I have to admit that their garments look exquisite. Their tees are made of long staple Peruvian cotton, so it’s worth a shot for the quality.


APC

This French label is one of the OGs of minimalism, having been founded in 1987, and they are particularly well-respected for their denim jeans.


Theory

Theory is more upscale than the rest of the brands listed here, but the materials and quality are among the best.


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‘Russian Doll’ Is a Thought-Provoking Examination of Mental Illness and Drug Addiction

I’m a little behind the ball with this one, but please forgive me as I’m finally starting to develop a system. Russian Doll is a dark dramedy released on Netflix in early February, and I’m only just now getting around to reviewing it. Though I’m getting a little fatigued by the constant churning of original content from the company, after noticing the show earned critical acclaim, I felt I should give it a look. The series is created by three extremely talented women, actress Natasha Lyonne, comedienne Amy Poehler, and playwrite Leslye Headland, with Lyonne starring in the lead role as Nadia. The production credits alone should at least warrant a look, but I’ll give a small description of where we start the series.

Nadia is in the bathroom at a party celebrating her 36th birthday. The party is graciously being hosted by best friend Maxine (Greta Lee) at her apartment. After discussing her missing cat Oatmeal and wondering if it’s too early to have a mid-life crisis (prescient considering the events to come), Nadia hits it off with rando-sex-guy Mike (Jeremy Bobb) and the two resolve to go back to her place to bang one out, stopping at the corner market on the way. Later, post-intercourse, Nadia sees her cat chilling across the street, so she runs into the street to nab the feline. She gets hit by a car, dies, and immediately regains consciousness back in the bathroom at the party where and when she started.

I’m afraid to say too much more about the story because part of the fun of this show is experiencing it. A lot of things that you may overlook in the first few episodes become more important as you go through the series. Each episode digs further and further into the main characters’ deep-seeded issues and exposes them. There aren’t a lot of shows that delve into mental illness the way this one does, but it is beginning to be a popular trope the more humanity comes to terms with its particular psychoses. Lady Dynamite on Netflix examined bipolar disorder while Legion on FX was inspired by schizophrenia. The difference with Russian Doll is that the theme is something almost all of us have experience with–burying things we don’t like about ourselves and letting them fester, eventually leading to irrational behavior.

Similar to the recently reviewed Us, there is so much to dissect here that it could easily fill a college course. It would be easy to dismiss the series as another take on Groundhog Day, a plot device which is so overused it borders on cliche, but that is merely the catalyst for making our characters confront the parts of themselves they’ve bottled up. Moreover, as opposed to the one-note movie, there a lot more unexpected twists here that completely change how you view it, such as the appearance of Alan (Charlie Barnett) at the end of episode 3 and his subsequently explored role. Lyonne even manages to flip the viewer’s expectations in the final episode, having directed and written it herself. The way Russian Doll can switch between introspective drama and laugh-out-loud dark comedy is absolutely a feature.

Where I’m less impressed is with how much time is spent pursuing leads that end up going nowhere toward ending Nadia’s predicament. Much like how Phil Connors tries to improve himself, thinking that will break the spell of the groundhog, Nadia initially thinks there’s something in the joint she smokes, that the building is beset by a Jewish curse, or that she needs to befriend the homeless guy, Horse (Brendan Sexton III). None of these threads add anything to the story except to maybe allow for more exposition on how terrible of a person she is or have her learn a lesson. The real story is in her interactions with Maxine, Alan, her aunt Ruth (Elizabeth Ashley), and her mother Lenora (Chloë Sevigny). As such, there is so much going on at once, but so little of it actually matters.

The human condition sometimes can’t easily be described with words. In these situations, we often look to references and metaphors to help us understand what is going on. Russian Doll has constructed an apt metaphor for how necessary it is for our mental health to confront and address our inner demons, including drug addiction. However, while the series is short with a roughly 3.5 hour runtime so you don’t have to devote a lot of time to it, the message the creators wanted to convey could probably have been told in half that time or at least be more succinct. That said, it is often hilarious, giving us such lines as “Nothing in this life is easy except for pissing in the shower,” and this is probably the standout performance of Lyonne’s career. Give it a few episodes and see what you think.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

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After Marvel Cancellations, Netflix Missing Out on Prime Crossover Opportunities

There’s no denying the fact that the Defenders on Netflix a failed experiment. The entire concept was grand, meant to give people a TV version of the MCU’s Avengers concept. Unfortunately, since the hugely anticipated team-up miniseries was a dud, that lead to a precipitous decline in viewership for the other related Marvel series. Once the streaming giant essentially gave up on future seasons of the Defenders, the spirit behind all the solo efforts fizzled out as well. Now that all 6 series to come out of that original agreement have been cancelled, we can look back and appreciate what an immense endeavor it was from the start. However, instead of lamenting about what could have been or analyzing what went wrong (it was actually a confluence of many things), I prefer to look to the future.

Though Netflix is not a fan of releasing numbers, subscriptions likely increased in anticipation of the superhero crossover. People were initially excited for the Defenders when it was announced. Perhaps that same excitement is what led to its downfall as subscribers were less impressed with the result. But maybe there is a lesson in here for the company. Maybe they tried to go too hard, too fast into their first crossover when they should have gone small. It is a fact that audiences love crossovers and ratings spike with them, so there is no reason why they couldn’t or shouldn’t try it again on a smaller scale. They could draw people to the service who still watch live TV exclusively. Or they could simply cross-pollinate some of their original series to help keep subscribers entrenched in the service.

Here are just a few ideas I have for the next great Netflix crossover:

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina/Riverdale

This one is the most obvious on this list because the two series take place in the same universe and are made by CW. They even have the same showrunner! Though I haven’t seen Riverdale, I have seen Sabrina, and the characters mention the rival high school a handful of times. I’m not familiar enough with the source material to guess what a crossover would look like, but even a proper cameo from Riverdale might suffice, though they kinda did that already. As recently as October, the showrunner spoke favorably about the idea, but questioned whether it would ever happen. Get on it people!

Stranger Things/Big Mouth

I know it seems silly, but stranger things have happened. (See what I did there?) Ahem. This idea was actually inspired by a GQ article I read recently about how the monster in season 3 of Stranger Things is puberty. You what show is entirely about kids going through puberty? Big Mouth! I see no reason why the cast of the former can’t be animated and shoved into the plot of the latter considering the Supernatural/Scooby-Doo crossover was a thing that happened. All the teenagers’ puberty monsters can battle each other or have an orgy or something.

The Crown/Downton Abbey

I know Downton Abbey as a series is over and a film is being released later this year. I also know that The Crown takes place about 40 years after the show. But hear me out on this one. The film will possibly reinvigorate an audience that will have missed the Crawleys, so why not ride that wave of enthusiasm? Characters depicted as children in the show could be fully functioning (and scheming) adults taking care of their parents in their advanced age. It would be a first for historical dramas, which I don’t believe have ever crossed over. We know that not everything in The Crown is completely factual, so the Crawleys meeting the Queen wouldn’t be too out of the ordinary.

Grace and Frankie/Queer Eye

This script practically writes itself! Obviously Grace or Frankie gets into a rut and needs to be saved by the Fab 5. Everyone is supportive, doing personal interviews like they do on Queer Eye, and the makeover is amazing, giving the recipient a new lease on life. Or everything goes wrong and one of the leading ladies causes a huge scene. Honestly, I could see it going either way, but the resulting episode would be must-watch TV. Even better if the effects are felt for the rest of the season.

House of Cards/Orange is the New Black

This one isn’t a serious suggestion, merely bemoaning a missed opportunity for two of Netflix’s first, and at one point best, original series. Orange is the New Black was created with the premise of showing how truly unjust the prison system is. Having a politician from House of Cards show up to tour Wakefield (or whatever prison) could have been a powerful statement. Sadly, both series took a nosedive after a couple seasons. Today, one has already been cancelled while the other will release its final season later this year. C’est la vie.

Santa Clarita Diet/Get Shorty

This one probably couldn’t take place in Get Shorty’s world because it’s more grounded in realism, but it would be so easy in Santa Clarita Diet for a Hollywood film crew, led by gangster cum movie producer Miles Daly, to show up in town for filming. Miles meats Sheila and wants to cast her in the movie. Somehow her secret gets out and Miles wants to use her to complete a job that he has in town. Hilarious horror ensues.

‘Love Death + Robots’ Is a Short but Riotous Romp Through the Apocalypse

To Lacie, thanks for the suggestion

The anthology series succinctly titled Love Death + Robots (LDR) requires a little bit of context to fully appreciate. Back in 1981, there was an animated anthology movie released called Heavy Metal. It was based on the dark fantasy adult magazine by the same name, was produced by said magazine’s publisher, and featured a heavy metal soundtrack that was released simultaneously. Though the film received a lukewarm reception from critics, it’s become something of a cult classic and is notable for moving American animation in a more R-rated direction. A sequel by the name of Heavy Metal 2000 was eventually released. It was not well-received.

In 2008, there were talks of a reboot of the original film with directors David Fincher and Tim Miller involved in some capacity. Subsequently in 2011, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez announced that he had purchased the film rights. As of this writing, that production is in limbo. It seems that LDR is largely inspired by what Fincher and Miller had created before Rodriguez bought the property, an anthology of shorts more science fiction in nature vice Heavy Metal’s fantasy themes. The general premise feels like Miller, as creator, sat down in a conference with all the other directors and said, “Future dystopia…and…go!”

Keep in mind that this animated anthology is not your dad’s Bugs Bunny. Heck, it’s not even Family Guy. There’s gratuitous nudity, blood and gore, and flagrant language. That said, the animation is often outstanding. There were times when I couldn’t tell that the CGI wasn’t real life. In fact, when Topher Grace stepped into one short, I wasn’t initially convinced he was flesh and blood (he was). Many of the episodes were great fun as well in spite of, or perhaps because of, the nudity and gore. My eyes were glued to the screen a number of times when scenes were just too dazzlingly displayed to look away or I didn’t miss what would happen next.

Though many of the episodes are amazing and sometimes emotional, there are others that are either forgettable or nearly pointless. One episode uses a concept that was better-executed by the Futurama episode “Godfellas”. Still another has a woman running around naked for nearly the entire short. I get the symbolism of her being defenseless, but a lot of the violence toward women and the full-frontal nudity of both sexes throughout the series feels like it’s just inserted for shock value instead of serving the story. The numerous F-bombs also get a little irritating. I curse like a sailor myself, but using the word constantly makes a script sound lazy. I mean, there are a bevy of curse words out there besides just the one.

Love Death + Robots is a very mixed bag with some outstanding episodes–Three Robots, Zima Blue, Lucky 13–and others that are just barely worth watching–Blindspot, Sucker of Souls, The Witness. Generally speaking, this show feels perfect for the YouTube generation; Black Mirror or Aeon Flux-level concepts in short, bite-sized chunks. But its length is definitely in its favor, as what makes this show worth watching is the fact that all the shorts together are only around 3.5 hours, and for that amount of time, any viewer will be thoroughly entertained.

Score: 4 out of 5

How to Wear a Cricket Sweater

Cricket season is nearly upon us here in the Northern Hemisphere, so now is the best time to buy the sweater typically associated with the sport. Unlike most every other garment in existence today, not much is known how or where the knitwear became an essential part of our wardrobes. In fact, it’s not only been associated with cricket but also golf and tennis. Sleuthy fashion historians have dated the original jumper all the back to somewhere between the late 1800s and 1920s, so it has quite a history.

Despite the unclear timeline, the sweater is firmly rooted in prepwear. Just like rugby shirts, the cricket sweater began its life as a uniform for preppy men who played the sport and as the sport itself grew in popularity, the fashion industry assimilated the style and reinterpreted its meaning. As such, the sweater looks great when worn with other pieces that revolve around the same trend, but today’s crazy fashion rules have opened up new opportunities in coordinating outfits. They can be made from cotton, wool, or cashmere and are traditionally mostly white, making the knitwear a prime piece for layering or toning down a wild outfit.

Fashion Forward

jacket by RRL; sweater by Kent & Curwen; shirt by Polo Ralph Lauren; joggers by Carhartt WIP; boots by Dr. Martens; bag by Supreme; hat by Uniqlo x JW Anderson

Just because the cricket sweater has stuffy roots doesn’t mean your outfits have to look stuffy, too. The key, while mixing in other prep-inspired pieces, is not to think too much about matching the sweater. Intentionally wearing clashing pieces is much easier with this sweater because it is a neutral white and will draw attention away from all the patterns you’re wearing. The black crossbody bag and boots, also neutral, help tone things down even more.

Easygoing Casual

sweater by Kent & Curwen; shirt by Officine Générale; jeans by Gant; boots by Timberland; hat by Huckberry x Ebbets Field Flannels

This is a great look for men who don’t want to be too loud with their outfits. Since jeans go with everything, that’s the best place to start. Just add a neutral pair of boots, a black belt, and a simple patterned shirt. You could even get away with wearing no shirt underneath, if you’re feeling slightly adventurous.

Total Prep

sweater by Kent & Curwen; shirt by Frank & Oak; jeans by LL Bean Signature; boots by Wolverine; hat by vintage

If you don’t have to wear a tie to work, this look could work for you. Otherwise, if you feel like turning the prep up to 10, just go all out with critter-embroidered chinos and a tweed cap. The modern boots and basic unbuttoned shirt help keep this fit from looking too costumey.

Smart Casual

sweater by Kent & Curwen; shirt by J Crew; tie by Brooks Brothers; trousers by Gant; loafers and socks by New Republic

My initial idea for this outfit was to wear a full suit, but unfortunately, that thought was dashed when I realized that my sweater was wool and oversized. Since tweed is now out of season (and that is the only suit I have that would look right), I figured I’d show you something you can wear today, now that the weather has begun to warm up. Though it may not work for the suit-and-tie crowd, those guys who have a little more leeway should be able to get by and grab some compliments.

Best Cricket Sweaters Right Now

Polo Ralph Lauren


Smart Turnout


Kent & Curwen


Thom Browne


Burberry


Maison Margiela

Rugby Shirts Will Get You Through Spring in Style

This year more than most others in my memory, every brand and designer under the sun has come up with their own take on the classic rugby. Whether it’s the fact that the kinda polo, kinda sports jersey top blurs the line between casual and business wear (read: smart casual) or that athletic clothing has taken over fashion is anyone’s guess. None of that really matters though when the shirt is so right for the season, when the temperature can drop 20 degrees within a few hours. You can wear the shirt by itself or layered up with a light jacket. If you care at all about your style, you are doing yourself a disservice by not having at least one in your wardrobe. Whether you want a solid color or a crazy pattern, budget brand or high-end, there is a rugby shirt that will meet your needs. These are my favorites on sale right now.


JW Anderson

JW Anderson tries his hand at the rebuilt trend that’s been gaining traction, designing a rugby that is eminently wearable.


Rowing Blazers

A super preppy shirt from Rowing Blazers that will go perfect with a navy blazer or jeans.


Billionaire Boys Club

Speaking of preppy, this rugby looks like it’s designed more for sailing boats, complete with zip collar and kangaroo pouch, than running a ball down the field.


Tommy Hilfiger x Lewis Hamilton

Tommy Hilfiger’s decision to bring the Formula One driver in for a collaboration is just the latest in a long line of brands working with sports celebrities. This one’s not only fun but also functional with an attached hood.


Gucci

Leave it to Gucci to design something both fashion forward and basic looking at the same time.


Stüssy

The reasonably-priced streetwear brand continues to produce on-point clothing.


Noah

Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking. (Also awesome.)


Rag & Bone

Rag & Bone’s quality is so great and this combination of yellow and navy is eye-catching and versatile. Plus, it’s on clearance!


Kenzo

You’ll be surprised how much a little color can do for your mood. Not to mention the favorable looks you’ll get on the street from the emblazoned logo.


Remi Relief

This one’s perfect for the guy who doesn’t want a boring rugby but just wants to get his feet wet. Also perfect for toning down an outfit that’s already loud enough.


Mr P.

When Mr P. first started, their focus was mainly on high quality basics that won’t break the bank. It’s safe to say they’re beginning to branch out into more adventurous territory.


Polo Ralph Lauren

What I love about this one is the punch that the red collar and embroidered crest give to the rest of the basic shirt. It’s just enough to keep it from being boring.


Aimé Leon Dore

Aimé Leon Dore has proven themselves especially adept at dialing into the fusion of sportswear and fashion.


Entireworld

Being the younger, estranged sibling of Band of Outsiders, Entireworld displays their keen ability to deliver top quality and versatile style at a reasonable price point.


Stuff I’m Digging This Week


Camiel Fortgens Popover

Mr. Fortgens is relatively new to the fashion scene, having only begun designing in 2014. Taking inspiration from his dyslexia, he builds his collections upon rethinking how garments work, constructing them in a way that makes sense to him. His clothes are quite inspired, but this shirt is especially so.



The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America

Let’s face it, birdwatching is for the birds. When has a bird ever done anything for you? The author of this book understands that birds can be jerks, thinking that they’re better than you. But seriously, if you like avians and/or have a sense of humor about you, you should pre-order this book.


Sage de Crêt Seersucker Trousers

Summer will be here soon and it’ll be time for lighter clothing. Enter seersucker. But this isn’t your usual boring striped seersucker from yesteryear. Sage de Crêt has created these trousers with a much more versatile plaid pattern which will see you through the warm months in style.


Ami Long Windbreaker

And here I thought coat season was over. Ami is here to prove otherwise. Not only will a long windbreaker like this elongate your frame, making you look taller, it’ll also help protect you from sudden showers. Or, you know, wind.


JAXA x Toyota Lunar Rover

Toyota is officially getting into the reinvigorated space race with their new agreement with JAXA. While this may not sound like a big deal, the truth is that it is much more difficult to make a case for space exploration if there’s no potential profit for companies. Now that automobile companies are involved, humanity might get more serious about it.


Scotch & Soda Button-up Polo

Hawaiian themes are everywhere right now, but that alone isn’t what I love about this polo. What strikes me is that this polo looks like something Amiri would design. You know, the brand that perfected the skinny jean. So basically what you get with this shirt is not only something that looks stylish but also looks five times the price.


Balenciaga Leather Tote

Omg. A yellow leather bag with kittens on it? Fuck everything else, I want this!


Google Stadia

So Google recently had a press release that consisted of the announcement of the company’s push into the game industry. They didn’t have much to say about Stadia except that it wouldn’t require a box like a PS4, just a suitably robust internet connection. With that, one can stream 4K games to any screen just as they would Netflix. There’s no doubt that this is the direction the industry is headed anyway, but what remains to be seen is whether the tech giant can deliver on its promises where other game companies have so far made no headway. Hopefully it is more successful than Google Glass.


LEGO Steamboat Willie Set

I normally don’t dig toys, but having grown up playing with LEGOs, I have a soft spot for them. In honor of the 90th anniversary of Mickey Mouse’s screen debut, the company made this detailed set. It’s feasible that a care-free adult could even display this on a bookshelf in his home right next to his birdwatching books.


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Jordan Peele Proves He Is a Master of Modern Horror with ‘Us’

It’s almost impossible to view this movie in a vacuum, a void in which director Jordan Peele didn’t make his directorial debut two years ago with the remarkable Get Out, a movie which garnered a large number of award nominations, going on to win many including the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. That weight is inescapable, but instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with his hotly anticipated sophomore effort, Peele reaches into a grab bag of horror tropes familiar to 80s and 90s horror enthusiasts and mixes them with some premises he used in his first film to create something altogether unique. The result is a genre-bending roller coaster ride that will have you on the edge of your seat one moment, then laughing yourself off the edge the next.

A few introductory scenes depict a young girl in 1986 watching a commercial for Hands Across America. Later on, she wanders off the boardwalk by herself and into a funhouse where she is frightened by a figure that looks like herself. In the present day, we are then introduced to the Wilsons, a lovely family of four on a car ride to their Northern California vacation home–the distant but protective mother, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o); the goofy, well-intentioned father, Gabe (Winston Duke); the teenage, smartphone-wise daughter, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph); and the scamp of a preteen son, Jason (Evan Alex). Attempting to enjoy themselves and relax, the family heads to the beach. Though Adelaide seemingly has mild PTSD from the aforementioned events she experienced as a child, she never talks about what happened, even as the Santa Cruz beach triggers repressed memories. All this changes when four strangers appear that night at the end of their driveway.

From start to finish, Nyong’o is particularly amazing in her role, going for broke in every scene. Adelaide is well in line with other strong, female badasses such as Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, and her transformation through the movie is very interesting to watch. Duke also plays his part well with Gabe acting as the comic relief essential for this movie to work. Peele, as he did in Get Out, loves to mix in dashes of grounded comedy, allowing for levity now and then. While Elizabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker are both serviceabe in their roles as Kitty and Josh respectively, their characters are only in a couple scenes and don’t add much to the plot except to move it forward, not knowing enough about them to care. The Wilson kids are much more integral and both are embodied well by their child actors.

Though there is a lot of violence and death, most of those deaths are never
seen directly, only implied by blood spatters and the use of sound. Many people flinch or look away when deaths are shown on-screen, so this style allows even antsy viewers to keep watching, building the sense of dread even more. When death is shown on-screen in Us, it is always a pivotal moment that no viewer will be likely to turn away from, their eyes glued to the screen. The fact that people won’t want to miss watching those deaths might say something about us as people and perhaps Peele wants us to confront that.

Many horror movies rely on overly gruesome scenes to induce scares, but Us instead depends on sound effects and music. Their implementation here is very effective at conveying emotion and provoking jumps. In one scene, when the Wilson doppelganger family is being introduced, the score strategically changes from loud orchestral music to complete silence except for some very creepy sounds, leaving us to fill the sudden void with our imagination of what will happen next. This style is also held over from 80s horror movies, but Peele uses it to such great effect here.

It’s notable how horror can be drawn from seemingly normal, everyday events and contrasting imagery. Right from the beginning, the camera follows young Adelaide closely while she walks the boardwalk with her parents. Everything is bigger than life and sounds are loud and foreign. The child holds a perfect, uneaten candy apple, signifying pure innocence. That is, of course, until she drops it and walks into the funhouse. This sort of imagery continues throughout the movie with rabbits and the color red all over the place, which only adds to the creepy atmosphere.

Peele is wonderfully on-point with the symbolism. The overall theme that everyone has a secret dark side is wonderfully executed. That, if everyone’s dark sides were revealed, they would kill everyone brings to mind the Purge movie series. However, the more poignant allusion expressed in Us is that of Trump and his effect on America, how large groups of people were forced to live in the shadows until he ran for president and now his unwavering supporters have come out of the woodwork and comprise almost half of the country’s population.

If there’s one thing that holds this movie back, it would be that the story is so dense that many ideas end up not panning out on closer inspection. For example, there is a particular verse that is alluded to a number of times. The verse itself is sort of prophetic for what happens in the movie, but it’s not clear why, say, Jason points to the alarm clock when it reads the verse number. In another scene, when everyone is enjoying themselves on the beach, a random red frisbee with a star on it nearly hits Adelaide, falls, and completely covers a blue circle on the towel. She acts concerned when she sees it, but beyond the symbolism and foreshadowing this occurrence would provide for the viewer, it’s not clear why she would think this was out of the ordinary.

In fact, there are quite a few questions the film presents, many of which are never answered. Adelaide’s early explanation of “things seem to be falling into place” doesn’t make much sense since the only thing supernatural occurring this world is the tethering concept. Peele himself may offer answers to a lot of these inconsistencies in the form of sequels, which he has alluded to being open to making. On the other hand, he has said that not providing every answer, leaving people to guess, merely adds to the psychological horror.

Jordan Peele’s much-anticipated sophomore effort is outstanding, just like his debut. His method of almost completely switching genres every 20 minutes really works for Us and keeps the viewer guessing. The underlying mystery at its core, with a twist that’s not entirely surprising, is unreservedly performed by its cast with Nyong’o standing out in particular. Though its story may not be as streamlined as Get Out, Us deserves just as much attention for its use of iconography and current-day themes and its clever merging of classic tropes with new ideas.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

6 New Shoes You Should Buy Before They Disappear

Since so many great shoes were released this week, I couldn’t narrow them down to just one or two and stick them in Stuff I’m Digging This Week. I figured I should let you know all these great shoes are available now (or will be soon) and going quick. Pitter patter!

1017 Alyx 9SM Snake Hiking Boots

Snakeskin on hiking boots?! No, unfortunately it’s not real, but the embossed leather was likely influenced by the cowboy craze of last year. And that…thing attached to the bottom is just so eye-catching. You almost overlook the silver detailing on the side.


New Balance x Bodega 997S

Bodega is a little-known establishment based in Boston that is a mecca for streetwear enthusiasts. If you are a menswear fanatic, you owe it to yourself to go to the store at least once. This collaboration is so colorful and fun, they will be sure to get you through the summer in style. They’re not for sale yet, but will be in early April. Be on the lookout.


Dr. Martens x United Arrows & Sons Bit Loafers

I’m not crazy about every Dr. Martens collab, but this one is special. United Arrows is a Japanese cult menswear label that has a distinct way of reinterpreting preppy basics like many of their peers do. I’d love to wear these with a cricket sweater and plaid pants. Only available by preorder via UA’s website. Be sure to figure out your correct shoe size.


New Balance Tokyo Design Studio RC2

Tokyo Design Studio is a joint effort by New Balance’s American and Japanese design teams to utilize skillful craftsmanship unique to Japan. This is just one of the four colorways they’ve released exclusively to Notre.


Castaner Perseo Espadrilles

Summer is on its way, and temperatures are already beginning to warm up. If you don’t buy your warm weather gear now, it’ll be sold out by the time you get around to it. Espadrilles are the best summer shoes because they won’t weigh down your outfit or your feet. These will maintain the perfect balance of comfort and style till the weather cools off again.


Puma x MTV RS-X Tracks

Puma’s been killing it with their latest designs and this shoe continues the trend. A collab with MTV that evokes the decade in which the channel began airing, these also play on the neon trend that has become almost mainstream in its popularity. Preorder these while you can at the Puma site.


CAT Intruder Shoe

It’s not so odd when you think about it. CAT isn’t traditionally known for being fashionable, erring on the side of utility to a fault. But in an era when Dickies and Carhartt are more popular than ever on the street, the company best known for steel-toed boots decided to make a shoe that could appeal to fashion and function.