Super Something Else Sunday
Counterprogramming options, ahoy!
So the big game is on Sunday, and for football lovers, that’s great! The Skilled and Intimidating Avian Fellows of Philadelphia will be playing Kansas City’s own Not-quite-as-racistly-named-as Washington DC’s Former Team Name Fellows! If you’re not super into the Super Bowl, though, you may feel at loose ends that day and evening, so we’re here to provide some alternate activity suggestions. As Dame Sophie’s friend Stevie remarked when suggesting this very topic, “what a great day to go to a theatrical production or a theme park or watch a Vienna Blood marathon!” Indeed!
Both of your Dames this week could be reasonably described as not being into football so much as being very supportive of and invested in our friends’ love of football. And we love a good halftime show, of course. Dame Sophie will probably repeat her 2018 experience by watching the halftime show with Rihanna and then watching the fourth quarter so she knows when to switch to Twitter to watch the City of Brotherly Love do its thing. The vibe here is quite exuberant and it’s genuinely heart-warming to see joyful neighborhood folkways such as this little public Super Bowl Tree (it’s illuminated at night!).
Variety is the Spice of Dame Sophie’s Cultural Smorgasbord
Watching, At Home
My choice must-watch: the Superb Owl episode of What We Do In The Shadows. If you want to go for two, it’s always a good day to watch the Jackie Daytona episode, and probably my culture witch license would be revoked if I failed to recommend that you make time to hit play on the Go Flip Yourself episode. If you want to watch something football-adjacent, there’s this great little show called Friday Night Lights, you may have heard of it? Or, if you like watching shows about sad men solving mysteries, allow me to introduce you to several you may not have seen before. We’ve got Line of Duty (catching bent coppers with your work family! Season-long guest stars including Thandiwe Newton, Keeley Hawes, Kelly MacDonald, and Stephen Graham!), Hinterland (A sad man filled with regret and guilt relocates to a camper van on a remote cliffside because he is very very sad in this Welsh noir! Forget it, Jake, it’s Aberystwyth!), Vienna Blood (sad Viennese cop – who strikingly resembles the star of Hinterland, but is a different person entirely – and oddball Freudian furnish big Holmes & Watson vibes while solving grisly murders just before WWI!), and Giri/Haji (Duty/Shame) (sad Tokyo cop travels to London to find his long presumed-dead brother and bring him home to end a war between competing Yakuza families! Once again, Kelly MacDonald! Seamless integration of Japanese and British settings and dialogue! Will Sharpe turning in such a richly nuanced performance as a cokehead sex worker who desperately wants to do the right thing that you’ll say “Ethan in White Lotus who???”).
Watching, Out on the Town
Go to the theater! Live theater is magic. See if you can get reasonably priced seats wherever there’s a play or musical within a reasonable distance that piques your interest. And let’s not forget cinema! For example, Dame Karen is going to the movies, to see Magic Mike’s Last Dance, a splendid choice! In addition to that, in a genius counter-programming move, the 25th anniversary edition of Titanic is back in theaters, and Regal Cinemas (as well as other, smaller chains) is bringing the 2023 Best Picture Nominees back to theaters which means you likely have at least one more chance to catch Everything Everywhere All at Once (Your Dames’s probable favorite film of 2023) on the big screen where it was really meant to be seen. This movie is like if The Matrix and Lady Bird had a gay baby. It is perfect.
Dame Sophie loves to binge-listen to full seasons of podcasts. Perhaps you’ll find your auditory boat floating along nicely with a full auditory immersion in forgotten histories of 20th century Hollywood from You Must Remember This, how college / preppy style became so ubiquitous and timeless in Articles of Interest (link is to the companion newsletter; the show is available wherever you find your podcasts), or figuring out what Formula 1 team you might root for with Choosing Sides: F1 (just in time to be ready for the 5th season of Drive to Survive, hitting Netflix on February 24).
Being Out & About
Visit the local pet adoption center. You’ve been meaning to adopt a cat. Or a dog. Or a rabbit. Are there separate adoption centers for cute domestic rodents? You’ll figure it out, and regardless, Sunday is going to be a pretty slow day and you’ll probably have the opportunity to meet a bunch of sweet critters without having to jostle elbows with another prospective adopter. Local weed stores will be so quiet. So, so quiet. Get personalized assistance from one of the very nice THC baristas! By the same logic, Super Bowl Sunday is likely to be quiet at your supermarket. Enjoy the short line at the deli counter!
Welcoming Others Into Your Gracious Home
I love these options because they can be as casual or as fancy as you please, and you can hold your event anytime you want. Night owls can plan for no sleep til Brooklyn, while the larks among us can fondly wave goodbye to everyone by 8pm and crawl into bed whenever we want. It can be a swanky potluck! A pajama party & breakfast for dinner! A huge cooler of Miller High Life and delicious canned mocktails to go with the cheesiest pizza in town! A buffet of treats for everyone to create personalized lunchables for grown-ups! (I believe in some circles this is known as a charcuterie board, but let us not get too cute or dissemble here.) A styling circle where you get advice on an item of clothing you want to wear more frequently and can’t quite figure out how, not that this has ever been a problem for me personally, you understand! A book / clothing / perfume sample swap! Alternately, if you love to host but don’t want people in your living space, co-host at someone else’s house (and make sure to be last to leave after helping clean up. Bring your dishwashing gloves, and maybe an apron to protect your ensemble.)
Or, You Can Perfectly Emulate Dame Margaret’s Plans!
Not realizing she was creating ideal Super Bowl counter-programming, Dame Margaret will be finally realizing a long-delayed Cocktails & Classic Films plan Sunday evening with her bossleagues Vanessa and Ariana. (“Bossleague” is the admittedly hideous portmanteau Dame M. has settled on for describing her two bosses/colleagues, because, like, they own the company and one does not wish to forget it, but also when there are only five full-time employees, the hierarchical distinctions really fade out.)
Setting out to finally make good use of her Criterion Channel subscription, Dame Margaret introduced Ariana and Vanessa to her genius 5-3-1 method of collective film viewing selection: One person presents five options, the second eliminates two of the possible films from the running, and the third person picks one movie for them all to watch from among the three remaining. It’s a great way for everyone to feel their preferences have been considered without anyone having to feel like their preference alone has dictated events. You can adjust accordingly based on how many people are participating.
So you can play along at home, here are the five options Dame Margaret presented to her bossleagues, in chronological order, along with each film’s Criterion Channel description:
Foreign Correspondent (1940, Dame Margaret’s pick for Most Underrated Hitchcock starring Margaret’s pick for Most Underrated Classic Film Hunk Joel McCrea) A full-throttle espionage thriller, starring Joel McCrea as a green Yank reporter sent to Europe to get the scoop on the imminent war, it’s wall-to-wall witty repartee, head-spinning plot twists, and brilliantly mounted suspense set pieces, including an ocean plane crash climax with astonishing special effects. FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT deserves to be mentioned alongside THE 39 STEPS and NORTH BY NORTHWEST as one of the master’s greatest adventures.
Ball of Fire (1941, which Dame Margaret suspects may be the most adorable romantic comedy you’ve never seen) Barbara Stanwyck and Gary Cooper make sparks in this snappy screwball take on the Snow White tale. She’s a burlesque queen with a colorful vocabulary who needs to lay low for a while as the police close in on her gangster boyfriend (Dana Andrews). He’s a nerdy grammarian compiling an encyclopedia along with seven other professors who happens to need an expert in slang. As she spices up his language—and steals his heart in the process—the stage is set for a brains vs. brawn showdown with the mob. The lively direction of Howard Hawks, fizzy script by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder, and comic chemistry between Stanwyck and Cooper come together to produce one of the most sensational comedies of the forties.
The Third Man (1949, arguably Dame Margaret’s favorite movie of all-time) Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, black-market opportunist Harry Lime—and thus begins this legendary tale of love, deception, and murder. Thanks to brilliant performances; Anton Karas's evocative zither score; Graham Greene’s razor-sharp dialogue; and Robert Krasker’s dramatic use of light and shadow, The Third Man, directed by the inimitable Carol Reed, only grows in stature as the years pass.
You Never Can Tell (1951, a movie Dame Margaret has never seen but with which, on the strength of its description alone, she is already obsessed.) Every dog has his day in this delightfully offbeat fantasy comedy. After his eccentric millionaire owner bequeaths his vast fortune to his beloved German shepherd, it looks like the pooch, King, is one seriously lucky dog. But after King is poisoned in a plot to steal the inheritance, he makes a deal in doggie heaven to return to Earth as private eye Rex Shepard (Dick Powell) and, with the help of a reincarnated racehorse (Joyce Holden), solve his own murder—yes, really!
Bull Durham (1988, probably the best romantic comedy Dame Margaret has never seen, and the only movie not presently streaming on The Criterion Channel, although it is part of the Collection— and what Dame M & Co. ended up picking for Sunday!) Description furnished by Criterion: “Former minor leaguer Ron Shelton hit a grand slam with his directorial debut, one of the most revered sports movies of all time. Durham Bulls devotee Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon)—who every year takes a new player under her wing (and into her bed)—has singled out the loose-cannon pitching prospect Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), a big-league talent with a rock-bottom maturity level. But she’s unable to shake Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), the veteran catcher brought in to give Nuke some on-the-field seasoning. A breakthrough film for all three of its stars and an Oscar nominee for Shelton’s highly quotable screenplay, Bull Durham is a freewheeling hymn to wisdom, experience, and America’s pastime, tipping its cap to all those who grind it out for love of the game.”
Then, for cocktails, Dame Margaret presents you with three options, all alike in dignity, but each distinct in scope of ambition. If you want to make something delicious without buying any bottles of weird liquor you’re unlikely to want to use again, Dame M. recommends a Manhattan, which is just two parts bourbon, one part sweet vermouth, a couple dashes of bitters, and a cocktail cherry (get the good ones, you’re worth it). If you’re feeling moderately ambitious, you can try one— or several!— of the many variations on a classic Manhattan. And if you’re willing to buy a $50 bottle of something called Amaro Nonino (worth it, in Dame M’s not remotely humble opinion), you can make yourself a round of her very favorite cocktail, the Paper Plane— one part bourbon, one part Aperol, one part Amaro Nonino, one part freshly squeezed lemon juice. Scales up for a party like an absolute dream.
Cin Cin, Dames Nation! May you enjoy this Choose Your Own Dame Margaret Adventure.