While coronavirus threatens our lives and livelihoods, social distancing, isolation, and quarantine have become the new norm. Suddenly, our nation is filled with people asked to stay home and cut off most casual interactions with the world outside. In this environment, the art, hobbies, rituals, and entertainments we love have become ever more vital to our mental wellbeing. As a new, and (hopefully) limited new series on Lewton Bus, Isolation Nation aims to give our editors and contributors space to talk about the things that are giving them a little comfort in this isolated world, for your social distancing entertainment.
David Hoh – Perry Mason
“A gritty reboot of Perry Mason sounds like the least-appealing idea.” – My roommate, paraphrased, right before I convinced him to give it a watch.
For me, word of mouth got my whims to wave in the direction of Perry Mason when it premiered several weeks ago. I got by with a little hype from my friends, and I was probably watching a movie on HBO Max that day anyway, so the advert for it was right in my sights. I knew this much: that Perry Mason was a black-and-white TV show about a lawyer. But this new series is a serialized mystery story; Mason is a private dick for a lawyer, and it takes place in the early 1930’s.
And boy does it ever: the score is more noir than any noir score I’ve heard before. And I don’t even really think about what an accomplishment it is that they’ve recreated 1930’s Los Angeles. I take for granted how they made it look and feel not just authentic, but lived-in, vibrant and bustling. It’s a world you’d almost want to live in if it didn’t happen to, you know, be Los Angeles in the 1930’s.
The cast is tremendous: John Lithgow, Tatiana Maslany, Juliet Rylance, Stephen Root, Robert Patrick, and period piece stalwart Shea Whigham, to drop some names. I also really love Chris Chalk as the honest black police officer Paul Drake, Andrew Howard as the greaseball Detective Ennis, and Gayle Rankin as Emily Dodson, the woman at the center of the inciting incident, large court case and unfolding mystery.
And pulling at the peculiar threads of that mystery is Matthew Rhys as the titular Perry Mason. He is perfect in the role. His Mason is the type of guy who probably would like to be more of an alcoholic than he can be. He’s divorced, down on his luck at every turn, so hangdog and pitiful. But his sense of right and wrong and his dedication to finding the truth make him aspirational, while his rascally disdain for the jerks of the world is forever A Mood.
I haven’t really talked about the plot or why I find it so compelling, because that’s best left to explore for yourself. It’s a very solid noir mystery with a lot of character stuff going on around the edges. Watching it my opinion of it has gone from “neat” to “good” to “great!” The season finale (Episode 8) is this Sunday, and I cannot wait. If any of these ingredients sound appealing, you’ll likely eat it up.
Andrew McRae – Alien: Isolation
Besides great graphics and actually making the Alien scary again, it’s been fun to feel super tense for this, rather than because everything in reality is collapsing.
That’s it for this week’s edition! We hope you enjoyed it and found some new direction to point that endlessly turning cranium of yours. We also hope you’ll check back as we publish new pieces in this regular column, and give some inspiration back to us in the comments!
Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay happy.