In normal times it’s a simple enough question, so simple that it’s totally acceptable to dodge it: What are you in the mood for? Correct responses include “You pick” and “whatever” and “just nothing with Anne Hathaway.” But as you’ve perhaps noticed, these are not normal times. Earth has been ordered to Netflix and chill, and earthlings’ moods are swinging faster than the stock market. Even a near miss on what are you in the mood for? — the wrong kind of comedy, the wrong kind of disaster — could trigger a downward spiral. With that stark reality in mind, here’s a culture-at-home survival catalog organized by mood and/or mental state. Be safe in there.
I’m in the mood for… something funny, the stupider the better
This one slayed last night with my quaranteam. Some cringe-y ethnic humor and boob jokes (hello 1988!), but otherwise so much funnier than you remember, especially when you watch it with kids who’ve never seen anything like this. Also, parents will get a perverse delight at what befalls O.J. Simpson during the course of the movie. The movie’s very last shot was weirdly cathartic for me, and if you don’t remember it, I won’t spoil it.
I’m in the mood for… a rabbit hole. Something with a cult or serial killer, perhaps?
Karina Longworth’s mesmerizing podcast about Hollywood’s first century is too vast to recommend without a starting point; this eight-part miniseries will feel particularly resonant now, not just with the late ’60s end times in the air but also because of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film’s set piece at the dilapidated Spahn Movie Ranch, where the Manson family really did live in squalor, is unexpectedly faithful to the complicated history that unfolded there, and Longworth’s episodes fill in all the blanks, from Beach Boy Dennis Wilson’s role in the saga to the real-life horrors at Roman Polanski’s house.
I’m in the mood for… a new celebrity obsession. Maybe like a bizarro pop star who lives with her genius inventor boyfriend and writes songs about vampire gangsters and theories of the post-singularity and spends the rest of her time playing Overwatch? Got anyone like that?
The new album from Canadian singer-songwriter-producer-engineer Claire Boucher, aka Grimes, partner of Elon Musk and soon to be mother of their child, is called Miss Anthropocene and it’s basically a batch of dance songs for our future robot overlords. One of them is about Roko’s Basilisk, a mind-melting theory of our A.I. future in which humans are rewarded (or executed) depending on whether they aided (or resisted) the rise of robots. Grimes and Musk’s meet-cute story begins with Grimes tweeting out a nerd joke about Roko’s Basilisk, and Musk responding back all spluttery like he’d found his spirit space unicorn. My favorite kind of funny person is the secretly super funny person, and Grimes’ “health regimen” post on Instagram is a classic of the genre. Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast, which made news for the spliff that Musk shared with Rogan, is a three-hour experience so hypnotic that I listened to it once and then watched it again on YouTube. Grimes and Musk have been my celebrity-couple obsession ever since. They’re my Harry and Meghan.
I’m in the mood for… a vision of the apocalypse, where the tone is “good riddance.”
Lars von Trier’s 2011 film starring Kirsten Dunst, Alexander Skarsgård, and Kiefer Sutherland is a two-part saga about a cutthroat wedding followed by an interplanetary collision that obliterates the world. It sounds grim, and it is, but it’s crucial to remember that Von Trier finds all of this very, very funny, and the movie’s horrific final sight gag is his best joke of all.
I’m in the mood for… a vision of the apocalypse, where the tone is “LOL humanity”
Just for the record, I think all you people who have been watching Contagion for the past month are psychopaths. You really don’t find it a little on the nose? I prefer my disaster flicks a little more allegorical, and with a little less phlegm. Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant jet-black nuclear war satire from 1964, starring George C. Scott, Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers, and Peter Sellers (he plays three roles) is the best comedy ever made. And once again, the movie’s horrific final sight gag is his best joke of all.
I’m in the mood for… a vision of the apocalypse, where the tone is “fun for the whole family!”
This animated 2009 film by Japanese director Mamoru Hosoda is a prophetic saga about an entirely different kind of viral apocalypse. It’s half family film, half futuristic cyber-thriller, about a programmer who accidentally triggers an avatar-gobbling virus that threatens all of humanity. It’s set partly in the lush Japanese countryside of Miyazaki movies and partly inside an eye-popping matrix called OZ. Hosoda opens the film with a tour of OZ, which means within about 90 seconds, you’ll be locked in for two hours.
I’m in the mood for… something that requires no concentration whatsoever
Sinclair is the co-creator of HBO’s High Maintenance, and he has become a minor legend for his Google spreadsheet of links to his 200 or so favorite YouTube clips. You could probably kill a solid week watching nothing but the nuggets he’s mined. High Maintenance began as an online series before graduating to pay cable, and over time his YouTube archive has become as beloved as his show.
I’m in the mood for… something with no darkness, no violence, just normal people doing normal things
Speaking of Ben Sinclair, his anthology series, co-created with Katja Blichfeld, is an all-time great New York City show, an easy-breezy peek inside lives and pockets of the city that most of us never get to experience. I learn something new about New York every time I watch it, and each episode makes me love New York a little more. It’s a warm, funny, humane show, and at a moment where daily life is a cataclysm, High Maintenance is restorative and bittersweet. Sinclair and Blichfeld were married but they split a few seasons into their HBO run, and there’s something apt about how they’re still making the show together, happily divorced and as creatively in sync as ever. (And no, you don’t have to be stoned to enjoy it, but suffice to say you’ll enjoy it more if you are.)
I’m in the mood for… something funny, post-bedtime for the kids
Again, you don’t need to be high, per se….
I’m in the mood for… something to set the mood in the boudoir
This is an excellent time to have sex. But it’s also an excellent time to spice up what you listen to while you’re having sex. May interest you in some DaBaby? No one’s sex talk is more brazen and hilarious. His Broadway-style “hip-hop musical” video for “Bop,” like a grimy street dancing comedy, is an ideal vibe-setter, and his outrageous masterwork “Vibez” is ideal for escalation. Fair warning: His slurry Cacklacky growl isn’t a good fit for the lovey-dovey stuff so, you know, save it for when it’s right.
I’m in the mood for… something to set the mood in the boudoir, the living room, the kitchen…
This is the live album that launched Astrud Gilberto’s career, a rare concert appearance by her singer-guitarist husband João Gilberto, and the popular peak of saxophonist Stan Getz. Here’s a true fact: It’s almost impossible to be stressed out in a room in which this album is playing. It sounds the same way a great glass of red wine tastes.
I’m in the mood for… something funny, to channel my rage
I think about this bit from Mulaney’s last Netflix special, Kid Gorgeous, at least twice a day. These four minutes of comedy — about how Donald Trump being president is like a horse being turned loose in a hospital — have gotten me through this administration, and I’m counting on them to get me through this plague.
I’m in the mood for… something about food that won’t make me sob at the restaurant ban
Ugly Delicious, “Kids Menu” (from season 2) and “Fried Chicken” (from season 1)
You can’t just go watching this show willy-nilly because some episodes will remind you of restaurants and friendship and being in somewhat crowded places by choice, and there’s a risk of it crushing your soul. But the kids episode, against the backdrop of David Chang panicking over the arrival of his first child, and his wife handling it with total grace and equanimity, is a charmer. Also a thoughtful exploration of how we feed our kids, and how little thought we give to it. The fried chicken episode might make you cry because it’s a whole episode about perhaps the one thing that binds us all as human beings: fried chicken.
I’m in the mood for… a replacement set of friends
It infuriates me that a mediocre glob of pretty people swapping sex jokes like Friends is getting this massive generational rediscovery, while a far far far superior show about a group of lifelong friends is still out there. Maybe the fact that every episode of Cheers — every single episode — takes place in the same bar means an isolated America will get to know my favorite TV friends: Sam, Diane, Norm, Cliff, Coach (RIP), Woody, Carla, Frasier. You’ll like them more than Ross and Rachel, I promise.