Advice King: What Films and TV Should I Watch?

Comedian, musician, host of Chris Crofton's Advice King Podcast and former Nashvillian Chris Crofton asked the Scene for an advice column, so we gave him one. Crowning himself the “Advice King,” Crofton will share his hard-won wisdom with whosoever seeks it. Follow Crofton on Facebook and Twitter, and to submit a question for the Advice King, email bestofbread[at]gmail[dot]com or editor[at]nashvillescene[dot]com.

Dear Advice King,

I just subscribed to The Criterion Channel. I thought it was going to be like Netflix, but I don’t recognize any of the movies! Wedding Crashers isn’t even on there! What should I watch?

—Mike in Crystal River, Fla.

Hi Mike! Are you aware the world is ending? I’m kidding, the world isn’t ending. It’s pretty much just the United States that’s ending. But seriously, have you turned on the news in the past few months? If you haven’t, you are in for a surprise! If you have, why the fuck do you want to watch Wedding Crashers

The days of wacky pals having entitled adventures are behind us (Americans). I could understand if you were in New Zealand, where the COVID case numbers are low enough that crashing weddings and having friends might still be viable activities — but you want to watch that shit in America? Now?! That’s like watching Leave It to Beaver at the Spahn Ranch in 1969. The Criterion Channel has the PERFECT films for the dreary, dangerous American autumn of 2020. 

I’m being a bit of a jerk, Mike. A little escapist fun can be helpful during times of crisis. I bet a bunch of Manson family members really were watching Leave It to Beaver, pretending the murder rampage happening around them was just a bad dream. BUT NOT ME. I mean, “not me” metaphorically, of course. I wasn’t at the Spahn Ranch in 1969, although I feel like the vibe was probably very similar to, say ... now. I mean, “not me” in the sense that, during stressful times, I often engage with art that fits my mood, rather than stuff that cuts against it — like listening to sad songs after a breakup. “Now” in America feels like the aftermath of a horrendous breakup. America hasn’t broken up with a romantic partner, obviously, but it has had to face the end of its long, destructive, delusional relationship with the idea of “American exceptionalism.” 

It turns out that we CAN’T do anything we want and have everything turn out all right. It turns out that even in MAGIC AMERICA, if you don’t enforce antitrust laws, allow unlimited money in politics, stand by as the police are given heavy military equipment, get drunk, watch sports and never vote, that even MAGIC AMERICA falls apart. 

When my girlfriend leaves, I listen to “All by Myself” by Eric Carmen. When America is a pandemic-stricken oligarchy, I watch the movie Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky. It’s on The Criterion Channel, Mike.

Human beings like their lives to follow storylines.* When Tarkovsky made Stalker, the Soviet Union was collapsing, and the unifying “storyline” of communism was collapsing along with it. The “ideals” (loyalty to the revolution, working toward a classless society) that had provided a narrative underpinning for the lives of generations of Soviet citizens were revealed to be lies. The Soviet Union had become an oligarchy. Now the same thing is happening to America. 

With Stalker, Tarkovsky considers how humans can find the will to live when the narrative has dropped away. SPOILER ALERT: We do! And crashing weddings has almost nothing to do with it.

Hang in there, Mike! Check out Redbox, I think you’ll like it!

*For more on this, see: the song “Storyline Fever” by Purple Mountains (David Berman), and the film HyperNormalisation by Adam Curtis.

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