What Makes Us Happy: A Guide to Reading, Listening, and Watching Over the Weekend

Updated August 5, 2022 at 5:44 p.m. ET

This week we learned more about what color dinosaurs were, bat girl got the ax and Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was honored with her own bobble-head.

Here’s what NPR’s pop culture happy hour crew was paying attention to — and what you should be watching this weekend.

devil in a blue dressCriterion Edition

I always complain about the wrong movies being franchised in the last generation and I think the guys at the Criterion Collection agree because they finally got Carl Franklins out beautifully devil in a blue dress in a 4K edition.

The 1995 film is based on Walter Mosley’s series of more than a dozen novels, which follows a black World War II veteran, Easy Rawlins, played by Denzel Washington. After the war, the airplane factories in southern California close, so he’s unemployed and becomes a kind of private investigator. It’s not what he’s looking for, but it turns out he has a talent for it.

This is a way for Mosley to look at race relations both in this period and in the decades that followed, as this character ages over the course of the novels. I keep thinking how great it would have been for Denzel and director Carl Franklin to get together every three or four years and do one of these from then to now. I would love that so much, but we only have the 1995 ones.

This is the first film where Don Cheadle, who plays Mouse, really stood out. Tom Sizemore also stars and Jennifer Beals is something of a femme fatale. It’s a truly wonderful film that should have been a franchise and it looks spectacular on the new 4K Blu-ray. — Chris Klimek


diabolical on Paramount+ is a psychological mystery that follows a psychologist-in-training, played by Mike Colter, who you will know Luke cage, and her skeptical technician. The three are hired by the Catholic Church to investigate demons, demonic possessions and other similar evils in the world.

I like it because it’s the best parts of a police procedural but without the cops. So if you like the mystery/demon/monster of the week format, I highly recommend this show. As the seasons progressed, it got more cerebral. Now the topics are who is evil, what makes us evil, whether one is born evil, and what it all means.

It’s a really good show, and it’s good at being scary while also asking some really interesting questions about the Catholic Church. It draws the line between being skeptical about all the supernatural things happening on the show and giving you just enough plausibility that those things could happen. Could it be demons or is it just drugs or something else? — Mallory Yu

“The 50 Greatest Fictional Deaths of All Time”

My Happy this week comes from my old place of work over there slate. My former colleague Dan Coates, along with other collaborators slatecompiled a collection of the best fictional character deaths spanning everything from books, movies, television, comics and theater.

You’ve got everything from the samurai in it Rashomon from the Wicked Witch of the West to Ellie High. There’s no Mufasa, which I find quite striking, but it’s fun to read. There are also some additional articles including one by Chris Molanphy listing the top five deaths in gangster movies.

There are only three films included, but when you look at the list it makes sense why it’s those films that you expect to be on this list. – Aisha Harris

you were never really here

Over the weekend I went to see a 2017 film that had some good reviews at the time, but for some reason passed me by. It’s called you were never really herein which Joaquin Phoenix plays a mercenary hired to rescue a politician’s daughter who is involved in a human trafficking ring.

It’s an action movie, you would say. It’s a thriller, but not as lurid or cheesy as the plot suggests. It is not out of stock. Scottish director Lynne Ramsay directed and did so We need to talk about Kevin. Like that film, this one is about the lasting wounds violence leaves in the world and how it spreads.

It is very violent, but it does not enjoy that violence. And it takes a while to realize that she doesn’t really show you the violence itself; She focuses on the aftermath. On a plot level, there are plenty of twists and turns that you don’t see coming, and it manages to make thoughtful reflections on how it uses violence.

Of course it’s unfair to compare it to that express train. They’re not trying to do anything remotely the same, but it was just interesting for me to realize that violence in this film and this one doesn’t even seem like the same thing. One is window dressing while the other is the very complicated subject matter of the film. – Glenn Weldon

More recommendations from the Pop Culture Happy Hour newsletter

by Linda Holmes

I spent some time this week reading the Anthony Marra novel Mercury Pictures presents, and it’s wonderful. It’s about old Hollywood and war, but also about family and struggles and dreams about your future. Among other things, although it’s a very sad book at times, it’s also always a very, very funny book – a trait I really appreciate in these times. [Note: This book is published by an imprint of Penguin Random House, which is also my publisher.]

I probably don’t have to make this sale, but there’s a new season of Reservation dogs on Hulu this week!

I enjoyed the new season of the podcast chameleonWhat’s the name of fraud likely. It’s all about tracking down the people behind some simple phone scams aimed at robbing people of their money. I never tire of researching how ripoffs work, and neither do the people working on this show.

NPR’s Maison Tran adapted the pop culture happy hour segment “What Makes Us Happy” into a digital site. If you like these suggestions, consider it Sign up for our newsletter Get referrals every week. And listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

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The original version of this story misrepresented the number of films on the list of greatest deaths of fictional characters. There are three films on the list, not two.

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