If there’s one thing you do today, take 20 minutes to watch Sardines out of a Can, a shoestring-budget short film about a girl, her gay BFF, and her freeze-dried cat navigating the social idiocies of NYC while an indie rock soundtrack plays in the background. It’s written and directed by uber-productive Shonali Bhowmik (she’s also a lawyer, comedienne, producer, and musician) and shares a likeness to Broad City and anything Jenny Slate.
Not that Sardines has anything to do with Marcel the Shell with Shoes On and everything to do with Perpetual Pet (just check out the gallery), by which Bhowmik’s short film is inspired, but Bhowmik, like Slate, has an effortless way of making the everyday uncontrollably funny. Oh, to be inside her brain.
Oh, wait, we are. We asked Bhowmik for a curated list of all things she finds awesome right now. And she obliged.
1. George Saunders — Pastoralia
Pastoralia, a full-length short story collection, is a hilarious trip through unremarkable American scenic landscape. Saunders’s satire focuses on the lives of regular, not-so-special folks who are soul searching in a world that does them no favors. I was blown away by Saunders’s ability to get into each pathetic character’s headspace, delivering internal monologues that have never been so uncensored: They fantasize about sex, doubt themselves, contradict themselves, brag about themselves, hate themselves, and want to do the right thing. Dark, twisted, and hysterical, the loser in each of us should be comforted to know we all are going through some similar shit.
2. Chris Verene — Home Movies
I have been a fan of documentary photographer, filmmaker, and musician Chris Verene for years. I own his coffee-table book, Family, and recently went to see his [exhibition] at Postmasters Gallery in New York City called Home Movies. As a photographer, he has chronicled the lives of his family and friends living in a small rural town in Illinois for more than 20 years. In his most recent show, Verene, for the first time, projects short documentary videos showing what has transpired within the lives of his subjects since the 2008 economic downturn. Confronting issues such as drug addiction, disability, and financial distress, Verene displays a sense of respect, pride, and love for everyone featured within his work. These stories are not glamorous or complex, but they are poignant and, most importantly, honest.
3. Shannon Wright — In Film Sound
Not only is Wright’s song “Noise Parade” featured within my film, Sardines out of a Can but within it is also a verbal tribute to her, which tells you how much I love Shannon Wright. Her latest release, In Film Sound, combines her haunting lyrics, captivating vocals, complex guitar riffs, and sweet intense organ playing — resulting in what I call the Shannon Wright experience. Her music is an emotional journey both physical and mental and is precisely the experience I aspire to create within my own performances. Go see Shannon Wright live this March on tour with Young Widows, and you will understand what I mean.
4. Darell J. Hunt — “Soul Train Babies!!! Oowww!!!”
Months ago, a close friend sent me the link to a YouTube video called “Soul Train Babies!!! Oowww!!!.” Hunt’s hilarious, on-point commentary of the fashion, dance moves, hair, and attitude of each dancer as he/she passes through the famous Soul Train line made me instantly want to go shopping at Contempo Casuals for some shoulder pads, leather pants, and leg warmers. After rewatching the video at least ten times, I sent the link on to a number of friends, like comedian John Early who responded, “Everyone sends me that video!” That’s because it is two minutes of perfection. Let’s just say, “hand geometry” and “Debbie Allen realness” are now a part of my vernacular.
5. Andy Beckerman — Beginnings Podcast
Beginnings host Andy Beckerman interviews writers, musicians, performers, and comedians with the seemingly simple premise: “Where do creative people come from?” But Beckerman, a former philosophy grad student-turned-comedian, digs deep and seamlessly helps each artist do some self-discovery and reflect upon exactly from where her inner creative desire comes. His interview is not the routine artist Q&A: He has featured segments like “Proustian Moment,” where he asks an artist to reflect upon a specific smell from the past. The best thing about this podcast is that Andy is happy to delve intelligently and enthusiastically into all things surfacing in an artist’s life, be it politics, music, family, race, or even ’90s indie rock. I am forever a fan.