Faculty recommendations for passing time in the pandemic

Scene from the movie 'First Cow'

Catch up on some of those movies, TV shows or books you've been meaning to watch but never seemed to get around to in this second installment of a four-part series, in which UO faculty members from the Department of English, School of Journalism and Communication and Department of Cinema Studies weigh in on their favorite films, shows and books.

Hottest August posterFilm
Daniel Gómez Steinhart, assistant professor, Department of Cinema Studies:

I fear that when the pandemic lockdown eases that independent movie theaters won’t return, so I’ve been trying to support Eugene’s Broadway Metro through their virtual cinema. At-home streaming has been seen as threat to the future of movie theaters, but it may now be their lifeline.

For about the price of a movie ticket, some excellent films are currently available or soon to play online: the Chinese crime film “The Wild Goose Lake,” the Brazilian science-fiction thriller “Bacurau,” the observational climate crisis documentary “The Hottest August,” and Kelly Reichardt’s Oregon Territory-set Western “First Cow.”

Erin Hanna, assistant professor, Department of Cinema Studies:

The Good Wife” is a TV series that follows Alicia Florrick, played by Julianna Margulies, after a very public scandal involving her husband, a state’s attorney, prompts her to return to her career as a lawyer after a 13-year hiatus spent as a stay-at-home mom.

TV has always gotten a bad rap, sometimes for good reasons but mostly for reasons that hide a lot of cultural ideologies and hierarchies around art and storytelling. Even though those perceptions are changing in this era of peak TV, content produced for network television regularly gets dismissed or passed over in favor of more prestigious, and pricier, cable and streaming channels.

'The Good Wife' actressSo I want to champion the network underdog and recommend “The Good Wife,” a CBS show that has all the elements of a solid legal procedural — think the “law” part of “Law and Order” — but which gets increasingly serialized and complex as it moves through its seven seasons, largely connected to its jaw-dropping fifth season. While cable and streaming series often have brevity on their side — producing a tight, six-13 episode, heavily serialized arc — “The Good Wife” has 22-23 episodes to work with each season, making it much more challenging to sustain that aura of quality, but it’s a great pick when you have lots of time to kill in quarantine! And yet the writers constantly find ways to experiment with storytelling and form, engage with contemporary politics and current events, and develop complex characters.

People praise quality television for its complex antiheroes, like “Breaking Bad’s” Walter White or the entire cast of Netflix’s “Ozark.” And yes, the characters on “The Good Wife” don't necessarily operate at this same level of melodramatic intensity at all times. But what this show delivers is a slow-burn drama that uses the trappings of a legal procedural to so effectively immerse the viewer in Florrick’s journey of empowerment that it isn’t until we step away from the warm glow of the screen that we have to reckon with all the choices that got her there.

And if you like “The Good Wife,” make sure you watch the spinoff, “The Good Fight,” which is even more playful, experimental and politically engaged.

Martha Bayless, professor and director of folklore and public culture, Department of English:

Verner’s Pride
By Mrs. Henry Wood
'Verner's Pride' coverI think in times of stress it’s nice to escape to another world, and what is more distracting than a nice Victorian novel of sensation? The queen of sensational novels was Mrs. Henry Wood, who combined a supposed rigorous moral sense with shenanigans that would make your hair stand on end! Her most famous book is “East Lynne,” but that one is heavy-handed and relies on a completely unbelievable plot twist. Instead I’d go for “Verner’s Pride,” published in 1863, which is free on archive.org and gutenberg.org. It has seductions, deceptions, inheritances, stately homes, misplaced love, high melodrama and a single mysterious glove that suggests guilt — what’s not to like? It’s the very definition of a page-turner.

The Lost German Slave Girl
The Extraordinary True Story of Sally Miller and Her Fight for Freedom in Old New Orleans
By John Bailey
The Lost German Slave Girl,” published in 2004, is a work of narrative nonfiction about early 19th-century New Orleans. A woman who has recently emigrated from Europe finds a girl she thinks is the lost German daughter of a friend, but the girl is in slavery. This is the true-life story of the community’s attempt to reclaim her from slavery and to figure out who she really was.

Alicia: My Story
By Alicia Appleman-Jurman
In times of trouble it can be heartening to read about the tremendous fortitude of those who have gone before us. The most moving Holocaust memoir I know is “Alicia: My Story,” published in 1989 by Alicia Appleman-Jurman. What this 13-year-old Jewish girl did when the Nazis came should be on everyone's bookshelf.

I hope people will order their books from independent booksellers!

Christopher Chavez, associate professor of advertising and doctoral program director, School of Journalism and Communication:

All They Will Call You
By Tim Z. Hernandez
I’m reading a book right now called “All They Will Call You,” published in 2017, a nonfiction book I encountered while doing some research. It’s pretty amazing.

'All They Will Call You' coverIn 1948, folk singer Woodie Guthrie wrote a song titled “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos),” about a plane crash in Central California that killed 28 migrant farm workers who were being transported to the deportation center in El Centro. In news accounts, the pilots and the crew were all identified by name, but the migrants were simply identified as “deportees.”

Author Tim Hernandez attempts to reclaim the identities of those migrants who were rendered invisible by the media. Through interviews with a number of witnesses, family members and loved ones, Hernandez offers the reader a range of vantage points of a single moment. It’s a wonderful example of how we remember historical events and how those accounts are often filled with contradictions. As Hernandez puts it, “it is inevitable that some rememberings will contradict other rememberings.”

The Oregon Humanities Center’s UO Today interview show has hosted numerous renowned authors. Be sure to check out its extensive playlist.

—By Sharleen Nelson, University Communications