There Were Zero Things Better This Week Than Maya Rudolph's New Amazon Show

Except maybe the lesson gleaned from the guy shaving on New Jersey Transit.
Amazon Studios

Welcome to Good Stuff, HuffPost’s weekly recommendation series devoted to the least bad things on and off the internet.

It’s hard to get into detail about “Forever,” the new Amazon series starring the wonderful Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen, without spoilers. But I can say that while it takes a few episodes to figure out its conceit and piece together exactly what’s happening, it is so worth the time.

From “Master of None” co-creator Alan Yang and “30 Rock” producer Matt Hubbard (who worked together on “Parks and Recreation”),“Forever” seems like a darker, quirkier and more ethereal cousin of NBC’s “The Good Place,” treading on similar existential themes. (Interestingly, Yang also worked on some episodes of “The Good Place,” and the two shows share some of the same writers.)

One of the most rewarding installments of “Forever” is largely separate from the show’s main plot. The series’ sixth episode is a 30-minute rumination on life and love. Revisiting its characters over a range of years, it’s definitely an homage to movies like Richard Linklater’s “Before...” trilogy — but with less walking and more talking, and no gallivanting around warm European cities, though it has the same emotional warmth. It also features some wry commentary on race, particularly interracial relationships. The episode stars Jason Mitchell and Hong Chau, two continually underrated actors who deserve this showcase — and deserve many more projects of their own and opportunities to shine. — Marina Fang

The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish, By Katya Apekina

Two Dollar Radio

It had been a minute since I sat down to read a new novel and found myself completely bowled over by it, swamped in it, enchanted with it. Apekina’s debut, The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish, broke through. I read the whole thing in one evening, staying up late by the light of my bedside lamp to savor the last pages.

The book tells the story of two sisters ― 16-year-old Edie and 14-year-old Mae ― who move to New York City to live with their estranged father, an acclaimed novelist, after their mother attempts suicide and is placed in a mental hospital. Edie, loyal to their brilliant but self-involved and capricious mother, despises her father for abandoning the family and for, as she believes, profoundly damaging his wife. Mae’s relationship with her mother was more fraught, and she welcomes the chance to bond with a new parental figure, one she believes was kept from her by a cold and demanding mother. Both girls scratch and claw to get closer to the parent they believe deserves their love, but the truth proves far more cruel and complicated than either can grasp.

Told by an ensemble of narrators and letters, The Deeper the Water delicately unravels layers of family trauma and deeply entrenched injustice. It vividly dramatizes questions that are (sorry, sorry) remarkably timely: artistic appropriation and exploitation, the intersection of racism and sexism, the violations inflicted by men upon their muses, and how abuse can be mirrored and replicated throughout families. In The Deeper the Water, art is a coping mechanism, a vampiric theft, an act of creation. So is love, and family. In a week packed with a lot of nonfictional dreck about those questions, what a pleasure it was to read fiction that dissected them with care, honesty and nuance. ― Claire Fallon

“The Sisters Brothers”

Annapurna Pictures

The Western is as American as it gets, even if America has mostly abandoned the genre. “The Sisters Brothers” mimics the iconography that made John Wayne and Gary Cooper stars, but it does so with a delicate hand that subverts decades-old tropes. There are revolvers, bandits and frontiers, but Jacques Audiard’s 1850s-set film is ultimately a meditation on family, loyalty and greed, humorously brought to life by four gifted actors who chronicle the push and pull of the violent heart that has long pumped our nation’s blood.

The title refers to two contract killers with the last name Sisters: the impetuous, grizzled Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) and his older, wiser brother Eli (John C. Reilly). Their boss has sent them to hunt down a detective (Jake Gyllenhaal, sporting another splendidly overwrought accent) who will turn over a prospector (Riz Ahmed) with a coveted chemical that can detect gold, right as the Pacific Northwest is going wild for the shiny metal.

But as the quartet converges and begins their trek, something strange emerges: bonds. Their collective exhaustion coalesces to indict the bloodshed and avarice haunting their lives. This is a revisionist Western with an endearing undercurrent. Adapting Patrick deWitt’s 2011 novel with a painterly elegance, Audiard, whose previous movies include “A Prophet” and “Rust and Bone,” positions his story at the intersection of disappointment and hope. It’s a lovely place to be. ― Matthew Jacobs

Isabella Rossellini’s “Green Porno” Videos

How much do you know about the sex lives of snails, squid, anchovies, cuckoos, cuttlefish, barnacles, hamsters and bed bugs? If the answer is “not enough,” please head to YouTube for a deep dive into Isabella Rossellini’s “Green Porno” series, which explores the mating rituals of creatures slimy, scaly, furry and feathered.

Each video, about two to five minutes long, focuses on a different creature, with Italian actor and filmmaker Rossellini fully submerged in a full-body costume that’s anatomically accurate and adorably preposterous.

“If I were a snail, I would have one big, slimy foot,” she says in one video. “I would twist my body to fit inside my shell. My foot would end up at the bottom, allowing me to crawl. My anus would end up on top of my head… Unfortunately.”

Rossellini fully inhabits the persona of each critter while narrating and pantomiming every step of its love-making process, whether humping a cardboard bee or wriggling on the floor as a caterpillar. Her commitment to every role is an inspiration.

After learning that bed bugs have penises like knives and that dolphins like to take it in the blowhole, your opinion of Mother Nature’s horniness will be forever changed. You might even get turned on thinking about your most recent apartment infestation. Rossellini’s two follow-up series, “Seduce Me” and “MAMAS” — about how various animals experience pregnancy and give birth — are just as informative and delightful. ― Priscilla Frank

The Actual Story Behind That Guy Shaving On New Jersey Transit

Here’s something I’m not proud of: Whenever I’m anxious, concentrating or sometimes just bored, I reach under my shirt and pull on my stomach fat, over and over again.

Believe me when I say that I know it’s a terrible habit. It’s something I’ve tried to stop doing for years. Often, I start to tug on my skin without realizing, like on the subway after a stressful day at work. More than once on the commute home, I’ve only realized what I was doing when I noticed someone else slyly taking a photo of me doing it. Considering the hypersocial world we inhabit, I can understand the urge to document and disperse any different-than-normal behavior on the subway. But I just can’t describe to you how low those moments felt ― not just the embarrassment of being noticed by one person for something you hate about yourself, but the fear that he or she might upload your insecurity for all the world to laugh at, too.

Last week, that happened to Anthony Torres, 56, who was caught by a fellow passenger shaving in his seat while aboard a New Jersey Transit train. The fellow passenger uploaded his video of Torres to Twitter, writing, “Welcome to NJ TRANSIT!!!” It was a perfect slice of viral internet: funny, quick and playing into an easily digestible stereotype. Within days, the video racked up 2.4 million views alone. Various versions of it got shared and written up by media outlets. People laughed, and I did, too.

As always seems to be the case, it ends up that the story is more complicated. Torres, The Associated Press later found out, had become homeless and was staying in a New York City shelter. With nowhere else to turn, he had reached out to one of his brothers for help. The brother had given him some money for a train ticket to another one of his siblings in New Jersey, and Torres hadn’t had time to shave before he got on. Understandably, he wanted to look “presentable” to his family, not homeless, so he did what he could with the time he had.

“My life is all screwed up. That’s the reason I was shaving on the train,” he told the AP. “I never thought it would go viral, people making fun of me.”

Predictably, the original uploader ended up apologizing for his video, saying he would send any money he made from licensing fees to Torres and his family. He has since deleted the Twitter account.

This isn’t a new story, but it is one that seems like it will now be told in perpetuity: The unknowing butts of our jokes are people with families and insecurities just like us, even if they don’t seem like it when they are pixelated, uploaded and shared for the enjoyment of the internet dehumanization machine. ― Maxwell Strachan

Jerry Stackhouse Saying “He Needed To Bleed”

A random beef exploded this week between current NBA player Andrew Wiggins and former NBA player/possessor of hands Stephen Jackson, when the latter criticized the former in an Instagram video because Wiggins’ brother had talked some mild, uninteresting smack about a teammate.

The beef itself is mostly uninteresting, but Jackson’s presence in it sparked a discussion among my friends about who would make up the NBA’s all-time Hands Team, and which NBA player ― past or present ― we’d least like to fight.

Which brings me to Jerry Stackhouse and this interview he did on ESPN’s “Highly Questionable” in 2013. Stackhouse’s rep as a card-carrying member of the hands community is obscured somewhat by his actual basketball skills, but his penchant for fighting is the subject of this interview, in which Stackhouse admits to: 1) scrapping with at least five of his *teammates* during his career; 2) giving one of those teammates, Christian Laettner, a black eye over a card game even though Laettner was already out with a broken rib; and 3) beating down Kirk Snyder so hard that Snyder, a year later, came back to thank him for it. “He needed to bleed,” Stackhouse said. *He needed to bleed.*

I love the NBA. ― Travis Waldron

This Little Girl’s Perfect Trick-Shot Compilation Video

If you’re looking to be delighted and reminded of your own poor hand-eye coordination, look no further this 2015 video that has been making the rounds again thanks to a tweet from BuzzFeed’s Bim Adewunmi. In it, little Riley executes perfect trick shot after trick shot, so beautifully that I had to watch it at least five times before I believed it was real. Who can throw a freaking piece of toast behind their back so accurately that it lands in the toaster with barely a wobble? Riley, that’s who. Give the girl a medal. ― Emma Gray

My Engagement Photo

Bill Bradley

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