It’s been a long year of Zoom calls and Moodle forums, so this summer, give your brain a break — whether with a new video game, a morning podcast or a book. If you don’t know where to start, accept this offering of recommendations straight from your friendly neighborhood Beacon staff.
“Audrey” - Laura Heffernan, Reporter
“Audrey” takes a fantastic look at the life of iconic movie star, Audrey Hepburn. Going beyond fame, this documentary, available on Netflix, shows the inner workings of Hepburn and who she was as a person beyond the characters she played.
After the documentary details marriages, divorces, and the search for a father figure, the audience can see how much love Hepburn had to give, but also how she did not find a solidified way to give that love until towards the end of her life. Joining UNICEF gave Hepburn this chance and allowed her to spread all the love she wished she had in her own life to many other children.
This documentary is a must for fans of Hepburn because it goes past the typical stories of the roles she played in movies and her fashion and switches the focus to how the workings of her private life allowed her to bring a uniqueness and depth to everything she worked on.
“Legally Blonde” - Emma Sells, Photographer
This iconic 2001 flick is now available on Netflix for all subscribers to enjoy. Reese Witherspoon’s performance perfectly illuminates the bubbly and driven character Elle Woods as she works her way to success at Harvard Law despite her myriad of antagonists. This tongue-in-cheek film blends together themes of perseverance, struggle, romance, and success in one humorous package.
Elle never fails to be true to herself, and proves that you can be successful and stylish at the same time. She is a strong, female role model preaching the rejection of stereotypes that hold women down. “Legally Blonde” is definitely a ‘must-watch’ for all young girls, and is a perfect feel good flick to watch this summer for all ages and gender identities.
“Ford v. Ferrari” - Michael Lang, Reporter
This film, released in 2019, focuses on the true story of car designer Carroll Shelby and race car driver Ken Miles. The two attempt to challenge the legacy of Ferrari cars by building and racing a car for the Ford Motor Company at the 1966 Le Mans race. By teaming up with Henry Ford II, Shelby and Miles attempt to alter the general public’s perspective on the company by creating a winning car that will model success and victory much like Ferrari has already achieved.
I would recommend this movie because it’s the classic underdog story in which Shelby, Miles, and Ford try to overthrow the dominance of Ferrari race cars by developing their own with limited time. Additionally, the acting is great with Matt Damon playing the role of Shelby and Christian Bale playing the role of Miles. The movie highlights the indispensable relationship between Shelby and Miles while also capturing the thrill of racing in 1966.
“Gilmore Girls” - Ally Weberg, Community and Engagement Editor
I've been re-watching “Gilmore Girls” on Netflix with my little sisters, and the lighthearted dramedy definitely doesn't disappoint. The show centers around strong female leads — Lorelai and Rory — a mother-daughter duo who act more like best friends. Set in a charming small town called Stars Hollow with no shortage of quirky characters, the series explores family, friendship and love. From the witty dialogue and copious amounts of coffee drinking to multigenerational family dynamics and classic boy drama (team Dean, Jess or Logan?), “Gilmore Girls” is the epitome of comfort TV. We could all use a sunny show to binge non-stop for days on end, and in my experience, “Gilmore Girls” is that show. Grab a large, hot (or iced) cup of coffee and get Gilmored this summer!
“Undone” - Brie Haro, Reporter
Within 8 short 30 minute episodes, you are taken on a whirlwind through time and multidimensional realities in the genre-bending animated series, “Undone”, an Amazon Original. We follow the life of Alma-Winograd-Diaz, who after getting into a car accident and almost dying, gains a new relationship with time and the people around her.
Through the series Alma finds herself having the ability to travel through time and different dimensions with the help of her deceased father. He acts as her guide while trying to understand and utilize her new abilities so that they can figure out the truth about her fathers death. Her family notices her strange behavior of being obsessed with the past and tries to bring her back to their reality, the present, but with no idea of her new life.
Alma struggles to balance her enhanced life and is exposed to more truths than what she was looking for. However, she was able to gain a new perspective on her life that had been feeling meaningless and like it was an over-run routine.
The oddly realistic animated show makes you question the reality that you are living in and offers a new perspective on how everything is connected. While it can get deep and emotional at times, comedic quips by actress Rosa Salazar, who voices Alma, allow you to laugh it off.
“Narcos Mexico” - Andrew Gotshall, Videographer
An undoubtable classic. Are you interested in the inner workings of drugs, smuggling and crime? Well, then this is the one for you. If you want to know how to become an infamous drug lord, look no further.
“Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts” - Jennifer Ng, Opinions and Faith Editor/Senior Reporter
If you like the found family trope and character redemption arcs or other shows like “Avatar: The Last Airbender” or “Gravity Falls”, your next binge watch should be “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts”. “Kipo” is a Netflix animated series that was one of my favorite shows of 2020. The series takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting where the titular character Kipo, a sheltered burrow girl, must survive the surface world full of mutated creatures or “mutes” in order to reunite with her dad. She befriends other survivors, both human and mute, and adventures ensue.
“Kipo” is a breath of fresh air in how it really offers the whole package - great animation, multidimensional characters, detailed world-building, an incredible soundtrack, and top-notch voice acting. This show balances action and adventure in a fantastical setting with moments of vulnerability and loss and relevant themes about inclusivity, kindness, family and the environment. The LGBTQ+ and BIPOC representation both on and off screen is especially refreshing to see. As the show progresses, the stakes get higher and the conflicts the characters face reflect a lot of questions we are asking about our own world right now.
While it’s rated for audiences ages 7 and up, “Kipo” is an excellent example of what young adult cartoons could offer - a great story that blends the creativity and imagination of the animated format with thought-provoking messages and more serious moments geared towards a more mature audience. If you don’t believe young adult cartoons are where it’s at, you need to check it out.
“Broad City” - Joslin Torres, Sports Reporter
“Broad City” is a comedy on Hulu that follows Abby and Ilana, two friends who live in New York. While there are a lot of shows set in NY about groups of friends, I find this one to be pretty realistic and focused on the issues that young adults struggle with on their own today. These characters aren’t super well off and often have to take on odd jobs or side hustles to be able to afford fun things happening in their city.
The show doesn’t dramatize or romanticize New York as some other shows do and it also gives their characters realistic situations and outcomes. Abbi and Ilana are in their 20s and don’t really have an idea of what they want to do with their life but they don’t let that stop them from having a good time. It’s a show about making the best of things which I think is something that college students can definitely relate to.
“Last Chance U” - Marek Corsello, Photographer
“Last Chance U” is a sports series that follows college teams and athletes who normally don’t receive a spotlight. Many of the athletes featured have been kicked out of larger schools due to academic, disciplinary, or other reasons.
Thus, where they end up really becomes their “last chance” to prove themselves as students, athletes, and productive members of society. Many of these young athletes are extremely gifted athletically, however the show does an amazing job of showing what their lives are like off the field. You get to follow a team's struggles, developments, wins, loses, and progressions, while at the same time follow each athlete's growth as well. “Last Chance U” develops a storyline that is still captivating and worth following even after the sports season is over and the cameras are no longer rolling. Even after they stopped filming one particular team, I still am curious to know the continuing stories of the athletes and the teams.
Even if you are not a sports fanatic I would still recommend this show. Most of the show is focused on these young athletes' struggles off the field. “Last Chance U” does an incredible job of addressing larger societal issues and injustices within our educational system, legal system, and equal access to opportunities for all. If I were to recommend one season in particular, I would say the season that showcases East Mississippi Community College.
“On Beauty” by Zadie Smith - Gabriella DiPaulo, Editor in Chief
After a long year of the sometimes challenging, often pretentious, and deeply rewarding life that is the small liberal arts university (albeit online), the last thing you might want to do is read more about this strange vacuum of culture. But “On Beauty” by Zadie Smith, author of “White Teeth”, is a poignant look at family, culture and higher education in a way that manages to never be too flippant or too serious.
It’s a story of two opposing families, race, adultery, politics, and love. And even as Smith bounces between her wildly varying characters, all of whom are vibrant and precocious in their own way, you’ll find yourself barely caring where the story takes you so long as you can stay entrenched in her prose. Once you finish this story, Smith has an assortment of other works to choose from, all as impressive as the first.
“Circe” by Madeline Miller - Sadie Wuertz, Reporter
I’ll never stop recommending this book. I think a lot of us need a little bit of escapism right about now, and “Circe” is where you can find that. It tells the story of Circe, a figure in Greek mythology (perfect for if you had a “Percy Jackson” phase growing up) who is traditionally portrayed as a somewhat villainous figure in Greek mythology. She causes a fair amount of problems for Odysseus in “The Odyssey”, rendering her a sort of annoying but mostly irrelevant witch on an isolated island. But Madeline Miller sees that not only is Circe one of the most powerful deities (if not the most powerful), but also that she’s not the bad guy.
“Circe” depicts the lifespan and adventures of Circe, highlighting her most human qualities. It shows Circe not as an evil witch, but as a mother and woman grappling with her immortality. Miller’s story is perfect for binge reading on a summer day (or two). It’ll take you out of the mundanity of pandemic life, but it’ll also teach you about your own humanity, relationships, and morality. And it’ll motivate you to spend some time in the garden.
“The Stranger” by Albert Camus - Carlos Fuentes, Copy Editor/Senior Reporter
I can’t give you enough reasons that you should go read “The Stranger” by Albert Camus, one of the most famous French philosophers, authors, and journalists of all time. To begin, it’s only 154 pages and surprisingly easy to read, so you can easily knock it out while sitting outside on a long warm afternoon or staying up until two or three in the morning. Either way, once you start reading this book, there’s no going back.
“The Stranger” is told from the perspective of a French man who lives by himself; the story begins with the man attending his mother’s funeral, and I won’t tell you anything else about the book, because the plot isn’t necessarily what makes the story so great. “The Stranger” is a good book because it takes the reader right into Camus’ mind, who is constantly exploring morality, mortality, existentialism and what it means to have purpose in your life.
By the end of the book, after wrestling with absurdity, multiple deaths, and one of the most simple yet endlessly complex narrators ever, you will want to call Camus himself and ask him how the hell he was able to fit all of it within 154 short pages. There are only a few books that I can honestly say have changed the way that I view life and existence, and if I had to put them in order, “The Stranger” would be at the top of the list.
“A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini - Havi Stewart, Living Editor
From the first time I sat down to read this book four years ago till this moment, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” has been the most beautiful life changing story I have ever read, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.
It is easy to see how Khaled Hosseini’s first book, “The Kite Runner” was such a hit across America, telling a powerful story of betrayal and redemption. Yet where “The Kite Runner'' focuses on friendship between men, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” highlights mother daughter (like) relationships and the power of love between women.
Following the lives of two young women (Mariam and Laila) living in Afghanistan - a country unknown to most Americans, this story at its core highlights the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
If you have some spare time to leisure read this summer I highly recommend that you pick up “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” and enjoy. I know I will.
“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong - Will Mulligan, Reporter
This is a book about family. It’s written from the perspective of the son (named Little Dog), in the form of a letter to his mother. The stipulation there being that Little Dog’s mother can never read it, as she doesn’t know how. Their relationship is complex, and the Vuong treats the characters with as much tenderness as he does biting reality.
At the novel’s core is a story of a mother and a son, but Vuong manages to explore so many other topics, first loves, the opioid epidemic, poverty, race, sexuality, language, war and so many others in a way that is enlightening yet entirely accessible.
I had to go back and reread paragraphs constantly, not because I didn’t understand them, but because they were just so beautifully written. It’s one of those books you wish hadn’t ended so you could go on reading it forever. If you read it, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll stare slack-jawed in awe at the beauty of this wonderful, rich book.
“The Mysterious Benedict Society” by Trenton Lee Stewart - Molly Lowney, Photographer
I read this book years ago in middle school, and I was blown away by the intricacy of the plot and brilliantly crafted characters. It became an instant classic with its mind puzzles and genuine moments of human connection through the interactions of the four main characters. I highly recommend this book to readers of all ages. Even though the main characters range from 3 to 12 years old, don’t underestimate their ability to teach you something about yourself. In a time where we are rekindling friendships and finding our way back to a world of in person connection, this story shows how we can find family in the most unlikely places.
“Stardew Valley” - Brennan Crowder, Multimedia Editor
“Stardew Valley” is a moment of virtual bliss in the otherwise chaotic existence we are forced to experience. This game, while at first appearing to be an ambitious crossover between Pokemon and Farming Simulator with a healthy dose of Kroger-brand Animal Crossing seems like it has no place in the game library of most anyone. This simply couldn’t be further from the truth!
This game is incredibly simple, very accessible (available on multiple platforms like PC, console, Switch, etc), easy to pick up but difficult to master. Let time’s steadfast grip over every aspect of your existence weaken as you fill your hours with tending to your pixelated crops and livestock. According to ConcernedApe, the developer of the game, “Stardew Valley” is an ”open-ended country-life” role-playing game wherein you, a new farmer and main character, inherit a plot of land from your grandfather and transform it into a humble farm. It ain’t much, but it’s honest work.
I recommend that everyone at least attempt to play this game for at least an in-game year (roughly 24 hours) but this should not and is not meant to be done in one sitting! This game is best enjoyed a couple hours at a time either along or with friends but can easily be binged should you have lots of time to fill. When played to 100% completion, takes between 80-100 hours but has no set end. You can farm to your pixelated-little heart’s delight. Whatever you do, don’t succumb to the evil clutches of Joja Corporation!
“The Argument” - William Seekamp, Sports Editor
I think that most of us, myself included, are living in an echochamber, in the sense that most of my friends have similar political and social views. Moreover, the media I consume often doesn’t include the other side of the debate or sets it up as a strawman.
It leaves me feeling like I only really understand half of the discussion about controversial topics.
“The Argument” pops this bubble.
It is produced by the New York Times opinion section and is hosted by the funny and knowledgeable Jane Coaston, who acts as a moderator between the two guests on the opposite side of the debate.
“The Edge of Sleep” - Austin De Dios, News and Managing Editor
There’s nothing like a healthy helping of existential dread and wild mystery to comfort you on those warm summer days. In this audio drama, popular YouTuber Mark Fischbock stars as the night watchmen Dave, whose life quickly turns upside down when he is thrown into a sleep deprived nightmare. Dave and a small group of survivors are living in a world where those who fall asleep never wake again, and in a race against the clock they try to find out what could be causing it.
A mix of horror, humor, personal struggle, professional voice acting and excellent audio technology make The Edge of Sleep a must-listen in my opinion. The intense back and forth between Dave’s childhood and present day give the story a binge-worthy twist that makes it hard to take those headphones off. Listener discretion is advised, for this is not a tale for the faint of heart. This clever approach to the horror genre makes you think twice about going to sleep, in the best way possible.
“Heavyweight” - Kate Cuadrado, Reporter
Has there ever been an instance in your life that you never really got closure on? In this podcast, Host Jonathan Goldstein asks this very question, and combines humor with investigation as he helps individuals finally understand the things that have weighed heavy on their shoulders for years.
Goldstein is an expert storyteller and a relentless investigator, asking all the right and weird questions to try and find the truth about the matter at hand. And, each episode stands by itself, making it easy to pick and choose based on personal preference.
The show is funny, thoughtful, clever and incredibly well produced, and a great listen to pass some time.
“Reply All” - Fiona O’Brien, Reporter
I started listening to “Reply All” over our extended winter break this school year. This is the only podcast where I could truly sit and do nothing while I listened. My parents would come home and I would be sitting at the dining room table with headphones in, staring in the abyss.
I couldn’t pinpoint what the podcast is about. It’s two guys who break down super interesting stories each episode. For one of the stories, one of the reporters follows through with one of the telemarketing calls he got, and ended up in India investigating their call center.
Some good episodes include:
“The Case of the Missing Hit”
“The Snapchat Thief”
“The Crime Machine”
“Boy in Photo”
This list was compiled by The Beacon staff, who are unanimously ready for summer. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.