Monday, August 31, 2020

My August in Media

I love September and I don't love August, so I'm not sad to see it go. But I did keep things interesting this month. 

First Reformed
You know how Joker was essentially an alternate version of Taxi Driver except it sucked? First Reformed is, in many ways, a modern Taxi Driver that doesn't suck – unsurprisingly, as it was written and directed by that film's screenwriter. Like many an A24 movie, I'm unsure how I feel about the ending, but overall, I found it pretty fascinating. It brought up questions about what makes a movie "horror," and it did some things I fully did not expect, even as I was sure I knew where the story was headed. Good, strange work.

Attempt: The Wedding Planner. Including but not limited to the deeply unnerving sight of a blonde McConaughey, everything about this movie is terrible (except Judy Greer, who is always perfect). However, I will say that I love a lot of bad '00s rom-coms, and I think whether you like any given one depends on if you see it for the first time as a teenager or as an adult.

Here's the thing about Crawl: you think you know what you're getting and you do, to some extent, but you also don't. I thought this might be extremely cheesy, but it was actually really fun because it was several shades more intense than I thought it would be. It's also fun to yell at characters when they make bad decisions.

My dad had been telling me to watch this movie for probably a decade at this point, especially since I'm such a fan of The Silence of the Lambs. I am, however, not a fan of ventriloquist dummies (thanks, Goosebumps), so I was always like, "LOL, we'll see." It ended up being a lot different than I expected, plot-wise, which was interesting and it had that great '70s filmed-on-film look to it, especially at the beginning. It definitely was entertaining to watch Anthony Hopkins be insane nearly 15 years before Hannibal.

I'd known the big twist of this movie since it came out when I was in high school and I thought that might dampen the experience of watching it, but it didn't! It was still wild as hell. Although I could've lived my whole life without that opening scene.

Momento is a movie that is not only told completely backwards, but where every scene is also revealed to you in reverse. This makes for a stressful, but undoubtedly unique viewing experience. It took me a bit to get into what was going on, but once I did, I was all-in. The structure helps make for a good payoff.

Unfortunately, the film bros were right about this one. It is definitely too long and, to that end, occasionally has weird priorities (how long do we really need to see JGL float in a hallway?), but I can't really fault it for anything else. It's good.

Meh. I wanted this to be good, but it was just fine. Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick are pretty good, but it's lacking in other areas.

House on Haunted Hill (1959)
"There'll be food and drink and ghosts. And perhaps even a few murders. You're all invited." My first time seeing Vincent Price in his prime. Anything else I've seen him in has been earlier (Leave Her to Heaven), later (Edward Scissorhands) or animated (The Great Mouse Detective). Much of this movie is obviously very silly, but the dialogue is great and Carolyn Craig has one of the best screams I've ever heard. Leaps and bounds better than the 1999 remake.

Rewatch: Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I've said it before, but this remains one of the most honest movies ever made about teenagers. And rewatching it after reading Brat Pack America gave me a fresh lens to view it as a bit of a critique of capitalism.

Rewatch: Valley Girl. I made Tim watch Fast Times and Valley Girl within days of each other because they go together in my brain and, to my surprise and joy, he liked both and liked Valley Girl best.

The Gift
When the trailers first came out for this movie, I was convinced it was somehow secretly a horror-comedy? But it's neither horror nor comedy. However, it is good – tightly-wound, probing and a bit disturbing. Another entry into the canon that if movie makers want me to immediately distrust a character, they should always cast Jason Bateman.

Rewatch: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. If you want to know what a puppy would look like if you turned it into a human, it's Keanu Reeves in this movie. Most excellent, dude.

Rewatch: High Fidelity. I have a weird relationship with High Fidelity where I watch it about once a year to see if I'll like it more. I don't know why I do this. While I hate Rob, I do like the movie – and I liked the TV show even more.

Running on Empty
I'd never heard of this movie until reading Brat Pack America, but I'm always down to be sad about River Phoenix and this week, when he would have turned 50, seemed like as good a time as any. It's a soft, sad movie and, unsurprisingly, River gave a great performance. The world would be better if he was still in it.

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
Oof. While Excellent Adventure is goofy but charming and sweet, this one is just really, really dumb. It's like the people behind it went, "Bill and Ted are dumb, so if you love them, you must also be dumb"? Or they just assumed that anyone watching a movie with "bogus" in the title would be stoned at the time? One of those. Either way, it's bad.

Bill & Ted Face the Music
Much better. This movie isn't perfect: it often feels like it's trying to be two movies at once, two good parts crammed together into a bit of a mess. But it's pretty fun, and it's a delight to watch Alex Winter and Keanu Reeves transform back into these two lovable goofs, weird mannerisms and all. Is the ending hokey? For sure. But I also almost got emotional at the mere idea of a concert, so this movie feels like exactly what our most non-triumphant world needs right now.

In TV, I've gotten extremely into Batman: The Animated Series, the virtues of which I could write an essay about. I also watched all of the first two seasons of Scream: The TV Series in like, three days. And Tim and I have been continuing our tradition of "Mystery Sundays," where we watch a mystery series – first I'll Be Gone in the Dark, now Lovecraft Country (the jury's still out) – followed by two episodes of Buzzfeed Unsolved.

I also did some reading this month. Maggie and I swapped books, so she read my copy of Riley Sager's Home Before Dark, while I read her copy of Maureen Johnson's The Hand on the Wall, the final installment of the Truly Devious trilogy. While I didn't love it quite as much as the first two, it was still very good. Maureen is a great mystery writer, and I hope she writes nine million more.

As mentioned a few times, I also read Brat Pack America by Kevin Smokler, which had been sitting on my shelf since Texas Book Fest 2016. My copy had an absurd amount of typos, but it was right up my alley and I learned a lot, both about films I've seen dozens of times and ones I'd never heard of.

Right now, I'm reading Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes, which is very sweet and funny. Up next is In Five Years by Rebecca Serle. It's been a big mystery summer (LOL, literally), so I was overdue for some romance.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The devil's in the details, but you've got a friend in me

A bad habit I have is endlessly bookmarking articles to read later and then not actually reading them later.

Today, I finally worked my way through a few. These were the best:

First, read this Texas Monthly article about how Patron Saint of Texas Matthew McConaughey is the best celebrity for these trying times. This line gets to the heart of it: "I think he takes himself seriously—or at least he approaches everything he does with his own brand of seriousness—but he has never expected the public to take him seriously."

Follow that with this heartbreaking Vulture piece Cecily Strong wrote about grief, which includes this incredible passage: "The world is upside down. I’m holding devastation and love in equal measures. What is bad timing when the timeline seems irrelevant? What’s the ending? Would you even know?"

In keeping with writing that makes you think, read this Esquire piece, which broadens the Ellen Degeneres Situation into a larger conversation about how your experiences aren't more important than other people's. It has a kicker that will make you gasp.

Comfort yourself after reading that by reading this Apartment Therapy piece about the comfort of a home well lived-in. It's part of a larger series about "comfort decorating," something I've apparently been doing all my life.

Then finish off with this Polygon article that looks at the reasons for the rabid fangirldom around the original Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. It's part of a larger PotC package Polygon has put together – a nice reminder that I'm not the only one taking solace in nostalgia right now.

Friday, July 31, 2020

My July in Media

July was a mixed bag, mostly lackluster but with a few surprising gems. Wait, that description actually goes for my entire life this month?

: Fright Night. Truly one of my favorite movies of all time.

Straight Up
I really wanted to like this movie, but...I think I hated it? The dialogue and main characters were exhausting. It had heart and I got what it was trying to do, but ultimately, it just made me tired and kind-of annoyed.

Rewatch: Super 8 (still an under-appreciated delight), Panic Room (I liked it less this time, but it's still  mid-level Fincher).

George Lopez: We'll Do It For Half
I grew up in Texas, where Spanish is integrated into a lot of things. My dad in particular, due to the environments he was raised in and has worked in, has always mixed slang Spanish into his vocabulary. So, I think I've always enjoyed George Lopez's specials because that casual back-and-forth between languages is familiar to me. Not all of his jokes are funny, but I get the humor behind all of them.

Abducted in Plain Sight
This documentary is freaking bananas. You should have to take some sort of gullibility test before you have children.

Rewatch: Spotlight. I rewatched this on Election Day to get myself psyched about the importance of journalism before working until 2 a.m. It worked.

Palm Springs
I liked this movie. I thought it was cute and also Andy Samberg is cute and could have good chemistry with a rock. I can't fault it for anything. But I also don't get why everyone's so gaga about it? It has a pretty straight-forward, paint-by-numbers plot for both the rom-com and time-loop genres. I think everyone is just starved for something sweet, which is...fair.

The Claudia Kishi Club
This was an extremely sweet look at the impact varied representation has on kids. Claudia Kishi is 100% the coolest member of the Babysitter's Club – but more importantly, she was a cool Asian character that Asian kids got to see themselves in. Claudia is great at art! She makes bad grades! She has her own phone line! She resists the Model Minority myth in basically every way, and it's awesome that she exists.

24X36: A Movie About Movie Posters
This documentary isn't perfect – it divides its time in a questionable way and there are parts with no sound that could've used some background music. But it's cool! I don't think it had every fully occurred to me that the movie posters prior to the mid-'80s were hand-drawn, and it was interesting to learn about those artists. I also liked learning the history of the screenprint movement since I own several.

Session 9
This movie felt exactly the way RTD episodes of Doctor Who that had psychological thriller themes felt. That eerie but kind-of cheesy, low-budget vibe. If you know you know. Anyway, it wasn't great but it also wasn't terrible. I'd probably never watch it again but I don't regret watching it once.

Rewatch: Clueless. Watched for its 25th anniversary. A classic, but it wore a little thin on me this time.

Urzila Carlson: Overqualified Loser
Decently entertaining! Not laugh-out-loud funny but full of solid jokes. I've thought about the bit with the chips several times.

The Old Guard
I went into this movie not being sure I'd like it at all, much less really like it – but I did! In addition to the fact that I will watch any movie where Charlize Theron beats people up (preferably showing off her biceps), it also has a cool story and I felt very invested in all of the characters. I would happily watch at least one more.

Rewatch: An American Werewolf in London. This is still excellent and rewatching it, I'm more convinced than every that it's Fright Night's spiritual predecessor.

The Host
This didn't wow me in the way Parasite did (obviously), or even in the way Snowpiercer did, but it had some good things going on. It's too long, but it does some unexpected things and, let's face it: it's pretty hard to pull off a real-deal monster movie in general. It gets the job done.

Last Christmas
Listen. I know it's July, and I am staunchly a Christmas-movies-are-for-December person. I also know that this movie's trailer basically completely gave away its twist. But I liked it! It was cute! It was funny! Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding are both beautiful! It will almost give you a toothache, but sometimes that's what you need.

The Dead Zone
I haven't read the book but as far as Stephen King adaptations go, this is better quality than usual. I was really interested in the first half, but didn't love the abrupt direction it took in the second. However, it was fun to watch Christopher Walken when he wasn't quite so ~Christopher Walken~.

Ghost Stories
Here's the thing about this movie: It's very good until it isn't. I was super into the story, trying to figure out the clues, very impressed by the horror elements. And then it decided to be something else – and the second it did that, I hated it. I'm admittedly not much of a fan of absurdism, nor the particular plot device this film eventually employs, but it was super annoying to watch this good movie turn bad.

This month in attempts: Winchester (I made it 30 minutes and even that was excruciating), Voyeur (I was bored and also weirded out, less by the concept and more by the almost impressed tone).

That thing I said about being starved for something sweet (or soft or comforting or just not freaking depressing)? It's spilled into my TV watching. I watched all of Netflix's Say I Do, which is Queer Eye but with weddings. I also watched all of Netflix's new Babysitter's Club series, which The Hollywood Reporter accurately described as a "sunny, synth-y pastel tween wonderland that makes you feel like you're stepping into a colored-pencil drawing." I'll take everything Claudia Kishi owns, thanks.

On the flip-side, I've also been watching HBO's I'll Be Gone in the Dark, which is about as opposite from BSC as you can get. But the tale of the Golden State Killer is fascinating, as is Michelle McNamara's unyielding pursuit of his identity. The series has also touched on larger issues of misogyny in ways that I find very interesting. 

Also been doing a casual, comforting rewatch of Buffy because sometimes what the heart needs is high school drama, quippy one-liners and vampires in leather jackets.

In books, it's been all mysteries. I finished The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires, which I mostly enjoyed. Grady Hendrix has a way of writing truly gross things that is simultaneously off-putting and commendable. Then I speed-read two more Riley Sager books, The Last Time I Lied and Home Before Dark. No one is better than Sager (so far) at making me think I know things and then being like "lol, you thought." Now I'm reading The Hand on the Wall, the finale of Maureen Johnson's excellent Truly Devious trilogy.

Finally, here's how summer sounds so far – plus folklore, duh.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

My June in Media

This month, I tried to seek out films that would either educate me or challenge me in some way – even if sometimes that just meant trying a genre I'd never had an interest in before.

I watched a lot of movies in June, and I'm kind-of proud of how varied they were.

I waited too long to watch this movie, but this particular June 1 seemed like the right time. It's beautiful, from its story to its shots.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
I had wanted to see this movie basically my entire life, and it lived up to my own hype. Joan Crawford gives a good performance as an eternally anguished faded movie star – but this film is all about Bette Davis, who is mesmerizing as the depleted former child star Baby Jane Hudson, a woman whose every screw has come loose.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
This was a delight to behold. As is to be expected from Wes Andersen, it's visually charming, but it's also fun and unpredictable – a comfort watch even during a first-time viewing. It was also very enjoyable to watch Voldemort play a dandy.

Rewatch: Juno. A formative film, heavily quoted when I was in high school, but also genuinely good, and touching.

Blade Runner 2049
Hm. The sci-fi itself was interesting, both an echo and modernization of the OG Blade Runner, and the story was engaging, with a surprising and well-earned twist. But I was unsettled by the fact that every woman in this movie is either exploited, murdered or both. Sometimes, it felt logical in the story, sometimes it didn't – but it always felt excessive, especially when paired with the stunning amount of boobs this dystopian sci-fi film manages to include.

Rewatch: When Harry Met Sally... Immediately after watching Blade Runner 2049, one of Tim's favorite films, we watched this, which is one of mine. I figure if you're going to force your boyfriend to watch a rom-com, it should be the blueprint for all the rest.

Rewatch: The Truman Show. Watching this these days feels like watching an early episode of Black Mirror, but with more heart. The story holds up, and the cinematography is even better with time.

Spirited Away
Before this, I had never watched anything anime – unless you count My Life as a Teenage Robot, which was sort-of anime adjacent and which I'm sure no one would count. The story of Spirited Away was a little overlong and I think certain things could've been cut down, but I'm sure I wouldn't have noticed as a kid. I thought the backgrounds and music were lovely, and as an eternal mega-fan of Megara, I was delighted when Lin turned out to be voiced by Susan Egan.

The Master
I don't know why this movie exists. Nothing substantial happens in it. Of PTA's eight feature films, I've now seen five and this one was the first where I couldn't find anything remarkable.

I was concerned this might be the latest horror-adjacent movie to rely too heavily on atmosphere and forget to tell a story. Thankfully, it doesn't. It is moody and exists in a weird gray area of genres, but it's interesting in the way it subverts the idea of a "biopic" and I was into how it's as much, if not more, about society’s impulse to label a woman crazy as often as it can.

Can a movie frustrate you without leaving you dissatisfied? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. This one is a yes. I was super engaged in the mysteries of this movie and when I finished it, I was confused – just like the writers and director intended. Tim and I spent at least half an hour discussing what ~it all means~ and the pros and cons of stories left up to interpretation. This movie is good, and perhaps the main reason is the conversations it facilitates. No one knows the right answer – which is both frustrating and fun.

Dream House
One of the greatest joys in life is watching a horror movie or thriller that is bad. It can't be the worst thing you've ever seen because then you just regret watching it, and it can't be too interesting because then you'll be annoyed when it stays bad the whole time. But to watch a movie you have no expectations for unfold in hopefully bananas ways is *chef's kiss*. This movie isn't good, and that makes it fun to watch.

Pan's Labyrinth
Something to know about this movie is that it's not quite as fantastical as it appears. It's at least 50% a war movie, though the fantasy is its strength, with its weird, sometimes terrifying visuals and Danny Elfman-ish score. But my issue with this film – which I did mostly enjoy – is I spent a lot of time wondering who it's for. It is not kid-friendly: it's rated R and features pretty serious gore, plus those scary visuals. But I still frequently forgot it isn't a kids' movie because fairy tales inherently are, serious IRL problems included. It's a weird movie that left me feeling a little weird in a way I didn't expect. Maybe that makes it great? I don't know.

Rewatch: Crimson Peak. I liked it more this time because I liked it for all the reasons I did last time, and I was prepared for the reason I didn't.

RewatchKnives Out. Truly fantastic. I will watch a million more movies with Daniel Craig as this character, preferably with Ana de Armas as his Watson.

Circus of Books
My 100th movie of 2020! I learned a lot from this doc about a couple who basically stumbled into...the gay porn business, of all things. It's got it all: free speech violations, gay liberation and a message about community. However, I do wish it spent a little more time on what the shop meant for the gay community than it does on the fact that the woman who co-owned it is actually kind-of homophobic.

I can't say anything about this documentary that hasn't already been said. It is fascinating, illuminating and horrifying.

A Secret Love
This documentary, on the other hand, is lovely. It tells the story of an incredible lesbian couple (one of whom was a real-life baseball player like in A League of Their Own!) who loved each other in secret for more than 70 years. Equal parts heartwarming and heartbreaking.

The Hate U Give
This runs a little long and the ending is a little hokey, but it doesn't waste much of its time and I found it to be an effective, impressively multilayered story with extremely good performances by everyone involved.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
David Fincher is probably my favorite director, and this is definitely the weakest of his films that I've seen (I've seen all but two, and I think I'm going to continue to pass on Benjamin Button and probably also Alien 3). It had some good things going on, many of them Fincher trademarks. But there was a lot of fat that could've been trimmed. It lost its thread too many times. And several bad choices were made, one of them deeply unsettling and not in the good ~thriller~ way.

Everyone should watch this documentary. It's a comprehensive (but I'm sure not exhaustive) analysis of trans media representation of the past and present – told by trans people. I've never seen anything like it because there's never been anything like it.

Speaking of things that are unlike any other things: this movie is Something. Every description of its plot is comically banal ("some girls stay at a house that turns out to be haunted") but it's anything but. It is technically a horror movie, but it made me laugh harder than anything else I've watched in months. It's absolutely bananas in the best ways, I can say no more, watch it immediately.

Athlete A
America loves winners and it typically doesn't care how you get to the top, as long as you do. Such was the case of USA Gymnastics and the child abuse it allowed and then hid. This documentary isn't an easy watch, but it's a worthy one. There are one or two things I think it could've (perhaps should've) done differently, but its effective. Also, as I said about Bad Education: I do like to see the importance of journalism put on display.

Escape From New York
Honestly, this movie is pretty boring. Not unlike Blade Runner (which came out the following year), I get why it's Important in terms of its genre, but I kept waiting for it to be something else. However, Kurt Russell's look in this movie consists of: skintight pants, a tank top, knee-high boots, an eyepatch and long, feathered hair. So, there's that.

The Thing
The second in a Kurt Russell/John Carpenter double-feature. I loved this one. One of my favorite things is when a (typically '80s) movie goes completely off the wall with over-the-top, weird, gross practical effects. It brings me a visceral joy. This one doesn't hold back, and I was grinning basically the whole time. Practical effects forever, y'all.

Rewatch: Batman Forever.  I'm so serious when I say this is my favorite Batman movie.

RewatchBatman & Robin. Is this movie "good"? Not exactly. Does it deserve to only have a 3.7 on IMDb? No! People need to watch more bad movies because this one is actually fine and, more importantly, features Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy.

I also watched some TV this month, I'm sure, but I honestly didn't keep track. I also read some (but not enough) of The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

My May in Media

The Half of It
I thought this movie would be cute but underwhelming – but it really surprised me. The yearning! The depth! It had a lot going on, but it handled it well. Also, Leah Lewis' voice is really cool and they played "Flame" by Controller, so bonus points.

Rewatch: Everybody Wants Some!! Still love it but now I just tune out the Blake Jenner parts even more than before.

Juliet, Naked
I kept putting off watching this movie because I go back and forth about Ethan Hawke, but it was really nice! Rose Byrne is consistently delightful, no matter which accent she uses, and it had more going on than the average rom-com/rom-dram. I was surprised it brought up bigger things like the dangers of hero worship and whether art belongs to the artist or the fans once it's out in the world.

This film was undeniably raw and emotional, but it didn't quite hit me like I thought it would. Not really sure why.

Rewatch: Dazed & Confused. Iconic.

Kate & Leopold
This movie is about a duke from the 1800s who gets transported to "present day New York City," which at the time was 2001. I felt a bit out of time myself as I watched Meg Ryan desperately search for her Palm Pilot (but not know what a stylus is called) and send a fax. But listen: Hugh Jackman is literally always charming and perhaps never more so than as a bewildered British-accented nobleman in love with Meg Ryan and her Shane McCutcheon haircut.

Bad Education
This movie was so good! I'm a sucker for a movie about journalism making a difference, but even without my bias, I would've loved it. Fascinating story, great execution, Hugh Jackman is terrific. If we have awards shows (LOL), I wouldn't be surprised to see this at least get some nomination love.

RewatchBetter Watch Out, Still liked but definitely not as much as the first time.

Rewatch: Phantom Thread. Liked it even more this time.

Patton Oswalt: I Love Everything
I've liked all of Patton's specials that I've seen, including this one. There was one joke that made me wince and brought my overall experience down a bit, but I laughed out loud a lot and one part was surprisingly touching.

Red Eye
I liked this movie so much! It's well-plotted, where every detail ends up important. It's extremely tense, Cillian Murphy is very creepy and Rachel McAdams is great as the heroine, a Final Girl of sorts with a little Sidney Prescott in her.

From the years 2013-2015, I would tell basically anyone who would listen that Miles Teller should be one of Hollywood's next leading men – and I hadn't even seen Whiplash! This movie just confirmed to me what I've always known: There's star quality in Teller. (And, obviously, J.K. Simmons is fantastic, all the time.)

Trevor Noah: Son of Patricia
This made me laugh a lot and, perhaps more importantly, Trevor’s voice is very nice.

This was one of those movies where it's like, "Are these people friends though?? Seems like they want to murder each other." It was incredibly stressful, both because I was confused and because of some of the filmmaking and writing decisions. It was definitely engaging and not altogether bad, but I didn't enjoy watching it.

The Lovebirds
Meh, the plot of this movie is kind-of whatever, but Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae are charming as a couple who’ve been together long enough to know each other’s quirks, for better and for worse.

Children of the Corn
I thought this movie would be terrible, but it mostly isn't! For about 80% of the movie, it's actually pretty ok, nowhere near as corny (pun intended) as I expected. And then, suddenly, it was much cornier than I expected.

Rewatch: Hannah Gadsby: Nanette. Still one-of-a-kind.

Hannah Gadsby: Douglas
There was no way Hannah could do something else like Nanette because possibly no one every will. Douglas reminds you that before she tricked you last time, she made you laugh a lot. She does it again here – and also manages to teach you some more art history.

Rewatch: Easy A. A masterpiece.

Uncut Gems
I was told that this movie was going to be extremely stressful to watch but actually, in terms of "stressful Adam Sandler movies," Punch-Drunk Love caused me much greater anxiety. This is a unique movie, engaging and surprising. At times, Sandler completely disappears into the role.

River's Edge
I didn't really like this movie, but not for the reasons I expected. It was apparently very ~controversial~ when it came out because of how apathetic its characters are – but I thought it was pretty boring and try-hard. Keanu though, beautiful as always.

Mommy Dead and Dearest
Another fairly boring watch. I was curious if there was any reason to watch the documentary about Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee Blanchard having already seen The Act. The verdict: Nope. The miniseries tells the same story even more thoroughly.

This month in attempts: Intolerable Cruelty, which is intentionally screwball but I just couldn't deal with it. Phantasm, which I thought I could appreciate in a "LOL, '70s horror is silly way" but it was too silly.

Also, we're all just watching a lot of TV right now, right? This month, I...
  • Watched all of Netflix's Never Have I Ever (Mindy Kaling, I love you) and HBO's Atlanta's Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children (horrifying).
  • Rewatched season one of Dead to Me before devouring season two. I'm still obsessed with its dark comedy, Death Becomes Her-ish vibes. It reminds me a lot of my beloved Santa Clarita Diet (RIP).
  • Started watching but fell off of Apple+'s Home Before Dark (comforting in a "kid mystery" kind-of way; think Goosebumps, So Weird) and Netflix's Hollywood (LOL, Murphy). Also watched the first three episodes of HBO Max's Love Life, which isn't actually very good but I intend to watch all of.
  • Finished watching FX-on-Hulu's Mrs. America, which managed to make 1970s politics interesting and have a credit sequence you don't want to skip. I'm sad to see it end.
I also read a lot in May? It's amazing the media you consume when you only leave your house to go to H-E-B.

  • I finished Kiley Reid's Such a Fun Age, which ended up more interesting than the first half would've had me believe. I blame watching the Little Fires Everywhere series for most of my comparisons (though I wasn't exactly wrong), and this book ultimately tackled racism on an even more microscopic level.
  • I read my first Meg Cabot book, Size 12 is Not Fat, which was very silly and fun.
  • I read Lock Every Door by Riley Sager in less than 24 hours and now intend to read all of Sager's books. (Final Girls was bananas.)
  • Now reading: The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. The book cover is even better than the title.

And here's my Spring 2020 playlist. It's been a horrible season, but at least there's music.

Friday, May 1, 2020

My April in Media

I don't typically play video games (sorry, Animal Crossing), so what else is there to do but watch things?

Here's what I engaged with during one of the strangest months of my life:

Desperately Seeking Susan
I watched this for Madonna's clothes, which is as good a reason as any to watch something. It's not a great movie, but it's pretty fun and very '80s in the good way. Definitely better than Who's That Girl and nowhere near as good as A League of Their Own. Also, Aidan Quinn is an even bigger babe in this than Practical Magic.

The Lobster
Ok. So. Everyone said this movie was so weird is but I honestly expected it to be weirder. The thing that annoyed me about this movie is that I was very intrigued by the concepts its trailer sold – and that's the movie you get for about the first half. Then it turns into something else, something way less interesting. If it had followed through with its original storyline, to really any ending, I think I would've liked the film more overall. As it stands, I was underwhelmed.

Young Guns
I'd always wanted to see this because it seemed like it would be fun and incredibly My Thing (Brat Pack-adjacent '80s stars in a western? I mean, c'mon). But it was mostly meh. The music, in particular, was a total mess. However, Kiefer Sutherland's hair was very good.

Lady Macbeth
This was pretty good! A simmering period thriller that's similar to a few others, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I also haven't seen Florence Pugh give an even mediocre performance. She's really very good.

It Chapter Two
LOL, this movie is awful. The first one is so good! This one is...I spent the entire time feeling like I was having a fever dream? Like, "What is this movie...even doing??" I felt like I was being Punk'd or something. The more I think about it, the funnier I find the whole thing, which I guess could have been the intention, but I really don't think it was. An entire mess.

It Comes At Night
Meh? There wasn't really anything wrong with this movie and it had me interested the whole time – but I wanted it to do more. I wanted more to happen. It's perfectly fine, but I think it had the potential to be really good. I also have no idea why the title is what it is.

Never Goin' Back
When it comes to A24 movies, I'm more of a fan of the coming-of-age half and I liked this one. After growing up with movies like American Pie and Superbad, I support media that lets girls be just as ridiculous and gross as boys (see also: Blockers, Pen15). This movie is raunchy, icky, funny and sweet – not unlike being a teenage girl.

Punch-Drunk Love
I'm still trying to process if I liked this movie. Story-wise, it's a little disjointed but mostly not bad. And performance-wise, Adam Sandler does a great job of playing a sadder, indie version of an Adam Sandler Character. But the "music" stressed me out so much. The effect is definitely intentional and anxiety-inducing music does appear to be a PTA Hallmark– but it altered my entire viewing experience. Without the "music" (calling it that is extremely generous), I might be able to definitely say "I liked that movie." Instead, I'm like, "I think I liked it? But it also made me feel like I was going to die."

Won't You Be My Neighbor?
I liked this so much. I'd heard great things and, obviously, everyone likes Mr. Rogers even if you didn't grow up watching him (I did not). But it was even better than I thought it would be. I think it was also a classic case of watching something at just the right time. I'd had this documentary in my HBO Now watchlist for years – but watching something about a compassionate man who wanted to make the world better at a time when the world feels especially bad was an extremely comforting experience.

The Ritual
Not bad! The ending is a little like they went "oops, the movie is over now!!" but otherwise, it was engaging and unique. Proof that slow and steady doesn't have to mean boring.

There Will Be Blood
Speaking of slow and steady, I made my boyfriend happy and agreed to watch There Will Be Blood – and I actually liked it a lot. A movie has to be really good to warrant being over two hours and while this movie could definitely be shorter, it utilizes most of its material. It's also just a good movie. Good screenplay, good cinematography, (mostly) good score and great performances by both Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano. I don't like admitting when Filmbros are right (they rarely are), but I have to give them this one.

On to the short films. In March, Tim and I held a DIY SXSW Music Festival, where he curated a YouTube playlists of sets by artists he likes who were supposed to play at this year's festival. In late April, Prime and SX partnered to release some SXSW Film Festival selections, so this time, I curated our DIY festival. I watched the first four of these shorts by myself earlier in the day but we watched 14 together. (Bonus: 11/18 were directed by women! Good job, SX.)

Hiplet: Because We Can
This short focuses on a Chicago-based group of women who do hip-hop dance on pointe shoes. It's exactly as cool and complex as it sounds. I'd watch more about these ladies in a heartbeat.

A Period Piece
This short – about a couple that ends up fighting in the middle of period sex "because" blood gets on the woman's couch – is an intentionally uncomfortable watch that makes you question why you're uncomfortable. It's very well-acted and the tension between the couple, like a lot of small human moments, is about one thing on the surface and several others underneath.

I really loved this weird film, which is ultimately about how all-consuming motherhood is. It made me laugh and also low-key terrified me. Plus, a lot of the men on Letterboxd don't seem like they enjoyed it, so bonus.

I loved this short, about a woman with one arm who's pissed she's been set up on a blind date with a man who has one hand. It has a great opening, a great final moment and it made me laugh out loud more than once. It reminded me of Young Adult – a bit of a rom-com but not really, with a lead who's too mean to be pitied. In this case, that's exactly what she's going for.

Quilt Fever
This documentary short isn't bad and it was nice to see people doing something they really care about and to get a glimpse into a world I know nothing about. But I feel like it missed some good filmmaking opportunities – cool shots that could've been taken, digging deeper into characters, things like that.

This film's is described on Prime as a "very, very, very short film about a dumb lil' ho doing lil' ho things." At less than four minutes, it manages to tell a full story, complete with a twist. Not bad.

Modern Whore
In this film, a former escort sheds light on escort review board culture and its complexities post-#MeToo. It's an important story that would be worth a watch no matter how it was told, but it's done in a hybrid format unlike anything I've seen before. Definitely not your average documentary.

Face To Face Time
This film didn't do anything wrong necessarily, but I still didn't like. I think maybe a little more background on the characters would've helped.

Lions in the Corner
To decrease gun and knife violence in his community, a convicted felon created a fight club in his backyard where men can work out their differences in a controlled environment. It's a very intriguing premise that definitely lends itself to engaging visual storytelling. What's more visual than a physical fight?

I have no idea what happened in this film. It hooked me, then lost me.

This one had some good things going for it, but it ultimately felt like a Black Mirror episode I've seen before (two, actually: a little "San Junipero," a little "Striking Vipers") and it needed more time to pack the emotional punch it wanted to.

Even for a short, this felt too long. Casey Wilson (who also wrote and directed) and Michael McKean have good chemistry and there's a sparkle of something good in the story of a father and a daughter who have (bi)polar opposite reactions to their wife/mother's death – but I just didn't care enough.

Loved this one. A fascinating oddball story that could only be told in film – and the cinematography is killer (pun intended).

Broken Orchestra
Ugh, ok. This is the type of documentary short that wins awards because it tells a story in a super unconventional way. And the story is a good one, definitely worth telling. It'd make a great article (and it probably did). But if you're going to visually tell a story about broken instruments, an orchestra performance and children being literally handed the fruits of a labor of love, you need to show those things. This film doesn't and that didn't make sense to me. (It should be noted, I included this film because it's about Philadelphia, where Tim lives, and he really liked it.)

This one had a lot going on – too much for how short it is. There was something good in there, but I had too many questions.

Still Wylde
Oh, man. I felt all the emotions watching this film about a horrible and common situation that no one talks about. I'm not going to spoil it because you should just watch it.

I didn't care for this for personal reasons that prove it did exactly what it meant to: show what it's like to be young, living with an adult who does things you don't understand.

It's very predictable, but it's also pretty fun. A tongue-in-cheek horror-comedy that wants you to know it knows you've seen Black Mirror.

This month in rewatches: Colossal (still like it a lot but a little less than I did). This month in attempts: Moonstruck (I wanted to be into it, y'all, but I just couldn't make it happen).

I've also been bingeing Schitt's Creek and trying to make it last because it's delightful; basking in the glow of High Maintenance and Better Things, two of the best shows on television right now; and occasionally comfort-watching King of the Hill and Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. I also finished all of Little Fires Everywhere and watched all of Netflix's Interior Design Masters in one evening because that's how things are going.

It wasn't all watching things. I raced through Saeed Jones' memoir How We Fight For Our Lives, which was quietly devastating (one line made me audibly gasp). I followed that with The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland, an odd book about journalism, ethics and humanity. It made me feel weird and introspective, which I didn't really prefer experiencing right now but which is always good to experience. Currently reading: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, which reminds me a lot (maybe too much) of Little Fires Everywhere.

I've also been writing a lot this month? Not just my movie nonsense I write here and not just the writing I obviously do every day at work, but journaling regularly and even writing a little fiction. I wrote two short stories in one day. Quarantine Britny has more in common with 10-year-old Britny than I expected.