Everything I’ve Watched and Read Lately

Black Monday – This show’s throwaway lines are funnier than the entire build-up and payoff of most other half-hour comedies. I love Don Cheadle’s streamlined energy, his near god-like plotting, I love the tectonic rumblings in Regina Hall’s eyes, I love Andrew Rannells’s cartoonish Tim Robbins flailing. I love this show.

A Fortunate Life – Is this book an Australian classic or completely obscure? I have no idea. But I wish more people did what Facey did, and believed their lives worthy of examination without feeling the need to bluster on about it. He writes with such clarity and honesty that the setting of his childhood – the wheatfields of WA in the early 20th century – is both novel and completely relatable, like an old photo that accidentally caught someone in a laugh. His experiences as a child laborer and a soldier in Gallipoli are burned into my brain.

Pen15 – I’m glad my peer group is finally old enough to produce their own television, because this was the first time I’ve ever seen such a *perfect* rendition of my adolescence. Every other teen/preteen show set in this time (or any time really), has the problem of making every 13 year old too hot, too well-spoken, too interesting. We were dumb and had dumb haircuts and were addicted to AOL Instant Messenger, okay? Get over it.

Fleabag the Theatre Show – Not as funny as the TV series, but I guess I watched them in the wrong order.

The Lighthouse – I appreciate that you never fully know if Tom is fucking with Winslow, or if Winslow is a fully mad bat. Reminded me of Three Skeleton Key, Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, there’s a lot of lore folded in, in addition to all the direct references to Greek mythology. I’m just not sure…why.

Weird City – It’s okay.

Trainwreck – I loved the scene where character-Amy gets a panic attack and writer-Amy takes the piss out of the trope of women forgetting to eat things. I also hate how pop culture equates food with indolence, hunger with virtue. There’s a lot to say about the intense upper middle class-ness of Judd Apatow productions, but that’s another essay. I still love him. I love Amy Schumer.

Call My By Your Name – I would have been much more emotionally affected by this movie if I knew what Elio saw in Oliver. Oliver is so twatty. Maybe that’s what teenagers like. Is there a reason it was such a smash hit? The film was fantastic at creating sexual tension but had all those kind of heinous medium wide-shots and stilted dialogue that is the affectation of old European movies that I am supposed to love. I liked it just fine, but that’s about it.

Fleabag the TV Show – I love how she deepened the second season by creating a meta-narrative around her fourth-wall breaking. I never thought much about Andrew Scott before but the hot priest romance gave me more feelings (hot feelings) than I have felt in a very long time.

The Golem and the Djinni – Very readable but about 200 pages too long.

Barry – I had a period of madness where I was completely obsessed with Barry. I find my attraction to this character pretty problematic to say the least, but god if Bill Hader doesn’t infuse him with this kind of luminous vulnerability, even as he cycles in and out of numb brutality. He’s a bad person. He’s definitely a bad person, right? His motivations are no more valorous or justified than anyone else who kills. But we, the audience, reject seeing him as bad because we see everything through his eyes. Evil is nearly always an external framework isn’t it? Everyone has their reasons.

Feel Good – I’ve got a crush on Mae, so I guess it’s true what she said about attracting the straights. A very funny, cute, sad, short binge. Affecting and wonderful.

Sherlock Holmes (all stort stories and books) – The uniqueness of Holmes would have a hard time finding air today. We seem to be collectively infatuated with brilliant psychos – Frank Underwood, Walter White, the Joker, El Chapo, etc. etc.

But what about a brilliant semi-normal? A man who is neither malevolent nor benevolent, is not a womaniser, is not ‘on the spectrum’, but is also not any version of a loveable goof? Not a Columbo, not a Monk, not even a daytime procedural.

Sherlock Holmes, sounds, from this description, like nothing at all. But before we tried to cram him into a Cumberbatch or Downey Jr.-shaped hole, he was a sparking, complex, entirely unique character. He certainly had some feeling for victims. But he was primarily motivated by the puzzle. He respected law enforcement but deferred to a deeper justice. He understood human behavior to the extent the he could portray anyone (‘the stage has lost what law enforcement has gained in Holmes’) and sense emotional minutia, but he preferred his own company and Watson’s, almost exclusively. He was a real dick to Watson’s on a number of occasions, but honestly didn’t have trouble expressing his love either. In short, he was a pretty real person, and that’s what the written Holmes offers that screen versions seem to stumble over.

Dexter – I had only watched a few of the most spoilery episodes in the Dexter canon when my husband and I decided to watch the whole thing from the start. Why? We don’t know. The show was obviously off the rails by the last few seasons, but despite everything, it was exactly the kind of evening entertainment we craved. Saucy and a little cheap but also with enough meat on the characters to keep us interested. I think I was only watching for Deb in the end.

Yes, the finale was famously bad, but it was consistent with the trash heap that proceeded it. And after reading a few interviews with the show runner and EP, I finally understood why. They believed that the sun shone out of Dexter’s ass and were determined to bend every character to feel that was too, despite his extreme selfishness and increasing carelessness. Why did his colleagues continue to back him and vouch for him when all he ever offered them were wooden scowls and snark? When he was inexplicably MIA for almost all of every workday and made Masuka pick up his slack? How is this asshole not fired yet?

And Deb, he put her in the worst situation imaginable and from her hospital bed, her guts lightly blended by a bullet, she was like “You know what? don’t worry about it. I’m sorry for ruining your plans to escape with your murderer girlfriend who also tried to kill me.” And in his flashback while he’s remembering Deb, they are standing in front of his prop baby and she’s all “You’re the best Dexter, let me just talk about it for five minutes.” Nothing about how Deb is the best, even though she’s the only one tethering this show to someone we care about.

Hell, I even feel bad for Hannah, who is boring and awful, for being unexpectedly saddled with Dexter’s son in a foreign country, forever. Then again, maybe that’s the punishment she deserves.

The writers said that Dexter being hunted and caught by his own police department was too ‘pedestrian’ so they made everyone he worked with a complete idiot. That’s bending reality to fit your own motive guys that’s bad.

But I think what kept me watching, and so many other intense viewers watching, is the feeling that, underneath that murk, this could have been pwpa really brilliant show. That, and the 2006 bootcut cargo murder pants really did it for for me.

Better Call Saul – This show is pure craft. I did have to push through the first season, but am very glad I did. Pam is Dexter’s Deb, I just want to be her. Can I be a lawyer and a cop too?

The Skeleton Twins – Watched because I was on a Bill Hader kick. With Kristen Wiig, it basically couldn’t fail. It was sweet and charming, but kind of unrounded, floaty, maybe relying on easy archetypes a little much. Still, it was fun and nice and fine.

The Florida Project – I’ve been really intrigued by Sean Baker lately. I missed the boat on Tangerine, but I want to go watch that and cover all the other ground I missed. I am actually gobsmacked at how he got those performances out of non-actor children. If anyone else has seen it, I’d like to talk about about the ending.

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