60 Books In 2019 #34: The Princess And The Fangirl By Ashley Poston

If I had one complaint about the adorable and great Geekerella it was that it was about a very specific branch of fandom, and glorified gatekeeping a little too hard. (I’m not a big fan of “the actors playing a nerd role has to be a fan of the franchise” as a casting ethos.) Which is why it’s really fun that Ashley Poston dug into the dirtier side of things for The Princess And The Fangirl.

Jessica Stone is sick of Starfield, which she took as a job, not a lifestyle choice, and Imogen is a true blue nerd girl. Their passing resemblance and their accidental crossing paths at Excelsicon leads to a scheme that will give Jess the weekend off, and Imogen the chance to save the character of Princess Amara from an epic fridging. (The conversation around fridging in this book was fabulous.)

Jess learns to see the lighter side of fandom, as she spends time with fans, rather than just hearing the voices that have harassed and criticized her for a year, and Imogen realizes that she and her friends have been very unfair to another human being who just isn’t as into their thing as they are.

There’s a touching take on Carrie Fisher’s story here (Jess’s interactions with her predecessor, who’s moved on from acting to be a quirky Hollywood insider and script doctor) tons of nerd references, and two super fun love stories (One of them queer!). Dare and Elle show up too, though this isn’t about them. (Imogen barely cares about The Magic Pumpkin though all of her friends are really really into the vegan tacos.)

I’m really enjoying the Once Upon A Con series, and look forward to the third, whenever it comes. Goodreads tells me it will be Beauty And The Beast, and I’m guessing it will center on Calvin, the last of the Starflight trio.

Up next is Dune Road by Jane Green, because I think I need some sad white lady at the beach reading. It’s been a while.

Advertisements

The Original Gods

I’m in the minority of people who actually really enjoyed Gareth Edward’s Godzilla, it’s not a good movie, but it’s a watchable one and the Godzilla parts are great. The human parts are terrible. Just terrible.

That trend continues in it’s sequel, the deeply silly compulsively fun Godzilla: King Of The Monsters.

Since Godzilla emerged from the sea in 2014, Monarch, the secret military group, has been hunting other “titans,” in hopes of studying and controlling them. Vera Farmiga plays their top scientist who has invented a doohickey that emits sonic freqeuncies that calm the beasts. She’s married to Kyle Chandler who is also a Godzilla scientist. Their son was killed in the 2014 attack and their daughter, Millie Bobby Brown, now follows her mom around learning all about Kaiju.

Charles Dance plays an eco terrorist who wants to destroy human kind with Kaiju, I think? Vera Farmiga’s team is made up of Ken Wattanabe, Bradley Witford, Thomas Middleditch and Zhang Zhiyi. Their military arm includes O’Shea Jackson Jr. and Anthony Ramos. Senator CCH Pounder wants to shut them down.

I am obsessed with this cast and they were in way too much of this movie. This is a movie about Godzilla and King Ghedera fighting. And also Mothra and Rodan fighting. I really don’t care about Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga’s marital problems when there is monster fighting to see.

The monster fighting is glorious. It’s also hella dumb. But in the best way. I haven’t watched Kong: Skull Island, but I understand it’s in the same vein.

Just, like, Americans are bad the people part of Godzilla, maybe we should stop trying and just watch the monsters fight now.

Rankings:

  1. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  2. Avengers: Endgame
  3. Rocketman
  4. Detective Pikachu
  5. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters

Trailers:

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: God, it looks good, I’m really really looking forward to it.

The Kitchen: *exhale* I hope they ALL GET ALL THE NOMINATIONS for that movie, it looks spectacular. (And I have every intention of reading the GN)

 

60 Books in 2019 #33: I Like To Watch: Arguing My Way Through The TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum

I feel deeply priviledged to have come of age the same time as an art form. Television began hitting it’s brilliant artistic stride as I entered my teens, and since I was raised in a TV house I was able to witness much of it. (Not all, my mother’s strictures against the “inappropriate” barred much material until I got to college) My dad once smiled wryly at my siblings and I, “You all feel about your shows how we felt about our bands.”

I only made the connection this weekend as I read Emily Nussbaum’s essay collection I Like To Watch that of course we do. We came of age with TV as my parents did with Rock and Roll. We’re defensive of the things we like. (Mary jokes that I “get yelly” when people try to claim Lost as the beginning of something. It was the breakthrough but Buffy and Alias did the hard work.) (Also X-Files) Like TV: The Book last year, I couldn’t wait to get this one in my hand. I was less familiar with Nussbaum’s work than Sepinwall and Zoeler-Seitz, (Both name checked here) because she writes for the hoity toity New Yorker, rather than the rabbly Vulture and AV Club where I go for my TV coverage, but I still know her work. She’s also not a recapper, which is what I knew the guys from.

Her defense of Sex And The City is actually my favorite piece of criticism ever, so there’s that. (It’s included in the book and was rapturously wonderful to read again.) I’m also just trying, with the limited dollars and time that I have to support the idea of TV criticism as valid. I love television. I love that it’s being taken as seriously as film now. (I love movies too, but not like I love TV.) Nussbaum’s essays are stunning in their clarity and research. I disagree with her on several points, she’s far too dismissive of Amy Sherman-Palladino and Aaron Sorkin for me, and thinks that the changes in Weeds post season 3 were “bold” and “reinvigorating,” rather than “absurd” and “ultimately fruitless.” (my preferred adjectives.)

I knew I’d be engrossed in the book though when she opened it with a spirited discussion of getting hooked on Buffy through the largely execrable season 1 episode “The Pack.” (It is a truly odious one, some of the worst, “High School Is Hell” pandering of the first few seasons. You know how I hate those WB genre puberty metaphors.) But the main section could have been expanded to a book on it’s own.

A nearly 50 page essay about grappling with her love for Woody Allen’s movies and Louis CK’s TV shows in the wake of Me Too, is a staggeringly personal look at separating art from artist, the way art gets inside of you and how to separate it out when it’s revealed as filthy or wrong in retrospect (it felt trenchant for me this weekend having rewatched Gone With The Wind on Friday and being enraptured all over again despite my woker instincts shouting “IT’S BAD! WITH THE SLAVERY! AND THE MARITAL RAPE! AND THE LIONIZING OF THE KLAN!”) is a beautiful piece of writing. She grapples with Cosby as well, but admits he was never inside of her the way Woody and Louis were, so it’s more of a footnote.

The three profiles she includes are also interesting, Kenya Barris (black-ish) Jenji Kohan (Weeds, Orange Is The New Black) and Ryan Murphy (RYAN MURPHY) deep dives into three very different artists using the medium in fabulously different ways. (Can one even compare Dre Johnson to Nancy Botwin to Andrew Cunahan?) For a work about TV by a female critic, I think there’s woefully little talk about Shonda, she covers Scandal in comparison to House of Cards (Hey! I did that) (Twice in fact) and Shonda is mentioned in all three profiles.

I did adore the book though. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of serious conversation about TV. It’s just a deeply unlikely think to happen.

Up next is The Princess And The Fangirl which is the companion book to Geekerella. Back into the YA breach, at least temporarily.

60 Books in 2019 #32: The Bird King By G. Willow Wilson

G. Willow Wilson was one of those amazing women who I found smiling with their arms wide open as I allowed myself to pass through gates of fandom. She and Sana Amanat gave us Kamala Khan, and thank God for it. So when I noticed The Bird King sitting casually in the New Releases section of my library I snatched it quickly off the shelf.

The first hundred or so pages of the book play out as an engrossing bit of historical fiction (with hints at magical realism), Fatima is a concubine in the household of the last Sultan of Grenada, as Queen Isabella’s armies close in on the city. Fatima is beautiful, willful, a bit naive and very sad. She’s friend with Hassan, the royal mapmaker, who’s talents are possibly more than they seem, and who enjoys the company of men.

When Isabella sends diplomats to treat for peace, Fatima and Hassan find themselves in the crosshairs of Baronesa Luz, who’s the representative of The Inquisition. (As a Catholic, the Inquisition always makes me shudder, one of the darkest of the dark chapters of the faith I love so much. And there are a lot of them.) She learns of Hassan and part of the peace treaty is handing him over as a sorcerer, Fatima risks her own life and comfort to get him out of the palace, and on their way out, they encounter Vikram, a jinn, and then the world cracks wide open.

As the pair run for their lives, they remember a legend of a hidden island, where the King Of Birds lives, and make that their destination. Hassan draws the map and their quest begins.

Hidden magical islands are a wonderful dreamy part of mythology that seem to always persist, and as it turns out, Fatima and Hassan’s island is all of them at once. And the legends that surround it are all true, and the ending twist is such a wonder that I can’t give it away here.

I’ve reiterated a hundred times that I love stories about stories, and I love religious discussion about why faith is how it is even more than that. Wilson is a Muslim and everytime I read her writing about devotion it touches my heart. The Bird King often reads like a love letter to God, to the God who I’ve felt wrap me up in warmth and love more times than I can remember. But it’s also about stories and the ways that cultures take the same stories and change them, and the way that truth and fact aren’t always the same.

I really, really liked this book, but it’s a slow starter, be warned. But once it opens up, it’s beautiful.

Up next is I Like To Watch: Arguing My Way Through The TV Revolution by Emily Nussbaum. More television criticism! I’m going to pick up these books whenever I find them. That’s for sure.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions

The Clone Wars’ belated final season, released on Netflix, rather than the series original home of Cartoon Network is kind of an odd duck. It’s painfully brief. (13 episodes) It only covers 4 stories (though they’re all pretty strong) and resolves nothing.

To be fair, it’s hard to offer resolution in Clone Wars it’s meant to be a bridge, the resolution comes in Revenge Of The Sith, but there are seeds planted here that don’t even reach full fruit until The Last Jedi, whether that was “that plan,” (I doubt it, Kathy Kennedy, for all her brilliance is not Kevin Feige, she’s more adaptable than he.) or just some thematic resonance that makes sense because narrative is inherently structured no matter how hard you try to deconstruct it Rian Johnson, (I have many many critical thoughts about The Last Jedi, but we’re still a few months away from that discussion!) I’m interested in the question.

The first arc revolves around Tup and Fives discovering that there’s extra programming in the clones, that could make them turn on their commanders. Their advanced knowledge of Order 66 gets them killed, and leads to Rex deprogramming himself. (We don’t know this yet, of course.)

The second is Padme discovering that her shitty ex boyfriend is playing both sides because he’s shitty. Also she and Anakin discuss divorce. I don’t really care for this arc, but that’s because I have limited emotional investment in Padme and Anakin’s relationship and even less in her ambivalence to her shitty ex boyfriend.

The third arc involves Jar-Jar and Mace Windu fighting an evil force cult and it’s awesome which you would never expect to say about a Jar-Jar arc, but it explores the nature of the force and what it means to those again, outside The Jedi/Sith binary. I can’t believe how central this idea has become to the franchise but I sort of love the work out it gets in this series.

The final arc was the one I remembered, which is Yoda talks to ghosts. This is the one that I think really comes through in Last Jedi. After learning that Jedi Master Sipho Dios isn’t dead, or is he? Yoda goes on a vision quest to learn how to commune with the dead. He does so by talking to some embodiments of emotions in kabuki masks and Darth Bane, the first Sith, voiced by Mark Hamill. Hearing Hamill bring the menace he’s perfected in his voice over the years to an argument with Frank Oz’s Yoda is delightful.

But overall, it becomes clear that Yoda knows the order has lost it’s way. That he continues to fight is out of habit, he knows he has to destroy the Sith, but the old was have to go with that destruction. It’s resignation.

I’m glad I rewatched Clone Wars even if it felt overwhelming at times. Revisiting isn’t a think I do as much lately (the point of Nerd Homework after all was to break me out of the cycle of rewatching I’d found) especially not critically, and I was glad to do it here. The show is a wonder of writing and action. (Even if the animation is not to my taste, exactly) It deepens the lore and scope of this world, and, probably, as I watch Revenge Of The Sith later, it will make me feel deeper about that movie too.

Next week we’ll talk about Revenge Of The Sith, yes, we’re back to movies at least for a few weeks. Which is a relief for the rest of my watch schedule to be frank.

Nerd Homework: Arrow-Verse Catch Up (Minus Arrow)

On Saturday, Juli’s daughter celebrated her first birthday, and I sat around catching up with old friends, and when one asked what I was watching these days, I responded by saying I was chasing my truly epic dive into Supernatural with catching up on the Arrow-verse, except not Arrow.

Chrissy laughed at that, “I love that you’ll do things for your blog that are inconvenient but you draw the line at catching up on Arrow because of your principles.” (Those principles, by the way are Arrow kind of sucks. Except Diggle. We like Diggle.)

There is by the way, nothing inconvenient about catching up on the other three Arrow-verse shows this season as Legends Of Tomorrow remains the best show on TV that no one is watching (and also the queerest), Supergirl did some damn revolutionary social commentary while still being fun, and The Flash managed to be the kind of sweet family drama it should have been all along while also recapturing the silly silver age fun that gave the first season it’s goodness.

Let’s start with those rascally Legends. Sara and the gang on the Waverider are hunting magical creatures and John Constantine is leading the charge. Constantine is a character I have some trouble with. I actually love him in a team setting, or when he pops up to tell other characters to back off because this is mystical and they’re in over their heads, but I’ve never fully bought into him solo. Matt Ryan is awesome, playing him and him getting crossed over here I think bodes well especially as The Crisis looms, and worlds will be consolidated. (I am speaking of course, of Dick Grayson popping up other places.) (Obviously.) (I JUST WANT KARA AND DICK TO TALK IN CIRCLES AROUND EACH OTHER, AND NEVER ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THEY KNOW WHO THE OTHER IS I DON’T THINK THAT’S TOO MUCH TO ASK BERLANTI!) Meanwhile, Nate and Ray’s bromance is so strong it can excorcise demons, Ava and Sara appear to be endgame, Zari’s been erased from the timeline and Mick’s writing career is going splendidly. Also, “Legends of To-Meow-Meow” is a truly wonderful episode of TV, where Zari is a cat. Also, this season has like so many musical numbers. This show is so goddamned weird, and wonderful and special and GAY AS FUCK.

Supergirl, offered an incredible breath of fresh air with a theme that I couldn’t have anticipated them doing particularly well. Taking on Xenophobia and immigration with aliens as a metaphor was a huge risk and my God it paid off. I eventually came around on Brainiac 5. (Though WINN! How I miss him) Nia Nal, the first transgender superhero on TV was a wonder, and Nicole Maine is wonderfully adorable. Alex and James and J’onn are steady centers for the show but remain a tad bit cyphery these days, and the woman at the top, Melissa Benoit remains stunningly stunningly good as Kara Danvers/Zor-El, and this year, as Red Daughter as well. And this season’s villains, Manchester Black, Ben Lockwood AKA Agent Liberty and Lex Frigging Luthor made the whole enterprise even better. Lockwood was played by Sam Witwer, who I’m having kind of a moment with right now. (Might even circle back to Being Human which I remember quite a bit.) He was tragic, terrifying and a lot of fun. But oh boy did the season belong to the big cheese.

Lex Luthor is probably the greatest supervillain of all, or at least the most well known. And John Cryer brought him, his particular brand of ego maniacal malice and obsession to life flawlessly.

Then there’s The Flash. The Flash is probably the most frustrating of any of the Arrow-verse shows, the beginning of the spin off experiment with a really killer first season and fantastic cast, that just kind of fell apart after that. Season 5 does some strong work to bring things back. Nora Allen, Iris and Barry’s daughter from the future is a welcome presence and the mystery behind  her motives to travel back is an intriguing season long mystery. The Big Bad, Cicada is less compelling. He’s a serial killer that goes after metas! Revolutionary, I know. At least he’s not a speedster. But I was overall just sucked in here.

I really wanted to push to complete the season because next season we get Crisis On Infinite Earths, while I doubt this will reach the epic scales of the actual comic, I’m looking forward to how things move. With this being Arrow’s final season there’s a lot of possibility on the table and I am genuinely considering getting caught up there. (We’ll see…)

So, yeah, that’s that. As for what’s next for Nerd Homework? I think I’m going to dive deeper into My Hero Academia. I started it with Aless a few weeks ago and I’d like to get caught up, and it’s been a minute since “Watch More Anime” dipped in. (Supernatural really dominated this year’s nerd homework.)

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Clone Wars Season 5

I have to admit I put off watching this season for a few reasons but mainly because I didn’t want to go through it’s ending. But the other arcs leading up the devastation are good too, so let’s talk about them first!

Ahsoka and Yoda and a Droid voiced by David Tennant teach a bunch of adorable Younglings to build lightsabers. Also Hondo is there and there’s a circus? I dunno, the Younglings are real cute though.

Maul and Savage team up with Death Watch to take over Mandalore, which is great on a few levels, because it gives Sam Witwer a lot to do, and isn’t he just the best? (We’ll talk even more about Witwer tomorrow friends, don’t you worry!) There’s also the small matter of Satine, and Maul’s vendetta against Obi-Wan, which of course, ends in the Duchess’s death. (The woman I love…)

The next step comes when a suicide bomber goes after the Jedi temple and Anakin and Ahsoka investigate the crime. Once the case is solved, Ahsoka gets wrapped up in the conspiracy and winds up thrown out of the Jedi order, and even when her name’s been cleared she decides to walk away.

That walking away is the fulcrum (HAH GET IT) of Ahsoka’s character. My favorite thing in all of clone wars is the way it plays with the people around Anakin being presented with similar situations to him, emotionally and choosing the more ethical and healthy paths. Obi-Wan chooses the order and his vows and commitment over Satine, Ahsoka leaves the Jedi behind rather than compromise her ideals. Anakin can’t do either of those things. He’s limited by his attachments, and can’t see beyond them.

I know this post was late, but I really was just not up for the emotions of Ahsoka’s walking away from Anakin, especially knowing what comes for them.

Next week we’ll cover “The Lost Missions,” which if I remember is mostly Yoda talking to ghosts? I mean, that’s super rad, so I’m looking forward to it.