Anyone Can Be Spider-Man

Spider-verse

I remember when I first encountered Miles Morales. I’d been around in the early days of Twitter and the #DonaldForSpiderMan thing. I’d been reading Ultimate Spider-Man on and off for a year or so, when suddenly, and without warning, the guy at the comic book store in Scranton, PA handed me a copy of the book and said, “No, you have to read this month’s, they killed Peter Parker.”

Even in my laregly neophyte shoes of those days, I knew that was big. Death stuck in Ultimate, that was part of the deal. Soon enough though, Peter Parker was replaced by a smart ass kid from Brooklyn. Half Black, half Latino, all heart. And most of us were smitten.

Slowly, because you know, comics, and pre Avengers comics at that, the rest of the world caught on to this kid, and he’s been creeping into the mainstream ever since. And Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is his coming out party.

And what a party it is. This movie has everything! Great animation, stunning action, a heartfelt coming of age story, great pizza jokes, meta humor coming out the wazoo, Batman jokes, two badass teenage girl co-leads, Lily Tomlin, a baller soundtrack, mecha robots, a Batman parody, Chris Pine singing, a scary scary villain and John Mulaney voices a pig!

DO NOT MISS THIS ONE SUPERHERO FANS. It’s doing well enough that it won’t be left behind to be whined over like Mask Of The Phantasm, but seriously, this movie is incredible and not to be missed, OK?

Post Credits: Spider-Man of 2099. So, yeah, there’s that.

Rankings!

  1. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
  2. The Incredibles 2
  3. Bohemian Rhapsody
  4. A Star Is Born
  5. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  6. Creed 2
  7. Deadpool 2
  8. Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!
  9. Ocean’s 8
  10. Infinity War
  11. Ant-Man And The Wasp
  12. Venom

Trailers:

The lack of a Captain Marvel trailer was concerning, but otherwise we got some good stuff here

Shazam! Holy Moly, this looks fun. While I am very much in love with Zachary Levi, the kid also looks great.

How To Train Your Dragon: The Lost World (or whatever): Shut up, you’re crying!

Wonder Park: This looks completely and utterly charming. I am down for animated movies about mothers and daughters being creative together.

 

2018 Favorites: An Unexpected List

Hey everyone! Happy (almost!) New Year! So, as promised here’s my list of favorite things from the past year. We’ll get going quickly, I have a few categories, I think it’ll go well.

Favorite Movie (Not Movie Season): Black Panther

I’ll get into movie season movies in a few days. (I have my tickets for the final three.) But in the rest of the year, I don’t think I loved anything the way I loved Black Panther. I saw it in theaters 3 times, a thing I don’t do often anymore, and bought it on Amazon Prime immediately (Another thing I don’t do much anymore.)

Favorite Old Show I Finally Got Around To Watching: Battlestar Galactica

I fill in a bunch of gaps this year, and while this was a toss up, between Battlestar and Deadwood, ultimately I had to go with the Space Opera, and for one reason alone. As much as I enjoyed Deadwood, I didn’t connect to any of those characters the way I did to Kara Thrace. You can check out my Facebook for my thoughts on Starbuck, I love her, I find  her hugely inspirational and wonderful.

Favorite Book I Read: The Witching Hour by Anne Rice

My God, I loved this book. I can’t stop thinking about this book. How sexy it is, how beautifully constructed, how twisted and dark and wonderful. Even it’s really really disappointing sequels (I’m into Taltos now, and it’s fine…) can’t tarnish the shine of how much I loved this book.

Favorite Current TV Show: The Good Place

Holy Mother Forking Shirtballs, you guys!

Friday night, Jess and I sighed about the show, and about how it just made us happy. The Good Place is funny, intelligent and kind, and with the way the world has felt like it was on fire all year, it was a beacon of light every Thursday night, and then Friday morning, when the conversations inevitably began. Plus The Good Place Podcast which gives a wonderful behind the scenes look at each episode. Seriously, The Good Place, y’all.

Favorite Thing I Rewatched And Fell Back In Love With: Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings extended editions

One weekend this summer, when I wasn’t feeling terribly well, I decided to watch The Lord Of The Rings, for some reason they weren’t streaming on any of my services so I was going to have to purchase them off Amazon. It was only a few extra dollars each to get the extended editions, and I think I’ve now watched them like five or six times. They’re nice to have on in the background, I usually watch them in chunks of an hour or two, making it more like binging a series than watching three epicily long movies and that’s a really fun way to revisit this series.

Favorite Broadway Show: Springsteen On Broadway

I saw a lot of theater this year, and I’m very grateful for that, but as I hinted  at earlier this week, nothing quite moved me the way that Springsteen On Broadway did. It’s something so special that discussing it feels moot. It’s just so good, I haven’t rewatched it on Netflix yet, although I’m sure that I will eventually, because revisiting this joyful piece of art will lift me up. A  love letter to his fans and to America, the carefully crafted one man show is The Boss at his broodiest and also possibly his best.

Unfinished Bussiness Being Pushed to 2019

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

Nerd Homework: Watch More Anime

Finish Reading Dune series 

Catch Up On The Flash

45 Books in 2018 Post Script #49: The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels In America

This will probably be the last book I review this year. (Though I’ll probably read at least 2 more before New Year’s.) My “favorites” will take up the next few days, most likely.

Anyway, I’m glad it’s this one, since given that list happening, Angels In America won’t get discussed again.

Which would not have been the case a few weeks ago. A few weeks ago, though, I hadn’t seen Springsteen On Broadway, so Angels had been the highlight of my theatrical year. Now, it’s not even “My favorite piece of theater I saw in 2018 that is a meditation on the character of America.” (And I saw Broadway shows that set out explicitly to this, because I also saw Hamilton again.)

The World Only Spins Forward is a lovely, thoughtful chronicling of the story of Angels In America, beginning with Tony Kushner’s poem written around Reagan’s second election, and ending with a the announcement of the 2017 National Theatre production’s transfer to New York.

My favorite thing about theater is that a play is a living organism, and that it’s communal. So telling the story of Angels as an oral history is not only necessary, but a potent reminder of that fact. The kids who bled for the Eureka, Julliard and NYU workshops, who were eulogizing their friends and lovers who’d died of AIDS view the text very differently, than say, a 36 year old British movie star taking on the role of Prior in 2017. (Just to give a for instance.)

Of course, reading the book had me pulling out my copy of the plays. (Tie in edition to the HBO mini-series) and rewatch the series. (It not being a week after I saw the play has returned some of the potency to the TV version. Mary-Louise Parker will always be my Harper DAMNIT!)

For all of it’s virtues, though, there are parts of the book that grind a bit. For one thing, you could tell that these were theater people being interviewed in 2016 because they’re all talking about Hamilton a lot for a book that’s supposed to be about Angels In America. (I mean I get it. I’m pretty sure 90% of my conversations that year were about Hamilton. And I’m not even a theater professional). We hear at least seven times about Roy Cohn’s realtionship with Trump. (Which again, kind of important when discussing how the play has remained politcally relevant, but you don’t need to keep bringing it up.) I wish there’d been more discussion of Tony Kushner’s socialism, because I find it fascinating and I think it deeply informs Angels. (The strain of socialism in upper-middle class white academic males is of endless fascination to me. Probably because most of the academics I know are women, and most the upper-middle class white men I know are middle management types. None of them are socialists. Like, AT ALL.)

So much of this year for me was about rediscovering how to react to art, rather than just pop culture. I took pains to read more, watch more judiciously, listen to deeper music and think more. But it was also the year I really started to live my life openly as a queer woman. My bi-sexuality still feels like a new wrinkle of myself but revisiting the stories of queerness that had spoken to me all my life, echoing back even to when I wasn’t sure why they did, was a big help in at least giving me the emotional vocabulary to deal with it.

Which is why I’m glad to have gotten to live in Angels In America a lot this year. That’s what it meant to me. It was about being queer and American, a thing I so recently admitted to myself that I am. I mean, it’s about so many things, but it’s about that. “We will be citizens,” and all that jazz.

45 Books In 2018 Postscript #48: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

There are books that stick with you, stories hit you squarely in the right moment so they get into your guts. I can name mine without thinking, Little Women, Great Expectations, The Princess Diaries, Bitter Is The New Black, and Scott Pilgrim, which I read when I was 22, teetering on some life choices I wasn’t ready for, and kind of an asshole.

So, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s story of not quite kids, not quite adults, and video games and growing up hit me hard and fast and got inside me. To the point where I put off reading his second story, Seconds for years, not wanting to be let down.

But, I’ve been missing comics, so I plucked it off of the library shelf a few weeks ago. Why not start again at the beginning, right?  Anyway, Seconds does tackle many of the same themes as Scott Pilgrim (adulthood, what is it? How do you do it? What is being friends? Romantic relationships, they are, huh?) Our hero this time is Katie, she and her friends opened a restaurant, but everyone else has moved on and she’s trying to but it’s not going well.

She befriends one of her waitress’s and also starts having visions of the House Spirit that inhabits the building, named Lis. She also starts overdoseing on magic mushrooms that allow her to rewrite her mistakes. This gets her back her ex boyfriend (though doesn’t erase the fling she had after they broke up, which makes her a cheater) has her choose a cleaner location for her new restaurant (but at the expense of it being her dream place and a place of her own) and largely causes everything to unravel.

O’Malley does good work with comics, he creates worlds that live fully on the page and characters that are cute and fun, and again, kind of assholes. (Man, Scott and Katie would get along in their confusion over human behavior.) And of course this wonderful joke gets repeated.

Seconds was worth the read, and I’m going to start pulling more comics. (In sticking to my no straight white men rule, I plan on catching up with some writers who I’ve always admired but never gotten super into.)

Up next is The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent Of Angels In America an oral history of the play assembled by Isaac Butler and Dan Kois, Angels In America made a pretty big impact on my year, so if this is the last thing that I read before New Year’s it seems appropriate.

45 Books in 2018 Post Script #47: I’ll Have What She’s Having By Erin Carson

love Nora Ephron. I think I’ve made that pretty clear over the years. I love watching her movies, and reading her writing and eating food that she recommended in various articles and interviews.

I chose to live in Montclair, NJ because I started hanging out at shows at the Wellmont Theater when I was 19 and the town always reminded me of Nora’s vision of the Upper West Side, full of well dressed witty people drinking coffee and rushing to homey delicious restaurants. I based an entire college writing project around I Feel Bad About My Neck. The night Carrie Fisher died, my sister and I curled up on the couch with glasses of wine and watched When Harry Met Sally for the zillionth time, remembering everything perfect about it. I don’t have cable anymore, but when I did, I would watch You’ve Got Mail whenever I stumbled on it. Julie & Julia is my go to writer’s block movie and inspired me to actually learn how to cook.

So what’s the point of this preamble? As I wandered through the library in the town I chose in large part because of this woman, and I wandered through the film and theater section of the stacks I spotted the lovely purple spine and grabbed at it. A book! About Nora Ephron’s  movies and how important they are! Yes please!

Reading Erin Carson’s charming oral history of When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless In Seattle and You’ve Got Mail was wonderful. Full of stories about Nora, all that fit with her image in my mind. Describing her fight to get the movies to be what she envisioned (even Harry Met Sally which she didn’t even direct) shooting in New York, Baltimore and Seattle, not approximating them in a studio, and making films that are outrageously feminist by simply having female leads that have jobs, inner lives and human flaws. And of course, Meg Ryan’s perfection in embodying them didn’t hurt.

I love Tom Hanks just as much as any other red blooded American, so hearing about what a mensch he is never fails to make me happy. Seriously, that’s what this book was, a happiness book.

Up next is Second by Brian Lee O’Malley. I love Scott Pilgrim, will I love this? Who knows!

 

The Glory Of The Unfulfilled Promise: Deadwood and YOU WERE ALL RIGHT

Merry Christmas, Cocksuckers!

As I finished up TV: The Book, last week, I realized that I’ve not watched many of the “great shows” that premiered when I was a bit too young to watch them. (I watched plenty of things that I was actually too young to watch then, but they were mostly on Network.) and begrudgingly decided that I’d give one of the big early HBO greats it’s shot. My mom has been working her way through The Sopranos, and so while that seemed the logical choice, it’s also so big, and part of me is still really stubborn and doesn’t want to give the men in my family the satisfaction of finally watching it.

So I chose Deadwood instead, kind of at random. Later, as I read articles and analysis I saw people saying, “if you don’t know by the end of the pilot that you love it, it’s not for you.” I could not believe how wrong headed that was. The pilot features a rote round of frontier justice (Bullock preventing a lynching by hanging the prisoner himself), Al beating the shit out of Trixie after a john has already beaten her, Alma prostrate in her room and dosing herself with opium,and so many other things that didn’t feel special or interesting at all if you’re me.

But the language. Oh, the language hooked me. Lilting sentences and long speeches drenched in creative profanity and frank imagery and Ian McShane delivering one of the coolest, cruelest villain performances I’d ever seen, and Timothy Olyphant as a the sexy stoic hero I didn’t need but kind of wanted in my current landscape. So I kept on, and all of a sudden it was several hours later and I’d finished season one and I was madly wildly in love with this show.

I was in love with it’s use of solioquy, with it’s incredible ensemble, and with it’s women. With Alma, and Trixie, and Joanie and Calamity Jane. All nuanced, difficult and fully formed. I was on board with Sherrif Seth Bullock and Pimp with a heart of gold Al Swearengen, and the evil, weasel Cy Tolliver.

I knew where this was all ending though, it was ending in a build up to a climax that would never come, and I was ready for it. But as those final few moments geared up, as the folk of Deadwood prepared themselves to make their stand against George Hearst’s goons, I swallowed, realizing the mix of beauty and frustration in that expectation. No we’d never see that fight.

There’s something magical in that. In the spell cast by this show, which adheres to Aristotelian Dramtatics far more than it does to it’s Western genre and modern television genres. Unity of time, place and action are observed, only a handful of settings are used, each episode covers a day, and one revelation or action (usually from the episode preceding) drives the plot.

But there’s also Shakespeare here. Al rants to a box containing the skull of a murdered Indian chief. Trixie and Sol continually push one another to the brink with sharp tongues, Seth and Alma sigh longingly over the love that can never be.

To quote another TV giant I took in this year, “All this happened before, and it will all happen again.” And my lit geek brain, happily rekindled in this year of pushing myself to read harder than I have since graduation was thrilled by the stimulation.

Anyway, there’s a movie coming in the spring, so yay!

Also, all you Cocksuckers were right, and I’m sorry and I’ll probably watch The Wire now, OK?

 

45 Book in 2018 Post Script #46: Red Rising By Pierce Brown

Sit down, my dear ones, this Christmas Eve, and I’ll tell you a story, of Paul Atreides, and Ender Wiggin, and Roland Deschain, and Harry Potter, and Luke Skywalker, and Katniss Everdeen and Buffy Summers, and Danerys Targaryen and Jon Snow, and Kara Thrace, and Usagi Tsukino, and Claudio Kilgannon, and Moana of Motunui, and Clark Kent.

Let’s sing songs and tell tales of those heroes. Because it’s only in knowing them as I do, after these past six years of immersing myself in the culture that holds them up, can I tell you, that Red Rising is one of those glorious bits of genre fiction that stands on the shoulders of things that came before it and holds them together. Pierce Brown has written a pure hero’s journey story that’s fun to read, peopled by imperfect characters in a fully built world.

That’s not easy.

That said, I was more impressed by this book than loved it. It’s propulsive in it’s plotting, but I never fell for Darrow, our intrepid chosen one, a member of a low caste mining clan on Mars, in a distant future plucked into a deadly game of elite warriors by chance and possibly fate, the way I love those I listed above.

The book’s good though and worth reading if this is your thing. (Again, look at that list, it is decidedly my thing) (Also, check out The Marina Chronicle, where I’m peddling my own version.) (I know, I haven’t updated in a while, it’s coming soon, I swear!) Without spoilers it pulls of an early in twist of the kind that I haven’t seen since The Matrix (AH! Neo! Also on the list!) you think this is one sort of story and it’s another entirely. It’s got a lot of The Hunger Games in it, to be sure, but I think more of Dune. (Then again, Dune is kind of the Ghengis Khan of the speculative fiction game, it’s DNA is ALL OVER THE DAMN PLACE.)

The world building is superb, the plot simple enough (there are two or three too many double crosses for my taste, but I get it.) and it’s the beginning of a series, so we’ll see if I go further down the rabbit hole this time.

Up next is I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s Three Iconic Films Saved The Romantic Comedy by Erin Carlson, because between this book and Deadwood I’ve been mired in Man’s being philosophical and violent so I need something light and female at the moment.