You’re Not One Of Them

Jo Jo Rabbit is a lovely movie. It’s trangressive as hell and wildly hilarious in places. (Sam Rockwell is a treasure and somehow knowing how great he is, and knowing how every time people talk about him they’re talking about how great he is, I still think he’s underrated.) There are a few things going on in Taiko Waititi’s satire that I think are worth discussing.

The whole movie is from the perspective of Jo Jo, a sad, lonely ten year old boy in Germany towards the end of World War II (the inevitability of Germany losing the war at this point hangs over the whole film) who idolizes Adolf Hitler and longs to belong, thinking he’ll find that belonging in the Hitler Jungon. Keeping the camera at JoJo’s height, only revealing for sure things that he knows for sure (we, as educated adult viewers can glean more nuance but it’s not in the text, deliberately and brilliantly.) makes the film more whimsical than it could be otherwise.

JoJo, like many kids, has an imaginary friend, unlike many other kids, his imaginary friend is Hitler. As JoJo’s perspective shifts, so do his interaction with Hitler, at first JoJo’s Adolf is a chummy cheerleader, by the end, he’s a bellowing lunatic. Waititi plays Hitler himself and it’s an interesting performance.

And then there’s the matter of Jojo’s ghost. His mother, Rosie (warmly played by Scarlett Johanson, in a role that she’s quite good in. I have mixed feelings on Johanson, who I think can be wonderful when a part suits her, but is limited as an actor) is working with the resistance and is hiding a Jewish teenager in their walls. JoJo learns this and decides rather than turn Else, the girl in, to use her to study Jews, and of course learns that she’s human.

JoJo Rabbit has it’s heart in the right place, is creatively shot, and masterfully performed. It addresses the really important issue of radicalizing youth, and how to break that programming. (While it is not the job of the oppressed to educate their oppressor, it is helpful for young people who’ve been radicalized to interact with those they previously considered themselves above to realize you know, we’re all human and stuff.)

Anyway, I was a big fan of the movie. I’m really looking forward to watching it again, actually, because I’m sure there’s more to analyze here.

Rankings

  1. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
  2. Jo Jo Rabbitt
  3. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  4. Avengers: Endgame
  5. Rocketman
  6. Detective Pikachu
  7. Zombieland: Double Tap
  8. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
  9. Downton Abbey
  10. Joker

Trailers

Ford V Ferrari: I am so excited for this movie. I’ve mentioned before that, “well meaning adults who are good at their jobs” is one of my favorite genres, and I have a feeling this qualifies. Also, Matt Damon and Christian Bale getting to play smiling charmers is going to just be a hoot!

Knives Out!: It better be good. I want it to be good. It should be so so so so so good.

Doctor Sleep: Looking forward to this one too. I’m going to try to see it this weekend, but I make no promises.

A Hidden Life: I know Holocaust dramas aren’t always great, in fact they are often maudlin and difficult to watch. This looks kind of like that, but I’ve always enjoyed Terrence Malick’s work and also, I’ve been reading about Franz Jagerstatter in a superficial way since I could read. (Catholic culture can be weird) so seeing this story on the big screen will likely be worth it.

Zombie Kill Of The Century

I love the movie Zombieland. I just like zombie movies in general, actually, and Zombieland also has other things that I like, sarcastic quips, Woody Harrelson and Emma Stone among them.

So, I knew I was going to at the very least enjoy Zombieland: Double Tap. And I did. It also includes a few other things that I really like, love triangles and Rosario Dawson. HOORAY!

Zombieland isn’t the best movie ever, but it’s a good one, so obviously it’s sequel is also not a great movie, but an adequate one. It’s fun, funny, the kills are good and it’s final set piece is reasonably impressive, for a midlevel zombie comedy.

There’s also a bunch of Elvis jokes, a dumb hippy kid who tries to convince Abigail Breslin’s Little Rock that he wrote, “Like A Rolling Stone,” which is genuinely hilarious, especially once she reveals that she was only hanging out with him to get away from her suffocating family and because he had weed. “I know who Bob Dylan is you idiot!”

Also, that final set piece? It involes Rosario Dawson running over a bunch of zombies with a monster truck.

I’m sorry, I’m human, that’s just plain wonderful.

Rankings

  1. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
  2. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  3. Avengers: Endgame
  4. Rocketman
  5. Detective Pikachu
  6. Zombieland: Double Tap
  7. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
  8. Downton Abbey
  9. Joker

Trailers

Knive’s Out: My level of hype for this movie is astronomical. It looks so so so so so so good.

Doctor Sleep: After finishing the book, I’m even more excited for this. I like that they’re making Dan and Abra’s first contact seem a little bit creepy.

Charlie’s Angels: This is going to be the gayest lady movie ever isn’t it? Whatever, I’m in for the wigs alone, but the action looks pretty sweet too and is Patrick Stewart Charlie?

The Turning: YOU GIVE ME ALL OF THE GOTHIC HORROR. ALL OF IT. We wants it. The precious. (Evil demon children. Also is this literally a modern take on The Turning Of The Screw? Because that’s awesome. I should read that. I like the James I have read…)

Bad Boys For Life: I am glad Will Smith is back. I’ve missed him. I didn’t see Aladdin and I still haven’t seen Gemini Man, so I get that my excitement may seem less than wholehearted, but it isn’t.

Countdown: No. I mean, it looks fine, just, not for me.

45 Books In 2018 #45: TV: The Book By Alan Seppinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz

Guys! I did it! (And that’s not include shit I reread, so really, I did it a while ago.) And there’s still two weeks left, one of which has a long weekend, which means, I’ll probably clock at least three more books.

But it seemed somehow fitting to top off this year with TV: The Book, since my deep love of television is what kept me from reading seriously for a while. But I’ve long believed that TV has been the media some of the best literature this century (and indeed the one that preceded it.) so I was psyched to read some intense critical discussion of the medium. (I’ve got a few other cultural studies books lined up now too, because critical analysis is the main thing I miss about being in school.) (Also the flexible schedule)

I’d read Seppinwall and Zoller-Seitz many times before (Sepinwall’s Mad Men coverage was legendary and Zoller-Seitz was one of the cohosts of the dearly departed Vulture TV Podcast.)  The idea for the book sprang into being when both were working for The Star Ledger (which is apparently the paper that Tony Soprano reads, which kind of annoys me, since The Ledger is more of a Shore paper, and The Sopranos are from where I grew up, Bergen County. Tony should be reading The Record, but I digress…) Their attempt to create a canon of American TV shows is entertaining, thoughtful and steeped clearly in their love for television and each other.

The book reminded me why I loved quite a few shows with it’s observations. (30 Rock’s live action cartoon aspects only really work because Jack’s mentorship of Liz is a grounded reality. Mad Men is actually a story about a daughter realizing who her parents really are.) Made me shake my head in annoyance a few times, (Mad Men’s refusal to marginalize it’s female characters makes it a richer and less warmed over story than Breaking Bad. I know The Wire is awesome but my college roommate’s annoying boyfriend wouldn’t shut up about it, when we just wanted to watch Star Trek so I never fully engaged with it, and stop making me feel bad for not watching it damnit!)

I’ve even decided to start filling in the blanks on the all time greats I haven’t watched. That means I’ve started Deadwood (and it’s wonderful.) And I’ll get around to The Sopranos and The Wire too, I guess. I’ve already watched most of the top comedy (Save The Simpsons, which is just too big for me start on now.) due to my parents being massive comedy fans.

Anyway, I liked reading the book. I’m watching Deadwood now, and I’m sure I’ll write about it. I’m proud of myself for meeting my reading goal for the year, even if my project sort of fell by the wayside. I’m going to keep blogging about what I’m reading. My goal for 2019 is 60 books, 52 of those 60 cannot be written by straight white men. (I’m giving myself the 8 book leeway because I’m a coward…also, I want to finish Dune someday)

I think I’ll be able to pull it off. Hell, even if I just read Anne Rice, I’d be like halfway there. (I will not just be reading Anne Rice…probably…)

Sometime in the next few weeks I’m going to break down my reading list a little bit and talk about what I loved (Crazy Rich Asians, The Witching Hour, Dune) what I didn’t but am glad I read, (David Copperfield, Don Quixote) and what I hated, (Ready Player One, Lasher, Infinite Jest, which I hated so much I didn’t even finish it, something I never ever do) 

Anyway, in the immediate aftermath, I’ll be reading Red Rising by Pierce Brown, Joe and Mary are in love with this book, so I’m gonna give it a shot.

 

36 Books in 2018 #27: How Not To Be A Dick by Meghan Doherty

I love reading a light silly etiquette guide, and while this one was hardly revelatory or difficult to read (I read it in about two hours on Monday afternoon, actually…) I enjoyed the general style of it.

Written in the style of old fashioned Fun With Dick And Jane books, this quick manners guide offers fun, sometimes silly scripts for get through day to day interactions. While for me it was kind of a “meh” choice, it would be a fun thing to give as a housewarming or grad gift to someone.

I liked the writing style which was breezy and cheerful, and some of the running jokes. (Dick is portrayed as a cheese log enthusiast throughout, he also pursues a rather brilliant idea of having his dog run for president.) But overall, the whole book was fun, and a nice little diversion, if not like, totally life changing, especially since I’ve been reading etiquette guides and advice columns for years, and I’m always happy to check in with new ones.

Plus, it was only $6 at Barnes and Noble, so…you know, there’s that.

Up next is The Harvesting by Melanie Karsak, the first book in a steampunk vampire series I bought from an independent press at a comic con.

We shall see how this goes.

[title of show], Killing My Vampires and remembering to be “Nine People’s Favorite Thing”

When I lose inspiration or the drive to create, there are lots of things I do. I watch Julie And Julia, or listen to Kevin Smith talk on one of his podcasts or specials, or sometimes I just take a break from creating and consume because I’m tired.

But in the past few months, I’ve found a new one to add to the rotation. And that’s [title of show] which I had vague memories of from my college fading theatrical obsession days (it opened on Broadway in 2008, I for sure watched a few you tube clips of it, but never saw it) and it came roaring back to me as something I needed in my life when the podcast that is my soul This Is Rad did an episode about it and I listened through the cast album.

[title of show] is a musical about writing a musical, and it’s whacky and silly and perfect and lovely and everything about it is great.

But it wasn’t until I posted a video of the particularly funny and insightful “Die Vampire Die” on a friend’s blog post about feeling creatively blocked that I realized how much in the past few months I’ve come to rely on [title of show]’s viewpoint to keep myself moving creatively.

Particularly I’ve been thinking about “Air Freshener Vampires” and the “Vampires of Self Doubt” which require you to sanitize your work and remind you that you’re not good enough anyway so just give up. (And to fight them, remember that if you clean up too much you’ll wind up with a tight paragraph about kittens that your grandmother will just love, and that if a stranger said those kinds of things to you, you’d think they were a mentally ill asshole)

I’m pouring a lot of my heart and soul into The Marina Chroniclemore than I even thought I would previously. That said, it’s not necessarily yielding the kind of returns I’d hoped for. (But that all of my closest friends are reading it totally warms my heart. Love you girls to bits!) And that was discouraging until I remembered that I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing than ninety nine people’s ninth favorite thing.

That is, I’d rather my original vision speak to only a few people than water it down or change it to make more people like it.

I wanted to write One Tree Hill in Westeros (not exactly, but that’s the gist!). I wanted to focus on the myriad of complicated threads that hold teenage girls who love one another deeply together. I wanted to talk about family, and heartbreak and getting what you want and realizing that it wasn’t what you wanted after all.

Most of all I wanted to create these girls. These infuriating, beautiful, powerful girls who are in control of their own lives and fates. These girls realizing that they have to forge their own path, because the carefully laid out plans of their lives don’t make sense to them, or are gone for whatever reason. That’s who Marina and Annalise are to me, and I won’t compromise on that, not for a minute.

And when that doesn’t work and I still have writers block, I remind myself that writing should be easy, like a monkey driving a speedboat.

Also! Read my thing. Next week is going to start an excellent jumping on point! (And a reprieve if Marina’s boy whining and Daddy worrying is not your thing!)

30 Books in 2018 #11: Crazy Rich Asians By Kevin Kwan

I will never ever get sick of quick read books, fluffy movies, or long drawn out TV soaps about the super-rich. (My Gossip Girl obsession should have tipped y’all off to this one.) I particularly like when there’s an outsider character at the center (there nearly always is.) I love a good makeover montage, even when it’s described in a chapter, rather than being cut together to a Madonna song. (You can ALWAYS play the Madonna song in you MIND friends. David Bowie’s “Fashion” will also serve.)

This all primed me perfectly for Crazy Rich Asians, which deals with the internal social politics of uber-wealthy and aristocratic ex-pat Chinese families living in Singapore. It’s all seen (naturally) through the eyes of Rachel Chu, a 29 year old American Born Chinese (ABC) woman, as her long-term boyfriend, Nick Young brings her home for his best friends wedding.

There are scheming mothers, jealous exes, and a twist about Rachel’s origins at play, plus a set up for sequels galore. (I know there are two more books and I can’t wait to read them.)

Kevin Kwan writes with rapturous and bitchy delight about the social climbing, the designer clothes and exotic locales, and sketches some fun characters in Rachel, Nick and their friends. If everything ties up a little too neatly, that can be forgiven in Romantic Comedy, and hey a movie is coming staring Constance Wu as Rachel. (She will be flawless!) (This movie will make me want to buy so many shoes.) I also appreciate how no corners are cut with the weird blend of Asian cultures at play in Singapore and especially with the combination of language, which Kwan uses footnotes for.

It’s a joy of a book, laugh out loud funny at points, and surprisingly sweet at others. I like learning about cultures I know little about through reading, and this was the perfect example of that.

Next up is Dune Messiah because HEY I HAVE READ LIKE 6 BOOKS SINCE DUNE AND I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT OK?

You Completely Overwhelm Me

The_Big_Sick.jpg

I’ve been waiting a long time for The Big Sick, and the fact that I knew the story of the movie pretty much by heart before the it was even conceived, having listened to The Indoor Kids, Kumail Najiani and Emily V. Gordon’s podcast, as well as read Emily’s book and Tumblr, and listened to them on countless other podcasts.

Of course this would all be moot if The Big Sick weren’t good on it’s own, but it is. Struggling comedian Kumail meets charming grad student Emily and they fall in love, but he’s holding her at arms length, because his mother is trying to arrange a marriage for him, and he’s knows his family won’t approve of a white girl. They break up when she realizes that they have no shot at a future.

What happens next is even more wrenching, when Emily falls terribly ill and is pushed into a medically induced coma, and Kumail is forced to bond with her parents, played sublimely by Holly Hunter and Ray Ramano.

Zoe Kazan is lovely as Emily, and manages to capture the real Emily’s vibe while not doing an outright impression which is cool. Kumail also does well, and I really love the stuff with his family.

Trailers

I missed them, because I sat down in the wrong theater and sat there for fifteen minutes…I know.

Rankings!

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. The Big Sick
  3. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  4. Guardians of The Galaxy: Volume 2
  5. King Arthur: Legend of The Sword
  6. Cars 3
  7. Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales