Hi all, I am caffeinated and gleeful, even though my New England enclave is apparently likely to be subject to more WEATHER in the near future.
This weekend I will be seeing Tomb Raider and possibly also Love, Simon, though I have a busy weekend ahead of me so maybe not.
But you’re really here for the streaming recommendations. I know you. All cozy wrapped in that blanket on your sofa. I get you. I, too would like to hibernate till spring is really here.
I started watching season 2 of Jessica Jones last weekend and I think it’s a much easier watch than the first season, but still very good (still not an *easy* watch per se, mind you). I mainlined about half of it and haven’t had the energy to go back for more, but I shall at some point.
Netflix seems to have put a number of 80s and 90s classics up again recently, including the original Ghostbusters, the 1989 Batman, Dead Poets Society, Strictly Ballroom, Bridget Jones’ Diary and Bring it On.
If you’re looking for something more serious or out-of-the-way, consider Whale Rider.
A story of a Māori girl struggling for understanding and acceptance from her traditionally-minded grandfather, based on a novel by New Zealand novelist Witi Ihimaera.
One of your options on Hulu is The Punk Singer, a documentary about Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre.
Though the documentary is specifically about Hanna, it also gives you a slice of the riot grrrl movement in general.
If documentaries aren’t your bag, they also have An Ideal Husband (1999) – starring Rupert Everett and Julianne Moore from the Oscar Wilde play.
Amazon has a classic comedy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I heard this is getting a female-led remake and I am PSYCHED. Steve Martin and Michael Caine star as con artists. This is one of the most underrated Steve Martin movies ever, in my opinion.
Prime has classic The Last Unicorn. Netflix has Dreamworks’ Kung-Fu Panda. Hulu has’ Don Bluth’s The Secret of Nimh.
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That’s it for this week, kids and kittens. Have a good weekend and hold on. Spring *is* coming. I swear it.
Do you ever have that thing where time seems to stretch eternally and fly by simultaneously? That’s been this week, for me.
My biggest excitement of the week is that I’m getting a new handheld vacuum that I ordered, today. Don’t grow up, kids.
I finally started watching The Good Place this week, which approximately everyone in the universe has recommended to me. It is a delight.
The movies that are being released this weekend do not move me. I may go and watch something I missed earlier, or re-see something, or play movie theater roulette, but it’s supposed to be surprisingly mild in New England, so I may not in favor of getting some chores & errands done.
Either way, here are some streaming recs!
Space nerds everywhere have probably already seen this, but Apollo 13 is on Netflix streaming and it’s totally worth watching. I may, in fact, watch it again, as it’s been ages since I’ve seen it.
It’s well done. Sciency and delicious.
Joss Whedon has fallen out of nerd favor, I know, but if you dig Shakespeare, his Much Ado About Nothing is quite good. Full of fantastic performances, the film pulls none of its punches. Not an entirely easy watch, but worthwhile, it was apparently filmed over, like, a long weekend at the Whedon house.
It Comes At Night wasn’t as I thought it would be, but it’s a horror film that has at its core some deeply human strengths and failings. Honestly, though there is much that is horrific in the film, I wouldn’t have classified it as a horror film if I had seen it independent of its advertising. It’s more like a Shakespearean tragedy run through a Samuel Beckett lens (albiet with less snappy dialog than that implies).
Amazon has Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go To Heaven:
A classically animated musical that came out in the late eighties.
Speaking of classic animation, Hulu has The Black Cauldron:
And speaking of classics in general, from the “crying about animals” category, Netflix has The Incredible Journey
Yo. It snowed in the Northeast. You may have heard about it.
I contracted a terrible cold that was ramping up before the snow came and am now apparently never leaving my house again. I spent this morning reading comics and now I’m laying in bed, in the craned-neck position contemplating watching a bit of something and drinking semi-frozen (I left it outside) orange juice directly out of the thing.
It tastes like better, brighter days.
Streaming-wise, personally, I’ve been re-watching One Day At A Time on Netflix and Buffy The Vampire Slayer on Hulu.
Let’s talk about The Babadook. If you’ve seen Essie Davis in the titular role of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, you know she is fabulous. If you’ve seen her in The Babadook, you know she can ACT. She is a powerhouse in this horror film, her portrayal balanced on knife-edges of emotion.
I am not saying anything new, here.
The Babadook is also an interesting twist on horror genre tropes. It’s a heavy film. But I found it, ultimately, to be strangely hopeful. I had as much fun with the wave of ‘the babadook is a gay icon’ memes last year as anyone. I would hate to think it takes away from the impact of the film, which might be one of the best horror films of all time.
What I’m likely to stream next are some episodes of a modern whodunit that my mom got me hooked on over the holidays, Shetland. It features small-town characters and some truly lovely family relationships and gives one a sweet feeling, therefore, in spite of all the murders.
Set, as the name implies, in the Shetland Isles of Scotland, the show is awash in gorgeous landscapes.
If you have trouble with accents, you might want to turn the subtitles on.
I noticed, also, that Netflix is now separating movies and TV shows, which makes my life a bit easier.
Hulu has all the Karate Kid movies. I’m scared to watch them. I haven’t since the eighties or early nineties and the suck fairy MAY well have visited them. I am, however, pleased to see more older movies showing up on streaming.
It also has Arrival. I have been delighted and swept-up by the new wave of big budget *ideas* scifi that’s come out over the past several years and Arrival may well be the best one yet. A moving and beautifully delivered story that is worth watching more than once.
Also streaming is arguably the scariest vampire film I have ever seen, Let The Right One In – Swedish film that capitalizes on the long dark of winter nights there to take us to a very dark emotional place. Definitely worth the subtitles, but an extremely difficult watch.
Amazon has What We Do In The Shadows, which I have mentioned before several times.
They also have some romantic classics — Moonstruck and Dirty Dancing.
Prime has Spy Next Door starring the adorable Jackie Chan.
Hulu has Ella Enchanted which I’ve mentioned before and various Lego comedy shows. I think they only release them for streaming, but I’ve watched the superhero ones and they’re better than they have any right to be, honestly.
Netflix has An American Tale, which I remember fondly. The music is lovely.
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That’s it for this week, kids and kittens. May your remain warm and your throats swallow smoothly (unlike mine).
Finals will be over soon, but for now they are still eating my brain and making me a highly-tuned ball of vibrating stress. I managed to get to see one movie this weekend, in spite of that.
Almost everyone who has sought out queer culture knows the work of Touko Laaksonen. Tom of Finland, as he is known in the U.S., was an artist with a strong, bold style who celebrated male bodies and male desire.
Even if you don’t know his name, you may well have seen his work – muscular men naked or ensheathed in tight leather or uniforms. Men on display. Men who flaunt it in a way that has been outright dangerous in most of modern history (and still is, plenty of places).
I encountered his work all over the place in the nineties. I remember visiting London back in the very early aughts, when a friend of mine was working there. I bought a little book of Laaksonen’s work that Taschen had published. This nod of understanding went between me and the clerk at the purchase (though all he said was ‘I love him!’, referring to Tom).
Some of the art is explicitly sexual, some merely erotic. None of it hides a thing.
Having experienced my own queer awakening when his work was already firmly part of the gay culture, I was very interested in seeing the biopic of him. Covering a huge swath of the mid twentieth-century, the film smoothly brings us from era to era, highlighting the challenges faced by gay men in each and the ways they worked around those challenges.
The challenges, though they loomed too large to be ignored, were not the focus of the film. The focus was an artist’s persistent love and drive and desperate desire to depict and see a world in which he could not only live freely, but be happy. The film depicts Laaksonen not as an idealist but as someone whose sexual identity is fundamental to his own health and well-being and who won’t pretend to be what he is not.
He will, in both his cynicism over the world’s inability to change and his perseverance in the face of the world being truly awful, be relateable to a broad swath of the queer community, I believe.
The film goes through some dark places but it has this core of thrumming delight. It takes us into Laaksonen’s desires and shows us what strength they give him. It runs the emotional gamut and takes us through war and brutality and repression but also through moments of freedom and light and clarity.
My comment on twitter when coming out of the film was “That might be the first time I’ve wept with joy and triumph at the notion of a room full of joyous leathermen being themselves, but I can’t be certain.”
It filled me with joy and pride and determination – a kind of patriotism for queerlandia, wishing to fight for her honor and sing her praises.
It’s been a pretty good couple of years for queer cinema. Between Moonlight‘s (well deserved) oscar wins, the Battle of the Sexes biopic, the wonderful and powerful James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro, a slate of acclaimed indies and even a few wide release actionmovies with queer leads, it’s been a joy and a relief to be a non-straight person in a movie theater seat several times.
Do I want more? Absofuckinglutely. This is my gay agenda: I won’t be happy till we have action movies with openly gay leads, lesbians in space, trans folks in political dramas and romcoms and bipan people who openly admit they’re bipan on screen. There’s so much further we can get, but damn, we’ve come a long way.
But I digress. Tom of Finland is well worth seeing – Pekka Strang’s acting as is excellent and the film pulls no punches, celebrates its opportunities for joy and brings you through a chunk of history with its subjects. You will laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll gasp in horror and you’ll be filled with inner joy.
It’s not perfect. No film is. And one of these days I’m going to write about the parts that women and folks of color play in films that focus on gay white cis men in detail, because it bothers me, but for now, let us pledge allegiance to the rainbow flag of the united states of Queerlandia…
So, if you’re on twitter and breathing air, you probably heard about Sen. Chuck Grassley’s comments on what keeps folks from investing their money. He has now claimed that his comments were taken out of context (though I don’t see in what context they could be anything other than irritating and offensive), so I thought I’d break this down.
I see more movies in the theater than anyone I know. I’m sure it’s not record-setting, but a movie a week adds up.
I have kept numbers now on how much I spend on movies in the theater since 2014.
I’ve spent an average of $10 per ticket – an average of just over $600 a year on movies in the theater. That’s $2413 on roughly 240 movies over the last four years. Could I have religiously saved that money and “invested” it, instead. Sure. In theory. Anyone who spends most of their money knows that’s not really how it goes. You put $10 or $15 in savings per week and it doesn’t get invested. It goes. It goes on emergencies or on unexpected expenses or on trips or on presents at Christmastime.
I am not saying the industry is saintly or anything. There are plenty of problems with the way they’re funded and the way they carve up the profits of their enterprises, as well as with the products they produce. The point is, this is how capitalism is supposed to work. The film industry comes closer to successful trickle-down economics than almost anything else I can think of.
Grassley’s point, in saying dismissively that the new tax bill rewards “investors” over consumers is this notion that if you save all your money and spend it on property, you’re somehow more virtuous and more deserving. But without people who actually spend money on things, American industry would collapse.
This is not at all a new concept.
Not to mention, I, who sees far more movies than anyone else that I know would have saved less than $2500 in four years by being absolutely ascetic. Movies are entertainment for me, sure. They’re also socialization and engagement and relief and escapism. Pretty good bang for the buck, too, at $5 an hour.
Would avoiding seeing all those movies allow me to actually do anything? Could I buy a house with $2500? Obviously not. Could I even make a down-payment on one? No. Experts advise putting down 20 percent. Average house value in my town according to Zillow is well over half a million dollars. The minimum down-payment I would need to get a mortgage that would cover a house here would be about $20,000. That’s 32 years of seeing zero movies. I would be 72 and much spiritually poorer for the (lack of) experience. (Not to mention the target may have shifted, somewhat, by that time.)
I see an average of 60 movies a year. The average American sees 5. Five. Movies. $50. Maybe $100 if they see everything in imax 3d.
Not really a shock. None of them have had their feet on the ground in years.
Maybe they should take in a movie like us common folk.
Like maybe this one:
Or this one:
Or this one:
Or shit, any film about folks who make less money than they do might lend them a sliver of empathy. Though if recent political news is any indication, they might need to be injected with more than just a sliver.
[This post contains spoilers for A Bad Moms Christmas and Bridesmaids]
A friend of mine, after I posted about not liking cringe humor a few weeks back, asked me what kind of humor I do like in movies.
She loves lots of cringe humor and considers that we have very similar senses of humor (we definitely find a lot of the same stuff funny) and wondered, I think, where the disconnect is.
I generally don’t consider myself a fan of comedy movies qua comedy movies. So many of them seem to feature humor that is cruel and punches down (humor that hinges on mocking people who are already disadvantaged in our culture), or takes someone else’s embarrassment and expects me to laugh at it.
A prime example of this kind of humor is Bridesmaids, which I went to see because all the media around it kept harping on the notion that it was a make or break for women in comedy — as though if that movie failed, there would be a decade before there were any more comedies featuring women.
As it was, it did pretty well and paved the way for The Heat, Girls Trip and Pitch Perfect and a lot of the other great women-led comedies of the past several years. (Not that it was the only thing paving the way for these films, but without it, some of them may not have been green lit.)
I found a lot of the movie terribly funny, but some scenes made me squirm and at least one made me want to wither and die right there in the theater. The scene where one of the characters, bitter that everyone else can afford to fly first class and she can’t, gets super drunk and makes a scene on the plane.
Watching someone continuously and egregiously push social boundaries like that tweaks my anxiety in the worst way. I’m sure there’s plenty of psychological issues inherent in my reaction, but it goes well beyond finding it not funny. It hurts.
I enjoy absurdist humor. I enjoy fourth-wall breaking and self-aware self-mockery. The Heat‘s humor all came out of the main characters being unapologetically what they were and then doing the best they could. They weren’t incompetent or bumbling, but they did behave outside of expectations for their jobs and gender sometimes. They felt real and honest and well-drawn. Most of the humor came out of their methods conflicting with each other and how they each learned to roll with the other’s style.
So I don’t actually hate comedies. I like them. But I’m wary of embracing them all sight unseen as a group the way I do scifi films or horror films. Yes there are films I can’t stand in the latter two genres, but there are a lot fewer and it feels like the reasons I don’t like those films are individual and specific rather than a systemic issue that builds to a whole sub-genre of things that make me squirm in discomfort.
Of course, this disinclination to engage with an entire genre can lead me to miss stuff that I should see.
This weekend, I saw A Bad Moms Christmas with a friend. In spite of my adoration of Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell, I hadn’t seen the first film in the franchise. I saw this one because I’ve been having a nagging feeling that missing the first one was an error.
BMC may be my new favorite Christmas movie. It was hilarious. It was also moving in places, but wasn’t too heavy. Perhaps the funniest scene in it involved one of the main characters waxing the genitalia of a male stripper and having a romantic meet-cute conversation with him at the same time. It was genuinely a sweet conversation but the juxtaposition of the sweet words with over-exaggerated waxing sound-effects and matter of fact descriptions of what was going on out of the camera’s sight lines made it so fucking funny to me.
Everyone in that scene was happy. No one was (emotionally) uncomfortable. Yet I laughed my ass off.
Humor and laughter are a way of processing disrupted expectations and assumptions. So is anxiety. I almost feel like they’re two areas of a spectrum the way that anger and sadness are two areas of the spectrum of dealing with hurt and disappointment. It’s not really a surprise to me that something that provokes laughter in one person might well provoke anxiety in another.
Opening myself up to a broader range of art always feels like a good thing to me. And the knee-jerk snobbery and fear that leads me to avoid entire franchises or entire genres, sometimes always winds up leading me astray in the end.
So I don’t know exactly where to draw the lines. Maybe they should just go entirely. After all, being anxious for a little while in a movie isn’t the worst thing in the world. But, of course, lines always get drawn because I can’t see everything. We’ll see.
In the meantime, here’s a short (and incomplete) list of comedies I really, really enjoyed:
The To-Do List
Love and Friendship
Dear White People
What We Do In The Shadows
What do all these films have in common? Not freaking much, as far as I can tell.