03 March 2017

Stuff I've Been Consuming: Jan - Feb

Listening to: “Shut Up,” Anna Marina. From Riverdale’s soundtrack, which is superb.

So San Diego is cooooold! Who knew! I haven’t been back for a San Diego winter in awhile and it’s all I can do to stay in sweats and blankets all day. Toward that end I’ve been reading, watching, and listening to tons of things — and some writing too. Off the top I’m heavyweight obsessed with Riverdale right now. George and I grew up reading Archie comics and this CW version — described as Twin Peaks meets The O.C. — is not only good but heavily nostalgic. Throwing in a murder mystery and noir feel to Archie was just what an update needed. And the casting for Archie, Betty, Veronica, and Jughead is spot-on. Plus, Luke Perry plays Archie’s dad...!

Additionally I’ve been following NBC’s Emerald City very closely, waiting for Ozma to ascend the throne. I’m not sure this Game of Thrones-y version of Wizard of Oz will get a second season but it’s been great to me so far. However you feel about the admittedly erratic plotting and sometimes sparse characterizations, there’s no argument that the sets and costuming are amazing. For example, Emerald City is now literally Park Guell and the show uses a lot of other beautiful Gaudi locations.

The entire first season of Emerald City is directed by Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall) and while his movies can be messes, there’s no arguing they’ve got visual panache. So yeah, Emerald City! If there was ever a crossover between two things I love, Emerald City with Oz and Barcelona has it in spades. (Plus a Faruiza Balk 2.0 in Ana Ularu, who plays a delicious Wicked Witch of the West.)
While I’ve seen about twenty movies in the past two months, the only one I can wholeheartedly get behind is Mike Mill’s 20th Century Women, which I absolutely loved. I'll have to rewatch Beginners again to see which one I liked more, but Mike Mills is just wow. I'm still getting my head around how well Mills writes female leads and then I think about his relationship with Miranda July and suspect that he's probably the only male director capable of doing it. Or maybe I'm overstating his on-pointness. Either way, Mike Mills!

And obviously I loved the shit out of La La Land, which means I was/am on the wrong side of "it's some white people shit," and I haven't been on that side for something popular culture in awhile. I can't defend La La Land against any of its racial downfalls but find myself wanting to celebrate its musical-ness and Gosling-ness first and foremost. So reading all the anti-La La Land posts and seeing people (rightly) savage the film has been quite the novel experience. Something you like so much, hated by so many you respect, how does that change your take on it you know?

Anyway, onto reading! I’m up to fourteen read books this year, which is huge considering where I usually am. And while I’ve read a few really good things, I have to go out of my way to discuss Ann Patchett. I really loved Patchett’s Truth & Beauty, a memoir about her intense friendship with Lucy Grealy, back in 2012. Truth & Beauty immediately vaulted itself onto my all-time favorites list but I hadn’t gone to any of Patchett’s fiction yet — I did read The Getaway Car, but that was a short memoir about writing.

Well, in three don't-sleep-till-I-finish nights I ripped through three of Patchett’s books. First it was Commonwealth, then State of Wonder, and then Bel Canto. I literally haven’t read nonstop like that in ages, and much less back-to-back-to-back of just one author's work. I couldn't stop or gush enough to other people and now I want to make everyone read Patchett.

I'm not sure how to push her though. Literary Michael Crichton? That’s how I'd sell State of Wonder I guess. Aside from her instantly engaging writing, Patchett is brilliant at plot building and throwing incongruous things side-by-side. For example, Bel Canto is about a terrorist hostage situation, plus opera. State of Wonder is a bit more straightforward, with a scientist who goes into the Amazon to recover a wonder drug, but it also has multiple surprises. And then there's Commonwealth, which has no high concept at all and focuses on just one (extended) family. Overall, I just can't recommend Patchett's stuff highly enough. Go read her now, thank me later.

Also, my friend Kiersi’s middle-grade horse series just came out, and of course I read them all right away. Kiersi’s one of the most prolific writers I’ve ever met -- plus genre spanning -- and her published stuff is just starting to come down the pipeline. When I was young I read every horse-related book I could get my hands on so getting a chance to read Kiersi’s horse books has been a delicious throwback. If you've got middle-grade aged people in your life, check out the Quartz Creek Ranch series!

And somehow Kiersi presciently knew that the Falcons would make it to the Super Bowl but then become ultimate losers. I read that section a few days after the Super Bowl collapse and um, let’s just say it hurt. Deeply.