31 December 2017

Stuff I've Been Consuming: 2017

I bought forty or so books this year, starting with Kiersi’s Shy Girl & Shy Guy at the beginning of the year and ending with The Creative Tarot by Jessa Crispin during the last week of December. Two finds: A huge coffee sized book, Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City, by my longtime favorite Julia Wertz. And also a book published in German, Kunstblut, by Alexandra Kleeman. I’m always gonna get a Kleeman book, even one I can’t read, but the fabulous cover also dovetailed nicely with the colors in my house, so it’s really a decorative piece.

But let’s not bury the lede here, in 2017 I read 45 books and watched 85 movies. Yes, that’s right, I almost made 50/50 this year! Of course, clearing the marks would have been nice, but this is the best I’ve done on the books side in years. But enough self congratulations for a job not quite done. Let’s just get to it, shall we?

BOOKS: I started off the year on a fast pace, jamming in about a dozen books in two months. I was sure fifty was gonna be reeeeeal easy. Unfortunately I slowed down a lot in the coming months and it wouldn’t be a lie to say that I haven’t quite finished all of these books. But anything I went over 75% or so on, I’m counting. To be honest, some of these books were just great so I’m savoring them.

I’ve already talked about my three books in three nights binge reading of Anne Patchett. But I also wanna throw in recommends on Dom Casmurro, I Am a Magical Teenage Princess, Sour Heart, all of the The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede (I had only read the first one or two before), and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, which has been twenty years in the waiting from Arundhati Roy.

And who would I be without plugs for friends’ books such as Malinda Lo’s A Line in the Dark,  Cindy Pon’s WANT set in a near future Taipei, Maurene Goo’s I Believe in a Thing Called Love, Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us, and Dhonielle and Sona’s follow up to last year’s debut, this one is called Shiny Broken Pieces.

Something I wasn’t into, the highly acclaimed and recommended series by Patrick Rothfuss, The Kingkiller Chronicle. I finished the first one, The Name of the Wind, and wanted to love it, but was really just annoyed at Kvothe’s over-competence in everything. Maybe I’ll try the series again since I would love a fantasy world to obsess over, but this wasn’t it. Also, I read most of Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass series, which my YA book club is super into. I’m a little more "eh," but they do get better as they go, and are quite addictive.

Speaking of book clubs, I joined a local young adult book club in 2017, and they were probably single-handedly responsible for pushing my book numbers higher this year. I spent many a Saturday night cramming in the monthly selection just so I could show my face at the next day’s meeting. And I love how everyone in the book club are voracious readers, with plenty of recommendations, and geeky interests to share with me. Thank you Children's and Young Adult Literature Book Club: San Diego! Also, the selections they picked were often not ones I would have naturally gravitated towards, so overall the experience was a very interesting insight into what mainstream YA fans are into.

I think I’m gonna have to give up the fifty books goal next year, although I’m considering just high diving into this year’s Tournament of Books, and going straight down the eighteen book list. Basically the other key to success this year was to just read read read, who cares if I was in the mood or liked what I was flipping through, just keep going!

MOVIES: Despite watching 85 movies, and reading that 2017 was a great year for film, I can’t say I saw that many amazing things. Nothing I was even super passionate about, now that I look over the list. The seven straight-A films were: 20th Century Women, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Lady Bird, Logan, Mon Mon Monsters, OJ Made in America, and Thor Ragnarok. Taking out the two Marvel movies -- albeit legit non-fan goggles good ones -- and we’re at a mere five A-ranked films. Add in the A-minus movies and we’re looking at only maybe a dozen films I really truly liked. Recommends: The Babysitter on Netflix, which was just hilarious, so fucking hilarious. Actually that’s like my top recommend for the year for an unexpectedly fun throwaway movie full of useful quotes and high rewatchability.

For some reason the past couple of years I've been seeing my favorite movie of the year in January, and this year was no different, as I saw Mike Mill's 20th Century Women pretty early on. I need to rewatch it though to confirm my love for it. But I fear it was like Lady Bird, which I really really admired -- it’s no coincidence Greta Gerwig was in/behind two of my favorites -- but I think I still liked Beginners better so it’s hard to be as passionate about 20th Century. And oh yeah, I almost cried watching Sho Tsukikawa’s The 100th Love With You, which is a contemporary Japanese romcom that involves time travel. I can’t tell if it was the plane watch that got me so emotional, but I think it would have hit me the same either way.

As for disappointing films, the list this year was long. Very long. I went through a stretch of such horribly disappointing (much hyped) films that I thought I was going to have to take a movie break to cleanse myself. There was a back-to-back hopping of Dunkirk and The Beguiled that almost killed my friend and I. Dunkirk was fine, but not anywhere near great, and thank goodness there was nobody else in Beguiled with us because we were trashing it as we watched. Loudly. Sorry Sophia, Beguiled was just awful, and I ranked it my worst movie of the year, which is saying something since I also saw the new Pirates.

Also, this year I volunteered to help program for SDAFF, San Diego Asian Film Festival. From March until November or so, we watched a ton of shorts, and some features -- that I didn’t always count on the sheet unless I theatred it. Through this process, I actually did find a film that I super loved. It’s a twenty-seven minute short but so packed with genius that I couldn’t stop showing it to anybody within range. So yeah, my favorite film of the year is Makoto Nagahisa’s And so we put goldfish in the pool /そうして私たちはプールに金魚を. Luckily for you, you can watch it right here right now, just click on the link!

TELEVISION: Just like last year, I started tracking the TV shows I was watching. Actually, with so much television, it’s almost just as fruitful to track the series I wanted to watch but haven’t dived into yet. Can you believe I haven’t seen Sherlock S4 or Orange is the New Black S5 yet? I’ve been waiting for the right binge moment I guess. Some of the things I did want to watch but haven’t gotten around to yet include Legion, Preacher, the revamped Twin Peaks, Mr. Robot, Broadchurch, and The Keepers.

However, there were some great things I saw this year, namely finally getting into The Wire, which I spent most of January running through -- I skipped S2 because I read that was okay to do. I also loved Brown Nation, Riverdale, American Vandal, The Young Pope, Attack on Titan, and Terrace House: Aloha State. In fact, getting into Terrace House in the fall of this year is contributing directly to my wanting to go live in Japan next year. “A love worth dying for…."

Also I have to push two series I just crammed in December: Alias Grace and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Sarah Polley adapted Margaret Atwood’s book into a miniseries, writing all six episodes herself, and Alias Grace is better than Handmaid’s Tale to be honest. I haven’t actually finished Handmaid’s but I’m gonna just take a swing and say that Alias was better. And then there’s the insanely delightful Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, created by Amy Sherman-Palladino of Gilmore Girls fame. And well, I’ll stop right there. “Of Gilmore Girls fame…” should be enough of a recommendation.

Absolute trash: 13 Reasons Why. Sorry, if you liked this show I’ve already judged you. It's problematic on just about every level and I couldn't even finish hate watching it. And I wasn’t very high on Dear White People either, which was exactly like the movie: the title was the best part with everything else being pretty disappointing. I quit a lot of shows this year actually.

Anyway, here’s to going into 2018 like Lenny Belardo... what a fantastic opening credits scene right? And here's the Young Pope "you'll never forget" track: "Recondite" by Levo.

If you've read this far, you're clearly interested in my new and revamped Stuff I'm Consuming spreadsheet, which is not only much more detailed and customizable, but also about to have some fancy auto-stats once my spreadsheet wizard gets done with it! Try out a beta version!