What Are You Watching?

Effective horror usually makes me tear up, just as an instinctual reaction (it’s probably related to my autism) and Hereditary left me an absolute wreck. It was an assault on my senses on par with the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Not even the shitty jeering crowd could wreck it for me.

I just finishing watching the first season of Killing Eve and boy howdy is that some A+ good shit. It’s like they made it just for me. A spy thriller drama with fantastic writing, comedic beats, and lesbian under and OVERtones??? Magnifique.

Bonus: The entire first season is available for free on the BBC America website. Do yourself a favor and give it a watch!

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So far I’ve watched a season and a half of Man in the High Castle after watching season one when it aired and half of season 2 last year. Dropped season 2 for a while because while I thought the premise was really well executed and quite enjoyed the show’s attempts to try and make me care about the struggles of literal Nazis, I just felt incredibly annoyed by Juliana Crain’s motives screwing everyone over and her both sides stuff with the Resistance as well as Joe Blake’s All American stuff. Powered through though and am liking the direction they’re going in Season 3 particularly with Blake. Special shoutout to Rufus Sewell who does a genuinely great job as Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith.

Also started watching The Good Place which has a really good premise and excellent first couple of seasons. The twist at the end of Season 1 I genuinely enjoyed and recast the entire season in a new and entertaining light. Not feeling Season 3 as much but it has that similar comforting feel that Brooklyn 99 has where I can switch my brain off and just enjoy the characters.

I’m also watching Girls because I’m literal trash. My theory that the worse Lena Dunham gets irl the better the show gets seems to be bearing out

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I’ve started down this road of weirdo psychedelic noir and most recently watched the “Los Angeles burnout who stumbles into an elaborate conspiracy” triad of The Big Lebowski, Inherent Vice and Under The Silver Lake

Beyond the similarity in premise, it’s interesting to think of IV and UTSL as a prequel and sequel to Lebowski. Inherent Vice is set during the death of the hippie era, The Big Lebowksi is centered around a bombed-out remnant who just can’t let the dream die and Under The Silver Lake is about the millennial angst that would ultimately supplant flower child optimism.

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I’ve seen a lot of Korean movies lately, but the best thing in my life last month was Emma.

Tales from the Loop :sob::sob::sob::sob::sob:

It was really good though.

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I’ve started to work my way through this collection of Western films

Initially, as corny as this may sound, I wanted to watch some of the movies that were a direct inspiration for Red Dead Redemption 2, a game ya’ll know I like, a lot. But since then, it’s kind of expanded into a general overview of the film genre, covering classics like Stagecoach and Johnny Guitar, all the way up to the “neo-westerns” of PT Anderson and the Coen’s. In fact, here are some brief little “reviews” of There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men:

And if you’ll permit me to settle the “Best Film of 2007” debate, TWBB>NCFOM

Which film should I watch next?

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I’ve been watching a bunch of TV shows that I’ve been meaning to watch for a while:

Red Dwarf - A massive blindspot in my “nerd pop culture” knowledge, I am on season 4 now and I get why it’s so popular and referenced so much even today. The first couple of series rarely diverge from the “Lads in space” setup and has some bits that have aged poorly but overall is still a very funny sci-fi sitcom.

Killing Eve - My mum loves this show and has been telling me to watch it for ages, and as always my mum was right. This show is fantastic, following a MI6 agent - actually I’ll just quote the post someone made a couple of years ago in this thread because it’s better than whatever I could write

It’s so good.

What We Do In The Shadows (Season One) - I love the original movie but honestly I think the What We Do In The Shadow series might be even better. Matt Berry in particular is always a gem but he is so gosh darn hilarious in this. His character, Laszlo, and his wife, Nadja, are by far the stand outs of the show imo. I found the “Energy Vampire” stuff to be the weakest part of it, it was a kinda funny joke to start with but they never do anything interesting with it.

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I’ve been going back and rewatching She-Ra… again… in preparation for the final season coming out in a couple of days. I feel a little weird talking about it because I love it deeply though for very specific and not entirely explicable personal reasons. It feels weird to recommend a kid’s show that you don’t technically have any reason to relate to.

But on this re-watch I’ve found myself liking it even more - the story-telling is rock-solid - even just the very first two episodes lay out the core conflict of the show so effectively. I have a lot of admiration for well-executed classic storytelling. Plus it helps that it’s gay. There’s the occasional corny episode that can be a bit of a slog and it does suffer from some of the pitfalls of the format: sometimes the A plot isn’t really going anywhere in favour of a quick 22 minute moralising conflict-resolution arc. But that A plot is really strong and the core of the show that is these intense emotional conflicts between lovingly depicted characters is undeniably well-realised. The character conflict is so gripping for me and really only gets better as the show progresses.

What I find difficult to talk about is that this show is genuinely heart-wrenching for me, and I am not really in any way a person that has strong emotional reactions to media. But it’s nice to have something I really care about for once to get me through the year of pestilence. Although I suspect this final season will be devastating and probably less explicitly gay than I’d hope. But I’ve been following the creator Noelle Stevenson for a long time and am putting faith in her credo “Assume all characters in my comics are gay unless stated otherwise.”

It’s also interesting to move through the fan spaces for this show - the community is very queer but it’s also very young. I see a lot of nascent media criticism informed by social justice ethos but it’s just that, nascent, or inchoate, what’s the word I’m after? It lacks nuance. People spend a lot of time discussing things like whether or not it’s problematic to ship characters with others that are abusive or toxic, and you kind of want to step in and tell them, it’s okay. It’s fine. Nobody is getting hurt. But it takes time to learn this stuff, to be able to look at media in a sophisticated way. I do wonder though - does this hardline ‘problematic’ approach develop and grow or does it harden into the shallow feminism of contemporary neoliberalism? I am constantly despairing at the abilities of real adults to interpret and critique media and I feel that actual critical analysis is just not taught at all. So on one hand it is promising to see a young queer community making an effort to politicise a text but I also worry if that will ever mature.

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Did a twofer of The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut over the past few nights. Holy damn.

What does “power” mean? How does it manifest? These movies provide real examples of that in meticular fashion. While The Shining is more grotesque, Eyes Wide Shut rings a lot louder especially with the recent discussions of (eg.) Epstein. But they’re both walking inside this area of power and how that affects us.

And to be honest, that is just the most terrifying thing.

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I remember someone saying that Eyes Wide Shut makes more sense as a Kubrick movie (given it seems a lot sloppier than his other movies) if you understand that his goal was not to make a great movie but rather to destroy Tom Cruise’s marriage and/ or mind.

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Oh I watched Tarkovsky’s Stalker last week and god, what a film. Feels like you could spend a lifetime watching and understanding it. My main takeaway was that it’s a film that is deeply wrapped up in desire: what is it to want? Do we know what we want? Do we really want our desire fulfilled? It’s an incredible journey through faith, reason and art in this crystalline cinematic world - so slow in the way that American cinema is completely incapable of being, yet so magnetic to look at.
How women exist and desire in the film is also fascinating - the vast majority of the film is three men talking and talking and talking about their desire but it is unmistakably bracketed by these striking scenes of two women who lack that space to express their desire and hold radically different philosophies towards it. There is a beauty and almost a threat in the way the film ends.
I read Roadside Picnic last year and loved it and while the film is substantially different it was interesting to tease out some of those same ideas and see how they were developed or transformed in the film. Things like ideas about labour, about the human relationship to the uncaring Other. Tarkovsky’s work is ultimately more tragic, I think, and more nuanced where the Strugatskys have a deeply human and singular idea they wanted to convey. I kind of want to think and talk about this film forever but regrettably that’s not my job.

Also I realise my last post in here was about re-watching She-Ra and I feel compelled to note the final season was so good my whole heart imploded and turned inside out and I believed in love for a whole day or two. Anyway if you wanted to hear more about those feelings you can read them on tumblr, which felt like the most appropriate website for a long, embarrassingly personal screed about feelings.

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After finally managing to hop back on the Netflix train (courtesy of a friend), my partner and I have been continuing our long-on-hiatus Star Trek: Deep Space Nine binge. I’m loving it as a variation on TNG that feels more grounded - locations and themes and relationships given more room to develop, with an ensemble that’s allowed to feel a little less professional, with a little more friction.

Addendum: I would die for Kira Nerys.

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I recently got a free trial for Disney+ so I started watching The Clone Wars and wow, the writers are really piling it on thick in every way they can. I’m a huge fan.

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Just binge-watched all of Steven Universe Future in the span of like two days. Steven Universe already is up there as my favorite thing (not just TV show, not just visual media, but just all around fictional work) of the past decade. This is a phenomenal show, outstanding top to bottom.

And I really needed a break from the misery of Last of Us 2 and pointless toxicity of that entire game, so needed something where people actually can express emotions. You know, growth, and love and understanding and forgiveness. Those things which I guess gaming still can’t ever be about? (Kingdom Hearts gets as close as anybody has.)

Steven Universe Future even takes the show as dark as it ever could go before. Where so much of this show’s content has been solved with easy forgiveness and understanding, it at least acknowledges how much psychological harm Steven has had. But also wants to build out of that, instead of satirizing itself. It can then be one of the best ever growing up and leaving home stories.

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You might like this series of essays on the different aspects of the show like religion, the shows treatment of the non-federation people and Kira. It was reading these that got me to watch it years ago

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That was a very fun essay pit to fall into for a couple evenings, thanks!

Little America
Better Call Soul
The Plot Against America