Culture Consumption: July 2016

Wait. July is over already? Where did the year go?

Books

All the Birds in the SkyI’ve long loved the work Charlie Jane Anders does — both as the host of Writers with Drinks and as a long-time editor and writer at i09. So I was thrilled to have been able to pick up a copy of All the Birds in the Sky (which I got signed at one of her readings in San Francisco).

The novel is sort of a like a nature witch and mad scientist love story that explores the philosophical differences between how magic and science approach deal with a world that’s falling apart. Both have their own ways of trying to make things better, but when magic and science begin to clash, it threatens to destroy the world instead.

I love the characters in this novel. Both Patricia and Laurence had rough childhoods that they managed to survive and deal with in their own ways. Though they are both flawed, they also have their own sense of compassion that leads them to try to do good in the world. Somehow, despite all their differences and mistakes, they manage to fit together.

Anders’ writing is beautiful — a mixture of beautiful details, humor, and emotional resonance. I loved this book.

Books Finished:
1. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
2. Bird Box by Josh Malerman
3. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
4. Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Total books for the year: 28

DNF: Chain of Evil: Journalstone’s Guide to Writing Darkness by Michael R. Collings — I got about halfway through the book before deciding to quit. It’s not a bad look at writing in the horror genre, per se, but I strongly disagree with much of Collings’ point of view and “rules” of writing. Also, since it mostly comprised of a collection of essays, the book as a whole was not as cohesive as I would have liked. Therefore, since I found myself experiencing varying degrees of annoyance and disinterest while reading, I decided to move on to other reading.

Still in Progress: The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms and She Walks in Shadows, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles

Movies

July was a month for Shakespeare adaptations apparently, both of which were among my favorite movies of the month.

Much Ado About Nothing

Rather than going for the elaborate, decadent costuming and sets and over dramatic performances seen in many adaptations of Shakespeare, Joss Whedon presents a understated, modern version of Much Ado About Nothing. The black and white cinematography and small-scale indie style provide a subtly glamorous noir feeling, along with a beautiful intimacy between the characters.

The casting is almost entirely comprised of actors from the Whedon-verse — not surprising after learning that this movie grew out of weekend Shakespeare readings in which Whedon would invite a multitude of friends to come and read and perform the Bard’s words. The result is a lovely, with some great moments of humor. It makes me want to start my own Shakespeate parties just for the joy of sharing beautiful words.

Helen Mirran - The Tempest

Julie Taymore’s adaptation of The Tempest is more on the grander scale, with fantastic costumes, gorgeous cinematography, and creative effects that the magic of the story come alive. The performances, too, are wonderful across the board, with not a single awkward reading of Shakespear’s lines. And Helen Mirren, in particular is stunning in her portrayal of Prospera, the sorceress. She evokes so much power and rage, while also reflecting compassion and love for her daughter. The whole movie is beautiful.

In the non-Shakespearean vein, I have to mention the documentary Double Dare, because I have something of a crush on Zoe Bell. It’s also fascinating to see the behind the scenes of being a stunt-person. So much of how all the stunts work is shockingly low tech (a person jumping off an elevation into a giant inflated pillow, a harness attached to strings being yanked on by a couple of beefy dudes, etc.). The level of gutsy-ness required to do stunts is impressive.

Finally, my cousin and I decided to do a horror movie marathon (a total of five movies), most of which were fun and gory (Braindead and The Thing) or at least intellectually fascinating (The Holy Mountain). However, we both agreed that Cannibal Holocaust is terrible — existing in the ranks of MOVIES NEVER TO SEE — as it presents a disturbing assemblage of racism, exploitation of native peoples, graphic rage, real-life animal cruelty, and so on that left us feeling gross after having seen it. Stay far away.

New-to-me movies:
1. Black Mass (2015)
2. Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
3. The Holy Mountain (1973)
4. Braindead (1992)
5. The Thing (1982)
6. Goodnight Mommy (2014)
7. Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
8. Double Dare (documentary, 2004)
9. Green Room (2015)
10. Assassination Classroom / Ansatsu kyôshitsu (2015)
11. Zootopia (2016)
12. The Tempest (2010)

Television

Dollhouse is not a great show But I’ve been meaning to come back to it and finish off the second and final season, just to finish the storyline. I made it through Season Two, episodes 1-7. It’s quite hit and miss in terms of quality of storyline and acting, but I’m still curious how everything gets to where it’s going.

Other than the usual flipping of channels and catching episodes of The Big Bang Theory or Castle or whatever, I didn’t do much other TV watching this month. However, the second season of Killjoys has started up on Syfy channel and I’m excited to get back to watching that one.

Podcasts

Pod-LightspeedI’ve listened to a lot of stellar stories from Lightspeed this month, not the least of which was “5×5” by Jilly Dreadful — a story of love in the time of scientific experimentation. Such a sweet and moving story that also manages to slip in some loving references to The X-files.

Alice Isn’t Dead: Part 1, Chapter 10: Thistle

Imaginary Worlds: Ghost in the Shell
Imaginary Worlds: Legacy of Octavia Butler

Lightspeed Magazine: 5×5 by Jilly Dreadful
Lightspeed Magazine: The Red Thread by Sofia Samatar
Lightspeed Magazine: Wilson’s Singularity by Terence Taylor
Lightspeed Magazine: Fifty Shades of Greys by Steven Barnes
Lightspeed Magazine: Delhi by Vandana Singh
Lightspeed Magazine: Magnifica Angelica Superable by Rochita Loenen-Ruiz

Nightmare Magazine: Red House by Gavin Pate

The New Yorker – Poetry: Jana Prikryl reads Anne Carson

The Poetry Magazine Podcast: “Fear of Flying” (in broken Gilbertese)

PodCastle 422: Golden Chaos by M.K. Hutchins
PodCastle 423: The Gold Silkworm

Scriptnotes 256: Aaron Sorkin vs. Aristotle
Scriptnotes 257: Flaws and features
Scriptnotes 258: Generic Trigger Warning

Slums of Film History 20: Bodily Fluids – Pee and Poop
Slums of Film History 21: Bodily Fluids – Puke and Jizz

Uncanny Magazine Podcast – episodes 11A & 11B, along with the special edition

Within the Wires: Relaxation Cassette #2-3


That’s it for me! What are you reading? Watching? Loving right now?


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