Wednesday, December 7, 2022

TV Snide: November 2022

Book of the Month: The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll: I’ve always been mildly interested in what some of the most tried and true self-help books espouse, but this one I actually put into real, easy-to-see-it-exists practice. Perhaps I identify because I’m always looking for an outlet for my writing, but I’ve started writing in my “bullet journal” every day. It’s always been easy for me to get distracted and this is a way for me to put all my lists, to dos, and other buckets of materials (like thank-you reminders, dream and discussion recaps, and how to organize all the things I want to read each day) into order. I like to use the journal to write out my thoughts a little more deeply sometimes as a way of increasingly trying to understand who I am. 5 out of 5 stars

Best Magazine Read: “Inside the War Between Trump and His Generals,” by Susan B. Glasses and Peter Baker in The New Yorker: This is an essential read that left me flabbergasted that President Trump, despite his many attempts, failed to get us into a major Third World War. It was lucky for all of us that his utter incompetence and lack of understanding of history and the world order was likely the reason we escaped those dark four years at all. Trump demanded complete allegiance from his top military brass and, in one example of a time when he suspected disloyalty, he said he wished they could all be more like Hitler’s military leaders. He was then informed that those leaders tried to assassinate Hitler at least three times. Trump told them that wasn’t true. 5 out of 5 stars

IT Chapter 2 (HBO Max): This 2019 movie was far better than the first part. It also should have probably just been a TV series. Regardless, much as I love Stephen King's novels, they have been very hit-or-miss when turned into movies. But the excellent cast plays the kids all grown up since Chapter 1 as they return to Derry to fight off Pennywise the Clown and his army of scary CGI monsters. The creativity and storytelling is top notch. 5 out of 5 stars

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” short story by Ursula K. Le Guin (1973): This is a short, entertaining tale of a city of happiness. The people get to live there is complete happiness in exchange for the complete destruction and ongoing sorrow of one boy locked away in a damp broom closet. If people choose to go see the boy, they could then feel guilt, which would in turn ruin the city, so they simply walk away into the darkness. 5 out of 5 stars

“Bicycles, Muscles, Cigarettes,” short story by Raymond Carver: In the pulp author’s story, someone has stolen a boy’s bicycle and the mother invites two fathers of friends over to get to the bottom of it. Two of the fathers get into a fist fight and nobody gets to the bottom of it, but the winning father and son perhaps get a little closer in the process. Hard to derive real meaning out of the story, but it is an entertaining read. 4.5 out of 5 stars

Elvis (HBO Max): This is a sprawling and somewhat dialogue-light rock bio told in true Baz Luhrmann fashion. It's garish and gaudy. But if anyone is due for a movie of his life told in this overwrought way, it's Elvis Presley. Like Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby before it, this movie is a thing to behold. I only wish I had seen it on the big screen. 4.5 out of 5 stars

Fleabag - Season 2 (Amazon Prime): The last half of this two-season series improves the formula. Phoebe Waller-Bridge remains captivating to watch as she makes rebellious but increasingly - somehow - more mature decisions. Much of the season deals with what she should do about falling in love with a hot priest, as her sister’s and father’s directions in their own love lives become more and more convoluted. I really enjoyed this. 4.5 out of 5 stars

"The Red Convertible," short story by Louise Erdrich (1981): I was on a Sherman Alexie kick back in the 1990s, but since then, I haven't read much fiction about Native American life. This story is great, about two brothers who ride around and have fun in their car until the older brother goes off to war. He returns as a shell of himself, but just as the two finally start to regain a connection, the older brother drowns himself and the younger brother drowns that convertible. 4 out of 5 stars

Barbarian (HBO Max): Justin Long and Bill Skarsgard (of Pennywise fame) are among the players trying to get to the bottom of the secrets in a creepy abandoned Detroit neighborhood home being used to potentially lure unsuspecting AirBnB customers. A really well done creeper flick. 4 out of 5 stars

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins: This Oprah-approved but highly controversial novel was a slog for me. Not so much because of the controversy but more because of the fairly bad writing and unformed characters. It begins promisingly as Mexican mom Lydia and son Luca hide in a bathroom while their husband and dad Sebastian and 15 other friends and family are gunned down outside at a BBQ. In flashbacks, Lydia has become friends at her bookstore with a man named Javier, who it turns out is a cartel leader her husband has profiled in his job as a journalist. Javier is the one who leads the carnage at Lydia’s house, leading to her escape with Luca across the border alongside many other immigrants. While the book should by all means be important, it also could have been so much more interesting. 2.5 out of 5 stars

Cutter’s Way (Sling TV): Not even the legend Jeff Bridges can save this 1981 stinker about a bunch of jerks involved in sex and violence and general worthlessness. Depressing. 2 out of 5 stars

Cult Classic by Sloane Crowley: Lola is getting married to a man named Boots but is pulled into a Manhattan situation that may or may not be a cult. In a refurbished high-rise synagogue, her old boss Clive leads a startup to provide closure for people who are obsessed with their exes on social media. Lola is a likely subject because she has so many exes. The novel, apparently about the importance of closure, is poorly written. While there are enjoyable passages, the net result is kind of a mess. 2 out of 5 stars