Oh so my last mixed media post was ten months ago? What can I say, it’s been a bit of a year. Sorry Dave.
3 books in 2021? It’s not that I’m not reading much; quite the opposite. It’s just that most of what I ingest these days is academic papers for my course. I’ve bought more books, but they’re kinda languishing on my bedside table.
- ⭐️ Jason Fagone – The Woman Who Smashed Codes I’d come across the name William Friedman in books about codes and codebreaking before. This is a biography of his wife Elizebeth Smith Friedman, whose brilliant intellect and career would likely have surpassed William’s if it hadn’t been for, you know, patriarchy & shit.
- ⭐️ Mick Herron – Slough House (UK domestic) spy thriller. Another good entry in the Jackson Lamb/Slough House series. Not sure if this is a great entry point for the series – there’s a lot of history in the characters now.
- ⭐️ Kim Stanley Robinson – The Ministry For The Future With heat and flooding disasters becoming ever more intense and frequent around the world, this is a harrowing yet hopeful look at how a possible future could play out for us. It’s a very narrow way to thread the needle of the climate emergency, but it’s hard to provoke action without at least some hope.
- Duncan Jones, Alex de Campi, et al. – MADI: Once Upon a Time in the Future Cyberpunk thriller. Set in the same universe as Duncan Jones’s films Moon and Mute. Unfortunately the story didn’t do anything for me, and I found the contrasting art styles, which changed every few pages, too jarring.
- 💩 Robert Kirkham & Sean Phillips Marvel Zombies (omnibus edition) If you dig poor characterization, negligible plot, and any excuse to see superheroes punch each other ever-punchier punchiness – and zombies! then fine. But there are so many better (Marvel) comics out there.
- ⭐️ Wolfwalkers Gorgeous animation.
- 💩 Wonder Woman 1984 This could have been so much better. I found the CGI surprisingly janky, and the effects overall to be weightless and lacking impact. Character development, they’ve heard of it. The moral implications of Steve taking over that dude’s body? The worldwide implications of all this happening? It just felt like the whole film lacked consequence.
- ⭐️ Palm Springs There are still fresh new stories to be told in the time loop sub-genre, and this is one of them. Funny, smart, and bittersweet.
- ⭐️ The Artist And The Thief Beautifully humane story. There were parts that felt (or had to have been?) staged or re-filmed for the camera. But otherwise, just a fascinating documentary.
- ⭐️ Ready of Not Fun little slasher flick.
- 💩 Independence Day 2 Good effects, but that’s all.
- Raya And The Last Dragon I found this fine, but not amazing. The story felt overly simple and the animation felt lacking in detail.
- The New Mutants Predictable, but okay.
- ⭐️ Paddington Joyous and sweet.
- ⭐️ Paddington 2 Same as its predecessor, just lovely, with the right amount of cartoonish villainy.
- ⭐️ Army Of The Dead Combine a heist movie with zombies? Sign me up! Shortly before seeing this, I’d watched a YouTube video about filming with ultra-fast lenses (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2p5E7iXxeQE) and I recognized some of the effect of that low-light, ultra-shallow depth of field in the cinematography of Army of the Dead. Really cool.
- ⭐️ Zombieland: Double-TapA fairly straightforward sequel, but I enjoyed it.
- ⭐️ Luca Pixar does cute fish people
- ⭐️ Bill And Ted Face The Music This is not a good film, but…it somehow works? It’s like every performer was given the direction to act as over-the-top and cartoonishly as possible. But that fits the aesthetic. Also, it has its heart in the right place, in a completely non-cynical way.
- ⭐️ Black Widow Not the best recent Marvel movie, but a great action romp nonetheless.
- ⭐️ Flora & Ulysses Sweet and funny – what if superhero, but squirrel?
- ⭐️ Boss Level Another take in the time loop subgenre, this time with an action movie twist. It has some videogame restart/continue flavour, but they don’t really lean into it. I also wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was, but it’s a solid entry in the category! There’s a very weird scene in the middle where Naomi Watts and Mel Gibson bounce some dialogue off each other, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t on set at the same time for filming it. When they’re “together” in the same shot, one of them is always filmed from behind, which is probably a stanb-in. They’re never in the same shot with both their faces to camera at the same time. Once I noticed it, it felt very odd.
- Jurassic World Big budget, lacklustre.
- 💩 Monster Hunter Yeah, that wasn’t great.
- F9 Alex and I decided to do a re-watch of the whole Fast & Furious saga before sitting down to F9. We did that in 2019 as well, but I think that once a decade might be enough. The original still holds up very well, and 2 Fast 2 Furious is always better than I remember it. But the rest is very variable, and I’d have to be in just the right mood. F9 is okay, I thought; Alex liked it better than me. The nod towards the characters being superheroes was funny. But somehow I’m willing to give “real” superhero films more of a pass on their physics than I could handle here. Also, Kea Wilson’s article “I Watched ‘F9’ So Other Bike/Ped Advocates Don’t Have To” is spot-on, and punctures a lot of bubbles. My appetite for more in the series has cooled, for now.
- 💩 The Snowman Serial-killer detective thriller. Shit detective. Not thrilling.
- ⭐️ The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf I haven’t read the books or played the videogame, but I enjoyed the first season of the TV show. This is a cool dive back into the past of the world. Good teaser for the next season of the show.
- ⭐️ Cruella I enjoyed this, but I also enjoyed Fiona’s critique of it, which is that it perpetuates the trope of villainizing people with mental illness. (In this case, NPD.)
- ⭐️ Free Guy What if the characters in videogames were alive? Not deep, just sufficiently smart and self-aware, funny and fun. Unusually, the addition of Taiki Waititi doesn’t make it any better.
- 💩 Ode To Joy Clichéd and heavy-handed romcom.
- Kate Tries to be stylish, slick, and cool, but falls short.
- ⭐️ Papillon (2017) I haven’t seen the 1973 film with Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, so I’m not comparing against a baseline, but I can’t help feeling that Rami Malek and Charlie Hunnam were trying to be a bit Hoffmanish and McQueenish? Regardless, I found it absorbing and pretty harrowing.
Episodic video (“TV”)
(You may spot that most of these are ⭐️ ratings. That’s because I tend to bail pretty quickly on the bad ones. I’m willing to sit through a mediocre movie, but I’m not going to sink 6+ hours into a TV show I’m not enjoying.)
- ⭐️ Star Trek Discovery, season 3 Wasn’t sure where this was going to go after the time travel jump at the end of season 2, but it landed on its feet. Some fine new characters in the mix, new villains, new factions. Michael Burnham is still the worst starfleet officer, though. Captain or GTFO.
- ⭐️ The Boys, seasons 1 & 2 Sociopath superhero subgenre, done well. Violent & irrevent. Gruesomely funny, but sufficiently serious to show that a world with superheroes would not be a utopia.
- ⭐️ Wandavision Great conceit, arc, and finale. Some of the early episodes drag, though, and I don’t think I’d have the patience to re-watch it.
- ⭐️ Lovecraft Country Fabulous blend of the uncanny and horrible, both supernatural and basely human. Pit there won’t be a second season.
- ⭐️ Ted Lasso, season 1 I’d heard a lot of praise for this from Americans, and I was a bit worried it would be super cringe, but it isn’t. It’s just lovely. Funny and warm, with a lot of heart.
- ⭐️ Agents of SHIELD, season 7 A wild helter-skelter of time travel to bring the show to a close (and tie it in to Endgame as well, good trick). Trying to remember all the character and plot references and callbacks was hard. But good.
- ⭐️ Jett I couldn’t make up my mind if this was sex-positive and empowering, or misogynistic and exploitative. Leaning towards the former. The last few minutes of the first season seemed tacked-on to set up a second season that will never come.
- ⭐️ The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, season 1 I liked them exploring the consequences of the Snap being reversed, and half a world of missing people reappearing after 5 years, but they could have gone deeper on this. I didn’t find the Flag Smashers very compelling as antagonists, but Falcon’s journey on the way to taking up Captain America’s shield was very worthwhile.
- ⭐️ Sisyphus: The Myth Excellent big-budget Korean time travel thriller drama. Not nearly as mind-bending as Dark, but plenty of twists, and highly engaging characters.
- 💩 Jupiter’s legacy Dreary and far too long. I appreciate the ageing superheroes theme figuring out how (or if) to hand the torch to the next generation, but it spends waaay too much time on backstory.
- ⭐️ Love, Death and Robots, season 2 Neat sci-fi anthology.
- ⭐️ Colony, season 3 I started watching season 3 knowing that the show was cancelled, and there would be no season 4. Even so, I found the world and the characters interesting enough to revisit. So many revelations in this season that set it up for more – a real pity it ended without a conclusion.
- ⭐️ Mare of Easttown Excellent short-run detective mystery.
- ⭐️ Loki, season 1 I hadn’t really expected this to set up for a season 2, but I’m here for it. Fun mix of comedy and time travel. Felt quite Doctor Who in parts. (Not necessarily in a complimentary way.)
- ⭐️ Killing Eve, seasons 1-3 I came to this late, after everyone told me it was very good. It is, indeed, very good. I hadn’t expected it to be so (blackly) comedic, though. I’d thought it was being played more, ahem, straight.
- ⭐️ War Of The Worlds (2019), seasons 1 & 2 Bleak, but good. The pacing is slow, but that fits the story. There’s no (well, few) kinetic moments, action scenes, or explosions. It’s pretty much all brooding character work and slow-burning horrific realizations set in a deserted, silent world where almost every human was wiped out in an instant. (Very post-pandemic.) I loved that it’s part English, part French – mixing languages made it feel more authentic, and all the more real for it. You’ll never look at those Boston Dynamics robot dogs again as anything other than straight-up murder machines.
- Marvel’s What If? season 1 I wasn’t too sure about the first episode, but it settled into a groove with some nice one-shots, and the final three episodes make a tidy arc for the finale. A bit take-it-or-leave-it for me.
- ⭐️ Legion, season 1 This is pretty much the antithesis of Marvel Zombies book. Yes, there is some punching, but it’s mostly about characters coming to terms with their powers, fears, and traumas, and trying to figure out what’s real in a world of telepathy, mind-control, and astral planes. I’ve got seasons 2 & 3 lined up.
- ⭐️ Control Loved this.
- Forza Horizon 4 I played this last year when I was feeling nostalgic for Edinburgh at one point. The Edinburgh in the game is…odd. It’s Edinburgh-like, as if the developers had fed a bunch of photographs to an AI, and asked it to recreate the city based on the pictures. It warps and bends with just enough verisimilitude to make it mind-bendingly disorientating. Quite glad I didn’t buy this outright, but played it on a 1-month sub of Game Pass.
- Gato Roboto another game I played on Game Pass. Amusing little black & white 2D Metroidvania kind of thing.
- Destiny 2 Played a little bit of multiplayer with actual friends last year on the PS4, and then played a little more solo when I got my PS5 in April. I enjoy it for a while, but I haven’t had the patience to put the dozens of hours into it to to it justice. (Perhaps it just feels too endless to me — I like my games with a story that comes to a conclusion.)
- ⭐️ Spider-Man: Miles Morales Okay, this is what I’m talking about. Story with a conclusion to it. Missions, collectibles, stealth, no shooting (I can pretend that I’m not killing all those goons), upgrades, and tons free-roaming swinging around a model of Manhattan that still isn’t quite the real thing, but comes closer than the warped Edinburgh of Forza. 100%, all trophies, etc. My kind of game.
- ⭐️ Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart See above. 100% + all trophies again. Cartoonish action fun.
Haven’t been to any concerts in 2021, obviously, but I’ve still managed to tuck a few new artists under my belt. In particular, I’ve been listening to a heck of a lot of young Dutch artist Froukje recently. A few months ago there were posters up around the village advertising a music festival (online?) featuring lots of Dutch bands, and Froukje was heavily featured as one of the headliners. Her EP “Licht en Donker” is fantastic, and her latest single, “Niets Tussen” is a heartfelt bop.
Also getting quite into Eefje De Visser in the last week or so as well.