Cultural Consumption | January-March 2020

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So, I’ve been planning a new semi-regular feature for the blog for a while now, and here it is: a quarterly roundup of (almost) everything I’ve been reading and watching. It’s a way to share and promote amazing work, and it’s a way to hold myself accountable, so I don’t just keep watching the same few comfort-food movies over and over again. (Why ‘almost’ everything? Because I have no interest in badmouthing anyone’s art in public. If I can’t recommend it, I’m not mentioning it.) Enjoy!

Reading

Man-Eaters Vol 2 – Cain, Niemczyk, Rosenberg, Caramagna, Miternique
This is a bit of an odd series for me. I like the actual story, the art is amazing, and in the first collected volume, the secondary material (in-universe ads and articles) felt like it added to the story. In this second collection, it feels like filler. ★★★☆☆ (Bookshop.org)

The Lady Astronaut of Mars – Mary Robinette Kowal
A beautiful little alt-history novelette about love and duty and second chances. Lovely. ★★★★☆ (Read at Tor.com)

Shades of Milk and Honey – Mary Robinette Kowal
This is one of those books that’s been on my to-read list for a few years: a perfectly-crafted Jane Austen-style romance, with added magic. Delightful. ★★★★☆ (Bookshop.org)

The Bullet Journal Method – Ryder Carroll
I’ve watched the videos, read all the blog posts (… so many blog posts…), and despite my attempts, bullet journalling never really clicked for me. Until now. Something about the way the book is structured made everything fall into place for me. Call me a convert. ★★★☆☆ (Bookshop.org)

Paper Girls Vol. 6 – Vaughan, Chiang, Wilson, Fletcher
As a girl who grew up on ’80s adventure movies, this whole series was so much fun. The finale made me want to go back and read the whole thing from the beginning. ★★★★☆ (Bookshop.org)

Cover of Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly

Amberlough – Lara Elena Donnelly
It kind of feels like this book was crafted to appeal to me and my specific interests: a heartbreaking political/spy drama set in a Weimar-inspired world. Easily the best book I’ve read so far this year, and I can’t wait to read the sequels. ★★★★★ (Bookshop.org)

Black Widow: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Most Wanted & No More Secrets – Waid, Samnee, Wilson
A short run, but so good. (Will it be enough to tide me over until we finally get that Black Widow movie? Who knows?) ★★★★☆ (Bookshop.org: The Complete Collection)

Everyday Tarot – Brigit Esselmont
A good introduction to intuitive tarot reading. (This book doesn’t go into specific card meanings or any of the more esoteric aspects of tarot, but it’s a good—and non-intimidating—place to start.) ★★★☆☆ (Bookshop.org)

Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero, Vol. 2 – DeConnick, Hepburn, Olliffe, Andrade, Buffagni, Kitson
This is such a good series (everyone already knows that. I’m late to the party). Some of the issues lose some of their impact in this collection—they’re part of a larger arc, and we don’t really have the context for the story here—but overall, it’s still a great story. ★★★★☆ (Bookshop.org)

The Athena Protocol – Shamim Sarif
A fantastic, female-led spy adventure. (I think I read the whole thing in two days.) ★★★★☆ (Bookshop.org)


Watching

Frances Ha
In retrospect, this might not have been the best choice to kick off the new year, but whatever—I was due for a ‘what the hell am I doing with my life??’ crisis anyway, and this was weirdly comforting. ★★★★☆

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Based on the few spoilers I allowed myself, I thought I was going to be very disappointed. I wasn’t. But I wasn’t thrilled, either. I liked parts of it a lot, but it made me wish they’d had a solid plan for the whole trilogy going in. ★★★☆☆

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
I had high hopes for this—it’s a fantastic story, and I loved Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman—but this was a perfectly average biopic. It wasn’t bad (the performances in particular were excellent), but it didn’t quite live up to its potential. ★★★☆☆

The Farewell
Such a good movie: funny and sad and nearly perfect. Amazing performances and a script that reminds me of why I still daydream about writing for film. ★★★★☆

To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You
Adorable, and I’m even more #TeamJohnAmbrose than when I read the books, but… the movie felt incomplete, like there was a subplot missing, or like it needed a few more scenes in the third act. I can’t quite put my finger on it. ★★★☆☆

Theatrical poster for Birds of Prey.

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
An absolute joy to watch: candy-coloured and chaotic in the best possible way, with an amazing soundtrack and some of the best setpieces I’ve seen in ages. Birds of Prey makes me want to swing for the rafters, tell the weird, niche stories that make my heart sing. Stories about messy, selfish, and complicated women, and how awesome they can be when they support one another. Big, action-driven stories where the stakes are questionable bodega breakfast sandwiches and not the end of the world. Stories drenched in glitter and red lipstick and anger. ★★★★☆

Miss Americana
I heard some complaints early on that this was shallow and glossy, and not particularly revelatory. But honestly, if you’re expecting something other than a tightly-controlled narrative from a modern music documentary—about anyone, not just Taylor Swift—you’re going to be disappointed. This was a perfectly good film, and exactly what I needed to watch on a bad day. ★★★☆☆

The Neighbor’s Window
A lovely little film about the weirdly intimate connections that can form between people, without ever exchanging a word. I was in tears by the end, in the best way. ★★★★★

MCU Rewatch: Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Ant Man and the Wasp, Captain Marvel