Cultural Consumption | January-March 2021

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Cultural Consumption 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.

Reading

I’ll Be the One – Lyla Lee
I don’t read a tonne of romcoms, but this was exactly the book I needed to start the year: bright and joyful. It just made me happy. ★★★☆☆
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The Anatomy of Story – John Truby
I’ve got mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, it was one of the first books on story structure that’s taught me something new. On the other, it could’ve been about half as long; some lessons got repetitive, and others (the ones that felt like they had the most potential) were barely brushed over. ★★★★☆
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Hood Feminism – Mikki Kendall
An essential, unflinching reminder that everything that affects women—gun violence, housing, access to education and medical care—is a feminist issue. Fantastic introduction to intersectional feminism. ★★★★☆
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These Violent Delights – Chloe Gong
Honestly? The Romeo & Juliet elements were the least interesting part of this for me. Everything else—mystery and horror in 1920s Shanghai—is incredible. ★★★☆☆
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D-Day Girls – Sarah Rose
I liked this. It’s an engaging read, and the women highlighted are all fascinating, with incredible stories. But I wanted more from it: either more in-depth history and spycraft or more personal focus. Either one would be good. ★★★☆☆
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How to Write One Song – Jeff Tweedy
I have absolutely no plans to write a song. This is still a fascinating look at the process—or a process—with insights that apply to any creative work. ★★★★☆
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Harleen – Stjepan Šejić
A gorgeously-drawn story that does my girl Harley Quinn justice. (As a rule, I don’t ship Harley with the Joker. This does romanticize the relationship a bit more than I like, but it doesn’t gloss over the dysfunction or manipulation, and Harley has agency that’s sometimes missing from her origin story. Your mileage may vary, of course.) ★★★☆☆
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Burn Our Bodies Down – Rory Power
I loved Wilder Girls when it came out a few years ago, and this (while very different) hits that same sweet spot between weird and beautiful. Or disturbing and magical. Whatever it is, I love it. ★★★★☆
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Five Total Strangers – Natalie D. Richards
I didn’t know anything about this when I checked it out from the library—just that I love contained thrillers and this looked like a fun one. It was: I finished it in an afternoon. ★★★☆☆
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Teen Killers Club – Lily Sparks
To be honest, I would’ve read this one for the cover art alone. It’s just a bonus that the book is so much fun. (I love a good teen assassin story so much.) ★★★★☆
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Wanderers – Chuck Wendig
An absolutely incredible book that I’m really really glad I didn’t read in 2020. ★★★★★
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Watching

Knives Out (Trailer)
A fun, old-fashioned murder mystery. I do kind of regret waiting so long to watch it; I have a feeling I would’ve liked it more without spoilers. ★★★★☆

Mank (Trailer)
Ok, this is a gorgeous movie. It took a few minutes for me to really get into it—there were moments at the beginning that seemed a bit slow and too talky, but in a way that feels right for a movie about Hollywood in the ’30s and ’40s—but when I did, it paid off. ★★★★☆

Sorry to Bother You (Trailer)
I thought I knew what to expect going into this. Not the specifics, but at least the vibe: anti-capitalist satire with a surrealist bent. I get it. And then it took a left turn that I was absolutely not expecting, and got so much weirder. Anything else I could say is a spoiler. ★★★★☆

Widows (Trailer)
I wanted to love this so much. The cast, director, and premise are all fantastic, and atmospheric (rather than action-heavy) thrillers are my absolute favourite thing. But the pacing felt off to me—the big reveal happened too early, and instead of amping up the tension, it sucked the energy out of the rest of the movie. By the time we got to the heist, I didn’t really care anymore. ★★★☆☆

To All the Boys: Always and Forever (Trailer)
Better than the second film in the trilogy, but not quite as much fun as the first. (My biggest emotional thrill was when Lara Jean got the acceptance letter from NYU. So that’s where I’m coming from here.) ★★★☆☆

Black Bear (Trailer)
This is the first film I watched in 2021 that really blew me away: twisty and dark and funny, with amazing performances from everyone involved. It plays with structure in a really interesting way, and I can’t stop thinking about it. ★★★★☆

Sound of Metal (Trailer)
Not a perfect film, but there are moments of perfection here. Riz Ahmed is incredible. ★★★★☆


Rewatched: Black Swan, Logan