Yes, it’s come to this. But not before I rid my phone of its remaining jots.
Glow, Season 1 // Maybe it’s wrong to say this, considering Glow‘s cast is about 80% female, but Marc Maron really steals the show as director Sam Sylvia. He’s fantastic. His own series, Maron, was too on-the-nose, too redundant (especially if you already listened to his podcast) and too self-serving. In Glow, he’s someone else entirely. He’s sweet and troubled and talented in a completely new way, and his leadership invigorates both the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and the viewer. I loved the episode “Debbie Does Something,” too, because it lets you fall in love with wrestling alongside the skeptical star, Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin). After weeks of wishy-washiness, she finds her hook and allows herself to be reeled in by attending a real match and bathing in the soapy spectacle of it all.
Jaws // I’m new to horror, which means I’m new to even the oldest horror movies. Seeing Jaws is life-changing, though, no matter the decade, because it’s actually more about what you don’t see. Beauty and terror coexist thanks to Steven Spielberg, who builds tension with stress-inducing bouts of silence and emptiness. You’re left wondering when John Williams’ score will start, what’s in the open water, which heroic character will be sacrificed, when will everything go back to normal? Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) are as stoic as can be, but they’re at the mercy of a force more powerful and fearsome than they can comprehend.
It (2017) // There’s this risk-reward thing to horror, I’m learning. Maybe I’ll have weird dreams or feel nauseous, but maybe I’ll also get a rush of adrenaline or a wave of empowerment from it. I definitely did from Stephen King’s It, anyway. Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard) terrorizes the town of Derry, Maine, focusing on the lovable Losers Club of Bill (Jaeden Lieberher), Stan (Wyatt Olef), Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor), Bev (Sophia Lillis), Richie (Finn Wolfhard), Eddie (Jack Dylan Grazer) and Mike (Chosen Jacobs). They’re clever from the start and vulnerable at first, but their weaknesses give way to confidence as they figure out how to harness their fear.
Beginners // On the plus side, the casting of Christopher Plummer and Ewan MacGregor as father Hal and son Oliver was perfect. They have the same mouth. I also loved seeing Plummer play someone as vivacious and silly as a newly-out-of-the-closet octogenarian against MacGregor’s glum, tortured-artist introvert. Writer-director Mike Mills tossed in enjoyable bits of historical footage, too, which grounded the movie’s day-dreaminess. However, the MPDG levels in this flick are astronomical. I want to like Anna (Melanie Laurent) but I can’t, because she doesn’t exist and movies keep refusing to acknowledge that she doesn’t. There are also scenes in which Oliver and Anna vandalize brick walls — hopelessly innocent in 2010 (maybe) but dripping of white privilege today.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man // Though I admit to finding James Joyce’s writing style overwhelming — I had a hard time nailing down the timeline and remembering the names of main character Stephen Dedalus’ schoolmates — it’s hard to deny how powerful and perfect it is to detail the process of Dedalus losing his religion. There’s nothing slick or understated about that experience, and it seems like reading this book is the closest you can get without going through it yourself. Joyce begins with his own take on stream-of-consciousness, akin to if someone got into your head for you and then wrote down what they thought you were thinking. An example: “He thought that he was sick in his heart if you could be sick in that place” (p. 13). Gradually — and ironically — the language becomes more Biblical and visceral as he pulls away from his faith. Dedalus allows himself to be overwhelmed by the very existence nature and the beauty of his own thoughts, rather than attributing anything to a higher being, all while reckoning with the absurdly heavy weight of sin, judgement, fear, whatever else has built up over his life. Like so: “… at times his sense of such immediate repercussion was so lively that he seemed to feel his soul in devotion pressing like fingers the keyboard of a great cash register and to see the amount of his purchase start forth immediately in heaven, not as a number but as a frail column of incense or as a slender flower” (p. 148). The anti-revelation he achieves at the end, the come-away-from-Jesus moment, is far purer than being born again: “To discover the mode of life or of art whereby your spirit could express itself in unfettered freedom” (p. 246).
The Lord of the Rings (the books) // On the one hand, I’m ashamed I dismissed these books as a kid; my ignorance caused me to miss out on something magical. On the other, reading them for the first time as an adult was perhaps the best way to recapture the sense of wonder that’s so easily lost on the subway, in the news, whatever. I won’t pretend to grasp most of what I read, because I didn’t, but I’m already looking forward to the next re-read, and the next and the next. LOTR is a story to check in on periodically, a journey to experience at different times in your life. I know new features and ideas will emerge for me each time, too. This initial once-through introduced me to the language, the world’s lushness and of course the characters. The language, in particular, stood out to me in The Fellowship of the Ring, with such charming words as “durstn’t” and expressions like “eleventy first” and “Fool of a Took!” Cleverness permeates, too: “Boats are quite tricky enough for those that sit still without looking further for the cause of trouble” (p. 23) and “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve) (p. 29) are particularly funny. But the most ubiquitous quality of the language is its kindness and patience: “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and thought in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater” (p. 339) and “Nay, time does not tarry ever, but change and growth is not in all things and places alike” (p. 379) are perfect examples.
In The Two Towers, everything is green — all five senses, everyone’s mood, the world around the Fellowship as they trek. It’s undeniable and lush in a way that demands otherworldly descriptions. Hobbit Pippin details his impressions of Ents like so: “I don’t know, but it felt as if something that grew in the ground — asleep, you might say, or just feeing itself as something between root-tip and leaf-tip, between deep earth and sky had suddenly waked up, and was considering you with the same slow care that it had given to its own inside affairs for endless years” (p. 452). And Ent Treebeard says of his native tongue: “It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to” (p. 454). But nature isn’t all nurturing in the Fellowship’s world; evil lacks the verdant hues but is described just as wholly, in the case of the Tower of the Moon: “Paler indeed than the moon ailing in some slow eclipse was the light of it now, wavering and blowing like a noisome exhalation of decay, a corpse-light; a light that illuminated nothing,” (p. 688).
In The Return of the King, the weight of the Fellowship’s sacrifice and the magnitude of its task ahead really hit me. And little character quirks — which I know were there all along, but which I had been too distracted to pick up on — came to light in a way that made me feel like I really knew the group, like I was making the trek, too. From Gandalf’s nimble wisdom (“Let us remember that a traitor may betray himself and do good that he does not intend,” p. 797) to Merry’s honesty (“It is best to love first what you are fitted to love, I suppose; you must start somewhere and have some roots; and the soil of the Shire is deep,” p. 852) to Sam’s loyalty (Frodo “lay back in Sam’s gentle arms, closing his eyes, like a child at rest when night-fears are driven away by some loved voice or hand,” p. 889) to Frodo’s purity (“It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger; some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them,” p. 1006) everyone (except Gollum) was exactly who they were, insignificant in size (mostly) but legendary in presence. I can’t wait to do it all again with them.
And with that, I’m off for a time.
Thanks so much for reading; it means the world to me. When there’s more, you’ll know about it.