Wednesday, April 27, 2022

April Media Roundup

It's been a big TV watching month for some reason. I tend to float to one streaming service or another and ignore the others, but I've been as ADHD in my TV watching as I am in my daily life. In short, I've been all over the place, so I'll be naming a few favorites. 

Before we jump into those, though, C. Lee McKenzie contacted a few of us about sending our writing wishes for the year, and she collected these on the Insecure Writers Support Group blog: Author Wishes for 2022.

Here are some media I've enjoyed in the last month or so:


Star Mother, by Charlie N. Holmberg

Star Mother, by Charlie N. Holmberg

This one was sent to me by a friend. It wasn't the sort of book I'd usually read, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. This is pure fantasy. A woman from a village volunteers when the Sun calls for a new Star Mother, knowing it means her death, but will bring honor to her family. But something strange happens. She delivers the star...and lives. Though the Sun is willing to keep her in his palace, she opts to go back home, only to find that things are not the way she left them.

This one had the tension of warring celestial gods, romance, the fickleness of humanity, and two people brought together to flee those hunting them. Creative and spellbinding.

The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Virgin Suicides, by Jeffrey Eugenides

I saw the movie when it came out, and remember it being well done, but the book itself was gorgeously written, though flawed. It's told from the POV of several boys in a neighborhood, who find themselves fascinated by a household with five teenage girls. Ultimately, each girl will commit suicide. This isn't a secret. The entirety of the book is about the lead up to it and the boys (only one is the narrator) examining the why and what led to this choice.

On the one hand, the reader can't help but also be fascinated along with the boys. On the other, there's a taint of misogyny to the whole thing. What the boys are often thinking about, even after the tragedy, is how much they wanted in the girls' pants and what a shame it is to have wasted five beautiful girls. At the same time, the narrator never addresses the shallowness of the boys (or the men, when they grow up). If this were a true look back, a true attempt to analyze what went wrong, they should have also discovered it was their complete lack of viewing the humanity of the sisters instead of what they could possibly offer the boys in terms of bubble gum kisses and soft warmth. 

These girls are victims of everyone. Of the boys who watched through their windows with an erroneous sense of curiosity, but a lack of depth. Of their parents. Of their teachers. Of the people in the community. Of every single person who knew things were weird in that house and never did anything to help those girls. And I do feel the book intends to point this out. Above all else, these girls were failed. And the reader sees just how easily that can happen, how easily children's lives can go wrong when the "village" looks the other way. 

Each girl has a surface personality different from the others and beautifully rendered, which is why it took me a while to realize how shallow the narrative was. Of course these boys can't know the inner workings of the girls, so we see what they see when the girls are at school, or peering out a window, or running into the front yard to surround their ill Dutch elm and save it from the folks who've come to chop it down. We only get a slight taste of each character, because of the way the story is told. It's effective. Intriguing. And the city of Detroit is a character in itself.

Heartbreaking. Gorgeous. Whimsical. Problematic.

Crime & Passion: Three Short Stories, by Francelia Belton

This isn't novel length. It's a collection of three short stories (just as it says on the cover). They're all crime stories, not mysteries. In each, a woman deals with a crime, whether as the victim or the perpetrator. Each plot is interesting and well written, drawing the reader in to see what will happen. 


The Bubble, Netflix

The Bubble

This movie was exactly what I needed. Absolutely ridiculous. Hysterical. I knew from the cast that I had to watch it. It's rather pandemic-meta. The cast is brought back for a sequel to a cheesy creature feature, but the pandemic is on, which means they must deal with quarantine, then remain at this hotel in a "bubble" of safety so no one will bring the virus in and expose everyone else. But what happens when you trap an eclectic group of narcissists together and make them quarantine two weeks at a time in their rooms? The quarantine montages are hilarious. It gets even better when a lunatic is brought in to do security. Definitely worth a watch if for no other reason than to shut your brain off.

Siege, Shudder


This is a 1983 film, set during a police protest in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In fact, it contains real footage from the real police protest that occurred there in 1981! It's the kind of gritty, gun-filled movie you'd expect from the early 80s but what caught my attention was how severely it hit home in this day and age. Police are picketing, so a group of people intending to take over the power vacuum (calling themselves the New World Order, if I remember correctly), decide to use their newfound power to harass the folks in a gay bar. But it goes too far (of course it does) (Trigger warning for hate crimes), and the sole survivor of the slaughter escapes to a nearby apartment complex, where the residents hide him and prepare to fight back. 

What originally drew me was the ridiculous image (above). I thought it was going to be a comedic take on a siege in the city that would involve a bunch of yuppies. The photo is misleading, though, and the topics are much deeper than I imagined, even if they're presented in the wrapping of an 80s horror film. What happens if there are no police? Who will fill the power vacuum? Who will suffer the most? Who will stand up against those who abuse their power? In this case, it's on a very small scale, but I feel like it's an interesting commentary on some things that effect both political sides. And that's all I'll say about that.

Oh, and there was no one I would have classified as a yuppie in the cast of characters, so I'm still confused by the image.

Low budget and shot in 14 days in the apartment complex some of the filmmakers actually lived in, it's an interesting film. And I am, after all a child of the 80s and the gritty films of the day (cough, Dirty Harry, cough, Death Wish, cough), so I can appreciate the style.

TV Shows

House, Peacock


Yes, that's right. It took me this long to watch a show that originated in 2004. Everybody kept telling me how much I'd love it, so they annoyed me right away from it. Now that no one is pressuring me (hear that, Doctor Who fans??), I've finally given it a chance, and I quite enjoy it. Though as a walking, talking medical mystery myself, the whole of them repeatedly getting the diagnosis wrong and mistreating the patient before they finally arrive at the real issue is pretty stressful. The rest of the characters make up for House being such a jerk. It's like a crime drama, but medical instead. I wonder if I paid enough attention whether it would always be the third diagnosis that's correct, just like the crime show formula that shows us the third person accused is the real villain?

Killing It, Peacock

Killing It

We're not far in yet, as a new episode is released weekly, but this show's great for some dark humor. Unable to get a loan, the MC needs $20,000 to start his dream business. An ill-fated ride in an Uber shows him a way to make a quick buck AND possibly win a contest that will bring guessed it...$20,000. Hunting pythons in the Florida swamps is good money, but it's not without its challenges.

The Glades, Hulu

The Glades

Yep, another old one. I just completely missed this one. Probably because I don't have cable, and haven't since the first season of "Fringe" came out. That's all I know. Another crime show, yes, but the main character is interesting and the crimes are different, so I'm in.

The Thing About Pam, Hulu

The Thing About Pam

Based on a true crime, this is done in such a fun way. A Dateline anchor is doing the voiceover, which makes it a tad different. But the real standout here is Renee Zellweger. She is amazing in the role of Pam, a woman who *may* have murdered her friend and manipulated everyone around her into thinking it was her friend's husband. She manages to manipulate the police and the murdered friend's family so everyone is on her side. Even the DA and the judge, who are besties in the small town. Zellweger is so amazing that I had to go look up the real crime, because I was so angry. I can't put into words how excellent her acting is in this role. The character is absolutely loathsome, a complete psychopath who pulls no punches and has no compunctions about hurting anyone in her path, even if it's just emotionally. I highly, highly recommend this one. Zellweger had better get nominated for an award. Entertaining, well-paced, emotional, and a stellar cast.

What are you watching or reading? Anything in the past month that you'd recommend? 

May you find your Muse.


Annalisa Crawford said...

I'm currently watching Star Trek: Picard. Enjoying it, albeit while hiding behind a cushion due to my fear of the Borg!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I'm watching ER when the service will steam the episodes. I can't remember why I didn't watch it back in the day. Must have had something important to do every Thursday, like playing on a bowling team or something. I'm enjoying it a lot. I remember the Virgin Suicides a bit. Maybe I need to watch that one again.

Mary Kirkland said...

I love House, he is so sarcastic and funny.
I've been watching Ozark on netflix.