Some bite-sized thoughts and reflections on the items I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching this month.
Also: Did you read, watch, listen to, play something this month that you particularly enjoyed? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.
Note: The following post contains spoilers for American Dirt (novel by Jeanine Cummins), Days Gone (video game), Dune (2021 version), Joe Pera Talks With You (if it’s even possible to spoil that show), and some dumb holiday movies on Netflix.
What I’m reading for work
What I’m playing for fun
What I’m watching for fun
Dune on HBO Max: Dune was a movie I had no intention of watching, mostly because I remember being scarred for life as a kid when my mother made me sit through the David Lynch version starring Kyle McLachlan. All I knew about Dune from that movie was that it was Not My Kind of Weird. It turns out most of the weirdness of that movie was probably down to the fact that it was directed by David Lynch. I ended up deciding to watch this new version for a couple of reasons. First, the reviews were compelling, if confusing. Anyone who tried to describe the plot lost me pretty easily but the general enthusiasm the critics seemed to have for it was convincing. Second, I found out a bunch of people I like, including Oscar Isaac and Jason Momoa (who I’ve loved since his Stargate Atlantis days) were in it. Third and most important, I have an HBO Max subscription and it was there. Though I understand that the epic feel of this movie can only be fully appreciated when viewing it on the big screen, this is not a movie I would have bothered to see in a theater because it seemed like the kind of thing I wanted to be able to turn off and walk away from if it turned out to be too boring or too weird for me. It wasn’t. I mean, the general pace and the runtime made the thing feel approximately a million and a half years long but it held my attention pretty well. (Except the dark scenes near the end, which were impossible to see on my home screen.) What I especially liked about this movie was that despite how complicated the reviews made the plot out to be, I never felt lost. This despite the fact that very little of what is going on is ever directly explained. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the movie, but it didn’t scar me for life and I’m still thinking about it a good month or so after I actually watched it, which can’t be a bad thing.
Joe Pera Talks With You on HBO Max: I’m not really sure what this show is or what it’s trying to do but somehow I don’t mind that I don’t know. In trying to think how to describe it, the best I could come up with was that it’s kind of like a cross between Fleabag(3), ASMR videos on YouTube, and Mr. Rogers: basically, a kind and gentle man talking to you about things that are on his mind and occasionally teaching you things while also interacting with familiar characters from around his neighborhood. Of course, the main difference is that Mr. Rogers is intended for children and this show is intended for adults as a way to ruminate on and sometimes experience wonder about everyday things. Because Joe Pera as a character is a sort of awkward guy, the humor sometimes leans a little bit cringe, which I’m not a big fan of, but it never goes far enough in that direction to ruin the overall sweet tone, which is more prevalent in the first season than in the second (I haven’t seen any of the third yet–it’s currently airing on Cartoon Network). I think it helps that Joe is portrayed as being aware of his awkwardness and how it affects how other people respond to him, but it’s not something he’s necessarily ashamed of or trying to change. He just is who he is. It’s kind of beautiful! I’m still thinking about the episode “Joe Pera Takes a Fall Drive With You,” which I think particularly resonated with me as someone who tends to treat and think about inanimate objects as if they have thoughts or feelings, especially if those inanimate objects happen to have faces (like a teddy bear or, in Joe’s case, a Jack-o-lantern). I also found a lot of truth in what he has to say about the experience of discovering a new favorite song, as shown in “Joe Pera Reads the Church Announcements.” So, yeah. I don’t quite know what this show is but I’m glad to be along for the ride.
Dumb holiday movies on Netflix: A couple of years ago, I was feeling particularly anxious about the holiday season for various reasons and to take my mind off my anxiety, I ended up marathoning a bunch of dumb Christmas movies on Netflix: The Christmas Prince, The Princess Switch, The Christmas Knight. I must have watched five in the same day. Somehow my brain did not melt. And because my anxiety around the holidays is recurring, it’s become sort of a tradition for me to watch dumb movies like these as a way to relax. So far this year, I’ve watched Love Hard and Single All the Way. I plan to watch The Christmas Castle one at some point and maybe a couple of older ones. To be clear: these movies are super, super dumb. I say that as someone who is generally opposed to trashing romance novels and romantic movies just because they are mainly enjoyed by women. Love Hard feels like the plot was cooked up by an algorithm programmed by a committee that thinks catfishing people is okay for some reason. Meanwhile, the lead actors in Single All the Way have zero chemistry. I do not have high hopes that the Christmas Castle will be any better. And yet. I enjoyed both movies (though I liked Love Hard quite a bit better). Why? In short: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Like I said, I find them soothing at a time of year that is often anxious for me. Plus, watching the same movies and Christmas specials every year starts to feel more like an obligation than an enjoyable tradition. (The number of times I’ve seen Muppet Christmas Carol is very, very disproportionate to how much I actually like that movie.) So whatever. Let me have my thing.