What's this now?
I think we all know how 2016 turned out. 2017 isn't the first time I've started a new year with resolutions. I think every year for the past, like, 12, I've wanted to write more, finish the movies and books I've started but never finished, clear out my comics and music (and podcast!) backlog. (I swear I had this idea before I read this fantastic set of Pop Culture Resolutions on AV Club.) But something about this year gives all those little nags a not-insignificant amount of urgency.
I had planned on doing NaNoWriMo last year but, well, November didn't really cooperate. So I have a big writing project still languishing. But I also have all these things I want to read and watch and listen to. In a perfect world, maybe I'd be able to just drown them all out and focus on my writing, but I've always felt like the best of all the stuff I love directly influences and impacts my creative pursuits.
So I decided to get a little more serious about it. I started keeping track of these efforts in a nice Muji notebook and I decided to institute this: a weekly check in of all the stuff I loved over the course of the week. Will it help me write that book I should be writing? It has, a little, so far, but I think just sticking to something, and giving the things that I enjoy a bit of permanence and purpose will be an overall net gain. It will at least be more productive than just dumping sentiment onto Twitter or Facebook or some message board somewhere.
So, anyway, here we go.
I mentioned that I've been keeping track of everything, and I've several pages of notes covering the week, but I want to start with something fresh in my mind, and that's Arrival. It has a lot in common with two other things I loved at the tail end of 2016, La La Land, and 20th Century Women. I'm loathe to spoil any of them, but I'll say that what sticks with me the most is the way all three movies use the language of film to do thoroughly unique things with linear storytelling, and how events before and after what we're watching influence the things we're watching. All three also employ these techniques to say pretty profound things about our choices, about the inevitability of fate, and the fragility of human decision making.
It's definitely the kind of work where I can say, "Yeah this is definitely going to influence my creative pursuits." As someone who's struggled with finding an interesting way to write about my experience in the second half of the 90s, all three of these movies offered a completely different perspective on telling stories about the past in the context of the present.
Now that I think about it, my first crack at digging into my sizable Criterion backlog, Jules and Jim, is also very much about the passage of time. The thing that stuck with me about it the most kind of only sneaks up on you. In telling the story of Catherine's romantic orbit among Jules and Jim, it runs through World War I and finishes just as the Nazis are rising to power in Germany. It certainly didn't feel like an overt point that the movie was trying to make, but it did put these comparatively small lives into some perspective. I don't know a hundred percent what the point was, but putting this story over that backdrop gave it, to me, an undeniable poignancy.
Some comics highlights from this week:
- Black Science #27 - I always love how this book jumps through genres while keeping the stakes incredibly high at every turn.
- Nova #2 - Probably the best book Marvel is putting out right now. Gorgeous and tremendous fun.
- Mother Panic #2 - This feels very much like a book out of like 1987 and that is totally fine by me.
I also saw Sing Street (pretty great) and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (fine, I guess). Well on my way to hitting 50 films for the year, but what about 50 books? Well, I'm still about 25% into Star Wars: Life Debt: Aftermath (don't judge!) (also, titles these days are slowly nudging into Betrayal: What Really Happened With My Baseball Team, Disaster at Knuckle Beach? aren't they?). It's pretty great so far, but I need to beef up my more literary reading. I figure I'll work on finishing The Flamethrowers next, one of the probably hundred books I have on Kindle that I'm about 15% through.
Lots of TV came back this week as well. Portlandia, The Good Place, and New Girl all had strong new episodes. Brooklyn Nine-Nine went into mid-season hiatus with one of the craziest cliffhangers I've seen in a while. Sherlock, everyone hated but I thought was as fine as any of its other episodes.
I also binged through all of Transparent Season 3, and while it didn't completely demolish me the way Season 2 did, it continues to be one of my favorite shows, and ends with a career defining performance by Judith Light.
WOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL MUSIC!
One of my other resolutions was to make more playlists this year, so organizing these posts seemed like the perfect opportunity to put one together from the best stuff I listened to this week.
- "Wow" by Beck. I mean, of course I had to start here, right?
- "Supra Genius" by Soul Coughing. I don't know why particularly, but I've been listening to a lot of Soul Coughing this week. Part of it is the nostalgia bomb previously discussed, I suppose.
- "Only (El-P Remix)" by Nine Inch Nails. Someone mentioned this on Facebook. Sometimes that's all it takes.
- "Bizness" by tUnE-yArDs. This song was artfully used in Transparent Season 3.
- "What You Said" by Extraordinaire and Killer Mike. There's probably going to be a lot of stuff I get from Matthew Perpetua's brilliant Fluxblog Survey Mixes, one of the many things I'll be working my way through this year.
- "The Big Country" by Talking Heads. The key song from 20th Century Women, and something I haven't been able to stop listening to.
- "(This Song Is Definitely Not About A Boy)" by Makeshift Shelters. Another Fluxblog Survey instant classic.
- "Something On Your Mind" by Karen Dalton. Aside from being really good at using some of my favorite songs, Transparent is also really good at introducing me to new ones.
- "A Report To The Shareholders/Kill Your Masters" by Run The Jewels. "Kill Your Masters" is one of the best beats I've ever heard, full stop.