Cruel Intentions

josh jackson's hair in cruel intentions.png

okay so my girlfriend I watched this a while ago, and it was incredible trash. Like, I knew what I was getting into, I knew it was going to be over the top and weird sex everything. It was all that and more. It was incredible. There is definitely some serious analysis about how fucking ridiculous the whole thing is, but who cares. It is fun. It’s absurdly fun beautiful garbage. Also, Joshua Jackson’s hair? Is just? We had to actually pause the movie to talk about it, that’s how much it was. Curl up with someone you love and enjoy the wild ride.

(this is not much of a write up, but whatever. this movie was so much. normally I find pictures online, but this is a screenshot that I took because it was so important.)

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City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

I liked this book a lot while I was reading it, but then I started to write about it a month later, and mostly came up with mean things to say. Sometimes that happens.

It’s a New York City novel, and it’s trying to be that big, that sprawling, about that many different things and people. It kind of suceeds at achieving that scale — there are that many elements, but a lot of them feel hollow. A lot of characters felt cliched, but intriguing enough? A lot of different characters were cliches I generally enjoy. Too much of the story was given over to straight white men who weren’t very interesting, which is the saddest problem to have. It’s set in 1977, and before that, and a little bit after that. It’s all over the place, almost exclusively in the past.

I was excited by its interest in New York punk, but frustrated because this is something I actually know things about, and it feels off — not wrong necessarily, but untrue. I read Please Kill Me: the Uncensored Oral History of New York Punk when I was in seventh grade, and it was incredibly formative for what I like thinking about, and seeing that world described but fictionalized was frustrating. I understand wanting to mess around in that sandbox, it’s fascinating, but this is not how I would have done it at all.

There are interesting female characters that are never fully given their due. They’re fleshed out, and I like them a lot, but ultimately their arcs seem more in service of male characters which is bad. The big event that holds everything together is the shooting of a young woman, and then through the rest of the novel she’s idolized and mourned, serving as a prop for the plot, and a reason for Men to have emotions, which is not cool or interesting.

There are lots of threads going on, and they do manage to tie together, but not in a way that makes me care. With so many characters some of them arrive at more satisfying ends than others, but that’s to be expected.

The more I think of the ending the more of a let down it feels like. It ends with the 1977 blackout, and I can tell what he’s trying to do, and I can see how this could have been a huge grand finale. But it sort of isn’t? Parts of it felt predictable, and other threads felt underserved. And then the aftermath doesn’t get dealt with all that well. It felt messy.

The writing itself is interesting and enjoyable. I especially enjoy the original source documents embedded as breaks in the novel. School records, zines, reporting, and emails, do a more interesting job of telling the story than the actual book. These inclusions ground the world, adding context and perspective. If only the novel parts were as strong.

The decision to not be chronological never feels wholly justified, and the changes in pace — sometimes spending lots of pages on a day, while other times breezing through whole years, didn’t work for me. It didn’t get confused exactly — I didn’t have a hard time following the story — but it felt unnecessary. It didn’t feel blend in natural, it made me question it, and I found that it felt forced. It was a weird flourish, not something that added to the story.

In a way my frustration is a sign of the novel’s quality — it’s good enough enough that I want it to be even better. it has something going on that I enjoyed a lot, and wish that other parts worked as well. It’s an interesting book.
I’m torn about what to say? I really enjoyed it while I was reading it, but the further away I get, and the more I try to write about it the more frustrating it feels. There’s definitely something there, and if any of the elements are your jam then it’s worth checking out, but it has issues.

my poor wrist

My wrist has been fucked up all weekend, which isn’t that unusual, my wrist is at least sort of fucked up all the time, but it was worse this weekend, to the point where the pain and watching the Wild lose on Saturday afternoon almost made me cry. It’s a little bit better now though. My partner came over, and made me buy a new brace when I couldn’t find either of my old ones, and made me stop trying to do things. We watched a lot of movies, and cuddled on the couch. It was really nice. That’s all we did yesterday as well, which is a perfect Valentine’s Day. We watched Lilo and Stitch, and Ghostbusters, which she had never seen and didn’t love as much as I do, and then hours of This Old House, which was inspiring. There had been a piece of trim held onto the kitchen sink with duct tape and desperation. This morning I yanked it off to uncover the rotten wood and see what’s going on in there. I have a plan to fix it up, which should be cool. I’m not all that handy, but it’s one of those things where no matter how badly I fuck it up it’ll be better than before, cause it won’t be held up with duct tape. At least some attempt to fix it will have been made, and it’s about damn time. This house is coming apart all around us, and my parents aren’t exactly motivated to do much. They’re never going to sell this house. They talk about moving sometimes, but they’ve been talking about moving since I was like ten years old, and it’s never going to happen. I’ve made my peace with this, I’m just gonna do what I can to keep it together. I’m only working one day this week, so I need a project, especially since my wrist is still fucked enough that I’m not sure about typing too much. Like, I’m doing it, obviously, right this very moment, but I’m definitely limited, and trying to be actually producitive like this would be a fucking terrible idea. Taking that piece of border off and tearing up the falling off tile was also a terrible idea, but well. I’ve got time.

omg raven cylcle!

Last week I read the first three books of the Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater in four days, and it was absolutely fantastic. I could not stop reading. I love every single character. Gansey is an archetype of a certain type of hero that often frustrates me, but subverted and given a new life as something fresh. Blue is the kind of female protagonist I want to read about, and the kind of young woman I want to be. Ronan is exactly my sort of disaster. I love that the grownup characters are complex and interesting, which is so rare in books about teenagers. All of the women in Blue’s household mean so much to me. Her mother, Maura, is incredible, and I love that she’s given a love interest that’s cool and important to the story, not just checking something off a list. The worldbuilding works, the plot is interesting, the antagonists are well done. After the last book comes out in April I’m going to come back and write something about the series as a whole, but I was excited and didn’t want to wait until then to share how much I enjoyed these books.

Cowboys and Aliens

Look — I’ve watched a fair number of mediocre westerns with my dad before, and this was another of them, just a little bit stranger. Not stranger enough to be honest. It over commits to being a western, and never properly embraces the crazy possibilities of there also being aliens. It was boring. There are a lot of ways that a movie about cowboys and aliens could fuck up, but it takes a spectacular lack of vision to wind up being boring. It’s a shame, because I like the cast, and I like Jon Favreau, and I like the concept of this movie, but the execution wasn’t any fun, or really much of anything, just a bummer of wasted potential. If you want to a really good movie with cowboys and aliens go rewatch Toy Story, and ignore that this thing even exists.

Blow Dry

This is a very sweet British indie about a small town in England and a hair cutting contest. It’s a goofy premise, but it works. We were inspired to watch this due to the presence of the recently departed and much loved Alan Rickman, as well as pride of South Minneapolis Josh Hartnett. He went to my high school, and seeing him here with a fairly decent English accent was very strange. This movie had a ton of heart. At times it edged into something stickily sentimental, but never it a bad way. It made both of my parents cry. It was a lovely little story about family, and working together, and community. Absolutely lovely.

Best of Enemies

I had heard good things about this movie when it came out, but then after reading Eminent Outlaws, which had a lot about Vidal, including this incident, I really wanted to check it out. It was a very interesting movie, and did a good job of balancing the archival footage and modernday talking heads. The way news was done back then is so different from how news operates now, it’s sort of ridiculous. I don’t like saying better or worse, I don’t think this is a healthy or interesting way of thinking about history, but the distance between public intellectuals debating issues on TV to a 24 hour news cycle that doesn’t actually report anything, or at least not the same way tweeting from the middle of things does, it’s just so… It’s a cosmic shift. We don’t even have “public intellectuals” anymore, at least not in the same way. This documentary was an enlightening window into the way things used to be, into a story that was a huge deal at the time and has now faded into obscurity. It’s well done, and brings up a lot of things to think about.