Moonlight

This was a beautiful sweet film. My sweetheart and I saw it on the day after the election, and it was a perfect reminder that there are good things in the world. It’s the story of a boy in Miami, growing up and dealing with his mother’s addiction and his own sexuality.

All of the acting is excellent, the visuals are stunning. Go see it, it’ll make your life better. I don’t really have a lot to say. I’m going to see it again. I’m rooting for it to win all the awards possible. I think it’s a beautiful movie, and an important one. It really did make me feel better about the universe. I know that’s an odd thing to say, but it’s true. Go see it.

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The Handmaiden

This was so beautiful and twisty. It’s based on Sarah Waters’s novel, The Fingersmith, but transported to Korea under Japan’s colonial rule. I haven’t read the book, and I don’t know much about this part of history, but it all works so well.

I loved that it’s a movie about lesbians who get a happy ending, where all the men are terrible and get what they deserve. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The cinematography is beautiful, the costumes are incredible, the cast is a delight.

It’s a dramatic movie, with some weird dark twists, but I laughed a ton. It had great timing, and knows how over the top some of the situations presented are. It takes itself the perfect amount of seriously. Even when the stakes are high, there’s plenty of room to breath.

There are a lot of sex scenes, and I’m not sure what I think about them. They aren’t strictly necessary, but they don’t feel creepily male gaze, except for the parts that are supposed to be creepy. It reminds me of fan fiction, where the sex is a part of the story, a part of the character’s life, not something to fade away from. All of the sex scenes serve some sort of plot point, except for the last, which is shot oddly, and fairly ridiculous, but I’m going. It’s a very fan fiction thing to end a story with sex to reassure the audience that everything ends happily, and that’s how it functions here.

It’s absolutely one of the best movies of the year. I can see how it wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste, but it’s a stunning work of art, and I am so glad it exists. It’s a really phenomenal strange movie about lesbians — the world needs more of that.

Goldenhand by Garth Nix

Goldenhand, latest installment of Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series, was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and it did not disappoint. I love this whole world so much. I read the first book, Sabriel, when I was really young. I think I must have been in fifth grade, and I remember absolutely devouring it in a single sitting. Loral, and Abhorsen built on  the world and the characters in such a brilliant way. Goldenhand picks up not far past the end of Abhorsen, and goes even further, pushing the borders of the map. I loved it. The adventure story is great, the romance was so beautiful. I love relationships between two people who are equally terrible at knowing what to do with feelings. The new characters are cool, and all of my old favorites were back. If you aren’t already an avid reader of this series, what’s wrong with you? Get to it, it isn’t just some of the most interesting YA fantasy around, but one of my absolute favorite things in the whole world.

Gambler’s Anatomy by Jonathan Lethem

I really like Jonathan Lethem, and I’m interested in checking out whatever he does. This isn’t his best work, it doesn’t have that punch, but it is interesting, and I did enjoy it.

It’s about a professional backgammon player Bruno, who has a blot in his vision, and I don’t want to say any more than that in case you want to go read it yourself. I hate giving plot summaries, and I’m bad at it. He goes back to where he grew up, and there might be some magical realism, and it’s all very interesting.

There’s a whole part about a t-shirt with the Dude on it. Bruno doesn’t know anything about The Big Lebowski, but the picture of Jeff Bridges’s face with the word abide resonates with him on some level. Abide is such a great work, and playing with that was cool. Also the whole idea of a film creating a thing, the face and the word, which as been so thoroughly contextualized by consumer culture, stuck on things and sold. It’s such an odd specific movie, and obviously it struck a chord with a lot of people to be a cult classic, but nothing can exist only for it’s fans, not just for people who are in on the joke, it’s out there drifting. That’s so weird, and really in sync with the tone of the novel.

It sort of made me want to learn to play backgammon, kind of, and i’m not a board game person AT ALL. If I actually tried I’m sure I’d get bored soon enough, but this book did give the game a certain allure. It’s a pretty cool book, that knows it’s pretty cool.

I don’t love how he wrote the women, but hard to tell if that’s a writer concern or a character pov thing, but generally uncool. There are some weird invocations of anarchism that don’t really work. It gestures to politics, but never gets there in a meaningful/interesting way. (Or, possibly, I’ve been reading too much Mieville and it’s warped my perceptions?)

There’s a magical realism thing that I didn’t appreciate. Bruno might be able to read minds, but maybe he’s just crazy? The novel never makes this clear, which could be an interesting ambiguity if done right, but I just found it frustrating. I know Lethem is someone who likes to play around in genre fiction, which I usually love, but damn, I am not a fan of murky magical realism.

The surgical bits were so perfectly disgusting. Lethem thanks a bunch of doctors in the afterward, and he must have done some serious research to make this so intense and specific and gross.

I want to address the ending, so don’t read the rest of the paragraph if you don’t want spoilers: I think I love how the ending loops back, that things haven’t changed as much as it seemed like they might’ve. That there is something to return to. Alexander Bruno couldn’t return to his actual hometown of Berkley, but he could go back to his world of being a non-person in Singapore, maybe that’s who he actually is.

Overall, I liked it? I think? I didn’t love it, but it gave me plenty to think about, and I enjoy going along with authors I like do different things.

We Won’t See Auschwitz by Jeremie Dres

This was a really interesting well done graphic memoir about two brothers who travel from Paris, to Poland, to see where their Grandmother lived, and examine their Jewish heritage. Dres talks to a lot of different people and gets different perspectives on what it means to be Jewish in Poland. He provides plenty of historical context for the reader. It’s clearly drawn, full of expressive buildings and expressive faces, giving the character of the city and conversation.

Jewish roots are one of the things I’m not sure how to write about. I’m an agnostic, who was raised attending a radical methodist church, but my great grandmother came over from Holland because of Anti-Semitism. I was named after my grandmother, who was named Bessie as an Americanized version of Betje, named after her aunt, who died in Auschwitz. This is a part of my family history,  but not a piece that I’m close to. I think I’m Jewish enough for someone who would have a problem with that, but not enough to claim it for myself.

One aspect of the book was that a lot of young Poles are starting to uncover Jewish heritage that had been neglected or denied. Now, in an environment where it’s more acceptable to acknowledge such things, they’re starting to explore what that means. I feel like this isn’t a thing we talk about when we’re analysing identity, and I think that’s a shame. Even if we know where we come from, what that mean to us can change. It really resonated for me, especially with the world right now.

It’s a good little book that I picked up from the library on a whim, and really got a lot out of.