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the triumphant-ish return of five things. [five things, 6.9.17]

These days, there’s just too much media to consume.

Combine the accumulation of all the great things created in human history, and you already have too much to get to in one lifetime. Add to that the fact that amazing stuff is currently being made at a pace that is impossible to keep up with, and you have a recipe for despair.

The last thing you need is some asshole giving you a list of more things you should check out.

In that spirit, here is a list of five things you should check out.

None of these things are obscure, but all of them seem underappreciated based on my limited line of sight.


1. Power Man and Iron Fist by David F. Walker

I haven’t watched it yet, but by most accounts, Netflix’s Iron Fist was underwhelming at best. Many people responded more favorably to Luke Cage, but while I enjoyed the character on Jessica Jones, the standalone show fell really flat for me.

Fortunately, I don’t need Netflix if I want a great ongoing Power Man and Iron Fist story, because David F. Walker has been absolutely killing it since relaunching the title for Marvel early last year.

Power Man and Iron Fist is witty, playful, socially aware, smart, and above all, really fun.

Walker is able to embrace and transcend the blaxploitation roots of the title in ways that work on every level.

Also, did I mention it’s really fun? The style? The art? The characterization? Fun, fun, and fun.

Power Man and Iron Fist does just about everything the Luke Cage series tried — and in my opinion failed — to do as far as social commentary goes, but without ever taking itself very seriously.

I want David F. Walker to write all of the things.

Will the Heroes for Hire ride again? Can Danny and Luke get their old mojo back in order to stop an entertaining rogue’s gallery from tearing Harlem apart? Will someone be able to use the Supersoul Stone, and artifacts like it, to become the darkly powerful Grandmaster of Street Magic? You’ll have to read and find out.


2. A Band Called Death

I finally got around to watching this movie. You should finally get around to watching it, too.

I expected it to be entertaining, appealing to my music and record loving heart. And it was. I had a great time watching the story of Death and the strange series of events that led to the band being discovered 34 years after recording their only album.

What I didn’t expect was the emotional power of the film’s third act as it touches on the beauty of family and the bittersweet nature of hope.

Shut up, I’m not crying. You’re crying.


3. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Obviously, the film isn’t underappreciated. The beauty of Hayao Miyazaki‘s modern classic — one among many — is well-known.

But the book by Diana Wynne Jones? Now, that’s a different story. Literally, actually. It’s a very different story than the one Miyazaki told — his changes were reportedly made, at least in part, to create a film in response to the American war in Iraq.

Obviously I won’t go into detail about specific differences, because that would ruin all the fun for any of you who decide to read it. What I will say is that both stories are great, so it isn’t hard to love each of them.

Jones immediately shot up my list of authors whose work I want to devour entirely, in much the same way that a fire demon eats bacon. Neil Gaiman’s love for Jones already had her on my list of authors to check out, but Howl’s Moving Castle plants her firmly in the ‘Give Me More’ category. Her writing is funny, wise, and layered. Her narrative voice is bright and playful, and the way she limits the reader’s field of vision based on Sophie’s perspective — even though she isn’t the narrator — is done with heaping portions of humor and insight.

This is a quick read, and well worth your time. Just try not to drag the movie into it. Let each stand in conversation with the other, not opposition.


4. Mo’ Meta Blues by ?uestlove

Seeing The Roots live is one of the greatest music experiences currently available in this world. The two Roots shows we’ve seen were infectiously joyful, wildly fun three-hour-long homages to music and life, with Questlove as the mad genius ringleader [[I read they’ve since tragically retired the three-hour-long so-called ‘Springsteen shows.’]] This book felt a lot like the text manifestation of those shows. I loved it.

One of my favorite things is passionate, knowledgable people talking about the things they love most. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more passionate or knowledgable about a given topic than Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson is about music.

I loved learning the story of Questlove, beginning with his parents’ record collection. I loved learning the story of The Roots, beginning with Black Thought’s rivalry with Wanya Morris of Boyz II Men — they all went to the same arts high school in Philly. But most of all, I loved the deep, overflowing love Questo has for music and seeing how that passion has shaped his entire life, and American music along with it.


5. Legion

I tell ya, I thank the gods of television that Noah Hawley is making shows.

David Haller thinks he’s crazy, but it turns out he’s actually just a wildly powerful mutant. Then again, maybe he’s crazy.

You may think a television show adapted from the pages of an X-Men comic won’t be to your liking, but if let that keep you from watching Legion you’ll really be missing out.

This show isn’t what people might expect in their knee-jerk assumptions about a show based on a comic. It’s super trippy and lots of fun… I know, I’ve said almost everything in this post so far is fun, it’s just that these things are fun.

Legion is like if Pushing Daisies and Fargo — the show, obviously, because Noah Hawley — had a baby, and then that baby grew up and had a baby with Charles Xavier.

The show is smart and quirky, with unexpected delight and/or creepiness waiting around every corner.

The cast is especially great, with the performances by Aubrey Plaza, Dan Stevens and Jemaine Clement deserving gold stars in my book.

Seriously, don’t let the comic origins put you off if you don’t like comics. You can hate super hero films and still love this show. The show is designed so someone who has never even heard of comic books can jump right in and enjoy it. I know that might be hard to believe coming from a guy who started this installment of five things with a comic book, but it’s true. I promise!

 

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kingsman: the golden circle. [trailer park.]

I loved the first Kingsman film. It was playful, energetic, and irreverant, but also visually competent, delivering some really memorable scenes. It joyfully celebrated and roasted all the Bond tropes, but with a bit of an updated sensibility. Also, Firth was at peak Firthiness and Taron Egerton delivered one of my favorite star-making roles in a while, with a pitch-perfect performance full of just the right balance of cocky swagger and sweet vulnerability.

I really hope this sequel doesn’t go the way of Kick Ass 2.

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atomic blonde. [trailer park.]

Apparently, thanks to franchises like The Raid and John Wick, we’re going to get competently made action movies now.

If the first two trailers for Atomic Blonde are any indication, this is going to have some solid fight scenes, where the camera holds enough to let choreography, physicality and acting tell the story and be thrilling. These look like long take fight scenes that skew away from the over-edited bullshit that passes as action these days.

Great filmmaking can come in any genre, and I’m going to watch the fuck out of this movie.

Also, how about that cast! Wee-ow!

I feel like even if the fast majority of this film falls short, the camera work and the choreography should be enough to make it well worth a watch.

As bonus educational content, you should watch check out these:

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the x-files. [a month of happy.]

Popular culture is central to my life. My love of movies, books, music, shows, and the like made me who I am, or at the very least, offered me the language to articulate and navigate my world in powerfully formative ways.

And of all the things that I identified with and was shaped by, the X-Files is second to none.

I’ve forgotten most of my life, a phenomenon that increases in degree as I get older, but many of the memories that have stayed are related to X-Files.

I still have a clear recollection of the time I watched “Squeeze” as an eleven year old. I was terrified and captivated, and the rest of that week I couldn’t be in the dark because I was certain Eugene Victor Tooms was crawling through our heating vents to come and eat my liver. Okay, so maybe I didn’t really think he was coming, but I wasn’t willing to bet my life that he definitely wasn’t coming to eat my liver.

After that, I was hooked. I watched X-Files devotedly from then until the show ended in 2002. My college friends and I rewatched the entire show together, from beginning to end. Which was made easier because that’s when television shows on DVD started to be a thing (actually, the seasons were released on DVD between 2000 and 2004, exactly the years I was in college).

It was our cult, and we delighted in being complete fucking nerds about it. We had Xs taped in our windows, Mitch Pileggi headshots beside our beds, and would often drop whatever other social plans we were involved in when the other three guys came by with an invitation to go ‘X it up.’

My last.fm profile handle is SpookyMulder. My Popularium byline is “I want to believe.”

Now I’m getting to rewatch the show again with Emily as she watches it for the first time.

Most of the popular tv shows today owe part of their DNA to the X-Files, as do I.

There are traces of Scully in my skepticism and wariness, and traces of Mulder in my sarcasm and passion. As evidenced by Emily’s regular exclamations while we watch along the lines of, “Are you sure you’re not Mulder?!” But I actually used to be far more like Mulder than I am now. These days I’m too much like sad sack season five Mulder, when he stopped believing for a while and the animating force went out of him, because he was so driven by his dogged pursuit of truth. I remember those days, and I miss them. I still share too many of his vices and weaknesses. And when I’m my best self, I still share some of his strengths. I mean, minus the brilliance, obviously.

Anywyay, when the X-Files was bad, it was sooooo bad, but when it was good, it was perfect. There are ‘monster of the week’ episodes of the show that will always be on the short list of my favorite tv episodes of all time.

I wish I had more time to write about this, to refine and expand my thoughts — and do even basic editing — alas, this is what happens when a person self-imposes the requirement to post something every single day regardless of busyness.

Suffice it to say that in a month sharing things that make me happy, nothing fits better than the X-Files.

 

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spider-man: homecoming and a ghost story. [a month of happy.]

That’s right, folks, two trailers for the price of one (plus, a bonus video)!

First, Spider-Man: Homecoming has a new trailer, and I’m sharing it, because, obviously.

And second, David Lowery‘s A Ghost Story

Lowery has a style and sensibility I really enjoy. His work directing Pete’s Dragon last year — with that film’s lovely visual competency — made me hopeful that Disney is going to expand on their new tendency to allow talented young directors to actually put their stamp on core Disney films. This trend is further evidenced by the fact that Ava DuVernay is currently directing the studio’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. Not only does DuVernay check the young talented director box, but the fact that she backed away from Black Panther because she felt like she wasn’t going to get enough creative freedom says to me that her involvement with A Wrinkle in Time means she got assurances that she would be given the stylistic license she rightfully craves.

Anyway, I’ve been excited about this and I’m glad we finally got a trailer!

As a bonus, for anyone who didn’t watch it the first time I shared last year, here’s Lowery’s short film Pioneer. It’s really great, and was the first thing of his I saw (a list that’s still pretty short).

PIONEER from David Lowery on Vimeo.

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reynolds and gyllenhaal. [a month of happy.]

I feel like this is cheating a little bit, since I already included the Pratt/Lawrence press relationship. But this is just something that made me happy this month. When is the comedy starring Pratt/Lawrence/Reynolds/Gyllenhaal coming out?

The people who do these interviews are often intolerable, and Reynolds and Gyllenhaal were amazing in their tireless ability to subvert the inanity of the press junket life with their own absurdity.

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moonlight. [a month of happy.]

“Who is you, Chiron?”

I would imagine that this may seem a strange inclusion in the month of happy. This film isn’t exactly light fare.

But after watching Moonlight for the second time, the best word to describe the mix of feelings it leaves me with is joy, followed quickly by hope.

For one, its beauty is inspiring. There is no aspect of this film that isn’t beautiful. The screenplay is beautiful, the score is beautiful, the camera work is beautiful, the themes are beautiful, the characters are beautiful. Every actor in the film manages to imbue each character with an amazing humanity and depth, which is especially impressive in light of the fact that only one cast member appears in all three parts of the film.

Moonlight is remarkable and joyful in many ways, it certainly deserves more than this stream-of-consciousness blog response. But, all the same, I wanted to share something that struck me on my second viewing.

This film– in addition to all the huge things it portrays in terms of race, sexuality, and identity — quietly illustrates the immense significance of kindness and hospitality.

The most poignantly hopeful scenes in Moonlight all take place when characters are creating space for each other in small and extraordinary ways.

**Spoilers and whatnot**

As these characters provide a meal, offer a ride, light a cigarette, share a table, make a bed, create a nickname, make a cup of tea, teach a child to swim — as they offer the gifts of touch, warmth, and home, they save a life and create room for a man as he continues the struggle to find himself and feel at home in his own body.

Take the scenes in the film set at tables. These alone are enough to illustrate my point.

With a glaring exception in the center of the film — in the cafeteria when Kevin is goaded into assaulting Chiron — every other scene in which characters share a table with each other is a scene when characters are fighting for Chiron, making room for him in the world.

In a perfect film, which I’d argue this one is, we’re rewarded for paying attention. Director Barry Jenkins doesn’t waste a single gesture or camera movement, every frame plays to the larger story.

Chiron is an easy character to love, but his world is forcefully telling him the opposite.

Again and again, we see characters share various tables with Chiron. They serve him food, juice, water, and wine. They talk and listen, they attempt to coax him out of hiding and toward himself. There’s more to unpack there, but I’m not entirely sure how to do it without a video essay. In part because so much is expressed in the performances.

This film is obviously about much more than this idea of the importance of creating space for people. It would take dozens of blog posts and essays to even scratch the surface. Yet, while every scene is about much more than this, they are certainly not about less.

Moonlight makes me happy. In part, because it helps me believe that there is some hope for us, if perhaps only in the small moments and kindnesses we share with those around us.

I’d love to continue fleshing out more thoughts about this movie in conversation if anyone is interested, but as I’ve learned talking to Emily about it earlier today, I can’t promise not to cry in the process.

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