It has been a long time coming, but Roused to Mediocrity has returned.
I’ve miss it too much to let it stay dead. I’m not myself when I’m not nerding out about the things I love. I miss using this medium to tell my friends about the cool shit I’m into right now. I miss diving more deeply into the things that moved me to parse out what impacted me. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve been hiding my passion for things the last few years, but I have been, and it’s stupid, and I need to stop.
Part of my life, part of me has been missing, and while RtM might not account for all of it, I need to be writing again, and this is as good a place as any to start.
I’ve shied away from jumping back in for fear I won’t do it consistently enough, but fuck it. Let’s do this.
What better way to get back into the swing of things than a good old fashioned ‘Five Things’ post. So here they are, five random things I’ve loved recently.
On with the show!
1. Avengers: Endgame
Epic is overused these days, but it’s the only word that accurately describes last week’s embarrassment of riches when it comes to long-awaited onscreen battles.
Game of Thrones and the MCU have captured a huge portion of the pop culture consciousness for about a decade (eight and eleven years respectively), and last week included two massive battles royale that were meant to offer some semblance of closure for two devoted fanbases — along with the larger public who’ve been pulled onto the bandwagon.
Within the worlds of each story, both battles had the fate of all (or half of all) life hanging in the balance. Each had wildly overpowered villains. And each had a remarkably high degree of difficulty for the creators.
The difference between the two, in my experience, is that one was a mess, and the other stuck the landing.
Endgame had the same magic that the first Avengers film had in terms of the good kind of fan service — seeing it opening weekend at a 1am showing was not without more than its fair share of roaring cheers. And it offered satisfying conclusions for character arcs that have spanned more than a decade.
The notes all landed in terms of humor, action, acting, and poignancy. These characters we’ve grown to love were given their due at the end of a long road, and some of the more significant moments in the film were — on the other side of the coin from the cheers mentioned above — not without more than their fair share of sniffling throughout the audience.
The theater is often my favorite place to be, heightening the magic and power of cinema. Seeing Endgame with a theater full of strangers all invested enough to start a three hour movie at 1 a.m. was a genuinely communal experience. The quality of the film is the reason that experience was a beautiful one.
Bravo to everyone involved for taking a tough pitch and hitting it out of the park.
2. Russian Doll
I watched all of Russian Doll twice in a week. The first time because I started an episode to try it out and watched all of it in a day. The second time because I was so taken by it the first time that I got Emily to watch an episode, and we promptly watched the whole thing in an evening.
I love it so much. It’s funny and smart, and manages to be sardonic enough that any tenderness and hopefulness doesn’t feel like bullshit.
Everyone in it is great, especially Natasha Lyonne as our hilarious, irreverent, self-destructive, lovable asshole of a protagonist.
Most importantly, the show is my favorite narrative interaction with mental illness — and how much we all need each other — in a long time.
I should write more about this show, and maybe I will, but for now, suffice it to say that I really loved Russian Doll.
P.S. It also includes what will undoubtedly be my favorite line of dialogue from TV all year. I won’t write what it is, because I think it’s spoilery, but feel free to ask via message or IRL.
3. Love by Toni Morrison
I’m pretty sure there has never been a writer superior to Toni Morrison. She has peers, but no betters.
Her style is full of quiet power, never relying on overly flowery or ornate language, but instead delivering perfect prose in which every word is a gift.
She shines light through the stories of ordinary but marginalized people, Black Americans struggling for joy, belonging, or respect; for love, sex, or security; for revenge or power; for a way out or a way in; for hope or release; and in the process she reveals the beauty and darkness in every human life.
To quote Oprah — something I can assure you I never thought I would do in the life of this blog — “Toni Morrison’s work shows us through pain all the myriad ways we can come to love.”
Love is a difficult book to put down; not because of some narrative tension where we need to see what happens next, but because it’s such a gift to live with Morrison’s words. Her characters are so full of humanity, each feels like a full, living person, slowly revealing their inner world. The conclusion is moving and beautiful for all its tragedy, and it moved me to tears.
In related news, this:
4. Bob’s Burgers
Nine seasons in, and Bob’s Burgers is better than ever. At a point when too many shows begin teetering into poor quality, getting more desperate to keep an audience as characters grow stale, Bob’s Burgers just keeps improving. I’d say I don’t get the sense that Bob is planning to strap on any water skis for a daring jump over some sharks, but since that would be an amazing episode of Bob’s Burgers, it would be stupid to rule it out. Yet, the metaphor stands, Bob’s Burgers appears to be in no danger of jumping the shark any time soon.
I get that these characters check all my boxes. Droll weirdos who genuinely love and support each other in spite of all the pot shots is definitely my jam, but those elements alone don’t automatically make me enjoy a show or movie or whatever. More often than not it’s poorly executed, as if the characters were written by aliens who have only a vague approximation of human interaction. Aliens who believe that as long as a line is delivered in a certain tone of voice, with certain musical cues, it’s the same thing as writing genuinely funny and believable moments.
Bob’s Burgers gets it all right, and for my money, the Belchers are the best family on television.
5. Borderlands 3
Okay, so this is over a month old, but I wasn’t writing a month ago. Borderlands 3 is officially happening. It has a release date and everything (Sep. 3)!
If you know, you know.