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more like master of my heart, amirite?! [master of none, season two.]

First things first. In hindsight, the fact that I didn’t name this blog Master of None back when I started it is a great personal failure. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the name Roused to Mediocrity, but Master of None would have been perfect.

What am I if not a jack of all (or at least many) cultural trades, but master of none? What is this blog if not proof that I know more than the average person about a lot of mediums and genres, but never enough to claim mastery, or say, teach a class, or be gainfully employed in the field?

So, as well as I relate to the show’s title, I’m aware that part of what I love about Master of None is that Aziz ticks all the right boxes for me.

The way the show depicts a passion for flavor and adventure is familiar to me. I feel a deep kinship with a character who charges head first down the rabbit hole of any given interest or hobby, or who needs to do internet research to find the best tacos or burgers or ramen or ice cream before choosing where to eat. I see parts of myself in Dev, a character perpetually curious about interesting things and new experiences.

To put it another way, I feel at home in the show’s eccentricities — they’re common eccentricities, no doubt, but they’re eccentricities all the same. If I had the money Dev does, I would live a very similar life, minus all the frustrating dating. I want to live in his apartment, I want to wear his clothes, I want to eat every meal he eats.

That being said, my appreciation for Master of None can’t be summed up in my desire to live the good life. Far more than that, I love that the show is full of sincere personal storytelling from Aziz and co-creator Alan Yang. The details may not be purely autobiographical — although at times they seem to get pretty close — but the themes and overall feeling of the show seem to reveal a part of themselves in a very real way. The show engages themes of identity, family, culture, race, passion, vocation, and relationships, and always with vulnerability, honesty, and tenderness. Add to that a style that is fresh, inventive, and ambitious, and you have a winning formula.

The show is aesthetically and structurally bold, but the bolder moves always work. Like when they spent one of the season’s ten episodes writing a love letter to New York, skipping the show’s primary characters for 10% of the season! [Also, that they spent a chunk of that episode in total silence!] Or when they veer off of Dev’s trajectory for a flashback episode focusing on Denise and the story of her family as they learn to accept that she’s gay — a definite highlight of the season for me. Or kicking off season two with a black and white episode-long homage to Bicycle Thieves (aka The Bicycle Thief, aka Ladri di biciclette), a film you should watch right away if you’ve never seen it.

Those are bold choices, but they fit right in tonally on Master of None. The “New York, I Love You,” episode works because New York has been a character on the show all along. “Thanksgiving” fits, in part, because it’s so tonally consistent with the other episodes. “The Thief” works because, while Dev is taking this deep dive into Italian culture, of course he would start seeing his life as Italian neorealist cinema. And all three work because the episodes fit so well thematically. Master of None is always about how bittersweet it is to be a human, constantly dealing with all the ordinary bullshit and beauty that comes along with being alive.

Master of None is an impressively well-made show. Even more than season one, season two is full of impressive moments of style and craft. Satisfyingly, these moments are used as a tool for storytelling. Any moment where I thought, “Oh, this is a really cool shot,” it was always in service of the story. It’s never empty style.

Anyway, you should definitely watch Master of None if you aren’t yet, even if it turns out we never get a third season.

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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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neil gaiman. [a month of happy.]

What, like there was some other thing or person I was going to pick for the last day of this month of sharing things that make me happy?

Mr. Neilenberg Ulysses Gaiman IV is a name I just made up. Neil Richard Gaiman, on the other hand, is my favorite author. Actually, that’s not big enough. Neil Gaiman is my favorite storyteller, and if you know me even a little, you know I can’t offer any higher praise. [And for the record, since I hear people mispronounce his name more often than I hear it pronounced correctly, it’s Gay not Guy, or as he explains, “It’s Gaym’n.”]

He isn’t just my favorite storyteller because of the stories he tells — although that alone would certainly be enough — but also because of the way he sees story, the way he talks about what story is, and how it works.

His work was the engine at the heart of my master’s thesis: “Fantasy, Recovery, Escape, & Consolation: Finding Increased Capacity for Desire, Life, Mourning, and Wonder in the Liminal Space of Fiction.”

Here’s the weird thing about that, though. I wondered and researched about how story works, all the while feeling that his stories were the best examples of what I was arguing for. Yet, since the thesis wasn’t actually about Neil Gaiman, it wasn’t until after I had finished the project that I found most of Gaiman’s nonfiction essays about story — which are now all conveniently collected in his book, The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfictionwhich also has all sorts of other essays and articles and forwards and speeches, and you should absolutely read it — and learned that he said everything I was saying in my thesis, he just said it with much more wit and skill.

Not that any of the things he said about story surprised me. After all, so much of his work is comprised of stories about stories, in one way or another. It’s one part of the richness of his work, the symbiotic relationship with so many myths, songs, symbols, folk tales, and legends of the massive human mosaic. They enhance the depth and power of his stories, and in turn his work breathes new life into old mythologies that, though forgotten by most of us, still frame our consciousness.

I love so many things about Gaiman’s work, but most of all, I love that his writing fosters genuine hope in my broken brain. When there is light or hope or warmth in his stories, it’s never achieved without taking seriously how dark and broken and ugly the world can be. And sure, there is always magic in some form or another, but just because magic doesn’t exist doesn’t mean I don’t want magic to exist. As I wrote yesterday, I want to believe.

In late 2015, I flew from Seattle to New York City just to see Gaiman interviewed by Junot Díaz in Brooklyn, where he was doing his only signing of Sandman: Overture. The entire trip took around 40 hours, and I didn’t sleep until the plane ride home.

When I got to the front of the signing line, mostly delirious from the 20-something hours I’d been awake and the 12 or so I’d been wandering the streets of Brooklyn, I nervously thanked Neil Gaiman for writing stories that helped me find hope in the darkness. I don’t think he really heard me, or that it registered with him at all — after all, I was one in a very long line all trying to communicate some deep truth to him in the span of a few seconds, and as far. Also, I was so tired that it’s possible I only thought I said, “Thank you for writing stories that help me find hope in the darkness,” but actually said, “Therm finking messyflormal.” Either way, I’m still glad I got to say it, and honor how important his work is to me.

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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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