At The Movies: The Skeleton Twins (2014)

skeletontwins2014

The Skeleton Twins

★★★★☆

2014 • 93 minutes • Roadside Attractions

They say that your favorite incarnation of Saturday Night Live is the one you experienced in high school, when you were old enough to get the jokes and stay up that late, but not old enough to do anything else with your Saturday night. Despite my current quest to watch Saturday Night Live from the beginning (on hiatus until Captain Cinema’s screen is delivered to us) and my predilection for cooing over baby Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers at the beginning of their tenure, this has held true. I began watching the show when Hulu launched in 2007, and I retain a fevered fondness for the cast I started with—the aforementioned Poehler and Meyers, the always deliriously and sweetly weird Will Forte, the short-lived Casey Wilson, and Bill Hader.

Hader was such a fixture on the show that I only really became aware of him, despite appreciating his talents, when his now famous character Stefon started appearing on Weekend Update. (Stefon actually debuted in a proper sketch when Ben Affleck hosted in 2008.) That’s when I really started watching the show religiously, and I loved it. (I mean, I still love it, but you know what I mean.) When “my” cast members began leaving the show, I was always a little wistful, but Hader’s departure last year—complete with the epic Stefon wedding filmed sketch, which must be seen to be believed—was the first time I really missed a cast member. (Mercifully, Beck Bennett is picking up the pompous character slack, which I do appreciate.) Captain Cinema and I have delighted to see him intermittently in media (“Gosh, he looks so rested!” I distinctly remember texting Captain Cinema after he popped up on Saturday Night Live briefly), but The Skeleton Twins marked the first major post-Saturday Night Live project of his to come to fruition.

Continue reading

Review: Gossamer Axe

baudinogossameraxe

Gossamer Axe
by Gael Baudino

★★★★½

1990 • 351 pages • Roc

Gossamer Axe found its way onto my reading list after several commenters recommended it on a lesbian-focused installment of Tor.com’s column Sleeps with Monsters, but, like a lot of older and more obscure speculative fiction on my list, it happens to be out of print. I despaired of getting my hands on a library copy. (In retrospect, I probably could have picked a copy online for quite cheap, but I have this allergy to paying for shipping.) But my despair was short-lived, because the universe immediately realized that a queer pagan feminist rock and roll fantasy novel from the eighties was practically my birthright. One of my friends found a copy at Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party in Atlanta (which I’ve still never been to!) and I immediately roared dibs.

Continue reading

Review: Relish

knisleyrelish

Relish
by Lucy Knisley

★★★★☆

2013 • 192 pages • First Second

Despite my love of cooking, I don’t review cookbooks for this blog. There are a lot of reasons for that. Firstly, I don’t actually read that many of them, because the Internet is my main resource for recipes. Secondly, I don’t actually read them the way I consume media. I rifle through them, searching for something I like, and when I finally do alight on a likely candidate, my improvisation is brutal because of my lactose intolerance, laziness, and cheapness. When I look for a recipe for myself, it’s with the specific intent of making it my own.

But when I read food histories or food-centered memoirs, it’s a different story. I’m seized by the urge to recreate a historical dish, to better access the past through my sense of taste, or by the need to go find the pizzeria this book recommends and see if it’s really worth all the praise. Relish’s recipes and recommendations proved all the more tempting for author Lucy Knisley’s clear, clean, and bright artwork. I have bookmarked places to go eat in Chicago because of this book, and I have never been to Chicago nor plan to visit Chicago. I have an ear of corn in my fridge from the farmer’s market, ready for me to eat raw, per Knisley’s fond memories of doing so. I even copied her recipe for sautéed mushrooms down to the letter, but my stomach was being peculiarly tender and refused to digest it.

Continue reading

At The Movies: Frank (2014)

frank2014

Frank

★★★★½

2014 • 95 minutes • Magnolia

I couldn’t stop crying.

The end credits of Frank were rolling in the Sunshine Cinema, my very first New York City movie theater (complete with eye gougingly high ticket prices), and I couldn’t stop crying. Later, coughing up tears onto Captain Cinema’s Garfield shirt waiting for the F train, I finally articulated: “It just hit me directly in my fears. It’s about a man who loves something so much but he can’t be a part of it without destroying it.” What if, I didn’t say, it’s prophetic? The next morning, mercifully, I had the kind of déjà vu I often mistake for prophecy or cosmic assurance observing my new fuchsia bookshelf, but it was a rough night of the soul.

Continue reading

Review: Champagne Supernovas

callahanchampagnesupernovas

Champagne Supernovas
by Maureen Callahan

★★★★☆

2014 • 288 pages • Touchstone

Defining the nineties as a contained cultural unit is something that has long frustrated me. For me, specifically, it’s a very unique decade. I encountered every decade prior as an already shaped narrative and the aughts marked the first time I was conscious of the larger pop culture we’re all swimming in. But the nineties? I was a very sheltered small child at the time. That’s not my fault, obviously, but it has thwarted my attempts to knit a coherent narrative out of the disparate cultural artifacts of the nineties. There’s something willfully futile about such an exercise—how can you truly boil down ten years to a pat assessment?—but I need somewhere to start.

Champagne Supernovas posits that that somewhere to start is, in fact, fashion. The cover copy argues that the fifties were defined by rock and roll, the sixties by the Beat poets, and the eighties by punk rock and modern art. But the maximalism of the eighties, embodied by the first true supermodels, made no room for the recession’s fascination with emotional and physical trauma that eventually blossomed into what author and journalist Maureen Callahan characterizes as wound culture: Continue reading

Review: How I Live Now

rosoffhowilivenow

How I Live Now
by Meg Rosoff

★★★★½

2004 • 194 pages • Penguin Books

During my sophomore year of high school, we were given a choice between two novels to read in English class. The first was Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, which had worked its way from newly published book to speculative fiction suitable for expanding the minds of our young folk in only a few years. Examining the book, I realized that it featured a love story between two blood cousins. Obscene!, I raged to myself. Inappropriate!, I raged to myself. Despite having read American Gods at the tender age of twelve, I had virtuously tricked my mother into purchasing that novel for me by not saying a word when I presented it at the counter; a school passing that filth out? My recently developed and oversensitive sense of morality was offended to the core. (I saw myself as an authority, set apart from other kids. Needless to say, I was an insufferable giant child.)

Continue reading

At The Movies: Lucy (2014)

lucy2014

Lucy

★★½☆☆

2014 • 89 minutes • Universal Pictures

For me, there is such a thing as an impenetrable director. Simply put, I find some directors utterly bulletproof. I can’t find any openings to begin engaging with their work, be it positively, negatively, or complexly. (This is similar to the kind of close-endedness in a text that discourages fandom, but you can still talk about those films. See Cabin in the Woods, a thesis statement cunningly disguised as a film.) Their work is just too weirdly pure—their strange conception is perfectly executed, and I can’t find fault in that.

(There could also be such things as impenetrable writers and musicians, but I’ve never met such an author and music criticism is largely beyond me.)

Continue reading

Review: The Penelopiad

atwoodpenelopiad

The Penelopiad
by Margaret Atwood

★★★☆☆

2005 • 224 pages • Canongate

Margaret Atwood, especially in her later years, has a very specific and peculiar gift as a writer. Reading her prose, you hear not only the voice of a fully developed character, but Atwood’s as well. I’m tempted to say that her female protagonists have some similarities, but I haven’t read enough of her bibliography to feel comfortable saying that. All I can say is that Penelope and Offred are two different women related by a common mother. Atwood’s voice never intrudes, but you would never confuse her books for anyone else’s.

Continue reading