Closing Up Shop

After Disaster Preparedness pushed me into a fearful, self-loathing, anxious spiral that lasted enough weeks that I’m shocked to count it a month, after a hideous stomach flu kept me from movement or even productive thought for three days, after feeling like garbage for having personal problems when it feels like the world’s going more and more to hell every day, I feel different. More like an actual adult, which is handy, as I turned twenty-five this year. Maybe it’s because I’m about to hit my two year anniversary in the city. Maybe it’s because I literally dream of IKEA.

Whatever it is, I’m definitely on the other side of something. But this blog definitely lies in that undetermined territory at my back. Last week, I sat down to review Ex Machina, a film I found challenging and fascinating, and instead of feeling like an exciting way to capture my thoughts on the film, it felt like a burden. Not just of exertion, but also of metaphorical weight.

To be honest, the Literary Omnivore has felt that way for a while: like I’ve been consuming media to hit deadlines, instead of consuming media to engage with it, chaining myself to a system I came up with when I was eighteen for the sake of perpetuating it despite radical changes in my life and availability. I realize that sounds absurd, but I rely so much on adhering to self-constructed systems and protocols in order to function properly, let alone optimally, that it takes me a very long time to realize that a.) something is wrong and b.) I have the ability to do something about it. I have immense difficulty standing up for myself, even and especially to myself.

But I know what I have to do about it now. And that’s close up shop.

I’m not going away. The purpose of this blog was always to have a living, breathing journal of my media consumption (starting with books and expanding radically out since then). I’m going to keep doing that in a weekly format at a new blog, The Omnivore’s Almanac. It’ll be real informal, real low stakes: just one post, every Sunday, about what media I’ve been consuming. That gets me what I want without getting me where I don’t need to be.

Feel free to follow me over there. Feel free not to. If you’re reading this, thanks for doing so at any point over the last six and a half years, and have a lovely rest of your day.

All the best,
Clare

At The Movies: Ex Machina (2015)

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Ex Machina

★★★★☆

2015 • 108 minutes • A24

Ex Machina concerns Caleb, a programmer at the Google/Apple stand-in Bluebook, winning a lottery to spend a week with the founder of the complany, Nathan. Upon arrival at Nathan’s compound, Caleb is taken aggressively under Nathan’s wing and asked to participate in a Turing test to determine if Ava, Nathan’s latest project, is sentient.

It’s not a spoiler to say that this does not end well.

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Review: X-Men ’92 — Warzones!

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X-Men ’92: Warzones!
by Chris Sims, Chad Bowers, and Scott Koblish

★★★★☆

2016 (originally published 2015) • 128 pages • Marvel Comics

The greatest cartoon theme song of all time—and I will fight you on this point—is undoubtedly the theme tune to X-Men: The Animated Series. Composed by Ron Wasserman (who also composed the theme song for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, which kind of blew my mind), it’s sixty seconds of iconic synthesizers, illustrated by an opening sequence straight out of a comic book. (My favorite segment: the team crossing the screen from left to right while the word “X-Men” darts by in several directions for no reason.) It’s so good that Michael Kamen snuck in a sly musical reference to it in the score for X-Men. To me, it is the X-Men, although I never watched the show as a kid. (Although I did watch the entirety of season one at a friend’s apartment in college, and shrieked when Mister Sinister smiled for the first time.) When I went to go see X-Men: Days of Future Past at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, you can bet that they played the theme song and that I totally flipped.

There is simply nothing more X-Men. Nothing more radical. Nothing more, dare I say, nineties.

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At The Movies: Labyrinth (1986)

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Labyrinth

★★★½☆

1986 • 102 minutes • TriStar Pictures

As a teenager, my love of the eighties was not particularly shared by the alternative scene kids I ran with. But during my deeply ill-fated tenure on my high school’s debate team, I acquired a scene partner who loved Labyrinth. I’d heard of it—specifically, I’d heard of “Dance Magic”—but I’d never actually seen it. She gushed to me about David Bowie’s ethereal beauty and other attributes (I was identifying as asexual at that point in my life, so I was unmoved), and I trotted off to our local Blockbuster to rent the film in question. To quote John Mulaney, that’s a very old-fashioned sentence nowadays.

I enjoyed it, but it didn’t particularly stick with me. (Nor did I stick with debate, transitioning instead to an even more ill-fated tenure in school theater.) Recently, though, I had an opportunity to revisit it when the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema hosted an outdoor screening in Brooklyn. To be honest, I mostly went to try and ferret out an official opening date for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Brooklyn (let me give you all of my disposable income, you monsters!). But I enjoyed the screening, despite the drizzle and despite being deep in the throes of the dissociative funk that Disaster Preparedness pushed me into. And now… I kinda get Labyrinth.

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At The Movies: Bloodsport (1988)

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Bloodsport

★★★☆☆

1988 • 92 minutes • Universal Studios

When it comes to the two major bad movie podcasts, The Flop House and How Did This Get Made, I’m a Flop House woman through and through. It’s always a delightful surprise whenever a new episode turns up in my Overcast app (my podcast application of choice), even though the podcast comes out every other Saturday. I listen to every episode twice, and some, especially the gutbustingly funny Labor Day episode, more than that. I’ve even been to a live show, which goes to show you the power of the hometown advantage.

Nonetheless, I am quite fond of How Did This Get Made, their rowdier Los Angeles-based counterpart, if only because of the infectious energy of Jason Mantzoukas. (The prim suspicion of June Diane Raphael is a close second in my heart.) I nearly cried laughing on the subway listening to Mantzoukas describe exactly how Xanadu went wildly overbudget. Despite their common genre, comparing the two podcasts is like comparing apples and oranges; the energy is just so different.

And that is nowhere more apparent than in their live episode on Bloodsport, which made me laugh so much that I had to seek out the film.

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Review: The Vintner’s Luck

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The Vintner’s Luck
by Elizabeth Knox

★★★★☆

2000 (originally published 1998) • 284 pages • Picador USA

You know how you can spot a period film made in the nineties? Well, I’m going to be no help, because I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I know it when I see it. Like in Restoration—there’s something about the production design. The quality of the costumes. The Meg Ryan. It might be set in the 1600s, but a single frame can tell you that it was released in 1995. Never mind the fact that it can be carbon-dated by the fullness of Robert Downey Jr.’s lips. (This is why I nearly crawled out of my seat and over the very sweet Spider-Man fan when young!Tony appeared in Captain America: Civil War. His mouth was wrong.)

The same is true of, for some reason, most queer-minded media made in the late nineties and early aughts that I’ve consumed. Velvet Goldmine and The Vintner’s Luck have nothing else in common besides “dudes kiss in them” (oh, and shirtlessness, I guess?), but the quality of the atmosphere is quite similar—heady, languid, rarefied.

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At The Movies: How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)

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How to Marry a Millionaire

★★★½☆

1953 • 95 minutes • 20th Century Fox

Have I ever mentioned how much I like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes? I like to think of it as the prototype for one of my favorite comedy duo archetypes—Bad Idea Friend and Idiot. It’s sweet, daffy, bursting with Technicolor (which I adore), and features the amazing line, “Prithee, scat.” I’ll get around to revisiting it and reviewing some day (haha long term plans for my blog haha), but for now, let us have it inform my opinion of How to Marry a Millionaire.

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At The Movies: Coming to America (1988)

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Coming to America
★★★☆☆
1988 • 117 minutes • Paramount Pictures
Despite being an eighties freak, Coming to America long escaped my interest. Why? Well, because it’s not really the eighties, is it? Coming to America lacks what I consider the classic eighties look. What we so often break down into discreet decades are really half-decades. Armpit decades, if you will, and I say that knowing full well that you will not. This is the late eighties/early nineties situation, full of oversized sweaters, dull color palettes, and the ugliest interior design. This is is the calm before the art of tailoring was briefly lost for a decade. This is the cultural context that birthed Licence to Kill.
I’ve also never been a particular fan of Eddie Murphy. As kid, my only exposure to Eddie Murphy was limited to broad, child-friendly comedy–and, of course, Shrek. It blew my mind to discover, as an older teen, that Eddie Murphy had once been cool. (It was kind of like discovering that your parents were once cool. It seems impossible, but the photo evidence that they once had hair as cool as yours is undeniable.) And not only cool, but one of the most popular comedians in America. But Delirious, which features an extended homophobic joke, obviously did not endear him to me.
Nonetheless, a mention in a recent(-ish. Y’all, I’m a busy lady) episode of the The Flop House convinced me to give it a shot. In an episode on The Golden Child, Elliott Kalan mentioned that he preferred Eddie Murphy in Coming to America, where he plays an idealistic romantic, rather than a smooth talker.

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