It’s finally spring! The snow is gone. Green things are peeking out of the ground. There are robins everywhere.
Here are some of the things I enjoyed in March. Apparently I consumed a lot of spooky things? I wanted to do some sort of spooky + March word smoosh but it is apparently impossible. Prove me wrong.
MOVIES + TV
I am not good with scary movies, so I was nervous about seeing Us. Gore I can handle, but dread is a whole other matter. I knew that I HAD to see it, because Jordan Peele is amazing and I kicked myself for not seeing Get Out in the theatre. I also knew that whatever I was going to see was going to stick in my brain and demand attention right when I close my eyes to go to sleep. But I gathered my courage and saw the film and holy cow wow. It is so good. It ended up being the kind of weird, surreal horror that is right up my alley. A film that is filled with creepily beautiful imagery, a perfectly unsettling score, great performances, and a clever story you want to experience again right away. Like the best horror films, it requires a certain suspension of disbelief. There are elements that, upon trying to dissect them and reason them out, don’t really make sense. Which ultimately doesn’t matter in the slightest. A very high recommendation from me on this one. And yes, I totally slept with the light on afterwards. Don’t judge me!
To say that it was about time for a female hero to headline a Marvel movie is a bit of an understatement. In a series where probably 75% of the women have been relegated to “girlfriend” roles, Captain Marvel was sorely needed and I think the character will add a lot to the MCU. While I found the film to be a tad generic - I always hope for something visually arresting and strange when dealing with big, cosmic space dramas - it was still entertaining and brought a different perspective to the well-hashed origin story template. While so many hero origins involve someone getting powers and then having to become a better person to live up to those powers, Carol’s journey is in her realization that she has always been good and strong and doesn’t need to be beholden to those who want to diminish and control her. She doesn’t have to prove herself to anyone.
Legend of the Demon Cat
Set in China during the Tang Dynasty, Legend of the Demon Cat is a grand fairy-tale fantasy about a demonic ghost cat out for revenge against those that have wronged him. It’s a spectacle movie: huge sets, amazing costumes, and a beautiful array of images and color. Plus it has a ridiculous talking cat that still somehow curled up in my heart and made me cry at the end. The film is based on a popular book that I have not read and I think there were a lot of things that would have made more sense if I knew the story. But while I occasionally had no idea what exactly was going on, overall I still really liked the film.
This documentary collects a trove of beautiful archival footage from the Apollo 11 space mission and creates a linear account of the entire voyage to the moon. There is no narration, other than actual recorded audio from reporters, NASA, the astronauts, and other commentators. If you are interested in space exploration history, this is a good one.
Game of Thrones
Up until February, I had not watched past season 2 of Game of Thrones. I don’t really know why. But I knew that I wanted to watch the final season as it aired instead of waiting years and having things spoiled. So over the course of two months I binged my way through the whole dang thing. There were some really rough years there, where it wasn’t particularly fun to watch, but when it was good it was REALLY GOOD.
A Princess in Theory & A Duke by Default (Alyssa Cole)
If you enjoy modern romances, this series by Alyssa Cole is definitely worth checking out. What I love most about these books are the women; smart ladies who have actual lives, friendships, and jobs separate from their romances. I’ve read a string of books recently where the female characters had NO existence beyond their interaction with the dashing heroes. Barely any mention of their work, ambition, dreams. So when I started A Princess in Theory and found a substantial amount of time dedicated to establishing the life, history, and science career of our main character, I was overjoyed. We get to know her so well before the love interest is even introduced. APIT follows Naledi, an epidemiologist who was raised in foster care and discovers that she was betrothed at birth to a dashing prince. A Duke by Default is about Naledi’s wayward friend Portia, who travels to Scotland for a sword-smithing internship and attempts to figure out her life while she’s falling in love with the gruff master sword-maker. These premises are ridiculous fun and and the books are very entertaining to read. *thumbs up*
Witchmark (C.L. Polk)
I’m having a hard time figuring out how to summarize this one. While Witchmark feels very much like a first novel, with rough edges and a slightly overstuffed narrative, what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in heart. I felt like I was reading something that the author cared about and loved. This sense of passion kept me engaged even when some of the book seemed a bit unpolished.
The setting is reminiscent of pre-WW1 England and takes place in a country where magic exists but is kept hidden. Wealthy, powerful mages secretly rule, while every other witch (those not born to noble families) lives in fear of being shipped off to an asylum. Our main character, Miles, was born to nobility but faked his own death to escape his family and their dark plans for his powers; he joins the army, becomes a doctor, and heals people (sometimes with magic). When a handsome stranger arrives at the hospital, carrying a witch who was poisoned, Miles has to leave his secret life and try to solve an increasingly deadly mystery. As you can tell, there’s a lot going on here and it doesn't always work. But overall, I still found this book to be charming and memorable.
The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal (K.J. Charles)
Despite being a KJ Charles super fan, somehow I had missed this one. Secret Casebook is a collection of stories about frosty ghost hunter Simon and his companion/lover/assistant Robert, presented in a style akin to Watson writing about Sherlock Holmes. Just with, ya know, a bit more sex and some actual ghosts.
The book is structured as a series of recollections from Robert as he looks back on his adventures with Simon and life they shared together. Each chapter follows a different paranormal case, involving things like a lewd poltergeist, death-by-butterflies, the haunting cries of murdered ghost children, a rat god, and the wild hunt. Through these various cases, over the course of many years, Secret Casebook builds a caring, passionate, and sometimes tragic relationship between the two men. Another great read from KJ Charles.
I’ve been doing a lot of solo show prep work this past month, writing lists and sitting around at coffee shops drawing things on my iPad. I am really excited to have some art energy back and can’t wait to start sharing things (once I have things to share).
I also finished up my tribute to tiny murderess Arya for Spoke Art’s “Winter is Here” show, on display this weekend (April 6 & 7) in San Francisco.