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totally top three: july 2020

It’s August! 2020! Holy fucking shit! Hi! This is your reminder to please donate to mutual aid funds if you’re able! Wash your hands! Wear a mask! Stay safe! Stay sane! I love you! A lot!


The only thing I had the energy to watch this month is a Fox TV show about baseball that was canceled in 2016. Well, I also watched a lot of hockey when it came back and a couple of baseball games, but stuff with an emotional arc? Plot? Don’t know ’em, couldn’t handle them if I did. Anyway, we did watch most of Pitch and genuinely loved it and the only reason we haven’t finished it is because we’re trying to ~savor what we have. I can’t believe this wasn’t a huge hit, every moment of it is pretty great and everyone is beautiful and also baseball? What’s not to like?


My two most listened playlists in July were Aspen Aspen‘s Black Country Matters and Jeremy Andrew Hunter (aka Ska Tune Network)’s LGBTQ SKA BANDS because they both rip and have introduced me to a bunch of artists I wouldn’t have probably otherwise found. One of the best things about Spotify aside from The Algorithm is that if I have an errant thought about a playlist I want to hear, there is already one waiting for me. These two are some of the best I’ve heard this year. (Yes, ska is good, actually. Shut it.)


The Old Guard was really fun! I liked all the characters and the universe it built and I thought the action was all pretty fun and the setup for a sequel was solid. I’d definitely watch another two hours of Charlize Theron and KiKi Layne kicking absolute ass with an occasional detour where two incredibly beautiful men say deeply loving and romantic things to each other if it was available to me.


And three to look forward to…

syed m. masood, more than just a pretty face   kiesza, crave   open 24 hours

totally top three: june 2020

It’s July! 2020! Holy shit! Hi! Please donate to mutual aid funds if you’re able! Wash your hands! Wear a mask! Stay safe! Stay sane! I love you!


I held off on watching The Half of It for a bit because I’d seen a thread on Twitter from writer-director Alice Wu talking about how it was based vaguely on a friendship from her youth and how it had ultimately ended badly and I was just not prepared for the chance that the movie might end similarly — I’m a big proponent of writing from your own history, but I also don’t know why anyone wouldn’t write themselves a better ending. What’s the point of fiction otherwise? — but I was wildly pleased to see that was exactly what she’d done and it was such a joy to watch. I laughed a lot, I cried a little, I felt immense satisfaction. Ellie, Paul, and Aster are all great and I loved Ellie’s dad very much too.

Based on what I saw in my Spotify friend activity bar, pretty much the only thing anyone was listening to was Run the Jewels’ new one and that was pretty much my MO for June too. Every song on this one is great, but I’m particular to “out of sight,” “holy calamafuck,” “walking in the snow,” “JU$T,” “never look back,” and “the ground below,” which, to be fair, is uh, most of the album. Run the Jewels always hit me really well musically — for reasons I don’t know enough about music to articulate, but I think it’s a combination of bass lines and tempo? maybe? — but this feels as lyrically pertinent as ever.

My review of Avon Gale’s Breakaway covers pretty much everything I loved about it, but as I was reading through my Kindle highlights right now, I ended up laughing and being wildly charmed all over again. Lane is one of the most fun narrators I’ve spent time with in a long while and I’m so glad I tried to reset my horrible attention span with this one. There’s not a single character I don’t like! The dialogue and sex are fun! There’s emotionally satisfying resolutions of parental relationships! People like each other! Professional athletes are chill about having a queer teammate! This was a great time and I’m excited to read more from Gale.


And three to look forward to…

dream wife, so when you gonna   jennifer honeybourne, the do-over   fontaines d.c., a hero's death

totally top three: may 2020

Black lives matter. If you think that statement needs a qualifier or a rebuttal, I am begging you to interrogate why you think that. Start learning and start helping. Amplify, donate, do good.

I thought about skipping this post entirely because it’s hard to talk about trivial things when massive, important things are happening in the world, but these posts are important to me and I hope, sometimes valuable to you, if you’re looking for stuff to get into. People need escapism and that escapism is always inherently easier for me because I’m white. Black people rarely have that luxury.

I try to do better by reading, watching, and listening to more things produced by people of color. I am going to work even harder at that now. Reading theory is extremely important even when it’s hard, but engaging with pleasurable content about and most importantly by people of color is incredibly powerful too. Fiction teaches us empathy and diverse fiction teaches us to empathize cross-culturally.

That said, all three of my faves were pretty fucking white this month. You can’t do better without acknowledging where you haven’t done great, right?


Sarah Henstra’s We Contain Multitudes really fucked me up in a way that I needed. I already wrote a sizeable review, so here I just want to say that I am a big crier in general. I cry at happy things and sad things and frustration and anger and pretty much constantly. I’m easily moved and I have a lot of emotions and emotional problems. But pretty much the second isolation started, I dried up. I wanted to cry; I needed to cry, but I just couldn’t, no matter what, and it was starting to make me feel awful. I needed some catharsis, you know? This book was the first thing to unlock me in 70+ days and god, was it satisfying.

Crystal’s been trying to get me to watch Field of Dreams for most of the course of our relationship so that I could be adequately horny about Ray Liotta’s version of Shoeless Joe Jackson with her, but I finally gave in because a friend and MFA classmate said I needed to watch it because it’s a weird as hell premise that everyone just accepts, which is one of my favorite things in the world and I wasn’t disappointed! It genuinely moved me — We watched it after I’d been unstoppered by We Contain Multitudes and I teared up! It felt amazing! — and it is another piece of evidence in how hideously backwards we’ve gone in the last thirty years. The protagonists stand up against book banning! And it’s presented as an absolute truth instead of an opinion. Also, it really is a weird as hell premise and everyone just accepts it and rolls with it. Refreshing.

Orville Peck’s “No Glory in the West” has also made me cry a whole bunch since it came out both because I identify with and am deeply moved by the isolation in the music video, but also because his beautiful, warbling voice reaches the dark, sad places inside of me and opens them up to the light. There are lots of talented queer people (and people of color and women!) making contemporary country music even if it’s sometimes hard to find, but Peck’s hits me in a way I couldn’t have expected, the parts of me that are married to the prairie where I live go deeper than I knew, I think, and I am grateful for the way his music makes me feel seen.


And three to look forward to…

bethany c. morrow, a song below water   run the jewels 4   miss juneteenth

totally top five 2019: watching

Let’s talk about some stuff I watched in 2019 now, yeah? Yeah!


Man, I LOVED Umbrella Academy. I liked it when we watched it initially, but we’ve rewatched quite a bit since and it’s just grown on me even more. I like that it’s a little dumb — as all ‘superhero’ properties should be — and that it doesn’t really look or sound like anything else I’ve seen recently. I like that it’s a story about a family surviving against the odds of their shitty upbringing under deeply suspect circumstances and having to reunite both because of and in spite of those circumstances and all the great ways that allows the characters to interact. I love all of the characters here, even the bad guys, and found myself surprisingly emotionally attached in the kind of fictional environment where I don’t normally do that. I’m interested to see where it will go in season two!


Rhett & Link put out a three part documentary [ONE | TWO | THREE] about a trip they took to their hometown to return to some of the places that inspired their new book, The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek and it was charming as hell. I like Good Mythical Morning for a variety of reasons — gross food! spicy food! great guest interactions! the crew! the comedy! the LAUGHTER! — but one of the things I like the most is the fact that it is extremely clear that Rhett and Link have been friends for an unbelievably long time and are still laughing at each other like they did when they were kids. Their friendship is palpable and that makes the chemistry of the show so, so much better because they know both how to play off of each other and how to play together off of other people. Seeing them in their hometown was very sweet and it was nice to see them so emotionally reflective on what they’ve done together and how important that youth is to it.


I haven’t truly binge-watched something in a long, long time. Not since before I started working full time in 2014, so when I sat down at my desk at home while in a hideously hard, bad mood and hit the second episode of Roswell, New Mexico on Netflix (I had watched the first shortly after it aired, but then like, life, you know?) I didn’t expect to finish it and then watch the next eleven in a row without any breaks except to pee. I mostly watch things in hopes of having a good time, but I also really like to FEEL things while I’m having fun and this just hit all the marks for me. Everyone is so, so beautiful and there is so much remarkable emoting. The dialogue is fun AND human AND emotionally resonant without ever hitting eye-rolling melodrama. Both the emotional and plot stakes are pretty high and the characters react and respond to them in ways that feel appropriate and real. It has a gay character! A bisexual character! There’s same-sex sex! And it made me care about straight romance because the characters are so likable! And I am deeply, deeply amped for season two.


Call Me By Your Name broke me in such a wonderful, satisfying, lovely way that I am still thinking about it often. I said quite a bit about how much I loved it previously, but the longer I’ve lived with it, the more deeply satisfied I am with it. It’s such a beautiful love story, such a beautiful coming of age story, such a beautiful heartbreak story, and it’s absolutely wildly lovely to look at, too, dreamy and summery and nostalgic. A near-contemporary period piece with great music and beautiful people and a lovely story with a deeply profound narrative moral that is spoken aloud, right out loud, for the people watching who are likely to need it the most. Such a lovely gift of a movie.


The Haunting of Hill House really emotionally destroyed me this year in a way I did not expect and also really enjoy thinking about. I loved the characters and the movement through time and the spooky and gruesome elements and the beautiful and terrifying house and that, at its heart, it’s a story about family and the ways that we sometimes inflict indelible damage on one another without ever thinking we are being callous or cruel. I really liked this one right from the jump and I stand by those things I loved: the gripping, creeping tension of it and the way the familial relationships tangled and stretched. It was also so beautifully designed and lit and shot — that long take during “Two Storms,” GOSH — and I hope the team behind it makes something else I can love again. Soon.


Honorable Mentions

unicorn store   tuca & bertie   rocketman   good omens   captain marvel


Previously

2K12 | 2K13 | 2K14 | 2K15 | 2K16 | 2K17 | 2018

totally top three: december 2019

Crystal went to Florida without me this month and in her absence I read several books, listened to a metric fuckton of music, watched a couple of movies, and some TV. I’ve never been so productive in my life.


I’ve been watching Good Mythical Morning daily for a while now and sporadically for a real, real long time before that and while I think Rhett and Link are funny (even when they aren’t retching and/or hiccuping convulsively) I genuinely had no idea what to expect from Buddy System, so while it was out from behind the YouTube Red paywall, I sat down in my bachelorhood and watched all of the first season and had a great time! I must admit to a moment of visceral bewilderment so strong that I had to pause when it moved from the GMM format opening and then had them step out from behind the desk, but it was weirdly effective. I really liked that this leaned way into the sense of weirdness I get from their humor and that it was just happily, balls-out goofy. As I am sure I’ve said before, I hate musicals with very few exceptions and I think comedy songs are mostly bad, but I had a remarkably good time with these, especially “So Dang Dark” and “Power Nap” and “Tough Decisions”. I like that they both commit so wholly to their bits and Link’s straight delivery of every absurd thing he said sent me into hysterics. I also watched and liked season two a lot, but this is long enough already, yes? (“I Like What I Like” and “Naked” are the stand-out songs this time, but “Kings of Bellevue Estates” made me actually legit laugh out loud because it was just extremely spot-on as a parody. Okay really, shutting up now!!)


Here is my first opinion: people who post on the internet about how they don’t like the things people post on the internet are the worst and shouldn’t be allowed to access the internet. My second opinion: if you can’t summon any interest in hearing about the things your friends like… why do you have friends? My third opinion: the Spotify wrapped infographics are fun and I’m glad people share them! How can I be adequately obsessed with you as a person if I don’t know what pop culture you’re obsessed with?! Also, mine rules, specifically, because I have an excellent and varied taste in music. I thought the decade thing was pretty interesting this year although mostly useless to me because I listen to Spotify at work and when people are agitating me, I listen to a playlist I have called “Soothe” on repeat and it’s just Vince Guaraldi Trio’s “Great Pumpkin Waltz” and “Thanksgiving Theme” so those have been my top two songs like, four years running and that was my artist of the decade too. Otherwise 2019 was very spot-on for the stuff I listened to and loved the most and it has me AMPED for my Totally Top Five this year.


I liked Late Night so much! Mindy Kaling is so, so charming and funny and I liked SO MUCH that even when the circumstances of the story pushed Molly into a really awkward moment that could have been played as deeply humiliating and for laughs, it instead leaned toward more regular human behavior. I like that the story didn’t demand that Molly change and become ~one of the guys~ in order to succeed or survive and that her success came directly from her personal experience, talent, and willingness to stand up for herself and her ideas. Emma Thompson was GREAT and I ended up liking the guys as the plot let them develop too, especially Tom, obviously, because I am a sucker, though I stand by my opinion that the SPOILER shoulder kiss at the end was a bad choice because of COURSE they would end up together, it didn’t need to be made TEXTUAL. Anyway, I laughed a lot AND had a nice time emotionally and I don’t really need anything else to have a good time with a movie, so I’d say it was a very solid watch.


And three to look forward to…

amy spaulding, we used to be friends   kesha, high road   gretel & hansel