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Pop Culture Diary – 2023 week 2

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The pop culture event of the week was probably that the Golden Globes were awarded. Since I was one of the new batch of voters recruited to participate this year, I considered staying up to watch… but sleep won out, in the end. It turns out being able to vote on awards doesn’t necessarily give you much more insight into the winners (and makes it very strange to listen to people theorize about the potential motivations of the voting body as a whole, on podcasts such as The Big Picture). Overall I don’t think it’s a bad list of winners, though, if a little on the bland/safe side. On the other hand, two of the movies I would have put at the top of my best-of list for the year were nowhere to be seen.

I hope I get to participate again next year, if only because it made it possible for me to watch (and thus follow the conversation about) the various prestigious end-of-year pictures when they came out instead of months after. The Banshees of Inishirin doesn’t get released until next week here, The Fabelmans not until the week after that, Aftersun (which is such a gem) is not out until late February, and without the Globes screener I would have had to wait until March (March!) to finally see Tár. It was kinda nice, watching David Ehrlich’s traditional (and traditionally fantastic) end-of-year montage, to have seen the majority of titles for a change. I did make the mistake of showing it to my partner as well, which is how I ended up watching the first twenty minutes or so of Jackass Forever, after having successfully dodged that franchise for years.

On to the recap!

Books: Finished The Golden Enclaves, by Naomi Novik. You could call the ending cynical, but when you make your magic system an allegory for all the ills of capitalism, a neat solution would likely have felt pat.

Movies: watched The Pale Blue Eye (review tk, sometime this week on and, with that David Ehrlich montage giving me the final push after having it on my to-watch list for a while, Descendant. Both on Netflix, a service I had been considering cancelling because I wasn’t using it much, but which bought itself some time now. I was quite impressed with the latter, which takes a very specific story but brings out much more general themes about history and legacy and the various ways injustice gets perpetuated. Documentaries are one of my blind spots, and I still want to catch up with the other two big documentaries of the year, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (which comes out in cinemas this week) and All That Breathes (which I missed, but will hopefully be streamable somewhere soon).

Television: I finished Fleishman is in Trouble, and the last two episodes devastated me in a way I wouldn’t have predicted. In the end, of course, it isn’t really about marriage or relationships, but more – in the words of Libby – about the fact that “you are, right now, as young as you will ever be again.” So now I’m less certain that I’ll manage to avoid the whole mid-life crisis thing…

Events: I took advantage of the fact that I now occasionally work in Amsterdam and went to Basje Boer’s talk about Vertigo and the male gaze. Which drew my attention to the fact that the perspective switch in Fleishman is a little bit like the one I’ve long admired in Vertigo.

It was an interesting talk, though it confronted me once again with the fact that I don’t know if I experience gender in the most typical way. For instance, I’m not sure I ever fully incorporated the male gaze in the way Basje talked about happening, with women often seeing themselves from the outside. I remember, when I was a teenager, my sister would occasionally cover my eyes and ask me what I was wearing. More often than not I couldn’t remember. Admittedly, back then what I was wearing was probably gray or beige and at least one size too big, since my body and I had a much more contentious relationship at the time than now, but still. The talk also reminded me that I at some point was going to collaborate on a video essay about how Magic Mike XXL is not only a superior sequel, but a stone-cold masterpiece – maybe the release of the third movie will provide the necessary impetus to finally make that happen?

And now, the plans:

Books: I bought Basje’s book Pose, which is probably a good way to explore those gender thoughts further.

Movies: I’m going to try to actually make it out to the cinema again for De Acht Bergen / Le Otto Montagne, recommended by one of my new colleagues. The MUBI watchlist also keeps beckoning. Dutch MUBI is now streaming Paterson – I love that movie so much I own it on DVD, but I might just take the excuse to re-watch it anyway. And I’m going to the opening of the Kieslowski-programme in Eye this Wednesday, which includes a screening of La Double Vie de Veronique (which I’ve seen only once, over a decade ago.)

Television: The second season of Reservation Dogs just got added to Dutch Disney+. I thought the first season was fantastic, especially the episodes (“Come and Get Your Love”, “Hunting”) which focus on a single character. When people call modern television “cinematic”, they’re often talking about shows which are either pseudo-literary “high” art or which have epic action set pieces. The direction on this show is less flashy, but so precise and self-assured, beautiful without taking away from the humor. It expands the idea of what the medium can do just as much as shows with multiple times the budget and/or prestige. Can’t wait to dive into the second season.

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