dill & fennel

December

Wow, I took my sweet time reading this month. A lot of TV and movies meant I fell asleep after a few pages too many nights to really make a dent in the number of books on my shelf. I read a good chunk of Infinite Jest for the umpteenth time along with some fellow Infinite Ghosts for a book club, and also read a lot of Monocle articles.

Books

This Alien Shore — C.S. Friedman

Hacking? In space? With wormholes? Hell yea. This book ripped. It’s really exciting knowing that there’s a sequel I can read without needing to wait 12 years like the folks who read it first back in 1998. C.S. Friedman was one of my first favorite authors, and I’m enjoying rediscovering her work.

Hammered — Elizabeth Bear

Let’s hear it for older female protagonists! This book largely was a build-up for what I imagine will happen in the next two, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. I like a slightly worn-our protagonist, and a good rogue AI plot.

Null States — Malka Older

A great re-read that is a bit slower than the first book in the series, but is also an interesting look at the limits of political utopian ideas.

Movies

The Vast of Night

A fun 50s-set sci-fi. The weird TV framing didn’t really go anywhere, but other than that the film was a tightly-shot and enticing story.

The Snowman

I’d heard how horrible this was before I dove in, but I’ve also read the book, so I found it not very confusing at all. There’s like, two twists? I don’t know. This weemed like a pretty straightforward nordic noir.

The Circle

Entirely too heavy-handed, and kind of a waste of both Tom Hanks, Jon Boyega, and Karen Gillan. I wish more folks thought that tech was this evil though. By trying to make a more mass-market Black Mirror, it got a bit overwrought.

Another Round

Is it a good idea to be low-key drunk all day every day? This movie aims to answer that eternal question. Perhaps the answer is getting drunk sometimes, but not enough to wreck your life? Mads dances really well.

Suspiria

I love modern dance a lot more when it’s a satanic ritual. The original Suspira is a masterpiece, but I really liked this strange homage. The music was excellent, and Dakota Johnson was haunting. I wonder if Tilda had it in her contract she would only do the film if she could Albert Nobbs it up.

Fantastic Fungi

I love the mushroom internet. Also this movie made me want to ingest a certain drugge mushroom. Every mycologist and enthusiastic mushroom person was a delight in this documentary. Neat.

Doctor Sleep

I’m still not sure that the Shining needed a sequel, but this was pretty fun Stephen King fare.

The Invisible Man

Absolutely thrilling, and utterly terrifying. The gaslighting in this film felt incredibly real. I loved that it took a typical horror trope and turned it into a character study of a woman desparate to be believed. Excellent film.

WW84

A friend on Twitter suggested this was basically a Doctor Who Christmas special, and yep! It was also the story of a single dad learning that nothing is free inside capitalism. Kristen Wiig was good.

You’re Next

This was fine? I dunno. I kinda zoned-out a lot but there was a lot of murder and an Australian lead actor lady.

Peppermint

A holiday revenge film that never answers the question: “how did this mom become special ops trained in five years?”

The Midnight Sky

This was alright. I’m a bit disappointed Sunu bc so many of the actors are usually outstanding. I can’t tell if they filmed this during COVID, but that would make sense for it since there were like 6 people total.

Greenland

The diabetic son was a hat on a hat, but I guess they needed a plot reason besides perimeter breaches and explosions to make the back half of this movie work. I generally love a disaster film, but this does little to unseat my favorite nightmare: 2012. “Small molten debris” was a highlight. I will say that the utter disorganization and nightmarish bureaucracy of the whole thing really tracks with the USA I know though.

Leave No Trace

Started hiking more often recently, and so I figured it was finally time to revisit the majestic Forest Park in cinematic form. This was a pretty sad film.

Inception

Another rewatch in my Nolan-spree. This was also excellent, and I’d forgotten how cool the set-pieces were, especially the Bond-esque snow mountain. I wonder if Nolan wanted to make a bond and someone told him no? I’m glad they did, because I like the weird shit he makes instead.

Dunkirk

For a Nolan film this was surprisingly straightforward. I wasn’t familiar with this battle until watching Dunkirk, but it was definitely different to see a film that depicts a retreat. Brutal, and hopeful.

Interstellar

Rewatched this gorgeous film for the umpteenth time. There are so many heartbreaking moments about fatherhood and trust that it always hits me pretty hard. For a movie that’s almost three hours, it’s a tribute to how great it is that I always want to rewatch. Because of the practical effects I feel like it will likely look fresh for decades to come.

Tenet

Definitely not worth getting sick over, but at home? With my own whiskey? With Snorri? Yea, this was fucking sick. Since ignorance is ammunition all I will say is I enjoyed this film greatly and immediately started it again.

Sea Fever

A tightly plotted, claustrophobic film about slowing losing your shit on a boat. Someone else described it as “X-Files before Mulder and Scully arrived” and that seems pretty apt. There’s a little bit of The Thing in here too. A lot of creeping dread.

Queer Japan

As a foreigner who spends a month or so in Japan every year, and as a queer woman, I really enjoyed this documentary. I loved that they chatted with trans folks, HIV+ folks, and disability rights folks. One man described Japan’s discrimination as “soft shell”, and I think I get a lot more of why that is after seeing this film. They even covered the strong anti-racism movement in Japan fighting against nationalism. This documentary was a delight. It also made me miss hanging with my queer friends in Osaka quite a bit, or singing karaoke with a bunch of cool weirdos in Ni-Chome.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

The atmospheric style of this movie is incredible. I love the slow build and tension, with its tight plotting. Oldham makes an excellent Smiley, and generally everyone is just a delight. RIP Le Carre. Also the soundtrack of this film is excellent.

Black Bear

Aubrey Plaza is a singular emotional rollercoaster in this twisty film. I still don’t know how I feel about it, but it’s definitely something I’ll sit with for a while. It’s at turns incredibly painful to watch, and hilarious.

The Taking of Pelham 123

Ah, I love a Walter Matthau movie. There’s certainly a lot of language/behavior that doesn’t hold up, but this is a real classic heist movie.

The Bourne Identity

What if Jason was just gaslighting everyone for the whole film, and he only pretended to have amnesia bc he hated his job? Great action, great car chase, and a really good haircut given to Franka Potente. I love a good spy thriller. The closing Moby track still slaps.

Black Christmas

Ah, I love Imogen Poots. She’s great in everything she’s in, but I’m definitely glad she’s not her character from Green Room in this. A horror film that tackles the terrible world of reporting and holding men accountable for rape and the challenge of female solidarity in the patriarchy. College is the worst; never pledge.

The Good Shepherd

I forgot i’d seen this in theaters back in 2006. Matt Damon is very serious, and Eddie Redmayne is yet to make his finest film: Jupiter Ascending. His lips still worry me greatly. I think Angelina Jolie tried to look dowdy but it’s not possible. Spies always have cool glasses. There should’ve been more Lee Pace.

Lucy in the Sky

I had no idea what to expect with this film, but it was certainly surprising. The last thing I expected was for it to be way closer to that astronaut lady who wore adult diapers and drove across the country to get revenege. Googling just now, apparently that story was the inspiration for this movie. Wild. Since this movie has Legion in it, I guess it’s also part of the marvel universe.

Happiest Season

This was disappointing. A more astute lesbian friend suggested this movie should’ve leaned inrto quirky indie-ness or fully into Meet the Parents schlock. It did neither. The ignored sister would’ve been much better as a butch woman.