February 28, 2024

Media Diet: January and February

A quick look at the movies, television shows, and books that have captured my attention over the past two months.

Slow Horses, Season 1
This is, exactly, the kind of television show I want to watch: suspenseful, full of twists and turns, wryly funny, and smart without being too clever to lose the audience. Gary Oldman is in fine form, and the rest of the cast works well around him. It’s a show that reminds us not to underestimate the underestimated, and the perils of being too clever for your own good. I can’t wait to see what the next season will bring.

Canada’s Drag Race, Season 4
This season belonged to one queen: Melinda Verga. She may not have won the whole thing, but her exuberance and character dominates the entire season and helped make this one of the best seasons of CDR yet. It helped that the queens were extremely charismatic and likable, and that the runways were on point, and the lip syncing was some of the best we’ve see on this show. A delightful romp. And can we talk about just how incredible Brooke Lynn Hytes looked all season? Jaw-droppingly stunning.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
What a delight. A heartwarming and funny film about growing up, but perhaps more poignantly, about motherhood and parenting and what it’s like to be there for your child no matter how they need you. Abby Ryder Fortson is perfect for the role, but the real standout here is Rachel McAdams, who gets the best character arc and excels at playing a mother of a teenage girl.

Hunt, Gather, Parent
There are some things I’ll take away from this book that are useful, but on the whole, I find the exercise of comparing ourselves to other cultures and then figuring out what we’re doing wrong a useless one. Contexts are different, connotations are different. This book feels like it’s talking down at me for not being like other people across the world, and to be honest: parenting like the Mayans isn’t going to fix this.

Cocaine Bear
You know when something is so ridiculous and bad and campy that it ends up being entertaining? This movie is just that. I can’t recommend it at all, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a decent time watching it.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-verse
This isn’t a superhero movie; it’s a parenting movie. I couldn’t help but be taken by the scenes between the kids and the parents in this movie, which were heartfelt and complicated and felt real. It helped that the animation was incredible, too, and though I don’t usually like multi-verse storylines, this one managed it well and kept it mostly coherent. Definitely going to be rewatching this one.

Light, humorous, and well-acted; this show is a salve for our harrowing times. It’s no masterpiece, but it will keep you entertained and invested throughout. We all have that one friend that brings out the worst (or at least, the most ridiculous) parts of us; this is an exploration of that kind of friendship. Doesn’t quite stick the ending, though.

Triangle of Sadness
I don’t mind an odd, off-center kind of movie, but this one just rocked my boat a bit too much. The theme of class disparity was a bit too explicit (almost to the point of being shoved down your throat) and the humor was often gross and unsettling. Still, it was an entertaining watch, particularly in the final act where tables are turned and Dolly De Leon really shines.

True Detective: Night Country
A fantastic show that would have been better off as its own series rather than being part of the the True Detective franchise. Compelling characters (Jodi Foster and Kali Reis are excellent together) and a considerate representation of indigenous communities. The supernatural stuff was tied in well and didn’t feel hokey, and the ultimate payoff was satisfying. I do think it would have helped with character and story development if we had a couple more episodes (there was a propulsion to the series that felt rushed) but overall an excellent season of television. (Oh, and it’s worth reading this excellent profile of Jodie Foster while you’re at it.)

Past Lives
There is a particular tenderness to this film: in the way the characters look at each other, the way the camera looks at the characters, the way the dialogue eases its way into your heart slowly and then all at once. The quietude is beautiful, not just in the story beats, but in the way it hushes the bustle of the city into a slow hum; so much is being said with so few words. I’ll definitely be revisiting this again.

Six: The Musical
Here’s what this show isn’t: a typical musical. What it is is instead a delightful romp, basically a pop concert designed as a musical. The music is wonderful. The performances in the Toronto show were excellent. The dancing is well-choreographed. The costumes were lots of fun. And the lighting? The lighting was a revelation. If you’re going to spend a night at the theatre, spend it watching this show; at a tight 80 minutes, it’ll be the best and most entertaining evening of live performance you’ll see in a long time.

Recoding America
Reading Jennifer Pahlka’s Recoding America was a perfect reminder of why I do the work I do. Pahlka provides a number of examples of how thinking differently about the way we deliver services leads to better outcomes for people, and how thinking differently requires having digital talent inside government. I wrote a reflection about this book here.

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