March 30, 2021

Reading, watching, enjoying — Q1 2021

For the first few months when our little one arrived, I didn’t get much time to read, or watch television and movies. Now that she’s sleeping a bit better, I’m finding a bit more time to enjoy some reading and watching and just escape for a little while.

Below, inspired by Kottke, a quick look at some of the books, television shows, and movies that I’ve been enjoying over the past three months:

How We Fight For Our Lives: I’m not usually one for memoirs, but this one is a must-read. Saeed Jones tells a story of growing up Black and gay that is gut-wrenching and powerful, and that will stay with me for a long time. An incredible memoir from one of my favorite poets writing today.

Bridgerton: Fluffy yet surprisingly fun and entertaining. The whole look is stunning; the sets, costumes, and actors are all strikingly beautiful. A good way to pass the time if you’re not looking for something too deep or meaningful.

Palm Springs: Hilariously enjoyable. Made me laugh out loud several times, and the two leads have incredible comedic chemistry. Watch if you’re looking for a guaranteed good time.

Disappearing Earth, Julia Phillips: A tense thriller with a wide array of characters whose diverse paths all lead into each other. This one kept me on the edge of my seat, and the prose describing the setting all throughout the novel is gorgeous.

Tully: I think this movie would be better appreciated by someone who doesn’t currently have a young infant and that doesn’t feel panicked and overwhelmed all the time. That someone is not me, so this missed the mark.

RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 13: Sure, the show has been on for thirteen seasons and some of the parts of it feel rote—you’ve seen the challenges and storylines many times before—but this show is buoyed by the magnificent cast of characters they get every season, and this season is no different. A riotous romp so far (the season isn’t quite done yet).

Elevating Child Care, Janet Lansbury: A collection of blog posts that were perhaps best served as blog posts. A book with a pamphlet-worth of a few good ideas, repeated over and over in too many pages.

Derry Girls: A brilliantly hilarious show set during a not-hilarious-at-all time—The Troubles—featuring excellent performances, laugh-out-loud jokes, and hours of joyful entertainment. Sister Michael is a particularly great character among a whole cast of funny characters.

Lupin: Full of thrills and twists and turns. Sure you have to suspend disbelief and just trust in the plot despite its holes, but this is a lot of fun and will leave you wanting more. Omar Sy is a tour de force in this, and the cliffhanger at the end will make you crave season two’s arrival, whenever its coming.

RuPaul’s Drag Race UK, Series 2: There are moments when I think the UK version of Drag Race might be better than the original US version. This season started off strong, and while it had a few missteps, it follows in the great Drag Race tradition of relying on some extremely charismatic and wonderful queens to make it one of the most enjoyable franchises on television.

The Mandalorian, Season 2: Maybe even better than the first season? The caper of the week” format suits it well. Always a fun adventure to look forward to, and a memorable cast of characters to enjoy every episode.

The Great Believers, Rebecca Makkai: A gut-wrenchingly beautiful novel about friendship and loss and family—blood and chosen— and love. The time shifting from the AIDS-stricken 1980s to the fast-paced mid-2010s is a brilliant narrative device that makes the feelings of loss and devastation all the more powerful.

Birds of Prey: At times confusing, at times odd and strange, but overall quite entertaining. Some really good action sequences, and more than a few laughs. Enjoyed this one more than I thought I would.

It’s A Sin: Heartbreakingly devastating, this series moves at a breakneck speed, taking you through the lives of a group of friends as they navigate the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. I laughed, but mostly I cried; this is an important, must-watch show and perhaps the best series I’ve seen in 2021 so far.

The Forty Year-Old Version: A gorgeously and poignantly written and directed feature film that resonated deeply as I’ve been thinking about what it means to soon be turning forty years old. Funny and emotional and beautifully shot, this is a film definitely worth watching as you think about what it means to get older.

The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett: A gorgeous story about the lives we tell ourselves, the lies we tell others, and the bonds that hold us together. The prose is exquisite and the story is captivating; a book that must go on any must-read list.

WandaVision: Took a few episodes to really get into it, but once it got going it ended up being a beautiful rumination on grief, all while being a fun superhero story as well.

Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyasi: Not quite as powerful and captivating as her previous novel Homegoing, but still a good read about family and loss and grief and religion and motivation.

The Good Place, Season 4: A show that is packed full of laughs, and continues to be hilarious in its final season. The story may be convoluted, but that’s not what matters: the jokes are funny, the characters are endearing, and the show is just a pure delight.

→ Marginalia