TV Review: Derry Girls S1

While I was born in the 1970s, the ’90s are my jam. The resurgence of ’90s culture and fashion means I am no longer a fuddy-duddy and now I am entirely on point. It marks no surprise when Derry Girls came to Netflix, I was in love.

Derry Girls takes place during the early 1990s in Londonderry (colloquially known as “Derry”), Ireland. It follows five friends as they navigate teenagedom amidst the backdrop of The Troubles. The girls, and one boy, flounder about with the expected angst and struggle which is hilarious, painful, and relatable. Each kid is an archetype of your typical teen personality. Erin is the anxious one, Orla is the weird cousin, Clare is the people pleasure, Michelle is the bad girl, and Michelle’s hapless English, used to underpin English/Irish relationship, cousin James rounds out the group.

 

The action takes place mostly at their Catholic girl’s school and James is included in their class. James’ Englishness is used as an underpinning to the current English/Irish relation. He is seen as ridiculous and stupid (and for some reason, there are constant joke about his “gayness” with his constant attempts to point out he’s not at all gay). He’s placed at the all girl’s school for fear he would not survive the Irish all boy’s school due to his Englishness. James bears a lot of cousinly abuse from Michelle and he struggles to find a place to fit as an other both being English and a male.

Derry is on the border of English Protestant run Northern Ireland and Catholic Ireland which makes it a common location for altercations between IRA and the English. I was curious how writer/director Lisa McGee would play out The Troubles as a character and it went much better than expected; I was expecting it to be ham-fisted but it wasn’t. It felt natural that the cast is doing something and an event tied to The Troubles happens and the cast respond to it as something that happened every day because it did happen every day. The kids and their parents are mindful of the situation: bridges are being bombed and people are being shot. Scenes that take outside shore up English/Irish relations as armed soldiers are in nearly every take There is a scene where Da Gerry, Erin’s dad, finds a straggler hiding in the trunk of his car. There is a conversation on what to do: smuggle the straggler across the border and stand him at the service station. Da Gerry is adamant on not smuggling the straggler across the border, the ramifications are huge, but everyone else is against him. This scene, and the fear of consequences of everyday life, play smartly out on the television screen.

Derry Girls

 

Movie Review: Vice

I remember clearly where I was November 2000. My then fiance, along with numerous friends, drank while watching the results of the presidential election. The scare of the world ending on 12/31/1999 was 11 months past. Since the world did not end, we thought everything was possible. Our shock at Gore conceding to Bush/Cheney moved in slow motion. How could this have happened? Couldn’t we get a recount of Florida due to the “hanging chad” business? No.

Walking into Vice was the first time in a very long time the incidents being portrayed were fairly clear in my living memory. The current love affair with the ’90s continues to increase with the abundance of television shows and movies honoring the era. See The Assisnation of Gianni Versace, to some extent Pose, and the plethora of Kurt Cobain docs as examples. Plus Christian Bale, a future ex-husband, and Amy Adams were starring so this seemed like a win-win situation.

Reader, Vice is nothing more than Bale in a fat suite saying “I’m Batman” throughout the movie. (My partner disagrees but what does he know?)

Vice is your standard biopic, however, with a fairly clever twist. It starts out innocently enough of Dick getting arrested for drunk driving, getting kicked out of Yale, and his marriage to Lynne. There is one particular scene where Cheney is working as a telephone linesman and a crew member falls and breaks his leg. Cheney, along with the rest of the crew, stand around cracking jokes. Cheney turns and walks away, so does most of everyone else, as the foreman tells someone to drop the poor bastard off in town with $50. This sets the motion that Cheney is an unfeeling and heartless asshole who gives no fucks about anyone other than himself and his family that permeates to this day.

Cheney’s rise to power is impressive despite the drunk driving and Lynne telling him outright if he doesn’t clean up his act, she’s leaving him. He begins as a White House intern for Rumsfield and the story ends when Cheney suffers his who knows what number heart attack to be honored with a new heart. The shooting of Harry Whittington is also addressed.

Vice is told in a clever way and I will not ruin the twist but with many critics claim it’s “the best movie of the year,” I just don’t see it. I felt like the movie was ok, it covers the basic ground of Cheney’s life. It underscores his and Lynne’s ruthlessness on their accession up the ladders of Washington elite. But I’m just not feeling it. Even Bale’s accent sounded less like a plainsman from Montanna and more like he was lazy and imitating his Batman days. There seemed to be lacking something, something I can’t put my finger on, and it’s driving me crazy. Cheney’s is the Devil but at least the Devil causes excitement. Vice is a replacement for when the Devil is on vacation but most often it is a snoozefest.

 

TV Review: Young Sheldon S2 E3 – 10

Season 2 of Young Sheldon brings us firmly into Sheldon (Iain Armitage), age 10, to his high school years while navigating his experiences as a prodigy child that perhaps would overwhelming to anyone. He encounters how to have fun (S2 E10: A Stunted Childhood and a Can of Fancy Mixed Nuts) (this episode is also the root of his use of “Bazinga!” when he does something he perceives to be funny), jealousy (S2 E07: Carbon Dating and a Stuffed Raccoon), and forming better familial relationships (S2 E08: An 8-Bit Princess and a Flat Tire Genius).

(Let us take an aside for S2 E08: An 8-Bit Princess and a Flat Tire Genius. Meemaw (Annie Potts) buys Sheldon a gaming system which is the clone of Nintendo NES with a clone of Zelda but the system is called Takemi (or something similar; it was hard to see). Now before this scene, there was a cutaway of kids happily playing the real NES as well as Atari 7800. So why give Sheldon the knock-off system? It can’t be copyright issues since they already showed the cutaway. If anyone has the answer, that would be delightful.)

Spin-offs don’t necessarily do as well as their mother shows (The Lone Gunman (X-Files) and Torchwood (Doctor Who))(I loved Torchwood, FYI.). This does not necessarily mean they are bad shows rather a myriad of reasons such as bad time on the weekly slot or the production stumbles just a bit in the first few episodes. It’s to be expected, of course, that as the new show typically uses the same showrunner and production team, the spin-off will come out of the gate running strong as a Kentucky Derby winner. The Big Bang Theory has been a cash grab for CBS for years, so whether or not fans of TBBT, and the general public at large, would accept Young Sheldon was a question to the gods.

My partner pointed out Young Sheldon may have its roots in TBBT but it could survive, successfully even, on Sheldon’s bowties without the TBBT connection. It’s a better than average sitcom, it’s warm, funny, and has the right laughs thrown in. It’s not complicated or requires a chalkboard to figure out its formula. Young Sheldon is not poised to be CBS’s #1 Sitcom no should it be as it doesn’t have quite enough oomph to vie for that spot but it does have a comforting familiarity to ease into without necessarily having to know its origins or connections to another show. You could successfully watch Young Sheldon and not watch a wit of TBBT and lose nothing.

Is CBS All-Access worth purchasing for just Young Sheldon (and/or TBBT as well)? My answer would be no (though yes to Star Trek: Discovery) but if you do have the service, you wouldn’t feel like you’ve wasted time watching Young Sheldon in its 22 minutes per episode is a nice palette cleanser to the trash dumpster fire that is the world.

 

 

Book Review: Abridged Classics

Title: Abridged Classics
Author: John Atkinson
Pub date: 2018
ISBN: 978-0062747853

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When a book is 160ish pages long and each page contains a drawing along with one or two sentences, it’s rather difficult to write a review that will be longer than the book itself. Nevertheless, I will try.

Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed to Read but Probably Didn’t (phew), is exactly what it purports to be. It’s a collection of 100 classic works of literature, from Jane Austen to Proust and back again, condensed into one or two sentence humorous and snarky summaries complete with illustrations. Warning: It’ll take you less than 20 minutes to read. In short: It’s delightful and perfect for those cocktail parties where you can feign truthfully that yes, you’ve read the Russians and everyone will believe you. It also makes a great gift for just about anyone including that snobby asshole who claims to have read Beowulf in Old English because yes, he’s that asshole.

Book Review: My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Title: My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Author: Ottessa Moshfegh
Pub date: 2018
ISBN: 978-0525522119

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In My Year of Rest and Relaxation, our intrepid heroine daily takes enough psychotropic drugs to numb a small nation, lays on the couch, watches a lot of videotapes (it’s the year 2000), occasionally shuffles down to her local bodega for a few coffees, all the while she contemplates studiously the status of her life, with the wish to eventually emerge reborn from her sleep, and then tries to suppress her desire to live in society like an uncontrolled fire.

While we are voyeurs to the daily idiom of our narrator’s life, it gets repetitive. Quickly. You could have cut 150 pages from the book, roughly the amount of time she spends laying on the couch and popping pills, and get, more or less, the same story. The sheer amount of feelings she is swallowing is impressive. A veritable who’s who of drugs culled from a pocket drug guide and the DSM-V. To the layperson, the amount of meds listed is breathtaking but from the view of someone who is on psychotropic drugs herself, I began to wonder, 50 pages in, “Why isn’t she dead yet? She should be dead.” I’m on the highest dosage of several the drugs our heroine is on and the interactions can be deadly. Yes, the heroine’s relationship with the easy pen and pad of the quack psychiatrist an almost solid argument of Munchausen Syndrome but c’mon here. However, you could seriously argue, the point of these actions, in the end, is not self-destruction; she does not want to die. She just wants to sleep.

I went home and went to sleep. Outside of the occasional irritation, I had no nightmares, no passions, no desires, no great pains.

Our heroine is an unreliable narrator, her blackouts are mentioned but not expanded on which is something I would have really like to have seen examined.

Despite the few flaws, I would recommend My Year of Rest and Relaxation because it is a mediation of the intersection of feminity, mental health, pop culture, and self-reflection as well as self-loathing. The heroine delivers deadpan commentary on such things and yet there is the pain to her observations, one that anyone simply breathing in current climes would and could relate to even though the book takes place 2000 and cumulates with 9/11. Our heroine is not vapid or vacuous as her barbed commentary and brutal and keen observations on the world and people around her when she’s conscious, is extraordinary. It is not, however, for the faint of heart as on one hand, you want to love her like her friend Reva (who is vacuous and vapid and self-obsessed), but knowing our narrator would tell us to eff right off, like she often tells Reva, and somehow, we’d be the better for it.