The sickness is finally starting to abate here in the Brewster household. I’m still coughing a bit but the head is mostly clear and (I hope) the infections are all gone. They feel like they are anyway. It was another week filled with trying to get through some television shows I’ve already mentioned (how about that Barry season finale? That’s a dark place I wasn’t expecting it to go). But there is plenty of new stuff to talk about so let's get to it.
Apparently, I now empathize with the fathers in teenager movies more than the actual teenagers. Oh, I felt every awkward, painstaking moment of Kayla’s (wonderfully performed by Elsie Fisher) last few days of eighth grade in Bo Burnham’s directorial debut. I still remember my own horrifying life at that stage. But it's those moments with her father that really got me. He clearly loves his daughter and is dying watching her figure out who she is while making her way through the horror hellscape of junior high, but he has no idea of what to do.
There is a dinner scene in which Kayla is not so much eating but scrolling through Instagram, listening to music, and trying to ignore her dad. The dad (Josh Hamilton) tries to engage her in conversation to which she sighs, pulls out her earbuds, and asks, “What?” In the end, he desperately tells her how “cool” he thinks she is and gets nothing but eye rolls in return. It's a perfect scene about clueless but loving dads, and girls who wish they didn’t have parents, but ultimately, secretly, are glad they are there.
There is a scene later in the film, which I won’t spoil, that is so tender, so heartfelt, so real that it breaks my heart just thinking about it. As a dad of a "not too many years away from" eighth grade, this film was insightful, moving, and utterly terrorizing. My god, what will I say to my daughter then?
Paper Girls Vol. 5
We’ve discussed many times before how I came to comics late and feel as though I will never catch up on all of the thousands of titles that came before me nor reach a point where I am staying current with what’s new. I am sort-of proud then that I pre-ordered this, the latest book version of Brian K. Vaughan’s Paper Girls. It's the first time ever that I’ve more or less been up to date with a comic series.
I’ve actually talked about this one before, but I’m too excited about getting the new one when it was released to not talk about it again. It's about group of pre-teen girls in the '80s who stumble upon time travel and several groups of people from the future (including themselves). As a writer, Vaughan loves to come up with the most completely crazy storylines he can think of, and he almost goes too far here, before somehow making them grounded and rather poignant. For the first half or so of this book, I kept thinking he was doing too much crazy and not enough poignant but then he found the heart of it again and made me once again praise his name to the heavens.
The Night Is Short Walk On Girl
A strange, funny, weird little Japanese animated film about a young girl out for a night of drinking in Kyoto and the slightly older, much more shy boy who is obsessed with her. They meet an increasingly eccentric group of people as they wander the streets getting into adventures. It's like a screwy road movie except they never actually go very far. Vividly animated, imaginatively told, and strangely obsessed with underpants (one character has his stolen, another refuses to change his), this is a movie any fan of animation needs to see. You can read my full review here.
Lean on Pete
I thought this was going to be a sweet story about a boy and his horse. I was wrong. Instead, it's a heart-wrenching drama about a 16-year-old kid whose life is filled with hardship. His mom left him when he was a baby, his dad is a drunk who brings home a different woman every night, and he keeps the only food in the house (a box of cereal) in the refrigerator because otherwise the roaches will get at it. There is a horse, but it's doomed to be put down because it can no longer race fast. He steals the horse and walks off (he never even rides the horse, that’s how sad his life is) into the wilderness hoping to find his aunt. What he finds is an unforgiving world full of the same horrors he had at home. It is a tough movie to watch, but a rewarding one. You can read David Wangberg's review here.
I got into the Arrowverse late in the game. I came to it via The Flash a show I pretty immediately loved. Then I started watching Supergirl because I have a daughter and there aren’t enough girl superheroes in this world. That show grew on me but it still struggles balancing its action, humor, and melodrama. Then came Legends of Tomorrow, a show that very, very slowly grew on me before becoming kind of great. But Arrow, I never got into that. We tried now and again to watch it, but it was so dark, so brooding, so not fun that we always gave up.
Then last year, I really enjoyed watching the cross-over episodes and even thought the Arrow parts were good so we decided to give it one more try. This time, for whatever reason, it worked. Actually, I know the reason and her name is Felicity Smoak. She’s the light in a dark show. She’s funny and smart and turns the show from a dour Dark Knight-esque clone into something fun to watch. I am so glad they brough her character in and continue to make her a major part of each story.
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
I’ve always been fascinated with serial killers. The idea that someone would kill another human being because they want to - not out of anger, or jealousy, or even for money - but for pleasure is both utterly terrifying and really interesting. For one of those weird popular-culture zeitgeist reasons, Ted Bundy is suddenly all over the place. There’s a new Netflix documentary on him (which I will no doubt be watching soon) and now there is this, a flashy new comedy starring Zac Effron as Bundy, one of the most notorious serial killers of our time. It’s weird to say this, but a movie about a man who murdered at least thirty women, who kept decapitated heads as apartment decorations, and had sex with their corpses, looks really fun.