Recently Watched, Jan 2020

Interested in a few microreviews of movies and TV shows I’ve watched recently? Too bad, you’re getting them anyway.

BLACK DYNAMITE: A blaxpoitation movie that is less a parody and more an homage, and just as funny now as it was ten years ago. There are many great bits to this movie, but my favorite? Donuts don’t wear alligator shoes:

THE WIDOW: A fairly bleak thriller about a woman who believes her husband died in a plane crash until she sees him on news footage, so it’s off to the Congo to solve the mystery. I liked this fairly well. The Congo made for an interesting setting, and Kate Beckinsale is quite good as a determined woman who’s gone through some trauma and is trying to keep her shit together long enough to find her husband. An eight episode, limited series on Amazon was a good format for this type of show. I wish more filmmakers would go this route.

CASABLANCA: Just a fucking classic. I’ll say no more, except that I just now remembered I need to see if I own copies of THE BIG SLEEP and THE MALTESE FALCON.

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD: What an ugly, miserable film. The John Rambo of this film is so far removed from the tragic figure of the first film, that I sincerely wonder what Sylvester Stallone was thinking when he wrote the script. I’m so mad I sat through the whole thing.

KNIVES OUT: An old school whodunnit in the vein of CLUE that’s clever, funny, and brilliantly casted. Daniel Craig as detective Benoit Blanc is wonderful, but Chris Evans steals his scenes as a sort of anti-Steve Rogers. This and READY OR NOT were my favorite movies from 2019.

V: The original miniseries from 1983 about alien Visitors who one day show up all over the world in big shiny ships. Instead of pulling an INDEPENDENCE DAY, the Visitors want to help humanity by stealing our jorbs resources, and eating our small rodents. More than a little cheesy now, yes, but it is still a surprisingly effective allegory for Nazi-occupied Europe. Also it stars Marc Fucking Singer, so now I’m ready to watch THE BEASTMASTER again.

6 UNDERGROUND: A Michael Bay-directed, Ryan Reynolds-starring, Netflix original (??) that was frenetic and incoherent, and just unwatchably dumb, and I turned it off after ten minutes.

UNDERWATER: ALIEN, but set on the ocean floor. The plot made little sense, but Shit Starts Getting Real within the first five minutes, which was an interesting approach to take. Worth watching when it eventually hits Netflix/Amazon/etc.

ELEMENTARY: We’ve been watching this pretty much nonstop since September and we’re now somewhere in the middle of the fifth season. I’ve seen it before — except for the last season — but Jess hasn’t. The platonic chemistry between Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu is everything. Easily my favorite filmed adaptation of Sherlock Holmes

THE GOOD LIAR: A twisty, witty thriller with Sir Ian McKellan and Dame Helen Mirren as the leads? Count me in. This was quite good.

2020 Jan 01

This first day of 2020 has been, for me, pretty quiet.  I watched the first V miniseries dvd that I got for Christmas, napped, and Jess made and I ate a traditionalish German dinner of sausage, sauerkraut (of which I abstained), fried potatoes, and stewed tomatoes.

Our new year’s eve celebration last night was supposed to be a low-key affair with friends, but was actually a very loud dinner out with said friends, and then back to their house where we were slightly less loud, but still shouting questions and song requests at a struggling robot, and played with pups.

It’s been a perfect way to start the decade.

More so because 2019 couldn’t fuck off fast enough.  I won’t bore anyone by getting into details, but 2019 was a pretty shitty year.  Interestingly, I’ve talked with several people who’ve expressed similar feelings  about 2019, so I guess it’s really more of a collective fuck-you to the year that was.

But — 2019 did have several bright spots.  A trip to England, I had a story published, and, best of all, I got to spend the whole year with this lady.


Okay, onto some other 2019 look-back stuff.

Books: I read 27 books this year, with a goal of 25 set at the beginning of the year (pretty much the only goal I hit this year).  I reread a number of old favorites this year, including Scalzi’s Old Man’s War trilogy, the second half of the Rob MacGregor Indiana Jones novels, JUMPER by Steven Gould, and a couple of William Gibson’s books.  These were what I will call “comfort reads”:  books I’ve been wanting to reread for a while now, that I knew would not be super challenging.  Essentially, books with which I could easily unwind.

Favorite book(s) I reread this year were the aforementioned Indiana Jones books.  I first started reading this series when the second book, INDIANA JONES AND THE DANCE OF THE GIANTS, came out in 1991, when I was nine. I’ve reread them too many times to count.  MacGregor captured the voice of Indiana Jones and the tone of the movies perfectly.  He also plays a mean game of Words With Friends.

Favorite new book this year was THE IRON DRAGON’S MOTHER, by Michael Swanwick.  Swanwick remains one of the best sf writers working today, in my opinion.  I am very grateful Nate randomly bought THE IRON DRAGON’S DAUGHTER — the predecessor to MOTHER — from the Science Fiction Bookclub all those years ago, and introducing me to Michael Swanwick’s work.

Writing: I set a goal of writing 20,000 words of fiction this year, which I knew going in was ambitious as I haven’t written regularly in a couple of years.  I ended up with around 9,000 words in the bank, which I am still insanely happy with, because I actually started and finished two short stories.  The first was “A Brief Detour” this spring, and then another story that I started in early December and wrapped up a couple of days ago.  Also, the act of sitting down and writing has become easier, since I’ve been setting aside time specifically for it.  I’m going to keep a goal of 20,000 words for 2020 because it’s reasonable, for me.

I have no idea with what kind of regularity I’ll be posting here in 2020.  I’ve slowly been disengaging from Twitter and Facebook, because those sites are time sucks — and in the case of Twitter, toxic af — and I’m trying to be a bit more deliberate in how I spend my free time, and I expect this trend continue this year.  I’ve been thinking of ways I could easily post the kinds of things here that I might normally post to Twitter, things that are short and quickly written.  Jay Springett and Warren Ellis have interesting takes on how a return from the corporate-owned sites, which are by design more ephemeral, to the “Isles of Blogging” could be on the horizon.  I’ve been operating this site in some form or another since 2001, and still enjoy writing here when I do.  Much to puzzle out still.

Anyway, this has been way longer-winded and more wandering than I intended, so it’s time to wrap it up.  My hope for 2020 is that it’s the best year yet for you and for me.  Same goes for the new Twenties.  At the very least, to quote a bit of art we saw at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London: