**Spoiler Alert: If you’ve not seen WandaVision, please leave now and come back after you watch it. I will go full blast on that one.**
I’m on a break right now, so I’ve got a little more time on my hands to indulge in pop culture. Here are my speed reviews for a selection of books, movies, and tv series from Jan to March 2021.
My baptism in to Disney+ platform. I LAPPED IT UP!!! I love it!!! (Note: I’m only into the MCU, not the comics series). For the longest time, I felt Wanda Maximoff /Scarlet Witch was such an underrated character in MCU when she’s clearly so powerful. The series has finally unveiled her true power.
WandaVision is Wanda’s coping mechanisms for all the life tragedies and mental struggles (grief, post-traumatic trauma, depression) she went through. How does her coping mechanism look like? A self-curated sitcom world that combines themes from The Truman Show, Stepford Wives, and Get Out. Meanwhile, Agatha Harkness is the Bitch Therapist that forced her to recall all her painful experiences, confront her struggles, and unleash her true nature. We’re basically paying for her therapy, but I don’t mind as it was such as visual delight. The ending was heartbreaking though…but hopeful.
Agatha, Agatha. IT’S BEEN AGATHA ALL ALONG!! Her baddie reveal, in my world, is on par with Amy Dune’s in Gone Girl (when I first read the novel). I. LOVE. IT. I’m guilty of underrating Kathryn Hahn’s performances over the years. She’s such a revelation here. Her joining MCU made her more accessible to the masses and accorded her the appreciation of her acting chops on a bigger scale. Looking forward to seeing more of her in the MCU tv series / movies.
PS: WandaVision also got me appreciating Kat Dennings, and I look forward to Monica Rambeau’s (Teyonah Parris) *real* power reveal in whichever MCU movie she’ll be in.
Rating: 10 /5 (I know this is early, but I have a feeling WandaVision will be one of my bests for 2021).
Mrs. Fletcher, HBO
Watched this in one sitting as part of my Kathryn Hahn appreciation week. It’s a mini-series about a middle-aged woman’s renaissance as she rediscovers herself and her sexuality post-marriage and child-rearing. In a similar vein as I care a lot, it made me feel sad about growing old. All I will say is, it’s a slow burn (not complaining. I mean that seems to be the rate that life runs when one is on an empty nest, right?) with a dumfounding ending. It’s a mini-series based on a novel, so sadly, it’s unlikely that there’ll be a follow-up season.
The Morning Show, Apple
Took me a long while to get into The Morning Show train, and it’s the only reason I trialed an Apple subscription. TMS is a grand drama about ambition and abuse within media and television at the height of #MeToo Movement. It was hard to go through at first as most episodes are a full 1 hour, and my attention span has significantly shortened over the years. It’s a slow burn and took me a while to like. TMS showed the many faces involved in an organization plagued by a scandal: the accused, the accuser, the complicates, the higher-ups that condoned and covered up the toxic environment, the crucified, the helpless, the fall guy, the woke, and how each one of them navigated the minefield that is a series of sexual misconducts within the show’s cast and crew.
I didn’t particularly like Jennifer Aniston’s character, Alex Levy. She’s such a complicit, truly a part of the boys’ club and benefitted from it and disregarded fellow women who went through harrowing ordeals in the workplace. Meanwhile, Mitch (Steve Carrell) can’t seem to understand his fault in the scandal, and for a moment, it actually made me believe that the rest of the women are complicit. Gugu’s Mbata Raw’s (she’s so pretty) portrayal as Hannah is quite believable. I didn’t like her first, but after knowing her back story and what went through her head, I can understand why she did what she did. As for Reese’s Witherspoon’s portrayal of Bradley Jackson, as usual, is *superb* I sometimes felt her character is pushing it too much, but it was worth it in the end.
As for the guys, I really felt bad for Mark Duplass’s character Chip, who always seems to be on the verge of a breakdown (for valid reasons). My favorite is Billy Crudup, Cory, the amoral smooth-talking head of the news division (who said the word Gulag). He seemed to be the only thinking person in the cohort, the voice of reason, and the only one with foresight.
I look forward to watching the aftermath of the expose that I’m willing to pay a few dollars to watch the next season of TMS.
The Guest List, Lucy Foley
The Guest List is a psychological suspense thriller about a power couple’s wedding on a remote island in Ireland. It’s supposed to be the perfect event, but resentments, jealousies, lies, revelations, and a dead body ruined the couple’s joining.
I think it’s my first time to read a book with several POVs happening at once, but it did not leave me dazed and confused. For me, it provided interesting character studies, and it blended well into the main story. I didn’t find the plot to be too over the top and outlandish. I did get hints from the beginning on who the villain is, though. (It must be a sign I’m consuming too much media, stories become predictable to me). Also, this is one of those novels where the writing style is ripe to be recreated into a movie.
The Guest List goes to show that everyone’s got secrets, including the seemingly perfect ones, that people harbor resentments that they never forget. The truth reveals itself, even if it is seemingly impossible to happen.
Men Without Women, Haruki Murakami
It’s nice to be re-acquainted with Murakami’s writing again. I’ve been an avid reader for probably 15 years. In Men Without Women, Murakami once again brings his pessimistic but realistic views of life and human relationships. The book is a collection of short stories of men whose women in their lives are absent, either dead, disappeared, separated, and what the loss of these women mean in their lives.
My favorites among the shorts are “An Independent Organ” and “Kino”. I feel that these two show the effects of loss in men that we don’t usually see. In these stories, the men’s experiences of loss seem more intense and catastrophic. I guess because men have had to live with the role of being non-emotional, strong beings who do not get shattered if they’ve been left. They are portrayed as either getting even or just moving on with their lives. But in Men without Women, they are just the same as us women.
I Care A lot, Netflix
I care a lot seriously got me worried about my possible future as an old person without a carer, and I still can’t shake the feeling off. The movie exploits the US’s broken healthcare and legal system. Rosamund Pike stars as a court-appointed legal guardian who traps her elderly clients and seizes their assets for her use. However, one particular client lands her on a gangster hit list. Pike, as usual, was glorious. She’s so good at playing the villain, I’m starting to get the vibe that she is one in real life (similar feels to Kevin Spacey). In hindsight, I think she may be the only reason I liked the movie. The plot is so over the top and unrealistic, it’s hard to enjoy the rest of the film.
The Shape of Water, Fox Starlight
Guillermo del Torro directed this beautiful fantasy/sci-fi/romance film about a lonely mute janitress who discovers-and falls in love with an amphibian humanoid in the ’60s. Sally Hawkin’s (An Underrated Introvert Queen) acting chops transcended words, and I salute her for bringing Eliza Esposito’s character to life. The cinematography and set design really brought the fantasy/sci-fi / 60’s vibe into the movie too. On a separate note, I felt iffy about the sex scene between Eliza and the humanoid.
Jojo Rabbit, Fox Searchlight
A 10-year German old boy was a Hitler Youth cadet and fanatic preparing to join WWII. His idealism was put to the test when he discovers a Jewish girl in their house. I rarely dabble on period movies and whatnot, but I decided to give Jojo Rabbit as it seemed to have good reviews. The first part of the film was a slow burn for me. It was slightly past the halfway point when tragedy struck that I really paid attention to it. The satire is not for everyone, especially those without critical thinking skills. Underneath the weird comedy and uncomfortable fanaticism for one of the most despised human beings in recent history are anti-hate themes, the dangers of a child’s “impressionable-ness”, senseless effects of war, as well as compassion and hope.
Rating: 3/5 (Mostly because, as mentioned, period pieces don’t really appeal to me)