November/December 2021 Digest

Patron Pick – The Game (Matt)
Patron Pick – The World of Us (Matt)
Most Anticipated Films of 2021 Review
Ariana’s Favorite Films of 2021
Seth’s Favorite Films of 2021
Ariana’s Favorite Books Read in 2021
Seth’s Favorite Books Read in 2021
Seth’s Favorite Television of 2021
Favorite Film Discoveries of 2021

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Comic Book Review – Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 4

Superman: The Man of Steel Volume 4 (2022)
Reprints Superman #16-22, Adventures of Superman #439-444, Action Comics #598-600, Superman Annual #2
Written by John Byrne, Paul Kupperberg, Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern
Art by John Byrne, Ty Templeton, Karl Kesel, Jerry Ordway, Ross Andru, Curt Swan, Mike Mignola, John Statema, Ron Frenz

So it seems this will be the last volume in The Man of Steel collections which makes sense. These issues mark John Byrne’s final contributions to the Post-Crisis Superman, and the series title comes from his mini-series that rebooted the origins and supporting cast of the character. Volume Four manages to reintroduce some more elements from Superman’s mythos, updated for the 1980s. On reflection, this does not seem like a radical reimagining as it may have when the issues were first published. It’s very evident that Byrne is a fan of the Silver Age Superman but also wants to modernize the icon per his directive from DC Comics. This is also the first volume of reprints where Marv Wolfman was gone from Adventures of Superman, and thus Byrne was writing all three Superman titles monthly, plus penciling two of them.

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Movie Brain – January 21st, 2022

In December, I got an email notification related to my old Livejournal. If you are too young to know what that is, Livejournal was a blogging platform that was super popular in the 2000s and saw a decline in the 2010s. It was bought out by a Russian company, and if you were to visit it now, that is highly apparent. From around 2003 to 2008, I had three different accounts. Through this email notification, I was reminded of one of them and was able to get access to them again. It was quite a trip down memory lane back to college and post-grad days, an insight into what was going on in my head at the time.

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Patron Pick – Red Rocket

This is a special reward available to Patreon patrons who pledge at the $10 or $20 a month levels. Each month those patrons will pick a film for me to review. They also get to include some of their own thoughts about the movie, if they choose. This Pick comes from Matt Harris.

Red Rocket (2021)
Written by Chris Bergoch and Sean Baker
Directed by Sean Baker

Sean Baker’s filmmaking career has been centered on people working on the margins of society. Tangerine followed two transgender sex workers through a day in their life while The Florida Project, while told from young Moonie’s perspective, featured the challenges her mother, a sex worker, faced in Orlando. Red Rocket continues this trend but with a male sex worker. While Baker has always presented characters who challenge us to like them in certain moments, none of them have been as challenging to wrestle with as Mikey. Filmed during COVID, the director pulls this picture off without a hitch, delivering a searing image of America in the last few years of decline.

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Movie Review – The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World (2021)
Written by Eskil Vogt and Joachim Trier
Directed by Joachim Trier

Every generation of people sees themselves as terribly unique from their predecessors. However, there’s something about the Millennial generation where things really did switch from the preconceived notions of what life should be. They were told to work towards the same ends as their parents and grandparents without acknowledging that since the 1970s, neoliberalism had radically restructured almost every facet of society so that these goals were markedly harder to accomplish. The term “failure to launch” seems apt for Millennials, unable to become the adults they want/are expected to be yet certainly too old to be children any longer. The future has become this vast gray unknowable space, so how can you plan for a life in such a landscape?

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Movie Review – Dead Poets Society

Dead Poets Society (1989)
Written by Tom Schulman
Directed by Peter Weir

Dead Poets Society was undoubtedly a box office success and garnered much positive acclaim from critics. In college in the early 2000s, I met several people who loved this movie, especially fellow English majors. You might love this movie. I didn’t watch it for the first time until around 2006, and so this was only my second watch, but…this is such a cheesy ass movie, not in a good or charming way. I was astonished that Weir would direct this, and he was working towards making Green Card when Jeffrey Katzenberg reached out to him about Dead Poets Society. I find the movie to be some of the worst examples of maudlin shallow sentiment and a film that began Robin Williams’ path down, making ridiculous pseudo inspirational tripe.

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Movie Review – The Mosquito Coast

The Mosquito Coast (1986)
Written by Paul Schrader
Directed by Peter Weir

Peter Weir was going to make a movie of Paul Theroux’s novel. Weir bought the film rights as soon as it was published in 1981 and was in pre-production when he was sidetracked with Witness. Unlike Witness, a side project for Weir, which gained massive critical and audience acclaim, The Mosquito Coast is considered a box office failure. Even critics were unsure what to make of this very different, bleak film. Harrison Ford was cast completely against type, one of the movie’s most interesting elements. But apparently, moviegoers and critics wanted something less abrasive, so Weir was dealt the first of several blows in the middle part of his career.

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Comic Book Review – Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky Volume 1

Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky Volume 1 (2020)
Reprints Daredevil #1-10
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Marco Checcetto, Lalit Kumar Sharma, and Jorge Fornes

I can’t say Daredevil has ever been a character I was drawn to reading. I’ve mostly been a DC Comics fan since I was a kid but have certainly read a healthy amount of Marvel Comics in that time too. However, Daredevil just felt like someone I never really clicked with and would instead read X-Men or Spider-Man. Nevertheless, this run by acclaimed writer Chip Zdarsky has garnered much praise, which intrigued me. So, I sat down and read through the run’s first ‘deluxe’ volume. 

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Movie Brain – January 14th, 2022

There’s much talk about schools in America right now as the core infrastructure that keeps that country running collapses around its working citizens. As someone who spent over a decade working in American schools, I find it hilarious to read what non-school employees think happens in the building, both when COVID isn’t an issue and now when it is the most pressing one. There are big sweeping gestures to blame teachers’ unions and the teachers themselves. Nothing about the whole conflict shows any sense of hope that when/if the society comes out of this plague, education will be improved in any manner. At best, this reveals the dirty truth: public education serves mainly as warehousing for children so wealthy people can extract their parents’ labor. In turn, the children are indoctrinated with conditioning that will make them good workers when they reach adulthood, given meaningless tasks to perform, and constantly told they must conform with what the authorities demand.

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Movie Review – Witness

Witness (1985)
Written by Earl W. Wallace, Pamela Wallace, and William Kelley
Directed by Peter Weir

Peter Weir was in the middle of pre-production work on The Mosquito Coast when backing fell through. He’d return to the project, but Paramount offered him the director’s chair for a picture they had trouble courting someone for. Witness, based on an episode of Gunsmoke, had been circulating in Hollywood for years. It was 182 pages (about 3 hours in movie time) and was critiqued by some executives for focusing too much on the Amish lifestyle rather than the thriller elements. Harrison Ford had already shown interest, so Weir’s first American film was a bit of a gamble but certainly helped by his star’s prominence in the industry.

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