Best New Stuff – August 2018

August was hazy. Literally.

Seattle was swamped by a smoke storm, and so for weeks on end what appeared to be fog or even low clouds was actually unhealthy, ashy air blowing in from wildfires on all three land-sides of the state. Do not recommend.

The whole thing left the last bit of summer in a bit of a drag, but not without its highlights. To name a few:

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

As one headline put it: America is horny for wholesome, and boy howdy, was this film wholesome. As if it weren’t enough that this film centered on Asian American woman finding love — which, despite the next entry in this post, is startlingly still a rare occurrence — this film takes the long-running trope of “fake relationship” and somehow makes it not just believable but grounded. For all there is to say about the internet’s burst of love for Peter Kavinsky, there’s something truly run and radically soft about the entire affair (with a large thanks to Kavinsky). The real star, here, is Lana Candor, who is the one to watch, and manages to navigate the startlingly human approach to the situation. Coupled with Set It Up, Netflix is on a roll with its rom-com offerings.

Sharp Objects

That Zepplin needle drop, I mean, goddaamn.

A massive improvement on the book, weaving various strands of mistreatment and anger together in an eloquent and ultimately gutting portrayal, all beautifully strung together by Amy Adams. The show (unlike The Leftovers the book, see below) manages to not answer any questions too concretely, helping (along with the sharp and lush editing) to make the whole thing feel like a sweet dream or a beautiful nightmare. Its exploration of the harm that comes to women doesn’t shy away from the vindictiveness between women, and even manages to note that sometimes — perhaps more often than we’d care to admit — women’s anger is unjustified or mismanaged.

Some enthralling recaps on the show over at The AV Club and also at Tom and Lorenzo, now that HBO isn’t being a butt about it.

Crazy Rich Asians

The opulance. The decadance. The luxuiousness. And that’s just the wrapping. Crazy Rich Asians manages to be both an excellent rom-com, without skimping on the “personal is political” angle.

Trial and Error, season 2

The second season of this lovable goofball of a show was like watching someone juggle goldfish bowls while riding a unicycle. It’s possible the unicycle was more wobbly than it was on the first go-around, but the sheer accomplishment of staying steady and keeping those goldfish in the bowls is an achievement unto itself. Often times it seemed like it was getting too caught up in its own cleverness or random sense of humor, but just when I think it’d tipped too far the absurdity turned out to be a clue — and I got hyped to notice it!

At the very least this show deserves to be renewed for a third season, because I need to know exactly what the hell is happening with the witches of East Peck.

The Leftovers

This time, it’s the book. I didn’t love it the same way I loved the show — which makes sense, given that the book only covers the first season, the weakest of the show — but it was a fairly good read to try out. Where the show pivots the themes of mass loss and grief into spirituality and philosophy (while also maintaining the interpersonal affects of the disappearance), the book stays fairly grounded in the person whose head you’re in. It’s a great exploration of how two people can approach a meeting entirely differently, and still think they’re on the same page. I think it needs a bit more embroidery to fleece together the stories (for a book that’s all told from perspective there’s a lot left to the imagination) but it also steadfastly refuses to offer up any easy answers or conclusions about why or how these people’s lives are the way they are.

Honorable mentions:

The Feels

Blue Collar

Paterson

 

Youtube song of the month:

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