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Jon: Culture Consumption #4



BOOKS READ:
  • I Hunt Killers, Barry Lyga
  • The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
  • The Big Nowhere, James Ellroy
  • Old Man's War, John Scalzi
  • The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, Aimee Bender
MOVIES WATCHED:
  • Damsels in Distress, Whit Stillman
  • Lockout, Stephen St. Leger
  • Love in the Buff, Ho-Cheung Pang
  • Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Nuri Bilge Ceylan
  • The Raven, James McTeigue

A banner month as April contained virtually no missteps on the movie or book front! That's pretty rare right? Well, unless you count Lockout, which was only a filler film because I was movie hopping. I need more Guy Pearce as sarcastic anti-hero but the rest of the movie was horrible. Let's start with Love in the Buff, which was the reason I sat through three movies that day anyway.

I've seen my share of Chinese movies but they tend to be of the John Woo action variety or the Wong Kar-Wai stuff. Love in the Buff is a romantic comedy set in Hong Kong and Beijing and because it's not American, the beats are different. American romcoms haven't changed much in the past decade, so to get my fix, I may now have to turn to Asia.

Seeing as it's Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, let me just say that watching a movie with young-ish urban Chinese folk, wearing their bold rimmed glasses and drawing their fashion cues not from Williamsburg but from their own influences, was an eye-opening experience. The looks ultimately aren't that different but seeing a city full of young urban Asian people without knowing immediately what their fashion stereotype is was refreshing.

The last time I set foot in Asia was ten years ago, and I have no idea what the modern young population does there. After watching Love in the Buff, I kind of want to visit and find out. Note: This is a sequel to Love in the Puff, which has the two main characters meeting at an outdoor smoking area and falling in love. What's not to like?

On the books front, I finally got the chance to toss down The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, which I'd been saving for a rainy day. I'm a little tired of the multi-generational, interlinking stories type of book but Junot Diaz's novel is a must read. Big bonus for all his geeky comic book references. I mean, literature that incorporates Uatu the Watcher? I'm in.

At the end of the day, I thought Brief Wonderous Life was our generation's One Hundred Years of Solitude and I'll likely return to it at some point. Although I think I'd recommend his short story debut, Drown, first. Also, if you're looking to get a sense of Diaz's style, his short, "Miss Lora", was recently in this month's New Yorker.

And speaking of highly recommended shorts, Aimee Bender's The Girl in the Flammable Skirt -- which is not about Katniss -- was so great. I loved Bender's clean writing and the impactful nuance of her stories. It's been years since I've fallen so in love with a short story collection. This rejuvenated me. I had picked up The Girl in the Flammable Skirt thinking of another "Aimee" author, but I'm glad the mistake happened. Now I'm gonna get into Bender's latest, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which is just one of those long evocative titles I love.

Last up, Damsels in Distress starring Greta Gerwig. I think you have to officially put "indie darling" when you talk about Gerwig but it's fully deserved. Anything Gerwig is in I'll watch, even the (mostly) disappointing Greenberg. If you didn't know, Gerwig starred in mumblecore-y movies like Hannah Takes the Stairs and Nights and Weekends and is now slowly making her way through still quirky yet more mainstream projects.

I was very impressed with writer/director Whit Stillman's script and can't believe I'd never heard about him. Movies with sour dialogue and dour worldviews are right up my alley and Damsels in Distress was a near perfect example of the form -- although I can see a lot of people not enjoying it. If you watch one of Stillman's films and love it, please befriend me so I can be less alone. Bonus: Analeigh Tipton, another high riser in my "who to watch" ranking, co-stars in Damsels.

May is the start of summer blockbuster season so my indie diet may have to take a back seat to special effects and superheroes. Fire up the popcorn please!

[Crossposted from www.jonyang.org]

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