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Monthly Wrap-Up: October 2021

  • Ace by Angela Chen (★★★★☆)
  • The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (★★★★☆)
  • The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri (★★★★★)

MONTHLY TOTAL: 3
YEARLY SO FAR: 82

The reading slump continues, though I think it’s slowly getting better. To be fair, two of the three books I finished this month were around 500 pages, so technically I did read a large quantity of words, and I also enjoyed all the books I read, which is something.


CURRENTLY READING

Still working on QUEER THEORY, GENDER THEORY; it’s relatively accessible and short but the topics still require some brainpower, so I’m working through it one chapter at a time. I had not expected to start WE HUNT THE FLAME this month but the mood hit me, so I thought why not. We’ll see if I can defeat the slump in November!


FILM AND TV

I watched three Egyptian movies with my mom, the first two of which — THE BLUE ELEPHANT and THE BLUE ELEPHANT PART 2 — are apparently pretty popular and successful. Sadly, I hated both. I appreciate that Egyptian cinema is making its foray into supernatural horror, but can they do that without throwing every tired horror cliche at the wall to see what sticks? Generally, both these films were boring and nonsensical, and the second film in particular just completely destroyed any character development we’d seen in the first movie, and introduced random subplots that served no purpose.

122, on the other hand, was a solid thriller, and an absolute indictment of the entire Egyptian police system. 122 is actually the 911 of Egypt, and a huge part of the film is that one of the characters calls this emergency line only to be hung up on, and so must fight for his life on his own, along with his fiance. This was a very interesting film in a lot of ways — for example, the main female character is deaf! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in an Egyptian film. Her boyfriend/husband (they are kind of sort of married) is actually sweet and caring and genuinely loves her. It all felt very wholesome despite the harrowing nature of the actual plot (kidnapped by black market organ harvesters). There was nothing particularly unique about the plot, but the film did a great job playing up the dread and tension of the cat-and-mouse chase.

I watched CINDERELLA because my mom really wanted to watch it, and it was so much fun! I don’t understand why people hate on this movie so much?? It’s so utterly inoffensive and pretty funny. Like, yes, its themes are extremely heavy-handed, but that feels purposeful; the dialogue often pokes fun at activism/progressiveness in a way that is very self-aware. So many people were making fun of the ~girlboss themes of the film, but I didn’t really get that vibe from it at all — to me Cinderella’s ambitions weren’t about capitalism and girlbossing and making money but rather about dedicating her life to doing something that genuinely brings her joy, rather than being trapped in a stifling royal environment. Like, this isn’t a cinematic masterpiece by any means, but it gave me a lot of serotonin.

Then I watched THE VOID, a cosmic horror film I’d actually watched two or three years ago and disliked because I found it very confusing. The second time around, I found it slightly less confusing, but I still had a whole bunch of questions. However, now that I’m more familiar with the tropes of cosmic and Lovecraftian horror — namely, that not everything will make sense or have answers — I was able to appreciate it more for the Vibes, which were impeccable. It really does manage to capture the aesthetic of cosmic horror, with a lot of added body horror stuff.

And finally, I watched SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK, which…I don’t have much to say about except that I found it generally lame and boring. There were some decent visuals, but otherwise I was just very unimpressed.

Generally, I very much enjoyed MIDNIGHT MASS; I thought it was a really compelling examination of religious zealotry, as well as an intriguing take on vampirism. Of course, as these things usually go, no character ever says the word “vampire,” which ends up being far more jarring and distracting than was intended by the writers. In any case, I love the trope of “religious zealots worshiping something they think is God but isn’t” so that really worked for me. I also thought Bev Keane was a really well-drawn depiction of that particular brand of self-righteous zealot, and the actress does a wonderful job. The inclusion of a Muslim sheriff was also very, very interesting, and I think provided a good counterbalance for the overall narrative. The series is definitely slow, and heavily focused on character dynamics rather than straight-up horror, but the final two episodes are FIRE; things escalate wildly and it’s great.

My only major criticism has to do with the character of Erin Greene. She was just so…pretentious. Every single conversation between her and Riley (who, by the way, looks and acts eerily like James Norton) made me want to shoot myself because of how cringey it was. I also just really dislike plotlines involving miscarriage, especially when it becomes central to the character’s narrative, because it’s like…I don’t know. Maybe I just lack empathy when it comes to this particular thing, since I don’t want children myself, because I can never understand why a miscarriage is devastating enough to define a character so broadly. There’s one conversation she has with Riley about what happens after death, in Episode 4, that nearly made me stop watching the show because it was just so cringey.

Overall, though, some great vibes — I especially love that they’re an isolated island; the claustrophobia is intense. There are also a couple of great twists, and several scenes that made me gasp. I had a good time with this.


Writing/Life/Misc

I visited Florida in October to visit friends; it was my first time visiting Florida and, predictably, I was not impressed. We did stay in a nice beachfront Airbnb, which was pretty awesome; we spent like three full days just vibing in the ocean. Otherwise, though, Florida was…odd? I didn’t hate it or anything, but it was more that there wasn’t much to feel very strongly about either way. We were in Tampa, but I also went to Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Orlando, and generally I just felt very meh about the entire state. It was also SUPER hot, which did not help, and there are…so many bugs. I can’t see myself ever visiting Florida again, which is no surprise.

Otherwise, ehhh, giant shrug emoji for the month of October, which is sad, since this is usually my favorite month of the year, but I’m just feeling very meh. For November, I’m attempting to do NaNoWriMo for my second book, which I’m technically on deadline for (though the deadline is late into next year), and I’m hoping to fast draft some words so I have something decent to work with.

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