2018: The Rundown

2018: The Rundown

I’ve been using precious holiday time to rewatch all the episodes of Downton Abbey. It’s rather silly  for me to revisit something that I’ve seen before, with all the new material out there to watch, but right now watching Downton Abbey is the closest I can come  to a getaway, to being in a place where everyone has manners and life is a lot slower. I always come out of a Downton Abbey haze feeling like I suddenly am a bit more of a priggish, ladylike creature as if the show itself had performed a tricky bit of osmosis and I suddenly have qualities I don’t think I have at all. I like to pretend I’m soft-spoken and elegant and have a clipped British accent, even if I’m not and I don’t. Of course, this is all in my head, but it never hurts to have fun with it, even if the hubs calls Downton Abbey a “total snoozefest.”

So, in the spirit of revisiting the past, and also because I hadn’t gotten to start my usual year-ending video, I thought it would be fun to review everything that’s happened in 2018, as trivial as it may turn out to be.  I always like taking a moment to think about the past for a little bit, before the new year and  2019 comes barrelling in, so here goes nothing!

January  – in hindsight, this wasn’t the best way to start 2018, what with idiots eating Tide Pods, the rapid rise and sordid stories behind the Me Too Movement, and the funeral of my aunt, but it did get a little better in…

February – when the Winter Olympics came around, along with Black Panther and my glasses, even if we did still have people who need way more attention than the rest of us, something I believe is not going to go away, just like the inundation of choices we now live with, that I tried coming to terms with in…

March – where I began feeling particularly paralyzed by choice, although I did rise above it to see the Shape of Water. At least I like to know I have more choices food-wise than voluntary vegans do, anyway. I’ve nothing against their self-imposed dietary restrictions, but I’d be a lot more receptive if their movement wasn’t defined by so much self-righteous preaching.

And then all of a sudden, it was April – where I decided to at least make something about my forays into YouTube with the first Random Youtube K-hole. At least that was something I liked sharing about, although I really don’t share that much otherwise.

It feels like 2018 went by in a blur, and no more so than May – but at least I found a bit of time to document all my excuses (and alibis) for not writing as much,  amidst the excitement of the Avengers: Infinity War trailer being released, which was a good thing, unlike lettuce, which – in May, anyway – turned out to be very bad.

June as a halfway point had me birthing Internet Sausage Links and battling FOMO. In retrospect I feel quite grateful that this was all I was battling with. Others had heavier things to fight, a struggle not all of them won.

July was when we finally took the plunge and got a new bed-in-a-box, trusting that it would all end well (which, happily, it did). Trust seemed to be a theme, along with my trust that Marvel wouldn’t disappoint. It didn’t, not really, although, Ant-Man and the Wasp could’ve been better…

Anyway, August rolled around and I have to say it and September were my favourite months this year, what with our dear Rafa Nadal making everything better at the Rogers Cup and us finally going on our annual trip. The high school reunion was a highlight along with getting to see Hong Kong, which I never got around to writing about. I did get footage though, and you never know, I might just put that together! Still, travel is something I feel is always worth doing.  I love flying, including the challenge of  staying alive in an airbus cattle car. I even gave tips!

The rest of Canada agreed with me about flying, because October was when the North finally got the go signal to fly high without fear. November came with the promise of Chris Pine peen, forced me once again to face the prospect of middle-age, and proved idiocy in 2018 was alive and thriving, by reminding us all again that people will throw parties for the most ridiculous reasons.

And, finally, December. Not much happened, although I did decide to break up with Netflix in favour of Crave and not Jason Momoa, as many might surmise.

Finally, if you’ve made a habit of coming here to read my silly things, I want to thank you for it. I hope your year has been eventful in a good way, and I do hope 2019 will be good to all of us. Now all this remembering has really given me an appetite for putting all the year-end footage together in time for NYE, so maybe I might just do that after all!

Khal Drogo Goes to the Beach

Khal Drogo Goes to the Beach

The problem with Aquaman is that it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Half-hearted environmental PSA on the hazards of polluting our oceans? Showcase for all the kaiju that could be unleashed if given a higher budget? Tomb Raideresque adventure quest for a mysterious gold trident? Ridiculous over-the-top fantasy epic, à la Lord of the Rings? The answer shouldn’t be all of the above, but that’s what we’re getting, and we’re getting a LOT of it. At a runtime of over two and a half hours, Aquaman gets pretty hard to sit through, Jason Momoa’s rippling physique bedamned.

You’d think I, as the obvious target audience, would love all the swaggering braggadocio of Jason Momoa letting loose, but I didn’t. Aquaman sucked.  One of the reason’s Momoa’s turn as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones was so effective, was that there was so little of him. He was spread out through seven episodes; here, it’s two and a half hours of nothing but machismo. That’s all very well, and I have to hand him points for being enthusiastic, but the dude seems to have embraced his Khal Drogo character a little too tightly, and is unable to let it go. It just gets… painful, after a while.

Surprisingly, no one in this movie can act, and there are quite a handful of established actors in this piece who come with cult and  Oscar cred. Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe and Patrick Wilson – often found in more highbrow, award-worthy work – as  Queen Atlanna, Vulko and Prince Orm, seem almost embarrassed to be in a superhero epic, and act accordingly. I expected more out of Patrick Wilson, who at least got to showcase a lot more of his skills as The Owl in Watchmen, but nothing can help his performance in this particular movie. The CGI is far too distracting, and perhaps the effort of trying to keep their faces straight began to tell.

Being an Oscar-winner is not a hindrance to doing a good job in a movie with a silly premise, as Robert Downey Jr. has demonstrated so often. It requires a sort of insouciance, and self-awareness, and without it the performance becomes tedious and flat, as Kidman, et. al., demonstrate. You have to really embrace being part of a superhero flick. There is no slumming it. Everyone knows the actors are in it to make money, but they need to project a sense of fun, which none of them end up doing.

Except Jason Momoa. That one is on the opposite end of the spectrum, having waaaay too much fun, like the drunkest guy at the party, capering about while everyone else awkwardly looks on. It might even have been fun if he wasn’t so aware of why he was cast to be Aquaman instead of some blonde, milquetoast boy scout. Do you know how many times he looks flirtatiously over his shoulder at the audience?

Thrice.

Do you know how  many times he goes shirtless in Aquaman?

Too many, and I can’t believe I’m complaining.

The truth is, relying on that body can only take one so far.  It just isn’t enough to distract from the reality of things: although the movie is beautiful and the underwater scenes are a marvel (my favourite visual is of Aquaman and Mera diving into the trench with a red flare, pursued by a thousand sea monsters), it’s  still a disjointed, bloated mess with cringey dialogue, needless backstory and unnecessary exposition.

I’ve had it with these DC movies. They’ve had so many chances to get it right, and they still keep sucking ass. I have decided this will be the last time I voluntarily pay for a DCEU offering. Unless it’s by Christopher Nolan, I’m out.

 

Random YouTube K-Hole: Aughty by Nature

Random YouTube K-Hole: Aughty by Nature

To me, 2001 feels like yesterday, not a space odyssey. If nothing else makes you feel old today, check out these younguns and their music video homages. So nice of them to respect their elders! And to think millennials get so much flak.

Lost in Japan – Shawn Mendes feat. Zedd

Confession: I barely remember Lost in Translation. This is a solid effort, but will Shawn Mendes’ fanbase even get the reference? It’s likely they’ll think it’s just him having fun doing Japanese karaoke, even with that total giveaway of a title. Hell, it took me about a minute into the vid to realize what I was seeing, but I’m like, old, so what do I know?

Fancy – Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX

Unlike Shawn Mendes’ ode to Sofia Coppola, Iggy’s oeuvre is pretty clear from the get-go. It technically shouldn’t be included in this post because the movie came out in 1995, but whatever with a capital W and if you don’t get it, you’re Clueless. That’s all I got.

Thank U, Next – Ariana Grande

It’s a video homage en Grande! Not one, not two, not three, but four movies get referenced, in a very legally-bringing -it -on-the-mean-girls-going-on-30 kind of way. While I don’t usually go for Ariana’s 24/7 sex kitten schtick (still don’t) this video is worth watching, if only for the part where Kris Jenner gets all meta as an overly excited stage mom. Bonus points for getting some of the actual stars to cameo, plus a little more for the sheer shade of leaving Lindsay Lohan completely out of it.

Netflix, I’m leaving you

Netflix, I’m leaving you

Dear Netflix,

You were the one.

You were the scrappy upstart, the daring pioneer, the one who put established movies, TV shows and  unique content together, showing me that life without cable didn’t have to be all about streaming movies and shows off of dicey websites and downloading files under threat of jail and insidious malware.

You were the one. I went legit for you.

Oh, you delivered. Some of my happiest times were spent on the couch with you and take-out food. We were good together, you and I. We were happy in each other’s company. You were a part of me, knowing what I wanted before I did, keeping a list for me. You never forgot anything and were always solicitous, suggesting things I might want to see based on something I’d already seen before. We were perfect. We were beautiful.

Netflix, I’m leaving you.

It’s the bajillion movies and TV shows you’ve come up with in the past two years, 90% of which are kind of … garbage.

It’s all the comedy specials I don’t think I’ll ever find the time to see.

It’s the suggestions that make no sense.

It’s the enthusiasm for auto-play, which I didn’t mind at first, but slowly began to resent.

It’s my dwindling attention span.

It’s not you, it’s me.

It’s inflation.

It’s the unjustifiable price increase.

Netflix, you put She-ra in shorts. Shorts.

It’s not me, it’s you.

It’s both of us.

Netflix, I’m leaving you. I’m leaving you for Crave. Crave has HBO, and movies I want to see. Movies I want to see right now, anyway.

Thanks for the memories, Netflix. Le Hubs thanks you for the complete seasons of X-files (before you pulled it) and the complete seasons of The Office. I thank you for the complete seasons of House, M.D. (that I never got around to watching again, damnit), the first three seasons of Orange is the New Black, the awesomeness that used to be House of Cards, the first season of Daredevil, the gloriousness that is The Crown,  and finally, for introducing Jo Koy to the world.

In closing, we both thank you for Black Mirror and Stranger Things. It’s been fun, and a helluva lot of bandwidth. I have no regrets.

All the best,

Me

No means no, Gender Reveal parties are for assholes, and please think long and hard about what to name your child

It’s been quite a few days. I spent a lot of it under a rock (i.e. catching up on my reading backlog) and now that I’ve emerged for some air… nope. The world’s just as hopeless as it was ten days ago.

Like this guy. This guy is an idiot.

Sorry.

Was an idiot.

There’s not taking no for an answer, and then there’s this. Voluntarily signing up to break the law in favour of handing out free King James Bibles to hostile tribespeople who have proven time and again that they don’t like strangers and will kill them on sight. Yay? It didn’t work for Magellan. No means no.

I identify as Baptist – I know, shocker – and am very good friends with a lapsed Jehovah’s Witness as well as a Mormon, so I see no problem with the idea of going out to spread the good word. I also see no problem with living and think people should go out of the way to avoid dying stupid, unnecessary deaths.

Or causing stupid, unnecessary fires.

In one of the best episodes of Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, Grace decides to down all the vodka so she can function at a gender reveal party held by one of Frankie’s kids. My guess is that’s probably what everyone involved at this party was doing.

I used to get really annoyed seeing people I knew sharing their ultrasounds and fresh pee sticks on social media, but that pales in comparison to going out of your way to fire a gun at a target rigged to blow up with either pink or blue powder to celebrate and starting a wildfire in the process. I’m dating myself here, but I remember when gender reveals happened when the baby slipped out of its mother’s birth canal and plopped into the waiting hands of the OB-GYN. It’s a boy! Can we please just go back to doing that and stop making humanity look like such idiots who keep making questionable decisions?

Speaking of questionable decisions,

Is it the impending weight of becoming responsible for another human being? Is it the realization of how much time, money and effort it’s going to involve? Is that what caused this bit of mental gymnastics? Help me. Help me understand why someone would name a child Abcde and insist it’s pronounced “Ab-city,” when really, it’s pronounced “my mother is a dumbass”?

I don’t care what people say, giving a child a name composed of the first five letters of the alphabet is cruelty and endangerment when you know what life has in store. Writing Kick Me with a sharpie and slapping it on your child’s back before he/she goes to school is merciful by comparison. At least it wouldn’t be something they’re stuck with for life. And flight attendants wouldn’t make fun of your offspring.

Not that the flight attendant was any better. While I thank her for taking the very courageous, and yet horribly unprofessional step of posting private flight passenger information on Facebook so we could all share in the experience, that was completely  disrespectful and unprofessional. No one won this thing.

No one won the other things up in this post either.

Except the internet.

The Day Before 37

The Day Before 37

This entry is borne along the strains of RuPaul’s Glamazon, the soundtrack to my weekend thanks to Netflix acquiring all the older seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race and successfully roping me back into the world of wigs, catty bitchfests, cinchers, blending and peanut butter peanut butter peanut butter, all the things my life never really was and definitely wasn’t this weekend.

While I wish my life was that of a glamazon, all makeup and sky high heels stomping around like I rule the world, those days are long behind me. I spent the last day being thirty-six doing laundry. It’s decidedly unglamorous, instead of doing what I’ve made a point of doing on my birthday for the past six years, which is be somewhere else. I usually snap up fall flight sales in August, but this year I spent part of August in the Philippines and the beginning of September in Hong Kong, so I blew my wad too soon.

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Japan.

The tradition started a few years ago, when we ended up with an unexpected overnight layover on our flight back to Toronto due to the mechanical shenanigans of Delta Airlines. I never really mind airline schedule changes, for as long as I get to wangle a free night’s stay and a meal out of it. Anyway, there I was. Pensive on the morning of my birthday, staring moodily out the window at a particularly depressing Japanese landscape somewhere in the industrial wilds of Narita when I realized I liked it. I liked the idea of being somewhere else on my birthday. I’ve since spent birthdays in other places. I think a big part of it is the unconscious urge to escape reality, to run away from facing the fact that I have another year behind me, that I’m not getting any younger and sometimes feel directionless, the usual frustrations that come with getting older, the biggest being the fear of being stuck in a rut, feeling like life is quicksand dragging you down and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s melodramatic and self-indulgent, things I rarely allow myself to be, but it’s my birthday goddamnit. I am entitled to feel this way because once upon a time on this very day, I was happily suspended in amniotic fluid minding my own business, when all of a sudden I was very unceremoniously evicted from my comfortable, rent-controlled apartment, dragged out into the light of day, naked, wet, and forced to start living. I didn’t ask for any of this! I was fine!

So anyway, I spent my last day being thirty-six doing laundry, and online shopping for robotic vacuums. Yes. This is what my life has come to, researching the merits of robotic vacuums and spending time actually reading what people say about Roombas.

This somehow led to an argument with Le Hubs about habits, which turned into an argument about the merits of letting robotic things into the household and the possibility of Skynet and ridiculous bullshit that happens when you’re up at three in the morning, which ultimately got resolved by hugging it out, which I promise is not a euphemism for anything. It’s hard to stay mad at him, he’s a giant cuddly teddy bear.  I hug him a lot.

We then ended up talking about going somewhere for breakfast and a birthday cake. If I can’t travel, I absolutely insist on having cake. It was a tossup between Dufflet, La Rocca, or something from Costco, which sounds ghetto, but isn’t. You haven’t lived until you’ve had cake from Costco, hunty.

We found Betty’s, a dive bar that does Sunday brunch buffets. It sounds a bit grimy and shady – and it is – but Betty’s has a character that makes you want to return. The walls are peppered with random posters and framed photos, the floors are dark and encrusted with decades of dirt, the lighting sketchy and the wall sconces are the metal halves of discarded colanders. It looks and feels like the shanty all the villains in Shrek hung out in to sadly play piano and stare moodily into beer pints that haven’t been thoroughly cleaned. It’s like the place hipsters emulate except it has zero pretension for anything other than what it is. That appeals to me. I wasn’t that big a fan of the brunch buffet – regular faves, eggs, bacon, benny, a make-your-own waffle corner, a carving area for ham and a smattering of fruit and what-have-you, nothing to write home about – but Betty’s is the kind of place I see myself hanging out in, playing a board game, nursing a beer (or some other drink because I don’t like beer) and just talking. Or not. Someone on Google reviews called it his own personal Cheers bar and I can see why. When we walked in, the barkeep greeted us with the warmest, most welcoming smile like a scene out of a movie. The servers were lovely and knew just when to leave us alone. None of that smarmy bullshit at most restaurants, the obvious drive-by with an “Everything okay?” that sometimes feels forced, or rote, or worse, disinterested in the actual answer.

I like Betty’s. So did Le Hubs, who said he would be back. I probably will tag along, but not for brunch. I’m trying the nachos.

Waddling out of Betty’s, we eventually picked up my cake (La Rocca, Cookie Butter) and parted ways because I wanted to see The Crimes of Grindelwald. I ended up not seeing the movie but came home with some Christmassy scented candles (White Pine! Juniper!), this years cards for my annual Christmas mailing list (want to be on it? Let me know!) and some loot from Sephora because it was a treat  yo-self kind of day and they were celebrating Black Friday week with a 20% off discount on everything.

And that was how I spent my last day being thirty-six. Just being my regular self, trying a new place to eat, a bit of QT with Le Hubs. All very low-key and pared down. I can’t say I won’t overcompensate next year with a jaunt somewhere, but I feel thankful to have reached thirty-seven. I spent the day trying to confront my issues with aging and adulting and I’m not sure I’ve really looked it straight in the eye, but I came out of it feeling like I’m okay. I think I really am. I may not be stomping around like a panther on the runway, but I’m still wild and still an animal, even if it’s more in spirit than in body. And that’s okay. I am thirty-seven. I came through the last year unscathed, I got to make more memories worth remembering with the people I care about the most,  and that is a phenomenon worth celebrating and being thankful for, sashay, chante!

Gratuitous and Meaningless

Gratuitous and Meaningless

I watched Outlaw King for Chris Pine’s peen.

There, I said it.

I’m sorry, but if a big part of the buzz surrounding your movie is that its lead actor drops trou and goes full frontal, that’s going to be the main reason people will flock to see it, especially the ones who otherwise wouldn’t care about a band of scrappy outlaws fighting to regain control of their own country. Like me. To be fair, I’m not the biggest fan of war movies. There’s only so much men, muck and dying that an easily bored consumer like me, up to my ears in possible content to watch, can stomach.

So yes, I spent most of the two hours and one minute runtime waiting for my reward. I don’t know what it is about movie star peen, but an episode of Bojack Horseman does come to mind. In its latest season, Bojack plays a noirish PI a la True Detective McConaughey, who, through a series of machinations gone awry, somehow ends up doing a scene where he is required to be stark naked as he changes a light bulb. It’s supposed to represent an honest look at the character, flaws and all but instead is obviously gratuitous and meaningless. Which is where Chris Pine’s peen comes in. Thank you for your bravery, Chris Pine, but it is gratuitous and meaningless. Not that I don’t appreciate it, or the guts it took to let it all hang out.

And yet. And yet. When the benchmark for a medieval Scottish highland fling such as this is Braveheart, the seminal Mel Gibson-helmed movie that masterfully combines romance, catchphrases, fantasy, shady backroom deals and noble men with stout hearts riding forth for glory and honour, expectations are going to be high. It’s got to be more than a Chris Pine peen (Chris Peen?) movie. It’s got to encapsulate the wonder, the magic, the determination of early Scotsmen and one man’s drive to unite the warring clans of Scotland.

What we get are bad haircuts, duels staged for unknown reasons – just as gratuitous and meaningless as random peen – and (for me, anyway) a distracting cast. As a hardcore Thronie, the sight of Stannis Baratheon, Jeor Mormont and Brynden Blackfish Tully in medieval Scottish drag is jarring. I know, I know, actors are more than the parts they play, but HBO succeeded in pushing these actors to inhabit their parts so well, it’s difficult for me to separate them from the characters they have played in Game of Thrones. Pine, Taylor-Johnson and Pugh do give powerhouse performances and it’s hard to look away when they are on screen.

While Netflix’s Outlaw King has manliness and nobles riding out for glory, it is sadly short on the romance and the backroom deals aren’t so much shady as they are desperate. It’s unfair to expect real life events to always be glamorous and fantastical, but too many things go unexplained. Why are there so many pointless duels? Why do all the old kings dying take place so suddenly and with barely any lead up? Why aren’t the Scots sufficiently shocked when their future king kills his rival in a church? Why does the hair on Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s beard not match his hair? Why are all the wigs so bad? What does it mean to raise the dragon and why does that sound like a euphemism for getting a boner?

Netflix gets a few things right – the quartered body of William Wallace nailed to a post in the town square, for one. It’s such an effective prop, it makes you believe the sight of it is enough to raise the ire of the Scots and incite riots. I had heard of the phrase “hanged, drawn and quartered,” but I’ve never really seen a fourth of someone’s body on display and I thought I had plumbed the depths of gore with The Walking Dead. There is also a scene that involves the swift punishment of Robert the Bruce’s younger brother c/o a sadistic Prince of Wales, which turns the stomach. Unlike Braveheart, which focused on Mel Gibson’s facial expressions and let the viewer’s imagination do the heavy lifting, this particular scene, scored by the wails of frightened women and children, is a searing punch to the gut. Lastly, the Battle of Bannockburn is claustrophobic, messy, chaotic and amazingly shot, giving the Battle of the Bastards a run for its cinematic money.

Still the story of Robert the Bruce and his fight to regain Scotland is too complicated by far for a two-hour movie. While the cast is able and the premise honourable, ultimately it falls far short of the standards set for movie epics. Too many questionable decisions and not enough concrete answers, and events that obviously took years and could’ve lent a lot more gravitas to the piece are skimmed over or compressed into minute sound bites. The performances are good, and the backdrop of Scotland is beautiful, but a movie is not based solely on crazed performances and an exotic locale, no matter how convincing the madness of the Black Douglas is. Neither can it be carried on the strength of one man’s peen, unless the peen belongs to Ron Jeremy, but that is another story.