Stuff We Liked This Month: March 2019
The books and movies that wormholed their way into our brains.

We’re always interested in other people’s “media diets” — the books/movies/TV/podcasts that people seek out and spend their time with. Every month, we share a few things that meant something to us, made us laugh, made us think, and kept us company.

Books

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell (2019, Melville House)
Sure, you could give yourself a digital detox for a month, but does that really solve the problem that many of us live in a world where we’re constantly interacting with/battling technology and other attention-grabbing forces at every waking moment? Artist Jenny Odell’s book, expanded from a keynote talk she gave in 2017, is a different kind of CTA: “I’m suggesting that we protect our spaces and our time for non-instrumental, non-commercial activity and thought, for maintenance, for care, for conviviality,” she writes in her original essay. How to Do Nothing is a practical proposal for a life integrated with technology that is thoughtfully aware and protective of our right to stay nothing, listen deeply, and do “what we will” without the intention of producing anything at all.—MML

Magical Negro: Poems by Morgan Parker (2019, Tin House)
Last week at AWP I had the good fortune of seeing Morgan Parker read three poems from her newest collection. My heart stopped. She is a better writer than I’ll probably ever even understand.MML

Lot: Stories by Bryan Washington (2019, Riverhead)
The moment I finished this really beautiful (and delicious) essay by Bryan Washington was precisely the moment I became obsessed with Bryan Washington’s writing. This collection of short stories is Washington’s newest, and it mostly centers around a young man coming of age as queer, half-black, half-Latino in Houston, TX. I read a lot of this book on a recent road trip in the Southwest and you know what? It was perfect.—JL

In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, translated by Thomas J. Harper and Edward G. Seidensticker (1977, Leete’s Island Books)
This philosophical book compares Japanese aesthetics to Western aesthetics — of toilets, lights, ghosts, food, architecture, paper, a lot more — and why Japanese stylings (which are inspired by shadows and darkness) are generally more superior. You can tell it’s an old piece of writing because the word “Orientals” is heavily peppered throughout, but besides that the writing is so obsessive and strange and petty: “But as the poet Saito Ryoku has said, ‘elegance is frigid.’ Better that the place be as chilly as the out-of-doors; the steamy heat of a Western-style toilet in a hotel is most unpleasant.” I’m into it.—JL

Screenplays

“Business or Personal?”: An original Sopranos and Sex And The City crossover episode by Eliza Cossio
This is so fucking funny. You must read it.—JL

Movies/TV

Faces Places, dir. JR and Agnès Varda, 2017 (streaming on Kanopy)
Admittedly I hadn’t seen much of Agnès Varda’s work when she passed away recently, but knew her by sight for her two-toned hair and sparkly eyes. After a particularly long day last week, I laid in bed and queued up this magical road trip documentary, in which Varda and her friend JR (nearly 60 years her junior) hop in a camera-shaped van and photograph subjects in small towns across France. I recommend saving it for a rainy day, it’s the ultimate life-affirming pickmeup.—MML

Junebug, dir. Phil Morrison, 2005 (streaming on Netflix)
Amy Adams, Ryan from the OC, Miss Honey from Matilda, and a guy who kind of looks like Sam Rockwell but isn’t come together for what feels like a quintessential Sundance-style indie film. The plot: A worldy, Chicago-based art collector (Miss Honey) convinces her new husband (Not Rockwell) to head to North Carolina with two (but really one) goals in mind: charm an eccentric artist in her husband’s hometown into selling his work, and, sure, meet her in-laws while they’re at it. Amy Adams, who plays the husband’s sister-in-law, is so sweet and too real; her monologue near the end of the film made me cry. A tiny gem!—MML

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, dir. Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman, 2018
I couldn’t understand why Hollywood can’t stop (re)making a million iterations of Spider-Man, and why the latest was in animated form. But then I saw this trippy joyride and realized I had it wrong: all action hero movies should be animated!!! There are things executed in this movie that could never be accomplished with live action, and the flexibility of animation stretches the plot in mindfuckery ways. Honestly, watch it sober.JL

Newsletters

highdownlow
Our friend Claire Typaldos watches more TV and movies than anyone I know (this is on top of her full-time job) and her monthly roundup newsletter is a fabulous/psychotic digest of what to watch and what to skip.JL