Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Week in Geekery - Monsters and Misfits

Summer, though it hasn't technically started yet, is already kicking into high gear. Summertime in Chicago mostly revolves around finding excuses to get drunk both in public and out of doors, so we've got a ton of music festivals, street fairs, art fairs, concerts in the park, movies in the park, dancing in the streets, and eventually lying face down in the gutter. Last weekend on Friday and Saturday, I headed up to the neighborhood of Lincoln Square for Maifest, a massive celebration of German culture (assuming all you know about Germans is that they like beer, sausage, and bosomy women in dirndls). Because of various scheduling issues, I ended up going to the movies both days, and got to see Maleficent and Godzilla.
I feel like I'm one of the few people who unabashedly loved Maleficent. I understand some of the criticism - Maleficent was an awesome villain in Sleeping Beauty, and being given a back story is necessarily going to soften and weaken her a little bit. However, I love a good revisionist fairytale. How often in history have strong, outspoken women who have dared to break society's rules been labeled as witches and burned at the stake (either literally or figuratively)? I support any attempt to push back against that. The obvious parallels to rape and recovery are also surprisingly transparent. Maleficent's wrenching cries and the way she gingerly hobbles across the moor after her wings are stolen drive the point home in a way that's difficult to watch. It ended, not with a grand marriage scene, but with love and camaraderie between two women, and although the text is all "a mother's love," the subtext is "maybe gay?" Yes, they could have gone darker and harsher, but it's a freaking Disney movie, and it was going to have a Disney ending, and dammit, that made me HAPPY.
Spoiler alert.
My boyfriend was really excited for Godzilla, so we made a little bit of a theme night out of it and grabbed sushi before we went and saw it. I liked it. I honestly can't really think of that much more to say. It was well made, and the slower pacing builds tension in a way that most monster movies don't have the patience for. I honestly just did not care about the humans in the movie at all, other than a passing thought that that dude from Kick-Ass grew up pretty hot. The monsters were pretty compelling, though, and the climactic fight between the MUTOs and Godzilla was spectacular. It just strikes me as funny that I was much more concerned about whether a giant, fire-breathing lizard lived or died than I was about any of the little people I was supposed to relate to.
This is probably old news for some of you, but the British TV series Misfits might be my ideal summer binge (re)watch. The show, which is about a group of young offenders sentenced to community service who, after a bizarre storm, end up with superpowers, is dark, hilarious, and transgressive in a way that American television almost never manages. If you're looking for a good entry point, Season 1, Episode 2 involves the manic, hilarious Nathan falling for Ruth, who has a secret that leads to what is possibly the funniest sex scene I've ever seen. The entire 5 season run is available on Hulu+.
Finally, I have been recommending this book nonstop since I finished it last week. Baba Yaga, by Toby Barlow, might be one of the best and most original fantasy novels that I've read recently. Eastern European witches, fleeing the violence and privation of the World Wars, have made their way to Paris in the post-war period. There, due to the machinations of their dead companions (lost years before on the journey), they get tangled with spies, crooked cops, and an American ad man. Along the way, a spell gone awry leads to hilarious carnage, a philosophical policeman gets turned into a flea, and a witch discovers her heart may not be as withered as she once thought. The book is both exuberant and poetic, and there's such a sense of fun and life to the book. Once I got hooked, I found it absolutely irresistible.

I'm leaving for a camping trip (in the woods. In a tent. Wearing pants and no makeup. Wut.) tomorrow, so no updates until probably Tuesday.


  1. Summertime in Chicago sounds much like summertime in Atlanta, especially the finding excuses to get drunk haha. I haven't seen Maleficent yet but I'm so excited to! And I absolutely agree with your feelings about revisionist fairytales and how outspoken women are portrayed. I think this is why I love the book/musical, Wicked, so much and that underlying question of are people born evil or are they made to become evil because of their circumstances. And I loooove Misfits! That's also a show I love to binge watch. :)

    1. Oooh, love Wicked. I never got around to seeing the musical, but I read the book and the sequels that came after, and I was really impressed. The author actually has several books from the point of view of fairytale "villains," and they're really pretty good.

  2. Also, hope you have fun on your camping trip! I've only been camping once and I had such a good time!

  3. Oh my gosh, this makes me want to Malificent. I have been meaning to get around to Misfits for about two or three years now, maybe I'll make it priority now that Game of Thrones is wrapping up, Mad Men is done and I'm almost through all of the Orange is The New Black. I don't watch a lot of straight up cable TV but I do watch a lot of Netflix and such ;) Also I'm so glad you could introduce me to this Baba Yaga book because I am Polish (like 100%, speak it, have family in Poland) and I've heard the word Baba Yaga before since its part of that culture and had my mom jokingly using it as a scare tactic on me as a kid, one that didnt work very well. So I think it'd be fun to read this take on the Baba Yaga witches and such.

    1. I probably should have guessed that you're Polish, given the name. Do you ever make it up to the Belmont and Milwaukee area? There are some great Polish delis and restaurants. I live in Logan Square, so I'm up there all the time. I spent a couple of weeks in Poland about two years ago, and I head up there whenever I get a craving for Zubrowka.