I feel like I owe an apology to you guys, though you’ll probably find it unnecessary and over-dramatic. You can skip it if you want.
Over the course of the month of June, when I first started this blog, I wrote a total of 10 posts—11 if you count one that I deleted for being too gay and retarded, even for me. Not exactly the James Patterson of WordPress (which I wouldn’t exactly consider a compliment anyway), but still, not too shabby. That said, what in the actual fuck happened this July? In the past four weeks, I’ve only published four posts—two of which were written impulsively in very short spans of time. Of course, I have plenty of excuses—lack of motivation, summer homework, a week-long vacation in Florida without access to a computer, and let’s not forget the abundance of films, books, and YouTube videos overstuffing my backlog. My Top 10 Waifus list was likely a culprit in this as well. At almost 8000 words, it was an exhausting task—hell, just choosing who my waifus were was a challenge, since there are so many great choices to consider (hence the Honorable Mentions section, which could have been much, much larger than it ended up being). Still, as burnt out as I was, the effort I put in was more than worth it. That list is by far the most viewed post on this blog (due in great part, I imagine, to the oh-so-wonderful clickbait of the angelic goddess that is Nia Teppelin) and probably my proudest achievement on this site (not saying much, I realize). Ironically, I noted in the Afterword of the list that I intended on becoming more and more prolific over the next couple of months. Looks like I made a promise I couldn’t keep. And let’s be real, one post, no matter how long doesn’t justify slacking off for most of an entire month, especially when it’s the middle of the summer and I’m a 17-year-old with no job, few responsibilities, and as inactive a social life a teenager can have without being friendless. In all honestly, it’s probably just the sin of sloth, which thrives during summer break, that caused this little writer’s drought. With school coming up shortly, I can’t really make any promises about becoming more hard-working and prolific in the near future, but I’ll at least try and do the best I can. This monthly update series is about the closest thing I have to a sense of consistency on the this blog, so I suppose I might as well start there.
With that overly-long apology out of my mind and out of the way, let’s take a look back at What I’ve Been Watching in July of 2017.
*NEW SECTION* Notable YouTube Videos – Looking back on the previous entries in this monthly series, I don’t know why I haven’t started doing this already. I spend a downright unhealthy amount of time on YouTube, so it only makes sense that I should include it in this series in one way or another. Of course, I can’t talk about everything I watch on YouTube—if I did that, we’d be here for days. Instead, I’ll be limiting it to a select few videos that I’ve been itching to talk about. Hopefully this new innovation works out—if it does, it will unquestionably become a staple of these posts.
- “In Defense of the Elevator Scene from Evangelion” by Super Eyepatch Wolf – Super Eyepatch Wolf has rapidly become one of my favorite anime analysts on YouTube. He can take even the simplest of topics and make something utterly fascinating out of them, and his most recent video—“In Defense of the Elevator Scene from Evangelion”—is a perfect example of this. First off, did this scene really need defending? Unfortunately, yeah. NGE is my second favorite anime of all time, but there are huge number of people who don’t exactly share that sentiment—I suppose we’re all entitled to our own tastes, but I’ve always thought most of these people are simply misunderstanding the series. Needless to say, watching this video was not only entertaining and informative—as all of SEWs analyses are—but also incredibly satisfying as a die-hard Eva fan. Whether you love or hate NGE, you owe it to yourself to give this video a watch.
- “Verlisify (Official Music Video)” by shofu – I didn’t even know who Verlisify was until a couple of days ago, but that doesn’t stop this music video from being pure heat in more ways than one. Not only is this one of the sickest and most hilarious roasts I’ve ever witnessed, but it’s also a fire-ass rap song in general. I’ve probably listened to it a few dozen times in just the past couple of days—hell, I’m listening to it as I write this. Few things are satisfying as seeing someone like Verlisify, who’s essentially a tumor to the Pokemon community, getting his ass put into place in such a creative way. Huge thanks to Etika from the Etika World Network for giving this song a shout-out in one of his most recent streams—if it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t have known about this masterpiece. I guess including it on the list is cheating since I saw it in early August, but I simply can’t wait another month just to talk about it. If you do decide to go listen to Verlisify (which you should), I also recommend watching the actual music video at least once—it’s incredibly well-made and adds a lot to the experience.
- Blood Simple (1984) – After watching No Country for Old Men and re-visiting The Big Lebowski last month, I knew I needed to see more of the Coen Brothers’ filmography. And what better place to start than indie classic that started it all? Blood Simple is one of the best examples of modern film noir ever made. It’s dark, gritty, suspenseful, and entertaining from start to finish. Much like Mean Streets and Reservoir Dogs, you know you’re seeing the work of a genius—or geniuses in this case—through a less experienced and lower budget lens. But instead of becoming a flaw, these limitations only seem to make the films better, creating a certain charm that is seldom replicated in larger productions. Throughout the film there is an ever-increasing feeling of doom—although Blood Simple is filled with unexpected twists and turns, everything that happens somehow feels inevitable. It’s one hell of a satisfying experience. If you love the Coens’ later work, you owe it to yourself to see where it all started
- Carrie (1976) – Last month, I read the entirety of Stephen King’s Carrie in just two days. Afterwards, I was eager to watch Brian De Palma’s 1976 film version, which has been hailed as one of the greatest Stephen King adaptations ever created. The King himself even called it an improvement on his debut novel. After seeing the film myself, I can safely say that I share those sentiments. Carrie is a near-perfect adaptation, replacing King’s vivid writing style and elements that only work in the medium of writing with De Palma’s fantastic directing and stylish cinematic flourishes, not to mention a brilliant cast. Sissy Spacek plays the role of Carrie White almost perfectly, and the same can be said of Piper Laurie as her psychotic fundamentalist mother, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance. Before they worked together with De Palma on the excellent Blow Out, Nancy Allen and John Travolta were a whole different kind of dynamic duo as Chris Hargensen and Billy Nolan. The more empathetic couple of the novel and film, Sue Snell and Tommy Ross, are played by Amy Irving and William Katt. To top it all off, there’s even a brief appearance by Sydney Lassick, the man who’d so wonderfully played the hyper-sensitive Charlie Cheswick in Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest the previous year. I don’t really have anything to say about Carrie‘s story, since I already talked about the novel last month, and nearly everything I loved about the book is also present within the film. Carrie is commonly regarded as one of Brian De Palma’s very best works, and it’s easy to see why.
- The Departed (2006) – Two months ago, I watched a belove cops-n-robbers film called Heat. Although I didn’t dislike the film, Michael Mann’s directing style and writing failed to appeal to my personal tastes, and I was ultimately disappointed as a result. Martin Scorsese’s essentially takes the same subject—exploring the dynamic between cops and criminals and blurring the line between the two—but executes it in an entirely different manner, a manner that pushed all the right buttons for me. I suppose it’s no surprise—after all, Scorsese is probably my second favorite director of all time, and The Departed is a testament to his prowess as a filmmaker. More so than almost any other director, he has a way of capturing the attitude and aesthetic of each and every time period and location his films are set in, creating some of the most immersive cinematic experiences imaginable. In the case of The Departed, Scorsese takes a break from the Italian-American New York gangsters his past films are known for and delves into the world of Boston, Massachusetts—home of the Irish. It follows not only the perspective of gangsters but of the police as well. Moreover, The Departed is a film about fakers. Billy Costigan is an undercover cop who gains the trust of Frank Costello, Boston’s deadliest crime boss. His total opposite is Colin Sullivan, a career criminal who grew up under Costello’s wing and has managed to infiltrate the police department inconspicuously. On the surface, you’d never think either of them weren’t what they claim to be—Billy is violent and unstable, while Colin excels in his police work and even starts a serious relationship with a psychiatrist named Madolyn. There is always the sense that each character is being drawn further and further into the worlds they’re meant to be fighting against, throwing their identities into chaos and nearly destroying the line between cop and criminal. And speaking of people pretending to be other people, talk about one hell of a cast. Leonardo DeCaprio and Matt Damon give some of their all-time greatest performances as Billy and Colin respectively. Then there’s Jack Nicholson as in one of the best roles of his later career, making Frank Costello equal parts humorous and menacing. And let’s not forget Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and Mark Wahlberg, who all fit their roles excellently and then some. Needless to say, this is one hell of film. If a dark, gritty crime drama is what you’re craving, The Departed will more than satisfy.
- Despicable Me 3 (2017) – Let’s get this out of the way: I actually really enjoyed the first two Despicable Me movies. Make fun all you like, but I found them to be some of the better 3D-animated films of the past decade, even if they fall a little short when compared to the likes of Disney and Pixar. That said, I was a bit disappointed when I heard that the third film didn’t quite live up to the quality of the first two. I do think, however, that knowing this ahead of time allowed me go into the film without too many expectations, and let me to see exactly what it did right and what it did wrong. The characters of Gru, Lucy, and the three girls are all still a delight. They’re essentially the series’ backbone. The Minions are still a complete waste of time, but they’re used sparsely enough here to be at least tolerable. One of my favorite of parts of Despicable Me 3 in particular was its villain, Balthazar Brat, played by South Park’s Trey Parker of all people. He’s basically one massive caricature of 80’s pop culture, and he was a blast to watch whenever he was on-screen. Unfortunately, he really wasn’t on-screen for that long. And that’s where Despicable Me 3’s real issues start to show. Instead of actually focusing on the conflict between Gru and Brat or further fleshing out Gru’s relationship with Lucy and the girls, the film introduces us to Dru, Gru’s long-lost twin brother and the most unnecesary character ever conceived or created in the history of mankind. Dru is literally just an annoying, useless version of Gru who adds nothing to the film and distracts from the parts of it that are actually interesting. Why, Universal? First the Minions movie and now this? You have an animated IP with tons of potential behind it and this is what you do with it? Why am I not surprised? But yeah, in case it wasn’t clear, the amount of time this film devotes to such a pointless side character rubbed me the wrong way. Moreover, it leads to a broader problem with the film: it’s lack of focus. In Despicable Me 2, all of the subplots were interconnected with the main plot—in Despicable Me 3, everything feels disconnected and unimportant, taking focus away from the main plot to such an extent that it loses all of its weight. Despicable Me 3 is an okay movie. It has parts that I really liked and parts that I really didn’t. I still think the Despicable Me 1 & 2 are some of the best family-friendly films of recent years. I just wish that the third film had done a better job of living up to the series’ standards. I think I’ve talked about Despicable Me 3 for a bit too long already, so let’s move on to some less disappointing films.
- The Dirty Harry Series – In case you missed it, I wrote a post a couple weeks ago discussing all of the Dirty Harry films in detail (click here if you want to check that out). I won’t regurgitate any of that here, but I will say this: this is one hell of a film series. Clint Eastwood just keeps giving me more and more reasons to watch his filmography—we’ll be seeing more of him in future iterations of What I’ve Been Watching/Reading, you can be certain of that.
- Django Unchained (2013) – It’s no secret that Quentin Tarantino is my favorite director of all time. I realize that’s he become something of a typical choice in that category, but there’s good reason as to why so many people love his work. The fact that it took me so long to finally watch Django Unchained is baffling even to myself, but it was well worth the wait. It’s probably one of Tarantino’s weaker films, but in all honesty, that really isn’t saying much—his most recent film, The Hateful Eight, is easily the weakest he’s ever made but still managed to be one my favorite films of 2015. Transformed from a freed slave to badass bounty hunter on his journey to rescue his wife from the clutches of the ruthless Calvin Candy, Django is one of the most compelling heroes Tarantino has put to screen, and is played excellently by Jamie Foxx. Leonardo DeCaprio makes one hell of a villain as the aforementioned Candy. But the real show-stealer once again is Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz. While not as spellbinding a performance as Colonel Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds, Waltz is an absolute joy every second he’s on screen. Tarantino himself makes a brief appearance as a grizzled Mining Company employee. While he’s not exactly an award-winning actor, his cameo appearances are always a delight. Django Unchained tackles an incredibly serious topic—that of slavery—and shows it with unflinching gruesomeness while still managing to create humor and satire out of it, similarly to what he did in Inglorious Basterds in regards to the cruelty of the Nazi regime. Tarantino has yet to ever truly disappoint me—I love each and every one of his films for one reason or another. He’ll likely continue to be my favorite director for a long time.
- Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) – Stanley Kubrick’s films have always been deceptively funny. Full Metal Jacket‘s boot camp episode gave us some of the most creative and hilariously offensive insults of all time, Jack Nicholson’s psychotic performance of Jack Torrance in The Shining borders the line between comedic and terrifying, and A Clockwork Orange is essentially a dark comedy. But no film better displays Kubrick’s rich sense of humor than his satiric masterpiece, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love the Bomb. At once hilariously ridiculous and terrifyingly believable, Dr. Strangelove shows the U.S government’s futile attempts to stop a nuclear holocaust after Air Force General Jack D. Ripper goes completely insane. Roger Ebert called the film Kubrick’s second greatest masterpiece after 2001: A Space Odyssey, and while I’m not sure I agree with him, it’s easy to see where he’s coming from. Dr. Strangelove is filled with some of the best comedic performances ever put to screen. There’s Peter Seller’s triple-performance of U.S President Merkin Muffley, who argues with the leader of the Soviet Union as if they were an old married couple, Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, who’s efforts to stop General Ripper are constantly rendered useless, and the titular Dr. Strangelove, a wheelchair-bound ex-Nazi scientist with a hilarious case of alien arm syndrome and some questionable ideas for survival in the post-apocalyptic world. Then there’s George C. Scott’s delightfully over-the-top performance of General Buck Turgidson, Slim Pickens essentially playing himself as Major T.J “King” Kong, and Sterling Hayden as the aforementioned General Ripper, whose communist paranoia puts Joseph McCarthy to shame. What makes all of these performances and the entirety of Dr. Strangelove one of the best satirical comedies ever made is its use of “serious comedy”. The characters in the film try to take themselves seriously, only to end up making fools out of themselves—in almost all cases, this approach is comedy is a hell of a lot funnier than if the characters were actually attempting to be funnt. Moreover, it takes as serious a topic as you can get—worldwide nuclear annihilation—and treats it like a complete joke. And it’s a damn funny joke, too. If you have any interest in Stanley Kubrick’s filmography, or are simply interested in seeing what is perhaps the greatest Cold War satire ever made, Dr. Strangelove is essential viewing.
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – Ferris Bueller can do anything he wants. It’s that sense of freedom that makes Ferris Bueller’s Day Off‘s so appealing. It’s more than just a great high-school comedy—it’s a film that speaks to the human desire to simply let loose and live every once in a while. The premise is simple: It’s almost graduation time for Ferris Bueller, so he decides to take one last day off to show his miserable best-friend Cameron a good time. Thus begins a rollicking comedic adventure through the streets of Chicago. Then again, most of you probably need little introduction to this film. It’s carved it’s way into recent cinematic history, and it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. It’s one of those movies that anyone can enjoy and relate to in one way or another. Ferris is the kind of person most of us would like to be, while Cameron is what most of us actually are. Ferris’ girlfriend Sloan is somewhere in-between, I suppose. Maybe it’s because I’m a senior in high school now myself, but there’s something that about these three and their little adventure that really struck a chord with me. I ought to give it a re-watch before graduation. Anyways, I could talk all day about everything else Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has to offer, from its sharp comedic writing to its excellent casting, but you’ve probably already seen the film yourself—and if you haven’t, I encourage you do so as soon as you can. It’s a fun time for everyone.
- Fight Club (1999) – It’s easy to see why Fight Club has become one of the most celebrated cult classics of all time. It’s a film that quite literally packs a punch, with top notch performances from Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, impeccable directing by David Fincher, a countless amount of brilliant scenes and memorable lines, and a fascinatingly unique story. Thematically, it takes a hard look at hyper-masculinity and consumerist feminization, ultimately concluding that both can be equally harmful and destructive. I’d already been spoiled on the massive mind-fuck plot twist toward the end of the film, yet it lost almost none of its raw power and shock value because of how good the film is at building up to it. Maybe it was because I’d only gotten a few hours of sleep the previous night and had opted for drinking an unhealthy amount of coffee instead, or maybe it was because I’d been listening to way too much Linkin Park (this was the day after Chester Bennington died and I think I actually became my autistic 12-year-old self at some point), but either way, my viewing experience of Fight Club really did feel like an insomniac fever dream—one that I was in no hurry to wake up from. It would take another viewing, preferably one where I didn’t feel like I was simultaneously getting Ludovico Technique’d and being turned into a Star-Child at the same time, to decide whether Fight Club deserves to be called one of my favorite films of all time. But I’ll be damned if it wasn’t one hell of a good time. Well, I’ve already broken the first two rules of fight club, so let’s hurry up and get to the next film.
- Raising Arizona (1987) – They say a good story “knows what it wants to be”. Raising Arizona has absolutely no god-damn idea what the hell it wants to be—or, at the very least, what it does want to be is completely lost on me. The film never seems to exist on any single level of reality at one time, creating one of the most jarring viewing experiences I’ve ever sat through. The fact that it’s filled with exaggerated and downright incomprehensible Southern accents didn’t exactly help. I won’t call Raising Arizona a terrible film, or even a bad one at that rate. There were a few scenes here and there that were genuinely entertaining, and if nothing else, it’s certainly unique. But what the hell was the point? What were the Coens trying to do here? Is there some kind of underlying message here—something about the difficulties of raising a family, maybe? I’m not asking a rhetorical question here—if someone could point me in the direction of an analysis of this film, I’d be more than happy to give it a watch/read. There’s clearly something people see in it that I don’t. It has a staggering 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and is even listed among masterpieces like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, Raging Bull, and the aforementioned Dr. Strangelove on director Spike Lee’s Essential Film List, meaning that he considers it a must-watch for anyone who wants to make films. Maybe I’ll change my mind and realize that Raising Arizona is great film in the near or distant future—our tastes and opinions are constantly evolving, after all. The Coen Brothers are filmmakers who always aim high, even if they don’t always hit the mark. If you want to see them do an absurdist comedy done right, I’d recommend The Big Lebowski in a heartbeat over Raising Arizona, but maybe that’s just me. Miller’s Crossing and the universally-acclaimed Fargo are next on my to-watch list of their films, so expect to hear all about those next month.
- The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) – When you see Leonardo DeCaprio getting his dick sucked while driving a Ferrari and then snorting cocaine out of another woman’s asshole within the first ten minutes of a film, you know in you’re in for an interesting ride. The Wolf of Wall Street is F.Scott Fitzgerald’s worst nightmare come true. It makes the excess shown in one of Scorsese’s previous films, Casino, look modest in comparison. It constantly rides the line between seductive and repulsive, tempting and disgusting. It is pretty much everything wrong with the American Dream. And it’s one of the absolute greatest films of the decade. What an extraordinary filmmaker Martin Scorsese is, to not only be able to look at some of the most amoral and despicable characters imaginable and finding something deeply likable and funny about them, but also to convey that dark and bizarre sense of warmth and humor on the screen so flawlessly. GoodFellas is one of the best examples of this, making the audience feel like “one of the guys” in the company of criminals and pretty much becoming a black comedy at many points, in much the same way as Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. The Wolf of Wall Street isn’t considered a comedy, but it had me in stitches by the time it was over, and for as loathsome as its characters, you can’t help but enjoy being in their presence—they have so much fun being scumbags that you almost admire them for it at first. Like with GoodFellas and many of his other films, though, Scorsese makes it clear that this kind of lifestyle comes at a steep price. I think it’s important that films like The Wolf of Wall Street exist. Whether we like to admit it or not, the depravity shown in the film is part of who we are, and doesn’t it make everything better when we take a step back and laugh at ourselves a little bit for it? After half a century, Scorsese hasn’t lost his touch even a little. He constantly evolves as a filmmaker—he only gets better and better at his craft. I eagerly look forward to whatever he has planned for the future.
- Notable Rewatches: The Matrix (1999) and Gattaca (1997) – Back in the 8th grade, I picked up a cheap DVD set from Best Buy containing the entire Matrix series. I’d wanted to watch the original film ever since I saw a parody of its climactic shootout scene in a YouTube Let’s Play of the N64 game Conker’s Bad Fur Day. I know that sounds like an incredibly retarded reason to buy a movie, but I’ve always been a huge autist about these kinds of things, and it goes to show that YouTube has basically shaped who I am as a person over the years. Anyway, I watched The Matrix on my computer soon after the purchase, and it blew the ever-loving fuck out of my 13-year-old mind. The intrigue of the story and world, the stylish visuals and action scenes, and special effects that still hold up to this day—I knew that I’d witnessed a true sci-fi masterpiece. And then I tried watching the sequel, The Matrix Reloaded, and I couldn’t even make it through the first hour. It didn’t even have anything to do with the needlessly weird and confusing elements it adds to the Matrix mythology—I just thought it was unbearably boring. I was disappointed that the series fell apart so quickly, but it didn’t change my opinion of the original film. Why oh why, then, did it take me four years to finally give it a re-watch? As someone who watches and re-watches films frequently, I honestly couldn’t give you a good answer, but I’m glad I finally decided to purchase a blu-ray copy this month. After re-watching The Matrix, my opinion of it has only improved. It’s a perfect combination between pulpy, stylish action and smart writing and directing. Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Laruence Fishburne form one of cinema’s most memorable trios as Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus respectively. The shootout I mentioned earlier, in combination with the subway duel between Neo and Agent Smith, formed one of the greatest climaxes ever put to screen. The Wachowskis, who wrote and directed the film, reportedly took influence from anime like Akira and Ghost in the Shell, which were themselves influenced by western films like Blade Runner. I always find these kind of webs of influence between Western and Eastern culture fascinating. But regardless of its predecessors, The Matrix truly carved a unique identity for itself in the world of science-fiction, making it stand out among its contemporaries. Another sci-fi film that instantly became one of my favorites was Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca. In a similar fashion to The Matrix, I saw it for the first time in the 8th grade and inexplicably waited four years to finally purchase it on blu-ray and re-watch it. I actually saw it in school of all things, as part of a genetics unit in my science class. It’s the only film I’ve ever seen in a classroom setting that I consider one of my favorites. I thoroughly despised everything about middle school and personally believe that think high school is better in every conceivable way, but the fact that I even know about this film’s existence justifies all of the shit I had to put up with. Gattaca is undoubtedly one of my favorite movies of all time, maybe even one of my top 10. It takes one simply sci-fi element—genetic engineering—and creates an entire new world out of it, desnsely packed with interesting ideas. It’s also a masterfully-crafted thriller and a compelling story of the power of the human spirit. It’s bold, smart, visually captivating, and emotionally profound. Niccol truly had a unique vision—one that has been flawlessly translated to the screen. I can’t reccomend Gattaca enough.
- March Comes in Like a Lion – I really slept on anime this month—I didn’t even finish a single series. But, having reached the halfway point of March Comes in Like a Lion (known as Sangatsu no Lion in Japanese), I finally have an excuse to gush about it. Studio SHAFT is a treasure trove when it comes to great visuals. Every shot of this show feels distinct and meaningful, all wrapped up in an absolutely gorgeous art style. Kiriyama Rei might have a difficult time conveying his emotions, but the show he’s in certainly doesn’t. The emotional turmoil and struggle Rei endures throughout the series form the meat and potatoes of March Comes in Like a Lion, creating a character who’s impossible not to become invested in and want to see succeed. But of course, you need more than meat and potatoes to cook a delicious anime stew. Besides Rei, Sangatsu also contains a fantastic supporting cast full of likable and relatable characters, from the trio of sisters who make every moment they’re on screen a delight—Akari, Hinata, and Momo—to the chubby, lovable goofball that is Nikaidou. I realize that seeing ‘shogi’ in the description of a 22-episode anime would make most viewers pull out faster than a dad after being on Maury, but the show manages to make even shogi seem genuinely interesting (even if you only ever have the vaguest idea of what the hell is going on during the matches). Moreover, Sangatsu is a human drama first and foremost, and it’s an excellent one at that. To those looking for heavy-hitting emotional storytelling and compelling characters, March Comes in Like a Lion is an absolute must-watch, and one of the best anime of 2016.
- My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness – I bought this on complete impulse after watching a video about it on Digibro After Dark. After reading it in just two sittings, I’m glad to say it was an impulse that paid off. An autobiographical tragic comedy by Kabi Nagata, My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness is both a great quick-read and a thought-provoking introspection of a person struggling to find her place in life. Nagata’s simplistic yet expressive drawings made the book a treat for the eyes as well. Something that I realized when reading this, is how small my problems are when compared to other people’s. That probably sounds strange coming from me, the self-proclaimed god of autism and perpetual example of poor lifestyle choices, but I’m 100% serious about this. I may have poor social skills, nonexistent athleticism and coordination, terrible work ethic, and the attention span of a baby chimpanzee with ADD, but I’m still able to get up every morning, eat two to three meals a day, get homework and chores done, maintain relationships with friends, and so on. For some people, even these simple things can be a constant struggle, a soul-crushing nightmare that they can’t wake up from. Maybe it’s just because the author and main character ends up becoming a mangaka herself, but the book really reminded of me of why I’ve always been drawn to art forms like video games, books, films, anime, YouTube videos, and so on and so forth in the first place, whether I realized it or not. Even if a piece of media can’t change your view on the world or move you on a deep, emotional level, the least—and perhaps most important—thing it can do is lighten up your day, to distract you from the bad and give you at least a few moments of good. I don’t know if I can ever become some kind of bestselling, Great American author or even turn writing into anything more than a hobby, but if I can use the ability to string a few words together to make even one person’s day just a little bit better, whether it’s through a blog post or a short story or maybe even a novel, I think I’ll be more than satisfied with just that.
- Superman: Braniac – Included in the paperback volume of Superman: Last Son, Superman: Braniac was a refreshing take on some of the most classic aspects of the Superman mythos. Although it’s plot is fairly simplisitc, the book is dense with gorgeous artwork by Gary Frank and fantastic characterizations of some of DC Comic’s most recognizable characters. Geoff Johns understands what makes Superman a great character at a fundamental level, both as a hero who always does the right thing, and as an individual with the flaws and longings that make us human.
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – With school starting in just a couple days for me, books that I read for English class will become pretty common for this series. Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist was my summer homework for this year, and while I haven’t been a fan of every novel I’ve read for school, but certain ones such as 1984, The Crucible, The Great Gatsby, The Things They Carried, and perhaps most of all One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest were some the best books I’ve read in recent years. The Alchemist, while not quite as good as those books, was a thankfully short and enjoyable read. I happened to be traveling while reading it (I finished most of it on the plane ride to Florida), so the sense of adventure throughout the novel really resonated with me. Most of all, the book’s themes of self-discovery and fulfilling one’s personal destiny makes it a wise pick to start off senior year, a time which can be critical for discovering one’s personal life goals and how to achieve them. I guess I have to give some credit to the school curriculum for that. The Alchemist isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s worthwhile read. It’s a book that shines in its simplicity and manages to be dense with wisdom in spite of its brevity.
- The Dark Tower Book I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King – Out of all the dozens of books Stephen King has written in the past 40+ years, it’s the massive Dark Tower series that he considers his magnum opus. After reading The Shining and Salem’s Lot last year, I was hooked on King’s work, so I got the entire box set for Christmas. It might seem like a risk to by an entire series before reading a single word of the first book, but I was fairly confident I would enjoy them. And besides, it’s a real nice set—though it would be a bit nicer if it didn’t have “A Major Motion Picture Starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey” plastered all over it, considering how big of a flop the film turned out to be. Anyways, you’re probably wondering why it took me until July to read the first book of a series I got for Christmas. Honestly, I just had other things to read and decided to get them over with first. Plus, I was a bit daunted by The Dark Tower‘s 4000+ pages and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to read anything else during my lengthy trek the series—looking back on it, that idea was complete B.S, since I’m more than used to reading multiple books at the same time, but I digress. The general consensus among Dark Tower fans is that the first book—The Gunslinger—is easily the weakest in the series, and that it took the second book, The Drawing of The Three, for the series to really find its footing. After powering through half of the aforementioned Drawing of the Three in just a few days, I can safely say that this is true—The Dark Tower is already on its way to becoming one of my favorite series of all time. That said, The Gunslinger is probably the weakest Stephen King novel I’ve read so far. It’s still a solid book, don’t get me wrong. Figuring out how to begin a series so massive, ambitious, and truly unique as The Dark Tower seems like it would be nearly impossible, and for what it’s worth, The Gunslinger manages to do just that. It does a great job of getting the reader intrigued in the bizarre world King has envisioned—not so much with how much we learn about it, but how much we don’t. It also does a good job of introducing the series’ central hero: Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. I also like what King did with the ending—not only does it take place a mere seven hours before the beginning of The Drawing of the Three, but it takes a interesting turn by substituting a typical final showdown for a world-building revelation of cosmic proportions. So what didn’t I like about the book. I think what threw me off about it was, strangely enough, the writing. The Gunslinger doesn’t read like a Stephen King novel—hell, it doesn’t even read like a Dark Tower novel. It somehow feels more amateurish than Carrie, his debut novel, despite being written an entire decade later. In all honesty, it isn’t too huge of a deal, since The Gunslinger is also the shortest book in the series at just over 220 pages. As I said, I’m already halfway through The Drawing of the Three and I’m absolutely enamored with it. I eagerly look forward to sharing my progress with this series over the next year or two. Until then, I encourage you to start reading the books yourself, especially if you’re already a fan of Stephen King’s work.