Sorry for not chiming in sooner, but I was a bit caught up with Sundance. I’ll be saving that for a separate post, and focusing this on all the non-Sundance art I ingested recently.
Detransition, Baby (Torrey Peters, 2021)
I will probably write about this book somewhere down the road. My brain doesn’t have enough power to do that right now thanks to too many deadlines honestly. It is likely to remain my favorite thing I’ll read all year though. Please read it. I would simply like it if everyone read this.
I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are (Rachel Bloom, 2020)
This is basically the kind of audiobook that high school me would have loved and killed for (and, to be sure, the book would have been just as compelling). There is so much to enjoy in Rachel Bloom’s book, pretty much designed to appeal to the theatre kid and the Disney kid in me while also acknowledging how much those things suck, but I won’t lie and say I haven’t sort of grown out of some of the things she explores here. For instance, I simply cannot listen to or read anything Harry Potter related anymore; it’s just soured to me. But there’s an entire passage of this audiobook that is designed like a musical with Rachel Bloom singing all the parts — and that’s delightful! So much of it is just plain enjoyable and made me miss the days of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (are they even that far off? no, but it feels like it sometimes).
Control (Mikael Kasurinen, 2019)
Okay, Control rocks as a game. It’s the kind of video game that actually has some gorgeously put together cutscenes and understands how to edit sequences. Its menu and upgrade system is simple and straight-forward, its protagonist is interesting and has a story that mostly feels fun and engaging, and it moves at just the right pace. That said: I think there’s a lot about Control that is outright repetitive; the spaces and enemies within the building in particular rarely feel fresh, once you know how to handle one thing, you can pretty easily figure out how to handle the next. And I understand this ties into this concept of a building being designed without any real attention to architecture due to powers beyond our control, but that also feels like it’s the kind of thing that you should lean into and create something even more ambitious. This isn’t to say I wasn’t sometimes really taken away by the world the game creates (one of its best sequences is the Ashtray Maze, I won’t say anything else), but it does grow a little boring to have to try and navigate a poorly designed map through a lot of familiar spaces simply to find X, Y, or Z thing. These are minor complaints about a game I actually really enjoyed though, so take that as you will.
Maneater (Alex Quick, 2020)
Okay, honestly? I think this game is kind of exhausting garbage after the first few hours. But I played it all. You’re a shark. You eat things. Some things you can’t eat, so what are you going to do? You keep eating other things until you get bigger. Chris Parnell narrates a lot of stuff that is initially funny and then starts to get grating the more and more he just repeats the same thing. But, guess what? You’re also repeating the same thing. Over and over you’re jumping into the air to bite something. Is it a human? Is it a massive floating license plate? Is it a boat? Who knows.
Maybe Maneater is actually a great game about the mundanity of existence. A reminder that we are absolutely nothing but beings that consume and swim forward, doing our stupid worthless little tasks for stupid worthless little achievements, changing slowly as we age. Maybe Maneater understands the human condition and depicts it perfectly through the eyes of a vengeance filled shark. Or maybe the game is still garbage. I don’t know.
Overflow (Travis Alabanza, 2021)
A compellingly designed one-woman show that actually manages to keep the viewer’s attention. Sparse set design (but somewhat interactive for the lead) creates an appropriately undistracting space for the actress to navigate and for cameras to hone in on her performance (though I’ll admit I was a bit bored by the camerawork in this day and age of more experimental online theatre).
Occasionally leans into some obvious trans discourse, but the way it frames the bathroom discussion isn’t just about fear, it’s interestingly about what made me love the nightlife so damn much (and what makes me miss the nightlife in this time of being trapped indoors): connection. The way the protagonist discusses what happens behind those bathroom doors, the communal space where women (both cis and trans) can come together to help a girl with her hair or her make-up or talk about their problems or hold back someone’s hair while they’re throwing up, simply creating a space where the performance of the outside world is left behind and one can just be themselves, that’s what it’s all about.
Stalls (João Dall’Stella, 2019)
A dude on Grindr I tried flirting with sent me his short film and I watched it because networking is what Grindr should be all about.
The S From Hell (Rodney Ascher, 2010)
Showed this to my roommate after watching A Glitch in the Matrix and was amused at his reactions to seeing the way Ascher frames these stories. Watch it over here.
Seraph (Dash Shaw, 2013)
I’m really fond of the way John Cameron Mitchell approaches the intersection of queerness and faith. It’s much better handled in his podcast Anthem: Homonculus but this is a simple and lovely little short too. Watched in prep for Shaw’s Cryptozoo at Sundance.
Mystic Pizza (Donald Petrie, 1988)
Vincent D’Onofrio incredibly hot in this. Everyone has amazing sweaters in it too. Made me want pizza. Ordered a pizza after recording a podcast episode about this movie with Billy and Kyle (to drop at some point idk when).
One Piece: Arabasta Saga (Eiichiro Oda, 1999–2002)
Chopper is my perfect child and I would die for him. I also love Bon Clay. I also love so many things about this dumb saga. It introduces my favorite! Nico Robin! It has Nami trying to use a new weapon for the first time and failing miserably! It’s just delightful and I can’t write about One Piece rationally anymore.
McSweeney’s 62: The Queer Fiction Issue (Various, 2020)
I’ll quote my New Tropic newsletter takeover here: “It’s introduced me to writers like Bryan Washington and K-Ming Chang while reinforcing my fondness for authors like Lee Lai, Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya, and Kristen Arnett.”
Mr. Boop (Alec Robbins, 2020)
I don’t even know how to write about this honestly. Just read it.