There are many things I watch, read, and listen to that I do not blog about. Sometimes I just want to enjoy what I am doing rather than worrying about what I am going to write about it later. However, I do love sharing the pop cultural things I think others might enjoy. Here is a round up of some things I have been enjoying recently that are worth checking out.
5. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
13 Reasons Why is one of those books that is going to get a bad rep when it comes out as a movie because of the “YA” label. It is a shame such a stigma is attached to the “young adult” genre because books like this one are important. Hannah is a high school girl who commits suicide. (This is not a spoiler, but the premise of the book, it’s on the jacket.) She leaves behind 13 cassette tapes with the “13 reasons why” she killed herself. What follows is part mystery, part suspense, and part heartbreaking events that could be taken from any teen’s real life. It is a book about how the choices we make affect others. It is about how we can choose to change our circumstances or let them define us. Judging from the comments on Goodreads, many people don’t like 13 Reasons Why because they do not understand the emotions and motivations of the teenage characters. If you want to read this book try remembering what it is like to be young before you start. The desperate desire to fit in, the loneliness, how you define yourself by what others think. Maybe you’ll come to realize it’s not such a YA book after all.
4. Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend (2013)
I know this album has been getting a lot of praise, but it took me until a month ago to listen to it in its entirety and then I was mad for having waited so long. Usually you need a dictionary or at least a college degree to understand the lyrics in Vampire Weekend’s songs, but this new album is more straightforward; it’s simpler without being simplistic. That’s not to say that Ezra Koenig doesn’t let his Columbia education show. All the things we love about Vampire Weekend from their obscure lyrics to their location name dropping is here, this album is just more restrained. There is an overall change in sound that shows how much the band has grown and changed over the years. And while I love the dancey NYC pop feel of their previous songs, nothing comes close to the absolutely stunning, “Hannah Hunt,” which leaves me with a lump in my throat every single time.
3. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a film about two friends on vacation. Suddenly they are interrupted by a group of ultra preppy college kids who think they’re mountain hillbillies out to kill them. What happens next is a series of hilarious, gory mishaps and misunderstandings. This film is much smarter than it appears to be on its surface; it plays with our expectations and typical horror movie tropes while still managing to be over the top funny. I watched this film last year, but it is worth mentioning now since a sequel to the film is officially in production. Plus it stars Alan Tudyk, who will always be Wash from Firefly to me. Watch the original before news about the new one starts coming out. You won’t regret it.
2. Top of the Lake (2013)
I never wrote anything about Top of the Lake, the Sundance mini-series that (rightly) won Elizabeth Moss a Golden Globe and I don’t know why. This bone chilling detective tale about a pregnant 12 year old girl who goes missing has more twists and turns than an episode of Law & Order. Usually if I saw Top of the Lake at night I would have to watch an episode of 30 Rock so I could go to sleep without having nightmares. Most of these fears were due to Peter Mullan’s absolutely terrifying performance as Matt Mitcham. I can still hear his sneering voice lingering in my head. Moss is equally entrancing; if there was a fear she would be typecast as a “Peggy” the rest of her career this mini-series quickly erases that notion. The seven episode series is worth watching for her layered performance as Detective Robin Griffin. She plays the character’s hardness and emotion equally well; allowing you to understand Robin’s motives and question them at the same time. Also worth mentioning? New Zealand. A place that should be feared, but above all, respected. I can’t give this series enough praise.
1. Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)
Kiki’s Delivery Service is an animated film from Studio Ghibli about a 13 year old witch trying to hone her powers and fit into her new home. I have yet to dislike one of Hayao Miyazaki’s films. He has a way of creating worlds that are magical and yet not too far from our own. Kiki’s Delivery Service is one of those films that gets what being a teenager is like without being patronizing or hitting us over the head with a lesson. Kiki is an ordinary girl who just happens to be a witch. She faces the same problems as all of us: the desire to fit in, to find friends, and to prove herself. If she was a Disney character she would be a princess, but the best part about Miyazaki is his ability to ground his films despite their otherworldliness. His stories revolve around real characters with equally real fears and obstacles. Also, this film features one of my favorite animal sidekicks, Kiki’s cat Jiji. I know he’s only sassy and sarcastic in the American dubbed version, but I enjoyed him immensely.