what i’ve been reading & watching lately: unemployed edition

Rome: Season Two

I gather a lot of people were disappointed in the second season, but I loved it just as much as the first. And I thought Kevin McKidd was even more amazing than he was in the first season; when he rescues his children from slavery and like a thousand different emotions pass across his face within seconds, I was like WHY ISN’T THIS MAN A HUGE STAR.

I couldn’t decide what kind of end I wanted for Atia of the Julii, whether I wanted her to triumph or go out like Glenn Close in Dangerous Liasons, getting hissed at by a crowd of aristocrats. But I was reasonably satisfied with the ending they gave her, mostly because I found Livia to be an even bigger creep than Atia. “I know you. You are swearing now that someday you will destroy me. Remember: far better women than you have sworn to do the same. Go look for them now.”

The Thin Man, Red Harvest, and The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

I finally finished Raymond Chandler — I’ve been spacing out his books for nearly a decade, because once they were all read: no more. Sniff! So anyway, I thought that I’d read some Hammett, who after all practically invented the hardboiled genre. The prose isn’t as polished and sharp as Chandler, and the dialogue seems a little clichéd now, but only because Hammett invented it. But I liked The Thin Man a lot and thought Red Harvest was brilliant. The only one I didn’t like was The Maltese Falcon, because frankly Book Sam Spade comes off like a scary sociopath. Bogart played him positively cuddly in the movie.

I want to read The Glass Key now, it’s supposed to be Hammett’s magnum opus.

Grey Gardens

I hear Drew Barrymore just won a Golden Globe for this, and believe me when I tell you that she totally deserved it. I’ve seen the actual Maysles’ documentary Grey Gardens, and she completely nailed it. Jessica Lange, too. If you’ve ever wondered what made Big and Little Edie Beale go completely off the deep end, this goes a long way to providing some answers.

Side note: If you are from an East Coast, old money family of bluebloods, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT NAME YOUR DAUGHTERS EDITH/EDIE. It never works out well. (See also: Sedgwick, Edie.)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

I’m probably not going to make any friends with this statement, but: I think Jane Austen is probably the most overrated writer in the entire canon of post-Renaissance Western literature. So it pleases me to see her work subverted; it is, as the kids say, relevant to my interests. This isn’t a particularly deep or meaningful work of art, just a fun, quirky way to pass some time. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I gotta say though, I do not get the enduring crush so many readers have had on Mr. Darcy through the centuries. That half-assed marriage proposal made me wish for a zombie to shamble in and suck his brains out. “Hey, your family is trash and you’re beneath me, but I love you anyway. Who are you to resist?” Ugh, give me Mr. Rochester any day.

The Cove

There was a lot about Japan’s dolphin capture/slaughter industry that I already knew: The dangerously high levels of mercury, the mislabeling of the meat, the fact that the market for it has been artificially created by the very industry profiting from it. But there was still a lot for me to learn here. And even if there wasn’t, it’s still worth watching because it’s a remarkably well-made documentary. In fact, it reminded me a little bit of the last great documentary I watched, Man on Wire. Where that was made to look like an Ocean’s 11-type caper, this was more like a very good spy thriller.

A warning: They do show the footage of dolphin slaughter that they secretly filmed, and it is very, very disturbing to watch. It’s less than 5 minutes altogether, but I was shaking all over and forcing myself to breathe slowly so I wouldn’t hyperventilate by the end of it. Still, it’s a very good documentary on an important subject, and I urge you to add it to your Netflix queue.

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