March 2017 Pop Culture Roundup
1. I read The Year of Small Things by Sarah Arthur and Erin Wasinger this month, which chronicles the life of two families striving in their suburban surroundings to live radical lives of discipleship to Jesus. They, like so many others, have read writings by "new monastics" such as Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartsgrove, but want to know how to do it where they live and while raising families. Arthur and Wasinger tell of their households spending a year seeing how the different values of such radical communities might best translate to their own context. They discover and describe how to be faithful in ways such as living simply, supporting local food supplies, managing finances, pursuing justice, and showing hospitality. The results are helpful and accessible, and I think this book serves as a great practical guide to those wondering how to do these things where they are instead of moving into a commune.
2. I also read Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick, she of Twilight, Up in the Air, and Pitch Perfect fame. This is a fun, light-hearted memoir full of stories of breaking into acting, general awkwardness, attempts to be an adult, and self-discovery. It gives some behind-the-scenes glimpses into filming movies, awards shows, and some of the struggles of being an actress. The book is full of self-deprecating humor and interesting anecdotes. I knew she was witty on Twitter, but she's also a talented writer.
3. I saw Logan this month, the 9th (or 10th, if you count Deadpool) entry in the X-Men series. Here Wolverine's healing ability has diminished, which among other things has caused him to visibly age. Other mutants have supposedly been wiped out, and only he and a few others including Charles Xavier remain. All seems to be taking its natural course as these old remainers hang on day to day, until a young mutant gets in touch with Professor X and the small group takes one last adventure. The story was wrenching, the action sequences crisp and creative, and the acting superb. I would rank this among the top films of the franchise.
4. My son and I also went to see The LEGO Batman Movie, with Wil Arnett reprising the voice of the title character from his role in The LEGO Movie. We find Batman thwarting the shenanigans of Gotham City villains with ease, but living a very lonely life otherwise, which he insists he prefers. Little by little, however, he realizes how much he actually needs others' company and help. Zach Galifinakis, Rosario Dawson, and Michael Cera provide supporting voices. The movie is full of fun references to past films and the 1960s TV show, as well as a lot of crossovers from other franchises thanks to LEGO having sets from them all. If you view it as a LEGO Movie follow-up, it doesn't quite match its predecessor's depth. But as an homage to/send-up of the Batman mythos, it was pretty good.
5. Of course I've been keeping up with the second half of The Walking Dead's 7th season. The finale airs this Sunday, but after a dismal series of episodes last fall that saw Alexandria and other communities struggling under the thumb of Negan and the Saviors, this half has been building toward their overcoming their oppressors. I think that for most viewers the question is not so much whether they will prevail as what will things look like after they do. Of course, there's always a new threat down the road, but I look forward to seeing how this resolves.
6. I binge-watched Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix this past month, starring Drew Barrymore and Timothy Olyphant as Sheila and Joel, a suburban couple trying to keep up their balance of work as realtors with raising their teenage daughter. Then Sheila undergoes a strange transformation where she no longer feels inhibitions and craves human flesh to eat. After discovering that basically, she's a zombie, the family attempts to adjust to a new routine while also hoping to find a cure. The show is filled with absurd humor and some fun cameos, and all in all is a very witty and original comedy. I'll be looking forward to the second season.
7. I've been listening to Run the Jewels 3 by Run the Jewels, the duo of El-P and Killer Mike. I hadn't caught their previous two albums together but needed some new workout music, so I figured I'd give this a shot. I can see why this group has been so critically acclaimed. "Don't Get Captured" calls out police brutality, "Call Ticketron" is full of metaphors for how they can keep an audience in the palm of their hand, and "Legend Has It" straight up lets the world know how good they are. Here's "Legend Has It:"