Friday, March 30, 2018

March 2018 Pop Culture Roundup

Seven items for March...

1. This month I read Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I've Loved) by Kate Bowler, a divinity school professor who is battling Stage 4 cancer. This book tells of her experiences so far, which includes both her trips to doctors, hospitals, and treatments, but also of what people try to say and do to help her feel better. In the process, she takes down many of the common clich├ęs that people use (the book's title being one of the most common) and other attempts to make sense of what is happening. She's also very studious in the Prosperity Gospel movement, which helps perpetuate many of the attitudes that people use, and her insights on how that is so are interesting. The parts where she shares her deepest worries and struggles are powerful and heartbreaking. I'm just going to say it: you need to read this book.

2. I also read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, about a black teenager named Starr who lives in a poorer inner city neighborhood but who attends a wealthy predominately white private school. When she's witness to the shooting of one of her friends by a police officer, she finds herself not only embroiled in the investigation but in how the community and her family and friends react to and process the legal, social, and cultural issues involved. This book has many parallels to current events and is not only timely in that way but wonderfully and powerfully written as a story.

3. We saw A Wrinkle in Time this month, based on the classic Madeleine L'Engle book of same name. Meg and Charles Wallace have long been trying to cope with the disappearance of their scientist father, when help comes in the form of Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. They not only reveal that they may know where their father is, but how he went missing through time and space. I thought that the movie did very well with the source material, with some creative changes that you always have to expect with such adaptations. There are some stunning visuals and some well-done emotional scenes that convey their weight very well, particularly for the younger actors for whom such things can be tricky.

4. On a whim, I watched The End of the F**king World, a Netflix show featuring two teens trying to find their way in the world, each struggling with who they are and how to relate to others. Their emerging bond turns out to be what the other needed, but they also get themselves into deep trouble along the way. It's a coming-of-age sort of story, but with a lot of unexpected turns and unfortunate circumstances. The ending is redemptive, beautiful, and tragic, but also natural and just ambiguous enough to let the viewer decide for themselves.

5. We binge-watched our way through the second season of Jessica Jones on Netflix this month, where Jessica is still coming to terms with the events of season 1, particularly her killing of Kilgrave. A big theme this season for her is whether she's a killer; how in control she is of her powers and who she wants to be. She processes a lot of this while probing her past and trying to figure out how she acquired her powers to begin with, which unearths some very unexpected discoveries. I love the noir feel of this show and the acting was incredibly strong once again. And we even had some MCU references sprinkled in, though no callbacks to what happened in The Defenders.

6. A new album from The Decemberists, I'll Be Your Girl, released this month, with the band incorporating some synth beats into their sound. I wasn't sure about that at first, but several listens to their first single, "Severed," along with the rest, helped change my mind. The electronic stuff isn't overpowering but rather compliments their signature folk-rock style. The chipper feel of "Everything Is Awful" is a fun contrast for the lyrics, "Once In My Life" is a more straightforward longing for something to start going right, and "Severed" is almost a dance tune. Here's the first single, "Severed:"

7. I've also been listening to and enjoying Brandi Carlile's latest album, By the Way, I Forgive You. I was hooked from my very first listen to "The Joke" and never looked back. The entire album features wonderful reflections on life and love expressed by Carlile's passionate voice. Here's the video for "The Joke:"