Not Just Books: December 2020

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

Movie: “The Devil All the Time”

Let’s be honest, I mostly watched this movie because the cover image on Netflix featured Tom Holland who can pretty much do no wrong. I didn’t even know much of what it was about! Which is probably for the best, because it was way darker than I probably would have picked at the time. But still, oh so good! Telling the winding story of young man growing up trying to save those he loves from the evil lurking all around him, this movie takes its time spinning out just how awful everyone can be. Other than Tom Holland, of course! About halfway through the movie I started getting super nervous about where it would end, but I’ll say I was pleased with how it ultimately turned out. Also, interesting note, this is yet another reminder of how good of an actor Robert Pattinson is. I’m always glad to see him in things like this where it seems he is beginning to recover from the…vampire…incident.

TV series: “West Wing”

Ok, ok, I know I said I watched “The American President” because I didn’t want to commit to a re-watch of this entire series. But I caved, alright! The election was stressful and what followed afterwards has been stress ongoing. So yes, I retreated to a fantasy world where politicians (on both sides of the aisle, for the most part!) all behaved like decent human beings. One of my favorite parts of this series is the last few seasons that focuses on the next presidential race. There, the show makes a concerted effort to portray the nominees for both parties as worthy candidates with their own strengths. It’s really the epitome of wish fulfillment! We’ll see if I make it through the entire series or, more likely, this will become the kind of thing that I revisit whenever the real world of politics begins to feel like too much noise.

TV series: “Supernatural”

Can my whole summary paragraph for this choice just be me sobbing uncontrollably? Because that’s the most accurate depiction of how I feel right now. I didn’t get around to finishing this until this month (turns out that, shocker!, two babies are more work than one!), but I managed to avoid spoilers in the meantime. My sobbing reaction is twofold: 1.) Obviously this show loves to tug on heartstrings and has been doing it for years. So there’s no way fans were going to escape unscathed from the finale. And 2.) It’s over. After 15-16 years, it’s actually over! I mean, at this point, this show has been my longest long-term relationship pretty much! I started watching this at the beginning of college, and it’s seen me through all the ups and downs of my 20s and through to my mid-thirties, married and with two kids. In a lot of ways, I feel like I was on a journey right alongside Dean and Sam. There isn’t a single other show that I’ve followed as faithfully or loved as thoroughly. It might sound cheesy, but I have a hard time seeing another show ever really replacing it as my all-time favorite.

Kate’s Picks

Netflix Show: “The Queen’s Gambit”

I’m no chess player, though I do have a nice nordic viking style set that I got back in high school. I haven’t actually played on it, however. But when I heard all the hype about “The Queen’s Gambit” from not only the Internet but also my cousin and her husband, I decided that I should give it a go. It follows Beth Harmon, an orphan in the 1960s who learns to play chess from the janitor at her orphanage, and who is a prodigy. As she grows and hones her skills, she starts competing in tournaments and making a name for herself because of her youth, prowess, and gender. But fame and winning comes with a price, as Beth struggles with her new notoriety, insecurities, and a growing substance abuse problem. Anya Taylor-Joy is fantastic as Beth, and the ways that the show depicts her process, and makes chess into a thrilling and pulse pounding event, kept me on the edge of my seat.

HBO Max Show: “The Flight Attendant”

So I read Chris Bohjalian’s thriller novel “The Flight Attendant” around the time it came out, and it never made it to the blog because I didn’t find the room for it. But when I saw that it had been adapted into a TV series, I thought that it would work a LOT better in that format, and boy does it! Cassie is a globetrotting flight attendant who likes to drink, party, and hook up all around the world. But then she wakes up in Thailand next to the body of handsome and mysterious Alex Shokolov, the man she had met on a flight the day before, whose corpse is covered in blood. No memory of the night before, Cassie panics, cleans the scene, and flees. But what she doesn’t know is that not only are the feds in the U.S. interested in what happened, so is someone else who is tailing her. My husband and I are addicted to this thrilling show, with great performances from Kelly Cuoco, Rosie Perez, and Michele Gomez.

Film: “Wonder Woman 1984”

Was it as good as the first one? No. In fact, a lot of people seem to be disappointed with “Wonder Woman 1984” But I’m not sure that it could have matched the emotional weight of the war film that was “Wonder Woman”. And since I think that trying to match that tone could have led to many inauthentic stumbles, I am okay that it didn’t try to meet that level. Instead, “Wonder Woman 1984” is more of a traditional superhero movie with a super hero and some super villains with outlandish plans, but set against an 80s back drop. Diana is now living in Washington D.C. and trying to leave the weight of her loss of Steve Trevor behind. When a mysterious stone falls into the hands of wannabe oil tycoon Maxwell Lord, people’s wishes start coming true, including Diana’s wish of getting Steve back. But when the cost of the wishes starts to spiral into chaos, Diana has to step up to try and stop Lord. Gadot was awesome as always, and newcomers Pedro Pascal and Kristen Wiig hold their own. Again, not as good as the first one, and at times it can feel a little scattered. But it is also fun and entertaining and hopeful. Which is all I wanted for the end of 2020 as my husband, baby, and I spent Christmas in quarantine.

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