AEL: Black Panther, The Cuckoo’s Calling, Differently Morphous, The Serpent on the Crown, The Silkworm, JL and JLU, The Far Side of the World

Black Panther — Still pretty upset with myself for not taking notes. I believed I might manage to see this movie again before I got around to writing up my thoughts on it, and then I’d be able to give a more coherent impression of my experience, but guess what. No such luck. (I do need to see it again, though; for one thing, ZG hasn’t watched it yet.) So here’s what I remember.

At the very beginning, when N’Jobu was narrating the history of Wakanda and its advancements, my immediate, rather distressed thought was, Guys, is it really OK for you to be hiding from the world like this? Couldn’t you be doing a lot of good out there? And I think it’s a mark of good writing when a narrative can prompt the consumer from almost the first moment to ask the question that then becomes the point of the entire story.

I loved that the question was never really answered, too. Of course by making the choice they did — Wakanda revealing themselves to the world and beginning outreach programs — the narrative definitely leans in the direction of declaring that the right decision… but at the same time, certain excellent (mostly tacit) points were made for things remaining as they were. And there was no hard and fast answer, no dogmatic pronouncement. A question was raised, an answer suggested, and the viewer left to interpret the morality and wisdom of the decision that was made.

Along those same lines, the question of loyalty to a people vs. loyalty to a system (and in this case specifically, to one authority figure), as embodied by Nakia and Okoye, was also never resolved. In fact the narrative never suggested that it needed to be resolved — it simply presented two fairly opposing points of view (opposing, at least, in this situation) and gave no indication that one was superior to the other. And the characters were allowed to embody these points of view without being enemies or even rivals. Think of that! Two women with opposing points of view allowed to work together respectfully without being set against each other by dumbass writers! I’m literally crying all over again right now thinking about it.

I’m not really in any place to make comments on the blackness of this film, except to say that I loved it. We’ve had over a century of movies all about white people; why not now have a century of movies about people of color to cleanse our palates? Then we can let the white people back in, in small doses. Like the kinda cute but ultimately unnecessary Ross in this story.

I can’t comment effectively about the Afrofuturism either, except to say that it was very interesting. I feel like there’s an inherent, if not precisely racism (though undoubtedly often that as well), then at least ethnocentrism and cultural disconnect in the way the average white person is always going to approach this style of storytelling. I loved the aesthetic in this movie; I loved every bit of Wakanda I got to see — its technology and culture and infrastructure — but I found myself asking questions like, “Is this really what a highly advanced African nation would look like?” and feeling a sort of skepticism that I think is rooted in my near-complete ignorance of African cultures and my very western expectations of science fiction.

To say much more, I would have to watch the movie again. So just a few more random comments. Shuri is the greatest character that ever lived, and I want to hug her forever. Killmonger’s dying line was the most brilliant and painful moment in any story I can remember for quite a long time. The overall plot was somewhat boilerplate, in which I was reminded of Moana — seems like whenever Disney pushes one envelope, it pulls another one predictably close in order to feel safe. Still, though, what an amazing, wonderful film.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith — Rowling may have made some missteps in some areas, but she’s still one of my favorite authors. I fucking love this series, and it’s frustrating (again) that I didn’t make any notes on the first two books. So lessee. I love that Strike is physically disabled and that his disability is an important part of his daily life, but that the story isn’t about his disability. I love every last little thing about Robin. I love the friendship between Robin and Strike. I think Matthew is a fucking piece of shit and I fucking hate him.

As we all know, my very favorite type of story is interpersonal drama (specifically romance) against a backdrop of action/adventure (especially fantasy). But this series’ type, which is more an even balance of interpersonal drama (without romance) with action/adventure is a close second. Really, really good stuff. The mystery story and the procedural is fantastic, and the character-based drama alongside it is perfect.

Differently Morphous by Yahtzee Croshaw — I liked this book, which had a really engaging story full of interesting ideas and a setup that (much like his previous book) kinda demands more content, but I wish he had ditched the troublesome “poking fun at the ongoing conflict between people that want to avoid hurting others and assholes that don’t give a shit about hurting others” aspect. Satirizing such a conflict is always going to make the more active side look worse, because it’s difficult to satirize passivity. (That last sentence is the only note I made about this book.)

I’m glad to see him finally writing in third person. The main characters were still all largely uninteresting, but they drove an interesting story, so I was satisfied. I had a lot more thoughts about this book as I read it, but I can’t remember them all now.

The Serpent on the Crown by Elizabeth Peters — Geez, I was still on Amelia at this point. OK, so, this is one of the least memorable books in this series, and I probably wouldn’t have had much to say even if I’d made notes. How many times I’ve read the series I have no idea, but this was the first time through this one that I remembered any details of the plot before they appeared. I was all, “Oh, yeah, that guy’s her secret husband or something, isn’t he?” and it was like an epiphany XD

It is pretty sweet to think of Daoud digging through rubble all night trying to find that little snake, though.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith — The murder mystery in this one is so deliciously fucked up. Every little aspect of it plays in so well, the clues are so interesting, and watching all these writers with their egos and their squabbles is so entertaining… I think this is my favorite of the three books we have so far. Matthew is still a fucking piece of shit.

Justice League (2001) and Justice League Unlimited — I continued to adore Justice League through to its end, and in fact enjoyed it more and more. After a while I was shipping John and Shayera (excuse my anachronistic use of that name) so hard it was driving me crazy, and when they finally got together you better believe I freaked the fuck out. And then the series ending!! What a sucker punch! With Shayera flying off into the tragic unknown after she and John admit they love each other?? You should have seen me wandering around crying that whole day; it was very pathetic. I was deeply shaken by that last story, and more or less astonished they’d chosen to end the series on that note.

And then I realized there was a-whole-nother series that came after. I dove for that like a lifeline. It was a few episodes before Shayera showed up again, but JLU was still like a soothing balm after the ending of JL.

For one thing, I think JLU is better. I think the writers had streamlined their process and gotten a really good handle on the characters by that time, and things flowed really well. I was pleased with the long, two-or-three-episode stories in JL, but I think the JLU stories accomplished just as much in usually one-episode segments. And my attention span (and the time I have available before work for watching stuff) always appreciates shorter stories.

The drawback to having a bigger cast and shorter stories, though, is that there’s not always time to establish characters as well as the writers would probably like, so there were some characters that rotated into the spotlight that I just didn’t care about at all. Still, JLU is a really excellent series, and I particularly enjoy how just about every event from the preceding series comes back and is important again in JLU at some point or another.

The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian — I loved this book, as I’ve loved every book in this series so far, but (in part because I took zero notes) I have almost nothing to say about it. It was very satisfying to find the Norfolk already sunk, even if it wasn’t our friends that managed it; and it was interesting when Captain Palmer claimed the war was over, because after how long 1812 has been dragged out, the claim was all too believable, and therefore created some good tension within me the reader.

That was the last item that had no notes. I’ve been pretty good about making notes since then, too. Maybe I really am getting back on track with this new schedule XD

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