Film Review: Mudbound (2017)

Mudbound is an intense historical film set in the deep south of the United States after WWII. The central characters are members of two families, the McAllens and the Jacksons. It’s also based on a book.

The opening scene is very striking. It begins with Henry and Jamie, two brothers in Mississippi digging a grave for their father. They realise it’s a slave’s grave halfway through, but a storm presses them on even as Henry protests. Jamie, who doesn’t care, continues. The rain worsens and Jamie gets stuck in the grave and begins to panic, screaming for his brother. It’s very clear from the get go that Jamie suffers from PTSD. Henry returns and pulls his brother out, with Jamie, hysterical, telling him he thought Henry would leave. To which Henry promises that he’d never do that, they’re brothers. It’s a moment that really underscores the relationship between the two. The fear, the doubt, the love that binds them together.

The scene then shifts to the following morning and the brothers are joined by Henry’s wife Laura and the children, but between them, the brothers can’t carry their father’s coffin alone, and Henry flags down a family leaving the property. Henry asks them to help, but Hap, the head of the family, doesn’t speak. Beside him, his wife Florence looks furious. Bearing in mind that this is the Jim Crow South in the 1940s, and the family are African American, the immediate tension between the two families hints at something terrible.

The film then goes back to 1939, where Henry’s wife Laura begins telling the story of how the family came to the Mississippi farm, her relationship with the brothers, and the arrival of their virulently racist father, Pappy. (He’s the worst. The worrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrst.)

From there, the perspective shifts to Hap’s family, and the dynamics between the McAllens and the Jacksons is striking. Where the McAllens are tense and bicker a lot amongst themselves, all unhappy in their own way, the Jacksons are close and loving, working together despite how horribly their neighbours and society treats them. Hap’s son Ronsel is heading off to fight on the frontlines of WWII and the family are saving up to buy property of their own. There’s a sense of hope.

When he returns from WWII, however, Ronsel is disappointed with what he finds. Abroad, he had a relationship and he was treated as a hero. Back home, he finds that nothing in Mississippi has changed. What’s more, the arrival of the McAllens make the Jacksons worry, and tensions begin to mount when Pappy’s racism drives a wedge between the families.

Shortly there after, Jamie, also a WWII vet, moves in with the rest of his family. He quickly bonds with Ronsel, and both reminisce about how different things were abroad whilst struggling to cope their with PTSD and the racism of the society they find themselves in. Their growing friendship is judged problematic by bigots, and whenever Ronsel and Jamie spend time together, Ronsel is forced to hide from passing cars in case someone sees Jamie giving him a lift. It’s utterly heartbreaking and the sense of injustice carries throughout the film. Eventually, the tensions come to a head between the families, and things go from bad to worse.

Do be aware that Mudbound is really difficult to watch in places, very gritty, and there are numerous racist characters. Ronsel and Jamie were by far my favourite characters, but I adored Hap and Florence, too. Laura was a tough one, but I did really sympathise with her. Above all, this film is an important addition to historical movies and features a wonderful cast. The acting is top notch, the cinematography is gorgeous and the directing is fantastic. I definitely recommend watching it.

Show Review: Schitt’s Creek (2015)

Lads. LADS. Schitt’s Creek is one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen. If you’re looking for something to take your mind off the insanity of the world, this is a great escape. I’ve had this show on my list for ages but never got around to it — until this week, and I’ve now marathoned all six seasons. It’s just so w h o l e s o m e.

The plot revolves around the Rose family after they lose their millions and are left destitute. The only thing left to their name is the town of Schitt’s Creek, which Johnny Rose (played by Eugene Levy) bought for his son David (played by Dan Levy) as a joke years before. Along with matriarch Moira (played by Catherine O’Hara) and the sister Alexis (played Annie Murphy), the family move to Schitt’s Creek and settle into the colourful life of small town shenanigans. It’s hilarious. They meet the Schitts: Roland, Jocelyn and Mutt. (Yes, his name is Mutt Schitt.) There’s also Twyla, who runs the café, Ted, the local vet, and Patrick, a local who catches the eye of one of the mains.

Over the course of the show, the characters have to find jobs (which is a first for three of them), rearrange their dreams (all of them), learn to appreciate what really matters and open their minds to new people. The character growth is seriously good season to season. The Rose family are all quite shallow and out of touch with reality at the start of the show, but as the episodes go on, they grow into wonderful people that you’re truly rooting for.

I also really love that the show is written by Eugene Levy and his son in real life Dan, and that Sarah Levy, Eugene Levy’s daughter and Dan Levy’s sister, is another cast member (she plays Twyla). A show about family, by family. And it really shows! I’ve loved Eugene Levy since I was a kid and he’s seriously so good in this. Dan is a wonderful actor as well! I’m really excited to see the other actors in more things after this, for sure! There’s also wonderful lgbt+ rep and a couple that will steal your heart. Seriously, OTP FEELS.

If you’re looking for something light, sweet, feel-good and uplifting, this is the show for you!

Show Review: Discovery of Love (2014)

Ooooooh, I love a good second chance romance! And that’s exactly what Discovery of Love (aka Discovery of Romance aka 연애의 발견) is all about. This show follows Han Yeo-reum (played by Jung Yu-mi), her ex-boyfriend Kang Tae-ha (played by Eric Mun), her current boyfriend Nam Ha-jin (played by Sung Joon), and her housemates Yoon Sol (played by Kim Seul-gi) and Do Joon-ho (played by Yoon Hyun-min).

Before the events of the show, Yeo-reum and Tae-ha were in a five year relationship that started perfectly and ended rather anti-climatically. To the point where Tae-ha has trouble even remembering why they broke up. But Yeo-reum remembers. She remembers how Tae-ha never asked her what was wrong, how he never had any interest in spending time with her, how he stopped being the guy she fell in love with. So much so that she stopped telling him about big events simply because he wouldn’t think to ask. They break up at a train station, the same place they fell in love, and go their separate ways.

Five years later, Yeo-reum is dating Ha-jin, a plastic surgeon and seemingly all around perfect boyfriend. Her housemates love him and they have plans to get married. But then a new job comes to Yeo-reum – interior design of a wine bar. The wine bar, as it turns out, is owned by Tae-ha and his business partner. Cue, **drama**.

The show is shot in a way that scenes are interspersed with characters giving interviews and insights to the audience, so you get what they’re thinking even when they’re not saying as much to the other characters. Ha-jin, like Yeo-reum, is keeping secrets in their relationship and the secrets spiral out of control. While Yeo-reum is hiding her past relationship with Tae-ha from Ha-jin, Ha-jin is hiding his childhood friendship with Ahn Ah-rim (played by Yoon Jin-yi), whom he sees as his little sister after growing up together in an orphanage and being separated as children. They haven’t seen each other since, but Ah-rim has kept a large scar on her arm in the hopes that Ha-jin will recognise her scar and find her, which he does. Yet he keeps their burgeoning friendship from Yeo-reum, thus leading her to believe he’s cheating. The mix ups continue with everyone (including their friends) trying to convince the couple that there’s no cheating happening on either side.

My feelings on the characters changed from episode to episode. Tae-ha was not a good boyfriend in the flashbacks, but in the present, I really liked him and how much he grew. I was totally Team Tae-ha by the end. Ha-jin was super frustrating when it came to Yeo-reum, but as an older brother to Ah-rim, I really liked him and I loved how protective he was of his little sister. There’s a good bit of commentary about quitting a relationship before it becomes toxic, too.

Overall, if you’re looking for a cute second chance romance with likeable leads, this is definitely one to check out!

Book Review: The Magnificent Sons (2020)

The Magnificent Sons by Justin Myers, narrated by Joe Jameson

‘Is my life a picnic? Am I, you know, privileged?’
The trouble with this question, in Kia’s experience, was that people having to ask it undoubtedly were and also usually preferred to remain ignorant of that fact.

FIVE STARS FOR THESE DISASTROUS CINNAMON ROLLS

If this book isn’t on your list, I must insist you add it! I really liked Myers’ first book, The Last Romeo, but this is definitely my favourite of the two. I loved Jake. He’s definitely the heart and soul of this story. It’s so nice to get a bi mc, which is something not enough novels do.

Okay, this review gets SPOILERY from here so beware. ❤ Also, it’s just a WHOLE LOTTA THOUGHTS, so apologies if it’s ramble-y.

The story follows Jake, who’s been closeted his whole life and his little brother, Trick, who has always embraced his true self. After Trick has a coming out party that leaves Jake reeling with uncertainty, he comes out to his girlfriend and breaks off their relationship because he’s not happy and he’s never been himself. When he decides to come out to his family, none of them, including Trick, have a great reaction. In fact, Jake experiences a lot of biphobia throughout the novel which was really hard to get through. My heart ached for Jake throughout the entirety of the story. His loneliness bleeds through the pages.

‘When Mum was pregnant, I hoped someone else like me in the family would come along. Prove I wasn’t a weirdo, maybe. Then there you were, a star is born. You were like me, but nothing like me. […] This isn’t about you being gay or me being bi, not for me. No, I hated that you didn’t seem to need me. Not at all. You seemed to be doing well on your own. I felt even more of an outsider.’
‘I thought you hated me because I was camp.’

This scene is basically,

The two brothers spend the novel defining themselves by their differences, rather than their similarities, and butt heads as a result. Jake is understated, reserved, stoic and uptight; Trick is flamboyant, extroverted, chatty and seemingly the life of the party. It’s something Jake’s deeply jealous of: jealous that Trick knows who he is, jealous that everyone embraced Trick easily, jealous of his energy, jealous of how he never had to face the constraints Jake faced. On the flip side, Trick doesn’t understand why Jake can’t be happier that things were easier for him and doesn’t get why his brother harbours less than open-minded views on clothing and self-expression. Jake, for example, gets easily embarrassed by Trick, which hurts Trick on a fundamental level. And that’s honestly what’s so heartbreaking about the story. Both sides are entirely sympathetic. Jake should have been able to grow up being himself, just like Trick, but being born a decade later hasn’t erased Trick’s problems and insecurities and fears.

I really appreciate that Myers addressed biphobia and how it can often be found in people who otherwise believe themselves to be open-minded, even though those scenes were hard to get through. One of the first things Jake’s parents ask him, having never had an issue with Trick’s being gay, is why can’t Jake be ‘normal’. It’s gutting. I wanted to reach into the book and hug Jake throughout that entire scene. There’s a later bit where Jake’s straight friends accuse him of ‘lying’ to a girl he’s flirting with because he must be ‘secretly gay’. And his own brother even thinks he’s lying about being bi.

As he left the kitchen, he turned back. ‘Just ask yourselves why Trick’s life is one great big gay picnic and mine is inconvenient because you’ve run out of straight sons and don’t have a spare.

THIS SCENE. IT WRECKED ME. PROTECT JAKE AT ALL COSTS. ;_;

This book is basically a coming-of-age bro tale and I wholeheartedly recommend it. (And I went for the audiobook and the narrator is class!) ^_^

Show Review: Godless (2017)

Godless really took me by surprise! I heard about it when it first came out but I wanted to wait until the hype had died down a bit before sinking my teeth into it. But the series absolutely deserves all the accolades! This one’s for anyone who likes westerns, horse-centred shows, enduring brotherhood, lots of ladies, lgbt+ rep, and fantastic music and cinematography.

The show follows Roy (played by Jack O’Connell), after he shows up at Alice’s (played by Michelle Dockery) house, shot up and bleeding. She also shoots him, and the poor thing is utterly ripped up and falls off his horse and Alice ends up taking care of him.

Alice lives with her son Truckee and her mother-in-law Iyovi just outside of the town of La Belle. It’s a town where the majority of villagers are women after a mining accident killed almost all the men in town. However, the few left are the Sheriff and Deputy, Bill and Whitey, respectively. When Roy wakes up, he turns himself in to the Sheriff, who decides to keep his identity a secret because a gang of terrifying men are after him, led by the ruthless Frank Griffin (played by Jeff Daniels), who raised Roy since he was a teenager and tried to steal Frank’s horse.

Bill agrees to keep Roy’s identity a secret until help comes, and puts him in the jail cell, calling him ‘Mr Ward’ and goes off to catch Frank, leaving his kids with Mary Agnes (played by Merritt Wever). Mary Agnes is a tough-talking lady who is dating the town teacher, and former prostitute, Callie (played by Tess Frazer), and is protective of the townsfolk.

Alice, who is reviled by everyone in the town except Bill and desperate for help with her horses, breaks Roy out of jail and brings him home, despite Whitey’s protests. Roy begins to bond with Alice and Truckee, although Iyovi hates him. Meanwhile, Whitey (played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is falling in love with Louise (played by Jessica Sula), which her father, one of the leaders of the real life historical free town of Blackdom, disapproves of immensely. Tensions start to break out when Ed Logan (played by Kim Coates) arrives to lay claim to La Belle, putting him at odds with the women, especially Mary Agnes. And all the while Frank and his gang are cutting their way through the countryside trying to find Roy and kill him, Bill hot on their heels.

Godless is a great character-driven western. It focuses on the relationships between everyone and how brutal and cruel the wild west could be. The flashbacks were gut-wrenching but really added an extra layer to everyone’s emotions: you see how Alice lost her first family, how Roy and his brother went different ways, how Frank raised Roy, etc. I loved Roy’s background with his brother and that storyline tugged at all my heartstrings. The plot is slow and understated, which really works for westerns, and the characters are given plenty to do, while having great moments to grow and shine. I can see why not everyone would be satisfied with the ending, and while there were some things I wish hadn’t happened, I actually did like the way it all wrapped up. The show illustrated the grim realities of the wild west while giving heartfelt endings that are very believable, even when they made me cry. Overall, this is definitely a series to watch!

Books From My Childhood

I just found out that Animorphs is getting a film adaptation and it made me think about all my favourite books from my teenage years. Somehow I never got around to reading Animorphs, but I’m definitely going to get on them. I’ve heard the ending is good, too! My favourites (that I can remember) are The Tao of Pooh, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Inkheart, T*Witches, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Thoroughbred Series, Holes, The Outsiders (and the rest of S. E. Hinton’s young adult books, for that matter), Vampire Academy, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Heartland … THERE WERE SO MANY. I’ve sure there’s like a really amazing series that I loved and just can’t remember. ARGH! Side note: T*Witches (which I always pronounced like T-Witches, not ‘twitches’, but I have no idea which is right) made me want to dye my hair blue. Serving that 2000s fabulousness.

Did anyone read any of these? What were your favourite books as a child/teenager?

Mini Review Roundup [17/06]

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

This was fast paced and brilliantly written, definitely worth a read. I did, however, spend 99% of this novel going:

flight is a magazine collection of poetry and prose. It’s going to take me a while to get through them all, but there are some great poems in here! I especially liked ‘Kite Flying’ by Arian Farhat. I love poems that can tell a story while weaving in lovely turns of phrase.

the golden eagle soared over
the dusty dry lands
perhaps my family looked
up once in a while and
saw it circling overhead,
a blessing, a curse, or a spell in reverse

Absolutely lovely writing! I can’t wait to check out the rest of flight. If you’re a fan of poetry, check this collection out for yourself here.

Uncanny Magazine Poetry Roundup [14/06]

I managed to read a good few poems today, yay! (/◕ヮ◕)/

Uncanny Magazine Issue 3: March/April 2015

First, the cover of this issue is *everything*!

‘Cloudbending’ by Jennifer Crow was wonderful.

If mortal hands could map the skies,
make clouds into countries
or sunsets into salvation,
what strange markets would open

I loved this part especially. The whole poem just flows so well. Read it for yourself here.

‘Deep Bitch’ by C. S. E. Cooney was also very striking and had some great lines.

She tuns her blunted head my way.
Nips me, rips me open slightly.
Her smile is all teeth.

*chills* Read it for yourself here.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 8: January/February 2016

‘tended, tangled, and veined’ by Kayla Whaley was beautifully intense and raw. It’s a story in a poem and I love the imagery Whaley uses!

she practiced her girlhood with heat–stricken hair, sheared nails, scrubbed skin.
she baptized herself with fat wrung from beans and battered into butter.
she oiled her joints with poise,
scented her flesh with propriety,
and clothed herself in performance.
she practiced girlhood,
but she never quite perfected it.

I thoroughly recommend this poem and I can’t wait to read the rest of this issue. Some seriously good writing here. Read it for yourself here.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 9: March/April 2016

OH MY GOSH ‘FOXGIRL CYCLE SONG: 1‘ IS SO GOOD.

Trap her in thorn, and she’ll slip her skin
Drown her in water, she’ll learn to swim
Burn her, she’ll turn into smoke and wind
Think you can catch her?
Well, think again

This poem is by C. S. E. Cooney and I’m SHOOK. What a fantastic poem! Read it for yourself here.

‘The Book of Forgetting’ by Jennifer Crow was also great!

You taught me heaven is not a place, but
the magic circle drawn around two souls

I loved the emotion in this one. Read it for yourself here.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 11: July/August 2016

I started this issue with ‘The Persecution of Witches’ by Ali Trotta. It gave me chills.

Tell me what ‘legitimate’ means—
how much proof do I need
to convince you
that blood is blood
and bruises are bruises?
Why is my voice a casualty
of violence you won’t examine?

It’s a commentary on modern rape culture and I recommend everyone read it. Very strong, very poignant. Available online here.

Read any poetry lately? I’d love some recommendations!

3 Mini Film Reviews

Reality Bites [2003 | indie, romance, drama] This quiet, understated indie movie is one I wish I’d watched sooner! It stars Winona Ryder, Janeane Garofalo, Ben Stiller and Ethan Hawke. I was really surprised I’d never seen it before! The film follows a group of friends after they graduate from college (or don’t, in some cases) and try to figure out their lives in the adult world. Main character Lelaina moves in with her best friend Vickie, and then their two friends Troy and Sammy also move in. Lelaina works on a television show writing notes for a misogynistic boss that she barely tolerates, Vickie gets a job in sales, and for a while they manage to make it work. On the side, Lelaina is filming her documentary on the side, capturing more quiet, intimate moments of the group and their arrival into adulthood. After Lelaina tosses her cigarette into Michael’s (Ben Stiller) car and causes him to crash, the pair begin to date, much to Troy’s displeasure.

I was surprised to learn that Ben Stiller directed this one! I had no idea! I’m surprised it took me so long, because I adore the cast and have always liked Ben Stiller’s and Winona Ryder’s movies. If you like romantic indie movies à la Before Sunrise, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or 10 Things I Hate About You, give this a go!

Lady Bird [2017| drama, indie, coming of age] This film follows a young girl getting ready for college and her struggling relationship with her mother. It’s set in Sacramento where Lady Bird, the main girl, is about to graduate from her strict Catholic high school and is dealing with the complicated road ahead of her. Her mother wants her to stay in California, she wants to go to New York. She’s at odds with her mother’s standards and views, but it’s clear that they love each other. Every time they fight, they make up. The dramatics are contrasted by the sweet moments, and I’d say it’s more of a mother-daughter movie than a romance, although there is a love interest in the form of Kyle (Timothée Chalamet).

I really loved Lady Bird (real name Christine) as a character. Saoirse Ronan is a wonderful actress and was at her absolute best in this role. I love the dynamics between Lady Bird and her mother, and Lady Bird and her father, as well as her friendship with Julie. It’s a touching independent movie and has that ‘real feel’ to it.

Accepted [2006 | comedy, new adult] is one of my favourite silly comedies. It stars Justin Long, Columbus Short, Maria Thayer, Blake Lively and Jonah Hill. The movie centres upon Bartleby Gaines after he’s rejected from every college he applies to. In a desperate attempt to get his father off his back, Bartleby fakes a college acceptance letter and website with the help of his friends who also struggled to get into school. The website accidentally accepts everyone who tries to apply, however, and dozens of kids show up on the ‘first day of school’. Once he realises how much it means to everyone there, Bartleby decides to continue with it and very soon the students are running the asylum-turned-faux-college. It’s not a particularly plausible movie, but I really do adore the lightness of it. The movie has a good message about being true to yourself and the main characters are all likeable. If you’re looking for something feel good and fun, I totally recommend this one!

What’s everyone else watching this week?

Mini Review Roundup [07/06]

I am playing let’s-read-all-the-books-at-once, apparently, and keep picking up and putting down really great books that I’m just not in the right mood for, but one that I devoured this week is The Poet X. I wholeheartedly recommend it! The story follows Xiomara Batista, a budding poet stifled by her super religious family and is told in verse.

‘This is where the poems are,’ I say, thumping a fist against my chest. ‘Will you burn me? Will you burn me, too? You would burn me, wouldn’t you, if you could?’

It’s very poetic and poignant, and if you listen to the audiobook version, the author herself reads it. 🙂 I’m definitely going to be picking up Clap When You Land and With the Fire on High.

I also watched 13th, which is Ava DuVernay’s documentary on the history of the prison system and slavery in the United States. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you watch it! Very harrowing, but very important stuff.

Currently reading;