A Spy in the House of Love (Anais Nin)

A Spy in the House of Love is the fourth novel in the Cities of the Interior collection.  As in previous novels in the series, this one reintroduces several characters who have appeared in previous entries.  In addition to main character Sabina, Jay and Djuna also appear in the latter part of the story.  The story focuses on Sabina, her relationships and her need to understand her desires.

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The Rental

Horror movies, in particular slasher movies, are known for their efficiency.  Introduce the soon-to-be-victims with some threadbare character traits, each having some a combination of obliviousness, stupidity, narcissism and hornyness, provide a remote setting where the victims can be seen with their negative character traits on display, then introduce a weapon-wielding maniac to mete out justice on the victims for being generally bad people.  These movies put us in the position of rooting for the killer, because only he (sometimes she) can save us from spending one more minute with the victims, who are too annoying and oversexed for their own good.

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Last Christmas (2019)

Even though my reviews typically discuss practically everything about whatever I’m reviewing at the time, I try to avoid spoiler territory by not posting a review immediately after something comes out. If you follow movies, you probably already know the big [insert your adjective here] twist in the third act of Last Christmas.  If you don’t know about it, and don’t want me to spoil the surprise, stop reading now.

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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix)

A-one, a-two, a-you know what to do!

I admit that I know next to nothing about the blues.  I’ve listened to the blues performed live several times, in Chicago and New Orleans, but as a musical genre, I’m completely ignorant of its history and context.  Country music would be a close second.  (My mother decided country music was her thing in the seventies and eighties, so I have an unconscious awareness of its tropes and stylings.)

With this in mind, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is a movie I can really appreciate for giving me some much needed schooling on the blues.  Not that the movie is a history lesson or documentary.  Ma Rainey is based on an August Wilson play of the same name.  Like the play, the movie is a work of fiction where the lead character is based on an actual person.  Born Gertrude Pridgett in 1886, she started out as a performer in black minstrel shows, then vaudeville.  In 1914, when she was roughly 28, she began performing as a blues singer, touring the south extensively.

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Control (2007)

As a longtime fan of New Order, I never really was into Joy Division.  Like most fans of post-punk and new wave, I was familiar with “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, with its melancholy, romantic fatalism.  I’ve always liked that song, but I never really appreciated Joy Division’s other material.  Prior to seeing Control, the only other Joy Division song I knew was “Transmission”.  (Both songs are always in heavy rotation on SiriusXM’s First Wave channel.)  Most of my resistance was due to the underproduced sound of Joy Division’s songs.  Compared to the music produced by New Order from 1985 onward, Joy Division’s songs for the most part sounded as if they were recorded in Dracula’s basement.

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The Mandalorian (Season 2, Disney+)

This post is full of spoilers.  If you have not watched all of season 2 yet, you have been warned!

The arc of Season 2 of The Mandalorian shows the title character slowly changing his ways, acting less like an independent bounty hunter and more like a collaborator and friend.  From here on out, whenever I’m referring to the title character in The Mandalorian and not the show itself, I’ll refer to him as “Mando”.  This seems appropriate since most everyone who talks and writes about this show on the internet refers to him as “Mando”.  Heck, even a character within the show (Greef Karga) calls him by that nickname.  Mando actually has a name, Din Djarin, but calling him “Din” all the time would sound weird.  (Not as weird as calling someone “Greef”, but  weird enough.)  Rest assured, I’m going along with calling Din “Mando” out of expediency.  I still think it sounds too much like Lando, as in Calrissian.  Calling him “Man” would have been ridiculous.  But I digress.

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The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)

What exactly is “The Queen’s Gambit”?  According to Wikipedia, it is a chess opening by the white player.  This opening is mentioned once or twice in the series, and pieces are moved on the board accordingly. Since I’ve never played chess, I couldn’t explain to you what the strategy actually involves if my life depended on it, however.  Nevertheless, I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed everything about The Queen’s Gambit: the acting, the direction, the characters, the story, the fashion and music, all of it.  This has been one of the best, if not the best series I’ve watched all year.  I highly recommend it, regardless of your understanding of chess.

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