BOOK: Ducks (2022)

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil SandsYear: 2022Author: Kate BeatonLength: 430 pages Having only really experienced Kate Beaton's web comic, Hark! A Vagrant and her sillier material, I was interested to see how a graphic novel of her life would play out on the printed page. I was shocked to find her somewhat whimsical style had so much emotion for a story that was assuredly a difficult one to tell. Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands is as gripping as it is frustrating that such working conditions remain this dangerous for women. Telling the story of how Beaton paid off her student loans from art school in the fastest way possible, Ducks highlights the misogyny and sexism present in the (frankly) male-dominated field of petroleum. Working on the oil sands isn't safe in a physical sense, but add to that the "hanging with the guys" tropes that eventually lead to assault. It was hard to read sections of this book, knowing...
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MOVIE: Maestro (2023)

MaestroYear: 2023Rating: RLength: 129 minutes / 2.15 hours There is nothing worse to me than a movie that tries too hard to be a good movie. Maestro (2023) was a film I looked forward to, but its execution left me sorely disappointed. Maybe it's my current distaste for biopics featuring famous men who cheat on their supporting wives—either with other women or, in this case, men. But this wasn't the whole problem. Like a reverse "Springtime for Hitler" from The Producers (1967), Maestro was trying so hard to be a good movie that just ended up being mediocre. I get the sense that Bradley Cooper is desperate to win an Oscar. He has directed a few films now that felt so needy for critical affirmation that they fail to miss the key tenet of actually being good. The question is whether he more desires the Best Director statue or the Best Actor one, and I think it's the latter. Ironically enough, if...
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MOVIE: American Fiction (2023)

American FictionYear: 2023Rating: RLength: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours As an author and a creative, American Fiction (2023) spoke to me in ways that I have yet been able to put into words. Similar to how La La Land (2016) highlighted the sacrifices and compromises we must make to achieve our artistic dreams, American Fiction revealed the difference between high art and lowbrow entertainment. I feel the struggles and concerns of Thelonious "Monk" Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) are ultimately the same for any creative person who doesn't want to lower their standard just to be successful. While the plot about Monk being frustrated that the manuscript he wrote as a joke ended up being wildly successful is the focus of this movie, I can understand the need for other character development outside this main thread. It doesn't paint Monk as a likable character, which humanizes him and brings him down from the ivory tower of academic literature. Showing these interactions with those he...
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VIDEO GAME: Paper Mario: The Origami King (2020)

Paper Mario: The Origami KingYear: 2020Rating: ETime Played: 1,590 minutes / 26.50 hours About ten years ago, I think Nintendo perfected a "craft" vibe with games like Kirby's Epic Yarn that they've been milking for a decade now. These games look hand-crafted in a way that's extremely charming and visually stunning for how homemade they appear. The Yoshi series has used this craft aesthetic multiple times, but the franchise ripe for such things is none other than Paper Mario. In The Origami King, the paper-craft feel of origami is merely accentuated by the plot and game-play. As a pseudo role-playing game, The Origami King has a peculiar way of executing its battle mechanics. Each battle is a ring puzzle that requires the player to line up enemies or find a path to the center to attack the boss. The boots and hammers Mario uses are breakable, but easy enough to acquire and equip that it wasn't frustrating to lose them in mid-battle....
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BOOK: After Earth (2013)

After EarthYear: 2013Author: Peter DavidLength: 547 minutes / 9.12 hours It's weird how a bit of hindsight brings a work into full focus. I never watched the movie After Earth (2013) because of its critical reception among audiences and critics alike. I figured maybe I would give the novel a try, not realizing it was not some work that the movie adapted, but instead a novelization of the movie itself. This was clearly a Will Smith passion project and never have I seen such blatant self-inserts in a work of fiction. While the author of this novelization may be Peter David, Will Smith was behind much of this plot. Seeing the home life of the adult character in this book mirroring the home life that we know between Will and Jada is cringe-worthy. What's worse is that these characters (either the Will or the Jaden stand-ins) were so flat and boring as to be completely worthless. The plot that drives their adventure...
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MOVIE: Wonka (2023)

WonkaYear: 2023Rating: PGLength: 116 minutes / 1.93 hours Wonka (2023) was one of those movies that I had low expectations for. A prequel to a well-known IP, there's only so much that can be done that's not just straight call-outs to the source material—and this includes knowing how things will end to set up films like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). Still, with these low expectations, I had quite a bit of fun watching Wonka. It's not extraordinary, but it delivers on most of its nostalgia factors in ways that are modern and entertaining. With the real world crumbling all around us, it was encouraging to see a movie like Wonka that embraced the grit needed to survive and thrive. The hope gained through forming a community and the endless optimism of Wonka (Timothee Chalamet) were contagious and uplifting. The creativity of the different candies and the funny running gags (like the bribed Chief of Police (Keegan-Michael Key)) helped with...
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VIDEO GAME: Q.U.B.E. – 10th Anniversary Edition (2022)

Q.U.B.E.: 10th Anniversary EditionYear: 2022Rating: ETime Played: 565 minutes / 9.42 hours It's wild to me that I decided to play Q.U.B.E., especially after I wasn't particularly satisfied with the sequel, Q.U.B.E. 2. Something in me had a hankering to play a first-person physics-based puzzle game, and I figured I had this game for free in my library, so why not? Even as a 10th Anniversary Edition—which mostly just extended the playtime with a few extra features—I felt other games in the genre were better than this. If anything, it made me appreciate the sequel a little more. The main game-play mechanic in this game is a glove that can create a variety of different cubes that can help the player move through a series of rooms on a mysterious space station. There are a lot of different cubes that you have to learn how to use as the game progresses. It felt like there were almost a dozen by the end...
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MOVIE: Ferrari (2023)

FerrariYear: 2023Rating: RLength: 130 minutes / 2.17 hours Almost ten years after his previous film released, Michael Mann is back with a biopic about the private and public struggles of one of the greatest carmakers. The irony of Ferrari (2023) is that the women surrounding him seem much more interesting than the man himself. Even the fittingly named Adam Driver doesn’t seem to transform into Enzo Ferrari as much as just be Adam Driver with some extra makeup on and an Italian accent. To say that I was disappointed that there wasn’t more racing in a movie about Ferrari would be an understatement. Ferrari is yet another biopic that tries to show the struggles of a famous man whose extramarital affairs complicate things that otherwise wouldn’t be nearly as complicated. Perhaps this is why Penelope Cruz’s performance as Laura Ferrari was the standout role in this film, as she was the only one holding his empire together despite him having birthed an...
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