Hi all. This is a combined April/May newsletter because the past two months have been very heavy, news-wise, and I've had a lot going on (good stuff). I've also realized I bit off more than I could chew by promising a monthly newsletter, so I will send these out every other month from now on.
I usually write about books, but today I'll share my favorite shows and movies from the last year of pandemic watching. Be sure to enter my giveaway below of a bunch of books.
1. Ted Lasso. Our whole family loved this show. It's hilarious and full of heart, a fish-out-of-water story about an eternal optimist of a football coach hired to lead a soccer team in England with no experience. The set-up sounds cheesy, but the execution is fresh and funny with interesting and quirky characters. The show is laugh-out-loud funny and full of goodness, the perfect antidote to last year. (Apple+ - if you've bought an Apple product recently, you get a year free of Apple+) (for teens and up, some explicit jokes/conversations)
2. Queen's Gambit - I enjoyed this so much I watched it twice, which is rare for me. The story of Beth Harmon, an orphan girl and chess genius who battles addiction and achieves the highest levels of success in the chess world with the help of friends she makes along the way, is thoroughly gripping. It's always fun to root for a woman who succeeds in a man's world, and Queen's Gambit does this in a smart and stylish way, and, refreshingly, never puts Harmon in sexual danger. The historical costumes were amazing (to the point where my husband commented on the fashion) and a fun Easter egg was seeing two child actors from the 90s all grown up (Thomas Brodie-Sangster, the boy from Love, Actually, and Harry Melling, who played Dursley in Harry Potter). (Netflix)
3. The Boys - A wildly entertaining story of corrupt superheroes who cash in on their fame and the rag-tag vigilante team of "The Boys" (and girls) who try to take them down. My college roommate Sarah Boyd directed one of the episodes (with an unforgettable scene in a lunatic asylum) and is slated to direct the two-part finale of Season 3. The show can be shocking in its violence, but is thought-provoking and so much fun. (Amazon Prime)
4. Casa de Papel (Money Heist) - A Spanish-language series about the perfect heist and the motley crew of robbers, misfits, hackers, and toughs who pull it off. The show follows the criminals, hostages, and detectives in a high-stakes cat-and-mouse game and is full of flawed characters I loved to hate, and ones I simply loved. The plot twists are tricky and genius, and it was fun watching the show in Spanish (English dubbed version available too). (Netflix)
5. Umbrella Academy -Another show with an ensemble-cast of misfits (apparently my favorite kind), this time a family of super-powered people who deal with their dysfunctional upbringing while averting world-ending catastrophe. One of the siblings, played by Elliot Page, discovers a secret about themself that shatters the family. Add some time-traveling to the 60s and mind-bending plot twists, and you've got a winner. (Netflix)
6. Schitt's Creek - I finished the last season of Schitt's Creek early in the pandemic, and it was the exact right time to binge watch this hilarious and heartwarming story of a wealthy and self-absorbed family who end up living in a motel in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Not only did Schitt's Creek have comedic greats like Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara and the most heartwarming love story ever, it delivered amazing character arcs and a lifetime supply of memes for every occasion. (Amazon Prime)
7. Wandavision & The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. These two Marvel shows are so different in tone and theme, but I love them both for expanding the Marvel universe in TV-series format. Instead of a 2.5 hour movie, we get many more hours to fall in love with these characters. I loved the innovative storytelling device in Wandavision (following sitcom formulas from the 1950s on) and its in-depth exploration of grief. In TFATWS, I was sucked into the classic action-adventure and camaraderie of a well-done Marvel movie, the exploration of racism, and the incredible chemistry between the two leads. (Disney+)
8. Devs - Another college roommate recommended this thought-provoking and moody sci-fi show exploring heady existential ideas about memory, experience, nostalgia, and what people will do to hold onto those they love. I came for the plot and ideas and stayed for the vibes. (Hulu)
9. The Expanse - This is my favorite sci-fi series (maybe even better than *gasp* Battlestar Galactica). It is epic space opera with intricate interstellar politics (between Earthers, Martians, and Belters, the three factions humans have split into), drama on large and intimate scales, and the classic question of how people react to first contact with an alien species. (Amazon Prime)
I watched a number of thoughtful and powerful movies last year, like Parasite, Judas and the Black Messiah, BlackkKlansman, and Jojo Rabbit, and solid movies I'd missed like The King's Speech and The Imitation Game, but here are a couple that were plain escapist fun (and a bonus documentary):
1. Space Sweepers - This action-packed Korean sci-fi is a wild ride. I loved this story about space scavengers inadvertently forced to save Earth despite their mercenary instincts. Plus it has found family, an adorable kid, epic space battles, multilingual conversations, environmental themes, and tons of heart. (Netflix)
2. Edge of Tomorrow - I'm not a huge Tom Cruise fan, but this is an underrated gem of a movie, with an action-packed Groundhog-day-style story about a major sent into battle against an alien invasion who gets stuck in a time loop where he has to relive the day he dies over and over again, trying to figure out a way to defeat the undefeatable aliens.
3. My Octopus Teacher - This is one of my favorite documentaries, about a man who spent a year free diving every day in the kelp forest off the coast of his home in South Africa and getting to know an individual octopus. The world he discovers and their relationship is moving, beautiful, and utterly touching. (Netflix)
A Multi-Book Giveaway
I'm giving away the above-batch of fun picture books and middle grade books to one lucky winner: BULLY by Jennifer Sattler; JULES VS. THE OCEAN by Jessie Sima; SAUCY by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Marianna Raskin; A PROBLEMATIC PARADOX by Elliot Sappingfield; and THE WUNDERLING, by Mira Bartók.
To enter to win:
1. You must be a subscriber of my newsletter (use the button above or below to subscribe), and
2. Reply to this email with a favorite TV show or movie you watched this past year.
If you arrived at this post from an exterior link, reply to the welcome email after you subscribe.
I'll pick a winner (U.S. addresses only) after May 15, 2021.