Every New Year’s Eve, I do an arts review—good stuff that came out (or that I happened to discover) this year in film, music, books, TV, et cetera. 2019 has been kinda hit and miss, but I do have a few things I am quite excited about.
First of all, Eve Tushnet has released her second novel! Punishment: A Love Story is set in DC in 2016, and explores the personal and spiritual lives of several members of a kinksters’ brunch group. Centering on Desiree Schulman, a recently-paroled woman living in a halfway house and trying to learn humility as she returns to society, the book soon begins to suggest something dark nesting in the placid rowhouses: a “self-help group” run by a charismatic ideologue, and a rudderless young woman in his grip. I had the pleasure of reading a couple of drafts of this novel, and the spiritual complexity of the characters captivated me. If you crossed Hedwig and the Angry Inch with The Power and the Glory, you’d get something a little like Punishment: A Love Story.
Films and TV were patchier this year than last. IT: Chapter Two was particularly disappointing, in light of how good its predecessor was. However, Velvet Buzzsaw was a campy, creepy delight (I’m a sucker for virtually anything Toni Collette does, and Jake Gyllenhaal is arguably at his best here), and, although it actually ended this year, the series Friends From College afforded a wonderfully funny, painful, authentic depiction of, well, people who can’t grow up (as well as showcasing the fact that the rest of Fred Savage has aged normally since he appeared in The Princess Bride in 1987, but his face has only aged about 45 minutes). I was also impressed with Special, another Netflix-based series, which explores the life of a character who is both gay and disabled (he has cerebral palsy); like Friends From College, it manages a blend of sometimes anguished or awkward experiences with a genuinely funny, human tone that was rare in television until quite recently. In addition, I just finished Postcards from London, a sort of surrealist portrait a group of art-obsessed male escorts in London, whose central character has Stendhal Syndrome; I can’t honestly tell whether I liked it, which often turns out to mean that I like it a lot. (I confess with shame that I didn’t make time to see either Midsommar or Knives Out, so keep your eyes peeled for an eight-months-late review of either or both of those when they hit Netflix streaming.)
LeftTube (i.e., leftist pundits with YouTube channels) have remained solid this year. As so often, I am literally years late to the party in having finally follow Oliver Thorn, a.k.a. Philosophy Tube, but I’m so glad I did—his videos on queerness and on Jordan Peterson had me in stitches. ContraPoints, despite some often pretty nasty criticisms of her work and person that have at times overstepped not only good manners but basic human decency, is, I understand, planning to release her next video soon; likewise, Lindsay Ellis, “the only good YouTuber,” continues to provision us with delightful analyses of contemporary films and the industry that makes them. Additionally, on the slightly more technical side, I came across the channel Folding Ideas this year; my own decision to see and review the CATS was inspired partly by his shell-shocked reaction video.
And finally, a very happy New Year to all my readers! WordPress (unlike Blogspot) does not give data on where my readers come from around the world, or if it does, I don’t know how to access it; but I didn’t want to give up my tradition of using the languages from the ten countries I got the most hits from for my salutation, so I kinda have to guess. Based on past trends I’m going with English, Ukrainian, French, Russian, German, Polish, Portuguese, Hindi, Indonesian, and Spanish, all inelegantly and probably incorrectly transcribed as necessary.
Happy New Year
Shchashlyvoho Novoho Roku
S’ Novim Godom
Frohes Neues Jahr
Szczesliwego Nowego Roku
Feliz Ano Novo
Navavarsh Kē Shubhakāmana
Selamat Tahun Baru
Feliz Año Nuevo
See you all in 2020.