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re:commendations

We are not often as engrossed in a movie as we were in

The Trial of the Chicago 7

What is it? An Aaron Sorkin movie about the aftermath of the Chicago riot of 1968.

Why we love it? This is a court drama, a period piece and also a political story with current overtones. It’s brilliantly written and impressively acted, particularly by Sacha Baron Cohen. It keeps you involved in the story, makes you angry, moves you and occasionally even makes you laugh.

Visually speaking, the period piece is done right, including the costumes, the interiors and, notably, the group scenes, which have both a personal feel and almost a sense of a documentary.

We are late to the party: you’ve all probably already seen the spectacular miniseries, but we only watched it, delightedly, last month, and so we want to share our impressions and maybe convince a few other latecomers. So, do watch

A Queen’s Gambit

What is it? A period miniseries telling the story of Beth, an orphaned girl who develops a masterful skill at chess. From a Christian orphanage, through Kentucky suburbs, she rises to compete in the grandest international tournaments.

Why we love it? This is a beautifully done show, with a lot of attention to detail and a thrilling psychological portrait of an exceptional person. Some people claimed that it is interesting despite all the chess and thanks to the motifs of addiction and dysfunction, but we actually liked the chess (even though we’re very much not players or fans of the game).

Visually speaking, everything looks wonderful. The recreation of 1950s and 1960s is fantastic, with gorgeous outfits and interiors. Additionally, every new locale has its distinct visual character reflecting the changes in Beth’s life and commenting on them.

A slightly late recommendation, but we spent literally the last days of December delighting in this show.

Bridgerton (season 1)

What is it? A Shondaland foray into (alternative) Regency England, of all places, the show tells a story of a London season and the debutantes’ hunt for husbands.

Why we love it? Once you give up the expectations for historical accuracy, this show is pure delight. Its rompy, sudsy drama kept us glued to the screen. The show refuses to apologize for everything it is not and embraces its chosen convention – which is basically sexy costume melodrama – with aplomb. Most of its vast array of characters are likeable and fairy well-cast, with some choices nearing perfection (particularly Polly Walker as Lady Portia).

Visually speaking, the show is as lovely as anything, with vivid bright colors and lovingly created super clean London streets. Is it realistic? We bet not. But it looks charming as hell.

November’s been on the busy side and the only thing we managed to watch together was Perry Mason and this is what we want to share with you.

Perry Mason (season 1)

What is it? An HBO show that reimagines the old-school lawyer Perry Mason as a bit of a bum, a private investigator and, yes, a lawyer but mostly by accident. It takes place in 1930s LA where a truly gruesome crime is committed and Perry takes it upon himself to discover the truth.

Why we love it? It’s a meticulously done show, nicely shot and oppressively dark. It’s as noir as you can take it, guys. But what we love particularly is Matthew Rhys as Perry and Tatiana Maslany in a guest role as a lady preacher. These are two actors that we loved, loooooved in The Americans and Orphan Black respectively and they don’t disappoint.

Visually speaking, we were truly impressed by the attention to detail, including design details of old ads, signs etc. This show simply looks damn good. While the story gets you down occasionally, it’s always pleasant to look at.

Sorry for the short hiatus, guys. We’ve been discovering recently how truly horrific we can be at this whole time management thing. Seriously, they should revoke our adulthood licence. At any rate, we might not have accomplished much last month but we did re-read Pride and Prejudice. And that is precisely what we want to recommend to you today.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

What is it? As we’re fully aware that you know, it’s Jane Austen’s romantic slash social masterpiece, a proto-rom-com and a wonderfully written novel. The reason we chose it as this month’s recommendation, in lieu of something lesser known, is that reading this book again gave us so much pleasure that modern literature doesn’t always deliver.

Why we love it? As complete saps, we mostly love it for the Lizzie–Darcy romance, which is a fully justified classic. The book sparkles with humor and, sometimes quite nasty, satire, and transports you into a different, and quite enchanting world. We also love all the multiple re-tellings and reinterpretations of the story but the original is definitely the place to start and, especially in light of those later version, proves how well it ages.

This is an Eating a Humble Pie kind of recommendation because when we first watched Shame in a theater, we really failed to connect to it. And then for the longest time we quoted this movie as a prime example of something boring and empty. However, on a whim, we rewatched it recently and wow, did our perception change. We’re properly shamed (sorrynotsorry).

Shame

What is it? A 2011 movie directed by Steve McQueen, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, tells the story of Brandon, an outwardly successful man fighing his inner demons that manifest in sex addictions. When his sister arrives for a stay the facade of Brandon’s world begins to crumble. But it isn’t really about the plot so much.

Why we love it? Not so much for story reasons as for the artistic choices and, especially, the two stars’ performances. Fassbender, especially, is breathtaking in his humanizing and honest portrayal of Brandon. Alien as his life seems to us, his suffering appears universal.

Visually speaking, this movie uses light, camera angles and interior design in a smart way. The New York of Shame both looks good and repels the viewer with its coldness and emptiness, reflecting Brandon’s inner world (or one layer of it). And (we have to add it), Fassbender is quite uncommonly attractive, too.

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In an exciting first, this month we want to recommend a book. You might have heard of it already because it’s definitely not a new book, but we’d still like to add our personal praise to whatever you already know.

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

What is it? A 1992 Pulitzer winner, it retells the story of King Lear, placing his quarreling family in rural Iowa. Basically, it’s Shakespeare among Iowan farmers, with all the passions, feuds and dark psychological insights. It also has a powerful ecological undertone, which is hard to ignore.

Why we love it? Smiley takes the spotlight away from the traditional protagonists of King Lear and instead focuses on the original villains who lose their villainy in the process (there is a villain, just not who Shakespeare envisioned). The narrator is the oldest daughter and her relationship with her younger sister (they’re named appropriately Ginny and Rose) creates the core of the story. The characters are drawn with insight and compassion and the reinterpretation of the classic feels very timely. A great read for any fan of a retelling (which we certainly are).

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Boy, do we have a treat for you today. (That is assuming you don’t know this one already; it’s by no means a new thing.) If all the staying at home left you with extra time, why not take up a marvelous graphic novel:

Locke & Key

What is it? A marvelous graphic novel! The comic was written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez and it consists of six volumes that tell a full, complete story and a few extras. It’s a story of the Locke family, their loss, their growth and, of course, their magical mansion.

Why we love it? Never since Sandman had we been so engrossed in the comic world: its atmosphere, mythology and brilliance. It made us feel all the feelings and truly fall in love with the characters. The story is wonderfully constructed, with no unnecessary additions. It rewards readers for paying attention but even those we don’t are sure to enjoy themselves.

Visually speaking, the art of Rodriguez, to be quite honest, took us a moment to get used to, especially when paired with the relative brutality of the first volume. But after a few issues we didn’t even remember what our problem with it was. He creates the world with such assurance and maestry. And his architectural background makes the Locke house a character in the story, and a very intriguing one.

(There’s also a Netflix adaptation of the comic but we haven’t seen it so far so we can’t say whether it’s as good.)