The Raven Tower

Ann Leckie is probably the hottest name in science fiction and fantasy at the moment with her debut novel in 2013 achieving the unprecedented feat of winning both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards. I haven’t actually read her Ancillary trilogy though I really should. This is a newer fantasy novel which I thought might be easier to get into as a standalone work. This one did get nominated for a Hugo as well but she refused it as she had been a finalist too many times already.

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Body Heat (1981)

One of the consequences of a blockbuster driven Hollywood with its need for scale and large budgets, is that modern mainstream films now rarely have sex and nude scenes. There is now probably far more sex and nudity in television shows which seems kind of strange. This one is an erotic thriller back from when this wasn’t the case, added to my list because it is considered one of the best of its genre. Unfortunately while it has some steamy scenes, it is actually overall kind of tame in terms of sex and makes up for it by being an excellent thriller.

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The Eight Hundred (2020)

Everyone should know this as the landmark Chinese propaganda film from last year and amazingly it was also the highest grossing film worldwide of the year due to US cinemas being mostly shut down during the pandemic. This made it a much watch for me, patriotic bombast notwithstanding. Overall I found it to be an effective action film with fantastic production values. It is however highly exaggerated and from what I can tell somewhat ahistorical, though probably not out of malice.

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Cultist Simulator

Here’s yet another small game by some of the same people behind Failbetter Games and naturally since it’s a narrative-based game with cards, how could I resist? Unfortunately this is one game I did not like at all, mainly due to how tediously grindy it is. You’re supposed to have fun by exploring the gameplay mechanics by yourself and learning what cards interactions are possible but I find that as achieving victory takes quite some time and a little bit of luck even when you fully understand how everything works. As such, you’re just prolonging the pain unnecessarily by repeating the same actions over and over again if you refrain from looking things up.

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The Lady Eve (1941)

This one is apparently known as Hollywood’s most notable screwball comedies of the era though I don’t believe we’ve watched anything from this director Preston Sturges before. However I found that the plot to be so outrageous and the male lead character so stupid that it’s unbelievable. Still there is a certain charm in this kind of lowbrow humor that we haven’t seen in a long time and I suppose it must have been quite novel at the time to have the female lead character be so dominant throughout the entire film.

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First Cow (2019)

Sometimes it can be truly astonishing how such simple films with so little going on can be so effective. This is the first film we watched by director Kelly Reichardt but it seems that her reputation for such minimalism is already well established so more of her work is definitely going onto the to watch list. I dislike the ending as it feels abrupt and I would like to imagine a happy ending for our two plucky heroes. Nevertheless this is an amazing film that immerses you fully in its setting.

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The Whistlers (2019)

Odd how we’ve never watch a single Romanian film but here we have two in relatively short order. This one actually uses multiple different languages and attempts to be a kind of international thriller. Unfortunately it relies entirely on the central conceit of whistling as a language and is not otherwise a film to be taken very seriously. I do note it evinces a very cynical morality that says interesting things about Romanian society.

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The unexamined life is a life not worth living