7 movies, 3 series. (April Favorites!)

April was halfway-to-October month, as in, halfway to SHORT HORROR OCTOBER. Hence, I took it upon myself to watch more in the way of horror shorts than usual. It’s my responsibility, after all, to bring you the best in short horror when October comes around. As selective as I’m trying to be, I have 12 short films on my list so far. This number will probably (at least) double in the next six months, so you’ll likely get several horror shorts per post in October. I’m looking at the list and seeing nothing that I want to cut.

That aside, I’m here to tell you about the feature films and series that we/I watched in April, because that’s all that’s on my list this time. There were no new food items or products to try in April.

We were glad to be able to catch the three movies we’d wanted to watch in theaters in the last six months. As a wonderful coincidence, they’re all set on or in the ocean: The Lighthouse, Aquaman, and Underwater.

Then, Netflix dropped an original movie, Extraction, which readily delivered the sort of entertainment you expect and want from a high-octane action movie.

Also in April, I discovered the dark, arthouse films of Greek writer/director/producer Yorgos Lanthimos, whose work held my fascination for days after viewing it. I watched The Killing of a Sacred Deer, went on to The Lobster, and then to Dogtooth. One after the other, the films drew me into their simple yet elaborately designed little worlds, each one small in scope, grand in situation, and surreal on any scale. The minimalism of Lanthimos’ cinematic style is interesting, too, in the way that it isolates the story, with you in front of it like the proverbial fly on the wall – you can either walk away, or allow yourself to become engrossed in the material that’s ultimately thought-provoking, often macabre, and sometimes perverse. I found myself caught up in the spare complexity of Lanthimos’ excellent films with their carefully crafted, awkward characters. The only film of his I’d heard about in the mainstream was The Favorite. I’ll get to that one eventually, but the next two I plan to watch will be Alps and Kinetta.

As for series, Ozark’s third season dropped in April, along with The Terror: Infamy (season 2 of The Terror) and the Netflix mini-series Unorthodox. 

On with the list, then! The first four, I watched with Callaghan. The rest, I watched alone. (I’m going to start making that distinction.)

 

First, the “recently in theaters” from newest to oldest:

1). Underwater (Amazon Prime)

 

 

2). Aquaman (Amazon Prime)

 

 

3). The Lighthouse (Amazon Prime)

 

 

 

Next, the Netflix Original:

4). Extraction (Netflix Original Movie)

 

 

 

(That wraps up the four that I watched with Callaghan!)

Now for Yorgos Lanthimos’ excellent films:

5). The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Netflix)

 

 

6). The Lobster (Netflix)

 

 

7). Dogtooth (original title: Kynodontas) (Amazon Prime)

 

 

These last three on the list are series, which I found to be outstanding:

8). Ozark (S3) (Netflix)

 

 

9). The Terror: Infamy (S2) (Hulu)

 

 

10). Unorthodox (Netflix)

 

 

That does it for April, my friends. Happy Friday Eve!

 

 

 

I had one foot in October before the month ended, though. (September Favorites!)

I’m excited about this monthly (September) favorites list, because I’ve got some new stuff for you… “new” as in different than the usual TALC monthly favorites fare.

(Incidentally, I’m also excited to post this list because that means it’s OCTOBER, the most creeptastic month of the year.)

The list is still mostly comprised of T.V. series and movies and food, but I’m also including some short YouTube videos for your viewing pleasure.

These videos make great procrastination material. For me, it’s more than gratuitous time-suckage. It’s brain-cleansing, and it’s actually serious business: when my head’s been submerged in the worlds of my creative endeavors, it’s good to clear it out and forget that on which I’d been focused. This allows me to return to those worlds with fresh eyes. I can then see clearly what oversaturation had concealed.

My recent – and current – tool of choice for brain-cleansing is YouTube. I need simple escapism into the creative worlds of others. My favorite YouTube videos of late are short horror films and videos of this one guy fabricating sharp kitchen knives out of materials such as tin foil, underwear, and jello.

You’ll see. I’ve provided a few of the videos. You can click to watch them right here! Down the rabbit hole with you, too.

Let’s get on with it!

 

1). Searching (film)

 

 

We went to the theater to see this one. Searching is a different sort of thriller, and a different sort of film in the “found footage” genre. What the audience sees on the screen is a movie entirely shown on other screens – computer screens, phones, televisions, surveillance videos, etc. It makes for some solid and unique entertainment regardless of the film’s other merits (or lack thereof). As well, I love a good mystery/thriller.

 

2). Ozark (S2) (Netflix)

 

 

An intense, atmospheric, dark drama/thriller, this Netflix original series is a work of art about which I cannot say enough. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney are superb in their roles – Bateman more than I’d ever seen him in any role, and Linney as per usual. Julia Garner’s performance confirms what we suspected when we saw her in The Americans: she’s an artist with a formidable future. Ozark wants you to binge-watch it, and it’s hard to resist if you have the luxury of time. Breaking Bad fans, here’s your fix.

 

3). American Horror Story: Apocalypse (S8) (TV – FX)

 

 

What can I say? AHS is back, and it’s more twisted than ever… and that’s already saying a lot. Thanks to its mid-September release date, October’s coming in on a delightfully disturbing note. I love it.

 

4). Horror short films (YouTube)

YouTube rabbit hole number one: short horror movies. You’ll run into all the horror movie tropes you expect: jump scares, white dresses, cheesy demons and monsters, tripping and falling while running away, doors that close and then won’t open, gratuitous gore, characters who make maddeningly stupid decisions, etc. I find, though, that these transgressions are often more forgivable in a film that’s less than 15 minutes long. Besides, thanks to their short duration, I know pretty quickly whether I should move on. If I make it through the whole thing and end up not liking it, I only wasted a few minutes of my life compared to two hours wasted during a full-length horror flick that never got better. When these short movies are good, they deliver what you want in horror. They’re tense and tightly-wound because they get straight to the point. Many of them are silent films in that there’s little to no dialogue, which can add to their creepiness. The whole spectrum of the horror genre can be found across the hundreds of these films on YouTube… and they’re free.

Two examples:

 

 

 

 

5). Luna Bar (Blueberry Bliss).

 

Luna Bar Blueberry Bliss

 

I wasn’t sure whether I’d include this bar on my list. It’s too sweet for my taste, but I really like its thin layer of blueberry jam. Moreover, after two test runs, I determined that this bar gets me through a Body Pump workout if for any reason I can’t have a normal breakfast. I guess it’s on the list because of the blueberry jam part and the instant fuel part. If you like blueberries and instant fuel, you might like these.

 

6). Nori – specifically, Kirkland Signature Organic Roasted Seaweed Snack.

 

Kirkland Organic Roasted Seaweed Snack (aka nori)

 

First off, I should say that I have a cousin to thank for my return to eating nori straight out of the bag. Like all Japanese-Americans (with family rooted in Hawaii) I know, I grew up eating this stuff. Mom used to send me this Korean version from Costco, but it’d been a while as I’d turned my salty snack attention elsewhere. I’m back!

These have no nutritional value, but they don’t contain anything detrimental, either. They’re organic and devoid of chemicals. Eating this nori is like eating air. Crispy, salty, seaweedy air.

 

7). Silk Dairy-Free Yogurt Alternative (plain).

 

Silk Dairy-Free Yogurt Alternative (soy, plain)

 

I cycle through yogurt phases, and I’ve been in one since September. This time, it’s this soy yogurt by Silk. I prefer the plain version because it’s the least sweet, but I often top it with granola (see below), which is sweeter. It’s a great combination, though. I love the thick creaminess of this yogurt.

 

8). Bear Naked Granola (V’nilla Almond).

 

Bear Naked Granola V’nilla Almond

 

This lightly sweetened granola is fabulous on the plain Silk soy yogurt. That’s why it’s on this list.

 

9). NYX Slide On Lip Liner (Alluring).

 

NYX Slide On Lip Liner (Alluring)

 

Remember the NYX butter gloss lip (in Ginger Snap) on my July list? This lip liner goes perfectly with it. Just thought I’d share!

 

10). kiwami japan (YouTube channel)

Rabbit hole number two: THIS GUY. This enormously talented guy. This guy can make a knife out of anything. (If you know me, you know that I love knives.) His YouTube channel is called “kiwami japan,” and his videos are awesome, fascinating, and entertaining. I feel obliged to show you a couple of them.

 

Making a knife out of underwear:

 

Making a knife out of tin foil:

 

The End, and have fun.

 

 

Intensity before our eyes. (July Favorites!)

Most of this list is stuff we watched. I tried no new products in July. Two of the three food items here aren’t even new. I’ve just never mentioned them.

That being said, that which we watched in July made for some intense entertainment, some of it difficult to watch. It wasn’t all weighty and dark, though.

Let’s take a look!

 

1). To the Bone (film, Netflix)

 

 

I don’t know what life is like inside an eating disorder, but I would guess that this film captures a realistic glimpse of what it might be like… for both patients and their family members. To the Bone focuses on a young woman struggling with anorexia nervosa. We were surprised to find ourselves laughing a bit, which felt awkward at first – I would never expect to laugh while watching a film about eating disorder patients – but we’re supposed to laugh. To the Bone is a fine example of a dramedy, deftly scripted with humor to help make a serious and uncomfortable subject more understandable.

I’m not sure that I would recommend this film to everyone, as it may be triggering. Watch with caution.

 

2). Ozark (T.V. series)

 

 

What’s this?! It’s another Netflix original crime drama/thriller. Atmospheric Ozark stars Jason Bateman, whose outstanding turn as the desperate protagonist should earn him Best Actor nominations throughout the 2017 awards season next year. We were impressed when we saw the trailer, and with the cast including Laura Linney, we marked it on the calendar. Bateman was great, Linney didn’t disappoint. If you’re a fan of crime thrillers – thrillers such as Breaking Bad, let’s say – then you’ll likely enjoy this one.

 

3). Black Mirror (T.V. series) – S3 “Hated in the Nation” and “San Junipero”

 

 

Netflix’ sci-fi thriller Black Mirror is the series we watch when we’re in the mood to have our brains scrambled. I’m thinking particularly of season 3’s “Playtest,” followed by “Shut Up and Dance.” Season 2’s “White Bear” did it, too, as well as season 1’s “Fifteen Million Merits.” Never before had we encountered a series whose episodes made us say “Well that was a mindf*ck” so consistently.

This series is unique in that I couldn’t binge-watch it. That would be a bad mental health decision.

Black Mirror episodes are written as stand-alone stories, so they can be watched in any order. We haven’t seen them all, but of the episodes we have seen, the above-mentioned ones were made more disturbing by their very excellence. Two other season 3 episodes, though, stood out. They weren’t disturbing so much as they were just plain successful at being mysterious (“San Junipero”) and thrilling (“Hated in the Nation”).

I think it’s safe to say that if you like The Twilight Zone, you’ll dig Black Mirror.

 

4). The Handmaid’s Tale (T.V. series)

 

 

The Handmaid’s Tale takes Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel and brings it to chilling life in this outstanding Hulu original series. Elisabeth Moss may well have secured herself major awards nominations for her performance as Offred. There was also stunning beauty before our eyes in the town of Gilead: anywhere we hit “pause,” the image on the screen could’ve been a Vermeer painting. The use of color and music play strong roles in the telling of this story.

Sidenote: Callaghan found The Handmaid’s Tale to be so unsettling that we took a long break from it… we started it in June and finished it in July. We returned to it after we saw The Keepers (next on this list), which made The Handmaid’s Tale seem mild.

 

5). The Keepers (T.V. series)

 

 

I honestly don’t know what to say about this Netflix docuseries. I think it’s important to watch, but I would not call it “entertainment.”

Two middle-aged women – former classmates at a Catholic high school in Maryland – continue their efforts to solve the case of their teacher Sister Cathy Cesnik’s murder. A priest and the Archdiocese of Baltimore come under scrutiny, and horrors are uncovered in the process. By the end of episode two, we were disgusted and enraged into speechlessness. We watched the seven episodes over the course of a week, and when it was over, we immediately signed the petition. I do recommend this docuseries, but again, my recommendation comes with a trigger warning (this one for sexual abuse).

 

6). Gypsy (T.V. series)

 

 

Admittedly, it was only Naomi Watts’ name that drew our attention to this Netflix series; we had no idea what Gypsy was about. Turned out we’d gotten ourselves into a psychological thriller, which we kept watching because of its intrigue… from beginning to end (of the season), we never stopped asking, “What is going on, exactly?” Naomi Watts plays a shrink whose behavior, um, deviates from the norm. I’ll just leave it at that! We did enjoy Gypsy, though, and I would recommend giving it a try if you’re looking for a different sort of ride.

 

7). GLOW (T.V. series)

 

 

I’m finishing this part of the list with GLOW, an offbeat Netflix dramedy that gave us a respite from the heavy intensity of the rest. GLOW was a treat. It’s smart and satirically (sometimes crudely) funny. It combines combat sports, misfit women, and the 80’s. There are a few turning-point situations in the women’s lives, and there’s some outlandish and creative problem-solving… solemn moments and hilarity held together with Aqua Net. An original, indeed!

Now let’s get into the food….

 

8).  Pearls pitted Kalamata Greek olives.

 

Pearls pitted Kalamata Greek olives

 

I love these olives in my salads. I always have, but now I have them on hand at all times, and I eat a few of them every day. I’m sure I’ll cycle through this olive phase eventually, but it’ll be one of those recurring phases. I can tell.

 

9). Nectarines.

 

Nectarines

 

All of a sudden, in the third week of July, I realized that I hadn’t eaten a single summer stone fruit since the cherries my parents brought when they visited in May. It was like I’d had blinders on in the grocery store. How could it be that I’d been so intent on finding the red grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pears, oranges, and bananas that I’d failed to see the plethora of peaches, nectarines, plums, and apricots right before my eyes? I’m still eating those other fruits, but I’m also making up for lost time. At the moment, I’m swooning over the white nectarines. Better late than never!

 

10). Trader Joe’s extra virgin olive oil.

 

Trader Joe’s extra virgin olive oil

 

There’s actually nothing new about Trader Joe’s extra virgin olive oil in our house. It just occurred to me, as we went to pick up yet another bottle, that it’s one of our staple foods, and I’ve never mentioned it in a “favorites” list. We eat salads at least four days per week, so we go through these big bottles of Trader Joe’s olive oil pretty quickly. It’s a good, dependable favorite, and the spout that comes with it makes it friendly to use, as well.

 

This brings us to the end. Heading into August! Much to anticipate already!