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My 2019 Reading Stacks #1

Anne's books!

So far this year’s list includes a few library books and two loaners from my wife, pictured above. Borrowed reading is still reading!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: at the beginning of each year I spend weeks writing year-in-review entries that cover the gamut of my entertainment intake, including capsule reviews for all the books and graphic novels I’ve read. Every book gets a full capsule summary apiece, because my now-canceled 29-year subscription to Entertainment Weekly got me addicted to the capsule format. I refrain from devoting entries to full-length book reviews because 999 times out of 1000 I’m finishing a given work decades after the rest of the world is already done and moved on from it. 2000-word essays on old works tend to be in severely low demand by the fly-by-night search-engine users who are MCC’s largest visitor demographic.

Back in the day (December 2013 to January 2019) I would write my book/graphic-novel capsule reviews as I went, store them offsite, then dump them here on MCC all at once during entertainment year-in-review season. It was an inefficient system, but it was mine. This year I’m changing up my protocols. Effective here and now, the reading capsules are a recurring feature. As time permits and the finished books pile up, I’ll be charting my full list of books, graphic novels, and trade collections in a staggered, exclusive manner here, for all that’s worth to the outside world. Seven months into 2019 I have some catch-up to do, so these initially won’t be listed in actual reading order.

Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text. Novels and non-pictographic nonfiction will pop up here and there, albeit in a minority capacity for a few different reasons. Triple bonus points to any longtime MCC readers who can tell which items I bought at which comic/entertainment conventions we’ve attended over the past few years.

And now:…it’s readin’ time.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Spider-Man: Far from Home” End Credits

Spider-Man Far from Home!

And now my paychecks are thiiiis big!

The inspired, rambunctious Spider-Man: Far from Home marks Tom Holland’s fifth film as everyone’s favorite put-upon wall-crawler, meaning he’s now done as many Spider-films as Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield combined. While every Spidey has had his high points in my estimation, Far from Home may be the best translation to date of the Spidey-era from my own childhood, roughly 1978-1989 plus Marvel Tales reprints of the first sixty issues of Amazing Spider-Man (the entire Steve Ditko oeuvre plus John Romita’s first two years). It’s a winning coda to the emotional pinnacles and pitfalls of Avengers: Endgame, an encouraging sign of heroism to come and a herald of hopefulness for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Fair warning: this entire film follows the events of Endgame and reverberates from its ramifications. If you’re waiting for Endgame to hit DVD and living in the off-grid wilderness has sheltered you from learning of its major MCU-changing moments, you may want to flee now if you want to maintain your cone of silence. (True story: I know at least one person in this very situation. It is possible. I realize it’s hard to imagine, but not everyone in America is as entrenched in online living as you and I may be.)

On another level, anyone with zero foreknowledge of the antagonist Mysterio and his motifs from old Spidey-comics will want to skip the regular “Meaning or EXPLOSIONS?” section because, frankly, it was kind of boring to ruminate on that aspect spoiler-free. I’m not revealing all his secrets or recapping his scenes shot-for-shot, but…well, there’s stuff that spoke to me.

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Your Handy “Lion King” 2019 Review Bingo Card

Lion King Review Bingo!

For my next trick, I shall create a “Many Moods of CG Simba” T-shirt with 25 adjectives and 25 copies of that same photo.

Disney’s crass rehashes of its extensive back catalog haven’t really been aimed at me, by and large. The Jungle Book had beautiful jungles, but some of those musical numbers…yikes. Our family unanimously hated Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. I have yet to see Dumbo, Cinderella, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, or live-action brand extensions such as Maleficent, Alice Through the Looking-Glass, or Mirror, Mirror. (Snow White and the Huntsman found ways to surprise me, but that wasn’t Disney.)

I therefore have no plans to see Jon Favreau’s nearly Warholesque repurposing of Rob Minkoff and Roger Allers’ animated classic The Lion King…and yet I’ve spent half my Thursday reading the first wave of opinions out of skeptical curiosity. After the first five reviews I read from critics and websites I follow on Twitter, I saw patterns emerging. And thus the above artifact was born. Now I can make a game out of reading still more reviews.

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Random Spoiler-y Thoughts on “Stranger Things” Season 3

Stranger Things!

Scoops Troop: they sling ice cream, do maths, and fight Commies. As you do.

Judging by my Twitter feed over the past week, America’s biggest July 4th sensation this year was Netflix’s release of Stranger Things‘s third season for a massive fan base eagerly waiting to follow the further adventures of the pluckiest teens ever to come out of the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana. As you can imagine, there was no shortage of pre-release coverage, articles, and advertisement here in the good Hoosier state. I’m getting better at finishing new seasons of streaming series as they’re dropped and had this one wrapped up Saturday afternoon. My thoughts didn’t quite streamline themselves into a narrative, but I did have a few.

Most of them are SPOILERS AHEAD, so there’s that. Some of this also won’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t watched it, especially if they’ve never seen an episode. This is virtually stream-of-consciousness, not a pro recap. It’s faster and more fun for me to get it out of my system this way.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 12: An Omnibus of Outtakes

Liz #3!

Andy Warhol, Liz #3 (Early Colored Liz), 1963. Part of a series of thirteen.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours roaming and observing and contemplating and feeling. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

I didn’t mean for this series to run so many chapters, but that’s a tribute to how overwhelming their collection of collections is. Until and unless we can schedule an encore visit, for now we conclude with yet another selection of works from the galleries we’ve already covered, some of whose chapters could’ve been twice as long if I hadn’t arbitrarily saved some of the best (and the rest) for last.

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Our Art Institute of Chicago Tour, Gallery 11: Caveat Sculptor

Pelican!

Emmanuel Fremiet, Pelican, 1896.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: as part of my 47th birthday celebration, my wife Anne and I drove from Indianapolis up to the Art Institute of Chicago and spent four hours with our eyes wide, minds open, heads tilted, and cameras and phones at the ready. We barely saw half the museum and will have to return someday for more.

All around the galleries are sculptures filling the wide gaps of floor between the walls. Some were easy to overlook as we found ourselves transfixed on the two-dimensional classics hanging from the perimeters, but we braked here and there for a few three-dimensional delights — some from famous names; some from anonymous, untraceable antiquity. And yes, there were nudes.

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