Do you remember? The films that we watched this September?


What a strange month. I can't believe the first things on this list happened the same month as when I am typing these words. And the last movie I saw was the 14th. Which means not a single movie for half this month.

How awful.

I must needs repent.

[insert sad face here]

Anyway, some good times were had; they were just long, long ago.

(I suspect this is an error. I'm pretty sure I watched at least Slapstick and Genius after You Can't Take It With You, but would my record lie??)

Century 16 Hilltop
Blue Beetle (2023)

This movie could have been a lot better. But part of it is just bad timing. If they'd made the movie when I'd first suggested it, the parts that seemed like knockoffs of the MCU's versions of Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Thor, would have seemed much less so. Also, they could've just tried harder not to feel ripoffy. The technobabble was stupid even for a superhero movie. And while not as egregious as The Flash, what was with the cgi? Why not just make the water in a cup have real waves? Why not let your actor actually jump off something? Why not let a real candle set real carpet on fire? Why all the crappy cgi?

(Note: I don't blame the cg artists. Although I do think they should be cutting deals with the writers and actors and getting on the picket lines with them.)

That said, the movie was pretty fun and Jaime's family was far and away the best part of the movie. Special shoutout to Damián Alcázar who was mainly given the opportunity to smile and say generic pro-family optimistic things yet gave the role real life and power.

When the movie was over, my kids agreed that the movie they want next is about Nana's backstory. It's a pretty good suggestion.

library dvd
The Fugitive (1993)

It holds up.

And not just for us then-teenagers, but for now-teenagers as well.

The both liked it. A lot. And they especially liked the cerebral element, that it was a mystery. More of those please, the now-teenagers said.

Any recommendations?

library dvd
Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb (2022)

I've been wanting to watch this for quite a while and I loved it as much as I expected.

Earlier this week I got to work with Elizabeth Garcia, poem editor at Dialogue, and even though our back and forth didn't last that long, oh what a joy to work with an editor! That's what I need as a writer to continue to grow but American editing feels like it's at a nadir. Certainly it's not accessible to more people. Although I can speak of a few exceptions, most of my editing experience is as the editor, not the writer. I try to provide value but karma's hard to come by.


Anyway. Almost thou persuadest me to read 5000 pages about Lyndon Johnson.

scratched library dvd
then Kanopy
Blancanieves (2012)

This is a silent film set in the 1920s about Snow White. It was made in Spain a decade ago. And it is excellent. There were, I'll grant you, a couple moments that didn't reach their full potential and a couple tricks that were overused, but as a whole it was an excellent revisiting of silent film and solid entertainment on its own.

Man, Snow White has it rough.

I appreciate how the film IS a fairy tale and IS the modern world with modern rules and how it uses that tension to both engage us and keep us far enough away we cannot know what happens next. Just really well done.

And the actors were great too. They stepped into silence without becoming awful hams which must be a temptation. I suspect everyone who worked on this movie was fully immersed in the greats of the era.

my parents' dvd
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Don't know if I've ever seen this through before. I saw the ending as a kid at my aunt's house, so maybe? It's famous enough there are definitely scenes I knew well (though I never realized that Kermit was parodying this bicycle scene) but I really had no idea what the plot was about.

The first cut they tested on audience was deemed too funny. Apparently the audience could not stop laughing. It has funny bits but it's hard to imagine just what that earlier but was like. I sure wish it still existed.

The shape of the film is weird. It really makes 1969 feel like a long, long time ago. (According to the making-of, Butch's sister was still alive when they made the film. The wild west still isn't ancient history now, fifty years later.)

Anyway, I liked the film well enough. I wasn't blown away. I get why people like it but I'm not sure it's retain top-100-style classic status into another generation.* But that's a question for another fifty years.

* In other words I seem to agree with contemporaneous reviews.

my parents' dvd
The Making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1970)

This was an interesting artifact. None of the talking heas are talking heads; they're all disembodies voices. And I'm not sure where this played. It was completed before the film was released but gives away way too much stuff to have come out then. George Roy Hill donated it to Yale and Yale owns the copyright. But it won a Primetime Emmy. But Hill drops at least four f-bombs, so how? Where did it play?

But there's more strange than that. Hill talks about how they made the mule fall using techniques illegal in the U.S. because it could break the animal's neck. He mentions that they didn't protect one Mexican extra well enough and he broke his pelvis. Stuff like that.

Great look at moviemaking of the era, though. I felt educated after watching!

Slapstick of Another Kind (1982)


I didn't care for the book and Siskel and Ebert warned me about the movie, but it's still astonishing just how terrible it would be. It's one of the movies where you could take any five seconds out of context and know they were from a terrible movie. I think there was one good line and one good visual image, and that's really only in comparison to the rest of this awful, awful movie.

It's so bad, guys.

Do not watch this.

As if it's failure to capture even 10% of the book (or that bit accurately) was insufficient, it then goes on to rip off recent movies (most noticibly Close Encounters) as if that would help.


And if the book's racial humor failed, the movie's attempts are straight-up racist. I'm so so sorry, Pat Morita. I don't know how it can seem possible to you know, but in three years you'll get an Oscar nomination. I promise.

And when you're abusing the book this badly, why throw in little bits that'll only make sense to people who know the book? Why?

The only way I made it through was to watch it sped up. Even then, unfunny timefilling scenes seemed to last forever. How you take people like Madeline Kahn and Marty Feldman and make them this unfunny takes a special lack of filmmaking ability.

Anyway. It's bad. I'll stop now.

library dvd
Genius (2016)

This is a terrific film. The story of the Lost Generation editor and one of his writers and a few of the people who surround them. Basically a two-hander starring Colin Firth and Jude Law, but they are surrounded by a sterling supporting cast. Everyone hits perfect.

Everyone, that is, except the children. This is not a knock on the actors. This is an issue of direction. Years pass yet the children do not age. They are given a couple notes to hit. One is given a third note out of nowhere that isn't justified by anything come before, and it does not work. I do not blame the kid. I suspect the filmmaker's team simply has never met any children? Like, ever? That seems the most likely case.

But anyone outside of the spotlight (by which I mean the six actors who made the bottom of the poster, the leads, their ladies, the other writers) is at risk of unreality. A writer's mother gets a real moment. Zelda does. But not the black characters. There's a maid who gets a credit at films' end but more than once the camera moved to hide her behind a pillar. What?

But the focus of the movie is brilliantly executed and that makes it, as a whole, a very good film. Focus on what they want you to watch and ignore the edges and you'll have an excellent time.

At the risk of continuing to turn you off a movie I liked, this film's also a great example of movies about Americans without many Americans. The actors are uniformly excellent but there's an irony in hearing a British voice call this film about quintessential Americana when they cast as their four leads and two major supports British, British, Australian, American, English/Australian, English. Lol.

Rialto Cinemas Cerrito
You Can't Take It with You (1938)

I loved this movie so much. It has aspects that are silly and melodramatic but they are seasoning, not overwhelming. The emotional core and the complicated threads of plot come together to build a mini-epic of love of family and love of mate and love of community. A moment at the end made me melt into tears just as a bright joy illuminated my heart.

It's a Frank Capra film and its based on a popular stage play. Neither of those will surprise as you watch. Like his most famous film, it stars (among others) James Stewart and Lionel Barrymore. Jimmy's younger and less world-worn here. A first-act Jimmy, shall we say. But if you (like me) really only know Lionel as Mr Potter then this film is a revelation. Ends up one of the great actors of his age could play more than curmudgeons. He's brilliant here as the eccentric grandfather motivated by his love for others and noted for his astonishing capacity to disbelieve in capitalism.

Jean Arthur reminds me of Gracie Allen. Sort of a less gonzo Gracie. I suspect this is not a common opinion.

Anyway, for a movie that fits in so many little genre tropes, it finds excellence by treating them all true and really really meaning everything it does. It's an honest movie. Absurd and hilarious and deeply sincere. I loved it.

Previous films watched











What, is this nothing but comics?


The short answer is no. But don't blink or you'll miss the evidence.

096) The Unsinkable Walker Bean and the Knights of the Waxing Moon by Aaron Renier, finished August 24

This books is so bananas. It's so strange, so weird. And although I don't understand it, it makes sense. I know it knows and I trust it.

I liked the first one but this volume is even more ambitious (and insane). We have animals made out of stars and doppelgangers and magic alloys and granddaughters of Neptune and ghosts rising from folktales and a floating city and visions and evil kings and all that just makes this book sound borderline ordinary. Believe me when I tell you it is not.

It is something else.

one marathon sitting

097) Just Julie's Fine by Theric Jepson, finished August 26

This was my last chance to do any edits prior to publication. I couldn't imagine there was anything left to catch but I ended up reading the entire novel anyway. I found about a dozen tiny errors still extant. Which means there's probably a dozen more I missed.


Editing is hard.

But I can announce that this book's pretty good. I don't know what you'll think but hoo. I enjoyed it.


098) Bea Wolf by Zach Weinersmith and Boulet, finished August 28

I loved this. I knew it was based on Beowulf and I know Weinersmith and I expected something more dumb than anything else.

That's not what I got.

He's taken the story of Beowulf and transposed it to the world of suburban childhood, bringing fantasies child me had to life but in the glories of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse.

Last year I had a work published that fits that same description and I can tell you that there is something intensely natural (which is not to say easy) about embracing the pre-Norman forms of English poetry. To embrace alliteration and kenning and just go for it. And that's what Weinersmith does here. And it is glorious. And you can tell he respects kids. Why else throw out words like thole?

And Boulet's art is manic and heroic and absurd. It ties into classic looks of Grendel while staying true to Bea Wolf's own unique conceits.

And then the short essay at the end about Beowolf and the poetry and the process is likewise intelligent and carries a high opinion of child readers and is funny and insightful and, honestly, I suspect this book will make some writers. And baby am I excited to see their work appear twenty years from now.

A total success.

And I am delighted to tell you that just the other day Lady Steed saw someone on her free group looking for a large stuffed bear that could be gutted because her daughter is planning her Bea Halloween costume.

This is as it should be.

an evening

099) Assassinistas by Tini Howard / Gilbert Hernandez / et al., finished August 31

I guess you could call this a fun little satirical look at the American violent-story tradition. It did have some cool elements but it just didn't come together for me.

a week or more

100) Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons by Kelly Sue DeConnick / Phil Jimenez / Gene Ha / Nicola Scott, finished August 31

This is one of the most astonishing comics I've read in some time. It amazes on practically every page.

There are a few reasons for this. Let's start that it feels real. By which I mean these spins on ancient Greek myth carry genuine mythic weight and seem true in a deep and meaningful way. These are stories you can believe in. And they explode the Amazon-based mythos of the Wonder Woman universe in awesome ways. The characters birthed here I reckon will be with us a long long time.

The art has depth and rigor. I'm grateful for the brief notes in the back because there I discovered how little I was even seeing. Read this book with good lighting and perhaps a magnifying glass. There is much to find here.

In short it is beautiful and moving and deadly dangerous. This book is not here to play games.

Astonishing stuff.

You don't have to care half a whit about superheros to love this story.

two days, possibly not back-to-back

101) The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman et al., finished September 6

I read the original Sandman run in the early Oughts, but I didn't read them in order and I frankly don't know if I read them all. I've always intended to start over at the beginning, but just have not.

But I have a son I thought would like them so I got the first two from the library. Dad's suggestion didn't take but, hey, the first two volumes of Sandman!

You know what? I think the time has come.

The first volume does read like the team figuring out what they're doing, but the gist is right and I'm excited to rediscover where it goes from here.


four days

102) Slapstick, or Lonesome No More! by Kurt Vonnegut, finished September 11

Now that I'm back to teaching Vonnegut, I'm hopping back on my novel-a-summer routine. I don't have many left to firsttime as you can see:

 This is not one of the better ones.

Honestly, it feels like something that should have been published posthumously. It has a lot of great Vonnegut spark and plenty of (half-developed) ideas, but it never congeals into a novel and it ends in such a way that makes me feel like he just lost interest in it.

Plus, there is some racial stuff that is satirical, sure, but for every bit that is arguably antiracist, there are ten that just feel racist here in 2023. I would be shocked if that were his intention, but, well, you can't always control how your stuff will be read.

Plus, this is the 2019 Vintage edition and I don't know if it was just the process of changing the punctuation to be more British, but there are several punctuation and other typesetting errors. It's hard to believe that this could happen at a major house to a major author's 47yrold book. How? How? How?

a couple months or even more even though it's quite short


Previously . . . . :

final posts in this series from
  2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012 = 2013
2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017 = 2018 = 2019 = 2020 = 2021 = 2022

Earlier in 2023

001) The Dark Room by Gerry Duggan & Scott Buoncristiano, finished January four
002) The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander, finished January 6
003) Rose by Jeff Smith and Charles Vess, finished January 10
004) Acting Class by Nick Drnaso, finished January 10
005) Red Scare by Liam Francis Walsh, finished January 11

006) The Short Reign of Pippin IV by John Steinbeck, finished January 18
007) Filmish by Edward Ross, finished circa January 20

HOW many times?

008) Maddy Kettle Book: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch by Eric Orchard, finished January 24 
009) Fantastic Frights: A Beginner's Guide to Scary Stories, finished January 24
010) Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary, finished February 2
011) Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, finished February 3
012) The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain, finished February 4

013) Is that all there is? by Joost Swarte, finished February 6
014) Edge Case by YZ Chin, finished February 7

If it weren't for a friendly sex talk, everything here would be miserable

015) Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, finished February 10
016) Sex Educated: Letters from a Latter-day Saint therapist to her younger self by Bonnie Young, LMFT, finished February 13
017) Unmask Alice: LDS, Satanic Panic, and the Imposter Behind the World's Most Notorious Diaries by Rick Emerson, finished February 20 

A Bookful Bounty for thee and thine 

018) I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jeannette McCurdy, finished February 27
019–21) The Abominable Charles Christopher by Karl Kershl, finished March 6
022) Displacement by Kiku Hughes, finished March 6
023) The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V and Filipe Andrade, finished March 6
024) The Homeland Directive by Robert Venditti and Mike Huddleston, finished March 7
025) Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, finished March 14
026) Last West: Roadsongs for Dorothea Lange by Tess Taylor, finished March 15
027) 22 Young Mormon Writers edited by Neal E. Lambert and Richard H. Cracroft, finished March 19
028 & 029) Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, finished March 23 & March 27

Literarily solving for X

030) X by Sue Grafton, finished March 28
031) Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary, finished April 5
032) Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century by Dana Stevens, finished April 5
033) Abe Lincoln in Illinois by Robert E. Sherwood, finished April 8
034) Theology of Play by Jürgen Moltmann, finished April 12
035) The Male Animal by James Thurber and Elliott Nugent, finished April 12
036) Bluffton by Matt Phelan, finished April 16
037) Number One Walking: My Life in the Movies and Other Diversions by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss, finished April 15

From Lolly to Elias

038) Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner, finished April 17
039) The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson, finished April 19
040) Beware the Eye of Odin by Wager/Odland/Madsen/Dukeshire, finished April 19
041) The Complete Peanuts: 1965–1966 by Charles M. Schulz, finished April 20
042) A Wealth of Pigeons by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss, finished April 22
043) Elias: An Epic of the Ages by Orson Ferguson Whitney, finished April 23

Old Hollywood & Olden Times

044) Straight Lady: The Life and Times of Margaret Dumont, "The Fifth Marx Brother" by Chris Enss and Howard Kazanjian, finished April 25
045) Voices from the Radium Age edited by Joshua Glenn, finished April 26
046) The Ballad of YFB by Aaron Brassea, finished April 28
047) Reynaud's Tale by Ben Hatke, finished May 3
048) Superman: Up in the Sky by Tom King and Andy Kubert, finished May 5
049) Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary, finished May 5
050) Resurrection Row by Anne Perry, finished May 6 

Saying good bye to our friend Kinsey

052) More Gross: Cartoons by S. Gross, finished May 9
053) I Am Blind and My Dog Is Dead by S. Gross, finished May 9
054) Batgirls: One Way or Another by Becky Cloonan / Michael W. Conrad / Jorge Corona / Sarah Stein, finished May 11
055) Batgirls: Bat Girl Summer by Becky Cloonan / Michael W. Conrad / Neil Googe / Robbi Rodriguez / Rico Renzi, finished May 11
056) Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton, finished May 12 

The tyranny of getting stuff in the right order

051) On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder, finished May 8
057) Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Guruhiru, finished May 13
058) Four in Hand by Alicia Mountain, finished May 17
059) The Glob by John O'Reilly and Walt Kelly, finished May 20
060) Why They Can't Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities by John Warner, finished May 24
061) Less by Andrew Sean Greer, finished May 25
062) Children of the Woods by Ciano/Hixson/Stevens/Otsmane-Elhaou, finished May 27
063) The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece by Tom Hanks, finished May 29

Such quality. Such excellence.

064) Here by Darlene Young, finished June 1
065) Theseus Volume 1 by Jordan Holt, finished June 1
066) Theseus Volume 2 by Jordan Holt, finished June 1
067) Reviews for Non-Existent Movies by Eric Goulden Kimball, finished June 5
068) The Scarlet Plague by Jack London, finished June 6
069) Anne of West Philly by Ivy Noelle Weir and Myisha Haynes, finished June 10
070) Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary, finished June 10

 Books read: a forensic investigation

073) These Precious Days by Ann Patchett, finished c. June 17
074) Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, finished c. June 19
075) The Burning Book: A Jewish-Mormon Memoir by Jason Olson and James Goldberg, finished c. June 21
076) The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, finished June 23

From prehumanity to eternal destiny

077) Tuki: Fight for Fire by Jeff Smith, finished June 28
078) Tuki: Fight for Family by Jeff Smith, finished June 29
079) The Writer's Hustle by Joey Franklin, finished July 8
080) Future Day Saints: The New Arrivals by Matt Page, finished July 16
081) Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, finished July 18
082) Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary, finished July 19
083) Just One More by Annette Lyon, finished July 20
084) The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl, finished July 22
085) Somewhere Out There: My Animated Life by Don Bluth, finished July 22

Two women, in comics form

085) Beast by Marian Churchland, finished July 24
086) Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow by King/Evely/Lopes, finished c. July 28

The sex-and-metaphysics Venn diagram

087) Banana Sunday by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, finished August 2
088) Falconer by John Cheever, finished August 3
089) Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, finished August 3
090) Homunculus by Joe Sparrow, finished August 5
091) Cuckoo by Joe Sparrow, finished August 9
092) Fatal by Kimberly Johnson, finished August 16
093) The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier, finished August 17
094) The Infinite Future by Tim Wirkus, finished August 22
095) Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell, finished August 23