Coco

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Feast your eyes.

I’m going to keep this incredibly short, and will avoid spoilers to the best of my ability.

I have now seen this movie twice. I will probably see it again while it is still in theaters. I cannot say well enough how much this movie has affected me. I have regularly teared up while simply thinking about it. After seeing it the second time, I now find it hard to hum the central song because I start to cry. It’s really exceptionally good.

Coco is set in Mexico and the Land of the Dead over the course of Día de los Muertos. It is about a young boy named Miguel, and his relationships with his family and with his dreams. It deals with family, memory, legacy, and death—and the joys and costs of following your dreams. It is also about controlling the lives of others.

I loved damn near every minute of it. And I spent roughly the last third of the movie crying, thinking I was done crying, and then crying some more. Also laughing.

The themes of death, remembrance, legacy, and memory all resonated strongly with me. This may be because most members of my family in my grandparents’ generation are dead, and I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking of and mourning them. It didn’t hurt that the rest of the movie all sat well too.

If you’re worried about representation and appropriation, I’d like to note that Latinx critics have been relentlessly positive (*SOME SPOILERS IN THAT LINK*) about the film, and that the vast majority of the cast is Latinx (along with significant members of the writing, directing, and design staff). Honestly, it looks like Pixar has succeeded fabulously with this one. I don’t think I can recommend watching it strongly enough.

I have difficulty fathoming why Disney chose to package this film with a 25 minute Frozen short immediately preceding it, which cannot help but suffer by comparison, but I assure you that the short is worth sitting through for the sake of seeing Coco.

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Dust Girl, by Sarah Zettel

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Fun! I admit, I was a little worried around sixty pages in that it would be a tropey retread of territory already covered by American Gods. The voice and perspective are significantly different, which helped, but it wasn’t until a bit later that I felt the story really found its stride (around the same time that it decided to double down on fairies). If I weren’t reading this for class and therefore about to rush into another wildly different book, I think I’d enjoy polishing off this series.

Speaking of which, the cover says The American Fairy Trilogy… which is too bad. Obviously, you want to mention that there are more books for your audience to buy; doing otherwise is bad marketing (shooting yourself in the foot, really). But it also shaped my experience of the story in a way that makes analyzing how I feel about the book as a whole more difficult. It’s very obviously not the end of the story, though I think Zettel sticks the landing for this section of it, and I wonder whether I would have preferred to read the whole thing in one go. Or what might have changed if it weren’t divided into parts. There’s a lot to be said for how my genre and story-length expectations shape my reading, and I think that may confound Zettel’s goal here to some extent.

That said, Sarah Zettel very clearly knows what she’s doing, and does it well. The book is catchy, fun to read, and really gets a move on once you get out of the very beginning. Future plot hooks are well established, I feel like I have a decent sense of the characters, and life is plenty complicated for the main character despite (or maybe especially because of) the presence of magic in her life. Well done. If you enjoy YA, fairies, Americana, and blues and swing, you’ll probably enjoy this book.

Later note: with a little more time to reflect on this, I’m less certain that I like how it deals with race and Native American beliefs. I feel like it tries, and wants to do a good job, but I’m not certain whether or not it succeeds. Your mileage may vary.

Transistor

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There are many things that I wish to say about Transistor, but the story-related ones will have to wait for after the break.  I don’t want to spoil anything for you.

To start with, this is one of the prettiest games I have seen in a while, and it has a soundtrack that makes me want to close my eyes and sink into it.  I spent a considerable amount of time simply sitting and absorbing the game’s music, doing nothing else for fear of missing out on the songs.  I wish that the soundtrack had all of the various in-game versions of the music, including Red’s hummed accompaniment.

I’m hard pressed to peg the game to a single genre or type, but its construction and design bears a profound similarity to Bastion.  You do battle with an ever-growing variety and number of foes, following the protagonist from a third person isometric perspective as you wander through lushly painted land- or cityscapes, slowly puzzling out the backstory of the characters and learning what is happening around you.  As far as I’m concerned, what worked in Bastion works here too.

As a game, I found Transistor very appealing; designing my own powers, mixing and matching elements as I discovered new killer combos, and adapting my loadout to the situation presented were all quite satisfying.  Making sure that I wasn’t crippled when I lost one of my powers due to a mistake, and being forced to rethink my situation creatively when I failed in that, were both very rewarding as well.  And when battles became a little same-y towards the end, or failed to present me with situations that I hadn’t foreseen, I still wanted to follow the story.  Now that I’ve finished the game, I also want to see how it handles itself on a second pass-through.  But I’ve played it enough to be able to say that I like it, and that I suspect you’d enjoy it as well.  Now about those *SPOILERS*…

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Chiptunes: Beauty in Simplicity

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I love chiptunes.  I have met few other people who love chiptunes as much as me.  Hell, I have met few other people who can even sit down and listen to chiptunes without getting annoyed.  It is arguable that my love for chiptunes comes from nostalgia.  It is true that some of my favorite games are old enough that their soundtracks are chiptunes (and I do listen to them recreationally).  But I would argue that my love of the genre is more than just a fond looking back at simpler times.

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1636: The Devil’s Opera, by David Carrico and Eric Flint

Within several hours of writing my piece last week, I had already finished reading 1636: The Devil’s Opera, meaning that I went through it in slightly more than one day despite several interruptions.  It’s an addictive delight, just as I had anticipated it would be.  In that way, it is completely in keeping with what I’ve come to expect from Eric Flint, and from his 1632 series.  And now I want to go back to see what else David Carrico has on offer.  He seems promising, and if his other works are anywhere near as good as this one, I’ll be happy to read them.  Now then, about this book…

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