"I can't believe I forgot my name!"

Spirited Away, The White Lotus, and 90s alt rock

Hello again! This list is on the shorter side as I’ve spent much of the past two weeks with family for the first time since 2019 and therefore doing much less of my usual ~sitting in front of the television~. Which is great for me, but not so great for this newsletter. Still, though, I’ve managed to get some screen time in. Wondrous screen time! I love you, screen time.


MOVIES

While recovering from our two-day road trip back from Ontario, I tried to watch some movies. Most of them did not capture the attention of my tired shell of a mind, but I did finally land on an old favourite: Spirited Away (2001). OK, if you’ve ever been to my house, you have probably seen my No-Face plush. Yes I can see it right now while I type, it’s right across from me. It’s the perfect shape of stuffed thing to hold when you’re feeling weird, and since it does not have a second mouth (I’ve checked), there is a relatively low chance that it will swallow you up and speak to people using your voice. It’s just a nice thing. But the truth is, I had not seen the film in many years. Back in my Bachelor of Design days, while living in a high rise on Fountainhead Road in North York, my roommate Tabitha and I got together multiple times for Spirited Away movie nights. We’d fry up a bunch of frozen dumplings, lounge out each on our own couch (we had two), and break out the tissues. It was the best. That’s why I have a No-Face plush. I’ll admit to you right now that I also have a tiny plastic No-Face figurine. It’s clear on the bottom so the light shines through.

Someone told me recently that they had watched Spirited Away for the first time as an adult. I was immediately like, “Oh, so how much did you cry when Haku remembers he’s the spirit of a river that got filled in by developers?” and they were like “Huh?” Before you ask, YES, this was very embarrassing for me. Since then I’ve often wondered if I only cried watching this film because it was what Tab and I used to do, as if crying while eating dumplings was part of our friendship (that’s a good friendship, for the record). I want you to know that it was extremely deluded of me to believe this! Ten years later, on my own and with zero dumplings, I still wept like a baby THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE. FILM. Well, maybe not when Chihiro pulls a bunch of garbage out of a sludge monster and he turns into a wrinkly old man. But basically, every time the main theme hit, my face turned into the Kohaku River before it was filled in for apartments.

Haku reminds Chihiro of her real name. For what it’s worth, 18 months into a global pandemic, this whole scene for me is a VERY LARGE MOOD.

I feel I ought to give a brief PSA that Spirited Away is on Netflix right now, along with every other Studio Ghibli film. You can even watch the ones not directed by Hayao Miyazaki, like From Up on Poppy Hill, which is a film that contains no magic but… some… implied incest? I’m not going to say it’s a bad movie; it’s not. But it is… interesting. I’ve seen most of the Miyazaki-directed Ghibli films, and I’m definitely going to be filling in the gaps in my knowledge in the next few weeks. For what it’s worth though, from those that I’ve seen, I still think Spirited Away is the best.


TELEVISION

Like everyone else on the internet, and in real life (I guess?), we’ve been watching The White Lotus. I first heard about it from this incredible Vulture profile of Jennifer Coolidge. I am extremely here for the Coolidge love lately, and I was before I read this profile, but now knowing that she lives in a haunted house in New Orleans my admiration has increased tenfold. She is – as they say – a treasure. So, I was looking forward to this show, expecting it to at least be fun. It’s also written and directed by Mike White, who famously wrote School of Rock, the film that Peter and I put in our movie to-watch box as a perennial “if we pick it, we watch it, no questions asked” option. I should have realized this show would be great; I’ve just been burned too many times by high expectations. But, needless to say, it is great.

The show follows a bunch of wealthy vacationers at a resort located on a Hawaiian island: namely, a couple on their honeymoon, a powerful CEO (Connie Britton) staying in a suite with her family, and a single incredibly emotionally vulnerable woman (Jennifer Coolidge) who brought her mother’s ashes to scatter somewhere, at some point, on her vacation. Molly Shannon enters mid-way through the series to crash the honeymoon. She is perfect. The show also follows the staff of the resort. I don’t want to give away too much, because it is only six episodes long, and it’s a bit impossible to explain the appeal of it without just watching it yourself. But I will say that there is a sickly yellow tint on every shot that really does something to you.

I’m writing this on Sunday and the final episode comes out tonight, so I can’t comment on it. Hopefully it won’t pull a Dispatches from Elsewhere1 and ruin everything I’m saying here. Let’s just assume it will be great. The show has been renewed for a second season, but Mike White has already stated that it will be a different cast and a different location. I wonder how long it will be until there’s a space tourism season?


BOOKS

This section is becoming embarrassing for me, so I promise I will actually put time into reading in the next two weeks so that I have something to talk about on September 1st. For now, I really want to share this article that I loved about how the experience of consumer entitlement has slowly deteriorated over the decades into a nightmare situation for everyone. It’s a hard read, but I found it validating, and it connected a lot of things I’ve been thinking about that felt like disparate (shitty) aspects of the 21st century experience. Enjoy!


Here comes a resurrection

I’m not above admitting that I’ve been listening to a lot of Moist lately. They’re a good band! David Usher always kind of reminds me of Keanu Reeves; I think maybe he’s the Keanu Reeves of 90s Canadian alt rock. Earlier this year, Moist released a music video that is completely made up from NFB (National Film Board) footage. The animation is called Caterpillarplasty and it’s by David Barlow-Krelina. I just think that’s neat. The video is really gross, which is also pretty neat. The song is just ok, but I’m really glad they’re still doing fun things. This fall Moist is doing a tour with Sloan (my, ahem, favourite band) and unfortunately they are NOT coming to the maritimes. I guess they didn’t realize I live here.


That’s all. Thank you for reading to the end. Here’s a flower.

1

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t bother to look it up. Remain blissfully unaware that there was a show with lead roles for Sally Field and André Benjamin and Eve Lindley that flubbed the ending so hard it made me feel sick to my stomach.