Things We Love is a place for the contributors of Really Late Reviews to let you know what we’ve been enjoying in pop culture this month. From creative new sci-fi films to lip sync battles to sexy Scottish dramas, Things We Love is a way to discover some new gems and re-discover some old favorites.
“The DUFF” is about a high school senior named Bianca Piper, who gets called a DUFF, which stands for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.” She decides to enlist her next-door neighbor, Wesley Rush, who also happens to be the same boy who called her a DUFF, to help her change her ways. In the end, Bianca learns that a silly label doesn’t define who she is. The movie is a comedy and a love story, but above all it’s a movie about a woman learning to love herself for who she is. Bianca ends the movie with confidence, overcoming the labels people gave her.
The movie was great; in fact, it’s one of the best rom-coms I’ve seen in years. It was a combination of two of the best 90’s romantic comedy movies, “She’s All That” and “10 Things I Hate About You,” but set in today’s world filled with all the technology and social media that teenagers use. The chemistry between Mae Whitman (who played Bianca) and Robbie Amell (who played Wesley) was flawless and their comedic timing was perfect. I highly recommend “The DUFF.”
“Outlander” on Starz
I have been hearing about “Outlander” for a while now, with praises coming for its representation of female characters and its exploration of sexual intimacy and desire, and finally began watching the first season a couple of months ago. It’s an intoxicating show, one that is filled with the beautiful Scottish countryside and more than a little Harlequin-romance-novel wish fulfillment. It’s also a surprising story about relationships: the ties that bind Scottish clansmen together, political alliances forged out of solidarity and trust, marriages of convenience that morph into something more.
“Outlander” follows Clair Beauchamp, a 1940’s World War II nurse, who while vacationing with her husband Frank in the highlands gets transported back to the Scotland of 1740. She is taken in by the MacKenzie clan, where she finds an ally in the ridiculously beautiful Jamie, and must learn how to navigate this new time and find her way back home. While I do have problems with the way “Outlander” keeps using sexual violence (or the threat of sexual violence) to put female characters in dramatic situations, it’s a fascinating large-scale story that seamlessly combines Scottish history, time travel and sexy people making great eye contact with each other.
“Lip Sync Battle” on Spike
This month, I have been obsessed with “Lip Sync Battle” on Spike, which I honestly think is one of the best shows ever. The show contains two rounds, where celebrities literally lip sync battle against each other. In the first round it is just the celebrity, the mic and the song. The second round is the celebrity in costume, with background dancers, pretend back-up singers, props and so much more. At the end of the episode one celebrity is crowned the Lip Sync Battle Champion. Some celebrities that have gone up against each other include The Rock vs Jimmy Fallon, Terry Crews vs. Mike Tyson, Emily Blunt vs. Anne Hathaway and Anna Kendrick vs. John Krasinski. Highlights can be found on their YouTube channel.
I love sci-fi. It’s quite possibly my favorite genre, and when I find good sci-fi I soak it up for as long as possible. By no means perfect, “Ex Machina” is that good sci-fi that I’ve been longing for. “Ex Machina” is about a wealthy billionaire Nathan, an AI named Ava and a young programmer, Caleb, who tasked with trying to determine if Ava is the perfect AI the world has been waiting for. Can Caleb find Ava’s humanity while her robot-like body remains visible to the human eye? Though the plot suffers a bit by being too predictable, what sets this movie apart from other AI themes is the notion of humanity. Can Ava be human without a brain? Is she more human than we are? However, what should be a complex sci-fi drama quickly turns into a psychological horror movie, where the monsters are human.
As Caleb grows increasingly distrustful of Nathan, he also grows closer to Ava, slowly forgetting that she’s an AI program. The audience’s allegiance begins to shift among the trio and as the thrilling climax comes to an end, loyalties have shifted too many times to count. Director Alex Gordon focuses more on the characters interacting than on special effects and CGI, which also sets it apart from other modern-day sci-fi. Long shots linger on a character’s face instead of showing a complex computer system. There are post-it notes all over Nathan’s desk which really brings the movie back down to earth. What other sci-fi movie can you think of where a character takes notes as we do in our daily lives without creating some fancy tech to do it for him? Even if you’re not a fan of sci-fi, I highly recommend “Ex Machina,” especially if you want a movie that leaves you thinking days after viewing.
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Friends’ recommendations for books are a hit or miss. Sometimes I agree with their assessments, and other times I am left scratching my head how they would like a particular book. I’ve discovered recently, however, that Pulitzer Prize-winning books are typically on the dot for good reading material. I’ve read several books that got the awards (Olive Kitteridge, Lonesome Dove, Empire Falls, Beloved, To Kill a Mockingbird) and enjoyed all of them thoroughly.
The latest Pulitzer Prize-winning book, All the Light We Cannot See, is just as gripping as my previous reads. The book alternates between the years leading up to World War II and the very end of the war. It follows the lives of a blind French girl and an orphan German boy as they are impacted by the war. The book was at times hard to read in terms of its emotional impact. The author wrote such vivid details about the Nazis’ cruelty that I had to take a break a few times out of anger and sadness. Despite these disturbing moments, the book overall was filled with many optimistic, beautiful, and loving moments, a book that very much deserved to win the Pulitzer Prize.
Do you agree with the things we love for May? What are you all enjoying this month? Let us know in the comments below.