My Cultural Diet for June 2022

A quick rundown of last month’s cultural experiences.
Arcane: League of Legends
Arcane: League of Legends is a very cool steampunk-esque cartoon currently streaming on Netflix

In order to better track my various cultural experiences (e.g., movies, TV shows, books, restaurants), I’ve created the Cultural Diet. Think of it as my own personal Goodreads, Letterboxd, and Yelp, all rolled into one (more info here). Every month, I recap everything that I watched, read, etc., in the previous month.


These books just keep getting better and better. The invasion of Laconia was thrilling, there were several moments that practically had me cheering, and though some of the revelations could be seen coming from a mile away, they were no less enjoyable for that. I also loved the vivid imagery used to describe the various weird alien phenomena. Can’t wait to dive into the final book.
Ewan McGregor’s fantastic as the titular Jedi master, who’s hiding out on Tatooine to watch over young Luke Skywalker while still haunted by the death of Anakin Skywalker — who, unbeknownst to Kenobi, has returned as Darth Vader. The Inquisitor side plot held promise but was a bit underwhelming. There’s been talk about a second season; not sure how I feel about that.
I’m pretty sure that if I’d seen this back in high school, when I was discovering anime, it would’ve blown me away and seemed really radical and subversive. As it stands, it’s a decent hard sci-fi film with a dystopic bent and some bizarre mecha designs, though the mid ’80s animation and gratuitous content haven’t aged too well.
What a tedious film. I don’t think I felt a single moment of fun, excitement, or wonder in its 146 minutes. The performances are phoned in, the script’s a mishmash of ideas and nostalgic throwbacks, the visual effects are OK, and the action sequences just feel like they’re checking the boxes (like the obligatory T-Rex battles). Also, I’m sure that making the villain CEO look like Apple’s Tim Cook seemed clever at the time, but it’s really just eyeroll-inducing.
Set in the distant future à la Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun, The Pastel City jumps back and forth between sci-fi and fantasy with a pulp-y style. As a fan of both Wolfe’s stories and Michael Moorcock’s Elric saga, The Pastel City hit a sort of weird sweet spot for me.
The thirty-year time jump took a little getting used to, but the updated character relationships and revelations of the Laconian Empire made up for it. Given that I watched The Expanse before reading the novels, it was nice to finally start reading a story that I hadn’t already seen in some way, shape, or form.
Still holds up after all these years. A classic. Naturally, our kids became obsessed with the crane kick, and I suspect we’ll be hearing “wax on, wax off” for awhile now.
I’ve never played League of Legends so I don’t know how faithful Arcane is to the source material. But I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed Arcane’s steampunk aesthetic, rich world-building, thrilling action, and superb (and dare I say) groundbreaking animation. A second season has been greenlit, and it can’t come soon enough.
This clip of audience members on their feet cheering amidst confetti and streamers is a good indication of RRR’s vibe. It’s over-the-top in every way possible, from the protagonists’ bromance to the anti-colonialism to the final 30-minute-long battle that makes Avengers: Endgame seem like an indie film production. Also, I can only hope someday to grow a mustache as manly as Ram Charan’s.
A throwback to the sort of low-budget action fare that seemed to dominate cable TV in the ’90s. As such, it’s entertaining but totally clichéd, right down to the heroine’s one-liners. Even its “wokeness” — the heroine is a military sexual abuse survivor, the villain is (supposedly) driven by his disgust with America’s inequities, one of his henchmen is basically a Proud Boy — feels rote.
Pretty much everything I could’ve wanted from a Top Gun sequel. A bit too nostalgic at times, maybe, with all of the throwbacks to the original, but how could it not be? I was surprised at how elegiac Maverick felt, in-between all of the thrilling aerial sequences and hotshot pilot bravado, with its constant acknowledgement of time’s passing and ravaging.
I’ve always found classic serials from ’30s and ’40s fascinating. This one’s a bit less exciting than its premise — a hotshot pilot must protect an anti-gravity device from smugglers — might otherwise suggest, but it has the requisite damsels in distress and ridiculous cliffhangers. That being said, the real aerial stunts are pretty cool to watch. (Read my review)
So good. Top-notch Hollywood action of the highest caliber. I love everything about this movie, from Henry Cavill’s bicep-reloading and mustache to the final act helicopter chase to the way the movie gives some space for Ethan Hunt’s guilt over his “failed” marriage. Suffice to say, I can’t wait to see Dead Reckoning Part One next year.
The survival-at-all-costs story never really grabbed me, and Arielle Jovellanos’ artwork felt underwhelming compared to her other work.
This is when Christopher McQuarrie took over directing duties. That, combined with Tom Cruise’s increasing desire to perform big stunts himself (like hanging on to the side of an airplane in flight), took the franchise to another level. Also, Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust is such a great foil for Cruise’s Ethan Hunt.
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Slow Horses, Season One
I wanted to like this way more than I did, but I could never figure out the tone. Was it a black comedy like Four Lions, a parody of spy thrillers, or a spy thriller in its own right? Not that it couldn’t be a mix of those, of course, but not knowing how to react to, say, Gary Oldman’s scene-chewing was frustrating.

For more, check out the full cultural diet.