(PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox) TWIN MIRROR is the most recent game from LIFE IS STRANGE developer Don’t Nod, and it certainly feels like one. It’s yet another narrative-forward interactive adventure game focused on character interactions, dialogue branches, story-changing decisions, escapism and fantasy via superhero elements, and traumatic deaths.

In fact, it eeriely mirrors the first LIFE IS STRANGE game in a number of narrative and mechanical ways, even down to the protagonist having ghosted their best friend for years, then returning to their hometown, and it essentially recreates the ‘high school dream sequence’ Max endures where you’re endlessly walking through hallways and doors.

While it doesn’t take place in the Pacific Northwest, it does take place in rural West Virginia, and even features similar sequences from LIFE IS STRANGE 2 such as road and forest exploration, as well as looking after a plucky but rebellious youth.

So, you could say Don’t Nod have more than a house style; they have a house template.

Let me rewind a bit.

TWIN MIRROR features middle-aged ex-investigative journalist washout Sam Higgs who, after being rebuffed by a marriage proposal to his co-worker Anna, abandoned his hometown after penning an expose of the town’s central mining industry, causing them to shutter and forcing many folks out of work.

He returns two years later to attend the funeral of his prior best friend and co-journalist Nick, who appears to have died in a car crash. Matters escalate, and dramatic intrigue sets in, and Sam only has Anna and a mysterious other to help him sort matters out.

What results is something that feels like an odd fusion of LIFE IS STRANGE, recent SILENT HILL games, and the Frogware Sherlock Holmes games. As mentioned earlier, it borrows a lot from LIFE IS STRANGE, but the bland, middle-aged protagonist, mining town, and guilt-obsession and illusionary characters feels very SILENT HILL, and the deduction puzzles are very Frogware. (Hell, they even include ‘Mind Palaces’.)

So, yeah, it’s an amalgamation that is perfect for me as I love all of those games, but perhaps not for everyone else.

Sadly, if you’re expecting the quirky, queer characters as seen in LIFE IS STRANGE, you should look elsewhere. These characters are straight archetypes; all older angst and repression. However, if you enjoy murder mysteries and adventure games, it’s a well-developed work.

WORK IN PROGRESS Season Two (2021)

(Cable+Showtime) Yes, I have previously posted about WORK IN PROGRESS, and yes, WORK IN PROGRESS has been canceled and has been off-the-air for several months now, but I still want to boost it because it’s amazing, and not just because they literally shot it next-door to me.

Re-read the prior post for the particulars but I wrote that during the first season, and despite the fact that I’m not a self-proclaimed fat, queer woman, it hit me like a ton of bricks.

WORK IN PROGRESS S1 centers on suicidal ideation due to the death of a therapist and general dissatisfaction in life. WORK IN PROGRESS S2 is all about discerning what you need with therapy. It’s an extremely complex and thorny season of TV, but vastly appreciated, because we can all use therapy; don’t say you don’t need therapy because I guarantee you that you over-use your loved ones for emotional labor and that’s a shitty thing to do! But knowing what you want from therapy is also extremely difficult, and requires quite a bit of self-reflection and acknowledgement, and successfully navigating that is a lot.

There’s always the question as to the means and ends of therapy, of when one can move along from trauma, when the problem is ‘solved’, and the penultimate episode reckons with that and it had me in tears.

Life is complicated. I hate this. I hate hurting so much. I hate thinking and feeling so much. This entire goddamn blog was started during the pandemic and I’d be a liar if I said it’s anything other than a way to try to process everything, and WORK IN PROGRESS is — well, was — an astounding piece that I could latch onto. Not just because it was shot in my neighborhood, not because of it being queer-adjacent, not just because it reflected on the lost past of Chicago’s Girlstown, but that it fundamentally grapples with people trying to fix themselves in an entertaining, but enlightening ways.

The show was unfortunately canceled after the second season, however, I feel lucky a second season exists. It resolves itself naturally and in its own humanist way, and is a work I will consistently extoll to others because of how frank it is, how heartfelt it is, and how singularly Chicago it is.


I initially wrote this post several months ago and sat on it because, well, reasons. I just learned that Showtime has gone all HBO MAX and scrubbed it from being available to stream for unknown reasons. Please keep your eyes peeled for its reappearance but, goddamnit, of all of the second seasons of shows to remove from streaming services, this seems absolutely hateful. My apologies for recommending something that is absolutely unavailable for the time being unless you have a proper cable subscription.


A bit of preamble:

I’m not one for sweeping, multi-pronged epics. I like my works short and intense.

Have I read and watched all of GAME OF THRONES? Yes, but that was at the behest of my wife and, then later, to not be left out of the cultural conversation.

That said, I soured on the series around A STORM OF SWORDS but kept reading and watching. I finally drew a line in the sand with HOUSE OF DRAGONS, stating: “I’ve spent too much time in this universe; it’s not good for me and I need to move on.”

(To be fair, I will read the remaining novels, if they’re ever published. Sunk-cost fallacy and all that.)

However, within 100 pages of MY BRILLIANT FRIEND — the first book in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels — I felt my face glow, felt a connection to these characters, to this life and its drama that I hadn’t felt towards a narrative work in years (apart from LIFE IS STRANGE, naturally). I told my wife: “This is my GAME OF THRONES. This is amazing. This is my everything right now.”

I fucking love this series, and I’m so happy others do too.

As I’ve previously stated, I love nothing more than to go out to a bar, have a beer or cocktail or two, and read.

Normally no one recognizes what I’m reading because I read a lot of weird stuff.

Not the case with the Neapolitan Novels. Those who have read them and recognize what I’m reading? Their eyes light up and they’re so over-eager to discuss them, and I’m more than welcome to indulge them.

Let me rewind a bit:

The Neapolitan Novels — originally penned in Italian, but have been translated to multiple languages — are centered around two childhood girls who become women, colloquially named Lenù and Lila. They both grew up in a shitty part of the outskirts of Naples. They’re both exceedingly intelligent and intellectually and romantically compete against each other. One became a successful author while the other …not so much. The entire four-novel series is about them growing, changing, adapting, and their push-and-pull.

I have yet to read the final novel, hence this post, but I revel in every word. Elana Ferrante — whose name I’ll note is a pseudonym as she prefers to not be known — has a quick wit and succinct brevity that I adore. It’s one of the rare times where I wish I could read the work in the original language.

Some have made claims that it’s a dude writing these, and while frankly I don’t care — most of the protagonists I write are women — it feels very genuine and authentic and lived-in. All I’ll say is: respect the author’s intent, especially when they’re serving you something special like this.


I’ll note that these books are famously known for their absurd covers that have absolutely nothing to do with the material they’re wrapped around. Personally, I love them, however I can understand how others might not. Please, do not judge these books by their covers.


I avoided METROPOLITAN for quite some time. I watched writer/director Whit Stillman’s follow-up THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO shortly after it was released on DVD and thought: his candor and approach is simply not for me.

I eventually got around to METROPOLITAN more than a handful of years later — before he completed LOVE & FRIENDSHIP, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s posthumous novel PERSUASION — and did appreciate it but didn’t fall in love with it the way others had. I could feel the Woody Allen influence and had a hard time reckoning with that. (I admit, ANNIE HALL still impresses and MANHATTAN looks gorgeous.)

However, the other night I fell asleep watching Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which happens more often than I’d like to admit, and woke up about twenty minutes into METROPOLITAN and it suddenly snapped into focus for me: yes, the Allen influence is there, as it is a film composed of vignettes about upper-class wanna-be Manhattan intellectuals who spend most of their time talking instead of taking action, but the real influence is Jane Austen and I just never realized it, despite the fact that Austen is referenced more than a few times in the film, especially PERSUASION.

An aside: I came along to Austen late in life, after I had first watched METROPOLITAN. While I wish it had been sooner, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed her novels as much as I did when I first read them as someone older. I haven’t read everything by her; I have a copy of LADY SUSAN and PERSUASION in my daunting to-read stack. I was at a wedding last year and lit up when someone at our table started talking about Austen and — to the visible frustration of her date — peppered her with Austen questions, including whether I should read PERSUASION first or watch LOVE & FRIENDSHIP. (She essentially responded: “They’re both great! There’s no wrong way to enjoy them!”)

METROPOLITAN is comprised of a number of chapters in rich socialites lives, mostly viewed from the point-of-view of lower-middle class nerd Tom Townsend (Edward Clements). Well-to-do Nick Smith (Chris Eigeman, who you may recognize from GILMORE GIRLS) takes a shining to him and guides him into his inner social circle, teaching him how to present as one of them. One of the women in the group, Audrey (Carolyn Farina), develops a crush on him but is too meek to do anything about it and watches as Tom pines for Serena (Ellia Thompson) while Serena is involved with an overly-confident, pony-tailed man named Rick (Will Kempe).

In other words: it’s all about repressed emotions and manners and presentation and social navigation, which Austen is very well-known for.

The primary allure here is the dialogue and interplay of characters, and the performers step up perfectly. There’s a rapport and tension between all of them that feels absolutely engaging. I’ll note that it’s shame that, apart from Eigeman, few of them have appeared in many other works.

For Stillman’s first film, he has a remarkable command over pacing and editing. While scenes often end abruptly via a fade-out, it manages to feel naturalistic. Additionally, the blocking is exceptionally handled, as well as John Thomas’s framing. Everyone is exquisitely laid out in ways that speak magnitudes of their character and conflicts, and Mary Jane Fort’s costume design fits perfectly for this world. (I’ll note that it was her first endeavor, but unlike most of the actors, she’s had a long career fashioning for film and TV.)

I will admit that the score is often overly-repetitive, but suits the film.

This is one of the fantastic facets for me as to having TCM constantly running in the background: it’s consistently about revisiting films, sometimes as comfort, but also often for re-evaluation, and I’m glad I did so for METROPOLITAN when it’s doubtful I would have otherwise.

“They’re doomed; they’re bourgeois; and in love. They’re all so … Metropolitan.”

SUCCESSION – “Conner’s Wedding” (2023)


This post contains major spoilers and sensitive details.

SUCCESSION follows in the footsteps of 80s privileged potential inheritors such as DALLAS and DYNASTY, but has a higher gloss and elevated interest in character dynamics that matches what you’d expect from an HBO series. It’s the story of four children of Logan Roy — basically a Hearst/Rupert Murdoch stand-in — trying to find their way in life, and appease their father. (Their mother left them far early in their formative years.)

There’s Kendall, the eldest brother who routinely relies on drugs and has repeatedly tried to kill himself; Shiv, the alpha woman who is perpetually unsatisified with her life, Conner, the half-brother who is way too over-confident, and lastly Ronan who has an extremely filthy mind and temperament but actually cares about people.

There’s a lot to talk about the series, but I want to focus solely on ‘Conner’s Wedding’, the third episode in the final season. So, if you aren’t caught up: I implore you to do so now.

The episode opens in a normal SUCCESSION way: a lot of corporate back-and-forth, as well as Kendall and Shiv giving Ronan grief about texting their dad (Logan, amazingly encapsulated by Brian Cox) as they’re trying to undermine him, because they’re pissed off about how he’s done the same to them all their lives.

Ronan visibly feels harmed by these accusations and tries to defend himself.

Then they get a call that Logan is undergoing cardiac issues on a plane, and it does not look good.

To be fair: this didn’t come out of nowhere. The first season set up his health issues pretty succinctly, but showrunner Jesse Armstrong played the long con and let the show go on long enough to allow that fact to sink away; it really wasn’t brought up again after the first season. Logan just seemed like an immortal force of nature!

We spend at least twenty minutes watching the siblings on the phone with Logan’s PR crew, and watch as someone persistently applies chest compressions — I’ll note that it seems a bit too long and too extreme, but I’ll accept it — and see how everyone handles the news.

I’ll note: my parents are still alive, but I’ve seen a lot of death in my day and, consequently, seen how family members handle the news.

This is a very exact display of the myriad of ways folks react to familial death.

It is a brutal episode, one of which I’ve already seen spoken of along the lines of BUFFY’s “The Body” (which I never want to rewatch). It’s not at all what I thought I’d deal with this Sunday night, and I was not prepared for. Truth-be-told, I spent most of the episode weeping. (Again, I’m over-emotional, so make of that what you will.)

However: it’s an exceptional climax to four seasons of build-up; not just with the death, but the character work. This is an astoundingly crafted character drama, and for it to pull the rug out from under the audience this soon in the final season is amazing.

This is an episode of TV that will be talked about for years to come, and is a grand accomplishment. They built up to this moment and then underplayed it, but it paid off ten-fold. It’s an amazing achievement, and one I’m happy that I watched the night of.

Lastly, while everyone is talking about Jeremy Strong as Kendell and Sarah Snook as Shiv, please direct your eyes to Kieran Culkin as Ronan, who is doing the bulk of the work in this episode, and frankly deserves an Emmy for all of it. His over-eager, over-sexed platitudes glossed over his humanity in the prior episodes, and we see all that armor fall away in this episode, and it is astounding work.

I recommend the following links, if you feel so inclined:

“Today is the day.”


While I first played LIFE IS STRANGE waaaay back in 2017, I’ve been intensely playing/replaying all of them pretty much non-stop for the last two months.

“I want to look at everything.”

I realize that’s not healthy. Emotionally, they’re absolutely brutal. My wife remarked: “Everytime I see you playing these games, someone is sobbing or you are.”

However, I’ve been going through a lot over the past year — to the point where friends have reached out and asked me: “Are you okay? Because you don’t seem like you’re okay.”

“I thought if you heard my voice, it could be a little bit like I was there.”

And no, no I’m not. Not at all. While I don’t want anyone’s sympathy, I do appreciate the outreach, and that’s exactly what LIFE IS STRANGE encapsulates.

(I will be fine. I have a quality support network. I’m just over-emotional in general.)

LIFE IS STRANGE: BEYOND THE STORM — FAREWELL [REMASTERED] (FAREWELL from here on out) supplies a short and bittersweet closure to the Arcadia Bay series. It’s simply Max and Chloe lounging around as young carefree teens until the end.

That’s all. That’s the entire game.

It’s delightful, and as someone who has lived through too much, to be able to relive the lighter moments of the past brings a smile to my face. Is it sheer nostalgia through another’s eyes? Yeah, but I’ll take it.

Two facets that I haven’t quite touched on with prior LIFE IS STRANGE entries:

1) The goddamn soundtrack. The music programming and the original scoring is absolute perfection. It encapsulates the ennui and conflict and ebulliency of being a youth. No notes.

2) Chloe’s physicality, height, and lankiness. As someone who is taller than most, often thinner than most, and prone to leap up on curbs as if they were a balance beam, I absolutely loved the animation work here.

FAREWELL sees Chloe before she literally feels the weight of the world on her shoulders. She springboards around, leaps around, bounds down stairs and jumps onto tables. She’s still slightly awkward and feeling matters out, but supremely confident in her command of her body in a way I’ve never quite seen in a video game.

I realize that may sound odd given that 90% of video games are all about physical activities, but there’s a personal exuberance here that feels fresh and makes me feel very seen.

“Even when we’re apart. We’re still Max and Chloe.”

To re-iterate: this has been an enormously exhausting but fulfilling journey; one that finally has me exhaling. At least until the next game. If you want to put yourself through the emotional interactive wringer, as opposed to mindlessly shooting dummies, I highly recommend it, but it does come at as cost, as does simply living life. There’s absolutely nothing like these games, and I’ll treasure them always.

“After five years, you’re still Max Caulfield.”



This post contains mentions of familial death.

In my prior BEFORE THE STORM write-up I noted how I relate far more to Chloe than I did to Max, which seems to be an unpopular opinion but I am who I am. I didn’t go into details so here are a few additional reasons that dovetail with my youth.

Chloe is a quintessential young punk, whereas I was a quintessential young gothling; she sneaks out of her house to attend illicit live band shows in sketchy places; she feels all alone in the world, at least until she finds a friend in Rachel Amber who presents as a perfect straight-A student but is actually a hedonistic, rebellious queer youth.

Been there, done that (although not necessarily in that order).

“It’s okay not to be okay, Chloe Price.”

BEFORE THE STORM sees Chloe trying to heal after the abandonment of Max and the death of her father, and she finds solace in Rachel’s hands. For three episodes, we get see the joy in her eyes, the wonder of discovery, a whole new queer world opening up in front of her.

Again, if you’ve played the prior games, you know how this ends, and it is not good, but goddamnit, I just love to see Chloe — as angsty as she is in this point in her life — happy, if only momentarily.

Upon replaying, I was surprised at how much foreshadowing and groundwork was laid, although I definitely suggest playing this after the first game.

Also, upon replaying, I had Chloe interact a bit more aggressively and was happy I did so; the call-and-response is far more interesting than the rather milquetoast approach I took the first time.

While the game lacks any supernatural or superpower elements, it does have spectacle with fire. Again, these are not subtle games — it’s subtext to communicate the burning urges of youth — but I can’t help but love it, and visually the billowing smoke ever-present in the background is so very striking.

And while you don’t have Max’s rewind powers, the developers have nicely added a few new features to the dialogue trees to keep matters fresh. Never at any point in time does it feel like you’re simply watching a film — you feel like you are in control, and that your decisions make a difference.

Lastly, I’ll state: this post is concerning the remaster, which … is not great. It is not polished. It has a ton of bugs and crashed several times and honestly? Doesn’t even look good enough to merit the term ‘remaster’. However: I bought it simply so I’d have a physical copy, so I could play it on my Switch on a desert island until the batteries died. That’s how much I love this game.

RODEO (2022)

(VOD/Cinemas) RODEO is a film about a masochistic individual who thrills by riding motorbikes.

I’m a masochistic individual who previously thrilled by riding horses. I was so completely thrown by how seen I felt. So of course I’m pre-disposed to love it.

I caught a screening of it with a post-interview between the brilliant Katie Rife and director Lola Quivoron, who basically said: “Yeah, it’s one and the same.”

(I would argue that it isn’t, as animals and engineering are completely different, but we’re both basically on the same page.)

It is a brilliant depiction of self-destruction and hedonism, and Julie Ledru is absolutely fantastic as the wide-eyed lead.

I’ll note that it’s very French, and would make a great double-feature with TITANE. Some may have issues with the ending, but to me it felt inevitable. Folks like ourselves literally burn ourselves out.

THE MENU (2022)

There’s an old adage that one should work a service industry job, just for the experience, just to know what it’s like to have to perform a job that you will not be acknowledged for, one in which you will be treated like dirt. I didn’t do so for the experience — I needed the money and worked as a dishwasher and then was promoted to a line cook. (Then I was fired and re-hired because my bosses discovered that I found out how much my fellow employees were making. I honestly didn’t care, because they had far more experience than I did, and I don’t value my self-worth because I’m dumb, and basically groveled to reclaim my place and retained it until I moved. But that’s another tale.)

So it’s nice to see THE MENU call this shit out, when instead they could have absolutely ignored it and penned a basic classist slasher-thriller. Instead, it’s a supremely smart and thoughtful dramatic thriller about the entire operation of feeding people, especially rich people, and fulfilling expectations while also fundamentally undermining them, but also undergoing a certain type of self-examination.

I’ll note that, yes, while I grew up in blue-collar joints and learned how to perfectly cook a cheeseburger to someone’s needs, I have indulged in dining in the exact restaurants that THE MENU riffs on such as Alinea. I’ll note that it is hard to overstate the impact of Alinea, especially in a frequently overlooked culinary city like my residing city of Chicago. (We’re more than deep-dish pizza, you know.)

This will age me, but my wife took me to Alinea for my thirtieth birthday. I’d been salivating over them before they even opened, as I’d been following the progress of the restaurant via the eGullet forum, despite not really being a foodie, and definitely not being a restaurant-scene chaser. It looked absolutely radical.

I felt like a schmuck because I was still kind of young and barely knew how to dress myself for the surprise occasion. No, we did not have the fabled dessert because it wasn’t part of the menu at that time. At that time, they were known more for a table-centric chocolate bomb, which was just as delightful/terrifying.

I do not say this to brag. I do not like to pretend that I’m above my station. (To quote Groucho Marx: “I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.”) I proposed to my wife over fried chicken, if that tells you anything. (Granted, it wasn’t KFC, but Harold’s Fried Chicken — some of the best goddamn fried chicken in the world, however, you routinely have to order it through bulletproof-glass.)

THE MENU sees all of this, and sees the possible pretension and artifice and demon-mongering that can go into it, and it explores it. I commend it for that, because certainly, there are plenty of terrible restaurants out there that prey on it, on giving pretentious service that can fail to fulfill its promise. (Alinea’s rotating sidecar restaurant — NEXT — has done that more than a few times for us, but has also been absolutely amazing at times. I can’t forget the pressed duck that we had at our first endeavor — their recreation of a Parisian menu from 1906 — and then they walked us through the kitchen to show how it was made which, well, it made it more miraculous.)

Long story short: restaurants are complicated creatures. Unlike films, no one ventures to one for the fun of a ‘bad time’ but THE MENU twists all of that around. I can’t say it didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth — it certainly did — but it’s certainly a film that provides food for thought.


It’s worth noting that one of my favorite films of all-time is Peter Greenaway’s THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER. You might think that it and THE MENU are different sides of the same coin, but really, apart from taking place in a restaurant and extolling haute cuisine, they are worlds apart. THE COOK… is far more mannered and political and British, whereas THE MENU is far more American in every which way.


(Peacock) LEOPARD SKIN is an eight episode limited series from Sebastian Gutierrez, perhaps best known for the recent neo-noir series JETT or for the cult comedy ELEKTRA LUXX or a little joke of a film named SNAKES ON A PLANE, depending on the kind of person you are. (I fall in the first camp.)

JETT was known for its supremely hyper-stylized lighting and framing patchwork — segmenting the action to heighten tension as well as to just look cool. As you might imagine, it owes a great deal of debt to Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s OUT OF SIGHT with a dash of WILD THINGS. Tellingly, Gutierrez also wrote an episode of the short-lived Karen Sisco spin-off of the film where THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE’s Carla Gugino played Sisco. (It’s worth noting that Gugino and Gutierrez have been entangled for quite some time.)

At first blush, LEOPARD SKIN appears to be a conventional heist-goes-wrong: three ruthless strangers are blackmailed into stealing millions of dollars worth of diamonds by a corrupt judge (an isolated Jeffrey Dean Morgan). They get the diamonds but shit goes sideways, their driver gets shot during the getaway, and they end up at the doorstep of a mansion occupied by an ex (Gugino) and a widow (Gaite Jansen), and the ex just happens to have footage of the widow killing her ex and then blackmails her by requesting that she becomes subservient to her every want.

In other words, it’s all about knowledge, power and sex.

While JETT was dreamlike, LEOPARD SKIN comes across as Lynchian in fashion commercial mode: overly visual and sumptuous, but often also stilted and performative in all the best ways. This is a show that should not exist, and the fact that it’s only available to stream via Peacock is even more mind-boggling, especially since it’s clear that this was not their intended network as the show is not paced for ad-breaks but yet has some of the most disjointed and abrupt ad-breaks, lending an even more surreal atmosphere to the show.

The always-brilliant Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya succinctly stated that “Carla Gugino and Gaite Jansen manage to bring nuance and velocity to a story that doesn’t ever seem to know what it’s doing or why.” LEOPARD SKIN feels groundless but is more interesting for being so. It’s an enigma wrapped in a riddle and is so confounding that you’ll either fall completely in love with it or you’ll find it to be pretentious softcore twaddle. Hopefully, like me, you’ll find it to be the former, but buyer beware.