I don’t know why the holidays always bring this extra level of busyness, even when they should be times to slow down and unwind. Maybe it’s the traveling, or the shopping, or the decorating that ends up taking more money and time than expected… but that’s all part of the fun too. I love the buzz of the holiday season, and I have a lot to be grateful for this year!
Thanksgiving weekend is wrapping up, and I hope everybody who celebrated here had a great time whatever they did (or didn’t do, because just sleeping in is one of the best things about any holiday!). This year was a big year of change for me, as I started a new job and got engaged. I’m thankful for my family, my fiancé, and my job — but after those most important things, here are a few of the little things I’ve been thankful for this season: a TV show, a video game, and a movie. =)
While I enjoyed the first season of Stranger Things last year, it was this new season that really got its hooks in me. Created and written by brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, the series is part mystery, part supernatural thriller, with tons of 80’s cheese as it follows middle and high schoolers around a small town.
The first season presents a mystery when a boy in town, Will Byers, goes missing — to another dimension, a world of monsters, that mirrors our own. This season, we learn more about the monsters, and the characters from season one are growing up.
I think it’s the improvement in characterization that really struck me in season two. The writing has always been great, but you can tell that this cast’s chemistry has had time to marinate by now. Besides the humor, some of the arguments between characters like cop Jim Hopper and Jane/Eleven, the young girl he’s trying to protect, ring very true. There are moments that made me laugh and others that broke my heart. Winona Ryder continues to be this half-unhinged, totally loving mom to Will, while still being believably smart about how to help him — even if that means causing him some temporary pain. I was also genuinely scared when the crew of middle schoolers and their new ringleader, high schooler Steve, go after the monsters with makeshift weapons and traps. And newcomer Bob (Sean Astin) is a dorky Radio Shack employee who wins you over as an unconventional hero — at one point, he hacks computers to keep the monsters out of a lab, like something out of an old video game.
Several intriguing themes and motifs run through the episodes, along with identifying hero items like Steve’s barb-wire baseball bat, Jane/Eleven’s new punk outfit, or the bikes the middle schoolers ride. There is so much to appreciate and analyze in this show, it almost makes me want to rewatch the series to dust off every little gem. If you are at all into supernatural stories or John Hughes movies — or ideally both — Stranger Things is a must-watch.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
This year has been a win for video games. For me, it was all about playing my very first Wolfenstein game, some Mass Effect Andromeda entertainment — as thin and drawn-out as the game was, I still enjoyed it overall — and the totally original world of Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn.
But right now, I’m leaning towards Assassin’s Creed Origins as my favorite video game this year, because it takes place in one of my favorite time periods and places: ancient Egypt. For me, growing up as a history nerd, Assassin’s Creed games have always intrigued me with their ability to transport gamers to the past — but this time, taking me to ancient Egypt, they’ve captured me on a whole new level. My heart is so invested in Bayek’s story, and I love his kickass wife (and partner in crime) Aya too. The gameplay also offers a little more leniency if you want to play in a more aggressive way, which is great for when my attempts at stealth don’t work out.
Swinging around a spear in the desert, riding on my dressed-up camel, petting cats, and exploring ancient tombs and bazaars is like my dream video game vacation. I’m totally in love with this game right now.
Over Thanksgiving weekend I watched Pixar’s new movie Coco, which depicts Mexico’s Day of the Dead tradition with equal parts heart and spectacle. The story follows a boy named Miguel who wants to become a musician, but his family — having had a musician walk out on them years back — wants nothing to do with music. In accidentally ending up in the Land of the Dead, Miguel goes on a crazy adventure that teaches him more about his family and dreams.
I have to admit, I’m not big on animated movies anymore, although I know I shouldn’t write them off as being just for kids. Coco definitely proved that I should watch more of these movies, as it was a visual treat and a truly heartfelt story. I recommend it for all ages, no matter where you’re from, and especially if you’ve lost someone in your life. Bring tissues!