Tuesday, May 8, 2018

My April in Film

Ready Player One*
It's apparently super Popular and Cool to hate on this movie -- but whatever, I liked it. It's bright and flashy and pretty ridiculous, but super fun. There's nothing wrong with watching a movie just to enjoy it.

9 to 5
I'd wanted to see this movie for ages because I figured if it was even half as good as its amazing theme song, I'd love it. It's probably one of the silliest movies I've ever seen, but in a good way. It's very fun, often very funny and repeatedly made me ask the question, "WHEN is Dolly Parton going to guest star on Grace and Frankie??" Get on this, Netflix.

Girls Trip
When Girls Trip came out, it seemed like everyone who saw it adored it. And now I understand why. It's hysterical. I was laughing out loud the entire time, almost always at Tiffany Haddish. Every second we aren't celebrating her is a second wasted. Even more important than its humor, though, is what a great celebration of female friendship it is! I was surprised to find I was tearing up a little toward the end.

Little Women (1994)
I admit I've never read Little Women or seen the original film, but I enjoyed this one! I've said before that period pieces are not really my jam, but I don't mind them as much when they aren't about #TRAGIC romances. The March women are iconic for a reason and I loved them immediately. Also: why don't we talk more about what a great speaking voice Christian Bale has?

Apparently, I'm on a Winona Ryder kick. Unfortunately, her character in Mermaids is ridiculously annoying -- but on the bright side, Cher basically plays herself and is therefore fabulous and Christina Ricci was the cutest little kid. I didn't love this movie, but its overall decent and the aesthetics (New England fall, great eyeshadow looks, 1960s cars and kitschy decor) are great. It is, however, about 20 minutes too long.

Wet Hot American Summer
I watched this movie late at night with friends, which is, I think, the best way to experience it. It's completely ridiculous, an absolute farce -- as one friend put it, "No one in this movie is sincere at all" -- and, for the most part, it pulls it off. Though I might be forever scarred by the Molly Shannon storyline and the weird way Paul Rudd "kisses" in this movie.

I had tried to watch Alien once before and didn't get very far because it gets off to an INCREDIBLY slow start. But, it hits it stride about 30 minutes in. I liked that it was more cerebral than a lot of today's action and/or sci-fi films because it literally couldn't rely on too many flashy effects. That being said, it reminded me of so many of the sci-fi films and TV shows I've seen, and it was fun to realize it's because all of them were inspired by this one. Also, Ripley is the coolest, duh.

I also finished three books: Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom, a strange, sad, multigenerational story about love, culture and family; Carrie by Stephen King, a classic that I loved even more than I expected to; and Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley, a sweet YA book by an author I adore. I also watched an insane amount of Game of Thrones (am now caught up and don't know what to do with myself), saw Bowling for Soup live and listened to these songs. Am now listening to Dirty Computer on repeat just like everyone else.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Sunsets fade, and love does to

It never hurts to focus on the things you love, right? Today, I'm loving...

  • 1960s eye makeup looks, largely inspired by Cher in Mermaids
  • Earl Grey tea, which I've lately been drinking instead of coffee
  • The silver mesh booties I bought myself for no reason last month
  • Playing the silly Monopoly game my local grocery stores are running
  • The tour photos Harry Styles has been posting
  • This Twitter account that promises "a new picture of Tessa Thompson as a goat every day"
  • Kacey Musgraves's Golden Hour, Hayley Kiyoko's Expectations and the video for Lizzo's "Fitness"
  • Counting down the days until I get to see Austin, my friends and Bowling for Soup!

While we're at it, here's the Best of What I've Read so far this month:

  • I love Dwayne Johnson. You love Dwayne Johnson. We all love Dwayne Johnson. This Rolling Stone profile gets at why. (See also: this GQ profile from last year, which is one of my fave pieces of all time.)
  • Entertainment Weekly took a look at 70 of their favorite TV shows and picked the best season of each. It's a fun romp through TV history and of the shows I've seen, I agree with almost all of their picks (except Bones -- Bones without my beloved Sweets isn't Bones at all). 
  • April 4 marked five years since the great Roger Ebert passed away. How great? Check out this quote from his review of The Tree of Life: "Some few films evoke the wonderment of life’s experience, and those I consider a form of prayer. Not prayer 'to' anyone or anything, but prayer 'about' everyone and everything. I believe prayer that makes requests is pointless. What will be, will be. But I value the kind of prayer when you stand at the edge of the sea, or beneath a tree, or smell a flower, or love someone, or do a good thing. Those prayers validate existence and snatch it away from meaningless routine." I MEAN. Want more? You can read all of his other reviews here. I especially love his takes on Halloween ('79), Almost Famous, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Juno.
  • This piece on Busy Philipps' career trajectory from de facto "best friend" to Insta-famous mom is fascinating. If you don't already follow her, you're in for a treat.
  • Rob Sheffield does a great job of explaining why the original version of Roseanne was so important, why the reboot is garbage and why you should just watch Lady Bird instead.
  • Molly Ringwald wrote a fantastic (and thoroughly reported) op-ed about revisiting the John Hughes films that defined her youth -- and most of ours -- in the age of #MeToo. It tackles the crass parts of the films with frankness, while still recognizing that they were and are important. Molly asks, "How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose?" It's a great question.

Monday, April 2, 2018

My March in Film

I'm up to 29 films this year!

Like February, I watched 10 films in March -- mostly sci-fi and thrillers, with a few rom-coms and documentaries for good measure.

Apparently a missed some of this movie, but I watched most of it, so it counts. Because let's be real: everyone's kind-of seen Jaws. It's the original summer blockbuster and one of the most famous movies of all time. If you miss some of it, you can figure it out. But this was the first time I'd ever sat and watched any of it intentionally -- and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it! I figured the more than 40 years since its release were sure to show, from the writing to the shark itself, but I was wrong. It's still a fun, gripping watch (especially with the help of its iconic theme) that even holds a few surprises.

Table 19
I'm a sucker for Anna Kendrick. Proof: Table 19 is the sixteenth Kendrick film I've seen. I'd been intrigued by this one since I first saw the trailer, and it turned out to be a pretty good installment into what I'm now dubbing the (potential) Rom-Comissance. It definitely skews a little more "indie" than "Hollywood," with each of the characters dealing with some pretty heavy stuff, but it still manages to be fluffy enough to not get you down. About halfway through, I was afraid it was going to go off the rails because of a certain plot point -- but it rallied and ended up a stronger movie for it. A decent choice for a light, movie-and-chill night.

Wishful Drinking
I read the novelization of Carrie Fisher's one-woman show earlier this year and loved it. Like most things Carrie, it was extremely funny, even when dealing with issues that are anything but. The film version -- a taping of the show -- was even better. Turns out the only thing funnier than Carrie Fisher's stories is watching Carrie tell them.

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds
After I watched Wishful Drinking, it seemed only right to watch this one. What an emotional journey! It was beautiful, entertaining and, at times, heartbreaking. The world got a little less glittery when we lost these two -- what fantastical women they were.

Love, Simon*
My main takeaways from Love, Simon are that it's delightful and that everyone should see it -- preferably in theaters. It's a film that's long overdue, with such heavy expectations on it that it could've fallen flat...but it doesn't. It's sweet, fluffy and incredibly charming, while also managing to address some things that Hollywood usually glosses over (/ignores/misinterprets). I'm so happy today's youth have it. Bonus points: it has a perfect soundtrack.

I was a little biased going into this one because I love Sam Rockwell and sci-fi. But it's genuinely really good! It checks a lot of boxes: a compelling, unpredictable story; beautiful cinematography and music; and an incredibly affecting performance by Rockwell. It poses some big Science Fiction™ questions you'll still be thinking about when it's over. (Plus, fun fact, it's the directorial debut of Duncan Jones, son of David Bowie. Very fitting that the Starman's kid made a movie about space.)

Never Let Me Go
I took a chance on this movie and it surprised me. I assumed it was a pretty straightforward romantic period piece, which is a genre I'm not too fond of. But I was wrong. Bolstering the tragic love triangle is a sinister dystopian/utopian story -- and an extremely interesting one at that. I've never seen a film that sets this type of sci-fi in the past, having it somehow inform every aspect of the story without ever really being at the forefront. Give this one a chance. (But be warned: dystopian/utopian stories are depressing and so are tragic romances. This film is both, so it's not...a happy tale.)

Thelma & Louise
There isn't much I can say about the Importance of Thelma & Louise that hasn't already been said. It remains one of the most famous women-driven films ever and for good reason. It's a film about women taking action -- against attackers, against monotony, against expectations. It isn't a perfect film -- it's a bit too long, the acting isn't always good, that iconic ending is messy and weird -- but it's a film that needs to exist and one that serves as a template for the kind of story we still need more of.

Begin Again
Don't judge a movie by its (bad) marketing! The trailer for this film makes it look like a traditional, cheesy rom-com. But it's actually so much better than that. It's a love letter in parts: to finding a good connection at a bad time in your life; to the art of making music; to the importance of chasing a spark of inspiration; to New York City. It also made me want to write love letters to Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley, both international treasures we don't deserve. It's a very good movie. (Bonus: There's something a little cheeky about Adam Levine playing a musician who used to make soulful music and starts making "stadium pop.")

Super Dark Times
I knew I wanted to see Super Dark Times from the moment I saw its compelling trailer, so I was super excited when it appeared on Netflix. Thankfully, it was as interesting as I hoped it would be. The cinematography is beautiful. The story is tense and well-paced. The young actors do a great job of transforming from carefree and (incredibly) crass teenagers to rapidly unraveling conspirators. The film does trip up a few times, but it's nothing too major. It's worth the watch, especially for fans of We Need to Talk About Kevin.

I also finished four books in March, wrapped up watching the final season of The X Files (RIP) and the latest season of American Crime Story (Versace is a mess, but Darren Criss is electrifying), binged the new season of Santa Clarita Diet (still amazing) and discovered these jams.

Bring it on, April!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

"There's people out here biting Beyoncé!"

Can y'all believe March is almost over?? January and February both felt like they lasted my entire life, but I feel like March just flew by.

Maybe part of that is because I've been reading more lately than I have in a long time. Really working that library card like a millionaire works an AmEx. (Seriously, I'm so stoked on the library lately. Free books! Limitless checkouts! Return dates that make you actually read the books instead of just stacking them on shelves for all eternity!)

Anyway, here's the Best of What I Read in March, from books to articles:

  • I finished In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen, a book I checked out in February as part of my local library's "Blind Date with a Book" event. I didn't flat-out adore it, but it does tell a compelling story of how crazily connected people can be. 
  • Next up was I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Straight-up one of the best books I've ever read. I kept having to put it down to walk off the feelings and I haven't stopped thinking about it since I finished it.
  • I devoured Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson in approximately 48 hours. Maureen is a great mystery writer (her Shades of London series, starting with The Name of the Star, is a must-read) and this one is no exception. I'm now impatiently awaiting its sequel. 
  • Now reading: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. So far, it's as good as its spectacular miniseries adaptation. 
  • Lauren Larson's piece on Bill Hader is killer. There's something insanely comforting about finding out an SNL legend deals with major anxiety and also I just really love Bill Hader.  
  • Caity Weaver went whale watching with Tiffany Haddish, something I never knew I wanted to do until now. Haddish is predictably delightful talking about everything from Cup O' Noodles to turpentine to Beyonc√©.
  • Anne T. Donhaue hit me in the feels (as usual) with this piece on professional jealousy. Because, woof, do I know that vibe.
  • AV Club is doing a series on rom-coms and this piece about the development and impact of the greatest rom-com of all time, When Harry Met Sally, is a treat. 

Thursday, March 1, 2018

My February in Film

My 2018 movie count is up to 18!

Here's my February in film -- 10 movies, ranging from rom-coms to horror movies to Black Panther, obviously.

1) I, Tonya*
I adored this movie. The more I think about it, the more I like it. It's hilarious, insane and distinctly American. It's a meditation on class, fame, competition and what it means to be "likable." It's a story about wanting to be a hero and ending up a villain. It's got an amazing soundtrack. And Margot Robbie knocks it out of the park in the titular role. She shines as both versions of Tonya: the grating, trashy antihero and the scrappy underdog champion. No matter what you believe really happened, she made history -- "and that's the truth."

2) Don't Breathe
I'd wanted to see Don't Breathe since it dominated the box office in 2016 and it didn't disappoint! The home invasion genre can sometimes seem a little stagnant, but this film breathed some new life into it (pun intended). It was full of twists I didn't expect, but what impressed me most was the cinematography. It reminded me a bit of Panic Room (another good home invasion film, directed by one of my faves, David Fincher), but was overall a bit smoother. The panning shots paired with the nerve-wracking premise -- try not to make a sound while being hunted in a house -- made this one a real nail-biter, in the best way.

3) Mystic Pizza
There's been kind-of a movement recently -- largely due to the success of the delightful The Big Sick -- where people are like, "Hey, what happened to all the rom-coms?" And I would also like to know. What happened to movies that are just sweet, funny and romantic? Not dramatic Nicholas Sparks sagas, not heartbreaking period pieces, not raunchy sex comedies -- good ol' rom-coms! The market hasn't gone anywhere and there's a lot of space to improve upon the genre (starting with more diverse casting and women behind-the-camera, please). Anyway, the point: Mystic Pizza is a good ol' rom-com. It's sweet, it's funny, it's romantic and it has aged remarkably well for a film that came out in 1988. Is it a little predictable? Sure. But that's kind-of what rom-coms are all about. There's comfort in the formula.

4) To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar
This film was exactly what I expected it to be, in the best way. A delight from start to finish, it was fun and silly, but most of all, it was kind. Definitely a "feel good" movie and packed with one-liners. (If you laughed when the new Queer Eye guys said, "What in gay hell?," you have this movie to thank.) Also hit me with a pang of sadness because wow, do I ever wish we still had Patrick Swayze.

5) Black Panther*
The hype is real: it's a masterpiece. Go see it immediately.

6) Constantine
I had technically seen this film once before, but could only remember vague flashes about it, so I'm considering this the first time. I really, really enjoyed it! I love media about the complexities of good and evil and the fate of humanity, especially re: angels and demons (think The Prophecy), so I was super into this one. It also nailed the look and feel of the darker side of comic book/graphic novel adaptations. Plus, your girl loves Keanu Reeves.

7) 3,000 Miles to Graceland
This movie is not...good. There are good things about it: it is occasionally very funny; Kurt Russell and Christian Slater are in it; Kevin Costner makes a very convincing bad guy. But the unfortunate cocktail of rampant misogyny, weird cinematography and no clear tone make it too much of a mess to really enjoy.

8) Tragedy Girls
I really wanted to love this film because horror-comedy is my favorite. But it mostly left me feeling...meh? It gets some elements right: a good soundtrack, fun cinematography, biting satire and Brianna Hildebrand as Best Dressed Sociopath. But where it falls short is trying too hard. It's like the writers blended together better horror and black comedies and ended up with a lesser final product. It fails because when you're joking about awful things and leading your film with intentionally terrible characters, you have to be really funny to balance out the darkness. And this film made me laugh once.

9) While You Were Sleeping
As mentioned above, I love a good rom-com. But everyone knows watching romantic movies means suspending some of your disbelief. Almost all of them feature at least one element that doesn't make sense (I mean, it's super weird that Cher and Josh fell in love, right?). But even by that set standard, While You Were Sleeping is especially insane. It still manages to be fairly charming, of course, driven by America's Sweetheart Sandra Bullock, paired with Bill Pullman as an endearing everyman. But it was harder than usual for me to stop thinking, "This is bananas. This would never work. WHY DON'T PEOPLE JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER?" It's good escapism, but I couldn't leave logic behind.

10) Apollo 13
Seeing this movie was an inevitability because I, like all functioning humans, love Tom Hanks. And it was good! I totally get why it's considered a classic -- it's well-acted, well-directed and based on a true story. It features an iconic line ("Houston, we have a problem") and it's stressful in that special way films about space travel usually are. If you're a fan of high-stakes dramas, this is an enjoyable one.

This month, I also started reading 18 and Life on Skid Row by Sebastian Bach and In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen (s/o to the Abilene Public Library for doing "Blind Date with a Book"!); finished Waco (amazing) and started Parenthood; repeatedly watched this music video; and jammed out to these songs.

Happy March, y'all!

Monday, February 26, 2018

"Vive la evolution!"

As I have such a bad habit of seeing articles, liking them on Twitter, telling myself, "I'll read that later," and then reading like, 11 pieces in one sitting, I'm probably going to make sharing my faves a semi-regular thing.

So, here's the Best of What I Read Today:

  • First up, there's this piece that makes a case for ditching Tinder and bringing back blind dating. And speaking of our online obsessions, the great Anne T. Donahue wrote about how we don't owe anyone any details about our life -- even if social media culture can make us feel like we do. 
  • Black Panther takes abound on the web right now, but which one is the most important? What the kids thought, of course! Kevin Noble Maillard spoke with seven seventh graders about what they thought of Marvel's latest hit. (Spoiler alert: they love the suit.) Also re Black Panther: there's a line in that Rolling Stone cover story that made me catch my breath.
  • Speaking of superheroes, the Burton Batman movies are now on Netflix and Scott Meslow wanted to know: do they hold up? (My answer: yes.)
  • Following the recent shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, Michael Ian Black penned an affecting op-ed about how America's boys are broken and we need to do something about it.
  • That Brendon Fraser profile everyone's talking about? Don't miss it. Zach Baron paints a melancholy portrait of a beloved actor many of us forgot to notice was missing. 
  • Jordan Peele and Janelle Monae's faked a Hitchcockian noir film for W and now I need to see it made IRL.
  • Bim Adewunmi asks the real hard-hitting question: "Why is Michael B. Jordan so hot right now?"
Scroll on!