Here's the challenge: commit to reading 50 books and watching 50 movies in the next year! (Find out more...)
For 2011, I read a book every week for my blog's Book-a-Week Challenge. Guess how many people participated? Maybe three, and I was one of them. So when I heard about the hundreds signing up for the Fifty Fifty Me challenge to read 50 books and watch 50 films by the end of 2012, I knew I had to join. These were my people.
As someone used to reading one book a week, I'm not too worried about that piece of the challenge. Finding time to watch 50 movies? That will be the real push for me. It means eliminating several shows from my TiVo list. And that's going to hurt a little.
Why in the name of all that is holy would I add one more thing to my already teetering tower of to-dos?
Here is my answer: I'm conquering the Fifty Fifty Me challenge through the eyes of an aspiring novelist. I've written two terrible novels where the scenes and settings are somewhat amusing and even "moving" in parts, but the plots lack tension. The conflicts are too simple, and the characters sound too much alike. Instead of constructing solid, compelling stories, I wrote 300-page situations.
Nobody ever stayed up all night tearing through a book because of an "interesting situation." We lose ourselves in books for the love of a good story. We watch movies for the same reason. So how do the novelists and screenwriters make that happen for the audience?
Let's talk in January 2013 when I hope to answer that question like a professional. Some people are adding "majors" and "minors" to their Fifty Fifty Me challenge. They're reading all of Hemingway for example, or watching films staring Ryan Gosling. I'm majoring in "the art of the story" and minoring in character development.
Anyone want to join me? If you're interested, I recommend adding the late Blake Synder's invaluable screenwriting book Save the Cat to your Fifty Fifty book list. I'll be using Synder's Story Beat Sheet as I read and watch. Find me on my blog for the occasional "art of the story" analysis. You can also follow me on Twitter @NinaBadzin and see my Fifty Fifty Me picks on Pinterest.
Hope to see you there! Nina
Courtesy of Monica | Monica's Tangled Web | Originally posted 1.24.2012
Why am I doing it? Why did I agree to participate in a challenge that requires me to read 50 books and see 50 films in one year? Well, I didn’t do it for the films. Seeing 50 films is what I’m pretty sure I already do every year.
No, I did it for the love of reading. Because I adore being transported and carried away by a good read. Only, in my adulthood, I haven’t been reading nearly as much as I once did, from childhood, all the way through to my college years. Life’s demands and responsibilities have come between me and my passion for reading. And, if I’m going to be honest, I must confess that the number of TV shows I watch each week, hasn’t helped either.
So, basically, for the last 30 years, reading has been at the bottom of my To-Do list. Which, when I think of all my wonderful memories associated with reading, I have to wonder, how could this be? What made me sacrifice my love for the written word? Was it my work? The advent of the ability to record programs? Did VHS kill reading? Or was it simply the need and desire to raise and spend time with my two kids? Probably all of the above.
My memories of reading start with my childhood in Queens. Every Saturday morning, my mother would drive me to the local library and drop me off at its door, returning a few hours later to pick me up. It was a routine I grew to love. The children’s section was located on the lower level and I remember the circular staircase that led to it. I’d join the other kids there for story time with the librarian. After which, I’d pick out the books I wanted to borrow for the week. Some of my favorite books included, the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak, and both the Pippi Longstocking and The Children of Noisy Village series, by Astrid Lindgren. Ah, bliss.
In sixth grade, I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, and I remember curling up in a comfy chair, reading nonstop until I finished the book. So engrossed was I in this beautiful novel, I imagined myself to be Francie Nolan, the protagonist, and cried profusely when she lost someone very dear to her.
In seventh grade English, I was assigned to read A Lantern in Her Hand, by Bess Streeter Aldrich. I absolutely loved this story about a young woman who marries and heads west during the days of pioneer life. She had so many dreams, one by one they whittled away, because being a pioneer wife and mother got in the way. She had many children and eventually, each of them grew up and ended up fulfilling their mother’s dreams, in their own way. I remember loving this book so much, I read it aloud to my mother, who didn’t have time for books at all. Those were special moments.
In ninth grade, I made a friend who changed my life, when she introduced me to an array of classic works. Like the Bronte sisters’ Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, Albert Camus’ The Stranger, Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, along with books by Lillian Hellman, Dorothy Parker, O. Henry and the like. This opened new worlds for me and I’ll be forever grateful to my friend.
When I was 15, I spent nearly a year attending school in Caracas, Venezuela. I craved books written in English. The private school I was attending had a small shelf in the library devoted to such books. One of them was Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. I had never read this book before and became completely immersed in the story.
Around this time, I saw a book review in an issue of Time magazine that caught my eye. I wrote to my oldest brother, Michael, who was back in the states, and asked him to send me a copy of the book. Well, he sent it along with another book, that I hadn’t requested. He included a note.
“If you’re determined to read the book you ordered, then please, also read this one. It’s better for you.”
The book I asked for was Love Story, a real tearjerker by Erich Segal. Tucked underneath was The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I loved them both, as I did other books my brother sent me, such as The Godfather by Mario Puzo and Catch-22, by Joseph Heller.
In college, I was deep into mysteries: Mary Higgins Clark, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross McDonald, and so on.
When I first married, I realized I had never read The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. There were nine in the series and, in a few weeks, I devoured them all. Such wonderful, adventurous stories!
When I think back on how so many good books have touched my life, this much I know: That it is for these glorious and meaningful memories that I do it now.
So, tell me, what are your favorite memories about reading?
Please check out my new Fifty Fifty page. And hey, it’s not too late to sign up for the Fifty Fifty challenge. If I can do it, anyone can!
For my next book in the FiftyFifty.Me challenge, I read Good Behavior, a memoir, by Nathan L. Henry, the story of his year in jail for armed robbery. This was an adult jail but Nate was only sixteen. He was no stranger to trouble and in this memoir, he alternates chapters among his year in jail, the year leading up to his crime, and scenes from earlier in his childhood that somewhat explain how a boy from a one stop-light town in rural Indiana finds himself in this predicament. It is gritty, graphic, and often disturbing. I found parts of it nearly impossible to read, but was drawn through it by the hope that he would find a way out. I won't spoil it, but let's just say that the jail librarian is instrumental.
What I took from this book, more than the story itself, was the way in which it was told. He maintained a primarily chronological structure in the alternating chapters so although the book jumps back and forth in time, the reader always knows where she is because he tells the different stories in a "this happened then this happened" order. Within this framework, there were a few flashbacks, but the story was carried forward by the passage of time. We knew he'd either get out of jail or be sent to prison. We knew he'd eventually be arrested and go to jail. We knew he grew to at least the age of sixteen. All of this pulls the reader along. We are also pulled along by the question of "what exactly happened?" since he teases us by referring to the day he set the school on fire and the night the police chased down he and his friend Phillip before he actually tells the events.
This book is not for the faint of heart, but it's definitely worth the read.
I watch a fair amount of movies and still I find myself in many conversations about movies that I have not seen. Then comes the look that makes me feel as if I have two heads and the snarky comment, “you haven’t seen that movie?” I’ve grown tired of the look. Sometimes, just for fun, I answer back in the same snarky way, “Did it win an Oscar?” I feel better for a few minutes, they probably don’t.
The 50/50 challenge has got me thinking a little about some of those movies. One genre I plan on spending a little time in is Musicals. Tonight, I watched Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man starring Matthew Broderick and Kristin Chenoweth. If anyone in Iowa is reading this, pick up your jaw and hold the sigh. I have no idea how I have never seen this movie. Meredith Wilson’s birthplace is Mason City, Iowa. That is where I am from. I have heard about him and the famous song "76 Trombones" for years and still never watched it.
Now I know what the fuss is about. I loved it. So many songs I have heard snippets from before but I never knew where they came from. Maybe I will visit the Meredith Wilson Museum next time I home visiting. Is there a River City footbridge?
One of the hot new internet things, Pinterest is an inspiration board with social networking baked in. As a recent first time user, I can see how it's useful and addictive. Much like a Tumblr, Pinterest is super easy to use and allows you to tag things from around the Internet and then have them appear all organized and pretty for your display.
For fiftyfifty.me purposes, Pinterest serves as a nice visual take on what you've been reading and watching. Additionally, it allows for easy commenting and following people back and forth. Already I'm envisioning how cool my Pinterest will look with tons of stuff on it!
I'm having some trouble picking through everyone's Pinterest streams but I'm sure there's a setting I'm missing. For now, Pinterest is invite-only but if you need an invite, just ask us and we'll send you one.
Here's some fiftyfifty.me participants that are already using Pinterest to keep track of their books and movies. Check'em out and then follow them -- and if we missed you, comment or email us and we'll add you right away. And big thanks to Laura (@lolliknits) and Camilla (@manukenkun) for thinking of using Pinterest to keep track of stuff!
So what happens if you love Vegas as much as we do? What if, for example, you are on your way to Vegas as this posts? Or maybe you’re just at home in front of your computer screen and longing to be anywhere except your cubicle. You want to be where the action is- where pumped oxygen fills the air, where cocktail waitresses in ill-fitting costumes and too-dark nylons abound…where everyone wears the stinky cologne of dashed hopes and expectations, and where casino-proffered well vodka splashes across your shoes.
If you’re looking for that sort of ambiance, you’ve come to the right place. Here are a few Vegas-inspired movies to get you away from your life and straight to Sin City. Safe to say that, by virtue of location alone, you can bet these are not movies for family movie night (post forthcoming!)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Honeymoon in Vegas
Leaving Las Vegas
Here’s Wikipedia’s list of movies set in Vegas.
In our second episode, we're excited for the official start of fifyfifty.me because it's finally the new year! We talk a little bit about if books and movies quit halfway through should count, and then we share how we can help people find other participants. We're also looking for guest bloggers and we'd love to interview someone soon. Could it be you? [14:37 min]
(direct MP3 download link)
Courtesy of Jennie | Nerd on the Verge | Originally posted 1.4.2012
What a way to kick off the challenge. In all my life, I had thrown two books across a room upon finishing them; this was the third.
What Adam Ross has done here is create a monumental waste of time for anyone who likes books that are something other than lame experiments in pseudo-metafiction. I’d say it’s too clever for its own good, but it is neither of those things. It is not clever, and it is not good.
Mr. Peanut is a book about murder and about writing about murder, specifically of the domestic variety. Three sets of husbands and wives are profiled. The first, David and Alice, are what we are led to believe are the primary couple. David is set up at first as the antagonist, having been accused of murdering his wife, but what feels like Mr. Ross’ unabashed misogyny swiftly arrives to turn the tables and make Alice into a freak bitch, baby.
The second couple, a detective and his wife, are such ciphers that I can’t even be bothered to remember their names, and I finished this book yesterday. She has taken to bed; he is confused. She refuses to explain herself; he is enraged. She is enigmatic; he is homicidally furious. Until one day, she’s up and about, and he is fine. Back to normal. Let’s have a baby.
No explanation, no reason for this unbelievably long derailment. It seems to exist merely to get us to hate another female character for her wily, mysterious, womanly ways. Men never know what women are thinking, and women always make them guess? Astonishingly original material, that.
In addition, once this profile is over, we never hear about these two people again. Maybe once they are referred to, in passing. But this dude was one of the people investigating the death of Alice. But I guess their section was over, their little scenario of domestic bliss complete; moving on.
The third scenario profiles the murder of Detective Sheppard’s wife Marian in 1954. We are sidetracked into this scenario via a confusing little character called Mobius who is ready to confess to Alice’s murder—but only if he hears the true story of what happened to Marian, and only if he gets to read David’s book. Which is, apparently, about killing Alice.
Yeah. So, at first it seems we’re being told Detective—then, Doctor—Sheppard was your typical class-A 1950s alpha-male asshole. Blindingly arrogant, with a kid he ignores and a wife he cheats on religiously, he blithely ignores Marian’s feelings about just about everything and makes extraordinary demands without realizing their significance. But soon we learn that Marian was withholding sex. Gee golly, mister! No wonder he killed her!
Or did he?
We don’t really find out. And I don’t care. Did I mention that “David” writes several different endings for his “book,” and there are entire passages—like, 50-page passages—devoted solely to describing a hike in Hawaii and Hitchcockian film tropes? And that David is a video game developer who blah blah it’s nonsense don’t read it blah.
Checking our Twitter feed over the holiday weekend, I was seeing someone shoot through movies as they jumped out to a big start on the challenge. Admittedly I was in a bit of a panic as I felt immediately behind! Turns out Ashley is cranking out movies so she can stay ahead of the game when school starts. Here's her first 50/50 post and the four movies she knocked out in just two days!
Courtesy of Ashley | reader-girl.tumblr.com | @Ashl3yC | Originally posted 1.3.2012
Okay so the challenge is to read 50 books and watch 50 movies by the end of 2012. Whenever I complete a book or movie I will post it here with a brief description of the book or a review or both. If you want a challenge join, go to the website above and sign up it's as easy as that.
Now you can choose a major or minor for books and movies I have chosen a major and minor for both. I encourage you to do the same.
BooksI hope you enjoy learning about my fifty fifty me challenge and I encourage you to join in and make 2012 a great year by participating in this challenge!
Major: Teen sci-fi/ adventure and survival
Minor: Kathy Reichs
Minor: Shirley Temple
1. Love, Wedding, Marriage
This movie wasn't as bad as some of the critics said it was. I found it slow to start but I'm a true romantic and fell in love with the movie in the end. Though I couldn't help but think that Rapunzel was speaking the whole time. Oh Mandy Moore you will never be the same to me again. [1-1-12]
2. Crazy Stupid Love
I'm going to go ahead and rank this movie my favorite of 2012. It was hilarious, fast paced, and an ingenious way to approach marital conflict. The plot of the story was pretty slim picking but the cast of the movie held it together brilliantly. Oh and the fight scene brilliant. Will definitely watch it again. [1-1-12]
3. Horrible Bosses
At first I was only going to watch this movie because "Sweets" from Bones John Francis Daley co-wrote it. Then I started hearing reviews about it and how hilarious and good it was. So I decided to give it a go. I love this movie. I know I've said that about pretty much every movie I've ever watched but it wasn't slow, it wasn't not funny (like Bridesmaids), and it wasn't as "R" rated as I think the critics said. Sure there were choice words and some slightly sexual scenes but we live in the 21st century. I don't recommend it for anyone under like 15 or 16 but geeze they see worse on TV half the time. But if I had to rank it on a scale from 1 (being horrible) to 10 (being astounding), I'd rank it right around an 8 which in my mind if pretty dang awesome! See for yourself. [1-1-12]
4. Larry Crowne
The movie that got ridiculously horrible reviews. I liked the movie. It was slow to start but it picked up in the middle and kept my attention from there. The plot was simple man enrolls in navy, man never goes to college, gets out of navy, starts retail job, loses said job, goes back to school, falls in love, the end. But to me it was about a 7 on my ranking scale. It made me laugh and it made me laugh some more. The whole Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks making out was a little weird but other than that good movie. [1-2-12]
People have been asking us how to find other fiftyfifty-ers and here's what we've compiled for you so far: A list of Twitter folk and a Google Reader bundle for blogs too. Both are easily subscribed to with just one click!
If you want to append your Tweets with our hashmark, most people have been using: #fiftyfiftyme. And if you don't use Google Reader, I recommend it highly to keep up with sites and blogs. Here's a basic what-is for Reader.
Please tell us if we missed your Twitter or your blog, and if you want to be added (or, um, taken off). I'm updating the blog rolls on the sidebar too, and will try to organize them in some manner.
The other thing people asked about is how to keep track of books and movies read. For books we're using Goodreads I believe -- since a lot of people are on it already -- but movies is a bit of a toss up. Get Glue is an option, which Bill (@billtonkin | mayanfiftyfifty) just put me on yesterday so I'm trying it out.
If anyone knows a better solution for either, we're all ears! Traditionally I've just used a Google Doc to track movies and books but that's not nearly as pretty. Or interactive. Next I'll work on sharing what other people are majoring/minoring in, thanks all!
(Lists updated as of 1.14.2012)
Originally, Eric asked us for "bad cinema" recommendations but we'd say he's the reigning expert! We love everything about this post and am now inspired to watch Robot Jox and other good yet bad movies. Or was that the other way around?
Courtesy of Eric | thelemur.net | @saintehlers | Originally posted 12.21.2011
So I have been asked what I mean when I say “Bad Cinema.” The thing is, it’s not an easy thing for me to encapsulate any other way. Which is, after all, why I settled on the phrase.
One proposed definition is “movies that are so bad they’re good.” And to be honest, Bad Cinema encompasses a lot of these sorts of movies. Robot Jox is a good example of this. Robot Jox is a B-movie, set in a post-apocalyptic world, where the remaining nations (the Soviet Union among them) have agreed that instead of full on wars or weapons of mass destruction, they will settle disputes with what amounts to Ultimate Fighting Championships – between giant robots. There’s no rationale for how on earth societies settle on this, or why they even abide by it. The budget was so low that the props and costumes were made primarily out of bits you’d find in any local Radio Shack.
What did the film have going for it? Well, they managed to avoid wholesale copying of “mecha” style robots. Otherwise… not really anything.
But I like it. So by default, I throw it in the Bad Cinema category.
But that doesn’t work for the main body of what I consider Bad Cinema.
The second simplest way I can put it (since “Bad Cinema” is the first simplest way) is that these are movies that have at least one flash of absolute brilliance in them. Something genuine and real, and almost objectively well done – but that are otherwise so poorly made that they have no chance of commercial or critical success.
Many movies with cult followings fit into this category: Buckaroo Bonzai, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (the camp approach on the last one walks the brilliant line of farcical silliness without ever crossing into just plain stupid, which is the problem with so many spoof movies, including all of Tomatoes’s sequels.
They all have that one piece of inspirational awesomeness that draws certain people who are able to overlook the flaws. Highlander is another example. By all objective measures, the TV series was a better made production. Critics collectively gave the movie a “meh.” If it weren’t for international audiences, the theatrical release would have been a loss for the studio.
All the same, the ideas and the story that lay under the movie were enough to inspire Queen to sit down and write a bunch of songs for it. It launched a multi-film and multi-media franchise. The catch-phrase “There can be only one” is widely known these days. Taken as a whole, it’s not a brilliant achievement. But the component parts of it reveal some wonderful creativity and some powerful ideas that can be truly moving.
You know what’s awesome about Godzilla? This is a movie about the horrific accidental result of a nuclear weapons testing – made concrete in the form of a literal giant monster. And the only way to stop it is to create a new kind of weapon of mass destruction and using it on their own territory. And where does it take place? The only country to have had a nuclear weapon used against them – less than ten years after the flight of the Enola Gay. It is powerful that the creators would have the courage to examine the issue that way in the mass media.
Of course, when I talk about Bad Cinema, I don’t mean just the 1954 movie. I’m talking about most of Toho’s output, as well as even the Mathew Broderick version. One of my favorite installments in the franchise is Final Wars, which features … well, pretty much every rubber suit monster Toho ever conceived. And they just keep coming. Also included? A Power Rangers-esque set of super soldiers who do battle with humanoid aliens (who control the monsters) and each other. Good times. It is, essentially, pro wrestling in rubber suits. I think, honestly, it’s that homage to the original that makes it so appealing. It’s not an attempt to recreate the phenomenon. It’s an acknowledgement that giant monsters stomping tiny things is pretty awesome on its own.
So that’s Bad Cinema. I’m not sure if I can reduce it any more than that, other than to cite more movies and explain what I love about them.