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Stuff I’ve Been Consuming: Sep - Dec 2014

January 15, 2022 in Uncategorized


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Here we go, the annual recap of all movies watched and books read. Let’s not bury the lead: I failed again. Somehow I ended up with only twenty-two books read, which is even less than last year’s total. Movies also dropped, from eighty-nine to eighty-seven this year, but who’s counting movies at this point? I knocked out the requisite fifty by July. It’s the books that are every year strugg-ling.

Sidenote: How to use hyphens and numbers.

The good news is that this upcoming year’s addition to — now in its fourth year — will feature the addition of “buddies,” or team ups. So now you can (pre-)call how many movies and books you’ll aim to finish, splitting a total of 200 books/movies between you and a friend. More details about 2015 at the site, so come join up because it’ll be just as fun with a more flexible challenge!

Anyway, while quantity of books was a total bust, there were somewinners. I’ve already talked about Saga, the Vaughan/Staples graphic novel. And then there’s Sister Mischief by Laura Goode, which is a YA novel about four girls in Minnesota who band together to start a queer hip hop group at their religiously conservative school. Yes, read that again.

And not only does Sister Mischief feature a Desi co-lead, with passages about white privilege and the sexuality spectrum, but it also drops references to rap artists that I can’t imagine most YA readers get but which I absolutely loved. (Unless there’s a big crossover between Atmosphere or 9th Wonder fans and the YA audience that I don’t know about. If you fall into that narrow category, let’s be friends?) Either way, I can’t believe Sister Mischief exists. And author Laura Goode also had a film come out this year, Farah Goes Bang, which I have yet to watch because I missed it at all the film festivals. But at this point I’ll consume anything Goode puts out there.

I also finally bit the bullet and read one of George R.R. Martin’s books: A Song of Ice and Fire. We went heavy into GoT during Season Four, including buying the board game which I’ve only been fortunate enough to play once. A long flight served as the perfect opportunity to dive into the GoT novels. Verdict: It’s good! As if millions of rabid fans could be wrong. But I just had to know for myself. Because, you know, many times millions of rabid fans are absolutely wrong. I think I’ll stop at the first GoT book though, since I’m already deep enough into the GoT rabbit hole as it is.

Over the summer, I recommended three A books in a row to a new friend: Americanah, The Goldfinch, and The Golem and the Jinni.  Afterwards, this beautiful human gave me the greatest praise I could ask for, “What do you recommend next? I’ll read anything you say!” Life peak reached, it’s all downhill from here… And even though I recommended Goldfinch and Golem and Jinni, they did fall a little flat for me. The setup in the latter was so great too: a story about the two titular supernatural creatures who meet in turn of the century New York and become semi-soul mates. But ultimately the book petered out. Goldfinch I couldn’t even all the way finish even as I recognized that it was pretty good.

As 2014 is winding down, I’m finishing up Meghan Daum’s Unbreakable, which is captivating. Daum’s voice and writing are spectacular and even if I wasn’t already a sucker for essay collections, I would highly recommend it. And again, Bad Feminist, my favorite book of the year and a must-read for everyone.

And although I’m not reading many books, I still tend to read about books, which is almost like the same thing right? Okay maybe not. Here’s my new favorite book site, The Oyster Review, which features posts like Choire Sicha’s “Everything you ever needed to know about the work of Ursula K. Le Guin and where to start.” And here’s Electric Literature on “Why 2014 Was the Year of the Essay.”

I watched a record tying thirteen movies in August, tied with June 2012. Perhaps next year I’ll really achieve in life and break that record. Dare to dream! Even though I sucked in a ton of films this year, I feel like I missed most of the good stuff. Excepting the Marvel blockbusters that I basically auto-A, my list of recommends boils down to Her, Le Passe, Edge of Tomorrow, 9-Man, Obvious Child, and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Sure, Gone Girl and Boyhood were good too, but I admired the directors and behind-the-scenes more. Also, being in Taiwan, I think I missed a lot of the late arriving stuff like Whiplash, Nightcrawler, Dear White People, The One I Love, Inherent Vice, Citizenfour, and Wild. So there’s some serious catching up to do.

I think my favorite movie of 2014 was Her, which I saw on the fourth day of January, and it wasn’t even released this past year. Basically there wasn’t an overwhelming movie that just knocked my socks off in 2014. Maybe Edge of Tomorrow for sheer enjoyment? I pushed that on a lot of people this summer. Guess I’ll just leave movies behind with a recommendation for Arvin Chen’s two Taiwanese rom-coms, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow and Au Revoir Taipei. Chen is a Taiwanese-American director from the Bay who moved to Taiwan in 2001 and made Au Revoir Taipei despite not being fluent in Mandarin. Like what?! *Insert super jealous eyes* Anyway, here’s Au Revoir Taipei’s end credits library dance. Ugh, so cute.

Also, a note about TV shows, even though they aren’t counted in because TV is eminently more consumable than movies or books. (But if you want to do fifyfify+PLUS for TV series, go for it.) This year I was all in on Sherlock S3, the phenomenon that was True Detective, GoT S4, Orange is the New Black S2, and of course, all three seasons of Deadwood, which vaulted into one of my top TV series of all time back in February. There’s a lot of great TV for me to still catch up on, namely The Americans and Transparent, but until I figure out this foreign VPN situation, I’m stuck without my trusty Netflix or HBO Go. Quelle horreur!

[Cross posted from]

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Everyone Loves a Comeback Kid?

January 10, 2022 in Books, Movies

comebackI begin this year with a confession.

I didn’t make it in 2014. I want to tell you I tried, that I was reading until the final hours of 2013, but I’m too lazy to lie to you. I realized I was in trouble sometime around mid-June, but I didn’t stop long enough to plan a strategy for a return to grace. Here I am, your shamed co-founder, admitting that I read all of 23 books this year and saw 38 movies. Those 50 new recipes I was going to cook? Got through 21 of them.

I would tell you about how I was on a plane every other week, but that would only give you the impression that I have no good excuses. So let’s just fast forward to that impression, shall we? Because it’s about on point.

Favorite book discoveries of 2014:

I Suck at Girls by Justin Halprin (the guy who created Sh*t My Dad Says) – the first time I believe I’ve publicly snorted while reading and laughing.

Calling Dr. Laura (Nicole Georges) – a reminder of how powerful graphic novels can be. And a great title.

If You Have to Cry, Go Outside (Kelly Cutrone) – a nonfiction book that makes you fairly sure you can kick a little ass before you put it down

(My) best movies seen in 2014:

The Book Thief – Exactly twice in my life have I said the movie lived up to the book. The first was The Firm. Now, The Book Thief. One of the most creative and beautifully-written books I’ve read; I may have actually enjoyed the movie more. The opening scene is one of the most gorgeously shot I’ve seen in a film - ever.

August: Osage County – One look at the cast and you knew this would be powerful. I had no idea how funny and relatable it would be. Loved every minute of it; it felt like going to the theater.

I Give It A Year – Let it be said that I will watch any romantic comedy on Netflix. It’s an addiction, it’s openly acknowledged, and I understand that my lack of quality control must be addressed. However, this movie was one of my favorite finds of the year. So awkward, so perfect. Total sleeper find – I watched it a few times!

American Hustle – I’m always up for a good gangster or hustle flick. The absurd costumes and great acting made this one a favorite.

20 Feet From Stardom - A documentary (thank you, Netflix!) about background singers. The people whose voices have powered the back sound for our favorite stars. Absolutely fascinating, whether or not you’re a music aficionado. If you are, you will absolutely love it.

Wolf of Wall Street – See gangster/hustle comment above.

Fab 5 – This was an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary. I am now officially obsessed with this series. This particular installation covers the Fab 5 basketball team at University of Michigan, their effect on hip hop culture, and more. Riveting, can’t believe it took me this long to watch it.

Finding Fanny – Randomly saw this Indian film (a major release, in English), which probably only had limited distribution in the US. Absolutely charming, beautiful writing, wonderful acting. The story of an older man who goes on a road trip with a motley crew to track down his childhood love.

Parent Trap & Freaky Friday – This year I had a reckoning with the youthful acting days of one Lindsay Lohan. I found out that not only did I like, but I absolutely loved her sassy personality and adult delivery. While it’s hard to replace a childhood favorite like Parent Trap, the remake was actually pretty great and I found myself as fascinated with the split screens as I was back in the 80s when I first saw Hayley Mills play the role. I went on a Lindsay Lohan bender at the end of the year, but it was cheerful and wonderful and I will not take that back!!

Looking forward, in 2015 I’m hoping to step out of my comfort zone with books a bit more. I’m beginning my first read of the year with a recommendation – a book my mom picked up at the local bookstore Warwick’s, and hasn’t even read herself. This goes against my reading protocol, where books are heavily weighted and researched before I dive in. I tore through the first fifty pages of Crazy Rich Asians and can’t wait to get back to it. Stay tuned.

This year I will NOT be taking on a third “50” category (last year: recipes). If I couldn’t get through a basic 50/50 last year, who am I to add to the challenge, really?

Stay tuned for more updates on what I’ve consumed and I’ll look forward to yours, too.

Here’s to 2015: The Year of the Comeback Kid.

- Lilly