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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

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Stuff I’ve Been Consuming: Jan - Aug 2014

August 22, 2021 in Books, Movies

 

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Who’s responsible for the non-updates on fiftyfifty.me?! Oh wait, me. Whoops. Well, let’s take a half year-ish look at what’s been going on. As of late August, the numbers look good…on the movie side. It’s 60 movies and 12 books for me so far. Clearly I have a lot of books ahead of me, but the good news is that I’m definitely one hundred percent gonna make it this year. I made a blood pact with Susie and Lilly that we were all gonna do it this year. I mean, Susie’s even throwing in fifty new tangible skills. That’s impressive!

First recommendation: Saga Vol.1, which is a graphic novel series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples. I wrote earlier that “Saga is like a master class in cliffhangers” and that’s definitely true. The third volume came out in March and I’m eagerly waiting for the rest to follow. Second recommend: If you’re into animals and philosophy, John Berger’s Why Look at Animals? is a slim collection of essays exploring the relationship between man and beast is a must-read.

As for old time classics, I did give The Giver a read-through before watching the movie, and I must say that I was impressed. I had mistakenly written The Giver off for years because I thought it was something like The Secret. Instead, it’s the progenitor of YA dystopian and I was super impressed with how efficiently and effortlessly Lois Lowry builds her world. It puts a lot of the modern stuff to shame. I wouldn’t say The Giver is a great book, but I can understand how it might have been amazing back in the day. The classic that I did like quite a bit was Katherine Paterson’s Jacob Who I Have Loved, featuring finicky/plucky protagonist Sara Louise, who is trying to escape from the shadow of her perfect twin sister.

And I’m really giving The Goldfinch a go, because everyone said it’s amazing, and I want to love it too, but it’s not really working for me for some reason.

Now let’s take a look at movies. I give pretty much all Marvel films a sterling grade, so you’ll have to excuse me there. I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Guardians of the Galaxy at least twice each. Overall it’s been a pretty weak movie year, and it’s possible that Her, which came out last year but I only saw in January, will end up being my favorite film of the year. I saw pretty much all the summer “blockbusters,” and can only recommend Edge of Tomorrow and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Tom Cruise still has it (he’s never lost it, if you ask me) and the more buff Emily Blunt in my life the better. As for How to Train Your Dragon 2, it’s easily the most fun movie I’ve had in a movie theater in 2014. If you loved the first one, this is even better. Dragons, dragons, always more dragons!

For the quieter stuff, try out Margin Call, a tense thriller about the 2008 financial crash, Le Passe from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi (he made 2011’s incredible A Separation), and the charming and hilarious Obvious Child. I had semi-mixed feelings about Boyhood, but I’m certain Richard Linklater is a genius so it’s impossible not to give it high marks. And please keep a special eye out for my friend Ursula’s documentary, 9-Man, which focuses on a volleyball-like streetball game that has flourished exclusively in Chinatowns.

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Guest: A Challenge Newbie!

February 21, 2021 in Books, Guest, Movies

A guest post from Melissa, an artist, illustrator, and maker from Michigan! Visit her portfolio at www.melissadettloff.com (pssst don’t miss her blog) and say hello on Twitter @melissadettloff. Thanks Melissa!

Melissa's portolio

Melissa’s portolio

This is my first year participating in fiftyfifty.me! For the last four years I’ve kept track of what I read and want to read on my Goodreads, and when I got an email from Goodreads noting the pathetic number of books I read in 2013, I decided to commit to reading fifty books this year. And watching fifty movies, though admittedly I’m way more interested in the book part than the movie part.

My goal is to read at least four books a month. I’m not following a theme or a list, but reading whatever I’m in the mood for, whatever I’m interested in knowing more about, and books recommended by friends. My to-read list is usually pretty long, so I’m not too worried about running out of potential things to read.

It’s the second week of February and I’m on my eleventh book : Gulp by Mary Roach. A friend told me about this one and it sounded really interesting. This year I’ve also read a couple of career guidance books (including the famed What Color Is Your Parachute? one), McSweeney’s Quarterly Concerns #43 and #44, and some art/illustrated books (Cola Madnes by Gary Panter, My Dirty Dumb Eyes by Lisa Hanawalt, and Find & Keep by Beci Orpin). A friend recommended The Circle by Dave Eggers and I read that.

I’ve been keeping track of my books-read in a notebook, and writing down whatever comes to mind after finishing the book and reflecting on what stood out about it. I wrote 2.5 pages of notes about The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell.

Yesterday I watched my sixth movie of the year, Alfred Hitchcock’s silent comedy film Champagne, which was recently restored and was playing at the Detroit Film Theater with a live piano player. Lest you think I am a fancy film person, the night before that, I watched Predator 2 (and I know according to fiftyfifty.me rules I can’t count all of the Mystery Science Theater 3000s I watch for the hundredth time).

Though some of what I’ve read so far is on the lighter side, I am definitely reading (and watching) more than I normally would thanks to the fiftyfifty.me challenge. And I’m keeping track of it, digesting it, which feels important, too.

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Miracles Do Happen!: A Tale of fiftyfifty.me Magic

December 31, 2021 in Books, Movies

I didn’t think it was possible. I was 30ish books in, and we were closing in on Thanksgiving.  I was close to giving up and slacking through the rest of the year indulging in my new Netflix tv obsession.  Then Susie gave me a look, the look sisters can give you, and said audibly what her eyes already said. “You started this. You can do it.”

So I went home armed with books I would never have picked up myself – short story collections, graphic novels, books she thought would absorb me and haul me, like an Iditarod team, across the icy plains of PROCRASTINATION.

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I’m proud to announce that I just put down book #50. I did it!   The recap:

Favorite book this year:

NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl. I waited a long time for the sophomore novel from the author of Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and I was not disappointed.   It’s an intense read, and I was couch-bound, enraptured with the world she had created.  Well worth the social points you’ll lose for being a hermit as you read it. 

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Honorable Mentions:

Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life by Melody Moezzi.  The term bipolar is thrown around, we hear a celebrity diagnosed and then the term fades away again. Moezzi pulls the curtain back in what is one of the most raw, beautiful books I’ve ever read. She compiles her experience, that of the people around her, and medical records, to provide a 360 degree view of something people are often too scared to talk about.

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The Mermaid of Brooklyn by Amy Shearn.  It was refreshing to read a humorous, honest narrative of the challenges women who are married with kids might think and feel when they think no one is listening.  The voice of this nov

el was one of the most memorable I’ve read in years.

Books I powered through because I felt like I should:

Cyndi Lauper’s memoir. Also - Don’t Hassle the Hoff.  I know, I know, I deserved it.

Book that surprised me:

10032672The Language of Flowers.  Sometimes I forget the ways in which fiction can crack open a new world for you.  The Victorian language of flowers was a beautiful theme in this novel.

Favorite movie this year:

Saving Mr. Banks. I’ve never once paused when asked what my favorite movie is (Mary Poppins), so to hear the story behind the making was a complete treat. The fact that they didn’t destroy my favorite movie was a bonus.

Honorable mention:

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Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. An amazing documentary that reminded me how much of our own health is in our control if we’re willing to take that first step.  I know, a documentary about juicing. I didn’t expect it either!

Movies I powered through because I felt like I should:

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Jiro Dreams of Sushi. YAWN.

 

 

 

Movie I would recommend to anyone who listens:

The Sapphires.  A movie about an Aboriginal soul group touring during Vietnam. A sleeper, but so good and educational at the same time. The music is outstanding.

Movie that surprised me:

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Senna, documentary about the Brazilian race car driver.  Any film that can make me care about something I didn’t care anything about, much less cry about, is a masterpiece.

Same for Craigslist Joe. Such a powerful movie about connecting.

It’s been a good year! Thank you all for being part of the madness and thank you especially to Jon for being the pilot of this wild ride and Susie for your beautiful art and Olympic-style coaching to get me across the finish line.

See you all for fiftyfifty.me in 2014 - and Happy New Year!

-Lilly

 

Full 2013 consumption list with favorites in bold:

BOOKS 

Matched, Ally Condie
The Soulmate Secret, Arielle Ford
Just Kids, Patti Smith
State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
The Age of Miracles
Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir
The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbough
Priceless Memories, Bob Barker
The Mermaid of Brooklyn, Amy Shearn
Suri’s Burn Book
Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
My Lives, Roseanne Arnold
Beautiful Ruins
Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
Sleepwalk with Me
Don’t Hassel the Hoff
Haldol and Hyacinths
Since You Asked, Maurene Goo
It’s So Easy (and Other Lies), Duff McKagan
The Art Forger, B.A. Shapiro
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, David Sedaris
Love, Lucy, Lucille Ball
Night Film, Marisha Pessl
(Night Film is a doorstop of a book = 2 books)
Pretty Little Liars
Pure Drivel, Steve Martin
Clumsy
I Never Liked You, Chester Brown
The Night Circus
Abundance of Katherines
The Silent Wife
Stitches, Anne Lamott
The Impostor’s Daughter, Laurie Sandell
Isadora Duncan, Sabrina Jones
The Vietnam War (graphic novel by Zimmerman)
Ghost World (Daniel Clowes)
Perfect Example (John Porcellino)
Together Tea (Marjan Kamali)
The Reason I Jump (Naoki Higashida)
Thoreau at Walden (John Porcellino)
Awaken the Spirit Within (Rebecca Rosen)
Never Ending Summer, Allison Cole
The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
Everything Was Fine Until Whatever, Chelsea Martin
Elements of Content Strategy, Erin Kissane
Chasing Utopia, Nikki Giovanni
Incarnadine, Mary Szybist
101 Great American Poems
The Key, Cheri Huber
The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

 

MOVIES

Life of Pi  
Broken City
Happy Accidents
Extract
Hemingway & Gellhorn
Identity Thief
Silver Linings Playbook
Quartet 
Don’t Stop Believin’
Campaign
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Piece of Work (the Joan Rivers docu)
The Place Beyond the Pines
The Queen of Versailles 
Matrimonio all’Italiano
The Great Gatsby
The Guilt Trip
Butter
The Internship
The Golden Child
Religulous
What To Expect When You’re Expecting
Despicable Me
The Heat
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
Anchorman
Ira & Abby
Along Came Polly
56 Up
After Porn Ends
Jeff Who Lives at Home
Senna
Joyful Noise
Craiglist Joe
Gravity
Mission Impossible 3
Best Man Christmas
Breakin All the Rules
Pitch Perfect
Catching Fire
The Sapphires
Philomena
Romantics Anonymous
The Island President
Skyfall
I Don’t Know How She Does It
Saving Mr. Banks
The Italian Job
Paradise
The Freebie
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Stuff I’ve Been Consuming: Aug-Oct

November 12, 2021 in Books, Movies

 
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Here we go with the late summer and fall edition of things I’ve seen/read. I’m already at seventy five movies watched, which is well on its way to a personal best. The books though, ahem. I’m only at sixteen. There’s a few half read books I need to go back to clean up, but it seems like I’m going to finish short of the fifty books mark. Wait, no! It’s only November, I can still make a big dent in the final tally and try to cram everything in. I don’t know what number Lilly is at but I anticipate another rushed last week of December with my nose buried in books and her throwing down movies by the handful.

The good news is that all the books I’ve managed to finish so far are gems. Fresh Off the Boat I’ve already gushed about. And I did the same for September Girls. While I was out in San Francisco, I was with Mary digging through Dog Eared Books and stumbled upon Justin Chin’s Mongrel. It’s a book of memoir-ish essays and the back cover says, “Mongrel is an exploration and distillation of the experiences and imagination of a gay Asian-American whose sensibilities were formed by the maelstrom of ‘80s American pop culture.” That description about covers it, and I was happy to discover Chin’s work.

And for book club, we read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. We had a meeting earlier this summer but it was postponed. It’s the story of an international romance, set between Nigeria, the United States, and England. Seeing as Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story” was one of the best (and most viewed) TED talks around, it was a revelation to read her book and to see her work in action. Americanah was full of interesting, and hilarious, observations about race and blackness and I need more Adichie in my life right now.

As for the movie side of things. My three month MoviePass wrapped up, and that’s going to dramatically slow down my movies in theaters. It’s back to careful planning of which films to watch and lots of theater hopping. The three movies I’d definitely recommend without hesitation are Drinking Buddies, Enough Said, and 12 Years a Slave. Let’s go in reverse since I just saw 12 Years a Slave. I know some people aren’t down with watching depressing movies but 12 Years a Slave is near a must watch. Not just because everyone will be talking about it, or that it’s important, but also because it’s damn good. After you watch it, make sure to read Wesley Morris’ incredible review, “The Song of Solomon The cultural crater of 12 Years a Slave.”

I hadn’t seen any of Steve McQueen’s work until Shame but I think he seems to specialize in plumbing uncomfortable spaces. Hunger was about the 1981 IRA hunger strike. Shame was about sexual addiction. And now 12 Years a Slave. McQueen was a visual artist before and it shows through his movies. They are well composed and sparse, and they are definitely an experience. (I did see Shame a few weeks ago actually, but more on that later.) McQueen’s best move is probably to always have Michael Fassbender star in his films. In that, he only rivals Derek Cianfrance hitching his wagon to Ryan Gosling and Nicole Holofcener ride and dying with Catherine Keener in all of her films.

Speaking of, I’ve seen most of Holofcener’s movies and they are all fantastically great. As Slate Cultural Gabfest put it, they’re hoping the mainstream audience starts to view Holofcener like the female Woody Allen, and just line up for each new film she drops. Similar to (classic) Woody, Holofcener plumbs the same depths time and time again, each time emerging with another treasure. Enough Said is laugh out loud hilarious, as opposed to her usual work that is more a consistent series of chuckles. Starring the late James Gandolfini and an underrated Julia Louis-Dreyfus, I’ve been telling people to watch Enough Said as a Holofcener gateway.

And then there’s Drinking Buddies. I got wrapped up in the mumblecore thing when it was big and am excited whenever one of those directors puts something out. Drinking Buddies is Joe Swanberg’s most accessible movie by far and it’s really good. The theme is exploring the grey areas in a friendship/relationship, and it has likeable stars, a casual pace, and was the movie that’s motivating me to write again. I need to give it a rewatch to determine if it moves up to a personal favorite, to see if it holds up, but post first viewing I thought it was right up my alley.

Watching Prisoners took me down a nostalgic drive down to rewatch Se7en and Zodiac, and it’s filled with the perfect amount of tension. It doesn’t measure up to classic Fincher but it’s quite gripping. And man, I really wanted Spectacular Now to be amazing but it fell too short, without enough emotional density or affect. Too bad though, because the movie had a shot at greatness but ended up at settling in at slightly above average.

And whatever Joseph Gordon-Levitt wants to do, I’ll support it. His Don Jon, a film he wrote/directed/starred in, is all sorts of fun. Co-star Scarlett Johansson makes a perfect Jersey Shore copycat. Gordon-Levitt’s character is addicted to online porn; she’s enthralled by romantic comedies. And Tony Danza steals the show in his role as Don Jon’s dad. Movie pairing Don Jon with Shame a few days after was interesting too. Tackling similar topics but from very different perspectives and aesthetics. On first brush, I liked Don Jon better, but now that I’m super in on Steve McQueen, I want to review Shame again. Michael Fassbender is the best. Always. If they could somehow cram Brad Pitt and JGL into X-Men: Days of Future Past, that would be my Mt. Rushmore of actors all in one movie. Oh you saw the eye popping Days of Future Past trailer didn’t you?

Disappointments: I’m sorry, Fruitvale Station was laughably melodramatic. There’s nothing funny about Oscar Grant’s story, or what happened at Fruitvale Station, but the movie was all sorts of overrated. Don’t even get me started on Gravity, which was nice but not worthy of all the acclaim it’s getting. Also, I can’t believe I’m saying this but I walked out of The Grandmaster. Wong Kar Wei doing a kung fu movie should have been amazing but I was so over it an hour and a half in. I’m sorry Mr. Wong, I still love you but The Grandmaster was booooooring.

Alright winter, let’s get ready to read some books. My goal is to get to ten books this month. Anything else would be uncivilized.

[Cross posted from jonyang.org]

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Duff McKagan and The Art of the Celebrity Bio

August 16, 2021 in Books

duff02I didn’t declare it as my major, but it’s quickly becoming apparent that I will end up having Celebrity Trash Biographies as a thematic focus of this endeavor of ours. It takes the edge off 50/50 to read absorbing personal stories with page-turning writing, what can I say? I just turned the last page of a celebrity rock bio that I’ve been wanting to read since before it came out: It’s So Easy (and Other Lies) by Duff McKagan.

Duff McKagan was the bassist in Guns n’ Roses. Originally a rock guitarist, he quickly realized that LA’s rock scene had its fill of guitarists, so he set out to make his name in bass. And how. The story begins with his younger years in Seattle, his interaction with the rising Seattle music scene, and his arrival in LA. Welcome to the jungle indeed. He gives insight into how musicians work together (or don’t), what it was like to work with record labels, how it feels being on the road, and the image vs. the reality.

Parallel to the rise of Duff as music superhero, we witness his rise as a serious alcoholic and party boy. What makes the book unique is not its honesty – we’ve seen that with other biographies (The Dirt about Motley Crue immediately comes to mind), but his eloquence in telling his tale. The turning point comes when his pancreas bursts (?). I’m not saying I understand the medicine, but I understand the quick 180 he does on his life, realizing how much he has to live for.

Rather than go to rehab as so many artists have successfully done, Duff worked out his demons with some new “addictions” — much healthier ones that I’ll let you read about yourself. Prepare to be inspired.

duff01This one started slowly for me – sure, I was waiting for the appearance of one Axl Rose, which didn’t come til midway through, but once it got its pace it kept going and I was very interested in how that particular interaction ended (won’t include it here – no spoilers!). In The Dirt, a trashy but compelling and sharply written autobio about Motley Crue, the musicians wrote the book with a smart observer, Neil Strauss. You quickly come to think Strauss was the brains behind the operation. Here, Duff himself is the smart observer, willing to poke fun at himself and the rock image, conveying a genuine love of life and the people around him, and showing what can happen and how much your life can change if you just let it.

It’s So Easy is one of the most inspiring rock bios I’ve personally read. It’s even worth having the song on repeat in your head for the few days you’re reading it. I’ve admired Duff McKagan’s work with Gn’R, for a long time (and I may or may not have nearly lost it when he walked onstage with Alice in Chains a few years back), but now I’m a fan of him as a person. And this, my friends, is the litmus test for a celebrity trash bio. Duff gets an A.

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Stuff I’ve Been Consuming: Apr - Jul

July 10, 2021 in Books, Movies

 

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As of my last fiftyfifty.me check in, I was at only four books and seven movies. The good news is that since then I’ve tacked on a ton of more movies while not exactly catching up on the books front. Currently I’m at a respectable thirty five movies and a deplorable twelve books. Obviously I’m going to have to step up my game on the books end or this will all end badly.

I am in the middle of some stellar books, and am already looking forward to more. For example, I can’t wait to get into Christa Parravani’s her, a memoir about losing your identical twin. Having recently backed Samantha Futerman’s Twinsters documentary, I’m basically a sucker for anything with twins involved.

If you do young adult, Alaya Dawn Johnson’s The Summer Prince deserves all the acclaim and publicity it’s received, and so much more. The world building is tremendous, and with main characters that express themselves through political art statements, it’s a breath of fresh air in a genre that I was tiring of. We’ll be covering it more over at Rich in Color soon. We’ll be doing the same with Maurene Goo’s Since You Asked, which I already rhapdozied about earlier. And if you’re into Caitlin Moran, which I hundred percent am, then her collection of mostly previously published articles is a must read. I sped through them all in a weekend and am ready for More Moranthology.

Our book club selection was Salman Khan’s One World Schoolhouse semi-manifesto, and if you’re interested in education on any level, this will fire you up. After reading it, I was ready to adopt Khan’s educational ideals lock stock and barrel, and wanted to invert every classroom and have computers replace teachers. Some of my fellow book clubbers — who have Masters in education — reined my enthusiasm in a bit, but I still believe that our education is screwed up and I’m ready to blow it all up. Our public school model was basically made to foster conformity, quell dissent, and pump out obedient workers. Does that sound like something you want to subject your children to? I think not.

I’m fully back on Goodreads after a many years’ hiatus. The website UI is still a mess but at least they have an iPhone app that I can get behind. So I spent some time updating my books and am now all Goodready again. Friend me! At a thrift store this weekend, I found a book from 1999 titled Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition. It’s both dry and thrilling at the same time. I  just had to buy it for two dollars.

Moving onto movies, there’s quite a bit I could talk about but I’ll limit my focus to some sharing with you some actresses that I’ve either long admired or just discovered. Way back at the Tribeca Film Fest, I saw The Pretty One starring Zoe Kazan, and since I loved her work writing and starring in Ruby Sparks, I’m pretty much a fan for life. The movie is another identical twin sister story actually — see, I’m a sucker — but it’s more of a comedy. Jake Johnson from New Girl also stars, and he’s quite winsome.

Somehow I never got tipped onto Brit Marling, who decided to write her own movies after not being satisifed with the kinds of roles she was being offered. While Marling has the looks and appeal to go the traditional Hollywood romantic lead, girlfriend in trouble, etc. route, she is instead doing her own thing. It’s all very admirable and impressive. Her third movie, The East, an eco-terrorism thriller, isn’t terrific, but was good enough to make me want to see all of Marling’s other work.

And now Sarah Polley, who I’ve long been a fan of. Well, not super long, considering she was a huge child star in Canada before my time. I’ve just been tracking Polley since Go and wondered why she didn’t do more movies. Turns out she’s been involved more behind the camera, and now her newest film, Stories We Tell, has blown me away. It’s a documentary exploring her family’s convoluted backstory and while that road has been traveled often, I’m positive Polley’s work eclipses just about everyone else’s attempts. It’s impossible not to admire how deftly Polley pulls everything together, devoid of schlocky sentimentality and full of subtle tidbits that capture your attention while she reveals the story. I admired Polley a lot before, but now I outright love her.

Oh, and I can’t not talk about Frances Ha! Gerta Gerwig is another must-see actress for me and we caught a showing of Frances Ha where both she and director Noah Baumbach were in attendance for a Q&A. The movie plays to every Gerwig strength and I’ve already seen it twice. There is a long tracking shot where she gets to run/dance through the streets of Chinatown and I want to be right there alongside, skipping over all the trash and swirling by angry tourists.

  • Zoe Kazan: Not a Dream, a Surprise (2012)
  • Brit Marling’s Anarchist Collective
  • From Goldman Sachs to freeganism, Brit Marling is a Hollywood conundrum
  • Sarah Polley: ‘Stories are our way of coping, of creating shape out of mess’
  • Sarah Polley Is (Mostly) Ready to Come Clean
  • A Polley Family Secret, Deftly Pieced Together
  • Happiness: Noah Baumbach’s New Wave
  • Greta Gerwig: No Method to Her Method (2010)
  • Greenberg star Greta Gerwig steps from the shadows of mumblecore (2010)

It’s summer movie season and ever since I got my MoviePass in late May, I’ve banged out just about every one. Most of them were average save Iron Man 3, Fast and the Furious 6, and World War Z - absolutely loved the Israeli soldier in it, Daniella Kertesz. Man of Steel was outright boring, although the sight of superhunk Henry Cavill is probably worth the price of admission alone. Sidenote: Why are Superman’s teeth all crooked? I guess that’s irrelevant since my fellow moviegoers didn’t even notice when I asked them about it afterwards. “His teeth, who’s looking at his teeth?” Well said.

Anyway, This Is The End was pretty hilarous, even if it’s normally outside of my genre, and if you can, skip Monsters University, Much Ado About Nothing, and Bling Ring. I’ve decided the goodwill from Sofia Coppola’s earlier movies have run out with me so I will no longer get excited about anything she does. And Joss Whedon’s version of Much Ado is just a travesty. Oh awful, it’s bad when you miss Keanu.

During this past week, I’ve been on a terrific run of movies though, knocking out three great movies in a row: 20 Feet From Stardom, Despicable Me 2, and Stories We Tell. I’m just sad the great run will inevitably have to end. I’m already fearful that Pacific Rim will be that assassin. I am hearing terrible things about it.

Oh and unless I haven’t made myself clear, Spring Breakers is my favorite movie of the year already. It’s just, everything. I’ve seen it multiple times, I listen to the soundtrack, I sing the Britney song at karaoke. Always. However, I am done pushing the movie onto people as it’s decidedly very hit or miss. If you love Spring Breakers, like went through an obsession with it, then we should talk because that’s enough for me to start a friendship with you.

And as for the much anticipated Before Midnight… I can’t even talk about it. It has to be a conversation. A long conversation.

 

[Cross posted from jonyang.org]

 

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Stuff I’ve Been Consuming: Jan - Mar

March 28, 2021 in Books, Movies

BOOKS READ:

  • The Getaway Car, Anne Patchett
  • Deadweather and Sunrise: The Chronicles of Egg, Geoff Rodkey
  • NW, Zadie Smith
  • Adaptation, Malinda Lo

MOVIES WATCHED:

  • Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow
  • Tears of the Sun, Antoine Fuqua
  • Gangster Squad, Ruben Fleischer
  • Side Effects, Steven Soderbergh
  • The Gatekeepers, Dror Moreh
  • Beautiful Creatures, Richard LaGravenese
  • Oz the Great and Powerful, Sam Raimi
[fiftyfifty.me | Pinterest | Google Doc]

 

Three months in, my fiftyfifty.me is suffering. You would think that being stuck inside for multiple storms and winter weather would increase the number of books consumed. That wasn’t the case. After (barely) successfully completing the challenge last year, 2013 is going to be a struggle. So far I’ve completed four books and seven movies. That’s a good bit off the pace. I’m unconcerned about movies, of course, since I’ll easily eclipse fifty this year, but books, uh oh.

The books I have read have been mostly gems. I talked about how much I loved Ann Patchett’s Truth & Beauty last year, and while The Getaway Car is only a Kindle single, I just had to read it. It’s a short memoir about her writing life, and it made a nice companion piece to Truth & Beauty.

We did NW for book club, and if were not for that enforced completion, I probably would have put it down. I generally love Zadie Smith but this was a tough read. I think most of it could be attributed to the beginning section, told in a first person perspective that I found difficult to get into. I found myself being constantly distracted by reading other things by Zadie Smith, such as her book of essays, Changing My Mind and her famous article from 2008, “Two Paths for the Novel.” I had trouble shaking the idea that Smith was experimenting a lot with her form for NW. All in all, while the book eventually improved for me, I couldn’t in good conscience recommend it except to Smith completists.

Two books I can wholeheartedly recommend are Deadweather and Sunrise: The Chronicles of Egg and Adaptation. The former is the first in a new middle grade series about pirates. Sorry, let me say that again: Pirates! The setup reminded me of so many classic adventure stories I read growing up, but jazzed up with sophisticated humor for older readers and compelling action for younger kids. I’ve read a lot of middle grade and can report that Deadweather and Sunrise stands out in a big way. I just saw Geoff — whom I met at last year’s KidLitCon — and told him how excited I was for the next two books in the series.

As for Adaptation, fellow 2009 Deb Malinda Lo smoothly switches genres from fantasy (Ash and Huntress) to scifi. Adaptation starts with a mysterious series of plane crashes — caused by flocks of birds — and the race is on to find out what’s happening. As fair warning, I was compelled to shoot through most of the book in one day, and you likely will be too. Malinda is a huge X-Files fan and that shines through. Adaptation’s sequel, Inheritance, is coming this fall, so that’ll give you plenty of time to get on-board the conspiracy train before September.

Short shots on the movies I’ve seen this year. Zero Dark Thirty was tensely majestic, Gangster Squad had Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (’nuff said), Side Effects had a hilarious plot twist that made me question if Soderbergh was even a deft director anymore. The Gatekeepers is an Oscar nominated documentary that interviewed six former heads of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal secret service. If you’re into that kind of thing, it’s definitely worth a watch.

Beautiful Creatures is from a pair of 2009 Debs, Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and their best selling novels worked wonderfully on the big screen. The movie was beautiful and atmospheric, and let’s be real, the film is way better than the first Twilight. I’ve been following along on Kami and Margaret’s Tumblrs, which have been full of behind-the-scenes tidbits. Kami and Margaret both have new series coming out later this year, Unbreakable (The Legion) and Icons, respectively.

I was terrified that Oz the Great and Powerful would suck, since I love anything Oz-related so much. If it flopped — like 1985′s Return to Oz — we might not see another Oz movie for decades. Luckily the movie came out huge, to the tune of an $80 opening weekend, and a sequel is forthcoming. Sure it wasn’t the greatest movie ever, and maybe Mila Kunis’ huge head was distracting, but overall I found Oz to be humorous, gorgeous to look at, and with some nice hat tips to the original. A lot of critics thought James Franco mailed in his performance but I appreciated his wry take on the Wizard. I think I giggled a lot, mainly at some of the lines by the little China Girl.

Speaking of James Franco, who’s ready for Spring Breakers?! Aka possibly either the best or worst movie of the year…

[Cross posted from jonyang.org]

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Spring Titles for You, Yes, You!

March 24, 2021 in Books

10032672I just finished reading The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and I’m here to tell you that you should probably read it so that we can pass notes, by which I mean flowers. The writing in The Language of Flowers is strong, and Diffenbaugh’s pacing is on point, flipping back and forth as she tells the story of Victoria Jones, modern day misfit, orphan, foster child, and ne’er do well (I’m not sure if she’s a ne’er do well, but I wanted to call her that. And did. So today is quite satisfying already.)

Whether or not you take to Victoria (and most socially adjusted people won’t, at least at first), you will be entranced by how she slowly unveils the Victorian art of message through flower. Bouquets and flowers were once upon a time imparted with meaning, and the novel tells you bit by bit what those meanings were. (“Lily” was majesty, in case you were wondering.) This is a book we’ll hear much about in the coming months because it’s ties a thread between past and present. In a world that’s moving so fast, it takes a moment to stop and embrace what the world was like when people put deep thought into their interactions, their exchanges, and their romances.

Read another review of The Language of Flowers from our friend Jennifer Lyn King at Great New Books here.

The book got me thinking of other spring-y titles, so if you’re feeling oh so floral yourself consider these. Disclaimer, I haven’t screened them all, but I intend to dive into some and you might want to check them out if you’re feeling somewhat thematic, too!

-Lilly

Books:

  • White Oleander, Janet Fitch
  • Flowers in the Attic, VC Andrews (oh yes, I did)
  • The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean
  • The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco
  • Tulip Fever, Deborah Moggach
  • Sky of Red Poppies, Zohreh Ghahremani

Movies:

  • Singing in the Rain
  • War of the Roses
  • Hope Springs
  • Spring Breakers
  • Driving Miss Daisy
  • Steel Magnolias
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What Will Hatch?

February 15, 2021 in Books

whathatchHello Overachievers, how’s February going? If you’re anything like us, you’re wondering how it got to be the middle of the month already. Right?

Among our fiftyfifty.me participants, we’ve got quite a few professional creatives lurking around and when they release something awesome, we’ve gotta celebrate!

Susie Ghahremani (boygirlparty), who kindly donated her time and expertise to making all the illustrations for our new website, has just released her first book. It’s a picture book called What Will Hatch? and is available now. I saw the F&G for What Will Hatch? and it looked incredible. If you love animals, Susie’s art is irresistible, as always. Susie and author Jennifer Ward have previously on a few other books, including Love Dirt!: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Kids Discover the Wonders of Nature and their partnership obviously results in a perfect pairing.

“Jelly, jiggly. What will hatch? Wiggly, squiggly. . . tadpole.

What is more exciting than waiting for an egg to hatch? Creatures of all varieties begin inside an egg-and those eggs also come in all shapes and sizes. From a squiggly tadpole to fuzzy robin to a leathery platypus, this charming text and unique illustrations show eight different animals as they begin life. With a cut-out on each page readers will have fun guessing… what will hatch?”

If you’ve got a book — or movie — or anything coming out that might be of interest to other Overachievers, please tell us so we can share it with people! Thanks and good luck for the rest of the month!

  • What Will Hatch? Amazon | Indiebound
  • Kirkus Review
  • Post from Susie’s blog (Jan 2013)