Movie News and Randomness

It’s been a while since I talked about the movie news that’s got me all hot and bothered (or lukewarm and apathetic).  Without further ado, here are 5 movie-related things to consider this week:

1. Gone Girl Trailer

People are blowing up the internet about this trailer, the first official look at the movie, out in October.  If the girls I “know” on Facebook are to be believed, this is based on, “like, the best book ever.”  At any rate, the buzz about the film’s altered ending means that I’ll be seeing this one eventually, mostly because my curiosity is more powerful than my reticence to jump on the Gone Girl bandwagon.  Thoughts?

2. Allegiant likely to be split into two movies, because $$$$$

Not that this is surprising to anyone with two brain cells to rub together, but it looks like Veronica Roth’s Divergent series will get the same treatment The Hunger Games and Harry Potter did, and see the final book split into more than one movie.  This is silly for a number of reasons, but the thing that stands out most to me is that the third novel is by far the weakest and least interesting of the series, so why bother dragging it out?

Oh, because of money?  Right. (Deadline)

3. If I Stay Trailer

Look, I wasn’t one of the people on the If I Stay love-train.  I don’t totally get it, but I understand its significance in the YA lit world.  This is the first official trailer for the much-anticipated movie, starring Chloe Grace Moretz.   It looks…fine.

Maybe I’m a bitter old shrew, but I can’t get past Moretz’s ignorant, misguided comments about YA:

Forman’s novel might occupy a certain part of the bookstore, but Moretz doesn’t love the “young adult” designation. She thinks it diminishes the book’s value. “What’s interesting about Gayle’s novel is that it’s not really that YA. It deals with issues that are much bigger…it’s much darker than I think most YA is,” says Moretz.

LOL okay, Chloe.  What does “it’s not really YA” even mean?  Are you serious?

Sorry I’m not sorry, but that’s literally the dumbest thing she could have said about YA literature while also proving that she has no idea what she’s talking about.  Which is, you know, okay.  But then maybe don’t say anything about YA?

4. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to star in “The Nest”

The two real-life friends are set to star in a movie called The Nest, about two sisters who get kicked out of the family home when their parents buy a condo.  I’m excited about a film with two females as its leads, because we need way, way more of those. (Showbiz 411)

5. Wish I Was Here Trailer

Remember when Zach Braff begged Kickstarter backers to fund his movie and there was a lot of (justified) backlash but it got funded anyway?  Well, this is the trailer for that movie.  It’s about a dad who struggles to juggle family life or something, but the trailer is mostly just slow-motion shots scored to The Shins.  It looks about as self-indulgent as you’d expect, and based on the early reviews out of Sundance, it’s going to be kind of a shit show.

So yeah, I’m excited.

March 2014 Recap

Another month gone.  This was an interesting month in that movie-watching was at an all-time low and I supplemented my voracious reading of Sweet Valley High with a slew of non-fiction.  So the result is a mixed bag.  Let’s get to it!

Reading:

Best Book of the Month: Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

Books Read: 30
Adult: 4
YA: 21
MG: 5
Children’s: 0
Fiction: 26
Non-fiction/Memoir: 4
Graphic Novel: 0
# of Pages Read: 6223

Thoughts on March’s Reading:

  • As far as non-fiction goals go, I read four non-fiction/memoirs (Soul Survivor, The Honest Life, Live From Saturday Night: The Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, andGod’s Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America).
  • I didn’t read much in the way of YA fiction outside of SVH this month, but I did knock out Side Effects May Vary and And We Stay.
  • My numbers are insanely high because I read so many Sweet Valley High novels this month for my other blog.  These books are a breeze to get through (I can knock them out in about 30 minutes if I’m not distracted by other things), so they count–but just barely.  I’m on a roll with them right now, so who knows how long that will last.

Watching:

TV:

Much as I’d like to, I’m not obsessively tracking what TV show episodes I watch and when.  So this will be mostly bullet points.

  • I’ve completely slowed down on Breaking Bad.  I’d say I’m watching something like one episode a week?
  • For reasons completely unknown to me, I’m on a serious The Vampire Diaries kick.  I’ve blown through three seasons this month, and I can’t seem to stop watching, even though everyone is dumb and parts of the show really squick me out.  Expect a post on this at some point.  Probably.
  • J. and I tore through the first season of Orphan Black, which is great and you should watch immediately.  The second season premieres in mid-April, and I can hardly wait.
  • I’m also casually re-watching Daria, which HOLDS UP and is still really, really funny.
  • I’m still watching The Good Wife, am looking forward to the return of The Mindy Project, and can’t wait for the return ofGame of Thrones.

Movies:

vmarsBest Movie(s) of the Month: Veronica Mars

Movies Watched: 4
New: 2
Re-Watch: 2
Theater Trips: 1

Thoughts on Movies Watched in February:

  • Not a stellar month for movies, probably because I’ve been hardcore bingeing on TV.
  • Veronica Mars is the clear winner here.  I haven’t written a post on it, and I’m not sure I will, because it sort of feels done to death, but I did love it while also recognizing its flaws.

Goals for March:

  • Continue reading and watching diverse things.  Keep up with keeping track.

Happy reading and watching, readers!

Where Are They Now? Roswell (2014 Edition)

Blogger’s note: I originally published this post on May 1, 2010.  Since then, it’s consistently been one of my top posts on the blog.  Who would have thought, right? At any rate, I decided that it was time to update the information on here.  Without further ado, here’s the post with some updates from the past four years.

Roswell was a teen soap about alien hybrids living in Roswell, New Mexico that aired on the WB from 1999-2002.  I posted about the show and why it was awesome, and now I thought I’d follow that up with a post about where the cast is now, more than 10 years after it premiered.  Let’s get to it.

Shiri Appleby (Liz Parker)

Shiri Appleby was 21 when Roswell premiered.  The show certainly gained her more notoriety than she’d had before in her career, and during the course of Roswell, she made some movie called A Time for Dancing with Larissa Oleynik, as well as playing the girlfriend to Jesse Bradford in the teen-thriller Swimf@n (currently sitting on my DVD player at home).

After Roswell, she continued working pretty steadily with roles in a bunch of movies that I’ve never seen, including The Battle of Shaker Heights, Havoc, When Do We Eat?, and Charlie Wilson’s War (oooh.  I saw that one!)  She also had a multi-episode arc on E.R. Then, Shiri landed a starring role in the CW’s Life Unexpected.  The show aired for one season (and you should be able to stream it on Netflix) before getting the ax, but the critical reception was largely positive.  After that, Appleby had recurring guest appearances on Franklin & Bash and Chicago Fire, did a couple shows I’ve never heard of (Dating Rules from my Future Self), and most recently appeared in several memorable episodes of Girls and an episode of Elementary.  This is her official Twitter account, if you’re interested.

FUN FACT: Appleby auditioned for all three female leads in Roswell several times before being cast as Liz.

Jason Behr (Max Evans)
One of the older cast members, Jason Behr was already 26 when Roswell premiered.  Behr wasn’t a stranger to the WB network at the time, having had guest-starring roles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, 7th Heaven, and Dawson’s Creek.  (The WB was known for recycling talent.)

After Roswell, Jason found work in movies, with roles in The Grudge, Skinwalkers, and D-War.  He continued to work in both television and movies, with one of his more recent projects being a TV movie called Company Man opposite Castle‘s Stana Katic.  His most recent credit is from 2012: a show called Breakout Kings, in which he appeared in 5 episodes.

Although my 15-year-old self loved Max, I always found the other characters more compelling.  I will give a shout-out to Behr because he’s from Minneapolis, which is totally awesome. (The picture on the right is Behr with his wife, actress KaDee Strickland.)

FUN FACT: He speaks Japanese.

Katherine Heigl (Isabelle Evans)
Katherine Heigl was 21 when the show started, and she was without a doubt the person whose beauty was supposed to be part of her character.  Isabelle often worried her parents by dating men who were considerably older, but she was so beautiful and looked so much older than a seventeen-year-old that it’s no wonder the writers played it up.

Before Roswell premiered, Heigl did several movies, including one of my all-time biggest guilty pleasures, My Father the Hero, as well as Bride of Chucky and the weird and yet somehow still enjoyable Disney movie Wish Upon a Star.

After Roswell, Heigl is the actress who has gone on to have the most mainstream professional success, landing a lead role as Izzie Stevens on Grey’s Anatomy, starring in Judd Apatow’s love-it-or-hate it Knocked Up, and finding  a niche in mediocre-t0-downright-awful romantic comedies, including 27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth, Life as We Know It, New Year’s Eve, The Big Wedding, and One for the Money. Heigl has several projects in the works, including the movies North of Hell and Jenny’s Wedding (both in post-production at the time of this writing).  Her official Twitter can be found here.

FUN FACT: She was engaged to co-star Jason Behr during while filming Roswell.

Majandra Delfino (Maria DeLuca)
Majandra Delfino was the youngest cast member, auditioning for the series when she was just 17.  Before Roswell, she landed a role in the movie Zeus and Roxanne, and was in several episodes of The Tony Danza Show.

During Roswell, she appeared in several movies, including Traffic and R.S.V.P. (as well as Shriek If You Know What You Did Last Friday the 13th, which I’ve seen).  In addition to singing on the show, she also released an album called “The Sicks.”

Post-Roswell, Majandra continued to work in TV and movies.  She starred in a TV-movie called Celeste in the City, released a second album in 2008 called “Tarte,” and was in several short-lived shows, including Quarterlife and State of Georgia (I might be the only person who watched this, and it was solely because of Delfino).  She had a small role in Life as We Know It (also starring Katherine Heigl), has appeared on a few episodes of Men of a Certain Age, an episode of The Office, and seems to be working on a TV show in pre-production (as of this posting) called Friends With Better Lives.  Her official Twitter account can be found here.

FUN FACT: She was briefly married to Devon Gummersall, who played Brian Krakow on My So-Called Life.  Also, she’s my secret favorite.

Brendan Fehr (Michael Guerin)
Brendan Fehr was 22 when Roswell premiered.  Before the show, he guest-starred in an episode of Breaker High (YES!), had a small role in Disturbing Behavior, and guest-starred in a number of other TV shows.  A transplant from Canada, his big break definitely came in the form of Roswell.

During the course of the show, Fehr also made several movies, including Final Destination and The Forsaken.Brendan_Fehr

His career after the show has included a bunch of movies and projects I’ve never heard of, as well as a stint as a series regular as Dan Cooper on CSI: Miami, several episodes of something called Samurai Girl, and a multi-episode arc as Booth’s brother on Bones.  He’s made some TV movies, including a sequel to The Cutting Edge. Guest spots on Nikita and Longmire seem to be it for recent TV appearances.  However, he seems to have a couple of movies (that look like straight to DVD/streaming releases to me) out this year, including Roswell FM and something called Zarra’s Law. Surprisingly, he has an official Twitter here, and based on his Twitter bio, is pretty into religion. Huh.

FUN FACT: He’s from Canada.  That’s all I got.

Nick Wechsler (Kyle Valenti)
Nick Wechsler’s Kyle Valenti started as a character that served mostly as a foil to Max and his romantic aspirations with Liz, but he evolved into an essential part of the group whose humor and warmth were undeniable.  When the show premiered, Wechsler was 21.  Before joining the cast, he was a regular on Team Knight Rider and played a “mugger” in TV movie called Full Circle.

After Roswell, Wechsler continues to work in both TV and film, landing guest spots on a variety of TV shows, including Tru Calling, North Shore, Cold CaseLie to Me, Without a Trace, and It’s Always Sunny….  The last time I posted this, I begged for someone to ‘give this man a show already,’ and I guess someone listened, because Wechsler is currently a series regular on Revenge.  Here’s his official Twitter.

Fun Fact: He auditioned for at least 4 different roles on Roswell before snagging the part of Kyle.

Colin Hanks (Alex Whitman)

hanks1Colin Hanks (yes, son of Tom Hanks) got his start in movies with a bit part in his father’s excellent That Thing You Do! but landed his first breakout role at the age of 23 with the start of Roswell.  Geeky friend to Liz and Maria, Alex was kept in the dark for a lot of the show before suffering aGeorge Pimentelterrible demise.

During the course of the show, Hanks starred in two pretty mediocre teen movies: Whatever it Takes and Get Over It.  After Roswell, Hanks starred in Orange County, had a pretty funny appearance on The O.C., and has appeared in a slew of movies, including The House Bunny, W., and The Guilt Trip.  He’s also been in a bunch of TV shows, including a recurring guest spot on Mad Men (as a priest), a pretty terrifying, rercurring turn on Dexter as a serial killer, some episodes of Burning Love, and a few episodes of NCIS. IMDB tells me that he’s got a TV series called Fargo in pre-production right now. Here’s his official Twitter.

Fun Fact: Both Hanks jr. and sr. have been contestants on Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me’s “Not My Job” segment, and both won their respective quizzes.

Emilie de Ravin (Tess Harding)

deravin1Emilie de Ravin wasn’t an original cast member but joined the show fairly early on.  She was 21 when the show premiered.  Easily the most divisive character on the show, Emilie de Ravin’s Tess mainly functioned as a way to separate Max and Liz from their true love.  It’s a thankless role, and de Ravin played it well, though her American accent (de Ravin is a native Australian) often distracted.  At any rate,

deravin2Tess was the fourth alien the original three didn’t know about, and she claimed that she and Max were destined to betogether on their home planet.  There’s also that part where she was a psycho killer, but whatever.

Before landing the Roswell gig, de Ravin had a recurring role on the awesomely named BeastMaster.  Post-Roswell, de Ravin has been able to find quite steady work, including series’ regular status on Lost and Once Upon a Time.  Perhaps best known now for her work on Lost, de Ravin has also had roles in some mainstream movies, including The Hills Have Eyes, Remember Me, and Brick

Her official twitter account can be found here.

Fun Fact: She’s allergic to peanuts. Eh?

So there you have it: the updated compendium of Where Are They Now? Roswell Edition.

Movie News and Blather

Time for another installment of movie news and randomness.  Here’s the movie news that’s got me all atwitter this week:

1. Only Lovers Left Alive Trailer

This looks weird as can be but boasts an impressive cast, including Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, and Mia Wasikowska.  The movie is about vampires?  And playrights?  At any rate, it’s getting good buzz.

2. Rooney Mara to play Tiger Lily in Pan Movie

And I won’t see it, because I’m so tired of this RACIST SHIT that Hollywood keeps throwing at us like it doesn’t matter.  Even though Joe Wright is claiming that he plans to make a multi-racial Neverland to “challenge” people’s assumptions about the world, so far he’s cast Hugh Jackman and Garrett Hedlund, so yeah, pretty multi-racial.  Are you fucking kidding me? (The Wrap)

3. Tracks Trailer

Another Mia Wasikowska movie, and this one also stars Adam Driver, so you know I’m there.  It’s based on the true story of Robyn Davidson, who trekked across 2,000 miles of Australian desert in the late 1970s.  It’s also garnering good buzz.  So, yes to this one.

4. The world needed a sequel to that last Alice in Wonderland movie, I guess

It’s called Through the Looking Glass.  Because it’s definitely happening.  I thought that movie bombed?  No?  Why else would it take four years just to start contract negotiations?  At any rate, it looks like the original cast is set to join up.  If I ever watch this one, it will be while drunk on my couch.  YAWN. (Variety)

5. Cuban Fury Trailer

It looks kind of silly but stars Rashida Jones, whom I like despite the disasterpiece of Celeste & Jesse Forever, and some other people, too: Nick Frost, Chris O’Dowd, etc.  A former salsa prodigy tries to make a comeback?  All right.  I’m in.

What movie news got you all worked up this week?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.

The Long Summer of Not-Reading (BookRiot)

I’m not a parent, but this was still an essay that has application in my life.  Frustrated with what a fight reading to his children became every night before bed, author Peter Damien gave it up for the summer.  In a house where books ruled and where he himself was a voracious reader, this was an immensely difficult thing to do.  But he did it for his kids, because:

Because reading should not be a chore…Reading should be approached willingly and happily, because you want to. It should be done when and how you want to, and that’s it. It’s as simple as that. It should not be fought over.

His son who struggled the most with reading has since come back to it naturally and is now keeping a reading journal.  I think there’s some interesting stuff here to think about, especially that this doesn’t just apply to kids: I think we as adults are allowed to have cycles with our own reading.  I’m a voracious reader and even I tire of it sometimes, preferring to get lost in a TV show or movies or, much more rarely, crafts.  But I always come back to reading, and it’s largely due to the fact that I allow myself breaks.

Is All of Twitter Fair Game for Journalists? (Slate)

Probably the most thought-provoking article I’ve read this week, this article, written by Amanda Hess, takes to task the concept of things like Twitter, social media, and journalism in the age of the internet.  It focuses on a woman (with a following of about 13,000 Twitter users) who tweeted about a recent rape case in the news and asked followers to share bits of their own sexual assault stories.  She received a great deal of response, which is what she wanted.  But when Buzzfeed picked it up, she got angry, because she didn’t give consent for that.

What had started as a story about consenting to sex had turned into a story about consenting to viral news.

Here’s the thing, though: Twitter is public.  When you tweet something out on your account, you are consenting for it to be picked up by your followers or by other people.  It’s easy to forget this, I guess, but I find it sort of weird that people don’t seem to fundamentally understand this.  That being said, the article doesn’t look at this issue as black-or-white:

The journalistic landscape has changed so much in such a short period that it feels a little square to harken back to traditional ethics codes. The Society of Professional Journalists’ version, which was established in 1926 and updated most recently in 1996, instructs journalists to “use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects” and to “recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention.” If reporters view all statements on Twitter as equally quotable—who among billions of Twitter users couldn’t be accused of seeking “attention”?—then the divide between public and private is rendered meaningless. On the one hand, news is being created and shared on social media, and journalists cover those platforms like a beat in order to keep their readers informed. On the other hand, the obliteration of the private sphere is very convenient for journalists, and not just because it enables us to exercise the right to a free press in service of the public good.

So, journalists play a role, too.  I’m not a journalist; I don’t have to decide what my ethics are here.  But I do firmly believe–and I teach this to my students all the time–that what you put out on the internet matters, and you have to be able to understand that it’s public and it’s published.  A lot to think about here.

How to be a Good Bad American Girl (The New Yorker)

A lengthy and fascinating piece about being an audacious young girl in America, this excellent piece traces a line between Lisa Simpson to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird and Harriet M. Welsch in Harriet the Spy.

The entire piece is excellent, delving into the author’s lives and their fierce female protagonists, but this bit stuck out to me:

The idea that survival requires impersonation, and that artifice is sometimes necessary, is especially charged for girls who are gender nonconforming. But, in recognizing this, both Scout and Harriet are further humanized. The lesson that they themselves may sometimes have to hide makes them more aware that everyone has secrets, and everyone has a complex inner life.

At any rate, go read it, guys.

What things got you thinking this week?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

After taking a hiatus last week (and generally feeling apathetic about the internet), these are the articles I’m reading and thinking about this week.  I don’t have a ton of stuff for you, but I do have a couple of links.

May the Box Office Be Ever in Your Favor: How Divergent and the Hunger Games Avoid Race and Gender Violence (Bitch Magazine)

Sarah McCarry wrote this guest piece for Bitch, and it’s well worth taking a look at.  In it, she gets at something occurring in all sorts of dystopian tales that is both really disturbing and really important to think about:

As violent and militarized as these books are, the violence in their worlds bears little to no resemblance to the violence of the real world we live in. In DivergentTris is, briefly, sexually assaulted (an experience that she later, somewhat disturbingly, describes as not “really” being sexual assault), but otherwise women, while they’re executed or beaten up on the regular, do not seem to experience gendered violence of any kind. There is no overtly racialized violence. As readers, we can be horrified by the bloodshed—nobody wants to see kids die—without being implicated in it.

The brilliance doesn’t stop there, though:

And, of course, our dystopian heroines are certainly not teenagers of color. While there are numerous great dystopian young adult books that center on characters of color, the ones that have so far caught Hollywood’s eye all center on white characters (or, in the case of “olive-skinned” Katniss, characters imagined by movie producers to be clearly white). These stories present whiteness as a default and a universal, their heroines accessorized enough with a few generic hopes and desires that we can see them as human, but never so marked by difference that we cannot see them in ourselves. The “we” in the audience is presumed to be white and straight or so trained by our own exclusion that we automatically read outside our own experience. 

It is difficult to read articles like these that criticize the books and movies that are widely beloved, but it is also incredibly important.  I very much loved The Hunger Games and I mostly liked Divergent, but that doesn’t mean that these things are without fault.  Reading articles like this makes me a better reader, it makes me a more critical thinker.  And McCarry’s article is excellent, and stirring, and upsetting:

People criticize dystopian YA for being too violent, but let’s face it, these books are not violent enough; these books cannot even begin to approximate the violence of a world in which a white man can shoot a black teenager in the face as she stands on his porch and asks him for help; in which a man can shoot a black teenager carrying a bag of Skittles and walk away free; in which a white man can open fire on a car full of black teenagers whose music he does not like; in which a man beats a young black woman to death solely because she is transgender and, again, walk away; and the list is so long. Every day, the list gets longer.

Look, there is going to be no perfect critique of society when it comes to dystopia, especially when it becomes a commercial Hollywood vehicle.  But this is important stuff to think and talk about.  I know I will be thinking about this one for a while.

I Can’t Deal with Sociopaths in Non-Fiction (Book Riot)

This is an interesting think-piece about how much crazy a person can deal with in their books, essentially.  Although Steinkellner focuses on non-fiction, she also mentions fictional sociopaths, too.  The entire thing raises some interesting questions about reading in general, though.  Do we have a harder time with a concept if we know it’s grounded in reality?  Is it easier to deal with hard stuff like sociopathic, destructive characters if we know it’s fiction and therefore not real?

I don’t have to like the characters to get through the book, but I definitely agree with parts of this article.  Like, I get this entire paragraph:

I hope I’m not coming across as too much of a corseted 19th century lady in desperate need of a reclining sofa and smelling salts. I want to read about complex people in complex situations- that’s one of my favorite things about reading! But I have very thin skin when it comes to consuming media. I gasp while watching movies. I get so angry at certain television characters I’ll wake up the next morning still upset about an injustice that happened on an episode the previous night (Good Wife, you are my favorite show and at the same time, you haunt my nights). I have returned more than one tearstained book to the library…and by more than one, I mean, like, maybe 8. Media affects me deeply. And when I read about a human that is unthinkably cruel to other humans, and I know that all those humans existed, that these events happened, it’s just a lot for me. Sometimes it’s almost too much, and sometimes it actually is too much.

My nickname around the house is “Waterworks” because I’m a crier.  I react to media in much the same way.  I cry at the drop of a hat when I watch movies and TV, and regularly cry when reading a book, if it’s done well.  It happened the other night when I forgot how one of the early Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor ends, and that is a book meant for children.  So I understand this worry about how real life things can be too much, but I also worry about the implications of that.

Like, a lot of things in life upset me (see all the links to real-life murders in the article above this) a great deal, but I still need to know about them.  Not knowing about them doesn’t make them any less real, and it certainly doesn’t do me any good as a person.  I get there’s a line between making sure that you’re informed about the world and also allowing yourself to enjoy entertainment that won’t rock you to the core, but where is it?  I don’t know.  I’m rambling.

The Veronica Mars Movie is More of the Same, and That’s a Beautiful Thing (Slate)

I don’t have a lot to say about this review of the Veronica Mars movie except to say that it sounds pretty much like what I expect the movie to be.  Here’s a pretty telling snippet:

I don’t know how much money Veronica Mars will make, or how much money it has to make to be deemed a success, but as means of fan-satisfaction it is a needle to a major vein. Unlike the new, structurally complex Arrested DevelopmentVeronica Mars’ only ambition seems to be to deliver a product of the same quality as the incisive, quippy show—not at all a low bar. By unapologetically being an extended TV-episode in movie form, Veronica Mars keeps on keeping on with its major theme: taking things that are assumed to be adorable and unserious and safe and complicating the hell out of them.

I literally can’t wait to see the movie this weekend.

What things did you read this week that got you thinking?

February 2014 Recap

Somewhere over the course of last year, I lost the plot with regard to monthly recaps of what I’d be reading and watching, and that’s too bad.  I actually really like these posts to help me reflect on the past month, in terms of what kinds of media I’d been consuming.  So, with the start of a new year and a fresh resolve to track more thoroughly what I’m reading and watching, here’s my attempt at starting up these monthly recaps again.

Reading:

Best Book of the Month: Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

Books Read: 25
Adult: 4
YA: 19
MG: 2
Children’s: 0
Fiction: 22
Non-fiction/Memoir: 3
Graphic Novel: 1
# of Pages Read: 5554

Thoughts on February’s Reading:

  • As far as non-fiction goals go, I read two memoirs (I Don’t Know Where You Know Me From and Never Have I Ever) and one biography (Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer, 1962).  I loved the Plath and was lukewarm on the other two.  I didn’t read anything I would qualify as “hard” non-fiction this month.
  • A lot of the YA I read this month was really, really disappointing: I kind of hated Asylum, thought Royally Lost was painfully silly, and didn’t connect with The Museum of Intangible Things the way I wanted to.  Even so, Cammie McGovern’s Say What You Will was my favorite read of the month, hands down.
  • My numbers are insanely high because I read so many Sweet Valley High novels this week for my other blog.  These books are a breeze to get through (I can knock them out in about 30 minutes if I’m not distracted by other things), so they count–but just barely.  I’m on a roll with them right now, so who knows how long that will last.

Watching:

TV:

Much as I’d like to, I’m not obsessively tracking what TV show episodes I watch and when.  So this will be mostly bullet points.

  • I’ve completely slowed down on Breaking Bad.  I think we’re still slogging through the third season.  I will finish it.  It’s just not something I ever look forward to sitting down to.
  • Instead, I hate-watched my way through four seasons of Glee, which I’m not proud of, but there it is.  I don’t know why I can’t look away from this show–it is literally the worst and represents everything I hate, but damn if I can’t stop binge-watching.
  • I also still watch New Girl and Switched at Birth.  Everything else seems to be on hiatus right now.
  • J. and I have started watching The X-Files as something to have on in the background sometimes.  It’s enjoyable but I don’t see us finishing it (as well we shouldn’t because it’s one of those shows that refused to die).

Movies:

12yearsBest Movie(s) of the Month: 12 Years a Slave

Movies Watched: 8
New: 5
Re-Watch: 3
Theater Trips: 0

Thoughts on Movies Watched in February:

  • Not a stellar month for movies, despite my best intentions to get ready for the Oscars.
  • Despite not liking animated movies, I watched Disney’s Frozen and found it adorable.  I mean, largely forgettable, but something I probably would have loved as a kid.  I also watched The Croods and didn’t hate it, so that’s something, I guess?

Goals for March:

  • Continue reading and watching diverse things.  Keep up with keeping track.

Happy reading and watching, readers!

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the articles I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.

Do We Really Need Negative Book Reviews? (NYT)

Sometimes I feel like I’m so tired of this question that I could scream.  But despite my weariness of it, we continue to talk around and around about whether or not we need negative book reviews.  The short answer is (and always will be) YES.  We do need negative book reviews, because the alternative–not writing a review of a book because it might be critical–means silence, and it also indicates a lack of critical thought.  There’s a place for negative reviews, and it’s right alongside positive, glowing ones.

At any rate, this piece–in which writers Francine Prose and Zoe Heller both tackle the question of negative reviews, is both interesting and thought-provoking.  Prose talks about the fact that she gave up writing negative reviews for three decades before diving back in:

I’ve begun to think, If something bothers me that much, life is too short not to say so.

It depresses me to see talented writers figuring out they can phone it in, and that no one will know the difference. I’m annoyed by gossip masquerading as biography, by egomaniacal boasting and name-dropping passing as memoir. It irks me to see characters who are compendiums of clichés. I can’t explain precisely why a sentence like “His eyes were as black as night” should feel like an insult, but it does. It’s almost like being lied to. And it troubles me when a critic quotes “His eyes were as black as night” as an example of the author’s lyrical gifts! Needless to say, criticism is a matter of opinion. If, in someone else’s opinion, “His eyes were as black as night” is a lyrical sentence, that person is obviously entitled to enjoy a whole book of sentences like that.

Heller seems to largely agree:

It is a mistake, then, to characterize the debate about bad reviews as a contest between humane impulses and coldhearted snark. Banning “negativity” is not just bad for the culture; it is unfair to authors. A review, however aggressively unfavorable, is generally obliged to provide supporting evidence for its judgments. It is also published under a byline, signaling to all that it is the work of one fallible human being. This seems an altogether fairer and more accountable way of dealing with a book one deems “bad” than banishing it, without explanation, from public notice. As I understand it, one of the putative virtues of the Internet age is that it has removed power from the elitist gatekeepers of yore and allowed a freer, more democratic range of voices to be heard.

I wish I could say that this will put the issue to rest at last, but whatever.  Still a diverting read.

The Incoherent Backlashes to Black Actors Playing “White” Superheroes (The Atlantic)

Michael B. Jordan, an actor I love unabashedly, has been cast as Johnny Storm in the new Fantastic Four movie.  While there’s an argument to be made that we don’t need ANOTHER Fantastic Four movie, I love the casting choice.  Not everyone seems to feel the same way, though.  The internet brings out the worst in all of us, and that includes the racist fucking bigots who feel like they must weigh in on the casting decision, because, you know, superheroes must always be white.

People say they object to black casting because it’s untrue to the original source material, and a betrayal of the characters—a claim that seems particularly dicey in the case of The Hunger Games, where Rue is black in the original novel. But even in the case of the Fantastic Four, where Jack Kirby and Stan Lee did in fact make the team white, the plea to be faithful to the founding seems to raise a lot of questions…

…The answer is obvious enough. American racism holds that only certain racial differences matter. Jews, Italians, Eastern Europeans, Irish—all those people are white and can play one another with nary an eyebrow raised.

FFS, people.  When you claim that you’re upset about staying true to the story when a character has been cast with an actor of color in the role, you’re lying.  You’re upset because YOU ARE A RACIST.

Boys Will Be Boys, and Girls Will Be Accomodating (Medium)

Probably the most thoughtful thing I’ve read all week, this one tackles the concept of books for girls and books for boys, and why that’s so problematic.  I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’ve started to delve into a massive amount of research on YA books for a project I may or may not undertake, but this is an accessible, short essay about the problems with thinking about books for teens/kids in such binary terms.

When we assume that boys won’t read books with girls on the cover, and then institutionalize that assumption by leaving the “girlie” books out of award nominations (as well as school wide reads, story times, etc.), we insult them. By suggesting that on the whole our boys have a limited capacity for empathy, an inability to imagine a world beyond their own most obvious understanding, and an unwillingness to stretch.

In the same stroke, we neglect our girls. Not because they can’t read “boy books” (they do and will). But because when they see those awards, they also learn something —to accept a world in which they are rarely the central players. They learn, at a formative age, that the “best” books are the ones about boys. (Or dogs, as previously mentioned. Dogs are good.)

I loved this one.

How to Get Yourself to Watch “Difficult Movies” (Slate)

This article came to me at the perfect time, because I finally sat down and watched 12 Years a Slave last weekend with J.  I’ve been meaning to see it since it came out, but I’ve kept putting it off.  For the same reasons as Julia Turner in this piece: because I knew it was going to be emotionally harrowing and hard to watch.  But it’s also incredibly important.  It was also the most spectacular movie I’ve seen in a good long while.

Turner focuses mostly on Schindler’s List in this article, but the idea is the same: it took her 21 years to watch that movie, and it took hosting a viewing party to get her to do it.  So this idea of having your friends/peers hold you accountable is what she’s getting at in this piece, and it’s very interesting.  Thoughts?

What articles got you thinking this week?

Movie News and Randomness

Time for the bimonthly Movie News and Blather.  These are the movie-related tidbits I found interesting enough to blog about this time around!

1. Tammy Teaser Trailer

The film stars Melissa McCarthy, who I will pretty much watch in anything.*  It also stars Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, and a bunch of other great people, so how could I not want to see this one?  Plus, the teaser opens with “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio, so, you know.

*This is hyperbolic.  I will not watch Mike & Molly and can’t bring myself to sit through Identity Thief.  So, you know, I have my limits.

2. Jennifer Anniston will star in Cake

It’s about a woman obsessed with the suicide of another woman in her support group, so…cheery? (Variety)

3. Under the Skin Trailer

I can never quite make my mind up about Scarlet Johansson, but this sci-fi flick is getting pretty good buzz.  It’s about aliens, or something, and prominently features Johansson’s face.  The movie was scored by Micachu and the Shapes, which excites me, and I guess the cinematography is something to behold as well.

4. Live-action Tarzan movie is apparently a thing.

Did you guys know about this?  Because I didn’t.  Apparently it will star Alexander Skarsgaard as Tarzan and Margot Robbie as Jane.  It’ll be directed by David Yates, which is the only part about any of it I’m remotely okay with, and even that is sort of BLECH.  We don’t have to worry about it until 2016, though.

5. The Two Faces of January Trailer

While I wish the trailer didn’t give quite so much away, it has a pretty impressive cast.  I’m crazy for Oscar Isaac, so I’m down for this, but Viggo Mortenson and Kirsten Dunst are also in this thriller about tourists who get involved in a murder.  Or something.  Did I mention Oscar Isaac is in the trailer?

 

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

I’ve got some heavy stuff for you this week.  Without further ado, these are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.

‘I Don’t Want My Children to Go to College’ (The Atlantic)

So, okay.  So.  Back in 2013, during a public conversation between Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, New America Foundation President Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Buzzfeed president Jon Steinberg, the topic of the flaws in the traditional college model came up.  Steinberg, in a moment of sheer unadultarated genius (one I’m sure he’ll never regret at all ever), said that he doesn’t even want his kids to go to college.  Wait. It gets better:

Said Schmidt: “The purpose of college… has a lot to do with, not learning about education but learning how to live on your own and so forth…. The core question is what to do with 18-year-olds and the best thing to do is to put them in college until they’re 22. We’ve [got] sort of a warehousing problem.” …Slaughter mentioned that her son, a junior in high school, is mulling college but has also “learned more from the [free educational site] Khan Academy, in many ways, than he has in class.”  She adds it’s becoming more common for students to take time off before attending college. “These kids are sort of thinking, ‘But I can learn what I need to learn online.’ … That sense that, ‘If I don’t go to college between 18 and 22, I won’t make it,’ is really changing.”

Is this a conversation about privilege, or is this REALLY a conversation about privilege?  The dilemma (if you can even call it that) for the children of THESE INCREDIBLY WEALTHY, PRIVILEGED, AND IVY-EDUCATED PEOPLE is whether or not they should go to college at all.  The idea that this “mulling” process is the norm for 99% of America (and the world) is so utterly ridiculous that it makes me physically angry.

Luckily, Stacia L. Brown (yes, the same woman whose blog I linked to above), seems to understand where I’m coming from:

In the larger country in which we live, however, first-generation college students still make up about 30 percent of freshman classes each year. First-gen college students find it difficult to adjust to most post-secondary learning without dedicated mentorship. Low-income first gens are four times more likely to leave college after the first year than their multi-generation peers…Students like mine could not be tossed into the deep end of MOOC without having first spent whole semesters sitting at shared desks, raising their hands, and exchanging their writing among teachers, tutors, and peers.

Imagine how it must feel for them, hearing that this pinnacle toward which their families have urgently and hopefully pushed them is now considered all but obsolete by the titans of industry they believe are stakeholders in their future.

That last part is what made me actually tear up in frustration.  Because those are the student populations I have been working with my entire professional career, first as a high school teacher and now as an academic librarian.  Because this idea that a person can learn everything they need to know online is so privileged and ignorant that it makes me CRAZY.  Because learning online means that students lose out on so many other important things that come with the traditional college model.

What is Rape Culture? (Buzzfeed)

I have definite BuzzFeed fatigue, but this compilation about what rape culture is is too good to pass up.  I’m not going to stop talking about rape culture until we don’t live in one, guys, so you might as well get used to it.  If you only ever read one piece about what rape culture is, this is it.  It’s accessible, it’s short, and it’s on point.  It’s also really, really important for us to keep talking about this and what it means.

Yes, this list of what rape culture is includes “gray rape,” victim blaming, slut shaming, anti-rape wear, and street harassment.  No, I’m not going to argue with you that some of these things aren’t part of rape culture, because they are.  Read the article.

The Rapist Next Door (CNN)

This is really interesting long-form journalism from CNN about the prevalence of rape in Alaska, and why its numbers are so much higher than other parts of the country.  It tackles the case of one rapist, an indigenous man who is undergoing a great deal of cognitive behavioral therapy as well as continuing to live in his community. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking and well worth your time.  Here’s a snippet:

There was a time when politicians in Alaska argued rape survivors were simply reporting rape more often in this state than elsewhere. Those arguments, however, have been largely abandoned as the scope of the violence has become clearer. If anything, the taboos surrounding rape here would suggest that the crime is underreported in Alaska, relative to other states.

There’s so much at play here: economics, social class, race, imperialism, alcoholism, systemic abuse.

We Have Known Boys But None Have Been Bullet-Proof (Stacia L. Brown)

I’ve been following the news coverage of the murder of Jordan Brown pretty obsessively this week, and this is the most beautiful, haunting piece about racialized violence in America that I’ve seen in a long time.

If you don’t know who Jordan Brown was or what happened to him, I encourage you to do some reading about it.  Get angry.  Get angry about the fact that it happened two years ago and is only really seeing news coverage now.  Get angry about the fact that Florida’s fucked-up, COMPLETELY AND UNAPOLOGETICALLY RACIST “stand your ground” law is KILLING PEOPLE.  YOUNG PEOPLE. TEENAGERS.

In Praise of Disregard (NYT)

One of the friends with whom I regularly dissect articles on the internet sent me this one in response to some other stuff I sent her this week, and I’m trying to adopt it as my new philosophy.  The premise is simple:

In the past, it was easier to avoid what you didn’t need to hear. Today, it requires a concerted effort to do so, and it still isn’t possible to sidestep troubling views altogether. In addition, most public speech can now be commented on, and often is, thanks to the web. Recent years have confirmed that when things can be commented on, especially anonymously, people often become the worst versions of themselves. The opinions of others washing over us is the inescapable state of things today.

But it is possible to subdue those ideas that do violence to us. Ideas are given credence only when they are entertained. By disregardingthem, we can erode much of their influence.

As I was reading it, I started to worry a little bit.  “What about the things that actually matter?  Do I ignore those, too, even if people are being totally bigoted ignoramuses?”  But, no.  That’s not the point.  The point is to tune out the garbage so you can care about the stuff that matters to you.  And that is something I can get behind:

It is important to be sure that the ideas you want to eliminate from existence aren’t those that would have spurred you to action in your actual life. For example, if getting angry about the retrogression of women’s rights or about the increasing margin between rich and poor could impel you to get involved in your community to change these things, then, by all means, let the negative feelings fuel you. But many of the ideas we encounter, especially when rehashed in ever more amplified ways, serve only to distract us from the real issues. In a gesture of good faith and honesty with yourself, identify what you know you will never actually do anything about and eliminate it from your field of thought.

So, I’m working on it.  That stupid BuzzFeed video about being ladylike that irritated me this morning on Facebook? Letting it go.  A couple of people on Facebook who literally post every article whose headline they have read but CLEARLY DID NOT READ THE ACTUAL CONTENT who make me RAGEY? Letting it go, because they are dumb, insignificant, and possibly functionally illiterate, given their regular status updates.  I’m going to try to let things go, because damn do I have a lot of feelings about a lot of things.

What articles got you thinking this week?