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.

Things I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

As per usual, these are the things I’ve been reading and thinking about this week.  It’s YA-heavy this week, but that’s kind of where my passion is, so it is what it is.  Without further ado, let’s get into it.

Unplugging from John Green and Rob Thomas (Persnickety Snark)

vmI was so happy when Adele from Persnickety Snark started blogging again after a fairly long hiatus.  I love her posts and her thoughts about books and pop culture, and I was particularly struck by a recent post in which she talks about fatigue from being deluged by a creator’s updates about their process.  Because I agree.

Like Adele, I was a Veronica Mars movie Kickstarter Backer, and also like Adele, the updates from Rob Thomas got to the point where another one would appear in my inbox and I would think, “Seriously?”  She gets to the heart of it here:

At this point in time, Thomas has sent out 92 updates on his highly successful Kickstarter initiative to revisit the world of Neptune High.  92 updates, a media eclipse of content, a mediocre film and nowhere to run.  Even in unfollowing every cast member and creator, I was still inundated with information about the script, the casting, the production, the team working on it, the media appearances, Rob’s new VM related projects, the premiere, and now I am getting news on an unrelated Thomas driven project via the Kickstarter updates*.

I’m with her, and I’m also with her about the updates we’re now being subjected to about iZombie.  I can’t tell you how much I don’t care about iZombie.  Actually, I can.  I don’t even know what it is, apart from the fact that Thomas is working on it.  I can’t even be bothered to Google it, so irritated am I that I’m receiving updates about it.

This part of her post also stuck out to me, because it’s exactly how I feel about it:

But in a world where we are becoming increasingly interlinked, escape is becoming less probable.  I want some mystery back.  I love hearing about the process, and the creators’ emotional journey etc after the end result.  If the process is intensely detailed as it’s happening – I need to disengage.  I don’t want to be over the book/film before it has even made its way to the public.  I am then robbing myself of some great storytelling with the added benefit of surprise.

Just something to think about.

Why the Eleanor and Park Movie is so Important (BookRiot)

If you follow YA news at all, you probably already heard that Rainbow Rowell’s excellent (seriously, seriously excellent) Eleanor & Park has been optioned by Dreamworks.  Although it’s a long road to actually becoming a film, because of the book’s intensely vocal (and wide-ranging) fanbase, it seems pretty likely to do so.  Of course, this movie news is influenced by the recent surge of other realistic YA novels being optioned for film.  But this one feels particularly important in a way that other YA lit movie news doesn’t.

For one, it doesn’t include Shailene Woodley in the lead role (is she in everything, or is she in everything?) This Book Riot post gets to the heart of it pretty quickly:

But when it comes to casting, it’s not a surprise that we’re seeing the same faces over and over again…by using the same actors over and over again are telling movie audiences: “These are people whose stories are worth telling. If you look like this person, your story is worth telling. If you don’t…um… it’s like… I don’t know what to tell you, dude.”

The argument here, of course, is that this won’t work with Eleanor & Park, because Park is half-Korean and Eleanor is not a waif.  This means, if the movie hews closely to the book, casting directors are going to have to go outside of their comfort zone, at least a little.  Maybe?

No One Wants to Discover New Music? Ridiculous. (Salon)

Books might be my first love, but music is a pretty close second.  I’m an audiophile, and I’m obsessed with discovering new music and tracking what’s being released when.  Most of my music discoveries happen through music blogs, but I definitely use things like Pandora to help discover new stuff, especially when I’m hanging out with people and we want background noise.

This article appeared at Salon this week, and takes issue with another article (linked at the site and not here, because I kind of feel like the original article is troll-y click bait) that purports that streaming services like Pandora and Spotify are fighting an uphill battle that they will never win.  Essentially: music listeners don’t want to discover new music, because they are comfortable with what they know they like.

Which, what?  This is true of some music listeners, sure.  It’s impossible to make a blanket statement one way or the other, but the original article attempts just that.  And it’s super ridiculous.  The article from Salon agrees:

What’s so astonishing is that, now, more than ever before, it simply doesn’t have to be that way. When I was an impressionable teenager it was logistically difficult to get exposed to new music outside of the narrow confines of Top 40. It required money and transport (or, at the very least, a good FM DJ). But today it’s the easiest thing in the world. For the last week or so, I’ve been occasionally listening to a Pandora station seeded by the Broken Bells, and I’m continually amazed at just how much creative, interesting music is out there that I’ve never heard of.

So maybe for casual music fans, there’s a certain truth to the original argument.  But for people who actually love music and are interested in discovering new bands and sounds?  Streaming sites like Pandora are a mecca.

The Hazards of Book to Film Adaptation: Further Thoughts on Attempted Rape in Divergent Divergent  (Stacked)

I finally got around to seeing the Divergent movie last week and was surprised that there was a divergentscene in which Four attempts to rape Tris during one of her fear simulations.  I didn’t remember it from the book, but I sort of brushed it off because I read the book years ago and the details of the plot are hazy at best.  But then I started reading articles on the internet, and I realized that I hadn’t forgotten the scene–it had been added.

Which is disturbing for a lot of reasons.  But this piece by Kimberly Francisco at Stacked gets to a lot of what makes that decision so uncomfortable.  She wonders why the filmmakers decided to fundamentally alter Tris’s fear landscape to include an attempted rape:

The kindest answer to my question may be that the filmmakers thought it would be too difficult to communicate Tris’ fear of sexual intimacy – or just affection in general – on the big screen.

So if that’s the case–and I agree with Francisco, that’s likely what propelled the decision to change the scene from one in which Tris is afraid of sex because of how scary sex is when you’re a teenager to one in which the fear is of actual rape–it sends a completely different message to viewers:

Perhaps they did not intend to explicitly tell readers and viewers that they felt Tris’ fear of sexual intimacy was equivalent to fear of rape, but by making the choice to exclude the book’s scene and create the attempted rape scene, that’s exactly what they have done. 

Which is, of course, completely alarming.  Francisco is not the only person who takes issue with this choice in the movie.  Melissa Montovani at YA Bookshelf has some great pieces about this movie and how it fits into rape culture, and I encourage you to take a look at them.

At any rate, I’ve been thinking about this since I saw the movie, and I think I’ll be thinking about it for a good long while still.

What got you thinking this week?

 

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

I took an unintentional hiatus last week because I took a few days off work (and subsequently from blogging), but I’m back this week with the things I’ve read this week that made me think.

The F Word: Inside Amy Schumer, the Most Sneakily Feminist Show on TV (Slate)

I actually saw Amy Schumer last week when she was in the Twin Cities for her stand-up tour, and she was amazing.  She’s definitely got the gross-out humor thing going for her, but there’s also something really subversive about her comedy.  I loved every second she was on stage (although the gentleman behind us didn’t much care for her abortion jokes, which made me wonder why, exactly, he was at an Amy Schumer show), and I love her show.  I’m so glad that the show was renewed for a second season, which just started.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, I encourage you to do so (the show airs on Comedy Central, you can watch clips on their website or Youtube, and the first season is streaming on Amazon Prime).

This sums up Schumer’s subversion pretty well:

Schumer hides her intellect in artifice and lip gloss—that’s how she performs femininity. By wrapping her ideas in a ditzy, sexy, slutty, self-hating shtick, her message goes down easy—and only then, like the alien, sticks its opinionated teeth in you.

And this stuck out:

The best sketch of the new season has Schumer playing a video game not unlike Call of Duty with a male friend. Schumer picks a female avatar—the friend grimaces at this—who, in the game, is raped by her superior. The guy Schumer is playing with doesn’t believe that it happened. Schumer must have “done something wrong.” Meanwhile, the game starts bullying her—“You were just assaulted by a fellow solider. Do you wish to report?” “Yes.” “Are you sure? Did you know he has a family? Does that change your mind about reporting?”—before sending her to Level 25, which is all paperwork.

You can’t argue that what she’s doing isn’t important or smart, because it is.  I love her, unabashedly so.

A Censored History of Ladies in YA Fiction (Book Riot)

I’ve actually been sitting on this link for a while, but I had to include it because I think Kelly Jensen writes such smart, interesting stuff about YA and librarianship and gender politics.  Everything in this article is great–S.E. Hinton paving the way for YA literature but doing it with only her initials because she would be dismissed by male critics if they knew she was a woman, the fact that the books most challenged are written by women, etc.–and it’s well worth your time.

Jensen writes:

Call them by any name you want, but these challenges stem from fears about girls’ stories coming to the front and being told. Men have their novels challenged, too, but less frequently and, more likely than not, for reasons similar to why women’s novels are: the fear of something different (anything outside the “mainstream” white, straight male standard). Blume has more titles on the most-challenged list than any other author — even Robert Cormier could only muster three — because being female and writing about issues girls face are challenge- and ban- worthy actions indeed.

She also makes this point, which is something that’s been talked about a lot recently:

Men write universal stories. Women write stories for girls. Men write Literature. Women write chick lit. Even in a world where women do publish in heavier numbers than men do, they are underscored, underseen, and undervalued. Twilight is and will remain a crucial part of YA’s history — YA’s female-driven history — despite or in spite of the fact it doesn’t garner the same praises that those held up as idols within the community do. Men like John Green become symbols of YA’s forward progress and Seriousness as a category, whereas Stephenie Meyer gets to be a punchline.

Anyway, read it.  Be incensed.  Think about the larger issues at play.

5 Biblical Films That Sparked a Religious Backlash (Alternet)  

To be completely honest, I don’t have any interest in the Noah movie.  I’m not a religious person.  I think that biblical epics like this one, featuring a bunch of white people, are totally ridiculous.  The reviews on this one have been pretty mixed (with many critics coming down on the “It’s a trash heap” side of things), and I honestly thought that it was supposed to be a movie pandering to the fundies.  But apparently not? Because they’re actually sort of up in arms about it?  In a hilarious way?

This article talks a little bit about the Noah film, but it also lists a few other films that have been super controversial for the Christian right.  It’s worth a look, I guess.

 

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!

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

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?

 

Movie News and Randomness

Time for another installment of movie news and blather! Who’s ready for the five movie-related things I’m most excited about this week?

1. Bad Words Redband Trailer

This movie, starring Jason Bateman, is about a guy who exploits a loophole in an elementary spelling bee so that he can compete.  Hilarity, I assume, ensues.  I’m not entirely sure about this one, but Bateman is a critical darling and so I’ll probably see this one, just to…you know…see it?

2. Gone Girl will be scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

Let’s just give them the Oscar preemptively, yeah? (THR)

  • As they did for The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon TattooTrent Reznorand Atticus Ross will score David Fincher’s adaptation of Gone Girl.

3. Maleficent Trailer

I’m not a huge Angelina Jolie fan in general, which I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, but I am excited about this Maleficent movie, and the latest trailer is pretty awesome.  The background song is appropriately creepy (what up, Lana Del Rey), the cinematography looks beautiful, and Jolie looks like she’s having a lot of fun.  I’ve always found Maleficent to be one of the scariest, most compelling Disney villains, so I’m excited for what they could do with this one.

4. Wonder Woman gets three-picture deal

I feel like Wonder Woman projects get started and scrapped every year, but it looks like this one might actually be happening?  Maybe?  Possibly?  Gal Gadot has been cast as Wonder Woman, and it includes an appearance in the Man of Steel sequel, a Justice League movie, and her own Wonder Woman film.  I’m taking bets on which one of those is least likely to happen. (Variety)

5. Better Living Through Chemistry Trailer

This dark comedy stars Sam Rockwell and Olivia Wilde, so I’m already there.  He’s a pharmacist in a small town that’s always done the right thing, and she’s pretty much a sexed-up vixen.  It looks to be trippy fun.  I’m in.

What movie news are you excited about this week?