Monday, June 23, 2014

Planes and plains.


A whirling weekend involving impromptu travel plans began promptly at 5:15am Friday morning. I'd fallen asleep only five hours before, the twinge of excitement alive in my stomach making sleep fitful (also to blame: the nocturnally hungry cats). But the adrenaline pumped as my alarm went off and I showered, put on my pre-planned air travel outfit (slouchy dolman shirt, slouchy boyfriend jeans, a study in ultimate comfort) and threw my toothbrush in my backpack.

Arriving at the airport at 6:30am I busied myself near the gate with the iPads available to order breakfast at every seat around. Coffee, bagel STAT. An hour until boarding. Perused internet places, fell in love with some writers, felt even more motivated to write more. Mentally noted some places I could take my characters next time I sat down to write.

Boarding! Got to my window seat, opened my book, and promptly fell asleep. An hour and a half later I woke up and didn't understand why we were still on the tarmac at LaGuardia. WHAT IS HAPPENING?

And that's where everything devolved. We eased back to a different gate due to a mechanical issue with the air conditioning. And then we heard the problem could be solved! With a new part! That would take 4-5 hours to arrive from JFK airport. And so, at 10:30am my 8:30am flight was rescheduled for 5pm.

I was supposed to arrive in Minneapolis at 10:30am, pick up my rental car, and be reunited with husband, band, cool studio/house by noon on Friday. Instead, I did not arrive until well after 9pm. I spent my day at LaGuardia.

The moment that I cracked? I was waiting standby for the fourth Minneapolis flight of the day at 4pm, surrounded by the others from my stranded flight hoping to get on another, when I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was a co-worker who was sweating profusely.
-- Jessica! What are you doing here?
-- I've been here since 6:30am! What are YOU doing here?!
-- I am going to visit my friends in Minneapolis! I thought I was going to be late, I've been running through the airport. Oh, look my zone's boarding! I hope you get on this flight!
I stood there as she scurried to the gate agent. I watched her drag her carry-on behind her and walk right under the screen that had my name listed as #13 on stand-by priority. And then I started laughing. She'd been in the airport for maybe 20 minutes. And she was on her way to Minneapolis!

As I stood by the window to the new gate at 5pm, waiting for my original flight, I started laughing at the absurdity again. That's right: I was laughing to myself, by myself. When the plane pulled into the gate I was quite shocked. I raised my hands over my head, gleeful and unbelieving. IT'S HERE! I yelled. FULL OF GLEE.

Because many people from the original flight were lucky enough to fly stand-by earlier or get another flight or cancel altogether, I had a whole row to myself when my original flight finally took off at 6:30pm. YUP. I slept most of the way, and the adrenaline returned as I stepped off the plane into MINNESOTA. I nearly dropped to my knees and kissed the ground. But that's gross.

I picked out my rental car, plugged my iPhone into the car, entered the address for the house and I was on my way! It was actually quite a beautiful ride as I drove further into the rural countryside. And then, as it grew darker, I remembered my true feelings about rural countrysides: they are scary.

But I arrived soundly at house Pachyderm, a rental living space and music studio, where Nirvana most famously recorded In Utero. The Motion City men are recording their sixth album there. When I entered the house I was met with complete silence (it was empty since they were recording in the studio building). On first impression, the house looks like it was built in the '60s (it was), but not in the woods of Minnesota, more like the hills of California. Perhaps it was because I was just reading about the Manson murders and the death of the '60s, but I was like, this looks like a murder house. There's orange carpeting and floor to ceiling windows. It's so retro California and at night the windows are pitch black and anybody outside can look in without you noticing. These are the thoughts I have. I mean, serial killers live in the woods, right?

Reunited
Luckily Jesse met me and showed me the rest of the premises, but he had to get back to recording. He told me to relax, swim in that indoor pool if I wanted (it was very inviting after being in an airport all day!), and just chill out. So, I attempted to. The pool is poorly lit and the bottom of the pool is painted black, so pair that with the giant wall of black windows, I was little skittish. But the pool was warm! It was inviting! I got in and dipped under water. When I came back up I heard a BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! above me, like someone running through the kitchen. It ended up being Justin coming back to the house for something, but that was the moment the water grew cold and I started shivering and I tip-toed back to Jesse's room for a hot shower, locking every door behind me. 

Black bottom pool
The house is very beautiful, but, y'know, it's also feels like MURDER HOUSE at night. MIGHT JUST BE ME?!?!!?!

Saturday, my only complete day to be spent in my husband's presence, was a fun day filled with friends. Fellow MCS wives Lindsay and Jill joined, along with our best man Jason, and other new people. There was a lot of catching up and game-playing while the men wrote and recorded. We drank wine and listened to the progress of the recorded songs. I cannot wait to hear the finished versions of these songs. They have me amped. Lindsay and I are already planning dance moves at future shows. When the guys wrapped up for the evening we sat around the dining room table discussing all sorts of topics, but me, I mostly talked about serial killers.

Discussion about some keyboard parts
Takes three men to get this grill to work
Work work work
And on to another subject entirely. It must be noted that throughout this whole weekend, my best friend in the whole world was in labor. I was anxious with updates and I didn't want to go to bed until I'd heard a baby had been born. So around 2am I was able to breathe easy again and let me tell you, as the first of my close friends to have a baby, the photos of that baby made me weep with joy and dance around because he is beautiful and I am so happy for my friend. 

It was a sad Sunday morning, as only about 36 hours had passed, and I was packing up to leave again. Jesse and I made breakfast and sipped coffees looking at photos of our friend's new baby. Everyone else slowly joined the kitchen congregation and then it was time for me to say my goodbyes even though I'd just said hello. 

The drive to the airport quickly took my mind off any melancholy, however, because it began pouring a solid wall of water and my fear-filled weekend ended on a note of hydroplane anxiety. I made it fine however, because I am an excellent driver. 

I boarded the plane on time, it left on time, and it even arrived in New York on time. As I de-planed I noticed my co-worker that I'd seen on Friday had been on the same flight as myself, too. Oh, oh the coincidences--that we must not ignore, because that's the beauty of life, right?

Funny one because I like it

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

1250



Yesterday: the heat.

There were two plans and both involved going to the movies and one was reliant on another factor and included the director doing a Q&A and the other was just two ladies getting together for a subversive comedy. First plan devolved and then the second shortly after. I went home to the cats.

The cats were happy to see me and I was unhappy to see their fur coming off their bodies in swaths. The heat! The air was thick not only with humidity but also cat hair.

I made myself comfortable and heated up my leftover Thai food and got up again to crack open that last Crispin cider in the fridge because did I mention it was hot? The humidity was making my hair reach out to there.

The second season of Orange is the New Black continues to prove that there are still many, many stories out there left to be told (let's stop re-hashing the same stuff, right?) and a lot of those untold stories are that of women and people of color. I admired the brilliant unfolding of the fourth episode with Lorna's backstory. It's just full of the kind of storylines and people I don't see in the media much. More of this! More, please, more.

My attempt to stay cool in the apartment were dwindling as my cider evaporated but lucky for me Adam was nearby and he too enjoys cider. I walked into the bar and he already had two ciders waiting. Somebody asked if we were hydrating by drinking pints of water. Oh no, dear friend. This is cider.

After I flopped onto my bed and slept barely in that warmth. The cat wanted to snuggle like most nights but I had to push him away; what are you crazy? I said.

Tonight, my own personal brand of torture: doing laundry.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

1249



Planned impromptu travel plans with the husband last night. It becomes a much more difficult task when you're thirty and have a job and a pet and friends who are nine months pregnant and plans already in your calendar for the time you're looking to escape town. But escape I will and I'm looking forward to the journey and the adventure to come in three days time. His photos have been drenched in a lush greenery and I imagine that while he will have to do some work I will use the solitary time to focus on some writing with that green decorating the edges of my focus, fueling the creativity. At least, I hope.

Monday, June 2, 2014

On The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Death.


The following contains SPOILERS regarding 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2. If you're a fan of the comics, you pretty much know what I'm about to discuss.

A few weeks ago I found myself with a lack of plans since most friends were busy and my husband was out of town. This particular Tuesday afternoon I decided to see The Amazing Spider-Man 2 when I left the office. I settled on the superhero movie because I’d seen most everything else interesting in theaters, and because I figured the Very Important Thing from the comics had to happen in this sequel.

In one of the most defining moments in the original comic book series, readers witnessed the death of Gwen Stacy, Peter Parker’s high school love. It’s a crucial and dramatic scene made even more tragic because it’s unclear in the comic whether Green Goblin has already killed Gwen when she’s thrown off the George Washington Bridge or if Spider-Man’s web grabbing her mid-free fall whiplashes her so severely her neck breaks. This one moment is so much a part of Spider-Man legend that to this day people still debate what really happened and it even inspires amazing surreal-narrative novels. About a fictional event! In this latest series of films Gwen Stacy is played by the endlessly charming actor Emma Stone. She’s funny, intelligent, and gloriously blond as Gwen; her rapport with Andrew Garfield (her real life boyfriend) feels like the real glue of the story and the films would feel empty without this element.

So, I went to the movie to see Gwen Stacy die. Not that I wanted her to.

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I settled into my seat at the theater with my nutritious concession-stand dinner of chicken tenders. I ripped open ketchup packets while observing the crowd as they filtered in. I enjoy the experience of going to a movie by myself; of course it’s rare that I’m truly by myself. Observing others’ reactions to the same material has always fascinated me.

That night the theater was relatively empty—another reason I love to go right after work on a weeknight. There was a family in the row directly in front of me; a man and woman with two small children. The children, a girl and a boy, were seated between their parents. A twenty-something man in a tie arrived just as the trailers started and by the looks of it, he had also came straight from work, though a large popcorn and soda would serve as his dinner. He was two rows ahead of me.


The movie started, and just like in the first film, I was most captivated by the scenes that centered on Peter Parker, not as Spider-Man, but as a teenager talking to his Aunt May or going back and forth on his need to break up with Gwen to make sure she is safe (foreshadowing!). The action was fine if quite unthrilling. The movie almost felt like two separate movies mashed up into one, and I probably yawned as Jamie Foxx’s Electro tried frying Times Square or when Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborne tried saving himself from his father’s own ugly fate1 or… I’m not even sure what Paul Giamatti’s bad guy role served. With a two hour and 22 minute runtime, I was noticing every piece of film that could be excised from the tonally uneven mess. I was taken out of the movie simply for wondering, “Why does this scene exist?” The thing was bloated from the beginning; nothing would have changed had they deleted the first 15 minutes (which they should have). I could go on, but If you want to know my feelings regarding the movie as a whole, my opinion most closely mirrors Film Crit Hulk Smash, who has 237 burning questions for it.

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Perhaps that bloat was for a reason. Maybe the director and others in control of the final product also didn’t want to get to the saddest part. There was a minute there where I thought, hey, maybe she won’t die! Alas. Gwen, plucky as ever, decides to help her boyfriend at the last because she cares about the people of New York I suppose, and because she’s smart and knows about electric power-grid machinery. But she is not a superhero, and that’s where she’s less smart and it’s a bit aggravating.2

Gwen meets her demise in somewhat similar fashion to the comics—the Green Goblin drops her down a shaft as Spider-Man comes to rescue her while simultaneously sparring with the enemy. The main difference is that she is alive and screaming Peter’s name as she falls, waiting for that gentle snap of being caught in his web, which was demonstrated so innocently in the first film. As Spider-Man fends off the Goblin, he’s also trying to make sure his web reaches her, but there’s a cascade of metal objects falling as well, and getting in the way of her assured safety. Finally, Spider-Man neutralizes the Green Goblin and dives into the shaft to focus on Gwen—his web reaches her torso in slow-mo, hoisting her, just as her head snaps back and comes into contact with the ground. She appears immediately unconscious. When Peter reaches her and holds her, and that tell-tale blood appears, then it is sure: she’s dead.



You know what’s tough? Seeing Emma Stone die. That guy in the tie two rows ahead of me sobbed. I managed to hear him through my own shallow breath, my tears streaming freely. Gwen Stacy was the untarnished good person in these films, partly due to a lack of any true character depth, but mostly because of Stone’s gargantuan likability factor. Stone portrayed her so lovingly, so ultimate-best-friend-like (and girlfriend-like), that her death really had that emotional gut punch on screen. It felt like the soul of the film had departed.

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As I tried hard to stifle any sort of vocalization of my tears, afraid that those nearby might hear me cry, I heard the tiny voice of the little girl in front of me ask her mother, “Why isn’t Gwen waking up?”

And then I cried all over again.

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After the movie it was that little girl I couldn’t let go. Because she must have been six or seven years old and she didn’t know what death meant yet.

I tried thinking of when I first understood death. I think I probably had my first inkling when I was a kid watching movies like Jaws. I have a vague memory of sitting on the rug playing with my dolls in my aunt and uncle’s living room in Rhode Island while my aunt and dad watched tv. It must’ve been the late ‘80s. I was not paying attention to the television until I heard the first notes of that famous John Williams score, and then my eyes grew wide as I saw the great white shark and its victims. I was intrigued by the gore and how painful it looked—I recognized that red stuff was the same ooze that would materialize when I scuffed my knees playing with my brother, its mere appearance made me cry—but I didn’t grasp death. Forever is a hard concept for a kid to get, too.

I don’t remember asking my parents about death. I’ll have to ask them if they remember having to explain it to me. I wonder if it was after a horror movie, or any movie. Unless it happens in real life first, I have to think a fictional death in a movie or a book is the kick-off for the conversation. I wonder if we even had the conversation. Or did I come to understand death on my own after collecting all the evidence via media and then understanding more fully when it happened to my aunt or my grandmother or that girl in college? Does understanding death happen all at once? Or incrementally until you’re on the same page with everyone else?

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Some people spend their lifetimes trying to comprehend death, and if there is more that it entails beyond the ceasing of life. Death happens, but there are so many unknowns around it. All I’ve learned is that you really begin to understand other people when death looms. When your friend has to go in for extra tests because of a lump. When the younger brother of your best friend passes in his sleep and you see the different ways all of her friends react. When you get the call about the death of a relative two days after it happened. You then understand how death means different things to different people. Everybody understands the cold reality of expiration, but it’s those still living we really have to worry about.

Years from now, that little girl may or may not remember witnessing Gwen Stacy’s death on the big screen, but maybe that was the spark that set off a curiosity about the concept of death and the film’s correlation to reality. Perhaps like Jaws and the blood, she’ll begin to see how movies can reflect the hardest parts of life even if it’s not real. I left the theater thinking about the girl and what that on-screen death would mean to her and what it had meant to me to hear her, but I wasn’t really thinking about Gwen anymore.



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1 I was also gawking at how much DeHaan looks like a young Leonardo DiCaprio, perhaps just as capable an actor too—point is I was not paying attention much to Green Goblin.
2  To quote the aforementioned Hulk review: "DO YOU REALIZE THAT THIS MOVIE IS SAYING THAT GWEN DIES BECAUSE SHE DID NOT LISTEN TO HER BOYFRIEND? AND HAD TO BASICALLY INSIST ON MARCHING OFF TO HER OWN DEATH SO IT'S NOT PETER'S FAULT?”

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Scenes from winter.


The four of us entered the warm cafe last Saturday morning; our cheeks red with cold. We were all smiling and exclaiming in greeting despite the frigid air we just escaped. Our eyes focused on the birthday girl woman and slid down to her growing belly, trying to tell the difference from when the each of us saw her last (me, one week). She's the first of us, and we are learning. We noticed new, flattering glasses on one of us and discussed the raw wound of a new heartbreak and there were heated (but loving) disagreements on a novel we'd read. The birthday woman described some information about pregnancy none of us understand yet; she knows to disseminate the knowledge as we are all eagerly listening for that maybe, someday.

And I write like this now because we are 'we.' We are sisters, and we are all different, but most of the time, like that Saturday morning, we all move in unison and speak in that language that only we understand. We laugh at the jokes that are impossible to understand if overheard. We know to rely on each other when we need to, and we know happiness isn't a status but each other.

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"Your skin isn't dry?"

I wasn't sure what the manicurist was so confused about, which is why she probably continued: "For months, every single girl has dry skin because of winter. Why are your hands so soft?"

Apparently my new winter routine, which I enacted after noticing my scaly skin in Panama, has been somewhat successful. The Beauty Department posted a Dry Brushing 101 tutorial, and I was intrigued by the dry brushing concept and benefits, and the whole moisturizing with body oil before a shower (and after). So, to Amazon I went - buying a body brush and body oil. Surprisingly, body brushing doesn't hurt, but rather feels invigorating, especially in the morning. And the oil feels great, something I wasn't sure my texturally-hyper-aware and non-sticky sensibilities would like. My skin feels wonderful and I'll be sticking to this routine through to warmer weather.

That's the one winter beauty tip that I can pass along.

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Jesse arrived in Minneapolis last week on a day in which the high was 0 degrees. New York's had a few 'feels like 0' days, though. We've been sharing a lot of chapped kisses these days, but it's been nice to have him close on the cold nights. We don't usually watch a lot of television together, but we've snuggled close for True Detective and the BRILLIANT Broad City and now we're amidst The Returned (which is a French show that is not associated with that new U.S. show Resurrection, lest you heard wrong). I hope we'll be able to venture out more often (not that we've been exactly hibernating - can you truly hibernate in New York and stay sane?), but at least in a couple of weeks we'll be sunning ourselves at a wedding in warmer climates. I can't wait.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thinking about Panama.


I've been remiss, yet again. I flew south and forgot my routine when back in the cold. I spent nine glorious days nearer to the equator, nearer to my far-flung family, nearer to a sun that could scorch your core if you weren't careful.

That's one thing Panamanians understand: the strength of that blinding yellow sphere. There's nobody lounging uncovered on a towel on the beach; the sand is empty and the people are either in the water with t-shirts or in the cabanas under the shade of trees. Nobody wins a fight against the sun in that belly of the world, even if you're wielding SPF 90. The sun's much too uncomfortable down there, too. I wanted to sit in a chair, feel the heat on my legs as I drifted into Didion's Salvador--I like to match my vacation reading to the locale--but two minutes, maybe less, and I was moving that chair under a tree again. The sun in Panama burns in the way a stove might sear your dinner or those first few layers of skin; it's the devilish half to its northern personality.


My grandfather (Abuelo) turned 86 while we were there in January. He christened me Popsicle when I was younger, because I always wanted a cool, sugary treat from the corner store when visiting in the summers. He'd escort me and my brother (Abuelo nicknamed him Peluso for his untamable hair), and buy us 'boli' ice pops for five cents each. Popsicle is one of the few English words he knows, and he still holds my cheeks and says it in greeting.

Abuelo's wrinkles were always part of his face in my memory, and his eyes squint out from them when he's smiling, just as mine already do (minus the wrinkles -- but I'm sure I'll get there one day). Last year his health ebbed at times, in a borderline scary fashion, and I worried about him so far away, but my mother at least flew in to help. He's better now and in January he still called me Popsicle and I sat with him on the couch, holding his hand and remaining silent for the most part but still smiling. He's never been a man of many words.


My mother and father were there too in January and we spent a few days on a beach that not many souls know about and I read many books and played cards with cousins and helped gather firewood for the evening bonfires. It's desolate in grand fashion; it's expansive and gorgeous and we're the only people taking up a small bit of it's seemingly infinite space. On the first night there my father told me to come see the stars away from the cabana lights and Jesse and I walked out towards the tide line, which had pulled back into the ocean and we walked where earlier that day we had struggled to stay afloat. We looked up and the entire universe was overhead. The milky way, a cool blue star, something red, all breathtaking. We are but specks and it's always there on that beach that I feel it most, gazing into other worlds.

One day we drove into the mountain area named Volcan for the dormant volcano nearby, and the breeze took the bite out of that sun and we were surrounded by lush greenery and Panama's agricultural center of farms and silos and greenhouses and animals. Everything seems much more vivid in that country of my birth. When we flew between cities the coastline's blues and greens were bordered by jungle and not even near Panama City did I witness too many of the resorts that pepper every beach in the United States like the ones last year we saw descending into Tampa or even San Francisco. Panama's beauty is still vast and there are those who don't venture past its capital -- for now. I visit every other year and there's a fear I'll come back to a ruined nature of things as I knew them. I held my breath this time as we rounded corners--for just a second, though, because everything is still lovely and some things even improved.


Time with my family is always full of laughter, jokes, easy camaraderie, and love. My godmother and mother's twin, Tia Lita, always putting others before herself and making sure Jesse had air conditioning in the room that's usually hers. Always practicing her English with us and making sure we know how happy she is that we are there. My Tia Belly, the young rascal who used to model and wants everyone to think that she's my sister, not twenty years older. My Tio Neco, serious and efficient sometimes, but just the opposite when he decides to let loose. He brought over his two new kittens to the house because he knew how much I wanted to meet them. My Abuelo and Abuela, together forever in that same house since I was a babe. There are many, many others. I think of them and I feel warm again.

On our last night in Panama City, all my cousins took us out for an evening on the town, finding a craft beer bar that Jesse would appreciate. They spoke in English and I practiced my Spanish--we all seemed to speak with more ease once we started imbibing. My cousins are all of my generation and we are most curious about each other's lives in different countries and we talk about pop culture and politics and our family and our differences but our surprising similarities. At the end of the night, it was hard to say goodbye to my Panamanian counterparts, as a few hours seemed too few for all we wanted to say to each other. 


My mother is in Panama for another month; it was her birthday yesterday and we're able to text, but I really can't wait to see her again. For now I can only imagine myself next to her and my family out there on that abandoned beach; I've transported there several times in my mind, especially today as I battled the snow into work and on my way home.










Wednesday, January 15, 2014

More cinematic thoughts.


Of course, there are movies I haven't seen yet from 2013 that had to be omitted from my list. The biggest miss I think has been Nebraska, but I hope to fix that tonight. There's also The Spectacular Now (when I finally finished the somewhat terrible book it was already out of theaters - but bad books tend to make good movies? At least I know this one will), Stories We Tell, The Act of Killing (my documentary game was way off this year - docs are more TV-watchers for me than paying a movie ticket for...), Dallas Buyers Club (too much info floating around about the 'true story' really about a self-interested homophobic arse, so...), Captain Phillips (meh), Saving Mr. Banks (Walt Disney played by Tom Hanks? Meryl lays it out...), The Butler (Lee Daniels doing something straight-laced? And also Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan? Hm.), You're Next (how do I see this movie?), Kings of Summer, Philomena, In a World, etc.

I'm a bit wary of feature films "based on true stories" given the liberties taken by movies like The Hurricane and also because perhaps it would've been more compelling as a documentary than a dramatization and also I don't have a need for films to be 'realistic.' But sometimes it works out as in two of my Top 10s - 12 Years a Slave is just an out and out masterpiece with a story little have heard or been exposed to in such a way and Fruitvale Station begins with the actual video, and takes artistic license in the day in the life Oscar Grant. The point being that it was a relatively normal day. I wish that more movies started out like American Hustle, warning, "Some of this actually happened." At least The Wolf of Wall Street didn't campaign or tout much of it's true story, because that man is a terrible person and gee gosh darn makes a cameo in the film because I guess his life is still pretty awesome now that he's buddies with DiCaprio and Scorcese. He's a bad person (swindler, wife-beater, rapist), but life turned out great for him anyway -- and that's probably the most succinct way of telling you why I didn't like that movie or its message.

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Tomorrow are the Oscar nominations, and though I'm always disappointed, every year at least there are some surprises! Here are some of my far-fetched hopes for tomorrow:

Her and Before Midnight are nominated for Best Film. I think Her has a better chance, but you never know. All the indie lovers may gear their votes towards Nebraska instead. Here's my best guesses for at least five of the Best Film nominees: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, Captain Phillips, and Nebraska.

Spike Jonze (Her) is nominated for Best Director. This may be hard given that I think think the locks are Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), David O. Russell (American Hustle), Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips). That leaves one iffy spot and Martin Scorcese (The Wolf of Wall Street) and Alexander Payne (Nebraska). Scorcese is Scorcese so I'm thinking he'll get the last spot, but maybe Greengrass will be left off? At this point I think Russell should be shunned for making those comments about Jennifer Lawrence's Hunger Games schedule being like 12 Years of slavery. Oh really? No wonder George Clooney vowed never to work with him again after making Three Kings...

Brie Larson and Julie Delpy are nominated for Best Actress. This is going to be especially hard because the Academy loves Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett (and obviously Meryl Streep, but she's not much of a lock from what I can tell). I think Amy Adams is pretty deserving for American Hustle, and Sandra Bullock and Emma Thompson probably as well as far as the other locks go. But could they drop off Dench possibly for Larson or Delpy?? Maybe?? Pretty sure that won't happen. (Also, Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Enough Said! And Greta Gerwig for Frances Ha!)

Michael B. Jordan nominated for Best Actor. Definitely not going to happen. This one belongs to Chiwitel Ejiofor (who I hope WINS), Bruce Dern, Tom Hanks (always there), Robert Redford, and Matthew McConaughey. I'd place a vote for Joaquin Phoenix on my personal ballot too, because that dude is a straight chameleon.

Scarlett Johansson nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Because, as Jesse said the other day, she somehow holds together the movie Her with just her voice. But I'd actually nominate her for Don Jon -- she gets the role perfectly. I think JA says it best. However, I'm hoping Lupita Nyong'o takes the statuette home, because she definitely nailed the best supporting role this year. Jennifer Lawrence, she's a great actress, but I was not overly impressed by her in American Hustle; Adams stole the show for me.

James Gandolfini nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Posthumous, but worthy. He most likely won't be nominated, given that he passed away, but Heath Ledger recieved one a few years ago... That said, I think the locks are Barkhad Abdi, Jared Leto, Bradley Cooper (meh), and hopefully Michael Fassbender. Another worthy longshot is Keith Stanfield who played Marcus in Short Term 12.

We shall see tomorrow! Like most years, the films I tend to like most don't get nominated or are solely nominated in screenplay categories. It's the way of the industry -- money talks.

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Okay, time to meet Jesse for Nebraska!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Top Films of 2013.

As you know, I'm quite an avid movie watcher. Movie-goer. Film fanatic. If you meet me in the street, start talking about a movie and we'll be there a while. I'll invite you to the nearest coffee spot. Maybe we'll have a piece of pie. I could talk about movies for a bit. The below was a hard list to curate and rate. There were a lot of movies I liked in 2013, and some days I like one movie more than another. However, I'm pretty solid in this list - especially after watching my #1 film the other night again, for the third time (first time on DVD), this time with Jesse who hadn't seen it yet. I exclaimed at the end, "This is it! This is definitely the best movie I saw in 2013!"



01 BEFORE MIDNIGHT

I've long loved the previous two films in this series -- I made Jesse go with me on a walking tour of Before Sunset when we went to Paris last year. I plotted it out myself. I saw Before Midnight twice in theaters; one time by myself in which I cried a whole lot, and the second time with two girlfriends in which I laughed a lot. Last week Jesse and I watched the DVD together, when I was wondering which movie I loved the most this year. We watched the movie about Jesse and Celine, and we paused at times because we felt we had the need to say something right at that moment. Whether it was about the relationship we were seeing displayed or about a certain line they said or just an idea mentioned, Jesse and I stopped and talked about it. There's power in a script that can do that. It was the best script of 2013. Which isn't to say that that was the only superb thing about it -- the directing, cinematography, setting, and the actor/screenwriters themselves are all perfection. Watch Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and then this - perhaps the best trilogy ever made.



02 12 YEARS A SLAVE

I've long heralded the amazing work of director Steve McQueen - from first witnessing his debut film Hunger and being completely awestruck, and then once again marveling at his perspective and hauntingly visceral work in Shame. From that first movie he was already a GREAT director. Here is an important story; I went into the movie telling myself that at least the main character depicted was able to escape long enough to write down his story for publication. The film is unflinching and needn't be, because there's no reason to make a story like this easy for people to watch. This is a tale that people actually had to live. I've never seen a movie like this; it's a story of slavery from the point of a view of a slave (played by the best actor of the year, hands down, Chiwetel Ejiofor - nobody comes close), a rare story because slaves were not allowed to read and write. The narrative is ghastly, haunting, and superb. The acting across the board (including newcomer Lupita Nyong'o) are all at the same level of perfect. And of course, McQueen's visuals astound.



03 HER

I am so happy for filmmakers like Spike Jonze, who, like Michel Gondry, Charlie Kaufman, and to an extent P.T. Anderson, is able to create a film that is unlike anything else out there. I mean, it's essentially a sci-fi movie, but nobody would really categorize it so. He made a concept and plot that seems so weird on paper relatable. It starts with a future that's different, but doesn't seem so far off. We're all currently in relationships with our technology (just look around a restaurant these days - more than half of us are on our phones at any given moment), and this just takes it a bit further. The film is truly beautiful in how it looks, and what it says about love and intimacy and relationships.



04 FRANCES HA

This one took me a bit my surprise. I started watching it and I didn't even know if I liked it. But something happened a little ways in; I realized I was watching a movie that was not about the normal tropes evident in most movies about a young woman -- this wasn't a movie about said woman finding a guy. It was about herself, but also about her closest friendship. As someone with close girlfriends, all of whom I could not live without, Frances resonated with me. And that Greta Gerwig! I never got Greta Gerwig before this; I even went back and tried to watch her last collaboration with director Noah Baumbach, Greenberg, and that was terrible. But she co-wrote Frances Ha with him, and I can't wait for her next writing effort based on this. I loved the black-and-white filming, the harkening to French New Wave styles and Woody Allen, and I especially loved the script. It's a movie where you journey with this woman through her embarrassing, trying, and eye-rolling moments, and yet I loved her. Because maybe we haven't all been there, but, I get it. And you have to pay attention to that well-written script, because it all comes together in the end and I laughed giddily to myself as the credits rolled.



05 SHORT TERM 12

Just looking through stills of this movie to use with this post nearly made me weep as I recalled the film. The movie takes place at a foster care center for at-risk teens, and despite that setting, it never veers into that dreaded sentimentality. At its center, and its heart, is twenty-something supervisor Grace, played by Brie Larson (in an award-worthy performance - I'm hoping to see her name nominated on Thursday!). She takes care of the kids that come in more than she takes care of herself, and those teens have some gut-wrenching scenes of their own. The pacing is wonderful and I love the way it's shot; I'm looking forward to more from young writer/director Destin Cretton. If you haven't seen this, do yourself a favor.



06 GRAVITY

I'm not sure what much else I could say that everyone hasn't said already. Though the film was hyped - nobody lied. I rarely watch movies in 3D, but it was my only option at the time, and Alfonso Cuaron (like Ang Lee last year) was able to use the dated technology in an interesting, innovative way. Sandra Bullock once again proves her abilities as an exceptional actress - the woman can do drama and comedy effortlessly! At least it looks effortless. A film that felt like a true cinematic experience of sight and sound. The minimalism of the script was more intriguing than lacking to me, and I'm obviously someone that places a lot of esteem in a screenplay.



07 FRUITVALE STATION

Michael B. Jordan has had a great career so far in television - from The Wire to Friday Night Lights and with a memorable guest stint on Parenthood. His turn as Oscar Grant, a man shot and killed by the Oakland police a few years ago (no spoilers: the actual video footage of his accosting opens the film), marks the start of what I'm sure will be an illustrious career in film; he's brilliant. Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz are also great here. I remember the sounds in the theater as this movie ended: nobody was speaking, and there were only stifled sniffing of noses, and wet faces around me. My own face was shiny and tear-streaked. It's one of the most powerful films of the year.



08 SPRING BREAKERS

Yes, I loved this movie. I went into the film thinking, oh I am going to hate this. When the film began I thought, yes this is everything that I hate. And then I was laughing. I was enjoying myself. And then it gets darker without losing it's panache. It's about crime and women and youth culture but mostly it's about The American Dream. Hey, there's those antiheroes people love like Tony Soprano and Walter White, I'd say maybe Brit, Cotty, and Candy should be grouped alike. They get mixed up, they do what they want anyway, and it's all filmed in dazzling neon bursts. I didn't know Harmony Korine could make a good movie.



09 DON JON

This film had a small budget, but debut writer/director Joseph Gordon-Levitt packs a wallop of human behavior observation. I've always liked Gordon-Levitt as an actor, but I didn't know he had this in him. It's a great film that surprises continually; I enjoyed Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore in their roles immensely. My girlfriend and I walked home together after watching the movie talking about men and women these days, sex films and romantic comedies, and the role of the internet amongst it all - maybe a little similar to Her in that last respect regarding technology these days. But the best part of the movie? Where it ends up -- completely unexpected.



10 SIDE EFFECTS

Damn! Steven Soderbergh's last feature film?! I hope it ain't so, because I love that man's work. I love this film for what everybody thought it was going to be and what it ended up truly being. You think it's going to make this big serious condemnation and it's just so much more glossy and gleeful than that. Soderbergh was asking "Why so serious?" and I was enjoying his work. Here's an adult drama that keeps you guessing, and looks great to boot. The cast is wonderful as well, and I've never seen Jude Law act so well. I think Rooney Mara is still killing it with each role she gets, and I keep hoping that her and David Fincher will re-team for a sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

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Honorable Mentions: these are the movies I kept on putting in and taking out of my Top 10 and then were left off as I wrote this post (but could very well be considered in my Top 10 of 2013 at some other moment of reflection) --

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
ENOUGH SAID
THE HEAT
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING


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Good stuff:

BLACKFISH
HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
PRISONERS

UPSTREAM COLOR
THE CONJURING
ABOUT TIME
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
AMERICAN HUSTLE
IRON MAN 3
WORLD WAR Z
THIS IS THE END
PACIFIC RIM
WARM BODIES


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Just okay:

THE BLING RING
ROOM 237
ELYSIUM
ENDER'S GAME
THE EAST
NOW YOU SEE ME
47 RONIN
THE WORLD'S END
JACK THE GIANT SLAYER
WE STEAL SECRETS
MAMA

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Disappointments: films I held to a higher standard because of their directing or writing or acting pedigree and I failed to like --

BLUE JASMINE
STOKER
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
THE GREAT GATSBY

Sorry, Leo.

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The Worst.

MAN OF STEEL
CARRIE
THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

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The absolute worst movie of the entire year: ONLY GOD FORGIVES

I love debating with people who have differing film opinions than me. What a bleak world it would be if we all had the same opinions. I love conversations about Spring Breakers. But I seriously question anybody who defends Only God Forgives. I respect everyone's opinion, but this film barely respects human beings, acting, or narrative.

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What were some of your favorites of 2013?



Some of my past top film posts: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012

Monday, January 13, 2014

1243

Sometimes I write things and then the next day it changes. So I don't have my Top Films of 2013 ready yet, because last night I was paying most of my attention to the Golden Globes and Twitter. Alas, I've made some time tonight to work on that long (and fun!) post.

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Speaking of, though, Best Dressed last night was definitely Lupita Nyong'o in Ralph Lauren Collection. In the "My Fantasy Life" pin board I manage I had pinned the very dress from the runway show 17 weeks ago with the caption that I'd "wear to the Oscars when I feel like getting a rise out of Gwyneth." Lupita showed up in my dream dress, and I applaud her. She looked radiant from head to toe. If this is what Lupita wore to the Golden Globes, I'm excited to see what she's planned for the Oscars.


Can I also say that she was far better in 12 Years a Slave than Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle? I hope the Academy Awards give Ms. Nyong'o the statuette she deserves.

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Another thing that has changed? I finished Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch a month ago and I'm still thinking about it a lot. Like, a lot. If that's not a mark of a good book, then what is? I initially gave the book four stars, but now it's five stars. And I think it may be one of my favorite books ever? I just can't seem to let it go yet, and I still look at all the quotes I saved from it a couple of times a week.

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Okay, I better go work on that best films list!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

1242

Jesse at pre-show dinner
Jesse and I kicked off the weekend right: with a magic show on Broadway! All I knew about Nothing to Hide before seeing it was that our friend Rick recommended it, it's directed by Neil Patrick Harris, and it had something to do with magic. The two magicians are highly entertaining and I did not stop laughing the entire time - well, except for when I was staring mouth agape at what I had just seen. Jesse and I spent the entire ride home trying to figure out what we really had just seen.

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Culturally, 2014 has been a pretty great year so far. I can't ever take this city I live in for granted. Last weekend I went to The Frick, I've seen a live show, and then yesterday my friend Adam and I went to the Museum of Modern Art. There were a few pieces I was particularly engaged in. Also, Dali's "The Persistence of Memory" is a lot smaller than I imagined.

You can see Adam taking this picture of me taking in some modern art.
My grandmother, probably the person who talked to me about art more than anybody else, had a print of Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World" in her house when I was growing up. My parents, knowing me so well, made a gift of the print when she passed away and it's on display in my bedroom. I've always been fascinated with it, and can still get lost within it. I've also always noticed hands more than anything else when it comes to meeting people, watching movies, etc. and that's probably another reason I am entranced by the painting.


Hope II, Gustav Klimt
There was also a Magritte exhibition, which was far too crowded, but we got in free so I have nothing to complain about. It's just hard to take in paintings when it's hot, people are shoving past, and you can't even see an entire painting. However, there were a few I had the pleasure of taking in 'live,' as it were.

La Reproduction Interdite, Magritte

The Lovers, Magritte
A really great time with Adam. Hopefully I can continue this streak of quintessential New York fun. A renaissance, in the words of Dan Rydell.

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Last night we had friends over to watch the Patriots dominate the Colts. There was even a Colts fan in our midst, which usually seems to bode well during the playoffs - we've shared past games with fans of the opposite team, mostly to their chagrin by the end of the game. Next week Jesse and I will be visiting family in Panama, so we're currently counting on my mom to figure out how to watch the Patriots playoff game from thousands of miles away.

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Today I met up with my friend Amy for brunch, thinking we would see the film Philomena since we've seen nearly everything the theaters have to offer. However, after a hearty meal, we arrived at the theater to find that our phone app was wrong and there wasn't actually a showing at the time we thought. Our only other option was Anchorman 2. We sighed in resignation, and also that we hadn't had a drink or two at brunch. But in we went.

The movie was not up to par of the first, though it tried very, very hard. Very. The film was continuously disrupted for us by somebody in the back who kept clapping at odd times through the movie and mumbling. It was annoying, to say the least. It became more creepy, however, when the clapper came to the front of the audience, right in front of me and Amy, and stood for some time about 10 minutes before the movie was going to end. He just stood there. I couldn't see much of him, but I could see a couple of bags in his hands, a bald, shiny head that was reflecting the limited low light, and that he was fidgeting. I didn't like it. I didn't understand why he was standing there, why he was fidgeting, and I immediately made a mental note of the easiest escape route towards that red exit sign, figuring I'd jump the barricade and grab Amy if things got weirder. Because, in this world we are in today, I didn't know if he was going to pull out a gun. I'm not kidding. He stood there, and then slowly started waving at everybody in the seats while Will Ferrell was making fart noises or something else - I was definitely not paying attention at that point. I wasn't really breathing, either, because what the fuck was this guy doing??? When he reached for his belt I froze and then he adjusted his belt and shuffled very slowly towards the exit. I finally took a breath - somebody with mental problems perhaps, but thankfully not a psychopath. I just read too much news, maybe. But if there's one thing I've learned in New York, it's to always be aware.

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Now I'm back watching football with Jesse, hoping the Chargers can hand it to the Broncos again. It's not looking good in the 2nd quarter. Tonight's the Golden Globes, and I'll be finishing up my best films of 2013 list to post tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My Top Albums of 2013.

I'm into the second year of my Rdio subscription, and I still love it. I can so easily figure out what albums I enjoy and which ones I don't. And I listened on repeat to the albums I loved. I can't even arrange the list below in ascending/descending order or crown an overall winner, though I will say that the first three listed below don't have a skippable track, I love them in total. Seriously, every single track of those top three, I love. They are all winners.

What were your favorites of the year? There seemed to be a few bands I "missed" - I tried listening to The Wonder Years after hearing raves, but it never took to my mildly suppressed pop punk soul. I've also been meaning to listen to The 1975, but have yet to get to it!

Without further ado...


Janelle Monae / The Electric Lady

She's throwback and she's futuristic and she blends all sorts of styles and I listen to this album with glee because she's surprising at nearly every turn. I cannot get enough, and when her songs start when I have my collection playing on 'random' I sit up straighter, and I usually start dancing in my office chair. "Primetime" is one of the best tracks of the entire year.

Favorite Tracks: Primetime, We Were Rock & Roll, Dance Apocalyptic

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Haim / Days Are Gone

Another band that blends styles, and I am entranced. It's like the most popular '70s, '80s, and '90s sounds mixed together with a powerhouse trio of sisters into MAGIC. Magic, I say.

Favorite Tracks: The Wire, My Song 5, Falling

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Lorde / Pure Heroine

Damn, girl. I listen to this and I remember being a teenager. It so accurately captures the relatively uneventful suburban life, the imagination, the observations of teenage life. I'm somewhat in love with Lorde.

Favorite Tracks: White Teeth Teens, Buzzcut Season, 400 Lux

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Tegan & Sara / Heartthrob

Admittedly, I was wary of the duo after they captured my heart completely with The Con, and left me a little cold with Sainthood. But I do love this album; I came to love this album (except for one song) and that single "Closer" is a killer.

Favorite Tracks: I Couldn't Be Your Friend, Drove Me Wild, Shock To Your System

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Kanye West / Yeezus

I cannot deny how much I listened to this album when it was released. And I cannot deny how much I love it. No matter how much I'd like to, I cannot deny Yeezus.

Favorite Tracks: Black Skinhead, I Am a God Feat. God, New Slaves

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The Julie Ruin / Run Fast

My inner riot grrl of my high school years was fully satisfied with a rad Kathleen Hanna-fronted album. Once I even found myself singing into my brush in the mirror in my room by myself to this album. It was hard not to hark back. Cookie cookie ya cookie YA YA!

Favorite Tracks: Girls Like Us, Cookie Road, Just My Kind

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A Great Big Pile of Leaves / You're Always on My Mind

Their sophomore album does not disappoint, and their live show was great to start with and in a surprising twist JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER. Have you NOT seen them live yet? You should check their tour dates pronto, trust.

Favorite Tracks: Pet Mouse, Snack Attack

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Paramore / Paramore

I think this album had the power to be perfect - but I appreciate the ambition on full display with the 17 tracks. The album sways from one edge to another to another to another without much cohesion sound-wise, but goddamn if I don't love it. There are about four or five songs I would cut, but this album also contains my absolute favorite song of the year, "Still Into You." I will admit that that song makes me wish No Doubt's last album was better - the subject matter and jump-up-and-down-ness (real word?) of that song is so up Gwen's alley.

Favorite Tracks: Still Into You, (One of Those) Crazy Girls [sidenote: this song is basically "Bathwater," I love it], Last Hope

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Savages / Silence Yourself

RAWR! My 'raging' album of the year, played always on full blast. (Except when I'm driving in San Francisco with Jesse and he vetos it).

Favorite Tracks: I Am Here, Husbands

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CHVRCHES / The Bones of What You Believe

Dance, dance, and joy.

Favorite Tracks: We Sink, Recover

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Honorable Mentions:
M.I.A. / Matangi
The National / Trouble Will Find Me
Jimmy Eat World / Damage
Justin Timberlake / The 20/20 Experience Part 1

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Also, I have yet to listen to the new Beyonce. Sorry, but she's not available on Rdio. The internet tells me it's rad, though.

Your turn.


PS Here's some of my past top albums: 2007 | 2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2012

Monday, January 6, 2014

1240

Monet's "Snow Scene at Argenteuil"

On Friday I woke up grumpy. I could see the snow stacked up on the windowsills, I could hear the whistle of the cutting wind, and I could feel the cold chilling the apartment. The alert on my phone said: -10 degree wind chills. I could hear it! I could hear the cold.

I grumbled as I put on layer upon layer of clothes getting ready for work. My mood went into certain distress when I could not find the winter fleece socks for my weatherproof boots. After twenty minutes, I went with my weatherproof sneakers instead.

Then I stood on the subway platform for an hour and a half, saw one packed train come and leave the station without a single person getting on or off, felt my feet go numb, and decided to call it a day on that endeavor. At street level I scurried into the neighborhood grocery store and made sure to grab enough food for Jesse and I if we were to be esconced for the entire weekend because of the blizzard.

Working from home in a comfortable outfit, under the blankets on the couch, was dream-like. How perfect! I could get everything done right there, and the wind sounds faded into something more like music as I knew I wouldn't have to face them that day again. Serenity.

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I was not to stay indoors all weekend, thankfully.

On Saturday, an event I was looking forward to at the Frick: the Dutch Masters exhibition. I was in awe of the Vermeers and the Rembrandts; there were many paintings I had never seen in person that I had long ago learned about in art history. But perhaps I’m most enamored of paintings with fictional histories - I do love fiction and I read The Girl With a Pearl Earring over a decade ago, and just finished The Goldfinch. But these fictional accounts also were words upon words of appreciation for these paintings, so when I stood in front of them, it seemed like only then did I understand fully and completely their power and those words. There are swaths of pages near the end in The Goldfinch that are in tribute to the titular painting, and to the enduring legacy of art, to the communication inherent in a centuries-old painting. I was a bit breathless in the throng as I stared at the little bird; maybe my eyes welled up a bit.

I think my love for Donna Tartt's novel The Goldfinch is swelling in retrospect. I gave it 4.5 stars but now I can't imagine what I docked it for. I think now it's a 5-star book... maybe it's one of my favorite books? It's certainly one that stays on the mind, and after seeing the painting, with the atmosphere Tartt so wondrously puts to page in mind, I'm already looking forward to rereading it one day.

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Afterwards, my museum companion Erica and I went to dinner, both carrying prints of Carel Fabritius' "The Goldfinch" and discussing our other favorite piece in the permanent collection, Jean-Antoine Houdon's sculpture "The Dead Thrush." I don't like birds much in real life, but am apparently attracted to them in art. I retreated home to an empty apartment (except for the cats, of course) and in my fervor of needing more ART decided to watch two long-time must-see Criterion edition films, The Double Life of Veronique and Paris, Texas. Definitely good, definitely ART -- my need to devour such satisfied.

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On Sunday I met Amy for brunch in Williamsburg and we lamented how we'd each only been to Paris once but loved it so much and as we looked around the cafe (it has a French name) we tried imagining we were actually in Paris. But -- not even close. One day, again!

I returned home for football playoff games with Jesse. It's always fun to watch games with him, even with the Patriots aren't playing. At one point we were talking about the best films of the year and I was having trouble picking my favorite (I've been mulling it for far too long) and then he said that he still hadn't seen one of my finalists and maybe we should watch it. I never say no when Jesse wants to watch a movie! (I, obviously, am always ready to watch a movie.) So we popped it in and it solidified: this was definitely my favorite movie of 2013. More on that when I divulge my list this week...

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Year in Books: 2013.

Ever since I challenged myself in 2009 to read 52 books in the year, I established some good reading habits to keep up the momentum. I've relaxed on the challenge aspect of reading, since I don't want to deter from reading longer books just because they may take more time.

This year I managed to read 33 books!


I managed to read more books that were released this year than perhaps ever before, so I'm a bit proud of that. Like always though, it's definitely a mix! And unfortunately, I still haven't finished S, so that will have to count towards 2014.

Here are the books I read this year in chronological order, the star rating I gave them on Goodreads, and those that are bold became all-time favorite books of mine.

01 Dark Places, Gillian Flynn ****
02 The Secret History, Donna Tartt *****
03 The Expendable Man, Dorothy B. Hughes ****
04 The Group, Mary McCarthy *****
05 Ariel, Sylvia Plath *****
06 By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, Elizabeth Smart **
07 The Liars' Club, Mary Karr *****
08 Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn ***
09 Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell *****
10 On Beauty, Zadie Smith ***
11 The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald ***** (a re-read)
12 Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple *****
13 Never Mind, Edward St. Aubyn ***
14 Bad News, Edward St. Aubyn *
15 Some Hope, Edward St. Aubyn ***
16 Mother's Milk, Edward St. Aubyn **
17 People Who Eat Darkness, Richard Lloyd Perry *****
18 The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller *****
19 Mysterious Skin, Scott Heim ****
20 Howards End, E.M. Forster *****
21 The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James *****
22 East Lynne, Mrs. Henry Wood **
23 Manhattan, When I Was Young, Mary Cantwell ****
24 This is How You Lose Her, Junot Diaz *****
25 The Night Gwen Stacy Died, Sarah Bruni ****
26 The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp *
27 Life After Life, Kate Atkinson *****
28 Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See, Juliann Garey ***
29 Travels, Michael Crichton ****
30 The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri *****
31 The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt ****
32 The Postmortal, Drew Magary ***
33 The Silent Wife, A.S.A. Harrison ****

I'm currently in the middle of Sylvia Plath's journals, Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams' S, and The Best American Magazine Writing 2013 - and I'll be posting my favorite articles from it soon. Hopefully I'll finish all these within January. As always, my family was great at Christmas and I got quite a few more books, including what I believe is the rest of Joan Didion's works I haven't read.

As a tribute to my year of reading, I'm going to the Frick tomorrow to see Carel Fabritius' painting, "The Goldfinch," which was the subject of Donna Tartt's book of the same name. I loved the book, it has four stars on Goodreads but it's really a 4.5 star book. I'm excited to see the painting live, and Vermeer's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is also on display in the same exhibit - and I read that book years ago.

I'd highly recommend any of my favorites, five-star, or four-star novels. Especially Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - what an adventure! However, I also love tailoring book recommendations so if you'd like a personal one, let me know some of your favorite books and I'd be happy to suggest!

What were some of your favorite books you read this year?


Previously: 2009 | 2012

Thursday, January 2, 2014

1238


Yesterday Jesse and I sat on the tarmac at O'Hare for two hours and occasionally stared out the window into the infinite whiteness of the snowstorm that delayed us. I wondered every now and then how exactly this plane might take flight with such low visibility but ultimately I disregarded any worry and turned back to my book.

In the past, The New Year was a concept that made me anxious. Here comes another year: what have I really accomplished? What am I going to do this year? But this new year's different; I am simply going to let go of measuring myself against... well, whatever arbitrary standard I would decide to affix (it always changed). Because calendar dates themselves are more or less arbitrary, age less so, but I'm happy - and isn't that the point everybody's striving for anyway? I'm working at letting go of pressures, because I'd rather plan and continue in this (happy) life at my own pace, with my loved ones, and without expectations that just lead to disappointment.


I do still think it's important to reflect, take stock, understand, and learn. But I'm doing that every day, and on New Year's Eve as I danced around with four other women who know exactly what it's like to be in the kind of marriage I'm in, as I watched that husband of mine do what he loves, I felt all the joys of being in the moment. I talked to my parents at (their) midnight, I texted with my brother and my future sister-in-law and best friends, and I kissed my husband as the clock struck.


There will always be upsetting things and I will make mistakes and I will disappoint others, but I'll still enjoy navigating this life with those around me. There's too much pain out there and I feel so little of it by comparison, that all I can do is be grateful. These thoughts were fueled partly by some fiction and non-fiction I've read recently, by the full outpouring of love felt in the presence of family last week, and just by the mountain of self-reflection that always appears on that end of year date.

Last night we landed an hour later than scheduled, but made it home smoothly and without incident. There really was nothing to fear rising up into the blinding whiteness; only home to look forward to.