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.


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.


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!"


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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) --



Good stuff:




Just okay:

ROOM 237


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


Sorry, Leo.


The Worst.



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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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

Sunday, January 12, 2014


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


CHVRCHES / The Bones of What You Believe

Dance, dance, and joy.

Favorite Tracks: We Sink, Recover


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.