Favorite Movies Watched in 2013-2014

Romantic Comedies

Obvious ChildObvious Child –  In this funny, feminist rom-com movie, Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) is a New York City stand-up comic dealing with the break up with her long-term boyfriend and with an unwanted pregnancy after an amusing one-night stand. The movie deals with abortion in a funny, sweet, no-nonsense way as Donna figures out how to deal with the earnest guy from her one night stand. Jenny Slate, who played the hilariously obnoxious Mona-Lisa in Parks and Recreation, is both appealing and humorous as Donna.  I also loved the interactions between Donna and her parents—overall an enjoyable movie. (Available on Netflix DVD and Amazon Prime, also on iTunes for purchase.)

Dramas

PersepolisPersepolis– This movie had been on my to-see list forever and I’m glad I finally broke down and watched it.  It’s based on the graphic novel of the same title and follows a young girl’s experience growing up in Iran during the Iranian revolution.  Her family has some connection with France too, because she and her family speech French—so the whole movie is in French with English subtitles. I remember watching the Iranian revolution as an American teen but only knew the details from an outsider perspective.  This movie shows how the revolution personally affected its own citizens, especially young intelligent women.  (Available on Netflix Instant and for purchase on iTunes or Amazon online.)

Frances HaFrances Ha– One of those slice of life movies about some lost young creative person living in New York. I tend to like these kinds of movies.  In this one, Frances is a dancer who is coming to terms with the fact that she’s probably not going to make it professionally in dancing. It’s a more likable Girls or Woody Allen movie. (Available on Netflix Instant, Netflix DVD, and available for rent or purchase on iTunes.)

 

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars- (Available on Netflix DVD, also available for purchase on iTunes and Amazon Online.) I think by now everyone’s heard about John Green’s charming romance about two teens with cancer.  While I slightly prefer the book, the movie does an excellent job.  If you’re one of the few people who haven’t read or seen it, I highly recommend it. Yes, it’s sad at the end, but it’s also funny, insightful, and utterly charming all the way through.

 

Animated

Princess MononokePrincess Mononoke– (Available on Netflix DVD) – My son watched this movie with me when I was super sick with thyroid issues.  I can see why it’s one of his favorite movies.  It’s unique to western animation films in that there really is no “good guy” and no “bad guy”.  Instead there are two groups with opposing ideas that they are equally passionate about.

 

 

2012 Favorites (Part 1: TV, Movies, and Music)

Favorite You Tube Series
Husbands (seasons 1 & 2) –  An entertaining web TV series written by Jane Espenson and Brad Bell about a baseball player and an actor who get so excited that gay marriage is legal that they get married during a drunken night in Vegas, though they’ve only been dating for 6 weeks. They don’t want to set a bad example so they decide to make their marriage work– for the cause.  Espenson wrote for Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Dollhouse, etc.  There are tons of fun cameos by actors from various Whedon projects (including Joss himself in season 2), plus a few actors from other shows too.  Each season is only 25-30 minutes.

The Lizzie Bennett Diaries – In Hank Green’s charming modernized version of Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie Bennett is a vlogger who tells us about her marriage-crazy mother and her life with her sisters in short weekly You Tube videos.

Favorite Movies (Total Watched – 18)
The Descendants
Hunger Games (2012)
Marvel’s Avengers (2012)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Favorite Music Albums (Total Listened To – 26)
Greg Evain All Better Now (2012)
Ellie GouldingHalcyon (2012)
Lana Del ReyBorn to Die (2012)
Anna NalickWreck of the Day (2005)
Frank OceanChannel Orange (2012)

Favorite TV Shows (Total Shows Watched – 36)
Alphas (season 1)
(The) Big Bang Theory
Castle
Fringe
Girls
(The) Good Wife
Grimm
Man Men
Nikita
Parks and Recreation
Revenge

One for the Money

Saw the movie, One for the Money, on iTunes rental this weekend. It's got the same fun, junk food thriller vibe as the book. I wasn't so sure about Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum but she was really cute as the New Jersey bonds agent and nothing like anything else I've seen her in.

Top Favorites of 2011 (In A,B,C Order)

2011 was a good year for me. I started biking, went on a writing retreat, camped at Assateague, and visited Vermont.  I even finished a first draft of my middle grade novel!  It's spectacularly crappy, but it's got a beginning, middle and end, and now I can start revising it into something better. 

I also did all my grocery shopping by foot or bike, bought all most all my produce at farmer's markets, and did the majority of my cooking from scratch this year.  Plus, I watched my oldest kid graduate from high school and sent him off to college. 

I was disappointed by how little I read in 2011 though. Hopefully in 2012 I can figure out how to do all those things and read more too. Anyone know where I can buy a Time-Turner like Hermione used in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? That would be useful. Here are my favorites during 2011:

Books – Middle Grade Fiction (Total Read -5)
Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon, by Jonathan Stroud
Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, by Tom Angleberger

Books – Young Adult Fiction (Total Read – 9)
All Unquiet Things, by Anna Jarzab
#Legend, by Marie Lu
# Lola and the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins

(I also read 3 fiction books for adults.)

Books- Non-Fiction (Total Read – 7)
#Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life, by Stephanie Staal
The Teaching Gap: Best Ideas from the Word's Teachers for Improving Education in the Classroom, by James W. Stigler and James Hiebert – review coming

Movies (Total Watched – 19)
After the Wedding
#Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Heartbreaker
TiMER
Titanic

Music Albums (Total Listened To – 28)
#Adele, 21
Florence & The Machine, Lungs
The Frames, Cost
The Glitch Mob, Drink The Sea
Jack in the Box, Play It Again Jack!
K'naan, Troubadour
#Movits, Out of My Head
The Rapture, Pieces of the People We Love
Sufjan Stevens, Come on Feel the Illinoise & Age of Adz
#Vanessa Carlton, Best of Vanessa Carlton

TV Shows (Total Shows Watched – 42)
#Being Erica
#The Big Bang Theory
#Fringe
#The Good Wife
Misfits
#Nikita
#Parks and Recreation
#Revenge
Skins, series 5
#The Vampire Diaries

Honorable Mentions:
#Up All Night
#Doctor Who

# – Indicates the book, movie, album, or TV season debuted in  2011.  Many of my favorites were works I discover this year but debuted earlier.

Middle Grade Fiction – For around 9-14 years or 4th-8th grades
Young Adult Fiction – For around 12 years and up or  7th grade and up

The Glitch Mob, Women at the Movies, and My Fall TV List

TV Quote: "For a while in the 1970's, our town was run by a freaky cult.  Every few years the remaining members predict the world's gonna end and they have an all-night vigil in the park. It's so annoying.  Turns out when you think the world's ending you don't aim so carefully in the Porta-Potties." (Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation)

Music:
The Glitch Mob, Drink The Sea [2010] (***1/2) – I asked my kids to give me a list of musical groups they enjoy so I could broaden my musical listening.  This electronic group was on my son's list.  It's good — mostly wordless — atmospheric music for driving, biking, walking or writing.

Blogs:
Flick Chicks: A Guide to Women in the Movies – Check out these funny descriptions of women in the movies by Mindy Kahling.  She not only plays Kelly Kapor on The Office, but is also one of the show's producers and writers.  Her description of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is probably one of the clearest descriptions I've read on this character-type:

The Ethereal Weirdo

The smart and funny writer Nathan
Rabin coined the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl to describe this archetype
after seeing Kirsten Dunst in the movie “Elizabethtown.” This girl can’t
be pinned down and may or may not show up when you make concrete plans
with her. She wears gauzy blouses and braids. She likes to dance in the
rain and she weeps uncontrollably if she sees a sign for a missing dog
or cat. She might spin a globe, place her finger on a random spot, and
decide to move there. The Ethereal Weirdo appears a lot in movies, but
nowhere else. If she were from real life, people would think she was a
homeless woman and would cross the street to avoid her. But she is
essential to the male fantasy that even if a guy is boring he deserves a
woman who will find him fascinating and perk up his dreary life by
forcing him to go skinny-dipping in a stranger’s pool.

Her other descriptions are equally funny:

The Woman Who s Obsessed with Her Career and Is No Fun at All
The Forty-two-Year-Old Mother of the Thirty-Year-Old Male Lead
The Sassy Best Friend
The Skinny Woman Who is Beautiful and Toned but Also Gluttonous and Disgusting
The Woman Who Works in an Art Gallery

Check them out here:  http://www.newyorker.com/humor/2011/10/03/111003sh_shouts_kaling#ixzz1cdwYe83v

TV:  I've seen all the new pilots, given the new shows their chance, and taken a hard look at all my old shows.  I like to spend about 10 hours a week watching TV so I'm pretty picky about what shows made it to my 10 hours list. 

My Fall TV List

One-Hour Shows: The Good Wife, Once Upon A Time, Castle, Revenge, The Vampire Diaries, Fringe, Grimm, and Nikita
Half-Hour Shows: Parks and Recreation, The Big Bang Theory, and Up All Night
Shows I'm Undecided About: Ringer

What shows made your list?

The Magnificient Twelve, Titanic, and New TV

TV Quote of the Week: "Just because I tell you things doesn't mean you're allowed to know them," Caroline on The Vampire Diaries.

My Life:
 I like having one of my kids at college.  The daughterling gets to enjoy the benefits of being an only child (something my son got when he was young), and I love texting with my son and reading about his new adventures in college.  I've successfully kept to my writing schedule and already had my first sub job. I had subbed for many of the same kids last year so I was called, "Mrs. Evil Octopus," all day by a bunch of happy second graders. Teaching is a lot more fun with a heaping dose of silliness.

Book Review:
The Magnificent Twelve: The Call, by Michael Grant [2010] (*** 1/2) – The Magnificent Twelve is a good choice for fans of The Wimpy Kid series and other fans of irreverent humor or lots of action.  Middle-schooler Mack has a lot of phobias. The only thing he isn't afraid of is the school bullies.  It's this quality that gets Mack selected to save the world from some ancient villain called, The Pale Queen, who had been sentenced to hell for 3000 years and has just been released.  This middle grade fantasy is packed with humor, quirky characters, and lots of action.  Apparently it's the first book in the series because the ending is pure cliffhanger.  [For ages 8-12.  Read the eBook on Nook for Droid.]

Movies:
Titanic (****) – Titanic is one of the many  popular movies I didn't see in the early to mid-90's, when my kids were young and needy.  The story pulled me in and made me care about these characters. It dealt with a lot of issues that are becoming problems again, like class inequality  and the dangers of capitalism without regulation.  Mostly, the movie made me feel like I was right there on the ship while it was sinking and suddenly I cared about the 1,500 plus people that died in this tragedy long ago.

TV:
Doctor Who, season 6, pt. 2 (*** 1/2) – I am liking the second half of this season a lot more than the first half.  The emotional level has simmered down to realistic levels,  Rory is fun and reasonable, and there have been a number of good plots.

New Girl, pilot (** 1/2) – Quirky Jess (played by Zooey Deschanel) decides to get over her breakup with her cheating boyfriend by living with 3 guys she met through a Craigslist ad. I liked the actors in the show and I enjoyed some of Jess's odd quirks (like how she has her own theme song), but there were a ton of tired gender stereotypes in the pilot. Plus, Deschanel's Jess is pretty much a  manic-pixie dream girl (kind of like the modern dumb blonde updated for a new century.).  I'm willing to give the show a couple more chances to see if they iron out some of these problems.

Ringer, pilot (***) – Sarah Michelle Geller (Buffy) stars in this noir-mystery soap opera about twin sisters.  There was a lot of exposition in the plot but I was intrigued enough to keep watching and see what the writers do with these characters.

The Vampire Diaries, season 3 (****) – The season premiere was as fun and exciting as the first two seasons.  Can't wait for the next episode!

The Secret Circle, pilot (***) – This soap opera about a town of secret witches is written by the same people that wrote The Vampire Diaries, so the plot speeds along with secrets and intrigue, though so far, it lacks the zany fun of its sister show.  Instead the show has a very CW vibe about with plenty of beautiful people and soapy teen happenings.  The Vampire Diaries also started off overly soapy for the first 6-8 episodes, so I'm willing to give  it a few more chances to impress me.

Up All Night, pilot (*** 1/2) – I enjoyed this show about new parents.  While the pilot wasn't laugh aloud funny, it did make me smile a lot. I love how Christina Applegate's and Will Arnett's characters manage to be a caring couple, totally in love with their baby daughter, without being saccharine or clichéd.  The show explores work-home issues in a fresh way with lots of respect for both the working parent and the stay at home parent.  Part of the freshness is accomplished by having the man stay home and the woman go to work — a trend I see a lot more in real life too.

Netflix Instant Movie Reviews For: Heartbreaker and After the Wedding

Heartbreaker
Year: 2010
Genre: French Foreign Film / Romantic Comedy
Format: Watched on Netflix Instant in French with English subtitles
Rating: *** 1/2

An adult brother, sister, and brother-in-law work as a team of professional heartbreakers.  According to our team, there are 3 kinds of women in couples, "knowingly happy, knowingly unhappy, and unhappy without admitting it."  The heartbreakers work for the family and friends of the women in category three.  "The goal: open their eyes. The method: seduction."

Heartbreaker
is a fun romantic comedy that just happens to be in French. One of the leads is Vanessa Paradis –Johnny Depp’s partner– who looks like a younger, French Michelle Pfeiffer, but with an adorable gap in her front teeth.  She’s quite cute and so is the movie. Check it out.

After The Wedding
Year: 2006
Genre: Danish Foreign Film/ Drama
Format: Watched on Netflix Instant in Danish with English subtitles
Rating: *** 1/2

 Danish Jacob has been in India for over a decade working at an orphanage.  He dislikes Denmark and everything having to do with the wealthy.  When the orphanage director asks him to fly to Denmark to meet with a potential wealthy donor, Jacob is reluctant, but the orphanage is almost bankrupt and the donor insists on talking to Jacob in person. Once Jacob gets to Denmark his life is changed in ways he hadn’t planned. 

This is a wonderful small drama about people, family, and helping others.  I don’t want to say anymore or I’ll give away the plot, but check it out, it’s worth watching.