12.16.2014

Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming

Not My Father's SonNot My Father's Son by Alan Cumming

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I'm a big fan of Alan Cumming and looked forward to listening to the audio version of his book since he is the narrator. I wasn't disappointed. The story moves back and forth between "Then" and "Now." THEN, Alan struggles to survive his childhood under the control of an abusive father. NOW, he has signed up to appear on the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are" where they track your family history. At the same time, his father drops a bombshell on him that he has to struggle through. In doing the show, he strived to find out what happened to his maternal grandfather, who left his family to go to war and never returned, and also died under mysterious circumstances. Alan's story is heartbreaking and some of his tales of his father's abuse were difficult to listen to, but he was able to tell them with dignity, charm, insight, and sometimes even humor. The story of his grandfather's history was interesting, and I enjoyed how Alan was able to put together the similarities between himself and the grandfather he never knew. I think through his journey he did gain a bigger understanding of who he is. For what it's worth, I'm also a fan of "Who Do You Think You Are" and enjoyed learning about how that show is done. This was a great listen.


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12.03.2014

Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I listened to the audiobook and thoroughly enjoyed it. Amy reads the book herself and has guest voices in the booth with her including Seth Meyers, Patrick Stewart, Carol Burnett, Kathleen Turner, and Mike Schur, plus her parents. My favorite chapters were the ones about tidbits from Saturday Night Live, and the one about the various cast members of Parks & Recreation. Amy just seems like the kind of person you want to be friends with, and after listening to this, it's even more true. She's also quite insightful and I was often touched by her words. I think I'll have to get a copy of the hardcopy too, because it also looks like a lot of fun with photos and handwritten pages. If you like Amy Poehler, I definitely recommend this book.


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12.02.2014

So much to say...

I didn't come here with the intention of posting this song, but as soon as I wrote that title, I had to hear it.


Anyway, I've been mulling over things to write about for weeks now, but when it comes time to actually sit down and type something out, I get distracted by other things I want to do and I never make it.  Tonight I'm watching The Voice and wanted to comment on that, so I figured I'd do a quick round up of what I've been thinking about.  Here goes:

10.28.2014

Ok, I'm shaking it

My friend Kerri posted Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off" video for her Music Monday post.  It reminded me that I saw the video the other day and caught two dancers from So You Think You Can Dance backing up Taylor.  One is Fik-shun, the winner from two (maybe 3?) seasons ago, and the other is the guy with the squiggly arms, Phillip Chbeeb. I love watching videos and catching former contestants doing their thing. I'm always so happy for them that they've found work doing what they love to do.

As I mentioned over on Kerri's blog, I've never been a big fan of Taylor Swift's, but I have to admit that I really do like this song and the video. I'm *this* close to downloading the song. (This has happened to me before--I was proud not to have a Katy Perry song on my iPod but then she went and came out with Roar and Dark Horse. Darn her. Who knows. Maybe Taylor will join her.)

Anyway, Kerri, thanks for the reminder that I wanted to write this post!





Fik-shun:





Phillip:



Fik-shun doing his thing. (Man, I love that smile!)




And here's Squiggly Arms (aka Phillip Chbeeb, aka Pacman):




10.26.2014

Lost in Translation by Ella Frances Sanders

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the WorldLost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is such a lovely and charming little book filled with words from around the world that don't exactly have an English translation.

Some are quite beautiful, like my favorite in the book: komorebi, which is a Japanese word for the sunlight that filters through the leaves of the trees.

Some just make me think, "Yes! I needed a word for that!" like, trepverter which is a Yiddish word for a witty riposte or comeback you think of only when it is too late to use. Literally, "staircase words."

And the word that completely describes my life: tsundoku, Japanese for leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books.

I recommend this one for everyone.



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10.05.2014

My author crush

I can't believe I forgot to mention that my sister and I had the chance to see Rainbow Rowell recently, in Arlington, VA. I already loved her, but now love her even more. She's so charming, quirky, and funny. She's one of those people that make me feel like I'd want to know them in real life. If you get a chance to see her in your town, please do. You won't be disappointed. 

At the talk, someone asked about a sequel to Eleanor & Park. Rainbow said she'd originally intended to write a sequel and had written an outline for it when she wrote the first book. It would follow E&P in their thirties. Her editor suggested waiting to see if people liked E&P.  Well they did, but now, because people liked those characters SO much, she feels enormous pressure to write them again and is afraid she wouldn't meet expectations. 

She compared it to her experience with the Star Wars prequels.  She had such anticipation for them, but then when she saw The Phantom Menace, she was disappointed. So, about an E&P sequel, she said, "I don't want to Jar Jar Binks 'Eleanor & Park.'"  

When I got home that night, I tweeted about that, and guess what?  She favorited my tweet. So cool!



More musings on TV and movies

As a friend mentioned in the comments on my previous post, it was well worth it to watch the second episode of black-ish, which was so funny, better than the first episode, and worth the wait.  I look forward to more with this show.

Mysteries of Laura is still fun too.  I don't expect it to win any awards, but it's enjoyable.

 I loved the premiere of A to Z which I was really looking forward to.  I think it's charming and sweet, and I just love the actors.

I wasn't planning to watch, but a coworker recommended I check out Selfie, another show with an unfortunate title.  It was better than I expected.  I really like John Cho, and I'm giving this one a season pass.

I also checked out Manhattan Love Story, and eh.  While I think it's fun to hear the inner thoughts of the main characters as they related to the same experience, the majority of the show was done in voice over and I think it was just too much.  I'll give it another try, but this one is iffy.

Looking forward to Homeland tonight, and American Horror Story: Freak Show later in the week.  I think for AHS, I might have to record it and watch over the weekend during daylight hours. I really don't like being scared, but I love Jessica Lange and the performances on the show.  Speaking of being scared--the commercials for Annabelle freak me the hell out and I would never purposely see that movie.  I find dolls creepy anyway, and those ads aren't helping!

In the movie world, I saw Gone Girl on Friday.  As I expected, it was better than the book.  I still didn't care for the ending, but it played better on screen than it did in the book, in my opinion.  I thought Ben Affleck was great. I went to a 10:30am showing (AMC charges only $6 for shows before noon) and was surprised by how many people were there.  It was mostly women in their 50s and 60s who looked like teachers or librarians...how's that for a stereotype?  Anyway, I thought it was interesting that they all looked the same.  There were a few guys thrown in as well.

Ciao for now!

9.28.2014

Quick reviews

Here are just a few quick thoughts on things I've seen recently:

Movies
  •  This Is Where I Leave You - After reading the book, I was looking forward to seeing this movie.  I thought it was cast well and I enjoyed it a lot.  I was perplexed when my dad told me that the Washington Post only gave it 1.5 stars out of 4.  The only thing I can think of is that by having read the book first, I knew the back story and knew the motivations of the characters that perhaps someone unfamiliar with the story might not pick up on.  Anyway, I'd give it 3 stars.
  • Skeleton Twins - This was a good one too.  Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader are perfect together.  Bill Hader's performance was particularly good. 
TV
  • Red Band Society - After two episodes, I don't think I'm going to continue with this one.  I think the kids are all great actors, but I just don't "buy" the whole premise and can't get with the boy in the coma narrating the story. It's bad enough that he knows all that's going on inside the hospital, but how does he also know everything happening outside the hospital?  It'd be better without his narration, OR to have voice-overs from multiple characters the same way Glee does.  I'm dropping this one from the lineup.
  • Gotham - in which I was pleasantly surprised.  I wasn't expecting to like this, but I really did.  I'll keep it.
  • Mysteries of Laura - I've seen two episodes of this too.  I like Debra Messing in this, but there's not really anything special about the show.  I've watch another episode or two and then decide whether to keep it.
  • black-ish - It was enjoyable, but not bust your gut funny.  Instead of laughing, I often found myself thinking, "that's a good point", or "that's so true. " I wish everyone of all races would watch it, but fear they'll be put off by that damn title.
  • Madam Secretary - I've only seen the first show and enjoyed it well enough.  Critics kept talking about this being about Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, but this show has the added element of Tea Leoni's character having worked for the CIA in the past.  That's adds a different dimension when she's dealing with foreign relations.  I really like Tea Leoni, as well as Tim Daly who plays her husband, and will keep watching. 
  • How To Get Away with Murder - one word:  Intriguing.  I definitely want to see how this one plays out.
  • The Voice - I've only seen about 30 minutes of the first show, but already love the addition of Gwen Stefani and Pharrell.   
Until next time...

9.20.2014

It's time for Fall TV!

Yep!  It's September, and it's time for the new Fall TV shows.  As usual, I've gone through my Entertainment Weekly to pick out what I'm going to watch, and ta-da!  Below, is my proposed TV watching schedule, subject to change depending how good or bad these shows are (premiere dates are in parentheses):


So, here are a few notes on the 2014 Fall TV Season:

New Show(s) I'm Most Looking Forward To:  Top of the list is Marry Me, followed closely by A to Z.  The same folks involved with Happy Endings are responsible for Marry Me, so I just have a feeling it will be great.  A to Z has two actors that I really like... the Mom from How I Met Your Mother (aka Cristin Milioti) and Fred the Guardian Angel from Drop Dead Diva (aka Ben Feldman).  I also loved him on Mad Men.  

Returning Show I'm Most Looking Forward To:  Parenthood.  So sad this is the final season.

New Shows I'm Skeptical About:  Just about everything else, but especially: 
  • Gotham - not my usual fare, but I told my coworker I'd give it a try
  • Mysteries of Laura - only watching for Debra Messing, but it doesn't look great.  I haven't seen the premiere yet.
  • Red Band Society - I've read mixed reviews on this, from those that name it the best new show of the season to those that pan it as manipulative and treacly.  After watching the season premiere, I'm leaning toward the latter, however, I'll watch another episode or two before I make a final decision.
  • Madame Secretary - eh.  We'll see.
  • State of Affairs - I'll watch for Alfre Woodard.
  • black-ish - I love Anthony Anderson, however, I HATE the title of this show.
Returning Shows I'm Most Skeptical About:
  • American Horror Story: Freak Show - I'm worried this one will freak me out too much this season, but I look forward to great performances from everyone.
  • Major Crimes - I don't know why I still watch this show, but alas, here it is.  Same for Revenge.
  • New Girl - it's just not as funny nor charming as it once was.  Now it often just makes me groan.  I'll give it another episode or two. My sister dropped it last season and hasn't looked back.
  • Amazing Race - I'll watch the first episode and see if there are any teams I'd want to route for.  Lately, the annoying folks outnumber the folks I like. 
Returning Shows That I've Already DroppedPerson of Interest.  This season took a real turn for the worse (worst? This always trips me up.) last season with a plot line I hated.  When I read that this season would continue to follow that plot line in earnest, I decided to drop it.

So, what will you be watching?  If you watch something that's not on my list that you'd recommend, please let me know!

8.24.2014

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

The Next Best ThingThe Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This book was just "meh" for me. I was a huge fan of Good in Bed and In Her Shoes, but it seems like the magic ended with those two books. I've started and stopped Certain Girls several times but could never get into it, and never finished. And now, I started and wanted to stop The Next Best Thing too, but the behind-the-scenes look at how a TV sitcom is made kept me going. I think it would have been more interesting if Ms. Weiner had written a memoir about her experience in the TV world rather than this dull fictionalized version.

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7.26.2014

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars


While I still LOVE Rainbow Rowell's writing, this one, in my opinion, didn't measure up to Eleanor & Park or Fangirl. I liked this book, but I didn't LOOOOVVVVEEEE it like I did the others. Part of the problem could be that I always have trouble with story lines that play around with the space-time continuum. I just feel like there are too many unanswered questions. I wish the story had been told from two points of view, so the reader could understand what was happening on the other end of the phone. Even though I didn't love this one, I still think Rainbow is a fantastic writer and I'll read anything she puts out. I look forward to whatever comes next.


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Update 15 minutes later:   I was reading reviews on Amazon.com and came across someone who hit the nail on the head.

SPOILER ALERT!!      SPOILER ALERT!!     SPOILER ALERT!!     SPOILER ALERT!! 

7.15.2014

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

This is Where I Leave YouThis is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I really enjoyed this story of a dysfunctional family sitting shiva for seven days after the father passes away. I hadn't heard of the book until I saw the preview for the upcoming moving, which looked funny and has a great cast. I decided to read the book first and am glad I did. 'It's quite funny, and I always find it interesting to read stories like this from the male perspective.


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6.29.2014

The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks

The Harlem HellfightersThe Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I saw Max Brooks on The Daily Show and was intrigued to read this book.  I'm torn about giving this only three stars.  This is a fictionalized account of the 369th Infantry Regiment--an African American unit who was set up to fail by the U.S. government, but came back as one of the most decorated units during World War I. For working so hard to get this story out there, I give Max Brooks 5 stars and more. However, I had a difficult time with the graphic novel format, hence the 3 stars.

Max Brooks tried to have a movie made, and was turned down time and again, so he decided to try a graphic novel. Again, kudos for not giving up. But, this particular graphic novel I found difficult to follow. This is the second or third graphic novel I've read, so I'm no expert, but the story is disjointed and jumpy, and because the drawings are in black and white, it's difficult to distinguish the characters. I think it would have helped a lot if the drawings were in color. In black and white, it was even difficult to distinguish the black characters from white characters. The drawings are harsh and it's often tough to discern what is happening from one panel to another because there's just so much black ink.

The author's note, historical note, and bibliography at the end were great and very informative. I hope that with the release of this book that the Powers That Be will reconsider and make a movie. I think there's a lot to the story that would translate well in film, but didn't do so well in this format.

A friend and I decided to read this together and she had an equally difficult time.  She felt proud of herself for taking on a graphic novel, as she should.  I hope this doesn't keep her from trying another one.  I recommended that she read Blankets next, which I really enjoyed.


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6.15.2014

Feeling good

It's been a long time since my last post, and I promised my friend Kerri that I'd get back to blogging eventually.  Well, here I am.

These days, with crappy radio stations, my iPod, and a local sports station that I like, I often don't know what the kids are listening to these days.  My sister always insists that if I watched VH1's Top 20 Countdown on Saturday or Sunday morning, I'd at least be aware of what's going on.

5.04.2014

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Someday, Someday, MaybeSomeday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of Lauren Graham on Parenthood, and was so surprised when I came across this book at the store and realized, "Yes, it's that Lauren Graham." I was very curious to see what she could do, and she didn't disappoint.

The story is about a struggling actress in NYC and her trials and tribulations in the mid-1990s. It's a fun read...I laughed out loud a few times, and was really pulling for Franny in her endeavors. Toward the end, Franny seemed a little dense and I just wanted to shake her by the shoulders to point out what was right in front of her face. Despite that, I still thought it was a great read. I also loved the interactions between Franny and her dad. And her descriptions of agent Barney Sparks cracked me up too. I agree with the blurbs on the back cover that this book was very charming.

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4.20.2014

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Silver SparrowSilver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This story starts off with, "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist." It's told in two parts, first by Dana, who is the daughter in James' secret/illegal marriage. The second part is told by his other daugheter, Chaurisse, from his first marriage. Dana and her mother know the situation, Chaurisse and her mother do not. James is the only character that I didn't care for. I cared about, and pulled for all the others.

Tayari Jones is a wonderful writer who really draws you in to each character's life. It got to a point where I really didn't want to put the book down. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is because the final chapter felt rushed and the story left a lot of questions unanswered. I would love to know more about what happened to these characters' lives.

I also enjoyed reading the interview with the author at the end of the book.  Knowing why she wrote the book the way she did and how she was influenced, made me appreciate the story all the more.

I do look forward to reading other works by Ms. Jones.


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4.18.2014

Random Idol post


I haven't posted much about American Idol this season, other than to say I was watching it again thanks to Mr. Harry Connick, Jr.  I don't watch the show religiously and tend to let several episodes build up before I watch, so I'm always a bit behind.  After seeing last week's show (the theme was The 80's) and this week's show, I have a few comments and some advice for some of the contestants.

I like Jessica and Jena's voices, but I don't like their personalities.  When you see them in group shots where they're sitting on the couch with other contestants, both of them are always scowling and looking like they hate the world.  I could be competely wrong, but I think they resent it when other contestants get great comments from the judges.  They never seem happy for any other contestant that does well.

My advice is for Jessica and Sam.  LOOSEN UP.  Sam's too young, but maybe Jessica can use this advice that I saw on Facebook recently:


Last week's performance when she did Blondie's "Call Me," just made me uncomfortable.  It was very clear that she was trying desperately to use the advice given by David Cook (it was great to see him back!) to use the cameras, but it was just so awkward and you could tell she was uncomfortable and thinking too hard.  Okay, maybe alcohol isn't the answer, but she needs something to loosen up. Oh wait, as I'm watching this week's show, Harry just told her to put on some funk or hip-hop music and just dance and watch herself in the mirror.  He's getting at the same point I'm making.  She needs to find the groove and find the beat.

Same goes for Sam.  During Caleb's performance this week, they showed a shot of the other contestants on the couch and most were clapping and dancing.  But poor Sam had his hands shoved in his pockets and he looked extremely awkward.  He reminded me of myself when we first used to go to clubs to go dancing.  I was awkward and uncomfortable for sure, but hey, after a drink or two, I did loosen up and went for it.  Vodka told me I could do it.

And speaking of Caleb.  WOW.  He hasn't had a bad performance yet, and I LOVED last week's performance of Journey's "Faithfully."  He's not the type of performer I'd typically be interested in with the whole ROCK thing, but he just knocks it out every week.  I think he's got the best voice on the show. 

Just a few more weeks to go...it'll be interesting to see how the voting goes.

4.13.2014

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


After reading two pretty heavy books, I needed something fun, and Where'd You Go, Bernadette fit the bill. The story is told through emails, faxes, and other correspondence as young Bee tries to figure out why her mother disappeared. I laughed out loud several times, and zipped through the book in a couple of days. I wished for more with the ending, but overall, I enjoyed this book a lot.


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4.07.2014

Misheard lyrics -- say what?!

When I'm with my sister and she happens to be singing a song, 7 times out of 10, I'll have to correct her on some of the lyrics.  This is a running joke between us--she gets lyrics wrong all the time, and couldn't care less.

Tonight on the radio they were talking about misheard lyrcis.  The host raised the question (I'm paraphrasing): What song did you butcher for years before you realized what the real lyrics were?

The first guy that called in said that he always had to correct his friend when he was singing Tupac's California Love.  The caller said: "Yeah, you know how in California Love he says, 'California...knows how to party?'  Well, my friend always sings, 'California....no doubt about it.'  And I'm like, what are doing, man?  It's "knows how to party"! 

So, I was sitting there in the car thinking, IT IS?!!  Because, well, I've been singing "no doubt about it" FOR YEARSSSSSSSS.  I checked the lyrics online and sure enough, "knows how to party."  Then I played the song, and I could hear it clear as day.  How did I miss that all this time?!  Oops.

My sister's going to get a kick out of this.

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

Twelve Years a SlaveTwelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A difficult but important read. There were so many times where I found myself just shaking my head at the injustice and cruelty of slavery. What else could I do? It's just astonishing that human beings were treated this way. This personal account of the slavery system was truly disturbing, but also enlightening.

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3.31.2014

Haaaaaaave you met Ted?

I've complained a lot over the last couple of years about How I Met Your Mother, but I made the decision to stick with it and see it through to the end.  Even though I was annoyed that this final season took place over one weekend, the last 2-3 episodes made up for it.  And, tonight's finale was satisfying.  I enjoyed it, and I actually will miss those five friends every Monday night. 

3.27.2014

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I felt like this story started off really strong. For the first portion that took place in New York City, I was all in. But then when it moved to Las Vegas, it really meandered and went on too long. It took me a while to get through it and when the plot finally took the main character to Amsterdam, I found myself skimming a lot. The last 20 pages or so were so disjointed and too philosophical for my taste--there were long ramblings trying to make sense of the whole story. I felt disappointed by the end because I really wanted to love this book, and didn't. I think Donna Tartt is a strong writer, but sometimes she takes it too far with way too many adjectives and flowery description. Sometimes its on point and really helps you get a feel for the characters and the scene, but more often it just seems like she's showing off with her 20-cent words.

Update: After thinking about this all day, I'm dropping my rating from 3 to 2 stars. Overall, it was really just okay for me. I don't think the excellent 4-star beginning is enough to balance out the 1-star rest-of-the-book.

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3.24.2014

Excuse me a sec, what are you babbling about?

Holy crap!  I just saw somewhere that 30 years ago today, The Breakfast Club happened.  Say what?!

THIRTY YEARS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Jesus.

Okay, after that initial shock, I started thinking about how much I love that movie.  How I still quote it to this day, even when my 27-year-old coworkers have no idea what I'm talking about.  ("Will milk be made available to us?"  "The door's WAY too heavy, sir."  "Excuse me a sec, what are you babbling about?"  "Does Barry Manilow know you that you raid his wardrobe?"  "Hey, how come Andrew gets to get up?  If he gets up, we'll all get up--it'll be anarchy!") How it was the first R-rated movie I saw in a theater where there were no parents to be found.  I saw it with my friend Kelly--gosh, I was 13, and she had just turned 14.  Her mom took us to the theater and bought us the tickets.  I don't think parents are allowed to do that anymore--don't underage kids have to be accompanied by adults?  Ah, the good ole days.  Anyway, we felt so grown up and had a fabulous time.  That movie brings back such good memories.  I'll have to put it on this weekend...it's been a while.

3.03.2014

And the winners are...

BEST PICTURE
  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena - SHOULD
  • 12 Years a Slave - WILL / WON
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
Afterthought:  Enough Said and Fruitvale Station should have been nominated here.  I'd take out Her and  The Wolf of Wall Street. 

BEST ACTOR
  • Christian Bale (American Hustle)
  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) - WILL / SHOULD / WON

BEST ACTRESS
  • Amy Adams (American Hustle)
  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) - WILL / SHOULD / WON
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
  BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
  • Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) - WILL / SHOULD / WON

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  • Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) - WILL / SHOULD / WON
  • Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)

BEST DIRECTOR
  • American Hustle (David O. Russell)
  • Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón) - WILL / WON
  • Nebraska (Alexander Payne) - SHOULD
  • 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen) -
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  • Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)
  • Captain Phillips (Billy Ray)
  • Philomena (Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope)
  • 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley) - WILL / SHOULD / WON
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  • American Hustle (Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell) - WILL
  • Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
  • Dallas Buyers Club (Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack)
  • Her (Spike Jonze) - WON
  • Nebraska (Bob Nelson) - SHOULD
 I didn't do too badly, if I do say so myself.  Too bad I didn't have any money on it.

Few thoughts:

  • Did you see:  Jamie Foxx and Kate Hudson do the "Bump" in Pharrell's performance?
  • Best speech:  Lupita Nyong'o
  • Worst bit:  Pizza for the audience
  • What the?:  I don't know what John Travolta said when he introduced this performer, but it wasn't "Idina Menzel."  
  • Ellen:  overall, she did a good job, but honestly, I think all hosting jobs should go to Neil Patrick Harris.

3.02.2014

My quick Oscar predictions

The Red Carpet preview is on and I realized I hadn't done my predictions yet.  I managed to see everything on the list below, and I'm sad to say that I didn't LOVE any of these movies.  I liked them plenty, some better than others, but there was nothing that left me wanting more.  (The only one I didn't care for at all was August: Osage County.  In fact, the biggest revelation for me is that Julia Louis-Dreyfus should've been nominated for Enough Said, over both Julia Roberts AND Meryl Streep for August: Osage County.)

So, here's a quick round up of who I think WILL win, and who I think SHOULD win.  We'll see how I do.

BEST PICTURE
  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena - SHOULD
  • 12 Years a Slave - WILL
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
This category is tough.  I'm really not sure who SHOULD win.  I went with Philomena because I enjoyed it most, meaning, I came away from it feeling pretty good.

BEST ACTOR
  • Christian Bale (American Hustle)
  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) - WILL / SHOULD
I wish this category could have six nominees.  Tom Hanks really should here, even if just for the last 10 minutes of Captain Phillips, but all of these performances were great, so you couldn't take away any of these to put Tom Hanks in.  Tough call, that one.

BEST ACTRESS
  • Amy Adams (American Hustle)
  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine) - WILL / SHOULD
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Blue Jasmine was a strange movie, but man, Cate Blanchett's performance was mesmerizing.
 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
  • Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club) - WILL / SHOULD

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  • Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) - WILL / SHOULD
  • Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)

BEST DIRECTOR
  • American Hustle (David O. Russell)
  • Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón) - WILL
  • Nebraska (Alexander Payne) - SHOULD
  • 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen) -
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  • Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)
  • Captain Phillips (Billy Ray)
  • Philomena (Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope)
  • 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley) - WILL / SHOULD
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  • American Hustle (Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell) - WILL
  • Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
  • Dallas Buyers Club (Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack)
  • Her (Spike Jonze)
  • Nebraska (Bob Nelson) - SHOULD

2.09.2014

Whittling down the Oscar to-do list

On Jan 24, I created a list of movies I wanted to see before the Oscars on March 2.  I've made pretty good progress over the last couple of weeks;

  • Captain Phillips
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Blue Jasmine
  • August: Osage County
  • Before Midnight
Yesterday I also saw Inside Llewyn Davis -- it's nominated for Cinematography and Sound Mixing.  I kind of regret that I wasted my time on that one--I didn't really care for it.  Somehow I completely missed that it was a Coen Brothers movie--I didn't know it until the ending credits rolled.  Had I known, I would've been prepared for the weirdness.  Instead, I was left scratching my head.  The movie was only 1:44 long, but it felt much longer than that because it just wasn't enjoyable.


Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton (LOVE!)

Humans of New YorkHumans of New York by Brandon Stanton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I'm a big fan of the HONY blog and Facebook page. Reading through the book reminded me of my first visit to NYC when I was 10. We just came out of the Holland Tunnel and my younger sister said, "why does that man have a shoe on his head?" A few blocks later, "why is that man doing karate with a telephone pole?" Nobody was paying any attention to this and I fell in love with NYC immediately. HONY captures that wonder I felt so long ago. It's full of beautiful photos of beautiful people from all walks of life. It can make me smile, and it can bring a tear..sometimes on the same photo. It's not about whether Brandon Stanton is a good photographer...it's about the connection to people.

Here's Brandon in his own words (video).

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2.02.2014

Book review: Want Not by Jonathan Miles

Want NotWant Not by Jonathan Miles

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I wouldn't have picked this book up based on the plot summary, but I decided to read it based on the rave reviews. I have mixed feelings about it. I think there's a good message in this book about all the waste society produces and it is thought provoking. The book started strong and I was drawn to the three stories being told: a "freegan" couple, living off the grid and sustaining themselves from what they find in the trash; the divorced linguistics professor selected to work on a project to warn future generations to stay away from a toxic waste dump; and the guy who works in collections and his wife and stepdaughter; but about 2/3 of the way through, the stories started to meander, and I found myself skimming. It was interesting to learn how the three stories intersected, but I think one of the twists was too convenient. I don't know that I'd recommend this to anyone else. It would depend on their level of interest in the subject of waste, I guess.


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1.27.2014

The Grammys Round Up

Some comments/observations about tonight's Grammy Awards.

  • Beyoncé looked fabulous, but she and Jay-Z need to keep their business in their bedroom.  I looked up the lyrics to "Drunk In Love" so I could figure out what they were bleeping out, and oh my.  Then I came across this: (NSFW if someone is reading over your shoulder.):  http://www.fuse.tv/2013/12/beyonce-new-album-raunchy-sexy-lyrics.  Oh, good lord.
  • If I had the money, I would pay a king's ransom for the next music award show producer/director to NOT show any shots of Taylor Swift dancing and lip syncing in the audience.  However, they can show Steven Tyler all they want.
  • Imagine Dragon and Kendrick Lamar KILLED IT!  I watched that performance three times before I moved on.

1.24.2014

Oscar To-Do List

It's that time!  And I'm feeling motivated to try to see all the major Oscar nominees.  The nominees are below, and I've bolded the movies I still need to see.

BEST PICTURE
  • American Hustle
  • Captain Phillips
  • Dallas Buyers Club
  • Gravity
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

BEST ACTOR
  • Christian Bale (American Hustle)
  • Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
  • Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)

BEST ACTRESS
  • Amy Adams (American Hustle)
  • Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
  • Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
  • Judi Dench (Philomena)
  • Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
  • Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
  • Bradley Cooper (American Hustle)
  • Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
  • Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
  • Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine)
  • Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
  • Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave)
  • Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
  • June Squibb (Nebraska)

BEST DIRECTOR
  • American Hustle (David O. Russell)
  • Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
  • Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
  • 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen)
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
  • Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke)
  • Captain Phillips (Billy Ray)
  • Philomena (Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope)
  • 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
  • American Hustle (Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell)
  • Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen)
  • Dallas Buyers Club (Craig Borten, Melisa Wallack)
  • Her (Spike Jonze)
  • Nebraska (Bob Nelson)
So, in other words, by March 2, I need to see:
  • Captain Phillips
  • Her
  • Nebraska
  • Philomena
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Blue Jasmine
  • August: Osage County
  • Before Midnight
Totally do-able.

1.22.2014

The dramas

I said the other day that I'd come back and talk about the dramas I'm enjoying.  It took a while, but here I am.  I think the reason it took so long is because I'm not quite as excited about the dramas as I am the comedies, but...

The Good Wife is as good as ever.  The new HBO show, True Detective, with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McC. seems promising.  I love The Blacklist, but last week's show was a bit too much with the torture stuff.  I've loved this season of American Horror Story: Coven.  The scenes with Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett, and Kathy Bates are fantastic. I really liked the first episode of Chicago PD, but the second episode was a little over dramatic.  BUT, this show has Jon Seda, and I'll watch anything he's in.  And I still LOVE Parenthood.  Ray Romano deserves an Emmy for his scene last week with the therapist.  Elementary is fun.  I can't wait for Suits to start again in March.  Oh, and Downton Abbey is back! 

Revenge keeps me watching, even though it's SO convoluted.  I guess this is the guilty pleasure of the bunch.  Nashville falls into this category too--it's such a soap opera.


What I'm not liking:  the revamp of The Mentalist.  The storyline that they introduced at the end of the most recent episode that hinted ever-so-slightly of "Red John Aftermath" made me scream.  I'll watch the next new show and if that's where they're going, I'm done.

I guess that's it for the dramas.

Speaking of drama, didn't Richard Sherman remind you of Busta Rhymes?  I think they're the same person.



Who knew?

So, before I begin, I have to tell you that I'm back in with American Idol this season.  Harry Connick, Jr. did the trick.  He's got great chemistry with Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban and I think I'll enjoy the show.

On last week's show, a kid came out with his guitar and said he was going to sing Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love."  When he started singing, I was like, but wait...that's Adele's song!   I had NO idea Bob Dylan wrote that song.  I looked it up and found that Billy Joel performed it first, and then Bob Dylan, and many since then, including Garth Brooks and Kelly Clarkson.  And THEN, I learned that Garth Brooks did a version that appeared on the song track for Hope Floats, which is a movie I think only my sister and I saw, that starred Harry Connick, Jr.!  See?  It all comes full circle.

Anyway, I love this song, and kudos to Bob Dylan for such beautiful lyrics.  No offense though, I much prefer Adele's version.






Make You Feel My Love
by Bob Dylan

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you haven't made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I've known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong

I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue
I'd go crawling down the avenue
No, there's nothing that I wouldn't do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging on the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain't seen nothing like me yet

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn't do
Go to the ends of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love

To make you feel my love



1.14.2014

Looking for a laugh? Check out these shows.

I'm sorry my posts are so few and far between.  I've been meaning to write this one for a while, and since I'm currently watching one of the shows I wanted to write about, I figured now is as good a time as any.  ("Few and far between"; "now is as good a time as any"--cliché much?)

Anyway...there are some really funny shows this season.  Right now I'm watching The Goldbergs.  Honestly, I was reluctant to start this one because it seemed rather hokey, but it's come to be one of my favorites.  I love the little kid played by Sean Giambrone--he's great.  I love his squeaky voice.  The story is based on the life of the show's creator, Adam Goldberg, who grew up in the 80s.  (Sean Giambrone plays Adam as an 11-year-old.)  What I love most is that the real Adam Goldberg videotaped much of his childhood.  After most episodes, we see real-life footage of his family.  It's fun to see how well the show was cast.  I really look forward to this one each week and it's fun to reminisce about those crazy 80s.


1.01.2014

Holiday short stories of Truman Capote

A Christmas Memory including One Christmas and A Thanksgiving Memory (Modern Library)A Christmas Memory including One Christmas and A Thanksgiving Memory by Truman Capote

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I have really come to love Truman Capote's writing, and these three short stories only deepen my appreciation for his style. He provides such wonderful descriptions of his characters and scenery that you feel like you are right there in the story. These stories were wonderfulf, and I think I'll start a new tradition to read these each year during the holidays.

This quick read got me off to a good start with my reading goal.  One down, 29 to go.


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Happy New Year!

I can't believe it's already 2014.  Seems like the holiday season went by in a blur, but it was nice to spend time with family.   Over the holidays, I saw "American Hustle" and "Saving Mr. Banks."

I was unsure about "American Hustle" for the first 30 minutes or so--it was as slow build, but ultimately, I enjoyed it.  The cast was great and they all gave excellent performances.

I saw "Mr. Banks" on Monday night and loved it.  I found myself smiling in several parts of the movie, and when I got home, I downloaded (? -- should I say streamed?) "Mary Poppins," which I hadn't seen in years.

After having a great dinner at a local Ethiopian restaurant with my family on New Years' Eve, I came home, watched Mary Poppins, and then popped in Bridget Jones' Diary.  I like watching that around the new year.  Then I watched the ball drop, and then in an effort to drown out my neighbor's pounding bass that I'd been listening to ALL DAY LONG, I turned up my own music, played the bass-iest songs I had, and enjoyed my own little dance party.  Dance like no one's watching, right?

(About my neighbors--I would never complain to them about the music--it only happens on holidays AND they shovel my walk and rake my leaves.  How could I possibly complain?)

Today I just took my last day before going back to work to relax and mentally prepare myself.  (I kept kicking myself for not taking leave and going back to work on the 6th.)  Oh well, at least this way, I'll go for two days, and then ta-da! It's the weekend again.

In other news, I met my goal to read 24 books in 2013.  This year I'm upping the ante to 30.  Can I do it?  We shall see.

Happy New Year!