Posts Tagged ‘2011’

Mini Movie Reviews #1

July 17, 2012 2 comments

I feel like I generally don’t have quite as much to say about movies as I do about books.  Perhaps that’s because they only take an hour or two of my time, whereas books you live with for several hours, even days or weeks.  In any case, although I really don’t watch much tv (and when I do, it tends to be nonfiction like cooking shows), I do periodically watch movies.  Some of them popular, some of them older or documentaries you might not know about.  After having seen mini reviews on other folks’ pages, I decided this format would be ideal for my movie reviews.  A movie will periodically get a fully fleshed-out review if I have a lot to say about it.

So here we go, in the order in which I watched them.

Woman in Amsh bonnetThe Shunning
Not Rated
Contemporary Drama
4 out of 5 stars

I read the original bonnet books back when I was in middle school, which started with The Shunning.  I was happy to see it pop up on my Netflix.  (I believe it was a made for tv movie, possibly for the Hallmark channel?)  This isn’t your typical bonnet romance.  Katie Lapp is struggling with the idea of her marriage to a man she doesn’t love after the death of her first love.  She also likes playing guitar and singing, which is frowned upon in the Amish community.  When she learns that she is adopted, her whole world is rocked.  It’s a great film both to see Amish life and to consider issues of identity and adoption.  I can think of quite a few of my friends and followers who would enjoy it

Unspeakable Acts
Not Rated
3 out of 5 stars

It’s odd, I generally don’t go for courtroom drama books, but the movies sometimes work for me.  This one from 1990 is about the daycare child abuse scare that happened in the 1980s and looks at the groundbreaking case that made certain aspects of children testifying easier in court.  One fun thing, one of the mothers is Bebe Neuwirth (Lilith from Frasier), and it was pretty….odd seeing her in a loving mother role.  This docudrama addresses the controversial methods of questioning toddlers about situations at daycares.  The movie falls solidly on the pro-questioning side.  I enjoyed it.  It was a bit slow-moving and sometimes the acting was a bit over-the-top, but it does a good job encouraging parents to be communicative with each other and to actually bother to ask their kids questions like they are real people (which indeed they are).  Some viewers might be disturbed by the graphic descriptions of child abuse.

Creature from the Black Lagoon holding a woman in a white swimsuit.Creature From the Black Lagoon
Not Rated
4 out of 5 stars

I’ve been working my way through the 100 Horror Movies to See Before You Die, starting with the ones available on Netflix.  This one is about a group of scientists who think they’ve discovered an artifact of the missing link in human evolution deep in the Amazon.  They get there and of course discover that the missing link is actually a living creature.  Let me just say upfront, yes it is abundantly obvious that this is one of those movies about white guys being scared of non-white guys stealing their women.  Bare that in mind when watching this, and you will come away with a totally different viewing than those who don’t.  It’s easy to see why it became a classic. The underwater shots are absolutely incredible.  There are in particular these scenes wherein the woman is swimming in a gorgeous pure white swimsuit (I know, I know), and the creature is swimming underneath her in tandem.  How they pulled that off in the 1950s, I don’t know.  It is a highly watchable film and a great way to start a discussion of the racism in the 1950s.  Perhaps even to try to convince those who would say otherwise that the good old days weren’t really so good.  Side-note: there is a great scene where the woman scientist and the dude she’s dating are asked when they are gonna get married. It’s been a while. Only to find out they’ve been dating 6 months. o_O

Image of movie theater with arrows in it.Reel Injun
Not Rated
5 out of 5 stars

This documentary looks at the stereotypes and use of Native Americans in American cinema as a lens for considering Native identity and the American Indian Movement (AIM, the name for the Native American civil rights movement).  The documentary eloquently moves decade by decade, presenting clips and interviewing actors, directors, and AIM activists.  It completely blew my mind.  For instance, I didn’t know that during the silent movie era there was a strong group of Native filmmakers who made their own, powerful movies.  It was when the talkies came that the cowboy and Indian trope came about and also when every Native everywhere was re-written as a Plains Indian. For ease.  Then in the 1970s and 1980s after the civil rights era, we started to get the ass-kicking Natives as a reflection of the anger in the movement.  It’s impossible to come even close to telling you all everything I learned or how powerful the movie was for me.  I will say, though, that I found the part about how Marlon Brando turned down his Oscar due to the treatment of Natives in cinema by sending Sacheen Littlefeather up in full Apache clothing to turn it down for him completely shocking.  I had no idea that such a movement exists in Hollywood, but it does, as is also evidenced by Clint Eastwood’s involvement in this documentary.  It’s encouraging to hear that not everyone in Hollywood sits by while this shit goes down.  In any case, a powerful documentary and a great starting point for getting your feet wet in the Native American civil rights movement.

Man wrapped in bandages, man looking at test tube.The Invisible Man
Not Rated
2 out of 5 stars

Another entry in the 100 Horror Movies to See Before You Die.  A scientist manages to make himself invisible but doesn’t have an antidote ready. Also he goes crazy. Allow me to say, yes I realize this is super-old and they still managed to do the slowly revealing the invisible dude scenes, which is an amazing achievement in cinema.  Watch clips of those parts on youtube.  The storyline itself is super boring and not well structured, and the science is rather shoddily done.  It was good for a few laughs. For the first 55 minutes. The rest was suffering and wanting to rip my hair out.  I think one of my live tweets from watching it sums it up best, “The best part of this movie is the knowledge that this dude is running around nekkid.” Because his clothes are visible, you see.

That’s about a month’s worth of movies.  Stay tuned for more quick thoughts next month!

Source: Unless otherwise noted, all movies watched via Netflix.

2011 Reading Stats!

December 31, 2011 13 comments

It’s the last day of 2011, so it’s time to compile and post my reading stats!  It’s so fun and interesting to see how my reading progresses and changes over time.  This year was especially interesting, since it was my first year out of school in…um….forever?  Seeing what I read when all of my reading is for fun was fascinating.  Also, this was the first year I owned an ereader, my kindle, which definitely impacted my reading style.  Anyway, onward with the stats!

Last year, I read a grand total of 70 books, and the year before that 52. This year? That number skyrocketed.

Total books read: 107
Average books read per month: 8.9
Month most read: Tie between August and December with 14 (Interestingly, these were the months I mostly read on my kindle. I’ve discovered I read faster on it than in print).
Month least read: Tie between January and April with 6 each (January was my first month out of grad school, so I was burned out.  I honestly don’t know what happened in April).
Longest book read: It by Stephen King with 1,090 pages
Fiction: 89 (83%)
Nonfiction: 17 (16%) (I really expected this to be higher!)
–traditional print: 44 (41%)
–ebook: 46 (43%) (ebooks have officially taken over!)
–graphic novel: 11 (10%)
–audiobook: 6 (6%)
–scifi: 16 (Winner for the third year running)
–horror: 13
–dystopian: 11
–humorous: 11
–black lit: 10 (Courtesy of getting to know Amy and Kinna and The Real Help project).
–fantasy: 10
–nonfiction memoir: 10
–YA: 10
–thriller: 9
–contemporary fiction: 8 (This came out of nowhere).
–mental illness: 7 (Kind of embarrassing how low this is, given that I host the MIA Reading Challenge, heh).
–mystery: 7
–nonfiction history: 7 (I want this to be higher next year!)
–european classics: 5
–historic fiction: 5
–postapocalyptic: 5
–american classics: 4
–feminist lit: 4
–paranormal romance: 4 (Way down from the previous two years).
–japanese lit: 3
–short-story collection: 3 (A new genre, yay!)
–alternate history: 2
–chinese lit: 2
–erotica: 2
–nonfiction environmentalism: 2
–poetry: 2
–romance: 2
–urban fantasy: 2
–vegetarianism/veganism: 2
–cozy: 1
–cyberpunk: 1
–nonfiction diet: 1
–nonfiction fitness: 1
–nonfiction lifestyle: 1
–steampunk: 1
Vampires vs. Zombies vs. Aliens vs. Demons:
–zombies: 7 (Success! I wanted them to win this year 😉 )
–vampires: 4
–aliens: 3
–demons: 2 (Poor, poor demons).
Numbers of stars:
–5 star reads: 20 (19%)
–4 star reads: 48 (45%)
–3 star reads: 29  (27%)
–2 star reads: 7 (6%)
–1 star reads: 3 (3%)

What I found most fascinating in assembling these stats was that I apparently read much faster on a kindle than in print.  Why is this?  Maybe the screen makes my brain remember its speed-reading lessons from middle school that I did on a screen?  Maybe the lack of physical knowledge of how much is left keeps my enthusiasm up?  I’m not sure.

I’m really pleased to see that my serious reading went up.  Now that I’m out of school, I can read up on the topics that I myself want to know more about, and I did!  I hope that my environmental and veg reading will increase next year.  I also hope to continue to see a strong showing in black lit and an increased showing in Chinese and Japanese lit.

Overall, this was a great reading year.  My first year getting over 100 books!  Stay tuned for my reading goals 2012 post.  Any suggestions?

Movie Review: Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

November 2, 2011 2 comments

Martha calls her sister to come get her from the Catskills.  She’s been missing for two years.  Over the course of the next two weeks, her behavior becomes increasingly abnormal in ways her sister cannot understand, while the audience sees flashbacks to where Martha was for the previous two years–living in an abusive cult.

This is the best representation of PTSD I’ve seen on film to date.  Martha’s outbursts of violence, sobbing, and even loss of bladder control seem completely out of the blue to her sister and brother-in-law, but she and audience can clearly see what minor things brought them on.  Anything from a pine cone falling on the roof to a spoon clanking against a glass to a hand placed in just the wrong place on her body can set her off.

The audience is left with many gaping holes and unanswered questions in the plot line, but this is one of the rare instances where that works.  We are seeing things through Martha’s eyes in the bits and pieces typical of someone with PTSD.  The film is more about giving us a sense of what it is to be Martha than telling us the story.  It is a character study through and through.

The filmography feels documentary style instead of film style.  It is gritty and sometimes shaky.  This sets the appropriate tone for the film.

The acting is what seals the deal for this film though.  Everyone is excellent, but Elizabeth Olson is superb.  She *is* Martha Marcy May.  She acts from the top of her head to the tips of her toes.  I hope she continues to make wise movie role choices, because she could have a major acting career ahead of her.

The one drawback to the film is the ambiguous, sudden ending.  I get it that the director was trying to help the audience feel the paranoia Martha feels, but the ending was so jarring that it drew away power from the rest of the film.

Overall, this is a serious, powerful look at PTSD through the eyes of a sufferer.  I highly recommend it.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Movie Theater

Review of the Boston Ballet’s Performance of Bella Figura (2011)

While on my staycation, I decided to take in some of the cultural sights/events around my fair city that it’s normally difficult to find the time to do.  One of these was the Boston Ballet.  I just went with whatever show happened to be playing the weekend of my vacation, and this happened to be Bella Figura–a modern ballet.

Since we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the Boston Opera House at all, we’re just going to hope that my words will suffice in explaining the complete unexpectedness of the ballet.

My friend and I were uncertain as to what, exactly, the ballet was supposed to be about, so naturally we consulted our programs.  The most clear line in the entire description was, “Standing in the darkness and staring into a sharp light with eyes closed.”  There is so much wrong with that sentence.  If you are standing in the darkness, there is no sharp light.  If your eyes are closed, you aren’t staring into anything…..

In any case, the first act opened on a blue background with stools in the back.  The word “the” on a plaque was on the floor at the front of the stage.  This, combined with the dancers’ blue and white traditional attire, conspired to give the appearance of a typical dance studio.  The music was electrical and came from the speakers, not the orchestra pit.  The dancing was firm, vibrant, and called to mind the gang dance scenes from West Side Story.  Simultaneously crazy and choreographed, it elicited pure joy in myself at the playfulness of the whole thing.  I honestly wasn’t entirely sure what the message was, but to me, it was that craziness can be fun.  It ended with one of the male dancers firmly kicking over the plaque.  To me, this symbolized defeating the norm.

The second act consisted of three scenes of pairs of dancers obviously supposed to be emulating romantic relationships.  This was the only act that the orchestra made an appearance for.  All three dances were clearly about romantic relationships, yet each relationship was unique and exquisite.  Of particular note was the second romantic pairing which had a gorgeous moon background, dry ice fog, and the most sensual ballet dancing I personally have ever seen.  It brought tears to my eyes and my friend and I commented to each other that the dances beautifully represented the push and pull, good and bad of all romantic relationships.  It was touching in the pure universality of such relationships.

The third act, however, was quite simply, baffling.  It opened with a set of flashing blue tubes rising from the floor, giving the illusion that the dancers had set up a bomb or something.  The dancers then started dancing in time with the music, which was again pre-recorded, but not with each other.  The lead female dancer then came out in a tribal red skirt and topless.  The men were dancing in, essentially, boxer-briefs, which in and of itself was enjoyable, but evidently the outfit choice was to allow for the men to punctuate their dance moves by slapping themselves on the thigh.  The female lead then danced in front of a curtain with someone else behind the curtain who periodically groped her through the curtain, alternately hiding her breasts and showing them to the audience.  The toplessness came and went throughout the act with approximately six dancers (three male and three female) periodically appearing topless.  The other portions were taken up by dancers who, while clothed, essentially seemed to be doing a more graceful version of the robot.  Frequently during this portion there were three dancers on stage.  The only message I got from this act was that “threesomes can be really fun.”

Overall, I entirely enjoyed my visit to the ballet.  It was not at all the stuffy visit I was expecting.  Our usher was truly an awesome lady who just wanted us to enjoy our afternoons.  Our section was full of other 20-somethings who were capable of both strong emotions and simultaneously didn’t take anything too seriously.  Seeing such disciplined bodies in action was inspiring, and the first act spoke to my preference for alternative music and dance styles.  However, it must be said, what touched me the most at my core was the most traditional portion of the show–the second act.  Seeing relationships played out exquisitely in dance hearkens back to the origins of dance.  It is the second act that would make me go to the Boston Ballet again.

Movie Review: Red Riding Hood (2011)

March 16, 2011 6 comments

Woman wearing red cape in front of woods.Summary:
Valerie has always lived in a small village surrounded by a dark forest haunted by a werewolf every month at the full moon.  For the last ten years the wolf has kept the peace with the town by accepting a sacrifice of a beloved livestock.  Now Valerie is a woman and planning on eloping with her lover, Peter, to escape an undesired marriage to the smith’s son, Henry.  Just as they are about to elope, though, Valerie’s sister is found dead.  The victim of the wolf.  Now the town brings in a priest of questionable character in an attempt to rid them of the curse once and for all.

To me this film was truly all about atmosphere, being a feast for the eyes like the village is a feast for the wolf.  Although the first few moments of the film are set in harvest time, the rest of it is during winter, complete with beautiful snowfall scenes.  The village itself is simultaneously sinister and picturesque.  What truly makes the atmosphere though is the costuming.  Gorgeous elbow-length knitted gloves.  Covetable dresses with the perfect waist-length.  Sleeveless cloaks worn by all in demure shades that truly make Valerie’s red cloak pop when she receives it from her grandmother.  The entire atmosphere screams fairy tale.

The story was of course re-written with red riding hood made into a young woman instead of a little girl.  The character of the wolf became more complex than just the big bad wolf in the woods.  However, the key creepy elements of the fairy tale remain.  In all honesty, I was surprised at how good of an updated adaptation this was, and I’ve seen my fair share of fairy tale adaptations.

The one draw-back was the awkward love triangle inserted into the story.  There was one scene in particular that simply screamed “This director also directed Twilight!”  Ugh.  I’m getting incredibly sick of love triangles existing in any story that features young adults.  Plus this scene elicited laughter from the audience, which I am pretty sure was not what the director was going for.

Overall, however, this was a delightful adaptation of a beloved fairy tale.  I recommend it to lovers of fairy tales and adaptations, as well as those who enjoy an exquisite atmosphere in film.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: AMC movie theater

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