Category Archives: movies

2016 – year in review

Reading:

I read 33 books or novellas in 2016; that doesn’t count the books I picked up and put back down or returned to the library unread or unfinished, since I may circle back to some of those at some point.  The two best fiction reads were Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric novellas. Best nonfiction was Rebecca Traister’s All the Single Ladies.  Biggest disappointment was Bujold’s Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen.

Also, I read an excellent original hockey fic on AO3. I really like the writer’s voice and style…but the typos and punctuation abuse make my brain hurt.

I started Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine on 12/31 but have not finished it yet; I think it’ll be one of my favorite reads when it comes time to tally up 2017.

Watched:

  • Fox’s Pitch series (please be renewed?)
  • The Crown
  • GBBO
  • Star Wars (mostly liked it, love General Organa)
  • Jason Bourne (meh)
  • Ghostbusters (loved it)
  • Star Trek (meh)
  • Love & Friendship (loved it)

Theater, Museums, Music:

  • Jan 9 – The Critic and the Real Inspector
  • March 5 – Othello
  • March 26 – 1984
  • May 21 – The Taming of the Shrew
  • Oct 29 – Romeo and Juliet
  • Dec 3 – The Secret Garden
  • The Menil
  • The National Aviary
  • Fort Pitt Museum
  • The Andy Warhol Museum
  • The Frick – the carriages and cars in the garage are amazing, as is the house
  • The Heinz History Center, multiple visits – Toys Exhibit, Pixburgh exhibit, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, glass industry.  The exhibit on slavery is excellent and awful.  As a white person, it was ugly and shame-inducing to walk through.  I cannot imagine how painful it would be for a POC, or even tell whether it would be cathartic or just rage-inducing.
  • ROM (loved the Chihuly exhibit)
  • Casa Loma
  • Bata Shoe Museum
  • AGO
  • Textile Museum
  • Gardiner Museum of Ceramics (loved)
  • Smithsonian National Gallery of Art
  • Garth Brooks & Tricia Yearwood concert (wow, not much music this year)

Sports:

Okay, this category, now that I look at it, is a little excessive.  Sorry, not sorry.  Also, I’m sure I went to at least one more baseball game, but I can’t find the ticket stub or a note on my planner, so.

  • Feb 22 – Coyotes @ Caps
  • Feb 27 – Jets @ Penguins
  • March 11-14 – Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas tournament, love this venue.
  • March 18 – Predators @ Caps
  • March 28 – Blue Jackets @ Caps
  • April 7 – Penguins @ Caps (makeup game for blizzard), WIN!
  • April 16 – Game 2 of the 1st round of the playoffs – NYR @ Penguins, loss
  • April 23 – Game 5 of the 1st round – NYR @Penguins, won the series
  • April 28 – Game 1 of the 2nd round – Penguins @ Caps, lost in OT.
  • May 4 – Game 4 of the 2nd round – Caps @ Penguins (OT win!)
  • May 13 – Game 1 of the ECF – TBL @ Penguins – ouch, lost, Letang got boarded (and knocked out) right in front of me.  It was ugly.
  • June 1 – Game 2 of the SCF – Sharks & Penguins, OT win.  The Goal (actually all the goals) was right in front of me!
  • June 5 – NYY @ Orioles
  • Sept 14 – pre-tournament SWE-EUR
  • Sept 17-29 – World Cup of Hockey tournament; 16 games.  So. Much. Hockey.
  • October 15 – Ducks @ Penguins (win!)
  • Nov 8 – Sharks @ Caps (Sharks win!)
  • Nov 16 – Penguins @ Caps (ugly, ugly loss)
  • Nov 19 – Penguins @ Buffalo (SO loss, man, Flower was so good in the 3rd and OT).
  • Nov 20 – NWHL Pride @ Beauts (posted thoughts/opinions about this over on tumblr)
  • Dec 30 – Three Rivers Classic (consolation game and championship game)
  • Dec 31 – Canadiens at Penguins (OT win!)

Travel:

  • Houston
  • Pittsburgh
  • Buffalo
  • Beach
  • Toronto

Goals/plans for 2017:

  • Drop the Caps tickets, use the money to visit other teams’ arenas
  • Go to at least two more NWHL games this season
  • Go to either Italy, Portugal, or Spain on vacation (in February, maybe?)
  • Read 40 books
  • Make myself post more regularly
  • Find a tutor or conversational group to refresh/relearn the Russian I’ve mostly forgotten
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The Princess Bride is everywhere

When a federal district court judge opens his order denying a motion to dismiss with a movie quote (footnoted), I feel like it is safe to say something has achieved a pretty solid level of pop culture saturation.

Judge Wright of the Central District in California opens his order with, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”  He’s talking about TJMaxx’s use of “compare at”, which is an estimate only and not an actual price comparison according to the fine print on the company website and a sign in the store.  Is that deceptive, an unfair business practice or false advertising?  The court says the plaintiffs have sufficiently pled and that there are questions of law and fact, so the motion to dismiss is denied.  But not before working in “inconceivable” and a mention of the elusive six-fingered man.

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Links of interest…or not

I keep meaning to do a wrap up post for 2011 but it hasn’t made it from my notes to WP or LJ.  Instead, here are some links that were of interest to me but may be of little or no interest to any of you.

Religion and popular culture:  a short piece comparing Tim Tebow’s ostentatious religiosity with Rafa Nadal’s seeming agnosticism.

Education and economics:  a longer piece published by the ABA Journal on the law school bubble and the way that federally subsidized loans have distorted the economic reality of the profession for potential lawyers.

Shiny pretty:  hand porn from Doha, Qatar.

Political:  my favorite new tumblr, in which the frothy mix’s misogyny and condescension is screen capped. (ReadReactReview)

Other random bits of information:

We Bought a Zoo is not a bad movie, as long as you ignore Scarlett Johanssen’s inability to do anything other than pout and leer.

Crazy Stupid Love…the best parts of it were shown in the trailer, although I did really appreciate Ryan Gosling as a sort of fairy godmother.  The glimpse of the Borders logo on the outside of a building made me feel a little nostalgic, and then the mention of Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher as a successful older woman-younger man made the movie feel dated.

The message at the beginning (“this is a rental edition, if you want extra features then buy the BluRay”) fails for me as a movie consumer — I don’t generally care about the extra features, so that sort of marketing/messaging just alienates me.  Note to self: start checking for WB movies, rent only, don’t buy.

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You sell what?

Since today is Release Day and we had some time on my hands, we stopped by Barnes & Noble to look for new releases, the two mentioned in my earlier post (Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook and the new Nora Roberts contemporary).  And I left with…neither book.

Entering the store, the nook display has been displaced, as have the usual “new releases” shelves.  The tables of trade paperbacks had been reduced to a single table.  Going upstairs, the mystery and romance sections have been moved (to the back of the building) and reduced by more than half.  Teen paranormal is now a a large section of its own.  The biography and history section is much smaller, and there’s a huge games/puzzles/toy section right next to the YA shelves.

I was not impressed.

The Roberts’ book was out, but after reviewing the cover copy I felt ambivalent about the book and coming series.  Renovating an inn in Boonsboro, Maryland?  Like Roberts’ just did?  Eh, that seems a little too close to reality and also potentially “see my cool town! sell my cool town!”.  The Brook steampunk was, in theory, on the shelves or an end cap.  But I couldn’t find it and neither could the salesperson handling the helpdesk:  not in romance, SFF, not on the new release table or shelf, nowhere to be found.  #lostbooksale

Here’s the thing:  I went into the store looking to spend at least $30 on books.  And I left with a single book, Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason, a mystery, instead of the books I was looking for.  I want to support my local bricks and mortar store…but it doesn’t seem interested in what I’m looking for as a customer.

 

After B&N, we saw Anonymous, which was very interesting to someone without a great deal of knowledge of the period.  I know enough to recognize the names and the political tensions, which fed the plot very well.  And Rhys Ifans was excellent as Edward de Vere.  I always associate him with flakier roles (the roommate in that Hugh Grant-Julia Roberts romcom, Xenophilius Lovegood, etc.) but he was terribly good at this dramatic role.  Vanessa Redgrave was brilliant as usual.

 

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SBD: Quick thoughts on 50/50

50/50 is both a comedy and a drama.  It’s been a while since a single movie made me laugh and also made me cry.

Pros:

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt is very good, with his squinty eyes and smile and young/old face.
  • For the first time, I was able to sit through a movie with Seth Rogen.
  • Anjelica Huston is a goddess, and more screen time would’ve been nice.
  • Excellent soundtrack.

Con:

  • Cheap, cheap way of dealing with a relationship that was already faltering and then foundered under the weight of serious illness.

For all that Adam (JGL) has a girlfriend in the beginning of the movie, goes barhopping with Kyle (Rogen) and has a casual hook-up after breaking up with that girlfriend, and then has the prospect of another relationship on the horizon at the end of the film, the key relationship of the film for Adam isn’t with a woman.  It’s Adam’s friendship with Kyle.  Kyle seems like Rogen’s standard character at first, but he’s the person who sticks around when Adam’s illness gets worse.

It’s a bromance.  Except unlike a lot of recent comedies, the relationship isn’t a function of slapstick adventures and it doesn’t produce toilet humor.

Very pleased.

Check out Ebert’s review.

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Drive

If I drive for you, you give me a time and a place. I give you a five-minute window, anything happens in that five minutes and I’m yours no matter what. I don’t sit in while you’re running it down; I don’t carry a gun… I drive.

The actors: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman, plus others. The actor who plays Gosling’s mentor, Bryan Cranston, looks familiar but I didn’t know his name until I looked the film up at IMBd.

The plot: Gosling’s character, who has no given name and is listed merely as “Driver” in the credits, is exactly what his label says. He drives. Stunt cars, getaway cars for robberies. His own Chevelle (I think) for hours on LA’s highways. When he isn’t driving cars, he’s working on them.

He meets Mulligan’s character, Irene, and her little boy, Benecio. Is he attracted to her? It seems so, although he never articulates it and seems to have a more intuitive connection with Benecio. Whatever might develop is cut off when Irene’s husband, Standard, is released from prison. Standard seems defensive at first about this guy encroaching on his territory, but seems to recognize Driver’s inner badass and takes a big step back — he wants to stay clean and Driver isn’t imposing. But then a debt he owes comes back to haunt him, and Driver steps in to help. It doesn’t go exactly as planned, leaving Driver to clean up the mess despite his standard disclaimer of being involved only in the five minutes while the theft is going on and then the getaway.

Brooks was good as a sort of B-movie, connected criminal/investor. Perlman was grotesque (intentionally, I assume) as a lower level Jewish mobster angry with the racism of his organization. Mulligan was cute — she didn’t have a huge scope. Gosling was excellent as Driver.

At the outset, I wasn’t sure what to think of Driver. He’s taciturn, watching everything, judging, planning, but expressing little verbally or with his body language. Is his mentor taking advantage of him? Is he so shy that he can’t even express his admiration or desire for Irene? Staring contests and cartoon-watching with Benecio are the scenes in which he seems to connect best with another human being. Even his most physically intimate scenes with Irene (holding hands while driving, kissing in an elevator) are prompted either by her (reaching out) or something external (seeing an armed man who’s come for him step into the elevator with them). The most emotional statement made by Driver is over the phone, with resounding silence as a response. The silence of the entire film, in terms of soundtrack and background noise, is striking.

It isn’t until half way through the movie that Driver’s capacity for violence is revealed, and even then the revelation is just a hint of what is to come.

In a lot ways, Drive felt like a western. Where did that masked man come from? Where did he go when he rode off into the sunset? Except I’m not sure if Driver would have worn a white hat or a black one. Nominally, he is the hero for Irene and Benecio, keeping them out of the cross-hairs of an organized crime family. But would they have been better off if he hadn’t gotten involved at all?

ETA: Driver wears a quilted, white satin (or silk?) jacket with a huge gold scorpion embroidered on the back. At first I disregarded the scorpion but then when he first began to emerge from his stolid silence, all I could think of was the fable of the scorpion and the frog…which he later refers to when negotiating.

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Coming soon?

Saw a preview for “The Visitor”, in which Hiam Abbas has a role. She played Amal in “The Syrian Bride”, and did an excellent job, so I’m thinking that I’ll probably check it out if it comes to the new Landmark Theatre that opened on the east side of the harbor.

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