Three sentence movie reviews: Bright Star

Much like Paul Schneider(!)’s character I really didn’t get what John Keats saw in Fanny Brawne and so was befuddled for much of this movie, and thus missed tapping in to the star-crossed love. This was kind of slow, but I’m not really sorry I watched it. The director’s interviews at the end were nicely illuminating.

How did those 2011 resolutions go?

Well, it turns out I forgot one entirely. I was going to cook four different kinds of vegetables each week. That would explain why I had a separate “V” designation for chores accomplished (as compared to the “F” for anything to do with food. I did cook/prep a lot more vegetables early in the year and then less so the second half of the year.

I did do a very good job cooking food and not throwing out a lot of it. That list on the fridge I referenced in the resolution post did help a lot. I discarded the sheet at one point, but will bring it back. The notebook also helped and I have already purchased my notebook for 2012. I backslid a bit in November/December and ended up throwing out more food than I wanted. But overall this was a pretty good success.
Push ups. I still love them, but apparently not enough to really do them every day. Early in the year I did them pretty consistently and if I were in my mid-twenties, I would have been churning out my age. Alas, I am in my late thirties and didn’t ever reach that number. I think I pushed too hard at the beginning and ended up incredibly sore which was a deterrent.
Resolutions for 2012? I’m pondering them right now.

Best movies watched in 2011

The Annual Patricia Awards
I haven’t stopped to count how many movies I saw last year. Let us say there were 70. Here are my favorites (and not favorites):
Best series to watch and then immediately invite your MAunts over to watch it so you can watch it again:
Pride & Prejudice (1995)
The movie I over prepared for (read book, saw original) and found disappointing:
True Grit (Cohen Brothers)
Best documentary illuminating the selection process for a Broadway musical:
Every Little Step
Wonderful, delightful tale that managed to completely eviscerate me emotionally in the last five minutes:
The Illusionist
Best random pack of scary sisters I want someone to write a novel about:
The Fighter
Not a movie to watch when trying to wind down after a hard week:
Best movie that passed the Bechdel test:
Movie that could have gone so wrong, but instead was so very right:
Source Code
Movie that spawned a personal film festival:
Fast Five
Bad, forgettable title (I just had to google it to remind myself what it was) with at least one incredibly funny scene and well developed characters:
Good romantic comedy your boyfriend will probably also enjoy:
Going the Distance
Best of the Vin Diesel Film Festival.
(I know! I was surprised too!)
Unfortunate example of how Hollywood completely erases strong female characters:
(which is ironic, really, because this movie got me started on the book series)
Gone Baby, Gone
Best movie to watch on your boyfriend’s birthday after bicycling many miles:
X-Men, First Class
Movie I enjoyed, but not as much as I thought I would:
Suffered, I think, from a long delay before the big monster reveal:
Most authentic (and hilarious) teenage boy dialogue:
Super 8
Best eye candy of the fashion variety:
Mad Men, Season I
The “man, why don’t they make more movies about wrestling?” award:
Win Win
My favorite of the superhero movie this year:
Captain America
The “Please avoid the movie and take the time to read the book. You won’t be sorry” award:
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Absolutely delightful
(even though I still am squeamish about Woody Allen):
Midnight in Paris
Happy sigh:
Pretty bad “last” movie, but with entertaining “bonus” interview with the costumer:
The Thing Called Love
The documentary where the “normal” people were more compelling than the celebrities:
Even if you just watch the “Will Shortz reads his mail” scene you will walk away happy:
“Old Fashioned” style movie I absolutely loved:
The Good German
The “two hours reading the book will be time better spent” award:
One Day
The movie that was seared onto my brain at age twelve:
Stand By Me
Funny movie we had no idea we would see:
Horrible Bosses
Excellent ensemble effort:
Hit the nostalgia button hard:
Pearl Jam 20
Best horror movie concept of the year:
Attack the Block
Excellent acting, all around:
Margin Call
Best reason to start knitting again:
Heroes, Season 1
Well done movie that was very slow, darn it:
Hugo 3-D
Yet another interesting illumination into Broadway:
Life After Tomorrow
Movie that surprised me the most:
Being Elmo
Remake that surprised me the most:
A good reason to go into movies with an open mind:
Footloose (2011)
Movie with the most delightful little scenes sprinkled here and there:
The Descendants
Movie where my front teeth dried out because I was smiling so much:
The Muppets
Best movie about baseball and math this year
(and possibly ever):

Best books read in 2011

The annual Patricia Awards
(with 2011 being the year of the YA novel)
I read 101 books this year. I was hoping to read no more than 70 and completely failed. To be fair, there were a lot of YA novels, which are quick reads. There were also a goodly number of poetry and Shakespeare plays, which are also quick reads, but suffice to say I spent a lot of time reading this year. You needn’t read as many books as I did. Instead, take a gander at the following awards and pick (or avoid) a read for yourself.
(All original reviews of these books can be found on this blog or on Goodreads)
Darn Good Concept whose ending was unfortunately bungled:
Catherine Fisher
Best female character I’ve encountered in years:
Best series to spawn 100 discussions about a variety of topics:
Best book by an author with my last name:
The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins
Best novel to include a hilarious musical theater scene:
Most memorable main character since Owen Meany:
Will Greyson Will Greyson
John Green & David Levithen
Best book to read during the holiday season:
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares
Rachel Cohen & David Levithen
Book I couldn’t convince anyone else to read due to odd subject matter, but that I (and the book group) absolutely loved:
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery
Interesting portrait about one man overcoming (and succumbing to) his upbringing:
The Last American Man
Elizabeth Gilbert
An interesting idea, a gripping read, all capped off with two perfectly awful last chapters:
My Name is Memory
Ann Brashares
The classic novel I enjoyed much more than I thought I would:
Mary Shelly
Sidesplittingly funny story of exactly what the title says:
The Absolutely True Dairy of a Part-Time Indian
Sherman Alexie
Good collection of poems about people and travel:
The Last Uncle
Linda Pastan
Interesting book (especially about the history of the science of diet and exercise) whose advice I would rather not follow:
Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It
Gary Taubes
The most delightful tales from anywhere this year:
Tales from Outer Suburbia
Shawn Tan
Parts 1 & 2 of what would have been an intense five part novel:
Most heartbreaking story of its creation:
Suite Francaise
Irene Nemirovsky
Biggest slog I should have just quit reading:
The House at Riverton
Kate Morton
Best set of poems to read when you need a bit of a laugh:
The HaHa
David Kirby
Most fun book written this year for Laura Ingalls Wilder fans:
The Wilder Life
Wendy McClure
A bit too long, with a completely unneeded side plot, but still a very good read:
The Hour I First Believed
Wally Lamb
Excellent magical realism and overall most cherished book read this year:
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Aimee Bendar
Fun to read, if only for the Richard III as Rocky Horror Picture Show send-up:
The Eyere Affair
Jasper Fforde
Best reason to clear your schedule for a few days:
Freedom: A Novel
Jonathen Franzen
My two favorite British characters this year:
The kind of book where the five pages of setup is completely worth it for the joke’s payoff:
Freddy & Fredericka
Mark Halprin
Best languid description of landscape:
My Antonia
Willa Cather
Best audiobook to listen to while you wait out the insomnia:
A New Earth
Eckhard Tolle
Best intriguing plot and plot shift:
Silver Sparrow
Tayari Jones
Most delightful eleven-year-old of the year:
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Jacqueline Kelly
Especially good novel to read aloud with a partner:
One Day
David Nichols
A bright bit of fun for a cold night:
13 Little Blue Envelopes
Maureen Johnson
Book that I finished, but only so I could discuss it at book group:
100 Years of Solitude
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Best urban tale set in Canada:
Blink & Caution
Tim Wynne Jones
Book I found both heartbreaking and heartwarming:
A Place on Earth
Wendall Barry
Book I liked the best of the “Anne” series:
Anne’s House of Dreams
L.M. Montgomery
My favorite book read for the Mock Printz:
A Monster Calls
Patrick Ness/Siobhan Dowd
Incredible, wonderful, stupendous book…Until the last four words:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Laini Taylor
Best sci-fi historical fiction novel:
Octavia E. Butler
Best “rough around the edges” memoir:
It’s So Easy & Other Lies
Duff McKeagan

Books read in December 2011

I finish my ten-title Mock Printz YA reading list and find some time for other things too.

The Order of the Stick: Don’t Split the Party
Rich Burlew
Read aloud.
A very long book that refuses to follow the advice of its own title. We spend a lot of time with one or another of the split party. This long book and suffered a bit at the end from the “let’s wrap this up now” syndrome, but overall it was pretty entertaining, when read aloud.
Dead end in Norvelt
Jack Gantos
Read for Mock Printz
This was book 9 of 10 read for the Mock Printz discussion and was the outlier, falling into neither the “grim” nor the “tense” category. I started out loving it, as Gantos has a way of phrasing normal observations into something rather amusing and there is a scene at the beginning involving melting gold statues, a feisty old lady and a bloody nose that is pure comedy gold. But after that, my adoration cooled, due to the main character’s father being a bit of a jerk, a mystery poorly developed and quickly solved, but not resolved, and a very ambiguous ending that left me perplexed as to just what, exactly, the message was. I wanted to like it, but I just didn’t.
Octavia E. Butler
One of the pluses of volunteering at the library is that I find very interesting books that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise when I’m shelving. This book was shelved in science fiction though, in my opinion, it was really historical fiction in which the main character just happened to time travel to 1815.
As mentioned in my review of Jubilee, I find slavery/slave narratives interesting and out-of-fashion. Indeed, this novel was written in 1979. But experiencing slavery from the perspective of a modern-day black person was a fun narrative device that kept me reading. Recommended.
Good Masters, Sweet Ladies
Laura Amy Schlitz
This has been on my Goodreads list for years, and I finally read it because I noticed it while volunteering at the library shelving books. This is a fun series of poems/monologues of young people in a medieval village. It’s a quick read and the sidebar historical information is interesting too. I also loved the YA novel this author wrote, A Drowned Maiden’s Hair: A Melodrama.
One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest
Ken Kesey
Read for Kenton Book Group
This was a hard read, not because the prose was difficult, but the subject was. I had seen the movie and so I knew where it was going (assuming the movie followed the book) so there wasn’t anything to look forward to and I kept putting off reading my daily pages. Still, it was well written, and I enjoyed the perspective of the Chief, which was not a part of the movie.
It’s So Easy and other Lies
Duff McKeagen
Duff–from Guns & Roses (and Velvet Revolver and Loaded)–describes his life as a musician, an addict, and his life of sobriety. The writing is rough and unpolished, but enthusiastic and interesting, especially the details of the early G&R days. I was particularly interested in his journey to sobriety which I can sum up in three words: become a nerd. How could I not be delighted when someone’s path to recovery includes reading, bike riding, martial arts and going to college?
My main quibble with the book was the question of who wrote it. Duff’s name is on the cover, Duff is featured as the author on the back cover. Only on the last page of the book is Duff’s collaborator listed. I felt like the book was mainly in Duff’s voice and he probably did write most of it, but if you are going to use a collaborator (and there’s nothing wrong with that if you’ve got a story to tell) the just put their darn name on the cover with yours.
Anne of Ingleside
L.M. Montgomery
Anne begins to fade into the background as her children take over more and more of the story.
Good Poems for Hard Times
Garrison Keillor, ed.
Yep. They were.
After the Golden Age
Carrie Vaughn
Okay entry into the non-comic superhero genre, though it was no “Soon I Will be Invincible.”
It Looked Different on the Model
Laurie Notaro
Some funny stories. I recommend especially the one near the end about the dog translator.
William Shakespeare
As I read this, I was amazed at how many turns of phrase that we use in everyday speech originate from this play.
Anya’s Ghost
Vera Brosgol
Read for Mock Printz
I’ve said before I’m not a graphic novel fan, but despite my “not” I loved this little story. Also, it was pointed out to me later that Central Library has a cameo role in the book. So exciting!
Started and did not finish
The Culture of Make Believe
Big thick book that made a lot of very good points in the first 75 pages I read. However, said points are rather depressing and sad and thus I wandered off. Would be worth tackling again in the future.

Three sentence movie reviews: State Fair

Though I’ve only seen it one other time, this is one of my favorite movie musicals. The songs are good, the clothing is delightful, the story is hokey–but entertaining–and I love the idealized depiction of an Iowa State Fair. For those of you who would like State Fair in more forms, there is also a book by Phil Strong, a non-musical version from 1933 starring Will Rodgers and a 1962 version set in Texas starring Pat Boone.

Note: I watched this sometime during Winter Break and forgot to record it in my journal. So here it is here, tacked onto the end of the year.

Also note: For Harry Morgan fans, there’s a nice cameo of him as the man running the ring tossing booth, many years before his time as M*A*S*H’s Colonel Potter.

Three sentence movie reviews: The Lion in Winter

I hadn’t watched this movie since high school, and near the end I had the thought, “This is sort of like the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but the parents have four children! I didn’t buy the oh-so 1960s reason for Katherine Hepburn’s actions, but I loved watching her and the hunky Peter O’Toole as well as a very young Anthony Hopkins (and also Timothy Dalton!) There’s a scene near the end where a soldier is killed that I would guess is rather what hand-to-hand combat is like: quiet, desperate and takes much longer than one wants it to.

Complementing staff

Below is an email I sent to the Dr. Martin’s store after successfully purchasing a pair of boots. In 2012 I am going to make an effort to use those handy web site comment forms to leave praise for employees who are doing a good job. As someone who worked for many years with the general public I know how hard it is, and how a few sentences of thanks can really lighten your day. Actually, I don’t really know that, seeing as people only complained about me, but I can imagine.
Maybe you want to start offering thanks for some of the service people in your life too? It doesn’t take long and like this man’s experience, can have good effect on you!
Dear Dr. Martin’s

I’ve been in the market for boots for some time and have had trouble finding a pair that fits my calves. Shopping for boots is an embarrassing and demoralizing situation, mostly because the sales people who bring me the boots are then witness to the zipper stopping short several inches from its intended target.

After a lackluster sales experience in another store, I stopped by your Portland, Oregon location. There I discovered the Phina boot which neatly bypassed the calf situation by utilizing pretty kick-ass buckles throughout the length. In addition, I had the great help of Callie, who was attentive, but did not hover and did not make me feel awkward. I thank both Callie for her sales technique and your company for making such an awesome boot.


Three sentence movie reviews: Moneyball

Populated with actors I love, this was a tiny bit on the slow side (it gave me time to contemplate why Brad Pitt’s house might have had plates hanging on the walls which seems a bit out of character for a single man) but also fun and enjoyable. One thing I knew, but didn’t really realize until I saw this movie was how long into the season the trading of players goes on. The movie is about baseball! and math! and you will like it too!