film adaptation

2016 Movie List

 

Below is my complete movie viewing list for 2016. Titles listed in bold are those I particularly enjoyed.

  1. 01/01: Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (2016): A
  2. 01/01: Testament of Youth (2014): B-
  3. 01/02: Joy (2015): B
  4. 01/04: Black Mirror: White Christmas (2014): B
  5. 01/05: The Age of Adaline (2015): B
  6. 01/07: Nasty Baby (2015): C+
  7. 01/08: The Big Short (2015): A
  8. 01/08: Sicario (2015): B
  9. 01/17: Jurassic World (2015): C
  10. 01/20: Sundance Shorts Program 1
    1. So Good to See You: C+
    2. Killer: A
    3. Mobilize: B
    4. It’s Not You: B
    5. Speaking is Difficult: B+
    6. Maman(s): A
    7. The Shining Star of Losers Everywhere: A
    8. Catching Up: B+
  11. 01/20: Spotlight (2015): A-
  12. 01/20: Room (2015): A
  13. 01/22: Goat (2016): B
  14. 01/23: Wiener-Dog (2016): C-
  15. 01/24: Manchester by the Sea (2016): A
  16. 01/24: Yoga Hosers (2016): B
  17. 01/25: Lovesong (2016): B+
  18. 01/25: Complete Unknown (2016): C+
  19. 01/26: First Girl I Loved (2016): A
  20. 01/26: The Lobster (2015): A
  21. 01/29: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015): C
  22. 01/29: The Gift (2015): B-
  23. 02/04: Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List (2015): C+
  24. 02/04: The Last Five Years (2015): B-
  25. 02/05: The Revenant (2015): B
  26. 02/06: Bridge of Spies (2015): B
  27. 02/11: The Overnight (2015): B+
  28. 02/13: Mistress America (2015): F
  29. 02/18: The First Time (2012): B
  30. 02/19: Ricki and the Flash (2015): C
  31. 02/19: The Wolfpack (2015): B
  32. 02/21: The Witch (2015): A
  33. 02/24: LOL (2006): C
  34. 02/27: The Maltese Falcon (1941): C
  35. 03/04: Unfriended (2014): B
  36. 03/04: The Gallows (2015): C
  37. 03/04: Magic Mike XXL (2015): C
  38. 03/12: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (2016): B
  39. 03/16: Zipper (2015): C+
  40. 03/17: Ouija (2014): C-
  41. 04/09: The Danish Girl (2015): B
  42. 04/18: The Longest Ride (2015): C+
  43. 04/29: The Jungle Book (2016): B+
  44. 05/23: Everything is Copy (2016): B
  45. 06/04: Me Before You (2016): B+
  46. 06/16: Real Women Have Curves (2002): B
  47. 06/18: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958): B-
  48. 06/23: Rain Man (1988): A
  49. 06/25: Baby Boom (1987): B
  50. 06/28: The Scorch Trials (2015): C-
  51. 06/29: The Fundamentals of Caring (2016): B
  52. 06/29: Elizabeth (1998): C
  53. 07/01: Swiss Army Man (2016): A-
  54. 07/01: Big Night (1996): B
  55. 07/04: 1776 (1972): B-
  56. 07/04: The Hunting Ground (2015): A
  57. 07/04: The Imposter (2012): B
  58. 07/05: Tabloid (2010): B
  59. 07/05: Welcome to Leith (2012): B
  60. 07/06: She Loves Me (2016): B+
  61. 07/13: Miss Representation (2011): B
  62. 07/14: Horns (2013): F
  63. 07/14: Girl Rising (2013): B
  64. 07/25: Hollywoodland (2006): B-
  65. 08/13: The Lady in the Van (2015): B+
  66. 08/27: Florence Foster Jenkins (2016): B
  67. 09/02: The Light Between Oceans (2016): B+
  68. 09/03: Fruitvale Station (2013): A
  69. 09/18: Straight Outta Compton (2015): B
  70. 10/01: XOXO (2016): C
  71. 10/01: Beyond the Lights (2014): B+
  72. 10/01: A Royal Night Out (2015): C
  73. 10/07: The Girl on the Train (2016): B-
  74. 10/07: 13th (2016): A
  75. 10/08: Amanda Knox (2016): B
  76. 10/09: Audrie & Daisy (2016): B
  77. 10/14: Tangerine (2015): B+
  78. 10/14: Love & Friendship (2016): B+
  79. 10/14: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013): B+
  80. 10/15: Holy Hell (2016): B
  81. 10/20: Green Room (2016): A-
  82. 10/20: Midnight Special (2016): B
  83. 10/21: Hamilton’s America (2016): A
  84. 11/06: The Neon Demon (2016): C
  85. 11/12: Moonlight (2016): B+
  86. 11/17: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016): B
  87. 11/19: The Edge of Seventeen (2016): A
  88. 11/19: Morris from America (2016): C+
  89. 12/09: Hell or High Water (2016): C
  90. 12/09: Other People (2016): A
  91. 12/10: Rocky Balboa (2007): C-
  92. 12/11: Sense and Sensibility (1995): B+
  93. 12/12: Taxi Driver (1976): A-
  94. 12/13: The Station Agent (2003): A
  95. 12/14: Moana (2016): B+
  96. 12/15: The Sting (1973): B
  97. 12/16: Captain Fantastic (2016): B
  98. 12/17: Turner & Hooch (1989): B
  99. 12/25: La La Land (2016): A
  100. 12/26: Fences (2016): A
  101. 12/27: Deadpool (2016): A-
  102. 12/27: Hail, Caesar! (2016): B
  103. 12/29: The Fear of 13 (2015): C+

Favorite Books of 2016

I know there are many people in the world who rarely read, which is probably one of the most depressing things to know about our society. I feel no shame in the time I spend daily reading or thinking about reading or discussing reading with my roommate.

In 2016, I read 92 books and plays, which is a personal record (I was determined to out-do my 2014 total of 91, so congratulations from me to myself). Unlike past years, I set a few goals at the beginning of the year other than reading a total of 52 books, which included reading works by specific people. By Thanksgiving, I’d accomplished all of those goals, so I’m upping the ante for 2017 (see my new reading list in a day or two if you’re curious about how nerdy/obsessive I can be).

Below, in the order I read them, is a list of my favorite books I read in 2016, followed by some honorable mentions. This list contains books both new and old, some of which have even achieved favorite status. You can consult my full 2016 reading list here.

What books did you love in 2016? Maybe I’ll add them to my shelf.


Brooklyn, Colm Toíbín

Both as a book and a film, Brooklyn has taken deep root in my soul. I adore this coming-of-age story (they tend to be my favorites anyway, but this one is especially great). The novel, which tells the story of a young Irish immigrant Eilis who moves to New York City to start a new life in the 1950s, is just as profound and beautiful as its Oscar-nominated film adaptation. This is a perfect book to enjoy on a cozy winter afternoon.

Collected Sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay

I grabbed this book at a used bookstore to help fill out my reading list for my master’s comprehensive exams in the spring and was fortunate enough to love it as a piece of literature. I quickly became obsessed with Edna St. Vincent Millay herself (this girl was crazy progressive and hip in the 1920s) and her poetry doesn’t make me feel like an idiot as most poetry does. She’s witty, hilarious, and heartbreaking in equal parts.

‘Night, Mother, Marsha Norman

It’s strange that I only read ‘Night, Mother earlier this year because the story feels deeply engrained in me already. My mom has loved this play for a long time, and I finally understood why when I read it myself this spring. Norman’s play is sparse and simple but still incredibly profound. It’s impossible as a reader not to share the characters’ anxiety as the story progresses in real time toward a potential suicide. I can’t wait to share this play with my students this spring.

Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

This may come as a surprise to you, but I’m a fan of Hamilton (okay just kidding I haven’t listened to any other music in a year). Since annotating is one of my favorite pastimes, reading the annotated edition of the complete musical, accompanied by beautiful photographs and behind-the-scenes information, was a dream. Hamilton: The Revolution is a must-have for fans of the musical. Though it’s a little pricier than the Chernow biography upon which the show is based, it’s far less likely to sit untouched on your bookshelf.

Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed

My only prior encounters with Cheryl Strayed came from seeing the film adaptation of Wild  and reading a few nonfiction essays in a writing workshop, but after my roommate loved this one and gave it to me as a graduation gift, I too fell in love. I intended to bring this as my reading material on a long drive to Nebraska over the summer, but I got so into it I breezed through the entire book before our departure. Tiny Beautiful Things is a collection of Strayed’s Dear Sugar letters, a column she wrote for The Rumpus. Strayed clearly answers each person with deep thought and tenderness, but she isn’t afraid to answer with honesty. Each entry makes you feel understood and valued. I have a feeling this book will be one I continue to share with friends and family.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy Schumer

After solidifying my love for Amy Schumer in 2015, I of course had to read her memoir when it was released this summer. Schumer doesn’t disappoint in this book that is equally laugh-out-loud funny and sweetly sad. Though I read this book months ago, there are still stories here that I think of and laugh about often.

The Book of Other People, edited by Zadie Smith

The Book of Other People is a collection of short stories written by several famous authors whose sole prompt was to create a character and write a story about them. As with many short story collections, the end result is a bit of a mixed bag, but the general feeling I had was a very pleasant one. When my roommate and I read this aloud together (now one of our favorite and cutest habits), we sometimes had difficulty stopping ourselves from reading indefinitely. Though many of the stories are great, see if you can get your hands on “Magda Mandela” by Hari Kunzru. It’s a quick read and you will not be disappointed.

A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

I haven’t even seen A Monster Calls yet but I’m already guessing this will be the #1 tearjerker of 2017. The book tells the story of a young English boy named Conor whose mother’s cancer is continually worsening. Conor is visited nightly by a tree monster, a clear manifestation of his frustration and grief as he watches his mother fade. This is a beautiful story about love and loss. Just maybe skip the eye makeup before reading.

Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty

I’m very rarely a reader of mysteries, especially contemporary ones. However, once I saw the trailer for the upcoming HBO miniseries adaptation of this novel, I was too intrigued not to read it before the February air date. Who knew I’d be such a fan? The book rounds out at over 500 pages, but I couldn’t put it down in the 2 days I spent reading it. I think Moriarty does a great job of telling a dramatic story in a way that still feels authentic (something I’m a little worried about based on the footage from the miniseries). It was refreshing to see a story about women who come from various backgrounds, aren’t all about competition, and keep cattiness to a minimum. Though this was my first encounter with Moriarty, I’ve already purchased her latest book, Truly Madly Guilty, and look forward to enjoying it early next year.

State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

2016 was a year of Ann Patchett for me. I’d never read her previously, but my roommate and I read Bel Canto together in the fall and I became a fan. Though I generally try not to be too easily distracted by my book purchases, when I bought State of Wonder in October, I couldn’t resist starting it almost immediately. The story is clearly inspired by Joseph Conrad’s classic Heart of Darkness, but differs in that it follows a woman sent to retrieve her female boss from the depths of the Amazon where she’s developing a fertility drug. Though I was—and still am—frustrated by the book’s conclusion, it features beautiful writing and some great twists that make for a worthwhile read.

The Penguin Arthur Miller

In my 92 books read this year, this one feels like the biggest accomplishment. In fact, it’s one book that contains 18—this is the complete canon of Arthur Miller’s dramatic works. Miller and I go way back at this point, but before 2016, I’d only read 3 of his plays. This edition isn’t exactly an easy one to travel with—note its comparative size to my cat in the featured photo—but now it has a stately position on my bookshelf made all the more grand by the fact that I’ve read all the words in it. Miller is an undeniable master of American drama, and I loved spending so much time with him this year. If you remember, think of him on February 10—the date not only of his death, but also the anniversary of the Broadway premiere of Death of a Salesman.

Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling

My general relationship with Mindy Kaling over the past month has gone from casual fan to actively seeking friendship (so, Mindy, if you’re reading, let’s hang out!). When I bought this book in the airport a few weeks ago, I was just looking to be mildly entertained on my journey home, but many times I was made to laugh aloud. Then I watched the entirety of The Mindy Project in just a few days, and I became even more enamored. Though it would be wrong to call Why Not Me? a page-turner, it’s still the kind of book you have a hard time putting down.


Honorable Mentions: The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, At Fault by Kate Chopin, Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy

Managing entertainment with a full-time job

Hello, long lost blogging world. Apologies for my absence (not that I assume anyone noticed).

Life has been odd lately, mostly because I’m a person who goes to work every day and teaches people and isn’t a student anymore. These are new things and they’re nice things, but they’re also still a little strange.

One thing that definitely hasn’t changed in my life, though, is my constant pursuit to watch and read as much as I possibly can in a day. So, to catch you up on my latest reading and viewing ventures, here’s a quick recap of my life lately.

Books — A few weeks ago, I reached my 2016 goal of reading 52 books, so now, I’m free to enjoy my reading just a bit more. I still have three other reading goals to accomplish: read Arthur Miller’s collected plays, read something by Jane Austen, and read something by Charles Dickens. Thankfully, I’m 5 plays away (out of 18) from checking Miller off the list, and I’m about 1/3 of the way through Sense and Sensibility. Progress! Otherwise, my roommate and I have been enjoying more read-aloud projects (we’ve done a 700+ page collection of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry and Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto so far), and I’ve read both Amy Schumer’s and Jessi Klein’s comedy memoirs in recent weeks.

Movies — I’ve been in a bit of a movie slump lately, mostly because my attentions have been taken up by watching all kinds of TV. Recent viewing experiences have included The Light Between Oceans and Fruitvale Station, both of which were tear-inducing in very different ways. I’m also planning to watch Straight Outta Compton today. Otherwise, I’m doing my best to keep up with all the film festival coverage and anxiously awaiting the release of La La Land and Manchester by the Sea.

TV — This is the area where I’ve been shining my brightest lately. After finishing Felicity a week or two ago, I’ve wandered through lots of viewing. I finally finished rewatching Game of Thrones, including the most recent season, I rewatched most of Rome with my mom, I sped through Netflix’s The Get Down and Amazon’s One Mississippi, and my roommate and I have just started Stranger Things. My current solo TV project is Sex and the City, which I’m slightly embarrassed to say I started watching last Tuesday, and I’m already halfway through season 4. Turns out not having homework means I have a slight struggle making myself turn the TV off.

And in exciting TV news, the Emmy awards are tonight! Here’s hoping for lots of Game of Thrones victories and unexpected wins.

What are you watching and reading these days? I’m always open to suggestions. 🙂

2016 Reading List #56: Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

I’ve been a terrible blogger of late, but sometimes that’s what happens when you’re a grown up with full-time employment. My lack of posting has no reflection on my consumption of pop culture, though—I’ve been reading and watching things like a pro.

And speaking of reading… Bel Canto was the second shared reading project my roommate and I have embarked upon since the school year started. We decided to read it together over the summer, and it turned out to be a lovely shared experience.

Bel Canto takes place in an unnamed South American country, where a diverse group of people have gathered for a swanky birthday celebration at the home of the vice president, only to have the party overtaken by terrorists in search of the country’s president. Despite the set-up, Bel Canto is a book with minimal violence, and the story is much more about overcoming differences than fighting with enemies.

I had a few issues with bits of the content and characterization, but the story is largely a compassionate one that pulls you in and breaks your heart by the end. I’d definitely recommend it for a quiet/sweet/sad reading experience.

And just a quick, fun tidbit: apparently my roommate and I are influential tastemakers (though we’d always assumed this anyway) because two days after we began reading, the film adaptation of Bel Canto was announced, and it’s set to star Julianne Moore, Ken Watanabe, and Demián Bichir. With a cast that good, here’s hoping for a satisfying movie.

2016 Reading Lis #46: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Perhaps the quickest version of this post is to say that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child left me feeling… conflicted.

But I can’t really just leave it there.

In anticipation of Cursed Child, my feelings waffled between trying to limit my expectations and really, really wanting to like it. And I did like it. But I didn’t love it. At all.

Here’s my biggest problem: in the scope of all things Harry Potter, nothing can match the magic of the original series. Though I preordered my copy of the play months ago from Amazon, I paid a visit to the local Barnes & Noble midnight release party because I so enjoyed them years ago. None of this experience could be the same. The anticipation I felt was more anxiety than excitement this time around. I didn’t want to read something that would mess with a perfect series.

And Cursed Child doesn’t really mess with the original series, at least in my opinion. Because I see the original seven books as sacred, I refuse to allow something new (that wasn’t even really written by J.K. Rowling) to affect that world. Cursed Child is fine—likable, funny, sweet, somber—but it’s a mere shadow of the original works.

There are many reasons for this, I think, apart from Rowling’s limited input. First, jumping from a set of long and detailed novels to a two-part play is a big leap. The play is comprised of lots and lots of minuscule scenes, and by the end it felt like a Shondaland TV show to me—every scene break had a dramatic cliffhanger that kept the pace moving ever-forward. There’s no time to live in the show’s moments, especially when the expanse of the play crosses decades of time.

Though I might feel different seeing the stage production rather than just reading it, I also felt like the magic was heavy-handed. I’m curious to know how so many of these effects are done (the play contains Polyjuicing, dementors, Time Turning, underwater stunts, Transfiguration, etc.), but it reads like someone trying to cram in as many oohs-and-ahhs as possible before the curtain falls. At its core, Cursed Child is meant to be about the difficulties Harry faces with his son, so I’d have preferred a much simpler play to tell an intimate story.

In fact, the way this difficult relationship is pushed forward is through an odd and complicated overarching plot that I found really unnecessary. For one, when we came to know Voldemort as a villain over the course of seven novels, trying to introduce and conquer a new villain in one play seems doomed to fail. And without giving anything away, I personally predicted the villain and their connection to the characters from early on. The “big reveal” isn’t exactly on par with, say, the revelations of “The Prince’s Tale.”

And speaking of the Half-Blood Prince… I may have been most disappointed by the Snape and Dumbledore cameos (done in alternate reality and via portrait, so no one is resurrected or something equally strange). Though these are two characters I love dearly, they both had beautiful final scenes in the original series, and neither of them felt at all authentic to me in the play. Their individual dialogue was clearly an imitation of the real thing, and I wish they’d remained in the past where their stories belong.

Finally, on that same note, it’s very touchy to revisit such beloved characters and try to make them what readers know them to be already. Harry felt most true in the first scenes of the play, which are just lifted from the Deathly Hallows epilogue, but otherwise, he’s a big drag and kind of bad father. Ron is a caricature of himself—sure, Ron’s always been the most light-hearted of the trio, but he’s also got substance—and Hermione is a leader without having the characteristic bossiness that makes her so endearing.

Okay, I want to stop complaining to talk a bit about the good. The Albus/Scorpius dynamic is very sweet, and I’m glad no one tried to turn it into a second-generation version of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I was very happy to see several young people—people who would’ve been too young to be original Harry Potter readers—quickly walking to the shelves when I went to a bookstore yesterday. I’m glad to know a young generation might be getting excited about the theatre and seeing that very real magic happening live.

In the end, though, I’m much more excited about the prospect of the Fantastic Beasts film adaptations for two reasons. First, J.K. Rowling really wrote the screenplay and I’d trust her with anything, and second, though we’re staying in the Wizarding World, we’ll be meeting an entirely new crop of characters and can’t be disappointed by recreations of people we already know and love.

In 2011, when the final film in the series was released, J.K. Rowling said Hogwarts will always be there to welcome us home. She’s right. But for now, I think I’ll stick to those perfect books she gave us nearly a decade ago.

2016 Reading List #34: Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll

I didn’t know much about Luckiest Girl Alive until this past March, when author Jessica Knoll made headlines for revealing that the sexual assault in this novel is based on an experience she had as a high school student (you can read Knoll’s moving essay from Lenny here).

To be honest, I’m always very wary of reading current bestsellers, so I was slow to approach this novel. I’ve been let down many times by what Entertainment Weekly recommends (though, to be fair, they’re the reason I read Gone Girl, but that’s an exception). But when I had a gift card to spend, I decided to give this book a try. Thankfully, this was a worthwhile reading experience.

Luckiest Girl Alive is the story of 28-year-old TifAni FaNelli, a woman hell bent on working her way toward a WASPy life in New York City. She’s soon to be married, has a good job working for a women’s magazine, and does her best to erase her lower class life by dropping the “Tif”from her first name.

Ani is a character who can be hard to love, but the past trauma in her life makes her harsh personality more understandable. The book alternates between chapters in the present and chapters that tell the story of 14-year-old Ani, when she lives through some major life-changing events. We know Ani is somewhat infamous and preparing to star in a documentary, though the event the documentary covers is left ambiguous for most of the novel.

There are bits of Knoll’s writing that irked me (though I think that’s really the fault of a lazy editor), and sometimes the plot is a bit too 0n-the-nose, but I think Knoll is incredibly brave for sharing bits of her own story.

Reese Witherspoon’s production company bought the film rights to the novel before it was even published, and I think the story will work well on screen. I’d also like to throw out a suggestion and say Shiri Appleby of Lifetime’s UnREAL should be cast in the lead role. Just an idea.

Now I’m turning back to Tess of the D’Urbervilles more permanently and trying to keep myself from getting distracted by other reading projects. Wish me luck!

2016 Reading List #31: The Crucible, by Arthur Miller

This marked my third time reading Arthur Miller’s classic The Crucible, but I was no less struck by its weight this time than during any of my previous reading experiences.

The Crucible is largely famous because Miller used its setting during the Salem witch trials to parallel his feelings about the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare. The thing I find most striking about the play is Miller’s ability to make the tension and frustration so palpable. Though I know what the expect of the plot, I am equally enraged by it on every reading, which I think speaks to Miller’s mastery as a playwright.

Since I’m slowly making my way through Arthur Miller’s collected plays this year, I was especially struck to see the thematic similarities between The Crucible and An Enemy of the People, Miller’s adaptation of Ibsen’s work that chronologically precedes The Crucible. Both plays take on the importance of truth in the face of an antagonistic community. Miller really knows how to tap into the power of a fearful community, particularly when they choose to point the finger at a common enemy.