Oscar Time, 2018

As you may know, it’s my favorite time of year – Oscar time!! This year, of the nine nominated films, I have seen seven. While I liked most of them, I am struggling with what Best Picture really means. None of them swept me off my feet or shook me to my core. Or is Best Picture the one that will hold up 20 years from now?  One we will still be talking about or have to watch every time we see it airing on television (or available on Netflix)? (Shawshank Redemption, cough.) I don’t know. Frankly, I’m flummoxed by how some even got the nomination, but that’s a whole other conversation. I’m not predicting winners here, but I will tell you a few movies I liked.

Of the seven I have seen, my top three are The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird. The first two are, simply put, romances – exemplifying that you really can’t help with whom you fall in love. The performances are breathtaking. I thought it was going to be Sally Hawkins’s year; you really get and feel her character yet she barely utters a word. The emotion she puts behind everything she does is truly impressive. Unfortunately for her, I’m pretty positive it’s Frances McDormand’s year. She is a force – not an undeserving win at all for her turn in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, just bad luck for Sally. As for CMBYN, Timothee Chalamet is fantastic. You can’t take your eyes off of him. He plays guitar and piano, he speaks multiple languages and he acts pretty well, too. (You can also catch him in Lady Bird, by the way.) He won’t win either (early congrats to Gary Oldman who is unrecognizable in Darkest Hour) but I look forward to seeing his future work. I really enjoyed some of the soundtrack during the movie, too.

Lady Bird is a very realistic snapshot of a teenage girl itching to get of her town while fighting, loving, trying to please and pushing away her mother. Laurie Metcalf is remarkable. I thought she was a shoo-in, and then I saw I, Tonya. I love me some Allison Janney (“West Wing,” “Mom,” and The Way Way Back – she is something else.)

Quick plug for Molly’s Game – it only got a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination, but it was great. Jessica Chastain is terrific and the director/writer is Aaron Sorkin (“The West Wing,” “Sports Night,” A Few Good Men – you know the writing is going to be top-notch!) It won’t win but that’s ok, it’s definitely worth watching.

Oscar’s are on this Sunday night – love me some Jimmy Kimmel.  Enjoy!

 

Books

I have a belated Valentine’s Day book suggestion. I was going to recommend it earlier but the timing didn’t seem appropriate what with everything going on in the real world so I’m making it now. It does require some homework, however. If you haven’t read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (first of all, how is that possible?!) then you must start there. And read it with tissues next to you. As you know, I try to keep it positive on this blog, but I’m about to throw some shade (sorry Ms. Moyes). Moyes wrote a sequel called Me After You. I told people not to read it. I didn’t like it. Instead, I directed friends to another of her books, One Plus One – so good! When I heard she wrote a third book in the series, I was not optimistic, but I took the plunge. It’s called Still Me and it’s….terrific. I really loved it. “Do I have to read the second book?” you may ask. Yes, you do. Maybe you’ll like it more since I’ve lowered your expectations? Let’s hope for that.

If you’re looking for a good mystery that you can read in a couple days, try The Dry by Jane Harper. You’ll feel parched as if you are experiencing the drought in the Outback along with the characters and you’ll have no idea what is going to happen.

If you like historical fiction, try Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate.   Unbelievably based on real-life events; poor children were stolen, neglected/abused and then sold to wealthy individuals. It was well written even though it hurt to read.

 

Song of the blog (Click on the link.)

In honor of Baby Driver’s three nominations, I’m going to plug its star, Ansel Elgort, and his song “Thief.”  It’s not new but it’s a favorite in our house.

 

Thanks for reading!

2017 In Review

Following, are the books I read (in order) in 2017; if I recommend it, it has an asterisk in front of it.

  1. The Versions Of Us – Laura Barnett
  2. *The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo – Amy Schumer
  3. *Eligible – Curtis Sittenfeld
  4. Today Will Be Different – Maria Semple
  5. *You – Caroline Kepness
  6. *Modern Lovers – Emma Straub
  7. The Enchanted Life Of Adam Hope – Rhonda Riley
  8. Difficult Women – Roxane Gay
  9. *Commonwealth – Ann Patchett
  10. The Regulars – Georgia Clark
  11. Sting – Sandra Brown
  12. *The Arrangement – Mary Balough
  13. *Hillbilly Elegy – J.D. Vance
  14. *Natural Born Charmer – Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  15. *Exit West – Mohsin Hamid
  16. *The Trouble With Mistletoe – Jill Shalvis
  17. *Marrying Winterborne – Lisa Kleypas
  18. *Devil in Spring – Lisa Kleypas
  19. Maestra – L.S. Hilton
  20. My Name Is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout
  21. *Talking As Fast As I Can – Lauren Graham
  22. The People We Hate At The Wedding – Greg Ginder
  23. The Light We Lost – Jill Santopolo
  24. *The Hopefuls – Jennifer Close
  25. *Anything Is Possible – Elizabeth Strout
  26. The Woman In Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
  27. The Assistants – Camille Perri
  28. *The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  29. *Less – Andrew Sean Greer
  30. *Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
  31. *Young Jane Young – Gabrielle Zevin
  32. *The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry – Gabrielle Zevin
  33. Mrs. Fletcher – Tom Perotta
  34. *Bonfire – Krysten Ritter
  35. *Sing, Unburied, Sing – Jesmyn Ward
  36. *Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo

My top 5 from this list are (click on the link for more details):

  1. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry  It came out in 2014 but I hadn’t read it. If you read a lot, you will LOVE this book. Even if you don’t, I’m not sure how you couldn’t like it. I found it reminiscent of A Man Called Ove in that the lead character is quirky but, ultimately, loveable. A joy to read.
  2. Eligible  I told everyone to read this book – it’s just so fun! A modern Pride & Prejudice with a little “Bachelor” thrown in.
  3. Anything Is Possible  I wrote about this in my last blog so I won’t repeat myself. I’ll just say it’s more like a short story collection where in all the characters are from the same town. Beautifully written.
  4. Marrying Winterborne  It’s romance, I know it’s not for all of you but it’s my list and I love Kleypas’s books.
  5. You  Creeeeeeeeeeepy

 

TV

I suggest, if you haven’t already, you read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I had not read it and was thrilled when my book club chose it. One of our members is a former teacher (Hi Karen K!) who LOVED this book and taught it often. She helped break it down for us and pulled out the intricacies. I liked the book though I did find it hard to get through at times which was the point of the writing style, I believe. If you’re NOT going to read it, PLEASE watch the television series on Hulu. It is phenomenal. I blitzed through it in 2 days and I never do that. The acting is terrific and the story is terrifying and seems all too possibly possible.

My favorite new show, which, as per usual, will probably get canceled, is “Kevin Probably Saves The World.” I love Jason Ritter in it and I find it heartwarming and sweet.

I also like “The Good Doctor” but I’m not alone as it’s the #1 new show this year.

“Outlander” kind of lost me in season 2 but has brought me way back with season 3.

One of my most favorite shows (I tape it every week) is “Sunday Morning on CBS.” In this time of in-your-face news and constant horrifying revelations, it offers stories of hope and mostly goodwill. I encourage my whole family to watch with me because there’s something for everyone. It always concludes with a video of calming nature somewhere to remind us the beauty that is out there; we should appreciate it.

 

Movies

I’m not going to list all the movies I saw this past year but I will list my top 5:

  1. La La Land (saw it in Feb)
  2. Baby Driver
  3. Wonder Woman
  4. Coco
  5. (tie) Spider Man – Homecoming and John Wick 2

I know this is a 2017 summary but I just saw Lady Bird and Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle and highly recommend both, especially Jumanji – great for the whole family (over 10 yrs old probably).

 

Song of the Blog

We lost a lot of incredibly talented people last year.   One of the ones who hit me the hardest was Tom Petty. I think he had a lot more rock ‘n roll left in him. “Breakdown” (click on it to listen) is one of my all-time favorite songs.  It takes me right back to hanging in the basement with my cousins and playing their pinball machine; a much simpler time.

 

Happy New Year all, thanks so much for reading.

End of summer ’17 recs…

If you find yourself heading into Labor Day weekend with some extra time on your hands, here are some suggestions as to how to fill it:

First let me get my broken record TV suggestions out of the way –

  1. “Younger” on TV Land – It’s soooooooo good.  I don’t know what else to say.
  2. “Odd Mom Out” on Bravo – It’s still funny.  I laughed LOUDLY at the end of ep. 7.
  3. “Catastrophe” on Amazon Prime – I am literally not watching season 3 yet because I don’t want it to be over and then have to wait for season 4.  Well, it makes sense to me.

Ok, now for the “thanks for the heads up” entry  – “Game of Thrones” rocks.  If you haven’t started and are on the edge but thinking that there’s no way… it’s 7 seasons… I just can’t do it.  Do it.  I loved this last season.  For some reason episode 3 really stuck out to me, it was just done/written so smartly.  And that finale?  The treason trial?!   So much happened but I did not see that coming.

I was very in to “American Gods” on Starz.  I read the book a few years ago and did not really enjoy it.  Television, especially cable television, provides the perfect medium for this story; very visual and super crazy.

Ok, two books:  I just read Lauren Graham’s Talking As Fast As I Can.  As a huge “Gilmore Girls” fan, this collection of personal essays was extremely fun for me to read.  She just seems very cool, we’d of course be very good friends if we ever met.

The next rec is Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout.  This book has gotten many positive reviews and recommendations but is tagged as a sort of sequel to a previously written book of hers, My Name Is Lucy Barton.  So I read that one first.  Here’s the thing, I did not love that book.  It does lay the foundation for Anything Is Possible, though I guess you don’t HAVE to read it first. I just found Lucy hard to get into, the flow didn’t really work for me.  I do think it adds to the richness of Anything and offers more context though, so that one’s a mixed recommendation.    Anything Is Possible is more like a short story compilation which I normally do not care for but, for some reason, I totally did here.  Each chapter is a different story of someone mentioned in Lucy.  The writing is beautiful and compelling, I loved it.

Future movie:  This week, my friend Karen and I saw a screening of Reese Witherspoon’s new movie, Home Again.  If you are a female, grab a bunch of your girlfriends (especially if you/they are over 40) and go when it comes out.  It’s super cute.  Leave your men at home, they won’t get it or care.  Not enough of a plug?  The adorable (young) love interest has amazing dimples.  Swoon.

Song of the blog:

A big thank you to my niece Sophie who turned me onto this band.  This song is my 16 year old’s favorite by them.  Please enjoy “Good Girls” by LANY.

Happy Labor Day weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun In The Summertime…

Let me begin by saying, my kids are at camp.

When I think of summer movies of late, I think of tent-pole productions, comic book superheroes, just BIG; overproduction, overspending, junk food movies. Sometimes that’s ok. More often, I wish a movie studio would bypass making that violent, stunt-filled film and give the money to teachers instead. I usually take a pass.

Not this summer. I have seen a lot of movies, most being tent-pole productions. The definition of tent-pole is a program or movie that supports the financial performance of a movie studio or television network. By that definition, the movie studios should be feeling pretty darn good right now and deservedly so. I’m breaking no ground by recommending the following movies. But if you are on the fence, let me push you forward.

Wonder Woman – I’m assuming you’ve seen it since it is breaking all sorts of attendance records. If you haven’t – why not? It’s awesome. I know I’m biased (see pic of my blog) but this movie does Diana Prince’s legacy well.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – So fun and very visually appealing.

Spider-Man: Homecoming – This movie has brought joy back into the genre. I kind of gave up on this franchise, and I’m not really sure how many times you can keep remaking the same story. That being said, I love the way they tied in to the Avengers and all the cameos were great – they really seem like a team. I will admit I don’t care so much about the team, but it’s fun to watch. Marvel is killing it right now.

On a plane a few weeks ago, I caught John Wick: Chapter 2. It is very violent and not exactly dialogue-heavy, but I’m a sucker for Keanu Reeves and I loved it.

Baby Driver is fantastic. Pumping with music (which you know I love) and then choreographed to that music all the way through. I can’t imagine how much work was put into filming the timing of this movie. I loved everything about it, plus it was fun to see Atlanta all over it.

Those are a lot of big, loud movies. If that’s not your thing (tho I think you should try), go see The Big Sick. It’s not perfect, but it’s sweet, funny, original and, most unbelievably, based on a true story. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are terrific. Big themes are covered with a lot of heart – it’s a good one.

The next two films I can’t wait to see are Atomic Blonde and The Dark Tower – you will see previews to both in every movie above, except for The Big Sick.

Unfortunately, I have nothing on the book front. I have a pile on my nightstand but I’ve just quit another one I had high hopes for so I got nothin’.

I’ll cover tv soon, but I will leave you with this because winter is coming and I can’t wait…

Things I’ve Loved Recently…

Sunday, Feb 26th, is the Academy Awards – my favorite television night of the year. My husband knows he is “on duty” and the kids know that they can’t “interrupt.” One year I threw a party, never again. I like to focus; I listen to every speech. I have 3 friends with whom I text throughout and 1 I speak to during commercials. The latter friend, Jason, and I have been ballot competing for over 20 years (yikes!). We both have such terrible memories we can’t remember who’s winning, though I’m pretty sure he is.

I’m sorry to admit that I’ve only seen 4 of the 9 Best Picture nominees. I don’t like to write about what I haven’t seen and I try to only promote what I highly recommend so, based on those parameters, I will tell you that I loved 2 of these films.

We took the whole family to see Hidden Figures. It is the first PG, non-children’s, movie we have gone to together. I really liked Zootopia, Moana and Finding Dory, but sometimes I want to go to a quality, “real” movie and not have to pay a babysitter. I used to go to the movies with my parents when I was a kid all the time. I’ve sadly realized that you can’t really do that anymore. But with Hidden Figures we could, we did and we all enjoyed it. The storytelling is important, the acting is terrific and the light that it shined on that time period is something everyone should see. I have told many people I would be thrilled if it won best picture.

And then I saw La La Land. I loooooooooved this movie. I know some people don’t get what all the fuss is about, but I do. I have been watching some “31 Days of Oscar” on TCM because I love catching up on movies that I haven’t seen or haven’t seen in a while. Plus, I grew up on musicals so I think I was in the right mindset for this movie. The colors are so bright, the dancing is whimsical and fun, the score takes you to another place; I loved it all. I think Emma Stone is a rock star – that girl can act! And sing, and dance…and she just seems so normal and nice, we’d for sure be best friends, just saying. It made my heart soar and ache – I loved it.

In another category, I really hope The Jungle Book wins for Visual Effects because that movie was amazing.

As for books, I loved, loved, loved Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. (Her American Wife is on my all-time faves list from blog 1.) It’s a modern take on Pride and Prejudice with a little “Bachelor” thrown in. I laughed, I teared up and I didn’t want to put it down.

On the television front, I liked the first episode of “Big Little Lies” on HBO. It’s based on my 2nd favorite Liane Moriarty book. My top 5 of hers are:

  1. What Alice Forgot
  2. Big Little Lies
  3. Three Wishes
  4. The Husband’s Secret
  5. The Last Anniversary

On a side note, I just read that Jennifer Aniston is in talks to star in the big-screen adaptation of What Alice Forgot – THAT is exciting, I love Jen – I think we’d be best friends, too.

Reese Witherspoon looks phenomenal and has quite the meaty part. She’s a stay at home mom who gets to be funny, feisty, bitchy and nice – just like me!  Kidding (?).   I really appreciate the bevy of female actresses who are in it, and the men aren’t bad to look at either.

“Jane the Virgin” just threw me for quite a loop with the death of a main character. I’m assuming none of you watch this show but I really wish you would. It is so, so good and Gina Rodriguez is a wonderful actress.

On a serious note, I think everyone should watch season 3, episode 12 of “blackish.” I am not a politics girl. I wish our government was like “The West Wing,” my fear is that it’s closer to “House of Cards” and that the system is broken.  (I felt this way before the election.)  This episode gives a voice to all sides post-election and does it in a way that (hopefully) offends no one. I made my family watch it so they could see all perspectives. I thought it was fantastic.

Song of the blog:

I wanna crank this up everytime I hear it: “Bonfire” by The Hunna.

*click here*

Until next time…

My Books of 2016

These are the books I read in 2016. If I recommend it, I put an * in front of it. They are listed by date read, not preference.

  1. *City of Thieves – David Benioff
  2. The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion
  3. *The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters
  4. *Ally Hughes Has Sex Sometimes – Jules Moulin
  5. Silver Bay – Jojo Moyes
  6. Fast Women – Jennifer Crusie
  7. *Cold-Hearted Rake – Lisa Kleypas
  8. The Dinner – Herman Koch
  9. The Hypnotist’s Love Story – Liane Moriarty
  10. The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness
  11. *The Nightengale – Kristin Hannah
  12. The Swans of Fifth Avenue – Melanie Benjamin
  13. *Carry On – Rainbow Rowell
  14. Fates and Furies – Lauren Groff
  15. *Maybe in Another Life – Taylor Jenkins Reid
  16. Heart of Fire – Linda Howard
  17. Troublemaker – Linda Howard
  18. *The Last Anniversary – Liane Moriarty
  19. Tangled – Emma Chase
  20. *The Nest – Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
  21. The Girls – Emma Cline
  22. *Three Wishes – Liane Moriarty
  23. *Darkness – Karen Robards
  24. *Sweetbitter – Stephanie Danler
  25. The Vegetarian – Han Kang
  26. Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty
  27. The Valley of the Moon – Melanie Gideon
  28. *First Star I See Tonight – Susan Elizabeth Phillips
  29. *A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman
  30. *Fool Me Once – Harlan Coben
  31. *When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi
  32. *You’ll Grow Out of It – Jessi Klein
  33. *The Chemist – Stephenie Meyer
  34. *The Stranger – Harlan Coben
  35. Paris For One – Jojo Moyes
  36. *Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain

Some of the books I didn’t put an asterisk by are on other publications’ “Best Of” lists. What can I say? It’s not (always) that I think it’s poorly written or bad, I just can’t think of to whom I’d recommend it.

My top 5 from this list are:

  1. When Breath Becomes Air
  2. A Man Called Ove
  3. City of Thieves
  4. Three Wishes
  5. (tie) The Paying Guests & Sweetbitter

The books at #5 are not easy reads. While reading The Paying Guests, I had to put the book down, get up and walk around to shake it off because it is unnerving and tense at times while other moments I would marvel at how beautiful a sentence was. Sweetbitter is about the wild and indulgent life of a waitress. I was a waitress and my life was nothing like that, but I thought it was interesting.

On a lighter note, I just finished Amy Schumer’s, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo. There were parts that had me laughing to tears, she really is funny and very readable. It’s definitely raunchy and she curses a ton (Dad, you won’t like it) but she mixes her humor with stories from her life, as well sobering topics like MS and gun control, thus making her very real and likable. I thought it was terrific.

TV

I have kept two new dramas from the fall on my rotation, and sadly I think one of them isn’t coming back.

I, and a lot of America, love “This Is Us.” It has certainly filled the hole that “Parenthood” left. Each week I can’t get over how well the writers are doing. Things don’t go the way you think they will so it’s surprising enough to keep me guessing. I think the acting is terrific and I’m SOOOO happy Milo is back on tv.   : )

My other show is “Pitch.” It’s about the first female professional baseball player and I really, really hope it isn’t already canceled even though I’m apparently 1 of 5 people watching it. Mark-Paul Gosselaar is in it and, though I was not a “Saved By the Bell” girl, I am impressed and am enjoying his performance.

(Side note, I’m on episode 7 of “Westworld” and 4 of “The Crown.” I’m just not ready to comment.)

I’m also enjoying the new comedies “Speechless,” “The Good Place” and “People of Earth.” Are they mind-blowing?  No, but they are sweet and funny which is good, too.

Other than that, my queue is mostly comedies. Here’s what I’m watching:

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Younger,” “Blackish,” “Fresh Off the Boat,” “Mom” (This show is deep; very serious yet very funny.  Allison Janney and Anna Faris are fantastic.  Plus an old neighbor of mine from NY is sometimes on it so that’s fun.), “Life in Pieces,” “Modern Family,” “The Real O’Neals,” “New Girl,” and “Superstore.”

Again, if you haven’t watched “Catastrophe” on Amazon Prime, please do. So funny.

That’s about it for now, no song of the blog today.  Happy New Year!

What’s taking so long?

It’s been a while, I know. People have been asking me when the next blog is coming out and I keep saying that I’m waiting for a theme to make itself known to me. Then I realized that I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. The whole point of my blog is to share entertainment recommendations; you don’t need a long exposition. Who wants that? I know I don’t have time to read a long blog, much less write one.

So here we go – a few things I’ve loved the past few months.

Movie

I like to grade my movies. I can’t remember the last movie I gave an A to, maybe an A-, Sing Street for example. The Jungle Book was an A. I didn’t even want to see it because I have never been a fan of the cartoon movie. Well, it blew me away. My regret in recommending it now is that you won’t be seeing it in the theater in 3D. (I’ll strive to be a little more timely from now on.) I almost never opt for viewing in 3D but I heard this was the way to see it. It was. Outstanding.

Theatre

Is Hamilton really that amazing? Yes, it is. Obviously, running off to NY and getting tickets is not super easy – I get that. If you do find yourself in NY though, try. If not, go see it when it starts to travel. I’ve got to think the performers chosen for the traveling show will more than do the show justice. That being said, when our Angelica (Renee Elise Goldsberry) sang, tears just started pouring down my face.  Was I sad? Nope. Same thing happens to me in the very beginning of the play The Lion King. Simply overwhelming.

While I’m talking Broadway, a bunch of shows are closing that are really worth seeing. If you can’t see these in NY, try to catch them if they tour in your city. Fun Home won the Tony for best musical in 2015, but it is not your typical musical. My NY plug is that the theatre is small so you really feel like you are there with the lead character as you watch her throughout her life.  Something Rotten! is laugh-out-loud funny and Matilda is great for the whole family, even my then-7-year old was rapt.

TV

The only summer programming I remember loving was “Odd Mom Out” – consistently funny – and “Catastrophe” – season 2 was, again, a 6 30-minute episode season on Amazon Prime. SO FUNNY, please watch it.

Other than that, I watched up to season 4, episode 4, of “Game of Thrones.” I honestly can’t remember if I watched anything else.  And I have no idea when I’m going to be able to finish GOT which is making me a little crazy.

As for fall TV, I’m not ready to put my stamp on anything yet. I’ll get back to you.

Books

I went through a big ole drought this summer. A lot of the hyped-up books left me disappointed. Sporadically, there’d be a book that was ok but I really try to recommend books that I LOVE.

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve breezed through 3 books that I would like to recommend, a little something for everyone (none are brand new, I just finally got around to reading them).

A Man Called Ove – Fredrik Backman   I’m not going to give any plot points in any of these books because I don’t want to give anything away. I will just share that it took me a little bit to get into the groove of the storytelling; I actually almost quit. But my friend Jill kept telling me I’d like it so I soldiered on. So glad I did.

Fool Me Once – Harlen Coben   Suspense/thrillers are not my usual genre. This wasn’t perfect, don’t get me wrong, but I could not put it down. I think I read it in 2 days. I also learned something. I learned about Occam’s razor, which is a problem-solving principle basically positing that when you have competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. It gets mentioned a lot which is funny because it also showed up in the book I read next…

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi    I wonder how many times I just skipped over a mention of Occam’s razor because I didn’t know what it was?   Not important. This book, however, is. I would like to give this book to people, especially doctors, but it’s not an easy book to read. Not giving anything away here, the author was a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer at 36. He wrote his memoir beautifully and sagely. It’s a gift he has left us.

That’s it for now.  In the future, if I have a recommendation or two – I’ll just pass them along; my future posts may be a little shorter.  I’m assuming that’s ok with everyone.

Song of the Blog:

“Sweet Disaster” by Dreamers is my favorite song at the moment.  I hope you enjoy!

A Child of the 80s

In 2014 a couple of terrific “little” movies came out that really touched me.

Chef, from director and star Jon Favreau is about a man who loses pretty much everything and finds a way to get it back. Don’t watch it hungry because your stomach will not stop growling, it makes food look especially delicious. This movie stayed at our “indie” theater for months, which is pretty much unheard of these days. I asked an employee why and he said that as long as people were coming, they were going to keep playing it. Made me like them even more.

Begin Again was written and directed by John Carney (Once) and stars Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine. It is a tale of losing love, personal re-invention, and making beautiful music in New York. I loved this movie. In fact, everyone I’ve talked to who has seen it has loved it as well. I even checked out the soundtrack after seeing the movie. For a taste, check out the mix near the end of this blog.

I mention these movies because they really have stayed with me. They were wonderful in the theater and would be even better in your family room. You don’t hear a lot about movies like these much. Movies are big and loud and superhero-y or over-the-top raunchy or ridiculous rom-coms. Sometimes that’s ok, I’m not really complaining. It just makes me appreciate when a small, thoughtful movie comes along that is truly powerful in a way that takes me by surprise.

John Carney seems to have mastered this genre because his new movie, Sing Street, fits right in. It’s a story about a teenage boy trying to make it through his teens in Dublin in the 80s. I took my bestie, Jenny, with me to a screening of it and, we (quoting Jenny) “loved every minute of it.” Even though we didn’t grow up in Ireland, we could totally relate also being children of the 80s (albeit in Ohio). Teenage years are hard, kids are trying to find themselves grasping at any persona that looks remotely appealing.  I remember when MTV and videos were new and exciting, showing us a window to all kinds of possibilities. It was powerful stuff.  (We stayed up til midnight to watch the premiere of “Thriller” and then couldn’t stop talking about it.) If you were in a band, or wanted to be in a band, or if you just listened to the radio – you will be touched by this movie.

As I was thinking about the 80s I thought of two books that also captured that era for me. I’ve put both of these on my favorites list but with no descriptions.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell is a YA novel about two outcast teens growing up in Omaha in the 80s, navigating life and first love. 80’s music is a refuge for Park; he was way more musically advanced than I was at that age. I didn’t discover bands like The Smiths and Depeche Mode until the 90s. The really special thing about this book though is it takes you back to first love; how it felt and how all-consuming it was. Who doesn’t want to feel that again?

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is one of the coolest, most creative books I’ve ever read. Essentially it’s about a virtual contest set in motion upon the death of the creator of the world’s most famous video game system to win his billions. It is set in an ugly future (yet scarily realistic, maybe inevitable?) but it is steeped in 80’s nostalgia. This and The Martian and This Is Where I Leave You are also my guy recommendation books. Can’t misses. Plus Steven Spielberg is going to direct the movie. Cannot wait.

Now for music…

I just finished another mix. I have a “Good Stuff” theme going; as I find songs I like, I add them to a playlist. When it’s full (about 20 songs), I burn it to a CD (hand out a few, keep one in my car) and then start the next one. I just made “Good Stuff 5” and am happy to share it. (My 12 year old has put the stamp of approval on it so there’s an endorsement for you.)

Some of these songs I have mentioned previously. Some you may not know. I read about them, hear them on XM or hear them in a TV show or movie. I will listen to the track a couple times, make sure I like it, then I add it to the playlist, this could take a year so some songs are kind of old and some may be very recent. When I get to 20ish, I play around with the order and then I’m done.

Hope you like it (I’m so hi tech now, you can click on it if it’s hyperlinked and listen):

  1. First” – Cold War Kids    (I put it 1st, get it?)  I really dig this song; the combo of his voice, the drums – whatever, I’m just in.
  2. “Take Me To Church” – Hozier
  3. The Wolf” – Mumford & Sons    I LOVE this song. “Cause you were all I ever longed for…” Swoon.
  4. “Long Way Down” – Robert DeLong
  5. Begin Again” – Purity Ring   Cool beat with a delicate vocal.
  6. Every Other Freckle” – alt-J    A little creepy stalkerish but I still like it.
  7. Hero” – Family of the Year   Kinda folksy and fun.
  8. “Talking Body” – Tove Lo
  9. 10,000 Emerald Pools” – BORNS   Seems like it should’ve been on the Twilight soundtrack, has that vibe.
  10. Lost Stars” – Adam Levine    This is from Begin Again and I can’t stop listening to it.  It was Oscar-nominated in 2015 for Best Original Song.
  11. Fade Into You” – Sam Palladio & Claire Bowen    This is from Nashville. I am a sucker for a good harmony and this has one. It’s hauntingly beautiful. I like this TV show but the bonus is that every now and then someone sings a song and it blows me away. “Good Stuff 4” has “A Life That’s Good” by Lennon & Maisy, sisters on and off the show.
  12. I Know You” – Skylar Grey    This is from the Fifty Shades of Grey. I love her voice. I have a couple songs from her on my iTunes.
  13. “Here” – Alessia Cara    I also like “Wild Things,” but I didn’t have this one on a mix yet.
  14. Eyes Wide” – Meadowlark   Eerily beautiful vocals with a good beat.
  15. Hold the Line” – Jack and Eliza   Beachy vibe with great harmonies.
  16. Greek Tragedy” – The Wombats    One of my favorite bands right now.
  17. Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl” – Wet   Pretty and peaceful.
  18. “Dreams” – Beck
  19. R.I.P. 2 My Youth” – The Neighbourhood    “Sweater Weather” is one of my favorites. This is off their most recent album.
  20. Castle” – Halsey     This is on her latest album tho you may have heard it in the new The Huntsman: Winter’s War  trailer.  I liked Snow White & the Huntsman but my favorite part was when the movie credits came on and Florence + The Machine’s “Breath of Life” started playing. Holy cow. I had a visceral reaction of joy, I LOVED it immediately (it’s on “Good Stuff 3”). This song has a very similar vibe and, thanks to Zoe bringing it to my attention, it completed my mix.

 

Song of the blog…

I was halfway through writing this entry when the news of Prince broke. My title became more eerily appropriate. Like most others, I agree that Purple Rain is a classic. Two of my favorite Prince songs are not from that album, however.

In college there were some pretty great bands that played a lot around campus. One in particular (Bob Popular anyone?) would play Prince’s “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man.” I requested it every time I saw them, which was often. It got to the point that they’d see me coming and give me a wave, like “we see you, it’s coming.” Every time it pops up on my music (because I never really hear it on the radio), it takes me back to college and fun times.

7” is from the Love Symbol Album from 1992. A perk of working at HMV was when new records came out they would be played in the store. This song just clicked with me. I love it.

Be well.

2015: My Entertainment Year in Review

2015 was a tough year but, as is often the case, much good was sprinkled throughout. In the realm of entertainment, there was lots of good.

I feel like I’ve covered TV pretty thoroughly in my summer and fall posts.

Books

As I said before, I’m not going to waste your time with books I think are fine. Here are my recommendations from what I read in 2015, I hope you find something you like, too. I’ve covered some of these already. (They are listed in the order of my reading.)

The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

The Martian – Andy Weir

The Invention of Wings – Sue Monk Kidd

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

The Light of the World – Elizabeth Alexander – A poet’s beautifully written memoir of joy and loss.

Attachments – Rainbow Rowell

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins – People seem to love or hate this book. I expected to dislike it because I often find I don’t like “the” book everyone is talking about it. I thought it was great in that creepy way. I’m very excited that Emily Blunt is starring in the movie.

City of Thieves – David Benioff – Yes, the guy behind “The Game of Thrones.” No, it’s nothing like that. Fun fact, he’s married to Amanda Peet. It is actually a sweet, gory, gripping WWII novel.

 

Songs

Nothing better than driving along when a song I love is playing on the radio. I crank up the volume and sing my heart out. (Yes, sometimes my kids are in the car.)

Here are my favorites of last year, in no particular order:

Hozier – “Take Me to Church”

Adele – “Hello”

The Weeknd – “I Can’t Feel My Face”

Alessia Cara – “Here”

Robert DeLong – “Long Way Down”

Alt-J – “Every Other Freckle”

Beck – “Dreams”

Cold War Kids – “First”

 

Movies

I loved these movies. If I was giving out awards, these are the movies I would give them to.

The Martian – Everything I could’ve hoped for. Matt Damon is the bomb! It did the book proud.

Room – The acting by both leads is spectacular. These may not be the easiest 2 hours you’ll spend, but they will be worth it. I understand people’s reticence in seeing this; I would not read the book. It really is so good though; you will keep thinking about it long after you leave the theater.

Spotlight – Such a well-told story. You more understand how the entire situation got swept under the rug for as long as it did.

Star Wars: Episode VII – After re-watching the original Star Wars (episode IV), I’ve come to realize that this new one is pretty much a copy of the old one but…whatever.   It’s SO much better than the most recent three and my kids loved it too.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – see my summer blog

The Big Short – Like an entertaining tutorial on explaining how the housing market fiasco occurred.

Spy – see my summer blog

 

Song of the blog:

In honor of the many talented people who have recently passed, here’s one of my all-time favorite covers:  Nirvana singing David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World.”

 

My Favorite 2015 Fall TV Shows:

Fall is my most favorite season. I LOVE the weather (changing of the leaves; cool, crisp air), I like the clothing better and I get to watch a whole new crop of television shows! Each August/September I anxiously await the new fall TV issue of Entertainment Weekly, I take notes and I make a schedule for my viewing pleasure.

I try to watch everything (don’t judge). If a show grabs me, even a little, I will hang on for ep. 2, then episode 3, and so on. If not, I’m out. I’m still watching quite a few. Due to the staggered roll-out of shows, I haven’t seen enough of some to know yet (Fargo) and haven’t even started some (Angel From Hell).

I have mentioned some of these in past blogs, but my favorite NOT new shows are:

Dramas –

The Good Wife (CBS) – The most quality television show on air for me right now.

Scandal (ABC) – Still good.   Started to lose me a little last season but I’m back.

The Blacklist (NBC) – James Spader really is great, just the right amount of smarmy yet still likeable.

Jane The Virgin (CW) – Handles charming, serious and funny deftly.

The Affair (SHO) – I’ve only watched the first two episodes but I already like it better than season 1. It’s so clever how different their perspectives are (even down to the clothes!) and I think adding the exes’ adds even more to the story.

(Also, if you didn’t watch Mr. Robot (USA), you should. The penultimate episode was mind-blowing.)

Comedies –

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (FOX) – Andy Samberg is terrific. My whole family thinks this show is really funny.

Modern Family (ABC) – I don’t know how they can stay funny for this long but they do and they do it so well, another family favorite.

Fresh Off the Boat (ABC) – It’s sweet and a fun flashback to a time before cell phones and the Internet.

You’re the Worst (FXX) – NOT for the whole family but raunchy and laugh out loud sarcasm at its finest.

Here are the NEW shows that I am enjoying so far:

Dramas –

Limitless (CBS) – I really like the lead, Jake McDorman. He’s cocky yet likeable. Oh, to have that much brainpower. I never saw the movie with Bradley Cooper but I really like that Mr. Cooper shows up every now and then. It gives the show some heft and makes me want to see the movie. If only I had the time…

Blindspot (NBC) – I thought the concept was very cool in the beginning. Now I’m kind of wondering how they are going to continually explain the fortuitous coincidence of each dangerous situation matching a tattoo of hers spaced out so nicely. It’s like watching a movie fight scene when the attackers make their moves one guy at a time. Really? Someone took the time to tattoo this woman’s whole body, how lucky for the FBI that these events are happening in such a linear fashion. I’m still entertained tho. Plus she has a super cute haircut.

Quantico (ABC) – Even though I have it on authority that this is not at all an accurate depiction of Quantico, I still like it. It’s a real whodunit. We know a bit about all the characters but not everything. It’s twisty and turn-y and fun to watch.

The Player (NBC) – I assumed this would immediately fall off my list, but I’m still in. I like the lead, Philip Winchester, and I am kind of happy for Wesley Snipes that he has a good job!

Comedies –

Grandfathered – How good does John Stamos look?! Unreal. I’d probably still watch it even if it weren’t funny. Luckily, it is. Plus the son reminds me of my cousin (hi, Adam).

The Grinder – Rob Lowe is no slouch in the looks department either but it’s Fred Savage who gets me. He and the wife are great together and he always has these reactions/sideways glances that are great. I really like this show.

As for books, I got stuck in a holding pattern while reading my book club book. I didn’t read anything else because I thought if I was reading, I should be reading that, and I didn’t really want to read that so…nothing. Book club has since passed, next book is The Martian which I have read and loved and already told you all to read, so now I am free to read anything. Just haven’t loved anything yet, so nothing to report there.

Haven’t been able to get to the movies, but when I do, it will be to see The Martian.

As for music, I am loving Alessia Cara’s “Here,” Beck’s “Dreams,” The Neighbourhood’s “R.I.P. 2 My Youth,” and Adele’s gorgeous “Hello.”

On the concert front, we just took our girls to see Taylor Swift. I’m sort of sad for them because now they are going to think every concert should be like this. They are going to be sorely disappointed. I have been lucky enough to attend many concerts in my lifetime, but this was something special. Not only was the show fantastic (the bracelets are genius), her singing on point, her costumes fun and sparkly, her dancers super talented – no, there’s more. She uses her powers for good. Miss Swift continually spoke to the audience (which looked and sounded to be just about every lower school/tween/teenage girl in the South) and, without being preachy, told them how to behave responsibly on social media and illuminated the fact that acting disaffected/super chill is NOT cool. Love her.

Song of the blog:

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It has been a rough couple of months for my family in terms of loss. I’m not going to go too into everything, especially since I talked about my friend in the last post, that isn’t the blog you signed up to read.

I will say that I probably wouldn’t have been able to move to New York without the support of my grandparents. And if that meant I had to go out with the New York City-living grandson of any woman my grandmother met on the golf course in Florida, then so be it. At least I knew Nanie was thinking of me! My grandmother was sweet and uninhibited, kind and feisty, funny and demure. She was 92 and had been married to my grandfather (who is 97) for 74 years. I am one lucky granddaughter to have had her (and them) as long as I have.

My uncle, whom I’ve mentioned previously, passed away in August – 10 days after my friend, Stefanie. He was my grandparents’ youngest child, only 13 years older than I. He was so fun to be around, absolutely the funniest person I’ve ever known. He was also the family documentarian – his videos, full of love and humor, will allow the next generation to get to know him. He was the one who showed us all that it’s ok to follow your passion, to do what you love. Watching The Beatles perform on Ed Sullivan when he was 8 changed the course of his life. He certainly didn’t pursue being a DJ for the money. He loved the music and he loved sharing it and connecting with others. His example helped me turn away from the job where my degree was leading me (but my heart wasn’t in) and turn toward the chance to work in the music industry. Was it the right choice? I don’t know. All I know is I loved it and that opportunity has added color and brought joy to my life to this day.

I like to think they are together; playing pool, dancing, and making each other laugh. This one’s for them…

The Beatles “In My Life”