31 December 2013

Stuff I've Been Consuming: Nov-Dec

Here it is, the final fiftyfifty.me post for 2013. I’m very sad to report that I only hit twenty six books for the year. That’s pathetic, barely halfway to my fifty books goal. The good news is I hit a personal record eighty nine movies! If I add those numbers together, I totally hit fiftyfifty right? Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. For 2014 I’m rededicating myself to the challenge and making sure I hit fifty books, maybe even sixty. Before I launch into a recap, I want to cover some of the great stuff I saw during the last few months of 2013. Also, here's last year's recap.

If there’s one three hour movie to watch, it’s La Grande Bellezza from Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, aka “the next Fellini.”  The Great Beauty just won the Golden Globe for best foreign film, so it should be more on people's radar and I’m glad because I’ve been pushing it for weeks. Nobody listens to me but it’s so much better than the other superlong Oscar bait right now. Yes, I’m talking about you Wolf of Wall Street. While the new Scorsese is an enjoyable romp, the decadent lifestyle portrayed in Great Beauty sticks much longer with you, and it’s also much funnier. Plus, Tony Servillo as Jep Gambardella is just amazing. And coming in second for three hours of quality is Blue is the Warmest Color. During our showing, technical difficulties stopped the movie halfway through but everyone stuck around during the twenty minute delay because the movie was just that good. I know there’s been a lot of controversy about Blue, but it’s still a really magical film and the two leads, Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux, are perfect.

Also, I caught Shane Carruth’s 2004 debut, Primer, on Netflix one night and then spent a few hours Google spiraling into figuring out what had happened. It’s a complex time travel film that begs for more viewings, but luckily the Internet has already covered all the “what happened and when” timelines. If that kind of groupthink resource had been around in 1995 during 12 Monkeys, teenager me would have been saved a lot of trouble. I’m so impressed with Carruth, as he’s cornered the market on excellent time travel movies -- 2012’s Looper -- and I need to watch Upstream Color straight away.

On the books side, I crammed in ten of them in November and December, with a few being short novellas and graphic novels at the end to pump my numbers. I know, eternal shame! Anyway, I happened to read The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. and Gone Girl back to back and it was a quick descent into thinking about my own personal romantic relationships. How come nobody told me that Gone Girl was about relationships!?! I had been pushing Gone Girl away for awhile because the hype seemed too big and I just assumed it wasn’t actually great but a few pages in and I realized that this wasn’t just a “everyone is reading it” hit. Gillian Flynn is a fantastic writer and the book had me mesmerized all the way through. And that ending, which some people hated but I absolutely loved. Bring on more sociopaths and psychos (in relationships)!

After reading the NY Times review of Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., I knew it was for me. Ten pages in and I was blown away. “Who is this person and how did she write this!” We went to go see author Adelle Waldman read at McNally Jackson and I just kept wondering how she captured the mindset of her protagonist so well. Nate is a semi-asshole who thinks he’s a nice guy but is really a misogynist and well, a dick. The book was brilliant and in contention for my favorite of the year. Actually let's just call it that already: Love Affairs for my favorite book of the year.

So for the entire year I saw 89 movies, which broke down to: 18 As, 42 Bs, 23 Cs, 6 Ds. Most impressively, there were 13 solid As in the group, which meant it really was a great year for film. Was it the greatest year since 1994 or Gone with the Wind era? I don’t think so, but it was damn good. My A movies were: Spring Breakers, Iron Man 3, Frances Ha, 20 Feet From Stardom, Despicable Me 2, Stories We Tell, The Art of Killing, Blackfish, Enough Said, 12 Years a Slave, The Great Beauty, and Blue is the Warmest Color. Those are movies I’d recommend to anyone.

I wanted to give Drinking Buddies an A too, versus an A-, but I need to rewatch it first. My favorite movies of the year definitely included Drinking Buddies though, along with Spring Breakers, Frances Ha, and Stories We Tell -- the last of which I talk a lot about here. Over Halloween, we saw lots of people dressed up as Spring Breakers, and it seemed so outdated, but I can’t shake how much I loved it. It seems almost tacky to declare it as my favorite movie of the year but I think it’s true. While I'm here, I want to recommend the duo of Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald from Grantland's Hollywood Prospectus podcast. Their chemistry is amazing and I want to befriend them. Try this recent episode about Matthew McConaughey on for size as a starter.

As for books, it was 17 five star reads, 6 four stars, and 3 three stars. Nothing horrible, and lots of good stuff. I guess that’s good as I was pretty selective in what I read. Somehow I didn’t read a single thing in August, which is depressing since the lazy summer is perfect for reading. The best YA book I read this year was a tie between The Summer Prince and September Girls. Summer Prince for Alaya Dawn Johnson’s wonderful world building and its showcasing of what a truly diverse and unique take on fantasy dystopian can look like. (We did a group read and discussion of this over at Rich in Color.) And then Bennet Madison’s September Girls, which I am rereading already, which is rare for me in YA.

As for 2014, the goal is to pump up the reading numbers and then maybe add another fifty something to do. Fifty blog posts in a row? Write fifty articles? I dunno. Come check out 2014's fiftyfifty.me intro post, and sign up if you're ambitious and want to be an Overachiever. Join the club, everyone's doing it!