The Rooster Shortlist Has Arrived!!

You can check out the official post here.

I’ve read (only) two so far so I’ve got 16 books to read before March!

My already reads:

“The Matrix” by Lauren Groff — I have been a Groff fan for a very long time now. This is so unlike everything she’s ever done, it’s wild to think the same person wrote this!! Heh. I would say I liked this book, thought a lot of it was so unique and outstanding, but did not 100% die for it. (I did buy it for someone as a Christmas gift, however…) It definitely has a bit of a “written at a remove” feel to it. I could see this winning the tournament because it’s so unlike what the rest of the world is writing right now and also because it’s got SUCH buzz… OTOH, I think it would be easy to prefer something more modern, something that’s perhaps civil rights focused vs women in the middle ages focused, something less mystical and more modern. (Here’s my goodreads review. How am I able to keep goodreads up to date, but not my own blog, is a question for the ages.) (p.s. and JUST NOW I learned that this is based on a real person, thank you New York Review of Books.)

“Libertie” by Kaitlyn Greenridge — This book was overhyped, for me. I read about it EVERYWHERE and then I read it and did not think it was as amazeballoons as advertised. But the talk about the book definitely also had that vibe of “if you don’t like this book, what is wrong with you” so… I didn’t feel like the writing was at a tour de force level–the story did some interesting things, and some things that didn’t seem like they fit. I could see this winning the tournament as it’s a historical novel that also deeply ties in to our current-day problems. Like The Matrix, it’s received a LOT of buzz: Roxanne Gay gave it ifive stars.

Dad’s and My Reading Challenge for 2022

I know you are as excited as I am to hear that we are doing this again!!! We are pairing Shakespeare plays with novels inspired by them and doing two-month periods so technically this challenge goes mid-way through 2023. We’ll see what happens!!

Jan-Feb: Lear + “Fool” by Christopher Moore

Mar-Apr: Hamlet + “Something Rotten” by Alan Gratz

May-June: Macbeth + “The Talented Mr. Ripley” by Patricia Highsmith

July-Aug: Merchant of Venice + “Shylock is My Name” by Howard Jacobsen

Sept-Oct: Twelfth Night + “The Madness of Love” by Katherine Davies

Nov-Dec: Taming of the Shrew + Midsummer Night’s Dream + “Wise Children” by Angela Carter

Jan-Feb:  A Winter’s Tale + “Gap of Time” by Jeannette Winterson

Mar-Apr:  The Tempest + “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley

May-June: Romeo + Juliet + “These Violent Delights” by Chloe Gong (YA)

The Matrix — past, present, future.

So, The Matrix 4 (The Matrix Resurrections) is on its way (possibly before Christmas?!?) and it seemed like a good time to go back to the past and revisit 1-3.

The Matrix (1): Quite possibly the best movie ever made. I could watch this every day until the end of time and still enjoy it every time. (I watch it at least a few times a year, still.) Kysa and I saw it 18 times in the theater when it came out (a number of those at that old cheap theater on 51st or 52nd [NYC], where people brought like whole meals in with them). It still holds up. The story is fabulous, the filming is fabulous, the… EVERYTHING ABOUT IT IS FABULOUS. Also, Keanu is just such a stunning specimen of humanity. Trinity kicks so much ass in this flick. Cypher is such a perfect (AWFUL) idiot. Morpheus is just the right amount of mysterious and not downtrodden by the horrors of this world. I know the entire plot of this movie like the back of my hand and STILL: the fight scenes are fantastic, some of the drop dead moments (Trinity’s hand on the phone booth as she vanishes while a truck inches away; the moment she sees the homeless man turn on the platform) are still SO satisfying even though I know they’re coming. “YOUR OTHER LEFT!” How hilarious that they even use an old TV trope like that one. Neo’s glee at learning karate. When he HOLDS THE HELICOPTER UP. The gun reveal in the lobby. Tank and Dozer. Gaaahhhhh there’s so much about it I love, I could write an entire book about it.

Matrix 2 (The Matrix Reloaded): Wow, so bad. How is this even made by the same people? The scene where Neo fights like 400 agents = looked SO INCREDIBLY FAKE. It basically seems like suddenly the same people who made brilliant, unbelievably wild fight scenes in the first movie just can’t use technology anymore?!? The sex scene seemed basically gratuitous. The Neo worship and prophecy doesn’t really seem to make sense here. If he’s meant to change things, and he’s here, then… where’s the change? All the spooky illogicalness of the first movie is just sliding down a slippery slope here. I remembered bits and pieces of this movie, but it was so awful, I’m pretty sure I only saw it right when it came out and then never again.

Matrix 3 (The Matrix Revolutions): When you thought Matrix 2 couldn’t get any worse… The whole plot with the Merovingian seems ridiculous both because it makes no sense and because of the ridiculous acting. The ghost twins seem to only use their power sometimes–there’s a whole bunch of times in that highway scene, they could have materialized into another place and ended the entire situation. The explanations by the keymaker and the oracle and the architect and all the other bajillion random people explaining the Matrix to us did not make any sense whatsoever. A lot of the stuff in Zion also makes no sense. The grody bug machines seem to kill off at least 2/3rds of Zion, at least most of its army, and yet the dance sequence at the end could have (probably did!) used the same strip of film as the one at the very beginning–no visible decrease in Zion’s population whatsoever. I remembered almost nothing of this movie and I CAN SEE WHY. It sucked.

So…. fingers crossed for part 4?!?!?!?

Big Screen: No Time to Die

Not your typical James Bond movie. Far darker and insidious than those movies have been in the past–despite the evil, rule the world, kill everyone mentalities of the villains, which has always been there. This time it felt more like Bond had joined them in their vendettas, as well as other members of MI-6, and it was pretty unsettling.

Definitely felt like Daniel Craig said “I’m going out and Bond is going down.” I read an interview where he said he had always tried to portray Bond as someone who realized that he deserved consequences also, that he (as Bond) realized that he himself had done some pretty unscrupulous things in the pursuit of annihilating other unscrupulous people.

It felt a bit drawn out to me. I don’t think Bond movies are really known for their editing, and I think they could have lopped off a bit of this one.

I would recommend you watch the last (prior) installment before going to this–I really didn’t remember the girlfriend from that movie very much and she’s a huge part of the plot in this one.

My favorite part was Bond’s wall-less, somewhat modular (unattached rooms?) home in Jamaica. I know the presence of bugs would drive me INSANE to live in a place like that, but man it was really visually stunning.

Big Screen: French Dispatch

I did enjoy some things about this movie. There are some hilarious, very typical Wes Anderson, moments. The physical spaces, the way the sets were used, was really cool. There were lovely little performances by a bajlllion different actors.

But ultimately I felt like it was aimed at such a teeny tiny subset of the population: the overlap between 1) Wes Anderson fans and 2) fans of the New Yorker and other magazines of that ilk, (and writers such as E.B. White and others on the long list at the end of the flick) when they used to contain long meandering social interest articles. (Do they still? I feel like maybe the focus of that magazine, among others, has shifted a bit, but what do I know, I don’t read it!)

I did not feel as drawn in to its world as with other W.A. movies, such as The Royal Tenenbaums, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, or Moonrise Kingdom. In a sense, you could argue it’s not quite as twee as those. And it’s not as plot driven, all the set pieces are really their own things.

Big Screen: DUNE

Dune was a very pretty movie–I mean if you find deserts pretty, heh. The performances were great. It was fun to see Timothy Chalamet and Oscar Isaacs playing someone entirely different after just seeing them in other movies. Other actors did compelling jobs. The costumes were cool, if slightly unexplainable. It definitely had that “this is an epic story, hold your breath and strap in” feeling.

BUT

  1. I did feel like if you didn’t know a few things about the plot going in, it might have been hard to follow. The movie basically did no world building to start the viewer off–it just jumped right in. I went with someone who’s read the series and she felt this movie only got about halfway through the first book. Also she was able to explain some background stuff that I think the movie really just pretended viewers didn’t need to know. Sure, sure, keep it mysterious.
  2. The sound mix was a mess–the background music was crazy loud and the dialogue was so quiet, it was incredibly difficult to hear what people were saying. I don’t know if that was specific to the theater where I saw it, or if that was just generally true of how they put it together, but the mix was off.

Also, assuming sequels are made, this is going to be one of those series that just burns through actors as they already killed off a lot of the most recognizable ones in this first installment.

GET READY for Rooster 2020!!!

The Tournament of Books, the only award I care about these days, has published its long list of possibilities for the 2020 competition. The short list (the 16 + a few wild cards so maybe 18-19?) a.k.a. the actual contenders will hopefully come out in December so I can get my reading going! I’ve already read six of the books on the long list which is pretty exciting. 🙂

I read all except three of last year’s contenders but I probably didn’t do a good job of talking about them here. I’ll try to do that soon (HA!). No, really….

Big screen: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings

Things I liked about this movie in order of liking them the most:

  1. Katy.
  2. The soundtrack. (Mostly the rap.)
  3. Xialing.
  4. The floating lanterns scene.
  5. Auntie Nan, Mom, and eventually Shawn’s fighting style.
  6. The “animals” we’ll call them.
  7. The videotape dude on the bus.
  8. The grandma at the beginning.
  9. The almost complete lack of food scenes (they eat twice in the entire movie?).
  10. The archery instructor.

As you can see, this movie was very badly titled since that character is not even in the top 10 reasons to see it. It’s most definitely just as much Katy and Xialing’s movie / story / journey as it is his. So while Marvel is getting maybe a little less racist (I mean, a little, there’s miles yet to go), they’re really not getting any less sexist. (This really goes for all movies, right?)

ETA: I must also point you to this New York Times review and say while it was an enjoyable way to spend two hours with a headache on a Sunday afternoon, this movie did not greatly improve my general thoughts about Marvel movies, superhero movies, cultural appropriation in Hollywood movies, or anything else. Heh.