Big Screen: The Arrival

Fabulous. So many neat (and unique) ideas about the power of language and our understanding of time. Just super cool.

Somewhat spoiler below….

Also they did a great job of coming up with a completely different idea of what an alien life form would look like, sound like, act like, etc. So many alien movies fall into tropes. Not here.

Big Screen: Spotlight

This movie was intense. Strong acting by all the players. Intensely upsetting. I mean how can Catholics* even stand to be Catholic after knowing this, let alone all the other yucky things the Church has done or does on a regular basis. And, seriously, are we sure this has stopped? 100% sure? I’M NOT. I couldn’t ever be. Could you?

The end credits with the lists of all the places where this specific type of corruption was discovered? The audience was audibly gasping.

It was great to see Michael Keaton in this, especially after Bird Man. I liked this a LOT more than I liked Bird Man (I would link my review…but I guess I never wrote about that here. Ah well.). Also Mark Ruffalo did a lot to inhabit this part–I felt like his hunched up physicality just MADE that character for me.

*or as my dad calls them “the pope’s dopes.”

Aziz Ansari rules the world.

For a long time, Tom was my least favorite character on Parks & Recreation, it took me a few seasons to really come around on him. I don’t know what finally did it: “treat yo self” ? Or perhaps when he finally shoves Jean-Ralphio to the side? Regardless, I eventually became a fan and started to love his stand-up too (although the repetition thing drives me nuts. When he just says the same short phrase over and over? It happens a LOT in that show with the R. Kelly bit).

So when everyone started yapping about “Master of None” and I needed a new show, it was the obvious choice. This show is SUPER charming, the story lines are adorable. The way we watch Dev develop, however slowly, in all areas of his life is pretty fantastic. On the other hand, as with Rob Delaney’s “Catastrophe,” there are definitely times when the acting is too visible…because too many people on the show aren’t great actors. In other words–you shouldn’t notice that a character is “acting mad,” you should think they are ACTUALLY mad. When the acting an emotion becomes too visible, that’s a fail. I actually thought that less times with Masters of None than with Catastrophe but there were still certain scenes or certain side players on the show that I thought fell flat too many times to be straight up “this is a great show.” I liked it a lot, I loved certain interactions, but I did occasionally get popped out of the scene by the acting.

Then over the past few days, when I apparently became a START A MILLION NEW THINGS because you have all of three random days off person, I decided to listen to his book “Modern Romance.” Wow, this book is shockingly well researched for something written by a layperson. It’s really fascinating.

My problem was…I can’t focus on audiobooks!!! I KNOW. It’s seriously as if my brain FORGETS that I am listening to it WHILE I am listening to it and I accidentally start tuning it out. Then 10 minutes later, I hear someone else’s voice in my head and go oh YEAH I’m listening to that book and this seems to be about something completely different than 10 minutes ago when I was actively listening. I guess I missed something!

Despite my intermittent lapses in listening, which I did not bother trying to rewind, so to speak, or fix, this book has a lot of really interesting anecdotes and fun moments. It was also great to listen to it after watching Masters of None and notice how many things from his romance research wound up making it onto that show. You always read stories about writers or directors doing crazy stuff to prepare: horseback riding for three hours a day for six months, reading 97 books on whale hunting, etc…It’s almost like this book wound up being unintended preparation. I love the intersection between fiction and nonfiction in our lives/work and watching bits from this book get explored in the fictional show was pretty cool, or cool to think about afterward as I read it.

The ultimate takeaway from both is WOW Aziz is SO sincere. The last chapter of the book is all about how despite all the technology and despite all the changes and despite all our baggage, if you go do fun things you love, that’s your best chance to meet a person who will also do fun things you love (and love them and you). Check out this post from his tumblr about his dad appearing on the show. That sincerity is all over the book and it just makes him completely adorkable. Which is, refreshingly, so different than Tom, or at least beginning of Parks & Rec Tom.

If you already liked Aziz, this is just the sugar on top. The same way my paparazzi friend Evan’s stories (both good and bad) about celebrity behavior at fan events can really change my overall opinion on said celebrities, seeing the intersection between Aziz’s standup, his nonfiction writing and his fictional writing/acting really exposes (or illuminates, for a kinder way to put it) Aziz as someone I never would have guessed based on Tom. Now that’s great acting.

An evening with David Mitchell and Lana Wachowski

A lovely evening. Mitchell read from the first passage of Slade House (which I read a week or so ago, I’ll try to tell you about it soon!) and then he and Wachowski had a lovely conversation about art and immortality and writing between genres (as it were).

There were quite a number of moments I wish I could have recorded, but here are the two I wrote down.

On writing between genres, or being told your book should/shouldn’t have something because you’re not in X genre:
“If a book needs a dragon, it should have a dragon.”

On reading reviews: he said he certainly never reads the bad ones, because they’re so demoralizing and haunt you for months, but then he said he doesn’t read the good ones either:
“…even the good ones are wasps at the picnic of a calm mind.”

WOW what an image.

I’ve been a huge fan of his books for a long time now (the other book I took with me to have signed was Black Swan Green, which is one of my all-time favorite books) and it was wonderful to hear Nathan (the first character in Slade House) read in his voice. He doesn’t have a straight-up English accent, there’s a bit of a lisping quality around his Rs that I wondered if originates from his time in Japan/Asia…

I can’t wait to see what he writes next.

Big Screen: Furious 7

I’m in complete shock that I haven’t written about this movie here. Definitely my favorite movie so far this year although not the best technically made perhaps.

So I guess I had maybe seen one or two of these movies years ago when they first started coming out. Then you may remember in 2013, my dad going absolutely ga-ga for Fast & Furious 6. At the time, I also had a coworker who was absolutely nuts for these movies. I started watching them…and I don’t really know what happened but somehow they became the movies that I watched over and over. I mean I always have a few movies that I am rewatching, but for a while it was (one or the other of the) Fast & Furious every other night or so up in here. I went to Furious 7 the minute it came out, then I went again a week later, and if it was still in theaters near me, I’d have seen it a few more times by now!

The earlier movies are a bit so-so, so really if you haven’t seen these, START with #4 which was just called Fast & Furious (2009) (versus the first movie which was called The Fast and The Furious). If you become sucked in, as I did, what the earlier movies are worth watching for is the development of the relationships. How enemies become friends, how friends become family, how this person becomes introduced, when that person became indispensable, etc.

The awesome thing about these later movies, starting with 4 really, is they went back, gathered up every loose end or random plot idea from the earlier movies, and brought it all together. So Han being in Tokyo in F&F3 now slots itself between F6 and F7 and is very nicely brought in with the return of the Don/Lettie necklace to begin #7. Eva Mendes from 2F2F drops in at the end of F5 to deliver the news about Lettie (and rumor is she’s going to appear in F8).

Additionally, F7 does such a tremendous job of saying goodbye to Paul Walker, who unfortunately died mid-filming. The WHOLE movie turns into him coming to grips with the fact that he’s now a family man–that it’s time to step away from the cars, and the guns, and the team. It’s done completely seamlessly, and the last 10 minutes or so are basically the whole cast saying goodbye and Vin saying I’ll see you down the road, Buster.

Sniff.

Fiction: Dennis Lehane’s Coughlin Trilogy

The books, in order: The Given Day, Live by Night, and World Gone By.

All fantastic.

TGD = Very plot-driven historical fiction. You are caught up in Danny’s life, in Luther’s life, in the snippets of Babe Ruth (such an interesting way to use him in this book!).

LBN = Connected to the first book b/c Joe is Danny’s little brother, and his father does play a role in both books, but in many ways just books that are sequentially related versus books that are a series. Although technically this would still be considered historical fiction (there are actual historical gangsters mentioned or who play bit parts), to me this is where the series really becomes driven by character rather than plot. Joe is SUCH an interesting character to have written. This book really caught me up in its romance–and I don’t mean the relationships between Joe and women, although there is that, but the romantic nostalgia we feel for places and things. Joe’s feelings about his dad’s watch, the way he interacts with the cities he lives in. The way he thinks about things. I wrote about this book previously it turns out. Heh.

WGB = I was surprised to find that this book was also about Joe (I thought it would be about Tomas, maybe?). I loved that years have gone by, and he’s become a different person with different sorts of schemes and plans while still having his gangster’s heart of gold. Sure, that’s a bit cliche, right, the gangster who is for civil rights, and treating people equally. The gangster who only wants to kill when he really has to, etc. But he’s such an intriguing loyal intelligent dude, you go along for the ride. He’s got a code, Wire fans, he lives by his code.

I thought they were all fantastic. I’ve read other Lehane books in the past (a few of the Kenzie/Gennaro books) and enjoyed movies made from his books as well (Gone Baby Gone, Mystic River) but this trilogy is really a tour de force. Each one was BARELY putdown able, I read late into the night, loving every minute of it.

Big Screen: Iris

Fabulous!!! This movie was just full of interesting, beautiful things, and interesting quirky people, and so many great anecdotes and little moments. Iris Apfel is really a fascinating person. AND it’s from a great director, Albert Maysles, who did the Stones’ documentary “Gimme Shelter” as well. Sad to hear he died in May

Dad and I both loved it.