Jan 26 2015

Movie Review: Selma

selma movieReleased: 2014

Directed by Ava DuVernay

Description (from Letterboxd):

Martin Luther King, Lyndon Baines Johnson and the civil rights marches that changed America.

“Selma,” as in Alabama, the place where segregation in the South was at its worst, leading to a march that ended in violence, forcing a famous statement by President Lyndon B. Johnson that ultimately led to the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

It astounds me that Selma was not nominated for more than two Oscars. Ava DuVernay has put together an excellent biopic, subtly fitting in many layers of history, including disagreements between different aspects of the civil rights movement (such as the SNCC) and the planning and focus required to steer events to a particular outcome. It was a smart move for the movie to focus on a single issue of the movement — the work to secure voting rights — as it give the audience a clear sense of the conflict at hand and something to rally for. I also liked the decision to overlay events with typewritten messages from the FBI’s monitoring of King and the movement, which was an unsettling and brilliant addition to the film.

David Oyelowo is fantastic as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., revealing his uncertainties in facing the enormity of the task before him. He really embodies the man and brings humanity to the character, even as he gives iconic speeches.

selma movie still

If there is one thing that bothered me, it was that sometimes it was hard to keep track of timelines. I’m not really clear on how much time passed, from when King first appeared in Selma to the final march from Selma to Montgomery. I’m assuming months, or at least weeks, but I’m not sure. It was a minor problem anyway, as I enjoyed and was moved by the movie.

My sister and I had a great conversation following the movie, talking about the history of racism and how it applies to today’s current events. Isn’t generating discussion what a movie like this is for?

selma-bridge movie still


Jan 15 2015

Best Picture Nominees Announced (and some itty bitty initial thoughts)

The Oscar nominees are out. I have only seen one of the movies nominated this year, The Grand Budapest Hotel and I find it interesting that it has been sweeping the awards as much as it has, since I remember enjoying, but not loving the movie.

I’m also surprised to see that Selma isn’t receiving nearly as many accolades, with no nods for Best Actors or Actresses, nor a Best Director Nomination. Hrm. (“2015 Oscar nominations show lack of diversity in a year when films didn’t,” Washington Post.)

Anywho, here are the Best Picture Nominees, along with a few initial and superficial thoughts.

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Jan 9 2015

Favorite New-to-me Movies of 2014

top movies seen in 2014It’s been a weird year for movies for me, as I didn’t go to the theaters much like I normally do. In fact I’ve only seen a few 2014 movies. This may also be a contributing factor as to why our of the 49 movies I’ve seen this year, I outright hated nine of them (high for me), just wasn’t into a dozen more, and liked but didn’t love many others — so, I had a hard time coming up with a top ten and, in the process, of trying to form my list, I realized there were only five that I really loved this year.

The Top Five

1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – It’s the group of antagonists become friends become chosen family trope that really gets me here. Plus fun action space story and oodles of fantastic music.

2. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) – I love subtly speculative indie films and this one hit all the right notes of heart and humor.

3. The Host / Gwoemul (2006) – Intense, funny, and hiding tons of social commentary, this was a fantastic movie.

4. Planet of the Apes (1968) – While the special effects and movie makeup don’t hold up to modern standards, the story is still powerful, complex, and compelling.

5. Her (2013) — I thought the concept of this movie was strange when I first heard about it, and I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did and I appreciated it even more after seeing it a second time around.

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Dec 30 2014

New-to-me movies in December

Not a great month for movie watching….

1. The Giver (2014)

The Giver is about a young boy who is assigned to work with an older man, who houses all the memories of society. Somehow the humanity’s memories have been stored away, leaving everyone empty of extreme emotions and happy in their assigned roles within a community in which everyone is equal. Or something.

I think what this movie suffers from most is the current trend in YA dystopian stories, such as The Hunger Games and Divergent, in which a young character rebels against the system. It carries too much of that sleek pop-culture flavor and even mimics certain scenes (most clearly the visual aspects of the ceremony at the beginning of Divergent). What might have been unique about the original storyline has been obliterated by the need to fit in with these other popular dystopian stories, which was unfortunate. The result is a boring movie that doesn’t make much sense.

I have not read the book. I’m sure that where movie is obtuse and incomprehensible, the book is logical. Or at least I hope it is. The movie’s ending was so illogical that I was ranting at my family members, who kept telling me I was over thinking it. I guess I just need to read the book.

2. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

Technically, I watched this in November while captive on a plane flight. It was a terrible decision really. Zero entertainment. Zero joy. Even the action was snooze worthy. Not even really worth writing a review about. It was just… so, so, so bad.


Dec 2 2014

Book and Movie Completed in November

Does this blog title sound odd to you? Because it sounds odd to me.

I don’t remember the last time I’ve only finished one book over the course of a month, as I tend to average between 6-8 books a month. This is in part because of my busy November schedule and because my time was spent absorbing longer works. In addition to the one book I’ve completed, I spent the month working my way through the third volume of The Arabian Nights (which is 850 pages long, so I’m still not done after reading around 500 pages this month).

It was also a slow month in movie watching, with only one new-to-me movie watched. Though again, I spent time working my way through a longer storyline, binge watching ten episodes of The Walking Dead on my flight back from London, instead of catching up on current movies like I usually do.

All that is to say, here are my thoughts on the one new book and movie for this month.

Movie – Planet of the Apes (1968)

Planet of the ApesAn astronaut journeying through space lands on a strange planet, on which the human-like inhabitants are mute and are ruled by intelligent apes. Captured and unable to speak due to an injury, the astronaut (played by Charlton Heston) is unable to express his intelligence and is treated like a caged wild animal.

While the makeup and special effects are corny by today’s standards, I totally understand why this movie is a classic. The storyline is compelling as it presents an interesting, critical look at what it means to be human, how we treat animals in cages, and the threat of human’s tendency toward violence. There are many layers and much that could provide ample space for critical discussion (I’m sure many essays and analyses exist). An excellent movie, so much more interesting than ANY remake that has come after it (and I’m sure sequels, too, though I haven’t seen all of them yet to be able to judge).

Book – Sleepwalk by John Saul

I’ve had this on my bookshelf for ages and finally picked it up because it was a lightweight paperback to take on the plane. It served its purpose as something to read, but it annoyed me in several ways. The main character was a teacher; I was a substitute and my sister and friend are teachers, and the descriptions of classrooms and schools in the book did not ring true. None of the characters were particularly interesting either and the evil corporation conspiracy storyline was cliche. Plus the story involved around the concept “noble natives” as connected to nature compared to the people in town people who blindly working at an oil refinery, which is destroying nature. It all felt like it was borrowing old ideas, tropes, and stereoypes mixed together into a novel. Not a winner.