Monday, August 19, 2019

The Red Sea Diving Resort

This post is about a film I was so engaged in from start to finish that I actually had to pause it a couple times to prevent myself from being overwhelmed and remind myself that it was, in fact, just a movie.

However, some people didn't like it, to say the least:
"The Red Sea Diving Resort makes uninspired use of actual events, using thinly written characters to tell a story derailed by its own good intentions."
- Rotten Tomatoes
"It's impossible to ignore how badly the film marginalizes the courageous Ethiopian refugees about whom it purports to care so deeply."
- Variety
"Gideon Raff’s 'The Red Sea Diving Resort,' [...] turns real heroes into generic tropes and real victims into manipulative props." 
- Roger Ebert




These quotes may make you want to steer clear of The Red Sea Diving Resort for your next Netflix viewing, but let me tell you why these people don't know what they're talking about. (My only complaint? The font chosen for the credits and location stamps. But don't let that distract you!)

First, here's the tagline and summary from Netflix, via IMDb:

  • Israel's Mossad agents attempt to rescue Ethiopian Jewish refugees in Sudan in 1979.
  • Inspired by remarkable true life rescue missions, this is the incredible story of a group of Mossad agents and brave Ethiopians who in the early 80s used a deserted holiday retreat in Sudan as a front to smuggle thousands of refugees to Israel. The undercover team carrying out this mission is led by the charismatic Ari Kidron and courageous local Kabede Bimro.

It's been a couple weeks now since my husband and I watched this movie, but I knew before it was even over that I'd want to blog about it. I only waited because I wanted to do some more research around the historical events on which the production was based, and I still have some strides to make on that front, but I was afraid if I waited any longer, I wouldn't write this at all.

The first point I want to address is the idea that the movie was doomed by its flat characters. I love good characters, and if the characters in a movie are boring, I'm not going to watch it. While I won't say that the characters in Red Sea Diving Resort were the most fleshed out I've ever seen, I think it was important that the characters didn't run the show in this one. The story was so important that you almost don't want any vibrant individuals stealing the spotlight.

Now, I am a Chris Evans/Captain America fan, and if you're not I can understand your hesitation. But I don't think, like some Rotten Tomatoes reviewers suggested, that he plays that superhero role and comes off as the star. In fact, when his best friend and fellow spy calls him out on being an asshole, the friend is pretty much right, and Evans' character acknowledges it. (Hello, growth!) He's not perfect or bland by any means.

But this is not a #MCM post, so I want to address the other accusations that Red Sea "marginalizes" refugees or makes them "manipulative props." Ugh. Makes me sick to even type that.

The reason I feel so strongly that those perspectives are NOT accurate is because a couple Ethiopian characters actually stuck in my mind as much as the Israeli characters. Kabede, the guy who led all the refugees to Mossad, for example, struck me as hugely courageous and selfless, despite not having as much screen time (and I don't think this was a conscious or unconscious marginalization, it was simply a function of the narrative, which I think was appropriate). Then there was the girl in the refugee camp who only had like, a minute, onscreen — "upset Ethiopian woman" in the credits — and she made a huge impression on me in her speech to Kabede and Ari (Evans) about how she was promised freedom and instead had lost her family, both literally and to disease while waiting in the camps.

I'm not sure I'm expressing my thoughts on this movie as clearly as I could with more focused reflection time, so let me just bring us to the heart of the matter. At the end of the Roger Ebert review, the author writes, "It’s a story that most viewers won’t know before they watch the film," and that is the point. (He goes on to say that we "won’t really feel like they know after, either," but he's obviously wrong.)

I did not know this story before this movie, and I'm so glad I know a part of it now. Maybe I'm sensitive to civil war, having been to and studied the genocide in Rwanda, but I was moved very early on in this movie to look more into Operation Moses and Mossad and Ethiopia in general. Can an artist ask for anything more with a historical work?

Sure, I'm American, and a lot of based-on-a-true-story films seem like they're meant to make us feel bad for things we did or didn't do for less privileged people/countries at some point in history. But that's not what this is about. This movie didn't leave me feeling "depressed" like some asserted — sure, my heart was heavy, but I was also moved to inform myself about real horrors not far from my lifetime. This movie actually gave me hope for humanity, based on the actions of government and non-government organizations, as well as individuals. Yeah it was almost 40 years ago now, and maybe the world's just as screwed up now as it was then — or more, I don't know — but I still think The Red Sea Diving Resort is an important and entertaining movie (and I for one was not bothered by the Duran Duran 'intrusion' one reviewer complained about — doesn't even compare to the jarring musical scene in the Season 3 finale of Stranger Things).

To conclude, I applaud Raff for taking this story on, and I encourage you to read some of his thoughts on the film — and watch the trailer — here.

Friday, July 26, 2019

"Native Tongue"

As soon as I heard "Native Tongue" come on the radio, I knew it had to be a hit. Catchy and assertive from the first note, I was instantly engaged and as I listened to the lyrics, I had to double-check that I was on a Christian station (sadly, that's what I do when I hear good music that doesn't immediately reference God or Jesus).

Check it out before you read on:

Honestly I wasn't huge into Switchfoot in the early 2000s, when my sister and all my youth group peers were listening to them, but that might've been because songs like "Dare You to Move," "Meant to Live" and "This is your life" were overplayed on mainstream radio before I could really appreciate their music (come to think of it, The Beautiful Letdown was actually a pretty stellar album). I was also surprised to learn Switchfoot has been making music (read: putting out albums) pretty consistently for almost 25 years, which is pretty impressive for any artist, let alone a Christian band. I think the mark of a good one, in my book, is when they can cross over into secular stations without selling out (bands like Relient K and singers like Lauren Daigle and even Stephen Curtis Chapman come to mind).

I listen to a lot of different music, and a lot of music period, so I feel like I have kind of high standards when it comes to evaluating artists and songs -- it has to have strong vocals and lyrics as well as skilled instrumentation for me to mark it as a favorite, and I think "Native Tongue" pretty much nails it in those categories (not to mention I'm a total linguistics and language nerd so I love the word play in this song). It's also interesting because it's kind of in-your-face in an almost Foo Fighters way (though dialing it back toward Goo Goo Dolls), but it's about love. That's pretty creative/original if you ask me.

In any case, here are the lyrics (from AZ), for your convenience, as you listen to the song again ;)

Sing to me, baby, in your native tongue
Sing the words of the wise and the young
Show me the place where your words come from
Love is the language, love is your native tongue

Feel your heartbeat bang the drum
Open up your eyes and fill your lungs
The same word from where the stars are flung
Love is the language, love is your native tongue

My heart is a beating drum
My head in oblivion
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

My friend, where did we go wrong?
My Lord, we forgot our sound
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

(My native tongue)
(My native tongue)

Sing it to me, whisper into my ear
Accuser's voices start to disappear
In the wind, in the tongues of the flame
In my soul, in my one true name, oh

Back before we learned the words to start a fight
Back before they told us that the haters were right
He spoke the truth, "let there be" and there was
Love is the language, love is your native tongue

My heart is a beating drum
My head in oblivion
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

My friend, where did we go wrong?
My Lord, we forgot our sound
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

So sing it loud, get loud, get
Louder than the voices in the crowd, yeah
Even when they tried to drown you out, eh
Your lips, your lungs, your native tongue

So sing it out, get loud, get
Louder than the darkness and the doubts, eh
Louder than the curses and the shouts, yeah
Your lips, your lungs, your native tongue


My heart is a beating drum
My head in oblivion
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

My friend, where did we go wrong?
My Lord, we forgot our sound
My soul, such a long way from
My lips, my lungs, my native tongue

(My native tongue)

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
To sing it like when we were young
Back before the pendulum had swung to the shadows

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
Maybe we could learn to sing along
To find a way to use our lungs for love and not the shadows

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
To sing it like when we were young
Back before the pendulum had swung to the shadows

I want the world to sing in her native tongue
Maybe we could learn to sing along
To find a way to use our lungs for love and not the shadows

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

10 Movies that Affected Me (3/3)

Did you think I was going to leave you hanging for ever? Never fear, the third and final installment of "Movies that Affected Me" is here!

I decided to list them in alphabetical order this time so I wouldn't have to worry about what the ranking might look like...they're all so different, I couldn't do it!

1) Argo (2012)

Argo of course had a stellar cast, starting with a Ben Affleck long past his Armageddon and Good Will Hunting days (which I thought were both great but let's be honest, he was kind of a punk back then). This is one of those movies that stuck with me even though I don't remember a lot of the details; it was just really well made, and I found the storyline really unique and engaging. Affleck also directed this one, and he pretty much knocked it out of the park in that dual role (rather than coming off as an egotistical asshole). I almost picked The Accountant because it's an equally awesome film (though reminiscent of the Bourne trilogy for sure), but he wasn't doing double duty in that one.

2) Captain Ron (1992)

Captain Ron is one of the first funny, adult movies I remember seeing as a kid. It's still basically a family movie, but dips its toes into the ocean of "adultness" with the armed conflict in Cuba, the "gorillas" in the island jungle ("GO — GUER — HUGE difference!") and some sexual scenes, which were new to me when I watched it. This was the movie that introduced me to Kurt Russell, too, one of my dad's favorite actors. Really, I'd watch any movie this guy was in, but Captain Ron is probably the most hilarious to me. So glad my parents had me watch it.

Also, just discovered it came out the year I was born!

3) The Imitation Game (2014)

This movie was kind of a surprise, but reminded me very much of A Beautiful Mind. It also contributes to the idea that all geniuses have issues, which is both tragic and almost comforting? Not sure that makes sense. In any case, this movie did a great job telling a "math" story by being both informative and dramatic, which made it altogether very engaging. It also improved my previous impression of Benedict Cumberbatch of being totally overrated (although Keira Knightley still doesn't know how to close her ever).

4) Joe Versus the Volcano (1990)

Joe Versus the Volcano is one of my all-time favorites, for reasons that I don't fully understand, but that start with my first viewing of it. I was young and inexperienced and invested in the story enough that I didn't notice that Meg Ryan played multiple characters throughout the movie, so when someone (probably my dad) told me later, I was over-the-moon-impressed by how clever that was, and what it added to the story. After a while the glow started to fade a bit, until I wrote a paper about it in my college film class. My professor loved it, so that certainly helped, but I was able to make comparisons between Joe and Metropolis that still blow my mind. Plus, I love Tom Hanks as an actor and the soundtrack was perfect.

5) Phenomenon (1996)

I think my dad introduced me to this movie, again, when I was in middle school, and I had just been going ga-ga over John Travolta after seeing Grease for the first time. I probably hadn't seen many truly tragic movies up to this point, so I definitely cried at the end of this movie (don't judge me). I don't really know why this movie was so fascinating to me, I guess I just hadn't seen that many quiet fantasy movies up to that point in my life. I'm sure I also fantasized about being able to learn languages as fast as the character did (and only from a book, no less!).

Anyway, I would certainly recommend this movie.

6) Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

"This is a terrible movie!" Those words — spoken by my grandmother while watching this movie at Christmas after I had bought it for my sister as a present — and my family's laughter that followed it, will forever be ingrained in my memory.

This movie was the first, I think, that showed how well Bradley Cooper and J-Law work together onscreen, and it did a bang-up job (I thought) of presenting their characters as almost anti-heroes who portray mental illness and personal tragedy very effectively. It's crazy and beautiful and hilarious.

7) Sixth Sense (1999)

I'm not sure it gets any more iconic than "I see dead people," but this was also the first "scary" movie I think I ever saw. I still remember that scene with the girl under the bed throwing up as the freakiest of all time. But the biggest reason this movie affected me so dramatically (and why I love it so much) is, as with many movies I enjoy, how surprising it was. I had no idea Bruce Willis' character was dead when Haley Joel Osmet was talking to him (until the end, obviously), and I was so impressed by that. It's one of the movies that makes me not-so-secretly want to make movies.

8) Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was one of my favorite shows as a kid, so it should come as no surprise that I was interested in watching this movie. The very end sucked, but it was the first big foreign movie I'd really seen, and boy did it deliver. It really demonstrated for me what life in a truly poor country might be like — even in Hollywood fashion, I think there are some important truths of perspective in the movie.

And of course my dad's love for saying "chaiwalla" after we watched it keeps me from forgetting it.

The final dance number was stupid though and I just ignore that.

9) Throw Mama from the Train (1987)

I think I have my brother-in-law to thank for this one, since he was the first who told me about it. So hilarious and relatable as a writer, even though it's over the top. I didn't know it then, but I think this was the movie that made me really appreciate Danny DeVito. I can still hear his "mom" yelling "Oweeen!"

And I mean really, what else needs to be said??

10) V for Vendetta (2005)

This is a movie that I think most people knew about before I did, and which I was surprised I hadn't known anything about until I watched it (and yes, I did watch it for the first time on the fifth of November). Very Phantom of the Opera-esque and I loved it. Why? I guess every "little m" man likes the idea of sticking it to the "big m" Man, and when you add in a little mystery and a lot of gray areas, it works.

Who doesn't love a good political, dystopian thriller that plays off the legend of Guy Fawkes?

And that's it! I hope someone enjoyed this unnecessarily long, drawn-out series ;)

Sunday, July 14, 2019

"I Don't Know How to Pray"

When I first heard X Ambassadors' single "BOOM," I was immediately hooked. It was my "new favorite song" and I had to have the album (for my birthday!).  The bass line and that pre-chorus riff just ROCK. But the single's release was still at least a month ahead of the planned album release, so I had to wait to have it in my hands. During that wait I heard "Hey Child," and I thought, 'wow, this album is gonna be SO good.'

So June comes around, and my sister sends me Orion. I stuck the disc in my car's CD player as soon as I exited the post office, and I've probably run through the whole album at least three times by now, a couple weeks later.

Honestly, it's taken that many listens for the album to grow on me. I don't love the featured artist on "Confidence," and I'm still on the fence about "Rule," "History," "Wasteland" and "Shadows." On their own, I don't think they're anything special. But I think, together, they probably bring the album together.

Then there's "I Don't Know How to Pray."

Whoa. Talk about an unassuming little "filler" track that packs a punch.

This is a song that I think, at first listen, is likely to make Christians shake their heads in disappointment and atheists pump their fists in triumph — but they're both wrong.

First, listen. Then, read the lyrics below.

Pause:: If you tried to play back that last part at the end with the volume up, I feel you. But we'll tackle that in a minute, so let's focus on the song lyrics:

I don't know how to pray
But here I am in this bathroom, hopin' you'll come back soon
Knees on the floor, prayin' to a Lord I don't know
I don't know how to pray
'Cause if I did, I'd be worthless, all I know is curses
You let me down, still I'm feelin' guilty somehow
So here I go: "Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God, what do I do?
Oh, God, oh, God, I ask a favor from you
And I know, I know we've never spoken before
But I hope you hear me, oh, Lord
Please let my brother live
And let me learn to forgive
And why do bad things happen to good people
That's all, I guess, amen"
And God said—

Artistically, that ending is really clever, I thought. And Sam Harris has an amazing voice with a whole lot of hurt and soul behind it (OK and I guess "heart" too). But then I listened to it again. This song is SO powerful because it hits on so many doubts I think just about every human has had — is there a God? Should I pray and see? How do I do that? Will He be mad that I swear a lot and I haven't tried talking to him before? Does it work better if I promise to try to be a better person? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Dude! We've all been there!

And then, that silence. Oof. Yeah. A lot of times — maybe all the time, for some of us — we feel like our prayers fall on deaf ears, or in some cases, that there are no ears to hear us. That hurts.

BUT. There's another — additional — interpretation to this. Maybe listen to the song again, and pause on that silence. What do you hear?

I don't know what Sam's intention was, but he left a space for you to hear God's voice  every time you listen to this song! And we will all hear something different in that "silence," because we are individuals, and God wants to have personal relationships with us.

OK, take a breath, and a step back. Some of you reading this may be thinking, "Yeahhhhh, no." I get the skepticism, I really do. But don't write these ideas off just yet.

Let's take a look at the transcript of the spoken recording at the end of the track:

You are definitely not the same person you were when you were a kid, but then you come back full circle when you sort of started to...become comfortable with who you are and
Less trying to be, something or someone [you're not] 
Do you guess that was kinda like your, at the basis of like a part of your struggle as a kid, like trying—feeling like you didn't know yourself? 
I feel like I was running from everything... 
I feel like that there in my twenties, one of the biggest struggles for me was you know, finding love...

There are two people talking: One seems older, in the role of a mentor or maybe even a therapist, but actually, it's Sam and his brother Casey (whom I interviewed once!). They discuss two big challenges in life: Knowing who you are and finding someone who loves that person.

Jesus is the answer!!

I know, I know, some of you are not here for "religious" content, and maybe this comes off as "preachy" and makes you dislike this song. I don't care, because I am so excited by this song and what it has revealed to me. When we accept Christ and his sacrifice, we become children of God, and we are loved by our father. This is something that I have been trying to internalize over the last few weeks, in part due to discussions I've had with a new friend.

I don't know where Sam and his brother and his bandmates are at on the "faith" front — who they consider themselves to "be" and what loves they have in their lives — but this song gives me hope. For everyone, honestly.

Now, I don't think my words here offer an immediate or perfect "solution" to the problems laid out in this song, but that's part of what makes it GREAT. We all need these struggles, at some point in our lives, to build our faith, and reveal who we really are. And we need to come to terms with the fact that we're not always going to understand. There is freedom in that, and I hope everyone reading this can experience that someday.

You see, we can fumble over our words and swear and neglect our relationship with God and be angry at him, but He forgives us when we acknowledge him, because by grace we have been saved.

Whatever you take away from this is, obviously, up to you. In any case, go listen to the album, which I've linked at the top of this post. Appreciate the artistry, and groove to some awesome music.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

10 Movies that Affected Me (2/3)

I'm happy with the first list of 10 movies I came up with, but I kept thinking of so many more great movies that I had to post another list.

So here's the first of round two:

1) The Princess Bride (1987)

In my mind, this movie is one of the most quotable in the universe. From "Anybody want a peanut?" to "You killed my father, prepare to die!" to "Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist," to "He's only mostly dead; mostly dead is partly alive!" this movie kills it every time. It always makes me laugh. One of the interesting things is that I haven't seen any of the cast in much, but they play all the characters so well. Even the smallest of roles leave a significant impression, and it's that kind of character development that I aspire to create in what I write.

And of course, this movie is also based on a book I never read (maybe I need to step up my pre-viewing game?).

2) The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Now for something COMPLETELY different... a horror movie, but one with an actually interesting story. I don't watch horror movies much, but I went through a phase with my friends in middle school where we watched The Ring, The Grudge, this movie, and the next one in this list.

Don't get me wrong, this movie scared me just as much as any horror movie might (I can still vividly recall the final scene of her possession, and the one where everyone's eyes go black in her classroom and she freaks out), but the related real-life court case made it 10 times more interesting (this was also the beginning of the brief period of my life where I was considering law as a career). That and the religious aspect and the really humanizing scenes with Emily just added to the complexity of the film. 

I couldn't tell you any of the actors in it off the top of my head, and I only watched it once, but this was a fantastic movie.

Oh, and it also had some beautiful sets and cinematography.

3) The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Some people talk a lot of smack about this one, but I think it kind of pioneered the whole homemade horror film technique (setting the stage for movies like Paranormal Activity, which I hated for multiple reasons but made $193.4 million at the box office in 2007).  Plus it had everyone going for a while about whether or not it was "real." 

What impressed me about this movie (and any good horror movie I guess) was its ability to make the little things super scary -- without music. Granted, the characters still exhibit some Class A stupidity that's unfortunately typical of this genre (which I realize more and more each time I watch it), but the creepiness of it all was at least able to mask that aspect on first watch, which is a big part of why it affected me.

4) Million Dollar Baby (2004)

So I've actually enjoyed several boxing films (such as this, The Fighter and Cinderella Man), which always kind of surprises me since I definitely don't like to watch those kinds of events in real life. With big names like Clint Eastwood (can you believe I've never seen any of the Dirty Harry movies?), Morgan Freeman (whatever you think of him now, he's still a great actor), and Hilary Swank (yay femal protagonists!), you'd probably think it would be a good movie, but the emotion in this movie is what drives home its greatness. This is the only movie that has ever made my dad have to leave the room for fear of crying (in my presence), so that also speaks to the power of this movie.

I only saw it the one time, but I may have to watch it again.

Also based on a book I've never read!

5) The Bourne Identity (2002)

I can't believe this movie is already SIXTEEN YEARS OLD. This movie probably should've made the first list, because it was an instant favorite of mine. Amnesia as a plot device had been done before and continues to be used today (for better or worse), but in this film (and actually the whole series), it really worked for me. I'm kind of a sucker for romances, sure, but I especially like it in the thick of an action movie like this where it's not totally useless -- it's not just the director or whoever saying, 'oh we need to throw in a sex scene or something to make it watchable for the women' (which is totally sexist I know).

But honestly, it was Bourne's own journey in finding himself that intrigued me the most. Who cares if his skills are a little bit impossible?

6) Gattaca (1997)

I don't read a lot of Sci-Fi but I apparently love to watch it. This one was an instant favorite, as much for the premise as for performances by Ethan Hawke and Jude Law. I would say they're definitely two of my favorite actors, and at least for Hawke, that probably started with this movie. I thought the set and the colors worked really well with the filming, and I loved the meticulousness with which Vincent and Jerome kept up their facade. The whole "unfairness" of it all was also an interesting layer to the plot, and made me think about the reality and potential reality of that kind of discrimination.

In my mind, this movie is really a lot about second chances -- what we do with them, how we handle them -- and I love that.

7) Arrival (2016)

Alien movies are another genre (sub-genre?) that I don't typically like (I guess I'm particularly impressionable when it comes to scary/creepy movies and it affects me for a long time), but this one was different. Honestly I'm not super impressed by Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker is hit or miss for me, but I really enjoyed Amy Adams performance and the unique portrayal of extraterrestrial life. This movie also had a sort of time twist (a la Inception or Interstellar) at the end that I wasn't expecting.

In short, this was simply a good film.

8) Her (2013)

Apparently I'm into AI movies, although I'm still not sure if I *like* this movie, per se. I haven't seen a ton of Joaquin Phoenix movies, but I have liked the ones I've seen (this, Signs, Walk the Line, I guess he was in Gladiator??). I was definitely weirded out by the whole guy-in-love-with-an-operating-system thing (which is basically the deal in Blade Runner 2049 too), but he (and Scarlett Johansson) played it really well, so that I was actually sad for them when it didn't work out (much less creepy than Ex Machina, for example).

And, the color and simplicity of the poster speaks to that quality in the film, too, which I enjoyed.

9) The Matrix (1999)

I wish I would've seen this when it came out, or shortly thereafter, because I think it would've been even more impactful around Y2K, but I didn't see this classic until... I think I was in high school, maybe even college.

I'm not even sure what there is to say about this movie, because, like Inception, it has a great cast and a unique storyline and interesting visuals and action and romance... I mean, pretty much everything.

Plus, it's even generated a meme or two :)

10) The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Like Christopher Nolan, I have to ask... does Wes Anderson make "bad" movies? The cinematography is so beautiful and strange and simple and unique that I just love the spectacle of movies like this, but I also happened to enjoy the story and the acting. I loved seeing Ralph Fiennes as a real person, kind of a good guy even (rather than Voldemort), and of course Jude Law again. I was also moved by the romance between Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) and Zero, but the humor in this movie is perfect, too. Plus, all those cameos!! And of course the villains, like the ones played by Willem Dafoe and Adrien Brody.

Really, there's nothing wrong with this movie. It's comical, sad, romantic, thrilling -- flawless.

Stay tuned for the third installment of Movies that Affected Me!

10 Movies that Affected Me (1/3)

Corbin Saleken (director of Patterson's Wager, whom I met at a film festival I was covering for the local newspaper) challenged me to post 10-movies-that-affected-you-in-10-days to Facebook, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to blog about it, so here goes:

1) Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) 

Matthew Broderick was probably my first Hollywood crush, and the movie has a kick-ass soundtrack. It's still one of my favorite feel-good films. My sister bought me this poster when I was in high school, and it is now on the wall of my classroom.

(I couldn't find the poster I wanted in the resolution I wanted
but hopefully you recognize these people)

2) The Breakfast Club (1985)

My love for all things 80s started with the music I heard on the radio stations my parents listened to when I was like 10, and was cultivated by two of my best friends in middle school. Halloween freshman year, I dressed up as Bender in what may have seemed like a typical 14-year-old personality-defying move for my teacher-kid self, but I also felt like he had the most depth as a character.

Anyway. Another feel-good film for the list.

3) The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

I tried to pick movies that hadn't previously been books, then I realized most of my favorite movies are based on books...oh well. Anyway, this movie impacted me because A) it was Emma Watson's first Hollywood movie since Harry Potter, and I was excited to see her able to play a different (American) role, B) it has a great soundtrack (you may be sensing a pattern here), and C) (the most significant) the story dealt with issues I hadn't really been exposed to at the time; I hadn't read the book before I watched the movie, and while I know it's still a "dramatized" version of reality, I realized my high school experience was vastly different (and much more positive) than that of most people, especially outside of my home state.

4) Good Will Hunting (1997)

I was only FIVE when this movie came out, but once I got around to seeing it as a young adult (high school maybe?), I'm pretty sure I had one of those 'how did I not see this sooner' reactions. I mean, Matt Damon + Ben Affleck + CASEY Affleck (who I didn't even realize was his brother/an Affleck at the time) + Robin can that not be enough to make you want to watch a movie? But also, that student-teacher kind of relationship that doesn't come around very often; the one where they each really care about each other, and even though they both piss each other off at some points, they both grow and learn from each other.

Plus, it has some great one-liners (and more-than-one-liners).

5) A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany = one of my favorite actor combos (Master and Commander ALMOST made this list). Bettany isn't even credited on the poster/DVD cover but his character lends such realism to Crowe's character's mental illness that he totally should be. We all know geniuses pretty much have to be "crazy" on some level, but this movie played it well enough for me to believe what Nash saw was real for so long (I didn't know the story before I watched the movie). Great film all around.

Also note that this is an ENGLISH MAJOR raving about a math movie ;)

6) Inception (2010)

I mean really, how could this not be on your list?! This movie blew the world's mind EIGHT years ago and it still blows my mind. Stellar cast, amazing soundtrack (that DIDN'T include indie/pop/80s songs), beautiful graphics and creative cinematography...I should just stop talking because nothing I say ever does this movie justice. But MAN did I love that mind-bending ending. (I also like rhyming, did you know?? 😉)

And really, is it possible for Christopher Nolan to make a bad movie? I don't think so.

7) The Prestige (2006)

I almost couldn't pick between this and The Illusionist and was going to post both, but since I'm trying not to double up on actors, I went with this one (you'll understand that comment in a moment). These magical movies came out the same year and I saw both in the same weekend I think, but The Prestige wins because... well I'm not exactly sure, but I did appreciate the Tesla reference (I did a project on him in high school or middle school) and later, the David Bowie cameo (I didn't even NOTICE at the time!). Even though this WAS technically based on a novel (that I never read), I felt like it was a really original story brought to life by two actors I didn't really expect to play rivals in such a way...

Also, though I don't think I like Christian Bale as a person, he's really good at playing rage-filled characters heading toward crazy (The Machinist comes to mind -- and so would American Psycho if I could bring myself to watch it).

Anyway. Great movie that really kept me on the edge of my seat and surprised me at the end. I need to watch it again.

8) Fight Club (1999)

I was very late to the party on this one, and looking at the poster, you might imagine my skepticism. Sure, Brad Pitt and Ed Norton (before I really knew who Norton was), but soap? What? Needless to say, this movie was not what I expected. You can't tell people much about it without spoiling it, I think, but I hope it's not too cliche to say that this movie was ahead of it's time (or maybe it was right on target and I don't know my movies). See, these are the kinds of movies that make me appreciate all the things you can do with a film, and even make me want to get into the industry somehow. Not seeing that in my future at the moment, but still. The desire is there.

In short, I guess I kind of like movies that can trick me, as long as it's not a cheap trick (ha, see what I did there?).

P.S. This was also based on a book I've never read 😅

9) Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

 Yep, I went with the sequel. And I've gushed about this movie (and Ryan Gosling, as more than a heartthrob) on this blog so I'll just link that here.

All I would add is that I watched it again recently, and that scene where he really believes he's human still crushes me every time. Also, Jared Leto is SUPER creepy in this movie, and I'm always impressed by actors who can do that (I try not to think about WHY they can do that...). Plus, the cinematography and sets and all that are AMAZING.

And though the first Blade Runner is based loosely on a book (I started reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and put it aside after like 2 pages), this one really stands all on its own.

10) Cool Hand Luke (1967)

There are not many "old" movies that I have been able to appreciate, but this was one of the few. I totally had a crush on Paul Newman (who was WAY too old for me when I first watched it), because I mean seriously, he has the most beautiful blue eyes ever, but this movie also stuck with me because of its in-your-face kind of challenge against authority. That was something that maybe resonated with me, even as a kid? I was probably in middle school then, sooo no exposure to prison/prisoners at that point, but that preteen angst, y'know? There's something to that...

Anyway. It's a great movie with some great one-liners, one of which I feel is a mantra of mine: "What we have a communicate."

Check out the next 10!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

TBT: A Dictionary for Writers and Printers

More hashtags! Here's a new/old book of mine for #ThrowbackThursday, purchased in a kitschy little bookstore in Daylesford, Victoria, Australia this summer.

I looove old books!

The funny thing is, we had just talked to a guide at Cape Otway National Forest about the word "aborigine" when I flipped to the this "a" page and found this:

I love etymology!