Last week the New York Times released their annual short film series featuring the year's best actors. (I loved when they did the genre episodes that were melodramatic and captivating.) This year the series is called Nine Kisses, and the brief episodes are diverse and endearing. I found Steve Carell and Laura Dern's clip hilarious––a comic surprise. Julianne Moore and John Lithgow (some of my quiet but consistent favorites) nailed theirs. The color, mood, and atmosphere is a hit and their inhibition is electric.
Still shot of Julianne Moore in Still Alice (d. Richard Glatzer, 2014)
Speaking of this year's films and actors: I have been woefully out of touch with films this year, so some of these actors were a surprise to me. I know that Benedict Cumberbatch is a real favorite among the ladies, but I've never quite found him appealing. (Something alien about his pale, smooth face and high cheekbones...) However, I want to see him in The Imitation Game. There is always one good history film around the holiday season, and this seems to be it. I also want to see Wild (with Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern), the movie based on a true story, as well as Still Alice, which addresses the diagnosis of Alzheimer's for a prolific academic.
Hello, all! Welcome back from the holiday weekend. How glorious was it to hang with friends and family over wine and pie? We did Thanksgiving with our family friends and brought the dessert. I worked a Black Friday shift, which is always kind of a blast, and we finished the long weekend with a lazy Saturday brunch and family game night––Scattergories and brandy slush is absurd.
Now that I'm back for the final weeks of semester, I'm definitely feeling the crazy. Here's how I'm staying sane these days:
1). I read this article, and after visiting Germany this summer, I overhauled my correspondence habits. While in Berlin, I didn't have cell service; since then, I don't habitually check my phone. I also only send emails between 8:00am and 8:00pm in an attempt to keep work and life separate.
2). Sleep. It's so contradictory sounding when you have a to-do list that is a mile long, but I got over seven hours of sleep last night (!!), and now I'm refreshed for a productive day. I'm also less cranky, which my roommates appreciate.
3). Watching less television. I usually fall into a dangerous habit of turning on Netflix when I have down time, or when I'm doing homework. Abby did something brilliant over holiday: she started Gone Girl and she just finished it last night. Reading unwinds you like none other. (I'm dying to start and finish 100 Years of Solitude as well as Both Flesh and Notover winter break.)
4). Cheer-boosters: our apartment has strings of lights, a small tree, and a silvery wreath. Even when our unit feels freezing, the twinkling colors make us feel cozy and cheerful.
It seems as though everyone in the office at work as seen Interstellar, and we're all talking about it. Critics have been a little split on the film, with some praising it's stunning visuals and entertainment value and others critiquing its lack of sophistication/intellect. Here's what my co-workers and I have determined over coffee and the copier:
1). Paying for IMAX seems to have been worth it. My co-worker Kate said its enormity was astounding.
2). Along that line....it's visually spectacular. We think the sublime of nature in romanticism is being replaced in the twenty-first century with galactic film.
4). The dimensions of time (especially near the end) actually blew our minds. Worm holes, black holes, alternate universes, etc. We talked about time and relativity for 20 minutes and still felt perplexed/curious!
5). Matt Damon and the snow planet: gratuitous macho scene that came off as foolish boys having a snowball fight.
6). Robots were not as impressive as our beloved original HAL: their voices were almost too real; their design was bizarre and nonsensical; but their programming capabilities fascinated us.
7). We're happy Anne Hathaway is out of Hollywood hiding.
8). As per usual, Hans Zimmer knocked it our of the park with a shimmering and cavaliering (albeit loud) soundtrack.
9). Dylan Thomas's poem, "Do not go gentle into that good night," while a lovely poem was overused and felt forced. We get it, Nolan, you're an intellectual!
10). The pathos was delicately balanced––it wasn't cold, but it wasn't sappy.
I was listening to a podcast of Fresh Air the other day and heard some of the most whimsical music: Bal-Musette. It's a style of French music that predominantly features the accordion (I had always thought of polkas when it comes to accordions) and from turn of the twentieth century. Musettes were played in dance halls in France and are inspired from Italian, Bohemian, and Auvergnat cultures.
Fun fact for coffee lovers, bal-musette dance was also known as java.
I never would have guessed, but I'm finding bal-musette to be the perfect early-winter music. It's fun, upbeat, a little romantic in a goofy way, and feels very exotic. Listening to it is like a mini vacation––everything seems sparklier and more special.
I've lived in the great Midwest my entire life, and thus I'm not always aware of what constitutes a "truly Midwestern" saying. When I traveled to Berlin, I realized some of our strange American aphorisms, and then even Minnesota/Wisconsin versions. When my family took a vacation to Florida, everyone picked up on our accents and our expressions. I've compiled a list and helped decode their secret meanings.
1. Minnesota Nice: this is just an excessively polite way of saying passive aggressive.
2. "That's different": Your behavior/lifestyle/personality/opinion is totally unacceptable in my view and I will never understand, nor attempt to understand, why you do/think that.
3. "For sure": this seems to be exclusively Wisconsin in my experiences. If you're hardcore, you'll tack on an elongated "oh" in the beginning. Depending on tone, this can be condescending (if someone makes a suggestion that you despise) or eagerly appeasing (agreeing for almost the exclusive desire to agree). See No. 1 for why. (I'm pretty sure that other regions say, "most definitely.")
4. "Just a thought": this is typically said at the end of an opinion/suggestion. It's a polite and slightly passive aggressive way of implying that what you just said is (to you) the right and superior sentiment, but you don't want to come of as pretentious or too forward.
5. "Wouldn't you know"/"Dontcha know": the former is a way of introducing what you're going to say as special, interesting, serendipitous (like if you recently saw a long-lost friend you had been speaking about the other day). The latter is added at the end of a statement, and means to establish agreement.
All in all, most Midwestern sayings are about playing nice. If confused, assume they are trying really hard to keep the peace.
My friend recently introduced me to a Minnesota-native artist, Caroline Smith. I'm hooked and it feels like the perfect playlist for autumn right now. What I like about her music is its adaptability. It's simultaneously romantic, melancholic, spunky––it fits every mood.
Her voice is delicately strong; her music sounds like those cool girls who are quietly confident. Listen to her album Half About Being a Woman here.
If I must choose, my favorite tracks are: "The One Thing," "Child of Moving On," and "Buy Me Something," all of which are infectious.
I rarely go to the theater, because I can't justify spending a fourth of my grocery bill on movie tickets. However, I've come across several trailers that pique my interest. I'll admit that I don't have refined, artistic taste, so some are pulpy and trendy. Regardless, these are what I'm looking forward to.
The Theory of Everything
Eddie Redmayne stole my heart in Les Miserables and now this. I'm aware of the potential sappiness with this, but I think it will be touching and heartfelt.
Dear White People
This satirical film is getting so much buzz and being celebrated as a culturally relevant for everyone. It deals with identity, acceptance versus tolerance, and raises some pressing questions of contemporary American prejudice.
The book is totally pulpy, but has been getting a lot of attention as a surprisingly gripping novel. The film has gotten mixed reactions from critics, but I still want to give it a try. I typically like Ben Affleck and I've been a fan of Rosamund Pike since she was in Pride and Prejudice.
Matthew McConaughey is on a career high and Anne Hathaway has come out of performance hiding. I was never a huge fan (and she is the epitome of my childhood in The Princess Diaries), but after such cruelty with the "Hathahaters" she deserves a moment to shine again in a great movie.
I'm also taking this opportunity to say that Boyhood is aptly placed in Oscar lists. (I will forever adore the precious treatment of time in that film.) Do you have any recommendations for me? I'd love your suggestions! Photo public domain via Commons