As promised, here is some in depth analysis on my books and movies/tv consumed in 2012.
Memorable Books from this year: This is not a definitive list by any means.
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Magical, enchanting first novel.
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – I wish I hadn’t missed out on this as a kid. A must read for girls.
- The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling – Whatever his politics, I really found Mowgli and the animals stories really touching.
- The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami – My first Murakami and it didn’t disappoint. So strange yet captivating.
- Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – The longest book I read this year
Worse Books Read this year: I read the Fifty Shades of Grey and the two sequels at the urging of a friend so that we could make fun of it. Oh, we made fun of it for two weeks, but my goodness, these books were horrible.
New-to-me Authors I look forward to reading more of: Erin Morgenstern, Haruki Murakami, Henry James, Laura Moriarty, and Georgette Heyer.
Books I found challenging to read: Bel-Ami because it was in French.
Classics Club update: In the first seven months of the Classics Club, I’ve completed 12 books. Off to a fine start.
Author that I read the most this year: Georgette Heyer with 17. That’s 26% of the books read. While some of her books are slightly repetitive, they are generally very fun and addictive.
Poetry: 0. I really should read at least one poetry book for 2013. That’s usually my average.
Authors Split by Gender: Of the 65 books, 49 (75%) were written or edited by women and 16 (24%) were written or edited by men. This is the norm that I read more books written by women, but it was a particularly female year though. I don’t go out of my way to read any books by one gender though, but this is my first time really counting the split.
Nonfiction Books: 4 (6%). That’s an abysmal number so I really need to up it to at least 10% in 2013. The four books were on: reading, relationships, travel, and maths. That’s more or less my usual topics except I usually have a food book in there somewhere.
Total number of books read: 65. This isn’t a bad number. Let’s compare all book numbers for the last ten years for statistical purposes:
I did better than last year which wasn’t that hard, but I’m surprised I read less than 2010. Then again, I think I read more classics this year. I seem to stay within the same twenty book range. I should aim to go back up to 83 again, but I just want to read just as much or more as the year before so I’m sticking to 65ish for 2013.
Also, I went back and looked at my reviews for the ones I feel particularly proud of writing whether because I invested a lot time in it or that it was very personal and reflective.
MOVIES AND TV
I find it harder to write about TV than for books or movies. Perhaps I see that as even more escapist and distraction than movies or books. The latter of which is not only an escape but an exercise of the mind. Or maybe since I watch a lot of TV as it is airing, I have less time to write my complete thoughts on it.
Here are some TV shows from this year that I watched, followed, and in some cases, loved:
From America and the UK: “Homeland”, “Downton Abbey”, “Once Upon a Time”, “Hart of Dixie”, “Elementary”, “Switched at Birth”, “Boardwalk Empire”, “The Borgias” (S1) “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited”
From Korea: “Rooftop Prince”, “Sungkyunkwan Scandal” – Pretty much the only Asian dramas I saw this year. It was a low TV/movies year.
Memorable Movies from this year:
Labyrinth: No wonder this movie has a cult following.
Whisper from the Heart: Added to my ever growing list of Ghibli favourites. Definitely going to need a rewatch.
Shame. Just for the tone and Fassbender’s performance. It left an impression even though I don’t want to rewatch it.
The Secret World of Arrietty. Yet another lovely Ghibli film.
The Artist. Even though I had issues with the casting, I really loved this as a homage to an era that I really like.
Labyrinth (11-12 12 12) – Wow, I loved this movie. I missed out on this classic growing up. Apparently it did poorly at the box office and with some critics. In any case, I’m sad that Jim Henson was disappointed that this tanked. I like Henson’s works on the Muppets, but this is in a different league. It’s slightlt dark, fun, and classic tale of growing up and friendship. Also, DAVID BOWIE! He wears really tight pants in this that should make this film PG-13. He is one of the only men I can think of who looks good with that much makeup. I prefer Bowie with short hair, but his wardrobe was rocking it. I really wouldn’t want to show this to any young girl because there seems to be a lot of sexual and romantic tension between a 15 year old girl and a Goblin King who looks twice her age (and probably way more since this is fairy tale). I often find myself being tempted by the villain and in this, I did want to spend forever with the Goblin King. Too bad the baby was in the way. I’ve seen Jennifer Connelly in only a couple of movies, but she was pitch perfect here. She demonstrated that growth of a young girl to a young woman seamlessly. One thing I like about 80s films is there are a lot of great teen actors and teen stories. Also, the special effects in this were excellent and it reminded me of a time when effects weren’t just on the computer. The puppets really helped make this very real. I could write more, but it’s almost a perfect movie for me in many ways.
Just a Gigolo (16 12 12) – The things I do for David Bowie. Apparently, this movie was panned and even everyone associated with it is embarrassed. It is not a good movie. David Hemmings said that he wanted an ironic and tongue in cheek take on interwar Berlin. It is actually both these things, but in the package of a very slowly paced and badly written story. It does have its funny moments. The mauseoleum scene had me laughing out loud. The problem is that it wasn’t funny enough and the movie felt emotionally disjointed. The protagonist Paul is the opposite of Davie Bowie: repressed, awkward, and frigid. His acting isn’t that bad in it, and if you’re a true Bowie fan, you can at least appreciate he looks very good in this film. The film itself had good historical details, but I’m grasping here. Marlene Dietrich’s last two scenes weren’t all that either and the ending was depressing. I don’t recommend this unless you really want to see David Bowie looking good in 1920’s clothing.
From Up on Poppy Hill (27 12 2012) – While this is not one of the best of the Ghibli films, it is a lovely film. The animation is wonderful as always and so is the music. The story did make me cry or that could have been because I was sick and thus, moody. The plot is weirdly melodramatic, but it is touching in terms of friendship and also as a picture of Japan in the 1960s. Definitely a must for any Ghibli fan.
Sabrina (11 12 12) – Gosh, I love Audrey Hepburn. Her smile is amazing. No one in movies has a smile like hers anymore. She is radiant in black and white filmography too. This isn’t one of her best movies and in general, this movie isn’t even that good. Still, this is early Audrey and thus, very charming resplendent in a lovely Givenchy wardrobe. Billy Wilder always makes things at least somewhat fun. He’s one of my favourite directors. The ending is romantic too.
Funny Face (11 12 12) – I was sick so I had a Audrey Hepburn marathon. I noticed that in both Sabrina and Funny Face, she gets kissed very early on. I forgot they use to do that a lot in older films where the kissing comes early on and the final scene is usually good old fashioned embrace. Audrey is adorable in this film and allegedly, this bookish character is one of the closest to the real Audrey. Even the transformation of the character from nerd to supermodel showcases how her beauty goes from cute charm to classic elegance. As a musical, it’s mediocre since the songs aren’t very memorable. I’m not a big musical person in the sense I obsess over them, and I do like them. I just don’t memorize the songs or rewatch them a lot. The memorability is that this movie was shot on location in Paris and other visuals. I adore Fred Astaire. He is my favourite dancer so this pairing of him and Audrey worked for me. When I watch Audrey movies, I’m often envious of her wardrobe. In this movie, I was envious of the wardrobe and the fact she got to dance with Astaire. He is quite funny in this too. I love the movie pokes fun both at the fashion industry and counter-culture. Definitely one of my favourite Hepburn films along with Roman Holiday, Charade, A Nun’s Story, and Two for the Road.
This was a busy month for movies because I was finishing a sweater so I had lots to do while watching films.
Whisper of the Heart (04 11 2012) – Another lovely and wonderful Ghibli/Miyazaki film with great soundtrack and music. There are cute allusions to other Studio Ghibli films as well. At the core, this is another coming of age story with themes of growing up, first love, unrequited love, and hope for ever lasting love. The story is about trying to find yourself and having faith. I didn’t know when I started this that the spiritual sequel would be The Cat Returns which is the film I planned on watching after this any way.
The Avengers (October 28th 2012) – Finally got around to watching this. I even had a dream about this movie last month. In the dream, I was tempted to side with Loki and I kinda was during the movie if only because Tom Hiddleston is very charismatic and really steals all his scenes. The only other person to rival him in the cast charisma was Robert Downey Jr. I liked the other actors OK, but they really didn’t hold up to RDJ and TH. Otherwise, it was a decent action flick and Whedon’s script made sure all the Avengers had a vital role in the climactic scene. It wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be, and I felt the team was good, but perhaps needed another member to balance it out. Colbie Smulders impressed as well, and I wish she got more roles than just being in “How I met your mother”. She needs a get a bigger role in the next Avengers movie; I’d be willing to ship Maria Hill/Captain America. All in all, very few directors could have done as well with this movie than Joss Whedon and the supporting character death count was low for Joss too so yay. Fun stuff.
I only saw two things in August: “Northanger Abbey” 1986 (24 08 2012) and “Pride and Prejudice” 1980 (27-8 08 2012). Both reviewed in Austen Adaptations.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (08 09 2012) – I knew I would love this movie when I heard about it. Stellar cast, lovely setting, and touching storytelling. It had some slight moments of cheese, but it is such a nice feel-good movie.
Intouchables (09 09 2012) – I have a European friend who recommends a lot of French movies to me because i have generally always liked French movies. She told me about this one when it came out on DVD in France some months ago, and since it has taken the theatres here in NA, I finally got around to it. The version I saw did not have subtitles which means I understand most of everything in the movie, but not all the little nuances. Still, you don’t really need to know a lot the language since the humor and beauty of this film comes from largely from what you see and from the actors. The two actors have expressive faces and Omar Sy is one good looking man. A lovely human film.
Father Goose (23 09 2012) – Got this for Cary Grant. I’d never heard of this film before. It stars Leslie Caron too. It’s a bit slow paced and not the best classic or Grant movie, but it has its cute moments because of Grant. He is decidedly undapper in this role. He is not as suave and very Bogart actually. The girls in the movie are rather annoying at times though.
My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away (09 09 2012) – Hayao Miyazaki is a genius. I only use the word genius rarely. To me, Miyazaki is one because he puts down in words, film, and animations such things that are part of all of us. He is able to capture emotions from when we were younger and there is such a beautiful optimism and realism in his works. I really can’t stress out how much I love his movies. Totoro is light and amusing. It has no real plot other than being a wonderful time with some fun characters. Spirited Away is amazing in every way and the most romantic of all of Miyazaki’s works, and in some ways, one of the most real in terms of growing up.
Magic Mike (29 07 2012) – Generally, I don’t really go to movies in theatres anymore because I can wait for the DVD. I also am use to watching movies alone, but the hype for this movie and how fun it was got to me. So I gave in and thought it would a good idea to go with a good girlfriend of mine and her friend too. It was fun; the dance sequences were very good. I went in going for Channing Tatum and left not feeling very impressed with anyone else. Most of the other dancers were not explored. Matthew McConaughey was standard greedy, unctuous business owner. The soundtrack was decent, but other than that, this movie doesn’t have much going on aside from the dance numbers. There was too much plot. I would have preferred just to watch a long music video of male strippers. It really was the only good thing about the movie. I knew going in that Cody Horn would probably not be good. In the scene where she sees him dance on stage, she looked angry and bored. I don’t think that was what the actor was going for. She was boring and had no chemisty with Tatum. While heis not the most talented actor ever, he is charismatic and has decent chemistry with many of his past co-stars, but with Horn, they had none. There was too much plot, and I kept thinking, “Forget this emoness and talking, let’s go back to the dancing”. Also, the writing was a bit lame. Why were the college guys in the sorority scene? Secondly, I have liked Steven Soderbergh in the past, but with The Girlfriend Experience and this, I have not been overly impressed with his work lately. His casting and certain visual choices leave some things to be desired. This movie had some very yellow scenes. I guess it was to emphasize the atmosphere and the location of Florida, but it was too golden sometimes. In any case, who cares about acting, plot, direction, and cinematography? The only reason I and any woman (or gay man) would see this again is for the dancing and the grinding scenes.
A lot more movie watching this month due to a heat wave and knitting.
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows (13,15 06 2012) – Had some decent action sequences, but didn’t seem to have the impact of the first film. I do like the chemistry between RDJ and Jude Law though. I am not a huge JL fan, but I feel he is a great Watson. I love his and Martin Freeman’s the best, and he slightly edges over the latter by being a tad more badass. It was also surprising to see Lane Pryce as Moraiarity and to watch Lisebth Salander as a gypsy. All in all, an ok sequel, but I will keep watching.
Black Swan (15 06 2012) – Yes, I finally saw this. What a trip. This movie was creepy and messed up. There is a reason why I haven’t watched Darren Aronofsky movies until now. I don’t watch horror films in general and this borders on that with psychological thriller. I found this movie was a tad too long. As a ballerina movie, I prefer The Red Shoes. I think it was worthwhile to see BS because it seemed everyone I knew had seen it. Why are there two major film works about the nature of ballerinas and self-destruction? I guess it is a harsh art form. The dance sequences were good. I liked the Black Swan stage dance the most. Good casting with all the females. I’ve watched Natalie Portman in a number of roles. She has been an ingenue for a long time. Since The Professional, her role as the innocent beauty has been cemented. She is the most innocent and fragile in this movie and also the reverse. It’s not really a surprise she won the Oscar for this role. I’ve liked Mila Kunis since “That 70s Show” and am glad she got this role to elevate her career. I do think some images from the film are memorable enough and it does stay with you.
Shame (20 06 2012) – Ahh, Michael Fassbender, how I adore thee. This movie lives up to its hype, it was well shot, had great acting, emotionally difficult to watch, and had a fantastic soundtrack. It was also very realistic in its awkwardness and depressing tone. Most of the sex scenes in this movie are very unsexy. The more you watched the film, the sadder it became. Like Ebert, I found this movie great, but I doubt I will watch it a second time because of how real it was.
Cleopatra (21-22 06 2012) – The most expensive film ever made. Epic, lush, and with a star studded cast, this was probably one of the last epic films of the pre-1970s film era. It’s always fascinating to watch such films before computer generated graphics. Rex Harrison was the right Caesar. Richard Burton was over the top, but Elizabeth Taylor looked fantastic. She was gorgeous and had such an amazing wardrobe. I believed the Cleopatra romance with Caesar but, I didn’t see how Cleopatra fell in love with Mark Anthony. I guess it was just love at first sight for both of them. Octavian is an ass through this whole film and oddly flamboyant for a general. This movie flopped at the box office and no surprise because while extremely well done, it was too long. I had to fast forward through some of the second half. It was dragging. Unlike say “Ben-Hur” or “The Ten Commandments”, this movie doesn’t have the Christian connection which probably made audiences less likely to watch it all the way through. I’m glad I watched it, but I don’t think I could rewatch it just because it really wore on.
Beginners (25 06 2012) – A sweet, slow and reflective film with a great cast. How can Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor ever be wrong? It was also lovely to see Mélanie Laurent again after “Inglorious Basterds”. Plummer is lovely, but Ewan is so quiet in this role. I rarely have seen him so vulnerable. Also, I liked the Jack Russell terrier.
Death on the Nile (25 06 2012) – This should have been called Deaths on the Nile. This was a bloody one. I don’t remember much of prequel Murder on the Orient Express, but I think I saw it. I any case, I know I have seen this Poirot before. It’s an amusing film like most Christie adaptations are. They shot it on location in Egypt and it looks good. The costumes and the cast are the best parts. Angela Lansbury’s character spends the whole thing drunk. David Niven looks only about ten years older than he did in he 1930s; I do like the Niven. I found Mia Farrow believably English in this too. I also like Poirot pops up everywhere and randomly eavesdropping on everywhere.
The Hunger Games (03 04 2012) – In theatres, see post here.
The Muppets (09 04 2012) – I use to watch “The Muppet Show” as a kid and have seen a couple of the Muppet movies (love a Muppets Christmas Carol) so it was a given to watch this. Additionally, I like Jason Segal’s work in both HIMYM and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. This movie had its moments; I usually like Kermit et al., but of the human cast, one highlight was Chris Cooper. I like him in almost everything. It was light and good to see the muppets again.
The Castle of Cagliostro (13, 15 04 2012) – The original Japanese version with English subtitles. I saw this partially on a road trip. I got it from the library because it was directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Actually, this was his feature film directorial debut. Made in 1979, this film does not boast the best animation, but it’s light hearted, fun and has Miyazaki’s touch of story telling tinged with nostalgia, romance and history.
It’s been over a year since I read the books, but I did enjoy them for the most part. They are entertaining and it is definitely a series which I thought would translate on screen especially since the author Suzanne Collins wrote the screenplay and seems to be so involved with the films. I enjoyed the film too, and it is hard to condense such an action packed book into a film even if the film was 2.5 hours.
The casting of Jennifer Lawrence was perfect as I anticipated. I saw her in Winter’s Bone (which I also read). The protagonists of THG and WB are essentially the same: independent, strong young women with younger siblings, unstable mothers, and no father. Lawrence has this ability to be both strong and steely, but also very quickly and naturally, sensitive and vulnerable. I like that she herself looks normal physically without being too skinny. She is one of my favourite young actors. I also liked Lenny Kravitz being cast and few people could have taken on that role.
When the guys were cast, I was more unsure. Peeta was one of my favourite characters in the books so I wasn’t sure about Josh Hutcherson. It wasn’t until recently that I found out he was the kid from Bridge to Terabithia! That and the promotional interviews made his image ascend in my eyes. I thought he did a decent job for what’s written. They even toned down the romance. The guys don’t really get a lot of stuff in this movie. Gale has such a small role up until the third movie and Liam Hemsworth is unremarkable likewise.
The emotional note in the book for me was and the played onscreen as well. I did like how it was an epic movie and that they obviously built and designed so much of the film. I was also impressed with the music. It was effective especially in the action and darker scenes.
All in all, I look forward to the sequel. As a reviewer and someone who reads and watches adaptations, I am lenient on these things. I just want to be entertained and to escape, and this did that for me.
Watched April 3rd, 2012 in theatres. I usually don’t see movies in theatres very much; I average about one of them a year now. Years ago, as a high school student, I would go to see movies in theatres all the time. I would often go alone; I watch movies alone all the time even now. It was a bit addictive back then so I stopped. Everyone was telling me how good The Hunger Games (or my friends who had also read the books liked it) so I decided to go for it on cheap Tuesdays.
The Secret World of Arrietty (12 03 2012) – I watched the British dub version. I love Studio Ghibli movies. I think Hayao Miyazaki is an absolute world treasure. His films always make me feel at ease, comfortable and child like. I know no one other director/ producer / writer that does that. The universes he creates are so marked by his imaginative and beautiful style even when he didn’t direct his film, his writing reflected it. I must admit that I did not love Ponyo as much as his other movies, but this one was wonderful. Very much for children, but I still really adored it. The animation is lovely and you feel you are in that world. It’s a film for children about change and also ever lasting belief. Lovely.
Captain America: The First Avenger (29 03 2012) – A couple of people told me this movie wasn’t bad so I went for it. It’s not as good as Iron Man or Chris Evans doesn’t have quite as much charisma as Chris Hemsworth did in Thor, but it was decent. I watched it with a friend and we made snarky comments the whole way through, but it was a decent action movie. The ending was surprisingly bittersweet. It made me anticipate for The Avengers.
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (01 02 2012) – What is there to say really; it was fine. I feel the director didn’t take it all too seriously and there was some nice visuals in there actually. I also think that the two leads had even better chemistry than the previous films.
Ladies in Lavender (10 02 2012) – This movie is sweet and sentimental. Not much seems to actually happen, and there are a few too many lingering shots. It’s set in the 1930s and actually, it feels like an old movie too. I liked it for the acting of Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. They carried this film throughout and I really like any movies with a strong current of string music.
I really enjoyed this film, and I had a feeling I would because I like silent films and black and white movies. I spent most of my high school years watching old movies and really appreciating them. It has been awhile since I’ve seen a black and white film let alone a silent one. I am glad I caught some of the references, there were definitely allusions to Singing in the Rain, Astaire/Rogers, Charlie Chaplin, Errol Flynn, Greta Garbo and much more. I liked the music and the cinematography, but with any silent film, the star is key. Jean Dujardin was perfectly cast; he looks like a silent film star: his face is expressive, debonair, and he has great comic timing.
I did have a small issue with the actress playing Peppy Miller if only because Bérénice Bejo does not look like the kind of girl who would have been famous in that era. There is a distinct look to women of that era either being cherubic and cute (Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford), mysterious vixen (Marlene Dietrich, Louise Brooks) or just plain arresting and distinctive (Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis). I know a lot of people disagree with me on this, but there was something about her that didn’t fit that era. It took me out of the film at times. Maybe it’s because I am so use to watching movies from that era. She was good though, and I think she has expressive eyes. Also the woman who plays Valentin’s wife looked older than him and I checked that is she almost ten years older. I’m not sure what that was suppose to mean if anything. I really liked the other cast such as the adorable Jack Russell that they used. I like how it humanized George’s ego in awhile too. Same with James Cromwell playing Clifton the chauffeur/valet who clearly cared about George.
The romance aspect of this movie was sweet, but I really think most of the film was about George’s journey and the film’s role as a homage to that era of movies more so than the romantic aspect. I really recommend this film because I think it could introduce people to silent and older films. It’s a good film fullstop and very entertaining and touching.
I wrote the above review before watching the Oscars, but I’m really glad the film won, especially for duJardin and direction.
Watched 23 February 2012.