More HORROR, Please!

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I went grocery shopping on Thursday to get a jump on all the assholes getting ready for the “big storm” we are supposed to be having here in Seattle. But like a true Seattleite, this storm just couldn’t be bothered to be where it said it would. So I cooked chili and have a list of horror to watch and no storm. Not really. I mean, it’s windy. It’s grey. It’s been raining off and on for two days. But this is Seattle.

So, while my fella catches up with GLaDOS, I’ll give you a brand new list of horror movies. Movies I haven’t listed before! I’ve made a few lists of horror movies. I’ll link them here for you. https://alicia-prague-blog.com/2010/10/24/boo-25-best-movies-for-halloween/https://alicia-prague-blog.com/2013/07/05/top-10-horror-satires/https://alicia-prague-blog.com/2012/10/13/3213/https://alicia-prague-blog.com/2013/10/01/the-scariest-ghost-movies-of-all-time/

Since some awesome movies have come out in the past few years, and I have overlooked a few, I thought it was the right time for another list. Enjoy!

Lake Mungo, (2008) – I’m putting it first so you don’t miss it. This is by far the scariest film on the list. And I do NOT scare easy. If at all. This is a documentary style horror film that leaves you wondering if it really isn’t true after all. It makes Blair Witch look like the footage my mom found of our camping trip to Lake Tahoe in 1988. I don’t want to say anything else. If you see one of these movies, make it this one. You’ll be sorry in all the right ways.

From the Dark, (2014) – I put this in the “survive the night” category of horror movies. All they have to do is make it until the sun comes up. That’s all. A couple who has… car trouble… finds a creepy house to take shelter in. Stupid.

Antichrist, (2009) – All of Lars Von Trier’s films should be classified as horror. I’m just saying. But this one… THIS ONE! Let’s just say you haven’t seen a “couple in a cabin in the woods” movie like this one before. Known only as HE and SHE, the already terrifying Willem Dafoe, and the always in need of a hug or a valium Charlotte Gainsbourg play the couple. If you have the stomach for it, this is a fantastically horrifying film that even seasoned horror fans like myself had trouble sitting through. A fucked up movie. It’s violent. It’s gory. And again, it’s directed by Lars Von Trier.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, (2014)large_sgkw6ifftakwlqy2olfdq4ubxv0I love horror movies in black and white. Maybe it’s a sentimental thing, but every shadow is creepier in black and white. This movie takes place in the aptly named Bad City, where darkness, death and loneliness are your new neighbors. It’s also about a skateboarding vampire badass bitch. It’s an Iranian film written and directed by a woman named Ana Lily Amirpourhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WSMrSucjGA

The Vanishing (Spoorloos, 1988) – This movie fucked me up for a few days. Psychological terror is worse than a guy with a knife any day. This movie deals with that feeling of needing to know… A woman is abducted from a truck stop. Years later, after dedicating his life to finding her, he receives a letter from her abductor. An utterly devastating movie.

Wolf Creek, (2005) – My favorite way to begin any movie: BASED ON TRUE EVENTS. Ah, yes… Backpackers on a road trip. Does it ever end well for them? Not onscreen. Without giving too much away, this one deals with three Australians in the outback who run into some trouble and go looking for help. This movie is disturbing and it feels like someone is breathing over your shoulder the entire time. You’ll hate every second as much as you love it. A remake is due out this year, but see this first!

Dead End, (2003) – As the title suggests a family makes a really bad decision on their way to a family Christmas dinner. This is low budget horror at its best. And that’s all I’ll say about it. I don’t want to give anything away.

The Bad Seed, (1956)bad-seed-1956-patty-mccormackAn oldie but a goodie. The original Kiddie Killer is still the creepiest. Played to perfection by a young Patty McCormack, Rhoda Penmark is the perfect little angel. Most of the time. She just gets real upset sometimes. Another movie in black and white, this 1950’s film breaks from the monsters of the time and gives us something far more horrifying: CHILDREN.

Grace, (2009) – Speaking of fucked up children, have you seen Grace? I guess this is more of a fucked up mom, but still. After a tragic accident kills her husband and unborn baby, Madeline Matheson insists on delivering the baby to term anyway. And as you might have guessed, this baby doesn’t want Mother’s Milk. It’s gross and disturbing and pretty much perfect for mom’s to be.

Bug, (2006) – I’m still pissed at my friend who told me to watch this. This movie messed me up for like… six years now? It stars Ashley Judd and the always frightening Michael Shannon as two lonely losers who find solace in each other and a shared delusion. It’s insane. It’s scary. I took a shower after.

By the Book: American Vagabond

AA131The writer, painter, bookseller, and perpetually underpaid artist opens up and answers the NY Times “By the Book questionnaire”. Because by the times she’s finally published, it might be too late. 

What books are currently on your nightstand?

My night stand is a stack of books. On top of that, precariously, are stacked more books. I just finished “The Sacrifice” by Joyce Carol Oates, and it was outstanding. Currently I am reading Ron Koertge’s “Sex World”-  a quick, clever book of flash fiction, and a new book called “Mort(e)” about a house cat turned warrior. 

Who is your favorite novelist of all time?

Haha. Nice try. Here are a few: Joyce Carol Oates, because of the breadth of her work. John Irving, because I never expect to read anything I love quite as much as “A Prayer for Owen Meany”. Tom Robbins because he is the absolute best at what he does. Also, Emily Bronte, Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury… Is that enough?

Who are your favorite writers working today?

Didn’t I just answer that? Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, Michael Paterniti and Zadie Smith. Ron Rash is also amazing and I love Tom Perrotta. Nobody gets suburbia like Tom Perrotta.

What’s the best short fiction you’ve read recently?

Julia Elliott’s “The Wilds” was fantastic.  

What kinds of stories are you drawn to? And what do you tend to steer clear of?

I’ll read any type of story, as long as it is well written. I love ghost stories with all my heart. I also enjoy a good detective mystery from time to time. Aside from that, I’m drawn to stories about adventure, whether they are true or fiction. I’m drawn to writers who obviously take joy in what they do. I enjoy reading of fantastical places, talking cats, robots learning to love, families breaking apart, food and cooking, humor and of course style. I skip books like “Gone Girl” or “The Girl on the Train”. There is nothing new there for me, and I figure out the twist early on. I also shy away from heavily hyped books because I really like to form my own opinions and that is nearly impossible when “everyone” is talking about a book. I don’t care what a celebrity thinks of a book, or how much buzz it is generating. That’s the kind of nonsense I find dull and boring. 

 Who are your favorite fantasy and horror writers? Which books would you recommend to readers new to those genres?

Any new genre reader should begin with the master: Stephen King, of course. For as prolific as he is, he is underrated. “Salem’s Lot” is one of my favorite books ever. Joyce Carol Oates is another of my favorite horror writers, but she somehow avoided the “genre” designation. Tony Burgess “Pontypool Changes Everything” was a revelation. A zombie novel written in prose! Yes! John Connolly’s “The Book of Lost Things” was a lot of fun as far as fantasy goes, and Michel Faber’s “The Book of Strange New Things” is part scifi, part horror and just unputdownable. 

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

“My Struggle: Book 1”. I found it in a sharing library so I guess I’ll have to read it now. I’m just not that interested in a seven part saga about a guy trying to write a book. I’ve lived that. But people I respect say it’s good, so I’ll give it a shot. Some day.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Your favorite book? Most beloved character?

I had parents who took me to the library once a week, and it was always an adventure. I still love wandering around in a nice library. Heck, it doesn’t have to be nice. I’ll wander around a crappy library. Anyway, I loved books of all kinds. I would often curl up on the couch and read for hours on end. I adored any type of mystery, and books with secret worlds. And I was obsessed with the Sunfire Romance series for young girls. My favorite books were “The Phantom Tollbooth”, “A Wrinkle in Time”, “The BFG”, “Watership Down” “Choose Your Own Adventure” books – which are sadly out of print, and “The Boxcar Children” series. I still have fantasies of living in a converted traincar. My favorite characters were Milo from “The Phantom Tollbooth”, Laura Ingalls, Scout, and Sophie from “The BFG”.

If you had to name one book that made you who you are today, what would it be?

“Still Life With Woodpecker” by Tom Robbins.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

Oh man, that’s tough. That feels like a lot of pressure. I get asked for recommendations every day, but choosing a book for the President is a tall order. The first book that springs to mind is Erik Larsen’s “In the Garden of Beasts”. It’s about the US Ambassador to Germany at the time of Hitler’s rise to power. I think the man in power should read a book showing how not to react when a lunatic is about to take control.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?

Tom Robbins, for sure. He’s hilarious. I had the opportunity to hear him speak last year, and he’s still sharp as ever. Mark Twain, and Dorothy Parker. I think that would be rad.

You could bring three books to a desert island. Which do you choose?

“Anna Karenina”, for sure. I’ve never read it and a desert island seems like the perfect place to do it. It would eat up a ton of my time, but in a good way. Next I’d toy with bringing a book about raft building but ultimately choose “A Prayer for Owen Meany” because I watch a lot of survival shows and I’m confident I could build a solid raft. After I finish Anna Karenina, of course. The third book would have to be “Still Life with Woodpecker” because I can’t imagine a life without that book.

What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read?

Oh man. I don’t know. I just read Nora Ephron’s “I Feel Bad About My Neck” and I laughed the entire way through it. Also everything David Sedaris has written. Oh! Can he crash my dinner party?

Any book you regretted reading?

I don’t know that I really “regret” anything I’ve read. I feel I’ve wasted my time and been totally annoyed with myself for reading “The Catcher in the Rye” and “The Fountainhead”.

Any book you couldn’t finish?

I put down “The Girl on the Train”. It was too gimmicky for me. Predictable. A far better new thriller is “Descent” by Tim Johnston. But I am pretty good at selecting books for myself, so I try to finish what I start.

What book do you think everyone should read before they die?

“To Kill a Mockingbird”, by Harper Lee.

Whom would you want to write your life story?

Me. Or David Sedaris.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

I don’t know. I think you read the right book at the right time. Or at least, I do. I feel like this is the year for me to tackle “Anna Karenina”, but we’ll see. I’ve never read Moby Dick, but I just don’t want to. There are so many books that I DO want to read, and I guess … I’m fairly well read and I don’t embarrass easily.

What do you plan to read next?

I’ll have to see how I feel at the end of the book I’m reading now. But, On deck is “Werner Herzog: A guide for the perplexed”, or “Some Luck” by Jane Smiley. Or Walter Kirn’s “Blood Will Out”

Book Review: Not That Kind of Girl

9780812994995_custom-d00451b98fad719e7e291d37e9048eeba78c5d71-s99-c85The title of Lena Dunham’s new book, Not That Kind of Girl is a reference to Helen Gurley Brown’s 1983 book, Having it All. It seems Ms. Dunham found the book at a second-hand store, read it, got inspired and wrote her book as an answer. Unfortunately the answer is coming from Lena Dunham. The absolute last person I would want to take advice from. About anything. When Helen Gurley Brown wrote her book it was groundbreaking. It was a big deal in 1982 for a woman to be married, a business woman, not a mother, and in charge of her body and sexuality. She is a hero to the feminist movement for being the CEO of a company and running a women’s magazine. Sure, a lot of what Ms. Brown wrote is outdated, but she was a ground breaker. Lena Dunham is a cheap knockoff.

Since the premiere of her show Girls Lena Dunham has been popular. She’s been loved and hated equally in the press. Lena Dunham is a polarizing personality. She’s been hailed as a rebel and a representative of her generation. And she’s been criticised as selfish, out of touch, child-like, and spoiled. Which she is. I mean, I don’t understand how any woman can watch Girls and think, “Gee. I’d like to be friends with them.” Women in Lena Dunham’s universe are stereotypes. And they’re mean! She herself grew up in New York, as the daughter of two artists and attended an all girls school. Then went to Oberlin. And Summered in Connecticut. There’s just something about her that’s un-relatable. Taking advice from Lena Dunham is like taking advice from Jay Gatsby.

having-it-allAnd now the 28-year-old has a book of essays and advice from her years of experience. Basically, the book is full of sex and shtick. And it isn’t very funny. Here is an example from the book. “Not to sound like a total hippie, but I cured my HPV with acupuncture”. Hilarious. In a book that is supposed to be full of advice, or at least things the author has “learned”, the reader is left with… not so much soul baring by the author, but navel gazing. There isn’t much “honest” or “real” in this collection. And I guess that’s the major problem.

Lena Dunham already “has it all”. She was born having it all. The idea that a 28-year-old girl born with a silver spoon in her mouth has written her “memoirs” or an “advice book” is absurd. She is just too young and too privileged to write this type of book. It’s filled with the quirky stories we’ve come to expect from Dunham (trips to the gynaecologist, losing her virginity, finding a therapist, summer camp, and of course, filming a television show. We all know how that can be.) The problem is the stories are repetitive and often boring, lacking the humor and style of better writers like Nora Ephron, Tina Fey or Mindy Kaling.

Maybe I’ve judged her book unfairly, maybe this book is for her “fans” and the rest of us should steer clear. But a good book is a good book. No matter what the target demographic happens to be. For my time and money I can think of at least ten female celebrity memoirs that I would recommend before this one. Ms. Dunham’s stories can best be described as “occasionally entertaining”. If that’s enough for you – enjoy! If not, try Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck, or Happy Accidents by Jane Lynch.

The 20 Coolest Authors. Ever.

Truman CapoteEverybody has their idea of what cool is. It’s a vibe. A feeling you get from someone. Being cool requires one to have a rebellious attitude, be an underdog, or one of societies outliers. Think bikers, but bikers from the 1950’s, not bikers from today. Today’s biker seems violent and rude rather than cool. But you get the idea. Fonzie was cool. Jim Morrison was cool. Wanda Jackson and Peggy Lee were cool. Kermit the Frog is cool. Einstein was cool.

James Blunt is not cool. Kim Kardashian is not cool. Either is Morrissey or Kanye West. David Foster Wallace was not cool. Brent Easton Ellis isn’t either. Writing a “cool” book isn’t what makes you cool. Having the most Twitter followers doesn’t matter either. It’s how you live your life. And obviously how much you like cats.

What follows is a list of who I think are the 20 coolest authors. Ever. I have intentionally listed 10 dudes and 10 ladies because I’m tired of reading lists about literature that do not equally include women. And yes, I am aware that there are more than just twenty super cool authors, and maybe I didn’t pick yours, but these lists take time and effort to create, so I kept the number reasonable. Fee free to add your picks in the comments. Politely.

  1. Truman Capote – Because he gave zero shits about what people thought. He said what he wanted. Wrote what he wanted. Because In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Because he liked cats pre internet. Cool Quote: “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.”
  2. 50459320Margaret Atwood – Because The Hand Maid’s Tale and Alias Grace. Because she went toe to toe with Norman Mailer on gender issues and came out on top. He said that men were intellectuals first, writers or poets second. Women were not. Atwood pointed out, in a speech, that she had herself attended Harvard, and therefore had “a smear of intellectualism.” Cool quote: “Another belief of mine; that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.”
  3. Maurice Sendak – Because Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen. Because In the Night Kitchen was BANNED in America on account of the little boy in the book is naked and therefore inappropriate for children. ‘Merica! Because he was on The Colbert Report right before he died spreading the message for LGBT equality. Cool quote: “Fuck them is what I say. I hate those e-books. They cannot be the future. They may well be. I will be dead. I won’t give a shit.”
  4. Joyce Carol Oates – Because she has published over fifty novels exploring themes of gender, violence, race, monsters, and the darker elements of being alive and human. Because she’s been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize three times. Because she writes horror that will keep you sleepless. And because she kind of looks like Shelley Duval and Olive Oyl. Cool quote: “Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions.”
  5. ahem2Ernest Hemingway – Because Ernest once took a urinal from his favourite bar and moved it into his own home, arguing that he had “pissed away” so much of his money into the urinal that he owned it. Because he won the Nobel Prize in literature. Because he once caught seven Marlin in one day. Because he loved cats. Cool quote: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”
  6. Mary Shelley – Because Frankenstein. Because she hung out with Lord Byron and had picnics with him. Because she wrote the seminal gothic novel. Cool quote: “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.”
  7. Tom Robbins – Because he has lived an outlaw life. Because he met Charles Manson and told him he wasn’t up to snuff. Because Still Life with Woodpecker, Jitterbug Perfume, and Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates. Because he was suspected of being the Unibomber. Cool quote: “Humanity has advanced, when it has advanced, not because it has been sober, responsible, and cautious, but because it has been playful, rebellious, and immature.”
  8. Patti Smith Because she’s as good on stage as she is on the page. Because she lived for many years at the epicenter of cool, the Hotel Chelsea in New York City. Because Horses. Because her nickname is “The Godmother of Punk.” Because she co-wrote a play with actor, playwright, and my fantasy Granddad, Sam Shepard. Cool quote: “To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom.”
  9. haruki murakami and kittenHaruki Murakami – Because he is 65 and he is a dedicated marathon running Iron Man. Because he loves cats. Because he writes food and music better than anyone else. Because he refuses to write blurbs for the back of novels. Because 1Q84, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and Kafka on the Shore. Cool quote: “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
  10. Agatha Christie – Because she was “Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire”. I don’t know what that is, but it sounds pretty badass. Because she created the best detective ever, Hercule Poirot. Because she wrote over sixty mysteries and they are all fun. Cool quote: “Any woman can fool a man if she wants to and if he’s in love with her.”
  11. Roald Dahl – Because The BFG. That’s why. Because he didn’t pander to children. Because he wrote dark, funny books which may or may not have a happy ending. Because when I met him as a kid, he was indeed the Big, Friendly Giant. Cool quote: “So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookcase on the wall.” 
  12. Zadie Smith – Because she changed her name (as a teen) from Sadie to Zadie because it sounded more exotic, and Sadie means Princess – she didn’t like the association. Because On Beauty. Because she was in TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list. Not bad. Because she wears cool turbans. Because she is rumored to be working on a musical of Franz Kafka’s life. Cool quote: “An English Lit degree trains you to be a useless member of the modern world.”
  13. Stephen KingStephen King – Because more of his books have been adapted into films than any other author, so sayeth Guinness Book of Records. Because Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Lisey’s Story and On Writing. Because he survived a near fatal car accident and kept going. Because he writes NY Times book reviews. Because he was in a band called Rock Bottom Remainders with Amy Tan, Mitch Albom, Matt Groening, and Scott Turow. Cool quote: “Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones.”
  14. Octavia E. Butler – Because she was the multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards – the highest praise for science fiction writers. Because she was born and raised in Pasadena, California… just like other cool women like me and Julia Child. Because she attended my alma mater, Pasadena City College for her AA, and eventually moved to Seattle. Because she called herself a hermit, and because I met her and she was awesome. Because Parable of the Sower and Kindred. Cool quote: “Choose your leaders with wisdom and forethought. To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool. To be led by a thief is to offer up your most precious treasures to be stolen. To be led by a liar is to ask to be told lies. To be led by a tyrant is to sell yourself and those you love into slavery.”
  15. John Waters – Duh. He is the epitome of cool. Cool quote: “You should never read just for ‘enjoyment.’ Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick ‘hard books.’ Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, ‘I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.’ Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of ‘literature’? That means fiction, too, stupid.”
  16. George Elliot – Because she was a badass feminist in Victorian times. Because, like the Brontë sisters, Mary Ann Evans created a pen name so the sexist assholes of the times would take her seriously. Because Middlemarch. Because she had a twenty year-long relationship with a married man. Because she wrote what many say is the greatest novel in the english language. Cool quote: “You may try, but you cannot imagine what it is to have a man’s force of genius in you, and to suffer the slavery of being a girl.” 
  17. 251550_523966377619405_374295507_nMark Twain – Because he was a riverboat pilot. Because his BFF was Nikola Tesla. Because A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Because he loved cats, and played pool with them. Because the awesome Hal Holbrook did a one man show AS him. Cool quote: “One cannot have everything the way he would like it. A man has no business to be depressed by a disappointment, anyway; he ought to make up his mind to get even.”
  18. Ursula K. Le Guin – Because her first name is Ursula. Because she is considered to be the best science fiction writer alive. Because The Dispossessed.Because her books tackle complex subject such as alternative worlds, politics, natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality and ethnography. Because she submitted her first story for publication at age 11. Cool quote: “I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.”
  19. Alexandre Dumas – Because he wrote about the most badass dudes ever, namely The Three Musketeers, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Because he was a world traveler and a ladies man said to have fathered at least seven children from some forty affairs. Because he was a well liked dude of his times described as, “the most generous, large-hearted being in the world. He also was the most delightfully amusing and egotistical creature on the face of the earth. His tongue was like a windmill – once set in motion, you never knew when he would stop, especially if the theme was himself.” Cool quote: “Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures.”
  20. Susan Sontag – Because her nickname was “The Dark Lady”. Because she was admitted to college at age 16, and married her professor two weeks after meeting him. Because her book On Photography (1977) did not contain a single photograph – as specimen or illustration. Favorite quote: “I don’t like America enough to want to live anywhere else except Manhattan. And what I like about Manhattan is that it’s full of foreigners. The America I live in is the America of the cities. The rest is just drive-through.”

Books: 10 Mid-Summer Reads

jaws_bg_0June is called “mid-summer” even though it is technically the beginning of the season. It’s the month of weddings, graduations, and pool parties. This is my first summer in almost eight years that I am not landlocked. Austin was just hot and steamy. Prague is pretty rad, but it doesn’t have an ocean or bay. Summer just isn’t the same without open water and a book to read.

Here is a list of books for your own Mid-Summer enjoyment and relaxation. Best if enjoyed near open water! (You can get any of these books at your local library, or Independent Bookseller.)

Jaws by Peter Benchley (1974) – You’ve seen the movie. It scared you from going into the water for years. Now read the book. It is quite possibly the greatest beach read and the one that will keep you from putting even a toe into the ocean again.

Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch (2014) – imgresIn his follow-up to The Dinner, Koch once again delves underneath the smiles and laughter of friends sharing a summer together and pokes at it with a stick. Until it bleeds. And oozes. It’s a summer book with a real dark side. The narrator is a Doctor who find his patients disgusting. The book opens with him looking back at the events that have unfolded, wondering what he could have done to avoid it. Any of it. It’s a great read, but if you are looking for a “light summer read” this isn’t it. This is a book about the underbelly of human beings. The puss. The nasty, filthy things that go unsaid are said here. And it’s pretty dang good.

 

The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses  (2014) by Kevin Birmingham – MDBcover021314I have not read James Joyce’s classic Ulysses. I admit it. That book is really long and really hard to read. I had no idea that the book struggled for publication for nearly fifteen years because of the controversy surrounding it. Ulysses was considered “poor taste” when it was written, and because of shameful things like female sexuality it was banned. Banned! This book explores why it was banned and how it eventually got through to the public. Any book that could make me actually want to go back and attempt to read Ulysses has got to be good. The book is funny and has a light tone considering the weight of the subject matter.

Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America (2014) by John Waters – John Waters is one of my favorite people in the world. Ever. If I were to write a book like his book Roll Models, he would be in there. He has made a career of breaking taboos and bringing the perverse to the mainstream. His books are as funny as his films, if not more so. “Waters, who is now 68, was looking for an adventure he could write about. So he decided to hitchhike cross-country from his home in Baltimore to his co-op apartment in San Francisco.” Hilarity ensues.

Tibetan Peach Pie (2014) by Tom Robbins – Speaking of my all time favorite people… Tom Robbins has a new book out. It is a memoir… of sorts. He doesn’t call it that. Of course he doesn’t. This is Tom Robbins we’re talking about. He writes about his childhood, growing up in Appalachia in the 1930’s, and how he came to be the bad boy of the literary world. Tom Robbins was my personal introduction to Zen ideas and what it meant to be a Bohemian. I think I (unconsciously?) lived my life like one of the fiercely zany female leads from one of his novels. Reading Tibetan Peach Pie made me laugh out-loud more than once and remember why I fell in love with outlaws, literary and otherwise, in the first place. Long Live!

jamesandthegiantpeach1James and the Giant Peach (1961) by Roald Dahl – No summer reading list is complete without at least one great adventure. James and the Giant Peach is a perfect summer read. When a crazed rhino kills his parents, James is sent to live with his horrid aunts Sponge and Spiker. Dahl delights in writing wicked, truly horrid adults in his books for children. And these are two are the worst. James gets a little help from a little man and soon grows a rather large, let’s call it a giant, peach that squashes his aunts and sets him on big adventure. If you haven’t read this before, or since you were a kid, then give it a try. The least you will do is smile. “James decided that he rather like the Centipede. He was obviously a rascal, but what a change it was to hear somebody laughing once in a while. He had never heard Aunt Sponge or Aunt Spiker laughing aloud in all the time he had been with them.” 

The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession (1998) by Susan Orlean – {98130EFB-3E0D-4065-90A2-D786959FAA00}Img100This is one of those books that you read and you can’t quite believe that what you’re reading really happened. I get the same feeling when I read anything by Eric Larson. (Devil and the White City) The book started as an article Susan Orlean was writing about the 1994 arrest of John Larouche and a group of Seminoles in south Florida. They were stealing Orchids so Larouche could clone them. What follows is Orleans journey through the odd world of plants and the people who cultivate and kind of worship them. The book was later made into a movie (kind of) and creates its own awesome journey of flowers, passion and truth. A great book and equally great movie.

Outlander (1991) by Diana Gabaldon – imagesIf you like historical fiction, sexy sex, time travel and evil villains, then this is the book for you. The story follows a 1940’s war nurse who accidentally travels back in time to 18th century Scotland. I know. It sounds ridiculous. It is. But it is also addictive and awesome. Outlander is the first in a series of eight novels. I only read the first three or four, but I loved every minute of them. Here is a quote from Diana Gabaldon, the author. “In essence, these novels are Big, Fat, Historical Fiction… However, owing to the fact that I wrote the first book for practice, didn’t intend to show it to anyone, and therefore saw no reason to limit myself, they  include…history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships, the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses, gambling (with cards, dice, and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul…” The eighth (Written in My Own Hearts Blood) was released just a few weeks ago, and the Straz series based on the books airs August 9th so you better get crackin’ if you want a head start on the next big thing.

Swamplandia! (2011) by Karen Russell – Set in the Ten Thousand Islands off the southwest coast of Florida, Swamplandia! is the story of the Bigtree family, and centers around the smart and precocious Ava, daughter of famed of alligator wrestlers who live on Swamplandia!, an alligator-wrestling theme park. The book is beautifully written and I couldn’t put it down last summer. It’s one of those special books that stay with you long after you’ve closed the cover for the last time. Inside the world of Swamplandia! there is mystery, magic, seances, water slides, ghosts, tragedy, a boy named Kiwi, love and loss. It is a fantastic book with one of the most likeable narrators in recent memory.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985) by Haruki Murakami – hard-boiled-wonderland-and-the-end-of-the-worldMurakami has a new book coming out in August called Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I’ve read it, and it is beautiful. But since that book doesn’t come out for another few months you should read this one. You could read any of his novels and walk away happy, but this one is the most… Murakami of all his books. It takes place in the real world… for the most part, and in a fantasy world. It’s part science fiction cyber punk and part dreamlike fantasy. It’s like reading a surrealist painting. The story is split between two parallel narratives: Hard-Boiled Wonderland (odd chapters), and The End of the Wold (even chapters). This is a great introduction to Murakami and his lovely, weird, sad, funny, and ultimately wise characters.

The Worst Bad Movies

soul-man-originalWe all love a bad movie. There are some movies out there like Battlefield Earth or Beyond The Valley of the Dolls that are so bad, so unbelievably silly, we just can’t look away. But this list isn’t about those kind of bad movies. This list is about movies that were supposed to be good. The criteria for my list is simple: Bad writing, bad concept, bad acting, bad production or bad judgement are all fair game. I’m looking for movies that spent a ton of money and came out with crap. I’m looking for embarrassing performances from reputable actors. I’m looking for movies I walked out of. I’m looking for career enders. So, without further explanation or ado … a list of some of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.

Soul Man (1986) This movie is about a man who undergoes “racial transformation” with tanning pills to qualify for a black-only scholarship at Harvard Law School. Yep. This movie was considered to be in poor taste even back in the 80’s when poor taste was a selling point. But a line was crossed. It made people uncomfortable to watch C. Thomas Howell in blackface. And it just wasn’t funny. C. Thomas Howell took all the fame he garnered from The Outsiders and Red Dawn and basically set it on fire. And watched it burn for the next twenty years.

Sex and the City 2 (2010) sex_and_the_city_2_12I was a fan of the HBO series. Not a huge fan. Just a normal fan. I never had watching parties or got drunk with girl friends while watching it. At least not on purpose. But I liked the show well enough to have felt betrayed by the craptastic sequel to the pretty awful first film. Sex and the City was supposed to be about single gals in the big city – what they wore, who they fucked, where they ate, and occasionally what they did for a living. It was great fun. But time is a tricky devil for a franchise centered around single women. Espically when those women reach their mid to late 30’s and they are still single. So, they did what you’d expect – they married off almost all of them. They gave babies to them. They had them quit their jobs. Maybe it made people comfortable to see Carrie married off or to see Miranda finally trade her job for a family. It’s just sad that they had a real opportunity to show a different side of women. They had a chance to be original but instead they opted for ordinary. And that karaoke scene was pure torture.

The Cell (2000) the-cell_jlo_600x400This movie stars Jennifer Lopez as a world renown child psychologist. Wait, it gets better. She has developed a new experimental technology that lets her enter the minds of comatose patients. Still with me? The FBI recruits her to enter the mind of a serial killer to find out where he has hidden his latest kidnap victim. If you can accept all of that, you are a better person that me. JLo spends a great deal of the movie in elaborate costumes, and occasionally smokes weed in her underwear. The always creepy and awesome Vincent D’Onofrio stars as the comatose serial killer. Who for some reason also happens to be trapped in a glass cell which is slowly filling with water. It’s bad. Really bad. Sure the movie is pretty, and the costumes are great, but it takes more than that to make a good movie. A believable plot is a good place to start.

Southland Tales (2006) southland-talesApparently I cannot stand Richard Kelly. He is responsible for this piece of poo as well as my all time least favorite film, Donnie Darko. But unlike Darko, this movie has little to no redeeming qualities. It’s a post-apocalyptic tale about porn stars and the second coming. It stars The Rock, and Sarah Michelle Gellar… as a porn star. And as exciting as that sounds in theory, the sad fact is that the plot makes no sense. Even on repeated viewings. Or attempted repeated viewings. I couldn’t do it twice. I could barely do it once.

Wicker Man (2006) Everyone knows I love me some Nic Cage. One of the things I like best about him is that he is awful and awesome in equal measure. He can do a movie so bad it’s laughable (like this one) and then do something great like Adaptation. The man is a mystery. But his work in the remake of Wicker Man is pretty much the worst thing he has ever, ever done. 

What Dreams May Come (1998) heaven-what-dreams-may-comeWhen Robin Williams makes a stinker he really goes for it. While Bicentennial Man and Patch Adams are both worthy of this list, What Dreams May Come edges out the competition with its vast amount of pure pretension. I hated this movie. Like The Cell, this movie thinks it can forgo a plotline in lieu of really pretty scenery. Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. And like The Cell, it’s really confusing. Robin Williams has a family and they die. Mostly. Then once he and his wife are happy again, he dies. Mostly. He’s kind of alive in heaven and realizes he can control his surroundings with his mind. He then meets Cuba Gooding Jr. who serves as his mentor in heaven and teaches him how to get into other people’s dreams. Ugh. Just… ugh.

After Earth (2013) 124684 I wish Will Smith would stop producing movies for his kids to star in. They all suck, and they just make me mad at Will Smith. This movie was nothing more than a vehicle for him and his son. Did he learn nothing from The Karate Kid fiasco? Will, if you are reading this, please do us all a favor and stick to bitchen’ action movies that require you to appear shirtless for at least 10% of the running time. These movies you are making with your kids are just sad, man. What would Uncle Phil say about using fame to promote your kids? If they are talented they’ll do alright on their own. And, you kind of aren’t helping anyway.

Godfather 3 (1990) godfather-3 I like to pretend this movie doesn’t exist. Without it The Godfather franchise remains unsullied. The story is not up to par, and we don’t really get much of an explanation for why Michael Corleone has gone legit. He’s older and walks with a stoop, and I guess that’s supposed to show us that he’s human. Just what we want in a Godfather movie. Then to compound the bad ideas, Coppola cast his daughter Sophia as Michael Corleone’s daughter Mary. I’m not exaggerating when I say she ruined the entire film. She is horrible. She should stick to being behind the camera. There are numerous scenes of awkward conversation, and Diane Keaton is reduced to a bit part as a “the mother”. Kay deserved better. So, like I said. I like to pretend that this movie doesn’t even exist. It’s just better that way.

Honorable MentionGlitter, Waterworld, Gili, White Chicks, everything ever from Tyler Perry, Catwoman, The Fantastic Four, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and The Twilight Saga movies

 

I’m a Barbie Girl

contentWhen I was a little girl I had a variety of dolls. I played with “Baby” dolls, Cabbage Patch Kids, Barbie Dolls, Star Wars dolls and action figures, and even my grandmothers porcelain dolls. All of these dolls (including my Grandmother’s) are still in cardboard boxes somewhere in my mom’s garage. I loved dolls when I was a child and I love them today. I played with all sorts of dolls and none of them (with the exception of my Princess Leia action figure) influenced my self-confidence or self-worth. Princess Leia just made me want to fight bad guys and rid the universe of evil. I still want to do that.

Playing with Barbie dolls as a young girl in the 80’s didn’t give me an eating disorder, and it didn’t make me feel ugly. I never thought of Barbie as a “role model”. I looked at my Barbie dolls as a hanger for clothing. 90% of my time playing Barbies was used to change her clothes. And Barbie wasn’t the easiest doll to do a costume change for. My Barbies didn’t have slick legs (except for “My First Barbie”) and the pants and sleeves of the glamorous clothes always stuck to her body. I literally had to tug and pull to get her dressed. Cher makes it look so easy.  Anyway, I played with Barbie as she was intended to be played with: As a fashion doll.

I get irritated when I hear people complain about Barbie and her “impossible” proportions. Of course she’s impossible. She’s a doll. Barbie was introduced in 1959 when the only doll a girl had to play with was a “baby doll”. I don’t have anything against “baby dolls” but not every little girl wants to play mommy, or even be a mommy. Mattel tapped into a market that no one else in America was interested in: girls. She was one of the first toys to use TV advertising to her advantage, and she’s still around today. Sure, she’s changed a lot but the idea is still the same. Barbie is a fashion doll. You can change her outfits. She goes to parties and to work.

Y7496_BARBIE-FASHIONISTAS-Gown-Doll-(Pink-Mermaid-With-Ruffles)_XXXBut not all women have the same view of Barbie. Some women seem to find the doll threatening. They call her “unrealistic” and “over exaggerated”. I couldn’t agree more. She totally is. But so are Transformers and GI Joe. And My Little Pony. Barbie is no more of a threat to a young girls self-esteem than Batman is to a young boys. But some people have to find fault with everything and those people’s kids get to play with this new doll called “Lammily”. No, that’s not a typo, that is the doll’s actual name. And as if that wasn’t enough to turn off any young girl, the doll also looks like your mom.

Meet “Lammily” the lame doll with the lame name. She’s more “realistic” than Barbie and bound to be absolutely no fun to play with. The doll (designed by a man) is supposed to be the representation of a “normal” body. How fun. Lammily looks like she shops at Old Navy and drives carpool on Tuesdays. If I am a young girl who wants to see what a “normal” woman looks like, I need look no further than my own family, or perhaps to one of the dozens of female teachers in my life. I get normal. I am normal. Who wants to play normal? How does that encourage my imagination? It doesn’t. It probably makes mom feel like she’s awesome, but it leaves daughter bored. And with a doll that doesn’t fit any other doll clothes.

Leia 6Like I said, I had a wide variety of dolls in my entourage, one of which was a “Barbie-type” Princess Leia doll. She came in her white dress, hair in two buns, and her gun. She even looked a lot like Carrie Fisher. I loved her. I loved her until she had to integrate into my pre-existing Barbie society. My new doll had huge, flat feet. There was no way she was going to fit those canoes into Barbie’s dainty little slippers. She was also twice the size of Barbie which meant that she couldn’t share clothes. Princess Leia was stuck in that white, turtle neck gown. Indefinitely. She became the doll that stayed home when the others went out. She was the Cinderella of my group, but unlike the fairy tale, Ms. Leia never got to go to a ball. None of the gowns fit.

And that’s how I see these “Lammily” dolls. They are guaranteed to make your daughter the outcast. I remember being invited over to a friend’s house to play Barbies, and feeling like the biggest dork in the world when I showed up with a doll that didn’t fit in. Literally. Leia didn’t fit in the dream house. If the idea behind these so-called “Normal” dolls is to help girls with their self-esteem, then I see it backfiring big time. If you want your daughter to have good self-esteem, then talk to her about it and be her role model. Don’t leave it up to a doll.

The “Lammily” doll is still being funded (via Crowdfunding campaign) and they hope to produce 5,000 boring dolls that look like the neighbor lady getting ready to go to the gym. The tagline is “Average is Beautiful”. Seriously? I mean, sure there is nothing wrong with average. I got a couple of C’s on a report card or two, but shouldn’t we strive for more? Average isn’t beautiful. It’s average. I understand that some people are offended by Barbie and the hyper-sexualized “Bratz” dolls, but I don’t think making a doll that looks like a soccer-mom is the solution. There isn’t a lot of fun places you can pretend to go with your Lammily doll.

The real solution here is to talk to our young ladies and give them credit for being able to choose their own role models. Barbie doesn’t have to be anything more than a fun toy. If we talk to our kids (boys and girls) and help them to understand that toys are toys, and people are people, then it should be alright in the end. I never once thought I could grow up to be Barbie, the thought never crossed my mind. Leading your kids to believe “they can be anything” and that they are “perfect” the way they are is fine I guess, but I’d rather have a healthy dose of reality. No, you will never look like Barbie. 

And that’s a good thing. Because she is a plastic doll, and you, YOU are flesh and blood.

Film: Oscar Predictions 2014

12-years-a-slaveIt’s been said that you buy a Golden Globe, but you win an Oscar. That may or may not be true. I’m not naive enough to think that there isn’t a big political game played with the Oscars. I know there are huge amounts of money spent by producers (Mr. Weinstein) campaigning for their films. They want votes and they will make sure they get them.

I know all of that and I don’t care. I still love watching the show, being super judgmental about who is wearing what, and of course, being right about who will win. It’s usually pretty easy to figure out who’s gonna win. But this year, this year is a little different. The way I see it, there are two movies which could take the big award, and possibly sweep. ’12 Years a Slave’ and ‘Gravity’. Below are my predictions (and hopes) for who will take home the coveted, eight pound, Golden Man.

Best Picture: ’12 Years a Slave’

Both ‘Gravity’ and ’12 Years a Slave’ have a great chance of winning best picture. Academy voters adore historical biopics, and especially one with this much weight. ’12 Years a Slave’ wasn’t an easy movie to watch. It wasn’t supposed to be. It was supposed to make you hurt and feel. It did both.The acting was superb, and Academy voters have a history of rewarding films like this one. On the other side of the coin we have “Gravity”, a film that showed real cinematic vision and originality. Some people found the script to be far-fetched, but whatever. Have you been to space before? I doubt it. So keep your totally unsubstantiated opinions about what is or isn’t possible about space to yourself. Oh, and remember it’s just a movie.

Although “American Hustle” is gaining momentum at the moment, the votes have already been cast, and I look at it as a long shot. Too bad there isn’t an award for best hair piece in a film. It would totally win. Both ‘Nebraska’ and ‘Philomena’ were better movies than Hustle, but unfortunately they are not sexy and not many people saw either. I did. I saw them both in the theater and said, “Those movies are going to get nominated.” And they did. They just won’t win.

Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey – ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

A disheveled Matthew McConaughey gets arrested in scenes for 'The Dallas Buyers Club' in New Orleans Oscar voters love nothing more than someone who gains or loses an insane amount of weight for a role. There is a long list of actors (Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Renee Zellweger, Christian Bale, Charlize Theron, Adrien Brody, Natalie Portman …) who have used this to their advantage. Some people say, “It’s not acting”, but they are wrong. It’s called “Method Acting”. It’s been around since Dustin Hoffman actually ran miles before filming scenes in ‘The Marathon Man’. This year I think it’s safe to say Matthew McConaughy will be added to the list. He gave a great performance as the straight guy who saved the gays in Texas from The Aids. His character was despicable at first, but after he met a drag queen with a heart of gold (Leto) he softened just enough for Academy voters to love him. I think he’s a shoe in. He seems to have stepped away from his Rom/Com roots and wants to be taken seriously now. I can’t believe that I live in a world where Matthew McConaughy will have an Oscar.

The runner-up would be Leo DiCaprio. He’s been working hard at playing crazy, and he got it right in Wolf. Too bad he didn’t lose forty pounds in the process. Better luck next time, Leo. Personally I’d love to see Bruce Dern win. It was a great and subtle performance that deserves more than just a nod from the Academy. But the chances of that happening are slimmer than McConaughy’s waistline.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett – ‘Blue Jasmine’

Blue-Jasmine-Cate-Blanchett-4 For me, it’s a tight race between the always incredible Blanchett and Ms. Bullock. Both women star in films centered around them. For Sandra Bullock especially. I mean, without her there would be no movie at all. She IS ‘Gravity’. And as amazing as her performance was (and it was), I still think the little golden dude will end up in the hands of Cate Blanchett. I saw ‘Blue Jasmine’ in the theaters and left saying, “She’s going to win for Best Actress”. And I still think so. Her role as a wealthy divorcée suffering a meltdown is a Master Class in acting. Every breath she takes is deliberate and spot on. She played a very unlikable woman who you couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for. If the recent Woody Allen scandal doesn’t disrupt voting, you can be assured she’ll walk away with the statue.

And then again, there’s always Meryl Streep.

Supporting Actor: Jared Leto – ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

primary_DallasBuyersClub-2013-4There is no one in the world who I want to punch in the face more than Jared Leto. I can’t stand him. He’s pretentious and obnoxious and a poor excuse for a rock star. But He’ll probably take home the prize this year. It makes me crazy to say it. He’s going to win for playing a sympathetic composite character designed to make McConaughey’s dirt bag character look like he has something resembling a heart. Big whoop. It’s been done before and better than Leto. But I think he’ll win anyway.

I’d love to see Fassbender walk away with the award, but that won’t happen. The Academy rarely gives awards to villains unless the guy was a cute villain like Christoph Waltz in ‘Django Unchained’. There was nothing cute about the bat-shit-crazy slave owner played flawlessly by Fassbender. And that’s why he won’t win. If Leto somehow manages not to win, you can expect to see the statue go to Barkhad Abdi for ‘Captain Phillips’.

Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o – ’12 Years a Slave’

Lupita12yas_2784544bI know that all of America is in love with Jennifer Lawrence at the moment. I get that. I am too! But I still think Lupita Nyong’o will walk away the winner tomorrow night. Her performance was heartbreaking and pretty much perfect. Lawrence won last year for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and I didn’t think she deserved it. And I don’t think she deserves it for her portrayal of a manic house wife in the 70’s. She might win, but it will be due to her popularity as a celebrity more than for her performance. If we are giving acting awards to women playing angry wives, then I think June Squibb ought to win for her perfect portrayal of a bitter, mean-spirited wife in ‘Nebraska’. The chances of her winning are slim, but I’ll be damned happy if it happens.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón – ‘Gravity’

gravity_ver2_xlgI love his films, and he deserves to win. ‘Gravity’ was a masterpiece. He already took home the Directors Guild award, so I think this one is in the bag. His vision came to life on-screen, and he used some new techniques that raised a few eyebrows in the film world. Steve McQueen is the runner-up in this category, but I don’t think it’s his year.

Best Screenplay, adapted: ’12 Years a Slave’

But don’t count out Jeff Coogan’s touchingly funny ‘Philomena’, a movie based on another horrific true story. ’12 Years’ might have an all around sweep and take everything it is nominated for, but this category might be one that upsets it. Weinstein has been making the rounds with this film, making sure Oscar voters don’t forget about the little movie that packs a huge emotional punch. Don’t count it out just yet. It stars Dame Judi Dench, after all. She won for ‘Shakespeare in Love’ and was on-screen less than eight minutes. Total.

Best Screenplay, original: ‘Her’

I know that’s not the popular choice here, but it is in fact the right choice. It really is an original idea. And that should be rewarded. Most folks are giving it to ‘American Hustle’, but I feel like I’ve seen that movie before. And more than once. It reminded me of ‘American Gangster’ and ‘Casino’. I didn’t find it to be very original at all. This might be the only award given to the wonderful Spike Jonze film. It deserves it. I’d love to see Woody Allen take home the prize, but considering the recent news and scandal, I don’t see that happening.

Best Animated Feature: ‘Frozen’

I don’t see much of a race here. Disney is back in full force with this pro-female cartoon. Everyone loves it, and the lovely and talented Idina Menzel will be on hand to sing “Let It Go” from the film. If for some reason it doesn’t win, expect to see ‘The Wind Rises’ take the prize.

Best Documentary: ‘The Act of Killing’

frontpage1 Another category where I am going against popular opinion, but that’s just how I roll. The odds on favorite to win is ‘Twenty Feet From Stardom’ about the backup singers (like Judith Hill) and legends (like Darlene Love) who sang lead but were never given credit. It’s one of the only nominated films that folks actually saw in theaters, and it made more money than the rest. It will probably win. But I’m still holding out for the incredible film, ‘The Act of Killing’ in which American director Oppenheimer contacted the paramilitary thugs who in the 1960s killed thousands of Indonesian civilians. Nearly 50 years later, he persuaded them to reenact their own crimes, in the form of the Hollywood movies they loved. Yeah, it should totally win.

Best Documentary, short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Just trust me on this one.

Best Foreign Language film: ‘The Great Beauty’, Italy

I haven’t seen any of the nominated films, so I am guessing here. All of the folks who know about these things agree that ‘The Great Beauty’ will take home the prize.

As for the rest, you’re on your own. Expect ‘Gravity’ to take home editing and cinematography awards, and probably ‘Gatsby’ for costume design. Make-up will go to ‘Dallas’, and you can never go wrong with picking John Williams to win for Best Score. Although ‘Gravity’ might be a solid bet.

I hope my predictions have helped you in your own Oscar pool. But don’t blame me if I’m wrong. There’s a first time for everything.

Film: Top Ten Time-Travel Movies

esq-future-xlg-40192385It’s one of the oldest cinematic devices. It’s been used in comedies, dramas, science fiction, and even romance movies. I’m talking about time-travel. It’s been twenty-five years (this month!) since Bill and Ted hopped in that phone booth and rounded up history’s most famous folks for a class assignment, so I decided to round-up my own famous folks for this list. In honor of Marty McFly and the rest, I give you what I think are the best (and my favorite) time travel movies. In no particular order as usual. Enjoy!

  1. Planet of the Apes (1968) Planet_of_the_apes_Varese_VSD_5848By far one of the greatest “twist” endings in movie history happens in this Heston classic. Heston (who eats every scene he is in) travels to a distant planet only to discover it is inhabited by apes. Apes who walk and talk and have british accents. By the end of the film we discover along with The Hest, that he hasn’t travelled through space, but through time. Oh, and do yourself a favor and skip the horrible 2001 remake.
  2. Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) titleThe only film on my list where you just aren’t sure if anyone has actually time-travelled. And that’s why I love this movie so much. It’s time-travel done the “Quirky Indie” way. Aubrey Plaza (Indie’s IT girl) stars as a young woman who answers an ad asking for a partner in (you guessed it) time travel. Is the guy crazy, or has he really found a way to travel through time? You tell me.
  3. Midnight in Paris (2011) urlBy far one of the best films Woody Allen has made in the last twenty years. It stars Owen Wilson as Woody Allen a screenwriter who takes a trip to Paris with his horrible fiancé and her family. While he is there he stumbles into 1920’s Paris and meets all the literary Who’s Who of the famed Expat community. A fantastic movie that reminds us how often we romanticize the past. And how much I miss living in Europe.
  4. Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)  Peggy_Sue_Got_Married_2 Francis Ford Coppola directed this comedy starring none other than Nic Cage. It’s really hard for me to make a list and not include him somehow. And he sings in this movie, which of course makes me even happier. Anyway, the film centers around Kathleen Turner, (the title character) a forty-something housewife who is dissatisfied with her life and her no good husband. She wakes up one morning to find herself as a teenager, living at home with mom and dad. How would you deal with dating the man who you know later in life you would come to divorce? Jim Carey and Joan Allen also have small roles. Great, funny film worth checking out again.
  5. Somewhere in Time (1980) – Christopher Reeve time travels again, but this time he isn’t a super hero. It’s simple. He falls in love with a picture of Jane Seymour and travels back in time to woo her. Self hypnosis is amazing.
  6. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) ST-IV-The-Voyage-Home-Behind-the-Scenes-star-trek-7879787-1000-690I struggled with which Star Trek movie to use since the two that deal with time travel are the best, and I went with the first. Sure, it’s a little cheesy, but that’s what I like about it. Seeing the Enterprise crew walking the streets of a mid-eighties San Francisco is just too much fun. They are trying to save the humpback whale from extinction (naturally) and wear really awesome “future” clothes while doing it.  Look to Spock for some quippy one liners.
  7. Time Bandits (1981) – I saw this movie in the theater when it came out. I was seven and I didn’t understand much. Years later in Prague I re-watched the movie and realized I understood it fine. It was just a Terry Gilliam movie. It’s absurd, funny, raunchy, over the top, and everything you might expect from a Gilliam film. Not for everyone, but it sure is weird. And I like weird.
  8. Twelve Monkeys (1995) tumblr_llo94gIddG1qk59nyo1_400And while we’re talking about Terry Gilliam time-travel movies, I might as well add this one. It stars Bruce Willis as a convict who is sent back in time to find out how the virus that has devastated the earth got started. Brad Pitt steals every scene he is in as the (maybe) crazy inmate Jeffery.
  9. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) tumblr_kti1veVoBU1qa55fxo1_400Special effects. Explosions. Time-traveling. Motorcycle riding. Badass babe. A cyborg made from liquid metal. What’s not to enjoy here?
  10. Back to the Future (1985) – Duh. I’d have to slap myself silly if this classic didn’t appear on the list. The all time best time travel movie ever. Hands down. End of discussion.

Honorable Mentions: Star Trek: First Contact, Time After Time, Groundhog Day, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

My Favorite Unconventional Romance Movies

secretaryYep, it’s that time of year again. Time for restaurants to hike up prices, time for ladies to demand romance and gifts, and time for men to bring home a stuffed bear holding a heart. Yep. It’s Valentine’s Day. I don’t have anything against the holiday. It’s cute, and I like cute things. I do however have a problem with making a huge deal out of it. It’s not called “Get Her an Expensive Gift Day”, ladies.

In honour of this weird little holiday, I give you my favorite off beat romance films. Sure, any list about romance films will have its staples like Casablanca and The Notebook. But not this one! I decided to make a list of the more quirky, interesting love stories out there. They are also my favorites. I hope you enjoy it, and happy Valentine’s Day!

  1. Wild at Heart (1990) – When you think of David Lynch you will probably have one of two reactions: Love or Hate. I am of the former camp. For me, “Wild at Heart” takes all of the best things about David Lynch and puts them all together. He created a truly romantic love story. It tells the story of Lula and Sailor – two star crossed Elvis lovers on the run from the law and Lula’s batshitcrazy mother. Of course there is so much more to it than that, but it’s David Lynch so I am not going to even attempt to explain it. Just know this: Harry Dean Stanton is in it. Nic Cage sings Elvis’s “Love Me” in a thrash Metal bar. Willem Dafoe plays the creepiest creep in all of creepdom. And, the film is a modern-day telling of the Wizard of Oz. Just watch Nic Cage fight for his lady’s honor and his belief in personal freedom. My favorite scene in the film.  
  2. Secretary (2002) – Often looked at as “That S&M movie”, “Secretary is far more than that. The film is about two people who live in a world that doesn’t accept or understand them. It stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as the fresh out of the loony bin girl who just wants to be “normal”. She finds a job working for (the glorious!) Mr. James Spader as his secretary. They quickly realize that they need each other. She needs to be punished for being such a disappointment, and for not being normal. He needs to feel control and he needs to feel safe. The film is off beat, super sexy, funny and dark. In the end it is about true love and self acceptance. “Who’s to say that love needs to be soft and gentle?”
  3. Harold & Maude (1971) – If you don’t like this movie then… you just don’t like. This movie is the ultimate quirky love story. There are no beautiful people with slight mental disorders here. No Hollywood glam. Just some Cat Stevens music, a suicidal teen, and the coolest senior citizen of all time. I strive every day to be more like Maude. 
  4. Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – What’s better than a coming of age love story? A coming of age love story directed by Wes Anderson. If you didn’t see this in the theater, you missed out. And there is a kitten in it. 
  5. Brokeback Mountain (2005)Brokeback_Mountain,_2005,_Jake_Gyllenhaal,_Heath_LedgerBlah, blah, blah gay cowboy movie blah blah. Did you get it out of your system? Can we move past the shock of two men kissing? Good. Now that we have all grown the fuck up we can look at this great movie for what it is: A tragic love story. I think I cried for a solid hour or three during and after this one. Love isn’t always a splendored thing. Sometimes it hurts, it breaks your heart and leaves you broken. This movie is a story of two people who fall in love, and cannot find a way to be together. So they do the best they can, and we all know how that usually turns out. Heath Ledger gave the performance of his career in this film with quiet, understated pain. The entire cast is spot on. It is a wonderful film. Just don’t go looking for any happily ever after here.
  6. True Romance (1993) – There is so much good here, I hardly know where to begin. You get Patricia Arquette playing the adorable Alabama Worley, a street smart call girl with a penchant for Kung Fu movies. She falls in love with Clarence (Christian Slater) and they get married. And then they start having a few problems. What problems? Let’s see… there’s a crazy pimp (played by Gary Oldman), a stoner roommate (played perfectly by Brad Pitt), an insane Sicilian (played by Christopher Walken) and a great dad (played by Dennis Hopper). Yeah, trouble. I didn’t even mention James Gandalfini getting his ass handed to him by a badass and bloody Arquette. So good. If you are a fan of violence and romance, then this is for you. 
  7. Ruby Sparks (2012) –  Have you ever read a book and wished that a character was real because you fell in love with them? Well, in this film a novelist creates a character and then pretty much wills her into being. It’s quirky, sad, and funny. Paul Dano stars as the novelist in one of the first roles he’s played that doesn’t creep me out. Oh, and Elliot Gould is in it. That’s reason enough to see it. 
  8. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)lars-and-the-real-girl2Long before anyone really noticed what a hottie Ryan Gosling is, he starred in a bunch of strange indie movies. This is one of them. It’s a touching story about a man who finds love… with a silicone sex doll. I’m sure he’s not the first dude to proclaim love for a sex toy, but he might be the first guy who forms an emotional bond with it. The movie is funny and touching, and watching it makes you happy that you know actual people who can love you back.