Since I’ve Been Gone: Part I

Shockingly enough, a lot has happened since I was last here, so I want to take the opportunity to highlight some of the stuff I loved/did while I was gone. I’m going to start with a mixture of random stuff here to be followed by some more cohesive groupings.

As far as everyday life is concerned the last six years saw me complete my bachelors, go back to school for a certificate in public health while I contemplated what I want to be when I grow up, and then start my masters this past January because I finally have a general idea. I’m extremely fortunate to still be working both of my jobs as they are both deemed essential, though I’m not doing any traveling this year which I’m bumming about – presently I’m supposed to be in Sweden, but alas COVID. Instead I’ll keep adding to the list of future travel plans, and reading, and occasionally doing some homework in a semi-timely fashion while getting the odd extra hour of sleep. Now into the good stuff…

First up, my favorite book of 2019 and probably even the decade.

A Gentleman in Moscow

Book: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. This is going first because I still think about this book all the time even though I read it about eight months ago now. This book was an accident, because I didn’t expect to finish the book I had been reading on my way to Phoenix, so I had to grab a new one at the airport when I was coming home and the synopsis sounded interesting enough. I proceeded to read about half of the book on the way. It was so good and I could not stop reading it. From the setting, to the characters, to just the feel of the book and the writing. Every single thing about it took my breath away. I absolutely adored it and I want everyone to read it.  

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, #5)

Book/TV Show: A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones, let’s talk (very briefly) about it, because everyone has an opinion. I read the first book in the span of a week back in 2014. I started book 2 soon after, got distracted and didn’t go back to it until last year because the show was ending and I could finally just binge the whole show, so if ever there was a time to get to it and read the damn books, last year was it. And I was insistent upon reading the books before watching. The quick version of my feelings are, the books are better, 955%. However, there were some parts that I really enjoyed watching the scenes more than reading them, but that was not the case most of the time. The other thing is the ending of the show. I won’t spoil anything, but I’m not mad at what happened and I understand why it was done the way it was. That said, I am mad that they rushed it. That last season should have been longer than it was, so I feel like they did not do justice to the story because of it. I’ll still read the last two books when they come out though, and I’m sure they will be 955% better than the show too.  

TV Show: The Repair Shop. This is a much more recent find, but a few months ago we happened across this show on Netflix and it is one of the most wonderful and fulfilling shows I’ve ever watched. It’s literally a group of people who repair everything from furniture, clocks, toys, leatherwork, paintings, ceramics, and on and on. If I have a half hour to sit down and chillax, this is probably what I’m watching. My only gripe (NETFLIX!) is that I can only get two of the seasons. I went so far as to see if I could buy the other seasons on DVD from BBC and have them shipped over…. NOPE. Sigh.  

Dunkirk Poster

Movie: Dunkirk. If you’ve seen this movie, you probably know. It really is one of a kind and it was so well done. There are not many movies that I can say I’ve watched that have unsettled me quite like Dunkirk and despite only seeing it once while it was still in IMAX (even though I totally bought it when it came out), I still remember it like it was yesterday. The sheer lack of dialogue, the use of sound, and the way everything was put together just stuck with me. Absolutely one of the best and most memorable films I’ve ever seen.




Place I’ve Been: Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, Poland. I’ve been traveling as often as possible the last few years, so it’s difficult to pick a single favorite place that I’ve been. However, if there is a single place I’ve been so far that is more memorable than anywhere else, it is certainly Auschwitz. I went in 2018 and I remember the feeling of getting off that train and walking across town to the camp of my own volition. Being there is like feeling the energy and history of the place, of the horrifying things that happened. It’s such a strange dichotomy because in a lot of ways it’s almost peaceful there now. I don’t know if I’ll ever really have the right words to describe it, but it’s one of those experiences that will stick with me forever.

Until next time!

Favorites and the So Bad They’re Good Movies

I don’t talk about movies a whole lot here even though I love to watch movies as much as I like to read, but when I mentioned the ‘so bad it’s good’ category in my Booking Through Thursday post the topic stuck in my mind. I’ve decided to talk about some of my favorite movies of all time, movies that are so bad they’re good, and a few movies that are just plain awful.

Favorite movies of all time:

1. Star Wars – I grew up watching my dad’s Star Wars videos constantly. I love to watch these, all six. I cannot get enough Star Wars… ever. I’ve seen these movies enough that I pretty much know all of the dialogue by heart.
2. Casablanca – Call me cliche, I don’t care, but I love Bogie. Humphrey Bogart is my go to on those days when everything is going  wrong and you just need something to escape all the day-to-day bullshit. Casablanca is probably my favorite of all Bogie movies.3. Hellfighters – John Wayne. Need I say more?
4. House of Flying Daggers – I have a serious soft spot for foreign films. House of Flying Daggers out of China, is no exception. The film not only has some great action, but it is simply beautiful. The first time I saw the end I was in disbelief. Fantastic, truly.
5. Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels – Thank you very much Guy Ritchie, for some of the best movie time I’ve spent, ever.
6. Pride & Prejudice – I’m talking the Kiera Knightley and Matthew MacFayden version. Unfortunately I have yet to see the 1940(?) version with Laurence Olivier. I’ve seen this adaptation almost as many times as I’ve seen Star Wars. That’s a lot.
7. Lust, Caution – Lust, Caution is an Ang Lee movie out of Asia. While I’m guessing most people are familiar with Ang Lee for his work with Brokeback Mountain, he ought to be known for Lust, Caution. This movie takes place in China during th Japanese occupation of WWII. The film is personal and emotional. It deals with the horrors of the time period and confronts all aspects of humanity. It’s a gorgeous film that I don’t think receives enough appreciation due to the labels that have been pinned on it.
8. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Oh! Hey, another Ang Lee film you say? Why yes indeedy. I first saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon when it came out on dvd a few years back, this movie is actually my introduction into Ang Lee film. It’s another example of fantastic film making that sucks you in and leaves you needing a few minutes to gather your bearings once the credits start rolling.
9. Twelve Angry Men – The 1957 version of Twelve Angry Men with Henry Fonda… I originally watched this movie in my Human Communications class, but it really grabbed my attention. I made a point to see it again outside of class and I really just fell in love with it. Several men serving on a jury in a case of a boy who supposedly killed his father want to simply declare him guilty and be on their way, they don’t want to consider that there is alternative, that they could in fact be making the wrong decision. During the movie prejudices and misconceptions are confronted and these very different men with sometimes clashing personalities build a sort of camraderie based on the issues they explored working together as a jury. This is another of those films that explores the intricacies of human nature.
10. The Aviator – A friend of mine told me that I must see this movie, and since I trust her recommendations (except when she tells me Star Trek is better than Star Wars, which obviously is incorrect and an ongoing source of debate amongst us), I picked up a copy. Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Howard Hughes from the mid-1920s thru the mid-1940s when he was still a movie-making, plane flying, ladies man. The Aviator really is simply fantastic.
11. Dancing in the Rain – Gene Kelly is the musical Humphrey Bogart in my book, and his films are right up there with Bogie’s. If you’re looking for a classic musical, I suggest Dancing in the Rain. Before you know it you’ll be singing ‘Moses Supposes’ at the most random of times.
12. Grease – This is one of my guilty pleasure movies. I love the hell out of Grease. It’s not even because John Travolta is young and hunky, its because the music is so catchy.
13. Aladdin – I’m a 90s kid and this the movie of my youth. Well, this and The Lion King, but I’m sure you catch my drift.
14. Nosferatu – The 1922 Max Shreck version, since I understand there was a remake, is the Nosferatu I’m talking about. Whenever I watch silent films there is a sort of innate simplicity where you are focusing on the movement and emotions instead of words. Nosferatu is one of those movies and I love it.
15. Pulp Fiction – “English, motherfucker, do you speak it?!” Or the big huge adrenaline needle, or Quentin Tarantino’s awful, awful acting. What is there not to love about Pulp Fiction?

Other favorites:

The Big Country
Rocky Horror Picture Show
Sin City
Drunken Master
Life of Brian
The Great Gatsby
Hot Saturday

The next category of movies to bring up are the ones where you tell your friends, “I can’t believe I spent two hours watching ______, it was awful! You have to see it!”

The so bad they’re good movies:

1. Stay Alive – Stay Alive has an interesting cast of young actors, Frankie Muniz included, who are beta testers for video games. One of the games they receive becomes a little too realistic when the players start dying in real life the way they do in the game. It’s so cheesy, it’s so bad, and you’ve got to see it!
2. The Village – I think this was supposed to be scary, but it really wasn’t.
3. Ninja Assassin – One of the ways to my heart is through old ninja and samurai films. Ninja Assassin disgraces the genre.
4. Anything with Jean-Claude Van Damme – Do you really need me to explain this one? If you do it means you’ve never seen a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie so I suggest you go rent Cyborg.
5. Gacy – It was a history channel special on serial killers that first interested me in criminal psychology. Since then I’ve seen several movie adaptations of the lives of serial killers. Gacy was just awful, by far one of the worst.
6. Grease 2 – While the original Grease makes my list of all time favorites, in the second installment everything goes downhill. Grease 2 simply sucks, but you can’t not see it at least once in your life.
7. Phone Booth – Phone Booth is an awful excuse for a thriller. How I managed to sit through the whole thing I don’t know. It’s probably got something to do with Colin Farrell.
8. Death Race – The gore makes the movie.
9. Body of Evidence – Madonna and Willem Dafoe… Madonna’s character is on trial for essentially fornicating her older lover to death. Then she has an affair with her attorney, Dafoe. At the end you’re like ‘Damn, I’m never going to get that hour and a half of my life back’. It’s so bad its hilarious.
10. Rocky series – Here is another no need to explain example of so bad it’s good.

Lastly, the actually awful, horrendous, sad movies that I truly wish I could take back having ever watched:

1. I Know Who Killed Me – A twisted movie with Linsday Lohan. I’d rather spend the rest of my life locked in a room with only a copy of Bring It On for company.
2. Cabin Fever – This ‘horror/thriller’ had me in a state of disbelief. I don’t believe in having regrets, but if I did, this would be at the top of my list. In fact, I might regret it even though I don’t do regrets it was such a waste of time.
3. The Ruins – I thought that because this movie centers around Mayan ruins that it would be interesting. Boy was I wrong. It was an awful, cliche, mainstream watch pretty blonde girls scared for their lives run around virtually naked while surrounded by flesh-eating plants that legit grow into your body and cause it to decay, it’s not scary in the sense that you can’t be without lights on for the next few hours, its scary in that someone actually agreed that making this movie would be a great idea.

So those are some of my all time favorite movies, the movies that are so bad they’re unmissable, and movies that were just plain bad. I know I’ve probably missed some vital movies for the last two categories, so if you can think of anything to be added, let me know. I want to know all those movies to stay away from and the ones you’ve got to see. If you can think of something that I need to see that qualifies for best movies of all time, definitely share those too!


So, a few notes of excitement and anticipation.

The Pillars of the Earth miniseries starts this week. Donald Sutherland, Matthew MacFayden, and Rufus Sewell… can you say YAY?! I guess I’m going to have to crack the book open real quick so I can watch the show.

I just watched Surrogates. It was interesting. There were a few moments where I had Terminator flashes, but overall I rather liked it.

District 9, Avatar, and The Hurt Locker – movies I have owned since release, anticipated seeing, and haven’t had time to watch. Maybe that’ll happen sooner rather than later.

Has anyone else seen trailers for the Tron remake? I’m hyped! How about the The Sorcerers Apprentice or The Last Airbender?

Resident Evil 4 on September 10 (I’ll be at the midnight showing, a happy couple days early birthday to me gift)

Harry Potter 7: Part 1 in November!

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in December. FINALLY!

Psyched. And for books:

July 27th – Release of Jeaniene Frost’s Eternal Kiss of Darkness from the Night Huntress World series.

July 27th – Infamous by Suzanne Brockmann

August 1st – Release of Mentor: A Memoir by Tom Grimes

And getting way ahead of myself, I’m counting down to a couple of fall releases of which I already have pre-ordered, because I’m just that obsessed.

October 1st – Mr. Darcy’s Obsession by Abigail Reynolds, her latest P&P variation

December 7th – Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead, the 6th and final release of the Vampire Academy series (of which I still need to review)

So much good stuff still left for this year. What are you looking forward to?