This made my night significantly funnier.
This made my night significantly funnier.
Much like Upstream Color is a film I am excited about based largely on Shane Carruth’s first movie, Primer, I am excited about Mud because of Jeff Nichols’ most recent effort, Take Shelter. Take Shelter was easily one of the best movies I watched in 2012 (the movie came out in 2011). If Mud is even half as brilliant as Take Shelter, I’ll find it well worth my time.
A full trailer for Upstream Color, I still have no idea what’s going on! Let’s do this.
It sucks to love books as much as I do, and yet be a relatively slow reader. Compared with most avid readers, I know I have a much slower page per minute rate. Granted, some of that is because I am comparing myself to people like my friend Amara, who probably read War and Peace in the time it took me to proofread that last sentence. Still, I know I am not the fastest of readers, I suppose a combination of just plain being slow, and my need to savor each sentence and feel sick if I start rushing and missing stuff. I retain well, when it comes to picking out themes and seeing connections I’m one bad mamma jamma, but speed eludes me.
Slowish reading is my achilles heel when it comes to the massive number of books on my ever growing ‘To-Read’ list. In a 2012 that was down in just about every aspect of my life, reading books was no different. I only read 41 books in 2012, and before some of you roll your eyes and say, “Oh, only 41 books, I read 4,” remember that I get very little done. I have no excuse for not getting through more books… well except for profoundly severe insomnia and terrible clinical depression, but that doesn’t stop me from being frustrated I don’t get through more books in a year. My goal for 2013 is 52, but that’s best left for another post.
For this post discussing books I love in 2012, I wanted to limit my list to those books I haven’t mentioned on the blog before. Books I loved this year, but have already written about are: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, The Sportswriter by Richard Ford, The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, Lilith by George MacDonald (which I mentioned in a post that also features a now depressing reference to Being Elmo), Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, Kraken by China Miéville, Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, and Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury.
Here are some I haven’t mentioned yet. As is always the case with book lists, this is just books I read this year, not books released this year.
1. The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls– Lois McMaster Bujold
Every year, I discover at least one new author I fall in love with. In 2013, Lois McMaster Bujold was that author. I read Paladin of Souls as part of my goal to eventually read every novel that has won both the Hugo and the Nebula, but that required reading that book’s predecessor The Curse of Chalion. Reading books that have been honored as the best in their field sure is a great way to discover masters of the craft of writing. Bujold is so wonderful. The magic and gods and demons of her world are so rich. Where most fantasy authors these days use gods lazily, as nothing more than a catalyst for political intrigue, Bujold’s gods, while mostly in the background, are central to the action and to Bujold’s remarkable engagement with themes of belief, despair, anger, disillusionment, and hope.
These are special books, and they enter the realm of mythopoeia with the skill of masters like MacDonald, Tolkien, Lewis, L’Engle, LeGuin, and Gaiman.
2. The Scar – China Miéville
A book set in Miéville’s remarkably imaginative steampunk(ish) world of Bas Lag (the setting of Perdido Street Station and Iron Council), in which most of the action takes place on a floating pirate city made of the cannibalized remains of captured ships? Yes, please.
When it comes to dark, weird, twisted, engaging fantasy that isn’t like any other fantasy you’ve ever read, Miéville is unparalleled. The Scar is so rich in its characters, atmosphere, and moments (many of said moments are genuinely chilling).
Also, I used to love the idea of writing about vampires, but have despaired that possibility because of the oversaturation of really bad vampire stories. And while this isn’t a vampire book, in the lone vampire character in the novel, Miéville gives me hope that there is still a place for vampire characters as long as they are well written and engaging. It can be such a fun mythology to play with, as long as we leave out all that goddamned sparkling tomfoolery.
Miéville is the best, and you couldn’t ask for a more capable author to write your nightmares.
3. The Diamond Age, or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer – Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson is one of those highly lauded authors who deserves the hype. It’s evident he is wildly intelligent and knowledgeable about the fields he is passionate about (which are myriad), and even while enjoying his work on every level we are aware of, most of us will know full well we are missing so many connections, subtexts, and layers in his wonderfully complex work.
What Snow Crash did in 1992 in envisioning implications for economics, politics, and relationships in the information overload of the internet age, he does again in The Diamond Age, or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer for the overwhelming implications on their way in the age of nanotechnology. I should probably read Snow Crash again, a contemporary classic only two decades old and praised as one of the more important science fiction novels ever, but on my first read, I actually enjoyed The Diamond Age more. It flies along at a breakneck pace and thrusts its characters through remarkable events that may not be so remarkable someday very soon.
The plot is too complex to do it justice in a brief summary, but basically, a rich and powerful man commissions a wonderful interactive nano-book, The Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer (I can’t really describe in this space how awesome this nano-book is!). The book will interact with and instruct the rich man’s granddaughter and teach her all she needs to know about the world, saving her from the fate of becoming just like her inane parents. The man commissioned to create the book succeeds, but also tries to steal a copy for his own daughter, with the result being that a stolen copy falls into the hands of a poor, abused, forgotten girl named Nell. Then things get awesome/terrible/crazy/awesome (yes, awesome twice).
4. Neuromancer – William Gibson
Much of what can be said about the literary significance of Neal Stephenson can also be said about William Gibson, with the important distinction that William Gibson came first. Neuromancer came eight years before Snow Crash hit the scene, as the debut novel of the man who coined the name of the cyberpunk genre. In many ways, Neuromancer is actually a cybernoir novel, with noir values, themes, and relationships merging with cybertechnology.
Neuromancer features Case, a former hacker criminal wunderkind in a rough and tumble city in Japan, in a future imagined in the 1980’s. In this future, “jacking in” was done in a style similar to what was later popularized in The Matrix. When Case double-crosses one of his criminal employers, they inject a microtoxin into his bloodstream that ruins nerve endings and makes it impossible for him to jack in, cutting him off from his only skill and the only thing he loves in one fell swoop. Then, a shadowy figure emerges from the underworld and offers Case one massive job, the reward being a cure to his damaged nerve endings.
It’s good, and you should read it.
5. Cannery Row – John Steinbeck
It’s called a novel, but it is really more of a connected series of vignettes revealing the lives of the bizarre enough to be real characters who live on Cannery Row in Monterey, California during the Great Depression. Simple and quiet, with no great revelations or existential crises, the perfect 1940’s prose and realistically painted characters got underneath my skin. I just wanted to go on reading forever of the little moments these characters shared, the minor adventures they embarked on, the way people stumbled towards and away from one another as they do in life. People’s tragedies and triumphs are most often of the sort in these stories, unremarkable, but leaking through with grace.
My friend W gave me the book over the summer, and I’m in his debt for facilitating my encounter with this unassuming little miracle of tightly written fiction.
6. Seraphina – Rachel Hartman
The crown prince is murdered gruesomely and mysteriously, threatening a tenuous peace between dragons and humans. Seraphina, a gifted and intelligent young musician, is pulled into events by her own curiosity and strength, but the closer she gets to unraveling the mystery and finding connection with another person, the greater the threat of the revelation of a secret she holds that may cost Seraphina her life.
In this world, dragons can choose to take on human form, but not human emotions and passions, in order to serve at court and uphold the precarious treaty between humanity and dragonkind. Rich characters, satisfying narrative development, and an exciting story make this, at least in my opinion, a must read for YA-addicts and fantasy fans alike.
As always, here is a list of the movies I’m most excited for this year. It was helpful last year to split the year in half and do another list in June, so I’ll follow suit this year. Even so, I’ll still wind up hating some of these movies, and totally miss a few that will be among my favorites.
Side note: I’m also really excited about Möbius, but there is no US release date yet, so perhaps it will come out during this six month span.
And the movies I’m most excited for in the first half of 2013 are:
1. Gangster Squad – January 11th
As the poster above states, the film was originally set for release last September, but there was a scene that featured open gunfire on people at a movie theater, so they shut it down to reshoot after the events in Colorado.
2. Mama – January 18th
After seeing a two minute short film, Guillermo del Toro decided he needed to produce a feature length film based on it. Del Toro’s sensibilities, Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and a trailer that makes it seem like the movie will be scary as shit in the best possible ways has me thinking it just may be worth my time.
3. Warm Bodies – February 1st
A friend of a friend wrote the book, so for the sake of an author who seems like a genuinely good guy I hope it is enormously successful. For my own sake, I hope that they don’t Twilight it up too much. Since my “To Read” shelf is like 50 books long right now, I need to wait a while until I can buy the novel, but I’ve heard it is really smart, layered, clever, and offers some real heart.
4. A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III – Feb 8th
Like you, I hate Charlie Sheen. Yet there is just so much awesome here with Murray, Schwartzman, Aubrey Plaza, and Roman Coppola involved. I’m as surprised as you that I’m saying this about a Charlie Sheen movie, but I’m in.
5. No – February 15th
This looks great in every way. Just the trailer juices up my mind grapes.
6. Dead Man Down – March 8th
I hope this is as strong as it has the potential to be.
7. Oz the Great and Powerful – March 8th
James Franco playing a serious role has me worried sometimes. I’m holding onto hope though, because if done well, this movie could be really beautiful.
8. The Place Beyond the Pines – March 8th
I love well crafted crime dramas, I love Ryan Gosling, and I really want to see Bradley Cooper in the breakout dramatic role I know he is capable of producing. This one is pretty high on my priority list this year.
9. Upstream Color – April 5th
It’s been so long since Shane Carruth wrote, directed, and starred in Primer, the indie, mind-bending, quietly thrilling time travel movie from 2004. Finally, he is back with Upstream Color, a mysterious film that figures to be just as unnerving and impressive as Primer was.
And what’s happening in this trailer anyway? Why do they keep repeating each other?
10. 42 – April 12th
When my friend Amanda saw this trailer the other day, she wondered aloud how it has taken so long for this story to be told. It defies reason. Often underrated as an athlete, and with a character whose decency and courage it seems impossible to overstate, and neither can it be overstated how important these men were in the ongoing quest for equality. This should make for some inspiring cinema.
11. Oblivion – April 12th
I’m often the only person I know who stands up for Cruise’s abilities as an actor, but films like Magnolia and Collateral shouldn’t be ignored. I know, I know, it appears he’s as crazy as they come, but what does that have to do with the quality of his films? If you think you only see movies made by sane people, I think you might be seriously overestimating the mental health of your favorite stars and directors.
Sure, this could be terrible, because when sci-fi goes bad, it goes really bad. However, percentage wise, Cruise still has a really great career track record. It just gets easy to forget said track record when he is jumping on couches and believing in a religion invented by a mediocre science fiction writer who hated psychology and psychoanalysis.
12. Iron Man 3 – May 3rd
It’s going to be so fascinating to see how the transition from the epic scope and success of The Avengers back to a smaller and more personal single hero story goes. If nothing else, the reunion of RDJ and Shane Black is a great excuse to revisit the wildly underrappreciated Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
13. The Great Gatsby – May 10th
At the moment, this has been a popular movie to hate on. I, for one, am completely sold and if possible I’ll see it opening night.
14. Star Trek: Into Darkness – May 17th
Is this title supposed to have a colon? It feels like it should, but no one else seems to be adding one. If not, does that mean that the title is supposed to be a single sentence? A star trek into darkness? If so, that is the worst title… ever.
Either way, as far as why one should be excited about this film, nothing needs to be said… at all. Time to watch #1 again. Yay!!
16. Much Ado About Nothing – June 7th
Joss Whedon goes from the massive Avengers film to a small, contemporary Shakespeare production. And when I say small, I mean small. Whedon secretly invited a bunch of awesome people to his house and shot the entire film there. I really wish I had Whedon’s life. Someday, I hope I can call up Nathon Fillion and say, “Hey, wanna come over and shoot an adaptation of For Whom the Bell Tolls in the woods near my house?” Ah, pipe dreams. Mmmmm.
Whedon’s explanation for why he and his wife made this is awesome:
“I fixated on this notion that our ideas of romantic love are created for us by the society around us, and then escape from that is grown-up love, is marriage, is mature love, to escape the ideals of love that we’re supposed to follow.”
He is a wise man.
Now he just needs to give us a fricking trailer!!
17. Now You See Me – June 7th
Part of me still worries this will be terrible. I just really, really want it to be awesome.
18. Man of Steel – June 14th
Everyone who knows even a little bit about me probably knows how much I love Batman, and Batman and Superman are often placed at odds for fans, like the Yankees and the Red Sox or Ben Roethlisberger and human decency. For a long time, I actually hated Superman. Yet, I’ve read some really great writing in Superman comics that managed to help me appreciate how great of a character he can be. I hope this film is strong enough that it can help many of my Superman hating friends gain a new understanding of the hero who started it all.
19. This is the End – June 14th
The intro for the trailer is mostly stupid, as are some parts of the trailer. Maybe this will be really bad. I just think that with this massive group of funny people involved, all playing themselves reacting to the end of the world, it will at least have its moments.
20. Monsters University – June 21st
If they let me down again, Pixar will lose their automatic space on my ‘most excited’ lists (it’s not that I didn’t like Brave, it just wasn’t Pixar good). For now, I’m holding out hope this film is a return to past glories.
Here’s a viral ad for MU.
21. Kick-Ass 2 – June 28th
Here is my year in film. I’m hoping this isn’t the only list this year, but there is a good chance it will be. Boo.
Just like last year, I broke it down by month to make it easier to read, and to see illustrate just how much this year was a feast or famine affair, perhaps more than ever.
The key is mostly the same as always:
(#) Movie I saw in the theater.
[#] Movie I saw for the first time.
E# Movies I watched with Emily.
Favorites (These underlined films cannot be movies I saw this year for the first time, or movies I have only seen once, they have to be movies that have been able to stand up viewing after viewing, and still keep me coming back for more.)
*Best movies I’d never seen before. (It doesn’t matter when these movies came out, I saw them for the first time this year, and they were awesome. I was probably too liberal with my asterisks, I just couldn’t help myself.)
Noir Movie Fest.
Halloween Movie Fest.
1. Kung Fu Panda 2  E1
2. Battle Royale 
*3. The Secret of Kells  E2
4. Bellflower 
*5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes 
*6. The Guard  E3
7. Moneyball  E4
8. Labyrinth – E5
*9. Midnight in Paris  E6
10. The Hangover: Part II  E7
*11. 50/50  E8
*12. Take Shelter 
*22. 21 Jump Street  (2) E15
23. Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame 
24. The Promotion  E16
*25. The Hunger Games  (3) E17
26. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop  E18
*27. The Trip  E19
28. London Boulevard  E20
*29. Certified Copy 
*30. Martha Marcy May Marlene 
37. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil 
38. Hesher 
39. Ocean’s Eleven
40. Shaolin Soccer 
*41. Sukiyaki Western Django 
*42. The Descendants  E21
43. The Five-Year Engagement  (5) E22
44.Down By Law 
45. Cold Weather 
46. Blow-Up 
47. Haywire  E23
*48. The Avengers  (6) E24
60. Cul-de-Sac 
61. The Woman in Black 
62. Ultimate Avengers: The Movie 
63. The Thin Red Line 
64. Harold and Maude 
65. Sherlock Jr. 
66. Heathers 
67. Prometheus  (8)
68. Laura 
69. The Pianist  E28
70. Carnage  E29
*71. Moonrise Kingdom  (9)
73. Adam’s Rib  E30
74. Le Samourai 
75. My Week with Marilyn  E31
76. Witness for the Prosecution 
77. The Battleship Potemkin 
*78. Paths of Glory 
79. Brave  (10) E32
80. High Sierra 
*81. Notorious 
82. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 
83. Night and the City 
84. Sunset Boulevard
85. The Big Sleep
*86. The Amazing Spider-Man  (11) E33
87. Pickup on South Street 
*88. Ace in the Hole 
*89. The Big Heat 
90. Kiss Me Deadly 
*91. Gilda 
92. Leave Her To Heaven 
93. Gun Crazy 
94. Shadow of a Doubt  E34
*95. The Killers (1946) 
96. The Maltese Falcon
97. The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) 
*98. In a Lonely Place 
*99. The Lost Weekend 
100. Double Indemnity
101. The Dark Knight Rises  (12)
102. White Heat 
*103. The Sweet Smell of Success 
104. Scarlet Street 
*105. Touch of Evil 
*106. Mildred Pierce 
107. The Asphalt Jungle 
*108. Out of the Past 
*109. The Lady from Shanghai 
110. The Naked City 
111. The Night of the Hunter 
112. Strangers on a Train 
113. The Killing 
*114. Batman: Year One 
115. The Shop Around the Corner  E35
*116. The Long Goodbye 
117. Lilo & Stitch  E36
118. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 
*119. Beasts of the Southern Wild  (13) E37
*126. Rififi 
127. Sleeper 
128. The Campaign  (14) E39
129. John Carter 
130. Blackthorn 
131. All-Star Superman 
132. Spy Game – E40
133. The Raid: Redemption 
134. Jiro Dreams of Sushi  E41
135. The Man from Earth 
136. Badlands 
137. Sucker Punch 
138. Our Hospitality 
139. A Hard Day’s Night 
140. Goon 
141. Witness 
*142. Looper (15)  E42
*143. 2046 
144. Shaun of the Dead – E43
145. Frankenstein 
146. From Russia with Love
147. Bride of Frankenstein 
*148. Cabin in the Woods
149. Les yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face) 
150. Bubba Ho-Tep 
151. Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein
152. Halloween 
153. A Nightmare on Elm St. 
154. The Innkeepers 
155. Friday the 13th 
157. The Invisible Man 
158. Ringu 
*159. The Exorcist 
160. Arthur 
*161. Indie Game 
170. Roxanne 
171. Wreck-It Ralph  (17) E47
*172. In the Heat of the Night 
173. Being There 
174. Amores Perros 
175. The Promise: The Making of The Darkness on the Edge of Town 
176. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) 
177. Mansome 
*178. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part One 
179. The Dirty Dozen 
180. Marathon Man 
*181. Seven Psychopaths  (18)
189. Young Adult 
190. Sexy Beast 
191. Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap 
*192. Magic Mike  E48
193. The Nightmare Before Christmas
194. Christmas Vacation
195. Love Actually – E49
196. Gunfight at the O.K. Corral 
197. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey  (19) E50
198. Medicine for Melancholy 
*199. ParaNorman  E51