Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Thoughts on winner for this year’s best picture.

Birdman Poster

Of the nominees, I had only seen Gone Girl and The Grand Budapest Hotel by the time the Academy Awards aired last Sunday. The next day I downloaded Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which I hadn’t even heard of before, taking note of its dubious three star rating on Netflix and Amazon. I finished watching it last night.

Less than halfway through I knew why the movie has not reached public acclaim. It wasn’t made with a typical American demographic in mind. Classified as a comedy, it is the dark kind (which makes many people uncomfortable), and it’s a movie that would connect primarily with people in its own industry. In fact it is a self-conscious look at the ego and angst of an actor, a story within a story, full of scenes ripe with the subtext of social commentary.

I also finally understand why Neil Patrick Harris had that gag in his underwear as host of the 2015 Academy Awards. At the time it just seemed like such a desperate ploy for a laugh.

What I liked about Birdman was that the main character, played by Michael Keaton, is not terribly relatable, nor loveable (I found his real-life and open-mouth gum chewing at the Oscars repulsive, actually). I also liked how all the actors’ faces were laid down on film that didn’t edit out all the bad skin.  I liked the vitriolic lines of the self-righteous critic, who in telling him she was going to destroy his play without even seeing it, drove the actor to a psychotic break that ironically seemed to rebuild his career (as well as his nose) at the end. I like it that the director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, apparently made this movie for his own pleasure and not solely with box office success in mind. He also wrote and produced the film, which testifies to his personal investment in this story. Finally, I really enjoyed the drum score by Antonio Sanchez.

And yet, will it be my favorite movie, even of this year? Probably not.

But I get it. And it makes me think. That’s a lot better than most new movies Hollywood has to offer these days.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Early reviews are starting to come in for Luz, Rebound which officially releases this Saturday. I wear the two lists it has been put on "Unpopular YA books that deserve some recognition" and "Undiscovered YA talent" as a badge of honor.

Thank you first-reads noncomformists!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Wait! What?


Harper Lee to publish a second novel this July, which was written before the one that won her The Pulitzer, and from a older perspective of Scout.

I know what almost every bookclub in America will probably read this year and next.

Story here.

SATURDAY, January 24, 2015

The Work: My Search for a Life that Matters

I received an early review copy of Wes Moore’s The Work: My Search for a Life that Matters. Thank you LibraryThing.

My main take away from this memoir is that kindness, support and friendship in key moments of our lives help us to reach our potential, and one of our greatest avenues to a meaningful, truly successful life of our own is to give the same to others.

I liked Moore’s narrative about choosing to serve in Afghanistan rather than continue in a lucrative job in Wall Street as Army Reserve with the 82nd Airborne, and leaving that world of golden handcuffs again to eventually to pursue his passion and put him on the path to who he is today. In these stories he really did take unexpected risks and opportunities, and was rewarded on multiple levels for them.

The book is not so much self-help, but self-reflection, though there are a good set of questions to walk through inspired by the lives of those who touched his in the appendices if one wanted to continue to discuss a person’s journey for finding fulfilling work.

I haven’t read Wes Moore’s first book, The Other Wes Moore, which I understand some people prefer to this one, but he is an eloquent writer and knowing what this and the other one in general is about, I could see them used as texts for the exploration of self and how our environment contributes to who we are – perhaps in a cultural anthropology or civic subject matter course.

I’ll be interested to follow Wes Moore’s future work, in all its forms.

BTW, the first passage I marked in Moore's book talks about preparing for deployment -- some of the first books he read, the first phrases of Pashto he learned. He mentions Steve Coll's Ghost Wars and Alexander Alexiev's Inside the Soviet Army in Afghanistan to learn about conflict history, culture and terrain, but also says he read novels:

I thought this was an excellent point he was making about not forgetting the humanity of those with whom we are in conflict.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Exchange Student Matthew McConaughey

I was flipping through old magazines the other day over at a relative’s house and was surprised to learn that Matthew McConaughey was an exchange student to Australia during the 1988-89 school year. It was under an article he wrote himself called about the “10 Moments That Changed My Life.” It wasn’t an easy year for him. He writes that he was used to “catching green lights” or having everything come to him pretty easily before he left on exchange, and then his life changed to having to start from scratch and asking himself questions that he didn’t have the answers for at the time but, “in hindsight, the fact that I was asking them for the first time was the reward.” I thought that last quote actually summed up well how many exchange students I have known seem to feel about what they experienced.


While web searching the story, I found out that in 2009 there was buzz McConaughey was planning to produce a film about exchange students, based on his experience, but also another – “One [person] will have the time of his life, while the other goes off the rails.” For the one who goes off the rails, I would love to see a little of the nihlistic thinking he brings to his character Rust Cohle in True Detective. But only a little. That is a great series I am enjoying now on Netflix.

I also wonder how McConaughey's rebound year went. It would be nice if any forthcoming movie also covered that.