Rediscovering Reading for Pleasure

Maybe just a quickie this week.

In recent weeks I’ve been learning how to read for fun again. Honestly, it’s probably been a few years since pleasure reading was a genuine part of my life. As with most college students, reading became something of a chore. After graduation, it has taken some time to get back into the mood of reading without deadlines and exams.

Of course, reading has always been a thing I enjoyed. Even when I was taking college courses, I would occasionally develop an obsession with a book for a few weeks. And then it would be back to the grind and no pleasure reading for another six months.

These days I’m working on reading for pleasure again. It’s odd that I almost have to force myself to do it. The main way I do this is by stacking up a lot of books on my night stand and not removing them until they are read. It gives a great sense of accomplishment to put a book back on the shelf.

An odd outcome of this is that I get to assess my personal library. Everyone probably has a different approach to the personal library. There are probably even some folks today who don’t even want to own a single hardcopy. I guess to each his or her own. I come from a family that loves the physical library. We probably keep a few too many books. At this point in my life, I don’t know exactly what my library will look like, but I’ll probably be keeping fewer books than my parents. My current reading project is giving me a bit of a fresh perspective on my collection. My new plan is to only keep books that I have read or would actually read. In the long run I hope this means I actually will have read everything in my collection, but that could really be a pipe dream.

How about you? What’s your policy for book reading and collecting?

Rediscovering Reading for Pleasure

Golden Globes 2015 Live GIF React

golden globes

It’s here! Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s “final” hosting gig of the Golden Globes a.k.a. my favorite awards show because movie AND TV stars get drunk live on air. Let the video assumption and award upsets begin!

Poehler-Fey High Five

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler already changed and look glorious.


Maleficent-Aw hahaha wicked smile

All the movies North Korea was okay a.k.a. those random hacker guys that were actually responsible for the Sony Hack.


Thumbs Up

Just Keep Simmons 😀


Big Eyes

Emma Stone as Big Eyes is perfection.


GoT-Jaime-Waves hand. Hi

Oh hey, Joaquin!


Sherlock-Moriarty-Mmmm music

Cake is like a fluffy dessert…


Sherlock-John-Nod yes

Amy’s impersonation of British actors impersonating Americans is perfection.


Office Space-Uh, yeah

Our society totally values pretty people over…anything else.


Poehler-Fey High Five

Who would you rather? Tina or Amy? Both!


Don't make me angry

Everyone knows I like it Ruff-alo.


Chris Pine? Yes.


Oh hey, TJ Miller! I still love Cloverfield.


I don’t like Tyler Perry movies, but I’d totally see Girl, I Thought You Were Gone.


CAT-ooooh

Jessica Chastain’s reaction to the Bill Cosby jokes is hilarious.


Sherlock-Hmm interesting

Cumberbatch! Cumberbatch! Cumberbatch!


Sherlock-Moriarty-Yeah Okay I Did

Lololololol Aniston didn’t get on the Batch bandwagon.


JK Simmons wins first for best Supporting Actor! He’s wondrous. I’m glad he’s getting some recognition and not just for those Farmer’s Insurance commercials.


Downton Abbey-Bates-Yess

Joanne Froggatt deserves it. Some recompense for dealing with that bullshit rape storyline in Downton.


In Bruges-Shrug. IDK

Fargo wins as per usual.


Billy Bob Thorton doin’ the thing.


Community-Troy-Thumbs up

Margaret Cho being awesome.


Parks and Rec-Eek

Cumberbatch and Hunter are concerned.


Devil Wears Prada-Deal with It

Streep is a trooper.


All the awards

Gina Rodriguez wins for Jane the Virgin! YAY LATINAS FOR THE WIN! ALL ABOUT IT!


Torchwood-YES

Transparent is so good. IT’S SO GOOD. Totally deserves that win.


LoK-Lin-Meh whatever

Meh. Hans Zimmer should’ve won for Interstellar. But I haven’t seen The Theory of Everything yet, so maybe that score is okay, I guess.


Prince said it’s Original Score, so it’s Original Score OKAY?!


YAS

John Legend, Common, and Prince moment!


Fox doesn't understand

Why is Katie Holmes there?


Lilo+Stitch-YAY

Matt Bomer wins!


Great Gatsby-Yes

Clive Owen is wearing velvet, to make up for Cumberbatch’s disappointing lack of velvet.


Avengers-Hulk-Smile

Ricky brings out his signature drink and snark.


Matrix-Neo-Whoa

Whoa! Amy Adams surprise wins for Big Eyes! What up!


Princess and the Frog-Adorbs

Salma Hayek looking like a princess.


How to Train You Dragon 2 wins! I haven’t seen it (wanna see it), but everything is awesome about The Lego Movie.


Community-Chang-I'll allow it

Patricia Arquette wins for Best Supporting Actress! She’s great! (Jessica Chastain is still my favorite working actress right now.)


HIMYM-Shrug

Welllllll, I would watch Bridesmaids 2.


The Skeleton Twins are still funny.


Princess and the Frog-Really?

Oh isn’t funny when white people can’t pronounce Latino names?


GoT-Tywin-Rare Lannister Smile

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, hot and funny.


Glee-I ain't even mad

The room may not have liked that feminist joke from Tomlin and Fonda but I did!


Jeffrey Tambor is transcendent in Transparent. The show is utterly brilliant. Go watch it!


Peter Pan-this ship sails itself

I’d watch that intense romantic drama a.k.a. I ship Lupita-Colin.


Torchwood-And I don't care

Leviathan wins even though every single list said Force Majeure would win.


Bridesmaids-Eek

Jessica Lange is PISSED! I think Maggie Gyllenhaal is great so whatevs.


Anchorman-News Team-YAY

The Affair is sooooo good, guys. I know you didn’t watch it but you should.


GoT-Sandor approves

Catherine Zeta-Jones has remerged and she looks beautiful. Can she be in the next Bond movie?


Kevin Spacey knew he was going to win. And I don’t want to know what would’ve happened if he didn’t.


Friends-Yup

Julianna and Don, where’s that movie?


That’s not fair, Tomorrowland hasn’t come out yet. Where’s Batman and Robin?


It’s hard not to like George Clooney.


GoT-Dany-That's Cute

Richard Linklater wins for Best Director for a drama! And I totally am bombing my predictions list!


The Good Wife-You two make a cute couple

Anna Faris and Chris Pratt present together.


Madden-Eagles-YUP!

Okay, I wanted Viola Davis to win, too. Still, Ruth Wilson blew me away in her dual portrayal on The Affair.


My dad, the consummate Batman fan, is very happy: Michael Keaton wins for Best Actor, Comedy or Musical.


Either everyone wore too much self-tanner or the lighting in that room is atrocious.


I LOVED The Grand Budapest Hotel although for a comedy it sure did make me cry. #nostalgia


Alright, alright, alright. Matthew’s up.


Despicable Me-I'm SO HAPPY

Julianne Moore is NOT hiding her joy for winning a Golden Globe for Still Alice!


HP-Dumbledore-Oh well then

Eddie Redmayne wins for The Theory of Everything! Cumberbatch must be kicking himself that he isn’t younger and could’ve been in that role as he was in the Hawking mini-series.


HP-McGonagall approves

Favorite awards look from Streep I’ve seen in recent years.


Princess Bride-Okay

Boyhood wins for Best Picture, Drama! Hollywood Foreign Press loves it some experimental family drama.


Well, here’s to hoping Margaret Cho hosts next year!

Golden Globes 2015 Live GIF React

Hope for the Winter Movie Slump

The months of January, February and March are tough for me. And it’s not because I have the specter of unfulfilled New Years resolutions of the past haunting me, or another Valentine’s Day to remind me it’s the worst holiday that we as a society give credence to, or another Saint Patrick’s to shine light on the fact that I’m of Irish decent and don’t drink. While all of these prove that the struggle truly is real, nothing proves to be more depressing to me than the winter move slump.

You see, what we have here is a case of confusing cause and effect. Less people go to the movie theaters during these months, which means studios typically release the films they don’t expect to do well in this time period and save their big budget or quality films (or bruisers as I like to call them) for the summer. But on the flip side, one could just as easily say the reason less people see movies during these months is because studios don’t release anything worth watching.

Now I realize this analysis is a generalization (albeit not far off from the truth) and some good movies do get released during these months with “Silence of the Lambs” being the most notable exception. So I cross my fingers every year that studios will get us out of this slump and give us some quality films to look forward too. So without further ado, here are the films that I think could be gems in an otherwise desolate time for movies.

Blackhat (January 16)

I’ll be honest and say on the surface this movie doesn’t really grab my attention. I mean, I like Chris Hemsworth and all, but if you’re going to release a globetrotting, cyber warfare action movie these days it had better stand out, and the trailer just isn’t that good. But Michael Mann is the director and that does change my perspective a bit. Mann directed such hits as “The Last of the Mohicans,” “Heat,” “Ali,” and, a personal favorite of mine, “Collateral.” This doesn’t guarantee a quality film, but it does earn the benefit of the doubt and possibly my money.

Jupiter Ascending (February 6)

The newest film from the Wachowskis, “Jupiter Ascending” was originally planned for release back in summer 2014 but got moved back to February due to reshoots and extra work on the special effects (which from the looks of it could put the “Star Wars” prequels to shame in terms of how much CGI it looks to incorporate). While the heavy reliance on effects might deter some, I for one am excited to see a new film that’s not a sequel, reboot or based on a YA novel that gets a large budget. Now let’s just hope it’s good.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (February 13)

Easily my most anticipated film during the winter slump is “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” A bit of a mouth full as far as titles goes, but it is directed by Matthew Vaughn who directed such gems as “Kick-Ass” and “X-Men: First Class.” Plus, just watch the trailer, because it looks like a fun time – like James Bond before his movies became super serious.

“’71” (February 27)

Here’s a film that I had never heard about until I read an early review for it a couple months back. It’s an action/thriller that tells the story of a British soldier who gets separated from his unit during the Belfast riots of 1971, and it’s supposed to be great. Supposed to, anyway. My fear is that although we might get a quality movie here, it’s coming from out of nowhere. You probably hadn’t even heard of it until I listed it, which means less people will likely see it upon release. But here’s hoping.

Chappie (March 6)

Director Neill Blomkamp has had one really big hit with “District 9” and one hit and miss with “Elysium.” I’m hopeful that his newest film, which was originally announced as a sci-fi comedy but slowly morphed into more of a drama about a robot who is given artificial intelligence, will lean more toward “District 9” quality. Visually the cinematography looks to please, so here’s hoping the story, acting and script all stand on their own adorable robotic legs as well.

Hope for the Winter Movie Slump

The New Age of Superhero Live-Action Media

The new year is a great time to assess what has been working in the world and what changes are facing us in the future. It’s also a nice chance to make some predictions about what is coming. My interests lean towards comic books, so my musings have taken me down that path. You want to know what I realized? Superheroes in the live-action popular media are seriously changing gears…and I am loving it.

If you’ve seen a superhero movie or TV show in the last few (let’s say 10) years, then you’ve probably seen a “grim and gritty reboot” of something. While that was a great tactic to get people to embrace the superhero genre of entertainment in a big way, it hasn’t necessarily been a perfect reflection of the roots of the superheroes. There are more than a few things that have frankly sucked about the “grim and gritty.” I don’t really want to dwell on it, but I’ll list a few: black leather costumes are lame (Superheroes tend to wear the colors. Fact!), not every superpower is viewed as a cruddy curse, the human race isn’t necessarily without a moral center, sometimes people can be in actual romantic relationships that work.

While the “grim and gritty” hasn’t been the absolute rule, it has been pretty prevalent. At least until the things that came out this year. I would call 2014 the beginning of a transition to a completely different age of superhero live-action movies and TV shows. 2015 is going to be the final test of it, and is probably going to cement a new trend. The new trend is this: superhero genre can legitimately jump straight out of the comic book and there is not more need to apologize.

In case you missed it, let’s review a few things that happened this last year, and what is coming up (admittedly, this is largely spearheaded by Marvel): ‘Captain America: the Winter Soldier’ just says “Yeah, this guy has a cybernetic arm and spent years frozen and has no real negative physical effects” (not to mention a guy saved his consciousness prior to death on 1970s era computers…), ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ says “Yup, talking raccoon” and we all bought into it, ‘The Flash’ features a superhero who actually loves being a superhero (what a novel concept), coming up in 2015 we will actually see the film ‘Ant-Man’ (seriously) with a man who shrinks in size and legitimately rides on the back of a winged ant. If you think those aren’t surprising turns in the realm of superhero films, then somehow you forgot about the first five years of the superhero movie wave.

This is a great path for things to take. While I’ve been glad to see any attention paid to the superhero genre, I’ve been sad for years that so few films have been fun. Thoughts? Do you think the “grim and gritty” was the way to go? Are you unhappy with the new “fun” offerings? Comment Below.

The New Age of Superhero Live-Action Media

The Wannabes Best Of 2014 – Podcasts

2014 has been an interesting year for pop culture. It was the year podcasts finally became mainstream, Adam Scott made a podcast dissecting every song on the new U2 album, and diversity became the watchword. But like every other person does at this time of year, we felt the urge to distill the past year into just a few favorite highlights. Each day leading up to the new year, The Wannabes will be presenting their favorite pieces of pop culture from 2014. Our final installment: Podcasts

Megan: I know Nerdist isn’t new, but there is no podcast as consistently hilarious and informative as this one. Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira provide the right combination of banter and actual interviewing to entice anybody even somewhat interested in comedy or pop culture. Standout episodes: “Paul Reubens,” “Jim Rash Returns,” “Anthony Bourdain,” and “Hostful #84.”

 

Kate: I can’t decide which I like more about Serial, the podcast itself or how much of a phenomenon it became. Either way, both have been fascinating and I can’t wait to see what happens.

 

Chelsey: I also loved Serial because I thought Sarah did a great job telling the story of this confounding true-crime case and I was happy to see podcasts finally enter the cultural zeitgeist. But my favorite thing my earbuds listened to this year was the “Winter’s Tale” episode of How Did This Get Made? Having seen the best so-bad-it’s-good movie of the year myself, the dissection of it by Paul and Jason had me in stitches. And guest host Andy Daly wasn’t afraid to ask the hard questions. “Is this another example of the magic of this universe, or just stupid, stupid filmmaking?” This question could be applied to all the movies discussed in this podcast.

 

Andrew: My love of The Thrilling Adventure Hour is well documented. But I really want some recognition for Star Wars Minute. They put an episode out every day (for six months at a time), and while those guys have got to get tired of discussing the Star Wars movies one minute at a time, they are seriously dedicated to it.

 

Give us your podcast recommendations in the comments!

The Wannabes Best Of 2014:
Movies
TV
Books
Music
Games
Stage

The Wannabes Best Of 2014 – Podcasts

The Wannabes Best Of 2014 – Stage

2014 has been an interesting year for pop culture. It was the year Neil Patrick Harris showed us his angry inch, Ron Weasley tried and failed to make Broadway his new home, Alan Cumming proved he never ages, and diversity became the watchword. But like every other person does at this time of year, we felt the urge to distill the past year into just a few favorite highlights. Each day leading up to the new year, The Wannabes will be presenting their favorite pieces of pop culture from 2014. Today: Stage

Chelsey: I know it’s cliche to name the Tony winner, but I absolutely adored A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. It has all the ingredients I love – farce, British history, puns, creative murder scenes, catchy songs, and amazing performances (particularly by the ever-versatile Jefferson Mays). I hope it runs for a long time so everyone gets to see it. Honorable mention goes to Ewan McGregor in The Real Thing. That dude knows how to send chills up my spine. In the best possible way.

Megan: Okay, so I haven’t actually seen Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, but I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for months and actually looked up ticket prices to go to New York just to see this play. Carole King is a goddess among songwriters, and although she’s shied away from the spotlight for decades, her story is one that deserves to be told. I knew she was prolific, but it wasn’t until this album that I realized she penned “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”

Maricela: This year I really liked Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill at the Little Shubert Theatre starring Audra McDonald. McDonald channels Billie Holiday a.k.a. Lady Day to an eerie degree that you have to actively remind yourself this is all a theater performance and not some sort of musical seance. While the production ostensibly occurs during one night towards the end of Holiday’s career, it covers her entire life and how each song represents various aspects of her inner self and her tumultuous life and career. Good for Holiday fans, McDonald fans, and anyone who can appreciate the magic of live theater.

Andrew: I don’t think I attended a single stage production this entire year. I suck. But I bet there’s some high school that did a really good job somewhere, so shoutout to them!

See any good shows this year? Give us recommendations in the comments!

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The Wannabes Best Of 2014 – Stage

Korrasami, World Building, and Final Thoughts on ‘The Legend of Korra’

The Legend of Korra is dead. Long live The Legend of Korra. With the series finale of LoK putting the final nail in the coffin for the Avatar: The Last Airbender sequel, Wannabes Andrew Darowski and Maricela Gonzalez look back on the series as a whole, what they loved, hated, and everything in between.

Thoughts on the Series Finale and Final Season

Andrew: Admittedly, it’s been a long time since I was fully on board with Korra, so take all my comments with a grain of salt. I was more satisfied with the finale than I expected to be, but I just don’t think Korra turned out to be the show that they originally wanted. I took a big step back when I saw the giant robot (Sort of a shark jumping moment for me).

I don’t know that kuvira was well-enough set up to be a compelling villain, so the last five minutes of her and Korra talking and then Kuvira accepting defeat felt a little weak sauce.

I don’t know when varrick became such an important character, but at least someone in the series had a definitive romantic conclusion.

Mako is just a mess as a character overall. Looking at him across all the seasons, it makes me wonder why he was there.

Maricela: I feel like I have to eat my words about being such a devout LoK fan as for the first time, I felt a deep sense of disappointment in this final season. While there were a lot of great moments (the mecha was crazy but more like crazy-awesome to me), the season felt uneven and a bit aimless. (Andrew: Aimless is a very good word for it)

Is that because Korra herself spends much of the season aimless? Maybe. For instance, I understand it’s taken her years to fully get over her traumatic experience with Zaheer. But why does it take her practically the entire season to figure her shit out? Even when we thought she did (the return of Toph), her first face-off with Kuvira showed that wasn’t the case.

Kuvira as a villain had little setup in the last season. I remember thinking in the third season finale, “Why do I need to know the name of Su’s head of security? Who gives a shit? Zaheer and his Red Lotus crew are total boss villains. I can’t wait to see how that develops!”

Then, it didn’t.

In that sense, the final season feels like a final season but one that precipitated out of a few additional seasons. After the defeat of the Red Lotus. After establishing Kuvira as a main character. After setting up Korra and Asami’s progressing relationship.

And I do have to agree on how random and pointless Mako’s arc has been. I really wanted to love him, and I still kind of do, but that’s mostly me projecting Zutara feels over Mako and Korra’s early romance. What was his arc in the final season? Hanging out with Prince Wu only to kind of but not really sacrifice himself and die? No. That’s not good enough.

While I really loved the unexpected (but totally expected) Korra-Asami “ambiguous” relationship confirmation at the finale, I feel like the focus on their friendship/romance came at the expense of developing Mako, and to a lesser extent, Bolin as a full-fledged, rounded out characters.

Andrew: Can I give my bit on Korrasami?

Maricela: Yeah!

Andrew: On the whole, I wasn’t a fan of it anyway. but I’m much more upset about how it was handled. Basically it seems like a gutless execution for some media frenzy about how “subversive” they are being. Almost an attention grab. I expected more balls. If they wanted them to be a couple, they should have made them be a couple. That would have made the whole final season a different experience. If they openly say: “Hey, Korra and Asami are together. They will be together for the whole season. Here’s some actual television that deals with them being in a relationship.

I’m not talking about adding a sexual component. Just say it outright, and don’t make it a final scene. With it being the last scene, they don’t really have to answer for anything, and they didn’t risk any sort of backlash.

Maricela: What’s interesting that stands out in the creators’ post-show statements on how Korrasami canon developed was the degree of self-censorship that occurred before taken the pairing seriously. They may have liked it in the writers’ room, but it wasn’t considered as a real possibility…until it was considered as a real possibility. Could they have done more? I definitely think so! Was a kiss off the table? It seems like it was, but who knows? Maybe that was negotiable with the network, too.

It’s a small step in the right direction of media representation, just as the inclusion of a young woman of color as the main character is a small step in the right direction. I say small because let’s be real, Legend of Korra never had the audience it deserved. Even with media attention, the so-called Minivan Majority won’t really know about it unless they’re being extra vigilant on their online media. And it’s quite a busy time of year! I don’t think it was merely an attention grab, but I do think that such a singular focus on the final scene doesn’t quite take into account of the show works as a whole. Korrasami didn’t happen in a vacuum, and maybe if more people watched the series from the beginning, it wouldn’t have been cut short.

Favorite Episode

Andrew: None really stand out…is that a bad sign…
Maricela: “Beginnings Part 1 and 2.” Glimpses of Avatar Wan and the explanation for why the Avatar exists in the first place are thematically powerful and visually stunning.

Least Favorite Episode

Andrew: Varrick and Bolin and EMPs and freedom fighters
Maricela: This season’s “The Coronation” was weaker than most. Predictable, too much time spent on Prince Wu, and it didn’t really progress the story anywhere unexpected. Did we really need an entire episode to set up Kuvira’s coup? No.

Favorite Character

Andrew: Again, none are really standing out…Su, metalbending mom
Maricela: Korra with Meelo as a close second favorite

UGH This Character is the Worst (in the Best Way)

Andrew: Varrick
Maricela: Zaheer

UGH This Character is the Worst (in the Worst Way)

Andrew: Bolin
Maricela: Prince Wu

How You’ll Remember LoK

Andrew: Honestly, the final shot and the creator commentary ensures that the only way anyone is likely to remember it is with Korrasami.
Maricela: I’ll remember Legend of Korra as an experiment in form, theme, and world building. Bryke had created such a vast, rich world with Avatar: The Last Airbender that to progress that already huge world into a very different future is quite a feat. Not everything worked (Sorry, Mako) but everything that did work, worked beautifully. TV series, animated or otherwise, have a lot to learn from LoK.

ATLA or LoK

Andrew: ATLA 100%
Maricela: ATLA

For more The Wannabes’ thoughts and feels on all things The Legend of Korra check out The Deep Dive and Reincarnation and Diminishing Returns.

Korrasami, World Building, and Final Thoughts on ‘The Legend of Korra’