Ten Best Films of 2014

Self has her own list. The only overlap with the list below is Birdman.

She’s excited to see Foxcatcher. (Maybe today).

Without further ado, here are the 10 best movies of 2014, selected by the collective who contribute reviews to

  1. Two Days, One Night (The movie that asks:  Would you give up a much-needed and well-deserved year-end bonus to save the job of a co-worker?)
  2. Selma (Spurred by the Birmingham church bombing, which killed four little girls)
  3. The Immigrant (James Gray confirms his place as one of the great cinematic poets of New York City)
  4. Birdman * (And not just because of Keaton, but because of the whole ensemble listed here: Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, and Emma Stone)
  5. Only Lovers Left Alive (A vampire love story starring — slow clap here — Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton)
  6. Ida (Two Polish women — a study in contrasts — decide to find the answer to a personal mystery: what happened to the parents of one of them during the Holocaust?)
  7. The Grand Budapest Hotel (So meta. Self isn’t sure about this choice)
  8. Boyhood (Meta but in a different way. Elias Coltrane, in self’s humble opinion, stole the show)
  9. Inherent Vice (Stoner detective in fictional California beach town — supposedly based on a Thomas Pynchon novel)
  10. Under the Skin (Scarjo stars as “an alien prowling around Glasgow, Scotland, preying on unsuspecting men.” Perfect casting there. Self saw a similar movie, years and years ago, Rabid)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Some Things You Might Not Know About Self

  • She once, years ago, sat next to Kaui Hart Hemmings (author of the book on which Alexander Payne’s The Descendants was based) on a plane returning from an AWP Conference.
  • There is a book called Hello My Big Big Honey on self’s desk, next to her computer.
  • She just changed her password.
  • She can watch back-to-back airings of Bourne movies on cable TV.
  • She used to get very airsick.
  • She has a subscription to Condé Nast’s Traveler magazine.  And loves reading Vanity Fair.
  • She has tickets to the Stanford vs. Oregon State men’s basketball game.
  • She once tried to join a gym.  She let her membership expire after three months.
  • Her washing machine is, at this moment, filled to the brim with the remnants of an exploded goose down pillow.
  • Her house hasn’t been painted in 20 years.
  • She hasn’t mopped her kitchen floor in xx number of weeks.
  • She has just eaten a hard-boiled egg (supper).
  • Actors she likes:  Matt Damon, Colin Firth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Tommy Lee Jones, Edward Norton, Jeremy Renner, Sam Worthington
  • Actresses she likes:  Kate Beckinsale, Moon Bloodgood, Juliana Margulies, Helen Mirren, Carey Mulligan, Rosamund Pike, Meryl Streep, Mia Wasikowska, Naomi Watts
  • Her favorite movie of 2011 was “Mission Impossible:  Ghost Protocol” (Alas!  Too true!)  A runner-up might be “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
  • She has bought three Apple products in the past few months.
  • She likes reading biographies, memoirs, and war histories more than she enjoys reading fiction.
  • She skimmed through Crime and Punishment — twice.
  • She has read Tacitus.
  • She has written a fantastic story about pig babies that she is trying strenuously to place.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Looking Back: The American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore

Self once served on a selection panel for an artists grant.  The granting organization was in Baltimore, and they flew her over for one night.  Self supposes there must be crazier things than that, but she is still amazed every time she thinks of herself flying clear across the country, staying one night, attending a day-long meeting, and then taking a late flight back to California.  And teaching a full load, the very next day.

In Baltimore, she was put up in a Hilton which was close to the seaport.  Her shoulders and neck flared with accumulated tension but she was determined to see as much of the city as she could.  As soon as she was done with her committee duties, and in the few hours of daylight left before she had to head to the airport, she decided to visit the American Visionary Art Museum.  The museum was the brainchild of a man named James Rouse, who happens to be the grandfather of the actor Edward Norton.

The museum is a commemmoration of “outsider art,” art created by people who have no artistic training, who created out of a deep need to express themselves (Just so you know how committed the museum’s curators are to its vision, there is a whole gallery devoted to finger paintings made by one Betsy the Chimp, whose dates of birth and death are very carefully recorded:  1951- 1960)

She remembers another artwork, a sculpture of a gigantic man, caught in mid-stride.  The image seems to radiate vitality and power.  You have to go close to see:  the figure was constructed entirely out of matchsticks.

In another gallery, she saw a series of intensely colorful paintings, all the work of a woman who was a maid for a rich family somewhere in the south.  All the paintings were done in her spare time.

The main exhibit, at the time self visited, was called “Home & Beast”  and featured the paintings of Christine Sefolosha, born 1955 in the Swiss town of Montreux.  Her father was a fruit and vegetable merchant.  From the museum catalogue:  “During a period of her childhood when she experienced unusual insomnia, her mother took some of her drawings to a psychologist.  One of these depicted a huge crocodile devouring a dark-skinned man.”

After reading that, self looked at the paintings, and all of them depicted a dark-skinned man being devoured by a crocodile.  Clearly this image was an obsession for Ms. Sefolosha.  It turns out that she did marry a “dark-skinned man” from Africa (self forgets which country), followed him back to his home country and bore him two children.  Then, the man left her.  Sometime afterwards, Sefolosha began “painting and drawing again, working mostly on the floor with new pigments and watercolors and often with such materials as dripped tar and earth.”  And all she could paint were images of a dark-skinned man being devoured by a crocodile.  Holy Eerie Coincidence!

At the time, self had just finished writing a story called “Dumpster,” which she chose to set in Baltimore.  The story made one of her brothers want to puke.  Its central image was a severed hand.

Why did self choose Baltimore?  As Negrenses might say, “Ambot!”  (“I forget!” or “I don’t know!”)  At the time that she finished the story, she’d never even been to Baltimore.

After seeing the American Visionary Art Museum, however, self could never forget Baltimore.  And, eventually, after not too long, “Dumpster” was picked up by Mark Fitten, then-editor of The Chattahoochee Review.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Mid-November (2009) Weekend Status Report

All right, m’lovelies! When self cocked open one eye and gazed at the window (because Gracie was whimpering to be let out), she saw the sun. And thereby determined she’d slept approximately six hours. Not bad!

Yesterday was very busy, as she went to Sequoia Station to try and mail a grant application, then drove her clunker, actually drove it all the way into the City, all for the pleasure of listening to Merlinda Bobis read from her latest novel, The Solemn Lantern Maker.

And it was an exceedingly interesting reading, for self watched the Bayanihan Community Center gradually fill up until there were no more chairs left. And moreover she got to hear Merlinda’s rich, sonorous voice, and experience her passion for her home country once again.

After getting home, self discovered that Stanford had just beat USC, erstwhile Pac-10 powerhouse, by an unbelievable 34 points. Then self watched with hubby as University of Pittsburgh defeated Notre Dame. After that, self got to watch a little of “2 Fast 2 Furious,” explaining to hubby who the different actors were: Paul Walker, Dev Aoki, Ludacris (but apparently no Vin Diesel; not for this installment, anyway). Then she fell asleep with very little trouble.

Then, self was awakened by Gracie, as mentioned earlier. Then she picked up The New York Times she’s been reading forever (Nov. 2 issue), the Special New York Marathon issue, and there was an interview with Edward Norton, one of self’s favorite actors, who said, sounding like a character from “Fight Club” or from “300” (which he was not in, too bad):

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

Anyhoo, Norton made it all the way to the end of the race, and afterwards, when The New York Times nabbed him, they found him at the finish line, “looking upbeat and spry.” He “finished in 3 hours 48 minutes 1 second.”

Here’s the reason Norton ran:

Norton ran for the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, which aims to preserve the eco-system and culture of the 7,000-member tribe in Kenya. By Sunday morning, Norton and 29 other runners had collected more than $760,000 in sponsorships.

And today, hubby says he wants to see “2012.” Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Bone-Chilling (October) Saturday & a Hilarious Website

Why do the weather newscasters never warn us when to expect a weekend of blustery, bone-chilling wind?  You can be sure that when they say it will be hot and sweltering, it won’t be.  And when they say it will be cool, that’s when it will be hot and sweltering.

Today, self’s hands and lips are sooo chapped. She and hubby went to see “The Invention of Lying” at the downtown Century 20 (Five Stars! Ricky Gervais killed! Also, there is a short appearance by Edward Norton, and what’s so cool about his one scene is that it’s not immediately apparent that it is Ed Norton — I looked up the movie on IMDB, and after scrolling down a seemingly endless list of actors and actresses, I thought I’d made a mistake. But no, there was his name: the very last on the list, and even then the entry says only “uncredited, unconfirmed.” What convinced self that it was indeed he was the voice. — Edward, hurry up and make more movies! Self misses you!).  Self nearly froze on the walk from the car to the theater (Very interesting: there were hardly any people in the audience, but of the few hardy souls who were there for the first screening of the day, two were deep into books, and one was using the Read the rest of this entry »

Son Is Home — Tra-La Tra-La Tra-Laaaa!

Son is home, and this is what we have done today:

Watched “The Incredible Hulk” — and Edward Norton is just incredible. So is Liv Tyler. So is William Hurt. And Tim Roth! No one makes malevolence so magnetic (other than John Malkovich, that is).

And self was so glad that son is still OK with watching movies with her! And that she got to watch the preview of “Hellboy II” again! And got her first glimpse of The X-Files movie (opening next month), “I Want to Believe”!

And now hubby is exerting himself to the max, doing the backyard barbecue thing with six juicy rib-eyes (which self purchased from Costco just this morning). And it seems like forever since we’ve had a backyard barbecue. We kept urging son to invite his Sacred Heart friends, but he declined, saying he’d meet them all somewhere after dinner.

Meanwhile, self went all the way to Daly City to fetch Dearest Mum. And self has already ferried her to Marshall’s and Target, where she returned some of her purchases yesterday.

To tell the truth, self would be perfectly happy, except that Dearest Mum, ensconced on couch the last two hours, seems to be getting bored with the CW. She was engrossed with “Gossip Girl,” but then the episode ended and now she seems (exceedingly) bored with “One Tree Hill” and keeps asking self for the phone numbers of this and that Tita. Which makes self exceedingly nervous, for when Dearest Mum gets bored, there is hell to pay.

* * * *

And then (in self’s life, there is always an “and then”), at the tail end of this very long and emotionally intense day, son delivers this zinger: “Mom, I am thinking of joining the Peace Corps.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

As the Weekend Approaches: NYTBR 8 June 2008

Hmm, lots of things to do this weekend. Dearest Mum returns Saturday night from Las Vegas, but as hubby and self will be watching a concert at Davies, assorted uncles and aunts have been vying with each other for the opportunity to fetch Dearest Mum from the airport (Dearest Mum truly the Britney Spears — or maybe the Madonna — of her generation. At least, as far as the relatives are concerned). Dearest Mum indicates she might be able to meet us in the city for drinks after the concert (By that time self will be yawning mightily, ready to crawl into bed, but self knows better than to indicate such, merely nods sagely at Dearest Mum’s proposal)

“The Incredible Hulk” , starring Edward Norton, opens today. Now, this is a movie self badly wants to see. And hubby seems open to persuasion. It’s showing on several screens in the old cinema on East Bayshore. The theatres there are huge and self loves it when they get packed with people because she likes to crane her neck and look around and eavesdrop on the various conversations taking place around her. Furthermore, sitting in a packed theatre reminds self of the times she took son to see “The Lion King” or “Independence Day,” movies that always lent the summer a particular flavor, and so the experience always makes her happy.

Sunday is Father’s Day, so self is treating hubby to Lobster Shack, our fave restaurant of the moment! The Captain’s Platter (fried everything — fish, potatoes, shrimp, clams, you name it) is to die for.

Thinking back, yesterday was quite a productive day, for self wrote a bit in the morning, and around noon watered the garden, and in the afternoon watched “The Mist” (which was a complete waste of the actor Thomas Jane, who self usually likes to watch), and around 6 p.m. wended to the San Carlos Farmers Market, where she purchased a gallon of fresh-squeezed o.j. ($6 — and so sweet!) and a loaf of cinnamon bread (She’s already had four slices, aaargh!).

The Celtics beat the Lakers: Hubby returned home just in time to watch the game’s last quarter, and he was whooping excitedly like a schoolboy.

Without further ado, here are the books self is interested in reading after perusing The New York Times Book Review of 8 June 2008:

(1) After reading Jeff Stein’s review of Eric Lichtblau’s Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice:

(2) After reading Bryan Burrough’s review of Alexandra Fuller’s The Legend of Colton T. Bryant:

  • Alexandra Fuller’s The Legend of Colton T. Bryant

(3) After reading Thomas Mallon’s review of A Voyage Round John Mortimer, Valerie Grove’s biography of the Rumpole creator :

  • Valerie Grove’s A Voyage Round John Mortimer

(4) After reading Diane Johnson’s review of Yasmina Reza’s Dawn, Dusk or Night: A Year with Nicolas Sarkozy :

  • Yasmina Reza’s Dawn, Dusk or Night: A Year with Nicolas Sarkozy

(5) After reading David Greenberg’s review of Joseph E. Persico’s examination of FDR’s sex life, Franklin and Lucy: President Roosevelt, Mrs. Rutherfurd, and the Other Remarkable Women in His Life:

  • Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s 1976 book on Nixon, The Final Days

(6) After reading Deborah Weisgall’s review of Joanna Hershon’s novel, The German Bride:

  • Joanna Hershon’s The German Bride

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