Movie Review: A Bad Moms Christmas

I am playing catch-up after being off of this blog for so long, and in the time I haven’t been blogging I have been just consuming books, movies and music like it’s nobody’s business. Okay, maybe it hasn’t been that long, you all will need to check the calendar for me.

Anyhoo, enough with that. I just finished (my typical beginner line, maybe I should find another beginning line, I’ve kind of worn this “just finished” one out) the film A Bad Moms Christmas. Lately I have been checking out a bunch of comedies since a lot has been going on in the world with coronavirus, the helicopter crash that killed Kobe, his daughter and others, the White House, and climate change, and I just needed to take a break from my phone to have a good laugh. My advice: watch the first Bad Moms movie ( back in the dinosaur age I wrote a review on it), and then watch Bad Moms Christmas. Most important tip of all: prepare to laugh even harder than you did when you watched the first. Bad Moms was obviously quite hilarious and had me laughing so hard my side hurt, but Bad Moms Christmas one made me laugh even harder (and yes, all this laughter made my side hurt harder than the first time).

The basic premise of Bad Moms, for those who haven’t seen it, is Amy, this mom living in suburban Chicago, whose life is anything but perfect. Her kids are entitled, her job barely lets her have time off for herself, and worst of all, she is dealing with a clique of PTA moms that are straight out of Mean Girls (only they never have a change of heart like Regina, Gretchen and Karen had), the ringleader of which loves to taunt Amy and pile all these PTA mom responsibilities on her and expect her to have her life together. Amy meets two other moms who struggle to make time for themselves because they are all trying to be perfect moms, and the three of them strike up a friendship and get back at the PTA mom clique and its ringleader by doing things like bringing store-bought donut holes to bake sales, holding house parties with alcohol, and cursing. Amy, Carla and Kiki (the three main moms in the film) realize that it’s okay to not be the perfect parent and what’s most important is just being their best selves.

In A Bad Moms Christmas, the story continues, but this time, with the moms’ moms all coming to visit them for the holidays. Cheryl Hines (who plays Cheryl on Curb Your Enthusiasm), Christine Baranski (from Chicago, Eloise at Christmastime and How the Grinch Stole Christmas) and Susan Sarandon (who I found out on my American Philosophical Association poster majored in philosophy like me!)—all of them make the film what it is: touching, hilarious, and clever. Cheryl Hines plays Kiki’s mom Sandy and the thing she struggles with is respecting her daughter’s need for space and to live her life independently. Susan Sarandon plays Carla’s mom, and she only comes to see Carla when she needs money for gambling and was never really there for her daughter all the time when Carla was growing up. And Christine Baranski, who plays Ruth, Amy’s mom, is an overbearing perfectionist who comes into Amy’s home and puts her way of life down. She thinks she is going to come into Amy’s home and tell her how they are going to celebrate Christmas, driving everyone to see the five-hour tragic version of The Nutcracker and taking the family to at least 200 homes to sing Christmas Carols with a choir that Amy’s mom hired. She even elaborately decorates the house and invites 100 people over to Amy’s house without her permission because she thinks that a casual Christmas with takeout and time with family isn’t going to cut it. Amy feels that she can’t live her life anymore because her mom wants to control it, but at least she can always rely on her friends Kiki and Carla to support her.

Overall, I really loved this movie. Carla especially is hilarious, and the scene where she has her, Amy and Kiki get drunk and rowdy in the mall during the holidays was very silly but had me busting up. And Kenny G makes a cameo appearance!

A Bad Moms Christmas. 2017. Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some drug use.

Movie Review: Jackie

Jackie was truly an excellent film. At first I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it, but it definitely was intense and left me holding my breath for a pretty long time (seeing as how it was produced by Black Swan‘s Darren Aronofsky, this isn’t surprising in the least). It takes place in the immediate aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, and is centered on the trauma that his wife, Jacqueline (“Jackie”), dealt with. The movie opens up with her talking to a journalist who is writing about her perspective on JFK’s assassination. The movie is so brilliant because it focuses on Jackie telling her side of the story and how she is actually quite knowledgeable about the field of journalism, having once been a reporter. She tells Billy Crudup’s character that as someone with experience as a reporter, she knows that the press expects someone like her to try and tell a story that the public wants to eat up. However, as a private person, Jackie was caught in a bind because these people wanted her to share these intimate details of the assassination with them. As she is recounting the details of the assassination, however, you can only feel her pain at having to remember these details, just as anyone who has ever experienced any kind of trauma will feel when people who never went through what they did expect them to simply just tell their side of the story without feeling any kind of emotional exhaustion or pain whatsoever. Not only did she have to figure out how to maintain her confidentiality, but also she had to prepare for her husband’s funeral, she had to tell her children about the assassination, and she had to leave so that Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson could move in as the new President and First Lady.

If Jackie taught me anything, it’s this: the events in history themselves often get warped when people put their own interpretations on them. Bias in telling history is inevitable. As Jackie says towards the end, people love to believe in fairy tales. However, Jackie and John’s marriage wasn’t some perfect fairy tale. They had relationship issues and problems just like everyone else (not to mention the numerous extramarital affairs JFK apparently had behind Jackie’s back. No one taught me this in history class). They were human beings who just happened to be the President and First Lady of the United States. And Jackie knew that JFK wasn’t perfect and that he slept with these women behind her back. However, that didn’t change the fact that his assassination was going to traumatize her for a very long time. Just a few hours after JFK’s assassination, Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife are sworn in as President and First Lady. While we don’t get as much detail into the rapport between Lyndon and John, or Lady Bird and Jackie, the movie focuses on how stressful the rapid transition was for Jackie. Probably one of the scariest scenes of all (besides the scene where JFK gets assassinated) is when Jackie is walking in the Oval Office with her clothes bloodied. She walks around with this numbness that gave me goosebumps. When she describes to the reporter the assassination in great detail I literally felt my heart go heavy. After seeing the film, looking at the poster for Jackie gave me chills in the same way that looking at the poster for Black Swan gave me chills after seeing it.

Another thing I loved about the film was the score (courtesy of Micachu, or Mica Levi, who I had little knowledge of before seeing the film. I am glad though because the only female film composers I knew of were Rachel Portman and Germaine Franco ). It has these slides in the strings at the beginning that gives the film its unsettling character, and there is one scene in particular that will stick with me for a while, and that is when the cellist Pablo Casals is performing at the White House, and as he is performing, the camera cuts to Jackie sitting in the center seat and front row of the audience, staring in awe and contemplation as Pablo performs. It is a deeply chilling moment because it is one of the memories she shared with her husband before his assassination. The music is rich with strings, and while I’m sad she didn’t win for Best Original Score at the Oscars (La La Land won) it is still an amazing score.

Another lesson that Jackie taught me was that you need to see history from more than one perspective. When I was in AP US History we went so quickly through our 1960s unit that some of the historical events covered in Jackie I didn’t know until I saw the movie. In one scene(this article articulates the scene way better than I ever would), Jackie is coping with her husband’s death by drinking several bottles of alcohol and taking medications while the song “Camelot” is playing in the background (she tells the journalist that she and John would listen to the Broadway musical Camelot before bed). This scene gave me chills because it’s this super upbeat song but then later in the film Jackie keeps saying that while she and her husband lived a Camelot like life when he was alive, there is no longer a Camelot now that John is dead. The upbeat song, juxtaposed with her trying on various dresses and sitting at the Oval desk and replaying the trauma over and over again in her mind, forced me to sit back and really think about how deeply the assassination of her husband messed up this young woman’s life.

Before watching Jackie, I would always pass by the grassy knoll near Dealey Plaza and never paid much mind to it, and I thought for a second, “Hmmmm this is kind of morbid. Everyone’s snapping pictures at the place where JFK got shot”. But after seeing this film I don’t think I’ll ever look at this grassy knoll the same way again. In fact, thinking about that knoll reminds me of the emotional, psychological and spiritual toll that JFK’s assassination had on Jackie. But of course, the history books, especially in a place like Texas, won’t tell you all that. That’s why I recommend they show this film in high school history classes during the 1960s unit, and yes, the shooting of JFK is shown in pretty vivid detail, but the film is so important because I don’t even remember my history teachers even giving us Jackie’s perspective on the assassination. Kids need to know the perspective of Jacqueline Kennedy on her husband’s death because it will show them how important it is to look at history from different perspectives, especially if the figure, such as Jackie herself, was a private person who wanted to maintain control of the narrative that other people wanted to impose on her. Critical thinking is so important and when you watch films like Jackie, it teaches you how to digest history in a way that encourages students to ask questions and have discussions about the material. Overall, I think this film is important to watch, and Natalie Portman’s haunting and poignant portrayal of Jackie Kennedy will stay in my brain for quite a long time.

Jackie. 2016. 1 hr 40 min. Rated R for brief strong violence and some language.

Why Persepolis is Both a Must-See and a Must-Read in 2020

In 2007, the film Persepolis came out. When I saw the trailer, I really wanted to go see it, but so many other movies caught my attention at the time that I never got around to it. I also had seen the book before, but never got around to checking it out from the library or buying it at the bookstore. So this time, I decided I wanted to check it out, and I was able to score a copy. I devoured the book like the best dish in the world. Persepolis, if you haven’t gotten a chance to read it yet, is a comic book (Marjane Satrapi, the author, prefers that her graphic novels are called comic books because there’s so much stigma around the word “comic book”. I agree.) about Satrapi’s life growing up during a tumultuous political time in her home country Iran and her adolescence in Vienna, where her family sends her so she can escape the trauma of war between Iraq and Iran. The book was enlightening because I remember studying about Iran during World Geography, and Persepolis was on the list of recommended movies for the course, but I forgot most of what we learned in the course about Ayatollah Khomeini and the U.S. involvement with affairs in Iran and Iraq, as well as the history of Iran and how the West’s invasion of Iran influenced its economy (Britain invaded Iran for its oil, and then later ended up joining America and the Soviet Union in bullying Reza Shah, Iran’s ruler, into going against the Germans to side with them and then later organized an embargo on all oil exported from Iran).

As I continued to read Persepolis, I couldn’t help but think about how important this book is even though she wrote Part 1 in 2002 and Part 2 in 2004. More than a decade later, relations between the U.S., Iraq and Iran are getting tenser. In the film, Marjane is seen walking around wearing her hijab, but also wearing a jean jacket with a button of Michael Jackson on it and the back of her jacket reads “Punk is Not Ded”. Two women who are part of a group who arrest women who are improperly veiled target Marjane, calling Michael Jackson “that symbol of decadence”. While Marjane returns from the tense encounter unscathed, it showed me how complicated the relations between Iran and the West were (and still are). In the introduction to the novel, Marjane tells the reader that it’s important that she wrote this book about her life because many people associate Iran with fundamentalists and terrorists, but in doing so, they are forgetting that so many Iranians spoke out against oppression and fought for the good of the people, and so we can’t judge an entire population based on a few individuals who oppose justice.

Reading Persepolis and watching the film adaptation also reminded me that I need to be more aware of what is going on in the world. When a top Iranian general Quasem Soleimani was recently killed in a U.S. airstrike last week, I just scrolled through articles about his death because I thought it was too stressful to read. When it was revealed that the Iranian government lied to its citizens about its military striking down a Ukrainian plane with more than 100 people on it, again, I scrolled past the news stories about it. When I heard about the following student demonstrations against the government in Iran, I once again scrolled past. But after reading Persepolis, I came to understand that my apathetic scrolling was just me coming from a privileged Westerner’s perspective where I never have to deal with what Iranian citizens are going through. I have never lived through war. My family never had to live through war. Marjane Satrapi is just one of many Iranian people who lived through war, which is why she doesn’t get why her privileged friends in Vienna complain about their privileged lives. One guy in particular, named Momo, tells her that life and everything means nothing, and that more people need to realize this so they can live truly great lives. She calls him out by telling him that this is absolute bullshit because there are people who give their lives to fighting for freedom and justice, such as her family during the Revolution. I’d probably call Momo out on his bullshit, too, speaking as a Nichiren Buddhist who believes everyone has a purpose in life and that fighting for justice is important. He counteracts by telling her that those people fighting for freedom are just doing it as a way to keep themselves busy (to “distract” themselves), and she shuts him up by asking him if he thinks her uncle Anoosh, who died speaking out against the government’s oppression of its people, died to distract himself. This is a powerful moment in the second part of the novel, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return. This interaction between Marjane and Momo is one of many powerful moments, and it taught me that I need to educate myself more on what’s going on in Iran and its political history rather than believing the vitriol that the U.S. president tweets about it.

I was sitting in the lunchroom at work while reading Book 1 of Persepolis, and when I finished it I broke down crying not just because of the incredible illustrations but also because Marjane’s life story is just so poignant, especially speaking as someone who has never had to live through war or had to worry about leaving my house for fear of the government cracking down on me. Yes, sure, America has its own issues, but a lot of us take for granted that we can get on Twitter and call out our president on his nonsense, while in some countries outside the U.S. like Hong Kong, speaking out will get you tear-gassed and beaten with batons. Reading Persepolis also taught me the importance of knowing your family history and of memory. Uncle Anoosh, when telling Marjane about his life, tells her before she goes to bed that he is telling her these stories about her family’s past so that she doesn’t forget them. When we forget our roots, we can get easily influenced by what other people or the media say about our country or our people, but when we remember our family history and individuals in our family who had to live through torture, war, genocide and other trauma, it stays with us and then we can tell future generations what happened so that hopefully they can change the trajectory of what’s going to happen (i.e. help history hopefully not repeat itself, which it has done too many times).

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (English translation published in 2003). 153 pp. and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (English version published in 2004). 187 pp.

Persepolis (film). 2007. 1 hr 36 min. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material including violent images, sexual references, language and brief drug content.

Book Review Bundle: Books I Read on Vacation

I was on a cruise ship library (yes, girl, they had a library on a cruise and I was ALL.FOR.IT) and wasn’t able to check out my target book: Moonglow by Michael Chabon. Instead, the only section was the book exchange section, so I checked out a book from there called Girl in Translation.

Image courtesy of yours truly. 🙂

At first I was disappointed to not be able to check out Michael Chabon’s book, but I’m glad I got to read this book instead. It’s about a young woman named Kimberly who immigrates from Hong Kong with her mother to New York City, where they find work in a sweatshop. Kimberly has a hard time fitting in because she doesn’t speak English and the other kids tease her. Her teacher also treats her poorly because she doesn’t speak English. However, she befriends one girl in her class named Annette, and they continue to be best friends through thick and thin even when Annette, who is white and upper middle class, can’t fully understand Kimberly’s life, or why Kimberly has to work while the other kids get to go to academic programs and do other things over summer. Kimberly also meets a guy at the sweatshop named Matt, and later on as they grow older, he changes her life, and not exactly in a good way (no spoilers here, you’ll need to read the book to find out what I mean by this). The book is a fast read and not just because it is accessible in terms of language, but because Kwok’s writing is so on point and as the reader, even if I couldn’t directly relate with Kimberly and her mother’s situation, I felt for her throughout the novel. It also made me want to educate myself more about classism (the discrimination of someone based on their socioeconomic status) because Kimberly not only encounters racism, but also classism. She cannot afford nice things, and Annette is constantly asking her why she can’t come over to her house to hang out, and feels upset when Kimberly won’t tell her the truth. I take a lot for granted since I grew up with class privilege, but reading this novel made me want to think more carefully about what I say, since I have said things before that could be considered classist.

This photo also courtesy of me.

The Poet X: Another excellent novel. I took back Girl in Translation, and wanted to check out another book from the cruise library (also because I’m nerdy and was still so hyped about the fact that there was a library on the cruise. I brought three books with me, but feared somehow–totally irrational fear, come to think about it, since I didn’t even finish the books I brought with me on the trip–that I would finish them). I saw The Hate U Give, but I already read that book, then I found another book next to it, and it had a beautiful cover, so I decided to check it out. I understand it’s bad to judge books by their covers, but this cover was just so amazing I couldn’t pass it up. I didn’t know if I’d be able to finish it, since it’s a pretty long book, but I finished it in one evening. Not only was the writing spellbinding and raw, but also it was in the form of poetry, so the lines just flowed so well. The book is about this young Dominican woman named Xiomara, and she struggles in school with students teasing her about her body, and also feeling her mother instilling a sense of guilt in her. She is also conflicted about her faith in God. However, one of her teachers shows her a video of a young black woman reciting spoken word at a slam poetry event, and immediately Xiomara is hooked. So she writes poetry like it’s nobody’s business and joins the poetry club that this teacher sponsors (the one who showed her the slam poetry video), but she also has to keep it a secret from her mom because her mother wants her to focus on school and faith, and writing poetry in her spare time would go against that. It’s an incredible novel and I felt inspired to write more after reading how Xiomara uses writing as a medium for expressing all of the human emotions she feels every day: frustration, angst, depression, guilt, love, the list of emotions goes on, but when she writes about how free she feels writing poetry, I could relate. Writing for me has allowed me to express myself in ways that I normally wouldn’t, especially as someone who tends to be introverted even though I like talking to people, too.

Solo: I found this at the time that I found The Poet X. I saw that both books were in the format of poetry and I thought, “This is epic,” so I checked them both out. This is a really good book about a guy named Blade whose dad, Rutherford, is a famous musician fresh out of rehab who is trying to get his life back together but is failing in the process. His son feels embarrassed when his dad tries to come back into his life, and also the son, whose name is Blade, is having problems because his girlfriend cheated on him for some big-name rapper. He goes to Ghana because he wants to find his birth mother, and through his journey in Ghana he finds out stuff about himself and his relationship with his family roots that he never thought he would ever find out. He also develops a deeper bond with his dad because at first, he is embarrassed that his dad followed him to Ghana (even when his daughter-and Blade’s sister–Storm tried to talk him out of it), but he learns that his dad is more than just what the media portrays him as, and he learns to appreciate his time with his dad more. It’s a really heartfelt book and the music recommendations are pretty sweet.

Dog Man and Cat Kid: There was no way I was going to pass this book up. Honestly. I saw it was Captain Underpants‘ author Dav Pilkey and I knew I needed a knee-slapper. Like most, if not all, kids, I loved Captain Underpants as a child: Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space, Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants, you name it. So of course, it was no surprise that after watching dramas and reading dramas, I would want to check out a lighter read. If you haven’t read Captain Underpants, it’s about these two little boys named George and Harold who do goofy pranks to try and bug their teachers and principal, and also write a series of comics involving their principal, Mr. Krupp, who becomes Captain Underpants and gains superpowers when he drinks alien juice. This time, George and Harold sought inspiration from a book they read in school called East of Eden (honestly, I think they just skipped seven grades because I didn’t get to read East of Eden until senior year of high school. I would never have grasped the language or content of that book at George and Harold’s age. Also it had some pretty raunchy scenes in it as well as racism) and this book influenced their newest comic Dog-Man and Cat Kid. I won’t give away spoilers, but as a grown adult, I needed to read this book. Life as an adult can be pretty stressful sometimes, but reading this book taught me that it’s ok to laugh at potty humor sometimes even if it seems immature to do so at my age.

Movie Review: Bridge of Spies

This was a really good movie. A friend recommended it to me, and I thought, Ok, sure, but when I actually saw it I just remember thinking afterwards, Wow, this is a movie that makes you think! In fact, I’ll need to watch it again because there were some key points pf the film that went over my head.

While I won’t get into great plot detail I will just say that this movie is still relevant today not just because we studied the Cold War in world history/geography class, but because of the current political climate. Now, normally on this blog, I try my best to stay away from discussing anything related to political parties, but with the current political climate and the Russia-U.S. issue regarding elections, it just made sense to watch this movie. The film Bridge of Spies takes place during the Cold War, and is about a lawyer who represents Rudolf, a Russian spy being held captive in the U.S. Tom Hanks’ character, James, decides to help him through the trial so that he can become free again, and also so that the U.S. pilot being held captive in the Soviet Union, Francis Gary Powers, can gain his freedom again. Even though James wants to have dialogue with Rudolf, everyone thinks he is supporting “the enemy”, but James insists on a mutual relationship between the U.S. and Russia. Meanwhile, the Berlin Wall is dividing East and West Berlin, separating families and loved ones from one another and forcing people to flee their homes. Even with all this going on, James insists on having dialogue with the German and Russian leaders so that the American and Russian prisoners can return to their respective countries.

While I personally don’t have extensive experience or research on the Cold War, I remember reading a volume of The New Human Revolution, by educator and humanist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda. He met with the Soviet Premier Aleksey Kosygin, and even with leaders in the Soviet Union who didn’t agree with everything Mr. Ikeda said. Mr. Ikeda, like James, came to the Soviet Union as a way for the countries to facilitate dialogue with one another rather than always using armed force as the answer to every diplomatic problem. He asked the leaders of the Soviet Union and China if they were planning on going to war with one another, and each leader told him to communicate to the other side that they did not have plans to go to war with one another.

Communication is a powerful tool in our society, and it always has been. When leaders do not communicate with one another because they are worried that the other is going to blow the other leader’s country up, people make assumptions and shut off future ties of diplomacy. It can also have an impact on children: in one powerful scene of Bridge of Spies, James’s son is sitting in class and the teacher shows them one of those ads during the time that encouraged kids to “duck and cover” so that they wouldn’t get radiation poisoning from any bomb that the Soviet army could potentially throw at the U.S. Then James finds his son sitting on the bathroom floor and reading a book about bomb shelter preparedness because he thinks the Russians are going to bomb the Americans any minute. This is why communication is important because without face to face dialogue about what needs to be said, propaganda can continue to propagate and brainwash people, and moreover cause people to have this irrational fear about other people in other countries. I think in terms of politics and international diplomacy today, talking to one another face to face is needed more than ever if we want to bring about world peace.

Bridge of Spies. 2015. 2 hr 22 min. Rated PG-13 for some violence and brief strong language.

Book Review: Look At Me by Jennifer Egan

I literally just snapped this picture, so photo courtesy of me. I was done with having reviews with no pictures and I’m sure you were, too.

It’s late and I’m rather sleepy (it’s early technically but I’m an early bird so I have to go to bed early so I can wake up early) so this review isn’t going to be as long as I hoped, but I just finished this novel by Jennifer Egan, who also wrote A Visit from the Goon Squad. While I wasn’t a huge fan of that book (I don’t even remember if I got through it or not), I really liked this one called Look At Me. It’s about this young woman whose modeling career and entire life do a 360 when she gets in a car accident and sustains severe injuries, namely an injury to her face. The injury is so bad that the doctors have to put in eighty titanium screws to keep it all together. While her appearance isn’t totally altered, her mind is, and throughout the book she is just trying to regain her sense of self after enduring this traumatic accident. The novel shifts from her perspective to that of the third person, because we get to meet one of the kids of Charlotte’s old friend from school, and this kid happens to be named Charlotte. Charlotte has her own problems she is dealing with, namely with boys. She ends up falling for this older teacher named Mr. West, and is having a hard time confessing her feelings for him to her friends.

Honestly, this is sad to say, but I can’t remember much of the other characters in the book, so this isn’t a character analysis or anything. What engrossed me most about the novel was Charlotte’s perspective. It’s probably because I read first person narratives most of the time, but her narrative is what got me through the book. The third person narrative, I found myself trying to figure out who was who, and the only people I remember from the third person are young Charlotte (the daughter of first person Charlotte’s friend) and Mr. West. The book was well written but it’s sort of like Michael Chabon or even Jonathan Franzen’s novel Purity: you can’t let the incredibly descriptive and psychoanalytical language get in the way of you learning about the characters and how they develop as the novel goes on. I felt like I was just getting lost in the characters’ heads throughout the book, and I didn’t know whose head I was getting lost in: Moose’s, Charlotte’s, young Charlotte, the character towards the end named Aziz (“Z”). It wasn’t a bad book, very well written, but I couldn’t tell if it was on me or on Jennifer Egan to help me stay focused on the plot and the characters’ actions instead of just their thoughts.

Or actually, now that I think about it, it is one of those books that is so well-written that you need to read it again because the language just captures you, absorbs you, and then leaves you to figure out what the book meant at the end. I would love to go back and read this book; I am normally not someone who re-reads books (except for college; I was re-reading not for fun, but to discuss the book and then write an essay analysis on it for a grade) but I wouldn’t feel bored if I re-read this book because then I would understand better who the characters are. It would probably also help if I do end up reading it again to take notes on it so that I know who is who. It got so much acclaim (and as you can see on the cover, was a National Book Award finalist) that I hated finishing this book and thinking, What was the point? Because the writing was excellent and I was very much engrossed; but I don’t want to keep forgetting characters when I read books and the characters in this novel were so important.

Look At Me: A Novel. Jennifer Egan. 2001. 415 pp.

New TV Show!

So I was on a flight, and the flight offered access to free TV shows and movies, so I wanted to watch a show that I hadn’t seen before. I wanted a comedy because I saw the film Judy while on my trip and it was really sad and made me cry, so I wanted to watch something that would make me laugh. For the first flight I watched Black Lady Sketch Show, which, if you haven’t seen it, is so funny I had to literally clamp my hand around my mouth to suppress all the giggles that threatened to rush forth and disturb my fellow passengers on the plane. Then since there were only three free episodes I could watch (although I’m grateful I even got it for free at all), I moved on to another show in the comedy section. Parks and Recreation was an option but it only showed Season 2 and I assumed that I’d get lost if I didn’t watch Season 1. Then I saw Fleabag, and I remembered it won quite a few awards recently, and I checked Rotten Tomatoes and it got 100 percent So I took a chance. And I’ve never looked back since. Once you go Fleabag, you will never go back.

Why, you ask?

Fleabag is a comedy-drama about a young woman living in England (we don’t know her real name, we just know she is named Fleabag), and she really doesn’t have her life together. She runs a cafe but is in a lot of debt, and she goes through a series of boyfriends who end up thinking she’s too sarcastic and weird for them. In addition to being dumped by numerous bad boyfriends, her overachieving rich sister, Claire, and her are not on good terms. Things get even weirder when she goes by her dad’s place (her mom died) and meets her godmother, who is dating her dad. When I first saw the show, it reminded me of the film Frances Ha. If you haven’t seen Frances Ha, it is starring Greta Gerwig as a young late-20 something-old woman named Frances who, like Fleabag, is trying to figure her life out. Unlike her friend, Sophie, Frances cannot afford to move to Tribeca, a more expensive neighborhood of New York, and doesn’t have financial assistance from anyone, so she moves to a less expensive neighborhood with roommates. I thought about this movie because both Frances Ha and Fleabag are so relatable for every woman (or person of any gender really) in their late 20s who sees everyone else has their life together and, well, they feel their lives just don’t measure up.

I binge-watched Season 1 (just finished it). One thing that I find unique about Fleabag is that Fleabag always speaks to the audience, aka breaking the fourth wall. Not since the Disney Channel Original Movie Quints have I seen the protagonist break the fourth wall. It just makes you feel like you’re actually meeting Fleabag in real life. And honestly, I wouldn’t mind meeting Fleabag, because she says what is on her mind and I find her awkwardness totally relatable, even though I can’t relate to her situation totally. She kind of reminds me of a combination of not just Frances Halladay in Frances Ha but also Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm because Larry is always brutally honest with people even when it often gets him in trouble with others. Fleabag also reminds me a lot of the web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which stars Issa Rae as J, who is, as the title says, an awkward black woman. There is one guy that asks Fleabag out on the subway who is this really annoying character who ends up dumping her, and he reminded me a lot of A, a character who constantly is trying to hook up with J even though she doesn’t like him. J and A hook up after J gets drunk on too much punch at an office holiday party, and after that A is constantly assuming that J wants to be his girlfriend because they slept together.

Even though Fleabag is a comedy, it also has its sad moments. Early in the show, Fleabag reveals that her friend, Boo, killed herself after she found out Fleabag slept with her boyfriend. The two of them were the best of friends and they started a gerbil-themed cafe together. But now that Boo is gone, Fleabag becomes depressed and flashes back frequently to memories of her and Boo when Boo was still living (I got really sad each time she flashed back to Boo when she was happy and then Boo when she was about to commit suicide). Fleabag’s godmother has the nerve to tell her one time at dinner that she should give up running the cafe since she has no money left to run it, but then an investor who at first declined Fleabag a loan for the cafe (after she flashed her bra at him during their meeting), sees her in tears and she tells him about Boo’s suicide and how she feels like she is always ruining things for people. He then has a change of heart and goes over the process of getting her a loan again. This ending gave me hope because I was so stressed out whenever Fleabag and her godmother interacted since the godmother was treating Fleabag like she was a nobody and her father felt embarrassed by Fleabag’s behavior towards her godmother.

I am getting tired now, so unfortunately I cannot write any more. However, I am pumped to watch Season 2 and tell you more about it!

Fleabag. Rated TV-MA: Adult Language, Sexual Situations, Some Nudity

Book Review: Purity by Jonathan Franzen

The first novel I read by Jonathan Franzen was Freedom, which was really good. Then I was at a book sale, and I wanted to read more of his books, so I found one of his more recent novels, Purity. It is about a young woman named Purity, who goes by “Pip” and lives in Oakland, California with her student debt, a low-paying job, and a bunch of roommates. Not to mention that she has a thing for one of them, but he is already married. She hears about this internship that a guy from Germany named Andreas Wolf founded and decides to pursue it since she wants to leave her stressful situation in hopes for a better one. But along the way, she discovers some dark truths about her past, in particular her relationship with her parents. She finds out that her mother secretly kept all this money from her rather than letting her access it so she could pay off her student debt and afford her rent. She also finds out that Andreas is more complicated than she at first assumed he would be, and the power dynamic between him and her was interesting. And this is where the characters got to be a bit harder to follow than the characters from Freedom, and honestly the book was 500 pages and I didn’t take notes, so I could not remember much of Andreas’s character development. All I remember is that he was conflicted about how he felt about Pip because he was sexually attracted to her, and then he broke up with her, and then this whole confusing thing happened between Pip and him.

One thing I do remember though, is the descriptiveness of the natural surroundings. I think this imagery is really what kept me reading the book even when I couldn’t always understand the characters. I felt like I was walking with Pip the whole time, in her apartment, at the coffee shop she worked at, at the internship… Another thing I noticed (and while I hate comparing writers since each writer has their own experiences and style they bring to the pages) is that Franzen’s writing in this novel was similar to Michael Chabon’s writing. Michael Chabon is the author of The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and Telegraph Avenue. Reading Purity felt sort of like reading Telegraph Avenue, and this is why I am not sure where I stand on what rating to give this book, because while Purity wasn’t bad, it was like Telegraph Avenue, which is super heavy with psychological third person character analysis and rich vocabulary, so it took me a while to finish it and to catch up on the characters and important details about them. But maybe that’s the point of reading at all: reading these kinds of books for pleasure will leave you thinking, What did I just read? Which character did what and with whom? What was the name of their great-grandmother again? You need to look up words, slow down, think about the characters in greater depth, which is something I should have done in order to remember more in-depth analysis of Andreas and Annagret, and Pip’s mother and father.

Again, it wasn’t bad, just not what I expected. I would probably have to read it again, but I am already reading new books, so probably won’t get to read it again for a while.

Purity: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen. 563 pp. 2015.

Some Music of My Own

I admit: I am awkward about promoting myself. Like quite a few people, I’ve always been reluctant to promote myself to others, especially speaking for myself as an introverted person. But after reading lots of blogs on how introverts can improve their self-promotion skills (not to speak for all introverts, some introverts are great at self-promotion), I learned that it’s fine to share your music with people. So I decided to get a Soundcloud and upload some cello pieces I’ve been working on. At first I felt uncomfortable putting my music performances up there but I’m getting better at feeling more comfortable. So here goes… Thank you in advance for listening.

Eclectic Playlist

I haven’t posted one of these in a while (or maybe it was a few days ago, I don’t even remember, I listen to too much music to even care). So here it goes, more music from my many Pandora stations:

  • “If U Want It”: Tuxedo
  • “Volcano”: Damien Rice
  • “Qui est cette fille?”: Yelle
  • “A Walk to Remember”: Vulfpeck
  • “Special Affair”: The Internet
  • “Date La Vuelta”: Luis Fonsi, Sebastian Yatra and Nicky Jam
  • “Mob Ties”: Drake
  • “Cooties”: From the musical Hairspray
  • “Conversation, Pt. 1”: Mac Miller
  • “Is It Love?”: Thundercat
  • “my boy”: Billie Eilish
  • “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall”: Coldplay
  • “Sleep Alone”: Bat for Lashes
  • “Play Dead”: Bjork
  • “So Doggone Lonesome”: Johnny Cash
  • “Pioneers”: Bloc Party
  • “Newborn Friend”: Seal
  • “The Call”: Regina Spektor
  • “Boy with Luv (ft. Halsey)”: BTS
  • “Private Eyes” (orig. by Hall and Oates): The Bird and the Bee
  • “Zi-Zi’s Journey”: Lindsey Stirling
  • “Survie”: Youssou N’Dour
  • “Decatur, or Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!”: Sufjan Stevens