Dec 22, 2010

The Big Ten: Books

Today, I bring you my ten favorite books of 2010. The list includes one short story collection, four works of literary fiction, an essay collection, a graphic novel and a dystopian young adult series. The majority of the entries came easily (only number 10 had to fight for its spot). Numbers 6-4 might as well be grouped all together; my thoughts on their ordering change moment to moment. My complete 2010 reading list can be found in the sidebar, but click below for more specific remarks on the year's best.

Dec 21, 2010

The Big Ten: TV

The Big Ten continues with a look at the ten television shows I considered appointment viewing over the last year. These are the series I watched religiously, the episodes I talked about obsessively and the moments that left a lasting impression. The grand total amounts to two reality shows, three comedies, and five dramas (NBC wins the network showdown with three entries). Some of the omissions surprised me (old favorites The Hills, Glee and True Blood are no where to be found), and I have a feeling some of the year's late entries (The Vampire Diaries, for instance) will have a strong case for inclusion come the end of 2011. Until then . . .

Dec 20, 2010

The Big Ten: Music

Title Pending's Big Ten begins with a look at the ten songs that wormed their way into my brain and decided to stay this past year. Not all of them were released in 2010 (Girls Aloud's "Biology," was first released in England in 2005), but 2010 was the year I first heard them. This year's list is a mix of dance, pop, folk, alternative rock, and even a little country crooning. Numbers 10-7 could be rearranged without much argument, and the top two stand mountains above the rest, but overall, I find this a fair representation of the last year according to my iPod.

Dec 19, 2010

The Big Ten: Introduction

You guys, it's almost 2011! When did that happen? I swear, just yesterday I was returning to the office after Labor Day weekend, steadying myself for the fall busy season, and wondering if I would make it to Thanksgiving. It's been a whirlwind three months since I last posted, during which I turned 24 (hello, mid-twenties), survived the aforementioned fall busy season, saw Wicked for the second time, attended Homecoming Weekend in Massachusetts and celebrated Thanksgiving in Maine, and of course, consumed my fair share of television, music, movies and books.

Aug 10, 2010

Since I last posted . . .

I saw The Kids Are All Right, Inception and The Young Victoria. I loved Kids the most; Maree and I sat in the theater for a good ten minutes after the credits rolled, hugging each other and happy crying. Annette Bening's performance blew me away.

Song for you.

Jul 20, 2010

Scaling the Hills: Lo

In wake of the Hills series finale, I'm taking an in-depth look at each of the show's primary (meaning, they made the opening credits) cast members, in order to discern what about them (if anything) made for good TV.

We continue with Lo Bosworth.

Queens for a year.

Attention readers: In two weeks, I'm trading the high-rises of Manhattan for the row-houses of Astoria. Gone will be my immediate access to the Union Square Barnes & Noble and the Madison Square Park Shake Shack. In their stead, I'm gaining a bigger, cheaper apartment and a new neighborhood to explore. Exploration, however, benefits from recommendation, and so I ask you this: have any of you ever been to Queens, and if so, where should I go when I get there?

Jul 14, 2010

The rest is still unwritten.

Even though I still have six Scaling The Hills profiles to write (Lo is next), I couldn't help but slap together some quick thoughts on last night's series finale and live reunion special.

X-Men: Second Coming #2

"Well then, little spirit. Prepare."

After three long years of "No More Mutants!" the X-Men have finally found some Hope (I couldn't help myself) (but seriously, the introduction of new mutant characters proves a long overdue and desperately needed shot in the arm for a franchise crumbling under a stultifying editorial edict).

Jul 8, 2010

Scaling the Hills: Stephanie

In anticipation of the Hills series finale, I'm taking an in-depth look at each of the show's primary (meaning, they made the opening credits) cast members, in order to discern what about them (if anything) made for good TV.

We begin with Stephanie Pratt.

Song for you.


Congratulations to Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, the Emmy nominated stars of Friday Night Lights.

It's about damn time.

TV time.

Kristin Cavallari acts sad on The Hills; photo by MTV

The City "Roommate Wanted": I hope producers initiated the "Whitney treats Roxy like dirt" storyline. If not, Whitney has officially veered into the "obnoxious and unlikeable" end of the reality star spectrum. Why does she feel betrayed upon learning Roxy looked at an apartment, when last week Roxy announced that she wanted to move out? Roxy claiming she can't afford a $4,000 a month 1 bedroom leads me to believe this drama is all for show - MTV has to pay these girls more than that. The best part of the episode was Olivia's steadfast refusal to acknowledge Whitney's clothing line on-camera.

Jul 7, 2010

They're back.

I give you the Season Four cast of Mad Men.
Let's discuss.


Covers by Scribner and Picador

Dear readers: I am currently between books. I presently have no new novel, memoir, or short story collection to anticipate. These doldrums cannot continue, especially with so little new television to occupy my time. Below, I have compiled a short list of titles I'm considering, but I need your help making my final selection. Cast your vote in the comments, and don't hesitate to suggest a personal favorite I've overlooked.

Jul 6, 2010

I can explain.

I have a confession to make: I really want to see Eat, Pray, Love. I read five pages of the book before putting it down; it wasn't my thing. The movie's trailer, however, has piqued my curiosity. Watch, as Julia Roberts has a relationship with pizza, pets elephants, seeks advice from numerous spiritual gurus, and tries not to want to have sex with Javier Bardem.

Song for you.

Recently read.

Covers by Anchor, Harper Perennial,
and The Dial Press

The Blind Assassin: Prior to reading this book, I had never read any Margaret Atwood (I know). I consumed her Booker Prize winning masterpiece in a frenzied four days; I can't remember the last time I so desperately needed to know what happened next, while simultaneously never wanting the book to end. The narrative-within-the-narrative keeps you guessing, dropping clues as to what's really happening, even as protagonist Iris Chase Griffen dances around the truth. Phrases like "tour de force," and "jaw-dropping" come to mind. The most satisfying novel I've read since starting this blog.

The best movie I've seen this year.

Toy Story 3

"So long, partner."

Entertainment monthly.

Whitney Port does her best Lauren Conrad impression
on The City; photo by MTV

The City "Stage Fight": Whitney has finally completed her transformation into the New Lauren, now that she has taken to acting like an entitled bitch to Roxy. In her later Hills seasons, Lauren often adopted a similarly patronizing tone with Audrina and Stephanie (such impatience usually indicates the star's boredom with the entire exercise, due to a flourishing personal life kept decidedly off-camera). After spending the last three episodes literally taking notes for Whitney at business meetings, at least Roxy got something to do.

Jun 9, 2010

The best thing I saw on Hulu this week.

Friday Night Lights, S4, Ep. 2 "After the Fall"

"Principal Taylor? I'm really sorry for lying to you this whole time, and for lying to you right now to your face."

How I spent my Memorial Day.

Love in Infant Monkeys: Strange, affecting short stories that examine the neurosis of celebrity, coupled with mankind's often ill-advised efforts to connect with the natural world (A).

Inglourious Basterds: Nazis, Nazi hunters, and a German actress turned double agent collide for a bloody massacre in Paris (plus, a lot of meta movie discussion [and scalping]) (B+).

May 26, 2010

Song for you.

TV time.

The City: The producers have successfully immersed the girls in the world of New York City fashion; the involvement of people who actually work in the fashion industry has given the series clout (well, more clout than it had). It helps that the entire staff of Elle doesn't mind appearing on camera, thus saving us from another season where Erin and Olivia fight, and Joe Zee weakly tries to explain Olivia's presence without admitting that she's there to get in fights with Erin on TV. The more glossy Bergdorf parties, sideways glances, beautiful clothes and dates with Page Six reporters the better. Plus, Whitney called Olivia a bitch to her face (two weeks ago)! Look how far she's come.

May 20, 2010

The best thing I saw on TV last week.

The Real Housewives of New York City, S3,
Ep. 11 "Overboard"

"You're not stomping on grapes, I'm going to eat those!"

She deserves this.

On last Sunday's Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains season finale, Sandra Diaz-Twine (pictured here) became the first two-time Survivor winner. She has played the game twice, and she has won the game twice. She is the only player, in twenty seasons, to do so (of course, only nine of the show's nineteen winners have played the game more than once; four of them competed this season: Sandra, Tom from season ten, Parvati from seasons thirteen and sixteen, and JT from season eighteen [the latter three came in fifteenth, second, and tenth, respectively]). In the days following the announcement of Sandra's win, however, a question has arisen: did she deserve it?

May 11, 2010

Watch this.

Readers, I must advise you watch NBC's terrific Friday Night Lights. If Mad Men delivers the cool detachment of a martini, and Glee supplies the manic sugar rush of Skittles, than Friday Night Lights provides the hearty Americana of a steak. It simultaneously makes you feel like the month of October, the moment you realize you like someone, hooded sweatshirts, that time your coach gave an inspiring speech and you cried, 50 degree weather, and your first high school party.

May 10, 2010

Song for you.

Y: The Last Man, Vol. 3

I concluded my review of Y: The Last Man, Vol. 2 by saying that "the pace needs to quicken if I'm going to stick around any longer." With Vol. 3, Brian K. Vaughan resolves numerous lingering questions, while pointing the story in a new, international direction. The fantastic "Ring of Truth" arc (the best of the collection) features the return and reformation of Yorick's sister, Hero; a kidnapping; the proper introduction of Toyota (the mysterious ninja woman from previous issues); a sword fight in the rain on the Golden Gate Bridge; the unmasking of Agent 711's killers; two near-death experiences; and a potential explanation as to how and why Yorick survived the plague that ravaged mankind. Consider the pace quickened.

May 9, 2010

The best thing I saw on TV last week.

Community, S1, Ep. 23 "Modern Warfare"

"Come with me if you don't want paint on your clothes."

May 6, 2010

Happy birthday.

This afternoon, (Title Pending) turns one. A year ago today, I was sitting in my apartment in Worcester, MA, procrastinating studying for my American Film final. Last May, I raced at the Eastern Sprints, graduated college, and flew to California for the National Rowing Championships. Erick, Kevin and I moved out of our apartment, and myself, Erick, Adam, Bratton, Jimmy, and Terry took our final strokes as Holy Cross rowers. Two days before flying to California, my dad's father died, and for the entire month, I had one of the worst cases of Poison Ivy known to man. It was an emotional time.

May 1, 2010

X-Force #26

Rest in peace, Kurt Wagner.

Short cuts.

The Hills: You have to love an episode that begins with Stephanie noting that she's "twenty-three, and been to jail twice," ("Like, who does that?") features Lo (who finally makes the opening credits) calling Kristin a "crackhead" (behind her back, of course) and Heidi's step-father commenting that her newest face looks "frozen" (or as Heidi says, "plastic"). None of these moments would have occurred in prior seasons, when the producers kept an air-tight lid on the actually interesting parts of the girls' lives. If Kristin and company (which laughably includes Audrina, as if they would ever hang out in real life) can finally save Heidi from Spencer's sick machinations, acknowledging their various substance abuse scandals on-camera will have been worth it.

Song for you.

Apr 17, 2010

TV time.

Glee: Oh hello, Glee! I missed you. "Hell-o" felt like a season premiere, as the writers reintroduced the major characters (Will, Rachel, Finn, and Sue) and shuffled them into place. Similar to the pilot, a lot happens here. I'm thrilled with the addition of Jonathan Groff to the cast - his voice matches Lea Michele's in ways Cory Monteith's never will, and the pair have excellent chemistry. Unfortunately, "Hell-o" also contained a hearty dose of sexism, as Will and Finn strive to find their special snowflake selves despite the "craziness" of the women around them. When Emma told Will "maybe you're trading [Terri's] crazy for my crazy," I almost gagged (I also want to punch Matthew Morrison whenever he makes his "Maybe You're Right That I Am Actually Too Good for You" Face). As usual, I loved Brittany ("Did you know that dolphins are gay sharks?") the most. Next week, this.

Fables #94

King Cole: If you're going to indulge in the messy world of real-politics, Ozma, you've an important lesson to learn - forgiveness only accompanies success. Failure is still and always a crime.

Apr 15, 2010

The Unnamed

If Joshua Ferris' first book took a while to grab me (and ultimately, won me over), his second novel, The Unnamed, had me, and then lost me somewhere west of the Rocky Mountains. Initially, Ferris portrays Tim's disease as a tragic disruption of everyday life. A high-powered attorney, Tim walks out in the middle of trial. His wanderings force his wife, Jane, to scour area hospitals and police stations, searching for her wayward husband. He undergoes bizarre tests that leave him home alone watching TV with his overweight, distant daughter. The books begins as a portrait of privileged, suburban life, disrupted by the suddenness of illness. Tim's body does dangerous, unhealthy things he cannot understand; his condition throws his life into chaos.

To Max Records.

I know you are just a kid, but I kind of wanted to slap you for the last third of Where the Wild Things Are. You kept making that same "I Don't Understand These Unintended Negative Consequences of My Actions" Face, and it seriously bugged. I still liked the movie, though (Becca explains why, here). I especially loved Lauren Ambrose's line reading of "They're these really good friends of mine." KW's on-again off-again teen snobbery matched Max's little kid left behind frustration perfectly.

Apr 10, 2010

Uncanny X-Men #523

Color me surprised by the number of plot developments that occurred in this issue (the second chapter of Second Coming). Not only did Cyclops admit his role in the formation of X-Force to an increasingly irate Nightcrawler, but the Alpha Squad (pictured here) actually found Cable and Hope (the supposed mutant messiah recently returned from the future).

That said, it's not a very fun time to be an X-Man. The mutant species is on the brink of extinction, a futuristic cyborg (Bastion) has amassed an army of racists who want nothing more than to wipe them off the planet, and their leader (Cyclops) has resorted to sending teenage girls turned living weapons (X-23) into battle with a license to kill. It's all rather dour. The entire line needs some levity before the reading experience becomes as depressing as the stories themselves.

Apr 5, 2010

Song for you.

April playlist now posted (with links).

TV time.

Survivor: Goodbye, Boston Rob. At least you left with one of the best exit lines in recent memory (to Coach, "you're a little man"). I was definitely rooting for the Rob/Courtney/Sandra alliance to prevail, but I understand Jerri's decision to side with Russell/Parvati/Danielle. At the end of the day, I'd certainly rather be sitting next to some combination of the latter three (with the exception of Parvati, who is just as dangerous a threat as everyone has made her out to be; she not only plays the game, but the entire construct of the show. You want a te-he "black widow" type? She'll give you one, and then she'll win the whole damn thing [Apparently, I have a lot to say about Parvati]). Russell is a gifted strategist, but he has no idea how to play the social game. He's the ideal final two or three partner because he will get you to the end making big, bold moves that drive people to hate his guts.

Mar 30, 2010

Here we go.

This is going to be one of my "written in a fervor of idealism" posts. By now, regular readers have likely realized a few of my Hot Topics - the rights of women and gay dudes. More often than not, I stray away from the personal/political on this blog because a) I get preachy pretty quick and b) it's easier to write about The Hills than the complexities of human sexuality on a regular basis. Today, however, I can't help but toss Heidi and Spencer aside, in favor of a more complicated/less plastic discussion.

Mar 25, 2010

The long goodbye.

MTV announced today that the impending sixth season of The Hills will be the series' last. I am in a few minds about this. When the cast has to pretend they aren't D-list celebrities, the show loses any semblance of "reality." The producers took this attitude too far with Kristin's relationship with Justin. Kristin, Justin, and Audrina were seen talking, laughing, and enjoying each others' company after the season five finale - their love triangle was almost entirely fabricated in the service of "good" TV.

Song for you.

Mar 24, 2010

Of note.

The awesomeness of Gabby Sidibe:

“They try to paint the picture that I was this downtrodden, ugly girl who was unpopular in school and in life, and then I got this role and now I’m awesome. But the truth is that I’ve been awesome, and then I got this role."

I want to go to margarita night with her so bad. Read more at New York Magazine (see also: above).

Mar 23, 2010

Short cuts.

The Best American Short Stories 2009: I already expressed my frustration with this series' continued recycling of its pet themes, and while that tradition unfortunately continues here, there is still plenty to celebrate. I usually like each volume just enough to read the next one (except for the fantastic Stephen King edited 2007 edition, which you should read for Richard Russo's "Horseman" at the very least), and that's the case here. I would give guest editor Alice Sebold a solid B+ for her efforts. My top five, in order of appearance: Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum's "Yurt," Adam Johnson's "Hurricanes Anonymous," Victoria Lancelotta's "The Anniversary Trip," (easily the best of the bunch) Annie Proulx's "Them Old Cowboy Songs," and Namwali Serpell's "Muzungu."

In living color.

A little over a month ago, I finally saw Wicked. I am eternally grateful to my great friend, Cassie, who scored us third row seats, and patted my shoulder during both "Defying Gravity," and "For Good," (otherwise known as The Two Songs That Will Make You Cry, Or Else You Have No Feelings). We sat behind a lovely pair of women who sobbed for the entire second act, and exchanged kind words with us upon the show's completion.

Mar 8, 2010

Recently read.

I'm a third of the way through The Best American Short Stories 2009. I have had a love/hate relationship with this anthology since I began following the series in 2005. For every exquisite slice of original craft, you get the latest hollow iteration of the series' pet themes. You can guarantee that every year The Best American Short Stories will contain: a Jewish grandfather and grandson (the grandson grows up in New York or Chicago, does something vaguely creative professionally, and learns a lesson about his heritage from the foreign born older man he never understood), lower-class black girls (who discover the grim reality of their sexuality, most likely in the Bronx), upper-middle class white women (who hate their suburban existences), and the Third World (where good things can happen).

Song for you.

Mar 7, 2010

TV time.

Caprica: I don't know; it's not grabbing me the way Battlestar did. It's a good show, very thoughtful, but also a bit slow. It lacks a certain sense of urgency, mystery, and danger. The Graystone family (Daniel, Amanda, and Zoe) easily interest me the most; I'm really enjoying the fucked-up, futuristic family drama that is their storyline (it helps that Eric Stolz, Paula Malcomson, and Alessandra Torresani are the best actors in the cast). I guess I've yet to decipher an overall sense of direction, or envision a way the multiple threads (the Soldiers of the One, Daniel's business, Tamara's Matrix adventure, Zoe) can and will tie together. I want to care about it more than I do.

I like.

I don't know why, but I really like that picture of the X-Men. It's probably because they haven't been a proper team in years, but there's something particularly bad-ass about Psylocke, Cyclops, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Magick, Angel, Wolverine, and X-23 charging off to battle. I pulled the image from IGN, where they've been counting down to Second Coming.

I'll be discussing Second Coming (the next X-Men crossover, and Messiah Complex sequel) as it unfolds, so expect to hear more about Marvel's merry mutants in the coming weeks. So far, I'm predicting that Nightcrawler will kick the bucket, Hope will somehow revive the dwindling mutant population, and the team will return to San Francisco.

Feb 15, 2010

Life is a Beach: Laguna Beach, S1, Ep. 4 "18 Candles"

If you haven't already, head to MTV and watch "18 Candles," the fourth episode of Laguna Beach. When you're done, come back and comment on the full recap, featured below!

Entertainment weekly.

The Hurt Locker: Easily the best movie I've seen since starting this blog. Kathryn Bigelow refuses to direct to the cheap seats, vigilantly patrolling the borders of the story lest it trend toward the melodramatic. Her direction strips away any and all distraction, focusing your attention solely on the work these soldiers do. She has no sweeping political statement with which to slap you across the face, merely the reality of these men and this war. It's a spare film, yet Bigelow employs her tools with expertise; you don't need to know the back-story (the film's one weakness - Evangeline Lilly), or see a stream of tears, to know these characters daily walk a knife's edge. I love this movie the way I love Children of Men, which is to say, a lot.

Feb 2, 2010

TV time.

A resounding "yes" to Parks & Recreation, currently the funniest comedy on NBC. Remember loving The Office because it struck a perfect balance between heartwarming and cynical? Remember when The Office was funny? This feels like that; I genuinely enjoy spending time with these people. Amy Poehler has shaped Leslie Knope into a capable idealist surrounded by doubtful eye-rollers whose chests nonetheless swell with pride upon witnessing her achievements. Despite their spats, the characters really like each other, making it all the easier to love them.

Jan 26, 2010

I can't explain.

You guys, I really want to see this movie. I can't articulate my reasons beyond "Amanda Seyfried looks gorgeous," and "I like that Snow Patrol song in the trailer." I swear this has nothing to do with Channing Tatum (who is permanently cross-eyed). It just looks so perfectly star-crossed and angst-filled. Maybe my subconscious is telling me I need a good cry? Am I that overtired? Did I eat something weird for dinner last night?

What is happening to me?

Jan 18, 2010

Short cuts.

Avatar: Beautiful pictures (Pandora at night in 3D? Yes, please). Cheesy dialogue ("I see you"). Unoriginal script occasionally bordering on the ridiculous (your Home-Tree is sitting on my Unobtainium!). About forty-five minutes too long (let's bond with another jungle creature). Glad I saw it, but I never need to see it again.

Dollhouse: That last episode sucked. I mean, magic spinal fluid? That was the whole point of Caroline? Not to mention, they successfully assassinated Boyd's character ("you're my family") faster than the Battlestar writers killed Tory's, which I didn't think possible. If you're going to make him the Surprise Villian, he needs to have an actual motivation. A big, unfortunate mess. That said, I'm still optimistic they can salvage what's left for the finale.

Jan 12, 2010

Song for you.

Changing My Mind

After finishing Zadie Smith's Changing My Mind this past Saturday, I can resolutely proclaim her my Favorite Living Writer. She rocks. She's smart, discerning, funny, careful in her choices but not afraid to dish out just desserts. I love her the most, and so I leave you with some of her (superior) words.

On Netherland:

" . . . to read this novel it to feel a powerful, somewhat dispiriting sense of recognition. It is perfectly done - in a sense, that's the problem. It's so precisely the image of what we have been taught to value in fiction that it throws that image into a kind of existential crisis . . ."

Jan 4, 2010

To Julianne Moore.

Thanks for being the best thing about A Single Man (a movie I quite liked; Tom Ford's elegant colors, paired with the classical score, resulted in a delicious gourmet meal for two of the five senses). Colin Firth's performance proved a lovely, aching depiction of composed desperation, but you gave us a life story in fifteen minutes, from Charlotte's staggered steps to her forced, hearty laugh (if only you had brushed the hair out of your eyes). How do you feel about the the ending? I'm caught between romantic and contrived.

Let's discuss; I'll bring the gin.