Books, TV, Movies: Charlotte’s Lists of Top Fives For 2013

Everybody’s doing the obligatory year-end lists so I thought I’d jump on the band wagon with my top five faves for movies, TV and books. I decided to limit myself to five so I wouldn’t spend too much time on the laptop. lol. Everything is listed from 5 to 1, 1 being the favorite.

First of all: movies. I love Independent film and I rarely run out to see a movie when it first comes out in theatres. In fact, I prefer watching on TV in the comfort of my home.  Just released blockbusters? Forget it. The movies I’ve selected are ones I watched this year but none of them were released this year. All of them I discovered on my own through chance and thoroughly enjoyed. Predictably, all but one are dramas as that’s my preferred genre.

TV: Three of my five favorite shows were on Sundance Channel with two being Sundance Original Series. I love Sundance. It was a little hard narrowing my favorite TV down to five since I am a true child of the TV generation. As with movies, I prefer the quirky, original and creative in my TV viewing. See what you think.

Books: I don’t rush out and read the just-released bestsellers, as a rule. However, four of my five were released this year and I’m pretty sure a couple of them are on the Bestsellers list. (Not sure as I don’t consult any of them.) After reading this article and this article, I’ve decided 2014 will be a year of reading only women writers. It’s long overdue and I urge you all to do the same in support of women’s writing.

Movies

Bonus Pic: ( because I realized after publishing that I have 6 movies listed)
You Can Count on Me – Starring Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, 2000
A young mother’s drifter brother shows up back in their hometown after years away and out of touch. The dynamics between the siblings (Linney and Ruffalo), who are complete opposites, makes for a very interesting movie. Not a lot of action here, but a thoughtful unfolding of how differences in perception can create misunderstanding and resentment in relationships. Laura Linney is a nuanced actor and one of my favorites – I’ll watch anything she’s in. Ruffalo plays his well-honed bad beautiful boy that you want to kiss and slap at the same time. Watch this movie if you don’t require car chases and exploding things.

5. The Savages – Starring Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Directed by Tamara Jenkins, 2007
Linney and Hoffman portray two siblings who are juggling caring for their sick father with their own busy lives. Their emotional journey as they watch the deterioration of their father and the subsequent decisions they must make for his care is one many of us in our 40′s and 50′s are familiar with. This movie really touched me in a big way as I’ve recently dealt with this issue myself. Sometimes it’s helpful to see your own struggles played out on screen so you realize it happens to other people too. Linney and Hoffman give skillful, poignant performances and I wouldn’t expect anything less from them.

4. The Darjeeling Limited – Starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, Directed by Wes Anderson, 2007
Hilarious. These are three brothers who travel to India to find themselves and bond after their father’s death. The predicaments they get into will make you giggle, or at least smile. I thoroughly enjoyed this offbeat comedy that also has a few tender moments.

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3. The Deep End – Starring Tilda Swinton and Goran Visnjic, Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, 2001
A mother struggles to keep her son from being implicated in a murder. Both Tilda Swinton and Goran Visnjic are great in this movie, their casting was perfect. Tilda gives a convincing, heart-wrenching performance of a mother stoically trying to keep her shit together while slowly unraveling as she tries to keep life normal while dealing with blackmailers (Visnjic) threatening to expose her son as a murderer. This movie held my attention from start to finish with a strong story and compelling acting. Highly recommend.

2. Brothers – Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Toby McGuire, Directed by Jim Sheridan, 2009
Just before a young Marine (McGuire) is deployed (again) to Afghanistan, his younger black sheep brother (Gyllenhaal) is released from prison. The story revolves around what happens in Afghanistan and what happens back home. I have to say I was impressed most by McGuire’s performance as he was not an actor I cared much for until this movie. His acting here was pretty incredible in my eyes. Gyllenhaal and Portman (as McGuire’s wife) give solid performances too but McGuire is clearly the star here. This is a tense yet, in some ways, tender movie. Some of it is hard to watch but definitely worth the effort. Highly recommend.

1. Snow Cake – Starring Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Carrie-Ann Moss, Directed by Marc Evans, 2006
OK, movies like this are why I love Independent Film. This is a wacky, crazy, insightful, sweet movie that I will definitely watch again. (I don’t often do that.) Rickman and Moss meet up serendipitously on the road, both returning to their homes after prolonged stints away. Weaver plays Moss’s mother who is a highly functional autistic, Rickman ends up staying with her and the story unfolds and keeps you watching and guessing how it will ever end. If you don’t like this movie then I can’t imagine why not. Weaver and Rickman are great and play two of the most memorable characters you’ll ever meet. Highly recommend.

The movie that most disappointed me: Silver Linings Playbook Maybe it was the mood I was in at the time but Jennifer Lawrence’s character kind of drove me crazy and I wanted to smack Bradley Cooper. I kept looking at the clock during the entire movie.

TV

5. Downton AbbeyPBS – What’s better to take you away from reality than a historical family dynasty story set in another country? The acting is fantastic, the sets opulent, the cinematography bucolic, the fashion glittering and, oh yeah, those dreamy English accents. What’s not to like? It’s worth it just to watch magic unfold from Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess Violet. Eight more days to season 4 – I can’t wait! Squee! maggie

4. Rectify – Sundance Channel -  A young man is released from prison after nineteen years on Death Row after DNA evidence exonerates him. This series follows Daniel as he tries to assimilate back into his old life where he encounters prejudice and resistance as well as support and love. This is a well-written series that makes you think about how opinions that seem so solid can be so wrong.

3. The Returned – Sundance Channel – A French (subtitled) zombie series that isn’t your same old hum-drum, flesh dropping zombie series. I am wild for this series. Basically, it takes place in a small, isolated community in France where deceased loved ones, looking as they did at death,  begin appearing, unaware that they’ve been dead. You can not take your eyes off this show and I can’t wait for Season 2. (Here’s a good synopsis on Flavorwire.)

2. Breaking Bad - AMC – If you don’t know about this series then you’ve been living under a rock. I watched the first four seasons on DVD this year, one after the other, then watched season 5 live. I was shocked by how this show pulled me in with season one. Really, I didn’t think I’d like it, thinking it was all about drugs and addicts and all the shit that goes along with that scenario. In reality, it’s one of the most well-written, well-acted and emotionally compelling shows I’ve ever seen. Now I’m watching re-runs on Sundance.

1. Top of the Lake - Sundance Channel – A  detective returns to her hometown to investigate the disappearance and suspected abuse of a pregnant teenager. The detective (Elizabeth Moss) unearths long-held town secrets and faces demons from her past in this dark, suspenseful series. As with Breaking Bad, this is a well-written and acted show that pulls you in and won’t let go. Elizabeth Moss is riveting in this, playing a much more tortured, compelling character than her gullible Peggy on Mad Men. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and  an Emmy for Best Actress in a Mini-series or Movie and should have won. Filmed in New Zealand, the cinematography is uh.may.zing, winning Adam Arkapaw the Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie.

The program that most disappointed me: American Horror Story: The Coven. This show is just too corny. I wanted to like it simply because it’s filmed here and set here and stars Jessica Lange and Angela Bassett but those  facts aren’t enough to make me sit through it one more time.

Books

5. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – The story of the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. It was fun reading about Paris in the Jazz Age and the antics of the “Lost Generation”. I have to say, though, that if this is really the way Hemingway treated his women then he’s lost some of my respect. One can be a lauded writer but if you treat people like crap it diminishes the work, for me.

4. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri – Set in India and America, this is the story of two brothers, their family and a country torn apart by revolution. It’s a page-turner, for sure.

3. Tenth of December by George Saunders – A collection of short stories every one of which is a gem. I swept through this book in no time and plan to read it again. Highly recommend. the-year-of-magical-thinking

2. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – If you’ve lost someone close to you, this is the book to read – grab it now! It gave me some solace in the year after my mother’s death by identifying and explaining patterns, behaviors and thinking that seemed wacked out but, in truth, is part of the grieving process. Skillfully and lovingly written, Didion walks us through the long protracted illness of her daughter, the sudden death of her husband and her life in the year afterward. You will see yourself in her story. Highly recommend.

1. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – The best book I read this year, hands down. Set in Afghanistan, this is the story of a poor family, their struggle to survive and the ensuing life of a son and daughter. This is a richly detailed and engrossing story, a book I couldn’t put down. Until this, Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns had been my favorite book. Highly, highly recommend.

The book that most disappointed me: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. After a promising start this book quickly became Bor.Ing. That is all.

I hope you enjoyed my list of Top Fives and maybe feel inspired to read or watch some of these recommendations. Do you have any favorite movies, TV shows or books you’d like to share?

Wednesday Wonders From Around the Web

Strange-beautiful-cool things I’ve found on the internet.

Photos of girls and women, known as Ama, harvesting seaweed, oysters and abalone in 1950′s coastal Japan. They dove for up to 4 minutes on a single deep breath three times a day, warming themselves at beach fires in between dives. This 2000 year old tradition ceased in the 1960′s. Photos were taken by Iwase Yoshiyki.  Read more here

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P6 Ama with SeaweedPortland photographer LANAKILA MACNAUGHTON is the creator of The Women’s Motorcycle Exhibition.  “The Women’s Motorcycle Exhibition documents the new wave of modern female motorcyclists. The goal is to reveal the brave, courageous and beautiful women that live to ride.” I chose a few of the photos that I particularly liked – the ones that looked like real women really riding instead of just posing – but you can see more here.

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We all know many magazine covers and ads photoshop the models. I mean, c’mon, no one is that perfect. I came across this video time lapse of a model’s photo being photoshopped. She starts out looking like a normal woman and ends up an adolescent boy’s someone’s  idea of a fantasy Barbie.  She looks like If she moved, she’d crack.

If you’re female, read (and share) this please

Charlotte:

This demands to be shared. It’s just great!

Originally posted on Broadside:

By Caitlin Kelly

Because the Internet works like that, I saw this blog post thanks to Aby, my male friend in Bhutan.

But then, of course, it made Freshly Pressed this week, in full.

Myrtle Cook of Canada (left) winning a prelimi...

Myrtle Cook of Canada (left) winning a preliminary heat in the women’s 100 metres race at the VIIIth Summer Olympic Games / Myrtle Cook (à gauche), du Canada, remportant une éliminatoire pour l’épreuve du 100 mètres femmes, aux VIIIe Jeux Olympiques d’été (Photo credit: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives)

It’s must-read material for every girl and woman who worries about her body and whether or not it is thin/shapely/pretty enough.

It is:

Don’t you dare talk about how much you hate your body in front of your daughter, or talk about your new diet. In fact, don’t go on a diet in front of your daughter…

Encourage your daughter to run because it makes her feel less stressed…

View original 415 more words

JJ CALE’s LEGACY

Born in 1954, I awakened to music in the very early days of the 1970′s. JJ Cale was a great influence as music was going through the growing pains of the metamorphosis in styles between the 50′s and the 60′s. The early 70′s created some of the most prolific and talented musicians I have ever experienced in my lifetime.

Every time I hear this song, I think of JJ Cale. RIP to one of my favorite musicians.

I found him just about the time I found Bonnie Raitt,, Bonnie and Delaney, Duane Allman Boz Scaggs, Ozark Mountain Daredevils, and the rest of them.

From Wikipedia

Songs written by Cale that have been covered by other musicians include “After Midnight” and “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton,

“Cajun Moon” by Randy Crawford,,

“Clyde” and by Waylon Jennings, ,

“Magnolia” by Jai and Poco,, but I prefer JJ Cale’s version myself

“Bringing It Back” by Kansas,

“Call Me the Breeze” and “I Got the Same Old Blues” by Lynyrd Skynyrd,

Like To Love You Baby [live] – Tom Petty… by XavierMuff“>”I’d Like to Love You, Baby” by Tom Petty,

“Travelin’ Light” and “Ride Me High” by Widespread Panic,

“Tijuana” by Harry Manx,

“Sensitive Kind” by Carlos Santana,

“You Keep Me Hangin’ On” by Kevin Ayers,

and “Same Old Blues” by Captain Beefheart.

Woman of the Hour: Wendy Davis

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Well, I was a little late to the Twitter-Wendy love fest last night but I certainly enjoyed it while I was there!  The great thing about social media is the power it gives all of us to unite behind a cause and communicate when all of the so-called 24 hour cable news networks are snoozing.  If you aren’t familiar with Wendy Davis, Texas State Senator representing Fort Worth, who stood for 11 hours filibustering Texas Senate Bill 537, go here for a little bit about her background and if you missed the live stream of her filibuster and the chaos that ensued, get the bullet points here.  And if you’re completely in the dark on what all of this is about and exactly what Wendy’s filibuster defeated, go here.

This has been your lazy bloggers PSA of the day. Carry on.

Least Favorite Love Songs Kickstarter Campaign

Helen Krieger, of Flood Streets fame (and one of our Femme Fatales in 2011), is working on the second season of her webseries Least Favorite Love Songs. To raise a budget for the the show, she launched a Kickstarter campaign that’s winding down in the next five days. They’ve already made their minimum $5,000 goal, so now they’re stretching for an amount that will allow them to pay their crew just a lil something for their time and expertise.

They have low contributor levels ($1 and $5 backers get updates and swag!) and every little bit will help — maybe they’ll even be able to provide lunch to their crew on shooting days. :) Even if you can’t contribute, you’ll help them out enormously if you watch Season 1, talk about it and share the Kickstarter page with your friends. There’s also a Kickstarter Campaign Wrap Party this Sunday, at Banks St. Bar (4401 Banks Street), from 7 to 9. The suggested $5 donation gets you a screening of Season 1, music from ROARSHARK and some improv.

It should be noted that Least Favorite Love Songs has some strong adult themes, is very funny and includes partial nudity. Season 2 is likely to be funnier and perhaps even nuder. Nudier? How do you express that there may be more nudity? Well, how about you check out the short, funny, almost nude video for the campaign?

Happy #NOLA Friday!

Leah Chase & Charlotte at Dooky Chase ~ Photo by Anita Mital

Leah Chase & Charlotte at Dooky Chase ~ Photo by Anita Mital

Last Holy Thursday I met up with a great group of friends (and met some new ones! ) at Dooky Chase for some delicious fried chicken and the traditional Gumbo Z’Herbs. It was a great time and the powdered sugar on the beignet was meeting Ms Leah, something I’d always wanted to do. What a gracious lady she is and one of New Orleans irreplaceable treasures!

Her James

Nearly four years ago, a young boy by the name of Jeremy Galmon was shot and killed after a second line had passed by, a casualty of people using bullets to settle arguments.

The fundraising for Jeremy’s family was held only a few blocks from my home, sponsored by members of the community and by Young Men of Olympia Social & Pleasure Club, who had sponsored the parade on the day that the boy was caught in the crossfire. The city was in an uproar over this latest victim of gun violence here, and the finger-pointing at the parade as a cause of the violence was happening in too much earnest. Casting blame on the second-line was far too easy to do at the time, but the bands were out in force, and people were driving by the Goodwork Network to give funding to the Galmon family and to deliver the message that second-lining was not a cause, but strove to be a solution in a number of ways. It was there that I met Deborah Cotton for the first time, working right alongside the organizers, enjoying the Baby Boyz Brass Band, the Roots of Music in one of its earliest incarnations, and assisting with style and grace.

I knew the name from her book Notes From New Orleans, which was one of the first post-8/29/2005 chronicles I’d read – I feel to this day that it is still unjustly overlooked as a smart, occasionally sassy, and heartfelt window into that time. I then found that she was contributing to Nola.com under the name Big Red Cotton via a blog there entitled Notes On New Orleans (I wonder where that title came from?), where her amazing voice and perspective jumped off the web browser and stood out among all that hot mess. She’d made it a point to immerse herself in the second line culture and invited me out to do so sometime.

I’ll tell everyone a secret: for quite a while, I wanted to write like Deb. Her frankness about how many people were on some sort of antidepressant to deal with the aftermath of the levee breaches helped make me bolder about admitting that I was on them and will most likely be on them for the rest of my life. There’s one post of mine that’s directly inspired by her examples: a multimedia account of a visit to another fundraiser, the Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund, filled with brass bands, love, laughter, and even some “Halftime,” anticipating the Saints’ Super Bowl win later that same month. I was happy to see her posting at the Gambit’s Blog of New Orleans, and touted her extensive online archive of second line YouTubes when I could.

Life gets crazy, and 2010 flew by, then 2011, 2012. I saw Deb again at a Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities program, then at Rising Tide 6, but I wasn’t able to take advantage of that opportunity to dance with her as she took in another of the second lines she so loved. Once I heard she was among the 19 shot by someone lying in wait for the procession to come by this past Sunday, my heart was in my throat. She’d worked so hard for so many years to show that this was a welcoming part of New Orleans culture, and one kid with a gun had struck that down, taking her with it…

She and a few others are still recovering from their injuries. The suspect(s) in the shooting is(are) still at large. And, for whatever reason, I find myself thinking about James.

James is no one specific. In Notes From New Orleans, Deb wrote about wanting a James to come along, and referred to him in one of her most recent tweets. James isn’t someone who can come and take her away from it all completely, but he can certainly make it all bearable for quite a while. James will know just what makes Deb tick, and will respond to her in all the right ways when she’s low, bringing her out of whatever doldrums she’s in. James is a supportive, seductive dream of a black man who hasn’t arrived in her life…but I wonder…

New Orleans may not have been perfect, and it may have lashed out at her, but it has sustained her all these years. She’s believed in it for so long, worked so hard for it, that I couldn’t help but think that one of the greatest tributes to her toils was Ronal Serpas making the point that the second line was not to blame for the shootings – and most everyone agreeing with that assessment. Jeffrey the yaller blogger is correct in saying “no one has done more to cover and celebrate this generation of NOLA street culture.” Deb treated it so well that if it were a person, I’m sure it would be a James.

It’s now time for us all to do what a James would do – support Deb and those others hurt in the shootings.

The Gambit is working with the Tipitina’s Foundation on a fundraiser for them all. Go here and stay alert for further details.

Deb kick-started New Orleans Good Good shortly before Sunday’s parade. Sign up for updates on her condition and details on fundraising. It would also be great, if you are in a position to do so, to sponsor some advertising on the site and keep her work going.

A blood drive effort for shooting victims is being scheduled for May 22, from 2-7 PM. At least 25 donors are needed for the blood drive. Contact meglousteau@gmail.com for further details and to volunteer.

Liprap

Cross-posted at Humid City

Happy Mother’s Day

I would like to take the opportunity to wish NOLAFEMMES’ founder Charlotte Hamrick a Happy Mother’s Day.

I think of you as a “mother” to all of us who post on this blog: you remind us to use tags, encourage us to post, you raise us up and you celebrate when we achieve “Freshly Pressed”.

Thank you for inviting me to post here and for your advice and support over the past 2 years. I would also like to wish all of NOLAFEMMES’ other bloggers a wonderful Mother’s Day.

Artist Spotlight: Ally Boyd of NOLA Breeze Art

Ally BoydSeven years ago, when Ally Boyd relocated to New Orleans from Austin, she considered herself crafty mom, but not an artist. While wandering around the city during homeschool excursions with her children, she found items left behind as litter: the arm of a doll, an old glass bottle, screws, bottle caps, and wood. She collected these items, seeing the beauty in ordinary things, and used them to decorate her home. The vibe of New Orleans influenced her greatly, making her want to build, create, express herself. The darker themes of work by local artists inspired Ally to push limits and redefine her own boundaries. Four years after making New Orleans her home, she was now making New Orleans her art. NOLA Breeze Art was born.

When she first started creating shadow boxes, she began using the items she had collected from around the city. She believed most of the item she found were art in and of themselves and loved bringing them to light in her own work. She reserved most of her pieces for friends and family, or for use in her own home. Last May, a friend encouraged her to try the Freret Market.

Since that first market last May, Ally and NOLA Breeze Art have participated in the Freret Market every month, selling her pieces 912847_10201075414276750_741309102_nto those both local and visiting. In 2012, one of her pieces was accepted into the 4th Annual Femme Fest.  Last month, The Green- Eyed Gator on Chartres St. began selling her art. This month a new gallery opening on Magazine St, Coq Rouge, will be featuring her art as well. NOLA Breeze Art has expanded from shadow boxes to steam punk statues, wall hangings, frames, and dolls.

Art has become a form of therapy for Ally. Recently, her estranged father took his own life. While she was hundreds of miles away from family, her art became her refuge, allowing her to process her feelings about what had happened in a way that she hadn’t been able to before. For her, art is the most constant of companions – the friend you share all of your pain with.

“The art that I created immediately after I found out about my dad is much different than the art I usually do. It helped, though, to get the storm inside of me out in something material that I could see.”

911930_10201075458717861_480247411_nAlly hopes that her art helps people to connect or reconnect and when they look at her art, it inspires them to feel – taking away something personal from something that was so personal for her to make.

It is also her goal that NOLA Breeze Art offer people a little piece of New Orleans, no matter where they call home. This is why she uses reclaimed wood and other recycled items she’s found throughout the city in her all of her pieces.cc

“The city of New Orleans is such a huge inspiration to me. I like being able to take something that I found in City Park or on the ground at the French Quarter festival and be able to incorporate it into something new. I want to give people a little bit of what New Orleans has given to me.”

You can visit Ally and NOLA Breeze Art this Saturday from 12 – 5 at the Freret Market or visit her on Facebook.