New Year, New Reading Resolution!

It is 2019 and I’m ready to hit the ground running with a new Reading Resolution! My friend and I modified last year’s list a bit, replaced a couple categories and modified others, and I’m excited for what the year can bring.

If anyone has recommendations for some good books that would fit any of these categories, let me know!

2019 Reading Resolution


  1. A book written in North America:
  2. A book written in Central America:
  3. A book written in South America:
  4. A book written in East Asia:
  5. A book written in South Asia:
  6. A book written in Africa:
  7. A book written in the Middle East:
  8. A book written in Australia/Oceania
:
  9. A book written in Russia:
  10. A book written in Europe:
  11. A biography:
  12. A non-fiction book:
  13. A collection of short stories:
  14. A collection of poetry:
  15. A play:
  16. A book you’ve seen adapted:
  17. A graphic novel:
  18. A children’s book:
  19. A book older than 100 years:
  20. A debut novel:
  21. A novel by a famous author, other than the one(s) they are best known for:
  22. A book we have lied about reading:
  23. A book we read in high school/college and hated:
  24. A book we read in high school/college and loved:
  25. A book by an author you’ve never given a fair shot:
  26. A book you’ve heard bad things about:
  27. A book released in 2019:
  28. A book you’ve started but never finished:
  29. A book that has been sitting on your shelf for a while:
  30. Wild Card:

List Progress: 0/30

And despite not completing it at all last year, I’m going to take another shot at my film list. Wish me luck and send your recs!

2019 Film Watching Resolution

  1. A foreign film:
  2. A black and white film:
  3. A silent or dialogue-free film:
  4. An animated film:
  5. A film based on a true story:
  6. A documentary:
  7. A film based on a book:
  8. An Oscar-winning movie:
  9. A trashy movie (B-list, straight to DVD):
  10. Your best friend’s favorite movie:
  11. A children’s film:
  12. A film released in 2019:

List Progress: 0/12

Watching Resolution: “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” (2017)

5. A film based on a true story: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017)

List Progress: 5/12

There’s nothing more frustrating than an inconsistent movie. The things that Professor Marston and the Wonder Women does well are done exceptionally well. The weak spots aren’t terrible, but they are so much lesser than the highs that they become glaring. Some things that this movie does very, very well: cinematography, blocking of romance and sex scenes, chemistry between queer women.

The movie definitely gets extra points because some of those things are quite rare in cinema, but these are some of the things it fails at: chemistry between men and women, pay-offs for plot threads, anything directly to do with the publishing of comics. And in a  biopic about the polyamorous relationship of William Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, those are some fairly glaring failures.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017) is a biopic telling the supposedly true story of psychologist and professor William Moulton Marston, the inventor of both the lie detector machine and the Wonder Woman comics, and his relationship with his wife, fellow psychologist Elizabeth Holloway Marston, and their mutual lover Olive Byrne. The degree to which this is a true story is fairly debated and refuted by one of the Marstons’ grandchildren, but no matter what the arrangement, the three did live together for many years and Marston fathered two children each with Elizabeth and Olive. The film presents the three of them in a polyamorous triad, with Elizabeth and Olive just as involved with each other, if not more so, than they were with William. And that is where some of the issues with the film come up.

Rebecca Hall in the role of Elizabeth Marston is magnetic, and she has amazing chemistry with Bella Heathcote’s Olive. The way it is presented, this feels like Elizabeth and Olive’s love story…and William is also there. Neither the writing, the acting from Luke Evans, nor the cinematography give William as much care and he ends up feeling like an afterthought despite being the supposedly main character. This may go a way towards explaining why so much time is spent on him being inspired to create Wonder Woman, but very, very little time on how he actually went about writing and publishing the comic books. The framing device of the film has him in an interview with a moral guardian trying to defend the bondage and BDSM themes and imagery in the early Wonder Woman comics, but it serves as little more than a way to get us into the flashbacks, without providing much insight into him itself.

I wish that I could complain that more movies favored their female characters to the detriment of the male ones, but in a film that is trying to portray a balanced, equal triad, it is somewhat disappointing.

There is a lot to like here, and I want to see infinitely more period pieces about polyamorous queer relationships through the ages. “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” does not quite hit the mark, but I would be thrilled if it starts a trend.

Would I Recommend It: Despite its faults, yes.

Watching Resolution: “The Decoy Bride” (2012)

9. A trashy movie: The Decoy Bride (2012)

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List Progress: 4/12

Oh, Netflix rom-coms, what strange joys you have brought into my life. My roommates and I have built several running jokes around quoting Jenny’s Wedding (2015) and how it uses “She Keeps Me Warm” in two different scenes in wildly inappropriate ways. My Santa (2013) is a beautifully incompetent holiday movie perfect for drunk watching. And now, browsing through cheap rom-coms has brought me another bit of inane fluff to enjoy: The Decoy Bride (2012).

The film 100% roped me in with two names high up in its billing: David Tennant plays the romantic lead, a nebbish author engaged to a movie star, and Dylan Moran plays a tabloid editor who I assume had a bigger role in an earlier cut of the film, considering he has two major scenes that seem to set-up a subplot that never manifested. Tennant’s character and his fiancee are hiding away on a small Scottish island to keep their wedding out of the limelight, and a local woman named Katie, played by Kelly MacDonald, gets roped into serving as a decoy bride in a fake wedding to throw off the press. She and Tennant get stuck together, rom-com tropes ensue.

The Decoy Bride isn’t bad because it’s fluffy or trite. It’s bad because it’s poorly put together, and the gaps make the fluff not hold together as well. I can see the ghosts of at least three earlier drafts in the script: one where Dylan Moran’s character had a bigger plotline, one where the fiancee had a meaner edge, and one where the star’s agent doesn’t disappear halfway through the film. The leftover script fragments leave the film very uneven and scattered, and the slap-slap-kiss development between Tennant and MacDonald does not have enough time to develop into something worth leaving a fiancee at the altar for. They have some chemistry, and I could watch David Tennant read a phone book, but not enough to bring together the gaps in the script.

The best moments in my mind are when it goes fully into cheese. A sequence where Tennant is stuck in a 70’s trendy bagpiper outfit, a collection of scheming old people trying to sell handicrafts to tourists, MacDonald making fun of the gift bags from the fake wedding, those are all cute moments. They just need a more secure script to hold them together.

It’s cute, it’s dumb, and it grossed $759 across its entire theatrical run. That about sums up a trashy movie in my mind.

Would I Recommend It: Ehhhhhh…if you need some absolute brain candy, there are better and worse films out there. A lukewarm yes.

Watching Resolution: “Love, Simon” (2018)

  1. A film released in 2018: Love, Simon (2018)

love simon

List Progress: 3/12

There are enough reviews for Love, Simon out there that if you want to know factual information about the movie, you can find it. So I am going to talk about the experience of seeing it in the theater.

I saw Love, Simon in a theater in the San Francisco Bay Area with my girlfriend sitting next to me. A few rows ahead of us, there were a handful of teenagers in the audience. We were fairly far forward, so I cannot speak a lot to the entirety of the audience, but I can say that those teenagers were having an intense emotional experience.

Lots of “awww’s”, both over cute moments and sad ones. Lots of vocal cringing and groaning during uncomfortable scenes. And at the reveal of the love interest’s identity, one impassioned shipper murmured “nooo” as her OTP was apparently crushed. It was like seeing someone’s fandom introduction play out in real time, and it was a feeling that I remember vividly and fondly from my own younger years. And getting to see that happen over a mainstream queer film meant a lot to me.

Love, Simon is a fluffy teenage rom-com with charming actors and some clever writing, nothing more, nothing less. But in a cinematic landscape of heartbroken dead queers, I will always take it. And I wish there had been more of it around when I was a kid.

 

Would I Recommend It: Buy a bag of popcorn and sit back for some good fluff.

Watching Resolution: “The Lego Batman Movie” (2017)

11. A children’s film: The Lego Batman Movie (2017)

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List Progress: 2/12

Na na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na na Lego Batmaaaaaaan!

I love this movie. I love this silly, silly movie. A spin-off of 2014’s The Lego Movie, The Lego Batman Movie takes one of the best parts of that film and gives him a full film to stretch his legs. But if you are worried that the joke of Lego Batman being super intense and extreme all the time might wear thin over a full running time, you might be pleasantly surprised. Unlike many other Batman parodies that came before it, this film balances the larger-than-life central character with a strong supporting cast and a lot of clever writing. Between the obvious affection for the characters and all of the mythos gags in the script, this movie was clearly made by people who love Batman, but do not put Batman on a pedestal.

But what about the other half of the title, the “Lego” part? I was a fan of how the original The Lego Movie used its conceit, pinning the story around the act of creation, but for most of this film, this seemed like a Batman movie that could have been made with any type of animation, not specifically modeled after Legos. However, once the movie had lulled me into forgetting I was watching little plastic toys act out comics lore, the climax was built brilliantly around how the characters are literally Lego figures and can be used as Legos. Add into that the fact that the Lego company apparently had free reign to use any intellectual property that they have made figurines of, and it gets pretty surreal and amazing. If you ever want to see the Joker have a canon conversation with Voldemort and the Wicked Witch of the West, this is your movie.

It’s not perfect. The last third drags a bit and I wish Barbara Gordon had some more quirks of her own rather than being relegated to the empathetic straight man role. But the dry sense of humor had me cackling at a ton of points and Will Arnett is an amazing voice actor for this role (remembering he also plays the clinically depressed BoJack Horseman made this a bit of a trip to watch). The film is shockingly clever and snarky for a big budget animated film about a product placement, but what can I say? Good writing is good writing.

Would I Recommend It: Ooooh yes.

Watching Resolution: Room (2015)

7. A film based on a book: Room (2015)

List Progress: 1/12

Trigger warning: rape, abduction.

What better way to start out my 2018 list than with some harrowing trauma and misery? On a whim, I watched the 2015 film Room last night, based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the screenplay. I have not read the novel, but I had heard a lot about this movie. It is about a young woman who has been held captive in a small enclosed room for seven years, where she has given birth to a son, who at the age of five has never seen the outside world and has no conception that anything exists beyond the walls of his home. The story is told from the son, Jack’s, perspective, and the first half is of the movie is almost entirely dialogue between Jack and Ma in their claustrophobic little home. And it is So. Good. The second half suffers a bit in trying to be too neat, but on the whole it was a great way to spend two painful hours.

Given how much of the film is just two actors, the whole thing is grounded by the performances of Brie Larson as Ma and Jacob Tremblay as Jack, who was eight years old during filming. And this is really one of the best performances I’ve seen out of a child actor. Jack feels like a real kid, from his cutest moments to his most obnoxious lashing out, and his and Ma’s relationship inside Room is great to watch. The back end of the film feels weaker when Jack is made a little too inspirational and cute to balance out the turmoil Ma is going through, but it is still a great showing from both actors.

The subject matter should make it clear that this movie comes with some trigger warnings. Ma was kidnapped as a teenager and has been held by her rapist for seven years, with Jack’s conception as one of the results. Nothing explicit or gratuitous is shown on screen, and I really respect how the director, Lenny Abrahamson, filmed some things: Ma is shown comfortably bathing in a bathtub with Jack, but it is never played for titillation and she is never shown undressed or sexualized in relation to her attacker. Her brutal reality is kept on the edge’s of Jack’s awareness, shown more through Brie Larson’s raw, emotional performance than by any voyeuristic camera work. It is a delicate, respectful depiction of a victim and makes for a great movie.

Despite being a bit unbalanced and weaker in the back half, I definitely recommend watching Room. Just go in prepared for a hard watch.

Would I Recommend It: Yes, definitely.

Introducing my Reading and Watching Resolution Lists!

Happy New Years! So for the last couple of years, I have set a New Year’s Reading Resolution for myself, along with a couple of friends. We read books that fit in certain categories, in an attempt to push the boundaries of our reading habits, and write up little reviews of what we have read. As the year is starting fresh with a new list, I have decided to share my book reviews here, to hopefully spark some good literary discussion in 2018.

In addition, I am giving myself the extra challenge of a movie-watching list as well; I will be the first to admit that I have lost the determination to sit down for full movies, and I hope this will push me to try more of the medium over the course of the year.

If you would like to try this list for yourself, feel free to jump in. I will be updating this post as I complete parts of the list. I wish you all a happy year full of good reading and viewing!

2018 Reading Resolution


  1. A book written in North/Central America: Awfully Devoted Women: Lesbian Lives in Canada, 1900-65 by Cameron Duder
  2. A book written in South America:
  3. A book written in East Asia: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi
  4. A book written in South Asia:
  5. A book written in Africa: The Hairdresser of Harare by Tendai Huchu
  6. A book written in the Middle East:
  7. A book written in Australia/Oceania
  8. A book written in Europe/Russia:
  9. A book recommended by someone: Sourdough by Robin Sloan
  10. A biography: Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson
  11. A non-fiction book: On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City by Alice Goffman
  12. A collection of short stories: Biketopia: Feminist Bicycle Science Fiction Stories in Extreme Futures edited by Elly Blue
  13. A collection of poetry:
  14. A play:
  15. A graphic novel:
  16. A book older than 100 years: The Knight of the Burning Pestle by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher
  17. A debut novel: Behrouz Gets Lucky by Avery Cassell
  18. A novel by a famous author, other than the one(s) they are best known for:
  19. A book we have lied about reading:
  20. A book we read in high school/college and hated:
  21. A book we read in high school/college/law school and loved:
  22. A book by an author you have never given a fair shot: The Shining by Stephen King
  23. A 2017-2018 New York Times bestseller:
  24. A book you’ve started but never finished: The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat
  25. Wild Card: The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston

List Progress: 12/25

In addition, I am trying a film list again!

2018 Film Watching Resolution

  1. A foreign film:
  2. A black and white film:
  3. A silent or dialogue-free film:
  4. An animated film:
  5. A film based on a true story:
  6. A documentary:
  7. A film based on a book: Room (2015)
  8. An Oscar-winning movie:
  9. A trashy movie (B-list, straight to DVD): The Decoy Bride (2012)
  10. Your best friend’s favorite movie:
  11. A children’s film: The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
  12. A film released in 2018: Love, Simon (2018)

List Progress: 4/12