Hello, everyone! The price of perfection is not a novel theme in literature, but through the lenses of innocence, sex, and parenthood, Megan Abbott’s newest novel You Will Know Me spins a tired premise into a tense, grim look at the world of competitive gymnastics. Though I took issue with the Abbott’s writing style, the book won me over in the end due to its frank take on the often exploitative relationship between parents and their champion children. In a youth-driven sport like gymnastics, kids become legends in their teens and fade only a few years later. Abbott’s novel pokes at this phenomenon by questioning the ethics of a sport that pushes kids to their physical limits in an often futile quest for stardom.
Hello, everyone! If you’re an avid reader, you’ve probably stumbled across the forked tongue beast of the book world: the overhyped novel. These books spread like wildfire across the nation, appearing on every book lover’s nightstand, even if it’s just to see what all the fuss is about. It’s the allure of the New York Times Best Sellers List that convinced me, two years after the initial publication, to give Paula Hawkins The Girl on the Train a try. So what do you get when you combine “the next Gone Girl” with two years of expectation? A healthy dose of disappointment.
Hello, everyone! Having just seen The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola’s latest film for which she won Best Director at Cannes, I’m left feeling confused. To say the film is good or bad oversimplifies the matter; it simply feels half baked. Coppola’s take on author Thomas Cullinan’s novel is lush, beautiful to behold, and potent with tension, but it’s held back by flawed pacing. Coppola is skilled at crafting slow, atmospheric movies like Lost in Translation, but while that film’s anti-climactic ending was a perfect period to its meandering plot, The Beguiled has an explosion of climax with too much rising action and almost no resolution balance to it out. Whether the fault in pacing is due to the source material (I’ve never read the book so I can’t comment) or due to Coppola’s own directorial choices remains to be seen, but the result is a film that feels as incomplete as General McBurney’s amputated leg.
Hello, everyone! I recently finished Emma Cline’s debut novel The Girls, a tale of one girl’s summer in a Manson-inspired cult which apparently sold for a cool $2 million advance. I gave up on reading books about bored, apathetic teenage girls around 9th grade, but I was suckered in by the punchy, cool-girl cover design. Readers, don’t be fooled. The Girls is a trashy teen lit book dressed up as a sophisticated thriller, mired with angst, female self-hatred, dangerously sexy older girls, and men so uniformly despicable that they belong in a treatise on misandry. The prose is entertaining, but overworked. Worst of all, the whole thing is tiresome. Everything from the plot to the characters to Evie’s individual thoughts have been done before. But Cline’s fatal flaw is in her protagonist: Evie is a Nick Carraway with no Gatsby to make up for it.
Hello, everyone! In light of the mockery resulting from the leaked Joss Whedon Wonder Woman script, I thought I would focus on the reasons why Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman works as a showcase of empowered female independence, instead of all the reasons that Whedon’s does not. Let me preface this post by saying that I’ve seen Wonder Woman twice, once to watch it without criticism, and the second time to watch it objectively. And while I agree that the film has a few flaws, I’m hard pressed to call it anything less than a fantastic movie. It’s beautifully, energetically shot, the characterization is compelling, the relationships are realistic and engaging, and the aesthetic details from the set design to the costumes to the hairstyling are a feast for the eyes. These elements, however, are only part of what makes Wonder Woman worth the watch. What separates this film from the rest of the billion dollar superhero movies is that, for perhaps the first time, Wonder Woman portrays a woman as she might see herself. That’s a perspective that’s not only rare to see in superhero movies, but in any Hollywood film.
Hello, everyone! In summer you can usually find me curled up on the weekends, re-reading a book for the fourth or fifth time. This summer is no different and I’ve returned to one of my favorite authors, Lisa See, a Chinese-American author whose novels Peony in Love and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan reveal the lives of Chinese women during the 17th and 19th centuries, when they were cloistered in compounds, isolated and uneducated, and restricted by the morals of a strict, repressive Confucian society. See’s Shanghai Girls series jumps forward into the 20th century, yet still focuses on the lives and relationships of Chinese women as they move from China to the United States and back again. Although the protagonists Pearl, May and Joy may live in a more modern world than their peers in See’s other novels, See’s key theme remains the same: in a culture in which women are restricted in thought, behavior, and expression, the most important link between women can be faith in a shared secret life.
Hello, everyone! I’ve written before in my posts about how I think Marvel movies have all become formulaic, heartless, soul-sucking cash grabs, so I guess it’s no surprise that the Guardians franchise has succumbed to that paint-by-numbers scheme too. The first film was surprisingly witty and heartfelt, and managed to make the origin story of a group of unfamiliar, oddball assholes endearing. Not to mention, the soundtrack was fantastic. Vol.2 also has a killer soundtrack, but the wit and heart are harder to find. There’s a great movie in here somewhere, but it’s lost amidst $200 million worth of special effects and a plot so familiar that even the journey isn’t very fun.
Hello, everyone! My first year of college is over. I’m so excited to be back in my house where no one can bother me. But enough about my antisocial tendencies. If you’ve been on Youtube lately, you might have noticed that Miley Cyrus’ newest song “Malibu” is among one of the most trending videos. The music video showcases an entirely “new” side to Miley, one that embraces the softness, delicate femininity, and pure wholesomeness that Cyrus, and all women, have been supposedly hiding beneath their overly-sexualized exteriors.
To get a taste of the average person’s opinion of the new Miley, just read the comments on her “Malibu” video or even on older videos like “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball,” which once incited a firestorm of media ire for being too provocative, too sexed-up, too unlike the Miley Cyrus the world had grown accustomed to through Hannah Montana. One commenter writes that “it looks like Miley has finally found herself” and another who says that she’s “the old Miley again.” Another common comment refers to an alleged personality switch between Miley and Katy Perry, whose new song “Bon Appetit” has gained notice for its controversial, overtly sexual video. These comments beg the question: since when has a pop star only been allowed one “acceptable” public image, and why, WHY does it have to be a pure one?
Hello, everyone! Sorry for the extra long gap between posts. I hate to leave you hanging with a strange ode/critique to Taylor Swift. After writing that article I listened to Swift’s entire discography. Whether you find that to be sweet or alarming is really up to your opinion on the singer, but I gotta say, she makes sad bus rides go a lot faster. On a completely unrelated topic, tonight I watched Colossal for the last screening of my film analysis class. It’s such a bizarre, unique film that I’m not sure whether it deserves praise or ridicule. Perhaps that’s why it succeeds. It doesn’t play it safe or even try to be normal. Colossal wears its heart on its sleeve, with endearing and annoying results. In a marketplace filled with lukewarm comedies and robotic blockbusters, Colossal is more than sincere enough to make up for its flaws.
Hello, everyone! Today’s post is a concept I’ve been pondering for quite some time now, namely, who the fuck is Taylor Swift? She’s an artist whose songs I find so melodically satisfying that I listen to them on repeat, yet whose lyrics I find obnoxiously melodramatic. She’s a public figure who I both admire for her success and detest for its excess. Most importantly, she’s the quintessential American pop star, pure, sweet, and innocent like apple pie, yet also catty, vicious, and vengeful as an evil queen. There are many masks Swift wears as an artist and as a celebrity; I’d like to examine them through the lens of her lyrics, which like her, are a mixture of sincerity and artifice.