Top Ripples 2020

This is the most unusual year… I’ve read and listened to more books than I’ve watched feature films. Actually, this is probably the year that I’ve watched the least number of movies. I haven’t gone to the theatre since March nor attended any film festivals in person, but am most gratified by the few titles I watched online. Two particularly stand out, the first two spots of my very short Top Ripple list for 2020.

Movies

1. First Cow, directed by Kelly Reichardt

A fresh take on the subject of friendship, set in 1820’s Oregon among fur trappers and opportunists, with the arrival of a dairy cow as the inciting incident. Monetary gain is no match for selfless loyalty in human relations. A moving tale of an unlikely friendship, the cinematography augmenting the enjoyment. It has also prompted me to look up the recipe for Fruit Clafoutis. Adapted from the book Half-Life by Jonathan Raymond, who had inspired Kelly Reichardt’s previous films. I won’t miss any of her works, poignant richness belying the minimal, naturalistic renderings. Full review to come.

2. Nomadland, directed by Chloé Zhao

Adapted from the non-fiction book by Jessica Bruder, Nomadland features Frances McDormand as a widow who chooses to live in the community of modern nomads, van and RV dwellers in the Western States of America. Zhao is a master of realistic filmmaking. Nomadland is shot in situ among these older itinerant workers called ‘Camperforce’. A revealing docudrama with stunning cinematography and thought-provoking perspective on the essence of living. My review on Vague Visages.

3. Driveway, directed by Andrew Ahn

One of Brian Dennehy’s last films before his passing in April this year at 81. A Korean War veteran strikes up friendship with a lonely eight-year-old boy. Here’s an excerpt from my review on AAPress: Driveways shows us the power of caring human relationships and the change love can bring, yet painfully unfurls the precariousness of life. On a large existential canvas, it paints with personal, relatable strokes.

4. House of Hummingbird, directed by Bora Kim

Based on Kim’s encounters growing up in South Korea, the drama is a coming-of-age story of a teenage school girl in a male-dominated family. Young Eun-hee has to live with parental discords, deal with sibling bullying, and face a health issue and a precarious future all alone, but is fortunate to find a mentor in a teacher. Sensitive directing and nuanced performance. My review on AAPress.

Books

For the ones published in the year 2020, here are my Top Ripples. Links to my reviews:

Two Trees Make a Forest by Jessica J. Lee

Jack by Marilynne Robinson

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa

Ex Libris: 100 Books to Read and Reread by Michiko Kakutani

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The following are some Worthy Mentions, not all 2020 books or TV, but all have made an impression in my isolated mind this year as I binged on them without needing to snack on chips and sodas. That says a lot.

Normal People (TV Mini-Series, 2020) – Based on the 2018 book by Sally Rooney. A taste of ‘millennial literature’ and adaptation. I first listened to the audiobook, found it absorbing. Then watched the series and then read the book again, this time, word by word. Available to stream on CBC GEM and Hulu.

The Morning Show (2019) – Didn’t realize Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon can be so intense. Streamed on Apple TV+

The Crown (2020) – Season 4. Wonder how the Royal Family reacted to this scandalous take on the Charles, Camilla, & Diana affairs. Or, maybe just me… no surprise to them. On Netflix.

The Queen’s Gambit (2020) – The chess moves might be intriguing, but the overall pace can be more riveting if the TV Mini-Series is cut short by two or three episodes. On Netflix.

Defending Jacob (2020) – When parental love and truth collide. After watching the series on Apple TV+, I went directly to the source material, the 2012 novel by William Landay, a fascinating psychological suspense-thriller. After that went on to read Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. Oh… the hazard of parenting.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century (2017) by Jessica Bruder – the non-fiction book that inspired Chloé Zhao and Frances McDormand to make the movie, one of the front runners for next year’s Oscars. McDormand will likely get a Best Actress nom and hopefully, Zhao and the film will also be honored.

Turning: A Swimming Memoir (2017) by Jessica J. Lee – Lee is a newly emerged voice of nature writing à la memoirist. Coming from a fusion of cultural and geographical background: Canada, Taiwan, Britain, Germany, the environmental historian offers personal and fresh takes relevant in our contemporary society of multiplicity.

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Time to attack those TBR piles

They’re everywhere, on the shelves and in boxes on the floor. Now’s a good time. If you’ve seen my Twitter photo, it’s perfectly alright to stay inside and read when outside looks like this. Look closely, yes, it’s snowing cats and dogs:

 

Outside

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Here are some of them, in no particular order. Where do I begin?

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The Ambassadors by Henry James

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Saturday by Ian McEwan

Saplings by Noel Streatfeild

The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

The Magic of Saida by M. G. Vassanji

Tell it to the Trees by Anita Rau Badami

The High Mountain of Portugal by Yann Martel

Self  by Yann Martel

Confessions by St. Augustine

A Secular Age by Charles Taylor

The Matisse Stories by A. S. Byatt

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

Death in Venice and Other Stories by Thomas Mann

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Lit by Mary Karr

The Plague by Albert Camus (O, not now)

O Pinoeers! by Willa Cather

Reborn by Susan Sontag

Cool Water by Diane Warren

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

The Sunday Philosophy Club by Alexander McCall Smith

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf

The last three volumes of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time

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I’ll stop here.

Your 2 pebbles? What are some of your TBR titles?

 

More Films by Female Directors

Let’s continue to celebrate women beyond just one day or a weekend.

Previously on Ripple, I posted a list of my favorite films that happened to be directed by women. Here’s another list, not a personal favourite list but one just to show the variety of movies female directors have helmed, to shatter the myth and misconception that some might hold: ‘if we leave it to them, they’ll only churn out chick flicks.’

In alphabetical order, not ranked, director and year released in brackets, a list to hopefully inform, remind, and maybe surprise. There are many more, of course, but I’ll just stop at 65. How many have you seen? Which other ones you’d like to add?

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Marielle Heller, 2019)

A Thousand Suns (Mati Diop, 2013)

A Wrinkle in Time (Ava DuVernay, 2018)

American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000)

The Arch (Cecile Tang Shu Shuen, 1970)

The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2020)

The Beguiled (Sofia Coppola, 2017)

Bend It Like Beckham (Gurinder Chadha, 2002)

         Big (Penny Marshall, 1988)

Birds of Prey (Cathy Yan, 2020)

Booksmart (Olivia Wilde, 2019)

Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Peirce, 1999)

Bridget Jones’s Diary (Sharon Maguire, 2001)

Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Marielle Heller, 2018)

Capernaum (Nadine Labaki, 2018)

Captain Marvel (Anna Boden, 2019)

Captain Marvel's Carol Danvers

Charlie’s Angels (Elizabeth Banks, 2019)

Chocolat (Claire Denis, 1988)

Cloud Atlas (The Wachowskis co-direct, 2012)

Clueless (Amy Heckerling, 1995)

Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2009)

Frozen / Forzen II (Jennifer Lee co-directs, 2013 / 2019)

High Life (Claire Denis, 2018)

The Hitch-hiker (Ida Lupino, 1953)

Hustlers (Lorene Scafaria, 2019)

The Iron Lady (Phyllida Lloyd, 2011)

Kung Fu Panda 2 (Jennifer Yuh Nelson, 2011)

Late Night (Nisha Ganatra, 2019)

Leave no Trace (Debra Granik, 2018)

Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)

Mamma Mia! (Phyllida Lloyd, 2008)

The Matrix / Reloaded (Lana and Lilly Wachowski, 1999 / 2003)

Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2010)

Miss Julie (Liv Ullmann, 2014)

Money Monster (Jodie Foster, 2016)
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Jodie Foster directs

 

Monster (Patty Jenkins, 2003)

Mulan (Niki Caro, 2020)

Mustang (Deniz Ganze Ergüven, 2015)

My Brilliant Career (Gillian Armstrong, 1979)

Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt, 2013)

Nowhere Boy (Sam Taylor-Johnson, 2009)

Pay It Forward (Mimi Leder, 2000)

Pitch Perfect 2 (Elizabeth Banks, 2015)

Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991)

…….The Prince of Tides (Barbra Streisand, 1991)

Queen and Slim (Melina Matsoukas, 2019)

Queen of Katwe (Mira Nair, 2016)

Seven Beauties (Lina Wertmüller, 1975)

Selma (Ava Duvernay, 2014)

selma-bridge

Shrek (Vicky Jenson co-directs, 2001)

Something’s Gotta Give (Nancy Meyers, 2003)

The Portrait of a Lady (Jane Campion, 1996)

The Secret Garden (Agnieszka Holland, 1993)

The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg, 2019)

Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016)

Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke, 2008)

Unbroken (Angelina Jolie, 2014)

Wadjda (Haifaa Al-Mansour, 2012)

Washington Square (Agnieszka Holland, 1997)

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)

Whale Rider (Niki Caro, 2002)

What Women Want (Nancy Meyers, 2000)

Winter’s Bones (Debra Granik, 2010)

Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017)

The Zookeeper’s Wife (Niki Caro, 2017)

 

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Women Directors of My Favorite Films

In 92 years of Oscar history, only five women have been nominated for Best Director:

Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties, 1976), Jane Campion (The Piano, 1993), Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation, 2003), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, 2009) and Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, 2017).

How many of them had won? One. Kathryn Bigelow in 2010.

Does that mean there aren’t many women directors around? Definitely not. It just reveals how things are for these artists striving under the glass ceiling. The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative research is a good frame of reference for annual facts and trend of women in the film industry. According to their newest study entitled “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair: Analysis of director Gender & Race/Ethnicity Across 1,300 Top Films from 2007 to 2019” (Jan. 2020), female directors of top-grossing films reached a 13 year high in 2019: 10.6%, breaking an average of just 4.8% throughout the past 12 years. Maybe studios have begun to see women can be trusted to make profitable movies after all.

Yet, how many women are nominated for Best Director in the 2020 Academy Awards?

None.

This is not a post of protest, nor of analysis, but of reminiscence. I’ve made a mental inventory of some of my favorite films, ones that have stirred some ripples in the Pond, and found many of them are directed by women. Their works might not have made it to the ‘top-grossing’ list… but, this just shows where my interests lie.

Varda by Agnes
Agnès Varda in the director’s chair. Photo Courtesy: TIFF19

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Here they are in alphabetical order, with my favorite films bolded. Links are to my reviews:

Kathryn BigelowThe Hurt Locker (2008, Best Picture Oscar, Best Director), Zero Dark Thirty (2012). Bigelow is the only female to have won an Oscar in Directing. She has shown that when a woman takes on a military movie, she can master the conflicts both external and within.

Jane Campion – The New Zealand director is one of the five women in Oscar history to be nominated for Directing. The Piano (1993) is visually stunning and bold in its depiction of the yearnings of the human heart. Campion is the first (and only, so far) woman to have won the prestigious Palm d’Or at Cannes with this film. Bright Star (2009) is a lyrical portrayal of English poet John Keats and his muse Fanny Brawne before his untimely death at 25. A beautiful tapestry weaving together the visual and the word.

Nora Ephron – I miss Nora Ephron. It seems with her passing in 2012, romantic comedies aren’t the same anymore. Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and You’ve Got Mail (1998) will remain iconic from a period that still valued face-to-face meeting over the telephone or emails. And for some reasons, Meg Ryan seems to have gone out of sorts too. Hopefully she’ll make a come-back like Renée Zellweger did with Judy (2019).

Sarah GavronBrick Lane (2007) prompted my interest in the British director with her focus on a Bangladeshi wife in London; Suffragette (2015) depicts women’s personal struggles against a monumental period of British social history, but Rocks (2019) is the gripping, down-to-earth drama following a black teenage girl being left alone to fend for herself and take care of her little brother when their single mom deserts them, achingly real.

Greta GerwigLittle Women (2019) is a production that I’d enjoyed far more than Lady Bird (2017) for which Gerwig got a Best Director Oscar nom in 2018. It’s plain snubbing of her achievement in this year’s Academy Awards where the slate of Directing nominees are all males. Recognized at the Oscars or not, Gerwig’s Little Women will remain a definitive and worthy contemporary adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic.

Mia Hansen-Løve – In Things to Come (2016), the French actor-turned-director Hansen-Løve presents a woman at the crossroads of life. Isabelle Huppert plays a philosophy professor whose husband leaves her for a younger woman, while her elderly mother with dementia needs her constant care, her publisher finds her text book no more relevant, and her two children have grown and lead lives of their own. What are the things to come for her?

Mira NairThe Namesake (2006) is the movie adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri’s first novel. A delightful and humane look at the generation gap within an immigrant family from India, and the clash the son has to face being caught between his present American life and his cultural roots.

Sarah Polley – Polley adapts Canadian Nobel Laureate Alice Munro’s short story for the film Away from Her (2006). At age 27, the Canadian actor-turned-director wrote the screenplay of an elderly couple facing separation as the Alzheimer stricken wife has to move away to live in a care home. Polley’s directorial debut sent veteran British star Julie Christie to the Academy Awards as a Best Actress nominee, and Polley herself for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Dee ReesMudbound (2007) is the adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s novel set in the American South at the end of WWII. Two military men, one white, Jamie, and one black, Ronsel, came back from Europe’s war zone to their home in Mississippi, each faces a different predicament. And for Ronsel, a decorated soldier who had fought under General Patton, home is a totally new battlefield.

Kelly Reichardt – Reichardt’s styling is naturalistic, casual but nuanced. Certain Women (2016) is a triptych of three short stories by Maile Meloy. Against the vast landscape of Montana, lives can be very ordinary, but Reichardt shows there’s no ordinary life. Similarly, Wendy and Lucy (2008) is a simple narrative about a young woman looking for work drifting through the Pacific Northwest with her dog Lucy. Reichardt has major stars in her cast who all look very comfortable being anonymous.

Lone Scherfig ­– Scherfig’s forte is her pleasant styling even when depicting a troubling story. Their Finest (2016) is England in her darkest hour during the Blitz in WWII but with the mood of a romantic comedy. And in 2009, Scherfig tells the story of an innocent teenage girl and her parents being duped by a man in An Education (2009). Carey Mulligan in her breakout role, landing her with a BAFTA win and an Oscar nom for Best Actress.

Agnès Varda – In her last film shortly before her death in 2019, Varda by Agnès, the French New Wave icon stated three crucial concepts in her filmmaking: Inspiration (the why), Creation (the how), and Sharing. The soft-spoken but astute artist has left us with a treasure trove of works, albeit not readily accessible in N. America. I’ve been able to watch several, including my favorites Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) and Faces Places (2017).

Lulu Wang – The premise of the Chinese American director’s real-life family experience in The Farewell (2019) could be shocking to Western viewers, but that just shows the divides separating us who are framed by different cultures: to tell or not to tell an elderly family member of her terminal illness diagnosis. What Wang has ingeniously achieved in her film is to bridge the chasm separating the two sides with a human touch that transcends borders. Amazing feat.

Chloé Zhao – I hope this is a new trend, that is, let Asian Americans, or any underrepresented Americans of various cultural roots, to have the chance to showcase deserving works. The Rider (2018) is a poetic narrative of a contemporary cowboy–a rodeo bronco rider– recovering from debilitating head injury. Chinese American director Zhao is an unlikely person to tell the story; yet this is her vision after befriending the Sioux community in a South Dakota reservation.

 

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Book to Movie Adaptations 2020

A list of upcoming book to screen titles for the new year, eclectic choices for different tastes, varied classics and contemporary notables. Looks like classic literary works of all sorts are enjoying a comeback on the big and small screens.

Classic Suspense:

Classic Mystery.jpgDeath on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Kenneth Branagh returns after his first Hercule Poirot take in Murder on the Orient Express (2017) which he directs. Once again, the prolific screenwriter/adaptor Michael Green pitches in. Interesting cast with Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening.
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RebeccaRebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Lily James is ubiquitous ever since she comes out of Downton as Lady Rose. Now she’s the young and naive Mrs. De Winter in a psychological warfare with her nemesis, housekeeper Mrs. Danver played by Kristen Scott Thomas. Can the master of Manderley save her? But of course, he must save himself first. That’s Armie Hammer, equally ubiquitous.
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Classic Adventure:

The Call of the Wild.jpgThe Call of the Wild by Jack London

Harrison Ford heeds the call with action star Karen Gillan, Dan Stevens, and the Calgary-born, The Expanse star Cara Gee. Partially filmed in Yukon and some in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Never heard of the Yukon Territories? This should be a good intro. I’m all for old classics, be they books or actors.
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DOCTOR D (1).jpegVoyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting

Movie title Dolittle, an adventure spectacle with Robert Downey Jr. as the eponymous Doctor. See if you can identify the voices of these animals: Rami Malek, Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Marion Cotillard, Octavia Spencer… just to name a few of the stars in this production. Coming out January 17.

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Classic Sci-Fi’s:

The Invisible ManThe Invisible Man by H. G. Wells

Classic sci-fi gets a resurrected boost. Wells’ novella and cautionary tale was first published in 1897. Now 123 years later in the 21st century, it’s adapted into a movie for the big screen. The Handmaid’s Tale Elizabeth Moss stars.
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Brave New WorldBrave New World by Aldous Huxley

Huxley’s dystopian, imagined future written in 1931 is adapted into a TV series almost 90 years later. Again, a mark of what makes a book a classic, especially a sci-fi work. Downton early-exit Lady Sybil Jessica Brown Findlay’s in.
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DuneDune by Frank Herbert

Another sci-fi classic, but closer to our time. A project by the acclaimed French Canadian director Dennis Villeneuve who has done some remarkable works like the Oscar nominated Arrival (2016), Blade Runner 2049 (2017) and Sicario (2015). Adapted into screen by Oscar winning writer Eric Roth (Forest Gump, 1994; A Star is Born, 2018). Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, and Oscar Isaac star.

Classic YA’s: 

Artemis_Fowl_first_edition_coverArtemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

The first of Colfer’s popular series is a Disney production with Kenneth Branagh directing. A trending genre, the YA fantasy series has great potentials to be successful. A strong cast including Hong Chau, Judi Dench, Josh Gad.

 

The Secret Garden.jpgThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Like Little Women, this classic young reader novel has had several screen adaptations. I have no qualms about this; it only helps to spark renewed interest in the book. This new adaptation will have Colin Firth who was in the 1993 version to play Lord Archibald Craven and Julie Walters as Mrs. Medlock.
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Contemporary Notables:

I Know this much is True.jpgI Know this much is True by Wally Lamb

Lamb’s novel about a twin brother’s advocacy and care for his paranoid schizophrenic sibling is adapted into a 6 episode TV miniseries. Mark Ruffalo will play both brothers, Dominick and Thomas Birdsey. Director Derek Cianfrance has a few fine works, the Cannes nominee Blue Valentine (2010), The Place Beyond the Pines (2012), and The Light Between Oceans (2016).

Little Fires.jpgLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Goodreads Choice of the Year Best Fiction (2017) and Novel of the Year on other sites, Chinese American writer Celeste Ng’s novel on class/race differences and aspirational conflicts in the idyllic community of Shaker Heights, Ohio, is adapted into a TV miniseries. Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington star.

Nine Perfect StrangersNine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Moriarty’s website states her books had sold over 14 million copies worldwide. On the heels of her successful Big Little Lies turned into the small screen, Nine Perfect Strangers has already secured Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy on board for the miniseries on Hulu. Her other books will follow.
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the woman in the window.jpgThe Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

A shaky narrator seeing a crime happening or being caught in one, Gone Girl was the first to kick off the trend. The Woman in the Window alludes to the Hitchcock classic Rear Window. Directed by Joe Wright (Darkest Hour, 2017; Anna Karenina, 2012), screenplay by Pulitzer winner Tracy Letts (August: Osage County, 2013), and an A-list cast with Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julianne Moore.

 

 

 

 

Top Ripples of 2019 and the Decade

Best of the decade lists have been sprouting up everywhere now that we’re wrapping up  the second ten years of the 21st century. As Ripple Effects has been around for over 12 years now, I too have the privilege to post my own decade favourites, with links to my reviews. A disclaimer is, obviously, I can only rate films that I’ve seen. For 2019, I’ve yet to see 1917 and Bombshell.

But first off, before looking back to the decade, here’s the list of

Top Ripples of 2019:

  1. Little Women
  2. A Hidden Life
  3. Varda by Agnès
  4. An Elephant Sitting Still
  5. Pain and Glory
  6. The Farewell
  7. Parasite
  8. Marriage Story
  9. American Factory
  10. Rocks

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Top Ripples of the Decade:

  1.  The Tree of Life (2011) –– Director Terrence Malick’s visual treatise on life, death, and everything in between… and after.
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  2.  Roma (2018) –– Nothing’s too mundane for a filmmaker, especially with childhood memory. Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón’s autobiographical work that won him 3 Oscars, Best Directing, Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language Film.
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  3.  Ida (2013) –– Polish-born director Pawel Pawlikowski’s gripping depiction of a young woman’s choice of the sacred or the secular.
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  4.  An Elephant Sitting Still (2018) –– A last outcry of a young talent, the first and last masterpiece of Chinese writer/director Hu Bo who took his own life after making the film at age 29.
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  5. Little Women (2019) –– No matter what your previously held memory of the adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic is, Greta Gerwig’s 2019 rendition is worthy to be the definitive version from now on as we head into the third decade of the 21st century. Surely lots have to be left out in a 2 hr. movie; take it as a good prod to go read the book.
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  6.  A Hidden Life (2019) –– Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter gave up everything to stand by his conviction, refusing to take the oath of loyalty to Hitler. Terrence Malick’s newest film is a meditation on the meaning of life, and death.
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  7.  Silence (2016) –– Martin Scorsese’s epic adaptation of Japanese author Shusaku Endo’s novel, a harsh and audacious look at the persecution of Christianity during 1600’s Japan. Similar to Malick’s A Hidden Life but depicts a totally different choice and outcome for its protagonist.
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  8.  Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) –– French director Olivier Assayas’s mesmerizing tale of being famous, ageing, becoming obsolete, and the young rising. Juliet Binoche and Kristen Stewart offer interesting interplay, but it’s Stewart who stands out.
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  9.  12 Years A Slave (2013) –– Two Brits takes over the American story: Director Steve McQueen and actor Chiwetel Ejiofor who plays Solomon Northup. I wrote this in my review: the subject matter may be ugly, but the medium depicting it can be artistically gratifying, thus, conveying the message with even greater potency and inspiration.
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  10.  Certain Women (2016) –– Director Kelly Reichardt has chosen three short stories by Maile Meloy to form a cinematic triptych. The seemingly mundaneness of life is actually the very essence of it. The women are what make this film quietly impressive: Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Lily Gladstone, Kristin Stewart.
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  11. Pain and Glory (2019) –– “The child is father of the man”, iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s autobiographical sketch of his childhood, later life and career up to this point. Beautifully shot, a film for artists.
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  12. The Farewell (2019) –– Chinese American director Lulu Wang has put her family story on screen and captured the hearts of many, making Awkwafina the rising star this awards season. To tell, or not to tell, that is the question… and the answer is obvious depending on where you’re from.
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  13. Faces Places (2017) –– Agnes Varda at 89 goes on a road trip with photographer/artist JR, adorning dilapidated buildings and unlikely places with human portraits larger than life.
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  14. The Rider (2017) –– Chinese-American Chloé Zhao tells the rarely told story of a modern day cowboy’s existential crisis after he suffers a debilitating head injury. How she tells it is poetry on screen.
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  15. Arrival (2016) –– Admirable collaboration: French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s adapts Chinese American sci-fi writer Ted Chiang’s short story “Story of Your Life”, rendered with sensitive performance by Amy Adams. A film packed full of ideas, condensed sentiments, yes, like poetry.
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  16. Frances Ha (2012) –– Noah Baumbach has created a character that’s a perfect fit for partner Greta Gerwig, an aspiring dancer trying to find her place in NYC. The scene of Frances running and dancing through the streets of NYC has become an archetype for freedom and exuberance. (Look for it at the beginning of Little Women)
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  17. Varda by Agnes (2019) – The only female director of the French New Wave, Agnes Varda had left us with an inspiring legacy. This is her summing up, her last work wherein she went through every film she’d made, commenting with valuable insights and wisdom.
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  18. Our Little Sister (2015) –– I’ve to say this could well be my favourite Hirokazu Kore-eda movie. Koreeda is a master in filming family relationships, reminiscent of Ozu but with contemporary scenarios. This is a heartwarming film for the unhurried heart to savour.
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  19. Life of Pi (2012) –– What Canadian author Yann Martel has succeeded in literary form, Ang Lee has realized in this visually stunning cinematic offering, filming what is considered the ‘unfilmable’. Aligned with its magical realism, Lee ventured into flashy 3D.
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  20. The Past (2013) –– Iranian Director Asghar Farhadi elicited some amazing
    performance with this absorbing story. The film came out two years after A Separation, his Oscar winning film. I’d enjoyed The Past more.
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Other Top Ripples not on the above lists can be found on the sidebar. Click on the image to read my review.

 

 

 

 

Top Ripples 2018

Here’s the other one of my perennial posts, a wrap for the year. Books I’ve read and film experience that top the year for me. Here are the lists, in no particular order:

MOVIES

I’m appreciating foreign language films more and more, for they offer some of the best examples of what cinematic arts can offer, not CGI sparked spectacles. In my Top 10 list, the first four are from non-English speaking countries. They are also short-listed for the coming Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film category. Links are to my reviews.

Roma

Shoplifters

Capernaum

Burning

A Star Is Born

Wildlife

The Favourite

Free Solo

Shirkers

The Kominsky Method

I must mention two films that I’d highly anticipated but somehow didn’t connect as I’d wanted to. Maybe if I’ve the chance to watch them again I might change my mind: Cold War and First Reform.

Two movies from 2017 which I hadn’t watched until January this year that should be mentioned here:

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

The Shape of Water

 

BOOKS

These are not necessarily published in 2018, but the best books that I’ve read this year. I’m not a ‘quantity reader’, nevertheless, a look back at my Goodreads record, I can’t believe I ate all these (links are to my reviews):

The Guermantes Way by Marcel Proust (after 3 years, finally finished)

Middlemarch by George Eliot

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham

Not Quite, Note White: Losing and Finding Race in America by Sharmila Sen

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

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Selective Top Ripples from past years are listed on the side bar. Click on the pictures to my reviews.

Again, thanks for visiting the Pond and throwing in your two pebbles. I’ve enjoyed every single ripple. Hope you’d found a quiet respite here for thoughts and renewal.

And to all, may 2019 bring you more great books and movies to cherish.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Update: This post should be written on the last day of the year. Since I’d posted it, I saw another film today which I feel should be included here on the Top Ripples 2018 list, and that’s The Favourite (Just opens today in our City). I’m taking The Rider out to keep the list of 10. The Rider I found I’d already included it in my Top Ripples list last year.

Top Ripples 2017

The following is a list of books, movies, and events that stirred up the most ripples for me in 2017. Note that the books and movies are not necessarily releases from 2017 but just what I’ve had the privilege to encounter this year. If you don’t see your book here, it could be that it’s on my TBR list for the coming year. If you don’t see your fave movie here, it could be that I haven’t watched it or that I have but, indeed, it’s not here. Click on the links to read my reviews.

 

MOVIES

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri directed by Martin McDonagh

Mudbound directed by Dee Rees

Certain Women directed by Kelly Reichardt

The Big Sick directed by Michael Showalter

Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe directed by Maria Schrader

Wind River directed by Taylor Sheridan

Things to Come directed by Mia Hansen-Løve

Silence directed by Martin Scorsese

The Rider directed by Chloé Zhao (55th NYFF)

The Road to Mandalay directed by Midi Z (NYAFF)

Calvary directed by John Michael McDonagh

 

BOOKS

At the Existential Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Wildlife by Richard Ford

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

 

 

EVENTS

Visit to MoMA Click on the link to my post.

NYFF at Film Society of Lincoln Center: In September I had the chance to attend press screenings of the 55th New York Film Festival. CLICK HERE for all my reviews on AAPress.

Other than hanging out at the Film Society of Lincoln Centre for the screenings, I’d experienced NYC on the bus, in the subway, and simply on foot, some days close to 20,000 steps, making my NYC trip extra rewarding. Here are some pics of the memorable experience.

Lincoln Center:

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Film Society of Lincoln Center where the screenings took place:

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The Juilliard School:

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Central Park:

 

Reflection in Central Park

 

 

One World Trade Center:

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Strand Bookstore:

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Brooklyn Bridge:

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Where I found the best lobster roll I’d ever tasted, at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge:

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And that’s a wrap.

 

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And to all, a wonderful 2018 for books, films, and rewarding encounters! 

100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century

The editors of BBC Culture had commissioned film critics all over the world to arrive at this list, polling “every continent except Antarctica.”  They received responses from 177 film critics. The list was published yesterday.

Sounds like a formidable task, albeit in actuality, the critics only had to look at 17 years of cinematic works (including the year 2000). Nevertheless, the titles are self evident of the positive effects of globalization, for the critics’ choices are markedly diverse.

You can check out the whole list here. I’ll just excerpt the top 50. Here, you can find directors from Africa, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, North America, South America. What a fantastic representation. I’ve no apology for using the #2 film image here instead of the top one; with Wong Kar-wai’s “In The Mood for Love”, I’m totally partial and very glad it reached this spot.

in-the-mood-for-love

No matter how you look at it, don’t get blown away by blockbuster mega productions. The independent cinema still remains the imaginary window to look into ourselves as well as out to the world, expanding our point of view with old tales to current issues.

50. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2015)
49. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014)
48. Brooklyn (John Crowley, 2015)
47. Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014)
46. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
45. Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013)
44. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
43. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)
42. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)
41. Inside Out (Pete Docter, 2015)
40. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
39. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
38. City of God (Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002)
37. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)
36. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2014)
35. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000)
34. Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015)
33. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
32. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
31. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
30. Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)
29. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)
28. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002)
27. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
26. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)
25. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)
24. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
23. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
22. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
21. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
20. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
19. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
18. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009)
17. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)
16. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
15. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
14. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)
13. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
12. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
11. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)
10. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
9. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000)
7. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)

Which ones have you seen? What do you think of the list? Mulholland Drive #1? You might ask.

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Click on the link in the title to read Arti’s review.

Top Ripples 2015

Here are the books and movies, experiences and encounters that I’d rated 4 Ripples this year. Click on the links to read my reviews.

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~ ~ ~ ~ Ripples 2015 Movies

The Assassin 

Brooklyn 

Clouds of Sils Maria

Ex Machina

Mustang (Review upcoming)

Spotlight

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Worthy mentions  ~ ~ ~ 1/2 Ripples

Bridge of Spies

The End of the Tour

Jafar Panahi’s Taxi

Leviathan

The Martian

Room 

Suffragette

Testament of Youth

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At the Cineplex, I’d also enjoyed four National Theatre Live performances on screen direct from the London stage. All of these are memorable. CLICK HERE to read my post on the first three, and HERE for Hamlet:

The Hard Problem by Tom Stoppard

The View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller

Man and Superman by Bernard Shaw

Hamlet by William Shakespeare (with Benedict Cumberbatch)

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As in years past, the number of books I’ve read is only about half of the films I’ve seen, a stat that I’d like to improve in the future. Here are the Top Ripples in books I’ve read in 2015, not all published in this year obviously.

Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig

The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig

Terrapin: Poems by Wendell Berry

Leavings by Wendell Berry

Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays by Joan Didion

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Here, I must mention my 4 Ripple Experience: Fall Foliage Road Trip across four New England States two weeks in Sept/Oct., prompting me to write 10 blog posts when I came back. Starting here.

Kancamagus Hwy

Another 4 Ripple Encounter is attending the Merchant Ivory Retrospective in December. I’d never thought I could actually see director James Ivory in person. And so I did. It was fascinating listening to the 87 year-old, legendary director who’d brought us A Room with a View (1985), Howards End (1992), The Remains of the Day (1993), and many other literary to film adaptations talk about the working dynamics of Ismael Merchant, writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and himself in the creative process.

Here’s a photo of the occasion, a Q & A session with film critic Katherine Monk after the screening of Heat and Dust, adaptation of the Man Booker winning novel (1983) by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala:

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And that’s a wrap for 2015.

 

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Related posts you might like to read:

Howards End by E. M. Forster

The Merchant Ivory Dialogues 

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala: A Tribute to Rootlessness

Can a Movie Adaptation Ever be as Good as the Book

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Top Ripples 2014

This year, I’ve watched over 100 films and in a much smaller proportion, read forty some books. Been to the Toronto International Film Festival, and attended a memorable session ‘Conversation with Juliette Binoche.’ That would be one of the Top Ripples for me.

The following list represents the most resonance I’ve had with the films that come out this year. As a stringent marker, I’ve only given one movie 4 Ripples, and that’s Boyhood back in August when I first saw the film. All the others earn at least 3.5 Ripples.

I’d not written a review for every film I’d seen, obviously. But even for those I did not post, I ensure you if you find them on this list, they are at least 3.5 to 4 Ripples in my mind, like Calvary, and Citizenfour. Of course, there are those that I’m still waiting to come out in the next two weeks. (Click on the links in the following titles to read my review.)

As you can see, other than films and books, I’ve also included some other memorable 2014 experiences.

Films

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Calvary

Citizenfour

Clouds of Sils Maria

Foreign Language Films

Ida

Force Majeure

Books – Fiction

Lila by Marilynne Robinson
(2014 National Book Award Finalist, Fiction)

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
(2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction Winner)

Books – Nonfiction

Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, & Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
(2014 National Book Awards Winner for Nonfiction)

Birding with Yeats: A Memoir by Lynn Thomson

Gallery Visits

Alex Colville and the Movies (AGO)

Nature Sightings: (rare or first time sighting for me):

The Monarch Butterfly

The Barred Owl

Porky and Wess

Best Search Engine Terms to come to Ripple Effects:

Is Downton Abbey fiction?

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There are also books and films from previous years that I’ve had the pleasure to experience in 2014. Here are the Top Ripples:

Books:

12 Years A Slave by Solomon Northup (1853)

Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie (2012)

A House In The Sky by Amanda Lindhout (2013)

Silence by Shûsaku Endô (1966)

The Dinner by Herman Koch (2013)

Films: 

The Lunchbox (2013)

Like Father, Like Son (2013)

Charade (1963)

I Confess (1953)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

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86th Academy Awards Made History

Oscar Selfie

The following is a partial list of last night’s 86th Academy Awards winners. I’ve included Production Budget from Box Office Mojo, just for comparison:

Gravity: 7 Wins

Best Directing, Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects, Music (Original Score).

Production Budget: $100 Million

12 Years A Slave: 3 Wins

Best Picture, Supporting Actress, Adapted Screenplay

Production Budget: $20 Million

Dallas Buyers Club: 3 Wins

Best Actor, Supporting Actor, Make-up and Hairstyling

Production Budget: $5 Million

The Great Gatsby: 2 Wins

Best Costume Design, Production Design

Production Budget: $105 Million

Blue Jasmine: 1 Win

Best Actress

Production Budget: N/A

Her: 1 Win

Best Original Screenplay

Production Budget: $23 Million

12 Years A Slave Poster copy

The Oscars last night made history in two categories… and I don’t mean Ellen Degeneres’ star-studded group selfie setting retweeting record. First, there was Gravity’s director Alfonso Cuarón as the first Latin American to win the Best Directing Oscar. Gravity seemed to be the major winner last night with seven Oscars. Basically the 3D, sic-fi movie had snatched all technical wins, as predicted by many.

But in every Academy Awards, the top prize is Best Picture, here we see 12 Years A Slave make history with Steve McQueen becoming the first black director to garner the Best Picture Oscar honour. Lupita Lyong’o also came out victorious as this is her first feature film. I’m happy to see too that John Ridley win the Best Adapted Screenplay, the second black winner to fetch a writing Oscar, after Geoffrey Fletcher for Precious in 2009. Ridley has turned Solomon Northup’s poignant memoir into a script for an impressive visual testament. Because of the film, this eye-witness narrative of Solomon Northup hopefully will find its way into school curricula soon. This is the power of cinema in transforming society.

Cate Blanchet‘s win for her role in Blue Jasmine gives her a chance to counter a misconception: “… and perhaps, those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the centre, are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them, and in fact, they earn money.”

Hopefully after all the ‘history’ being made, one day we won’t have to identify the colour, ethnicity, or gender of winners in saying so-and-so is the first black, or hispanic, or woman to win this or do that.

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The reason I’ve included the Production Budget in the above list is that I remember the ‘implosion’ of the movie industry‘ Steven Spielberg had predicted a year ago as he cited productions getting more and more costly, aiming at mega, iron-man effects to please the general public. While Gravity might fit that category with its 3D, high-tech, CGI-driven grandiosity and out-of-this-world spectacle, there are also worthy, smaller productions that cost only a fraction of a colossal budget, but still can move audiences and touch the human heart.

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Related Posts on Ripple Effects:

History Made At The Oscars: Kathryn Bigelow Wins Best Director

Our Mega Culture

12 Years A Slave: Beauty and Sadness (Movie Review)

Narrative of Solomon Northup: A Voice that Must Be Heard (Book Review)

Nebraska: Color is Superfluous (Movie Review)

The Great Gatsby Movie Review

Blue Jasmine: Homage & Re-imagining

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