Finding Joy in “Joy”

Best of 2015, Film, Movie Reviews, Random Musings

First of all, I just don’t get why there exists any kind of vitriol for David O’Russell clever and heartful film Joy. Why there continues to be a polarizing response to the film baffles me. I found the film to be a class in master acting and a clever soundtrack to the difficulties that abound with familial relations, especially with the introduction of money.

The story is a simple one. It’s essentially a rags to riches story of Joy Mangano, the inventor of The Miracle Mop. The film chronicles the many trials and tribulations of her journey to getting the mop to be a success. Along the way, we are introduced to many characters, some of which propel the story forward, some whom are nothing more than background (Sorry, Dascha Polanco).

Jennifer Lawrence commandeers every single scene she is in. She’s radiant and powerful, unlike the women around her. A barely recognizable Virginia Madsen and the ever-shrill Isabella Rossellini are mere foils to what Joy will never be.  The male co-stars are mainly supporting Joy on her quest to wealth.

I found the film to be quick-paced, full of well-written dialogue, and above all else, funny. Jennifer Lawrence can really do no wrong. She’s fierce, funny, vulnerable and resplendent all rolled into one. Check it out.




You’re Just Like a Movie: My Fave Films of 2015

Best of 2015, Film, Random Musings

I tend to shy away from ranking anything. When you assign a number to something, it implies a place on an imaginary hierarchy, automatically becoming contrived and unimportant. That is why when  I’m highlighting some of my favourite films of 2015 they will be in absolutely no order. So just because I write about Carol first doesn’t mean it was my absolute fave…


There are cheekbones for days in Todd Haynes’ ethereal Carol. It’s a bit of a love story, but more of a human story. It chronicles the intracies of a controversial love with hues of yellow and brown that evokes emotions you never thought you had. Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett are so committed to their roles that it’s hard to remember that they are actors in a movie because the veracity of their performances are THAT good.


Welcome to Me

Trust me – there will come a time when the name Kristen Wiig and ‘Academy Award winner’ will go hand in hand. Wiig is a revelation in Welcome to Me – a film that borders more on the truancy of adulthood then a piece on borderline personality disorder. It’s funny but you’re not laughing at Wiig – you’re giggling because you understand that depicting mental instability doesn’t have to be such a downer.


Mistress America

Not terribly different than Welcome to Me, Mistress America is a cerebral take on the delusions of grandeur that encompass youth. Greta Gerwig is as lovable and articulate as ever in her portrayal of a girl who bounces from dream to dream as the film moves from scene to scene. It’s charming and sweet, but not so much so that the eyes are rolling. It’s a statement piece with the resounding message that Gerwig can carry a film all by herself.


The Age of Adaline

So i really, really like Blake Lively, and not for the obvious reasons (that hair, that mole). I find her understated and underrated. In the nostalgic The Age of Adaline, Lively portrays a woman who doesn’t age, allowing the filmmakers to depict her in styling unseen in many years. The movie is formulaic but solid, with supporting characters that are committed to their roles and to the story of overarching love and hope.



For those of you who follow us on Reading Other People, then you know of our love for the Amy Winehouse doc Amy. Check out my post on that film later if you’d like. It’s a tour-de-force of de-facto filmmaking that still triggers emotions months after having seen it.



A Review of Ben Mariner’s Sublime “Apocalypse Wow”

Best of 2015

First and foremost, I love a good play on words. I also love Martin Scorcese, which is why I could not help but accept to review the magnificently titled, genre mash-up novel “Apocalypse Wow”.

As the title suggests, the novel is indeed set during the Apocalypse, whatever that may mean. The main character here is the simply titled Jack Winters. He’s an average dude – has a job he semi-enjoys and a group of friends that he likes to hang out with. Throw in an encounter with a woman he thinks may have been sent to him from his dreams and he’s one happy camper. However, as this is a piece of fiction that has to subvert and move a narrative forward that enthralls the reader, Jack awakens from his dream date to find out that the world has ended. Imagine waking up to that. And you thought hangovers were bad.

Apocalypse Wow

A Review of Nicole Comer’s “ACTING…It’s Not For Sissies”

Best of 2015, Book Reviews

As I’ve mentioned many, many times before, it’s really great to be a book reviewer. I get proposals from aspiring authors from all over the world, from New Zealand to Peru. The sheer amount of talent in the world is magnificent, and I’m given the opportunity to review these works? Outstanding.

Nicole Comer’s witty and hilarious “Acting…It’s Not For Sissies” is one of the funniest books I’ve read in dog years. It’s not a manual on how to act. It’s also not a step-by-step playbook on how to method act. Instead, Comer’s book is a easy-to-read piece on what showbiz is really all about, all the while throwing in tidbits of advice that Comer herself has learned along the way.

Comer uses personal stories to present an insider’s view on the climb to fame and a true love for the difficult art of being an actor. She doesn’t sugar coat things either. It’s a really, really difficult industry to break into, and once you’ve made the incredibly fortunate foray into the world of Hollywood glamour, there is no guarantee that is where you’ll stay (sorry, Renee Zellweger). The book seems to be written for those who are truly devoted to being a successful actor, despite all of the obvious pitfalls that are rolled up into that archetype. It’s a clever expose for those who may have an idealized version of Hollywood and the incorrect perception that it’s an easy egg to break.

Nicole Comer

A Review of Brian Humek’s “Summer of Sharona”

Best of 2015, Book Reviews
Oh, 1979. The year of The Amityville Horror and the Tube Top. The year of I Will Survive and Three’s Company. The year of Farrah Fawcett and the ubiquity of My Sharona, the latter being the soundtrack to Brian Humek’s whimsical and enjoyable Summer of Sharona.

A Stunning Wind: A Review of Jer’Ell Hartsig’s “The Wind That Ruffled The Field”

Best of 2015, Book Reviews

In my humble opinion, there are some autobiographies that can best be described as an exercise in self-admiration. Often times, it is these ego-driven pieces that gain much critical acclaim because there is already a built-in awareness of the author and the trials and tribulations they may have encountered on their struggle for success. But what about those truer, less glamorous autobiographies that chronicle the true heroes of the world? What about those unsung luminaries that have paved the way for their more popular counterparts?

In Jer’Ell Hartsig breathtakingly astute autobiography The Wind That Ruffled The Field, a voice is given to a powerful person who not only defied personal limitations, but also created a new life for herself amidst a judgmental society that defined being different as being dangerous.

The Wind That...

Cutting Catastrophe

Best of 2015, TV

I didn’t know why but Sharon Hogan’s face was so familiar to me. I then remembered instantly after a quick google search – she was the caustic lady from Pulling, the criminally underrated UK comedy series that aired a few years back. Her character in her new television show, Catastrophe (which I hardcore binged on) is not too unlike her role as Donna in Pulling. Sharing the same name as her character in Catastrophe, Sharon Horgan brings a prompt accessibility to her role, and a likewise disdain for her character’s sometimes questionable actions. This show is so not afraid to go there.

Catastrophe Official

A Review of Amy: A Documentary For the Ages

Best of 2015, Movie Reviews

The objective of a documentary film is, by definition, a motion picture intended to document some aspect of reality, primarily for the purposes of instruction or maintaining a historical record. Such films are supposed to be objective, detailing a subject’s plight through life’s various stages, from the unsavoury to the redeeming. Any film goer will tell you that documentaries rarely achieve that true sense of neutrality in tone and thematic representations. The wondrous, breathtaking, and visceral film Amy, directed by Asif Kapadia, is a lesson in master filmmaking. It’s also a lesson in storytelling.

The film has the damaged and gritty late chanteuse as its specimen on full unflinching display in all of her guts and glory. You don’t have to be a fan of Winehouse’s jazzy/girl group-esque vocal stylings to make the commitment to watch the clearly wounded creature storm the screen, her frail frame impressively withstanding self-inflicted physical pain and trauma from a hard life of drug and alcohol use. You keep expecting her to simply break in half at times, but she keeps on going, much like how her music will continue to do as years pass.


A Review of C.W. Schultz’ Incredible “A Book About a Film”

Best of 2015, Book Reviews

It doesn’t get more meta or self-referential than this. C.W. Schultz’ original and effervescent work A Book About A Film is subversion at its best. It beckons the dream-like quality of Fellini’s masterpiece 8 1/2 with a touch of Grey Gardens. It’s like that great movie M. Night Shyamalan has yet to make.

I absolutely do not want to spoil the narrative for any prospective readers. I will say, however, that Schultz’ uncanny ability to write a work that has an inherent momentum which does not lose any steam is revelatory. I’ve read a lot of books that borrow elements from various genres that attempt to amalgamate them into a piece that will appeal to all demographics. A Book About a Film, however, is heads and shoulders above its subversive predecessors. It maintains the readers interest, utilizing imagery that is both evocative yet easily visualized.