Christmas Break Catch-All: Movies, Books, 2015.

Time acts in strange ways. Certain days can last forever, certain weekends are gone with the blink of an eye, certain months can feel like they never even happened. What always seems strangest is when time makes you feel as if you’ve lived whole lives between a point A and a point B, when in reality, that span of time only lasted two weeks.

That’s how I feel about this holiday break. I am lucky to have a job where things slow down around Christmas and the New Year, so I spent a week at home in Oregon and then spent a few days hanging out back in the city.

Before I forget them (though I’m kicking myself for not doing this even sooner because now the Oregon portion of my break seems like a long time ago), here are a few highlights from the holiday…aka a rundown of the books and movies and moments I most want to remember.

1. Me Before You

In my parents’ neighborhood, there’s a house with its own little library out front, where people can take and leave books as they please. I passed it while on a walk with my mom and sister, and I took Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, a book I’d pondered buying before but held off because I was in the middle of something else. I was pages away from finishing Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and this was early in my trip, so I figured I could polish off Moyes’ book in time to return it before going back to New York.

Maybe it sounds dumb, but this book became like a friend to me. I just wanted to spend time with it. Before this book, I’d read the first two Hunger Games books (sounds easy, I know, but fantasy/dystopian books are just not my cup of tea) and A People’s History of the United States, so in hindsight I realize I was probably just overjoyed to have a book I could breeze through. But it was more than just an easy read. It was a delight. Just about every night I was home, I’d stay up late and read it in the light of the Christmas tree.

I’ve had a serious crush on England for the last year and a half, so I loved opening it to find the prologue set in London and the rest in an English country town. All its characters were distinct and developed, and the central romance was sweet – obvious the whole time, but built to in a much more satisfying way than I could have anticipated. Even cynics like myself need a good love story every now and then.

2) New Movies

Since I had some time on my hands the last few days, I wanted to get a jump-start on watching some great new movies in 2015. Instead, I mostly ended up re-watching old favorites (more on that below), but I did watch two movies for the first time and quite enjoyed both: Pulp Fiction and Thank You for Smoking.

Sometimes I view movies as opportunities to understand more cultural references. It seems like I hear about Pulp Fiction a lot, so I thought I’d watch it to expand my pop-culture horizons. I think I need to watch it again and again to pick up on everything, but I love movies where you just get swept into it, where you’re not realizing it but an hour has gone by and you’ve just been enjoying the story. That’s kind of how I felt about Fargo, too. You’re not expecting it, but you’re sucked in.

And Thank You For Smoking. Jason Reitman’s Juno and Up in the Air are two of my favorite movies, but this was the first time I’d watched his debut feature. I don’t know if it’ll become one of my favorites like those other films, but I still thought it was great. Dripping with cynicism, urging its viewers to question everything, filled with the same quick, intelligent dialogue that made me love the other Reitman films.

And since awards season is right around the corner, I saw a few movies in theaters over the break, too: The Imitation Game, Into the Woods, and Whiplash (which was by far my favorite of the three).

3) Old Movies

I’ve taken the last couple days to catch up on random stuff in my life – unpacking, cleaning the kitchen, organizing storage drawers, etc. – and it’s hard to watch new movies while doing those tasks because I can’t devote my full attention to the film. So I re-watched some old favorites, most notably Good Night and Good Luck, LA Confidential (clearly there’s a David Strathairn thing going on) and Manhattan.

The first time I watched LA Confidential was on a bus back to NYC after visiting Boston for a weekend. And I liked it even then. But this time, I appreciated so much more. Like Kevin Spacey. How did I not recognize its true greatness in my first viewing? Spacey’s is my favorite in a movie filled with incredible performances.

Before I went out to celebrate New Year’s Eve, I turned on Woody Allen’s Manhattan. I first saw it almost two years ago but since then I think I have developed a better appreciation for films and a better understanding of what it is to live in New York. The beauty and intelligence of the opening sequence was apparently lost on me the first time, because I hardly remembered it. Now, I just want to sit and watch it on loop. It’s breathtaking.

Other lines I loved: Tracy joking about not knowing who Rita Hayworth was, then Isaac reprimanding her. “Of course I’m joking!” She says. “You think I’m unaware of any event pre-Paul McCartney.”

And Isaac describing Mary as “the winner of the Zelda Fitzgerald Emotional Maturity Award.”

4) 2015

It is now 2015, and I can’t say anything feels much different. Maybe that’s good, though. Maybe the years where it doesn’t feel like much will change or improve are the years when big things happen. Or maybe by saying it out loud, I’ve ruined any chance of that. There are 361 more days to find out.


“You See, George? You’ve Really Had a Wonderful Life.”

When bored or daydreaming during a lecture, most people doodle little pictures in the margins of their papers. I can’t draw anything (even my stick figures are bad), so I’ve always written in the margins instead. This means I make lists.

Usually, it’s lists of all the major league baseball teams, organized by league and division, or lists of all the stops on the 6 train that I rode in New York this summer. But the most common list is my favorite movies.

I’ll make a list of all the favorites I can think of, then whiddle the list down to 10. A lot of movies make it in every time, but a certain film goes straight to the #1 spot before any others are added.

This movie is perfect. There is not a single thing about it that makes you say, “oh, I wish they’d done this.” You don’t want anyone in the leading role besides Jimmy Stewart. You don’t even want Mr. Potter to change his ways. No. It’s perfect.

Why do I love this movie so much? Because every little detail in the first part proves important in the second part. Because Jimmy Stewart is adorable. Because there’s a swimming pool underneath the gym floor. Because Harry saved the life of every man on that transport. Because George Bailey, I’ll love you ’til the day I die.

Maybe I love it so much because I see a little bit of my own aspirations in George’s. He wants to do something really amazing and meaningful in his life, but feels trapped. I’m hardly comparing my own “challenges” to those that George faces in the movie, but I certainly identify with his fear that, as everyone around him moves on to bigger and better things, he’ll never be able to rise out of his current circumstances. Who hasn’t heard that voice asking, “will I ever amount to anything?”

The movie reminds me that maybe what I want to happen in my life isn’t what will happen – but that everything will play out perfectly in the end.

Merry Christmas!

Thought About Your Christmas List?

You know it’s time to get thinking about a Christmas list when you see e-mail messages like these waiting for you:

The first is from my mom’s mom:

Are you working on a Christmas stocking and gift list? You better be………you don’t want to find coal in your stocking do ya? lol,lol,lol

And then there’s this from my dad’s parents:

Grandma and I are open for gift ideas—gift Cards, Cash, or Candy Canes.

Regardless of the fact that my grandma used “LOL” in an e-mail, I think it’s still pretty awesome that: 1) my grandparents care enough to solicit requests, rather than just assume I’d like a knitted sweater with a bird on the front, and 2) that my grandparets solicit these requests via e-mail, and not through snail mail or a phone call.  They are, more or less, hip with the times.

I’ve been thinking about potential Christmas gifts (hey, they asked), and all I’ve thought about is all three seasons of 30 Rock on DVD.  My mom should go for that, because that would mean I’d stop stealing hers.

The other item that has really been on my mind is The Grammar Devotional.

From what I have gathered, it’s a daily “devotional” book, but instead of encouraging messages or scriptures, it gives you daily grammar and writing tips.  My mom told my aunt about the book as a gift idea for me: “Yes, Paige really asked for this,” she said.  (Image from the Boulder Bookstore website.)

While flipping through the pages of the most recent issue of New York magazine, which includes their annual “Gift Guide,” I found this gem:

It’s the New York Times Jigsaw Puzzle.  You can pick any New York Times cover page since 1888 to be made into a jigsaw puzzle (the picture came from the site online where you can purchase the puzzle):

Also in New York, I found an advertisement for a brand-new product that I’m sure will be sweeping the nation soon.  The “Snoodie.”  Behold:

This is somewhat unbelievable to me.  Considering they’re currently confined to a quarter-page ad on page 132 of New York, I don’t think Snoodies have hit the Snuggie’s level of popularity, but I’m still bracing for their impact.

There’s only one month left until Christmas Eve: what’s on your Christmas list this year?  I’d love to hear your ideas.  It might spark some inspiration for me and other gift-buyers.  If you haven’t thought about it, get going.  My grandma might e-mail you if you don’t.  LOL.