Collaborative Blogging, TV Reviews

Warrior Women, or: My Misandry Has Killed Thousands

Christa and I have talked about diving into TV for the Blog Collab but haven’t found a show that we could review after watching only 1 or 2 episodes.  Until now.  Enter the show Warrior Women, a History Channel-style series hosted by Lucy Lawless about the lives of real women warriors.  Um, yes please.

The Show:

Warrior Women

The Uncondensed Version:

The misandry is strong in this one, with LL uttering lines about Boudica’s anger killing 75,000 and her unstoppable quest for vengeance.  So it’s a bit like an episode of Xena but more based in fact.  Er, sort of.  And considerably more shots of Lucy Lawless just casually strolling around Stonehenge (and fucking leaning against it(!)—you’re part of the problem, Lucy Lawless).

a woman casually leans against a Stonehenge rock
How did no one tackle her??!?!

But anyway.

Boudica is the Queen of the Iceni and lone ruler after her husband’s death.  The Iceni had a complex society even though they are often portrayed as wild/uncivilized/all of the things empires call foreigners.  Complications arise in the form of Romans, who are taking over the world and want to show everyone what complete control they have in Britain.

Romans have to do everything in a really sketchy way, obviously, so they call in all of these loans they had given to the Iceni—money that the Romans had given as a gift.  The Romans are also definitely not ok with a woman ruler and severely underestimate the vengeance Boudica will rain down upon them (just go with it—this is seriously how the narration for this show was written).  When the Romans arrive, they severely beat Boudica and rape her young daughters.

Following this outrage, Boudica is able to rally support to attack the capitol at the time, Colchester.  Some of the other groups of Britons just really want to fucking destroy the Temple of Claudius in Colchester.  The slaughter continues to London, where things get a bit less clear-cut and you may experience conflicting feelings.  Or you’re just a sociopath, IDK.  LL helpfully tells us that “dreams of utopia so often end in murder.”

a woman in a leather jacket brings a sword down on a man wearing a suit of armor
I just really wanted to use this screenshot.

Boudica and her army kill Romans and Britons alike, with many of those left behind the very young and -very old.  One historian notes that Boudica wants to completely purge Briton of foreigners (rings a bell, eh), though I think that impulse makes a bit more sense when it’s the colonized trying to free themselves from their oppressors.

Everything leads up to a final battle, of course, which seems the Britons will win effortlessly.  However, the Romans are just more organized and have a better military strategy.  Ultimately, approximately 11,000 Romans defeat at least 100,000 Britons by sort of trapping and suffocating them.  It’s all over for Boudica, who dies shortly after the battle.

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads?  Maybe?  I don’t know how to rate this one.

It’s impossible not to talk about LL’s role in this.  Her presence is really the highlight here as some of the battle reenactments are obviously just 20 people chanting loudly in a field.  LL does a reasonable amount of narrating while riding around in a chariot, strolling through fields in a fucking leather trench coat, and getting blue face tats.  She looks like your poli sci professor who is also a secret assassin.  I really wish LL had also done the historical reenactments.  New rule for this week/month/life = only watching TV with Lucy Lawless in it.

a woman stands in a field wearing blue face paint and clothing typical of the ancient Britons
I honestly believe she’s a perfect human being.

I appreciate that the view presented in this show is somewhat unbiased(ish), as the historians point out Boudica’s mission ultimately failed, plus she killed a lot of innocent Britons along the way.  It makes me honestly glad I am not an actual woman warrior because it would be highly disturbing to really stab someone.

Would Christa lead the charge into battle or…why is this a question?  You know she fucking would.  Visit her blog here for her thoughts and blood-lust!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Rogue, or: Supercroc vs. Human Nature

It’s a free for all month in Blog Collab Land, which of course means at least one B monster movie.  This one is about a supercroc terrorizing tourists in Australia, and further evidence that going on a cruise is the actual worst idea.

The Film:


The Uncondensed Version:

Our lead, Pete, rolls into a small Australian town wearing aviators.  Pete, that is.  Not the small Australian town.

A man missing his aviator sunglasses looks over towards the camera.
I was too slow to get a screencap of any of the scenes with the aviators, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

As it turns out, he is a journalist covering a story about something or other.  I forget because it’s never spoken of again.

Boat cruises in Australia?  Because that’s his first stop.  On the cruise, we meet a host of different characters whose names you will likely forget immediately:  Single Guy with a ‘70s ‘Stache, Woman with Cancer, Family of Woman with Cancer, Camera Guy, and (slightly later) Douchebros in a Speedboat.  The only name I remember is Kate, the blonde captain of the boat who is obv going to be a love interest.

A woman in a pink baseball cap looks scornfully at a character off-screen.
She’s that delicate balance of tomboy and feminine, as evidenced by pink baseball cap.

The tour is relatively uneventful at first, though of course the extended description of crocodile behavior will definitely be relevant.  Things start to go downhill when a member of the group sees a distress flare, and Capt. Kate must check it out.  (Even though a significant number of the tourists are pissed about possibly missing a bus.  Humans are the worst.)

This, of course, leads to the first encounter with the supercroc/disappointingly no one actually gives it a cheesy name a la Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark.  Though no one gets chomped by the croc, the boat is destroyed, and everyone is stranded on a very small island.  To make matters worse, the tide will rise in a few hours, submerging the island completely.

The whole situation very quickly becomes a bit of an And Then There Were None sort of suspense story, with everyone turning on each other and blaming the others for their predicament.  Or maybe just a Real Housewives episode (any and all of them).

The douchebros show up again to be douchebros and, I must say I got quite a lot of joy when one of them gets chomped (spoiler, but you knew it was going to happen).  At this point, I realized the other douchebro is Sam Worthington, who actually somewhat makes up for acting like a dickhead by proposing a risky plan to get across the river.  He will swim across with a rope that will be attached on both sides of the river to a tall tree so everyone else can sort of shimmy across the river without swimming/alerting the supercroc.

A group of people attempts to shimmy across a river using a rope.
And then there were…4?  5?  It’s hard to keep track of characters you don’t care about.

This would all go fabulously well but remember how humans are the worst?  The first woman to try the crossing has a bit of a meltdown and just stops midway over the water.  To drive home the point of how stupid and frustratingly short-sighted humans are, the husband of Woman with Cancer (I know, I know, but that is honestly her only defining characteristic in this film) tries to cross with his daughter (a really young Mia Wasikowska!).  This is just the worst idea.  The worst, and it should surprise no one that all 3 fall in, yet only 2 make it back to the island.

A large CGI crocodile stalks a human in a cave.

It’s kind of lame that Kate has a bit of a freak out at this point even though I’m positive I would do the same thing.  Just irritating that all of the, ahem, “brilliant” plans are devised by men in this film.  It’s Pete’s turn to come up with a plan, which involves creating a diversion and temporary trap for the supercroc while everyone swims to shore.

In the aftermath of the plan, Pete is separated from the rest of the group and trapped in a cave with the supercroc.  Does this mean a big showdown with the supercroc???  Yes, it does.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

There are some gorgeous landscape shots because this is set in Australia, which is a surprise bonus.

However, the characters are so, so bland, which makes it difficult to care when they start getting chomped by the supercroc.

The last half hour of this focuses on Pete alone, and sets up some incredibly suspenseful last few scenes.  But the rest of the characters just drop off the radar completely, making for some disjointed storytelling and almost creating a completely separate film for the final act.  It’s dissatisfying for so many of the characters to just vanish (even though I didn’t actually care about them as human beings).

And ok, I don’t want to get too spoiler-y, but riddle me this.  If you were a supercroc, would you kill and/or severely maim your victims and then drag them back to your lair, or would you JUST FUCKING EAT THEM?  Coincidentally, this is also a question you can ask yourself to determine if you are a serial killer.

Did Christa retain her humanity after this film or is she embracing her inner supercroc?  Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Jillian & Christa’s Great Blog Collab Top 10

Happy anniversary, Christa!  The Blog Collab is officially 18 months old!  Slightly older than Bertha Mason (but the Blog Collab has drawn way less blood)!

In honor of the occasion, my blog wife and I have come up with a top 10 list of our favorites from the past year and a half.  Our blog collab has truly been one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I’m really proud of us for sticking with it even when we thought we couldn’t stand to watch yet another wasp sting to the eye or nightmarish wax baby (thanks, Stung and Hellraiser II, respectively).

Without further ado, here are my 5 picks (of 10)!

Blog Collab Top 10 (in no particular order):

1. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Maybe slightly in order because this is my favorite of all the films we’ve watched, except We Are the Best!  You won’t see another film like this one, described as the first Iranian vampire Western.  The dialogue is sparse, the vampire remains aloof yet seems very human, and the black-and-white footage is beautiful.  And there’s a cat plus terrifyingly specific threats to skateboarding children, so I approve.  Love the slow build and clever subversion of what you may expect to happen when a girl walks home alone at night.


2. We Are the Best!

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of our favorites have been quirky independent foreign films.  Like the previous film, the love is reflected in the making of this one, focusing on 3 Swedish girls forming a punk band in the ‘80s.  Haters tell them punk is dead, but the girls hold on to their convictions and support each other in the pursuit of punk.  This film is such a great ode to girl power, and I wish I had been even half as cool as this girl band when I was 13.


3. The Punk Singer

Any discussion of punk and feminism would be incomplete without Kathleen Hanna.  Founder of the Riot Grrrl movement and all-around badass, of course she had to deal with sexist critics airing her dirty laundry and accusing the members of Bikini Kill of having no musical talent.  What is amazing is her dedication to feminism and music despite battling Lyme disease for many years.  The subject of this documentary is truly inspiring, and this is another film where you can feel the love it was made with.  You’ll be singing “Deceptacon” forever if you watch.


4. Grabbers

Alien tentacle monsters attack a small island along the Irish coast, and you expect some unbearably awful B movie, right?  But you get several things you might not expect from this type of film:  gorgeous Irish landscapes, reasonable special effects, grumpy old Irishmen, and that self-awareness that’s now almost a prerequisite for monster movies.  This film is surprisingly funny and suspenseful, and it’s impossible not to get attached to the characters, even the ones whose thick small-town Irish accents are virtually incomprehensible.

Screenshot_2015-03-22-14-03-52 (1).png

5. The Foxy Merkins

If you’re looking for plot-driven film, this probably won’t be your cup of tea.  What this comedy has going for it is bizarre, deadpan dialogue, well-drawn memorable characters, and sharp satire.  The very loose plot follows 2 women who become lesbian prostitutes, which involves a surprising number of Talbots gift cards, merkin salesmen, and being busted by the police (but only as a fetish, of course).  Also worth mentioning:  Madeleine Olnek’s other feature, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, and her upcoming Emily Dickinson comedy starring Molly Shannon (cannot WAIT).


See the remaining 5 over at A Voluptuous Mind!


Monkey’s Paw

There’s a reason it was easy to pick the absolute worst film we’ve reviewed.  SO bad.  Nothing redeeming about this—effects, dialogue, acting, plot, and characters are all abysmally awful.  If you’re not familiar with the idea of the monkey’s paw, it’s basically a cautionary tale about unintended consequences.  None of the unintended consequences are particularly interesting or seem designed with the characters in mind; they could be happening to literally any human anywhere in the world.  It’s just a cookie cutter device in a cookie cutter movie.  Not even close to being good bad.

Honorary Mentions:

12 Days of Terror/Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark

These are realistically only getting a mention because we watched so recently during Shark Month.  Both surprisingly good considering they are made-for-tv shark movies.  12 Days of Terror is the only shark period drama I can think of, and Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark is one of the few I can think of that actually makes an effort in terms of plot and character (and feminism!).



New Zealand horror-comedy that’s more funny than creepy about Kylie, a woman under house arrest who realizes her childhood home is haunted.  Really fun to watch, and there are some great quirky supporting characters.  Kylie’s mother is great and appears in colorful sweaters (apparently she’s been typecast as the mom who wears weird sweaters, as she does so in the excellent Hunt for the Wilderpeople as well).


Worth watching for the beards of Robert Carlyle and Guy Pearce alone (sweaters are an added bonus).  I will always support horror period pieces—this one rather originally takes place in a 19th century military outpost in California.  Plot is a bit shaky, and this isn’t one of my highest ratings, but the creepiness of Robert Carlyle’s bloody smile and the chemistry between the 2 leads is insane.  I have never wanted 2 men to cannibalize an entire military fort together so much.


Lovestruck:  The Musical

I wasn’t going to include this one, but my entire post felt like a lie without it.  An ABC Family original movie starring Jane Seymour, this is a pure cheese fest with some unintentionally deep commentary about ageism in Hollywood sneaking in there.  Some of the musical numbers are incredibly cringe-worthy, and the original songs are schmaltzy, but this was one of my favorite TV movies we watched.  It allowed me to feel warm and fuzzy and cynical all at the same time.

Mermaids!  Teen angst!  Duct tape Batman costumes!  All of this and more in my blog other half’s post!

What I’m trying to say is go visit Christa’s blog for the rest of this list and some important honorary mentions I’ve neglected.

Here’s to another 18 months…and who knows, maybe even 18 years!

Book Reviews, books

Book Review: The Broken Kingdoms and The Kingdom of the Gods

Unlike 75% of series I’ve started reading, I actually finished this one!  Thoughts on books 2 and 3 of N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy follow.  Warning:  there are some spoilers.

The Broken Kingdoms

N.K. Jemisin

Total pages:  432


When we left Yeine in book 1 of the series, there had been some major challenges to the structures of power in both the god and mortal realms.

One of the mortals making sense of the events of book 1 is Oree, a blind artist who sells her goods in the literal lower level of the capital (in a brilliant move, Jemisin has the Arameri section of the capital literally float above everyone else).

This story is more of a mystery as Oree attempts to figure out why, as a mortal, she is in possession of some god-like abilities as well as who is responsible for a series of godling murders in the city.

Oree is cool, but not anywhere near as cool as Yeine.  Additionally, the god who gets the most attention in this volume is Itempas, that unyielding asshole who killed his sister and enslaved his brother.  You might think that after being stripped of his powers, banished, and forced to prove his worthiness as of the end of book 1, that Itempas might be a more sympathetic character.  But nooooooooooooooooooooo, he’s still a dick and does nothing to earn the kindness Oree shows him.  There’s also a rather heartbreaking murder that might make you uncharitably think Itempas should have died instead, even though that’s not how murders work.

Overall, this one feels like a bit of a repeat of book 1 but with less interesting characters, and a mystery that is solved too early.  Add to this a surprise baby plus the fact that I just cannot stand Itempas, and I really didn’t enjoy this one.

The Kingdom of Gods

Total pages:  613


Shifting perspective yet again, we get our first book in the series narrated entirely by a godling, Sieh.  If you pick up this series, you will immediately recognize Sieh as the trickster figure of the gods.  He frequently adopts the form of a child and maintains a playful innocence, though he has certainly caused as much death and destruction as any of his other godling siblings.  Unfortunately, Sieh’s appearance means a lot of really disturbing things happened to him while he and the other godlings were enslaved.  So, rather interestingly, Sieh is perhaps the only god in fiction who is a survivor of sexual abuse.

As book 3 opens, Sieh has bonded with Arameri siblings and sworn enemies Shahar and Deka.  Remember how the Arameri are the ruling class who enslaved the gods in book 1?  Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeah.  I think what’s most annoying about this book is how unclear the timeline is; it’s definitely been some time since the events of book 1, but I could never figure out how much time has passed.

Anyway, as Sieh makes a vow to be to be Shahar and Deka’s bff, he suddenly loses control over his own actions and his status as a godling.  As a mortal, Sieh now must contend with aging and the possibility of his own death.  He also gets betrayed by every.  Single.  Mortal.  In this book.  Yet is still completely blindsided every time it happens.

The biggest takeaway for me here is that you can be a centuries-old god and still not understand people.  I feel you, Sieh.

Will Sieh regain his immortality?  What’s up with someone murdering Arameri?  Could this be connected to Sieh’s mortality?  And, of course, will he sleep with one sibling, two, or none of the above?  Will you care or will it take all of your willpower not to cross out all of the parts with Shahar and Deka?

As a whole, I found the plot of this one more confusing than the first 2 and just didn’t care about Shahar or Deka at all.  The character who I found most intriguing was Oree’s daughter, Glee, who unfortunately is a somewhat minor character.  It makes me upset she wasn’t the focus of book 2 instead of Oree, or had her own book at some point in this series.  I can dream.

Assorted Thoughts:

Yeine isn’t nearly as present in volumes 2 and 3 of this trilogy, which is one of the biggest reasons I didn’t enjoy the other 2 books nearly as much.  Same goes for Nahadoth.  And though there isn’t a character without flaws in this series (which is a strength for sure), it was still disappointing to see them make bad and even cruel decisions, especially in book 2.  Additionally, there are really no good alternatives to get attached to—none of the other mortals are that interesting, and don’t even get me started on Itempas.

Perhaps what pissed me off most is that Itempas never really seems to earn his redemption.  His essential nature doesn’t change because he’s a god…but I feel even gods shouldn’t be allowed to be such giant assholes.  How does he still have followers???

However, I will say this series is truly original and completely subverts expectations.  One of the big themes is the cyclical nature of everything, which is reflected in Jemisin leaving a lot unresolved.  You will either appreciate that or it will drive you slowly insane.  Or both.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I LOVE the first book and definitely recommend.  I think it stands up well on its own, though you will probably be left wanting more Yeine/Nahadoth.  Sorry, but you won’t find it in the sequels.

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Save the Last Dance, or: Kerry Washington, Is That You?!?!

Our 2nd film this month is, purely by coincidence, another one about dance.  And also happens to be the 21st century Dirty Dancing.  Sort of.

The Film:

Save the Last Dance

The Premise:

A teen grieving the loss of her mother learns about hip-hop, love, and the death of ‘90s fashion.

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film takes us on a train through Chicago with an incredibly moody Sara on the way to live with her dad.  As we learn within the first 5 minutes of this movie, her mother was recently killed in a car accident while trying to make it to Sara’s big Julliard dance audition.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sara is incredibly depressed, feels really guilty about insisting her mom be there for the audition, and has lost all interest in ever dancing again.

With the move to her dad’s neighborhood, Sara now attends a predominantly black high school and has a lot of catching up to do.  She immediately makes a bad impression when she gives a really smart, teacher’s pet-type answer only to be corrected by Derek in front of the entire class.

a teen girl wearing overalls holds a lunch tray and textbooks in a school cafeteria
She also thinks it’s a good idea to wear overalls for some reason…

Luckily, Kerry Washington(?!?), aka Chenille, accepts Sara into her friend group and gives her some tips for navigating the cafeteria and other intimidating places.

teenage girls in a school cafeteria look skeptically across the table at a friend
I just had no clue she was in this!  I can’t get over it!

Sara just can’t stop putting her foot in it, though, and calls Derek an asshole before realizing he’s none other than Chenille’s brother.  …Ooops.

Nevertheless, Chenille invites Sara along to a club that evening, where she promises to dance circles around Derek.  Spending time with Chenille, Sara learns her friend is also a new mother who has an on/off relationship with the baby’s father.  Sara also discovers Chenille’s frenemy Nikki used to date Derek and feels really threatened by Sara.

Sara dances really stiffly with Derek, but starts to follow the rhythm a bit more and learn some hip hop moves.  That is, until a fight breaks out and all 3 have to leave the club.

Derek is sort of annoyingly perfect and wants to be a pediatrician.  He is also irritatingly good at listening and drawing out Sara’s secrets.  You’ve ruined me for other men, Derek.  When he learns Sara used to dance but she claims it’s not a big deal, he says the ridiculously sweet line, “I think it is.”

a teenage boy smiles charmingly at a teen girl
Dead. ❤ ❤ ❤

He later surprises Sara with ballet tickets.  Fucking swoon, and I don’t even really like ballet.  After getting Sara to open up about why she doesn’t dance anymore, Derek helps her realize she wants to dance and audition again for Julliard.  Sara insanely does a shitload of ballet while also getting hip hop lessons from Derek, now her boyfriend.

There are now several storylines that begin to intersect and make the rest of this film increasingly melodramatic.

  1. Derek’s friends give him shit about dating Sara. They also think he’s abandoning them and the neighborhood in general and try to get him to seek revenge after a drive-by shooting.
  2. Nikki and Sara finally get into a physical fight, which Sara blames entirely on Nikki. This leads to:
  3. Chenille and Sara having a fight about white privilege, and Chenille claiming Sara shouldn’t be dating Derek.
  4. Sara breaking up with Derek because so many people don’t want to see them together and it’s too hard to keep fighting.
  5. The big audition rolling around, and Sara having no one to support her. …Or does she???
a teenage boy and girl dance together in a club, surrounded by onlookers
Not relevant, but I just wanted to use this screencap.

Okay, this is pretty spoiler-y (though this is an early 2000s teen dance drama, so it ends more or less how you’d expect), but the drama of the film just completely falls apart at the end when Sara is dancing, which contrasts with Derek’s friends being involved in a shoot-out.  Must someone always die when Sara dances?  Is that a sign from the universe or does she have secret dance powers that are beyond her control?

Anyway, Derek shows up at the audition for moral support, telling the judges she’s ready just as she falters.  The drama of this moment is ruined by (1) a judge asking how he got in yet no one actually asking him to leave or doing anything to stop him at all, and (2) Derek jumping onstage to give Sara a pep talk, which apparently crosses the line as a judge interrupts, “We don’t have time for this.”  And there is a slow-mo hug, the most emotionally resonant kind of hug, of course.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Mostly because our leads are just so damn likeable.  Sean Patrick Thomas and his smile, ungh.

Storyline is a bit meh because it tries to do so much and ends up spreading itself too thin.  It’s refreshing to have a teen dance movie ambitiously cover so much ground in terms of race and privilege, but it does get a bit simplistic at times.  The plot makes it ridiculously convenient for Derek to walk away from the gang and leave his friends behind.  And Nikki is annoyingly one-dimensional, there only to stir up drama.

That being said, the dancing in this is amazing and, despite my cynicism, I admit Derek and Sara were a pretty fucking adorable couple.

Would Christa get it on tonite with this film or crush its little Julliard dreams? (Sorry, not sorry—“Get It on Tonite” stuck in my head after the end of this film.)  Find out by reading her review here!

Book Reviews, books

Book Review: Brighton Rock

I almost bought a copy of this novel in Brighton, which would have been perfect, but I hated the cover.  Apparently it’s a thing to have cartoony characters on the cover of this novel, which makes no sense because, in true Graham Greene fashion, the closest it comes to humor is bitterness.

There are some spoilers in this review…but this novel is nearly 80 years old and has been made into 2 different movies.  At a certain point you might want to just accept you’re never going to read it.

Brighton Rock

Graham Greene

Total pages:  247

Important note:  this is connected to another Graham Greene novel, A Gun for Sale.  However, I maintain it’s really not necessary to read the other one before this.  But who knows, I could be missing information that would bring new meaning to my reading of Brighton Rock.

Other note:  Brighton rock does not refer to a geological formation (as I believed for a really long time), but a candy stick you can buy in every.  Single.  Shop in Brighton.  The stick reads “Brighton rock” on both ends and all the way through.

a piece of Brighton Rock, a striped stick of candy wrapped in a label that reads "Brighton rock"

Our story follows the leader of a 1930s Brighton gang in the aftermath of a murder.  Pinkie Brown is a cold, ruthless 18-year-old psychopath whose grey eyes give “an effect of heartlessness like an old man’s in which human feeling has died.”  (God damn, Graham Greene.)  Following the murder of his gang leader, Pinkie is in charge of those loyal enough to remain, and his first order of business is vengeance.

Pinkie’s target is Fred Hale, a man who betrayed the gang leader in some way, presumably (I can’t claim I understand how gangs work at all).  Just before Fred’s murder (spoiler, but I don’t think Fred even makes it to page 30), he encounters the easy-going Ida, whose bosom is described in virtually every chapter.  When Fred disappears, Ida is extremely suspicious and refuses to rest until she discovers the truth about what’s happened.

As Ida pursues Pinkie, Pinkie pursues Rose, a teenager who unknowingly holds a key piece of evidence that could implicate Pinkie in murder.  Even though the idea of romance is utterly repellent to Pinkie and he sees the traditional path of marriage and children as a slow death, he convinces Rose he loves her in order to dissuade her from talking to anyone about what she knows.  Is he willing to sacrifice his “bitter virginity” (whatever the fuck that means), his freedom, and even his eternal soul in order to keep Rose quiet?

Like basically every other Graham Greene novel ever written, this one is highly critical of the Catholic Church.  Pinkie and Rose are both Catholic, in contrast with Ida, who isn’t religious but spiritual and has a few weird superstitions about ghosts and Ouija boards.  As a child, Pinkie wanted to be a priest, and Greene draws parallels between his contempt for the rest of humanity, indifference to suffering, and disdain of sex and romantic love with the Catholic Church.  Greene also prods quite a bit at the two Catholic characters’ willingness to sin despite the promise of eternal damnation, going so far as to say “a Catholic is more capable of evil than anyone” (246).  (Ha ha, since this isn’t an English paper, I can end this paragraph with a quote and refuse to offer any explanation whatsoever!)

For some reason I didn’t get into his the first time around I tried it, but I LOVED it this time.  It’s outrageously cynical, and the only novel I can think of in which a candy tourists buy in Brighton is used as a metaphor for the inescapability of human nature.

Fair warning that you’ll have to deal with a reasonable amount of dated ‘30s slang that feels made up, esp. re:  women.  (Both “buer” and “polony” get thrown around A LOT and I still don’t fully understand what either means.  I just kept thinking of Polonius from Hamlet and also Thelonious Monk every time someone used the word “polony.”)

The end also gets a bit melodramatic, and it’s hard not to imagine physically throwing Rose.  She’s an idiot.  Most frustrating is that Ida, the only likeable character, gets quite a lot of focus at the beginning of the novel, but then Pinkie receives more and more attention.  I was so excited when I thought (however briefly) this was actually a female-centric Greene novel.

My favorite quote is also a good test of whether you might enjoy this one or find it too dark and cynical:  “That was what happened to a man in the end: the stuffy room, the wakeful children, the Saturday night movements from the other bed. Was there no escape––anywhere––for anyone? It was worth murdering a world” (92).  Chills, you guys.

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

The Spectator’s review on the back of the book says of Greene, “Entertaining he may always be; comforting, never,” which I think is the most accurate description of his novels I’ve ever read.  (And at the same time seems a bit like backhanded praise and also possibly written by Yoda?)  I can’t think of another writer quite like Greene; perhaps Cormac McCarthy in terms of bleakness?  John Le Carré in terms of suspense and a darker take on spying (as in The Quiet American)?  William Golding for shared views on human nature?  He’s not quite like any other writer I can think of, which is why I love him so much.

Btw, there’s apparently a 1947 film version that scandalized the nation for being too violent, which I cannot WAIT to see.


Food Blogging: Dayton Restaurant Week

I’ve blogged about movies, books, TV, random nonsense, feelings, my cat…why not food?  The time feels right.  I’m reviewing all 4 courses of my Restaurant Week experience and then counting down the days until the next one.

Dayton Restaurant Week happens in January and July every year, and it’s a beautiful thing.  It is the only time of the year when I can afford a 3 or 4 course meal without eating ramen for the rest of the month.

The thing about me is I love food, and regret nothing about choosing Meadowlark for this Restaurant Week, already one of my favorite places to begin with.  Meadowlark is a Dayton establishment, owned locally and operated on the basis of serving new twists on old classics with fresh produce and unexpected flavors.  Even if it sounds like a strange combination on the menu, you know whatever you order will be amazing.  Because it’s Meadowlark.

Please join me and my mother for dinner.  Or, rather, look upon my food pics, ye mighty, and despair.

Course 1:  Beet Borscht with Rye Croutons


I’ve got to be honest–say the word “borscht,” and I will probably react with indifference.  Are beets really anyone’s favorite?  And chilled soup is odd as a concept.  However, this soup was amazing; lots of dill so the beet flavor wasn’t overwhelming, and a bit of sour cream to add some richness.  I expected this course to be my least favorite, but it was a strong start to the menu.

Course 2:  Corn Griddle Cakes


These were served with a poblano cream sauce, tomatoes, and bacon (which I opted out of).  The cakes themselves were soft, moist, and just a little bit crunchy on the outside.  What stole the show here was the sauce, which brought most of the flavor to this course, and just the tiniest bit of spice.  Though I’m not a vegetarian, I’m really appreciative of Meadowlark’s efforts to offer vegetarian options and adjustments.  My mom opted for the Deconstructed Shrimp Cocktail for this course, but I think this was the better appetizer.

Course 3:  Za’atar Chicken Cooked Under a Brick


Truly a highlight of the menu–the couscous was great, veggies were good, and the chicken was some of the best I’ve ever had.  So juicy and tender inside, with a crunchy exterior seasoned with…whatever za’atar is.  I thought chicken cooked under a brick was just a hipster thing, but I stand corrected.  I want to eat only this chicken for the rest of my life.  My sole criticism is the yogurt sauce seemed purely decorative, and I couldn’t really taste it in the dish (OH GOD, have I been watching too much Chopped???).

My mom opted for Cream Cheese and Fresh Corn Enchiladas, which were also delicious.  The accompanying zucchini and squash were amazing too, and I maintain it’s a crime that I don’t have two stomachs.


Course 4:  Ina’s Chocolate Blobb with Whipped Dulce de Leche


I don’t really get what a chocolate blobb IS.  It was like a very dark chocolate brownie combined with a cookie.  Whatever it was, it was delicious.  The whipped dulce de leche was the standout part of this course, though the flavor was very subtle.  I would’ve preferred for the dulce de leche to come out a bit more because the strongest flavor was really the whipped cream (not that I’m complaining).

My mom opted for Dessert Bruschetta:  pound cake, raspberry ice cream, almonds, and chocolate sauce.  This one was slightly better as a dessert because of the raspberry ice cream; it had so much fruit flavor and struck the perfect balance between being bitter and sweet.  Biggest criticism here was the pound cake seemed overcooked.


Overall, we were very happy with the number of choices available and the mix of flavors in each course.  The courses didn’t necessarily go together thematically, but I enjoyed the different elements forming a sort of hodge podge that worked together beautifully.  I tried flavor combinations new to me in every course, and I still salivate Homer Simpson-style thinking about that chicken.  I would expect nothing less from Meadowlark.

God bless Restaurant Week.  It’s probably for the best (in terms of my finances) that it’s only twice a year.

Can someone please pay me to be a food critic now?

in a crowded room, a man lifts a smiling woman over his head
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Dirty Dancing, or: The Other St. Patrick

This month we both celebrate and mourn the end of summer by giving our brains a break.  Apparently that means ripping our own hearts out and dragging them along the ground because that is approximately the ease with which I objectively approached the beautiful dream that is this classic.  Objectivity is overrated anyway.

The Film:

Dirty Dancing

Where to Watch:

Please borrow my copy if you’ve never watched this because it hurts my heart to think about knowing anyone who hasn’t seen this movie

The Premise:

For the love of all that is holy, please stop and watch this damn movie.  I’ll make you popcorn.  Actually, I think I’m out of popcorn.

The Uncondensed Version:

It’s 1963 and Baby is off to the swanky summer resort where her family stays every year.  (Or, you know, the ‘80s version of the ‘60s because so many of the hairstyles/songs are completely anachronistic but IDGAF.)  Baby is such a goody two-shoes that she can’t imagine any man as great as her dad (vomit).  That is, until…okay, not yet.  NOT.  YET.

We need a teensy bit more set up.  Baby has her future mapped out:  she’ll study the economics of developing countries at Mt. Holyoke, then join the Peace Corp and save the world.  Her heart is in the right place, but she’s so idealistic it hurts.  Also really bad at dancing, which is unfortunate because it seems like the only activity available besides wandering around at night wearing a knitted sweater.

a young woman looks into the distance with a neutral facial expression
I also make this face when I have to talk to boys.

Baby’s father keeps setting her up with dick-bag Ivy League types whose self-confidence is matched only by their sleaze.  Is it any wonder, then, that Baby is immediately drawn to Patrick Swayze, who walks up late wearing sunglasses (inside) and knocks things off of set tables, thus establishing his role as bad boy who gives zero fucks?  He also does a very nice mambo and has extremely controlled hip movements, which doesn’t hurt.

So Swayze’s character is named Johnny Castle, which I just hate.  It sounds like the name of a White Castle knock-off, doesn’t it?

But I digress.  After several evenings of wandering around, Baby finally gets into the cool kids club by famously carrying a melon.  As it turns out, what the cool kids do all night is practice some rather risqué dance moves in the ‘60s version of a rave/hotbed of sin.  The most valuable piece of intel Baby gathers is that Swayze is NOT dating his super gorgeous dance partner, Penny.  And that his hips are magical.

a man dancing with a woman falls back in a move that defies gravity
Literally made of magic.

Baby continues to dodge sleaze balls and participate in the resort’s tacky entertainment until one night she finds Penny crying alone in the kitchen.  Baby has a good excuse to track down Swayze and learns that Penny is pregnant.  Who’s the baby daddy?  Not Swayze, contrary to literally every single person’s assumptions.  It’s actually the creepy waiter who is attending Yale and sort of dating Baby’s sister.  When Baby confronts him about the pregnancy, he acts like a total dick bag and recommends The Fountainhead.  Honestly the complete embodiment of being a dick bag.

With no alternative, Baby asks her father for the money needed for Penny’s abortion, supplying an “It’s really important” line as her only explanation.  Surprisingly, this works(??!).  I think I’ve just never had a good enough reputation for people to take me at my word.

Of course the major complication is that Penny can’t miss this big performance at another resort and no one else could possibly fill in.  Right, Baby?  Esp. when Patrick Swayze emphatically insists there’s no way she could.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand cue “Hungry Eyes.”  In every sense.

a woman laughs with head thrown back as a man with an exasperated expression stands behind her
This scene.  ❤ ❤ ❤

Everything leads up to the big performance, which goes okay, and Penny’s abortion, which does not.  Guess how safe it is to get an abortion when men try to restrict women’s reproductive rights?  Baby needs help from her father yet again, though he’s not so understanding this time and forbids her from seeing Swayze or any of his crowd again.

…Which, you know, means she goes directly to a shirtless Swayze’s room.  And I got chills during this entire scene because not only is it such an emotionally raw scene, but it’s so sexy even though there’s not a ton of nudity.

I feel any further plot summary gets lost in translation, so let’s wrap it up.  You either know the rest and worship at the altar of St. Patrick Swayze or you have a heart of stone.  Amongst the many obstacles facing Baby and Swayze are sleazeballs, prejudice, assumptions, cougars, arbitrary rules, and theft.  And this is all before we’re even close to cueing “She’s Like the Wind.”

Needless to say, I was dead emotionally well before the heart-stopping classic line “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”  Flat lining.

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

For a movie remembered as an ‘80s teen fantasy, this one explores some dark themes.  Abortion I think is the obvious one, esp. the real dangers women faced in finding a safe, affordable operation during a time when it was illegal.

On a related note, privilege also receives a lot of attention.  With enough money, even a total sleaze like Robbie the waiter can coast by relatively unscathed; he loses a recommendation letter, but is there any doubt he’ll land on his feet after the summer ends?  Penny, on the other hand—what will become of her?

Baby naively believes everyone deserves the same opportunities in life and realizes for the first time how untrue this is and what an unfair place the world is.  There is a stark contrast between the future she has ahead of her vs. Swayze, whose character will be lucky if he ends up with a steady job painting houses.  Swayze also feels completely used by the wealthy older women who want, ahem, private dance lessons from him.

There’s a bittersweet yearning for the past since this film is a coming of age story, the end of an era, but also the transition to a better future.  Baby isn’t so sure what she’ll do by the end of the movie, but she has definitely decided to reject the life her parents chose and the cocoon they built around her.

Okay, yes, Baby’s growth as a person is triggered in large part by her relationship with a man, but it’s her love of dance that gives her freedom, power, confidence, and self-expression over (even) Patrick Swayze.  Ultimately, both Baby and Swayze learn from each other, and not in the way of weird old Hollywood movies where he’s her teacher/guardian/lover (looking at you, My Fair Lady).  Baby’s empowerment actually improves all of her relationships, even with her dad as he learns to respect her autonomy.

Moral of the story:  EVERY.  SINGLE.  LINE.  In this film.  Is classic and beautiful.

I said Patrick Swayze should be sainted as an offhand FB comment, but I stand by it.  Patrick Swayze is my religion.  Those hips have performed miracles.  (But seriously, please don’t smoke.)

Let’s not even pretend:  Christa is a living human being.  She loves this film.  Find out by reading her review here!