blogiversary, Collaborative Blogging

A Short History of Films I Never Would Have Watched Without the Blog Collab

While I consider myself an open-minded person, I am very much a creature of habit. For this reason, I’ve accepted I will never actually watch Ben-Hur or The Tree of Life or The Human Centipede (it’s difficult to decide which of these films would be most torturous to watch). But keeping the Blog Collab going for 5 years means I’ve watched my share of films I’d never in a million years choose myself, whether they fall outside of my usual genre or off my radar. Whether I’ve expected to or not, I’ve ended up enjoying many of the films I’ve been less than thrilled to watch.

So let’s take some time to appreciate a few films–good and bad–that I never would have watched without the Blog Collab and enjoy the times we manage to step ever so slightly outside of our comfort zone.

Appropriate Behavior

The Premise: A young Persian American woman deals with the aftermath of a breakup and loss of her job while keeping that she’s bisexual a secret from her family.

I may have never discovered the work of Desiree Akhavan without the Collab, and what a damn shame that would be. Or perhaps I would have, as she’s gone on to work on films like The Miseducation of Cameron Post. One thing’s for sure: I’m glad we watched this offbeat comedy together, with its dry wit that brought us such memorable lines as “I’m looking for the grown-up underwear of a woman in charge of her sexuality and not afraid of change.”

Bar Bahar (In Between)

Three women stand outside on a balcony at night, drinks in their hands, the lights of Tel Aviv behind them.

The Premise: 3 Palestinian women sharing an apartment in Tel Aviv attempt to navigate the forces of tradition and modernity on their lives and future plans.

Like so many of my favorite films on the Blog Collab, this tale of unlikely friendship focuses on feminism and women supporting each other through harrowing challenges. The women in this film learn to love each other as they realize the divisions between them are largely artificial. Even though this broke my fucking heart, I’d do it all over again.

Black Christmas

The Premise: An unknown creep stalks and murders the members of a sorority house during Christmas in the 1970s. And it reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally looks like the ‘70s.

GLASS. UNICORN. MURDER. Those are the only words that matter to me in connection with this film. Everything else about this “classic” horror film is largely forgettable (except for, of course, the strong ’70s vibe), but the inventive murders really steal the spotlight here.

Bright

The Premise: Two members of the LAPD–one orc, one Will Smith–team up to prevent the prophesied return of the generic medieval fantasy-type dark wizard.

Considering how much Christa and I loved Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, we expected the bonkers premise of this film to come together into a story so bizarre it somehow worked. However, much like writer Max Landis himself, Bright turned out to be horrible and disappointing. Rather than an imaginative twist on the buddy-cop drama, this film was a boring police procedural with fairies thrown in, but I wear the experience of watching this like a badge of honor.

Divines

The Premise: Teens in Paris are determined to make money by any means possible to escape their tough neighborhood and family dysfunction.

Sometimes I need a push to watch a serious drama, especially when living in our world from day to day feels dramatic enough. However, I never regret a compelling drama that brings me outside of my everyday routine and gives me the perspective of a character whose life is so different from mine. The tough but determined teens in this film share a beautiful but heartbreaking friendship that made me ugly cry. No regrets, though.

Hellraiser IV

Pinhead, a demon wearing all-leather and with pins sticking out of his face and skull, looms above the camera, looking down.

The Premise: Pinhead returns (again) in past, present, and future timelines to end the bloodline that created the original demon Rubik’s cube.

I would have missed out on some quality(?) Hellraiser sequels if we hadn’t decided to sit down and enjoy the questionable (but actually quite perfect) Hellraiser/Ewan McGregor theme of our own invention. That includes this gem, which plays with timelines in a very confusing manner, but does give us an unexpected Pinhead appearance in 18th century France. You know I love a period drama, so combining Hellraiser and the French Revolution can only ever yield positive results in my opinion.

Holy Camp!

The Premise: Teen bffs at a religious summer camp must contend with secret parties, the crushing of their dreams, visits from an unexpectedly glittery God, and attractive nuns.

Teens at summer camp coming of age, realizations about budding sexuality, Whitney Houston songs sung by a rather campy God…this film should not work. Its premise is completely insane and has the potential to devolve into a sickly sweet after-school special. However, the humanity of its characters–teens, nuns, novices, God–turns a mish-mash of cliches into a fun and genuinely moving story that affirms love in all of its forms.

Lovestruck the Musical

The Premise: A successful choreographer becomes young again (not just in spirit) and tries to sabotage her daughter’s wedding.

I have watched more horrible made-for-tv rom-coms in the past 5 years than I have in my entire fucking life, I swear. I try not to dismiss entire film genres (especially as B-movies are so much fun to watch), but I admit that I frequently throw shade at these Hallmark-style cheese fests. Guess what: even sappy TV musicals can surprise you. Though not particularly memorable in itself, this film’s commentary on ageism in Hollywood and our culture as a whole reminds me that even light entertainment can have some depth.

The Lure

Three women face forward with somber expressions. A woman standing in the middle has her arms around the two younger women on either side.

The Premise: This loose modernization of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid” features much more gore, cabaret numbers, and fangs than most adaptations.

Honestly, one of the more insane films we’ve watched for the Collab, period. Part horror, part musical, and entirely odd, this is yet another concept that shouldn’t work. However, we loved this film and its dark little heart, complete with creepy songs with mistranslated lyrics. The Lure is certainly not short on creativity or vision, and is satisfyingly feminist in a sort of “burn it all down” sense.

Planet of the Sharks

The Premise: Climate change has submerged nearly the entire Earth in water, transforming the world into…the planet of the sharks.

Is this the best shark B-movie out there? God no. All I know is a woman screaming in rage while kabobing sharks with a spear is my aesthetic, and I thank the universe for the divine inspiration that brought Shark Month into being.

How do you push yourself to go beyond your comfort zone?

Header photo by Blake Wheeler on Unsplash
blogiversary, Collaborative Blogging

The Soundtrack of the Blog Collab

If there’s anything I love more than bad movies, it’s sad folk-inspired music.  The beauty of the Blog Collab is its potential to combine both of these interests; when I’m writing a blog post, I’m very often listening to sad folk (but I do occasionally branch out of this melancholy genre!).

Here’s a peek at my typical playlist (with all of the Avril Lavigne filtered out and some unnecessary commentary thrown in):

  1. “I Wish I Was the Moon” — Neko Case
    The ultimate sad folk song; Neko Case is the queen of despair as evidenced by the lyrics “How will you know if you’ve found me at last? / ‘Cause I’ll be the one be the one be the one / with my heart in my lap.”
  2.  “Rabbit Hole” – Jenny Lewis
    If you don’t love Jenny Lewis, you’re wrong.  Period.  Her latest album has the most fun, irresistible ‘70s vibe.
  3. “He’s Fine” – The Secret Sisters
    I love the sad harmonies in this song that break my heart rather than fill it with rage towards the two-timing Davy White.  Okay—I might have a little bit of anger set aside for him.
  4. “Hi Ho” – The War and Treaty
    This soul- and gospel-inspired husband and wife duo creates masterfully sad and deeply felt songs that have no right being so catchy.
  5. “Touching the Ground” — Brandi Carlile
    It’s also accurate to say I listen to this woman’s entire music catalogue whenever I write.
  6. “I Wanna Be Your Girlfriend” – Ezra Furman
    I only approve of love songs when they challenge gender norms.
  7. “Hey Eugene” – Pink Martini
    Possibly the only song about a drunken make-out session to pull off a sweet sense of romantic longing and regret.
  8. “Penny to My Name” – Eva Cassidy
    Eva Cassidy’s voice is so beautiful that you only realize halfway through this song that it’s about a woman who had a shotgun wedding and now lives in rural poverty from which she will never escape.
  9. “All We Ever Knew” – The Head & the Heart
    I’m a basic hipster bitch, so obviously I like this song.
  10. “Fruits of My Labor” – Lucinda Williams
    I feel weird about how sexy this song is considering it’s also despairingly sad.  Who says it can’t be both, though?
A woman lies reclined on the ground, one foot resting on an old school boom box.
Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash
  1. “And It Spread” – The Avett Brothers
    You’d think spreading love would always be a good thing until you get to the line about shooting your arm full of love like it’s heroin.
  2. “James” – Camera Obscura
    Based exclusively on this song, I will never trust a James.  Or at least I will never think I know a James well.
  3. “Stay Gold” – First Aid Kit
    Like the absolute killjoys they are, First Aid Kit uses the example of a beautiful sunset to remind us that nothing good can last.
  4. “Firecracker” – The Wailin’ Jennys
    I absolutely adore this band’s folk- and bluegrass-inspired sound, and their devastating lyrics. In this song: “Knowledge pulls the reins against the bliss that I once knew / When you set your sights on me and the firecrackers flew.”
  5. “Another Sunny Day” – Belle & Sebastian
    With Belle & Sebastian, even the saddest songs are inappropriately upbeat, and this is no exception.
  6. “Best Kept Secret” – Case/Lang/Veirs
    It’s impossible not to love the Case/Lang/Veirs collaboration, and this catchy song is further evidence.
  7. “Son of Your Father” – Elton John
    I firmly believe I was born listening to Elton John, and chances are I will die listening to Elton John as well.  This one follows a familiar narrative Bernie Taupin seems to appreciate:  two parties at odds seem to reach a peaceful solution, then promptly take things on an extreme reverse course until everyone ends up dead.
  8. “Dusty Boxcar Wall” – Eilen Jewell
    I love the soulful bluegrass feel of this song and the directness of the lyrics about a woman leaving her lover with an unsentimental message written on a boxcar wall.
  9. “Coping Mechanism” – Shovels & Rope
    I’m obsessed with the emotion Cary Ann Hearst’s voice expresses; specifically devastation.  But all of the different types of devastation!
  10.  “Fuel the Fire” – Sarah Jarosz
    Something in my soul cannot resist the twang of Sarah’s voice and her banjo playing.

What do you listen to when you write?

Header photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
blogiversary, Collaborative Blogging

A Toast to the Blog Collab

This post is all about you, Blog Collab. February 2020 marks 5 years of watching and reviewing painfully bad (and occasionally brilliant) films with my partner in crime, Christa. I can’t think of anything I’ve done consistently for 5 years besides overindulge when it comes to raw cookie dough, so this is a big fucking deal.

When I signed up for the WordPress-created Blogging 101 course, I had no idea it would transform my blogging practice.  My main goal was to develop a regular writing practice, and I really hoped to build a blogging community.  Considering the number of people who blog and the range of topics they focus on, it seemed unlikely I would find others who shared my interests and frequently bizarre sense of humor.  It didn’t help that I wasn’t exactly trying—I was usually doing the bare minimum assigned for the course, and I absolutely dreaded the weeks when I had to go comment on random blogs. I felt everyone had kind, clever comments to make, and my contributions were the equivalent of sending a “hey” DM.

How overwhelmingly unlikely then—perhaps bordering on miraculous—that I found such a warm, wonderful, witty, and witchy blog partner in the form of Christa. We have only met IRL once, but we’ve shared a goal and many traumatically horrible movies that have made the distance feel small. I am positive she would be embarrassed, but I’m constantly inspired by her style, artistic eye and expression, and truthfulness about times when life isn’t exactly a bowl of cherries.

Proof we’ve met IRL!

I say without judgment that so many of the bloggers I met 5 years ago are no longer on WordPress. Possibly because many people have moved on from blogging to other forms of social media or their lives are simply busy with other priorities.

Five years on, I’m certainly not in this for the likes or the (non-existent) ad revenue.  I can’t speak for others, but the main reason I’m still blogging is because of my incredible blog partner who keeps me accountable and encourages me to continue writing.

I don’t have a lot of followers, but I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done.  I feel immensely happy we have become and stayed friends and supported each other, especially given the rollercoaster the last few years have been–personally and basically on a global scale.  As sensitive, anxious people who worry about the state of the world, we have both struggled to hold onto some sense of compassion and hope. I’m incredibly proud of our growth, and the ways we have made our own meaning and purpose even when things feel beyond our control. I certainly wouldn’t claim that blogging replaces therapy (I’ve been in and out of counseling throughout the Blog Collab), but it’s very much a therapeutic activity.  We have most definitely pushed ourselves to challenge our boundaries.

And we have absolutely put the work in; conservatively, we each write around 750 words per week because of the Blog Collab.  Over the past 5 years, that totals 195,000 words, i.e. the length of a novel.  And not just any novel:  we’re approaching Deathly Hallows levels with that word count, or any number of books that could cause serious physical injury with very little effort.

So here’s to you, Blog Collab, and of course my gem of a blog wife, Christa. I won’t lie; I am still going to worry obsessively about right wing extremists, climate change, white supremacy, misogyny, global pandemics, genocide, nuclear war, and the fact that I worry too much. I’m positive my blog is doing nothing to make any of these problems better. All I know is my life would be infinitely worse without you, Blog Collab. And in that spirit I toast to you and all of the coincidences that occurred to make the collab fall so fortuitously into place. Here’s to another 5 years!

Header photo by Anastasiia Rozumna on Unsplash