Shows You Should Be Watching If You Aren’t Already: Big Little Lies

A first grade class that’s almost like if Lululemon, Whole Foods, Real Simple and Dwell collaborated on an elementary school. Upmarket Monterey moms with a lot of mystery, intrigue and in-fighting. The return of David E. Kelley at his best. And somebody dead — murdered at a tony school fundraiser, quite possibly by another parent. HBO’s Big Little Lies (produced by Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, a Nashville dream team if ever there was one) is only four episodes in but I’m already knee-deep in theories and questions. I don’t want to give away too many plot points, so I’ve devised a handy equation to explain the show instead:

Twin Peaks + Desperate Housewives + (1/2 x Stepford Wives) + ( Mean Girls x The Alison Hendrix Parts Of Orphan Black) = Big Little Lies

We have the piece-by-pieces investigation of an unsolved murder of Twin Peaks, the dark, suburban dealings of Desperate Housewives, the surprising satire of upper-class femininity of The Stepford Wives, the social machinations and stratifications of Mean Girls and the tightly-wound perfection of Alison Hendrix’s fast-unraveling life. It’s a quick watch, and a show you’ll want to catch up on.

Although it can be fun to see a well-known actor cast totally against type, there is something incredibly satisfying about the on-the-nose typecasting going on in Big Little Lies. Reese Witherspoon plays Madeline Martha Mackenzie, the high-strung, type-A scheming mom to first grader Chloe and teenage Abigail. Imagine Tracy Flick mixed with Regina George, but somehow less devious: Madeline is one of those perfectionists who has to carefully arrange her whole personal and social world just-so or it might all fall down around her. Madeline is the spoke of the Monterey mom circle, both in that she’s the center of everything and in that if she’s spun too hard, you get the impression that pieces will go flying about in all directions. Madeline is married to Ed (Adam Scott), who while not quite Ben Wyatt nevertheless can seem like the quintessential Decent American Man.

Madeline’s circle also includes Celeste Wright. Once again the role is cast to perfection: Nicole Kidman as a pristine, wealthy, slightly icy former lawyer — and half of a couple that’s so well-manicured that you just know something’s way off behind the scenes. Perry (Alexander Skarsgard) is her husband, free of surface flaws but bubbling with some kind of rage under the surface.

At the beginning of the series, a very non-Monterey mom enters the picture. Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley) is easily 10 years younger than the other moms, decidedly moderate-income, and the single mother to little Ziggy (Iain Armitage AKA Iain Loves Theatre – don’t sleep on this kid). It’s a deliciously Shailene Woodley-esque role. Jane is a little crunchy, a little new-agey, and kind of lovably kooky. Still, you’ll have as many questions about her as you will about anyone else, some of which will be answered over the course of the first 4 episodes (there was a little glimpse of something in the first episode that suddenly made sense in the third, that kind of thing).

All of these characters have children in the same first-grade class, and the rest of the core circle revolves around the same classroom. Nathan Carson (James Tupper) is Madeline’s ex-husband, married to younger Bonnie (Zoe Kravitz, in a role I could have EASILY seen Lisa Bonet in a decade or so ago. Or maybe still? Woman hasn’t aged). Renata Klein (the fantastic Laura Dern) is the mother to Amabella, set at odds against Madeline’s clique when Amabella accuses Ziggy of hurting her during first grade orientation.

Unlike another little lies show you may know – Pretty Little Liars – this whodunnit (and to-whom-dunnit) won’t be dragged out for season upon season. Four episodes have aired, and there are three more to go. It’s a limited series, and director Jean-Marc Vallee has promised that “you will know everything.” Until then, I’m enjoying all of the questions.

Life Lessons From The Fault in Our Stars: C+S Book Club

Hey C+S Book Club-ers! Last time we visited Harriet the Spy, and since we’re ladies in our *late 20s*, our next choice is obviously a little more mature than a kid spy. This time it’s about teenagers.

By now, most of you have heard about or read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, a young adult novel about two teens, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters who meet and fall in love. Oh and they both have cancer. I remember reading this for back when it first came out and appropriately crying harder than I have ever cried before. Legit had to stop reading it for a few days because it made me that sad. Now that the movie is coming out today, I can only imagine how that feeling will be magnified thousands of times more once I see it with my eyes. But essentially, TFiOS isn’t supposed to be a sad story, it’s supposed to be a celebration of life, no matter how long or short it is. So with that, here are just a few of the life lessons I gleaned from reading this book – **spoilers ahead** (but you should really read this book and see the movie anyways).

You can’t escape the hurdles

“I wondered if hurdlers ever thought, ‘This would go faster if we just got rid of the hurdles.'”

Hazel & Augustus initially meet in a cancer support group for teens, so a lot of the folks we encounter in the book (save for the parents and hospital staff) have been dealt a rather bad card of hands when it comes to overcoming difficulties in life. But it’s there in front of them, and the only thing to do is try to clear it and get to the next problem. We may face hardships in our life, but we can’t just give up. What would become of us if we didn’t have hardships or hurdles to get over and improve our lives (hopefully) for the better? The things that try to bring us down in the past only make us stronger. And then we can look back and see just what we’ve gone through.

Pain demands to be felt

“That’s the thing about pain – it demands to be felt”

Pain wouldn’t be pain if we didn’t at least feel something when we get hurt. You can’t go on avoiding something that you know is going to hurt you because you don’t want to feel it. If you do, it’s going to get worse and worse, so it’s better to just let it all out. In TFiOS, Augustus’ BFF Isaac has eye cancer, and subsequently has to undergo surgery which leaves him blind. During this time, his girlfriend breaks up with him, and he has so much rage that he just needs to let it all out. Augustus lets Isaac demolish his old basketball trophies in his basement, as if it’s no big deal. Why? Because Isaac needed to let it out. There’s no use of keeping that anger and frustration in. And while it might be gut-wrenching as it happens, that pain needs to be felt – or it will never go away.

Time isn’t good to anyone

“What a slut time is. She screws everybody.”

I can’t tell you how many times over the past few days I’ve said, “HOW IS IT JUNE ALREADY?!?” When we want time to speed up, it seems to slow down. When we want it to slow down, it’s like it’s gone in seconds. Luckily, everyone is a victim of time’s bitter kiss. Both Hazel and Augustus know they don’t have very good chances of staying alive forever, so it’s even more frustrating that they fall in love knowing this devastating fact. But the most they – and we – can do is make the most of our time, and not waste it on things we will regret doing.

Dare to be fearless

“Our fearlessness shall be our secret weapon.”

It’s easier said than done, but a problem I think a lot of people have is not being afraid to jump in and do something out of your comfort zone, no matter the outcome. We worry too much about what’s going to happen next that we don’t think about how great it could be if we even try. For the longest time, Hazel put her feelings about Augustus to the side, and refused to let their friendship turn romantic, as she called herself a “grenade”, ready to explode at any second. She finally put that fear aside and let her guard down, only to experience one of the greatest loves of her life.

Your true self is revealed in the darkest of times

“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”

Like 9/11 or the Boston Marathon, there were the people who ran away from the explosions, then there were the first responders who initial reaction was to run towards the problem to see who they could help. That first gut reaction of how you respond to something tragic and life-changing tells a lot about you as a person. You can either give up, not face the “hurdles”, or you can be strong, live a life – live a better life knowing that whatever caused you grief in the first place has since given you reason to become a better person. When Hazel and Augustus visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Hazel takes note that Anne’s father, Otto, was the only one out of their family to survive the Holocaust. She says, “I thought about Otto Frank not being a father anymore, left with a diary instead of a wife and two daughters.” Otto eventually decided to publish that diary, and of course it went on to become on of the most revered and studied books from the war. Otto didn’t give up when he was left alone – he preserved their legacy.

You can’t always get what you want

“The world is not a wish granting factory.”

“Cancer perks” are what Hazel and Augustus call the things they’ve received in sympathy for their struggles with cancer, you know the Make-a-Wish type things. Throughout the book, they make it clear that their sickness is not what defines them, it’s just something they have to live with, therefore the cancer perks, while usually cool, ultimately doesn’t give them what they really want. If you do want something, you have to work for it, and if you don’t get it – you don’t get it. Not everything is going to work out in your favor, but the most we can do is try.

A life is still important, no matter how long or how short

“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”

Probably one of the most quoted excerpts from the book, this line really sums up the entire story of Hazel and Augustus. Towards the end of the book (again, spoiler alert, I’ve warned you twice!) Augustus dies, another teenager succumbing to that bitch called cancer. While his life may have been short compared to you know, people who live to be 100, he still lived a significant life. The point of the book isn’t to feel sorry for Hazel and Gus, it’s to remind us that a life, no matter how long, or how short, can still make a profound impact on those around you, but it’s our choice  as to how we decide to live it.

ICYMI: Shailene Woodley Creatures

Shailene Woodley, former American Teenager, is a great actress, but let’s be honest – her crunchy granola hippie ways are a tad odd…

What’s In Shailene Woodley’s Bag?

According to Shailene Woodley, Shailene Woodley is a clay-eating, toothpaste-making, showtune-in-the-morning singing not-feminist who says “Gaia” non-ironically and gathers spring water from a mountain brook. She’s also, like, a little bit homeless. Does this surprise anyone?

Woodley’s not homeless in the “not having a home” sense: she owns one, but her grandma lives there. She’s more homeless in the “sleeping on my friends’ sofas, clogging the sink drain with lumps of clay, smelling like those salt crystal sticks that, no, do NOT work just as well as deodorant, thank you very much” sense. Well, let’s let Shailene explain it, actually:

Let’s inventory Shailene Woodley’s bag. On Kimmel she lists the following items: (1) computer; (1) hoodie situation; (1) pair jeans; (some) basic tees and tanks; (1) temporary cell phone because the studio got annoyed that she kept disappearing into the wilderness to worship the moon goddess; and (indeterminate) leggings.

Okay, let’s all picture all of those items. They’d totally fit into an airplane-standard carry-on, I think we can all agree. But that can’t be it, right? Based on my research, here are some other things that Shailene Woodley owns:

  • Vibram Five-Finger Shoes: Those creepy glove-shoes that seem like they were invented by the guy who has the patent on those little round blister band-aids, in order to drum up business.


Magical fairy with a bag like Mary Poppins or not, Shai is still a good actresses who’s managed to be in not one but two super successful YA book film adaptations over the past year. Here are some more of our favorites from the genre.

YA Book-To-Film Adaptations: 2013-2014 Edition

It’s no secret that we like a good Young Adult novel. Whatever –  we’re functioning, erudite adults who like books written for the 12-17 year old age bracket. It looks like we’re not the only ones, because there are a whole bunch of YA books being made into movies this year.

Here are a few of the films we’re most excited about. We’re including the release date – so you know how long you have to read the book. We’re also letting you know whether you should make an effort to read the book first, or if you if  can just skip it or pencil it in at your leisure. Our final category is the  Predicted Potter effect. See, most Harry Potter fans agree that the books by JK Rowling are the One True Harry Potter Series – but I love the movies, too. The filmmakers included just enough of the plot and captured the visuals of the books so well that the movies – by themselves, not in comparison to the book – are excellent. So, the Predicted Potter Effect is, on a 1-10 scale, how well the movie will work as a stand-alone piece.

Catching Fire

Release Date: November 22, 2013

Should I read the book first? Maybe. If you saw the first Hunger Games movie but didn’t read the book, then I wouldn’t skip the first book and jump into the second. Just go to the movie and catch up on the books later. If you have already read the first book and somehow didn’t finish the whole series within the course of a week, then you’ll probably want to read the second before seeing the movie.

Predicted Potter Effect: 8. I know people who saw the first movie without reading the book and they still enjoyed it, so I suppose this can hold up by itself. But, I also heard stupid confused comments in the movie theater from people who clearly hadn’t read the book — so, I think some of the narrative is a little clearer if you’ve read the book.

The Book Thief

Release Date: November 22, 2013

Should I read the book first? Probably – although, maybe this is one where the movie is better if you aren’t comparing it to the book, meaning that you could save the book for later. Either way, it’s worth reading.  I’m not sure how the narrative device will work in film — the book is narrated by death. The story follows Liesel, a foster child living in the outskirts of Munich during World War II. This is one of those books that’s for whatever reason labelled as Young Adult, but I can think of plenty of novels that are categorized as regular adult fiction with a young protagonist and straightforward narration. It’s a respectable grown-up read, too.

Predicted Potter Effect: 7. From what I’ve seen of the trailers, I expect the tone of the book to come across, although I am interested in seeing how the narration will work. The plot is so full that it will make a great stand-alone movie, but it will probably suffer a little in comparison to the book. This may just be me, but I find that books that have a large scope – lasting several years – feel a lot more compressed on film.

Divergent

Release Date: April 21, 2014

Should I read the book first? Probably – meaning, I probably should read it too. It’s been on my to-read-list but I’ve sort of had Teen Dystopian Universe fatigue.

Predicted Potter Effect: 7. Judging by the synopsis, a lot of the story rests on Tris’s inner life — her knowledge that she’s Divergent and decision about which faction to join. Obviously, that’s not so easy to convey on film. But, this sounds like a solid sci-fi/action film, so if you’re into those genres you might be okay without so much emphasis on the character’s feelings. Also, Shailene Woodley is such a solid actress that I think she’ll be able to show-not-tell the character’s conflict (I didn’t like The Descendants (sorry!), but she was great in it). Also also, Kate Winslet.

The Fault In Our Stars

Release Date: June 6, 2014

Should I read the book first? You should read the book – but whether you read it before or after the movie is probably immaterial. That is, I don’t think there will be any plot difficulties that you’ll have trouble understanding if you haven’t read the book. Still, my advice is to read it first because (1) it’s good, and (2) you have time. Author John Green has been involved in the film-making process, and has said that everyone from the actors to the set designers has done an awesome job in bringing his book to life in the way he imagined it. It will be fun to pick up on the little details from the book on-screen.

Predicted Potter Effect: 9. I have high hopes for this movie. In many ways, it’s easier to translate a book like this to the screen because it’s set in our everyday world. There’s a lot of variation in how you can envision Panem or Divergent-ville (I’m going to read it! I promise!), but I think we all have a handle on Indianapolis. So, there’s less of a chance that you’ll have to have read this book to fill in the holes of the plot and setting, making it easier to create a stand-alone film experience.

The Giver

Release Date: August 15, 2014

Should I read the book first? I’m assuming that most of our readers were already in fourth grade once, so I’m going to go ahead and guess that you already have.

Predicted Potter Effect: 5. I just don’t know how much I’ll be able to let myself slip into a different world while watching Taylor Swift and Katie Holmes. Also, apparently the guy playing Jonas is 24 – so, twice the age of Jonas in the book. All this makes me think it’s okay if you go into it already having loved the book, but might feel a little … weird as a movie. I don’t know. I just feel like most of the plot depends on Jonas and the other kids being put into their roles as soon as they’re hitting the teen years. If you are watching this because you loved the book you will like it, but if you don’t already have positive associations with the story you may feel a little skeeved out.

Saturday Spotlight: The Clooney Factor

This month, George Clooney got engaged to someone who is, shall we say, a little out of his league.

From zero to George Clooney, just how Clooney were this week’s posts?

2014 Unofficial Guide To Your New TV Addictions

Clooney Factor: 3  – because Clooney did get his start on TV, after all

May is a big month for television. In addition to all the season finales and unfortunate cancellations (TROPHY WIFE UGHHH), networks also reveal the pilots that have been picked up to series for the upcoming season. Every year, there are trailers that make you think ‘Why da faq did they pick this show up’ but then there’s always the ‘I need this show to come on now because watching the 3 minute preview isn’t enough’. To help you weed through the bramble, I’ve compiled a list of shows I think actually have a shot of making it at least one season. Are any of these your early favorites too?

The Comedies

A to Z

Thursdays, 9:30pm • NBC

If you’re a Mad Men fan, you might recognize the lead male as cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs Michael Ginsberg. If you’re a Mindy Project fan, you might remember him as the pretentious guy Mindy dated who adorably played the ukelele and sang a Katy Perry song. And if you’re a How I Met Your Mother fan, you might recognize the lead female as Tracy ‘I’m Not a Plot Device’ McConnell.

I’m going to be honest with you guys and tell you that I have probably watched this trailer at least 8 times already, which is probably 7 times too many. While Ben Feldman and Cristin Milioti aren’t necessarily big actor names like some of the other shows that got picked up for next season, I hope people still decide to watch it, because it looks super cute… and maybe a little HIMYM-esque? Whatevs, I’m into it.

Bad Judge

Thursdays, 9:00pm • NBC

The great Kate Walsh returns to network TV! Addison Montgomery has switched occupations and is now a judge. A ‘Bad Judge’ if you will. I didn’t really expect much before watching this, but I was delightfully surprised when I literally LOLed a couple times. It’s reminiscent of Bad Teacher, both the Cameron Diaz movie and the TV show which was recently cancelled after just a few episodes (side rant: I only saw the pilot, but it was hilarious. Come ON CBS).


Can We Make ‘The Maya Rudolph Show’ A Regular Thing?

Clooney Factor: 4 (Nick Clooney was a long-time TV host himself – shoutout to AMC when they used to play old movies!)

The Maya Rudolph Show was a one-time only event, but with our TV schedules cleared of all but the worst reality TV for the summer, I have to ask: can we make The Maya Rudolph Show a regular thing? Here’s why:

Maya Rudolph, Of Course

A great variety show needs a great host. That’s what separates the Carol Burnett Show from Donny and Marie, Your Show Of Shows and The Muppet Show from The Brady Bunch Variety Hour. And they don’t make better hosts than Maya Rudolph, a true triple threat: singing, acting, and making me spit Diet Coke onto my coffee table with a single eyebrow raise.

Maya’s delivery is always just on that next level. It’s like all of Maya’s characters are working so hard to sell it; like they’re all putting on little shows even in regular conversation. Take her Beyonce impression, for example. You can see the real Beyonce underneath the Beyonce persona going “hey, are you guys getting this?”

Silly Sketches

Network TV could use a bit more goofiness in the usual weeknight ‘cops ‘n doctors’ lineup. It’s nice to go to sleep after a bit of lighthearted silliness. The best example from last night? This sketch where Maya and Fred Armisen play the voices from your GPS to uncanny perfection. You know that Franken-accent that your GPS has – the stilted pauses, the weird diphthong that’s probably what’s going to happen when the Northern Cities Vowel Shift meets up with the Southern Shift once we all learn how to talk from the internet? And how you have to repeat yourself several times until it knows what you said? I can’t stand this silliness on my GPS, but I love it on my TV.


 

Things I Thought Would Happen Before George Clooney Got Married

Clooney Factor: 10 (That’s So George!)
Clooney reprising his role as Batman

Lou Bega making a legit come back

Wait, guys… I’m JUST realizing this is Mambo NUMBER 5. WHAT HAPPENED TO MAMBOS 1 THROUGH 4?!?


What’s In Shailene Woodley’s Bag?

Clooney Factor: 8 (like all conversations between the middle-aged women on whom you eavesdrop when you’re getting your hair cut, there is at least one George Clooney reference)

According to Shailene Woodley, Shailene Woodley is a clay-eating, toothpaste-making, showtune-in-the-morning singing not-feminist who says “Gaia” non-ironically and gathers spring water from a mountain brook. She’s also, like, a little bit homeless. Does this surprise anyone?

Let’s inventory Shailene Woodley’s bag. On Kimmel she lists the following items: (1) computer; (1) hoodie situation; (1) pair jeans; (some) basic tees and tanks; (1) temporary cell phone because the studio got annoyed that she kept disappearing into the wilderness to worship the moon goddess; and (indeterminate) leggings.

Okay, let’s all picture all of those items. They’d totally fit into an airplane-standard carry-on, I think we can all agree. But that can’t be it, right? Based on my research, here are some other things that Shailene Woodley owns:

  • Just a little bit of shampoo: Because she only shampoos about once a month. See article, above.
  • Some clay: She eats about a teaspoon of clay every day, and makes toothpaste out of it as well. I’d say conservative estimate, you can count on at least two cups of clay so she doesn’t have to keep buying clay all the time. But if you are extra crazy and go to the website of Woodley’s recommended clay vendor, you would see that the smallest size clay-ball is 1 pound. So there you have it. A one-pound bag of clay, chipped away a teaspoon at a time.
  • This horseradish root:

 Playlist of The Month: Best Original Songs By Fictional Artists

 Clooney Factor: 7 (Oh Brother Where Art Thou Arguably Should Have Made The List)
Pop! Goes My Heart from Music and Lyrics
Fictional Artists:  PoP!

What do you mean you’ve never seen this movie? For shame. It has Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, and Jason Street from Friday Night Lights, what more could you ask for? Probably a better plot and script, that’s what. I mean I didn’t think it was that bad of a movie, but cinephiles might disagree. Basically Hugh Grant plays a washed up former 80s pop star from a band called PoP! (which was inspired by Wham!). And his band mate is played by Scott Porter, who actually sings and dances IRL. Their hit song is Pop! Goes My Heart and this music video is awesomely 80s.

Killer Tofu from Doug
Fictional Artist: The Beets

Millenials, can you feel me right now?

Obviously The Beets were supposed to lampoon The Beatles, but it also seems like they’re ripping on the early-mid 90s British rock bands that were popular at the time. I’m looking at you, Oasis.

What’s In Shailene Woodley’s Bag?

According to Shailene Woodley, Shailene Woodley is a clay-eating, toothpaste-making, showtune-in-the-morning singing not-feminist who talks about “Gaia” and gathers spring water from a mountain brook. She’s also slightly homeless. Does this surprise anyone?

Woodley’s not homeless in the “not having a home” sense: she owns one, but her grandma lives there (because, if it doesn’t come through enough here: Shailene Woodley seems really, really nice). She’s more homeless in the “sleeping on my friends’ sofas, clogging the sink drain with lumps of clay, encouraging them to use those salt crystal sticks that, no, do NOT work just as well as deodorant, thank you very much” sense. (While we’re at it, I feel bad that regular deodorant is going to give me Alzheimers/cancer and if anyone could point me to a natural alternative that doesn’t make me smell, it’s probably Shailene).

Well, let’s let Shailene explain it, actually:

So … is Shailene Woodley magic? (Probably, yeah; wouldn’t be surprised.) Jimmy Kimmel examines her assertion that all of her possessions can fit in one carry-on sized bag, but Shai’s not really helping. Is this a normal bag or is it a mystical bottomless bag, a la Mary Poppins or The Barney Bag? I can only assume that it’s the latter, maybe given to her on a moonlit mountain sojourn by an enchanted forest crone.

Let’s inventory Shailene Woodley’s bag. On Kimmel she lists the following items: (1) computer; (1) hoodie situation; (1) pair jeans; (some) basic tees and tanks; (1) temporary cell phone because the studio got annoyed that she kept disappearing into the wilderness to worship the moon goddess; and (indeterminate) leggings.

Okay, let’s all picture all of those items. They’d totally fit into an airplane-standard carry-on, I think we can all agree. But that can’t be it, right? Based on my research, here are some other things that Shailene Woodley owns:

  • Vibram Five-Finger Shoes: Those glove-shoes that seem like they were invented by the guy who has the patent on those little round blister band-aids, in order to drum up business.

  • Water jugs: Specifically, “5-gallon carboy situations”. Girl. You know this isn’t fitting in a carry-on – wheeled or duffel. Maybe it’s her personal item.

  • Makeup and makeup remover: You can read all about Shailene’s favorite products here. You could make an argument that she doesn’t own the makeup and only wears it for appearances, but at least the remover sort of has to live with her.
  • Just a little bit of shampoo: Because she only shampoos about once a month. See article, above. (I tried this for a while and it worked until it didn’t. Some people swear by it. Probably depends on your hair type.)
  • Some clay: She eats about a teaspoon of clay every day, and makes toothpaste out of it as well. I’d say conservative estimate, you can count on at least two cups of clay so she doesn’t have to keep buying clay all the time. But if you are extra crazy and go to the website of Woodley’s recommended clay vendor, you would see that the smallest size clay-ball is 1 pound. So there you have it. A one-pound bag of clay, chipped away a teaspoon at a time.
  • This horseradish root:

See, she has a sense of humor about her hippie-neo-witch vibe, and that’s why I like her.

  • A mason jar: She carries one everywhere. Says co-star Miles Teller, “she always has a mason jar and 100% of the time it smells like crap.” Well, there’s that, then.

  • Presumably some kind of reusable menstrual product deal:  She follows DivaCup and New Moon pads on Twitter, and I can’t imagine you follow those companies because of all their awesome 140-character jokes, right? Also, this tweet:

I’ve now spent enough time in Woodley’s twitter feed to know that she calls her period “moon time.” New product idea: that one puberty class you had to go to in fifth grade, rewritten by Shailene Woodley to be 100% more earthy. 10/10, would attend.

  • Mushroom tea: I can’t imagine this tasting like anything but diluted, terrible mushroom soup. I’m only including the tea here because I’m pretty sure that the kind of people who host Shailene Woodley on their guest futon also are the type of people who own a tea kettle.
  • Chinese herbal supplements: the better to make her breath smell of dirt and creeks and forests before kissing scenes. Her costar literally used the word “musty.”

HOLY SHIT THAT’S A LOT OF STUFF.

I’m not trying to put bad vibes into the universe towards Shailene Woodley (because you know who puts good vibes into the universe? Probably Shailene Woodley). She seems really earnest and well-intentioned, and people who know her (John Green; George Clooney; etc) all seem to like her a whole lot. She was also Felicity Merriman in an adaptation of the American Girl series, and Marissa Cooper’s little sister in The O.C., so that’s cool.

It’s just that, for those of us who have ever struggled to fit two weeks worth of possessions into a carry-on tote so we don’t have to pay a checked bag fee … this is a lot to take. A lot. I can forgive Shailene for making clay-eating sound like a good idea even though it’s actually a certifiable medical disorder.  I’m not even jealous that she manages to look pretty in that 1997 soccer mom haircut in The Fault In Our Stars. But going on national television, bragging about a magical carry-on bag that could fit all of these possessions, and not even directing us up the woodland path to the kindly mountain witch who peddles them? Not cool.

I hope there’s room for my disappointment in Shailene’s bag, because she carries it with her wherever she goes.

 

YA Book-To-Film Adaptations: 2013-2014 Edition

It’s no secret that we like a good Young Adult novel. Whatever –  we’re functioning, erudite adults who like books written for the 12-17 year old age bracket. It looks like we’re not the only ones, because there are a whole bunch of YA books being made into movies this year.

Here are a few of the films we’re most excited about. We’re including the release date – so you know how long you have to read the book. We’re also letting you know whether you should make an effort to read the book first, or if you if  can just skip it or pencil it in at your leisure. Our final category is the  Predicted Potter effect. See, most Harry Potter fans agree that the books by JK Rowling are the One True Harry Potter Series – but I love the movies, too. The filmmakers included just enough of the plot and captured the visuals of the books so well that the movies – by themselves, not in comparison to the book – are excellent. So, the Predicted Potter Effect is, on a 1-10 scale, how well the movie will work as a stand-alone piece.

Catching Fire

Release Date: November 22, 2013

Should I read the book first? Maybe. If you saw the first Hunger Games movie but didn’t read the book, then I wouldn’t skip the first book and jump into the second. Just go to the movie and catch up on the books later. If you have already read the first book and somehow didn’t finish the whole series within the course of a week, then you’ll probably want to read the second before seeing the movie.

Predicted Potter Effect: 8. I know people who saw the first movie without reading the book and they still enjoyed it, so I suppose this can hold up by itself. But, I also heard stupid confused comments in the movie theater from people who clearly hadn’t read the book — so, I think some of the narrative is a little clearer if you’ve read the book.

The Book Thief

Release Date: November 22, 2013

Should I read the book first? Probably – although, maybe this is one where the movie is better if you aren’t comparing it to the book, meaning that you could save the book for later. Either way, it’s worth reading.  I’m not sure how the narrative device will work in film — the book is narrated by death. The story follows Liesel, a foster child living in the outskirts of Munich during World War II. This is one of those books that’s for whatever reason labelled as Young Adult, but I can think of plenty of novels that are categorized as regular adult fiction with a young protagonist and straightforward narration. It’s a respectable grown-up read, too.

Predicted Potter Effect: 7. From what I’ve seen of the trailers, I expect the tone of the book to come across, although I am interested in seeing how the narration will work. The plot is so full that it will make a great stand-alone movie, but it will probably suffer a little in comparison to the book. This may just be me, but I find that books that have a large scope – lasting several years – feel a lot more compressed on film.

Divergent

Release Date: April 21, 2014

Should I read the book first? Probably – meaning, I probably should read it too. It’s been on my to-read-list but I’ve sort of had Teen Dystopian Universe fatigue.

Predicted Potter Effect: 7. Judging by the synopsis, a lot of the story rests on Tris’s inner life — her knowledge that she’s Divergent and decision about which faction to join. Obviously, that’s not so easy to convey on film. But, this sounds like a solid sci-fi/action film, so if you’re into those genres you might be okay without so much emphasis on the character’s feelings. Also, Shailene Woodley is such a solid actress that I think she’ll be able to show-not-tell the character’s conflict (I didn’t like The Descendants (sorry!), but she was great in it). Also also, Kate Winslet.

The Fault In Our Stars

Release Date: June 6, 2014

Should I read the book first? You should read the book – but whether you read it before or after the movie is probably immaterial. That is, I don’t think there will be any plot difficulties that you’ll have trouble understanding if you haven’t read the book. Still, my advice is to read it first because (1) it’s good, and (2) you have time. Author John Green has been involved in the film-making process, and has said that everyone from the actors to the set designers has done an awesome job in bringing his book to life in the way he imagined it. It will be fun to pick up on the little details from the book on-screen.

Predicted Potter Effect: 9. I have high hopes for this movie. In many ways, it’s easier to translate a book like this to the screen because it’s set in our everyday world. There’s a lot of variation in how you can envision Panem or Divergent-ville (I’m going to read it! I promise!), but I think we all have a handle on Indianapolis. So, there’s less of a chance that you’ll have to have read this book to fill in the holes of the plot and setting, making it easier to create a stand-alone film experience.

The Giver

Release Date: August 15, 2014

Should I read the book first? I’m assuming that most of our readers were already in fourth grade once, so I’m going to go ahead and guess that you already have.

Predicted Potter Effect: 5. I just don’t know how much I’ll be able to let myself slip into a different world while watching Taylor Swift and Katie Holmes. Also, apparently the guy playing Jonas is 24 – so, twice the age of Jonas in the book. All this makes me think it’s okay if you go into it already having loved the book, but might feel a little … weird as a movie. I don’t know. I just feel like most of the plot depends on Jonas and the other kids being put into their roles as soon as they’re hitting the teen years. If you are watching this because you loved the book you will like it, but if you don’t already have positive associations with the story you may feel a little skeeved out.

How Spider-Man Is Ruining My Work-Week

In case you missed it: The Amazing Spider-Man (part 2) is filming in Rochester, NY. Why Rochester, you may ask? Well, the whole production is filming in NY state. The chase scenes could not be filmed downstate because city officials there have common sense speed regulations are more stringent there. Rochester is apparently an awesome stand-in for NYC, which I tried to convince my downstate friends of during college to no avail, but I digress.

Anyway: Spider-Man is filming here, and taking up a large stretch of Main Street for two weeks. As luck would have it, my workplace is right along this part of the street, meaning it will probably be a nightmare to get into. In addition, I ride the bus to get to work and all of the local transit is being re-routed.

Funny. I’m not much of a comic book aficionado, but I thought Spider-Man was supposed to fix things, right? Rescue them? Leap tall buildings in a single bound so that he wouldn’t need to take part in a car chase? Maybe that was Batman. I don’t know. All I know is, instead of fixing everything, Spider-Man is ruining my work week instead. This is how:

Tuesday:

Day One of the shoot, and the first day my bus service is rerouted. During the extra time that it takes my bus to get to my workplace, the girl next to me starts falling asleep and landing on my shoulder. Dammit, Spider-Man. This never would have happened if this bus ride were 20 minutes shorter.

During lunch, I try to see what I can of the shoot. There are a bunch of yellow taxis and fake NYC cop cars sitting stock still, and an armored truck. For a minute, they move. Fascinating stuff. You know when I can see cars driving up and down Main Street? All the damn time, when they aren’t filming a stupid movie there. My car even could be one of them.

In case you’re interested in this sort of thing, all of the cars look like models from several years ago, and a coworker tells me that it’s supposed to be set around 2000. Is it a flash-back, or is the movie just an early 2000s period piece? I hope the latter. I have some butterfly clips and embroidered jeans that Wardrobe could borrow.

Someone says that none of the actors will be here. Nuts. There goes my plan to befriend Emma Stone, who would probably be really funny and have great outfits I could borrow. Or, I guess, Shailene Woodley. I’d refrain from asking her about working with Clooney in The Descendants, but probably couldn’t help myself from mentioning how she starred in an American Girl movie. Clooney may be one of the most beautiful men alive, but Felicity Merriman is a childhood dream realized.

Wednesday:

I get off the bus on the most crowded bridge ever, because that’s where all the buses are being re-routed to. Nobody fell asleep on me today, so that’s nice.

At lunch, I decide I want iced coffee, opting for the better coffee place that’s a 15-minute walk away, instead of the one around the corner. It’s 75 degrees out, so I want to sneak in a walk. So does Rochester, apparently. Like, the whole city. It’s a madhouse.

There is nowhere I can turn without running into a barricade. It’s like Les Miserables without all the majesty and grandeur. At one point, I see a cement mixer for a fake company driving on the set. Or, maybe it was a dump truck. Keep your eyes out for that one, film buffs!

After a half hour of walking, I realize that between the film blockades and construction work, there is literally no way to get to the coffee place. I walk back to work, and it takes about 5 minutes just to get down the crowded bridge. I swear it is tilting under the weight of all of the people and buses. Spider-Man, save us! Ohmygodwe’reallgoingtodiehereonthisbridge.*

Did you notice how I styled it Spider-Man, with the hyphen? Pretty good, right? Yeah, I don’t read comics, no matter how adorable Seth Cohen made it look.

Thursday:

A woman sidles into a morning meeting 20 minutes late, looking a little worse for the wear. “Spider-Man,” she offers by way of explanation. Dammit, Spider-man.

I get to leave work early so they can install my new computer. Awesome! Or, actually, not so awesome. All of the Rochester teens are out of school trying to catch their buses. An explanation, for you non-bus-users — the city schools in Rochester use the city buses, not yellow schoolbuses like those precious little suburban kids.** That is a lot of kids. I stand with the huddled masses yearning to breathe free on the Broad Street Bridge, but the bus is 20 minutes late. When it arrives, it is over-capacity already. I was not crazy yesterday: the bridge is absolutely moving. This is sort of the worst.

As I wait, the film crew with the camera rig drives down the street. Are they trying to get crowd shots? That’s almost cool. Then, the woman next to me starts waving like a lunatic. Ugh, nevermind. They won’t even be able to use this now. Thanks for ruining everything, waving lady.

You know how there’s a lot of talk about how Rochester’s downtown isn’t as bustling as it should be? I know how to fix it now. Don’t worry, we don’t have to film an action franchise here all of the time. Oh, goodness no. We just need one fewer street. Seriously. With Main Street closed, every other street is absolutely packed. Of course, it doesn’t help that the three or four separate bus stops along Main are compressed to one mega-stop on the bridge, which has narrow sidewalks and is also a BRIDGE.

When I get home, I Google “what to do when a bridge collapses.”

Friday: 

Apparently this happened yesterday:

So, that’s… not all the way right. Also, I LOLed at a YouTube comment from a non-Rochesterian that commended Rochester for really resembling NYC. I suppose it is a little true, them both being… cities made out of… buildings and all that.

In case anyone was wondering if this is bringing tons of people downtown every day: ehhh, maybe? When I look around, I really just see people who  look like they’re in the middle of a work day, or Bus People who would be here anyway. I guess the main demographic difference is that there are more dorky teen boys than usual. I am not judging – I was a dorky teen once, too. Honestly, I wish I could get really into comic books, the same way I used to be jealous of people who were really religious. It gives you a built-in set of things to look forward to on a regular basis, and people always know what to buy you for Christmas and birthdays. So, hats off to you, dorky teen boys, you are probably really easy to buy for!

There’s a chance that you’re reading this and you’re from a city where movies and tv shows are regularly filmed. By this point, you’re probably wondering what the big deal is. It’s like this: you know how when they get 1/2 inch of snow in the South everything shuts down? And all of us up North scoff at them? Of course, we do realize that the reason the South reacts like that is they aren’t equipped to deal with snow, and we are. Well, this is the same way. This city is just not equipped to have all of these extra people and closings. That, and frankly you probably wouldn’t find too many legit cities who would close down the main thoroughfare for two consecutive work-weeks. That’s especially true when, like Rochester, the closings make the entire hub of the public transit system get squashed onto one bridge.

Oh, and other people have totally felt it, too. The bridge is moving. We may be calling on Spider-Man to save us, after all.

You may think this is all terribly over-dramatic, but did you SEE the part where I had to settle for the less-good iced coffee? Serious stuff. Dammit, Spider-Man.

* Yes, I do realize that bridges have to have some give, otherwise they’ll snap in the middle. But it still doesn’t feel super-awesome when you feel it shifting beneath you.

** I was a city kid til I was 15 and a suburban kid after that, so no ill-will towards either group. Or actual, equal ill-will towards BOTH groups because I can’t deal with teenagers any more, with their loud conversations and modern fashions and not getting off my lawn when I tell them to.