motion picture monday

July 31, 2017

released: 1985.
starring: val kilmer, gabriel jarret, william atherton.
what makes it awesome: val.

two. top gun.
released: 1986.
starring: val kilmer, anthony edwards, tom cruise.
what makes it awesome: tom and anthony.

released: 1991.
starring: anthony hopkins, ted levine, jodie foster.
what makes it awesome: this is hands down the best film adaptation of a novel i have ever seen. and jodie and anthony are AMAZING.

four. tombstone.
released: 1993.
starring: val kilmer, michael biehn, sam elliott.
what makes it awesome: val.

five. heat.
released: 1995.
starring: val kilmer, al pacino, robert de niro.
what makes it awesome: al and robert.

six. proof.
released: 2005.
starring: anthony hopkins, gwyneth paltrow, jake gyllenhaal.
what makes it awesome: the story.

released: 2013.
starring: anthony hopkins, tom hiddleston, chris hemsworth.
what makes it awesome: tom and chris.

the fall film challenge

July 27, 2017

begins one minute past twelve a.m. september first / concludes midnight november thirtieth. you may NOT use a movie you have already seen, even in part (excluding trailers), for this challenge. all films MUST be new to you. each title chosen for the challenge may be used ONLY ONCE, i.e. a movie used for the starring robert downey, jr. category may not be used for the about pride category. all selections MUST have a page on the internet movie database and MUST have (had) a theatrical release. made for television movies are not allowed.

to be eligible for prizes, you must be a member of the fall film challenge facebook group. there are nine photo albums on the group's page. those galleries, arranged by decade, contain a collective eleven hundred film stills, many of which represent selections from previous challenges. once a challenger has seen a film, he or she leaves a comment on the photo saying when it was viewed and for what category so i can track progress.

with regard to scoring, i've altered the deal this year. as in the past, each film is valued at ten points. however, new this year, if you choose a film selected AND viewed by another for a previous challenge -- see kathryn's comment in the above photo -- you'll get an additional two points. for every change you make to your list, you lose three points, so choose wisely. 

the first five people to complete the challenge prior to november thirtieth will each receive a redbox gift card valued at ten dollars. if you complete the original list, you will be eligible to compete in the bonus round, the details of which will be revealed october fifteenth. the person to accumulate the most points will receive an amazon gift card valued at fifty dollars. 

once you've joined the group and selected your films for the categories, post your list to the group's page or email it to criticalcrass at me dot com so i may add your selections to a master list and, if necessary, upload the correlating stills to the galleries. posting of the list is another requirement for prize eligibility.

the categories:

one. starring anthony hopkins.
three. about charity: an organization, an individual, a cause, an act... interpret this as you will.
four. starring robert downey, jr.
five. about envy: a character, a plot device... use your imagination.
six. about faith. 
seven. about greed.
eight. about hope.
nine. starring jeremy irons.
ten. about justice.
eleven. starring kevin bacon.
twelve. about lust.
thirteen. starring ian mckellen.
fourteen. set in a castle.
fifteen. about fortitude.
sixteen. about pride.
seventeen. starring alan rickman.
eighteen. released last year and reviewed on
nineteen. about temperance.
twenty. about prudence.
twenty-one. starring val kilmer.
twenty-two. about wrath.
twenty-three. set in an exotic locale.
twenty-four. about gluttony.
twenty-five. set in space.

in the past i've given yall helpful links. you're on your own this time. get to it.

motion picture monday

July 23, 2017

one. less than zero.
released: 1987.
starring: robert downey, jr., andrew mccarthy, james spader.
what makes it awesome: rdj's performance is haunting.
two. heart and souls.
released: 1993.
starring: rdj, tom sizemore, kyra sedgwick.
what makes it awesome: it's kind of silly. and every now and then you need a silly, and sweet, movie in your life.
three. only you.
released: 1994.
starring: rdj, marisa tomei, bonnie hunt.
what makes it awesome: also silly and sweet. and he's especially adorable here.
four. iron man.
released: 2008.
starring: rdj, jeff bridges, terrence howard.
what makes it awesome: rdj. no one could do tony stark better than this dude.
five. sherlock holmes.
released: 2009.
starring: rdj, jude law, rachel mcadams.
what makes it awesome: rdj as sherlock and law as watson.
six. the avengers.
released: 2012.
starring: rdj, chris hemsworth, jeremy renner.
what makes it awesome: the a handful of hot men with mad, mad skills.
seven. the judge.
released: 2014.
starring: rdj, robert duvall, billy bob thornton.
what makes it awesome: the story. and rdj, of course.

the difference a decade makes

July 12, 2017

let's ignore the giant bag at my hip, yeah, and focus on the smallness of my waist and the prettiness of my hair (that's after flying overnight, yall. it looks pretty good for no sleep on a cramped plane) and the thinness of my arms.

let's consider that i thought i was fat then.

let's pray that i can find the stamina and self-love to reclaim some semblance of that because my gut is bigger than my boobs, now, and my hair... GAH.


July 11, 2017

why i wanted to read it: because the cover appealed to me, the letters at the beginning intrigued me, and the story sounded like it might be cool. and for erin's book challenge, it meets the published in 'seventeen category. but mostly it's because i dig the title.

what i liked: scarlett's feelings came in colors even brighter than usual. the urgent red of burning coals. the eager green of new grass buds. the frenzied yellow of a flapping bird's feathers (page 12).

"lovely seeing you, scarlett." julian smiled, as cool and seductive as a slice of shade in the hot season.

scarlett knew the polite response would be something along the lines of "good to see you, too." but all she could think about were his hands, still coiled around tella's periwinkle skirts, playing with the tassels on her bustle, as if she were a parcel he couldn't wait to unwrap.

julian had only been on the isle of trisda about a month. when he'd swaggered off his ship, tall and handsome, with golden-brown skin, he'd drawn almost every woman's eye. even scarlett's head had turned briefly, but she'd known better than to look any longer (page 13).

"i think you've forgotten how to live, and your sister is trying to remind you," julian went on. "but if all you want is safety, i'll take you back" (page 49).

inside the house, violin music, richer than the darkest chocolate, started playing. it seeped outside and whispered to scarlett as julian's smile turned seductive, all shameless curves and immoral promises. an invitation to places that proper young ladies didn't think about, let alone visit. scarlett didn't want to imagine what sorts of things this smile had convinced other girls to do (page 87).

scarlett broke off as a man in cheap velveteen pants and a brown bowler hat kicked a piece of stained glass. something glittery and red sparkled beneath it.

"no! you can't take those." scarlett lunged toward the man, but the moment he saw her interest, his own ignited into something stronger. he snatched the precious earrings from the floor and bolted to the door. 

she ran after him, but he was quick and her arms were burdened. she was only halfway down the hall when he made it to the rickety stairs.

"here, let me hold those." the pregnant girl was beside her in the hall. "i'll be right here when you get back," she promised. 

scarlett didn't want to let go of what she'd gathered, but she really couldn't lose those earrings. dropping her things in the girl's open arms, scarlett clutched the bottom of her snowy skirt and tried to catch up with the man... outside, the world was nightfall and daybreak all at once... the man had disappeared.

it shouldn't have mattered. they were only earrings. but they weren't only earrings. they were scarlets.

scarlet stones for scarlett, her mother had said. a final present before she had left... they were a piece of her mother, and a reminder that governor dragna had once been a different man (pages 126-127).

what sucked: sometimes the writing's really cheesy. it aims for sweet and strives to be chock full of imagery and to further the sense of wonder the story has, but sometimes it's more syrupy and saccharine than sweet.

having said that: i dig the story. it's fantastical and clever and complex... made me think a little bit of the theatrics and exploits of logan and his friends in gilmore girls. i like scarlett and julian a lot. so much so that i'll read this again. the ending's pretty badass, though maybe there's some predictability to it. it's four hundred pages, and usually i cringe when authors take that long to tell a story, but i didn't mind it here. i'd like more of this, please.


why i wanted to read it: because one of the categories for erin's book challenge is a novel with an animal on the cover. this one's got bugs and butterflies on it. also at a writer's conference last year, i met a woman who, if memory serves, had something to do with the cover design and liked her.

it's important to note that the book is a spin of alice's adventures in wonderland, and i've never liked that story. so i was not as eager to read this as i have been for other selections.

what i liked: he jerks his gaze back to the dashboard. "if you hadn't been ignoring my calls, i could've already taken a look at your engine. you shouldn't drive this until it's fixed."

"gizmo's fine. just a little hoarse. maybe he needs to gargle some salt water."

"this isn't a joke. what are you going to do if you get stalled out in the middle of nowhere?"

i twirl a strand of hair around my finger. "hmm. show some cleavage to a passing trucker?"

jeb's jaw clenches. "that's not funny."

i giggle. "oh, come on. i'm kidding. all it would really take is a little leg."

his lips curve slightly, but the smile is gone in a blink. "this from the girl who's never even had a first kiss."

he's always teased that i'm a mix between skate glam and american sweetheart. looks like i've just been downgraded to prude. 

i groan. it won't do any good to deny it. "fine. i would call someone on my cell and wait safely in my car with all the doors locked and mace in hand until help arrived. there, do i get a cookie?" (pages 24-25).

"how adorable," i mock. "taelor gave you lip jewelry... and it's sparkly."

he nudges the piercing with his tongue. "she's trying to be diplomatic."

anger rises in a white-hot surge as i remember london and all the things taelor said to me. "of course she is. because she's eight kinds of wonderful, and that's just her legs."

jeb furrows his brow. "what's that supposed to mean?"

"taelor has all the diplomacy of a black widow spider. garnet's her birthstone. you're wearing her birthday on your lip. talk about spinning you up in her web." ... i turn around, but he follows me into the entryway. rounding on him before he can cross into the living room, i fold my arms over my bustier, trying to subdue the urge to punch him. "you can't come in without an invitation."

he leans a shoulder against alison's framed photo of a wheat field at harvest. "that so?" his boot heel nudges the door behind him, shutting out the storm and the scent of rain. "last i checked, i wasn't a vampire," he says, his voice low. 

my fists clench tighter, and i step backward onto the line of carpet that borders the edge of the living room. "you sure have a lot in common with one."

"because i suck?"  (pages 77-79).

perched on my hands and knees at the hole's edge, i have a moment of doubt. i weigh a lot more than a piece of plastic and some batteries. maybe i should push in a few heavy rocks, just to be sure.


the shout from behind me makes me scramble. dirt gives way beneath my hands. screaming, i clutch at empty air and tumble in. 

inside, the hole widens. more like a feather on a breeze than a skydiver, i float, my position shifting from vertical to horizontal. my stomach quivers, trying to adjust to weightlessness.

overhead, someone dives in after me.

in seconds, he latches onto my wrist and tugs to align our bodies.

it's impossible...


his arms lock us together, his gaze intent on the slowly passing scenery. "sweet mother of--"

"stuff and nonsense," i interrupt with a quote from the original wonderland book. "how are you here?"

"where is here?" he asks, mesmerized by our surroundings... after a few minutes, jeb eases us an arm's length apart and stars at me -- into me.

"how?" i whisper, still unable to grasp that he's here.

he pales, shaking his head. "i... i slipped on the porch in the rain. that has to be it. yeah, that's why i'm wet. i'm dreaming this now. but..." he presses our foreheads together and i make a mental note of every other place our bodies touch. his hands glide up my rib cage before stopping on either side of my face. "you feel real," he whispers, his hot breath mingling with mine. every point of contact between us heats to white flame. "and you're so pretty."

okay, that's proof he's delusional and in shock. first off, he's never said anything like that to me. second, my makeup has to look like soggy newspapers by now (pages 93-94).

"find your courage. look down. your show is about to begin."

i shake my head, eyes clamped tightly. "we're too high... it makes my stomach kick."

he laughs and inhales a puff off the hookah then blows the smoke over me, saturating me in the comforting scent. "that's how you know you're alive, alyssa. the kicks" (page 174).

what sucked: shit like this: jeb cradles me tighter, which makes it hard not to notice how close we are: my hands locked around his neck, his chest rubbing against my ribs... those biceps pressed to my shoulder blade and knee (page 13). so when a guy's carrying a gal, using phrases like this to describe the closeness and the chemistry has the opposite effect. i cringe. like seriously? his chest rubbing my ribs? those biceps pressed to my shoulder blade and knee? that's supposed to make me swoon? GAH.

and the ending -- not the climax but the crap that comes after -- is lame. really, really lame. utterly redonkulus.

having said that: it's clever and engaging, even when the writing's shit. and i liked its story MUCH more than i liked alice's adventures in wonderland. i like alyssa and jeb and morpheus. i don't like them or the story well enough to read any of the others.


July 7, 2017

why i wanted to read it: because for this round of erin's book challenge, we were supposed to select a book based on or inspired a disney flick. i'd seen this one before. i picked it because it was two hundred four pages, i liked the rose on the cover, and i thought i would like this version of beauty and the beast. 

what i liked: "everything is beautiful in its own way, ma belle, even if you have to look hard to find it" (page 35).

"i think it's because my name is wrong. it doesn't match my face. i shouldn't be called belle because i'm not beautiful... that's why monsieur legrand couldn't see me. he looked for a face to go with theirs, a beautiful face. only i don't have one. you can ask maman if you don't believe me. she knows it's true. i saw it in her eyes."

my father looked as though i'd taken the piece of wood i'd been carving and knocked him over the head with it.

"why, belle," he murmured. "belle."

"but that's just the problem, don't you understand?" i cried out. "i'm not beautiful. my name is nothing but a lie... couldn't i be annabelle?" i asked. "i think, maybe...maybe if people weren't expecting to see a beauty in the first place, it might be easier when it turns out i'm not." 

my father was silent for several moments more, just long enough that i had to resist squirming within the circle of his arms.

"annabelle is a fine name," he said at last. "it was my mother's name and i chose it for you myself. but i'm not so sure that changing what you're called will accomplish what you want it to, my little one... anyone with the right eyes and heart to match will see your beauty, belle. if not at first, then for the long run... i think you have a gift, belle... i would like it if you could believe that true beauty springs from the same place" (page 41-45).

unhappy memories are persistent. they're specific, and it's the details that refuse to leave us alone. though a happy memory may stay with you just as long as one that makes you miserable, what you remember softens over time. what you recall is simply that you were happy, not necessarily the individual moments that brought about your joy.

but the memory of something painful does just the opposite. it retains its original shape, all bony fingers and pointy elbows. every time it returns, you get a quick poke in the eye or jab in the stomach... i'd like to say what happened that first afternoon with grand-pere alphonse, the pity i had heard in my mother's voice even as she held me in her arms, came to make no difference in our relationship. but that would be a lie... for every time my mother spoke my name, every time she looked at me, i felt her pity all over again... 

the more distance i put between my sisters and me, the less painful the comparisons between us seemed to be. eventually what people remembered most about me was that they didn't really remember me at all.

celeste and april could always be found at the center of gatherings. their faces were easy to call to mind. but the youngest delaurier girl, the one named belle, her image was much harder to summon, in spite of all her name might promise.

finally, i just stayed home.

i expected maman to protest, but she did not. if i'd needed any more proof that my mother thought i was not as beautiful as her older daughters, she provided it then...

but even the best of compromises unravels sooner or later, and so it proved with mine. for i'd failed to consider the very thing that growing up means: passage of time... 

the de la montaignes' garden party was an annual event, a highlight of the summer.

"i didn't have to go last year," i protested. "how come i have to go now?"

 "because you're almost sixteen... almost old enough to be married... your sisters are certainly old enough to be."

so that's it, i thought. she was hoping for a match between celeste and paul de la montaigne...

"paul de la montaigne is the most suitable young man in our circle. everybody knows it. and celeste is certainly one of the loveliest young women..."

her voice trailed off, as there was little more to be said on the subject. she bit into her toast.

"so what do you want me along for?" i asked, when i was certain my mother's mouth was full. "contrast?" (pages 47-51).

"the silence of that house spoke with the same voice that the windstorm had, with one fierce and endless cry against being alone" (page 117).

the beast took three more steps. two more, and he would be close enough to touch.

"so you are real," he murmured, almost as if speaking to himself. "i have not imagined you. you are real. you have come. i see a dark gray dress on my horse's back, strong hands on the reins, and your hair..."

he paused, and i had the sense he was studying me intently. "your hair curls and it is brown. but your face..." his voice faltered and broke off. "your face eludes me," he continued after a moment. "your features slip in and out of focus, like a star at the end of a telescope."

"i am not a star," i said, a sudden ache in my throat. "i'm just a girl named annabelle."

"annabelle," he echoed, and i seemed to feel the strange power of his voice in every part of me. as if it were seeking the way to make me visible. "but i thought that you'd said... belle?"

"belle is my nickname," i answered. "it's what i've always been called. i think that may be your problem -- with my face, i mean. it makes you think you're supposed to look for beauty."

"and i can't find what isn't there?" the beast said. "is that your point?" (page 145).

"i'm here. i've come back. where are you?" i shouted. and it seemed my heart would break that i had never asked him for his name. i, who had been so very concerned about my own (page 196).

what sucked: the first thirty pages. the last ten. and the last were significantly shittier, aka unbearably cheesy, than the first.

having said that: save for what's mentioned here, i didn't love it. save for those forty sucky pages, i didn't loathe it. but because one-fifth of it is shit, i can't recommend it. it's not the worst book i've ever read. it's an interesting version of the tale. but it could've been told. SO. MUCH. BETTER.

my mount rushmore

July 2, 2017

so my friend at the view from the third floor has been doing an ongoing contest since the beginning of the year. i'm pretty sure i'm losing, but that's okay. for round seven, we were asked to create our own mount rushmores, tributes to those americans who have not served as presidents whom we feel are worthy of the recognition. i was quick to google stupid shit like best americans and had a look at lists like this one because i thought for sure the four i would pick should be ones of whom others could approve... otherwise how could they be the best? but then i cleared that crazy notion and realized i wanted to make a list of the four people who have best influenced my life, the ones who have saved me, who have been like a patronus when too many dementors have circled much too closely. i'm sure i've mentioned them before, but i can't mention them enough. i can't. they are my rocks.

one. pauline elliott. sixth grade language arts teacher at what was then o.a. reaves intermediate. she was not the most well-liked teacher by the students mostly because of her size, sense of style and simplicity. my peers made fun of her. but then my peers made fun of everything, everyone because that's what sixth-graders do. i remember underestimating her, making assumptions that she would be like every other teacher i'd had for the past few years. she was a light, which is what teachers should be; i'd not seen one shine upon me in quite some time. i've mentioned her in this post and this one. the other day, i thought i've failed her because i've not used my talents anywhere near as well as i should. it's not a sentiment that sits well with me. i hope i can do better by her, and others listed here, and soon.

two. carol newsom. counselor at york junior high school. i was in high school, i think, when i met her. her husband worked in the administration building with my father. my parents, terrified for my well-being (they were right to be so... and it shames me greatly to say that), had already sent me to a couple of counselors without success because i didn't want to talk. i played games, literally and figuratively. my psyche had been plagued, by this point, for six years. there was far too much to discuss, and the words were as ugly to me as i thought i was, as the majority of the world thought me to be. the high school i attended was across the street. i remember that i would walk over after school and meet with her. i'm sure i played games with her, too. i'm sure i didn't say much that was worth saying. i'm sure i would've been much better off now had i cared more for the compassion she'd shown me then. i loved her for her kind nature and the warmth she bestowed upon me. not many were gracious enough then to show me such consideration. i knew that she loved me. i clung to that knowledge.

three. brother nicholas. born clarence prinster. monk at abbey of our lady of the holy trinity in huntsville, utah. i've not known a man to have more faith and devotion, more goodness in his soul than this one. he is my maternal grandmother's brother, the last alive of eight siblings. he's been more a grandfather figure to me than a great uncle. he has always thought the world of me. i'm grateful that the last time we were at the monastery -- a year ago -- i had a moment to sit with him and look out over the fields and beyond to the mountains. i wish i could remember what he said, but i know that it was good, that it had something to do with my history and how i've endured. not many can beat me at scrabble, but he could and soundly.

four. amanda holloway. more commonly called minn. neighbor and friend. she was always so happy to see me, and knowing that made me feel good. she was patient with me when others couldn't be, willing to listen when i needed to vent, quick to share her faith and friendship. she had a smile that seemed bigger than her face. i miss it. i miss her.