Monday, March 26, 2012

TV Review: Parenthood

I really, really liked Parenthood this last season. I loved, loved, loved the longterm storytelling technique. Few shows would have the patience or grace to pull off such a tactic, but Parenthood pulled it off beautifully. Not all the story lines worked all the time--cough, Julia's near stalking of the coffee cart girl, cough--but they all worked well enough, enough of the time to satisfy me.

My favourite surprise story of this season was Drew's. For the first few seasons, the show was barely aware Drew even existed. This season, though, he got to shine, through his first romance. I have always loved Drew. He is one of the only legitimately shy characters on tv, and, of course, I can relate to that. What I loved about this season is that they didn't change Drew's character. They allowed him to be in a relationship, but still be his quiet, shy, reserved, anxious self. This produced many sweet moments between him and his girlfriend Amy. There were also some very real moments between Drew and Sarah, Drew and Amber, Drew and Seth, and even Drew and Mark. I loved every one.

I also quite enjoyed the romance between Sarah and Mark. I mean, I've loved Jason Ritter ever since I saw Raise Your Voice, but I thought he did a particularly good job here. At times, Mark seemed unrealistic--too perfect, too patient, too understanding. But, for the most part, the show did a good job of keeping such problems at bay. Towards the end of the season especially, they spotlighted Mark's naiveté, and the basic problems of the age difference and generational difference between him and Sarah. Maybe, sometimes, Mark was a little too perfect. But I loved him so much I didn't care. I died during the "I want to have a baby with you" moment. It was amazing.

I found the Crosby-Adam storyline more uneven. I didn't hate the secretary/cheating story. Didn't love it though. Also didn't love some of the awkward Cee Lo Green stuff and the Adam being cool stuff. Sometimes, I wanted to kill Kristina for all her butting in. But, on the whole, I was happy. I mean, I hated that Adam always got to be the good guy, and, no matter what, Crosby was always viewed as the screw up. But that's frustration with life, not the show. I find Crosby and Adam's relationship pretty fascinating, so it was a pleasure to simply watch it in action.

In this respect, the finale frustrated me. The show did such a great job all season portraying the money struggles of Adam's family. Then, in the finale, when he's given an opportunity to solve them all, he doesn't take it. He tells Haddie she can have it all, all she's worked so hard for all these years, but then he takes that back. In the finale at least, there were no repercussions. I really hope there are next season.

Generally, though, I liked the finale. Drew and Amy had sweet small moments. Jasmine and Crosby finally got their happily ever after. Now, I may have thought the whole separated parents storyline might have been a little bit more interesting to see longterm, but I don't really care. I just liked seeing them so happy. I also liked that Mark might stick around--he's just so sweet, I don't want to see him go.

Then, of course, there's the whole Julia/Joel ending. Personally, I liked it. Unlike many critics, I didn't feel tricked by the whole "sky baby" thing. I love that they got an older kid. I think that offers many, many fascinating stories for next year. On the whole, the adoption story line was messy and a little clunky. But, in my opinion, they nailed the ending, and I'm optimistic they can continue they story well next season.

I also loved that the finale functioned so well as both a season and series finale. To me, that is a real achievement. Throughout this post I’ve been talking about next season, next season, next season. Given the relatively low ratings of the show, there may not be a next season. If so, I really think the final episode is a good end to the series. Everyone is left in a happy, satisfied place. Crosby has Jasmine, Jabbar, and a successful business. Adam has Kristina and the kids and Crosby and everything. He may not have all the money he needs, but he has people who love him. Sarah has Mark. Drew has Amy. Amber is actually pursuing something resembling a career path. Haddie is going to Cornell. Julia and Joel have their new little boy. Everyone has at least some degree of a happy ending.

At the same time, though, there are now a ton of new stories to tell. What is going to happen with Sarah and Mark? Are they actually going to get married? What will be the fall out of Adam’s decision? Will Crosby and Jasmine really be able to make it work? And, of course, how are Joel and Julia going to deal with their new son, who is older than their daughter? There is a ton of exciting material for next season. To me, the Joel and Julia adoption is the perfect type of cliffhanger—one which generates tons of new stories, but isn’t too ridiculous or out of step with the universe of the show.

This year both my mother and my best friend fell in love with Parenthood. Given the amazing season they had, I’d dare to suggest you’d have to be insane not to.

Review: Shut Out

Book: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Summary: When Lissa is repeatedly ditched by her boyfriend Randy for the silly hockey vs. soccer rivalry, she decides to take a stand, and convinces all the girlfriends of the waring athletes to go on a "sex strike" until the fighting stops. If only she didn't fall for the captain of the boys opposition.


In many ways, Shut Out is a perfectly average contemporary YA romance novel. It has the decoy boyfriend, this time named Randy. It follows a plot somewhat similar to Elizabeth Eulberg's The Lonely Hearts Club, where the protagonist leads a group of girls on a boy strike. It of course has the dreamy male lead and the happily ever after.

In a one way, though, Shut Out is extraordinary: in Shut Out, Keplinger is able to understand the secrets of teenage girls.

Keplinger understands the small moments that mean so much. One I loved was when the protagonist, Lissa, returns to the home of an old friend after a long falling out. This house feels so familiar to her, like a favourite song from childhood or a stroll through an alma mater. As she says, it feels like she's transported back through time, like she's thirteen again. I know that feeling. I understand it entirely. I have a friend from high school just like that. For two years we were the best of friends. Then, life happened, and we were normal teenagers, and we changed. But she was still in my social group. For New Year's this year, I attended a party with all my high school friends. It was at her house. It felt so weird for me, because, unlike most people, I knew where the bathroom was, and I knew her parents. I had spent hours and hours at that house in a previous life. As Keplinger describes, it was like going back in time. This is not something I talk about really or a feeling my friends describe. It's a small moment, a personal moment, yet somehow, Keplinger found that moment and managed to capture it.

Keplinger also understands the complexity of young female sexuality. I talked about it a lot in a previous post, but I'll repeat: I am not ready to have sex. But it's really more than that. I am uncomfortable with sexuality in general. I hate all the stupid innuendos people make. I hate all the stupid classes I have discussing sexual poems or, as my teacher termed it, "Canadian erotica". It makes me really uncomfortable. With my first boyfriend, I felt an intense guilt over any remotely sexual activities--even kissing. It's embarrassing to admit it, but I felt dirty. I was ashamed. Not all the time, but sometimes.

Keplinger was able to capture those feelings in Shut Out. She was also able to understand the secrecy that surrounds such feelings or any sexualization, even among the best of friends. I think a lot about dating; I never discuss it with my best friend. I have a few friends that I think have had sex, but I don't know. We don't talk about it. It's secret. And yet, somehow, Kody Keplinger knows about it.

She knows the girl like me who's ashamed by both her experience and her lack of experience. She knows the girl who is proud of herself, confident in her decisions, but shunned by society. She understands the double standards society imposes on female sexuality, but not male sexuality. She gets it. 

I really enjoyed reading Shut Out. The romance between Lissa and non-decoy boyfriend Cash is really great, as he actually gets to be a real, vulnerable human being. Lissa is a good protagonist, with an interesting internal struggle. Those are reasons I would recommend this book. But the reason I will remember this book is because of the secrets it finally allows me to share.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: Awkward

Book: Awkward by Marni Bates

Summary: Mackenzie is smart, nerdy, and, above all, awkward. She routinely embarrasses her little brother and humiliates herself, but that's nothing compared to her CPR attempt that makes her a national Youtube star.


I really enjoyed Awkward.

I really liked Mackenzie as a protagonist. Often, books will say a character is "smart", but will never show it. But Mackenzie actually knows stuff and understands things! Bates goes out of her way to not just tell, but show that Mackenzie is intelligent, which I loved.

Whenever so-called "nerds" are main characters, be it in books, tv shows, or movies, they always get great grades without lifting a finger or sacrificing anything. Joey Potter from Dawson's Creek is a great example of this faux-nerd phenomenon--she gets amazing marks, but, somehow, she still has time to hang out with her friends and get caught up in a love triangle with Dawson and Pacey. Not realistic. In Awkward, Marni Bates finally tells the story of a real nerd. Someone who really cares about school. Someone like me.

Mackenzie works hard for her marks, and she thinks like an academic student: if I do this tonight instead of studying, I promise to study all day Saturday. She is an actual, realistic student! It was so nice for me to finally see such a big part of my life reflected in what I read! Thank you! Hallelujah!

I also loved Mackenzie's friends and her brother. They are all hilarious and smart and stupid and real. I loved the little silent conversation she had with Jane, and, of course, I loved Corey.

Of course, I also loved the romance (Have I ever not?). Logan is a good boy: well developed, flawed, but also noble and understanding and sweet.

One thing I really found interesting in the book was the use of drinking as a narrative device. Mackenzie goes to a party and gets really drunk. Slowly, she remembers pieces of her night, which the reader knows almost all of. It creates an interesting case of dramatic irony, something you rarely see in first person novels for obvious reasons.

Anyone who's been around YA long enough will liken this book to Robin Benway's Audrey, Wait!. The similarities are undeniable--sudden, unwanted fame, involvement with a band, tv show spot to clear her name. And those similarities annoyed me a teeny bit, I will admit. But, overall, it doesn't matter. Because Awkward was awesome enough on its own that it allowed me to mostly ignore these coincidences.

All in all, Awkward is a unique, funny, enjoyable read. I'd gladly recommend it to any YA fans--particularly all the nerdy teenage girls out there.

Is Dumbledore Gay?

Believe it or not, this is actually a philosophical question, not a gay question or really even a Harry Potter question. What it is is a question I debate a lot with my friends, a debate I thought it might be interesting to move online.

Everybody probably already knows this, but to summarize:

J.K. Rowling wrote seven books about a boy wizard. The last one was published in July 2007. In October 2007 Rowling announced that the character of Dumbledore was gay. The world erupted, as it is prone to with such matters, so much so that there is a whole thing on wikipedia  and, of course, more on Dumbledore's own wiki page.

As a Harry Potter fan, I really don't care if Dumbledore's gay one way or another. What I care about is larger literary philosophy behind such a fact, which really begs this question:

Is something true or fact if it's not included in the actual text/source? 

My answer:

No. I choose to take whatever the author gives me in the book and nothing more. So, for me, Dumbledore is not gay, not because I care about his sexual orientation, but because J.K. Rowling never bothered to include this fact in the actual books. Likewise, the twins' birthday is not April 1st, but some unknown day. I do not know Edward's thoughts upon first meeting Bella, because Midnight Sun wasn't a real, complete, published book.

Anything else: any online stuff, any comments, any articles, is all extra. Sometimes fun extra, but still extra. So, I read Midnight Sun, for example, but it's not part of Twilight to me.

My best friend's answer:

Dumbledore is gay. The twins' birthday is April 1st. These are facts because J.K. Rowling said so. It's not that she didn't bother to put them in the books, but that she didn't have time. Basically, J.K. Rowling is God and everything she says goes.

She reasons that it may not have all fit in the book. For example, HP is written from Harry's point of view. Well, why in the world would Harry know Dumbledore's sexual orientation? Why would this ever have been relevant to Harry's story? It wouldn't have, which is why it is not there, not why it is not fact.

What do you guys think:

Does it only count if it's in the text? Is Dumbledore gay?

Interesting Link, where the same topic is discussed and dissected further.

Interesting Link II:, where John Green shares his own opinions on the subject and JK Rowling specifically.

Book Review: Divergent

I don't do many book reviews anymore, and I feel guilty about that. So here you go.

Book: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Summary: YOU HAVE ONE CHOICE TO MAKE (and I'm not going to tell you anymore about it since my copy of the book said nothing but "ONE CHOICE WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING" over and over again. I went into it knowing nothing, so I won't spoil it for others.)


There are a lot of ways to view this book or frame this review. I first started by centring it around the obvious Hunger Games comparisons, but that felt limiting and insulting. I could also talk about the insane popularity of this book in the blogosphere over the last year. But, instead, I think I'm just going to say this: Divergent is a very good book.

The first thing that makes it so awesome is the well thought out world. It is dystopian, futuristic novel, but it feels real and grounded. I understand how our world could devolve in such a way; I understand the logic behind the new world order. Unlike the dystopian settings of The Giver or, well, Hunger Games, I am not shocked or disgusted or alienated by the world of Divergent. To me, that is a major strength of Veronica Roth's novel. It made me very interested to learn more about the world and the different factions. At first, certain factions seem completely evil or insane, but, then, you see the true philosophy behind them and you understand why some people would think that way, why that would make sense. It's a very different world than the one we currently live in, but I can see how we could get from here to there.

I was reading on Veronica Roth's website about how it was hard to write from Tris's first person point of view all the time and still build the world and develop all the factions. Fantasy and science fiction really aren't my genres, so I hadn't really thought about such a problem. It's interesting to me, and, overall, I think Roth does a good job developing her world through Tris's experiences, in many different way. First, Tris experiences two factions in the novel. Then, she has friends or relatives from other factions that provide more information. There were a few places with gaps (what exactly is going on over there in Amity exactly?), but, all in all, I commend Roth on her world building skills.

I also commend her for building such a strong character in Tris. I really liked spending 500 pages in Tris's head. Of course, you're going to want me to compare her to Katniss Everdeen, and it's a fair comparison. They certainly have similarities: bravery, selflessness, courage, strength. But Tris is no Katniss. Because, my God, Katniss drove me up a wall. Oh, my life is so horrible, two guys are in love with me and I have no idea what to do. Kill me now. Tris has more emotion; she's more relatable, more flawed. I loved that she was short (yay for the short girl!) and that that actually played into the novel. I loved that she had the real fears and doubts and desires of a normal teenage girl. One minute she's kicking butt; the next, she's a girl afraid of getting close with her first boyfriend. I also liked how smart she was, though, at times, that did get on my nerves.

Like I said, I don't read much fantasy or science fiction. So, the comparisons I make are going to be quite rudimentary, relying on only the most popular novels and I may make incorrect assumptions about the genre. Sorry--if you want to get into a throw down about young adult romance, I can take you any day of the week, but if you want to talk about scifi, I'll forfeit right now. But what I do know of the genre, and what I've read, is a recurring character that is getting on my nerves: the "special" protagonist. The Boy Who Lived. The girl who can't have her mind read by vampires. And, now, the Divergent girl.

I was already so interested in the world and in Tris's character and family and hilarious and unique friends, that, quite frankly, I didn't need any of the "special" stuff. To me, that was the weakest part of the story. Why can't anyone ever be normal anymore?!?

For much of the novel, I also struggled with accepting Tris's decision about her faction. Ultimately, Roth convinced me that Tris had made the right choice, but it took a good long while. I suppose one could say that my uncertainty mirrored Tris's own uncertainty over her choice. What I would say is that I was frustrated. Why does the protagonist always have to choose the most dangerous, quite frankly stupid choice? Why does Katniss have to save Prim? Why does Bella have to go for the one guy who's a vampire? Again, why can't anyone ever make normal, logical choices?

Ultimately, though, the non-normal stuff wasn't too much of a problem for me with Divergent. The rest of the book was just so good. So well written. The book is patient, allowing time for characters to actually get to know each other and properly develop. The writing is so realistic, allowing for the little quite moments and the great observations.

The romance is also pretty good. Not my favourite ever, but leaps and bounds ahead of the whole Gale/Peeta/Katniss mess or the Edward/Jacob/Bella debacle. Ahead of Harry/Ginny certainly. Only behind Ron and Hermione, because, come on, no one's going to beat them. But Tris's romance comes close. I loved the slow build. I didn't necessarily think the guy had that much personality, but I loved their moments together so much that I didn't care. I also loved his vulnerability.

I was a little bit bothered by the whole cliched sex discussion, which, as always, went like this:

Girl: "I don't think I'm ready to have sex"
Boy: "That's okay. I want more than just sex."
Girl: "Really?"
Boy: "Of course, I like you too much to care about anything else."

Um, yeah. That only reflected my experiences in life NOT AT ALL. But that's not fair--she isn't writing just to me. I am sure there are boys on this planet who would actually be awesome enough to say "okay, I accept that", but, I swear, even then, it wouldn't be that simple. Stepping out of the world of science fiction for a minute, I look to Meg Cabot's Princess in Training, where Mia starts the same conversation with Michael, but it doesn't go so smoothly:

Mia: "I'm not ready to have sex."
Michael: "Oh, okay...but when will you be?"
Mia: "I don't know"
Michael: "Well, that's okay, for now...."

Cause, I mean, Michael's a cool guy and all (I love Michael, I love Michael, I love Michael), but he's, you know, a real human being, with real desires and ideas of his own.

It's not that I suddenly want every guy to say NO, NOT COOL. I just wish it wasn't the same scene, over and over. Why is it always the girl who's scared and has to start the conversation? Why does the good guy always have to be the guy who is either asexual or super understanding?

I've tangented all over the place here, and, really, it isn't fair to get bad at Veronica Roth for a trope that permeates the entire freaking YA genre. Just a pet peeve of mine.

Anyways, I'll stop rambling on now, except to say that Divergent is a pretty great book. A very  enjoyable read. You can bet I'll be buying Insurgent on May 1st.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

YA Romance Quiz

Bored and not wanting to study for my midterm tomorrow, I decided to make a little YA Romance Quiz for you guys to enjoy.

They are mostly general questions that you should get if you have read the book. I don't usually name the book, but I tried to make the questions specific enough that it could only apply to one book. Also, understand that I could ask questions about book I've read and remember well, so the selection is limited and kind of skewed. I also included a view random facts about a few authors that you would easily know if you follow them online.

The questions are just below and the answers are below them, in white type, which you just need highlight to see. Leave your scores in the comments so we can see who's the most awesome.

1. Who is "you" in the phrase "you, yes, you"?
Jessica Darling

2. When did Etienne start having feelings for Anna?
First day in physics class

3. Who is "the guy who hates it when they put corn in the chili"?

4. Who loses the Pants?

5. Why does Hermoine kiss Ron?
Because he wants to save the house elves

6. Who bought Adam's guitar?

7. What gang does Alex quit so he can be with Brittany?
The Latino Blood

8. Are Katherine and Michael Forever?

9. What shape is the necklace Michael gave Mia?

10. Why is Tommy Sullivan a freak?
Because he ratted out the football team

11. Which Truth question does Wes refuse to answer?
"What would you do, if you could do anything?"

12. Who narrates Midnight Sun?

13. Which couple is not in the books: Chair, Nair, or Sate?

14. How to Deal is a combination of which two books?
That Summer and Someone Like You

15. Name the number of books in the series (excluding novellas):

-Princess Diaries: 10
-Jessica Darling: 5
-Ruby Oliver: 4
-Hunger Games: 3
-Harry Potter: 7
-Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: 5
-Twilight: 4
-Perfect Chemistry: 3
-Mediator: 6
-Dairy Queen: 3

16. Who calls Hazel "Hazel Grace"?
Augustus Waters

17. How did Alaska get her name?
She named herself

18. Who does Belly ultimately choose?

19. Does it have a sequel: Yes/No

-Paper Towns: No
-If I Stay: Yes
-All American Girl: Yes
-This Lullaby: No
-When It Happens: No
-Avalon High: No
-Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes: Yes
-Thirteen Reasons Why: No
-Twenty Boy Summer: No
-Leaving Paradise: Yes
-Divergent: Yes
-Sean Griswold's Head: No

20. What is the first name of Jordan's best friend Henry?

21. Why is Brian ashamed of DJ?
Because she isn't popular

22. Name the co-authors:

-Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist: Rachel Cohn/David Levithan
-Will Grayson, Will Grayson: David Levithan/John Green
-Let It Snow: John Green/Maureen Johnson/Lauren Myracle
-The Future of Us: Carolyn Mackler/Jay Asher
-Bass Ackwards and Belly Up: Elizabeth Craft/Sarah Fain

23. What does DFTBA stand for?
Don't forget to be awesome

24. What is Meg Cabot's cat's name?

25. What item of Matt’s does Frankie ultimately give Anna?
Sea glass necklae

26. What colour is the streak in Stephanie Perkins hair?

27. Why does Stephenie Meyer spell her name with the third "e" instead of a typical "a"?
Her dad's name is Stephen--with an "e"

28. Movie Adaptations: Yes/No

-Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Yes
-Looking for Alaska: No
-Princess in the Spotlight: No
-Eclipse: Yes
-Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants: Yes
-The Truth About Forever: No

29. What song does Remy hate?
This Lullaby

30. What song does Penny Bloom hate?
Penny Lane

31. Things in common:

-Audrey, Wait!, Princess Diaries, Second Helpings: boy writes/performs song for girl
-Girls Don't Fly, The Nature of Jade: animals
-Logan from Awkward, Josh from Bittersweet: Hockey players

32. What is the name of the first song Michael writes for Mia?
"Tall Drink of Water"

33. What is Tibby's daughter's name?

34. What superpowers do the following people have?
-April: seeing the future
-May: invisibility
-June: mind reading

35. What superpowers do the following people have?
-Edward: mind reading
-Alice: seeing the future
-Bella: the protection shield
-Jasper: mood control

36. Name the character's university:

-Mia, Princess Diaries: Sarah Lawrence
-Mia, If I Stay: Juilliard
-Remy, This Lullaby: Stanford
-Jessica, Jessica Darling: Columbia
-Lena, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: RISD
-Becca, Bass Ackwards and Belly Up: Middlebury
-Jordan, Catching Jordan: Michigan State

37. How many children do Luis and Nikki have?
3 (triplets)

38. I name the character, you name the book:

-Cricket Bell: Lola and the Boy Next Door 
-Mackenzie Wellesley: Awkward
-Marcus Flutie: Jessica Darling
-Tuesday Leigh Nolan: Psych Major Syndrome 

39. On the day Hadley is going to her father's wedding, where is Oliver going? 
His father's funeral

40. What does Cricket draw on his hand to represent Lola?
A star

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Hate Romance

I love romance. I mean, how many of these stupid blog posts have I started that way, declaring my love for romantic moments and romantic relationships, in books, in movies, in tv shows? How many times have I rewatched or reread romantic scenes? How freaking long have I been obsessed with romance?

I don't even remember. I suppose somewhere in elementary school. I remember loving Sam and David in All American Girl, so I guess that could have been the beginning. But who knows.

All I know now is that I'm sick of it. I'm sick of fake moments between actors who probably couldn't give a damn about each other. I'm sick of rereading every line a million times, looking for one new interpretation, one new spark.

I feel so silly and cynical and stupid. If there's anything I believe in in the world, it's love, right?

But all I can think right now is that love isn't real. Or that it isn't worth it.

That love is parents screaming at each other about money or who gets to keep the coffee table or who has to clean the dishes.

That love is disgusting need and giving too much and too little and strangling someone with all your emotions and just crying and crying and crying.

That love is always letting someone down because you can't always be there, because even when you both know it's the best thing, you're still hurting them, and you still miss them, and it's just not worth it.

And no, I didn't just break up with a boyfriend or something. As if.

But my parents are about to get divorced.

So that might explain something.

All I know is I'm sad. I'm angry because when I look in the mirror before I go to bed I see a pretty, smart, attractive girl. But, when I wake up in the morning, nobody sees that. I'm invisible. No boy ever bothers to notice me. Except for homework help, as always. I'm that girl. Again.

For five seconds, I wasn't that girl, and, truthfully, I still miss that pretty much everyday. No him. Just the feeling.

I miss not being sad. Because I'm sad a lot now. I don't want to lose my house or my family. I don't want to be lonely like this forever.

I recently realized that I've never actually seen two people in love in real life. Not really. Certainly not my parents. Who else could there be? It makes me think I just like romance because it allows me to try and replace or fix whatever the fuck's been wrong with my parents' marriage for all these years.

Or, sometimes, I just think, it allows me to listen the great speeches the cute boys make and pretend they're speaking to me.

Either way, it's depressing and joyless and just pathetic. Either way, I just kind of hate romance right now.

Thanks for letting me wallow.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I Love Adam Scott (And I Really Like Friends with Kids too)

This was a review I originally wrote for my school newspaper. Not my finest work, but I thought you might like it anyways. I added annotations of all the little things I didn't get to say in print. 

Adam Scott is an amazing man[1]. I enjoyed him as Party Down’s protagonist Henry Pollack[2]. I really like him as Ben Wyatt, Leslie Knope’s perfect love interest on Parks and Recreation[3]. And, tonight, I fell in love with him in Jennifer Westfeldt’s Friends With Kids[4].

In Kids, Scott leads an all-star ensemble which ranges from SNL veterans Kristin Wiig and Maya Rudolph to Mad Men’s jack of all trades Jon Hamm. Scott’s character, Jason, is a classic commitment phobic playboy. His best friend, Julie, played by writer, producer, and director Jennifer Westerfeldt, is a smart, competent, woman unlucky in love, heading into her thirties with her biological clock ticking louder and louder every year. After watching their fun, adventurous friends become over exhausted, angry parents they decide to skip over the complicated marriage and go right for baby. From that point forward, they are best friends without benefits, co-parents without co-living arrangements, and hilarious comedic partners without a missed beat.

Many will compare Friends With Kids with last year’s breakout hit Bridesmaids. Personally, I think that does a disservice to Kids, which is realer, funnier, and less dependent on abhorrent scatological humour. I must have laughed at least once a minute[5], but that’s not why I loved this film. What I really enjoyed about it was the well-developed relationships and the realistic moments they produced.

The film successfully contrasts romantic relationships in their various stages of development, from new love all the way to impending divorce. When Wigg and Hamm’s marriage comes to its breaking point, their disagreements feel justified. When Hamm’s character questions Jason and Julie’s parents-without-benefits situation, Jason’s defense feels right, and the ensuing argument feels exactly like every argument you’ve ever had with a friend who’s been there to witness you screw up all these years. Most of all, the slowing cooking romance between Jason and Julie manages to be both difficult and messy, but also exciting and insanely romantic.

In short, Friends With Kids is a pretty great movie. It’s realistic without being boring, funny without being meaningless, heartfelt without being heart wrenching. Jennifer Westerfeldt crafts a great film; Adam Scott is a great leading man. Friends With Kids is a great comedy, and a very sweet romance; it is, in short, one of the only movies that actually manages to live up to the title of the Romantic Comedy[6].  

[1] Look at pictures of him now. Please. You’re welcome.
[2] I have since found out his name is actually Henry Pollard. Oops. Hey, I think it’s pretty impressive that I remembered his last name at name all, considering I saw the show once a very long time ago and didn’t even love it that much.
[3] See: Road Trip, World’s Smallest Park, The Trial of Leslie Knope
[4] Upon reflection, I probably shouldn’t have started the review this way, since most people don’t even know who Adam Scott is. Also, I think I broader, less fan girl opening might have been more appropriate.
[5] Big exaggeration. But saying I laughed once every three minutes doesn’t sound as good. I claim poetic license on this one.
[6] So, that’s all I could fit into the 400 word review. For your special, online content, here’s the full list of awesomeness:

1)   Megan Fox was actually a fairly not terrible actress in her role as Scott’s/Jason’s decoy girlfriend, if you can believe it.

2)   The romantic ending was so well earned and so sweet and so realistic. When he tells her, she has to take time to think about it, considering the risk of loving him. It’s just fantastic.

3)   All the children in the film looked surprisingly like their actor parents. It’s spooky. And adorable.

4)    I liked this film so much that I think I may see it again in theatres. It is really that good.

5)   I also really liked the way the film is edited. The opening credits are cool, and go by quick and painlessly. The film also skips a lot of parts—the pregnancy—and a lot of years, which was really interesting, as you’re able to see relationships really progress.

6)   I really liked Jon Hamm and Jon Hamm’s character. Very realistic.

7)   I was less of a fan of Maya Rudolph. But then again, I never like her.

8)   I thought the whole friends with kids idea wasn’t all that terrible. But then, I’m not a parent.


Friday, March 2, 2012

On Being Shy

I can't do it. What are they going to say? But what if--I can't. No. Please don't make me. I don't want to. It's so awkward. Can't someone else do it? Do I really have to do it? Is this really necessary? I really don't want to. Don't make me. Stop. I'll do it later or figure it out later I just can't now. It's too much. Please stop. I just need leave. I'll, I'll, it'll get fixed somehow. I just can't--

Welcome to my life. More specifically, welcome to my brain. This is how I think sometimes. Many times a day. When I'm shopping and a salesperson approaches me. When I have to ask a teacher a question. When I have to make small talk. When I have to meet someone new. When I'm giving a presentation. When I'm talking to my friends. I think like this all those times because I am shy.

It's been a fact of my life for so long, something I've lived with, and just accepted, like the fact that I have brown hair or my birthday or something. It's a constant, a fact of my life.

As a result, I often look at my shyness as one would probably look at their gayness: as a indisputable part of who they are, neither good nor bad, but simply a part of them. But recently I've started to question this. Is being shy like being gay?

Or is being shy a problem that needs to be fixed?

Should society treat shyness as a type of disorder or mental illness that needs therapy and medication?

For most of my life, I would have screamed at such a question. NO FREAKING WAY. BEING SHY IS WHO I AM, AND WHO I AM IS NOT A PROBLEM.

But I'm not so sure anymore.

Because being shy is really challenging on a micro level. So many everyday things suddenly become so hard. I have trouble buying bread at local convenience store, because I'm afraid the cashier will try and talk to me. I get scared of going to class, not because of the academic stuff, but because I don't like not having someone to sit next to. Even with people I know, I face challenges. I have a really hard time at parties, even when I've known every guest for years. I get nervous every time before I see my best friend, because I'm afraid we'll run out of things to talk about. Being shy can be really freaking hard.

Because the world is not built for shy people. The world is built on connections--connections with friends, connections with teachers, connections with employers. Connection and communication is what brings you opportunity, what moves you forward in life. Being shy makes connecting like that so much more difficult. Often times, this doesn't seem fair. It makes me hate myself to think that not only is the world not built for me, but I'm not built for the world, and there's nothing I can do to change that. Which brings me to my next question:

Is it possible to stop being shy?

To answer this question, I have to examine a few terms, which many people use interchangeably, but really have very different meanings and very different implications:

1) Introverted

2) Quiet

I am an introverted person. And I don't think that will ever change, and I don't think it needs to change. I need alone time. I need time to unwind and just be. I need to get away, to escape, to reflect on my own. I find social interaction exhausting, even with my closest friends. I am not a people person.

But I'm also not quiet. Once I get to know someone, I unleash. I am loud and excitable and big. I don't like too much social time, but when I am being social, I'm not withdrawn.

To me, being introverted and not being quiet are simple personality traits, like being funny or smart or enthusiastic or mean. Those are the things that make up WHO I AM. Those are the parts I need to scream for.

But I don't think I need to scream for shyness. Because that is a limitation, a challenge I need to overcome. I do think it is a problem, but I also think it is possible to overcome it. I don't think I'll be shy forever.

I also don't think the change will happen overnight or over years or maybe even over decades. Because being shy is such a big part of my life and my thoughts and my decisions. It is a fear, a very large fear, that affects very large parts of my life. Thus, it will take a large effort and a longtime to truly leave it behind.

In the meantime, I need people to be nicer about it. I need friends who understand. Who accept me, faults and all. I need to find books and movies and tv shows that show me shy people, that show me people who truly understand what I'm going through. I need to know that I'm normal, that I'm accepted, that I'm going to be okay. But, more than that, I need to know that there's someone out there who understands what it's like to act like me, to think like me, to be like me.

I need help.

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