Grit or Glamour? Your (Casting) Call: On Milkman and La La Land

milkman

Milkman, by Anna Burns

The Oscars just passed. I didn’t watch, although I love the movies. That being said, I’m usually behind in my screenings, so let’s tie this in to the Oscars two years ago. Bright side: I’m talking about an extremely current book. You win some, you lose some.

I love the movie La La Land, and I will make no apologies for that. I know there was a bit of a fuss during 2017’s Oscars season (and not just because Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty awkwardly announced – incorrectly – that it had won Best Picture) because there were so many more “meaningful” pictures that required attention. I’m a big fan of “meaningful movies,” so I understand the impetus toward criticism of this seemingly fluffy film. But I feel like there was a big component of La La Land that people weren’t acknowledging: The entire thing was cleverly framed as a Hollywood fantasy however you chose to interpret the story. (Hello, people are dancing on air in the Griffith Observatory.) Meanwhile, the other “best picture” contenders were powerful and gritty views of real-life issues. Continue reading

If the Shoe Fits (It Never Does): On Donal Ryan, Apricot Irving, and Liminality

sea and gospel

From a Low and Quiet Sea, by Donal Ryan & The Gospel of Trees, by Apricot Irving

About a year ago, a woman named Marianne Cantwell gave a TEDx talk in Norwich, UK about “fitting in.” Show me a person who has no worries about this, and I will show you my canary yellow Doc Marten boots. **

Cantwell says this about fitting in: “It’s like from the outside you look like you fit, but secretly, a little piece of you never feels that you 100% fit into any of [your worlds].” She then discusses the word ‘liminal,’ “a state of in-between-ness, like you’re not quite one thing, but not quite another. You’re on the borderlands.”

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Smile! It’s an Identity Crisis

Smile, by Roddy Doyle

Identity 101: The pretend class that everyone takes in college as they sort out their awesome, autonomous selves. Identity 202: The real “class” that all adults will hopefully pass one day when they realize that “identity” is a little trickier and nuanced than a list of clubs and professional organizations – or car magnets.

I can’t imagine that Roddy Doyle sat down at his computer and claimed that he would write about an amorphous notion of “identity” (because that seems like the territory of angsty 20-somethings attempting to write the next best thing) but, really, Smile reads like he did. That is a compliment, by the way, primarily because Doyle’s latest is more of the 202 variety while having a little fun with the 101 level. Doyle is a prolific writer and chronicler of Irish life (more on that in a sec) and Smile is his eleventh novel; he deserves a more mature course load.

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