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Friday October 31st 2014

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Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

Things We Missed In ’13 + (A Select Handful Of) Things We’re Looking Forward To In ’14

Books We Should Have Read

“Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint” by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Modern Christianity has gotten a bad reputation for being disingenuous and inauthentic. And when I say ‘gotten,’ I really mean ‘earned.’ It has been narrowed down to black and white do’s and don’ts with very little gray area. Bolz-Weber hopes to change this. “Pastrix” tells the story of her past demons that led to her conversion and ordination into the Lutheran church and why she hurts for the oppressed. She is cranky, talks like a sailor and is very open. The world needs her voice. (Jason)

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman
I’m pretty interested in anything coming from the mind of a guy married to Amanda Palmer, let’s be real. I feel super guilty for not having read this one, originally meant to be a novella written to her, especially since it recently won Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards. Plus it’s supposed to be pretty short as novels go, so there’s really no excuse. I became enamored with Gaiman’s ability to immerse the reader in his super complex fantasy worlds (there are several co-existing right now, didn’t you know?) when stumbling upon “Neverwhere” one random insomnia-filled night. Background information that I had no clue about until after I read that book: he’s the same guy that wrote the more well-known — meaning they have movie adaptations, so it’s far more likely you’ve heard of them — “Coraline” and “Stardust.” Similar to those, the book I read was geared toward children, so I’m extra intrigued about “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” since it’s one of his few novels intended for adults. As much of his plot lines go, it sounds pretty wild, with elements based on his own childhood, and then oh, wormholes — overall delving into the “disconnect between childhood and adulthood.” Yeah, time to finally go read it. (Sam)

“Tenth of December” by George Saunders
I must confess that I may have a tiny bit of a writer’s crush on dear George Saunders for his mastery of the short story. Although I’m sure you remember his advice to graduates this year in his address at Syracuse University’s graduation, what you may not realize is that he kicked off the year with another work of wondrous short stories, “Tenth of December.” This work found its way onto quite a few top lists this year, including The New York Times’ list: “The 10 Best Books of 2013.” In addition to his previous short story collections, his 2007 books of essays, “The Braindead Megaphone,” happens to be a go-to read I pick back up from time to time when I need some thoughtful entertainment. I am eager to get my hands on what is said to be another dark, yet humorous work by none other than the master himself.  (Sarah)

“I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Malala Yousafzai
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen or read at least one interview with teenage heroine and now best-selling author Malala Yousafzai this past year. And unless you don’t have a soul, you were probably captivated by her scary, yet inspiring, story just like I was.  Hopefully you just weren’t as lazy as me and have already read it.
But just in case you missed it here are the basics: At age 15 Yousafzai was shot in the head at point-blank range by Taliban forces because of her refusal to go quietly when her access to education was taken away. Few expected her survive, but she did. She has since gone on to become the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize and a global spokeswoman for the power of peaceful protest. I can’t think of a more perfect read to kick of a new year and hopefully get me motivated to actually do something worthwhile this year.   (Joani)

“Behind the Kitchen Door” By Saru Jayaraman
Now a year old, Jayaraman’s look at the restaurant industry takes on the low wages and working conditions in America’s restaurants. The author herself has appeared on numerous television shows since the book’s release in January 2013 and makes a powerful argument for raising wages for servers —some of the lowest in America — and generally improving conditions for those preparing and serving Americans many of their meals. Jayaraman’s work touches on broader issues related to the minimum wage, the increasing rate at which Americans eat out, and the real cost of the cheap food to which Americans have become accustomed. With a forward by Eric Schlosser (“Fast Food Nation”), “Behind the Kitchen Door” has put Jayaraman among the ranks of the multiple journalists advocating for a more sustainable and humane food system, no matter who is preparing the meal. (Jessica)

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Movies We Should Have Watched

“Blackfish”
I feel like the only person with cable who hasn’t watched “Blackfish” yet. Seriously, I don’t think CNN has aired anything this buzz-worthy since last New Year’s Eve when Kathy Griffin tried to “kiss” Anderson Cooper.

The film is a companion piece to 2009’s “The Cove.” It examines the dangers of keeping species in captivity by focusing on Tilikum, a killer whale who has been involved in the deaths of three individuals while being held by SeaWorld. Of course, SeaWorld declined to participate in film and is now disputing most of its claims, but that isn’t stopping “Blackfish” from resonating with viewers and critics alike. It’s a virtual lock for a Best Documentary nod at this year’s Academy Awards. And even though I know it’s probably going to make me cry just like “The Cove” did, I promise to watch it before then — I really do.  (Joani)

“The Wolf of Wall Street”
If you asked me what the last movie I went to see in theaters was, or even watched at home, I couldn’t tell you with absolute certainty. I can tell you when I do select a film to watch, it’s a careful choice. Since I didn’t pay much mind to this year’s releases until December, it’s no surprise that my pick is one we’ve all heard about constantly in recent days, “The Wolf of Wall Street.” First and foremost, my draw to the film is the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio is the star of the show, and truly is an ageless wonder that I will never grow tired of. I am eager to see just how he portrays the role and looking forward to the exaggerated debauchery that surrounds him. I also feel that they greedy, crazy world portrayed in this movie speaks to a condition that spans far outside of Wall Street. The film is already receiving applause for its soundtrack and cinematography, both of which I consider prime pieces in making a film worth its watch. This may even be one I break down and go to the theaters for. (Sarah)

“Frances Ha”
Ok, yeah, I’m female and in my late 20s, so it’s no surprise that I’m a sucker for the fact that this movie is starring a 27-year-old heroic female character. Bonus though, it’s bound to be artsy too — shot entirely in black and white. A collaboration of Greta Gerwig, who also stars as the main character Frances in the movie, and her equally talented real life partner, writer-director Noah Baumbach, I’m betting it also contains some pretty fresh and true to life scenarios and dialogue. The movie follows Frances Handley’s adapting to adult life, moving sporadically from city to city, while still pursuing her dreams, regardless of how grounded or not they may be in reality. Ever hopeful, this fairly broke aspiring dancer navigates relationships, friendships (her closest relationship being with her best friend and roommate Sofie), and typical life stuff.  Did I mention it’s all shot in black and white?  (Sam)

“12 Years a Slave”
Having read the book that the movie is based in graduate school, I have no excuse for not having seen this. The film tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free African-American who was kidnapped in 1841 while in Washington, D.C. and sold into slavery in Louisiana. Northup’s firsthand account of life within the U.S. domestic slave trade and society was extremely powerful on the page, and the film is reportedly just as moving.  British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Northup, supported by a cast including Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt. The film has been nominated for multiple Golden Globes including Best Picture, Best Actor for Ejiofor, Best Supporting Actor for Fassbender and Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o.  I will definitely have to make amends and check this one out before the awards shows start.  (Jessica)

“The Butler”
I took a nap near an elliptical type of machine at Harpo Studios once. Fortunately I was spared the embarrassment for when I awoke, Oprah wasn’t working out next to me. But I digress. Speaking of Oprah, I have heard only the most fantastic reviews for the film in which she co-stars opposite Forest Whitaker—Lee Daniels’ “The Butler.” This year’s field for Oscar contention is packed with films that deal with race relations in America. But this film has a few specifics that land it on my “I should have seen that,” list. For one, its deeply historical as its told through the perspective of a White House butler that served more Presidents than I have been legally eligible to vote for. The main character started in the Truman administration and served through the Reagan years. He was there as our country was shaped through its most important moments—think the Kennedy assassination and Civil Rights era. In any household, its the ones who are never seen that hear the most and apparently the White House is no different. The film’s cast is just as significant. “The Butler” is on everyone’s list this year for the Academy Award predictions and yet, somehow, this History Channel junkie missed his “fix.”  (Ed)

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+ (A Select Handful Of) Things We’re Looking Forward To In ’14

Screens: TV, Movie and Netflix releases to get excited about
“Community” (returns to NBC Jan. 2)
“Downton Abbey” (returns to PBS Jan. 5)
The 100th episode of  “Parks and Recreation” airs on NBC (Jan. 9)
Spike Jonze’s “Her” (wide release Jan. 10, of course we probably won’t get it at a local theater for a few more weeks)
“Girls” (returns to HBO Jan. 12)
“Mitt” — the Romney documentary (available on Netflix Jan. 24)
“The Lego Movie” (Feb. 7)
“House of Cards” season two hits Netflix (Feb. 14)
Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (March 7)
The movie that Kickstarter made—aka “Veronica Mars” (March 14)
“Divergent” (March 21 — meaning you’ve still got plenty of time to read the best-selling book)
“Orphan Black’s Attack of the Clones” (returns to BBC America April 19)
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ (May 2)
Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of the musical “Jersey Boys” (June 20)
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (July 11).
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (remake hits theaters Aug. 8)
“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” (Aug. 22)
“Dark Places” is the first of two Gillian Flynn books that are getting big-screen adaptations this fall (Sept. 1)
“Gone Girl” is the second (Oct. 3)
“Dumb and Dumber Too” (Nov. 14)
“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1″ (Nov. 21)
“The Hobbit: There and Back Again” (Dec. 17)
Remake of “Annie” starring Quvenzhane Wallis (Dec. 19)
“Better Call Saul” — a Breaking Bad spin-off (airing on AMC, exact date still TBA but they promise it will be sometime in ’14)

Sounds: Upcoming albums to make note of*
“After the Disco” by Broken Bells (Jan. 14)
“Give The People What They Want” by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings (Jan. 14)
“Acoustic At The Ryman” by Band of Horses (Feb. 11)
“Morning Phase” by Beck (Feb. 14)
“St. Vincent” by St. Vincent (Feb. 25)
“Sparks” by Imogen Heap  (March 3)
“Lost in the Dream” by The War on Drugs (March 18)
“Out Among the Stars” — a lost Johnny Cash record from the 80′s (March 25)
“Food” by Kelis — mostly noteworthy because it was produced by Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio (April 28)

*We know this list isn’t very long, but it’s the best of what our research turned up. Maybe more artists are going the way of Beyonce in ’14 with no release dates? Or they are just bad at planning. Either way, we’re sure there’s plenty more new music in the pipes, this is just the best stuff we could find with confirmed release dates

Save The Date: Local events and special days to keep in mind
Pensacola’s 12th Night-Mardi Gras Kick Off event (Jan. 4)
Pensacola Beach Run (PBR): Half Marathon, 10K and 5K (Jan. 11)
Pensacola Symphony Orchestra presents “Beethoven and Blue Jeans” (Jan. 11)
Fire on Ice World Championship ICE Racing (Jan. 14)
Pensacola Opera presents “Carmen” (Jan. 17 & 19)
Jubilee Run, Walk or Drag with Color (Jan. 18)
Capitol Steps (Jan. 25)
19th Annual Cordova Mall Ball (Jan. 25)
Double Bridge Run 15K and 5K (Feb. 1)
Pensacon (Feb. 21-23)
World Book Day (March 6)
McGuire’s 5K Prediction Run (March 15)
Ballet Pensacola presents “Timeless” (March 14 & 15, 21 & 22)
Pensacola Opera presents “Cinderella” (March 21 & 23)
Record Store Day (April 19)
Hangout Fest (May 16-18)