Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

This is one of the Best Picture nominees and one of the AFI’s ten best for 2019. It’s also nominated for Best Director, Actor, Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay.

It was ALSO the last movie we saw for OscarPass (a rewatch for both of us).

I liked it a lot more the second time, though the ending was still bad for me (I’m never going to be chill with watching women literally get their faces beaten in, even if it’s a movie and even if they’re awful.

Still, this is a solid movie and Brad Pitt deserves his Oscar.

The Voting Booth

Finished The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert. I received a copy for review. This will be released on July 7.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From Stonewall Award-winning author Brandy Colbert comes an all-in-one-day love story perfect for fans of The Sun is Also A Star.
Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She’s always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election?
Duke Crenshaw is do done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band’s first paying gig tonight.
Only problem? Duke can’t vote.
When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn’t spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right. And that’s how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote. They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva’s missing cat), it’s clear that there’s more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.
Romantic and triumphant, The Voting Booth is proof that you can’t sit around waiting for the world to change?but some things are just meant to be.”

Brandy Colbert is one of my favorite authors and I love the way that her stories are both fun and meaningful. I absolutely love Marva, whose driving goal is to make sure that people are registered to vote (and then that they actually do) because it’s the easiest way for any one person to make a difference. And so when she accidentally hears Duke not being allowed to vote, she swings into action and makes it her mission to ensure that he does actually get to cast a ballot that day.

But there’s a lot of other stuff to deal with, too. And that’s what saves this book from just being another “issues book.” (And no judgment there; I love issues books.) But this has so much going on, and it’s a complete joy to read. (As all of her books are.)

Jojo Rabbit

Jojo Rabbit is one of the AFI’s 10 best movies for 2019 and is nominated for Best Picture. Scarlett Johansson is nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

It’s set during World War II and is about Jojo, a young boy whose imaginary friend is Hitler. (But a weird, goofy, friendly Hitler, which is completely jarring.) Then he learns that his mom is hiding a Jewish teenager.

It’s a weird and fun movie, and it deserves the acclaim it’s getting.

This has been a really good movie award season.

Hum if You Don’t Know the Words

Finished Hum if You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Perfect for readers of The Secret Life of Bees and The Help, a perceptive and searing look at Apartheid-era South Africa, told through one unique family brought together by tragedy.

Life under Apartheid has created a secure future for Robin Conrad, a nine-year-old white girl living with her parents in 1970s Johannesburg. In the same nation but worlds apart, Beauty Mbali, a Xhosa woman in a rural village in the Bantu homeland of the Transkei, struggles to raise her children alone after her husband’s death. Both lives have been built upon the division of race, and their meeting should never have occurred . . . until the Soweto Uprising, in which a protest by black students ignites racial conflict, alters the fault lines on which their society is built, and shatters their worlds when Robin’s parents are left dead and Beauty’s daughter goes missing.

After Robin is sent to live with her loving but irresponsible aunt, Beauty is hired to care for Robin while continuing the search for her daughter. In Beauty, Robin finds the security and family that she craves, and the two forge an inextricable bond through their deep personal losses. But Robin knows that if Beauty finds her daughter, Robin could lose her new caretaker forever, so she makes a desperate decision with devastating consequences. Her quest to make amends and find redemption is a journey of self-discovery in which she learns the harsh truths of the society that once promised her protection.

Told through Beauty and Robin’s alternating perspectives, the interwoven narratives create a rich and complex tapestry of the emotions and tensions at the heart of Apartheid-era South Africa. Hum if You Don’t Know the Words is a beautifully rendered look at loss, racism, and the creation of family.”

I absolutely loved this book. It’s a complete page-turner and it’s absolutely devastating in parts. It’s a little bit Secret Garden-ish (young girl loses both her parents unexpectedly and has to become a better person with the help of people who are currently strangers but will become her chosen family) but that’s really where it ends.

This is a hard book to read but so worth it. The book is a little simplistic in parts but Robin is young and sometimes she actually just says really obvious things. (As I guess kids do?)

By and large, though, I loved it.


Finished Beloved by Toni Morrison.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby.

Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.

Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement by Nobel Prize laureate Toni Morrison.”

I’ve been embarrassed for years that I haven’t read this and I wanted to change this in 2020. I knew that it was brilliant and challenging and devastating and all those things are definitely true.

Sethe broke my heart. I’m not sure what counts as a spoiler since the book’s from the 1980s, but the twist here broke my heart. I actually already knew it (my best friend read it in college but my professor taught The Bluest Eye instead) but the rationale and reading the whole book as someone in my late thirties instead of as someone in my early twenties made a horrible kind of sense. I don’t know what I would’ve done, but if you’re going to be broken, better for it to be fast than by inches? I don’t know. There are no good answers.

I definitely want to read more of Toni Morrison’s books and I want to read The Bluest Eye again.

Highly recommended.


Joker is one of the AFI’s best movies of 2019 and is nominated for Best Picture, Director and Actor (which Joaquin Phoenix is expected to win).

This is an excellent movie but it’s also brutal. We see Arthur Fleck losing his mind (and his grasp is already tenuous at best) and it’s unbearable.

This movie will stay with me for a long time. I’m glad I saw it and it deserves all the acclaim. But…I’m going to hear that laugh for a while.

Keep Moving

Finished Keep Moving by Maggie Smith. I received a copy for review. It will be released May 5.

Summary (from Goodreads):

For fans of Anne Lamott and Cleo Wade, a collection of quotes and essays on facing life’s challenges with creativity, courage, and resilience.

When Maggie Smith, the award-winning author of the viral poem “Good Bones,” started writing daily Twitter posts in the wake of her divorce, they unexpectedly caught fire. In this deeply moving book of quotes and essays, Maggie writes about new beginnings as opportunities for transformation. Like kintsugi, the Japanese art of mending broken ceramics with gold, Keep Moving celebrates the beauty and strength on the other side of loss. This is a book for anyone who has gone through a difficult time and is wondering: What comes next?”

Once I saw this was compared to Glennon Doyle and Anne Lamott, I knew I wanted to read it and I was not disappointed.

This is basically a series of pep talks, but it’s also a lot more beautiful and profound than that might sound. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed is my favorite book ever, but this is a great follow up read, too.

I don’t think everything will apply to everyone, but there are a lot that will apply to any given person. I’m so glad this book was pitched to me; I absolutely loved it. (I don’t want to share any excerpts because it feels like the worst kind of spoiler.)

This is a very real contender for my favorite book of the year, and yes, I know it’s only January.

Highly recommended.

The Irishman and Ford v. Ferrari

Both are nominated for Best Picture. The Irishman is also one of the AFI’s ten best of 2020 and earned Best Director and two Best Supporting Actor nominations.

I liked The Irishman more than I expected to. It’s very long (“indulgent” is the word I kept using) but the second half is much better than the first. It’s about Jimmy Hoffa and what happened to him (or at least one account; I guess there are several stories, all different).

Ford v. Ferrari…well, the acting is great. It’s also very long (though a full hour shorter than The Irishman) and I can’t care about cars for two and a half hours. I didn’t know anything about the movie going in (I’d heard of Shelby Mustangs, because my uncle loves them) but I didn’t know who Ken Miles was or anything about Le Mans. I didn’t hate it, but this movie was definitely not for me. (I would’ve preferred Knives Out get nominated instead. Or Bombshell. Or Us.)


Finished Chirp by Kate Messner. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From acclaimed author Kate Messner comes the powerful story of a young girl with the courage to make her voice heard, set against the backdrop of a summertime mystery.

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.”

This book packs a lot into a hair under 230 pages. I love Mia and her family, especially Gram. I’ve never been particularly tempted to try crickets but I kind of am now. (Probably the garlic and sea salt, but maybe maple? Probably barbecue.)

I also love Mia’s friends. They’re smart and lovely people, and I especially love the way that they all cheer each other on. They’re not even competitive or frenemies and it’s a good change.

As could be expected from Kate Messner’s books, this is a fun and good story that is an excellent time. (Expect some hard moments and maybe a few tears, but it’s all worth it.) Highly recommended.