Fifty Fifty Challenge “Marches” On

For crying out loud! Where did the time go? One minute it’s here, right in front of me, like a red carpet rolled out for the Oscars, and I’m all gussied up getting ready to make the most of my time and ease on down the red—

And, the next minute it’s flown the coop!

Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are rookie cops who go back to high school in "21 Jump Street."

I mean March has 31 days, not like it’s awkward sister, February, who most years has a meager 28 and, this year had a whopping 29. Close, but no cigar.

So you’d think, with 31 days, I can do plenty of damage on my Fifty Fifty list, right? I mean, think of all the movies I can watch! The books I can read! The sky’s the limit, no?

Alas, no. All that supposed time I had to read books and watch movies got hit by a train and left town.

In other words, I ran out of time and didn’t really make a dent in my Fifty Fifty challenge. I’m embarrassed to say that, in the month of March, I saw only four movies—that’s one a week!—and read just two books, one of which was less than 150 pages. Pathetic, I know. Tsk, tsk.

And yes, I know. I’ll never reach my goal at this rate.

So, laugh at me, if you will, but before you do, I submit for your entertainment, my paltry list:

The Movies:

21 Jump Street – I’m putting my rep on the line here and coming out and saying it: Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum make an awesome team and this is one hilarious film. It’s a laugh a minute, with unexpected moments and ridiculously funny ones, too. I loved it right through the credits. I can’t wait for the sequel (and you know there’s going to be a sequel). Look for great cameo from original cast member Johnny Depp. It is a classic scene, an homage to the series, which, by the way, I never saw. In other words, two thumbs up! If nothing else, see it because it co-stars Nick Offerman who plays Ron Swanson, the baddest curmudgeon you’ll ever meet, on my favorite sitcom, Parks and Recreation!

Friends with Kids – Great cast, nice, sweet, somewhat predictable, slow in spots, great cast (oh, did I already mention that it has a great cast?). This is a film by Jennifer Westfeldt (of Kissing Jessica Stein fame, which I never saw), who convinced her boyfriend, Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, to co-star in it and play a jerk, to boot. First of all, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that The Jon Hamm is her boyfriend. A moment please while I take it in…

…Okay, anyway, as I was saying, this film stars Adam Scott, from Parks and Recreation, along with Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph (have you seen Miss Maya in Up All Night? Simply fabulous!), Edward Burns, and Megan Fox.  Wait for the DVD. You’ll enjoy it more that way.

The Muppet Movie: Fun film. I saw this with my kids (who are grown, as you no doubt know) and we all enjoyed it. Jason Segel wrote the screenplay and co-stars in it with Amy Adams, Rashida Jones (who also stars in Parks and Recreation), and a slew of Muppets. Songs could be better, but everything else, indeed, was. Charming film with lots of cameo appearances, everyone from Jack Black to Neil Patrick Harris.

The Old Curiosity Shop: Charles Dickens, need I say more? You’ll weep for Nell, you’ll despise Quilp and you’ll want to give Derek Jacobi as Nell’s grandfather, a good kick in the pants. This BBC production feels a bit like the condensed version of the book, but worth seeing because it’s a terrific yarn.

The Books:

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath: I love Sylvia Plath. I first read this book ages ago and the first line is still my hands-down, favorite, all time opening for a book:

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”

Simple, to the point, and so evocative. Immediately draws you in.

Love Story by Erich Segal:  Another book that I read as a teen. Why did I love it so much back then? Who knows? I was a sap for romance. Why did this become a HUGE bestseller? Who knows? I wasn’t the only sap for romance, I guess.  In retrospect, as far as writing goes, I’ve read better. I can’t help but wonder, if this book were submitted to a publisher today, would it get published? Rather trite and simple, if you ask me.  This coming month, I plan to watch the movie with Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal. I’ll let you know if it’s any better.

And one more…

Corduroy by Don Freeman:

Okay, I didn’t read this book this month. But, I read it to my kids, over and over, when they were young. I’m sure you know its endearing story. Corduroy is a teddy bear who finds a home with a girl named Lisa, when she buys him with money she saved in her piggy bank.

Last week, I discovered that fellow blogger, Lisa Rosenberg, is the inspiration for the Lisa in the Corduroy stories! Her’s is an amazing tale, and I encourage you to find out more in her post, The Hunger Games, Corduroy and Me.

So, tell me, what movies or books did you enjoy last month?

A Gaggle of Books & Films

Must read. Must watch movies. As many know, I’m in the Fifty Fifty challenge, which is why I must do both!

MOVIES: Now, as far as movies go, I’ve only seen three this month (last month I saw eight): The Descendants, which still has me wondering, why would anyone cheat on George Clooney? Inside Daisy Clover, starring a stellar cast that includes Natalie Wood, Robert Redford, Christopher Plummer, and a plucky Ruth Gordon. But this 1965 film is such a sad movie about Hollywood in its early days–when actors were under contracts and had to uphold a moral code set by the big studios–that touches upon themes of addiction, mental illness and homosexuality.

Whitney Houston as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard.

The third film I’ve seen this month is The Bodyguard. When I learned of Whitney Houston’s passing on February 11th, I felt compelled to watch this film once more. I hadn’t seen it in years, but I remember loving this film and especially, the music. For, Whitney’s music in this film helped me through my divorce. It was inspiring to me then, and this time around, I found it all the more poignant. And though The Bodyguard has a happy ending, knowing what we know now, makes it bittersweet, as in the end, no one could save Whitney from herself. Except, maybe, if Kevin Costner, who gave an incredibly moving eulogy at her funeral on Saturday, had still been her bodyguard.  If Whitney’s music touched you in any way, please be sure to check out my Huffington Post story on how her music made a difference in my life.

BOOKS:

In January I read three books. So far, in February, I’ve read two. The verdict is still out whether I’m going to make the 50-mark, but, thankfully, I still have about eight months to go.  Here are the two books that I’ve read so far:

The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley – This is a Flavia de Luce mystery, and it’s like reading a sophisticated Nancy Drew mystery, set in the quaint English countryside in the middle of the last century. Flavia is so nifty and knowing. She’s 12 years old and probably the smartest person in her village, cleverer than even the chief of police.

Mothers, Daughters, and Other Mysteries by Heather McPhaul – Fellow blogger and stunt woman extraordinaire, also known in some circles as Aging Gal, is a total hoot. She tells it like it is and makes the mundane seem hilarious. I discovered Heather when she was Freshly Pressed in March, 2011. Her post, about planning to one day retire to prison, where all her expenses will be covered–by taxpayers–and health care is free, still remains one of my favorites. It had me laughing so hard, I cried.

Her novel, Mothers, Daughters, and Other Mysteries, is about a young woman, Leeann Conklin who, at a crossroads in her life, decides to start her own detective agency in NYC. Leeann has issues with her mom, Ava Gerard, a diva-type who pops in for a surprise visit when she’s in town for the Daytime Emmy Awards. Of course, this all happens just when Leeann gets her first detective gig. Ava joins in the mayhem that ensues, coming up with a few crafty disguises to help solve the crime.

I like supporting my fellow bloggers when I can, and I hope you will, too, by reading Heather’s book. It’s a fun, easy read!

And speaking of books, I’m excited that, later this week, I’m going to meet best-selling author Jennifer Niven, whose book, Velva Jean Learns to Fly, will be featured at a special event hosted by Adventures By the Book. Now, I just adore Adventures By the Book events, because they’re not just your run-of-the-mill author book signings–they’re an experience! And, for this one, where the theme is all about flying, we’re going to be taking a tour of the San Diego Air & Space Museum. Now, Velva Jean Learns to Fly happens to be a sequel to Velva Jean Learns to Drive, and I’m thinking I ought to read these books in order. Wouldn’t you agree?

So, dear readers, what movies have you seen lately? What books are you reading? Inquiring minds just have to know!