Hot Reads 12/7/14

It’s holiday time but I haven’t read much on the subject so far except “Journey Into Light” which is linked to below. It was a fun read, all about the traditions of mid-winter, Christmas and Advent, and the Goddess culture. You won’t want to miss it.

Other offerings today include issues of women in film, women in gaming, women as writers, women (and men) in rock n roll, and all sorts of other interesting reads. So peruse my list while you’re having your coffee or tea and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Photo via Variety

Photo via Variety

From Variety: Oscars Best Actress Race: Where’s the competition?
Favorite quote: “This is a result of the way Hollywood now does business. Women are an endangered species across all genres of the film industry, in both big movies and small. On the blockbuster side, studios continue to obsess over mega-budget franchises, where women are treated as an after-thought (see Glenn Close in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” or Keri Russell in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”). No matter how many hits there are on the scale of “The Hunger Games,” “Maleficent” or “The Fault in Our Stars,” male executives still cling to the outdated belief that male audiences won’t pay to see a girl headline a movie, because they can’t relate to female protagonists.”
Note: Of course, Wild is mentioned in this piece and it’s a book that I was completely immersed in when it first came out in 2012. I read it during a difficult time in my life and it resonated so soundly with me as it has with others. I hope the movie does it justice.

From Film Maker Magazine: David Lynch and Patti Smith Talk Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and More on the BBC

Photo via Film Maker Magazine

Photo via Film Maker Magazine

Favorite quote: All of it. Every.Single.Word.
Note: This is actually a video but it’s the thing I enjoyed most in my reading and online surfing in the past couple of weeks. How inspired was this to have these two icons interview each other? Patti Smith is in my opinion one of the most creative, free-speaking women of any generation and David Lynch is a visionary film maker. Watching this was heaven.

From NPR: Your Adult Siblings May Be the Secret to a Long, Happy Life
Favorite quote: “The benefits can carry into old age. The literature on sibling relationships shows that during middle age and old age, indicators of well-being — mood, health, morale, stress, depression, loneliness, life satisfaction — are tied to how you feel about your brothers and sisters.”

From The Guardian: The gaming journalist who tells on her internet trolls – to their mothers
Favorite quote: “It was just a way to try to reach a resolution, to productively teach young boys it’s not okay to be sexist to women, even if they’re on the internet,” she says, “that they are real people and that there should be actual consequences for that.”
Note: Good for her! Moms will kick those boys asses.

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Photo via The New York Times

From The New York Times: Greil Marcus’s History of Rock n Roll in Ten Songs
Favorite quote: “Every great, enduring rock song is like a cell in our cultural memory. A molecule of our shared experience containing not just an incredible performance but also a shared desire for something — love, money, sex, peace, rebellion, power, freedom — some intensely held desire.”

Note: Agreed!

and also
What You Learn in Your Forties
Favorite quote: “In Paris, it’s when waiters start calling you “Madame” without an ironic wink. The conventional wisdom is that you’re still reasonably young, but that everything is declining: health, fertility, the certainty that you will one day read “Hamlet” and know how to cook leeks.”

From Flavorwire: 35 Susan Sontag Quotes on Art, Writing, and Life
Favorite quote: “To me, literature is a calling, even a kind of salvation. It connects me with an enterprise that is over 2,000 years old. What do we have from the past? Art and thought. That’s what lasts. That’s what continues to feed people and give them an idea of something better. A better state of one’s feelings or simply the idea of a silence in one’s self that allows one to think or to feel. Which to me is the same.”

From Feminism and Religion: Journey into Light
Favorite quote: “I experienced these traditions first hand when I lived in Germany. In the Bavarian town of Kirchseeon, just east of Munich, mummers in hand-carved wooden masks perform the “Perchtenlauf,” a wild torchlit procession through the winter forest to awaken the dormant nature spirits and call back the dwindling sun. These processions centre around a female figure called Perchta or Holda, possibly an ancestral memory of an ancient Goddess of light and darkness.”

Because it’s holiday time and because this photo grabbed my attention and made me want to lick the screen, I’m adding a recipe this week. No, I haven’t made this but I want to. Doesn’t it look scrumptious?

Photo via Homemade Delish

Photo via Homemade Delish

Via Homemade Delish:   Pumpkin Cheesecake with Pecan Glaze

 

The Featured Book List is from Samuel Snoek-Brown, the author of Hagridden which I loved and reviewed here. I think this book list is really great because it’s an “alternative” list, by which I mean an alternative to the best sellers lists that we see everywhere. (Although I think many should be on the best sellers list!) I’ve read a few of the books he mentions and they will be in a post I’m planning about my 2014 book reading year. Trust me, this is a great list.

Featured poem is “White Birches” by Jennifer Martelli in video format narrated by Dave Bonta.  I love video poems and this one was especially enjoyable. I hope you like it too.

 

Have a great reading week and don’t forget to follow us on Pinterest!

Hot Reads 8/14/14

It’s been a slow reading week for me what with slogging through a week of extremely oppressive and dank humidity which exacerbates my penchant toward sinus blockage and headache. Ah, September in New Orleans. I’ve been spraying my clogged nose, snorting and snotting and dreaming of a tiny drill boring into my face to let the pressure out. The glowing iPad screen does nothing to soothe stingy, itchy eyes and a pounding head either so I’ve not been online much lately. This week’s offering of Hot Reads is a little smaller than usual but none the less enjoyable. So. Enjoy. And pray for cool, dry air and clear nostrils. 🙂

From The New York Times: The Death of Adulthood in American Culture
Favorite quote: “Similar conversations are taking place in the other arts: in literature, in stand-up comedy and even in film, which lags far behind the others in making room for the creativity of women. But television, the monument valley of the dying patriarchs, may be where the new cultural feminism is making its most decisive stand.”
Note: while I didn’t agree with everything in this piece it is an entertaining read on social and cultural trends in film, TV, and music. Good read.

Photo via uinterview.com

Photo via uinterview.com

From Cosmopolitan: Why I Hate Writing About Janay Rice
Tag line: This is a story about failure, compounded — failures in decency, judgment, compassion, empathy, ethics, and jurisprudence.
Favorite quote: “We demonstrate so little empathy or kindness for women in abusive relationships. We don’t want to hear real stories about what it’s like endure such relationships. We don’t want to hear how love and fear and pride and shame shape the decisions we make in abusive relationships. We don’t want to hear the truth because it is too complicated. We leave these women with nowhere to go. We force them into silence and invisibility unless they make the choices we want them to make.”
Note: I admit I only read this piece in this magazine because the author is Roxane Gay who I consider the biggest voice of common sense and equity for women today. If she writes for Cosmo, I can put aside my opinion of the magazine and give it one more try. I’m glad I did.

From Bustle:15 CONTEMPORARY SHORT STORY COLLECTIONS BY WOMEN YOU SHOULD REALLY READ
Note: I can vouch for #1 on the list, Every Kiss a War. It’s crazy-good and should be on everyone’s list who loves fresh, original story-telling.

Brave-Miss-World From Women’s Voices For Change: Wednesday 5: The Netflix Five—Films Featuring Inspiring Women
Note: I’m so glad I found this list of films and plan to watch them all.

Our book list this week comes from Poetry Magazine : Reading list, September 2014“The Reading List is a feature of Poetry magazine’s Editors’ Blog. This month contributors to the September issue share some books that held their interest.”

Poem of the week is “Violence, Interrupted” by my online buddy Amanda Harris. Amanda has just published the first issue of her new online literary journal The Miscreant. Congrats, Amanda! I hope you’ll click over there and show her some love.

Violence, Interrupted
by Amanda Harris

Here is the broken thing I am learning to love,

here is the mouth that says nothing.

I wanted a god shaped from iron,

but here you are, straw, blood and bone,

my dirty-haired rascal, wrestling

shadows in a football field.

Last night, found you unconscious in a ditch,

unstitched sweatshirt, cracked bottles for pillows.

All of your old words felt inadequate,

so I coaxed new sounds from dead fists.

My fingers spoke of chest compressions,

of 1, 2 counts and lips that never stopped shaking.

In the language of breath, the only certainty is that

at some point, anything will want its body back.

Here is where you say you are only loveable broken.

Here are all the places I mouthed yes, then no, then yes.

Hot Reads 8/10/14

From our Pinterest Hot Reads board, a list of our favorite reads on the internet during the past week. Enjoy!

huffpoflapper1. From HuffPo: “Dating in the 1920’s: Lipstick. Booze, and the Origins of Slut Shaming”
Favorite quote: “The new woman of the ’20s was totally different from her mother. She worked and voted. She smoked, drank and danced. She dated. She celebrated her new freedoms in style. She was a flapper.”

2. Also from HuffPo: “The Real “L” Word (Especially in the Bible Belt”) Is….”
(H/T: Part Time Monster)
Favorite quote: “Ministry isn’t always a sermon or a church service. No! Ministry is about loving people — all people. Jesus was radically inclusive. Just look at the woman at the well and the lepers, all considered abominations by the religious people. Jesus loved them, and He included them. That’s what I want to do with The Dandelion Project.”

3. Aaaaand, three times the charm. From HuffPo: “These Are the Things Men Say To Women On the Street”
This is shit that happens when you’re just walking down the street minding your own business. No favorite quote here. The pictures tell the story. huffpo

4. From Humanistic Paganism: “A Pedagogy of Gaia: How Lammas Changed My Life” by New Orleans blogger and activist Bart Everson.
Tagline: What can we learn, and how can we teach, from the cycles of the Earth — both the cycles within us, and the cycles in which we find ourselves?
Favorite Quote: “We may discover unexpected depths and make new connections if we are open to possibilities.”

photo(2)5. From Thought Catalog: “How and Why To Keep a Commonplace Book”
Favorite Quote: “Some of the greatest men and women in history have kept these books. Marcus Aurelius kept one–which more or less became the Meditations. ”
Note: I’ve keep one of these little books off and on over the years. Here’s two of my old ones. For me, it’s a creative addition to traditional journaling. Plus, I love quotes.

 

6. From TammyVitale.com: “Things That Strike My Fancy”tammyv
Favorite Quote: “So each new creation we allow to come through us may have been written/sung/painted/danced/spoken before, but in this instance it is filtered through our unique human experience and so it must be something new under the sun. Bayles and Orland, in Art and Fear say: Each new piece of your art enlarges our [everyone’ else’s] reality. The world is not yet done.”
Note: this is a really great essay on nurturing inspiration in your art and writing.

7. And our list for the week comes from Part Time Monster: “Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books I’d Give to Readers Who Haven’t Read Southern Literature”
A great book list that you should check out. I’d add Mystic Pig by Richard Katrovas,  Atchafalaya Houseboat: My Years in the Louisiana Swamp by Gwen Roland and French Quarter Fiction: The Newest Stories of America’s Oldest Bohemia edited by Joshua Clark.
What book would you add?
8. And finally, great poem of the week is “Don’t You Miss the Phone Booth” by Kate Peper on Rattle. Well, don’t you? If you haven’t thought about it, read this poem. Really.
A little snippet:

Oh, sure, back then it meant people couldn’t reach you 24/7,
photos snapped from your cell at a dinner party couldn’t be sent
to your loved ones in Zurich, or your pre-teen’s thumbs
couldn’t get the workout from texting, but hey—

The Hundred-Foot Journey: A Review

100footFood has the power to evoke memories and emotions. One bite or an elusive whiff can take you back to a certain place and time, to a feeling that resonates in your heart and gut. It can make you nostalgic. Biscuits do that for me. My MaMaw made the best biscuits I’ve ever tasted; big, perfectly round, a light golden brown with a texture so soft it melted on your tongue. They were perfection and I was mad about them. I’ve never had a biscuit that even came close to MaMaw’s. Now, they are only a memory but a powerful one that brings back Sunday dinner at her house with aunts and uncles and family friends eating around her bountiful table and visiting into the late afternoon. I miss it.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is all about food. The physical act of preparing and cooking it, the camaraderie and competition and the love that goes into it. It’s about family and tradition and the  mix of cultures, the teaching and learning and the sharing of those cultures. It’s about how food can grab a hold on your heart (as well as your belly!) and never let go.

Emilie and I attended a pre-release viewing of this film courtesy of The Commanders Family of Restaurants with Chef Tory at The Theatres at Canal Place. I already knew I wanted to see it so I was excited to be invited. It was everything I’d hoped it would be. The cinematography was fantastic from the vibrant colors and textures of India to the sweeping pastoral views of the French countryside to the tantalizing food itself. The food is so integral to this movie it almost eclipses the story of the people who cook it. My mouth watered at the Beef Bourguinon a la Hassan to the Tandoori Chicken (those recipes and more below!) and all the other delectable dishes in between. It made me crave Indian food. It made me want to go to India and France. I’m not a Foodie so I can’t speak to the technical aspects of the food preparation and presentation but as just someone who likes to eat, it was all five star to me! I especially enjoyed the vegetable chopping scene – it was fun to watch.

I felt all the characters were cast perfectly. Helen Mirren (one of my favorite actors) plays an impeccable French matron (to this American). Not only was her accent convincing, her persona exuded French, to me. Her manner of speaking, how she held her body, her fashion style and even her hair all convinced me she was French. The other actors, too, were so convincing I imagined they were exactly who they portrayed.

I’m not going into the particulars of the story since I’m sure most everyone has seen the trailer. (Here it is, if you haven’t.) What I will say is that it was so refreshing to watch a genuinely enjoyable movie with a sweet story that didn’t have a high speed car chase, things exploding, super-heroes or dysfunctional families. It was just a good, solid story that made you laugh, cry, and forget the outside world for a while. That’s something that’s getting more rare every day. The film opens today. Go see it!

Visit the official website for more about the storyline, the characters, and photos.

THFJ_Recipe Cards_Page_6THFJ_Recipe Cards_Page_3imageimageimageimage

“It’s boring to play the girl role.”

This is a good video of Olivia Wilde speaking and participating in a panel on “The State of Female Justice 2014: What Makes You Rise?” “The State of Female Justice” panels bring women from diverse movements together for a shared public conversation about justice and equity. In this short video (4 minutes, 2 seconds), Olivia talks about why women aren’t being empowered by the media and shares a story about an acting exercise she participated in that’s very interesting. Enjoy.

More about “The State of a Female Justice” here.

Wild: Book vs Film & How I Feel About It

I’m not sure but I think I’m excited about the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s book, Wild. The official trailer was released today. I read Wild when it first came out two years ago, when my mother was very ill in ICU and finished it shortly before her death. In  spite of all the turmoil that was going on in my life at the time (or maybe because of it), I couldn’t put this book down. It wasn’t as much the story of her grueling hike along the Pacific Crest Trail that held me spellbound as it was the sharing of her life experiences, the exploration of the issues that led her to hike the trail in the first place. It was the memories and stories of her relationship with her mother who died of cancer and how her illness and death devastated her. Just like the illness and death of my mother was devastating me. I’d never before read a book that I identified with so strongly at exactly the right time in my life that I needed it. This book was so special to  me at the time that I wanted to keep it secret. I didn’t want to share it with anyone because it held meaning and words and feelings that I felt deep inside and that I didn’t want to share with anyone. It was like Cheryl was talking through my mouth and I wanted this book to be mine alone. Have you ever felt like that? At the same time, I wanted everyone I loved to read it and see it for the exceptionally insightful collection of writing that meant so much to me. This book and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking helped me through a dark time and both will always be special to me.

But, the book flew into the world and was discovered and read by thousands of people who love it as much as I do. People who found mutual experiences and feelings with the writer, just like I did. On December 2 the  film will be released and I’m not sure I’ll be able to watch it. I have my translation of what this book means to me, the memories of how this book helped me. I don’t think I want my experience of this book to be  influenced by someone’s movie interpretation. I’m not ruling it out completely – I plan to research how much input Cheryl had in the making of the movie, then I’ll decide. The story is a powerful and cleansing one, a story that has the potential to change the course of people’s mind-set. I hope the movie lives up to the book.

Old Indie Theatre: “Another Happy Day”

ahdI like watching movies, especially obscure little indie movies that almost no one’s heard of or, at least, that I haven’t heard of. Recently I watched “Another Happy Day” (2011) a dark comedy starring Ellen Barkin, Ellen Burstyn, Thomas Haden Church, Demi Moore, Kate Bosworth, George Kennedy, and, one of my favorite good-bad guy actors, Ezra Miller. The film is written and directed by Sam Levinson who won the 2011 Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival for this film. I chose this movie strictly based on a great cast, only knowing it was about a large family getting together for a wedding. Ha! It was far from a simple family dramady.

The story is about a family week-end in Annapolis where the estranged son of mom Lynn (Barkin) is getting married at the estate of the Grandparents (Burstyn and Kennedy). Lynn arrives with her two sons in tow, a 17-year old who is a volatile, wise-ass druggie who’s just come home from his 5th rehab stay (Miller) and a 13 year old who has (a little bit of) Asperger’s. A daughter (Bosworth), a cutter, joins the family later. Lynn’s two sisters, their husbands and kids are already there and immediately you sense the hostility and derision they have for Lynn and her kids and you see this throughout most of the movie.  Lynn has hopes for a happy reunion with her betrothed son whom she has seen very little over the years because he lives with her first husband and his wife Patty (Moore), an aggressive, aging trophy wife and (allegedly) ex-stripper.

If you think you have a crazy, dysfunctional family you really should watch this film. This is the most f-bombed up family I’ve ever seen and it made me feel ecstatic that mine is so tame! Lest you think this film sounds depressing it actually isn’t. These characters are multi-layered, complicated, issue-driven and tragically comical, at times.AnotherHappyDay_2 Miller’s portrayal of the cynical druggie son vacillates between chuckle-inducing smart-ass juvenile humor and plain old selfish meanness that makes you want to slap the shit out of him. Demi Moore’s portrayal of second wife Patty is the typical middle-ageing beauty who wants everyone to think she’s still hot but she is one cray-cray drama queen who appears to have everyone fooled. I looked everywhere to find a photo of her in her black step-mom-of-the-groom dress with a huge  white ruffle down the back that looks like a dragon tail but this is the best I could find. (See the trailer below!)another-happy-day_404930_10498 The dynamics between her and Lynn could be a hit “reality” TV show.

The people in this family have so many layers of issues and craziness that they could fill their own DSM. Not a moment of this film is boring and I think you will find yourself, like me, exclaiming over and over “this family is so effed up!” The acting is superb, especially Barkin whose every emotion plays across her face like a symphony.

I could write so, so much about this movie but I won’t because I want you to watch it yourself. It’s a  movie about love, hate, heartbreak, life, death, teenage problems, mental and emotional disorders, marriages, and of course, family. It’s a great story with great actors and great dialog. What more could you want?

 

Books, TV, Movies: Charlotte’s Lists of Top Fives For 2013

Everybody’s doing the obligatory year-end lists so I thought I’d jump on the band wagon with my top five faves for movies, TV and books. I decided to limit myself to five so I wouldn’t spend too much time on the laptop. lol. Everything is listed from 5 to 1, 1 being the favorite.

First of all: movies. I love Independent film and I rarely run out to see a movie when it first comes out in theatres. In fact, I prefer watching on TV in the comfort of my home.  Just released blockbusters? Forget it. The movies I’ve selected are ones I watched this year but none of them were released this year. All of them I discovered on my own through chance and thoroughly enjoyed. Predictably, all but one are dramas as that’s my preferred genre.

TV: Three of my five favorite shows were on Sundance Channel with two being Sundance Original Series. I love Sundance. It was a little hard narrowing my favorite TV down to five since I am a true child of the TV generation. As with movies, I prefer the quirky, original and creative in my TV viewing. See what you think.

Books: I don’t rush out and read the just-released bestsellers, as a rule. However, four of my five were released this year and I’m pretty sure a couple of them are on the Bestsellers list. (Not sure as I don’t consult any of them.) After reading this article and this article, I’ve decided 2014 will be a year of reading only women writers. It’s long overdue and I urge you all to do the same in support of women’s writing.

Movies

Bonus Pic: ( because I realized after publishing that I have 6 movies listed)
You Can Count on Me – Starring Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, 2000
A young mother’s drifter brother shows up back in their hometown after years away and out of touch. The dynamics between the siblings (Linney and Ruffalo), who are complete opposites, makes for a very interesting movie. Not a lot of action here, but a thoughtful unfolding of how differences in perception can create misunderstanding and resentment in relationships. Laura Linney is a nuanced actor and one of my favorites – I’ll watch anything she’s in. Ruffalo plays his well-honed bad beautiful boy that you want to kiss and slap at the same time. Watch this movie if you don’t require car chases and exploding things.

5. The Savages – Starring Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, Directed by Tamara Jenkins, 2007
Linney and Hoffman portray two siblings who are juggling caring for their sick father with their own busy lives. Their emotional journey as they watch the deterioration of their father and the subsequent decisions they must make for his care is one many of us in our 40’s and 50’s are familiar with. This movie really touched me in a big way as I’ve recently dealt with this issue myself. Sometimes it’s helpful to see your own struggles played out on screen so you realize it happens to other people too. Linney and Hoffman give skillful, poignant performances and I wouldn’t expect anything less from them.

4. The Darjeeling Limited – Starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, Directed by Wes Anderson, 2007
Hilarious. These are three brothers who travel to India to find themselves and bond after their father’s death. The predicaments they get into will make you giggle, or at least smile. I thoroughly enjoyed this offbeat comedy that also has a few tender moments.

4608-The-Deep-End--2001-

3. The Deep End – Starring Tilda Swinton and Goran Visnjic, Directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, 2001
A mother struggles to keep her son from being implicated in a murder. Both Tilda Swinton and Goran Visnjic are great in this movie, their casting was perfect. Tilda gives a convincing, heart-wrenching performance of a mother stoically trying to keep her shit together while slowly unraveling as she tries to keep life normal while dealing with blackmailers (Visnjic) threatening to expose her son as a murderer. This movie held my attention from start to finish with a strong story and compelling acting. Highly recommend.

2. Brothers – Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Toby McGuire, Directed by Jim Sheridan, 2009
Just before a young Marine (McGuire) is deployed (again) to Afghanistan, his younger black sheep brother (Gyllenhaal) is released from prison. The story revolves around what happens in Afghanistan and what happens back home. I have to say I was impressed most by McGuire’s performance as he was not an actor I cared much for until this movie. His acting here was pretty incredible in my eyes. Gyllenhaal and Portman (as McGuire’s wife) give solid performances too but McGuire is clearly the star here. This is a tense yet, in some ways, tender movie. Some of it is hard to watch but definitely worth the effort. Highly recommend.

1. Snow Cake – Starring Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Carrie-Ann Moss, Directed by Marc Evans, 2006
OK, movies like this are why I love Independent Film. This is a wacky, crazy, insightful, sweet movie that I will definitely watch again. (I don’t often do that.) Rickman and Moss meet up serendipitously on the road, both returning to their homes after prolonged stints away. Weaver plays Moss’s mother who is a highly functional autistic, Rickman ends up staying with her and the story unfolds and keeps you watching and guessing how it will ever end. If you don’t like this movie then I can’t imagine why not. Weaver and Rickman are great and play two of the most memorable characters you’ll ever meet. Highly recommend.

The movie that most disappointed me: Silver Linings Playbook Maybe it was the mood I was in at the time but Jennifer Lawrence’s character kind of drove me crazy and I wanted to smack Bradley Cooper. I kept looking at the clock during the entire movie.

TV

5. Downton Abbey – PBS – What’s better to take you away from reality than a historical family dynasty story set in another country? The acting is fantastic, the sets opulent, the cinematography bucolic, the fashion glittering and, oh yeah, those dreamy English accents. What’s not to like? It’s worth it just to watch magic unfold from Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess Violet. Eight more days to season 4 – I can’t wait! Squee! maggie

4. Rectify – Sundance Channel –  A young man is released from prison after nineteen years on Death Row after DNA evidence exonerates him. This series follows Daniel as he tries to assimilate back into his old life where he encounters prejudice and resistance as well as support and love. This is a well-written series that makes you think about how opinions that seem so solid can be so wrong.

3. The Returned – Sundance Channel – A French (subtitled) zombie series that isn’t your same old hum-drum, flesh dropping zombie series. I am wild for this series. Basically, it takes place in a small, isolated community in France where deceased loved ones, looking as they did at death,  begin appearing, unaware that they’ve been dead. You can not take your eyes off this show and I can’t wait for Season 2. (Here’s a good synopsis on Flavorwire.)

2. Breaking Bad – AMC – If you don’t know about this series then you’ve been living under a rock. I watched the first four seasons on DVD this year, one after the other, then watched season 5 live. I was shocked by how this show pulled me in with season one. Really, I didn’t think I’d like it, thinking it was all about drugs and addicts and all the shit that goes along with that scenario. In reality, it’s one of the most well-written, well-acted and emotionally compelling shows I’ve ever seen. Now I’m watching re-runs on Sundance.

1. Top of the Lake – Sundance Channel – A  detective returns to her hometown to investigate the disappearance and suspected abuse of a pregnant teenager. The detective (Elizabeth Moss) unearths long-held town secrets and faces demons from her past in this dark, suspenseful series. As with Breaking Bad, this is a well-written and acted show that pulls you in and won’t let go. Elizabeth Moss is riveting in this, playing a much more tortured, compelling character than her gullible Peggy on Mad Men. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and  an Emmy for Best Actress in a Mini-series or Movie and should have won. Filmed in New Zealand, the cinematography is uh.may.zing, winning Adam Arkapaw the Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie.

The program that most disappointed me: American Horror Story: The Coven. This show is just too corny. I wanted to like it simply because it’s filmed here and set here and stars Jessica Lange and Angela Bassett but those  facts aren’t enough to make me sit through it one more time.

Books

5. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – The story of the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. It was fun reading about Paris in the Jazz Age and the antics of the “Lost Generation”. I have to say, though, that if this is really the way Hemingway treated his women then he’s lost some of my respect. One can be a lauded writer but if you treat people like crap it diminishes the work, for me.

4. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri – Set in India and America, this is the story of two brothers, their family and a country torn apart by revolution. It’s a page-turner, for sure.

3. Tenth of December by George Saunders – A collection of short stories every one of which is a gem. I swept through this book in no time and plan to read it again. Highly recommend. the-year-of-magical-thinking

2. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – If you’ve lost someone close to you, this is the book to read – grab it now! It gave me some solace in the year after my mother’s death by identifying and explaining patterns, behaviors and thinking that seemed wacked out but, in truth, is part of the grieving process. Skillfully and lovingly written, Didion walks us through the long protracted illness of her daughter, the sudden death of her husband and her life in the year afterward. You will see yourself in her story. Highly recommend.

1. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini – The best book I read this year, hands down. Set in Afghanistan, this is the story of a poor family, their struggle to survive and the ensuing life of a son and daughter. This is a richly detailed and engrossing story, a book I couldn’t put down. Until this, Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns had been my favorite book. Highly, highly recommend.

The book that most disappointed me: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. After a promising start this book quickly became Bor.Ing. That is all.

I hope you enjoyed my list of Top Fives and maybe feel inspired to read or watch some of these recommendations. Do you have any favorite movies, TV shows or books you’d like to share?

Happy #NOLA Friday: Yak Edition

Although this movie wasn’t filmed here or set here, New Orleans is mentioned in Sally Tomato’s weather report which is good enough to qualify it for my loosely based Happy #NOLA Friday feature. This party could most definitely have been in New Orleans just last night – we do love to costume and drink, don’t we? This is  one of my favorite scenes in a movie, ever, and  if it doesn’t make you laugh, well, “I’m gonna march you over to the zoo and feed you to the yak!” (Or did she say “Yat”? hmmmmm)

Happy #NOLA Friday!

Does Louisiana’s “Hollywood South” nickname cost more than we can afford?

During March 2013, the office of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor issued the following  press release about its “Tax Credits and Rebates in Louisiana” report:

BATON ROUGE – Mar 25, 2013 – Louisiana’s tax credit and rebate programs resulted in a tax revenue loss of more than $6.13 billion in revenue in the last seven years, according to a study of the programs released Monday by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office.

The performance audit looked at 44 of the credits that each resulted in a tax revenue loss of at least $1 million for at least one year between the calendar years 2006 and 2011. Auditors said the credits from those 44 programs – 52 percent of the 85 tax credit programs on the books — totaled a revenue reduction of approximately $5.4 billion, with 2011 tax data still incomplete as of October 2012.

The five most expensive tax credits accounted for almost $3.7 billion of the $5.4 billion total for the period studied, or 67 percent of the total revenue loss. The five are:

·  The inventory/property tax exemption for businesses — $1.5 billion.
·  The insurance company premium tax credit — $1.1 billion.
·  The motion picture investor tax credit — $512 million.
·  The credit granted on net income taxes paid to other states — $402 million.
·  The credit for assessments paid to Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. — $212 million.

While media sources are generally focusing on the $512 million figure noted above [emphasis added] regarding the “Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit,” it is actually one of three separate components of the film tax credit program listed among the 44 “loss leaders” noted in Appendix C of this report:

· The Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit: $511,613,716 (ranked #3 of 44)

· The Motion Picture Infrastructure Tax Credit: $29,561,287 (ranked #20 of 44)

· The Louisiana Motion Picture Incentive Program : $10,561,744 (ranked #29 of 44)

That’s a cumulative total of $551,736,747 over a period of 72 months’ time (or an average of $7,663,010 per month) that is reportedly lost through the program as a whole.

This $551,736,747 figure accounts for nine percent (9%) of the reported total lost of $6.13 billion during the six-year time frame examined in the report — or roughly $1 out of every $11 lost.

(Note, too, that those numbers do not include the much-touted year of 2012 with its 61 projects filmed in New Orleans… I predict that those numbers will reflect even greater losses as hundreds of millions more in uncapped credits and rebates are likely to be reflected in the statistics. If the program continues to operate in this unlimited manner, the notion of a “turning point” from subsidizing Hollywood to Louisiana’s realization of a genuine profit becomes increasingly unlikely.)

The three credits/programs noted in the report are described as follows:

Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit: Louisiana taxpayers that invest in state-certified motion-picture productions can earn a tax credit at the time expenditures are made by a motion picture production company. (This credit in particular features a rebate component, which the report defines as “A rebate is money directly reimbursed by the state to an entity or individual, independent of the tax return process or tax liability.”)

Motion Picture Infrastructure Tax Credit: To provide a credit against corporate income tax for an approved state-certified infrastructure project for a film, video, television, or digital production or postproduction facility. This credit applied to infrastructure projects between July 1, 2005 and December 31, 2008. (While this credit appears to time-bounded/no longer be active, it still earned a spot on the loss list.)

Louisiana Motion Picture Incentive Program: To provide a financial incentive to the film industry in order that the state might compete with other states for filming locations.

It seems that the only guaranteed way to make the big money in “Hollywood South” is to be a so-called “motion picture investor,” given that the tax dollar hemorrhage from that program is a staggering 48 times greater than the losses experienced by the so-called “Louisiana Motion Picture Incentive Program” itself.

And, oh, the hand-wringing that occurred when Governor Jindal proposed the implementation of a $1 million limit on the amount that could be claimed for each actor’s salary by production companies as qualifying expenses when applying for Louisiana film tax credits! (Never mind that this precise limitation already applies to “payroll spent on Louisiana residents,” apparently whether or not they’re in front of the camera.) The governor only wanted to trim one specific part of the program… however, with media coverage regarding this report currently on the rise, I suspect that future proposed cuts may go even deeper.

As noted in this WWL TV story originally broadcast on 3/25/13, Mayor Landrieu’s office has been at work, creating the spin:

“We asked Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration whether the film tax credit program is providing a tangible benefit to the New Orleans economy.

“His adviser on the Cultural Economy said in a statement, ‘The state’s tax incentive program for film has helped New Orleans grow a new industry. We estimate that since 2007, New Orleans has seen more than $2 billion in direct spending from tax credit film projects – money that is spent in and remains in the local economy, as the program intended. Our local film industry is now nationally known, and it supports more than 1,000 full-and part-time jobs. Production companies want to film here because of the tax incentives and numerous related businesses have launched or relocated to New Orleans because of the opportunities that have been created.'”

Unlike the numbers noted in the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s report, the figure of “$2 billion in direct spending” (which is not to be confused with $2 billion in tax revenue generated) is unsubstantiated.

The estimated “1,000 full- and part-time jobs” may not be as statistically significant as the Mayor’s adviser’s statement would like to imply if one considers that the city’s current estimated population is ~370,000, nor is it confirmed if all of these jobs in fact consistently pay a year-round living wage.

While the auditor’s report includes fairly “hard” numbers (verifiable, with the exception of the noted not-yet-complete figures for calendar year 2011), the best we see from proponents of the film tax credit program are nothing more than “soft” or estimated figures that are inherently difficult to verify.

As the WWL story notes, “And without a requirement that the tax credit programs track the return on the investments, the legislative auditor said it’s tough to tell if they’re worth it.”