Top Films of 2017 (Available for Rent Up to December 31, 2017)

I watched an impressive 65 movies available for rent up to December 31, 2017. Out those 65, I wrote mini-reviews of 27 of them in the feature “Snapshots”, with four more mini-reviews pending—two of them already included here—to be highlighted in two upcoming features. Since I didn’t visit the cinema to watch the releases that typically make it to the awards shows, I compiled this list based on the movies that were available for rent up to year’s end. I’ll update it between the months of May and June of 2018 when all the award season titles will most likely be available for rent. This list follows the order in which I saw the movies. A Dog's Purpose (♦♦♦♦): This family drama is a dog-lover dream came true, but, if my experience is any indication, it will make you cry several times during the viewing. The film has heart, and some sugary moments, not many by the way, but you'll likely adore it, as did I. The Founder (♦♦♦♦): This story on how the McDonald's conglomerate came to b…

My Reading Year 2017 in Retrospect

This year I managed to read 17 books (8 of them published in 2017; one major award-winner and a 2000-year-old classic), meanwhile juggling quality TV series and the latest movies. Four themes emerged in my reading/TV watching throughout the year. Below are the stats of my 2017 reading year:
Books read: 17 Fiction: 14 Nonfiction: 2DNF: 1Re-reads: 0
Genres: (some of these overlap) Historical Fiction: 6Popular Science/Memoir: 1Classics: 5 Contemporary Literature: 4Thrillers/Espionage: 1 History/Biography: 1Mystery/Suspense: 2

Best book of the year: Best Books I Read in 2017 Favorite cover: Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese Favorite new authors (to me): Josephine Tey; George Saunders Most thrilling (unputdownable): Conclave by Robert Harris Most puzzling ending: Minds of Winter by Ed O'Loughlin (Truth?) is Stranger than Fiction: The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey The juiciest: The Twelve Caesars by Gayo Suetonio (Translated by Robert Graves) Most beautifully written: The Beautiful and Damne…

Best Books I Read in 2017

Out of 17 books I read this year 2017, I did not finish 1 and did not review another. In addition, I read 2 nonfiction books. Without further ado, these are the literary works that I rated four stars or higher this year, 11 in total. Why I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown (♦♦♦♦): is for the most part a science memoir of almost a decade long search for trans-Neptunian objects of significance, now denominated “dwarf planets” (for lack of a better term) […] Mike Brown’s memoir is candid…At once funny and page-turning, it will both instruct and entertain you, and will do so in under 300 pages. The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald (♦♦♦♦): Its sentences are lyrical, beautifully constructed, with very accessible language…Fitzgerald spikes the dialogues with keen observations about life and human nature, leaving, at least in the first part of the book, no other choice than to chuckle; he also peppers the dialogues with cynicism—rare among the young and privileged—,…

Snapshots - #33: Victoria and Abdul, Wind River, Menashe

The movies…
Victoria and Abdul (♦♦♦♦½): At 81 years of age, Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) is mostly overwhelmed by her royal duties. Her children are jockeying for the throne and her household staff for suitable positions. She feels trapped and increasingly isolated from her companions, but she gets a new lease on life when she meets Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a handsome Hindu Muslim, an envoy brought from India to present her with a coin during the celebration dinner of her Golden Jubilee. As the queen and Abdul's friendship deepens, it raises eyebrows, sends tongues wagging, and soon her entire household is up in arms over his hold on her affections and his growing influence in the household. Among so many lackluster cinematic productions this year, Victoria and Abdul is a breath of fresh air. It is wonderfully funny and delightfully entertaining. It highlights class differences in British society without offensive snobbery. Victoria and Abdul is an artful film that can boast of wonder…

TV Shows I Watched in 2017

This year 2017 my entertainment calendar was filled with amazing TV series, newly released and old fan favorites. Since I did not watch TV for many years, I missed a great deal of what was out there; I’m starting to catch up, though that means less time for reading as I devote my weekends to watching movies. I hereby give a monthly overview of the TV shows I watched this year, and my impressions on what made them worth my time. Without further ado, here they are.
May Pride and Prejudice (1995), (♦♦♦♦♦): I fell in love with this wonderful co-production from BBC and A&E channel. The dialogues sparkle with intelligence and humor, particularly the initial banter between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Watching Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle's exchanges, I would have sworn that the love between their characters was there from the very beginning. Lovely music, perfect casting choices even for minor characters, sumptuous estates, and great chemistry among the actors, make this miniseri…

Reading/TV Watching on A Theme: Pairings from my Year 2017 in Entertainment

This is the first year in which I have charted most of my reading the year prior—introducing several tweaks here and there along the way. I want to continue that trend. At the start of 2017 I had planned to follow a single literary theme (i.e., read two classics by Francis Scott Fitzgerald, continue that trend by reading a novel on his last years in Hollywood, followed by a biographical novel on Zelda Fitzgerald). It didn’t turn out as planned because I abandoned Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night at the 50% mark after being awfully bored by it. Then I tackled West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan; between Zelda’s madness and Scott’s drunkenness, paired with the drunkenness described in Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned, which I read before the former two, proved too much to make this theme one to enjoy. Francis Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald:
The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (DNF @ 50%) West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan
I requested a g…

Snapshots - #32: Restless, Landline, The Bachelors

TV shows... Restless (♦♦♦): Ruth Gilmartin (Michelle Dockery) goes with her son to visit her mother Sally (Charlotte Rampling) in the country, and finds her in a distressed state, as someone appears to be stalking her. Sally gives Ruth, in bits and pieces, her story as a British secret agent during the Second World War. Sally's real name is Eva Delectorskaya (Hayley Atwell), a Russian immigrant with flawless English diction, whose brother was killed by a fascist group he was trying to infiltrate. As Eva Dalton, Delectorskaya was trained in spy craft, and flew to America with a unit to exercise the trade. At first, they work as a news agency planting war stories to be picked up by major newspapers, but then a big assignment comes for Eva; one in which she may be either the fall guy or a dead one. This BBC adaptation of William Boyd's spy novel left me confused at first, due to the several name changes and a cast change, which I thought very unwise, for the younger characters. Polis…