Last year, I made a resolution to diversify my media intake. I love television, but I’ve for too long scorned pretty much every other form of media. Especially key as I’ve been digging into writing features for a year now.
So how’ve I done as of two months in? Pretty well, I think.
Books: I’ve read five books over the past two months: Jenny Lawson‘s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, John Green & David Levithan‘s Will Grayson, Will Grayson, Meg Wolitzer‘s The Interestings, Lauren Beukes‘ The Shining Girls, and Sarah Waters‘ Fingersmith. In addition, I’ve gotten partway through a handful of others, including three more that I’ll definitely have finished by end of March. I originally gave myself a challenge of 20 books for the year, but surprised by my speed (and looking forward to a quiet summer at my parents’ coming up), I bumped that up to 30.
I think this is pretty good, considering the workload I’m keeping up. Especially when I note that I only read 2 books the entire year of 2013. Before that, only 4 in 2012. The last time I had a half-decent year of reading was 2011, and even that was only 11 books. So let’s just say, I’m making good progress on changing my habits. Reading, for the longest time a discarded activity altogether, has become a weekly, almost daily habit again. Which I’m very happy about, as it hasn’t been for me since high school.
In amidst polishing off a handful of engaging fiction (and 1 particularly breezy memoir), which I’ve always found fast reads, I’m also chipping away at some significant nonfiction and more daunting fiction pieces. I’ve got that behemoth Gravity’s Rainbow (Thomas Pynchon) going, slowly but surely, as well as a diverse set of nonfiction pieces ranging from the founding of Australia (Robert Hughes‘ The Fatal Shore) to a pair of Studs Terkel‘s brilliant oral histories about the 20th century to a smattering of books on Europe in the era of empire. I won’t get these on my ‘finished’ list for a while, as I move a lot slower on them, but in a few months they’ll start falling like dominoes.
Movies: I’ve also been more proactive about watching films since late last year. I’ve watched five movies for pleasure and three for class over the past two months, which is actually quite high for me. For class, I watched Let the Right One In and In Darkness, as well as re-watching an old favourite, Knocked Up. For two of those, I had to break it down scene-by-scene for a class handout I was writing, so it was only somewhat pleasureble; meanwhile, I didn’t sleep the night before my class screened In Darkness, so though it was a deeply effecting movie, I slept through probably the entire first act. Surprisingly, I didn’t have as much trouble as you’d think catching up.
For pleasure, my tastes may seem a bit juvenile, as three of the five are animated: Frozen, The Croods and The Lego Movie. Some snobs will turn up their noses at animated films, but I honestly believe they are just as meaningful and engaging as most live-action films. I walked away from each of them happy, emotionally satisfied and glad I watched them. Plus, I watched all of them with family members, which was nice.
Two were independent film of varying quality. One, The English Teacher, at first seemed promising, but it slowly devolved into something I didn’t really want to watch. Though it had some themes that resonated with me, puncturing the myth that tragedy is always the most moving way to end a story, I got frustrated with the tone of the film. The comedic elements didn’t work for me; the film’s connection to literature felt messy. It felt like there was a gap between script and direction, is the best way I can put it. The cast did a good job, though.
The other was Hawaii, the partially-crowdfunded new film from Marco Berger, the Argentine director who previously wrote and directed Plan B, a film that took me completely by surprise last year. B was meandering but moving, focused entirely on the connection between two people, and with all the film’s flaws its central relationship really moved me.
Hawaii is much more assured, much more focused, with the same core strength of B: The delicate unfolding of a relationship between two characters. The dance between Manuel Vignau‘s Eugenio and Mateo Chiarino‘s Martín is beautiful, as the two men step around the tension between them. It captures a feeling I don’t think I’ve ever seen caught quite so well on film, of the question between men who don’t want to harm a friendship by asking the wrong question. Chiarino’s slow transformation over the course of the film is a joy.
I’ve got a long list of films on my to-watch list, including pretty much every film on tap for the major Academy Awards. We’ll see which I get to by the time two more months have rolled around.
Video Games: Here is where I’ve largely faltered recently. Partly due to time and partly due to the fact that, unlike film and books, enjoying video games requires me to rebuild a competency that has atrophied over the past few years. I don’t know if I was ever particularly good at video games, but now I’m pretty terrible. I picked up the original Jak and Daxter, which is a very easy game, and still wasn’t that great at it. I don’t think I’ll get much momentum on this one until the summer.
So, there’s that.