The Oscars and March Preview

My husband and I are heading out this Saturday for our “spring break” trip, which will include a week of bicycling and exploring in Southern California, particularly in San Diego and the Palm Desert area. So I’m posting early. We will try to catch some of the Academy Awards while there; Jimmy Kimmel is hosting and he should be pretty funny. Many think that “La La Land,” which tied “Titanic” and “All About Eve” with a record 14 Oscar nominations, will run away with the night in a landslide, though many movie critics are pulling for “Moonlight” to win.

I liked both of these films fine, but I’m hoping that maybe “Manchester by the Sea” or “Lion” will win something big too. Those two were my favorites. “Hidden Figures” and “Loving” followed closely behind the big four for me. I missed “Fences” and “Jackie,” but I’m sure they will come on rental soon, along with the nominated documentaries that I want to see. Which was your favorite film, or acting performance of the year?

Meanwhile March is just around the corner and I’m looking at what novels are coming out that I want to get my hands on. First off I’m interested in checking out Mohsin Hamid’s new novel “Exit West” about a couple who flee their homeland, which is on the brink of civil war, to join other migrants traveling to safer havens through closely guarded doors. The novel is said to contain surrealistic elements as people are transported from the doors to different parts of the world.

Usually I’m not too keen on such portals or doors in novels, though I did like “Narnia,” but I’m curious enough to see it through. Mohsin Hamid is a highly regarded British Pakistani author who’s book “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” is still on my shelf waiting to be read. Moreover I liked what the Huffington Post had to say about “Exit West”: “Hamid’s timely and spare new novel confronts the inevitability of mass global immigration, the unbroken cycle of violence, and the indomitable human will to connect and love.”

Next, I’m also considering Jami Attenberg’s new novel “All Grown Up,” which is said to be darkly funny about a “39-year-old single, childfree woman who defies convention as she seeks connection.”

I have not read Attenberg’s other novels “The Middlesteins” or “Saint Mazie,” but this one looks perhaps too good to pass up. The novel’s protagonist — New Yorker Andrea Bern — seems like quite a character, with her cutting observations on relationships and singledom. As Glamour says about the book: “Told in vignettes, “All Grown Up” asks what happens after you’ve got the whole ‘adult’ thing under control.” Hmm. I might still be working on that.

Also Peter Heller has a new novel coming out called “Celine,” which I probably can’t resist since I liked his other novels “The Dog Stars” and “The Painter.” This one is about a 67-year-old NY private investigator named Celine who heads with her husband Pete out to Yellowstone National Park to help a young woman solve the long ago missing person’s case of her father, who was said to be mauled by a grizzly but was never found.

Heller usually has a strong knack for settings amid nature, which I like, and the Library Journal has said about the novel: “Heller blends suspense with beautiful descriptive writing of both nature and civilization to create a winner.” So count me in.

Next up is Jessica Shattuck’s upcoming novel “The Women in the Castle.” I know I sort of promised myself not to take on anymore WWII novels than what I already have on my shelves, but with all the praise this story seems to be getting, I’m having a hard time resisting it.

Really it takes place post-WWII (so I’m okay there), amid the ashes of a defeated Germany, and is about three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined. All three women eventually must “come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war.” Hmm despite being buried in WWII books, I find myself game for the genre once again.

Lastly in books this month, there’s Nikolas Butler’s new novel “The Hearts of Men,” which sounds like it’s straight from the cult of the masculine — does it not? But Butler is well regarded from his previous novel “Shotgun Lovesongs,” which many readers loved. I have not gotten to it yet, but his new one gives me a chance to catch up with his storytelling, which comes highly praised.

“The Hearts of Men” is set at a woodsy Boy Scout summer camp and follows three generations struggling to find their place in a world bent on dealing them a bad hand, according to Publishers Weekly. Author Christina Baker Kline says about it: “Part coming-of-age narrative, part meditation on masculinity, part war story, this novel had me spellbound all the way to its riveting conclusion.” Hmm. I’m curious about checking this author out.

As for new movies in March, there’s a couple of cute comedies that look fun as possible future rentals, namely “Table 19” with Anna Kendrick about an ex-maid of honor who finds herself at the wedding reception assigned with five random guests to the dreaded Table 19. Oh my, I think I’ve been there! Also there’s Shirley MacLaine’s new movie “The Last Word” about a curmudgeon businesswoman who tries to control the writing of her own obituary, and in the process becomes friends with the local newspaper obit writer, played by Amanda Seyfried. It looks light and fun and a MacLaine-kind of movie.

But my main movie pick for March goes to “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” which is based on the 2007 nonfiction book by Diane Ackerman that draws on the unpublished diary of Antonina Żabińska. It stars Jessica Chastain and tells the true story of keepers of the Warsaw Zoo who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

I love to see these WWII resistance kinds of stories, similar to that of Oskar Schindler in “Schindler’s List.” I’m number 27 in line for the book of “The Zookeeper’s Wife” at the library, while the movie of it comes out at the end of the month. Have you read it?

Lastly in album picks for March, there’s new ones by Canadian singer-songwriters Jenn Grant and Amelia Curran, which I plan to look for, and also the band Spoon from Austin, Texas, has a new one called “Hot Thoughts,” which seems fun. Also Bob Dylan seems to be turning into a crooner with his “Triplicate” album that features 30 covers of classic American songs; oh my! No wonder he couldn’t make it to Sweden for the Nobel Prize, right? But my pick this month goes to Aimee Mann, whose music I like, for her upcoming album “Mental Illness.” She’s a badass singer-songwriter and is always worth listening to.

What about you — which books, movies, or albums are you looking forward to this month? Till next time, I bid you adieu.  Bon voyage!

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26 Responses to The Oscars and March Preview

  1. I ‘m one of the few people who didn’t love La La Land so I don’t get all the awards. I hope you have a great trip.

  2. Carmen says:

    Last night I saw Manchester by the Sea; quite a poignant story and a tour-de-force performance by Casey Affleck. I’m rooting for Casey Affleck or Denzel Washington for Best Actor, though I have yet to see Fences. Tonight I would like to watch Moonlight, and I’ll let you know how that one goes. I think the big deal about La La Land is that it is the feel good movie of the year, which makes it game for the Best Picture category.

    In March, I’m planning to read Minds of Winter and The Hollywood Daughter, two historical fiction novels.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Great Carmen. Glad you liked Manchester. Moonlight is a quiet one too. I’m thinking La La Land will win a lot, also since it’s about Hollywood. I look forward to hearing about those novels from you as well.

  3. Naomi says:

    I would love to see The Zookeeper’s Wife! I tried reading the book a couple of years ago, but found it… wordy. Maybe if I had kept going, it would have gotten better. Anyway, now I’m happy I’ll be able to *watch* the story instead.
    Every single one of those books tempts me, but Exit West sounds the most intriguing. But I’m also a sucker for WWI and WWII books. And the nature aspect of Celine has me interested. I’ll have to wait and see what everyone else says about them!
    Have a great trip!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Naomi, it should be a great trip. Yeah I might not get to the book of the Zookeeper’s Wife in time so I’m happy to see the movie. Exit West and Celine are probables for me. Cheers!

  4. Ti says:

    The Heller books looks very interesting and yes, I enjoyed his other books as well.

    Have fun this weekend! I will be watching the Oscars but won’t be able to until I get home from my volunteer gig with the teen ministry. I will miss all the fan fare of the arrivals but that’s okay. I am going to record it!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Ti, yeah I might miss the Oscars “red carpet” as well. But I hope to see the start with Jimmy Kimmel. It’s good you’ll be able to record it. It does help to miss the commercials. Enjoy. And we’ll have to see what we think of the new Heller novel.

  5. Judy Krueger says:

    I am also an underwhelmed viewer of La La Land. But it is Hollywood, so what can you do? I am looking forward to many of the same upcoming books. I loved Saint Mazie! And I have read the wonderful Zookeeper’s Wife, so will for sure see that movie. Enjoy your “spring break”! I hope the wildflowers bloom for you.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Judy. I really hope to see the wildflowers open as well. Attenberg’s new novel looks to have some snappy attitude about it, which I’m looking forward to checking out. Glad you liked the book of the Zookeeper’s Wife too. Quite a story, no doubt. Keep those skies clear for me. 🙂

  6. Vicki says:

    I’m so jelly of your biking trip in California! I hope you have a great time!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Vicki, I’m pretty psyched up for it. It should be bliss. I’ll let you know on the blog. thx for stopping by.

  7. Brian Joseph says:

    These movies and books all sound good.

    Exit West seems interesting. It is such a timely topic. Based on the description the book handles it in an unconventional way.

    • Susan Wright says:

      I agree Brian. All the reviewers seem to be talking about about how timely Exit West is right now about immigration etc. It’s a book that’s quite prescient. I’m curious to check it out.

  8. Good early morning, Susan!! Thanks for this brilliant, well-written post. I have never heard about all those books. As for the movies, I am particularly interested to see these three films “Moonlight”, “Manchester by the Sea” and “Hidden Figures”. I am not fond of musical comedies, so no “La La Land” for me… Hahaha…
    In a few hours, I will start my Saturday routine, thank you for your kind words on my blog. Have a great voyage 🙂

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks RT, our voyage has begun; it’s fun to be in a new place. I will try to take some decent photos to share. Beware: Moonlight and Manchester are rather dark films (and quite sad) but worth seeing. Also Lion. Enjoy your weekend.

  9. I really enjoyed Hidden Figures…and also Manchester by the Sea. I’ve never really liked Casey Affleck—I’m not sure why, but maybe because he seems so downtrodden in all his roles. But that quality worked for him in this movie.

    I enjoyed Jackie, and for the most part, Natalie Portman did a good job…except with the accent. It was irritating and overly embellished, in my opinion. Having been around and heard the “real” Jackie a lot, it jarred for me.

    I wanted to see La La Land and Moonlight, as my son, who works in the business, recommended them. I’ll probably see them for return engagements.

    I love Jessica Chastain’s performances in everything I see, so I’m eager to watch The Zookeeper’s Wife.

    All Grown Up looks like a book I would enjoy.

    Have a great trip…and have fun at the Oscars! Thanks for visiting my blog.

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Laurel, what a crazy ending to the Oscars last night. I was in San Diego watching it, and it was a pretty crazy mix-up for Best Picture! I’m still unsure how they got the wrong envelope, oh my. Anyways, I’m glad you told me that about the movie Jackie; over-the-top accents can really kill a movie for me. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Michelle says:

    I had no interest in any awards shows this year, as I have not seen a single film. Difficult to get excited about something about which you have no clue.

    Have a great trip!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Michelle, the trip is fun so far. Yeah I still want to see a few Oscar nominated films I missed, like Ove for Foreign Language film and maybe a couple documentaries, once on rental. Enjoy your week.

  11. Molly says:

    Am looking for a new book to read and now I have a new list. Thanks, as always. Btw, you were NOT at Table 19 at my wedding : ) though it sounds like a great movie topic!

    • Susan Wright says:

      Hi Molly, thx for stopping by! Yeah I sure hope I wasn’t at Table 19. We’ve been in Borrego Springs for a couple of days and are heading to Redlands today. Wahoo. The desert has been great, pretty here. I have too many books to read at the moment. talk later. S

  12. Rachel says:

    I hope you had a great trip! What’d you think of the Oscars? I was so glad LaLa Land didn’t win Best Picture. It was good but not Oscar good. I think Moonlight was a good choice.

    I read The Zookeeper’s Wife way back when and thought it was just okay. The movie looks like it will be better. Here’s my review from the olden days: http://www.chaosisafriendofmine.com/?p=1033

    • Susan Wright says:

      Thanks Rachel, I’ll check out your review of The Zookeeper’s Wife. I thought the end of the Oscars was crazy with the mix-up, but my favorite movies of 2016 were likely Manchester by the Sea and Lion so I didn’t have huge stakes over Moonlight and La La Land but maybe Moonlight had a bigger message for today’s world. So you’re probably right about the choice.

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