Celluloid Diaries: Reading / watching / listening to...

Friday, August 1, 2014

Reading / watching / listening to...

YA Books To Read This Summer


* Miss Mabel's School For Girls by Katie Cross. Set in a school for witches, Miss Mabel’s School For Girls combines the vibes of Harry Potter, Suspiria, and American Horror Story 3: Coven, but sets itself apart thanks to the creativity of the writing. Katie Cross never goes for obvious words or descriptions, but is always on the lookout for a more challenging way to bring her story to life. A treat if you’re into Ya, magic and witches.

* The World Of Wanderlust Story and How To Create A Successful Blog by Brooke Saward. You know Brooke Saward from her successful travel blog World Of Wanderlust, right? As the title suggests, The World Of Wanderlust Story is about how Brooke started traveling solo, first as a normal tourist and later as a professional for World Of Wanderlust. Very little about it is revelatory, but as it’s a fast read, written in an engaging style, The World Of Wanderlust Story got my interest all the way through. I definitely wanted to read her other writings, so that's exactly what I did. How To Create A Successful Blog fell behind information-wise, though. I hoped to discover the secrets on how Brooke Saward made her blog as successful as it is, but I already knew her techniques and thought she could have explained them more in-depth. That being said, How To Create A Successful Blog is an excellent step-by-step guide for starters, but there's so much more to know about blogging that I wouldn't recommend this as your sole read.

* Cath et son chat by Christophe Cazenove and Hervé Richez. This French comic was one of my birthday presents. It's a collection of funny and recognizable anecdotes featuring a young girl and her cat. Both adults and kids will love it.

* Cats Are Weird and Other Observations by Jeffrey Brown is comparable to Cath et son chat, though children might find its style and humor difficult to comprehend . It's part of a series of books of which I already reviewed Cat Getting Out Of A Bag in my Reading / Watching / Listening to-post of May 2013.

* Heads In Beds: Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky. Since I’ve read this tale about a man’s career in the hotel industry, I’ve already mentioned quite a lot of anecdotes from this book to friends. Yet, I can’t fully recommend Heads In Beds, mainly because Jacob Tomsky’s style oozes pretentiousness. He bashes about how much money he made and how easy it was to fool customers and such things. I couldn’t finish Heads In Beds for this reason alone.


* Night School (Terror Eyes). I watched Night School at the Cinematek in Brussels during a double bill on 80s serial killer movies. The story is highly predictable, but the forceful opening scene, giallo atmosphere, and mounting suspense are such huge fun they make up for that predictability in a big way.

* Fear City. Abel Ferrara is a master in portraying the gloomy sides of New York, but apart from that, this segment of the 80s serial killer double bill was an unhandy genre mix that gets very little right. Special mention goes to the murderer who, by continually showing off his karate techniques, becomes one of the most ridiculous in serial killer history.

* Kiki's Delivery Service. Such a sweet Ghibli movie. The main character, a child witch, is so cute it's hard not to be glued to the screen. Add to this the cozy German-like homes and the witch's talkative black cat, and you almost forget that the film misses punch. Do not confuse with the inferior live-action remake that I watched at Cannes this year.

* Next To Her. This new Israeli movie involving a young woman in charge of her mentally disabled sister has so many merits I couldn’t possibly mention them all. Dana Ivgy, who plays the sister in need, is so outstanding that I had to google if she was mentally challenged in real life or not (she isn’t). Based on the real-life relationship between lead actress/co-writer Liron Ben-Shlush and her sister, Next To Her is the most precise portrayal of a mental disorder I’ve seen in a long time. So much hard truth is uncovered here, such as how tiresome it is to take care of someone in need of constant supervision, how caring can become compulsive, and how worrying too much can lead to wrong decisions that endanger everyone's well being. I had a hard time getting into Next To Her because it was so depressing, but thanks to its realism and emotional honesty, I became completely absorbed. I not only cried during the punch-in-the-gut ending, but even on my way back home.

* Tess. I read Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles in my early twenties and absolutely loved the negative spiral the main character was in. This element is precisely what I preferred about Roman Polanski’s adaptation as well. But there's so much more to Tess than that. The most impressive was the cinematography and set design as every single shot looked like a painting. All the actors were particularly admirable, especially Nastassia Kinski. Also, the movie is very much representative of the book, and there’s a good reason for that: Hardy’s novel was the last one Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate read and loved just before she got murdered, and Tess was his way of paying homage to his late wife.

* Zombie Holocaust. This Italian cannibal/zombie movie from the eighties has plenty of fake-looking special effects, bad acting, and lazy dialogue. But it does a lot right in terms of entertainment value, hence the reason of my second viewing. Fun fact: try and watch Zombie Holocaust and Zombie Flesh Eaters one right after the other if you're in the mood; you'll realize how similar they are.

* How To Train Your Dragon 2. You’ve probably seen the trailer, so you already know the main reason why you should watch his film: dragons. They’re probably too cute for your own good, so be prepared.

* The Fault In Our Stars. I loved the book. There’s just no denying it’s well-crafted and full of quotable lines. But when I watched the trailer, I expected nothing but mellowness from the movie adaptation. In fact, the only reason I gave it a try was because my sister would love it. And, yes, The Fault In Our Stars was everything I feared it would be: mellifluous and teenage. Yet, I left the theater with a broad smile. Despite my prejudice and its confirmation, I have to admit that The Fault In Our Stars works and that it gives a whole new meaning to the term 'feel good movie'.

* Lost After Dark. When I saw the eye-catching movie poster for Lost After Dark at the Cannes film market, I immediately wondered if this might be a vintage slasher film I hadn’t heard of. Nope. Just a modern movie imitating the feel of a good old eighties horror. The poster, however, is by far the best part of the film. While Lost After Dark doesn’t come out completely bruised (we do get the feeling of an eighties horror flick thanks to the use of filters), it would have benefited from a creepier killer and worthier death scenes.

* Ping Pong Summer. In contrast, another film that attempts to imitate the eighties, Ping Pong Summer, succeeds far better in portraying this era. The nostalgia-factor is pretty high thanks to lots of recognizable props. While Ping Pong Summer is ultimately too easy to fully recommend, I was charmed by its intentions and, in the end, the parts the film gets right linger longer than those it doesn’t, making it a charming and unique portrait of teenagers in the eighties.

* The Legend Of Billy Jean. How could I not have heard about this eighties gem before? This virtually unknown movie about a good-natured teenage girl (Helen Slater) who becomes an outlaw martyr with her brother (Christian Slater) and friends, is like a Thelma Louise for teenagers, topped with an enormous amount of feel-good sparkles.

* The Other Woman. There's some potential in this story about a cheated-on wife who befriends her husband's mistresses, but Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann are so hysterical it's impossible to sit through The Other Woman without sighing.

* Jennifer (The Snake Goddess). This was already the third time I watched this horror film and there's a good reason for that. For a copycat of Carrie (which came out two years before and also deals with a girl being bullied in school), this was actually surprisingly fun, the main point of value being the ending in which Jennifer uses her paranormal talents to manifest giant snakes that attack her schoolmates. Definitely worth a watch if you love vintage horror and don't mind bad special effects and cheesy acting.

* Once Upon A Hit Girl (short film). Lots of gorgeous kickass hit girls and Tarantino-esque scenes. Lots of horrible actors, too.

* Août 1914 (short film). Août 1914 was everything a short film should be: smart, touching, surprising, and beautiful. It's a true story about a boy who tries to save his dog from the war and the absurd events that happened because of this.

Listening to: 

* Various songs by Georgio Valentino. I met Georgio Valentino earlier this year at a press conference and was immediately curious about his music that he described as weird and inaccessible. With a voice like Bowie and tunes reminiscent of Calexico and Friends Of Dean Martinez, Georgio Valentino got my interest from the very first second. I can imagine this being the perfect background music for a road trip. He just released a new vinyl record if you're interested: Mille Morceaux.

* Kill For Love by Chromatics. It took me a while to get into the new Chromatics album (you probably know them from the Drive soundtrack), but because my boyfriend has been playing this silly, I got used to it and now I even like Kill For Love.

* Nearly everything by Max Richter. This has been my go-to music whilst writing my latest screenplay as most songs mingle perfectly with the emotion of the script.

If you're looking for more to read, watch, and listen to, you can check out my old "Reading / Watching / Listening to..." posts.


  1. Cats are weird. Won't argue with that. And they're usually the ones in charge, aren't they?
    I was just watching Guardians of the Galaxy! Hilarious. Awesome movie - can't wait to see it again.

    1. ^ Whoa. Alex. Getting crazy. Cats aren't weird. They are quiet masters of the universe. Dogs are weird. I can say that because I have two dogs and they are major dorks. MAJOR dorks.

      Thanks for the shout out, Vanessa. You're all kinds of awesome. BTW, Alex, you and I still need to talk about a guest post on my blog.

  2. So many movies I want to see and not enough time. I haven't watched a good horror flick in a while. I think since Joss Whedon's The Cabin in the Woods. Have a lovely weekend. :)

  3. You sound busy reading and watching all this. I'm so far behind with both books and shows.

  4. Wow - you're reading so much at the same time!

    I saw The Fault in our Stars as well - definitely think the book was better, but I thought the movie was fairly well done.

  5. There are some very thought-provoking movies in this batch. The Israeli films I've seen are very well done but, yes, can be intense and depressing. I've heard good things about The Fault in Our Stars.

    Vanessa, you've a highly successful blog - two even. I'd say you're qualified to write about creating a successful blog. I'd buy your book. =)

  6. Dit is een perfecte illustratie van genieten Vanessa! Schuif eens een beetje opzij, dan kom ik er bij liggen hihi. Veel plezier gewenst, geniet er van!

  7. Thanks for sharing these. I'm going to look up Miss Mabel and Fear City.

  8. Creative photo and very informative post ~ Happy Weekend to you ~ xoxo

    artmusedog and carol (A Creative Harbor)

  9. I really can't wait to watch The Fault in our Stars!

  10. Wow you are busy, in the best possible ways.

  11. I still want to see How to Train Your Dragon 2. Miss Mabel's School for Girls sounds really good!

  12. I have to know, do you ever sleep? LOL! Great list ;o)

  13. I just read Miss Mabel's School for Girls, too. Loved it! I didn't realize others knew about it, so it's exciting to see this review!

  14. Whew! That's a whole hefty list of recs. I've been wanting to read Katie's book, but there are a few in line first. I need to get to it.

  15. Nice list. You sure have a lot going on.