You Hate Poor People (And Other Things I Want to Tell the Academy)

[Forgive the spacing issues throughout: Blogger is not cooperating right now]  
Since the Oscars happen tonight...This could make for a divisive conversation, but just remember that this is only my opinion as a normal moviegoer. I'll try to keep my focus on the Best Picture race.
I think that Oscars shouldn't be for favorites but for great productions, great filmmaking, a great combination (especially the technical aspects) of all the best things that make movies great: technical aspects, performances, writing, direction, set design, everything. Basically, Best Picture is for a film on which just about everything is working together perfectly.
Five of my favorite movies of the year weren't nominated for Best Picture, and I think they should've been. The first two of these are Hostiles and Wind River and what's most interesting to me about these omissions is that they make such nuanced statements about the way Native people have been treated in this country. In…

What I Read This Year

The vast majority of books I read this year were not published this year, but I did read several 2017 releases.  You'll notice that hardly any of the books I absolutely loved received major awards attention or adulation this year.  The hype surrounding most of the books at the tops of the critics lists were largely lost on me.  I tried reading a few of them--and I won't say which ones, as it would be bad manners to publicly put down other novelists (now if we were in private conversation that'd be another thing altogether...)--but I found them mostly unreadable, pretentious, dull, overhyped, or, most often, a combination of all four factors. So, I am only mentioning here the books I read in 2017 that I loved.   My reading list this year was largely shaped by the fact that I taught in Edinburgh for two weeks this summer, so I immersed myself in Scottish literature as much as I was able.  And it is an incredibly rich literature. The other twenty-two books I read this year ca…

Best Music of 2017

This has been a great year for music.  So much, in fact, that it's almost impossible to narrow it down to just a handful of great albums and songs.  That's why I've prepared a playlist with 75 songs--more than four and a half hours of music--over on my Spotify account for your listening pleasure. It runs the gamut from country to rock to hip hop to Americana and even some pop that might surprise you (a couple really surprised me, but they're really fine songs), but I've chosen the songs by being honest about what tunes stuck in my head, resonated with me, or moved me, whether that be by bringing a tear to my eye or making me want to dance.  They're in no particular order so I suggest putting it on shuffle and just letting the songs play. I hope you'll let me know anything that you discover on there that you end up loving.

But that list is made up of favorite songs and as we all know, albums are very different animals.  Albums are like novels.  A great albu…