The Final Book Count of 2018

I’m doing this post for the Saturday Review of Books: End of the Year Book List Round-up, 2018 and especially so that I can share my final review of the year. the latest in my Blogger on Books series, ValourMary Robinette Kowal’s Valour and Vanity.

ETA: Also just posted, a review of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House which I read earlier this year.

I never thought about counting books (nor am I entirely convinced of the value of that – much like counting words while writing) before becoming aware of the book blogging community but that’s my 20th book this year (one more than last year for whatever that’s worth). If it matters, 4 of those were audio books (which is a first for me), 2 of those were children’s picture books (which totally counts), 3 were comic books (actually comic book novelizations, so thicker than your average comic), and 2 were picture books (of the adult coffee table variety), which leaves 7 actual books of fiction and 1 book of non-fiction and 1 poetry collection read cover to cover (turning the pages and all). I quit 2 books this year and put 1 back on the shelf to return to later (the latter is not unusual but not finishing a book at all is rare, but there you have it).

I’m probably behind on everything that’s contemporary since I determined to remain true to my pledge to only buy 1 new book for every 10 finished as part of my strategy to empty my shelf of unread books – that doesn’t quite keep your stock from growing, what with there being book faeries and all (not to be confused with the mango tree faerie in one of my own books, With Grace). The TBR and the wish lists have grown is what I’m saying.


But I will say this I was reminded recently that reading is a quiet in the storm for me, it de-stresses me, it calms my mind, it stimulates new writing, and it’s something I love, so so be it. This life isn’t easy so find your happy place and go there as often as you need to; books is one of my happy places – I’m not about counting how many I’ve read but immersing myself in the different spaces they give me access to.

Since you’re here, I invite you to check out these other recent posts of possible interest from my blogs:

The Top Posts of the Year over at Wadadli Pen
The Top Posts of the Year here on Jhohadli
Parts 1 and 2 of my new #womancrushWednesday #wcw series

Oh, one  last time, here’s what I’m currently reading  – Evolution: Weaving in and out of Consciousness while the Truth is Somewhere in the Middle (a poetry collection) by Felene Cayetano, Inner City Girl (fiction) by Colleen Smith-Dennis, The Secret (not sure what this is) by Rhonda Byrne, The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 11 Number 1 Summer 2018, The Black Rose (biography) by Tananarive Due, Possessing the Secret of Joy (fiction) by Alice Walker, PEN America In Transit #18, and London Rocks (fiction) by Brenda Lee Browne – this last is a re-read of sorts as I was one of the editors of this book and I wrote about the launch of it in my CREATIVE SPACE series.

Anyway, this post is my final book count of 2018 since I don’t anticipate finishing any other books until the clock counts down to 2019…though, never say never.

Oscars, the Race so Far

I’ve seen very few films this year. So, let’s do this, my marginally informed take on the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globe Award nominations, and this year’s Oscar hopefuls. I’m not doing the other guild and critics awards though I acknowledge that they may carry more weight than certainly the GGs. This is not that serious – just another movie lovers ramblings.

For Cast in a Motion Picture/Best Picture the leading contenders seem to be Black Panther, Blackklansman, A Star is Born, Crazy Rich Asians, and Bohemian Rhapsody as these are the five with both SAG and GG noms (I’m not doing that comedy-drama split that the GGs do), while If Beale Street could Talk, The Favorite, Vice, Green Book, and Mary Poppins Returns are also in the conversation. Of these, I’ve seen only Black Panther with plans to watch Blakklansman, If Beale Street could Talk, Crazy Rich Asians, and because I like the actors possibly The Favorite and Green Book. I’m least interested in Vice (no thanks) and A Star is Born (sorry) though buzz has the latter getting all the awards. I thought Sorry to Bother You (a truly bizarre but deeply thought provoking film) and Widows (a complex drama masked as a heist film) might be in the mix as well, certainly for cast in the case of the latter. But no. So I’m rooting for Black Panther – which I loved so much I saw it twice – though I know the odds are long (super hero film and all). I do hope it gets a costume nod for the Oscars though because it deserves it. It’s certainly my picture and dopest cast of the year.

For Best Actor, leading contender seems to be Bradley Cooper, with Rami Malek and John David Washington at his heels, and Christian Bale and Viggo Mortenson getting strong looks as well. Bradley or Rami seem to have the buzz, Viggo and Christian should never be counted out; but how crazy would it be if Denzel’s son won? I can’t speak yet to the quality of any of these performances, only the quality of the actors and they’re all good. Too soon to call for me.

Best Actress favourites seem to be Lady Gaga…and then everybody else (including Glenn Close, Melissa McCarthy, Emily Blunt, and Olivia Coleman) in the running. I’m rooting for Glenn Glose who should have won this by now (pick a role) but not as an Al Pacino make up Oscar because though I haven’t yet seen The Wife, it’s been on my to-watch list since I saw the trailer which is more than I can say for the other films in the running. A note re Emily Blunt, this nom is for Mary Poppins Returns. I didn’t grow up on Mary Poppins (the Julie Andrews on holiday rotation where I am when I was growing up was The Sound of Music) – so I’m kind of meh on a character I was never into returning. But she also has a supporting actress nom for A Quiet Place which perplexes me, not because I don’t think a horror film performance is ‘Oscar worthy’ or whatever but because I saw and liked A Quiet Place and…if she wasn’t the female lead in that film, who was? Do not say the daughter.

The Best supporting actress race is between Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz (who pretty much cancel each other out, right?) for The Favorite, and Amy Adams (Vice). I wanted to see the Reginas (Hall for Support the Girls) in there but only Regina King picked up a nom (a GG) for If Beale Street Could Talk. Come on, Brenda, it’s not over yet! But if Amy Adams finally picked up an Oscar (after losing out for so many deserving performances), I wouldn’t be mad.

The Best supporting actor race seems to be between Mahershala Ali, Timothee Chalemet, Richard E. Grant, and Adam Driver. Yes, from the previews, Green Book seems a bit Driving Miss Daisy, a bit white savior-y but Mahershala! Mahershala! Mahershala!

That’s where the overlap ends but let’s look at the GGs best screenplay and best director nods. Roma, The Favorite, If Beale Street Could Talk, Vice, Green Book are in the running for screenplay; and I’m leaning toward If Beale Street Could Talk mostly because the source material is by James Baldwin.  But if the academy wants to be really boundary pushing give a nod in this category to Sorry to Bother You. For director, they have Bradley Cooper, Alfonso Cuaron, Peter Farrelly, Spike Lee, and Adam McKay. I think these are interesting choices. It would be good to see Spike get one after the Do the Right Thing snub, Peter Farrelly (of the Farrelly brothers is definitely stepping outside of his usual zone and that’s always interesting), it’s a first for Bradley and though I’ve heard some criticisms of the third act from all accounts it’s a solid first. I would’ve squeezed Steve McQueen in there for Widows (he made some really interesting choices on that film – a film by the way – huge sidebar alert – in which I found the reaction/reviews broke down in interesting ways along race+gender lines – my unofficial tally of professional and amateur reviewers on youtube, and I watched a few, finding that the critics liked it as did black female amateur and professional reviewers but men of colour were leaning toward not and other men, mixed – not sure what it means except men seemed disappointed there wasn’t more heist and seemed uncomfortable with the interracial love scenes, and women appreciated the character work and the layers of complexity vis-à-vis character dynamics and social commentary, and the chemistry and the performances – Viola Davis being a boss as usual, Daniel Kaluuya being frighteningly menacing, Elizabeth Dibecki getting a lot of praise as well, though for me Michelle Rodriquez took the boldest and most vulnerable turn from her previous work making her my dark horse awards nom hopeful) ***SPOILER ALERT**** and I wouldn’t count Barry Jenkins out for If Beale Street Could Talk. I know Ryan Coogler is a long shot but for my money he hasn’t made a misstep yet and he did interesting things with the super hero genre. I thought Michael B. Jordan might even be in the best supporting actor conversation if very marginally because of Hollywood’s genre bias. The question I’m left with though is where the women at…are we really saying there are no ‘Oscar Worthy’ film directed by women this year. The only female-helmed films I saw on the nominee lists for the GGs or SAGs was Mary Queen of Scots by Josie Rourke (an acting nod for Margot Robbie). ETA (December 16th 2018): Error on my part; I overlooked Can You Ever Forgive Me? which (another oversight) has acting noms in both the GGs and SAGs for Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant – no directing nod for Marielle Heller that I’ve seen though. I saw and liked Leave no Trace by Debra Granik but that doesn’t seem to have created any kind of stir (and it did have some pacing issues). Think there’s any chance that Skate Kitchen by Janelle Moselle might pick up even a cinematography award? – and I’m not just saying that because the cinematographer is Antiguan-Barbudan Shabier Kirchner.

I’ll say this though, Hollywood has a ways to go in terms of opportunities in front and especially behind the camera for women and people of colour, and not to mention women of colour. It feels like they still have to be exceptional to be seen when others are allowed to be …good. Listen to Robert Townsend talking recently about his struggles getting now classic films like Hollywood Shuffle and The Five Heartbeats (for which he’s made a making of doc he hopes will be in Oscar contention) made.

“There was a part of me that was dying as an artist. I told Keenan, because we had both had bad auditions, and I said Keenan we need to make our own movies. I said, we can’t wait on Hollywood to tell our stories. And that’s when I started to create Hollywood Shuffle. I shot it in 12 days. When I ran out of money, I used a credit card. The film was done for $100,000 and then eventually it made close to $10,000,000 and that’s how I was launched.”

It’s clear Hollywood – for all that it tells the stories that move the culture – seems to still be coming from behind when it comes to really making change (and seeing the world though a multiplicity of lenses).

As for me, this is just some preliminary musings; hopefully I’ll see more of the contenders between now and then, and have more informed speculation.