Author: Alyssa

Twenty-something writer and entertainment junkie who's fueled by strong coffee and long breaks in front of the TV

My Top 5 Literary Romances

Originally posted at The Great Noveling Adventure

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for a good romance. I don’t often read books that are purely romance, and I’m more than okay if a book skips the lovey-dovey stuff altogether, but I do enjoy a little kissing every now and then. Or a lot of kissing. A lot of kissing is fine too.

There are so many memorable romances in books, but here are five by which I believe all others can be measured.

5. MIA HALL AND ADAM WILDE

“But the you who you are tonight is the same you I was in love with yesterday, the same you I’ll be in love with tomorrow.”

Mia and Adam’s relationship in Gayle Forman’s If I Stay is so realistic that I saw bits and pieces of my own relationships in it. Mia and Adam are different yet not-so-different. Both are music lovers, but Mia is a classical cellist and Adam sings and plays guitar in a rock band. Mia struggles with their differences throughout the book and their relationship is far from perfect, but the sweet moments they share make the hardships worthwhile. Plus, Adam wins the Best Boyfriend Ever award for just about everything he does. He stands by Mia and respects her 100%, he always seems to know exactly what to say, and when she needs him the most, he drops everything to be there. In a literary world that’s rampant with bad boy characters, it’s a breath of fresh air to read about a genuinely good guy.

4. SOPHIE HATTER AND HOWL PENDRAGON

“I think we ought to live happily ever after.”

Howl Pendragon was my very first literary crush. The titular character of Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle is the epitome of an anti-hero — vain, selfish, and often cowardly. Despite his less than tolerable traits, he always manages to come through in the end, leaving you wondering why you love him but knowing without a doubt you do. Howl and Sophie’s relationship is unique because although Sophie is around the same age as Howl, she’s stuck in an elderly body throughout most of the book. Their love transcends physicality, and Sophie gradually changes Howl for the better, turning him from a narcissistic pseudo-villain into the person he was truly meant to be. Although their romance is subtle and builds slowly, I was cheering for it the entire time.

3. AUGUSTUS WATERS AND HAZEL LANCASTER

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

John Green has a knack for writing intelligent teenagers who refuse to take things at face value. Instead, they question the world around them and find comfort in the fact that they aren’t in it alone. In The Fault in Our Stars, Green has written an endearing, beautiful love story about two kids dealing with the fragility of life in a very real, and thus often painful, way. Fortunately, they have each other to help with that. Everything about Hazel and Augustus’ relationship is sweet and sincere. We get to know them through their conversations about their fears, their doubts, and their places in the universe, and we fall in love with them as they fall in love with each other. More than most other authors I’ve read, John Green understands what it is to be human, and by extension, he understands what it is to be in love.

2. RON WEASLEY AND HERMIONE GRANGER

“Good luck, Ron!” said Hermione standing tiptoe and kissing him on the cheek. “And you, Harry–”
Ron seemed to come to himself slightly as they walked back across the Great Hall. He touched the spot on his face where Hermione had kissed him, looking puzzled, as though he was not quite sure what had just happened. He seemed too distracted to notice much around him.

Oh, Ron and Hermione. What can I say? I grew up with the Harry Potter series, and I watched Ron and Hermione slowly fall in love as they grew together. The series is told almost completely from Harry’s point of view, so you only get glimpses into Ron and Hermione’s relationship, but I waited for those glimpses. I counted on them. I’ve never shipped anything as hard as I shipped Ron and Hermione, and the payoff when they finally kissed was one of the most gratifying moments I’ve ever read. Rowling built up to that scene masterfully throughout seven books. Ron and Hermione’s relationship happened naturally, just the way it does in real life. There were bumps along the way, and it wasn’t immediately spark-filled and passionate, but I’m a fan of the subtle build.

1. ELIZABETH BENNET AND MR. DARCY

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

Elizabeth and Darcy’s is the great literary love story. It just doesn’t get any better than them. Even if you haven’t read Pride & Prejudice or seen any of the many wonderful adaptations, the story is a familiar one: they dislike each other in the beginning, but after being forced to spend time together due to circumstances beyond their control, they gradually fall in love. It’s a story that has been co-opted and embraced many times since Jane Austen first put it to page in the early 19th century. Mr. Darcy may not be the ideal man at first glance, but he still manages to cause major swooning, and it’s hard not to cheer for him and Elizabeth, in whom he finally meets his match.

5 Shows that Defined My Young Life

I originally titled this “5 Shows That Defined My Childhood” but then realized I wasn’t exactly a child when I watched Friends. I was a pre-teen when I started watching—and some of the sex jokes went right over my head—and a “young adult” by the time the show ended. I can’t leave Friends out, though, because it was majorly life-defining for me. Dilemma! I decided to go with “5 Shows That Defined My Young Life,” but if we’re including the entire spectrum of my childhood through my teenage years, then this list probably only scratches the surface.

1. Boy Meets World

Boy Meets World

How it defined me: Aside from still harboring a secret love of floppy ’90s hair thanks in part to this show, Boy Meets World also gave me a deeply embedded love for well-developed TV romances. Cory and Topanga were my first OTP. For me, they were the precursor to Jim and Pam, Ross and Rachel, and Ben and Leslie. Cory+Topanga is the subconscious standard by which I measure all relationships, including my own.

2. Friends

Friends

How it defined me: Just as Boy Meets World is the standard by which I judge relationships, Friends is the standard by which I judge friendships. If you can’t eat a cheesecake on the floor with someone, then you’re not really friends in my book.

My sister and I were obsessed with this show for practically half our lives. My parents bought us every season on DVD as joint Christmas presents, and when we both moved out and had to decide who got the entire collection, it was heartbreaking. If only my parents had known the mental anguish they were going to cause, they surely would’ve bought us each our own copies. (Ultimately, my sister got Friends and I got our special edition Lord of the Rings box set. I think this means I’m the bigger nerd.)

I’ve seen most episodes more than I can count. I’m constantly being reminded of something that happened in Friends and can usually pinpoint the episode. Upon reflection, it might get a teensy bit annoying to the people around me, but I can’t help it! Friends occupies a very large chunk of my brain!

3. Batman: The Animated Series and Pokémon

Batman: The Animated Series

Pokémon

How they defined me: I’m lumping these together because they influenced me in the same way, which is to say that they both reinforced my nerd cred. When I was a kid, I would come home from school, throw my backpack in my room, grab a snack, and then watch these shows, every day without fail. They were part of my routine, and I still get nostalgic whenever I see Harley Quinn or Pikachu. Most of what I know about Batman and Pokémon comes from their respective animated series. Mark Hamil’s Joker and Team Rocket will always be my favorites.

4. Sabrina the Teenage Witch

Sabrina the Teenage Witch

How it defined me: Basically, I still want to a be a witch. Looking back now, I’ve realized Sabrina was my childhood feminist hero. Not only was she a strong female lead, but she also had two female mentors with complete agency over their lives. The men on the show, including Sabrina’s boyfriend Harvey, were all secondary characters whose plotlines were subject to the witches’ stories. Plus, it was nice to see a show featuring a mostly female cast and not-so-“conventional” family airing in the family-oriented TGIF timeslot.

5. Various Other Assorted Cartoons

Nickelodeon '90s

All those shown above, along with Pepper Ann, Recess, The Weekenders, Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, GargoylesBobby’s World, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Garfield and Friends, AND EVEN MORE.

How they defined me: These shows collectively helped define me as a perpetually nostalgic ’90s kid-at-heart. We Millennials were nurtured by a unique period of history when technology was rapidly advancing before our eyes. We embraced it in the form of Game Boys and clunky PCs while still holding tight to our skateboards and bicycles and treehouses. And we all still want to be kids, because the ’90s were the heyday of kid-dom, the best time in history to be young and carefree.

Bonus! 3 TV Shows I Wish Had Defined My Childhood But That I Didn’t Watch Until I Was an Adult:

  1. The Simpsons – I’m sad I missed out on so many opportunities to annoy the crap out of people by telling them to “eat my shorts.”
  2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Buffy would have easily been Childhood Feminist Hero #2.
  3. Xena: Warrior Princess – Childhood Feminist Hero #3. Actually, I did watch this as a kid and distinctly remember being fascinated, but I only caught a few episodes. I remember it airing during the afternoon on Sundays, and since that was the weekend and it was still light outside, I was usually off pretending to be a heroine instead of watching one on TV. I didn’t watch the entire series until I was in my early twenties and binged it on Netflix, and now Xena is Adult Feminist Hero #1.

What are some of your favorite childhood shows? Let’s be nostalgic together!

A Bit More About My TV Addiction

Back in May, at the beginning of summer, I set some television-related goals for myself. For a hopeless TV addict like me, summer is the perfect time to catch up on all the shows I’ve missed or am behind on. I mean, yeah, the sunshine and flip-flops and lemonade and watermelon are all nice, but catching up on TV is the real reason I love summer.

So here’s where I come clean: I failed to watch most of the shows on my list. It was a tad bit ambitious. I did, however, manage to watch a few of them, along with some other unexpected shows that weren’t on my list at all. I allowed myself to go with the spirit of the season and be laid-back about my TV consumption, just watching whatever I felt like whenever I felt like it.

The hierarchy of new shows that I’m eagerly anticipating this fall has changed somewhat too, now that I’ve seen some upfronts and learned more about all the shows debuting this season. And by the way, can you believe it’s already September?! This is my absolute favorite time of year—fall is beginning, TV shows are premiering, and October and Halloween are just around the corner. Get excited, people!

Shows I Watched Over the Summer:

1. Bob’s Burgers — This was one of the few I managed to cross off my actual list and oh man, did I become obsessed with this show. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I do, but now I want my own pair of pink bunny ears. Bob’s Burgers invokes the early seasons of The Simpsons, back when The Simpsons was more focused on a dysfunctional family living in a working-class world than straight-up satire. The three Belcher kids are some of the best characters on TV right now: the inimitable, explosive Louise, voiced to perfection by Kristen Schaal; middle child Gene, a megaphone-wielding, keyboard-playing, often gender-confused boy who readily complies with his sisters’ many whims; and Tina, a nerdy preteen struggling with her burgeoning sexuality and all the weird ways it manifests, including a dream sequence involving two zombies making out. Comedy gold.

2. Fringe — I only have the last 13 episodes of the fifth and final season to go, and I am SO SAD. I don’t want this show to end! The best way I can think of to describe it is X-Files lite, but with parallel universes and the space-time continuum instead of aliens. I’m really going to miss the characters, who have become a family, and the slow buildup filled with twists and turns culminating in pure, unadulterated science fiction in all its glory.

3. Orange Is the New Black


I wasn’t going to watch this, but I somehow found myself watching the first episode on a lazy summer day when I had nothing else to do. Then I found myself finished a week later, wondering how I had ever planned to miss out on this brilliant show that doubles as one of the best social commentaries floating around in the pop culture universe. I could write a long dissection of the ways in which it deftly deals with race, class, and gender issues, but since I try to keep this blog on the lighter side, I’ll just point you to Ashley’s awesome writeup about it instead. She does it more eloquently than I ever could anyway.

4. Arrested Development — The Bluths are back! I tried to space these episodes out, but the downside—or maybe the upside? I haven’t yet decided—of Netflix original series are that you end up binge-watching TV for two days straight, which is exactly what I did with this show. It was a little hard to get used to the new format, in which each episode focuses on a different member of the Bluth family, but it picked up about a third of the way through and suddenly got very interesting. Each of the characters’ stories started to intersect and come together, culminating in the finale, when everything was wrapped up into a neat little package, only for it to be blown apart again in preparation for the upcoming movie. I miss those lovable goofballs again already.

5. Bunheads — I mentioned back in May that I really hoped this show didn’t get canceled, and then it got canceled. I wanted to cry. This show had so much potential, and I’m sad that the network couldn’t see that. It also made me fall in love with both Sutton Foster and ballet. I’m tempted to watch Breaking Pointe now, but I’m not much of a reality TV viewer unless it involves Gordon Ramsay, and I just don’t know if it’s worth it.

6. Whose Line Is It Anyway? — It’s back and it’s…not better than ever. I miss the audience participation, and Aisha Tyler hasn’t quite settled into her role as the host yet, but it’s still worth watching. I’m hoping Aisha’s chemistry with the rest of the cast will improve as time goes on. The cast themselves—Colin, Ryan, and Wayne—are just as hilarious and fun to watch as always. This new iteration of Whose Line may not entirely live up to its glory days, but the simple fact that it’s back in any shape at all is more than I could have asked for.

7. Warehouse 13 — I started watching this on a whim, kind of like Orange Is the New Black, and fell in love. I have a tendency to devour every sci-fi offering I can get my hands on, and this is the latest in that vein. It’s very much a feel-good, warm fuzzies show being lighthearted and humorous more often than not, and the interactions between the core group of characters are playful and easygoing. I’m only on season 2, so I don’t know how things are going to develop, but I love it. I plan on watching its sister show, Eureka, next.

Those are the major players. I’ve also been binge-watching old Saturday Night Live episodes on Netflix and catching up with Drunk History on Comedy Central, which is just as amazing as you’d expect. Until next time, happy TV premiere season and happy friggin’ fall!

Movie Recommendation: Pacific Rim

I need to begin this post by saying that I’ve been looking forward to Pacific Rim for what seems like ages, and my expectations were about as high as they possibly could be. That being said, it took my expectations, chewed them up, and spit them back out in the form of not only the most genuinely fun action movie I’ve had the pleasure of watching, but also an allegory for the importance of stepping out of our separate nations and banding together as humans—a message that has never been more relevant.

Guillermo del Toro, who wrote and directed Pacific Rim (as well as another one of my favorite films of all time—Pan’s Labyrinth), said he didn’t want to make Pacific Rim about one nation (i.e. ‘MURICA!) saving the world. Rather, he wanted it to be about people from all nations, races, and creeds working together to save the world. Therein lies the core of its brilliance, but for the sake of this review, there are a few more things I want to mention.

One: Mako Mori, arguably the most well-written badass female character in a film since Alien‘s Ripley. The best thing about Mako, though, is that she’s not all grit and spine of steel. Don’t get me wrong—she can take on the kaiju (giant monsters) with the best of them—but instead of constantly acting like she has something to prove like so many other powerful female characters in movies, she has a vulnerability that’s real and not gender-exclusive. Almost all the male characters display a sense of vulnerability as well. Mako’s femininity shines through, not as a weakness but as a normal part of her character. And in one of the best scenes in the movie, the gender double standard gets turned on its head when she spies on her male colleague, Raleigh, undressing through a peephole.

Two: the character relationships. When it comes to action and cool fight sequences between giant monsters and robots, Pacific Rim delivers on an epic scale, but it’s anything but vapid. This movie has heart, and it comes in the form of the relationships between its characters, which are layered and complex. Everything from father-son to father-daughter to rivals to colleagues to friends is explored. In fact, the only thing it’s lacking is a strong relationship between two female characters. Ultimately, Pacific Rim is about humanity and finding strength in one another, and that message is constantly reinforced through some of the most satisfying character development I’ve seen.

Another thing I really enjoyed is that romance isn’t imperative to the plot. Although Mako and Raleigh are close and it’s implied there may be something a little more there, their relationship is left open to interpretation. Del Toro has specifically stated that he didn’t want their relationship to be an overtly romantic one. He wanted their story to be about colleagues and the closeness that stems from working together, going into battle together, and depending on each other. While their relationship could be interpreted as romance, it can just as easily be interpreted as a close friendship.

Three: Dr. Newt Geiszler. He’s just awesome. Charlie Day should be in everything.

All that’s left to say is: go see this movie. If you’re waiting for it to come out on DVD and Blu-ray, don’t. Pacific Rim is THE blockbuster to see this summer, and it’s worth seeing on the big screen.

Top 10 Music Videos of All Time

This post is brought to you by homework procrastination and lots of caffeine.

I miss MTV, back when it actually represented what it stands for, which is Music Television. Like most humans, I love music, and I love it when a good song is accompanied by a good video. Music videos can do so much to push a song into the world’s collective subconscious, illustrating the meaning behind the lyrics or remaining ambiguous yet beautiful. Since the ’80s, music videos have provided opportunities for music and filmmaking to merge, resulting in some pretty breathtaking and entertaining pieces, especially when directed by the likes of Spike Jonze or Michael Gondry.

All that being said, I present to you: the top 10 greatest music videos of all time as chosen by me. This list is mostly subjective, but I did try to take into account things like production value, artistry, creativity, the emotional response evoked, and how well the videos fit with their songs overall.

10. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor

This video is pure raw emotion. Most of it is just a closeup shot of Sinead’s face, but her performance as she sings is powerful to watch. At about the 4:00 mark, a single tear streams down her cheek, and it makes me ache every time I see it. This video proves that sometimes the best art is the simplest.

9. “Hurt” by Johnny Cash

Originally by Nine Inch Nails, Johnny Cash made this song his own, and the video does even more to ensure it belongs to him. It’s deeply personal. Footage of Cash performing the song in his museum is interspersed with images of his life, and it all comes together to form a poignant representation of the Man in Black.

8. “This Year” by The Mountain Goats

This video is both hilarious and shocking, and lead singer John Darnielle’s performance throughout is the icing on the cake. This is such an incredible song anyway, but the video is perfect. It’s a worst-case scenario accompanied by a message of hope.

7. “Here It Goes Again” by OK Go

OK Go choreographed and recorded this entire video themselves in one room with one camera and a few treadmills. It’s genius because they managed to create an instant hit with possibly the smallest music video budget ever. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun to watch.

6. “Coffee and TV” by Blur

I was obsessed with this song for a long time in high school, and now I don’t care for it as much, but I still love the video. It’s about an adorable milk carton’s quest for his missing person. I mean, how can you not love that?

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