My favourite films of 2014

1 01 2015

I was meaning to post this before the new year, but I didn’t, so just pretend I did.

I still haven’t seen a bunch of films this year, particularly more obscure ones — though I did watch Birdman and Gone Girl and they are not on my list for reasons I will mention some other time.

Let’s start with Special Cases:


I didn’t think it was that great. A lot of things about it were amazing, but it was a bit underwhelming for me. However, since I’ve been reading up on all the praise for it, I feel like I should watch this one again to really be able to judge it fairly.

The Wind Rises

Technically released last year, but I saw it in theatres this year so I count it as this year. Everything Miyazaki does — did? 😦 — is pure magic.

The Normal Heart

Technically a TV movie but oh so good. I cried so many times just watching the teasers. (Crying is usually a good indicator that I will like a film)

Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):


I can’t say no to Chris Evans. Except when he’s Captain America.

The Internet’s Own Boy

Tragic, insightful, infuriating, inspiring. I will always remember this quote from the movie/Aaron Swartz: “What is the most important thing you could be doing right now, and why are you not doing it?”


Overlong, but full of drama with A+ performances across the board. Xavier Dolan is everything I’ll never be as a filmmaker.

(Also, I think this trailer advertises this as a kind of feel-good triumph film, which is utterly false. It’s so much better than this.)

The Skeleton Twins

We tend to consider the best films is usually bio-pics or dramas, but this little indie film does comedy and drama miles better than Birdman. I connected with this film is practically all levels (I have a twin sister, I’m gay, I’ll always love the guy who is in the closet and who will probably have a family), it was unreal. And Bill Hader really is as amazing as you’ve been hearing.

Rocks in My Pockets

A funny and poignant examination of a woman’s struggle with mental illness within herself and her family.

Obvious Child

Perhaps the funniest and best comedy I’ve seen this year, while still telling a poignant and heartfelt story.

And now… my favourite films of 2014!

11. The Way He Looks

The only one on this list I’ve seen twice in theatres. And I have almost never done that.

I was such a fan of this when it first was made as a fantastic short film as few years ago that when I was on the programming committee at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, I immediately contacted writer/director Daniel Ribeiro to ask for a screener. It became one of the most loved short films at the festival. (You’re welcome, Vancouver audiences)

When I learned that Ribeiro had plans to make a feature, I — and many other gay boys around the world, no doubt — squealed with delight. I’ve been waiting years for this film — and it exceeded my expectations.

Warm, utterly charming, and just so freaking adorable, I dare you to not fall in love with these characters.

10. Whiplash

First of all, it helps that I got free tickets to this film. It also helps that this is a film about music and dedication, and having played piano since I was five years old, I liked the premise right away. But there are so many other great things about this movie to like.

Like Miles Teller, who, after watching a few of his movies and being indifferent about him as an actor and performer, truly impressed me here. The story is tight, editing is great (particularly in the last twenty or so minutes of the film), and film flows really well. A really entertaining film about the lengths we go to for (unattainable?) perfection.

9. Dear White People

I wanted to see this after I watched the first trailer. Like Damien Chazelle (the writer and director of Whiplash) and Daniel Ribeiro, Justin Simien’s Dear White People is his first feature. I think it’s great that there are new filmmakers who are telling fresh stories, doing new and exciting things in the art of cinema. In contrast with the first two films on this list, Simien is interested in pushing people’s buttons — but does so in a calculated, explored approach (though it may not feel like it).

This is not a film that is anti-white people, like many claim (by those who likely have not seen the film, no doubt), but one that tries to figure out where subtle views of race stem from in today’s world. Characters are complex creatures, full of contradictions. There is no perfect person here. Who are these people and why do they think like they do? are the questions Simien, through this film, poses. They are questions are not easily answered.

(Don’t read the comments in the trailer below. They’re not worth your time.)

The list continues tomorrow!

The 3rd Annual Aaron Book Awards

30 12 2014

Welcome once again to the 3rd Annual Aaron Book Awards! I will start off with some disappointing news: the total number of books I read this year is 23, down from 35 from last year. And I don’t really have an excuse, since I graduated from university earlier this year and should have had time to read lots… although I was working two jobs for a while. And writing (or procrastinating and pretending to write). And I did read a lot more novels this year than last year, so maybe I actually read more in quantity… anyway! I’m sure you’re not dying to know who won what, so I’ll just get to it.

Without further ado…

Best Play

Winner: The Normal Heart — Larry Kramer

Well, yet again, I only read one play this year, but it was a fucking awesome one. I had been wanting to read it for a while and it was only after watching Ryan Murphy’s film adaptation earlier this year — which left me in a giant puddle of tears — that I was finally able to get a copy from the library.

Can’t recommend this play enough.

Best Children’s Book

Sort of winner? A Pussycat’s Christmas — Margaret Wise Brown

I have to explain.

This book was not on my list of books to read (obviously. Really!). I happened to come upon it while working at the library one day, and took a picture of it to send to someone who looooooves cats. One thing lead to another, and I borrowed the book. But I couldn’t just not read it, so I did.

And honestly, it wasn’t very good. Yeah, the pictures are great because, well, there’s a fluffy cat in them, but the writing itself meanders and is, for a picture book, kind of underwhelming. But I didn’t read any other children’s book this year, and I don’t think this book deserves it. So… I’ll just leave it like that.

Best YA Novel:

Winner:  Openly Straight — Bill Konigsberg

First of all, this was a tough decision. I really enjoyed both Openly Straight and Just Between Us; they both had wonderful protagonists and dealt with a lot of topical gay issues. I have to hand it to Mr. Konigsberg for his fantastic characterization of not just his main characters, but to all of his characters. It’s a skillful technique that has definitely made me think about with my own writing. Plus, the witty humour throughout is simply irresistible.

Nominees: Just Between Us — J.H. Trumble
Openly Straight — Bill Konigsberg

Best Non-Fiction Book

Winner: Toxin, Toxout — Bruce Lourie, Rick Smith

I think this is a difficult category to judge because these books are all so different in their own right. I included It Gets Better because although it is made up of creative non-fiction narratives, its purpose is to educate and provide support to people, the way many self-help and sociological books do.

Ultimately, Toxin, Toxout, the follow-up to last year’s winning Slow Death by Rubber Duck, is our winner this year! Another informative, alarming, and Canadian (!) book about everyday invisible toxins in our lives. If Slow Death by Rubber Duck sounded the alarm on toxins, this book is the therapy session that provides us hope.

Nominees: Toxin, Toxout — Bruce Lourie, Rick Smith

Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities — Patrick Condon

It Gets Better — eds. Dan Savage and Terry Miller

Best Graphic novel/Manga

Winner: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (vols. 5-7) — Hayao Miyazaki

This might be unfair because I picked Nausicaa last year and I hadn’t even finished reading the series… but too bad.

Nominees: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (vols. 5-7) — Hayao Miyazaki

Artifice — Alex Woolfson

Persepolis — Marjane Satrapi

Scott Pilgrim (vols. 4-5) — Bryan Lee O’Malley

Best Memoir/Autobiography

Winner: Nothing to Envy — Barbara Demick

A sobering, devastating, horrific, shocking, and moving piece of journalism. Thanks to David Sedaris for recommending it. I think it’s one of the creative non-fiction books I’ve read.

Nominees: The Bucolic Plague — Josh Kilmer Purcell

Nothing to Envy — Barbara Demick

Persepolis — Marjane Satrapi

Bossypants — Tina Fey

It Gets Better — eds. Dan Savage and Terry Miller

Best Novel (Fiction)

Winner: The Year of the Flood — Margaret Atwood

This was the year of Margaret Atwood. Gotta hand it to her for creating such a frightening depiction of the future. This is what speculative fiction is all about.

I also want to give a shout-out to The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet for being ambitious in language and style. I’d argue that most writers today care more about characters or story or other aspects of writing, and less about language. Mitchell is all about language in this one. It’s not a book for everyone, for sure, but you do have to admire his dedication to words you’ve probably never heard of before.

Nominees: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet — David Mitchell

Oryx and Crake — Margaret Atwood

Fahrenheit 451 — Ray Bradbury

The Year of the Flood — Margaret Atwood

Maddaddam — Margaret Atwood

And the final category: Best Book of 2014

Winner: Nothing to Envy — Barbara Demick
Honorable mention: The Year of the Flood — Margaret Atwood

Goals for next year: read more plays and children’s books!


The Normal Heart

20 08 2014

Read this one a while back but I accidentally returned it before I took a picture with it. Luckily, I now work at a library so going to get books is no longer a problem.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a play, but this one is really good. I can definitely hear how angry Larry Kramer is through his words. There isn’t really anything else I have to say about it except that it is a really, really good read. Some great writing in here. Now that I’ve seen the HBO TV movie as well as a stage production, it’s interesting to see how it carries over and how others have worked with the text. But no one wants to hear me blab on about that, so here’s a picture of me upside down.


24 05 2014

It’s hard to find things to blog about when all you’ve done all day is sleep, eat, down cups of ginger and ginseng tea, and watch movies. At the very least, watching so many movies (different movies too) makes me pay attention to the writing — characters, dialogue, but most important, at least for me, story. And sometimes, the story isn’t very believable, as in a terrible movie I saw today called Bishonen. Granted, pretty much everything else in the film was terrible too, so maybe that wasn’t a very good example.

Excited for The Normal Heart tomorrow!