Wednesday, December 31, 2014

the cheryl awards: best books, best movies and best cheryl of 2014

Roll out the cat-clawed carpet and put on your fanciest pajamas: It’s time for the annual Cheryl Awards (which I will not call the Cheries, because I only went by Cherie for one year, in third grade, when I was determined to have a nickname—but in fourth grade, Sheri-Lynn Bellflower came to town and quickly established herself as the main Sheri).

According to Goodreads, I read twenty-six books this year. Not bad for a year in which I started a new job, but choosing a top ten seems a little much. So, as in years past, I’m choosing the books and movies that, to me, form their own tier. I’m also—new feature!—including a quick “why you should read/see it” blurb. I recently stumbled across the (dormant-ish?) blog of writer Jefferson Beavers and was charmed by his end-of-2013 post, which he titled “10 Good Things That Happened to Me.” It’s such a simple way to express gratitude and give yourself a little love, rather than skipping straight to resolutions. In reading through his ten things, it became clear that these were actually, mostly, accomplishments, not things that just “happened to him.” But that made me like his approach even more, because it acknowledged that there’s a degree of luck in every accomplishment. So if you’re reading this, Jefferson, I hope you’ll blog more in 2015!

Homeboy Prose & Poetry Showcase: a top moment of 2014, hands down.
Some good things that happened to me in 2014:
  • I fell head over heels for Homeboy (thank you, loyal readers, for enduring the irritating voice of the newly infatuated). 
  • I spent an amazing week in New Zealand with amazing people (hi, AK and Emily!). 
  • I navigated two close brushes with adoption and months of no brushes with adoption without completely losing my shit or destroying my relationship. 
  • I navigated four cancer check-ups, which is kind of the ultimate mix of accomplishment and luck. Luck that none of them revealed any cancer, knockonwood, accomplishment because I would rather run through Union Station than wait for test results, but I did it because I had to.
  • I revised my YA novel; I wrote more of my so-called memoir. 
  • I published a story I’m really proud of in Blunderbuss Magazine
  • I discovered AfroFunk
I also spent a lot of time making fashion collages on Polyvore, let my good health habits slide some, drove AK crazy, gave my sister advice when I shouldn’t have, spent too much time on Facebook, compared myself to other people, bought too many shoes and cried a lot. But who’s counting?

Without further ado:

2014 had a Down Under theme.
Top six books I read in 2014:
  1. Wake by Elizabeth Knox Why you should read it: Parallel dimensions, flightless parrots and the human condition—the best character-driven sci fi you’ll find. 
  2. The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp Why you should read it: Are you dreading a doctor’s appointment? Wondering if you have value despite being disabled? Wondering about the meaning of life? Do you like to read? Do you need a good cry, emphasis on the good? Are you a person? 
  3. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann Why you should read it: The best September 11 book you’ll find, despite the fact that it takes place in the 1970s. 
  4. G-Dog and the Homeboys by Celeste Fremon Why you should read it: Local history as told by an unabashedly un-impartial journalist. More than Father Greg’s Tattoos on the Heart—which is great, but more interested in God-is-love parables than socioeconomic context—this is a must-read for any Angeleno who wants to truly understand his or her city.
  5. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn Why you should read it: All the best qualities of Gone Girl—the suspense, social commentary and abandoned places—with fewer of the frustrations and a delightfully downwardly mobile protagonist. 
  6. My Body is a Book of Rules by Elissa Washuta Why you should read it: An obsessive, innovative, screamingly honest and often funny look at identity. My favorite piece: a conversation about Elissa’s rape written as an episode of Law & Order: SVU
Honorable mention: The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy, The Beach by Alex Garland, Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter.

You have to let it in before you can work it out.
Top six movies I saw in 2014: 
  1. The Babadook Why you should see it: A horror movie about why you have to go in the basement. 
  2. The One I Love Why you should see it: A surreal and incredibly relatable film for everyone who has seen the best and worst of the person they’re with.  
  3. Nightcrawler Why you should see it: Local news is perfect for psychopaths. Dark comedy at its darkest and funniest. 
  4. Wild Why you should see it: There are many reasons, but one is that I want to live in a world where a movie about a woman in dirty clothes going for a long walk and missing her mom is a blockbuster. 
  5. The Imitation Game Why you should see it: Alan Turing, the mathematician who cracked Germany’s code and basically won WWII, was a gay nerd born a few decades too soon. But thank god he was. Otherwise the golden age of gay and nerd (a.k.a. now) might never have come about. 
  6. The Skeleton Twins Why you should see it: We are all just so fucked up. Also, Bill Hader is fantastic and subtle, plus the best eighties lip synch scene you’ll find anywhere. 
Honorable mention: Mockingjay Part I, Into the Woods (great casting, and my favorite musical ever, but not as moving as it might have been, for reasons I can’t quite figure out), Boyhood, Gone Girl.


Ryan said...

I agree on Into the Woods, though I have an idea of why it wasn't as moving as it might have been, and some of it has to do with Rapunzel's fate in the film vs. the stage production, and some of it has to do with the Baker and his Father not having their song (and the Father not also being the Narrator to create that connection when the Baker begins telling the story), and some of it has to do with the usually incredibly powerful finale sung by all of the characters no matter their fates here being sung by an offscreen choir while the camera pans up to a shot of clouds. Still, a good movie.

Cheryl said...

Those are all very good theories! Although I actually liked having the baker be the narrator, because I think it underscored the theme of trying to be a good parent/grownup even when your own parent is absent.

Unknown said...

I'm just catching up on your blog and HI back! Can't wait to see you soon!!!! Pullman is cold and foggy. NOT NZ. New Zealand was pretty awesome, wasn't it. And you guys were my favorite visitors (shhhhh, don't tell the others!)

Cheryl said...

You are the best, Emily!