The Women’s March On Washington

womens-march-on-washington-washington-monument“We are here not merely to gather but to move, right? And our movements, our movements require us to do more than just show up and say the right words. It requires us to break out of our comfort zones and be confrontational. It requires us to defend one another when it is difficult and dangerous. It requires us to truly see ourselves and one another… Our approach to freedom need not be identical but it must be intersectional and inclusive. It must extend beyond ourselves.”

– From Janet Mock’s speech at the March

Washington, D.C. is one of my favorite cities. In fact, I might even say that it is my number one favorite. I’ve been there four times now and every time I find something to love a little more – its history, its culture, its geography of impressive monuments and old buildings. So it was with disappointment that, after Trump was elected president, I told myself I wouldn’t go back there for at least four years. I mean, who wants to be in the same location as a bigot covered in Cheeto dust?

I broke that promise to myself ASTONISHINGLY QUICKLY, sinceI was there the very day after Trump was inaugurated. I had a last-minute opportunity to attend the Women’s March on Washington so of course I jumped at the chance to go.

womens-march-on-washington-iowa-city-groupI’d been hearing about the march for weeks and months as it was planned but had no way of getting there, let alone to any of the large sister protests such as the one held in Des Moines. But I wasn’t really planning to attend Iowa City’s little march, either, mostly because I had homework to do. It seemed like a very all or nothing situation: I wasn’t going to go to a small protest because I had homework but when I had the chance to go to one so big I just couldn’t pass it up, I immediately said, “Forget about the homework. I’m going.”

So, yeah. That’s where I was this weekend. In case you were wondering. I’ve been much better at leaving comments on other people’s blogs / replying to comments on my own blog so far this year, but I let that fall by the wayside these past few days because I was busy, and some of you may have noticed that absence. SORRY, I WAS DOING A THING.

womens-march-on-washington-trio-of-postersI traveled to our nation’s capital on Friday in a huge van with a group of fourteen other women from Iowa City, ranging in age from thirteen to seventy-two. Some, but not all, had been to D.C. before. Some of us were new to protesting, while others had been at it for a long time.

Getting there was half the fun. We kept a list of silly things people said and tried to explain what an aux cord is to the oldest members of our group and brainstormed ideas for a feminist version of Goodnight Moon. (“Goodnight, Beyoncé! Goodnight, Ruth Bader Ginsburg!”) We had a row of seats in the van with women knitting enough pussyhats for everyone to wear. (Mine was glittery. It was awesome.)

womens-march-on-washington-youre-so-vainWe passed (and ecstatically waved at) dozens of busloads of fellow marchers on the highway tonight. At a rest stop in the middle of nowhere, Ohio, bus after bus rolled up during the time it took us to fill the gas tank and I stopped counting them once I hit twenty. Everyone wanted to know where everyone else was from! I felt so proud to know I would be marching with all these women the next day.

I don’t even know where to start in terms of describing the actual day of the event because it was so overwhelming! Although 200,000 women were expected to show up, initial estimates said there were at least 500,000 people in attendance – and that’s only based on who had traveled on the Metro subway system that morning, not people who arrived later or by other means.

womens-march-on-washington-selfieI don’t think I’ve ever been in such a large crowd before? I loved seeing all the posters of protest and it was really cool to see the wide variety of people there. I saw an old man holding a sign that said he was marching for his granddaughters. I got kind of emotional seeing so many kids there because I knew that a lot of them had never known anything other than the Obama presidency.

A number of my blogging friends were there, although I didn’t see any of them – and didn’t expect to, to tell the truth, not in a crowd that large – as well as many of my friends from Iowa City and the University of Iowa.

We walked around for a while looking at posters and talking to people, then found one of the Jumbotrons scattered near the National Mall and watched the live speeches. That is, I craned my neck and jumped up and down to see the speakers over the heads of tall people standing in my way and even then I couldn’t really hear most of the speakers due to the noise of the crowd.

I think we were there for Janet Mock’s speech, and we were definitely there for Scarlett Johansson’s and America Ferrera’s, but I couldn’t hear especially well. In fact, I was actually able to hear only one of them, delivered by a six-year-old whose speech was probably one of the best that day. (I have been listening to all of them on YouTube.) ¡Sí se puede!

When it was finally time for the march to begin, everyone was more than a little confused. We took just a few steps and then the crowd halted! It went on like this for more than an hour. During this time we traveled barely more than a block.

womens-march-on-washington-hamilton(I’m like 99.9% sure that the block where we began to walk was the same exact one where I bought my Obama “Hope” shirt, which I wore for the march, from a street vendor almost seven years ago. Time really flies, doesn’t it?)

At the time of the march, we didn’t know what was causing the delay. It later turned out that there were so many people there that the original planned route of the march was filled with protesters from beginning to end, with more people continuing to stream in from the middle, that there was nowhere to go.

After about an hour, I had had enough. Don’t get me wrong, I really wanted to be there and I enjoyed what time I did spend there, but I was exhausted and hungry and cold and, more than anything, anxious. Two of the things that set my anxiety off the most are crowds and loud noises, and this had both. Some of the other members of my group also did not feel well, so we left the march and took the Metro back to Arlington, VA, where we nursed our anxiety- and stress-induced headaches and got something to eat.

womens-march-on-washington-heartI’m so incredibly grateful that I was able to attend the march. I was unable to participate as much as I would have liked, but I left knowing I was a part of history. Also, I think it’s important to be aware of your limits when doing activism. I’m a very anxious person and it’s no surprise that I struggled with this during the march, but I still did my part.

I’m so glad I decided to drop all my (admittedly not very exciting) weekend plans and go! It was by far the shortest time I’ve spent in D.C. but it was totally worth it even though it resulted in my not sleeping for forty-eight hours. (I don’t fall asleep in cars. I just can’t.) It’s still a little hard to believe I was even there in the first place precisely because it was an opportunity that sprang up at the very last minute.

Ultimately, I think that participating in the Women’s March on Washington was a very healing experience. I can’t and won’t “get over” a Trump presidency (or a Pence one after, god forbid that should happen) but ever since November I’ve been struggling to process what happened this election. This past weekend helped with that, I think.

Further Reading

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Winter Break Recap | 2016-17 Edition

Before we get too far into the semester, I’d like to reflect on winter break. Since I’ve been back at school for one week already, today seems like a good time to do that!

Winter break left me feeling… satisfied? Yes, I think that’s the right word. Overall I felt happier during break than I did in the weeks leading up to it. I’m proud of what I accomplished over break, too.

By the end of last semester, I desperately needed a break. I felt burnt out because of schoolwork, as I usually do, but I also felt emotionally exhausted as a result of the election. It was hard to find a reason to get out of bed some days, which only made me feel even more stressed out because I had so much studying to do that I couldn’t afford to fall even one day behind!

Break, and all that I did during it, helped me to recharge. There was so much that I wanted to do in my time off, and I am happy to say that I accomplished most of it! I read and wrote and blogged a lot. (I prescheduled SO MANY POSTS, you guys. I’m excited.) I filled out scholarship applications. I hung out with my family. I went to the movies.

In comparison, last winter break was not nearly as successful. I spent most of that break either watching mindless YouTube videos or endlessly scrolling through social media. I stayed up too late and slept in for hours. I didn’t really do anything all break, but it didn’t feel relaxing either. It felt like I’d wasted my time.

I wasn’t productive 100% of the time this break, either, but I was productive more often than not. Some days I didn’t get much done, but it was because I needed a break – a break from everything I was trying to do during winter break! I didn’t check everything off my to-do list, but I did check most of it off. I felt satisfied knowing that after, for instance, generating several thousand words of writing, I could hang out with my cousins on Christmas Eve and not feel bad about how I spent my time that day. Because it had been time well spent. Productively spent.

Winter break was not without its setbacks. Some days I just could not focus on whatever it was I was trying to do. Some days I hit the lowest points I’ve had all year. I think I dealt with it all the best I could, though, which is really all that matters at the end of the day. Aaand I still managed to write a ridiculous amount of words. And read a ridiculous number of books.

All in all, much better than the excessive indulgence in social media and the endless late nights of last winter break. I hope your winter break was just as enjoyable! How did you spend the past few weeks?

Books I Read

  • Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
  • Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” by Miles Hyman
  • Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola
  • The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks
  • Food Play by Saxton Freymann
  • Soppy by Philippa Rice
  • Poorly Drawn Lines by Reza Farazmand
  • Bone, Vol. 3: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith
  • Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow by James Sturm
  • The Oven by Sophie Goldstein
  • Hinges, Book One: Clockwork City by Meredith McClaren
  • The Library Gingerbread Man by Dotti Enderle
  • Dubliners by James Joyce
  • Cat Person by Seo Kim
  • Alone Forever: The Singles Collection by Liz Prince
  • Groot by Jeff Loveness
  • A Contract With God by Will Eisner
  • Maybelle the Cable Car by Virginia Lee Burton
  • Girl in Dior by Annie Goetzinger
  • New York: The Big City by Will Eisner
  • Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love by Patricia C. McKissack
  • Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown
  • Vader’s Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown
  • Darth Vader and Friends by Jeffrey Brown
  • Wodney Wat’s Wobot by Helen Lester
  • Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Alan Grant
  • Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Star Wars, Vol. 1: Skywalker Strikes by Jason Aaron
  • Black Panther, Vol. 1: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • Wonder Woman, Vol. 4: War by Brian Azzarello
  • Goodnight Darth Vader by Jeffrey Brown

Movies & TV I Watched

  • Rogue One
  • “The Return of Doctor Mysterio” (Doctor Who series ten Christmas special)
  • Carmilla season three
  • Hidden Figures
  • A Monster Calls
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Things To Cheer You Up This Inauguration Day

I know that today is a hard day for many people. It’s a hard day for me… I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. Even now, I’m supposed to be doing my homework for Principles of Reasoning, but I can’t seem to focus on that so I’m writing this post instead.

Here is a list of things that either are currently making me feel better or have made me feel better these past few days:

1. This quote.

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

– Barack Obama

2. A Social Justice Reading List For Those Who Want To Rise Up.

3. Troye Sivan’s latest music video, released only yesterday, which made me think it must have been intentional because he may be Australia but he’s gotta know what’s going on in America and in the world at large.

4. Cute animals on social media

Feel better, everyone.

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Thanks, Obama

Dear Mr. President,

I have no idea if you, personally, will ever read this. Probably not. Well, I’m going to send this anyway because writing is how I process things. I’ve been meaning to write a letter to you and your family for the past eight years and I just never got around to it. I waited so long that this letter won’t even reach you while you’re still living in the White House! Oops.

It’s pretty hard to sum up eight years of thoughts in one letter, but I’ll try my best.

I guess I’ll start by saying that I really appreciate what you’ve done for this country. I don’t agree with every single one of your decisions, policies, et cetera, but… that’s life, and I think you did the best you could with what you had. I would have loved to see what you were capable of had you not been constantly obstructed by Republican lawmakers, but I can’t go back in time and fix that. No one can. I’ll never stop wondering about that, though.

As I said before, this letter has been some eight years in the making. Actually, it’s been even longer than that, because I have very distinct memories of avidly following the election back in 2008. I was twelve. I vaguely remember the previous presidential election, but that one was the first where I was old enough to really understand what was going on.

I remember thinking, “If he’s a two-term president, I’ll be twenty when he leaves office. That’s SO OLD!” I’m twenty now. I don’t feel old, silly twelve-year-old me. Mostly I just feel… grateful for the stability of your two-term presidency? Because it overlapped so neatly with my adolescence. I came of age as a young woman in a country whose president proudly identified as a feminist. I came to terms with my identity as a queer woman in a country that took immense steps toward LGBTQ+ equality during your presidency. I don’t envy the young people who now have to grow up under a Trump presidency.

These past eight years have flown by. I don’t often think of time in eight-year increments: Divisions of one or five or ten seem more normal. But I grew up a lot during that time. I went from being vaguely, hazily aware of and curious about what was going on in the world to caring a lot. Now I’m worried that I didn’t care enough. I’m afraid that I took having a president and VP who don’t actively hate people like my, seek to take away my rights, want my dead, et cetera for granted. I’m still processing that.

I don’t want to end this letter on a negative note, and there is still more I want to say, so let me just awkwardly transition to that: As a writer, I love your speeches. I know you don’t write all of them, but I know you’ve written some or parts of some and you’re a great speaker. And then we have that orange thing that can’t string together a coherent sentence. Can you tell I’m bitter?

The last thing I wanted to say is that I’ve LOVED watching your family grow and change during the eight years you were president. I was kind of a history nerd as a kid – OK, I was a total history nerd and I still am – so I was excited that there would be little kids in the White House because there hadn’t been anyone really young since the Kennedy administration. Your elder daughter, Malia, is a few months younger than my brother, so over the years it’s been interesting to think about how they’re probably at similar points in their lives with regard to school and whatnot. I’m really curious to see what directions you and your family go in after your presidency comes to an end.

Thanks, Obama. I mean it.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Chesak

P.S. When I was twelve and again when I was sixteen, I fancied myself quite the budding political cartoonist. I’ve enclosed two pictures of what I dubbed “the Barackodile.” (Rhymes with crocodile.) Hey, it’s difficult to think of words that sound like Barack… and at the time I drew this I believe I had also recently learned about the history of political cartooning and how often animals are used as representations of politicians and their parties? Anyway, I hope you enjoy.

This was meant to symbolize you defeating Hillary Clinton in the primaries. I was one messed-up twelve-year-old.

This was meant to symbolize you defeating Hillary Clinton in the primaries. I was one messed-up twelve-year-old.

Here, you're celebrating your victory over Mitt Romney. I mean, clearly.

Here, you’re celebrating your victory over Mitt Romney. I mean, clearly.

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Spring 2017 Classes | African-American Lit, Retellings, Debate, & More

Today is the first day of the new semester! I’m super excited to tell you all about the courses I’m taking this spring.

Enjoy!

Black Fiction Now

This course introduces students to 20th and 21st century African-American literature with a focus on recent black writing and art.  We will examine the eclectic forms of black creativity of the post-Obama era and will analyze how writers use literature and art to engage with contemporary social and political issues.

How are artists of color representing this current moment in American culture, a moment of both promise (Barack Obama’s presidency) and precarity (the near-daily images of African Americans being killed)? How – and why – do contemporary artists engage with an afterlife of slavery? What are the influences of popular culture, music, and art on 20th & 21st century black literature?  How do contemporary black authors define – or dispute – a “post-racial” America or the Obama effect? Examining various forms of literature, as well as art, film, and TV shows, this class will help students understand the complexity and efficacy of Black Fiction Now.

We will begin with classic texts of the early and mid 20th century to establish a historical foundation for the course. We will then move on to the writings of Toni Morrison, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Colson Whitehead, Roxane Gay, Paul Beatty, and other writers, and read the writings and speeches of Barack and Michelle Obama.

This class comes first not just because it’s listed first on my course schedule but also because it’s the one I’m most looking forward to! I want to take as many courses about contemporary and/or pop culture media as possible during my years as an English major, so I was thrilled to get into this class.

Also, yay for diversity! Yay for getting to discuss some of my favorite authors, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay, in the classroom!* And yay for being able to take this course with my best friend Jill! We’re gonna have so much fun.

*For the second time, actually. I just remembered that I had to read some of their writing in Intro to Gender, Women’s, & Sexuality Studies, a course from the fall semester of my freshman year!

Literary Retelling and Impersonation

In this class we will explore, and hone our writing skills in, the twinned arts of retelling and impersonation.  Retelling is a form of literary recycling in which writers (novelists, poets, dramatists, et cetera) produce new versions of existing tales and texts. Impersonation, by contrast, is a form of literary mimicry in which writers produce new texts that attempt to “pass” as the work of the author being impersonated.

During the semester we will read example texts from diverse genres as a foundation for engaging in a variety of writing exercises that will emerge organically from this subject matter.  Everyone who enrolls should be willing to produce short retellings and impersonations in at least three different genres during the first half of the semester; thereafter, students will be encouraged to develop a longer retelling in a single genre of your choosing.

HECK. YEAH. I wasn’t even sure if there would be a spot left in this class! (As well as in Black Fiction Now, come to think of it.) I love how the genre (is it a genre? SOMEONE ENLIGHTEN ME PLS) of retellings has exploded over the past few years. I can’t wait to spend an entire semester reading and trying my hand at writing retellings – and I’m really curious to see what the impersonation component of this class consists of!

Foundations of the First Amendment

The course will cover the fundamental principles of mass media law and ethics. It will explore the interplay of law and ethics as they affect specific areas of the mass media. Emphasis will be placed on the legal privileges and limitations affecting the mass media and the key issues arising therefrom. The course, which will follow the case brief method, will focus on how the First Amendment and its press and speech clauses shape artistic endeavors and professional activities in the traditional as well as online media.

I mean… I wouldn’t take this course if it weren’t required for my journalism major, but it is. So I’ll make the best of it! As far as the Constitution goes, the 1st Amendment is definitely one of the more interesting ones simply because it encompasses so many different rights. This shouldn’t be a difficult course for me either, at least for the first few weeks, since my brother and I studied government pretty intensely in middle school and high school and I always enjoyed that subject.

On a less positive note, it will be terrifying interesting to see what Donald Trump does, or tries to do, to this amendment upon becoming president. Ahhhhhhh.

Writing Across Cultures

Journalism goes hand-in-hand with adventure – exploring new territories, braving the unknown. Journalists are often called on to cross borders – not just national ones, but borders of culture, identity, race, religion, and other markers of identity.

As part of thinking about reporting and writing in a diverse global context, this class will focus on the excitement, adventure and dilemmas of reporting on different spaces, places, and people. We will read the best cross-cultural and travel journalism, discuss concepts drawn from ethnography and social geography, and research and write stories based on students’ experiences of traversing cultural boundaries.

DIVERSITY. IN. JOURNALISM! I love that I’m able to pursue my interest in writing diversity in journalism courses as well as, of course, those taken through the English department. I would love to travel the world someday and I think it’s super important to write about one’s adventures in other places – and even more important to know how to do so respectfully. Like, how do you avoid cliches and stereotypes about both people and places?

Principles of Reasoning: Arguments and Debate

Socrates held that the only way to arrive at the truth is by an honest and objective use of critical reasoning. This course covers some of the main methods and principles that can be used to objectively evaluate whether an argument is good or bad. These techniques will be illustrated by considering controversial topics in ethics, science, and religion, among others.

We look at how to recognize an argument before evaluating it, and Socrates’ distinction between sophistry and philosophy. Methods for objectively evaluating deductive and inductive arguments will both be discussed. We also consider the difference between deductive proof and providing evidence for (or against) a given theory such as evolution or creationism.

There is a “quantitative or formal reasoning” component to the gen ed curriculum at my school and while it is usually met by taking a math course, I wanted to avoid that for obvious reasons. So I’m taking a philosophy course instead! I’m a little worried about the possibility of it being filled with douchey philosophy-major bros but hey, at least it’s something I’ve never studied before!

-~-

Now it’s YOUR turn! What classes are you taking this spring… or if you’ve already graduated, then what was your favorite and/or weirdest class you’ve ever taken?!

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Top 10 Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

Hi, everyone! I stumbled across the idea for this post on The Broke and the Bookish last month and decided to save it for January to make sure I wouldn’t miss any new-to-me authors I really wanted to talk about. 2016 wasn’t as good a reading year as I’d hoped it would be, but I did discover a bunch of authors whose works I’d never read before. So that was good.

Enjoy!

between the world and me1. Ta-Nehisi Coates

What I read: Between the World and Me

THIS MAN HAS SUCH A WAY WITH WORDS, LET ME TELL YOU. Having him as a writing professor would be a dream come true, but since I’m not sure if, let alone where, he teaches, I’ll content myself with studying Between the World and Me for clues to his word magic.

2. Vladimir Nabokov

What I read: Pale Fire

This guy has a way with words, too! I still have absolutely no interest in reading Lolita (unless forced to for school), but I appreciated the way Nabokov played with language in Pale Fire through deliberate syntactical choices.

3. Jeff Smith

What I read: Bone, Vol. 1: Out From Boneville, Bone, Vol. 2: The Great Cow Race, and Bone, Vol. 3: Eyes of the Storm

I read the first volume of Bone as part of #AuthorAThon way back in April and now I’m obsessed! This series began with a childlike innocence that is gradually expanding out into more depth and unpredictability, with higher stakes for the characters. I’ve always been kind of in awe of people who take on both the writing and the illustration of their graphic novels, because AHH I CAN’T DO EITHER VERY WELL.

understanding-comics4. Scott McCloud

What I read: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

All I can say is that Scott McCloud is light-years ahead of me. Who knew there could BE so much theory regarding the art and narration of comic books?! My head hurts just from thinking about it.

5. Rainer Maria Rilke

What I read: Letters to a Young Poet

My Travel Writing professor read an excerpt from one of the ten letters aloud to us on the final day of class last spring. I don’t remember which letter he read from, but I do remember marveling at how beautiful the prose was. Now that I’ve read Rilke’s advice to aspiring writers, I’d love to try his poetry someday!

6. Tillie Walden

What I read: The End of Summer and I Love This Part

TILLIE WALDEN IS MY AGE. THIS FREAKS ME TF OUT. Hoooow is she so talented while I’m just an uncreative mushroom?! I loved the way she was able to stuff so much story into these fairly short graphic novels. I can’t wait to see what she does next!

the-end-of-summer7. James Joyce

What I read: Dubliners 

Would you hate me if I said I faked my way through “Araby” and “The Dead” in my Intro to the Short Story class last spring? Because I did… and then felt bad enough about it that I ended up reading the entire collection those stories are from. Plus, Dubliners is listed on the syllabus of the Irish Writing Program I want to attend this summer! I listened to all of these stories via audiobook and really appreciated that Joyce gave us these glimpses into the lives of ordinary people at the turn of the century.

8. Ellen Forney

What I read: Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me

I was familiar with Forney’s art due to reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie a few years back, but until last summer I’d never read any of her writing. She’s hilarious and unafraid to talk about her misfortunes and shortcomings.

marbles9. Will Eisner

What I read: A Contract with God and New York: The Big City

Eisner is a BIG NAME in the world of graphic novels – the highest award that can be given to a graphic novel or comic book is named for him, after all – so I’d heard a lot about him over the years. I’m not sure if he focuses this heavily on “slice of life”-type stories in his other works, but I just want to say that I loved that approach in the two Eisner books I’ve read so far.

10. Joan Didion

What I read: The Year of Magical Thinking

Every single creative writing professor I have ever had has told me I should read Joan Didion’s work. Well, I finally did. Read something longer than a single essay, that is. I think her (circular? repetitive?) writing style definitely takes some getting used to but once you get into the rhythm, it’s easy enough to follow. Fun, too.

-~-

What authors did you read for the first time in 2016? Have you read anything by the authors I mentioned here? (What was your first experience with their books like?!)

P.S. Looking at this list, I just noticed how, well, male it is, with only three women mentioned here. Which isn’t a bad thing, just a bit unusual for me. As I’ve said many times before, 2016 was a rather lackluster reading year and when I wasn’t reading authors I’d already read before, I was apparently reading new ones who didn’t particularly impress me.

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At The Movies | Films I Watched In 2016

Last year I wrote a post called At The Movies | Films I Watched In 2015 and had so much fun with it that I decided to repeat the idea. I love movies but up until that point, I had never done any “year in review”-type posts regarding the movies I watched: I only did that sort of thing for books.

So it’s fun to put together a post like this, one that recaps a different interest of mine and helps me to remember what it was that I saw in any given year. Also, it provides a way for me to quickly jot down my thoughts on all the movies I haven’t yet gotten around to reviewing, which is… um, most of them! Oops.

Anyway, here are all the movies I saw last year, in order.

Enjoy!

P.S. I’ve included my favorite songs for just about all of the movies listed below. I hope you have fun listening!

les misérables

I meant to watch this after reading the book but I’m actually very glad that I did it the other way around! Now that I’m familiar with the characters and care about their story arcs, making my way through that intimidatingly loooong book should be much easier!

Listen to:Stars

anomalisa 

OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS. THIS MOVIE WAS SO BAD. I went to see this with one of my friends and to this day I still don’t know whether or not it was a date, but I do remember the two of us looking at each other about halfway through the movie and having a quick whispered discussion about if we should leave. So we did. And hung out and ate froyo instead.

We saw this movie at the indie theater so the tickets were ridiculously expensive for two broke college students but oh my god, the movie was terrible. I thought it was a children’s movie but it ended up being a horribly depressing stop-motion animation film about a middle-aged man and his sexual hang-ups and I felt so, so, so bad for asking my friend to go see it with me.

Listen to: N/A

matt shepard is a friend of mine

I attended the Midwestern Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference (or MBLGTACC for short!) last winter and this was screened right before we got to meet Matthew’s mom, Judy Shepard. This movie had already left me feeling emotionally drained and her speech was very moving. I need to watch more LGBTQ+ documentaries!

Listen to: N/A

batman v superman

My Wonder Woman Unleashed professor actually invited me + another student from her class to come see this with her! The movie was in desperate need of A) editing and B) more colors but otherwise, it was a pretty solid story. And Wonder Woman’s first appearance on the silver screen, ahhh! Oh, and THAT ENDING SCENE? I’m still freaking out about that. Super excited to see Wonder Woman this summer!

Listen to:Is She With You?

pan’s labyrinth

I watched this movie during my Intro to the Short Story class’s unit on magical realism and it utterly blew my mind. I’ve seen it a couple times since then and is now one of my fantasy favorites. The costuming, cinematography, music, storytelling, EVERYTHING is just gorgeous. I’M EMOTIONAL. Plus, its message is extremely anti-fascist which made it the perfect movie to watch in 2016.

Listen to: The Fairy & The Labyrinth

captain america: civil war

Although I didn’t love this one as much as I did the previous two Captain America films, it was still a pretty great movie. I’m curious to see what they do with the character from here, especially since the movie ended so differently than the storyline from the comics. Also, this movie made me obsessed with Black Panther. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH.

Listen to: Cap’s Promise

cloudburst

This is a super cute movie about two elderly lesbians who escape their nursing home and go on a road trip to get married in Canada! (It was made in the early 2000s, so marriage equality wasn’t legal here yet.) Ahhh, this movie was so ridiculous and happy and adorable.

Listen to: N/A

rent

I spent the summer taking extra classes so I decided to take advantage of all the activities not offered during the school year, such as free movies in the park at night! Rent was screened during Iowa City Pride week, so Luísa (my roommate at the time) and I brought along a blanket and plenty of snacks and were immensely grateful they put subtitles on – her because English isn’t her first language and me because I’m not used to musicals. I now have even bigger crushes on Idina Menzel and Rosario Dawson than I did before, eee!

Listen to:Light My Candle

finding dory

AHHHH MY CHILDHOOD. Luísa and I started crying like five minutes into the movie because #nostalgia! I hadn’t seen Finding Nemo in years but I remember really liking it so I was happy that this movie was just as much fun.

Listen to: Fish Who Wander

the bfg

I had such high hopes for this movie. The book it was based on is one of my all-time favorites, so – however silly this might sound – I felt personally invested in the outcome. It wasn’t a bad movie, exactly. It just… didn’t have the same magic as the book. Didn’t even come close.

Listen to: Sophie and the BFG

hamlet

The 2009 Royal Shakespeare Company version with David Tennant as the lead, to be more specific. During my summer Shakespeare course, I supplemented my reading (and extensive CliffsNotes-consulting) with various film adaptations. At more than three hours, it was a VERY long movie, but well worth it. I put on the subtitles because I couldn’t understand the accents and was pleased to discover that the dialogue was meticulously faithful to that of the original play, so I

Listen to: N/A

ghostbusters

Watching this movie was the perfect way to spend a summer afternoon with my friend Jill! I barely even remember the original, but I’m all about diversity in stories so… let women have goofy movies and stop trying to police what they like!

P.S. Thank god I figured out I was gay years ago because if not, Kate McKinnon’s performance in this movie would have raised so many deep personal questions for me. Lmao.

Listen to: Theme Song” [Walk The Moon version]

the incredible hulk

My new roommate, Bridget, and I have been watching all the Marvel and DC movies because she hasn’t seen very many of them and wanted to know more about comics. I, on the other hand, have seen many of them but did not watch in chronological order. This was one of the few Marvel movies I hadn’t seen! I truly don’t understand all the hate this movie receives. Like, it’s definitely not the BEST Marvel movie, but the storytelling and acting is decent? I prefer it to the Avengers movies, TBH.

Listen to: Rocinha Favela

fantastic beasts and where to find them

I honestly didn’t think there would ever be another Harry Potter film since it had been so long since the last one – and when I did hear that they were making a new one, I didn’t think it would be any good. Well, I was wrong. Fantastic Beasts was – dare I say? – BETTER than any of the other movies, with the possible exception of Deathly Hallow Part I.

Wonderful cast of characters, gorgeous music, amazing plot. This movie did a surprisingly good job of capturing how very puritanical America can be. (And was less successful in its attempts at racial allegories. Oh, J.K. Rowling.) It was also weirdly comforting to watch in the face of this election, I think?

Listen to:Relieve Him of His Wand / Newt Releases the Thunderbird / Jacob’s Farewell

moana

Watching this movie during dead week was SUCH a good choice! It cheered me up and helped me to relax. It’s super cute and all the songs are so catchy! Ahhh, I get emotional every time I hear “Where You Are” because it’s so obvious that Moana’s family and village absolutely adore their little girl. OH MY FEELINGS.

Listen to: I Am Moana (Song of the Ancestors)

home alone

Bridget couldn’t believe I’d never seen this, so we watched it just a few days before winter break! Not my favorite Christmas movie, but it put me in a festive mood nevertheless. Plus, it was fun to pick out the scenes I recognized from all the reaction GIFs I’ve seen over the years!

Listen to: Main Title / Somewhere In My Memory

rogue one

I love this movie more and more as time goes on. Yes, it’s a bit slow to start, but now I see that the plot very deliberately unfolds itself into a jaw-dropping conclusion. I spent the last ten minutes of it going “wait no the filmmakers won’t go THERE” and then “OH MY GOD THEY REALLY WENT THERE THEY REALLY DID THAT.” I can’t wait for Episode VIII later this year!

Listen to:Guardians of the Whills Suite

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Now, out of all of these movies, which ones were my favorites? I’m splitting this into two parts: Movies made in 2016, and movies made before 2016.

The best made-in-2o16 movie I saw… is a tie between Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One. Both were absolutely amazing! It’s kind of funny how much I love them now, because I initially was not interested in seeing Fantastic Beasts at all and expected Rogue One to be fun but… like, not that great? I don’t know.

My favorite movie that was made before 2016 is definitely Pan’s Labyrinth. I’d been meaning, vaguely, to watch it for a few years but it wasn’t at the top of my list or anything. I only wish I’d seen it earlier!

Aaaaand my favorite movie out of ANY that I watched in 2015? You guessed it, Pan’s Labyrinth! It’s a new all-time favorite in my life.

(Last year I also talked about the runner-up best movies, but I don’t think I am going to do that this year, if that’s all right.)

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Tell me: What were the best movies that YOU saw in 2016? (And why?!)

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