Tag Archives: High School

Book Review: Imani All Mine by Connie Porter

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Rating: A-/ Wow. This is one heartbreaking story. If you want to read this book but have doubts because the subject matter might be too hard to cope with, be forewarned, it only goes downhill from here. There’s so much pain in Imani All Mine, to the point where the moments of hope and redemption hardly seem worth mentioning. I knew that this was a dark book, but I didn’t see the tearjerker of an ending coming, it blindsided me. I think this book is a work of art. It combines dialect with lyricism to powerful effect, without feeling false or untrue to the character’s voice and education level. Continue reading Book Review: Imani All Mine by Connie Porter

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Movie Review: Deathgasm (2015)

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Rating: D/ My dad chose this movie and Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead for our horror film night a couple of days before Halloween. It’s times like that when my mom and I think he should not be allowed to choose movies, ever. Deathgasm is pretty much what you’d expect if you crossed Evil Dead with Beavis & Butthead, and if that gets you jazzed up, great. It wasn’t for me. The first ten minutes or so got me anticipating a funnier movie than I actually ended up getting, and the premise of a group of teen death metal fans living in a oppressive, bible-belt town accidentally summoning a horde of demons by playing a possessed song sounded like it would be… well, not Oscar-worthy, but a lot of fun. Continue reading Movie Review: Deathgasm (2015)

Book Review: The Life Before Her Eyes by Laura Kasischke

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Rating: B/ Considering that I had already seen the excellent film adaptation a few years before, this novel held few surprises for me, least of all the twist ending alluded to in it’s lyrical title. So it’s a good thing that Laura Kasischke focuses more in her writing on lyricism and less on plot. With the lovely, vivid writing, I still felt like I was getting something new out of the experience of reading the book even though I pretty much knew the story. The Life Before her Eyes is a good book, not a great one. The writing can be meandering and sentimental while at the same time being lush and gorgeous, starting off the bat with a Sophie’s Choice type situation and gradually touching on aging, sorrow, and regret in a bittersweet manner. Continue reading Book Review: The Life Before Her Eyes by Laura Kasischke

The Film Club by David Gilmour

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David Gilmour’s occasionally on-point, more often ever-so-slightly smug memoir is best when it focuses on the films he so clearly has a passion for. Gilmour’s rationale is dodgy (he lauds his own decision to let his fifteen-year-old son drop out of high school- but only if the boy watches three films with him a week) and he often comes off as a bit of a self-satisfied chode. The kid, a white boy rapping underachiever who doesn’t seem, in this reader’s opinion, to be the brightest light, emphatically needs all the education, public or not, he can get.

But most disturbing of all is the ugly chauvinism- the male entitlement and thinly veiled contempt for women, especially pretty women- that Gilmour seems to exhibit and passes down to his son. Early on, Gilmour desscribes his son, Jesse, leaving with a Vietnamese beauty with a barbed, and troubling metaphor- he compares the girl to a nice car that he hopes his son won’t scuff or scratch up.

However, when the memoir is all about movies, it’s magical. David Gilmour skillfully incorporates movie facts and anecdotes in his searing prose. I love movies, and never fail to be fascinated by the mechanics, the minutae, the curious hows and whys of them. But I simply didn’t care about Jesse’s teen drama, his adolescent angst, his drug and alcohol habit, his dating and relationship woes.

It was also puzzling and disturbing to me how the father constantly and unreservedly took his son’s side in these issues involving women- doesn’t he understand that relationships involve a constant give and take, that Jesse’s girlfriend Chloe might not of left him because she is a ‘bitch’ (he never directly uses this word to the best of my recollection, but, as they say, it’s right on the tip of his tongue,) but because she is unhappy in the relationship?

Did it ever occur to him that it’s none of Jesse’s business if she sleeps with another guy after she’s already told him, under no uncertain terms, that it is over? That she might not be a two-timing whore, but just human? Gilmour doesn’t says these things, mind you; it’s more what he doesn’t say that floors me. And although I’m sure Jesse’s old flame Rebecca Ng, a bona-fide drama queen, was a royal pain in the ass, do I believe she was the sly manipulative nymphet Gilmour describes her as? No, I don’t. Considering Gilmour’s impotent bitterness concerning the fairer sex, I think he’s the very incarnation of an unreliable narrator.

‘The Film Club’ is a book where the author isn’t a very nice person, which would be fine (writers don’t have to be,) but he’s also the subject, the focus of his self-involved one-man orchestration. And don’t tell me it’s about his son, because I don’t buy it. David Gilmour wants to be seen as the all-time cool dad, a kind of miracle worker for gangly underachieving kids. When the book is about David Gilmour watching movies, it’s sublime. But when it’s about David Gilmour and his self-satisfaction bordering on self-obsession concerning his peer-like relationship with his son, I found myself thoroughly unmoved, and moreover, unimpressed.

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies Set in High School

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I never went to high school except during a short amount of time in my mid teens. I was mainly home schooled from elementary school up until adulthood. So I never really had to deal with bullies and cliques. As an obese girl with Asperger’s and depression, I’m grateful, and I have my mother and fellow blogger Mysterious Bibliophile to thank for this. My mother handpicked subjects that coincided with my interests and turned me into lifelong lover of literature, whereas I like to think I had a part in turning her into a fan of cinema. Thank you, Mom 🙂 I tried to pick movies that few others would of chosen (no “The Breakfast Club” and “Mean Girls,” Y’all :P) but each and every one of these movies is worth watching, especially for those who are cinematically curious (like me) and have a taste for the subversive. Thank you to Wandering Through the Shelves for bringing about this Blogathon. And now, without further ado, my handpicked choices.

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1. L.I.E. (2001,) Directed by Michael Cuesta

This might seem like a controversial choice since most of the scenes in the movie take place outside of the teen protagonist’s local high school, but there are a select few (including one set in the school guidance counselor’s office) and the film deals with many high school-savvy themes like identity and peer pressure, so, oh what the hell, it stays. Paul Dano played in this movie before making it big and his youth and apparent naivete lend credibility to a tricky role. He is also a total cutie as Howie Blitzer, a latently homosexual teen reeling from the death of his mother and neglected by an irresponsible father. Frustrated and lonely, he finds himself waist deep in the wrong kind of  company and picks up the unscrupulous pastime of breaking into peoples’ houses. It is in this kind of compromising situation (having burgled into somebody’s basement) that he meets Big John Harrigan (Brian Cox,) a war veteran with a predilection for underage boys. Howie and Big John form a predatory and yucky yet complicated relationship which contains no actual sex but lots of sexual tension, which might gross some people out because- yes- Dano really does look fifteen. An ambiguous ending leaves you wondering what will become of Howie after he experiences the cataclysmic chain of events running throughout the film.

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2. Ben X (2007,) Directed by Nic Balthazar

Poor Ben never can catch a break. Autistic, bullied, and at the end of his rope, the suicidal teen (Greg Timmermans) wheedles away his lonely days on Archlord, a fantasy role-playing game. At school, his tormenters are relentless and, quite simply, total fucking assholes. They make what is supposed to be an educational and social experience (school) a complete hell on earth for Ben, who just wants to be accepted, or at the very least, left alone. Nic Balthazar’s debut highlights the perils of high school for kids with Asperger’s or similar disorders. Asperger’s youngsters are often at best the odd man out, and at worst, outright targets of bullying and other abuse because of their awkwardness and lack of social experience. The main issue I have with this film is it’s fairy tale-ish, preposterous ending; that said, it’s one of the best films available on Asperger’s and High-functioning Autism, most of which function only as a joke or a live-action cartoon. There is nothing funny about “Ben X.” It might, on the other hand, make you think about the times you maybe have not treated people as well as we could have and dismissed that behavior as child’s play. If you were one of the victims, this movie might remind you of that horrifying stage of adolescence that adults swore were going to be the ‘best years of your lives.’

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3. Ginger Snaps (2000,) Directed by John Fawcett

Okay. While not as good a lycanthrope comedy as “An American Werewolf in London” (how the Hell could it be?) “Ginger Snaps” is still a highly entertaining piece of teen angst-turned-bloodbath. Sisters Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins and Katherine Isabelle) are two self-obsessed goth girls concerned with, y’know, death, suicide, the universe and stuff as well as being self-consciously emo and different when two earth-shaking things suddenly happen within hours of each other- Ginger gets her (way-late) first period and is bitten by a werewolf that’s been killing and eating all the town dogs. So begins this spooky feminist parable about the dangers of puberty and the finality of a gory death. Most suicidal teens don’t realize just how final death is, but Brigitte gets a good idea while trying to prevent her newly transformed sister from rapidly raising her body count. I recommend this movie to horror lovers and people in touch with the dark side of themselves (who maybe have a little of Brigitte and Ginger in them) as well as those who love a good, innovative monster movie.

Reclaiming the Sand by A. Meredith Walters

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Wow. I have quite the love-hate relationship with this book, much like the novel’s protagonist, Ellie, has with her frienemy-turned-romantic-interest Flynn Hendrick. On one hand, it was a mostly well-written story and a well-done depiction of a young adult on the Autism Spectrum, which was good. It depicts the Asperger’s character as multi-faceted and a sexual being, and the characters were pleasingly three-dimensional. But on the other hand, it was so damned depressing. I kept having to put it down and not wanting to return to it, because it just barely involved me enough to move past the uber-heavy subject matter.

Flynn, who has Asperger’s, is tormented by a gang of kids as a teenager, flanked reluctantly by the girl he falls hard for, Ellie McCallum. In the privacy of Flynn’s home, Ellie is his ‘friend.’ At school, with the clique watching, she is anything but. Flynn, an innocent, naive boy with a literal mind and a blunt tongue, can’t understand why Ellie hurts and betrays him again and again. Years later, Ellie runs into Flynn again when he returns to his hometown of Wellston, West Virginia. She’s still the same small-minded pathetic person, and he’s the same shy, awkward young man.

The book is narrated in alternating chapters by Flynn and Ellie. Flynn’s POV sections are set in the past, when he is brutalized by Ellie’s friends while Ellie watches and doesn’t lift a finger to help. Ellie’s chapters are set present-day, as she and Flynn reconnect and Ellie experiences an emotional awakening. The flashbacks are devastating, but the present-day chapters have an unnerving vibe because of how cruel Ellie was to Flynn, so watching them get cozy is discomforting to say the least. The only thing I can compare it to is a romance where the rapist hooks up with victim. What Ellie did to Flynn was emotional rape, and Flynn’s easy forgiveness of his tormenter is heartbreaking.

Yet, despite everything, I DO feel for Ellie. She’s a broken girl who grows up to be a troubled woman, hanging out with the same trash that accompanied her through the high school halls. These include Dania, expectant mother and drunk/addict extraordinaire, and Stu, a cruel and often downright sociopathic creep who callously uses women for sex. Ellie narration explains her actions somewhat, and she grows hugely as a character throughout the duration of the novel.

The writing is mostly good, though I found some of the lovey-dovey and sex scenes to contain more cheese than necessary. Ellie’s emotional dependance on Flynn to feel like half a person was disturbing, and I found it hard to believe that a relationship between a considerably Autistic and neurotic man and a self-loathing woman with her own baggage could work. I empathized with their love, but between Ellie’s meanness and Flynn’s tantrums, I couldn’t fully ‘ship’ this couple.

Although I found the subject matter painful, I am glad I read this book. The author obviously did her research on Autism, and there were many aspects of the novel I appreciated. On a side note, the editing needed a lot of work. There was a lot of incorrect homonym usage (“There” and “Their,” anyone?) and the book often read like a rough draft in terms of spelling and grammar. Although I had moments when I wasn’t enjoying this book too much, I am excited for the sequel, ‘Chasing the Tide,’ and want to continue Ellie and Flynn’s story when the novel comes out. I just sincerely hope A. Meredith Walters hires a new editor. A book I would recommend, but with some hesitation, as I think the subject matter could have been done slightly better.

Excision (2012)

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What starts out as an alternately eerie and cartoonish look at teenage Suburban Hell eventually morphs into full-blown body horror in “Excision,” a devilishly entertaining horror movie that nevertheless fails to really utilize it supporting cast. Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord,) a misfit aspiring surgeon with a number of unnerving sexual fantasies, lives with her passive, well-meaning father (Roger Bart,) Her smothering religious-fanatic mother (Traci Lords, yes, THAT Traci Lords,) and her sweet terminally ill sister Grace (Ariel Winter of “Modern Family,”) a Cystic Fibrosis sufferer with a heart of gold.

Pauline is a total outcast at school, partially because she is gawky and homely, and due in a large part to the fact that she is aggressively off-putting and creepy, intentionally vomiting on others and dissecting dead animals. She’s not understood, but the brilliance of geniuses rarely is in their own time. Is Pauline a genius? Not really, but you’d rather she attempt surgery on you than, say, Martin of “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence.)”

“Excision” is a little bit Lucky McKee’s “May,” a little bit Brian De Palma’s “Carrie,” a little bit Tom Six’s “…Pede” movies but enough originality to stand on it’s own merit. It has a lot of famous faces and cult actors, including ‘king of filth’ John Waters as a priest (!), Malcolm McDowell as a teacher unsympathetic to Pauline’s deranged antics, and Marlee Matlin as a member of school staff. The movie works because it is over-the-top but remains just believable enough to suspend disbelief. The characters tend to be a little one-dimensional but still find ways to surprise you.

The gore element is mostly thrown at you at the end but also is utilized through Pauline’s bloody fetishistic dreams, which awaken forbidden desires within her. “Excision” is a bit of slow burner which becomes increasingly better after you get accustomed to the tone, which is relentlessly odd but consistent. There’s a gallows humor that made me chuckle throughout. The acting is competent (even from former porn star Traci Lords!) and each player portrays their characters well.

I was wary about watching this because so much indie horror is total shite (“Escape From Tomorrow,” particularly, was a recent disappointment) but I found myself pleasantly surprised at this quirky little horror picture, which refused to take itself too seriously while not stooping to gory slapstick or ridiculousness. I found myself having mixed feelings about the character of Pauline. She’s a total deviant and oddball, but sometimes she does something, or says something in one of her confessions to God that makes you like her- just a little bit, and just for a little while. For those with strong stomachs and open minds, I recommend “Excision” as a surprisingly good horror debut.

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