My Year in Review, 2019 — Part 1

Overview

2019 has been a game-changing year for me in two vital ways.

First, when the graduates of Life University’s College of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies flipped their tassels from one side of the cap to the other at the December ceremony, it marked the finish of my first year as a full-time Life U employee. I’ve taught English there since 2009, mostly Composition and Public Speaking with the occasional Literature class thrown in. But toward the end of last year, when the opportunity for promotion came, I leaped. Now I no longer have to worry from one quarter to the next if I’ll be assigned enough classes to earn a decent paycheck; I have a regular salary and schedule. I have my own office. I get more chances to be social with my colleagues, a great bunch of people. In every way, it’s better.

Well, except one — but that problem has been solved.

A ninety-minute commute between Gainesville and Marietta, GA is tolerable when you only work two or three days per week, but not so much when you have to make that long drive every day. Thankfully, my husband and I got the opportunity to move to Woodstock, GA in early October. Moves always bring stress, but by now we’re more or less settled in, and my commute time has been slashed by two-thirds. Our new house is also much closer than our old one to all the stores, shops, and restaurants we need and want. And did I mention we now live within walking distance of a sixteen-screen movie theater? Once again, it’s better in all the ways I can imagine.

Only one thing has caused me disappointment this year (aside of course from social and political matters, which continue to emit the tincture of despair): with everything that’s been going on, I’ve had less time to write, which explains why I’ve been blogging much less regularly. But now that our situation has leveled off somewhat, I have every hope this will change. I still have a major novel project in the wind, an expansion on a script of mine the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company produced in 2018. I’ve also drafted a new play for ARTC, which I hope to workshop into a production-worthy state in the coming year. In addition, one of the company’s founding members has approached me with a suggestion of adapting Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” into an audio drama. At first I thought it couldn’t be done — after all, the whole thing consists of the internal monologue of a woman succumbing to madness — but the more I think about it, the more possibilities I see.

In other news:

After about a week-long adjustment period, our cats have been thriving in the new house, as loving and mischievous as ever.

The books I’m reading now are Steel Crow Saga (Paul Krueger), The White Raven (Diana L. Paxson), Jim Henson: A Biography (Brian Jay Jones), and News of the World (Paulette Jiles). All of them include plenty of elements to love, and I’m confident this Christmas, like the Christmases before it, will bring more literary joys.

Come January 2020, I’ll be teaching a course in “Studies in Science Fiction and Fantasy.” It’s the first time this course will be taught at Life University. I designed it myself. I’m excited, and I’m praying I don’t screw it up.

All in all, life is good.

Oscar Dreaming, 2019 Edition

I’m getting tired of blockbusters.

I don’t mean in a Martin Scorcese “Marvel movies aren’t cinema” kind of way. I can still enjoy the movies themselves. I found Captain Marvel tons of fun despite its flaws. I’m still thrilled Black Panther was nominated for Best Picture this past year, even though it had little hope of winning. And I hope that somehow the Black Widow movie promised us in the near future will turn out to be so good it will overcome my reluctance to invest emotionally in a character I’ve already seen die.

It’s not the movies I find so wearying, but rather the verbal diarrhea that all too often surrounds them, the inevitable junk talk that surfaces every time a big-budget SFF or action-adventure movie showcases a hero who isn’t a white man. Let the lead of such a project be a woman or anyone of color, and at once the movie becomes “too political,” or it suddenly has an “agenda,” or it’s fresh evidence of “political correctness run amok.” The guys who spout this talk — yes, it’s almost always guys — are quick to point out they don’t have anything against a women being action or SFF heroes, since after all they loved Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor (until Terminator: Dark Fate, at least). It’s telling that they have to reach all the way back to the early ’90s to find the last female hero they approved of.

This kind of talk makes it hard for me to look forward to Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker with unalloyed pleasure, even though I still want to see it. What I find myself looking forward to instead is Greta Gerwig’s upcoming adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s children’s-lit classic Little Women, which has garnered quite a bit of positive early buzz. It’s a bit hard to accuse a story that has centered on women for over a hundred years of being “PC culture run amok.”

The toxic noise that attends so many blockbusters makes me all the more grateful for the non-blockbuster films in my life. This year I’ve had the chance to see a number of movies, ranging from good to wonderful, that feature messy, complicated female leads, some brilliant, some defiant, some confused, but all interesting: Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet (good); British import Wild Rose (good); Gloria Bell, starring Julianne Moore (very good); Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut Booksmart (wonderful); and Lulu Wang’s The Farewell and Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, among the best-reviewed movies of the year (phenomenal). (Still on my need-to-see list: Fast Color and The Souvenir.) The women in these movies can exist, in their complex ways, without a legion of loudmouths crying foul. And what a relief that is.

This year I have Oscar hopes — more than I had this time last year, when I knew Black Panther was unlikely to win and I hadn’t seen The Favourite yet. Not all of them are, or are from, woman-centric movies, but they have all delighted me in one way or another.

Best Picture: Knives Out; A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood; The Farewell.

Best Director: Lulu Wang (The Farewell); Rian Johnson (Knives Out); Olivia Wilde (Booksmart)

Best Actor: Daniel Craig (Knives Out); Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood); Willem Dafoe (The Lighthouse)

Best Actress: Awkwafina (The Farewell); Ana de Armas (Knives Out); Cynthia Erivo (Harriet); Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose); Julianne Moore (Gloria Bell)

Best Screenplay: Knives Out; The Farewell; Booksmart

Best Animated Feature (and Least Ulcer-Inducing Blockbuster): Toy Story 4

Movies That May Be a Factor, but I’m Not Interested In: The Irishman; Richard Jewell; Uncut Gems; Dark Waters; Cats; Ford vs. Ferrari

Movies That May Be a Factor, and I’m Curious About (besides Little Women): Portrait of a Lady on Fire; 1917; Clemency; Just Mercy; The Parasite; Waves