Tag Archives: anti-gloom

Pretty Little Distractions

The world is too much with me these days, my friends, and thus I find myself searching for solace in story. When my aging eyes are strained from work, I’m less enthused about escaping into a book; luckily, there have been plenty of satisfying/distracting stories to be found on the small screen lately.

Once upon a time I received eye rolls and sneers when I mentioned Hallmark movies (and perhaps there was a time when I sneered), but these days more and more of my friends are watching right along with me. I’ve found this year’s “Winterfest” offerings to be pretty strong. Of course there’s a formula, and we all know who is getting together by the end of the movie, but there’s some comfort to be derived from that, right? The above two films were particular favorites of mine — the dialogue was snappy and the chemistry between the leads fun to watch. (Note: Hallmark finally is introducing more diversity into their productions, which is great, but I think we’re all MORE than ready for diverse romantic leads, okay? Can we get on that soon?)

DVR ALERT: All four of the Winterfest movies will run this Saturday (1/27) starting at 1 EST. And coming very soon from Hallmark — the Valentine’s Day movies!

Too sappy for you? Well, let’s do a 180 with these options:

Lately I’ve become obsessed with the horror films of Mike Flanagan. (And yes, HE is the writer/director for the forthcoming Netflix adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House!) My obsession began when one of my favorite YouTube film reviewers, Chris Stuckmann, included Gerald’s Game in his list of favorite films of 2017. His recommendation, along with the fact that it’s a Stephen King story, prompted me to track it down immediately. You guys, the TENSION! It’s excruciating at times. But that tension, along with the performances from Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood, make this such a remarkable viewing experience. For me the film’s coda somewhat undercuts the overall effect, but your mileage may vary. Here’s what I love about Flanagan’s films — they are character-driven (always featuring strong women), thoughtfully cast, and do not rely overmuch on special effects or jump scares. Oculus, in my opinion, drags out a little long, but Karen Gillan gives an inspired performance as a young woman trying to prove, through a carefully conceived paranormal investigation (Eee, one of my favorite things in a horror movie!), that a cursed mirror killed her parents. Ouija: Origin of Evil started out so brilliantly with a widowed mother and her daughters adding a Ouija board to their seance scams. I was in horror HEAVEN. Things fell apart at the end, sadly, but perhaps this was due to the constraints of it being a prequel? I have quibbles with all three of the films, but I still enthusiastically recommend them to horror buffs. (Something to consider–Ouija: Origin of Evil is PG-13, but the other two are definitely more adult.)

ETA: Gerald’s Game and Oculus are available on Netflix, but I could only watch Ouija-Origin of Evil through a trial subscription to Cinemax (available through Amazon Prime).

Okay, so maybe you’re not quite up to a horror film at this moment. Don’t worry, I’ll mention the above films again in early October when I offer my annual horror recommendations. For now you might prefer something “in between” — not too sappy, not too dark and creepy.

How about this?

After mainlining the series Shetland, with angsty cutie-pie DI Jimmy Perez (played by perennial favorite Douglas Henshall), I thoroughly expected Vera, also based on novels by Ann Cleeves, to be “meh” by comparison. Well, I’m in the sixth season now and I think I love it MORE than Shetland. It all comes down to the performance by Brenda Blethyn. Honestly, I feel nearly the same about her as I do about Helen Mirren–I simply long to meet her and bask in her glory. Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope is very real to me, and I adore her, and I love to watch the team come together under her somewhat cranky and impatient direction. There is darkness in the show, to be sure, and occasional moments of heartbreak, but Vera fights on and always solves the case. Bonus: we are treated to lovely shots of the Northumbrian moors and coastline.

ETA: Vera is available to watch through Acorn TV.

How about you? What have been your favorite TV distractions of late?

Friday Five: battling the gloom

I have been wrangling with the opening of my new story. The first paragraph languishes at the top of my computer screen, summoning just enough energy to mock me but otherwise managing to be completely useless.


Is my writing fairy smirking, too?

So when I read these opening words of Jane Gardam’s Long Way from Verona (recced by Michelle Cooper at her blog), I thought “Wow.”

I ought to tell you at the beginning that I am not quite normal, having had a violent experience at the age of nine. I will make this clear at once because I have noticed that if things seep out slowly through a book the reader is apt to feel let down or tricked in some way when he eventually gets the point.

I am not, I am glad to say, mad, and there is so far as I know no hereditary madness in my family. The thing that sets me apart from other girls of my age — which is to say thirteen — is that when I was nine a man came to our school — it was a private kindergarten sort of school where you could go from five upwards but most girls left when they were eleven unless they were really stupendously dumb — to talk to us about becoming writers.

My second thought after “Wow” was . . . “Man, I suck.”

And then all the writing/publishing/being-a-deeply-flawed-human ANGST washed over me, etc., etc.

Perhaps you know the drill.

In an effort to stop the flailing, I am going to make a list of inspiring/soothing blog pages.

1. This blog post from author Mette Harrison about “Failure.”
“It’s really true that you can look at your life as a series of failures or a series of successes. The same life, the same facts, just turned different ways. I think that it’s also true that failing is just a way of giving yourself another chance for success.”

2. “On a long run, on a long run,” from Will Wheaton.
“I can stop being so hard on myself, and I can stop judging myself, and I can stop holding myself up to standards that are so high, even the people I’m comparing myself to every day would have a hard time reaching them.”

3. “This is Not the End; It’s the Middle,” from dear friend Saundra Mitchell.
“I’m still working on a new book. I think it’s a worthy one. It won’t shut up and leave me alone. So can’t stop. I won’t stop. I’m not done.”

4. And here’s an old favorite: 12 Things Happy People Do Differently.

5. Also, baby animals!

So how about you? Any “go-to” websites/blogs/images/what-have-you to recommend for one who is feeling deflated and angsty? I’d love to see links in the comments! Perhaps I could make a “Masterlist of Anti-gloom.”

In the meantime, don’t be so hard on yourself, okay? And have a great weekend!