Month: January 2015

Five Reasons Pride Should Be Your Next Pick for Movie Night

Kazia here! Pride (2014) is a fictionalized account of the formation of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), an activist organization of primarily young adults who, during the British miners’ strike of 1984, fundraised for a Welsh mining village. Besides its all-star cast (including Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Andrew Scott, and Jessie Cave), here are five reasons you should bump Pride up in your theoretical queue:

1. It’s a beautiful, unapologetic story about an intergenerational queer community and on the whole they don’t die.

Everybody Lives

(Source: http://tumblerspeltwrong.tumblr.com/post/53544399733/every-fandoms-dream )

2. It’s a hopeful, uplifting dramedy that doesn’t sugar-coat or feel unrealistic. Pride honestly presents queer characters’ struggles with family, coming out, HIV, hate crimes, prejudice and discrimination, and cultural differences, yet it never feels heavy-handed.

3. It’s based on fascinating real-life events. I definitely recommend watching the DVD behind-the-scenes feature, but you can also find more here.

4. It emphasizes the importance (and effectiveness!) of intersectional activism and the power of community.

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(Source: http://emmaofmisthaven.tumblr.com/post/106433315387)

5. It has scenes like this:    

Happy watching!

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(Source: http://jaimelannister.tumblr.com/post/107111370536/you-cant-possibly-say-that-every-woman-is-a)

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Ten Pop Culture Knit Picks

Hi there – Emily here!

When it’s cold and snowy and all-too-wintery outside, all I want to do is stay in my warm apartment and knit cozy things. Sweaters, blankets, scarves, socks – even cute little hand-made stuffed animals – all make January seem more cheerful. As I’ve been sitting around knitting this week surrounded by mounds of fluffy purple, orange, and particularly gorgeous blue wool, I got thinking about my favorite knitting media.

Pop culture is filled with knitters. From clever ladies…

…to ruthless ladies…

…to particularly intelligent dogs…

a whole lot of modern pop culture depicts characters who like to knit. Knitting fulfills a lot of different rhetorical functions in pop culture: sometimes it signals old-time-y comfort; sometimes, when characters take the time to make things for each other, it’s a marker for close personal relationships; sometimes it’s purely practical — or even somewhat laughable. But regardless of the thematic importance of knitting in particular examples of media today, some knitting-centric pop culture just makes me just long to buy more yarn and start a new project. So this week, I want to reflect on some of my favorite pieces of knitting media. (For the purposes of this list, knitting media does not include pop-culture-INSPIRED projects, although a quick search of tumblr, pinterest, or etsy will serve up truly overwhelming amounts of those.) Here, then, are some of my favorite pieces of pop culture that make me want to knit:

1. Doctor Who – There are few pieces of pop-culture-related knitwear more iconic than Tom Baker’s impractical but awesome ten-foot-long scarf. Also, knitting a ten-foot-long scarf seems like the perfect project to undertake while getting sucked into binge-watching the classic BBC show about a time-travelling alien traversing the cosmos with his friends and companions. Who needs practical garments when you have more than three decades of silly science fiction to catch up on? (Amy Pond’s delightful Christmas sweater deserves an honorable mention for awesomeness.)

2. Pushing Daisies – Holy Zooey Deschanel’s ukulele, Batman! We’ve mentioned before just how extraordinarily adorable and twee Pushing Daisies is. Pie shop owner Ned can bring the dead back to life by touching them, and throughout the show he teams up with private investigator (and stress-knitter) Emerson Cod to use his particular gift in order to solve murders. Emerson Cod avoids knitting in public but, as the Narrator notes, “he often left the house with the needles in his pocket, should the opportunity to rib-stitch a ski cap present itself.” That is a sentiment with which I can wholeheartedly sympathize.

3. Gilmore Girls – Okay, we admit that we’ve been talking A LOT about Gilmore Girls ever since it showed up on Netflix this fall. But season seven has a whole episode based on a town-wide knit-a-thon. “Knit People Knit” celebrates the joy of getting together with your friends and lots of skeins of yarn for an afternoon of crafting which manages to be simultaneously lazy and productive. It’s glorious.

4. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – At the beginning of each episode of the iconic children’s television show, Mister Rogers enters the room, takes off his sport coat, and puts on a cardigan sweater. Each of those sweaters was hand-knit by his mother (and one now hangs in the Smithsonian). Fred Rogers’ sweaters look comfortable, warm, and made with love. In turn, the act of changing into the sweater at the start of each episode signals an entrance into the gentle, whimsical space of Mister Rogers’ neighborhood.

5. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – In the 1961 Audrey Hepburn film based on Truman Capote’s novella, Holly Golightly is a naive society girl — and a charming but perhaps inept knitter. When her neighbor / love interest Fred comments upon her current knitting project, she confesses:  “Actually I’m a little nervous about it. Jose brought up the blueprints for a new ranch house he’s building. I have this strange feeling that maybe the blueprints and my knitting instructions got switched. I mean, it isn’t impossible that I’m knitting a ranch house!” While I imagine that few of us have ever managed to switch a ranch house for a sweater, Holly’s concern about her ability to recognize her knitted product is certainly a familiar feeling! I recommend putting on Breakfast at Tiffany’s to feel better about your own knitting prowess the next time you turn your yarn stash into one big nest of tangles.

6. Outlander – Since it came on the air in the summer, the new Starz drama about a World War II nurse who finds herself in eighteenth-century Scotland has attracted some very well-earned attention for its gorgeous knitwear. Claire’s sweaters, shawls, and shrugs look just as cozy and inviting as does her Highlander lover.

7. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins’s dystopian YA novels and the films based off of them might not seem like the most obvious pick for cozy, warm knitting media, but have you SEEN Katniss’s cowl/scarf/shawl/sweater/wrap thing? It’s the perfect one-shoulder accessory for the kick-ass lady archer in your life.

8. Penelope – Christina Ricci plays Penelope, a woman cursed to have a pig’s snout for a nose in this whimsical romantic comedy. Penelope has been hidden away all her life for fear that she will be reviled for her looks. So when she decides to experience life and venture into the “real” world, she wears a particularly stunning scarf to cover her face. Although the film hinges on her coming to accept herself and leave off her scarf (and, you know, fall in love with James McAvoy), the scarf itself is rather fabulous, and I can imagine few afternoons better than one spent knitting yourself a Penelope scarf while watching Penelope over again.

9. Firefly – In a mid-season episode from the beloved one-season Joss Whedon show about a ragtag group of space cowboys (more or less), dangerous mercenary Jayne Cobb receives a package from his mother: a homemade hat and a letter. The hat isn’t actually a particularly attractive garment but it’s the thought that counts when Jayne pulls on the hat, inspiring countless Firefly fans to do the same. After all, as the ship’s pilot, Wash, observes, “Man walks down the street in that hat, people know he’s not afraid of anything.”

(Emily’s birthday gift to her sister last year. It’s a cunning hat.)

(Emily’s birthday gift to her sister last year. It’s a cunning hat.)

10. Harry Potter – The wizarding world is rife with knitwear. Albus Dumbledore reads knitting patterns while recruiting Defense Against the Dark Arts professors, Hermione Granger knits clothing for house elves, and Molly Weasley is stunningly amazing enough to produce a sweater for each of her seven children (and Harry!) every year for Christmas. You know you want a Weasley sweater. And a Hogwarts scarf. And a house elf tea cozy / hat.

Happy Knitting!

Eleven Shows to Binge-Watch at Your Earliest Convenience

As we enjoy the end of winter break, avoiding both snow and responsibilities by sitting on our computers and watching tv, we got to thinking this week about our favorite shows to binge-watch:

1. Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009) – A remake of the 1978 television series, Battlestar Galactica is a sci fi military drama following a war between the human-inhabited Twelve Colonies and their cyborg creations, called cylons. With incredible plotting, compelling characters, and genius world building, it’s sci fi that doesn’t feel like stereotypical sci fi as it becomes a reflection on a post-9/11 world. It is nearly impossible to stop watching. But you don’t have to take our word for it: Portlandia has wonderfully dramatized the experience of watching Battlestar Galactica.

Series available for purchase or through your local library system.

2. Friends (1994-2004) Rachel Green leaves her fiance at the altar and moves in with her best friend from high school in the pilot of this foundational ‘90s sitcom about being in your 20s – when your job’s a joke, you’re broke, and your love life’s DOA. Yeah, reruns are on tv constantly, and you’re probably already familiar with the major plot arcs and character beats. But – with strong relationships between the characters, some really smart comedy writing, and just enough serialization to pull the plot along – Friends definitely holds up.

Series available on Netflix.

3. Orange is the New Black (2013-present) – Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir of the same name, Orange is the New Black follows trojan horse Piper Chapman as she spends time in federal prison for transporting her girlfriend’s drug money. With a beautifully diverse cast of incredible characters, Orange is the New Black weaves a complicated narrative about the experiences of incarcerated women. Netflix releases each season in one lump sum, and the story arc feels much more like one continuous narrative than your average TV show, creating a natural environment for non-stop watching.

Series available on Netflix.

4. Veronica Mars (2004-2007) – Film noir meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Veronica is a high-school-student-slash-private-detective who’s just trying to get through high school while solving (and coming to terms with) the murder of her best friend Lilly Kane. The first season, which focuses on the murder of Lilly Kane, is definitely the strongest of the bunch, but they’re all good!

Series available on Amazon Prime.

5. Doctor Who (new series: 2005-present) – An alien (who looks and sounds like a British man) with a time machine (that’s disguised to look like a police telephone box) has a lot of adventures and saves the world a whole lot of times – usually accompanied by a human companion. Start with the show’s regeneration in 2005 with the 9th doctor (Christopher Eccleston). It’s incredibly campy and rather low-budget at points, but that’s its charm.

Series available on Netflix (until 2/1) and Amazon Prime.

6. Gilmore Girls (2000-2007) – Three generations of Gilmore ladies laugh, love, fight, and grow up in Amy Sherman-Palladino’s famously fast-talking, pop-culture-referencing dramedy. Small-town Connecticut and an eccentric cast of supporting characters lend a vibrant back-drop this show about friendship, family, and finding your way (and also one man’s quest to work every job).

Series available on Netflix.

7. Lost (2004-2010) – When a plane crashes on an unknown island in the Pacific, surviving passengers attempt to create order and find meaning while attempting to survive on a hostile island. While the fourth and fifth seasons were particularly rough and the finale was unusually divisive, Lost follows a big cast, creates big mysteries, and asks big questions, making it an utterly compelling show.

Series available on Netflix.

8. Arrow (2012-present) – Returning home after being marooned on an island for five years, Oliver Queen dons a hood and grease paint (as you do) and becomes the Arrow (cue grimly dramatic music), a masked vigilante out to save his city from the corrupt capitalists, socialites, and super-villains who would exploit it. With lots of Lost-esque flashbacks and some silly dialogue, it’s not the most prestige-y television show you’ll ever see, but it’s campy and delightful with great chemistry between the core trio of Oliver, special ops man John Diggle, and IT lady Felicity Smoak. (Awesome special effects, campy plot arcs, and repeat appearances from a scenery-chewing John Barrowman (Doctor Who) don’t hurt either. Nor does the sheer physical attractiveness of the main cast.)

First two seasons available on Netflix.

9. Parks and Recreation (2009-present) – About to start its seventh season, Parks and Rec started out a bit rocky (although the first season is short and respectable, we recommend skipping ahead to the second season). However, as it follows our optimistic parks department employee Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler), the satirical mockumentary quickly picks up steam and becomes an upbeat comedy about friendship, government bureaucracy, and breakfast food. The overwhelming positivity of the show (not to mention superb female friendships, if you’re into that sort of thing) makes it utterly delightful.

First six season available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

10. Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008) – In an Asiatic world where some humans can manipulate particular elements by “bending” them, one Avatar seeks to master all four elements to “bring balance.” Aang, the new Avatar, awakens after 100 years to discover that the world he knew has changed, and he joins up with airbender Katara, her brother Sokka, and earthbender Toph to attempt to master the elements and stop the Fire Lord’s war against the other three nations. Told in half hour segments with a strong mix of action and humor, Avatar is almost impossible not to marathon. Plus, if you want more, you can start on the sequel, Legend of Korra, which follows the next Avatar and has a totally rad ending that kind of made TV history.

Series available on Amazon Prime.

11. Downton Abbey (2010-present) – House fires, Turkish diplomats, forbidden romances, class conflict, corsets, trench warfare, and – of course – Dame Maggie Smith. Need we say more? It’s silly and soapy, but so much fun.

Series available on Amazon Prime.

Happy watching! And don’t forget: