Monthly Archives: March 2014

“Ben and Jerry’s” Films

Did you know that sad movies actually make viewers happier?

It seems almost sacrilegious to make a list like this in the face of such beautiful weather, but here we are. I feel like I should preface this by saying that I am, in fact, a very happy person. Promise. However, due to the fact that I have the emotional constitution of a cantaloupe, I happen to cry at anything and everything that hits me the right way. It’s something I have accepted and have come to laugh at (my friends laugh too, I’ll be honest). Getting emotionally invested in things—in the case of this list, fictional things—can be a great feeling. I love experiencing that empathy. I love being overwhelmed by something inexpressibly beautiful. I love being put briefly into the minds of other artists and creators and characters (after all, isn’t that why I’m a writer?).

Plus, sometimes you just need to sit back and feel some feels.

Without further ado, here are my picks—the five movies that have sent me bawling, ranked with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

5. Marley and MeImage

Level: Milk and Cookies

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. This ice cream is a fitting ranking for Marley and Me, as this movie takes you back to childhood. Childhood pets. Or current pets. Or any pet you happen to know. Really, if you like animals at all you’ll probably need more than a few tissues. This movie is deceptive in that it pretends to be a comedy until the last half hour, and even though everyone knows that dumb dog is going to die at the end, every viewer stays in resounding denial.

The feels? Pets, family, loss

4. Serenity

Level: Imagine Whirled Peaceimagine-whirled-peace-detail

Because one of the main goals for the heroes in this movie, I suppose, is world peace. I believed they could accomplish it. Until they killed off my favorite character.

This movie is an exception to the list because there were very few tears actually shed on my part, but that was literally only because I was too affected to produce any. I could only sit there in complete shock as everything dissolved into chaos. Obviously I would recommend watching Firefly before seeing this movie, because the attachment to the characters is what makes this one emotional. Also the beauty of the last lines: “Love is what keeps her flying.”

The feels? Sacrifice, the unpredictability of war, love, freedom

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Level: Late Night Snacklate-night-snack-detail

Why Late Night Snack? Because most of the tears for this movie came from its midnight premiere. I think it’ll be hard to explain to the next generation just how much of an impact these stories had on us, and how thrilling it was to sit in that theatre at midnight to see the last two hours of Harry’s journey. I was with a group of close friends—we all held hands as it started and ended, and, as the end of the movie neared and the realization of finality hit all of us one by one, we all started quietly sobbing in our seats. The whole thing was kind of an infectious affair; by the end of the movie, every single person in the theatre was in the same boat. This movie represents the end of an era, truly, and the last minutes of the film will conjure up (get it? Magic?) remembrances of that wonderful and beautiful journey.

The feels? Love, nostalgia, bravery, growing up

2. Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

Level: Chocolate Therapychocolate-therapy-detail

Never has an ice cream title been so suited to a movie. For those of you who have stuck only to the current rebooted Star Trek series and have not wandered into Trek past, the basic story is this: Into Darkness is a direct reboot of Wrath of Khan. The key difference here is that (spoiler) instead of Kirk kicking the bucket, Wrath of Khan features Spock entering the radiation chamber. Because I handled myself well in Into Darkness fairly well, I didn’t think Wrath of Khan was going to be a problem. I WAS SO WRONG. Whether you ship Kirk and Spock as a couple (allow me to introduce myself) or simply as good friends, the end of this movie is devastating. I know people have qualms about Shatner’s acting, but it is on point during the pivotal radiation chamber scene. That, coupled with the Tale of Two Cities quotes and the “I feel young again” ending, makes this movie unequalled in the “beautifully tragic” category. I was bawling through the credits.

The feels? Sacrifice, growing old, love, loss

1. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Level: Chocolate Chip Cookie Doughchoc-chip-cookie-dough-detail

Classic. That’s what this one is. Everybody loves it. That’s why it’s chocolate chip cookie dough. If you were wondering.

To explain how I feel about this movie would be to bore all of you to death and to rehash things I’ve said a million times. Suffice it to say, I have yet to encounter a movie that makes me feel as many emotions as this one does, and I have yet to encounter a movie that makes me cry as much as this one does. I’ve always said: give me the second disc of the extended edition of this film, and that’s all I need to go through emotional cleansing. It’s not tragic in the sense that some of these other movies are, but the sheer beauty of the story and the characters and the cinematography and the music and the message is enough to send me weeping. In this case, I don’t cry because I’m sad (necessarily) but because I feel such intense love. And that is a beautiful thing.

The feels? Love, bravery, dedication, sacrifice, war, faith


Honorable mentions: Click, Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway, Les Misérables


What are your favorite Ben and Jerry’s films? What touches you the most? Whether it’s The Notebook or Fight Club, I want to hear! Comment below and, as always, see you next week!

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Spring Break in a Ghost Town

“We have an actual population, I swear.” Iowa City might as well have that posted on a sign somewhere, because, truth is, there’s a marked difference in the feel of the city between spring break and the rest of the semester. With most students gone over break, the city feels quieter, more subdued, tranquil in a not-quite-dead way. Maybe the lack of student activity makes for a boring Iowa City, but personally I think the city becomes more intimate. When you strip away the loudness and drunkenness of the general student population, it’s easier to see what makes Iowa City quaint and beautiful.

I had the privilege of hosting a good friend from Washington for a few days at the beginning of break, which was great. We were able to wander a mostly-closed campus and see the sights. Mostly, though, we ate.



We also couldn’t escape the corn, admittedly.


It was in a museum, okay?

The thing I love most about having people visit, especially for the first time, is the joy of being able to experience the city through a new pair of eyes. You may get used to the buildings and the sights because you walk past them every day with a heavy backpack, but when you’re able to show them to someone else, they become exciting and new. I loved being able to walk through my city and see it like I never had before, with all of its quirks and hidden corners.



Spring break is also a time for relaxing, though, and I did plenty of that. The dorms are quiet and I had the room to myself, which meant loud shower singing and making blanket nests in my bed. This all led up to the pinnacle night, Friday night, where I stayed up until 7:30 in the morning doing nothing but writing and watching Netflix. Rarely do I get to indulge in such laziness, and it was glorious.

The reason I decided to stay up so late (early?) was because I wanted to watch the sun rise over Iowa City—from my lofted bed, I have a perfect view of the tops of all the houses. I had this grand plan where I would lie in bed and watch the sun come over the treetops and then I would take a picture and then maybe write a blog post or something about how much I love the beauty of early morning.

Well, I waited and watched as the sky turned brown and then blue, and then I realized—the entire sky was covered with clouds. It dawned on me (pun totally intended) that there definitely was not going to be a sunrise that morning. So, somehow still full of energy, I finally got to sleep.

I may not have the photo, but I do think it is a lovely thing to fall asleep as the world lights up. I think it’s lovely observing the way the world wakes up. Most of all, I think it’s lovely to have a city like this to call my semi-permanent home.

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Books That Might Change Your Life

Now, the Academy Awards are today—that’s great, because I love movies, and I love acting, and I love beautiful people, and when those things all come together in a huge televised celebration, it’s awesome. However, with movies as arguably the primary source for our entertainment consumption, sometimes it’s important to acknowledge other media. There are plenty of awards for books, but nothing gets the attention that the Oscars or the Golden Globes does. So, without further rambling, here are some books that might change your life. Read them, trust me. (For the sake of your sanity, I will be refraining from mentioning Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, because, duh, unfair competition)

Children’s Lit: Redwall by Brian Jacques


This whole series is pure gold. If you’ve never read any of these books, you are seriously missing out. This series toes the line between children’s lit and young adult fiction, but I’ll place it in this category for now. In part, these books started my love for swords-and-sorcery medieval stories, and they served as inspiration for my anthropomorphic first novel. The raw and sometimes-violent imagery gives this series a dark edge, but everything else about it is pure awesome—talking animals, consistent societal rules, evil baddies, the whole nine yards.

Why should you read it? Jacques’ mastery of the English language is apparent from the first line of prose. He began Redwall through oral storytelling: he would tell stories to blind children, which makes his description exceptionally vivid. This is especially true in his descriptions of the feasts, which means you’ll probably need to keep a snack handy while you read. Another quirky but endearing part of his writing is his use of dialect in the text. I had the pleasure of hearing him read part of a book at a signing event, and it was clear that he knows what he’s doing: all of the accents in the books are expertly transcribed and put you in the story even more.

YA/Middle Grade Fiction: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

ImageI’m sorry, I really tried not to put this on the list, since everyone and their mother has read this book, but seriously. If you haven’t yet read this book, you need to. This book showcases John Green’s growth as a writer, and it truly is his standout novel (not that I don’t love Looking for Alaska). The characters are funny, relatable, and easy to empathize with. The Fault in Our Stars makes you believe in love and believe in the beauty of life.

Plus, you don’t want to be that person that hasn’t read the book when the movie comes out in a few months.

Fantasy/Science Fiction: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

ImageAgain, it’s popular, it’s well known, especially with the release of the movie a few months ago. However, say what you want about Orson Scott Card and his personal agendas, this is a great book. I haven’t read any of the sequels, but, in a way, I kind of like it that way. This novel stands on its own as a surprisingly intense and mesmerizing look into the future.

Why should you read it? It will keep you hooked. It has the perfect balance of character, action, and description. Plus, the ending. The movie’s advertising scheme totally failed in this regard (when I saw the spoiler-ific tagline on the poster, my jaw dropped in incomprehension), but the ending contains a twist so mind-blowing it might cause a minor existential crisis. Fair warning.

Contemporary Fiction: My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

ImageSome would label this as “Women’s Fiction,” but that title seems really problematic to me, so we’re going to shelve it here. It’s been an extremely long time since I read this book, but, nonetheless, it has stuck with me all of these years. Though I don’t remember much about the writing quality, I do remember that I couldn’t set this book down. It’s one of those wonderful books that gets turned into a mediocre movie, so even if you’ve seen the adaptation, do yourself a favor and pick up the book (the ending is different, for starters).

Why should you read it? Like I said, I can’t vouch for the writing itself, but the premise and the characters are still with me. This is a story of morality and, like the previously-mentioned The Fault in Our Stars, this is “sick-lit” that isn’t about illness. As I read, I found myself constantly questioning my own pre-conceived notions and challenging the ethics I thought I understood. Plus, the characters are well developed and engaging. I still remember the running gag about the lawyer’s dog; these character quirks are exactly what writers should be studying and trying to emulate.

Memoir/Nonfiction: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

ImageAgain, this is the closest category I have to describing this novel. I read this for a class last year and it is one of the rare school books that I did not sell back at the end of the semester. This nail-biting and shocking account of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation lit up the social justice side of me like nothing else. Knowing that this story is completely true only makes the message more heartbreaking.

Why should you read it? I knew very little about Hurricane Katrina before reading this book, and this introduction was both informative and emotional. It’s written with an easy, fiction-like style, and it’s a pretty quick read overall. Just don’t read this if you’re looking for something relaxing. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so anxious and so frustrated reading anything. It’s a “real” look into what was actually happening in the streets following Hurricane Katrina, and the result is frankly embarrassing for our government. It’s infuriating to almost excessive degrees, but this story is also guaranteed to raise your empathy levels and sense of cross-cultural awareness.

“Literary”/”Classical” Fiction: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles DickensImage

This book obviously does not need an introduction. I’m not one to immediately jump to praising classics just because they’re classics, so I truly mean it when I say that this novel is exceptional on every level. If you haven’t had a chance to read this masterpiece yet, I highly recommend slicing out some time to really engage with this text. Not only is the language beautiful, but the story is exciting. Also, I discovered one of my favorite characters of all time, one of my literary heroes, in this book. Get it, Sydney Carton. I will love you forever and always.



I’ll admit, I’m not well-versed in some other popular genres—notably, horror and romance. I read one Nicholas Sparks novel and called it quits on the romance genre. However, if you have suggestions for me, I am more than willing to give it a shot again. Please, give me recommendations for any book you think everyone should read! I’m always searching for things to read, and even though I don’t have much time on my hands to actually open a book of my choice, you can bet I have a running list. So, what are some of your favorites?

And, of course, enjoy the Oscars tonight. Just remember—most of those movies nominated have literary roots. The only thing the books are lacking, I suppose, is the image of Benedict Cumberbatch’s sweet cheekbones.

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