#TopTenTuesday – Actresses

Top 10 Favorite Actresses:

1:   Kate Winslet.  I’m not going to lie – having my name in the title of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind set me up to like the movie.  Whatever my reasons, this is still one of my favorite Winslet roles.  No matter what character she’s playing, though, I’ve always found her relatable.  (Yes, that includes Divergent…don’t judge me.)
2:   Tatiana Maslany.  I got into Orphan Black around the middle of the second season. Holy crap.  How one actress can play such vastly different characters so convincingly – often having to fake act with herself – is beyond me.  Somehow she can play one clone who’s pretending to be another clone, and you still know which one she really is because of subtle mannerisms or facial changes or whatever that she brings to each.  Amazing.
3:   Angelina Jolie.  I’m always torn with the whole “pretty actress” thing because I think a lot of them coast on their looks.  But the emotion that Jolie can bring to life on screen really is respectable.  And I also respect the roles she chooses, often political, often stories that might not get attention if she wasn’t involved.
4:   Meryl Streep.  Cuz she’s MERYL STREEP.
5:   Emma Stone.  If she’s in a movie, at some point I’m probably going to laugh.
6:   Cate Blanchett.  Something about seeing her face on the screen immediately makes me pay attention.  She’s captivating.
7:  Katharine Hepburn.  When I first started watching old movies with any kind of commitment, I started with a lot of the other Hepburn.  Audrey is fine, I like her work, but she was always a little too proper and girly for me.  Then I found The Philadelphia Story and Katharine H., and suddenly here was a tomboy smartass I could identify with.  She had a sort of ease about her onscreen that draws me in.
8:  Maggie Smith  I can’t think of any character she’s played that I haven’t liked.  And I might enjoy her character on Downton Abbey a little too much, because blunt delivery of opinion is probably how I’m going to be if I make it to old age….if my grandmother is any indication.
9:   Marion Cotillard.  She’s just lovely.  My first exposure to her was Big Fish, but I didn’t realize that until Inception, when I looked her up and decided I was a fan.  Then Midnight in Paris… The Dark Knight Rises… And I’m looking forward to MacBeth.
10: Laura Linney.  Often when I find myself liking a character and not thinking about “oh, it’s the actress from THIS or THAT,” it’s Laura Linney.  She’s just consistently good without being overly attention-stealing or flashy.

(On any given day when my tastes are slightly different, switch up with Myrna Loy, Keira Knightley, Octavia Spencer,  Jamie Lee Curtis, Judi Dench, Jessica Chastain…)

Anybody have their own list?   Comment below!


Top 10 Favorite TV/Movie Cars:

1:   The Batmobile in Batman Begins.  This counts as a car, right?  I mean, who hasn’t wanted one of these when stuck in really bad traffic?  
2:   James Bond’s Aston Martin(s).  I can’t imagine a better car to be paired with the character of James Bond.  These cars are amazingly gorgeous anyway, and then you add Bond gadgets and the legal wishy-washy-ness of being able to drink in them, and I’m sold.
3:   Eleanor in Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000 version).  
With all the cars in that movie, this one is still my favorite.  I’ve always liked mustangs, and the silver/gray/metal look is perfectly sleek.  (Although, I have a horrific memory of clutching my seat belt while riding home with my dad after seeing that movie in the theater.)
4:   Mr. Frye’s Ferrari in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  It’s red and shiny and pretty.  Mostly, I like that they stole the car for a whole day, which I imagine is every teenager’s dream if their parents have a cool car… I never felt compelled to steal our Chevy Caprice.
5:   The Winchester’s Impala from Supernatural.  Okay, it doesn’t hurt who’s IN the car.  Or that I know what’s in the trunk.  But I love the growl of the car.  And you can’t go wrong with black.  Or the tape selection for the radio.
6:   The Volkswagen on Lost.  Yeah, the car itself – not the best.  But I remember how emotional and lovely the episode was when Hurley and the gang got the thing working, and all of these old buckets make me smile now.
7:  The Delorean in Back to the Future.  It’s a car that lets you time-travel.  That’s all I could ask for.
8:   The getaway MINIs in The Italian Job.  The getaway race/chase with a herd of these little guys looked fun, dangerous, and as adorable as a car chase can get.
9:   Richard’s classic Plymouth in Tommy Boy.  It’s not the car with this one so much as everything that happens TO the car.  Again, nostalgic reasons.
10: Jurassic Park’s Ford Explorer.   I remember as a kid liking the paint job before everything turned to chaos.  Since then, every time I’m in a vehicle with a sunroof, I imagine having to brace myself against it while something comes down to attack me.


Anybody have their own list?   Comment below!


Top 10 Favorite Black & White Movies:

1:   The Thin Man Series.  I can never pick my favorite of the series – it depends on my mood at any given moment.  But William Powell and Myrna Loy are my favorite on-screen couple of all time.  The play between these two is mostly what I love about these movies, although the murder/mystery twists are great too.
Also, this was a Halloween costume one year:  

2:   Casablanca.  The first time I watched this (which was way too late in life, I blame bad parenting), I was shocked to find that I knew over half the lines.  I mean, everyone knows “Of all the gin joints…” but there are TONS of lines that have slipped into everyday use.  It’s also a love triangle with much bigger things at stake, and that’s refreshing.
3:   The Philadelphia Story.   I like wit.  The combo of Grant, Hepburn, and Stewart is hard to beat.  I guess technically there’s more like a love “square” with the other guy thrown in, but the main thing for me is that it’s about Tracy finding herself and not settling.
4:   City Lights.  I have so much respect for early storytellers who didn’t use, you know, speech.  Emotions are conveyed with eyes or a heavy bodily sigh.  Chaplin might have been a perfectionist control-freak (directed, wrote, produced, starred), but the results is one of the sweetest movies I can think of.
5:   All About Eve.  Great cast – and the short surprise of Marilyn Monroe.  Movies like this are always super-creepy to me.  The idea of taking someone under your wing only to have them turn on you is terrifying.  It’s like “Mean Girls” meets “The Talented Mr. Ripley.”
6:   High Noon.  Love Gary Cooper.  Love Grace Kelly.  This isn’t a typical shoot-em-up, horse-chase-heavy kind of western, but the slow suspense is great, and the actor performances really draw you in.
7:   It Happened One Night.  This is just fun.  I’ve never thought Clark Gable is handsome at all, but the unlikely romance that develops here totally works for me.  There are several moments of outright hilarity.  And of course the famous lesson in hitchhiking.
8:   The Treasure of Sierra Madre.  I always like Bogart, but his character in this movie was different than a lot of what I’d seen from him.  I particularly like the way greed and betrayal destroy everything, even more than the external dangers.
9:   Lost Horizon.  This kind of blew my mind.  I love questioned utopias, and the way this movie builds and builds with suspense is great.
10:   Swing Time.  I think this was the first Ginger Rogers movie I saw.  With Fred Astaire, she’s amazing.  Also, it has the lyric, “You take romance, I’ll take jello.”  That’s really all I need.

Anybody have their own list?   Comment below!


(This is a new thing I’m going to do every Tuesday.
I like lists.  I love “favorites” lists.
So here we go.)

Top 10 Favorite Superhero Movies:

1:   The Dark Knight Rises.  Really, you could just lump the trilogy together and list it at my #1 spot.  I thought how this one ended made it the strongest of the three.  Batman has always been dark and gritty, and the brokenness of this trilogy mixed with a bit of hope and redemption fit exactly what I wanted.
2:   Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  This surprised me.  I don’t normally root for the boyscout type, but Captain America has a lot of depth that I really enjoyed.  I really, really enjoyed the partnership with the Black Widow and the fact that it didn’t cross into a love-interest territory.  And, so often a superhero movie can be crammed with way too much to the point that nothing makes sense together (I’m looking at you, Spiderman 3), but I thought this one was just right.
3:   Guardians of the Galaxy.   I don’t care who you are, this is a great, fun movie.  I first saw this on a 4th date when he was an hour late, the popcorn was stale, and the theater was one of the worst I’ve ever been in.  But, nothing spoiled this movie for me once it started.  I didn’t really know what to expect, and I’ve definitely never laughed so hard at a superhero movie.  Also, there’s no reason I should’ve cried about a raccoon and a tree, but there ya go.
4:   The Avengers.  I was mostly relieved by how well all the previously-established characters/storylines came together.  It was interesting to see so many characters who had already been fleshed out thrown together in one movie.  I’ve always been a Whedon fan, and it was fun for all those little, recognizable quirks too.
5:   X-Men: Days of Future Past.  They had me at the use of time-travel.  And, well, Fassbender.  The first three X-Men movies were never quite what I wanted, but I loved how this “corrected” a lot of that.
6:   Nightwatch.  The most hipster thing I ever say — “You probably haven’t heard of this.”  It’s a Russian film by Timur Bekmambetov. I know this is really more fantasy, but these people can move in and out of a dimension as the forces of Light battle the forces of Evil, and last time I looked Hawkeye doesn’t have powers that super.  This is a sequel, but I liked the end so much that I liked this one more than the first, Daywatch.
7:   X-Men: First Class.  Again,  Ijust love how much better this was than the original trio of X-Men movies.  And I love a good backstory.
8:   Thor: The Dark World.  Another Marvel franchise surprise.  I don’t really like Thor, honestly.  I think the world is cool and Loki is fantastic, but Thor himself I’m just “meh” about (cue women yelling at me).  But, I let go of expecting this to be good, and I found myself liking it a lot.
9:   Unbreakable.  It’s a mess at times, but I like the use of “reality” in this one.  I feel like this is what Hancock was aiming for — a superhero set in our real world — but the slower, deeper look at discovering superpowers here I liked better.
10:   Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  A childhood favorite, largely listed for nostalgia, but it’s still fun to re-watch.

Anybody have their own list?   Comment below!

Sum-Up of My Nerdiness

For those of you who miss my more serious blog posts, I apologize but simply have such raging cabin fever that I’m getting a little slaphappy and have to amuse myself to stay sane. 

I’ve spent a LOT of time on the internet lately while cocooned in blankets, sipping spiked cocoa, and thus I’ve spent a lot of time taking in fandom.  My observations have led me to the conclusion that people are crazy, and people are awesome.  My real-life friends and I have had multiple conversations about the difference between being a nerd, a geek, or a dork – the fact that we’ve had this conversation probably proves some kind of point.  (I don’t mean to leave anyone out or offend anyone, so see my previous blog post “Is My Nerd Showing?” if you need clarification on my general definition of what it means to be a nerd.) For the most part, I enjoy interacting with fans of things that I too am a fan of, and I’m endlessly fascinated by how fired up people get when talking about things that don’t really matter.

Really, I’m kind of asking for it.  My Twitter profile @kynacoba declares, “I love all things nerd,” and that has led to questions I might as well elaborate upon here.

First of all, what’s the point in being a nerd?
Having interests is always a good thing.  Caring about and connecting with stories is, I think, an important part of how we understand and relate to each other.  And, quite frankly, sometimes it’s just fun to discuss/argue/debate things that don’t really matter.  A friend once said that it’s okay if someone has different opinions on religion, politics, etc. but that it’s NOT okay if someone doesn’t like your favorite TV show.  It’s kind of a nice break to care so passionately about things that don’t affect daily reality.  It’s nice to connect with people who love what you do. I try not to be an elitist about matters of taste (that’s never really made sense to me as a mindset), and it’s infectious to see others’ enthusiasm, even if you don’t care about the subject of their enthusiasm.
At the very least, being a nerd exposes you to a wide range of new things and to the people who care deeply about them.

 As a writer, how does being a nerd matter?
I think being exposed to other peoples’ beloved stories does a lot for stretching the imagination.  And people who really, really know their stuff help me see the importance of making a story as deep, as rich, as complex, and as smart as possible – people who like things and really like things don’t want to be insulted by a lack of creative effort.
As for my own nerdy things that I love, there are some TV shows, movies, books, etc. that I know are absolutely foundational in shaping my own creativity.  Some stories from childhood are so ingrained that I probably don’t even realize how much they shape me.  Some stories from adulthood trigger some part of my brain that goes “Ah-ha!” because I see something in a light I hadn’t considered before.
I think it’s arrogant for artists to not acknowledge that other art inspires and shapes our own creativity.  Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could. (If you just sang that in your head, +100 points.) The things we love obviously influence the things we create. But there’s also a problem when you love something so much that all you’re doing is copying the object of your affection.  I read some books and think, “Wow, you like Stephen King” or “Lost fan, much?” So, I think it’s also important to watch out for not going overboard in how your beloved stories shape your creativity – you have to find a way to use ideas that you love but make it YOURS, in your own voice.

 So, what are a few of my favorite things to be a nerd about?

  •  Star Wars.  The originals, I mean – and if I even have to clarify that point, we’re probably not going to be friends.  When I was little, my parents taped the Star Wars movies off of TV.  My brother and I watched them to the point of memorization and tape exhaustion.  Even today when watching on glorious Blu-ray, I still know where the commercial breaks would cut off about 3 seconds.  I think a big part of my love of Star Wars is the fact that most of it looks like something we could have built in our fort.  The imagination and creativity it took to literally create these movies’ worlds is amazing – free of the temptation to overuse CGI…which came later.  The adventure story is simple, with a layer of depth underneath that clearly shaped my own imagination.
    My brother dated a girl who didn’t watch Star Wars until adulthood (I know, right?!), and when she finally humored us, at the end she said that it was probably something we enjoyed out of childhood nostalgia.  There is likely some truth to this for anyone who grew up watching Star Wars three times a week, but I also think these movies are essential for anyone who loves Science Fiction.
  • Star Trek.  Admittedly, I don’t like Star Trek as much as I probably should.  I appreciate the history of what the show/movies did/do for Science Fiction, but I’ve never liked the general world that much.  As a kid watching The Next Generation, I didn’t like how they either made alien races a part of the Federation or else those aliens seemed to be the bad guys.  Even in my little pre-teen brain, I remember thinking of the Federation as “The Man.”  Something about the neat and tidy, semi-utopian world just doesn’t feel realistic to me – replicators making essentially whatever you need, most everyone conveniently speaking English, etc.  I understand the philosophy behind it, but it’s a little too optimistic for me.
    All that being said, Star Trek is important enough that I have to list it as one of my favorites.  The scope and variety is impressive and fun.  The different incarnations over the years have been interesting.  I like Deep Space Nine best of the shows, and I think I liked the depth of characters there.  Also, I’m glad the new movie versions are tweaking the story now.
  • Lost. Yes, even the end.  The whole “sideways” part of things ended so beautifully that I forgave a lot of the flatness of that last season.  And if you try to tell me they were dead the whole time, expect an eye roll.
    I think the #1 thing I enjoyed about Lost was that it didn’t question the intelligence of the audience.  Right up until the end, I had no idea where things were headed – as someone who regularly sorts out plots before they’re done, this was a welcome joy.  The complexity and mystery and the variety of characters was wonderful.  I think probably more than any other show, Lost pushed me to be a better storyteller.
  • Firefly.  Oh, sweet, charming, clever, funny, lovely show, how I miss thee.  My earliest memories of this show are:
    1- My friends dismissing it because of the “hooker in space” only to then later become obsessed fans.
    2- Having a great inside joke about the “special hell.”
    It’s just flat out enjoyable, and I don’t think you necessarily have to be a Sci-Fi fan to love it. Highly quotable, I’ve solidified friendships over love of this show.  It’s like gateway Sci-Fi.
  • Arrested Development. My thoughts on AD are very similar to my thoughts on Firefly.  A guy once thought I was great and said, “Marry me,” and of course I responded, “Babysit me!” He didn’t get it; we’re no longer friends (there’s probably more to it, but this is the reason I remember).
  • Space: Above and Beyond.  This one’s a little out there, I know.  But this show did a LOT for my childhood creative juices.  Shane was an early inspiration for my own character of Bullseye.  Everything with the In Vetroes inspired a lot of my use of clones. And I’ve never looked at pancakes the same again.
  • X-Men and Batman.  HUGE influences for my own series.  As kids, we watched the cartoons at every possible moment.  We read the comics.  We spent literally hours upon hours drawing our own mutant characters (see some examples here).
  • Enders Game, Speaker for the Dead, Ender’s Shadow, etc.  I have a love/hate relationship with Orson Scott Card, but crap damn it the man can tell a story.  It’s one of the prouder accomplishments of my adult life that I’ve gotten almost my entire friend circle to read this series. 
  • Dr. Who.  I really do love Dr. Who, but I list it here as more of a confession:  Until about 3-4 months ago, I’d only seen 4 episodes.  I just could not get into it.   But, I felt like a bad nerd for not liking Dr. Who, so my brother made a list of which episodes to skip because he knew they’d be the ones to turn me off.  Thus entering with low expectations, I was soon sucked in.  I still have a ways to go, but I can honestly say that I think I’ve cried over this show more than anything since the Lost finale.
    And, as a fan of my own books has pointed out, it is nuts that I was capable of creating my character of Trok without knowing about the doctor.  That might, in fact, be the reason I connect so much with the Doctor – I’m very, very familiar with the immortal, time-traveling, searching-for-connection kind of character.  The consistency of the writing for this one character over DECADES is also really, really impressive, as is the ability of the different actors to play the same character. 


So, yeah.  Those are things I’m nerdily devoted to.  There are many, many more.  And people who enjoy these things also enjoy other things I’m not as well-versed in, so there’s always more to take in.  For example, I know next to nothing about video games.  This is mostly because I’m absolute rubbish – my brother will attest to the fact that, if there’s a corner to run into or a way to grenade myself, I will find it.  I really love watching people play video games, and the artistry is usually quite impressive to me.  So that’s up next.

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