11/29 Daily What: Hate-watching is a luxury (or, how I spent my Wednesday with Blade II)

On the one hand, why spend the rare day when both you and your spouse get to stay home together with no children around watching a shitty movie? On the other hand, when ELSE are you going to do that? When in the last three years have you just sprawled out on the couch watching an action movie sequel and making loud predictions about what each poorly-written character is going to say next, taking breaks only to answer the occasional work e-mail and throw a batch of chocolate chip cookies in the oven?

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11/28 Daily What: Am I over the Coen Brothers?

The last Coen film I saw in theaters was Inside Llewyn Davis in 2013, and I absolutely loved it. I even felt indignant on its behalf when it got mostly ignored at awards season. I haven’t seen every movie the Coens have ever made, but ever since experiencing No Country For Old Men on the big screen, I’ve been fairly well in the bag for these guys. Anything they make, I’ll see it. So when The Ballad of Buster Scruggs came out on Netflix not too long ago, my husband and I sat down to watch it, as I knew we eventually would. It’s not exactly a conventional feature film; it’s a “feature-length omnibus” consisting of six vignettes, all dealing in some way with the trope of the American frontier. It’s at times violent, often funny in that bleak Coen way, and occasionally thoughtful and deep. Racist on one or two occasions, too, but in a way that’s probably meant to be honest to the era. It features plenty of trademark Coen-Brothers dialogue and even more plenty of grizzled old white men. Including my old buddy James Franco, who gets artificially grizzled for his bank-robber role. As Sarah Aswell writes for Forbes, “the Western story arc is delightfully scrambled, and characters are given the depth, reflection, and thoughtfulness that they lacked in the black-and-white shoot-em-ups. Or–at least the white male characters are.”

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11/27 Daily What: It's Tuesday, and this is all I need

Last night, I had a real urge to watch the movie The Jerk, and honestly I didn’t even want to watch The Jerk; I wanted to watch one scene from The Jerk. I have that with movies; I will sit through all of Casablanca just to watch the “La Marseillaise” scene, and when I watch It’s A Wonderful Life from start to finish, it’s really so I can feel all the feelings that flood me at the end when George cries out “My mouth’s bleedin’, Bert! My mouth’s bleedin’!”

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11/26 Daily What: Which Dante translation is the best one?

Here's the thing - it's really easy as a language geek to have bad things to say about translations. It's absurdly easy. I haven't read Ann Goldstein much, but I have certainly read passages and thought, well that's not how would do it. Seriously, though, who cares? Her translations are all New York Times bestsellers and I an a former academic who has a blog. I'm in a lucky position with my level of Italian and the extent to which I have studied it where I could spend all day poking holes in others' translations; a translation has to make constant, tiny (and sometimes less-tiny) choices, and I can identify the places where the translator chose X but I would on the other hand have excellent reasons for choosing Y and I know I am in the right. My reasons are the one that are important to me. When it comes to a text that has been translated multiple times, you’re seeing several different translators who are privileging different things and making different choices. The question isn’t so much “which is the best translation?” but rather “which translation should I read?”

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11/23 Daily What: Discovering

I can confidently say that this was my best Thanksgiving as a mom, poop and all. Three-year-olds are infinitely easier to please with a big, special day than two-year-olds (who in turn are infinitely easier to please than one-year-olds). My three-year-old was EXCITED to go play with Grandma and Grandpa so Mommy and Daddy could run a 4-mile race in 11-degree weather. She couldn’t wait for me to leave her with them. She went right down for a 3-hour nap after that playdate, because she was MOTIVATED to get her rest for a big awesome Thanksgiving dinner. Sitting at the big table with everyone else meant something to her. Trying all the delicious food was something she was excited to do. And when it came time for dessert, she was thrilled to try apple pie for the first time and then, adorably, said “more pie, please!” She had a hell of a day. And these days, watching her have fun that she herself recognizes as fun is one of the most fun things I can do.

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