Best Books & Fabulous Films

Reviews and More

Ira Wagler’s Serial Memoir Broken Roads: Returning to My Amish Father

By Sabrina Völz

I know the monsters that lurk in the recesses of the mind and in

the dark corners of the heart. I know, because I deal with my own demons

of what was and what might have been. I’ve heard those voices calling in the night.

I understand, because I poked my head through that door and looked around a bit.

And I gotta say, it’s not a terribly scary place. I wasn’t frightened there,

in that room where death is. I understand why people go there.

And I understand why people chose to stay there.

Ira Wagler, Broken Roads, p. 187-188

Growing Up Amish, Ira Wagler’s New York Times bestseller has sold some 185,000 copies since it first appeared in 2011. A writer whose first book makes that list has much to live up to. Some writers never make it past the first book, while others end up wishing they had only written one. And if I am honest, I have to admit that I was somewhat concerned about what I would do if I didn’t like Ira Wagler’s new book. After all, he’s been to my university twice, and over the years, I’ve got to know and appreciate him. The book is not quite what I had expected, and it is truly different in a few key ways from his first publication.

Read more »

The Mandalorian

By Kai-Arne Zimny

You’ve probably already heard that The Mandalorian was nominated for 15 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Children’s Program. And even if you weren’t familiar with the term Mandalorian before, chances are you’ve seen one: Boba Fett, the green-armored bounty hunter in the classic Star Wars film is a Mandalorian, a member of a clan-based society within the Star Wars universe known for their code of honor and warrior ways. We never saw Boba Fett’s face, he didn’t say much, and he didn’t take up much screen time. All this didn’t stop him from becoming a fan favorite back in the day. But would such a character work as a protagonist of a series?

Read more »

Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

By Kai-Arne Zimny

[Author’s note: This review is spoiler free.]

A year has passed since the events of The Last Jedi (2017). Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is Supreme Leader of the evil galactic regime called The First Order and still strangely drawn and connected to his enemy, the last Jedi and resistance fighter Rey (Daisy Ridley). But not everything is as it seems, and we soon realize who’s been pulling the strings all along.

Read more »

Blue Valentine : Endings, Beginnings, and Nothing in Between

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Blue Valentine: A Love Story (2011). That’s what it says on the movie poster. But is this what the movie is really about? A romantic, sustained, and profound lifelong bond between two people? Well, maybe it isn’t.

The present: Dean (Ryan Gosling) is an overall likeable, easygoing slacker. His job, painting houses, allows him the ‘luxury’ of drinking beer in the morning. He’s not a radiant source of bliss but being married to Cindy (Michelle Williams) and getting goofy with their little daughter Frankie (Faith Wladyka) is what he calls “his dream.” However, Cindy, a nurse, has higher aspirations. To her, Dean’s “dream” is nothing but an endlessly depressing nightmare.

The past: Charming high school dropout Dean works as a furniture mover and meets med student Cindy. To him, it’s love at first sight. To her, it’s so-so. He makes jokes, she laughs; he sings and plays the ukulele, she tap dances to the tunes. Her father hates him, but that’s not an issue because love conquers all – right?

Read more »

The Ultimate Christmas Movie Playlist

By Daria Radler

Ah, Christmas! The holidays are around the corner, and this means a combination of an incredible amount of delicious food (don’t we all love Grandma’s cooking?!) as well as presents and some quality time with our families that we’ve either looked forward to or have secretly dreaded for months. Either way, I’m sure that by now you have probably established a little family tradition of your own when it comes to deciding on your ultimate Christmas movie selection. So let’s look at a few movies that should definitely make your list.

 

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)


George Bailey has spent his entire life devoting himself to the people of Bedford Falls. Broken and suicidal on Christmas Eve, he decides that his family and friends would be better off without him. What he doesn’t know is that they have prayed for him to get through these hard times, and that their prayers have been heard: His guardian angel Clarence falls to earth to show him how different the lives of his loved ones would have been if it wasn’t for him. Heartwarmingly beautiful and deeply moving, It’s a Wonderful Life teaches us how much it means to look after one another – a message that makes this movie worth watching over and over again.

Read more »

ASB 2019 Contest Winner in the Category “Best Books & Fabulous Films”

By Lauren Solomon

On behalf of the American Studies Blog, we would like to extend our sincerest congratulations to Lauren Solomon whose winning entry in the category “Best Books & Fabulous Films” can be read below.

Mindhunter: Harnessing the Minds of Monsters

Nothing captivates an audience like the inhuman and horrific acts of a serial killer. After Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes aired on Netflix in January 2019, followed in May by the release of the biographical crime thriller, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, also based on the Ted Bundy story, the U.S. has become mesmerized by stories of serial killing. With that rising fascination, people can’t seem to stop talking about the second season of Mindhunter.

Read more »