Friday, February 26, 2010


A bit of a break from my Oscar-prep-Meryl-Streep-a-thon (only in blogging about it, though. My viewing numbers are growing as I continue my homage...)

So much has happened since I last posted. Well, actually, just one big thing happened, unexpectedly, that has thrown me off course, temporarily.

After almost three months at the first permanent-track job I've held in many, many years, I was unexpectedly let go. While I'm willing to reveal the details on an individual level, I don't wish to go into it in this forum. Like many others in this economy, I will say, I didn't see it coming (letting out a actual gasp when ushered into a conference room and given the news.)

I was still reveling in the glow of consistency - the steady paycheck, the making of my lunch, the daily exchange with co-workers. Despite my tendency to flail (or, perhaps because of it) I do find great comfort in routine. At the same time, I also have the tendency to make the best of things. Sometimes I wonder if I haven't perpetuated a kind of existence where I am continually making the best of things rather than gracefully avoiding certain circumstances.

I don't know.

What I do know is, that with every end to a job or position or contract, I have experienced an at-home saturation of influences combined with a hyper-focused clean and purge of my home, and this time is no exception. Given that I am a writer heavily influenced by pop-culture, I should expect this. However, the acceleration and depth is a surprise every time. Of course time and energy have a lot to do with it. There is something almost gleefully subversive to me about impulsively abandoning the organizing of my Christmas decorations to go see a movie at noon on Tuesday.

I cannot say I am any more certain on what's next. But I am less anxious about it. And apparently very open to music, movie and book reccomendations.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Countdown to Oscar - More Meryl

Out of Africa was my brother's favorite movie of all time. For a long time I felt kinda guilty for not having ever seen it.

Now that I've watched it, I'm reminded why I'd been avoiding it.

As part of my Meryl-Streep-a-thon, I've been watching as many Streep films as I can get, one-at-a-time through NetFlix. I was looking forward to Out of Africa, mostly because I was pleasantly surprised by how "modern" Sophie's Choice seemed. I was in that mode to absorb an epitome-of-an-Oscar-film-film.

Or so I thought.

I really enjoyed the first 45 minutes. I was enraptured by lush landscape and beauty of Streep and Robert Redford. Then I plateaued and forced myself through the remaining hour and fifty-one minutes.

Wow, is it loooooonnnnnnggg.

I mean looooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnggg.

Like I mentioned with Kramer vs Kramer, part of it has to do with an acceleration of culture. Not to be condescending or argue for the hyper-cutting style better. It's just, we as an audience can grasp things more quickly. Or, more accurately, we are growing less tolerant of scenes where characters walk to their cars, get in the car, start and drive the car, get out and walk to where they're going. Unless there is a reason (the audience needs a breather after a tense scene.)

And I was under the impression that it was this great love story. My take (SPOILER ALERT) is, Streep's character gets dumped by her womanizing lover, only to enter into a marriage of convenience (she has money, he has a title) with another womanizer. The guy uses her money to turn what should have been a working farm into a coffee plantation which is doomed from the start. He takes off to God-knows-where right away, leaving her in charge of a whole staff whom she can't really afford, and infects her with syphilis. Eventually, she falls for Robert Redford, another womanizer who comes and goes as he pleases. They have some nice times, and yes he washes her hair, but mostly she's upset with him for not committing and he's upset with her for telling him what to do. Oh yeah, then he dies. And not in some dramatic, deathbed reveal, but in a "by the way, he crashed his plane."

I am glad I did not see this movie while my brother was still alive. I would surely have ruined it for him, much like I try hard to ruin Gandhi and Chariots of Fire.

But, once again, Meryl Streep is brilliant.

Next in the Queue, Falling in Love with Robert Dinero.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Countdown to Oscar: Best Choice

To summarize the last post, in the past couple of years I have come up my own leading-up-to-the-Academy-Awards list of movies to see before the broadcast, usually centered around a theme. One year, it was all of the Best Picture winners I had not seen. This year, since I’m certain Meryl Streep will win Best Actress for Julie & Julie, I plan to see as many Streep films as I can before Oscar night.

Once I discovered I’ve seen most of them from the 2000s, and a fair number of others, I went back to the beginning of her career, the late seventies. So far, I have two under my belt. I watched Kramer vs Kramer over the weekend. She was as good as I remembered, but the film seemed very dated. Having to consider “the times” can get very tedious and borders on pandering. But it is true of this film. Kramer was one of the first critically acclaimed films whose main subject matter was divorce. While it deals with it skillfully, there’s very little that cannot be predicted at this point. Also, for only being 91 minutes, it drags.

But Streep is so raw as Joanna Kramer, a woman who, seems to have it together – just the right clothes, hairstyle, a smart elegance – until you realize she is so overwhelmed by her own sadness that she can hardly open her mouth without looking like she could cry. Not many actresses could pull this off without making you roll your eyes or want to throw up on yourself.

Because the films on my list are not easily accessible at Blockbuster anymore (I’m not judging, just stating a fact) I have to rely on NetFlix (which continually adds to my quality of life in ways I could not have predicted.) Yesterday Sophie’s Choice showed up in my mailbox.

I cannot say I’ve been looking forward to watching this. I’d not exactly been dreading, I simply knew it would be a vast understatement to call this film “heavy.” The only scene I’ve ever scene was the scene, you know, the choice. For a long time, I assumed I’d been duped by being shown that clip (probably during a segment of Charlie Rose with Streep as the guest), like being told the secret in the Crying Game or knowing that Thelma & Louise drive off the cliff at the end of the Thelma & Louise. Also, Sophie’s Choice had very few other Oscar nominations, so I figured it was a showcase of Streep’s acting ability only.

Not so.

This movie is a lovely, albeit haunting, film that truly stands up today in terms of pacing and nuance. Kevin Kline’s turn as Sophie’s charming but unpredictable and menacing lover kept the tension taut throughout the first half, until he disappears. And Peter MacNichol, probably best known as "The Biscuit" from Ally McBeal, plays the narrator, the innocent who is befriended by unstable the couple and quickly falls for them and gets sucked into their drama.

Then comes the flood. Even though we have since seen skillfully crafted Holocaust films, there is a fair amount in this film that still holds up and manages to surprise and horrify.

Up next, Out of Africa.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Countdown to Oscar: Meryl Streep-a-thon

There are few people I have to inform of my longtime Academy Awards enthusiasms. In fact, I often feel the need to tone down my interest in order to avoid appearing like a complete freak. There is nothing more embarrassing than to wax on and on about one's passions, only to find the person on the receiving end either doesn’t care, or, worse yet, treats you as they would a special needs child who wants confirmation on their interest in Legos.

So I try to avoid coming off that way, but it doesn’t always work. Even my toned-down knowledge often dwarfs that of the average movie-goer. For example, starting in January, I mark my calendar for the day when the awards are announced (this year, February 2nd) and eagerly check the for the nominations to be posted…

Which is not to say I’m always enthusiastic. I have not yet fully reconciled the part of me that is rational and understands that the movie business (and the television network business) is, after all, a business, and the other part of me who believes the artistic achievement should not be compromised.

For example, am I excited about the fact that there are now ten nominees for Best Picture? No, I am not. I might be if I didn’t think the decision wasn't exclusively motivated by the promotion of less worthy, more profitable film. My opinion is, if people only want to make money, there are far more exclusively lucrative industries to go into (pharmaceuticals or Tween clothing come to mind...)

Still, I will try to see as many of the nominated films as I stomach (except the Blindside. I will not see this. I don’t care how many people cried in the theater, I’m not yet convinced that anything happens that I cannot predict… I will whole-heatedly apologize if someone can prove that I am wrong…)

In addition to seeing the films nominated, I have in the past, also included some other kind of “at home” Oscar-homage-activity. This year, it will be to view as many Meryl Streep films as I can before the March 7th broadbcast. Although she has been nominated sixteen times for an academy award (winning one of each – best supporting and best actress) she has not taken home the award home since 1982. I will go ahead and say, confidently, she will win this year for her portrayal of Julie and Julia.

In honor, I’ve set up a list of her movies that I either haven’t seen, or don’t have much recall. Since they are no longer readily available at Blockbuster, I’ve put several in my Netfilx queue.

1. Kramer Vs. Kramer

2. Sophie’s Choice

3. Falling in Love

4. Out of Africa

5. Heartburn

6. Ironweed

7. Before and After

I’m already halfway through Kramer Vs. Kramer. Even though she’s only appeared in approximately seven minutes of the film so far, her portrayal is devastatingly deep.

Meryl Streep may very well save this year’s Oscars for me.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Slow Down Fast Talkin Woman

Two years ago, I did a Guest DJ stint on CD101, Columbus’ alternative rock station. The premise is a simple one – listeners are invited to email in a list of 12 songs. If your list is picked, you get to spend an hour in the CD101 studios with the afternoon DJ, Lesley James, while she plays your songs and asks you questions about the songs you selected

The whole thing is pretty idiot-proof, I was brought into the studio literally five minutes before I went on the air. The DJ pointed to a chair and a microphone, and promptly excused herself to go to the restroom.

I almost crapped my pants at the notion she might not return and I’d be stuck there by myself. “Ummm, hello Columbus?”

Obviously, she knew better than I and made it back in plenty of time. The hour was pretty uneventful. I was uncharacteristically quiet, mostly because I feared I would ramble and lose my point. So I was probably pretty boring, but I’ll admit I walked out of the studio with an incredible buzz of merely having my list picked.

When I heard that QFM96, the classic rock station offered the same sort of thing – “Ultimate Album Side,” I gave it a shot. Q-FM started out as straight-up rock station back in the late 70s and has only morphed into a “classic” rock station only because they have seemingly just stopped playing anything new past about 1989.

I’d consider the music of Q-FM to be “working class rock” – a blend of songs best imagined hearing through a paint-splattered boombox duct-taped to an industrial stool, or perhaps from the car speaker of a beat-up Mazda RX-7 while playing volleyball at a high school reunion picnic (given you, like me, went to high school at an Midwest, urban high school.) Petty and Chrissy, AC/DC and Queen.

Still, I wanted to mix it up a little, personalize it. So I picked my five deliberately chosen songs: “You Better You Bet” by the Who, “Straight On” by Heart, “Little Dreamer” by Van Halen, “You Better Run” by Pat Benetar, and “Goodbye to Romance” by Ozzy. I sent my email. I forgot about it.

Then I got a call from the DJ, made arrangements to pre-record (which, I’ll admit, I was a bit bummed I didn’t get to go into the studio, but got over when the guy told me for the third time how much he liked my list. I’m such a sucker…

I was on the air this past Friday. What amused me the most, was the sheer number of strip club advertisements that bookended the segment. Then again, who did I think the demographic was going to be tuning into a classic rock station at 9:00 on a Friday night?

The revelation I made (or rather, confirmation) was just how freaking fast I talk. Of course, this should surprise no one who has ever spoken to me.

Still. My god. I could barely understand me.

I was talking to my friend Bridgett about this, and wondering just how in the world she manages to continually listen to me without great difficulty. She explained, in her signature sensitivity, that it wasn’t that bad, but that, if she was honest, there were times when she felt like she was functioning like one of those CNN correspondents who have a delay in their earpiece. “I can usually grasp everything you’re saying,” she went on to explain, “but it sometimes takes me a minute or two to absorb everything.”

I’m forty. I’m not likely to make any lasting changes in my speech patterns. The best I can manage is when I’m doing a public reading of my writing. I deliberately slow way down because I know information will get lost. But it feels un-natural. It feels....... like......... I’m….tal-king.....…like…………………….this.

But I can’t wait to send in another list and do it again. The cute DJ told me I should.

And I totally believed him.