Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cheater Post from LA

I'd planned on shooting off some occasional updates from my West Coast adventure, but I've managed to develop a bit of a groove in in working on my manuscript and don't want to interrupt that...

Once I got over my initial hyper-alert state - making sure I didn't lock myself out of the house, or lose the animals, or flip the car driving up vertical surfaces, making sure I avoided sketchy areas of town - I've managed to settle into a bit of a routine. I've managed to find my way around the local "strip" (remember the Dresden Room and the Derby from Swingers? That area.) I get some writing started and people-watch. I've also been taking little mini-drives to get acclimated. I've been up and down the Sunset Strip and Hollywood Blvd. While it make seem less than the "LA experience," to see these places at 10:00 in the morning, but it's not like I'm about to hang out at the Whiskey A-Go-Go at night by myself. Being in early I avoid the risk of getting run down by Lindsey Lohan or Britney Spears...

The afternoon is when the sun comes in the brightest through the windows, a good time to get settled in a chair.

Oh, I did find out that the Kodak Theater (the one where the Oscars take place) have a tour. Cheesey as the other tourist-y stuff can be, I cannot miss that one.

Okay, so maybe not the cheater post I'd originally thought, but perhaps less organized than I'd intended...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Learning to Embrace My Ridiculous Life

I'm sure I am not alone in my struggle in trying to balance a life anchored in practical responsibility but fueled by passionate adventure. The slightest shift toward either extreme can instantly throw me into a state of pre-occupation of determining what level is right for me.

When I landed a new job back in November, my life swung wildly toward the former. I was completely fine with this, as I'd been flailing, vocationally, for quite some time. But perhaps my attraction to this new job was too broad. I awoke each day, continually fascinated by the thrill of prepping for my day (did I mention it had been a while since I'd had regular, day-to-day employment...)

I found comfort in preparing my lunch, in filling up my messenger bag, in having just enough time to check my email before I left for the day. I reveled in my 3.9 mile drive, that there was exactly enough time to go to the gym and back during lunch. I liked that I had managed to develop "work relationships" beyond my small department so quickly - with the shipping/receiving guy and the HR lady. The use of a MacBook Pro that I could take home with me each night and over the weekend was a lovely perk.

There is nothing wrong with any of these fascinations, I know. However, none of this had anything to do with the job that I was hired to do. Not that I think this is why I lost my job. What happened was not my fault. However, I am willing to accept that the universe might just be nudging me out of a professional career in marketing... The jury is still out on that.

Where does that leave me? For now, I'm attempting to embrace the "adventure" side. Not that I don't do this, but I'm rarely able to do so without some significant justification, trepidation, and more than a hint of misplaced guilt and fear.

So when a friend from graduate school offered to fly me out to LA to pet set for eleven days while she is out of the country, I said, "Hell Yea." This is not to say that I plan to set up a bi-coastal doggie daycare or anything. But I do plan to take a copy of my manuscript and see if the sun and surf (did I mention she lives on the beach...) will stir up some inspiration.

Monday, March 8, 2010

And the Winner Is...

The good news is, I won't have to boycott the Oscars. The bad news is, my attempts at tipping the scale in Meryl Streep's honor were not successful.

This year's show itself was quite impressive, dare I state "one of the absolute best in recent history?" Despite the nominees and the general atmosphere surrounding event, the show itself can be hit or miss depending on who is producing. This year's producer was a keeper, indeed, and should serve as a model for future broadcasts.

The most impressive feat? An across-the-board elimination of all the eye-roll-inducing show fat. The worst offender, the Irving J. Thalberg award? Gone! Never mentioned. I would apologize to all of the Irving J. Thalberg fans out there if I believed there were any. I don't mean to dismiss the accomplishments of anyone who managed any sort of artist longevity out there, but seriously, if someone like me had to wikipedia this man and the person receiving the award, does it really belong in the last half hour of the show, between the Best Actor and Actress awards?

Whew. I've been waiting years to get that off my chest...

As for the dance numbers that are such easy targets, they were finally done right. I don't know how, but the opening number with Neil Patrick Harris and a cast of a couple hundred dancers managed to be both elegant and jaunty and lavish and precise all at the same time. And the decision to cut the live performances of each Best Song nominee and replace it with a dance montage to all of the nominated scores? Genius. Who knew you could break dance to the score of Avatar?

The fashion? Perfect. Lots of silvers and golds. Nothing too wacky. No yellow. Old-time elegance that seemed new. My favorite dress? Demi Moore.

And my favorite element, the speeches, didn't disappoint. Yes, there were the ramblers, the starstruck. (On a side note, my advice to future nominees, even if you think you will not win, prepare something. It's only a few minutes and it will be the clip they play when you die.) The first great line was by the co-writer of the Best Song who thanked his wife and said, "I love you more than rainbows, Baby." Awesome. And the guy who won Best Animated short said it took him six years to make the short, adding, "I hope to make a feature and come back in 36 years."

James Taylor singing the Beatles' "In My Life" during the In Memoriam? Perfection. As was the tribute to John Hughes.

I even (or, I guess, especially) loved the tribute to Horror. When I'd first heard about it, I was skeptical. I took is as another desperate attempt to appeal to a younger audience. Which it was, but the desperation fell away and a new generation of Academy Award fans was conceived.

The pairing up Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin was just as good as everyone suspected they would be. I hope they keep that going for many years.

The only negative thing I can say is, I was disappointed there were no surprises. Perhaps the day of the Oscar night surprise winner (the Halle Barry or Marissa Tomei or other underdog) is over. Perhaps this is simply a result of too much media exposure. I don't know. But I will miss it.

Oh, and did anyone notice they brought back the, "And the winner is..." which had been formally replaced by the PC-laden "And the Oscar goes to..." I think that's a good sign. Of what I don't know, but it feels supremely right...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscar Afternoon!

In about five hours, I will be sitting on the couch in my parent's living room, a piece of Domino's pizza in hand, waiting to hear the orchestra open the 82nd Academy Awards.

I've been a fan since before I was old enough to keep myself awake to see the whole broadcast (God knows I tried.) Since my enthusiasms for the show are so tightly woven into my family, I don't think any of us knew how we would proceed once my brother passed away three years ago. I skipped that first one altogether, as it was only a few weeks after the funeral. The next year, I think we were all pleasantly surprised after our initial reluctance. Last year was a blur, I had prepared by watching films, but when it came right down to it, I laid on the couch and drifted in and out of sleep.

But not this year.

This year, I am fully in. And I have preferences.

To begin, I will offer this update on the result of my Meryl-Streep-a-thon, my gimmick for this year. How did I do? Pretty well, I think, considering the sheer volume of films to consider and some availability hurdles.

Streep has made 42 films. Before my quest, I'd seen 19. I then watched 18 (that includes a re-watching of 3 films I hadn't seen for many years.) Not bad for four weeks. My favorite? Probably Sophie's Choice. You could say that was an easy answer, given it is considered her very finest performance. However, I had avoided the film for so many years, thinking it was too heavy to even watch, but found myself caught up in so many awesome elements.

The River Wild was another I was surprised to like. I knew it was an action/adventure show, but it hadn't gotten a lot of notice beyond that. But the script is tight, the tension taut throughout. Totally worth putting in your Netflix. I would also recommend Silkwood (still holds up), Postcards from the Edge (my personal favorite), One True Thing, Angels in America (where she outdoes even herself by playing an elderly rabbi and Ethel Rossenberg), Adaptation, The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia, and It's Complicated.

What I would not recommend are: Falling in Love (bottom of the heap, uninteresting 1980s romance with Robert Dinero), Defending Your Life (Albert Brooks is a whiny boob and ends up with Streep anyway), Before and After (the kid from the Terminator does his best James Dean and makes you want to punch him in the face...on the plus side, Liam Neeson plays Streep's firey artist husband...), and Rendition (great cinematography, but a totally predictable post 9/11 political "drama.")

So I'm hoping that this effort has created some kind of karmic push in Streep's honor tonight.

As for the other films, while I was not thrilled by the addition of five more films into the Best Picture category (I will concede if anyone can convince me this was anything but a PR move...), I did manage to see eight of them. My favorite? Inglourious Basterds. I can't believe it has gotten no attention. It is a superb film, and completely worthy. However, I will not submit to the who will/who should debates. It is a peeve of mine. I believe that if you favor a particular film, you should stand by it, and that's what I'm doing. In the mean time, I will not be upset if any of the other front-runners win.

Except for the Blind Side. I will say, for the record, that if The Blind Side wins for Best Picture, I will stop watching the Academy Awards altogether...

Let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Adaptation Part 2

So I'm into my third week of being home during the day. Not that it took much adjusting - I've been home during the day, on and off, for the better part of two years.

I am, however, getting much better at it.

I'm hoping that doesn't mean that I am slipping blissfully into a slothful existence. In the meantime, it is the awareness of a rationalized shift in perspective that I am enjoying right now.

For example, on the day that I lost my job, I was twenty minutes away from leaving the building to purchase a new car. I'd managed to stash some funds away, done a lot of online research, spent a few Saturdays test driving small 4WD vehicles in the mass snow (that was quite a lot of fun), solicited the opinion of some smart folk, and made my mind up. Much as I had loved my Jeep, I was dead sick of it. The back seat wobbled when I drove because I could never quite get it put back into place by myself. I could constantly hear the flap, flap, flapping of loose electrical tape that I'd used to try to secure a rip in the canvas top. And the thing was filthy. But I did nothing to ease my low-level irritation, because I was trading the damn thing in anyway...

Needless to say, I did not buy a new car. That Friday, however, was that one day when the sun came out long make us believe Spring might not be too far off... I deliberately left my hat and gloves behind and headed out on a mission. I stopped by the Jeep dealership and watched while a wirey little guy wrestled my back seat into submission. I stopped by the local hardware store, asked the resident old guy his advice on adhesive tape, and proceeded to fix my canvas top in the parking lot. Then I drove to the car wash, careful to point out the delicate areas that should avoid the powerwash wand.

All in all, I'm glad for the ability to make the best of things. Although I'm sure the loud noises and perpetually skipping CD player are eventually going to get to me. Hopefully by then, I'll have a new plan.