Sunday, June 28, 2015

What's Your Agenda

I've heard a lot of comments recently about a "gay agenda." This bothers me, as if gay people have some sinister agenda to bring down all of society and civilization. That is just ridiculous. Gay people do not want to turn you gay. They do not want you to do everything they do. They really just want you to recognize that they are just like you and me. They love and create families and want to get married. Just like you and me.

Here in Denton, during the summer we have Twilight Tunes on Thursday evenings. Everyone and their dog (literally) comes to the Square with their camping chairs, family, and food to listen to some music and have a good time. Twice I set up my single camping chair close to a couple with a newborn baby. They had all the requisite things everyone else had: food, chairs, stroller. They even spent some of the time checking their phones, just like everyone else.

This couple is also same-sex.

They were just doing what everyone else was doing.

I also think that the "gay agenda" is quite similar to the "mormon agenda" I've been taught nearly my whole life: get married.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Marriage For All!

Today the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled that marriage is a right for everyone - same-sex and opposite-sex couples. I heard the news from a co-worker who was talking about it in the hallway. I immediately went to NPR to read about it. Yep, it was true. And I just felt good. So good. And happy. Things felt right in the world.

I searched out the ruling and majority opinion, and it is a fabulous read. I hope everyone reads it. I would like to quote all of it here, but that would be silly. But here are some excerpts:

 "This does not mean that the right to marry is less meaningful for those who do not or cannot have children. Precedent protects the right of a married couple not to procreate, so the right to marry cannot be conditioned on the capacity or commitment to procreate."

"States have contributed to the fundamental character of marriage by placing it at the center of many facets of the legal and social order. There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle, yet same-sex couple are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage and are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would find intolerable. It is demeaning to lock same-sex couples out of a central institution of the Nation's society, for they too may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage."

"Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right."

"The respondents have not shown a foundation for the conclusion that allowing same-sex marriage will cause the harmful outcomes they describe. Indeed, with respect to this asserted basis for excluding same-sex couples from the right to marry, it is appropriate to observe these cases involve only the rights of two consenting adults whose marriages would pose no risk of harm to themselves or third parties."

"As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. It is so ordered."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Bigger Boat

There is nothing better than seeing a classic film for the first time on the big screen. Seeing The Godfather in NYC at Film Forum is a seminal moment for me, and one of my most favorite memories of living in the City.

Tonight, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its release, I saw a screening of Jaws at my local movie house. I was a film major, and yet I had never seen Jaws. I have seen clips, and stills, and heard all the stories. None of that prepared me for the film.

Everything that everyone says about it is true.This was Spielberg's second feature-length film, before he was "Spielberg", but some young kid fresh out of film school; his knack for directing is apparent. The effects are practical and real.

What I loved most was the feeling of sheer terror and amazement. It's a pretty well-known story that the mechanical shark did not work properly, causing Spielberg to instead show us the shark's view point as opposed to the shark itself. This is highly effective, so when you do see the shark it scares the crap out of you. However, the scene that really made me jump and literally spill popcorn all over me was the fisherman's head in the boat.

For being an unknown director, Spielberg was able to get some great actors. Perhaps at the time they were unknown, too, but trio of Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss is solid. Scheider is perfect in his role of the water-averse Chief Brody; Robert Shaw kills it as fisherman Quint and delivers one of the best monologues in film; and Richard Dreyfuss. Dang. I have a crush on 1974 Richard Dreyfuss with his curly hair, beard, glasses and denim jacket.

The music is classic. Everyone knows those notes. The score is truly a part of the film and adds to the terror. Music is fantastically important to a film, and this one gets it right in every way.

Jaws single-handedly created the summer blockbuster. It launched the long and fabulous career of Steven Spielberg (however, I sort of miss the Spielberg of old, when it seemed he was having fun making movies. I saw the preview for his latest film, with Tom Hanks, and worse than being underwhelmed, I didn't have any desire to see it). It lives up to the hype of being a classic.

Also, the movie is full of bikes. People are riding them all over this movie! The 70s were a pretty great time for bikes. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

My Dad is 65

My dad was born in 1950, making this year his 65th birthday. My stepmom put together a surprise birthday party for him. And since I love surprises, I was game. I bought plane tickets to Las Vegas.

Today is my dad's 65th birthday! I was able to spend the weekend with him in Vegas to celebrate the momentous birthday (and Father's Day). Thanks for my stepmom for planning the surprise party. My brother and his family also came down for the weekend, and we spent Saturday having cake and playing in the pool. I haven't seen family since Christmas (and my dad in January when he helped me move to Denton), so it was nice to see them.


Thursday, June 18, 2015

More of Everything: Jurassic World

When I saw the first teaser trailer for Jurassic World, with the notes of John Williams' score that everyone knows so well, I got excited. Super excited. Jurassic Park is a fairly definitive masterpiece in my opinion.

Then I saw the full trailer and my expectations were tempered. This is why trailers are so important - they set the tone for what a movie is going to be. When I saw the trailer, I got the first look of what the movie was going to be about. I guess I thought it was going to be more like the first, but the trailer showed it was going to be a little bit different.

And the movie isn't bad. I just didn't LOVE it. As soon as Vincent D'Onofrio started talking about using the velociraptors for the military, I checked out. That was just ridiculous to me. And it was so obvious he was going to be the bad guy. I was actually surprised he didn't get eaten in the end (he didn't, right? I can't remember now).

This movie has everything Jurassic Park didn't, and that's not a compliment. Huge effects (I like the animatronic dinos). Huge sets (remember how the first one was just a group of people on an island?). A romance (sometimes guys and girls are just friends and/or colleagues). Lots of plot going on (lots of characters, and none of them particularly memorable like Samuel L. Jackson or Newman). Corporate sponsorship (So. Many. Sponsors.). Regular people doing ridiculous things (Dr. Grant was an actual anthropologist who studied dinosaurs, so was Dr. Sattler. Owen and Claire are not, which makes them less believable). I think Spielberg's Jurassic Park is a great example of how you don't  need any of those things to make your movie a summer blockbuster.

Then I wondered if maybe I was missing the point. Maybe the film/director was trying to make a sly commentary on the nature of corporate greed and how we are always wanting things bigger and better, that we are bored easily and will do whatever it takes to keep ourselves intrigued. If that was the case, I think he missed the subtlety.

It's a decent movie, but I would recommend to anyone to just watch Jurassic Park instead.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

deadCENTER Film Festival

Friday afternoon I was looking into things to do for the weekend. I googled "things to do in Oklahoma City" and discovered that they have a yearly film festival, and it just so happened to be that weekend.

OKC is only two and a half hours away, so the drive wasn't all that bad.

The first film I saw I wasn't too terribly impressed with. I felt like the director just wanted to make a movie about himself. It wasn't interesting or thoughtful or exciting. I get the feeling he is one of those people who likes to hear themselves talk.

I walked across downtown to check out a second film at the OKC Museum of Art. This film was from seasoned actor/director/writer Tim Blake Nelson. The film was fantastic. It was just smart all the way around. Afterward there was a Q/A with the director and it was great to get little insights into what he had done. The film could be compared to Crash as it has a similar story structure. Someone in the audience even asked if it was an influence on his film. I cringed, because while I knew it was similar to Crash, this one is ten times the film that is. Nelson answered the question quite well, allowing his film to stand on its own feet without having to resort to bashing Crash. The film, Anesthesia, is getting released through IFC (at some point). I hope it does well and gets well-received by audiences (festival crowds cannot be trusted...generally).

It was a lovely night and I was glad to be able to walk through downtown back to my car. I love downtowns and cities and the lights and the atmosphere. OKC is experiencing a revitalization and I am excited to visit again and see what they've done.

Best Picture: Terms of Endearment

I am attempting to watch all the Best Picture winners as part of a "35 by 35" list I made last year. I am not doing well with the list. I decided that I could start with the easy ones, the ones that required me to search what was on Netflix and press play.

I found Terms of Endearment and pressed play. The movie came out in 1983, and was awarded not only Best Picture, but also Best Director, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor. People love this film, even Roger Ebert. This was one of those instances where I did not agree with the Academy or Ebert.

The film is sentimental and schmaltzy. Which is fine, it just wasn't my particular brand of sentiment and schmaltz. Mainly because I was too bored to care. We are introduced to Aurora Greenway, a supposedly career-defining character for Shirley MacLaine. It's the night before her daughter's wedding, and she tells her that she should not marry him because he essentially doesn't have life plans grand enough - just being a teacher. This is immediately forgiven in a few weeks when she apologizes.

Which brings us to the daughter, Emma. She has no backbone. She is naturally a happy, optimistic person, which is great considering the woman who raised her. And I did sympathize with her.

Aurora is entirely defined by the men in her life. Her husband died young and she has spent the intervening years surrounding herself with men she doesn't intend to do anything with, sexual or otherwise. On a whim she decides to approach her neighbor, an astronaut who has lived next to her for years. He is played by Jack Nicholson, which is all you really need to know about the character. They have some false starts, which last years, but they finally get together. Well sort of. He can't be tied down, feel accountable, etc. She doesn't become anybody until she's with him. That is lame.

Emma chooses to have an affair with a banker. She suspects her husband is having an affar, so I guess that is her justification. This storyline was just sad.

Emma later gets cancer and dies. Do I have to say Spoiler Alert if this movie has been around since I was born? And what do you know, astronaut Jack turns out to be a great guy. And Emma's husband, who is named Flap (that should've have been the reason her mom didn't want her to marry him), just gives his kids up.

The score for the film was over the top. It was as if the director, James L. Brooks, wasn't sure his audience would know what to feel. So he ratcheted up the sappy music. It was not effective. I know that directing is more than just the camera movement, but I felt he staged his movie rather lacklusterly.

I thought there was one beautiful shot: Emma says goodbye to her banker, played by John Lithgow, and when she drives away he is shot against a red neon sign. I thought it was beautiful.

I am honestly confused as to why this movie gets so much love. Maybe I had to live in the moment to get it. Maybe it was a weak year for competition. Other than The Big Chill, I'm not familiar with the other nominees. I would say you could pass on this one.

Disclaimer: I am not anti-sentimentality and schmaltz. I actually love it. This one just wasn't executed well, in my opinion.

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