Thursday, January 28, 2016

That's Not My Job (It's My Hobby)

Sometimes I wish that my life was just watching movies and talking about them. This usually happens after I've had a weekend of seeing awesome movies, such as the recent MLK weekend when I saw Brooklyn and Room. Last week I had a conversation with a co-worker just about movies and the Oscars and the attached controversy to this year's telecast. This week is the Sundance Film Festival and I wish I was in SLC just watching movies all week long.

Then I realized that the last five of seven blog posts was about movies. So, yeah, a lot of my life is movies. It's just not my job. I'm pretty happy that I have a lot of free time outside my 8-5 job to see movies.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bridge of Spies

I had absolutely no interest in seeing Bridge of Spies. Had it not been nominated for Best Picture it would never have been seen. But it was, and I lucked out that it's still playing in the dollar theater here in Denton. I went in hoping I would be pleasantly surprised and at least a little entertained.

I was not. This film could not capture my interest. Tom Hanks, to me, was phoning it in. Spielberg didn't do anything unique or interesting. Neither did his frequent collaborate, D.P. Janusz Kaminski. I understand the decision to shoot the film in monochromatic greys, but the over use of white light at the windows really bothered me. The film looked incredibly dull to me.

I didn't particularly care about any of the characters. I know I'm supposed to, but I didn't. I am supposed to care about the pilot, Gary Francis Powers, and the detained student, Frederic Pryor, but the film didn't spend a lot of time establishing them as characters to care about. I needed more than "They are Americans." I also wasn't particularly invested in Jim Donovan, the insurance lawyer chosen to first defend a Soviet spy and then negotiate a swap of prisoners. I know he has a wife and a family, but I never quite connected with him as a character.

The film is straightforward and lacking in subtlety. Donovan actually says, "Every life matters." I believe that too, and I appreciate what he did. but every thing was a bit too on-the-nose. The film was written by the Coen brothers, which surprised me when I was watching the credits. They are generally better at creating interesting characters and thoughtful dialogue.

Bottom line: I don't really recommend this movie. However, the people in the theater with me all seemed to really like it; they even laughed. . They were also all a lot older than me, so I think the demographic skews older.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


I did a double-header on Monday and saw Brooklyn (again) and another Oscar-nominated film, Room. This was my first time going to the Angelika Film Center in Plano and I was very impressed. I believe I will be making more trips there (although, I'm also quite impressed with the Cinemark in Denton to get a fair share of the so-called "indy" movies).

Room is the story of a woman and her son, she taken against her will and held captive in a 10'x10' shed for seven years and he the child born to her while living in captivity. They live in Room. Well, Jack is living but Ma is just surviving. She has created a world for Jack in Room; she's taught him to read and wonder about things. But it's clear that she is near the end of what she can handle.

She devises a daring escape plan, and I admit that my heart was POUNDING as it all played out. I was so concerned for Jack and if he'd make it out. Then I was concerned about Ma and what would happen to her. I was scared for them, and then overwhelmingly happy for them when they were reunited.

I went into the movie not knowing much about it, and I'm glad that only half of the movie was in Room. I was already starting to get bored of it and wondered how the film would spend the entire time there. Thankfully we get the second half of the movie, wherein Ma and Jack adapt to the world outside of Room. The real world.

And I'm glad the film goes this way (based on a book, so I guess I'm glad the book went this direction), because the conflict and sadness of the outside world is moving. Jack can't believe this whole other world exists, but he seems to be adapting well. Ma, known as Joy in the real world, is the one who really struggles. And why wouldn't she. She is the one who knew what was outside Room, what was happening to her inside Room, and was psychologically beat down.

The film is emotional and I cried quite a bit. I always like William H. Macy and his role as Joy's father is terribly sad. Joan Allen is wonderful as Joy's mom, Nancy, as is her boyfriend, Leo, and his dog. When Nancy is cutting Jack's hair and he says he loves her my little heart burst and tears of joy ran down my face. Love is love.

I especially like that the film is seen through Jack's perspective. His voice overs were my favorite part, as they so perfectly captured the world as seen through a five year-old's perspective. I think it's a shame he wasn't nominated for an Oscar - his performance is marvelous.

When this movie and its star, Brie Larson, started getting a lot of buzz, I confused her with Alison Brie. The names are similar, and even though everything said "Brie Larson" my mind still went to Alison Brie. So when I saw a picture of Brie Larson getting an award for this film, I had to do a double-take. My instant thought was, "That's not Alison Brie!" Then I realized I had the wrong actress.

Bottom line: this is an emotional story that I think is done quite well. I'm glad it doesn't spend too much in Room. The performances really make this film worth it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Year in Denton

You guys, I've been in Denton a whole year. A year to the day. Where does the time go?

It's amazing how fast a place you had never heard of until you applied for a job there can become home. How fast you can love the place you live and all the people in it. Sometimes I feel like I got so incredibly lucky to end up here that I just can't believe it.

I have been lucky that each time I've moved to a different state a family member has helped me. My mom and sister helped me move to NYC. My sister helped me move back to SLC. My mom and niece, Ivy, helped me move to Topeka. And my dad and amazing bosom friend, Janae, helped me move to Denton. Each time my helpers boarded a plane and left me alone in my new city I cried or was sad.

Except in Denton. Perhaps it was because I'm an old pro at this now and moving and living away from family and friends is easier to deal with. Maybe I'm just meant to be in Denton.

Here's a few photos of Denton landmarks - the sign at the train station, the famous Campus Theater at sunset, the landmark Morrison's Corn Kits, the Courthouse on Flag Day, and the shoe shop off the Square.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Last week on the day Oscar nominations were announced I crossed another Best Pic nominee off my list: Brooklyn. After seeing it I simultaneously wished I had already seen and that I could see it again (which I did on MLK Day).

That's how much I love this movie. I love literally everything about this movie. I love the sweet, beautiful, charming, real story it tells. I love the actors who so fully portray these characters that are living life.

This film so wonderfully captures what it's like to feel homesick. Like Eilis, I, too, left my family and moved to a city where I didn't know anyone. Granted, I didn't have to travel by boat and I definitely did not meet a charming Italian, but I felt those feelings. I love when Eilis is talking to Father Food and he tells her that "homesickness is like any other sickness - it makes you feel wretched and then it moves on to someone else."

I have been writing this review for a week now. I'm just going to make bullets points of everything I loved:
  • when Eilis is on the boat waving goodbye to her sister I got super emotional. My sister came to visit me one time when I lived in NYC. When she left and I was alone at the airport, I found the nearest bathroom and cried in a stall. Yeah, I feel that scene
  • the love story just plays out so naturally. There's no added drama.
  • I adore Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters in their small but wonderful roles. 
  • I love that Eilis and Tony both wear watches. 
  • I love that there was no villain. That's pretty rare for a movie. Usually there is some person in the story who makes life difficult for our heroine, someone who is mean and nasty. And I think that is rarely the case in real life. 
  • I kept expecting something bad to happen, like Tony being a creep or abusive or something. That's what I expect from movies now! But he wasn't. He was perfect. 
  • I love the scene when Eilis is talking with one of her roommates in the bathroom. It's funny (I for real laughed out loud when her roommate said, "No, I want to be single and share a bathroom forever." Ha! 
  • I love the scene when Eilis is helping to feed the old men on Christmas Day and that one gentleman sang. So beautiful. I loved how Saorise Ronan displayed all the emotions of missing home on her face. 
  • I love the scene of her leaving the church on Christmas Day, with the lightly falling snow and Eilis wearing a red coat. 
  • I love the image of Eilis in the mirror as she ate at the diner. It was beautifully framed. 
  • I love that Eilis took time to assess her feelings and be smart. I love that she knew what she wanted. 
  • I love the beautiful costumes.
  • I love her boss and that she was kind and helpful. It could have been an opportunity to create a villain but instead they went with making her a normal person. I feel like life is full of people willing to help, not villains.  
  • I love that Coney Island scene, when they show up wearing sunglasses and looking so cool. 
  • I love the ending scene and Eilis' voiceover about discovering where your life is. 
  • I love that there is so much love in this movie.
I'm just going to share some quotes from people who reviewed the movie, because for some reason I am utterly failing in writing my own:
"Brooklyn is a very nice movie. It’s an arthouse picture for people who don’t frequent arthouses—a tale of cultural displacement so sanitized and swooningly romantic that film buffs could recommend it to their parents and grandparents without hesitation. All of that may sound like a slam, but it’s not meant to be. It’s not easy to make a movie as beautiful as Brooklyn, where the stakes are low but the outcome really matters. This is an old-fashioned entertainment, but one so masterfully crafted and heartfelt that it’s hard not to love." From The A.V. Club

"People have spoken about how understated and old-fashioned “Brooklyn” is, to the extent that it might come across as a pleasant innocuous entertainment. Don’t be fooled. “Brooklyn” is not toothless. But it is big-hearted, romantic and beautiful. " From

And my favorite (although I dislike his line in the review that refers to Eilis being "shy and virginal"; I think both are an incorrect characterization of Eilis)
"There will be bigger, wilder, weightier movies this year, but none lovelier than Brooklyn. I relished every moonstruck minute of it." From Rolling Stone.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Tank of Gas

I had to put gas in my car tonight to make the drive out to Prosper for my monthly Bunco group. This isn't really a momentous occassion worth noting (or blogging about), except that the last time I got gas it was 2015. December 3 to be exact. Six weeks on one tank of gas.

In the time between gas fill-ups, I made three tips out to Prosper (Bunco, New Year's Eve, and a baby shower). It's forty-four miles roundtrip from my house to the Clements'. Those were my longest trips. The rest were trips to the grocery store or the rec center or to UNT or to the movie theater.

Do you know why I was able to go six weeks on one tank of gas? I live close to where I work and walk there every day. I live close to food if I want to eat out and to the grocery store, so I can either walk or ride my bike to either. And if I do drive, it's about a mile. I was able to take the train to the airport when I went home for Christmas, saving myself seventy or so miles. I can walk to a nearby trail. I'm also a bit of a homebody, so that help, too. :)

My point is that I have transportation options. And I love it. And I want everyone to have options so the single-occupancy-vehicle isn't the only option.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Revenant

Saturday morning I went to an early showing of "The Revenant", because the Golden Globes were the next day and this film was getting major Oscar talk. Leo won Sunday night, along with the director and the film, and today was awarded with twelve Oscar nominations. So it's about time I write my review.

I am a fan of Alejandro G. Innaritu and Leonardo DiCaprio, so I was interested in the film. I also had heard that it was shot in mostly natural light, which always piques my interest. But when I saw the first trailer, I was not immediately excited to see it.

Leonardo does an excellent job. Innaritu does an excellent job. But something still fell flat for me on this one. Don't get me wrong, the stuff on film is quite awesome and beautiful to look at. The shots of the wilderness are beautiful and evoke still images. After awhile, though, the story just didn't hold my attention.The camera work was distracting to me. Instead of adding to the story, it distracted from the movie. It felt like technical wizardy and achievement for the sake of technical wizardly and achievement.

At the Globes, some of the winners mentioned that this was a story about the "triumph of the human spirit." I think that is grossly wrong. Yes, Hugh Glass survives a bear mauling and being buried alive, survives clashes with the frontier, and eventually meets up with the man who is started the chain of events. It is a tale of one man's revenge, to stop at nothing - not being buried, not riding a horse off a cliff, not sleeping inside a dead horse, not floating down a river - to get the man who killed his son and left him for dead. Revenge tales are fine stories to tell (Unforgiven, Gladiator, Braveheart, The Count of Monte Cristo), but let's not say that this is a story about the triumph of the human spirit.

Bottom line: the film ended up being more form than function for me. Beautiful to look at, but not terribly interesting story-wise. I want my films to look good  and tell interesting stories. Still pulling for Leo on Oscar night, though; his performance is pretty spectacular. Well, also Michael Fassbender. Because he's stellar. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Big Short

You may remember that back in 2008 the economy crashed and we entered the Great Recession. Banks failed and the government bailed them out. What you might not now is the story of the people who saw it coming but weren't taken seriously.

Such is the subject of The Big Short, the Adam McKay-directed ensemble about Wall Street. McKay most usually makes comedies starring Will Ferrell, so possibly not the first choice when deciding to make a film about the financial meltdown that lost people not only their jobs but their savings and retirements. But he's actually perfect for the film, as he makes comedy out of bad situation.

One of my favorite things was the breaking of the fourth wall, as actors in character noted that "Yes, this actually happened," or "No, this didn't happen exactly like this." The fourth wall is also broken when unknown banking terms or concepts need to be explained, either through on-screen footnotes or celebrities explaining the concepts in easier-to-understand terms. I complemented the entire tone of the film, which is surprisingly funny (considering the subject matter).

The movie is good. Really good. Please watch it. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

My Best of 2015

Here's my personal "Best of" lists for 2015.

I see a lot of movies (well, I think it's a lot, but it's likely fairly average). I try to write about all the movies I see, but I've been a major slacker about blogging this past year. I also keep all my ticket stubs; however they all go into a container with previous years. I also have a dreadful memory. So what I'm saying is that this list will likely be filled with only movies I blogged about (it's in no way, though, all the movies I saw this past year).
The Good
The Martian
Jaws (obviously not released this year, but I saw it this year, so....)
Steve Jobs
The Not Good
Jurassic World

I don't watch a lot of TV anymore. At least not "appointment" television. 
Downton Abbey   I watch this every January, however the plausibility of the show has fallen steeply since Season 2/3. My interest in it this season hinges on Matthew Goode.
Jane the Virgin caught my attention quickly when I discovered it on Netflix. It was funny and clever and a nice send-up of telenovelas. But then it started relying too much on the love triangle (I abhor love triangles) and I have very quickly lost interest in Season 2.
Parks and Recreation ended this year, but it's been awhile since this was appointment television for me. However, it's still one of my favorite television shows and I enjoyed the finale.
I spent a month or so rewatching The Good Wife to catch up on Season 6. This show really was fantastic...until Season 6 when Alicia ran for State's Attorney. They also completely wasted Matthew Goode. 

I don't listen to the regular radio much, so I don't quite know what the newest music is (I shazamed I song I was listening to at an event and discovered it was Justin Beiber). I'm very glad for KXT 91.7 for introducing me to the following two songs:
"Midnight" by Tor Miller - it's about NYC and sad lovers, and is therefore perfect.
"Things Happen" by Dawes

I discovered "Serial" a few weeks ago and it was amazing. I would listen to it on my lunch break as I walked at the Civic Center. I loved finding out new information and angles each week to the story of Adnan.

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. I saw the movie first and then immediately went out to buy the book. As is generally the case, the book gives more character details and there were many passages that I underlined.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel tells the tale of a group of survivors after a world-wide flu epidemic has decimated the population. The story is told non-linearally and it works really well. I especially enjoyed how all the character stories eventually came together, but also that nothing was cliche.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 Recap

 You know what happened in 2015? A lot of things, naturally, but for me 2015 can be summed up by three awesome events:

1. Moved to Denton, Texas
2. The Royals won the World Series
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 Of course there were other exciting/non-exciting things to happen in 2015. There were a couple road trips to discover my new state.There was the North Texas State Fair and the Texas State Fair. There was Bike Month and Pedestrian Safety Week. There were trips to Kansas and visits from family and friends. There were lots of movies. There was ice days and heat. There was a trip to Portland and lots of bike riding.

There were long days and work and busy days at work. There wre days at the Community Market and community bike rides. There were Netflix-binges and catching up on old show on Amazon Prime.

There were moments of sadness and moments of joy. There were bad choices made and good choices made. There was struggle and questioning and second-guessing. There was exquisite moments of happiness and excitement and surety.

It was a pretty great year, and if 2016 wants to be the same it better bring its A-game.

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