Sunday, August 13, 2017

Off Facebook

Back in January I said I was going to Facebook less and blog more. I'm not sure the blogging more has actually happened (I seem to rarely blog about anything other than movies I've seen), but I am Facebooking less. Like a lot less - I deactivated my account in March.

Honestly, I didn't think I would be off this long.

And honestly, I don't really miss it all that much. Sure I miss the invites to events, the cute photos of friends' and family's babies/pets. I miss feeling connected to a large group of people.

But I don't miss the time it took up in my life. I don't miss the angst and frustration and anger I got from it. I don't miss the war of words.

I still have Instagram, so I still see pictures. Just a much smaller crowd and less angry commenting. I check out Twitter to get my fix for in-the-moment commentary on pop culture.

I listen to the news in the morning and the evening. Then I turn it off and live life instead of constantly reading opinion pieces, rebuttal pieces, and everyone's thoughts on current issues. Don't get me wrong, a part of me really likes those discussions and, generally, the part I played in bringing issues I care about to people who might not hear a differing opinion. But for sanity and well-being, it wasn't worth it.

I will try blog about more than just movies!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Spider-man: Homecoming

Thursday afternoon I was looking for an escape after receiving semi-bad news. Nothing makes me feel better and forget my worries than the smell of popcorn and a darkened movie theater. There's not a whole lot playing right now that I am interested in seeing (it's the doldrums of late-summer), so I decided to catch up on a mid-summer release that I never saw, Spider-man: Homecoming.

Spider-man is now officially part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, having been let go from his contract with Sony that had relegated him to his own movies (five over twelve years with two actors). He debuted in Captain America: Civil War, and followed it up with his own solo outing this summer.

What Homecoming has going for it is its star, Tom Holland. As much as I liked Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield in the role in their respective films (except for Spider-man 3 and The Amazing Spider-man 2), they were both in their late 20s in their first outing. Because of that, they couldn't quite capture the young, high-school aspect of Peter Parker. Holland nails it.

While Holland is a great Spider-man, and I generally liked Michael Keaton as the villain, the film didn't quite come together for me. It felt oddly paced, and the actions sequences weren't all that spectacular (I actually fell asleep for a quick second during the  Staten Island Ferry sequence. The CGI was obvious, especially with Spider-man himself.

The movie was fun, though. Peter Parker is just a high school kid, trying his darndest to convince Tony Stark to let him be a part of The Avengers. His friend Ned was the perfect "sidekick", providing plenty of laughs. His other friends are okay, and his love interest barely registers; no chemistry and no understanding of why they like each other.

Even though I am over superhero movies, Spider-man: Homecoming wasn't a bad way to spend a night. And it (and the popcorn) made me feel a little bit better.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Bachelorette: Settling??

The Bachelorette finale aired Monday, and since I don't have cable and ABC is practically impossible to get on antenna (and through streaming unless you live in one of eight markets), I had to wait until Tuesday night to watch it (thanks to the login of my friend's brother-in-law! Seriously none of my friends have cable anymore). I like being part of the public conversation of live events, so it was really hard to avoid social media and websites so I wouldn't be spoiled.

I was sure bachelorette Rachel would pick Peter. Both gap-toothed, they had great chemistry and seemed to really talk when they were together. Obviously, there is a lot of editing done on the show so we are only seeing what producers intend to make a good story. But really, they just seemed so right together. Also, the other front-runner, Bryan, I have disliked from the start - aggressive, sloppy kisser; charmer; just..ugh.

Only problem with Peter, though (at least according to what we were shown), was that he didn't feel ready to be engaged at the end. The premise of the show is to find love and get engaged. But that's the problem - it assumes getting engaged is the only logical step after deciding you are in love with someone. When, in reality, people who had been on three or four dates and weren't dating twenty other people simultaneously would decide to get to know each other more before getting engaged.

Rachel wanted a fiance, not a boyfriend. A fact she made clear multiple times. However, Peter also made it clear he wasn't ready to propose, and yet she continue to give him roses until he was one of the last two remaining. When they had their final night together, they had a brutal ending that felt entirely too real to anyone who has experienced a break up.

I've only felt real emotions twice before while watching The Bachelor/Bachelorette - when Jason broke up with Molly during the After the Final Rose, and when Brooks ended things with Desiree during his hometown. This break up between Rachel and Peter was devastating to watch, and I didn't want to believe it was the end. But then Chris Harrison, live in studio, said that that was the last time Rachel saw Peter.

NOOOOOOOO. I for real kept waiting for some twist to happen. Nothing. The show went on, with absolutely no suspense or intrigue and, honestly, no passion in Bryan's proposal to Rachel.

Only Rachel really knows why she made the choices she did. Based on what was broadcast, it looks like she was settling. The breakup with passionate, the proposal was not. It seemed she had to go with Bryan because he was the only one left out of default. It didn't help that Rachel insisted on getting a ring at the end, not a boyfriend. But having a ring is no guarantee that you will get married. It reminds of the movie He's Just Not That Into You. Ben Affleck is dating Jennifer Aniston. She wants to get married, but he doesn't see the need; he loves her and wants to be with just her - why do they have to get married? She realizes that being committed and in love is what is important (he ends up proposing anyway, which I was okay with because they had been dating seven years, living together, and he saw that it was important to her after they both compromised).

I have to completely agree with Peter on his thinking about engagement. It's not something done when still getting to know each other; it's done when you know for sure that is the person you want to be with forever. I believe in long courtships and short engagements, because once a couple is engaged it's just one short step to getting married.

Now Rachel is talking about her and Bryan getting to know one another, not sure where they will live, taking it slow. But they're engaged. So apparently that's better??

I still struggle with many gender roles and tropes that the franchise embraces. Why must Rachel wait for one of the men to propose to her? It's her show, why can't she?! Why must we still have the men asking the dad's permission to marry their daughter?! This is 2017! Why are we still so fixated on worth tied to being engaged/married and using it as a barometer of success? Rachel is already successful in life.

It was a pretty good season, and I was incredibly disappointed in the finale. We'll see what happens with the relationship, but the franchise does not have a great track record (although better with Bachelorettes than Bachelors).

Sunday, July 30, 2017


Saturday afternoon I went with my friends to see Dunkirk. I didn't have an overwhelming desire to see this film, but Suzi asked and I like most of the people involved with the film - notably Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy (I joked that it was actually Harry Styles). I also generally like Christopher Nolan films.

The film, obviously, tells the story of the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk, where the troops were cornered and stranded in the early days of WWII. The film drops in on the troops, telling the story from one week on the beach, one day on a little ship that answered the call to rescue, and one hour of an RAF pilot, without any backstory. Mos of the characters weren't even given names (in the credits, Cillian Murphy's character is "Shivering Soldier") and it actually worked really well. Not that I don't love a good character-study against the backdrop of war a-la Spielberg's masterful Saving Private Ryan, but with Dunkirk Nolan found a way to make a war film that is touching without backstory.

Even though we don't know the soldiers' names it's easy to care about them. We feel their desperation, their sadness, their fight to want to survive. The actors are all up to the task, but Hans Zimmer's score assists. It's restrained and bombastic at just the right moments. When the little boats start arriving at Dunkirk and the troops start to cheer and the music swells it was perfect; I got rather emotional.

It's a great film that I recommend. It's not a bloody, violent war film, so if that turns you off then this is the perfect film for you.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Big Sick

I went into my Tuesday night showing of The Big Sick with high expectations. Good press. Good reviews. Premiered at Sundance.

It met all my expectations, and then exceeded them. I left the theater feeling like I had seen a perfect movie.

The film centers around Kumail, a Pakistani-American comedian and the woman, Emily, he falls in love with after meeting at one of his shows (when she's "heckling" him on stage). Emily is white, a tough thing to take home to his Muslim parents who are trying to arrange a marriage for him with a Pakistani woman. When Emily gets sick and has to be put into a coma, Kumail is forced into close quarters with Emily's parents.

That may not sound awesome, but I assure you, it is. I knew I'd like the film when, right off, there is a joke about becoming a celebrity and getting to hang with Elijah Wood. I literally laughed out loud. And it didn't stop, for me or other people in the audience who were also laughing out loud. I didn't just laugh, though; I also cried, and smiled, and completely related.

Everything in the film feels so real. It captures exactly that feeling of meeting someone new and what a new relationship is like. Kumail and Emily are real people (for real, though - the film is the story of how real Kumail and Emily, now married, met and is written by them) and they have real moments, fights, emotions and feelings.

The film is produced by Judd Appatow, who is credited with "discovering" Lena Dunham and giving Amy Schumer her movie breakthrough (I like Girls but think Trainwreck was just that). His films are generally known for being a tad too long, but at two hours, I thought The Big Sick was just right and didn't need any trimming or tightening.

I very highly recommend this movie to everyone.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Garth Brooks Concert

I was already rediscovering country music this week when I overheard a coworker talking about being offered tickets to the Friday concert of Garth Brooks. I immediately searched online to see when he was playing. Turns out he already came to Dallas and I missed it, but he was playing four shows over two days in Oklahoma City - Friday and Saturday.

So I bought a ticket Friday morning! I was sure I would have to pay a crap-ton of money for a seat at the very edge, but I didn't! Imagine my surprise when all tickets on Ticketmaster were marked at $65 - and I mean every ticket. I learned that Garth doesn't believe in ticket-gouging, so he sets all tickets in the venue at the same price and forbids tickets to be resold at exorbitant markups. This. Is. Fantastic. I wish all artists did this. 

I bought a ticket for the 3:00 p.m. showing on Saturday and made the relatively short drive to OKC. I found awesome, cheap parking a block or so away. Downtown OKC was packed! In addition to the two Garth Brooks shows, there was also an event at the Art Museum and a minor league baseball game. 

I loved my seat in the middle section of the arena. The show opened with Mitch Rossell, a new-on-the-scene Nashville artist, who sand three songs. That was just the right amount - people came to see Garth and Trisha! It was only about twenty minutes later when Garth came out (since there was a second show at 7:00 there could not be any dilly-dallying). 

He opened with "Rodeo", one of his most country-sounding songs. Garth made it a point to let us know that he would be playing the classics. And he did. He played all the classics (except for my favorite, "The Red Strokes"). When he started the notes for "In Another's Eyes" I knew Trisha would be making her appearance! They performed this song on The Tonight Show and they used it for the "official" video (I'd link to it, but Garth is notorious for not letting his official videos  have homes on YouTube, which sucks because Garth makes really great videos). 

After the duet Garth left the stage (likely needing, and deserving, a break) and Trisha took over. She is a fantastic singer and I love her personality. She sang her hits, too - "How Do I Live", "She's in Love With the Boy", and a ballad for cancer survivors. 

Garth came back out and continued with the hits. "Shameless" was great, but used a weird light combination. "Callin' Baton Rouge" was excitedly rousing. I wasn't sure which song would be his closing song, since he already played all of his biggest hits (and I'm not use which of them is considered to be the biggest). He ended up closing out the show with "Standing Outside the Fire", which was a great choice. 

Garth came back for the encore with just him and his guitar. Trisha came out and they sang a George Jones/Tammy Wynette duet before Garth requested his favorite Trisha Yearwood song, "Walkaway Joe." This song is a classic and she sang the crap out of it. 

The band came back out (all of them have been playing with Garth and Trisha since '91/'92!) and took their bows (I forget what song they ended up playing...). Garth still puts on a good show, even if, by his own admission, sometimes the guitar he's strumming isn't live (maybe his vocals aren't live either...). I like the band and what they can do, but a big part of me likes it when it's just Garth (or any musician) on the stage with just their guitar. Garth is a showman, and he still has it after all these years. Him and Trisha make a great pair and put on a great concert. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Rediscovering Country Music

I use just two of the presets in my car radio - preset 1 is 90.1, KERA/NPR, and preset 3 is 91.7 KXT. One day earlier in the week my finger missed preset 3 and hit preset 4 instead. I have no idea what any other preset is set to, so I was surprised to all of a sudden be hearing country music.

It's been an awfully long time since I have listened to country music. I haven't ever really been the target demographic for country music - I didn't grow up on a farm, I wasn't a member of FFA, I never owned boots or a truck or a cowboy hat; lots of the songs I don't relate to (beer, fishing, living in the country). But some country I really liked, and my sister and I would spend a decent amount of time watching CMT while growing up (our favorite was the Labor Day Top 100 Countdown). When Em and I lived together in West Valley, country was a big part of our rotation. We attended multiple Tim McGraw concerts (Em's favorite), along with Rascal Flatts, Chris Cagle, and Lady Antebellum. Gary Allan is one of my favorites ("Songs About Rain" is one of my favorite songs ever).

But then I moved to New York City, which didn't have a country station. It's not like I had a car, anyway, to listen to the radio while commuting. I also didn't have cable, so country music sort of went by the wayside. Musical tastes change for lots of people, and an interest in country music was one that changed for me.

So when I accidentally switched the radio to the local country station I was a little curious. I randomly came across the latest single from Garth Brooks, "Ask Me How I Know", as it was the song playing when I landed on the station. I liked it. And I kept listening to the channel randomly during the week.

I like the memories that I'm reminded of when I hear certain songs.

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