December 18, 2009

Dorkus maximus

What do these names make you think?


They're all so dorky, it cracks me up that these are professional basketball player names. Even the more obvious ones - Elton or Shaquille, anyone? - would be so embarrassing if you were a "normal" 7th grader. I mean, Dirk? German nationality aside, it's only one letter away from being Dork. (And yes, I do know that I "misspelled" Dwyane.)

December 17, 2009

Man of the Month: December

I actually chose a new Man of the Month at the beginning of December, but never finished a proper blog entry about him. So, let's just cut to the chase: This month's MotM is Peter Krause (apparently pronounced Kraus-eh).

Now, he might not play too many likable characters (I chose him as Man of the Month while watching an episode of 'Six Feet Under' where he did nothing but scream the F word and trip on drugs), but if you've ever seen 'Sports Night' - the pre-'West Wing' totally underrated Aaron Sorkin half-hour no laugh track dramedy that launched Felicity Huffman - you'll understand why he deserves this honor. And if you haven't, you're missing out.

November 26, 2009

This one goes out to Natalie Merchant.

Tomorrow, over 100 guest will descend on us for 4 days of Thanksgiving Family Camp. It's been a whirlwind of preparation, and it wasn't until tonight that I really thought of it as being Thanksgiving - one of my favorite holidays in the world - tomorrow. Thanksgiving kicks off the best time of year: the holiday season where you have an excuse to tell people how much you love them, all while eating a ton of good food.

So, to get in the spirit, I spent some time tonight while making stuffing getting all teary-eyed thinking about all that I'm thankful for, like:
  • Amazing friends who supported a life-changing decision to quit my job and make a cross-country move.
  • A sister who impresses me everyday with her ability to keep balance in her life AND find time to call me regularly.
  • A new city to explore.
  • A cat who makes me laugh at least once a day.
  • Supportive, smart, amazingly considerate parents.
  • A husband who is smarter, funnier, more considerate and better in every way than every romantic lead in every movie out there.
  • This new community that I work and live in, which is full of diverse, supportive and kind people.
  • A Grandma who, at 95, is in complete control of her mind and getting spunkier every year.
  • To have in-laws that I don't think of as in-laws, just as family.
  • Time to sit around thinking about all the things to love about my life.
  • And also: avocados, campfires, Entertainment Weekly and Ellen Degeneres.
I figure this can also act as a mantra: Tomorrow, as things get really crazy, I will think about this list, and a million other things I could add to it.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

November 25, 2009

Movie Review: The Big Chill

I've always associated 'The Big Chill' with 'Diner'. Possibly because of its release date and large ensemble cast, more likely because they were next to one another in my Netflix queue for years.

While entertained enough and even occasionally moved by the film's depiction of aging friendships, I wasn't blown away. It hasn't aged particularly well, and not just because of its outdated plotlines (like a woman trying to seduce her male friends in order to get pregnant). The thing that put me off the most was its use of self-taped video confessions and conversations. This is a dated device that drives me crazy: Especially in the 80s, filmmakers used it as an attempt to comment on the voyeurism of their characters, but it rarely doesn't feel forced and insincere.

Most of the time, I was wishing the ensemble cast featured other actors, like Andie MacDowell instead of JoBeth Williams, and anyone else except Jeff Goldblum who was clunky in his role as a writer for People magazine who's more ambitious career plans involve opening a club (How noble?). I feel like Glenn Close was only nominated for an Academy Award because she cried, naked. And I won't even bring up Tom Berenger, since I'll never forgive him for not being Tom Bergeron - host of 'Dancing with the Stars' - which cost us a trivia victory. William Hurt & Kevin Kline (though the latter used a totally unnecessary Southern accent) really held the ensemble together.

All this being said, I can see where this film might fit into a film major's curriculum. I especially liked that the filmmaker really used the soundtrack as a storytelling device: While all of the movie takes place in the 80s, it relies on the audience understanding the characters' 60s-based backstories. The soundtrack - jammed full of 60s hits - serves this purpose.

7.5 Twix bars!

November 12, 2009

Movie Review: W.

When talking about movies, I try very hard to talk about more than its plot. I tend to think that if a major motion picture (which I was willing to see) got made, its plot is likely interesting/worthy, so if the movie is lacking in some way, there's probably another aspect of the filmmaking process to blame. But it's awfully hard to keep plot out of it with 'W.'.

It shouldn't surprise you that 'W.' - released a month before Barack Obama was elected as successor to George W. Bush as president and directed by the notorious government conspiracy theorist Oliver Stone - was a bit heavy handed. In case you didn't know Stone's angle beforehand, as soon as the movie starts (once you get past the too-oft-repeated just plain dum' baseball metaphor scene), the point is clear: George W. Bush is dumb. He's mostly good intentioned, but rich, privileged, needy, defensive, arrogant and surrounded by evil doers (whose names rhyme with Rainy and Stove) who only care about power and oil. These people are to blame for anything and everything bad that happened in America between September 12, 2001 and today. Except, you know, in a light-hearted satirical kind of way. I'm on board with all of this, and it still felt like a bit much, so that should tell you something.

One major issue I had with the film is how dated it already feels. Barely a year after its release, when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are painfully and frustratingly front-of-mind, the focus was too much on how and why we got into Iraq without contributing anything new to that discussion.

Let's move beyond plot before I go to lefty on you.

Poor Josh Brolin - over the last three years, he's been in 'Milk' (assassin), 'No Country for Old Men' (cuckhold), 'American Gangster' (corrupt cop) and this (punchline); he's finally becoming legitimate as an actor (Previous credits include: 'Hollow Man,' 'The Mod Squad' and 'Bed of Roses') and all these characters are so darn unlikable!

The movie was prettier than I expected. All those scenes of powerful government figures, walking outdoors so their conversations don't get bugged, were full of light in all the right places.

It pains me to say it, because I think she is out-of-control beautiful and a very underrated actress, but Thandie Newton was distractingly bad. Her attempt at Condoleeza Rice was so focused on the voice that it seemed like she was playing her in an SNL parody. This stood out especially in comparison to the void of an accent from James Cromwell, who was playing George Bush Senior. Clearly, George HW Bush has an accent; Cromwell chose to play him without one. Fine, but then an accent imitation shouldn't be the main focal point of any other character.

Here is something I don't often pick up on: The score. There was nothing out of the ordinary with this movie's score until an hour and a half into it: We're in a pivotal scene, a war room of sorts - Lines are being drawn, speeches are being made...and horribly ridiculous piano notes start coming from nowhere. They crescendo as Jeffrey Wright's Colin Powell finishes a powerful speech about not going to war (remember how I called the film "heavy handed"?) and then die out...just to pick up again as Richard Dreyfuss, an almost painful Dick Cheney doppelganger, gives his most obvious villainous speech. Later in this same scene, there's a Bush speech where the painful piano notes are replaced by guitar plucking. Totally unnecessary, this awkwardness continued for the rest of the movie.

To be honest, I'm probably going out of my way to critique this movie because I don't want to feel like I'm just fulfilling my liberal duty by signing off on it with a big stamp of approval Overall, it was too preachy and too long, but pretty funny and definitely well made.

7.25 Twix bars!

November 9, 2009

Man of the Month: November

In addition to learning how to bake really soft cookies, one of my initiatives for this year at camp is to watch all 7 seasons of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' on DVD. In case I haven't mentioned it before, 'Buffy' is definitely my favorite television show ever to air, but when you call something your favorite for long enough, it can become habit instead of fact. I wanted to make sure that this wasn't the case with this, so I have started from the beginning.

And it's working. I'm just about halfway through the first season, but it's even smarter & funnier than I remember. Now that I'm not jealous of my high school crush's crush on Sarah Michelle Gellar, I'm finding her oddly charming, and the supporting cast is practically perfect. And David Boreanaz, as the title character's first love and eventual spin-off lead, is every bit the kind of sulking (I'm sorry, but there's no word for it) dreamboat that deserves to be Man of the Month.

Sure, he's achieved way more mainstream success with 'Bones', but, I think I'll always prefer to Google Image search for '1999 David Boreanaz'.

Movie Review: Defiance

'Defiance' is the based-on-a-true-story account of four Jewish brothers in Belarus who, in 1941, started a camp in the forest to hide themselves, their families (however extended) and, eventually, over one thousand Jewish refugees.

The movie wasn't great. First off, nothing annoys me more than movies set in foreign lands where they speak English with that country's accent. Worse, when then, inexplicably, another language warrants subtitles. Aggravating. Secondly, the three main characters happened to be played by James Bond, Billy Elliott and the guy from Screams 1-3 - that's a little hard to look beyond.

(Speaking of casting, Trevor has no recollection of 'Good Morning, Miami' - if only I were so lucky. A major supporting character was played by the guy from that, who has also appeared on every mediocre television show of the last 10 years. Putting glasses on him doesn't make him any more believable as a Socialist intellectual.)

There were a few points brought up (in a very surface-level kind of way) that I found interesting, since they're atypical for novels & movies on this subject, particularly class issues within Jewish society.

The movie really jumps right into it, taking the brothers to their farm to discover their parents have been murdered, and showing a mass grave within the first five minutes. My first thought was that it was too much, too fast, but I'm now thinking it worked best this way. If there's one subject in world history that maybe doesn't require elaborate set-up and backstory, it's probably the Holocaust.

While the locations and sets were beautiful, the action sequences weren't particularly believable and there were some awkward montages, bizarre editing and one disastrous decision to try to make two men into comic relief (because nothing calls for humor like the Holocaust?).

7 Twix bars!

October 21, 2009

Making sweet music

This weekend, I'll be in San Francisco throwing a bachelorette party for my sister. Part of the weekend will be a road trip, for which I have compiled a mixed CD: "First Dance Song Suggestions: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly." Here's the playlist.
  1. "All I Want Is You" (U2)
  2. "In Your Eyes" (Peter Gabriel)
  3. "Kiss Me" (Sixpence None The Richer)
  4. "Love Song" (Death Cab for Cutie)
  5. "Wild Horses" (The Sundays)
  6. "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" (Lauryn Hill)
  7. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (Diana Ross)
  8. "Could It Be I'm Falling In Love" (The Spinners)
  9. "Happy Together" (The Turtles)
  10. "I Got You Babe" (Sonny & Cher)
  11. "I Say A Little Prayer" (Dionne Warwick)
  12. "Islands In The Stream" (Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers)
  13. "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" (Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong)
  14. "Love And Marriage" (Frank Sinatra)
  15. "Love Is Strange" (Mickey & Sylvia)
  16. "Oh, What A Night" (The Four Seasons)
  17. "You're My First, My Last, My Everything" (Barry White)
  18. "At Last" (Etta James)
  19. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" (Elton John)
  20. "Endless Love" (Diana Ross & Lionel Richie)
  21. "It Had To Be You" (Harry Connick, Jr.)
  22. "Lady In Red" (Chris DeBurgh)
  23. "Something" (The Beatles)
  24. "We've Only Just Begun" (The Carpenters)
  25. "You Are So Beautiful" (Joe Cocker)
  26. “I Only Want to be With You” (Vonda Shepard)
I'm happy about this playlist because of the balance between actually good songs (the 'Love Song' cover by Death Cab for Cutie) and the ridiculously awesome songs ('You're the First, the Last, the Everything,' by Barry White. Ow.). Embarrassingly enough, it was way more of those "awesome" songs that I already had in my CD collection (Yes, I own the 'Ally McBeal' soundtrack.).

Trevor and I danced to 'At My Most Beautiful' by REM, and the wedding we attended last week was all about the Flaming Lips's 'Do You Realize??", but with only 80 minutes to a CD, there are clearly limits. Maybe there should be a volume 2 once the wedding date rolls around - any suggestions?

October 8, 2009

My toes are cold.

It's gotten cool enough here over the past week that I've worn close-toed shoes 4 out of 5 days. For the last 2 years, fall/winter close-toed shoes mean one thing:

Except mine are green.

These are some darn comfy shoes, with the added bonus of being slip-ons.

Yesterday, I was on cabin time with the outdoor education group that's here (meaning that I was helping the girls get packed up for their night hike - flashlights, warm clothes, etc.). One of the girls, an 11-year old, says to me, 'Hey! We have the same shoes!" And sure enough, we were wearing the exact same shoes. First I'm a little embarrassed to have a similar wardrobe to a 6th grader. And then she says, "They're my mom's" - and I can't decide if that's worse.

October 2, 2009

Man of the Month: October

Kyle Chandler sure was a deserving Man of the Month, eh? Now that we’ve all had a chance to appreciate him (and now that I’ve settled in at camp), it’s time to tear the well-earned honor from his hands and bestow it on another gent. This month’s honoree: Jon Hamm.

I spent a lot of time resisting the urge (and Trevor’s repeated suggestion) to make Jon Hamm Man of the Month. He’s had a pretty big year, headlining television’s most critically acclaimed show, watching it shoot up in the ratings, hosting Saturday Night Live, guest starring on 30 Rock (which, despite my somewhat loyal viewership of, I still always want to call Third Rock from the Sun), winning a Golden Globe and generally becoming Hollywood’s new favorite It Actor. (Was he People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive? It seems like he would have been.)

I thought that Man of the Month would get lost amongst all the hoopla. But then Season 3 started. And he’s all supportive father, barely philandering husband (Hey, it’s an improvement), gay secret keeper, anti-bureaucracy suave, and I just can’t help it.

Plus, he’s really funny. Did you see him on ‘30 Rock’? The bit about Eric from ‘The Little Mermaid being based on him was priceless. Then there was his Lex Luthor video on Funny or Die and almost every skit he did as a host on Saturday Night Live (There are not many hosts you can even say “almost” about).

It’s official – even if just for one month this time around, Jon Hamm is a totally deserving Man of the Month titleholder.

September 10, 2009

Movie Review: Funny People

Let's just get this out of the way: 'Funny People' sucked. I wish there was a nicer way to put it, but there's not. It's the kind of movie that is dully painful while you're watching, and then gets worse and worse the more you think about it.

In the musical 'You're a Good Man Charlie Brown,' Lucy – you know her, she's the one who always pulls the football away – tells a depressed Charlie Brown that the best way to feel better “is to come right out and admit all of the things that are wrong with you.” Maybe doing that will help me feel better about this movie: 'Funny People' lacked depth, originality and warmth, and was way too long. Nope, didn't help. I'm just getting angry. Just how long is it? The first half might have been an okay movie on its own. As is, Judd Apatow, he of the golden touch who brought us '40 Year Old Virgin' and 'Knocked Up' tried way too hard and gave us 2 hours and 26 minutes of humorless blah. Does that sound harsh? It should.

The movie's about a famous comedian/actor who's diagnosed with a deadly illness. An aspiring comedian starts working as his assistant, they bond, and then the famous one discovers he isn't sick anymore. A girl and some roommates figure in there somewhere too.

Seth Rogen has been in almost everything that Judd Apatow has done – from 'Freaks & Geeks' through 'Knocked Up.' It's almost like he's his muse or something. He's one of the stars of this movie. Adam Sandler used to be Apatow's roommate. He's another star in this movie. Leslie Mann, she of the squeaky voice, is Judd Apatow's wife. She's the third star of this movie (also, their kids feature fairly prominently). The fourth star – kind of, since he doesn't appear until a good 2 hours in – is Eric Bana (You know, the Hulk). I'm not sure how he fits into Judd Apatow's life, but I'm willing to bet they celebrate Hanukkah together or something. The overzealous, obvious nepotism was at times painful to watch, because no one fit their character particularly well – it's like everyone was playing some vague version of themselves, and nothing else.

Here's something that was good: Jason Schwarztman. He played Seth Rogen's friend, a formerly struggling actor, recently made successful by starring on a totally lame, TGIF/Saturday morning-type sitcom called 'Yo, Teach.' As a self-absorbed guy, convinced that everything is, in fact, about him, he offered some of the only laugh-out-loud moments of the movie.

5 Twix bars!

September 9, 2009

Movie Review: Paper Heart

'Paper Heart' is a fake documentary about Charlyne Yi, a Los Angeles comedian who dates Michael Cera (of 'Arrested Development,' 'Superbad' and 'Juno.'). The movie was made while they were dating, as if they weren't yet dating, and released after they'd broken up. So, I guess you could say it's kind of a true story. Also, an actor plays the real movie's director. With me so far?

Well, the plot is kind of beside the point anyway. The documentary part is about love, and whether or not it exists for Yi. She doesn't think so, and travels middle America hearing from couples young and old (mostly the latter) about their loves, lost and present. Often, these vignettes are wrapped up with a kind of puppet show that insert Yi's quirky sense of art and humor into the mix. Those parts are quite lovely.

In fact, the whole movie is quite lovely, in a somewhat forgettable way. As is, the only thing that really sticks out in the viewer's mind is that looming question about what is real and what is not; if Cera had been anyone even marginally less famous, there would have been little else to latch onto. 7 Twix bars!

Oh, that's right, I write a blog!

Hello blogosphere, and sincere apologies for a lack of entries. As you likely know, my husband Trevor, and I have recently relocated to the West Coast and begun new jobs as resident staff at a year-round camp and outdoor education center. You can read more about that here. It's exciting, but the transition has been a bit crazy, and blogging has fallen by the wayside (Did I just use that term correctly?). Have no fear! I am re-committing myself to regular entries starting...NOW! First up, movie reviews! I've seen 4 films since 'Julie & Julia' and I know you're just dying to know what I thought about them. So, stay tuned for summaries, insight and maybe just a little bit of snark, about 'Paper Heart,' 'Funny People,' 'Inglourious Basterds' and the home-viewing of 'A History of Violence.'

August 20, 2009

Movie Review: Julia & Julie

'Julia & Julie' is a movie based on two books – Julie Child's memoir, 'My Life in France,' and the book 'Julia & Julie' by Julie Powell. The latter was a follow-up to a blog about a year-long project Powell undertook to sort of kickstart her life: Cook every recipe in Julia Child's seminal cookbook, 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking,' (all 524 of them), over the course of a year. I've read 'Julia & Julie,' but not 'My Life in France' (yet).

Typically, I get annoyed by changes made when adapting popular books into movies, especially when they are big plot updates (I'm talking to you 'Cold Mountain' and 'My Sister's Keeper'!) – if the book was so good and worthy of adaptation, why are you changing the entire point of it? So, let's get the inaccuracies out of the way first: There was no big, dramatic, potentially marriage-ending fight in 'Julia & Julie'; Julie Powell wasn't a failed novelist – she was a sort of wannabe actress; turning 30 and finding out that she potentially might not be able to have kids were the catalysts for starting the project - she didn't have that group of uber successful friends that she was sort of trying to show-up by starting her blog; also, she had 2 cats and a snake (I know, big change, huh?).

Strangely enough, considering that it's based on true stories, none of these updates irked me (with the exception of the fight, which became way too much of a plot crux to have just been made up out of thin air). In fact, I was more offended by the trailer for the Peter Jackson adaptation of 'The Lovely Bones' we saw beforehand than I was by any of the changes they made to the book's plot (Seriously. Have you read that? Watch the trailer here and tell me what you think.).

I thought Meryl Streep & Amy Adams were pitch perfect (I found it hilarious the costuming decisions they made to try to make Amy Adams look a little “thick” - if there is one thing Amy Adams isn't, it's thick. Also, Meryl Streep is only 5'6". Julia Child was 6'2". Conveying that must have taken a lot of work!). Stanley Tucci, one of the most underrated and underused actors around, was also perfect in his role as Paul Child, and I expect we'll start seeing Chris Messina, who played Amy Adams's husband and who we recently saw in 'Away We Go', a whole lot more. Jane Lynch was a bit over the top as Julia Child's sister, but the scene after her wedding (trying to keep this spoiler free, everyone), is why the industry's all abuzz about Streep's guaranteed Oscar nomination.

I laughed (less than the preview would have you think, though) and I cried, and enjoyed pretty much every minute of the movie. Definitely recommended for Streep fans, foodies and everyone in between. 7.5 Twix bars!

Movie Review: (500) Days of Summer

I'd been looking forward to (500) Days of Summer so much, I easily could have wound up hating it. Luckily, I didn't. I thought it was smart, funny, original, and reassuringly relevant to relationships that 20-somethings have in this day and age. Until the end.

I'll leave this spoiler-free, and just say the ending was too darn cutesy. It made it feel like the whole film had just been a build up to one kind of lame, predictable punch line from a Readers Digest jokes page. And it's too bad, because Joseph Gordon-Levitt was great (though it's hard to get used to him having such a deep voice), his friends realistic, the soundtrack fun. It's hard to not feel like Zooey Deschanel was playing herself – equal parts pixie and sassy hipster, unaware of how beguiling she is – but she was perfect as the titular Summer.

There were other problems (An architect? Really?), but this is the kind of movie that I think will get even better upon repeat viewings, as you get to know the characters better. 7.75 Twix bars!

August 18, 2009

Movie Review: Up

'Up' does what Pixar movies do best - puts seemingly unrelatable characters front and center, and makes them real and likable. This time around, the character that we get to fall in love with isn't a toy cowboy, monster, superhero or robot - it's a sad old man (voiced by Ed Asner).

The story is about a boy and a girl obsessed with travel and adventure who grow up, fall in love and get married. Though they live a content life, they never achieve those travel and adventure ambitions. Eventually, the old man is being forced out of his home, so he decides to finally go on their adventure - and to take his house with him, by using balloons. Up, up, up he goes - and then he discovers that a curious boy scout who had come to visit is up there with him. They make it to their destination, and adventure ensues, in the form of a rogue explorer (Who, I was delighted to find out, was voiced by Captain Von Trapp himself, Christopher Plummer), a mysterious bird, and dogs equipped with voice transmitters ('Dug,' a sweet, dumb ol' dog, has some of the best lines of the movie - I could watch a whole movie just about him. Squirrel!).

The movie starts out melancholy, and quiet - I was told to bring my hanky, and this was certainly good advice - but it moves along quickly enough. After the sad beginning, there is just enough action and humor to make you remember that this is, in fact, a kids movie. Your attentions is kept and your spirits are up throughout the whole thing.

As Carl, Ed Asner is perfect, equal parts grumpy old man and devoted husband. His evolution to friend/psuedo-grandparent is as satisfyingly joyful as his quest to achieve that one final goal for his wife is heartbreaking.

I love the idea that a kids movie doesn't have to just be loud and colorful in order to be appealing. Like 'Wall-E' before it (which I think I liked maybe .25 of a Twix bar more), what I really liked about 'Up' is the sheer intelligence of it: I love that there are enough layers to be good upon repeat viewings, to both children and adults.

8 Twix bars!

August 10, 2009

Goodbye Boston!

It's been a long and wonderful 9 years in Boston, and in just a few short hours, Trevor and I depart for California. We'll be there for at least a year, and after that, who knows? I've been saying "We'll just have to see" a lot over the last few weeks. I've also been having a lot of Lasts over the last few weeks - last time at Fenway, last day of work, last volunteer shift at Rosie's Place, last ABC Club, last dinner out with friends.

Just as important as the Lasts, I've been doing a lot of Firsts. Nothing like a rapidly approaching departure date to put the fire under you to actually go all those places you always meant to. I am referring to The List, a note I've kept in my iPod since April, tracking restaurants, bars and attractions that I'd somehow just not done yet. Not everything is crossed off - if I lived here for another 9 years I probably still wouldn't make it to all the appealing bars and restaurants - but I am pretty pleased with my progress:

  • Cantab Lounge (Dive bar fantastic)
  • Cuchi Cuchi (Freshly muddled blackberries and gin? Yes, please! Waitresses dressed as flappers? No, thank you!)
  • 28 Degrees (Blue cheese stuffed olive martini? Done. This night also checked off the bonus accomplishments of Sibling Rivalry and Hammersley's Bistro - two South End hot spots I hadn't thought to include on The List)

  • Sam Adams Brewery (Must do!)

  • Dinner @ Centre Street Cafe* (This one comes with an asterisk because we actually had lunch here, a place we normally go to for brunch when my sister is in town.)
  • Flour (It is a good thing I live far enough away from this South End bakery & its recently opened Waterfront counterpart, because this was amazing. The Sticky Sticky Bun, as we'd seen on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, was just as good as promised. Yum.)

  • Twin Donuts (You just can't beat a good ol' rundown 50s style donut shoppe. Seriously.)
  • Clink* (I actually still haven't been to Clink, but I did go to its sister bar in the Liberty Hotel, Alibi, so I am marking it off. It's my list - I make the rules!)
  • Falafel Palace (I walked by this often during my last year of commuting, and apparently it's a bit of a Cambridge landmark. Tiny, cheap and delicious.)
  • 1369 Coffeehouse* (Another asterisk! After hitting up the Mass. Ave. location for their famous cold-brewed iced coffee, I realized I had actually been to the Inman Square location before. Alas. Mark it off.)

  • Parish Cafe (Deluxe sandwiches and a beer mug club? Damn!)
  • South Street Diner (When Sarah heard I'd never been to this 24-hour downtown diner, she said "You must never have been clubbing with me downtown." Yes, that would explain it.)
  • Wally's (Famed jazz joint, this is the one I'm most disappointed to have not marked off yet.)
  • Improv Asylum (But, hey, at least I've been to Blue Man Group)
  • The Friendly Toast (This place just opened, so I don't feel too bad for missing out on it.)
  • ICA (The recently moved Institute of Contemporary Art, it's now on the Waterfront with a Shepard Fairey exhibit.)
  • Angela's (Would have loved to try the guacamole here, but East Boston is just so far away.)
  • Santarpio (See above, just substitute "pizza" for "guacamole".)
Definitely gives me a few more reasons to come back and visit soon.

August 2, 2009

Man of the Month: August

You know how famous people are always talking about how hard their lives are with all this fame and fortune? (And doesn't it seem like it's the famous people most desperate for the spotlight who complain the loudest? And they're often the ones with the least reason to be famous). Boo freaking hoo, right?

But do you know when I do feel sorry for celebrities? When they do genuinely amazing work, with little or no recognition for it. This is the syndrome that cancels the My So-Called Lives, Freaks & Geeks and Arrested Developments of the world after 1 or 2 seasons, while keeping 'According to Jim' on the air for 8 years (I wish I was kidding.). This is the affliction that leaves Lauren Graham, she of the brilliant Lorelai Gilmore creation, Emmy and Golden Globe free, while Jeremy Piven of the funny but mostly one-dimensional Ari Gold, makes his way to the podium – again. And this is why, this month, we are celebrating Kyle Chandler as Man of the Month.

Kyle Chandler plays Coach Eric Taylor, the heart and soul of one of the three best television shows on today, 'Friday Night Lights' (The other two being 'The Office' and 'Mad Men' – 'Lost' is too hot and cold) – a show that the Emmys somehow thought it sensical to nominate for “Outstanding Casting,” one of those prizes they don't even announce on the telecast, without recognizing a single member of that outstanding cast in the acting categories. Brilliant.

I've babbled on about 'Friday Night Lights' before – about how tragic it is that it's not more watched and about the reasons for this (People think it's about high school kids; people think it's about football; people think it's about high school kids playing football; all of these people are wrong; etc.). For today's purposes, that's neither here nor there (But those people are wrong.). And while I might love Tammie, played by the brilliant, subtle, smart, sassy, classy Connie Britton, even more than Eric, this is Man of the Month, not Celebrity of the Month. So, this August, we salute you, Kyle Chandler, for being a wonderful television dad, a brilliant deliverer of the well-meaning evil eye, and most of all, for making a football obsessed, middle-aged Texan sexy to a liberal, 20-something, baseball fan of an urbanite. Clear eyes, full hearts indeed.

July 31, 2009

Better than 'Being Julia'

Considering that I spent yesterday defending my lack of blogging because of how insanely busy things have been, it probably doesn't make much sense that I just finished a 300-page book, which I started 2 days ago. But, I did.

'Julia & Julie' (which I consistently find impossible to say correctly) is a book based on a blog about a year-long project for Julie Powell, a frustrated 29-year old in a dead-end job, who invents the Julia/Julie Project to reinvigorate her life by cooking every recipe - all 524 - in Julia Child's seminal cookbook, 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' over the course of a year. Why? She's not quite sure - it just seems like something she needs to do.

I picked it up off Jessica's bookcase months ago, but got distracted by various book group books and selections from the New Classics list that I've been working on, but with three days of 1 1/2 hours of train commuting to deal with, I decided that this was the week. Plus, I wanted to read it before the movie version comes out next Friday. The movie stars Meryl Streep who, post-'Death Becomes Her' anyway, can do no wrong, and Amy Adams who is beyond cute as a button, so I'm not that worried about the movie sucking compared to the book, as most adaptations do. But, I did want to read it first, so I could reserve my right to be uppity and indignant just in case.

The book went quickly because it's written a lot like a blog - including isolated stories, punch lines and cursing - and it's been a long time since I enjoyed reading something so much. The author's relatable, with a self-deprecating eye on herself, and some wicked/wonderful insight into life on the cusp of 30, in the era of the 2000s, in urban America.

Sure, it's hard to imagine what I would find so attractive about the book: The author's a Buffy-devout, ex-theater nerd who married her high school sweetheart when she was in her early 20s and often feels like the old married woman amongst her sea of single friends. She has no idea what she wants to do with her life, and crafts a project for herself that involves a ton of eating and drinking, thus paving the way to a happier marriage, successful career and well-adjusted self.

Actually, on second thought, maybe I hated this book. Because, seriously: Why didn't I think of this?

July 30, 2009

Time's a-flying

Life has really gotten in the way of blogging lately, and I apologize for that.

As you know, after many moons (9 years for me, and 8 for him), in Boston, Trevor & I are moving to California in August (August starts when?!?). Last week, I had my final day of work, and we went away last weekend for our 5th annual trip to Vermont. Over the last three days, I've been leaving the house at 6AM to go to Lowell, Massachusetts for a babysitting gig, and wrapping up my days with insane amounts of list-making and packing, while trying to squeeze in final nights out and dinners in with dear friends who I might not see for awhile.

I'm certainly not complaining - we had an amazing weekend in Vermont, I have a nice amount of (hard earned, if I do say so myself) babysitting money in my pocket, and I just spent a random hour with my best friends fo' life eating sandwiches in the South End - I AM making excuses. Don't worry, y'all out there in cyberspace, I'm alive and will return to my fairly regular blogging regimen soon.

So, while I fully intend to post a review of 'Up' (which we saw last week and which was just as wonderfully heartwarming as I expected), pictures from our trip to Vermont (maybe even someday I'll finish posting about our May trip to Seattle & Portland) and a blog devoted to my Boston List (things I want to do in Boston before leaving), right now, I really need to be packing up never-used steak knives, because we are loading our first moving truck (things that are going for storage at my lovely sister's house) in 3 days. In the meantime, please feel free to submit suggestions for August's Man of the Month, because I can't really believe it's time to choose one again!

Thanks for your patience - and stay tuned!

July 20, 2009

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

This was the first of the Harry Potter movies that I didn’t see within 24 hours of opening. This might mean 2 things: #1: I’m growing up. #2: My lackluster reaction to the film is my own fault (for lack of participation).

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed the movie. I particularly enjoyed seeing Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Emma Watson (Hermione) and Rupert Grint (Ron) doing some real acting for the first time – those kids have become so much better than they were in the first couple movies, especially Grint. The books showed us that Ron isn’t just comic relief – and now that the actor’s matured and infused some real subtlety into the role – we’re starting to see that.

It’s only been 3 days since I saw the movie, and I can’t really remember what else I liked about it (See? Lackluster reaction.), so let’s get into my issues. Essentially, I felt that the movie was just going through the motions. It was good enough to get us to the two-parter finale, and it’ll fit well in the eventual deluxe box set, but it just didn’t excite me.

Ron’s relationship with Lavender is necessary in order to continue building the Ron/Hermione tension, but the way it was carried out in the movie made it feel like a fluffy, unnecessary side plot that should have just been cut – this may or may not be because they miscast (or, as Jessica pointed out, mis-styled) Lavender so much. It’s frustrating to know that so many other side plots had to be cut to keep the movie under 2 ½ hours, and this one just didn’t satisfy.

It’s been a long time since I read the books, but something that struck me was the lack of attitude from Harry in this one. In my mind, I remember Harry getting more and more angsty in each book – as he goes through his teenage years, loses people he’s close to, and has the pressure of the entire wizarding world put upon him. If anything, Harry was a little boring in the movie – the entire crux of his character development was in his crush on Ginny. He wasn’t mad about Sirius, he didn’t lash out at Mr. Weasley, Dumbledore, Ron, Hermione, or even Snape (really) – he was much too even-keeled.

I was incredibly disappointed in the final 20 minutes of the movie. The scene where Harry and Dumbledore go to the cave to find Voldemort’s horcrux felt like it lasted 2 minutes, and I don’t think it explained what was happening clearly enough. That scene is the entire basis for the final book (which will become the final 2 movies) and wonder if people who haven’t read the book will know to pay attention. The showdown scene in the tower also fell flat – I don’t feel like the director took full advantage of what a major development was taking place. There was little build up, and a pretty half-hearted wrap up. I will leave it at that – it’s too hard to keep this spoiler free, and I know I’m being frustratingly cryptic!

So, yes, issues. 7 Twix bars! I was, however, endlessly amused by how much the teenage Tom Riddle (the eventual Voldemort) looked like Mad Men’s Pete Campbell:

As a final sidenote, this installment really made me think about is Chris Columbus and his bad rap. It’s pretty widely accepted that the first two movies in the Harry Potter series, those helmed by Chris Columbus of “Home Alone’ fame, are the worst of the bunch. That’s because they were followed up with the more artsy installments from Alfonso Cuaron ('Y Tu Mama Tambien' & 'Children of Men') and Mike Newell ('Four Weddings & a Funeral'). But ‘Half Blood Prince’ reminded me how much of the Harry Potter universe we take for granted. Of course the first two movies (especially the first) were a bit shallow – not only were those the least sophisticated of the books (back when they were truly being written about kids, for kids), it was up to Chris Columbus to translate that universe onto film for the first time, and that required quite a bit of hand-holding for the audience.

July 16, 2009

Sort of a Movie Review: Almost Famous

I have seen 'Almost Famous' probably 15 times, so it’s probably not fair to call this a review. Last night, we hooked up a projector and our iPod speaker deck and watched the movie upstairs on our roof deck, projecting it onto a building across the way. We had talked about this hypothetically for years, and in the spirit of Getting Things Done before we leave Boston, we just decided to make it happen. We chose ‘Almost Famous’ because it’s such a crowd pleaser, and it seemed like the type of movie that should be projected on a brick wall.

Maybe it was the setting, maybe it was the company, maybe it’s the ever-increasing sentimentality as we prepare to move, but every second of the movie was even better than the first 14 times I saw it. Some thoughts:
  • After the credits, the movie shows San Diego during Christmas time in 1969. The Chipmunk Song is playing. This cracked me up last night, because of how Jason Lee was just in the movie version of ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks.’
  • Why did Patrick Fugit disappear after this? The only other thing I’ve ever seen him in was the movie version of ‘White Oleanders’. Did he not age well? Was he *too* William Miller to make it seem like he could play other characters?
  • When I had this thought last night, I thought it was totally insightful…now I’m realizing I brought the same thing up with ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’: Do you think that movies set in the past (at the time of release) age better?
  • Jessica shared with us some trivia about the movie, and Jack Black was up for the role of Lester Bangs, which eventually went to Philip Seymour Hoffman. I find it mindblowing how much this could have changed his career. This was after Tenacious D, and right around the time of ‘High Fidelity’ – it could have really reshaped him. Instead, he did ‘Shallow Hal.’
  • Frances McDormand is so good: She says more with one eyebrow raise than I could get out in a week. Her character is so strongly developed – she is this powerful, hard headed woman, with this amazing soft heart. I think this is one of my favorite movie characters of all time.
  • Two Elton John songs feature prominently in the movie: 'Tiny Dancer' and 'Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters.' Beautiful stuff. He’s so not lame, I don’t understand how he became a mainstay of soft rock stations (and I wonder if he does).
If you haven’t seen 'Almost Famous' before, step away from my blog right now and go to your nearest Netflix queue. This is one of the movies I compare other films to when evaluating their Twix bar worthiness, it's that movingly good. 9 Twix bars!

July 10, 2009

Farewell to Fenway

In 2005, I was bequeathed a seat in a 10-game Red Sox ticket package by my friend Steve who was moving to New York. Sitting in a group of 4 that included my college friend Heather and 2 of her old roommates, our section-mates eventually learned my name (I was called “New Steve” for the entire first season I was there) and thus inherited a truly wacky Fenway family that became one of my favorite groups of people in Boston. Wednesday marked my last day with this family. Watching David Ortiz hit career homer #299 and a pinch-hitting Nomar get a standing ovation from an appreciative crowd, I couldn’t help but get a little misty-eyed thinking about all the good times I’ve had in that park.

I saw Johnny Pesky’s number get retired, and watched David Ortiz break the Red Sox single season home run record. I watched the Sox dismantle my Angels in the ALDS (again and again), and wonder if I could ever cheer for them again, and then watched them do things like go back-to-back-to-back-to-back off the Yankees and realize that I could.

Johnny Pesky's number being retired

ALDS 2007

I've watched a lesbian couple and a North Shore tough guy who works at a video store become friends. We’ve judged professional baseball players by their at bat music and fellow fans by their signs. I’ve seen a drunk guy in a Cecil Fielder jersey get kicked out of the bleachers – twice in one game.

I’ve said no to the FanFoto guys about 25 million times. I've pilgrimaged to Pesky Pole and to the fried dough stand that’s literally the last place you can reach in the stadium. We’ve snuck in burritos and cookies and flasks and wondered why on earth they don’t sell cupcakes as a concession.

Pesky Pole, 2006

I missed Trot Nixon’s last game as a Red Sox, because it happened to be after a 6+ hour rain delay. We’ve waited out rain delays too, keeping ourselves warm with $7 beer.

Miscellaneous rain delay. 2008?

We’ve busted down the door at the Cask & Flagon on Drinking Sundays, turned down free Brahma beer (it’s just that bad) and shared packets of sunflower seeds. I’ve sung to Caroline Kennedy at the top of my lungs, and watched the crowds filter out until the end of 'Joy to the World.' It’s been a good run.

Drinking Sunday (Last Sunday game of the season), 2006

Drinking Sunday, 2007

Last game of the season, 2008

Though it feels like an end, this is certainly not na-na-na-na-hey-hey-hey-goodbye to Fenway Park. Just like Nomar, eventually I’ll be back.

July 7, 2009

Man of the Month: July

From 8th-12th grades, I had a video tape that I used to keep snippets of important television happenings (So, yes: I've always been this pop culture obsessed.). It was labeled “Melrose Place Tape #5” from a project I had undertaken of recording an entire season’s worth of 'Melrose Place' on VHS to send to my friend Ayesha who was spending 6 months of our 8th grade year with her grandparents in Pakistan. Upon her (and the tapes’) return, 'Melrose Place' quickly got replaced. Aside from 'General Hospital' which I’d record every day, and shows like 'Party of 5,' 'Buffy' and 'Felicity' which I recorded weekly, I kept careful track of when my many celebrity boyfriends would be on various talk shows so that I could tape them all. Then, I’d transfer scenes that I liked or interviews I wanted to keep onto this video tape. Man, I really knew my way around a VCR. Life skills, you know.

With ‘Brothers Bloom’ recent release (from the director of 'Brick'), all the film festival/indie rock love hoopla around the upcoming '500 Days of Summer' and the premiere of a TV version of one of my favorite 1990s movies, '10 Things I Hate About You,' I’ve been thinking about Joseph Gordon-Levitt quite a bit these days. And when I think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, I think about an interview I kept of him on this tape – it was with Jay Leno during the time that he was on '3rd Rock From the Sun,' but towards the end, because he had short '10 Things I Hate About You' hair, not the bob.

In this interview, he talks about having a hyphenated name, and how it really is both of his parents’ last names joined, and about how they used to be hippies but now they drive BMWs. As a member of the hyphenated last-name club, I actually think about this quite a bit. But, I feel like I’ve already told that story on this blog, so I have come up with some new reasons to like this seemingly well-adjusted, smart guy who likes what he does and just happens to be our latest Man of the Month:
  1. This trailer:

  2. This interview (From Entertainment Weekly, 4/24/2009):

    EW: How would you describe your character in '(500) Days of Summer?'
    JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT: He's a bit of a hopeless romantic who has taken perhaps a little bit too seriously pop songs and love stories. He has to figure some s--- out and man up a little bit.

    EW: You've never made a movie as outright romantic as (500) Days. Are you a fan of the standard romantic comedy?
    JGL: Well, who is a fan of the standard romantic comedy? The vast majority of Hollywood love stories — let's be honest, they're full of s---. Love is not about winning and losing. Love is not about happy endings or good guys and bad guys. [At] most movie studios, the big decisions get made by accountants and lawyers. They don't get made by artists.

    EW: Is that why you've done so many independent dramas since 1999's '10 Things I Hate About You?'
    JGL: I'll stand up for '10 Things I Hate About You.' I think that was a good movie. [Laughs] The A-R-T word is a complicated one. I shouldn't have brought it up because you can sound pretentious calling things art. But when I make a movie, it's because it inspires me. People always smirk when I say this, but when I saw the designs for the character that I play in 'G.I. Joe,' it was like, ''Wow! How'd I get to be that guy?'' That's exciting to me.

    EW: 'G.I. Joe,' in which you play Cobra Commander, opens three weeks after '(500) Days of Summer.' Are you prepared for the amount of fame that could bring?
    JGL: I don't know. When I was younger, I used to hate that kind of recognition. I still kind of have a problem with the intersection of this word called ''celebrity'' and acting. What makes it worth it for me is that people that saw '(500) Days of Summer' at Sundance have been coming up and saying, ''Wow, that really meant something to me.'' So if you're asking, ''Are you prepared for so many more people to connect with you in that way?'' I want that connection. That's a dream come true.

What to do, what to do

A few weeks ago I read the cover interview with Megan Fox in Entertainment Weekly, and decided that she is my worst nightmare. Every answer I read made me more aghast, to the point that I had to read it in two parts (I thought I could put it down forever, but like a bad car accident, it called me back.). She’s foul-mouthed, vaguely trashy and not at all (at least outwardly) appreciative of the fame and fortune that has somehow come upon her. She also loves talking about how hard she is NOT working to be this famous and rich ('If I really buckle down, I think one day I could be a very good actress. But so far, I haven't done anything yet.") which is incredibly off-putting. In summary: As much as two people who will never meet can be, we are total enemies. (I have a feeling I will be getting some serious hate comments for this blog entry. Let's just put this out there right now: I am CLEARLY jealous of Megan Fox. THAT is my issue with her. Not anything else I outlined above. I am ugly, stupid and petty.)

But now, conflict. Because publicity for ‘Jennifer’s Body’ is starting, and there are things that I really like about it:

Good things: I’m into the idea of a horror comedy, because it's very Buffy-esque. This is Diablo Cody’s second movie, after the over-hyped yet somehow still totally wonderful ‘Juno.’ Amanda Seyfried is completely perfect for this role off her ‘Mamma Mia’ and ‘Big Love’ stints. And though Adam Brody and movies did not go so well last time around, I completely love him already (Come on - this is a guy who made Seth Cohen so likable, a measly sidekick role eventually became the series’s main character. Changing the entire arc of a television series? Well played.), and he’s wearing emo eye liner in this.

Can I support three people I like and respect, even if it means getting behind the half-assed work of a girl who likes to talk about her “tiny ass waist” and how she makes other women “feel bad about themselves”? The movie’s not out until September, so I have plenty of time for this internal battle to rage on. Feel free to weigh in.

Movie Review: The Proposal

My hopes weren’t too high for this movie. I’m not big for the prat falls of ‘Miss Congeniality,’ and I’ve never seen ‘Two Weeks Notice.’ I'm really more of a Sandra Bullock-in-Speed person. So while I find her very likable and am super into the fact that she married that motorcycle guy (though I can't help but wonder how on earth she's okay with him starring on a television show essentially designed to kill him), I was more attracted to ‘The Proposal’ by Ryan Reynolds (who I found just delightful in ‘Definitely, Maybe’) and Betty White (who is just delightful period). No one was more surprised than me to realize, upon leaving the movie theater, that I liked it more than ‘The Hangover.’ I was pretty embarrassed by this, but thankfully, over post-movie fresh fruit margaritas and mojitos, Sarah confessed that she did too.

Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first: They really tried to make Ryan Reynolds seem a lot younger than he is (He was supposed to be playing a guy 3 years out of college. Can't you tell? He’s listening to an iPod! Look at this hip jacket and messenger bag he wears ALL the time!), the immigration officer part was way over the top at the end, and there’s this gag that almost works, where, because it’s a small town, one person appears to do every job (general store manager, catering staff, stripper, you know). If that one person wasn’t played by Oscar from 'The Office,' I think I would have been annoyed by it.

Negativity done. There was way more to like about this movie.

Most importantly, I laughed out loud. A lot. The “naked” scene has gotten a lot of play on the talk show circuit, and its payoff was much funnier than I expected. There was also a scene that involved Sandra Bullock's character, a hard-nosed, high-powered book editor, singing wildly inappropriate song lyrics ("Sweat drips off my..."), and a second scene with Ryan Reynolds doing an amazing falsetto that had my throat hurting from laughing so hard. Betty White was everything you’d hope for – over the top granny-rific, not above guilt-tripping her children & grandchildren by pulling the What-if-I-Die-and-this-is-the-last-thing-I-remember card, and with some great one liners ("She sure comes with a lot of baggage."). Mary Steenburgen played Ryan Reynolds’s mom, and she’s just so darn nice and mom-like, I really loved her. (Sometime after the early 90s - 'Prancer,' 'Back to the Future 3,' 'Philadelphia' - it seems like Mary Steenburgen began just playing herself. I feel equipped to say this, since I saw her actually play herself on 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.' So she really must just be the nicest person ever. Who’s with me?) Also, she wears really great sweaters in this movie.

Sure, the movie was full of overused rom-com clich├ęs (They hate one another! Her parents died when she was young! She forgot what it was like to have a family!), but there were also bits that felt, if not original, at least fresh. Laugh out loud funny, I will gladly queue this up for any girl bonding night in the future. 7.5 Twix bars!

(Sidenote: I get a lot of flack for the fact that all of my Twix bar ratings fall between 6.5 and 8. There's a reason for this: I am not actually a movie critic. Shocking, I know. But I’m not getting paid to go see everything. So, if I've committed to paying $11 to see something, I expect to like it. If you get rated less than a 7, you disappointed me. If you get more than an 8, I will buy your DVD for our collection and probably also give you to someone for Christmas. If you fall somewhere in between, you did your job. I also try to consider/balance how much the movie was Trying, and a few other highly mathematical factors, but there's the basic logic. Do you disagree? Let me hear it!)

July 3, 2009

Movie review?

The last few days have been a bit rough around the Graham-Wilcox abode, with Trevor and I both battling some pretty nasty colds. Yesterday, we exerted ourselves enough to go out to dinner, but that was the most we could muster. The rest of our evening became devoted to watching the long DVR-ed 'The Sandlot: Heading Home", a TV sequel of the classic baseball flick, which just happens to be one of our favorites.

From about 20 minutes in, it was clear that this movie deserved to go straight to TV. It was a pretty painful experience. In fact, Trevor said it was the worst thing he'd ever seen (I disagree because, well, I watch more bad TV than Trevor). Check it out for yourself:

The thing that is bothering me the most about the 2 hours of my life I lost watching this “movie” is the following brain puzzler: Luke Perry agreed to star in this, but can't be convinced to guest star on the new '90210'?

July 1, 2009

Movie Review: The Hangover

Despite the credit loaded onto Judd Apatow, he didn’t invent the bromantic comedy. We all know that Vince Vaughn did. Okay, even that’s not true. Buddy movies have been around a long time – it’s just that recently they’ve taken on a new look. You know, where guys are allowed to hug one another and have opinions about the other’s relationships, while also doing gross “dude” things. I am a fan of this balance and judging by the huge box office returns of 'The Hangover,' so are a lot of people.

I went in with big expectations, since terms like “funniest movie ever” were being thrown around pretty liberally by reviewers and commonfolk alike. I wouldn't go that far – I had fun, and I laughed out loud. A lot. But the first time I saw 'Wedding Crashers,' I thought my cheeks would permanently hurt from laughing so hard, and this didn't quite get me there.

Maybe the reason I'm hesitating is because of the setup – a flashback, wrapped within a flashback – which was a little unnecessary. Mike Tyson was also totally unnecessary – that entire plot point would have been just as funny with the *idea* of Mike Tyson as it was with his awkwardly canned presence.

Ed Helms singing at the piano was just about right. Bradley Cooper is awesome at playing a weirdly likable douche. I liked Heather Graham more in this than I have for a long time, and I loved the scene when the guys get out of the Las Vegas police department by “volunteering” to get tazered – by kids! Las Vegas is best when it's allowed to be its very own character – wedding chapels, trashy strip clubs and all. The weird brother-in-law was also a great character – largely because of his going out outfit (But the big “reveal” - SPOILER ALERT! - that he was the one that roofied them, was a letdown), and because there was literally nothing endearing about him.

I think that a big reason people were drawn to this movie was because of the lack of Seth Rogen, Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson, etc. – you didn’t feel like you already knew what you were in for with this. And that was definitely a bonus. When there was a mysterious buildup to some reveal, you knew you weren't going to get a Ben Stiller cameo (and I love Ben Stiller cameos – it's just, you know, been there...).

I enjoyed this the first time around, and am sure that it will get funnier every time I see it, much like Anchorman before it. As is, 7 Twix bars!

My life is a lie

In this world of Facebook status updates and Twitter-led microblogging (and, hey!, full length blogging too), it's easy to feel like everyone's always all up in your business. But, lately, real life has gotten in the way of this for me.

In March, Trevor and I decided to apply for staff positions at the camp in San Diego County where we met and got married. This set off a chain of events – this wasn't just a decision to think about changing jobs; if accepted, we would be moving across country. It's beyond ironic that with this going on in our lives, not once could I gather opinions, vent or share excitement on Facebook and Twitter. These are communities that know what I'm eating, drinking and reading on a minute to minute basis, but actual life decisions are off limits for discussion?

This begs the question: Was this really off limits? Should I have been perfectly comfortable sharing every step of the process with friends, strangers and co-workers alike? Is this where the world of social media is leading us - this is my life, accept it?Already, most of us have a filter through which we share information online, but is that filter getting thinner? How long before all of us (not just the attention starved) are posting:
  • Off to meet my mistress
  • I can't wait to quit this job
  • Hooking up with a co-worker
  • I'm thinking about breaking up with my girlfriend
  • Proposing tonight!
How involved you want the anonymous interweb to be in your life is a personal decision. Maybe it’s just the marketer in me, but I think that those of us who choose to participate in social networking have essentially created our own brands. And just like major organizations have to carefully cultivate their brands – allowing for evolution, while also keeping them under tight control – so do we. Unlike any generation before us, we are creating records of ourselves that will be incredibly easy to access for years to come (even when we un-tag photos of ourselves, and eventually delete our profiles, highlights can be preserved on any number of websites) – so it’s essential that we be conscious of what we’re putting out there now. While it was hard for me at first to deal with my Dad being on Facebook, I now think about it this way: If I’m not okay with my Dad seeing it now, I probably won’t be okay with my kids seeing it in 15 years. That’s my own personal Brand Test.

Another, more current, Personal Brand Test is: Do I want my boss to see this? And that’s the question I was answering by leaving the job/move decisions off my social networks. Yes, I would have preferred to give notice at my current job 3 months ago, but that’s just not practical – why pay to keep someone around when they have no future at this company? I also could have maintained my social media brand as a personal space only, without connecting to anyone I’m involved with professionally. It’s a feasible alternative that many people use, but for me, someone who works in marketing, is interested in communities, and would like to use social media in her career, it doesn’t make sense to leave professional connections out of my social network.

So the solution was to just keep it all a secret (and be near-paranoid about what was getting posted on my Facebook wall). Without using social media, we dealt in traditional ways – you know, finding condo tenants through Craigslist and spreading the news via email. But now it’s all out there (hey! We got the jobs! Moving in August!), and not only can I start sharing this new part of my life with all of y’all, I can also start getting input from the smart people who surround me virtually each day on a whole bunch of decisions. Let’s make up for lost time:
  • What are the three things I need to make SURE I’ve done in Boston before I move?
  • How should we prepare our poor cat for a cross-country road trip?
  • Do you know anyone who needs their car moved from New England to the West Coast in August?
  • And while we’re at it: Have you had a circumstance where you struggled with the line between your internet life and your real life? How have you dealt?

June 24, 2009

Movie Review: State of Play

I really shouldn't make it a habit to review movies 6 weeks after seeing them, but I took actual notes about ‘State of Play’ and don't want that to have been a waste.

‘State of Play’ is a political/journalistic thriller about a Senatorial aide who is mysteriously killed, leading to all sorts of questions about her boss, the committee he’s running, corruption in Washington, etc. Ben Affleck’s the Senator, and his old college buddy, Russell Crowe is an investigative journalist for a Washington Post-like newspaper. Helen Mirren is the paper’s editor, who lets him cover the story, thinking he’ll get the inside scoop. Rachel McAdams is the decidedly-not-a-journalist blogger who’s interested in only the salacious (Read: sexy) details of the story.

There are dark alleys and mysterious photographs and, of course, history between Ben Affleck’s wife (Robin Wright Penn) and Russell Crowe. In neat bookends (which made for good trailer clips if not much else), it also sort of tries to be about the death of the printed word, and there may or may not have been commentary on war. I'm going to try to leave this spoiler free, because there are a lot of twists and turns and that's definitely where the fun of this movie was. But, to be honest, I'm not sure I could spoil the movie if I tried because I'm not entirely sure what happened – that's how knotted up everything winds up in the end.

Some miscellaneous points:
  • Helen Mirren's character, a hard nosed editor, well aware that in this day and age journalistic integrity means less than selling newspapers, was written as a male. It doesn't seem like they changed the script one bit with casting (At one point, she tells a belligerent Russell Crowe to suck her balls) and I really respect that.
  • Ben Affleck's character was named Stephen Collins. This is the name of the actor who played the murderous father that forced Keri Russell, a high school diving phenom, to dive out of the attic window to escape him in that Lifetime movie. You know, Father Camden from 7th Heaven. For some reason, this really bothered me.
  • Another thing that really bugged me. Ben Affleck is 8 years younger than Russell Crowe (wouldn’t you think it’d be more?), but they were supposed to be college friends?
  • I apparently also had an issue with Jason Bateman in this movie, because my notes read: "Michael Bluth? Really?", but it probably says more that I no longer remember what his significance was to the overall plot. I do remember that he wore eyeliner.
The movie was fun – and because we saw it in Seattle at a theater that was also a bar, I really enjoyed being able to have a glass of wine while we watched – but I was also frustrated by the too twisty turns and the ultimate conclusion. I’m not sure it would stand up to repeat viewings. 7.25 Twix bars!

June 23, 2009

Seeing Seattle

Like most urban dwelling liberal 20-somethings, at one point or another, Trevor and I have discussed packing it all up and transporting ourselves to Seattle or Portland or Austin or Denver or San Francisco... With a surprise party in the works for my California-based in-laws, we had a built-in reason to plan a West Coast visit and check out the vibe of Seattle & Portland, and so at the beginning of May, we found ourselves settled onto JetBlue and bound for the city of 'Grey's Anatomy.' What follows is a recount of the ensuing events.

We arrived close to midnight on a Saturday and took a cab into Seattle proper, bound for this adorably hip boutique-y hotel that wanted us to pay only $99 a night, in exchange for using very large and clean bathrooms that just happen to be shared. I'm in. By the time we settled in, it was 4am according to our bodies, so we called it a night.

First stop the next morning was our hotel's continental breakfast which included fruit and granola (this was Seattle after all) and Make-Your-Own waffles (What an unexpectedly welcome flashback to dorm life!). For the day we had two distinct goals: Trevor wanted to make it to the Sounders game (Do you know about the Sounders? In the 2009 season, the MLS introduced a new franchise. The city, recently abandoned by David Stern and the NBA, immediately latched onto the team, selling out of season tickets and every game so far.); I wanted to see the first ever Starbucks. Off we went to Pike Place Market , which, possibly because it was Mother's Day, or possibly because everything in Seattle is always covered in flowers and love and pink, was absolutely overwhelmed with bustling flower stands. We didn't see any fish being thrown, but we did recite the opening to The Real World 5-10 times and see a psychic cat.

Early on in the day, we achieved my goal – here I am in front of the original Starbucks (We were headed to a soccer game – I felt channeling by 14 year old self with French Braided pigtails made sense.):

Trevor had read about a pre-game Sounders rally where the faithful fans meet and parade to the field. We set out on a mission to find the rally and when we did, it didn't disappoint – Sounders green as far as the eye could see, a band to lead everyone in song and then a 4 block walk to Qwest Field. It was the most festive and pumped up fans that I've ever seen for a regular season game of any sport.

Conveniently located next to Qwest Field is one of the brew pubs for the Elysian Brewery, and since there was still a good hour (and it was now respectably past noon), we stopped in for our first of many vacation craft beers. The space was awesome, and the beers delicious. We enjoyed Dragontooth Stout and a couple of IPAs. Shocking we didn't take advantage of the stellar guest beer option:

Then we made our way into the stadium. First things first: Our seats were impossible to find. We wandered the stadium, up and down ramps for over 20 minutes, following the incorrect directions from any number of stadium employees (unless “left” actually means “right” in Washington State). We eventually made it and settled in with the crazy crowd, which included this guy:

Yes, a Sounders fan so devoted, he has his own GOALIE GLOVES. The Sounders were playing a Beckham-less Galaxy team and the game eventually ended in a tie, a fact that should surprise no one (The Galaxy's record so far this year is 2-2-9. That would be 9 TIES).

After the game, our mission was to find a bar showing the Lakers game. At this point it was Game 4 of the Rockets series. Do you remember that game? The Lakers were down by 30 at one point – Yeah, we weren't there long. We powered back from the painful loss for the night with a trip to the Space Needle, great pizza and salad, then a bottle of wine with 'Drillbit Taylor.'

Day 2 was a big one. We were nervous it was going to rain, but, somehow our 3 days in Seattle were all rain-free. We'd planned to hit up the Seattle Art Museum, but discovered it is closed on Mondays. Plan B: A trip to Bainbridge Island! Though I had watched Harper's Island (sort of), I was able to convince myself that we would not, in fact, get inexplicably trapped on the island and murdered, so we boarded the ferry for a lovely afternoon of walking around, gorgeous city views and chocolate chili ice cream.

We returned to the city in need of an afternoon snack and found our way back to The Pike Pub back in the Pike Market for a sampler and some amazing nachos. Pike Brewery is cool because it was a family-owned brewery that was sort of bought out and then, like 10 years later, bought itself back.

After Pike's we went on a long walk through Seattle's downtown, bound for a bus that would take us North of the city to a bar that, in honor of Seattle Beer Week, was having a Victory Brewery Tasting. We got there about an hour before the kegs showed up, and were able to snag a place at the soon-to-be-very-in-demand bar.

After the tasting, which included an introduction by the Victory brewery founder, we headed back into the city, where we had earlier passed a movie theatre that is also a bar. We were too curious to pass it up, even if it meant seeing 'State of Play,' with the dreaded Russell Crowe. Review still to follow (no, really), but movie theaters where you can also have a glass of wine are okay by me.

We only had a couple hours the next morning before our train to Portland, and we passed the time at the Olympic Sculpture Park, before packing up, saying goodbye to Andre the Giant, and making the cross-town walk to the train station, bound for another (hopefully awesome) Pacific Northwest city.

All the details on Portland in a few days!