Saturday, December 15, 2007

Golden Globes -- Comedies and Musicals

Over on Drunk Writer Talk, Sinead had a rant about some of the TV nominations. For me, the Golden Globe TV nominations are always strange. I mean TV, even more than films, is a very US centric thing and not all television shows shown in the US get shown in other countries and often shows that do well in other countries don't do well in the US and vice versa. So, the GG TV nominations can be strange. Sometimes smart... like recognizing shows like Arrested Development that bombed in the ratings state-side, but sometimes just odd -- Samantha Who? I watch a lot of TV. Okay, WAY TOO MUCH TV. And I've never heard of this show. And Sinead's right. Where the hell are the noms for BSG and FNL???

But back on topic. The foreign films and comedy nominations. The fact that the GG's, (I keep feeling strange using GG, because that's used in Canada for the Governor General -- basically our head of state, he/she (currently she) stands in for the Queen) Anyway. The fact that the GG's separate out comedies and musicals is sometimes great because it means some good movies get recognized that aren't so serious. I actually like it, because more actors can get nominated. The movies themselves on this list... Enh.

That's not to say I didn't love some of them and/or I'm not excited about the two that haven't been released yet.
Here's the list with a couple comments from the peanut gallery.


Absolutely loved this film. A magical experience.


I am excited about seeing this one. I think it's released on Dec 20. I'm curious to see how much they'll tie what happened then with what's going on now... That is, how this guy might have helped get the Soviets out of Afghanistan, but at the same time armed the Taliban. Given that it's Aaron Sorkin and Mike Nichols... well, I expect they won't shy away from that--even though the studio seems to have in the previews and ads.


Really? I mean, it was fun, but REALLY? (And don't even get me started about John Travolta's nomination. I found his performance unbelievably offensive. I not sure I can even explain why, although I tried to in this post. BTW I watched the original Hairspray on DVD last night. I stand by everything I said about the new one and Travolta and the changes they made to the script/plot making Tracy and her mom self-conscious about their weight, whereas in the original, no one except the "villains" even seemed to notice that Tracy and her mom were fat. Linc is instantly attracted to Tracy in the original as soon as he sees her dance. He doesn't need to get past the fact that she's fat. He doesn't seem to notice or care. Maybe that's not realistic, but to me it's what made the original story so great and made the weight issue a metaphor for the racial issues. It never seems odd to Tracy in the original that the most gorgeous guy on the show wants her. In her mind, she's fabulous. Who wouldn't want her. I love Ricki Lake's Tracy Turnblad. The new one? Just corny.)


Okay, I loved this movie. It's sweet and quirky and has the most ridiculous but fun to listen to dialog I've heard in a movie in a long time. To me it proves that fun to listen to, but not realistic, dialog can work. Like in Pushing Daisies on TV. And arguably Elmore Leonard film adaptations, too. No one talks like that. But it's fun to listen to.

I'm not sure I'd put Juno in an overall best movie group... but since they have the comedy category in the GG's, I'm okay with this nod. (The foreign press collectively heave a sigh of relief.)


VERY excited about this one. Love Tim Burton. Love Johnny Depp. Love Sweeny Todd. It's funny to me that the first trailers I saw for this movie didn't feature any of the music. I'll bet viewers who didn't know it was a musical wouldn't have realized. In fact, at first, I was kind of shocked. How could Tim Burton take the music out of Sweeny Todd??? The most fun in that play is hearing a chorus of Broadway-style singers and dancers singing lyrics about slashing throats and eating human meat pies. But then I read an interview with Depp where he talked about the singing and I realized it was a musical... the ads were just trying to disguise it. (Kind of like I assume the ads for Charlie Wilson's War are hiding the real political message and making Wilson sound like he single handedly ended the cold war.)

Okay, I was going to talk about the foreign films today, too, but they deserve another post. Some GREAT films on that list this year. Really great.

And as for the animated films. Why do they have this category??? And The Bee Movie? Okay, I didn't see it, so it might not be fair for me to comment, but it was so badly reviewed and didn't do as well with the public as hoped either -- in spite of a year of over-the-top publicity. Why the hell is it getting this award recognition??
(A final aside... One of the FABULOUS foreign films this year, Persepolis, is animated. So, I'm not against animated films... but if they're great, they're great and can be nominated along with the musicals and comedies --or dramas--or foreign films-- if applicable. Hollywood Foreign Press take note. Academy, too.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Golden Globes -- Best Films (Drama)

Yes, it's awards season again. The season where Maureen rants about who gets nominated and who doesn't and what idiots everyone who has the power to make such decisions are.

I've barely glanced at the nominations, but this year my biggest beef/disappointment is the total absence of INTO THE WILD in the nominations, except for an original song and score nomination for Eddie Vedder. At least there's that. If that doesn't win original score, I don't know... But actually, the other movie who's score I noticed (and also got a score nom) was ATONEMENT. You might remember I talked about how the film used a typewriter sound as a percussion instrument rather effectively when I blogged about ATONEMENT at the film festival.


Imagine Entertainment/Scott Free Productions; Universal Pictures
Working Title Productions; Focus Features

Kudos Pictures – UK Serendipity Point Films – Canada A UK/Canada Co-Production; Focus Features
Harpo Films; The Weinstein Company/MGM
Clayton Productions LLC; Warner Bros. Pictures
A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss Production; Miramax/Paramount Vantage
A Joanne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company Production; Paramount Vantage and Miramax Films

I've seen 5 of these 7 films. Well, all five that have been released to the theatres. And all 5 were good films. Although for me, MICHAEL CLAYTON was more about performances than great storytelling... so I'm not sure if I agree with that nom 100%. As for the two I haven't seen, I must say I am VERY excited about THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Daniel Day Lewis in a Western written and directed by PT Anderson???? WOW.
On the other hand... THE GREAT DEBATERS... Well, it has potential, I guess. But also has the potential to be a sappy, predictable feel-good piece of schlock. (Oprah's company is the producer? Maureen shudders.)

I am excited about EASTERN PROMISES getting nominated (it won't win) mostly because David Cronenberg deserves the recognition and it's nice to see a Canadian film on the list, even if there wasn't much Canadian about that film. (BTW. It says a UK/Canada co-production, but Serendipity Films is very Canadian, (Robert Lantos's company) even if it happens to have a UK subsidiary.)

Speaking of films being Canadian or not, and I will talk about the comedies and musicals tomorrow... But JUNO. GREAT film. Loved it. Will see it again when it opens for sure. This is a movie that's totally Canadian, but actually NOT officially Canadian. But the director is Canadian and the two main actors are Canadian, it was filmed in Canada, and it has a very Canadian film feel to it. Even the director said this when he introduced it at the festival this year. But it was financed in the US, so it's a US film. Go figure.

Which film do I hope wins? This may sound bizarre, but I'm hoping for the yet to be released THERE WILL BE BLOOD. Mostly because I want it to be amazing.

But INTO THE WILD should have been on the list.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Butter tart recipe

So, there was some discussion of Tenderflake lard over on The Debutante Ball yesterday. Okay, it wasn't really a discussion of lard, but author Meg Tilly was guest blogging and a number of people who commented there had read her post about making pies on her own blog. And the secret to her pie crust -- Tenderflake lard.

All my childhood pie memories involve crust made with this lard and the jingle from the 1970's era ad: "When I bake a pie, for the apple of my eye, I bake it with a crust, I know that I can trust. I bake it so good, he can smell it from the yaaard. I'll tell you what my secret it, the secret is my laaard." [I've probably just violated someone's copyright. Ooops.]

I defy any Canadian at least in their mid thirties or older to tell me they don't know that jingle.

So back to my point. I mentioned my grandmother's butter tart recipe and the imprecision of some of the measurements. I love recipes like that. Cooking, like writing, is an art. Sure you need a plan and some structure and to follow some basic rules or it will be a big ol mess. But a little extra of this or that, and tossing something extra into the mix in the heat of the moment, can create real magic.

Anyway, I promised I'd post the recipe here, today. (I also promised I'd double check the details with my mom... which I didn't manage to do. So I hope I haven't misremembered anything.)

For those of you who've never heard of a butter tart (my American friends) let's just say the absence of this delectable treat on grocery and bakery shelves when I moved to the US almost made me want to move home immediately.

Butter tarts could be more aptly named sugar tarts. I guess the closest thing in US baking would be pecan pie and in the UK treacle. But it's not exactly like either of those things.

My grandma's butter tarts (as I remember the recipe)

- Cream a piece of butter the size of a shelled walnut with one cup of tightly packed brown sugar. (NB. The brown sugar in the US and UK aren't the same as Canadian brown sugar, either... but I did successfully make this recipe when I was living in the States. Go for the more golden kind. The soft stuff.)
- Beat one egg and stir into the butter/sugar until well blended
- Add one half teaspoon of vanilla and some lemon juice to taste
- Add a big handful of raisins (I always eyeball this. Maybe half cup?)

Pour into unbaked tart shells to about 3/4 full and bake

Okay, so the temperature is probably 350 F and for how long? They should bubble and the crust should go golden brown. I can't really remember, so keep an eye on them. Must be at least 20 minutes, I'd think.

Let me know if anyone tries to make them!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Speed thing

I did tackle the speed thing over on Drunk Writer Talk yesterday if you're interested and haven't visited us over there before. Stop on by for a drink!

Oh, and there's an amazing interview, by my friend and CP Danielle Young-Ullman, of Meg Tilly (yes, that Meg Tilly) over on The Debutante Ball today.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Why do I even kid myself that I can do Nanowrimo???? Fast is just not how I write best. I need to think about my book, or type ideas for scenes instead of actual scenes, or go back and think about my overall character arc, in between those great days where everything is flowing like magic. If I just keep typing, it's often a waste of time and energy and simply crap.

I did less than 17K this Nanoseason. I guess that's nothing to sneeze at. But if I'm honest about it, at least 5K of that will be completely cut and the remaining 12K will need significant revision. If I hadn't been doing Nano the 5K I know is all wrong would have been gone already, but no way do you cut anything, even redundant words, when you're aiming for that 50K goal.

I wish I'd done better... Sigh.

How about you? Can you write fast? I promise I won't hold it against you. Much.

Friday, November 23, 2007

I am all powerful

Okay. That's a joke.

But I hadn't seen a forecast for a few days when I wrote that post on Wed lamenting the rain and saying I'd rather have snow...

By about 1:00 am that next morning, I was hearing sleet on the windows... and woke up Thurday morning to a light dusting of the white stuff.

And today, it's cold. Like middle of January cold.

I haven't even cleaned up my yard for winter yet!!! Now, I'm praying for a thaw so I can rake leaves, and so the eavestrough guys can do their thing. They're supposed to come the first week of Dec.

Since my asking for snow worked so well on the blog on Wed. I am now asking for a thaw. A big one. That lasts a few weeks. It can snow again right before Christmas. Okay? Order in.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rain, rain, go away

November can be such a dreary month. The days are short and when it's rainy... Well, it just pretty much sucks.

I have been sitting at my computer all day today and haven't managed to get a word written on my new ms. So much for Nano. Damn.

I did get some stuff done re a contest I'm coordinating and have done some deep thinking about another completed manuscript... But no motivation to actually do anything.

When November gets this dreary, I'm almost looking forward to snow. At least it's pretty.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I don't get it

First, I don't get why many smokers don't seem to think their butts (the cigarette ones) aren't litter. Why someone who probably wouldn't toss their empty drink container, or kleenex, or whatever, on the ground feels it's all right to leave an ugly filter...

But, what I really don't get is why someone thinks it's okay to just toss a lit cigarette away with no regard to who's around them. (Or out of car windows for that matter.)

A very windy day last week, I was walking behind a young smoker just as we were approaching the entrance to the subway station. I was already not enjoying the smoke blowing from her cigarette and straight into my lungs... But as she reached the door, she just tossed her smoke away. Now, even on a non-windy day this would be annoying... But it was windy and the cigarette flew back and hit me.

Okay. It bounced off my jeans. No burn. No real damage. But boy was I angry. I chased her down and told her to be more careful when she disposed of her cigarettes. She was apologetic when I told her it had hit me, but seriously... Why did she think she could just toss it like that???

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Morning or night?

Are you a morning person, or a night person?

I am decidedly a night one... Always have been, even as a little kid, according to my mom.

But this week I'm babysitting my sister's kids -- one of whom has to get up at 6:30 and eat a 5 course (I'm not kidding) breakfast and have his at least 5 course lunch packed all before 7:20.

I wonder... If I had to do this every day... Would I switch? Years of desperately trying to get to work on time would argue against this...

Are you a morning or a night person? Do you believe it's possible to switch?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I am so excited!

First, sorry for bailing on my trip description. I came down with the plague and am still getting over it.

But something just perked me up, big time. Twin Peaks. The entire series. Is about to be released on DVD.

For anyone who missed David Lynch's ground breaking TV series from the early 1990's you need to watch it. I can't wait. The pilot episode has never been available on DVD before because the rights were owned by someone else, or something. And it's a series where the pilot kind of matters.

It's not hard to see the influence of this show on many good (and bad) TV series and even movies in the 1990's and 2000's. David Lynch is a genius, if a bit insane and a very impressive group of directors did individual episodes.

I've been watching the first couple of seasons of Veronica Mars on DVD, because of recommendations from several people... (I like it... but not sure I LOVE it) but back to my point. I watched one of the extras and the show's creator, Rob Thomas, was talking about how much he was influenced by Twin Peaks. I do admit the whole starting out with a dead girl's body thing, not to mention the diary, and sex scandals, all seemed a teensy bit derivative of Twin Peaks. But Twin Peaks was twisted. Veronica Mars isn't twisted.

They did fall off the rails at some point on Twin Peaks. Great example of a series going on longer than it should have. Or what happens when you have an amazing idea but then don't know where to take it when you find out you can make more episodes than you ever imagined you'd be able to, or when you have to keep out doing yourself because there were so many shocks, so many firsts for TV at the outset that where do you go from there??? But it's well worth the ride, even if the ride goes into crazy land for the last few episodes. Buy or rent it if you're curious about who killed Laura Palmer. The question on everyone's minds back in 1990.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Day Four -- Into Havasupai

I finding it hard to describe how sore my legs were by this point. And I'm supposed to be a writer? Let's just say that tasks such as walking down a couple of stairs or -- gasp -- lowering oneself onto a toilet seat were excruciating. We had to stop at a drug store to replenish our ibuprophin supplies. Popping those babies like candy.

And yet... We had another 8 mile hike into another canyon ahead of us.

We actually spent the morning of this day in the van -- which kind of sucked. And the various pee stops needed by a group of 13 adults in a van (worse than kids) meant we didn't reach the trail head until 12:30 in spite of our 6:30 am breakfast.

And the task ahead was a hike into the village in the Havasupai Indian Reservation, where there's only one "restaurant", which stops serving food promptly at 5:00 pm.

So, that left 4 1/2 hours to go 8 miles. 2 miles down about a 2000 ft side canyon on a pretty rough trail it was hard to descend quickly without breaking something, and then another 6 miles of relative flat. (I realized when we came back out 2 days later, that we'd been going slightly downhill the whole day... but it was very gradual.)

And it was the flat that killed me. It was hot, dusty, and varied between sand and gravel for the surface -- lots of slipping and sliding and it was hard to keep a quick pace up. I wore a bandana over my head under my baseball cap, looking like someone out of the foreign legion. But it did wonders in keeping the sun off my neck and ears. (I'm sure someone got a photo of that... but I don't have one just yet.)

Also, the mule and horse trains on this trail in the reservation weren't the guide-lead-tourista-topped-slow-moving variety of the national park, either. They freakin' galloped with a cowboy (actually, more like an indian than a cowboy... but a cowboy none-the-less) driving them from behind. Crap they moved fast and if you didn't get out the way you'd be trampled. They went slower into the Canyon (laden with, well, everything available in the village store and cafe, than they went out. The outgoing horses really galloped. Most of them went out "empty" with just a few carrying outgoing mail and such. I sadly have no pictures of these mule or horse trains. It was too scary and too dusty to take out my camera.

The biggest challenge for me that day was that we had to walk faster on the flats than I was comfortable with. The speed disadvantage that comes from my height (or lack thereof) is more pronounced when walking on flats than inclines, because my stride is so short. I basically have to run to keep up to taller people... So, after climbing in and out of the Grand Canyon... on which day do I get a terrible pressure blister under the back ridge of my heel???? On the day we hike 6 miles on the flats. Go figure.

Painful. So painful.

Our entire group arrived in the village within 40 minutes of each other (we stragglers literally ran to keep up) and had to go straight into the cafe to grab supper.

And supper was, well, interesting... they do these "tacos" on fried bread. And burritos with the most tasteless beans I've ever had. But it was food. And there were cold drinks and the promise of a bed and shower at the "lodge" so I was happy if soaked in sweat and very dusty -- more like muddy with the combo of sweat and dust.

The lodge was actually quite adequate. The rooms were big and clean and had great showers. Think cheap motel, but cleaner.

Some members of our group found the village a little hard to take, comparing it to a third world country... But I don't think those people have ever been to a third world country. Sure, the streets were sand, there were corrals lining the village streets -- nothing like the constant smell of mule piss -- but I found the village interesting and quaint. The people living there seemed happy enough and the setting's pretty spectacular.

But the really spectacular sights of the Havasupai canyon, the reason we'd hiked down to stay in this tiny village, would await us in the morning on our "rest day".

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Day Three -- And then we climb...

Yes, downhill was harder. I still maintain that. But I didn't get much sleep at Phantom Ranch. In fact, by Tuesday I'd had about 4 nights in a row with very little sleep, so that 4:30 am wake-up call on the day we hiked out of the canyon came pretty early.

My hands were tender, right at the base of my index fingers (from the new hiking poles) so the wonderful Kristi taped up my hands with duct tape while we all got ready to leave our dorm. Sure, the tape kept the blisters from getting worse, but I swear the main advantage of the taped hands was feeling like a boxer, ready to take on that 10 mile and 5000 ft assent. (Not that boxers hike... but do you get what I mean? Fierce.)

When we started out that morning, it was getting a bit light in the canyon -- the sky was turning from black to grey -- but we'd been hiking at least an hour before we started to see signs of the sun hitting the very tops of the canyon walls. (See photo above. Actually, in that photo, I'm pretty sure it was 8 or so and we're looking at sun hitting an inner bit of the canyon. No way is that high enough to be the main canyon. And the sides of the main canyon aren't nearly that close to the river.) The sights were pretty incredible. In fact, the first few miles of the hike -- actually almost everything about that day -- was incredible.

So sick of walking downhill, my legs were thrilled by the uphill thing, and my lungs were finally getting used to the altitude. (And, of course, the altitude's not so bad at the bottom of the canyon.)

The scenery down in the canyon is amazing, too. And I'd been too shaky to enjoy it the previous afternoon in the final few hours of the descent. Creeks with this odd red weed growing at the sides, Century and Prickly Pear cacti, and countless beautiful sights as the sun rose. A few hours in, Craig, one of our guides said something like, "Look at the grin on your face." And it was true. I couldn't stop smiling. Sure, my heart was beating a bit too fast as I walked uphill, but I couldn't help thinking: this is why I'm alive. This is the sort of thing I live for.

I decided about that time to pack some of the happy I was feeling away, in case I needed it later. Of course, I was half-way thinking I'd could save it until February when the sky would be gray and the days short... No way would I need it in the Canyon! I mean, I was feeling strong. My legs hurt but were glad to climb. My heart rate and breaths were fast but under control, and after the steep bits, stopping for a minute or two brought my heart rate back down. On top of all that, I had boxer tape on my hands. This climb was going to be great.

Little did I know at that point, that I'd be seriously needing my stored up happy later that same day.

Dinner that night was at the El Tovar. A fabulous restaurant at the South Rim. And our reservation was at 5:30 pm. By about 3:00 pm or so, the group I was hiking with started to realize making it out in time for dinner -- especially if we wanted to, oh, have a shower or even take off our dusty boots before going into the restaurant, was going to be a big challenge. (Did I mention the way the pink dust in the canyon sticks to everything including your legs so we all looked like we were wearing nylons? Everywhere? Those mules can kick up a lot of dust.) The last 2-3 miles of the assent, I think we were barely going a mile an hour and were stopping at the end of almost every switch back trying to catch our breath in the thinning air, or will our legs to keep moving, or our feet to take the pressure of another painful step.

About 3:30, Kristi -- already checked into the hotel, showered and way too perky -- walked back down the last half mile or so from the top to meet us. Did I mention I love Kristi? The best thing about Kristi -- there are many -- is that we stragglers finally did get to the top, she let us rest and have a beer in the bar while she ran to the hotel to pick up the van and our room keys. Then she drove us to the hotel, waited 20 minutes for us to grab a quick shower and then drove us to dinner. I tell you. Not having to walk that quarter mile to the hotel, or the half mile to dinner saved my life. (As did the happy I'd stored in little ziploc bags nearer the bottom. Used every one.)

The gang who'd made it out of the canyon earlier in the day were already drinking wine on the veranda of the El Tovar when we stragglers got dropped off in the van. But we all made it, had a fabulous dinner and got a ride back to our very welcome beds.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Day Two -- Shaking Muscles

If Day One was all about fear and anticipation, Day Two was all about muscle exhaustion. Anyone who thinks it's easier to walk downhill than uphill has never done a seriously long downhill hike. It's a killer.

I already knew this but was kinda shocked all the same.

We went down the South Kaibab trail, which is reputed to be steeper, if a bit shorter, than the more normally hiked Bright Angel trail. It's about 8 miles from the trailhead to Phantom Ranch where we spent the night in hikers dorms, but it's also nearly 5000 feet down in elevation and it's the down that'll kill you.

At least if you're me.

I used walking sticks on this hike for the very first time and let me tell you, I'm never hiking anything with a change in elevation without them again. Can't tell you how helpful they were when descending steps that were at times up to 2 feet high. I suspect hiking those trails at the end of the season is a little rougher. The trail seemed pretty washed out and there were places where it was hard to get a reasonable step up or down.

But boy, the views. There are some sweeping views of the entire canyon from this trail that'll take your breath away. There's actually a point called "ooo aah point", but I never did figure out which point it was, because frankly I oooed and aahed just about every time I remembered to take my eyes off my feet for a moment to remind myself where I was.


The change in temperature over the course of the day into the canyon was pretty spectacular, too. I could've sworn it was below freezing when we started out, but I heard later that the low for that day had been 43 degrees F at the rim. Sure felt colder, but there was a wind...

By the time we reached the bottom it was so freakin hot. No idea the actual temperature. Let's just leave it at freakin hot.

I did okay that day until about the last 2-3 hours of what, for me, was about a 7 1/2 hour hike. The muscles in my very musclely legs were shaking so hard I could barely stand whenever I stopped to take a drink or snap a photo. I had a few scary moments when my left leg threatened to give out on me when I landed funny... but no disasters.

In fact, the only blisters I got on the descent were on my hands... More on that tomorrow.

After finally reaching the bottom, we spent the night at Phantom Ranch which really is pretty fabulous. They have dorms of 5 sets of bunkbeds in each, and each dorm has a SHOWER and TOILET and SINK. (and yes, they were welcome enough to deserve capital letters.) We had an amazing family style steak dinner and barely stayed up to hear the Ranger talk at 7:30 pm. Shouldn't have even stayed up that late, given our 4:30 wake-up call the next morning.... but more on that tomorrow.

This last photo is one of the first full views of the Colorado River during the descent. My thoughts while taking this? "After walking straight down for 5 hours I still have to get all the way down there? You've got to be kidding me!" The patch of green off to the right is Phantom Ranch.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Day One

Okay, so I'm back and still alive. (And I still have both lungs.) Yahoo!!!

I'm so glad I went, in spite of the pain. The good far outweighed the bad, which pretty much came during the last 2 hours of each day on the trail.

Since blogging from the trip wasn't possible, I'm going to blog the trip day-by-day this week.

Day one (Sunday) we met in Flagstaff and then took a van trip to the Grand Canyon. In contrast to my -it's-going-to-be-too-freaking-hot fears, it was freezing. Decided my best packing decision was the last minute inclusion of my heavy fleece (which I wore over a short sleeved t-shirt, a long sleeved t-shirt, and a light fleece -- basically everything in my suitcase.) I think it was around 40 degrees F, but with the wind it definitely felt below freezing.

After making quick lunches at the trail head and grabbing some snacks for the trail, we walked about 3-4 miles along the rim taking in the views and getting scared. My highlight of the day was discovering I wasn't the only one getting out of breath with the altitude. Yippee! I might not be the only slow one! (Does that make me a bad person?)

If you take a close look at the photo above, you can see a trail going out on a point almost exactly in the centre of the photo... well, that's at the half-way point in terms of going downhill in the Canyon. I often wonder how many people who go see the Grand Canyon think that's the bottom. Ha! Of course it's impossible to capture the 5000 foot depth of the canyon in a photo.

After checking into the hotel, and checking out the sunset views of the canyon, we had a nice dinner, got to know each other a little, and prepared for our 6:00 am breakfast the next day....

Friday, October 19, 2007

Grand Canyon Bound

Well, I'm off to the Grand Canyon. When I signed up for this trip last March, it sounded like a great idea and I had nearly 7 months to get ready. Plenty of time. Right?

Instead, what do I do? Nothing. Almost purposefully at times. I think sometime during the summer I wrote this trip off in my mind. I was considering taking a job that would prevent me going. I was considering some elective surgery that might conflict. I was considering the fact that I'd probably puke up a lung hiking a mile uphill at altitude.

But in my normal procrastination style, I kept putting off canceling, too. I didn't want to let down my good friend Gloria for one thing. I figure if I keep backing out on trips sooner or later she'll stop inviting me.

So, at the beginning of Oct I finally decided to commit. I booked a flight, paid the balance on the trip and started to go to the gym.

I leave early in the am. Driving to Buffalo, then flying to Charlotte NC, then to Phoenix, then to Flagstaff. Something like 17 hours of total travel time. Serves me right for leaving it so long to book the flight.

Wish me luck!

(I promise to post photos--of both the Canyon and my blisters.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

More Film Fest Comments

So I promised to talk about "the films about child abuse" and never got back to it. And labeling these two films that way is a bit provocative, I admit. The two films I'm talking about are Margot at the Wedding, starring Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jack Black, which I'm quite sure will be released to theatres some time this fall, and Nothing is Private by filmmaker, Alan Ball (of American Beauty and Six Feet Under fame) which I have no idea when it's going to be released. IMDB lists it's next screening as January 2008 in Turkey, presumably at another film fest. That should be an interesting screening to say the least!

First, Margot at the Wedding.
This film was written and directed by Noah Baumbach who was nominated for an Oscar for the screen play for The Squid and the Whale, also well worth seeing if you haven't seen it. Nicole plays the lead character, Margot, a successful and neurotic writer who's been estranged from her sister, (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) and also estranged from her husband. Margot takes her son to visit her sister (who happens to live near her married lover) just before her sister's marriage to a somewhat slovenly character played by Jack Black, a man Margot does not approve of, believing him to be beneath her sister. (Hey, he's Jack Black. Who would approve?)

While this film isn't blatantly about child abuse, to me, the theme ran through this entire film. In fact, child abuse is what Nicole and Jennifer's characters are so uproariously laughing at in this photograph. They find abuse hilarious? I want to see this film again when hits the theatres to make sure I heard this conversation right.

Anyway, although I have yet to hear this child abuse interpretation of the film in any other review or in any discussion I had with other people at the festival, (a few people looked at me askew when I mentioned it) to me undercurrents of various forms of child abuse ran rampant through this film. As previously mentioned, the two sisters joke about being abused as children playing this sick game of escalation until they collapse in laughter. The next door neighbours, hillbilly types, are seen yanking the arms of and hitting their children, there is a sexual relationship between the Jack Black character and a teenage babysitter, and then Margot exerts an obsessive control over her son, which to me was tantamount to emotional or psychological abuse. Perhaps Margot's form was the most hideous abuse perpetrated by any of the adults. To me, that was the main "message" I got from the film. Nicole was so quick to judge the hillbilly parents or Jack Black with absolutely no self-awareness of how she was damaging her own son.

There's a scene that to me was so sad and touching, when her son sees the hillbilly mother and her son snuggled up together in their car on a ferry, and it's so clear that Margot's son has never received that kind of pure, unconditional parental love from his mother. In fact, there's an odd implication that either there has been some sexual abuse between Margot and her son or that she's paranoid about it happening (having been abused herself as a child?). I got this from a scene where she only agrees to share a bed with her son if they sleep with pillows between them. All showing, no telling. But I'm not 100% sure the scene meant to show what I saw.

Anyway, very interesting movie about which there's been Oscar buzz for Nicole already.

Interesting trivia. Jennifer Jason Leigh is married to screenwriter/director Noah Baumbach and this script was originally called Nicole in the Country (vs. Margot at the Wedding) and JJL was slated to play Nicole, the neurotic writer who goes to her sister's wedding. When Nicole Kidman became involved, JJL bowed out to play the other sister and the title of the film was changed with the main character renamed Margot instead of Nicole (for obvious reasons).

The second movie which had more blatant child abuse was Nothing is Private. I'm still not 100% sure what I thought of this movie, except that I'm glad I saw it. It's one of those strange little films that the censors will hate and distributors will be afraid to release.

You can say one thing about Alan Ball, he doesn't shy away from tough subjects. When the film started, I thought it was a frank coming of age story, kind of an updated Are You There God, It's Me Margaret, except with the twist that the 13-year-old girl was named Jasira and was half Lebanese. Watching this young girl discover her sexuality (including how to give herself an orgasm by just wiggling in her seat) made me wonder how a man had written this. I mean, do girls even talk about this kind of thing to each other, never mind tell Alan Ball? But tackling the sexual awakening of a thirteen year old isn't enough for Ball. Nor is making her half-Arab. Nor is setting this story in Texas (not exactly your racially diverse and accepting culture.) Nor is setting it at the start of the war on Iraq. No, that's not enough conflict for Ball. He has to make the army-reservist red-neck next door (played by Aaron Eckhart) sexually attracted to our poor thirteen year old heroine Jasira, and then have him act on it. He needs to make the father physically abusive. He needs to give the father all this ambiguities and double standards, not to mention the mother character played by the always believable Maria Bello. But it that we're complicated enough, he gave Jasira a very physically mature for his age, thirteen year old boyfriend--who's black. Which no one else in the story likes. (It is Texas. Sorry Texas. It's a stereotype, I know.)

There were no absolutes in this movie. Except of course, that it's impossible to justify what Aaron Eckhart's character does, even if Jasira did flirt with him and seemed almost willing. But even there, Ball and Eckhart don't make his character totally unsympathetic. In the writing and Eckhart's performance, you can see this guy struggling, rationalizing his actions, even if he makes all the wrong decisions. And he's an otherwise likable guy.

A complicated, challenging movie. I guess my first clue should have been when the first scene was Jasira's mother's boyfriend shaving her bikini line for her after the other girls called her Chewbacca in the swimming pool. (Although she did have a bathing suit on.)

Not a film for the faint of heart when it comes to the horrible things adult can do to mess up their kids.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More movies

I will talk about those films I mentioned yesterday... But today, I blogged over at Drunk Writer Talk.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The French Films

Okay, so I really fell down on blogging about the films I saw last week and there are still so many amazing ones I haven't mentioned. In all, I saw 40 films (I think). I had 44 tickets and think I passed on going to 4. (My pass was good for up to 50, but I think that's physically impossible. Not if you want more than 3 hours of sleep a night, anyway.)

So, the French ones...

Persepolis, Les Chansons D'Amour, Chrysalis, La Fille Coupee en Deux, and Le Scaphandre et Le Papillon.

I didn't realize I'd picked so many French films, but they were all worth seeing and three out of the five I'd highly recommend.

First is Persepolis, which I think will be released in North America in English, not French, so you won't even have to deal with subtitles.
As you can see from the photo, it's animated (and mostly hand drawn from what I understand) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's based on the autobiographical graphic novels of Marjane Satrapi, formerly of Iran, who now lives in Paris. The TIFF guide referred to this film as a, "...darkly humorous take on her experiences as a spirited young Muslim woman coming of age in Tehran – during the rule of the Shah, the Islamic Revolution and the gruelling Iran-Iraq War..."

Sure, there are some very dark elements. Sure, there are elements of "history lesson" in this film, but what an amazing way to present history, through the point of view of a young girl growing up and experiencing the history first hand. For me, one of the most important aspects of this film is how it breaks down stereotypes of Iranians and Muslims and shows how, in many ways, kids are kids no matter where they are. Okay, so I don't remember having one-up arguments with friends over whose relatives had been tortured the longest... but all kids have arguments like that using whatever amunition (parent's job or talents) is relevant to them. The bullying scenes were pretty scary, too -- kids chasing other kids with nails poking out between the fingers of a fist. But again, in context, it showed how kids are affected by what's happening around them and act out their stress via games.
And the film wasn't all bleak. Not by a long shot. There were some truly laugh out loud moments... For example, I'm remembering two perpectives of a past boyfriend -- one told when she was in love and one after their break up. So clever. So funny. And also the scenes of her coming out of a depression made me laugh out loud. I admire any writer/artist who can pull on the audience's emotions like that, making us feel empathy for her depression and then to pull us out of that sadness with a hilarious take I don't want to spoil, but it involved the theme from Rocky. Anyway, lists some American actors, (including Sean Penn and Iggy Pop!), in the "English version" so I assume when it's released over here, Persepolis won't be a French film and because of the animation, I don't think it'll matter one bit. (I hate dubbed films normally, but I mean, all animated films are dubbed, so what's the difference? Especially this kind of animation. I guess it would matter for some of the Pixar stuff where the characters' mouths actually move well to the words ... but not in this one.)

And the best French film I saw this year... Probably one of my top 5 or so films of this year's festival full stop, was Le Scaphandre et Le Papillon.
Translated, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. A truly amazing film. It's based on a book written by a man with "locked in syndrome". He suffered a stroke which left everything paralyzed except one eyelid, but his brain, in terms of thinking etc was completely in tact. The filmmaker did an amazing job of putting the audience in this man's shoes, which was at once heartbreaking and uplifting. A speech pathologist devised a way to communicate with him --basically she read out letters (in the order shown in the photo) and he'd blink when she hit the right letter, and then she'd start again. Believe it or not, that's how he wrote the book. You have to see it to believe it. And I don't want to give you the impression this is a tear-jerker smaltzy kind of movie. Not at all. HIGHLY recommend this film if it comes to your city. It wasn't one of my original picks but I swapped it for something else and was glad for it. One small detail... the subtitles got very confusing for anyone who knows any French, when he was learning to "speak", because, for example, when he was trying to spell mourir, which means "to die", he'd blink on M and she'd ask "M?" and the subtitle would read D. Until I trained myself to listen instead of reading the subtitles in those bits, it was very distracting. But go see this film if you get the chance.

The other French film I really enjoyed was Les Chansons D'Amour.
I did talk about this one a bit the day I saw it. Basically, it was interesting and quirky fun. A musical about some very unconventional characters and their love lives.

Chrysalis was a French sci fi film I liked well enough, but don't think it was amazing enough to recommend that highly. The same with La fille coupee en deux, which I blogged about when I saw it. Interestingly, it starred the same actress as Les Chansons, and while La Fille is certainly considered the "bigger" film of the two... based on the filmmaker etc. I really enjoyed Les Chansons, better...

So, that's it for the French films. Tomorrow... The ones about child abuse including Alan Ball's new film Nothing is Private and Nicole Kidman's new film Margot at the Wedding. Brace yourselves.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Viggo's penis wins People's Choice Award

Too tired to blog again... Will talk about more movies next week...

But Eastern Promises won the People's Choice Award at the festival. To understand what the title of this post means (and yes, to see his penis)... go see the film. Ironically, it didn't win the best Canadian film prize (which is a juried prize) which went to Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg. Now, I'm all for avante guard films and must say I (mostly) enjoyed Maddin's very strange film The Saddest Music in the World in which Isabella Rosellini's character has a glass leg full of beer... But I saw Maddin's film in last year's festival, called Brand Upon the Brain and in spite of some cool gimics like having not only a live orchestra, but also live sound effects artists you could watch to the side of the screen (it was a silent movie...) I found it tedious and left before the end. So, needless to say, I did not pick My Winnipeg as one of my movies this year.

Eastern Promises
was a good film. Definitely worth seeing. It's film noir but with Cronenberg's horror film stamp on parts of it. Examples are the way he shows things like throats being cut or even a baby being born... But for me Eastern Promises wasn't as good as A History of Violence that I thought had so many more layers... Speaking of film noir... I saw Eastern Promises last Sunday morning at 9:30 am. Cronenberg introduced the film, and seemed truly perplexed that 1200 or so people would show to see such a dark film so early in the morning. He called it, "the world premiere screening of the film in the morning." LOL

Runner up for the People's Choice award (I heard from someone in a line) was Juno, a really great little film that I blogged about the day I saw it... Not sure when this film is opening, but I really hope it does well. I thought it was so genuine and unique and true. (Not to mention laugh out loud funny. I want to see it again to hear the lines the audience laughed over.)

The festival is over for 2007... I skipped my first and last films today, but still managed to see four. My last film actually doesn't start for another four minutes... But I was too tired to stay to see it.

Will post more thoughts on the films and the fest all next week.

Friday, September 14, 2007


I just don't think I can blog tonight... But I'll bring my laptop with me tomorrow and try to post some time during the day.

Good day, today... Don't want to post about the films without thinking a little and being half-way coherent.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Okay day

Am I getting tired or was today just OK?

I ended up sleeping through Bill my 9:00 am screening. Oh, well. I hope it gets released into theatres. I started the day with what was supposed to be my second film of the day, the new Woody Allen film, Cassandra's Dream starring Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell. It was good. Not like the most amazing film I've ever seen--not even the most amazing Woody Allen movie, but better than many of his more recent films, for me anyway.

With Matchpoint and this film, it seems Woody Allen's back to exploring ethical and moral dilemmas like he did in great movies like Crimes and Misdemeanors. (Makes me wonder what kind of ethical lines Allen has crossed in his life -- other than sleeping with his adopted daughter, that is.) Ewan and Colin play brothers in the film and it was interesting to see Farrell in the "beta" brother role. I think this film comes out around Christmas and it's worth seeing. (I mean, is any movie with Ewan McGregor not worth seeing???)

After that, instead of trekking 10 blocks to another theatre, I passed on Weirdsville which I'm a little bummed about, because it looks fun, (but I assume it will be released in theatres in Canada, anyway) and picked up a ticket for Atonement. I'm glad I did. I guess the Woody Allen movie got me thinking about ethics and morals and since I'd read Atonement I was kind of in the mood for more of that kind of thing.

Anyway... As afraid as I was about being disappointed, I actually think this movie worked for the most part. The book is so amazing... If you haven't read it, you should. But it's a challenging book to adapt for the screen in that it goes over the same time period and events more than once from different points of view, and in that all is not what it seems for most of the story. I wasn't sure how the filmmaker would pull this off... But he did use a few tricks to give the viewer clues, including some interesting foreshadowing devices that you'd probably only notice if you know the book... but added to the enjoyment for me. The coolest example of this was using a typewriter as a percussion instrument throughout bits of the musical score. If you've read the book, you may get why this was an interesting choice.

Atonement was made by the same filmmaker who did the most recent Pride and Prejudice, which I loved. He really is an expert in show don't tell... He shows so much in all these tiny little moments.. Like having James McAvoy touch the surface of the water Keira Knightly has recently been in... That kind of detail reminded me of his P&P which also had many nice little moments like that.

After that, I saw La Fille coupee en deux, which Barrie asked me to review. Dang. Sorry Barrie. I dozed off a couple of times. I don't think it's a boring film... I was just tired -- maybe too tired for subtitles. I kept jerking awake when the audience laughed. It's pretty out there... A very implausible story in my mind, but I don't necessarily think it was supposed to be plausible. But the filmmaker is some famous french director who was part of the new wave thing and he's in his eighties now and I can't help but think that it's a story only a man that age would tell. I probably need to let it percolate a bit... and maybe see it again to see just how often my eyes were closed... But I'm not sure that I like what this film says about women. The main actress Ludivine Sagnier was in another absolutely charming French film I saw this week, called Les Chansons d'Amour. I'm planning an "about the musicals" post at some point, and so I'll wait on talking about Chansons until then... But some of you may have also seen Ludivine in Swimming Pool. She was the young girl in that film.

I ended the day with an Australian film called Romulus, My Father, starring Eric Bana and Franka Potente. Eric was there (jealous much, Sinead?) A very nice little film. Not amazing, but very nice. I found one plot element a bit off, but then learned during the Q&A that the film is based on a memoir... so just goes to prove that sometimes real life isn't very believable.

Three more days, but things already feel like things are winding down... I still have 14 or so movies to see... But at this point I can't even remember if there's anything I'm really excited about. Oh, I don't have a ticket, but I'm going to try to switch one of my picks tomorrow to see Le Scaphandre et le papillon. (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.) At least two people have called it their favourite film when I've asked. It's showing again tomorrow afternoon when I now have a ticket for a film called The Take, that looks okay... but the French film sounds better. It's actually been a good year for French films for me... Maybe I'll do an "about the French films" post later, too...

Living up to the hype

Okay, so yesterday I theorized that whichever film I was most looking forward to in any particular day would be sure to disappoint... Not today.

I saw Across the Universe this morning and as excited as I was to see it, the film exceeded my expectations in just about every way.

It's kind of hard to explain this movie. To call it a musical trivializes it, but clearly it is a musical. The director Julie Taymor did a Q&A after the screening and according to her there's only 30 minutes of dialogue in this 2 hour movie and that sounds about right. It was mostly music. But the music is so compelling and fun (or heart wrenching) and the visuals so original it didn't feel long.

And surprisingly, in spite of featuring such well known songs, the music felt original, too. I was blown away. Sure, it was 33 Beatles songs all strung together to make a story... But all of the arrangements are different and the performances outstanding and the lyrics felt totally organic to the story being told. I'm telling you, the guy who plays Jude, Jim Sturgess, was truly amazing. Not only is he adorable, he has an incredible singing voice and, like all the performers in this movie, has the acting talent to make it seem like Lennon & McCartney's lyrics were about him and that he was singing them for the first time. According to Julie Taymor, about 90% of the musical performances that ended up in the movie were from live performances on the set (not prerecorded and lip synced). Sounds like they did prerecord everything, but had the actors sing on set, too (with the music playing in little ear buds in their ears) and those were the performances she went with most of the time. Evan Rachel Woods was amazing, too. I knew she was a talented young actress, but who knew she could sing, too?

LOVED this movie. (Can you tell?) I feel like it's one I'll enjoy watching over and over again. It opens in select cities including Toronto this Friday (everywhere on Sept 21) but I'm glad I saw it first and saw it in the beautiful Elgin theatre and got to hear Julie Taymor answer audience questions at the end. FANTASTIC.

Heard something else interesting today. Not sure if it's accurate, but heard it from someone who has a short film in the festival, who heard it at one of the industry events. Anyway... the gossip was that the cut of the Brad Pitt film (Jesse James) I saw the other night is not the one that will be shown in theatres starting in ten days. The rumor was that Brad Pitt did his own cut of the movie, but both the director and the studio thought it was too long and slow-paced. Supposedly, I saw the Brad cut and the one being released into theatres is the shorter one the studio liked... This is probably a good thing. It was very long 2 hours and 40 minutes and felt it...

I know I didn't talk about The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford the day I saw it... It's been percolating. Overall, I liked it, but certainly didn't love it. If you're interested in films and creative storytelling then you might enjoy it. Visually, it was pretty spectacular. Some art worthy shots to be sure. Also, the director did a few interesting stylistic things. For example, during the voice-over narration, he made the screen look like an old daguerreotype or something.... That is, a circle in the centre of the screen was in focus, but the edges were blurred... Like it had been shot through an old fashioned lens. Things like that did make it kind of interesting... And the shots of characters posing... certainly the movie was from the POV of looking back at a legend from today, not watching it unfold in real time. I think that's what made the pacing drag, but also was kind of creative, I guess. But the film did drag at times and a few story elements weren't clear to me... But this may just be because I'd let my mind wander.

Given the tepid applause at the end of the film (even with the ridiculously star-sprinkled audience) I wasn't the only one who was luke-warm on Jesse James. I'll be interested to see how it does in release. (Remind me some time to talk more about that night. Really surreal.)

I'm still trying to decide what I thought of In the Valley of Elah, that I saw yesterday, too... During the film, I was really disappointed. It felt preachy and heavy handed in it's message and derivative of TV cop shows in it's delivery... But by the end I liked it more, and now that it's percolated for a day, I realize there were some really strong moments... Mostly at the end... And I've also decided that in many ways Haggis did deliver his overall message (that war turns boys into monsters) in a fairly creative way... At least not in the most predictable way. But this movie didn't 100% work for me. At least it didn't live up to my very high expectations.

Another 5 film day tomorrow. I have a ticket to the new Woody Allen film... but may take a pass. Right now, my day goes like this:

9:00 am Bill at Scotiabank Theatres
11:00 am Cassandra's Dream (Woody Allen one) at The Elgin
3:00 pm Weirdsville at Scotiabank
6:00 pm La Fille coupee en deux at The Elgin
9:00 pm Romulus, My Father at The Elgin

So, if I can get a ticket for something at Scotia that ends no later than 2:00.... I might do that instead. (or I might sleep in and skip Bill... but it doesn't have a release date listed anywhere, so this might be the only chance to see it and it sounds pretty interesting...)

Over and out...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

All about the comedies

You think I'd have realized by now that whatever I expect to be my "big great experience" on any particular day will not ending up being so.

I thought today was going to be all about Paul Haggis's new film In the Valley of Elah, and it was good... (more on it at another time) But for me today was about two comedies I saw. Maybe I just really, really needed a comedy. There are a lot of very heavy films in the festival this year.

The first comedy was Juno an amazing movie by Jason Reitman of Thank-you for Smoking fame -- which also had it's world premiere at the TIFF a few years ago.

Anyway... Juno. It was the most original and unique take on the teenager gets pregnant story I've seen. Unique mostly because of the writing and the main character played by Ellen Page, who I've only seen in really dark films prior to this, like Hard Candy. (If you ever want to see a film that will make you feel really uncomfortable, rent Hard Candy. Deep exploration of revenge and moral choices and perhaps karma -- not to mention castration...) Her character in Juno was so quirky and different and totally unique -- as were her parents played by J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney. Michael Cera (Arrested Development, Superbad) has a small part and he's adorable as usual.

The other great comedy was Lars and the Real Girl with Ryan Gosling. Another totally unique and different film with great performances. Yes, it's about a man who falls in love with a sex doll... But it's actually very sweet and says a lot about the positive side of human nature. Some people will find this movie over the top, but I think that's kind of the point. You can't take it 100% literally.

Anyway... Two good films to check out when they hit theatres. I know they both have distribution deals in both Canada and the US. Juno probably sooner. Oh, I'm wrong. According to IMDB I have that backwards. Looks like Lars will be out some time in Oct and Juno in December in a limited release. Perhaps after the amazing reaction Juno got at TIFF they'll release it more widely.

Sorry this post isn't more interesting or coherent. I need sleep!

Monday, September 10, 2007

All about Sean Penn

Okay, so I just had my first truly transcendent festival experience of 2007. I don't think I've felt that way in a movie theatre since the World Premiere of Paul Haggis' Crash a few festivals ago.

I thought today was going to be all about Cronenberg for me, and I did like his film... But WOWOWOWOWOW...

Into the Wild
, the new Sean Penn movie staring Emile Hirsch and with music by Eddie Vedder. Can't express how moving and riveting this film was. And I was really tired going in. I actually considered going home after my 6:00 pm film, but I'm so glad I didn't. Worth staying up for.

For me, the truly amazing films at the festival are the ones where there's no buzz, were there's been no reviews, because no one has freakin' seen it yet. That's the way it was with Crash in 2004 and Into the Wild this year. Those of us lucky enough to be in the room are the first people to ever see it on a big screen. And when a film like that is good... well it's amazing.

Into the Wild is so beautiful visually, the music's incredible, the performances are real, the characters fascinating, the story gripping in spite of what many people would consider a slow pace, and then Jon Krakauer's truly beautiful and deeply meaningful prose as read by Jenna Malone. WOW.

I have three Oscar predictions, no four. Best Actor, Emile Hirsch, Best Score, Eddie Vedder, Best Director, Sean Penn, Best Movie, Into the Wild. That is, assuming this movie hits theatres before the end of the year. I have no idea what they're planning. [Update: According to, it's out this month. Go see it.] With Crash, they waited almost a year after I saw it to release the film to theatres... But that was because Haggis was getting all that buzz over Million Dollar Baby. (I assume--and digress.) There are also a few possible supporting actor noms including Hal Holbrook and Catherine Keener who were stand outs for me in a cast where every performance felt so real.

If you don't know anything about this book, then I suggest not reading it or listening to any reviews before seeing the movie. If you have read the book, I expect you won't be disappointed. I may be wrong about my Oscar predictions, but if this film doesn't solidify Sean Penn's reputation as a stellar filmmaker, I don't know what it would take. Truly fabulous. Okay, I'm gushing. But the film really blew me away, and if the standing ovation was any judge, it blew everyone else away, too.

And the festival audiences don't do that for every film just to kiss up to the stars in the room. Last night, there was short polite applause after The Assassination of Jesse James, in spite of half of Hollywood royalty being in the room. (Okay, just the boys. Half the cast of Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, etc. were there to watch Brad in his arty western.) Which I enjoyed, by the way, I know I didn't blog about it last night... But I did find it beautiful both visually, and in terms of the words. (Like this film tonight, Jesse James has a voice over narration at times, and it was like poetry. Beautiful.) But in spite of Pitt winning best actor at the Venice Festival, I really don't think that film's going to do very well. (Nor did I think he was all that great in it.) It was about the same length and overall pace as Into the Wild, but felt about 2 hours longer... And I talked to several people today who genuinely hated it...

Anyway... Another big day tomorrow, starting out with a very interesting sounding movie, In Bloom, starring Uma Thurman, (which sounds controversial enough that it may not hit theatres in spite of Ms. Thurman), and ending with Paul Haggis's new film, In the Valley of Elah, in the evening... But Haggis's new film has already been seen by the press and in Venice, so not nearly as exciting. BTW. Haggis was in the theatre tonight to watch Sean Penn's movie.

Over and out....

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Reese Witherspoon made me cry...

True confessions, Reese made me cry. And early in the morning. (Maybe I was crying because it was so early in the morning?)

But seriously. Rendition was amazing. I really liked it. Not only did I find it gripping and emotional and important, but it was my first film this year that made me think about storytelling techniques.

I don't want to give away spoilers for a film I think everyone should see... but there are multiple storylines and an interesting twist in how the writer/director uses those storylines. Just something I'd never seen before and I thought it really worked to heighten tension, build to a climax, etc. etc.

Another very cool festival experience was the world premiere of Stuart Townsend's new film Battle in Seattle about the WTO riots in 1999. The audience gave a five minute standing ovation... I'm not sure I thought it was five-minute-standing-ovation good... but clearly others did and Stuart and Charlize were too cute for words. During the Q&A someone asked how each of the actors got involved in the project and they all gave these long-winded answers about how great the script and subject matter were and how badly they wanted to be involved... And then the mike went to Charlize and she said, "I just wanted to sleep with the director." Seriously, they were too cute.

All-in-all a great day but I'm a little too tired to blog much and need to get up in less than 6 hours if I want to make my screening of Eastern Promises, and I want to pay the films I saw today justice when I talk about them.

I'm just going to say one more thing. In person, Brad Pitt is the most beautiful human being on the planet. Oh, My, God. (Says Maureen from the third row, realizing she's not over him like she thought she was when he left his wife for that slut.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Worth the mad dash across Queen St?

Okay, so I'm through my first full day, but it's 12:44 am and my first film tomorrow (today?) is at 9:00 am... So this blog will be short. My morning film tomorrow is Rendition, and I do want to see it, but it opens Oct. 19, and the premiere was tonight (at the same time as I was seeing an Ang Lee film) so the stars are highly unlikely to be there... so when my alarm rings at 7:30 am I may well decide to give it a pass.

Today was pretty good. First film Pink. A very strange but interesting film. It's a Greek film and I'm trying to think of how to describe it... All elements were odd/offbeat. The characters, the story, the filming style, everything. But all in all I'm glad I saw it.

Next was California Dreamin' (Endless). A Romanian film that did end up being well named -- endless. I was loving the film for about the first 90 minutes... Then I got restless and realized I had a time problem because I had a 6:00 pm screening at another venue. I'd figured that would be lots of time, since California Dreamin' (Endless) was at 3:00, so I figured I'd be out by 5:00... But no... I knew there was supposed to be a big explosive ending... so I kept waiting it out, but ended up leaving at about 5:40 (I'm not sure what I missed) and literally ran and then took a cab for 3 or so blocks and ran some more (once the traffic around Yonge and Queen got so bad running was quicker than the cab). But I made it. They only officially hold seats until 15 minutes before the screening, but they were still letting the main line in (hadn't even started dealing with the Rush folks) when I got there. Phew.

That film was worth the run, I think... But I was in the second row which was kind of difficult. It was called Then She Found Me and the filmmaker/star was Helen Hunt. This is a real "women's fiction" type story and although the Ang Lee movie is in my head right now... I think I really liked Then She Found Me. Hey, Colin Firth was in it. What's not to like. (He didn't show up for the screening, though.) It's about a woman dealing with her marriage ending, wanting to have a baby, meeting her birth mother, etc. etc. There were a few interesting/unexpected twists and Hunt was really good. Bette Midler plays her birth mom and one bizarre thing I hate to comment on, was that Hunt looked older than Midler. I admire Helen Hunt for not botoxing or eye lifting herself... but it was a bit strange that Midler looked younger. I guess it kind of fit their characters, though. Okay, I officially feel badly about noticing/mentioning this. I'm such a hypocrite.

The Ang Lee film Lust, Caution was pretty amazing. But I'm a big fan of his. During the intros, one of the producers made a joke about Ang Less going from a gay shepherd movie to a 2 1/2 hour Chinese porno... LOL. Lust, Caution is a spy-type story set in Shanghai in the 1940's and yes, there are some very graphic (and violent) sex scenes. It'll be interesting to see if this movie gets released in the US. Probably will with a NC17 rating. Can't imagine how they could cut it to avoid that rating. But then the ratings given by the MPAA are so arbitrary and bizarre, who knows... They showed some clips from 40's era movies during the film, including Casablanca, and I have a feeling these clips were chosen purposefully, but I'm going to have to think about that a bit more... One character does make a big/difficult/impulsive/tragic choice that's kind of motivated by love... but it's not like Casablanca in my mind... Will have to think about it once my head clears a bit. Maybe it was just showing the romantic nature of the protagonist? Hmmmm...

Anyway... I'd better try to wind down and get to bed! (Tomorrow's Brad Pitt day, not to mention the new Coen brothers movie!)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Good first day

Okay, so it was a good if uneventful opening day. Most exciting, for the first time in years they actually had a pretty funny ad before the film. It involved producer Robert Lantos being pitched a film idea by Gordon, one of those stupid beaver characters from the Bell commercials, but in spite of that, it actually got laughs. I imagine it'll get pretty old by the end of the festival, no, by tomorrow. But at least it got a laugh on the first run. That's opposed to the very strange promo piece for the Harold Greenberg Foundation which involved someone (Ian Greenberg?) in a coffin at a funeral, with Atom Egoyan and another filmmaker, I should recognize but didn't, talking about what an inspiration the dead guy was, then he sits up in his coffin and talks. If it was supposed to be funny, I didn't get it.

Fugitive Pieces was emotionally draining, but good. Well worth seeing in my opinion. I wish I thought it was going to be a huge hit... I love when Canadian films do well, but ultimately I think the story is too sad to be a box office hit and I just don't know if the performances were strong enough for it to be a contender for Oscars or anything. Except the little kid who played Jakob as a boy. WOW. He was amazing.

I was extremely impressed with how seamlessly the writer/director moved between locals and time periods. The actors, too. The lead had to play his character over quite a long time period, and not in chronological order in the film, but it was always easy by this demeanor etc to determine what stage of the story we were in. The story moves back and forth in time, but it was never confusing. I'd have to see it again to study how he did it.

Persepolis I'd definitely recommend. I noticed on that they list actors for the English version (including Sean Penn, Iggy Pop, and Gena Rowlands) so I assume it'll be released in North America (and in English instead of French with subtitles.)

The animation is unique and striking and well suited to the subject and while the overall story is kind of heavy, the filmmaker adds a lot of levity. There were a few laugh out loud moments for me, and that's a lot to say about a film documenting the rise of the Islamic regime in Iran and the Iran-Iraq war.
Persepolis. My first no caveats recommendation from this year's Festival.

I don't have a film until noon tomorrow, so I can sleep in! The film is called Pink and sounds interesting. It's a Greek film but is described as having the style of Richard Linklater or Paul Thomas Anderson. Hmmm....

Thursday, September 06, 2007

And So it Begins...

Today is the opening day of the festival and so far I'm still feeling pretty happy about my picks. Sure, there are movies I'd love to see that I sacrificed for others... But all in all, I'm pretty excited.

Bracing too, for 10 days of little sleep, eating badly, and running between movie theatres. It's also ragweed season and I have terrible allergies which always seem to get aggravated by the no-sleep-bad-food-spending-too-much-time-in-movie-theatres thing. I have tickets for 45 films this year again. And while that sounds like 4.5 per day... I only have 2 screenings today and so there are a few days when I have 6 films. ACK. Time will tell whether I get to them all. As excited as I am about seeing each of the films I've picked, there comes a point each year where sleep, or getting a real meal, starts to take precedence.

On deck for today:

Fugitive Pieces. A Canadian film based on a novel by Anne Michaels, about a young Holocaust survivor who comes to Canada via Greece after the war. I remember liking this book when I read it (at least 10 years ago) but only a few strong images have remained in my mind. And often it's tricky to translate literary fiction to the movie screen... but it's directed by Jeremy Podeswa who directed many episodes of Six Feet Under and some other interesting TV stuff. And it got a 3 star review in the Globe today... So I'm hopeful. It's also the first time I've gotten a ticket for the opening film. I was so lucky in the lottery this year.

Next is Persepolis, an animated film that's a coming of age story of a girl in Tehran during the rule of the Shah, the Islamic Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. Not your average Saturday morning cartoon from the sounds of it.

I'm going to try to blog about at least one of the films each day. I'm not sure what the camera situation is going to be this year, but if I can take some snaps I'll post those too... Last year in some screenings they had big thugs trying to prevent people from taking snaps...
Not sure what the situation will be this year. But depending on how it seems, I'll bring my camera to the opening of Jesse James on Thursday night. How could I not take a picture of Brad Pitt????

Friday, August 31, 2007

Maureen is happy...

What is making Maureen happy? Her TIFF pick envelope ended up in box 70 of 75 and the number drawn out of the hat (well, box) was 66. That means she has a better than fighting chance of getting all her first choice movies. Yippee! Let's hope she didn't make too many mistakes on her selection form at 4:00 am this morning...

Festival Time

So, it's festival time again and I'm up late trying to make my picks which are due by 1:00 PM tomorrow. Not that I'm guaranteed to get my first choice picks, but I've been incredibly lucky the past few years, which, of course, makes me think this is the year that my second choice picks will be more important or even relevant...

I blogged last year a bit about the festival and I'm always faced with the what-kind-of-festival-do-I-want-to-have question when trying to make my selections from the 350 plus films they're showing.

Do I go for the avante guard? Foreign films? Base it on trying to stick to one theatre for a few films in a row, rather than dashing around Toronto? Do I try to maximize the number of celebrities I see? I mean, is seeing The Assassination of Jesse James only a week or so before it's released, but seeing Brad Pitt in the flesh during the introductions, worth passing up on Alan Ball's new movie Nothing is Private? How does one decide these things?

And to get more absurd, do I choose to see Michael Clayton, which opens Oct 5 (in NY, LA and Toronto) but have a possible Clooney sighting -- he is going to be in town, but will he show for the second screening? -- or see My Kid Could Paint That, a documentary about a six year old girl whose paintings sell for big bucks. I'll see Michael Clayton regardless of the festival, which makes me think I should go for the documentary... And what about the new Elizabeth film which looks amazing... Is it worth missing Jason Reitman's (Thank you for not Smoking) new film Juno that starts Michael Cera who's in Superbad right now??? And the only other screening of Juno is the same time as the new Coen brothers' film No Country for Old Men.

A few films in the festival, I want to see regardless of the fact they're opening in theatres soon. First is Across the Universe, mostly because it just looks so cool and if it gets reviewed badly I don't want the reviews to spoil my possible amazing movie-going experience. Of course, seeing a trippy film like that at 9:00 in the morning may not be so trippy... The other is Eastern Promises, David Cronenberg's new film. It's the film that Toronto's NOW Magazine picked as "THE FILM" of this year's festival, plus the reviewer seemed to think that it'll get slashed to pieces once the US censors see it... And I'd rather see it uncut.

So, back to my picking... Must get this done... I know. Tough life.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

What's in a name? (and numbers)

I found this name analysis thingy on Mel Francis's blog

Boy, guess I should have done this before I wasted 20 years of my life becoming and trying to be an accountant, huh?

Your number is: 3

The characteristics of #3 are: Expression, verbalization, socialization, the arts, the joy of living.

The expression or destiny for #3:
An Expression of 3 produces a quest for destiny with words along a variety of lines that may include writing, speaking, singing, acting or teaching; our entertainers, writers, litigators, teachers, salesmen, and composers. You also have the destiny to sell yourself or sell just about any product that comes along. You are imaginative in your presentation, and you may have creative talents in the arts, although these are more likely to be latent. You are an optimistic person that seems ever enthusiastic about life and living. You are friendly, loving and social, and people like you because you are charming and such a good conversationalist. Your ability to communicate may often inspire others. It is your role in life to inspire and motivate; to raise the spirits of those around you. Words? Me? Latent creative talents? Like waiting until I'm freaking 40 to try writing???

The negative side of number 3 Expression is superficiality. You may tend to scatter your forces and simply be too easygoing. It is advisable for the negative 3 to avoid dwelling on trivial matters, especially gossip. I LOVE gossip.

Your Soul Urge number is: 3

A Soul Urge number of 3 means:
With the Soul Urge number 3 your desire in life is personal expression, and generally enjoying life to its fullest. You want to participate in an active social life and enjoy a large circle of friends. You want to be in the limelight, expressing your artistic or intellectual talents. Word skills may be your thing; speaking, writing, acting, singing. In a positive sense, the 3 energy is friendly, outgoing and always very social. Ah, yup!

You have a decidedly upbeat attitude that is rarely discouraged; a good mental and emotional balance. Not sure about this... I think I'm pretty unbalanced. LOL

The 3 Soul Urge gives intuitive insight, thus, very high creative and inspirational tendencies. The truly outstanding trait shown by the 3 Soul Urge is that of self-expression, regardless of the field of endeavor. Aw, shucks. I truly hope this is true.

On the negative side, you may at times become too easygoing and too optimistic, tending to scatter forces and accomplish very little. Often, the excessive 3 energy produces non-stop talkers. Everyone has faults, but the 3 soul urge doesn't appreciate having these pointed out. AND DON"T POINT OUT MINE!

Your Inner Dream number is: 9

An Inner Dream number of 9 means:
You dream of being creative, intellectual, and universal; the selfless humanitarian. You understand the needy and what to help them. You would love to be a person people count on for support and advice.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Negligent blogger

I'm not sure how you writers who are mothers do it. I've had my 9-year-old niece with me for the past week and barely looked at my e-mails never mind doing blog posts or anything resembling actual writing. Didn't even do any reading.

Okay, so when my niece is in her normal habitat, at home, she's got her toys and her friends and stuff like that, and when she's at "Camp Auntie Maureen" there are supposed to be tons-o-fun activities all of which involve Auntie Maureen's participation, so it was pretty much non stop from the time we woke up until we fell asleep next to each other each night... So, I know it's not like simulated motherhood... but still... Wow. No time to do anything but deal with her this past week.

Not that I'm complaining. We had a great time and I hope to get back into the blogging swim of things soon. I owe Sara Hantz a guest blog... must do that! And I didn't post on DWT last week either.

Boy, am I a slacker or what?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Scourge of the City

This photo just taken from the stairs leading up to my third floor office, looking out the window to the roof of the next house.

Have I mentioned how much I hate racoons? Sure, they look cute, but wait until you have them living (and crapping) under your back deck. Then tell me how cute they are. (At least I don't have them living in my roof, like my brother and sister-in-law do. The other half of their semi-detached is being renovated right now and the builders keep leaving holes for them to get back in.)

Eileen Cook has a hilarious post about squirrels today. Got me wondering what this racoon is up to!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Writing and acting and directing (Why Sean Penn is smart)

I'm watching the Sean Penn episode on the biography channel and he just said this amazing thing that really rang true for me, and yet again articulated why I think being a screenwriter might suck. Or at least be frustrating.

He was talking about his clashes with directors. And he said something like this: It's been a source of great frustration working with directors as an actor. A director who doesn't write his own material is confusing to me, because as an actor you question whether he should be the one to tell you how this story should be told. Why would his ideas be better than mine?

Okay, I'm going from memory of what Penn said, but it articulates really well the conflicting creative forces at work on a movie... And the screenwriter is typically the one who has the most knowledge of the story, but the one whose opinion is most ignored when it comes to actually making the movie. That's why I'm not sure I"d like to be a screenwriter (as if I could just snap my fingers and be one... ha!) Or why I'm pursuing writing novels vs screenplays when I'm so clearly a movie buff...

Oh, and some funny trivia about Sean Penn. He got fined (as did the hotel) for smoking during a press conference at last year's TIFF. I think he's back again this year. Will be interesting to see if he can keep from smoking this year.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Release Day!

Stepping back from my crankiness to congratulate two writer friends and fellow TKA clients on their release days!!!

Bev Katz Rosenbaum's BEYOND COOL is out today. If you've got kids 11 or over (is that about right, Bev?) or would love a fun read yourself, check it out!

Also, Debrah Williamson's mainstream fiction book, PAPER HEARTS, is out today. I'm going to be chatting with Debrah tomorrow, either here or on DWT.

Living off the Grid

My power was out most of yesterday and again this morning for about 3 hours. I swear. Some days I feel like I live in a 3rd world country.

I don't know what it is with the area of Toronto I live in. I had a few days last winter (a very cold stretch, too) where I didn't have power. Less than a block away, people had power. Just not me. Realy got to know a few of my fellow work at home neighbours as we fought over the one plug at our local coffee shop to charge our phones and laptops.

That time there'd been a big storm and a tree was down near me. And another one a few blocks north. And there were trees and power lines down all over the city... So I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

But this time... I wish they'd just fix whatever's wrong. This morning it went out at 7:00 am. Came on at about 7:20 for maybe three minutes and then went out again. (I have lots of things, including my alarm system and my doorbell that scream when the power goes off or on... so I notice each time.)
Did that a couple more times until I gave up and got out of bed about 9:45 when it came back on for about the fourth time in 3 hours. (I went to bed about 3:00... so with my 7:00 am rude awakening this morning. I'm going to be cranky today.)

I'll be crankier if the power goes out again. I'm lost without my computer. (Not to mention my air conditioning.)

Fingers crossed it'll stay on long enough for me to input a whack of changes to my ms and print it again.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...