the fall film challenge

July 31, 2015

begins one minute past twelve a.m. september first / concludes midnight november thirtieth. you may NOT use a film you have already seen, even in part (excluding trailers), for this challenge. all films MUST be new to you. each film chosen for the challenge may be used ONLY ONCE, i.e. a film used for the something miraculous category may not be used for the personal victory one as well. all films selected for the challenge MUST have a page on the internet movie database. films can be viewed in the theater or at home, but all films must have (had) a theatrical release; made-for-television movies are not eligible.

the first three people to complete the challenge prior to november thirtieth will each receive a redbox gift card valued at twenty dollars. the one person to accumulate the most points at the contest's conclusion will receive an amazon gift card valued at fifty dollars. each film is valued at ten points, yielding a total points of two hundred fifty. details of a bonus round will be revealed october fifteenth. 

to participate, you must be a member of the fall film challenge facebook group. once you have joined and chosen your films to fit the below categories, post your list to the group's page or email it to criticalcrass at me dot com so that i may add your selections to a master list. only those who have submitted lists to me are eligible for the prizes. 

one. any set in new york city. 
two. any incorporating hot air balloons in the story.
three. any featuring a child as the main character.
four. any disney film.
five. any set in egypt OR that has an egyptian character OR that stars an egyptian actor/actress.
six. a close friend or family member's favorite film.
seven. any with the word great in the title.
eight. any starring harrison ford.
nine. any featuring an idiot as the main character.
ten. any mentioned in levis strauss' list: denim in the oscars: a look at jeans in cinema.
eleven. a film about a knight.
twelve. a love story.
thirteen. a movie about something miraculous. 
fourteen. any starring an actor/actress with the same first name as yours.
fifteen. a film about the olympics.
sixteen. a film on time magazine's list: the top ten newspaper movies.
seventeen. any with a question in the title.
eighteen. any with a score of ninety percent or greater on rotten tomatoes.
nineteen. a film about a superhero.
twenty. any with subtitles.
twenty-one. any incorporating unicorns in the story.
twenty-two. a film about a personal victory.
twenty-three. a film with black or white in the title.
twenty-four. any set in a country you would most like to visit.

motion picture monday

July 26, 2015

released: 2002.
starring: hugh grant, rachel weisz, toni collette.
what makes it awesome: i really liked hugh grant's character in this movie. and the story's good.

released: 2006.
starring: meryl streep, anne hathaway, stanley tucci.
what makes it awesome: meryl streep and stanley tucci.

released: 2009.
starring: jennifer aniston, jennifer connelly, bradley cooper.
what makes it awesome: over all, it's not. but there are scenes, usually those involving jennifer aniston's and jennifer connelly's characters that i love.

four. hitch.
released: 2005.
starring: will smith, kevin james, eva mendes.
what makes it awesome: kevin james.

released: 1992.
starring: joe pesci, marisa tomei, lane smith.
what makes it awesome: joe pesci's finest work. also marisa tomei does good, too.

released: 1989.
starring: sally field, julia roberts, tom skerritt.
what makes it awesome: the cast, especially sally field--best ensemble in a film EVER. and the script is flawless.

seven. trainwreck.
released: 2015.
starring: amy schumer, bill hader, lebron james.
what makes it awesome: i have never loved a judd apatow film until this one. yes, it's hilarious. but it's got so much heart, too.

random quarter: the q&a edition-july

July 25, 2015

one. should you trusts your instincts? nope.

two. who do you miss the most right now? minn.

three. today you wore maroon, striped polo, jeans, flip-flops.

four. what was the last fruit you ate? honeydew melon.

five. what do you feel most grateful for today? watching sunset at lake woodlands.

six. how many cups of coffee did you drink today? none.

seven. did you exercise today? nope.

eight. the best hour of was sunset. why? because it's summer in texas.

nine. what was the last personal letter you received? thank you note from natalie.

ten. what's the last movie you saw in a theater? trainwreck.

eleven. when was the last time you cried? today.

twelve. what was the last beach you went to? coligny beach at hilton head.

thirteen. are you wearing socks? nope.

fourteen. what was the last road trip you took? austin in november.

fifteen. today were you a wallflower or a social butterfly? wallflower.

sixteen. on a scale of one to ten, how healthy are you? three.

seventeen. what makes you miserable? lack of faith, i suppose.

eighteen. what makes a good friend? consideration.

nineteen. what is your favorite thing to do on a friday night? watch movies.

twenty. is something in your way? yes. can you move it? no.

twenty-one. something that made you worry today? the wonder twins.

twenty-two. what's your favorite gadget? my mac.

twenty-three. what makes you cynical? life.

twenty-four. what's the last meal someone cooked for you? chicken, beans, potatoes and melon.

twenty-five. when's the last time you had pizza? last saturday. what kind? california pizza kitchen's blt.

would that we could find a way to silence it

July 19, 2015

in my facebook feed this morning, i came across a post about an ou daily op-ed which claims that nude bras, band-aids and cosmetics advertisements are racist.

half the country's in an uproar because espn gave the arthur ashe courage award to caitlyn jenner.

south carolina took down the dixie flag because it's racist.

heads up, people, this is the confederate flag:

this is the one that shouldn't be flown anywhere. ever. 

and as a friendly reminder, the emancipation proclamation only freed the slaves residing in union-occupied territories of the south. the north could keep all theirs. it was a brilliant tactical move by president lincoln to help end the war quicker. a war, by the way, that was not about slavery. 

let me say that again: it was NOT about slavery.

it wasn't about people in chains, thought it damned well should've been. it was about states thinking they were better than the country and that they shouldn't have to be so regulated by the national government. it was about rebellion and ego and greed, and the self-righteous south lost because they didn't have the industry, thereby the money, to perpetuate the war they started.

the flag that is being hated upon by so many right now is the battle flag of confederate general robert e. lee.

because it has been tied to the domination and subjugation of a people for so long, people see red when they see it: they're angry because a symbol of what made the southern culture good is being desecrated by those who see it as a symbol of what made the southern culture bad. 

let me digress for a second...

i'm not the best at communicating, which is a horrible source of contention for me. i hate feeling so powerless. and i am. when i can't find the words to say what i want and need and think, when the only time i can raise my voice is when i'm sitting at a desk pounding on some keys, i am reminded of how much i lack.

yesterday, i took my car to get the tires rotated and balanced. i had tried to do this last weekend, but they were too busy, and i didn't feel like waiting, so i made an appointment to come back. when i got there, the guy started telling me something like well, you've not brought this car in before, and... it was the same thing i'd heard the week before. that guy was much more helpful, though. when this guy said it, he sounded like he only took care of customers who'd been there before. i just wanted the tires rotated and balanced; i'd made my appointment. i was late for it (and i was feeling guilty for that), but only by four minutes (so not that guilty), and i'd had to wait another ten to even be acknowledged by the staff because they were so busy. i'd begun to think that perhaps because i was late, they'd given my time to someone else. so i was perturbed by his can't do attitude and my tardiness. and i was short with him because of it. i managed not to cuss (hooray!). but he had to act like i had cussed him out, which annoyed me even more. but eventually, we came to an understanding.

i'd decided that while the tires were being tended to, i'd go get the man a drink. (it's fucking hot here right now, and he's working in it, in a hotter garage.) he wanted blue powerade.

so i go to the gas station and get it. and i'm standing in line, and this guy behind me is standing too close for my comfort. at first, i find a way to cope--i turn my back so that i'm looking out at the shelves of products and am leaning against the cash counter. i can see better this way. i have a better comprehension of the room, of the space. but i'm still anxious.

when it's my turn to pay though, i have to turn back round. so now, i can't see the floor because of the counter and because the register in operation is close to the station's door and because the man is standing too close. i have to see the floor in my peripheral or i lose all concept of the space in which i stand.

to put this in ways yall might better understand, this scenario would be like yall standing right in front of a movie screen with people on either side of you. 

everything is much too close, and you feel trapped.

the attendant's trying to ring me up, and she's telling me that the gatorade's on special and asking if i want that instead, but all i can think is get the fuck back.

i turn to him and ask, in the kindest voice possible, please don't stand so close to me.

his reply is that he's not standing too close.

i tell him that he is. 

he says that there's three feet between us. 

i don't understand three feet. that number, that measurement means absolutely nothing to me unless i've got a ruler in my hand. i should start carrying measuring tape in my bag.

i'm quite positive, though, if i were to reach out, i could touch him and my arm would not be straight. that's my bubble, folks. that's how big it is. if i can extend my arm completely and not touch you, i'm great. i understand that this means my personal bubble is huge, and probably unrealistic, but it's what i need to function without enduring panic attacks.

(i just measured three feet; there's no way there was that much room between me and him. i know this because my arm isn't three feet long. i'd venture a guess that there was barely a foot between us.)

he's reluctant to move and is being a dick about it, so i look to the attendant and tell her to ring him up. i step back, far away from him and gesture for him to go ahead as i do so.

and the guy's raised his voice now and is insisting that three feet's plenty of room, and i've raised mine and am yelling that i have no concept of that because i have no depth perception--

and yes, i know. those words, no depth perception, are as incomprehensible to many of you as three feet generally is to me. but i don't communicate well, remember?

as that guy's leaving, the guy behind him says, don't sweat that, man.

like the guy's in the right.

that pissed me off, too, because in my mind, all the first guy had to do was take one step back. if he'd done this, he wouldn't've been offended for whatever reason, i wouldn't've lost my temper with him and the other guy, whom i'd said was as much of a dick as the first guy was, i wouldn't've had the panic attack and been so frustrated that i'd cried in a public place. something that should've taken five minutes took twenty because i had to wait for everybody else to go, for the store to be empty of customers before i could approach the counter again. the attendant wouldn't've had to have to stop her work to calm my overly-sensitive self down.

maybe he was in the right. maybe i should've just found a way to endure the trapped sensation long enough to get my shit and go. it certainly would've taken less time. i could've gone outside after and stood there breathing in the air of the open space.

the point is--and i'm including myself here, folks... i certainly don't mean this to sound preachy, and i am most assuredly not without fault--all this is is hate.

all of it.

i hated that the man was so insensitive. he hated that i'd made such a big deal over three lousy feet. i hated that i'd lost my temper and made myself a spectacle... again. i hated that he couldn't take one step back. i hated that to feel better about the interaction i'd had with the attendant at the tire shop, i had to go buy him a beverage. that's not to say i minded doing it. i like doing nice things for people; i'm a firm believer that it's the right thing to do. but i don't like that i do them to assuage feelings of guilt and inadequacy.

i hate that the other night, after having watched trainwreck, as i left the theater and battled my way through the throngs of people to get to the bathroom and then the elevator, that i had another panic attack on the way to that elevator and was pressed up against the wall for much of the walk toward it. i hate that when a woman stopped because she was concerned for my well-being and asked if she could help, i very much appreciated the kindness but, because of her closeness and the throes of that attack, the only words i could muster were, you can move.

an african american woman hates that a bra, called nude, isn't nude for her, that stores don't stock enough bras that would be construed as nude for her skin type. that band-aids aren't. that, to her way of thinking, cosmetics advertisements only feature white women.

society hates a flag because it represents something ugly. and the re-runs of a popular television show have been pulled because the characters in it drive a car called the general lee that's painted like lee's battle flag.

an olympian's been given an award for courage because she has owned who she is, finally, and people have to belittle this because, to their way of thinking, that's not courageous. i read a post on facebook yesterday in which a man says that forty percent of the transgender population has attempted suicide, and that if even one person is saved from that because of caitlyn jenner, he'd call that a victory. he'd call it heroic. i concur, sir.

it's so easy to be ugly to each other. it's so easy to take up arms against each other and use such simple tools, like bras and band-aids, to do the wounding and the maiming. it's so easy to do this and then hide behind the first amendment and its privilege of free speech, as if it can justify that hatred and ugliness.

all any of this has done is feed the monster of animosity in each of us.

harry potter and the sorcerer's stone

July 18, 2015

why i wanted to read it: oh, i didn't. when this novel was published nearly two decades ago, i was a scanning technician at a printing company in houston. not long after, i changed jobs, choosing instead to work as a bookseller for borders. i seem to recall management having to go to sam's club and purchase additional copies of one of rowling's books because the store hadn't ordered enough. i can recall balking, with great success for a significant period of time, against reading any of these novels.

and then i rode with my mother to see finding nemo. and she was listening to harry potter and the order of the phoenix, and i was hooked. i borrowed all of her audios. i bought all the books. i've read them repeatedly. why have i read it again? because rowling has said that the story is a delusion created by ron, a statement which i wish had not been said. because i'm curious to imagine ron having said delusion, but more, i'm missing richard harris as dumbledore, and in reading it, i can imagine him again (which is sometimes better than seeing him on the screen). anyway. why have i read it again? because it's nifty, i tell you.

what i liked: the first page is beautiful...

mr. and mrs. dursley, of number four, privet drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. they were the last people you'd expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn't hold with such nonsense.

mr. dursley was the director of a firm called grunnings, which made drills. he was a big, beefy man with hardly any neck, although he did have a very large mustache. mrs. dursley was thing and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbors. the dursleys had a small son called dudley and in their opinion there was no finer boy anywhere.

the dursleys had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it (p. 1).

"can't stay long, mother," he said. "i'm up front, the prefects have got two compartments to themselves--"

"oh, are you a prefect, percy?" said one of the twins, with an air of great surprise. "you should have said something, we had no idea."

"hang on, i think i remember him saying something about it," said the other twin. "once--"

"or twice--"

"a minute--"

"all summer--"

"oh, shut up," said percy the prefect (p. 96).

harry learned that there were seven hundred ways of committing a quidditch foul and that all of them had happened during a world cup in fourteen seventy-three; that seekers were usually the smallest and fastest players, and that the most serious quidditch accidents seemed to happen to them; that although people rarely died playing quidditch, referees had been known to vanish and turn up months later in the sahara desert (p.181).

"there's no need to tell me i'm not brave enough to be in gryffindor, malfoy's already done that," neville choked out (p. 218).

"you know how i think they choose people for the gryffindor team?" said malfoy loudly a few minutes later, as snape awarded hufflepuff a penalty for no reason at all. "it's people they feel sorry for. see there's potter, whose got no parents, then there's the weasleys, who've got no money--you should be on the team, longbottom, you've got no brains."

neville went bright red but turned in his seat to face malfoy.

"i'm worth twelve of you, malfoy," he stammered (p. 223).

out on the stone steps, harry turned to the others.

"right, here's what we've got to do," he whispered urgently. "one of us has got to keep an eye on snape--wait outside the staffroom and follow him if he leaves it. hermione, you'd better do that."

"why me?"

"it's obvious," said ron. "you can pretend to be waiting for professor flitwick, you know." he put on a high voice. "oh professor flitwick, i'm so worried, i think i got question fourteen b wrong..." (p. 269).

"so light a fire!" harry choked.

"yes--of course--but there's no wood!" hermione cried, wringing her hands.

"have you gone mad?" ron bellowed. "are you a witch or not?" (p. 278).

 what sucked: nothing.

having said that: i love this story. read it if you not. read it again if you have.

saturday spotlight: texas sentinels foundation

the texas sentinels foundation was founded eight years ago by richard and jean filip of the houston area to provide wounded warriors from september eleventh, two thousand one and beyond homes, financial stewardship, counseling, job placement and more. richard filip, who served in the army, and his wife established the organization because so many of their friends had family members coming home from iraq and afghanistan physically and/or mentally traumatized from their service.

since its inception, texas sentinels have provided a number of debt-free, mortgage-free homes to men and women who have sacrificed.

the most recent home was dedicated to sergeant greg dotson, an army combat medic with six daughters, all under the age of ten. dotson served two tours in iraq and saved more than one hundred sixty lives on the battlefield. 

the dotson family with texas sentinels foundation's founders, richard and jean filip.
photo courtesy of texas sentinels foundation.
the foundation's executive director, lieutenant colonel susie barlow, said dotson, "didn't think he deserves a house because he couldn't save everybody, and so he didn't think any goodness should come his way." 

one of dotson's daughters peers at the crowd gathered at the home dedication ceremony during the flag presentation. photo courtesy of texas sentinels foundation.
after the world trade center collapsed, staff sergeant mike burns felt inspired to join the armed forces. he'd intended to serve two tours as an m.p., but his first was cut short due to injuries. he was living in phoenix, arizona with his wife and four children in a deer-lease trailer that had no air conditioning or hot water. he was sleeping in a chair and confined to a wheelchair. his wife and children were sleeping on a mattress on the floor. when the foundation learned of the family's plight, they relocated them to texas, paid for a rental home for a year and the furnishings for it while the family's new home was under construction.

the burns family at their home dedication ceremony. photo courtesy of texas sentinels foundation.
army specialist jeramie green takes a break from physical therapy to visit with his daughter.
photo courtesy texas sentinels foundation.
the next home will be awarded in september to army specialist jeramie green, a man who has had seventy-four surgeries and is still at walter reed in bethesda.

the foundation is at work building its nineteenth home. to learn more about the services it provides and those it has helped, visit