seven things celebrated in february: a scavenger hunt

February 28, 2017

one. andrew and brandon
one. february fourth. thank a mailman day. take some treats to the folks at your local post office or shipping store. andrew and brandon have been helping me with picky packs and christmas rushes and putting letters in my box when people write to me (yay!) for YEARS. they are pretty fun and pretty awesome for putting up with me and all the packing i make them do.

two. february eighth. kite flying day. go fly a kite. sounds simple enough... but the WIND... after grabbing lunch at gino's east (number three) with one of my favorite folks at pappadeaux's, she and i headed for the lake for a pleasant afternoon of kite-flying. meet crush (left... hers) and zelda (mine). zelda now rides around in the trunk of my car for those moments which require some stress relief. when there's a good wind, like there was that day, watching a bit of cloth float around in the air attached to naught but a thin bit of string is actually pretty calming.

three. a small meaty legend
three. february ninth. national pizza day. treat a friend to some pizza. and not the cheap shit. if there's a gino's east, say, in your neck of the woods... it's national pizza day, for crying out loud. PIZZA, a gift from the gods, yall. YUMMY YUMMY GOODNESS. there IS a gino's east in my neck of the woods. in fact, it takes less than ten minutes to get to it. and we went at just the right time, yall. lunch time, before anyone else had arrived. i've never seen the place empty. most of the times i go, there's hordes of people waiting for tables. it was SO nice to visit with her without having to raise our voices. that's a small meaty legend, by the way. four pieces. i ate one. she ate one. she took the rest home.

four. marissa
four. february eleventh. make a friend day. this sounds simple enough, too, right? for geeks like me, it's really, really not. this is marissa, whom i met at my chiropractor's office. she is such fun, yall, and i'm so glad we connected. she's certainly a bright spot. sadly, she's transferred to a practice in kemah, but we text and facebook. the last time i saw her she had a SEVERE case of senioritis. hopefully she's recovered.
a downtown view of houston from the entrance to the aquarium
cynthia took time out of a CRAZY day to help tackle my fear of heights
the same downtown view but from higher up
five. february fourteenth. ferris wheel day. go ride a ferris wheel. this, too, sounds simple enough. except if you're scared of heights, then maybe not so much. show of hands... you can't see but both mine were raised pretty high just then. my friend cynthia met me at the downtown aquarium, where we road its ferris wheel, which wasn't bad at all, actually. i'm a little ashamed to say i needed the help riding the thing.

six. letters for my single friends
six. february fifteenth. singles awareness day. all the single ladies... and laddies. so this day started as sort of a joke, but... maybe you've got a single friend who's having a rough go of it lately. take time out of your day to do something to let that person know how much he or she is loved and needed. i messaged a couple of friends through facebook, who are hard to reach via post, and then put a few cards in the mail.

seven. february sixteenth. do a grouch a favor day. one could argue that this task could be tied to the previous one... NO. i don't care what you do or how you do it... but find the grouchiest soul you know and put a little light in that person's world.

seven. sprout fine floral concepts in the woodlands

for this task i wanted something a little better than a batch of posies from the grocery store (not that those aren't lovely, but this was for a special very friend, one i've known for decades who's been battling leukemia and a plethora of other conditions for FAR TOO long). so i went to yelp and searched for florists, and the first one i found had a five-star ranking, twenty-four reviews and seemed to be pretty cost friendly. i got a lovely bouquet for a reasonable price in an exceptionally timely manner. but more i was met with gracious service from the moment i walked in the door to the moment i got in my car with my arrangement.

the grumpy old man (whom i've always thought of as jolly, actually, but apparently he's not that way with everyone so i must be pretty special) didn't want to be in the photo, but he found this grumpy old mug, which suits me just fine. 

tuesday topics: two letters

so one of my new year's resolutions was to send out handwritten notes instead of emailing or leaving compliments on friends' facebook walls and such. lauren used this post to write two letters to her younger self. i'd like to share with you two messages i got from folks who received notes i'd sent... because i want to remember them. because i was touched to receive them. because i need to have the reminders that what i do is good when it's hard for me to see that.

the first is from a gal i knew in my youth, one of my artistic friends whom i'd written for one of the tasks from last month's scavenger hunt:

i just checked my mail and got your beautiful letter. i couldn't hold back the tears that welled up from the multitude of emotions i felt while reading. it's so wonderful to connect with someone through shared experiences, even if they aren't exactly the same. i've been wanting to paint recently, but just haven't felt the motivation to kick myself into gear. i think you may have given me the nudge i needed to get back to my creative outlet. i'm sorry i'm not taking the time to hand write a reply. i just had to message you immediately. i love having a stronger connection with you now. this is where i begin to love facebook again. thank you so much for you sweet letter. i will keep it always to remind myself that i share my life publicly for a reason.

the second is a message i'd sent to my cousin, via facebook because he travels FREQUENTLY, and mailing him a letter is NOT a good idea. he probably would never see it. so i made an exception in his case. this was a task for this month's scavenger hunt. i sent a card to another friend, but it was imperative to me that he know of this conversation:

me: hey there. i wanted to take a second to remind you how awesome you are. the other day, when i was talking with bambam (my nephew) about his cousins, and i started naming them off... when i mentioned your name, he said i like him. he didn't say that about the others. just you. i thought you might like that.

him: nice. that's awesome.

it takes maybe ten minutes to write a letter yall, one into which you've put thought and care. it takes one to pop a line through facebook's messenger. and those ten minutes... hell, that one minute, could make a huge difference in someone's day.

two years ago, when i'd dumped the douchebag, i'd told a not-so-close friend, a woman with whom i wanted to have a stronger relationship, what that man had said to me, the words that cut the ties between me and him. this was the day after i'd cut them. so the words he'd said were too much in my head. interestingly enough, AMAZINGLY enough, having told her of this... she's become one of my favorite people. she sent me a card the day after i'd told her. i can't find it right now. but it always shows up when i need to reminded of the goodness she'd sent my way. i see her at least once a month now, when i'd seen her maybe once a year before. she invited me to join her book club, and i've met some truly incredible women because of it.

one of them's riding the ferris wheel with me today so i can polish off the last of this month's scavenger hunt tasks.

it's amazing what can happen when we open ourselves up to each other.

share some letters, any kind you'd like, with lauren and me!

the oscars: adapted screenplay

February 26, 2017

this one's probably gonna be the messiest of the bunch. sorry. try to keep up.

seventy-seven was all the president's men (adapted by william goldman from the novel of the same title by carl bernstein and bob woodward). then julia (alvin sargent; novel pentimento by lilian hellman), followed by midnight express (oliver stone; novel by billy hayes and william hoffer). i saw one of'm.

from now on, the work from which the script is adapted is a book or novel unless otherwise specified: screenwriter; author.

winners of the eighties: kramer vs. kramer (robert benton; avery corman); ordinary people (alvin sargent; judith guest); on golden pond (ernest thompson adaped his play for the screen); missing (costas-gavras and donald e. stewart; the execution of charles horman: an american sacrifice by thomas hauser); terms of endearment (james l. brooks; larry mcmurtry); amadeus (peter shaffer adapted his play); out of africa (kurt luedtke; out of africa by isak dinesen, silence will speak by errol trzebinski and isak dinesin: the life of a storyteller by judith thurman); a room with a view (ruth prawer jhabvala; e.m. forster); the last emperor (bernardo bertolucci and mark peploe; from emperor to citizen: the autobiography of aisin-gioro pu yi by henry pu yi); and dangerous liaisons (christopher hampton; play les liaisons dangereuses by hampton from novel of the same title by pierre choderlos de laclos). i've seen four of those.

scripts i favor that earned nominations that decade: stand by me (raynold gideon and bruce a. evans; novella the body by stephen king).

the nineties: driving miss daisy (alfred uhry adapted his play); dances with wolves (michael blake adapted his novel); the silence of the lambs (ted tally; thomas harris... tally's script, by the way, is the closest adaptation to a novel i know; it's perfect); howard's end (ruth prawer jhabvala; e.m. forster); schindler's list (steven zaillian; schindler's ark by thomas keneally); forrest gump (eric roth; winston groom); sense and sensibility (emma thompson; jane austen); sling blade (billy bob thornton adapted his short film some folks call it a sling blade); l.a. confidential (curtis hanson and brian helgeland; james ellroy); and gods and monsters (bill condon; father of frankenstein by christopher bram). i've seen six of those.

scripts i favor that earned nominations that decade: fried green tomatoes (fannie flagg and carol sobieski; fried green tomatoes at the whistle stop cafe by flagg); a river runs through it (richard friedenberg; short story of the same title by norman maclean); scent of a woman (bo goldman; il buio e il miele by giovanni arpino and film profumo di donna by ruggero maccari and dino risi); the shawshank redemption (frank darabont; short story rita hayworth and the shawshank redemption by stephen king); apollo thirteen (william broyles jr. and al reinert; lost moon by jim lovell and jeffrey kluger); and donnie brasco (paul attanasio; donnie brasco: my undercover life in the mafia by joseph d. pistone and richard woodley).

the two thousands: the cider house rules (john irving adapted his novel); traffic (stephen gaghan; teleplay traffik by simon moore); a beautiful mind (akiva goldsman; sylvia nasar); the pianist (ronald harwood; wladyslaw szpilman); the lord of the rings: the return of the king (fran walsh, phillipa boyens and peter jackson; j.r.r. tolkien); sideways (alexander payne and jim taylor; rex pickett); brokeback mountain (larry mcmurtry and diana ossana; short story of the same title by annie proulx); the departed (william monahan; film infernal affairs by alan mak and felix chong); no country for old men (joel and ethan coen; cormac mccarthy); and slumdog millionaire (simon beaufoy; q and a by vikas swarup). i've seen seven of'm.

scripts i favor that earned nominations that decade: chocolat (robert nelson jacobs; joanne harris); the lord of the rings: the fellowship of the ring and the two towers (fran walsh, phillipa boyens and peter jackson; j.r.r. tolkien); about a boy (peter hedges and chris and paul weitz; nick hornby); and seabiscuit (gary ross; seabiscuit: an american legend by laura hillenbrand).

this decade: precious: based on the novel push by sapphire (geoffrey fletcher; push by sapphire); the social network (aaron sorkin; the accidental billionaires by ben mezrich); the descendants (alexander payne, nat faxon and jim rash; kaui hart hemmings); argo (chris terrio; the master of disguise by antonio j. mendez and the article the great escape by joshuah bearman); twelve years a slave (john ridley; solomon northup); the imitation game (graham moore; alan turing; the enigma by andrew hodges); and the big short (adam mckay and charles randolph; michael lewis). i've seen three of those.

scripts i favor that earned nominations this decade: moneyball (story by stan chervin and screenplay by steven zaillian and aaron sorkin; michael lewis); captain phillips (billy ray; a captain's duty by richard phillips and stephan talty); american sniper (jason hall; american sniper: the autobiography of the most lethal sniper in u.s. military history by chris kyle, scott mcewan and jim defelice); the theory of everything (anthony mccarten; travelling to infinity: my life with stephen hawking by jane wilde hawking); and the martian (drew goddard; andy weir).

which brings us to the nominees:

script by eric heisserer; short story story of your life by ted chiang
script and play by august wilson
theodore melfi and allison schroeder; book by margot lee shetterly
luke davies; book a long way home by saroo brierly and larry buttrose
story by tarell alvin mccraney and screenplay by barry jenkins; play in moonlight black boys look blue by mccraney
i've only seen hidden figures and lion. i want hidden figures to win.

the best instances in which the academy got it right: the silence of the lambsa beautiful mind; and the lord of the rings: the return of the king.

the oscars: original screenplay

February 25, 2017

so the screenplay awards are actually my favorites. that shouldn't surprise you. i dig the adapted award more than the original one because taking something someone else wrote, especially when it's a gargantuan or revered tale, and whittling to the bones of a script to be transmitted to film... that's not a task i'd ever want to undertake. not that as a child i'd not thought of having such a career in my adult life... and then i went to college. but... this is the movie, yall. the script IS the movie. so sure best pictures and best directors and best actors and actresses, those are usually the ones that get the most praise. but these two awards... these are the quan. these writers are the ambassadors. or they should be...

seventy-seven was network (paddy chayefsky). then annie hall (woody allen and marshall brickman)... i don't know that i've ever mentioned this but I. AM. SO. NOT. A. WOODY. ALLEN. FAN. and his script beat george lucas' star wars. i'm sorry but that's FUCKED UP. then it was coming home (robert c. jones, waldo salt and nancy dowd).

winners of the eighties: breaking away (steve tesich); melvin and howard (bo goldman); chariots of fire (colin welland); gandhi (john briley); tender mercies (horton foote); places in the heart (robert benton); witness (william kelly and earl and pamela wallace); hannah and her sisters (woody allen); moonstruck (john patrick shanley); and rain man (ronald bass and barry morrow). i've seen two of those.

scripts i favor that earned nominations that decade: back to the future (robert zemeckis and bob gale) and big (gary ross and anne spielberg).

the nineties: dead poets society (tom schulman); ghost (bruce joel rubin); thelma and louise (callie khouri); the crying game (neil jordan); the piano (jane campion); pulp fiction (quentin tarantino and roger avary); the usual suspects (christopher mcquarrie); fargo (joel and ethan coen); good will hunting (matt damon and ben affleck); and shakespeare in love (mark norman and tom stoppard). i've seen eight of those.

scripts i favor that earned nominations that decade: when harry met sally (nora ephron); dave (gary ross); in the line of fire (jeff maguire); philadelphia (ron nyswaner); sleepless in seattle (nora ephron, jeff arch and david s. ward); jerry maguire (cameron crowe); as good as it gets (mark andrus and james l. brooks); and saving private ryan (robert rodat).

the two thousands: american beauty (alan ball); almost famous (cameron crowe); gosford park (julian fellowes); talk to her (pedro almodovar); lost in translation (sofia coppola); eternal sunshine of the spotless mind (michel gondry, charlie kaufman and pierre bismuth); crash (paul haggis and bobby moresco); little miss sunshine (michael arndt); juno (diablo cody); and milk (dustin lance black). i've seen eight of those.

scripts i favor that earned nominations that decade: the sixth sense (m. night shyamalan); erin brockovich (susannah grant); and my big fat greek wedding (nia vardalos).

this decade: the hurt locker (mark boal); the king's speech (david seidler); midnight in paris (woody allen); django unchained (quentin tarantino); her (spike jonze); birdman or (the unexpected virtue of ignorance) (alejandro g. innaritu, nicolas giacobone, alexander dinelaris jr. and armando bo); and spotlight (tom mccarthy and josh singer). i've seen two of those.

scripts i favor that earned nominations this decade: inglorious basterds (quentin tarantino) and inside out (josh cooley, ronnie del carmen, pete docter and meg lefauve).

which brings us to the nominees:

script by mike mills
script by taylor sheridan
script by damien chazelle
script by yorgos lanthimos and efthimis filippou
script by kenneth lonergan
the only one i've seen is la la land. i don't want it to win. but then i don't really care if the others do, either.

the best instances in which the academy got it right: good will hunting; eternal sunshine of the spotless mind; and crash.

an eighties playlist: female vocalists

February 24, 2017

paula abdul. cold hearted.
pat benatar. we belong.
belinda carlisle. leave a light on.

tracy chapman. fast car.

tiffany. i think we're alone now.
taylor dayne. tell it to my heart.
debbie gibson. lost in your eyes.
janet jackson. what have you done for me lately.
cyndi lauper. time after time.
madonna. live to tell.
bette midler. the rose.
juice newton. angel of the morning.
cher. if i could turn back time.
tina turner. better be good to me.
bonnie tyler. total eclipse of the heart.

check out erin's list.

the oscars: best actor

February 23, 2017

peter finch won in seventy-seven for network, followed by richard dreyfuss for the goodbye girl, jon voight in coming home and dustin hoffman in kramer vs. kramer. i've seen two of those.

winners in the eighties: robert de niro in raging bull; henry fonda in on golden pond; ben kingsley in gandhi; robert duvall in tender mercies; f. murray abraham in amadeus (that's not the dude who played amadeus, by the way, but the dude who killed him); william hurt in kiss of the spider woman; paul newman in the color of money; michael douglas in wall street; dustin hoffman in rain man; and daniel day-lewis in my left foot. i've seen three of those.

lead actor roles i favored from that decade: val kilmer in real genius and mel gibson in lethal weapon.

the nineties: daniel day-lewis in my left foot; jeremy irons in reversal of fortune; anthony hopkins in the silence of the lambs; al pacino in scent of a woman; tom hanks in philadelphia and forrest gump; nicolas cage in leaving las vegas; geoffrey rush in shine; jack nicholson in as good as it gets; and roberto benigni in life is beautiful. i've seen six of those.

lead actor roles i favored from that decade: johnny depp in edward scissorhands, donnie brasco and fear and loathing in las vegas; christian slater in pump up the volume; rik mayall in drop dead fred; tim robbins in the shawshank redemption (morgan freeman was nominated; robbins should've been); nicolas cage in guarding tess; mackenzie astin in iron will; kevin bacon in murder in the first; robin williams in what dreams may come; and edward norton in fight club.

the two thousands. kevin spacey in american beauty; russell crowe in gladiator; denzel washington in training day; adrien brody in the pianist; sean penn in mystic river; jamie foxx in ray; phillip seymour hoffman in capote; forest whitaker in the last king of scotland; daniel day-lewis in there will be blood; and sean penn in milk.

lead actor roles i favored from that decade: elijah wood in the lord of the rings; robert redford in spy game; jim caviezel in the count of monte cristo; ryan gosling in the notebook; jim carey in eternal sunshine of the spotless mind; joaquin phoenix in walk the line; russell crowe in cinderella man; nathan fillion in serenity; and kevin kline in life as a house.

this decade: jeff bridges in crazy heart; colin firth in the king's speech; jean dujardin in the artist; daniel day-lewis in lincoln; eddie redmayne in the theory of everything; and leonardo dicaprio in the revenant.

lead actor roles i favored from this decade: robert downey jr. in sherlock holmes: a game of shadows; steve carell in crazy, stupid, love; tom hardy in lawless; mark wahlberg in lone survivor; bill murray in st. vincent; ryan reynolds in deadpool; ryan gosling and russell crowe in the nice guys (it's hard for me to pick between'm, and i feel like they both carried equal weight in that one); chris pine in the finest hours; manish dayal in the hundred foot journey; bradley cooper in burnt; joel edgerton in loving.

which brings us to the nominees:

casey affleck in manchester by the sea
andrew garfield in hacksaw ridge
ryan gosling in la la land
viggo mortensen in captain fantastic
denzel washington in fences
i want andrew garfield to win this one, but it's gonna be affleck.

the best instances in which the academy got it right: dustin hoffman in rain man; phillip seymour hoffman in capote; and eddie redmayne in the theory of everything.

the oscars: best actress

faye dunaway won in seventy-seven for network, followed by diane keaton for annie hall and jane fonda for coming home. don't hate me but i've only seen one of those. :[

winners in the eighties: sally field in norma raye; sissy spacek in coal miner's daughter; katherine hepburn in on golden pond; meryl streep in sophie's choice; shirley maclaine in terms of endearment; sally field in places in the heart; geraldine page in the trip to bountiful; marlee matlin in children of a lesser god; cher in moonstruck; and jodie foster in the accused. i've seen two of those.

lead actress roles i favor from that decade: sally field in steel magnolias. ain't NO. WAY. jessica tandy did a better job in driving miss daisy than field did in that film. her heart breaks, many times in that movie, and every time hers does, mine does, too.

the nineties: jessica tandy in driving miss daisy; kathy bates in misery; jodie foster in the silence of the lambs; emma thompson in howard's end; holly hunter in the piano; jessica lange in blue sky; susan sarandon in dead man walking; frances mcdormand in fargo; helen hunt in as good as it gets; and gwyneth paltrow in shakespeare in love. i've seen six of'm.

lead actress roles i favor from that decade: mary stuart masterson in fried green tomatoes and kathy bates in dolores claiborne.

the two thousands: hillary swank in boys don't cry; julia roberts in erin brockovich; halle berry in monster's ball; nicole kidman in the hours; charlize theron in monster; hillary swank in million dollar baby; reese witherspoon in walk the line; and kate winslet in the reader. i saw two of'm.

lead actress roles i favor from that decade: ellen burstyn in the divine secrets of the ya ya sisterhood; ziyi zhang in memoirs of a geisha; and toni collette in in her shoes.

this decade: sandra bullock in the blind side; natalie portman in black swan; meryl streep in iron lady; jennifer lawrence in silver linings playbook; cate blanchett in blue jasmine; julianne moore in still alice; and brie larson in room. i've seen four of'm.

lead actress roles i favor from this decade: lubna azabal in incendies; leslie mann in the other woman and helen mirren in the hundred foot journey.

which brings us to the nominees this year:

isabelle huppert in elle
ruth negga in loving
natalie portman in jackie
emma stone in la la land
meryl streep in florence foster jenkins
oh, yall, i want, i WANT ruth negga to win this one. i want it with every fiber of my being. but streep's in the mix (again), and portman played the most loved first lady in our country's history, so... it's probably gonna be one of them, which is just shit.

the best instances in which the academy got it right: jodie foster in the accused and the silence of the lambs; kathy bates in misery; and hillary swank in boys don't cry.

the oscars: best supporting actor

February 21, 2017

jason robards won this oscar back to back, seventy-seven and seventy-eight, for his roles in all the president's men and julia. then christopher walken (LOVE! but then, who doesn't?) in the deer hunter.

winners in the eighties: melvyn douglas (WHO?? i looked at his film credits and still don't know who the fuck he is) in being there; timothy hutton in ordinary people; john gielgud in arthur; louis gosset jr. in an officer and a gentleman (HATE that movie); jack nicholson in terms of endearment (i feel like he was probably just playing himself, but okay, sure, why not?); hain s. ngor in the killing fields; don ameche in cocoon; michael caine in hannah and her sisters; sean connery (also LOVE, but again, who doesn't?)  in the untouchables; and kevin kline in a fish called wanda. i saw two of those.

supporting actor roles i favor from that decade: harrison ford in empire strikes back; sean penn in fast times at ridgemont high; alan ruck in ferris bueller's day off; mandy patinkin in the princess bride; and tom skerritt in steel magnolias. of course, i don't know that i could say any of these are oscar worthy, but then...

the nineties: denzel washington (blech) in glory; joe pesci in goodfellas; jack palance in city slickers; gene hackman in unforgiven; tommy lee jones in the fugitive; martin landau in ed wood; kevin spacey in the usual suspects; cuba gooding jr. in jerry maguire (WTF?); robin williams in good will hunting; and james coburn in affliction. i saw four of'm.

supporting actor roles i favor from that decade: alan rickman in robin hood: prince of thieves; val kilmer in tombstone; joe pesci in with honors.

the two thousands: michael caine in the cider house rules; benicio del toro in traffic; jim broadbent in iris; chris cooper in adaptation; tim robbins in mystic river; morgan freeman in million dollar baby; george clooney in syriana (over paul giamatti in cinderella man. i call bullshit); alan arkin in little miss sunshine; javier bardem in no country for old men; and heath ledger in the dark knight (YES). i saw four of'm.

supporting actor roles i favor from that decade: tom wilkinson in dedication.

this decade: christoph waltz in inglorious basterds (YES); christian bale in the fighter; christopher plummer in the beginners; christoph waltz in django unchained; jared leto in dallas buyer's club; j.k. simmons in whiplash; and mark rylance in bridge of spies. i've seen one of'm.

supporting actor roles i favor from this decade: bill nighy in about time; sharlto copley in the a-team; sam rockwell in the way way back; and hugo weaving in hacksaw ridge.

which brings us to the nominees:

mahershala ali in moonlight
jeff bridges in hell or high water
lucas hedges in manchester by the sea
dev patel in lion
michael shannon in nocturnal animals

okay. o. kay. here's my issue. dev patel plays the main goddamned character in lion. the story is about his character's struggles! how is he a nominee for best fucking supporting actor? like viola davis is a nominee for best supporting actress when she's playing the main character's freaking wife! i would think both of these folks should be in the best actor/actress categories, but then... that would make sense, and most of the time the oscars don't. i feel like the boy who played the young saroo should've been nominated for best supporting actor (i love that kid. he was so good, yall!) instead of patel. and i would've wanted him to win. since i've not seen the others, i can't really speculate on who should win, but i'm gonna guess it'll be mahershala ali.

the best instances in which the academy got it right: robin williams in good will hunting; javier bardem in no country for old men; and heath ledger in the dark knight. 

i was told there'd be cake

February 20, 2017

why i wanted to read it: because i liked the title and the cover. because the quote on that cover compared the author to david sedaris, and i love him. also, it's been sitting on my shelves for YEARS. i figured it's about time i finish it.

what i liked: i think what happens is that young relationships are eager to build a romantic repertoire of private jokes, especially in the city where there's not always a great "how we met" story behind every great love affair. people meet at bars, through mutual friends, on dating sites, or because they work in the same industry. just once a guy asked me out between two express stops on the n train. we were holding the same pole and he said, "i know this sounds crazy but would you like to go to a very public place and have a drink with me?" i looked into his seemingly non-psycho-killing, rent-paying, sunday times-subscribing eyes and said, "yes. yes, i would." he never bought me a pony. but he didn't have to (page 4).

i like to think of the ponies as a tribute to my type -- i date people for whom it would occur to them to do this... the fulfilling of the request isn't the problem. it's the request that's off. they don't know yet that i make it all the time and i don't have the heart to tell them how whorish i am with my asking. for them, it's a deleted scene out of good will hunting. for me, it's groundhog day (pages 4-5).

from now on i will make a conscious effort to remember -- should i find myself face-to-face or pipe-to-skull with the end of my life -- that the real proof that i have tried to love and that people have tried to love me back was never going to fit in a kitchen drawer (page 8).

around this time my precious work ethic began to atrophy in earnest and -- truth be told -- it has never returned... when the phone to ursula's office would ring, i'd run to the bathroom to avoid picking it up... i was, in fact, in that very spot when it dawned on me that sarah had opted to spend the rest of her life in america's most violent prisons rather than work another day for ursula (pages 37-38).

unlike other games of the day, which had me leaping through traffic or called me "gumshoe", oregon trail left lots of room for creativity... i would load up the wagon with people i loathed, like my math teacher. then i would intentionally lose the game, starving her or fording a river with her when i knew she was weak. the program would attempt an intervention, informing me that i had enough buffalo carcass for one day. one more lifeless caribou would make my wagon too heavy, endangering the lives of those inside. really now? then how about three more... it was time to level the playing field between me and the woman who called my differential equations "nonsensical" in front of fifteen other teenagers. eventually a message would pop up in the middle of the screen, framed in a neat box: mrs. ross has died of dysentery. this filled me with glee (pages 55-56).

i am too fond of my memories of oregon trail and not in the market to have them replaced.... i still think of oregon trail as a great leveler. if, for example, you were a twelve-year-old girl from westchester with frizzy hair, a bite plate, and no control over your own life, suddenly you could drown whomever you pleased. say you have shot four bison, eleven rabbits, and bambi's mom. say your wagon weights 9,783 pounds and this arduous journey has been most arduous. the banker's sick. the carpenter's sick. the butcher, the baker, the algebra-maker. your fellow pioneers are hanging on by a spool of flax. your whole life is in flux and all you have is this moment. are you sure you want to forge the river? yes. yes, you are (pages 57-58).

the first floor is actually the second floor, which always struck me as very european until i moved in and had to climb an extra flight of stairs each day. then it just struck me in general (page 60).

it's newton's lost law: anything that makes you unique later will get your chocolate milk stolen and your eye blackened as a kid. won't it, sebastian? oh, yes, it will, my little mandarin chinese-learning, poe-reciting, high-top-wearing friend. god bless you, wherever you are (page 68).

in the past five years alone, i have left my wallet in a cab an astonishing, nay, impressive 6.7 times. (the .7 is for all the times i would have gone id-less into a bar had someone not slid across the pleather backseat after me and said, "forget something?"). with the exception of that first seventeen-dollar idiot's fee, my wallet gets returned to me fully intact every time. every. single. time...

i was absentmindedly picking my nails and pondering all of this on the subway platform when a small korean woman came out from behind the median map barrier and smacked my arm down. "slun!" she shook her head and held my fingertips in a bunch. "no bite!"... i like the barely there idea of a guardian angel. i could do without the babysitting police (pages 87-88).

our circumstances being poorly paid jobs if we worked in the arts, two hours of sleep if we worked in money, and a newfound sense of intellectual inferiority if we worked in publishing. we were disillusioned by day and deglamorized by night (page 116).

perhaps if i had grown up in rural alaska, living off the fat of the land, or perhaps if my parents had been activists and professors at berkeley, i would be a better person now. but i grew up in new york. the only real do-gooder message i absorbed was "don't keep jewelry you find in dressing rooms" (page 117).

"sloane, it's francine."

my mental rolodex began to spin. bingo. francine davis. class of '96, latin club president, video yearbook, pot yes, liquor no. wait a minute. high school? was i, unbeknownst to myself, one of those girls that peaked in high school and stayed friends 4evr as the backs of our yearbooks decreed we would? sixteen-year-old me would have been flattered by this notion of female solidarity. twenty-six-year-old me was freaked out.

"hey there." i cleared my throat. "how are you?"

"i'm engaged!"

incidentally, this is an unacceptable answer to that question.

"oh, that's great. wow, it's been so --"

"and," she continued, "i want you to be in my wedding."

i was stunned. i pulled the phone away and looked quizzically at the hole-punched speaker. aside from the blood obligation to be my sister's maid of honor, it had never occurred to me that i would get asked to be in anyone's wedding. i thought we had reached an understanding, the institution of marriage and i. weddings are like the triathlon of female friendship: the shower, the bachelorette party, and the main event. it's the iron woman, and most people never make it through (page 143).

once, at a coworker's birthday party, a woman i had met twice announced her engagement. 

"congratulations." i lifted my plastic cup of wine. 

"save the date," she responded, squeezing my hand.

i didn't know the name of her fiance. i didn't know where she lived. i knew her last name sounded like "crevice," but i could never remember it. i was definitely getting a c vibe. yet she felt she knew me well enough to invite me to one of the most sacred events of her life (page 145).

gold calligraphy came swirling under my door while i slept. it crept into my closet, taking stock of my strappy sandals and pastel pashminas. it curled and swirled and wrapped its vowels around my wallet... 

and then francine called me to be part of her wedding party. a wedding that was to go down in the middle of july. oh, the humidity. out of all the girlfriendships in the world, what made her call out like a foghorn for mine? 

... i had barely spoken to this woman in a decade. if i got married tomorrow, chances are it wouldn't occur to me to invite francine. it's a wedding, not an episode of this is your life. i thought: what's wrong with her? i thought: where is her big group of girlfriends?

i thought: hypocrite.

i agreed because, barring exorbitant plane fare or typhus, you can't not agree. not only is it a social slap in the face and a personal kick in the feelings, it also puts a silent price tag on the friendship, no matter how faded that friendship is. if the average bridesmaid's dress costs $250 and the average bridesmaid's shoes cost $125, and you refuse to participate, that's like saying you wouldn't pay $375 to maintain that friendship. it's like saying if deranged pirate terrorists kidnapped the bride and demanded $375 and a few hours of your time in exchange for her life, you'd hand them the musket yourself (pages 146-147).

the e-mail suggested that we all get together for a last-minute bachelorette party the following night. mixed drinks, penis quizzes, plastic tiaras, the works. but i had unbreakable plans. plans i had made months before with a friend who was leaving the country for two years and with whom i had actually spoken in the last decade, on multiple occasions, no less.

"i know this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for you," i e-mailed my apologies. "but also once in a lifetime: one of my closest friends moving to addis ababa."

francine called again, this time with the double agenda of logistical and emotional concern. she renegotiated. since i was unable to attend the impromptu bachelorette party, perhaps i'd be interested in a long and pricey train ride to boston to stay on her pullout couch and meet her fiance? say, this coming weekend? or maybe i could get the whole week off work?

"i just want you to meet boris and spend some quality time with him before the wedding," she pouted.

i felt guilty for not giving her the bare minimum of what she needed. how inept at this bridesmaid stuff could one person be? but it seemed she "just" wanted a lot of things lately. every request was minimized to the maximum (see: "i 'just' think it would be great if you wrote a poem in iambic pentameter for the candle-lighting ceremony") (page 159).

"we're going to be mr. and mrs. universe."

... i laughed very hard. wine shot up my nose, which i decided was god's way of telling me it was time to switch to hard alcohol...

i had the one thing that would carry me through the mundane small talk of the rest of the night. i had the one thing that would make my brain hurt less when i struggled to recall the amusing anecdotes about francine for her relatives from missoula, the one thing that would allow me to tolerate francine smacking my hand when i bit my nails, the one thing that would bring me comfort later that night when i was crouched over the toilet like an olympic skier and violently ill from too many martinis mixed with shrimp gnocchi in vodka sauce.

i had her new initials. f.u. (pages 163-164)

what sucked: okay. so yeah. i marked a lot of pages. and yeah, she can be rather clever. but ultimately, there are fifteen essays spanning two hundred twenty-eight pages. sounds like an easy enough read, yeah? the snippets i've shared come from eight of those stories. of those eight, i liked, in their entirety, three of them. overall, reading this book was like reading an assigned text for one of those english classes i had in first three years or so, when i didn't give a fuck about anything but sleep and cinema. also, she's nothing like sedaris. not really.

having said all that: i didn't hate it. i don't know that i could recommend it. it's going in the giveaway pile.

the oscars: best supporting actress

February 19, 2017

it's hard for me to get excited about this category.


it is. sorry.

in seventy-seven, beatrice straight won the award for best performance by an actress in a supporting role in network. if you were to ask me what else she's been in, i couldn't tell you. if you were to ask me about her performance in that film, i couldn't tell you. i remember the movie. i remember faye dunaway, william holden, peter finch and robert duvall. if you go to imdb and look at the credits, first-billed only, you'd have to click see full cast to see her name... sixth from the bottom, before the roles mosaic figure, tv technical director, laureen hobbs, hunter's secretary and narrator. i checked her filmography, and the only two films i recognized, after network, of course, were endless love and poltergeist. i've not seen either of those. that's how memorable she is. fifty bucks says you'd never heard of her until you read this post. i'd wager more, but i don't have a job right now, and fifty bucks is a lot of money at the moment.

i remember this scene:

i'd forgotten this one:

and yeah, it shames me to say all that. i call myself a film geek, and i can't recall an oscar-winning performance in a film i'd seen. the other nominees that year were jane alexander in all the president's men, jodie foster in taxi driver, lee grant in voyage of the damned and piper laurie in carrie. 

the following year, maggie smith won for the role diane barrie in california suite. didn't see it. the other nominees were dyan cannon in heaven can wait (did see it; didn't love her in it), penelope milford in coming home, maureen stapleton in interiors and meryl streep in the deer hunter. i didn't see any of those. maybe i should. i probably won't.

winners in the eighties: meryl streep in kramer vs. kramer; mary steenburgen in melvin and howard; maureeen stapleton in reds; jessica lange in tootsie; linda hunt in the year of living dangerously; peggy ashcroft in a passage to india; angelica huston in prizzi's honor; dianne wiest in hannah and her sisters; olympia dukakis (i love her) in moonstruck; and geena davis in the accidental tourist. i've seen two of those.

supporting actress roles i favor from that decade: carrie fisher in the empire strikes back and return of the jedi; jane fonda, lily tomlin and dolly parton in nine to five (it's hard for me to choose who's supporting whom there); ally sheedy in the breakfast club; barbara hershey and bette midler in beaches (same deal); dolly parton, shirley maclaine and olympia dukakis in steel magnolias. none were nominated for these roles. they're memorable parts in films that had great appeal, and i think they were portrayed well.

the nineties: brenda fricker in my left foot; whoopi goldberg in ghost; mercedes ruehl in the fisher king; marisa tomei in my cousin vinny (yay!); anna paquin in the piano; dianne wiest in bullets over broadway; mira sorvino in mighty aphrodite; juliette binoche in the english patient; kim basinger in l.a. confidential; and judi dench in shakespeare in love. i've seen six of those.

supporting actress roles i favor from that decade: laura san giacomo in pretty woman; shirley maclaine in postcards from the edge; mary-louise parker in fried green tomatoes; and gena rowlands or angelina jolie in playing by heart.

the two thousands: angelina jolie in girl, interrupted; marcia gay harden in pollock; jennifer connelly in a beautiful mind; catherine zeta-jones in chicago; renee zellwegger in cold mountain; cate blanchett in the aviator; rachel weisz in the constant gardener; jennifer hudson in dreamgirls; tilda swinton in michael clayton; and penelope cruz in vicky cristina barcelona. i've seen three of those.

supporting actress roles i favor from that decade: anne bancroft in keeping the faith; maggie smith in the harry potter films and divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood; ashley judd and fionnula flanagan in divine secrets of the ya-ya sisterhood; elizabeth banks in seabiscuit; emma thompson in love actually; diane keaton in the family stone; and laura linney in the nanny diaries.

this decade: mo'nique in precious; melissa leo in the fighter; octavia spencer in the help; anne hathaway in les miserables; lupita nyong'o in twelve years a slave; patricia arquette in boyhood; and alicia vikander in the danish girl. i've seen one.

supporting actress roles i favor from this decade: patricia clarkson in one day; bryce dallas howard in the help; and jessica chastain in lawless.

i can't get excited about this particular category is because i'm not too excited about the films. of one hundred eighty-eight films nominated in the last four decades, i've seen fifty-nine. so about a fourth. a third if you're feeling generous. that's not too bad. that number's higher than i thought it would be, actually.

anyway the nominees this year are:

viola davis for fences
(i can't see how that's not best actress material, but okay...)

naomie harris for moonlight

nicole kidman for lion

octavia spencer for hidden figures
(janelle monae should've been nominated, too)

michelle williams for manchester by the sea

i don't know that i can see fences; i really don't care for denzel washington. but based on the clips i've seen of it, moonlight and manchester by the sea, paired with having seen lion and hidden figures, i'd have to say viola gets this one, that she blows the others' performances out of the water.

the best instances in which the academy got it right: marisa tomei in my cousin vinny; cate blanchett in the aviator; and octavia spencer in the help.

twenty wishes

why i wanted to read it: i got suckered into buying it because i liked the cover, the blurb on the back made it sound like it was going to be interesting enough and i'd read one of hers before and liked it. also... i was probably depressed that day and needed some hope in my life. i'm pretty sure i picked this up at heb on a whim. also it's a blossom street novel, and i understand those are popular. i figured i should give one a chance.

what i liked: barbie and mark's and lillie and hector's stories were alright.

what sucked: they were alright, compared to the rest of the character's stories. that's not a great compliment. i read more interesting things in my critique group. it's three hundred seventy-nine pages of crap, basically, complete with an exceptionally cheesy epilogue. i hate epilogues. it's a hell of a lot of telling over showing. and the main character? she's not a very likable chick. i don't give a shit if she's happy in the end. spoiler alert: she is. but then, it's predictable as shit, so you know she will be.

having said that: there are SO. MANY. OTHER. BETTER. BOOKS. OUT. THERE. if you've a hankering for a love story, read one from this list (preferably one in the bold type).

the oscars: best director

February 18, 2017

so basically the film awarded best picture typically receives the best director oscar as well. in the past four decades, there have been eight instances wherein that's not been the case:

nineteen eighty-two: chariots of fire was named best picture; its director, hugh hudson, was nominated for an oscar, but the award was given to warren beatty for reds. other nominees that year were: louis malle for atlantic city; mark rydell for on golden pond; and steven spielberg for raiders of the lost ark.

ninety: driving miss daisy won best picture; its director, bruce beresford, was not nominated. that award went to oliver stone for born on the fourth of july (horrible movie. i'd rather get a root canal than watch that again). other nominees were: woody allen for crimes and misdeameanors; kenneth branagh for henry v; jim sheridan for my left foot; and peter weir for dead poets society (robbed again, dammit).

hanks and spielberg on the set of saving private ryan
ninety-nine: shakespeare in love won best picture (again... WHY?); its director, john madden, was nominated, but the award went to steven spielberg for saving private ryan (damn skippy). other nominees were: roberto benigni for life is beautiful; terence malick for the thin red line; and peter weir for the truman show.

two thousand one: gladiator won best picture (BAH); its director, ridley scott, was nominated, but the award went to steven soderbergh for traffic. soderbergh was also nominated for erin brockovich. other nominees were: stephen daldry for billy elliott and ang lee for crouching tiger, hidden dragon.

three: chicago won best picture (BAH); its director, rob marshall, was nominated, but the went to roman polanski for the pianist. other nominees were: pedro almodovar for talk to her; stephen daldry for the hours; and martin scorsese for gangs of new york. peter jackson, who'd been nominated the previous year for the lord of the rings: the fellowship of the ring, wasn't nominated for two towers. mayhaps because the academy had already decided the outcome of next year's best director award, which went to jackson for return of the king.

six: crash won best picture; its director, paul haggis, was nominated, but the award went to ang lee for brokeback mountain. other nominees were: george clooney for good night, and good luck; bennet miller for capote; and steven spielberg for munich.

thirteen: argo won best picture; its director, ben affleck, was not nominated. i can't stand that guy, but i kind of feel like he got robbed here. the award went to ang lee (again) for life of pi. other nominees were: michael hanake for amour; david o. russell for silver linings playbook; steven spielberg for lincoln; and benh zeitlin for beasts of the southern wild.

fourteen: twelve years a slave won best picture; its director, steve mcqueen, was nominated, but the award went to alfonso cuaron for gravity. that's probably wrong, too. other nominees were: alexander payne for nebraska; david o. russell for american hustle; and martin scorsese for the wolf of wall street. 

sixteen: spotlight won best picture; its director, tom mccarthy, was nominated, but the award went to alejandro g. inarritu for the revenant. incidentally, inarritu won the previous year for birdman. BLAH on both of those. other nominees were: lenny abrahamson for room; adam mckay for the big short; and george miller for mad max: fury road.

directors who should've been nominated but weren't for these respective works: herbert ross for steel magnolias; robert redford for a river runs through it; jonathan demme for philadelphia; joel schumacher for a time to kill; barry levinson for sleepers; mike newell for donnie brasco; tony scott for spy game; james mangold for walk the line; ron howard for cinderella man; and rob marshall for memoirs of a geisha.

which brings us to our nominees this year:

damien chazelle for la la land
mel gibson for hacksaw ridge
barry jenkins for moonlight
kenneth longergan for manchester by the sea
denis villeneuve for arrival
this excludes denzel washington for fences, david mackenzie for hell or high water, theodore melfi for hidden figures and garth davis for lion.

i've not seen fences or hell or high water, so i can't speak for those directors. i most likely won't watch moonlight, manchster or arrival, so obviously i can't speak for those, either. but i am not pleased that melfi and davis didn't get nominations. i don't know that gibson should've been nominated for hacksaw ridge; it bothers me to say that because much of that film is VERY impressive. hugo weaving does his finest work in it; i was in awe of him, and i've never felt that way about his acting. andrew garfield did very well, too. so that gibson got those performances out of those individuals is wonderful. but... i don't know about the whole of the film being exemplary with regard to directing. and la la land? really? i don't see it. i did not love that movie. yeah, i know. it's a musical, and you're probably saying that's why i don't like it. i'm not opposed to musicals, yall. i'm opposed to mediocre films getting more due than they deserve.

the best instances in which the academy got it right: jonathan demme for the silence of the lambs; steven spielberg for schindler's list and saving private ryan; and peter jackson for the lord of the rings: the return of the king.