Saturday, January 29, 2011

Waiting for What?

Originally uploaded by Meredith_Farmer
On Tuesday, the Oscar nominations were announced. In our house, the announcement was followed quickly on its heels by another: my son's wish to see at least half of the movies nominated. Which ones, I asked, my interest piqued? Well, I've already seen Toy Story 3, he said matter-of-factly, so I would like to "screen" (his pretentious word, not mine) 127 Hours, True Grit, The Fighter and The King's Speech. The rest of the nominees on the list , I was informed, simply "didn't really interest him". Okay, Pauline Kael. After I explained to him why he wasn't going to watch a film in which a hiker cuts his arm off, I agreed to take him to the others on his list. Cue the elated fist pump and the subsequent pushing of sister who stood innocently eavesdropping nearby. End scene with my son sitting in a darkened theatre telling me to "Pull it together, Mom!" as I sit in a pool of my own tears as I watched Christian Bale valiantly pull himself out of a crack addiction towards redemption.

(N.B. To avid further embarrassment, his father will be taking him to the other three films on his list. Just thought you should all know.)

The film has some phenomenal performances in it but what stuck with me the most was a pivotal scene in which Marky Mark's character - Mickey Ward - has to tell his evil succubus mother and leachy dream-killing brother to basically suck it and let him fulfill his dream of getting one last shot at a coveted boxing title. Now, I know that the It's-Never-Too-Late-To-Realize-Your-Dreams is a somewhat cliched trope that is oft over used in films today but so inspired was I that when I returned home, I was still sort of strangely floating from the whole experience. I opened an e-mail to find a message from a friend from high school who shared a similar story. He had a song that he had recently recorded and released into the world and, in the vein of The Fighter, wanted to get the word out in any way he could. He wrote:

I was standing outside my Garage/Recording/Editing studio and it dawned on me that I don’t have as much time to do shit as I thought I did. A bit of Panic set in, and I just kind of decided that I need to be a bit more fucking pro-active with the things I wanted to get done. One of these things is to record and release music. I’ve been really good at recording music (Been doing that for f-ing 25 years now, but not soo god at releasing anything.). It’d be like you doing your blog, and shelving it, always waiting for a better time to put it out there.

Brent Wohlberg, I'm guessing that you may not have the abs of Mark Walhlberg but you do have the resolve and spirit of a fighter. Keep it up!

Here's Brent's song, Big Red Rooster

Enjoy it!

Oh yeah, and follow your dreams.

Monday, January 24, 2011


scared @ dentist
Originally uploaded by natashalcd
The beginning of this year has proven to be less than stellar and so in an attempt not to spiral downwards, I have been going out of my way to see the world in a more positive light. The best way I've found to turn the beat around (because the old way of putting food and booze on it is just NOT working) is to eavesdrop on conversations. Here is a particular favorite from last week.

The scene opens at a dentist's office. I am here to schedule a routine cleaning. There is a woman beside me filling out paperwork. I peek over and notice that it a consent form of some kind. I pretend not to be rudely reading another person's private form. Awkward.

Lady with Form: Uh. Are you taking some of my jaw and putting it somewhere else in my jaw?
Receptionist: Excuse me?
LwF: (pointing to a line on the form) Where do you get the bone for the bone grafting?
Receptionist: Oh! It’s a pre-treated crushed bone. Sort of like sand we use to fill the space.
LwF: Is it human bone?
Receptionist: I believe its cadaver.
LwF: So, human?
Receptionist: No, it’s cadaver. It’s animal bone.
LwF: Doesn’t cadaver mean “dead human body?”
Receptionist: (pauses) No, I’m pretty sure cadaver can mean animal, too. (pauses to ponder this horrible thought and then turns to me) Cadaver means animal, too, right?
Me: Honey. Keep me out of this.


In the end, the receptionist asked the doctor, who confirmed that it was, indeed, dead-person sand they were packing into the Lady with the Form's jaw and not crushed up animal. This made me feel uncomfortable, and then deeply grateful.

Friday, January 14, 2011

File Under: Come On ....Really?

This week, the blogosphere was all a-buzz over a Wall Street Journal piece called, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." In it, author Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law School, argued that tough love was the key to raising successful children. Her parenting methods included never allowing her two daughters to "attend a sleepover, have a play date, be in a school play, complain about not being in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, get any grade less than an A."


We live in impossibly difficult times. I don’t think I need to make a list. And bringing up children is hard enough without adding a draconian regimen to the mix. But no sleepovers? No play dates, computer games, or state-sanctioned extra-curriculars? What the hells, I'm raising kids here, lady, not Romanian gymnasts!

Lose the fear.

Raising kids is hard work but no regimen, regardless of its strictness, we can prevent our kids from hurt, harm and disappointment. It’s a fantasy of control and protection in times that seem, well, out of control and scary. Sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind and not let your expectation for them rule the day. And, for good or bad, you have to let your kids make choices on their own. Let them play Wii on a Tuesday night every once in a while. Let them pick their nose in the car and hide it under the seat for you to find encrusted six months later. Let them spend their allowance on nine dollars worth of Silly Banz that will make their rooms smell like the Goodyear Tire plant in Altoona, Pennsylvannia.

I know why she wrote the piece, though. She, like me, is looking to correct this culture of parenting that says that all of our children are geniuses, that their art work is on par with Picasso and their soccer trophies are an example of potential World Cup greatness. This is as crazy as the Yale professor's parenting methods, to my mind. But how about this instead:

Why can't we all just do our best?

My advice to all parents who are afraid that they are going to screw it all up for their kids is to buy them a pair of fake glasses. That's what I did for mine. They make them look and feel smarter AND, as an added bonus, prepare them for a world that is constantly telling them - in one way or the other- that what they choose to do for a living (and not how they treat those around them) will ultimately define who they are. Right, Professor Rea?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Best Films of 2010

Anyone who has been paying attention to the slow drip of year-end accolades would probably be able to guess which of 2010's films were considered the best, non? There's the one about the crazy ballerina, the one about the guy who goes hiking and has to cut off his arm for some reason, the one about the FaceBook dweeb and the one where the guys try to knock off the Boston baseball landmark. I suppose. Know which ones I what I would choose? Here. We. Go.

Toy Story 3
Many toys all close together, with Buzz Lightyear and Woody holding the top of number 3.

This is easily the best film of 2010. Easily. Yes, it's a G-rated cartoon. Yes, all of the characters have appeared in Happy Meals. None of it matters.

Let me direct you to a scene deep into the film by way of example. It is a moment where some of the toy protagonists realize that in spite of all their cleverness and determination, there’s no way out of the fatal trap into which they’ve fallen. In any other children’s film, this would be a time for comedic panic, long-withheld personal confessions, or dramatic statements that would immediately turn out to be ironic. In any other children’s film, the moment would quickly peak and pass. But Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich (Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc.) holds for long, excruciating moments on the silent characters, as they pass from disbelief into sorrowful resolve, then take each others’ hands and wait. And wait. And wait.

It’s a shockingly grim sequence, but this is what Pixar films do best: find a place of deep emotion and explore it without blunting it, overexplaining it, or passing it off with a laugh. Toy Story 3 never gets darker than this moment, but time and again, it similarly finds real, resonant emotion in the antics of a bunch of children’s toys having adventures when nobody’s looking.

Plus, I cried like a Baptist. Not once but three times. Three times, people! That's good film-making.

True Grit
True Grit

Some people come of age. Others have it thrust upon them. In the first few scenes of this remake of the John Wayne classic, young Mattie Ross (played crisply and unsmilingly by newcomer Hailee Steinfeld) has paid the undertaker and seen three men hanged. And yet, her troubles have just barely begun. True, she could simply turn around and go back home. But she’s determined to see her father’s killer (Josh Brolin) brought to justice, which means enlisting the help of the meanest Federal Marshal money can buy, a one-eyed frontier veteran named Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), who’s happy to pull a cork or a trigger, happier still to say as few words as possible while doing so, and prone to few gentle sentiments when he does talk. He’s the perfect guide, in other words, for the hard country into which her nemesis has disappeared.

The Coens brothers direct True Grit with a light touch, but like the stark, funny novel on which this film is based (written by Charles Portis), their adventure tale shaves off none of the rough edges. It’s simultaneously rollicking and grave, alternating moments of fine dark humor with startling violence as it drags Mattie into the world of adult responsibilities and the danger and lost innocence that come with them. She tries to buy revenge using the terms of trade her father taught her, then discovers she’s made a purchase that won’t fit easily fit onto a sum-filled balance sheet. Here, the West is a place of blood, black humor, and unsparing consequences meant to test the character of even the toughest men, to say nothing of a willful girl with revenge in her heart and braids still in her hair.

The Kids Are All Right
The Kids Are All Right

Isn't this that movie about the lesbians? Yes. The ones where the kids go looking for their Baby Daddy? Yes. The one where Annette Bening has a scene by herself in a bathroom that is so soulful and real that I believe they began engraving her name on the Oscar at that precise moment? Yes. See it. Now.