Spotlighting

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This was only one of two Oscar nominated fil-ums we saw before the actual show, and I am super glad because I really enjoyed cheering for it and seeing it win. And just in case you have been trapped under something heavy during the hullaboo surrounding it, Sugar Man attempts to unravel the mystery around Sixto Rodriguez and his disappearance from the music scene way back in the early Seventies. He’s got all the elements to a brilliant career, but it just never materializes, save in South Africa, of all places, and completely unbeknownst to the wider world. Which makes me think of those t-shirts that say, “I am huge in Japan!” It is also a brilliant story of coming to terms with your life as it is. What happens if your dream never comes true? Or maybe comes to fruition some forty years after the fact? Could you be at peace with it? I’m currently wrestling with the notion and will have to get back to you. In the mean time, watch the fil-um if you haven’t, or at least have a listen to “Cause,” my favorite song of his:

Oh dear, The Killing! Rather than one of those cop shows that solves the brutal murder in forty-five minutes or less, this takes a whopping twenty-six episodes, each of which constitutes a day on the case. There are myriad twists and turns and a slow unraveling of facts. We learn the intimate details of the victim, her friends and family, the complicated histories of the cops on the case, and the dirty dealings of every possible suspect. While there are some loose ends left untied, it’s the best show of its ilk I’ve seen in quite some time. There’s gonna be more, too!

Sunday was a gloomy day for me, stuck in a stubborn funk, but rather than fake anything even remotely cheerful, I went whole hog, flopped on the couch, and watched Ordinary People. I loved the book and the movie as a kid and had a crush on Timothy Hutton, too. He’s adorable, even with those tired eyes. I’m pretty sure it was Robert Redford’s directorial debut, as well. Anyhoo, it is a good meditation on guilt and forgiveness. Conrad survives a boating accident in which his golden boy brother dies and cannot manage the burden of being the survivor. The story follows his return from four months in a psychiatric ward post suicide attempt and the complications of family, friendships, and simply making it through the day. It is unflinchingly honest and often difficult to watch, but soo worth it!

Generally speaking, I am not a fan of sushi. Save for the occasional roll, where the fish is of the tiniest proportions, I do not like it. That said, I was utterly inspired and enthralled by all things sushi while watching this and even wanted to eat some! It is a stirring portrait of hard work, perseverance, and ultimately, love. Jiro loves sushi, every last detail, and has worked tirelessly at his craft (for more than seventy years!) to become the very best there is.

This is an odd one and is a tough sell for about the first twenty minutes, but if you can make it through the idiosyncratic laying of foundation, you will be rewarded. It’s ping pong from every angle, complete with slow-motion action and balls on paddles. There’s the hustler, the devotee, the mystic, and the coach. It’s also about fierce love, coping with failure, and believing in your own worth. Wacky and goofy and well worth an evening.

This is a sweet one. A street performer and struggling woman inspired by him meet and fall in love, though, of course, it isn’t that easy. There are complications in the form of Topher Grace as motivational speaker (hilarious!), and the sister who interferes where she shouldn’t (bitchy!). Chris Messina’s good looks and velvety voice didn’t hurt, either.

Con men and life long friends, Ben and Alan have their lives planned out, stealing cars and wallets, creating fake charities, and never actually growing up being the dominant themes. Enter one troubled boy and their lives are upturned. Do they dump a child in need and stick with their plan or grow up and become the parents they never had?

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As much as I am loathe to admit it, for illness signifies weakness in my striver brain (however untrue), I spent the better part of the past three days lying prostrate on the sofa. Sinuses good and clogged, I mouth breathed through the hubster making me chicken noodle soup, hours of television, movies, and documentaries. I watched our President walk the final stretch of his Inaugural Parade. I watched a mini Knots Landing reunion. I watched Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman in a fun fil-um called The Switch. But the documentaries were definitely the best bit.

Bones Brigade: An Autobiography was my hands-down favorite. My love for skateboarders (and surfers) is pretty well documented, so you’re probably not surprised by this one. It follows the world famous Bones Brigade from their most humble beginning, Stacy Peralta hand-picking the gang one-by-one and driving them hither and yon in a station wagon before the explosion came, and with it, fame, accolades, and wealth. I think, ultimately, that this is a fil-um about a deep abiding love, not just for skateboarding, but for each other.

Oh, Bernie Mac! Talented. Irreverent. Hilarious. His own MAN. Stories from some of the people who knew and loved him best, interspersed with some of his best comedy. It’s a goodie.

 

My goodness, so much I didn’t know about Bond, James Bond! First and foremost, what is now likely considered to be one of the sexiest monikers around was chosen by Ian Fleming because it was, “boring and flat,” the name of a bird enthusiast, of all things. The history of Bond and all the fil-ums has as much intrigue, suspense, and back stabbing as the stories themselves. The eye-candy ain’t bad either…

Oh, and Thom Yorke, because he makes me smile. Yessiree…

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Holy frijoles, peeps! It’s been a while since I wrote about fil-ums. A dearth of the spectacular, I suppose. Life is like that, sometimes. Average. Meh. Vanilla pudding. Though, I must take occasional exception to that last expression. Vanilla pudding, when done right, is anything but vanilla pudding, silky, smooth, delicious, the height of splendor! Yup, yup.

Starting with Safety Not Guaranteed, for it had me in stitches, loud peals at pretty regular intervals, thanks to great lines like “You’re dangling my vagina out there like bait” and “Storm Troopers don’t know anything about lasers or time travel. They are blue collar workers.” To be followed by a most grateful round of claps and cheers at the end. I kid you not. It was one of those rare moments when I actually wanted to explode with glee and happened to be in sync with the rest of the theater. Pretty awesome, if I do say so.

To the details: The fil-um centers around a magazine writer and two interns as they investigate the above ad. Did this person really invent a time machine, or is he just mad as a hatter? Well, he certainly isn’t your everyday Joe. He’s a little odd but sincere, too. He’s wounded and paranoid and completely dedicated to the task at hand. He takes one of the interns into his confidence and friendship blossoms. Then there is the magazine writer, chasing his own past while trying to get his male intern laid like his life depended upon it. It’s a great bit of everything, very human characters, romance, fun, mystery-thriller. Put it in the queue!

Griff the Invisible is an Australian import about a twenty-six year old man who believes he is a Super Hero. He’s got the costume, scads of surveillance equipment, and a sincere desire to rid his neighborhood and the world of evil. The trouble is, he’s not the best at it, and even worse with actual people. He is awkward and flails at work, falling prey to the office bully and his cronies. His brother, who sincerely wants the best for him, is also a bit clueless, trying to get Griff out of his shell and into the real world. Then he meets Melody, fascinated by science and equally drawn to Griff, the one person who sees the universe as she does. It’s about the painful ways we learn of our delusions and the people who love and encourage us, despite them.

All of My Friends are Funeral Singers, well, hmmm, this one is a tad odd, even for me. I’d venture to say that it is bordering on the avant-garde. Zel is a psychic and lives in a house filled with ghosts: a child, a bride, vaudevillians, and some musicians, too. They are her only friends, save her love, and the source of her power, giving voice to the dead and eyes to the future. She loves and hates them, yet knows no other life. When a bright light beckons the ghosts to the woods beyond, and they cannot leave, Zel must unearth the truth behind their shared existence and contemplate a life without them. It’s got a great soundtrack too, by Califone, who, as it happens, will be at Mississippi Studios on November 30th. Could be fun!

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Last week, I stumbled upon a very cool skateboarding video, Altered Route with Kilian Martin. Did you know that about me? That I love watching skateboarders? And surfers? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Dogtown and Z-Boys or YouTube videos on loops (Laird Hamilton, you slay me!), truth be told. The mesmerizing click and roll of wheels on pavement, hands skimming air and water, the ceaseless rolling of waves, I am dazzled and awed at what bodies can do, so much and so beautifully, against gravity and odds and nature.  Anyhoo, the video had the sweetest song playing, very atypical of what most would consider skateboarding music. Patrick Watson, “Adventures in Your Own Backyard.” I couldn’t get it out of my head, this stirring sound, so I bought the album and a couple of other songs and started playing them on a loop while I wrote.

Then, when that was not enough, I went to Patrick Watson’s website and clicked around, pushing the concert button to find the band would be in town in four short days. Tickets still available. Click-boom! The hubster and I were go-ing. Yup, yup.

We arrived at The Mission Theater to very little fanfare, hardly a line, a table steps from the small stage. The opening band, Cat Martino, was sweet, her voice very fine, with a slight eighties vibe, and Cat’s band mate Sven (who totally reminded us of Zach, Maren!) with some of the coolest tattoos I’ve ever seen – small birds flying all over the right side of his body. I love that kind of thought.

Then it was time for the main attraction. The theater went completely dark and Patrick Watson came out, each with two or three small lights attached to their fingers. They played “Lighthouse” (pretty sure), which starts with Patrick playing softly on the piano and singing before being joined by the rest of the band – a violin (Melanie Blair), a guitar (Simon Angell), a bass (Mishka Stein), and drums (Robbie Kuster), building and building to this marvelous explosion of sound.

And that was only the beginning.

I’ve seen a lot of shows in my time, many in venues like this one, two hundred people gathered around a stage. But those small spaces had nothing to do with the intimacy of the show. Last night, we were part of something, transported elsewhere, our collective souls stirred into one. It was tender, silly, raucous, rakish, and laugh out loud funny, and we were all in it together. Dazzlingly simple, too, a string of patio lights and long shadows cast, minstrel-style, upon the ceiling and walls.

Then there was the singing. The hypnotizing guitar and bass. The haunting violin. The dynamic drumming. A whole song, “Into Giants,” I think, when the band came into the audience, no amplification, standing single file, Patrick right in front of me, Mishka’s tattoo peeking from his t-shirted arm while he strummed the guitar, so close I could have lifted the sleeve and revealed its secret. They sang and stomped so powerfully that Robbie might as well have been playing the drums.

M A G I C A L. Really and truly. The best show of my life, and I yelled it out the window of the Mini as we zoomed home, Patrick smoking a cigarette on the corner. Yeah, that was me. And since the band hails from Montreal, I gotta say, “Merci mille fois!”

 

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Starting with a digression. Milo is snoring like that cartoon character of childhood, blowing a feather up off his lips, again and again, more like a machine decompressing than a true snore. I think he learned it from the hubster, lying prostrate on his chest, paws curled in the sweetest heart shape, cataloging his every move. Though the pair is quite capable of sawing gigantic logs, as well. Last night, as a matter of fact, the the G-Man was roaring something fierce, and I tickled him on that soft spot near the hollow of his hip bone, and his body leapt, utterly and completely shaking the bed. I laughed and told him everything was alright before the pair of us drifted off, though who knows where. I have only echoes of those dreams.

I realized that it had been a while since I told you about movies, so here we are, despite the fairly steady stream I watch. I wonder if Netflix has a little widget like the Goodreads one? It would be nice to always have them there, quiet and patiently waiting for a click. Do you look at them, the books I read? That last one was a goodie, Autobiography of Red, still wrapping my brain around it.

Anyhoo, to fil-ums, these are coming-of-age stories, magnifying those painful bits we all go through in one way or another.

Submarine takes place in Wales during the eighties and follows Oliver Tate, as he navigates the waters of his first love with Jordana, a girl with a lot of extra-curricular problems and a wicked sense of humor.  Although his life isn’t without complications. He is awkward and nerdy, with few friends, and suffering at home, too, through his parents faltering marriage. His father is inept and clueless, while his mother contemplates an affair with an old lover, a pseudo-ninja, self-help guru with a bad mullet. It is comical and sad and hopeful, too, punctuated by a great soundtrack and unusually great narration. Proof that first love matters, always.

Oh dear, this is a toughie, to tell it straight. I did a whole LOTTA tonglen during this one, dear readers, the hubster looking over at me, tears streaming, but breath a-flowing. From the novel of the same name, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints follows Dito as a youth and an adult through some pretty rough experiences. This is a memoir made of composites of people the author/director knew growing up. His parents, deeply in love with their son, but rife with their own problems. His own first love and the coarse ways between them, yet tender, too. His best friends, on the cusp of insanity, hopelessly tethered to violent homes and surroundings, drinking and drug use, the infinite love and jealousy that can never be spoken, and the one who sees it all with enough clarity to know that they will be the end of him if he doesn’t make his own way, apart from them. A heartbreaker.

Chris Waitt has an interesting way with women. They dump him. One by one, again and again. He sees this as a problem and decides to make a documentary in which he seeks out his ex-girlfriends to ask them what happened. After a bit, it becomes obvious to everyone but Chris, though, bless his heart, he plods on, ever determined to get to the root cause. And he does, in his own way, with a little bit of everything, including help from his dear Mum, S & M, getting arrested, and being verbally abused by more than one ex. Hilarious one minute and tear-filled the next, watch how a grown boy becomes a man, for all the world to see.

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