Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

YAY! I got through three of the Harry Potter books! The first two were difficult, mainly, I think, because I had read them before (in parts) and I remembered the story too well.

While I took my time with this one, I did enjoy it and there's hope yet for me finishing my Harry Potter challenge.

I feel weird explaining this story because I think I am the only person in the world who has yet to read the series so I'll be brief.

Sirius Black is a convicted murderer, who betrayed Harry Potter's family and ultimately, caused their deaths. He escapes from the most notorious prison for wizards and the hunt is on for him, before he reaches Harry Potter.

The antics that Harry, Ron and Hermione go through, while avoiding Sirius Black, looking for him, or helping Hagrid and his Buckbeak, is what makes these stories so enjoyable. I absolutely love Hermione and her transformation into the rule-breaking gal she is in this book.

The story still seems pretty lightweight in terms of violence and darkness. I know it will get darker and darker and I look forward to that but it is kind of nice that there is a silver lining at the end of this one.

SPOILER:
I suspected that Black was not the bad man they made him out to be. I was *so* happy that he was going to take over Harry for the summer's and then I almost freaked when I thought he was going to be killed. What truly surprised me was Scabbers, which was a great little twist since he'd been a part of the series from the beginning. I LOVED IT!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mayhem in Mocksville

This past Saturday was CJ, and our, first venture into volleyball tournaments. We were all very excited, to say the least.

The tournament was in Mocksville, NC, a town a little over two hours west of Raleigh. We got up early and left at 5:15 AM to get there. All of us, except for Tim, of course, had a nice nap on the way.

We got to the high school, which is where the tournament was being held, a bit after 7 AM. I loved getting there early as I got to tour the facility before the mob hit.

We set up our chairs (well, Tim had to go grab two more for me and MiMi) in front of the court CJ's pool would be playing in and waited for the rest of the team to show up. It wasn't long before the place became completely packed. And while it seemed really crowded, there seemed to be a bit of comfort among all of "us" and the wallflower in me was OK with mingling with other parents, even outside of our team.

The first game they played they won. WOW. Unfortunately, they would lose the rest of the games that day. :( But most of the games were very close and by the end of the day, they were a wholly different team: they were kicking ass! It was so exciting and one of the most wonderful experiences I ever had.

Tim, MiMi and I took a lunch break during one of the rest times and had a nice burger at a local restaurant. This was located within their Historic Downtown. Look at the inside of this place. You don't get this kind of look and feel in a chain.
It was my first chance to get on wifi too (none available at the high school) and noticed comments back about my volleyball posts. I noticed one about the people of Mocksville being so nice and I couldn't have agreed more. We will be back in two weeks with another tournament and I look forward to it.

It was a long day. The tournament ended about 5:45 PM and if we had won more games, we would have been there longer playing. We made it back to Raleigh right before 7 PM to a house full of happy animals.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Two-for-Two

This past weekend we got some more movies in. I am blogging these mainly so I can remember what movies I watched and what I thought of them. I am sure some of you are like 'jeezuz - what's with the movies???' Just be thankful I don't blog *every* TV show I watch...

Knight and Day - I tried to get movies that I thought would be appropriate for the girls. Granted, I am flexible but Tim is not so I have to compromise when we watch as a family.

If you like SNL-type skits of stereotypical Tom Cruise acting and movies, then you would love this. It was a "Tom Cruise" movie to the hilt. I found it entertaining, even though I am not a Tom Cruise fan. It's an adventure movie, where Tom is the gorgeous agent who is invicible to any enemy. And Cameron is the ditzy love interest. Not a Diaz fan. But it appears she hasn't done any plastic surgery work anywhere (yay for the small booby gal!) so I appreciated every wrinkle she made in this role.

The Town - The kids didn't watch this one. I really, really liked this one a lot. I am not a huge Ben Affleck fan either (I know, I know...who DO I like?) but I heard good things about this movie.

Affleck wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. When I saw the preview several months ago, I almost fell out of my chair. The premise resembles a story that I have started writing...well, I say "started" but I started writing it years ago. The idea is in my head and to see it on film was freaky. If I had actually wrote it, I could have sued them for stealing my idea...but I guess there are just other people with demented minds who could think up such a story.

That story being: a hostage is taken during a bank robbery and eventually, one of the bank robbers falls for her after following her around to keep tabs on her testimony to the police. That's their story; not mine.

Mall Rats - I noticed that this was going to fall out of my instant queue by January 19th so I decided to watch it. It was good, not great. It was pretty cool to see Jason Lee, the dude that played with Jason Lee in My Name Is Earl, Ben Affleck (looking a bit pudgy), and Kevin Smith himself, as the young dudes they were in 1995. I was a fan of Chasing Amy and Clerks, so if you like those types of movies, this one might work for you too. I didn't love it but I found it amusing.

The Last Exorcism - I got this because I thought CJ would enjoy it. She loves scary movies and this one was PG13. It ended up that only Tim and I watched it as the girls got too freaked out over the previews BEFORE the movie ever started.

This one had potential but it never 'climaxed' and ended kind of flatly. It followed the "documentary" type formula that Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity, and while freaky, it just wasn't at the same level as those two were.

Winter's Bone - wow, this one was one of those "sleepers": a great movie that didn't get a lot of hoopla. Well, the lead actress, Jennifer Lawrence, was nominated for a Golden Globe (she didn't win). She should be nominated for an Oscar for this amazing performance. In fact, I think she should play the pivotal role of Katniss for The Hunger Games trilogy. Course, that won't happen because they need someone "name brand", which will probably be Dakota Fanning and that will really piss me off.

I digress. Winter's Bone follows a very backwoods community, in the Ozarks. Guess it could have been in the Appalachian Mountains too. These people live on a lot of land, hunt for food, walk because they have no car, etc. BTW, you gun control people? Watch this movie and realize that you are completely naive to think that your scenarios for gun rights apply to all people. You are missing out on a whole other culture of people...

Having seen this part of Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois, heck - i was just there last month! - just gave me a strange recognition. I felt like: wow - this could have been me. I could have married straight out of high school, one of the pentecostal cotton farm boys I had crushes on, and lived off the land.

Back to the plot: Jennifer Lawrence is Ree, a 17 year old who is the family provider because her dad went to prison and her mom went crazy. She has two younger siblings to take care of and word from the Sheriff is, her daddy got bond and used their home and land as collateral. If he doesn't show up for a court date, she's losing the house and the kids.

So Ree goes on a quest for her dad and the characters she meets is somber but fascinating.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Movies Galore

When TV is in rerun mode, I find other forms to entertain myself so I have a slew of movies to make comments on.

Good Hair - wow. Tim started this one and we became immediately focused on this documentary. It stars Chris Rock, but as I said, it is a documentary. Chris covers the business of "good hair" in the African-American community. I had no idea how big it is in the community, and by big, I mean 1) the importance of it to women and 2) how much money is made in this industry. If you care about the psychology of "cultures", this is an eye-opener. I loved it.

The Constant Gardener stars Ralph Fiennes, one of my favorite actors. I had heard about it years ago when it received movie nominations and accolades. I was expecting a romantic movie, which would be ideal with Ralph Fiennes. Instead, it ended up being a politically charged movie with Ralph Fiennes wife being killed in a conspiracy to cover up a pharmaceutical drug test operation. I didn't like it although it wasn't horrible.

The Quick and the Dead is a movie I had seen before but forgot all about it. $Bill recommended it to me after my review of Unforgiven. It was on Netflix instant so I thought "why not?" I don't remember hating it the first time I saw it and while I didn't hate it this time, I did think it was pretty cheesy. Sharon Stone acting as a traumautized cowgirl was not very appealing and seeing Leonardo DiCaprio so young was strange. Just not my cup of tea, this one.

Tombstone falls into my top ten all time favorite movies. I just love every bit of it. This movie has been seen by Tim and I over a dozen times and we just love it. Much like a few of our other favorites, quotes from this movie end up as part of the home dialect.

By far, Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday is one of the best characters ever played. He is amazing, cool, cocky, brilliant, and a loyal friend to Wyatt Earp. Two other fave characters are Billy Bob Thornton's portrayal of the saloon dealer: "I swear, it's like I'm playin' cards with my brother's kids or somethin'. You nerve-wrackin' sons-a-bitches" and Thomas Haden Church asking Doc Is that "Old Dog Trey? Sounds like "Old Dog Trey." as Doc plays "Frederic-fucking-Chopin".

Apocalypse Now - Can you believe I have never in my life seen this movie? Well I finally got to watch it and found it right up my alley. An "indie" type film...something probably way before its time. Could people from that era really appreciate the artistry behind this movie? :)

Despite the fact that I missed the entire climactic scene...the point of the entire movie:
Scene with water buffalo slaughter about to happen
me, covering my eyes: I can't watch this (side note: did see the documentary on the making of Apocalypse Now, Hearts of Darkness, and the slaughter of the water buffalo traumatized me forever); tell me when it's over.
Tim: OK
several minutes pass
Tim: OK, you can open your eyes.
me, opened my eyes and I see Kurtz dead and bloody: Um, what happened?
Tim: He macheted Kurtz while the water buffalo was getting slaughtered.
me: where did he get the machete?
Tim: from the boat
me: how did he get to the boat???!!!
Tim: he swam...cool scene too, he was all sneaky and his head was just out of the water
me: :(

Finally, we watched The Social Network last night. I didn't think I would like it, even though I blogged about the commercial teasing me to watch it. Well, I was wrong. This movie is awesome. I loved it. Jesse Eisenberg, someone I've seen but knew nothing about, was freaking amazing. Who knew that a movie about the invention of Facebook would be so interesting, but it was.

Mark Zuckerberg and his best friend get together and build a website based on Facebook, apparently a book given out at many colleges with names and stats of students. The catch is that the idea also has roots with other people. The direction of this movie was made perfectly and Mark Zuckerberg is truly the star of this movie: a cocky, sarcastic, almost Asperger's-type individual, who invents one of the greatest technological product ever...mainly from a broken heart. EXCELLENT movie.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stonewords by Pam Conrad

This was the book that MiMi brought to me, from her own elementary school library. She's been bringing me books from her school to read, which I find so sweet. The last one she brought me was HP and the Deathly Hallows because we had seen the movie. I was so moved but I told her that I have at least six more to read (now five) before I can get to that one.

Stonewords is a book about a young girl who meets another young 11 year old girl, who ends up being a ghost. Zoe is named after Zoe Louise, a young girl who died nearly 100 years before and after who she was named, since Zoe Louise's tombstone is near the home of Zoe's grandmother's home.

They become "playmates" of sorts and the novel chronicles Zoe Louise's visits to Zoe. I knew it was a ghost story and I was a bit egotistical (inside my head) about how "scary" a book could be from an elementary school.

But this one was.

I mean, it takes a lot to SCARE me. I think I got all my fear of scary books out as a teen, since that was my genre of choice. And while I wasn't SCARED scared, I did find it pretty creepy to give me a good chill. It would definitely not be a book I would recommend for MiMi to read.

It is well-written and has a nice twist to the end, where it ends well but with a bit of doubt in Zoe about her meeting with Zoe Louise. I think it's a great little twist of a story since I know I wonder about things I think were supernatural as a young child. Did I really experience that, or was it just a weird made-up memory or dream?

Monday, January 10, 2011

True Grit

I rounded up my weekend, and last day of vacation, with a matinee of True Grit. CJ actually wanted to see this, which was pretty awesome. I didn't like Westerns until old age, so I was impressed. MiMi, unfortunately, was overruled and had to come with us. She did well to watch it and was still for nearly two hours.

I know I saw the John Wayne version but I have no recollection of that movie whatsoever. But I am a fan of western flicks, the Coen brothers and vengeance...er, um, vengeance _movies_. :) And this movie gave me all of that and more.

The "true grit" is supposed to be from Rooster Cogburn. Rooster is a a tough old coot from the US marshals. Jeff Bridges does Rooster magnificently.

Which brings me to this question: What happened to Jeff Bridges? When did he turn into some crazy Nick Nolte-like frazzled actor? I remember Jeff being the good-looking one of the Bridges brothers. He was dapper, gentleman-like - The Fabulous Baker Boys, Tucker, or rugged and hot as in 8 Million Ways to Die.

Regardless, he's a fine actor who was excellent in this one.

The big surprise for me was Mattie Ross, the 14 year old who hires Cogburn to seek out the man who killed her father. I had no idea that the star of this movie would be the one person who would not receive any of the top billing.

Her character is spunky and smart. And she is determined to avenge her father's death. Matt Damon plays a Texas Ranger on the hunt for the same man. And then Josh Brolin plays the role of the outlaw, Tom Chaney. I don't quite understand how Brolin gets top billing for a mere few minutes in the movie. Well, I do know...Hollywood wants to draw the attention with big name stars.

The journey that Cogburn, Ross and Texas Ranger Matt Damon undergo is an adventure worth the watch. I found it very sad, in the end, however, to see Mattie Ross grow up to be an old maid. The twist to this, IMO, is that the person with true grit is Mattie Ross.

Pet Peeve: Snowperts

Here in Raleigh, NC, snow is not a common occurrence. Mind you, it is not rare but we don't normally have snow stick around for more than a week...and that's just because we are waiting for the snow to melt.

But these past two months, we have had about three significant snowfalls, plus a few snow flurries.

And inevitably, the "professional snow experts" come out of the woodworks to complain about how "we" (here in the South) drive, or how we scurry to the grocery stores, or how schools let out early/close.

What qualifies "professional snow experts"? Apparently, living anywhere where snow is common. It's worse with Facebook and Twitter: I am more exposed to their diatribe. It reminds me of that quote "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt" except to remain silent, I never thought you were a fool. But once you get on your high horse about how foolish you think _we_ are, then you are not only foolish but ignorant.

BTW, I am not Southern by birth. I am an Island girl - a mestiza of Filipino and american blood. I didn't grow up around snow. I have no idea how to drive in it and you know what? I don't wanna. Point one for me for being able to admit I won't do it - and I state that admission from a pedestal looking down on all of you folks who THINK they are better drivers IN SNOW.

You know what I did grow up around? Typhoons. AKA Hurricanes in these here parts. And you know what I do when one comes our way? I go to the grocery store and stock up. I resist the urge to tape up my windows but I don't stand around telling all you non-typhoon/hurricane folks how stupid you are for not doing it. My point is: it's just as silly for you snowperts to think so highly of yourself here as me being some kind of hurricane expert.

I will dare state this: YOU SNOWPERTS CAN'T DRIVE IN OUR SHITTY SNOW EITHER. Why? Because our roads are not like the roads you have in your snow cities. We don't have a zillion plows and salt trucks to take care of our roads as you do because, if you didn't already notice, WE DON'T HAVE SNOW FOR MORE THAN A FREAKING WEEK.

Up North? YOU HAVE SNOW EVERY DAY UNTIL YOU MOVE OR SUMMER HITS.

I can't believe I have to tell you guys this. You should know this. As Olivia says, Ignorance is NOT bliss.

I have a friend who's family lives in the country up north. You know what they do when a bigger prediction of snow fall is about to happen? They go to the store and stock up and DON'T DRIVE ANYWHERE if they don't have to. And guess what? Sometimes those schools get canceled too. Wow. What a concept.

Which brings me to everyone who complains about the school delays and closings.

First, I realize I am very fortunate to have a husband and a job that allows us to get our children when necessary. But this message is for the people in similar situations as me: you stay at home moms, you white-collar workers with flexible job hours: if your kid is on a bus and that bus crashed, not only would you be scared for your kid, you would be PISSED at the school system for putting them in that situation.

Why would the bus crash? Go back and read the first few paragraphs of my rant.

Have you ever heard of the 'better to be safe than sorry' expression? That's what works in this case. I am not the biggest fan of the WCPSS decisions *BUT* I back their conservative choices when it comes to the safety of my kids. Yes, it's frustrating. But I already fear a bus driver driving my kids on dry roads, let alone wet and slippery ones. It's a lose-lose for WCPSS: you don't delay school, bus gets stranded/crashes/whatever, parents become furious for endangering their kids' lives. You DO delay school, then parents bitch, whine and moan about 'was that necessary?'

I hear people all the time, laughing, mocking, the WCPSS decisions. And while it has no affect on them, I am laughing, mocking them, for their stupidity, their high-snobbery.

That goes for you snowperts too.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Unforgiven

It would be hard to list my favorite movies in any kind of chronological order. There are just movies that stay with me forever and I can watch them over and over and still enjoy the power it has over me.

I would say that this movie, Unforgiven, is in my top ten of all time. I would even venture to put it in my top five. I absolutely love this movie and we were able to watch it again over the Christmas break.

Unforgiven is a story about women prostitutes seeking vengeance against two men who cut up the face of 'one of their own'. A young want-a-be gunslinger seeks out William Munny, one of the baddest, meanest, cruelest bandit ever, to help him receive a reward - from the prostitutes - for the killing of these two men. Munny is a reformed man, a recent widower, tending to a farm and his two young kids. He reluctantly decides the reward is worth it and follows the young gunslinger out to hunt down their bounty.

The cruelty of this mission is played out well. I love how they depict one of the men as remorseful and watching his death is quite sad. But the movie shows that a deal is a deal, money is money, and there is a savageness to killing a man.

Then there is a twist and Munny is hell bent on vengeance after his good friend Ned Logan is beaten to death, then displayed for all the town to see by Sheriff Little Bill. The moment Munny is told of this is one of my favorite scenes in this movie: you can see the change in the man...and the old cruel bandit comes back into his eyes as he swigs the whiskey down.

Vengeance movies are great. It's always great to see the "good" guy win in the end.

The stars of this movie are Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman. Hackman plays Little Bill so amazing that you just HATE and DESPISE him. Every time I watch this and see him at first appearance, I am just filled with disgust and still cheer when he finally finds himself in a gun battle with Munny.

Clint, however, is the man of the hour, well, for two hours. Playing a man who becomes good, after being so vile is magical. The first few scenes, where he plays Munny as a bumbling idiot who can't get on a horse is comical but once he becomes a man seeking out his own justice, well, he deserved the Oscar that he was nominated for in the Best Actor category.

The movie won four Academy Awards: Hackman for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Eastwood himself for Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Picture for 1993.

It is also #17 on the International Cinephile Society's Top 100 Films of the 1990s, the movie challenge I have taken on but more actively, I hope, this year.

My Bests of 2010

The obligatory "best" list from me...for 2010.

Favorite Movie: The Kids Are All Right
This was a great movie that Tim and I had the pleasure of watching in August. It's where I fell in love with Mark Ruffalo and will forever think of his character when I hear "Shut the front door!" It's a great movie with superb acting. Glad to see that it hasn't been forgotten in the wake of the movie-du-jour Black Swan, when it comes to the upcoming critic awards.

I wish I had something more to write but my movie watching was on the down-low this year. I did re-watch The Brotherhood of the Wolf, which I declared as my favorite movie of the year...maybe it's a close to The Kids Are All Right... But last year's winner Let the Right One In just moved me so greatly and I don't have a similar movie this year to be impassioned about.

Best Novel: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I have had a wonderful year of book reading due to the fact that I will no longer finish books that do not interest me. It's great when I can read a book and be so overwhelmed by it that I can't stop thinking about it.

The year started off with the beautiful The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle and not long after, I had the privilege of reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Month after month, book after book, as I reflect on the books I've read this past year, I feel thankful for the wonderful authors out there who provide me with such guilty pleasure.

Regardless, it is The Hunger Games that blew me away this year. I love every bit of that book and I savor the memories of "meeting" these amazing characters through these pages. There is a great benefit, IMO, to reading novels with complete ignorance - you learn the story as you go and that's what made this book so wonderful to me. Granted, I knew a bit about the gist of the novel and was initially turned off by the premise. But with encouragement from BFFs Olivia and Kerry, I went for it and will be forever indebted to their sense of appreciation for stories.

Best Dining: La Farm Bakery
Another year of not trying a lot of new things out so I don't have a lot to choose from. However, La Farm Bakery was my sneaky winner of the year. Sneaky because it was a nice surprise when I decided to get a lunch there one day and was blown away by the delectable flavors of their food. I've gone back several times since and I just love it.

Best Song of the Year: TiK ToK by Ke$ha
You heard right. I love this song. This song, to me, represents being a young, frivolous, fun and whimsical girl - and ultimately, an ode to the DJ for their part in the fun. From the opening lyrics of 'feeling like P Diddy' to 'eer body getting crunk crunk' -- I love the vibe of white trash rap.

Best MiMi Thing: MiMi going for the swim team. Wow. I reflected on pictures from our summer swim meets and I have nothing but amazement for her courage in taking this on. She knew NOTHING about the different swim strokes...except a barely-there freestyle and yet she competed in all. I am beyond proud and look forward to another summer of watching her do this again.

Best CJ Thing: CJ running the Second Empire Series was such a wonderful thing for me to see. She was determined to do the races to qualify for a prize. We knew it was looking slim but she never gave up the 'cause' and ran *six* races in four months, most of them happening in the last couple of months of the year when it was brrr-coolllddd.

She really pushed herself too. She didn't run any easy paces and with a good bit of training, she could be as competitive as the other girls who ran well in her age bracket. And two big races for her: a fast mile, in the Magnificent Mile and her longest race, the Turkey Trot 8K, was a big achievement for a girl of 12.

Best Addition to Household: Adopting Ricky and Lucy, our twin chicorgi pups.
I don't know...there are days I would add this to the 'worst' addition to our household. What made me think it would be a good idea to adopt another pet, let alone a fricking puppy, then add TWO to that and I just doubled the work, stress, frustration and complications to my home. But they are ever so sweet and bring us such delight in their funky antics. They are great cuddlers and easy to tote around the house. The girls can carry them around too and the cat and the other dog seemed expecially happy to have them as part of the household.

However. Never again will I adopt a puppy. Or two puppies at once.

Best Scariest Moment: When I found Sunkist the cat with a mouse in his mouth. I haven't gotten over it to this day. And MiMi and CJ love to bring it up every so often and it just gives me shudders. A couple more mice were found since then and even one of them was picked up and thrown out by CJ. I can't believe my children can be so brave about them when I am extremely mouse-a-phobic. I can't even be in the same room with the deceased. Besides the CJ throwing the mouse out for me, the other coolest thing about the mouse in the house problem is that my dentist has offered to save me from any mice in the house. She happens to be one of my neighbors but how often can one hear their dentist say to them, in the dental office "Just call me and I will be more than happy to help you get rid of your dead mouse".

A great year and I look forward to having more, hopefully harder choices to make "best of" decision, in 2011.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

A Few Good Movies

My week off had me catching up on a few movies that are on my netflix queue. I was lucky that all were really good.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is a documentary created by the notorious(?) and mysterious street graffiti artist Bansky. Fortunately for me, I missed who the director of the movie was during the opening credits and was able to follow the movie with a more open mind. Yes, I know, the title is really "Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Film by Bansky"...I can't explain how I missed it entirely. Laugh at me as you must but I came to the same conclusion that Bansky came up with at the end...

The movie starts off with film footage from an odd-but-likable guy, Thierry Guett. Thierry is a successful vintage clothing owner in LA. He gets a camera one day and he becomes obsessed with filming everything. Thierry is the "star" of this movie...

The other star is the underground world of street art. Thierry gets involved with these artists through a cousin, another somewhat famous street artist Invader...he films Invader doing his work then becomes engrossed with this underground movement and soon meets some of the most famous artists *and* films them.

That part of the documentary is pretty fascinating and exciting. Seeing people do this as a passion because, for the most part, there is no money made.

But that becomes the next part of the story...

Bansky, who is pretty well-known in the UK. Guett finally meets him and is let into the mystery world of Bansky. Bansky comes across as cocky cool, as well as intelligent and artistic. Guett has claimed, to the artists he meets, that he is putting together a documentary about their street art. Unbeknownst to the artists, however, is that Guett has just been filming and filming and just throwing tapes, most undocumented and not labeled, into boxes...with no work whatsoever on a documentary.

Bansky gives Guett the idea to do his own street art and leave the tapes to him, so that he could make the movie.

But what happened was an ironic twist to the street art: Guett becomes famous and makes money off his own "work"...which is not really art. He manages to put existing images together and makes hit his "own" and the stupid sheep of the art appreciation world lapped it up and made him a very rich man. That part of the art sheep world is comically sad when Bansky's art show is introduced for his Turf War exhibition.

The other twist to this is many critics think Bansky has created a hoax of a movie, that this is another one of his twisted "street art" works. No worries from me...it's still a great documentary worth watching.

Brothers, the movie from Denmark *not* the empty shell of a POS as the American version, is a great movie. It is amazing the difference between the American version and this original one. It is almost a frame-for-frame re-creation -- almost -- but the difference in substance is night and day.

Brothers is about a family who is hit hard by the death of a husband, father, son, brother of Michael. Michael dies in a helicopter crash while deployed in Afghanistan. The family is left to live with their broken life.

Jannik is Michael's brother who had just been released from prison before Michael is deployed. He is the black sheep of the family and after Michael's death, he decides to become more involved with Michael's family.

There is a twist that runs parallel to Jannik's transformation to a "good guy" that happens soon in the movie. It's just a great movie with great acting and watching the most beautiful Connie Nielsen was an even better delight.

I started watching The Crime of Padre Amaro but had to stop it once I realized it was dubbed vs. subtitled. Hopefully I can find this movie offered in the latter, as it looks really good.

A Room with a View has been on my list for awhile. This movie was made in 1986 and debuted Helena Bonham Carter. In 1986, I would have zero interest in watching this type of movie and now, these movies are fascinatingly entertaining to watch.

The great thing about period movies is that it doesn't reflect the year it was made, and therefore, doesn't look outdated. This was a sweet, romantic movie with Julian Sands in a romantic lead role, albeit an odd character. I loved it and I'm glad I finally made the time to watch it.

My favorite this past week is definitely An Education. I have watched part of The Constant Gardner and will finish it up before I return to work on Monday. And I hope to catch True Grit in the theater tomorrow...

Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon

First off: I did not finish this book. I barely even got into it to give it a fair review but this is my review as to why I _didn't_ finish it.

This book was part of my book challenge to read the winners of the National Book Foundation. This was the winner of the best book in fiction.

I had a hard time understanding the book. I decided I would give it a good 100 pages before I would continue or not. A few years ago, another decision I made was to NOT continue reading books of no interest to me. There are too many books to be read and many that will sweep me off my feet. If I struggled to finish a book of no interest, then the less time I have in my life to enjoy the ones that are good to me.

I could only reach page 73 before I gave up. MiMi had brought me a book to read and I thought I'd read that one fairly quickly (120 pages). After reading that, then going back to this one, I got pissed that this one had to be so difficult to read and follow. I read the reviews on the back of the book and then that just pissed me off. 'WTF are these people reading that I _can't_?' I thought to myself?

It's almost like watching a foreign movie without subtitles and getting just the gist of the story...I could read the words and my brain would figure out what the fuck was going on.

Here is the first chapter, from the first section of the book, Mr. Boll Weevil:
Inside the back gate of Indian Mound Downs, a hot-walking machine creaked round and round. In the judgment of Medicine Ed, walking a horse himself on the shedrow of Barn Z, the going-nowhere contraption must be the lost soul of this cheap racetrack where he been ended up at. It was stuck there in the gate, so you couldn't get out. It filled up the whole road between a hill of horse manure against the backside fence, stubbled with pale dirty straw like a penitentiary haircut, and a long red puddle in the red dirt, a puddle that was almost a pond. Right down to the sore horses at each point of the silver star, it resembled some woebegone carnival ride, some skeleton of a two-bit ride dreamed up by a dreamer too tired to dream. There'd been no rain all August and by now the fresh worked horses were half lost in the pink cloud of their own shuffling. Red dust from those West Virginia hills rode in their wide open nostrils and stuck to their squeezebox lungs. Red dust, working its devilment, he observed to himself. But he shut his mouth. They were not his horses.

So the story is this: a cheap racetrack with regulars, including Medicine Man, who find themselves dealing with folks who scheme to make money off down-and-out horses at these tracks.

I was lost instantly with the intro at the beginning, which is a section covering "claiming races" from Ainslies' Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing.

But I made it through the Mr. Boll Weevil section and figured out that Medicine Man seemed to feel a series of coincidences became his lucky calling, only to find himself without an owner (at Indian Mound Downs), after the owner was struck dead of a possible heart attack. And that Tommy Hansel abuses his girlfriend, who together make it to this racetrack on a scheme to win money with their horses...and perhaps (an assumption, since I stopped reading it) taking Medicine Man with them...who did not want to work for the odd Hansel.

I started the next section Little Spinoza and read this:
His Elizabeth, however, was a herd dog, hustled by some ancient sense of responsibility not to let her sheep -- whoever she decided her sheep were -- out of her sight. As for Two-Tie she wouldn't even let him take a dump in privacy but curled up with a groan on the little wrinkled rug between the tub and the sink for the duration. He had to curtail some of his out-of-town operations in recent years. Elizabeth no longer cared to travel. She didn't appreciate having her routine interrupted. It had cost him some bucks. But it was the least he owed her for thirteen years of devoted companionship. Around the racetrack (especially if you weren't welcome on the actual grounds no more) you had better know the value of a foul weather friend.

This was several pages into this section and then I had to go back and re-read the previous sections. Is Elizabeth a dog? A horse? A companion to Two-Tie, who I figured out after re-reading it that he is the narrator.

I read some reviews and those who disliked it, disliked it for it's hard to read vernacular. There is also the notion that one must have an understanding of horse racing to understand the lingo, so there's another reason why "I didn't get it". It just seems odd to me that I would have to have some background knowledge of a subject matter within a novel -- a novel, mind you, that won a National Book Award -- to "get it".

Minus 100 points to the credulity of the National Book Foundation's best novel awards. You mean as much to me as the Golden Globes...

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Black Swan

Finally. I got to watch this movie.

I had plans to see it the weekend it opened but MiMi ended up sick which sunk our plans.

Then I planned to see it while we were visiting my family in Arkansas but Tim got sick and that sunk my plan.

So then I decided I would see it while I'm on vacation - alone - this week. But Tim said he wanted to see it so...YAY! I finally got to see it.

Overall, it was good. It wasn't _great_ as I had expected. While dark, it edged on a cheesy "let's mimic the underlying theme" concept...which is more mainstream than unusual.

However, I found Natalie Portman to be amazing. I do love her and her movies...ever since Beautiful Girls, where she played a very young, beautiful girl who, IMO, stole the show. Then V for Vendetta? Another so-so movie but another scene-stealer in Miss Portman.

She did the same in Black Swan...playing a very fragile, meek, quiet, innocent girl who wants a lead role in Swan Lake. Watching Portman transform from the meek girl to the seductive Black Swan is amazing. I love actors who can play their roles without a hitch...it's incredible...and so worth the price of the movie to see her.

Everyone else was really great too. I loved seeing Natalie with her man, and soon-to-be husband and father of their child, NY Ballet's principal dancer who not only choreographed Portman, but ends up in the scenes too.

The only issue I had was the gaps of explanations (or even clearer innuendos) as to what she was doing...was she nuts before trying out for Swan Lake? I mean, _that_ nuts? Just because you might scratch yourself does not mean you start seeing other people that don't really exist.

But the biggest disappointment was just the way it ended...realizing that at some point, her character Nina was living a parallel life to the characters in the ballet, which was just kind of dumb. It ended the same way an SNL skit portrays an overdramatic star dies in a role.

Monday, January 03, 2011

An Education

I have wanted to see this movie for a long time and today, I finally had a chance.

This week is *my* vacation week. So late this morning I noticed that An Education was on one of my movie channels.

SWEEET.

I do love Peter Sarsgaard. And the premise of an older man wooing a younger girl, albeit Lolita style (and very illegal), was too good for a romantic like me.

Ironically, my girls find Sarsgaard as the opposite of attractive. He was also in The Orphan and The Skeleton Key, which was the movie I think that made me really adore him.

Nonetheless, this movie gave me everything I wanted and more.

Young Jenny is 16 years old, finishing up high school and striving to get the grades to get her into Oxford. Her dad, brilliant played by Alfred Molina, pushes those grades while her mother sits very quietly.

The year is 1961. Women were not especially, um, LIBERATED? Independent?

So Jenny, once enamored by the extremely charming David (Sarsgaard), finds no meaning in continuing her education, when all she can ever end up being is a boring and dead teacher.

The enchantment by David is extremely romantic. It's what a 16 year old may fantasize at some point in her life: a rich, charming, good-looking man, who 'saves' her from teen-angst and teen-humdrum.

Carey Mulligan, the starlet du jour of late, is absolutely BRILLIANT in her role as Jenny. Beautiful, smart, independent, confrontational...everything that a girl from the 60s was NOT.

I sensed an underlying message...that giving up your goals...especially in a college education, is one of the worst mistakes anyone can do, especially a woman.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

I brought this half finished work with me on the trip to West Memphis. I am glad I did as I not only had the opportunity to finish it, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. There is hope, I think, in me completing my Harry Potter Book challenge.

When I first read this, I was completely uninterested in it. I knew most of the story because I had already read the first part once before. I remember the first time not being so wooed by Dobby or the missed train to Hogwarts...

But it seemed that at some point in time, I forgot the rest of the story based on the movie (and I own the movie!). I think this will be a good thing going for me as I don't remember much else of the rest of the HP movies, so reading the series will be more interesting (I think and hope) to me since I won't be replaying the movie scenes in my head.

I will skip through the first part of the book, since I not only found it uninteresting but I hardly remember the details anymore...

...so when I started reading it again, Hermione, Ron and Harry find the body of Filch's cat, Mrs. Norris. At first appearance, the cat seems dead but soon we discover that the cat is in fact petrified. A message also appears that states the Chamber of Secrets has been open.

Soon, a few more Hogwart's students are petrified. A cure is in the works but first, the Mandrakes must grow before the potion to un-petrify them can take place. In the meantime, Harry is suspected of being the cause for the petrifying...since he inadvertently spoke "parseltongue" when confronted by a snaky situation. Apparently, only a descendent of Salazar Slytherin could possibly speak parseltongue, so Harry is the likely 'heir to Slytherin' and responsible for the petrification of Muggle-born witches and wizards.

Confused? Well then you must not be a Harry Potter fan! :)

In the end, we find out that this is when Ginny Weasley professes her "crush" for Harry, that Tom Riddle is really Voldemart, and that Hagrid has always had a soft heart for monsters.

I am ready to move on to the third year and I look forward to it. I think I will wait to watch the movies until I finish the entire series. Or at least get close to the end...

After Christmas Blizzard

Well, not really a blizzard but for someone like me, anything more than flurries is a blizzard.

December 26th was the day we were to start our trek to West Memphis, Arkansas, where both my parents live. Instead, Raleigh received its third snowfall of the month, with a predicted six inches.

Needless to say, we did not leave.

Instead, this is what I saw in the morning, through my windows in my warm home. This is our backyard. And this is just the beginning of the snowfall.

Since we were 'stuck' here, we thought it would be best to play in it. The only problem with that is three of the four humans of the home were sick. Fortunately, kids are resilient so they didn't mind romping around in the white stuff but the old man was stuck watching from the windows.

There were snowball fights. CJ made a snow fort and did a pretty good job creating a snowball armory. I am not sure why the girls think it's OK to gang up and pummel their mother but I was tough in battle.
There were snow angels to be made. Lots of them. It was pretty fun to see them just drop into the snow...it was easy and 'safe' for them to do it since the snow was so deep.

And the dogs enjoyed themselves...well, at least Brenna did. She went crazy in the snow, which is wonderful to watch. It's the same way she reacts to the beach.

We got Lucy out there but she didn't like it one bit. It doesn't help that the girls piled snow on top of her. Ricky has a bit more oomph in him so we got him to figure things out on his own...well, not really, Brenna helped a bit:

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erkine

This novel won the National Book Award for Young People Literature. It was a beautiful piece of work that made me cry.

Caitlin is a fifth grader that we soon learn has Asperger's. The way she sees the world is very amusing, even though it is viewed by others as sad. She reminds me of the character Christoper from one of my favorite novels ever, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

I did not expect this winning novel to be so sad. The story is essentially about Caitlin, her dad, and her community, dealing with The Day Our Life Fell Apart, which entailed a middle school shooting in which three people are killed, one being Caitlin's big brother Devon.

Devon got Caitlin. He helped her function in the world, a world where no one Gets It and a world that Caitlin struggles to fit in. With him gone, she is on her own although everyone around her is trying to help her.

Caitlin's world is amusing but also frustrating. She learns about Your Manners and gets excited when she says Thank You because she has earned a sticker for the Your Manners chart. She learns from a younger classmate that Your Manners are Her Manners which makes her ecstatic that she has control over Her Manners.

The crux of the matter for Caitlin, however, is Closure and asks everyone around her "How do I get to the state of experiencing an emotional conclusion to a difficult life event?", which was the dictionary definition of Closure. She decides that finishing a chest that her brother was doing for an Eagle Scout award would be Closure.

This novel is so sweet and sad at the same time. Knowing that Caitlin struggles to define the emotion of "death" to her, and how the people around her try to help but really have no idea what she knows about death is tough...because as the reader, we can see that she Gets It and its everyone else that doesn't Get It.

I love this book and I will be recommending it to one of my BFFs, whose daughter was recently diagnosed with Asperger's. I love the Author's notes, where she explains what inspired this novel. I like these lines especially:
We all want to be heard, to be understood. Some of us are better than others at expressing ourselves.
I think that is so true for every one of us, regardless of which side of the spectrum we are on.