Monday, September 29, 2014

SUCCESS - I found the YA book I've been looking for almost 20 years!

Book lovers, you know my plight -

You read a book back in your teen years or in your 20s that you loved, or that affected you in some way, and yet the title of said book has maddeningly flitted right out of your brain. And no matter how many web inquiries, bookstore sleuthing, and questions thrown out to the ether asking - "Does anyone know the name of THIS BOOK?", you have come up empty.

Well, have faith dear friends. It may take years, but eventually someone, somewhere, out there on the interwebs will throw you a bone. The Internet is sometimes awesome, is what I'm trying to say.

My two-decades long search ended today when I randomly was on the Goodreads site and wandered into the "What's the name of this book?" forum, a place that I had been several times doing my elusive search for my YA novel. This time I decided to search the "Unsolved" folder to see if there were other people like me searching for this particular book. I did a keyword search of "Woods".

What happened next was something that only happens on internet forums - in response to a poster's inquiry about some book regarding twin teen siblings who get lost camping, a commenter had suggested that the name of the book that they were searching for was something called "Coming Back Alive". And then another commenter had jumped in and said that no, the first commenter was wrong, and proceeded to get into a drawn-out nerd fight over books and who had the most knowledge of YA books from the 80s and 90s.
Sometime during this back and forth one of the arguing commenters had posted a picture:

You guys? It was like the Earth broke in two and shooting sparks flew up into my brain. THAT'S THE COVER OF THE BOOK!! MY BOOK!! I FOUND IT!

So, thanks to a person being wrong about the answer to another searcher's book question, I indeed was able to solve the mystery that's been plaguing me for years. And I ordered the book off of 2 seconds later. It's on it's way to me from Oregon and I can't wait to read it after all of these years.
I'm sure it won't live up to my expectations or remembrances, but I don't care. I've haven't been this excited in a long time!


I don't have Starz. It's pretty much the only premium cable channel that I don't have. And boy, have I really regretted not having it this year; the main reason being that I haven't been able to watch "Outlander" the series this season.
I got to watch the premiere episode of this season on the Starz website where they let non-subscribers watch for free. My friends John and Dan have Starz, and I got to see the second episode, but beyond that, besides resorting to illegal downloading methods - which I refuse to do, I'm going to have to wait months before I'll be able to watch this full series, and I'm pissed about it.

I even tried to buy the full season on iTunes and guess what? It's not for sale! Will it ever be? Other premium cable channels sell their shows, why not Starz? Maybe they're waiting for the full season to be over, which would mean that I would have to wait for some time. Grrrrr...

Meanwhile, the "mid-season" finale just happened this past weekend, and we had this scene:

VERY intense. In other news, Sam Heughan is effing hot!

Presented without comment...

Okay, I lied. ONE comment -

Why the fuck does Phil Collins have a tambourine shoved into his sweatpants in this photo?!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

For the love of..."Big Business"

Yesterday I revisited an old favorite of mine. I probably hadn't seen this movie all the way through in almost 20 years.

Big Business is an infinitely stupid and predictable film, but boy is it the perfect anecdote, when you've had a shitty day and all you want to do is veg on the couch while eating a crapload of carbohydrates. I'm not sure why more movies like this aren't streaming on Netflix etc. Films of this ilk - "Ruthless People", "Troop Beverly Hills", "Outrageous Fortune", "Baby Boom" ,"First Wives Club" - are great things to put on when you want a few laughs, have 90 min to kill, and/or just want something brainless, yet enjoyable on in the background as you cook, clean, or nap.

Back to Big Business - Can I just say that, Ratcliffe/Shelton sisters aside,  this movie is really about the love story of Moramax's most faithful employees, Graham and Chuck. They were making their relationship work, even while working together, in what was probably a very homophobic environment. Sadie and Rose both seem to know and happily accept their coupledom. Graham and Chuck were gay pioneers! We're talking over 25 years ago!

Edward Hermann's facial expressions throughout this movie are priceless.

Friday, August 29, 2014

2014 Fall TV Season Preview - NEW SHOWS aka "what will clog up my DVR next" Edition

How can it already be time for the Fall TV season? Last year around this time I was excited for a lot of shows, and only ended up sticking with like two, maybe. Let's see what sticks this time around. 
My poor poor DVRs...

Fox, 8 p.m. (Sept. 22)
Holy prequel, Batman! Ben McKenzie (oh, how I love and have missed you Ben! Sorry I didn’t watch Southland!) stars as young, pre commissioner Jim Gordon, navigating a city teeming with DC Comics vigilantes and villains, including Jada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney, a sadistic gangster boss and nightclub owner. Also Donal Logue is in it, so you know, AWESOME.

State of Affairs
NBC, 10 p.m. (Nov. 17)

All you Katherine Heigl haters out there can suck it. I love Katherine Heigl and thinks she gets a bad rap. She plays a maverick (of course!) CIA officer turned daily briefer to the president, played by Alfre Woodard. SOLD!

NCIS: New Orleans
CBS, 9 p.m. (Sept.23)
The few times that I’ve watched NCIS has been with my father, or with Sharon & Vince Villa (surrogate parents) so basically you know that this show , despite having Mark Harmon in it, is NOT for me. What’s going to get me to tune into this new spin-off of the NCIS juggernaut? Two things – the setting of New Orleans which is almost always a good thing,  and Scott Bakula, who makes anything and everything better!

ABC, 10 p.m. (Sept. 23)

I got so excited when I first heard about this show. Then I actually read the description and became instantly disappointed.
See, back in 2008, Fox adapted one of my favorite books by Peter Hamill, into a series starring the tremendously hot Nikolaj Coster-Waldau called New Amsterdam. Of course this was way before “Game of Thrones” so nobody knew who Nikolaj was and Fox being Fox cancelled the show before the season was finished, despite it actually being great and a nice adaptation of the book. So I was jazzed that ABC was going to take a crack at it, using the actual title of Hamill’s book. Surprise! It’s not the same story…just almost exactly? The plot is about  a New York crime-scene examiner, Dr. Henry Morgan, played by Ioan Gruffudd who happens to be immortal as long as he’s submerged in water after “dying”. I don’t know you guys. I love Gruffudd though and have enjoyed most of the stuff from Matt Miller (Chuck, 666 Park Avenue).

ABC, 8 p.m. (Sept. 30)

Plot summary: A vacuous social-media star (Karen Gillan) hires a brand consultant (John Cho) to repair her damaged insta-celebrity after a compromising video goes viral. This sounds pretty awful, but recently I’ve read articles from critics that I respect that are saying that the show is actually funny and clever. So I’m giving it a shot, although if I love it ABC is guaranteed to cancel it.

The Flash
CW, 9 p.m. (Oct. 7)

Grant Gustin stars as that speedy young super-hottie. This is another show that’s gotten great buzz and has been recommended by a bunch of people that I trust. Also, I’m a sucker for CW sci-fi/fantasy shows.

Marry Me
NBC, 9 p.m. (Oct. 14)

A sitcom starring two of my fave comedians whose cancelled shows I’m still mourning. What could be better?! Well?...the show’s description sounds fucking awful and stupid – “A welcome return to TV for two offbeat comedians, Casey Wilson (Happy Endings) and Ken Marino (Party Down), who play a lovesick couple determined to stage the perfect proposal. Expect mayhem, gay dads (Tim Meadows), and aggressive karaoke.” YIKES right? But you guys, it’s Casey Wilson and Ken Marino! These two are very smart along with being very funny; they wouldn’t be involved in something that wasn’t worth watching. Right? I’ll watch until NBC inevitably cancels it.

Red Band Society
Fox, 9 p.m. (Sept. 17)

This show proposes the following - What if you set a drama in the pediatric cancer ward of a hospital and focused the story on a bunch of the kids there and the shenanigans they get into, sort of like The Breakfast Club meets The Fault In Our Stars, thus combining two of my favorite teen things. The story is narrated by a young man in a coma who can hear everything going on around him which is a nice twist. It stars Octavia Spencer who is cool and I’ve missed. The commercials for this show keep showing this one kid in a wheelchair and his bald-cap is SO awful, that it may be the only thing that keeps me from enjoying this show.  

ABC, 9:30 p.m. (Sept. 24)

Anthony Anderson stars in this assimilation farce that asks: How do you teach your kids how to be black when they grow up in a mostly white suburb? It’s gotten really good reviews and I don’t want to do the same thing that I did last year with The Goldbergs where I started watching half-way through the season after hearing how great it was. I’ll watch at least the first couple of eps and decide.

CBS, 10 p.m. (Oct. 1)

One of my fave show-runners Kevin Williamson, doing a crime procedural about law enforcement officers that find/fight stalkers (?) that stars Dylan McDermott and the always cool Maggie Q. I’ll give it a couple of episodes; at least to see if McDermott (or Maggie for that matter) takes his shirt off.

DirecTV, 9 p.m. (Oct. 8)

Description: “Nick Jonas buffs up and hopes to finally shed his Disney Channel origins in this roid-o-rama MMA drama. “ Um…Nick Jonas, who I have VERY inappropriate feelings towards, is going to be shirtless and sweaty a lot. Attention all friends with DirecTV (I’m looking at you Larry Ahrens) I am coming over to watch this. I don’t care how awful it sounds. LA LA LA I can’t hear you shirtless Nick Jonas!!!!


How to Get Away With Murder
ABC, 10 p.m. (Sept. 25)

All aboard for the next Shonda Rhimes Thursday-night-on-ABC show!!! A crime thriller, starring Viola Davis as a law professor. This has gotten rave reviews from the TCAs and up-fronts.

A to Z
NBC, 9:30 p.m. (Oct. 2)

I love Ben Feldman. LOVE him. He played Ginsberg on Mad Men and was an angel on the first couple of seasons of Drop Dead Diva (don’t ask). In this he is an internet-dating executive and Cristin Milioti (How I Met Your Mother’s mother) plays an attorney who he starts dating. I was not impressed with her on HIMYM but most folks liked her, so maybe she’ll be good on this? I don’t care. BEN FELDMAN. Remember, I called dibs on him first!

Fox, 9 p.m. (Oct. 2)

Okay. Here we go. A big rant is coming; deep breath. THIS SHOW ALREADY EXISTED! It was called Broadchurch and it was a British show that aired on BBCAmerica last year!  DAVID TENNANT, yes, that David Tennant, STARRED IN THE ORIGINAL AND IS REPRISING THE EXACT SAME ROLE BUT WITH A HORRIBLE AMERICAN ACCENT!! And I mean HORRIBLE. This new U.S. version appears to be A SCENE FOR SCENE REMAKE WITH NO CHANGES TO THE STORY! NOT EVEN TO DIALOG! WHAT IN THE FUCK?! Millions of Americans already watched and loved the original, and KNOW HOW IT ENDS; why would Fox and the producers think that it’s okay to remake the show exactly like the original? Listen, I get why U.S. production companies like to remake shows from other countries; they have a proven entity that they know they can run with. And in many instances I find American redos to be great – The Bridge, The Killing, Homeland, In Treatment, for crissakes even Devious Maids are all remakes that I’ve loved. But the difference with these shows is that they took the concept of the original, and either put it in a different setting, or changed the story but kept the setting etc. But they definitely made it their own. Another difference is that unlike the shows I just listed, Broadchurch wasn’t some random Estonian production seen by 3 people here; it was on a major cable network and got a ton of publicity and promotion. And was on Netflix streaming! The whole idea of a to-the-letter remake is infuriating.
And yet…David Tennant, bad American accent or no, is awesome and the rest of the Gracepoint cast reads like my dream cast list – Anna Gunn, Josh Charles, Jacki Weaver (!!!) NICK NOLTE(!!!!!!) – The cast has guaranteed that I’m going to watch the whole damn thing, even though I will know what happens at every turn.

The McCarthys
CBS, 9:30 p.m. (Oct. 30)

This comedy based on actor Brian Gallivan’s  own life, is about a gay, athletically challenged son who becomes his basketball-coach dad’s assistant. It sounds truly awful. But it stars Laurie Metcalf and Jack McGee who I love, and my friend Vance, who is a gay entertainment critic, said he wanted to hate it but ended up loving the first two episodes. So I’m going to begrudgingly give it a shot.


NBC, 10 p.m. (Oct. 24)

An adaptation of one of my favorite comics, with Matt Ryan as John Constantine. Should pair nicely with Grimm on Friday nights.

PBS stuff:
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
PBS, 8 p.m. (Sept. 14–20)

Ken Burns’s latest, this time with a focus on Theodore, Franklin, Eleanor, et al.

Death Comes to Pemberley-  Masterpiece Classic
PBS, 9 p.m. (Oct. 26 and Nov. 2)

The BBC mini-series version of P.
D. Jamess murder-mystery sequel to Pride and Prejudice comes to PBS, starring Matthew Rhys as Mr. Darcy. I LOVED this book so much and I am beyond excited about this.

Worricker: Turks & Caicos – Masterpiece Contemporary
Masterpiece on PBS, 9 p.m. (Nov. 9)

Playwright David Hare writes and directs an all-star cast — Christopher Walken, Winona Ryder(!), Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes(!!), and Bill Nighy as the titular MI5 spy. Cannot wait!

Other stuff:
The Affair
Showtime, 9 p.m. (Oct.19)
Dominic West back on my tv screen. I don't care what it's about! Here - watch the trailer!

Fox, 9:30 p.m. (Oct. 5)
John Mulaney  is one of my favorite comedians and writers. They’ve finally given him his own Seinfeld-ian show, playing a stand-up comic with a day job writing material for a “legendary” game-show host played by Martin Short. The problem I have with this seemingly okay sounding premise, is that the commercials for this series are fucking horrible. It’s a studio-audience multi-cam show, but still seems to have a laugh track? Every scene they’ve shown with Martin Short is beyond unfunny. I am so so worried. But John Mulaney  is a great writer, and Julie Klausner is also a contributing writer for the show so it should it be amazing! And yet…those ads…so bad. John Mulaney deserves better than this.

Misc Streaming Stuff:
  • The Killing's last hurrah on Netflix
  • Amazon Prime's new Whit Stillman comedy. This description below should be enough to make you want to drop everything to watch it!

The Cosmopolitans: It's a Whit Stillman show set in Paris, starring Adam Brody and Chloë Sevigny (among others) as American expats who drink wine and go to parties and lament things. It's very much how you'd think, which is to say: Mannered and tiny in scope; nostalgic, almost, even though it's set in the present day; and also sharply funny and a little dreamy.

Here are some links that you might find helpful to narrow down your own Fall TV choices -

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer TV round-up

It's been a good summer for me. Not only did I take most of the month of July off to relax on various beaches and beside numerous pools, I also got to watch several new television shows that I really enjoyed, along with a couple of others who had good sophomore seasons. And of course my summertime beloved - So You Think You Can Dance.

My top 3 summer shows were all newbies, and two of them are clearly geared towards a teen demographic, but you know what? I don't care. And I know I wasn't the only audience member in their childless 40s watching them!

  • Chasing Life - an ABCFamily drama about a young woman in her 20s dealing with her father's death and her recent diagnosis of leukemia. The main reason I fell in love with this show is that Scott Michael Foster is one of the leads and I love him lots. Especially now that he's not on "Greek" so has ditched the long hair and pukka shell necklaces. HOT. The main character is played by Italia Ricci, who is a lovely actress that I'm surprised I haven't seen in anything else. This show also let Steven Weber return to television and that is a blessing.
  • Finding Carter - Oh MTV, first you gave me my new favorite mid-season show Faking It (coming back in late September woo!!), and now you give me the gift of Alex Saxon (and his glorious hair) as Max, the best dude you'd ever want as your friend, boyfriend, brother, or son. The main plot involves a girl (the titular Carter) finding out at 16 that she was actually kidnapped away from her real family 13 years previously and raised a few hours north by a crazy lady who Carter has believed is her cool single mom Lori. Carter then has to adapt to having not only a twin sister and a little brother, but also parents, Elizabeth a police detective and David a writer who became famous when he wrote a true-crime book about the kidnapping, whom Carter is wary of and angry at for taking her away from her "real mom". I'm not going to lie, most of time you want to punch Carter in the face for being so bratty and obnoxious, but I don't really watch the show for her, I watch it for MAX. 
Dear Alex Saxon, I love you and your beautiful hair. Marry me, please! I first fell in love with Saxon on another teen drama that I love, the excellent ABCFamily show The Fosters. On that show he plays Wyatt, recently dumped boyfriend of the lead character Callie. I was at first very upset over the prospect of Wyatt being written off the show, because I love Saxon's portrayal of him so much. But then Alex Saxon showed up in the very first minutes of Finding Carter, playing the role of Max, who is not very different from Wyatt (a little older, a little dumber, a little more stoned), but better in all ways because of how sweet his dynamic with the Wilson family is on "Finding Carter". Also his hair! HIS BEAUTIFUL HAIR!

  • The Leftovers - Oh man, this show. I loved the heck out of Tom Perrotta's book that this HBO downer drama is based from. Although the television show is in ways very different from the book, I felt the stories were in good hands because Perrota has written or has supervised the writing of all of the episodes of this first season. One of the major differences between the book and TV show is the tone. Yes, the book was sad; there was a lightness or a feeling of hope infused in the writing however. The show, especially the first 4 episodes, is unrelentingly dire. And this makes it sometimes very hard to watch. What keeps me liking it and watching it are the performances from the actors. Holy crap, give Amy Brenneman her Emmy now! She conveys so damn much without uttering a word. Also cool to see good ol' Justin Theroux getting some recognition. DC boy made good.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

SIFF Musings - Final week

Some final thoughts regarding my experience at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival.

·         It amazes me after all these years that there are people who have lived in Seattle for a while and have still never attended even one film at the festival. I’m always pleasantly surprised at how many folks I meet each year that are attending their first festival. And you can ALWAYS TELL the newbies – they’re the ones that are surprised at the long lines and perturbed that they have to sit in the front row because they didn’t arrive at the venue until 10 minutes before the movie was scheduled to start.

·         My friend Ross and I kept are “Spain streak” alive! For probably the ninth or tenth year in a row I’ve seen at least one film from Spain at the festival. That country almost never disappoints, and this year was no exception; Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed was one of my favorites from this festival’s offerings.

·         I really lucked out this festival or perhaps have developed a more discerning eye because, I ranked almost all of the films I caught this festival with at least a “4”.

·         I didn’t see nearly as many documentaries as I usually do each SIFF [only two]. This doesn’t bode well for me for next year’s Oscar Death Race™.

·         This was also one of the first SIFFs in some time where there were at least 5 movies that I really wanted to see, but was unable to, due to schedule conflicts etc. I’ve been lucky in the past to catch almost everything I wanted. I really hope I’ll get my chance in the coming weeks/months at SIFF Cinema. (I’m looking at you – “Shake The Dust”, Not My Type, Boyhood, Yves Saint Laurent, Family United, and To Fool A Thief)

And the last of my reviews for the year:

A fantastical tale, done in what I call “Forrest Gump” style, where the protagonist unwittingly gets involved with and/or influences various famous events and people in history. This was a fun comedy involving a wily centenarian who through circumstances, accidentally makes off with 50 million in drug money. A hilarious road trip movie featuring a cast of characters like no other. I wasn’t expecting the movie to be narrated in English, but that was a nice touch. 

Boys – Netherlands

This is a very sweet coming-of-age story about first-time summer love. It tells the story of 15 yr old Sieger, who with his best friend Stef is training for the National Relay Track and Field Championships. Their coach sets up Sieger and Stef with his two other best runners, and Sieger struggles with his feelings and emotions once he realizes that he is falling for teammate Marc, a free-spirited outgoing teen who doesn’t hide the fact that he has the same feelings for Sieger. It makes me smile to think that young gay teens have movies like this available to them.

Final Recipe – South Korea, Thailand, Singapore

A story about a Chinese teen who hopes to save his grandfather’s struggling restaurant in Singapore by competing on a popular “Iron Chef-style” televised cooking competition. Starring Korean pop idol Henry Lau in his acting debut. This movie was cheeseball corny and predictable; but so enjoyable that you just didn’t care. I can imagine this coming to Netflix within the next few months, and would recommend it if you want something that cute and great for the whole family.

Creep – USA

I ended this year’s festival with an unnerving but fairly well-done film from multi-hyphenate indie darling Mark Duplass. In it he plays a terminally ill man who puts an ad online looking for someone to film a last testament that he wants to leave for his unborn child. Struggling videographer Aaron answers the ad and heads to the dying man’s remote Northern California cabin where bizarre and nasty surprises await him. Eh, I think I was too tired to actually appreciate this movie fully. And although I did get a chance to make eye contact and smile at Mark Duplass, who was in attendance, I did not stick around for the Q&A afterwards because I was falling asleep and new episodes of Orange Is The New Black were waiting for me at home.




Friday, June 6, 2014

For the Love of... Taylor Kitsch

 In 2006 I was introduced to Taylor Kitsch and his beautiful face (and THAT BODY) on the TV show "Friday Night Lights". Tim Riggins was the best, and although he rarely cracked smiles like the one he's sporting in the photo below, Kitsch's Riggins was one of the most complex characters written for television for that time period when vacuous reality television was exploding and taking over everything in its path.
In interviews Kitsch always comes off as sort of a doof. A Canadian muscle-bound dumdum who is very earnest and sincere but sort of an airhead. I actually think he has "Keanu Reeves disease", where his good looks and sort of stoner goof voice make him seem way dumber than he actually is. I kept waiting for him to land a film role that would show the type of depth that he was able to show on FNL. Instead his muscles and face just kept on getting him action hero roles which was fine. (As an aside - John Carter is totally underrated and is a great action/sci-fi movie)
Well 2014 may just be Taylor's year to shine. First, we get to see his heartrendingly raw and captivating performance as Bruce Niles in HBO's The Normal Heart, Ryan Murphy's well done adaptation of Larry Cramer's famous play. When Kitsch as Bruce tells the story of his boyfriend Albert's horrible death...I cried buckets. Also Kitsch was really made to wear those early 80s power suits.

Then last weekend I had the privilege to see Taylor Kitsch stretch his comedic and romantic lead wings in the great Canadian comedy The Grand Seduction, about the residents of a small Newfoundland fishing town who attempt to hoodwink a hot, young Toronto doctor into moving to their small harbor and setting up a clinic practice so that the town can secure the bid to have a big factory build there and bring needed jobs to their struggling community. This is another SIFF film that I think will get a wider release, or at least be available on demand or dvd soon, and I would highly recommend it. Also? It has Taylor Kitsch in it looking like this:

SIFF 2014 Reflections and Reviews: Week 2 May 27th - May 31st

The middle week of SIFF is always my favorite. I usually am in my groove by this midway point; seeing about a film a day, often recognizing other festival goers/members from other screenings and striking up nice conversations and discussions regarding the films we've enjoyed (or not enjoyed) so far.

This halfway point of the festival is also typically when I find myself attending the festival movies solo. There's something about experiencing these films by myself that becomes a form of therapy. The ultimate "me" time. That's not to say that I don't also love going to SIFF with friends - I was lucky to have both experiences this year.

Starred Up - U.K.
Talk about intense. This powerful and gritty drama is set in a Northern Ireland prison and pits son against father. We meet Eric Love, an angry teen prone to explosive fits of rage set off by the slightest action. He's been transferred or "starred up" to an adult prison and within the first 5 minutes of the movie he's already making shanks out of toothbrushes, expertly hiding them in light fixtures, and setting up his bottles of baby oil on a shelf for the purpose of fighting. Eric also preps for meeting his father (played by the always brilliant Ben Mendelsohn) who has been one of the kings of the prison for over a decade. Things just blow up from there. I felt like I was clutching my gut muscles the entire 100 minutes of this film. Not for folks who can't handle seeing grown men get punched within an inch of their lives, but well worth the watch.

Free Range: Ballad on Approving of the World - Estonia
Omigod, this fucking thing. I HATED THIS MOVIE. This goes down as the only SIFF film that I've ever walked out of; I left with about 20 min left because I couldn't stand this self-indulgent piece of crap any longer. One of the reasons I'm so angry is because I feel like I was duped by the SIFF staff programmers. Just take a look at the description:
This stylish Estonian joy ride follows slacker Fred, who struggles with feelings of nihilism after getting fired for writing an unfavorable review of Terrence Malick’s film Tree of Life. Finland’s official OSCAR® submission for Best Foreign Language Film.
That sounds like it would be a pretty good movie, right? You guys, when I say that nothing happens in the first hour of this turd, except for scenes where this dumbass Fred kid just drinks with his weirdo friends and ignores his dumb girlfriend, I'm actually overstating how engaging it was. IT WAS ANNOYING. And I can't believe that Finland had the nerve to submit this for Oscar consideration. What a joke! There is not one redeemable character in this film. When I finally figured out about 90 min in that the waste-oid loser old man who literally lives in a 300 sq ft space filled entirely with books, who Fred confides in was actually his father, and not some misguided bachelor mentor guy, I couldn't take it anymore. I wanted my money and my time back.

Sam and Amira - USA
Thank god I was able to follow up the bad taste that the Estonian crap-fest left in my mouth with this touching and poignant love story. This film traces the relationship between Sam, an American soldier just back from two tours of duty, and Amira, a young Iraqi illegal immigrant on the brink of deportation. Set in NYC in 2008, we follow these two kindred souls find love and support in each other as their families and the city around them fight them at every turn. This was a really beautiful film. I can't believe it is director Sean Mullin's debut feature. And you guys, Martin Starr, yes THAT Martin Starr, was amazing as Sam. Both Starr and Dina Shihabi who played Amira were at the screening I attended. I got a chance to privately talk to them before the official Q&A and tell them how great I thought they both were in the film. They were both very gracious and sweet. And seemed pretty close, like maybe dating close. I hope that Starr is a big enough name that this movie will get a wide release because everyone should see it.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

SIFF Reflections and Reviews Week 1: May 20 - May 26

I've fallen way behind in my SIFF 2014 reviews over these past couple of weeks. I've seen some amazing films and I hope they come your way in a small art-house theater or on Netflix in the near future.

3 Mile Limit - New Zealand
A sweet film set in 1965 New Zealand that tells the true story of Radio Hauraki, the pirate radio station that was started by a handful of dedicated friends and rock-n-roll fans who fought the New Zealand government who controlled the airwaves with an iron fist at that time. I was totally unfamiliar with this story and found the film quite delightful.

We Are The Best - Sweden
Set in 1982 Stockholm, the awesome coming-of-age story of three teenage outcast girls who form an all-girl punk band and whose friendship bonds them as family. Uplifting and exhilarating; every girl between the age of 12 and 82 should see this movie. The three young leads are amazing.

Mystery Road - Australia
A dark, moody, well done murder mystery, tackling the tough subject of racial tensions in modern-day Queensland. Combining aspects of a classic Western with a police procedural, this tight thriller keeps you engaged. The first of 3 films this festival for me that featured Hugo Weaving in a major role. He's having a good SIFF. Aboriginal actor Aaron Pedersen in the lead role as Detective Jay Swan was a revelation. Where has this tall drink of water been all my life?!

Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed - Spain
Hands down, one of my favorite films of this year's festival. This is a heartwarming, lovely comedy set in 1966 southern Spain. It tells the story of Antonio, a high-school English teacher in Madrid who uses lyrics from Beatles' songs to teach his kids and considers himself somewhat of a super-fan. When Antonio finds out that John Lennon is filming a movie in the coastal town of Almeria, Antonio sets out in his little Fiat to meet his hero and tell him just how much his music has made an impact on his students. Along the way he picks up two different hitchhikers, a young pregnant woman, and a runaway teen boy. This is one of those films that sums up why I bother going to SIFF every year - I would never be exposed to a wonderful film like this otherwise. Fingers crossed that Netflix eventually picks it up.

International Male - Various countries
A collection of short films focusing on gay men, ranging in subject, content, genre, and quality. My faves were probably the US "Dragula" featuring an unrecognizable and wonderful Barry Bostwick as an aging LA drag queen, and the Iranian "Aban + Khorsid" a heartbreaking story of a gay couple killed because of their love.

The Turning - Australia
An ambitious, groundbreaking, spectacle - 18 different short stories that are woven together into this staggering piece of work. Featuring pretty much every Australian actor working in the industry today. Hugo Weaving (drink!), Cate Blanchett, Naomi Watts...a million others. Not for everyone, but I enjoyed it. This will definitely be coming to your local art-house theater this summer.

The Amazing Catfish - Mexico
A touching family drama introducing us to Claudia a lonely young woman without any family who is hospitalized for appendicitis and there meets Martha, a single mother of 4 in her mid-forties who is dying of AIDS. A fast friendship and a close maternal bond forms between Martha and Claudia, with Martha recognizing that Claudia needs her family, and that Claudia may be the solution that they need to go on making it as a family after Martha dies. I had a hard time connecting emotionally to this film, although it had all of the ingredients to hook me, it just never did. I'd still recommend it though.

Remote Control - Mongolia
Every year, I try to see at least one SIFF film from a country that I've never seen a film from. This year, one of these entries was this drama about a young man who runs away from his rural village and attempts to eek out an existence in the big city. The description in the SIFF catalog did not at all accurately describe this movie's story. I'm still on the fence about it. My friend Ross really liked it; and we managed to discuss it for like 40 minutes afterwards in a coffee shop, so maybe that's what good film is all about.

I Am Big Bird: The Carrol Spivey Story - USA
Unlike previous years, this SIFF I've only seen 2 documentaries. This one about the puppeteer for Oscar the Grouch and the man who has worn the Big Bird framed costume for almost 5 decades was a real gem. Carroll Spivey attended the screening with his lovely wife and was so entertaining. AND he brought Oscar!! It was so great to see my favorite "Sesame Street" character up close. Yes, of course Oscar the Grouch is my favorite. Have you met me?

The Healing - Australia
Completing my Hugo Weaving SIFF trifecta was this moody little movie about a prisoner who learns about redemption and rehabilitation from taking care of birds at a minimum security prison in Melbourne. Everyone in my audience seemed to enjoy this film more than I did. It wasn't terrible; it was just "fine".

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

SIFF 2014 - SIFF musings: Opening weekend

SIFF 2014 Musings and Reviews –

May 16, 2014 was the start to this year’s Seattle International Film Festival. As usual I forwent the

Opening Night Gala and began my festival on the first Friday by seeing two films. I only made it to one

documentary on Saturday (I do have a life beyond SIFF!), and rounded out my weekend with two very

different comic dramas on Sunday.

Everything We Loved – New Zealand

Proof that sometimes a trailer and a description of a film can be VERY misleading. This was one moody

little nub of a movie. I was not engaged with any of the characters at all. I just waited for the two leads

to get caught for their crime for the entire 100 minutes, and even when that happened, it wasn’t a

satisfying feeling. Wasted potential here.

Attila Marcel – France

The first live-action film from director Sylvain Chomet who has thrilled us previously with animated

gems, The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist. This movie was a visually stunning, quirky, whimsical

musical treat! Like a darker, slightly edgier “Amelie”. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory – USA

My first documentary of the festival was this enjoyable look at how music can be used as a treatment

for the care of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Really remarkably touching.

In Order of Disappearance – Norway

Norwegian “Fargo” y’all! A dark comic thriller that was so damn enjoyable, it may end up being my

favorite film of the festival and it’s only opening weekend! Starring the always great, Stellan Skarsgard

as a Swedish émigré snow-plow driver living in a small northern Norwegian town. His quaint, idyllic life

is turned upside down when his son his murdered and he sets out to avenge his son’s death. Please look

for this film at your local arthouse theaters – it is a gem!

The Double – U.K.

Do you like the movie Brazil, but wish it were more boring and starred Jesse Eisenberg instead of
Jonathan Pryce? Then “The Double” is for you. Adapted from a Dostoyevsky novella by actor-turned-
director Richard Ayoade. I really liked Ayoade’s first film “Submarine” from 2010. I wish this one had
been better.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Today's Mood...

Will you look at Nick Rhodes' AMAZING black ruffled, puffy shirt. He was my first crush that made me feel all weird inside because his sexuality was so ambiguous.
BTdubs - Rhodes still looks amazing today in his 50s!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Today's soundtrack...

The Bee Gees -
 Album: "Main Course"
Song: "Nights on Broadway"
Video: From an episode of "The Midnight Special" featuring a COKED OUT Natalie Cole

Friday, March 14, 2014

"Memories, light the corners of my mind..." OR NOT

2014 has been a rollercoaster of highs and lows for me. I got hit by a car just days into the New Year; my father was hospitalized with two compression fractures in his spine after taking a bad fall; work continues to be a crap-shoot of inconsistency and uncertainty; my finances are shite - All things on the low end of the scale.
On the other hand, I have had the privilege to take two amazing vacations to warm, sunny, tropical locales, and share awesome experiences with friends and create memories that we can share for years to come.

Well at least I hope I can remember these good times. Lately I'm starting to worry.

The one thing that I could always count on was my memory. I have the kind of steel trap brain that holds the most minor of details for all sorts of pop-culture trivia, song lyric, scientific equation etc. My friend Matt Slocum used to call me "Tree" because he said that my brain retained things like the rings of a tree.

Well the past two months or so, I've been uncharacteristically scatter-brained and forgetful. I've taken to writing EVERYTHING down, and setting up silly alerts on my phone's calendar for items as mundane as "bring extra toilet paper down from guest bath".
My doctors say that my recent bad memory is the result of stress, and the fact that I'm spreading myself too thin - what with the myriad of doctor's appointments, massage therapy visits, physical therapy sessions; not to mention the fact that I am two weeks away from a concert performance with the NW Firelight Chorale, and I've had to memorize what seems like hundreds of pieces of music and dance movements.

I'm hoping my docs are right and that next month, when I get to catch my breath and slow down a little (just a little, as I'll be getting ready for Good Friday and Easter singing services), that I will also find that I'm not nearly as forgetful as I've been so far this year.


Friday, March 7, 2014

2014 Lenten Discipline - Kat tries to live/enjoy her busy social life on $60 a week - aka "She CRAZY"

Every year, even though I long ago abandoned my Catholic upbringing and although I currently regularly attend Methodist services I wouldn't call myself very religious, I commit to and benefit from observing Lent.
Lent is a Christian religious observance that in the liturgical calendar begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks ending on Easter Day. The traditional purpose of Lent is for “believers” to show their faith through prayer, penance, repentance, atonement, and denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
But what I've always used the Lenten season for is as a forced time to discipline myself and give up something that I rely on too much; an annual 6-week break from a vice. Over the past decade or so this practice has devolved into a rather stale and predictable pattern. Each year I'd give up either alcohol or sugar, sometimes caffeine, and I'd patiently (sometimes not so patiently) bide my time until Easter Day where I'd binge on whatever thing I'd denied myself for the previous 6 weeks.

But at the beginning of this year I was hit by a car as I crossed the street, and although I escaped with only minor injuries, those injuries have been slow to heal. I've also had to deal with an already ill father getting sicker and more dependent, and family members being either unreasonable or unavailable to help.
I bring these events up to say that I've been in a very stress-filled yet contemplative head-space. I've been forced to make some changes in my life that I have been resistant to, and it's thrown some things into perspective for me.
One realization has become clear - I SPEND TOO MUCH MONEY

Listen, I know I'm a pretty lucky person. I have a fairly stable career that pays me well, and I have a nice looking balance in my bank accounts and retirement money markets and stock portfolios. I don't have any kids that I have to pay for, and just a 20+ lb cat that I treat to fancy food and filtered water.
I have a nice house, but also a nice fat mortgage. I have a fairly decent well-running car but it's also almost a decade old and I could use an upgrade, which would mean a car payment. And that no kid thing? Try having an elderly, sick parent whose meager pension and SSA benefits only cover a quarter of his expenses, so guess who gets to cover the rest?

I in no way want or need your pity - I am well aware that I travel regularly to nice locales, fly first-class, and generally get to do things that many of my friends and family only dream about. I have nice clothes and accessories, a collection of fancy handbags, I like fine wines and top-shelf liquors and I treat myself to them liberally, I'm a "foodie" who never hesitates to go out to fancy dinners and never balks at laying down $100 for a good meal.
All of this is to illustrate that while I have the means and wherewithal to afford to comfortably indulge myself and do what I want, - I SPEND TOO MUCH MONEY.

So I decided last week that this year for Lent I wouldn't do the safe, predictable thing; where each year the biggest inconvenience has been that my birthday inevitably falls smack in the middle of the Lenten season and boy isn't it a drag that I can't have a birthday cocktail or a piece of cake. This year I would really challenge myself; I would use Lent as a true time of reflection and atonement. I would put myself on a very strict budget.
I'm not counting my bills, my medical expenses, or things like gas for my car. This is strictly a budget for my personal spending; the money I use for groceries, clothes shopping, eyebrow waxing, pedicures, movies, going out to dinner, or drinks with my friends.
My goal is to spend no more than $60 a week between March 5 and April 20.

YIKES! Am I right?
So far it's gone fairly well; but it's only been three days. I'm keeping a spending journal, and seriously, I've already had several eye-opening moments. In just the past three days I've been way more conscious of what I do with my money. And that's really the whole point of this Lenten practice - to be more aware and conscious.
I don't know if I'll be successful every week, in fact I probably won't, but I will be more mindful. I will be cognizant as I choose that $15 glass of Pinot Noir; I will be attentive. And that's all I'm really asking of myself. I may post some of my progress over the next 6 weeks. Feel free to mock, criticize, or pity me. I probably deserve it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Analyzing this year's Oscar noms

The 2014 Academy Award nominations were announced this morning, and due to crippling insomnia, I was actually up at 5:00AM PST to watch them live!

I won’t be participating in the Oscar Death Race like I have the past few years, where the goal is to see EVERY SINGLE nominated film; I am returning to my old tradition of seeing every film for the major categories: Best Picture, all Acting nominations, Best Documentary, Best Screenplay (Adapted and Original), and Best Direction. I'm well on my way to completion. I only have a couple more.

Things that surprised me (Bad):

-          Joaquin Phoenix didn’t get a Best Actor nomination. While I’ve never been his biggest fan, he was amazing in “Her”, and probably deserved the nomination over Christian Bale. As much as I love Bale and think he was great in “American Hustle”, I’m not sure I’d say the role was Oscar-worthy. But then again I feel that way about all of the acting performances from “Hustle”; everyone was good, but there were others that were better.

-          The rampant category fraud going on with some of these acting nominations is irritating. Meryl Streep had the same amount of screen time, if not less, in “August: Osage County” than Julia Roberts did. They both gave powerful performances in that movie that deserve recognition, but they either both should be considered leads or in my opinion, both should be nominated in the Supporting category. This holds true for Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper; if you’re going to give them nominations, which again I’m not sure they earned in this year of bountiful great acting, they both should be for Supporting Actor.

-          Scarlet Johansson wasn’t considered for an acting nom for her voice work in “Her”. She did more acting with just her voice than many did with their whole body on screen.

-          I hate to say this but… Oprah really did deserve a Best Supporting Actress nom for The Butler. Jennifer Lawrence hijacked her Oscar.

Surprises (Good):

-          “Cutie and The Boxer” was nominated for Best Documentary! So excited that one of the best docs I saw last year is getting this recognition. This has been on Netflix for months, please do yourself a favor and see it.

-          “Despicable Me 2” got a Best Animated Feature nomination. After not making the cut for the Globes I was worried.

Things that weren’t surprising but were still great:

-          Jared Leto got one step closer to being an Oscar winner. It’s seriously so surreal.

-          Chiwetel Ejiorfor and Michael Fassbender got their nominations for “12 Years A Slave”. Well deserved. I worry that Chiwetel is going to lose what should rightfully be his Oscar to one of his fellow nominees.

Well, however the results turn out, it’s still my favorite season of the year!

Monday, January 13, 2014

2013 (Film/TV Season) Golden Globes wrap-up

Just one thing before I talk about last night's Golden Globes awards presentation - THIS PICTURE

My boyfriend Michael Fassbender and "Cinnamon Toast & Crunch" ™ (Dave Cole @Glark) aka Benedict Cumberbath dancing at one of the Golden Globes after-parties! Fantasy come true!!!! I even forgive Fassy doing the "sunglasses at night" lameness.

On to the awards:

The complete list from

Best non-surprise win of the night: Good ol' high school bud Jared Leto winning the Best Supporting Actor award for his magnificent performance in Dallas Buyer's Club. Sure, he gave a kind of spacey acceptance speech but I wouldn't have expected anything different. Go Jared! He'll be conquering the Oscars next, I guarantee.

Best non-surprise win, that seemed for a minute like it might be a long-shot: Boy, it was a nail biter right to the last minute about whether 12 Years A Slave would win Best Drama. John Ridley had lost the screenplay award to Spike Jonze; Steve McQueen had lost Direction to Cuaron; Chiwetel Ejiofor had been snubbed by McConaughey for Best Actor; I was very happy that all was righted in the end with Best Drama.

Best surprises of the night: All of these can be classified under the category - "Kat's faves that she hopes will win, but probably won't because her faves never win"
 - Brooklyn Nine-Nine winning Best Television Comedy, and Andy Samberg winning for Best Actor in a Comedy. I could not believe my ears for either of these amazing wins. You guys, this is the best new comedy on tv and if you're not watching it please do yourself a favor and start.

Amy Poehler (FINALLY) winning Best Actress in a TV Comedy. Holy crap was this well deserved and long overdue.

Elisabeth Moss beating Jessica Lange out for Best Actress in a Mini-series. I totally thought Jessica Lange had this in the bag for the third year in a row. (So did Jessica Lange buy the sour-grapes face she made as Moss made her way to the stage to accept the award) Elisabeth Moss was so great in "Top of the Lake". This is another must-see; check it out on Netflix.

Should be an interesting road to the Oscars in March. Next up on the awards circuit are the SAG awards.