Thursday, April 26, 2007

Friday Five: Independent Film

I love movies. I love all genre of movies. I'm more and more attracted to movies most people have never heard of. Technically I don't know if foreign films are considered independent, but for the purposes of this post I will place them in that category. They probably qualify anyway as they are not created in Hollywood, have much smaller budgets than Hollywood films and generally have a limited release. So for today, here are five reasons I love and support independent film.

  1. The Spitfire Grill. My senior year in high school, my aunt dragged me and my sister to see this movie. All she told us about it was that it was an Official Selection of the Sundance Film Festival (an Audience Award winner to be more exact). I loved the film and credit it for my passion for indies. Ironically, my aunt ignores most of my opinions about movies because my "superior taste" (her words not mine) and resists all attempts on my part to introduce her to new movies. She couldn't believe I made her sit through Stranger than Fiction.
  2. Film Festivals. After watching the Spitfire Grill, I started seeking out movies that were Official Selections of the Sundance Film Festival. Rachel V. is a movie buff as well, and in college we would stroll through Hastings looking for independent films to rent. Back then I didn't research films or read reviews online, so we made our decisions on the spot. We watched some bad movies, (Photographing Fairies), and odd movies (Being John Malkovich) but mostly we were rewarded with movies like Memento, Billy Elliott and Run Lola Run.
  3. Originality. Writers and directors hired to make blockbusters usually cater to the lowest common denominator or are encouraged to stick to what works, so these movies usually lack creativity and originality. Obviously, this is not always the case. And independent films suffer from the same problems too. Charlie Kaufman is completely original, and his films are good because of his originality. See Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation and Being John Malkovich if you want to see a unique vision. And you don't have to love these movies to appreciate what they bring to the film world.
  4. Documentaries. I've already dedicated an entire post to documentaries, but they are an aspect of independent film that shouldn't go unnoticed. These filmmakers work with limited budgets and are often self financed. These movies don't make much money at the box office, so to get their movies seen and create revenue, documentary filmmakers sell their movies to TV stations. What's the problem with this? For a documentary to be eligible for an Oscar nomination, it has to screen in theatres and the additional screening rules in place prevent filmmakers from working with TV. Grizzly Man was one of the highest rated movies last year, but wasn't eligible for the Oscar because it aired on cable. I have almost never been disappointed in a documentary, whereas feature films let me down consistently. So if a documentary comes to a theatre near you, pay to see it.
  5. Foreign Films. If you can't get past the subtitles you are missing out on great films. Amelie just makes me feel happy. The Best of Youth is one of the best movies I've seen in years. It's six hours long, but I want to watch it again. The martial arts films like Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are beautiful works of art. And City of God is one of my all-time favorite movies. It's not very often that a foreign film has it's director nominated for Best Director at the Oscar, but that happened with this film. I like foreign films for their originality but also for the different outlook and voice they bring to cinema.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tuesday Topics

I've been asked to update my blog so people can have something to read at work. At least I know someone reads this boring blog. Anyway, here are some random thoughts.

I'm running the CASA 5K on Saturday. Normally this is not news, but I had to stop running on Thanksgiving due to inflammation in my left foot. I've recently resumed running, but I'm not up to 3 miles yet. And I run at 6 a.m., in the cool morning darkness. Running at 9 a.m. with full sunlight is always more draining. But CASA is a United Way agency, and I support them.

The Lives of Others is playing here! I got so excited when I found out, and I'm seeing it this week. Because I know you are all curious, I will let you know if the movie is deserving of the Best Foreign Film Oscar it received in February. On a related note, I've read the horrible news that the brothers Weinstein have bought the rights to remake this film. A film that just won an Oscar, that topped just about every Best of 2006 list. Apparently they want this film to reach more people, so instead a huge marketing push and a wider release, they think the solution is to remake it in English. have yet to see a remake that is better than it's foreign original. This particular story is about the Nazi Stasi and spying in East Germany! That doesn't really translate to our culture. And don't even get me started on subtitles. Americans will watch movies with subtitles, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, Amalie, etc. The main problem with foreign language films is the way the subtitles appear. Subtitles should never, ever be white. Too often the words get washed out in the background. And on widescreen DVDS, the subtitles should be placed below the picture. I could continue my rant, but I'll stop there.

I'm busy at work finally. I'm writing multiple articles for an upcoming alumni magazine, planning a staff conference and preparing for camps and my trip to New York. It's to the point where I almost have so many things to do this week, I don't know where to start. I need to finish this post and read a chapter in a book on fundraising so I am prepared for a book study tomorrow morning.

LOST is getting good. Juliet's character is fascinating. I'm curious how the season is going to end. I heard the producers wanted to bring back Michael for the season finale, but he said no. I would think he would still be under contract because his character's story line is not finished. I'm loving the string of new episodes. If ABC chooses to delay the start of LOST until January, ala 24, I totally back that decision.

Veronica Mars returns next week! I doubt any of you watch it, but it's great!

I'm usually consistent with my cardio, but fickle with my toning. I'm finally doing both again, and every time I do, I always think that it's an interesting way to live. I'm constantly living with sore of fatigued muscles. It's not always the I-can't-take-another-step soreness, but something is usually tight, sensitive, sore or tired. Maybe if I didn't go through phases where I dropped the toning for periods of time, my body would settle down. Or maybe I should consider this normal and not being sore or aware of my muscles as the odd state.

So those are my random thoughts for Tuesday.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Five: West Texas

West Texas is an interesting place. Here are five signs you live in West Texas.
  1. When you leave for work in the morning, the sky is blue. When you come home, the sky is brown, dirt brown.

  2. You can run past tumbleweeds in the middle of a residential street before sunrise, and probably any other time of the day. Quite often you have to dodge them while driving around town.

  3. Your interior window and door frames are always, always, covered in dirt.

  4. There are as many 24-hour local weather channels as there are local network channels.

  5. You couldn't direct someone to a hill if your life depended on it. The flat land and never-ending horizon makes for beautiful sunrises and sunsets though.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Saturday Shocker


It's Easter Saturday at noon, and it's 28 degrees with two inches of snow on the ground. (I'm making that figure up. I have yet to find a news website that tells me how many inches or rain or snow we get after a storm. You'd think the citizens would want that information, especially since we have channels dedicated to nothing but local weather.) Crazy! More snow is in the forecast for this evening, so I'm sure the roads will be fun Sunday morning. Here are a few pictures.

The front yard.

The back yard.

This has nothing to do with snow, but a few weeks ago after a heavy rain storm, a large double rainbow filled the sky. Rainbows can disappear so quickly, I took this picture from my back door so I wouldn't miss it. You can't see the reflection, but it was gorgeous!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday Five: Gael Garcia Bernal

I watched the Science of Sleep last night, Gael Garcia Bernal's first English-language film. I like him. I thought he would be the subject of my Friday Five, but first I had to make sure I'd actually seen five movies Bernal acted in. I have seen eight. You may have seen him in Babel. He played the son/nephew of the nanny that caused the problem at immigration. Without further ado, my five favorite movies with Gael Garcia Bernal.
  1. The Crime of Father Amaro. This is where I discovered Bernal. He was so cute in this movie, but the crime was not the crime in all the headlines. He was a young, attractive priest in love with a girl. Should he break his vow of celibacy?
  2. The Motorcycle Diaries. He played Che on the motorcycle ride that led him to become a revolutionary.
  3. The Science of Sleep. Bernal's first English language film. The movie was wacky, written and directed by the guy that helped write the story for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with Charlie Kaufman. His scenes with the neighbor that shared his interests were great.
  4. Bad Education. A film by Pedro Almodovar, so you know it's strange. Bernal plays three "characters" in this film. And this being a Pedro film, he is a transvestite.
  5. Y tu mama tambien, aka And Your Mama Too. This is an Alfonso Cuaron (HP and the Prisoner Azkaban, Children of Men) film, so it gets bonus points for a director I like. This is probably the hardest of the five movies to watch because it's a coming of age road trip, foreign language film style. Foreign films almost always have more language, nudity, sex, alcohol and drugs than American movies.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Joys of Technology

When I moved into my new old house, my TV became the living room TV. Jaime kept her TV in her room, and her father brought a TV down from Fort Worth that I took by default. The TV was manufactured in 1989. I tried to hook a DVD player up to it, and the port the cable went into was the only port. I don't know if port is the right word, but I can't think of anything else, so I'm going with it.

This wasn't a big deal until recently. I'm a Netflix subscriber. I've realized in the last few weeks that I'm not moving through my movies at a fast enough pace to make the monthly rate worth it. When you have a roommate, you can't just come home and ask her to turn off what she's watching so you can watch an obscure French film. At least I don't think you can. When I lived there before, with different roommates, the person watching TV first was in control of the roommate. I still live with that mentality.

I did a little research yesterday and purchased a RF modulator. Everything plugs into this little box - cable, DVD, S-Video, and then you run one cable to the back of your TV, and presto! Cable or DVD, take your pick.

That's all the exciting news in my world. Oh, and because I'm incompetent and can't stick cables in the right portals, I thought my first RF modulator was broken. I bought a different brand from Wal-Mart, cheaper as well, and then realized the error of my ways. So this weekend I get to return the more expensive product. Yay! Isn't my life exciting?