Thursday, December 29, 2016

one last test before 2017

Blogger still doesn't have access to the webcam for VLOGGING, which IMO is redonkulous. So I have to find a way to access the webcam separately and try it again...

...well, that looks like the video I just shot. Now to figure out how to adjust the settings, because what the hell is Windows 10 thinking with its 15 frames per second? This thing looks like crap, don't you agree?

Monday, December 26, 2016

What's that? ANOTHER review? Day-um, grrl!

Yes, yes, kids, I DO have another review for ya. But first, another vlog attempt:

razzle-frazzle... even "converted" from the 936MB .MOV file to mp4, it's still too big by 32MB! DAMMIT!!!!!!

Yesterday being Christmas Day meant not much to do for us here in ol' NoHo (North Hollywood is TOO MUCH to ever say again, so I shan't), so luckily for us, when I RSVP'd for my screening of Fences, there was a link to also RSVP for Arrival. No Q&A's for either film meant seeing them in actual theaters instead of screening rooms, which meant the possibility of concessions (and trailers!) at both. Sadly, I opted for no concessions during Fences (I really think popcorn may have improved my "take" on the film). And yesterday, we had just finished the wonderful crockpot pork roast "Christmas Dinner" Stephen had made, so neither of us needed popcorn.

Arrival When 12 mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor, Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the alien passengers inside.: is a great popcorn movie, though, so if you get a chance to see it on a big screen, be sure to opt in for concessions. Oh, what the hell. If you wait for it to come to your big screen tv, you should definitely pop some yourself, for your viewing pleasure.

It's not just a great popcorn movie though. It's a great film. It's definitely sci-fi, but present day and Here On Earth. It could be viewed as an "alien invasion" flick, but it isn't necessarily only that. It also embodies other genres, and I really don't want to say too much, because spoilers, but I want you to know that both Stephen and I loved it, and in our books, it is Highly Recommended. A thinker, if you will, that also hits your emotional buttons. We laughed, we cried, it became a part of us. Or something like that. See it. You won't be disappointed.

*****

The only screener we've yet received in the mail is Manchester by the Sea. I reviewed it already, big thumbs up. We're just waiting for the US Postal Service to get back "up and running", which, honestly, may not actually happen for another week. You might get a Christmas card from me before then! Ha!

How was your "big" holiday? Was it "small" enough for you to go to the movies, like we did? Did you give/receive anything "perfect"? Do you have enough joy? I think I have enough to share, so let me know if you need a little "joy infusion". See ya next year, probably!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Y'all keep falling down on your job!

my rank changes weekly, based on number of web "hits"
Wait, what? You didn't know that it was YOUR JOB to keep my IMDb rank "up"? Haven't I told you? WHAT? You didn't read my little blurb over there -----> and see that I NEED you to make my IMDb page your browser startup?

Okay, fine. So do it now, and I'll forgive you forever. ;)

Can you say "frustrated"? I knew ya could!

I have a dream. I dream of VLOGging, in addition to (rather than instead of) BLOGging. Blogger.com, the host of this page, used to have a way to RECORD video and then embed them in the posts; not that that ever actually worked for me, but still. I recorded a handful of test videos, attempted to embed them, and they never really did. Also, I never could seem to find where those videos ended up being "filed" on my hard drive.

However, even that option no longer exists. If I want to take a snapshot, the website recognizes my webcam:
but not VIDEO
When I click on the video link, the webcam option just isn't even there. Why not? It's the same webcam!

But here's the "other" thing about my webcam. The laptop recognizes that the hardware exists, and it says the drivers are up-to-date, even though the drivers are USB drivers, and not necessarily for a piece of equipment that is not "plug-n-play". The system has no software installed to just Turn On the damn webcam! So I went to HP's support pages to find the right drivers, and it recommended I install something called YouCam.

I have been Googling and Googling every way I know to ask the "why doesn't my webcam record video" question, and I've gotten a lot of "download YouCam" answers, as well as uninstalling the drivers for my webcam and restarting the computer (which I've done) and running hard drive diagnostics (which I've done), and even YouTube videos for installing and using VLC Media Player (which I've done) and YouCam (which I've done).

Every time, and I mean Every Fucking Time I've tried to use YouCam, it crashes in video mode. It takes still photos, but whoopdishit? I can take still photos right here! If I skip the video camera "record" button and try to check the system settings, it crashes. There are a bazillion fun filters I can apply to my photos or videos, but again, whoopdishit if I can't actually create videos?

So I tried to use VLC. It worked! ...except that the resulting video looks and sounds like ass, because when I tried to adjust the settings, it reverted back to "default", and it wouldn't let me set my preferences as defaults. I'm not going to link it here, even though I probably can. #SorryNotSorry

(This is where I did, in fact, attempt to upload that POS video; #FAIL)

So I think, tomorrow, in the daylight, while I'm not working on set, I shall take the laptop apart again. I shall blow out any dust that may have accumulated, and I shall Check All The Connections. It's very possible that none of the answer pages have figured out that maybe my hardware is hanging by one or two prongs of its connector chip, and so the software sees it there but is unable to properly communicate with it, and that is the reason for all of the #Fails. I hope that is the ultimate fix.

...on a side note, speaking of "fixes", I had turned off all my Windows Updates ages ago, and now, in thinking it might possibly be an update or something, I've been attempting to "check" for updates. Every Time I turn this sucker on to "fix" my webcam issues, I "check" for updates. It runs those checks for a coupla hours at a time before I just close the whole operation. No updates get found. That ain't right. Not a single Windows Update for my computer that hasn't been updated since "never".

*****A review!*****

Fences An African-American father struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life.: Okay, so really, what that little blurb means is "slice of life". I already saw and hated a "slice of life" movie this awards season, Paterson (not MBTS). This particular "slice of life" stars Denzel and Viola and a handful of others, and it ended up being my second-least-favorite of the movies I've seen this awards season. Probably because Denzel's character is irredeemable, and when we jump forward in the final act to his funeral, we don't care that he's dead. We're not even happy that he's dead. He just is, and we don't care.

Not that Denzel didn't portray this irredeemable character well. He's not a villain; he's just flawed to the nth degree, and never grows or improves at all, and by the time he's gone, you might feel a little relief on behalf of the others, but it's more like ... meh. Viola, on the other hand, should receive an award for still being intelligible with snot running down her face, because that was some serious snot that she took her sweet time getting around to wiping away.

I never read or saw the play. Maybe that's my error. I just didn't care for this "slice of life", and I was ready for it to be over almost an hour before it was (yes, I actually checked my phone). If I had walked out, I'da been unable to review it for you, so be grateful I suffered through it, so you won't have to.

*****Things I learned today*****
  • Screenings at the Arclight in Hollywood are accessible by subway, even on Sunday, as long as you're not out too late.
  • My SAG card does not get me on the subway.
  • Even Denzel and Viola can co-star in a movie that wasn't worth my time (at least I didn't drive into Hollyweird!)
  • No one on the internet knows why I'm unable to vlog.
  • No one in my real life knows why I'm unable to vlog.
  • Rachel is sending me something (probably a card, I would think); she verified that she'd already updated my new address in her files.
  • I'm really succeeding in procrastination this season, what with not yet having updated Rachel's new address in my files, nor having purchased the nieces/nephews gifts, nor having purchased cards to send (and I really kinda wanna get all of this done, ya know, before next weekend).
  • I re-remembered my Christmas socks! (that was the subject of my test video, which worked but ended up being for shit and waaaaaaaay too big to upload here)
So whaddya got for me? Any news? Any insights? Any updates? Any movies I still haven't reviewed that you're hoping I will? Any links to your Amazon wishlists? Feel free to comment, kids!



Thursday, December 15, 2016

I should probably catch you up, huh?

So. I've been attending screenings, as you know. They've started to slow to a crawl, now that the SAG Awards (TM) {or is that (R)?} have posted their nominees for this season. I received an invite for Fences yesterday, but I was still on set, so that wasn't happening. That is both a #Blessing and a #NotSoMuch. I received another invite for Lion today, but the "reception" afterward (not a Q&A) was with the kid who played the 5-year-old (and spoke no English during filming; he's probably 7 by now and has a larger English vocabulary than I do!), and with the composer of the film. It's a bit chilly (59ΒΊ?) and rainy out this evening, and I know our return to LA meant saying "Yes" to more things, but c'mon. I'm in my loungewear. I got Cocoa occasionally snuggling up to me. And, well, I did already see that film. I'd have seriously considered a Q&A with Dev Patel, but I dunno what I'd say to Sunny.

Ennyhoo, here are some reviews for ya:

Hell or High Water A divorced father and his ex-con older brother resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family's ranch in West Texas.: reminded me, overall, in its tone, of No Country For Old Men (I honestly started to type "Old Country for No Men"; does that say anything about how I felt about it?). Not as violent, of course, but slow, visually epic, with good performances of characters you don't really care about. Only Recommended if you loved the other one. For the rest of us, it'll wait for your tv at home, however it is you choose to consume movies at home.

However, the screening was ah-may-zing. The theater, once I found its parking lot, was severely impressive. It was, unfortunately, called "iPic". {I say "unfortunately" because I am personally very anti-"i", as I think I may have hinted at previously.} There was validated valet parking (I drive a stick shift; I like to park it myself); dark wood interiors; stairs, escalators, and probably elevators; at least one bar (yes, the kind where they serve alcohol), and inside the theater, all of the seats were paired, with a shared table with a silent "call" button for your waiter. Everything but alcohol was 100% comped for the screening, and, oh, yeah... the seats reclined. My guest and I sat there in our recliners eating hors d'oeuvres and LOBSTER ROLLS and apple pie a la mode, drinking strawberry rhubarb lemonade and sparkling Vios water (or whatever the hell that high-end brand was). Totally made it worth seeing a slow Neo-Western about a coupla dudes robbing banks and the federal agents tryin'ta track 'em down!

If you find yourself in LA, hankering to see a film in an awesome space, the iPic theater on Wilshire is Highly Recommended (although probably also incredibly pricey). Otherwise, stay home and do it all on the comfort of your own couch.

Hacksaw Ridge WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refuses to kill people, and becomes the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.: I was warned aforehand that this flick is very visually violent. It's a war pic; I get it. There was a chick sitting next to me at the screening who'd seen it multiple times and said it was her fave of the season. She then proceeded to fall asleep. lightly snoring, through all of the exposition, only to awaken in time for the gory, bloody violence. I am not a history buff. I think I've said so before. I don't "love" war movies. Mel and Andrew and Vince and Luke were at the Q&A after the screening, and they tried to sell us on the "women love this film because it's not a war picture, it's a love story" idea. Bullshit. It's a fucking war movie. I don't care that the lead character, played quite convincingly by Andrew Garfield, is a Conscientious Objector who enlists as a combat medic with the plan to not even carry a gun but to save lives (and does so), just because he loves his new wife and this Great Country so much. It's still a fucking war movie, not a love story. Honestly, it felt like Forrest Gump in Vietnam, only real. Hell, for all I know, this is the dude Forrest's Vietnam Hero was based on. Only fictional.

Regarding the Q&A afterwards, Mel was really twitchy (he would not stop combing his beard or twirling his moustache with his left hand, while holding his mic with the right, often effectively covering his mouth whilst both petting the mouth hair and speaking). Andrew and Vince and Luke had a beautiful Mutual Admiration Society meeting, and they often sang Mel's praises, too. The performances IN the film were all very believable. There was A LOT of humor throughout. And no one said a word at the Q&A about "Naked Man" or how many scenes he had to shoot, naked, or how many days it took to get all of those scenes "in the can" before he was finally allowed to wear a stitch of clothing again. Dude was CUT, y'all. And very nekkid. For a very long time. And no indication in the Q&A about him or his ... junk. Just "it's a love story". :/

My recommendation? Only if you love a "love story" that's disguised as a bloody, gory, violent war movie, OR if you happen to love any of the actors playing the real people in this story. Yes, it's based on a real guy's experiences. Otherwise, again, this is a wait for it to reach your own television.

BOTH of these movies are being Very Highly Received, so maybe my opinion doesn't count for squat. I don't care. It's my opinion, and this is my blog. You want reviews from critics who get paid to critique? This is not the place. You wanna hear what one background actress/Script Supervisor/occasional PA/frequent non-industry bookkeeper thinks about a thing? Hey hey! You found me! :)

*****
A Very Murray Christmas : Okay, so we saw this in the Netflix or other streaming queue, and said, what the hell? How weird can it get? Let's watch it until it becomes unwatchable.

We watched the whole thing, but I only advise you to do the same IF your initial instinct in turning on anything Bill Murray is "what the hell? How weird can it get? Let's watch it until it becomes unwatchable" Because THIS THING is really weird. NOT that it's not funny. Oh, it is. We found ourselves laughing out loud, primarily over the absurdity of it all. Honestly, Bill is a talented guy who has made himself a representation-free recluse. The producers and directors and casting folks who have roles in mind for him deal with him directly, but not without some seriously super-spy-level shenanigans going on first to get his attention. He only works on projects that somehow speak to him. He's not in it for the fame or riches or glory anymore. He has reached that level of success that he set for himself. "I'm only gonna work if I wanna; I'm only gonna do meaningful shit anymore; I'm not payin' anybody any commissions; I am my Own Man." You GO, Bill. #Respect

So this particular thing feels a bit autobiographical, but definitely in an absurd mode. So if you love Bill Murray like I love Bill Murray, and you're in the mood for some weird shit that you can laugh at (or with, possibly?), then yeah, Watch This Thing.

*****
In other news, I'm really hoping to get vlogging figured out by 2017. I'm not planning to completely abandon the written word, but I think the video format oughta be fun, right? I have just sent Daddy an email, so my personal Tech Support in India is On The Case (or will be, when he wakes up tomorrow and looks at his email. He's not on any timeclock; one cannot assume what boundaries are in place, or set any, when one is utilizing free assistance, DUH).

Happy December, Y'all! I'm feelin' pretty good, of late! How 'bout YOU?


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

This is a test

Full of FAIL, is what it is. A test full of FAIL. I discovered that the Twitter phone app allows me to tweet in video (today), and I thought, since I was having so much difficulty getting my laptop webcam to shoot and store VIDEO blogs (a.k.a. "vlogs"), that I would try to do it from my phone.

Nopester, not happnin.

Dammit. #ThisSuxBigTime

Friday, November 25, 2016

Speaking of Hollyweird,

I forgot to review the last two films I went to screenings and Q&A's for! And they're both about Hollyweird!

Rules Don't Apply An unconventional love story of an aspiring actress, her determined driver, and the eccentric billionaire who they work for.: I read that blurb and was immediately confused when the film started, because the billionaire in question is Howard Hughes, and I remembered Leo's performance, and I couldn't figure out why he was so old in this one. Also, I hadn't remembered reading "unconventional" so, extra confusion. Once I was able to follow the general story, I enjoyed it enough. Enjoyable Enough is the rating I'm giving it; take that how you will.

At the Q&A, Warren Beatty embodied Hughes, in his rambling attempts to get to the answer. Annette Bening was delightful, in that she clearly runs their household, and was credited with keeping things moving when she was on set for her own scenes. I didn't know, or possibly I did but didn't remember, that they are married in reality. They did not play a married couple in the film, nor even romantic interests, so seeing them together on the stage afterward was a nice change. Lily Collins was also at the screening, and when she described her introduction to Warren, it was practically a replaying of the scene where her character finally gets to meet Hughes. The Q&A was the reason I went to the screening, so at least my time wasn't wasted. As for the film, it's Enjoyable Enough, if, like me, you're not necessarily a film history buff. There are a few very fun cameos, but the movie overall feels just a little long.

La La Land A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.: Stephen was able to attend this screening with me, and when we talk about this film with friends, I get the impression that it's his favorite of the year. I enjoyed it, too, but I think my favorite of this season is still Lion. At any rate, this one couldn't be more different from Rules if it tried. It's current, it's musical, it's bright and cheerful (even when it's sad or dreary), it's your typical "boy doesn't meet girl, musical number; boy doesn't meet girl, musical number; boy meets girl but doesn't get girl, dance number; boy and girl fall desperately in love, singing; life gets in the way, singing; boy's life turns out pretty fantastic, singing; girl's life is all she'd dreamed it would be, musical number; boy and girl envision what life coulda been, big dance number; reality returns, musical number". That's a typical Hollyweird rom-com, right? Very laugh-out-loud, very wanna cry with this one or that one, very suck-you-in to the storyline. And JK Simmons appears onscreen for less than five minutes, total, but he's completely there. Recommended

Emma Stone and JK were the only two at the Q&A, but they had a great camaraderie, and the questions were all answered by both of them, often with a good bit of humor (JK's answer to "what scene were you most excited to do/most nervous about?" was ridiculous, because he had two scenes of equal emotional depth. His role really was a cameo, as a favor to the director, but he came to the Q&A's because he's gracious and funny and lives in town, I guess). The only thing that pissed me off during the screening was watching the chick two rows in front of me recording on her phone all of Ryan Gosling's musical numbers! Hello, Pirate? Do you not understand how you're hurting everyone in this room? What a douchebag.

So, ennyhoo. *Insert Rachel's segue music here* #TodayImGratefulFor having been invited over to friends' for Second Breakfast Turkey yesterday evening, even though I was completely stuffed from our First Breakfast Turkey, which Stephen had been working on for the previous 48 hours in the crockpot. #TodayImGratefulFor plenty of turkey soup/leftovers warming again for tonight's meal (not having to plan anything, that's my gratitude). #TodayImGratefulFor delaying or possibly even skipping my annual Holiday Funk! No, I haven't wanted to listen to Christmas music yet, even though it's been available around-the-clock for the last week on my local country station, but still:
I did that.
Without any prompting, urging, cajoling, imploring, suggesting, or assistance.
Well, okay, Opus may have helped.

#TodayImGratefulFor easy breathing. I took a walk earlier, and I haven't yet had to use my rescue inhaler. Sure, I was coughing cat hairs outta my windpipe while still in bed this morning, because #SnuggleTime, but overall, so far, fingers crossed and knock wood and all that, I may make it through the day!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Hollyweird

I am frequently amazed that I made it here. I look back over high school and college, and LA was always where the truly weird people went, and mostly, if one who went was not already an up-and-coming star, they'd come back "home" with tail between legs. So many songs from my childhood indicated that no one ever truly "made it" in LA ("Car Wash" comes immediately to mind). And yet, I've chosen, twice in this adult lifetime, to live and work in this crazy place.

Things that make Holly"weird":

  • The traffic sucks. You think it's bad that you have to drive half-an-hour to get to your job? Is your job fewer than five miles away from home for that :30? No? Then quit yer bitchin'. Any Los Angeleno who spends less than :30 commuting to a job or a gig feels like Today Is A Good Day.


  • There's always smog. It's probably why my allergies are so fucked up, particularly of late. Still, when I take a walk and I can see the mountains clearly, we're all breathing a little better, and Today Is A Good Day.


  • It's expensive to live anywhere "close" to the film industry. You either pay for a convenient location, or you pay in your commute time/maintenance of your vehicle. But when Stephen and I moved to North Carolina for our "things", we spent more time and more money making ends meet, and we weren't doing work that would ultimately feed our souls. He was writing, sure. I loved my job at TJ's, absolutely. But we were ultimately adrift, and the day I spent eight hours in my car so that I could be on set for an eight-hour paycheck in a right-to-work state was probably the day that tipped LA back in our favor. Traffic may suck here, but if it takes me four hours each way to commute to a gig, you know that I'm going to be compensated for that, because I'm covered by a great union. I may have a right to work in "right-to-work" states, but the work doesn't compare to what I get in my union state. And "right to work" doesn't necessarily that there is any work to be done. As you already know, if I "get" to work here, then I consider it a Today Is A Good Day kinda day.


I love Hollyweird. We currently live in NORTH Hollyweird, which is not actually even Hollyweird-adjacent (it's separated by a little mountain that's commonly known as "the Hollywood Hill"), rather a ~ 9 mile commute from one H community to the other, and there are a few other communities in between, like Studio City, Universal City (yes, they call it a "city"), and Toluca Lake. Burbank's not far, either, although it's technically not "between" Hollyweird and North Hollyweird.

#TodayImGratefulFor the opportunities I've had to come out to Hollyweird. I'm grateful that it's possible to live so easily in what the outside world might consider "difficult" circumstances (listed above). I've been eligible for Public Assistance from time to time; I've had friends who've helped me in unfathomable ways, be it lending me a car while mine was totaled (ten years ago), rescuing my furbabies, instructing Stephen to find me for a college reunion 7 years ago, giving me/us furniture, loading/unloading during moves (and yeah, I've moved too much in the last 14 years), shopping with me to update my wardrobe because I suck at it, and more. I've had moral and financial support from friends/family/the government, and I'm so grateful for my network.

And speaking of networks, y'all remember that Scripty gig I was so excited about in August? That created a great network for me, and I know I'll work with everyone again and again. I mostly know that I'll work with everyone because the season that we shot is going to begin airing on December 15th, streaming on Fullscreen (I dunno if they'll release all seven episodes at once or space them out weekly - it is supposed to be a "television show"). And then we all go back to work in late winter to shoot Season Two! W00t!

Here's the trailer, but before you watch it, be aware that it is Very Adult Content, Black Humor. If you are easily offended or have small children nearby, I recommend not watching. For everyone else, ENJOY!
(I was there for at least half of what you see here, and I cannot wait to get back to creating even more chaos with these crazy people).

What else? My health and dental insurance (from Warner Bros.) run out on the 30th of this month, so I've gotten all my Depo shots and breathing/knee shit looked into, and I got a tooth extracted and the rest of 'em cleaned. I've gone online to Covered California to see what insurance plan(s) I'm now eligible for, as well as what tax assistance I may receive. My car is filthy because I refuse to wash it while we're in drought conditions. My unemployment benefit year ends this week, so I'll be opening a new claim soon. We've been taking care of Smokey's hotspot, and it's getting better. Stephen's commute to his promotion has been a little hinky of late (drama on the subway, including a homeless tweaker dude randomly PUNCHING Stephen in the face as he stepped off the train - no injuries except to his confidence that day). We seem to be experiencing autumn, of late, with windy days in slightly-cooler-than-I'm-comfy-with temperatures (low 70's?). We've had a little rain, which is definitely a #TodayImGratefulFor item. I've rebooted my walking, to some degree (three days this week of 10K+ steps, yay!). I've rebooted my sleep. I still do the #WalkingSamplingLunches at Costco, but I have to drive to Costco to do it, so I definitely make sure I have other business there, even if it's just filling my gas tank (last fillup for eighteen bux, baby! Only $2.299/gallon!).

So. Hollyweird weird enough for ya? Don't ya wanna come on out to see if YOU can "make it" here? We have a futon you can crash on, for your first week, at least. And the cats are less afraid of "strangers"; one or both of them may snuggle up with you on the futon!

Friday, November 18, 2016

I'm Working Today! ... so here are two reviews

It's been a month since I worked for my primary employer, Central Casting. This industry ebbs and flows, and I just ebb and flow with it. Last week, I worked one day for a different casting company, but this week, I'm back with my "regular" gig (no, there is no such thing as a "regular" gig, as I've said before).

I was initially booked to return to one of my "regular" shows. Then I got swapped by the casting directors to work a show I've never worked before, but I had no details of where/when, so just as I was about to check with my service to see if they had my details, the chick that runs the overnight crew called me. She Called Me. To see if I was available for work "tomorrow" (today). I assumed she was calling to give me my details or to tell me I was back on the original show. Nope, she wanted to book me for something entirely different, altogether (this is where you all say out loud, "nope, she wanted to book me for something entirely different").

So a month without work and then the possibility of three different gigs on one day. I LOVE MY JOB!

So here are a couple of reviews for you:

Mr. Church "Mr. Church" tells the story of a unique friendship that develops when a little girl and her dying mother retain the services of a talented cook - Henry Joseph Church. What begins as a six month arrangement instead spans into fifteen years and creates a family bond that lasts forever.: Eddie Murphy was to be the Q&A, and I was curious about what he's been up to lately, considering he plays Only One Role in this film. Thank you, Eddie, for #SharingTheRolesForOnce. Only he really didn't. There are very few MEN of any importance in this film, other than Mr Church. Very "small" film, in that it's made up of mostly intimate scenes in houses. Sure, there's some school stuff with plenty of background, but there aren't more than three major players in any scene.

This film felt long. Maybe it was due to the packed screening room with bad seating. Maybe it was a subliminal message I'd received (someone asked about running time beforehand, and the answer we were given was "1:44" but I heard "144" and calculated that out to 2:24). At any rate, while watching, I noticed at least two endings prior to the scripted and filmed ending.

It's another cancer/death drama. It has plenty of humor, but it's not an Eddie Murphy broad comedy piece. And when all the pertinent questions were asked afterward ("How did this script/character affect you?" "What was your process for finding this character?" "How do you decide what projects to work on next?"), the answer was always something to the effect of "I don't have a process/method. I just do it." When asked if he would consider a return to standup, he said that he would, but there would be other elements included, rather than just telling jokes. This was the only question he actually answered, really. Regarding the film, um, yeah. It's good; the performances were fine; it feels "long", and the subject matter (family bonds that form while attending to the life process that is death) was only a bit "precious". It was released on 16 September, so I doubt it's in theaters anywhere. I'm sure you can stream it, if you're interested. Neither Recommended nor Panned, this one, for me, is a Meh.

The Bronze A foul-mouthed former gymnastics bronze medalist with local celebrity status reluctantly trains a rising Olympics aspirant.: Apparently, this film opened on 18 March, so you may be able to pick it up on DVD/Blu-Ray or stream it, if you are so inclined. I personally intend to own it. The tagline is "There's no place like third", so that should tell you something. Melissa Rauch (Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory) co-wrote, co-produced, and stars in this hilarious film about a female Peter Pan who lives her entire existence as her small town's "American Hero". I compared it to Deadpool, because her red, white, and blue track suit is really her red spandex superhero costume. She is just as foul and just as hilarious as Ryan Reynolds is. I laughed and cringed and, God Help Me, talked back to the screen during the screening. No one seemed to mind (I only did it once, and it was an appropriate talkback, but everyone in the room likely heard it. If Melissa was waiting in the wings at that point, she would have heard it), but please don't ever let me do that again in public. So wrong. ... And yet, so right for this film.

Melissa was a blast at the Q&A. She talked process, voices, choices, audition nightmares, blessings, etc. It felt like we could easily have spent another half-hour or more with her, and she'd have been graciously answering any/all questions. Like the one I had: Did Sebastian Stan audition, or was he always the first choice as her nemesis? Because He Was Amazing. One Hot Douchebag, Order Up!

Find a Way to See This Film, if you are a fan of intensely funny vulgarity, etc. Do Not Let Your Children See It, if you didn't let them see Deadpool.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Welcome, Czech Republic (and Welcome BACK, Algeria)!

I know, I know, it's been awhile since I welcomed any new readers. Frankly, I've been a teensy bit busy, what with a long-term Scripty gig and some BG day-playing and all these damn FREE movie screenings I've been attending.

So, if you're a first-time reader (from ANYWHERE), I welcome you. I hope you have found something here to pique (no, that should NOT be spelled "peak" or "peek") your interest, and that you will return, and if you're so inclined, you'll rifle through my archives, possibly taking the time to find out what I'm really "all about" (by starting at the beginning and working forward in time).

I personally love starting at "the beginning" of a blog that piques my interest to really get to know the person who needed to start publicly journaling. Maybe that's weird. If so, well, then, color me weird.

More reviews coming soon! I have two - three more screenings on the books for this week. Welcome!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

And the Reviews Keep On Comin'!

More SAG Awards Foundation Screenings, because I'm #Blessed to be a working union actor.

A Monster Calls A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom's terminal illness.: This is a fantasy/drama (at last! More Fiction!) that will be released on January 6th. HEAVY on the drama, heavy on the fantasy element, told using just about every visual storytelling method that exists. It's a fictionalized autobiography, written by a woman who died of cancer. The movie is her son's pre-grieving process, and the storytelling is thick and sometimes difficult to navigate.

Performances are honest. Art direction is probably what will be nominated for awards, because the transitions from live-action to animated watercolor paintings to cgi to ??? are pretty phenomenal. But that is what makes the story so thick. Sigourney Weaver is fantastic as the estranged Grandma, when she has no dialogue (she can't really maintain her British dialect); thankfully, her nonverbals are spot-on.

I left the theater emotionally drained, and I wasn't sure how to say here what I felt needed to be said. I described my experience to Stephen, and he gave me this phrase as my "rating": Hard Watch, but if you're up for it, it's probably worth your time/energy.

Paterson Set in the present in Paterson, New Jersey, this is a tale about a bus driver and poet.: To be released on Mommy's birthday (December 28th).

Kids, if you have any faith/belief in what I say about these movies, I need you to NOT BOTHER with this movie. I bit the bullet for ya with a free screening, but honestly, I threw away three hours of my life to do so. You remember when I was forcing myself to blog Every Single Damn Day because I thought I had something to prove? Do you also remember when I QUIT blogging Every Single Damn Day because what I "had to say" was so fucking boring to me that I couldn't put you, my readers, through all that agony and torture anymore?

That ^ is what I watched on a big screen today, a life so BORING that I would honestly kill myself if it were mine. Kylo Ren is living that boring life, and he's really the only one on the screen that we hope-beyond-hope something will happen to. The woman who plays his wife is either such a bad actress or is so poorly written and directed that we just can't help but hate her. {We are not meant to hate her, FYI}. Save your money. Unless it costs you no more than $0.00 to see this film, Skip It By Any Means Necessary.

Poor Adam Driver, having to attend these screenings and sit through Q&A's... and he's never watched any of his films! Yup, that's right, kids, he's "one of those" actors who refuses to watch himself onscreen! He managed the Q&A, but it's probably for the best that he didn't have to sit through this flick. And yes, it will gain a small niche audience of pretentious, pseudo-intellectuals. I ain't that.

Elle A successful businesswoman gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her.: This one is Out There, on The Big Screen (probably near you), Just Released. I was confirmed to see it on Saturday, at the same time as my screening for Paterson. I opted out of this one, because I think I'm not in the right frame of mind to watch a thriller yet, so I'll try again when they send me another invite to another screening. (So Many Screening invites these days!) After sitting through the Paterson screening, maybe I was, in fact, in the right frame of mind for a gory slasher/thriller. Oh, well. :/

Manchester by the Sea An uncle is forced to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy's father dies.: To be released on November 18th, this one is, oh, great, approximately the same story as A Monster Calls! Good thing the Q&A will have a bunch of people and there will be coffee and donuts prior! W00t!

... So, yeah, coffee and donuts. I got in line pretty dadgum early to make up for missing out on the last time they made that offer, and boy, howdy, did I make up for it. Put my sweater on a 3rd row aisle seat and carbo-loaded. It was more like chocolate croissant than donuts (that I ate, at least), and were they ever "worth it" (My Life Motto: if dessert is "worth" eating, it is worth eating first)! Didn't see that they had actual milk or cream to add to coffee (rather than powdered nastiness), so I opted for a cuppa Earl Grey and Moroccan Mint tea... and oj with cranberry on the side. Whilst lingering over my gnosh in the lobby, I approached a guy I thought I knew. Turns out, I only "know" him in the same way you do, from television. We had a pleasant, brief chat, and after my sixth croissant, I downed the last few drops of tea in my cup and headed in to take my seat. Like I said, I made up! πŸ˜‹

The Movie... is a languidly-paced, laugh-out-loud heartbreaker of a tale. It's beautifully written, well-directed, and beautifully performed. Casey Affleck is superb in his simplicity of grief, and so believable in the flashback scenes to happier (or just earlier) times. The ensemble cast holds him up as well. I was never bored, even though it is a slow-moving "slice of life". I know for grief, kids, so I was with him all the way. Either he's a tremendous actor or he knows for grief, or (most likely) both. I was able to ask at the Q&A whether they'd had the luxury of filming the "past" prior to "present day" (not necessarily in chronological order, just get the past done so he'd have the scenes to reflect on). There are very few films out there that have that luxury. This one didn't. The logistics of a shooting schedule can be so complicated that you wrap out a specific location before moving to the next, and I have a feeling that they shot mostly in Manchester-by-the-sea (a real place in Massachusetts, USA) before moving on to any of their 3 or 4 locations. Which means, nope, not gonna be finished with past before jumping forward in time to "today". Which just reinforces my belief that Casey Affleck is an as-yet-un"discovered" gem; a phenomenal actor with real chops. I look forward to his next flick.

So, if you're mired in grief yourself and need a reason to laugh through it all, See This Film, (and then look for the bar scenes - my laughter may have been inappropriate, but it was solid and genuine). If you know people who are mired in grief and you'd like a chance to understand them a little better, See This Film. If you just like a well-told story with lots of Massachusetts accents and humor, then you'll want to See This Film. There was minimal (if any) handheld camera work, and the only "action", per se, is in the bar scenes, plus the one raging fire (there's a raging fire). If nothing I've said here appeals or applies to you, then stay home and wait for it to come to your small screen. It might gain some award "buzz", but I'm not on the Nom(inating) Com(mittee), so I don't know what it could be up against.

Deadpool A fast-talking mercenary with a morbid sense of humor is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers and a quest for revenge.: Um, yeah. This was released way back in February, and probably a lot of you saw it, and I may have even already reviewed it! We bought the Blu-Ray when it came out, and We Love It. But I got really excited when I saw there would be a screening on Sunday, and I could take Stephen, and Ryan Reynolds was scheduled for the Q&A. I didn't get a confirmation, and maybe Stephen will just want to watch our Blu-Ray sometime soon. No matter what, as long as you're not easily offended or watching with your young kids, this one is Highly Recommended. 😁

Doctor Strange A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.: Stephen and I went to see this at our walking-distance theater today, not at a screening, because there are no screenings available for it, just seeing movies on the big screen the old fashioned way (buying tickets). I LIKE comic book movies (yes, I just "reviewed" Deadpool without any additional viewing of late). I LIKE the Marvel Universe that includes The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, and Doctor Strange. I don't yet "Get It" how they all tie in, because I don't read the comics from whence these movie ideas have sprung, so I'm pretty lost on backstory.

That said, I enjoyed Doctor Strange. Stephen says it's a pretty "accurate" origin story, and once we've watched it a couple more times (on Blu-Ray, probably), we'll both have a better understanding of all the things we likely missed today. I'm down with that.

Visually, this film would seem to be equal parts The Matrix, Inception, and Edge of Tomorrow. There is an unfortunate amount of handheld camera work, and not in the usual places, the fight scenes. For heavy cgi (fight scenes), the camera tends to be "locked off" so you can shoot green screen "plates" where you lay the effects in later. So the handheld stuff is just when you're alone in the room with ONE character (or maybe two), looking at a face or an object. Gawd, PLEASE Make It Stop shaking!

Ennyhoo. Benedict is great; the ensemble is great; the vfx are great; the story's pretty good; Benjamin Bratt was a welcome surprise; I didn't mind Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. If you like comic book movies and/or the Marvel Universe and/or either of the Benedicts this movie so adeptly employs, then you should See It. Heck, at this point, you may already have!

Next up: Mr. Church and The Bronze (unless I book work for Tuesday and/or Wednesday). How are you feeling about all these reviews? You haven't been commenting... maybe you don't care? Maybe you'd like me to talk about the day of work I had last week, or the hotspot Smokey seems to have developed on his neck (that we are keeping a very close eye on as we treat it)? Lemme know; I'm writing all this for you, too!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

More Reviews!

Sully The story of Chesley Sullenberger, an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in order to save the flight's passengers and crew.: This film was released on September 9th, so if you didn't get to see it in a theater, you'll have to look for it in your streaming services or on DVD/Blu-Ray, when that happens. If it does get nominated for any awards this award season, then it may get RE-released in theaters.

It's based on the true story of the "Miracle on the Hudson", and it's more the story of the investigation into the "crash" than it is the events leading up to the water landing (because, really, the story of just the events leading up to and including the landing would NOT make a good feature-length film). That said, I was pleased to "witness" the "crash" multiple times, as well as each of Sully's nightmare crashes. Not that I'm a fan of plane crashes. I'm as much a fan of a bonfire in person as the next person; I only want to see fiery crashes ON SCREEN, because I know they were made in controlled situations or done digitally. But all of the "crashes" they showed in this film, either "real" or imagined, had me bracing for impact, as if I were ON those planes.

The script was well written; the crashes were realistic; all of the character relationships were believable; there was not a bad performance. That said, I don't really know if there was anything that really "stood out" to qualify this movie as award-winning or Highly Recommended. If you get a chance to see it, you should. You won't be disappointed. Here's my takeaway, from a fortune cookie fortune Sully pulls out of his wallet, after the fact: Delay is better than disaster.

Love & Friendship Lady Susan Vernon takes up temporary residence at her in-laws' estate and, while there, is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica -- and herself too, naturally.: This movie was released on my birthday, so the only way you can see it now is on Amazon Prime (I think; "check local listings", as they say). It's based on Jane Austen's book that was posthumously titled "Lady Susan". It's quite a fun period piece, set throughout England, in London and on various country estates.

The dialogue was difficult for me to follow, at first. More difficult than Shakespeare, honestly. So with a lack of captions or subtitles, I just had to focus all the more, in order to follow the story. It is really visually stunning, and once you get what they're talking about, it's quite humourous. Lady Susan is a widow in an era of complete patriarchy, so she's got to do what she's got to do to set herself and her daughter up in the manner-to-which-they'd-been-accustomed. Plenty of intrigue and backstabbery. Really fun.

This film will probably be nominated for its visual aspects, like COSTUME design, so if that's the sort of thing that really juices you, then I would throw that Highly on the Recommended I'm giving it for everyone else. If the eventual Blu-Ray is reasonably priced, we'll own it (because the special features are sure to include commentary about the costumes, locations, dialogue, etc.). And the film itself will be closed-captioned! (Win, for us older kids)

Blue Jay Meeting by chance when they return to their tiny California hometown, two former high-school sweethearts reflect on their shared past.: This one came out on October 11th, so chances are decent you'll still be able to find it in a theater.

If you've heard "our story" and wanted to see it on screen, then Blue Jay is for you. No, they did not base it on my experiences with Stephen, and we're not getting story credit or anything. But there are a lot of similarities in the romantic/nostalgic aspects of reuniting after twenty years and discovering what's changed about each person, and what will never change.

This is almost a short film, in that it only runs 85 minutes. But it is very "private" in its tone, and it was shot in black and white in only 7 days, because we really don't spend much time with anyone other than the two main characters. It will make you laugh; it will make you think; it may make you cry. Look for it. Recommended.

The Founder The story of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc: This one doesn't come out until January 20th, so...

Did you see The Social Network and walk away kinda hating Mark Zuckerberg? Did you see Steve Jobs and kinda walk away hating Steve Jobs? You sort of appreciated what they were able to accomplish, but neither of those movies left you feeling good about the men or their products, right? Well, that's pretty much how The Founder is going to leave you regarding McDonald's.

The performances in this one are really great, totally believable, and you find yourself wishing that the McDonald brothers would have budged just a little when Ray tries to re-negotiate... because had they budged just a little, it may have staved off the much-harsher-for-them consequences. Over the course of time, those boys got screwed, and some of that could have been prevented, in my opinion, by listening to Ray's insights and requests and giving in a bit.

Ray isn't/wasn't an evil person. He was simply a human being with a bigger dream and the chutzpah to realize it, and the McDonald brothers neither had his vision nor his chutzpah, and he just bulldozed right over them.

This screening was followed by a Q&A with Michael Keaton, whom I adore as an actor. The Q&A, in my opinion, would have definitely been better served by also including Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch. Keaton was a bit manic, and I'm not sure he completed more than three sentences, even though he spoke for the full half-hour. Not that any of that matters regarding the film. It's good. If you're interested in biopics about men with a dream, then you will definitely enjoy The Founder. Will anyone be nominated for anything? I kinda doubt it, but I'm not on the nominating committee, so what do I know? Recommended.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Reviews!

Every year that I pay my union dues in a timely manner, I receive DVD screeners in the mail for films that are nominated for some SAG Award. These are often the same films that are up for an Oscar or Golden Globe, too, and if we haven't had a chance to see them in a theatre, it's a great way to expand our visual horizons. Screeners are always imprinted with a "This is a screener" watermark, so they don't really add to our collection, but if we're impressed enough with something we didn't see before the screener arrived, we are more likely to buy a Blu-Ray than we would have been without the screener. So the "perk" for us is seeing movies for free, and the perk for the industry is more people buying Blu-Rays or DVD's or streaming copies than had seen the film when first released. The actors earn more residuals when people BUY the film, so I'm supporting my compatriots by paying my dues in time to receive screeners! WIN!

There's also a season of attending screenings, which is happening right now. This is to get the films into the eyeballs, earholes, and brainpans of the members of the Nominating Committee for the specific SAG Awards, but the perk of paying dues in a timely manner is that I also get invited to those screenings. Now that you know how this all works, I'll review for you the stuff I've recently been privileged to see, none of which had I had any knowledge of beforehand, other than the "blurb" on the invitations:

Lion A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.: We signed up to see this one because the Q&A that followed was with Nicole Kidman, and who wouldn't sign up for that reason alone? Dev Patel and Rooney Mara also star, so we "knew" three faces, going in. I already like Dev Patel, not necessarily from Slumdog Millionaire, but I love the Exotic Marigold Hotel movies, and he's great in them. Don't have an opinion of Rooney Mara; I know I've seen her work, but she's not really done anything to "ping" my radar.

The storyline for this one is compelling and heart-wrenching, and they don't rush to get through the five-year-old's experiences. We want to reach out to protect him, to help him get back home. The kid is pretty brilliant in his performance. When we meet Nicole, she's VERY 1980's, which is only a minor distraction. Had to be done, though. This film is based on actual events. Dev appears as the grown-up lost boy, with an Australian dialect, which is, again, only a minor distraction. When his friends persuade him to remember his roots and go searching for his biological family, we go back to our instinct of wanting to reach out to protect him.

I was on the edge of my seat watching this. I laughed, I cringed, I cried. Before the screening, the moderator of the Q&A reminded the audience to have tissues ready. I know that by the end of it, there was not a dry eye in the house, and that is no exaggeration. There were some surprises, and even the end credits were incredibly well done. We will absolutely own this movie on Blu-Ray. If I get to attend a screening with Dev at the Q&A, I'll be doubly blessed. It goes into wide release on November 25th. See it. Highly Recommended

Bleed For This The inspirational story of World Champion Boxer Vinny Pazienza who, after a near fatal car crash, which left him not knowing if he'd ever walk again, made one of sports' most incredible comebacks.: Okay, it's a boxing film, and based on actual events, and I'm neither "here" nor "there" regarding boxing films. I liked Cinderella Man and Real Steel; I honestly do not care for any of the Rocky franchise. But this one had Katey Sagal, Aaron Eckhart, and Miles Teller lined up for the Q&A, and I told Stephen going in that the only thing that would cause me to leave early was if this was another "torture porn" like Whiplash (I had a really hard time watching Whiplash, but I was watching it on my computer, so I could pause when it got too intense). I honestly thought that maybe Miles Teller just likes to go for the roles where he's getting cut up, bruised, and broken. I did not know anything about the real Vinny Pazienza, a.k.a. "The Pazmanian Devil".

So we first see Vinny preparing for a weigh-in for a title fight. He's got to be UNDER a certain weight, and he's working to get there. Pretty funny sequence, and it sets a light mood for the whole film. That's good news, because there is some brutality to come, and we all know it, but at least we're able to laugh with and at all of them as we go, so that when the brutality does come, it rips us out of any complacency we may have built up. Again, this movie is edge-of-your-seat. I did not love the camera work; almost 100% of this movie was handheld, which I find jarring, to say the least. I was grateful for the handheld work in the boxing ring, though, because it meant I didn't actually have to "see" blows land.

I never left my seat, because Aaron Eckhart as the trainer is a polar opposite to JK Simmon's character in Whiplash. There's a lot of care and tenderness expressed in Vinny's recuperation and training. All of the performances are phenomenal, and we learned in the Q&A that the entire thing was shot in 24 days, which is unheard of for a "real" feature film. It's typical for a low-budget independent feature, of course, but we were stunned at the quality that they found and put together in that short time. It's a great picture; I'd be happy to add it to my wall. It's in wide release as of the 18th of November; you should try to see it, if you can. Recommended

The Fall (television) Two hunters, one cold, deliberate and highly efficient and the other, a strong, athletic man with a wife. One is a serial killer, and the other is a cop.: Okay, I'll be completely honest here. Had I seen this blurb before I attended the screening, I wouldn't have attended the screening. Nevermind that Gillian Anderson is someone I'm willing to watch; that blurb doesn't indicate that she's a central figure. Jamie Dornan was in attendance for the Q&A.

The episode that they screened was apparently the season (and possibly series) finale. If you haven't been watching a show, it's not usually a good idea to start at the end. I had a bad seat in the screening room, so I stood against the wall for the hour, which may have been a distraction for other viewers (not that I wasn't as still as I would have been in a seat; I was). #SorryNotSorry

I didn't know who anyone was, or their relationships, or why I should care about any of them or root against the serial killer, because I didn't know who the serial killer was. It was a very "talky" episode; I imagine the series is very "talky", so unless you've started at the beginning and know who they are, it'll get boring very quickly... and then jump into some insanely brutal action sequence... and then slide back into talking.

Gillian didn't maintain her British accent; Jamie was creepy but not compelling (you may have seen 50 Shades of Grey and stayed for the Q&A because you think he's hawt or something; I did none of the above). As soon as the credits began rolling, I booked it outta there. It's available for viewing on Amazon, if you're interested at all in a British/Irish crime drama with weird pacing. Zero Stars

This is Us (television) A group of people with the same birthday, including Jack, whose wife, Rebecca, is expecting triplets in Pittsburgh, Kevin, a handsome television actor growing bored of his fly bachelor lifestyle, Kate, his funny and sweet heavyset twin, and Randall, a successful businessman in search of his biological father.: I had seen the bus posters and billboards, and I honestly thought this was a film, not a television show. It airs on NBC, and It Is Amazing. I have only, so far, seen the episode that was screened, but I had a moment to speak to Milo Ventimiglia after the Q&A, to tell him that I was looking forward to the Gilmore Girls reunion episodes (he plays Jess), but that also, I'd known nothing of this show prior to the screening but would now be starting at the beginning to binge-watch it. I don't really know how to do that; probably Netflix or Hulu or something, but I've asked Stephen to add it to the queue, so once he has, we WILL be watching this show!

To say anything at all about the plot in the episode I viewed would be spoilery for you, so suffice it to say that the above blurb is all you need to know, going in. Phenomenal performances; phenomenal writing; great editing (from what I can tell, based on one episode). I look forward to discovering the central conflicts that will allow this show to last several seasons. Highly Recommended

Sully The story of Chesley Sullenberger, an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in order to save the flight's passengers and crew.: This movie was released on September 9th, but I'm only just now getting to see it. Apparently, it's good enough to hold special screenings for the SAG Awards Nominating Committee. It's on my agenda to see TODAY, so I'll just post this much, and after I see whatever's on the schedule for tomorrow (I've forgotten), I'll review it in a separate post.

Will you be seeing any of the above? Because of my recommendations, or just because you were going to see them anyway?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Movie (and tv show) Reviews Coming Soon!

A week or two ago, I tweeted
Just noticed I need to pay my semi-annual dues so my union'll keep letting us attend screenings! :)
 Writers Guild Screening Room.
This was brought on by the fact that our memberships are valid for six months at a time, and in moving, I'd neglected to update my address with the union, so I hadn't received my bill for November 1 - April 30 yet, and I'd had to show my union card at the screening we'd just attended, which reminded me of that/those fact(s).

So I think my address is now up-to-date in EVERY system that keeps it, and I received my
new card in the mail, so I'm gonna be attending as many screenings as are available and convenient.

First one, the one that prompted the updates, was a little film called Lion.

Tonight, we saw Bleed For This.

I have two screenings to attend TOMORROW, and then one more on Saturday, and possibly one on Sunday, so I'll give you my recommendations once I have plenty to sort through. If I manage to RSVP to more next week, then I'll probably review just these first four on Thursday.

Unless I book some work, in which case, you'll get 'em when you get 'em.

Get ready, though. 'Tis the Season!

Monday, October 31, 2016

'Tis The Season

I believe there are two types of people in the world: those who go all-out at gift-giving "seasons" (birthdays or holidays), those who shun all gift-giving, those who "pay it forward" by giving for no specific reason, and those who can't count.

Which type are you?

I have a birthday in June. That means, growing up, every six months or so, I would receive presents! Yay! Then I grew up and married a dude whose attitude was "it's only money", so we stopped waiting for reasons to buy ourselves stuff, which meant that "presents" kind of lost their meaning. It's hard to get a person "that perfect gift" if they just bought it a week ago because they wanted it a week ago, and it's only money, right?

And while I was growing up, so were my siblings. We were all doing our own thing, making whatever incomes we were making, and Christmas and birthdays began to feel "obligatory". So as we slowly stopped exchanging gifts at all, we transitioned into "Thank you for buying me ____ (which I actually just bought for myself). What did I buy for YOU?" That was a fun transition, but eventually, our gift-exchange became more of a phone call exchange. I want to hear the voices of my family, and holidays are a good day to make those calls, because you can be pretty sure of reaching each other. It's not a gift that's "obligatory". 

Lemme tell ya, "obligatory" gifting is the worst, IMO. I have pretty-much always hated Valentine's Day because of its "obligatory" nature. If the person you love most in the world can't feel your love year-round; if you aren't kind and generous with that person all the time, then what makes you think that person is going to appreciate the thoughtfulness you put into picking up that card, or that dozen cut red roses, or the pre-selected heart-shaped box of chocolates? If I am the person you love most in the world, and I don't know it through your actions prior to February 14th, I'm not going to know it on that day. Not even if you bought an incredibly expensive piece of jewelry (and seriously, what are you thinking, buying me expensive jewelry, if I don't already know you love me?)

Which kind of leaves me and others like me in a quandary, come "gift-giving" seasons. Stephen and I are pretty comfortable in our lives. I make good money, when I'm working. Stephen just got a raise. We have a plan to eliminate all of our debt over the next couple of years, and that doesn't include NOT buying for ourselves the things we want, when we want them, if we can "afford" them. It also means that if we happen to find "the perfect gift" for someone else, we'll go ahead and pick it up or order it for delivery, if we can "afford" it. The quandary we face is geographic distance from our loved ones and not knowing what they would consider "the perfect gift". I bet my loved ones face the same quandary with me.

So I got this idea from Jenny Lawson, a.k.a. The Bloggess. She does this thing every year (actually, throughout the year) on her blog, where her readers can contribute to gift boxes for a particular charity, or they can buy books or other things for another reader, or if they are in need themselves, they can create a wishlist on Amazon so that others can help them have a good holiday. Typically, the readers who link a wishlist have children and insufficient income to give them a decent holiday because someone just lost their job or racked up crazy medical bills or something. With the way things are going for us this year, it may be my first time helping a total stranger because of The Bloggess.

But how do I gift my family? Frankly, I'd love to just crochet and crochet and crochet until my fingers fall off, but I need to know what specifically to create, and in what sizes and colors, etc. I don't think Amazon is the right venue for that sort of wishlist. But what if my family has specific things that they'd like to have, now or at any time, that they just don't ever see themselves buying for themselves? That is what Amazon is for! I have gone ahead and created such a list. I don't intend or expect any of my readers to start "gifting" me, But maybe it'll help you to create your own wishlist, that you can share with your loved ones. Maybe it'll encourage your loved ones or my family, hint hint to create wishlists, and then share them with each other.

We don't need a Season of Giving to have a Reason to Gift. But it certainly helps to know what people want, before you go out and blow your money on guesses, right? I would be very surprised if my brother's wishlist were full of elephants, even though every gift I've ever given him (in my memory) was elephant-themed. I wouldn't dare to buy him an elephant-anything now that he's grown up! But what the heck DOES he want? Hmm...

So this is your task: Create a wishlist on Amazon. Make it public or shared, so you can share the link either publicly or just with specific people. Do it NOW, so that if there is anyone in your circle who still feels "obligated" by the Season of Giving, they'll know what to get you. Maintain it. Update it; add to it; delete from it as your tastes/wants/needs change. If you have younguns who should have their own lists, then make specific lists for them. Amazon will let you have any number of lists. Just name them, and again, keep them updated. When your toddler is turning five, there shouldn't be any 2T clothing on the list!

If you are a member of my family, you are welcome to share your link either here, in my comments, or in a group family email. but let's do this, okay? I used to call myself a Great Auntie, and then Rachel made me one for reals, but I haven't been able to be the generous long-distance Auntie that I want to be, because I just don't Have A Clue what the nieces and nephews need or want.

Whaddya think? Sound like a good way to handle The Season?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Ten Years Ago

Mommy left my brother's house in the wee hours of the morning, and her good-bye to him was "It's going to be a beautiful day; just look at the sky."

And as she drove down his driveway, he was the last member of our family to see her alive.

*****

It's been ten years. Ten years ago this evening, Daddy was calling my brother to see what time she'd left, because she wasn't home yet. Ten years ago tomorrow, we learned of her untimely car accident. Ten years ago tomorrow, we started our grieving process. We booked travel to Florida for a body-less funeral. We ate ice cream or mashed potatoes or whatever would comfort us while we waited for our flights. We wrapped things up at work, if there was work to wrap up. We cried. A lot.

Over the course of the last ten years, we booked travel to Florida for holidays and birthdays and whatever days. We ate ice cream or mashed potatoes or whatever we felt like eating. We worked, if there was work to be done. We attended weddings or we got married. We had babies. We went to more funerals. We cried. A lot. We laughed a lot, too.

*****

Four Years Ago

Stephen learned that his Dad had been stricken with four aggressive cancers. I finished a summer-long Scripty gig, and then it seemed that everything in my industry was done with me. I had unemployment benefits that were less and less each year, and with Stephen's level of job satisfaction also declining, we made a joint decision to move to North Carolina, close to his Dad, so we could nurse the man back to full health, Stephen could learn a new industry (handiwork) from him, and I could see what the film industry looked like in a right-to-work state.

Four years ago tomorrow, Stephen and I left North Hollywood in my Honda Civic, with two kitties on leashes, and everything we owned either packed in a shipping container, making its way across the country on a truck or train, or packed in the Civic with us, or given away to friends or left on the curb of North Hollywood. We were moving "forever". We weren't rushed. We planned to leave four years ago tomorrow rather than four years ago today, because I wasn't going to be driving on the Sadiversary of Mommy's traffic death. 

It took us six days to drive across the country with the cats. After one night in a "pet-friendly" hotel that cost us more financially and emotionally and in terms of time (trying to get both cats out of the crawl space UNDER the head of the bed), we opted to leave the furbabies in the car each night, taking turns to visit them in the wee small hours to make sure they were okay. They were more than okay; they were fabulous. They had food & water which they barely consumed; they had a litter box which they barely used; they had the run of the car AT NIGHT when they were wired. Had any stranger tried to fuck with the car, he'da gotten his ass kicked by our little fireballs.

Roughly halfway through the trip, we drove up to the Grand Canyon. No, it wasn't technically "on our way", but when your country has something that spectacular just a touch "out of the way" and you've never seen it (Stephen hadn't), then you stop. I spent some time with the babies while Stephen talked to his Dad on the phone. That was the last time they heard each other's voices.

Four years ago, five days hence, Stephen's Dad lost his battle with chemotherapy. No, the cancer didn't kill him, although #CancerSucks. #ChemoSucks too. It was the chemo that killed him. Four years ago, five days hence, I did all the driving. We arrived at my brother's house that evening. His wife was prepared for our arrival, and for our emotional state, and she had cooked a lovely meal for us. We were both pretty much wiped out that day. So we ate comfort food, and we cried a lot.

Four years ago, six days hence, we arrived at Stephen's stepmom's house. PEOPLE arrived at her house. FAMILY arrived at her house. Her Friends arrived at her house. We ate comfort food. We helped make arrangements. We ate comfort food. We got the keys to our new apartment and settled the furbabies in, without us or any of our stuff (we had all of their toys, of course). We ate comfort food, and we cried a lot. We laughed a little, but mostly, we went numb.

Over the course of the last four years, we booked travel to Florida for holidays and birthdays and whatever days. We ate ice cream or mashed potatoes or whatever we felt like eating. We worked, if there was work to be done. We attended weddings or we got married. We had babies. We went to more funerals. We cried. A lot. We laughed a lot, too.

*****

Now

We're back in North Hollywood, California. When we returned from our failed "North Carolina Forever" experiment, I got to work as a Script Supervisor for a phenomenal short film called Fragile Storm. It made its way through the film festival circuit, and it's being released online for all the world to see on November 6th. It is absolutely scary and lovely and heartwrenching, and I'm so #Blessed and #Grateful to have been able to participate in its creation. Whatever it takes for you to see it, please take those steps.

Stephen found employment at a Pet Feed and Supply house with a bit of Hollywood history. During his employment there, he has learned more than you could ever hope to know about dogs, cats, hamsters, and probably birds. He loves sharing that knowledge with his customers, and he's very good at his job. He was even recently promoted, and it would appear that the company is grooming him for a steady climb up that particular "corporate" ladder. So he takes good care of our babies, and everybody else's, too.

My employment has been pretty steady, and my unemployment benefits "bank" is back in a reasonable range as well. My last Scripty gig was another one for the record books, and in just a few days, there will be a Big Announcement regarding that show and plans for the future. I'm pretty happy with all of that.

We have a pretty sweet apartment, and the furbabies seem to like it. They do seem to fight a bit more than they used to, over the catnip toys more often than not, and they've both shown us a concerning (for us) wound here or there. Nothing SuperPetMan Stephen can't resolve.

But also lately, Stephen's Mom has been exhibiting signs of dementia. We can't move across the country again, so he and his brother made arrangements to move her to Idaho, where the brother lives with his wife and sons. Her condition improved in her assisted-living facility so close to her grandbabies. Everything was peaches and cream.

Except that she's gotten worse. She's gotten belligerent with the staff. She's gotten paranoid. She's lonely and afraid, and so she stays in her room all day, not socializing with people who want to be her friend. And she forgets things, and people, and events (like whether or not she has eaten lunch). So she has to be "upgraded" to a memory care facility. We don't know what that really means, in either the short or the long term.

Over the course of the next however-many years, we will book travel to Idaho for holidays or birthdays or whatever days. We'll eat ice cream or mashed potatoes or whatever we feel like eating. We'll work, if there's work to be done. We'll attend weddings. We'll go to more funerals. We'll cry. A lot. But we'll laugh a lot, too.