Friday 11.30.12

IMG_9827It’s not even December and I’m already starting to collate a list of my favorite films of 2012.
With only a month left in the year, and with Decembers releases looking promising it may change a little, but since I’m sitting around the house watching one of my top five from 2011 (Fincher’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) and bored…  here’s the list so far.

  1. Beauty is Embarrassing. 
  2. Argo.
  3. Safety Not Guaranteed.
  4. Looper.
  5. Moonrise Kingdom.

Tarantino has a new film coming out on Christmas day, and as much potential as it has.. Jamie Foxx. I’d use the words “infamously loathe” when it comes to him. When I see him on screen I get angry. So regardless of how good the screenplay is, how good the other actors are, the total package- I just don’t see myself being able to get over my distaste for him. The Hobbit will be FUN, for sure, but top five? I can’t see it.

Beauty is Embarrassing:
Start to finish a compelling documentary. It does it’s job- to tell you who Wayne White is and why you should care. But it also inspires; the power of a positive mental attitude (Wayne and his family are amazing) and the power of art and why we need it in our lives. It’s rare that a film comes along in the last part of the year and makes it into the top spot on my list, but.. this one did. I’m looking forward to the DVD; Wayne mentioned during the SKYPE chat the other night that it has ‘tons of extras’.

Affleck. Seriously. How this guy became such a good director is beyond me, but damn do his movies stand on their own two feet. ‘From the Academy Award winning star of Reindeer Games‘ is not something you’d ever imagine saying about the director of my #2 film of the year, but with Argo he nails it. Great cast, great style and despite knowing how the true story ended you’re still white knuckling your seat in the last ten minutes. This can be added to The Town and Gone Baby, Gone as great films by the star of Phantoms.

Safety Not Guaranteed:
Aubrey Plaza skews everything she’s in for me. I would have enjoyed TED (which may be the worst film I saw in 2012) had she been in it. So it’s hard to say if I loved the movie on it’s own merits (I did) or if it’s just because Miss Plaza was in it. It’s such an odd little film and the payoff at the end is great. Good acting all around and you never get the sense that it’s odd for odds sakes.

Intelligent Sci-Fi used to be the rule, not the exception.
Alien, Blade Runner, Buckaroo Banzai, Brazil… you had really talented director shooting really talented actors with really kickass screenplays. Then things just went squirrelly. People started making scifi films for general audiences and not nerds and there was a natural dumbing down of the scripts. They started getting bigger stars who felt the need to change things that worked in favor of things that made them look more ‘action starry’. Rian Johnson came along and brought back the IQ back to the genre. Joseph Gordon Levitt became Bruce Willis- not the prosthetics; he got his personality down and just really owned being a prick. Lot of open interpretations with this screenplay- it’s one of those movies you can discuss afterwards and still not know 100% what to make of certain things.

Moonrise Kingdom:
I saw this film when I was having a really hard time post breakup and it sort of become ‘that’ film that really resonated with me- a ‘time and a place’ movie that summed up a lot of what I was feeling about love and life. Kid actor movies can go either way, and the two protagonists in Moonrise are just perfect. It might be the only film in 2012 I saw three times theatrically- and I’ve watched it at the Overground Cinema to raise the total to four.

Honorable Mention: Para Norman.
Paranorman was in my top five before seeing Beauty is Embarrassing, so I figured it gets an honorable mention at the end, above the ‘best of the rest’. The quality of animation was top notch, the characters each had their own quirks and charm and the ‘reveal’ at the end really takes it to the next level. As a ‘monster kid’ myself, Norman really brought back memories of being totally obsessed with monsters and horror films when I was young- not that much has changed really- and the anti bullying message of the film was relevant without beating you over the head. I’m going to double feature this with Coraline at the Overground soon.

Best of the Rest:

Jiro Dreams of Sushi
21 Jumpstreet
The cabin in the woods
The Sound of my voice
Best exotic Marigold Hotel
The Avengers
Beyond the black rainbow
The Master
The Perks of being a Wallflower

Kind of a weird assortment of films- different genres, some indie and some blockbuster. It was a fairly good year for movies all things considered, and I’m sure that I’m missing some, but if you haven’t had a chance to see any of the top five- check them out. Let me know what you think.

Also- Use the COMMENT section to tell me your top films of the year!

Photo: DC Sticker- Apparently Jesus is in hell, but is still saving us. Thanks, Champ!


Wednesday 11.28.12

The other night at dinner I told my friend Natalie about a film I’d been dying to see called Beauty is Embarrassing. She’s a giant Pee Wee Herman fan,  and the film (a documentary about artist Wayne White) features Paul Rubens and has some really great classic footage from the old Pee Wee Herman show days. I mentioned that it hadn’t been released on video yet, but was streaming for rent and that one of these days we should check it out at the Overground.

Synchronicity and I have always had a good relationship over the years, and nestled in my email inbox yesterday afternoon was a message from the International House Cinema here in Philadelphia, with a list of their upcoming films. One of which was Beauty is Embarrassing. Here’s this film I’ve been waiting to see for probably a year, that to date there had been no local screenings of, and after talking it up, it’s playing two days later.

I instantly bought two tickets. Before reading that Wayne would be joining us live via Skype after the film for a Q&A. Before seeing if Natalie could even get off work to see it with me. But I just rolled the dice and everything worked out perfectly.

The movie officially took over the #1 spot for my BEST FILMS OF 2012 list. Director Neil Berkeley managed to make a documentary about an artist that wasn’t about being tortured (see: In a Dream,  Isaiah Zagar or Burden of Dreams, Werner Herzog) or broken by their own obsessive need to create. Wayne (a puppeteer, painter, banjo player, husband, father, writer) comes off throughout the film as a guy who’s damned glad to be doing what he does for a living. Sure, he’d be making art if he wasn’t getting paid for it, but you get the feeling that he understands how lucky he is to be doing just that. Getting paid to do what he loves, and getting the ‘respect he so richly deserves’ for it.

This is the first time in a long time that a documentary has been my best film pick of the year. If you get a chance to see it theatrically- do it. If you can’t….  You can always watch it here. (and yes. You have to pay. Just do it. Best film of the year.)

Natalie even managed to ask a really poignant question during his Q&A about his thoughts on CG in animation and character design. I had nothing, so her not only asking a question but asking a good question… major nerd points. 

We didn’t intend to go on a second date so close after the first, but… synchronicity. She was a great movie companion, taking time off work and fighting traffic just to see a film she didn’t really know anything about.

It’s been a very movie heavy week so far, come to think of it.
A very sick Erin and I saw ‘Rise of the Guardians’ for Movie Night this week, and my friend Sam, who was in town from Santa Cruz, spent most of last night (late night) hanging out with me, catching up and talking about our feelings like grownups while we played movie after movie in the background. I can’t remember what all we watched, but the conversation was great and I was really glad that our schedules were able to align so we could steal the time to have it.

All of this while dealing with our first strange AirBnB encounter. I never met the guest, but apparently it didn’t work out so well and they left shortly after arriving. AirBnB’s customer service was really great- they were able to offer advice and help me get the situation under control. Really affirmed the faith I’ve put in the service since allowing total strangers into my home.

I’m finally unwinding now; it’s late, I’m tired and tomorrow is therapy, so I’m going to try and get to sleep.

Photo: Ticket and Words With Wayne Art.

Tuesday 11.27.12

Apparently it’s snowing in the suburbs.
I’m curled up in bed with Bailey, as is my lazy day habit, sipping a Kombucha and watching The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The whole movie is so damned awkward; every time I start it I swear I won’t be able to finish it, but then Clementine charms the hell out of me and I carry on. I’m working on gussying up the resolve to put on my rain gear and bike to the gym, but it’s pissing freezing rain and the bed/pooch/kombucha is so comfortable I’m not sure I’m going to do it.

It’s ok to take a day off, and I’ve already done some working out (wiifit!) so this is my justification to not feel guilty if I don’t make it to the gym today.

The last few days have been so full of awesome; surprise visits from friends, starting American Horror Story with Carole. a really rad first date with someone who seems pretty awesome (majestic?) and it’s only Tuesday. Which means I get to add movie night with Erin on the pile of kickass and just keep up with the good times.

My friends Jen and Dave surprised me at work the other night. I haven’t seen Jen since Dallas a few years ago, and Dave since Los Angeles in 2006 (last time I saw him he was totally decked out in a storm trooper uniform) so it was a hell of a surprise to see them walking into the bar. We were able to catch up over a few drinks (I had a Sprite, and there was a Capri Sun in the mix) and a lot of laughing. Totally blew my mind to see them.

Carole finally has me watching American Horror Story. We’re trying to watch them together so it’s going to be a slower process than my normal ‘don’t sleep till it’s finished’ process of watching series television on Netflix. We watched the first two episodes and so far I’m hooked. No Zachary Quinto yet, but Jessica Lang is perfectly evil. I can’t wait to see where it goes. We finished the day by having lunch at Underdogs in the Italian Market. It’s always weird for me going to that part of the market- I lived half a block away for seven years and have so many great memories of that block. But the hotdogs were worth it, as was the company.

Monday night I had a first date with a really rad lady from the Northeast. She refuses to admit she’s from the suburbs, I refuse to admit that I’m a ginger… so there’s a nice balance of denial in our new friendship. We went to Industry Bar on Moyamensing; I’ve been meaning to go for so long and the date with Natalie was the perfect reason to finally do it. We had the best waiter; at one point he looked at us and said “oh. It’s been so long since I’ve gotten to banter!” with the biggest smile on his face. We chatted and got to know each other over some really great food- Buffalo Style Sweetbreads (me) and corn arepas (her) finishing up with cinnamon donuts with an apple cider carmel sauce. Before we knew it we had been there for four hours!

Such a good time, and so nice to ‘click’ with new people. I talk a lot about my hesitation to be social, but I keep having really rad experiences when I do it, so… thankfully she asked me out for a second date. I’m so not used to being single; this is sequentially the longest I’ve ever been, since I was 23. Obviously I get lonely, but… until I work out my own issues it’s nice to not run into something serious while still spending time with folks who make me happy. Knowing a lot about Pee Wee Herman has never really come in handy before, so last night was aces.

Photo: Philadelphia Street Art, Italian Market.

Sunday 11.25.12

Despite running on empty last night, I found myself unable to easily get to sleep when I finally got home.
First time in a while that I’ve had to deal with insomnia. Eventually I dozed off, and thanks to sleeping later than normal I still got my now standard five hours, but it was troubling none the less. I didn’t make it to the gym yesterday and I ended up feeling out of it for the rest of the day. I think I’ve gotten my metabolism to a point where inactivity is really bad for me; when I haven’t worked out I ended up feeling more drained than when I have. I made up for it today with a pretty rough upper body workout (but ran out of time for cardio- I’ll have to double down tomorrow) and I already feel energized- hope that it translates to a better night.

I’ve been a busy bee planning the trips for late 2012 and early 2013- Other than Boston and Florida I’ve added a last minute trip out west that I’m going to keep mum on for now; at least until the tickets have been purchased. Every year I go to Vegas for the APP Conference, but I’m just not sure I’m going in 2013. I’ll probably relent last minute- the chance to see all of my friends in one spot is too hard to pass up on- but for right now I’m planning on a trip that will be a lot of fun and I’ll still get to see some folks I haven’t seen in way too long. So. Yeah. Travel bug. I can do most of these trips on a pretty tight budget, so it’s just a matter of allowing myself to do them. My friends Anna and Dianna (total coincidence) are really good with Bailey, so I don’t feel that guilt that I used to get for leaving him alone for a few days.

I used to travel so damned much. Then codependency and budgeting (the word mooch used to come up a lot) got the better of me. Now I’m a ‘single parent’ and I used that as an excuse not to go anywhere, but like I said before, Bailey has great sitters and for some of the trips… he can come with me. As such, 2013 is going to be all about little inexpensive trips. When I went to DC a few weeks ago it reminded me that despite having down there a few times to get tattooed, I’d never really spent any time seeing the city itself. The same can be said about when I go up to Electric in Bradley Beach; I go up there, get tattooed and leave. Never really got a chance to sit down and have a meal or tourist in Asbury Park. So some of the places I’ve ‘been’ to, I’ve never really been.

I can say for sure that when the weather gets nice- Spring- I’ll be making a road trip to my beloved North Carolina. I used to just randomly drive there. Get in the car on my three days off and just drive south. Sometimes I’d just make it over the state line and have dinner then not go much further. Others I’d drive until South of the Border and just wander around. I can’t really explain the draw; just really love the state. I lived there in my teens and always saw myself ending up back there at some point. It suits my personality. I know it’s the smarmy intellectual NPR standard to make fun of the ‘red states’ and their citizens, but I always found the Carolinas to be populated with really laid back, really polite people who have a much more friendly way of life. Can’t say for sure if I’ll really end up living there or not, but… It’s my little retirement fantasy. So come spring… there’ll be a South of the Border roadtrip and my car holds five comfortably. Sign up now!

Photo: Wise Men, Italian Market