Monday, January 30, 2012

Life is Busy

Things have been pretty hectic lately, more so than usual. My school does a Korean exchange program, and we are hosting two of the students. The girls have very limited English, and on top of that, they are quite shy. It's been fun to integrate them into our family, if only for a short time, but also more draining than I'd imagined. Two teenage girls added to the mix is a lot of work. The girls leave on Thursday, and then the normal rhythm of our family will return.

Another reason things are so crazy these days is that we have extended our soccer season this year. We're normally done by December, but we decided to step up to club soccer. I'm coaching Quinn's team, and so far we're doing great, haven't lost a game. We've really only been practicing as a team for a couple months, and we're beating club teams that have been together for a lot longer. It's a great group of girls and I'm having a blast. Scout's team is struggling. They did well in AYSO, but since they stepped up to the club world, they haven't won a game, and you can see the confidence waning. That's tough to watch. Scout and I had a long talk this weekend. It was one of those balancing acts, mixing empathy and time-to-pick-up-your-game. I think it went well, but that's the thing about being a parent, are you ever really sure?

I haven't had much time for movies lately, which always bugs me. The Oscar nominations are out, and my only real complaint is that Bridesmaids wasn't nominated for Best Picture. Meg and I always try to see all the movies up for Best Picture, and so far we've seen 5 of the 9. We still need to see The Artist, War Horse, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and Moneyball. It looks like The Artist is the frontrunner. Maybe it's just me, but I'm having a hard time getting excited about a silent black and white film. Anybody seen it? Thoughts?

We did watch 50/50 Sunday night. Joseph Gordon Levitt is outstanding as Adam Lerner, a guy battling cancer and learning a lot about himself and those who truly matter in his life. You could probably argue he deserved an Oscar nomination. There's one scene in particular that really got me. Lerner has a last ditch surgery, and JGL's face right before going under is so right on, the fear, it caught me off guard, it reminded me of a look I saw on my dad's face once, it brought tears to my eyes.

I have managed to keep reading despite the busy schedule. I finished Roger Ebert's memoir Life Itself on Saturday. I've been a fan of Ebert's since high school, when Siskel & Ebert taught me how to appreciate movies. I've become an even bigger fan the last few years as Ebert has used blogging and twitter to find a different kind of voice, and a powerful one at that. Ebert is a great writer, and his memoir is excellent.

I put a bunch of this year's award winners and nominees on hold at the library. I started The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka on Sunday. And finished it on Sunday. It's about Japanese women who came to the US as arranged brides. It's only 127 pages, and man is it good. Anybody reading any good books lately?

One last thing. I just signed up for the A-Z Blogging Challenge. I really enjoyed the experience last year, so I'll give it another go. I haven't been blogging as much as I was last year, so hopefully I'll be able to do the Challenge justice. Ah well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Green Bay Packers Lost a Game, and This Woman Lost Her Mind

I came across a great video today, and it must be shared.

As an owner of the Green Bay Packers, Sunday's game was indeed upsetting. Fans of the Green and Gold worldwide took the loss hard, but perhaps none as hard as the woman in this video. 

Apparently she's garnered a dose of fame from this video, and really, why not.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Drowning My Sorrow in the Golden Globes

Well, the Green Bay Packers picked a really bad time to play their worst game of the season. I spent a ridiculous amount of time on the phone commiserating with friends. This is a little discussed aspect of being a fan, but talking with friends after a loss is a strangely satisfying feeling, the idea that we've experienced the same disappointment, venting to the only people who get it.

Meg patiently waited for me, and then we watched the Golden Globes. Meg and I love the Globes. We're always hopeful that drunken celebrity hijinks will break out, but it didn't look like anyone was outrageously liquored-up last night.

I loved Ricky Gervais last year. He took some heat for being too mean-spirited, but I thought he was hilarious. Gervais was quite funny again last night, but I do think he dialed it back a bit. I especially liked his exchange with Johnny Depp, a big star who isn't afraid to poke a little fun at himself. The show could have used a lot more Gervais if you ask me, with drink in hand of course. 

Here's a rundown of the awards (my comments in red):

BEST MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA: The Descendants I had this as my #4 movie of the year, so definitely a deserving winner.
BEST ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA: George Clooney, The Descendants I don't think Clooney is a very expressive actor, but I kind of like that. Makes his performances feel more realistic, and his style was perfect for this movie.
BEST MOTION PICTURE, MUSICAL/COMEDY: The Artist I haven't seen this one yet. It will certainly be nominated for an Oscar, so I'll be seeing it soon. I was kind of hoping Midnight in Paris would win.
BEST ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE, DRAMA: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady Is it possible for Meryl Streep to be in a movie and not be nominated for awards? Probably not, she's just that good. I haven't seen this one yet, but I'm interested to learn a little bit about Thatcher.
BEST ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE, MUSICAL/COMEDY: Jean Dujardin, The Artist Again, I haven't seen this one, so I don't have much to go on.
BEST DIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese, Hugo A bit of a surprise I guess, but we're talking Marty here, so not too big a stretch. I love Scorsese, and I loved this movie (my #7 this year).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Octavia Spencer, The Help I didn't read the book, but I did enjoy the movie (not enough to make my top 10 though). I was more taken by Viola Davis, but Spencer's performance was noteworthy.
BEST ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE, MUSICAL/COMEDY: Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn I haven't seen this one, but I like Michelle Williams, so I was happy to see her win.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christopher Plummer, Beginners I would call Plummer an actor's actor. I liked the movie, and his performance was excellent.
BEST COMEDY SERIES: Modern Family Great show. Ty Burrell is my favorite, but the whole cast is stellar.
BEST ACTOR, COMEDY: Matt LeBlanc, Episodes Seriously Hollywood Foreign Press Association? Matt LeBlanc? True, I haven't seen the show, but come on, Matt LeBlanc? 
BEST ACTRESS, DRAMA: Claire Danes, Homeland I haven't seen the show, but I like Danes. Well, kind of. She still has cred with me from My So Called Life, but I better like her in something else soon.
TV SERIES, DRAMA: Homeland This feels like one of those shows with a small audience that critics like to spotlight. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Anybody out there watching this show? Tell us about it.
BEST ACTOR, DRAMA: Kelsey Grammar, Boss I have a hard time believing Grammar can still find work, let alone receive an award. 
BEST ACTRESS, COMEDY: Laura Dern, Enlightened I've caught bits and pieces of this show. I feel like I might like it, but I haven't been able to bring myself to watch a whole episode yet.

Anybody else watch the Globes? Impressions? Thoughts?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

When Last Friday Night Already Feels Nostalgic

A strange thing has happened to me the last couple years. Particularly enjoyable moments are quickly tinged with nostalgia. Case in point: last Friday, Meg and I watched a bunch of Portlandia episodes. We stayed up late, drank the leftover beer from the holidays, and laughed, a lot. 

Not even a week later, I'm already feeling nostalgic. Is that weird? Is that what happens as one gets older?

Anyway, premature nostalgia aside, Portlandia is a great show.  Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein are hilarious. Meg and I especially loved this skit/song about the 90s. As former wannabe 90s hipsters (the Minneapolis variety), we thought this was brilliant.  

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gabby Giffords

January 8, 2011, was a tough day. My dad had passed away just 8 days earlier, leaving this world in the early hours of a new year, and things were still feeling surreal on a day I should have been wishing him a happy birthday. Instead, my sister and I took my mom cell phone shopping.

As we weighed the merits of various phones, I got a text from Meg. Gabby Giffords had been shot and CNN was reporting that she was dead. I told my mom and sister, a wave of texts slowly spreading the news in the store and across Tucson.

January 8 was now one of those days people in Tucson will always remember. One of those days you remember where you were when you heard the news.

Unbelievably, Gabby didn't die that day.

She continues to battle back, her strength and courage a true inspiration. If you saw her interview on TV recently, you know she still has a long way to go. I'm not sure she'll be able to return to office, and that will be a huge loss for Tucson. Of course, there are more important things. 

I admired Gabrielle Giffords before January 8, 2011. I admire her even more now. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Top Ten Movies of 2011

I watched 68 movies in 2011, not including all the bits and pieces I caught while channel-surfing. The first movie I watched in 2011 was Easy A and the last was The Help. Overall, I think it was a solid year for movies, with a particularly strong summer crop of films. Unlike my top ten books, I've only included movies that were released this year.

10) Cedar Rapids: Ed Helms plays Tim Lippe, a staggeringly naive and genuine insurance salesman in a small Wisconsin town. Lippe attends a conference in the big city, Cedar Rapids, and hijinks ensue. This wasn't a big hit at the box office, but if you love Ed Helms as much as I do, you'll want to check this one out.

9) Rango: This is the only animated film on this year's list, and like any great animated film, it's not just for kids. Johnny Depp brings life to a chameleon who finds himself the sheriff of Dirt, a small Western town with a serious water issue. The CGI is amazing, and the allusions to classic Westerns are fun, especially the homage to Clint Eastwood.

8) Super 8: J.J. Abrahams is an unapologetic Steven Spielberg fan, and this film can simply be described as Speilbergian. A young boy, with the help of his movie-making friends and a displaced alien, learns to live after his mother's death. I recently watched this one again with the girls, making it even better the second time around.

7) Hugo: A beautiful family film from Martin Scorsese. A young boy and an old man help each other connect to their pasts while forging new futures. Even though we didn't pay the extra money for 3D, I love the irony of Scorsese using 3D to pay tribute to early film. Almost makes me want to see it again, in 3D.

6) Soul Surfer: This was perhaps the biggest surprise of the year for me. I had absolutely no interest in seeing this movie, but after nothing but raves from other parents, I gave it a shot. I'm sure you've heard about Bethany Hamilton, the girl who lost her arm in a shark attack. Her story is truly inspiring, and I have to admit, this one brought tears to my eyes, more than once.

5) Rise of the Planet of the Apes: Another big surprise. I have to say, I was never a big fan of the whole Apes franchise, but the trailer for this movie got me in the theater. This is a creative and thought-provoking prequel. I watched this again with Meg and the girls, and like Super 8, it was even more fun the second time around.

4) The Descendants: I made sure to read the book before seeing the movie. I loved the book, #5 on my top 10, and the movie is an excellent adaptation. I'm a big fan of Alexander Payne and George Clooney.

3) Midnight in Paris: Gil Pender, an unfulfilled writer, magically finds himself in 1920s Paris. He mingles with Hemingway, F. Scott and Zelda, Gertrude Stein, Picasso and Salvador Dali. His experience in the past forces him to make the future he's always wanted. I haven't enjoyed a Woody Allen movie this much in a long time.

2) Bridesmaids: Kristin Wiig is brilliant. I'll be disappointed if she isn't nominated for an Oscar. Come to think of it, this movie should be nominated for Best Picture. It is hands down the funniest movie of the year, but it's also a poignant take on the changing nature of friendship.

1) Win Win: Paul Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty, a lawyer/wrestling coach. To make ends meet, Flaherty takes in a troubled teen, who just happens to be a wrestling prodigy.  Alex Shaffer plays the kid, and he's fantastic, reminded me of a young Sean Penn. Amy Ryan, one of my favorite actresses, is great as the wife. This a movie about people quickly losing hope, finding unlikely lifelines, and creating a new path.

Let me know what you think of my choices, and of course, I'd love to hear what you enjoyed watching this year in the comments, maybe some movies to watch in 2012. Your top movie, top 3, 5, 10, whatever works for you.