Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Top Ten ('09)

After countless hours at the cineplex, tons of popcorn consumed, and many movie passes used, I've finally been able to recap my favorite films of this past year. If you have even the slightest clue about me, you know that I'm a total list maker. I make lists when I go to the grocery store, pack a suitcase, and as a salute to 2008 -- My Top Ten Films of 2008.

10. Frost/Nixon
Upon entering the movie theatre, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I mean, the ingredients for this movie seemed all too perfect -- talented cast, Tony-Award winning play, rock star director. Yet, I still wasn't the least bit excited. If I wanted to watch a televised interview between a TV anchor and a politician, I'd have stayed home with Tina Fey and Amy Poeler. Then, without even a warning, a surprising thing happened on my way to the exit... I actually liked it. Not only was this film intriguing, but it was thoroughly entertaining. Who'd have thought a simple stage play between two talking heads could transform into such a nail biting political thriller.

9. The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger. Heath Ledger. Heath Ledger. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a huge fan of the superhero franchise. In fact, I spent an entire summer interning at Marvel Studios where I was painfully swimming in a sea of weird cartoon magazines -- I think they're called comic books? Therefore, when I decided to jump on the highly publicized band wagon, I attempted to mask my inevitable skepticism with a forced calmness. ...And then a revelation. Heath Ledger graced the screen with an almost unrecognizable portrayal of the Joker and I was sold. Next stop: Oscar.

8. Sex and the City: The Movie
While most boys were counting down the days till the latest batman installment, I was anticipating a very different movie. Ever since Carrie Bradshaw packed up her Manolo Blahniks on HBO's hit comedy, I've been going through Sex withdrawals. Seriously, my palms were sweaty and I had the shakes! Then, after what felt like a decade, I saw it! Make no mistake, it wasn't the best picture ever made (and doesn't hold a candle near the series). However, like a drunken night after the Beta Kappa luau, it certainly was satisfying.

7. Doubt
Is there anything Meryl Streep can't do? I'm convinced that woman could portray William Howard Taft and still be nominated for an Oscar. As my previous blog expressively implies, I was beyond impressed with Michael Patrick Shanley's stage-to-screen adaptation. Everything from the writing to the performances deserves praise, especially having dealt with such a controversial subject matter. I have no, um, doubt that it'll get kudos come award season. By the way, that "doubt" pun never gets old. Okay, maybe it does....

6. Wall-E
Who knew robots could be this cute? I was under the impression that most robots were either terrifying (the Terminator), creepy (Hayley Joel Osment in 'A.I.') or gay (C-3PO). Yet, Wall-E proved that it doesn't take many characters or excessive dialogue to create a heartfelt story. Hell, I even rooted for the nasty-ass cockroach. Pixar proves once again that they're the masters behind well-made animation films. Now, if they could only make a film about a tape worm on a whimsical quest in a digestive tract...

5. Milk
"My name is Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you". Just hearing Sean Penn say these words sends a shiver down my spine. Initially, I walked into this film with relatively little knowledge of Harvey Milk. I knew he was a gay activist. I knew he was assassinated. Beyond that, I wasn't too familiar with his political background. Then, this 2 hour and 8 minute film did something I didn't expect... it became a stirring admonition on the participatory political process, and an unspoken incitement to get involved.

4. Rachel Getting Married
Have I ever mentioned that I'm an Anne Hathaway fan? It's true, I can't make this stuff up. Therefore, when I finally stumbled upon the trailer for this Jonathan Demme film, I was obviously elated. My favorite gal pal doing what she does best - acting! However, after screening the movie in its entirety, I discovered that it was much more than the Anne Hathaway show. The story was beautifully written and the film was well crafted. It was the best looking home video I've ever seen.

3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Three hours is excruciatingly long for any movie. I coped through Titanic. I forgave all three Lord of the Rings. I suffered through King Long (er, Kong...). And it's safe to say that Australia and I aren't talking. Therefore, you can imagine my hesitation when I heard Button was another epic long film. Yet, somewhere between my hesitation and Brad Pitt's lips, I seem to have moved beyond any weariness and into complete awe. Having seen it twice, I can honestly say it's the best epic I've seen in years... with a Brad Pitt cherry on top.

2. Slumdog Millionaire
A little over 3 months ago, I was invited to a special screening of this movie. After one look at the poster, I dismissed the invitation assuming it revolved around some sort of marathon and its million dollar prize (Doesn't it look that way??). Little did I know, this film would eventually become a cinematic phenomenon and a Best Picture front runner. This is a prime example why someone should never judge a book, or movie, by its cover. Now if you don't mind, I must go put all my eggs in one basket, cross a bridge before I get there, and cry over spilt milk.

1. Happy-Go-Lucky
I'm not sure why, but I've gotten into the habit of choosing feel-good comedies as my favorite movies of the year. Two years ago, I picked Little Miss Sunshine. Last year, Juno. Now, I've gotten so blatantly obvious, I went and selected a film with happiness smack down in the title. Mike Leigh's film about an excessively peppy school teacher, named Poppy, did what so many films neglect to do -- open the audience's eyes. After seeing the film, I attempted to see the world the way Poppy does. Carefree and positive. However, after a mere two days, I aborted the experiment. I'm sorry, but I'm convinced Poppy was popping Percocet...

Anyway, I say in complete honesty, Happy-Go-Lucky is a film that deserves to be seen. Still feeling hesitant? Perhaps Poppy's worldview optimism is exactly what you need.


Monday, January 12, 2009

The Belfast Invasion

When the words 'house guests' are immediately mentioned, most people have the tendency to become stricken by instantaneous exhaustion, needless worrying, and an inevitable urge to be as hospitable as possible. Two weeks ago was no exception. Upon returning from Christmas break, I was introduced to a brand new clan of characters. Jessi, my alcoholic roommate, had previously spent an entire year in Ireland where she was fortunate enough to befriend a hand full of international natives. Being the devoted chums that they are, they packed their best vacation attire, braved the 10 hour transcontinental flight, and took America by storm.

Initially, I wasn't really prepared of what to expect. I mean, I've heard horror stories of the Irish. They're needlessly vicious, speak with almost undecipherable accents, and can drink circles around any Joe Shmo. However, after spending a significant amount of time with them, I was pleasantly proven wrong (well, except for the drinking part...)

Within the week, not only did I get to know each of them on an individual basis, friendships were actually developed. We talked. We ate. We even had a few drinks. Then, like the analytical inebriate I am, I started thinking about friendships. How many friends can you sincerely call "actual friends"? We all have acquaintances, we have old colleagues, school friends, frienemies, and stand-alone buddies. Yet, the friends we tend to connect with are few and far between. Ordinarily, it would take me a good chunk of time to develop a friendship. Genuine relationships aren't built on a whim, they need to be watered and nourished. It usually takes time for that mutual connection switch to click on. However, when opportunity meets wine, something rare can happen -- you can connect with someone instantly.

It can't be explained. Perhaps the planets were aligned and the universe took advantage of the moment. Perhaps the Irish have some sort of voodoo magic they smuggled into the U.S. (and by "magic", I mean whiskey). Or perhaps, as I make my way into a brand new year, my previous post proves true and I'm finally able to see life in a positive light.

Let's just hope that light lasts. I think it will. It has to.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

2009's the New Black

This morning I had an epiphany. Perhaps it's because I've been hanging out with the Irish lately or maybe it's because I've had rose-colored glasses permanently implanted on my face. Either way, I've recently become consciously aware of my daily outlook on life. I've come to realize that every detail of my actions and second of my thoughts correlates to a certain preconceived outcome. Sheesh, I'm like a freakin' billboard for The Secret! However, I believe they actually have something there ("secret", my ass).

As the New Year kicks off in full gear, I've encountered a myriad of people proclaiming that 2009's gonna "kick 2008's butt". They admit 2008 was undeniably miserable and have positive hopes for the future. Well, that's all fine and dandy, but how positive can anyone be starting a new year when their memories of the last is tainted? That's a lot of unnecessary baggage to be carrying around, don't you think?

I'm not saying I'm any better. A year ago I posted a blog that fits seamlessly within the accused. I was all too eager to say, "fuck you 2007" and expect 2008 to treat me any better. Therefore, I'm taking action. I'm learning from my mistakes and taking the proverbial high road. Wow, look at that.... I must be growing up.

So, 2008: Thank you for a fantastic year. We've had quite the journey. Though you've posed a lot of obstacles and challenges, I've gained more than you could possibly know. I've appreciated every second you've given me. And now, as I carefully tuck my memories into my traveling suitcase, I must bid you farewell. A new year has arrived and she's calling out to me.

Happy New Year. Here's to good health and the days.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Year-in-Review

Can you believe a whole year has gone by? It feels like just yesterday I purchased my Manduka high performance yoga mat half-off from Target (only to be untouched for 11 months...). Now, 2009 has snuck out of nowhere and I'm confronted with the inevitable resolutionatory question. I find that New Years is front-loaded with arbitrary expectations that tend to disappoint. How many times can one person swear the oath of exercise?

However, I had a good time last year. I met a few friends, had a drink or two, and avoided waking up in a stranger's bedroom. That's grounds for celebration! In fact, I'm banking on a similar finale this year...

On another note, I'm ├╝ber excited to take down my Christmas decorations. In all actuality, I tend to think of my roommates as yuletide bulimics. They tend to go inappropriately overboard on the paper snowflakes, ornaments, etc. In fact, I've purposely avoided the front room in fear of becoming momentarily blind. Yes. It's true.

Okay, resolutions: Last year, I made a resolution to purchase a 3-piece suit for the obligatory job interview. However, the closest I came to a suit was a $10 jumper from Buffalo Exchange. Does that count? I did, though, make good on a few other resolutions. Screenplay. Check. Website. Check. Read two books a month. 1/2 check. Treat myself more. Double check.

My 2008: Expensive.

This year, I resolve to fix any mistakes I made last year, try my hand at that contraption called a stove, and find a boy (easier said...). I will write more. And I'm gonna shoot for the friggin' stars if it kills me (John Glenn, watch out!).

And this, my friends, was random babbling from yours truly. Hey, I had to start off the year somehow....