Weekly Adventure: Colm Tóibín at the Paula Cooper Gallery

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Almost 8 years ago (!), when I was studying abroad at University College Cork, my contemporary Irish literature professor assigned Blackwater Lightship, and since then I have been mildly obsessed with its author Colm Tóibín. I’ve been working my way through all of his books (and they range in genre including short stories, novels, memoirs, and literary criticism.) I’ve loved all of them. Many of them fall into the category of “things that are too important to me for me to write about in any coherent fashion.”

So instead, I will just give you my three favorite quotes from last night, remind you that sometimes it is great to meet your heroes (he was so kind and I’m inspired to write for the first time in ages), and tell you all to go buy his new book, or any of his old books.

“A novel loves money, it loves disappointment, it loves a marriage, it loves a marriage that does not happen.” – On novels as secular spaces

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Follow up: “So on page 6, I rid of the gods.” 

“If you’re a novelist, the most interesting part of a story is the blurred figure in the photograph.”

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Related: The Story of Night (a beautiful book about a gay man in Argentina) is “about someone who has not spoken before but must now speak”

Where I’m from the men didn’t say much, but the women would all be talking all at the same time.” – on why he writes with such power (to borrow a phrase from a question asker) in the voices of women

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Thing I Love: Sing Street

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Full disclosure to start, Irish director John Carney‘s previous musicals (especially Oncebut also the underrated Begin Again) are in my personal pantheon of pop culture that I love so much I find it hard to write about. (Also in there? Say Anything, Our TownTwin Peaks“, and George Michael.) So, when I first heard about Sing Streethis new one about a group of Irish teenagers starting a New Wave band to escape the dreariness of being at a Christian Brothers school in Dublin in 1985, I bought my ticket at Alamo before even watching the trailer.

And, while it doesn’t have the star power of Begin Again or or the (heart wrenching) emotional realism of Once. It has the soul I’ve come to expect from Carney, and it taps into the joy (and confusion) of being a teenager with a dream, when you’re still too young to know any better. It reminded me a lot of The Commitments  with a genre swap. (One of the original Committmentettes – Maria Doyle Kennedy – plays the main boy Conor’s (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) mom!)

What I love about this (beyond the fact that its an Irish musical, which means I’m pretty much automatically all in), is the ways that is comes close to cliches and then surpasses them. Like Jack Reynor as the older brother/musical sage, he could have been simply goofy comic relief, but Reynor plays him with so much sadness just under the surface that he broke my heart.

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And Raphina (Lucy Boynton) – the model that inspires not just the music but the band itself – could just be a manic pixie dream girl, but Carney wrote her as a real human, who is just as lost and confused as the other kids.

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Also, thank you casting people, this is what teenagers look like.

And the songs are great, but they sound like something kids (especially insightful kids I’ll grant), would actually write:

Look, this movie just made me, really happy (even though it is steeped in that quintessentially Irish theme of leaving and being left behind.) And like Carney’s previous movies, really made me wish I was a musician. Because I love the montages of them writing songs (a classic Carney trope at this point) and the grin on bassist Eamon’s (Mark McKenna) face when Conor comes to the door and asks him if he wants to write a song is the most irresistible thing I’ve seen in a while. (The answer is, “Always.”)

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Award Show Round Up: Academy Awards 2016

Sorry about the delay in getting this posted you guys. I was waiting on the Academy to upload the legal videos of the acceptance speeches to YouTube (I feel like they did it faster last year, but whatever I’ll do what I can and update this post when they’re out.)

As you know, I went with some friends to watch this show at the Violet Crown Cinema in Austin, which was really fun. I highly recommend getting dressed up, drinking champagne and enjoying the Oscars as a communal experience. As for the actual show, my highlights were:

Chris Rock’s opening monologue:

I thought he addressed the controversy well, and managed to be funny at the same time, which is hard. And I liked that he never undercut any individual winner’s moment, but also never let the audience get too comfortable. (Though, to quote Emily Nussbaum on Twitter – “Some thins are about sexism though.” And not to get on my high horse, but as I was talking about with my dad the other day: The problem is not with asking a woman about her clothes.-See my list of pretty dresses at the bottom of this post-It’s about reducing a woman, being celebrated for being at the top of her professional game, to her clothes, designed by someone else and (most likely) chosen by another someone else. That’s a problem. And frankly it’s lazy to pretend that men all wear the same thing because of some inherent trait. I’m not going to go into centuries of feminist theory, but ever think of why the women are asked to wear more ornate clothes Mr. Rock?) Anyway, rant over. He was funny, and I loved the Girl Scouts.

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The night began with a win for Spotlight, which was great and then we had a few hours (seemingly) of people thanking George Miller. This woman was my favorite:

(I didn’t notice while I was watching, but apparently a lot of people didn’t clap for her. Including my nemsis (though he doesn’t know this, and he gave a lovely speech on Sunday – Alejandro González Iñárritu – I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say it’s a long walk for her to get to the stage and they were done polite clapping. Also – sorry for another feminist rant – but enough with the headlines calling her a bag lady. She wears what she wants.)

Amid the Mad Max sweep there was this glorious moment:

And this one:

Louis C.K. came out and was funny:


And more importantly, gave an Oscar to Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who is a bad ass. (Side note to the Academy orchestra, I know you’re trying to finish the show on-time, but don’t play over someone talking about honor killings. We can all wait 2 extra seconds to get to that – admittedly funny – Kohl’s commercial.)

I fell in love with the Irish winner for Best Live Action Short film:

And was super (happily) surprised that Mark Rylance got to go up on stage and be delightful at the Oscars (a little bummed he didn’t recite a poem though):

(Sorry Sly…)

Bree was adorable as always! And Leo, was pefectly Leo-esque:

And then, I of course, was thrilled that Spotlight took home the big one (I may have shrieked and thrown my arms up in the air, but I was a few glasses of prosseco in at that point):

But, the most emotional part of the night for me, was Lady Gaga’s performance (and Joe Biden’s important words before it):

(Sorry about the weird video…hopefully will have an official one to post soon.)

I’m actually angry that Sam Smith won. (Not because he thinks he’s the 1st openly gay Oscar winner when that is far from the truth, but because his song is forgettable, and what Gaga is singing about is fucking important, and the Academy missed an opportunity for no reason.)

Anyway, this is an akward segue, but there were some really pretty dresses. It was actually hard to chose a manageable number to share:

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Cate Blanchett in Armani Prive (Photo Credit: Steve Grantiz/WireImage/Getty Images)

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Margot Robbie in Tom Ford (Photo Credit: Getty/Tom Williamson)

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Jennifer Garner in Versace (Photo Credit: Getty/Jason Merritt)

(Otherwise known as the best ” I refuse to be the ashes.” dress ever.)

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Brie Larson in Gucci (Photo Credit: ABC)

(I also liked her after party look – not often someone can pull off head-to-toe pastel velvet.)

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Olivia Munn in Stella McCartney (Photo Credit: Vogue)

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Naomi Watts in Armani Prive (Photo Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

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Saoirse Ronan in Calvin Klein Collection (Photo Credit: Getty/Jason Merritt)

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Jennifer Jason Leigh in Marchesa (Photo Credit: Jason Merritt/Getty)

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Daisey Ridley in Chanel Haute Couture (Photo Credit: Getty/Steve Granitz)

 

 

Weekly Adventure: Riverdance 20 at the Long Center

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The February/midterm duldrums have hit pretty bad. The weather (until today anyway) has been lovely, but I can’t seem to get myself to feel energized about school and work right now. But on Thursday of this past week, I got a lovely jolt of energy by taking my friends Karen and Jamie to see Riverdance at at the Long Center.

I first saw Riverdance, when I was little (like 8 or 9) and I completely fell in love with it. I think I saw it more than once, I definitely saw the knock off shows that toured after it (I especially remember something called The Spirit of the Dance that included a really badly thought out mashup of “Danny Boy” and an original tune, the lead dancer sang and well, she was a great dancer.) It also motivated me to start taking Irish step dance (because “riverdance” is not actually what the style is called) classes, I even competed in it for a bit.

So, needless to say I was excited when I saw that it was coming to town. But then I also got a little nervous. Could it possibly be as thrilling as I remembered? Would it just seem hokey and repetitive now?

Well, that was a dumb worry, because while there are strange interstitial musical numbers and the vaguest possible interpretation of Celtic myth/Irish history, the dancing is still so incredibly impressive and I was just as in awe of the performers as I had been as a kid.

Also, this sequence will always be one of my favorite pieces of choreography ever:

Award Show Round Up: BAFTAs 2016

So, my livestream of BBC America was suuuper sketchy. Like my computer for sure has viruses now, and it kept cutting out. So, I had to sort of cobble together a picture of last night’s BAFTAs. (The internet tells me it was mostly about Rebel Wilson having questionable decorum, which like, that’s sort of her thing I don’t know why we’re shocked.)

Anyway, Stephen Fry returned as host once again. As always, I found him exceedingly charming, despite his casual anti-American attitude. (I’ll allow it during the British Academy Awards anyway…)

I’m so excited Brooklyn won Best British Film. It was maybe my favorite movie going experience of last year, and I’m glad it got some awards love. (Though the Irish-American girl in me thinks it’s hilarious that it won in the British category…)

The EE Rising Star Award is always really fun. And last night it included my love Jack O’Connell and the always winning John Boyega:

(Sorry about the weird interview footage, I couldn’t find a better clip of this.)

Although I think Alicia Vikander was robbed for Supporting Actress (she just wasn’t British enough I guess), but I love the Titanic reunion this awards season has become:

Side note: What’s with the dude next to Leo’s tie?

Brie won as well, because of course, but she’s apparently filming some gorilla movie in Australia, so the very charming Lenny Abramhamson accepted on her behalf:

Sidney Poitier makes accepting awards awkwardly in your living room look natural. He deserves every award ever:

It looks like we have a dead heat between Spotlight and The Revenant for Oscar Best Picture. I’m pulling for Spotlight, but if we have to split Writing/Picture then I’m OK with this split:

But not so OK that I’m going to link Inarritu’s speeches. Because I may like this one film, but he still bothers me. (I know this is irrational.)

It was not the best fashion night. In general I found the dresses either too simple or overly embellished (I know, I know I sound like Goldilocks), but there some standouts:

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Saoirse Ronan in Burberry (Photo Credit: CelebMafia)

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Julianne Moore in Armani Privé (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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Kate Winslet in Antonio Berardi with Michael Fassbender (Photo Credit: Getty/Ivan Gavan)

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Isla Fisher in Stella McCartney (Photo Credit: Getty/David M. Benett)

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Luciana Barroso in Versace and Matt Damon (Photo Credit: PA)

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Bel Rowley in Gucci (Photo Credit: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock)

And the Nominees Are 2016: Round 1

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…awards season! I’ve  seen a bunch of the SAG and Golden Globe nominees already, and have a pretty long break ahead of me to catch up on the rest.

Here’s what I’ve seen so far:

Love & Mercy 

love2band2bmercy2bposter Based on the trailer, and my knowledge of Brian Wilson’s mental illness I was really worried that this was going to be crushing, but it wasn’t. Paul Dano (Golden Globe nominee) and John Cusack were excellent at inhabiting Wilson’s fragile genius. And what’s great is that because of the strength and grace of Wilson’s second wife Melinda (Elizabeth Banks), you don’t leave feeling weighed down by the sadness of what Wilson had to endure. At least I didn’t, at least one person who I talked to found this overwhelmingly sad, which makes sense given that he had to deal with child abuse, mental illness, addiction, manipulation, and over medication. But the central love story left me with the feeling that the world is filled with more love and mercy that we often remember.

(Side note: I think “God Only Knows” is one of those songs that I’m convinced was transmitted by angels or aliens or something. It’s supernaturally good.)

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The Martian

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 If you listen to my podcast, then you know I had a lot of trouble with the excruciating level of technical detail in this book. (It suffers from what I refer to as Moby Dick syndrome –  just tell. me. the. damn. story.) But, that’s exactly what the movie does. (Though, conversely, there is one time jump in the movie that I think leaves out entirely too much detail…but now I’m just being a Goldilocks.)

This is a good old fashioned, feel-good adventure story, it’s basically Robinson Crusoe without the racism. And it pulls that off beautifully.

In a really great way the effects, though handled well, don’t even really matter, this is a movie about characters and even the bit players (oh hey there, Donald Glover) are awesome. But let’s be real, you’re gonna love or hate this based on Matt Damon and he delivers. The movie doesn’t drag for a second and that is because he makes you care about Mark Watney (even if he is a nerdy UChicago smartass.)

Side Note: I also found it refreshing that they didn’t shoehorn in a romance for him, single people have just as much motivation to survive as married ones, but Hollywood doesn’t usually tell their stories well.

ng8zspcv4wubkb28zeyy Spy

mv5bnji5otq0mdqxm15bml5banbnxkftztgwmzcwnjmynte-_v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_ I take notes throughout the year on movies that I think will get nominations so that I’ll remember my impressions when I come to write this first post of awards season, but the Hollywood Foreign Press threw me for a loop by nominating actual broad comedies in the Comedy/Musical categories this year. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is great, but I didn’t take notes on Spy, because I didn’t think I would be writing about it. Thankfully, Miró and I did talk about it on our Summer Movies episode of MttM, so I can direct you all there for more thoughts on it.   But I will say I love Melissa McCarthy, and she and Rose Byrne had wonderful comic chemistry. It was delightful to see Miranda Hart in a Hollywood movie, and Jason Statham is excellent at self-parody.

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Trainwreck

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Now this one (also discussed in the above mentioned podcast episode) I could have sworn I took notes on, but they are nowhere to be found. Suffice to say, this movie is pretty great. And though I don’t always agree with everything Amy Schumer says/does, I love her unapologetic spirit and the mix of bawdiness and vulnerability in this movie is perfect. Judd Apatow basically makes movies about people that are stuck in extended adolescence that need to grow up. I love that with this movie they showed that is not a distinctly male experience. Also, Bill Hader, believable as a romantic lead. Who woulda thunk it?

Side Note: LeBron James, great as a sidekick.

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 Steve Jobs 

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Right up front – I love The Social NetworkI once got in a debate in my film criticism class senior year of college about why it definitely deserved to win Best Picture over The King’s Speech(I also had a couple of very tense conversations with very good friends about this subject. For the record, I like The King’s Speech.) So I wanted to love Steve Jobs, because Aaron Sorkin and technology and people walking through tight hallways discussing inventing the world I grew up in.

And…well…I think the acting was phenomenal. Michael Fassbender made me forget what the real Steve Jobs even looked like by completely inhabiting this brilliant asshole. Kate Winslet was wonderful as Joanna Hoffman, though she seemed to be Benjamin Buttoning in terms of her age and accent.The real standouts for me were Seth Rogen (as Steve Wozniak) and Jeff Daniels (as John Sculley) who both play people arguably better at their jobs than Jobs, but lacking in vision.

Although I know, from having been alive, the happy ending and living mythology that Jobs enjoyed in the 21st century the movie ends at the brink of that. And I found myself wondering more about the people Steve left in the wake of his ambition than the man himself. Though I really enjoyed the line Sorkin gives to him inn his rooftop scene of reconciliation with his daughter – “I was made badly.” Yes, it could be about a product, but despite his claims otherwise, in many ways Jobs was his own product. We talk about him like he was a genius, partly because he told us he was one. And he was really good at designing and selling a story.

This isn’t really about the movie, which is structurally interesting and emotionally complex, but I left with this nagging feeling in my gut. In the last product launch we’re shown clips of “Think Different” icons from MLK to Muhammad Ali, and it’s not a big leap to think that we’re supposed to put Jobs in that pantheon. But, genius he may have been, Jobs was selling us a product. He was a businessman not a revolutionary, and it makes my skin crawl a bit to see him treated as a prophet.

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ROOM

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The voice of this novel is so distinct that I was very worried when I heard they were adapting it into a movie. But then I saw that they had cast Brie Larson as Ma & I was in. And, I was right. Watiching this movie (like reading the book) is like getting repeatedly punched in the stomach. And it manages to both, hang on to the child’s eye story (through the almost luminescent Jacob Tremblay) by never leaving Jack’s side, and give me a fuller picture of Ma’s struggle to both provide what her child needs (safety, warmth, and fun) and a means to escape her captivity.

Actually seeing Sean Bridgers as ‘Old Nick,’ was a startling experience for me. I had turned him into a monster in my head while reading the book, (Because, of course, he is one) but seeing how remarkably normal he looks was a chilling reminder that evil, even building a hostage cell in your backyard level evil, comes in packages that can deceive us. Because he is a human, a terrible one, but a human and that’s fucking scary. (Also refreshing, they didn’t need to show us the rape scenes to make it clear that it was traumatic and awful.) This was a visceral experience for me, I cried a lot, and my heart raced, but it was worth it.

To end on a happier note, because the movie is ultimately hopeful- Joan Allen and (new to me) Tom McCamus were like rays of (tired) sunshine in this.

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Brooklyn

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OK, so this book is one of my all time favorites (written by my favorite living writer.) So, I was worried when this was being adapted, but then I saw the trailer, and it is amazing. Like, my mental image of Jim Farrell (Domnhall Gleeson) had brown hair, but other than that this basically exactly what I pictured.

And the movie itself, while obviously condensed, so perfectly captured the sweetness and melancholy of Eilis’s (Saorise Ronan) story of emigration from Ireland to Brooklyn in 1952. I’ve always loved this character because she feels like a real person that you don’t see often in books or movies. She’s careful without being boring and charming without being the life of the party. She’s something between a beauty queen and a wallflower, you know, like a real person.

Overall, the movie felt old fashioned, in a lovely way. Eilis meets her adorable love interest Tony (Emory Cohen) at a parish dance, but also in the way it is centered around an emotional story, which we don’t make big sweeping movies like this about that any more.

A family friend who we ran into at the theater called this a “woman’s movie” in a disparaging way. All I have to say to that is – it certainly is a movie about a woman, that takes the concerns of her life seriously and includes tragedy and love. And if that’s inherently dismissable to you, then I don’t know why you, then I don’t know why you’re reading this blog.

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Spotlight 

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I was so worried during the first 15 minutes of this movie, it had been so built up for me, and at first it felt so…slow isn’t the right word. Quiet might be better. Or conventional, maybe. The acting was good and the story important, but I just didn’t think it could live up to the hype. And then it did.

It felt slow, because this story unfolded slowly (as a character remarks early on – “the Church thinks in centuries,” well this scandal worked in decades.)

Tom McCarthy (director and co-writer) makes the interesting choice of starting in the past (in 1976) with a snapshot of a priest walking out of a police precinct and lingering on the face of a desk sergeant realizing that this is how it works. The movie is really exceptional in that, despite being about a salacious scandal, it never stoops to tabloid cliché. Although the scenes depicting victims telling their stories are emotional gut punches they are straight forward and allowed to stand on their own without underscoring or other cinematic emotional manipulation.

And it also does a good job of making it clear that though blame for the abuse ultimately lies with the priests everyone else was turning a blind eye. The movie is really about the influence of the church in a city like Boston, but I also think it illustrates that people don’t want to believe this story could be true. Despite (or maybe because of) truly remarkable performances from the whole ensemble (particularly Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and my fellow Northwestern alum Brian d’Arcy James), this is a truly uncomfortable movie, even when you know what they are going to find watching the magnitude be uncovered is so sickening and heartbreaking. But it also feels important. Part of what the Spotlight team did was keep the story on the front page for over a year, and this movie will hopefully help do that again.

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Bridge of Spies

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I can’t lie, I wasn’t going to see this before Mark Rylance started getting nominated for it. I’m not sure why, I love Steven Spielberg, especially in combination with Tom Hanks, but the trailers for this just didn’t grab me. (And let’s be real that is a dumb movie title. I’ve seen this and liked it, and still ton’t think I want to see something called “Bridge of Spies.”)

Remember last year when I complained about how Unbroken felt old fashioned and propagandistic? Well so did this, but in a way I can totally get behind. It can be hard to be an informed liberal and still be proud to be an American, but stories like this (‘inspired by true events’) help me to remember how. As Hanks’s character James Donovan puts it, what makes us American is “the rulebook” (aka the Constitution) not any one race, religion, etc. and that means we use it (and the 4th Amendment protections it provides) for everyone even those who don’t believe in it/we don’t trust. Because no matter how scared we are, we can’t forget who we are, which seems depressingly relevant today.

Enough pontificating – Rylance is great as Hanks’s suspected Soviet spy client and the two of them have a great energy as scene partners. Overall, it’s a little over-grey toned at points, but visually interesting. And I appreciated that this shows espionage to be a lot of walking around and cryptic conversations rather than jumping out of places. It’s like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy without Le Carré’s crushing cynicism, because this is Spielberg after all.

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A Very Murray Christmas

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What a delightful little trifle (I’ve never used that phrase before I don’t think, but it really felt apt here.) It’s frankly hilarious to me that Bill Murray got a SAG nomination for this, not that he isn’t great, he is the quirky, mopey, lovable old mean drunk he’s convinced us all he is in the last 15 years or so, but this just doesn’t feel like something that would even get submitted to awards committees, but I’m glad it was because I watched it while baking cookies and it struck the perfect chord of cheer, melancholy and nostalgia.

There’s a great old-timey feel to the whole thing, and like all good classic variety specials it is carried by the cameos: Chris Rock and George Clooney are charming, Jason Schwartzman and Rashida Jones are adorable, Miley Cyrus is clothed and crazy talented. But my favorites have to be Jenny Lewis and Maya Rudolph.

While the dream sequence is great campy, fun, my favorite moment is this sing-a-long of a melancholy Christmas classic:

Side note: This is no tied with The Bling Ring for my favorite Sophia Coppola movie.

(This post was crazy long. If you made it this far – thank you!)

Weekly Adventure: Thanksgiving East Coast Adventures

So, it’s finals. And I didn’t really have time to fly home last week for Thanksgiving, but it’s been a rough semester and I needed a break, so I did.

After a long traffic jam/drive home from the airport on Wednesday, I made my Dad drive me to, Modern Apizza, the best thin crust in the world (in my correct opinion).

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Which kicked off a lovely 4 days of eating way too much, but being pretty happy about it. Thanksgiving itself was at my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Charlie’s house, we had a small group, but a lovely table.

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This is one of my favorite family picture ever, I’m just sad Garrett and Kate weren’t there to join us.

And, of course, there was my dad’s pie:

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On the Friday after, my mom and I and Nancy went to see Brooklyn, which is great, and I will blog about in a few weeks after it gets nominated for awards.

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Then that night I taught my parents how to use their Roku (my dad is now obsessed with Man in the High Castle, which I also like but find very hard to watch for more than an hour at a time.) And met Hanna for dinner at a new place in New Haven, Tarry Lodge, which is a Mario Batali restaurant. The food was good, but I’m not gonna lie, I was surprised to see a celebrity chef thinking of New Haven as a market.

On Saturday, my parents and I met our family friend Mary (or as I refer to her, my NYC godmother Baboo) for a trip to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

IMG_4189 I had read a lot about this place in my Historical Museums class. (Like a lot. Like every time an article would start talking about equal representation or a socially conscious museum it would cite the Tenement Museum.) We went on the “Irish Outsiders” tour, which told the story of a real Irish family (the Moores) who lived in the building in the 1860s. It was a German building, the Moores were not popular. The tour was story based and interactive, at times it felt a little forced but mostly it was engaging (our guide was wonderful) and thought provoking. I want to go back and go on the other tours. (And it would be pretty amazing to work at a place like that in the future.)

We then went for a great lunch at the Stanton Social, where I later learned on Instagram Retta also ate that day. Because my family and I are trendsetters clearly.

Then my Dad headed back to CT to take care of the dog (whom I didn’t manage to take any pictures of this trip, which is a travesty I will rectify over Christmas.) And Mary took my Mom and I to our new favorite New York place, The Campbell Apartment, which is in Grand Central, used to be an apartment, and is the prettiest place I’ve ever had a martini.

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Then my mom and I braved the rain (OK a light drizzle) and the odds (but for real though). To try to win tickets to Hamilton. (I feel like if you read this blog, you already know I love Hamilton, not because I’ve written about it, but because it’s a musical about American History, which basically means it was created for me. But also, it was created for every one. It is amazing.)

I feel like my mother’s comment on my Facebook picture sums up the experience the best:

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And though we didn’t win, we did get to witness this:

Though our view looked more like this:

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We’re going to try again when I’m home for Christmas. We even kept our special ten dollar bills.

Best Picture Baking Project: Braveheart

IMG_4028   I have big paper draft due this evening, so naturally I spent a few hours this weekend rewatching Braveheart, and attempting to make something called a Scottish butter tablet. (The paper is sort of almost done now so it worked out…though the dessert didn’t especially.)

Had I seen this one before?

Yes. This is probably the first on my Best Picture Baking List that I can’t really be objective about. I’ve seen it many times. It is listed in my favorite movies on OKCupid. It speaks to my Celtic soul.

Top 3 observations on this viewing?

  1. Somehow, despite all of this, I can never remember the actual plot details of this film. I always skip from the beautiful Celtic handfasting secret wedding to the war (skipping the horrific death of Wallace’s wife). I always think the “They can take our lives” speech comes closer to the end (it’s actually at the dead middle), and the crazy plot turn which tries to imply that William Wallace fathers King Edward III, always slips my mind. Probably because it makes absolutely no sense. But the speech is stirring:

2. Hamish (Brendan Gleeson) and Stephen aka the Mad Irishman (David O’Hara) are great sidekicks. They aren’t given enough to say of course (this isn’t really a very talky movie despite it being famous for its rousing speeches, it’s mostly blood and grunting), but their expressions are priceless.

3. Mel Gibson is actually an incredibly talented actor. It’s too bad he’s a horrific person.

Also, those eyes….

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win?

Apollo 13 – I know I saw this as a child, I remember the montage at the end, I’m pretty sure it made both me and my mom cry.

Babe – I also haven’t seen this since I was little, but I just love that there was a time when a children’s film about a pig was nominated for multiple Academy Awards.

Il Postino: The Postman  – Never seen it, am not sure what it is.

Sense and Sensibility – Oooh, this is tough. I love and adore this movie and could probably recite parts of it. (I actually used to rent it every other week when I was a kid.) And Emma Thompson is one of my heroes.

Wow, what a stacked year! I guess Braveheart is the epic choice the Academy always seems to choose. I get more comfort from Sense and Sensibility, but in terms of Oscars I would choose Braveheart. 

Bechdel Test Pass?

Nope, there are 2 named ladies, who each fall in love with William. (There may be 3, the lady in waiting may have a name, but she doesn’t really have a personality so it doesn’t count.) And when the two women do talk to each other it is always about the powerful men jockeying for position around them.

Also, as homophobia is sexism adjacent, I couldn’t have given this movie a pass anyway because of the ridiculous portrayal of Prince Edward’s lover. Edward II may have been ineffectual but it was not because he sometimes slept with men.

In case you’ve never seen the film, this is the charming sequence where Edward’s father throws his lover out of a window

Scottish Butter Tablet

Ingredients 

  • 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 4 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
  • 1 dash of salt

Directions 

  • Generously butter a 13×18 in. baking pan
  • Stir together condensed milk, cream, sugar, salt, and butter in a large saucepan.
  • Place over medium heat, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  • When the mixture has reached a boil, turn heat to low
  • Continue cooking and stirring, until a candy thermometer reaches between 234 and 240 degrees F
  • Remove from heat, and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture cools and thickens. Stop beating when you can feel the mixture turn from smooth to grainy (*Stir for longer than you think, like seriously, if you think “Hey, I’ve been doing this for way too long,” then stir for like 10 more minutes.)
  • Pour into the prepared pan. (Don’t scrape any crystallized bits from the bottom of the pan, or it may cause the whole batch to crystallize.)
  • While still warm, score the tablet into 2-inch squares with the tip of a paring knife.
  • Allow to cool 6 hours to overnight until set.
  • Cut into squares with a serrated knife. (If it didn’t set, put it in the freezer, they won’t be squares, but they’ll still taste really good.)

Weekly Adventure: Austin City Limits Festival 2015

IMG_3620 Austin is famous for its live music and it’s festivals, and though I missed it last year, I was pretty excited about this year’s ACL lineup – mostly because of Hozier, but others too. I could only really give up one day of time so I chose yesterday.

I got to Zilker around 3:45 and got to catch the end of Sylvan Esso‘s set.

IMG_3587 I only really knew one of their songs, but I really liked their stage presence, and was glad I got to hear them play:

Then I wandered over to the next stage to see The Decemberists, who I had seen years ago at Dillo Day at Northwestern (I think), and then I saw just Colin Meloy a few years ago in Chicago, but I hadn’t seen the whole band together since I’ve been actually familiar with their music.

IMG_3604 They seemed to be having a lot of fun playing and it translated to the crowd, plus they had this awesome American Sign Language interpreter whom I was pretty obsessed with:

As often happens at festivals, I found myself watching the screen more than the stage, which is how I saw that Kelly Hogan was singing backup!!

IMG_3615 For those new to this blog, Kelly Hogan is one of my favorite musical artists of all time. (You can read about my love here and here and here and here and on a million of my playlist posts – most recently this one.) And while it was a real thrill to see her, I want a new Kelly Hogan record – so stop touring with your awesome friends a record one please!!

Even though she did get to hold this paper whale during The Mariner’s Revenge Song:

IMG_3624So that’s pretty fun. Also fun – singing along to this with a crowd, that won’t ever get old:

After this set I sort of wandered around, bought myself some junk food, and saw this awesome tip jar:

IMG_3629 Then I stumbled upon Vance Joy. He’s very pretty:

IMG_3631And I spent a few songs thinking I had made a great new discovery (even embarrassingly texting Julia so that she could be hip like me). Until he played this, and I was realized he’s famous:

But most of his stuff was new to me, so who cares. I particularly liked this one:

After his set, I thought about maybe going to see Of Monsters and Men play, but decided instead to stake out a spot for Hozier, because I am not proud about how excited I was to be close to him. I did pretty well:

IMG_3646 By the time he took the stage, my feet hurt and I was tired, but then he started to sing and I forgot all about it:

This review sums up my feelings pretty well (except it doesn’t mention the tears, there were some tears). But like, how could there not be:

IMG_3663 Aside from his incredibly lyrics (something new jumps out at me every time as my new favorite line), I was really impressed last night by his talent as a guitarist, which I don’t think comes up enough when we talk about him.

You can see from his hair how much he was moving

You can see from his hair how much he was moving

He did a couple of really great covers, including one of an Ariana Grande song, and this one:

I’ve talked a lot, both on the blog and off it, about how powerful I find the experience of singing communally, and I know it’s putting too fine a point on it, but singing with Hozier and the rest of the crowd last night really felt like, well, church:

And then, because I couldn’t remember a single Strokes song, and all I know about The Weeknd is that he’s dating one of the Hadid girls, I went home, floating on a Hozier buzz.

Weekly Adventure: Viva Big Bend 2015

Right before I arrived in Austin almost a year ago (!), my friends who lived here had just returned from a festival out in West Texas, called Viva Big Bend and they wouldn’t shut up about it. So when they all said they were caravaning out to do it again this year I couldn’t wait to join. Viva is a small festival that temporarily takes over the small towns of Alpine and Marfa for live music and general camaraderie.

I’d never been to West Texas before, but thankfully a few of my friends grew up in Alpine so we had excellent guides. (And a lovely place to stay – thank you Mr. and Mrs. Fuentez!) We did a ton, and the vibe is sort of hard to describe, but here are a selection of the nearly 200 pictures that I took on the trip (there are more on Facebook if we are friends/you are interested.)

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From the drive out, this was right after Sal informed us we were “officially in West Texas”

Our first stop was the spring fed pool at Balmorhea, which was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and the water was ridiculously cool and clear.

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Photo Credit: Miró Cassetta

The drive from Balmorhea to Alpine was through the mountains, that were unlike any landscape I had ever seen before. They reminded me almost of the cliffs near the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, but stuck in the middle of a desert. It was surreal and gorgeous.

IMG_2878 Our first night in town we headed over to Padre’s in Marfa, where my friends worked out some unresolved shuffleboard tension from last year, and we watched the excellent Sarah Jaffe bring the house down.  IMG_2910

After that we headed back to the legendary Railroad Blues in Alpine, where Austin based Shinyribs, introduced us to the song of the trip:

As far as we know he doesn’t receive any money from Donut Taco Palace for this (though he should – that’s a catchy jingle.)

The next day Victoria, Stephanie and I attempted to go to the Chinati Foundation’s tour of the amazing sculpture and art around Marfa, but we didn’t quite make it in time, but we did get to look at some of Donald Judd’s 15 Untitled Works in Concrete, which are pretty impressive.

IMG_2916 We then wandered around downtown Marfa for a bit and found our way into the Paisano Hotel, where Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson lived when they were filming Giant.IMG_2930

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They were selling this at the gift shop…I’ll let you Google what it’s supposed to mean.

That afternoon we made our way to the Big Bend Brewing Company for a delicious tasting at the country’s most remote brewery (you can buy their beer in Austin now and you should it’s really good!)

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Photo Credit: Nice lady who saw us struggling with Ralph’s selfie stick

That night we went back to Marfa to have a drink in this tipi (which is one of the things I had been hearing about since last year, that totally lived up to the hype).

Photo Credit: Sal Fuentez

Photo Credit: Sal Fuentez

Then we drove to the McDonald Observatory for the Star Party. Which was awesome, but I have no pictures of because it was dark and you can’t really take pictures of stars with an iPhone 4, but if you’re ever out there it’s worth checking out.

Saturday morning we drove out to Big Bend itself and once again I was completely blown away by the landscape. And I somehow managed to not get sunburned, which is a feat for me, considering I’m paler than a ghost and the sun was unlike anything I had ever felt before, but the beauty was worth it.

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Photo Credit: Sal Fuentez

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Busting out crow on the side of the Basin

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Chilling (literally) in the shade at the bottom of the Santa Elana Canyon (we’re looking across the river to Mexico)

IMG_2985  After a long ride back, some storm clouds and bumps in the road, we ended our last night with two great Austin bands that got us dancing. First I attempted to learn how to cumbia to Grupo Fantasma: IMG_3047 

And then we headed back to the Blues for Soul Track Mind‘s packed set:

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FYI: They are my new favorite band

It was an amazing, action packed trip but I still feel like there was stuff I didn’t do. (The tour in Marfa for one.) And I definitely plan on returning for Viva 2016.