Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Movie Reviews

Greetings! They say "write what you know" and I figured no one would care to read about how many times my dog has peed today, so movies it is!

I am a certified movie buff (at least that’s what the guy said after I paid him $100 and he took a picture of me topless next to a projector reel). I love watching them, dissecting them and wishing I looked more like Scarlett Johansson in The Avengers. Justin suggested I write about the movies I’ve seen - I suspect so I wouldn’t talk his ear off after seeing a movie. Opinions are my own and probably not even that good.

I rented this last week and watched it at home; I really wish I would have seen it in the theater. I heard how amazing the 3D was, how well it served the story, how seamless it was. It must have been phenomenal 3D because without it, the story didn’t grab me. I thought I’d love it because it’s partly about the early days of the cinema. But the majority of the film focused on young, orphaned Hugo trying to fix an Animatronic robot his dad had been working on before he died. For being billed as a children’s film, it moved incredibly slow at times. Bonus points, however for the appearance of a Harry Potter alum (Helen McCrory, as Ben Kingsley’s wife, portrayed Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films.)

The Hustler
 This movie has been on my list for a long time because a) I’ve heard it described as a classic and b) Paul Newman is hot. “Fast” Eddie Felson is a pool shark seeking to challenge Minnesota Fats, the best there is. It’s a real quality movie and the pool scenes in particular are fantastic. But this is not the movie to watch if you’re feeling light-hearted. This film dives deep into the soul of a self-destructive guy with immense talent he can’t quite harness in a positive way. As he pushes everyone in his life further away, Paul Newman gives the character of “Fast” Eddie a true sense of desperation; all while remaining really, really good looking. 

Being John Malkovich
Another one on Netflix instant watch. John Cusack discovers a portal through which a person can enter John Malkovich’s mind. How had I not seen this innovative movie yet? It had me pulled into its other dimensional weirdness until the 3rd act when it tried to explain why the portal exists. I didn’t care why it existed. I cared what it was doing to the people who entered it. My only issue with movies like this? They’re so out there, so bizarre, require so much suspension of disbelief on the viewers. Sometimes the filmmakers take advantage of that and create characters that also don’t make sense. It can make you feel disconnected from the people in the movie and thus, disconnected from their discoveries. Character development still needs to be rooted in realty even if everything around them is going bonkers.

That's it for now - see you at the movies!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Back to the Web

You know what's a good ego check? Deciding to go internet-less for an entire week. You know why? Because no one knew I was gone. I logged into Facebook and my gmail with an expectation of missed invitations, personal messages from friends, and at least one status update mentioning my name. Nada. No self-pity, though, just more proof that it really wasn't hard to go without the web for a week. It was my own experiment in unplugging. And it was a breeze - seriously. But it was also somewhat of an excercise in futility. I found that rather than tackling long gestating projects I had, I simply put off all the things I needed to get done that required the internet (which is pretty much everything) and cheated the one time I couldn't put it off (paying bills, a completely online thing for me now). That was my only cheat though - I really did go without facebook, twitter, email (except for work-related necessities), news websites, entertainment blogs, etc. I think it just made me less informed about the world, my friends and celebrities. So maybe the internet wasn't making me a slothful, procrastinator - I did that all on my own and for years before I had the internet! Regardless, it still feels good to slow down, unplug and talk to the people you're in the same room with every once in a while. Pretty sure my dog appreciated it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Look out Peter Parker - I'm going web-less

I have not posted a blog in more than 6 months. I've barely posted a Facebook status update and have gone days without saying anything on Twitter.
But I'm on the web now as much as ever. I've just become more of a voyeur on the internet. I log on to see what others are doing, experiencing, learning - and what kind of animal blood is currently pulsing through Charlie Sheen's body (sidebar - I find something very ironic about this statement from his website about his upcoming tour - "Charlie will be donating One Dollar from each ticket to "My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not an Option Show LIVE" to the Red Cross Japanese Earthquake Relief Fund." Is there a fund we can donate to to save Sheen?)
Part of the reason I haven't contributed online is because I haven't been doing much. And I don't even have the attention span most of the time to come up with a worthwhile status update. Most of the time I'm on the web, I'm also either watching TV, listening to music or doing work at my desk. This article I recently read in EW really hit home.
So I'm taking a break. Consider this the return of my personal 7-day challenges. I challenge myself to go without the internet for a full week. The way I see it, in the time I would normally be online, I can actually be living my life (or, more realistically, simply tackling that book I've been meaning to start).
Of course, every mandate must make some exceptions in this day and age. I'm giving myself a pass if it's absolutely necessary for work (like ordering theater tickets online) or in an emergency (like to find the nearest tow-truck service, emergency room or liquor store).
So I'll check back in a week to see how it went. Hopefully by then, I'll have experienced something worth posting.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Minneapolis Rocks

This is one of my (Paige's) favorite times of the year. I bask in the sun, I blow out my birthday candles (22, thanks for asking!) and I get half-day Fridays at work. Jealous?
But I especially love this time of year in Minneapolis because local theaters (and we have really really good ones) are revealing their upcoming seasons. Most theaters in town run their seasons from September to August (excepting rebels like the Jungle Theater & Pillsbury House Theatre, who do it by the calendar year). And I’m really excited for some of the ambitious, thought-provoking and entertaining productions that are in the works (full disclosure - I work closely with most major theaters in town). Here’s my own, in no way all-reaching or fully informed look at what I’m most excited to see.

A Streetcar Named Desire at the Guthrie (July-August)
• I fell in love with Marlon Brando and his intensity as Stanley in the movie version of this Tennessee Williams play. And Blanche is one of the most fully-drawn female characters out there. I’m especially excited to see TV and theater actress Gretchen Egolf dig her teeth into the role after reading her self-deprecating, sweet and sometimes very raw blog about the rehearsal process on the Guthrie’s website.

The Scottsboro Boys at the Guthrie (August)
• This is the show’s final push to tighten things up before they try it on Broadway. It’s received great reviews so far and I’m curious to see how a big, splashy musical pulls off the subject material (it’s based on the real story of 9 black men who are accused of rape and thrown in jail). But hey, if Les Miserables can put music to the French Revolution, anything’s possible, right?

Wicked at the Orpheum (August – September)
• Yes, I’ve already seen it. Yes, so have most people. But it’s fun, memorable and you can’t get the songs out of your head - who doesn’t get goosebumps when Elphaba defies gravity? I personally love this version of the song sung by Idina Menzel who originated the role …

Vigil at the Pillsbury House Theatre (September-October)
• Pillsbury always does theater that makes you want to immediately go have a drink with whoever you came with and talk about what you just saw. And this one is sure to inspire conversation, given that it’s directed by Stephen DiMenna. Steve’s a good friend of Project SUCCESS (where I work) and does all our training for our classroom workshops. I’ve always been impressed with what he can pull out of our facilitators. I’m excited to see him do it with actors on stage.

A Cool Drink of Water at the Mixed Blood (September-October)
• Here’s what’s cool about the Mixed Blood. They infuse a little bit of humor in everything they do. In this show, they’re taking the characters from A Raisin in the Sun (brilliant play, but not a belly-laugher) and transporting them into a modern-day comedy. Intriguing ….

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – A Penumbra production at the Guthrie (February-March)
• If you can see a Penumbra production, any production, it’s worth it. But they’re never better than when they’re putting on an August Wilson play. Penumbra and Wilson had a very special relationship and he lived in St. Paul for more than 2 decades, honing his craft and working directly with the Penumbra, while they produced many of his plays.

Barrio Grrrl! At the Children’s Theatre (March)
• How great that the Children’s Theatre is doing a musical with a Latina girl as its protagonist? With hummable pop music, and a main character who is dealing with real life stuff like her dad being in Iraq, this show could speak to a lot of girls. Yay empowerment!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Chocolate Jesus

The following is an account of the bizarre path I went down following an innocent google search. Keep in mind that I consider myself a religious person.

Let me set the scene. Our dear friends, the Beckers love the movie Jesus Christ Superstar. They watch it fairly often, on lazy Sundays, and it puts them in a good mood. Same with our friends the Welles. In fact, it appears Justin and I are in the minority for never having seen the movie. I worry that the stage version ruined it for us. Ted Neely (original star!) was in a recent touring production we went to see at the Orpheum. After two hours of him screaming/singing all his lyrics (we'll call it scringing) and overacting even the most simplistic phrases (YES! LET'S WALK OVER HERE!), I found it comical - right at the moment he was hung on the cross. Yes, theater snobs - that was me giggling so hard I couldn't stop my shoulders from shaking while Jesus was dying for my sins. Justin was embarrassed, and I'll probably go to hell but more likely for writing this blog entry.

Anyway .... the Beckers are having people over to watch Jesus Christ Superstar (starring Ted Neely!) and they want everyone to bring something to eat surrounding that theme. I love the idea! Any party involving movies, food and a theme is my kind of night. They'll have bread and wine (makes sense), someone's bringing fish (I get that) and we were assigned dessert. I don't remember seeing cupcakes at The Last Supper, but okay, we'll go with it.

Searching the computer for recipes, I first made the mistake of googling "Jesus" and "Chocolate". As some music lovers might guess, all that came up was Tom Waits's song "Chocolate Jesus."
Then I found the story of a six-foot, anatomically correct milk chocolate sculpture of Jesus. I'm not THAT good a baker.

Then I typed in "Jesus" and "dessert" and Google tried correcting me: "Did you mean 'Jesus' and 'desert?'" No, Google, I know Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and nights but just telling folks at the party, "Jesus fasted, why don't we?" won't really work.

But I finally found a page that I thought might work. It was the website for the Christian Moms of Many Blessings. I have no doubt these women are great moms who cook a lot of great meals for their kids. But if they would have been my mom, I would have had a troubling, psychologically complicated relationship with desserts. The following recipe listed on the website is why:

Easter/Resurrection Rolls
1 package Cresent rolls
Melted Butter
1 Large Marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Give each child a triangle of cresent rolls.
The cresent roll represents the the cloth that Jesus was wrapped in.

Give each child a marshmallow. This represents Jesus. (white)

Have the child dip the marshmallow in melted butter. This represents the oils of embalming.

Then dip the buttered marshmallow in the cinnamon and sugar. This represents the spices used to annoint the body.

Then wrap up the coated marshmallow tightly in the cresent roll (not like a typical cresent roll up…but bring the sides up and seal the marshmallow inside) This represents the wrapping of Jesus’ body after death.

Place in a 350 degree oven for 10 – 12 minutes. The oven represents the tomb–pretend like it was three days!

When the rolls have cooled slightly, the children can open their rolls (cloth) and discover that Jesus is no longer there, HE IS RISEN!

The marshmallow melts and the cresent roll is puffed up, but empty.

Those children will never look at a marshmallow the same way again. Here's the link if you want to see more.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

7 Day Challenge Complete!

Before I write about how successful this 7 day challenge was, I have a confession. On the last day, I cheated. No, I didn't eat any of this glorious looking meat you see from the "Meatapalooza" event on Saturday (none of it was organic). But after a few hours watching everyone else eat ... and with just a few hours before the official end of the challenge, I ate a non-organic brownie and a piece of corn bread (fueled probably, by the organic wine I was drinking). Before passing judgment, know that I was STARVING. So ... full disclosure on that one.

Aside from the chocolate mishap, I really stuck to my rules on this one. 7 full days and everything I ate or drank was local (within the 5-state region) and, if not USDA certified organic, grown or raised with sustainable farming practices and without pesticides or chemicals. And I had more fun doing it than I would have thought! I enjoyed the conversations I had with the workers at the Birchwood Cafe or McDonald's liquor store when I asked them to point out the local, organic stuff. But I especially liked how much this challenge made me focus on what I eat and where it comes from. Never before have I read food labels so intensely (and to the chagrin of grocery store customers behind my slow-moving cart) and had so limited a choice in what I ate. Over the course of the week, I tried organic beer from Wisconsin, grass-fed pork from Minnesota, and gigantic juicy tomatoes grown right here in the metro area; all things I plan on consuming again (but the organic wine has a ways to go). So to sum up:

Eat only local and organic food for one week
Nearly 100% (who would have thought a meat-smoking party would be my undoing?)
We normally spend a little under $100 a week on groceries, plus an extra $20-40 on restaurants/lunch spots. This week, we spent a little over $100 on groceries, plus an extra $50 on restaurants/lunch spots.
Somewhat. I never felt I needed to cancel plans or restrict what I did. But planning meals ahead of time was crucial. And certain situations proved challenging, like having to say no when my husband wanted to open a bottle of non-organic wine, and avoiding all things fried at the State Fair.
The debate over the government-approved label "organic" is more intense and heated than I realized.
Eating food that you know where it came from gives a certain pleasure to a meal I've never experienced before.
I won't continue to eat only local or organic foods - it's simply too limiting at this point. But the super-processed foods that were often a staple of my lunches at work or my late-night snacks are a thing of the past. So no more Spaghetti-O's or trans-fat filled microwave dinners.
And we will definitely be cooking from scratch more with fresh produce - that was the most rewarding part of this week!


Friday, August 28, 2009

Day 6 - Stay Local, Go Organic

For someone watching what they eat (and like me, writing a blog about it), Friday and Saturday are the toughest. Romantic dinners, barbecues, a night at the movies …. All can be ruined by that simple phrase: “No thanks, I’m on a diet.” So I anticipated this Friday and Saturday with growing dread, as I tried desperately to cling to my challenge of eating only organic, local foods for seven days.

While I’m at it, why not make it as difficult on myself as possible? Why not enter the Lion’s Den, the mecca of all things fried, fat-filled and served on a stick? I’m talking, of course, about the Minnesota State Fair. It was not my idea to attend today – it had been a planned work outing. The additional fact that my husband was there for work as well (yes, we have great jobs) made it a no-brainer that I’d attempt to run the State Fair food gauntlet in search of local/organic.

I knew local wouldn’t be the problem, but naturally-made food is harder to find at the fair than an open bathroom stall. At least, thanks to tips from the Simple Good and Tasty website, I knew to head to the Eco Experience. But here’s the one problem. Despite how interesting and informative the Eco Experience is about the growing local food movement, sustainable farming and organic cuisine, there was virtually no actual food to munch on! I was growing desperate and panicking about my options – go hungry, go home, or go crazy on mini-donuts, cheese curds, cookies, chocolate-covered bananas, is that a deep-fried snickers bar?

Then we found it – the one booth actually selling and advertising their local, healthy food. The Countryside Market right outside the Eco Experience had farm-fresh-tasting Capresse on a stick and mouth-watering yellow watermelon. But that was about it. I’ve since heard that French Meadow has a booth at the state fair. We didn’t make it there, but wouldn’t have had enough money to try anything anyway. There’s very likely other food at the fair that would fit the definition of local and organic but if so, they weren’t promoting the fact because we didn’t see any and we walked a fair distance looking. I hope next year, the Capresse on a Stick has some competition.

So I managed to stay on track even at the State Fair. But let’s see how tomorrow goes. My husband and friends are holding a Meat-Smoking event that’s an all-day affair. Hope I don’t just have to say “No thanks, I’m on a diet……”