Archive for April, 2008

How about a nice game of chess?

The other night, I watched War Games.  I’ve probably seen it a hundred times, but it really hits me every time.  Not that globalthermonuclear war is a bad idea, or that hacking into computers can mean big trouble, or even that just because your son Joshua died doesn’t mean you should give up on the living, but that 80s movies are so great!!!  Why is it that no one makes movies like this anymore?  As most of you know, I was really enamored of Kevin Williamson (Dawson’s Creek, Scream) for awhile because I felt like he was breathing new life into the genre that had been dormant for some time.  But I haven’t seen anything from him for awhile now and even John Hughes couldn’t do it alone.  So, let’s reminisce and dissect what makes 80s movies, like Some Kind of Wonderful, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, The Karate Kid, Can’t Buy Me Love, Say Anything, Footloose, War Games, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Dirty Dancing, St. Elmo’s Fire, & The Breakfast Club so great:

(1) great dialogue.  Who can forget lines like, “What’s the president of the Young Democrats doing working for a Republican senator?” “Moving up.”  Or, “Where’s your brain?” “Why’d you kick me?” “Where’s your brain?” “Why’d you kick me?”  Or, “Joe lies.  Joe lies.  Joe lies, when he cries.”

(2) social issues.  From Footloose’s commentary on censorship and book burning, to Pretty in Pink’s take on class issues, to War Games full-on assault on the Cold War, no one has been able to combine super cheesy fun with social issues like teen 80s movies.

(3) great romance.  This one’s a bit complicated because there are a couple of patterns these movies tend to have in this department.  There’s the best friend syndrome, which worked out well for Mary Stuart Masterson with Eric Stoltz, but not so great for Jon Cryer with Molly Ringwald.  But Andrew McCarthy’s gaze at Molly Ringwald at the end of Pretty in Pink could melt Lake Monona in January.  Then there’s just sort of the easy relationship Ally Sheedy and Matthew Broderick had, which was cute.  Then there’s the beautiful girl falls for the nerdy guy, but the nerdy guy is either Patrick Dempsey or John Cusack.

(4) memorable names.  Ren McCormick.  Amanda Jones.  Blaine, Steph, Andie & Duckie.  Ferris Bueller.  Cameron & Sloane.  Lloyd Dobler & Diane Court.  Jake Ryan.  Daniel-son.

(5) soundtracks.  This one obviously needs no explanation.

What else?  I feel like there’s a lot more to say on this topic and I know I left off a lot of folks’ fave movies  — like Real Genius & Better Off Dead & Flashdance, but Flashdance never really did it for me and I don’t know what to do with Val Kilmer.  Hmm.  I think I need to give this some more thought.




So, Rose got married this weekend.  It was truly a beautiful wedding.  The weather was nice and the ceremony was outdoors, very close to an alpaca!  [Speaking of which, let’s not forget the alpaca festival is this weekend!] My heels kept sinking into the wet ground, but I’m pretty sure that didn’t affect the ceremony.  It was short and sweet, with homemade vows and Rose looking so lovely.  Her hair is exceptionally cute — sassy and fun.  The dress was gorgeous — one of those classic strapless numbers with the beautiful satin ribboning around it.  You know what I’m talking about?  Anyway, Rose was, of course, gorgeous.  The bridesmaids’ dresses were a rich chocolate with really stunning rhinestone broaches.  I was really feeling the broaches.  I think Ellen, Rose’s sister, worried I was going to steal hers as she covered it up with a cute wrap after I mentioned how much I liked it. 

Anyway, the ceremony was just perfect and afterwards, we all went inside to the barn, which was decorated with pretty white lights and sunflower centerpieces.  The hors d’oeuvres were delicious — bruschetta, hummus, almonds, cheese & crackers — very Mediterranean and yumsville.  There was a copious amount of wine, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The speeches were sweet, funny and heartfelt — exactly what you want at a wedding.  The dinner was really amazing — the Michigan salad was outrageously good and the grilled veggies were doused with yummy yummy olive oil and my beef tenderloin was grand.  Really, it was all so pretty and perfect.

I was lucky enough to be able to sit next to the star of the show, or at least when she was able to sit down.  As I remember from my own wedding, there’s not a lot of slow periods at the show when you’re the bride.  I watched to make sure she at least got something to eat, but she was up and circulating, it seemed, before she had more than a sip of her champagne.  Oh, Rose!  Such a great bride.

The best part may have been when Rosie said, “Where’s my husband?”  Not great because he was MIA for a moment, but great because it was so cute to hear.  And just as natural.

It was also great to see Claire, another old pal from Italy with whom I’d lost touch.  She was as fun and dynamic as ever and it was really great to be around a familiar and so-friendly face. 

This is really where the greatness of the weekend ends.  At around 10:30 I was ready to crash, so I decided to part ways with the DeLuca-Gollnitz crew and say goodbye to the Cobblestone Farm.  My chosen spot for the night, the Lamp Post Inn (which is a two-story, L-shaped motel with a pool like the one in Karate Kid), was about a half of a mile away so I was quickly in bed.  Before I hit the mattress, though, I needed to use the loo and the sink.  Normal bedtime behavior, I think.  This is when I discovered the toilet didn’t work in any way other than to serve as a receptacle and that turning on the water in the sink meant HUGE ants would crawl out of it, look me in the eye and ask me what I thought I was doing.  Ick!  I was really too tired to worry too much about it, so I curled up in bed — trying my hardest not to touch the bedspread as I shoved it off the bed.  Sleep came for awhile until around 2:30 am when I awoke to what had to be at least 30 twentysomethings screaming at the top of their lungs, blasting music out of their rooms, playing hackeysack in the parking lot and running up and down the cement hall.  This lasted for, I’d say, two hours.  I’ve really never seen anything like it.  I stared out my broken vertical blinds at the scene.  Doors were all open with folks sitting in the doorways, people were out and about talking and yelling, and everyone had at least one beer in their hand.  The place had really come alive.  I tried to go back to sleep and I must have, but I woke up at seven (six Wisco time), remembered the ants and packed up as quickly as I ever have.  I pretty much ran out the door, but was quickly stopped in my tracks by a totally freaky looking cat staring right at me.  I let out a pretty quiet scream and thought about what to do.  It started coming towards me.  I backed away.  It was standing between me and the stairs I needed to use to escape from the ants and the backed up toilet.  It walked towards the stairs.  I followed.  By this time I had told myself, “Kate, it’s a cat.  You are much bigger and somewhat brighter and just get out of here!”  So, I approached it as it guarded the stairs.  It arched its back and its gaze was now fierce.  I ran the other way, finding stairs on the other end of the motel.  I reached my car, threw my stuff in, drove off to the front desk, basically threw the key at the guy standing in the doorway, and didn’t stop until I hit Indiana. 

Well, not entirely true.  I got a coffee at a Shell station somewhere in western Michigan.  But, when I did make it home to Madison, I threw everything in the suitcase into the wash.  Everything except my toothbrush, which I threw in the garbage.  Ew!

Protected: Humiliating post-pumpkin experience number 1,345,267

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Me and you are subject to the blues now and then

This weekend was the 10th annual Wisconsin Film Festival and I’m so proud to relay that I managed to see five films!  Hooray! All were documentaries, and all were good. On Friday night, Stephanie and I went to see Operation Filmmaker, which was a movie that played at Sundance in January and I wasn’t able to see. It’s the story of this young Iraqi “filmmaker,” Muthana, who gets some air time on MTV, which Liev Schreiber sees and is affected by. Consequently, Liev arranges for Muthana to come to Prague where Liev is making a movie (Everything is Illuminated). Muthana is an intern on the movie, which, of course, entails things like mixing nuts and editing the gag reel. Muthana deems most of these tasks beneath him.  It’s not clear why he feels this way exactly: was he misled, is he completely full of himself, does he hate nuts? Anyway, this is really just the beginning as Muthana manipulates those around him for the rest of the film in efforts to get into film school and to score visas. It’s an interesting story because the documentary filmmaker filming Muthana’s story gets taken by him, as well. It’s also interesting because it’s unclear what Muthana’s deal really is — is he just so desperate to leave Iraq that he’ll do and say anything? Is he simply a lazy ass who believes himself entitled to all sorts of things without having to work for anything?  Does he really even have any interest in film? When Muthana finds himself in London, in school, but unable to pay his rent, it really hits the viewer that this is a guy who has barely worked and who now, even when he can’t pay his rent, refuses to look for work, preferring, instead, to ask everyone he knows for money to support him. What’s the deal with that?

On Saturday, which was such a LOVELY day, I biked over to the Union to see two approximately hour-long documentaries.  The first was Being Innu, a depressing and dark tale about the Innu people. The Innu are an indigenous group of people who live in Labrador, Canada. They are former nomads who now live a bleak life. Their community is marked by at least one attempted suicide a month. Their young folk stand around all day sniffing gas. Unemployment and alcoholism are the norm. I found simply nothing hopeful about this film. The second movie was Testing Hope, which chronicles a group of 12th graders living near Cape Town who are the first senior class to have started first grade in the post-apartheid era. In South Africa, seniors take a test called Matric, which sounds like an uber-intense exam on which your entire future rides. If you don’t pass it, you can forget about going to college or getting a decent job. So, the movie builds in anticipation for the test, but it’s filled with cute and funny scenes and the kids are just incredible.  Some of them live in conditions that I can’t fathom, but they get dressed in their neat uniforms and head off to school and study harder than I remember studying in college, much less high school. My fave kids were the girl who wanted to be a lawyer and the boy who wanted to be a civil engineer. They were all smiles. So, the test comes and they all talk about how damn hard it was (also, the movie briefly showed what conditions were like in wealthy schools — AMAZING!) and how they didn’t think they did well and it got scary for a bit. But then, the results came in and all the stars of the movie passed! (Though, interestingly, the film stated that some 30% of seniors passed the test, whereas the year before it was some 60% — what? why? No explanation is given. But maybe there is no good explanation). But then it gets bad. The very end of the film discloses that while our favorites passed, none of them did well enough to go on to school. In fact, the lawyer-to-be ends up pregnant at 19. Ugh.

Next up, Song Sung Blue at the Bartell. This movie was a roller coaster! The beginning is all love and Neil Diamond and awesomeness. The end is a monster of a tearjerker. The movie follows Thunder and Lightning, a Neil Diamond impersonating “band” made up of a Milwaukee married couple. They have their ups and downs — downs being when Thunder gets pinned under a car in her own front lawn and ups being when Eddie Vedder invites them onstage at Summerfest and they sing Forever in Blue Jeans to 30,000 peeps. [This scene is so great for many reasons, not least of which is the unique opportunity to see a young Vedder sitting on a stool with his leg crossed reading the lyrics to Forever in Blue Jeans with serious panache.  So great!] The movie is a real downer at times, as we watch these folks struggle with money and debt and a litany of health problems. But Jesus, they really were in love. My God. And they could perform!

Last up was yesterday’s screening of Twisted: A Balloonamentary, which was excellent! The filmmakers chose a few balloon twisters to follow around and to tell us about their lives — they chose a young girl who uses balloon twisting to get herself out of the trailer park, through college and, we hope, onto medical school; a middle-aged Af-Am man from Atlanta who loves to entertain kids and who is one of the few Af-Ams on the national circuit; a self-described balloonangelical, who makes half creepy half cool crucifixion scenes out of balloons; and a bunch of other super interesting folks who seriously can’t get enough of this balloon twisting. The folks’ stories were well-told, but really the balloons stole the show. Google “balloon octopus” and you’ll see what I mean. After the movie, the filmmakers brought out pre-blown balloons to teach us all how to make a balloon dog. It is stated throughout the film that if you can make a balloon dog, you can do anything. I’m grateful, though, that one of the filmmakers said that the converse is not true — if you can’t make a balloon dog, you may still be able to do some things — because I tried and tried and popped two balloons before a nice gentleman gave me his cute balloon dog and I decided to try again on another day.

So, despite the fact that on my bike ride home, my balloon dog flew out of my bike basket and was almost immediately crushed by a car, it was a great weekend.

April 2008

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