In honor of the fact that my son just made his first short film and a movie about guinea pigs with guns (groan) just topped the box office, I present: How to get your kids to watch good movies.
If you're trying to filter the junk that you watch, why not do the same for the young impressionables in your family? Granted, even parents with the most discerning taste in film have been known to sit through mindless movies where animals make fart jokes through their computer-generated mouths. Forget culture, you just want them to sit still long enough to justify the 20 bucks you spent on tickets. Well, friends, a trip to your local library's video section is fun, costs nothing and is a thousand times more rewarding. (Ok, Netflix works too.) Some microwave popcorn, maybe a tent made out of chairs and a sheet and you're in for a movie-watching experience that will do your kids some serious good.
There are also children's film festivals in practically every city, and I encourage everyone to attend. It's an enriching, unique experience and will make your kids feel really special... but I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with some that are universal, timeless, beautiful and easy to get your hands on.
1. The Red Balloon (Lamorisse, 1956) Timeless, wordless, magical, short. What you don't see below is the iconic, giant red balloon, but I like this shot. Comes from Netflix with other classic children's short, White Mane, which I didn't mention because #2 is similar but full length.
2. The Black Stallion (Ballard, 1979, G) My son watched it daily (literally) when he was a toddler and still loves it. Captivating, quiet, exciting and tender. A brave child's ability not only to survive in peril but to communicate with another creature in a way that adults can't understand.
3. Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2001, PG) Miyazaki's unique children's films are strange, fantastical and beautiful. This is my favorite about a sad little girl who finds herself in an enchanted world. Recommended for older kids, Miyazaki can be scary.
4. Spellbound (Blitz, 2002, G) Documentary about the hyper-intense world of spelling bees. Educational, hilarious, makes smart kids look awesome. Great example of working hard and accomplishing something you can be proud of. 5. Toy Story (Lasseter, 1995, G) Every Disney/Pixar film is a masterpiece. There is no going wrong with any of them and they keep getting better, but why not bring it back to the original? It came out before your little ones were born and revoluntionzed animation. This film is the definition of childhood. 6. Pixar Short Films Deserves mention because this is where these amazing animators get to experiment. My favorite is One Man Band. B's is Geri's Game, below. 7. The Secret Garden (Holland, 1993, G) A dreamland of nature, exotic sights and mystery. I love when children's films aren't afraid to be a little dark and heavy but maintain innocence. 8. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Flynn, 1938) Classic tale of romance and bravery from the days when actors learned to sword fight and cameras knew how to capture it. Hopefully this is a nice little mix that will take you beyond the classics that you already know and love and far, far beyond the sequels that we're flooded with these days.
Aside from the fact that it's a terrible photo, it's also a pathetic excuse for a jeté and bad, bent-kenned timing. There is no other photo or video evidence of what was the most important thing in my life. (Except for some competition team pics/videos but that wasn't really dancing, just me wearing funny costumes.) A girl named Jeneba took this picture. I was 13 and she was 18 and a brilliant dancer. She choreographed a solo for me to compete with and this was me learning it. I never competed with the solo and I never let a single other picture or video be taken. I thought I had no talent at this point and I was so embarrassed to dance in front of anyone or any cameras. I didn't get over this until I was about 15 but by then no one was even trying to take pictures anymore. Bonnie, will you take a picture of me dancing when I see you?
While we're on the subject, I think it's time to tell you guys about my amazing night. You're never going to believe what I did. Are you ready for this?...
And I feel...wait for it...wait for it...
This is such a big deal for me. I can't explain why so I'm not even going to try. But I can't help but feel like... is this really what's been missing? Is this why I've always felt a little bit empty all these years? Is this what I've been searching for in other things and other people? Can it really be that simple? I felt beautiful tonight. I felt in touch with myself. I poured out my feelings and worked through stuff. I feel like all of my senses are working a little better and my brain is a little sharper. Why have I been denying myself this inner peace? Fifteen minutes of uninterrupted movement, alone in a dark room and I feel like I could take on the world.
Kerie is lovely. Riding in her little red car listening to music loudly with a large cheese from Greenville Avenue Pizza Company in the backseat is one of my favorite things. She takes funny pictures of me. When she knows I'm really down she'll put on Backstreet Boys, crank it up and keep driving with a totally straight face. Sometimes she'll let Jay come over and we'll eat pop ices and cuddle. She's also kind of a genius and gives fantastic advice. She loves the lucky third graders that she teaches so much. She inadvertently writes hit songs. She is a super loyal friend. She's also absolutely drop dead, knockout beautiful, and one of the funniest people I've ever met. And she lets me dance around like a dummy and only looks at me like I'm a little bit crazy. I love, love, love Kerie.
P.S. Bonnie says I look homeless in that picture. Kerie can attest to the fact that it's not just the picture. I really did.
Every morning I read CNN.com and BBC News but I spend most of my day with POLITICO open on my screen. It's the fastest, most direct legitimate news source that I know of, and I've become slightly obsessed with it. As sad as it is to see print news go out of business, I'm right on the cusp of the generations who don't know any better. We want information now so we can process it, form opinions and act. I don't think this is a bad thing. As I sit here I can see the POLITICO tab refreshing itself. When I go back to it I'll know more and be better prepared to face the world. I get down on myself for not being in a position to make a difference, but at least I can be informed, teach my son and speak up in whatever small way I can when I need to. What I love most about POLITICO is its format. It's easy to read, commentary but not sensationalized, real-time, Twitter-esque. It's made for my generation. If the future of news is an effort to get information to the people faster so they can in turn act faster, I'm okay with it. Now back to celebrating what will hopefully be Sarah Palin's disappearance from the spotlight.
We've had such a nice weekend. I get some big news on Monday (that I still can't share but soon, I promise) so I was afraid this might be the longest weekend of my life. I considered going out, taking a small trip, drugging myself, etc, but my son is just too wonderful lately. It honestly seemed like more fun to spend it with him. And it has been! Aside from finishing his movie, we've played, gone skateboarding, ran errands and chatted. The hours seemed to fly by and at the end of the day I was crashing with him before I could even watch a film or read on my own. (Though I did make some time to watch Je, Tu, Il, Elle, thank you Tisch listserve!) Last night we watched Coraline, which was beautiful, sleepy and fantastic at dusk, but when B insisted that we start it over again as soon as it ended, it was just too dark outside and suddenly became too scary! We opted instead to curl up and read Harry Potter. He promised he would read them with me if I bought him DVDs to burn his movie on but swore he wouldn't like them. By the time we got to the part where Hagrid finds Harry in the shack on the rock out at sea and tells him he's a wizard, he was begging to keep going but I was gone. Kids are exhausting. So anyway, it's been a pretty great weekend over here and tomorrow's the big day! Then next weekend I've got an executive suite at the Anatole in my name (it's nice knowing people who know people) and do plan on having myself some much needed grownup time. Yes, sir.
B and I have spent the weekend finishing up his super sweet movie. I'm so proud of him. He spent months writing this and getting it all ready. I told him he should probably cut it down from the 44 pages he originally wrote, and after many agonizing rewrites this is what he came up with. He did everything from the costuming to directing to editing. I just taught him how to use iMovie and held the camera (and grandma did too when I was at work, as you can tell from some of the shots). Big thanks to the BFF Jaren for all his help in this. B was so proud of his friend's mad acting skills. When we watched playbacks he would grin and say "Jaren is so good!" I, personally, am so proud of how gracefully Jaren handled working with such a picky director. This is probably the most proud B's ever felt. He even asked me to put it on my blog, which he normally hates. His dream in life is that George Lucas will see this and they will get to collaborate (his words). I'm just happy to see him feeling so good about himself.
It's like when you hear yourself in a song and feel like it was written for you. This dance is the last couple years of my life. I want to share it with you so you can see what I haven't been able to explain. I've been looking for this for awhile and still can't find it without all the other stuff. But here it is. (skip ahead to the 1:30 mark)
There is something I am DYING to blog about but can't yet, so instead I'm going to blog about my distractions in hope of... further distracting myself. Aw, yeah.
It's really sick how much I love this show. I DVR it every week so that on the weekend I have the ability to A.) skip commercials B.) rewind and rewatch dances (which you better believe I do) and C.) find out who gets eliminated immediately. The amount of happiness that it injects into my brain should be illegal.
My favorite dance of this season was this Mia Michels one by Kayla and Kapono. It reminds me of the way I used to dance. You should watch it. (It takes about 15 seconds to get started. Patience.)
They were maybe not the best, most consistent pair but definitely my favorite and that piece pretty much brought me to tears. Alas, we lost dear 'Pono (the weird ones never make it) and I have reluctantly moved on.
You would think I would love Evan because he's all Broadwayed out and stuff but I hold a grudge because he botched a Fosse number. (See below.)
No, at the moment I can't decide who I'm loving. I'm kinda ready for the ballerina to go honestly. I like my dancers a little dirty. Anyone else watching? Anyone else get up and pretend they can still dance when it's over? Whatchu got?
She looks about the same as 24-year-old Brittan, except her glasses are cuter and she has completely banging calf muscles. She loves the color red and Sunkist, doesn't wear makeup (except on New Years Eve as you can see in the picture) and has lots of friends. She listens almost exclusively to punk music except that she loves Hanson with all her heart. She crushes on skateboarder boys and doesn't care if they laugh that she likes Hanson and is kind of a prude. She just made Varsity cheerleader and competes on a co-ed team outside of school. She doesn't listen to the warnings people give her about the crowd that the cheerleaders at school run with because she isn't interested in any crowd. She wants the workout, the bruises on her arms, the tumbling, the rush of knowing she can lift another girl over her head with almost no help. She lives for Wednesday night lyrical class, when she can take her shoes off and dance barefoot to Fiona Apple in a dark room. It doesn't matter to her anymore that she is not as skinny as some of the girls or as good at memorizing steps because it makes her feel alive like nothing else can. She writes funny stories, makes good grades and can speak enough French to not need subtitles, though it seems like she never does her homework. She lives alone with her grandma where they eat whatever they feel like throwing together and love each other despite the fact that they don't understand each other at all. Mostly she's alone and she likes it that way. She has read the Complete Works of William Shakespeare so many times that the library gave her the book. Every night she puts on a mixtape and dances madly in her living room to work through her anger with her mom and other feelings that she doesn't understand. When she can't sleep at night she watches Romeo + Juliet. She writes letters to her best friend in Colorado. Her weekends are spent watching Evita and eating pizza with her grandma, toilet papering boys houses during sleepovers and swing dancing. She's obsessed with the 40s and tries to learn how to sew just so she can make vintage-style dresses to dance in. She still has sleepovers with Wendy, who she has known since birth, where they watch musicals and eat black olives from the can. She loves the improv game Bus Stop that she plays at drama club and is the youngest member inducted into Thespian Society at her high school. She has a black cat named Samantha who she is completely in love with and she writes about Cory's smile in her diary. She could not fathom that very soon her life would change completely. That before she knew it her circle of friends, relationship with her family, passion for dance, extracurricular activities and self esteem would completely change. She didn't know how easy it was to fall off the path and not be able to find your way back. At this moment where you are seeing her, she knows who she is and loves herself. She feels invincible.
I've spent the last few days taking in what the Asian Film Festival of Dallas had to offer. (A Korean version of Hansel and Gretel, documentaries like Kimjongilia and The Jack Soo Story, K-20: Legend of the Mask, anime and so much more that I didn't get to see.) In the two weeks before that I watched three samurai movies from the 50s and 60s. I think I may be on a kick. So, it occured to me: what better way to throw my lovely readers into the vast world of foreign film than with the ancient art of butt kicking?
Try to forget about what Hollywood has taught you. Forget CGI. Forget what American studios were doing in the 50s and what they do now. Enjoy the culture. Let these Japanese directors teach you about their history, about honor, love and art the way they see it.
One thing to keep in mind is the formality of the Japanese language. Because the translation is not so direct, you may read a subtitle and think it sounds strange. It may take a few lines before you get a real feel for what's going on, and sometimes your brain has to work a little harder to fill in the blanks. This can also make the acting come across as overly dramatic, awkward or cheesy at times. Don't let it turn you off right away. Once you get used to it, you really fall in love with the beautiful, honest way that Japanese actors express themselves. Or at least I did.
Open up your Netflix queue and let me blow your mind.
1. Harakiri (Kobayashi, 1962) About the ritual public suicide of the down-and-out samurai. Also an extremely vocal piece of political commentary. I start at such an intense place because I think that the humanity (or lack thereof) shows the viewer how connected we are as a species, even coming from such vastly different worlds. 2. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954) I finally saw this after wanting to for so long and wonder how I ever talked about film before. It's really long, yes, but just do it. It defines the genre and pioneered the epics that you see today. Genuinely entertaining and incredibly moving. It's an epic tale of battle but pay attention to the details, they are, in my opinion, where Kurosawa stands out. 3. Sword of Doom (Okamoto, 1966) If you're a brave soul, go for this dark, disturbing masterpiece. I am not so brave but I do love gnarly sword fights, so I was sold. A bit of a convoluted plot but complex, intense, haunting and merciless, nontheless. 4. The Twilight Samurai (Yamada, 2002) There aren't many true samurai films made in recent years but this counts. Perhaps easier to relate to and more inviting than some of the older samurai films, it's a story of love and honor on a more intimate level. Heartbreaking and warming, lovely to look at. 5. Kill! (Okamoto, 1968) I hesitate to repeat a director when there are many to choose from but this is a different take on the genre, which I think is important. It's an early dark comedy, more loose and forgiving. I read that fans of westerns might like it and I can see that. Entertaining without such intensity. Oddly funny. Okay, that was really difficult. I narrowed it down to just true Japanese samurai films and kept it to 5 so as not to overwhelm. It was hard to leave out Rashomon, Ran, Yojimbo, Sanjuro and others but I wanted to give some variety. If you get hooked, there are so many more out there to choose from.
My favorite nights have always been those that are filled with wonderful people and that roll along aimlessly across a landscape, from peaceful, zen moments, to beautiful, cinematic moments, to loud, fast, exciting, hilarious moments and then back. Tonight was one of the best I've had in a really long time. It's been forever since I've let myself laugh this much, or even feel this much. The goodness of the people around me is so satisfying and the love so overwhelming. When I love myself a little less than I used to, or I miss the carefree days of being surrounded by friends, sometimes all it takes is a seeking the love out... because it may have changed but it is definitely still there.
It started with a simple gmail chat with my friend Merr.
Merritt:you're so loved. by so many.how good it must feel!
What a lovely thing to say.
Next it was Chadd (stunning as always) holding hands and running, laughing too loudly, reminding me of the old days that were carefree, flirty and full of friends and laughter. Then it was James Faust (isn't it always?), who never fails to be there with open arms that you don't want to leave. Then Bonnie talking to me about growing up as I sat on a roof downtown looking out at that Dallas skyline that I've known my whole life. Then Ashley's reminder that sometimes all you need is someone to sit next to you. It was so completely calming and peaceful. But the person who really made my night tonight was Set. He fed me pickles all night and made me laugh uncontrollably. He has this way of making worries disappear and life seem so simple. He has an endlessly big heart and zero pretension. I took this lousy picture and love it because it was a moment I didn't want to forget. On the drive home tonight (this morning) I listened to Voxtrot and pictured Justin and MacLennan singing every word passionately. I felt the line "you are so young, so feel alive" and I realized that the only regrets I have in life are the ones where I wasn't myself, and those have all been so recent. I didn't sing on my birthday. I've been afraid to be myself because I felt like someone didn't like it. I've opted lately to stay in or keep quiet or comply, always to avoid... what? That is not and never has been who I am. It felt good tonight to be Brittan again.
I love love love this girl's blog. I read it every day, read back through old entries and really connect with some of the things she writes. She lives in Vegas with her hottie boyfriend and super fabulous hair. She often seems too fab to be true and yet her writing is so real and easy to relate to. So, how cool is it that she gave my little ole blog an award?!
Thank you, Kathleen! I'm flattered! Check out her awesome.
Are you ready to learn about one of my favorite genres of film? I've always had a bit (okay a lot) of wanderlust, so nothing stirs my heart like the classic "on the road" movie. I love the extreme wide shots that show the road and horizon. I love the typical minimal dialogue and slow, building plot line. I love more than anything the feeling of desperation and the hunch that danger, physical or otherwise, is always around the corner. Here are my top 5. Add them to your Netflix.
1. Bonnie and Clyde (Penn, 1967) Socially relevant, independent, classic. Faye Dunaway is still my favorite. 2. It Happened One Night (Capra, 1934) My first introduction to the genre. Groundbreaking at its time and still funny today. 3. Badlands (Malick, 1973) A truly independent, gritty production. Stunning cinematography, some of my favorite. Romantic, dangerous, beautiful and tragic. 4. The Grapes of Wrath (Ford, 1940) Desperate, epic, an important piece of cinematic history. Much like the novel, crucial to future generations' understanding of the human side of the Great Depression. 5. Paper Moon (Bogdanovich, 1973) A beautiful character study. One of my favorite relationship stories. A sweeping, sentimental masterpiece. 6. Stranger Than Paradise (Jarmusch, 1984) Minimalist, subtle, shocking in the way that it drags you into its world. A hip, stark, stunning find from one of my favorite directors ever. 7. Two-Lane Blacktop (Hellman, 1971) My favorite of the genre and one of my favorite films of all time. Desperate, listless, cool. Ground-up shots, tracking shots, interesting characters coming and going. One of the greatest and most haunting lines/deliveries I've ever heard comes at the very end of this sparse script: "Those satisfactions are permanent." There are so many other good ones from The Wild One to Little Miss Sunshine. Please check some of these out. If you really want to be my best friend, talk to me about #5 some time. More cinemawesomeness soon to come.
I got hit by an obscenely large SUV driving way too fast in a rainstorm on 635. If that doesn't just scream Dallas, I don't know what does. I hate this town.
I'm fine, no worries. Just a lot of pain in the upper 1/3 of my body and the old "take painkillers and rest" prescription. My car is okayish. I take it in Wednesday to get it fixed.
I'm irritated but that obviously goes beyond this. I used to be described frequently as "resilient" and now I'm grouchy and convinced that the Universe is out to get me. It's probably about time that I get over myself and the funk of the last year. Maybe when heartbreak is not so fresh and I can turn my head again.