Saturday, December 29, 2007

Soaking It In: Children of Heaven

Children of HeavenChildren of Heaven (1997) by Majid Majidi: 89 minutes, 7.9 IMDB, 87% fresh tomatoes

My notes:
  • 0:04:10 It's the grocer's fault. If he hadn't made Ali pick from the poor potatoes, Zahra's shoes wouldn't have been taken.
  • 0:05:00 The grocer gets his comeuppance in the form of spilled vegetables.
  • 0:23:50 The TV shows shoes, then the shoes being wiped out with static, then a storm. Then there's rain in the real world. Not sure what that means, but there it is.
  • 0:28:00 Two strangers help to rescue the shoe from the gutter.
  • 0:36:45 "I am the flower of this country." "Obedient to the leader." I like this scene, as it shows the universal tendency of kids to treat their national pledges as rote.
  • 0:43:45 Message: Not all teachers are assholes. But administrators, yeah.
  • 0:45:40 Ari and Zahra see that the other girl's father is blind and is worse off than they are. Reminds me of a guitar-playing comedian I once heard, who sang, "I wept for I had no shoes. (STRUM!) 'Til I met a man who had no feet. (STRUM!) And I said to him, (STRUM!) 'Can I have your shoes?'"
  • 0:59:10 A bicycle mishap robs the poor family of their hopes and dreams, just as things were looking up. What film is this, anyway?
  • 1:09:20 Today's lesson, kids: crying works!
  • I learn from IMDB that "[i]n the English DVD version of the film, the epilogue is not translated. The epilogue explains that Ali eventually achieves the larger-scale success of having a racing career." That's an annoying oversight on the part of the translators.

The cousinnephew summary:
  • It was pretty simply made. Had a good script.
  • Went to some effort for certain scenes, like the entire racing scene.
  • The directing and editing that I found cool was the underwater shot and, during the race, the slow motion. Goes from a shot from the side to a POV shot.
  • They didn't do music for the entire race, probably so you could get the effect of the sounds of the running. They did do music right at the very end of the race.
  • I was surprised that they didn't have music to relate his feelings during the race.
  • I wish they'd wrapped a few more things up. Did his dad keep the gardening job? I didn't see the point of the whole bicycle, oh-my-brakes-were-out.
  • If his dad hadn't had shoes at the end you'd think, "Oh, that's terrible." And the sister would be, "Okay, you failed."

Soaking It In: Sense and Sensibility

Sense and SensibilitySense and Sensibility (1995) by Ang Lee: 136 minutes, 7.7 IMDB, 100% fresh tomatoes

The early-19th-century trials and tribulations of two spoiled brat daughters who must deal with their expulsion from wealthy English society to (gasp!) merely well-off English society.

My notes:
  • 0:28:00 Oh, those poor poor dears. The four of them are forced to live in a beautiful English cottage and they can only afford one male servant and a maid!
  • 0:35:08 And they must endure picnics overlooking the countryside. Oh, the horror! (Really, I have got to get over this attitutude of mine or I'll never make it through this picture.)
  • 0:52:40 I read about the flatulence while shooting this scene and couldn't resist making "pfffft!" sounds.
  • 0:55:30 It's Hugh Laurie! Hurrah! The picture is saved.
  • 1:42:55 Upon hearing of Elinor's mistreatment by Edward Ferrars, Colonel Brandon cries out, "By Grabthar's the Sons of shall be...avenged!" OK, not really.
  • 2:00:00 Has Margaret been in that tree house for the last year? We haven't seen her in a while.

The cousinnephew summary:
  • (At the midpoint [1:10:45] check-in:) Good job. Good actors. Good costuming. Good setting. As for the story, they don't need to complain so much; they've got a pretty good life, there. It's not like they're wearing rags.
  • It's a good movie. Not exactly my cup of tea. Nonetheless, it's a good movie.
  • (Asked about the five:) Acting stood out. You have to be good because there's scenes where there's no background noise, no music. Script was pretty good.
  • (What would you emulate in your own filmmaking and what would you avoid?) Emulate the attention to details. Again, they didn't get lazy.
  • (Avoid?) I don't really take the love relationships very seriously. I'm not big on the plot of, what? how wealth and good breeding matter?

Some links:

Soaking It In: Crooklyn

CrooklynCrooklyn (1994) by Spike Lee: 115 minutes, 6.5 IMDB, 88% fresh tomatoes

My notes:
  • 0:16:00 Glue-sniffing scene takes us into an altered reality.
  • 0:28:30 I can't hear "Hey Joe" without thinking of Weird Al.
  • 0:30:20 David Cassiday, teen heartthrob.
  • 0:49:20 I have got to get this soundtrack. It comes in two parts: 1 and 2.
  • 0:55:40 Another trip into an altered reality; this time as a fevered dream.
  • 0:58:50 The dog is named Muttley. (Heh. If this were an Ingmar Bergman film the dog would be named Gegga.)
  • 1:07:45 Another altered reality. This time it's not glue-sniffing or fever; it's Virginia.
  • 0:55:50 I love the the-what-now? expression on Troy as her cousin is singing along with the white-bread Christian TV show.
  • 1:26:00 Queenie provides a horrible cautionary tale about being crushed by Southern living.
  • The altered-reality scenes come and go towards the end of the film. It's hard to distinguish what's real and what's not after Momma goes.

The cousinnephew summary:
  • Spike Lee is a very impressive director, judging on what you see here.
  • Incredible film work at the beginning. During the opening credits, you notice the camera work he did with the kids counting off and running. The camera's on a crane, then on a movie car. He has enough takes that when the girls are. He must have done at least four different angles for the girls-slapping-hands. Did an overhead shot of the rope jumping. Shows that these people all know each other.
  • Did their own custom opening titles, which made a statement about the time period.
  • In the household they do a lot of moving shots, though the dinner scenes seem to be stand-stills.
  • The camera follows the mother behind the stairs.
  • Acting was pretty incredible for the amount of youth. The kids were great actors.
  • It had such a realistic home/family feeling to it. It seemed so natural.
  • (Asked what he'd emulate or avoid in his own filmmaking:) I'd capture his style of doing different kinds of moving shots.
  • The editing was really pretty impressive.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Soaking It In: The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck ClubThe Joy Luck Club (1993) by Wayne Wang: 139 minutes, 7.2 IMDB, 89% fresh tomatoes

Great film!

My notes:
  • 0:07:50 Playing Antonín Dvořák's "Humoresque". Makes me think of Slappy Squirrel.
  • 0:09:15 Song: I Enjoy Being a Girl, which is from The Flower Drum Song, so I guess it's kind of Chinese-American.
  • 0:32:55 I like the way that, while she was doling out the punishments, Lindo Jong struck a blow against the matchmaker as well. Fight the power!
  • 0:56:00 Ying-Ying St. Clair's whole married-a-cruel-man sequence is so powerful, it makes me really regret the time we just spent watching Daughters of the Dust. Actress France Nuyen put more power in this scene than director Julie Dash put into that entire film.
  • 1:05:50 "Seven and a half." Ha! So she is good at math.
  • 1:14:39 The power continues. Oh, I like the whole St. Clair family.
  • 1:31:00 Andrew McCarthy is playing a pretty complicated character, here. He's turning in an excellent performance.
  • 1:49:25 Too overwhelmed by a great movie to blog.
The cousinnephew summary:
  • Great director. Good script. Good actors.
  • Main thing is the way the story was told. The time.
  • Going through each story from her mother's friends. Going through the mother's life, then the daughter's life, through each family.
  • It wasn't, "Look at how many film elements we can do with the camera angles." If you create the right past and present time sequence, it turns out this good.
  • (Asked which of the film's techniques he'd emulate and which he'd avoid:) I just have to say that I'm impressed with the way they created an entire set for China in the 1940s. They recreated it entirely for certain parts of the movie. They went through that much trouble to let you feel the mother's experience.
  • To emulate: Don't get lazy.
  • Also, the make-up.

Soaking It In: Daughters of the Dust

Daughters of the DustDaughters of the Dust (1991) by Julie Dash: 112 minutes, 5.6 IMDB, 87.5% fresh tomatoes

Daughters was a low point in the film fest. I didn't like it much; the cousinnephew actively hated it.

My notes:
  • 0:04:30 The cousinnephew spots a POV conflict between the people on the shore and the cross -- the camera angles just aren't right. It seems like the POV camera from the boat is actually a few feet in front of the boat, which seems like a bad piece of editing.
  • 0:25:00 I am not understanding a lot of this, so I turn to a Daughters of the Dust scene log for help. How the heck were we supposed to know that "[t]he bottles were a place for the ancestors' spirits to dwell and watch over the family," eh? If the film told us that, I missed it. If it didn't, shame on the film.
  • 0:35:00 "All that yellow, wasted." Huh?
  • 0:37:00 Following a Peazant women saying that Yellow Mary "must have come back for something", we see a fade to white then a fade in to a man (Eli?) on the beach. It seems to be telling us that Yellow Mary wants Eli, but I don't think that's the case. It's just confusing.
  • 0:58:30 I like this scene, in which we see snippets of traditional games and activities. It's OK that they don't show us the details and the rules; we get the idea. The lack of an explanation isn't a problem. Contrast that with the earlier bottle tree scene, in which we weren't given an explanation of the important of the bottles. In that previous case, the lack of explanation robbed the scene of its impact.
  • 1:22:00 Crib and tombstone showing dates (1866: first year of freedom, 1867: second year of freedom)
  • 1:26:55 The photographer shouts to everyone, asking them to remember Ibo Landing. Looks like he's departed from his original task of capturing the new and has instead taken on the task of documenting the old. Sounds like a filmmaker's statement, eh?

The cousinnephew summary:
  • I'd like never to see it again. That was hard for me to watch.
  • I'll give it: It had beautiful shots. Other than that I just wanted it to stop.
  • The music. It seems fitting, but there's just such a lameness to it. (He particularly disliked the overuse of chimes to indicate something magical happening.)
  • I just really didn't want Eula to continue with her speech.
  • I would rather see Bicyle Thief and 400 Blows many more times than watch Daughters of the Dust again.

Soaking It In: The Brother from Another Planet

The Brother from Another PlanetThe Brother from Another Planet (1984) by John Sayles: 108 minutes, 6.7 IMDB, 91.3% fresh tomatoes

My notes:
  • 0:05:00 Steel drum music is brilliant.
  • 0:36:15 Longing after the lost Harlem.
  • 0:53:50 White guys from the Midwest. "That's what it's all about." "Give me five, brother."
  • 0:55:30 "Where are you from." The child is the only one on Earth who understands The Brother's answer to that question.
  • 0:57:29 The Brother frees the chained dog. That's a pretty poignant scene.
  • 1:02:26 Wobbly camera; use of halo effect to indicate The Brother's intoxication.
  • 1:03:15 The Rasta guy who guides the Brother through his intoxication is named Virgil; the name of Dante's guide through Inferno.
  • 1:08:42 The men in black don't have The Brother's ability to understand other languages.
  • 1:19:15 I wonder what The Brother wrote on that wall.
  • 1:29:10 I ask the cousinnephew why The Brother is following the guy. He's not sure.
  • 1:35:00 The men in the bar try their movie fight skills (in front of a Bruce Lee poster) and find that they don't work in this situation.
  • 1:40:10 The Brother uses his camera/eye to make the man see "the big picture," which is as straightforward an artistic statement as you could ask for.
  • 1:43:10 A whole group of Harriet Tubmans!
  • 1:44:40 The men in black have to make their last stand in front of a "No Standing" sign.
  • 1:45:30 The New York subway is the underground railroad, of course.

The cousinnephew summary:
  • Feel like a lot of it didn't need to be played out that much. A lot of it seemed unnecessary.
  • Him liking the singer. Being at the bar and fixing things. That was all just extra.
  • I think a lot of the camera work. Like the end shot, they kinda needed a tripod.
  • Some of the sound effects were kind of B-grade; a lot of that at the beginning.

Soaking It In: Annie Hall

Annie HallAnnie Hall (1977) by Woody Allen: 93 minutes, 8.2 IMDB, 97.8% fresh tomatoes

It's strange, but this film was more of a comedy and less of a drama than I'd remembered it to be.

My notes:
  • 0:11:00 Walking sequence, probably as long as the 400 Blows sequences, but much more bearable.
  • 0:14:00 Hah! It's an Ingmar Bergman film.
  • 0:17:30 Marshall McLuhan! Yes, if only life were like that.
  • 0:28:00 Woody Allen wonders what Diane Keaton would look like naked. We the audience must wait until 2004 to find out.
  • 1:22:00 Grand Illusion is a funny film if you're high.

The cousinnephew summary:
  • I really liked it.
  • Like the method of story-telling.
  • Allen does different camera styles in one film.
  • The route is narrative with main character as the story teller.
  • He talks right into the camera.
  • (Asked about script, writing, directing, cinematography/lighting, editing:) This was good in a few categories. The acting was very good, as well as the directing and editing.
  • (What stood out to you as being notable?) The style of the film. The way he goes through all his different relationships and all the events of his life with different people. And how he explains. It's very straightforward; very clear.
  • He used his narration style to build on his comedy. He used the very pessimistic main character; someone who looks on life as a downer who is yet a comedian.
  • (I asked about what he'd emulate or avoid in his own filmmaking style.) His editing work, but I don't know how to say this specifically.
  • This is a fun film because it's so fast-paced. There's so much intellectual talk. It almost seems like there's definitely a point to the passerby conversations, with different people about things that you think wouldn't matter with the film's plot. But that's what builds up the film's character. It's how you get to know the characters in the film rather than through their real-life conversation. You see a lot with Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction and his new one, Death Proof. They have long conversations in the movie. The conversation actually depicts the character and is relevant to the film itself.

Some links:

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Soaking It In: Dr. Strangelove

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the BombDr. Strangelove (1964) by Stanley Kubrick: 96 minutes, 8.7 IMDB, 100% fresh tomatoes

Ahhh! A breath of fresh air after that 400 Blows nonsense. I didn't take a lot of notes about this film; I just gathered it in.
My notes:
  • 1:36:00 Best. Ending. Ever.
The cousinnephew summary:
  • You have to give a lot of credit to the actors.
  • Film obviously had a pretty good budget.
  • (About the camera work:) Liked how they shot the tasks in the plane, like when they flipped a switch. Also liked the shot when Ripper was talking with Mandrake; view from below of Ripper making him look powerful, with Mandrake looking more meak.

Soaking It In: The 400 Blows

The 400 BlowsThe 400 Blows (1959) by François Truffaut: 99 minutes, 8.1 IMDB, 100% fresh tomatoes

I'm sorry, hordes of Truffaut-lovers. I'm sorry, all you critics who unanimously gave this film positive reviews. But this is a dumb film.

It's too easy. Here's a quick overview of The 400 Blows' earth-shattering revelations about childhood: teachers are stupid, parents don't care, children try to cheat but aren't very good at it, some kids are brownnosers.

And the equally world-shaking takes on film: Those early film gadgets were kewl and audiences are like kids watching a puppet show (only stupider).


My notes:
  • 0:12:00 First thought on the carnival ride: that liquid at the bottom is disgusting. Second thought: It's a reference to a zoetrope. Third thought: Yeah, that liquid's disgusting.
  • 0:42:00 So the language professor thinks English-speakers have lisps?
  • 1:03:00 He didn't notice the ankles? The actor who played René's father stared right at Antoine's ankles as Antoine was supposedly hiding behind the bed and Truffaut didn't reshoot the scene? Dumb, dumb, dumb.
  • 1:05:00 An insufferably long puppet show.
  • 1:07:10 An insufferably long typewriter theft sequence.
  • 1:10:50 Antoine had a disguise hat in his pocket the whole time and he didn't use it when he stole the typewriter? I guess the French education system has really failed this child.
  • 1:27:20 Look, Antoine! A free watch!
  • 1:31:30 Let's hope this is one of those made-up things in this semi-autobiographical film, 'cause I really don't like the idea that Truffaut is taking this opportunity to brag about his childhood attempts to hire a prostitute.
  • 1:35:00 An insufferably long running-down-the-road sequence.
  • 1:39:00 Worst. Ending. Ever.
The cousinnephew summary:
  • I thought a few times it was going to be the end of the movie, but it kept going. I wondered when it was going to stop. I thought it was going to end with him being shipped off to jail. And it didn't.
  • Not sure if the lesson is it's his nature and you just can't change him, or what.
  • (Regarding camera work:) It had a few nicely-angled things. It had that long, long running scene, with the camera moving along with him. For SO LONG.
  • Another black and white that they didn't need to be (meaning that color film was available). They could have done it in color, but they didn't because they wanted to show that this kid is black and white. He's not going to change. He tried to do good, but ends up just kinda blowing it.
  • He's a darker, more trouble-making character. Not sure if it was because of the way he was raised.
  • (Asked what he would emulate in his own filmmaking:) They had a lot of good, young kid actors.
  • Noted the lack of music during the running sequence.
Some links:

Soaking It In: The Seventh Seal

The Seventh SealThe Seventh Seal (1957) by Ingmar Bergman: 96 minutes, 8.4 IMDB, 95% fresh tomatoes

I've been looking forward to taking another look at The Seventh Seal. It’s funny, but since I’ve been chatting with people about these films I’ve discovered an underground community of Seventh Seal haters. We were at a puppet play the other night with friends and we got into a good, rollicking discussion about Seventh Seal. "I’ve tried to watch it a few times and I think I just don’t get it." "Oh, you get it. Guy plays chess with Death. You get that, right? Then you get the film." "Yeah, there’s just not that much to get."

Also, the redhead hates this film.

But with this latest viewing I've left the hated-it camp and joined the kinda-like-it camp.

Remember that Shakespeare stuff that I put on a mousepad? It helps to explain what I now see in The Seventh Seal. Here it is, with a little more context:
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
  - Julius Caesar (II, ii, 32-37)
Shakespeare wasn't really talking about death in Julius Caesar; he was talking about courage. Bergman wasn't really talking about death in The Seventh Seal; he was talking about morals. (Okay, they were both talking about death as well as those other topics; don't nitpick.)

So, yeah. I kinda like it now.

My notes:
  • 0:17:00 Meta discussion about why the painter paints death, which is really about why this film features death.
  • 0:25:00 More meta about the painter.
  • 0:35:00 The song's reference to the narrow gate is a reference to Matthew 7:13 -- "Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many be they that enter in thereby."
  • 1:03:00 I wonder how accurate the translations of Plog's insults are. "Strumpet Lisa." "Rump Lisa." "Dung pile." Good stuff.
  • 1:08:40 It's like Death is Bugs Bunny, sawing down the tree. The actor even looks like Elmer Fudd.
The cousinnephew summary:
  • I'm a little confused by that one.
  • They did a few cool things with lighting. A few sequences, like when the guy dies from the plague. And in the castle, the light at the window. I'm not sure why he did that. 'Cause if you're trying to give an atheistic outlook I think you'd darken rather than lighten.
  • (Did you like the movie?) It was all right. Probably need to watch it again to catch everything.
  • I thought they had some good actors. I really liked the squire.
  • (On Max von Sydow:) If you slapped enough makeup on him he'd look like Ephialtes from 300.
Some links:

Soaking It In: Rear Window

Rear WindowRear Window (1954) by Alfred Hitchcock: 112 minutes, 8.8 IMDB, 100% fresh tomatoes

Great Hitchcock. Glad this one's one the list.

My notes:
  • 0:01:00 The curtain's going up.
  • 0:10:00 The cousinnephew spots that this was the basis for a Simpsons episode.
  • 0:18:00 Jeff is nuts for not wanting to marry Lisa.
  • 0:22:00 Miss Lonely Hearts is rehearsing the dinner to the tune of Bing Crosby's To See You is to Love You (from Road to Bali)
  • 0:23:45 Miss Torso. Lisa says she's not in love with the most prosperous one, or any of them. (IMDB says of the Miss Torso actress, Georgine Darcy, "Mother initially wanted her to become a stripper; she chose ballet instead." Wonder if that's true. I guess it'd better be; it's in her obituary.)
  • 0:49:13 Lisa starts to believe.
  • 1:06:00 Lisa really gets interested when Jeff mentions an alligator handbag. Heh.
  • 1:32:00 They're ignoring Miss Lonely Hearts because they're preoccupied with Thorwald.
  • 1:36:50 Jeff: "Stella was wrong about Miss Lonely Hearts." How'd he come to that conclusion?

The cousinnephew summary:
  • Camera work was something to be noted. You have one setting. It's always from Jeff's view until just about the end. So they have to do the camera angles from his room.
  • I like the beginning where they do -- it must have been a crane shot -- where they go all around. (We replayed the first few minutes and saw that the cousinnephew was right. He's developing a good eye for this sort of thing. Brief discussion about the use of establishing shots.)

Some links:

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Soaking It In: Rashômon

RashômonRashômon (1950) by Akira Kurosawa: 88 minutes, 8.5 IMDB, 100% fresh tomatoes

In progress. Need to transcribe my handwritten notes.

My notes:

The cousinnephew summary:

Some links:

Soaking It In: Bicycle Thief

Bicycle ThievesThe Bicycle Thief (1948) by Vittorio De Sica: 80 minutes, 8.3 IMDB, 97% fresh tomatoes

In progress. Need to transcribe my handwritten notes.

My notes:

The cousinnephew summary:

Some links:

Soaking It In: Citizen Kane

Citizen KaneCitizen Kane (1941) by Orson Welles: 119 minutes, 8.6 IMDB, 100% fresh tomatoes

My notes:
  • Track 15 3:32 On way to look at mother's things.
  • Track 15 4:30 "You know what mothers are like."
  • Track 18 1:00 Low camera angle, from the gutter.
  • Track 18 3:30 Jedediah Leland: "You want love on your own terms."
  • Track 18 4:43 Kane toasts to "love on my terms".
  • Track 19 2:00 Vox populi.
  • Track 20 4:40 Depth of field.
  • Track 24 5:20 Susan: "You don't know how it feels to know a whole audience doesn't want you." Kane: "That's when you've got to fight them!"
Some links:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Soaking It In: Metropolis

MetropolisMetropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang: 147 minutes, 8.5 IMDB, 98.6% fresh tomatoes

We kicked off the film fest in style with Metropolis. Specifically with the 123-minute, digitally restored version restored 75th anniversary edition that the the F.W. Murnau Foundation released in 2002. There are many other restorations and re-releases, including a bunch that came out during the 1990s when Metropolis was briefly in the public domain in the U.S, but these are generally *horrible versions and are to be avoided.

My notes:
The cousinnephew summary:
  • Liked the camera work.
  • A complicated plot; surprising for something that old.

Some links:* I had the cousinnephew and his brother (also a cousinnephew) wailing in agony when I played them the 1993 Corinth Video edition of Metropolis, with an execrable music track by Loy Cook Jr. "How could you watch this?" "It's like he just wrote two pieces of music and just switched back and forth between them." "Why is this so crappy?"

The Joy Luck Blows of Annie Rashômon, or...

...How the Crooklyn Daughters of Another Planet Learned to Stop Worrying and Have Sensibility About the Rear Window Thief of the Citizen Children of the Seventh Metropolis

My cousinnephew (our family term for a cousin who's more like a nephew) is applying to a film school. He's got to write an essay about one of 15 films from a list provided by the school. Over the Christmas break we're going to watch them all, in chronological order.
Update: Added links to our reviews.

Santa Tracker: 100.0 percent

He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight -
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Santa Tracker: 82.8 percent

Making progress but losing a little steam.

Toasting at Toastmasters

Clink!At my Toastmaster's meeting last night I gave a short speech about how to perform a toast (content stolen from here) then I gave everyone a chance to practice.

I provided non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice and some cheap plastic wine glasses. Between the other speeches throughout the evening, people would come up and propose a randomly-selected toast. Here are the scenarios:
Toast #1
The Scene: A fancy reception hall
You: You are the best man or maid of honor.
The Honoree: The person who gave the previous toast is the bride or groom.
The Occasion: A wedding reception, shortly after the wedding. Everyone is enjoying a beautiful meal and you’re toasting the newly-married couple.

Toast #2
The Scene: Sherwood Forest in 15th century England
You: You are a member of Robin Hood’s band of merry men (and women).
The Honoree: The person who gave the previous toast has just performed a feat of daring-do (that you get to choose) that has earned the honoree a place in Robin’s band.
The Occasion: Robin’s merry men (and women) are in their secret hideout in Sherwood Forest, having a feast to welcome this latest member to the band.

Toast #3
The Scene: An Academy Awards after-party at the multi-million dollar mansion of the honoree
You: You are one of the honoree’s costars.
The Honoree: The person who gave the previous toast is a movie star.
The Occasion: You are leading the party-goers in congratulating the honoree for the Oscar that the honoree won earlier that evening.

Toast #4
The Scene: A retirement dinner at a banquet hall in the middle of the 21st century
You: You are one of the honoree’s coworkers.
The Honoree: The person who gave the previous toast is a coworker with whom you have worked with for decades.
The Occasion: You are wishing the honoree a happy retirement.

Toast #5
The Scene: The elegant dining room on the luxury passenger liner, the RMS Titanic, on April 14th, 1912
You: You are a millionaire who has been invited to sit at the captain’s table. You are unaware that the ship will hit an iceberg later tonight.
The Honoree: The person who gave the previous toast is one of the ship’s architects, who is also seated at the captain’s table.
The Occasion: You are congratulating the honoree for a successful launch of the greatest passenger liner ever created; a ship that The Shipbuilder magazine calls "practically unsinkable."

Toast #6
The Scene: A going-away party at a frat house or sorority
You: You are the president of the fraternity or sorority.
The Honoree: The person who gave the previous toast is a popular member of your organization who has done something very funny that has resulted in their expulsion from school.
The Occasion: You are congratulating the honoree for the expulsion and offering your best wishes before the authorities arrive to take that person away.

Toast #7
The Scene: A holiday dinner at the home of the honoree. (You can pick a holiday.)
You: You are a friend of the honoree who has been invited to dinner.
The Honoree: The person who gave the previous toast.
The Occasion: You are thanking the honoree for the meal.

Toast #8
The Scene: A garden party sponsored by the Illinois State Lottery commission on the back lawn of the Illinois Capital building in Springfield, Illinois
You: You are a friend of the honoree.
The Honoree: The person who gave the previous toast has just been presented with a giant check.
The Occasion: You are congratulating the honoree for winning the largest-ever prize in the Illinois Lottery.

Toast #9
The Scene: A table at the prison lunchroom at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois
You: You are either the cellmate of the honoree or you are a prison guard; your choice.
The Honoree: The person who gave the previous toast is an inmate who is to be released tomorrow after serving a sentence (that you get to choose) for a crime (that you get to choose).
The Occasion: You are leading your fellow cellmates in wishing the honoree well in the outside world.

Toast #10
The Scene: A baby shower in the honoree’s living room
You: You are the godparent-to-be of the honoree’s expected child.
The Honoree: The person who gave the previous toast is the expectant father or mother.
The Occasion: You are toasting the honoree and the baby-to-be.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Santa Tracker: 44.3 percent

Spent the evening shopping.

Santa Tracker: 23.9 percent

It's time to finalize the Christmas shopping! Over the next few days I'll track our progress on this handy Santa Tracker.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Soaking It In: Hunchback

My sister, some friends, the redhead and I saw a production of Hunchback at the Redmoon Theater in Chicago. It was quite good. This was my first Redmoon production but I'd heard a lot about the company and their emphasis on puppets and stagecraft.

The show kind of reminded me of The Fantasticks. I'd recently read a jacket liner in which its creator, Harvey Schmidt, mused on the broad appeal of The Fantasticks. He figured that the show had something for all ages: fight scenes for the kiddies, Romeo-and-Juliet-esque romance for the teens and life lessons for the grown-ups. Hunchback had all of that, plus puppets.

You should see this show, and you should see it before its run ends on January 20th.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Legends of Doo-Wop

The redhead and I saw this film at the Ann Arbor Film Festival in the '80s (back when it was the Ann Arbor 16mm Film Festival). It was a crowd favorite. Watch it and you'll see why.


I'm glad the film's cocreator, Tony Mortillaro, decided to put it on online. I've been searching for it every so often, online and off. He'd put it on in the '90s, but is long gone. Thanks, Tony, for putting it on YouTube where I could find it again!

Tony's partner and costar in Legends of Doo-Wop, Darin Morgan, went on become an Emmy-award winning writer for The X-Files, a consulting producer for a few other sci-fi shows (Millennium in 1997, Night Stalker in 2005 and currently Bionic Woman), and an actor in a bunch of films that you can look up at IMDB. My favorite acting part of his (aside from Legends of Doo-Wop) is his portrayal of the flukeman in X-Files episode "The Host". I think the redhead is partial to his playing Eddie Van Blundht in the episode "Small Potatoes".

Rounding out the cast of Legends of Doo-Wop are Wayne Morgan as the older "Wayne" and Richard J. Mortillaro as the older "Rick". Yes, they're Darin Morgan's and Tony Mortillaro's fathers. Gotta love film school.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Today I am a banjo man

What you missed at my banjo debut: the slideshow.

Update (1/16/2008): Chris Bell from Flatts & Sharpe just gave me these pix of me at the event. Thanks, Chris!

J.R.'s banjo debut J.R.'s banjo debut J.R.'s banjo debut