January 30, 2011
Cedar Rapids hits theaters (to my knowledge it's a limited release, so I don't know if it'll be at a theater near you) on February 11th, and I think you should run right out and see it if you can. Why? Here are ten reasons:
1. It's funny. Or at least that's what I hear, and unfortunately, there just haven't been many truly funny movies made lately. (Trust me on this, I watched The Other Guys last weekend.) I won't try to explain this; it is what it is.
2. It stars Ed Helms. To quote some dude who blogs for Moviefone, "If there is justice in the world, Ed Helms will soon be a comedy star whose name above the title sells a movie all by itself." Enough said.
3. It has a great supporting cast. You don't need a cast full of big names and bigger egos to make a great movie. While you will recognize most of these guys, I think it's safe to say that you'd never in a million years imagine them making a comedy together. (Granted I never would have imagined Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell making a comedy together, but, well, that's a story for another day.) This particular movie's cast includes (in addition to Helms) John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock, Rob Corddry, and Sigourney Weaver among others.
4. It's directed by Miguel Arteta. If you're not sure who he is, here's a question: have you seen Youth in Revolt or The Good Girl? Arteta has also directed episodes of The Office, Ugly Betty, and Six Feet Under.
5. It's an original. Cedar Rapids was written by Phil Johnston (with some input from Helms, I believe). If my research is correct, it's Johnston's first film and last year or the year before, Variety called him one of the "ten screenwriters to watch" or something of that nature. Anyway, my point is this: it's not a remake of some French comedy from 1986; it's not the result of butchering some poor author's hard work; it didn't start as a video game, comic book, or much-loved cartoon; and it's not a sequel to or a take-off on some great movie that should stand alone. Seriously, there's not much of that going around Hollywood these days.
6. It takes place in the Midwest. If you follow me on Twitter, you've probably seen me tweet about this movie two or a hundred times over the last few weeks (don't judge me - I've been snowed in and stuff). At first, most of the response I received involved questions about my potential plans to travel to Iowa or announce that I was running for president or something, but eventually people caught on. I got a few, "Hey, I used to live there" or "Hey, my grandmother lives there" or "Hey, I grew up about an hour from Cedar Rapids," and that's all it took to catch people's attention. This is something that is near and dear to my heart and has been since I was a goofy film student, but I'll spare you my extended thoughts on the matter. I don't want to come across as one of those fanatical "Hollywood is out of touch" people, but it is nice to see a movie give some love to flyover country. And I'll leave it at that. (By the way, some of it was actually filmed in the Midwest, so brownie points for that too.) (Also, hopefully, people won't assume it makes fun of Midwesterners as a whole. I don't think it does, but everyone's got to find a reason to get offended about something these days, you know.)
7. It's smart. Again, I'm making a huge assumption based on interviews, reviews, and clips I've seen, but I will report back after February 11 to admit if I'm wrong. I used to have this running joke with my gay cousin that I judged people based on whether or not like they liked mid-90's Jim Carrey movies (This comes from me falling asleep in the theater while watching Dumb and Dumber when I was 13). Physical comedy is great, fart jokes are fine, but there has to be something to back that up. There has to be something unique. I'd like to think Helms can and will add that uniqueness to anything he does, especially something he appears to be so involved with. Which leads me to...
8. It has "cult classic" potential. When I went to YouTube to grab the trailer for this post, I skimmed down the last few comments and saw that people were already quoting the movie (aside from the one uptight d-bag who made a comment about it portraying Midwesterners as morons). In another interview I watched last week, Helms is even asked about this by an interviewer who predicts it will happen. I'm not saying this movie is the next Napoleon Dynamite, but if enough people see it, I'm willing to bet many a Facebook status will be updated with a catchy line or two from from the movie in the weeks and months to come, and the college kids will be walking around, wearing Brown Star Insurance t-shirts.
9. It has the potential to change the landscape of entertainment forever. OK, yeah, that's a bit much, but give me a break, people! I can't even come up with ten reasons to see most of the movies I have seen lately. In all seriousness, when I first heard about this film, I thought it sounded interesting, but I really didn't expect to ever get to see it. When I heard it was going to Sundance, I got really excited. For one thing, as I've mentioned before, more Ed Helms on our film and television screens seems like a great thing (just so long as it's not in the form of The Hangover 6), and I'll do whatever I can to encourage that. In the interview I'm about to post, Helms mentions that it's the first film he's ever had a lot to do with from start to finish. Maybe I'm a total geek, but I'm really interested in seeing the finished product based just on that information alone, and I want nothing more than for it to be a huge success.
10. Judge for yourself. The trailer for the movie looks awesome. See it here:
Also, if you have half an hour to spare, here's a great interview with Helms and Arteta from Sundance.
OK, that's it - ten reasons why you should go see this movie, and ten reasons why I'm going to go see this movie. I will report back after I see it.
In the meantime, I'll be hoping and praying it makes it way to Atlanta.
P.S. It's 4:00 AM. 4:00 AM is not a time for proofreading. Please ignore any and all grammar errors. Not that I don't make them all the time here, but again, it's 4:00 AM, and I'd rather go to sleep than sit and silently scold myself for misusing commas.
January 28, 2011
Mistake number two was deciding that, in an effort to conserve dog food (the store where I have to get special food for Gabby closed last month and the nearest option is 30+ miles away), I’d go by Arby’s on the way home and get the dogs each a roast beef sandwich. Mistake number three was deciding that I needed to go for a nice little peaceful drive and visit the Arby’s in the next city over instead of going to the one in my town.
So, the dogs and I leave my mother’s house after an hour or so, and we drive to Arby’s, I order the food, and we turn around to come home. Instead of going back down the expressway, I decided I’d take the scenic route – mistake number four.
I come to an intersection of two very busy highways, and seeing as how it’s around 4PM in metro Atlanta, there is a lot of traffic. I’m trying to turn right, but there is no way I’m going to make it so, I stopped to yield and wait. I may or may not have been munching on some curly fries. Within seconds, I hear (and feel) a loud noise.
Now, let me stop here and say I’ve been in one real car accident in my life… at least one that involved other cars besides mine (see: I Bet You Never Ran Over Yourself)…and that one accident was bad. It was pouring rain in downtown Atlanta, about nine years ago, and a VW bus rammed me into the car in front of me, totaling my car. I saw that VW bus coming at me before it hit me, so I knew what was going on. In this case, it took me a minute to realize what was happening.
Also, I just don’t possess a lot of common sense, but I digress.
Anyway, the bang/bump happened long after I stopped, so I realized I hadn’t hit another car. Also, there were no cars around to hit. I began to panic, thinking I’d hit a pedestrian and that person was up under my car flailing and bleeding and I was about to be put away for vehicular manslaughter. After a few seconds of trying to figure out which city/county’s jurisdiction I’m in so I can be sure my name and picture won’t appear in the police blotter in the publication where I write a weekly column, it finally occurs to me that the very old man sitting in the car behind me has actually hit me.
I pulled over to the side of the road, and the old man followed. He got out and I got out and he said, “How are you doing today?”
“Fine,” I responded, “or at least I was until now.” You see, here I am on the side of the road at a very busy intersection dressed like the local homeless lady. I wasn’t even wearing real shoes. All I could think about was how many people I knew might be driving by.
“I’m so sorry – that scared me to death,” he said. Followed by, “It looks like your car is OK and my car is OK. Are you OK?”
I told him I was and went to inspect the back end of my car, which was indeed OK - or as OK as it’s been since I backed into a tree a few months ago. But that’s a story for another day.
Here’s where I had to make a decision. Do I call 911 and report this or do I let it slide? I felt bad for the old man, because he was, well, old, and I felt bad for myself because I just knew some hot cop would show up, and I’d be prancing around in my slippers and ugly shirt with ketchup and bleach stains all over it.
But I’d been preparing for this moment for many years, ever since an old professor told me a story about how much trouble he’d gotten into for not reporting a lady who had rear-ended him, which ended with her trying to get a restraining order against him. I always swore to myself that no matter how big or small, I would file an accident report. I’d practiced for this moment! I just never envisioned myself looking like a hobo when it happened.
I kept looking back and forth from my car to the old man, and finally, a thought occurred to me. “Let me see if my trunk will even open,” I said to the old man, as if that would make me sound like I knew what I was doing. I tried to speak in a stern voice to let him know I was not happy.
“Sure, hon. Go ahead.”
I reached in the car and popped the trunk.
“Works fine, hon," he called from around the back of the car.
Oh, no, you’re not getting off that easy, I thought. I went to the back of my car and opened the trunk up all the way and closed it a few times. Open and close, open and close. Thinking back, I probably looked like a moron, but it seemed important at the time.
Finally the guy spoke, “You vote for McCain?” He nodded at the worn and torn remainder of a bumper sticker I plastered on the car circa September, 2008.
“Yes, I did.”
“Me too. I sure do wish he would’ve won. This fool we’ve got now is driving us into the poor house.”
“Maybe next time the GOP will pick a better candidate,” I responded.
Yes, there I was, standing in the middle of a busy intersection, dressed like a bag-lady, and talking about politics with some old geezer who’d just rammed his car into me.
I finally told the old guy to go on and not worry about it. He thanked me profusely, maybe a little too much. Maybe he had a dead body in his trunk or was high or something. Who knows? And of course, as soon as I got in my car and drove off, my back began to hurt. As a matter of fact, I spent the rest of the day lying around with a sore back, head, and jaw.
Later in the day, I called to tell my parents about what happened and asked if they thought I should be worried about my back, head and jaw. After all, maybe I needed one of those little neck brace things. Or maybe I had a concussion because I was feeling sleepy and I’d read somewhere that you weren’t supposed to sleep if you had a concussion, but I really wanted to take a nap.
My dad, the Obama vote, just laughed and said, “That’s what you get for letting him off the hook because he voted for McCain.”
Sigh. Not true. I’m not even proud of the fact that I voted for McCain. (Not that I would have voted for Obama either…I’m just kind of over both parties.)
I really didn’t think he or anyone else would understand that I really let the guy go because I was dressed like, well, like I had voted for Ralph Nader.
The moral of the story: dogs should eat dog food, I should always dress nicely, and gas is too damn expensive to be taking scenic drives anyway.
January 23, 2011
So, right before getting snowed in, I headed out to the used bookstore in my 'hood and looked for some Southern fiction. Why? Because every fictional project I'm working on right now is Southern, and I needed inspiration.
I ended up buying two books by Mark Childress: Crazy in Alabama (which has actually been turned into a movie) and One Mississippi. I started reading One Mississippi this week and ended up staying up until 4AM to finish it. It was that good. I'm not good with book reviews, so I'm not going to even try with this one.
I will say this: it's about a boy, Daniel, who is about to be a junior in high school. He lives in Indiana, and during the summer or '72 (I think that was the year), his father is transferred to Mississippi where Daniel will have quite a life-changing junior year. From what happens on prom night to his unusual first love to his odd best friends to his unique family...it's a great story! I didn't want it to end. It's funny, it's comfortable, it's socially relevant without being obnoxious, and it's full of memorable characters that aren't too over the top (as you find with many Southern books).
A few years ago, I discovered Donna Tartt, and she instantly became my favorite author. This book reminds me so much of her stuff. Anyway, I won't ramble on, but if you like to read Southern fiction, Southern Goth, coming of age stories, or just great books, run right out and buy this one now!
January 15, 2011
However, when I'm working on fiction, I find that it's almost like acting - I have to be in character and music really helps. So, let's take my current project that I'm trying to finish up. Without saying too much, the main theme is bluegrass, and it's set in Georgia. I happen to love all kinds of music. Sure, bluegrass is one of my favorite things in the world, but I also listen to a lot of rap. So, when I've been listening to Outkast and Goodie Mob all day, and then I sit down to work on the bluegrass/Georgia project, I feel like I need to get back into character.
That's one reason I've spent so much time on YouTube lately. It's pretty easy to find (free) music, throw together a playlist, and load it up every time I sit down to write. There's no need to worry about whether or not my iPod is charged or whatever. I've also discovered a lot of new music this way. Anyway, in an effort to procrastinate as much as humanly possible before I get started working on that project today, I thought I'd post some of the music I listen to while I'm working.
1. Obviously, there is a lot of simple, old-school bluegrass. Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanely, etc. I'll just post one of my faves from that list: "Cripple Creek" by Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt.
2. Then I have some modern stuff. Not only because I enjoy it, but because I wanted the story to be modern. This part of the playlist includes a lot of Punch Brothers; it's got the Carolina Chocolate Drops; it's got The Avett Brothers. Here is a little sampling from that:
"Rye Whiskey" by the Punch Brothers (one of the best songs from 2010!)
"Tell Me True" by Sarah Jorosz
"Fixin' to Die" by G. Love & The Avett Brothers
3. One of my favorite albums in the whole wide world is the 2-disc Live album by Alison Krauss and Union Station. Dan Tyminski, Ron Block, and really all of those guys are pure genius. I can't listen to that music without thinking about everything that is great and wonderful in the world. Here are a couple of my favorites:
"A Tribute to Peador O'Donnell" by Jerry Douglas (He does it on the AKUS album. This song literally gives me chills.)
4. This might get some eye-rolling, but I've also got a few songs from Ed Helms. Actually, this is kind of what helped me develop such a deep admiration for his work and start paying more attention to him. This story that I'm working on has been three years in the making, but there was always a missing link. Back on that glorious day in August (or September?) when I found the videos and realized he was into bluegrass, the aforementioned missing link wasn't so missing anymore. I don't want to give too much about the plot, but I'll just say he/it all inspired me to finish the story. Anyway, I've posted these before, but here they are again.
"All Gone to Hell" by The Lonesome Trio (Helms's band)
"Foggy Mountain Breakdown" by The Turkey Creek Ramblers (with Helms)
5. The rest of the playlist has very little to do with bluegrass, but it still helps me identify with my main character and what I want to get from the story. As I mentioned, it takes place in Georgia, and while it's all 100% fiction, a lot of it was inspired by my childhood. Bluegrass is the music of nostalgia for me, but there is some other stuff that takes me back to those great places, too.
Ray Charles for example. When I was a little girl, I thought "Georgia on My Mind" was the greatest song in the history of songs. Naturally, it's on the list along with some of his other great work that I've grown to love.
Also on the list, a lot of Allman Brothers. Here's "Jessica"
And some REM. Without a doubt, REM is one of my favorite bands. I grew up listening to it. I grew up listening to the stories of those guys coming out of Athens. I think a lot of people who grew up that way and end up going to UGA (as I did) half expect to go there and see the ghost of young Michael Stipe walking by the 40 Watt Club.
"Radio Free Europe"
And another Georgia band, The Indigo Girls.
"Closer to Fine"
So, there you have it. Stephen King has his hard rock, and I have my bluegrass and "Georgia" music. It's just crazy how something so simple as music can evoke so much feeling. The other day, someone actually said to me that music was pointless, and I couldn't believe they actually felt that way. Music has always been a part of my life. I think history proves otherwise, and I really do believe it helps me realize my emotions more. Not only does it work in real life, but when you're writing or acting, it's a huge help... the more emotion you can put into that stuff, the more believable you are and the more people want to read or watch your work.
P.S. Go Falcons!
January 10, 2011
I have to say this is the worst winter weather I've ever seen. It's not the four - five inches of snow in my yard, it's the half an inch of ice on top. Walking on it is like walking across an iced over pond or lake. You really don't know where to step - some of it supports you, some of it doesn't. One wrong move and you land on your ass. (My pants are in the dryer as we speak.)
Here is the view outside the front door of my Unabomber cabin.
Here's Sadie - the dogs are having a hard time walking in this stuff.
Here is a video of the dogs running up the driveway (if it works - I've never used Blogger to upload videos before).
I might add some more pics later... Stay safe, everyone!
On Friday, January 7, I woke up to the same situation - Hemmer interviewing a politician. She was a woman I really didn't know much about, and until the little "D" popped up by her name, I couldn't have told you if she was a Democrat or a Republican. She was talking about Congress taking a pay cut and other bills and issues that were important to her, and she believed, her constituents. I remember thinking, and even posting on Twitter, that this is how politics ought to be. Agree or disagree with them on the issues, the people representing us in Congress shouldn't fit neatly into a political party the way so many of them do these days. They should have their own ideas and bring them to the table because that's what the people they represent want.
That politician was Representative Gabrielle Giffords.
On Saturday, like many other people around the country, I was saddened when I heard she and others had been shot at a political town hall-like meeting in Tuscon, Arizona. I learned about the incident online, but I turned my TV to a cable news station and despite the fact that I'd been planning to work and watch football that afternoon, I stay glued to the news.
Let me stop and say many people were shot that day; we all know that. We've all heard the body counts, number of people wounded, and heard some of the stories about who they were at this point. I know many people were upset that these others didn't receive as much attention from the media coverage, but I don't so much have a problem with that. First of all, had the headline been "Shooting Erupts at Tuscon Grocery Store," many people wouldn't have paid it any attention. I'm sad to say shootings are a dime a dozen these days.
Second of all, when I found out a congressperson had been shot, and especially when I made the connection that this was the woman I felt so strongly represented what this country is all about just the day before (even though I didn't agree with everything she said), I was pissed for a lack of a better term. In my mind, you don't mess with my country. You may as well be hurting a member of my family if you try to harm these United States and her people. My point is that it wasn't just about the individuals who were shot that day, it was about something bigger.
Unfortunately, many people decided not only to pretend they knew exactly what that "something bigger" was (when none of us had any idea), they used it as an opportunity, used these innocent people, especially Giffords, to promote their own agendas.
I never once stopped to say, "Was it a Democrat or Republican?" when I first heard a congressperson had been shot. Unfortunately, some people did. I was amazed at the disgusting things said by people, both right- and left-leaning people. I saw it on Twitter and Facebook, I saw it on blog posts, I heard it on the news, and I heard it in real life. I saw some of the most hateful language I've ever seen in my life, and I read blatant lies intended to be just as malicious as the gunman intended to be in Arizona that day. I saw many hypocritical mentions of the term "hateful rhetoric" from bloggers and washed up actors who have made a name for themselves by spewing "hateful rhetoric." I saw opportunists doing what they could to make this about something - anything - that would belittle and bemoan their political enemies.
Exactly the opposite of what Giffords, as far as I know, was all about.
A tragedy that should have rallied us together to find out what kind sick bastard would want to do this to our country and our fellow citizens and see to it that he or she is never allowed to do it again was turned into something so nasty and ugly. It was like cancer spreading across the beauty that is everything this country is supposed to be about.
I'm not going to name names - those people do not deserve anymore attention than they've already received. I debated naming specific incidents, but the facts are out there and explained by people who can do a much better job than I can.
I do want to say one thing, though. "Hateful rhetoric," which seems to be the kosher term for " talking about strong ideologies I don't agree with" doesn't cause people to kill other people. We're all subjected to it, day in an day out, whether it's about politics or something else, and most of us haven't put a gun to someone's hand because of it. The truth is that someone who would kill because of the words coming out of someone else's mouth is mentally disturbed in some capacity.
You wouldn't shut down your business because you're afraid someone is going to come along and rob it. You don't choose not to have kids because you're afraid someone will kidnap them. I'm not going to stop standing up for what I believe in because I'm afraid someone is going to come along and shoot me for it. Could we all afford to be a little more friendly with each other, sure, but thank God there we also have the ability to yell and scream all we want. If one idiot with a gun and some sort of mental problem takes that way from us, then he wins. Mission accomplished, if you will. Congratulations, you've just given your freedom away to some loser creep who got kicked out of community college, couldn't make it in the Army, and made really pathetic, rambling Youtube videos. It has zero to do with the politics of people who you do not agree with.
January 07, 2011
First of all, I visited the site where this took place. A mile or two sooner and it would have hit my parent's house. Honestly, it looks like a scene from a movie - the pictures don't do it justice.
I also took the dogs out to a big state park. They've doubled their parking rates, and I didn't have enough cash on me to pay the new fees (there are no ATMs around it), so we didn't stay too long. I've already gotten enough parking tickets from that place. Anyway, it was absolutely gorgeous! Just look at how blue the sky is.
January 06, 2011
First, on a totally unrelated note, let me just say I know I skipped "Writer Wednesday" again. Between trying to get my book finished and working out 2-3 hours a day (which I just started again), I just don't know if I'm going to have time to do it every week.
Anyway, as I have mentioned, I don't watch much TV, because I just don't have time to keep up with it. And I absolutely HATE fictional cop/crime shows. Maybe it's because I watch First 48 like some people watch porn, and the fictional stuff just doesn't measure up? With that said, somehow I found myself watching an episode of Blue Bloods this past weekend. The show stars Tom Selleck, which was my initial reason for watching, along with Bridget Moynahan, Donnie Wahlberg, Jennifer Espisito, and Will Estes (among others), and it was written by the guys who wrote The Sopranos - in other words, it has a lot of big names backing it up. I have always loved Selleck (who doesn't?), and I've always loved Moynahan, but I have to admit, Wahlberg steals the show and is the reason I ended up setting up my DVR to record any future episodes.
As a matter of fact, I've come to the conclusion that Wahlberg is a ridiculously underrated actor. I've seen him in a few movies over the years, and I've always been impressed by his talent, but now that I've seen him play a starring role in this TV show, I'm tempted to go back and see some of the things I've missed him in, such as Band of Brothers.
I'd love to see Wahlberg do something more with his acting career...maybe branch out from playing a cop...and I'm really surprised he's not. Look at all the big names he's worked with and for (no, really - go to IMDB to look, I'm too lazy to list them). It can't be that he's not getting the work. If I were casting...well, just about anything, I'd probably try to find a place for him in it just because of what he adds to the final product. He is far more talented than his little brother, and I honestly believe he could go head to head with any of the other leading men around today.
I hear the New Kids on the Block are back together and touring again, which is probably pretty lucrative for those guys, but once that's over, I really hope to see more of Wahlberg on the big (or little) screen. I just hate to see his talent go to waste. It'd be like if Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had chosen to become an accountant or Jerry Rice had opted to go to dental school instead of signing with the 49ers. It's just pure, raw talent - something you have or you don't.
As for Blue Bloods, Selleck plays the NYPD police commissioner and patriarch of the Reagan family, while Wahlberg, a detective; Estes, a cop; and Moynahan, an assistant district attorney, play his kids. Honestly, there are a lot of problems I have with the show, but I'll leave that to the critics. In my opinion, it's better than a lot of the fake cop shows that are so popular these days. I think the family aspect makes it more interesting, and Wahlberg definitely makes it fun to watch.
Check out the Blue Bloods trailer below and check out CBS at 10PM on Friday nights to watch the show.
January 01, 2011
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
I just wanted to take a minute and wish everyone a happy start to 2011. I haven't had much time to pay attention to the old blog this week, as I took on a little extra work I wasn't expecting, and I have also been trying to take some time to relax, read, watch some movies, and just sit around in my pajamas.
As for me, I'm not making any type of resolutions or anything, because if the last year has taught me anything, it's that what happens in your life is all about attitude. I haven't been hesitant to post about what a shitty year it's been (hey, it even ended on a very bad note - my car windshield decided to shatter into millions of pieces for no particular reason a few nights ago). So, I've decided life is going to happen, for better or for worse. You just have to dust off your bootstraps...or, um, something like that, and make the best of every situation.
I do have lots of plans for this year, most of them career-related, and I do feel like I've been handed a new beginning today, but I won't waste your time or mine posting about them. I will, however, wish that you and me and everyone we know (isn't that a movie?) has a happy, healthy 2011. I hope you are all able to accomplish your goals and have a very fulfilling year.
And with that, I'm going to go finish the latest Patricia Cornwell book. Between advice from Stephen King and reading my friend Pat's blog, I've been inspired to read everything I can get my hands on lately!