Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Am Solid

When I let responsibilities slide, I feel incomplete. I feel like a two-dimensional drawing that contains small-but-growing holes. Holes that might resemble a single flame eating its way through the drawing, inside-out. Or a rat systematically chewing through a paper cup. I feel paranoid, like people are poking and prodding for my failures. As if they are just waiting for me to step in a hole of my own creation.

When I don't face problems head-on, I feel unstable. I feel like my problems are chipping away at me, like a sculptor who doesn't know when to stop. And the more that gets chipped away, the more I feel wobbly, like a game of Jenga right before its climax. I feel overwhelmed. Every problem I have manifests itself as a brick and simultaneously positions itself directly above my head.

When I face my problems and accept my responsibilities, I feel strong, and warm and light. I feel confident and social. And solid.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Movie Time!

The last couple of years, I've made an effort to see the five movies that were nominated for Best Picture. This year, I upped the stakes and made a point to see the movies that included the nominees for the acting categories, as well. The following is my thoughts on each of the acting performances and the movies up for Best Picture. I've included the winner of each category along with my favorite.


Richard Jenkins, The Visitor -- Richard Jenkins was excellent in The Visitor. Unfortunately, his character was a very understated, subtle man, which didn't bode well for his chances at winning an Oscar. The movie was an interesting look at unlikely friendships with a sprinkling of political/immigration/racism commentary. It's a movie that makes you think, but it's not boring.

Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon -- I was born the year Nixon resigned, so I'm not really familiar with Richard Nixon's mannerisms outside of the handful of news clips and comedy impressions I've seen. But from what I HAVE seen, Frank Langella is nearly perfect. It's easy to get lost in his portrayal and convince yourself that he really is Nixon. My favorite part of this movie was the look into what drove Nixon. He seemed to be an intensely competitive individual. It certainly doesn't excuse what he did, but it sure made him more compelling in my eyes.

Sean Penn, Milk -- I had no idea how influential Harvey Milk was in initializing the gay rights movement. Milk is basically an underdog tale about a likable (though flawed) guy who makes a big difference in the world and in the lives of thousands of people. And Sean Penn does a typically brilliant job of embodying his subject, the good, the bad and the ugly. I think he really humanizes Harvey Milk to those who may not be sympathetic or tolerant of gay people. I think Penn's performance is definitely Oscar-worthy.

Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button -- I really like Brad Pitt as an actor, but I don't really think he's deserving of this nomination. The movie was decent and he was fine but I think the best thing about Benjamin Button is the special effects. From what I understand, they took Brad Pitt's face and digitally overlaid it onto the body of the little person who played Benjamin as a wheelchair-bound adolescent. Which was really amazing. And deserves an Oscar for effects, but not for the acting.

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler -- This was my favorite performance. I think the role significantly parallels Mickey Rourke's career, making it easier for him to play this part so wonderfully. He's a guy who is extremely gifted and self-centered but watches everything crash around him. He makes a valiant comeback in both his career and his personal life, but continues to make egregious-yet-understandable mistakes. I think this was the best performance in this category.

WINNER: Sean Penn
MY FAVORITE: Mickey Rourke


Josh Brolin, Milk -- Josh Brolin did a fantastic job in this movie, but the lack of screen time for his character left me wanting more. He is definitely compelling as the tortured adversary to Harvey Milk, but there just doesn't seem to be enough there. He definitely gets more screen time than Viola Davis, a nominee for Best Supporting Actress in Doubt, but his performance isn't as striking as Davis's. Of course, in this field, his chances of winning were miniscule to begin with.

Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder -- If it weren't for Heath Ledger, Robert Downey, Jr. would be the runaway favorite in the category. The movie is a good-but-not-great comedy, but Downey, Jr. is outstanding. His character is a world-renowned Australian method actor who decides to undergo skin treatments to play an African-American character. This is another role where the actor completely absorbs you into his character and makes your forget his real identity. This movie just had the unfortunate timing of coming out in the same year as The Dark Knight.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt -- This was yeoman's work for Philip Seymour Hoffman. You get used to his excellence every time you see him, so I probably took this performance for granted. Plus, he was working with three other actors who were nominated this year, so he kind of gets lost in all the outstanding work.

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight -- The Dark Knight is far and away the best comic book movie made to date. A lot of the reason for that is the gripping performance of Heath Ledger. He turns the Joker into a car wreck--in a good way. He is such an abhorrent creature that it is frightening. Yet it is impossible to look away and, actually, you end up wanting to see more of him.

Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road -- In a movie filled with characters who work as hard as they can to put up a facade, Michael Shannon's character is a stunning and refreshing lunatic. He is the voice of hope and logic and reason that everyone else tries to quell. And as nutty as he seems at first glance, he makes more sense than anyone else.

WINNER: Heath Ledger
MY FAVORITE: Heath Ledger


Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married -- Anne Hathaway shed her princess roles well and really got into this role. She's the hub of a dysfunctional family and a character who you can love and loathe all at the same time. She does a great job of invoking sympathy for a person who would be really tough to deal with in real life.

Angelina Jolie, Changeling -- The most amazing thing about this movie is that it's a true story. Angelina Jolie's character's son goes missing and she stops at nothing in her search for him. I don't think it was an Oscar-winning performance, but it was solid. She did well in portraying the range of emotions that any mother would experience when a child goes missing: grief, determination, anger, fear. But mostly she cried a lot and I don't think that was going to cut it in this category.

Melissa Leo, Frozen River -- An unfamiliar actress in an unfamiliar movie, Melissa Leo takes you into the world that not many of us care to think about. As a struggling mother whose husband left her right before the down payment is due on their new trailer home, she has to do the best she can to provide a home for herself and her two children. She ends up in a situation she never would have expected and things go awry. It was an excellent performance, but in a field filled with more familiar faces, she was going to have a hard time sticking out.

Meryl Streep, Doubt -- Meryl Streep plays a strict, New England nun in a gripping morality tale. As a stubborn foil to the other nominated actors from this movie (Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman), she manages to stay true to her convictions in the face of many persuasive arguments. She has a record 15 Oscar nominations and this role was certainly a worthy one.

Kate Winslet, The Reader -- Kate Winslet could have been nominated just as easily for her role in Revolutionary Road, which just goes to show what an incredible year she had. In The Reader, she plays a woman who has an affair with a teenage boy. While their affair is filled with passion, she turns out to be emotionally stunted, much to her detriment later in life. It was a very nuanced performance that I felt was worthy of an Oscar win.

WINNER: Kate Winslet
MY FAVORITE: Kate Winslet


Amy Adams, Doubt -- Amy Adams is the young, inexperienced nun opposite Meryl Streep in Doubt. Her character, while idealistic and naive, holds firm in her convictions and stands up to the stronger nun. Upon first glance, it doesn't seem like Adams is really stretching much in this role, but she definitely holds her own in a movie filled with excellent performances.

Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona -- Personally, I didn't see what the big deal was about Penelope Cruz's portrayal of an eccentric ex in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Maybe I just can't past her accent, but she seems like the same person in every movie I've seen her in. Maybe my eyes just glaze over because she's Penelope Cruz, but I still didn't think this was anything other than just a solid piece of work.

Viola Davis, Doubt -- She didn't have much time to make an impression, but Viola Davis made the most of her opportunity. As the black mother of a child who has possibly been molested by a white priest in 1960's New England, Davis does a masterful job of showing restrained but passionate emotion in trying to do what's best for her son. Her performance may have been the most gripping performance out of all those nominated in the acting categories.

Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button -- It probably doesn't bode well for her chances that I hardly remember Taraji P. Henson's character in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. She plays the mother of a child who ages in reverse, but to me, she gets lost in the novelty of her son's condition. It's not that she does a poor job, it's just that I found it easily forgettable.

Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler -- Marisa Tomei got the assignment of adding a little depth to the "Stripper With a Heart of Gold" character. She did a decent job considering that her story somewhat parallels Mickey Rourke's character's. It's just that since the characters are fairly similar, she doesn't get the same sympathy that Randy "The Ram" receives. You can understand a big, egotistical, burned-out wrestler being emotionally withdrawn; it's harder to like a stripper at the tail end of her career who doesn't quite fill in the gaps in Randy's emotional landscape.

WINNER: Penelope Cruz
MY FAVORITE: Viola Davis


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button -- I realize it's been said a hundred times that Benjamin Button resembles Forrest Gump a little too closely, but I can't help but agree. The concept is certainly intriguing and the love story is sufficiently agonizing, but I just felt like I had seen this story before. The special effects were outstanding, though. And I thought Cate Blanchet's performance as Benjamin's love interest was underrated. But I just didn't think it was Oscar-worthy material.

Frost/Nixon -- For me, this was the runner-up for Best Picture. I didn't have high expectations given that I thought I knew how it would play out, but I was pleasantly surprised. As I mentioned earlier, Nixon's competitive streak was compelling, but David Frost really turned out to be a worthy opponent. What is equally interesting is that I had never heard of David Frost before this movie and he didn't seem to parlay his successful interview with Nixon into anything substantial in the United States. Supporting roles by Sam Rockwell, Oliver Platt and Kevin Bacon were all highly entertaining, as well.

Milk -- I really like this story, but felt like I had seen this movie before. I didn't know anything about Harvey Milk and his role in the Gay Rights movement and I'm glad this story has now been told. But the movie felt like a typical underdog story with a hint of foreboding. It was very enjoyable, I just felt like it was presented in a fairly straightforward way. Of course, I couldn't tell you how else it should have been presented.

The Reader -- The Reader is an unusual story about a teenage boy's first love and how it affects the rest of his life. I enjoyed the insights into the main characters' emotional maturity through the lens of a brief-but-steamy affair and a highly-revealing court case. Kate Winslet's performance is really the main event here. She embodies the passion, pride, stubbornness and determination of Hannah Schmitz to a "T".

Slumdog Millionaire -- After hearing nothing but rave reviews about this movie, I was skeptical. But the originality of the story won me over. This was one of the more original love stories I've ever seen, but it was way more than just a love story. There is plenty of action and intrigue and, being set in India, it is fairly exotic. It is also a fairly uplifting movie, and while I don't mind supposed "downer" movies, it was nice to have one movie that wasn't mostly somber.

WINNER: Slumdog Millionaire
MY FAVORITE: Slumdog Millionaire

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


I just realized that I have a large number of people in my office who have initials that have alternate meanings:






P.V. (Praire Village, for those non-JoCo residents)


What does this mean? That if I get knocked out in gym class, I can use a computer to contact a doctor and nurse in Prairie Village. Either that or it's all just bullshit.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Just For the Record...

The Most Annoying Intersections in the Kansas City Area

~ Santa Fe and Antioch, in Overland Park -- Every morning, I head west on Santa Fe out of Downtown Overland Park on my way to work. My next move is to turn left to head south on Antioch. And every day, it seems, I catch this left turn light just as it changes to red, meaning I have to sit through the entire light. It doesn't matter what speed I travel on Santa Fe leading up to this light. Some days, I go faster; some days, I go slower. Every day I get the same result.

~ Shawnee Mission Parkway and Rainbow, in Fairway -- No matter what direction I'm coming from, this light is red 99% of the time. You would think that a light would favor one street or the other. But that would just make too much sense. **Bonus Irritation** -- When turning north onto Rainbow from the left turn lane on Shawnee Mission parkway, the left turn light is green for literally 3 seconds. This is not an exaggeration. The first car in the turn lane doesn't even make it out of the intersection before the light has turned yellow. People run this light with such regularity that the folks heading west-bound on Shawnee Mission Parkway don't even get all that upset when it happens.

~ Shawnee Mission Parkway and Belinder, in Fairway -- Just a couple hundred yards from the above intersection, you cannot pass through here when traveling east or west on Shawnee Mission Parkway without stopping. Even though Belinder is not a busy street. And by "not busy", I mean that I've never seen more than two cars at one time on this street. Belinder is a two-lane street; SMP is a four-lane street. I have never seen pedestrian traffic at this intersection. This is a logic-free zone. Coupling it with the above intersection is a quick way to jump-start some road rage.

And, finally, the worst intersection in the history of mankind,

~ Martway and Broadmoor, in Mission -- This has been the worst intersection I've ever seen and has been this way since I was a small child. It's a four-way stop sign with left-turn lanes in each direction. No one ever seems to know whose turn it is to go next. Which leads to either, a) everyone staring and waving at each other to go or, b) everyone pulling half-way into the intersection and then waving, screaming or honking at each other. If the previous intersection is a considered a "logic-free zone", this intersection should be considered a logic black hole. All logic and reasoning is sucked into this intersection and destroyed. This intersection should be avoided at all costs.

Please feel free to add your own entries in the comments so we can all suffer together...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Late In The Office

It is really quiet. Even the climate-control system has shut down. There is only the low drone of the idle copy machine.

The regular tarry-ers have all left. I'm all alone.

The last remnant of gold is fading in the west window. Below the melting horizon, flickering car headlights resemble fireflies as the working folk flutter homeward.

The scene in the west window stands in stark contrast to the field of fluorescent lights hovering overhead. They line up in a regimental matrix, keeping watch like sentries.

The south window projects a different picture. There is a lone streetlamp, inadequately illuminating the parking lot. Through the electric blue tint I can see that only five cars remain.

One is mine.

I should go home.

But I won't.

Not yet.

Monday, February 02, 2009

On The Phone Again

Sung to the tune of Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again"

On the phone again
I'm in my car and I'm on the phone again
I'll cut you off while I just jabber with my friends
And I can't wait to get on the phone again
On the phone again
I can't tell you where I may have been
Distracted by my mobile confabulation
And I can't wait to get on the phone again

On the phone again
Weaving lane to lane I drift on down the highway
While I tell my friend
About some jerk who yelled, "Get out of my way!"
Last Friday...
On the phone again
I'm in my car and I'm on the phone again
I hold up traffic in my new Mercedes Benz
And I can't wait to get on the phone again

On the phone again
Ordering some spring rolls from my local Thai place
Pay no attention
While I distractedly steal your parking space
The last space...
While on the phone again

I'm in my car and I'm on the phone again
I'll start to speed up and slow right back down again
And I can't wait to get on the phone again
And I can't wait to get on the phone again