I must admit that when it comes to the holidays, I’m a bit of a downer with a well-deserved reputation as a bah-humbugger type. My friend John says that’s cuz I’m Jewish, but he’s from North Cackalacky (Carolina) so what does he know!
Yet, when the chill hits this time of year, and I’m walking through the leaves that have randomly decided to follow a seasonal change, I often find my heart soaring with a confusing elation. What is that?
Does the external cold ignite some internal warmth that sparks a chemical reaction sending happiness to my brain? Does the fire within react with the crisp air to form some sort of emotional condensation that nourishes and protects?
Not sure! I’m mostly a question-asker, not a question answerer.
Either way, I found myself right now relishing this time of year…preparing for some sort of familial gut check that will be parsed with yummy food, some laughs, probably a few tears and a lot of cleaning up.
This year Hanukah rapidly follows Thanksgiving and then Christmas is not far behind and pretty soon, we will hear ourselves say out loud: Twenty Eleven. Try it right now – no, out loud.
It’s crazy to hear, right? Total science fiction.
Well, I guess this time of year we get continuous “welcome to your life” moments, ushered in by “The Holiday Season”, and, this year, sponsored by the numbers “Twenty Eleven.”
Guess I’m saying Happy Holidays to you.
Yes, it’s that “eat, pray, love” time of the year, and that’s probably why the DVD release of EAT PRAY LOVE starring Javier Bardem, Julia Roberts, James Franco (also Billy Crudup, Richard Jenkins and Viola Davis) is coming out on Tuesday. Adapted from the bestselling novel by Elizabeth Gilbert, it’s the story of a woman who tears her life apart to rebuild it with a new, stronger foundation. Just like autumn!
Hey look, if you are more into blowing stuff up than kissy kissy, than you may be interested in THE EXPENDABLES starring (deep breath here) Sylvester Stallon, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwartzenegger, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren, Steve Austin, Danny Trejo, Eric Roberts and some very beautiful women, it is the story of some mercenary dudes who get hired to go kill some not nice folks down South America way. Boom!
If I were to suggest watching one film this week, it would be I’M STILL HERE, the para-documentary by Casey Affleck about Joaquin Phoenix’s retirement from film. The documentary aspect of this film is a parody, but not a joke. The film is funny as hell! It stars Joaquin Phoenix as Joaquin Phoenix, I think in a parallel universe. Well, maybe not. But it is a brilliant film, and I highly recommend it.
Do you know about Kickstarter.com? It is a fabulous new website that is used to fund projects. Someone has something they want to fund, and people make pledges on the website and if (and only if) they reach their stated financial goal, they get the money. Pretty awesome… Anyhow, local music hero Beth Custer is currently fundraising to send her ensemble to the Republic of Georgia to perform her score to a rare silent film called MY GRANDMOTHER made in 1929. Read about the project here, and donate if you can. While you are there, take a look around, this is a website that should have some staying power.
Who misses Chris? Everyone, I imagine. I certainly do. I had some email exchange with him recently and he told me he has started to write a blog called BACK OF YOUR FRONT. You, too, can read his blog and stay in touch with him. We miss you, Chris!
Mark your calendar people, Thursday night, December 9th, will be the first ever Bernal Shopping Night! As an encouragement to spend your holiday dollars in the neighborhood, many stores (including both of mine) will be open late for a night of discounts, treats, music and fun. Soon you will see flyers around and individual stores will have sales and deals posted in their windows for that night only. We are all in it together people, let’s keep Bernal businesses afloat.
Alrighty, that’s all folks, hope to see you at the stores.
Love and Kisses,
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THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED.
Martin Compston/Gemma Arterton/Eddie Marsan.
Directed by J. Blakeson.
* Alice is kidnapped and bound to a bed in this taut thriller by debut filmmaker J. Blakeson.
EAT PRAY LOVE.****BD****
Julia Roberts/Javier Bardem/James Franco/Billy Crudup/Richard Jenkins/Viola Davis.
Directed by Ryan Murphy.
* Adapted from the best selling novel, this film follows a woman’s quest to change her life, at the cost of a marriage, but for the sake of growth, passion and love. Julia Roberts gives her usual powerful performance in this tear-jerking celebration of life.
Sylvester Stallone/Jet Li/Jason Statham/Mickey Rourke/Dolph Lundren/Bruce Willis/Steve Austin/Arnold/Not Jean-Claude/Eric Roberts.
Directed by Sylvester Stallone.
* A band of mercenaries, filled with weapons-experts of every shape and size, get hired to depose a South American dictator. No really, that’s what it’s about! This film features just about anyone who has ever starred in an action film, except Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Madeline Carroll/Anthony Edwards/Rebecca De Mornay/Callan McAuliffe/Aidan Quinn.
Directed by Rob Reiner.
* This heart-warming tale adapted from the novel by Wendelin Van Draanen, is about a couple 8th graders who are dealing with some big-kid feelings they are having. The girl has had a crush on the boy since they were seven years old, but he has never shown interest. Now, he is feeling it, but she thinks perhaps he is pretty (oh so pretty), but vacant.
I’M STILL HERE.****BD****
Joaquin Phoenix/Casey Affleck/P-Diddy/Ben Stiller.
Directed by Casey Affleck.
* Technically, this film is billed as a documentary, and should be listed in that section…yet, I am personally unable to see this as an actual documentary. Not in the traditional sense. Something is certainly being documented here, but what? The story ostensibly being told is that Joaquin Phoenix is retiring from film to pursue a career as a rap artist. You may remember hearing about this last year, while he was supposedly “retired”. You may even have seen this clip on YouTube of him falling off stage after one of his “performances”. When I saw these rap clips, I sensed a hoax immediately, simply because he was so BAD! Not just “not so good”, but simply awful. So, in this way, the film is simply a fraud, pretending to be something that it is not. Watching the movie, however, you get an idea that Affleck is telling an honest story, just not the one you think you’re watching. No, this film is not about JP, the pathetic rapper seeking personal freedom, this film is about the very nature of celebrity, about what it is like to have your every move watched and judged. I don’t generally have any sympathy for celebrities; they get compensated quite well and so too bad for them if they are constantly hounded. But Affleck is not looking for sympathy, as much as he is fully enjoying the stage which he gets to play on. And for that I totally applaud these guys! This was one of the best films I have seen all year. I laughed a ton, huge lung bursting laughs, and eventually, it almost made me cry. See it as a comedy. One where Joaquin Phoenix plays an actor named Joaquin Phoenix, sick of acting, feeling like a fake, longing for passionate release, desperate to find himself, drinking, smoking and eventually spiraling, like a mobile, to its collision. Could there be an Oscar-winning performance here? Maybe, maybe.
Christopher Eccleston/Andrew Scott/Naoko Mori.
Directed by Edmund Coulthard.
* This John Lennon biography is focused on his dealings with his father and his first wife Cynthia and the struggles he has to not repeat his father’s failures.
MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY: THE PLAY.
Tyler Perry/Bow wow/Loretta Devine.
Directed by Charles Laughton.
* Perry continues his glorious cross-dressing ways in this theatrically staged story following the continuing saga of Madea and her big crazy family!
SHOOTING JOHNSON ROEBLING.
Directed by Christopher Burke.
* Charles Pavolsk, a burgeoning film director, throws away what appears to be a promising career (in reality television) in order to track down his film mentor on the streets of New York.
THE WINNING SEASON.
Sam Rockwell/Emma Roberts.
Directed by James C. Strouse.
* This redemption story first debuted to much success at the 2009 Sundance festival. It is the story of a down-and-out coach (Rockwell) who is given his final shot to put his life back together when he is asked to coach the local high school girl’s basketball team. Co-starring Emma Roberts as one of the players.
COUNTDOWN TO ZERO.
Documentary/Nuclear Arms Race.
* Alarming. Exhilarating. Gripping. Engrossing. At least according to the box!
HARLAN: IN THE SHADOW OF JEW SUSS.
Directed by Felix Moeller.
* Veit Harlan was a filmmaker in Nazi Germany who made vicious anti-Semitic propaganda films. His most famous was film Jud Süß made in 1940. This film tells a bit of his story while examining WWII from a film history point of view.
THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH.
Ian McShane/Rufus Sewell/Hayley Atwell.
Based on the novel by Ken Follett.
Directed by Sergio Mimica-Gezzan.
* Follett’s novel of political and cultural turmoil in 12th century England is made into an 8-part epic saga.
THE SEARCH FOR SANTA PAWS.