Death Eater Neighbors

I'm not sure why I'm posting this here instead of Facebook, like everything else nowadays, but it just felt like it belonged here, you know?

I was listening to Kevin Smith's and Scott Mosier's "SModcast," which I haven't done in a while, and their latest episode was about the recent deaths of David Bowie, Dan Haggerty, and especially Alan Rickman (who they both worked with on Dogma). They talked a lot about Rickman in particular and their relationship with him (did you know that Emma Thompson almost played God in Dogma because Rickman showed her the script and she loved it?), but the best bit was this...

About ten years ago, when Rickman was doing the play "My Name Is Rachel Corrie," Kevin Smith was visiting him and Rickman told him that he'd finally broken down and bought an apartment in New York. It was in the same building as Ralph Fiennes, and they were both desperate that no one ever find out, because if Potter fans found out that Snape and Voldemort lived in the same building, the response would be out of control.
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2015 in Movies

This year's movie-watching is shaping up to be better than last year's, number wise (final tally was 240, counting vintage and rewatches), and as usual, my attempt to do a top 10 changed very quickly into a top 20.

I'd really like to do a full and proper review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, because I have loads to say about it and very consciously did NOT include it in my top 20 (no way I can rank something like that, nostalgia too high). I've also done separate lists on my favorite film discoveries and my favorite females in movies (as this year has been a better year than most for women). But before I get into the main list, here's a rundown of the rest.

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Dismember the Alamo 2015

For a few years now, I've been lucky enough to live sufficiently close to an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema so that I don't have to get on an airplane or drive for several hours to get there. The theater in Yonkers, though, still takes around 2 hours (one way) to get to, and that Brooklyn location needs to hurry up. Since a trip to Alamo Yonkers and back can take up to five hours (more, if you have to get back late at night), I tend to reserve trips up there for special events -- AGFA screenings of movies I would never be able to see otherwise, usually, and multi-film events like Van Dammage and Dismember the Alamo.

Last year's Dismember the Alamo was super-rad -- Night of the Creeps, Basket Case, Demons 2, and Society were our films -- and I was very happy that they decided to do it again this year. I was also excited that it was happening on Halloween night, as I rarely get to do much celebrating on the actual day anymore. I'd had my ticket for around six weeks, and my only worry was that, with all the horror movie watching I'd been doing this month, I would have seen one or more of the films in the past few weeks/days. I should learn to have more faith in the Yonkers programmer.

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Updated Pottermore

I ... don't really like the new version of Pottermore? The old version was purely rooted in the books, but this new version has a LOT of movie stuff, which ... I like the movies for what they are, but they are not the books. And I grow ever more crotchedy about the increasing pervasiveness of "movie canon" into what is generally accepted as part of the story. (For example, on Tumblr today, I saw a comic that made reference to Harry killing Quirrell, which only happened in the movie and which is one of the few things I definitely hold against Steve Kloves.)

No House competitions, which ... okay, I was never that into that or the spells and potions and stuff, but I still thought it was cool, and very friendly to younger users. No sorting test or wand choosing. And no exploring the books like before and those great detailed pictures from scenes in the book that you could zoom in on and look around.

Now it's like a more slick, but less detailed version of (I hate to say it, but it's true) the HP Lexicon. And what's with stuff like "11 Times Snape Was the Hardest Teacher to Please." What is this - Buzzfeed?

Shakefest 2k15

For the third time over the last nine years, I made my way west to drink deep the delights of live theater at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. I first attended in 2006, the week of the Lumos HP fan convention in Las Vegas, and saw a serviceable Merry Wives of Windsor, a thoroughly charming H.M.S. Pinafore, an INTERMINABLE Antony and Cleopatra (ugh, they just WOULD NOT DIE), and quite literally the best Hamlet I've ever seen (yes, including Olivier and Branagh). I went again in 2010 and saw a nice adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, a mostly great Much Ado About Nothing, a life-threateningly hilarious The 39 Steps, an excellent Merchant of Venice, and a pretty danged incredible Macbeth.

For a while it looked like I wasn't going to be able to go this year, for reasons I won't go into, but I hadn't counted on angua9 and wahlee_98 being such amazing friends. Once it was clear I was definitely going to be able to go, I started to get crazy prepared. I always *try* to read all the plays we're going to see, but I'd never gotten around to a pre-fest read of any of them until now. I still didn't get to all of them, but I came pretty close and was quite proud of myself. Since one of the plays we were seeing was Henry IV Part 2, and since I'm not confident in my comprehension of the histories, I went a little overboard and read the entire Henriad and watched The Hollow Crown (the BBC four-part miniseries that covers all four plays -- Richard II, both parts of Henry IV and Henry V). Danged if I was going to be lost watching any of these plays!

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Okay, let me get one tiny nitpick out of the way. The first roughly 60-90 seconds of the show didn’t 100% work for me, and I’m not sure why. Possibly I’d gotten too used to hearing first lines done by Lin-Manuel Miranda and no one else (from the 2009 White House video). Also there seemed to be an issue with how people were mic’d (or maybe just performance level?) — one person would be fairly quiet and the next person was super loud. For whatever reason, it just felt abrupt and choppy and I was like “Oh! We’re doing this now!” when I feel like I should have been more mesmerized or … more eased into it or … something.

And that is basically the ONLY flaw in this exquisite jewel of a production. And it’s probably not even a flaw, I’m probably just weird. Wait, I’m definitely weird. But this could easily be just my problem.

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This is *such* an incredible show.  I don't know what kind of life it's going to have outside of Broadway, in terms of tours, etc.  There has apparently been movie interest.  The catch with that is that the diversity in the cast is key.  It wouldn't work with an all-white cast or even a largely-white cast, and that's definitely going to be a struggle once a movie studio gets involved.  I hope more people get a chance to see it than just the people who can afford to fly to New York.  It's a game-changer, and Miranda is our new Sondheim.

Straight Outta Compton

I’m probably one of the last people you’d expect to be into Straight Outta Compton, or indeed know anything about N.W.A. Admit it, you’re laughing right now at the idea of me sitting my nearly-40-year-old cracker butt down in a theater to watch this. But this movie is seriously amazing and might be one of my favorites of the year so far. It follows the standard biopic formula and hits all those familiar tropes, but it’s so incredibly shot and well acted and the energy is so through the roof that I didn’t really care.

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Trainwreck (2015)

Boy, I haven't written on this thing in ages -- on any topic, not just movies. I started going through my list of what I've seen so far this year, and struck me what an awesome summer it has been for ladies. Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2 (which was ehhhh, but an important box office success story), Inside Out (*still not over it*), and now this movie, which is one of my favorite romantic comedies in a long time.


This is like a reverse romantic comedy in a lot of ways, and Amy Schumer (who also wrote the screenplay) is playing against a pervasive stereotype of women in pop culture -- the crazy, creepy, "marry me" girl that we see so often in movies and television (a lot of it written by men, let's be real). Schumer doesn't know any women like that, and in her experience men are the ones who become the crazy texters, etc. In Trainwreck, she's the one who freaks out when Bill Hader calls her the next day, and the guys are the ones who talk relationships with each other and watch Downton Abbey.

Okay, let me back up. Amy Schumer plays, errr, Amy, a writer for a magazine in New York. (Side note: I spent most of the movie staring at the actress who plays her editor, asking myself "Is that Tilda Swinton? It can't be Tilda Swinton, but IS IT? It definitely sounds like her, but no, it can't be." (*credits roll*) "Holy crap, IT IS HER!") She's in line for a big promotion to an editing position, but you can tell early on that this is not where she belongs. She's assigned a job to interview and write an article about a sports doctor named Aaron (Bill Hader), which she initially objects to because she hates sports. But she meets the guy and they hit it off, and soon they're in a full-fledged relationship.

I like that this movie is so much about the relationship and not the chase. We see what they're like together, how Amy goes from someone who never spends the night to someone who spoons with someone she cares about, and how their issues and hang-ups threaten to tear them apart. The focus is mostly on Amy, who has been through so many relationships and flings that she's waiting for the other shoe to drop and dreading whatever dealbreaker comes along, because Aaron is someone she really likes and she doesn't want it to end. Schumer has seen all of the rom-coms that we have, and she doesn't miss any of the traditional beats, but most of them are subverted in clever ways that don't reduce her character to someone who needs to "fix" herself so that she can be with the guy in the end.

What I love the most -- and this may sound strange -- is how raunchy it is. It is absolutely a characteristic Judd Apatow movie, only the women (especially Amy) get to be honest and not at all precious about sex and relationships. I remember when Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof came out and a lot of reviewers, most of them dudes, complained that the dialogue was unrealistic, that women don't talk like that. Um, newsflash -- yes we do. One of my favorite moments is when Amy is at a baby shower and the women are taking turns telling shocking truths about themselves. All the other women are like "Oh, I woke up in the middle of the night and ate a whole box of Skinny Cow ice cream bars OMG" or "One night my husband and I did it with the lights on, hee hee!" and Amy tells this horrifying condom retrieval story.

There's a poignant subplot with Amy's father (played by Colin Quinn), and I really liked the flawed relationship between Amy and her younger sister. The movie is also set (and filmed) in New York, and it looks like really for realz New York, complete with a friendly homeless guy (played by Dave Attell) who frequents the corner outside Amy's building. There are also LOADS of cameos, particularly by pro basketball players (notably LeBron James, who you've probably seen in the previews, and Amar'e Stoudemire).

I was glad to see a nearly full theater at my afternoon viewing, and with just as many men (laughing just as hard) as women. I hope Amy Schumer gets to do a lot more creating, and that this movie opens the door a little more to women writing about who they are and not just who they think people want or expect them to be.

Last Minute Oscar Predictions

I'm planning some movie-themed food for consumption during tonight's Oscars -- drumsticks for Whiplash, chips/queso for Boyhood, and a Crumbs cupcake for Grand Budapest Hotel. I don't often do a full list of predictions, but here goes. These guesses are highly influenced by Oscar blogs I follow, namely In Contention, and they reflect likely outcomes, not my own personal preferences. After years of following the Oscars, I've learned to just let go of my personal feelings and enjoy the show. Mostly. :P

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Unless some unforeseen technical snafu happens (like with the Golden Globes), I'll be livetweeting tonight (@pknail).

ETA: I just figured out you can't do that thing LJ used to let you do where you could pick a mood pic and write your own mood on it.  Now if you want to make up your own mood that's not on the list (say, "anticipatory"), you can't put a pic with it. :(