Monday, January 15, 2018

A New Chapter: Transient Suburbia, the College Years has begun

After not being able to write anything for my novel for a few months, I've finally written the first new chapter for Transient Suburbia. I wanted to include Harper's college years and some of her adventures in Nashville. I haven't edited this section so please excuse any typos, things that don't make sense, or grammatical errors. You can read other Transient Suburbia posts here.

Third Street Bar, Nashville, TN, December, 1999

“It’s an inevitability. Eventually all of the music we love will become classic rock. Music gets classified at the twenty year mark. One day, Nirvana will be classic rock. There’s nothing you can do to stop it.” Harper took a sip of her beer, eying Nate carefully. She wasn’t in the mood for a debate, but knew that’s what was about to happen.

“Your casual dismissal of this as an ‘inevitability’ is troublesome. For someone who loves music as much as you do, you’re giving up pretty easily.” Nate smirked at her.

“It has nothing to do with my love of music. If anything, supporting the classification of music protects the music for generations to come. It guarantees that I’ll be able to hear some of my favorite music will always be on the radio. In twenty years, my children will be able to listen to the music of my youth without that much effort. And, of course, know how super-fucking cool their mom is.” Harper rarely cursed. Nate’s insufferableness brought it out in her.

“You can’t base this on children you don’t yet have. That makes no sense.” Nate signaled the bartender for another round.

“Sure I can. My dad once told me that when he heard The Rolling Stones and Big Star for the first time, he knew he was listening to music he would share with his future children because it would last. It would change how people thought about music and always be there. Just like our Nirvana and R.E.M. and Pearl Jam.” Harper smiled, thinking of her dad and their shared love of so many bands. She sent him a bunch of records the other day from her most recent record store/thrift store trip. Hopefully, they got there by the time she called home later in the week.

“I still think you’re giving into an inevitability that isn’t actually one. None of those musicians sat down to write their songs with classic rock inevitability in mind. They them to be cool and maybe be different.”

Harper laughed, “No they didn’t. Most of them sat down to write songs that would get them girls. However, I bet at least half of the rock musicians my dad loves, did sit down with the idea that one song would make them immortal. A legend. That proves the inevitability of the classic rock classification system.”

Nate stared at Harper, contemplating his next move. Harper knew, given their four months as a sort of couple, that he was trying to decide whether he could win this argument or give up and change the subject. She hoped for a change of subject. Harper loved to talk about music and go see music and would love nothing more than to spend the evening talking about Nirvana, but she loathed the competitive way Nate was with certain topics. He could never just talk about music; he had to have the last word about whatever they were discussing. She liked him a lot and sometimes wondered if she liked him too much. He could be exhausting.

“You have won this round, but I intend to win this debate.” Nate seemed to get she wasn’t in the mood for a debate. He reached for her hand around their beer glasses.

“I appreciate your confidence, but this is not about winning. I’m right. There will be no fight. This is done.” Harper glanced their hands. She didn’t hate the butterfly feeling she still got when he held her hand. She didn’t love the constant debates. Just because he was a political science major didn’t mean she had to be. Her brain rocketed back to the first time they met.

It was six months ago. Harper’s roommate, Marilee, dragged Harper to a house party the first weekend classes were in session. Marilee felt that Harper needed to party more this year. Surprisingly, Harper agreed with her. She also disagreed, but it was mostly agreement. She was trying hard to embrace the wild party side of college. Totally not her style, but she was going to try.

The house party was like every other house party she’d ever been too. Lukewarm, cheap beer was in one corner, sad snacks were in another. People she didn’t know were in pairs and small groups in every space that could hold people. Marilee seemed to know everyone; she was that kind of person. Friendly, outgoing, chatty. Her New Orleans accent and her habit of calling everyone “darlin’” was infectious. She was a great roommate and friend. Harper loved her stories and her ability to get people to do whatever adventure she had planned. The pair, along with Harper’s best friend, Amelia, had been going on their weekend road trips since they met freshmen year. In Marilee, Harper and Amelia had found their third musketeer. Amelia lived one floor down in the same building. They had opted not to room together to both broaden their social circles and not ruin their friendship. Marilee fit perfectly. So far, their trips had taken them all over Memphis, Tupelo, MS, and New Orleans.

Amelia was at rehearsal, but had promised to meet them at the party as soon as it was over. Marliee steered Harper to the back of the house where there was a porch, grabbing cups of beer along the way.

“There’s someone I want you to meet,” Marilee said as they got to the porch.

“Really? Is it a boy? I wish you had told me; I would have changed.” Harper was dressed like just about everyone else in jeans and a concert shirt. She suddenly felt underdressed.

“Oh no. You look perfect, darlin’. Trust me.” Marilee patted her on the shoulder and led her to the porch.

The assembled group was classic late 1990s college party: a guys was playing guitar. Two couples were making out, tucked into the dark corners of the porch. A girl dressed exactly like Courtney Love and another dressed like Dolores O’Riordan, were arguing about Soundgarden. Three other guys, sporting their best shaggy hair and flannel, were in the middle of an intense conversation. As Harper and Marilee moved closer the trio, she finally heard what they were arguing about.

“Reservoir Dogs was far superior to Pulp Fiction,” Shaggy 1 declared.

“Why? Because it was the first? The story isn’t nearly as interesting.” Shaggy 2 replied.

“It far more clever than. Pulp Fiction is too many plotlines in too short of time. He did too many things.” Shaggy 1 retorted.

“Not true,” Shaggy 2 continued. “Pulp Fiction is a great example of using interconnected stories in film. And the soundtrack is killer.”

Shaggy 3 said nothing, simply nodding at his friends.

Before Shaggy 1 could reply, Marilee broke in, “Nate, still debating Tarantino? You’d think you’d tire of the same argument day in and day out.”

Shaggy 1, or Nate as Harper now had to think of him, smiled at Marilee and Harper, “Well, you know I have strong opinions on his movies. And I love a good debate. Who’s your friend?”

“This is Harper. She writes the music column for the paper.” Marilee introduced Harper and the other two Shaggys, Brent and Jason.

“Marilee told me she knew the famous music pilgrimage girl. Nice to meet you. What are your thoughts on Pulp Fiction?” He asked, directing his gaze to Harper.

Harper wasn’t pleased with being called a “girl”, but at least he read her work. “I like Reservoir Dogs, inventive, fun, ambiguous at the end. Great use of music, some truly shocking moments. Pulp Fiction felt forced, like he wanted to make a great movie rather than just make one. However, Uma Thurman is genius and the soundtrack makes up for a lot of the problems.”

“See Brent? That’s exactly my point about Reservoir Dogs.” Nate smiled at Harper and moved away from Brent before the debate could continue. He moved closer to Marilee and Harper. As Harper thought back on it now, the rest of the evening passed in a blur of the two of them talking about music and movies and the other things people talk about as they get to know each other. Marilee floated away at some point. The night ended with Nate walking Harper back to her dorm. They had their first date two days later at a showcase for a bunch of local bands. Or rather, Harper thought it was a date. This thought jolted Harper back to the present and the current debate the two were having. Four months later, she wasn’t entirely sure they were dating or if they were friends with benefits. Or something else that she didn’t know how to define. Nate didn’t want to label things or be serious about anything. Harper thought he was being a jackass. Harper decided today was the day to bring this up again. She didn’t know why, but she had to do it.

“I’d rather not spend the entire rest of the evening debating this...again. We have some version of this conversation every few weeks, usually when you want to avoid talking about our relationship.” Harper watch Nate’s reaction closely.

“That conversation again?” Nate dropped her hand and crossed his arms defensively.

“Look, I’m not asking you to marry me, but I’m not comfortable being your debate partner and hook up. That’s not my thing.” Harper sat back in her chair.

“I like you a lot, Harper. You know that. You’re fun and one of the smartest people I know. You have great taste in music, although I question your love of Xanadu, but no one’s perfect.” Nate’s attempt at a joke fell flat.

“But?” Harper asked

“But? What do you mean ‘but’?”

“There’s a ‘but.’ ‘Harper, you’re great, but…’. Finish your thought.” Harper demanded.

“There’s no ‘but.’ I just don’t think we need to be so official. Labels are so passe. Why can’t we just spend time together and stuff? Why does it have to be more than that? We’re in college. We’re supposed to be having fun. Let’s have fun.” Nate reached for her hand again.

Harper sat further back in her chair. “I’m not really having fun. Maybe at first I was, but not anymore. It’s stressful and I feel like I’m wasting time with you. I’m also guessing you’re seeing other people if we’re just supposed to be having fun.” Harper finally said what had been sitting on her heart for a month.

“Wasting time? That’s pretty harsh. I don’t know how you could feel that way.” Nate looked hurt, but Harper wasn’t buying it. He also didn’t deny the other people comment.

“I’m not sure it’s harsh enough. I was pretty clear at the beginning that I don’t casually date or sleep around so don’t act like I’m the crazy one. You didn’t deny the other people comment, so there’s that too. We’re done.” She got up abruptly, shaking the table. Nate’s beer spilled across the table and into his lap.

“Harper, don’t leave. Let’s talk about this some more. I don’t want to lose you.” Nate grabbed her arm, trying to stop her from leaving.

“Nope. Nothing else to talk about. We’re wasting time. I don’t want to waste anymore time.” Harper shrugged him off and stomped out of the bar.

As soon as she was outside, Harper started to shake. Her breathing was short and she was suddenly sweating. She felt better than she had in a month, but she couldn’t help but be upset. He never denied seeing other people. She wanted to believe Nate was a good guy, but the fact that he didn’t argue that one point this time made her think otherwise. She was his debate partner who he occasionally slept with. She needed someone who wanted more than a debate. She didn’t want to be tired all the time. She wanted to be in love and to be loved back.

She made it back to her dorm, still in a dark mood. Marilee and Amelia were waiting for her. It’s almost like they knew she needed them to be there when she got home.

“Back your bag,” Marilee said, “We’re going to Georgia.”

Harper said nothing, but nodded at her friends. She quickly backed her overnight bag and grabbed a CD case for the car. The three women said nothing of Nate or love or the inevitability of music classification. They jumped in the car, heading to Athens, GA on another musical pilgrimage.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

2018: Art, Bugs, Croissants, and Getting Stuff Done

Hello to 2018! I've only written the date wrong twice this week, so that's something. The new year has started with a bomb...cyclone (see what I did there?) here on the East Coast. It's been freezing cold for the last week, but I ventured out of my house today to deliver my first "Fierce Women" tour at the museum. I figured we'd have a few intrepid visitors come out today. I was not prepared for almost 50 people on my tour today (more like 100 since we have two tours out at the same time). It was insane and awesome and a great reminder of why I volunteer at NMWA.

The "Fierce Women" tour started last year over the weekend of the Women's March. It was originally called the "Nasty Women" tour and was incredibly popular the weekend of the march. Our museum education team, the women who developed the tour, did something like nine tours that first weekend. They were scheduled to do two. Since the march, the tour has been renamed and a group of docents, myself included, have been trained to deliver the tour. The tour is very different from the regular highlights tours we do; it's irreverent, funny, and very feminist. It's based on the idea of museum hacking, bringing an unconventional approach to a museum tour. We highlight eight artists in our collection from the first professional woman artist, Lavinia Fontana to Mickalene Thomas, a modern painter responsible for the first portrait of Michelle Obama. It's a scripted tour, which is different for us docents as well, and we use a lot of source images to help tell the stories of these artists. We also get to tell jokes, racy stories, and add our own personal stories as appropriate.

I love this tour. It's more like performance art than any other tour I've ever given. It's fun, visitors get into it, and they participate. As an educator, one of the things I always think about when designing training is whether information will stick with learners/visitors. Classroom teachers think about this a lot too. The tour is fast-paced and we don't leave a ton of time for questions. What I observed today with my group was that they were getting it. They might not remember everything I said, but I can guarantee they remember a few nuggets and will keep their eyes out for women artists as they visit other museums. I'm also pretty certain this tour has inspired visitors to come back to visit NMWA again and again. They had fun and they learned something.

One of the artists included in this tour is Maria Sibylla Merian. Merian is one of the artists I had never heard of when I first started volunteering at the museum. She's a 17th and 18th century artist best known for her masterwork, Insects of Suriname. Merian always had an interest in insects, even growing silkworms in her room as a teenager. At the age of 52, she sold all of her possessions to fund an expedition to the Dutch colony of Suriname. Her younger daughter accompanied her on the journey, an unheard of act at that time. Women barely walked down the street alone, let alone travel to another country without a male chaperone. She spent two years documenting the life cycles of over 180 species in their natural habitats, trekking into the rainforest, through gardens, and onto plantations. Of course, she did it all in the fashion of the 17th century. I can't even imagine what she tracked in on those skirts. She came back to Europe, divorced the husband, joined a cult, left the cult, and reestablished her art and naturalist career. Her work was important in establishing the science of entomology, particularly because of the fact that she studied from life rather than from preserved specimens.

Merian's story constantly inspires me, as I shared with my group today. Think about it: she's 52, living in a society that doesn't allow her to join the scientific groups who benefit from her work, and people probably think she's a witch given the association of women and nature during this period. Instead of being a butterfly lady painter, she trekked into the rainforest and painted tarantulas the size of dinner plates and all sorts of other creepy, crawly creatures. Whenever I think to myself, "you can't do that" or "this is going to be terrible," Merian pops into my head and I forge ahead, even if it is terrible. I may not be going into the rainforest or helping to move science along, but I can be brave, intrepid, and daring in my own right.

So what am I planning on doing in 2018? I always establish goals at the start of every year. This year is my year of learning: I'm going to take classes, travel more, revamp my professional writing on LinkedIn, and finish my novel. I know it's a lot, but I feel really good about this list. This is going to be a great year.

My 2018 Goals - Remember kids, if you don't write your goals down and put them out in the universe, you won't actually do them. Nothing says accountability like posting my goals here on my blog. Y'all keep me honest.

  • Personal
    • Classes
      • Baking classes. Yes, I know how to bake delicious things BUT I also like learning new techniques. First up, croissant making at Sur La Table later this month.
      • Metalworking/Welding. No, I don't want to learn how to weld to fix cars or build a house or something more useful. I want to learn how to make jewelry and maybe metal sculptures.
      • Drums lessons/Sign up for We Rock camp - Some people box to get out their aggression, I think drumming will help meld my love of music with my need to occasionally hit things.
    • Craftivism & the Badass Herstory Project - I signed up to participate and stitch my story as well as be a project ambassador. This is going to be awesome.
    • Finish Transient Suburbia. No really, it will happen.
    • Monthly letter writing
    • Do yoga at home after I finish up my last seven courses at the studio.
  • Travel
    • Memphis in May - Foo Fighters show, Graceland, and BBQ with my brother. It's going to be awesome.
    • NYC at some point this year to see The Dinner Party at the Brooklyn Museum.
    • NOLA - it's been too long away from home.
    • Nashville - this might be a stretch, but I'm hopeful I can fit it in this year too.
  • Career
    • Publish 3-4 articles on LinkedIn.
    • Complete a certification course OR present at a conference.
    • Sign up for my local ATD chapter and attend one networking event.
Coming to the Island in 2018: Meal planning, part seven (I think) this time I share my experience with a meal delivery service, a bunch of new Lazy Movie Weekends, I learn some new skills, and a month of Stuff I Love. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

In a galaxy far, far away...

 We are the spark that will light the fire that'll burn the First Order down.
-Poe Dameron, The Last Jedi

I started working on this blog post before seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi (which I will refer to as TLJ for the remainder of this post). I was sitting in a Barnes & Noble cafe, waiting for my dad and brother to arrive so we could see the movie. It also happened to be the anniversary of Carrie Fisher's death. I started writing this post, beginning with a few subtle (not really) reminders to people about the year that we are currently living in, and that thankfully, will be over very soon. My dad texted me that they were almost at the theatre, so I closed up my notebook and walked over to meet them. We settled into our seats, ordered beers and popcorn (I love the Alamo Theatre), and settled in for the latest episode of Star Wars.

Seeing Carrie Fisher in her final appearance as General Leia Organa and continuing the journey with Rey made me think very differently about what I wanted to say in my final post of 2017. The additions of Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) along with the large number of female fighter pilots and Resistance fighters was overwhelming in a way I did not expect. This is not a feminist review of TLJ as I don't review movies, but it's so hard not to look at this movie in particular without seeing the parallels to where we are right now in the world. As I watched these wonderful female characters grapple with their roles in the Star Wars universe (both on screen and in the press because it's Star Wars and literally everyone has an opinion on everything), I went back to the beginning of the year and back further to our suffragist and feminist foremothers. The resistance, whether in reality or in fiction, is female.

We can see this in so many of the groups who have come to make the activist community what it is - Black Lives Matter was founded by three women, the idea of the Women's March started on Facebook by a woman in Hawaii and was brought to life by an amazing group of women from all walks of life, women have been at the heart of the movement at Standing Rock, and women are finding their voices in the #metoo movement. Time even named "the Silence Breakers" their 2017 people of the year. None of this is news for those of us who have been paying attention and know our history. When I marched back in January, I was not there for myself but for the women who came before me and for the women who will come after me. I was there to honor them and continue to the work that will always need to be done.

I've spent most of this year doing things that I never thought I'd ever have to do: calling members of Congress who do not represent me and asking them to not vote for things that violate basic human standards, arguing with people about why electing an alleged pedophile was a bad idea (and I'm not talking about the 45), listening to dudes tell me that lady Ghostbusters and a female Dr. Who "ruined" their childhoods (spare me), sharing stories of workplace harassment because it finally felt like people were listening, and of course, trying to make sense of the dumpster fire that is the Trump administration. This last one is exhausting because there is nothing logical or normal about any of what the 45 and his minions are doing. Every single one of these activities has done exactly what it needed to do for me: strengthened my political beliefs and my feminist identity.

Feminism is a dirty word for a lot of people. I know I will not change some people's opinions about feminism and feminists, but at the end of the day, I can't help stupid. As I wrote in January, "I believe in affordable, accessible healthcare. I believe women have the right to decide what happens with their bodies. I believe abortion should be legal. I believe Planned Parenthood is an essential part of healthcare options, particularly for women in poverty, for things beyond birth control and abortions. I believe women and girls should not have to fear reporting rape or abuse. I believe men play an important role in feminism. I want the women and girls in my life to know that they can do anything they want. I believe women's rights are human rights. That is why I marched yesterday."

This is feminism for me. It is the belief that women's rights are human rights. That's it; I don't hate men (I rather like most of you and downright love some of you). It's not that men have to lose anything because women are able to access affordable healthcare that is in their best interest, not in the interest of old white dudes who probably haven't seen a vagina in decades, let alone know how one actually works or receive equal pay or not have to walk down the street, fearing the worst. I was pleased to see Merriam-Webster name feminism its word of the year. The designation was based on the frequency of searches as well as the word's place in the larger cultural fabric of the world. I highly recommend following their Twitter account; watching a dictionary troll the President is really satisfying.

Which brings me back to TLJ. Carrie Fisher, our rebel princess and general, was a feminist icon beyond the role of Leia. Leia was not necessarily written as such, but that's what she became. The "boys' fantasy" as she has often been called, came to represent much more to women and girls who watched these movies looking for heroes of their own. Yes, I had a huge crush on both Han Solo and Luke Skywalker (at different stages of my life - Luke is a boy band, Han is a rock band), but Leia was always the reason I returned to these movies over and over again. Seeing Leia as General Organa in episodes VII and VIII, made me even happier. She commanded the Resistance with grace, strength, and wisdom. As I watched TLJ, I thought about this and wondered about all those fanboys and whether Leia ever meant more for them than a hot chick in a gold bikini (which she hated, by the way). I came to the conclusion, by the end of the movie, that some of them became feminists because of Leia even if they don't identify themselves as such. Others will always be those dudes online who can't deal with her or Rey or Holdo. They'll always be there fixating and being derisive because they feel threatened. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for them to come around; I have more important things to do.

General Leia will always be more than a hot chick in a gold bikini; she is our princess, our general, and our hero. I know I won't get to see her in the next movie, but I can always go back to see her again when I need a reminder about being a badass. I like to think I was channeling her as a "bossy" flower girl (left) and as a marcher (right).

I'm looking forward to 2018. I look forward to continuing the fight and doing what needs to be done so that this country doesn't continue to burn in the dumpster fire that 2017 has been. One of my favorite quotes in TLJ was from Rose, "We're going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love." That is how I intend to live 2018 - focusing on saving what I love.

Happy New Year from the Island! 
If you are going out this weekend to celebrate the end of 2017, please do so responsibly. I'd like you to be around to enjoy 2018 with me.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Lazy Movie Weekend: Fake Eyelashes, Blandly Handsome Leading Men, and Christmas

 "We are a place you can go and feel good."
-Bob Abbott, Crown Media chief executive

"It's like Hallmark or Prozac?"
-Julie Miner as quoted in this WaPo article

A few weeks ago, I read an article on Thought Catalog about the "true" meaning of the term self-care. If you look on Instagram or Facebook or whatever other social media site you follow, there's always someone posting something about "self-care." A lot of the posts include wine or chocolate or bubble baths. The article, which resonated with me, focused on the idea that self-care should really be more about making choices in your life that allow you to live a life you don't need to escape from. It goes on to discuss things like budgeting, working out, and job changes as examples of self-care that we should be doing. Basically, the entire article was one big plug for making smart life choices.

Making smart life choices is my favorite thing.

Now, I'm not saying that I always make smart life choices (hello, perm phase), but I try to live my life in a way that is intentional and drama free. Not risk free, mind you, but drama free. I'm also not advocating for getting rid of things like bubble baths and chocolate cake and wine because that would be bananas. But the core message of the article is important; taking care of yourself is important and it's not always Instagram beautiful. Sometimes it's messy and gross and sad. And that is 100% fine. Embrace it. Live it. Make smart life choices.

Arguably one of the smartest life choices I have ever made was my decision to begin watching Hallmark holiday movies way back in 2011. One of my earliest Island posts was from my first Thanksgiving in California where I spent a good portion of the weekend watching Hallmark and Lifetime movies. Hallmark holiday movies have been referenced many times over the years, including that time I wrote a movie for Hallmark called "The 12 Dates of Christmas." They've yet to contact me about making this happen. (Note: there is a Hallmark movie with this title BUT it's about a woman who experiences a Groundhog Day loop until she figures out life and stuff. My idea is better.) I can't help myself when it comes to these movies. Yes, they are formulaic and yes, they reinforce terrible gender stereotypes, but they're so filled with kindness and love and holiday magic that I have to watch them. I'm only human. As Monica Hesse put it in her recent article on the movies for The Washington Post:

"Watching Hallmark in December this year feels like a metaphor for all of the good citizenship questions we’ve been asking ourselves: Must we watch yet more CNN guests debate the tax bill? Must we have yet another fight on Facebook about Roy Moore? Must we always remain alert, in case the country just curls up and dies?" 

Monica is right; Hallmark movies are our reward for the dumpster fire that is 2017. For just under two hours, I can watch an impossibly perky woman with perfect hair and an amazing wardrobe (for someone who is either out of work or underpaid) deal with whatever career disaster/family drama/evil developer plot line she needs to deal with, while a blandly handsome leading man (I believe Hesse referred to them as an "Old Spice commercial") hangs out and wins her heart by being blandly handsome and non-threatening. Unless he's the evil developer or the evil developer's henchman; then he has to have a magical change of heart because of Christmas and love and cookies and kindness. For just under two hours, I can put my feminist killjoy heart to rest and simply bask in the Christmas lights and the sweetness that feels like what would happen if I only drank hot chocolate and ate candy all day. It's divine.

Do I like all of the movies? Absolutely not. There are some that I've tried watching and had to turn off about 10 minutes in because they were too much for me. Like all Hallmark holiday movie fans, I have very strong opinions about my Hallmark movies. For our final Lazy Movie Weekend of the year, let's dive into my best and worst lists for Hallmark and Lifetime movies. Grab some hot chocolate, your preferred Christmas cookies, and all the Christmas spirit you can muster along with your firm suspension of disbelief.

The Best - Movies
  • The Nine Lives of Christmas - This is my favorite Hallmark movie ever. It stars Kimberly Sustad, the perpetual Hallmark movie best friend, as a vet student who falls in love with a firefighter played by the poor man's Superman, Brandon Routh. They bond over their love of cats, restoring old homes, and taco trucks.
  • Christmas at Holly Lodge - Allison Sweeney is my favorite Hallmark holiday leading lady. She's also in my father's favorite Hallmark Mystery series about a small town baker. This movie was a delight, mostly because of Allison and Sheryl Lee Ralph. The bland leading man was on my favorite Law & Order universe spin-off, Conviction. He wears a V-neck sweater like the JC Penney catalogue model he is in his heart.
  • The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Henry Winkler is the meddling uncle! Brooke Burns is super tall and delightful. Warren Christie is not terrible as the love interest. The kid is a bit annoying, but I'll give him a pass because he meddles like a champ.
  • Every Christmas Has a Story - Colin Ferguson! I love Colin Ferguson. He should be in every Hallmark holiday movie because he's not a bland leading man, although he comes very close to the line. Lori Loughlin is our leading lady and she's an absolute delight as a big city reporter who finds her Christmas spirit when she visits a small town after admitting on air that she hates Christmas. I feel you, Lori. Christmas is a lot to handle. Thank goodness you have Colin Ferguson there to help out.
  • 12 Men of Christmas - This is actually a Lifetime movie. Because of this, it's a little spicier than the typical Hallmark fare. It's got Kristin Chenowith, Anna Chlumsky, and a bunch of super hot search and rescue guys who put together a calendar to raise money for their town. I only wish there was a musical number. 
  • Christmas Connection - Y'all, Tom Everett Scott is in a Hallmark movie! Where has he been this whole time? He is the least bland leading man in a Hallmark movie ever. I love him and I love how charming this movie is. I imagine that this is what would have happened if Hallmark created the movie View from the Top, the only Gywneth Paltrow movie I like. 
The Worst - Movies
  • Any movie starring Candace Cameron-Bure - I get it; people love CCB. Apparently, she's the "Queen of Christmas" or some such nonsense. I can't with this woman. She has said some pretty hateful things over the years, particularly regarding the LGBTQ community. Last year, she and our true Queen, Bianca Del Rio, got into a little conversation that was everything I love about Bianca and pop culture rolled into one Instagram post.
  • Dear Santa - Another Lifetime movie so we do get a gay buddy for our leading lady, although he is so stereotypical it's painful. Amy Acker, from Angel, is the leading lady here and although she's charming and the kid is charming, it's a terrible movie. I want to love it, but I can't. At least the dad is sort of hot in a rugged, made for tv movie sort of way.
  • December Bride - Regular readers may remember poor Jessica Lowndes from my Halloween post earlier this year. She just can't win in any genre. In this "gem," she plays a woman who pretends to be engaged to Daniel Lissing so she can go to her cousin's wedding and score a new job. Did I mention that her cousin stole her fiance and that's the wedding she's going to? There are so many terrible things in this movie. Listing them would take too much time. Just skip it. Watch The Nine Lives of Christmas twice. 
  • Broadcasting Christmas - Normally I love Melissa Joan Hart, but not even she can save this one. I blame Dean Cain. He's the worst for lots of reasons, but he's at his worst here. My wish for Hallmark movies in 2018 is that she gets her own, Dean Cain-free movie.
  • A Very Merry Mix-Up - There is something about Alicia Witt in this movie and all of the Hallmark holiday movies in which she stars, that annoys me in a profound way. I think it's her earnestness. She's trying so hard in every scene to make us believe whatever nonsense plot or relationship we're supposed to believe. In this one, she meets a man at an airport who she thinks is the brother of her fiance and ends up going home to the family she's supposed to be meeting...but it's the wrong family. Hilarity and feelings ensue. The best part of this movie is the fiance's actual family; they're just on the side of weird that is Hallmark acceptable.

The Best - Plot Points
  • A snowball fight will inevitably take place. Everyone will throw perfectly formed snowballs because the prop department is awesome and the bland couple will somehow end up on the ground in an awkward, almost kiss moment.
  • There will be a meddling old person. On occasion, the meddling old person is actually Santa Claus. It's best when it's a woman from a 70s or 80s sitcom. Or Henry Winkler.
  • An adorable child may also be involved in the meddling. There is a fine line between adorable meddling child and annoying demon seed; these child actors walk that line in every scene.
  • The boyfriend the leading lady has at the beginning of the movie will always be a pompous d-bag, although Hallmark would never, ever use that word. This makes it okay for us all to hate him and want her to magically fall in love with the bland leading man. 
  • Hot chocolate will solve at least one problem. 
  • A meet cute involving a pet, preferably a cat (see The Nine Lives of Christmas) will occur. 
The Worst - Plot Points
  •  The leading characters' first kiss will take place with exactly two minutes left in the movie. They may have moments where a kiss almost occurs, but it's always interrupted. Even in movies where the couple is already together, married or dating, the pair seem more like roommates than a couple.
  • Someone will lose their artistic way. Sometimes it's the leading lady, sometimes it's the bland leading man. At some point during the movie, they'll leave their corporate life and rediscover their true artist self. I die a little inside every time this happens.
  • A lesson is learned. This is basically the core of every one of these movies. The lesson varies from work-life balance, embracing the Christmas spirit, and that home is better than anything in the world. I list this as a worst plot point because just one time it would be cool if no one learned anything and if Christmas was ruined or the town landmark didn't get saved. But then I'd hate that movie so really this is both the best and worst plot point of any of these movies.
  • There are a limited number of people of color and any gay character is horribly stereotypical. Most of the time, the person of color is the best friend and she's sassy because STEREOTYPE. 
  • You can only find happiness in a small town inhabited by quirky characters, including but not limited to a man who is possibly Santa. My father has, on many occasions, encouraged me to follow the path of many a Hallmark heroine and move to small town, open a bakery or weird, niche market store, and help solve crime, but I'm not sure I'm cut out for that life.
  • Candace Cameron-Bure as a doctor. Nope. Nope. Nope.  
  • Lacey Chabert in any holiday movie. I love her in Mean Girls, but she's the worst in these movies. I think it's that she comes off as weak in all of the holiday movies. She should stick to the non-holiday ones. I like two non-holiday Hallmark movies and she stars in one of them, All of My Heart. It could also be the goats. Do you think people on the set tell her that "you can't sit with us" or wonder about all the secrets in her hair? I'm curious.  
To all Hallmark holiday movie monsters I've helped to create, my parents included, you're welcome. You deserve every holiday movie you've watched and love. You earned it. Maybe consider spicing up your next viewing with this drinking game I found. Enjoy!

Next week: It's the last post of 2017! To close the year of the dumpster fire, I thought we'd focus on my favorite f-word, which also happens to be Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Lazy Movie Weekend: A Tale of Two Grinches

I admit wholeheartedly that I am a bit of grinch during the holidays. I'm the person who complains about Christmas stuff being out at stores too early and I have a very firm "no Christmas music before Thanksgiving" rule. Halloween and Thanksgiving are my two favorite holidays, followed by Groundhog Day, so I only want them to get the focus they deserve. Christmas has gotten to be too much in the last few years and I find the whole thing stressful. Shopping is the worst, traffic and parking always suck, and everyone seems to be competing for who can have the best Christmas ever. I'm totally cool with other people doing the things they love at Christmas, but don't try to make me into some elf just because you want to hang twinkle lights on November 1.

The one thing I truly love about the Christmas season is Christmas movies. Not just Hallmark movies, but all Christmas movies. Christmas movies warm my cold, holiday grinch heart. When I was a child, I looked forward to the first viewing of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (this blog is named after the Island of Misfit Toys featured in that movie) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. These were tradition and I still watch them whenever they're on. As an adult, I've expanded my movie viewing to everything from Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story to classics like White Christmas and odd ball entries like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. I even consider the early Die Hard movies Christmas movies. I will watch these movies over and over again and they still remain fun and magical and awesome.

Hands down, my favorite Christmas movie is the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It's based on the 1957 book of the same name by Dr. Seuss. The cartoon originally aired in 1966, featuring Boris Karloff as the narrator/voice of the Grinch. Thurl Ravenscroft sang the theme song and that is by far, one of my favorite parts of the cartoon. The Grinch hates Christmas and wants to show the Whos down in Whoville how their gross commercialization of the holiday is the worst thing ever. He hates all "the noise, noise, noise" and decides to steal Christmas. Remember, his heart is two sizes too small. He and his faithful sidekick, Max, descend on Whoville as Santa and his reindeer and steal all the physical trappings of the holiday, even the last can of Who-hash. Along the way, they meet Cindy Lou Who, a little girl who believes in the magic of Santa and the season. Of course, the Grinch eventually sees the error of his ways and he brings Christmas back to the Whos because Christmas isn't about presents, it's about friendship and love.

There are so many wonderful things in the original Grinch. Boris Karloff as the narrator is such a delight. As I got older and started watching old horror movies, I would always think of him in movies like The Mummy and Bride of Frankenstein whenever I watched the Grinch. I don't know if the Grinch was a gateway movie to Karloff horror movies for anyone else, but it certainly was for me. Dr. Seuss stories have so many layers; the Grinch is very much like Scrooge, and biographers have written that the Grinch was more autobiographical than other Seuss characters. There's Max, the dog/reindeer, who is not interested in the Grinch's plan to steal Christmas. Max is my favorite; the antlers and his enthusiasm for the sleigh ride are both so funny. The Whos are all of us, trying to create a festive holiday and make everyone happy. The story ends happily and we all feel the true spirit of Christmas. Honestly, I could watch this one all year long and never get tired of doing so.

When it was announced that Jim Carrey would be starring in a live action version of the story, I was cautiously optimistic. I like Jim Carery; he's a strange, strange man, but I've always enjoyed his movies. If you haven't seen Man on the Moon or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, check them out immediately. He's a gifted comedian, but can also play straight and serious. My concern about this version was how they would take a short children's story and make it into a feature length film. What would be lost of the original charm and delight of the story? Would Carrey mug too much as the Grinch? Would Ron Howard, the film's director, be too Ron Howard (that's a thing) in his telling of the story?

Honestly, my worries were unnecessary. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) is delightful and weird and charming just as I wanted it to be. Carrey was made to play the Grinch; his grin is perfect, his physical presence is strong, and his delivery is the right mix of playful and mean and impish. The rest of the cast is equally entertaining: Bill Irwin and Molly Shannon play Cindy Lou's parents, Lou and Betty Lou Who, Christine Baransky plays a Martha May Whovier, and Jeffrey Tambor plays the mayor of Whoville, August Maywho. All of these characters are new to the story and are perfect. The writers expanded the action in Whoville and created an origin story for the Grinch. We get to see how the Grinch became the Grinch. Bill Irwin is my favorite; he's a great physical comedian and you can see he's having so much fun in this movie.

Taylor Momsen picks up the mantle as Cindy Lou Who. In this version, Cindy Lou has become suspect of the craziness of Christmas, from her mother trying to out decorate Martha May to the shopping and the pomp of the Whobilation, so she sets out to learn more about the Grinch and to befriend him in hopes that it will help her figure out her own existential Christmas dilemma. She interviews Martha May, who clearly had a thing for the Grinch, the mayor (a bully), and the old ladies who raised the Grinch before he left Whoville. She uncovers a story of bullying and not quite fitting in. She and Carrey have some fantastic scenes together. Her quest to get him to be the Holiday Cheer Master is so fun and touching. If you've ever felt like an outcast, you have a pal in the Grinch.  

What I didn't expect with this version is how adult it can be, especially if you watch the uncut version (which I own because it's amazing). It makes me think of watching animated movies as a child; my older brother and other relatives would laugh at things that I didn't think were funny because I was a child and those things weren't funny...yet. There's the holiday party going on the night the Grinch lands in Whoville, that may or may not be a little more risque than your typical Whoville party. There's Martha May's reaction to anything Grinch related. There are a lot of double entendres and occasional dirty jokes. A lot of the more off color jokes were improvised by Carrey; I read somewhere that he was upset with the amount of them that made it into the movie although he believed all of were age appropriate (the move is rated PG). Then there's the who plot line involving bullying and how an 8 year old Grinch went out to the mountains of Whoville and never came back. Why didn't they go look for him? Where his adoptive biddies too busy throwing key parties and knitting terrible sweaters to go look for him? It certainly seems that way.

The Grinch is all of us when it comes to the holidays. This is why these two movies are among my favorites. The scenes in the Grinch's lair with his answering machine and the sequence when he tries on clothes and then decides he's not going because he has nothing to wear? So good, so relatable. This movie speaks to the Grinch in everyone. Do yourself a favor and take a break from the holiday chaos with the Grinch.

"The nerve of those Whos. Inviting me down there - and on such short notice. Even if I wanted to go my schedule wouldn't allow it. Four o'clock, wallow in self pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one. 5:30, jazzercize. 6:30, dinner with me. I can't cancel that again. 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing; I'm booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9 I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I wear?"
-Jim Carrey as the Grinch


Monday, December 4, 2017

Your Resident Single Friend Goes Speed Dating

"He's a sweet man and I hope he finds love...just not with me or you." 
-Emily reflecting on a speed date gentleman

I don't consider myself a particularly skilled dater. I didn't date in high school and we'll say my college dating was minimal, but fun and exciting in the way college romances are supposed to be (except the cheater, but I guess we all have one of those somewhere in our history). I know the kind of person I am and the pervasive hook up culture of my generation is not for me. Part of this is related to being a very strong introvert; we prefer deeper relationships, both romantically and with friends. The other part is that I seriously cannot deal with the game-like behavior that typically accompanies this sort of thing. I have zero time for that. 

While I've tried online dating with little success (or joy), I've never tried speed dating. The reference I have for speed dating is that scene in The 40-Year Old Virgin that is both horrifying and hilarious (video contains language and mature themes - you've been warned). The short version: in the space of an hour (usually), each attendee goes on 15-20 "dates," usually lasting 5-8 minutes in length. During that time, you talk with the person opposite of you (normally men rotate around the room) and are given a sheet for notes. After the event, the organization running speed dating provides attendees access to contact information for other attendees. And then you fall in love and live happily ever after...or something.

I'll admit that I didn't have the right perspective about speed dating. With limited data, I reduced it to an awkward evening of small talk with dudes who fall into two categories: the socially awkward and the smarmy. I don't really need more awkward in my life and smarmy dudes exist everywhere so having a concentration of them at one event seems unnecessary. So I avoided the idea of speed dating and continued living my life. However, as I don't want to die alone, I've made the decisions to put myself out in the world in situations where I may, in fact, meet a potential man-friend. In the new year, I'm planning on taking welding classes (mostly for art purposes) and some cooking classes, activities that appeal to a very broad section of humans.

I decided to include speed dating in this list of things I'm trying. I found a speed dating event via Goldstar, convinced my friend Emily to go with me, and set my expectation level to medium. I hope all of you have friends like Emily who will go do things like this with you even if they may not want to. Since this was a first time event for both of us, we really had no idea what to expect. How long would we have to talk with each person? How many people were actually involved? Would everyone be horrifying? How would we react if someone said something particularly awful? What if we did meet the man of our dreams? Was there a bar nearby? You know, the important things.

What occurred was well beyond my expectations, which were at medium so there was a lot of room for both success and failure. I met 15 men in the course of a little over an hour. The time was limited to five minutes and after the first couple of dates, it got easier. Of the 15, I would go out with three of the guys and want to be friends with three others. None of these guys were the physical type I go for (think Chief Hopper from Stranger Things), but they were funny, interesting to talk to for five minutes, polite, and not bad to look at. Interestingly, Emily had a similar experience with none of them being her physical type, but she connected with them because of their senses of humor and the fact that they seemed to be decent humans. We seemed to transcend the types we established for ourselves. This is a good thing.

Because I know you want to know, here are some highlights of the night. All dates have been given nicknames since I didn't mention there was going to be a blog:
  • I walked into this event with a super positive attitude, combining the PMA of Bad Brains with my generally pleasant personality, my ability to be self-deprecating when needed, and the fact that I talk to people for a living. 
  • At first, we thought we were going to be the youngest people in the group. The group definitely skewed older (mid-late 40s), but most of the guys I liked were around my age, younger or older by a few years. 
  • Speed dating is an incredibly efficient way to date. While it has some of the same qualities as online dating, being in person and actually talking to someone makes it more palatable and fun. Rather than wasting hours swiping through profiles, I can spend an hour meeting 15 new people. One of the guys I would go out with framed it this way and I really like his perspective. 
  • The majority of the women did not look like they were happy to be there. Apparently, Emily and I weren't the only friends who came together except we were the only two that had fun. Most of the women looked disinterested and only one of them would talk to us before things got started.  
  • There were a few guys who came with friends as well. One pair met at a previous meet-up and became friends since they're both new to the area. Speed dating can be a gateway to speed friending.
  • Some of the guys had prepared questions, either because this was not their first time speed dating or because they wanted to make sure they had something to ask. This was both endearing and a little jarring; I prepared nothing and was also not prepared for some of these questions. I really had to think about what the most romantic thing I'd ever done for someone (my response ended up being about baking an elaborate dessert for a guy's birthday which is less romantic and more about being a decent girlfriend but whatever). 
  • The guys I liked and would go out with:
    • Photographer Guy - what are the odds that one of the guys would work events at the museum where I'm a volunteer? We discussed art, expensive holiday parties, and Masons. He was also a very nice dresser.
    • Drunk in Reston - Hands down my favorite guy of the evening. He made me laugh for three of the five minutes, with a discussion of why we decided to try speed dating and why there were so many first-timers in the group. We decided it was because they all found true love and never returned rather than to consider that it was crushing doom that kept them away. He may have been drunk; Emily and I couldn't be 100% on this.
    • Alaska Guy - Just moved here from Alaska. We talked about travel, the eleven states I haven't been to, and his awkward first date of the evening who was definitely a regular speed dater and not in a fun way.
  • The guys I'd want to befriend:
    • Peach Pocket Square Guy: This gentleman (and I sincerely mean that) was the sharpest dressed of anyone present, male or female. He was one of the older guys and just the nicest person. I have zero romantic interest in him, but I would meet him for drinks and let him vet my dates. 
    • Crushworthy - My second favorite guy of the night. He was one of the few that asked a creative opening question and opted to move his chair so we were seated next to one another rather than across from one another. That was a bold move. He and Emily would be well suited so I hope they connect. 
    • Might Run Into Him at CVS Guy - He lives near where I work so it's very possible that I will run into him at the local CVS or various lunch places in the greater Herndon area. Nice guy, fun to talk to, but not someone I'd date. 
  • The awkward/annoying:
    • 3D Printer Guy - Yep, that's what he opened with. We were discussing our weekends and he went on and on about figuring out a new 3D printer. He also made a comment about one of the technologies used for it (which I didn't know), but the way he said it annoyed me. He also machine embroiders and scoffed at the fact that I hand embroider. He was boring and dismissive. 
    • Ticket Scalper Guy - We spent the entire five minutes talking about music which would normally be a great topic for me. In that time, he dissed The Foo Fighters, Lady Gaga, and the 9:30 Club. I'm going to see The Foo Fighters in Memphis this coming May and I just saw Lady Gaga and the 9:30 Club is one of my favorite venues in the area. It was a lot of no for five minutes. He also shared that he never buys tickets in advance because he doesn't want to pay fees (which I get to some extent) so he just scalps tickets and hopes for the best. This annoys me.  
    • Interview Guy - Speed dating does have an interview-like quality to it, but that doesn't mean it has to be like an interview. If you're a decent enough conversationalist, the questions turn into mini-conversations rather than rapid fire questions. This guy wasn't a great conversationalist so it did feel like an actual interview. 
What happens next? Personal information is shared via email with all attendees. This particular group uses an online portal, similar to what you'd use if you were part of a more traditional online dating site, to allow participants to connect with one another. The portal is open for two weeks after the event so I can log in and see if I have any mutual matches or messages. I can pick matches (which I've done) and message any of the guys whether I match with them or not. They only know I picked them if they pick me, but it doesn't limit the messaging feature. So the short answer is that I wait a few days to see if I match with anyone and then decide whether to message them or not.

I'm glad I went. I wasn't expecting love at first sight, but I also wasn't expecting it to be as much fun as it was. I enjoyed many of the brief conversations I had and I laughed a lot. Even the guys who were awkward or annoying weren't that terrible. I've had worse experiences online and at bars. These guys were tame, comparatively speaking. To paraphrase Emily, I want them to find love or whatever they're looking for just not with me or her. It was fun to do something really outside of my comfort zone. I'll keep you posted on what happens next.

Next on the Island: Lazy Movie Weekend Christmas Edition! Will it be the mildly inappropriate version of The Grinch starring Jim Carrey or a discussion of smiling is my favorite with Elf? You'll have to come back and find out.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Lazy Movie Weekend: Movies to Be Thankful For

Happy Everyone Goes Crazy and Buys Stuff They Probably Don't Need Which Will Probably Be on Sale Later So Why Did You Get Up So Early Day! That really doesn't roll off the tongue as well as Black Friday. If you did brave the stores and the lines today, I hope you found that television or hot toy of the year or whatever it was that you ventured out into the fray to purchase today. I also hope you were nice to the clerks and the other people in the stores; I really don't want to see anyone I know in some horrible "When Shoppers Attack" video online later today. Let's all try to get along.

I don't participate in Black Friday shopping. I'm not a huge shopper to begin with and I don't like crowded malls or Targets all that much. Any Christmas shopping I'm doing this year will be done at the NMWA museum shop, a few local stores, and the DC Holiday Market. I'll probably get a few things online and I'm making some gifts this year. No need to rush out today to shop. Instead, I'm going to spend the rest of today and parts of tomorrow and Sunday watching some of my favorite movies and enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers. In honor of my second favorite holiday, I've put together a little "Movies to Be Thankful For" movie marathon. Some are more recent releases; others are classics or movies I've featured in a past Lazy Movie Weekend post. So grab a turkey sandwich, maybe some pie, and settle in for this marathon.

  1. Home for the Holidays (1995) - By far the best movie about Thanksgiving there is, Home for the Holidays is a 1990s movie treat, featuring Holly Hunter, a pre-Ironman Robert Downey, Jr., Claire Danes at peak My So-Called Life fame, and Mrs. Robinson herself, Anne Bancroft. Let's not forget Charles Durning (a national treasure) and of course, Steve Guttenberg. Please pause to reflect on the fact that at one point in our collective history, Steve Guttenberg was a sex symbol. Just let that sink in. Holly Hunter plays Claudia Larson, who's Thanksgiving holiday has gone from bad (losing her job before the holiday) to worse (her fashionable coat is stolen, her mother is a little maudlin, her sister is awful, and a turkey gets dropped on someone) as she journeys home for the holidays. I can never decide if Anne Bancroft is my favorite part of this movie or if the collective crazy that is Larson family is what makes this whole thing work. I aspire to be Aunt Glady one day.
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017) - I'm a big fan of the first Guardians movie as well, but there's something about the second movie that makes me thankful for superhero movies that both does and doesn't take itself seriously. The sequel is about family and how it doesn't necessarily have to mean people you're related to especially when your dad is a shady dude named Ego. We're also treated to one of the greatest characters of the last few years, Baby Groot. Adult Groot stole most of the first Guardians movie with his odd humanity and his bond with Rocket. But Baby Groot is a completely different story. There's a part towards the end of the movie where Gamora is holding him and he reaches out for Drax like a baby would reach for a parent. So cute. Vin Diesel voices Groot in both films, which is both genius and unexpected. It also leads us to our third entry on this list...
  3. Action movies made in the early 2000s featuring Vin Diesel and his arms - Look, we can pretend that we went to see XXX, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Fast and the Furious, and The Pacifier because they all looked like fun, action-packed movies that would entertain us for an hour/hour and a half. This is a lie. Tell the truth; it was because of Vin Diesel's arms. I would start with XXX because it's the most ridiculous of this group of movies. 
  4. You've Got Mail (1998) - I will watch this movie anytime it's on television. I can't help myself. It's charming and sometimes, I need a movie that isn't serious or is going to make me regret my life choices or something equally dramatic. I want charming and this movie fulfills that order for me. Technically, it was the first Lazy Movie Weekend post here on the Island. I wouldn't come up with the theme until a few months later when I rewatched Return to Oz for the first time in 10 years (still creepy). Anyway, You've Got Mail is a modern version of The Shop Around the Corner and features a delightful Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks as warring bookstore owners who are secretly chatting with one another (and falling in love) in an online chat room. It's charming and delightful and will make you fall in love with New York and possibility. Also, there is a sequence that takes place over Thanksgiving so technically this is a holiday movie.
  5. Harold and Maude (1971) - I dated a guy a few years ago who didn't understand why I love this movie so much. He thought it was morbid and weird (which it is). We were never going to last given his attitude about this movie. There's so much to enjoy about the story of Harold, a young man intrigued with death, who befriends Maude, an almost 80 year old woman who lives life to the fullest. She teaches Harold how to embrace living and live each day to the fullest. They meet at a funeral and Harold does things like stage his death several times to get out of the blind dates his mother sets him up on, but at the end of the day, Harold and Maude is about eccentricity, love, and friendship. It also features a soundtrack by Cat Stevens that becomes a character itself. 
  6. Almost Famous (2000) - Say Anything was my favorite Cameron Crowe movie until I saw Almost Famous for the first time. The movie is loosely based on Crowe's on time on the road as a rock journalist in the 1970s, writing for Rolling Stone. Patrick Fugit's William Miller is Crowe's stand-in, a teenage music fan and writer who ends up on tour with the band Stillwater (including Jason Lee and Billy Crudup). He falls in love with one of the Band-Aids, Penny Lane (Kate Hudson), who also happens to be involved with a member of the band. Set to an amazing soundtrack, Almost Famous is everything about 70s rock music I love. It's about fans and bands coming up through the ranks and love (all rock songs are about love). William's mother and sister (Frances McDormand and Zooey Deschanel respectively) are also a treat. If you love music, you should watch this movie.
  7. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) - I will always admit to liking hipster things and Wes Anderson movies are probably the most hipster thing I like outside of craft beer and fancy cheese. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Moonrise Kingdom are my two favorites. I picked this one for three reasons: Bill Murray, the soundtrack, and Bud Cort. Bill Murray appears in many of Anderson's movies, but this is my favorite of his performances. He's like a less nice, heavier drinking Jacques Cousteau so, you know, delightful. The soundtrack is a mix of rock/pop hits from the 70s and 80s and performances of David Bowie songs in Portuguese (performed by the amazing Seu Jorge). I saw him perform these songs earlier this year and it was wonderful; go see him in concert if you have the opportunity. The movie also features Bud Cort, who we met earlier in this list as Harold in Harold and Maude. He plays an accountant who is kidnapped by pirates because that's the kind of movie this is.
  8. Amelie (2001) - When I visited Paris in 2013, one of my planned stops was the cafe featured in Amelie. I spent a day in Montmartre and had lunch at Le Café des 2 Moulins. It was a highlight of my trip. The movie is another movie that I can only describe as "charming." Audrey Tautou plays Amelie, a shy waitress who helps her friends, discovers a secret admirer, and has adventures around Paris. There's also a traveling gnome, revenge, and lots of quirk. It's one of my favorite movies of all time. I could tell you more, but that would ruin it so just watch the movie yourself.
  9. Hairspray (1988) - This was the first John Waters movie I ever watched and it will always be my favorite. Set in 1962 Baltimore, Hairspray is at first glance, about a teenage girl who wants to be on a local televised dance show. However, it's also about civil rights, being comfortable with who you are, and doing what's right in the world. This was Ricki Lake's first movie role and she is a delight. Divine plays her mother, Edna, and is the best part of the movie. There's great fashion, dancing, and Vitamin C plays the mean girl. I would also recommend the musical movie version that came out a few years ago despite the fact that John Travolta is terrible in it. Queen Latifah and James Marsden make up for his awfulness. 
  10. Elf (2003) - I figured I'd end with a Christmas movie since everyone is now welcome to start decorating and listening to Christmas music if that's your thing. If ever there was a person destined to play a human raised by elves, it's Will Ferrell. He's so perfect for the role of Buddy the Elf; my brother doesn't care for Ferrell and he likes this movie. That's saying something. It's one of the most quotable holiday movies ("Smiling is my favorite.). James Caan is very James Caan as Buddy's birth father and Ed Asner should always play Santa. It's also a little weird and quirky which makes it even better. Enjoy while drinking cocoa and enjoying some maple syrup.
I hope ten is enough movies to get through the long weekend. If anyone has any creative uses for leftovers, let me know. I'm thinking of making waffles out of the leftover stuffing to go with my viewing of You've Got Mail. I feel like those two things belong together.

Next weekend: Your Resident Single Friend goes speed dating. Yes, it's really happening. I wouldn't want my mother to worry that I'm going to die alone.