Monday, February 26, 2018

Oscar-nominated Shorts, or The Film Industry's Best Kept Secret

Every February for the last decade, I've looked forward to watching the Oscar-nominated live action short films. I tend to take Oscar nods with a grain of salt (See Movie Review: The Artist), but when it comes to the Oscar-nominated shorts, I am all eyes and ears. Because they are not mainstream and because they are often directed by new filmmakers, I think short films have more latitude in tone and plot. The Academy's pet is Best Picture, and as such, they don't have time to be as pretentious about the side act that is Best Short Film (Live Action).

Here's the thing, though: Short films––live action or animated––are amazing. If you are lucky enough to live in a city with a strong independent theater or film society, you should take advantage of the fact that they will play the Oscar-nominated short films. Occasionally, you can find the films online, but more often than not, they are not easily available. February may be the only time you can watch them.

If you're not familiar with short films, let me tell you how it works: Short films, or "shorts," are films no longer than 40 minutes, and I'd say they are usually 10-20 minutes. So when you see the Oscar-nominated shorts at a theater, you'll sit in your seat for about an hour and a half or two, but you'll see five consecutive films that are each about 10–20 minutes long. You can choose to see the live action shorts, which are made with actors and actresses, or you can see the animated shorts, which are animations, of course. You can also see both! (But you will have to get separate tickets.)

To whet your appetite for short films, I've compiled a list of my favorites over the years:

*It looks like these are no longer free. "Auf der Strecke" is available for $1.99 on YouTube, and I'm not sure where to find "God of Love."

Thing I'm thankful for: imagination

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Winter Wonderland, Pt. 2

I'm convinced that one of life's finest pleasures is taking a midnight stroll through snow. It's been a few years since my last really good quiet walk, but tonight, I had to make time.

The Beehive House always seems to get the best icicles. (In case you can't tell, the longest icicle is about two feet long!)



The prettiest little snow-covered tree

More icicles!

What a funny-looking organization of snow!

I didn't understand powdery snow until I came to Utah. It really is like powder! It is dry and light and fluffy. You know that fake snow you can buy from craft stores? It's just like that! Truly!

And it glitters. :)

(See Winter Wonderland for more snow thoughts and pictures.)

Thing I'm thankful for: warm socks and hardy boots

Saturday, January 20, 2018


I know you've all been waiting on the edge of your seats to know what I thought of "Stranger Things," but this post is not about that TV show––it's about another one. It's about my second favorite show of all-time.*

Lovesick is a British sitcom that centers around three best friends in their twenties. One of the friends gets an STD and must contact his ex-lovers to tell them the news. (The original title of the show was "Scrotal Recall." Ha.) It sounds raunchy, but I promise it's not. It's lovely. And witty and realistic and unconventional. Here, let the writer of the show, Tom Edge, speak for himself:
"I think we always knew the chlamydia and exes track-down was a nice hook for the show. We knew it was exhaustible at the same time [. . .] It felt to us, organically, the right way to take the show [was] to begin to wind down that format and lead us into the trickier questions of long-term relationships and unpacking the complexities between people." (Metro)
And it's true––while the show is laugh-out-loud funny, it's also emotionally sensitive, and the characters are complex without being contrived. I think American TV is often simplistic and slapstick, while British TV––and "Lovesick" especially––is thoughtful and intelligently humorous. It doesn't get caught up in ratings but instead lets the plot go naturally where it should. And bonus:
  1. The music is fantastic!
  2. The characters look like they've been taken out of real life and not dolled-up to look like the most perfect people you've ever seen.

I could go on and on about all the ways in which I love this show, but ultimately what I'm saying is . . . Just watch it. It's so, so good.

*I loved "Stranger Things," and my favorite show of all-time is "Seinfeld."

Thing I'm thankful for: Rebecca, who introduced me to "Lovesick" in the first place.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

A Belated Merry Christmas

It seems crazy to me to put Christmas up on the 26th of December. We spend the whole year waiting for the weather to cool. Waiting to listen to festive music. Waiting for a long holiday break. And then––we pack it up lock, stock, and barrel.

Me? I like to keep Christmas around until nearly Valentine's Day. Especially this year. This year, I felt like I didn't get to celebrate Christmas until the very end.

Remember this post? Well, you all came through with your fun family pictures and videos of your silly kids, and it made me laugh. Now I'll tell you the reason for needing a distraction and the reason for almost skipping Christmas.

That evening, I went to the emergency room for what an urgent care doctor thought was appendicitis. Turns out, it was an ovarian cyst that burst. But on the CT scan, the ER doctor found some other things, too:
  • A kidney stone that may or may not pass on its own
  • An abnormally-shaped uterus that may make having children difficult
  • A tumor on my left adrenal gland and kidney that may be cancerous
  • A possible tumor on my right kidney that may be cancerous
The three weeks leading up to Christmas were filled with doctor visits, CT scans, and getting blood drawn. The urologist made it clear that I'd need surgery on my left kidney, but maybe not on my right. He said that because of my age and the size of the left tumor, he was concerned it could be cancer.

"Cancer" is a word I never expected to hear from my doctor. Other people get cancer.

So I spent the better part of December in a daze, really. I didn't expect to visit Georgia for Christmas. I got flowers from work colleagues and well-wishes from others. And lots of hugs and "I'm sorrys."

And then. I went to my urologist the week before Christmas, and he said what looked like a complex cyst on my right kidney was just a cyst and the tumor on my left adrenal gland and kidney seemed to be benign. Still, the size of the tumor could be a problem, so we have to keep an eye on it. In six months, I go for another round of CT scans and blood work.

It all seems like a weird dream, and in some ways, I feel like a ticking time bomb. Part of me just wants this tumor out. Part of me wonders what changed so suddenly from one appointment to the next. Did he miss something? Do more scans need to be taken? Does something else need to be checked?

I don't know yet, and for now, I suppose that's okay. I'm trying not to worry until there's something to worry about.

Thing I'm thankful for: a guest room for me at MommyDaddy's, whenever I need it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

You Speaka My Language

One of my sisters visited me this weekend with her family, and they flew out today while I was at work. I dreaded walking in my apartment door because I knew it would be quiet––no Summer to talk to, no Clay playing the ukulele, no Macy to snuggle with, and no Lily to pretend she doesn't need to snuggle.

Imagine my delight, then, when I walked into this:

Words of affirmation and a caricature. (Although they're stick figures, they're actually quite representative of us.)

My tree aglow and another funny note.

Money! (I know the placement of this note was difficult for Summer, as she is the runt of the family, but she was trying to put it at eye-level for me. It was perfect!)

Candy, all lined up in a row.

I could never love anyone as I love my sisters.

Thing I'm thankful for: People who get me.

Monday, December 11, 2017

I need a distraction.

As I was driving to the emergency room on Friday afternoon, I called my sister and told her what was up. She said, "Oh my goodness . . . Well, at some point, you have to laugh, right?"

And I guess that's true. I have to either laugh or cry, and I feel like maybe I got most of my tears out this year? Or maybe I got them all out last year. At any rate, I haven't cried all day. But I haven't laughed, either.

Here's a quick update: The ER doctor thought the lower abdominal pain was appendicitis. Turns out, it was an ovarian cyst that burst. But the CT scan showed some other abnormalities, too, so I have to talk to a specialist before I can understand them or understand what needs to happen to address them.

Until all this is cleared up, I have a request: Let me hold your babies and play with your children. Let me take them to the store to buy crafts and paint supplies. Let me color with them or watch a Christmas movie or two. Send me funny pictures of them or silly videos. Mail their unintelligible scribbles to me.

Kids––I am certain––are the best part of life. They are the most interesting humans on the planet, and they––more than anyone else––make me happy. It's difficult for me to be downcast and sad when children are around. I wish I had some of my own, but I don't, so I'm depending on you all to to distract me with the pitter patter of your little ones.

Thing I'm thankful for: Hangout videos in the hospital

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

One Thing Everybody Wants

It's Halloween, but candy, costumes, and haunted houses are not on my mind. What's on my mind is something altogether different. What's on my mind is love.

For some reason, I thought of "La La Land" this weekend, so on my drive to work today, I listened to the soundtrack. One of my favorite songs is, of course, City of Stars, featuring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Every time I hear it, I'm struck by the perfect way in which the songwriters expressed the human condition:
City of stars
Just one thing everybody wants.
There in the bars
And through the smokescreen of the crowded restaurants––
It's love––
Yes, all we're looking for is love from someone else.
A rush,
A glance,
A touch,
A dance–– 
To look in somebody's eyes
To light up the skies
To open the world and send them reeling
A voice that says, "I'll be here,
And you'll be alright."
I don't care if I know
Just where I will go
'Cause all that I need's this crazy feeling–– 
A rat-tat-tat on my heart . . .
Think I want it to stay.

I really think that's it. That's what life is all about. We're here to feel love and to give love. I've felt this purpose more acutely in the last few years than maybe I ever had before, but boy, does it change things. It gives the world color and forces my understanding of things to be nuanced. It fills my heart with loneliness but also with gratitude.

"Love. All we're looking for is love from someone else." Such powerful words. I am resolved to remember them.

Thing I'm thankful for: a cozy place to sleep.