Friday, October 26, 2007

It’s All About the Kids

New at Since Last Week:
Lars and the Real Girl
Wristcutters: A Love Story
The Darjeeling Limited
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

This week was reserved for movies about kids: one about a kid from another planet and one about a dead little boy (As David said, “Are there any movies anymore that don’t have dead little kids in them?”). But first things first: let’s talk about Dane Cook.

The Stop Dane Cook campaign is well under way. Kevin recently published an article on to discuss the campaign—and he’s gotten some hilarious response. Personally, I’ve been highly amused by the angry responses from people who have absolutely no sense of humor. But that’s just me. People with no sense of humor totally crack me up. In the article, though, Kevin also explains how you, too, can get your very own Stop Dane Cook ribbon. So drop him a line and start supporting the campaign—and tell him I sent you.

So…back to the week’s screenings.

After a couple of frantic, screening-packed weeks, the studios slammed on the brakes this week. I kept waiting for more screenings to show up on the schedule, but none did. So we only had three screenings scheduled for this week. And the first one wasn’t until Wednesday night.

Having spent practically every day and night with the gang for a couple of weeks, I actually felt lost without them this week. Three whole days without seeing the COFCA gang… I felt like something was missing—like that ever-present feeling of panic. I had three whole days in which I didn’t have to rush out of the office to a screening…before rushing back to write up the review before racing out that night to see another one. My to-do list got much shorter, and I was able to do a bunch of things that I’d been putting off for weeks. But, as it turns out, I get a lot more done when I’m totally stressed out and under pressure. Go figure.

So I was thrilled to head out on Wednesday night to see Martian Child. For one thing, I hadn’t seen most of the guys in over a week. For another thing, I was sponsoring the screening—so a bunch of the people there were there because of me. So that was pretty cool.

I got there at the usual time, and Jennifer, our good and faithful rep, let Bill and me in to save our usual seats. John was already there, so I got to catch up with him. He’d been to see his son in LA, and, as always, he had plenty of stories to tell. Then I headed up to get caught up with the rest of the posse. I was still running around, talking to random people throughout the theater when the lights went down, sending me racing back to my seat.

The problem with family-friendly movies is that, well, people bring their families. In general, I tend to like kids. Heck, I hang out and knit with them every week. But I don’t particularly like them when they’re sitting behind me in a movie theater—especially not when they have a severe case of ADHD, as was the case with the kid behind me for Martian Child. It started out before the movie even started—with the noises. And the tap-dancing. It then continued through the movie with the constant tap-dancing on the back of my seat. And the occasional grabbing at the back of my seat, pulling me back, and then letting go, sending me flying forward. I came painfully close to turning around and strangling the child. But, for the sake of the family movie and its spirit of love and patience, I refrained. But it was close.

Fortunately, though, there was booze after the movie, and I was able to drink that obnoxious child away. I headed to the restaurant next door with John, Neil, Kevin, Chris, and Chris’s new girlfriend-type-person for some junk food and drinks. Neil and I ordered a ginormous platter of fried food, for which John berated me—and I responded by forcing him to watch me take a big, huge bite of fried something-or-other. A good time was had by all. We also had a good view of the Red Sox game, and I was sure to keep everyone updated as to how badly the Rockies were getting trounced. (Go Sox!) The next thing I knew, it was 11:00, and it was well past my curfew. But it was a wonderful night. We haven’t gone out for drinks in ages—not since Bill got his new job—and we were long overdue.

Despite the fact that I got home late and went straight back to my computer to get a few things done before turning in, I still had to get up on time on Thursday morning—because I had a newsletter to send out before heading off to another screening. Thursday morning’s screening was Reservation Road, the aforementioned dead-little-boy movie, which was sure to brighten all of our spirits.

Perhaps I’m just turning into a bitter, cynical film critic, but Reservation Road didn’t actually depress me—or at least not for the reasons it should have. I didn’t cry through the movie—though I do realize that dead little boys are very sad things indeed. Just not in this movie. I couldn’t help but snicker through parts of the movie—the parts that were just that bad. My personal favorite moment in the whole movie is when a 10-year-old boy (one who’s still alive) announces that he called one of his school friends “a no-good coward.” This, for the record, was supposed to have been said in 2004. Not 1954. Whoever wrote that apparently hasn’t talked to a 10-year-old boy since the ‘50s.

I was supposed to go to another screening on Thursday night, since I’d missed all the earlier screenings of Dan in Real Life (to which I was going to wear my Stop Dane Cook ribbon), but then something came up. My dear husband called on Wednesday afternoon to check if skipping Thursday night’s screening—since he’d just gotten his hands on a pair of box seats for the Blue Jackets game. Hmmmm…let me think a minute…. Box seats for the Blue Jackets game…or a screening of a Dane Cook movie? Box seats it is.

I think I made the right choice. The game was incredible—the fourth shut-out of the season. Nash scored an amazing goal from between his legs, and the third goal…we’re still not entirely sure what happened with that. I can’t believe this season—I’m not used to watching the Blue Jackets win. This 5-3-1 record is unbelievable. It was a great game—and we had an incredible time.

Today David really wanted me to go see Saw IV with him—just so he wouldn’t have to sit through it by himself. I was tempted, but (a) I haven’t seen the other three, (b) if I were to actually pay to see it, wouldn’t that just be encouraging them to make more?, and (c) considering how behind I am in general, the last thing I needed was another movie that I’d have to review. So I regretfully declined. Instead, David and I grabbed lunch before the movie and talked about how very weird are jobs are (though David’s pretty sure that it’s even weirder to be the people who actually write the screenplays for some of the movies we have to see). And then I returned to the office, where I continued to find anything to do besides writing music reviews. And that’s where I am right now.

In other news this week, we were all surprised and somewhat amused to get a visit from the FedEx guy this week—requiring our signature for our for-your-consideration award-screener copy of Knocked Up. Now, I liked Knocked Up and all—but Best Picture material? I’m not so sure.

Then again, with all the bad award hopefuls coming out this year, Knocked Up could just have a fighting chance…

Next week is another eerily slow week (which makes us start to worry that we’re going to be bombarded once again come December—we should probably get extra sleep now, while we can). At this point, we only have two screenings scheduled—Tuesday and Thursday (since, of course, you can’t schedule screenings on Halloween—or all the critics in town would get their houses egged). Unfortunately, the screenings for Bee Movie and American Gangster are being held at the same time—which means that David will probably be all by himself at the Bee Movie screening. Sorry Jerry, but Russell and Denzel win.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Alone in the Dark with Strangers

New at Since Last Week:
Gone Baby Gone
Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Before I begin with the usual, I’d like to note that is sponsoring a screening of Martian Child this coming Wednesday (the 24th) at the AMC Lennox in Columbus—and we’ve got free passes. If you’re in the Columbus area and you want to see a movie for free, just visit N& for details.

Okay…let’s get on with it then.

This week was one crazy week. Thanks to our ridiculously damp and musty hotel room in Dallas, I was one sick puppy by Friday afternoon. Fortunately, I did get some work done, but not a ton—and I probably wasn’t much fun on Saturday, our one day to wander around the city.

So when we got home on Sunday night, I was beat. Unfortunately, I had one crazy week ahead of me—and I didn’t have time to curl up in a ball and just be sick for a couple of days. I had stuff to do—the most important of which was preparing for another radio appearance on Wednesday morning, to fill in for Clay, who was recovering quite nicely from the surgery he’d had on Friday. As it turned out, the morning that I drove to the wrong theater for the Into the Wild screening came back to bite me in the butt. I also missed the Darjeeling Limited screening while I was in Dallas. So that meant I had some catch-up to play.

Despite the fact that I usually hate Monday morning screenings—especially on Monday mornings after I’ve just gotten back from being out of town—I was relieved to find out that there was a screening of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford scheduled for Monday morning. That meant that I could check out Jesse James in the morning—and come back to write up my review in the afternoon. Theoretically.

Of course, it didn’t occur to me at the time that Jesse James was a ridiculous two hours and forty minutes long (something that I’ve been generally bitching about all week—so I’ll refrain from continuing my rant here). Fortunately, I had some good drugs, which kept me from hacking up a lung during the movie. But, despite the fact that it was the Non-Drowsy variety, it didn’t really help all that much when it came to keeping me awake. I think I managed to stay awake through the whole thing, but it was a battle. Kevin admitted afterwards that he slept through parts. He also got up at one point to get his coat (because it was freezing in the theater—which probably helped to keep me awake). Then he wandered around for a while…stopped in the bathroom…wandered around the parking lot…and came back. Chris, who was sitting next to him, leaned over to try to tell him what he missed, and Kevin replied, “You know what? I don’t even care.”

At one point, David raced out to the bathroom, too. See? That’s the problem with movies like this one. You need the coffee to get through them, but they’re so long that you can’t have the coffee—or else you won’t get to see the whole thing. It’s a Catch-22. Anyway…David came back in and asked Jason and me if he’d missed anything, and we just sighed and said, “Nope.” Probably, he just missed more long, lingering shots of snow on the prairie.

After Jesse James, I had planned on catching screenings on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. But that didn’t happen. Monday night was Rendition. And, well, I just didn’t feel like sitting through it. And I had an excuse—I was sick. So I stayed home and went to bed early instead.

On Tuesday, I had three options: Into the Wild, Things We Lost in the Fire, and 30 Days of Night (which I’d been planning on seeing). But, once again, I skipped. I played the Sick card again—especially since I had to be up by 6:30 on Wednesday morning, so I could get to the studio by 8:30.

Fortunately, though, I was prepared on Wednesday morning. I managed to crank out some reviews, and I was heavily drugged. I couldn’t guarantee that I was going to make it cough-free through the whole recording, but I hoped I would. The last thing I needed was to sniffle through the show. I packed my bag with Kleenex and cough drops, just in case.

Despite the crazy rush-hour traffic, I made it to the station at 8:30—just before John. We walked in together, found our usual spot in the back of the building, and did a little rehearsing. At around 9, we hit the studio. We were eventually joined by Clay, our director, who had accidentally over-slept (but I’ll let it slide this time, since he just had surgery and all…).

Since the last time I was in the studio, there’s been a software change—so it took a little while to get everything set up. Then it was time for the recording to begin. After a couple of false starts, our final recording went rather smoothly—except for the part when John suddenly realized he’d lost some of his notes. It resulted in a little bit of paper-rustling (to be cut out later), during which time I was able to get in a few good, solid coughs. So I’m glad John lost his notes—because it helped me make it through the show.

Due to the whole new-software issue, this week’s recording session took longer than usual. Typically, we’re there from 8:30 to about 10. This time, it was closer to 11:30. During that time I found myself either squinting at the computer with John or laughing with Clay while John continued to squint at the computer by himself. But we finally get everything figured out—and we have a show:

After we were finished in the studio, I went home and crashed on the couch for a while. But I couldn’t rest for too long—because I had a screening that night. Wednesday night was Lars and the Real Girl—and a flurry of emails in the afternoon showed that I was, most likely, the only one going. Not even my husband was joining me—since Wednesday is Hockey Night.

Despite the fact that it’s my job to watch movies—to go to the theater, take my seat, and take it all in with a critical eye, paying attention to writing and performances and things like that—it’s still strange to go to a movie alone. Before I started going to screenings, I used to do it every once in a while, when my husband was out of town. But it felt strange. And it still does. Even now, when I go to a screening, there’s always someone else there. My colleagues are my friends—and there are a bunch of them—so there’s always someone to sit with, someone to talk to before the movie starts, someone to whisper snide comments to during the movie, someone to share the experience with. But on Wednesday, it was just me. I hung out in the lobby by myself. I walked into the theater and took a seat near the back (so I could run out in case of one of those coughing fits I’d been having lately) by myself. As the crowd made their way in and climbed over me, the noise levels rose. And I pulled out my planner and wrote some notes, studied my schedule, copied my to-do list.

When you think about it, going to a movie shouldn’t really be a social thing. You sit there in the dark, paying attention to what’s going on on-screen. You’re not talking to the people around you. It should be something you do by yourself, don’t you think? But it isn’t, usually. People like to have friends around them as they wait. And people like to have someone to share the experience with. Even though we’re not conversing together in the dark, we’re communing.

This time, it was just me. Alone. In the dark. With strangers.

The screening was at the old theater in the rich part of town—the one with the chatty old moviegoers. Lots of pepperpots. And this time was no different from the others. Even when the movie started playing, the crowd chattered on, barely noticing. And there were frequent exclamations pop-corning up throughout the theater during the movie. And I didn’t have anyone to snicker about it with me. But, hey… Sometimes that just goes with the job. And though it was a little strange, don’t worry…I did okay. I didn’t feel sad or lonely. I didn’t cry. And I actually enjoyed the movie. So it was all good.

On Thursday morning, I was back to the theater for a last-minute morning screening of Wristcutters: A Love Story. We’d found out late on Wednesday afternoon. I almost didn’t go—but I figured it was my penance for skipping two evening screenings that week. And besides, it fit into my schedule. And, most importantly, it was short. So I went.

It was quiet at the theater on Thursday morning. I was the second one there, and only two showed up after I did. Oh, well. More cookies for me, I guess. Though it doesn’t feel quite as strange sitting by myself for morning screenings, I was glad to have Jason there with me. Because after Wednesday night, it was nice to have someone to talk shop with—and someone to giggle with during the movie. It made me feel better.

On Thursday night, it was another almost-lonely night at the movies. This time, my husband went along—but everyone else seemed to have some excuse. Most of them had already seen The Darjeeling Limited while we were in Dallas. And those who hadn’t were at home watching baseball. So it was another strange night. Usually, for evening screenings, we reserve our row. There are usually at least a few of us there. So showing up for a screening with just the two of us—and having to find seats for just the two of us—was weird. It’s not that I don’t like hanging out with my husband or anything, but I haven’t seen the rest of the guys in ages, and I actually kinda miss them a little bit.

Not only that, but I was also eager to wish the guys a Happy Awards Season. On Thursday afternoon, the first of the award screeners showed up in my mailbox—followed closely by another one today. This means that the insanity has officially begun. It’s time to set aside the remaining screeners from last awards season—the few that I didn’t get the time to see, though I really did intend to—to make way for this season’s screeners. Hopefully, something good is on its way—because our top-ten lists are still pretty sparse.

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Howdy, Ya’ll!

New at Since Last Week:
We Own the Night
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Michael Clayton
The Heartbreak Kid

Word has it that the weather back home is cold and nasty—but here in The Big D, it couldn’t be more beautiful. The sun is shining off the hotel pool, and it’s warm enough for shorts. If it weren’t for the giant mutant grasshoppers around here (and the fact that if I stayed too long, I’d become morbidly obese from all the great food), I may never leave.

So we’ve been in Dallas since Wednesday night—when my husband had to fly in for a couple of days of meetings. That means that there wasn’t a lot of time for screenings (though I’ve been scheduling regular screenings in my hotel room, complete with muffins and coffee). In fact, the only screening that I was able to make it to this week was on Tuesday night, when I went to see Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Despite all the nasty things that have been said about the movie, I didn’t hate it—though I did almost hate Clive Owen (by way of his two-timing jerk of a character) by the time it was over, and that’s no good. But Cate Blanchett is brilliant, so that makes up for it.

Since I don’t have a lot to report in the critic world, though, how about I tell you about my experience in Dallas?

We got here on Wednesday night—in time to get ourselves into our rental car, check into our not-as-nice-as-the-pictures hotel, and head out for dinner. We went to a place called Pappa’s Bar-B-Q, where I was served what appeared to be a flock of chickens drenched in sauce, served with two sides (I chose macaroni salad and pea salad) and bread. I also got an approximately half-gallon glass of lemonade, and we ordered a slice of carrot cake the size of my head. I felt like I was six again—or like I’d somehow shrunk on the flight. They’re not kidding when they say that everything in Texas is big. And that goes double for the insects. The giant mutant grasshopper managed to find its way onto my lap while I was eating, and it scared the living crap out of me.

Yesterday, I dropped my husband off at his office before fighting my way through rush-hour traffic and finding my way back to the hotel. I will say one thing for the hotel—they do a good breakfast. That, and they have free wireless, which makes my life easier. After I got back, I decided to head down to the breakfast room to do some work while allowing the housekeeping staff some time to clean my room. I was there for about two hours and went back to find that my room hadn’t been cleaned yet. So I hung out in the room for a bit, called my mom, and decided that I’d allow the cleaning staff more time by going out to the pool. There, I was ogled by the grounds keeping staff, who apparently had never seen a female at the pool before. I sat there feeling awkward for as long as I possibly could without completely frying, and then I figured it was safe to return to my room. The cleaning staff had still not been to my room, though they were hovering in the general vicinity. So I quickly took a shower, got a few things done, and headed down to the breakfast room again—to scribble out some reviews while watching CNN. There, I found myself in the middle of a very uncomfortable employee disciplinary meeting with some member of the staff who apparently wasn’t up to par.

After the meeting was over, and I felt I could safely return to my room (after about an hour and a half or so), I stopped by the vending machines for a Coke and some Bugles to go with the yogurt I’d snagged from the breakfast room. Great lunch, no?

The problem, however, was that I got up to my room, and it was still not clean. The maid was across the hall, though, so I figured I’d give her a little while longer—so I went back to the lobby, where I read for a while and ate my Bugles. Then I crossed my fingers and returned to my room.

When I got out of the elevator, there was no sign of a maid’s cart in the hallway, so I took that as a good sign. My room would be clean, right? Wrong. No maid in sight, and my room was still not clean. By this time, it was nearly 3, and I’d been wandering around the halls, exploring the laundry rooms and scoping out vending machines. I’d hung out by the pool, been ogled by the staff, gotten a little more burnt than I should have, and spent so much time in front of the TV in the breakfast room that I’d seen every single news story on CNN at least 12 times. I was tempted to give up and forget about getting my room cleaned, but the place was horrible. The shower leaked, so there was water all over the bathroom floor, and if nothing else, the place just needed a good airing out. For some reason, the air was on, but it just felt cold and humid in the room.

So I went down to the front desk. “Excuse me…would you happen to know when my room will be cleaned?” I asked, trying to keep from ripping the head off the poor girl behind the counter, since it clearly wasn’t her fault. She replied with a totally shocked look.

“Your room hasn’t been cleaned?” she asked.


So she promised to get someone right up—and I returned to the breakfast room. Once again, I wasn’t alone. This time, there was an excitable guy with a laptop and a cell phone. Though I tried to give him space, I couldn’t avoid hearing some of his conversations—because he was very excitable. Apparently, he was trying to hire someone to start working full-time in Dallas on Monday on the show, Prison Break. Neat, huh? I don’t think he was hiring talent, though, so I figured I’d refrain from offering my services as a professionally trained actress (right, Clay?).

Finally, though, I got my room cleaned. It was then nearly 4—and I had a lot of work to catch up on. And my room was still as comfortable as a bog in August.

I had about two hours to work until I went to pick my husband up. We then went out to another Pappa’s restaurant—this time, Pappasito’s Cantina, where we had guacamole made right at our table (which reminded me of our honeymoon—and this amazing restaurant in Puerto Vallarta called Pipis). And I ate the best chicken enchiladas I have ever had, in my entire life. They were amazing. If you ever go there, you must have the salsa verde. It’s incredible.

When we waddled back in from dinner, I finally managed to get into the room (since our key-cards only occasionally work), and we found that one whole side of our room was power-less. That meant both bedside lights and the alarm clock. We called the front desk (twice) and were told that they’d get the maintenance guy to come out and fix it. By 10:30, we were exhausted, and we’d heard nothing from the maintenance guy (and we still had no power), so we gave up and went to bed.

So when we got up this morning (awakened by the alarm clock, which we’d had to move to the far side of the room), we still had no power in half our room, and we soon discovered that it was Cold Shower Day. And our room is getting more and more humid and bog-like by the hour. So right now, I’ve got the door ajar, and I’ve decided not to worry about the cleaning staff for a while. I’ve got stuff to do.

This afternoon, I’m planning to hold another screening. Last night, we had an evening screening, consisting of Bacardi Breezers and Planet Terror. Today, I’m thinking Whataburger takeout and Poltergeist. Feel free to join me. The screening starts at 2 pm Central time. Press sign-in will be required.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Cutting Out…And Catching Up

New at Since Last Week:
The Seeker: The Dark is Rising
Across the Universe
The Jane Austen Book Club

This week, I ended up skipping more screenings than I attended.

Of course, that wasn’t my intention. I fully intended to go to all kinds of screenings this week—especially since I’ll be out of town for a couple of days, and I need to keep my schedule nice and full. But, well, sometimes other things happen.

The first screening of the week (to continue our Morning Screening Marathon) was on Monday morning: Rocket Science. I fully intended to see it. Really. But it was Monday morning—and Mondays are always crazy-busy for me. And I really, really, really didn’t want to leave the office. So, at 10:00, as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, getting ready to leave, I talked myself out of going. You don’t need this to fill your schedule, I told myself. The rest of the week was filled with either award hopefuls or big weekend releases—and, I’m afraid, in the craziness of this week’s schedule, the little-known indie lost out. Usually, I’m a big fan of indies—and I do all I can to help promote them a bit—but I just didn’t have the time this week.

Instead, I stayed in the office and edited an entire week’s worth of book reviews. I also finished a couple of reviews. And as I worked, the emails kept pouring in, scheduling more screenings for the week. In fact, by the time the day was over, we had the entire week packed with morning screenings. So I didn’t feel too bad about skipping one.

And when I got an email from David, telling me that Jason had hated the movie so much that he refused to write a review, I was ecstatic. Ha! I could have been sitting in a theater for most of the day, wasting my time—but I stayed back and actually got stuff done instead. Yea for me!

Tuesday morning, I headed to campus to see The Seeker: The Dark is Rising. Despite the scoffing of the various fanboys in our midst, I actually kinda liked it. Or at least I liked it enough that I didn’t regret showing up.

Afterwards, John and I went across the street to our new favorite smoothie place. John got some random juice that involved celery and beets (this coming from the guy who, last time we were there, was so afraid of ordering orange/carrot juice, that he asked the girl behind the counter if anyone had ever thrown up). I, on the other hand, got the best smoothie ever—strawberry, orange, peach, and watermelon. My only mistake was the extra boost of ginseng that I had them add—which almost killed me later that afternoon. (Note to self: no more ginseng smoothies.)

Wednesday, however, was not such a good day. Wednesday was a bonehead day. On Wednesday, there was a morning screening of Into the Wild on the schedule—it was one that was scheduled on Monday afternoon. I was totally excited to see it—mostly because some of my favorite musicians used to perform a song about Christopher McCandless.

Despite it being another busy morning, I made my way across town. I got a parking spot (yea!), though I was a little worried to see that I didn’t recognize any other cars there. I got inside and found the door locked—and no one was hanging out in the café next door, either. Needless to say, that freaked me out just a little bit. After a while, I ran into another critic, who was just as confused as I was. We stood around for a while and finally left in a huff, thinking that the screening had been cancelled and no one had bothered to let us know.

But I had a bad feeling about it. I checked my planner again—as I had before I left the office—and it told me that I was where I was supposed to be. Of course, there was one other possibility—which turned out to be the case. Apparently, I’d been so flustered on Monday afternoon that I’d failed to write down the correct location of the screening. So while everyone else was sitting at the theater on campus, enjoying the movie (or not, as I later discovered from Jason—who ended up sending emails through most of the screening), I was driving around the city in a very foul mood.

In all of my crankiness, I returned to my office, determined to make up for the missed screening. And I cranked out a movie review and two book reviews that afternoon. And I felt a little bit better.

That night, there was another screening on the schedule. Actually, two—both for The Heartbreak Kid. One (the one that Bill and I had passes for) was downtown. The other was at our very favorite, much-closer-to-home theater. So Bill and I decided to get into our favorite theater by acting like we knew exactly what we were doing. And it worked. I got there as the crowd was still waiting, and the reps sent me right in. They told me that Bill was already there, but as I walked into the gigantic theater—which was still in full darkness—I couldn’t see anybody in the theater. But then I saw a head pop up from our usual part of the theater. Bill.

I took my seat, and we got caught up on all the latest critic gossip. I told him about my bonehead move of the morning, though he really didn’t feel too bad for me, since his day job keeps him from morning screenings. But he assured me that he’s not too worried about missing them—and I shouldn’t be, either—because with award season warming up, that means that the “For Your Consideration” screeners will start showing up any day now. Hopefully that means we’ll get to watch the screeners of all the stuff we’ve been missing.

After enduring Dane Cook’s Good Luck Chuck a couple of weeks ago, Bill and I were a little bit nervous about the Farrelly Brothers’ latest. But, actually, The Heartbreak Kid made me laugh. In fact, I laughed so much that I felt a little bit guilty. I actually stopped at one point and thought, Hold on…this is actually really funny! And that’s probably when I jinxed it. After that, Ben Stiller turned back into Crazy Ben Stiller, and the story completely drove off the rails. But, hey. It was nice while it lasted.

On Thursday morning, I actually showed up at the right place, at the right time, for the screening of Michael Clayton. In fact, I was just driving around the neighborhood, trying to find a parking space (since the lot was empty) when I got a call from David.

“I’m in the right place, right?” he asked. Apparently, my recent mental breakdown—and the fact that he got to the screening before John did—made him a little nervous. But I assured him that I was in the area—and as soon as I made the mile-long walk from my car, I’d be there.

As the usual gang gathered for the screening, the big topic of the morning was, “So…are you going to the screening tomorrow?” The Friday morning screening this week was Lust, Caution, Ang Lee’s porno-art film. Earlier in the week, I was totally planning to go—just out of curiosity. But then I found out that it’s 2 hours and 40 minutes long—and I changed my mind. But I wasn’t the only one. It turned out that only Neil was determined to show up. The rest of us were going with the old, “I’ll watch it when we get the screener” excuse.

After Thursday morning’s so-so movie, a bunch of us stood around and had the discussion that we critics tend to start having an awful lot around this time of the year: the year-end discussion. It started as we were all discussing how underwhelmed we were by Michael Clayton (I, for one, had to fight to stay awake—though it could have something to do with the fact that I hadn’t had any caffeine, since I was trying to detox, following the Ginseng Smoothie Debacle). That’s when David pointed out, “You know, I don’t even have enough to come up with a decent top 10 list for this year.”

“Well,” Jason pointed out, “your top 10 is your top 10.”

“Yeah, but there’s stuff on there that I don’t feel deserves to be on there,” David explained.

And with that, we all started discussing the movies of worth that have come out so far this year. The list was pretty slim. So far, we agreed on The King of Kong and Hot Fuzz. Jason mentioned The Kingdom, and our resident fanboy Neil mentioned Transformers, which made the rest of us laugh just a little bit. After that, it was pretty thin. Of course, we’ve still got almost three months until the end of the year, but it’s not looking good right now. None of the movies getting the biggest Oscar hype have really blown us away. There are 12 more Fridays to go before the end of the year. There could be something mind-blowing in there. I hope so.

I had another screening planned for Thursday night: Dan in Real Life. But, to be perfectly honest, despite the fact that I’d been skipping/missing screenings left and right all week, I had to agree with Jason. I was feeling burnt out. And as I scarfed down another dinner and rushed toward the door, my husband (who is brilliant) stopped me and said, “Are you sure you really want to go tonight? You look kinda frantic.”

And he was right. What I really needed was a night to sit on my butt and watch TV. I needed to go for a walk and enjoy Al Gore’s Global Warming. I needed to crack open a Woodchuck and drink to America’s Next Top Model. And that’s exactly what I did.

So far, next week is a quiet week. The only morning screening on the schedule is on Thursday—when I’ll be out of town. The only thing I’ll be in town for is on Tuesday night. But, then again, it’s only 2:00. That leaves plenty of time for the reps to schedule screenings for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday morning—and it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

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