Friday, November 30, 2007

2 Weeks 1 Entry

New at Since Last Time:
I’m Not There
August Rush
The Mist
No Country for Old Men

It appears as though I forgot that last Friday was actually a Friday. I’m going to blame it on the turkey. But, really, there wasn’t a heck of a lot to write about last week. It was gloriously quiet—except for Monday, when I had to be everywhere at once.

Mondays, as you probably already know, from my regular bitching and moaning, are not convenient days for screenings. I send out a newsletter to my contributors every Monday morning, so that takes some time—and then there’s all kinds of stuff that I need to catch up on from the weekend. I try not to work over the weekend (or at least not at my desk), so there’s usually plenty of email that needs my attention. Also, I will have inevitably watched a couple of DVDs and maybe finished a book or played a game over the weekend—so there’s stuff to review. If I have to take off and head to a screening, that just puts me that much farther behind.

On the Monday before Thanksgiving, however, I had the choice. I could (a) go to a screening and get it over with or (b) wait until Tuesday night. As much as I treasure those Monday mornings at the office, I ended up choosing option (a)—because going with (b) would mean being out for some reason or another Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Also, my husband needed to head into the office—and since, with his broken arm, he’s still not allowed to drive for a few weeks, I had to bring him. Of course, that meant that I had a whole hour (if even that) to work in the morning before driving him out to the office. He had a meeting at 10, so I had plenty of time before the screening. I stopped at Tim Horton’s on the way to the screening to pick up a bagel, and I was still early—so I took the time to start drafting a book review. I also took some time to listen to the projectionist and the security guards chatting about the best ways to pirate movies.

The screening was for Hitman, which was totally ridiculous—though, fortunately, short. It meant that I had time to get home and inhale some form of lunch before my appointment at the doctor’s office at 2. I was told to block out an hour for the appointment—in which I was taking The Great Asthma Test (which, as it turns out, could possibly be the hardest test I have ever taken)—but it ended up taking until 4. This was bad, since I was supposed to be at my knitting group at 4. So I ran back to the house, picked up my knitting, and hit the road. I made it to knitting a half hour or so late, and, of course, it was the one week when my favorite regular kid showed up on time. Of course. But we had a fabulous time knitting until 6, when I jumped in the car, pulled out the dinner I’d packed for myself (a Slim-Fast bar) and headed to the theater for a 7:00 screening of Enchanted. And then, after all that, I got to go home. (Once there, I discovered that my husband, who had gotten a ride home from work with a coworker, had forgotten his keys. He had also forgotten his cell phone that day, which made things pretty complicated. Fortunately, though, he did manage to get inside—and he didn’t have to sit on the front steps for three hours.)

So anyway…that was it for screenings last week. My favorite day of the whole week was Wednesday, when, apparently, all the agencies decided to take the day off. I didn’t get a single press release all day—and it was glorious. I got stuff done. And then, just like that, the week was pretty much over. David and I celebrated by taking our spouses out for dinner and Spamalot.

But don’t you worry. I had plenty to keep me busy over the weekend—since we’ve been getting the awards screeners by the boatload. So I got to rewatch Hairspray, and I managed to stay awake through Into the Wild.

This week was actually more of the same. If you check IMDb, you’ll notice that pretty much nothing opens this weekend—other than Awake, which, for some strange reason, the press weren’t allowed to see. That meant that we only had one screening on the schedule for this week—on Tuesday morning. But it gave us enough fun for the whole freakin’ week.

It all started innocently enough, with some coffee and scones and some chatter about award screeners. We made our way into the theater and took our seats. Then, not long into the film, some guy wandered down the aisle, carrying what appeared to be a bunch of electrical cords. Huh, I thought to myself. And I forgot about the movie for a while as I watched the little man with curiosity as he walked to the front of the theater and through the front exit (which, it turns out, is actually just a curtain). And that’s when the pounding began. And possibly some drilling. And it lasted through the rest of the movie.

So, if you ask me, I’m pretty sure that Sleuth stars Michael Caine, Jude Law, and a noisy little man with a hammer.

Just because there was just one screening this week, it doesn’t mean that I was off the hook. I was scheduled to appear on Fat Guys at the Movies this week, and, due to the lack of any new releases to talk about, we decided to talk about screeners. That meant I had to catch Margot at the Wedding on Monday night. And on Tuesday night, while my husband was away on business, I settled in for a little Tuesday Night Porno in the form of Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution. As it turned out, that whole Lust, Caution thing was just a little guest-host joke that Kevin and Neil played on me (called: Let’s Make the Guest Host Watch Boring Chinese Porn), since they said we’d be discussing it—but then they decided that they weren’t actually going to watch it.

So anyway, last night, we were scheduled to start recording at 9. Or at least Neil and I intended to start at 9. Kevin showed up…whenever. And then he’d forgotten the extra mic, so he had to go back and get it—but only after surfing the ‘net with Richard the Producer for obscene videos of 2 Girls and 1 Something-or-other. Neil and I refused to join in, but we did see some chick online who threw up after watching whatever it was they were watching. So it’s probably best that Neil and I didn’t join in, since I totally hate throwing up.

Finally, after Kevin and Richard’s weekly porn search—during which Neil and I made it part of the way through another viewing of Juno—we got started. That was probably about 11. The show, however, was a total blast. I’m not entirely sure what we talked about for all that time, but I do know that I won’t be sending my mother over to listen to the online version. She’s already concerned enough about me. No need to put myself on the Naughty list so close to Christmas.

Now, as another week comes to a close, we’re once again facing a strangely quiet week. Last year at this time, we had seven screenings scheduled (or at least seven that we could technically make it to, without being two places at once), plus a Saturday morning. This year, we have five plus a Saturday, two of which we already have screeners for. Last year, the second week of December was our nine-screening week. This year, we have six. Don’t get me wrong—six is plenty. It just seems strange, after the insanity of last year. Perhaps it’s just because we’re getting screeners of so much stuff. Or maybe it’s just because nothing’s opening in December. Or maybe it’s because everything’s scheduled for the week before Christmas—11 screenings fit into three time slots. In other words, unless one of us figures out how to travel in time (or unless someone starts scheduling morning screenings), we’re all pretty much screwed. For instance, if I want to see Walk Hard, I’ll have to choose to skip one of the following: Charlie Wilson’s War, National Treasure, or Sweeney Todd. Looks like I’ll be missing Walk Hard

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Pre-December Warm-Ups

New at Since Last Week:
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, things got a little crazy for the members of the Central Ohio Film Critics Association this week, reminding us that December is breathing down our necks.

When we started the week, we had six screenings already scheduled—most of which I was really looking forward to, for a change. So when it was time to get started on Monday morning, I packed my favorite travel mug and headed to our screening of I’m Not There, the marvelously artistic yet totally perplexing film about Bob Dylan.

By that point on Monday morning, I was just happy to get out of the house for a while, for any reason other than to drive to the pharmacy to pick up more gauze or to find something called Betadine. It had been a long weekend for my poor, one-armed husband, and neither of us had gotten much sleep—which is no way to start a hectic week like this one. But despite the recent overabundance of award season disappointments, I was ridiculously upbeat about the week’s offerings. Perhaps I’d just mistaken my husband’s pain meds for my morning multivitamin.

As we walked out of I’m Not There, comparing notes and trying to piece it all together, we were told that we had back-to-back screenings scheduled for Tuesday—one at 11 and another at 1. That took the weekly tally up to seven. And although it was Monday—and I was already exhausted—I briefly considered going to both, as well as the evening screening of Love in the Time of Cholera. But, eventually, I came to my senses.

Also on Monday, a very tragic event occurred. After I rinsed out my favorite travel mug, it fell off the counter, and the handle broke off. I was devastated. I’d asked for the mug last Christmas, after realizing that December would be so much easier to deal with if I had a nice big travel coffee mug. And now, with December right around the corner, I once again found myself mugless. I began to panic—until my one-armed husband studied the bottom of the mug and noticed that it had a lifetime guarantee. I sent the company an email about it, and they offered to replace it. So I would like to thank the kind people at Aladdin who are, at this moment, working to make my December livable.

On Tuesday morning, I dropped my husband off at his office so he could show his face for a while during my 11:00 screening of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Apparently, I was the only one who was actually looking forward to the movie (and I had been ever since I found out that it was written and directed by Zach Helm, who wrote Stranger Than Fiction). But, in the end, I was right. Only John (who will, from this point forward, be known as Scrooge) pulled his nose up at it. And he continued to do so as he and Clay and I walked across the street from the theater for a quick smoothie break. Of course, as I told John, I wasn’t really surprised that he hated Magorium (which, incidentally, he dubbed “Dumborium”), since he tends to prefer slow movies that go nowhere—like Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. But he continued to get more and more adamant as we sipped our smoothies. From now on, John is cut off from ginseng smoothies.

On Tuesday night, I had every intention of seeing Cholera, despite the fact that it didn’t seem to be a popular choice among critics in general (John said it was a film for us “refined critics”—this coming from a guy who once called me “trash”). Although I really wanted to see it—and although I really wanted to be considered a refined critic, it suddenly occurred to me that I just didn’t have the time to go. I had a game that needed to be reviewed and a feature article that needed to be written—and when I stopped by the mailbox, I found two DVDs that needed my attention. So I stayed home, maintaining my reputation as “trash”—a reputation that was probably only confirmed by the excitement I felt on Wednesday morning, when I showed up for the screening of Stephen King’s latest, The Mist.

On Wednesday night, though, I redeemed myself by choosing the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men over the 3D version of Beowulf. Then again, perhaps I would have appeared more refined if I’d chosen the animated version of classic literature. I guess I’ll have to check with John on that to be sure. But, either way, I went with the Coen Brothers.

The screening was at The Theater Where Nobody Shuts Up. That meant that the guy ahead of me refused to turn off his cell phone (as did numerous others throughout the theater) and the pair behind us felt the need to comment on everything that was happening on-screen. And the people who’d decided to sit in the middle of our aisle decided to get into heavy debate before choosing to get up and climb over top of the rest of us mid-movie. And No Country is clearly not a brainless movie. It requires concentration that I was not allowed. So, despite the fact that I loved most of it, by the end, I was angry and confused. And I was pretty tempted to grab the cell phone out of the hands of the guy ahead of me, throw it down on the floor, and stomp on it. And I was pretty tempted to smack the people behind me around a bit. But perhaps I’m just tired and cranky.

I could, however, relate to the frustration felt by some random man at the front of the theater—who, upon seeing the screen go black, yelled, “Aw, hells to tha no!” Personally, I thought that it was just a theater screw-up (which, for this theater, wouldn’t have been anything new), and they’d just lost the last reel—but then the credits started rolling. And I was perplexed. I’m still trying to figure it all out, and I’m eagerly awaiting the award screener, so I can watch it again.

On Thursday morning, we actually had the morning off. It was strange—so strange, in fact, that I found myself panicking when I got up, thinking I had to rush to get everything done before the latest screening. Boy, was I relieved when I remembered that I had nowhere to be until 7.

After spending the day trying to get my head above water, I headed over to Neil’s place at 6—because we’d decided to carpool to The Theater Where Nobody Shuts Up, since it’s also The Theater That Has No Parking. Really, it was a tough call, deciding whether or not to go. After all, Juno doesn’t come out for another few weeks—and it had been a crazy week already. So I had to decide whether I wanted to tack one more screening onto this week’s list or hold off until one of the later screenings, in December, which is likely to be even more insane. But Jason and Neil were going, so I figure I’d go, too. And there, at The Theater Where Nobody Shuts Up, I ended up seated behind some kid with the biggest hair ever. He also had good posture. So I’m not quite sure what happened at the bottom part of the screening, but the rest of it was fun. And I got a free T-shirt out of the deal—and for once, it’s one that I’ll actually wear (unlike those creepy T-shirts that some geeks gave me at last year’s board game convention).

The rep warned me weeks ago that they were doing some serious promo for this one, and it’s worth checking out. So if you want to see it for free, check out to find free screenings near you.

After a four-day screening marathon, I had today free. It was glorious. But it also meant that I got to my computer this morning to groggily stare down an inbox crammed full with super-urgent emails. And, from its spot beside my computer, a ridiculously long to-do list called to me. Fortunately, though, my husband’s convalescence means that I’ll most likely have plenty of time to play catch-up over the weekend (except when I have to drive him to get a haircut). And, other than a pair of screenings on Monday, the week is free and clear. There’s also turkey and stuffing and all kinds of spare screener-viewing time involved, so I’m looking forward to it.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Writer on Strike

New at Since Last Week:
Fred Claus
American Gangster I’m not really on strike. But it seemed like a good excuse, considering the circumstances.

The truth, however, is that I’ve spent more time at home this week, playing nurse, than I have going to screenings. Despite the fact that I make my husband promise that he’ll come home in one piece every time he plays hockey or heads to the mountain biking trails, he apparently forgot his promise over the weekend. While he was biking, he flipped his bike and broke his arm. After three days of visits to various urgent care facilities, doctors’ offices, and hospital labs, we were told that he needed surgery. And that, my friends, has been my week.

I did make it to two screenings, though. Fred Claus was Tuesday night. We had the pleasure of sitting behind the most obnoxious family I’ve ever encountered in a theater. There were two kids—probably ages 2 and 5. And their mom and grandparents saw absolutely no reason to try to get them to shut up. Or sit down. In fact, they thought it was cute. So they just talked right back.

Then, this morning, I got back to work for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Even though I only really missed a day of screenings, I felt like I’d been away forever—so it was wonderful to see everyone again. I kept my phone on vibrate, in case of any medical emergencies at home—but we made it through without incident. Then again, considering the movie, I actually wouldn’t have been too upset if I’d had to walk out.

I know it may sound just a little bit selfish of me, but I’m relieved that we got this whole surgery thing over with when we did. Since it was on Wednesday, it meant that I only missed two screenings on Thursday. Had the surgery been scheduled for next week, I would have had to miss so much more. Next week is a busy six-screening week. I’m sure I’ll have all kinds of stories by next Friday.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Pay Off

New at Since Last Week:
Martian Child
Reservation Road

For weeks, the COFCA regulars have been buzzing about American Gangster. Despite the whole A Good Year mess last year (which, from this time forward, I shall stop mentioning when talking about Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott), we were all pretty psyched to see the two of them together—with the added Denzel Washington bonus. Colin saw it before the rest of us, and he was thrilled, which only added to our general excitement. And finally, on Tuesday night, it was time for the screening.

The big dilemma of the week was the fact that the only screening of American Gangster was playing at the same time as the only screening of Bee Movie, which meant we had to choose between the two. For me, it wasn’t much of a decision—but it was disappointing that, in a week as slow as this one, we couldn’t actually see both. But sometimes, them’s the breaks.

When my husband and I arrived at the theater, 40 minutes or so before the screening, there was already a line wrapped around the building. At times like these, I’m so very glad that I’m press. Because, in case I haven’t mentioned before, our unofficial motto is: We Don’t Wait in Lines. We hung out in the lobby for a few minutes before Neil came down the stairs and whisked us away to…the Dreaded Balcony.

Despite the insanity and frustration that usually results from a few hours in The Balcony, we keep going back. We can’t help it. The seats are cushy and leather, and the lower seats are just too close to the screen. So the balcony it was. A gigantic crowd of us showed up for the screening, so we pretty much took up an entire row, which helped to ensure that, for the most part, the most obnoxious people in the balcony this time were the critics. Granted, there were a few people who were a little too excited to be there—and whose excitement spilled out into the beginning of the movie—but they were actually relatively well-behaved this time around. Sure, they got a little loud during the usual giveaway, shouting out demands for equal swag rights for the balcony. But that’s a given.

I must say, it’s nice to be sitting in those comfy balcony seats when the movie is more than two and a half hours long. But, fortunately, American Gangster didn’t feel that long. And even though I always worry a bit when I’m a little too excited to see a movie—for fear that it will end up being a huge disappointment, as so many others have—this time, I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, it was one of those movies that, the more I thought about it afterwards, the more I liked it.

It was definitely a late night, though. Thanks to the outrageous number of trailers, the 7:30 movie didn’t actually get started until about 7:50. So we didn’t get to the car until almost 10:30. Then we had to wait in line for another 20 minutes or so to get out of the parking garage. Another few minutes, and we would have been over our four-hour parking validation limit. Ah, the joys of hanging out in the city.

Since Wednesday was Halloween, we didn’t have an evening screening—and this week was strangely void of daytime screenings. So we didn’t have another screening until Thursday night.

Thursday was one of those crazy days. I got to work at the usual 8:30—at which time my computer decided it didn’t feel like waking up yet. I spent an hour trying to get it to do something, and then I gave up and restarted it. So it was after 9:30 by the time I finally got to work on the weekly newsletter. Fortunately, I didn’t have too many extras to add, so I managed to get it sent out by 11 or so. After that, I had to rush to get things done. I needed to work on my American Gangster review—which, for some reason, was a really hard one to write. But I needed to work on it—because I needed to have a few thoughts fresh in my mind at night, when I was scheduled to make my debut on Fat Guys at the Movies. I also needed to recall my thoughts on Martian Child. And, in general, I needed to psych myself up a bit.

You see, Fat Guys is completely different from the radio I’m used to. When I get to sit in on It’s Movie Time, we only have five minutes—so everything is carefully planned out. There isn’t a lot of time for spontaneity, so we get our reviews written up ahead of time—and then we play around with a few interjections and things later. I get 130 words per movie, and that’s it. Fat Guys, on the other hand, is a much longer show. There aren’t any scripts, so everything is totally spontaneous and off-the-cuff. And, as it turns out, spontaneity totally freaks me out. This is why I’m a writer. I like to be able to edit and delete and cut and paste.

So anyway, I managed to sneak in a quick non-working lunch break—during which I ran out to Target to pick up some post-Halloween half-price goodies. Sadly, there was very little Halloween candy left, which made me very angry. I did get some candy corn, though—one bag for home, one bag for the evening’s recording session. And some M&Ms. And a small plastic gargoyle, which I hope to put in the yard somewhere, to ward off evil spirits…and evil neighbor children. I was tempted to buy myself a crazy Halloween wig while I was at it, too—but I decided against it. Then I rushed back to finish up a few last-minute things.

At about 5:20, I quickly rushed off to make dinner, which I inhaled in about 5 minutes. I got ready to head out, and I said good-bye to my husband, who was coming home just as I was leaving for the August Rush screening at 6. I drove over to the theater and saved a bunch of seats for the rest of the gang.

Before the movie, we had plenty of time to chat. David filled us in on how much he hated Bee Movie, and we spent a lot of time discussing what the looming Hollywood strikes could mean for us. With all the studios rushing to get any old movie green-lit and into production before everyone goes on strike, who knows what could be coming. David mentioned that, during an earlier strike, it meant that quirky, more imaginative movies were green-lit, and it was actually a good thing. But we’re a little worried that it means we’ll be subjected to a giant pile of crap—and, perhaps, a pretty slow summer.

Since August Rush isn’t coming out for a couple of weeks yet, I can’t say much about it right now. So…let’s move right along.

After the screening, I headed out to the great Fat Guys studio, where we got everything ready for the show. Kevin hadn’t gone to the screening, so we had to wait for him to show up. Neil didn’t seem to have much hope of seeing him for the next hour or so—since, he says, Kevin often says he’s heading right over, and then he ends up stopping by the gym on the way over. After all, Kevin is quite concerned about keeping his girlish figure. But, surprisingly, he bypassed the gym and headed right over.

The Fat Guys have quite an impressive set-up—lots of microphones and cables and headsets and things, and a nice big screen that reminded us of the time. And, just for the record, there was no pizza or beer—which you might expect to find in a studio where you record a show called “Fat Guys at the Movies.” It was all a little bit overwhelming, to tell you the truth. But, somehow, I made it through. It took a while for me to get up to speed—since, well, the guys have had 36 shows to figure out how all this stuff works, and I had about 36 minutes. Believe me—they make it look easy. By the end, though, I was getting the hang of it—and, despite my whole fear-of-spontaneity thing, and the occasional presence of noxious fumes, I had a great time. The guys told me I’m actually allowed to come back—and I’m looking forward to it.

After we finished recording the show and playing back some of the funnier parts (particular the parts when Kevin burps and when he confuses the rest of us by talking about something called a “shatchel”), we wrapped up a few things, and I hit the road—and I finally made it home by about 1:30. If I do the math in my somewhat cloudy brain, that adds up to a 17-hour day. And that, my friends, is one long day.

It looks like things are starting to pick up a bit toward the end of next week. I suppose it could be that pre-Thanksgiving rush, hurrying to cram in the screenings before we have a couple of days off (after which things get really crazy). We’ve only got two evening screenings again this week, but the daytime screenings are starting to pop up on the schedule again—and we’ll end the week with screenings on Thursday morning, Thursday night, and Friday morning. It’ll be a good pre-December warm-up.

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