Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wrapping Things Up

It's the last day of the year. I need to take care of the resolution thing. I need to talk about the movies I've seen. That way, tomorrow, I can start fresh. Maybe I'll write another paragraph of the novel tomorrow. I just reread the first three paragraphs (buried in those entries) and see clumsy writing that needs some tuning. I have decided what time of year it is, though. It is October. It is October because, in my head, another character appeared and he needed to have a certain kind of jacket. In Austin, in October, there's a good chance you wouldn't need one but in New York or Germany maybe so. I don't know what this character is doing. Maybe just satisfying my need to articulate my perception of the way certain people dress in Europe.

The Resolution Thing
What are resolutions, after all, except a commitment to concentrate some of your precious time on something that you care about? We do that every day (spend our time) whether it's by taking care of domestic chores for our family, going out to exercise, shooting pictures, preparing a healthy meal, reading, writing, etc. What I seem to do is (1) fritter away time without knowing where it goes; and (2) leave some things hanging that I care about, never spending time on them. So a couple of days ago I thought "I'm going to resolve to spend thirty minutes a day on things around here that I want to work on and two hours a week on stuff at Dad's to help him and straighten out things around his house." I'm not counting the things that have to be done. Taxes, accounting tasks, making the bed, general everyday tidying up (as opposed to, you know, actually cleaning the bathroom or something). Although I'm swithering about whether to include cleaning (as opposed to cleaning out as in "I cleaned out the closet.")

Anyway, I'm thinking that I'll keep some Stickie notes (probably virtual ones on my computer) and I'll put things I want to do on there, things I want to spend time on. I might have a ten minute list, a thirty minute list, an hour list. (See my 'system' always goes from simple to very complicated in a heartbeat. I hate that.)

After I thought this up I was flipping through an advertising magazine Costco sends which has some trumped up content to go with the selling. The title of an article was "Instant Resolutions Improve your life, in 1o minutes or less." Yeah, ahem. The idea is that it doesn't take that much time to move toward your goals. The ideas center around things that you can do that take ten minutes or less and help you with resolutions like save money (take ten minutes to make a lunch), go green (if it takes less than ten minutes on foot, walk) and get organized (leave everything a little better than you find it...straighten a drawer when you open it).

Yeah, well just thinking about the resolution thing has made me tired and harried and saying to myself "you (me) can't tell me what to do!"

Anyway, we'll see. I'll probably create the Stickie notes and then lose track of them. They will have dull-sounding tasks.

The Movies
I'm not much of a movie critic. Sometimes I don't even know if I like a movie until later. Sometimes I have to see a movie a couple of times to appreciate aspects of it. Maybe I should resolve to become a better movie critic. I know, I know, I volunteer to screen films for a festival but, really, at the level where I work it is really "sucks majorly," "interesting," and "wow, this one really, really doesn't suck." And not many fall into the third pile. I mean I'm just a 'screener' which means lay eyes on it, rate it in some categories, see if the disk works, etc.

Anyway, we saw "Milk." Now here's what those of us who remember Harvey Milk at all who aren't gay activists of a certain age and locale probably remember: He was a gay supervisor (sort of like a councilman in other cities, I think) and another supervisor, Dan White, shot and killed him and the mayor. Oh, and Dan was high on Twinkies according to his brilliant lawyer who mitigated his charges with that defense. That was me anyway. So how to tell the story? Acknowledge that straightaway. Then give us the story of Harvey and those around him and show us why it is more important than the Twinkie defense. Show how he got to that point and what it means. Oh, and get Sean Penn to channel the guy completely and convincingly. (I also thought that the other characters really looked like their real-life counterparts although whether they were portraying them as accurately as Sean seemed to be doing for Milk is hard to say. There are more images of Milk. And, really, maybe I digress, but maybe Sean wasn't really that much like the real Harvey Milk, but he convinced us that he was. And digressing further, don't you think that Sean and Philip Seymour Hoffman should just flip for the Oscar every year for a while?)

So, yes, they wound the story back to Harvey deciding, influenced by a young lover, to come to California. And they show him opening a camera store, trying to be a good neighbor, an activist. Then they show him losing like a dozen elections. Well, maybe three or four or something. Losing, losing, losing. They spend a lot of time on Prop 6. Think Prop 8, but instead of not being allowed to marry, you will be ferreted out and your job will be taken away. Only they can't explain what the 'test' for homosexuality will be. Think we haven't come a long way? (And, yes, there's a long way to go.) That fight is won, however. There are some new district lines. (Gerrymandering? Accident?) Maybe some new rules. (Austin elects council members at large with a 'Gentlemen's' (and ladies) agreement to put only Hispanics up for one and only black for another. I'm totally serious. It's bizarre. But I digress.) Anyway, Milk finally wins office. He's trying to be political, court Dan White but not sell his vote on stupid things. Dan White resigns. (I didn't know that. He resigned. He wanted to rescind it. Moscone wasn't going to let him.) So, he shoots Moscone and Milk. Dan White was a psycho. He's was played perfectly by Josh Brolin who did, in my humble opinion, a so-so job of George W. in "W," Oliver Stone's ridiculous biopic reviewed earlier in this space.

I haven't captured how good this movie is, really. It carefully peoples Milk's world with his lovers (who help show both his strengths and weakness) and co-activists and ordinary other folkds and articulates his influence in a convincing and careful way. It captures an era as well as a man. Go see it.

We also saw "Slumdog Millionaire." This movie is about the joy of overcoming adversity and the embarrassingly random things in life that surround our sordid world. You all have probably heard that the protagonist is on this Indian version of "Who Wants to be A Millionaire." That is the hook to tell his story. The questions and answers relate to his life in that way that makes things seem ordained. But you aren't meant to really buy into the game, particularly. You are meant to see the slums of India, roaming orphans, terrible gangsters, the power of love. When it ends, you are meant to wink a little, shed a tear and dance like a Bollywooder. It was fun although tragic. Not everything will be lovely in life and few slumdogs will win a quiz show, let alone get on one in the first place. Never mind. Love and the indefatigable human spirit triumph.

See both the above movies. Regardless of my weird reviews. (Hope their weren't any spoilers in that last one. It's impossible to spoiler a biopic, isn't it?)

Last night we saw "The Wizard of Oz" at the Alamo only the sound track was Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon. " Dark Side of the Rainbow, they call it. Supposedly the music makes a good sound track for the movie with a lot of synchronicity. (Like "Listen son, said the man with gun..." Scarecrow has a gun.) I didn't drink or drug while watching. It was a trip, though.

I still want to see "Gran Torino" and "Doubt." Maybe "Benjamin Button." Probably "Frost/Nixon." Don't know when I'll get around to all that. We have tix to see a documentary Sunday called "Trinidad" about the town in Colorado that became a major center for transgender surgery.

It is time, however, to do something with my day besides blog. To do something besides think about what I've done and what I'm going to do.

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