Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Non-Die Hard's Thoughts on Gilmore Girls A Year in The Life

I wasn't quick to jump on the Gilmore Girls band wagon in it's original release. My wife would watch it and I would join passively, at first - until I found myself enjoying the quick witted dialogue and the combination of quirky Stars Hollow characters.

This past weekend Netflix released it's miniseries Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life which delivered a 6 hour catch up with the characters.

In reviewing my previous posts on the series, I realized I had previously in a 2008 post requesting this type of thing...In my post I wrote:
"After finishing this last season of Gilmore Girls, I could definitely go for a 10 year reunion show 2017...hey even a 5 year reunion show in 2012."

And here, they have delivered - delivered the reunion, that is -- whether they delivered on the promise of a great reunion series, now that is a different question.

I joked with my wife the first night watching the show in it's early hours of Netflix release that the show was rated higher than The Godfather on Netflix. Early die-hards appeared to embrace the release, while I was perhaps a little more on the fence, or at least open to see what this would really be like.
Catching Up
The first episode (Fall) is begins a little slow going, but I extend grace, because I assume there will be a little bit of the sloppy unnatural dialogue that catches a viewer up on previous changes and developments that will drive the rest of the plot forward. This certainly happened in episode one. 

The unfortunate thing is that this slow "catch up" happens all the way through each of the four episodes. Every episode reintroduces characters from the show that instead of creating something new and exciting instead provide a "wink-wink" type of gift for dedicated fans instead of providing something new.

In that vein, from the standpoint of a stand alone show, this would be the type of show that I would suspect would disappoint a first time watcher - you can't just jump in here on the new series because you'd be annoyed with things like why are they spending so much time talking about Lorelai's jeep or lamenting about Sookie St. James' absence from the kitchen at the Dragon Fly Inn.

I can commend the show for getting so many returning cast members -- I'm sure this in itself was special for those involved, but while this created something special for a die hard fan, it took away from the show itself, and made it take a long time to get moving with an actual plot.

Stars Hollow The Musical
This oddity in the series was horrible. This scene just went on and on. Summer (episode 3) was by far the weak link in the series, and this scene alone did me in.

Existential Crisis
One of the things that I found interesting about this mini-series was the crisis experienced by the three leading ladies (Rory, Lorelai, and Emily). 

There is major life incident defining this series' conflict, other than the passing of Richard Gilmore (played by Ed Hermann who died December 31, 2014). This is a catalyst for crisis, but not financial ruin or fear of genetic link to anyone else's long-term mortality - rather it's a piece of existential crisis they each face, where they ask "Who am I? What am I doing? Am I just standing still in time while the world is passing be my?"

While they flounder in their own crisis, I can appreciate that the show let them wallow in their own confusion as we saw in the main series -- there is certainly that millennial bent layered into Rory's story fighting being a part of the "30 something gang" of which, she certainly fits the mold. But really, while I wouldn't expect this show to kick off with Rory married with a gang of children, there is something in her crisis that frankly is sad as she's wondering through the four episodes -- and really her sexual activities are frankly depressing (Chewbaca!?)

Lauren Graham's Lorelai has her own brand of crisis here, that really snowballs in the underwhelming Spring episode, but the Pacific Crest Trail "Wild" Scenes in Summer may be a worthwhile payoff (except for the unnecessary wink-wink cameos of Parenthood stars, following another similar cameo from the prior episode).

Even Kelly Bishop's Emily portrayal has her crisis -- a little more in a typical vein of what you might expect from the death of her husband, although the final payoff in that Nantucket scene is pretty memorable.

Final Thoughts
Not quite like watching a train wreck, but not something that has that classic and engaging feeling. Frankly, the only way to save this mini-series is to somehow go back to the drawing board and hope commitments can be made for a second try with a second mini-series. Now that they've gotten over the hurdles, now is the time to decide if they want to dig in and write a new chapter, but this time with creativity, not gimmicks, and release themselves from the characters that aren't going to drive the story forward.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

What I haven't seen from the IMDb top 250: 2016 Edition

I've done this post before, three years back - but the list and the rating change. So here's my update of what I haven't seen off the IMDb top 250. There's a few I'm not interested in seeing -- but others I need to track down and check off this list.

30. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
32. Interstellar (2014)
41. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
45. Whiplash (2014)
54. The Great Dictator (1940)
57. Paths of Glory (1957)
58. Django Unchained (2012)
64. Princess Mononoke (1997)
67. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
74. M (1931)
95. The Kid (1921)
100. 3 Idiots (2009)
109. Yojimbo (1961)
119. Children of Heaven (1997)
120. The Great Escape (1963)
121. Heat (1995)
123. Inside Out (2015)
126. My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
128. Ikiru (1952)
130. The Gold Rush (1925)
137. Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
138. Casino (1995)
140. The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
145. Sunrise (1927)
147. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
148. V for Vendetta (2005)
152. Tokyo Story (1953)
154. Dial M for Murder (1954)
167. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
168. Mary and Max (2009)
171. Come and See (1985)
175. The Message (1976)
178. Nights of Cabiria (1957)
186. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
189. Wild Tales (2014)
191. Persona (1966)
199. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
201. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
202. Stalker (1979)
203. Memories of Murder (2003)
210. Diabolique (1955)
213. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
214. 8 1/2 (1963)
217. The Terminator (1984)
224. Barry Lyndon (1975)
225. La Haine (1995)
228. Sin City (2005)
231. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
232. Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)
237. Song of the Sea (2014)
238. Ip Man (2008)
239. Deadpool (2016)
241. Castle in the Sky (1986)
243. A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
245. Fanny and Alexander (1982)
248. Paris, Texas (1984)
249. Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India

That's 58 of the Top 250 I haven't seen (76.8% viewed). Let's see if I can knock out some more of this list.

Tweet Too Quick - But Nice Observation for Me, Strangers on a Train

The other night I was watching Strangers on a Train, while my wife was practicing her dance moves for a flash mod at work (I can't make this stuff up).

And I was struck watching the film how much the movie reminded me of Talented Mr. Ripley -- namely the manipulation between two male leads, one who is wealthy/playboy style character.

Of course, I tweet without researching (that's what twitter's about, right?).

And I quickly fact check myself (I'm not popular enough on twitter for other people to do it for me).

To my personal self-satisfaction it was based on a story by the same author -- both books (Strangers and Ripley) are written by Patricia Highsmith.

Still pretty pleased with myself.

Which also reminds of another thing - about three years ago I posted the imdb.com Top 250 films I hadn't seen yet -- this is one of them. Check it off the list, done!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

4 Award Season Movies Piquing My Interest

With two month's left of the film season here are the award season movies piquing my interest.

Lion
Staring Dev Patel and Rooney Mara


La La Land
Staring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone



Manchester By The Sea
Staring Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, and Michelle Williams




Arrival
Staring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner

Sunday, October 23, 2016

4 Things I Apprecaited About Midnight Special

Recently watched Midnight Special and wanted to share some of the things I apprecaited about this film.

1. Intrigue. It instantly created quick intrigue with some unique scenes (an Amber alert, kid with goggles, and a cult with women who wore outfits like the mole women in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt).

2. Creativity. I'm sure someone can cross pollinate a couple different genre films to create something that this film resembles, but this independent film was from my perspective straight-up creative without falling into a niche of related genre films.

 3. Not Trashy. That's right folks, this indie film focused on story without shock value or strings of profanity by the characters. Yes, it's even PG-13, which is not a normal rating for most story-centric indie films. Nice work.

4. Unique Cast Executing Well. Michael Shannon typically creeps me out, which works here, Joel Edgerton typically impresses me, he did here again. Kristen Dunst is such a wild card, and it's been awhile since I've seen her on screen and she really does nice work. Sam Shepards usually great - he is here. Adam Driver is such a unique actor as well, and he really plays this part well. And certainly must mention the young Jaeden Lieberher...also did a convincing job in this unique role. Great casting.


Saturday, August 06, 2016

Thirty-Five, The Up Series, This is Us

Thirty-Five
This summer I turned 35.

When you're a kid, 35 is kind of old.  35 is a big deal for me. For me 35 is a bigger milestone than it's more popular neighbors, 30 and 40. For me, 35 is huge. For me, 35 had some modest financial goals. I wanted to be in a home that I would be okay living in my entire life, and ideally I would have had a 15 year mortgage, but even still even if 30 years, I would have a mortgage that would be paid off by 65 (a typical retirement age). I also wanted to have a certain benchmark number in my retirement account. I was a little short of my goal, but not miles away.

For me turning 35 means if a professional career spans 45 years (20-65) than at 35 your a third of your way done and you should feel okay with your trajectory, because your opportunity to start a fresh is dissipating. In my mind the first third is where you find your path. The second third is where you bust a move and keep the course. And the final third is where you respond to any unexpected changes in those plans, even if it means adapting to a new world where you may have lost some contemporary relevance.


These are the things I think about, these are the reasons 35 was such a big deal. I made it. And I feel okay.

And then there's this one little complication I've added to my life-view about being in your thirties...and it came from a documentary series called the Up series.

The Up Series
I've talked about the Up series before, but if you're not familiar with this ambitious British documentary series the premise is based on the Jesuit motto "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man." The first film, Seven Up! premiered in 1964 followed 14 kids, each seven year old. From 1964 forward, every 7 year a new installment comes out featuring most of the original partipants. The last installment, 56 Up came out in 2012. If you're interested in an intimate and personal tracking of the life of people, this series is absolutely binge worthy.

I bring this series up to discuss 35 Up, which came out in 1991 and caught up with these kids were the series had left off from when they were 28. This episode of the documentary series was revolutionary. I was nearing the end of my twenties when I watched this and frankly found 35 Up to be downright depressing. In This iteration the fibers of people's dreams were falling apart. The challenges of life were catching up with people in different ways, and people were running into real challenges and crisis. 35 seemed difficult, and I considered ending my watching of the series here. Where was the hope?

Yet, strangely 42 Up was better. Much better (mostly) than 35 Up. And as my wife and I binged through this series I tried to learn from this, and developed the deep belief that the people who were happy in 42 Up were the one's who had survived their 30s with a "do no harm" philosophy. The people who pushed through challenges of career, health, family, financial challenges and everything in between were in a much better spot at 42. On the other hands those who "cracked" and didn't push through seemed to take much longer to recover. Starting over in your late thirties or early forties didn't set people up for satisfying lives in the same way.

Granted, it's just a small cross section, and maybe I underestimate unique elements of the late eighties and early nineties that might color the experience. For me I walked away in that moment with a message that I share frequently with my wife and anyone who asks. For me the primary goal of the thirties is to survive them, push through, and simply make it. It might seem like that is not very ambitious, but I am convinced that this season of life is challenging than it's given credit. This is the start of families, this is the time of material ambition taking root in new ways, this is the time when you have to pay money to fix things, this is the season when the work place expects you to make your mark and put in the hours, this is the season where peers are more distant, and a season when there's not a lot of people handing our ribbons for a job well done.

So I give myself a ribbon every year through my thirties and celebrate each year when I can look at myself, my wife, and my family and say "we made it - good job."

This Is Us
 Last night was the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. The Olympics for our family means that a home which only has the TV on occasionally in the early morning hours and evening hours is suddenly on all the time. Which means we see a lot of commercials (thank you GE, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, and Citi for entering my home, we hear you loud and clear). One of the commercials I have seen a few time is previews for NBC's fall show This Is Us.

It seems clear that this has some of the same appeal of NBC's Parenthood, yes, we can enjoy some manipulative human drama-comedy, and this seems to fit that mold. But in the previews I couldn't tell how these different families/couples are connected. Thank you internet, I now know that these different people are connected by all being born on the same day. Cool, not sure how that works in the show, but okay, kind of interesting. But then, one of the previews said something about the character being 36.

That's right folks, 36. These characters in the show are either suppose to be recently 36, or turning 36 (I can't quite tell), which means these people are supposed to be my age. Right now, in a contemporary story.

And frankly, even from what I can tell from the previews it seems to in some way support my feelings that started with Michael Apted 35 Up, that this period of time is hard and are years that pave the path for the remaining chapters of our life. 

I am personally excited to be thirty-five and wonder how I will feel about future birthday's, but in many ways I can't see any birthday in the near future being as important mentally for me than this past year's milestone of 35, largely thanks to a world view of life and aging for a British documentary and personal goals that were established.

Here's a toast to 35, and another five years setting a low bar of making it, doing no harm, and having some fun along the way.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Pez Easter Egg Hunt and A Thought on Community

I could have pulled a number of news stories or anecdote's to present my point, but this one really seems to fit nicely.

If you want to read a not surprising story of people behaving badly read this story in the Washington Post titled: Easter egg hunt turns ugly after being ‘bum-rushed’ by parents.This story from Connecticut was about the Pez Factory hosting an Easter egg hunt that was ruined when people acted purely selfish and rushed the field (parent's included).

I wasn't there, but can only imagine listening and reading the story. And frankly, it's simply easy to imagine because we're used to the images.

One of the reasons I believe we see these types of stories of mass chaos and people acting this way is because in some ways as the world has become more connected and "smaller" and some would say, in our communities we've becoming increasingly anonymous.

If you live in a small community, or are connected to your local town you might be more likely to consider your behavior in public and in essence find yourself, if not naturally included, to keep yourself in check with the knowledge that your friends, neighbors and community are close at hand. And int this regard, our behavior impacts our credibility, our relationships, and our day-to-day interactions.

Yet, it seems to me that when I am out and about, there is no concern for maintaining community credibility in the way I would imagine in other places.

In reality, I often see people act more civil in the workplace (a place were credibility and relationship potential impact the day-to-day or future economic opportunity) far more than I see people's civility in the marketplace.

So when I see stories about the Pez Easter Egg Hunt I find myself wondering - did these people drive from far away and have no connections to others and felt it appropriate to not only act selfishly, but also with a disregard for the rules of the organizers? Or perhaps they lived close, and knew no one, or didn't care?

I don't want to suggest that behavior is only impacted by the social/economical trade offs that come from known relationships. But I also have to think that the social fibers of community drive behavior, and acts like these suggest that those social fibers are quite weak and worn.

The world is becoming more and more connected, but in our three-dimensional life it seems that we are far less connected and as a result our civil behavior manifest itself in disappointing ways. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fuller House - Season 1 Thoughts

Had it not been for my wife I doubt I would crawled back into the nostalgic reboot of Fuller House, which follow-ups the popular ABC Television Series Full House (1987-1995).

And while the few reviews I've seen generally seem to claim this as a show just for die hard fans, I would like to suggest that this may not entirely be the case.

Anyone who has fallen in love with a show and gone back and rewatched it from the beginning are sure to realize that shows that last often evolve to a point where they find their sweet spot, and rarely does a show start of in full force in it's pilot episode (think about a non-funny 30 Rock pilot, or a Gilmore Girls where there is no chemistry and characters are bitter not witty).

In this same way the nostalgic element of Fuller House is strong - not only referencing previous episodes from the past but also creating an almost over-kill amount of symmetry between prior story lines and new story lines. And that continues through all 13 episodes, don't get me wrong.

But there was a glimmer of hope in the 13 episodes, particularly towards the end of the season that characters might be given the chance to grow into something beyond their 1989 counterpart. Specifically by episode 9 ("War of Roses") when all three female leads, plus Lori Loughlin (Aunt Becky), are trying to figure out the source of an overkill floral delivery.

It's a little campy in it's presentation, and shares the same tone of the rest of the show, but I don't recall any matching story line here, and instead this episode offered it's own level of interest which really fed into the next three episodes.

So, when I heard this would be renewed for a second season I was encouraged. I didn't need cameo's of prior Full House regulars regularly appearing...sorry, Dave Coulier. But instead I can enjoy the light hearted show for what it is.

In regards to characters, in many ways Candance Cameron Bure reprisal of her role of J.D. Fuller (nee Tanner), works well even in part because it seems she naturally in real life has continued to embody the Full House ethos. So, as a result the tone of this show some how cuts above a air of cheesiness and offer a strange authenticity. Now, I'm not getting carried away - there is something romantacized and cheesy here - but it generally does not seem forced.

Also, I'm not sure what it is, but Jodie Sweetin's character of Stephanie Tanner some how caught my attention in this series. There was some unique combination of her acting, her story line, and her onscreen personae that frankly just seemed different and intriguing.

The kids who play their caricature roles are certainly doing exactly what they're expected - similar to my long term interest, my hope is that these characters are given the freedom to grow and develop as well without being stuck in a pre-defined mold. Don't get me wrong, middle child's highly physical antics (Elias Harger as Max Fuller) are often fun, but they're almost over the top, much in the same way this would have been seen in the original series. It's fun, but it might wear thin. Especially if the baby (Tommy Fuller) jumps in strong in an early toddler stage in season 2.

So hear my message. I'm not suggesting this series be short listed for Emmy's, Golden Globes, or even People's Choice Awards. Still, I find myself pleased to see this reboot capture attention and a second season and expect that when it's released we'll be ready to watch it again.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Prior Black Oscar Nominees and Their 2016 Films

This past years "#OscarSoWhite" social media campaign regarding the lack of diversity in the awards, had an impact on the award ceremony. Must has been said and written on this topic.

It's hard to tell how this year's vocal disapproval will either (1) create or green light projects that feature more diverse characters (2) create added attention to diverse performances.

While to topic of diversity was front and center, it really specifically focused on African-American, or more generally black actors.

It could be seen as patronizing the way prior black nominees and winners were paraded as presenters and in audience members.

That said, I wanted at this point in the season collect a list of potential black performances from the list of prior nominees and winners. I fully acknowledge that there are roles and performances excluded from below from actors who haven't received prior nomination. I also acknowledge that many of these performances could be assumed to be excluded from the running because of the nature of the film/role. That said -- I've included as many as I can find here.

Actors: 2016 Performances By Black Actors Who Had Prior Nominations/Wins

  • Louis Gossett Jr: Operation Insanity, Don't Call Me Sir!, The Reason, Double Play, Breaking Brooklyn
  • Morgan Freeman; London Has Fallen, Going in Style, Now You See Me 2, Ben-Hur, Cold Warriors
  • Denzel Washington: The Magnificent Seven
  • Laurence Fishburn: Standoff, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,Passengers, John Wick: Chapter 2
  • Samuel L. Jackson: The Hitman's Bodyguard, The Cell, The Legend of Tarzan, Miss Pregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
  • Will Smith: Suicide Squad, Collateral Beauty
  • Jamie Foxx: Sleepless Night
  • Don Cheadle: Captain America: Civil War
  • Terrence Howard: Term Life, The Best Man Wedding
  • Forest Whitaker: Story of Your Life, Rogue One; A Star Wars Story
  • Djimon Hounsou: Same Kind of Different As Me, The Legend of Tarzan
  • Eddie Murphy: Mr. Church
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor: Triple 9, Doctor Strange
  • Barkhad Albi: Extortion

Actress: 2016 Performances by Black Actresses Who Had Prior Nominations/Wins

  • Cicely Tyson: Showing Roots
  • Diahann Carol: The Masked Saint
  • Whoopi Goldberg: Before I Do, Yamasong: March of the Hollows, Black Dog Red Dog, Actors Anonymous
  • Angela Bassett: London Has Fallen
  • Halle Berry: Kidnap
  • Queen Latifah: Miracles from Heaven
  • Gabourey Sidibe: The Brothers Grimsby
  • Mo'Nique: A Meyers Christmas
  • Viola Davis: Suicide Squad
  • Taraji P. Hensen: Term Life
  • Octavia Spencer: The Free World, Zootopia, Car Dogs, Gifted, The Shack
  • Quvenzhane Wallis: Counting By 7s
  • Lupita Nyong'o: Queen of Katwe, The Jungle Book

Sunday, February 28, 2016

What Donald Trump and 2016 Movies Have In Common

A week ago, I finally was able to catch The Revenant in the movie theater and before the screening I saw these previews:
  • Independence Day: Resurgence
  • London Has Fallen
  • The Conjuring 2
  • Captain America: Civil War
The Conjuring 2 preveiw was simply dark and eerie. This film finds itself in the poltergeist genre of horror films that mix spiritual fears, violence and a dark demonic world. Clearly this message is about fear, yet the other three films share this type of tone. Not the demons, but they play strong into a message of fear.

They aren't horror films (actually they're generally sci-fi or action thrillers), but observe their tag lines.

  • The tag line to the Independence Day reboot is "We Had Twenty Years to Prepare, So Did They."
  • The tag line for London Has Fallen is "Prepare for Bloody Hell." 
  • The tag line for the Captain America sequel is "Divided they Fall."
In the preview sequence of these blockbuster films I saw the world destroyed three times in a row. 

In simplest terms the world was destroyed by aliens, terrorist, and the corruption and ambiguity of government agencies. Oh yes, and super villains.

And yet, when people say "how can Donald Trump be so popular," it seems to me the question can be answered by asking the question as to why are the studios making films like London Has Fallen or Independence Day: Resurgence.

There may be buried in these films individuals who have hope, but the message is one of fear.

Going one step further - these film's messages we'd assume also have an answer to this fear, and the answers will come in the form of the film's heroes.  

The sequences in the London Has Fallen preview are almost laughable in the way that a US President and his secret service agent are portrayed. 


I don't deny that there is not something compelling in the leadership qualities the preview presents in Gerard Butler (secret service agent), Aaron Eckhart (president), and Morgan Freeman (Vice President).

But these attractive archetypes creates a leadership picture for presidency that frankly most leaders in politics and other sectors can't live up to. And yet, it seems clear in this election people are asking the question - can be leader stand up to anyone? anything?

I am not saying that all Trump supporters are essentially popcorn eating Captain America fans who can't distinguish the real from the dramatic. But I am saying that the movie studios are aware of the American appetite for images that play to our fears and insecurities. They are also aware that we are attractive to these images of leadership that are bold, independent, and can fight for America on the behalf of powerless individuals, searching for a leader in dark times.

This is a story line that plays well in Trump's hand in a way that others cannot (or maybe consciously are not) taping into - it plays to a catastrophic picture of our present times. It's a hopeless picture that positions people in a place where they are searching for a larger-than-life voice to stand in the gap to protect liberty and freedom.

Is this the world we live in? Is this the type of leader we need?

Hope is easily stolen, and reality is easily clouded by fear. And while there is certainly chance for some truth in Trump's messages, it also plays to a dark place in the American psyche. This same dark place that allows us to be drawn towards movies like Independence Day: Resurgence,  London Has Fallen, and Captain America: Civil War

Monday, February 22, 2016

Oscars and This Space

The Oscars are coming and my blogging has declined...dramatically.

I have not been so vigilant in my film watching the past couple of years, so am more apt to bring old news in some areas. Such as, having seen the Reverent today (finally) I could easily type up some thoughts, but any thoughts here would be old news.

That said...

I'm still interested in this year's awards. This year did produce some great films (I must say, I'm missing the captivation with a film like Mad Max, but was able to find some enjoyment in the other nominated films I've seen).

We're now officially less than a week out. Get your last screenings in this week, folks.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Peanuts Movies

The Peanuts Movie is good, no great -- at the same time it's different enough that there's something special and endearing about it.

I saw this with my kids this weekend and was thankful that it not only held their attention, but was also a sweet movie free of scary scenes, hidden adult humor or agenda-driven story lines.

I personally find The Peanuts comic strip to be simply not funny. An iconic comic strip that never really captured me. I want to like the Peanuts specials that air, but we watched a few with the kids and found them feeling slow and disjointed.

Yet, somehow keeping all the campy charm of the comic and specials, this movie figures out how to speed the pacing up just a bit to create a feature length story that is touching -- nice work writers!

The one thing is this story that I found very special was the way that Charlie Brown's timid story line mirrored Snoopy's brave story line and in the midst of the contrast there was still a beautiful overlap of fear, bravery, and our own humanity. We often spend so much time defining our experience by who we are (outgoing, shy, silly, smart, a victim of our situation, etc.) but crossing through that is some core similarities. A care about who we in the eyes of others, who are in the eyes of ourselves, and the desire to be something special.

I am not sure how this film ages over time or whether it makes it way to family video cabinets or part of holiday traditions. But I am always amazed at projects like this that present the ultimate challenge of being genuine to an original and add something safely to it without isolating audiences. In this case, I see it as a true success.

Horrible Christmas Dramas and Parenting Reflections


This thanksgiving weekend we accidentally watched the unenjoyable film The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (again, Netflix...you do me so wrong...I just want a good Christmas film option).

I don't even remember how many siblings there are in this film, but there are a lot -- and they are all pretty messed up...all for different (but typical, for films of this type) reasons. Mad husbands, vices of all sorts, personal ambition, and daddy issues.

Think Rachel Getting Married, but worst acting, worst story, no wedding, plus an Irish Catholic Christmas.

All that horribleness aside, perhaps it was because I recently watched the first episode of the TV show Bloodlines (also about family/siblings) that it I started thinking about my own children.

In both this film and the TV show there is the emphasis on all the children getting together for a parent-related events (holidays, birthdays, local honors) and the emphasis is that these siblings get together for the sake of the parents.

In thinking about my own children it is my hope that they enjoy each other, even long after my wife & I are gone.

As a result, one of my thoughts the past couple week has been asking "how can I ensure they enjoy each other?" And one of my thoughts has been "Get out of the way."

This has worked in my kids favor already (to my own detriment) in that on Thanksgiving eve when hosting our families annual piefest my kids decide to bust open a box full of packing peanuts. It was crazy. Very crazy.

And yet, my reflection was instantly on this thought that I get out of the way and ensure they have their own parent-free memories of good times together to strengthen their own bonds with one another. I even filled an empty spice jar with packing peanuts as a memorial to this horrible event (that ultimately led me to Walmart at 11:00 pm on the night before Thanksgiving to buy a shop vac. Thank you, Walmart).

In The Fitzgerald Family Christmas there is a lot of reasons why different siblings haven't connected with one another, and simple acts of memory making will not heal all wounds - not to mention, people change, experiences in life continue past the age you leave your parents home, spouses certainly plan a roll and other family developments.

But, also think as a parent of three children, I have an opportunity to foster experiences and if I can crack the code of making memories without being central to the memory, I want to figure it out.

My young kids still are parent dependent as you'd expect. They will fight over who gets to sit next to which parent at a meal, on the couch, at a move theater. But if I can let them explore, give them a perimeter for them to tackle together then maybe I can foster a flame between them that last long after they leave my house.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Bizarre Addiction: Tami Dunn on YouTube

I'm not sure why, so I'm not going to venture to try to justify, explain, or comment on my recent "moment filler" which is watching Tami Dunn's videos on YouTube.

How It Started (A Convoluted Social Networking Story Featuring Instagram, Blogs, Google, and YouTube)


I was reviewing my Instagram feed and saw a cake from @iambaker that intrigued me - it was called a Buckeye Cake and made with Biscoff Butter, I went to her blog and reviewed the recipe (recipe here). The recipe calls for Creamy Biscoff Spread (as you would suspect since it comes from The Biscoff Cookie & Spread Cookbook.

I have never bought Biscoff Cookie Spread before, but had seen it before and assumed it was similar to Trader Joes Speculoos Cookie Butter. I have had Speculoos Cookie butter, and wasn't sure if Biscoff and Speculoos were interchangeable.

So, I do a Google search "Speculoos vs Biscoff Cookie Spread" and come to find this kind of zany group of characters doing a blind taste test in a YouTube video.


This was how I met Tami Dunn and crew this week.

Some Favorite Tami Dunn Food Reviews & Blind Taste Test
Must say, my favorite are the Blind Taste Test, but here are some favorites I've watched this week.



Oh Yes...The Cake

My wife made the Buckeye Cake on I Am Baker's blog today - we're having it tonight! Can't wait.

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