Thursday, November 1, 2018

October Challenge

Once upon this blog, lo these many moons ago, I actually tried to track my annual halloween challenge;

"Speaking of which, stick around for the next month. I'm going to see how many I get through. I've got all sorts lined up - classics, film noir, creature features, black humor, foreign masters, ones of questionable taste with cute boys. Should be fun."

Of course, pretty much every year, I find I have overbooked myself wildly, and I get through 4-6 films within the month. Not that that's terrible. I've slowly worked my way through such classics as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Night of the Living Dead, and Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil: 

This year, though, I started the challenge in mid-September, and I actually tried to block off times for watching things, so that even if some of those were dropped for other obligations, I would still make it through a bunch. Additionally, I've started another film challenge: watching all of the movies in my 100-year watchlist. And before starting this challenge, I flagged which of those counted as horror/thrillers (29; with a further 18 alternates). And that's before considering what's coming out this time of year, what with fall festivals premiering the new Halloween and Suspiria (sadly not out till November), as well as things like Border and In Fabric. Plus I needed to catch up on earlier films from the year like Hereditary, Unsane, and a Quiet Place. So I had lots to get to, and an actual schedule. 

Day 1: The 39 Steps. This was very enjoyable! Mostly because Robert Donat is charming, but also because as an early Hitchcock, there are some very brilliant shots, and some that were totally perplexing in their 'you still have things to learn' sort of way. Also, an early film exemplar of some very tried and true tropes: the bickering couple being handcuffed together, the villain reveal, the stranger drawing another in on a spy plot and immediately kicking the bucket. 4/5 stars; lots of fun. 

Day 2: I binged the Brooklyn 99 Halloween episodes. Because. 

Day 3: Opera tickets to Roberto Devereux. (So good! I really loved it. I hope they do the other two in the trilogy.)
Day 4: Castro double feature of Battleship Potemkin/Battle of Algiers. 
I *thought* day 4 was the Castro double feature and went all the way down there only to discover I had the date wrong. Yay for losing 90 minutes during a busy week! So what I actually ended up watching was Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves and Denis Villeneuve's Enemy. The Company of Wolves might have worked better as just straight up vignettes/anthology, but the creature effects are pretty great, and there are lots of good doggos in the film. 3.5 stars.

Enemy is fab. Great cast, wonderfully directed, lots of spiders. 4 stars. 

Day 5: Not part of the challenge: Castro double feature of Battleship Potemkin/Battle of Algiers. Holy fuck y'all. Battle of Algiers is so good! Highly recommended. Battleship Potemkin has a few too many montages of the inner workings of a ship for me, but I guess if you're inventing montage editing, you're going to really go for it. The steps scene is totally brilliant. 
Potemkin: 4.5 stars
Algiers: 5 stars

Day 6: A Simple Favor. This was pulpy, soapy fun. Which is what I needed at the end of the Kavanaugh hearings week. Blake Lively swanning around in tuxes. Yes please. 4 stars.

Day 7: Caught up on American Horror Story: Apocalypse. I was three episodes behind and, yay! This is shaping up to be the best season since hotel, and clearly (hopefully) a return to form. 

I cannot adequately express how much I cackled at Evan Peters and Rubberman. *mwah* Perfecto.

Day 8: The Sisters Brothers & the Kennel Murder Case. The Sisters Brothers because it was on one early prognosticator's potential oscars list. I think that's unlikely. I can see why John C. Reilly was so interested in adapting this; it's a great showcase for him. Jake Gyllenhaal commits real hard to an accent that does not entirely work. Still, the four leads are good, and it's a melancholy take on the western. I really disliked the cinematography, though. And I think it'll be too French of a western to get enough buzz for the oscars. 3 stars (and that's mostly because they did stick the ending well.)

The Kennel Murder Case: Powell with a puppy! Just snappy and fun and silly. Three and a half stars.
Look Sherlock; a clue

Day 9: A Quiet Place. So good! I had always meant to see this and missed it in theaters. Such a great premise and then just pretty perfectly executed. Four and a half stars.

Days 10 & 11: So here's where things get a little tricky, because SFFilm and SFMoma's Modern Cinema fall series is in October. Great for classic cinema, not so great for horror films. So the fall series kicked off with Pather Panchali and Aparajito, which I had yet to see (I had seen the World of Apu several years ago). These are brilliant. I really love them. Pather Panchali: 5 stars Aparajito: 4.5 stars

Day 12: Oof. This was tough. Still at Modern Cinema; saw The Bicycle Thief and The Middleman. Skipped out on Ikiru, because those first two were so bleak. I really loved the Middleman, as dark as it was (corruption in India in the 60s/70s). I thought it was very well done. I hated watching The Bicycle Thief, as much as I understand why it is considered a classic, and as glad as I am that it inspired Pather Panchali. 4 stars for Bicycle Thief, 4.5 stars for the Middleman.

If you think about it, Neorealism is just a different kind of even scarier horror.

Day 13: A Star is Born: Welp, it was never going to live up to the trailer. 3 stars
The Thing: So great! Such wonderful creature effects! Doggos! 4.5 stars

Day 14: Hereditary. Really good. I had been spoiled on *the thing* that happens, so I can only imaging what it was like for audiences who had a bit of a Scream moment. Some really good atmospheric moments, tiny jump scares, and then just really great acting. Part of why I wanted to see this (other than Toni Collette, obvs.) was that I was impressed with some of what Alex Wolff did in My Friend Dahmer and House of Tomorrow. The car scene in this convinced me (well and probably everyone else, given what a hit this was) that he's definitely one to watch. I'm still not sure how I feel about the ending. I understand A. O. Scott's gripes, but the film had also been building to a lot more style than resolution anyways (or perhaps that was what I had been expecting based on director's breakout short; The Strange Thing About the Johnsons.) 4 stars.

Day 15: An American Werewolf in London. Despite terrible screening circumstances (two moronic girls thought it would be a great idea to get high, come to the Castro and talk through the ENTIRE FILM), I just really enjoyed the set pieces in this. It's so weirdly 80s, the creature effects are fab and, oh man, the corpse in the porno theater is perfect. 4 stars

Day 16: The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell. I got sucked into this weird little series on Netflix. The pilot is rough, and it's such a weird concept for a show, because she's not really demonstrating how to actually do any of the crafts or baking. She's showing that she's an artist who will spend several days icing a gingerbread house. But the Henson muppet sensibility won me over and it was a silly little thing to watch while I was tired. I am super impressed with her edible brown recluses, though...  

Day 17: The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog and Bad Times at the El Royale
I was a little out of it watching The Lodger, so I'm going to blame that on totally not seeing the ending coming. I liked the atmosphere of the film (although hard to play up the fog in silent film cinematography), and Ivor Novello is brilliant. 

As for Bad Times, bless Drew Goddard and Chris Hemsworth for bringing us joy in these dark times. It could've used a tighter edit, but it has lots of Cynthia Erivo singing, and it turns out *THE GIF* is to one of my all time favorite songs (the whole soundtrack is aces):

After this, life got very busy between work, halloween baking, taking headshots, and halloween parties, so I didn't see anything else remotely in genre.

Day 18: Tosca at the SF Opera. Meh.
Day 19: San Francisco Girls Chorus concert (a weird repertoire for this concert, but they did a surprise pre-concert performance in the lobby with amazing acoustics.) 
Day 20: Roma (with Alfonso Cuaron and the actresses in attendance.) This is incredibly well done, and the lead actress is stunning. I'm sure it will be in the running for best picture. (I didn't *looove* it, but much like CMBYN last year, I recognize how incredibly well-done it is.)

And that's it! I didn't get to nearly as many as hoped (once again), but I got a couple crossed off my various lists, and saw the two big horror hits for this year. I may see a few more, but I'll be concentrating on anything on Filmstruck through the end of November (Dead Ringers, looking at you)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Twitter games

So everyone's seen the "recommend 5 _X_ to get to know you" games floating around twitter, right? Right. Well, I found the best one:

But then I thought it would be fun to do some of the others, too. And, of course, some of the Whys, because it is oh so hard for me to narrow things down, but lord knows I love defining myself by my pop culture.

For the above, mantophasmatodea are two fold. One is because we had some in the lab in South Africa, and they are adorable. And two because it is still incredible to me that an entire new ORDER of insects could be discovered in the new millennium. (They've since been reclassified as a family within a new order, but the point stands.) Pneumoridae are the grasshoppers I worked on while I was doing research in South Africa. Wetas because they are awesome and so very New Zealand. Delta Green Ground Beetles were my favorite of my five thesis species, and they happen to be a species of concern on the Jepson Prairie Preserve, purchased by TNC in the 80s. So, you know, synchronicity. And a Costa Rican Zebra Tarantula because we had a pet one growing up, Seemani.

If that weren't enough... (also, I'm sick. This is what my cold-addled brain does.)

5 comic book runs/graphic novels
Maus. Maybe the first one I read? And so brilliant.

Watchmen. Again, just one of the best books of all time. I also happen to be in the minority for loving the movie, but it might be the casting that gets me.

Sandman. Neil Gaiman is very brilliant and I love a lot of his ongoing work, but this may be the pinnacle for me. I love a lot of the ideas and conceits in here.

Local. One of the best presents I've ever received. It's all about a young woman with wanderlust, and her eventual homecoming. Gifted to me just as I returned to San Francisco.

Bone. Stupid, stupid rat creatures!

Hon mentions:
Persepolis - too similar in genre to Maus to be in the top 5, but totally great.
Understanding Comics - so great.

Thinking more broadly about newspaper runs, well, then the Far Side, Foxtrot, Calvin & Hobbes, and Pogo would be up there (I've never read a lot of Pogo, but he's featured prominently in my childhood.) And Sluggy Freelance for being the first webcomic I followed regularly in college. Bunny with a switchblade!

My problem with a lot of comic runs is that they go on too long. I like early Locke & Key, Fables, and Y the Last Man, but I don't think Locke & Key quite stuck the landing, and I stopped reading the others about 5 collections in. Saga's holding up pretty well, but I'm a bit behind.

Monday, September 10, 2018

New Year's Resolutions and Bucket Lists

The past couple of years I've tried to be a little more intentional with some life goals/habits/resolutions, largely inspired by reading Leila's How to Win at Resolutions and Wil Wheaton's Reboot. I particularly like Leila's advice about trying again at a new time if you don't get to something the month you pick it (or even within 6 months), and the fact that Wil included fun goals along some more typical "new year's resolutions" type goals. So in 2017, I made a list of 10 goals or habits to cultivate. I did one (started volunteering again), but! I really liked doing it and I more generally liked thinking about or tracking to a set of goals.

So in 2018, I made mostly the same goals again this year. I fell a little bit into the trap of 'once I find the perfect organizer/planner, I will be organized,' but I've mostly remained on track, albeit sometimes at a slow pace, or trying again on something midway through the year.

Then recently I read about the idea of a 101/1,001 list. The idea behind it is to set a list of 101 specific, measurable tasks that can be accomplished in 1,001 days (not quite 3 years). In that way, you can be a little more concrete about action items ('I will take a baking class', or 'I will meditate for 10 minutes a day for one week', rather than 'start baking/meditating'.) Plus it gives you a time frame to try to tackle some bigger bucket list-type items, without that nebulous bucket list thinking of, 'someday I will go to Japan...'

This also meant transcribing an old bucket list, as I considered which items to put on the 101 list for the next 3 years, versus what should just stay as a "bucket list item"*. The really fun thing about this exercise** was recognizing how many bucket list items I'd crossed off since making the list in 2013. Even though it can feel like there's such a big world out there still to see (my bucket list is like half travel), it's nice to take a look back and see all the fun I've been having in the last five years:

  • I've been to the Santa Rosa Plateau, Santa Cruz Island, Coachella preserve, Carrizo Plain, and Elkhorn Slough
  • I've been to Montana (also, what?)
  • I've spent a week in NYC just seeing broadway shows
  • I've been to Borneo!
  • I've visited 22 new national parks (or revisited as an adult)
  • I've started volunteering again
  • I've gone camping in the redwoods again
  • I've organized my playbill collection (although I am DEFINITELY MISSING a couple of RENT playbills. Sniffles.)
  • I've attended a highland games! Hey! Recent cross-off.
  • I've attended a masquerade ball
  • I've been to Alcatraz!
  • I've attended the Gorey ball
  • I've visited the Top of the Mark and the Tonga room
  • I've been to Mister Jiu's and State Bird
  • I've done the tactile dome at the exploratorium
  • I've tried Humphrey Slocombe (overrated, but Salt and Straw is not)
  • I've done a tarantula walk on Mt. Diablo
  • I've gone whale watching in the bay area
  • I've continued attending Outside Lands (also a weird item, 2013-me.)
  • I've been to Calshakes
  • I've purchased season tickets to the Opera and Berkeley Rep
  • I've been to the DNA lounge
  • I've had a drink at the Edinburgh castle 
  • I've been to the new Alamo drafthouse! (So many times. So many, many expensive times.)
  • I've attended a movie in the park!
  • I've attended the Oregon shakespeare festival again
  • I've tried Zombies Run!
54 Bucket list items done! A mere... uh... lifetime's worth to go. (Hellooo Colorado/Utah national parks trips)

*Just to be clear, the 101/1,001 list isn't three years' worth of a bucket list. I mean I suppose it could be. But mine, and most of the ones I've seen, are a mix of aspirational (travel here/learn this skill) and practical (I have this thing I'm planning for/that money thing I really need to take care of soon.) So like a three-year plan, but with the fun stuff included?
**other than the planning. I'm an enneagram 7. I get half of my fun from anticipatory planning. 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

10-movie challenge

Alex nominated me for the facebook 10-day movie challenge. Unsurprisingly, I had a hard time narrowing it down to 10 (I ended up somewhat trying to match photos to those I was tagging.) Here are the rest I was considering. Any guesses?


And here are the 10 I did use:
#1. The Haunted House

#2. Moon

#3. Interview with a Vampire

#4. In Bruges

#5. Chinatown

#6. Cabaret. The old dude knows whats up.

#7. Last of the Mohicans

#8. Go

#9. Gosford Park

#10. Days of Heaven