1) Work insanity (more so than usual), culminating in a 10-hour work day on Friday.
2) The death of my last grandparent, which, in addition to the emotional fall-out, led to:
- An unexpected daylong road trip to Joplin, Mo., where I spent all major holidays and the occasional weekend for the first 21 years of my life.
- Eating way too much food at Casa Montez, the best Mexican restaurant in the history of the world.
- Meeting my great aunt and uncle and hearing soap-operatic stories from my family history that struck me as both tragic and captivating.
- Seeing what happens after everyone leaves the burial site.
- Feeling like the rug had been pulled out from under me after seeing childhood memories distorted by time, "progress," and a lack of care.
- A lovely day spent on the road with my mom, during which we talked about many subjects, both trivial and serious (and a few in between).
3) Receiving my first Make-A-Wish assignment and subsequently having to miss the first meeting due to sheer exhaustion and the hint of a cold (thus not wanting to pass anything along to the Make-A-Wish family).
4) Tax Day!
And despite all that, I'm still going to stay up late and do my movie recap because I didn't do one last week, and three weeks is just too long to go without one. So, off we go!
What I Watched
- Sunshine Cleaning (3½ stars): Even with solid performances from a great cast (Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, etc.), I didn't think this movie quite lived up to what it could have been. Don't get me wrong; obviously with a 3½-star rating, I still thought it was pretty good. The movie could have used another half-hour to tie everything up a little more smoothly, but overall, it was a good character study with an amusing premise.
- Hot Fuzz (4 stars): Loved this movie. Great fun. It got a bit whacked out at the end, but I was mightily impressed with Simon Pegg. I'd only ever seen him play the bumbling idiot role, so this was a nice (and totally convincing) change of pace.
- Jane Austen Book Club (3½ stars): A solid (if sometimes cheesy) ensemble romantic comedy. This is the movie that made both my sister and me fall in love with Hugh Dancy. I haven't read the book, but the film does a nice job weaving in the themes of the Austen novels with the lives of the characters in the book club. Writer/Director Robin Swicord also does a lovely job of keeping the story moving, which must have been a challenge in a film about a group of people getting together to talk about novels. Definitely a chick flick, but one of the better ones out there.
- Monsters vs. Aliens (3 stars): This was a lot better than I thought it would be. My mom dragged us to see it, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it featured some interesting characters, funny jokes (and not too many in the category of Toilet Humor). The villain was pretty bland, but, all in all, not a terrible way to spend a couple of hours. Also of note, it was great to hear the voice cast actually acting. In a lot of animated films, actors just use their normal voices, but the cast went to the trouble here to actually create voices for their characters, which was much appreciated.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (4 stars): I'm still not sure how Disney managed to make this such a great movie, but they nailed it. Perfect casting all around, groundbreaking effects, and, most importantly a completely charming story that didn't take itself too seriously all lift this movie much higher than it had any right in going. So much fun.
- Husbands and Wives (4 stars): My fifth venture into the Woody Allen canon, and I'm becoming more and more of a fan. Filmed quasi-documentary-style, this film tackles the subjects of love vs. passion and how they affect marriage. It hits all the emotional notes you'd hope to find in a movie about such a topic.
- The Phantom of the Opera  (3 stars): I'd love to see this story in the hands of Baz Luhrmann or Tim Burton. I've never seen the staged version, but it appeared that the film version was extremely faithful -- to a fault. A few of the songs, most notably "Phantom of the Opera," lost their impact in this version, whether due to strength of vocals or arrangement, I'm not sure. Truly, if it weren't for the last 30 minutes or so, I probably would have rated it lower. It was at that point that I truly felt for the characters involved. At a runtime of 2 hours and 23 minutes, it really could have benefitted from cutting some of the songs (or at least shortening them). Still, it's a visually beautiful film and an interesting story if you can get through the bloat.
- 17 Again (3½ stars): This movie was really better than it had any right to be. The dialog was average for the most part, and some of the film editing choices bugged me, but the cast, especially Zac Efron, was so darn charming, I just couldn't help but enjoy myself. Granted, since I harbor an admittedly crable-robbing crush on Mr. Efron, I went in expecting to enjoy myself, but I was pleasantly surprised to find I didn't have to do so as shamefully as I expected.
- Jules et Jim (4 stars): It's hard to really describe this story. It's about the unusually enduring friendship of two men. It's about the woman around which their lives revolve. It's about the nature of love. I was taken in by it. Also worth noting, if you're in the mood for a double feature about crazy but captivating woman, check out this one with Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
- Elizabethtown (4 stars): This is one of my favorite movies of all time. Now, I realize that this is not a perfect movie, and you can complain about Orlando Bloom's imperfect American accent all you want (which I find totally charming, by the way). But I adore this film. The themes never fail to strike a chord with me, whether it's dealing with success vs. failure, focusing on yourself vs. taking the time to see the world around you, family discord, or life and death. (As Chuck would say, "Death and life, and death and life... right next door to each other?!") It's also got arguably the best use of the song "Freebird" in a movie ever. If you've been skeptical about giving this movie a chance, I'd suggest you do. You may not love it as much as I do, but it deserves a lot more respect than it generally gets.
What I Wrote
Still hammering away on my ScriptFrenzy screenplay. Hit 81 pages tonight. As I tweeted, I think this may end up being the longest script I've written since my horrible, terrible, no good, very bad first attempt at ever writing a screenplay. (That monstrosity ballooned to 145 pages for no good reason.) I usually run short, between 90 and 100 pages, and I think this one might come close to 120 before I'm done.
I also know that this one's going to need a LOT of work on second draft. It's not very cinematic right now, but I still love the story and think it has plenty of potential to be cinematic. And since it's the first draft, it's totally fine that it's not perfect. First drafts are for potential, not perfection. 10 days left to go in this roller coaster month. Assuming I don't have another week as insane as the last one, I think I just may make it out alive.