Saturday, February 25, 2006

Three Burials and a Poster

My husband and I recently attended an advance screening of Tommy Lee Jones' newest movie The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. It's a contemporary movie about a man's commitment to bury his murdered friend in his Mexican hometown, and about the redemption of the idiot who killed him.

In a word: fantastic. If it's in your town, run, don't walk, and go see this film. (Unless the theater isn't within running distance and then you'll have to drive at a safe speed so as not to get a ticket.)

Actor Julio Cesar Cedillo (the title character, i.e. the dead guy) attended the screening and was gracious and kind in answering questions.

What's Tommy like? (Generous and ornery.)

How'd you get the role? (Auditioned, was the first and only person seen. Tommy said, "It's great to see the character come to life." and hired him on the spot.)

What was it like to see yourself decaying on film? (He felt sorry for the three dummies, crew called him the fourth dummy. When he saw one doll slumped over in a chair on the set, he straightened him upright. So he could breathe, perhaps? Ew.)

Anyway, the best part, other than the amazing movie and the brush with fame:

I won a poster!

Actually, my husband did. They did a silly trivia game for prizes, and I leaned over to my husband and whispered, a la Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona, "I want you to get me one of them posters, Kern."

So my man stood up, and shouted out an answer in front of the packed audience. Of course, in the heat of the moment it was the, ahem, wrong answer. Still, Julio felt sorry for our desperateness and gave us one anyway.

He signed it and it reads: "To Kern & Britta, Si Empre Amigos!" Which I'm told means "Friends Always."

Us, too, Julio. Us, too.

Friday, February 24, 2006

My New Cousin is Named Precious

One of my new favorite characters in fiction, Precious Ramotswe, is the the owner and proprieter of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency in Botswana, Africa. Precious is clever, honest and decidedly humorous in her dealings with the small and large cases brought into her agency. Plus she sports an enviable full-figured physique, drives a small white van, and believes eating a regular diet of pumpkin helps one along in life.

Precious, I wish you were my cousin. I may be a freckled white girl who lives in Texas, but I think we'd get along grandly.

One of my favorite Precious passages:

"She would go back [to Mochudi], she thought, when she had worked long enough to retire. She would buy a house, or build one perhaps, and ask some of her cousins to live with her. They would grow melons on the lands and might even buy a small shop in the village; and every morning she could sit in front of her house and sniff at the wood-smoke and look forward to spending the day talking ot her friends. How sorry she felt for white people, who couldn't do any of this, and who were always dashing around and worrying themselves over things that were going to happen anyway. What use was it having all that money if you could never sit still or just watch your cattle eating grass? None, in her view; none at all, and yet they did not know it. Every so often you met a white person who understood, who realized how things really were; but these people were few and far between and the other white people often treated them with suspicion." (p. 162)

Not bad, coming from the pen of a middle-aged white man, Alexander McCall Smith. Alexander, I tip my straw fedora to you, sir.

Please tell Precious hello for me, and that I'm a person who likes to realize how things really are. If she ever sees fit to visit Fort Worth, let her know we have plenty of cattle to watch.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Quote to Love By

As told by narrator Morgan Freeman in the astonishing March of the Penguins.

"Like most love stories, it begins with an act of utter foolishness."

He wraps that voice of his around the words, and utters them with gravity and truth.

I believe him. Don't you?

Here's to an utterly foolish Valentine's Day, and to great love stories for us all.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Psychic Spies and Spiritual Asides

I don't know about you, but I'm always in the middle of three or four books at a time. Recent and current reads:
I met Dallas author Will Clarke at the recent Pulpwood Queens weekend. He's the type of guy who can wear a green velvet blazer, march in a parade with tiara-wearing women and holler "Read Books!" at unsuspecting passers-by with astounding elan. His book, Lord Vishnu's Love Handles, is no-holds barred funny about an alcoholic psychic who's rooked into spying for the government. And that's the most normal part of the plot. Not for those easily offended by...well, just about anything.

A few lines from Vishnu:"She's tending to this buffet of overcooked mush. It smells like BO, and I'm using all my willpower not to hurl again."

"Her fingernails look like pink Chiclets."

My favorite:
"I make her feel like we used to feel. I stir her like sugar that's settled in the bottom of a cup of bitter coffee. I sweeten her."

There are plenty more quotables, but you'll have to read them for yourself.

On the flip-side, I'm also working through a study called Finding Balance by Becca Stevens. It talks about balancing devotion with duty, and tending to the spiritual while living in the physical world with all its demands.

My favorite quote so far: "Sometimes I believe that God simply gives us enough vision to see the next day and the faith to walk into it. It isn't until we have walked a long way that we can look back and think: Thank God, I had no idea how rich and tiring this life of duty and devotion would be." (p. 49)

I underlined this and put an exclamation point in the margin. (I like to write in my study books - a habit leftover from college.) I think about the past year, the release of my first book and the exhilaration, craziness, travel, hope and fear that ensued. Thank God I didn't know how rich and tiring this life would be.

But I'd like to hope that even if I did know all of it - the good, the bad and the uglies - I'd still walk right on in.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Memoirs of a Movie

I saw Memoirs of a Geisha last night.

Everybody should have at least one friend who will sneak away to a movie with you on a school night. Better yet if this friend has excellent taste in films. Better even yet if you can talk movies, kids, music, religion, politics, and how you wore your hair in high school.

This kind of friend knows to unbuckle her seatbelt quick as you scream into the parking lot two minutes after the movie starts and you hustle, in unison, the four hundred miles to the ticket counter. She leaps like a gazelle over the elastic barrier to the front of the empty rat-puzzle line with her money out, ready to purchase.

The guy rips the ticket, you go through the turnstile and it smells like popcorn and the carpet has crazy purple patterns on it and you're doing that nerdy fastwalk and the movie posters are so compelling you really want to slow down but you don't 'cause you wanna get that seat, the best seat, your seat and you swing through that door into the darkened abyss and turn the corner, climbing stairs, voices hushed to whispers - right there, over there? - then you find two together and you sink into them and settle your stuff, not on the floor 'cause it's sticky, and you nibble popcorn without being obnoxious because you know the rules and the lights dim and the screen cues up and you quiet with the buttery salt still on your tongue, and you are lost in the magic of movies.

I love it.

So anyway, Geisha started and it was glorious. Totally my vote for cinematography. And the costumes made me want to sew myself a kimono and Start. Walking. Real. Slow. In. Wooden. Shoes.

My friend and I agreed on the ride home: there's something beautiful about the reserve, the demeanor of a Geisha. It's sensual and powerful all at once. As the movie says, a Geisha can stop a man in the street with a flash of her eyes.

And failing that, she can always throw one of her shoes at him.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Oscar Frenzy

Academy Award nominations were announced this week, and my official Oscar quest has begun. As a lover of great stories in all forms, I make a sincere effort every year to watch as many of the nominated films as possible. It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.

So far I love:

"Capote." Philip Seymour Hoffman should win for best actor. He's a revelation. I highly recommend reading Capote's In Cold Blood before you take in the film. It's a book that literally changed the face of literature, and a total page-turner. Plus it'll help you respect the man before he comes on screen with his simpering lisp and Bergdorf scarves.

"Crash." So many twists and turns, with characters the way they should be: complex, flawed and beyond fascinating. So far Matt Dillon gets my vote for supporting actor. Never before in the same movie have I so completely hated a person, only to find an aspect of redemption I couldn't deny. It's a movie that'll surprise you and truly make you think.

"Junebug." Not nominated for Best Picture, but Amy Adams deserves an Oscar. Crazy family, fish out of water storyline, and nuanced performances all steeped in rich Southern color. It's out on DVD. Bring hankies.

"Pride and Prejudice." Personally, I think it's a matter of both pride and prejudice this outstanding film wasn't nominated for Best Picture. Is it because of the unabashedly romantic storyline? Keira Knightly makes a lovely and rebellious Elizabeth, and I'll go down on record saying I *liked* Matthew Macfadyen as Darcy. Anyone who can emote the passion of an unfulfilled love through the singular movement of a flexed hand deserves kudos.

"Walk the Line." My husband and I have differing opinions on this. As a lifelong Johnny Cash fan, he didn't feel Joaquin could quite measure up to the man in black, but then again, who could? Personally, I found his portrayal mesmerizing, authentic, and raw. Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash could forge a second career as a country singer, and she dazzled in every scene.

"Murderball." Nominated for Best Documentary Feature, this film about quadriplegic Olympians may have been my favorite film of last year. It's visceral, no-holds barred storytelling with a cast full of competitive athletes who not only disdain sympathy and pandering, but look like they'd take on any street fight and win.

On my list to see:

"Brokeback Mountain." I know, I can't believe I haven't seen it yet either. My question: will the film live up to the buzz?

"Memoirs of a Geisha." Loved the book, hope the movie works. Plus I'm a sucker for those flowing red costumes.

"Match Point." Woody Allen and a dark, murderous story? I'm so there.

"Hustle & Flow." The story looks terrific, and I bet the soundtrack rocks.

"The Squid and the Whale." Funky title, family dynamics, an excellent cast.

Okay, your turn. What do you like, what did you hate, and what are you dying to see?

Holding Out

Hello, and welcome to my blog. First, a disclaimer: I held out as long as I could. I didn't want to blog. I feared the blog. I lurked on other people's blogs, never posting, never commenting. But my own? Well, what if I say something stupid? What if my writing is less than...writerly? It's what I do in my day job, so there's an added pressure to blog with excellence. What if one of my asinine remarks floats in cyberspace indefinitely, and comes back to bite me in the rear some fifty years from now?

But then I got over myself. So, again, welcome. I'll do my best to post regularly, with writer tips and the latest events in one woman's crazy life.

Because after all, when it comes down to it, I'm probably no wierder than you.

Writer tip of the day: Write the thing you fear. Whether it's a scene, or a character, or a plot point you're afraid is bigger than your skill, you must write it. Step into it, be bold and don't hold back. That's where the good stuff comes from.