Monday, June 15, 2009

Up.


The wonderful thing about this movie for me was that even though I had seen the trailer a few times, I still had no idea what in the world this movie was about, other than a guy's house floating into the air with a bunch of balloons. (And I wasn't quite sure how that would fill two hours.) So I'll try not to reveal too much about the plot, because sometimes it's kinda fun not knowing. I'll just say that this movie made me laugh and made me cry. To elaborate, it made me laugh a lot and it made me cry a lot and that to me is the perfect combination for quality entertainment. In addition to being funny and moving, it was also often just plain weird and kooky - mainly, when the dogs and birds came in the picture. Overall, I'd say it was the most creatively original movie I have seen in a year. Artistically, it was stunning - any shot with the ballons was completely beautiful. (Kathy and I also have a tradition of sitting through to the very end of the credits when we go to the movies, and this time I was floored at how many people it really takes to make an animated movie. Seriously. SO. MANY. NAMES.) It was also one of the most adult animated movies I have ever seen. In particular, I keep remembering one scene (slight spoiler alert) where the old man, Carl, inadvertently hurts the guy on the street over his mailbox and then runs inside his house, confused and scared at himself, and then shows up at the courthouse for his hearing, sad and lonely. With no dialogue, it showed a surprising amount of emotional complexity. Themes of the movie ran the gamut from true love, to following your dreams, to friendship, to bad parenting, to being disappointed by your idols, to respect for all creatures, to what happens when one becomes obsessed with others' opinions of them over their own, to the confusing and frail human experience of growing old.

Kathy & I discussed on the way home how shockingly good Disney-Pixar movies are every time. How even though Dreamworks movies such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda are definitely enjoyable, they can't even compete when it comes to the level of quality in the animation and writing. And I think I can boil it down to this: those are good animated movies, but these Disney-Pixar movies to me are simply films. And even though I know it won't be, just as Wall-E should have been included last year, I think Up should be nominated for this year's Best Picture.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Under the Table and Dreaming.

I remember clearly the first cassette tapes I ever bought for myself when I was in elementary/middle school. Hootie & the Blowfish's Cracked Rear View. The Cranberries' No Need to Argue. Counting Crows' August and Everything After. No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom. And the blurred carnival swings of Dave Matthews Band's Under the Table and Dreaming. I listened to side A and side B of that cassette before I knew it was cool to like Dave Matthews Band (high school, especially with the band kids) and long before I knew it was uncool to like Dave Matthews Band (college at a private school, where it was uncool to like most things mainstream except in a hip ironic way, although if I had joined the crowd and gone to a public state school, Dave Matthews Band might have stayed a little bit cool, at least one can assume from the masses of college kids who attend all of their concerts). Back in the day, before they started releasing songs with titles like Dream Girl and American Baby, I attended ridiculous huge stadium DMB concerts in New York and Philadelphia and Hershey and I know I've outgrown that phase of my life - none of the bands I really listen to play stadium shows and if they did I couldn't afford the tickets - but sometimes I wonder why. I mean, really, they were pretty fun. And sometimes, randomly, I listen to this record again, like I did earlier this week driving back from the coast to Portland on Route 6 through Tillamook State Forest. This is a road full of twists and turns which sometimes makes you sick to your stomach but which I'm getting more used to driving on now. It is also a pretty much beautiful drive, following the Wilson River and surrounding you with big forested hills. It is, essentially, a good road for Under the Table and Dreaming.

I'm not sure what it is but this album sets me at ease when I am in transit. It's one of those albums everyone in my family likes so we usually popped it in on road trips, settling into a comfortable silence while it spun. In particular it takes me back to road trips with my brother through the west and California, or any time I felt really and truly far away from everything, in a good way. Sometimes it makes me feel like I am in Pennsylvania in the fall and it is late afternoon and everything seems golden and pretty. It sounds simple to say it makes me feel relaxed, but, well, sometimes feeling relaxed is a totally underestimated emotion. When the weather is just right and I'm on the road and listening to this album I can imagine I'm one of those dudes who are perpetually tan and happy with good hair who take a year off to move to Hawaii to surf, or move to Colorado to ski a lot, just cause. And let's be honest, I want to be one of those dudes a lot.

Musical notes: If there were more songs like Ants Marching being released as big radio hits today, radio would be better. Rhyme & Reason is, like, really really angry/scary. Lover Lay Down is still one of the sleepiest, sweetest love songs I've heard. And, if in the right mood (ie., if I was sad), I could listen to Pay For What You Get on repeat for hours.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Portland, Oregon.

As mentioned in my last entry, June is the month of visitors for us. My dad was here last week, who has been here more than anyone and has already seen a good amount. So we got creative and drove to Bend, which was pretty wonderful and made me realize what a diverse/great state Oregon as a whole is. This week Kathy's friend Steph from North Carolina is visiting, her first time, and so we're hitting all the first-time-visitor hot spots: Yesterday we conquered the Columbia River Gorge and all the wonderful vistas/waterfalls which come with it, and we tried to conquer Mt. Hood at the same time but it was all a little too much. Especially since Steph had been a plane for six hours. By the time we got home we were pretty exhausted and had probably spent too much time in the car. So today, we spent all day in Portland. And it was awesome.

There was an editorial in the Oregonian recently about how the New York Times Travel section and really pretty much everyone else have been writing a good number of articles about How Awesome Portland Is and how all the love is almost getting to be annoying/unrealistic. As for actually living here, the awesomeness does shine through sometimes but is often crowded out by other things. On a superficial level, it's crowded out by working too much and stressing about money and all the other realities of day to day life, just as living anywhere awesome probably isn't awesome all the time when you actually have to make a living there. On a personal level, it's crowded out by a specific inability to live in the moment which has come over me here, even though I know what's happening in the moment is great. For better or worse, living so far away from everything my life was before makes me live in a mindset of either overthinking the past - how great life in Boston was, how I got to see my family more, etc - to overthinking the future - moving to North Carolina at a future date, having an actual career, being able to see my family more again, etc. It's a strange situation of being constantly excited about where I am and when I won't be where I am anymore at the same time.

But today, we started out the morning at Pine State Biscuits. Then we made our way to the Rose Garden. Then the Japanese Garden. And the Chinese Garden. And Powell's. And Stumptown. And then we took a tour on Willamette Jet Boat Excursions, where we got soaked and I pretty much had the most fun I've had in a really long time. Then we drove home feeling sunsoaked and windwhipped, and soon, we will make our way out to dinner at Montage.

And right now, I am not thinking about work, or the East Coast, or pretty much anything at all, except for what a really, really wonderful place I live in.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sweet potato fries.

I love them. I was reminded of this when I had them at the Three Creeks Brewery in Sisters, Oregon this week on the mini-road-trip we took with my dad while he was visiting. Really I love any and all sweet potato fries - I can't recall ever having a bad batch - although the Orleans Fries we had at the Friendly Toast in Portsmouth, New Hampshire two summers ago do stand out when I try to rack through my sweet potato fries memories. Orleans Fries consist of a huge heap of sweet potato fries with brown sugar, Tabasco, and sour cream. Yeah. Done, and done.

Updates to this blog may be sporadic for the month of June, wherein we are entertaining various visitors for almost the entire month. My dad's visit kicked it all off and we had a great time; we have a few days of work until the next visitor, Miss Steph, arrives on Monday. I feel preemptively sad for when the month is over and we have to return to regular ol' life. But, at least since we will be doing lots of awesome things, I will eventually have lots of awesome things to write about.