Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Broadway Melody (1928)

(fm Chris) This is a real charmer. So much to say about what must have gone into this film. You would think it was written by Mormons! The message (loud and clear) is that one would practically be better off dead than having sex outside of marriage! I'm not saying whether that view is right or wrong, but it is fairly comical to watch a major motion picture be created just to drive that message home. Which leads to the philosophical question: which came first -- the moralizing or the musicalizing?

We couldn't help but laugh through much of the film. The 'rescue' of the star from a sexual situation (just in the nick of time -- as one today would rescue someone from a ticking bomb) is particularly dramatic.

One of the film's many ironies is that its biggest star, Anita Page, was blackballed from the movie business (by her own account) for decades because she refused to grant sexual favors to studio bosses. Even one of the 'M's in 'MGM' (specifically Louis Mayer) allegedly colluded to have her banned from films for this. Wow, a company with the audacity to make such an absurdly moralistic film while grossly violating that very message ... my, have times changed? She returned to acting in her eighties to do slasher movies. I can't decide if this also ironic, but it's pretty awesome.

The best thing about this movie is the special features! Despite this film's comical over-the-topness, what will forever stand out most about this particular pelicular (yes, I made that word up -- spread it around!) experience is the hilarious "Dogway Melody" that graces the special features on the DVD. It's the whole movie, literally acted out by dogs. Complete with songs, dances, piano playing, and culminating in that beautiful chastity-rescue scene. If, in a terrible "Sophie's Choice" moment, you were forced to choose, don't pick "The Broadway Melody" -- just watch the "Dogway" version instead. It's even funnier, and much shorter.

My beautiful spouse nearly killed me, however, for wanting to watch all of the (seemingly millions of) other special features. So many cute family singing acts, so little time! I kept calling out "But it's a time capsule, baby! Come in here; you've got to see this one!" We felt about the (seemingly hours) of 1930's adorability just as we feel about "America's Funniest Videos", namely opposite.

Interesting facts:

· The Broadway Melody was one of the first musicals to feature a Technicolor sequence, which has been lost.

· It is often considered the first of the Hollywood Musicals

· It spawned three sequels (thank goodness none of them won BP).

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our House

One of the many blogs that we started but never posted anything about, was a blog about our cute little house. About two and half years ago Chris bought a fixer-upper and we have had a lot of fun creating a small corner of the world for us.

Here is the before:

And here is the after (so far):

Needless to say, we made quite a few changes.

Last year I planted a bunch of flowers only to realize this year that they were all annuals. This year I made sure that I only bought perennials and have planted a little flower garden in the front. I'm excited for everything to grow nice and big and bloom.

My first poppy bloomed.

I'm also working on a little herb garden in our kitchen window.

Here is our outdoor garden (so far):

It looks a lot like a big pile of dirt, but look--my beans are coming up:

Our big project this summer is working on the backyard. We are in the process of cutting down a large tree to clear space and allow sun for fruit trees.

The French

The French Open (one of the four largest tennis tournaments of the year) started on Sunday. Chris and I considered vacationing in Paris this summer so that we could attend the tournament but quickly reconsidered when we 1) looked at the price of plane tickets to France and 2) looked at the the price of the tickets to the tournament (2 tickets to the men's final cost about as much as one plane ticket to France).

Chris and I are wearing our Rafa Nadal t shirts (they are actually both mine) to cheer him from afar.
Rafael Nadal is pretty much considered the greatest clay court player ever, and given that the French is played on clay courts it has been kind of a given for the last several years that he would win the tournament. He has won five out of six years that he has competed.
However, this year a new favorite has emerged: Novak Djokovic of Serbia.

After switching to a gluten-free diet, Djokovic has become unstoppable and is undefeated since last November. Nadal and Djokovic have met in the finals of four separate tournaments this year and Djokovic has won all of them. Two of these victories came on the clay surface-prior to these matches Djokovic had never defeated Nadal on clay.

It should be an interesting two weeks!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole!!!!!!

A couple of weeks ago Chris and I took my brother Chad to a Real Salt Lake soccer game for his birthday. It was the first time any of us had gone to one of their games, and it was AMAZING. Mostly because we sat next to these guys:

A crowd of flag-waving, confetti-throwing, drum-beating, spanish-song-chanting, fist-pumping, balloon-waving-for-90-minutes-solid fans. And these were the cheapest seats in the house!

This is Chad and Chris waving a large flag that covered an entire section of the stadium
after the only goal of the entire game was scored by Real.

Us smiling after the game ended.

I tried to get Chris to pose nice with me for a real picture but he was too busy "blocking the goal attempt" with the other Real players.

That same weekend we also watched two tennis matches (Nadal won the semi-final and then lost a heartbreaking final to Djokovic) and the Manny Pacquiao
boxing match. We had a great weekend watching sports!
Happy Birthday Chad!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sunrise (1927)

(From Cherie) Hollywood executive William Fox (who founded Fox Film Corporation) invited German director F.W. Murnau to come to Hollywood and make a film featuring Expressionism, which was a style that used distorted art design for symbolic effect. I will remind you that Sunrise historically did not win “Best Picture.” It won Most Artistic Quality of Production. Visually, Sunrise is really beautiful, which was unexpected for me. Furthermore, the artistic element is enhanced by the fact that the film is silent. However, the plot is really jacked up.

Essentially it is the story about a man, his wife, and his mistress. Man and wife are happily married until the town hussy comes by and the man starts cheating on his wife. Town hussy convinces the man that he must kill his wife so they can live happily ever after. He is to do this by taking her to a nearby town via boat, drowning her on the way, and then capsizing the boat to make it look like an accident. He reluctantly agrees, but is overcome with guilt while standing over his wife ready to throw her overboard and cannot do it. Instead, he frantically rows to shore, where his wife jumps out and runs away from him. He eventually catches up to her and buys her flowers. All is forgiven. However, as they are rowing back home to live happily ever after, (even though he almost killed her hours before), a storm comes along and sinks the boat. The wife is thrown out to sea where she presumably drowns. The man is so angry/sad at his wife’s death that when the mistress shows up thinking that he has murdered his wife and now they are to be together, he chokes her almost to the point of death. Just then, someone calls out that the wife has survived and was rescued by a fisherman. The man runs to his wife, and they kiss and the sunrises over their farmhouse.

So Sunrise: beautiful movie, terrible husband/lover.

(From Chris) I totally agree with Cherie on this one …

How can a movie be so stupid and so profound at the same time?

The story seems at one level so absurd and moralistic and is acted with such exaggeration – To see the town slut as such a stereotype of the moral-less sex pot and his wife the perfection of doting sweetness – to watch him lurch towards said doting wife with his arms outstretched like Frankenstein (to kill her) then so quickly and pitifully repentant –to see her react with such naivetee and forgive– then to see the ease with which they transition to ‘normal’ – one thinks: “how dumb were audiences back then?”

But on the other hand and simultaneously – to see her eyes reflect a simple beauty

that cannot be merely acted – to see him struggle within his dark inner world primitively reflective of the feelings of one partner or another in so many torn-up marriages – to witness a genuine renewal that is played out I am sure in one level or another in enduring commitments across the globe – that one is thinking: “how profound were audiences back then?”

It’s as though every marriage in this world must go through just such a crisis. It’s like this film is but a very literal interpretation of the inner torment followed by the existential choice followed by change of heart that makes ‘happily ever after’ possible at all.

Warning: there is a gratuitous showing of legs and even shoulders in this film! One even suspects the released pig to be a mere excuse for the gratuitous showing of a row of women’s knees (must every movie have a ‘sex scene’???). There are several attempts at levity in the city part of this film that will be mostly in the ‘laugh at’ category for modern audiences but that are still retrospectively cute, like a time capsule of silly humor.

The method of the film is deeply introspective and seems (I can only imagine since I wasn’t around then) well ahead of its time. The surreality of some of the scenes is even anticipatory of some of the ‘psychelic’ tricks of 60’s drug films. That introspectiveness then aids the viewer in the non-literal interpretation of this film as ‘beautifully profound’ rather than as ‘trite and absurd’.

I am so happy to have begun our journey with a silent film something that says much more than the vast majority of movies today. At its worst it’s ridiculous at its best it’s the song of every human.

Interesting facts:

· Sunrise's original negative was destroyed in a fire. A new negative was created from a surviving print.

· The film contains the longest continuous tracking shot ever made, over four minutes in one take.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tennis Love

Chris and I are Cub Scout Den Leaders for our church. We are in charge of a weekly lesson and activity for five nine-year old boys. As part of the lesson portion this week, we went around in a circle and talked about our favorite sports to both play and watch. I was so excited when my turn came and I was able to indoctrinate these young minds about the merits of tennis and specifically Rafael Nadal, my absolute favorite tennis player. I showed them photos of Rafa and pointed out what makes Rafa such an amazing athlete (his sportsmanship, his drive, his work ethic, his humility, and I left out the part about his extreme good looks - but that too.)

Tomorrow AM, Rafa plays Roger Federer, who is perhaps the tennis GOAT (greatest of all time). I will be awaking at 8AM to watch the match, which isn't too early considering I have often set my alarm in the wee hours of the morning to watch them play against one another. They have one of the greatest rivalries of all time in any sport.

If you read this blog, be prepared for many posts about tennis and specifically Rafael Nadal. I may even post a link the music video he did with Shakira!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Couple of Good Things About Today

1) My dehydrated apricots turned out pretty well. They are a little on the crunchy side,
but I'm thrilled to have the rotting frozen fruit out of the freezer.

I used my mom's old dehydrator from the 80's. She used to make apricot fruit roll-ups that I
would take to school and then throw away or give to my friend Nikki. Sorry Mom.

2) After having ruled a summer vacation in France (too expensive--sorry Rafa), New York (I wanted a beach), Puerto Rico (that was a one day only suggestion) Chris and I have tentatively decided on a "Mason-Dixon" trip. We are thinking of starting in Dallas (to see his Aunt and other family), traveling on to New Orleans, along the Gulf of Mexico, down and then up the coast of Florida, and on to the Carolina's (my cousin's wedding in SC and good friends in NC). We are super excited!

3) The tulip garden in the park across from our house is in bloom and it is gorgeous.
It makes for wonderful sunset walks.

We got engaged by the haystack looking thing (Pampas grass?).

4) Chris tried Adderall today for the first time ever. This is a total miracle--he has
refused to take anything for his ADHD for 40 years. After struggling through grading
stacks of student papers and finals this weekend, he finally caved and
knocked back a pill with a glass of Kool-Aid (no joke).

A few quotes from him this afternoon:
"This is amazing"
"I'm actually enjoying grading!"
"My brain feels like it is cured"
"Is this what it is like for everyone else? If so, that's so unfair!"
"If I had been like this my whole life I'd be a full professor by now."
"I can actually focus!"
"I am proud of what I accomplished today"
(to his sister) "It's sad that my breakthrough had to take the form of a pill,
but the real breakthrough involved much more than that little pill."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Remembering Briana

About six weeks ago one of our dear friends, Ashley, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and placed her for adoption with an amazing couple, Jon and Emily. Emily was my dearest companion on my LDS mission. Chris and I introduced Ashley to Emily and Jon. I have often marveled how this birth was surrounded by so many contradictions: infertility/fertility, sorrow/joy, and life/death. Briana Blackwelder was Ashley's midwife and orchestrated a serene balance between the conflicting emotions and experiences.

Briana held Ashley throughout her pregnancy and cried with her many times over the sorrow of placing her baby for adoption. She helped Ashley to be strong and rejoiced with her when little Asha Scout was born.

On the day Ashley delivered Asha I was about eight weeks pregnant myself. Briana celebrated with us and tried to help us find the heart beat. A week later we all attended a beautiful party (a "birthabration") to honor of Ashely and Asha. Just as the celebration began, I started to miscarry. Chris and I wept and turned to Briana for comfort and wisdom. She helped us feel much better and prepared us for the coming days.

Briana was connected to all of us. She was Ashley's dearest friend through this process. She was our wisest and most comforting friend during our own trial. And for Jon and Emily she was Asha's first caregiver and the angelic midwife who helped them finally to realize their dream of becoming parents.

One week ago, on Easter morning, Chris and I received the news that Briana was killed in a tragic car accident. Easter is a celebration of death and life, and for us it marked what would be the beginning of many days of mourning Briana's death and celebrating her life.

Here is the tribute that the local news paid her (it was the lead story that night):

Her memorial service was on Wednesday. It was amazing, touching, and heartfelt, as people told stories of her extraordinary life. Chris wrote a song as was able to play it for her family after the service was over. Here is his song:

Last night, a group of our friends gathered to celebrate her again. We had amazing food and great conversation--things she would have loved.

Today I made shortbread-a favorite recipe of hers. I accidentally dumped a lot of it into the kitchen sink where it crumbled, but it still tasted amazing.

Briana was an amazing daughter, sister, midwife, and friend. Hundreds of people have expressed how she changed their lives, including many mothers she helped to deliver.

Briana Blackwelder we love you and will miss you.