Sundry information, thoughts and links to sort us out

Saturday, December 26, 2009


My favorite movie of all time - Fellini's 8 & 1/2 - was the best foreign film of 1963. A black and white visual masterpiece, it's in Italian (and some French, German, and English) with subtitles. It tells the story of Guido, a film director, and his difficulties making the movie he's currently working on. It has long been lauded as a masterwork.

So, of course, someone decided to add songs and adapt it into a Broadway show. And, of course, that stage musical had to be brought to the silver screen. Thus, Nine.

Here is Guido, working on another broad picture with his famous leading lady (an interesting reference to Fellini's frequently working with his wife, Giulietta Masina?). The press is hounding him, his last two films were "flops" and here he is trying to bring another grandiose concept to the screen. He's freaked out, stressed out, tired out, and just plain down and out. So he skips out of the press conference and drives to a spa to get away from it all. He calls his wife, but doesn't tell her where he is, and instead calls his mistress and invites her to come down to the spa. In the meantime, his producer has found him and brought the entire production office to town so they can finish the movie on time. Needless to say, this does not help Guido de-stress. Then his wife arrives.

All of this is very similar to 8 & 1/2, often line for line and shot for shot, but, as Bruce pointed out, it's not the same movie. There are differences in character realization and plot development. Some characters are not in the movie at all, others have been morphed into someone only similar. Some scenes never happen, some are condensed into other scenes, or only referred to briefly.

Nine moves a lot faster than 8 & 1/2, I kept noticing that throughout the movie. Part of it is the condensation and the whittling down of the cast to fewer characters. Of course, bursting into song is also the tried and true method of advancing the plot, encouraging major character development, and letting the audience into the characters' heads -- all of which helps explicate and expedite the story.

So, I mentioned that 8 & 1/2 is my favorite movie, right? I love the intricate layers upon layers of action going on. I love the dialog and the amazing hyperbole it contains. Most of all, I love the ending - you've built up to it all along, and when it comes it's like the perfect bow on the present. Nine is like the other path diverging in the famous yellow wood - while Fellini & I take the one less traveled by, everyone else is on the one with a guard rail and signs. I didn't dislike the movie - there were some musical numbers I really liked, and some great shots - but I really felt like it was a watered-down version made for American audiences who are afraid of subtitles and just want everything spelled out for them. Bruce loved it, btw.

The Road

Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, The Road is the story of a man and his son and their struggle to survive. There has been a cataclysmic event which has sunk the Earth into conditions similar to nuclear winter. All we know about the event is that "The clocks stopped at one seventeen one morning. There was a long shear of bright light, then a series of low concussions." No one appears to have any deformities, so it doesn't seem like the event actually was nuclear, but that is really immaterial to the movie.

The man and his son are traveling south, trying to find someplace warmer, some place with food, some place safe. As they go, they encounter resistance in the forms of difficulties, obstacles, and bad people. But it's not all darkness, they have good moments along the road, too, finding a bomb shelter full of food, a house where they can bathe, a grandfatherly man who travels with them for a bit. Through it all, flashback sequences show us the time before the catastrophe, and the early days of the boy's life. Those memories give the film a bit of a time frame, the viewer knows, roughly, that the world has been in distress for the boy's entire life, which helps explain the amount of desolation and despair.

So, The Road came out in limited release back in November, it finally came to NC last week and landed in only 2 area theaters - both of them art houses. We expected good things. We didn't get them. Sure, Viggo Mortensen is a great actor, there are many other good performances in the film, the cinematographer obviously went to a lot of effort to get the stark, startling shots. But the movie is just flat, imho. So, they need to go south - why'd it take them 10 years to make up their minds to do so? What are they really going to find when they get there? Do they really think it will make a difference? And why are we supposed to care?

The movie unfolds exactly the way you'd expect it to, you really don't have to think about it. I spent most of my time wondering why nobody just went into town and knocked off a Payless store - I have about a dozen pairs of shoes in my closet right now, I gotta think they would last me 10 years (some of them already have!), I wouldn't be wearing bags on my feet like the characters were, I don't think. When you have time to think about crazy stuff like that, something is not succeeding in the film. While I suspect there is a strong message about environmental consciousness and man's inhumanity to man, it didn't translate from the book to the screen.

Also, definitely not a Moms Movie.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009!

Even though it's a rainy day in NC, the Christmas spirit is still shining. We had a wonderful morning opening presents together and chatting by phone with loved ones back in the Midwest. No matter where you are, dear readers, we hope you are spending your day surrounded by those who are dear to you, enjoying love and laughter.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


A live-action and CGI 3-D extravaganza, Avatar, is the story of disabled Marine veteran Jake Sully and how one assignment changes his life. Jake's twin brother was a scientist working on a project which combined human and alien DNA to create "avatars" which the humans could then use in the colonization of the planet Pandora. The avatars would give the humans the ability to interact with the native Na'vi population on the planet. Jake's brother dies unexpectedly before he is able to complete the project and, as his twin thus having the same DNA, Jake is offered the chance to take his brother's place.

Going in I was leery. I am not a big fan of director James Cameron, nor do I like Sigourney Weaver, who is one of the stars. The early TV commercials made this look more like a video game than a movie (there already is a game version out, btw). So, I wasn't really psyched. Well, the plot is very predictable, the acting is all right, but the visuals are what really sell the film. There are a couple of points where the 3-D effect is distracting - makes you feel like you're on one of those cutesy rides at an amusement park - but the rest of the time it's just splendid. Also, the movie is 2 hours and 40 minutes long, but does not feel like it at all. Even though you know what's going to happen, you're sufficiently engaged in the action (oh, and there are some fabulous action sequences, too!) that the time just flies by.

I hate to say it, but this is probably another movie that is not one our mothers should see. Everyone else, however, Oscar is going to be looking very hard at this contender and you need to see it on the big screen in 3-D, so get thee to a cinema!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reel Recap 2009

So, apparently I have not posted a movie review (other than Buckaroo Bonzai) since Watchmen back in March! Oy. And we've actually caught quite a few movies overall this year. So, in the interest of time, here is a brief synopsis/review of all the other films we've seen so far.

The International stars Clive Owen as an Interpol agent trying to expose the titular bank's role in backing international arms dealers. Basically, this movie falls into what is fast becoming one of our new favorite film genres - the S/He's Pretty and Stuff Blows Up genre, except that this time mostly stuff gets *shot* up, not blown up. While we really like Clive, and we had a good time watching the crazy chase scenes and stuff, mostly this isn't even a "popcorn flick." There's a big action sequence that takes place in the Guggenheim, and it really looks like the whole movie was developed around the idea of "hey, how about we have a gunfight in the Guggenheim?" The most telling thing about this film is that the next day we watched X-Files: I Want To Believe, and Bruce said that film was more realistic than The International.

Duplicity stars Julia Roberts and Clive Owen as a pair of corporate spies, working for different agencies, who hook up in a complex plan to double-cross both their bosses and end up with a big enough payoff to retire together. As you can probably guess, this movie also falls into that aforementioned genre, but it was a heck of a lot better! There are flashback sequences, from both points of view, which work to explain the backstory, and throughout the film the twists and turns of the intricate plan wind around each other so much that it is difficult to figure out what they're actually up to, and who knew what and when. But it is so well written and acted that the movie is a delight to watch and the denoument is great. Too violent a movie for our moms, but anybody else wanting a fun afternoon, rent this.

Star Trek JJ Abrams reboots the franchise magnificently in this prequel. I had my doubts going in: young Kirk and young Spock, all new CGI effects, a well-established many chances to totally blow it. Oh, but folks, I was sold and weeping before the opening credits! Okay, I did keep waiting for Zachary Quinto (Spock) to lapse into his other famous role (Sylar from Heroes) and start killing people to absorb their powers, and Simon Pegg (Scotty) was a little too comic at points, but all in all, this is a really brilliant revision. They take the obvious out for tinkering with the timeline (alternate universe), but it's well enough done not to seem hokey, IMHO. Seriously, this was a great film - another one not right for our moms, but we're looking forward to seeing how they continue the franchise revamp.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine stars Hugh Jackman and the rest of the X-Men cast in another prequel attempting to refresh a franchise. Sadly, this does not succeed as well Star Trek. The movie tells the story of how Logan came to be the mutant Wolverine. It also has him crossing paths with my favorite X-Man - Gambit - in New Orleans back in the day. Unfortunately, the story is hokey and campy and the acting mostly matches - lots of scenery chewing! Liev Schreiber as Sabertooth is probably the best part, actually, he's got great lines and delivers them well. Of course, Hugh is also super hot. Other than that, not the worst comic book movie I've seen....

Angels & Demons Tom Hanks returns as Professor Robert Langdon, the expert on early Christian symbolism. This time the Vatican calls for his help when a group suspected of being the infamous Illuminati captures four cardinals during the conclave assembling to elect a new pope. As before, Professor Langdon, aided by a beautiful woman, has to decipher clues and codes from ancient manuscripts to solve the riddle before a deadline is reached - in this case, the death of the kidnapped cardinals. Maybe it was the fact that I hadn't read the book first, but I actually enjoyed this one more than The DaVinci Code. I did not figure it out before it ended, and I liked seeing places in Rome, which I haven't visited in nearly 20 years. That said, it was still a rather basic movie. The National Treasure series is probably more fun, although Angels & Demons was enjoyable.

Sunshine Cleaning stars Amy Adams as Rose, a single mother who supports her young son and aging father by working as a Merry Maid-type contract household cleaner. She's dating her high school sweetheart, who is married to someone else. He's a police detective and, after going on a job, suggests to Rose that she become a crime scene cleaner because they make more money. At first, she's offended, but circumstances arise and Rose decides to give it a go. She partners with her sister, Norah, and they create their own business. This is a great little character-driven film! It's got some gross points, as the subject matter would indicate, but overall it is just a well-written, well-acted, slice-of-life movie, the kind you're just glad you found at the cinema. Probably not safe for moms, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Oscar give this little gem some attention.

Up This animated film tells the story of Carl and Ellie. They meet as children when they are both fans of arctic explorer Charles Muntz, but they soon discover other common bonds. They grow up as best friends, get married, and live happily ever after. Until, as an old woman, Ellie becomes sick and dies. Alone, Carl is faced with the city wanting to tear down his house to build a mall, and trying to move him into a retirement community. He decides to finally fulfill his and Ellie's dream of traveling where their explorer idol had gone. He attaches helium balloons to his house and lifts it right off the foundations, steering it towards South America. Adventures ensue. Folks, this movie is so much more than the synopsis, more than the commercials advertised, it is just awesome. Don't go expecting a "kiddie movie" or thinking that, because it's made by Pixar, it's going to be just cutesy, but do see it. This is one of the best movies of the year, and quite likely the Best Animated Feature winner come February.

Public Enemies stars Johnny Depp as John Dillinger during the last years of his life. As the country is struggling to come out of the Great Depression, the government is seeking strengthen its position as protector and is developing the FDIC and the FBI. Dillinger's path obviously crosses these nascent organizations. Filmed on location in Chicago and environs, among other locales, and featuring a pretty impressive cast in addition to Johnny, this movie was on my radar for months! It's pretty, it's well acted overall, it's got a fascinating story...but, it's not all that and a bag of chips, sadly. They compress and alter the history to fit in a feature film length, some of the acting is terrible, it really just goes out with a fizzle - kind of like Fourth of July fireworks that you think are going to blossom into big designs in the sky, but instead end up just doing little poofs of color. Disappointing.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the screen version of Book 6 of the series. In this installment, Lord Voldemort has taken flesh, assembled his henchmen, and begun his attack on both the muggle and the wizarding worlds. Meanwhile, at Hogwarts under intense security measures, school is continuing and Harry has picked up an old copy of the potions textbook which has helpful notes in the margins. At the same time, Professor Dumbledore has discovered that Voldemort created Horcruxes, items of great magical power as they possess a portion of the creating wizard's soul; as long as one of these items survives the wizard, s/he can be resurrected. Dumbledore enlists Harry's aid in finding and destroying these items. Harry, however, is still a typical 16 year-old boy, and has just realized he is in love with Ron's sister, Jinny, who has loved him from the start. A lot of goings-on during a time of war! Too much, in fact, to fit into a 2 & 1/2 hour movie. That's the biggest problem with the film, it becomes really obvious where they've begun to quickly condense the story, especially if you've read the book. Also, they alter a couple of important plot points that will come up again in Book 7, so it will be interesting to see how they account for those changes. All in all, an okay film, but the book was better.

The Taking of Pelham 123 is a remake of the 1974 movie of the same name. This time starring Denzel Washington as the subway dispatcher and John Travolta as the leader of the group hijacking the titular train. Demands are made and a deadline is set, if it is not met, Travolta and his men will begin killing passengers on the train. Behind the scenes, a desperate race is going on as both men attempt to get information they can use as leverage against the other - Washington in hopes of diffusing the situation, Travolta as a guarantee against his demands and his future freedom. It's your basic thriller, but it is well done, intriguing, and lots of fun.

District 9 Aliens arrive in a spaceship hovering over South Africa in 1982. 28 years later they are living in refugee camps, which are barely more than militarized ghettos, they have no rights and are living in squalor. The situation has deteriorated sufficiently that a large corporation is enlisted to evict them and "clean up the mess." What follows is not what you expect. The movie is shot documentary style and has a very realistic feel to it. The acting is very good, the story takes some unexpected turns. This is a movie that it is better if you don't know too much going in, just know that it is great. Sorry, moms, definitely not one for you, however.

Where the Wild Things Are is the story of how young Max escapes his day-to-day life, where he feels unappreciated, and finds the world Where The Wild Things Are. In order to bring the children's book to the big screen, they had to add a lot of story to fill time, but they did a good job of dovetailing it into the story of the book. The film is a visual masterpiece with amazing costuming and effects that made it worth seeing in the theater. The boy cast as Max does a great job - my favorite part was how they made his knitted winter hat in the "real world" sequence have points like his monster pajama ears! The rest of the cast is good, it was a little odd hearing familiar voices come out of the Wild Things characters, though. The director made a conscious choice to shoot the film as if you're seeing through the eyes of a child - there is a lot of hand-held camera work, and the angles are shot low to high, it can get a little "Blair Witch" at times, in fact. Go into it with the nostalgia you have from the book, and a desire to see amazing visual realization and effects, and you'll enjoy it.

Rifftrax: Plan 9 From Outer Space This was a special opportunity we just couldn't pass up! Rifftrax is a group comprised of folks originally part of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the guys who made fun of lousy movies on Saturday morning cable-access TV. Plan 9 From Outer Space is purported to be the worst sci-fi film of all time...and it is pretty bad. Aliens come to Earth and create zombies and vampires from our dead to prevent us from making a solar-powered bomb. Bela Lugosi, who is one of the leads, died during the filming and director Ed Wood used the same clips of him over and over in the final film, along with getting his doctor (who looked nothing like Lugosi) to play him in the rest of his scenes. It just gets worse from there. Now, add in the guys who took snarkiness to a new level when it comes to trash-talking movies, and you've got a gold mine! The best part? It was a live, nationwide simulcast with the cast on stage in Nashville and uplinked to select theaters across the country! Hilarity so totally ensued. Just don't drink your entire large super soda before the film!

The Twilight Saga: New Moon is the sequel to the wildly popular teen vampire flick Twilight. Bella and Edward are still young and in love. As they attempt to figure their relationship out, reality intrudes - Bella is mortal, and tasty, and not all of Edward's family can control their thirst for blood. Instead, the entire clan leaves town, leaving Bella brokenhearted. In the meantime, the vampire bounty hunter returns for her, and in so doing triggers Bella's childhood friend, Jacob, to turn into a werewolf. Jacob is also in love with Bella and has been using the opportunity of Edward's absence to try and win her, an attempt he abandons when he becomes a lycan. Which leaves Bella, still mourning Edward's departure, now feeling completely alone. Worry not, it all ends well, although the characters do have a lot of hoops to jump through to get there. This film was a lot of fun, I had heard that it was better than the first, and it may have been. We had a good time, despite the Gaggle of Giggling Girls sitting down front cooing every time one of the favorites came on screen. Sometimes, a good teen vampire/werewolf flick is just what you're in the mood for!

And now it's December and lots of movies are beginning to come out in anticipation of Oscar nods. I think I'll be spending a bunch of my holiday vacation time in the cinema.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Waiting Room

The woman across from me has fabulous sandals.
The kind with those metal discs
- which are supposed to represent antique coins -
and some shiny beads interspersed among them.
Even if I weren't "into" shoes, I'd be staring at them,
because looking any higher in the tiny optometrist's office is entirely too painful
with my eyes as big as a cat's, reacting to every nuance of sunlight.
But it's all right, because I'm fascinated by the shoes.
Her legs are crossed and the foot on the floor is so perfectly fit into the sandal -
I can see why she liked them.
The other sandal dangles carelessly off the foot in the air.
It looks awkward, half-forgotten, and makes me think of other shoes -
probably laying strewn about her closet or bedroom floor -
and I wonder what made her choose the sandals today -
because they're pretty? because it's hot outside? because they were near the door?
What insight would a glimpse at my shoes provide her?

Monday, October 26, 2009


Whenever people ask me (or I get one of those "getting to know you" e-surveys) I say that my favorite season is Spring. And it is. The weather is usually mild and pleasant, I love to see all the flowers that bloom, it starts staying light longer, and my birthday is in the spring.

But Fall is a close second and constantly makes a play for my affection. The weather could usually be better (cold, windy, rain), but the colors are marvelous! Just this past weekend the trees popped into full brilliance with some amazing reds and oranges. The weather here in NC hasn't been all that bad either, actually. And even in Ohio there is something about a crisp afternoon/evening and the smell of wood smoke in the air and maybe some church bells tolling in the distance....

Hmm, I think I really am Seasonally Affected. :-)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Drought vs H1N1

2007 was a really rough year in NC. We experienced unprecedented drought conditions. I can never remember which is actually worse - Severe Drought or Extreme Drought - so I think I'll just refer to the situation as Uber Drought. Anyway, throughout the summer many municipalities started setting water restrictions - only water your lawns every other day, only wash your cars once a month, etc.. One of the best indicators of the severity (uberness) of the drought was that it simply did not rain from the end of September until the day after Christmas. Really. Three straight months, no rain.

In some ways, we were fortunate at that time. We were living in a duplex which happened to be on a private well. So, city/county restrictions did not apply to us because we weren't on their water systems. On the other hand, we were also living on a much more limited supply of water because we weren't on the city system. While we never watered the lawn (we were renting, our landlord handled all that) and we rarely washed our car, we still had normal needs for water.

We started being stringent with our conservation. We bought big packs of paper plates and cups and those aluminum baking pans at Sam's Club. (We still used regular silverware - I can't cut anything with plastic knives, they just don't work!) We bought gallon jugs of drinking water at the grocery store - I would microwave a mugful to make tea in the mornings. I got rather creative about washing what dishes we did use - I would fill the tea kettle and boil it, then pour that into the sink with the dishes, repeating as many times as need to cover the dishes. We had installed a water-conserving shower-head when we moved in, so we actually started using it properly - cutting the water off while lathering and only turning it on again to wet or rinse. We started taking our laundry to the laundromat (we even bought extra undies so we could go longer between trips).

Despite all those efforts, we still tapped the well in early December 2007. For a while thereafter, sediment was visible in the water. I can't begin to tell you how happy we were to see rain as the year ended.

Water was one of the reasons that we moved last summer, actually. While North Carolina is no longer in a state of Uber Drought, it is still nice to be on city water and not have to worry about tapping a well if things get bad again. Nonetheless, I've held onto several of the habits I got into during our extreme conservation mode. I think they're good ideas as far as being environmentally aware. OK, I have a dishwasher now, so I don't have to boil water in the tea kettle anymore, and I do tend to let the water run while I am showering again (but I take lots faster showers now than I used to!), but I am still trying to be water-conscious.

This is where H1N1 comes into play. Ever since the drought, I wash my hands by getting them quickly wet, then turning the water off while I lather, then back on again for a quick rinse. And I use cold water. Well, the best way to protect yourself against a possible pandemic is to wash your hands, for 30 seconds, in hot water (which you have to run for at least 30 seconds beforehand to get it hot enough in the first place). So, what do we do? Protect ourselves or the Earth?

I vote for Earth. Just start packing a lot of hand-sanitizer and get your flu shots!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai

Just over 19 years ago, Bruce and I met at Steve's and Pamela's wedding reception. Most of you already know the story - he was the best man (and darned cute in his tux!) and I was my friend Meredith's guest because she was dating Pamela's brother and he was already in the wedding party - but you probably didn't know this little bit of what happened next.

During the conversation at the reception, it came up that Bruce had never seen Buckaroo Banzai. To which Meredith and I replied, "come on!" And, as soon as it was acceptable etiquette to leave the reception, we all went over to Meredith's house and watched the movie on tape. I think most of you also know that from that first meeting on Bruce and I were pretty much inseparable. We met on September 1st, 1990 and began dating on September 2nd.

Anyway, yesterday, I was reading the local movie listings online and saw that Buckaroo was playing in a special one-night showing at a local art house cinema! I instant messaged Bruce who replied, "Wasn't that the first movie we ever saw together?" From there, we decided that it would be a darned romantic way to spend the evening, so I skipped choir practice and we went to the movies!

Such fun!! The theater was pretty full. Most of the people there had seen the movie before, but a few (like the lady in front of us) hadn't. This cinema does a series called Cool Classics where they've been showing a classic movie every month over the summer (too bad I missed Labyrinth last month!). When we walked in they were actually playing the soundtrack from Buckaroo as the in-house music! Even more fun, they ran period previews before the film! We saw the trailers for War Games, Grandview USA, and Solarbabies. Ah, 80's cinema.... (Everyone in the theater had a moment of sighing, tributary silence during the preview for Grandview USA when Patrick Swayze came on the screen.)

Then it was time for Buckaroo Banzai...born of an American mother and a Japanese father...a brilliant neurosurgeon and rock star.... Why is there a watermelon there? ... Where are we going? Planet 10! When? Real soon!

Such a fun, fun night! :-)

Monday, August 31, 2009

August Recap

So, it's been a pretty full summer, but I still can't believe it's almost fall!

August held some great moments this year. At the beginning of the month I flew up to Grand Rapids, MI to get together with my K College buddies. We used to celebrate our birthdays together when we were in school and, now that we're marking our 40's, we decided it was time to do so again! Mitch hosted the gang at his beautiful house and the rains let up long enough for us to have a delightful afternoon on the beach at Lake Michigan followed by a wonderful evening on the porch back at Mitch's.

Of course, Bruce and I also marked our 17th wedding anniversary this month! A delightful milestone which included a surprise guest appearance by our friends Kevin and Raechel as they stopped off on their way home from Arkansas.

And we rolled up characters to begin a new D&D campaign later this fall - Bruce will be back at the helm of this adventure, I will once again be playing an Elf Ranger.

So, good times had with more to come!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today we marked our 17th wedding anniversary! In some ways, it is really hard to believe that it's been that long (it feels like yesterday!) in others it seems like we've always been together. :-)

Despite some not-so-pleasant weather -- muggy temps and on-again/off-again storms -- we've had a nice day. Kevin and Raechel spent last night here on their way home from Arkansas, so we spent the morning visiting with them before they got on the road. We ran some errands and included a little extra playtime while doing them (bought imported chocolate!), despite the rain. We topped off the evening with our traditional steak dinner out.

Must take a moment here to recommend the Capital City Chop House - yummy! We made a reservation and informed them that we were celebrating our anniversary. When we got there, our waiter brought us a complimentary split of champagne to celebrate! Throughout the meal the service was fabulous. In addition, the food was pretty great! The tenderloin tips appetizer was fantastic, as was the tomato and mozzarella salad (recommended by our waiter). For dinner, Bruce had the strip steak -- which was good -- and I had the filet mignon -- which was excellent. We both had the asparagus with bernaise sauce, which was great. And we did a little experiment and concluded that bernaise sauce can indeed make anything taste better (it was amazing on the steak as well as the veggies).

Seventeen years. Hard to believe, but all together awesome. Here's to the next 17, and the 17 after that, and....

Friday, July 31, 2009

July Recap

My friend Kevin does these monthly update posts on his blog. The way life has seemed to become so overwhelmingly busy of late, I'm beginning to think he's on to something!

So, the month of July featured two major highlights for Chez Loebrich South. The first, obviously, was Suzanne's and Tim's wedding (and the visit home which encompassed it). The second was my 6th year hosting a Kalamazoo College student externship. The two events even dovetailed nicely, as you'll see.

We drove up to Ohio on June 26th and spent the weekend in Columbus with Debbe, Duncan, and Derek. Mom and Dad Loebrich were there, too. We had a delightful day at the Origins International Gaming Fair, and also enjoyed a wonderful afternoon visit with Steve and Pamela and Alex. Of course, we spent a great deal of time playing with our dear nephew, too! From there it was on to Toledo where we got to see Dad's and Cindy's fabulous remodeling job, spend some more quality time with Mom and Dad Loebrich, and visit Mom Stahl and Larry in Ann Arbor before the Wedding Stuff truly began.

Suzanne's and Tim's wedding (as previously described) was lovely! In the days leading up to the Big Day we did some fun family/girly stuff including time at the salon and trips up to Aunt Karen's and Uncle Chris' to help set up. The rehearsal dinner was a lot of fun - even though we had to learn a special dance - and the wedding itself was just perfect.

The day after the wedding, we drove into Ann Arbor to meet my new student - Dahlia. She and her mom had driven from Kalamazoo (90mins away) to meet us at the mall. We had a yummy lunch and a good visit before getting on the road home. Debbe and Duncan graciously agreed to be our "midway point" on the way home, too, so Dahlia got to meet Derek - who immediately wanted her to join in our Batman and Handy Manny game!

We made it safely back to NC and Dahlia began work at the station. She was an editing whiz which was a huge help to me as I had had a large archival editing process backlogging on my desk for months. In addition, she went out on two shoots, ran camera for a couple live broadcasts, and helped work on editing for the daily broadcast. Outside of work we took her to the usual touristy spots - Duke University and Gardens, UNC campus and Chapel Hill, Foster's Market, etc. - went out for some yummy dinners, and even took in a free outdoor concert one evening. She is now in Ecuador for her Junior Term Abroad.

Busy month. And more of those ahead. I tell you, my friend Kevin is on to something with these synopsis posts! Kevin, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. :-)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Recycling Woes

When gas prices got really ridiculous last summer, we decided to move closer to work. We found a really nice apartment which we dearly love. It has a lot of amenities that our previous home - while adorable and in a great neighborhood - did not. The one thing our complex does not have, however, is on-site recycling.

Let me amend that statement. They do recycle cardboard - specifically boxes such as moving or shipping cartons. That's it. Sometime before we moved in, there was a more robust recycling program on-site. Unfortunately, so many of the residents violated the regulations by not only not sorting their recyclables, but (grosser!) not even separating their trash from their recyclables, that the provider canceled the contract. As was their right.

This was not really a big deal because, a few weeks after we moved in, we discovered that there was a county recycling drop-off site just up the street from the grocery store we frequent. So, we bought these great Rubbermaid bins with lids that seal shut and every other week we took our recycling with us on our usual grocery run. In fact, we last did that on Sunday, July 12th.

In a most amazingly bad fluke of timing, Durham's county recycling program shut down all but the main drop-off site on Monday the 13th. With no posted notice that we saw. We didn't find out until we went there today...and the hoppers were just gone. There was still no sign, by the way, we had to look it up online just so we could figure out where to take the stuff. (Oh, yes, I was quoting Arlo as we drove off looking for somewhere else to put the recycling!)

So, now, it turns out that we can only take our recycling to the main center on the north side of town. It is a very nice facility - huge! - we've been there before because that was the only place you could take stuff like old antifreeze. The people who work there are all super helpful, which is good because there are multiple buildings and figuring out which one takes your stuff is tricky, but their hours are darned inconvenient if you, say, work for a living. Their only weekend hours are Saturdays from 7:30am till Noon. Saturday has traditionally been my only morning to sleep in, it's also when I talk to my mom.

So, I guess we're going to have to plan to get up early every other week so we can hike over to the recycling center. Or, go to Orange County where we can drop stuff off at Southern Season and then pop in to buy some imported chocolate. Nice perk, but I really wish folks could just figure out how to sort their stuff so this kind of thing wouldn't happen.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hilton Head Flashback

You probably guessed, from the previous post, that we recently took a trip up to the Midwest. Well, we also traveled this spring and I somehow did not get around to posting about it! So, before recapping our July trip, return with me now to yesteryear...or, at least, May....

The Annual Loebrich Family Vacation spanned the last week of April and the first week of May. Debbe and Derek flew into Durham a few days early and enjoyed spending time with Uncle Bruce at the Museum of Life and Science - their playground is awesome! Mom and Dad Loebrich drove down and joined the party on Saturday. On Sunday, the four of them headed on to Hilton Head where the weather was lovely.

Bruce and I joined them for the second week in the timeshare - which also happened to include my birthday. I got a pleasant surprise upon our arrival, Derek had chosen a balloon for me, even though it wasn't my birthday yet. It's even more impressive when you know that Derek is 3 and picked the balloon himself from among all the ones in the store, Dad just told him we needed a birthday balloon and he chose it (it says "happy birthday" on it and was amid many graduation-themed balloons in the display). It is still in my apartment, by the way, and has only recently lost enough helium to stop floating.

Anyway, we spent our time in SC enjoying the wonderful swimming pool by the condo and the gorgeous weather on the beach. The nearby pool had an added bonus - the maintenance folks were repairing the accompanying hot tob and had drained it into the pool, so the water temperature in the pool was a balmy 85, which was just perfect at 9am! Derek loves to run and play on the beach and in the ocean, and he is fearless, we "old fogeys" often had a hard time keeping up with him! I got some fabulous pictures of the family as we relaxed and enjoyed our time together.

On my actual birthday we had a quiet day capped off with presents, family dinner, cake, and a thunderstorm that was pretty to watch. Besides celebrating birthdays and swimming, we took in our usual favorite activities - shopping at the outlet mall, tooling about downtown Hilton Head, and, of course, I bought fudge!

Bruce and I returned a day early because I had committments at church. Then, on Sunday evening, the rest of the family returned to Durham. Cousin Amy was able to come over and join us for dinner that night, which was also nice. Mom and Dad headed back to Ohio on Monday while Bruce took Debbe and Derek to a different hands-on museum to wrap up their time in NC.

Some good quality family time filled with fun and R&R, to be sure!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Congratulations & Best Wishes, Suzanne & Tim!

It was a beautiful day in Onsted, Michigan as Katy's sister, Suzanne, and her beloved, Tim, were united in marriage. The weather was perfect for the gorgeous outdoor setting - special thanks to Aunt Karen and Uncle Chris for opening their home and yard for the Big Day! - despite forecasts which predicted a slight chance of rain, the clouds parted and the sun came out, temperatures were in the low 80's, and there was a gentle breeze off the lake. The gathered family and friends witnessed a very personal ceremony filled with laughter and tears, and followed by a delightful reception that was much more of a party than a formal event. Great food and great fun capped off a perfect day celebrating the wedding of two people very much in love.

Katy was delighted to stand up as a bridesmaid and Bruce graciously did whatever was necessary (his biggest task was transporting The Dress to Aunt Karen's house!) to help out. We were both just thrilled to be there and to participate in Suzi's and Tim's special day. Congratulations, guys, we love you both!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

All Things Bears

In the summer of 2000, my friend Phyllis and I attended the Enesco Regional Convention in Charlotte. If you don't know, Enesco is the company behind many of the collectible items (Boyds Bears, Cherished Teddies, etc.) which you can find in the greeting cards stores and gift shops at your local mall. Anyway, Phyllis was big into collecting Cherished Teddy figurines at the time, and I collect stuffed animals and dolls, so we used to spend a lot of time at a local collectibles store. Then Phyllis invited me to go to this convention, and the staff of our local store had a group going as well, so we hooked up with them when we got there. It was an all-day event and was a lot of fun.

Among our group were some other ladies from the Raleigh area - Alice and Cheryl. We sort of knew them from the store where we all shopped, so we sat with them at meals. As we got to talking, they brought up this club they were in back home - the Southern Paws Teddy Bear Collectors Club. The club got together every other month to appreciate bears with themed parties and raise money for charity. Alice and Cheryl invited us to come to their next meeting and think about joining the club. Phyllis joined that fall, and I followed a few months after.

Over the years we had many wonderful gatherings full of fun and laughter. Themes ranged from Mardi Gras to Teddy Bear Picnic to Back to School and, of course, Christmas. There was always a smorgasbord of yumminess, and usually contests or raffles for prizes. The charities we supported ranged from humane animal shelters to the ASPCA, among others, before we turned our focus on supporting one of our own - Cheryl, who was battling cancer. Sure, the club was about bears, but mostly it was about fellowship - when we got together, we spent more time talking and enjoying each other's company than we did focusing on bears specifically.

As time went by, some of the women left the club for various reasons - new job, a move, what have you. We had trouble recruiting new members, too. Our local collectible store had closed when the family moved on to other things, so we didn't really have a logical place to advertise the club. Then, as it often does, Life began intruding on the rest of the local members. What had been a very regularly structured meeting schedule began to shift to fit around the conflicts that can arise.

We were down to about 5 regular local members, with a few additional members who had moved away who would come back to one or two gatherings, when things started to get really difficult. Not the people, the things. In 2006 we barely managed to have two meetings. I missed the February one because of bad weather, I didn't feel it was safe to drive. The spring meeting got moved to mid-summer when the hostess had a family conflict. The fall meeting never actually happened. These were really the big indicators that the club was struggling. Looking back on it, I can see small ones before this time, but 2006 was when it became very evident. By Christmas of that year, the club officers had decided to disband.

Phyllis and I had both decided that we were going to leave the club at the end of the year anyway. I suspect that our decision had a large impact on the officers' choosing to end the club, and I regret that. I had chosen to leave because I was having greater and greater difficulty finding the time to attend meetings (when we had them) and to prepare for them (making themed gifts, creating entries for the contests, having any money to enter the raffles, etc.) as my work-life became busier and busier.

So the club broke up. All the money remaining in the treasury went to Cheryl as she continued in her battle with cancer. I think there were some bad feelings and misconceptions in the dissolution. I regret that, too. I was very fond of the ladies and really enjoyed our times together. It was very sad that circumstances brought us to such an end. I still think of the ladies with great affection and hope they are doing well. Just how life unfolds, I guess. Life, like love, bears all things.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

There Ought To Be A Word For That...

The church up the street from our apartment complex has one of those message boards out front - the kind with the removable letters so you can change the text on it to say different things at different times. Usually, it says some sort of inspirational slogan on one side and then has informative stuff (like when the congregational pancake breakfast is) on the other.

Back in December, it said: Prelude to Christmas - Dec. 7, 14 & 21. Bruce and I looked at each other and he said, "A Prelude to Christmas, you know, there ought to be a word for that." I agreed with, "Yeah, something that means 'waiting' and 'pensive anticipation.'" We found this very funny.

Now the sign says: 40 Days of Love, March 1 - April 9.

You know, there ought to be a word for that....

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Have you ever experienced good ergonomics? I am not referring to lumbar pillows, arch supports, curved keyboards, or the like. I'm talking about those moments, large or small, when you are in perfect harmony with your environment. My personal favorite type of ergonomic harmony is when I have a bunch of errands to run on my day off and I can organize them in such a way that I go from one to the other efficiently, getting everything done that I need to in as smooth a manner as possible.

But I've been experiencing a lot of good ergonomics of late! For instance, cooking is a dream since our move last summer. It's just a delight to move about in harmony with my kitchen. Also, I have one day a week at work when I don't usually have any projects but my own to complete and I can usually set up my computer in an edit suite and plow through several tasks at once at a good clip. Then, the other day, I was driving home and I needed to pull up my socks. I had no trouble manipulating the brake pedal, switching feet as I adjusted the offending socks, and completing the whole maneuver before the light changed. Last night, I was watching a really good TV show while organizing some files in my sunroom, which is just off the living room. It was exceedingly easy, and comfortable, to stretch out on the floor while watching the show and then just turn to sort the files.

Ergonomic harmony makes me happy. Look around you. Do you have moments like these?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Who Watches the Watchmen?

When I was a freshman at Kalamazoo College I became acquainted with a guy who was a year or two ahead of me at school. I don't remember how we met, and I *think* his name was Eric, but what I do remember is that he was a fellow comic book geek...and he introduced me to Watchmen. This was back in 1986/87, well before the series became a trade paperback or hard-bound "Absolute" collection. Several issues were already out when I first met up with Eric, and thereafter I would go over to his dorm room to read the new ones as they came out.

The series is ground-breaking, thought-provoking, mind-bending, and just all around brilliant. Like the commercials say, it's "the most celebrated graphic novel of all time." Watchmen is written by Alan Moore, who is a prolific author of some of the best known graphic novels out there. Watchmen is definitely top of the heap. I loved it from the get-go, but didn't own my own copy until after Bruce and I were married (thank you, Santa!).

Like all the other uber comic geeks out there, I have been both anticipating and dreading a film adaptation for years. The story is so intricate - and gets so cerebral - that translating it to film seemed really tricky, and yet I could think of little I'd enjoy more than seeing the story on the big screen. When I saw the first trailer for Watchmen (attached to Bond last fall) I wept in the theater - it was so gorgeous and so well realized. Since then, I've followed various tidbits on the internet, seen trailers and still shots, and read a few choice blogs from folks who got to see sneaks. Everything looked good.

Last Friday, Bruce and I went to the 7pm showing on Opening Day. O M G.

It was everything I'd hoped for and more. Sure, the acting is not Shakespeare on Broadway quality, sure the story is just as heady and wordy and difficult as the comic, but DANG folks! It is a true and brilliant adaptation. It is the comic book on film. It was amazingly, awesomely, fantastic and I just want to go see it again...and again...and...oh, just watch for the DVD to get added to my Amazon list, okay?

Oh, and if anyone had a pool going, it was during The Comedian's funeral that I started to cry in sheer, rapt joy at the brilliance that is Watchmen.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

March Comes In Like a Lion

Since it was all over the national news, you've probably heard (if you don't also already live here) that the Southeast got hit with some wintry weather to begin the month of March. Chez Loebrich South weathered the storm (pun intended!) with no problems.

It was pretty weird, though. Last Friday we hit 70 degrees with gorgeous sunshine. Then, on Saturday, it rained heavily all day and we struggled to get into the 50's -- plus there was fog so visibility while driving was sucky. Sunday the big front really began to pass over. It rained all day -- lightly for a bit, then really heavily for quite some time -- there were only one or two lulls in the storm during the day. We went out early for our Weekly Grocery Shop and were surprised to find only moderate crowds and ample foodstuffs at the store --usually just the threat of "weather" means a run on staple supplies.

Anyway, the big issue was the temperature. The high on Sunday was 36 and as the sun set the temps fell. By mid-evening it was snowing in Charlotte (2 and a half hours west of us) in big, fat flakes. Around 10, it began snowing in the Triangle. Monday morning, we woke up to 3 inches on the ground and a forecast high of 33...with wind. Nonetheless, after 20 minutes I had the car cleaned off (and had captured a few good photos of the snow!) and headed into work. The grounds at the station were gorgeous -- looked like a Currier and Ives Christmas card!

To be on the safe side, the producers decided we should record our program early so that folks could head home before the cold overnight temps (low of 16 last night!) made for black ice. Today it is sunny and cool, but most of the snow has melted and there are only patches of ice here and there where slush froze overnight. We're supposed to get back up to 70 by Saturday.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscars 2009

For those of you interested, we're batting about average at Chez Loebrich South with about 75% correctly guessed. Thank you Academy, it was a great show, good night!

Best Picture - Slumdog Millionaire
Yes! Whew! I was still scared of a split.

Hey, Lucy, I miss you! Wish you were here so we could compare notes over coffee in the newsroom tomorrow!

Best Actor - Sean Penn, Milk

Wow! The Academy hates him, he's too much of a "troublemaker" for them. His performance was brilliant, his message necessary, and, as surprised as I am, I am completely thrilled.

So why didn't they do this Legends presentation with Best Director? I can list a bunch of powerhouse folks I'd have loved to have seen up there....

Best Actress - Kate Winslet, The Reader

Yes! This was a splendid performance in a powerful movie.

Sophia Loren is still danged gorgeous! Classy.

Best Director - Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Yes! I was so scared this wouldn't happen. I'm still scared there's gonna be a split....

Classy. Bravo, bravissimo.

OK, if she's gonna sing, I'll let it go...'caue it's classy.

Oh, man! My dear Queen Latifah gets stuck introducing the Death Reel?

Bruce has been following the stats on Awards Daily for weeks. He's totally into handicapping the awards. He's so cute.

Foreign Language Film - Departures
Well, this is unexpected! We hadn't actually managed to see any of the nominees this year, but we were expecting Waltz With Bashir -- which looks like a brilliantly animated movie -- to take this one.

Original Song - "Jai Ho" Slumdog Millionaire

Well, I think I owe my coworker Dave a cookie. I was sure Slumdog was going to split the vote with two songs nominated in this category. Besides, so often the Original Song winner comes from the Best Animated Feature, especially if it's Disney or Pixar. Oh well, I don't mind. Slumdog was great fun and the song is pretty cool, too.

Wow! I am loving the Original Song performances! You know, overall the production values on this Oscar broadcast have been superb.

Original Score - Slumdog Millionaire
Wow. I actually didn't expect this one to go this way. Don't get me wrong, I'm rooting for Slumdog, but I love Danny Elfman...maybe he'll make another movie with Tim Burton and Johnny Depp...oh, the trifecta!

Film Editing - Slumdog Millionaire
Bruce is concerned that Slumdog won't sweep because it lost Sound Editing to The Dark Knight. :-(

Sound Mixing - Slumdog Millionaire
Bruce is funny. He's started saying, "anything but Benjamin Button." Sounds like me the year Titanic was up for everything. :-)

Sound Editing - The Dark Knight
Yay! This was a great movie, definitely in my top 5 this year, glad to see it winning more than just the expected.

Visual Effects - Benjamin Button

This is a bummer, actually. The Dark Knight and Iron Man were up in this, too. Another category full of deserving nominees. Wish I'd liked Benjamin Button more.

I love Will Smith! Too bad he didn't have a chance to write and perform a rap number for the Oscars!

OK, that's going to be one of the images in the paper tomorrow -- Philippe Petit balancing the Oscar on his chin!

Supporting Actor - Heath Ledger

Didn't we tell you this was a lock? It was also one of the most brilliant performances of the year, heartily deserving of a nomination and an award. It's really awful that the ending wasn't as happy as we'd all have liked it to be.

OK, I'm loving this, but where's my girlfriend Queen Latifah?

Hmm, I've got a great idea for the next X-Men movie (after the one this May)...anybody else see a remake of, say, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers cast with the students of Professor X's school? Or, maybe, as they're doing now, Grease.... :-)

Cinematography - Slumdog Millionaire


Does anybody know if Cate Blanchett actually did her own dancing in Benjamin Button? I tried to figure that out on IMdB, but couldn't.

Makeup - Benjamin Button

Well, you know, prosthetic aging makeup is usually an Academy shoe-in. Actually, this seemed like the toughest category to me with Dark Knight and Hellboy II as the other nominees.

Not to speak too soon, but is anybody else impressed with clip at which this broadcast is progressing?

Costume Design - The Duchess
Well, duh. It's a costume drama, and a darn pretty one at that.

Art Direction - Benjamin Button

Wow. Has the sweep begun? (I hope not...although it was a pretty movie.)

That was too cute -- the Japanese man who won for Animated Short saying "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto" :-)

Animated Feature - Wall-E
Well, duh. I realized that I hadn't listed this in our predictions below, but, well..duh. (Bolt was cute, too, though.)

Adapted Screenplay - Slumdog Millionaire
Yay! Has the sweep begun?

Original Screenplay - Milk

This was a surprise. It was a great movie, as I said before it's the right story at the right time, I just wasn't expecting it to win screenplay.

UPDATE 8:53pm: OK, this screenplay intro is hilarious!

Supporting Actress - Penelope Cruz

Yay! We called this one and we're glad it went this way because she really was good. Also, we're liking this having the past winners announce the awards. That was really touching. Looking forward to seeing how the rest of them play out.

UPDATE 8:33pm: Yay! Welcome back, Opening Musical Number! Nobody could've done it better than Handsome Hugh!

UPDATE 8:27pm: So, do you suppose Lou Horvitz is going to win another Emmy for directing the Oscars? Looks like they've got a pretty ambitious show planned. Stay tuned!

UPDATE 8:20pm: That was the best intro to the Price Waterhouse guys I've ever seen!! Plus I love the fashion commentary about what they're wearing! Yay, Price Waterhouse and the winning envelopes!

UPDATE 8:10pm: That is SO cool that they've got the ENTIRE CAST of Slumdog! Guess it's not like graduation where you only get like 4 tickets!

UPDATE 8:02pm: So, now it's onto ABC's coverage. Hey, Wayne -- I've got my popcorn and "E's and 3's"!

UPDATE 7:58pm: I love Robert Downey, Jr. I haven't seen Tropic Thunder, but I have always liked him as an actor. Did you see Iron Man? He literally rocked in that -- although Chaplin remains my favorite role from him. Ooh, he says they're working on a sequel to Iron Man. As a Marvel girl, I appreciate that, too.

UPDATE 7:55pm: Did I miss my boyfriend Johnny? I haven't seen him up the hotness factor yet....

UPDATE 7:38pm: So who had TOTALLY AMAZINGLY BURNING HOT in the pool for how Brad and Angelina would look? Because you were SO right - whoa!

UPDATE 7:36pm: I would be remiss if I did not mention how much I also adore Queen Latifah - so gorgeous and so talented and so awesomely cool! Can't wait to hear her sing later.

UPDATE 7:34pm: I am watching Ron Howard be interviewed right now. He has been in my Top 10 Favorite Directors for years, and not just because he looks a little like my dad. :-)

The stars are arriving on Red Carpet Way, the crazy "fluff packages" and interviews are all over E! Entertainment Television, we're having our traditional steak and Coppola wine with popcorn and M&M's waiting in the kitchen, it's the big night at Chez Loebrich South -- Happy Oscars!


Best Picture: Bruce - Slumdog Millionaire, Katy - Slumdog Millionaire, but I'd be happy if Milk won, too, just so long as Benjamin Button doesn't.

Best Director: Bruce - Danny Boyle (Slumdog), Katy - Danny Boyle (Slumdog), but I'd be happy if Dad's "twin brother" Ron Howard won, too.

Best Actor: Bruce - Mickey Rourke, Katy - Mickey Rourke

Best Actress: Bruce - Kate Winslet (The Reader), but he'd love it if Anne Hathaway won, Katy - Kate Winslet, but I could see Meryl Streep pulling it out, too.

Best Supporting Actor: Bruce - Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight), Katy - Heath Ledger, but Bruce doesn't think it's as much of a lock as I do.

Best Supporting Actress: Bruce - Penelope Cruzy (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Katy - Penelope Cruz, but this is a tough one.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Nominated for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing (somebody please tell me which of those is foley work?!), Wanted is the story of an unhappy man whose life takes a sudden turn when a beautiful assassin enters the picture. In a matter of moments, Wesley learns he is the son of a professional assassin and a legacy member into their guild. Ditching his miserable life as an account manager with an unfaithful girlfriend and a two-timing best friend, he takes up with the assassin's guild and learns to be a killer. The lessons and insights he gains turn his life around.

This movie was a lot of fun. It had great humor in addition to an interesting plot and fabulous special effects. We saw this with our friends Ken and Cathy and we all had a good time and liked the film even more than we expected to.

Moms, no. Shoot-em-ups are definitely not your style, even funny ones.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Duchess

Nominated for Art Direction and Costume Design, The Duchess is the true story of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and her troubled marriage and political aspirations.

As you'd guess from the nominations, this is a beautiful movie. When it started, it was very slow and we were concerned that it wouldn't get better, but it did. The trials and tribulations of the main character were interesting in their complexity, but the performances were pretty standard and the costuming and the sets really were the best part overall. It was also interesting to get a bit of a peek at some royal history (Georgiana's brother is an ancestor of Princess Diana).

Our opinion of this film is that it was okay. My mom might enjoy it for the royal angle, but there's a lot of tension and mean husbands and things like that.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Frozen River

Nominated for Best Actress (Melissa Leo) and Original Screenplay, Frozen River is the story of a woman trying to support her family on limited means in upstate New York. When her husband walks out and takes the family's savings, she takes the desperate option of supplementing her meager paycheck by helping smuggle immigrants into the country from Canada. Her partner is a Mohawk named Lila who has been making a living this way for a while. The two women eventually bond over the similarities of the situation.

OK, I've liked Melissa Leo for years, and she was good in this movie, but I wasn't overwhelmed by the performance. In fact, I thought the actor playing her teenage son was the best performer in the movie. The plot is very basic and the other characters, as with Changeling, are fairly stereotypical.

Moms, this is definitely not up your alley. Other readers, choose as you like, I'm rather lukewarm about this one.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Visitor

Nominated for Best Actor (Richard Jenkins), The Visitor is the story of a college professor and the impact some unexpected friends have on his life. Walter has been living in Connecticut and teaching at the university for 20+ years. His late wife was a concert pianist and he has been searching to bring the music back into his life since her death. One day he is sent to New York City to present a paper at a conference because his co-author has been put on bed-rest for a pregnancy. He goes reluctantly and lets himself into the apartment he owns in the city -- where his wife would stay when she was performing and recording. Walter has not been to the apartment since his wife passed away, although he has maintained the lease. Much to his surprise, someone in the building has rented his apartment out to a young immigrant couple -- Tarek and Zainab. Despite the initial awkwardness of their situation, a friendship blossoms between the trio and changes all their lives.

This was a really good movie with some fine performances. Jenkins' nomination is well-deserved, to be sure. The characters, their development and their interaction are what make this film worthwhile.

Moms, maybe. There is definitely tension, but very little actual violence, and it is a moving story.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Nominated for Best Actress (Angelina Jolie), Cinematography, and Art Direction, Changeling is the true story of Christine Collins and her search for Walter, her missing son. Walter disappeared in 1928 on a day when Christine was called into work to cover for a sick coworker. Five months later the police recover a boy matching Walter's description, but he is not her son. Without the benefit of modern forensics, and needing good press, the police insist the boy is Walter despite Christine's protests. Instead, she is considered insane and committed to a mental institution under the pretext that she is an unfit mother for not accepting this boy. When she is proven right, with the aid of a local minister and other experts, the police department is put on trial. At the same time, a man who frequently kidnapped and killed missing children is also standing trial for his crimes -- one of which may be Walter's murder.

Well, the movie is gorgeous -- which you would expect with Art Direction and Cinematography nods -- and so is Angelina, who also proves (again) that she is not just a pretty face, but also a fine actress. But that's about it. The movie is very predictable and, because it's based on a true story, it doesn't actually have any resolution. Bruce said that, while Angelina's character was well fleshed-out and played, everyone and everything else seemed like stereotypes and caricatures. That's a pretty apt description. I was disappointed. I had high hopes for this film when it originally came out and was sorry I'd missed it in the theater, but it didn't live up to my expectations.

Moms, sorry, but "separation of mothers and children" automatically puts a movie in your "no" column.

Monday, February 16, 2009

In Bruges

Nominated for Original Screenplay, In Bruges is the story of two hit-men sent to the Belgian city to await orders for their next job. While waiting, they take in some sights and happen upon a film crew shooting a movie. The younger hit-man introduces himself to a pretty girl with the crew and makes a date. Throughout their time in town the two men feel very out of place, trying to appear normal despite an unusual career, as they wait in the charming "old-timey" town that is Bruges, Belgium. When their next assignment comes, it is not what they were expecting.

Despite what you would think from that synopsis, this movie is hilarious! The coincidences upon coincidences that happen as these two men cross paths with other people in Bruges, and as parts of their own pasts are revealed, are so intricately clever. The performances are brilliant -- you'd expect no less from Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, and Ralph Fiennes -- and the story is definitely worthy of its nomination.

We didn't know what to expect going into this film, but we got was a fabulous dark farce that is exactly the type of comic movie we love. This one is definitely in my top 5 movies of the year, it's that good. It was also fun for me to watch because I've been to Bruges -- at Christmas, even, which is when the movie takes place -- so I enjoyed seeing the city again and I could relate to many of the things the main characters were doing.

Moms, sorry, this is way to violent for you, but non-squeamish readers up for a great romp in Belgium (where we know what they put on their fries and I've actually bought some that way from a street vendor in Bruges) should make check out this film!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Penelope Cruz), Vicky Cristina Barcelona is the story of two American women and their summer in Spain. Vicky is working on a graduate thesis which would benefit from first-hand study in Spain and she happens to have a distant relative, Judy, who lives in Barcelona. Judy and her husband, Mark, invite Vicky to come for the summer so she can finish her paper before her fall wedding to fiance, Doug. Vicky brings her best friend, Cristina, an artistic dreamer who has just made a short film, but is still trying to figure out what she wants to do in life. One night after an art gala, the girls meet Juan Antonio, a painter who recently broke up with his wife in a messy tabloid scandal, and there is instant chemistry - both the good and the bad kind.

The movie follows the two girls, and the companions in their outer circle, through their summer of discovery. All sorts of hijinks ensue. In the end, everyone learns something about who they are and who they want to be.

Penelope Cruz plays Juan Antonio's troubled ex-wife. She is amazing in the film! She totally nails the role of high-strung, off-balance love of Juan Antonio's life. She is at once flamboyant, crazy, scary, tender, and sheltered. Her character is the sounding-board and the mirror from which the other characters gain their insights and develop in their own right. Definitely a nomination-worthy turn.

It's probably also worth noting that everything in this movie is gorgeous. The actors, the scenery, the shots...a visual treat.

We did not want to see this when it first came out, even though it's a Woody Allen film. I thought it was just going to be a bunch of dumb people having sex in Spain. Turns out that was just a minor point to the movie and actually performances and plot rose way above it. We were both more than pleasantly surprised.

Moms, mom could probably see this and might enjoy it since it's in Spain and parts of it are actually in long as she keeps in mind that there is casual sex. Bruce's mom probably wouldn't be all that interested in the film, though.

Kung Fu Panda

Nominated for Best Animated Feature, Kung Fu Panda is the story of Po, a panda who is fascinated with kung fu, and how that changes his life. When it is revealed that the kung fu masters must choose who will be the Dragon Warrior in order to defend their home from enemies, Po is unexpectedly thrown into the midst of the situation by being chosen. He must overcome his own difficulties and learn kung fu in a very short time in order to protect his home. In the end, he learns something about himself as well.

This is a pretty typical movie. The plot is exactly what you'd expect, the jokes are exactly what you'd expect, the ending is exactly what you'd expect, etc.. That said, it's a cute film. It's not an animation masterpiece, but it's a fun movie to watch.

Moms, maybe. There's a lot of martial arts fighting, but it's all decide.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

We took a break from our Annual Oscar Push to catch something a little more "traditional" for us during a nice evening out with friends.

Set several hundred years in the past, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans is a prequel to the other two films in the series -- Underworld and Underworld: Evolution. The movie tells the story of Lucian, the first of the genetically-engineered (bred, not bitten) werewolves. He and his kin were created by Victor, ruling-elder of a vampire coven, to serve as the vampires' slaves and protectors. Lucian eventually leads his brethren to rise up against their vampire masters.

This creation myth was originally told in Underworld, as a back-story, and is fleshed out here in its own film. So, if you've seen the first one, you know exactly what's going to happen. However, it was fun to see anyway. Lots of cgi action, vampires and werewolves fighting, dark and rainy vistas, etc.. A terrific way to spend Friday The 13th with friends!

(As an aside, it was also interesting to note that the actor playing Lucian is the same guy who plays Sir David Frost in Frost/Nixon. That's a broad repertoire, eh?)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Nominated for Make-Up, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is the story of how Hellboy, Liz, Abe, and new team member Johann Krauss take on Prince Nuada as he attempts to raise the titular Golden Army. As you can probably also guess, it's a sequel.

I wanted to see this movie when it first came out -- because I am almost always up for a comic book adaptation film and I enjoyed the first one -- but our friends all poo-pooed the idea thinking the film would be dumb. Well, it's no art film or epic drama, but Hellboy II is cute and fun. Oh yeah, and the make-up is darned good, you would expect. (In fact, this is probably the tightest category this year!)

Moms, although it is funny and does have a happy ending of sorts, probably not. Anybody else up for renting a "popcorn flick," check it out!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Wrestler

Nominated for Best Actor (Mickey Rourke) and Best Supporting Actress (Marisa Tomei), The Wrestler is the story of an aging professional wrestler trying to come to grips with his life on the verge of "has-been-dom." He finds a kindred spirit in a stripper at the local bar he frequents and their friendship helps him move forward despite the setbacks of ill-health and self-doubt.

There are some really intense moments in this movie, but there are great performances to go along with it. There's a lot of humor and a lot of humanity, too. If we were watching this in film class back at K College, Professor Bogart (really, I took film from Dr. Bogart!) would have asked us to interpret the ending, but I think it's best left up to the viewer's own interpretation. I was left wondering whether my prediction from yesterday would actually come to pass, because Rourke's performance really is terrific and the Academy may well decide that the Golden Globe wasn't enough on its own.

Moms, uh, no, sorry. You really don't want to see grown men in tights beating each other up.


Nominated for Original Score, Defiance is the true story of a group of Jewish brothers who escaped the slaughter of their village in Belarus, established a camp in the woods, and eventually saved 1200 people from the Holocaust.

Daniel Craig steps away from his role as Bond to play the eldest brother here. There are several good performances and some amazing cinematography mixed in with the moving story. Oddly, the soundtrack seemed predictable to me; ironic since that's what earned an Oscar nod for the film. Anyway, a local paper gave this movie a bad wasn't that bad. Sure, you pretty much know what's going to happen, there's a lot of historical fact to support your own second-guessing of the plot anyway, but it is still a film worth watching.

Except for our mothers, of course, I mean, come on, it's about the Holocaust, definitely not one for you, moms.


Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Frank Langella), Best Director (Ron Howard), Adapted Screenplay, and Editing, Frost/Nixon is the story of Sir David Frost's famous post-Watergate television interviews with former President Richard Nixon. Based on the stage play, the movie recreates the time and circumstances surrounding the interviews as well as the tapings themselves.

I had really high hopes going into this film and I was not disappointed! Ron Howard has been one of my favorite directors for years and this movie certainly shows his skill -- the pacing is masterful, the shot choices great, and above all, the performances are spectacular. In fact, it's the brilliant acting that really sells the film. Langella's portrayal of Nixon is truly amazing -- definitely Oscar-worthy. Throughout the movie I just kept thinking, "THIS is how it's done."

Moms, make your own call here. It wasn't a great time in history, but it sure is a good movie.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Supporting Actress (Taraji P. Henson), Best Director (David Fincher), Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Visual Effects, Editing, Sound Mixing, and Original Score, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the most nominated movie of the year. Based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the film follows the titular Benjamin through his odd life which has him aging backwards, born as an old man and slowly growing younger. He experiences the world from his unique perspective meeting and connecting with people, many of whom become extremely important to him, along the way.

OK, folks, my description of this movie is, "it's better than Titanic." The two movies are a lot alike -- they're beautiful, they've got great effects and talented actors, there's a deep and lasting love story beneath the rest of the plot, there's great tragedy and tension -- but they're cotton candy movies. Sweet, pretty, but not substantive. Sure, I cried at some points in the movie (and I bawled during Titanic), but afterward I was left thinking "okay, that's done." The plot is really predictable (during Titanic I was actually quoting dialog before the characters even said it, which I didn't do here) and the pacing is terrible. The film is SO long and moves SO slowly. There were parts I liked -- good acting, some great cinematography -- but all in all I didn't think it was all that and a bag of chips.

Moms, probably not. In addition to the tension and trauma, Benjamin serves in World War II and sees violent action.

Rachel Getting Married

Nominated for Best Actress (Anne Hathaway), Rachel Getting Married is the story of Kym, who returns home from a stint in rehab in order to attend her sister Rachel's wedding. Kym's drug addiction has been the proverbial thorn in the family's side for more years than they can remember. It has overshadowed Rachel's development all her life by making her older sister the focus of all the family's attention. In addition, Kym's addiction was directly responsible for the death of their little brother and indirectly responsible for their parents' subsequent divorce. This big specter, and the way each person reacts to it, overshadows everything in the days leading up to Rachel's wedding until, as is inevitable, it all comes to a head.

Shot with a lot of hand-held camera work that draws you into the scene, and filled with top-notch performances from the entire cast, this film is an uncomfortable tour de force. The situation is so painful, but so real. It's as if you know these people, live with these people, and all you want is to grab them and get them to really talk to each other. It's a dramatic, intense, touching, and very well done movie.

Sorry, Moms, this is another one that you two probably should not see. Other readers, however, especially those intrigued by the concept of Best Actress Nominee Anne Hathaway, should totally check this one out.


Nominated for Best Animated Feature, Bolt is the story of a girl and her dog...who just happen to be the stars of a popular kids TV show. When Bolt, who believes the TV show to be real, accidentally gets out of the studio and gets lost, he embarks on a continent-spanning quest to be reunited with "his person." Along the way he makes new friends and discovers who he really is and where he belongs in the world.

This film is so cute and such fun! The story is heartwarming and charming with some funny moments mixed in. Sure, there's some tension as Bolt works his way across the country, and as the manipulating agent tries to get Penny to go on with a new dog in Bolt's place, but the movie is so well done that you don't really mind. We had the additional bonus of seeing this movie in 3-D, which was great fun, but the plot stands up well enough on its own that the big screen and the 3-D effects are not necessary to enjoy the film.

Oh, and guess what? Moms, you CAN see this one and you probably should, it's really fun!


Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Sean Penn), Best Supporting Actor (Josh Brolin), Best Director (Gus Van Sant), Original Screenplay, Costume Design, Editing, and Original Score, Milk is the true story of Harvey Milk, California's first openly-gay elected official, who strove to be the change he wanted to see in the world.

In 1978, I was 10 years-old and totally wrapped up in Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. I wasn't very aware of national or world events (although intergalactic ones were right up my alley!). Anyway, my point is that, while I had a general knowledge of the story, I didn't know a lot of details. What I do know is that this is one darned good film. Not only well-acted and put together, but also the right story at the right time -- a message that the world really needs to hear...and absorb.

(Not one for our moms, however.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Nominated for Best Director (Danny Boyle), Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and two nominations for Original Song, Slumdog Millionaire is the story of Jamal, his brother Salim, and their friend Latika and their attempts to rise from life in the slums of Mumbai. As children they are faced with much adversity from being orphaned, to begging in the streets, to lives as hustlers, and frequent involvement with shady characters and gangs. Although they are often separated, Jamal never gives up trying to find Latika, and Salim never stops being the "big brother protector." When Jamal ends up on India's version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," he attracts a great deal of attention, becoming both a celebrity and a target overnight, but his goal remains the same -- find Latika.

This is a great film! It is so much fun, despite the traumatic situations in which the trio is often found. We both really enjoyed it and Bruce said it was one of his favorites of the batch we'd seen. If you know me, you'll be able to tell the one point in the movie where I had to look away. Moms, sorry, but that would be about the whole movie for you -- you could watch the closing credits, though, because Bollywood does great credits!

The Reader

Nominated for Best Actress (Kate Winslet), Best Director (Stephen Daldry), Best Picture, Cinematography, and Adapted Screenplay, The Reader is the story of a boy, Michael, and the older woman, Hanna, with whom he has an affair that shapes his life. Set in Germany, the film begins in 1958 when 15 year-old Michael, falling ill in the street on the way home from school, is aided by Hanna. When he recovers and goes back to thank her, a bond is formed and a relationship begins. Michael is heartbroken when Hanna unexpectedly leaves town without telling him at the end of the summer. Years later, when Michael's a law student at Heidelberg, they cross paths again and she changes his life once more. As a young man in the 80's, he then returns the favor by alerting Hanna's circumstances. Finally, in the 90's, Michael is able to openly admit the powerful effect his first love truly had on him.

I was SO happy when Kate Winslet got the Best Actress nod for this. She won the Supporting Actress Golden Globe for this role, but I thought her performance here was far surperior to Revolutionary Road, for which she won the Lead Actress Golden Globe. There is much more to the story than my thumbnail synopsis gave (I did that on purpose) and the performances across the board are fabulous. Although this movie is dark and intense, it is a definite must-see for everyone except our mothers!


Nominated for Best Actress (Meryl Streep), Best Supporting Actress (Amy Adams), Best Supporting Actress (Viola Davis), Best Supporting Actor (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and Adapted Screenplay, Doubt is the story of a priest who is suspected of abusing a child in the parish school. Set in 1964, the film follows the developments from suspicion, to accusation, to resolution as the nuns attempt to handle a potential problem despite religious and societal obstacles.

As you can tell from the nominations, the acting is what sells this movie, and it's powerful stuff! Not surprising with such a good cast. The story is both simple and complicated, and you're never sure what really happened, only what was perceived to have happened. The characters' own confusion is mirrored by the cinematography as canted angles and graphic montage shots intersperse with regular perspective. That's a great trick of the trade and I loved seeing it used here to reflect the characters' doubts by forcing the viewer to alter their perspective to look at the shots.

We both liked this movie and didn't. It's depressing, Meryl Streep's character especially, though brilliantly played, is not at all likable, and there is no actual resolution. Which is clever in that it reinforces the message by leaving the viewer in doubt, but is also irksome for doing the same thing.

Except for our mothers, again, this is a film well worth seeing.

Revolutionary Road

Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Michael Shannon), Art Direction, and Costume Design, Revolutionary Road is the story of Frank and April Miller. Set in the 1950's, the film shows us how this couple moves their family to the Connecticut suburbs while Frank commutes to the city to do a job he dislikes. April, who wanted to be an actress, is unhappy as a housewife and mother. Frank, who was always a free spirit, had never really settled on what he wanted to be when he grew up and, thus, is also discontent. So they muddle through until April comes up with a wild idea to change the course of their destiny.

Despite the buzz and the Golden Globe wins, we found this movie to be pretty flat. The characters all seemed to be two-dimensional -- there were no real surprises in the choices they made or the actions they took. Each of them seemed to have only one tack and no real depth of character. Bruce described it as if they each represented a different point of view in an arguement and were constantly sounding off the other without having any sort of personal revelations or coming to any new conclusions.

There is some pretty nice cinematography to the film, and the costume design nod is probably well-deserved -- I remember remarking on several of the outfits after the movie, in fact. I had a major quibble with one editorial choice, however. There is a lengthy sequence where April is in focus while she is being yelled at by the supporting actor nominee, who is not in focus in the shot. This goes on for an incredibly long time. You're supposed to be paying attention to April's reaction, but she has no change in her facial expression throughout as she is trying to be stoic about everything. You're supposed to be uncomfortable because she's being put on the spot, but I spent the whole time going "are you going to rack the focus YET?" When they finally did shift the focus to Michael Shannon's character, whatever line of dialog was supposed to be important lost all its punch in the "finally! oh thank goodness!!" reaction to the shot change. Then, as if that weren't enough, as Michael Shannon finished his diatribe, rather than racking focus back to April to show her reaction, they suddenly cut to a head-on shot of her from another angle instead. Didn't like it at all, not the way I would have shot it, felt that it really took me out of the moment.

Also, not a film for our mothers! It's dark, intense, and uncomfortable. It's supposed to be that way, we just didn't think it did it as well as it could have.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Winter Weather

We got snow yesterday. It began overnight from Monday to Tuesday. When I got up Tuesday morning, it looked like we had 2 or 3 inches on the ground and the snow was still coming down -- not heavily, but fairly steadily. The weatherman on TV said that we'd already hit our high temperature and the mercury was falling. Still, it didn't look too bad.

I had just finished my workout and headed into the bedroom to start getting ready for work when the phone rang. It was my boss calling to tell me that they'd decided to suspend production, so I decided to work at home getting a handle on some paperwork...and watching the inauguration, of course.

Anyway, I went outside around 9am and was actually surprised at the snow. It covered all the porches and stairs outside our apartment, the bushes and trees all had fluffy white coats as did the cars still in the lot. When I put my yardstick into the yard, it measured about 6 inches depth.

Today the walkways were cleared as were most of the cars, but when I dug ours out I was amused to find a "ski slope" of snow billowing about a foot out from the car on the driver's side. I brushed it off before I caused an avalanche just opening the door. It took me 20 minutes to clean the car, actually. But, other than some icy patches in the parking lot itself, once I got going the roads were clear. The sun was out all day and, although it was chilly, the snow mostly melted away.

So all's well weather-wise at Chez Loebrich South. To quote The Year Without a Santa Claus: It's gonna snow, ho ho, right here in South Town. Just for one day, hey hey, it's gonna be cold.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Here Come the Oscars!

The 81st annual Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 22nd. The nominations will be announced this coming Thursday, January 22nd. However, that popular Oscar barometer -- the Golden Globes -- has already had its say, so it's time for us to get busy on seeing, debating, and predicting the anticipated antics of our favorite golden boy!

For the record, 2008 was a slow year for us as far as getting out to the cinema. As we prepare our guesses for the big night, here's what we had already seen by December 31st:
- Blade Runner: The Final Cut, 25th anniversary re-release (no Oscar connection)
- The Forbidden Kingdom
- Iron Man
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls
- Batman: The Dark Knight
- Mongol
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars
- Wall-E
- The Mummy III: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
- Burn After Reading
- A Fistful of Brains (zombie movie made by one of our friends and starring another friend)
- Bond: Quantum of Solace
- The Day the Earth Stood Still
- The Spirit

So, mostly right up the alley of our usual fare. We'll see how that does for us when the noms come out. In the meantime, we're cramming...thank goodness for holiday weekends!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!

In Neopia (the land where your virtual pets live, if you play on, December is the Month of Celebrating. It certainly was that here at Chez Loebrich South (and not just for our NeoPets)!

Coming off a fabulous Thanksgiving at the Rickards', December began with Katy singing in two glorious Christmas concerts. There were also several yummy holiday meals with friends. Then we flew to Wisconsin to participate in Mom's and Larry's wedding. While there, we also had the chance to visit with many relatives we hadn't seen in far too long. We flew back to North Carolina (to be welcomed with 65 degree weather, which was a treat after a high of 20 in WI!) and settled in to wrap up the year. On Christmas Day we went to dinner and a movie with our friends Phyllis and Chris. The next day, the Loebrichs arrived, bearing gifts from Ohio. The week they were here we hit the after-Christmas sales, drove out to Replacements Ltd to look at china, and met up with our cousin Amy for a great visit over gelato. We rang in the new year quietly (and early) just the four of us; Mom and Dad headed back home today.

Now, despite colds caught from the crazy weather we've experienced (it's now only 40-ish in NC), we're looking forward to a bright new year. No matter where you are, or what temperature it is there!, we are wishing you love & laughter, health & happiness, propserity & peace in 2009.

Rabbits, rabbits!