Crisis, catharsis & other people’s popcorn.

Every year I set an intention for my time with the Kamloops Film Festival. I swear that THIS will be the year I take careful and consistent notes. I will record daily documentations featuring vivid impressions, articulate reflections, where I ate, what I wore, who I KFF’d with. When the festival concludes, I will effortlessly capture the essence that was  #KFF(insert year here).”

Every year I break that promise.

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Instead, all I wind up with is a bag full of bits and pieces: KFF guide, pass, blanket, lip balm, tissues, mints, ticket stubs, leftover Twizzlers (that lived in the most indiscreet plastic packaging. No sneaky, secret licorice for you, doll).

When the time comes to reflect, I turn into some grizzled, hardboiled detective, piecing together evidence of the past ten days.

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It reminds me of Almost Famous when young journalist William Miller, on a deadline, tries to write about an entire experience that had just ended. He doesn’t know where to begin. He rifles through his collection of polaroids and receipts he’s collected along the way. It all means so much, you just can’t possibly know how much it means. There needs to be time for reflection, but the longer you wait, the further away you feel from the details that define a timeframe.

It all goes by so quickly.

Suddenly, it’s a more than a week past Closing Night. It’s a feat to recall it all in crystal clear detail. It’s all a blur in the best kind of way. That’s how it is every year, I am left with a memory of feeling, my imagination brimming with cinematic lifetimes.

Upon the opening of this year’s film festival, I was up to my ears in some big-time winter blues. All the world was itchy wool to my sensitive soul. There has been grief. There has been uncertainty. There has been a fist of sadness digging pressing into my heart. I was feeling like a tangled ball of frayed yarn: nervous, weepy, agitated—and, as a bonus—also profoundly exhausted. February was like a long and tedious play you were forced to sit through…because all the doors are locked. The seats are uncomfortable; the theatre damp, and the audience packed with sickly people harboring annoying habits. Still, you try to sit in that discomfort with a gracious smile, sitting attentively, responding appropriately, straining to find meaning in the moment.

Ugh, this too shall pass, am I right? As always, the film festival offers a reprieve from emotional ailments. I was gladly swept away to other places, times, lives– nothing cures an existential crisis more than a thorough examination of the human condition.

On opening night, during the beautiful and emotional Shut Up and Say Something, I felt very grateful to be sitting in the dark. It was like catching your breath after being under water for one second too long.

Yes. I’ve been waiting for this moment.

I call this kind of movie a “throat soaker,” where the tears can’t (and won’t) be contained. And why should they be? The theatre is a safe space. The festival is a time for unabashed emotional catharsis. When it comes to assessing and realigning my emotional landscape, I’m the equivalent to a group of middle-aged divorcees at an all-inclusive on Spring Break. I’m just going to cut loose; enthusiastically and openly cry my god damn eyes out to any movie I damn well please. That’s what the giant sunglasses are for.

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Sheesh, for the Wineing Discussion on closing day, I wore black cat-eye glasses as my little puffy mole eyes were raw like sushi after the 10 am screening of Indian Horse, only to be worsened by the noon screening of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.

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After Indian Horse, my KFF BFF Tanya sat alone in the theatre, broken-hearted and bereft. Often, during the festival journey, you reach these points along the way when the stories are too painful, too real, and the education you are receiving is brutal beyond words.  Based on the late Richard Wagamese’s novel of the same name, Indian Horse provided an enraging, blistering, redemptive lesson about a blight on Canadian history–Residential Schools.

The most popular film of KFF 2018, Indian Horse broke a KFF single film attendance record of 924.  Indian Horse also won the KFF 2018 Audience Choice Award.

(KFF FUN FACT: The same film has never before won both awards, which speaks to the impact it had on Kamloops–the adopted home of Wagamese.)

Now back to my Tanya, who hasn’t felt a film this deeply since The Color Purple.  We’ve got to recover, and quickly. I’m one step away from taking the vintage melodrama route and shaking her back to reality with a vigorous speech reserved for downtrodden teams in football movies. “Get up! Get up! Pull yourself together! You’ve got this. We’ve got this. As god, as my witness, you’re will  make it to the next movie.”

Although, I had come fresh from crumbling in my friend Jeffrey’s arms, sobbing freely into his chest. “Oh honey,” he said, patting my back. “I haven’t seen the movie yet; I’m catching the six.”

Forgive me friends, I’m telling this story out of order. (This is why you write things down!)

First of all, the film festival timeline was punctuated with several other events, (Kamloops was positively happening!) which left me with a rather shameful score of 14/22 for movie attendance.

KFF FOMO: I missed Entanglement to catch the Bahamas show at Cactus Jacks, with my husband, brother, and sister-in-law. I missed “A Fantastic Woman” as I was working with another fantastic woman: Mary Walsh (who was performing her one-woman show at TRU for IDays.)

After her show ended, I hustled downtown to catch Call Me By Your Name. 

KFF Highlight Alert!!!  It was hands down was my favorite love story of the season. I had to sit in the cinema until it had emptied out because I was sobbing so deeply into my insufficient pile of  tissues. It was such a beautiful, elegant, humorous film set in such a warm and romantic place. It was like a heartbreaking holiday.

KFF FOMO Part 2: I missed the International Women’s Day screenings of In the Fade and The Divine Order because I was the “Mermaid of Ceremonies” for a Sustainable Seafood dinner for I-Days. (Yes, that last sentence really happened).

I also, as a last-minute decision, skipped The Insult to do some laundry, wash my hair, and grab dinner with my husband. I was originally pleased with my self-care techniques, but was instantly remorseful when I arrived at the Brewing Discussion and listened to everyone gushing about the gripping legal drama. I had a flicker in my mind that made me think—how important is personal and marital hygiene anyway?

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With the benefit of hindsight, I would have caught Insult and skipped Dim the Fluorescents, which was my least favorite of the KFF season. (I was not alone in that sentiment) Let’s be honest. Every artist needs a ruthless editor who forces you to kill your darlings. No matter how much you think it’s all necessary, most of it needs to go. This movie had perfectly adequate ingredients, but it went on about 4000 years too long. I fell asleep at some point and woke up around 11:20 pm and the film was STILL HAPPENING. Seriously guys, cut at least 40 minutes out of this and never call me again.

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KFF Highlights!

  • All the times I was too busy to get popcorn, but was always offered samples of other people’s popcorn.

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  • Playtime at the Family Friendly party. Mandarin oranges and David’s Tea shared with little friends was a perfect way to kick off the day.
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  • Saturday triple feature: The Breadwinner, Tulipani (an absolutely charming and heartfelt film) and Tomato Red, with nibbles at Blue in between.
  • All the steeping, brewing and wineing discussions.
  • Kamloops Independent Short Short film festival–too many gems to choose from.
  • Ditching the second half of Happy End. (Not the most popular film of #KFF2018, that’s for sure. In fact it was the least popular film in the year.) I had more than one guest hand me a “1” on the voting card, as they left the film midway through).
  • All the red carpet action, naturally.

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  • Sunday Brunch at Blue. Eggs benedict, coffee and mimosas make everything better.

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  • The Oscar PJ Party was a fun little affair, especially when the internet cut out and I had to riff about Gary Oldman for a short sliver of eternity.
  • The trippy, twisted telepathic adventure that was Thelma.

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  • Patricia Clarkson’s crackling cynicism in The Party. This film was short but far from sweet.

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  • Staving off sleep in Loveless, feeling like I’m forever falling into some post-apocalyptic Russian realm.

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  • Annette Bening in every second of Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool. When she was carried down the stairs in her sunglasses, head scarf and fur coat at the end of the film…I just bawled. The dignity of glamour darling, it masks so much sadness.
  • Catching Indian Horse at 10am, so I could finish KFF2018 on a lighter note with Adventures in Public School.
  • Midnight on closing night, when all the stresses of the festival had melted away.

(“There’s actually still a considerable amount of paperwork to do,” Chair Dušan Magdolen shouted over the pulsing dance music).

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No matter. Nothing was better than dancing, Denny’s and being the designated driver. Laughter and singing and being faux-Olympic skaters on the dance floor once the guests had left, and the high heels cast aside on the floor. Time change included, I crawled into bed around 4 am. Sunday was a day of “Couch Island,” with all day pj’s, naps, food, tea and quiet reflection.

Despite the standard post-festival malaise, there is something within that feels recharged and reconnected. One can feel so alone in their feelings and experiences, it’s easy forget that it has all been touched before.

As my friend Monica would say, “You think you invented any of this?”

While there is suffering, there is still beauty. What a comfort. Heck, it’s a privilege to exist at all. To feel, express, reflect, connect. So little in life is guaranteed, but what we can know with absolute certainty is that stories are a gift. Narratives can cure loneliness, soothe depression, quiet anguish, quell anxiety–for the time being at least.  Alternatively, they can transcend you to dark places so you can be awakened, activated, alleviated.

Words never quite express my love and gratitude for those ten days-the food, the friends, the films, the fun–and for what remains long after the credits roll.

“All that we are is story. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that, and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside; we see each other, we recognize our kinship – we change the world, one story at a time — Richard Wagamese.

Light, loss & living for others

At the time of first trying to express my grief and gratitude–the news about Christopher Seguin’s sudden passing was very recent. Three weeks have since passed since the staggering loss. His celebration of life service was held on Saturday, October 14.  While sitting in the church, hearing about his life, attempting to comprehend the moment, working steadily through a box of tissues–I marveled at how his absence was a deeply felt presence in the packed room. 

There has been rumors and revelations–and while there should be appropriate and respectful channels to discuss and dissect the circumstances surrounding his death, but I won’t do that here.  Existence is a complex experience. We navigate through frameworks of social constructs, we play roles, we love and are loved, we lose and recover, we try and fail until the clock stops ticking–and we then become constellations in the vast atmosphere that is the human condition. 

I tried to capture a singular moment that reflected my memory of Christopher. Words failed as I reeled at the magnitude of the loss.  The tragedy is layer upon layer of agony and anguish for all who were impacted by his life and his loss– his family, his wife, his children, the community, the university–and on and on and on. My heart goes out to those hurting most–and I extend my loving thoughts outwards. 

….

The flags were flying at half-mast on and while I logically understood the reason, my mind revolted against the truth. I half-expect to see him somewhere on campus. However, that towering figure, that booming voice, that presence is gone—and that reality is simply too painful to bear.
To me, Christopher Seguin was like a classic movie star come to life in the modern age: strapping, stylish and smart—a gentleman and an adventurer—like Cary Grant from somewhere between The Philadelphia Story and Gunga Din.

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We met through the Kamloops Film Festival. He became a mentor, ally and friend.

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During a period of professional adjustment—when I was feeling rather lost in the world—Christopher offered direction.  He regaled me with a self deprecating tale about himself as a young, idealistic man writing a piece that he felt so proud of—only for it to never see the light of day.

This conversation took place during a quick walk around campus.  He stopped where we had started, about to set off in another direction.  “The writing is good”—he said, smiling, assuring. As he walked away, his coat collar popped against the crisp autumn weather, he tossed a final sentence over his shoulder “…but it could be better.”
Ah, that was a cool moment.
He wasn’t one to soften blows, he told you how it was. At the same time, he showed vulnerability while sharing stories of his own personal growth. He offered insights and advice, but tasked you with reaching higher levels of personal achievement. It’s good–but it could always be better.

In the first days of shock and sadness, while trying to occupy my unraveling thoughts–I thought a lot about Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief–and tried to remember the DABDA scale from long-ago Psychology classes.

Denial:  “In this stage, individuals believe the diagnosis or situation is somehow mistaken, and cling to a false, preferable reality.”

Yes, the false, preferable reality seems reasonable to me.

As Joan Didion noted in her memoir “The Year of Magical Thinking“, “I was myself in no way prepared to accept this news as final: there was a level on which I believed what had happened remained reversible.”

In grief, we are at war with ourselves, rallying against reason, and struggling to reconcile the loss. My mind wanders back and forth between fact and fantasy—I strive to create a world in which Christopher could overcome death. He had plans, goals and value

This. Cannot. Be. It.

And yet, it is. Waves of anguish crashing repeatedly, threatening to overwhelm you as you try to make sense of a senseless tragedy. Wrestling with memory and circumstance, burdened by the weight of  heartbreak, the clashing of absence and presence.

You were just here.

What is one to do when great lights are snuffed out? In that darkness you begin to realize how much these people were quiet architects to our growth and successes. There lies a portion of Christopher’s memory—his legacy resides in those he insisted do better.

As Margaret Atwood once said:

I hope that Christopher becomes more than that. I hope that he carries on in spirit through acts of service. As we move forward into the wilderness of grief and loss, I hope we carry along his memory. He was someone who urged us to excel beyond our wildest expectations–and to encourage others to do the same.  Instead of envisioning a great light dimming into darkness—imagine it fracturing into a million pieces—so that we could find it everywhere. As we move forward, may we absorb even a fraction of that energy, warmth and light.

 

 

March Madness & the cinematic soul mate

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Film Festival recap time! No time like the present am I right my friends? Why, yes, thank you for noticing, it is April, and the film festival closed March…11th. Seriously though. What happened to the other half of March? Is this what everyone means by March Madness? Talk about a time warp. It’s like I came home that Saturday night, kicked off my shoes, took a jump to the left, step to the right, and then suddenly it’s April Fools Day. What is this, a joke?

Now that I look back, I really should have taken better notes in order to appropriately capture the immediate responses to the films and events. As per usual it’s a whirlwind of wine, films, cheese and conversation. And so, I present my disjointed, disordered recollection of events.

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Perhaps for you, the thrill of those ten days are long gone. Just dim memories of dark theatres. Or maybe you found a film or two or ten that was like a finding long-time friend or a cinematic soul mate.  Running the gamut of emotion. Feeling all the feels. Welcome to my happy place. Losing yourself in a story and finding your way back by  the film’s end. Witnessing stories unfold, watching characters develop. Love blossoming, bonds breaking. Reunions and departures. Sacrifices and losses. Successes and victories; all the things that lift us up and tear us down. Some films were based on true stories, and while others were works of fiction, the tales still tend to hold a mirror up to our faces. What a privilege to be a part of that shared experience;  to grateful and ashamed for the human condition in it’s entirety. All that empathy, community, catharsis and buttery popcorn…what else in life does anyone need? 

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Over ten days, I caught 15 movies. I ugly cried four times, napped three times, abandoned one movie (ahem, Toni Erdmann) and–more times than I could count–laughed until nearly crying and vice versa. I lost sleep, danced, drank wine. I wore sequins, high heels and red lipstick. Each night I’d nestle in my standard seat with my Frida Kahlo bag filled with blankets, tissues, and other goodies and necessities. Each night I’d feel like all was well with the world.  

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My dear friend and Events co-chair Tanya and I spent a little  quality time at Hotel 540’s Blue. We enjoyed a lot of Privato Pinot Noir, (doing our part for the Flavors & Flicks initiative). We had a glorious brunch and a multitude of mimosas on a snowy Sunday.  Champagne buzzed and hollandaise high, we watched Window Horses, a trippy little cartoon about a young Canadian poet who travels to Iran to perform at a poetry festival.

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That same day, before I, Daniel Blake, we wandered over to PDK café for lattes and donuts with Kirsten Carthew, the filmmaker of The Sun at Midnight. 

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Quick note: congratulations to I, Daniel Blake—for being the first movie of the #KFF2017 lineup to make me ugly cry. It was a real face contorting, heart breaking kind of film.  Following that film, we strolled over to the Noble Pig for ciders and comfort food.

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Though KFF 2017 was drama heavy, there were moments of levity; The Space Between was incredibly heartfelt and good-humored, as was The Grand Unified Theory.

Nothing made me squirm in my seat more than Mean Dreams.  In fact, the Mean Dreams/Land of Mine double feature was a rather intense evening all in all. The Brewing Discussion at Red Collar was cozy, and I was laughing hysterically with my friend Sam on the way back to the Paramount. Suddenly it was young men dismantling landmines in a post-World War II landscape. Within the first few minutes the Commander head-butts someone in the face, which really takes the edge off the hilarity from the walk over.

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After that double feature, the most emotionally impactful evening was Angry Indian Goddesses and Maudie. That was a back-to-back sob-fest. Goddesses‘ preview really leads you to believe that it’s a buddy comedy, and while it is….it really isn’t. Regardless, it was the kind of unexpectedly devastating movies that requires you to just hang out in your seat until the theatre clears up a little. Maudie was equally as dehydrating, a sweet little love story about a most unlikely couple. A despite-the-odds tale about artistic expression. (And the #KFF2017 Audience Favorite!) 

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Weirdos was very nostalgic and sweet. Paterson, while so lovely, it was also like a shot morphine.  Admittedly, I took a little snooze during that one. All those scenes of sleeping and beds only served to augment my exhaustion. I j’adored Ville-Marie. The film within a film was an emotional intersection of humanity at it’s most raw and vulnerable. Monica Belluci’s emotional undoing is a revelation.

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Note, all these years I’ve been said “Monica Bella-lucci” and when filming videos for the festival, Sam, friend and videographer, said “Um no. It’s Bell-uci.” “Oh. Really?” “Yes, really.”  “Well…I prefer Bellalucci.”

After the film ended, I wandered out into the streets, feeling like a chic yet maudlin Montrealer in my green peacoat. Over a solo lunch, sighing deeply while staring out the window of a sushi restaurant watching the snow fall, feeling beautifully blue.

Once the last film credits had rolled, I got a little lump in my throat. It was partly related to 20th Century Women, but as always, it’s that end of an era feeling. The closing of another festival year. There’s so much time spent preparing for it, and suddenly it’s just like popcorn  and discarded ticket stubs on the floor.

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Then, of course, is the party, so you just shirk off your sentimentally for the moment. Chatting all things films, events, and special guests with other partygoers; gin and red carpet photos and shaking it like a polaroid picture on the dance floor. What a way to celebrate another season with all the fabulous film festival folk that helped make such a magical time happen.

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For more information about Kamloops Film Festival refer to the website or follow the link for a detailed account of the #KFF2017 

Photos courtesy of Alicia Ashcroft, Jen Randall Dustin, Robin Phelan & Chris Warner.

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Last Post Salute.

Let me say, with utmost respect to its context, that I really needed a stat holiday to pop up in the middle of a work week. It’s been another hectic stretch of time, and I’m exhausted.  Of course, this day is not about me and my needs, it belongs to veterans, their families and is reserved for generalized National reflection. Remembrance Day offers a sense of reverence, and a quiet Sunday-type of feeling washes over the daylight hours. Telephone turned off, face freshly washed, quietly listening to the radio with a book on your lap. Coffee on the couch with Benjamin, sitting under blankets in front of the fire with a sleeping dog nestled between us.

CBC 2 is offering a steady stream of Remembrance Day themed music and content. We sat down to a late breakfast, but when 11:00am struck and the Last Post Salute began, our forks were lowered onto the plate, and we sat in silence. Not one to be completely idle I pet my dog, and wipe away errant tears. Thinking about soldiers in a fresh uniform, before they ever see a war zone. What it would be like to say goodbye to your dog–your family, the warmth of home, everything you’ve ever known. To leave behind people who will worry about you, mourn for you, learn to live without you. Not being sure if you will ever return. To die in the worst possible circumstances and conditions, so far away from where you began. It’s an unbearably heavy collection of thoughts.

Editors Note: best remedy for this is to Google ‘soldiers and seeing their babies for the first time’…

…or how about ‘Soldiers and Dogs’? Jeez Louise, have a tissue handy for that one. It then easily rolls into a watching a YouTube montage of excited dogs and their returning masters and it makes your eyes want to explode with a burst of pure salt water.

Ah, that’s better.

After the moment of silence passes, the radio announcer carries on, introduces another song, we release a big sigh and we resume with our poached eggs. We decide to follow our meal with a walk on the beach. Before we do that–we stop by our local pet store. This is something Benjamin does to me all the time–we go out to walk the dog on a lazy Sunday–but first, lets run this quick yet unexpected errand. I ultimately run into a professional acquaintance or customer, old friend or ex-lover and I’m lurking around Petland looking like an extra from The Walking Dead. Unbrushed hair crammed under a red toque, sunglasses firmly in place, giant woolen scarf, yoga pants rolled up at the angle and running shoes; if I had an invisibility cloak, I would have happily worn that as a layer too. I hear a familiar voice, and see a woman I know looking absolutely, deliciously chic in a gorgeous black and red trench coat. Her blonde bob was impeccable. Very Grace Kelly meets Kate Middleton meets Remembrance Day. She’s just come from the ceremony in Riverside Park, which was absolutely packed with people. I’m stricken with a splash of guilt; feeling like a ceremony skipper caught out in public looking perfectly dishevelled, and sans poppy to boot. What a disgrace.

It’s been years since I’ve been to a public Remembrance Day service.  It hadn’t become a ritual for my husband and I–it was always best spent as an ‘at home’ day. Also, as a little girl I know said about being at those services: “You have to stand there and be quiet for a really long time, and that’s just not my jam”.

Amen sister.

I feel as though a full morning of Remembrance Day programming on CBC 2 is as good as a trip to the Cenotaph. I mention that to Grace Kelly, just put it out there that I’m observing Remembrance Day in my own private way–I’m not just being an insensitive non-patriot picking out dog coats without giving a second thought to the millions of people who died for their country.  How can you not? Whatever your opinions about politics, military or war are, you can’t help but get a lump in your throat when you think about all those goodbyes, and of all those poor souls who never came back to say hello.

  Images Courtesy of the Fine People behind the Internet

Downward Facing Dog Gone Girl

The 2015 Kamloops Film Festival has just come and gone; this piece was featured in the festival insert that accompanied the Kamloops This Week…without further ado, the extended and Pin-Up-ized version of the article…

Award season is in full swing; and the social media news-feeds are filled with tidbits from these congratulatory evenings that pulsate with fevered anticipation, glittery gowns, and talented performers who are spray tanned within an inch of their life. ‘What are you wearing?” “Who are you here with”? “Are you excited?” “Nervous?” And my question if I were granted court: “When was the last time you had a sandwich?” Of course these people are excited. Number one: if you’re walking that red carpet, dripping in diamonds and adjacent to a bulging three hundred pound bodyguard named Rocco—you’ve made it. You’ve been a part of a significant project, and it’s now being clustered into an exclusive group of significance and a lucky few receive a holy trinket as a result.


But seriously, win or lose, that’s a pretty solid way to spend an evening. Coiffed to perfection, you are privileged to wear jewels and couture, rubbing elbows with wealth, talent and celebrity; swag bags would have gold dipped M&M’s and the champagne fueled after-party people watching would be Olympic level greatness. As it is happening, and in the days that follow, the event and its participants are neatly categorized by the media under: best/worst/memorable/uncomfortable; the hits, the misses. I can’t help but think about the people behind the flops. Who are the people behind the choices? Like…who approved Bjork’s swan dress?

The late 80’s scandal magnet Rob Lowe singing Proud Mary with Snow White?

Who was the guy who pitched Anne Hathaway and James Franco as Oscar hosts? Seriously?

Fact is things hit as often as they miss—sometimes you don’t know why, sometimes you wonder why no one foresaw the future flop–but sometimes the miss evolves into something spectacular in retrospect, and falls under the best category of all–“so bad it’s good” .Rob Lowe + Snow White x “Proud Mary” = The Greatest Thing to Ever Happen to Me. If only something tossed Lowe a saxophone so he could play a la Billy Hicks from “St Elmo’s Fire”, it would have lifted the bar a fair bit.

This performance was so bad that the Academy received strongly worded letters from the likes of Paul Newman and Julie Andrews. Ouch. I just hope I never screw up so badly that I get a strongly worded letter from Mary Poppins.  Perhaps I can comfort my collection of small failures with the sentiment.

It also says something about formulas for success. I can only imagine the late 1980’s executives in their boardrooms, jacked on cocaine and ego clapping each other on the back for these ‘excellent’ ideas. “People love Rob Lowe. People adore Snow White. People can’t resist bastardizing the lyrics to “Proud Mary” with clever cracks about dwarves. What if we threw it all in a great big blender…how smooth would that go down?” Hey—I like fish and I like ice cream, but it doesn’t mean I want to combine the two. In my experience as an event coordinator, I constantly obsess at the near mathematical combination of time of day/day of week/point in year in combination with financial climate/theme/location…and all the details in between. Most importantly, “Who am I catering to?” “What gets people off the couch and out the door? “Why should they get a babysitter?” “Why should they make the time?” Socialization is hard work—at least the idea of it is. I feel like participating in dinner parties or social occasions is like exercise. You don’t feel like doing it, and then you do it and maybe it starts off painfully, and then…you’re just running—smiling, cheeks flushed, wind in your hair, and heart pounding mightily in your chest. You’re glad you tried it. You feel better for having done it. Still, you need to get moving to get that feeling. And that, as everyone knows is the hard part.

So…who are you? What do you want? What do you want in a party or event? What kind of music? What would you eat? Drink? What would make you want to stay? Want to go? The mind reels, right? Do you even know what you want? You want that freshly exercised feeling without the pain. I know I do. Whenever I have a hand in the planning of an event, it always comes with a touch of heartburn and crippling self-doubt. If I planned an event that suited me, there’d be nothing but cheeseboards, bread, mellow lighting, and comfortable seating,  listening to the CBC at a moderate level while waiters who looked like George Clooney handed out free drinks and lingered while making eye contact. But hey, that’s just me.

Also, planning takes time, and when you don’t have time—you are up a creek without a paddle. I don’t know about you, but I personally have the ability to overload my schedule in the same way a prison inmate or a university student would load up their plate at a buffet on a cruise ship. Always, always, always room for dessert, and maybe more mashed potatoes. Heaping spoonful’s of absolutely everything—YOLO y’all, YOLO. Sleep is for babies and great things can be achieved if you make that the thing to take off the plate. It kind of makes you like a circus performer who rides a unicycle and balances plates on sticks…except you are drunk, experiencing vertigo and only have one leg. Oh. And you are on fire. In the thick of film festival preparedness, beyond my demanding career, I was also participating in a thirty-day yoga challenge. Then, just for fun, my husband and I got a new puppy. We named her ‘Bluebear”, which is Latin for “Nothing will ever be achieved in a timely manner again”.

With my e-mail inbox fuller than a Kardashian’s pout, Bluebear’s need for attention at an ‘11’ on the puppy scale, I was at a breaking point: downward facing-dog-gone-girl. This furry little toddler was gnawing away at my spare time like the carpet in the living room; prevention had no point, she was destroying the fabric like it was her mission from God. I had one afternoon to myself, and was bent on catching up. I ran an errand with the dog on the passenger seat. The radio playing low and the pup resting her head peacefully, and me…just driving for 45-minutes basking in the quiet. Eyes narrowed on the road—like a fugitive from the law—just a couple of procrastinating bandits–she the Thelma to my Louise. “Let’s just keen going Blue–let’s just drive until we run out of road”.

My phone rings, my husband’s voice over speakerphone sounding concerned. “Where are you—I’m waiting for you to come home, I was going to take the dog”. “I’m just driving!” I say, laughing, my own voice teetering on the edge of madness—sounding as incredulously giddy and nonsensical as if I had just said: “I just walked on the moon in ice skates, good thing I had my sunglasses! I just had Justin Bieber’s baby—I didn’t even know I was pregnant, I’ve never even heard his music! Charlie Sheen is doing Shakespeare in the park—and he makes a wonderful Juliet!!” Okay then…time to stop driving. This is like 2008 Britney Spears behind the wheel with a baby on her lap kind of crazy.

Once home, both husband and the puppy out of sight, the opportunity presented itself to work alone in the sanctity of my office. I faced the email onslaught with the intensity of Rocky dashing up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art once he’s finally in fighting form. One by one, the emails are answered and filed or deleted, the pressure lessens, a new to-do list is born.

Why do this? Every volunteer has full plates of their own: families, jobs, responsibilities and yet they save room on the dish for the film festival. We do it because we are film-lovers who love film-goers. We like to put all these pieces together, and create a special experience for our community. No greater joy than to sit back and watch others enjoy; like the matriarch in a multi-generational family watching everyone devouring the meal she spent the day making: feasting, tasting, laughing—satiated by your own loving efforts. It makes balancing it along with the yoga challenges, puppy problems, and time constraints worth the while. To participate in a committee like this is to invest your time in creating a special, cathartic, emotional, entertaining and fabulous chain of events. It’s a cinematic holiday in your daily life where film-goers gather to love movies together. It’s worth the lost sleep and increased intake of Tums.

Why the film festival? To me, it’s one of my favourite times of the year. This Netflix age—much precious time is spent looking for “something good”. And then—you finally make a selection, only to lose interest in the first 15 minutes. And so—the journey continues, trudging the path of indecision in the land of endless choices. The issue is of timing and context. It’s the dilemma of film’s purpose—entertaining vs. edifying. Let’s be honest, life can take some pretty dark turns: disease, divorce, war, poverty, the way toddlers have a better i-Phone than you and are so technologically adept that they could very well be the Sony Hackers. There are many serious, important, controversial films that hold a mirror up to history, to humanity—and I have never seen them. Simply because there never seems to be a good time to experience the breakdown of a marriage, the death of a loved one, the atrocities we afflict on others on large and small scales in the comfort of your own home. It never goes well with the end of a long work week, a ratty oversized hoodie and a plate of Chinese food on your lap. If nobody minds, I’d like to keep it so light that the movie could practically float away.

Though in my defense, I am a true sap, an empathetic cinematic sponge that is inflicted with whatever ailment haunts the characters within. My husband has said on more than one occasion: “You know this movie isn’t actually happening to you…right?” Of course I know that…but it could, and being reminded of life’s fragility whilst my fingers are tunneling through a bag of buttery popcorn is as bad a combo as Snow White and Rob Lowe. It makes me think of last year’s beautiful “The Broken Circle Breakdown”, which is quite possibly the most devastating film I’ve ever seen. That’s a kind of film that you watch once, die inside a little and then never again. It does such an exceptional job at bringing you into the heartache, like a 3-D effect, that it hurts way too much to repeat.

With that in mind, it makes you want to polish off too many margaritas and watch a Cameron Diaz movie on a Friday night. Sure, you watch it ironically, and it’s the cinematic equivalent of taking a cabana boy as your lover on holiday. You wouldn’t bring it home with you, but it’s good for the night. But one cannot live off of twenty year olds named Pedro and “Bad Teacher” alone. You need to see the poetry of the human experience in its full breadth: the best/worst/memorable/uncomfortable; the hits, the misses. There are so many excellent emotional cinematic efforts that would pass you by if you avoided the film due to its emotional weight.That’s the beauty of the film festival. It’s a safe place. It is an adventure. It’s a little bit dignified; it’s a social community event. You’re out in public, so odds are your bra is still intact and not carelessly flung onto the kitchen table in the decisive—“Not leaving the house ever again” kind of way. Whether it’s a comedy, a tragedy or somewhere in between—it’s something outside of the norm, outside of your comfort zone. You’re surrounded by empathetic film goers, who share the same doubts, fears, concerns, and who also quiver in the chill of life’s dark shadows; who want to laugh whenever possible, who want to talk about the minor details over a cup of tea afterwards. In the darkness, the group becomes one collective heartbeat, muted observers glimpsing into the lives of others, at the light that shines through the cracks. And you know that you are not alone.

Images Courtesy of Google

Beyonce It Isn’t So

Couldn’t resist. #anoldiebutagoodie in light of the recent Beyonce drama

"Pin Up Picks Pen Up"

Poor old Beyonce, she performs at the Superbowl…

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Gets her funk on during the performance…

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And it was not pretty.

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Ms B struck a multitude of unflattering poses while getting fierce at the Superbowl, and the photos were released (because bad photos are better than good photos).  Her publicist contacted the offending website, politely asked for the photos to be removed.  But, once it’s on the internet its kind of like asking the the guy who took your virginity to please put it back.  And so, because of a demand to remove all traces from the internet, there has been quite the back lash, in the form of internet memes.

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What’s a meme you ask?

Why, you see them everyday on your Facebook feed.  It can take form in a the way of a link, hashtag, a video, or say, an unflattering picture of Beyonce turned into a joke or…

View original post 647 more words

Loyal Tenenbaums

While poking around the library I happened upon “The Royal Tenenbaums”.

The_Royal_Tenenbaums 7I had been thinking about this movie, but had difficulty finding it.  I love this movie.  I’m going to toss a declaration out there and say that this is my most favorite ever.  More than “Annie Hall”.  More than “Amelie”. More than “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

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I vividly remember seeing this movie at the cinema.  Everyone I was with hated it, but for me, it was a revelation.  I loved the style, the detail, the melancholic mood, the music, the actors, the characterizations, the story…shall I go on?  It’s so sad and funny, cynical and nostalgic, hopeful and pessimistic and most importantly, is deeply romantic.  After the film ended, I had stars in my eyes, swooning over the whole damn thing.  But it was the clandestine love between Margot and Richie that appealed to my romantic sentiment.

margot-and-ritchie-2-686I was twenty years old when this film came out in 2001; my love for this film never wavers, it simply grows old with me.  In fact, I notice different things every time I view it.

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And this evening, after a long hot work day, my husband and I tucked in with pizza, ice-cold pear cider and this movie.  And then I got a little bit drunk.  And it was wonderful.

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And so, if I may, I’ll finish with my favorite scene from the movie.  This gets me in my heart every time.

Images Courtesy of Google, YouTube

Inspiration Bored

There are a select few that I occasionally check in with–“So…how’s the blog coming along?”  You can only see your work in a particular way, and any writer needs a handful of honest folk to set you straight.  When I last asked my husband, he said “It’s good”.  But he says “good” in that goooood, where there is a significant pitch in the dead center of all those O’s.  There’s a chocolate cheesecake kind of ‘good’, and then there’s awkward one-night-stand kind of ‘good’.  And his good was not sounding desserty in the slightest.

“…there’s just a lot about you saying how hard it is to write”.

“Well…yes…that’s sort of the deal with the blog”

“Oh…is it?”

“Yea, it’s mentioned in the tagline”.

He shrugs.  “Hmm, never mind then, it’s good”.  And there were no superfluous letters as he uttered the word.

And that is the point: to combat writers block! To write daily!  To make it part of the routine! To cultivate thoughts and shape them on the page!  It’s about harassing my scattered thoughts and finding a solid thread to guide me towards a tangible article of writing.  It’s also an exercise in exploring different topics–seeing what an audience responds to–(favorite feedback from a younger reader: “I like when you compare your childhood to other shit”). For lack of a better word, this is practice.  My brain is wearing a little sweat band, flexing it’s muscles, making things like thought, focus and action happen. Mentally, it can get very sweaty.  And a result of the inexperienced daily writer, there is potential to just unload some serious stream-of-consciousness drivel day after day, and it’s the equivalent to being at a chic luncheon and having a big hunk of spinach stuck between your teeth.  I just need someone to tell me to check myself before I wreck myself.

This practice of writing daily makes me think about Julia Cameron‘s “The Artist’s Way“, which is a book that symbolizes my own deep-seeded creative blockage. This book is designed to reach into one’s self, and find your find your ‘true creative artist self’.  (In a nutshell).  Two aspects of the program include ‘the artist’s date’– once a week you do something that you love, but you do it alone; second is the ‘morning pages’, where each day you write–with a pen on paper–three pages of stream of conscious thoughts.  And this is the first thing you are meant to do each day.

Yikes.  That is a lot of pressure.

I’ve started the book a number of times, but I’ve never finished it. Of course with the morning pages, you aren’t meant to share or re-read them, and I suppose the point is to just gush your every naked thought without self consciousness. When blogging the way I do, you are laying your personal shit out for dozens upon dozens of people. You have to fight the urge to censor yourself, because it becomes inauthentic.  And then it’s not any good at all.

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I never resent the task of writing, but its not uncommon to just stare at the screen in the same way I just sort of stare at the coffee maker at 430am. When not staring at the blankness…it’s about looking anywhere else.  In my office there is a window–which doesn’t overlook much, so I bask in the natural light and stare up up a stacked cork board.  I don’t want to go and throw a term like “inspiration board”, but it is a board covered in things that (ahem) inspire me.

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Everyone needs a visual happy place, especially when you are championing procrastination.

I know my brain is on the fritz as there is an awful lot of “…”

The funny thing is…

The trouble I’m having with…

Uh….

There’s a lot of half baked, partially typed sentences happening here.  And not nearly enough pictures.  This is another problem–you get so damned bored with the thoughts inside your head.  If not bored–annoyed– as if your train of thought is some well meaning albeit excessively chatty seat mate on a plane ride.  Blathering away when all you’d like to do is flip through a magazine, watch a movie or take a nap.  Or worse, when you talk to this person for a certain period, but want to get on with said magazine or movie.  It’s a difficult transition, to go from chatting pleasantly to ceasing pleasantries.  This is also a struggle–finishing each piece with a snappy little closing line when sometimes there’s nothing more to say, just eyes drifting elsewhere and … silence.

Friday Night Bites

When we four children lived together under the same roof–the greatest dinners were not the holiday feasts that my mother slaved over (sorry mom, those were good too),  they were this accidental phenomenon that she created–‘make your own sandwich night’.  A couple different kinds of meat and cheese, some crusty buns, a few condiments, a handful of potato chips and you had yourself a party.  For years we would rave and reminisce about those nights.  Recently, my brother mentioned how he told a friend about these nights, and his friend was like: ‘Nah, man, that’s just sandwiches for supper”, to which he replied “No, man, its ‘make your own sandwich night‘. My mother admitted that she did it on nights when she couldn’t be bothered; just took our enthusiasm as a small victory for all mother-kind.  She was just grateful that it was better received than the time she dished up stewed tomatoes from the pantry. Bless her, she really did try to sell this meal, as I sobbed hopelessly at the table.  “Oh, I used to love a big bowl of tomatoes in the summertime, with a spoonful of sugar on top!”  Cool story mom, but I call bullshit.

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Fridays are my toughest blogging day, it’s my first day back at work, and it is also our grocery shopping/errand running day.  By the time we get home, unpack, prepare some kind of sustenance…I kind of wish I had my own make-your-own-sandwich blogging equivalent.  Just throw a bunch of raw ingredients on the table, stand back and smoke a cigarette while everyone happily stuffs their faces.  Maybe tonight is more of a stewed tomato kind of night, so just sprinkle some sugar on top, and know that there will be many feasts in our future.

And now for some some old movie stars eating sandwiches…

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sandwich 2Images Courtesy of Google