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Oscar Quest 2018: “Call Me by Your Name”

CMBYN!

The one indie-film theater in Indianapolis has numerous nice touches, including nifty digital poster displays by each screen’s entrance.

Longtime MCC readers know this time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1997 to the present, and look forward to pushing that statistic even farther back into cinematic history if only some kindly programmer would — pretty please with sugar on top –bring Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies back into print, or at least show it on basic cable. I mean, just once would be lovely. I refuse to settle for watching someone’s grainy YouTube upload or pay collectors’ prices for a vintage VHS copy.

Some nominees stuck with me for weeks and months after; some were pleasantly surprising; some I could take or leave; and some like Chocolat and The Reader, I’d rather forget forever. It’s entirely possible that one day the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will nominate something that I absolutely, positively refuse to watch (they came close one year), but it hasn’t happened yet. For now, I remain on a roll.

As of February 21st I’ve officially seen all nine of this year’s Best Picture nominees, but have only written about two of them, Dunkirk and Lady Bird, which I caught in theaters in 2017. I’m not sure I’ll be able to cover the other seven in full before the Oscars telecast on March 4th, but let’s see how far I can get before I burn out.

Every year I can always rest assured there’ll be at least one Best Picture nominee that I won’t be able to bring up at church. This year the most obvious candidate is Call Me by Your Name. Why not start the attempted writing marathon there?

(Fair warning: mild spoilers ahead. It’s not a plot-twist kind of film, but I dug in on a couple of points.)

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 14: Like a Bridge Away From Troubled Waters

Natural Bridge!

At long last: the one and only Natural Bridge!

If you’ve been following this miniseries up till now, you’ll know this wasn’t our best week. Between my infirmities and our frequent bouts of disappointment from half the attractions we visited, this was not Best Trip Ever. At all, in any way imaginable. Least of all from the Natural Bridge area, from their zoo to the Visitor Center.

Until we got under the Bridge.

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Faces in a Crowd of Caring

Gleaners Food bank!

Our team of volunteers busy and bustling and bagging away.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover, each year from 2014 to 2016:

[My employers] gave several hundred of us the opportunity to spend half a workday (on the clock!) participating in scheduled acts of service at various charities throughout Indianapolis — charitable synergy courtesy of United Way. I signed up and went forth to serve at Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana, one of the most prominent resources in local hunger relief efforts. Despite their long-standing presence and far-reaching efforts, Gleaners has yet to run out of work. Like any major city, Indianapolis has its share of poverty-stricken residents, food deserts, regrettable layoffs, and hard times during recessions. Officially, the Food Bank doesn’t hand out food directly to the needy; it’s the distributor that provides foods to food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, domestic abuse hideaways, and the like. The Food Bank, in turn, receives its supplies via donations from the big-box stores (Kroger, Meijer, Marsh, Walmart), from government suppliers, and from food drives held by other corporations and organizations. It’s a complex delivery system with many important components, and help is always welcome.

…and so it went again in this outtake from September 2017, when dozens of my coworkers and I flocked to Gleaners once more for another round of assistance with their various anti-hunger processes. This year I was on a team tasked with filling up bags of groceries that would be handed out to local schoolchildren in need — canned, boxed, and pouch-shaped items of varying degrees of nourishment, all to ensure they’d have something to eat besides their school lunches.

I didn’t write up the experience this time for MCC because honestly, after four years, what else is there to say? Other than copying-and-pasting the same description, which I just did there? The work is sadly still necessary, and many of us were happy to pitch in. We weren’t there to show off or stand out or selfie our way to victory. We were just faces in a crowd ready and willing to do our little part. I lost track of how many bags we put together in all — somewhere in triple digits? — but we kept busy, kept the assembly line going steady, and kept up hopes that we made a difference to someone out there.

security camera!

A reflection of our volunteer group off the overhead camera shield, milling about in our service.

Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 13: Seven Wonders on the Way Back

King Kong!

KING KONG SMASH PUNY PLANES! IF PLANES WOULD DO KONG FAVOR AND FLY CLOSER TO GROUND! KONG NOT HAVE SKYSCRAPER HANDY!

Roadside attractions are naturally part of our road-tripping experience. We won’t necessarily drive fifteen miles out of our way to see a Paul Bunyan statue in an area that has absolutely nothing else of interest, but if one just so happens to be standing across the street from a Presidential burial site, we might make time for a cheesy cameo along the way.

We’re more susceptible to oddball sights when we’re on our way home, have hours to kill, and need our monotony broken up. In the case of our westward trek across Virginia, monotony wouldn’t be a problem for long.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Black Panther” End Credits

Black Panther!

Local theater, doing it right.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: Ryan Coogler’s emotionally charged directorial debut Fruitvale Station was my favorite film of 2013. His follow-up, Creed, struck a bone-deep nerve inside me and was one of my two favorite films of 2015. It didn’t hurt in the least bit that the star of both films was Michael B. Jordan, who’s been raising his game with every project from his early start in The Wire to Chronicle (my favorite film of 2012) and beyond.

As a longtime comics fan who counts Christopher Priest’s ’90s runs on Marvel’s Black Panther as one of the all-time greats, and who wouldn’t have dreamed of this past weekend ever happening as a kid, I was beyond excited when the reins for the big Panther motion picture were handed over to Coogler, and that Jordan would be a part of it.

In a rare move for me, I kept my expectations unreasonably high. In a rare move for Hollywood, my expectations were blown away.

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Our 2008 Road Trip, Part 12: Walk with the Animals, Balk at the Animals

wildcat!

A teenager taking a reluctant wildcat on a walk. What’s the worst that could happen?

When my son was younger and first began tagging along on our road trips in 2003, we tried to include either one zoo or one amusement park on each itinerary as a concession for his sake. We’d already fulfilled the 2008 quota with an entire day spent at Busch Gardens Europe. On our way home we ran across another zoo we hadn’t considered, that hadn’t shown up in our review of mainstream Virginia brochures. We were in the area, the timing was convenient, and the sign out front promised tourists could have their pictures taken with live tiger cubs, presumably small and furry and adorable. That part sounded fun.

I mean, sure, we wound up having one of the most frightening moments in our entire 18-year road trip history. But hey: happy fun animals! Well, some of them. Sorta. The ones that weren’t bitter, at least.

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