Monday, March 23, 2015

(Movie) Reviews you can use: Lawrence gets Whiplash

Good afternoon!

Being employed is hard, even if it's half days.  Wow...how did I work all day, every day, in an office?

Yes, I am enjoying my new stay at home gig.  Has it meant more writing time?  Not so much, but it has given me time to watch movies I probably would never have set aside time for before.  Case in point:  Lawrence of Arabia.  

The 1963 Best Picture of the year is a magnificent testament to cinematography, and we all know I like a well shot picture.  Also, it's set in the WWI Era, a wildly under-movied era, if you ask me.  But that's pretty much where my understanding of the film ends.

This is a heavily layered film and one I believe left a lot on the cutting room floor that would have made the plot a bit more accessible to today's movie viewing public.  That said, it's a subtle movie.  The dialogue is witty, as opposed to hilarious, something that makes more sense in England than it does in the US.  

And oh, it is a heavily British film.  Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guiness.  All the greats. At one point, my husband walked through the living room and asked what I was watching.  I said, "Lawrence of Arabia is battling the Turks with the help of Dr. Zhivago and Obi-wan Kenobi.  My husband said, "Well, then he won't lose."

This is really a fantastic, intelligent, beautiful film, but I think before I see it again, I need to read up on my British/Arab politics pre WWI.  I think if you don't know what's going on prior to the movie, you're not going to get what's going on in the movie, at least during the scenes where Peter O'Toole is wearing trousers.  When he's dress like an Arab, you know exactly what's happening.  

One problem and one question I had with this film:  First of all, my problem; the opening of the film shows us Lawrence's death in a motorcycle accident some years after the war.  (Spoiler alert, he doesn't die in Arabia...)  But I wish they would have brought the film full circle at the end.  I mean, hey, you're already at 3 hours and 36 minutes, bring this epic flashback back to the present time.

Then my question: Hos did Peter O'Toole NOT win the Oscar?  Just for the amount of sand he managed to wear through most of the movie, he should have gotten the Oscar.

So yes, if you're in the mood for a classic epic that seems a little highbrow and leaves you wishing you'd taken more history classes in college, this is the film for you!  4 our of 5 for me.

Meanwhile,,,continuing my goal of watching all this year's Best Picture Nominees, I watched "Whiplash" recently.  Hey, remember when I said, "The Imitation Game" was the best pictured I'd seen of the 8  (I've now seen all but "Selma" and "American Sniper") yeah, cross that out.  I doubt any film, yes, not even "American Sniper" which has movie goers wetting themselves all day long, is going to change my mind on this.  "Whiplash" should have won.

A young and talented drummer attending a prestigious music academy finds himself under the wing of the most respected professor at the school, one who does not hold back on abuse towards his students. The two form an odd relationship as the student wants to achieve greatness, and the professor pushes him. (Thank you, IMBD.com)

It's all about what you're willing to do to get the best out of someone, and what you're willing to do to be the best.  (I'm sort of proud of that line.)

J.k. Simmons is the teacher, and Miles Teller is the student and this movie is a wild ride that you want to get off, but know that if it stops, you're going to be sad it's over.  Simmons is brutal, physically (he's super fit, not at all the dumpy guy from the Farmers Insurance commercials) and verbally as he drives all of his students to the peak of their talent or the end of their ropes...it really doesn't seem to matter to him.

Miles Teller performs his part as the drummer student with more depth than I at first expected.  You do not cheer for him through this whole movie.  In fact, at one point, you're pretty sure both characters are the most horrible people who have ever walked the earth.  And yet, the final scene brings the story all around in a brilliant flash of writing, acting, and drumsticks.

This is a 5 out of 5...and if you see no other nominated movie, this is the one you should pick.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Is it all worth it?

Good afternoon!

I just finished re watching "Breaking Bad" which might be one of the best written shows ever. If you
haven't seen it, go to Netflix, to to the video store, or buy it and watch it.  Sure, the subject matter isn't for everyone...chemistry teacher turned meth kingpin...but the writing is so very good.  In watching and then re watching, the series, I find myself asking the main character, Walter White, the following question:  Was it all worth it?

He slaved, he wept, he risked all the make wads of money for his family.  Spoiler alert, it doesn't completely turn out the way he hopes.  Still, you have to ask the question:  Was it worth it?

I know parents, in their heart of heart, ask themselves this question when they slave, weep, and risk everything for their children.  Children are hard.  Raising children, no matter what anyone tells you, is the most heartbreaking, joyful, painful, lovely, shattering, beautiful thing anyone could do. When done right, at the end....well, when done right there never is an end.  Yes, my children would not be happy to hear that!

Writers, we face the same thing.  Is it worth it?

We slave, we weep, we risk for our stories, for our "babies" for that thing we hope will one day support our family or ourselves.  Maybe we alienate friends and family because we must write. Maybe we hurt feelings. Maybe those around us don't understand and we wind up either giving up our passion or we give up those around us.

Is it worth it?

In the case of Walter White, I'm going to go with a "no."  No, making meth and dealing drugs is never going to be worth the risk.  And in the case of raising children, hey, the jury's still out...wait, no, it's totally worth it because someday my kids, who are now nearly adults themselves, will see the worth in what their parents did and understand it themselves as they become parents.

But writing?

Admittedly, my family does not get it.  My son, Peter Bradley, is a published poet, and he gets it on a certain level, although he hasn't had to make a choice between going to his kids' soccer game or writing because, well, he doesn't have a kid.

My daughter writes copiously, but what her dreams are yet, I don't know.  She's eighteen, she's not in her "sharing years."

My husband used to write poetry, but gave it up decades ago. We don't talk about it, why he stopped. Maybe because he got the girl...me.  Maybe because he dedicated his life to the children and the house and the family.  Maybe because he just didn't care about it that much.

For me, the writing career was start and stop. You can look at it from the time I was thirteen until the time I was thirty-three, when I got really serious, and the peaks and valleys of writing coincide with the peaks and valleys of personal life. The unhappier I was, the more I wrote.  That's not the case now, not now that I look on writing as a career, as a job, as something I must do every day.  Getting to this point required risk, however, and loss. Loss of friends, loss of jobs, loss of security.

Was it worth it?

Every writer friend I have has a job that supports them outside of writing and every writer friend I have dreams of the day they can criss cross the planet doing book signings and not have to worry about the light bill or the rent.  And every writer friend I have will tell you that yes, if you want that story to be good, if you want people to read that story and love that story and want more stories from you, then yes, sacrificing a weekend, an afternoon, living late nights filled with coffee and struggling through day jobs because you had to finish the chapter the night before, is all worth it.

For me, it's a resounding yes.  I have produced more since 2009 than I ever thought I could and I continue to write.  I never through I had more than one story in me.  Turns out, I opened that door and I have stories falling through me. It gives me joy, it gives me hope, it gives me focus knowing that a story told well, a story I'm telling, is a story worth having out there. 

So yes, it is worth it.  Sure, I'll never be a Walter White, and that's okay.  Really...that's okay. But I'm proud of my children, through all the struggles we've had they were, and are, worth it, and I'm proud of my "babies."  Each and every word, worth it.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Authors! Got something you'd like to promote?

Good morning!

We authors are always looking for ways to promote our work for free.  Advertising isn't always cheap and getting the word out online about an upcoming project or some announcement can get pricey if you don't rely on the goodness of other authors.

To that end, my friends, if you are an author and you have an announcement to make, or would like to promote a new work, or would like to guest blog, please contact me!  I'm opening up this blog to you.  I like to keep it simple.  If you have a new book, new publication of some kind, I'd like to read it and write a review for one day and the next day do a ten question interview with you.

If you'd like to guest blog and pop in some promo for your work, that's good, too.  Pick a topic, the sky's the limit. I only have a few guidelines:  1) no politics.  2) no religion  (If you write
Christian/inspirational, that's fine, promote it.  I'm just saying let's not get into some religious debate.) 3)  Images are fine, but no nudity/graphic sex/illegal activities may be posted.

Other than that, bring it on!  I figure I can host one guest blog a week.  If you want a review/interview, I can do two a month.

This is completely free and I'm doing it because hey, we authors have to stick together!

You can email me at at this email address or message me on my Face book author page.

It's free advertising...how can you miss?

Friday, March 6, 2015

It's time to spread my wings and channel Kelly Clarkson!

Good morning all!

Many years ago, I joined a writer's group offered through my local park and rec department.  The woman in charge of the group was a very talented author and the group itself was made up of an eclectic collection of young and old, poets and fiction writers, humorists,
novelists, and literary thinkers all of whom were chasing the elusive dream of becoming "writers."  The woman, her name is Kathie, made us all realize we were all writers, having written something and put our names on it.  She guided us all, regardless of talent level, through the murky waters and in the handful of years that group met, I learned enough about myself and my writing to break away from the hobby of writing to a more serious attitude.

Kathie and I took different approaches to making our writing dreams come true. I got bogged down in day jobs that sort of paid the bills and definitely squelched my energy and drive for my dream.  Kathie, on the other hand, followed her path with a single-minded focus, not letting much stop her.  

She's made her dream, her full dream, a reality.  She and her husband, Michael, own and run the lovely All Writers Workplace and Workshop in Waukesha.  She has students from all over the globe taking her workshops and she travels quite a bit for speaking engagements and workshops.  Oh, and she's about to release her fourth, yes her fourth, honest to goodness novel, put out by a publishing company. 

Of course I'm proud of her!  Who wouldn't be?  And yes, I'm also a little jealous.  She's supporting herself and her family with writing. It's what every single person who puts words on paper or on a screen or on a cocktail napkin dreams of, and she's doing it.  Meanwhile, I followed the rules (I thought) and I'm on the cusp.  I've written a lot...but I'm not supporting myself and my family...not yet.

 A couple things happened recently that have made me reevaluate my life a little.  For the past nearly ten years I've been working the standard office job women of my age work, and I've stifled.  I've put on wads of weight, I've gone almost completely gray, and while I've been pretty entertaining for many people with my Elsie W. books, I've lost of my sense of whimsy.  Getting let go a couple months ago might have been the best thing that ever happened to me.

The other thing that happened is I rejoined Kathie's workshop a couple weeks ago and I couldn't be happier. Once again I'm in the midst of a really eclectic group of people. Outside the confines of the studio, I doubt many of these folks would agree with me on many of the big life topics, but it doesn't matter because inside the studio we are all one thing:  We are writers.  We are authors.  And we are all working together, for ourselves and for each other, to get published, to be read.

Last night I got a phone call telling me I did not get the office job for which I'd gone through two interviews.  And I nearly wept I was so relieved.  That's the moment when I realized that yes, I do need to get a job, but maybe, just maybe, that job doesn't need to be the 8-5 weekday job that locks me at a desk and makes me crave snacks all day long.  Maybe, just maybe I need to think about the jobs that I really loved, the ones I did back when I just needed something to fill the income gap between my husband's check and our bills.  Those funny, funky, after hours gigs outside the corporate world that didn't pay much, but put me in touch with some of the most colorful, most interesting people I ever met.


Maybe, like the amazing and beautiful Kelly Clarkson sings, "I'll spread my wings and I'll learn how to fly."  And in freeing myself from the bonds of the expected path might take me to where I really want to be:  Supporting myself and my family with my passion for storytelling.

At least, today, that's the path I think I'm going to try and follow.