Posts Tagged ‘cinemas’

51e0vTQYw1LAs a child, I loved Christmas. It was three days of absolute magic and excitement. We were out of school, and there was a steady supply of cookies to eat as we played with our new toys. My grandma had a magpie instinct and decorated her house with twinkling lights and anything that glittered: cut glass figurines, mirrors, tinsel, crystal chandeliers. Her living room had that 1960s shag carpet so deep you could only rake it, not vacuum it. It dampened the sound from her massive console record player that was on a constant loop of the Rita Ford collection A Music Box Christmas.

Note: it was three magical days. Just three. Not ten. Not thirty. Not sixty. Not an endless barrage of commercials, cheap music, bellringers, and forced cheer. As a young adult, it lost its charm about the same time my grandma began her descent into Alzheimer’s. I developed a severe gift phobia that haunts me to this day. If you want to see a look of sheer panic in my eyes, hand me a wrapped present.

It only got worse as time went on: awkward family get togethers with in-laws, the crush of commercialism, the way tragedies pile up around this holiday. At one point in my marriage, we declared a moratorium. We stayed home alone and watched movies, christening our new holiday Cinemas. No more mediocre ham dinners. No more shopping for gifts nobody really wanted. No more faking a smile as I unwrapped a denim shirt embroidered with bird houses.

Then my pop got sick and I got sucked back into family Christmas events. But I am drawing the line. I’m only keeping what I love about this holiday from my childhood. I’m not agreeing to gift exchanges among adults who can afford to buy whatever they need and want. I’m not going to church. I’m not sitting through nieces and nephew’s musical performances. Seriously, you’ll find me in the garage drinking beer during those agonizing moments. I’m not even allowing anyone to ruin my Cinemas with depressing and serious movies.

The thing I’m embracing this year is butter spritz cookies. They were a staple of my childhood Christmases, and I inherited my grandmother’s cookie press in all its retro-future aluminum and copper glory. I pressed out a batch of traditional trees and poinsettias for my friend Robert, who felt he’d not received enough Christmas treats at work. Later in the week, when I go to my sister’s house, I’m taking the cookie press with me. I might even crank up the old Music Box Christmas album.

This year, be nice to yourself. Don’t gag down the whole monstrosity of Christmas, if you don’t want to. Keep what you love and leave the rest of it behind.

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I have never sent a holiday card in my life. I don’t celebrate Christmas. Or Chanukah. Or Kwanzaa. As a result of my holiday abstention, I have never sent holiday cards.

But this year, just for you, I am sending holiday cards. My publisher, Stairway Press, is running a promotion during December that allows you to order a book and receive a personal holiday card from certain authors on their list. For whatever crazy reason, I’ve agreed to take part and send my very first holiday cards. The purchase can be for you or for someone else, but I will personally be sending holiday cards to anyone who purchases a copy of Last Will or an advance copy of Lie Lay Lain from my publisher’s website. Other participating authors are shown here.


If you’re interested in getting a book and a card for yourself or for some other reader near and dear to you, just pop over to the Stairway Press book store page. And then use care when checking your mail…

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slumdog_millionaireAfter my disappointing Cinemas, I finally got to see Slumdog Millionaire on Saturday.  It did not disappoint.  I’m a fan of Danny Boyle and you can’t help but be impressed by his ability to pull this film together into something extraordinary.  The movement among the different time lines of the story is deft and poignant.  Just as important, the pathos of tragedy never descends into bathos,  perhaps because the film makes clear that this is one more tragedy in a sea of millions of sad, desperate, impoverished lives.

In short, I liked the film and I recommend it, but …  You knew there was a but, didn’t you?

Boyle takes on the real Mumbai and carefully shows us both sides of modern India: call centers full of cleancut technologically savvy young Indians and the grinding, killing poverty that still rules so much of the world.  This is shocking to American audiences, but Boyle softens the blow by making his main characters beautiful.  He has to, because no matter how far Mumbai may be from Hollywood, it is Hollywood that still controls the purse strings, and beauty sells.

I have nothing against watching beautiful people on theater screens, but I try to remember  it’s fiction.  Spending two hours with lovely, tall Dev Patel with his mega-watt smile is a pleasure, but it’s  clear he wasn’t born and raised in a Mumbai slum, eking out an existence against a backdrop of neglect, abuse, hunger, and desperation.

indian_beggarSo watch the film and enjoy it, but keep in the back of your mind that this is not the face of India’s poor.  There are likely some children who are purposely crippled and disfigured to improve their ability to beg, but vast numbers more are crippled and disfigured by malnutrition and lack of medical care.  And those children need help, because they’re not ever going to win at Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Go see the movie, but consider skipping the popcorn and donating that money to Oxfam or some other worthwhile agency.

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As many of you know, I don’t celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Yule.  I belong to the very small cult of Cinemites (not to be confused with the Sin-a-mite cult, who really know how to throw parties.)  Each year on December 25, I indulge or over-indulge in movies.  Typically, Cinemas is celebrated at a large multi-plex theater, but it can also be observed in the more humble form of the Ritual of the DVD’s.

Most years, hubby and I see 3 or 4 movies, but one year we saw 4 movies at the theater and another 3 at home.  We spent the next day with our eyes burning, and a bit hungover from all the popcorn, pop, and candy.  Since then, we’ve tried to celebrate in moderation.

This year was a disappointment for a number of reasons, beginning with a concept called “Fork and Screen.”  This is billed as an upscale movie-dining experience, where you watch the movie while eating an alleged meal, which I suspect is a slight step up from the microwaved monstrosities already passing for food in the regular part of the theater.  The gimmick behind this is that not only does one pay exorbitantly for the dubious food stuffs, one pays extra for the privilege of watching a movie while listening to people chew openly on hamburgers and pizzas.  (As opposed to the common theater experience of listening to people nibble furtively on popcorn and candy.)

At the theater we visited, they enforce the gimmick by offering certain films only in the “Fork and Screen.”  Namely, you couldn’t see Milk in a normal theater.  You could only see it in the Foodatorium.  Because we didn’t want to pay into the gimmick, we didn’t get to see it.

It threw our entire schedule for the day off.  We hadn’t planned to see The Spirit, although we both enjoyed its precursor, Sin City.  However, it was the only movie starting at the time we’d intended to see Milk, and we weren’t opposed to seeing it.

We saw about forty minutes of it.  We would have seen even less, but I think hubby and I were both waiting for the other to cave first.  Finally, we both leaned together and whispered, “I can’t take this.”  It was so bad that we got our money back.  I rarely walk out of movies and never have I asked for my money back, but this was special.  I like comic book movies.  As long as they’re visually interesting, I don’t even mind the ones with stilted dialog and glaring plot holes.  The Spirit had both, plus half-hearted absurdism from a phoning-it-in Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansen.  And it wasn’t anywhere near as visually interesting as the original comic strip.

Walking out of that movie put us in another bind.  We hadn’t intended to see The Day the Earth Stood Still, but again: that’s what was playing at the right time.  At least it was in IMAX, which renders even mediocre things minimally interesting.  Which is good, because DESS was fairly mediocre.  There’s not even any point in adding to the jokes about Keanu Reevers doing well at emotionless aliens.  Its only selling point was that Jennifer Connelly is immenently watchable, even when she’s starring in dreck.  (Oh and getting to see The Watchmen trailer on the IMAX screen was a bonus.)

We abandoned ship after that.  There were other movies we wanted to see, but Cinemas seemed tainted somehow.

This is how you know I’m a true Cinemite.  You’ll never hear me complain about the cost of movie tickets, or even refreshments.  I don’t care.  I’d pay double to see a good movie.  The problem with the movie industry is mediocrity.  It sinks billions of dollars into movies that aren’t worth watching.  Storylines that are tired, dialog that’s forced, characters with uncertain motivations and goals, ninth inning changes of heart that are unbelievable, and enough deus ex machina to choke a Trojan horse.

It all serves as a good reminder of what not to do when writing a novel.  A reminder, too, that even if you write the best novel you can, Hollywood may devour your story and shit out a movie you’d hate to pay $10 to see.

On the bright side, at least no one got hurt at the theater where I celebrated Cinemas.  Unlike in Philadelphia, where a man shot someone for talking during the movies.  You know who I feel sorry for?  The other people in the theater.  First, some jackass talking in the movie and then another jackass pulling out a gun and shooting the place up.  This is a sacred temple, people.  Have some respect.

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