Saturday, January 15, 2011

Switching to Wordpress

So I have what, 3 or 4 posts with blogger, and I have already switched to Wordpress. I guess blogger is good for bare bones stuff, but I like the ease (and popularity) of Wordpress. This was my first time using blogger, and I find it to be a bit weak (for what I want). Oh well, I didn't know until I tried!

Link to the new blog. You know you want to see it!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Temporada de patos / Duck Season

I asked a few people (my movie watcher friends) if they have ever seen Duck Season. "You mean the Looney Tunes short?" Nope, I'm talking about a fine little quirky Mexican film.

I first saw this movie not on Netflix, but by borrowing the DVD from a library. I have no idea how or why the library obtained this movie, because the library isn't in a very hip spot, and I'm pretty sure I've never heard anyone speak Spanish around there. But anyhoo, libraries are great sources for free (though I have heard of some libraries "charging" rental fees for dvds and videos) movies--usually their collections consist of major blockbusters and classics, but you can also find some interesting obscure stuff that they must have picked up on the library supplier's discount rack or something.

Temporada de patos (hereby referred to as Duck Season, because I can't remember how to properly title things in Spanish) is a 2004 Mexican film. It's in black and white, which should impress your hipster friends. It's difficult to describe the movie without giving away too many details, mainly because there isn't much plot, but here goes. Two teenage boys are chilling at the one's home on a Sunday. Mom isn't home. They have xbox (Specifically, Halo) and money for pizza. All is well for their day of chillaxing.

But... this is a movie, so you know something strange is going to happen. They encounter a stubborn (and lonely) neighbour. Their pizza delivery person is equally stubborn. These four characters mesh and talk about their lives on this particular Sunday. Holy crap, it sounds like The Breakfast Club, and I suppose it is with it's interaction of similarities between unlikely characters, which is what this movie is all about. And yes, there is mention in the movie of the one character having a shitty job, so it's right up the unemployed alley. :)

The dialogue isn't particularly sharp or witty (Though the quote "John Lennon was a woman." is particularly thought provoking!). There are no fancy special visual or sound effects. And I know that the plot doesn't sound that great, but I feel like I'm trying to describe The Breakfast Club, which how do you really describe it except to say that a bunch of kids are in detention and realize how similar they are? I think of it like Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. The title character realizes that the ordinary is really extraordinary. At risk of sounding incredibly optimistic and cheerful, life is made up of so many micro-miracles that we pass by (apologies if that sounds like something a Nicholas Sparks' fan would say.). Last night, I laughed my ass off over a true story someone told me--I usually don't laugh that hard over Hollywood movies.

Duck Season is a very well-put together movie about boring, dull days that because memorable. The director did a great job at giving the film that dry feel by using black and white film and plain camera shots. Even the actors look like average, everyday people. The DVD copy I watched was in Spanish with English subtitles, but the Netflix instant queue version is dubbed in English. I highly recommend Duck Season if you need some very light material to watch, if you are into the dramedy scene and/or enjoy movies like Little Miss Sunshine, or if you want to watch an unpretentious indie film. Just have some patience because it starts slow--like a lazy Sunday--and ends with that feeling of "Shit, my case of the Mondays is starting already... wait, where did my day go?!."

Recommended viewing snacks: Pizza (slightly cold), Mexican cuisine (real if you can, Tex-Mex if you must; Taco Bell is always a recommendation), Green Kool-aid + cheap liquor (must be equal to or greater than 80 proof) + packet of salt from fast food restaurant = Poor people margaritas, Coke (yep, splurge for the good brand instead of that generic cola you've been buying), brownies.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Roger & Me and Documentaries

I browsed my "recently watched" list in Netflix for something to give a little mini review on.

My dvd queue, my instant queue, and my recently watched list are a hodge podge of movies. If it sounds interesting, I'll watch it. If it's critically acclaimed, I'll watch it. I tend to go towards artsy stuff and lighthearted stuff, because I really, really need to laugh and smile. Like, really.

So from my recently watched list I present to you a movie that stars unemployed people--Roger & Me. Roger & Me is a Michael Moore film from a long, long time ago--way back in 1989--that really, if you disregard the hairstyles, almost could be from 2009.

The documentary. I remember watching Disney nature movies in elementary school. What made them boring was the same monotonous narrator talking about a doe and its fawn in poor film quality (yes, I took note of this at an early age!). I always remember these movies being filmed in wooded areas or fields--native landscapes for me. Why couldn't they film in the desert or ocean (Jacques Cousteau and the Calypso films would appear in around sixth grade)? I would giggle to myself at the word mate or urinate. haha.  Sex and pee are still hilarious today.

I saw a few Michael Moore movies in college, as well as some other documentaries. It seemed to me that the best documentaries had at least some of the following qualities:

1. Often they are about a boring (or at least unexpected) subject. I once saw a doc about mardi gras beads. Yes, beads! It was about Chinese manufacturing... it was unexpectedly interesting. There's one about Helvetica... like the font. Or high scores on Pacman.

2. They are clever. Some may have even had some laugh out loud parts.
3. They make you think. They shouldn't tell you what is good or bad, but should let you choose what is right and what is wrong.
4. They are personal. There is obviously some sort of reason why you want to make a film about a specific subject... and because of that, passion shoes.
5. They employ some interesting camera techniques, especially when they are low budget. Sometimes there is no audio and just a beautiful camera angle. I love when directors make movies to be the art they should be.

So anyway, onto Roger & Me... The title of the movie refers to Moore's attempt to meet with Roger Smith, the CEO of General Motors. Way back in the 1980s, GM did some crazy shit. Major layoffs were occurring in numbers that could not even be fathomed in Flint, Michigan--home of Michael Moore. Unemployment, foreclosures and evictions skyrocketed... holy shit, wait a minute, this sounds familiar! So to recap--GM (who was, at one point, pretty generous to their employees) is making shitloads of money, yet decides to move plants to Mexico to probably "save money." People in Michigan, therefore, lose their jobs. These people then lose their houses... and sometimes, even their sanity. Crime rate goes up. Murder rates go up. Rat population goes up. A tourism campaign is launched and fails.

The interesting thing about this movie--at least I think it's interesting--is the whole element of cause and effect. Because X happened, Y happened. Because Y happened, Z is happening. So much of it parallels to today's economic situation--sending work elsewhere cuts costs (and then increases profit), but it fucks up things on a community basis. I also liked the little snippets of "real people" being affected by GM; it makes the story personal. I'm not a big fan of financial junk, but it was easy to understand and got it's point across. I could see why its elementary approach would not appeal to economists and such professionals.

As an on-topic digression, I really feel there needs to be more support for the unemployed, and I just don't mean in an economic sense. I thankfully had supportive friends, including some that experienced unemployment. But I also wish, at the same time, that I would have had like, a jobless mentor. Being jobless really messes things up in your life. I realized why people go crazy, and I'm really surprised that the suicide rate (and crime rates) aren't super high... or maybe they are and they just aren't being reported.

Now that I'm off that pedestal, Roger & Me is a must see if you like documentaries or films that considered "groundbreaking." I also recommend it to those interested in the economy and the unemployed. It was also nice to know that I wasn't alone--sure, these people were jobless 25 years ago, but it made me feel a little less alone. Also, if you are a fan of Moore's other films, you'll probably like it.

Recommended viewing setting: On a weekday, in lieu of your daily job search, while wearing a spotted t-shirt from your former company's summer picnic.

I once worked 9 to 5. Now I watch "9 to 5"

Last January, I became one of those 15 million people who eat junk food, wear their pajamas more than 12 hours a day, and watch a lot of tv. Toddler? No, unemployed.

Unemployment wasn't so bad the first few months. I looked for jobs and hibernated. Perhaps I was a bit too cocky with my attitude of "I'll find a job." I don't think I was being cocky, though (in fact, I generally lack self-esteem); I honestly had no clue how difficult it was to get a job until I couldn't get one. I'm college educated, have a pretty solid resume, and am friendly, hard working, and intelligent. Friends and family gave me the same assurance--"You'll find something."

I've been trying to stay busy, but that doesn't always work out as well as I desire. After you send 100+ resumes out and get no interviews, you start to get really depressed about your situation and realize that it's not as easy as you think. On top of the constant job searching, I volunteered. I cleaned the house... only to have it become a mess again. I adopted two abandoned kittens. I made cat toys. I have made some hellaciously awesome meals (cheap, cheap meals). I read books. I blogged. During the warmer months, I went kayaking (and even paddled one time with a random unemployed person I met at the lake). Though there was admittedly much self-pity, I tried to occupy the now-40 spare hours a week in my life.

Two things have remained consistent not only in my quest for employment, but in my life in general: writing and watching movies. In the beginning (when I though unemployment was just a passing fad), I still had extended cable and was able to watch a lot of 90s reruns (90210 became my unexpected favourite, despite never seeing an episode before 2010). I realized the lack of good stuff on tv didn't justify the cost, so I am down to basic, mainly because my internet would go up in price if I dropped it completely. I have borrowed dvds from libraries, done Redbox a handful of times, and my personal favourite--Netflix.

The writing has come from failed blog attempts and correspondence to friends. Journaling. Part 1 of a novella. Everything seemed to be about the downward spiral of unemployment. Do you remember brainstorming in elementary and middle school? You would write an idea in a central area, then you would branch out your ideas, then those ideas would stem from that idea so you would end up with a big web of stuff to possibly write about. Well, in my life, it seems like I am no longer that central concept; unemployment is now what it's all about, the financial issues and the self-worth and the social life and everything. else. in. the. history. of. ever.

It occurred to me that if I like writing, and if I like movies... then why don't I combine the two? I am not one for new years resolutions, but I really hope to maintain this blog and get some readers on this. The silly (but good) thing is that I now have a part time job. It is not glamourous at all and I make about half of what I was making, but it gets me out of the house. It's not the most embarrassing job in the world, but it's far from a career. When you used to have your office and business card... well, it's very humbling to have a job that requires a name tag.

But I'm trying, and that's the important thing. And when I'm not trying, then I'm probably watching a movie.