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NFL Picks, Week 13
Published on November 27, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make me week 13 NFL picks.

Click here to read them.


Ranking Hayao Miyazaki
Published on November 26, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I rank the films of Hayao Miyazaki.

Click here for more.


Watching "Blue is the Warmest Color"
Published on November 26, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new French film "Blue is the Warmest Color."

Here's an excerpt:

"Don’t be fooled by the nearly three-hour running time, the explicit sex scenes or the naturalistic, immersive filmmaking: 'Blue is the Warmest Color' is a coming-of-age story, about the joy and heartbreak of first love. This is a tale that’s been told many, many times, though seldom as emotionally or provocatively. Or as controversially.

'Blue is the Warmest Color' won the Palme d’Or at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, marking the first time the award was given to both a film’s director and leads. But this triumph was followed by discord. The stars of the film, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, accused director Abdellatif Kechiche of being abusive and said they would never work with him again; Kechiche responded by saying that the film 'shouldn’t be released, it has been soiled too much.' Of course, the film has been released, despite his protestations, and moviegoers are free to watch the film, see what the hype and fighting is all about and come to their own conclusions about the merits of Kechiche’s movie."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Watching "Blue is the Warmest Color"
Published on November 26, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new French film "Blue is the Warmest Color."

Here's an excerpt:

"Don’t be fooled by the nearly three-hour running time, the explicit sex scenes or the naturalistic, immersive filmmaking: 'Blue is the Warmest Color' is a coming-of-age story, about the joy and heartbreak of first love. This is a tale that’s been told many, many times, though seldom as emotionally or provocatively. Or as controversially.

'Blue is the Warmest Color' won the Palme d’Or at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, marking the first time the award was given to both a film’s director and leads. But this triumph was followed by discord. The stars of the film, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux, accused director Abdellatif Kechiche of being abusive and said they would never work with him again; Kechiche responded by saying that the film 'shouldn’t be released, it has been soiled too much.' Of course, the film has been released, despite his protestations, and moviegoers are free to watch the film, see what the hype and fighting is all about and come to their own conclusions about the merits of Kechiche’s movie."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Otters! Otters! Otters!
Published on November 25, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my trip to the Wild Center in the Adirondacks.

Here's an excerpt:

"Over the weekend I visited the Wild Center in Tupper Lake with some friends.

'What exactly is the Wild Center?' one of my friends inquired, shortly before the trip.

I was stumped. The question made me realize that I only knew one thing about the Wild Center: It has otters. And, really, what else do you need? Otters are fantastic little animals; if I could come back as an animal in my next life, I might choose to be an otter. They swim and play pretty much all the time, and are capable of building slides in the snow and mud. And they’re cute! Even so, sensible people might wonder: Are otters worth a three-hour drive?

Yes, I think so. Although I should probably mention that the Wild Center would be a pretty cool place if it didn’t have otters. A natural history museum that opened in 2006, the Wild Center features compelling and interactive exhibits, live animals and cool programs. Plus, it occupies a beautiful building that showcases its beautiful Adirondack setting. Upon arrival, my friends and I picked up the day’s schedule to find out when Otter Enrichment — which involves feeding or engaging the otters in a stimulating activity — would occur. We were sure this would be the highlight of our trip, and we did not want to miss it."

Click here to read the whole thing.


NFL Picks, Week 12
Published on November 21, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my week 12 NFL picks.

Click here to read them.


Watching "12 Years a Slave"
Published on November 20, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new movie "12 Years a Slave."

Here's an excerpt:

“'12 Years a Slave' is one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen this year, which is a bit ironic given its subject matter: the brutality of slavery. Each scene is meticulously composed. The cinematography is excellent. And there’s a richness of detail and physicality that almost makes you feel like you can taste the food the characters are eating, or feel the hot sun as they pick cotton. Few films are this lush and visually intoxicating.

Which doesn’t mean that '12 Years a Slave' is easy to sit through. The film is often quite brutal, and I sometimes wanted to look away from the violence and cruelty. But I couldn’t, perhaps because of the artistry British director Steve McQueen brings to every frame of the film. He wants viewers to understand the experience of slavery — the pain of the lash, the cruel whims of the plantation overseers, the poor living and working conditions. Some critics have accused McQueen of wallowing in misery and rubbing viewers faces in it, but his overall goal, it seems to me, is to tell it like it is. His movie might be pretty — almost painterly, really — but the story it tells is harrowing and horrific.

Local readers might be familiar with Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free-born black man living in Saratoga Springs. In 1841, he traveled to Washington, D.C., for what he believed was a short-term job, and was drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery. McQueen’s opening scenes jump back and forth in time, showing Solomon picking cotton and having a sad yet intense sexual encounter with a fellow slave, as well as his life in Saratoga, where he wore fine clothes and enjoyed a loving relationship with his wife and two children. We know immediately what Solomon has lost, and the terrible circumstances in which he now finds himself."

Click here to read the whole thing.


What's My Age Again?
Published on November 18, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about feeling a bit old when I watch sports, or listen to 17-year-old singer Lorde.

Here's an excerpt:

"Lately I’ve been getting ominous messages through Facebook warning me that my high school reunion is fast approaching. I went to my 10th, and I’ll probably go to this one, too. But I have no intention of helping plan the thing, or build a float for the alumni parade, or any of that stuff. Mainly I’m interested in satisfying my basic curiosity about what has happened to all those people I went to high school with.

I recently got together with some friends from high school, and they seemed equally astonished that our 20th reunion will be held this summer. Is it really possible that we’re almost 40? Frankly, this is unbelievable. I don’t feel at all like someone who will soon be 40. Maybe it’s because I don’t have children. Or maybe it’s because I don’t understand numbers. But I still think of myself as someone who is fairly young. Like maybe in my mid-20s. Of course, this illusion can only be maintained as long as I don’t spend any time with people in their mid-20s.

Recently, I’ve become dimly aware that most major league athletes are younger than I am, and that those close to my age who are still playing are widely regarded as old. And not just old. But as freaks of nature who are defying the odds. 'How many years does the 36-year-old Tom Brady have in him?' football commentators are fond of asking. 'How much longer will Kevin Garnett’s knees hold up?' basketball observers like to ask. 'After all, he’s 37 YEARS OLD!'"

Click here to read the whole thing.


NFL Picks, Week 11
Published on November 14, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my week 11 NFL picks.

Click here to read them.


Watching "Wadjda"
Published on November 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Saudi Arabian movie "Wadjda."

Here's an excerpt:

"I’m a sucker for foreign films about plucky children. Not only do these films tell heartwarming stories, but they also take viewers to intriguing and beautiful countries. The new movie 'Wadjda' tells a heartwarming story about a spunky young girl, while also depicting the daily rhythms and customs of a distant land. It is one of the few films to emerge from Saudi Arabia, and the first feature film directed by a Saudi Arabian women; production reportedly took five years, because director Haifaa Al-Mansour did most of her work from vans, using walkie-talkies, because men and women are forbidden to be seen working together.

Just for opening a window into a restrictive culture, 'Wadjda' is worth seeing. But it’s also a great little story, about an 11-year-old girl, Wadjda (Waad Mohammed), who wants a bicycle. But at almost every step, she’s discouraged: Her mother tells her that bicycles are not for girls, asking 'Have you ever seen a girl on a bicycle?', and her stern headmistress is constantly trying to get her to conform to Saudi Arabia’s rigid gender norms. After all, this is a country where women are not even allowed to drive cars. The only person who seems intent on helping Wadjda achieve her dream is the neighbor boy, Abdullah (Abdullrahman Algohani), who lets her ride his bike when nobody’s around."

Click here to read the whole thing.


What's Up With the Celtics?
Published on November 12, 2013 by Sara Foss

The Celtics are not as horrible as predicted.

Click here for my thoughts on the matter.

 

 


Death of a Cat
Published on November 11, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about the death of my cat Paul.

Here's an excerpt:

Shortly before my cat Paul died, I fell asleep on the couch while watching a movie, as I sometimes do. And when I awoke 1 a.m., I had every intention of getting up and going to bed. But then I noticed Paul purring softly in my lap. Rather than disturb her, I closed my eyes and went back to sleep. Paul could be a bit standoffish, and her friendlier moods were always a bit of a treat.

I began worrying about Paul around the end of October, although I had a hard time pinpointing what exactly was bothering me. She (yes, she had a boy’s name) seemed less active. She was sleeping in places she didn’t usually sleep. She seemed smaller and frailer. I assumed her age — she was 14 — was finally starting to catch up with her. But I scheduled an appointment with the vet for Monday anyway. Perhaps he could give me some tips on how to care for an older cat.

The vet did a basic examination, then looked at Paul’s chart. She had lost weight — about three pounds, which is a lot for an average-sized cat. And her breathing was a bit labored. The vet drew some blood for a test, and promised to phone with the results the next morning. I wasn’t particularly worried. For the most part, Paul seemed fine. When I brought her home, she ran and hid under the bed. When I came back from work, she greeted me at the door. Later that evening, she fell asleep on the window sill. She ate and drank and used her litter box.

But Paul wasn’t fine. The next morning the vet informed me that she had kidney failure and a hyperactive thyroid. 'The kidney failure explains why she’s less active,' he said. 'But the thyroid probably explains why she’s been pretty energetic until recently.'"

Click here to read the whole thing.


NFL Picks, Week 10
Published on November 7, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over the DG, I make my week 10 NFL picks.

Click here to read them.


Watching "Captain Phillips"
Published on November 5, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new movie "Captain Phillips."

Here's an excerpt:

"Let me preface this review by saying that I have a difficult time enjoying movies that make me feel sick. And that the shaky camera work of 'Captain Phillips' made me feel nauseous — so nauseous that at one point I considered bailing on the film. But I decided to gut it out. And now it is Wednesday afternoon, and I still feel a bit nauseous. Perhaps it’s time to stop blaming 'Captain Phillips' for what is clearly some sort of cold. Or at least a bad case of malaise.

'Captain Phillips' tells the true story of the 2009 hijacking of the cargo ship the Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates — the first successful pirate seizure of an American ship since the 19th century. At the time, this story generated a lot of 'Pirates still exist — isn’t that crazy?' commentary, and it was easy to view the story with some amusement. But 'Captain Phillips' makes it clear that having a ragtag group of modern-day and well-armed pirates take control of your boat is no laughing matter. This relentless, tense movie never lets up, unfolding with the fly-on-the-wall perspective and sense of immediacy characteristic of the cinema-verite school of documentary.

The opening scenes give us a sense of what it’s like to work on a large cargo ship, establishing Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) as a no-nonsense, highly competent and resourceful leader. He isn’t the most likable guy, but he seems to have the respect of the men under his command. Not long after the voyage begins, he learns that pirates have been spotted in the area. And despite his best efforts, the pirates — there are four of them, led by a man named Muse (Barkhad Abdi) — board the ship and take Captain Phillips hostage while his crew hides in the engine room. For whatever reason, there are no guns on board, which forces crew members to get creative: They leave broken glass on the floor, so that the barefoot hijacker will injure himself when he steps on it, and cut the power to make it more difficult for the hijackers to find stuff.

Click here to read more.


Winslow Homer's Studio
Published on November 4, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about visiting Winslow Homer's studio in Prout's Neck, Maine.

Click here for more.