February, 2011 Archives

My Favorite Films Of 2010

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February 27th, 2011

And … ACTION! One of my not-so-secret passions in life is movies. Yes, I dig frozen coffees, pizza, traveling and, oh yeah, my family. But in a year where you’d think my movie going would be severely challenged, I still managed to rack up scores of films by either renting them, going to the early […]

And … ACTION!

One of my not-so-secret passions in life is movies. Yes, I dig frozen coffees, pizza, traveling and, oh yeah, my family. But in a year where you’d think my movie going would be severely challenged, I still managed to rack up scores of films by either renting them, going to the early matinees with the fun senior citizens who talk very loudly during the show or through my latest craze of watching them instantly via Netflix.

Each year I like to share my favorite films with the rest of you. When my blood brother Scott texted me with the four words, “What, no Oscar picks?” I realized just how late I am this time around. So here’s the deal: half of the 10 Academy Award nominated movies are my favorites. If I had to rank them in order, I’d say offhand it would look like this:

What else can I say about 2010 movies? Hows about I tell you which other films, beside the nominees, stood out for me? Yeah, I like that idea.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rctheotherguys.jpgFirst off is The Other Guys. With wonderful comic acting by Will Ferrell to Mark Wahlberg’s straight man, this would make for a great weekend rental. The utterly insane way supporting actors Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson depart the premises, permanently, still has me baffled. And any movie with Steve Coogan is just naturally going to rise to the top for me.

Next is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Michael Cera plays Michael Cera again for what seems like the 95th time but his schtick works. If you’re at all into graphics, you have to see this movie; critics have said the use of added words — drawn onto the screen — is going to raise the bar many, many levels for years to come. It’s a fun film to watch.

You can still see Another Year in theatres. It’s a small, quiet movie starring Jim Broadbent and what really stuck out for me was its utter reality. I felt like I was just watching people getting together at intimate lunch or dinner gatherings and talking about their lives. One story line however, with the talented Imelda Staunton, (of Harry Potter fame, among many others), was totally abandoned early in the plot. I wish there was more of her plight shown.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcgethimtothegreek.jpgMr. Katy Perry, Russell Brand, plays an over the top British star in Get Him to the Greek. I know, what a stretch right? But it’s a fun ride with Jonah Hill actually playing the straight man. Here’s a fun fact. Katy Perry had a cameo role in this movie with Brand however it was eventually cut, but that’s where they first met. Yes, I watch too many biography shows on cable!

Who doesn’t like Emma Stone, or as I think of her, Mila Kunis’ twin. Easy A was an intelligent movie about high school relationships with some great surprises thrown in. We just absolutely loved her relationship with parents Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson.

Jon Hamm shows he’s much more than just a Mad Man in The Town. Ben Affleck directed and starred in this movie about Charlestown, supposedly the city that breeds the most bank thieves in the country. Jeremy Renner, from Hurt Locker, plays an even meaner and mixed up character than the one in last year’s Academy Award winning film.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcloveandotherdrugs.jpgI don’t know what it is about Anne Hathaway but she is absolutely riveting in everything she does, even if I don’t like the movie as a whole. Thankfully I liked Love and Other Drugs. Jake Gyllenhaal and she have fantastic chemistry which was infinitely more believable than the last time they paired up in Brokeback Mountain.

Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer felt like other mystery movies I’ve seen but it was done well enough that it’s worth a rental. Ewan McGregor is charged with writing a controversial British Prime Minister’s autobiography and really, that’s all you need to know about the movie.

I don’t know if I really recommend Jack Goes Boating. It’s quiet and quirky and stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a guy learning to swim so he can confidently take Amy Ryan, (Steve Carrell’s girlfriend on The Office), out for a rowboat ride. Since I still ask myself whether or not I liked it several months later, I might just as well include it here.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcdatenight.jpgSpeaking of Steve Carell, you should at least see one, if not all three of his 2010 movies: Date Night or Dinner for Schmucks or Despicable Me. I liked each one and would recommend the whole lot of them but if you only dig him in small doses, each one equals the other, unless you’re not into animation.

Here’s where I go off the rails and most of you will scoff and throw peanut butter at me. I truly enjoyed Valentine’s Day. I think every single star in Hollywood had a bit part in the movie and it was just a fun romp of empty calories, exactly like a real Valentine’s Day should be. Plus, it actually does have a few fun and surprising twists. Don’t expect a four star movie and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Zach Galifianakis plays an extremely toned down mental patient to newcomer Keir Gilchrist’s teen angst-ridden soul. They pair up for a week in It’s Kind Of A Funny Story and their low key interactions give way to bigger and broader rebellions. The best part of the movie, by far, is the fantasy sequence where the psych ward patients sing a rock-solid rendition of Under Pressure.

I need to say a few things about the Millennium series, the three films based on Swede Stieg Larsson’s books. I call them “The Girl” series. They’re The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. I think only two of the three were released in the U.S. this year. The books and subsequent movies received a lot of media attention, maybe because the author died before any of the films were made. They feature the relationship between a journalist and a computer hacking cyber-chick who kicks butt. The first of the three films features horrific misogyny and isn’t for everyone, me included. But the next two are a bit more toned down. As a sub-titled trilogy, they combine to make a thrilling story in modern day Sweden.

Awards season is pretty much over and done with and the first two months of 2011 have produced some decent films, although I can’t always tell if they’re just holdovers from last year. Feel free to add your favorites in the Comments section or tell me I’m a Philistine because I liked or didn’t mention X,Y or Z.

Remember no talking, texting or tattooing while the movie is playing.

And CUT … that’s a wrap.

The Fighter

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February 22nd, 2011

It hasn’t been easy. Before I launch into why or what hasn’t been easy I should explain, as an example, that typing the word “easy” took three different attempts. My vision goes in and out at close range. It could be the result of the natural progression of age but I find myself blaming it, […]

It hasn’t been easy.

Before I launch into why or what hasn’t been easy I should explain, as an example, that typing the word “easy” took three different attempts. My vision goes in and out at close range. It could be the result of the natural progression of age but I find myself blaming it, among a myriad of other maladies, on the chemicals that — in the past via chemotherapy and now with the 20 pills I take daily — have scrambled my body and to some extent my brain as well.

Yes, I just had to re-read and modify that previous sentence to make sure it contained a shred of sense. Do you see where I am?

It’s my new normal, as much as I despise that phrase. I want my old normal back. As I get better, I expect my body to follow a linear progression upwards. Who am I kidding? I demand that progress. I feel like a character in a movie who goes through tremendous turmoil but during the montage scene, two thirds of the way through, rebuilds and reconstructs his life and comes out the winner.

Sometimes there’s a soundtrack to this phase. Generally though it’s just the weird burbles in my stomach and my wife and kids encouraging me, understanding when all I want to do is sleep. Winter is a good time for the sleep excuse. Rebuilding isn’t always being the fighter in the meat locker punching sides of beef. (If you don’t understand that last sentence you’re either very young or don’t like movies all that much. Google the sentence if you must, starting with “fighter.” The first of 70 some pages will help you. The very last entry at the bottom of page 71 from “ask the meat man dot com” probably won’t.)

I choose or chose the fighting analogy flippantly but there are parallels. There is a constant war going on in my body called GVHD which sounds like something in high def. In reality it’s called Graft Versus Host Disease and refers to my brother’s blood rejecting my body as its new home. You want a little of that war to happen. And so far, the battlefield has been my skin, of all places and my mouth, if you can believe it.

Hey, I’m not writing all this for sympathy. It’s just the most honest answer I have to the frequent question, “how are you doing?” I frankly don’t even know if I’ll post this. But the Steve Jobs note is so stale I need something different to ward off of the cobwebs. Besides, I just saw a photo of Jobs having dinner with Obama and several tech leaders so he’s probably doing okay.

This past week of sunshine and almost 60 degree temperatures worked wonders for my mood. My pill-infused tummy even felt a bit better, less chaotic. Then the foot of snow arrived and I was sure it would bury my levity. But so far, no, I am back in training and the montage scene has reached its crescendo.

What the fighter does now, the audience doesn’t really know. But nobody buys tickets to comedy-dramas without expecting a few twists along the way towards a warm, satisfying ending.

And by “ending” I mean beginning. 

Get Well Steve Jobs

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February 12th, 2011

Roughly a month ago, Apple founder Steve Jobs took time off for undisclosed medical reasons. Jobs survived pancreatic cancer back in 2004 and a liver transplant in 2009. Dear Steve, God I can’t say this any more succinctly: get well soon. You see Mr. Jobs, you represent a lot more to me than just being […]

Roughly a month ago, Apple founder Steve Jobs took time off for undisclosed medical reasons.

Jobs survived pancreatic cancer back in 2004 and a liver transplant in 2009.

Dear Steve,

God I can’t say this any more succinctly: get well soon.

You see Mr. Jobs, you represent a lot more to me than just being the Mac daddy of the world. I too am a cancer survivor and transplant recipient. Your health — I’m sorry to say — is intricately entwined with my world view. If you, the high and mighty leader of one of the planet’s coolest companies can be sidelined again by health issues, what hope is there for us everyday schlubs who have never made or lost millions? Let alone have never created gadgets and gizmos aplenty, so much so that every teen to 90-something probably covets something you’ve thought up.

I know that’s a tough terabyte of information to swallow, but it’s true. My emotional well being is tied to your physical health. I don’t like that at all. When you announced your hiatus it was at the same time my college friend Charlie announced he was going back into the hospital. Charlie had the same cancer I had. Charlie is no longer with us. Inexplicably I managed to hitch my wagon to both you and him. It’s just something I do and have done forever. I remember playing tennis as a kid and saying if I didn’t get to the ball before it crossed that particular line, the world would explode. Same thing with cracks in the sidewalk and my mother’s back.

http://www.readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rciPad_Jobs_borderless.jpgIt made me happy to hear some of the tweets and status updates reporting you’ve been seen strolling the Apple campus or dining in those cool Cupertino cafes.

But this really shouldn’t be about me, other than it’s my blog. This should be about you getting stronger, physically and mentally. So let’s aim the train in that direction. Energy is what you need. Don’t I know it. So stop worrying about wanting to nap all the time Steve. It’s your body telling you what is missing. I know you’re waking up in the middle of the night a lot too, bud. It happens to all of us and I had lunch with another survivor who told me he just goes with it. I too used to let it get to me, but then I realized I could make up whatever schedule I wanted. That, along with some freaky fantasizing and surfing the web has helped the darkness subside.

Let other people lift you and allow their positive prayers, vibes and thoughts into your soul. Yeah, it sounds new agey and all but heck, you’re from California and know these things instinctively. Ask some of us or all of us for help. You’ve helped us and we’d all love to return the favor.

Let your id out of the basement. If you feel like gluttonous food or other more decadent and hedonistic pursuits, have at it. There’s an app(etite) for that.

Don’t read about your disease online. Seriously, it will only bum you out. Even the most scholarly statistics taken from years of data don’t account for your own set of individual circumstances. As a recovering friend once told me, I’m either in the 100th percentile or the zero one.

Here’s another tip; don’t tie your emotional well-being to other people. Be they college buddies or corporate giants, your health is your own. No one should be dumb enough to allow other’s fate to dictate their own progress.

Get so well your health is blinding, my friend.

Peace,

Rodney

Cool or Creepy Coincidence

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February 5th, 2011

FACT: This video of Scott and I boxing was shot nine years, a couple houses and several jobs ago. FACT: Just this past fall, I received a bone marrow transplant from my brother Scott. As my daughter Taylor and I were looking at old family movies for a video she was putting together for her […]

FACT: This video of Scott and I boxing was shot nine years, a couple houses and several jobs ago.

FACT: Just this past fall, I received a bone marrow transplant from my brother Scott.

As my daughter Taylor and I were looking at old family movies for a video she was putting together for her sister Skye’s birthday, we stumbled across this 30 second clip. Our jaws dropped — really, physically dropped as we stared at each other in a stunned stupor. Everyone else in our extended family had the same reaction to Marci’s seemingly innocuous commentary while taping us whapping each other. Back then there wasn’t even a hint of my leukemia or health issues to come in eight and a half years.

I don’t believe coincidences are merely random events in our lives, but occurrences that point to some higher, subtle interconnectedness between all of us. I keep a Connection Collection icon on my desktop and update it regularly with amazing and simple events that happen to and around me. This is my latest entry.