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Blind Date #My5Days

As I approached the unassuming entrance to the restaurant, I couldn’t deny the overwhelming rush of anxiety that pulsed through my veins.

It’s a scary thing, meeting someone for the first time; far scarier than plunking out an email and hoping it’s well received. MA and I had exchanged a few photos over the years, but the vast majority of our interaction revolved around the written word. Never had I heard the timbre of her voice—outside of how I imagined it in my head—or seen the mannerisms that accompanied the smooth cadence of her communication.

Did I look okay? Was my eyeliner drawn on too thickly, causing me to look like a tramp? What if I chose the wrong kind of flowers and they triggered allergies or suddenly dropped their petals? What if I didn’t live up to the expectations she had accumulated over our last 3 years of correspondence?

Miraculously, my feet managed courage beyond what my nerve-wracked mind could spare and we ended up at the hostess’ station to announce our arrival for the already-seated party. “I don’t know how people go on blind dates,” I squeaked to my mom. (What, you don’t drag your mother along for an engagement some 350 miles from home?!)

And so, we followed the nice young lady around the corner to our fateful meeting…

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I first learned of Edmond Sun newspaper columnist Marjorie Anderson in June 2013 when one of her articles caught the attention of our corporate intranet’s “Buzz About HaIMG_0663llmark” feature. More often than not, the “Buzz” was little more than a mommy blogger’s review of a product we had sent her for free; those posts didn’t get the satisfaction of my click traffic. This particular post, though, caught my attention and held it for many hours as I read through entry after entry of Ms. Anderson’s “As I See It” column.

With tired eyes, a fresh jolt of inspiration and an overwhelming desire to express my appreciation for this dear woman’s writing, I emailed the newspaper editor. “If there’s not already a published collection of these columns,” I urged, “there needs to be one! Marjorie Anderson is a national treasure, and these entries deserve recognition and preservation!” (In truth, this is but the essence of what I penned—the actual message is long since lost to the tragedy of 60-day automatic mail purge.)

Within hours, I was reading a response from the editor with Marjorie Anderson herself copied. Armed with her personal email address, I embarked on what has become one of the most fulfilling campaigns of my life: a budding friendship and digital pen pal connection with a writer whom I greatly admire.

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There she sat, in the flesh, before my very eyes. Even with a handful of photos lodged in my memory, I hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect of my octogenarian friend. What I found was a saucy and sweet, bright-eyed lady with rosy pink lips and cherry red fingernails. A woman as tiny as a little bird but not the least bit frail looking, quite possibly even better coordinated physically than yours truly, who happens to be some 50 years her junior.

I set the vase of flowers on the edge of the table and reached out to join hands with MA. She looked full on my face and asked in astonishment, “Is it… is it really you?!” And I’ve never felt so honored and astounded to have someone ask me the words that were mirrored in my own mind.

We settled into the booth with my mom sitting across from Brett Barney, MA’s son, and I across from my mythical-turned-even-better-in-real-life confidant. The anxiety I’d carried quickly faded in favor of warmth and familiarity as our conversation flowed effortlessly from topic to topic. We touched on the journey from Kansas City, MO, to Edmond, OK; the similarities and vast differences between MA’s teaching and my mom’s career in school administration; and how we had all arrived at this very place. I’ll admit I found it hard to concentrate at times with the ridiculously delicious honey-pepper bacon burger on the plate in front of me. If you find yourself poking around the Sooner State, it’s worth your time to seek out an Interurban restaurant.

After lunch, we followed Brett and MA to meet with the writers’ group, and Su-the-weenie-dog(!), at MA’s house. IMG_0666While the group usually meets on Thursday afternoons, a special exception was made for my attendance. A tremendously talented author named Paul Gaines joined us and shared some of his short stories and character studies. Like our mutual friend MA, Mr. Gaines is utterly charming and endearing; I’m honored and delighted to have met him!

There can’t be many better ways to spend an afternoon than sitting around MA’s kitchen table, nibbling on cookies and hearing pieces penned by the group members read aloud. The group shares feedback and suggestions, and I wish I had prepared something to take along. Perhaps one day before too long I will repeat the trip with the express purpose of gaining some criticism on one of my works…and getting some more “kisses” from little Su.

As the sun did its best to scorch the earth in high-afternoon Oklahoma fashion, we decided it might be time to go on our way. I’ll fondly remember this beautiful experience and hope I can one day make such an impression as Ms. Marjorie Anderson. It’s wholly fitting that she signs off on her correspondence with “smiles, ma” because smiles are precisely what she brings to this world!

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Me, Su & MA (8.19.2016)

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I’m approaching my 8th anniversary working for Hallmark Cards. When I was brought on board as an on-call proofreader, I never imagined I would transition to working as a technical editor and eventually a bona fide writer (though not one who writes the card sentiments). I’ve been blessed with editorial opportunities I’m not sure I could have experienced anywhere else in this amount of time.
Hallmark is not exempt from the marketplace changes and various challenges that face corporations today, but the Creative division is committed to ensuring we stay the heart of Hallmark and find new ways to help facilitate emotional connections for our consumers. This year Creative decided to start at its core by giving each employee 5 days to use (apart from regular PTO) for finding inspiration and tapping into creative outlets that may not be leveraged in our everyday positions. A day for a trip to Oklahoma to meet MA was at the top of my wish list, and it did not disappoint. #My5Days

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A Short Tale

Some days you feel really good about yourself. Other days you try on clothes at a store.

We’re about to embark on a big family vacation, during which time we’ll have a photographer take pictures of all 14 of us together. Family photos=coordinating clothing. Coordinating clothing=a color I don’t currently own in a size that fits, much less flatters. Needing clothes=checked everywhere for said color to no avail, so one last-ditch effort visit to Old Navy on my way home from work yesterday.

I found a shirt that fits the bill (AND ME!), more or less. And with that accomplishment, I felt something akin to relief and happiness.

Then I started thinking about the fact that we’ll be in Florida and it will be stupid hot and my shiny white legs probably will wither up and fall off if I attempt to wear jeans and capris the entire week. This thinking led me down a dangerous path…right to the shorts section.

I’ll pull a page from the Stephenie Meyer School of Writing here and spare you the action sequence.

I ended up in the checkout line with a couple of shirts and no shorts. Also in the checkout line, a woman with a couple of kids—one of whom could be heard throughout the store as he wailed woefully. At the tender age of 3-maybe-4 years old, this tot was decidedly unhappy with his mother, repeatedly saying he didn’t like her anymore.

For the entirety of our 15 minutes in the checkout line, he moaned and repeatedly told this poor woman that he didn’t like her anymore.

So, to the woman at Old Navy who was probably having a rough day… I just tried on a bunch of shorts so I, too, am familiar with that fresh wave of humiliation and disappointment… It’s nothing a nap can’t fix.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Gripes, Likes & Theories: Batman v Superman

Now that the film is in wide release, I can ignore the advance-screening plea from Zack Snyder not to spoil anything. So be warned, SPOILERS FOLLOW.

As I mentioned before, I went into BvS with super low expectations and liked it pretty well. For me it boiled down to something like Thor: Dark World or Avengers: AoU—not bad to watch once or twice but generally lackluster and forgettable. I also didn’t find it as grim and gritty as everyone is complaining. I mean, yeah, it’s dark but no more than roughly half of everything else that’s come out in cinema over the last decade, including the Nolan trilogy that everyone seems to love (I don’t find it holds up as much more than “meh”).

Biggest misses for me:
1) Batman just gave up his fight because Superman’s mom happened to have the same name?! For the love of Martha, that was some seriously weak writing.
2) Superman’s death lacked ‘gravity’—I don’t think anyone in our screening believed for one minute that he would stay dead. Moreover, I don’t think anyone would have bought into it even had we not all experienced the media hoopla that surrounded the event when it happened in the comics back in the early ’90s. It felt so very emotionally empty and not the least bit cliffhanger-y, which I found incredibly disappointing.
2b) Speaking of media hoopla…SO. MANY. CAMEOS. (I know I already mentioned this before, but it really bothered me.)
3) Lex creating Doomsday inside the Kryptonian ship. I thought it was clever that he cut off Zod’s fingerprints to gain access but otherwise hated the entire scene.
3b) Doomsday was like a bad mashup of Hulk, every Spider-Man movie villain and Hunger Games mutts.
4) Teasers for Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg lacked excitement and depth.
5) Amy Adams. Always Amy Adams.
6) Underutilized Wonder Woman.

I’ll reiterate that I’m genuinely excited for the standalone WW movie now. I wish she hadn’t looked so much like part of the Kardashian klan but Gadot played the fight scenes like she could be a legitimately strong warrior. Expectations shattered.

Still, my favorite part of the movie was spotting TK-421 on Lex Luthor’s prison uniform.

ALSO, I have a BvS/Walking Dead fan theory!
Maggie is Bruce Wayne’s mom, which means that TWD clearly happened in the past…and Maggie either cheated on Glenn or lost that baby and had another later with Mr. Wayne. The “metahumans” are clearly an evolutionary result of surviving the zombie apocalypse. Tell me your mind isn’t blown right now.

 

She Lives! (aka Batman v Superman Happened so I’m Blogging)

I’m still here, believe it or not! Since last post, I’ve made a geeky pilgrimage to San Francisco (pics and details coming soon, I promise), seen TFA a few more times—totaled 8 at the theater—and worked like a fool. The working part is more exhausting than awesome but it helps pay for toys, and we all know you can never have too many toys.

After posting some pics of myself as a little Superman-loving lass, I won tickets to last night’s advance screening of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Side note: If I’m ever tasked with writing something that requires a certain character count, I will be sure to make this film the topic because writing the title alone should satisfy most requirements.

“So how was it?” you ask. Weeeeeelllll…
As someone who loved Man of Steel, I liked it fairly well. There are a couple of really good moments that are balanced by some really cringe-worthy ones, which are all outnumbered by a lot of “just a’ight.”

I’m not in the business of spoilers, and not just because there was a Zack Snyder video plea before the movie started, so I won’t give away any secrets. Except that Batman’s parents die. Oops, surprise!

Okay, one teeny-tiny, not-really spoiler: there’s a fun Star Wars Easter egg. I spotted it straight away and leaned over in the middle of the movie to quote a relevant line. I suspect a lot of fans will pick up on it; comment below if you want a hint.

I digress.

People who have already decided to hate Affleck as Batman won’t be swayed, though I thought he was a suitable host for a character who wasn’t supposed to be altogether likable in this story. His acting wasn’t especially nuanced, though I’m not sure whether that was due to him or the writing. He’s easily as good as, if not better than, either Kilmer or Clooney.

Wonder Woman was not on the list of things I excitedly anticipated for this film, particularly after I learned of Gal Gadot’s casting. I was, to that end, pleasantly surprised! The characterization is far more interesting—and less exploitative—than I expected. I might actually kinda sorta be looking forward to her standalone film now <gasp!>.

Surprisingly, the most eye-rolls of the night came not with Jesse Eisenberg but Amy Adams. Sure, Eisenberg was the same smarmy guy he is in every role (and maybe in real life?), but you saw that one coming from a mile away.
I am decidedly not a fan of Adams’ interpretation of Lois Lane, as you might remember from my reviews of Man of Steel. While she and Henry Cavill demonstrated a bit better chemistry this time around, particularly at the beginning of the film, I can’t help but see her as an annoying hindrance. Maybe that, too, is a consequence of the character more than the actor…it’s not like Margot Kidder wasn’t tiresome…or maybe it would be less frustrating with someone else filling the role. It seems we’ll never know.

To be fair, Adams is unseated by Doomsday as my least favorite character in this movie. That’s not saying much, is it?!

If you loathed the Sears and iHop tie-ins from Man of Steel, be prepared for media personality overload on this one. I understand that Snyder et al. are trying to make us believe that Superman’s universe is one in the same with ours. For me, showing endless cameos of recognizable pundits had the opposite effect, ripping me out of my suspension of disbelief.

Stylistically, this is a pretty slick movie. The fight scenes, in particular, have a more comic-book feel than did Man of Steel; I actually felt like it veered into Amazing Spider-Man territory at times. That’s not a complaint, somehow. There are, however, a lot of flashbacks and dream sequences that tend to feel disjointed. The one thing that tied everything together was Hans Zimmer’s brilliant score with themes from Man of Steel beautifully woven throughout. I’ve grown to appreciate the former as one of the better contemporary theatrical scores and this built on it in intriguing ways. Along with the hopeful and heart-wrenching strains, there was an inescapable undercurrent of tension and conflict. Magnifique!

Overall, this girl feels that Batman v Superman lands squarely in the middle of the pack for modern superhero flicks. It’s generally enjoyable if forgettable, but worth seeing on the big screen if you’re at all inclined to see it.

 

 

 

Gripes, Likes & Theories: The Force Awakens

My last post was sentimental, so here’s the nitty gritty. SPOILERS FOLLOW. Proceed at your own risk. And for the love of Luke, go see the movie already!

First things first: I am historically an Imperial Apologist and Sith Sympathizer, but I’ll be danged if Rey, Finn and BB-8 (and to a lesser extent Poe) aren’t wooing me over to the good side. Like Kylo Ren, I’m being torn apart, tempted by the light.
Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are so darn charming! And BB-8—contrary to my initial thoughts from way back in November 2014 when the very first teaser trailer released—is utterly adorable. I hate that I love them so much.

Oh, and I 100% support the idea of Rey being Luke’s daughter. At this point, I will be terribly disappointed if she isn’t. Luke’s lightsaber (from his father before him) calls to her. She’s a fine pilot with mechanical aptitude. She beckons the saber to her during the snowy duel at Starkiller Base, to the strains of the Luke/Jedi theme music, which made me openly weep. R2-D2 clearly reactivates when she comes on the Resistance base [yes, I know JJ said it was because BB-8 woke him up, but he also said that Benedict Cumberbatch absolutely was not Khan so I don’t believe anything he says that could potentially reveal a spoiler]. And, most importantly, Luke himself gets a little bleary-eyed when he sees her at the end*. Though I do have a love/hate with that ending. I wish the movie was more self-contained rather than a near-literal cliffhanger ending. I do, however, love that we didn’t actually see Luke until the end. So many feels!

*I hypothesize he thought her dead along with his wife and the rest of his Jedi academy. My dearest thinks that Kylo Ren (Rey’s cousin) spared her life and dropped her off on Jakku. I’ll add to his theory and suggest there was probably some sort of Force memory-wipe involved such that she doesn’t remember him.

As for Kylo Ren, I was pleasantly surprised with him. The physical manifestations of his instability with regards to the janky lightsaber and temper tantrums…brilliant! I also love that he’s struggling to fully embrace the Dark Side; it makes him so much more dimensional than your everyday villain. Do wish he would’ve kept his helmet on longer—a big reveal on the bridge with Han would’ve been a nice touch. And holy tauntauns, I want his hair!

Speaking of the son of Solo, I’m curious what you good people think about a particular line when he’s interrogating Rey: “Don’t be afraid, I feel it too.” Adam Driver delivers it in a very nuanced, compelling way and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. In fact, I think that entire scene works very well, save for the quasi-rapey “I can take whatever I want” bit.

Apart from Kylo Ren, I was rather disappointed with the First Order. I had HUGE love for Captain Phasma going into this, and I left feeling deflated. I don’t buy that the character would’ve just complied with Finn/Han/Chewie’s demands without putting up a fight [this is the part of the show where people write in the comments about how she had an angry Wookiee with a crossbow staring her down].

They sibling-rivalry dynamic between Hux and Kylo Ren leaves me wanting more information about the structure of the First Order. Did they both join ranks about the same time? It seems, of course, that Supreme Leader Snoke is in the position once occupied by Emperor Palpatine but we know nothing else about him. I side with those who think Supreme Leader Snoke is really Darth Plagueis. In fact, I’ll be rather disappointed if we don’t learn that he cheated death at the hands of Palpatine then pulled all of the subsequent puppet strings.

With regards to storytelling, it didn’t hit all of the beats I expected or hoped. The fact that it parallels Episode IV doesn’t bother me so much as the fact that it feels like the lazy version of it. Whereas plans were carefully stolen—huzzah, Rogue One!—and analyzed to identify the first Death Star’s weakness, Starkiller Base was surveyed for just a couple of minutes and then off they went. It all felt overly contrived. Moreover, the destruction of the Republic planets had no emotional weight, as we knew nothing of them. At least we felt Leia’s emotion when Alderaan bit the dust.

I was also a little bummed that the John Williams score didn’t hold more stirring treasures than it did. Rey’s theme stands apart, as does Kylo Ren’s, but it’s otherwise pretty forgettable. And while I initially hated the song from Maz Kanata’s watering hole (composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda), I was bummed when it didn’t show up on the soundtrack. It has grown on me in ways I would rather pretend didn’t exist.

Maz Kanata herself wins a spot on my “likes” list for the film. During the course of production, we were told only that the lovely Lupita Nyong’o was performing a motion-capture creature; I sensed a disturbance in the force. When rumored concept art surfaced, I was sure it was bad news. When the movie released, it was as if the skies opened and we were granted a gift. Maz is wonderful! She’s one of the better CG characters I can recall seeing, matching up to the likes of Groot or Rocket Raccoon. To top it off, her personality is affable and her wisdom hearkens back to the Yoda of yesteryear rather than the obnoxious prequel Yoda.

Something wholly unrelated that bothered me ever so slightly is Finn’s status within the Stormtrooper ranks. At the beginning of the film, we’re lead to believe the troops on Jakku are an elite squad. Later, however, Finn says that he worked in sanitation and defected on his first mission. Doesn’t add up.

The opening scene between Poe and Max Von Sydow felt like a missed opportunity, too. Title crawl reference an old ally, so I assumed it would be someone we recognized (if only by name). Alas, just a random old guy. Of all places, that felt like a good time to throw in some fan service.

Another missed opportunity…in fact, one that I believe should have been wholly scrapped, was the Han scene with the Guavian Death Squad, Kanjiklub and rathtars. It was so obvious it had been considerably chopped down for time that it should’ve just gone away altogether. It was the one scene where I felt Harrison Ford didn’t deliver, and I can’t say I blame him since it was so silly. The only redeeming moment was Rey closing the bay doors on the monster that held Finn and then her response of “that was lucky” when he told her about the apparent miracle. Okay, the moment where Chewie agreed that Han had let them down on more than one occasion was pretty fun, too.

Chewie was a far better addition to this film than any prior. In fact, this was probably the first time I felt any real affinity for him [ducks to avoid flying bottles and tomatoes]. The “You must be very brave” scene with the Resistance-base medic checking his arm cracked me up. The dejarik/chess game felt a bit forced (ha!), though I did dig Chewie’s reaction to it. I also enjoyed seeing the crossbow get some love. And the way he hugged Leia…awwwww.

Dear, dear Leia. Carrie Fisher is a galactic gem, and I was glad to see her back in the sass. Her role in the film, though, felt like it was written a bit flat. And that “fashionable gas-station attendant” outfit, oy! I wouldn’t trade her for all of the Meryl Streeps in the world, though.

So I guess that kind of sums up my thought process…though there are roughly a billion other opinions and related musings that I haven’t managed to dig out of my brain yet. What say you? Comment below & let’s discuss!

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