Category Archives: movies

queens of country to premiere at phoenix film festival

UPDATE: After a year in post-production, including the addition of a score by Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse and Ugly Casanova, Queens of Country will officially premiere at the Phoenix Film Festival on Saturday, March 31.

I, for one, can’t wait to see how the film has changed since I participated in a screening in December 2010. And I’ve really been enjoying Lizzy Caplan on New Girl lately, so it will be fun to see her again in all her country glamour.

Tickets will sell out, so get yours now at the Phoenix Film Festival website. And check out the trailer:

Original post from Dec. 5, 2010:

I recently had the chance to attend a focus group screening of Queens of Country, an unpredictable, sweet and irreverent comedy by filmmakers Christopher Pomerenke and Ryan Page. Full disclosure: Ryan is married to my best friend, which one might argue makes me biased. And maybe I did go into it with unconscious favorable bias because of my personal connections, but I did my best to view the film with an open mind. Continue reading


life lessons courtesy of the Muppets

Miss Piggy is my role model. I’ve spent years trying to deny it, hiding my true feelings by claiming that she’s my least favorite of the Muppets gang and that I find her karate chops and shrieks annoying. But after seeing The Muppets recently, and experiencing a surge of nostalgia so strong it startled me, I can no longer fight it. I aspire — I suppose I always have aspired — to be Miss Piggy.

I adored the movie. Jason Segel, a comic hero of mine since his Freaks and Geeks days, did a fine job rebooting the beloved franchise. From the very first moments of the movie through the closing credits (featuring the infectious “Mahna Mahna” song) I was sporting a huge smile, the kind of smile that could only be brought on by some serious walking down memory lane. I had forgotten what an impact those fuzzy puppets had on my childhood. Seeing my old friends through adult eyes brought all those feelings to the forefront and I understand now, perhaps for the first time, why Kermit and the gang were so important to me.

1. The Muppets taught me about friendship. The Muppets were so much more than just a strange collection of animals and humans and animal/human hybrids. They were a family — a big group of strong personalities who were constantly bickering and getting on each other’s nerves, but who would ultimately do anything for one another. Through love and loss and bad jokes and misfiring experiments and human cannonballs, they comforted and supported each other, and they celebrated each other’s quirky talents. And if that’s not friendship, I don’t know what is.

I can’t help but think Thelma and Louise is at least in part based on Kermit and Fozzie’s friendship. I love this road trip scene and I will never forget how hard I laughed at the fork in the road. So clever!

2. The Muppets taught me about acceptance. There’s a frog, a bear, a pig, a dog, a lot of chickens, some aliens and some weird hook-nosed guy (really, what is Gonzo?). If this were a Natural Geographic special, someone would likely be losing a limb. But in the Muppets’ world, it’s perfect harmony among species. Looking at it now, I understand what Jim Henson was trying to tell me. It doesn’t matter what you look like or where you came from, or even in what part of the food chain (or galaxy) you reside, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

3. The Muppets taught me how to overcome adversity. I remember it like it was yesterday: the moment in The Muppet Movie when Kermit and Fozzie inadvertently leave the giant Sweetums behind at the car lot. This scene traumatized me, and I have thought about it often since I was about five years old. It made me so profoundly sad, the way that this big giant oaf is running after the car, wanting so desperately to join his newfound friends in an adventure to Hollywood. And while I know Sweetums eventually meets up with his friends in the end, this scene left in me such a paralyzing fear of being left behind that I’ve spent my life working hard to prevent that from ever happening. Sheesh…who knew a kids puppet movie could be so anxiety-inducing?

4. The Muppets taught me about hard work. Through countless episodes of The Muppet Show and several movies, the Muppet gang showed me the value of putting forth real effort to make things happen. In so many challenges overcome and problems solved, Kermit, Miss Piggy and friends taught me that I could achieve anything with a little ingenuity. But it was their puppet cousins over at Fraggle Rock that really drove that point home. I loved that show — I even prided myself on never having missed an episode (pre-DVR, what am I saying? Pre-VHS!) — but I often found the Fraggles’ brand of hippie tomfoolery to be a little immature. This from a 7-year-old. But I could always identify with the hard-hat wearing Doozers.They kept Fraggle Rock operating so those silly Fraggles could sing songs and eat radishes all day. I knew right away I would rather be a Doozer.

5. The Muppets taught me to sing, sing, sing. The Muppets were always singing, but two musical memories in particular left indelible marks on my heart. The first is a memory that is closely tied to my Grandma Devine, though I’m not really sure why. It’s an episode of The Muppet Show featuring Canadian songstress Anne Murray singing her hit “Snowbird.” Murray has the most soothing and pleasantly, well, Canadian voice. It’s a scene — with Murray in her white fur coat on that wintry stage — that always makes me smile and brings me peace.

The second memory relates to a record my sisters’ and I had of John Denver and The Muppets singing Christmas carols. We listened to that record until it wore out … I think we even listened to it in the middle of summer, we loved it so much. “The 12 Days of Christmas” was my favorite song, with Miss Piggy singing about five gold rings. The record made me giggle and nothing made me more excited for Christmas to come.

The Muppets were always singing and, as it turns out, so am I. I would love nothing more than my life to be an actual musical. And after seeing The Muppets, I am reminded of how much I would love to have Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Scooter, Rolf and Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem be a part of my personal song and dance. And now that I am older and as independent and bossy as ever, I would love to compare notes over cocktails with Miss Piggy.

my obscure childhood tv memories

We all have those memories from our childhood that we question — did that really happen, or did I just dream that it did? Or did it happen to someone else and over time I just co-opted it as my own memory?

My sisters and I spent a lot of time watching television when we were young, and we have these pretty distinct memories about some of our favorite shows and movies. But after attempting to find someone — anyone — who had also heard of them, I was beginning to believe that a few of these shows/movies never actually existed, rather that they were mere figments of our collective sister-imagination.

So I looked them up (thank you, IMDB and YouTube). Turns out, they do exist…and pretty close to exactly as I remember them.  Here’s a sampling of what was on the tube in the Carver house in the early to mid-’80s.

Love, Sidney:  The thing I remember most about this show is the cute kid and the theme song, which later became a prominent part of the mid-’90s Delta Gamma rush experience at Arizona State University. It was also the first time I ever heard the name Swoosie.  The one thing I don’t remember about this show is that Tony Randall played a gay man who took in a single mother and her young daughter, in what could only be described as a feminine reboot of The Odd Couple. To you DGs watching this, it’s okay…you can sing along:

Double Trouble: This show was mandatory viewing for me and my sister Kasey. I think I may have even at one point wished we were identical twins — they just made it seem like so much wacky fun. I was also enamored by their dance moves (which they had previously shown off at the Rock-a-Hula Luau in Grease 2), because in real life, my sister said I flared my nostrils when I danced. As you can imagine, this show featured a lot of identity-switching antics. Fun fact: the twins are the real-life sisters of actress Katey Sagal (you know, Peg Bundy).

Savannah Smiles: This was one of those ’80s children’s movies that you realize as an adult was really messed up, and kind of inappropriate for a child to be viewing. The premise goes something like this:  a spoiled but ignored little girl runs away only to find herself caught up with a couple of bumbling small-time crooks. They decide to hold her for ransom but, as so often happens, their hearts melt at her adorableness. I don’t really remember how it plays out, but obviously it ends with a police standoff, Savannah’s tearful goodbye to the crooks, Savannah’s tearful reconciliation with her mother and Savannah’s mother demanding a divorce. Sad side note: Little Savannah was the cutest kid ever, and I was curious what happened to her. Turns out Bridgette Andersen met the same fate so many other child actors do: she died of a drug overdose at age 21.

The Water Babies: This movie is nuts, and my sister Kelly and I really started to believe we had made the whole thing up. That is, until I discovered the VHS in the Columbia House movie catalog in 1998. Don’t think I didn’t buy it, and don’t think I haven’t shared it with my students. This movie can only be described as a cross between Oliver Twist (orphan), Mary Poppins (chimney sweep and rich kids) and The Little Mermaid (sea creatures) in a low-rent, live-action/animation hybrid. I was at once terrified and thrilled by it as a kid, but it always annoyed me that Tom, the chimney sweep boy/mermaid, always had on Huck Finn-esque half-pants, even when under water. The movie is apparently based on a mid-19th century children’s story — who knew? I like to think of this scene, in which Tom and a Scottish lobster sing a song called High Cockalorum, as the original Hakuna Matata.

Have you ever seen any of these gems? What TV shows or movies are stuck deep in your subconscious?

thanks a lot for ruining carly simon, kate hudson

Driving to school this morning I heard Carly Simon’s classic “You’re So Vain.” I’ve never been the hugest fan of this song, but I always appreciated the guess-who-this-song-is-about-(James Taylor) back story. That is, until I saw How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Now I can’t hear that song without also hearing Kate Hudson’s off-key, piercing voice stabbing my ears out, singing, “Ben Berry, you’re so vain.” Continue reading

a toast to the scariest movie mothers ever

Around the country (and world?) mothers are being celebrated today. And rightfully so. Mothers make the world go ’round — literally — and they deserve flowers and chocolates and breakfast in bed and enthusiastic thank-yous  every day.

While I did join in on the heartfelt social media mom-honoring this morning, I also thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the worst moms in history, as seen in the movies. Here is my list of the scariest movie moms ever, in order from a little nutty to absolutely freakin’ terrifying. Do not tangle with these ladies. Continue reading

it’s the music that makes the movies

Movies and music go hand in hand. A good movie has a solid plot, a sharp screenplay and impressive acting. Add to that mix some memorable tunes, and you’ve got a great movie.

Everyone knows those songs considered to be theme songs for their respective movie: “Danger Zone” and “Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun, “In Your Eyes” from Say Anything, “Footloose” from, well, Footloose. But there’s another class of movie music that does just as much to make a movie as those overplayed “theme” songs. These songs weren’t necessarily written for the movie, but their presence has elevated certain movie scenes to classic status, and in doing so, the music and movie are now inextricably connected. Take heed: several of these clips are for mature audiences only.

1. “Sister Christian” by Night Ranger: Boogie Nights
This is one of the most tense but hilarious scenes from a movie ever. It is impossible to hear this song and not think of the wacked-out crackhead in his bikinis “motoring” while this random Asian boy lights poppers. The increased intensity of the song beautifully mirrors the increased anxiety Dirk Diggler and crew feel as they try to get out of an ill-advised drug deal unscathed.
Continue reading

rediscovering a source of inspiration

When I was in 8th and 9th grade, I was obsessed with the movie Lean on Me. I was so inspired by the story of Principal Joe Clark and the crazy tough-love tactics he used to turn around his New Jersey high school. After my grandpa met Clark I even hung the autographed movie poster he brought me on my bedroom wall.  I’m watching the movie again after a number of years and am wondering if a seed wasn’t planted in the back of my brain, way back then, that eventually led me down the path to becoming a teacher. Although I teach at a school of relative privilege, my students face many of the same challenges as those in the movie — drugs, violence, teen pregnancy — and if I can do just the tiniest bit to steer them in the right direction, I suppose I will have accomplished what I set out to do. And maybe Principal Clark would be proud.

Here’s one of my favorite parts of the movie, featuring ’90s R&B group Riff: