Category Archives: TV & Movies

Watching the Short Film, “The Funeral”

ActsidersYou may remember a while back when I shared an episode of the podcast Actsiders that featured an interview with Ali Nasser. He discussed being an international actor and having a multifaceted career that spans cultures as easily as it does genres and artistic mediums.

If you haven’t listened to Ali on Actsiders, check it out, and then subscribe to and listen to the rest of the episodes. When you’ve finished all that, jump over to YouTube and watch a short film by Ahsan Minhas that Ali recently starred in called “The Funeral.”

In a very brief glimpse into his character’s life, we are able to see a man struggling to balance the success that will define his future and the relationships that represent his past. Having listened to the Actsiders interview and knowing Ali as an Egyptian-born/New York-based actor who is so rooted in both worlds by the relationships and career paths he’s cultivated, I may be seeing a deeper duality than was intended by either actor or writer/director. More than likely however, that was precisely what was intended, as this film sought to convey not only the intimate grief of one man, but the constant struggle between the almost split personalities our modern lives break us into.

In everyday life, even when there isn’t a death or culminating milestone event, aren’t we all constantly being pulled in different directions, whether by responsibilities, expectations, promises, dreams?

How can we balance it all? The mantra of ‘work hard, hard’ that was meant to symbolize a hard day’s work to pay for a fulfilling personal life has been cast aside in today’s world as we find ourselves always working, always connected, always moving.  And always falling short.

How can we be good men and women, good mothers, fathers, children and siblings, good friends, good bosses, coworkers, good Muslims, Christians, believers of any faith, good creators and consumers? How can we balance what we give with what we receive?  How can we be good people and good enough? And how do we keep up the strength to be all of those things that we expect of ourselves when we have failed at one of them.

I hope you’ll watch the film, and if you have the time, check out Ahsan’s other work, which I found just as interesting and thought provoking.

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All Booked Up at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library

img_1913Library?  Podcast?  Sold.

I just finished listening to the first episode of “All Booked Up” on SoundCloud, a new(ish) podcast put out by librarians Michelle and Jacob with the Buffalo and Erie County Library.

I put it on while I was shoveling the other day (which I don’t necessarily recommend as I started laughing a few times and had to stop) and finished it later while folding laundry (a much safer activity while listening to this), because that’s just the jack of all trades that I am.

I loved all of its geeky rambling about “The Disaster Artist”, “Dunkirk” and “The Big Lebowski” and everything the Library has to offer to take you into those stories and beyond.

I was a little scared when Michelle started professing her genuine love and obsession for “The Room” but then I remember I own multiple copies of “Manos: The Hands of Fate”, a movie made by a fertilizer salesman just to prove he could and whose title literally is “Hands: The Hands of Fate”. What does that even mean? Why does it seem like two movies spliced together? Seriously, what is happening with Torgo? Why am I watching it again?

Yeah, so I guess who am I to judge, right?

The podcast’s hosts are true librarians, who can work multiple recommendations into a conversation without it being overwhelming, and their suggestions are informed by their own reading history and interests. They’re not just throwing suggestions at you or reciting a bestsellers’ list, but recommending books and movies they have available through the library based on the conversation they’re having.  The episode notes include a list of all the books and movies they talked about as well as links to those titles on the library’s website.  So if something sounds really interesting, you can immediately click over and request it from your local branch.

I’m looking forward to catching up and listening to the rest of the episodes they have up, and checking out some of their recommendations. It’s available now on SoundCloud and iTunes.

My Monsters

2013-11-12 14.23.48-1I’ve hung them up in two apartments and I can’t imagine a place feeling like home without them.  I’m talking about my monsters.  Three framed drawings by a little kid I don’t even know, who I’m sure I’ll never meet.  They’re perfect.

A couple years ago I was clicking around online and came across an article about a little boy with leukemia.  Similar to Batkid now out in San Francisco in that he’s sick and he’s awesome.  Come on, you can’t hear about a kid like this and not have tears in your eyes. 

Go pull up video of Batkid.  That’s the little boy who, thanks to Make A Wish, is surrounded by hundreds of people cheering him on throughout the city, while he saves a woman tied up by the Riddler and gets to ride around in a freakin Lamborghini Batmobile.  Tell me there aren’t tears.

Monsters at SunsetThat’s how it was when I came across this story.  The kid I read an article on, his name’s Aidan.  He loves monsters.  Drawing them, watching monster movies, making his own costumes.  Which is good, since he spent most of his childhood up until that point in a hospital bed.  Plenty of time to draw monsters.  And I’m talking the classics: Frankenstein’s monsters, the Wolfman, Dracula and Count Orlock.  There’s a difference. 

He got my attention.  If I wasn’t sold on this kid already, seeing pictures of Halloween when he got pulled around in a wagon dressed as Jigsaw’s dummy from Saw so he could trick-or-treat, did the trick.  This kid is awesome. 

I’d just purchased the Legacy set of Frankenstein movies that had a bunch of the old Boris Karloff monster flicks.  Thanks to Netflix I watched the Wolfman, Dracula, the Mummy, Creature from the Black Lagoon, the Invisible Man.  All those great old Universal flicks that started everything.  I also had Monster Squad, one of the greatest movies of my childhood.  At the time it was recently out on DVD and I snagged it.  It takes all those old great horror icons and rolls them together with a Goonies-esque group of kids.  Who doesn’t love this stuff?

Aidan's Monsters

the one in the middle looks just like Kevin

The reason this article on Aidan was out there though was because his aunt, in an attempt to raise some money towards his hospital bills, had taken his drawings and put them up for sale on Etsy.  Not a bad idea.  Well, unless you’re me.  Because now I have to buy one, right?  But how can I choose?  I just went to the site to browse, then I talked myself into buy one.  Then I double-checked my bank balance and decided I could get three.  It’s for a good cause, it’s ok.

I went with the classics.  Wolfman.  Frankenstein’s Monster.  And Dracula.  But not really.  There’s a difference between Dracula and Count Orlock.  You should know.  I’m not going into that.  Why did I ultimately go with Nosferatu over a Universal vampire?  Was it that then all three would be in different colored marker?  Yeah, that’s probably it.  But it may have been that I had to give it to this kid that he knew the ripped off Max Schreck/W.F. Murnau version.  That’s going to be my official position.

But I realize now that my choices were perfect.  Not only did I do something cool by purchasing these, but now I have my monsters, I have a good story to tell about how I ended up with these kid’s drawings framed on my wall.  Oddly enough, these actually represent my two friends and I. 

No, no, hear me out on this: Frankenstein’s monster is covered in scars, but the ones on his hands at first glance look like your typical hash marks for keeping score.  Much like I had to do on New Year’s Eve.  Marks on one hand for bottles of champagne I drank, marks on the other for shots.  Just in case I had to go the hospital.  The Wolfman is obviously Kevin who could probably braid his back hair and can grow a full beard before lunch.  And Nosferatu?  There’s this thing the three of us tend to do now and it came about after we lived together for a few years.  It unquestionably originated with Alan.  When someone comes into the room at night and turns the light on he will hiss and has gone so far as to throw his hands up in front of his face as if clawing at the light.  He started it.  We all do it.  Its reflex now, there’s no stopping it.  Our children will end up doing it.

So not only could I support this great little kid, who has since gone into remission, and his family by buying a few of his drawings, I’ve also, oddly enough, ended up with monster-caricatures of my best friends and I.  Money well spent.

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