Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Death and etc.

Sorry for the radio silence of late. I've been dealing with the death of a friend, my wife's best friend, to be precise, and the wife of one of my closest friends. We went to Virginia for the funeral -- a quick but physically and emotionally exhausting trip that I'm nonetheless very happy we made. "Happy" is the wrong word there, but I felt like I was better able to grieve by being there, in the presence of so many people who loved this wonderful, sweet person.

It hit me harder than I thought it would. I've been to my share of funerals, for family members and friends, and I've shed plenty of tears, but I'm usually a "moist-eye" kind of guy. But I turned into a blubbering sobber on Tuesday, and I'm still trying to figure out why.

So, between that and a few other things going on in my life, I just haven't had the energy to blog or, well, much of anything. To be frank, a lot of what's been going on has just worn me down in several ways.

I'll bounce back soon, I'm sure. But right now, I'm just feeling really fatigued and introspective. Creative energy is pretty low, so I need to break out of the rut soon...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

49 Up

I watched Michael Apted's latest addition to the "Up Series" last night (from my semi-sick bed), 49 Up. I continue to be amazed and moved by this series -- watching these people grow up, get divorced, accept where they are in life, find joy in children and grandchildren. These seem like amazingly small things for a movie -- and yet I find myself getting chills as I think about them. Why?

In one of the DVD extras, an interview of Michael Apted conducted by Roger Ebert, Ebert recalls reading an internet user's response to watching all seven films in a 24-hour period. This person said it was a metaphysical experience. It wasn't about seeing the lives of these people, but it was seeing life itself.

I cannot disagree with this statement. I was powerfully affected by seeing the growth of these people, the way they age, their hopes for their own children. Even the ways they interact with Apted and with the camera become riveting -- especially in this latest edition, where the established relationship that many of them have with the director is allowed to play out on the screen for us. Some of them are angry at him for the way they've been portrayed (or mis-portrayed).

It's really hard to explain the impact on me. I don't watch the film merely reflecting on these people's lives (though I do that as well). I watch it and think about how my life is so much like theirs. Not in the details, but in the arc of a life in general -- the ways in which we are the same.

Please watch it. You will be glad you did.

Rites of Spring

It's an annual rite of passage for anyone on the tenure track (well, I guess the annual part of it might differ from university to university): the submission of the updated tenure file.

At Baylor, we have annual reviews to gauge progress towards tenure, and my fourth review is next Friday. So today I submitted my tenure file, which is actually a tenure notebook (which is actually two tenure notebooks because I can no longer contain all of the accumulated stuff in one three-ring binder).

The process here at BU is smart -- by making the submission of the file a yearly requirement, there's no fear of someone on the tenure track getting behind on their record-keeping. I stay pretty much on top of that behemoth, adding things that should be added as they happen rather than all in one big frenzy at the end. I admit, there's always one day or afternoon of semi-frenzy in getting the thing organized.

But regardless, the book is in. The review is scheduled. Another year on the tenure track behind me. It's hard to believe I've been here nearly four years now. My first year was chaotic -- prepping and teaching classes from scratch every week (every day), figuring out what building was what. Heck, just figuring out where to park was scary.

And I made my first feature at the end of that first crazy year. If I'd have known how hard all of that would be, I probably wouldn't have taken it all on. In many ways, I'm glad I didn't know. Now, as I'm about to embark on the second feature, things certainly seem more in control.

Of course, the new film is of a larger scope (in many ways -- the emotions of the piece, the visual requirements), so I continue to make things hard on myself. But there's no sense in resting on one's laurels. You can't get better at what you do like that...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I'm still here...

I know it's been a week since I posted anything, but I just haven't had much to say. Some minor updates:

  • The Clean Freak poster and DVD case are just about done. Now if it will only get into some more fests.
  • Early tests on effects and animation for Endings are looking very good.
  • A book about mockumentaries, to which I contributed a chapter, will be published in late 2008 (more on that when a date and title become official).
  • Friday night, our church had "Parents' Night Out," and my wife and I had a date sans kids for the first time since -- hmmm, well, I don't even know. It was so nice to have a relaxed conversation at dinner and over coffee. I was feeling bad for not having planning anything "special" (this was to be our Valentines celebration, after all), but it turned out to be better for not having an agenda. Sometimes, you just need some quality time together.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Movie Watching Update

I finally got a chance to see There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film with Daniel Day-Lewis, and while I didn't walk away thinking it was the best thing since cinematic sliced-bread, I do think it's a wonderful film. It's completely unique, with an elliptical and unusual storytelling style that breaks every rule for when scenes should begin and end and works because of it. Some of it is showy, like the first 20 minutes which makes such a point of having no dialogue that it becomes obvious after a while that the director said, "You know what? I'm going to make a movie where there's no dialogue for the first 20 minutes, just to do it."

But really, it's a powerful film with an amazing performance by Day-Lewis, a performance that some have criticized for being over the top. I think it IS over the top, towards the end, when the character of Daniel Plainview has crossed the line from misanthrope to madman -- but it works because of that.

My other weekend viewing included two more films from the "Up" series -- 35 Up and 42 Up. Many will know what I'm talking about already, but for those who don't, this series revisits the same people every seven years, starting from when they were seven years old, to check in on their lives and to see specifically how people from different classes of society develop and grow. It's a really amazing series (Roger Ebert has called it a "towering achievement of documentary film"), and watching these children grow up, some achieving their hopes and dreams and some facing divorce, the death of parents, and other disappointments in life is just so... well... human.

The really interesting thing about it has been watching them go from about my age (in 35 Up) to past my age (in 42 Up), where the course of their lives has mostly been set, and they've begun to accept that.

I am anxiously awaiting my Netflix shipment of 49 Up, which was released in 2005. I'm almost afraid of what I'll see, and the whole series has given me pause to reflect on my own life, not only on what I've accomplished but also just the point of life in general. In some ways, this series points out the distinct differences in the opportunities available to children of different classes, but in many ways it shows us just how alike we all are in so many ways, in our challenges and our disappointments, in our hopes and dreams for ourselves and our children.

And tonight? There will be... football (sorry -- had to make the obvious play on words). Last game of the season, so I have to watch. Go G'ints!