In my last post I mentioned that it was once again time to give my big annual presentation like I have done for the past 20 years. Every year it gets some media attention and this year was no exception. An AP reporter was once again on the line and she filed a report with her national office. It got picked up by several outlets including The Washington Post. It had just one little quote from me, but hey! National exposure again! After I had given the presentation for the 3rd time (to different audiences) I was contacted by the local news station. Could I do an interview? My boss usually handles requests like that, but I think she knows that this will most likely be the last time for me, so she let me do the interview. I tried to stay as positive as possible and not give them an opportunity to edit out an unflattering sound bite. Unfortunately they used a clip where I stumbled for a few seconds, but it was still positive. I still got kudos from management. It was much better than the year where I started off the presentation with "Things are really gonna suck!" That made the "quote of the day" in the local paper.
In another ego booster, supposedly someone was having a chat in a private window but typed it into the the public window. It supposedly said something like "Yes! He really tells it like it is!" I think management needs to stop "government speak" when addressing issues. I heard an interview with someone from our regional office talking about low water levels in Lake Powell. The question came up about huge volumes of accumulated sediment. She danced around the subject and tried to push collaboration about dealing with the problem. The interviewer kept pushing for some sort of definitive answer, but she just kept dancing around the talking points. People smell bullshit. We should have sensible positions and stick with them and not give wishy washy answers that make no one happy.
I'm in the office today. I was in the office yesterday. I will probably be in the office tomorrow. Surprisingly, it feels kinda nice. I have to give my big annual presentation today, and we had a dry run yesterday to iron out potential problems (like me saying something politically incorrect which might offend someone.) I give the same presentation tomorrow to a group of southern irrigators which it seems our management has pissed off. So I have to navigate that minefield. But the overall big picture item is that I really don't mind coming into the office. Wearing masks all around is a pain in the butt, but since I have my office, I can just shut the door and be isolated. I did notice a bump in my feeling of well-being. Having bouts of depression while working at home seemed to be on the rise with me. This is a nice break. My boss even told me that if I want to start coming in on a regular basis, that would be OK. I think I might start to do that. About the only thing I miss is not having a bathroom 10' away.
This category is usually a challenge. You have 5 films each clocking in at about 30-40 minutes, making it a potential 3-hour filmfest. Even in the theater they usually added an intermission to break things up. We were going to split it up over 2 nights ourselves, but once we got going, we decided to slog on and watch all 5.
"A Love Song for Latasha" - Just. Terrible. I will say this time and time again in this new era of "woke" Hollywood. Just because a movie is about black people doesn't automatically make it good and worthy of my attention. Two black girls grow up in the ghettos of LA and one ends up shot. It's tragic, but it's an everyday occurrence. This film just adds to the narrative that black folk are violent. And if you're going to tell this tired tale, at least have cinematography that doesn't suck so much.
"Do Not Split" - A narrative about the protests in Hong Kong during 2019. On the one paw it was interesting because you see what went on in a more unfiltered look as opposed to the nightly news. On the other paw it is more like a news story as opposed to a true documentary. It seems like there is one documentary like this every year. The images are compelling, but it's not really put together in a cohesive story.
"Hunger Ward" - The day-to-day struggles of a hospital in Yemen as malnourished children are brought in. This is another case of being confronted with heartbreaking images and a tragic story, but does it make a good film? It's just a collection of stories from a place of horrible circumstances. The story should be known, but it's not a great documentary.
"Colette" - When I first heard "concentration camp" in the first few seconds I cringed because here comes another Jewish movie about the Holocaust, (a seemingly yearly staple). But this was actually about a woman trying to find out about her brother who was part of the French Resistance who was captured and forced to work in a secret factory which manufactured the V2 rocket. Overall the story is the same as all movies about German atrocities. What I don't get is how a woman is so traumatized by events that happened 80 years ago, and they didn't even happen to her. I guess some people grieve in vastly different ways. So overall it was a good movie. If this were the last one, it might have had a shot. Fortunately there was one more.
"A Concerto is a Conversation" - My pick for winner. Back to my earlier statement. It's good to make movies that feature black people when the story is interesting, it is well done, and has a positive message. A composer, who has worked on several movies, writes a concerto to honor his grandfather who fled the segregationist South and established himself as a businessman in LA. He helped his grandson achieve success as a professional musician. It was really everything a documentary should be.
I have been making this post for the past several years as Kitty and I have made our way to our local art-house theater to see the Oscar nominations in the 3 short-film categories. Last year we beat the Covid shutdown by a few weeks. This year it looked like it just wasn't going to happen even with the delayed award date. But that same local cinema had a deal where you could stream the nominees for a month for $30. At first it seemed a little expensive, but then we realized that we normally spent $5/person for three shows. $30. Duh! After struggling for awhile to get the movies to cast to the big screen, we eventually watched the nominees for the live-action Oscar. Here's the review!
"The Present" - A Palestinian man is hassled as he tries to cross a checkpoint to get a refrigerator for his wife as an anniversary present. He's hassled again as he tries to bring it back across the border. His young daughter takes measures into her own hands. Really well done. Cute and touching.
"White Eye" - A man finds his stolen bicycle and calls police. It turns out an illegal immigrant bought it unknowingly from the actual thief. The original owner has to deal with the fact that a person's life may be ruined at the cost of a bike. Also very well done, but just sort of average for the bunch.
"Feeling Through" - A homeless guy spends a night trying to help a blind and deaf man get home. Very good acting. A great story of a guy with not a lot give it his all to help another human.
"Two Distant Strangers" - My choice for winner, hands down. It stars Joey Bada$$ from "Mr Robot" and Andrew Howard who has recently been on HBO's "The Watchmen" and "Perry Mason." It could be named "George Floyd as 'Russian Doll'," or "Yo! It Be Groundhog Day." It points out all of our racial inequality as a black man relives the same day over and over but it always ends as he gets killed by police. I liked everything but the ending which was a little too much "Get Out." But it really raises the bar in terms of short film.
"The Letter Room" - A prison guard gets the task of screening the mail for death row inmates and starts to get pulled into their lives. It stars Poe from the recent Star Wars movies and Maeby from "Arrested Development." It was just OK in my book. I wasn't quite sure of the point except that the guard was living such a lonely life. *shrugs*
Another milestone post. The Fuji apple tree started leafing out yesterday. The cherry tree is showing signs of life. It might really pop today. And I noticed a big green bud on the plum which was also ready to burst. With temps expected to hit 80 by the weekend, I'm expecting everything but the fig to be really growing. The apricot, nectarine, and peach are all flowering. They all went through the freeze. The apricot definitely doesn't look happy. The peach has flowers, but they look kinda sad. The nectarine is flowering quite nicely, but it doesn't compare to a couple of years ago when it was awash in flowers. Like I always say...we shall see!
I am slowly coming to the decision that I plan on retiring in March of 2022, 11 months from now. I'm still not sure of an exact date. I need to work that out with personnel, but I have decided that I can comfortably retire on 29% of my salary and/or there is no great desire to pursue that extra 1%. If you start to play that game, you will end up playing it every year. I'm 3 months away from my minimum retirement age and August 16 marks my official 30 years with the gov't. It's just time to move on.
I let it slip to my colleagues on Friday during a conference call when my counterpart at the irrigation district said that he would be calling it quits next month. It was a total surprise out of the blue. He sounded very disgruntled. It's a shame because this guy really knows his stuff. I have been working with him for 20 years. It would be a rare thing to disagree with him except when his answer was political instead of scientific. He will be greatly missed. But he had no big plans or ideas. He had just had enough. I just said, "Yup! I'll be joining you in a year." I guess that raised some eyebrows.
The more I hear that statement, "The fastest way to death is through retirement," the more I disagree with it. Maybe if you did physical labor your whole life and suddenly ended up on a sofa, yeah, that could be detrimental to your health. Maybe if you created a business with your own 2 hands and it was a source of pride to you, it would take a mental toll on you to give that up. But here I am sitting on my ass for 8 hours a day staring at a screen. No. I think being able to get out and do things would be an improvement to my conditions, not a negative thing. What would I do? Meh. Who knows? Something. Anything.
Today is a combo "What the Bear is Watching," "Oscar," and "Covid Diaries" all wrapped into one!
Yesterday Kitty and I wanted to watch something, but we couldn't figure out what. We don't have any shows that we're binging together that we're not already caught up on, and we didn't want to watch any long, old-time movie we have in our DVR. What to do? Suddenly Kitty remembered a movie on Disney+ that we both wanted to see; "Onward." It had also been nominated for Best Animated Feature, so that was a major plus. I ended up pretty much watching alone as Kitty got a phone call that lasted half of the movie. My review is that it was a pretty wonderful film. It will probably lose to "Soul," but it would be a close second. The movie was one of those that suffered greatly from the Covid lockdown. I think it came out just before or after the first big shutdown in March. It simply fell between the cracks. It couldn't be seen in theaters, and Disney was still working out the "bugs" in Disney+. I also think the movie wasn't promoted too much or very well. It even gets "furry points" because it has a sexy manticore character and even a manticore fursuiter!
I will also do a special "What the Bear is Watching" post because my latest binge show has been "Arrested Development." I had heard about the show years ago, but never got around to watching it. It popped up on my "recommended" list on Netflix, so I gave it a watch. I really enjoyed it. It was one of those pioneering comedies with no audience or laugh track and adult humor that made censors nervous. The mother character was wonderful as a spoiled, rich, alcoholic. Where did I know that voice from? "Archer!" We have been watching that show for years! The animated character voiced by Jessica Walters was just like her character in "A.D." Sadly she passed away the other day. I was just happy to have discovered her character and the funny show. Unfortunately the show is very shark jumpy. Fox gave up on it after 3 seasons and it floundered in no-mans-land for years before Netflix revised it. It just wasn't the same. It's extremely repetitive and the spark of the original just isn't there in the later episodes.
Last year the peach tree bloomed on March 12. This year it is March 20. The nectarine might bloom today, or it might pop tomorrow. The buds are certainly ready to bust. Of course there could be some drama like last year. A cold front is expected to hit Tuesday or Wednesday. Goddamnit! I'll just have to wait and see.
Now that the nominations for this year's Oscars have been released, I have been watching what is available on the streaming services I have. It still cracks me up that some of the services also charge an extra fee to watch the latest releases. There is a campaign on FB to "just say no!" to added fees. Don't pay extra for something that will eventually be included in a month or so. This is a money-making experiment by Big Media to get as much profit as possible. If people are sheep and opt to pay more...we'll all eventually pay more. I think MoviePass almost had it right. You pay a flat fee every month, and you can see as many movies as you want at the theater. Everyone said it would fail, and it did. But they had the right idea. HBO Max is essentially the same thing. You pay a monthly fee and you can watch first-run movies at home. If 10 million people pay $20/month...that's a guaranteed $200 million a month. That could support a blockbuster budget and fund a few indies as well. But I digress. What have I been watching?
"Mank" - Netflix - So far my favorite in the Best Picture category. It's gorgeous to look at, and Gary Oldman is tops in my book. In all honesty I had to watch the film twice to get all of the subtlety and the fine plot points, but it was worth it.
"Sound of Metal" - Amazon - I heard a lot of buzz around this film, but to me it sort of fell flat. The plot of a heavy metal drummer going deaf just seemed sort of muddled. It was fresh and interesting, but it just seemed to wander.
"The Trial of the Chicago Seven" - I really liked this film as well. It's the historic drama of the trial held after the 1968 riot at the DNC in Chicago. The timing of the movie was perfect especially having lived through the political shitshow of 2020 and insurrection of 2021. And who knew that Sacha Baron Coen could act outside of being Borat!
"My Octopus Teacher" - Netflix - Best Documentary - A nice nature film about a guy who forms a relationship with an octopus. He follows the life of the creature for a year, forming a close bond with it.
"Time" - Amazon - Best Documentary - Note to the Academy...just because a movie is about black people doesn't necessarily mean it's good and we should give a damn. They pulled that same shit 2 years with "Hale County: This Morning, This Evening" which had no plot except to follow black people around in a small town. In this movie we're supposed to care about a guy convicted of armed robbery who spent 20 years behind bars. He did it. No doubt. He decided to go to trial. He lost. And now we're supposed to feel for him because prison is hard and life is unfair? Just terrible.
"Crip Camp" - Netflix - Best Documentary - This will probably be the winner, hands down. It tells the story of the civil rights struggles of the handicapped from the early 70's to the signing of the A.D.A. in the 90's. It hits all of the right notes for a good documentary.
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" - Best Actor and Actress - Chadwick Boseman posthumously won Best Actor at the Golden Globes for his role. I thought it was a gift to a dead actor, but he was actually really really good in his last role. He was definitely more than just Black Panther. Don't be surprised if he wins the Oscar. Viola Davis is up for Best Actress. It's a toss up. She was good, but I'm just not sure. If she wins, I wouldn't be all that surprised.
"One Night in Miami" - Amazon - Best Supporting Actor and Screenplay - The fictional meeting between Cassius Clay, Malcom X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown right before Mohammed Ali announces he's a Muslim. It was entertaining. It would probably be better as a stage play, but it kept me interested. Between this film and Ma Rainey, however, I think we've had enough "whitey sucks" movies this year.
"Hillbilly Elegy" - Netflix - Best Supporting Actress - Glenn Close does a great job depicting a white trash grandmother trying to keep her grandson from turning into a meth head like his mother. Ron Howard directed it, so it's a feel-good story.
"Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm" - Amazon - Best Supporting Actress and Screenplay - OK. It was a fun diversion. And Rudy is creepy and a Trump dolt, but not a pervert. It's an interesting footnote for our present political shitshow.
"Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon" - Netflix - Best Animated Feature - What's not to love about Shaun as he tries to save the world from aliens. And the alien is the cutest darn thing! Another winner from Aardman Studios.
"Over the Moon" - Netflix - Best Animated Feature - This has been getting a lot of furry praise just because it has a couple of cute bunnies. I just couldn't get into it. I fast-forwarded through quite a bit of it. I'll probably go back and watch it at some point. It certainly was colorful!
"Soul" - Disney+ - Best Animated Feature - This has to be the winner hands-down. I was amazed that Disney made such a movie with such deep and heavy plot points. It's rare that an animated movie for kids could be so mature. And the animation is amazing as well.