Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: Ethan Hawke Book Talk & "Rules for a Knight"

Photos by Kathryn Arion.

After seeing Drew Barrymore's book talk, I was inspired to go back to Sixth and I and see Ethan Hawke talk about his newest book Rules for a Knight.

Photo by Kathryn Arion.

Unlike Drew's talk, Ethan seemed to talk a lot more about his movies than his new book. There was a lot of discussion about the Before Sunrise and Before Sunset movies; I think I have only seen one of them, and I don't remember that much (I guess I need to see them again!). I think his most impactful movie is Gattaca (which I actually had to watch for school); it's fascinating to think how genomics and eugenics could play a role in the future years from now! While I was excited about his new book, I do know him best for his acting, so I was glad we got to hear more about his movies. And he didn't give too much away about his book, which I appreciated! I will say that it was annoying that his interviewer, The New Yorker's Margaret Talbot, kept interrupting and trying to impress the audience with her knowledge about his films. I wanted to shout, "No one cares how smart you are or what research you did on him! We're there to see him, not you!"

He told a funny story about recently thinking about another film. He's not into superhero movies (he said he definitely prefers indie films but wished they had larger budgets), but he contemplated taking a role in a superhero film since he has four kids to feed (which was funny, since I just saw a talk by photographer Joel Sartore, and he asked people to buy his books because "Baby needs shoes!" Just a funny coincidence.). Ethan said he was going to meet someone about the film, and as he was leaving his building, he tumbled down the stairs! He tried to play it cool, but he was bleeding from both legs and the director (or producer? anyway) insisted that he see a nurse, so the meeting never happened and he lost the role.You never know what's going to happen in life!

But Ethan does believe there are rules to live by, no matter what life throws at you, and that's what his newest book is about. He wrote the book for his children, and before every chapter there is a drawing of a bird. This of course makes sense for children, but historically his family were falconers (hence the name Hawke! That is his real name, by the way.); he also liked that birds are rather gender-neutral, since this book is both for boys and girls.

The book is actually somewhat of a translation that one of Ethan's ancestors wrote. He found this old, long letter at his great-grandmother's house. A specialist helped him with the literal translation, and then Ethan made it his own so that his kids could relate to it and understand what they were reading.

Each chapter focuses on a certain trait, like Honesty, Courage, Patience, etc. I enjoyed most of them, but some of the stories did not really fit well with the headers. The ones about Disciple and Equality really don't make sense for the "rule" they are trying to teach. But there were some particular quotes I did enjoy. Here are a few:

"There are only two possible outcomes whenever you compare yourself to another, vanity or bitterness, and both are without value."

I think this is a very important lesson, especially for young adults who are going through big changes mostly at the same time: getting jobs, getting other degrees in school, finding a place to live, finding a life partner, etc. Because my friends and I are mostly at the same point in life, it is very difficult not to compare myself to them, thinking, "Why is she engaged and I'm not?" or "She makes so much more money than I do!" But it really doesn't do any good to compare your life to someone else's. You have to do your own thing and do what's best for you. If you try to live life as if you were someone else, you won't be happy at all!
"Don't fear suffering. The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire...[S]ometimes we have to be stirred and ripped apart so that the seeds of compassion, wisdom, and understanding can be firmly planted in us."

Inevitably, everyone is going to face hard times. This could mean losing a job or facing heartbreak or fighting with a loved one...Bad things happen. But you have to learn from those experiences and grow from them. You realize how much stronger you are when you face unfortunate circumstances and get through them. You also learn not to take the good times for granted! Facing adversity gives you the opportunity to become a better, stronger person, if you handle the situation in the right way.

"...[N]othing gives a young woman permission to be weak-minded, lazy, and dull as much as being considered beautiful."

Now I have to say this is a little unfair, seeing as there are plenty of beautiful women who are NOT weak, lazy, or boring. But I see where he's coming from: If you are beautiful and people are willing to do things for you just because of that, why wouldn't you take advantage of them? But it is better to be well-rounded rather than to have your looks be your one winning quality. Why not be smart, active, interesting, AND beautiful? That's what I do!

"Often we imagine that we will work hard until we arrive at some distance goal, and then we will be happy. This is a delusion. Happiness is the result of a life lived with purpose. Happiness is not an objective. It is the movement of life itself, a process, and an activity...Your life is your responsibility, and you always have the choice to do your best. Doing your best will bring happiness."

You don't just reach one point of happiness and it's all over. Happiness flows through your whole life (if you let it); it's not just one moment. And part of finding happiness is creating your own destiny. If you make the right choices that are right for you, then you will find happiness. I think it's interesting that both Ethan Hawke and Drew Barrymore said the same message for young people: Work hard, do your best, and everything will be fine. If you know you've done your best, you can't ask for anything more.

The book ends with a very long poem called, "The Ballad of the Forty-Four Pointed Red Deer." This poem is supposed to teach lessons like thinking of others, but at the surface-level it just seems like a call for veganism. I was never very good at interpreting poetry, so maybe I just missed the point... (no pun intended).

At the end of the book Ethan thanks other "knights." Some are fellow writers, like Emerson, Shakespeare, Whitman, and Dickinson. But others seemed somewhat random, like Muhammad Ali, Bob Dylan, and George Lucas (well, I guess the last one is involved with movies, too). And of course family members made the list, too.
Then was only on stage for an hour; he was very adamant about his time commitment. He made no speech beforehand, and there was no book signing afterward. He was so ready to get out of there and leave! So that was disappointing, especially for some of his big fans. But before he left he did make a shout-out to Veterans (since it was Veterans Day), which was humbling and very meaningful. He's a good guy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Must-Have Food in the Kitchen

One of the best things about being an unmarried, childless woman living on her own is that no one depends on you for making meals. You can eat (or not eat) when you want, and eat whatever you want! Here are the staples I keep in my kitchen for easy, quick meals.

Image found here: http://goo.gl/WlK3hF
1. Easy Mac. Need I say more? (I will admit that I prefer the Spongebob Squarepants shapes.)

Image found here: http://goo.gl/h5RsWW
2. Apples and bananas. When you eat them with peanut butter, they're more filling, and therefore count as a meal. Right?

3. Tortillas, shredded cheese, salsa, and chips. Quesadillas/Nachos! I probably eat this at least once a week. I'll add an avocado if they're cheap at the grocery store.

Image found here: http://goo.gl/ObRYNC
4. Gorton's Skillet Crisp. This is such an easy way to get fish in your diet (other than canned tuna...).

5. Cereal/Oatmeal. Isn't this the cliché?  

What are your go-to, quick-n-easy foods? I always love new ideas!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Movie Review: Spectre [SPOILERS]

Image found here.
 This past weekend my family and I went to see the new James Bond movie Spectre. We went to the "fancy" Westown Movies theater in Middletown, Delaware; they weren't anything special since the leather seats didn't even recline, so already I was unimpressed with our evening.

The movie starts in Mexico City at a huge Día de Muertos celebration. The streets are packed with people dressed as skeletons, and Bond, as usual, is on the prowl. He sees a bad guy, tries to shoot him, that doesn't work, then he follows him through the streets, both get on a helicopter and tussle about, Bond pushes him out of the aircraft, and then flies away (all in a day's work). Then the theme song starts. I was disappointed that the opening song ("Writing's on the Wall," performed by Sam Smith) has nothing to do with the name of the movie (unlike the theme song for Diamonds are Forever or the song for Die Another Day). The effects themselves weren't very good, especially a huge octopus throughout the scene, which was just creepy.

Where can I get one? Image found here.
I won't go into too many more details, other than the movie was the stereotypical Bond movie: the amazing Aston Martin, the car chases, the bad guys, the explosions, the hot girl...Blah blah blah. The movie is sprinkled with several cringe-worthy scenes, like a man pushing his metal fingernails into another guy's eyes or the villain drilling needles into Bond's head and neck; I covered my eyes during these scenes I was so disgusted. Plus, there was not enough comic relief in this film (or any of Craig's Bond movies, for that matter), so I was tense almost the entire time. Then there were the bits that were just silly, like his lady telling him, "I love you"after knowing him for just a couple of days (She's supposedly a smart doctor, but obviously she's just a stupid girl.), or how easily a watch can blow up a whole room (really?).

Admittedly, I've never seen Daniel Craig as a believable Bond: he's blonde, and quite frankly I don't find him attractive in the least. All in all I am quite blasé about this film. I give it  2 of 5 stars.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Review: Drew Barrymore Book Talk & "Wildflower"

Image of book found here. Photo of Drew by Kathryn Arion.

Last week a friend and I went to Sixth and I in DC to see Drew Barrymore talk about her new book Wildflower. I love her movies, and I thought it would be fun to see a celebrity in the flesh!

Scott Simon interviews Drew Barrymore. Photo by Kathryn Arion.
Can I just say this: Drew is just as you imagine her to be. She's funny, light, and always smiling, just like in her movies. She really is the character she plays! This was so refreshing; I was afraid she might be one of those actors who is funny on screen but rather dark and serious in real life, like her close friend Adam Sandler. I enjoyed her talk, although she kept playing with her hair, which was a bit distracting! One of the funniest parts of the night were when Scott Simon gave her Reese's Pieces (a reminder of her role in the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), and Drew quoted Pretty Woman with "Big mistake!" about M&Ms turning down the chance for their candy to be in the movie. I also enjoyed when she described motherhood as the "hamster wheel from hell." Even Drew Barrymore isn't trying to convince me to have kids! I was especially inspired when she answered a question from an audience member regarding confidence in young women. Drew simply said, "Put your head down and do good work." If you know your work is good, you can be confidence in it, and therefore yourself. Such words of wisdom! Drew had a rocky childhood (which she mentioned in person and in her book, but she is not bitter or resentful), and it is clear that she grew through those tough times to become the woman she is today.

Her talk and her book focus a lot on her two daughters and her role as mother. Although the talk gave away some parts of the book before I had the chance to read it, the book isn't a front-to-back story, so that was okay. Each chapter is a little snippet from her life: one about E.T., one about her dog, one about her terrible time trying to be domestic and make pancakes for breakfast, etc. The chapters are not in chronological order, since they really are just a bunch of Drew's memories written down. As she pointed out in her talk, when you remember something from your past, it doesn't happen in order of how things occurred! So the chapters jump back and forth from her childhood, to her own children, to the making of Charlie's Angels, and back again. I also like how each chapter starts with a photograph, either of herself, her daughters, her dog, other family members and loved ones, etc.

While I enjoyed the book (a fun and easy read), writing is clearly not Drew's number one focus. She writes like she talks: swear words, lots of exclamation points to show her enthusiasm, and the like; this isn't "literature" (though it's not meant to be). She overused phrases like "took the training wheels off" and "a face that just ate a lemon," and she mention Pavlov more than once in her short book! There was also a glaring typo which used the word "ready" instead of "read" in reference to books. A typo about reading in an actual book: the irony!

That's me talking to Drew! Photo by Chelsea Suydam.
But I have to say, this event brought me the highlight of my life (so far). As I walked up on stage to have Drew sign my book, I said, "Thank you so much for your talk! It was amazing!" and she responded, "Well, you're amazing!" Drew Barrymore called me amazing! AAAAHHHHH!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Movie Review: Southpaw

Image found here.

I rented Southpaw because I had a Redbox deal, and I love both Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams as actors. I'm not really into boxing (so violent!), so I kind of knew I wouldn't like that [main] aspect of the movie, but I thought maybe I'd enjoy it in the end.

Nope, I did not. Even these two beautiful actors could not save this film. First of all, Gyllenhaal is not actually that beautiful in this movie. He's supposed to be this tough, gruff boxer who grew up in an orphanage and had a hard life; a pretty boy wouldn't fit that bill. McAdams looked gorgeous as usual, but even she was supposed to be this woman who survived the same orphanage (where they found each other), so I could not relate to these characters and their backgrounds at all. They have a little girl (played by Oona Laurence), who kind of looks like a young Natalie Wood (à la Miracle on 34th Street) but not as cute; the whole time you're wondering how two good-looking people created this awkward looking child. So they are this little family all focused around his boxing career (i.e. how he supports them). But he has anger management problems (no kidding! He fights for a living!), and one day someone says the wrong thing, he reacts, and BAM! His wife gets shot and dies!

As if he weren't already a mess. So now he has completely fallen apart (drinking, doing drugs), he's been spending his money so extravagantly over the years that he's lost it all, and he actually attempts to kill himself by crashing his car into a tree (although earlier in the movie they show him with a gun, which would be a much more affective way to commit suicide...). He's then seen as an unfit father and his daughter is taken from him until he can pull his life together. He wants to keep fighting, but he needs to get a job, so he cleans up the gym where he can also train; he gets an apartment since his mansion was taken away. He slowly makes it back to some form of normalcy, but he's a boxer at heart.

In the end, he fights his enemy fighter, he wins, and it's supposed to be a happy ending. But because most of the movie is focused on the complete dysfunction of this man and his life, it's a sad movie as a whole. There's not much redeeming about it, even though his character redeems himself in the end. Meh, don't bother. I'm not sure this movie even deserves one star.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ballet Review: The Suzanne Farrell Ballet

Last week my friends and I went to the Kennedy Center to see the Suzanne Farrell Ballet. I try to take every opportunity to see the ballet (especially at such an amazing venue!), and this performance did not disappoint.

Walpurgisnacht Ballet. Image found here.
This ballet was made up of parts of several different ballets. The first was the Walpurgisnacht Ballet (I think that means an ancient German festival?). I didn't realize how large the company was, and there were so many ballerinas on stage. I was surprised that they had their hair in ponytails rather than the usual buns, and their costumes looked like nightgowns. Because we were sitting quite close to the stage, we could hear the stomping from their shoes, which can be distracting. The dance includes some moves like hopping on pointe; it's not particularly graceful, but I can imagine how difficult it must be to do that.

At the very end, the music was very energetic and aggressive, and when they dancers came on stage, they had their hair completely down! I've never seen that before! I don't know how they could see anything with their hair in their faces as they jumped and spun around the stage. One girl actually fell, but she got up quickly and recovered as if nothing had happened, so good for her.

I liked this piece, but it was not particularly memorable for me. But the main dancers, Violeta Angelova and Ted Seymour, danced very well together, and some of the lifts were particularly impressive. Allynne Noelle also did a great job on this piece (and throughout the rest of the night); I'm surprised she's not a soloist!

A Midsummer Night's Dream. Image found here.
Next up was a piece from A Midsummer Night's Dream. This is one of my favorite plays, so I was really looking forward to this part. But, because it was only a small bit of the full ballet, you really don't get the feeling of the whole story. It felt like it was lacking something. The Pepto-Bismol pink outfit that Heather Ogden wore was just awful, and this was a simpler dance with fewer lifts and the like. This dance was a little "blah" for me; without the rest of the story to give the audience background on what's going on, it just looked like two people dancing. Meh.

A scene from Romeo and Juliet came next. This was a very romantic piece, although it was a little too sexual for me. We know this story of young love and innocence lost, but the dance doesn't have to be so literal: Natalia Magnicaballi had her legs wrapped around Michael Cook's waist; she was on her knees with her face at level with his crotch; they were rolling around the floor embracing each other. We get it. And again, because we were sitting so close, we could notice things that other people in the audience may not have seen. For example, when the two were dancing together, their hands were wobbling as they were trying to stay in position. But I did enjoy all of the lifts, and some of the moves were pretty amazing!

Then other dances joined in, representing the two families (Capulets and Montagues). Each side was wearing a different color (those in green reminded me of Peter Pan or Robin Hood), and I half-expected them to start snapping à la West Side Story. I did like how, even though this was only one scene from the full ballet, you could understand the full story, unlike the previous piece.

Emeralds. Image found here.
The last piece was "Emeralds" from Jewels. I've heard of this ballet, but I've never seen it. It was absolutely beautiful. There was actually an audible gasp from the audience when the curtain went up and we saw all the dancers in their sparkly costumes and the deep green, jewel-like backdrop. The music was subtle and gentle, and the dancing was lovely to watch (although Ian Grosh needs a serious haircut). The prima ballerinas did a great job (They were the same main dancers the whole night; I wonder why the company didn't mix things up a bit.), and I was surprised when the piece ended with only the men on stage (an interesting twist). This was by far my favorite piece of the night!

While I can't say this was my favorite ballet performance, I did enjoy myself, and I liked that I could get a taste of several ballets all at once. Now I want to see a full performance of Jewels! Next time!

P.S. As much as I love the ballet, every time I go, no matter what company, all I can think of is the dancing ostriches and hippos in Disney's Fantasia.