A good quote from Pete Seeger.

“People ask, is there one word that you have more faith in than any other word, and I’d say it’s participation. I feel that this takes on so many meanings. The composer John Philip Sousa said, ‘What will happen to the American voice now that the phonograph has been invented? Women used to sing lullabies to their children.’ It’s been my lifework, to get participation, whether it’s a union song, or a peace song, civil rights, or a women’s movement, or gay liberation. When you sing, you feel a kind of strength; you think, I’m not alone, there’s a whole batch of us who feel this way. I’m just one person, but it’s almost my religion now to persuade people that even if it’s only you and three others, do something. You and one other, do something. If it’s only you, and you do a good job as a songwriter, people will sing it.”

From The Protest Singer: An Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger By Alec Wilkinson.

Top 49 movies of the last five years, part 5

Okay, we’re in the home stretch. If you missed the first 40, you can click on the top 49 movies link. The final nine movies of the last five years:

6/22/09
Up. Though its short title causes confusion when writing notes on a message board (I saw Up! You saw what up? No UP! University of Portland? NO the MOVIE UP! What movie? Arrrrrgh!) this is one of the best movies I saw in 2009–animated or not. And 2009 was a good year for watching good movies. 13 of my list were viewed that year. The montage scene will set the montage standard for years to come. Perfect.

7/2/09
Away We Go. I loved this so much I saw it three times in the theater, which, given my cheap-er-I-mean-frugal nature, is saying something. I enjoyed the humor, the main male lead reminded me of someone I live with and also: Melanie Lynskey, fabulous as usual. In fact, this movie was packed with great scenes and actors.

7/20/09
Across the Universe. A story based on Beatles songs? It could have gone so wrong. Instead, it went so right I immediately watched everything by the director (except Titus–I only made it halfway through that movie–the images were visually striking, but way too disturbing.) Incredibly fun and gripping and yes, pretty. Have you not seen it? Get going!

7/30/09
Moon. A brilliant movie and one that had me reserving every movie with Sam Rockwell in it the library carries. Puzzling, suspenseful and intellectually horrifying, you best be watching this movie. Also, Kevin Spacey works well as a disembodied voice of a computer. Perhaps he should just do that for awhile.

10/10/09
500 Days of Summer. A romantic comedy that boys will actively like and not grumble through. Funny and very well done.

10/31/09
Carrie. This movie is on this list because I thought I would hate it. I don’t like scary movies, I’m not a Sissy Spacek fan and I’d read the book. But from the first scene, the cinematography was beautiful, something I wasn’t expecting. Some of the acting is bad, but the movie itself is very nice to look at. Well done.

11/15/09
Whip It. What I am looking for from Hollywood: Spunky protagonist wants something (not a boy) and does what she can to get it, confronting funny and moral dilemmas along the way. Is this so much to ask? Apparently so, as I rarely see movies like this. Excellent viewing for teenage girls and there should be about four more a year like it.

12/5/09
The Informant! Funny. Great voice overs and (yes!) Melanie Lynskey. The fact it is based on a true story makes it even better.

12/27/09
Lars and the Real Girl. Every cast member is fabulous in this movie which you might, like me, not watch because of uncomfortable feelings about the subject matter, but which you should just get over it and press play. Delightful!

So ends our list.
The stats:
2005–4 top movies
2006–6 top movies
2007–8 top movies
2008–18 top movies
2009–13 top movies

Top 49 movies of the last five years, part 4

Onward through the best movies I watched in five years of time. Read the other parts, if you haven’t already, by clicking top 49.

10/18/8
The Band’s Visit. What people talk about when they talk about good foreign films. Worth seeking out.

11/10/08
Tell No One. There’s a reason why it was on Levy’s High Five for months on end. French people like U2 too!

11/29/08
Rachael Getting Married. A meander of a movie–long, and kind of like being invited to a wedding weekend, but in a good way. Back in the days of the Princess Diaries, who knew Anne Hathaway would have such staying power?

12/5/08
Mala Noche. I heard about this Gus Van Sant debut feature for years before Criterion re-released it as part of the Criterion Collection. Seeing it, I finally finished my “watch every Gus Van Sant project” and also was amazed at how good it was.

12/28/08
Tully. I watched a lot of excellent films over the 2008 Winter Break and this was the best one. I’m guessing you haven’t seen it, but you should remedy that very soon.

12/29/08
City of Ember. A rollicking tale of adventure for the whole family. Then your family can read the whole series together, skipping the weird present day book that is horribly written.

1/1/09
Akeelah and the Bee. Yep, there was a lot of talk about how excellent this movie was, and I couldn’t bring myself to watch it. But then I did watch it and the talk was right and I was silly for putting off the watching for so long.

2/6/09
Sunset Boulevard. A classic. And not one of those you-should-see-it-because-every-else-has-and-it-is-referred-to-often-though-ultimately-it-is-boring-to-watch classic. It’s actually a very exiting movie.

4/17/09
Adventureland. I was surprised at how good this coming-of-age film was. It captured a lot of things that were true for me of my early post-college years.

5/16/09
Star Trek. So. Much. Fun. Before it ended, I was plotting when I would see it again. That’s a very good sign.

Top 49 movies of the last five years, part 3

Continuing on with our list. To see all five posts, click on “top 49.”

2/8/08
Junebug. If you like Amy Adams, this is a film for you.

2/29/08
No Country For Old Men. Engrossing not-funny Cohen Brothers. Beautifully filmed.

3/8/08
Persepolis. You may think you don’t want to see an animated film with a female protagonist set during the Iran-Iraq war. You would be wrong.

3/26/08
Enchanted. “Why do we own Enchanted?” our friend Laurie asked her husband Burt. Burt kind of looked at her.

“I bet he has a thing for Amy Adams” I suggested. His face scrunched up in a way that indicated he did have a thing for Amy Adams. I told him I did too. Forget McDreamy, Amy Adams is dreamy.

5/3/08
Iron Man. Much like I will watch anything Aaron Sorkin writes, I will watch anything Robert Downey Jr. is in. When it is this good, I’m delighted.

5/9/08
Gone Baby, Gone. So good I watched it twice in one weekend and showed a deleted scene to Matt. I later found out this was based on a series of books about Boston P.I. I devoured that series over the following summer. Now I’ve got Matt reading them too.

5/9/10
Once. Utterly charming.

5/17/08
All the Real Girls. Wonderful performances, and a secondary character (Bust-Ass) who steals every scene he is in. This movie was my happy introduction to Danny McBride and Paul Schneider and furthered my love of Joan Allen and Zooey Deschanel.

7/10/08
21. A perfect Hollywood caper movie with the bonus of nerd power. Very fun.

8/30/08
Tropic Thunder. This movie was a wonderful way to end the summer. I read the press, and I was prepared to not liked it THAT much. But I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Top 49 movies of the last five years, part 2

Continuing with the list. To see all five posts, click on “top 49.”

1/1/07
13 Going on 30. I saw this at home, having dismissed it as not theater worthy. But it turned out the main character and I were the same age, which added an emotional resonance to the movie hadn’t anticipated. Plus, the Thriller Dance. This would be a scene that would partially inspire the TSDP a few years later.

2/13/07
The Departed. Did I breathe at all during this movie? I don’t think so. Gripping! Incredibly bloody! Boston accents!

4/28/07
Galaxy Quest. I refused to watch this movie for a long time, due to Tim Allen starring in it, but Matt brought it home for some reason and I laughed so hard we had to pause the movie so I could catch my breath. Plus, Enrico Colantoni! Such fun.

6/16/10
Breach. “Some of these movies I can’t remember” I said to Matt as I was going through the list. “Like, what the heck is Breach?”

“That was a really good movie!” Matt exclaimed. “It was that FBI one.”

“Oh yeah,” I said, remembering. “that was really good!” and onto my list it went.

It’s got a forgettable title, but it’s a great drama and based on a true story. I also heard the interview with the real Eric O’Neill on Fresh Air, and that was very interesting too.

9/19/07
The Company. Another title so forgettable I had to remind myself what the movie was. But a quite good Robert Altman movie about ballet. Plus! James Franco as a mostly-silent chef/boyfriend.

9/22/07
Superbad. You either like this kind of movie, which means you have already seen it. Or you don’t which means you haven’t and you won’t. Judd Apatow does male friendship so well. That last scene really kills me.

10/6/7
The Lives of Others. Here is Florian Henckel von Donnorsmark’s fabulous film. Incredibly moving. Don’t delay, see this today.

12/20/07
Juno. I still think it’s over-written as in, no one talks like that. But even with that (I pick over-writing over under-writing any day) this is a perfect movie about which my friend correctly say, “Everyone does the right thing, even though it is hard.” Aside from that, it’s hilarious.

1/13/08
Atonement. I came out of this movie thinking, “that was okay” and dismissed it as just that. Then I couldn’t stop thinking about it for three days and upgraded it to a Very Good Movie. Does anyone not love James McAvoy after this movie?

2/1/08
Charlie Wilson’s War. Aaron Sorkin, I’ll watch anything you write. And it will most likely be very, very good.

Top 49 movies of the last five years, part 1

It turns out that my five-year standard diary makes it easy for me to make a list of top movies I saw in the last five years. There are 49 of them. This list consists of movies I saw for the first time during those five years. Some of them were not originally released during those five years, but I’m not Shawn Levy watching 2000+ movies in a decade and it takes me awhile to see things. Sometimes decades. Movies I re-watched during those years, I did not include in this list. Thus, the movie I watched on 7/3/06, Drugstore Cowboy–one of my favorite movies ever–is disqualified because I watched it back in the 90s for the first time. Incidentally, the re-watching was even more fun because at that time I lived in Portland near the neighborhood it was filmed. At any rate, today’s entries:

6/28/05
Batman Begins. I’m a sucker for a good superhero movie, especially one that includes the origin story. This was fantastic. We will not speak of the unspeakable sequel which will not be making my list.

7/15/05
Anchorman. Poking fun at local TV news? An easy target. But so, so funny. There are many classic moments in this film. Will Ferrell is great, and the ensemble is a finely tuned comedy team.

9/4/05
The Aristocrats. From George Carlin’s opening smile post-joke, this movie which consists of an incredibly nasty joke told again and again was hilarious, despite its repetition. This also introduced Matt and I to Sarah Silverman (“Who was that?” we asked each other on the walk home.) I think Bob Sagat was perhaps my favorite version, but when George Carlin died a little while later, I remembered his smile from the movie which, more than anything, sold the joke.

10/1/05
Serenity. Everyone in my circle was all abuzz that this movie was coming out, so I was surprised when there was not a Harry Potter-esque line at the movie theater. In fact, the theater wasn’t even full, despite us going on opening weekend. A reminder that not everyone is as into Joss Whedon as my friends are. This was a fabulous stand-alone movie, which got better after I watched the series, which was also great.

1/28/06
Millions. A delightful story about a boy who finds a million pounds and his brother who talks to saints. Good to watch with kids and sweet-tempered grandparents who don’t like swearing.

3/29/06
Walk the Line. One of those movies I didn’t want to end, just because I enjoyed the performances so much.

7/24/06
Monster House. An animated movie I liked much more than I thought I would. And I thought I would like it a good amount. Funny and sweet and good to watch with the aforementioned children and sweet-tempered Grandparents.

8/9/06
Intolerable Cruelty. Some critics mark this as one of the Cohen brother’s weaker films, but I put it at the top of my list. So many funny characters, (Rex Rexworth! Wheezy Joe!) and plot twists. Plus, Heinz the Baron Krauss von Espy. (This is almost as much fun to say as Florian Henckel von Donnermark) I’m not Catherine Zeta-Jones’ biggest fan, but she was perfect for this role. I saw this and then took Matt to see it.

8/20/06
Little Miss Sunshine. Another movie that I saw and then took Matt to see. He laughed so hard, he actually fell off his seat. Managed to be incredibly dysfunctional, incredibly funny and incredibly sweet all at one time. I felt sorry for all the characters, yet felt incredibly protective of them. Do you know how hard that is to pull off?

11/24/06
Stranger Than Fiction. Jan and I traveled to the fancy new theater in Vancouver to check it out and see this movie. Seeing the theater was the true priority, the movie was secondary. Thus, I was surprised to find that two thirds of the way through the movie, I was smiling so much my front teeth had dried out. Everyone in this film is delightful.

Three Sentence Movie Reviews: Up in the Air


I’m a fan of Jason Reitman and George Clooney. I like movies like this and was thrilled to see two of my favorite “unfamous” actors (Melanie Lynskey & Danny McBride). Yet this movie left my brain the moment I walked out of the theater.

poster from: http://www.impawards.com/2009/up_in_the_air.html

Kid conversations: Alien Invasion

Trapped inside for yet another indoor recess this week I had the following conversation with some members of the K/1 class.

A group of boys was playing with pattern blocks and as I watched them I realized that one of them was talking about dropping a bomb.

“What’s your classroom rule about bombs?” I asked. The thing I love about the K/1 class is they will usually tell me what the rule is, even if it means they have to stop doing what they were doing.

“There’s no rule about bombs.” Owen assured me, most enthusiastically. However, he is one of the K/1’s who won’t necessarily tell me the whole truth. I waited to see what he would say next. “There is only a rule about guns. No guns.” He continued.

“Actually, “Alex put forth, “the rule is no weapons.”

“No weapons at all?” I asked.

“No.” a chorus of boys assured me.

“Well, a bomb is a weapon.” I told them. “If you have a rule about no weapons, then you can’t pretend to drop bombs.”

“What about missiles?” asked Thai, seeking a loophole. I told him that alas, missiles were weapons too.

“Spears!” Owen, the optimist, asked.

“Nope, also a weapon.”

“Well how are we supposed to play alien invasion if we can use weapons?” Owen, was a bit perturbed at this point.

“I guess you are just going to have to use peace, love and understanding,” I told them, “because you can’t use weapons.”

“Fuck your light and your bright jacket.”

The above was what was yelled at me tonight from a man in a car across Interstate Avenue while I was bicycling as fast as I could to yoga class. My first thought was, “was he making fun of me?” and my second was “was my light too bright in his eyes?” All in all, it seemed entirely unprovoked–I was on the completely opposite side of the street from him and there were Max tracks in between–and left me confused and unsettled.

This is my problem with communicating from cars while driving. Most of the time, I can only make out syllables a la adults on Peanuts. This man gets points for projection and clarity as I could understand every single word. Still. Not very nice.