Saturday, January 18, 2014

406.5

On January 2, I weighed myself on the trusty Weight Watchers scale and the number came back: "406.5." This was the heaviest I have ever weighed.

It wasn't that I was much surprised. I weigh myself regularly, but plentiful holiday eating had pushed me to this new brink. I couldn't ignore it anymore; I was over the 400# mark.

I would like to say that was "the final straw," but I'm not sure it was. Nevertheless, as it was after New Year's Day, the typical New Year's resolution kicked in: lose weight, get healthy. Not that I hadn't uttered that every year for perhaps the past 15 years, but here we were again: me making the usual failed promise to myself.

After suffering a cold, I had some weird chest discomfort, and then some pain/discomfort radiating into my left arm, starting on Sunday, January 5. Since I didn't have any shortness of breath or other symptoms, I just chalked it up to pulling a muscle, perhaps while snow shoveling or something of that nature. (Unfortunately not due to exercise; I haven't lifted weights as exercise in quite a while.)

Still, as the pain persisted, and I had a couple of sleepless nights on Monday and Tuesday, I then decided I needed to go in on Wednesday, January 8, and get checked out to make sure it wasn't anything more serious than the psychosomatic symptoms my wife and I thought I might be suffering from. Stupidly, I went to an Urgent Care center first. I should have just went to the ER, as the Urgent Care center physician, upon hearing my diagnosis of chest pain and looking at my weight and other factors, performed an EKG. The physician said the EKG showed possible signs of an enlarged heart, and there was fear that a myocardial infarction (heart attack for you laypeople) may have occurred or may be on the precipice of occurring. They gave me some baby aspirin to chew down. The physician told me I needed to get to the ER immediately. AMA (Against Medical Advice), I decided to forego the ambulance ride and drive myself the 10 or so miles between the Urgent Care center and Metro Health hospital in Wyoming, close to where I live.

Now, for reference, I have not been admitted to a hospital ER since I was 6 years old. That visit was precipitated by being hit by a tow truck (another story for another time, if you're not familiar with it from knowing me), and I suffered three skull fractures. Since then, I had managed to keep myself out of the emergency room except to visit when a family member or friend had been admitted for reasons wonderful (birth of a child) or not so much (anything related to death and not to life).

To Metro's credit, I was taken back immediately to be hooked up to another EKG and have bloodwork performed. I also would have a chest x-ray performed. Being wheeled through the ER, shirtless, on the way to the chest x-ray, was certainly a surreal experience and perhaps the main reason I'm clinging to my newfound determination. However, I'm getting ahead of myself.

Admittedly, justifiably (perhaps), I was freaked out, to say the least. Trying to contact any of my family members, I used the wonders of the Internet age to Facebook message my mother, brother, and sister regarding the situation. I couldn't find my wife. Camille has a cellphone but rarely turns it on. I wouldn't have the clarity of mind to try her work number; when I eventually did, I left a message for her to call me on my cellphone as soon as the message would allow.

I did reach my father, and at that point, I broke down in tears. Scared that something incredibly significant was going wrong with my health, I had the frightening feeling that 39 would be it for me. Overreacting? Sure. I have the tendency to do that from time to time. Still, as I mentioned before, this was my first time being admitted to an ER in 29 years, and for a moment I thought it might be the last.

The EKG and chest x-ray apparently came back clear, and since they were able to get my blood pressure under control, they released me under my own recognizance, with the instructions to take a baby aspirin performed until a cardiac stress test could be performed. (Wonderfully, a nice nurse at Metro did provide me a pre-warmed blanket at some point to cover up my top level nakedness. The pre-warmed blanket is definitely a luxury to be had, though I certainly didn't need to go through this type of experience to receive one.)

I may have been physically cleared, but mentally, I was on the ragged edge. Wednesday and Thursday brought only fitful sleep. Friday and Saturday, I maybe got 3 hours (if that) each night. Finally, we got to Sunday and Monday, January 12 and 13, where I slept absolutely no hours at all. I still had the weird chest discomfort, and in reflection, I probably had an anxiety/panic attack. Understandable considering what I had gone through, but again something I had never experienced before in my life.

So, here we are. My typical New Year's resolution to "lose weight, get healthier" has been crystallized by this incident. It's no longer a resolution; it's a necessity. I want to be around for at least 39 more years. I have many more goals in my life to accomplish. I need to be around to take care of my wife and have her take care of me. She and I are going through the process of possibly adopting a child. I want to be around for that child to grow up. Hell, I want to be around for me to grow up.

I am using Calorie Count to record what I eat, trying to stay under 2000 calories a day if possible. I found a nutritionist plan online on what to eat, health wise, besides the calories. I have tried to exercise, getting on the treadmill for 30 minutes and walking at a reasonable pace. One naturally warm January day since the incident, I actually took a 20-minute walk outside. The results have been good so far. I am down 16 pounds since January 2 (at least back under the #400 mark, thank God). I have much more to go, but I am setting my goals 10% at a time. That is, lose 10% of my current weight, then another 10%, etc. My "BHAG" (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) is to get under 200# eventually, but 10% at a time at first. I will make it. I have to make it. It's not a matter of empty promises and "resolutions" anymore. Not to use too much hyperbole, but it's do or die.

The stress test is scheduled for January 28. It's a two-day affair, and it should be an interesting experience, of which I will blog further. My personal care physician Dr. Koepnick thinks it will come back clear. I am still having the weird chest tightening from time to time but the symptoms are not debilitating, just bothersome. Dr. Koepnick gave me some alprazolam (Xanax) to take to help sleep at night. That, along with taking melatonin, seems to be doing the trick for the most part. I still wake up sometimes and have some anxiety, but overall, at least I've been able to sleep.

I will continue to use this blog to document my process as I move forward. Hopefully, we continue to see positive results. However, 2014 has started out in a very interesting manner for me, to say the least, and I expect it will only get more interesting as things go along. We shall see. However, I can guarantee you one thing: I will never be 406.5 again. One way or another.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

MAN OF STEEL (2013) – WARNING: SPOILERS!

One of the first movies I watched on VHS when I was a kid was the original Superman. I was already a budding comic book geek back then, but that movie certainly pushed me over the edge into fanboy-dom. As a kid, you don’t necessarily recognize all the flaws, and Superman 1 and 2 are certainly flawed movies but, again, as a kid, they were awe-inspiring.

Then you had Superman 3, which was embarrassing in its attempt to shoehorn Richard Pryor, who absolutely did not match the tone of what a good comic book movie should be. We’ll barely mention Superman 4, which was cheaply made and it showed. Even good ol’ Christopher Reeve disowned that abomination.

In 2006, we had Superman Returns, and considering that was directed by Bryan Singer, who had acquitted himself well with the X-Men movies, I went into the theater very hopeful that I was going to recapture some of that boyhood magic I had when I viewed the original two Supermans. Unfortunately, Singer was TOO reverent of those movies, and so we had an awkward attempt to continue the Superman from the 70’s into the 2000’s, and it just didn’t work.

So, I went into Man of Steel tonight with some trepidation. Would it be another letdown like Returns? I am happy to say it is not. In fact, and this may be blasphemy to the 8-year-old Brent Alles, but I think it’s the best Superman movie ever made.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. It has flaws. However, on the whole, this perhaps best captures the essence of Superman and not once makes you roll your eyes at corniness or anything of that nature.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room: Henry Cavill. How did he do? He did fine. Christopher Reeve remains the best Superman ever. Sorry, but you’re never defeating that icon. Brandon Routh did fine as well, but anybody playing Superman will always have to be in Reeve’s shadow. Heck, Reeve himself couldn’t really get out of the shadow of Superman! However, Cavill is a good actor; and he does a good job here at conveying the uncertainty of being a “stranger in a strange land,” so to speak.

Michael Shannon is also a good actor, but he also has a shadow to step out of, that of Terrance Stamp as the original General Zod. He also cannot quite escape that original shadow. Stamp was just so memorable, uttering lines like “Why do you say this to me when you know I will kill you for it?” Shannon definitely has intensity, but his performance as Zod is a bit one note, all things considered.

Amy Adams also doesn’t quite work as Lois Lane. She does all right, but I think the chemistry between her and Cavill just isn’t quite there. I do like the fact that they removed the silliness of Lois Lane not being able to figure out that Superman is Clark Kent right off the bat. Fortunately, there was no silly “memory removing kiss” in this movie as there was in Superman 2. Adams is definitely better than the cardboard Kate Bosworth, but Margot Kidder still remains the best Lois Lane.

Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are PERFECT as Ma and Pa Kent, though. Especially Costner. This is perhaps one of his better performances in a LONG time. You really get the struggle that Pa Kent has to let his son run free or hide in order to protect himself.

Russell Crowe also does a great job at Jor-El. He’s actually better than Brando was at it, no lie. He brought necessary depth to the role that really helped move the story along.

Now, after the nitpicking above, why do I still say that it’s the best Superman movie ever made? Because of the sheer scope of it. We’re given a full-blown Krypton, with mystical beasts and science fiction galore. We’re given truly epic battles in Smallville, Metropolis, and elsewhere that aren’t just mindless battles but mean something to the overall point of the movie. I was riveted the whole time, unlike Returns, where I had fits of interest but overall had that gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach much as I had when watching The Phantom Menace.

No post credits scene, but I really wish they would have had the following: Show the back of a certain bald-headed individual and just hear a voice saying, “We’re going to have to do something about the alien.” THAT would have been awesome. Oh well… maybe in the next sequel, which I think is going to struggle to match the impact that this movie has. After defeating Zod and all his minions, where do you go from there? It will be interesting to see.

GRADE: A-

Friday, March 8, 2013

SPRING VACATION 2013: THE REST

As usual, my procrastination (and, in my defense, lack of wi-fi in certain areas on our vacation) leads me to summarize the rest of the trip today.

TUESDAY

Our travel down to Norco, CA, home of Bill and Mary Koster (Uncle and Aunt to me), was not as fraught as yesterday's journey. We started out with Mexican Breakfast at a small place in Morro Bay. If you've never had chips and salsa as part of your breakfast, I say that you're missing out. I had huevos con chorizo (or something something), which was delicious when placed in tortillas.

Thus Mexicanated, we set out for Norco. Our halfway stop today was Santa Barbara. We walked the pier and took in the general sights as much as we could. You really could spend a week in any of these cities... we, of course, crammed several into one week. C'est la vie.

We arrived in Norco and had a great time catching up with Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary. They took us to a place called the Wingspot for some awesome boneless wings - garlic parmesan was to die for. (The healthiness quotient occasionally got away from us this week, but again, it's vacation.)

WEDNESDAY

Onward to San Diego today, to take in the zoo and anything else that caught our fancy. The San Diego Zoo is awesome but tiring. We started with a guided bus tour to get the lay of the land, and then we walked the entire length of the zoo anyway. We got to see many animals up and around this time as compared to two years ago; the polar bears swimming around and playing for the audience was a real treat at the start of the day. While many other animals were napping, the big cats seemed restless for some reason - wonder why.

After a tiring but enjoyable day, we took in a little of Balboa Park before heading back to Norco, stopping along the way in Temecula, which has a great "old town" and also a burgeoning winery community. Since it was too late to visit the winery community, we took in "old town" and ended up at a biker bar/restaurant called Texas Lil's. Great burgers there. The waitresses were dressed up like... uh... loose cowgirls, shall we say? I only make these statements as observations, Dear Readers. I was focused on the burger.

Back home for more QT with Bill and Mary and then to bed.

THURSDAY

Today was "LA Day," as we headed into La La Land to catch a taping of "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," which is one of my favorite television shows. The tickets were free, but we had to arrive at CBS Studios at least 30 minutes ahead of check-in time (3:00 p.m.). However, not being confident in the traffic being anything but hellacious, we chose to arrive even earlier, which was good because there was a student group of about 27 waiting for the taping. The studio only holds 160, so between those students and the rest of Craig's fans who were in attendance yesterday, I don't think we would have gotten in, which would have meant a wasted trip to LA.

We had a healthy lunch at some place called Freshii (no, really, it was healthy!) in the Farmer's Market, which is a combination of shops and restaurants. It's a bit of a tourist trap, but it gave us a good place to park, since the CBS Lot was not surprisingly full when we arrived.

We then stood in line for about an hour (Camille's patience was sorely tested; while she likes certain elements of the Craig Ferguson show, it's certainly not one of her faves, and she didn't have my undimmed enthusiasm to get her through the long wait). After that, they let us in to pass through the security check: no cellphones, cameras, etc. We left our technology in the car (and Camille's purse in the trunk) to make the process easier. We then got to sit on a bench (fortunately the predicted rain held off while we were there) while the 1iota people (coordinators of the tapings) gave us the run-down of how to act, that we were "show enhancement," etc.

We then went up four flights of stairs to the studio. We actually got prime seats, middle of the third row up, so we could see over the cameras and the whole studio, including the "stable" of Craig's pantomime horse Secretariat (Camille's favorite "character" on the show). While the current studio is larger than Craig's previous studio (butt of much of his jokes), it still appeared much smaller than it does on television. The wonderful tricks the cameras can play, don't you know.

The warm-up guy Chunky B was slightly annoying (especially to Camille), but energetic enough to get us primed for the show. He told some pretty corny and off-color jokes, if only to ready us to laugh at anything that happened on the show. That wasn't too difficult for me, as I think most of what goes on "The Late Late Show" is funny.

We had a double taping, since Craig tapes Friday's show on Thursday. It was interesting to see how they shot things slightly out of order; I'm curious to see how the final product comes out. The first guest was Zach Braff, formerly of Scrubs and now the voice of a flying monkey in Oz, the Great and Powerful, I kid you not. Zach was there to promote the film that premieres today, but the humor in his interview mostly came from the fact that he apparently shot a television pilot with Craig back in 1989. Much laughs were had at the corniness of Craig's televised amazement of Zach's character using a 1989-era Game Boy.

Alison Brie from Community was supposed to be the next guest, but she was apparently ill, so Gillian Jacobs from Community took her place. Gillian was absolutely adorable and was game to play along with Craig's usual "improvisational style" interview. She even tried to play the rusty trombone! (Don't ask.)

It was surreal to be there live and in person, to watch Craig have quick conversations with Michael the producer, etc. I had never been to a television taping before, so I'm glad that this was my first (if only).

The second taping's guests were Chi McBride (you'd recognize him from a lot of stuff; he's currently starring in CBS's new show Golden Boy). He was very funny and also played along well with Craig. Also present on the second taping was Laurie Holden, "Andrea" from The Walking Dead. Considering she's usually dressed down on the zombie apocalypse show, she cleaned up real well, as they say, for the taping, dressed in a very attractive red dress that definitely caught Craig's eye, if you catch my meaning.

The taping wrapped up and we headed back to the car. The only negative was that the CBS pages wouldn't let us use the restrooms after the taping wrapped, so after 3 1/2 hours, our bladders were sorely tested. We also tried to get out of LA at rush hour, which is a delight. Fortunately, we were able to find some facilities in Azusa, and all was well.

FRIDAY

And so we reach the end of our fabulous trip to California for 2013. We crammed many sights and sounds in during this week, and we definitely look forward to returning when we get a chance. I hope that you've tolerated my written ramblings about our journey as well. Until next time...

Monday, March 4, 2013

SPRING VACATION 2013: DAY 3

You will be happy to know, Dear Readers, that Camille and I are fighting the forces of jet lag by sticking to Michigan time, whether we like it or not. We've been in bed by 8-9 Pacific each night, and I've woken up by 5-6 a.m. every morning (Pacific time), whether I wanted to or not. So except for that pesky Daylight Savings Time, we should be fine when we get back to Michigan. Or perhaps we're just getting old... who's to say.

Day 3 started out with breakfast at Leann's. Again nothing with Spam, but instead some delicious pancakes and some passable eggs. (Coffee did not exactly meet muster either, but rocket fuel is rocket fuel.) So fortified, we headed off for San Jose.

One item of business to attend to first thing this morning, as my work with staffing speech language pathologists for schools lead me to my biggest client for summer schools work, Santa Clara County Office of Education. Traffic was horrendous on the way down to San Jose (and yes, I did have Dionne Warwick cycling in my head, why do you ask?), but we endured.

Santa Clara County Office of Education has an impressive facility right off Highway 101 in San Jose. They had a cafeteria where Camille was able to sit and study (ever the diligent student, gotta love her), and I was then able to schmooze and schmozzle with my client contact. Good day, as I was able to obtain a job lead immediately and solidify our chances at staffing with them for the summer. Excelsior!

Then it was on to Monterey, another lovely "little" seaside town. Being an off-peak Monday, it certainly was not as busy as San Fran was on a sunny Sunday. We were able to take in the Monterey Aquarium, which, while being almost twice the price of the San Francisco aquarium, was definitely worth it as they had many varied aquatic species to enjoy. I highly recommend it.

We had lunch at Cannery Brewery: some delicious clam chowder and a house salad with a surprisingly tasty citrus vinaigrette. Lest ye worry that we slipped into totally health conscious mode, we also hit up the Tollhouse Cookie shop for a pre-lunch cookie. I hated every delicious Tollhouse morsel, Rabbit Holers, I'm sure you'll imagine.

Then it was on to our adventure portion of the day: California Route 1, which runs right along the Pacific coast. Scenery was spectacular, but if you've ever wanted to experience what a James Bond car chase might feel like, California Route 1 is for you. So many hairpin curves that I lost count and enough hills to give Peter Jackson second consideration on where he might have filmed "The Hobbit." The trip, though not for the faint of heart, was definitely something to do once in your life. Next time I might just hop on US-101, though... (Sorry if I'm beginning to sound like that awful SNL sketch, "The Californians.")

Our first disappointment of the day then occurred, as we arrived at Hearst Castle too late to take one of the tours. We had hoped to see the inspiration for "Xanadu" in Citizen Kane up close and personal, but alas, it was not to be. Something for next time, I suppose.

Then on to Morro Bay, a sleepy bayside town that was just right after the harrowing (yet enjoyable) trip down the coast. Camille and I have a tradition of having one "splurge dinner night" per vacation, and this was it, as we traveled to Distasio's on the Bay. Excellent shrimp scampi (I had to get my seafood fix one way or the other while we were on the coast) was eaten by me, and Camille had some excellent grilled halibut. All in all, a great day.

Onward to SoCal tomorrow to see Uncle Bill and Aunt Mary, but now if you'll excuse me, I need to be in bed to keep up with our strict adherence to Michigan Time. Ciao bella!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

SPRING VACATION 2013: DAYS 1 AND 2

Finally got the wi-fi in the Red Roof Inn to work, so now I can catch up on the blog...

Greetings to the 3 or so people who read this blog. Welcome to the annual travelogue of the Alles Spring Vacation: 2013 Edition - San Fran and beyond. Being Florida'd out from last year, Camille and I decided to travel back to California. This time I would keep a promise to Camille, as last time she asked if we could go to San Francisco and I had to say, "Uh, that's a 6-8 hour drive from [Norco], honey." So, this time we start out in San Fran and then head down the coast until we reach SoCal and all the wonders of La La Land and San Diego, which means the va... never mind.

DAY 1 - SATURDAY, MARCH 2
Our flight from Grand Rapids to San Francisco was blissfully uneventful. Layover in Minneapolis and then on to the Golden Gate, with no delays or any problems of which to speak. The flight from Minneapolis to San Francisco has quite simply the most awesome thing I've ever encountered on a flight: Inflight Trivia Challenge. I got to match my useless knowledge against other denizens of Flight 2153. Not to brag, but yours truly had the highest score for the whole trip. No prize, however, just gloriously useless self satisfaction.

Once off the plan in San Francisco (which actually arrived 1/2 hour early, mind you - so far, no problems whatsoever, which made me worry, Murphy style, what could be just around the bend), we went to pick up the rental car. No problems there either. Unfortunately, FOX Rent a Car did not upgrade us to a souped-up Dodge Charger like last time, but considering the gas prices here in California currently (anywhere from $4 to $4.50), we were happy with our gas-conscious non-souped-up Toyota Camry.

Away we went, and after some brief confusion on how to find our hotel in nearby Burlingame, we arrived. Still on East Coast time and tuckered from the travel, we ate dinner at the hotel restaurant, a diner-style family restaurant called Leann's Cafe. I imagine there's some Hawaiian heritage in Leann's family due to the amount of Spam offerings on the menu, enough to make Monty Python jealous. I took the bait and ordered the Loco Moco, which consisted of a beef patty, egg, and spam on rice with brown gravy. Despite what you may be thinking (and gagging, as Camille did), it was actually quite tasty. (By the way, while I've lost 20# so far this year, I will probably not have the greatest weight loss this week. If I at least maintain, I will be extremely happy. But it's vacation, dang it.)

DAY 2 - SUNDAY, MARCH 3

Up for a breakfast at Leann's (convenient - no Spam this time, just a delicious family restaurant-style omelette and hash browns) and then on our way to Napa Valley. Camille saw a picture of a winery that looked like a castle in one of the handy travel brochures we grabbed at the FOX Rent-a-Car queue, and so off we went.

For the burgeoning wine snobs that Camille and I are, Napa Valley was breathtaking. Scenery is great, nestled in the mountains as it is, and there are a few quaint towns on the way from San Fran to Napa Valley. We eventually arrived at Castello di Amorosa in Castiloga. (I'll post some pictures to Facebook to annoy all of my Friends soon, I promise.) Or you can just check it out here.

A great tour through the winery with our guide Mark, who took delight in the fact he was from Ohio and we were from Michigan. We also had a nice young couple from Minneapolis, Minnesota (GO VIKINGS!), on our tour, so the Midwest was well represented. After touring the castle, which this rich winery owner had restored from 12th century designs (estimated cost: $80 bazillion or so), we got to the most important part: wine tasting. Friends and neighbors, I love Michigan wineries... don't get me wrong. However, this was quite simply some of the best wine Camille and I had ever tasted. Our guide Mark knew that we were a bit wimpy when it comes to wine (white and sweet), so he catered to us, but darned if the reds we also sampled weren't also delish. We managed to contain ourselves and only purchased two bottles (not the $89 2012 prize winner, however).

On the way back, we stopped at the winery that made all the money for Dario Sattui, V. Sattui. They were having a picnic barbecue there, and so Camille and I decided that would make an excellent lunch. I had a roasted pork sandwich that was quite possibly the most wonderful pork sandwich I have ever tasted. I will probably dream about that pork sandwich for years to come. Camille had a mozarella sandwich that was sort of like a caprese salad on a baguette, and she thought that was the bee's knees as well.

Then back to San Francisco, and after some confusing navigation through the heart of town, we ended up at Fisherman's Wharf, which has a lot of eccentric and charming shops and local artisans and residents nestled between all of the corporate wonder of Bubba Gump Shrimp. We went through the Aquarium of the Bay, which was pretty cool, as you walked through glass tunnels and the fish, sharks, and other denizens of the bay swam above you. A bit underwhelming for the $18 entry fee, however. We then wandered around Fisherman's Wharf some more, picking up some knick knacks and souvenirs, and had an extremely healthy supper of crepes at a French creperie. (I was hoping for seafood but with Camille's myriad allergies to most seafood except fish, we opted for the latter.) We split a savory chicken crepe and a Ghirardelli chocolate crepe for dessert. As I said, it's vacation, but I probably would have made Calorie Count explode if I had tried to input that particular dessert.)

As a nice denouement for the day, we witnessed some sea lions hanging out on the docks in Pier 39. They were quite amusing as they honked at each other and messed around for our amusement. We were able to scratch one more thing off the "San Francisco Bucket List."

The weather was a bit chilly in San Francisco today, so with the sun going down, we headed back to our car and home to our Red Roof Inn away from home. The next time we come back to California, we will definitely book more time in San Fran and Napa, as there was a ton more we could have done if we had more time. Oh well... looking forward to travelling south to San Luis Obispo tomorrow. I will update you then, Rabbit Holers.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

HALF OF ME: DAY 2

Those of you who have seen recent (or not so recent) Facebook pictures of me may have noticed that I'm a big guy. Much bigger than I need to be, actually.

Basically, I'm at a point where I have to lose roughly half of my current weight to be a size that while maybe not totally acceptable to the BMI Police will still be something that will be a lot easier for me to maintain my health. I do want to at least be around for the next three Star Wars films, after all.

To that end, I will use this blog to track my progress. I have set a goal of myself to get to the "half of me" point in two years or less. Definitely doable, as long as I stick to it, and I hope to stick to it by being vigilant. My incredibly loving and supportive wife is helping as well to make sure we have things in the house that are better for me than cupcakes, which is quite a list, surprisingly. She is also gently encouraging me to get my oversized posterior off the couch and to the gym or at least outside to walk around several blocks.

So, welcome to the journey. Some of you may wonder why I am starting with "HALF OF ME: DAY 2." Well, I've actually been trying to start this since January 1, but as you can see, it has had difficulty taking. So, I figured this time I would wait until "day 2," which I have successfully made. Onward and upward, as they say.

Half of me: I will get there.

Excelsior,
Brent Alles

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK": DAVID RUSSELL'S "JERSEY GIRL" (not a bad thing)

Camille and I saw "Silver Linings Playbook" tonight. While it was enjoyable, I don't really think it deserves an Academy Award or anything. Quite honestly, it reminded me a little of "As Good As It Gets," and it's nowhere near the quality of that film.

That being said, there is great acting from Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert Deniro (not surprising for any of them, but it's nice to see Robert doing something that doesn't make you cringe thinking of what he used to do). The supporting cast was also solid.

At first, I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy it. As they set up the main characters, I thought, "Oh boy, I'm not going to want to spend two hours with these people." Gradually, though, the actors and the writing won me over.

Then came the ending, which was a little too pat. This lead me to conclude that this is David Russell's "Jersey Girl."

Allow me to elaborate: the first David Russell movie I saw was back in my undergraduate days at Syracuse: 1994 to be exact. It was a wonderful little indie comedy gem called "Spanking the Monkey." I'll spare my more delicate readers a full summary (you can Google it if you're curious); needless to say, it explored the taboo in a way that made you laugh.

Also, in 1994, I saw another wonderful little indie comedy gem that also explored the taboo in a way that made you laugh: Kevin Smith's "Clerks."

After "Clerks," Kevin Smith made other scatological and yet thought-provoking and hilarious (if sometimes uneven) films, and he eventually came to 2004's "Jersey Girl." That film polarized Kevin Smith fans, with some of them accusing him of "selling out" and "going Hollywood."

Now, I enjoyed "Jersey Girl," but I could somewhat see the point of the haters. While "Jersey Girl" maintained some of the old Kevin Smith "independent spirit," the ending was a bit of a standard Hollywood rom-com sell-out. Compare it to, say, the ending of "Chasing Amy," which was not your standard Hollywood rom-com and didn't "sell out" at the end with a "perfect Hollywood ending."

Coming full circle on the analogy, then, that is where "Silver Lining" falters: for a film that does a good job at being quirky and somewhat unpredictable, the ending is a little bit too pat and wrapped up in a neat bow. Not enough to completely sink the film for me, but enough that I wished for a somewhat less "traditional" Hollywood ending.

GRADE: B