Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cinematic experiences and family fun

Last year I had the pleasure of attending the awards for the 48 Hour film project. One group of my college pals (including Chris and Nina, Jed and my dearest Kelly) won awards for best writing and best acting. This year I got to see the preliminary screening.

In the 48 Hour Film Project, teams are assigned a genre. All short films must include a common character, line and prop—in this case a traveling salesman or saleswoman, a roll of blue painter’s tape and the line “What’s it to you, pal?” My friends drew a challenging genre this year: fable. That said, their piece was creative and amusing.

Friday, Grandma Carol and Grandpa Kenny arrived. They were staying for the weekend so Grandma could attend a reunion in the area while, coincidentally, my parents needed to go stay with Grandpa Russ and Grandma Lenora for Dad’s reunion in northern Iowa. The first night, though, we were all together. We had a nice dinner and played manipulation rummy, a game I hope to convince my friends to start playing.

Saturday I watered the sheep as usual. After Grandma and Grandpa left for the reunion, I met up with my friend Jenny in Des Moines. Independent filmmaker Fay Ann Lee was holding Q&A sessions at the Fleur Cinema to promoter her movie, Falling for Grace.

Basically, Lee could only get acting roles where she had to fake a Chinese accent. She realized if she wanted a non-stereotypical role, she would have to write it herself, so she took classes and actually did it. Her script even won contests. Then a studio offered to make the film…if she’d make the main character Latina so Jennifer Lopez could play the role. Her reply: “I don’t think Jennifer Lopez would grow up in Chinatown.” Seriously! The movie has a subplot about Chinatown sweatshops. Would she just pretend there are sweatshops in Spanish Harlem? Sheesh.

The movie was cute as can be. It definitely has some first-time-writer, first-time-director clunkiness…but it’s just so cute. It’s an old-school romantic comedy. At one point, it gave me a little flutter in my chest. I hadn’t felt that way at a movies since I was a teenager. I thought I’d outgrown it. As it turns out, it was the movies that lost something, not me. And there it was, back again. Lee promises that, if we should get her on Oprah, she will film her next movie in Iowa. Of course, our state’s system of hefty tax breaks for filmmakers probably doesn’t hurt, either.

After the movie, Jenny and I went to Django for French food and Absinthe cocktails. (Actually, I had something fruity. Jenny was the one seeking Absinthe, but she gave me a sip. It’s actually delicate and yummy in a subtle-licorice way). The space was lovely, with big windows and rich wooden shelves of wine. [Photo at left by Doug Wells of the Des Moines Register].

I had already eaten lunch, so I just ordered an appetizer. My crab cakes were as delicious as they were gorgeous. Jenny had a gourmet burger. I recommend the restaurant to anyone. The drinks were pricy ($9) but the food wasn’t too expensive ($10 and up) for such a nice place. Their business cards proclaim “French food without the attitude,” and it holds true.

I went home and chored. Then I spent the evening hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa, who had returned from the reunion. It was nice to spend time with them, and we even played some more cards.

The next day, they hit he road and J.B. and Erika called to invite Mom, Dad and me over for a barbecue. I drove over, and my parents came over as soon as they got back from their trip. When they got to J.B. and Erika’s, Brooke, Courtney and I had been playing Peter Pan for at least an hour. We continued to play Peter Pan for at least another hour. Then we had a nice supper.

Mom and I helped my brother and sister-in-law get the girls ready for bed. I paid close attention because I would be repeating the process on my own the next weekend. For J.B.’s birthday, I gave him tickets to a movie and free babysitting. [Mom took the cute picture of me with my nieces. Thanks, Mom!]

Mom and I took turns reading Brooke her bedtime stories. As I read to her, I couldn’t stop yawning, which made mom giggle. After the girls went to sleep, we adults chatted a bit. Brooke snuck out of her room a few times, sure we were having a grand time. It probably didn’t help that we giggled when we saw Brooke’s attempts at stealth.

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