Happy Mardi Gras! Now go buy this book.

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras day, aka Fat Tuesday. Part of me is a little sad I’m not in New Orleans this week, but the other, larger part of me reminds myself gently that I haven’t liked Mardi Gras festivities since I was in high school, if then. I can remember one year in grad school that a trio of us drove to New Orleans for the weekend before Mardi Gras and had a fine time, but I feel that was an exception that might not ever occur again. I’m happy Mardi Gras is going strong in the New Orleans area this year, but still not motivated to join the crowds in person.
This is the first year I can remember that I won’t have had a single slice of king cake. For the past few years, someone always brought a few to the office and I ate a token piece, even though I can’t stand the goopy white frosting that seems to be standard on king cakes these days. Before that, I would supply a king cake for my friends and coworkers, which my mom would send from Metairie. I didn’t ask for them to send a cake this year, nor have I tried to buy one in Austin, because I wouldn’t eat more than a slice and since I work alone, there’s no one on whom I can foist off the rest. (The Beau doesn’t much like king cake either, and he’s out of town at the moment.) It’s weird to not like something very much and still miss it.

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site news (aka why I love my boyfriend)

I was excited when we upgraded Movable Type a few months ago, because I thought it would solve all my comment spam problems. I was tired of having to weed out publicly visible comment spam all the time. I would be able to moderate comments easily, and I had heard that once a person commented the first time, he/she could be cleared to comment without moderation thereafter. I figured I could ban any of the worst comment spammers.
It turned out that the latest version of MT is totally crappy for handling comment spam. You can moderate comments before they appear on the site, but unless you are requiring users to have TypeKey accounts, you can’t ban spammers or anything like that. (Or if you can, the documentation and UI are so crummy that we could not figure out how.) I didn’t want to require that commenters register for TypeKey accounts; I don’t have one myself and I hate making people register yet another time on the Web just so they can comment. As a result, I had to deal with 100-plus spam comments a day, clogging my In box with email notifications and requiring I clear out the comment queue.

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lucky me, I’m taking a class

I am one of the luckiest film geeks in Austin right now. I managed to get one of the Austin Film Society slots in UT’s master class for film students. I’m not taking the class for credit; I show up once a week and listen to interesting speakers who talk about their movie-related work.
I took the class last year, too, but it was a little easier to get a seat then. I think this year’s lineup of speakers had something to do with it. Last year’s schedule was excellent, but the speakers were perhaps not quite as universally known: Rob Epstein, Polly Platt, Bradley Beesley, and Don Hertzfeldt were some of the better-known names. Compare that with the better-known speakers lined up for this year’s class: Mike Judge, Kevin Smith, Mark Cuban, and Ray Harryhausen. John Pierson is in charge of the class this year (which would explain Smith’s inclusion). No wonder the AFS server slowed to a crawl and nearly froze as I tried to register for the class. There’s talk about moving some of the popular speakers’ sessions to the Austin City Limits stage, which may sound fun to all of you, but as someone who worked there as an intern, I know that the seats are not very comfy and not at all suitable for note-taking. Hopefully we’ll get to stay in the nice fourth-floor studio.

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The Squid and the Whale (2005)

The Squid and the Whale: 2005, dir. Noah Baumbach. Seen at The Dobie (Jan. 29, 2006).
I was hesitant about seeing The Squid and the Whale; a friend of mine told me the characters were too unsympathetic and that I should pick something else at The Dobie instead. But I was curious: I enjoyed The Life Aquatic, which Baumbach co-wrote, and wanted to see what kind of movie he wrote and directed. Also, I have liked Jeff Daniels since The Purple Rose of Cairo, and he’d been receiving a lot of attention for The Squid and the Whale.
I can see why Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson worked well together; if you removed the quirky sweetness from The Royal Tenenbaums and saw the characters as the people they really are—in particular, Gene Hackman’s character when the kids were teenagers—you’d find characters who fit in the world of The Squid and the Whale.

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why I get so frustrated at the movies

Quote of the day, via the cinetrix:
“I sound like a broken record, a broken record, a broken record … but American movies are now, overwhelmingly, made by men for men, which means that they are also primarily vehicles for male acting talent. There are still great female roles and performances, mind you, but you may need to travel through world cinema to find them.”
—Manohla Dargis, from “Questions for Manohla Dargis” in The New York Times, Feb. 6, 2006 (registration required)

an open letter to indy/low-budget filmmakers

Dear filmmakers,
I can’t wait to see your films at SXSW film festival this year … or at another film festival/special screening/event. I know you’ve worked hard to get your film just the way you want it. Now I’m asking you to do something else if you haven’t already.
I write about movies for Cinematical. Maybe yours is one of three films I’ll see in a single day of a film festival. Or maybe it’s one of the films screening in a couple of weeks at a local theater and I’d like to include it in my weekly News from Slackerwood listing.
Only … I search the Web and I can’t find the information I need on your movie. You don’t have a listing on IMDb, or maybe it’s a bare-bones listing that includes only the director’s name. I search Google and can’t find a Web site for the film. I finally find your Web site and it is a single page that includes no stills and no information about the cast and crew. It’s frustrating and unhelpful to me, and a missed opportunity for extra publicity for your film.

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