Year: 2010

Best Films of 2010

Toy Story 3
How great was the epic Western opening sequence? (It was actually a recreation of the original film’s opener.) I couldn’t stop smiling throughout this movie. It does a remarkable job of marrying old characters with new challenges. But the reason this is the best of the year is its ending. Andy decides to give away his toys (and, in essence, his adolescence) as he enters adulthood, leading to the most emotional and bittersweet goodbyes I can remember in film. So long, Woody, Buzz and Co. Here’s hoping the Academy wises up and awards Best Picture to the best film of 2010.

Black Swan
I sat in the theater, watching the credits roll, wondering what in the name of Natalie Portman just happened. What was the most stressful movie-going experience for me was also the most fascinating. Credit goes to director Darren Aronofsky, for creating the film’s unique vision and suffocating atmosphere, and to Portman, who finally shows how far she can go to achieve greatness as the conflicted ballerina. Who says ballet isn’t interesting?

The Social Network
The director David Fincher jokingly calls his film “the Citizen Kane of John Hughes movies.” On technical merits, it’s no Citizen Kane. But The Social Network understands its generation much better than any of Hughes’ movies did. You can’t get hung up on the facts because when viewed as an allegory of our time—the Age of Facebook—it’s brilliant and oddly epic. Here’s to seeing more of Jesse Eisenberg (and less of Justin Timberlake).

The Fighter
Mark Wahlberg beefs up, Amy Adams dresses down, and Christian Bale whacks out. And all three make this taut, unvarnished true story worth watching. Like many good sports films, The Fighter isn’t so much about the sport as it is about the competitor. Though Bale sticks out as the crack-addict brother, it’s Wahlberg who shines as the boxer with something to prove.

True Grit
The Coen Brothers’ first foray into the Western is in many ways the Brothers’ least typical. The trailer doesn’t let on how funny the film is. A lot of the humor derives from the characters’ antiquated diction and sharp tongue of 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld. But watch out for what is arguably the only time the Brothers Coen let sentiment sneak into their story’s end.

Inception
More amazing, I think, than Christopher Nolan’s mind-blow of a movie’s special effects and concept was how such a big summer feature was kept under wraps for so long. I really didn’t know what to expect until I saw it in theaters, and when I did I was hugely impressed by the mind-web Nolan spun. Not perfect by any means, Inception gives me hope for more smart, well-made summer films. (A fool’s hope?)

The Kids Are All Right
Gets the award for most pleasant surprise. Once you move beyond the novelty of the lesbian-mothers dynamic, The Kids Are All Right reveals itself as a compelling and endearingly odd family drama. Plus, you can’t go wrong with Annette Bening and Julianne Moore.

Chacho En Bogota: El Fin

I’m sitting in the El Dorado airport in Bogota, waiting to board my flight. I’ve been here for 100 days, and I must say it will be bittersweet leaving Colombia. I met some great people here and got to live in another country and culture for a prolonged period, which has always been a personal goal.

I will miss the food. I bought freshly made bread at a nearby bakery what seemed like every day. The croissants were especially tasty. It’s something about the altitude that makes baked goods especially succulent. I’ll also miss empanadas, ajiaco (a soup), and lots of other foods.

I will miss the family I stayed with, the Encisos. Jorge works as the pastor at Iglesia Comunidad Viva, which is a great community of believers I came to really enjoy and respect. It was great living and working with them every day. The two girls, Maia and Matilde, were also a ball when they weren’t screaming their guts out. I’ll definitely miss the hugs they gave me randomly throughout the day. If you can, please support Jorge & Ginny in their ministry. There is information about how to do so on their blog.

I actually won’t miss the climate. Crazy, right? But as a native midwesterner, I need me some cold and snow once in a while. If 60s and 70s every day with a little rain is your thing, than Bogota is the place to be.

And so ends another chapter in my life. I don’t know what my future holds yet, but I’m glad I got to live for a little while with the good people in Colombia. Gracias a todos y que estén muy bien.

Chacho

Chacho En Bogota: The Napkins Are Free, Right?

So in the time of my last posting, two milestones were passed: the one-month-left-in-Colombia date, and the 55th anniversary of lightning striking the Hill Valley Courthouse clock tower on November 12, 1955 at 10:04pm. I’m here, I’m a nerd – get used to it.

In other news, on Friday Jorge brought out the ping-ping table into the street in front of the house so we could play with a few of the neighborhood hooligans who have caused Jorge and the family some consternation in the past. It turns out these kids were all right and just needed something constructive to do rather than drink beer and be disruptive. We played ping pong for at least four hours, during which I won (I kid you not) about 25 straight games. Granted, the kids weren’t the best ping pongers, but still. Afterward we watched Into the Wild and they stayed until about 11. It was great progress for starting a relationship with these kids.

Tonight, I just got back from an outing with Jorge and some of his friends. Two of them, a married couple, are starting a restaurant and they toured us around the place which is still under construction. It sits on top of a valley, so the view is incredible. Very spacious and chic. I hope I can eat there someday.

After the tour, we went to dinner at Andres Carne De Res, which is apparently a very famous – if not the famous – restaurant in Colombia. This means it was very expensive, but the food was incredible. Seriously, it was probably the best steak I’ve ever had. The restauranteur-friends were telling me that the owner of the place is filthily rich and a huge jerk. (He was actually eating a few tables away from us.) There are currently three of his restaurants in the world – two in Colombia and one in New York – and the Bogota establishment alone made him $20 million in personal wealth last year. In spite of this, the man takes 3% of the 10 percent tip the waitstaff gets from each bill.

To make up for this douche-move, I stole a cloth napkin. Apparently they check bags at the door for theft, so I just stuffed it down my pants. With my beer glass I got from the Bogota Beer Company, that makes two souvenirs I didn’t have to pay for. Hat trick, anyone?

Chacho

I Approve Of Conan O’Brien

  1. He’ll be the first and only talk show host to rock a full beard on air. And a red one no less.

  2. His classy Tonight Show farewell speech.

  3. His inherent nerdiness. He jokes a lot about the archetypal nerds out there, but deep down he’s a nerd himself as a student of history, comedy, and pop culture.

  4. The “Small Talk Moment” sketches from Late Night. By far the best.

  5. His extreme self-deprecation. As a fellow tall, lanky, near-translucently-skinned redhead, I can relate.

  6. He’s back on TV! Finally. 11/10c on TBS. Be there.

Chacho En Bogota: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Extend My Visa

I was technically an illegal alien for a few hours yesterday. I forgot to renew my tourist visa until a day after it expired, so I was nervous going downtown to the DAS office (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad). After a two-hour wait, I got fingerprinted and a woman looked over my papers, stamped my passport, and I was good to go.

No fine, no hassle. Praise the Lord.

– Chacho

Chacho En Bogota: SpongeBob

Matilde, almost 4, came to my room to show me her new SpongeBob Squarepants band-aid and this conversation followed:

MATILDE: That’s Patrick and this is SpongeBob and they live underwater.
CHAD: Yeah, they do.
MATILDE: Do you think they have special beds?
CHAD: Yeah, they probably have special underwater beds because they live in the ocean.
MATILDE: Yeah. But Patrick is a star and Spongebob is cheese so he’s not supposed to be in the water.
CHAD: I thought Spongebob was a sponge. Do you know what a sponge is?
MATILDE: No…
CHAD: A sponge is something you use to clean dishes and it gets wet, so that’s why Spongebob is a sponge because he’s underwater.
MATILDE: But Spongebob is cheese.
CHAD: OK.

Chacho En Bogota: Fortuitous Times

I took a cab by myself (in a foreign country) for the first time yesterday. I was going to an English tutoring session for two 13 year-olds and was going to bike there, but then it started pouring so a cab suddenly looked a lot better. I ended up walking back after the session, which was fortunate because I got to see a double rainbow above Bogota. Good times.

Chacho En Bogota: The Cows Are Off To Pasture

SuperVacas has ended. Ninety kids showed up on Friday. Monday there were about 50. It’s incredible how good news travels around the neighborhood. A lot of the kids were first-timers. It was an exhausting week because there were only 10 adult workers for the 90 kids that showed up, but everything got done and the kids had fun.

Also fun: Jorge’s birthday on Thursday. We had a block party – ping pong table, music, five different cakes, and lots of people hanging around. I didn’t mingle for too long because I had a pretty bad headache, but it was cool to see how block parties like that can happen, because they don’t happen often in the States – at least not as easily.

Should be going to El Centro tonight and Monday for some sightseeing and gift-buying. Report on that to come. Until then, estén bien.

— Chacho

Chacho En Bogota: Blessed Indeed

Some 70 kids came to SuperVacas today, which means the good word is spreading ’round the barrio. The kids played ping-pong and soccer today – I pinged a little pong before they did and remembered how much I loved playing. My backhand, though, is much stronger than my forehand.

The Encisos invited a boy from SuperVacas to have lunch with us today. It was a pretty modest lunch by usual standards: noodles with chicken and soup. But the boy said it’s as much food he’s had in a long time. It was humbling and a little heartbreaking. It made me realize just how blessed I am to have; three squares a day, a roof over my head and a pillow under it, the ability to come and live in Colombia for three months, family and friends who love me, money (however little of it) at my disposal, and, among many other things, an iPod and personal computer.

I’m blessed indeed.

– Chacho

Chacho En Bogota: Cows That Are Super

Today was Day 1 of, as Jorge would say, ¡¡¡SUPERVACAS!!!! It’s basically an AWANA-type day camp hosted by the church from 9am-12 every day this week. About 60 kids showed up today in total, so it was a lot of controlled chaos. It definitely brought me back to my days as a counselor at Lake Waubesa Bible Camp, but in the best way possible.

After a few worship songs and then a short teaching time (the theme for this week is “Jars of Clay”, or parrijas de barro), the kids got to actually work with some clay, resulting in many creative constructions and a lot of amorphous clay globs.

After a snack, game time. Out in the adjacent patio, the kids were divided into four teams and played racing games. The Red Team, captained by Jorge, eventually prevailed. I look forward to more craziness this week.

Chacho

P.S. Tonight, Jorge brought back Cinnabons for everyone, in his words, “for a taste of home.” I replied that anything that clogged by arteries tasted like home to me. I don’t have to go over how it feels to eat a Cinnabon, but I will say this: God bless sugar.