Three reasons I loved "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

April 28, 2014

I took myself on a date tonight, conveyor belt sushi and The Grand Budapest Hotel, an hour long meet-up with a young woman interested in how I got to where I was in life (dating myself on a Sunday night?) sandwiched in between.

I met her after solo sushi. She drank canned cider. I drank soda water and almond bitters. I shared my journey in television, and I encouraged hers. We both politely nodded and smiled at the bartender as he misremembered seeing me at that very bar not 5 months ago meeting up with another woman having a similar conversation. He must've missed the part where I said, "I've never been to the upstairs bar at the Arclight before," when I first arrived. I wouldn't mind if his story were true: I enjoy making new friends and encouraging them to follow their dreams.

I got a seat on my favorite row in the Arclight theater system: Row C.

I caught the tail-end of a trailer about Tom Cruise dying over and over again at the hands of Emily Blount in a post-apocalyptic universe. People in the theater were laughing. I wasn't particularly amused as I don't imagine dying is a pleasant experience, but at least you're dead and won't remember it. Not true for Tom; I felt bad for the character. I then thought about Captain Jack from Doctor Who and smiled.

The film started.

A lone INGENUE traipses across a wide shot of a snowy graveyard in impractical (for the weather) knee socks. The camera pans precisely 15 degrees to accommodate the rule of thirds as she stops in front of an HERM covered in hanging KEYS. She hangs a KEY of her own--a tribute. The camera abruptly TILTS down as she consults a beautifully illustrated book cover which reads: The Grand Budapest Hotel.

The Author (V.O.)

My gut filled with dread: here we go again. Too cute for life. Too little substance.

I have a prejudice against Wes Anderson. If you asked me I'd say that I do not care for his movies, but if I really think about it I've seen every single one of his movies, most of them in theaters, and every single one of his movies I have enjoyed despite myself. Not liked. Not loved. But enjoyed. Despite myself.

But this movie: I love. 

And I think I love it for two reasons:

1. Real problems.* Much substance. Great jokes.

2. The ebullient, effete Ralph Fiennes.


I met Ralph Fiennes ten years ago at The British Library after attending a reading he did of W.H. Auden poetry. My friends and I were standing in the doorway of the lounge, coming down off the high of Auden's modern romance, regenerating from being devoured by Ralph's wolfish sibilance.

He popped out of a door to find us on the other side. I was struck by his geothermal green eyes, strawberry blonde hair, and massive head (if you've ever seen a movie star in RL, they all have gigantic heads).

"Oh, hello," Ralph Fiennes said, surprised by a gaggle of 21-year-old girls in a sea of 60-year-olds. We were clearly nerds therefore we should definitely be feared.

My friends couldn't talk. I was least nerdy, so I did all the talking. I thanked him for the read. I asked him to sign a tiny book of Auden poems I brought with, but I couldn't find a fucking pen to save my fucking life. He watched me as I dug through my bag, his eyes sorry for my misfortune. I let him off the hook. He said goodbye and exited stage right.

I've wondered all these years if he had a pen on him I could've borrowed.


Those same friends and I would have poetry readings in our house on
Whiteknights Road
Reading, Berkshires

We invented a new tea: Earl Grey and Lady Grey steeped together: Baby Grey.

Electric kettles with calcified heating elements. Tea cakes from Sainsbury's. Mismatched dishes and mugs on a white pine table.

W.B. Yeats
W.H. Auden

Tina would read us her original poems--the words alighting to the tip of her tongue, booming across the kitchen table, vibrating rings into our tea.


Tina and I cemented our friendship in William Wordsworth's home, Rydal Mount.

We walked the gnarly 2 mile path from Wordsworth's other home, Dove Cottage, in Ambleside, to Rydal nearly 10 years ago to this week. The weather was sublime. My heart leaps up as I think on the beauty. "How could one live in Ambleside and not write poetry?" I thought, standing in the front garden of Dove Cottage. "Really, Wordsworth had no choice."

Tina and I toured Rydal Mount, spending most of our time in Wordsworth's library paying particular attention to the sofa where Samuel Coleridge would come down off of his heroin highs and laudanum lows.

We laughed and laughed into our hands, stifling our glee out of respect for history, imagining Wordsworth and Coleridge as the ultimate odd couple: Wordsworth tolerating Coleridge's insane ramblings and fever dreams he turned into dizzying poetry, as Wordsworth methodically puts pen to paper, hoping to capture the glory of a daffodil, envious of Coleridge's inspirational addiction: "But why must he always come to me when he's withdrawing, he disturbs my work!," thinks Wordsworth. Talk about an albatross...

We removed ourselves into the garden to laugh openly.

I captured Tina on video spinning around in the garden as Coleridge...

His flashing eyes/His floating hair

...screaming for Wordsworth to look what he can do! Tina fell to the ground in peels of laughter. I hit STOP on the DV recorder.

I watched the video for the first time in 8 years on December 3rd, 2012, the day after Tina died. She was more like Coleridge than both of us could ever know.


She was the greatest undiscovered writer I ever met. Her ideas were lofty. Her intelligence unmatched. Her wit surgical. I was a writer, too, but I always deferred to her, beta to her alpha abilities.

She suffered. Little could still the churning. The churning. A symptom all writers suffer. I've found a way to ease mine, to tie it down and manage it, but little could tether her. She needed something bigger, but she ran out of rope before she could find it.


Third reason why I love The Grand Budapest Hotel:

It makes me think of Tina.

I wish she could've seen it. She would've loved it, too.


*I acknowledge that the Fantastic Mr. Fox had real, big problems, but I still only merely enjoyed the film, despite myself, because puppets freak me out!

Day Nineteen of Three Hundred and Sixty Five

April 11, 2012

Here's what I did today that I've never done before:

(No video currently available. Sorry!)

This blog right here is a demonstration of the power of "The Secret" or "putting it out there to the universe" or whatever. I wrote on day one of this experiment that one of the things I've never done before is speak on television. Today, I marked that off of my list. Literally.

I've been on National TV a few times. I was in the crowd on The Today Show back in 1998. I was on the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. I've been on The Ellen DeGeneres Show a few times here and there, not featured.

Tuesday I was asked to be a fake contestant on the Ellen Show. My character's name was Safia Duran from Clarksville, TN and I was a 7th grade English teacher. That was a shout-out to the hometown and my favorite teachers in school, both English, Hazen and Ufflemania.

Because of this experiment of doing something new everyday, and because I had never talked on TV before, I said yes. My initial response was a big fat "NO", but I was asked again and I acquiesced because what would one time hurt?

Look at that. This experiment thing is really working.

Day Ten of Three Hundred and Sixty Five

April 2, 2012

It's my first day back to work after a week-long Spring Break in Boston, and already this doing something new thing is starting to get challenging. It's kind of hard to find something new to do at work when you have to work, and that work is something you've done 140 times (literally) before. I'm a creative person, so I figured it out.

Here's what I did today that I've never done before*:


I always see folks riding their bikes to-and-fro around the lot either leisurely or on an errand, and I've never had a reason or the time to do that myself. I haven't ridden a bike in probably 5 years, and I didn't have a helmet, and I'm deathly afraid of brain contusions even when doing simple things (hello, Natasha Richardson! RIP).

But I nutted up, made the time in the day, grabbed a bike, and took a spin. It was so fun, and riding a bike is like riding a bike! You never forget!

It was a beautiful day, and a wonderful way to decompress after filming a show. I will have to do this more often!

*Editor's Note: This post was written 4/7/12 and dated 4/2/2012 because she can't blog and ride a bike at the same time. 

Day Nine of Three Hundred and Sixty Five

April 1, 2012

Yesterday was my last day in Boston. I left BOS>LAX in the wee hours of the morning. Flying Virgin America has been hassle for me lately, but they tried to make it better by giving me a free seat upgrade to Premium Economy which means all the free food I can eat and all the free movies I could watch for six hours. Challenge accepted!

Since I was on this roll of doing new things, I kept that in mind when choosing which films to watch. 

Here's what I did today that I've never done before:


I''ve seen A Muppet Christmas Carol and that abhorrent one called Muppet's Treasure Island or something like that. Both times I was forced. It'll be no surprise to those of you who know me that I. Can. Not. Stand. The Muppets. No Muppet Show. Definitely no Fraggle Rock. GROSS! The TV show Muppet Babies is the only exception--it's animated, and they're babies! 

Since I'm trying to break out of my old stodgy ways, I decided to watch The Muppets. I cringed as I hit play, preparing myself to be super bored, annoyed, and freaked out by the movements of the muppets themselves. But here's what happened: 


I was so so so surprised! I laughed and laughed and squealed with delight at the cuteness of the muppets. Maybe it was the high altitude or the 7AM in the morning, but I thought the movie was brilliant. More than likely it was because of the writing by two writers whose sense of comedy I've enjoyed in the past. The Academy Award winning Man or Muppet song has me all teary-eyed. The jokes were fresh and clever. And I identified with Walter, the manly muppet, more than I could've ever expected. Only once was I hecked out by the muppets. A shiver went up my spine as one of them, I can't remember which, bopped across the screen, but I powered through. So worth it. 

This little experiment is paying off, guys. Prejudices are dropping left and right. I tried something really new and I liked it. Will I watch another Muppet's program of my own volition again? It's not likely...I'm not that easily converted, but maybe the simple idea of it won't make me want to puke in my mouth. 

And that's a start. 

Editor's Note: This post was written 4/7/12 and dated 4/1/2012 because she's a (wo)man, not a muppet.

Day Eight of Three Hundred and Seventy Five

March 31, 2012

Wow! It's already been one week of doing something new!*

Here's what I did today that I've never done before:


I wrestled with this one because for the past week I've been under the assumption that this challenge is about doing what I've *always* wanted to do. I haven't always wanted to go to the Museum of Science, Boston. I've never heard of it until I saw it from the Red Line to Cambridge the previous day, but it's new to me, so it still counts!

Here I am. You've seen one science museum, you've seen 'em all. I did learn something new though. I learned through a demonstration with real bolts of lightning the real reason lightning doesn't electrocute you if you're in a car. It's not because of the tires, rather it's because of the scatter pattern of the concentrated energy from the lightning bolt. If you're in the car, touching the same metal that's being struck on the outside, you won't be electrocuted because the energy stays on very surface of the the metal and works it's way down instead of permeating the whole piece of metal like a current from the wall would. I'm not 100% on my science here, but I think that's the gist of it.

Lightning bolts are cool. And look at that view behind that Rube Goldberg machine. The museum sits right on the Charles River just down the road from MIT. That view was probably my favorite part of the museum. Definitely not the super-germy little kids. Though I did have fun playing with all the contraptions in the hands-on kiddy portion of the museum, and schooling all the children with my super-awesome understanding of scientific principles.

Compared to most 5-year-olds, I'm a genius!

*Editor's Note: This post was written 4/7/12 and dated 3/31/2012 because the author is a science wizard and has figured out how to change the date of her posts.