Sunday, February 28, 2016

[D.C. Untied 2.5] Interlude: Calm before the storm and Nando's Peri-Peri Takeover, February 27, 2016

For previous entries in my D.C. United fan experience, feel free to click the tag in the bottom. As always, this blog is about the fan experience. I am not remotely qualified to talk about soccer tactics or MLS inside baseball. Please enjoy!

The calm before the season really begins. I'm not sure I'm ready for this, as impatient as I was to get started with the season. It's a long road to October. My season tickets came in an ominous black box last week. Do I dare open it? Am I really ready to give myself fully over to this experience?

Sunday, February 14, 2016

[D.C. Untied 2] Preseason: Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. D.C. United, St. Petersburg, FL, February 13, 2016,

Welcome to the second installment of D.C. Untied! You can read about the name and how I got started following D.C. United in the first part over here but the short version is this: there are many very talented people out there writing about tactics, roster changes, MLS inside baseball, etc. and I've really enjoyed reading and learning from them. I wanted to contribute something to the conversation and unfortunately the only something I have to share are my personal experiences as a fan.

There are many write-ups of the game talking about tactics and those kinds of things. I am not remotely qualified to do that so I didn't even try. This post is just capturing my experience watching the game as a fan.

Episode 2: Twenty-four hours in Florida.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

[D.C. Untied 1] A Day to Unite, February 6, 2015

Welcome to the inaugural post of "D.C. Untied", a mini-series of posts talking about my experiences as a D.C. United Season Ticket Holder and fan. The title comes from one of my favorite typos, because #librarian #gonna #librarian.

As I wrote before, I've been going to D.C. United games with my brother for close to 20 years. But I was always just a casual fan. I enjoyed the camaraderie, the game atmosphere, and having a socially sanctioned opportunity to yell at the top of my lungs for 90 minutes. Something changed last year; I changed last year. In the middle of illness, death, and general life shittiness, D.C. United was there for me, giving me something to cheer for. Seeing them work so hard out on the field, coming back from one goal down in game-after-game, really inspired me.

And it is still all about that game day experience. Now that I no longer perform on stage and even attending concerts has become rare and (in the United States) mostly unpleasant thanks to late start times and audiences more interested in recording grainy footage on their phones than being in the moment, the 90 minutes spent with my attention focused only on what's right in front of me at RFK, were incredible, electric. Standing with the District Ultras, waving flags, singing, chanting... no time to look at a phone until halftime for fear that I'll miss something. I was hooked. I even took the trip to Red Bull Arena on November 8 for the second leg of the playoff series. My first away game and one of the most intense fan experiences I've had. All of us who went felt that mix of excitement, anticipation, the hope that maybe we'd win. The endorphins kicked in and I felt no hunger, no thirst, just the all-natural high of being a fan. We marched to Red Bull Arena, chanting and singing, waving flags and banging drums. Red Bull fans yelled profanity at us, told us to go fuck ourselves, but their hostility only heightened the high I was riding. One of the men I was walking with stopped to give a small child a high five. D.C. fans are nice like that.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Assorted Thoughts: D.C. United Preseason and American Ballet Theater's "Sleeping Beauty" at the Kennedy Center 1/28/2016

American Ballet Theater's "Sleeping Beauty" at the Kennedy Center

Anybody who follows me on Twitter was treated to a classic Filmi Girl rant the evening of the 28th. I went to see the American Ballet Company's production of Sleeping Beauty and the Kennedy Center and was utterly horrified and frustrated by the behavior of the audience. It was enough to put me off attending anything at the Kennedy Center for a few months. (I can only hope I'll have recovered in time for the staging of Wagner's Ring Cycle.) Does sitting in the second balcony instead of sitting on the orchestra level change the behavior of the audience? Is it that the stage from the second balcony appears more like a television screen, boxed in and far off, so we feel free to act as if we are at home in front of the television? Or does the cheaper price simply encourage cheaper behavior? Either way, I was treated to a running commentary from a mother and daughter sitting behind me, gossiping about the dancers on stage. And when I asked them to keep it down, they looked at me as if I was the one with poor manners! It reminded me of the time I went to see Black Swan and had a couple on a date sitting behind me, the male half of which was unnecessarily "explaining" everything to his girlfriend, to include--and I'll never forget this--saying, "She's free." at the very end when Natalie Portman collapses. Thanks, bro. Thanks for "explaining" that to me.

The frustration at the constant whispering about so-and-so being nice and so-and-so being "only 17" took me out of that zen audience mindspace and kept me pinned to my uncomfortable seat. It made the moldy smell of my neighbor's coat that much more unbearable, the occasional mucusy cough that much more annoying, tolerating the fidgety 7 year old beside me became next to impossible.

Is it myopic selfishness, people prioritizing their own enjoyment over everybody else's, or a fundamental misunderstanding of how to be in an audience that isn't in front of their own television screens? Is the overture and entr'acte simply background garbage noise? Is it so wrong to want to listen to Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty score rather than treating it as a score to inane chatter? You can talk anywhere, I can only listen to a live orchestra playing Tchaikovsky here.

As for the ballet itself, I did enjoy what I could focus on. The view from above is provides a different perspective from sitting on the orchestra level. In some ways, it's preferable to be up high and see the large bits of choreography as a whole but I think I prefer sitting closer to the stage and seeing the faces of the dancers.

The American Ballet Theater's production was almost the complete opposite of the modern, fresh A Winter's Tale I had seen the week before. The choreography, from Marius Petipa, dates to the late 19th century and the ballet, while beautiful, felt very much like it was preserved in amber. I have to admit, I was more charmed by the costumes than many of the dancers, but there a few stand-outs. Hee Seo as the Sleeping Beauty herself was wonderful to watch. And I enjoyed Catherine Hurlin as the saucy white cat in the ending number.

D.C. United Preseason 2016

Dear readers, prepare yourselves because it's about to get soccer-ific up in here. D.C. United is currently in the midst of pre-season and created this delightful video for me. I don't know if my favorite part is Rolfe's resigned face at having to be in the fan with the "kids", the Boz being the Boz, or Dykstra's extremely dorky Jeff Goldblum impression.

I don't know what 2016 will bring for the team but it will bring lots of dumb blog posts from me because I am a season ticket holder this year (!!) and am going to throw myself into being a fan 100%. It has been such an invigorating experience to just throw myself into this odd corner of fandom. Learning the rules, learning the storylines, learning which self-important fans to avoid... the one thing it's been hard to remember is just how small the fanbase really is. Tweeting at an MLS player is very different from tweeting a big-name Bollywood actor. My tweet will probably get read! Horrifying! Best control your enthusiasm, Filmi Girl.

I am determined to enjoy myself and learn everything there is to know. I'm also hoping to be able to do some interviews with long time fans because I'm genuinely interested in how this all works.

One thing you might not know, dear readers, is that I (me, Filmi Girl) was... a cheerleader in high school! I do indeed have an excess of pep and am extremely grateful to have found a pep outlet in D.C. United and their fan groups, who have been so welcoming. ♥

(I'm on the far left.)

Broken Horses: Bollywood in America: Does it work? I say yes.

If Broken Horses was Vidhu Vinod Chopra asking, “Will American audiences connect with a Bollywood-style story told with white Americans set in America?” The answer was a resounding, “No.” The film is currently sitting at a 21% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The critics hated it and mainstream audiences, for the most part, ignored it. But does that make it a bad film?

The plot of Broken Horses is rooted in Chopra’s 1989 film Parinda. Set in the rural, hardscrabble West, the film follows two brothers, Buddy (the elder, Chris Marquette) and Jake (the younger, Anton Yelchin), who lose their father (Thomas Jane) as children. Jake is an aspiring concert violinist and when the film begins, we find out he has run off to New York City and is about to get married to the beautiful Vittoria (Maria Valverde). He gets a call from his brother, Buddy, who says he has a wedding present for him but it needs to be given in person. Vittoria encourages Jake to return home for a visit and, reluctantly, Jake does just that.

Buddy is mentally slow and has fallen under the spell of local bad guy Julius Hench (Vincent D'Onofrio) and Hench has paired Buddy up with a babysitter, Eric (Juan Riedinger), whom Buddy seems to think of as a surrogate brother. Jake is wary of Eric from the beginning, but we (and I think Jake himself) are unsure whether it’s jealousy or fear. Jake feels a growing dread, an unease that reaches an early peak as he drives out to meet his old music teacher, Ignacio (Sean Patrick Flannery). What he finds is horrifying. Ignacio reduced to utter squalor, jerkily driving a wheelchair around a fire kept burning in the middle of the living room. Ignacio has been broken. He speaks in odd phrases: “Two legs for two tickets.”

Jake has no idea what to do. One senses he’s ready to run all the way back to New York but something stops him. Eric, who has been sent to kill him. Jake is faced with a choice and when it comes right down to it, Jake chooses to stay and fight for his brother.

Hench is more than a bit mentally unbalanced himself and as the film unfolds we--and Jake--realize just how strong his hold over Buddy is. In Jake’s absence, Hench and his henchmen (prominently featuring Wes Chatham as the loyal “Ace” and Jeremy Luke as “Franco”) have become a surrogate family for Buddy, which Hench encourages. Jake realizes the only way to get to Buddy is to join the gang and destroy that trust from the inside.

Running behind all this is a feud between Hench and a Mexican drug lord named Garza (Jordi Caballero) as well as Buddy’s wedding present, a beautiful ranch he’s built for his brother.

For all intents and purposes Broken Horses is classic Hindi masala filmmaking and it works surprisingly well without songs. It takes a few minutes to sink into the heightened emotional reality of the world but once you’re in, it’s all heartbreak. Chopra builds toward an exquisite peak of pure emotion, a fear and dread mixed with empathy. We know one of our brothers must perform a horrible act of betrayal and Chopra let’s us hang, on edge, waiting for it.

Chopra’s script, written with Abhijat Joshi (3 Idiots, PK), is very well served by actors pulled from the heightened worlds of genre film and soap opera. Ironically enough I think it’s a better film with American soap opera actors than it would have been using the bulked up producer’s sons and fashion model-cum-actresses cluttering up mainstream movies in Bollywood. Anton Yelchin, as Jake, isn’t quite a Michael Corleone, deliberately turning his back on the family business. Yelchin shows us a conflicted Jake, one who half-knew there was something to avoid at home but it was almost as if he didn’t know then he wouldn’t be responsible. What I liked about Jake that I don’t often like about these white college boys returning home is that Jake wasn’t the director’s stand-in, he was just another character. And so Jake--and Yelchin--were allowed more complexity. We didn’t have to like him unconditionally in order to feel something about the story. Yelchin’s Jake is subtle and very human.

Chris Marquette as Buddy is really the heart of the film, though. Buddy is so innocent and so trusting but there’s also depth. Marquette really sells Buddy as a complex character, despite his limited intellect, Buddy is allowed to hold secrets of his own, all the more powerful because nobody suspects him. I was genuinely touched when Buddy’s face lights up as he realizes that his brother does in fact love him, that it’s not just words. In the hands of a different kind of actor, an actor not willing to commit, a character like Buddy could easily veer into parody, a knowing, winking “take” on Lon Chaney Jr in Of Mice and Men rather than a fully realized person.

The featured cast are just as good-- Jordi Caballero as the oily Mexican crime lord, Sean Patrick Flannery’s unhinged Ignacio, and Maria Valverde as the sweet natured Vittoria. And Vincent D'Onofrio as Mr. Hench is pure villainous gold. He chewed through the scenery just as well as Nana Patekar did in Parinda and that is a huge compliment coming from me. I’d suggest any Indian producers looking for an exotic villain for their next masala film check out his performance here. It’s just the right balance of campy and creepy.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been re-watching Twin Peaks over the last month but what struck me most of all about Broken Horses was how much Bollywood in America looks like David Lynch: the heightened reality, the stagy dialogue and set-pieces, the way emotion is amped up, the moodiness, the humor, the incredible earnestness underpinning everything, the darkness of the human soul. If Broken Horses didn’t work with general American audiences, it did work with me. And maybe it will work with you. The title comes from a speech Hench gives Buddy towards the end of the film. Has Buddy has been "broken", is he in control of Hench? It’s certainly worth watching to find out if you’re in the mood for melodrama.

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