Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Following a trio of gold prospectors who seek out to strike it rich, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, in my humble opinion, is a nearly flawless psychological drama. Without knowing much about this film going into it, I was pleasantly surprised at all of the magnificent details that held my attention until the closing credits. The harsh landscape, the distinct characters, the shootouts, even the details about gold prospecting helped to paint an immensely interesting picture throughout. The most impressive piece of the film, however, is Humphrey Bogart's portrayal of a man descending into madness. I was completely riveted, angered, and troubled by his growing unease and intensity.

The character known as Curtin, adeptly portrayed by Tim Holt, was heartbreaking in his earnestness to do right by himself and his friends. He had opportunity after opportunity to bring harm to Bogart's character Dobbs, but always chose to be the bigger man. He never had a dishonest intention, and yet he was the character who was the most put upon.

Old man Howard, played by Walter Huston, was equally engaging. I have to confess, however, that I had to turn on the subtitles throughout his dialogue. He speaks a million miles a minute, but it plays perfectly to his crazy old kook persona.

Bogart, of course, deserves the majority of acting accolades here. His turn from an honest, engaging guy into a paranoid, deceitful crook was pure brilliance. I have to assume that Director John Huston helped bring out this brilliance.

While this film isn't in my typical top choice genre, I was extremely impressed with what Director John Huston put together. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre takes what could have been a humdrum story about panning for gold and turned it into a fascinating character study, with plenty of twists, turns and unexpected action along the way.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Film School Is Back In Session

Oh August. My fickle friend. What's that smell in the air? Summer days winding down? Smoldering barbecues dying out? Oh wait...I's the smell of freshly sharpened pencils and the diffident fear emanating from students who are stepping into a new semester at school. 

While I'm reluctant to release my stalwart grasp on summer, I conversely love school, and have been counting down the days until the start of fall semester. Yesterday, school started for me again, and I could not be more overjoyed. Not only do I love my professors and classmates in my program, but I also love the coursework. Learning about every aspect of film has become almost an addiction for me. I feel so happy and content in class, and the more that I learn, the deeper I fall in love with filmmaking. 

My courses for Fall Semester 2011 are as follows:
Photography I-this should be interesting, as I know almost nothing about still photography
Intermediate Film Production-I didn't realize how much I missed my professor from Beginning Film Production, Channing, until this class began yesterday
Understanding Film Directing-Mark Davis, my professor, is not only engaging, but perhaps one of the most funny people I've come across in life

Needless to say, I'm beyond excited to be back in class, surrounded by these wonderfully creative souls. I can already feel the inspiration seeping back into my veins. As I traverse this semester, I will post updates here. Also, as part of my Film Directing Class, I need to blog about movies and directors on a weekly basis, so be prepared: the film talk here may slightly overshadow the Meniere's talk for a little while. Alas, as Meniere's is as big of a part of my life as film is, I'm sure it won't be far gone for long here. 

Onward we go...


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Katie LeClerc and Meniere's Disease

I asked my doctor once about Meniere's Disease research...what was being done...who in particular was leading the charge, and so on. His response was rather melancholy. He explained that while dizziness is one of the most common complaints doctors throughout the world see in patients, very little has been done thus far to treat it. Very little money has gone into dizziness research, particularly for Meniere's-related dizziness. He explained that because Meniere's Disease is not life-threatening per se, it hasn't garnered the attention, funding and research that it deserves.

"But that's so lame!" was my eloquent reply. "Meniere's Disease is one of the cruelest, most debilitating, life altering, disabling diseases out there. Surely it deserves some attention."

"Yes, it certainly does, Skye," he assured me. "Alas, we don't have a Michael J. Fox. We don't have a face for Meniere's Disease-someone who can lobby on its behalf, someone who can demonstrate to the world just how terrible this disease can be. Thus far, while many celebrities have been diagnosed with Meniere's Disease, none have come forward to help be the voice for change."

Well, I'm happy to report that things are finally changing.

I'm aware of several famous faces who have Meniere's, but never or rarely speak about it--former NBA star Steve Francis, actress Heather Locklear, musician Ryan Adams. Alas, who would have guessed that the first actress to come forward and really talk about the disease, the first one to agree to be the face for Meniere's, would be a 16 year old! Katie LeClerc, star of the ABC Family drama, Switched At Birth, is discussing her struggle with Meniere's Disease in several interviews, and has just filmed a PSA, the very first for Meniere's.

I recognize the difficulty in disclosing details about an illness, and I am so appreciative of her candor and courage. Giving a face to this disease is exactly what we need, and I am optimistic that as the public becomes more aware, they too will recognize the need to find a cure, so that future generations do not have to suffer.

I can't wait to see the PSA. If possible, I will post a copy of it here.

Here's a link to an interview with Katie LeClerc, in which she discusses acting with hearing loss and Meniere's Disease:


Hello friends,
I must apologize for the extreme delay in writing. A few months ago, I was punched in the stomach by a terrible, untimely tragedy. My dear friend of over ten years, Catharine Limb, passed away as a result of a blood clot. This sudden blow shook me in a way that I didn't expect, and I became emotionally and mentally blocked for a time. I was completely uninspired to write, and it's taken me months to climb out of the gloomy stupor that I was in. 

Cathy absolutely loved volunteering for The Sundance Film Festival here in Utah each year. She flew in this year as usual in early January from California. While walking the streets of chilly Park City, UT one day, Cathy slipped on some ice and broke her ankle. Ever the positive little spirit, she didn't let this dampen her mood. She continued to enjoy the festival and do her best to volunteer and have a great time. I got to see her for just a brief visit, but it was lovely.

After flying home, Cathy began to feel unwell. She thought that she might be coming down with pneumonia, as her chest hurt a bit and she was having trouble taking deep breaths. She decided the best thing to do was to go straight to the ER. Upon arriving at the hospital, she was shocked to learn that she was in fact suffering from a blood clot that had traveled from her broken ankle to her lungs. She was told that had she waited any longer, she would have been dead. Feeling grateful to be alive, Cathy posted on Facebook that night that she was happy to be alive. She said that she'd have to stay in the hospital for a few days, but that all would be well. It was quite a shock for all in Cathy's life to learn that just a few hours after she wrote this, Cathy stopped breathing, and her doctors were unable to revive her. 

Any death is hard to comprehend. Losing a special person in your life is probably the most painful thing that we as humans will have to endure. Losing Cathy, however, felt especially painful because of the life she led and the type of person she was. Anyone who has ever met or known Cathy will tell you that she did not have a mean hair on her head. She was the most giving, loving, thoughtful, selfless person that I have known....and trust me, I've known some amazing people! Cathy was like a little ball of sunshine bouncing around this planet. I could write pages and pages about the extraordinary ways she chose to live her life, but I will be concise and just stick to some highlights-- Cathy had a passion for animals, and lived a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. She was just accepted into a program to go work with endangered elephants. She volunteered regularly at Rape Crisis Centers. She donated her money, time and energy to those who had less than she. Cathy gave and gave and gave, and took very little in return. She laughed easily, loved unconditionally, and was a friend to all whom she met. 

I was humbled to be asked to give a eulogy at a special memorial service for Cathy. So many wonderful people had so many wonderful things to say about her as well. She was truly a gift to this planet, and the sun will shine a little less bright without her here. I cannot presume to understand why good people die in the prime of their lives, but I have to believe that Cathy had done what was needed of her here, and her beautiful light was needed elsewhere. I'm sure that wherever she is, people are smiling. 

A couple of weeks before Cathy passed away, she posted the following message on Facebook: 

"I'm so in love with life right now." 

It gives me comfort to know that she was so happy in her final days. In my eulogy, I quoted the singer Adele, one of Cathy's favorite artists. These lines rang true to the time we spent together as friends and roommates. We were 19 years old, in college, experiencing life to the fullest for the very first time. We went on so many adventures and had so many amazing journeys together. They truly were our glory days:

"You know how the time flies
Only yesterday was the time of our lives.
We were born and raised
In a summer haze
Bound by the surprise
Of our glory days

Nevermind I'll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you too
Don't forget me, I begged
I remember, you said
Sometimes it lasts in love
But sometimes it hurts instead."

Cathy girl, you will forever be loved and missed.