"Health" update: For those anticipating some information on my treatment, I'll be giving you periodic updates here. Feel free to skip them if you just want to get to the other stuff.
The first infusion of chemo and immunotherapy went well, with one tiny moment when I reacted to the first drip of immunotherapy with an itchy throat. That had no effect but to set me back about a half hour and then everything went fine afterward. I wrote 1000 words of the third Mysterious Detective novel while hooked up. It's been about 12 days since then and the side effects have not been as horrendous as some stories would lead one to believe. This can be because it was only the first treatment or because that's the way it's going to be. Please don't tell me based on your experience or that of your third cousin Arthur who went through something similar to this what you're sure I should expect. Everybody's different, and I'm willing to find out on my own.
One thing is for certain: The tumors are definitely shrinking.
For those who have been offering kind thoughts, thank you sincerely. It does help and it does make me smile. So far, so okay for now. Next treatment is March 1, and shortly after that we can expect to see some major hair loss. I'm not looking forward to that other than it bringing me one step closer to being done with this. And that's where we are now.
The Academy Awards will be distributed next Sunday, so this is my last chance to weigh in before all the votes are counted and all the tears are shed and all the agents are thanked. But this year I think I'll forgo the "major" categories for a number of reasons (I didn't get to see all nine nominated films and don't intend to see a couple of them, so I can't have an informed opinion). I intended to talk about the nominees in the writing categories but didn't see all those films either. All I can say is whoever voted to nominate The Lobster for best original screenplay was on some serious drugs.
There is one category--or specifically, two--that are often shoved to the side and deserve some more attention, so I thought I'd get to those this year. Every January after the nominations are announced, my family waits eagerly for the subsequent listings of theaters that will show the nominated short films in live action and animation. And every year we find one of the "artsy" theaters doing so and freeze our butts off one Sunday in February standing in line to get in. For the past three years since my daughter has been living in New York City, our theater of choice has been the IFC Center, and there we were again this year, one of us slightly worse the wear for going through chemo four days earlier. No matter.
Overall, this year's crop of shorts is of very high quality. It was an unusual year in that the animated shorts are actually a little more downbeat than the live-action, which I don't think has ever happened in our experience before. Here are my impressions on the nominees:
Animated--Blind Vasha: The style is very interesting but the story is a little thin. From some Eastern European folklore, a girl is born with one eye that sees only the past and the other seeing only the future. You can imagine that this causes some consternation and is very metaphorical. The visual style is cut-outs and impressions rather than literal and specific. Interesting, but eh.
Borrowed Time: A Western, of all things, about father-son relationships, loss, guilt and recrimination (and I suppose redemption, somehow). A strange juxtaposition for the style of animation. It's beautiful, particularly in its landscapes, but I felt did not especially well take advantage of the medium and could have been shot live-action with no changes. At dinner expressing this opinion, I was shouted down by my children. Beautiful, but a downer.
Pear Cider and Cigarettes: A short film in that it was not two hours long. A very long "short" at 35 minutes, it's the memoir, of sorts, of a man who watched his friend Techno (whose name is mentioned easily seventeen million times in the film) destroy himself over a period of years. This is presented in a graphic-novel style of animation with incessant voiceover narration from the filmmaker himself who never lets you forget that Techno was incredibly self-destructive. My least favorite of the bunch.
Pearl: Essentially dialogue-free, a musician dad raises his musician daughter mostly in a beat-up old car. It's musical and touching as Pearl grows up, rebels as teens do, and reunites with her dad through their shared love of music and the beat-up old car. My daughter and I teared up a bit.
Piper: The requisite entry from Pixar. Gorgeous, of course. Touching, of course. A baby sandpiper learns to feed herself with the help of friends and a tough but fair mother. Very Pixar.
My choice: Pearl. Probable winner: Borrowed Time or Pear Cider and Cigarettes.
Live-Action: Internal Enemies: A French film (no Americans in this bunch and English is spoken only sporadically) touching on hot button issues of the moment: An Algerian man who has lived in France virtually all his life is applying for French citizenship after a time in prison. His interrogator, also of Arab descent, insists on his giving names of possible terrorists before acceptance can be offered. Intense, two-men-in-a-room movie, but not all that subtle.
La Femme et la TGV: Based on a true story, this Swiss film relies on its central character, a quirky middle-aged (seen as old) woman who waves a flag at the train that passes by her window every morning. She receives some correspondence from the engineer of the train, starts a friendship and wonders if it can be anything more than that. Charming, if slight.
Silent Nights: From Denmark, a woman with no discernible means of income volunteers at the Salvation Army and forms a relationship with a refugee from Ghana. He's not telling her a good deal about himself and she's not asking. Issues of racism are raised. Things are resolved. It takes a while getting where it's going but the characters keep the movie going.
Sing: A Hungarian film about two girls forming a friendship in the choir of one of the girl's new school. But there's competition in the choir, the teacher is not necessarily as lovely and kind as she seems, and the kids might just have revenge--against somebody--on their minds. It spins its wheels, but the payoff is nice.
Timecode: From Spain. A man and a woman work separate 12-hour shifts at a parking garage and only know each other through their momentary interactions at the time the shift changes. Then the woman has to check the video log of her counterpart's previous shift and finds out something she wasn't expecting. Their mutual solution is a great deal of fun to watch.
My choice: Timecode. Probable winner: Internal Enemies or La Femme et la TGV.
Opening Day is 43 days away.