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Doing stuff and writing about it since 1986
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
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Welcome to CiaraLaVelle.com


Ciara LaVelle is a full-time freelancer with an appetite for travel, literature, pop culture and, of course, food and dining. For the last six years, she's been everything from a magazine editor to guidebook writer to book reviewer, with plenty of gigs in-between -- and you've reached the hub of all that activity. This is where you'll find her recent clips, tales from her latest travels, news about the projects closest to her heart, and her take on books, music and more.

Tagged with: welcome
Friday, April 8, 2011
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Heard While Driving: "I Need Love"

This is not, as I first assumed, an Irish tribute to Flight of the Conchords.

This is Luka Bloom, and you guys, he needs love.

 

 

 

Tagged with: heard while driving
Monday, March 21, 2011
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March Madness, Round Three: BELIEVE.

In my head, the Dream Bracket of Idealism has reached levels of excitement that I'd previously associated only with Lady Gaga concerts and Obama circa 2008. We are winning, people. And not in the Charlie Sheen way.

Thanks to BYU and Wisconsin (and with an assist from Marquette, who I didn't pick but who knocked Joe's Syracuse out last night), I have 39 points to Joe's 37. Can we call it now? Victory for me? Because, um, things get kinda rough from here on. Joe and I are both out of the southwest division entirely; Pittsburgh's loss ruined my southeast bracket entirely. Arizona and UNC became my favorite teams overnight, and I could use a Florida loss in the worst way. Maybe BYU can pull it off? They are, after all, a 10-cow team.

Saturday, March 19, 2011
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March Madness, Round Two: The Dream Bracket Prevails!

...or, at least, it didn't fail! The fisherman and I are tied at 21 points after round two. Of course, that's partly because Joe didn't choose a team in the UCLA v. Michigan State game. Still, I can only assume this means that God is on my side.

In the fight for idealism, crucial Round Three games include:

  • Duke v. Arizona: Joe played the numbers and chose Duke; but Arizona is the #1 western seed in my heart.
  • Kansas v. Illinois: It wouldn't be the Dream Bracket of Idealism if I hadn't picked BU (Go Terriers!) over Kansas in the second round; in that same round, Joe chose UNLV over Illinois. Only one of us gets to move forward in round three.
  • Kansas State v. Wisconsin: Again, Joe played by the rules; I think those teachers in Wisconsin could use something to celebrate.
  • Gonzaga v. BYU: Brigham Young University gave us Johnny Lingo; it's time to give back. (Plus, Joe picked St. John's all the way into the regional semifinals; I'd like to capitalize on that.)

 

It's worth noting, by the way, that I have yet to watch a single game in its entirety. Idealism or bust!

Thursday, March 17, 2011
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The Ciara LaVelle Dream Bracket of Idealism

Every year, my husband and his family get together just before March Madness to pick their teams to win. This year they did it via conference call, and I happened to be there while it took place. I know nothing about college basketball; honestly, I barely recognized some of the names of the schools. And yet somehow The Hubs was inspired to challenge me to a college basketball team-picking contest as well. (Do you hear how ridiculous this is? I don't even know the terminology for this sort of thing.)

But hey, the winner gets a home-cooked meal, and because I enjoy both cooking and eating, I win either way. So I printed some brackets and filled mine out. I kinda paid attention to the rankings, I guess. But mostly I chose my teams based on how many people I knew from their city or state, and how much I happened to like those people. Good people deserve to celebrate, I figure. So in a perfect world, this is how March Madness plays out this year:


Follow along, won't you?

Monday, March 14, 2011
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Changes

I've moved all things Death Race-related over here; the impulse had begun to take up so much space in my head that I thought perhaps it deserved its own space online, too. Normal stuff like published stories and pictures of cats will resume momentarily.

Sunday, February 27, 2011
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Oscars Death Race: The End, and The Mannies

Yeah, I'm calling it. I was going to try to squeeze Winter's Bone in after my SoBeWFF event this afternoon, but after three days immersed in food and drink awesomeness, I'd just be thinking about, like, infusing vodka with habaneros or something. I watched Tangled and a couple short animated films a few days ago; you don't want to hear about it, I promise. So this year -- as in all years -- I lose the race. But I saw some great films I wouldn't have otherwise seen, and learned some good lessons (namely, "watch more movies") along the way. And you got to listen to me prattle on about it all, so everyone's a winner. Except maybe you.

Final Death Race Tally: 32 seen, 24 failures. 
Remaining films:

Another Year
The Confession
Country Strong
The Crush
God of Love
The Gruffalo
Hereafter
In A Better World
Incendies
Inside Job
Killing In The Name
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, a Journey Diary
Na Wewe
Outside The Law
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Tempest
The Warriors of Qiugang
Waste Land
The Way Back
Winter's Bone
Wish 143

And now: The Mannies: My Own Personal Oscars. ("The Ciaries" is a competely ridiculous name for a series of fake awards, and I feel confident that Manny Ramirez, Supercat would be both honored and respectful of my choices in these matters.) These aren't Oscar predictions; they're my personal favorites in the categories I managed to close out:

Actor in a Leading Role
I am torn precisely in half between Colin Firth and Javier Bardem. But there is only one Manny. So Bardem gets it, because Firth gets the real-life version.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Jacki! Weaver! Jacki! Weaver! Jacki! Weaver!

Animated Feature Film
You guys, these are THE MANNIES. How To Train Your Dragon, naturally.

Art Direction
Gotta go Inception. Come on, how visually cool was Inception?

Cinematography
Black Swan, hands down. Perfect and effective.

Directing
I'm tempted to go Black Swan here, but think I have to go with The Social Network. On paper, it's not the most interesting story in the world, even if it was written by Aaron Sorkin; David Fincher's the person responsible for turning it into the must-see film it became this year.

Film Editing
Black Swan. Did I mention I really liked Black Swan?

Music (Original Score)
I wasn't crazy about The Social Network's score. And while we're being honest, I honestly don't remember the music in Inception. I guess I'll go classy and say The King's Speech. (Oscar voters: Please choose anything except 127 Hours, thanks.)

Sound Editing
Unstoppable sounded awesome, but I'm going Tron, because I imagine a movie set in an imaginary world gave the sound editors a lot of room to play.

Sound Mixing
Inception? Maybe? Seriously, who even knows about these categories?

And on that sophisticated note, this year's death race comes to an end. I'll be watching the real ceremonies tonight with a cat on my lap and a sneezy husband at my side. Here's hoping all of Hollywood wears something interesting and that no screen time is wasted on the guy from GasLand. Happy Oscars, everyone!

Friday, February 25, 2011
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Oscars Death Race: Speed edition

Inspired by Tomato Nation and my own inner stupid overachieving pop culture glutton, I'm once again attempting to see all this year's Oscar-nominated films before the ceremony. Here's how it's going so far.

I'd love to stay and chat, you guys, but I have so much eating to do. For my job. Which I love right now. So: SPEED REVIEWS.

The Social Network: Exactly what I expected: Witty, nerdy, engaging. I'm a sucker for Sorkin's dialogue. The music didn't really hit home for me. And has anyone tested Zuckerberg for Asperger's? Because the movie version of him felt to me like a grown-up Max Braverman.

Unstoppable: I honestly didn't believe people when they told me Unstoppable was a decent movie. Which was nice, because I was able to be pleasantly surprised. The writers manage to hold the story to only the most basic action film cliches, and there's real suspense in parts. It's a movie that knows what it is, and does it well. It's not Inception, but at least it's not Salt.

Blue Valentine: Of all the weepy films I've seen for this project, this one was probably the hardest on me. I'm newly married, okay?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: I don't read the books and haven't seen any of the movies since the ... third one? Maybe? So I basically had no idea what was happening. It's up for art direction, which is cool, but at movie #7, isn't it just more of the same?

The Illusionist: My feelings about The Triplets of Belleville, remixed: I know it's critically acclaimed and I'm supposed to love it but YAWN. Spent most of it wondering why this girl was so gullible, and the rest wishing it were The Illusionist.

Rabbit Hole: Why do I love movies in which nothing happens? I don't know, but I really do. Great, heart-wrenching acting, believable story and a light at the end of the tunnel.

Death Race Tally: 29 seen*, 27 to go. 
Remaining films:

Another Year
The Confession
Country Strong
The Crush
Day & Night*
God of Love
The Gruffalo
Hereafter
In A Better World
Incendies
Inside Job
Killing In The Name
Let's Pollute*
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, a Journey Diary
Na Wewe
Outside The Law
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
Tangled
The Tempest
The Warriors of Qiugang
Waste Land
The Way Back
Winter's Bone
Wish 143

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
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Oscars Death Race: Raging Depression Edition

Inspired by Tomato Nation and my own inner stupid overachieving pop culture glutton, I'm once again attempting to see all this year's Oscar-nominated films before the ceremony. Here's how it's going so far.

Pro tip, kids: Do your research. Last weekend, I thought I was pairing a quirky comedy with an intense drama. You know, for balance. However.

Barney's Version: I have to say it:  Miriam is too perfect. I mean this in a bad way. The character has no flaws. Stop it, writers.

The story spends most of its time asking us to forgive the main character for the many ways he's managed to ruin his life -- then gets all sentimental at the end, with an end-scene reveal that the writers clearly see as monumental and clarifying, but which struck me as kind of ... trivial, overall? The makeup for which it's nominated, however, is really fantastic. Paul Giamatti might not need much help transforming into an old man, but Rosamund Pike's transformation into an old woman is another story. I mean, have you seen what she actually looks like?

Biutiful: From one story of a guy ruining his life to another. At least you're rooting for Uxbal, who's trying to do the right thing in an increasingly morbid situation. I didn't love this movie, but I don't think you're supposed to; most of it is incredibly difficult to watch. But it was in service of a story (ahem, 127 Hours), which resolves itself with lovely and simple symmetry. Walking out of the theater, I felt like I had made it to the other side of something.

Death Race Tally: 23 seen*, 33 to go. 
Remaining films:

Another Year
Blue Valentine
The Confession
Country Strong
The Crush
Day & Night*
God of Love
The Gruffalo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I
Hereafter
The Illusionist
In A Better World
Incendies
Inside Job
Killing In The Name
Let's Pollute*
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, a Journey Diary
Na Wewe
Outside The Law
Poster Girl
Rabbit Hole
The Social Network*
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
Tangled
The Tempest
Unstoppable*
The Warriors of Qiugang
Waste Land
The Way Back
Winter's Bone
Wish 143

* or seen but not yet confirmed via self-indulgent blog post; applicable titles are starred

Friday, February 18, 2011
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Oscars Death Race: A Week In Review

Inspired by Tomato Nation and my own inner stupid overachieving pop culture glutton, I'm once again attempting to see all this year's Oscar-nominated films before the ceremony. Here's how it's going so far.

I've been slacking, both on seeing movies and writing about them. At this point, I will certainly fail. But why would I let that stop me?

Restrepo: After the whole GasLand thing, this was kind of filmic relief. Restrepo owns up to its biases, and doesn't reach too hard to get its messages across. There are some really effective battle scenes, but most telling are the one-on-one interviews with the soldiers themselves. They could have made a whole movie based on Hijar's face alone.

Salt: There are better action movies. The whole feminist angle -- Jolie's character was written as a man -- entertained me for awhile; at one point she tells a little girl how much she hates math, which made me laugh out loud. But mostly, it's just silly. If it were on tv and I had nothing better to do, I still probably would not watch it.

Toy Story 3: Everyone told me how much I was going to love this movie, and ... I kind of didn't? I mean, it was cute and all, but I definitely didn't weep openly at the end like several people told me I would. Forced to choose between this and How to Train Your Dragon, I go dragons every time.

Black Swan: In a nutshell, OMG. This one got to me. I was right there in the middle of Portman's crazy for just about all of this movie, so much so that I seriously wondered if I was okay to drive home from the theater. I was prepared to sneer and be all "whatevs" about this one, but instead I just kept jumping and kicking the chair of the poor guy in front of me every couple scenes. Aronofsky gets a bit too indulgent at times -- did I need several minutes of nonsensical strobe-lit club dancing? no -- but overall: yes. Just yes.

127 Hours: No. Just no. Franco does a great job with what he's given, but I started looking forward to the end while the movie was still at the very beginning. It's not so much a story as an experience, a really awful experience, drawn out for the length of a feature film. And the whole "what I learned" message feels forced. (Am I the only one who half-expected J. Walter Weatherman to jump out at the end, saying "And that's why you always leave a note"?)

Death Race Tally: 21 seen, 35 to go. 
Remaining films:

Another Year
Barney's Version
Biutiful
Blue Valentine
The Confession
Country Strong
The Crush
Day & Night
God of Love
The Gruffalo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I
Hereafter
The Illusionist
In A Better World
Incendies
Inside Job
Killing In The Name
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, a Journey Diary
Na Wewe
Outside The Law
Poster Girl
Rabbit Hole
The Social Network
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
Tangled
The Tempest
Unstoppable
The Warriors of Qiugang
Waste Land
The Way Back
Winter's Bone
Wish 143

 

About Me

I'm a writer and editor based in Miami, FL, with a passion for travel, poetry and literature, food and feminism. My work has appeared in Draft, VegNews, Latitudes and more. Email me at ciara.lavelle@gmail.com.

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