3RFF Time! My Picks for the Three Rivers Film Festival with @PghFilmmakers

It’s NOVEMBER! Which means it is my BIRTHDAY MONTH and also time for the 3 Rivers Film Fest! The timing is hardly a coincidence, amirite? I have not yet pieced together my schedule for this much-anticipated events, but I have selected my “picks” for this year. This year is full of films I’d like to see, lots of dark, dramatic, thrilling films. Can’t wait!!

Are you attending the 3 Rivers Film Fest? What films will you be seeing?
Escobar: Paradise Lost


Starring Benicio del Toro (“Traffic”) and Josh Hutcherson (“The Hunger Games”) this absorbing drama, hot off the screens in Toronto, is that rare genre – a romantic drug thriller based on historical events. Told from the perspective of Nick, an innocent Canadian visiting Columbia, the story unfolds during the final years of Escobar’s reign. The young surfer falls in love with a beauty only to discover that her uncle is Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug kingpin. When Nick is invited to a party at a Xanadu-like fortress he finds himself entangled in a world of excess, corruption, and bloodshed.

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This eagerly awaited thriller – filmed across Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh – tells the mesmerizing story of what happens when Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), a 1984 Olympic champion, sees a way out from under the shadow of his more celebrated wrestling brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo). When Mark is invited by eccentric millionaire John duPont (Steve Carell) to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, things go tragically wrong. The real-life crime drama from Bennett Miller (“Moneyball”) is also a gripping and profoundly American story of brotherly love, misguided loyalty, and moral bankruptcy. Film provided by Sony Pictures Classics.
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Human Capital
The time-fractured thriller begins with a fatal collision between a cyclist and an SUV on an inclement December night in Northern Italy. Flashbacks of events leading up to the incident – from three different vantage points – reveal the complex dynamics of two incidentally connected families, as well as the interplay between contrasting economic classes. Slick and stylish, this white-knuckle thriller is adapted from a best selling novel and is Italy’s official entry for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
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Listen Up Philip
Starring Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, and Jonathan Pryce, this quirky comedy focuses on a prickly, egocentric writer who grouses about a deteriorating relationship with his photographer girlfriend and is indifferent about promoting his own career. But he jumps at the offer to use a friend’s summer home as a getaway while he nervously awaits the publication of his second novel – a place where he finally gets peace and quiet to focus on his favorite subject: himself.  A dark and literary comedy, it uses devices such as omniscient narration and shifts in perspective.
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Once Upon a Time Veronica
A finely tuned, sensual portrait of a woman’s conflicted entry into adulthood, this award-winning film is a thoroughly modern anti-fairy tale. Veronica is fresh out of medical school. It’s a crucial time in her life, a period filled with doubts and important decisions to be made: tough career choices, her close bond with her ailing father, and her active but chaotic love life. Built around a stunning central performance by Hermila Guedes, she presents an emotionally raw, psychologically-complex character. There are desires,adventures, and misfortunes – but no fairy godmothers.
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A Spell to Ward Off The Darkness


From pagan re-enactors to failed communes, black metal festivals to Arctic hermits, and the forever Golden Hour to the Northern Lights, this experimental documentary is an inquiry into the possibilities of a spiritual existence within an increasingly secular Western culture. We follow an unnamed character through three seemingly disparate moments in his life: on a small Estonian island, in isolation in the majestic wilderness of Northern Finland, and during a concert in Norway. Atmospheric, musically infused, it proposes a belief in transcendence. In English.

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Stop the Pounding Heart


Part of the New Directors/New Films series at Lincoln Center, this quietly moving film could not be further from the big city. Set in rural Texas, it’s an investigation into the inner life of a teenage girl — the state of her soul – as she falls for a boy from a vastly different background. Sara Carlson (playing herself) is part of a devout Christian goat-farming family with 12 children, all home-schooled and raised with moral guidance from the Scriptures (no phones, TVs, computers, or teen drinking). This drama, crafted in an intimate documentary-style, reveals Sara’s turmoil about her place in a faith that requires women to be subservient to their fathers and then their husbands.

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Featuring an outstanding performance from Dutch actress Gaite Jansen, Meis is a bored and frustrated 15-year-old living in the middle of nowhere with her working-class parents and grandmother. Although an adjacent country road makes a 90-degree turn, seemingly just inviting vehicles to crash into their run-down house, Meis waits for something – anything – to happen, while musing about the laws of physics and energy. This much-talked-about indie from the Berlin Film Festival is a spot-on portrait of restless adolescence.

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To Kill A Man


In this revenge thriller from Chile – the country’s official Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film — a tranquil, middle-class family man is tormented, and later terrorized, by criminals in his neighborhood. Frustrated by the legal system’s bureaucracy, he eventually opts to take matters into his own hands when one of the outlaws threatens retribution after serving time in prison. Based on a true story, the drama focuses on the social and psychological consequences of committing the title act. Winner of the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.

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Zero Motivation


A zany, dark comedic portrait of a unit of young, female Israeli soldiers, this indie has been wowing festival audiences this year. The human resources office at a remote desert base serves as the setting for this cast of characters who bide their time pushing paper, playing video games and staging office supply battles – counting down the minutes until they can return to civilian life. Handled with a sharp wit and abrupt shifts in tone, writer-director Talya Lavie dramatizes the boredom and personality conflicts, while exploring issues such as patriotism and friendship as well. Contains adult content.


32 before 32– A Little Wonder in Troy Hill: St. Anthony’s Chapel

32 before 32– A Little Wonder in Troy Hill: St. Anthony’s Chapel

I bet you’d be surprised to know that the largest collection of Catholic relics outside the Vatican is housed in a small church in the quiet hilly neighborhood of Troy Hill in Pittsburgh. Well it is. it is in St. Anthony’s Chapel.

I can’t remember where I learned this, but it was probably on some Rick Sebak special, because that is where I learn a lot of this type of stuff. Anyway, when I learned that there was a massive collection of relics right in our own city, I just had to see it. Because with something so unique in our backyard, why wouldn’t I?

Relics inside St. Anthony's, as photographed by Roadside America

Relics inside St. Anthony’s, as photographed by Roadside America

Many of the relics are tiny pebble-sized fragments of bone or teeth or what have you. There are also some larger bones, skulls and a tooth of St. Anthony of Padua. The chapel is simply gorgeous inside, with ornate frescoes and life-size hand carved and painted sculptures of the Stations of the Cross. I am not Catholic, but I believe that religious art from all faiths is beautiful. It is amazing to see the beauty that people create, inspired by their faith.

The chapel offers guided tours on certain days, but also offers a handheld audio tour if a guide is not available. I did the audio tour and really enjoyed it. It’s about 30 minutes long, tells you the history of the chapel, including the story of its founder, Father Suitbert Mollinger, as well as an overview of the relics and art in the chapel. It’s amazing that the whole thing is sustained by volunteers and donations, so if you visit, be sure to leave a contribution. The Chapel is now on my short list of must-sees in the City. If you’re a resident and haven’t made your way over there, it’s absolutely worth a visit. It’s close, it’s quick, and it’s wonderful.


Finally, a day where I feel like I’ve got it somewhat under control

Finally, a day where I feel like I’ve got it somewhat under control

Since I have the tendency to share every word I think and every tiny thing I do with the entire internets, I not-infrequently find myself in a situation where a friend is about to embark into the wild world of working-parentdom, and they sweetly assume that since I have not had a public meltdown in the last four years, I have some little bit of wisdom to impart about how to “balance” work and life.

Here’s the wisdom: I have no idea what I’m doing. None of us do. There is no “balance,” there is only triage, and just barely enough time to get the most demanding emergency under control before moving on to the next one. I fly by the seat of my pants. I do the best I can, but I usually have too much exhaustion and too little patience.


Today, though. Today was OK.

Mr. Beez and I both work jobs where our time is not entirely our own, meaning that we can’t make it to every class party or even know for sure whether we’ll be available or not on a particular day. Baby Beez is at an age where sometimes she cares and badly wants us there, sometimes she couldn’t care less. So I try to keep an ear open and follow her lead. If she doesn’t say she wants me to be at something, I don’t worry much about it. But if she says she want me to be there, I do try to make it happen.

Today was the class trip to the pumpkin patch. She’s been talking about the trip all week, about how she’s going to RIDE THE SCHOOL BUS and get to pick a pumpkin and, did I mention, RIDE THE SCHOOL BUS. She never mentioned any interest in me coming with her, so I did not pay much mind. What do you need mom for, when you get to RIDE THE SCHOOL BUS?

This morning, I trudged through the brutal morning tasks of making the lunches and feeding the pets and dressing the child and dressing myself and doing my hair and makeup and getting in the car. Although my morning was to be spent working at my desk, I had a hearing scheduled for the afternoon, so I was in a suit.

As we rolled down the hill to her school, a tiny voice peeped from the backseat, “Mommy, will you come to the farm with me?” She was so earnest, I couldn’t say no. I didn’t have time to go back for another outfit, so I went to the farm in my business clothes. I got hay dust on my pants and mud on my shoes. But she was so glad I was there as she snuggled up in my lap on the hayride. And even if I looked a little shabby when I got back to the office, it was worth it.



As with many 4 year olds, often the idea of an outing with Baby Beez is far more appealing than the outing itself. I will imagine us exploring museum exhibits or singing together at a kid’s music performance, but the reality ends up full of whining, covered in boogers, and with me desperate to unload the kid and go hide on a couch with a book. Today, though, it was all in sync. She was happy, I was happy, she found a lumpy-bumpy pumpkin in the patch just like she wanted.



We had a sweet morning together. Today, it worked out ok.



Run for your liiiiiife with @JJHensleyAuthor ‘s Resolve

Run for your liiiiiife with @JJHensleyAuthor ‘s Resolve

At last year’s Podcamp Pittsburgh, one of my favorite session was a presentation by local authors. One of the speakers was JJ Hensley, and right at that moment, I added his novel Resolve to my “To Read” list. I was excited and honored when he sent me an email a few weeks ago, requesting that I review his book! As a blogger, I frequently get requests to review this or review that (and, as you’ll see from my Note on Reviews above, I generally decline), but there’s something special about an author personally reaching out to you and saying, “I made this, I’d like to know what you think.”


Hensley combines three favorite topics of mine– Pittsburgh, crime writing and running– into a fun, light read. Resolve follows (fictional) Three Rivers University professor Cyprus Keller as he tries to unravel the mystery of the murders happening all around him, all seemingly pointing to his guilt. The story unfolds as he runs the Pittsburgh marathon, which both provides a clever structure to the story, and gives the reader a unique overview of our city.


Resolve works well as a light read. The tone is very conversational, and anything that falls into police lingo/practice, Hensley spells out for you. The characters are fun and it’s the kind of book that it’s enjoyable to watch unfold. It’s hard to write about a crime novel without giving things away, but suffice it to say that it ends in a somewhat unexpected but satisfying way.

My one gripe with the story is that when Keller runs through the Homewood neighborhood during the marathon, he describes it as desolate, crime ridden and depressed. Homewood’s a tough neighborhood, but let me tell you, Homewood loves the marathon. I ran that stretch of the relay last year, and there were churches and families and community groups out cheering and blasting music. I got SO MANY high fives from kids. It was one of the best stretches of the run. It was a little disappointing to see Homewood represented in that negative way, when the marathon is one of the events where the neighborhood really shines.

Resolve was a timely read for me, as registration opened on the Pittsburgh Marathon this past week, and I’m all signed up for the Half Marathon. WILL I SEE YOU OUT ON THE COURSE?  Can you tell I’m excited? Resolve is a great book to get you all excited for the run, or even just to feed your enthusiasm for our city.

Also, Hensley’s newest book, Measure Twice, was just released. Measure Twice looks to be another perfect read for crime novelist enthusiasts of this fair city:

Pittsburgh Homicide Detective Jackson Channing is struggling to break free from an addiction. His alcoholism may have cost him his marriage and now threatens to sweep away his sanity.

​ When the body of a city official is discovered in a public location, the entire city of Pittsburgh bears witness to a form of evil that is difficult to comprehend. Channing learns the killer is patient, methodical, and precise. In order to stop the killing, Channing will have to pull his life together and come to terms with a secret that is tearing him apart.

(PS- I declined the offer of a copy of Resolve for this review, and just checked it out from the library instead. So the general marketing disclosures aren’t even applicable here.)


A Sweet New Year in Schenley Park

A Sweet New Year in Schenley Park

I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to Rosh Hashanah as much as I do this year. Fall has come early, and boy is it gorgeous. The air is crisp, pumpkin spice is everywhere, and I’m ready for s’mores! Baby Beez being big enough to really start “getting” holidays has added a lot to it. She has been learning about Rosh Hashanah in Sunday School and has had a lot of fun blowing the shofar and talking about apples and honey. She even brought a Rosh Hashanah book into school today to share with her friends.

We will be spending Rosh Hashanah mostly in services (adult services then kid services). However, we will be kicking the whole thing off the way any proper New Year should be welcomed– with a party!

NYE in the Park

This Wednesday evening, Mr. Beez will be joining our friends for the 3rd Annual New Years Eve in the Park! It’s a non-traditional celebration, featuring apples, honey, cider & beer. Rabbi Symons will be giving a TED style talk about the spirituality of foods. We will welcome in the New Year in the company of friends old and new!

Mr. Beez and I hope that you will join us. Tickets are $25 each and you can purchase them at the door or you can CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS! Adults only, please!

See you Wednesday!!