I had originally planned to spend this weekend in Minneapolis visiting one of my oldest friends whom I haven't seen in two years. Sadly, her father passed away on Wednesday, so I'll now be spending an entire week with my parents in Iowa. I was a little shaken after hearing about the death; my parents are roughly the same age as my friend's. I guess the unpredictable nature and fragility of life is something to keep in mind over the next week. My parents and I get along, although we tend to aggravate and tire of each other all too easily sometimes.

Regardless, I will have plenty of spare time over the next week to veg and blog (and work on my year-end music report), but I wanted to get in a little post beforehand.

Last weekend, I braved yet another slushy snowstorm to see In America, Jim Sheridan's much delayed autobiographical film about an Irish family who emigrates to New York after the death of their youngest child. The performances are pretty spectacular: Paddy Considine as the father and Sheridan's stand-in, a struggling actor; the always good Samantha Morton as the close-cropped mum; and especially real-life sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger as the daughters. Although a bit muddled in its time frame (apart from a few E.T. appearances, it's only vaguely early '80s) and a little too melodramatic too often, it's still affecting at key points, and rarely pandering. It earns its tears. Still, it's more Hollywood (and less personal) than necessary. It's actually a front-runner for the Independent Spirit Awards this year, but compared to Raising Victor Vargas or even Lost In Translation, it feels much less indie than it should.

Also picked up two CDs that may yet make my year-end top 20: The Postal Service's ode to vintage synth-pop, Give Up, and the highly entertaining soundtrack to Kill Bill: Volume 1, which contains all ten ecstatic minutes of Santa Esmeralda's cheesy, divine disco classic (and Animals cover) "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood".