The Eagle Has Landed

So, Tuesday was kind of a big day around here.

Seth, having conquered the 20m jump in his alpine gear, the previous Friday, was given his first set of nordic ski jumping equipment—boots, and some wide, flat, long skis with no edges and special bindings that allow the heel to flex away from the ski. You know, for flying.

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PCNSC Coach Lindsey Van helps Seth select his Nordic Gear. “You want it hard, easy, or fun?” She asks. “Easy and fun,” he responds. “Well, it won’t be both. But it will be fun.”

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Mission accomplished. Cool boots. Giant skis.

He practiced some in-run position drills (skiing under the hoops helps form). As they made their laps, my friend Stacey came over to tell me, “I hope you don’t mind, but I just told your son to suck it up,” she said. “He was complaining about the boots.” Good, I thought—it came from someone other than me. That left Jeff and me the room to  pep-talk Seth through the first uncomfortable, awkward moments in the new gear, the adjustment to the new learning curve, and the frustration that came along for the ride.

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He took some jumps—which was a lot harder on the new gear than he thought it would be. But all I could do is yell—”That’s my kid! THAT’S MY KID!!!”

Which is what was happening when my friend Valerie showed up to watch, with the stars of a movie she produced, called Eddie the Eagle. The film is based on the life of Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton), a British ski jumper who defied the odds to compete in the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary. His coach is played by Hugh Jackman. Which was, it turns out, just enough excitement to make Seth feel better about the steep learning curve he was encountering on the new skis.

Hugh and Taron watched the kids fly, and enthusiastically congratulated them on their skills. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, really. But I got a hint, a few hours later. (More on that, in a moment.)

As it happened, Eddie was the “Townie Tuesday” screening, for which Sundance Film Festival officials had distributed free tickets to locals. The kids were bummed that we were not taking them to the 9pm screening. But 9PM! On a school night! Not even I, “Fun Mom,” am that irresponsible—and I can bring it. So, we got them settled at home and set off toward town, for the film. My friend Sarah scored great seats at the front, and saved some. In turn, we saved three for our jumping pals, Stacey, Julie and Coach Lindsey.

Which turned out to be fortuitous, because Taron and Hugh came to the screening to introduce the film, shared their visit to UOP with the audience and wound up in a chat with Lindsey. You can watch the whole exchange, here:

And then…we watched the movie and loved every minute of it. Everything from the writing and acting to the direction and the music—oh, the 80s synth wonderland of a score! My bone to pick? The cinematography—it captured, all too well, the spectacular heights and the death-defying crashes, which are, of course, part and parcel of the sport. I tried to comfort myself with the idea that some things are exaggerated for dramatic and comedic effect, but having just spent the evening watching a practice in which more kids fell than usual (icy course), those moments hit a little too close to home.

However, I’m thrilled to say that the aspect of the sport that Eddie the Eagle captured best is the one I love the most, and one that the PCNSC embodies—its spirit. The essence of jumping is as much heart as it is skill, and if you have heart, you’ve won. And, by the way last Tuesday went, I’d say everyone involved was a winner.

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Do you Ski at the Sundance Film Festival? | The Official Blog of Deer Valley Resort

In my life as an avid skier and a journalist, my worlds collide in funny ways. The Sundance Film Festival—which brings a huge contingent of my professional community to my front door—is a great example of this. Last year, for instance, an interview with a favorite actor proved to me that not skiing can be a win. (WHAT?!)

[Click the link below to see the full post, and to find out which actor saved me from myself.]

Source: Do you Ski at the Sundance Film Festival? | The Official Blog of Deer Valley Resort

Irreverent Parenting Movie Night

My kids know their parents are rules people. After all, we’re forever nagging them to clean their rooms and do their homework. We make our bed (Ok, Jeff does), most days. They eat a variety of healthy foods, provided by us. But our choices for family movie nights may be considered, um, irreverent by some  people. I’ve made it clear that we’re not big on policing language (grammar, yes, but not actual language).  So, our children can quote a line or two from Trading Places. They’re well-versed in the world of 007. They’ve seen The Martian and Interstellar. And they may or may not have caught a few minutes of Get Shorty before turning to their parents and saying, “Are you sure you want us to watch this?” Which may have been why my younger son was interrogating Nate the venue manager, at the Park City Film Series, while we bought our tickets to see Meet the Patels, last night.

“What’s this movie rated? Is it PG-13?” Seth asked. “Because I am here with my parents, just in case it is. I’ve seen lots of PG-13 movies.” He need not have worried (nor thrown his parents under the bus) as the film is, in fact PG. But, you know, it’s good to have your film-ready bona fides, when you’re 8. (I like the idea that our kids think we’re more lenient than we are—after all, they’re not allowed to watch Homeland with us. That is solidly off-limits.)

FYI, You don’t have to be in town for the Sundance Film Festival to enjoy independent film in Park City. In fact, some might argue that you’ll enjoy it more if you’re simply taking in a film on a weekend evening, as part of the Park City Film Series, purchasing tickets and popcorn (local’s tip: BYO-Bowl for free refills!) just moments before the film starts, with little or no time spent waiting in line. (Yes, I’ve met lots of interesting people while waiting in line for a film at Sundance, but that’s a story for another blog post.) At the PCFS, your ticket also doubles as an entry in an “opportunity drawing,” for a series of door prizes. On this night, a local Indian eatery had donated baskets of naan and chutney, there were gift certificates for pizza and coffee, plus a freshly-baked loaf of Volker’s bread. Which, to our surprise and delight, we won. (Most of it made it home, improbably enough.)

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Patels delivered on the promise of a great night out for our group of several families with kids in grades 3-8 (who were pretty stoked to be out on a school night–bonus points in the Irreverent Parents column!).

A documentary co-directed by siblings Ravi Patel (an actor in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Grandfathered) and Geeta Patel (Mouse) , Meet the Patels focuses on Ravi’s quest for love and marriage, within the confines of a modern Indian matchmaking system. It’s highly relatable—and in plumbing the arranged-marriage system of Indian culture, underscores the similarities between many ethnic groups who value marriage within their own cultures. Ravi navigates Indian-specific online dating sites, plus a series of set-ups engineered by his parents using a system called “Biodata,” a collection of dating resumes circulated among Indian-American communities, and a marriage convention—all while wrestling with the fact that he’s fresh off a breakup from the white woman he was secretly dating. (With a few minor tweaks, it could have been a film about the Jewish dating scene—after all, Jeff and I met at one of a series of Jewish camps we both attended, and while the overt message wasn’t ‘find a spouse,’ such controlled environments upped the odds that we would.) With hilariously poignant color-commentary from Ravi and Geeta, plus scenes in which his parents explain the success of their arranged marriage, and interviews with other Indian-American young adults, it provided a unique window into the joys and peculiarities of Indian-American immigrant culture.

The kids were into the fact that the live action scenes were intercut with animated bits of narration and dialogue—segments that served to give Ravi the room to deal with some of the more emotionally-charged conversations, off-camera, and still convey them to the audience. I doubt there was a person in the theater who wasn’t completely charmed by the family–and Ravi’s story.

As a parent, I saw a lot of value in the heartfelt but humorous take on the way cultures grapple with identity and change. Ravi makes a lot of jokes in the movie that, as an actor, he makes up for his parents dashed dreams by playing the doctor he figures they expected him to become. Yet, it’s clear throughout the film that his parents’ American dream for their Indian child is that he be happy in whatever path he chooses.

Later, driving toward home and bedtime, Jeff declared the film “99% appropriate,” and the kids quickly (and accurately) jumped in to identify the 1% moment. Which means, of course, that even with all the positive family messages, the thoughtful pondering of cultural norms, the theatrical absurdity that crept hilariously into Meet the Patels, we’d managed to stay on-point, at least a little, with our irreverence. Thanks, Patels.

Too cool for school? Not me!

In case you were wondering, I went to high school twice.

The first time, I began the experience at my local public high school, then transferred to spend 10th-12th grades at Emma Willard School, in Troy, NY.

At both schools, I’m not afraid to tell you, I was decidedly uncool—however at Emma it was kind of cool to be uncool. Which is why I loved Emma then. (Now, I love it because I have dear, dear friends with whom I share a wonderful bond. In time, girls who were mere acquaintances in the school years have become women I can call friends.) Still, all of that counts as once.

The second time I went to high school, I was 24. It was 1997 in New York City. Incidentally, I had the same boyfriend the second time around, only this time, he was my husband (still is). It’s a little strange being married in high school. And I’m not sure he has ever recovered from the unholy numbers of Backstreet Boys concerts I dragged him to in a matter of a few short years. He even played along when I insisted that he watch  Dawson’s Creek with me.

No, I was not in some real-life 21 Jump Street (retro-cool or the hilarious, bawdy romp that is the Jonah Hill movie. What, you haven’t seen it yet? Go see it. It’s one of the best cool/not cool conundrum depictions ever.). It was a legit setup: I was the Entertainment Editor at YM, a then-widely-red and now-defunct teen magazine.

Want proof? Click here to read an article in the New York Times, which quoted me…ME!…about what the kids, cool or not, were doing, watching and talking about in 1997.

And, yes, I will shove this post in the face of my children when they accuse me of being uncool—if only to prove that cool doesn’t last forever. It’s fleeting. And fickle. Or, if nothing else, defined within peer groups. But I think we can all agree that being interviewed by the New York Times at age 24 for one’s professional expertise is pretty darn cool. I’ll hang my uncool-mom hat on that, thankyouverymuch.

Your turn: when in your life did you feel the least and most cool? What do your kids think is cool that you don’t—and vice versa. I’ll go first:

My kids think it’s completely uncool when I sing. And my best friend Nancy thinks exactly the opposite.

Big Miracle opens Feb 3—get out and see it!

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When Big Miracle opens in theaters next weekend, many people in the Park City community will have attended a special sneak preview screening at Temple Har Shalom on Jan 29. Which is not to say that someone got hold of a bootleg DVD and the gang was found crowding into the Rabbi’s office to watch. As it happens, Temple Har Shalom has another identity for the 10 days of the Sundance Film Festival: Temple Theater. And the congregation “borrowed” the theater so that the film, which was co-written by THS member Jack Amiel, ccould be screened on  the morning of the 29th for this special event. It was a fundraiser for our terrific congregation, and naturally, it sold out.

However, if you couldn’t get a ticket to the event and/or you live far away… but you think it’s pretty awesome that one of our members co-wrote the movie, please consider going to see the film Feb 3, 4 or 5 (anytime during its run would be great, but opening weekend numbers mean a LOT to the people who make the film and the studio that distributes it, so, really, don’t wait.). And if you’re inclined to make a donation to the temple in honor of the Amiel family’s generosity, allow me to provide you with the link, so you can donate online. (By the way, I didn’t tell the Amiels that I am launching an ancillary fundraising campaign in their honor. But I know they won’t mind, since they have worked so hard to make this event happen to benefit the temple. They are a great couple—and Darcy and I have already forgiven each other for the fact that we attended rival high schools in upstate New York in the 80s.)  There’s a very cool story, here, about our community—so, nu, maybe you’ll be inspired to visit, too.

The film stars Drew Barrymore and John Krasinski — he’s an Alaska-based news reporter anxious to move into a bigger market, she’s an outspoken environmentalist (and his ex-girlfriend). When he breaks the story of his career—about a family of gray whales trapped in the ice— they must work together to navigate local, national and world politics to help save these whales. Based on a true story, Big Miracle shows what happens when superpowers, native populations and oil companies come together to free the whales. I can’t wait to see it.

XOXO, Charla

I have so much to share about the Sundance Film Festival, which is happening right now, right where I live. But for now, I’m stuck in 1996, when, as a newly-minted editorial assistant at Glamour Magazine, I barely knew what Sundance was—all I knew was that my boss, the Entertainment Editor at the magazine, was here in Park City, going to movies, meeting celebrities, and, it turned out, planning a party. And today, the party came to a screeching halt, because Charla Krupp, the boss who was so much more than that to me, passed away from breast cancer. And it’s hard to believe that cancer got her—Charla, you see, was a force of nature all her own.

That January, she called me from Utah, way out here in the “801” (it was before Park City had acquired a different area code from Salt Lake City), to ask me to overnight a bunch of CDs to her condo—”Bari Nan!” she said, in that energized voice that always made her sound like she was about to impart crucial celebrity gossip, or maybe a state secret. “I need you to do me a favor! I decided to have a party, and I need some CDs! Can you go into my office and just pick out some good party CDs and ship them to me today?” We had stacks of CDs in the office, so it was pretty easy to find good party tunes. And it was easy to want to do whatever favor she asked—Charla was a great boss, and a terrific tour guide for one country bumpkin hire to learn from. It’s not lost on me that her birthday was the day before mine—because from the moment I met her, she’d somehow lead me wherever I was supposed to go. Heck, just shipping that package to a town that held a piece of my future, now seems like a literary allusion. Her husband, Richard, has referred to her today as a trailblazer—and in truth, her gift was opening doors, unlocking secrets (as she did in her books).

When she hired me, I was a shade of green that is particular to small town girls who move to Manhattan to make their way in the magazine world. I had memorized the company handbook, absorbed the culture as quickly as I could. And I was, at first, surprised by the ease with which she made her own rules—employees at the magazine were supposed to answer the phone with our names. Charla, though, sang “Hello!” into the receiver. Answering by name was beside the point—her greeting, her voice, were practically trademarked. She made her own hours—”If I’m out til all hours at screenings, I have to find some time to go to the dry cleaner and get my hair cut,” she said, by way of explanation of her 10:30am arrivals in the office. Soon, I would understand that she always made her own rules, blazed her own trails, did her own thing—well. Including the way in which she made many, many friends. In time, I became one of them.

But first, she would teach me—she would send me to screenings, offer me assignments that were just north of the coffee-getting and copy-making that were an inevitable part of my day. She made up excuses for me to go visit the office of our legendary Editor-in-Chief, Ruth Whitney, in the far corner of our office floor, to deliver manuscripts or special screening invitations. “Please tell Ruth that this is a premiere she should attend,” Charla would say, as though she wasn’t breaking a hundred unwritten rules that Editorial Assistants didn’t strike up a chat with the editor. These errands were not assigned just because she was too busy for these things. She wanted me to have exposure to the right people, the right opportunities. Once, she claimed to have left an important folder in the office when she was having lunch with Katie Couric, around the corner at the unofficial Conde Nast dining room (this was in the 350 Madison Avenue days, when there was no Frank Gehry-designed cafe in the big Times Square Tower the company currently calls home). She called me from the restaurant, “Could you please come around the corner and bring me that folder from my chair?” she asked. “I’m at the table with Katie.” Wowed, awed, stunned–and maybe a little curious as to why Charla needed a file full of manuscripts that had nothing whatsoever to do with Katie Couric, made my way around the corner in a flash, pausing to collect myself outside the restaurant and then adopting an “efficient bravado” from I know not where, when I addressed the hostess. “I have something to give to Charla Krupp,” I said. “Can you please direct me to her table?”

Her smile, when I arrived there, was beaming, genuine.

“OH, Bari NAN! You’re Here! You’re amazing! THAAAANK YOUUUUU!”

And then, as if she hadn’t planned this all along, she said:

“Katie, this is my fab-u-lous assistant Bari Nan. Bari Nan, this is my dear friend Katie Couric.”

There were nice to meet you’s, Katie turned her own dazzling grin on me, asked a few questions about working for Charla, where I came from, where I’d been to college, and then I excused myself, still absorbing what had happened. She had, I told Jeff that night, made up an excuse to introduce me to Katie. For no reason except to be nice.

As her assistant, I observed her doing favors for friends who hadn’t even asked, doting on her family members several states away, hosting her mother’s friends for tours of the magazine offices. And always, always the calls to Richard, several times a day, at his office at Time Magazine, or at home if he was working there.  Checking in, making plans, worrying that he hadn’t eaten—just connecting.

And there was nothing to keep her from doing the right thing—including wrangling an all-star lineup of special guests to pay tribute to Ruth Whitney, when she passed away, as if to right the injustice that was Ruth’s untimely death from ALS, and the unceremonious way in which she’d been replaced at the magazine not long before she’d died.

Over time, there would be more acts of personal and professional generosity, catch-up lunches to swap stories and industry gossip, which I loved, too. There were occasional lunches and phone calls—and lots of shocked “Whaaaaaat?”s when I told her that I was giving up my second Entertainment Editor job to move to Utah. There were promises to come skiing. There were calls when friends were coming to town…”can you take care of them?” She called me, once, unwittingly, when I was in the hospital, hours after I gave birth to my second child, asking for some information for her next book—unaware of what had just transpired. “Oh my GAWWWWD, Bari Nan. What have I done?! Why are you helping me NOW! You just had a BABY!” But she was the kind of person, the kind of friend, for whom anything you could do seemed like not quite enough. Afterward, she sent a lovely gift for the baby, including in the package a pair of simple pink leather travel slippers for me. “Pamper yourself,” the note read. “XOXO Charla.” Which was the way she signed all her notes and emails. XOXO, Charla. I took a lot of delight in calling her to tell her they were my favorite slippers to wear in the motor home. “Oh, Bari Nan, REALLY? A MOTOR HOME? Can’t you have a house in the Hamptons like everyone else?” This, from the woman who did nothing “like everybody else.”

One of our last conversations was a phone call I placed the minute I heard her dear friend, the publicist Ronni Chasen, had been shot to death. “Oh, Bari Nan! It’s awful!” Then, “I can’t believe you called. I can’t believe you remembered…” But she knew—she knew she was important to me, she knew I would always remember. She was grief-stricken. shaken, shocked—I listened, I offered condolences, I made her promise to come visit. I told her I loved her. Which I did, very much. I also liked her a whole lot. I know I’m not alone — she had many fans and friends. If you’re one of them, I invite you to share your favorite Charla memories in the comments.

For now, I’ll say this:

XOXO, Charla. You are missed.

Toasting the Filmmakers

The Sundance Film Festival knows how to throw a party.

Yes, the place is silly with parties—but there’s a certain vibe to the official SFF parties. For one thing, they keep the films—and filmmakers—center stage.

To wit: The Salute to the Filmmakers party was held at the swankiest slopeside venue at Deer Valley Resort—the St. Regis Deer Crest Resort, on the Astor Terrace. You have to ride a funicular to get to the hotel from the entrance drive. It’s elegant, understated, unmistakeable luxury. There’s no better way to send the message that the filmmakers make the festival what it is. Also, they custom-ordered the weather.  It wasn’t a typical January day, no sideways wind, no swirling snow (though we locals would like that), still cold, yet the outdoor venue was nothing short of festive. This was helped along by a welcoming open bar and a buffet of perfectly cooked lamb chops, seared beef with sea salt, and nitrogen-frozen raspberry Grand Marnier ice cream cones.

I ate. I smiled broadly. And then we ran into our friend Shannon Bahrke, an Olympic medalist in freestyle skiing (I’ll tell you the story of the first time I met her another day), founder of Silver Bean Coffee in Salt Lake City, and Ambassador of Skiing at the St. Regis. She was fresh from a trip to Europe, where she cheered on teenaged freestyle skier at the Junior Olympics. And I do mean fresh. “I don’t have jet lag!” she boasted, as we posed for a photo op. “I’m working! I’m skiing! I’m going to the gym! There’s no time, really.”

Shannon Barkhe, Bari Nan Cohen

Maybe the party should have been called Shivering with Filmmakers?

I had every intention of shooting the breeze with filmmakers—but, I have to say, I felt funny interrupting them, as they shared the moment with their families and friends. It’s a special thing to make a film—even more special to have it screened at the Sundance Film Festival. And, really, it felt good just to bask in their glow.

Time thief

Today, I stole a few minutes in broad daylight and in full sight of my children, to sit on the front porch and read a magazine. If I’m being honest, I read one magazine article.  I usually read magazines after the kids are in bed or while I am working and they are at achool–hey, it’s legit, I’m a pop culture magazine writer!–when I can digest an entire issue in under an hour, the fact of reading an entire article during the day is a quantifiable BIG DEAL. I won’t tell you how long it took me and how many interruptions I overcame—because instead of feeling triumphant, I’ll just get depressed because I still have not gotten my kids to understand the value of not interrupting their mother.

I chose to read the current Summer Double Issue of New York Magazine,

and I was immediately determined to read—and finish—the story that belonged to the cover line: Making Up with Miranda July. I had to see what this was about. You see, I have seen The Future, the film by performance artist Miranda July, which opens in limited release on July 29, and should be required viewing for anyone considering “adopting a cat.”

(Crazy sidenote: I’m writing this during the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular, and as I type, Brad Paisley is singing his hit single, “Welcome to The Future.”)

I thought it was brilliant. I saw it at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. You have to believe me when I tell you that the presence of a talking cat in the film only enhances the cloak of hyper-realism that engulfs the film. The story focuses on Sophie and Jason, a 35 year-old couple who contemplate whether adopting a stray cat will keep them from achieving their dreams. The cat is ill, and requires quarantine, and Sophie and Jason, hipster slackers, have determined to use the period of quarantine to try to reach their creative zenith. ‘Cause, you know, life ends when you get a cat. Doesn’t it?

When I left the theater on that cold January morning, I felt like I’d seen The Future—the truth about what Sundance films mean. You need to see them to know what’s coming next in the film world. But I also felt like I got a very intimate and honest look at how a relationship unravels.

That same week, I was invited to a dinner by Chase Sapphire, a festival sponsor. I was expecting a cattle-call buffet of heavy hors d’oeuvres. What I got was an intimate dinner at Park City’s Wahso with director Miguel Arteta, who had a film called Cedar Rapids at the fest, and some Chase Sapphire customers who cashed in reward points and got, in return, a festival experience that included lodging, lots of movies, plus chance to chat up a famous director. It was pretty cool, I must say. Arteta proved to be engaging, charming, and genuinely interested in what everyone had seen. But never more keenly than when I said, yep, I’d seen The Future.

“What did you think??” He asked with an intensity that I found both endearing and a little surprising.

I returned his intensity, telling him I thought it was everything a Sundance film should be: a little disorienting, a lot thought-provoking, and so specific in its intention and execution that there wasn’t a wasted raised eyebrow. Ski Dad picked up on something more, though: “Why are you so curious?” Miguel (we were on a first-name basis by now) was quick to explain.

“I used to go out with Miranda. We were engaged. And that film is the story of our breakup.”

Ski Dad looked a bit alarmed. “Please tell me that you knew that before you saw it!?”

Indeed he had–he went on to say that he and Miranda had met when he mentored her at the Sundance Fillmmakers Lab. And that the only bone he had to pick was that he wished the actor who’d played him had been more attractive. Hamish Linklater, the actor who played Jason is very good looking. So is Miguel. Here’s proof, by the way, as photographed by Ski Dad.

Miguel Arteta at the Sundance Film Festival 2011. Photo: Jeffrey Rothchild

By now, I felt completely attached to the film. It really is one of those films that, if you love it, you love it completely. And you feel like you own it a little. In a good way.

I also felt hip. By association. Because, let’s face it. I’m not now, nor have I ever been, hip. And certainly, I’ve never once been a hipster. But when I saw Project Miranda July in New York Magazine, by Michael Idov  I was smitten. Everything about his story—he’d once written a song depicting his hatred for Miranda, and now asked her to co-write a revision, a love note—was the perfect complement to the film. Here, too, is something cool. I’ve never considered myself a performance-art kinda gal. And in the same way I thought you had to know everything about wine to enjoy a visit to the Napa Valley (boy was I wrong!), I used to think you had to be immersed in the genre to “get” performance art. Turns out, a person can dabble.

And that, my friends, is what made the stolen time worth it. Not only was I transported by the story itself (well-written magazine articles are a joy to behold), but I was transported back to one of my favorite moments of 2011–and transformed into the kind of person who thinks, I really should partake of more peformance art.