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Movies I love...and you probably don't

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I have a pattern of intense love for movies that are generally looked down upon. For some reason, I find this to be a source of both pride and amusement. Understand that these aren't movies that were supposed to be bad, they're movies that take themselves seriously, which I also take seriously. But nobody else seems to. I thought you might like to know about a few of them.

Constantine
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The 2005 film Constantine, with Keanu Reeves and Rachel Weiss, is a favorite of mine. I love the way it is shot, I love the characters (especially Tilda Swinton's turn as the androgynous angel Gabriel). I love the premise (which sounds so stupid to type out that I won't bother doing it). I even, God help me, love Keanu Reeves. Rotten Tomatoes shows a critical rating of Constantine of 47% (though the users kinda liked it, with 75%). I gave it 5 stars on Netflix.

The Fall

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I loved Tarsem Singh's The Fall. Not only was it incredibly visually stunning, but the story, of a drug-addicted stuntman recooperating in a hospital (Lee Pace) telling fantastical tales to a little girl to get her to procure drugs for him (Catinca Untaru) is amazing. The critics were less impressed, leaving it with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 59% (again, the audience rating was much higher, 85%).

3000 Miles to Graceland
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I am honestly not sure if 3000 Miles to Graceland, a 2001 film that features Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell as Elvis-impersonating casino robbers, is intended to be a farce or not. I love it either way--it's hilarious, yet moving. It was also nominated for Golden Raspberry and has an amazing Rotten Tomatoes rating of 14%.

Cecil B. DeMented
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Cecil B. DeMented (2000) is a John Waters film starring Melanie Griffith and Stephen Dorff. As far as I can tell, even people who love John Waters don't like it. It's about an "outlaw" film crew kidnapping a famous actress and forcing her to star in their b-movie. I loved it so much.

I could go on, but I believe you are getting the drift. Tell me--what movies do you love that everybody else hates?

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We watch Constantine once a quarter like clockwork. I know it's a mockery of the source material, but it's a damn-good comics-inspired movie.

We loved The Fall, but the pacing was a little too odd to make it a regular re-watch.

We believe Josie and the Pussycats to be a work of subversive genius (53%/45%).

We think Elizabethtown is hilarious and can pretty much talk along with it. It's our favorite Cameron Crowe film (28%/65%).

Also, Clue is my favorite movie of all time.

These actually sound awesome!

haha I auditioned for Constantine producers but even the first few pages of the script was so scary I couldn't go see it in theatres.

I cannot imagine that Constantine with Keanu avoids stabbing one of my beloved comics characters right in the heart.

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Whiteout review on HC

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Nine Good Teeth

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I was reading an old magazine. It was probably O! or Martha Stewart Living or something. I think I was in the doctor's waiting room. Anyway, I came upon an article about very elderly women. It featured I think six women, all of whom were over 100. For one woman, it mentioned that her grandson had made a documentary about her. I love a good documentary, so I requested it from the library. And so it came to be that I spent a piece of Sunday watching Nine Good Teeth.

Nine Good Teeth is the life story of Mary Mirabito Livornese Calviere. Her grandson, Alex Halpern, filmed in between her 96th and 100th birthdays in the late 1990s. Mary was born in Brooklyn, to Italian immigrant parents, in 1899. Through interviews with her, her sisters, her daughter, and her nephew, Halpern tells both the story of her individual life and of many of the major events of the 20th century.

Many elements of the story are not surprising--Mary went to school until the 8th grade, then stayed home with her younger siblings after her mother took ill. Her father was a well-respected longshoreman and she was raised in a traditional Italian Catholic family. She married early, though not exceptionally so (she was 20, her husband only 17). She had two children. Her son served in the second World War. Her husband died in the 60s and she remarried. Her second husband died four years later, then her son. Several of her siblings died, but at the time of the filming, six of them were still alive. Other than the long lifespans of her family, her story is pretty classic.

The surprising bits are the more personal details. There is resentment between Mary and her sister Gladys, because Gladys lived with Mary and her family from the ages of 15 and 25 as sort of a nanny, and feels Mary stole her best years. Mary's daughter, Maria, also holds some resentment towards her, saying that Mary always favored her brother. And it's Mary's son, Tommy, who is perhaps the most puzzling part of this equation--he was a musician, scarred by his time in the Pacific Rim, who was friends with Jack Kerouac.

Much is made of some of these elements, others it seems are nearly swept under the rug, either by Halpern or by his subjects. In one scene, Mary and her sister Janet are asked about their regrets. Both of them say they wish they had more children, and Mary comes out, surprisingly, with, "I should have had four--I had two abortions." Considering that Mary's childbearing years were in the 1930s and 1940s, and she's Catholic, this is an unexpected confession. It is not mentioned again.

Mary's general attitude towards sex, which is touched on at several points in the film, is perhaps the most surprising thing of all. She says, at one point, that she is lonely and wishes she had a companion in her old age. Then, with a bit of prodding, she follows up by saying that she thinks she could have an orgasm at her age. She also mentions regretting that she didn't more frequently "say yes" to her first husband, with whom she had a troubled relationship. She also confesses to an affair with the man who would eventually become her second husband early in her marriage to her first, and talks about his affairs as well.

Though Halpern's portrayal of Mary is ultimately flattering (he is, after all, her grandson), it's not perfect. She's clearly a stubborn woman, perhaps a bit self-centered, and definitely someone who made some bad choices during her long life. As always, though, I am thrilled to see someone take the time to tell the story of one woman's life, particularly when that life spans a century. She's amazing not just due to her longevity, and her willingness to talk about it, but due to the complicated, heartbreaking realness of her story. Every time someone writes a book or makes a film like this one, it's another nail in the coffin of history being written about only the "important" white males. I though of this in particular when comparing the film to the obituaries and memorials I've been reading this week about Walter Cronkite, who didn't live quite as long as Mary did, but was still quite old. Cronkite, love him or not, was the type of person about whom history is usually written. Unsurprisingly, I find more connections with and learn more from Mary.

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What a fascinating story! I agree that our histories are skewed toward the male participants, and I love reading/hearing about strong women who truly lived life.

~ICLW

Thanks for posting this. I need to rent this, it sounds very cool. My parents are immigrants from Italy also.

Have a good time at blogher.

ICLW

Sounds neat. Ryan's grandmother wrote an autobiography. It's funny, quirky, and surprisingly honest. It's definitely egotistical, up-playing all of her good sides, but the woman accomplished a lot and was quite a character. I love it.

Sounds like a neat story--I enjoy stories that span such a lifetime. My grandma will be 96, so hearing about the early 20th century is fascinating to me!

Awesome review - I'll have to try and get my hands on that somehow.

What an interesting story. Great post!

*ICLW*

The best thing about this whole story is that her grandson took the time to do this while she was still alive. It seems like we always think about this after a loved one is gone. My grandmother wrote biographies of her grandparents and I'm grateful for those anecdotes that I would never have known without her work.

ICLW

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Love creates something that was not there before

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Pardon me while I get sappy for a minute.

In one of my favorite parts of one of my favorite movies, Tommy not-yet-Gnosis asks Hedwig if she believes love lasts forever. They have the following exchange:

Hedwig: Seriously, Tom, yeah. I believe love is immortal.

Tommy: How is it immortal?

Hedwig: I don't know, perhaps because...Iove creates something that...was not there before.

Tommy: What? Like procreation?

Hedwig: Yeah, but not only.

Tommy: What? Like recreation.

...

Hedwig: Maybe just...creation.

In a film that is largely about love, this, to my mind, is the heart of it. Love lasts forever because it creates something that was not there before. Sometimes, it's a baby. For my family, this week, it was--my cousin and her husband had a healthy little boy. And I know, because I grew up in this family, that above all that child will be loved. Not only is he something that was not there before, but the love we will all feel towards him is also something that was not there before. Creation.

Happy Love Thursday, everybody.

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Isn't that amazing about love. When I grew up, our neighbour had this little sign on her wall that said: "love's the only thing you get more of by giving it away." I always remembered that.

Christine

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Slumdog: Eh.

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slumdog millionaire posterI am about to tell you something that may get me kicked out of the club:

I didn't love Slumdog Millionaire.

It won 8 Oscars. It's an indie hard luck story. It's directed by Danny Boyle, the genius behind Trainspotting. Everybody has been raving about it for months. So yes, my expectations were pretty high when Mark and I finally went to see it last night. And I can't say that they were dashed; it's not by any stretch a bad movie, it's just not that good a movie, either.

First, things I liked about it: The music is incredible--those two Oscars were certainly deserved. The cinematography is very,very good (it's done by Anthony Dod Mantle, who was the director of photography on that extremely problematic Lars von Trier film Dogville, which also had really interesting cinematography). And I really liked the lead, Dev Patel. Also, the dance scene during the credits kicked ass.

But the story just didn't work. The concept is great--a "slumdog" is being questioned about possibly having cheated while winning a million or more on a game show and we learn through his memories why he knew the answers and how he was there in the first place. I definitely could have gone there with them. However, the film honestly seemed to be intentionally making everything trite and formulaic. The major plot accelerator, Jamal's (Patel) search for his long-lost love, Latika (Freida Pinto), left me cold. The relationship that should have been the most interesting, between Jamal and his brother, Salim, didn't really work either, and the portrayal got worse as they got older, with the adult Salim (Madhur Mittal) coming off as more laughable than anything else.

More than anything, as I watched the film, I was struck by how it seemed to be played to an American audience. Very little about it struck me as authentically Indian. It wasn't so much that it seemed exploitative (though it did, and you can read more about that in this Washington Post article), as it was that it seemed like Indian actors and scenery had just been injected into an American plot. I'd thought I was going to the theater to see something new, or at least slightly different, than your average American movie, but at the end of this film, I just felt like I was watching something I'd seen a million times before.

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I concur. I wrote a review with similar gripes. Definitely the most over-rated movie of the year. Not terrible, but I don't understand the love train. The storytelling aspect of a good movie (characters, motivation, plot) is lacking, and I didn't buy the love story at all.

I actually really loved the movie. Having lived in India over 8 years I could see the resemblance of the younger characters. The review of the movie from the Indian side has been on the negative note as they all seem to say that it is so unreal and does not portray the India they live in, but on the contrary I think it precisely describes India and how things are done there and how much poverty there is there. Although the dance scene at the end I thought was too much the rest of the movie my husband and I really loved, although we did not go to the movies but preferred to watch it at home!

I didn't like it either.

I felt like the structure of it was very Edward Gorey's "The Gashleycrumb Tinies" ("B is for Basil assaulted by bears"). But then the suffering in it was pretty terrible and I found that offensive. The cutesy structure with the serious filling.

And unoriginal? Yes. My partner accused me of not like movies about suffering or of being overly PC, but there are movies about the suffering of POC that I enjoy and think are original (e.g. the business of fancydancing). This was not one of them.

I don't think you ought to feel bad about not liking it. Lots of people thought the movie was boring, especially because of the weird "foyer moments" of all the flash forwards to the police station.

It's interesting because the reason I haven't seen this film is, like you said, because the plot sounded sort of standard and uninteresting. It reeks of being the white person version of Bollywood.

@jenny Does anyone watch Bollywood movies for the original, inspired plotlines? "Indian actors and scenery had just been injected into an American plot" actually describes most of the ones I've seen.

Since you're reading one book per week you may want to check out Q & A by Vikas Swarup, which the movie is based on. I read the book and haven't seen the movie yet but I can already tell the book is better. There is nothing about him searching for a long lost anything in the book! Just him talking to a woman (a lawyer) about how he came to the answers - it is excellent! As usual with films-they usually don't live up to the book.

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Netflix

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I just got a bunch of one month free trial coupons from Netflix in the mail, so if anybody doesn't already have Netflix and wants a month for free, drop me an email and I will send you a code.

I recommend you do not use your new Netflix power to rent "Four Brothers." I watched it on TV last night and I want those hours back.

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Teeth

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teeth movie posterOh my God. I cannot believe this movie.

So, if you've never heard of it, the Teeth
plot synopsis on IMDB begins, "Still a stranger to her own body, a high school student discovers she has a physical advantage when she becomes the object of male violence." Put less subtly, the main character, a high school virgin and purity advocate named Dawn (Jess Weixler), has teeth in her vagina.

Yes. Teeth. In her vagina.

Dawn discovers this when she is raped and her rapist subsequently loses his cock to her vaginal teeth (and goes on to drown, presumably after passing out from shock or blood loss or something). She goes on to unintentionally steal four fingers off a sleazy gynecologist, and then intentionally (or semi-intentionally) bite the dicks off two more sleazoid guys who want to use her for sex.

I don't have a problem with the premise. It's extreme, yes, but done well, I think it could have been great. Netflix called it a "feminist horror flick." I was all over that.

But instead, it's done very, very badly.

First off, each time a disgusting specimen of teen manhood loses his penis to Dawn's teeth, the film shows it. Yes--multiple shots of detached penises, including a pierced one that gets eaten by a rottweiler. I have a strong stomach, folks, but I so did not need to see that. Especially not more than once.

Secondly, it's not funny. Something with this premise needs to be campy, and I think it's supposed to be, but it's just...not. I gagged several times while watching it, but only laughed once, and the funny part had nothing to with Dawn's teeth or the uses she puts them to.

Finally, and this is my biggest problem with the film, there's Dawn herself. Until the last few minutes of the film, Dawn is not a horror movie monster, nor is she the avenging anti-heroine she could be. Instead, she's just this kind of fucked up girl with this gross abnormality, who doesn't seem to get it. While we do get the impression at the end of the film that Dawn may be planning to use her mutation to punish evil men in the future, it's kind of too little too late. For most of the movie, she's a hapless victim and the revenge she extracts on her victimizers is sadly unintentional.

The other thing that becomes clear towards the end of the film is that Dawn can have sex without injuring her parter--the teeth only come out if she's unhappy or being hurt, or if she wants them to. This is a very important caveat in my mind, and if we ever got to see a knowing and sober Dawn have nice healthy sex, she would end up a much better and less sad and pathetic character.

I can't recommend this one, y'all. I still believe there is possibility in the genre of feminist horror, but this definitely isn't it.

2 Comments

She does have consensual sex and the teeth don't come out. But then he does a jerky thing and they do!

I liked it and did think it was funny. For all the gore I thought there was a lot of excellent subtle commentary (i.e. the nuclear trope). I thought a lot of the relationships in the movie were bizarre (the incest subplot?) but I think the end is exactly what you're describing--she becomes a superhero (a normal person with some superhuman strength who uses it to avenge evil).

I thought the actress was really good too. And I would say that the gynecologist moment is the best part of the film as he starts out as a non-villain but quickly turns villainous. It would have been nice to have one male character who was not evil though.

Do you like B horror flicks in general? Because I typically don't, and I didn't totally like Teeth either, but I did think that it fit very much into that genre.

I didn't think it was awful though. Yeah, it was poorly done, but its supposed to be B-movie-esque...and B movies ARE poorly done. I enjoyed that Dawn was...taken aback by her vagina dentata. Because seriously, if I found teeth in my vag, I wouldn't turn into an avenging monster. I would freak the fuck out, and be really upset. Anyway, I was disappointed too, but mostly because I just thought it was boring.

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5th of July

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We had such a lovely 4th of July. A few friends, the best burgers I've had in years, some really tasty watermelon, a homemade pie, a few drinks. Really a splendid time. I insisted we go "All-American" with the food: burgers, potato salad, corn on the cob, apple pie. It was so good. And the company was just as excellent as the food.

The best part? It's still only Saturday morning. There's a whole weekend left! So I can give in to my exhaustion and just laze around this morning, not doing any chores, and still have plenty of time to get everything that needs doing done before Monday.

I'm making my way through The Last Emperor this weekend (from my Oscar moving watching project). I'm only about an hour and a half in, but I am really enjoying it so far, or at least enjoying it more than I had expected to. It is unfortunately racist, but I know almost nothing about Chinese history, so it is interesting from that angle, plus I really like the main actor, John Lone. Next up is Out of Africa. Can't say I'm all that excited. Ghandi is after that, though, and that is one of the ones I haven't seen but feel that I should have that got me started on this project to begin with.

Belle the foster beagle is doing exceptionally well. Her ringworm seems to be healing up nicely (hopefully--she's got to go back to the vet for a re-check next week) and she's got a lovely personality. She sleeps right next to our bed now--we're only crating when we're gone. She is still terrorizing the cats a little bit, but that's good for them.

OK. Off to at least put in some laundry before I begin my day of serious loafing.

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We spent the day taking shifts holding a screaming baby with a 101 degree temperature and forcing him to swallow motrin and antibiotics for an ear infection.

Oh, wait, we spent the night doing that too.

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New Classics

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Over on the future spinster librarian manifesto, there's list up of Entertainment Weekly's 100 "New Classic" films. How many have I seen? They're in bold.

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
2. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03)
3. Titanic (1997)
4. Blue Velvet (1986)
5. Toy Story (1995)
6. Saving Private Ryan (1998 )
7. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
9. Die Hard (1988 )
10. Moulin Rouge (2001)
11. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
12. The Matrix (1999)
13. GoodFellas (1990)
14. Crumb (1995)
15. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
16. Boogie Nights (1997)
17. Jerry Maguire (1996)
18. Do the Right Thing (1989)
19. Casino Royale (2006)
20. The Lion King (1994)
21. Schindler's List (1993)
22. Rushmore (1998 )
23. Memento (2001)
24. A Room With a View (1986)
25. Shrek (2001)
26. Hoop Dreams (1994)
27. Aliens (1986)
28. Wings of Desire (1988 )
29. The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
30. When Harry Met Sally... (1989)
31. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
32. Fight Club (1999)
33. The Breakfast Club (1985)
34. Fargo (1996)
35. The Incredibles (2004)
36. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
37. Pretty Woman (1990)
38. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
39. The Sixth Sense (1999)
40. Speed (1994)
41. Dazed and Confused (1993)
42. Clueless (1995)
43. Gladiator (2000)
44. The Player (1992)
45. Rain Man (1988 )
46. Children of Men (2006)
47. Men in Black (1997)
48. Scarface (1983)
49. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
50. The Piano (1993)
51. There Will Be Blood (2007)
52. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad (1988 )
53. The Truman Show (1998 )
54. Fatal Attraction (1987)
55. Risky Business (1983)
56. The Lives of Others (2006)
57. There's Something About Mary (1998)
58. Ghostbusters (1984)
59. L.A. Confidential (1997)
60. Scream (1996)
61. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
62. sex, lies and videotape (1989)
63. Big (1988)
64. No Country For Old Men (2007)
65. Dirty Dancing (1987)
66. Natural Born Killers (1994)
67. Donnie Brasco (1997)
68. Witness (1985)
69. All About My Mother (1999)
70. Broadcast News (1987)
71. Unforgiven (1992)
72. Thelma & Louise (1991)
73. Office Space (1999)
74. Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
75. Out of Africa (1985)
76. The Departed (2006)
77. Sid and Nancy (1986)
78. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
79. Waiting for Guffman (1996)
80. Michael Clayton (2007)
81. Moonstruck (1987)
82. Lost in Translation (2003)
83. Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn (1987)
84. Sideways (2004)
85. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)
86. Y Tu Mamá También (2002)
87. Swingers (1996)
88. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
89. Breaking the Waves (1996)
90. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
91. Back to the Future (1985)
92. Menace II Society (1993)
93. Ed Wood (1994)
94. Full Metal Jacket (1987)
95. In the Mood for Love (2001)
96. Far From Heaven (2002)
97. Glory (1989)
98. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
99. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
100. South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999)

Yeah. I see a lot of movies.

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Is there anyone who can read that thinks Spider Man: 2 was anything more than a worthless pile of crap?

Everything on there seems to do something right on a few counts.

Except Spider Man:2.

Man, fuck that movie.

I agree with Simon. Which rarely happens, so it must mean something.

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Checking in on goals

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So I started this year with a bunch of goals, most of which are boring, but one of which was to read an average of a book a week and watch an average of a movie per week. So 52 books and movies for the year. The year is just about 1/2 over, so how have I done?

A check in at All Consuming shows me I am on track for movie watching, having watched 37 films so far this year.

Goodreads tells me I am not in quite as a good shape for books, having finished only 22 books so far this year (of the 30 I've started).

Best book so far: Tie between The Family Silver: A Memoir of Depression and Inheritance by Sharon O'Brien and Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel.

Best movie so far: Juno

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Remember my Oscar Movie project? Well, I am still working on it, albeit slowly. I'm keeping track here. So far I can say that the following movies were better than I expected them to be:


  • A Beautiful Mind

  • Braveheart

  • Titanic

And these were worse than I'd expected:


  • The Departed

  • Unforgiven

I have The English Patient sitting patiently on top of my DVD player, where it has been for at least six weeks. I just can't get into the idea of watching it.

1 Comments

Hey Grace!

I agree on the Departed...stinky!

And I loved Titanic(for all I knew the ending..lol) and Braveheart is a favorite of hubbys.

And I too have yet to see the English patient! Since we seem to have similar taste, YOU watch it and let me know if it's worth watching! I need a good tearjerker! ;)

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Em gets me thinking

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I just read this post by Em, and it got me thinking in a new direction for the day.

I can relate to a lot of what Emilin writes. Though I don't share her job-fulfillment or her mommyhood, I do get what she's saying about how your politics and how you wear them can change as you age. I'm no less "liberal" than I was at 22. My core personal and political values have remained very steady, and if anything, moving in a more privledged social/economic class has made me more aware of how completely fucked up our class system is. Ben Franklin would likely not be impressed by my brain, because I don't see much chance of my getting conservative before I hit 30.

That being said, I certainly wear it differently now.

Em describes her 22 year-old self as going to protests in steel-toed boots. I wasn't a whole lot different. My hair wasn't naturally colored and was never so long. I wouldn't have been caught dead in the clothes I wear now. I hadn't yet accepted that straight was going to be the identity I got, regardless of how well I did or did not believe it fit me. The thing that Emilin wrote that really resonated with me, though, is "I'm no longer trying to impress people with my anger." That's it exactly. I'm still pissed. Extraordinarily pissed, sometimes. But I no longer define myself by it, or feel the need to share it in quite the same overt manner. And I no longer consider being angry an accomplishment. It may well be my birthright, but it isn't my destiny.

I never would have expected to be where I am now. The office job, the mortgage, the gaggle of pets, the (gasp) SUV. The friends all around me getting married and having babies. It wasn't at all what I envisioned for myself. I expected to be writing professionally, to be in a major city, to finally have achieved hip. And while I'd still love to be writing professionally, those other things are not only not my reality, they are no longer even appealing. I've been to enough major cities now that I know I am not keen on living in one, and hip ceased to be a goal sometime around when I gave up trying to keep the dog hair off me.

I'm not as fulfilled as Em seems to be in her post, mostly due to my job situation (which isn't bad but isn't as great as hers), but also because Em has already made decisions (marriage, baby, where in the country to live permanently) that I haven't made yet. Marriage is pretty well out, but kids are still a maybe, and my feet definitely aren't growing any roots yet. While I am not in a hurry to make those decisions (time still doesn't seem to be moving overly fast to me), I don't think I'll ever have the sense of contentment in Emilin's post until I do. And that's fine. I've been in transition, more or less, for 28 years now, I can transition for a few more.

On one hand, I am amused at how normal I've become with my job and my clothes and my house and my life. And yeah, I'm a little bit disappointed, too. I definitely see people living differently and feel jealous. But I also know something now I didn't use to--that you can have these trappings, live in this class, and still have a spirit and a soul and creativity inside you. I may look like an automaton, but I'm still the same person I have always been in my head. If anything, I am confident enough in that person now that I don't feel like the need to shove her down everybody's throat every five minutes. And I think that might be progress?

3 Comments

Whenever I meet old friends, I always get the feeling that I'm one of those "living differently" folks to the majority of people. And it's true enough, but as I told my newest coworker the other day, I've gotten to the point where living in Asia is mostly just boring. In that, I still have to pay my bills and run my errands and all that. There are some moments that really shine, but I suspect not any more than would in any other life I could have been living right now.

this is a really excellent, thought-provoking piece of writing.

i wish i could respond in kind, but i find myself a bit tapped at the moment.

i wanted to express my admiration, however.

i fall somewhere in between where you are and where the writer you are referring to is, but i can certainly relate.

thanks!

It's amazing the things you find on the net by following one thread to another and the various searches. This was a magical find for me!!!

It's about the body thing... It really moves me, for many reasons. There's the usual stuff, blah blah blah... Mark loves you and thinks you're beautiful, so what else matters, and it's what's inside that's important.

Like you, I'm tall. 6'3", 330# now that I'm 48. Part of the weight is from my psychotropic drugs (very bi-polar), which keep me mostly sane. All my weight is around my gut and neck. So I guess I carry it well, so to speak.

But the point is, I hear your words when you speak. I don't see them, I don't understand them, I *feel* them.

Then I see photos of you and hear your self descriptions... I wish you could only see in you for 15 minutes what I see in you tonight as I share your blog.

My wife has issues with her self image. To me she's still 5'll and 140, just like the day we met. Sort of like when your grandma thinks of you as the same small child she held all those years ago. I keep trying to tell her to relax, and she does, then she starts all over again.

I know that nothing I tell you here tonight will be much inspiration for you or change how you feel about yourself in the long run, but I felt I had to put in some input. You're incredibly beautiful regardless of what you think! And I'm never wrong... Or at least not about this.

Sorry for posting this outright, but I didn't find an email link. And I also wanted to let everybody else see what I see.

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Hear ye hear ye!

The 21st installment of the Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans will be hosted by my other blog baby, Heroine Content. Co-parent Skye and I are super anxious to see what you've all got to add to the carnival, so please send in submissions ASAP. This carnival's specific topic suggestion is "Who Do You Love?" but anything blogged between February 7 and April 28 is game, as long as it is a feminist perspective on fantasy and/or science fiction.

Submissions should be sent to me or Skye before April 28. The carnival will be posted May 1.

For more general info on the Carnival, please go here.

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Watch them in anything?

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So EW has put up the first half of their list, 50 Actors We'd Watch in Anything. After taking a gander, I was less-than-shocked about how differently I feel than the good folks over there.

This is their first 25:

1. Kate Winslet
2. Alec Baldwin
3. Jude Law
4. Phillip Seymour Hoffman
5. Edie Falco
6. Morgan Freeman
7. Meryl Streep
8. Johnny Depp
9. Daniel Day-Lewis
10. Simon Pegg
11. Ryan Gosling
12. Rosario Dawson
13. Don Cheadle
14. Kristen Bell
15. Tony Leung
16. Nathan Fillion
17. Emma Thompson
18. Denzel Washington
19. Cherry Jones
20. Brendan Gleeson
21. Will Ferrell
22. Catherine Keener
23. Tom Selleck
24. Patricia Clarkson
25. Paul Rudd

There are only two names on that list that I'd actually watch in just about anything: Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Johnny Depp. Another five I'd go out of my way to see (Daniel Day-Lewis, Don Cheadle, Nathan Fillion, Catherine Keener, and Patricia Clarkson). Another few I kind of like (Kate Winslet, Morgan Freeman, Emma Thompson, Brendan Gleeson). A few I had to look up to figure out who they were (Ryan Gosling, Kristen Bell, Tony Leung, Paul Rudd). And a few I strenuously avoid (Alec Baldwin, Jude Law, Tom Selleck). Who comes up with this stuff?

3 Comments

I would say a good 5 people on that list I have never heard of

Try to avoid:
14. Kristen Bell (die on Heroes, already!)
21. Will Ferrell (crossed into annoying 9 movies ago)


Don't care about
1. Kate Winslet (in boring movies generally)
3. Jude Law (usually lame movies)
4. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (find him sort of self-righteous)
5. Edie Falco
6. Morgan Freeman
7. Meryl Streep (she's great in stuff I have seen her in)
9. Daniel Day-Lewis (lame movies)
11. Ryan Gosling (thought he was great in half nelson...what else is he in?)
13. Don Cheadle (seems okay)
15. Tony Leung (who?)
16. Nathan Fillion (who?)
17. Emma Thompson
18. Denzel Washington
19. Cherry Jones (who?)
20. Brendan Gleeson (who?)
22. Catherine Keener (kind of dislike her)
24. Patricia Clarkson (who?)


Like
2. Alec Baldwin (he's hilarious)
8. Johnny Depp 12. Rosario Dawson 23. Tom Selleck (hilarious)


Would see anything they are in
10. Simon Pegg (most brilliant person working in film today)
25. Paul Rudd (problematic, since he is in a lot of will farrell movies)

I just discovered your blog, but from what I read so far you should seriously know who Kristen Bell is! Veronica Mars is kind of an adopted part of the Whedonverse since it appeals to the same demographic (no, I don't mean teenage. Smart and Sarcastic, yes.) and Joss Whedon has openly called it his favorite. He even has a guest spot!


And just a sidenote, I am realy enjoying your blog so far.

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Self-promotion

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I wrote what I think is probably my best Heroine Content piece yet this week, and it hasn't garnered a single comment. Which makes me sad. So I'm linking to it here in hopes someone will go and read it?

Firefly and Serenity.

1 Comments

i saw serenity last weekend (but haven't seen firefly yet), so will definitely go check your review out.

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Update on the Oscar film project

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I just watched Titanic. And I didn't think it was all that bad.

I may still be running a fever.

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List 12: Movie meme

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I am home sick today and not really up for thinking of a new list. So I'm stealing this meme from Bomboniera.

The rules


1. Pick 10 of your favorite movies.
2. Go to IMDb and find a quote from each movie.
3. Post them here for everyone to guess.
4. Strike it out when someone guesses correctly, and put who guessed it and the movie.
5. Looking them up is cheating, please don’t.

My movie lines:

1. "Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted." Fight Club (Noble Savage)
2. "...never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!" The Princess Bride (Marta)
3. "Sand is overrated. It's just tiny, little rocks." Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Jess)
4. "And then there were the crypto-homo rockers: Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, David Bowie--who was actually an idiom working in America and Canada." Hedwig & the Angry Inch (Jenny, Bomboneria)
5. "I'm the most dangerous man in this prison. You know why? 'Cause I control the underwear." American History X (Howell)
6. "Anybody not wearing 2 million sunblock is gonna have a real bad day." Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Skylanda)
7. "If love be rough with you, be rough with love. Prick love for pricking and you beat love down." Romeo & Juliet (Melinda, Noble Savage)
8. "Speak for yourself. You may be a sinner, but I ain't yet had the opportunity." Brokeback Mountain (Ganymede)
9. "I'm just trying to be honest about being a misanthrope." Dazed and Confused (jaysee)
10. "I've always known I was meant to dominate your sex and avenge my own." Dangerous Liasons (Bomboniera)

OK. Guesses?

18 Comments

Is (2) The Princess Bride?

3. is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind!

7. is shakespeare...gonna guess romeo and juliet.

also for 10., i would guess either grindhouse or one of the kill bill movies.

1. Fight Club!

7. Romeo and Juliet?

Sorry Melinda, you couldn't be farther off on #10. The only person I can see getting that one is Simon...

#6: Terminator II.

Oooooh yeahhh...

okay, here's one from howell: he says #5 is from american history x.

4. Hedwig

10. Orlando?

#8 is Brokeback Mountain.

Wow, you all are tearing it up! Orlando is closer for #10, but still pretty far off the mark. I could tell you who says it, but then you'd get it too easily. And nobody has a guess for #9? It's a movie I'd bet you have all seen.

#10 - Dangerous Liaisons?

Woohoo! Go Bomb! Only one left!

#9 Dazed and Confused

I'm too late for this, but in reference to #10: I've never even seen "Dazed and Confused".

I hear it's a good movie, though.

Oh yeah - I totally have that movie memorized!

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Oscar Movie project

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I do so love a project...

As I was watching the 80th Annual Academy Awards last night, I realized that there are a whole bunch of "Best Picture" films I haven't seen. Hard to call myself a film buff when that is the case! So, I decided to embark upon a new project (because really, what do I love more than a project?). I'll watch all the Best Pictures that I haven't seen, all the way back to 1929.

This list is off all the winners, with the ones I have already seen bolded:

1927/28: Wings
1928/29: The Broadway Melody
1929/30: All Quiet on the Western Front
1930/3: Cimarron
1931/32: Grand Hotel
1932/33: Cavalcade
1934: It Happened One Night
1935: Mutiny on the Bounty
1936: The Great Ziegfeld
1937: The Life of Emile Zola
1938: You Can't Take It with You
1939: Gone with the Wind
1940: Rebecca
1941: How Green Was My Valley
1942: Mrs. Miniver
1943: Casablanca
1944: Going My Way
1945: The Lost Weekend
1946: The Best Years of Our Lives
1947: Gentleman's Agreement
1948: Hamlet
1949: All the King's Men
1950: All about Eve
1951: An American in Paris
1952: The Greatest Show on Earth
1953: From Here to Eternity
1954: On the Waterfront
1955: Marty
1956: Around the World in 80 Days
1957: The Bridge on the River Kwai
1958: Gigi
1959: Ben-Hur
1960: The Apartment
1961: West Side Story
1962: Lawrence of Arabia
1963: Tom Jones
1964: My Fair Lady
1965: The Sound of Music
1966: A Man for All Seasons
1967: In the Heat of the Night
1968: Oliver!
1969: Midnight Cowboy
1970: Patton
1971: The French Connection
1972: The Godfather
1973: The Sting
1974: The Godfather Part II
1975: One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
1976: Rocky
1977: Annie Hall
1978: The Deer Hunter
1979: Kramer vs. Kramer
1980: Ordinary People
1981: Chariots of Fire
1982: Gandhi
1983: Terms of Endearment
1984: Amadeus
1985: Out of Africa
1986 : Platoon
1987: The Last Emperor
1988: Rain Man
1989: Driving Miss Daisy
1990: Dances With Wolves
1991: The Silence of the Lambs
1992: Unforgiven
1993: Schindler's List
1994: Forrest Gump
1995: Braveheart
1996: The English Patient
1997: Titanic
1998: Shakespeare in Love
1999: American Beauty
2000: Gladiator
2001: A Beautiful Mind
2002: Chicago
2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2004: Million Dollar Baby
2005: Crash
2006: The Departed
2007: No Country for Old Men

The question, then, is whether to start at the beginning, with Wings, or whether to start at the most recent end and work backwards. The benefit of the latter is that it will give me time to acclimate to watching older films. The benefit of the former is that it will take me much longer to get to Titanic that way. What do you think?

2 Comments

Why not random by what you happen to be into at the moment? I always find watching things I am in the mood for more fun.

Wow-I've seen more than I thought I had (41). I would start at whichever end you want and just skip Titanic. Heh, heh, heh. Actually, I think it'd be cool to start at Wings and move forward.

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Oscars

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So the Oscar nominations were announced the other day. Even more than usual, I've only seen a few of the films. But that doesn't keep me from having an opinion. So here are Oscars according to Grace:

Best Lead Actor:
Johnny Depp in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Best Supporting Actor:
Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson's War

Best Lead Actress:
Ellen Page in Juno

Best Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett in I'm Not There

Art Direction:
Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Cinematography:
Atonement

Costume Design:
Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Directing:
There Will Be Blood

Best Picture:
There Will Be Blood

Writing (Adapted Screenplay):
No Country for Old Men

Writing (Original Screenplay):
Juno

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Waitress

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waitress posterAfter having it recommended to me no less than a dozen times, I watched Waitress the other night. I thought it got off to a good, if not great, start. I immediately liked Keri Russell's character, Jenna, and liked her friends and fellow waitresses Becky (Cheryl Hines) and Dawn ( director Adrienne Shelly) as well. Andy Griffith's turn as Old Joe was absolutely fantastic. I didn't at all understand why Jenna stayed with her horrific husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto), since it took him most of the film to actually become abusive and she didn't at first seem to be afraid of him, but I figured that would work itself out. I loved that pregnant Jenna didn't even pretend to be excited--so refreshing! When she first meets Dr. Pomatter (Nathan Fillion) and tells him in no uncertain terms that she'd prefer not to be congratulated about her pregnancy, I almost clapped.

But the way things culminated really ruined Waitress for me. In my head, the perfect ending was that she breaks it off with both Earl and Pomatter, has the baby, gives it up for adoption (maybe to Pomatter and his wife, since he seems to be so gung-ho about it), and goes away to open her own pie shop. She doesn't wait until after she has the baby to "see the light" and get rid of both skanky Earl and sleazy Dr. P. She doesn't break up with Earl and then leave everyone else in the room to deal with him freaking out why she makes googly eyes at the baby. And, most of all, ,she doesn't suddenly change her mind--a mind that has been pretty much made up for nine months--and get all excited about motherhood.

The ending of Waitress wouldn't have bothered me so much had it not been sold to me--both by the people to whom I spoke about it before seeing it and by the first hour and a half of the film itself--as something slightly subversive (don't get me started on how sad it is that the idea that every woman isn't just dying to have a baby is subversive). It's great that Jenna gets it together to get rid of Earl and end her dependence on Dr. P.--it's just lame that she needs baby-lust as inspiration to do it. Doing what she wants to do with her life and being happy for her own sake ought to be reason enough. Because it isn't, Waitress ends up seeming less subversive and more status quo.

2 Comments

Being a mom myself, and a teenage one at that who never wanted to have kids, I viewed this movie a little differently. Seeing her fall in love with the baby felt to me very much like a very real human connection being made, and for her, I thought it was subversive for that alone. That she ended up allowing herself to be open to a thing she never wanted and realizing it was wholly different than that thing she'd never wanted...I don't know. I think I've stopped making sense now.

I hated it. Haaaaated. First, the time frame is some kind of blend between 50s diner-era pie shop where women stay with husbands for no good reason and...now.

Earl seems like kind of a jerk, but nowhere near as bad as her co-workers try to make him. She treats him with such scorn and derision - maybe some counseling would have solved all their problems.

And the doctor - isn't that kind of thing ILLEGAL if not unethical?

And then and then and then...you're right, I hate stories that assume a baby is the big brass ring that will solve all problems (Cold Mountain, The Horse Whisperer). Feh.

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Sweeney Todd

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sweeney todd posterLast weekend, I dragged a reluctant Mark out to see Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. A macabre musical directed by Tim Burton, starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Seeing that is a no-brainer!

And, true to form, I loved it. The music was not amazing, and neither Depp or Bonham Carter should give up their day job to become a musician, but it wasn't bad, either. The look of the film was amazing. I kept flashing back to my very favorite Burton film (and one of my favorite films ever) Edward Scissorhands, particularly whenever Depp's character, the demon barber, had his razors in his hands.

The supporting cast was not as strong as I'd have liked it to be. Sasha Baron Cohen, as rival barber Signor Adolfo Pirelli (a character played completely for comic relief), was Mark's favorite part of the film, but he bugged the crap out of me. And, sadly, the film didn't make near the use it could have of my very favorite villain of all time, Alan Rickman (though once you've been Snape, really, what else can you do?). I was also not a fan of the film's waif-boy character, Toby, played by Ed Sanders, or the lovestruck sailor Anthony Hope, played by Jamie Campbell Bower (was he supposed to look like a young Johnny Depp? If so, they could have done better). The one supporting role that was well-filled was the Beadle, who was played by Timothy Spall, who you'll remember as Harry Potter's Wormtail. He was so horribly creepy, which worked so well for the film.

So other than the film's general look, including the costumes and make-up (and especially Bonham Carter's--she looked eerily fabulous), why did I like it? Because I thought it was freaking hysterical. Every time Johnny Depp cut someone's throat with his razors and a bright red geyser shot out, I laughed. The song Depp and Bonham Carter sang about baking bodies into meat pies to sell to Londoners? Comic genius. ("For what's the sound of the world out there?/Those crunching noises pervading the air!/It's man devouring man, my dear!/Then who are we to deny it in here?")

But if you don't like Burton in general, you aren't going to like this. My parents-not-in-law, who for some reason saw the previews and expected a nice musical (like what, Cats?) very definitely did not like it. And neither did Mark, who thought it was ridiculous, overdone, and annoying.

But me? Best thing Burton's made since Big Fish, Depp since Fear and Loathing, Bonham Carter since Fight Club. Loved. It.

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43 Things, All Consuming

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In the spirit of New Year's goals/resolutions, I'm making a 43 Things list. It's here, if you are interested. I only have 14 things so far, but I imagine I will be adding to it.

And, on Jenny's recommendation, I'm going to use All Consuming to track my movie watching this year. So far, I've seen two flicks, and am about to head out to another one. Watching more movies is a goal for this year!

1 Comments

Hi!

I just saw your 43 things list says "have your picture taken by Karen Walrond" -- let's make this happen! Email me, and we'll try to figure something out. :-)

K.

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That other place where I write...

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I have a new review up today at Heroine Content. Go check it out. Please?

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A primer on Marys with three names

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Hollywood is full of women named Mary who have three names. These women often confuse me. Perhaps they confuse you as well. In case they do, I present a handy primer.

Mary Stuart Masterson1. Mary Stuart Masterson is a blonde actress, best known for playing Idgie in Fried Green Tomatoes and Joon in Benny & Joon. She is not Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, with whom I confuse her due their names.

mary elizabeth mastrantonio2. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is an actress with dark curly hair. She is best known for playing Maid Marian in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (she was also in Scarface, for the more cinematically pure-hearted). She is neither Mary Stuart Masterson nor Mary Steenburgen, who also has dark curly hair but does not have three names, and played the mom on Joan of Arcadia.

Mary-Louise Parker3. Mary-Louise Parker is a dark-haired actress who plays Nancy on Weeds and previously was Amy on The West Wing. She is none of the Mary's above, nor is she Lauren Graham, who played Lorelai on The Gilmore Girls and is not a Mary, but does resemble Mary-Louise Parker. She's also not Julia Louie-Dreyfus, who played Elaine on Seinfeld and looks nothing like her, but as a Louie in her name.

mary kate olsen4. Mary-Kate Olsen is one of the Olsen twins. Clearly, she is not her sister, Ashley Olsen. She is the Olsen twin who had the anorexia issues a few years back, who sometimes does not have blonde hair. She is also the Olsen twin who did a guest appearance on Weeds.

Mary Tyler Moore5. Mary Tyler Moore is the iconic star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 1970s. Yep, the one who threw her hat up in the air. I don't get her mixed up with anybody.

Mary Kay Place6. Mary Kay Place is the actress who plays Adaleen on Big Love. She's been around a long time, and was on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in the 70s. I don't mix her up with any of the other Marys, but do sometimes get her confused with Debra Jo Rupp, who played Kitty on That 70's Show.

Mary Beth Evans7. Mary Beth Evans is a long time soap opera actress. She's played Kayla on Days of Our Lives since 1986 and has simultaneously been on As The World Turns, Port Charles, and General Hospital. She is sort of the epitome of soap actress (besides Her Highness Susan Lucci, of course).

There are, of course, countless other three-named Marys. However, these are the best-known ones, and the ones I am mostly likely to confuse. I hope this has been edifying.

3 Comments

Edifying? It's fucking genius is what it is.

I have always gotten Mary Stuart Masterson and Mary Louise Parker confused, since I first knew them both from Fried Green Tomatoes. Then I have to remember that Masterson is the one who played the adorably butch drummer in the under-rated 80s flick "Some Kind of Wonderful"... anyway, good primer on the 3 named Marys!

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Look, I'm over here!

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Have you checked out Heroine Content lately? Don't you think maybe you should? I have a new post up today, detailing the exercise in disappointment that was Alien 3.

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Shortbus

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Shortbus movie posterI love John Cameron Mitchell. I think Hedwig and the Angry Inch is quite possibly the most revolutionarily fantastic play/film of my generation. This is not news. It would seem, then, that I'd be very anxious to run out and see JCM's next project. But I wasn't.

Why? Because all I heard about Shortbus for a long time after it came out was that it was "pornographic." And I'm really not much into porn. However, recently a couple of friends saw it and told me they really liked it, so I decided to give it a go.

First, I don't think it's pornographic. It's explicit, definitely, but it's also realistic, with none of the whitewash or instant orgasms that makes pornography less about sex and more about sales. Shortbus isn't a fantasy. It is mostly about sex, both for its own sake and as a window into people's loneliness and confusion, and a lot of sex is shown, but it isn't erotic.

The truth, much as many would like to deny it, is that a lot of great art is about sex. And a lot of art in general is really about sex while we try to pretend it is about something else. Sex is one of our essential driving forces as human beings. It bleeds over into and colors most of the rest of our lives. And it shouldn't be taboo to talk about that, to write about it, or to make a film about it. Nor should it be expected that sex in a film (or book or whatever) should be limited to "good clean fun." Because sex is so important in our lives, people are bound to be fucked up about it in all kinds of ways, and if you are going to talk about it, you need to talk about that too.

Shortbus has several intertwining plot lines, all featuring people for whom sex is some type of problem or focus. Canadian video disc jockey Soon-Yin Lee plays Sofia, a couple's counselor/sex therapist who has never had an orgasm, though she's been faking them with her husband for quite some time. Paul Dawson plays James, a suicidal former hustler trying to find a way to make sure his lover (played by PJ DeBoy) understands and is taken care of before he kills himself, but unwilling to have sex with him. Lindsay Beamish plays Severin, a dominatrix and photographer who is unable to connect with people on any sort of personal level. All of these characters, as well as supporting characters including Justin Bond, J.D. Samson and Bitch, hang out at Shortbus, an underground sex/music/politics club. Through their interactions there and with each other outside the club, we learn about their lives, their problems, and how they are addressing them. And, of course, we watch them have sex.

Probably my favorite thing about the film is that Sofia, the woman who has never come, still hasn't come when it ends. She has definitely broadened her sexual horizons (the last scene shows her making out with a male-female couple while her husband sits not far away making out with another woman), let out some of her anger, and made some realizations, but everything is not solved. James and Severin are in the last scene too, and they are both happy, at least momentarily, but you don't get the feeling that all is magically resolved from them, either.

Shortbus shows life, and sex, to be messy, humiliating, tragic, damaging, and ultimately worthwhile. The characters are scarred, imperfect human beings who are afraid and alone and unsure of who they are much of the time. It ends not with a resolution, but with a feeling of hope. In these things, it greatly resembles Hedwig. Though it's a strange and startling movie, it left me ultimately glad I'd watched it and accepting of it as the sophomore venture for my favorite writer/director.

4 Comments

I fucking love Shortbus. And I also fucking hate porn. So that's that, from my POV. I have an intense emotional reaction to porn that shorbus did not give me.

Instead, it gave me all kinds of good feelings! What a great movie. There are so many perfect moments - like when she's in the bedroom with all the ladies and Sophia's going on about how great sex is, and everyone is kind of *looking* at her... So wonderful.

Did you love Hedwig as well?

I haven't seen Hedwig in a long time. But when I did see it, I liked it, but it didn't hit me like shortbus did. I'm not sure why...maybe it is because I was much younger when I watched it, and couldn't see past some of the sensational parts to get at the "human emotion" parts of it.

Or maybe I just like shortbus better. Its hard to say. ;)

whoa. what? sofia came at the end. at least, that's what i got from the light turning back on and everything. i *loved* that part.

i loved this movie, actually. amazing. it was easily one of the best endings of any movie, with the person singing and the lights and the sex. loved it. i need to see it again.

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The Farmer's Wife

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Buschkoetter familyWow. Just...wow.

Several months ago, one of the books I was reading on rural redevelopment (for my as yet uncompleted master's thesis) mentioned the PBS documentary The Farmer's Wife. Intrigued, I put it on my Netflix queue and moved it up towards the top (unlike some folks, I have no compunctions about obsessively re-ordering my queue). Last week, the first installment came, and Mark and sat down to watch it.

Would it be too melodramatic to say I'll never be the same?

It's probably the best documentary I've ever seen. The filmmakers follow Daryl and Juanita Buschkoetter and their three daughters (Audrey, Abby, and Whitney) through nearly three years of life on their Nebraska farm. During the documentary's six hours, the Buschkoetter's struggle and work as hard as any people I've ever seen to keep being able to farm their land and try to make ends meet. At the outset, in 1995, it looks as if they might lose everything due to four years of drought and mounting debt. At the end, in 1997, we get to see Juanita graduate with her Associate's Degree, the family take over Daryl's father's farmland, and the best bumper crop in decades. In between, life is hard and the Buschkoetter's keep on keeping on in a way that is both completely inspiring and nearly unbelievable.

The film is both about saving the small farm and saving a marriage, and both parts are equally compelling (and equally unlikely). For probably the first five and a half hours of watching them, I seriously doubted the Buschkoetters were going to make it with their farm or their marriage. I wanted them to, and I admired their resolve, but the situation seemed impossible. In the last half hour, it all seemed to work out. (In fact, the marriage didn't work out, as the film's website tells me that Daryl and Juanita divorced and are both remarried. However, Daryl is still farming his land and both of their older daughters are in college, so the news isn't all bad.)

Part of the reason I reacted so strongly to the film is clearly because so much of it was reminiscent of my own childhood. Though it was timber in Oregon, rather than farming in Nebraska, my family had a lot of the same experiences in the 80s that the Buschkoetters had in the 90s. There were a lot of scenes in the film, especially small ones like the one where Juanita is cutting her eldest daughter's hair in their kitchen, that took me right back to being nine years old again and both cognizant and not of how precarious our economic situation was. It is hard, and gets harder all the time, to live off the land, whether it's farming, timber, mining, fishing, whatever. The country has changed away from that model, and the people who are left, after generations of living that way, are so often forgotten or ignored. I love filmmaker David Sutherland for bringing their story, in some ways, my story too, to light.

I'd recommend this film unequivocally to just about anybody, especially those who dig right in to documentaries. In particular, though, you should watch it if you grew up, like I did and like the Buschkoetter girls did, with both a profound respect and a profound fear of the land on which your family's livelihood depended (are you out there, Frog?). While the Buschkoetter's story may not match yours exactly, I'm betting there are parts of it that will resonate with you like they did with me.

7 Comments

Yep, I'm out here! I watched this when it was on PBS originally and found it mostly heartbreaking, but also inspiring in some ways that I can't quite quantify.

I should put it on our queue.

I've seen parts of this, too and I remember thinking what a hard, hard life. No money, work never really quite done, your financial destiny in the hands of cruel mother nature.

Thanks for reminding me of this.

Hi,
Is there a follow up that is recent, like at least 2008 about this wonderful family.
I am sure there must be thousands of people wondering how they are now.

Thank you
Kar

Yeah, wow! What makes a news story or a piece of fiction memorable is how it pulls you into the lives of the characters. These real life people are so compelling in doing such ordinary, and yet extraordinary, things of life, that you can't help but be moved. And moved in such conflicting ways: they are heroes and victims, successes and failures, brave and frail, all at the same time. Wow! Just dynamite.

I was given the DVD as a gift for Christmas. It has been on my Wish List for awhile, after I initially Netflixed it over a year ago. I grew up in Iowa, albeit not on a farm, so the proximity to home struck a chord with me. I did a bit of research after having watched the discs a couple of times and was sad to discover that the couple divorced not too long after the documentary aired.


January 2006

Darrel and Juanita divorced and each has since remarried and are happy in their new lives. The girls see both parents often and the two oldest girls are in college. Juanita is managing crop insurance and Darrel still has the farm going.

I've seen this film several times. Just amazing to watch. Sad that their marriage didn't ultimately work out, it looked promising at the end of the film, so I was surprised when I found out it didn't work. Great film though, highly recommend.

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Hey, I'm over here!

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I have a new post up today on Heroine Content. Check it out?

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Oscar

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I always write about the Oscars, as I'm both a movie buff and a spectacle buff. I have even been known (nearly every year) to watch the entire 4+ hour show. Looking at this year's nominees, though, I'm horrified by how few of the films I've seen. I lost my movie-going partner this fall/winter, and things just haven't been the same since. I'm way, way behind.

There were a few that stick out at me as things I've seen and enjoyed. I'm glad Little Miss Sunshine got a best picture nod and an original screenplay nod. The foreign film nomination for Water delighted me. I haven't seen The Pursuit of Happyness, but I'm generally happy to see Will Smith honored. I was irritated that The Science of Sleep was totally ignored (hello? art direction?), but that kind of thing is pretty typical of the Oscars. And what's up with Spike Lee's director nomination? Seriously?

Now I think I'll go reorganize my Netflix queue so I can see some of these movies before March...

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you haven't seen any of the movies nominated? i'm such a prententious anti-film/tv snob lately that i haven't even HEARD of most of these movies.

god i can't stand myself.

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Best of 2006

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Here is a list of some of my favorite things in 2006.

Top 5 Books
5. I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris
4. My Life in France by Julia Child
3. The Class Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
2. The Mercy of Thin Air by Ronlyn Domingue
1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Top 5 Movies
5. Wordplay
4. The Science of Sleep
3. V for Vendetta
2. Little Miss Sunshine
1. Kinky Boots

Top 2 TV
2. House, Season 3
1. The Wire, Season 4

Top 5 CDs
5. The Be Good Tanyas, Hello Love
4. The Little Willies, The Little Willies
3. Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions
2. The Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way
1. Roseanne Cash, Black Cadillac

What'd I miss?

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I just blogged about Wordplay and Kinky Boots. I really kinda hated Kinky Boots, though...

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The Last Supper

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Last Supper movie posterThe Last Supper is a classic example of an underachiever. A movie with a fascinating premise that falls well short of what it could have been. A general, all-around disappointment.

The film is about a group of lefty graduate students in the Midwest who hold weekly Sunday dinners at their house, each week inviting a different guest for conversation and debate. After accidentally killing a surprisingly obnoxious and threatening guest, the group decides to intentionally invite people with whom they disagree politically and try to change their minds throughout the course of the meal. If they can't, they those people will be killed, for the betterment of the world. The group then proceeds to get increasingly psychotic as they dine with and then murder right-wingers of various natures (homophobic preacher, male chauvinist, book burner).

This premise invites all sorts of interesting questions--how far is it morally justifiable to go in the service of your beliefs? Is the world really better off with some people not in it? As the movie's characters keep putting it, if you found yourself having a drink with Hitler in 1909, before he'd done anything wrong, would you kill him? Unfortunately, rather than actually attempting to explore any of these things, the film instead presents five of the most irritating, self-righteous liberals possible, most of whom are badly acted and all of whom suffer very bad dialogue. They are no less dogmatic than the right-wingers, and they have the added advantage of knowing which decanter the poison is in.

Basically, the film takes an interesting premise and mixes it with bad writing and bad acting, coming up with an end product that isn't really worth watching.

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i love the concept of this movie and i think it should be required watching for most liberals, but i also think a better writer, director, and group of actors should have been used. it's so weak and its point doesn't get made until the very last scene when it's beaten into your skull. it should be remade.

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La science des rêves (The Science of Sleep)

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Science of Sleep movie posterBecause I was so very enamored with director Michel Gondry's previous offering, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, as well as because of the forced-whimsy feel of the trailer, I went into The Science of Sleep very trepidations. I spent weeks tempering my expectations, reminding myself that brilliance like Eternal Sunshine is often a one-off, and that this film stars Gael García Bernal, who drove me nuts in that steaming piece of crap Y tu mamá también, then went on to ruin The Motorcycle Diaries.

I ought not to have bothered. The Science of Sleep is a magical, beautiful film. It is exactly what it's trying to be, and scenes where it tries to hard are kept to a blessed minimum. Bernal's Stéphane is as understated and non-nauseating as possible, if necessarily child-like, and co-star Charlotte Gainsbourg is fantastic as the equally, if less vocally fucked-up Stéphanie.

No, the plot is not rocket science, but it is enough to carry the story along from beautiful scene to beautiful scene, and that's really all that is required of it. Not only are the artistic effects superb, but the music, composed by Jean-Michel Bernard (who also plays a small part in the beginning of the film) is fantastic. The combination gives the viewer the sense of being in a dream, which is pretty much the idea, and as the film progresses, the line between dream and reality blurs for the viewer as much as for Stéphane. The film's three languages (Spanish, French, and English) help this blur, particularly if you are me and you only understand one of them and can't read subtitles. Even if the whole film had been in French, though, it wouldn't have much mattered. Other than a very funny (to my mind) comment about unpretentious breasts late in the movie, the dialogue was very much secondary.

Critics have claimed this movie rests too much on effects and art and lacks in plot and story, as well as lambasting Bernal's Stéphane as a protagonist who inspires no empathy. I disagree with this reading, as I found Bernal more compelling in this film than in any of his more critically acclaimed performances. And Charlotte Gainsbourg's power to draw the viewer in without seeming to mean to shouldn't be underestimated. It's true that Bernal and Gainsbourg are in many ways supporting cast to the lead of the film's sets and props, but I don't see anything wrong with that.

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It's a Girl's World

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girlsworld.jpgI've long been interested in the subject of female aggression, or, put simply, why women and girls are so damn mean to each other. This interest is largely personal, as I've been on the end of a quite a bit of female-to-female bullying, both as a child and as an adult, and I've been on the bully side more often than I'd care to admit as well. It's partially theoretical or academic, though, as the more involved I've become in feminist academic and social circles, the more sure I am that the biggest barricade in the way of real feminist change is, in fact, women's attitudes towards each other.

Which is a fairly controversial statement, really. A lot of feminists do not see it that way, and many are even insulted by the idea, as they think it implies that it's women’s own fault they are oppressed. Which isn't at all what I mean. I believe that the ways in which women abuse each other are highly patriarchally conditioned.

A lot of scholars on the subject of female bullying agree. There are several good books about this, the most famous and easily accessible of which is probably Rachel Simmons' Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls (others worth checking out are Phyllis Chesler's groundbreaking Woman's Inhumanity to Woman and Leora Tanenbaum's Catfight: Rivalries Among Women--from Diets to Dating, from the Boardroom to the Delivery Room, which focuses on the competitive aspects of conflicts between girls and women). In her search for an explanation for the way she was treated and the way she treated others as a girl, Simmons interviews girls of various ages, races, classes, and backgrounds, as well as does significant secondary source research. She comes to the conclusion that the best explanation for the passive-aggressive nastiness young girls show each other (behavior including spreading rumors, exclusion, trying to turn others against someone, etc.) is that girls aren't taught any other way to express disagreement. In short, girls don't know how to fight in a healthy way, so they fight in a supremely unhealthy one.

Simmons and her theory make a guest appearance on the most recent piece I saw on this subject, the CBC/National Film Board of Canada Production It's a Girl's World. This short film alternates between interviews with and footage of a clique of 10 year-old girls in Montreal and their families and interviews with the family, friends, and tormentors of 14 year-old Dawn-Marie Wesley, a British Columbia girl who committed suicide after being bullied. Filmmaker Lynn Glazier simultaneously explores the most serious possible consequences of bullying, telling the story of the Wesley case, and the sources of bullying behavior and how it plays out, observing the Montreal girls.

The most interesting part of the film for me was Glazier's footage of the Montreal girls' parents (mostly their mothers, as (tellingly?) only one father seemed to be involved). Their reactions went from taking the situation very seriously to completely avoiding reality and brushing everything off with "they'll outgrow it." Especially interesting were the very different reactions of the parents of the two biggest bullies in the group. One set of parents was very pro-active, talking at length with their daughter about her behavior, keeping her home from activities if she did not socialize nicely, etc. The other mother denied that her daughter would have anything to do with bullying behavior until very late in the game.

The parents of all of the girls in the group got together on several occasions to discuss the issue, at one point bringing Simmons in as an "expert." In what I found to be the film's most telling scene, the girls' parents sit around a table, watching footage of the group of girls having a discussion about bullying with Simmons. In the discussion, the girls display typical behavior--one whispers to another behind her hand, several gang up on another and tell her she should be talking, one belittles another for not speaking up. Then the mothers display very similar behavior, one brushing off another's concerns, a second drilling a clearly upset woman about her parenting tactics, and several sitting quietly, looking as if they wished they were anywhere else.

To me, it was that scene, more than anything else in the film, which really drove the point home. Not only is bullying a dangerous, extremely harmful force in childhood, but we don't necessarily outgrow it. This is bad for us, individually and collectively, and bad for our kids. How can we expect a group of 10 year-olds to learn to disagree constructively and treat each other with respect when their mothers can't do it either? And who polices the mommies? Where does it end?

The same thought entered my mind watching an interview with one Dawn-Marie Wesley's bullies and her grandmother. Both the teenage girl and her grandmother did little but make excuses, saying that Dawn-Marie engaged in the same behavior, it was normal, doing everything but calling her suicide an overreaction to a completely average situation. With an attitude like that coming from the adult in her life (her grandmother), how could the teenage bully ever expect to be any different?

I don't completely agree with Simmons' bullying theories. Or, I agree with them, but think they are only part of a very complicated picture. I can certainly see her argument for girls' passive-aggressive behavior being largely due to not being socially able to be out-and-out aggressive, but even if girls were to be more "masculine" in their behavior towards each other, to bully with fists and punches more than glares and whispered rumors, we'd still have a problem, you know? And I believe a lot of that problem comes from the massive unresolved anger many woman and girls carry around with them. We're right to be angry--we live in a world that systematically devalues us at ever turn. The problem is that we turn that anger on each other, because we're too afraid to band together and turn it on those who really deserve it. The boys. We spend so much energy attacking each other, standing in our own and each other's way, and it's time and energy we could spend attacking them. But keeping us at each other's throats is all part of the plan, isn't it? It's much easier to dominate a population hell-bent on dominating each other.

The answers the film suggested were ultimately unsatisfying, at least to me. While I was glad to see the Montreal girls' parents taking bullying seriously and talking to their children about it, I don't much think it's going to help, even in their specific cases, much less overall. Forcing a girl to apologize for her past behavior, or encouraging her to make other friends if the ones she has are mean to her, don't really address the issue. I never heard any mother tell her daughter she was right to be mad, or offer to help her figure out who she was really mad at. And I'm not surprised. I've spent a good deal of time thinking about this stuff-more than most, probably-and I still can't figure out who to be mad at most of the time. I only pray that if I ever have a daughter, she and I can both learn.

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Way back when you were on the bully side, if someone had asked, who would you have said you were angry at?

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Quinceañera

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Quinceanera movie posterQuinceañera is a movie I've been looking forward to seeing for a while, based on the several times I saw the previews before other films. A girl's coming of age story! Based on the tradition of the quinceañera, which I've always thought was cool! I was stoked.

Then I heard something about how the pregnancy in the film occurs without sexual penetration, and I became less stoked. Why can't the virgin just have sex? But I wanted to see it anyway.

And I'm glad I did, because it's a great movie. For the most part, it's a subtle and multi-layered story with good writing and excellent performances, intertwining stories about two teenage outsiders, Magdalena (Emily Rios), who finds herself pregnant after having almost-sex with her dumb-ass boyfriend Herman a few months before her quinceañera, and her cousin Carlos (Jesse Garcia, who I remembered from the couple of times he was on The Shield, and who is just brilliant in this), a tattooed, pot-smoking "bad boy" whose real crime, we find out early in the film, is that he's gay.

Rejected by their parents, Magdalena and Carlos both go to live with their great uncle Tio Tomas, played by the estimable Chalo González, who was so good I could hardly believe it. A life-long bachelor, Tomas is described near the end of the film as "a saint" and he clearly is one, willing to take in these broken kids and help them make themselves whole again, learning how to take care of themselves and each other.

My only major complaint about Quinceañera is the bad dialogue in several of the scenes with Magdalena and her girlfriends. A seeming loop of canned-sounding bits about clothes and boys doesn't do these girls, or this film, justice. It makes no sense for Magdalena to be such a strong, interesting character and have all of her friends be wind-up dolls. Given how much I liked the film in general, though, that's a fairly small complaint.

Filmed on a budget of $400,000 on location in Echo Park, L.A., Quinceañera was a first film for most of the cast (Chalo González reportedly had to tear up his SAG card in order to participate, as the rest of the cast was not in the union). Written and directed with surprising sensitivity towards both women and Latinos by two white guys, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, it successfully addresses racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and the clash between (and melding of) old and new values in the urban Latin American community, all with an amazing sense of sincerity. It's a must-see.

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Orlando

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orlando.jpgAfter hearing of my love for Tilda Swinton, and my particular fondness for her androgynous turn as the Angel Gabriel in Constantine, my friends S. and T. highly recommended her earlier take on androgyny, Orlando. Excited to see Swinton in a leading role, I quickly moved it to the top of my Netflix queue and when it came I waited only a couple of days before sitting down to watch it.

And I pretty much hated it.

Based on a Virginia Woolf novel, Orlando is the story of a young nobleman, Orlando (Swinton), ordered to stay young by a fairly creepy and pedophilic Queen Elizabeth the First. Somehow, he magically does so. How is not explained. And he proceeds to live through nearly five centuries, changing scenery, clothing styles, and sex.

Yes, changing sex. One morning in Turkey, Orlando wakes up a girl. This doesn't seem to bother him, and again, how it happened is completely unexplained. Being female proposes more of a problem for him than being immortal, however, as his family property is threatened, being as a woman couldn't legally own property in England at the time. Apparently a 250-year-old man could, though.

To further confuse things, Orlando (now female) has sex in 1850 or so, is pregnant during what seems to be WWI scene, and has a small child in what looks to be the present. So it isn't just Orlando's shape shifting and non-aging that causes confusion, it's the movement of time in general.

Perhaps reading Woolf's book before seeing the film would help it to make a bit more sense. Even if it had made sense, or if there had been some explanation for the way events progressed, though, I'm not sure I would have thought much of the film. It was beautifully filmed, and Swinton was great as always, but there just didn't seem to be much story to it. The things that could be explored in a story about the same person straddling two sexes and five centuries are endless, but Orlando didn't seem to really want to get into any of them. So it was not only a confusing film, it was a disappointing one, as it could have been so much more.

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I can't speak for T, but I remember liking Swinton's performance and the art direction & cinematography far FAR more than the way the story itself was handled. And Billy Zane bugged me. Sorry--thought I'd warned you.

I do have the book, though, I've never read it. Can loan it if you are interested.

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Rebels with a Cause

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Rebels with a Cause movie posterIn our continuing exploration of documentaries about the radical groups of the 1960s and 1970s, Mark and I watched Rebels with a Cause the other night. Made in 2000 by former Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) member Helen Garvey, the film is a semi-romantic montage of present-day interviews with people who were active in SDS and video clips from the time when SDS was active. A dozen or so members of the organization talk the viewer through from SDS's conception in the early 1960s through its disintegration and the rise of the Weather Underground in the late 60s/early 70s.

As I've mentioned before, SDS is an organization I know quite a bit about, as I studied the "second wave" feminist movement in undergrad and a lot of it was connected to SDS. Because of this, many of the people who were interviewed were familiar to me (Tom and Casey Hayden, Todd Gitlin, Bill Ayer, Bernadette Dohrn, etc.), as were many of the stories they told (the sit-in at Columbia, the organization efforts in Newark and other cities, the Days of Rage, etc.). Even having heard the stories before, though, it was interesting to hear and see them told again. This film also included perspectives from people I hadn't seen in other films or read in many books (including early SDS president Alan Haber), which I thought was fascinating.

The really interesting part for me, though, is the feelings about having been in SDS (and, in some cases, the more violent Weather Underground) portrayed by the participants 30+ years later. Most of the people interviewed for this film seemed proud of their participation, if slightly in awe of their younger egos and naiveté. However, many of them were also very anxious to align themselves with SDS's history of non-violent resistance and community building, while distancing themselves from the tactics of the Weather Underground. While this is hardly surprising, given the professional careers of some of these individuals, as well as their general tendency towards pacifism, I still find it disappointing. Ayers and Dohrn, both first members of SDS, went on to become leaders of the Weather Undergound, and it seemed almost backstabbing for the other interviewees to disavow them. What this comes down to, of course, is an argument about whether "those who make peaceful revolution impossible [will] make violent revolution inevitable" (JFK). The Weather Undergound believed that to be the case, as do I. As did, I'd suspect many disenfranchised, fed-up SDS members by the late 1960s. But it's not something they want to cop to now, and that disappoints me.

As has been the case before in my study of these people and this time period, I found Ayers and Dohrn to be the most compelling speakers. It's easier for them to speak honestly, I suspect, because they are semi-sheltered in privileged careers (both are professors). It doesn't seem accidental, though, that the most compelling members of SDS are the ones who went on to become Weathermen. Whether you agree with the tactics of the Weather Underground or not, you have to admire the dedication of people who were willing to put their lives on the line for what they believed, and I think you can still see some of that dedication in Dohrn and Ayers.

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Little Miss Sunshine

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Little Miss Sunshine posterNot having any place to blog for so long has left me tragically behind on reviewing the films and books I've watched/read recently, so I am going to try to catch up on that. Susan and I saw Little Miss Sunshine a couple of weeks ago, on the recommendation of Susan's friend Laura, and I was very pleasantly surprised. The previews for the film were minorly intriguing, but it looked as if it might be one of those films in which everyone is so awkward that it's more painful than funny, so I wasn't all that excited about it. What I found, however, was a story that was both sweet and funny and biting and sarcastic, snappy dialogue, fantastic acting, and a timely (especially given the recently renewed interest in the JonBenet Ramsey case) and right-on indictment of children's beauty pageants.

The film centers on the multi-state trip of one fucked-up family, in an old VW bus, with the goal of getting daughter OIive (played remarkably well by Abigail Breslin) to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Everyone in the family has his or her own cross to bear or axe to grind. Grandpa (a fantastic Alan Arkin) is Olive's biggest supporter, but he's also a porn-obsessed drug addict who has recently been kicked out of his assisted living facility for smoking heroin. Dad Richard (Greg Kinnear) is an irritating wanna-be self-help guru, obsessed with winning while he himself is clearly a loser. Uncle Frank, an understatedly hysterical bearded Steve Carell, is recovering from a recent suicide attempt, spurred by his doomed love affair with a male student and subsequent job loss (he's America's number one--or number two--Proust scholar!). My favorite family member is sulky, silent brother Dwayne, played by Paul Dano (who is not, as I thought, the kid from Elephant), who takes teen family angst to a whole new level with his Nietzsche obsessing and 9-month vow of silence. Finally, there is mom Sheryl, a harried Toni Collette, who is just trying to hold it all together.

While the bulk of the film's time is spent on the chaos that ensues in the family's cross-country trip, giving each actor his or her moment to highlight each character's psychoses and humor, the true pay-off comes when they finally arrive at the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. In only a few minutes, the film manages to scathingly indict an industry that sexualizes little girls and pits them against each other, as well as making me laugh so damn hard I nearly fell out of my chair. It would spoil the surprise to tell you exactly what happens, but suffice it to say Olive surprises everyone when her routine is unveiled, and the scene uniquely able to be funny on both a slapstick level (Dano and Carell's dancing alone is worth the price of admission) and a sarcastic one.

Little Miss Sunshine is directed by music video directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and written by first-timer Michael Arndt.

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Africa in the movies

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In a complete coincidence, I recently watched two movies having to do with Africa and Western humanitarian organizations there. The first was Beyond Borders, the second The Constant Gardener.

These films have quite a bit in common. Both deal with corrupt companies and aid organizations, massive pain and suffering in the "third world," and "bleeding heart" Westerners who risk everything to try to make a difference. While The Constant Gardener focuses solely on Africa, Beyond Borders starts there, but moves to Eastern Europe and Asia. In Beyond Borders the original bleeding heart who gets himself into trouble is a sexy British man (Clive Owen) and the person he radicalizes who eventually comes to save him is a gorgeous younger woman (Angelina Jolie). In The Constant Gardener, it's the sexy British man (Ralph Fiennes) who is radicalized by the bleeding heart sexy younger woman (Rachel Weisz). All in all, though, they have in common than not. They even have matching "save this child, even if all of the others die!" scenes, complete with wise, Black chauffeurs (one a truck driver, one a pilot) telling the stupid white bleeding hearts that isn't the way things work. It's eerie, actually.

Beyond Borders movie posterExcept that Beyond Borders was widely panned, and The Constant Gardener was heavily praised. And except that I found Beyond Borders depressing, but interesting and well-made, and The Constant Gardener ridiculous, confusing, and way, way too long.

Part of the reason I thought Beyond Borders was actually the better of the two films was acting. Angelina Jolie was as good as she ever is (something that depends completely on your perspective, I guess), but Clive Owen brought the house down. The Constant Gardener, on the other hand, was drug down by the slow pace of Ralph Fiennes, who I can't ever make myself care about in a movie, and was also a surprisingly dull turn for Rachel Weitz, who I normally like a lot (and who, quite surprisingly, won an Oscar for the role). The supporting cast, including Bill Nighy and the always-fantastic Pete Postlewaite was quite good, but it wasn't enough to save the film.

Constant Gardener movie posterThe biggest difference, though, was pace. The Constant Gardener was slow, slow, slow. And I think that is actually one of the reasons it was so highly praised. People are always afraid that if they are bored by a movie, it reflects badly on them, rather than on the film, so they often pretend that they were actually interested enough that the dragging 2+ hours was fine with them. Well, I'm not proud, I'll admit it wasn't fine with me. I thought it was boring and more confusing than it needed to be, and the insistence on using the same footage several times, with different color filters, to portray Ralph Fiennes emotions, seemed to me to be more of a cruel trick than an artistic device. We certainly didn't need to see that stuff two or three times--it wasn't that good the first time around, and the damn movie was long enough as it was.

Some, I'm sure, would put my irritation with the pace of The Constant Gardener down to my MTV-generation attention span, but I think that's a cop out. I can handle a long and serious movie, it's a long and serious movie that I don't care about the outcome of that gives me a problems. If the acting, writing, and directing had been better, the length of the film wouldn't have been a problem. Proof of that? I just looked up the run times and saw that Beyond Borders was actually only two minutes shorter than The Constant Gardener, which I never would have guessed.

The bottom line, I suppose, is that if you are looking to watch an incredibly depressing movie about how much things suck for people in other corners of the world and how you, implicitly or explicitly, are responsible for it, go against the grain and choose Angie and Clive's take. I wouldn't classify either of these as great films, but Beyond Borders is certainly the better of the two.

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I saw Constant Gardner already, and I liked it, but I didn't love it. Don't think I'll bother with Beyond Borders, since they have so much in common. Thanks for the review!

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Documentary

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I have been watching a lot of documentaries lately. I've always really liked the genre, but I've been really into it in the past few week. So I thought I'd review a couple of them.

Weather Underground movie posterSeveral months ago, Mark and I watched The Weather Underground which is about the Weathermen/Weather Underground radical activist/"terrorist" group in the 1960s and 1970s. I already knew quite a bit about them and found it pretty simplistic, but Mark really liked it, so I went in search of more documentaries about the radical groups of that time.

Guerilla movie posterThe first one I found was Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst (also sometime called Neverland: The Rise and Fall of the Symbianese Liberation Army). Guerilla made The Weather Underground look like an in-depth master work. Seriously. I realize the film was mostly about Patty Hearst's capture and bizarre behavior, but they could have given enough background to make it make sense! Watching the film gave you very little idea of what the SLA was really about, how it started, and why they did what they did. It was mostly a waste of time.

Who are the DeBolts movie posterThe next thing I saw was an old documentary called Who Are The DeBolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids? (made in 1977). It's a much better movie than the Hearst one, even if it is old-PBS style documentary (lots of voice-over and not enough of the "subjects" speaking for themselves). It tells the story (or a piece of the story) of the DeBolt family, who have seven biological children between them and twelve adopted children, of various races (mostly Korean and Vietnamese), most (all?) of whom have various disabilities (several of them are partially paralyzed, two are blind, one has no arms or legs, etc.) Simply watching the logistics of the DeBolt family, with twelve children living at home, is fascinating enough, but this film also does a fairly good job portraying the kids with disabilities as whole people, rather than martyrs, or caricatures. Given the prevailing attitudes towards people with physical disabilities in 1977 (and now...), it was impressive to see.

Which isn't to say that the film is perfect--it's certainly not. As I mentioned, I would have like to see more of the family speaking for themselves, and it erred on the side of making things appear a bit sunnier than they possibly could be. However, I found it surprisingly good overall.

Wordplay movie posterLastly, S. and I went last night to see the new documentary about the New York Times crossword puzzle and its devotees, Wordplay. Wordplay is much lighter fare than the previous two movies, but it's also better made. In fact, I think it's one of the best made documentaries I've seen in a long time. There's no clear film-maker agenda, and the people featured in it are give the space to speak for themselves at length. The viewer comes away with not one but several clear views of why these people do crossword puzzles, even why they become obsessed with them, and it makes sense. I was especially impressed with filmmaker Patrick Creadon's ability to use film to portray love and respect for language. To move between the mediums like that, without the effort being obvious, is a triumph. Wordplay is also able to walk the line between taking itself too seriously and taking itself seriously enough, which, given the subject matter, is a fairly thin line.

As a testament to the impact the film made on me, I attempted to work several crossword puzzles today, something I've never been interested in before. While I doubt conversion was Creadon's goal, it has to say something for his work that it got me interested in trying them out. I suck, by the way. Becoming a Times devotee is a long way off.

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I saw the Weather Underground a while ago, but I couldn't get over the fact that a lot of the people were kind of, well, republican now. Kind of selling out the WU members in prison, and being very contrite for what they had done. I didn't really expect that.

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Heroine Content

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I know I am a sucky blogger this week, but I have excuses--I've been sick and very busy at work. More interestingly, though, I've been working on my first addition to a new blog, Heroine Content. Heroine Content is a group effort, tagged as a "feminist and anti-racist blog about women kicking ass." Basically, it's thoughts, theory, and links about heroines in visual media. I have very high hopes for it. Please check it out.

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Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man

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I'm Your Man movie posterS. and I went to see Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man last night. It wasn't perfect, but it was entertaining. Cohen himself is a lot of fun to watch/listen to--he gives the impression of being at once wise and self-effacing. He says near the beginning of the film that he has neither regrets about his past nor self-congratulatory feelings towards it. I find that hard to believe or comprehend, personally, but I'd think it would be a damn good place to be at Cohen's age. The performances are mixed--Rufus Wainwright rocks the house in a surprising way (I had no idea he was so campy--he did a version of "Everybody Knows" as a torch song that was wonderful), Teddy Thompson is very good, and I was surprised and enthralled by Antony, but man does Nick Cave ever bug me (apparently it's just me, but he completely reminds me of Neil Diamond--and not in a funny way, in a serious way)! As did the appearances by Bono and The Edge. Is there anybody who doesn't wish U2 would just fade quietly away?

I first became interested in Leonard Cohen after hearing Concrete Blonde's cover of "Everybody Knows" in Pump Up the Volume when I was about twelve (it was one of my favorite movies at that age--I wonder if it still holds up? I should see it again). I listened to him some in high school, but couldn't ever really get all that into him (or Tom Waits, either, heathenous traitor that I am). After watching the film, though, I am re-enthused about his music. The poetry is really fairly amazing, and I'm a sucker for a gravelly, barely on tune voice (as evidenced by my lust towards Kris Kristofferson). So I'm busily requesting his older stuff from the library. Good to start at the beginning when you are getting into a new artist, I think.

In other news, I'm having some work-related stress (but not wanting to blog about my job specifics, I'm going to leave that there). This weekend should be very relaxing, though, as I'm finally spending of some of the gift certificate to this place Mark got me for my birthday almost a year ago. After much hemming and hawing and some input from some online friends with spa experience, I decided to opt for the "Udvartana Massage and Body Mask," which includes an Indonesian oil massage, an herbal body mask, a steam, and a "dosha-based finishing treatment" (no, I don't know what that means either). I'll report back on that.

In other good news, the damn insurance comany finally settled with me on the accident Mark and I had on February 1. They weren't exceptionally generous, but they paid me what they owed me and I'm glad to have it over with. The money will make a major dent in my credit card debt, which is nice. And I'm considering replacing my broken iPod, on the theory that a functional iPod and some audiobooks might get me back to the gym.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

-"Anthem," Leonard Cohen

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Gosford Park

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Gosford Park movie posterGood: Clive Owen. Yummy, yummy Clive Owen.

Bad: Everything else.

Actually, it really wasn't bad, per see. It was just really, really boring. Most of the acting was good. The costumes were very cool. But I couldn't tell the "above the stairs" men apart (again, once you've seen one rich old white guy, you've sort of seen them all), and the plot thudded along at a pace suited for someone much more patient than myself. I sat through all two+ hours of it, thinking it would get better,and it did improve ever so slightly in the last 30 minutes or so, but not enough to make it worth sitting through.

So there you have it. I waited a long time to watch this movie. Should have waited longer.

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I had to choose between Gosford Park and Takashi Miike's "Ichi the Killer", two movies that I'd heard were good in similar ways. I chose Ichi, because I like Japanese things. It turns out they are very different movies. I think I whimpered more during Ichi than I would have during Gosford Park. I'm not sure I'd recommend Ichi, if you were considering following Gosford Park with it.

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Fire, Earth, Water

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Water movie posterFire(1996), Earth(1998), and Water(2005) are three films by Deepa Mehta. They are referred to as a trilogy, but actually don't share characters or storylines, just themes and a few actors. All three of them focus on taboo subjects in Indian society, and specifically on the ways in which women get fucked over in India. These are beautifully shot and well-acted movies, dealing with interesting, important subjects. They're also incredibly hard to watch and don't leave as much room for hope or redemption as the viewer would like.

The first of the films, "Fire," is set in modern-day New Dehli and deals with the blossoming of a love affair between two sisters-in-law, Sita and Radha. Both Sita and Radha are in bad marriages, treated poorly by their husbands. Over the course of the film, young, newly-married Sita draws Radha out of the shell of a life she has created in her lengthy unfufilling marriage, and the two fall in love. This is a particularly taboo subject for an Indian film, as homosexuality is looked down upon to the point of not being acknowledged in Indian culture (one of the film's characters points out that there is no word in their language for what Sita and Radha are to each other). Taking on the subjects of lesbian relationships and how poorly Indian wives can be treated, Mehta's objectives in this film are bold, and they were met with a lot of resistance in India and Pakistan, where the film was banned for being anti-religious.

The second film, "Earth," is not much less controversial than the first, and it's much sadder. It takes place in 1947, as the British are leaving India, after dividing it arbitrarily into two countries (now India and Pakistan). The story centers around a little Parsee girl, Lenny, her nanny, Shanta, a Hindu woman, and the group of men attempting to court Shanta. The men are Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh. As the story unfolds, ethnic/religious tensions grow, as do potential romances between Shanta and two of her suitors, both Muslim. I won't give away the ending, but suffice it to say that it's heartbreaking.

The final movie, which is in theaters currently, is "Water." Water is set in mid-1930s India, and it tells the story of women living in a Brahmin widows colony. It begins with a child bride who is widowed at seven and sent to live at the colony, then details her relationships with the women who already live there. The film is very critical of the cloistering of widows, and again it ends tragically.

All three of these films take a lot out of you. They are hard to watch, heartbreaking, and infuriating. The male characters are nearly all bad, and the female characters are nearly all in terrible situations. It's not light viewing. Still, it's worth doing, both because of the amazing cinematography and the ruthless way in which Mehta has the nerve to look at these taboo subjects.

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Yay! Someone in the blogosphere who saw this movie! Water, that is. I haven't seen the other two yet. I saw Water with my mother in law, and I even wrote a post about it. http://yummywc.blogspot.com/2006/05/much-more-disturbing.html My husband is of Indian decent, born in Canada, his parents from South America, so pretty far removed from living in India. I remember once when I lived in San Francisco, my gay roommate had a gay Indian friend, and my mother-in-law (to be, since my husband and I weren't married yet) said, no, he couldn't be gay, because no Indians are gay. Doesn't happen. Then she met him, and she had to change her mind, because, Oh, what a swishy gay man he was. :) But to this day, she says gay men are fine, but she does cannot accept lesbians. WTF? Guess I shan't be seeing Fire with her, huh? So glad I found your blog. :)

Thanks for this. I'm still processing them, so my thoughts are jumbled. The films all affected me on a very visceral level, but in different ways, and they left me wanting to learn more about the history behind the stories. But damn, they were depressing--that isn't a criticism, just a fact. She gives the viewer no release or happy spin--though some of the open-endedness allows the viewer to cling to feeble hope that even more horrors haven't occurred. (I'm curious about how you interpreted the end of "Fire", but we can discuss it IRL, so as not to spoil it for other folks. There's also an event in "Earth"--the scene with the bag--that I want to discuss with you--namely who was responsible.) But I digress . . . With Mehta's work, there is no "it's only a movie", available to allow one to detatch, as the attrocities build. I've rarely felt such dumb horror while watching a film--and there were moments in each where I just wanted to cry out or shut it off. There's also, no sense of progress in the underlying indignities, or--in the case of "Earth"--painful parallels to what has happened in other countries and what is now happening in Iraq. Finally, for me, there was a sense of powerlessness to change a damned thing and also guilt that I was moaning about how sad and affected I was, and all I had to do was watch a fucking film. It was a real perspective check. (I was still up til the wee hours, though, as images burned into my brain would not let me rest easy.) These movies are not entertainment, but they are engaging and powerful.The themes are relevant and the outcomes frustrating, as you envision how easily these people's lives could not have sucked, had circumstances been different.

More on the "I only had to watch" thing . . . I think the reason why it was so difficult was because there are so many parallels to what we face as women today. So, it was like constant triggering and connecting with the subject matter. It wasn't passive viewing by any stretch.

I intend to see these movies, if only because I've never seen a movie in which lesbianism wasn't totally fuckin' hot.

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XIII

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XIII movie posterI'm not a comic book person. In fact, I don't think I've ever actually read a comic book in its entirety. And I've never been much into superheroes or supervillians or really anything in graphic novel form. Or movies taken from any of the above.

Except X-Men. I LOVE X-Men.

I've still never read the comic books. But I really enjoyed the first two movies. Like every other miscreant in the U.S., the mutant idea resonates with me. Different=good. I can get behind that. Besides, they were fun to watch, reasonably (Halle Berry notwithstanding) well-acted, had fun costumes, etc. And the second one even had Alan Cumming. Which is a definite plus.

Bet you know what I am going to say next.

The new, third, final one is ass. It's nonsensical, anticlimactic, depressing, the best characters are taken out at the beginning of the film, and there is way, way too much Storm. Kelsey Grammer's turn as The Beast was surprisingly well done, but the rest of it was just unmitigated crap. And it didn't need to be. The premise--the creation of a mutant "vaccine"--was a good one. But it had none of the socio-political sensitivity that could be found in the previous films, and the action scenes weren't even as good!

The thing that bothered me the most about the third film, though, was not that it just wasn't as well done, or that Jean Grey turned into a psychopath with uncontrollable powers, or that I missed Nightcrawler. The worst thing was that it wasn't as unmitigatedly pro-mutant as the previous films. So many of the characters, both good and bad, both willingly and by force, lost their powers via the "cure"--Mystique, Magneto, Rogue. This seemed to somehow negate the freak-positive messages in the other films, making it into just another comic book, and leaving me wondering why I'd ever liked it in the first place.

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Hey, FYI, the cure wears off. So by the next movie everybody that lost their powers will have them back. However, yes, the movie sucked ass. It was like the writers had never bothered to read the comic so they didn't know what the hell they were doing. Pah.

my friend saw it and said that there's a pro-choice theme that runs under the movie. no one else seems to pick up on any type of politicalness of the movie and she's the only one in the country who likes it so far.

I came across your blog from casmirland, which I had never been to before. Great writing. I really like the way you think things through and your blog has depth. I hope you can get help with your depression. :( Hope the meds work.

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North Country

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North Country movie posterIt took me a long time to see this movie, which may be surprising, given that it's about sexual harrassment and labor rights. There were two big reasons for that. The first was that I thought it would be depressing (and it was); the second was that I thought Charlize Theron would bug me (and she did).

First thing first: I am sick to death of seeing Charlize Theron "uglied up" to play "white trash" characters. While Josie, Theron's character in this film, isn't a serial killer like Eileen Wuornos, and I don't think they had Charlize gain any weight for this role, she's still a woman of a certain class, and watching Theron play women of this class turns my stomach. It feels like a bad, insulting impression. And the northern Minnesota accent she puts on for this one makes it even worse.

That being said, this movie wasn't as bad as it could have been. Above all else, I guess, I like to see stories like this one told, and depressing as it is, I like to see them told the way they are here, without an ending that conflates happiness with winning a lawsuit (a la Erin Brokovich). It's defeating, though, to watch women so mistreated, and realize that even if the lawsuit is won (which, of course, you know it will be, or they wouldn't have made the movie), things aren't really going to change all that much.

The film is dreary and depressing. It gives you the sense of constantly being cold, except for the scenes inside the mill, which give you the sense of being suffocatingly hot. It's hard to watch. And it should be, so I don't hold that against it. At least not as much as I hold Charlize Theron against it. Who the hell decided she was a good folk hero? Good Lord.

Frances McDormand, however, is amazing here as always. Watching her makes me happy. However, watching her play (SPOILER ALERT) a character who is slowly dying is less than thrilling. It is improved by Sean Bean playing her husband, though. More movies should have Sean Bean in them.

So...this is probably a movie you should see, but don't expect to enjoy it. And, if the film isn't depressing enough, keep in mind that the real story is much, much worse.

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Thoughts on Hedwig

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A dream
Or a song
That hits you so hard
Filling you up
And suddenly gone

- "Midnight Radio", from Hedwig and the Angry Inch

I've seen several versions of Hedwig and the Angry Inch (one when it was originally off-Broadway, but sadly with Ally Sheedy rather than John Cameron Mitchell, two on stage in Portland, and the film in various venues). Every time, I've felt this amazing rush of emotions--sadness, grief, complete joy, and awe at the true brilliance of the work. Last night was no different. S. and I went to a "Hedwig Sing-Along" at our local cool-ass indie theater, and it was a great time. But it's more than a great time. It's more than, as the host said, "the greatest rock movie of all time." It's this trascendent, spiritual experience. I know that sounds weird, but there it is.

So if you haven't seen it (gah!) or haven't seen it lately, check it out again. If you are anything like me, it's a mind-blow, and ultimately and uplifting experience, every time.

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This may sound like a stupid question, but what do you like about it? I have never seen it live, but I found it a boring and mostly confusing (as I couldn't tell what anyone was saying) movie, and I didn't really like the music. I know everyone's totally batty for it, but I don't get it. I also don't get why anyone likes Rocky Horror, so maybe the whole transvestite rock musical is not for me...

First, I don't think it's anything like Rocky Horror. Rocky Horror is fun and all, but it's sort of dumb. Hedwig, on the other hand, is genius. It's hard for me to really say what I like about it, because I like everything about it. I think the music is amazing. I think the acting is good. I think the modern myth aspect of it is amazing. I love the animation. I think it's hysterically funny. I think it's freak-empowering. I connect to it on a pretty visceral level, and have since I first saw it, and more so each time. It's not necessarily something I can put into words.

I didn't even get the story. The whole movie I just didn't understand a damn thing that was going on. I still have no idea thing one what the story was about. I am always annoyed by musicals tho, so that probably added to it. And I could not understand anything Hedwig said. I had to put on subtitles. And it's not like I have a problem understanding German accents, generally.

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I have no life (88/200)

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This is a meme from Delany. The idea is that if you've seen more than 70 of these movies you have no life. Number them in the brackets and post your score in your subject line.

(1) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(2) Grease
(3) Pirates of the Caribbean
( ) Boondock Saints
(4) The Mexican
(5) Fight Club
( ) Starsky and Hutch
(6) Neverending Story
( ) Blazing Saddles
( ) Airplane
Section 1: 6/10

(7) The Princess Bride
( ) Young Frankenstein
(8) AnchorMan: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
(9) Napoleon Dynamite
( ) Saw
( ) White Noise
(10) White Oleander
( ) Anger Management
(11) 50 First Dates
( ) Jason X
Section 2: 5/10

(12) Scream
( ) Scream 2
( ) Scream 3
(13) Scary Movie
( ) Scary Movie 2
( ) Scary Movie 3
( ) American Pie
( ) American Pie 2
( ) American Wedding
(14) Harry Potter
Section 3: 3/10

(15) Harry Potter 2
(16) Harry Potter 3
(17) Harry Potter 4
(18) Resident Evil I
(19) Resident Evil 2
( ) The Wedding Singer
( ) Little Black Book
( ) The Village
(20 ) Donnie Darko
( ) Lilo & Stitch
Section 4: 6/10

(21) Finding Nemo
(22) Finding Neverland
( ) 13 Ghosts
( ) Signs
(23) The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
( ) White Chicks
( ) Butterfly Effect
( ) Thirteen Going on 30
(24) I, Robot
Section 5: 4/10

(25) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
( ) Universal Soldier
(26) A Series Of Unfortunate Events
( ) Along Came Polly
( ) Deep Impact
( ) KingPin
( ) Never Been Kissed
(27) Meet The Parents
( ) Meet the Fockers
( ) Eight Crazy Nights
Section 6: 3/10

( ) A Cinderella Story
( ) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
(28) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumb & Dumberer
( ) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Halloween
( ) The Ring
Section 7: 1/10

( ) The Ring 2
( ) Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
(29) Practical Magic
(30) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
(31) From Hell
( ) Hellboy
( ) Secret Window
( ) I Am Sam
( )The Whole Nine Yards
Section 8: 3/10

(32 ) The Day After Tomorrow
(33 ) Child's Play
(34) Bride of Chucky
(35) Ten Things I Hate About You
( ) Just Married
( ) Gothika
(36) Nightmare on Elm Street
(37) Sixteen Candles
( ) Coach Carter
(38) Bad Boys
Section 9: 7/10

( ) Bad Boys 2
(39 ) Joy Ride
(40) Se7en
(41) Oceans Eleven
(42) Ocean's Twelve
(43) Identity
( ) Lone Star
( ) Bedazzled
( ) Predator I
( ) Predator II
Section 10: 5/10

(44) Independence Day
( ) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
( ) Christine
(45) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
( ) My Boss' daughter
( ) Maid in Manhattan
( ) Frailty
Section 11: 2/10

( ) Best Bet
( ) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
(46) She's All That
(47 ) Calendar Girls
(48 ) Sideways
(49) Mars Attacks
( ) Event Horizon
(50) Ever After
(51) Forrest Gump
(52) Big Trouble in Little China
Section 12: 7/10

(53) X-Men
(54) X-2
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
( ) Catch Me If You Can
( ) The Others
( ) Freaky Friday
( ) Reign of Fire
(55) Cruel Intentions
( ) The Hot Chick
Section 13: 3/10

( ) Swimfan
( ) Miracle
(56) Old School
( ) The Notebook
( ) K-Pax
(57) Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
(58) Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
(59) Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
( ) A Walk to Remember
( ) Boogeyman
Section 14: 4/10

( ) Hitch
(60) The Fifth Element
( ) Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace
( ) Star Wars Episode II Attack of The Clones
( ) Star Wars Episode III Revenge of The Sith
(61) Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope
(62) Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
( ) Star Wars Episode VI Return of The Jedi
(63) Troop Beverly Hills
(64) Swimming with Sharks
Section 15: 5/10

(65 ) Air Force One
( ) For Richer or Poorer
(66) Trainspotting
( ) People Under the Stairs
(67 ) Blue Velvet
(68) Sound of Music
(69) Parent Trap 1
( ) Parent Trap 2
( ) The Burbs
(70) The Terminator
Section 16: 6/10

(71) Empire Records
(72) SLC Punk
(73) Meet Joe Black
(74) Nightmare Before Christmas
(75) The Silence of the Lambs
(76) Sleepy Hollow
( ) I Heart Huckabees
( ) 24 Hour Party People
( ) Blood In Blood Out
(77) The Virgin Suicides
Section 17: 7/10

( ) Space Balls
(77) Big Fish
( ) Titanic
( ) Mulan
( ) Mulan 2
(78) Cold Mountain
(79) Moulin Rouge
( ) Kung Pow, Enter The Fist
( ) As Good As It Gets
( ) Hannibal
Section 18: 3/10

( ) The Exorcist
( ) The Exorcist: The Beginning
( ) The Exorcism Of Emily Rose
(80) Dead Poet's Society
( ) Patch Adams
( ) Fern Gully
( ) Cool Runnings
(81) Austin Powers 1
(82) Austin Powers 2
(83 ) Austin Powers 3
Section 19: 4/10

( ) Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story
(84) Shrek 1
( ) Shrek 2
(85) 2001: A Space Odyessy
( ) The English Patient
( ) Phonebooth
(86) This Is Spinal Tap
(87) Edward Scissor Hands
(88) The Sixth Sense
( ) Flight Plan
Section 20: 5/10


Total: 88/200.

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105, yo. I'm surprised you haven't seen "Catch Me if You Can".

63, but I think I still get into the "has no life" category because I copied this text into Excel as a tab-delimited file so I could tally things better. I'm at work and have had constant exposure to SAS and Excel for 4 months, but that's still pretty lame. What else is lame is that, of these 63 movies, most of them were stupid. Makes me realize how much time I've wasted sitting in front of trashy movies.

65... wow this sucks. And maybe twenty of them are movies I've only seen bits and pieces of before I got bored.

39. Haha! Apparently I have a life.

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The Friday Five

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Because I can think of nothing better to do, I give you the Friday Five. Complete with pictures, even.

Smurfs1) When you were little what was your favorite TV show?

Depends how little we're talking. I'm told I enjoyed The Smurfs as a small child, though I don't remember it. We didn't have a functioning television for quite a bit of my later childhood/preteen years, but I do remember watching The Wonder Years, Life Goes On, and Growing Pains some, probably mostly at other people's houses.

2) What was your favorite movie?Satisfaction

I tended to get obsessed with things and beg to rent them over and over as a kid. Goonies was a favorite, as was the early Julia Roberts movie Satisfaction. I wanted to be in a girl band. Still do, actually.

Miami Ink3) What is your favorite TV show currently?

I don't watch a lot of TV anymore, but I do really like Miami Ink. I watched Rollergirls when it was on. I'm a bit intrigued by Big Love right now.

4) What is the best movie you have seen so far this year?

Probably Brokeback Mountain. Capote was also excellent.

5) If someone was going to make a movie or TV show about your life, who would play you and why?Laura Prepon

I'd want Laura Prepon from That 70's Show to play me. She's the only actress I can think of who is both tall enough and in the right age cohort, without being terrifyingly skinny or just bugging me. We don't particularly look alike, but something about her reminds me a bit of myself. I've been told Laura Dern would be a good choice, but she's quite a bit older than I am.

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I forgot how hot that Prepon girl is. Dang! I just read the novel upon which "Wild at Heart" was based. The Laura Dern resemblance sprang to mind.

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Whirlwind of reviews: movies

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Bridget Jones' Diary movie posterI read Bridget Jone's Diary some time ago, and actually enjoyed it, in a beach reading kind of way. Between that and my enjoyment of all of the major actors, I felt like the film had to be worth watching, especially when I picked it up free from the public library on my way home to recooperate from my neck injury. But I was wrong. The movie just doesn't have any of the sharpness or sarcasm or desperation of the book. And the characters are just...flat. It's hard not to buy Hugh Grant as a dashing British playboy, I mean, he's made a career of being one, but he's not much of one here. And Colin Firth, who I really did like as the real Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, left me cold here. Zellwegger herself was not too bad, but she wasn't quite pathetic enough to be an enjoyable Bridget. The film's high point was definitely Jim Broadbent as her dad. I didn't take much notice of his character in the book, but really fell for him in the film.

As Helen Fielding, who wrote the novel, also wrote the screenplay, I have no idea why the film's lines gave me a flat feeling that the book's did not. It may be just a case of my not having been in the right frame of mind, or it may be that it didn't translate all that well. It may also be that since reading Bridge Jones originally, I've read the amazing A.J. Rochester's Confessions of a Reformed Dieter, which was way better Bridget to me than either the pulp or the film fictional ones.

Best in Show movie posterMark has consistently told me that he doesn't like Christopher Guest movies, and I have consistently responded that it's because he'd never seen Best in Show. I made this argument convincing for myself by never thinking about the fact that aside from Best in Show, I'd never seen any of Guest's other movies. So I got Best in Show from the library and forced Mark to watch it. And while it does have the hilarious moments I remember (Parker Posey and her yuppie hubbie Michael Hitchcock meeting after eyeing each other from Starbucks across the street from one another, the man declaring to Catharine O'Hara that she was the best cocktail waitress he'd ever banged, etc.), the movie really isn't all that funny on a second watching. Partially it's just disappointing how little the dogs themselves are featured, but preferring dogs over people may just be my bias. Partially, it's that some of the schticks (Eugene Levy's dorky character in particular) are just so overplayed, nobody needs to see them again. This isn't one I'll be putting on my "can watch it over and over again" list.

Weather Underground movie poster Drastically transitioning, the next thing we watched was The Weather Underground. This is a really well done documentary about the Weathermen, the leftist "terrorist" organization in the 60s and 70s. The filmmakers do a good job finding a breadth of people who were involved to interview and getting their takes on the situation, and they come out as they should--conflicted and conflicting. Whether or not what the Weathermen did was right or justifiable isn't even a core question in my mind, but it is still an interesting exercise to watch the documentary makers explore it through the people who were involved themselves, some of whom are still valiant activists, and some of whom have calmed down just like they were supposed to. The film isn't slavish towards the former revolutionaries, and I appreciated that. One criticism that can be made is that it doesn't give a whole lot of background information--I kept up fine, but I've studied this period in history, and if you hadn't, I think you'd be left with quite a few questions. Which might also be good, actually. My other criticism is the inclusion of Todd Gitlin. God I hate Todd Gitlin.

High Cost of Low Prices movie posterI've got no problem going on record and saying I'm anti-Wal-Mart. I'm anti-Wal-Mart. I have not, in fact, been in a Wal-Mart store for probably nearly 10 years, but I understand (to some extent) and resent the harm Wal-Mart directly has caused to this country, working people, community and family businesses, rural life, overseas workers, and just about anybody or anything else you'd like to name. They are, to my mind, the embodiment of the evil American corporation. As bad as it gets.

But none of that makes this a good movie. It's just sloppy. It's not well-edited, it's repetitive, it jumps around in unnecessary ways, and it refuses to stick to and make one point. In trying to cram everything that's wrong with Wal-Mart into one 90 minute film, Greenwald makes the mistake of not presenting a coherent argument for even one of Wal-Mart's faults. Which sucks, because they are many.

I may have been more charitable towards this film had I not just read Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Worker's Rights at Wal-Mart by Liza Featherstone (review to come). In focusing on one specific aspect of how bad Wal-Mart is, though touching on several others, Featherstone makes a much clearer, smarter, and more compelling case for what is wrong and what needs to change. Greenwald could learn a lot from her.

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Oscars!

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I unabashedly love the Academy Awards. Yes, I know they are full of shit and bad movies get recognized and good movies go unnoticed and it's all about who you know and what studio makes your film and all that. Don't care. Love them anyway. With the heat of 1,000 suns. So, of course, I'm stoked about the nominees coming out. And I'm going to tell you, lucky readers, all about it.

These are the nominees in the categories that I know anything about, as well as my (brilliant and insightful, I'm sure) commentary.

Performance by an actor in a leading role

  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Terrence Howard in Hustle & Flow (Paramount Classics, MTV Films and New Deal Entertainment)
  • Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features)
  • Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line (20th Century Fox)
  • David Strathairn in Good Night, and Good Luck. (Warner Independent Pictures)
This is a tough one. I've seen all of the performances except for Terrence Howards, and they are all top-notch. Straithairn, Phoenix, and especially Phillip Seymour Hoffman all deserve amazing props for having played people who could have been caricatures as if they were real people, with the respect they deserved (or, in Capote's case, didn't particularly deserve). However, I'd have to give this to Heath Ledger. What he did in Brokeback Mountain blew my mind. I went in with all the skepticism in the world and I could not have been more surprised. He turned a beautiful, understated performance the likes of which I haven't seen since...I don't even know when.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

  • George Clooney in Syriana (Warner Bros.)
  • Matt Dillon in Crash (Lions Gate)
  • Paul Giamatti in Cinderella Man (Universal and Miramax)
  • Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features)
  • William Hurt in A History of Violence (New Line)
My judgement in this category is a bit shakier, since I haven't seen Crash or Cinderella Man. However, based on the three films I have seen, there's no real contest--Jake Gyllenhaal is leagues ahead of George Clooney (who I really like) and William Hurt (who I mostly don't, and I thought A History of Violence was just a bad movie all around). I can't really imagine Paul Giamatti being all that impressive in Cinderella Man, but you never know (after all, Heath Ledger--who'd have thunk it?). Matt Dillon is probably quite good in Crash. I need to see both of those.

Performance by an actress in a leading role

  • Judi Dench in Mrs. Henderson Presents (The Weinstein Company)
  • Felicity Huffman in Transamerica (The Weinstein Company and IFC Films)
  • Keira Knightley in Pride & Prejudice (Focus Features)
  • Charlize Theron in North Country (Warner Bros.)
  • Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line (20th Century Fox)
This is another one where I'm really not well-versed enough to make a good choice. I really, really need to see Transamerica, and hope to very soon. I'm also excited about Mrs. Henderson Presents. North Country doesn't much excite me--I plan to see it on DVD--but since Charlize got an Oscar I didn't think she deserved last year, hopefully she'll be out of the running this year. I thought Keira Knightley was good in Pride & Prejudice, but not Oscar worthy. Witherspoon is my best bet for this category, but not because she turned in a better performance than Joaquin Phoenix (far from it)--he just has stiffer competition this year.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

  • Amy Adams in Junebug (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Catherine Keener in Capote (UA/Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Frances McDormand in North Country (Warner Bros.)
  • Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener (Focus Features)
  • Michelle Williams in Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features
I am SO happy to see Amy Adams get recongized for June Bug. She was fantastic and I hope she wins. Don't think she will, but it would be nice. Again, I haven't seen North Country or The Constant Gardener, so I can't be sure who is best here, but between Adams and Caroline Keener (nothing special in Capote, I didn't think) and Michelle Williams (good, but not great in Brokeback Mountain), Adams definitely gets my vote.

Achievement in art direction

  • Good Night, and Good Luck. (Warner Independent Pictures) Art Direction: Jim Bissell Set Decoration: Jan Pascale
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Warner Bros.) Art Direction: Stuart Craig Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
  • King Kong (Universal) Art Direction: Grant Major Set Decoration: Dan Hennah and Simon Bright
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (Sony Pictures Releasing) Art Direction: John Myhre Set Decoration: Gretchen Rau
  • Pride & Prejudice (Focus Features) Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
I haven't seen King Kong or Memoirs, so this is probably not a good category for me to weigh in on. However, Good Night, and Good Luck. was an fantastically shot movie, with no dependance on frills or scenery, and I have to admire that.

Achievement in cinematography

  • Batman Begins (Warner Bros.) Wally Pfister
  • Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features) Rodrigo Prieto
  • Good Night, and Good Luck. (Warner Independent Pictures) Robert Elswit
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (Sony Pictures Releasing) Dion Beebe
  • The New World (New Line) Emmanuel Lubezki
From the films I've seen (saw Batman, didn't see The New World), this is really between Good Night, and Good Luck. and Brokeback Mountain. Slightly begrudingly, I'd give it to Good Night, and Good Luck., again because their task was harder, not having any mountain ranges to depend on.

Achievement in costume design

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Warner Bros.) Gabriella Pescucci
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (Sony Pictures Releasing) Colleen Atwood
  • Mrs. Henderson Presents (The Weinstein Company) Sandy Powell
  • Pride & Prejudice (Focus Features) Jacqueline Durran
  • Walk the Line (20th Century Fox) Arianne Phillips
Walk the Line had great costumes, but I can't see this going to anything that...normal and recent. Pride & Prejudice's costumes were good as well, but that's been done over and over again in my book. I though the costumes in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were just ridiculous and over the top, so I hope it isn't rewarded. I haven't seen in yet, but Mrs. Henderson Presents looks to be interesting in the costume department...so I dunno.

Achievement in directing

  • Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features) Ang Lee
  • Capote (UA/Sony Pictures Classics) Bennett Miller
  • Crash (Lions Gate) Paul Haggis
  • Good Night, and Good Luck. (Warner Independent Pictures) George Clooney
  • Munich (Universal and DreamWorks) Steven Spielberg
I don't see how this can not go to Ang Lee. Brokeback Mountain was just that good. However, I think George Clooney did an amazing job with not overdoing Good Night, and Good Luck., so it would be OK with me to see that honored. Anybody but Spielberg, really.

Best documentary feature

  • Darwins Nightmare (International Film Circuit) A Mille et Une Production Hubert Sauper
  • Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Magnolia Pictures) An HDNet Films Production Alex Gibney and Jason Kliot
  • March of the Penguins (Warner Independent Pictures) A Bonne Pioche Production Luc Jacquet and Yves Darondeau
  • Murderball (THINKFilm) An Eat Films Production Henry-Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro
  • Street Fight A Marshall Curry Production Marshall Curry
The only one of these I've seen so far is the Enron one, and it was OK, but not great. I at least want to see Murderball soon. If I can avoid that penguin movie forever, that will be fine with me. It will probably win, though.

Achievement in makeup

  • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Buena Vista) Howard Berger and Tami Lane
  • Cinderella Man (Universal and Miramax) David Leroy Anderson and Lance Anderson
  • Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith (20th Century Fox) Dave Elsey and Nikki Gooley
The only one of these I've seen is Narnia, and it had some pretty amazing makeup. Tilda Swinton's makeup alone is worth an Oscar.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

  • Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features) Gustavo Santaolalla
  • The Constant Gardener (Focus Features) Alberto Iglesias
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (Sony Pictures Releasing) John Williams
  • Munich (Universal and DreamWorks) John Williams
  • Pride & Prejudice (Focus Features) Dario Marianelli
Again, I have to go with Brokeback Mountain. Great music.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

  • "In the Deep" from Crash (Lions Gate) Music by Kathleen Bird York and Michael Becker Lyric by Kathleen Bird York
  • "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle & Flow (Paramount Classics, MTV Films and New Deal Entertainment) Music and Lyric by Jordan Houston, Cedric Coleman and Paul Beauregard
  • "Travelin' Thru" from Transamerica (The Weinstein Company and IFC Films) Music and Lyric by Dolly Parton
Haven't heard any of these, to my knowledge, but since Dolly Parton does no wrong...

Best motion picture of the year

  • Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features) A River Road Entertainment Production Diana Ossana and James Schamus, Producers
  • Capote (UA/Sony Pictures Classics) An A-Line Pictures/Cooper's Town/ Infinity Media Production Caroline Baron, William Vince and Michael Ohoven, Producers
  • Crash (Lions Gate) A Bob Yari/DEJ/Blackfriar's Bridge/ Harris Company/ApolloProscreen GmbH & Co./Bull's Eye Entertainment Production Paul Haggis and Cathy Schulman, Producers
  • Good Night, and Good Luck. (Warner Independent Pictures) A Good Night Good Luck LLC Production Grant Heslov, Producer
  • Munich (Universal and DreamWorks) A Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Pictures Production Kathleen Kennedy, Steven Spielberg and Barry Mendel, Producers
I'd be OK with Capote orGood Night as well, as they're both wonderful films, but Brokeback Mountain blew me the fuck away.

Adapted Screenplay

  • Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features) Screenplay by Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana
  • Capote (UA/Sony Pictures Classics) Screenplay by Dan Futterman
  • The Constant Gardener (Focus Features) Screenplay by Jeffrey Caine
  • A History of Violence (New Line) Screenplay by Josh Olson
  • Munich (Universal and DreamWorks) Screenplay by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth
Gee, guess what I'm gonna say here? Yep.

Original screenplay

  • Crash (Lions Gate) Screenplay by Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco Story by Paul Haggis
  • Good Night, and Good Luck. (Warner Independent Pictures) Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov
  • Match Point (DreamWorks) Written by Woody Allen
  • The Squid and the Whale (Samuel Goldwyn Films and Sony Pictures Releasing) Written by Noah Baumbach
  • Syriana (Warner Bros.) Written by Stephen Gaghan
I'm not totally sure about this one, but I'd be happy to see Syriana or Good Night, and Good Luck. get it.

3 Comments

You should see STREET FIGHT (http://www.marshallcurry.com)!!! Its sooooo amazing! It really embodies the true meaning of independent documentary!

You must see Crash. B and I finally saw it after engaging in a serious debate about racial tensions in Cleveland, and I'm so glad I saw it. We were both awed by it, though I can't say I came out of the movie with any answers--just lots more questions. "March of the Penguins" was a real disappointment. I would only recommend you see it with Mark, just for the humor value of seeing him get all worked up about the rampant anthropomorphization. Thinking about how this became a tool of the right wing also irritated me throughout. They're birds, for dog's sake.

Like Elvis, Michael Jackson is topping the charts in death as in life.

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Nine Lives

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Nine Lives movie posterRemember how I said I don't much like short stories? Well, I don't generally much like vignette-style films, either. In general, a short piece of a story isn't enough to get me involved in the characters and caring about what happens to them. But this film is the exception that proves the rule.

Written and directed by a man, Rodrigo Garcia (most notable for TV direction and cinematography, including Gia and several episodes of Six Feet Under and Carnivale), Nine Lives is nine short (10-15 minute) films, each done in a continuous shot. Each one centers around some element in the life of one women. There are some intersecting characters between the films, but their intersections are more incidental than important, and each piece stands on its own.

1. The first of the stories is about an inmate, Sandra, played by Elpidia Carrillo (Bread and Roses, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her). She seems calm and collected until she is unable to talk to her visiting daughter due to a faulty phone; then she loses it. Later, in another vignette, we see her get arrested, but we never know what crime she has committed.

2. The second story is the one that seems to be getting the most press. In it, Robin Wright Penn's (White Oleander, Forrest Gump) Diana runs into an ex-lover, Damian (played by Jason Isaacs , who plays Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies but looks very different here), in a supermarket. Both of them are married, Diana is pregnant, and yet the tension between them is palpable and it is easy to see how they could fall back into their old relationship. The scene is incredibly well-played and Wright Penn shows off her acting chops with an understated performance that is hard to watch and easy to identify with.

3. The third tale is the most heart-wrenching. It is a scene between a woman, Holly (brilliantly portrayed by Lisa Gay Hamilton from The Practice) and her sister (a nice supporting turn by the very lovely Sydney Tamiaa Poitier--yep, daughter of that Sydney Poitier). Holly has returned to the house where she grew up, ostensibly to "make amends" with her abusive father, but rather than showing their conversation, the focus is on the discussion between Holly and her sister before her father's arrival. It's sparsely and painfully done, leaving detail to the viewer's imagination, and is carried perfectly by both good dialogue and the strength of Hamilton's acting.

4. The fourth vignette indirectly refers the viewer back to Diana's story, as it co-stars Damian, from the grocery store, and his wife, Lisa, played by Molly Parker (Iron Jawed Angels, Waking the Dead). They are in a new apartment, and are visited by Sonia, played by Holly Hunter (Thirteen, The Incredibles, O Brother Where Art Thou?) and her boyfriend, Martin (Stephen Dillane, seen before in The Hours and The Gathering). The focus of the story is the fucked-up relationship between Sonia and Martin. This was probably the least compelling of the vignettes for me, even though Holly Hunter was as fantastic as always.

5. Next, in the story that was the most moving of the film for me, we meet Samantha, played by Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls, Veronica Mars). The power of this scene doesn't come from Seyfried, however, but from the brilliant Ian McShane (Deadwood, Sexy Beast), who plays her disabled father. The scene follows Samantha as she is pulled back and forth between her father, with whom she seems to have a good relationship, though he is obviously quite ill with what seems to be a degenerative disease of some sort, and her mother (played by Sissy Spacek), who comes off as cold and tired. We see how dedicated young Samantha is to her father, and how resentful the situation makes her mother, and how terrible the whole situation is. The best part, though, is the dark comedy in the banter between Samantha and her dad, and I attribute that both to good writing and to McShane's immense talent.

6. We next see Lorna, played by Amy Brennemann (Judging Amy, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her), on her way to a funeral with her parents. As it turns out, the funeral is for the wife of Lorna's ex-husband, Andrew (William Fichtner, best known for his war movies, and recently seen in The Longest Yard). When Lorna and Andrew have sex at the funeral home, during the viewing of the body, it is unclear whether their affair has been ongoing or whether it has been sparked by the events underway, but the viewer is once again asked to think about relationships and whether or not they are ever really over.

7. The seventh vignette takes the viewer back to Samantha's story, but this time it centers around Sissy Spacek's (If These Walls Could Talk, In the Bedroom) character, Samantha's mother, Ruth. The scene takes place in a hotel, where Ruth seems to be about to embark on an affair with her daughter's school counselor, played by the unusually goofy Aidan Quinn (Legends of the Fall, Practical Magic). Though Ruth's behavior in this scene is less traditionally sympathetic than it was in her prior scene, where she was at home taking care of her family, I still felt more towards her character here, where you could see how very tired and starved for fun she is. The scene twists when Ruth witnesses another woman being arrested (Sandra from the first vignette), and it ends with her leaving the hotel without having consummated the affair.

8. The second-to-last scene is also quite moving. It is fairly straightforward, showing a conversation between Camille (played by Kathy Baker from Boston Public) and her husband, Richard (portrayed by a very well-cast Joe Mantegna from Joan of Arcadia). Camille is lying in a hospital bed, waiting to go into a masectomy. Scared, angry, and belligerent, Kathy Baker knocks the role of Camille out of the park, and the story leaves you both hopeful for how things will turn out for Camille and furious at hospital system that is treating her like a piece of meat when she's in this frightening position. Characters from other scenes show up here as well, with Holly as Camille's nurse and Lorna's mother as her anesthesiologist.

9. There has been some criticism of the film's final scene, but it was one of my favorites. It shows a visit to the cemetery by Maggie (the always incredible Glenn Close, whom I most recently enjoyed in last season's The Shield) and her daughter, Maria, played by Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire, War of the Worlds). While you watch the scene, it is unclear who the two are visiting, and the film's surprising final shot shows this vignette, too, to be about a woman-specific type of grief.

Each one of the nine scenes is beautifully shot, nearly perfectly acted, and tightly written and directed. Even the stories I cared less about (specifically Lorna) are extremely well-done, and those I cared more about are heart-wrenchingly beautiful. The actresses are all top tier, and the movie is blessedly free of oversexualization (with the single exception of an obnoxious focus on Amanda Seyfried's breasts in Samantha's story). Instead, it focuses on telling simple stories of women's lives, with humor, sadness, wistfulness, longing, and a subtle intelligence that is very difficult to find in contemporary movies. This is a film I will think about and remember for a long time to come, and I highly recommend it. I will certainly be on the lookout for Garcia's next offering.

5 Comments

ehhhhhh! i want to know how the final scene ends! email me or something!

First, holy shit! I knew he looked familiar, but I didn't realize that was Ian McShane! On Lorna's vignette, I read it a bit differently. They'd been divorced for a year or so IIRC, and she is the one who left him for another man. I do not think they were having an affair during his second marriage, but that he had never gotten over her, had married on the rebound, didn't do a good job of hiding his true feelings from the new wife and she subsequently killed herself because of this pain. Perhaps she left a suicide note that explained her motivation, which would explain why some people were so hostile. Andrew was too suprised to see Lorna at the funeral--and it seemed like he hadn't seen her for some time. Also, if they were having an affair, I really don't think she would have attended the funeral in the first place, because she would know she could see him later and offer her sympathy in private. I definitely agree that she had unresolved feelings for him, though it seemed the sex was more out of kindness for Andrew than desire on her part. It was so perfunctory and detached for her--it didn't come across as an illicit tryst between lovers. It was more like therapy. Unlike the scene with Diana and Damian, Lorna and Andrew seemed candidates for falling back into their relationship out of habit or familiarity, whereas Diana and Damian still had passion and love (and pain) to spare. If that makes any sense. It was such a good movie. Thanks for helping me to re-live it! (and how in the hell do you manage to remember all this stuff without writing anything down during the film? I'm jealous!)

viGnette

Spelling on the blog is so not a priority. Thanks, though, I'll make the correction.

Thanks for the extensive review! -Flourish

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Brokeback Mountain

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Brokeback Mountain movie posterI had really mixed thoughts going into this movie. On one hand, the previews made it look fantastic, and it's based on an amazing short story. Also, the screenplay was done by the short story's author, the brilliant E. Annie Proulx, and western author extraordinaire Larry McMurtry. On the other hand, no matter how many good films he has lucked into and how brilliant everyone else says he is, I've never been a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, The Good Girl). And Heath Ledger has never been, to my mind, anything more than a putz (A Knight's Tale, The Brothers Grimm). And then there was Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) - great director, sure, but for an American western love story? I was really, really trepidatious about both the direction and the acting.

I was so, so wrong.

Ang Lee's direction is spot-on. Nothing is wasted, nothing is overdone. Jake Gyllenhaal is great. But the real gem, the thing that takes this from an incredible movie to a best ever movie, is Heath Ledger. Who knew he was hiding all this talent?

From my study of movies, it is damn difficult to play a decent cowboy. Almost inevitably you end up some dumbass Clint Eastwood movie cowboy bullshit, with barely any resemblance to the real thing. Even people who are actually from the American west can't do it. So how is it that an Australian pretty boy and an L.A. pretty boy played the best cowboys I've seen on screen in forever? They just got it right, especially Ledger. The quietness, the speech patterns, the posture. I watched this movie and it felt like home.

Another high point was the scenery. Though it was filmed largely in Canada, the film looked like the west to me, and it was beautifully shot, with no scenery overkill. Ang Lee and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Frida, 21 Grams) let the scenery play it's own role, another quiet character in the film, and it worked beautifully.

So far we've got excellent script, excellent acting, excellent direction, and excellent cinematography. What are we missing? Oh, music? Well, the soundtrack is to die for, including original music by Gustavo Santaolalla (21 Grams, The Motorcycle Diaries) and a fantastic country cross-section (the use of Willie Nelson's "He Was a Friend of Mine" during the closing credits just about did me in). I'll likely buy the soundtrack.

Even the costumes (done by Marit Allen, who also worked on Dead Man and Eyes Wide Shut) are perfect. Like the actors faces and pickup trucks, the trace the path from early 1960s cowboys to early 1980s cowboys without you realizing they're doing it. It's a beautiful thing.


Brokeback Mountain is, quite honestly, the best movie I've seen in several years. In the past few months I've seen a number of films that were quite good (Walk the Line, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck.), but Brokeback Mountain blows them all away. I hope it sweeps the awards ceremonies and I hope it's the beginning of more real roles for Heath Ledger. Even if he never makes another film, though, he should be proud of what he did in this one.

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did michelle williams blow you away as much as she did me? i thought she did a fanfuckingtasting job. i was also pretty impressed by anne hathaway, even though i hate her and want to see her blacklisted in hollywood.

Michelle Williams was amazing. I meant to write more about the supporting cast, but then I got carried away with everything else. I really didn't like Anne Hathaway. She was the low spot of the movie for me.

anne hathaway is the low point of my life. i know what you mean. i wanted to tear my eyes out every time she was on screen. but the scene that did it for me was when she was talking heath on the phone and you could see her press on nails. that and her hair getting whiter and whiter as her eyebrows got darker and darker. she portrayed the image of an upper class texan woman exactly how it is in my head. except i should probably give credit to the costuming/make up people over her because again, the sound of her sucking can be heard from ends of the world.

Do you think Anne Hathaway did a lousy job acting, or is she just some form of unpleasant person? I'll admit to having spent a great deal of the movie coming up with obscene names for sequels to the movie. The names of characters and places seemed aimed at undermining the seriousness of the drama -- or adding comic relief. You have a gay character with the last name "Twist" and the other one's first name sounds a whole lot like "Anus." But my Hathaway question is still serious.

Mainly she just generally bugs me. I have no logical response.

i think it's her face.

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Pride & Prejudice

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Pride and Prejudice movie posterLet me start by saying this is a story to which I have no attachment. I've never read Pride & Prejudice, never read anything else by Jane Austen, and never seen another version of the film. I watched this without the benefit (or handicap, depending on how you see it) of comparison to the novel or to the much-loved A&E version. I didn't compare Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFayden to Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. So you'll get none of that here. There's lots of it elsewhere, so if that's what you are looking for, it won't be hard to find.

I didn't love this film, but I didn't hate it. This whole genre bugs the shit out of me, which is why I've never bothered with Austen's books (confession: I've never read most of the Bronte sisters' work, either, with the exception of the incredible Jane Eyre). And the things that always bug me bugged me in this film. Characters are less people and more caricatures, the commentary on social class lacks sublety, and the language makes me itch. However, there was some unexpected redemption here. Chiefly, that redemption came in the form of Keira Knightley (Bend it Like Beckham, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl). The wit and spirit and fantastic smile Knightley shows in Pride & Prejudice far outstripped what I had expected, and turned her Lizzie Bennett into a character about whom I actually gave a damn. Without that, I'm not sure I could have stood the film.

The supporting acting was well done as well. Donald Sutherland was endearing as Lizzie's constantly bemused father, and Judi Dench was nothing short of fantastic as the horrific Lady Catherine. I was less impressed with Blenda Blethyn as Mrs. Bennett, thinking she was overacting, but I have been told that was far less the actress and far more the role. I also really liked the mostly-unknown Simon Woods as Mr. Bingley, and enjoyed Kelly Reilly (The Libertine, Mrs. Henderson Presents) as the nasty Caroline Bingley.

I am still unsure as to how I feel about Matthew MacFayden's Darcy. While MacFayden certainly has the seriousness and brooding down, he didn't totally convince me in the scenes where he finally admits his feelings for Lizzie. Without Colin Firth as a comparison, I am not as critical of MacFayden as some other viewers have been, but I can definitely see how the role could have been played to a fuller extent.

The non-acting elements of the film (cinematography, costume design, etc.) were all satisfactory, although the music got to be a little much at points. Most of my major complaints have to do with story line, and there's nobody but Jane Austen to blame for that.

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The Man in Black

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Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

Today is the opening day of Walk the Line, a movie (and, apparently, the rest of the country) am very much looking forward to seeing. I doubt I'll make it to the theater tonight (I had a very hard night last night and I'm exhausted), but I'm hoping to go tomorrow or Sunday. On this auspicious occasion, I thought I'd share with you some of my feelings about Johnny Cash.

I love Johnny Cash. I admire Johnny Cash. I mourned when Johnny Cash died. Johnny Cash has long been among the only music my boyfriend and I can agree on (and that's been true for several boyfriends in a row now). Johnny Cash is the epitome of cool. Johnny Cash's "Hurt" video made me less afraid to age. But it actually goes well beyond that, well beyond Cash's second incarnation as a post-country alt-hipster. It goes back home.

It goes back to my mom, and my stepdad, and the music I grew up with. The core of this music, as I remember it, consisted of what I now know is the very best of classic country music: my mom's personal favorite, and mine as well, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and, of course, Johnny Cash (with a healthy bit of Steve Goodman, John Prine, and Guy Clark thrown in, because when it really comes down to it, mom is more folk than she is country). We played these men on 8-tracks in the big, dusty, black late-70s Chevrolet my mom drove before she moved into the minivan class. I knew the words to songs like "Help Me Make It Through the Night" and "Folsom Prison Blues" well before I could have possibly grasped their subject matter, and I vividly remember bouncing into town on worn out shocks, singing "Mama Tried" along with the scratchy car radio. Neither I nor my mother has the best voice, but what we lack in tune we make up for in volume. And in love.

I remember flipping through my mom's albums, and the ones I wanted to play again and again as a kid. The Outlaws. Waylon & Willie. Live at Folsom Prison. Best of Kristofferson. I loved Cash's booming voice and Willie's smooth one, and it took me many more years to realize that Kris Kristofferson really doesn't have much of a voice at all. I really believed Waylon was a cowboy, and I was more impressed than scandalized when somebody told me The Hag had spent time in the penitentiary. Looking back on it now, I doubt my parents intended me to see these men as heroes, but I certainly did.

And then I grew up a little bit, and figured out how massively uncool country music was, and switched allegiances. And as I developed my own tastes, I found new heroes. The first bunch were more or less throw-aways (there isn't much good you can say for Axl Rose), but I still stand by my love for Kurt Cobain and Ani DiFranco, and still listen to both of their albums. In secret, though, in the car by myself, I never stopped tuning the radio to stations playing country music. Country had mostly turned to pop by then, so mostly it was the same crap as on the other stations, just with a cowboy hat, but occasionally one of those old songs would come on, and I'd sing along just like I had with my mom. But never in front of anybody.

In college I first heard Johnny Cash in the pool hall, and it slowly dawned on me that he'd been dubbed cool. But this was none of the cowboy I'd learned to love as a child, this was the sneering, coked up Cash I'd somehow not seen. No wonder he was cool--he looked like country Iggy Pop. Still, the songs were the same, and it was good to be able to listen to them in public again.

Finally, about the time Cash started putting out records with Rick Rubin, I'd come to my own enough that it no longer mattered what the verdict on Johnny Cash's coolness was--I was getting back into the music I'd loved all along, once again hearing the steel guitar and singing along to songs I'd now known the lyrics to for nearly 20 years. So of course I bought the records, and I was blown away by what I'd been missing. Now an old man, there was a beauty and grace and vulnerability in Cash's voice that he'd never had before. The songs he chose came from all over the map, and everything sounded so beautiful, so brilliant, and so brittle, so fragile.

Which, by that point, he was. While I'd been preoccupied with being a teenager and then a young adult, Johnny Cash had gotten old. Waylon Jennings had died. Kris Kristofferson had turned from the blue-eyed sex symbol of some of my earliest illicit thoughts to a gray-haired B actor. The first time I saw the "Hurt" video, I bawled my eyes out, a little bit for my own early-20s newfound fear of aging, but mostly for the old man in the video, a man who sounded a little bit like the outlaw I remembered, but mostly just looked like an old man.

One day I looked up and he's pushin' eighty
He's got brown tobacco stains all down his chin
Well to me he was a hero of this country
So why's he all dressed up like them old men?

Really, though, I realized upon further viewings, and upon listening to the song over and over again, there was nothing to cry about. This man had lived an amazing life, had been a part of an amazing love, and had carried on, almost til his dying day, with making his music. And making it well. Unlike so many musicians who wash up, who forget, after years of fame, why they do what they do, Johnny Cash continued until his last recording to make real music, the kind real people listen to, and to make it as well as anybody ever has or likely ever will.

Having done a good bit of studying American history, there aren't that many American legends left for me to believe in. I know JFK was a womanizer and a liar, and that no matter how sympathetic his portrayal by Kevin Costner, Wyatt Earp mostly just liked to kill people. I have a hard time sympathizing with Custer's last stand or thinking Lewis & Clark were heroes. Marilyn Monroe and James Dean weren't very smart; Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin were alcoholics, and the more of those I know, the less like legends they look. Johnny Cash, however, stands out in my mind as an American icon. This isn't because I'm not aware of the dark periods in Cash's life--I am--but because he never, to my knowledge, pretended to be anything but a man. A flawed, American man. And there aren't enough of those left.

It may just be chance that Johnny Cash--and the whole passle of American poet-cowboy-outlaw-singers he represents--speaks to me like he does. It may have something to do with growing up in the West, where such things are glorified, or with my own somewhat rebellious spirit. But it's good for us all, I think, to have something or someone speak to us once in a while. It's good to be able to believe in something or someone, no matter how silly. And it's good to have these things or people as links to the parts of our own lives that we are removed from. I still listen to old country songs, and I hear my mother's voice on them more often than not. When I look at pictures of Johnny Cash, I see our shared Native American ancestry in the set, square jaw that looks slightly like my grandmother's. And I don't just miss him, I miss her. I miss six year-old me, singing along to songs I couldn't have understood. And, maybe just for a minute, I'm her again. A piece of American history.

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Johnny Cash. Amen. live at folsom prison is one of those albums that i listen to over and over. howl

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Broken Flowers

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broken flowers movie posterI am a fan of the films about profound loneliness and existential angst. I think Lost in Translation crossed the line from good to brilliant, and I don't think that about all that many movies. If you aren't a fan of angst cinema, however, then probably you should just skip this whole review, 'cuz it's going to come off as a bit bullshitty.

That being disclaimed, Broken Flowers is a grade-A fabulous film. It deals with some of the same concepts (regret, longing, loneliness) as a lot of Bill Murray's more recent work (Lost in Translation, Rushmore), and the character he plays is uncomfortably similar to his characters in those films, but it's still worth watching. I think one reason that it is worth watching Murray play essentially the same character is the (some might say overdone) focus on travel in Broken Flowers the film. While Rushmore dealt with a hometown hero, and Lost in Translation dealt with an anonimity and discomfort of a completely foreign culture, Broken Flowers deals with the loneliness of travel, which is a different monster and enough of a change to keep you interested, even if you have seen Rushmore and Lost in Translation several times each.

Another thing that kicks this movie up several notches are the stellar performances by the women in it. First off, how great is it to see any film with several (hawt!) actresses over 40 in it? Sad that I have to be so excited about the novelty of that, but there it is. Secondly, these women are GREAT. My favorite is Tilda Swenson's (remember her for being the only palatable part of Constantine?) character, Penny. What I particularly liked about Penny was that she was the only character who acknowledged the invasiveness and amazing sense of entitlement in showing up at someone's house when you haven't seen her in 20 years, and she acknowledged it by getting good and pissed off. She's only in one short scene, but it's a great scene. (Sidenote: If her lughead husband hadn't gone on to beat Bill Murray up, it would have been a better scene, but it was good to see a cameo by Chris Bauer, who I really miss from The Wire.)

The other female performances are nearly as good as Swenson's. Sharon Stone is lovely (and surprisingly funny) as single-mom-and-closet-organizer Laura, and Jessica Lange is fabulous, as always, as animal communicator Carmen. The other real gem, though, is frustrated Stepford wife/real estate agent Dora, played by Frances Conroy. Her performance was almost enough to make me wish I'd watched Six Feet Under (but not quite).

The smaller female roles are filled by younger women, and they are not as perfectly cast, but are still mostly good. While I wasn't particularly impressed with Chloe Sevigny's turn as Carmen's assistant, or with Julie Delphy's portrayal of Sherry, the girlfriend who leaves Don at the beginning of the film, I quite liked Alexis Dziena as Laura's oversexed teenage daughter, Lolita (yeah), and will watch for her in other things.

Another thing that sets this film apart is the fact that it is really funny. In retrospect, I can't tell you what, specifically, about it is funny, but the theater I saw it in cracked up several times, and I cracked right up with them. I think it's one of those films that is funny without smashing you over the head with it, which is appreciated, especially in the summer.

Giving a plot synopsis would bore me, and probably you as well, but if you want to read one, Roger Ebert's (jerk) is here.

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I saw this film in California while on a trip, and I think your analysis is spot on. Amazing work, especially in how all the women are able to build such complex characters given that their scenes aren't very long. The travel sequences were also great, really affecting me through their familiarities, since I've been flying around a lot for the last few years.

I highly, highly recommend the first season of *Six Feet Under,* which is available at your local soulsucking mulitnational-conglomerate video store. But ONLY the first season. Season one is excellent: elegantly written, beautifully executed, and convincingly acted; and the first season stands perfectly well as a complete story of its own. If you liked *Lost in Translation* for the reasons you mention, I think you'll get a lot out of *Six Feet Under's* first season, too. The writers and directors apparently decided to take the Everyone Is a Crack Ho route for the rest of the show, though, and the first episode of the second season is nauseatingly, melodramatically bad. Thank you for your review of *Broken Flowers.* Having read it, I'm probably going to go see it this week.

I like your comments. Very similar thoughts. Just got the sound track. It is great, too. You didn't mention the strong performances by the Ethiopean family next door. To me, it is like Tolstoy. The happy family and the other. See opening line of Anna Karenina.

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Never grow up (Finding Neverland)

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Finding Neverland posterI am a bit of a Peter Pan afictionado. I have spent my whole life listening to stories about how, at age 2, I could recite the entire Disney Peter Pan 45 (yes, I had 45's, and a little blue and white striped record player on which to play them). When I was 4 and my dad and stepmom took me to Disneyland, my dad spent a very warm afternoon trying to chase down the little boy in tights they had playing Peter so I could get my picture taken with him.

As I've gotten older, I've kept my love of Peter Pan. In fact, the older I get, the more I understand the pull of Neverland and the magic inherent in the notion of never growing up. The sad truth is that I don't believe in fairies, and I could clap my hands to keep Tink alive, but it would be hollow. I miss the me that could clap in earnest.

Anyway, being a Peter Pan lover, I've seen most of the versions that have come up--the old Disney version, a couple of different versions on TV...I've even seen it on stage once. And, of course, Hook, which I've seen four or five times. I have not horribly disliked any of these versions, but I've not felt they really captured the essence of what I felt listening to that 45 as a kid, either.

Well I felt it tonight. We went to see Finding Neverland, and for a few minutes, in a dark theater full of people who were probably not nearly as moved as I was, I was a kid again, reciting that record. It was a wonderful, wonderful feeling.

Given my emotional attachment to the story, I probably can't review the film or any of its stars with anything approaching objectivity or accuracy. However, given the Oscar nominations, at least a few people seem to have agreed with me that Johnny Depp was magical in the film. I've been a Johnny Depp fan for years, and have never doubted his capacity for magic, even in roles that wouldn't have at all special otherwise. He was a fairy tale prince in Chocolat, and even his silly Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean had a bit of magic. The Johnny Depp I saw tonight, though, is pure old school. I haven't seen him this good since Edward Scissorhands (and that's been...gulp...15 years), and the little bit of his Benny & Joon role that was reprised here would have made the film well-worth seeing even if everything else about it had sucked.

Besides Depp's wonderful performance, Finding Neverland also benefits from Kate Winslet, who is fast becoming my favorite actress. She's not as remarkable here as she was in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (and honestly I'll be floored if she can ever pull off anything that good again), but she's damn good. It reminds me a little bit of some of her other performances as well, actually (no, NOT Titanic!). More than any of her other roles, I think it hearkened back to Iris, which was a great movie, and you should see it if you haven't.

The supporting case is top-notch as well. Dustin Hoffman is tolerable and doesn't get much screen time, and Julie Christie is awesome. I also really enjoyed Radha Mitchell as Barrie's wife, who I've only seen before in Pitch Black. She is also in Woody Allen's upcoming film, called Melinda and Melinda, if you are interested in checking her out (it would honestly take more than one good performance from an actress to get me to sit through a Woody Allen movie, especially one that also has Will Ferrell in it, but to each her own). The most impressive part of the supporting cast, though, is the kids. I like all of four of the actors who play the boys, but my personal favorite was Nick Roud, who plays George, the eldest.

Aside from great acting and a top-notch (though I suspect historically embellished--I am going to have to find something to read about Barrie's life to find out) story, the movie also benefits from great visuals. The semi-animated sequences are among the best parts, I think, and the fluid movement between "reality" (Barrie dancing with his dog in the park) and "fantasy" (Barrie dressed as a ringmaster, dancing with a bear in a circus ring surrounded by clowns) is really beautiful and gives a great visual for how Barrie's mind must have worked. Another thing I loved was the way the showed the stage Barrie's play was performed on, complete with low-tech special effects, but you were still able to see why the play would be convincing. I've seen other movies try to do this less successfully (Shakespeare in Love comes to mind), and it can be disastrous, but it seems to work here.

All in all, I'd highly recommend the movie. It's one of the best I've seen in quite some time. It begins to make up for director Marc Forster's previous work (Monster's Ball...), and I'm almost ready to forgive Johnny Depp for Secret Window. But not quite. We'll see how I feel after Charlie and the Chocolate Factory...

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Grace, I agree with every word. I love Johhny Depp so I geuss I shouldn't see Secret Window? Ein Shem

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Art, once in awhile (Hero review)

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I am often critical of present day films, music, and especially literature. It is not often that I will experience two pieces of art in one weekend that take my breathe away. This weekend, I did. The first was The Time Traveler's Wife, which is quite simply the best book I've read in at least a couple of years, the second was Hero, a Chinese film I went to last night to placate Mark and ended up enraptured with. I feel blessed by both of these experiences.

Hero

I mostly watch movies for storyline, acting, dialogue. I rarely pay attention to scores, I'm not much for cinematography, etc. I guess I'm just more a verbal than a visual person. But this movies strengths are visual, and they are strong enough that even an imbecile like me can't miss them.

The story is simple--a warrior, played by Jet Li of all people, stands before the king explaining how he has come to defeat the king's three most deadly assassins. A series of flashbacks ensue, from different perspectives. The same story is told three times, or at least parts of it are told three times, and each section has a different color (the first is red, the second green, the third white). The color is easily the most remarkable part of the film. It saturates the scenes, encases the viewer. Watching it is an almost hypnotic experience, in which you don't just register the color on the screen is red, but you feel red, taste red, smell red.

I am not a fan of martial arts movies. Even the much-ballyhooed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon didn't do all that much for me. Sure, it was cool when they flew around and stuff, but one scene started looking an awful lot like the next, I thought. That being said, the use of color, light, sound, film speed tricks, etc. in Hero's fight scenes turned them from martial arts cinema to art. I felt less that I was watching a movie and more than I was watching paintings move across a screen. Visually, the only movie I can even think to compare it to is Frida, and it made Frida look like it was shot in pastels.

So go see this movie. It doesn't matter if you don't like martial arts movies (I don't), it doesn't matter if you don't like subtitles. Just sit in your seat, listen to the awe-inspiring score, and drink it in. If you are anything like me, you will come out of the theater noticing the variation of the green grass and the green trees, the amazing blueness of the sky's blue, and the crispness of image all around you. Not only is it a beautiful film, it's a film that makes you realize the beauty in everything else. What more could you possibly ask for?

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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So first I have to cop to my biases. I really like Jim Carrey. I liked him a thousand years ago in the oh-so-silly Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (though Courtney Cox tried desperately to ruin it), I loved him later in The Truman Show, and I really loved him as Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. I have wisely avoided some of his probably less-impressive features (The Majestic?), and so I've been able to keep a pretty good ideal of him in mind.

Well, he fucking blew my mind in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Seriously. He's GREAT. He's understated, he's believable, he's likeable, and he's so...regular. Five minutes into the film I felt like his character, Joel, was someone I knew from college or something. It was wonderful. I suspected he had depth not only as a funny-ass comedian but as a real actor, and I was so so right.

Which brings me to the co-lead,Kate Winslet: My feelings about her have been mixed. She was in Titanic. That's hard to forgive. However, I liked her in Quills (and yes, I very much liked Quills--I've seen it three times--do I have to turn in my credentials now?), and I thought she made a great Ophelia in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet. She was also good in Iris, but she was frankly outclassed by Judi Dench (which is not saying much--I can think of few people who would not be outclasses by Judi Dench).

But in this film, Kate Winslet shines. She's wonderful. She's so alive, so radiant, and so fucked-up. She felt like someone I knew, too, only she was someone who I wasn't sure if I absolutely loved or couldn't stand. Her "impulsiveness", her multi-colored hair, her trying so hard...it was great.

So you take these two really wonderful characters, played by actors who really know their stuff, and you put them in this completely unlikely and bizarre plot about memory erasure. Sounds like the making of something horrible, right? But it works SO well. The film is dark in places--really dark, asking questions not only about love and relationships and all that jazz, but about the relationship we have with our own minds and how much agency we really have in making the same mistakes over and over again--and in places it's hysterical. And for something that makes you think so hard about your own life, your own relationships, your own memories, you come out of it feeling amazingly good about life. And I put that on the actors and the direction--the plot isn't necessarily hopeful.

Another really stunning thing about this film was the visual effects. The low-tech spotlighting and the slow erasure of details in memory scenes was not only really cool to watch, but also really gave you a sense of being in a memory. The camera work was a little bit dizzying, though--I wouldn't suggest going on an upset stomach.

Downsides? Supporting performances, definitely. Kirsten Dunst is just bad. Her character is annoying and seems out of place, and her acting goes from mediocre to really bad. I wasn't terribly impressed with Elijah Wood, either, but honestly that could just be because I am so goddamn sick of seeing him everywhere. Tom Wilkinson, however, is great as the doctor in charge of the memory erasing procedures. He's just mad scientist enough, without going over the top. I really enjoyed his part in the film.

One other thing I have to complain about is the small role played by Jane Adams. I can't stand Jane Adams. And to be completely honest with you, it's because she bothered me so much in The Anniversary Party and I just can't get over it. That and she's way way too thin and I always get distracted from scenes she's in by marvelling at how thin she is.

All in all, it's a five-star movie and I'd highly recommend it. I know I'll be thinking about it for awhile.

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The Banger Sisters

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Banger Sisters movie posterTwo words: don't. bother. OK, so technically a word and a contraction, but you get my drift.

Now don't get me wrong--I didn't expect it to be good. However, Susan Sarandon has surprised me before by turning what I thought would be stupid roles into something worth watching (Stepmom comes to mind). And this film has Geoffrey Rush (Shine, Quills, Frida) in it, so I figured how bad could it be?

Boy was I wrong. Both Sarandon and Rush should be ashamed. The movie is a beginning-to-end formulaic piece of crap. The script is bad. The acting is bad. The premise is stupid. Even the costumes are ridiculous. And the film's warped sense of time is probably the most irritating part. It's set in the early 2000s. Goldie Hawn and Sarandon are supposed to be former best-friend rock groupies who haven't seen each other for 20 years. Early 2000s minus 20 years lands you in the early 1980s. So WHY are they talking about groupy-ing for bands in the late 60s and early 70s? Do the fucking math!

There is really no point in my going on and on about why this film sucked. Consider the premise. Consider Goldie Hawn. I got what I deserved for attempting to watch it in the first place.

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Cold Mountain

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Cold Mountain movie posterI just saw a rare thing: a mediocre book turned into a damn good film. The last time I remember feeling this much better about a movie than a book it was Sofia Coppola's brilliant take on The Virgin Suicides. Obviously, that was a while ago.

I read Cold Mountain probably four or five years ago, and it pretty much left my mind as soon as I put it down. I didn't think it was good or bad--I just didn't think about it at all. Something in the previews made me want to see the film, though, and I am really glad I went with that instinct.

First off, the film is well acted. The major characters (Nicole Kidman as Ada and Jude Law as Inman) are pretty damn good, avoiding the overacting that would be so easy to slip into in their rather melodramatically written parts. The real gems, though, are the supporting cast. Small roles by the truly amazing Philip Seymour Hoffman and Giovanni Ribisi, as well as a surprisingly mature turn by Natalie Portman are fun to watch, but Renee Zellweger is the real star of the show as Ruby Thewes. Partially it is that Ruby is the best written part in both the book and the screenplay, but part of it something Zellweger manages to bring to the role herself. She delivers my favorite line, condeming war for what it is--men's bullshit-- "They call this war a cloud over the land. But they made the weather and then they stand in the rain and say 'Shit its raining,'" and she does it fucking perfectly. Just spot-on. She's funny, she's tough, and the juxtaposition of Kidman's spoiled Ada and her self-sufficient Ruby says all I needed to know about the small-town Southern women left behind during the Civil War.

Scenes of the war itself are, as is typically the case, too long and too bloody. We've seen that all before, from Braveheart to Courage Under Fire and in every movie about every war in between. There's blood, there's mud, there's smoke, there's death. If you've seen it once, you've seen it for every war movie, and I for one have no need to see it again. That being said, the cinematography is better than average, and other than a long battle scene at the beginning, the movie doesn't waste too much time on these things.

What it does focus on, and what I found really remarkable about it that I didn't feel in quite the same way from the book, is women struggling to survive while their country is being demolished. Left without resources, without money, and under attack from all sides (the Union Army, Confederate deserters, the Home Guard), we are faced over and over again with women fighting. Not fighting to kill, and not fighting for the almightly Confederacy, but fighting to survive, fighting to keep something for themselves and their children. It's a part of war that they don't like to make movies about, at least not in anything other than the most trite ways.

Another thing I found really admirable about the film was that the romantic relationship between Kidman and Law was not at the end allowed to overshadow the enduring relationship between Kidman and Zelleweger. To me, they were the interested and sustaining part of the film, and at the end they were what remained. You don't see that very often, and I appreciate it.

Finally, I was a big fan of the film's score. The theme song, "You Will Be My Ain True Love" (written by Sting and performed by the amazing Alison Krauss) is good stuff, but what really impressed me was the bluegrass-influenced music that sifted in and out of the scenes. The White Stripes' Jack White plays a Georgia musician in the film, and the songs he sang and arranged went a long way to help the viewer feel connected to what was going on in the South Carolina hills.

All in all, it was a damn good movie and I'd highly recommend it, particularly if you don't want to bother with the book. I definitely think the movie is a better investment of both time and money.

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Oscars

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Note: these aren't the folks I think are *going* to win, these are the folks who would win if I were in charge.

Best Actor: Bill Murray
Best Actress: Samantha Morton

Best Supporting Actor: Djimon Hounsou
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Clarkson
Animated Feature: Finding Nemo
Art Direction: Girl with a Pearl Earring
Cinematography: Master and Commander
Costume Design: Girl with a Pearl Earring

Direction: Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation
Makeup: Pirates of the Caribbean
Score: Big Fish
Best Picture: Lost in Translation
Original Screenplay: Lost in Translation

Disclaimer #1: If I didn't include a category here, I haven't seen enough of the films in it to have an opinion

Disclaimer #2: Oscar-nominated films I haven't seen include: House of Sand and Fog, Cold Mountain, Mystic River, The Cooler, The Last Samuri, Something's Gotta Give, Monster, Brother Bear, The Triplets of Belleville, Finding Nemo, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Seabiscuit, City of God, A Mighty Wind, and American Splendor, as well as most of the foreign, short film, and documentary nominees.

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In America

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In America premiere posterIt is with reservations that I give In America a four-star rating. As many things as there were to love about the film, there were almost as many annoyances. So maybe it's best to start with things I loved?
1. The acting was great, both from the kids and the adults. I especially liked Emma Bolger as younger daughter Ariel, and was stunned by Samantha Morton as mom Sarah. Morton is best remembered, by me anyway, as the only redeemable part of Minority Report. Also, she's got remarkable hair.
2. The story itself was nice--it was a tear-jerker, to be sure (I cried more than once), but it wasn't so damn unrelentless in it's depression-induction that I left wanting to kill myself.
3. The cinematography was very very good.

Now, things I didn't like:
1. No attention to realism in details--for example, if the radio station when they are driving into New York says they play the "best of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s," then why do they go to the movies to watch E.T.? More irritatingly, how are they easily driving a gigantic station wagon through Time Square? And perhaps worst of all, how in the hell am I supposed to believe that Mateo has late-stage AIDS? Look at his arms for Christ's sake! I'm supposed to believe he dies a few months after that?
2. At the very beginning of the film, the family "sneaks" into America from Ireland, with no green cards, etc. It's never really explained WHY they do this. I mean, you can draw conclusions, based on the rest of the film, but that's a pretty drastic thing to do for no explicit reason.
3. Was the white rapper in the cab really necessary?

But there was one thing that put the film over the line from me and turned an OK movie into a really good movie. There's a scene pretty early on where the family is at a carnival and Johnny, the dad, risks all of their savings/rent money/whatever to try to win his little girl a stuffed E.T. The tension, the crowd, the sinking feeling in your stomach--the whole scene was just freaking amazing. I felt like I was there.

So, all in all, it's definitely worth watching, even if your suspension of disbelief will have to be set very very high for minor details that easily could have been corrected. And I think it's great that Samantha Morton got an Oscar nod for if--the kind of performance she has here doesn't get recognized often enough, and she has a smile that makes you glad to be alive.

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Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

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Master and Commander movie posterThis movie was surprisingly better than I expected it to be. It's a big-budget Hollywood epic, there is no doubt about that, but the acting and dialogue aren't as bad as they could be (note that I am *not* saying they are good, just that they aren't as bad as they could be) and the special effects are great. When they sail through bad weather, you get sick to your stomach. Plus there is just something inherently cool about big old boats.

It also manages to meet most of my criteria for a decent period film. The cast never really looks clean, and they wear the same clothes over and over. They also keep fake accents to a minimum and don't try to overdo the "period speak" (althought they do a fairly irritating job of calling each other "Mr. Lastname" instead of by first name, which I don't quite buy). The medicine is grisly (if fairly unbelievable). The ships quarters seem larger than I would expect, but I guess you have to sacrifice some accuracy in the name of cinema.

I have never pretended to like Russell Crowe. I make no bones about it, I think he's a pompous ass and I don't think he has any acting chops whatsoever. That being said, he didn't irritate me half as much in this film as he did in Gladiator (and yes, I think Gladiator is one of the worst movies every made). And Joaquin Phoenix isn't in this either, so that helps. Billy Boyd, the guy who plays Merry in LOTR, has a smallish part, though, and he's awesome. I also liked Paul Bettany as Crowe's doctor friend, which isn't surprising since I got such a kick out of him in The Knight's Tale (which is, nonetheless, a truly terrible film).

This film has no women in it. It's hard to tell the minor characters apart because everyone is grubby and dressed the same and talks the same and nobody has a first name. It's l-o-n-g. All in all, though, it's one of those things that is worth $8 to see on the big screen, if you get the chance. If you don't, don't bother renting it.

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Elephant

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Elephant movie posterSo foul and fair a day I have not seen.

I've been reading exisiting review's of Gus Van Sant's "Elephant" all morning, and I'm shocked to say that it seems almost everyone got it at least partially right. From Roger Ebert to Indiewire, I agree with at least part of all of the reviews. The truly amazing thing about the movie is highlighed by Ebert--Van Sant doesn't offer an answer. He doesn't offer an explanation. As the Indiewire review pointed out, the film depicts all of the every day battles and humiliations of high school in such a way that you aren't really left wondering why Columbine happened, you are left wondering why it doesn't happen more often.

Which is exactly what I've been saying about this school shootings for years. Why is everyone so fucking surprised? Don't you REMEMBER high school? Had the conflation of circumstances been a little bit different, I might have shot up my school as well, and I think, if you can be honest with yourself, you'll admit that you would have to.

Which is not to say that it has nothing to do with violent media, nothing to do with bad parenting, nothing to do with guns--those are all mechanisms, I think, that make these massacres possible. But whenever I think about it I come down to the problem really being high school. A prefabricated two-dimension wasteland in which it is so difficult to conceptualize anything or anyone as mattering enough to not deserve a good killing, especially in a culture where we don't understand what killing means.

My pontifications aside, "Elephant" is a stunning film. I can't compare it to other films, because it's nothing like other films. The only ones I'd compare it to would be "Kids" (it's way way better) or maybe "Welcome To The Dollhouse" and "Happiness" (it's way different, but accomplishes some of the same things, I think). The decision to use mostly untrained teen actors was a good one--they weren't ackward enough to be real teens, but they were a hell of a lot more ackward than the latest culled-from-Dawson's Creek bunch would have been. And they were more real than even the accepted teeny-bopper indie actors would have been. I felt like I knew some of them, like I'd gone to school with them myself, even if they did have slightly better grooming and wardrobe than the kids I remember. Strangely, I was especially pulled not towards the cool artistic kids, but towards the popular couple. Watching them, I was taken back to my own high school days almost immediately. And I didn't hate them enough to kill them, but I did hate them.

Another really striking thing about the film is the monotony, the flat, washed-out, bored way it's filmed. Every time someone pushes open the door to go outside the school (which seems to happen several times), I got the same feeling of what it's like to do that, how the entire color scheme of outside seems to be more vibrant than the one inside the school. And the sound editing was also amazing--the choice not to use contemporary music was a wise one, I think, and the way the whole film sounded sort of hollow was both haunting and subtle.

All in all, I was captured by it. It was the best thing to date I've seen about these killings. I'm sure Van Sant is drawing criticism for not taking a stand, not having a theory as to why this shit happens, but I think that's the true brilliance of the film. The whole situation is why it happens. Not just the kid having spitballs thrown at him in chemistry, but the hollow sound of the hall, the regimented look of the cafeteria food. This shit happens (in part) because high school steals your soul and without it you have no reason not to kill people. And that's a pretty dangerous statement.

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The Station Agent

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Station Agent movie posterPut simply, The Station Agent is the most moving film I have seen in quite some time. It's a beautiful story about friendship, told beautifully, without any trace of sappiness. It has both a subtle humor and a subtle darkness that leave you feeling both bittersweet and renewed. The filmmaking is simple but flawless and the score (by genius Steven Trask) underplays every seen beautifully.

The story is about Fin (Peter Dinklage), who moves to a rural New Jersey train station after his friend and boss suddenly dies and wills it to him. Fin is quiet and it is clear that he moves to the station in search of solitude. Fin is also a dwarf, which is both what the story is about and not what the story is about. Fin's dwarfism is not ignored in the film, but it's not put on display, either--it comes up, but sometimes it doesn't come up. I have no idea what it's like to be a dwarf, but I think this way of treating differences (or even what some people consider "handicaps") in general is completely effective. There were times I forgot all about Fin's being small, but most of the time it was in my mind, it simply wasn't relevant, or was one of many relevant factors.

Fin's quest for solitude is in vain, as he is befriended in spite of himself by Joe, a hot dog vendor with a dying father (Bobby Cannavale), and Olivia, an artist suffering a great loss of her own (Patricia Clarkson, who should be on everyone's "one to watch" list after her performances here and in Pieces of April. The story runs along in peaks and wanes of their friendship, with no real climax, but an ending feeling of comfort and of finally being comfortable not being alone.

Honestly, I think this movie is a must-see for anyone suffering a recent loss, and really for the rest of us as well. It left my feeling uplifted, but in a realistic way, not a saccharine-high way. The characters are all good people who live, who makes mistakes, and who fall apart and then come back together again.

I'd really like to see Peter Dinklage get an Oscar nod for this performance, and I think Patricia Clarkson deserves one as well. Doubt that will happen, because this just doesn't seem an Oscar kind of film, but one can hope. In the meantime, I am going to be looking for both of them, as well as Bobby Cannavale, in other roles. The acting in this film is outshone only by the amazing writing, a real boon for the first-time writer/director. I'm generally disappointed in movies these days, particularly ones that focus on teh story rather than the sound effects, and it's nice to finally seen an exception.

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Pieces of April

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So I am sitting here looking out the window at Chance's attempts to chase squirrels. He is very dismayed that he can't climb trees and they can. It's hilarious.

We went to quite a good movie last night, Pieces of April. Teenditzactress Katie Holmes makes a surprising turn as the bad daugther in a falling apart family. That sounded very review-esque, didn't it? Well, I don't want to bother explaining the plot, but it was good, you should see it.

Susan cried. It was so cute.

It strangely made me miss my fam, though. Wonder if I will ever get old enough to stop missing my mom? I wish my mom were better at talking on the phone.

I have a big list of stuff to do today. Put chunks in my hair, lots of cleaning, the enivitable school work. Only four weeks left...

I can't think of a damn thing that is even slightly interesting to say.

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Weekend

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Sleepy-deepy. Tony and Susan came over tonight, we all ate pizza and watched Baz's Romeo and Juliet. Susan hadn't seen it before. It was a good time. Susan and Tony left us some other movies to watch. They did that last time they came over as well. Plus we have three more from Netflix. We are awash in movies. I really really wish I could find some time to watch some of them.

I need to consult my list, but I feel like I accomplished a good amount today. Tomorrow's agenda includes the football game, reading, doing laundry, reading, reading and reading. Trying to get something out for an essay for this scholarship app. and some writing for my PRP would be good, too.

And maybe some preliminary research on internships. I met with the internship coordinator today, though, and it sounds like I am in good shape. I need to rework my resume, though, so I will have it on hand if something comes up. Should probably try to get to that this weekend as well. We'll see.

I have an econ midterm in less than two weeks. I definitely need to learn some damn econ.

For now, though, I am quite tired. I think it's time for bed.

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The Magdelene Sisters

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Chance barfed up a sock this morning. A whole freaking sock. Not even one of those little quarter sized socks. Nasty nasty nasty. How can something with a digestive system no bigger than mine swallow an entire goddamn sock??

Magdalene Sisters movie posterSusan and I went to see The Magdalene Sisters last night. Heavy, depressing stuff, but one of the best made films I've seen in awhile. It struck that balance, being heavy enough to be realistic and to keep you interested and concerned about what was going on, but having a few moments of levity so that you didn't turn off completely because it was 2 hours of nonstop depressing. I really liked it. I want to read a book about that situation now.

Interesting trend of anti-Catholic movies. One of the previews last night was for the new film Luther (about, duh, Martin Luther). Not exactly blockbuster stuff, but very interesting.

I started writing the article about the Ms. boards I've had in the back of my head for so long. So far it's unmitigated crap, but hopefully it will get better. I'd like to come up with something I could be proud of and actually submit it to a few places (Bitch, maybe?). That would be an actual worthwhile use of my time, unlike participating in the snarkfests and battles that are raging over there. I am on open-ended hiatus from there now. So far it's been only about 24 hours, and I already miss posting (and I'm still lurking). I'm an addict, it's that simple.

All boils down, I think, to the fact that I need more friends in my real life and better communication with myf riends who are far away. Having a giant and semi-diverse Internet community is so much EASIER, though, even if I am not getting what I need.

I should stop babbling. There is laundry to do, coffee cake to eat, a dog to walk, football to watch, and all of next week's reading to do somewhere in between. And it's already nearly noon.

I fucking love Saturday.

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Thirteen

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Thirteen movie posterI'm not getting any better, am I?

See Thirteen. It's amazing. Susan and I saw it last night and I can't stop thinking about it. So many elements of it took me back to being right there. They obviously felt like I felt. Truly, it was unbelievable. Evie was Moriah in some ways, and I could empathize with so much of the pain I saw in Tracey. I felt like I was in middle school/early high school again throughout most of the movie. Even if a lot of the exact experiences didn't parallel mine (and some of them did) the feeling was so right on.

I'm aware that's a very poor review. Sorry. My reaction to it is still very viseral at this point.

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