Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

30 September 2007

Feast of Love

Last night's movie was Robert Benton's Feast of Love, which stars Greg Kinnear, Morgan Freeman, Radha Mitchell (so hot!), Selma Blair and Jane Alexander. There's a bunch of other people in the movie, too, but I didn't recognize any of them.
Feast of Love is a total cliché-fest, but I kinda liked it. I mean, it wasn't the second coming of The English Patient, it was more like a straight version of The Broken Hearts Club (I am well aware that that description makes no sense.) Cliché-fest is actually the best description. Love conquers almost everything and Morgan Freeman gets to do nice voiceover that sounds really sweet but is mostly lacking in substance. Still, he's sweet and Greg Kinnear is sort of wonderful in his earnestness. He says these really trite lines in the script with feeling and I honestly believe every word he says in the movie. It's good acting if I've ever seen it: making the clichés sound honest.
There is a lot of nudity in the movie, too, which (as you know) I approve of. A couple of questions, though: why does Selma Blair get work. She is boring. Oh yeah, and did I mention how hot Radha Mitchell is? I am still thinking about her. I think she's sort of fabulous in the movie, too.
Let me make this clear. I am not recommending Feast of Love, but I liked it, as overbaked and silly as it is.

29 September 2007

Terry Gilliam Is Crazy

Last night after we got home from having dinner, Tim, Trent and I decided to watch a movie. Now, The High and the Mighty and Lilies have both been sitting on top of my DVD player for, like, two months, but Tim didn't want to see the John Wayne movie and I didn't think Trent would like Lilies very much (just a hunch). At any rate, we decided to watch Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, which I had never seen. (Tim and Trent had both seen it multiple times.)

This movie's almost twenty years old, so I expect most of you have seen it too, but I loved it. I thought it was crazy and fun. I thought the art direction was amazing, I loved how it was shot, and I loved how absolutely outrageous it was. Most of the story is completely and totally ridiculous. I had a total blast. I am not a big fan of the whole middle section on the Moon with Robin Williams (I am not much a fan of Williams' manic energy, as you probably know), but even that was mitigated by the fabulous presence of Valentina Cortese.

Anyway, I thought it was very fun.

28 September 2007

Broken English

Quick review of the new Zoe Cassavetes movie. I don't know about you, but when I saw the trailer for Broken English, I thought it looked really funny and cute. The movie isn't really cute, though. It's actually rather frustrating and painful.
The main point to make, I think, is that the main character Nora (Parker Posey) is a frustrated thirty-something with very little direction who spends almost the entirety of the film being absolutely miserable. Posey is funny when at all possible, and the film is quirky and (I think) tries to be funny on occasion. There is, for instance, a silly sequence early on with Justin Theroux as a womanizing, ridiculous movie star who clutches a pillow and talks about the craft of acting. But instead of playing up how laughable the situation is, Cassavetes directs the sequence very earnestly and points up how pathetic poor Nora is. It's all rather depressing, in fact.
The lighter stuff starts when Nora's French love interest Julien comes on the scene. He's played by Melvil Poupaud, who I loved in François Ozon's Time to Leave. Still, though Broken English lightens up, it never really gets off the ground. Julien seems to really like Nora, though it is a complete mystery why. She is a total mess and continues to be for the rest of the movie.
I suppose this is a film about growing up, about taking control of your life and making changes that give your life meaning. But Broken English just doesn't work. It's far too depressing to be a comedy, and too quirky to be really taken seriously as a story of an anxiety-ridden thirtysomething. Parker Posey continues to demonstrate her considerable talents, but skip this flick.

Administrative Hell

So I've just spent two hours trying to schedule meetings with sixty grad students who are all busier than god would be if there were a god. The problem is that they all need to fit into a 60-minute window on a Monday afternoon (not so bad) or a 90-minute window in the middle of the day on a Tuesday (near-impossible). I'm doing pretty well with the scheduling, actually...

...except that there's nowhere for them to meet.

Now I have to do some research for The Tamer Tamed. The director requested a bunch of stuff about two weeks ago and I haven't looked at it since (to be fair to myself, I was a little busy trying to do research for my seminar on Gender in the Spanish Golden Age). But today, instead of writing for my thesis, I will be researching The Tamer Tamed. The thesis will have to wait for another day.

On an up note, I don't have another seminar to facilitate for another three weeks, I am two weeks ahead of my assignments in British Theatre, and the reading for History this week will be light (only about 170 pages). Perhaps I will have time to work on the thesis on Sunday or Monday.

24 September 2007

Two Movies for the Weekend

I know I'm really busy with school and all that sort of thing, but Fall movie season is upon us, and this weekend I had a minor panic attack that I wasn't getting to see any of the movies that are coming out. I have this fear that we'll get to December and I won't have seen anything because I've been sequestered at Florida State.

Long story short, I decided to go to two movies this weekend. Molière and Shoot 'Em Up were my third and fourth choices for the weekend, but they didn't happen. Instead I saw 2 Days in Paris. Julie Delpy directed this movie, and it works, sort of. It's a comedy about a French woman who takes her American boyfriend to Paris for a quick stop-over to meet her parents (and four or five of her ex-boyfriends). The boyfriend is Adam Goldberg, who I love (although I am used to seeing Delpy paired with Ethan Hawke) and Delpy's father and mother play the father and mother. It's kind of like a deeply personal film that doesn't really get under the skin at all. It's a very silly comedy that is sometimes very funny and sometimes more irritating than anything else. I liked it, but just barely. It's not a terrible movie, it just isn't really about anything. And to top it all off, Goldberg's character is a hypochondriac, constantly whining about a headache or his sinuses or an infection of some sort. Paranoia is not my favorite thing in the world as it is, but whining is just not good drama.

The other film I saw was the new Cronenberg, Eastern Promises. Story: I have a very specific memory of seeing A History of Violence. My friend Justin and I went randomly to the movie, and at one point in the film, Viggo Mortensen smashes some guy in the face with a coffee pot. Cut to the guys mangled, bloody face leaking gore onto the floor of the diner. It was a total gross-out moment, after which Justin said "Thanks, David Cronenberg." There were about ten of those moments in Eastern Promises. Cronenberg just does not shy away from showing the horrific things that people do to one another. It's audacious and exciting. The movie is a superb thriller, occasionally a little slow (this is Armin Mueller-Stahl's fault), but excellent. Naomi Watts is very good. Vincent Cassel (I freaking love that guy) gives a great supporting performance that manages to be both pathetic and moving. And Viggo Mortensen is absolutely wonderful. He gives an enigmatic, scary performance that is impossible to predict. He always keeps you guessing and you never have any idea what's going on in his head. It's really excellent.

21 September 2007

The Chine / Garlicked and Crisped

From The Writer's Almanac:
Poem: "Family Reunion" by Maxine Kumin from Our Ground Time Here will Be Brief. © Viking Press, 1989. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Family Reunion

The week in August you come home,
adult, professional, aloof,
we roast and carve the fatted calf
—in our case home-grown pig, the chine
garlicked and crisped, the applesauce
hand-pressed. Hand-pressed the greengage wine.

Nothing is cost-effective here.
The peas, the beets, the lettuces,
hand sown, are raised to stand apart.
The electric fence ticks like the slow heart
of something we fed and bedded for a year,
then killed with kindness's one bullet
and paid Jake Mott to do the butchering.

In winter we lure the birds with suet,
thaw lungs and kidneys for the cat.
Darlings, it's all a circle horn the ring
of wire that keeps the raccoons from the corn
to the gouged pine table that we lounge around,
distressed before any of you was born.

Benign and dozy from our gluttonies,
the candles down to stubs, defenses down,
love leaking out unguarded the way
juice dribbles from the fence when grounded
by grass stalks or a forgotten hoe,
how eloquent, how beautiful you seem!

Wearing our gestures, how wise you grow,
ballooning to overfill our space,
the almost-parents of your parents now.
So briefly having you back to measure us
is harder than having let you go.

17 September 2007

The Lives of Others & L'Eclisse

I don't really re-watch movies. It's sort of an unwritten rule for me. Every year I watch maybe one or two movies (I re-watched both All About Eve and Network a couple months ago) but I generally don't do it. There are just too many movies I haven't seen to spend time watching something I've seen already. That said, the free movie theatre on campus decided to show Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others) last week and I decided to go see it again.
If you haven't seen The Lives of Others you should, of course, go see it. It's a drama about a Stasi interrogator/spy in 1980s East Germany who starts to develop affection for the man and woman that he's spying on, which leads him to quietly change his whole life around.
One of the things about not ever watching movies for a second time is that because I hardly ever revisit films I hardly ever think about them apart from their plots. So a tightly woven film that is all about plot, like The Lives of Others can have a huge impact on me using only its plot devices.
The Lives of Others is ("nothing more than" doesn't seem appropriate for a film this good) more than anything else, a really well-told melodrama. It's a personal story of betrayal and information and private meanings. Everything hinges on the plot and all of the emotional impact (the film packs a wallop) depends on the way that the plot hangs together. I didn't really recognize this the first time I saw it, but this time I noticed just how brilliantly crafted the script is. It's a small marvel of intrigue and cleverness. As I said, it's also a very moving film and works on all levels with characters that cannot help but make you love them. Don't skip this movie.

I also finally watched Antonioni's L'Eclisse this weekend. It's easily my new favorite of Antonioni's films. If you don't know this director, than you don't know quite how much this means. Antonioni's movies are always near-brilliant, and L'Eclisse completely knocks it out of the park. It's almost a silent film, filled with interior explorations and urban disaffection. The plot is really easy to describe: the main characters (Monica Vitti and Alain Delon) love one another, he chases her, she chases him, and then they kind of get bored with one another. The plot synopsis on IMDb says something about their relationship not working out because he is focused on material gain or somesuch nonsense, but that explanation misses the point of the film completely. L'Eclisse is a movie about wanting to find love and finding out that love isn't what you wanted, or that love doesn't really satisfy. The characters are dominated by their surroundings, their relationship mediated by the spaces they inhabit. It's a fascinating, gorgeous film with what has to be one of the best endings ever put on film.

13 September 2007

How We Change.

It's funny how much different we can become. How many years ago was it where every other day I was talking about having a baby? Does anyone remember? I was obsessed with that.

And now...

Today I went to a social for the Congress of Graduate Students and it was sort of an older crowd (by design). The majority of people who went were older grad students with families and a lot (a whole bunch, actually) brought their kids to this event. These families were getting out of their cars and minivans and sport utility vehicles and I thought to myself "Wow, I am so glad I am spared from having to do that."

I'm not sure if I really mean that, but right now in my life the idea of having a child is completely unthinkable. Like, completely and totally ludicrous. But I can't even honestly see it in my future either. I just don't want one anymore. I bet this happens to people who have kids all the time. They really want a kid around age 23 or so (like me) so they actually have one. Then they get to be about my age now and they don't want kids at all but they already have one (or three).

What's worse, if I were heterosexual, I would probably already have a kid. I'm pretty positive about it, actually.

A Trip to Cost Plus

So this week I tried to order some chocolate from my favorite Vegas chocolatier Vosges Haut Chocolat, but when I got to the checkout screen, my $7.00 order rang up as $35.00. It seems that because I live in a hot climate (no kidding) Vosges will only ship to me UPS Next Day Air. Well, I was not about to pay $35.00 for a chocolate bar, so I vetoed that order and did a little search on the website to see if I could purchase Vosges in a store somewhere close to me. No such luck. No Vosges retailers within 150 miles of Tallahassee. Big surprise. I had to let that go.

Now, I have totally become obsessed with Kettle Foods' Krinkle Cut potato chips. My favorite flavor is the Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper (the tagline "the yin yang of spice" might be a bit of an oversell, but these are damn good chips.) And of course these chips are practically nowhere to be found in Tallahassee.

...Except at Cost Plus World Market, the store that seemingly has every imported food item I want. I still can't find a store that sells fresh Thai basil, but one can't have everything; it's Tallahassee. We don't have a Trader Joe's either. At any rate, back to the matter at hand:
I went on a little errand run to the World Market and the gas station and to the FSU library. At World Market I stocked up on the essentials: Czechvar lager, Thai red curry paste, this amazing mustard with horseradish that I love, the best iced tea ever, and my beloved krinkle cut chips. I can't find this stuff anywhere except World Market. But I walk into World Market and there it all is. It's fantastic!

And while browsing in the store, what did I come upon in the chocolate aisle, but a chocolate bar called Red Fire. By Vosges. They also carry the Creole bar. They don't carry some of the other awesome candy bars (I really want to try the Bacon one and the Oaxaca is better than Red Fire) but this completely and totally made my day. Vosges in Tallahassee. Who woulda thought?

12 September 2007

From the Trenches

I wish there were something to report. I feel like all I do is study and read and work at my new cushy office job (where I happen to be right now). I am finding a little more focus. I plan to write about two playwrights in particular: David Rudkin and Mark Ravenhill, but I am still a little unsure as to where all this is headed. I think it will all become clearer as I start writing in the next ten days.

I think my biggest issue is that what I really want to do is a kind of giant critical survey, the kind, of course, that I do not have time to do for a thesis (it's only supposed to be 80-100 pages). I think what needs to happen is that I really just need to hunker down and do a very narrow critical study on my two playwrights and why I think they're interesting in terms of queer violence. I know, this is all dry, philosophical stuff. I'm sorry I don't have anything more intriguing to talk about, but research has become my whole life again.

I watched The Lives of Others again last night. I will write about it tonight, hopefully.

09 September 2007

3:10 to Yuma

It's like a Gladys Knight song whenever I write the title of James Mangold's new movie 3:10 to Yuma.

He's leaving
On that midnight train to Yuma.
I'd rather live in his world
Than live without him in mine.

I liked 3:10 to Yuma, but not all that much, I have to be honest. The movie looks really great (snow on the desert = great visuals) but it is a longer movie than it should be, and it wrings sentiment out of its scenes like so much whiskey. Still, there are a lot of good things to be said about it. The performances are uniformly good. Christian Bale and Russell Crowe are top-notch. Crowe is doing his movie star schtick, but it's as charming as ever. Bale is a little more earnest than he should be, but he's great as usual (and ubiquitous - he sure does work). Gretchen Mol has a couple really good scenes, too. And Peter Fonda has an excellent supporting role that suits him just right. My favorite performance in the film is by Ben Foster (of X-men 3 fame), who plays Crowe's right-hand man. It's a bold, crazy, hip-swinging performance that reminded me a lot of Tim Roth's murderous turn in Rob Roy (for a lot of reasons).

The film had me hooked for quite a while, actually, it's just that the third act of 3:10 to Yuma doesn't make a damn bit of sense and takes a turn toward the unapologetically sentimental when it should be hard-bitten.

05 September 2007

Buzz Buzz

Hello everyone,
I am sorry I have been so busy and those lovely friends of mine who have called me, I am very sorry I haven't called you back.
I am once again in the black hole of grad school at least for another week or two. I haven't yet figured out how to manage my time well and there already seems so much to do!
I work in the office here in the School of Theatre now, too. That's where I am now, killing time until I get off for lunch in forty-five minutes.
I am, of course, reading a lot still. There already seems so much reading to do and I still also have to work on this thesis. (And there is still a lot of reading to do for that particular project, as well.)
It is early in the semester, certainly, but if you know me very well, you know that I've already started to be anxious about whether or not I can fit all of this work in my days.

Ah well. I will figure it all out. Call me or email me if you feel like a chat.
Much love,