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

28 October 2007

Two More for 2007

I have been fairly good here about trying to see the new 2007 releases of late. I know that if I don't do it, I'm going to be way behind by the time Oscar season starts, so I'm trying to keep on top of things even though the thesis is calling my name. I even had to go by myself on Thursday night...

Sean Penn's new movie Into the Wild is pretty great. It stars Emile Hirsch, who I am a big fan of, and features supporting work from William Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden, Hal Holbrook, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Brian Dierker and Vince Vaughn. The way Penn has crafted the film's narrative is particularly of note. It's the story of a lone traveler, who basically goes into the Yukon Territory to commune with nature and live there by himself. How do you tell a story about a person who is all by himself for the majority of the film? The answer is of course: voice-over. But Penn (who also wrote the screenplay) has developed numerous inventive ways of avoiding the traditional (and dreaded, at least by me) voice-over. This is a cleverly filmed, beautiful odyssey of boyhood, manhood, community and principle. I respected the film a hell of a lot, but I also really enjoyed it, and found its insights very moving. Into the Wild also boasts an award-worthy performance by Hal Holbrook (an Oscar nomination should be an incredibly easy get for whoever's selling this movie to the Academy), and I was also very move by Catherine Keener's work. That woman can do no wrong. Into the Wild is a sad, contemplative, and rather long movie, but definitely worth your time.

And Wes Anderson's new movie The Darjeeling Limited is also worth your time, though it is considerably shorter. Darjeeling stars Anderson staple Owen Wilson, as well as Adrien Brody and Rushmore star Jason Schwartzman. I pretty much loved this film, and it gets better in my head the more I think about it. It's your standard Anderson fare, but this one is more a story of brotherhood than anything else. The music is fantastic, incorporating music from four old Satyajit Ray movies and four Merchant-Ivory movies as its own score. It's an intriguing move and the soundtrack gives the film a timeless quality that it wouldn't have had otherwise. As usual for Anderson, the set designs are exquisite: characters all to themselves. The performances, too, are wonderful, and beautifully created. I want to say that Adrien Brody stole the movie, but it's not really a fair statement. He emerges as the most lovable of the brothers, and the most easy to identify with, but Schwartzman and Wilson have an impossible-to-ignore effect on the movie, and I couldn't help loving all of them. A must-see.

Hard at Work

Every thesis and dissertation ever written should begin with the words "Sex and violence." That's how my first draft starts. I feel kind of blessed.

25 October 2007

The Golden Age

Tim and I went to see Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth: the Golden Age last night, which, as you probably know is a sequel to his 1998 film Elizabeth. There are a lot of things to say about the film...
The good first: the costumes are gorgeous, enough of a reason to see the movie in and of itself. Cate Blanchett looks amazing.
Some of the sequences are shot rather beautifully, too—Mary, Queen of Scots' beheading, in particular.
The acting is fine. Cate is chewing the scenery somewhat, but it's not too bad, and there are some really beautiful acting moments in the movie, even though it becomes a camp-fest a lot of times. Samantha Morton is actually really good in the film, despite playing a role that's barely in the movie.
The bad: this film is the campiest movie I've seen all year.
The historiography is a bit suspect. Tim and I kept asking each other whether things happened in the order we were watching. Compressions of time are expected in movies, of course, but the times when the film really goes off the rails are when it shows entire sequences of utter fiction: Elizabeth in full armor talking to troops on land while the Spanish Armada sails up behind her.
Worse, the film is mostly a melodrama, and turns Elizabeth into a bitchy queen who keeps doing things because of how weak she is.
It's more of a costume and light-fest anyway, of course, but it becomes that most of the time, to the point where the narrative really has no bearing on what is happening on screen.
Kapur shoots the film the exact same way he did the first Elizabeth, too: so there are lots of sequences we see through a translucent pane of glass or where 90% of the frame is obscured by some wall hanging or something. He even shoots the important love scenes like this. It's all the more shocking when he actually does show something without media between us and the action. It becomes, in those moments, startlingly clear, that Kapur doesn't really have a sense of a mise-en-scène or how to make pretty pictures that don't involve really expensive costumes.

22 October 2007

Memory Lane

I had my senior high school yearbook out a couple days ago and I was looking over it and shaking my head in shame, and I thought it might be fun to share some of the ridiculous things that people wrote in the yearbook, so here goes; just for fun. Please note that I have left in all of the spelling (and factual) errors in the messages for effect.
what's up champ!
Congradulations on graduating and your accomplishments in High School. Good luck in college and life. I'm sure I'll see your gorgious ass again.
later sweetheart
Brendon J.

Hey Sexy Boy,
How's the love of my life? Thanks for the help in Econ. & Gov. Good luck at work taking messages & picking up lunch. Stay cute, cause' you'll always be GGGAAAAYYY!!!

I'm sorry that I didn't get to know you better. Your a cool guy. Thanks for letting me copy off you in math the other year. When you turn 18 im gonna take you to a strip club. Hurry up and bone Kim. SHE WANTS YOU BAD. Ken K.
Ken also included his phone number. Kim, if you were wondering, was my girlfriend in high school.
you need sum bitches, I mean new one's, since your such a pimp that won't be hard to do. don't have fun in college J/k
Well take it easy and member play em' don't love em'
John E.
I think John had an inside joke with me about calling me "Erin," at least that's what I seem to remember. My favorite message, though, is this one:
Nice Knowing You!
This is particularly hilarious because Derek is easily one of my best friends in the world. I guess he was feeling a little tight-lipped that day.

21 October 2007

Revenge Tragedy. The Beatles. Cashback. High & Mighty.

I have been reading some serious revenge tragedy. I swear, this history class takes up most of my time. I don't know how I have time to do anything else at all.
Last Wednesday it was my turn to be in charge of the day's topic. So I lectured on the transvestite theatre in Elizabethan England. And I did pretty well. It was the best I have felt all semester. I worked my ass off for it, so I guess that is what happens when I hunker down and do hard work. I get especially excited when I get my fellow grad students excited about things. It was a good day.

Of course, what I need to be doing is working on my thesis, but I feel like the universe my major professor is conspiring against me to keep me from my thesis. I don't know when I'm going to do any work on it. I spent yesterday doing reading in the topic of violence, but it all feels so removed from what I should actually be working on. I just don't know. I have watched a couple of movies since last I updated, though, so I might as well share those:

The High and the Mighty is an old John Wayne movie and one of the first disaster films. It's directed by William A. Wellman (a genius) and I liked it as far as these things go. The pilots are all attractive and the acting is campy (Claire Trevor is especially fabulous).

And I finally saw Julie Taymor's Beatles tribute Across the Universe, which—it turns out—is a total mess of a movie. The characters are confused, and the film never gels, despite some really excellent sequences. In particular, the number set to "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" is absolutely superb. There are other good numbers, too, but it just doesn't work, and most of the movie is downright boring. Also hampering the film is the desperate earnestness of Evan Rachel Wood as the movie's heroine. Virtuous earnestness is not something that ever attracts me to a woman, and it doesn't work here at all. Ms. Wood spends most of the film crying. Still, there are fun moments: Bono sings "I Am the Walrus," and Salma Hayek makes a cameo as quintuplet nurses during "Happiness Is a Warm Gun." Still, if you want to see a cool tribute to John, Paul, George and Ringo, go see Cirque du Soleil's LOVE in Las Vegas and skip Across the Universe.

And this morning I rented Sean Ellis's Cashback, which had a cool trailer, but mostly bored me to tears and spent too much of its time objectifying women for me to really enjoy it.

And now I am off to work on the thesis. Really.

On The Purple Rose of Cairo

From Woody Allen on Woody Allen by Stig Björkman:

I wrote a story based on only this: that a woman's dream man comes off the screen and she's in love with him, and then the real actor appears and she's forced to choose between reality and fantasy. And of course one can't choose fantasy, because that can lead to madness, so one has to choose reality. And when you choose reality, you get hurt. As simple as that.
Don't know why I've been thinking about this movie, but it's been in my head lately.

I should post a real update on my life. Maybe tomorrow.

17 October 2007

Monty Clift

Because of my über-busy schedule, I am not able to participate, but everyone should go check out the Montgomery Clift Blog-a-thon, which is happening over at the Film Experience.

Clift is a favorite of mine, giving great performances in a number of classic films, the best being George Stevens' A Place in the Sun. His matinee idol face has been my representative since I started this blog.
So if you don't know Monty, you should check him out, and be sure to hang around the blog-a-thon. Nathaniel will be there all day with new links.

11 October 2007

somewhere i have never travelled

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

09 October 2007

Picture Share

Note the check engine light. My mechanic says I must learn to live with it. I believe him, and I shall.

I am feeling (a little) better this week. Thanks to all who sent me words of encouragement (and chocolate). You guys are the best.

06 October 2007

Revengers Travesty

Alex Cox's updated version of Cyril Tourneur's The Revenger's Tragedy (or is it Thomas Middleton's?) is a big huge mess. It stands on the shoulders of other adaptations of English Renaissance plays, of course. Derek Jarman's Edward II (1991) comes to mind, as well as Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet (1996), Julie Taymor's Titus (1999), and Michael Almereyda's Hamlet (2000), but Revengers Tragedy (the definite article and the apostrophe are both jettisoned for the new title) isn't as good as any of its predecessors.

Christopher Eccleston is fine as the aggrieved Vindici, but Derek Jacobi's Duke is imagined as an early modern Karl Lagerfeld with dark purple lipstick. It's a bizarre film that doesn't seem to be about much of anything, and lacks depth of any kind. There are strange (and misplaced) references to Princess Diana, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth II and the bombing of Hiroshima. It's a near-useless pastiche without focus or a clear narrative, and a moral landscape that defies sense altogether. Skip it absolutely.

I should also mention that last night we (most of the MAs) all went to see Florida State's production of Lanford Wilson's A Sense of Place. I don't want to say anything about the production itself, because the production doesn't matter at all. The play should never have been chosen to open this or anyone's season. It is a truly useless play with nothing to recommend it. Why it is opening our season, and utilizing the time of some of our best designers is completely beyond me.

03 October 2007

This Week Is Amazing.

Playing in Friday in Los Angeles:
The Darjeeling Limited, Into the Wild, My Kid Could Paint That, Michael Clayton, Lust Caution, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Playing Friday in Tallahassee:
The Seeker: the Dark Is Rising, Feel the Noise,The Jane Austen Book Club

This week's negative energy continues untrammeled. My car broke down yesterday.

Just finished Caryl Churchill's Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?, which is a play about Jack (the UK) and Sam (the USA) and their love affair. It's an intriguing, economical piece that I decided to read for pleasure.

I'm feeling better, but I think I might be delusional because I don't think I'm doing better.

02 October 2007

Oh, School.

Remember how I got through the first year of grad school without a major breakdown?

Well, we are rapidly heading toward one right about now.

I need a fucking break. Like, two days. Or even one. I need a couple of days where I don't worry about all the motherfucking work I have to do.