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

29 February 2008

But He Isn't Arguing Anything!

I keep writing chapter three (I am on page twelve), but I have yet to really argue anything.


Poem by W.H. Auden: As I Walked Out One Evening

As I walked out one evening,
Walking down Bristol Street,
The crowds upon the pavement
Were fields of harvest wheat.

And down by the brimming river
I heard a lover sing
Under an arch of the railway:
'Love has no ending.

'I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
Till China and Africa meet,
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street,

'I'll love you till the ocean
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

'The years shall run like rabbits,
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages,
And the first love of the world.'

But all the clocks in the city
Began to whirr and chime:
'O let not Time deceive you,
You cannot conquer Time.

'In the burrows of the Nightmare
Where Justice naked is,
Time watches from the shadow
And coughs when you would kiss.

'In headaches and in worry
Vaguely life leaks away,
And Time will have his fancy
To-morrow or to-day.

'Into many a green valley
Drifts the appalling snow;
Time breaks the threaded dances
And the diver's brilliant bow.

'O plunge your hands in water,
Plunge them in up to the wrist;
Stare, stare in the basin
And wonder what you've missed.

'The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead

'Where the beggars raffle the banknotes
And the Giant is enchanting to Jack,
And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer,
And Jill goes down on her back.

'O look, look in the mirror?
O look in your distress:
Life remains a blessing
Although you cannot bless.

'O stand, stand at the window
As the tears scald and start;
You shall love your crooked neighbour
With your crooked heart.'

It was late, late in the evening,
The lovers they were gone;
The clocks had ceased their chiming,
And the deep river ran on.

26 February 2008

Two Movies in Rapid Succession

I reluctantly watched Paul Haggis's war drama In the Valley of Elah the other day, since it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor. I don't like Paul Haggis as a rule. He doesn't like his characters enough for me to really appreciate him: kind of like the Neil LaBute of cinema (well, not as bad as LaBute, but you get what I mean). The last film of his I watched (The Last Kiss) I found completely infuriating, since it was based on a really good film. Haggis's version, made all the characters unlikeable.

In the Valley of Elah follows this mold, but is also a really poorly crafted film. The set up of Elah is that Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon's son goes AWOL somewhere in Texas. He disappears from the base and Jones goes down to the base to find him. He meets with opposition from the Army and so he recruits Charlize Theron, who is a local cop, to help him find his kid. The kid turns out murdered and chopped up into pieces. And then it loses steam, because the movie isn't really about anything. There is not really a plot except the act of figuring out what happened to the kid. And what happened to the kid is really underwhelming. Worse yet, what happened to the kid is revealed to the audience piecemeal, like evidence gradually being discovered in an episode of "Law & Order." There is no real detective work in the film, instead evidence just keeps dropping into the audience's lap. It's an un-artful way to script a mystery film, and In the Valley of Elah never works.

I also finally watched Deliverance, John Boorman's film of James Dickey's novel. I am writing about this movie obliquely for my thesis, so I thought it was important to watch it, at least for the scene of male rape that occurs about halfway through the film. Deliverance is a weird picture. It is centered around an act of male rape, but the movie is really an adventure picture with a tiny plot. I liked it, I suppose, but I didn't really get the film. It's a strange story to want to tell and it's told in a strange way. Eh.

24 February 2008

No More Tamer

So the Tamer Tamed symposium is officially over, thank Jesus. Now I can get back to writing my thesis and actually doing the homework for the class I'm taking. (I'm taking a class called U.S. Latino/a Theatre & Performance, by the way. It's a blast.)

So tonight after the Oscars I plan to start writing Chapter Three. I have decided to write about Mark Ravenhill's plays Handbag, Mother Clap's Molly House, and Some Explicit Polaroids. I was going to tell you what my angle is, but it has no real theoretical basis and so it may end up changing as I start to write. I don't know yet. As of now, my thesis defense date is March 26th, which means the whole thing (i.e. chapter three and the conclusion) needs to be finished and to my committee two weeks prior to that, or March 12th. This date, you might have noticed, is less than three weeks away. I don't know how this is going to happen, but it needs to.

Grad school is totally kicking my ass right now.

Is everyone excited for the Oscars tonight? Should be fun. This is the happiest I have been with the Academy in quite a long time.

21 February 2008

Oscar Predictions

It's three days until the Academy Awards ceremony, and I apologize for not doing my usual run-up to the awards. I have been spending a ton of time, instead, with one of my favorite topics: Elizabethan & Jacobean theatre. I will also be working for most of the day on Sunday, so I won't be having a party this year either.

At any rate, I do want to make some predictions for the ceremony, since it is in a couple of days. (P.S. I got 16 out of 20 last year, which is pretty damn good.) So, this is who I think will win:

Best Picture - No Country for Old Men
Best Director - No Country for Old Men
Best Actor - There Will Be Blood
Best Actress - La Vie en Rose
Best Supporting Actor - No Country for Old Men
Best Supporting Actress - Michael Clayton
Best Original Screenplay - Juno
Best Adapted Screenplay - No Country for Old Men
Best Foreign Language Film - the Counterfeiters
Best Cinematography - No Country for Old Men
Best Film Editing - There Will Be Blood
Best Costume Design - Atonement
Best Art Direction - Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Best Original Score - Atonement
Best Sound Mixing - No Country for Old Men
Best Sound Editing - There Will Be Blood
Best Original Song - Once
Best Visual Effects - Transformers
Best Makeup - La Vie en Rose
Best Animated Feature - Ratatouille

As I've said before, I really love this year's selection of Best Picture nominees, and even I would have a rough time picking my favorites in most of these categories. So, I will be really happy with There Will Be Blood and No Country picking up ten or twelve Oscars between them, no matter who wins the most. Still, I predict that most of the love will lean toward the Coens.
People I am especially rooting for, who I think actually have a chance of winning:
. Julie Christie, Away from Her
. Atonement in all categories
. Ruby Dee, American Gangster

Happy viewing!

16 February 2008


I actually sat through Brian Robbins's film Norbit in its entirety. Like last year's Click, I would never have watched Norbit except that it was nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for an Oscar in the category of Best Makeup. (An award it should probably win. The makeup really is excellent. But in service of what must be the most atrocious, tasteless film of the year.)

Norbit stars Eddie Murphy as a nebbish orphan who marries an enormously fat black woman who bullies him and makes his life hell. Murphy, of course, also plays the wife (her name is Rasputia). Murphy also plays Mr. Wong, the Chinese man who runs the adoption agency where Norbit lived as a child. The film also stars the totally gorgeous Thandie Newton, Cuba Gooding Jr., Eddie Griffin (the only funny person in the movie), and Katt Williams.

The main thing about Norbit is that it should never have been made. The amount of time and effort that was spent on something this ridiculous, this offensive and this pointless is mind-boggling. It's extremely poorly directed, with some absolutely terrible acting at times. The plot is paper-thin and is really just an excuse for fat joke after fat joke after fat joke. If this isn't completely offensive, I don't know what is. And it isn't even funny. And the film makes it seem as though Rasputia's weight is not just heavy, but immeasurable. She is heavy like an anvil in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. She busts through walls with her weight, and empties pools by landing in them, though she is never injured or hurt in any way. All that weight, I guess, keeps her from being injured. Fat people, it seems, don't actually feel anything.

The penultimate sequence in the film sees Mr. Wong (who has a love of whaling) yelling "Whale Ho!" and throwing a makeshift harpoon at Rasputia. He hits her, you guessed it, directly in her asshole. Aside from being completely preposterous, it's a sanitized and valorized image of anal rape! Rasputia, of course, is not injured, because fat people don't have any feelings, or even nerve endings. She speeds off like Wile E. Coyote and flees the town.

A horrific movie. Not as boring as Becoming Jane, but horrific nonetheless.

11 February 2008


Okay. I cry uncle. I am a passive-aggressive, whiny bitch.

But I am finding it really hard to work on this symposium no matter how many encouraging emails I get. I don't want to do this shit and it makes working on it all the harder. I could be doing something fun. Like working on my thesis. Grr.

John Fletcher is my enemy.

06 February 2008

Surf's Up

So in my ongoing task of seeing all of the films nominated for this year's Academy Awards, last night Trent and Julie and I watched the Chris Buck and Ash Brannon animated comedy Surf's Up starring a bunch of cartoon penguins riding waves.

Surf's Up is really good. I know, I know. I was skeptical, too. And I'm rather sick of penguin movies, quite frankly. But it's good. See, it's a faux documentary about a little penguin named Cody Maverick who wants to win a surfing championship. The way it works is that we're always aware that there's a camera watching the little penguins and their crazy antics. There are cameras attached to the surfboards, like in other (less enjoyable) surfing documentaries (Step into Liquid comes to mind. Zzzzzzzzz.), and so when animated water splashes onto the camera lens, water stays on the camera. It's a really cool trick and it endeared me to the movie in a way I can't explain. The whole thing is just so inventive. The plot, of course, is ridiculously trite, and frequently descends into idiotic sentimentality. But the filmmaking is stellar. Brannon and Buck are even in the film as the cameramen. They ask questions of the penguins and manipulate the "cameras." It's all so much fun. The voice talent is great, too. Shia LaBoeuf is one of my new favorites. Although he does say "no no no no no no" a lot (as pointed out by my friend Kevin the last time I talked about Shia.) The other actors are the great Jeff Bridges, Diedrich Bader, Jon Heder, Zooey Deschanel, and James Woods (is he in every animated movie, or is it just me?). Pro-surf legends Kelly Slater and Rob Machado also make appearances as correspondents for SPEN, the sports penguin entertainment network.

Anyway, it's no Ratatouille but Surf's Up is a good time.

03 February 2008

The Rape Chapter

I finished draft one of the rape chapter tonight. My advisor has been really liking my first drafts, so I expect her to give this one the okay, too. We'll see. The rape chapter is a tad more theoretical than my last chapter. Anyhow, since it consumes so much of my time, I thought I might share part of it (the most theoretical part, incidentally, and therefore the part my professor is likely to object to the most). Let me know what you think:
The rapist is unique as a character because the act of rape effectively renders him different from his society. The rapist is at once a combination of the criminally deviant and the sexually deviant and is, therefore, irredeemably queer.
The staged act of rape that the rapist commits performs a similar function for the rape victim. As with the rapist, the male victim of a rape is also defined by both sexual deviance and violence. Michael Scarce’s reading of James Dickey’s novel Deliverance (1970) and John Boorman’s film of the book illuminates the point: after Bobby is raped by a man in the Georgia woods, “[h]is comrades cannot stop thinking of Bobby’s ‘willingness’ to be raped, as is common treatment for many male rape survivors. We like to believe that men are capable of defending themselves physically, and if a man is raped, he must have somehow allowed it to happen. This classic blame-the-victim mentality is accompanied by a feminization of Bobby.” A willingness to be penetrated by another man is unquestionably a component of gay male identity. The men in Deliverance come to see Bobby as feminized because of the violation committed against him. The act of rape queers Bobby for them. His sexual preferences and proclivities have, of course, not changed in the moment of this act of violence, but the men (and the audience) see him differently because of it. The assumption or accusation of homosexuality in this case of male rape is an ideological tactic designed to minimize the vulnerability of all males to acts of (sexual) violence. We read rape as homosexuality in order to exempt ourselves from the very real possibility of similar violation.
Thoughts? Should I post some more? This chapter, quite frankly, took a lot out of me. Turns out it's really difficult to write about acts of rape and how they form and inform subjectivity.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At Series' End

Yeah, so, I watched Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End this morning. Actually, I watched the first hour and forty minutes or so last night and then the final hour and ten minutes this morning so I could send the DVD off in its little red envelope back to Netflix.

Do I really need to tell you that it was stupid? As with film number two, the plot made very little sense. Orlando Bloom is gorgeous. Um... what else? The things for which the film received Academy Award recognition were indeed stellar. The makeup was exceptionally cool, and the effects, as usual, were rather stunning. I had no idea what was going on half the time, and there were about twelve pauses where we had sad dialogue about how people couldn't be with their true loves and junk like that. I have already said many times in this forum how bored I get when an action movie decides it's going to be about love for ten minutes and then returns to action. Stay an action movie! We don't care about love. We're here to watch shit blow up!

I laughed out loud three or four times, which is more than I can say for Pirates Part Two. It was mostly just really fucking boring. I didn't hate it, honestly, but I was expecting it to be much worse and it wasn't too horrible. Plus I broke up the monotony by watching it in stages. Maybe I'll watch Norbit in stages. No. It's probably best to just get it over with as quickly as possible (like virginity).