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

26 April 2015

Short Conversations about A Dance with Dragons (Book 5)


Me: I'm only on "Tyrion I" of A Dance with Dragons and GRRM has already cooked his best meal yet. Magister Illyrio and Tyrion are eating the most delicious meal. And they're having a dialogue about mushrooms stewed in butter and garlic. I already love this book.
Catie: It is such a good book. I need Tyrion all the time.

Me: Jon Snow is a fucking badass. Beheading Janus Slint?? Amazing. I was applauding in my car.
Mike: Ha. Just wait.

Me: I am into this fifth book, but I miss Jaime and Arianne and – you won't believe this – even Brienne. Oooo and Loras. What is going to happen to beautiful Loras and his crafty sister??? And Sansa! Lord. What is going on in the world.
Jeanne: I know! It was so crazy to me when Arya disappeared completely from whichever book it was. It's getting crazy. I read a theory the other day about how Jaime and Cersei may be Targaryens. What!!!! It actually made some sense to me.
Me: That totally makes sense. Incest and all.
Jeanne: Right. And blondes, though no purple eyes.
Me: Yeah. They are Lannisters.

Catie: I just want him to kill off everyone except who we love.
Me: Hahahaha. Me too. Tell me that we will return to Jaime and Sansa and co. in the later part of this book...

Me: Roy Dotrice [the guy who reads the audiobook] changed the voice of Melisandre. I am bereft. It was my favorite thing.
Caleb: Yeah. I didn't want to say since you hate knowing if a character will still be alive, but yeah. There are some others that he does that for. Also, some change because of how the TV show is shaping up. I am not sure if there is more than one version of the audiobook.
Me: Yeah. I figured this was partially because of the TV. But Melisandre had the best voice. Why would he do that? It's awful. The voices all stayed the same until AFFC, but now Daenerys is different too. Ugh.
Caleb: Well, as Neil Gaiman says, George R.R. Martin is not your bitch. Perhaps Roy is not either.
Me: Apparently not.
Caleb: Wow. There's actually a song version of "George R.R. Martin is not your bitch". (
Me: Hahaha. Why are you googling that?
Caleb: Because I read Neil Gaiman's blog. And he wrote a post about people complaining that GRRM is working on other projects and not working on other projects and not writing on the series. And is super unhealthy and likely to die without finishing it. So I was checking to reference the post and found that the internet has turned the post into a song.
Me: I think Roy Dotrice sort of sucks, actually.
Caleb: Yeah, as readers go, Roy is not my favorite. He's good, but I don't love him. He doesn't create the tender feelings that I have for some audio performances. I guess I feel that he doesn't love the characters.
Me: He mispronounces too many things. And he – exactly – doesn't really like the characters.
Caleb: Most of the readers that I like really love the characters. It comes through. Simon Vance with Master and Commander spent twenty years recording those books.
Me: Yeah. Neville Jason, who read the Recherche clearly loved those characters. I had a lot of feelings with those books.
Caleb: Robert Inglis spent ten years doing a one-man version of Lord of the Rings on the West End before recording those books. But honestly I don't love the Song of Ice and Fire characters. I enjoy the series, but I don't feel fond of them. I like some of them and I'm interested in what happens to them, but they aren't like old friends.
Me: I love lots of them.
Caleb: So I sort of understand where Roy is coming from.
Me: That's the writing, though. It's just not that good.
Caleb: Yeah... it's good storytelling but not great writing. I can't see myself wanting ro re-read or listen after I finish. It's more of a thriller.
Me: Yeah, I'm sending the CDs right out back for sale. Not planning to re-listen.

Me: Ooo! I have a theory. I think Varys is actually already hanging out with Daenerys in Meereen and we just don't know it yet.
Catie: Yes!!!! Stannis is so zzzzzz right now, isn't he?
Me: I love Davos, though.
Catie: That onion knight. He's got an appropriate amount of honor.
Me: I love Davos. He is such a good man. I am not complaining about any of these POV characters. I am happy with all of them. Just so perplexed as to how few of them there are. Tyrion, Davos, Dani, Jon. That's this whole book! Except for the sad sad sad sad section with Theon.
Catie: Ugh, poor Theon. Just: poor Theon. Nothing like a bit of castration to make you like an asshole.
Me: But I always liked him, remember?
Catie: Ugh. You always see right through people.

Me: Ask me how many fucks I give about Daenerys and her difficulties in Meereen.
Catie: One for every day you've been alive?
Me: Hahaha.
Catie: Where are you in The Wall saga?
Me: Jon Snow (whom I have begun to like again) has just recruited like 65 wildlings to fight for The Wall.
Catie: Ah yes. I am a sucker for him. Also in a literal sense.

Me: This book is sort of terrible. Although, I suppose it's no worse than its predecessors.
Caleb: No, it is. At least the others were tight and kept moving. They were at least somewhat focused. This one just goes off. Some characters take up 70% of the book and who knows what's going on elsewhere. It's one thing to have a lot of open plots running parallel. But it's different to just let most of them fall off while others go on some epic wild-goose chase. I think it loses all sense and narrative focus. Just my take.
Me: I am really frustrated. There is this new dragon prince. And that's nice, but I want to get to know him a little. This book wants me to be interested in him without me knowing a thing about him.
Caleb: It's more of the Dornish plot. The Sunspear people. That ties in a little there.
Me: And as for all of the drama with the cities in Slaver's Bay? I don't give two shits. I love the Dornish plot!
Caleb: The three sisters thing? I don't want to say too much.
Me: But Quentyn Martell has literally had two chapters. And GRRM hasn't even made him an official POV character.
Caleb: Yeah. There's a lot of GRRM telling us that characters have backstory without really showing us. Like oh yeah, we've been through so much together, right, old pal? And as a reader it's just cheap.
Me: And the red city and the yellow city and Daenerys in Meereen and all of that shit. I do not care.
Caleb: Uh... well... there's a lot of that. Sons of the Harpy and all. Hours in my memory.
Me: Zzzzzzzz. I do feel, at least, as though he has known all along what he's gonna do. Unlike somebody like JK Rowling who is just making it up as she goes along.
Caleb: Really? I don't think he totally knows where he's going with it all. I think this is going to be like Lost where the writers have no idea how to end it in the final season. I mean is winter fucking coming or not? We're five books in and it's not even fall yet.
Me: It's fall. What do you mean? It is fall.
Caleb: Is it, though? Child of Summer?
Me: Hahaha.

Me: It doesn't matter where we are – the river lands, the North, the Vale, White Harbor – each of these heart trees is bigger than the last one.
Catie: Hahahaha. I want to have a godswood.
Me: You live in Manhattan. Your apartment is smaller than a heart tree.
Catie: That is an actual fact. It is smaller than the Iron Throne.
Me: Please carve Bran's face into the kitchen wall.
Catie: Hahaha. Fuck that. Varys.
Me: Haha. I only said Bran because he is a fucking heart tree now.
Catie: Isn't that so weird? I like hearing these because I forget!!
Me: Where is Varys? We haven't seen that queen in two whole books! I miss him!
Catie: Haha. Me too! I think you're right: with Dani.
Me: He must be, right? But if he is, then why not just take Tyrion with him? I don't get it. Maybe he is with yet another hidden Targeryan. Also, no one has died. In like 800 pages. I don't believe he is going to kill anyone anymore.
Catie: Well I am keeping my mouth shut.
Me: Oh that's good to hear. I need some death.
Catie: Let me know ASAP when you read it. It's left very open ended.
Me: I'm not reading these books for psychological depth. I need assassinations.
Catie: They are works of literature.
Me: Hahahahaha. I just got to the first Jaime chapter in this book. Honestly my favorite people in this book: Theon, Davos, Jon. Because everything else is happening on the other side of the Sea and I don't give a shit.
Catie: Yes. No shits. At all. So boring lately. So whiny.
Me: But Theon really is so interesting. And I fucking love Jaime. He is so complex.
Catie: I would also love doing him,
Me: Oh hell yes.

Me: "Plots within plots, but all roads lead down the dragon's gullet."
Caleb: I assume you aren't holding that up as a model of prose.
Me: Hahaha. I like Tyrion's japes.

Me: "The road beneath the wall was as dark and cold as the belly of an ice dragon." The simile makes no sense. We have never met an ice dragon. What the fuck is he talking about?
Caleb: No, he's just making stuff up. Even if we had met an ice dragon the comparison is meaningless. It doesn't aid our understanding or give us a mental picture. If the sentence was like a dragon made of ice that's a little better. But no one has ever been inside a dragon made of ice to help the comparison. You could just say like a big icy hallway and it would be about the same level of meaning.
Me: Exactly. If he actually described the inside of it, it would be much more helpful. I think we've finally reached where AFFC left off.

Me: I'm feeling kind of proud because I think I've just figured something out before GRRM told me. There is a singer at Winterfell helping Stannis by killing men. He brought like five women with him and he keeps trying to talk to Theon. It is Mance Rayder.
Caleb: Could be. If he didn't tell you, he at least hinted very heavily. That whole story of how he's done that before maybe.
Me: Sure, but that was in book 2!

Jeanne: I'm gonna have to speed read them all again if book 6 ever comes out.
Me: Naw. You can just wiki all of that stuff. Also I love Theon. I've always loved Theon, but even I had to look up all of that Reek/Ramsey Bolton business. We are in book 5 and that was in book 2.
Jeanne: Ugh. I hate Theon. We have no common loves in GoT. Maybe Arya? How can you love him!!
Me: He is so sad. And he tries so hard. He wanted to be just like Ned and Robb and Jon, but he was lower than the bastard even. At least Ned loved Jon even if evil Catelyn couldn't see it in her to love him. But no one loved Theon.
Jeanne: Yeah, that's true. I suppose that's why he displays such a lack of loyalty. Ugh.
Me: Dig!!! To whom ought he to be loyal??
Jeanne: Pick one - family, friends.... Anyone? Himself!
Me: He is foolish, but he is not powerful, so I pity him. Unlike Cersei who is foolish but in power.
Jeanne: That is a valid point about lack of power. I struggle with fools.
Me: I struggle with fools, too, but you liked Ned! And he was the biggest fool. And Robb! Fool.
Jeanne: They at least knew what they wanted. I have no idea what I respect!! Haha. I am too tired to tie the strings together.

Me: Who can keep all of the people in Daenerys's retinue straight? I actually laughed out loud when the reader said the name of the fat Yunkish merchant who buys Tyrion. All of the people who live in Slaver's Bay are named some variation of Zohxoxo hizda Kazadan.
Catie: Yeah. Their names lack all vowels except for O.
Me: Xzzhkko mis Hixhxhos.
Catie: Hahaha. Zxzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzo.

Me: You are so right about Roy Dotrice not liking the characters in these books.
Caleb: Told you. His disdain really starts to come through after a while.
Me: Also: a Victarion Greyjoy chapter? I do not give one fuck about that misogynist asshole.
Caleb: I feel like there are going to be a lot of chapters and subplots that you really aren't going to care about coming up. The plot just becomes so defused and lost in too many characters and plots that you don't even have enough care to go around, even if you had some at the beginning.
Me: Well, I am almost done with this book. Maybe 25% left. Everyone seems headed to Meereen where Daenerys has just gone missing riding her giant black dragon. I really only care about Westeros, though. My favorite chapters are Davos's and Theon's. Daenerys makes too many dumb mistakes these days. And Tyrion's cleverness is being wasted at the moment. I miss the  people actually playing the game of thrones: Baelish, Varys, Melisandre. Wyman Manderly has emerged as a favorite just because he is actually in the game.
Caleb: The last quarter of the book is going to be dull for you, then. The way I remember it, there are maybe only two chapters back in Westeros. The whole question of who gets the Iron Throne is pretty much ignored for a while.
Me: Zzz. I am over it. I was glad to have a Cersei chapter finally even though I hate her. Just because she can tell me what's happening in King's Landing!

Me: Oooo! Finally some death. Wyman Manderly just got his throat opened. The Theon chapters in this book are the best chapters. No question.
Catie: Yes!!!! You bloodthirsty heathen.
Me: I know, but I have lost faith in GRRM's ability to kill people off. This brought it back a little. Oh no, wait. He's still alive.
Catie: Keep the faith. It ain't over yet.
Me: Honestly though, I don't think he will kill any of them. Maybe Hizdar?
Catie: Maybe.
Me: I think maybe he will also pretend to kill some people: Jaime? Jon? Cersei?

Me: Remember Eddard Stark?
Caleb: Ugh. That goodie goodie.
Me: Haha. He was boring.
Caleb: You know, I'm not sure if GRRM has decided if Ned is really dead or not. It would be just like him to bring Ned back in book 7. It still bothers me. The whole unrecognizable tarred head thing and his last meeting with Varys.
Me: I believe it. He can't really let anyone die. I no longer trust him. No one really dies. Are any of the "dead" really dead? Catelyn came back. The Hound? Brienne? Jaime? Stannis? They are all probably alive.
Caleb: Shit, we're at a place where I can't really remember where you're at / if those characters alive / if I care.
Me: Haha. I'm almost done with the book. I am so close to being done that I ordered some new audiobooks. I am so happy to put this behind me. I have serious song of ice and fire fatigue.
Caleb: I told you. Book 5 is that way. I stopped halfway through. Although... with the 6th season of the HBO show coming out in the fall(?) I feel that we have to watch it.
Me: ...
Caleb: Hear me out.
Me: Hahaha.
Caleb: Because it will be unacceptable for people who only watched the show to be able to know what happens before those of us who labored through the books. We've earned this. They haven't. And if they get to say spoiler alert I'm going to cut a bitch.
Me: Haha.
Caleb: So we have to watch the show. As painful as that will be.
Me: No. The show has got to be better than these terribly written books.
Caleb: Yeah, it's written more like a serial TV show, like a fantasy soap opera.

Me: Never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually glad to have a Cersei chapter. We haven't had any eyes in King's Landing for 70% of this book.
Jeanne: I know! And especially how things ended there at the end of the last book.

Me: Each Daenerys chapter is more racist than the last.
Catie: You misspelled boring.
Me: Bahahaha. The most recent narrators have been Quentyn Martell, Barristan Selmy, Asha Greyjoy, and Jon Connington. Is he fucking serious? And now a Victarion chapter? Fuck my life.
Catie: I honestly don't even know who that is.
Me: Haha.

Me: If I never hear the phrase Half a heartbeat later again...
Caleb: I'm just waiting for him to write it was big like a very big thing. It's only a matter of time.
Me: Hahaha. You're right. With hands the size of hams.
Caleb: Like an ice dragon's throat is already pretty close. Whenever you are making a comparison but comparing it to something we have no reference for, it's just a waste of words.
Me: While I'm reading sometimes I'll say Oh was it? Was his waist really as big as a tree trunk? Wow.
Caleb: Well, how big is the tree? I mean, there are big trees and little trees. It doesn't tell you anything. It's just a fancy way of saying It was  big waist similar to other big things but not really making the image richer or the story deeper.
Me: It's so bad, really.
Caleb: Oh god, we are arguing about the quality of writing in a fantasy novel series. Some line has been crossed here.
Me: We are agreeing. Haha. If we were arguing we would have crossed a line, yes. But we are on the same side of Hadrian's Wall.
Caleb: I know, but it's a little sad we're taking something we know to be bad so seriously.
Me: Are we? I am mocking it.
Caleb: Like, it's not bloody Shakespeare, and no one thinks it is, it's just funny that we're expecting more. Like someone who says Oh, professional wrestling isn't very realistic. And you're like Yeah, no shit. Or people who complain that superhero costumes aren't very practical. Yeah... they aren't. But it's not real.
Me: I will perhaps read a synopsis of an episode if the show moves past the books.
Caleb: I think I will have to watch the shows. I won't be able to stand those people who watch the show and think they are fans but couldn't make it through book 2. And you know you'll never read 6 and 7 after you find out what happens.
Me: It is different for me. I started reading book 1 after everyone already knew about the red wedding. I don't pay any attention to discourse about TV. So I can stay in the dark mostly.
Caleb: It's more the internal anger I will feel at people who feel they are better than me but haven't worked for it.... that is, TV watchers. I know it's a personal issue. But I can't let them beat me.
Me: You're on the other side of Hadrian's Wall now.
Caleb: I think I just feel more strongly about it. It seems like you don't feel knowing what happens in Game of Thrones gives you a higher status in life... Apparently I do as revealed by this conversation.
Me: Ummmm yes I believe you are correct. Queer abjection perhaps?
Caleb: Uh... sure... we can call it that. But I think it's just that you have a more healthy relationship with bad literature.
Me: I think that is definitely true.

Me: Two hilarious moments have happened in the final Cersei chapter of this book. First, GRRM described her as "clad only in goosepimples and pride". And then someone yelled "behold the royal teats". It's sort of terrible to laugh at this absurd pseudo-religious punishment they're inflicting on her, but I dislike her and this is funny.
Catie: YESSSS. Also the word teats is the funniest word ever.
Jeanne: Hahahaha. That's the walk of shame, right? How low has she fallen!
Caleb: I thought the intimate shave they gave her was just gratuitous titillation. But that's not the end of the book...

Me: Will Daenerys ever cross the Narrow Sea?
Catie: I will die if she doesn't. I refuse to read another chapter of her unless her bossy ass is in Westeros.
Me: Haha. Good luck with that promise.

Me: Here's a question. Is Stannis dead? Is Jon dead? Is Jaime dead? Is Brienne dead?
Catie: I don't think Jon is, right? Brienne... I will die.
Me: I am guessing no on all counts.
Catie: I'm a little nervous about Brienne. The others I agree.
Me: In this book he pretended to kill Asha. Pretended to kill Davos. Pretended to kill Tyrion. Pretended to kill Theon. Pretended to kill Dani. It would suck if he killed Brienne. She is one of his best characters.
Catie: Right? It's like he's teasing us – someone has to drop soon, definitely.
Me: Well, Kevan. I wasn't expecting that. For sure.

20 April 2015

Ice Skating on Film?

Sidney Lanfield's odd musical comedy One in a Million stars Olympic gold-medalist and figure skater Sonja Henie as (what else would she be?) an Olympic gold-medalist in figure skating. The film's plot is lighter than air – there is a burned down hotel, apparently an arson-job, but no one cares who set the fire or why after the film's first thirty minutes and this little mystery is never solved. Still, the film made the Norwegian figure skater a big movie star. It was her first picture, and she was a hit in Hollywood.

Inexplicably, the great actor Adolphe Menjou shouts his way through this entire movie. Frankly, the whole thing is pretty stupid, and the songs are unmemorable, but Don Ameche sings a little (and who wouldn't want to listen to that pretty man serenade you?), and there are at least 3 pretty great numbers starring The Ritz Brothers – including a great bit where they play Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Charles Laughton and sing about being Hollywood villains... on roller skates.

The Briefest of Reviews from 1970

Frank Perry's filmmaking style sort of freaks me out, to be honest; all of his films seem like they're made as though they're horror films. This is a really strong movie, though, and Carrie Snodgress is excellent as the eponymous housewife. There is an odd moment at the end of the movie that sort of needs analysis for which I don't have time: the man with whom Carrie Snodgress has been having an affair for most of the movie, a man with whom she has (apparently) great sex, is played by Frank Langella. At the end of the picture, his sadistic treatment of her becomes a bit too much like her husband's sadistic treatment of her and she's had enough. But then she has some sort of epiphany about the masculinity his sadism is intended to bolster and she tells him to his face that he is doing all of that because he "is really a fag". And I think the film believes this to be true. Homosexuality was sure understood differently in 1970 than it is now. He's "really" a fag, but he's been having sex with a woman – in secret, no less; no one knows they're having sex – but he's having sex with this woman in secret because he's really a homosexual? Perhaps Sue Kaufman's original novel explains this a bit better. There is, further, an odd bit of foreshadowing in regard to this "fag" moment, in which after one session of lovemaking, Carrie refers to Marcel's love for Albertine in Proust's À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Frank laughs and says that Proust was a homosexual and Albertine was a boy. Carrie resents being laughed at, but in the next sequence she is re-reading – presumably – Time Regained, a section of the novel (for what it's worth) in which Albertine does not appear.

12 April 2015

Short Conversations about A Feast for Crows (Book 4)


Me: The reason I dislike Cersei so much has nothing to do with cruelty and everything to do with stupidity. She doesn't think before she does things. And she always assumes she has power when she does not. And she's rude.
Jeanne: That's so funny! Especially the rude part. She's definitely not as cunning as other Lannisters. She's easily seen through and doesn't recognize it.
Me: Like Melisandre; I love her.
Jeanne: I don't remember if I like Melisandre in the books. Definitely not in the show...
Me: If she were cruel and smart I wouldn't mind her at all.

Caleb: Yeah, no one has ever claimed that you didn't like a character because of their cruelty. If anything that endears them to you.
Me:  Hahaha. Rude.
Caleb: Arg. I never want to say too much, but I think your opinion might change. I think mine did. I felt like you when she was talking to her uncle. Assuming that has happened.
Me: Ah. Ok. Yeah. You're with me. I thought she was a fool.
Caleb: I felt like she was a flat character there. Felt like bad writing to me. No depth or nuance to her in that scene but also in general... she just wants power and assumes she is in charge. Because she is hot. And although that's sort of true for many hot ladies, no one is that one-dimensional. Or if they are, they aren't very interesting characters.
Me: Yeah. I find her rude and presumptuous and precipitate. She assumes she has power where she does not. And she doesn't bother trying to win people's loyalty. She never wants to bargain.

Me: Cersei has this friend whom she is manipulating. She put this woman's husband on the council. And she tells her that she was in love with some trader or pirate or something and Cersei thinks Yes. You're all whores in the free cities. Now, I have nothing against sex or whores at all, but, like, what a hypocrite Cersei is! She was sleeping with her cousin and two different Kettleblacks. Not to mention her brother.
Jeanne: But that's different. Hahaha. She's definitely not self aware, that is for sure.
Me: I don't understand what people like about her.
Jeanne: Who likes her? No way! Well, she just continues to get more pathetic to me.
Me: Yeah. She is the new Catelyn for me. Before at least I didn't have to hear her opinions about everyone. I could hate her from afar. But now everything is from her idiotic perspective. I cheer when things don't go her way. Like Kevan Lannister telling her where to go.
Jeanne: Hahaha. You are too funny. You just can't stand stupidity. And the lack of self awareness. She definitely struggles to manipulate intelligent people.

Me: Loving Brienne in this book!
Catie: Right??? So good!

Me: I am going to pray to the drowned god for help.
Caleb: Those who have drowned can never drown again?
Me: What is dead can never die!
Caleb: Whatever.
Me: Hahaha.
Caleb: Once you get to the middle of book 5 let me know if you start feeling fatigue. Not that the stories have always been simple, but by then you just have to ask yourself How many stories can I really care about? 
Me: Oh I am sure I will. The iron-born are zzzzzz.
Caleb: Eh. I am mixed on them. But it might be because I know that things get more interesting... but still. There's a limit to the number of characters and intrigues one can care about. And I feel that he keeps trying to top himself with gross depictions of death. And unusual sex acts. That's all fine, but really, it's not a contest, GRRM.
Me: Also, more dragons please. If the iron born wake a mother fucking Sea Dragon then they will redeem themselves. The trouble with book 4 is that Brienne and Jaime are the only interesting characters.
Caleb: I feel that Brienne is cliché, no? Jaime is interesting, but Oh I am a badass woman who has never been treated as a lady until Jaime is nice to me... Eh.
Me: It isn't that he treats her as a woman. They're, like, drawn to one another and they don't know why. That's cool. And Brienne's chapters have Podrick Payne. Sorry, I didn't mean that they are the only interesting characters. I meant that theirs are the only interesting storylines. I'm into Samwell and Arya and the Martell woman too, but they're barely in it.
Caleb: I like all of the Dornish characters. You care about Podrick?
Me: Totally!
Caleb: Honestly I had forgotten he was a person. I had to look him up to remember.
Me: Haha. I like him.
Caleb: Why? His loyalty? I can't see you caring about the loyalty of a character. That's all I see him as.
Me: I think he's funny. He's stupid but intrepid and surprising.
Caleb: Here's the wiki picture of him. Perfect, in my opinion.
Me: Hahahaha. Poor Pod. I miss Sansa.
Caleb: Why do you love the characters that I hate?
Me: Always!
Caleb: I don't hate Sansa, but what a washup. I mean, again: cliché. Oh I want to be a princess and I'm surprised to find out that the world isn't a fairy tale.
Me: But she adapts.
Caleb: Yes, she grows, but so do all of the characters. I wouldn't say that makes her more interesting.
Me: Growth is not normal for Starks. Arya and Sansa excepted.
Caleb: Uh, well... I can't say what I want to about that. But know that it was witty and cutting. But also revealing.
Me: Hahaha. Ok. So noted.
Caleb: How many of the Starks are alive where you are?
Me: The girls. Bran. Jon Snow. Rickon.

Me: I get so excited whenever anyone speaks sensibly in these books. Lady Jenna Frey née Lannister is visiting Jaime outside Riverrun at the moment, and she is being smarter than anyone else has been this whole book.
Catie: Wait... refresh me.
Me: This woman is Tywin's sister. And she is saying things like Tyrion is your father's son; not you. Also anyone who is smart makes me happy. It is one of the reasons I love Jaime so much.
Catie: Oh yeah!!!! Yes. GRRM lets a lady be smart!!! And not naked.
Me: Haha. There are other smart women too. In fact, this book is a whole book about women: Cersei, Arianne, Asha Greyjoy, Brienne, Sansa, Arya. There are only three male narrators, really: Sam, Jaime, and Victarion.
Catie: Everyone hates this book in the series – I found it quite refreshing!
Me: Well, no Tyrion. So that's rough. Also: Cersei. She is the fuckin' worst.
Me: And she is so stupid!
Catie: She is a waste of words. I would rather have to keep up with twenty more characters than ever hear about her.
Me: Seriously. The only bright spot of her chapters is occasionally hearing about the Tyrells.
Catie: Right? If GRRM dies before killing her off — pissed.
Me: Petyr Baelish already said that to Sansa. Something like Some people who think they are queens but are really pawns may just kill themselves. We wouldn't even have to do any work.
Catie: Hahaha. Little Finger.
Me: Little Finger. Almost always on point.
Catie: No pun intended. (Nailed it.)
Me: You're telling me she doesn't fucking die in this book? Somebody has to die at the end, doesn't he? Ugh. I was hoping it was her.
Catie: She hasn't died. Spoiler alert. Shit happens but she. has. not. died.
Me: Maybe it'll be the Crow's Eye. No. Probably not him either. Is he gonna kill anyone?!
Catie: I forget. It's definitely not someone huge.
Me: Ugh.

Me: Oh my god. Arya is a psychopath. She just killed that singer.
Caleb: Yeah. Yeah she did. I mean, he was kind of a dick. But I loved the scenes at the "one-night-marriage whorehouse". I just love that GRRM is pointing out that adultery is all a matter of timing when you have the sex.
Me: Yes! And the mummers are better priests than the priests.

Me: By the way, I still hate Cersei. She is actually insane. I didn't mind her so much before because I didn't have to follow her decision-making processes. I like characters who act intelligently and from a place of reason. She is irrational and delusional.
Caleb:Well hold on. It... gets... different. I think.
Me: I'm almost done with this book. I mean, maybe you are right. But I don't see how right now. She has done so many dumb things.
Caleb: I can't say more, since you don't want to know if she's alive in future books.

Me: Finished Feast for Crows. Cersei finally got some comeuppance. And she is as insane as ever. I love Jaime. Love love love Jaime. And I was into the end. So mysterious!
Jeanne: What happens at the end? I know I should have expected Cersei's downfall, but it totally shocked me! It was so good to see it happen, though.
Me: It shocked me, too! But she was hoist with her own petard as they say. She shouldn't have gotten in bed with the High Septon.
Jeanne: So true. And Jaime – it'll be interesting to see what happens in future books.
Me: The end: Cersei is in real trouble. Arya is blind. Brienne is being murdered by the return of Catelyn Stark. Arianne Martell is going to be in charge of Dorne and Prince Martell is plotting revenge. Asha Greyjoy is who knows where. And Sam is at the Citadel, but the boy who died at the beginning of the book is somehow here at the end of the book. Maybe it's Jaqen H'ghar?
Jeanne: Dude. I love that Jaqen. And I love Arya's story in Braavos. And what is going on in the Citadel? I wanted to know more about those maesters. Brienne. Boo.
Me: Catelyn is just as awful as she always was. But now she's at least (almost) silent. I am sad about Brienne, but I expect that she hasn't quite died...? I'm the most sad about Podrick Payne. And Loras Tyrell.
Jeanne: Dude, you never know with GRRM. Hopefully she's not. Lady Stoneheart is nt in the show, and I'm kinda bummed about it. I find it interesting.
Me: Not yet. That happened at the end of the third book. And the show hasn't done all of the end of the third book yet.
Jeanne: Yeah, but the actress's publicist said that she wasn't doing it... at least not season five. The actress is back, per IMDB. I think they are doing flashbacks this season to show some of the background.
Me: Well, it would make sense that Lady Stoneheart wasn't the same actress, maybe.
Jeanne: Hmmm. Good point.

08 April 2015

More 2014 Gay Movies Now on DVD

I posted recently about Pride, Hide Your Smiling Faces, Love Is Strange, and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?. But I live in cold, cold New Hampshire, and movies with predominantly gay characters and predominantly gay storylines don't really play in theatres up here. (The Imitation Game is obviously the exception – a faux-gay movie without any gay people in it.) Anyway, I am catching up! And there were lots of great gay movies last year.

The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho) is just the sweetest thing. This is a film about a blind boy who is falling in love with a boy he meets and befriends at school and it couldn't be more cute. It also feels really honest and simple. This is not a complicated story with lots of histrionics or big fights or wild tears. The Way He Looks isn't a film about coming out, either. The main character, Leo, doesn't struggle with his sexuality or try to fight it. He has bigger, more complicated problems (namely a mother who barely trusts him to be at home by himself).

Instead of a coming-out narrative, Leo's story is a tale of how he goes about telling the person that he loves that he loves him. This isn't particularly groundbreaking, and it is, perhaps just as cliché as a coming-out narrative, but it feels fresh here – maybe because so often when a character is queer our attention is aimed at whether or not he or she will admit this to him- or herself or, indeed, to the audience. Daniel Ribeiro's movie doesn't spend any time on this at all. Instead we see both boys try to deal with their own embarrassment and fear – all due to the question of whether or not the other will love him back. It is sweet, charming, and gentle. And it is all just so simple. I adored this.

* * *

Less successful is Stefan Haupt's half-doc-half-fiction film Der Kreis (The Circle), about the first gay men to have a registered partnership in Switzerland. The film is about these two men, how they meet, and the (actually not that terrible) difficulties of living in Switzerland in the 1950s and 1960s.

This isn't to say that life isn't hard for the men; of course it is. But as the film is careful to point out, Switzerland never does have a Paragraph 175 the way that Germany does, and so Zürich becomes a kind of queer mecca where gays and lesbians from Germany can come to get away for the weekend. If they can't live totally open lives in Switzerland, they can at least party. The eponymous Der Kreis is a trilingual gay literary journal, but also a secret club of queer men and women.

Der Kreis switches back and forth between interviewing the (real) Ernst Ostertag and Röbi Rapp, who were the first gay couple to have a Swiss registered partnership and a fictional re-creation of their youth in the 1950s, when they met and fell in love. This latter stuff is performed by actors (most beautifully by Matthias Hungerbühler). The back-and-forth thing doesn't totally work, in all honesty. Having the old men there with us, chatting with us, has the effect of causing the 1950s sequences ringing false or at least overly theatrical where they might have instead seemed realistic. The back-and-forth form also gets in the way of a real psychological investigation into who these characters are. The portrayals seem flattened by the real people in front of us.

The film is complicated by a few side-plots: there is, perhaps, a gay serial killer who is, perhaps, also a rent-boy; there is a crackdown on gay-themed publications; there is a police restriction on social gatherings and parties; The Circle itself folds and is replaced by other gay-themed journals; at one point Ernst cheats on Röbi with Felix, another member of the circle, and then Ernst suggests a kind of threesome or maybe even a permanent throuple.

But none of these side-plots goes anywhere, really, and they hang there at loose ends. They are easily (much too easily) sown up by the old men in the present-day sequences, who report the resolutions of these problems in matter-of-fact ways. It makes the focus, here, on plot, and on the getting to where we are now, rather than on the struggles these young men underwent in 1950s Switzerland.
* * *

And then there is Life Partners, a romantic comedy by Susanna Fogel. Life Partners is about two young women, one straight (Gillian Jacobs) and one gay (Leighton Meester), who are best friends. All is good and well, and they are getting along perfectly, living, in fact, like girlfriends. But then straight girl decides she likes one of the guys she starts dating (Adam Brody), and things get serious between them. Things get serious so quickly that things between the girls get a little awkward.

This is the premise of the movie, and I realize that it isn't much; it is a rom-com, after all. But, Life Partners is a rom-com that I thought was really funny. The girls' lesbian circle is a crackup, and much of what the film addresses feels familiar to me. These awkward things do happen when one friend in a couple becomes really attached to his or her significant other. It is hard to keep all of this straight: is he my friend? does he like me as much as I like him? does he wish I weren't gay? do I wish he were gay? does he love me as much as I love him? I have thought much of this at various times in my own life, and that isn't even to say how complicated it is for, say a straight guy whose best friend is a gay guy, or a straight girl whose best friend is a gay guy. Love and sexual desire get very confused in these relationships because we really depend on one another for almost everything.

In any case, Life Partners addresses these quandaries humorously, and the whole thing is quite delightful.

For my previous Gay-Movies-from-2014 post, go here.

02 April 2015

The Briefest of Reviews from 1973

Tonight, I accomplished an odd sort of task I had set for myself in 2011. For some reason, after Oscar season ended in March of that year I started watching all of the films that had been nominated for Oscars in 1973. Of those I hadn't seen there were something like 12. These were strange films, most of them, now mostly neglected, and it was very hard to get ahold of many of them. Most of them are now just curiosities, and watching them all was a bizarre experience of movie history. (I've been playing a similar game with myself for the year 1970, but these remaining films are proving even harder to track down.) In any case, The Pedestrian (Der Fussgänger) is an odd little movie. A kind of memory piece (these were popular in the 1970s) told from two perspectives. An old man who is responsible for having killed many many women and children in Greece during the second world war remembers his crimes. And a group of tabloid journalists working on a story that attempts to expose him. It's an intriguing film with several fascinating formal devices, including a bizarre conversation between eight or nine old women about men and violence, and a television interview that frankly discusses the ethics of the film's subject matter. Totally worth watching but now available only on VHS. For other films nominated for the year 1973 you can click on the tag.