Monday, November 15, 2010

Becket 2.0?!

One of my favorite plays/films of all time, the unjustly obscure Becket, is apparently being updated by Oscar-winning writer William Monahan, who will also direct (he's directed one film coming out soon). An article I read said he was going back to the "source material" rather than updating the movie, but unless that means skipping over Jean Anouilh's famous play entirely, it won't change much, because the film is almost too faithful to the play. It's a very talky movie. Becket delivers one monologue entirely to the sky.

Coincidentally enough, I just read in Leslie Caron's memoir that she persuaded Anouilh to allow an English version, because the original French version flopped. Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn took on the stage version, and nobody ever looked back.

Henry II, Thomas Becket, who will rid me of this turbulent priest, yadda yadda. Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton scorched the screen in the original film; let's see who takes this on.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oh, and while I'm here...

Shark. Glee. Has jumped.

Scandal in high life

I read the new C.S. Harris mystery today. This is after I read the second-to-last one yesterday, because I forgot I had read it at all. Not because it's bad, but because the third-to-last one was so searingly good that the follow-up necessarily paled in comparison. Alas, so did this one. I AM glad that Harris didn't drag out some of her hero's personal life developments too long (SPOILER ALERT). I can't speak for everyone else, but it was patently obvious to me that his father was not, in fact, his biological father. When you keep yammering on about the family's blue eyes and the one black sheep's unusual yellow eyes, Mendel starts rolling in his grave. Anyway, it was a nice return to period mystery. I haven't been indulging in my usual reading vices, having been using the university library more than the public, and also having been exercising out of doors instead of on the elliptical. I think I'll give myself an injection of bad fantasy next.

Thursday, October 21, 2010



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

iBook? iApp? I'll take anything...

For the love of god, is Stephen Fry's new book getting a US release or not? In any damn format? I'm this close to buying the UK hardcover and getting it shipped.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ozomatli brings me back!

Something about the move and the transition to NC threw me off completely... but I am back, though we'll see how the blogging transition goes. Here are some things I've skipped blogging about:

1) Well, this isn't a skip. I went to see Ozomatli last night. Great guys, awesome show; kind of odd venue, since it was a concert hall, and people were torn between sitting and standing. Especially in the balcony, since the ushers were doing their best to prevent anyone from moving around significantly. I can understand that you don't want any diving.

2) Superchunk! My new hometown band. I went to a concert at the Duke art museum, and it was also awesome. I happily head-banged, or at least head-bopped, the whole time.

3) Sadly, I missed seeing Billy Bragg. The non-classical musical scene around here is pretty good; if I had any taste for bluegrass and country, I'd be in heaven.

4) At long last, I am reading Mark Kurlansky's Cod. Almost done. Rare that I spread out reading a book this long, but it's not suspenseful. I mean, I know what happens to the cod.

5) No travels lately. San Antonio in November.

6) Been on a huge Ricky Gervais kick lately. I generally am, since I adore him, but I polished off all of Extras and am moving backwards to the Office. I'm furious that no sooner do I leave Chicago than he shows up there to do a standup gig. How much do you want to bet he ain't hitting Raleigh anytime soon?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Chicago Chihuly

On one of my last trips around Chicago before I left for warmer climes, my friend C. and I went to the Garfield Park Conservatory, an excellent conservatory in a perhaps not so gorgeous part of the city. It has rooms by various plant and climate regions (a desert room, a tropical room with tons of palms, a fern room), some nice garden space, including a Monet garden after the one at Giverny in France, and these undoubtedly priceless Chihuly flowers sticking up from a water feature. I'm glad I got to see it before I left.

I don't know when the exciting NC photos will start appearing, but I'll try to cough something up soon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

...And I will not be shamed

That's right, I love Aerosmith, and what could be more hilarious than watching Matthew Morrison and Neil Patrick Harris duke it out to "Dream On"? I'm late to the Glee bandwagon, but I have to admit, I do enjoy singing of almost any kind, and they are by turns hilariously campy or enjoyably sentimental. I absolutely love Jonathan Groff -- here's hoping that they find some way to bring him back next season.

On the other hand, it was a little sad to see the Tony Awards desperately clinging to other forms of art in an attempt to resuscitate box office. Let's see now: Tonys to Scarlett Johanssen, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Denzel, and Viola Davis? They even tossed the rock world a couple, with lighting and scenery going to American Idiot. And Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele's "return" to Broadway from Glee teased until people under rocks knew that they were going to be performing.

There has to be a better business model for Broadway that doesn't involve hauling in Hollywood stars or alternately selling rush tickets and ridiculously overpriced full-price tickets. Far be it from me to suggest that the Great White Way rethink its practices, but they're having a tough time now, and it shows just as clearly at the Tonys than it does with all the dark theaters and early closings and postponed openings.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Di-va! Di-va!

Oh, I love it. Infighting, finger-pointing, he-said, she-said, hiring, firing, damaged reputations. No, it's not just Capitol Hill, it's opera.

Leonard Slatkin, who left the Metropolitan Opera's production of Traviata under a cloud of disgrace this season after one disastrous performance. His ill preparation or general ill-suitedness to the repertoire was blamed. But now, Slatkin strikes back. He blames Angela Gheorghiu, the famous beautiful diva nicknamed Draculette by her detractors. Who knows? But I want more gossip! More scandal! More backstage tales!

For what it's worth, I like listening to Gheorghiu but have never warmed up to watching her act. She has never found a head tilt or a facial expression she didn't like. Sometimes you can get dizzy just looking at her.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Recent hits

John Hart's The Last Child, a gritty modern mystery with a compelling young boy as the central character, searching for his kidnapped sister. Excellent read.

Nine, the Rob Marshall musical with Daniel Day-Lewis and every Oscar-winning woman ever, was indeed quite bad. Marshall failed to motivate the musical numbers as Guido's imagination the way he managed to make Chicago all happen in Roxie's head; besides that, he apparently forgot that not every musical number has to have bells, whistles, a cast of thousands, and mostly-naked women.

Michelle Moran's chick-littish series set in ancient Egypt is quite good because of the use of historical events and detail, though the interpersonal plots are on the level of girl likes boy, girl puts on makeup, boy notices girl.

Isabel Allende's Daughter of Fortune reminded me how great an adventure story can be when someone is writing it well and creatively. It also contains the seeds of her fascination with the Zorro legend, which she reworked so well in her recent novel (shockingly entitled Zorro). I may have to go back and try her famous House of the Spirits again. I didn't like it when I first read it, but I was very young, and maybe there's even an alternative translation now.

Leonard Bernstein's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has some musical gems in it, and even some hilarious lyrics. But among other reasons the show isn't put up often, some of the interpolated scenes of African American characters are less than politically correct. "The Money-Lovin' Minstrel Show," ye gods.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Who'd be an actor?

Was just doing a little harmless procrastinating and came across this wonderful list of onstage disaster anecdotes, courtesy of Opera News. Doesn't really matter if you know opera; it's hilarious.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Life of the mind

Every academic should have to watch An Education in order to affirm the life choices they have made; that is, as I was confidently assured before I even applied to grad school, grinding poverty, seeming narrowness, but mental freedom. (That last is part hogwash, but that's another day and another post.)

I've meant to see An Education ever since my friend went to see it completely under protest and came out converted. I believe the conversation ran something like this:

"Whatcha doing tonight?"
"Going to see a movie with my husband."
"Which one?"
"An Education."
"Oh, I've heard of it. I don't know what it's about."
"Some coming-of-age shit."

This, along with a tepid invitation to join them, was awesomely followed up with:
"Seriously, the things I do for love." Cue stalking away in the direction of the movie theater.

However, she enjoyed it, as did every single friend I have who saw it, and now I too can tell you that it is great, and Carey Mulligan is great, and Emma Thompson is, as always, dry and fantastic. As my friend observed, there really IS no way to describe the movie that doesn't sound like coming-of-age shit, but suffice it to say, the tale of a brilliant and rebellious 1960s English schoolgirl who is tempted by the glamorous life an older man offers her really does touch on all the expected issues of class, domesticity, gender, and generational shift. (Rosamund Pike, as a sort of anti-schoolgirl, a gorgeous but anxious gangster moll of sorts, is astonishing.) What I really wouldn't have expected is the way that it interwove this well and subtly with the whole life of the mind issue. Why become a dried up stick like your teachers when you could go out and have fun with your wealthy young man? Maybe I should show this to my students, come to think of it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

21st century show

I'm having a very 21st century experience right now, listening to a live concert being streamed from Duesseldorf, Germany and following the words of Schumann's Dichterliebe cycle with a translation on the web. I found out about it from a post on Thomas Hampson's facebook page. This could only get better if I were tweeting or videoblogging while I listen. Which I shall not, but I thought a regular blog post would kick it up a notch!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Figaro for Corigliano

I went to see Northwestern University's production of The Ghosts of Versailles yesterday, an opera that you don't get to see too often (the Met did it twice, which is not bad for a commissioned piece). John Corigliano is a great modern composer, and I quite enjoyed the opera, even if I am a traditionalist who likes crap like, y'know, melody. It's a very referential little opera, since it picks up Figaro from Rossini and Mozart's operas and throws him into the French Revolution -- that is, the ghost of Beaumarchais throws him in there and then follows him in! It's not quite Stranger than Fiction, but probably the biggest laugh of the performance came when Beaumarchais shouted, "Singers aren't supposed to think!"

There's some quite beautiful music, mostly in the duets. I more often find myself quibbling over the libretti of modern operas, which sometimes stink! Sellars, for example, is incredibly uneven. This one wasn't bad, though I think it was trying to make too many reflections about 1) love, 2) love, 3) the nature of existence, 4) art, 5) history, 6) the artist as a dead man, and I don't know what else in there, using the French Revolution as a kind of prop and totally ignoring issues of, oh, class and freedom that arise even in the Rossini and Mozart. As an aria of villainy, I have to say that "Long live the worm" really falls very far short of, for example, "La calumnia e un venticello" (Slander is a little breeze [that becomes a storm]) from the first Figaro opera, The Barber of Seville. Not to mention that Rossini's patter music is far superior to Corigliano's, which was very Gilbert and Sullivan, and not in a good way.

In any case, the opera really was very good, and the students did themselves proud. I am annoyed that I didn't know that Corigliano was coming in for a talkback on Friday night -- I would have gone! Oh well.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The tipping point

There had to be a point at which it was easier to be a fan. I was reflecting on this as I was YouTubing the other night. You know what we had back in the old days? Fan newsletters advertising VHS swaps!

The internet definitely made things easier, but its very ease made the proliferation of too many sites with too many things inevitable. I remember seeing a magazine cover with Ryan Phillippe, dubbed "The Face that Launched a Thousand Websites." There was a point, though, when people of any note were making a real effort to have an official website.

They still are. They're also secretly writing on wikipedia pages. There's also myspace (which the early adopters have hung onto, alas), facebook, and twitter. It's just one or three too many for me. I start gritting my teeth and wondering how much I like this person. Smart adopters have linked them, of course, as with baritone Thomas Hampson (just joined his fb and twitter feed, hence this post). I actually did some linking myself for the animal shelter I fostered for, hooking their blogspot and twitter into facebook, but I hit a point when I was linking everything back on everything else and I was wondering if I was going to create an infinite feedback loop so that one fatal tweet would make everything explode...

And last but not least, youtube, which has everything... of varying quality, but avert your eyes from the comments. (This is something you learn quickly when you are a Queen fan. Freddie Mercury provokes some of the most hilarious comments, but also many of the most homophobic ones.) If your celeb of choice has an official channel, great, but there's no chance it'll have everything you want.

Oh well. Search engines we have always with us.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

La donna e mobile

From one baritone to another; I've been geeking out over Swedish singer Peter Mattei recently. He sings primarily in Europe, but the Met gets him every once in a while. I'd really love to hear him live, particularly in Don Giovanni. I've read him named the greatest Giovanni since Siepi, which is saying something. The Giovanni of my heart will always be American Samuel Ramey, who I saw perform it on a Salzburg Festival telecast when I was but a wee thing. But even the crappy minimalist production available on YouTube featuring Mattei just blew me away, and far better is this concert version of the famous seduction duet.

Two random notes about Mattei:

1) Sigh. What's a fan to do when you can't get to see a live performer live? Another post will follow shortly on this theme regarding Michael Sheen's upcoming Hamlet.

2) As I was remarking recently to a fellow blogger, sound is a funny thing. I don't know what exactly it is about the frequencies of Mattei's voice, but he sounds just okay out of my computer speakers. Then I plug in the good-quality headphones and almost fall out of my chair. Granted that the computer speakers can make anything sound crappy, but generally speaking, a good singer will still sound good. Somehow, all the resonance gets sucked out of Mattei's voice. Thanks, Toshiba.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Road to Damascus

Well, I finally read Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. It took me a very long time to get around to it, which I mostly attribute to the fact that he was so lionized by the time I heard of him that I got a bit turned off. I also didn't see how a memoir about his parents' tragic death and his consequent raising of his young brother could be different from, as he puts it in the intro wryly, all the other cultural products about tragic and tragically hip orphans, like Party of Five. (God, there's a dated reference.) Funnily enough, I've heard a lot about him over the years, because I was originally involved with the group that set up what turned out to be the Chicago chapter of 826, Eggers' writing/tutoring center that started in SF as 826 Valencia (here it's called 826CHI, I believe). But I never went back to the well.

I did, and it is good. If I had to pick a David Foster Wallace disciple, he might be the one I'd pick... but I see more of a straight line to Joyce, funnily enough, in the way that he plots and uses language. He's so dry and hilarious in describing his pathetic, ragtag parenting that it isn't in the least self-aggrandizing, and Toph, his brother, is perhaps the best character of all. The parenting sections hold up a lot better than his accounts of Might Magazine, which he was trying to start up at the same time, though those have their own kind of starving-artist humor. I really enjoyed the book all the way until the end, which I found kind of disastrous, but I guess when you're writing a Joycean memoir/novel and the final word "Yes" has already been taken, you end up miserably plumping for a tableau and the word "finally."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Food + humor

I rarely blog about blogs, but I have to say that Cake Wrecks does make me laugh. It is exactly what its title promises: decorated cakes that are terrible disasters, whether because of spelling mistakes, horrible concepts, or poor execution. The vasectomy cakes I just looked at must have made my neighbors think I was having a fit.

P.S. Sestak?! No kidding.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Well, if Titus could be a hit...

Bit behind the buzz on this one, but here are some photos and stills from the new Shakespearean film adaptation coming soon to a theater near you: Coriolanus, of all things, starring and directed by Ralph Fiennes. It might be rather "timely" -- anything about war seems to get that critical stamp of approval these days -- and it has modern setting and costumes. Plus, it certainly has an all-star cast, with Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox. But my biggest questions are going to be how Gerard Butler, known currently more for brawn than, um, facility with language, handles himself, and how Fiennes does as a director. A debut director, no less.

Coriolanus is one of those slightly oddball late plays with no performance history in Shakespeare's time, but it's a powerful examination of politics and authority nonetheless. Fiennes' stage performance of Coriolanus was highly acclaimed, and since I've never yet gotten to see him onstage in anything, much less Shakespeare, I am certainly dying of curiosity to see this film. It's getting some buzz, and who knows? It may just end up being an arthouse hit like Julie Taymor's Titus Andronicus. Which, incidentally, didn't strike me as the outpouring of genius that it was heralded to be, but that's a post for another day.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Somebody slap me

I just got back from a marathon trip that went from North Carolina to New Jersey to NYC, back to Jersey, and then to, of all places, sunny Miami, where I enjoyed the beach for a brief time. I was delighted to get back to my own humble home. Today. This afternoon. And yet just now, while looking at my Cities I've Visited Map, I found myself thinking, "Hm, I haven't gone anywhere in a while..."

Sometimes I worry myself.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Prince of Foxes

I just finished a relaxing evening reading Joseph Volpe's memoir about his years as dictator -- I mean general manager -- of the Metropolitan Opera. Volpe, who started as a carpenter there, was general manager for most of my life, and had quite a hard-nosed reputation. Definitely worth a read for his side of the controversies and tragedies but also of the ins and outs of juggling operas, scenery, budgets, and social obligations in probably the toughest job in the business. No real laugh-out-loud anecdotes, but worth it for the opera fan!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Check me in ten

Years, that is. I started reading Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, this year's Booker Prize-winner about Thomas Cromwell, and it certainly is good. But I am Tudored out by all my historical mystery and fiction reading on the cardio machines over the last few years. I think I need to take a break and go back to it later. It's extremely rare that I do such a thing with a book that I actually do like, but this time I think it's a necessity.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Run. Hide.

Incidentally, I don't usually post terrible reviews... which may mean that I just don't read things I think will be terrible, or something like that. But I've been meaning to post for a while: Russell Brand's My Booky Wook? Not. Funny. At all. Not even interesting. Maybe if you're a giant fan of his, but otherwise it's just a lot of drugs.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Depression, rainbow-colored

I pause in my never-ending bibliographing to think of more fun things. I finally saw The Lovely Bones, though perhaps not the way it was meant to be seen, since I was watching it on a five-inch airplane screen. Nevertheless, I can attest to its visual beauty, which was not enough to make up for a somewhat choppy and unbalanced screenplay. It was a best-selling novel about how a family deals with the murder of their twelve-year-old daughter/sister, including her own perspective from heaven. I remember reading an interesting column that speculated that it was one of the 9/11 boom books because it gave a sense that horrible, tragic things could happen, and perhaps no closure could really ever be seen, but it existed nevertheless out there in the cosmos. Interesting. Possible.

This was Peter Jackson's first big project after Lord of the Rings, and it was a good departure for him -- but still bearing the marks of some of the flaws of LOTR, like dialogue that sounds good if you're really into the intense emotion of the moment but just sounds ridiculous later. He doesn't go in much for understatement, but here I think Saoirse Ronan's acting saved him -- she's good at being intense but not hysterical, a quality I hope she will keep as she grows up.

I hate to make judgments like this, but I think that the book, weepy as it was, was better. They cut some of the key scenes, at least for me, and smoothed out the plot a bit too much. Almost the only scene that really stayed with me from the book is the one where Susie's sister wants to hear which body part they found in the field, and the father goes and gets a mixing bowl for her to throw up in before he sits her down to tell her. None of that in the film; Susie's body stays well hidden forever, even if her spirit shows up now and then -- something which also is hard to make subtle in a visual medium, and maybe is best left for the imagination.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Portmanteau word of the day

I haven't posted about opera lately, but I'm completely obsessed with Nathan Gunn right now. He has a great sound, but he's more famous for being a "barihunk." For more on barihunks, see this fellow's blog. I discovered it years ago when he first featured my friend Lee Poulis as a new young barihunk. And I can say with great affection that Lee is most definitely hunky, but also is a really good person, ever since college, and a constantly developing and improving singer and performer. I still remember in college when I heard him rehearsing La Boheme while I was duct taping the backdrop; I hadn't heard him since the year before, and I turned around with my jaw dropped, just like a sitcom. From 19 to 20, he had just made a vocal leap, and he's been leaping ever since.

It's both good and sad that looks have become of increasing interest in opera casting. Audiences are demanding more realism and the celebrity culture has leaked even into opera's world. Gunn has managed to cross over on the strength of his acting and looks; this youtube clip of him singing "If Ever I Would Leave You" from Camelot in a Live from Lincoln Center! production is pretty jawdropping itself.

Baritones have an advantage in hunkiness, though. The conventional wisdom is that baritones tend to be taller and leaner (James Morris, Thomas Hampson, John Relyea, Gunn... the list is endless), and tenors shorter and stouter. Something about the vocal column and the diaphragm and all that. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, like the six-foot-plus superstar tenor Placido Domingo, but then again he started in his youth as a baritone.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Peace and quiet, Irish style


This is a photo taken from Salthill, the seaside resort suburb below Galway. It's quiet at this time of year, but I did see some nutcase swimmers and a couple of enterprising fishermen gathering mussels. As a matter of fact, I picked a clump, and my crazy parents actually boiled them in the hotel teakettle and ate them.

See that little cliff? It's considerably farther away and higher than it looks, so I hiked to it. For the last mile or two, I was the only person around, and I'm sure that when I got up on the cliff, people for a good twenty miles could see me walking around. The cliff itself was gently sloped and easy to climb, but getting there was terrible. The land was privately owned, so I had to clamber over the rocky beach. I could have used hiking boots.

All in all, a lovely hike, and if I had had the foresight to bring food, it would have been a nice windy picnic up there.
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010



It nearly killed me, but I was not allowed to drink in Ireland. I was on some serious antibiotics, and it's not that they would have stopped working if I drank (I would have been willing to risk it), but it would have made me even sicker than I already was. Deathly ill, apparently.

Nonetheless, I sneaked a delicious sip here and there. Here's our skillfully pulled Guinness at the Hotel Meyrick in Galway. None of the other bars bothered with such artistry.
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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Rocks and trees

Had a great time in Ireland, conference and all. Here's a photo of Kylemore Abbey in County Mayo, definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Built in the 1800s by the son of a hugely wealthy cotton merchant (Me, loudly, "SO THIS WAS BUILT WITH SLAVERY MONEY? Oh, should I have said that louder for the nuns to hear?") and sold to the Catholic church in 1920 or so. It's a couple hours' drive northwest of Galway, in a gorgeous, secluded, windswept location with high mountains, a small lake, and a few wandering sheep. Just an incredible place.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Land o'Joyce

I'm off to Ireland today for a conference and then some West Coast fun, and I'm taking my parents with me. We will hopefully all survive the experience. The fun starts in Dublin for three days, where we're staying off upper O'Connell Street right near the James Joyce Center and Irish Writers' Museum, and then we head for Galway, where we stay off Eyre Square, and day-trip to points beyond for another three days. A relatively quick trip, but I'm hoping for lots of sheep, green fields, and seafood. Alas, there will be no Guinness for me; I'm on a hefty course of antibiotics, and alcohol will apparently make me extremely sick.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

Made it to the theater for once to see Alice in Wonderland. I'm more than ever convinced that the trick to enjoying films in the theater is to go in with low expectations. It got such bad reviews that I was braced for anything, but I found it quite enjoyable. You have to remember that it's not really Alice in Wonderland; it's Alice in Underland, Tim Burton's sequel to Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking-Glass, and then you'll be fine. Also, I watched it in 2-D, because 3-D gives me headaches and the reviews of the effects were poor anyway. It's quite pretty and entertaining, which might sound un-Burton-like, but I assure you that the live actors all have the corpselike pallor that seems to turn him on. I still think that the best Burton film is Big Fish, but this one should still have enough grisly touches for his stalwart fans.

Friday, March 19, 2010

British magnetism

Whiled away a couple of hours after receiving some alarming medical news (all treatable, not to worry) by watching Inkheart, a totally underperforming film with Brendan Fraser, which I suppose is a redundant clause. It's a charming fantasy film about people with the ability to read books to life, essentially, and it also stars Helen Mirren as a dotty old lady (she's great, but it's not much of a part), Andy Serkis as the villain (he's fantastic, and so great to see him and not CGI Gollum), and the wonderful Paul Bettany as a magical, selfish character brought to life. I don't really follow Bettany, but he, along with the charming plot, was what made this film worth watching, and he was positively magnetic as Lord Melbourne in The Young Victoria. You could really imagine how Victoria got so wrapped up in his political games.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Flying over a desert is pretty

And that's about all you'll get out of Amelia, the bland mess of a biopic that fizzled last year. I don't know how you put Mira Nair, Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, and Ewan McGregor in a box and shake them and get this, but somehow it happened. The men in particular are wooden and unexpressive to the point of botox.

However, the film is beautiful in spots, and you may glean some interesting information in spots. For example, that Amelia Earhart's husband was publisher George Putnam (Gere). Publishers used to lead glamorous, powerful lives; maybe they still do, but they're not in the public eye the way Putnam or Bennett Cerf were. The other was that her possible lover was Gene Vidal (McGregor), Gore Vidal's father, though this seems to be heavily resting on the word of Gore, who was a child at the time and does love to puff up his own glamorous, powerful connections. I had a particular interest in this, since I used to work on Gore Vidal's papers at Harvard. However, the film doesn't make Gene interesting or even very interestingly in love with Amelia. If you're going to go the epic route, you have to get epic emotions as well as epic landscapes, and this film failed dismally at the former.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Remember him?

Today I channel-surfed past Star Wars II on Spike and saw Hayden Christensen. And I thought to myself, "Robert Pattinson, behold thy future."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Teen pregnancy, and divorce, and teen pregnancy, and...

Today I had a weirdly adoption-heavy day. When you're sick, it's a perfect excuse to read fun books and watch movies, and I loaded up today, because who knows when I might get better? So I read Lorrie Moore's new book A Gate at the Stairs, and then I watched Juno at long last, being the one person in the western world who had not rushed to see this miraculous witty work in the theater. Then I realized that somehow I had ended up processing two wildly different works about adoption, both painfully unrealistic in their own ways.


Moore's book is told from the p.o.v. of Tassie, an aimless young college student who takes a nannying job with an overachieving older couple who adopt a biracial child... and overachieve in dealing with race as they do with everything else. Meanwhile, she has her own racial blindnesses, as a secret jihadist actually convinces her that he's Brazilian and whams, bams, and thank you ma'ams her on his way out. Well, no, it's a more in-depth relationship than that... entangled with her fragmented family, her brother enlisting, her wary attitude toward domesticity... And shockingly, considering this promising landscape, it all ends in massive disaster!

Juno you probably know, and I wouldn't advise any couple adopting to watch it... first of all because if they are dreaming of getting a perfectly healthy white baby with a perfectly healthy, intelligent, law-abiding mother, it's best to shoot those dreams down now, and second of all, because the demise of Jennifer Garner's perfect marriage might cause them to take too hard a look at their own. Yeeeow. At the same time, I feel like people got caught up in the overwritten coolness and cutesiness of the teen lingo and the admittedly wonderful cast, art direction and set dressing of the movie and ignored that fact that it's basically a charming romp through well-enough-to-do white suburban teen pregnancy, from which the teen can escape totally unscathed and in fact better than ever.

Moore's work is maybe less emotionally unrealistic, but it's not realist in the sense that it is a weird confluence of awfulness. It is, however, authentic in pulling together all the most troubling strands of our society and distilling them through the experience of Tassie.

I feel the need to go watch Cinderella to swab some idealism back into my brain. Oh god, I feel like Juno, who just wants to know that two people can be together forever. Yuck.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Live blogging the Oscars

It seems to be a trend. I will probably not do it all night, but I pause to note that whatever they paid for that ridiculous opening number that Neil Patrick Harris sang with a bunch of showgirls, it was too much. Unless it was $5.

8:50pm (CST) They also need to try out some variation of the thing they did a few years ago, bringing all the nominees in the lesser categories up on stage. If you just cut out the time it takes the makeup artists to walk past the actors, it would compact things nicely. That and put down some carpet for the ladies to walk on before somebody takes a dive down those stairs.

9:03pm I'm going to assume that what Mo'nique meant by saying "Thank you for showing it can be about the PERFORMANCE, not the POLITICS," was that she understands that her role as a horrible mother condoning incest and blaming her child for it is an unsavory one. But way to sound like you're saying that giving the award to anyone else in the category would have been only political. Especially considering that I thought this was a particularly good year for Best Supporting. And while I'm at it, she didn't mention Lee Daniels but did mention her lawyer...?

9:13pm Timely thought: The Young Victoria did have splendid costumes. Untimely thought: presenters should be told that if they take up airtime by mentioning how nervous/impressed/excited they are, they will never be invited back again. And it's always women. Grow a pair, ladies.

9:15pm. I should mention that I have a fever, and I get blunter when I have a fever.

9:20pm Not to mix my movie franchises, but Bella Swan's a twitchy little ferret, isn't she? Must be nerves. At least she didn't mention them out loud.

10:18pm Huh, well, one big surprise this night, anyway. El Secrete de sus Ojos for the Foreign Language Film win.

The morning after: I like Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin just fine, but it was a level of dull that I have never seen before even in an Oscars, which is saying something. Fire Adam Shankman now.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Costume snoozes

Watching Bright Star right now and not captivated by its enchanting beauty as I am clearly supposed to be. It's just not the world's most compelling love affair; it's tragic, of course, but just made special by the fact that it's Keats loving and dying. Maybe I've just had enough of poet biopics; I didn't like The Edge of Love about Dylan Thomas either, but then, nobody in the world did, so that was less of a surprise.

If you feel the need for a recent costume drama, I'd highly recommend The Young Victoria with Emily Blunt. That had a lot more pacing and drama.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Back with a vengeance!

Peacefully sorting mail and watching Beowulf, a movie which proves that no good can come from having sex with Angelina Jolie.

It's OK, but I feel a little too much like I'm watching a video game.

I've had a lot of domestic travels lately, nothing wildly exciting, but at least I got a cannoli from Mike's Pastry in Boston. I love that place. I'm starting to plan yet another big trip though, Dublin.