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.