Friday, December 25, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
One of my professors led a seminar this Spring on race and theology that I hated to miss, including wonderful pieces by Cornel West, Spike Lee, Toni Morrison, bell hooks and others. And while there can be no substitute for critical, clear thinking, once again, I'm convinced that the comedic can be a great way to disarm people into talking honestly about that which scares us to death to talk about most of the time.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
To this end, a little brief, historical comparison...
Let's go medieval for a moment, with A KNIGHT'S TALE. Having re-watched this with the folks recently, I was struck by the ways in which, once again, this is a tale of forbidden love--a humble thatcher masquerading as a knight to gain the love of the royal maiden. Heath Ledger does a good job portraying William Thatcher, the knight-to-be, to Shanynn Sossaman's lady. BTW, whatever happened to her?
Anyway, the tension in this one exists because of societal boundaries: there's a fairly rigid 'caste' system of sorts, codified because of divine right of kings and centuries of tradition, such that people are what they are. However, in Chaucer's day, these rules are breaking down; knights are rising up to nobility; merchants are moving up into a new middle-class; royalty are no longer respected as royalty if they're total pricks. But the point is this: what makes the love between Heath and Shanynn 'forbidden' is a global device, a societal vision which is, in a sense, totalizing. There is no other Europe other than the one they live in, and so, if you're going to fall in love, you have to fall in love according to the rules of Europe, which means "no love across class lines".
Heath and Shanynn, thus, have to pursue their love, not in spite of the rules of society, but deceptively through the rules of society. Their love comes to completion only as Ledger ascends to knighthood and joins the ranks of nobility, and some sense, making their love no longer forbidden.
Fast forward a couple of centuries past Chaucer, and we come to the Grand Maul Seizure of forbidden love: ROMEO AND JULIET. Say what you want about the 1968 Zefirelli version; I thought the Baz Luhrman version with DiCaprio and Danes was phenomenal. But in any event, let's examine what it means here for love to be 'forbidden'.
The emphasis of R&J is on the family role of 'forbidden love'. These star-crossed lovers are kept apart, not by societal lines, as this is the 16th century; societal boundaries are really fluid; monarchies are dying off left and right, and the middle-classes are making their case to be the new nobilities. See Shakespeare's OTHELLO for the ultimate example of societal movement during this time. In R&J, what keeps the lovers apart is not societal regulation, but family regulation. In the absence of a firm, uniform world as in the Middle Ages, families become the new boundaries within which 'forbiddenness' can be established, more or less. In any other circumstances, barring the names of 'Montague' and 'Capulet', we have a comedy, but because of the regulation of love by family contraints, this one turns into tragedy.
Granted, 'family' depends in part on where in society they fall. Had Romeo, for example, been a commoner, Juliet's family would have objected for other reasons; thus, Paris is the perfect match in their eyes for Juliet, as he's the bachelor-of-the-month (played by a young Paul Rudd in Luhrman's version). But what I want to point out here is that the guiding rubric for 'forbidenness' is that of the family; the family has imbibed their understanding of acceptable love from society, to be sure, but as far as who adjudicates the boundaries of right love--this falls to the family and not society at large.
Moving on to the modern-day CAN'T HARDLY WAIT, one of the understated gems of the early 90s, we find the endgame of 'forbiddenness': the forbidden love posited by and against one's self. Whereas in KNIGHT'S TALE and ROMEO AND JULIET, love is forbidden by forces or persons external to the individual, by modern-day, the rules for true or forbidden are posited by the individual themselves, apart from family or societal considerations. Notice, for example, that you never see the main character's families in CHW....
God bless Jennifer Love Hewitt. In this film, both positively and negatively, the 'right' love is that which is given the character by themselves: Amanda, despite her societal standing, rejects the tool Mike Dexter in search of the real deal; Preston Meyers decides that Kurt Vonnegut is awesome literature and pursues the dream girl that he knows is the true love of his life, Amanda Beckett. The two are drawn together in spite of who? Not society, which they defy, nor in spite of families, which do not exist in this film, but in spite of themselves. Both Amanda and Preston struggle to hold faith to an ideal which exists outside their vision, and to deny the tendency to choose that which is before them, in pursuit of that which is beyond them. In other words, their greatest fight is the one that they have with themselves, to pursue love which they know is ridiculous, but which they desire anyway. Maybe a better example of this would be the Seth Green scenario in which he winds up with his ultimate nemesis, the wankster falling in love with the literature nerd, two souls finding each other, despite themselves.
I submit that NEW MOON is of this last kind, the great postmodern forbidden love story, in which the true oppressor is not society, not family, but ourselves. Granted, the stakes are slightly higher here: should love conquer the self, somebody's getting a brand new set of glittery skin for Christmas. But in the end, the lovers in NEW MOON have only themselves to answer to and to overcome in order to achieve their 'forbidden love'.
Monday, December 7, 2009
“Here, here will I remain with worms that are thy chamber-maids; O, here will I set up my everlasting rest; and shake the yoke of inauspicious stars from this world-wearied flesh.”
There’s a reason Shakespeare has endured the ever-changing map of humanity. The man (or men, depending on whichever conspiracy theory you subscribe to) could write. His mastery of words painted pictures so beautiful, that he invoked emotions the heart knew not it had. His plays have been recreated on stage and screen; either left alone or twisted and transformed to adapt to the current state of society.
Those words above came from his decidedly most famous play, “Romeo and Juliet.” It was said by author, Stephenie Meyer, that the play had inspired the second novel in her best-selling The Twilight Saga series, NEW MOON.
Let’s just start there—Saga. The word means any narrative or legend of heroic exploits.
Against two warring families and age-old mutinies, two teenagers found love, lost loved ones and each other, and yet despite all their obstacles, not even death could keep them apart.
It’s brazen, at best, to compare NEW MOON to Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers. Despite the lack of heroics, what’s really at loss? The soul? The humanity? Fortunately both were safe since I didn’t see either in this movie. What I did see was young Hollywood’s attempt to be taken seriously and falling far from the mark.
But they cannot solely be to blame. Some, if not a lot, of the fault lies within the pages of the books themselves. Let me say this. I was a faithful follower, preaching the gospel of TWILIGHT to any who would listen. Passing the books around, I might as well have been wearing a white, short-sleeved button up dress shirt with a black tie, riding a bike from house to house. The first movie cured me of this madness. The second was like trying to smoke a cigarette after years of having quit—it just made me gag and left a terrible taste in my mouth.
My friend, Aubrey, and I decided to make a day of our NEW MOON watching experience. We took a half-day at work, had lunch at this great burger joint called Twisted Root, where you’re given a character’s name to pick up your order. She was Cindy Lauper. I was given Bella Swan. It was kismet.
The matinee of NEW MOON could otherwise be known as the Walk of Shame showing. The patrons were all older, there were a few couples. Even in the darkened theater, you could see the guilt on their faces. We staked our seats in the middle, propped up our feet on the chairs in front, and huddled in for worst.
Simply the opening had me rolling my eyes. Aubrey and I giggled, snickered and snorted (well, I snorted) through most of the movie. On more than one occasion, I felt the urge to call an ambulance for Kristen Stewart’s eye-fluttering, nostril-flaring, heavy-breathing, epileptic histrionics. While this story is supposed to be about pure, passionate love, if someone looked at me with the twisted, constipated face Robert Pattinson’s Edward looks upon Bella, I wouldn’t shed a tear to see him walk away.
And then there’s Taylor Lautner as Jacob Black—well, at least he made eye contact while delivering his lines.
The scenes of tortured dreams Bella suffers after Edward’s leaving apparently translated into sounds of actual torture on the screen, with Stewart sounding more like she was in labor, then love’s labour’s lost. And somewhere in all of this, was the complete lack of emotion. The “Ouch. Paper cut” acting depicting a tale that has prompted a maelstrom of emotion from its readers, to the point where women tattoo the words on their bodies, girlfriends dump their boyfriends, and people are divided into “teams,” and yet the characters move from scene to scene with little more than a blip on the emotional radar.
This has already been said, but it’s one of the few things worth noting about the movie. The Volturi were the lone beacon in this dark, moonless night. Michael Sheen is mesmerizing. His very small amount of time on screen is the only break you receive where you can actually get lost in the story, where you forget you’re watching a bunch of twenty-somethings play make-believe. Dakota Fanning, with few lines but much more spoken in the simple expressions on her face, restored faith in the future of Hollywood and entertainment. You watch her and sigh, thinking, “Thank God, she will endure.”
The movie ended with Aubrey and me standing up and nearly bolting for the exit. We usually linger awhile in our seats, enjoying the music of the end credits, letting the whole experience sink in before we leave the movie world and re-enter reality.
I honestly don’t know what it is about the books that has made them literary crack. The characters are flawed, and not in a way that makes them endearing or relatable. Bella is boring, somewhat psychotic, and completely submissive. Edward is possessive, controlling, and melodramatic. Jacob is manipulative and inconsiderate. The story’s been done before—even Meyer’s admitted the books that inspired her. There’s no real sacrifice. Should our hearts break for Bella because her high school boyfriend dumped her? And yet we couldn’t get enough of the books. We couldn’t, until we saw the movies.
I give NEW MOON 1 Kristen Stewart lower lip bite out of 5. NEW MOON is the girl you pick up in a bar you thought was hot—you get hammered and go home with the book; you wake up sober with the movie.
Friday, December 4, 2009
i'm with myles: judd apatow delivers the hits. and, ironically, even though his movies have the expected apatow crassness and blushing humor, they also tackle unique struggles in my generation's need for maturity. 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN taunted our obsession with sexuality. SUPERBAD grabbed high school by the poop-mouth dirty tongue and jangled our notions of identity. PINEAPPLE EXPRESS smoked our dependencies on medication while also defining solid friendships. and TALLEDEGA NIGHTS (which apatow produced) reminded us that applebee's is a 5 star joint if you live a 2 star existence.
it's easy to dismiss apatow's movies as nothing more than filthy bathroom and boy humor, never realizing that, despite the necessary hollywood hyperboles that overgeneralize gender and age stereotypes in apatow's films, the man has diligently catalouged a faithful history of our current generation. it's as if apatow picked up where john hughes left off, fast forwarding suburban white culture from the 80s and turning the camera on us again in the new millenium. in that sense, we could feasibly celebrate both filmmakers for their anthropological achievements alone.
not to mention the ways hughes and apatow both taught me to cuss and banter better.
with that said, KNOCKED-UP, in my opinion, is the crowning jewel of the apatow canon. as myles already beautifully stated, everything that apatow does well finds it's apex in KNOCKED-UP. the overly exaggerated boy humor and girl fretting. the blinding addiction to self. the adult bodies trapped in middle school mindsets. the larger than life crisis that forces everyone in the film to re-evaluate their own lives and their need for others. these are signature apatow moves just as much, if not more, than the autoerotic jokes and dookie references.
i do think KNOCKED UP is the funniest film in the bunch, far exceeding some of the cheaper laughs in SUPERBAD (i also peed a little in that one) and the dirty-for-dirtiness sake of 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN ("you know how i know you're gay?"); however, it's the film's heart and tenderness that stood out most to me.
for instance, i was completely taken off guard when we learn that pete's (paul rudd) actual infidelity with debbie (leslie mann) was a fantasy baseball league and solitary film nights. after the film, i told latonya that i believe the wayward desire in most married men is not for a bimbo as much as for a little return on that long lost bachelor freedom. in the film, pete did love his wife. he loved his kids. but there was that aching wanderlust that needed other men and some solitude from time to time. of course, the message here is that pete and debbie had dissolved into a place where pete's request for such personal time would translate to debbie as a call for divorce. we see this in her immediate assumption that pete's having an affair. debbie jumped to the conclusion that pete no longer wanted her, not even considering for a moment that maybe pete just wanted a bit more pete. i thought this scene was brilliant, and i tip my hat to apatow for not relying on the typical man-wants-other-woman scenario. it's moments like this (and there were several in KNOCKED UP) that illustrate apatow's ability to abuse and transcend his own signature stereotypes.
all in all, this is a great film. it's funny and warm and, like the great john hughes' films of yore, it reminds us that we all have a little growing up to do. as with myles, i cannot recommend KNOCKED UP highly enough. it definitely deserves 5 googled murder searches out of 5.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
So, what is it about Apatow's films that proves to be such a draw? Let's run down a few suspects.
1) DUDE COMEDY--I don't remember the last time I sat around making a joke about pubic hair or bongs. But I've got more than enough stories about getting stepped on in the middle of the night or getting hit in the unmentionables. I in no way resonate with any of Seth Rogen's friends, except that I've lived in my share of crappy houses with way too many guys, and confused a framed poster with high art on occasion. Case in point: I have a seven foot U2 Rattle and Hum poster sitting in the front foyer with absolutely no place to put it in our apartment. But I can't bear the thought of just throwing it out.
2) PREGNANCY--Like I said, not trying to make a statement here. But like a friend of mine points out, babies are God's reminders that life is not controllable, that life gets through the cracks in our plans and poops on our shoes. I love the aspect of this movie which is an unseen actress who is the catalyst for all kinds of plot changes. Consider the fact that the baby is the one steering the ship of the entire plot, and we only see her in the last four minutes.
3) GUY GETS GIRL WAY OUT OF HIS LEAGUE--THIS I can resonate with, and I'll speak for the other bloggers here, that this is nearly categorically true. All men wind up with women who are way too good for them, and far prettier than us.
4) GOOFBALL TURNS INTO A GOOD GUY--Again, I resonate with this. One of the things I love about this film is that you have true moral development. Seth Rogen becomes a better person. He starts reading the baby books; he takes responsibility for his life and for other lives; he rises to the occasion. Does he still make awesome one-liners about bongs? Yes. Does he still deliever epithets about the gynecologist that make me rewind giggling? Yes. And in it all, he rises to the occasion.
This is a slam dunk. I can't recommend this movie enough except to give it 5 furry stuffed animals out of 5. It's tremendous.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
My father was born in August, 1950. He would have been the prime age to appreciate the British music invasion of the 60’s. He would have helped usher in the era of long hair, short pants, and hip-cat glasses. That fleeting moment of cultural time right after the swell 50’s and just before the cynical 70’s when Vietnam was real, but had not yet come home. When hem lines shrunk, kids started to rebel, and music began to cross racial and coastal lines to blend together and become real music. He would have, had he not been perpetually stuck in the 30’s and 40’s.
For some people, music was, is and always will be their life. It is the therapy to which they turn when they need to connect with someone else on a deeper level. There is a song to go along with every moment of their life. And most likely they got this from their parents. I was not one of these people. Music was played in my house to make you happy. It kept up the beat of the everyday. Never did I lock myself up in my room and wail along with a sad song because, well, let’s face it, the music of the early nineties kinda sucked. I’m sure many appreciated the harmony of Boys 2 Men, but I didn’t.
It’s all about what you’re exposed to. The music my dad had playing out in the garage while he worked on this or that was usually swing or big band. I sang along to “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and “Bei Mir Bistu Shein”…please let me explain. Seriously. There’d be a little Ricky Nelson, he was a fan of Sam Cooke, and of course, he did order me a cassette tape of “The Best of The Monkees.” As far as the music he should have passed on from his generation—The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who—well those were a bunch of long-haired hippies.
My husband comes from a family where his father was a roadie for The Doobie Brothers and his mother worked for Rolling Stone. He had bands betting on whether he would come out a boy or a girl. Music has always been a part of his life so there is a source from where his appreciation comes that I simply don’t have.
I say all of this because PIRATE RADIO could be a movie about music. Indeed, you could say that the music plays a supporting part, should be credited after Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy. And if anyone else was writing this review, it would be about the music. But you are stuck with me. And I can only write about the characters, the story, and mention that the movie has a kick-ass soundtrack.
Tonight was the second time I bought my over-priced ticket and saw PIRATE RADIO—this time with my mother. That speaks volumes. The last time I saw a movie twice was the first time Christian Bale donned the Batman costume.
The advertisements for PIRATE RADIO are misleading. You are lead to believe that Phillip Seymour Hoffman is the star of the movie and don’t get me wrong, he is a beacon in the role he plays so well of the laid-back, indifferent, too-cool-for-school music maven. But the storyline actually follows Young Carl, played by the much lesser known Tom Sturridge. He actually may only be known to many as the best friend of one ridiculously famous teen vampire, but it is Mr. Sturridge who really sparkles. And not in the lame way that word suggests. The story of Young Carl is that of an eighteen-year old man sent by his mother to live on a boat anchored in the North Sea where rock and roll is broadcasted to the 25 million British citizens who are deprived of the music by their own government. Carl has since grown up without ever knowing his father and now that he has reached the pivotal point of his life, standing on the dock of adulthood, he finds himself on a ship where any one of the crazy cast of degenerate characters could be his father. It is here where he finds acceptance, loses his virginity (the occasion being announced over the airwaves to the million listeners,) and discovers a family.
Brought to the screen by the same folks who made FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL and LOVE, ACTUALLY, this movie is wonderful, actually, because of its subtleties. In one endearing scene, Carl has been given an opportunity by Dr. “Love” Dave (Frost), albeit a slightly immoral opportunity, to finally embrace manhood and lose his cherry with one unsuspecting young lady. Under Dr. Love’s insistence of urgency, Carl assures him in a very meek, high-pitched voice, “I think we can both be pretty certain I’m going to be quick.” They hug—both stark naked at the time—and Carl is sent to his doom.
This movie is character driven and the characters are cast spectacularly. Hoffman is the man, the Count of Cool. Nick Frost is charming despite his chunky physique. Rhys Iffan is gaspingly funny. Kenneth Branagh does evil like only the British could. And how could you not love Bill Nighy, who could make a phone book reading sound interesting? Each actor plays off the other with such ease, that you easily get lost in the movie.
Like I said before, I don’t really know music, but I know a little about acting and I’ve always had a love affair with movies. Unfortunately, I know a movie has lost me when I can picture the actors reading from a script and working to hit their mark. Once that happens, it will never pull me back in. PIRATE RADIO sinks you in the story, throws you in a life boat with the characters, and sails off into the sunset.
I give PIRATE RADIO 5 “F” words over the airwaves out of 5. You’ll smile when you’re not laughing, you’ll giggle every time Kenneth Branagh says that guy’s name, and you’ll want to see it again. Oh, and the soundtrack is pretty kickass, too.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I’ve seen two end of the world movies this year. One was KNOWING – you can see what I thought of it here. 2012 is the other one, and dang it if this wasn’t an awesome flick. The crazies are right, the government lies to everybody, rich white folks are evil, and the puppy makes it out alive.
There’s not a whole lot to say about 2012, except that it’s the best disaster movie ever (except for GIGLI, that was a huge disaster! Zing!). The special effects are incredible – possibly the best I’ve ever seen. The first of the disaster scenes includes Cusack drives a limo through the disintegrating city of Los Angeles. After that scene, it never stops. There is never a lull in the action. The movie is 158 minutes long, and 152 of them are action-packed. There is always a huge wave, or a crack in the earth, or a crashing airplane, or something else heading toward out heroes. They run a lot.
Also, John Cusack, Oliver Platt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Danny Glover are all at the tops of their games. And let me take a minute to say something about Chiwetel Ejiofor. Ever since I saw that dude in SERENITY, I knew I liked him. Then I saw him in CHILDREN OF MEN and I liked him even more. He’s fantastic in this. And I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce his name.
I’m not gonna spend a lot of time on 2012, but it’s a great popcorn movie. I’m gonna dock it a star just because it’s a little long, but, for what it is, it’s pretty much a perfect movie. 2012 gets 4 Yellowstone volcanoes out of 5. Go see it. It was really expensive to make, and they need the cash.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
It was a beautiful, chilly July afternoon in South Dakota when my two year old staged the temper tantrum of the century. Our youth group was posing for a group picture in front of Mt. Rushmore and Miles, furious at attempts to prevent him from climbing the wall and hurling himself to his death in the amphitheatre below, protested so shrilly that he managed to clear all tourists from the viewing porch. He “expressed his disappointment” continuously as my husband dragged him all the way back to the parking garage, with my daughters and I following at a distance of about fifty feet.
“Someone should teach that kid a lesson,” a fellow tourist said to me, disgusted. “Yeah, someone should. I wonder where the mother is.” I replied.
Go ahead and judge me. It’s okay. Really.
I adore my son. Privately, I find many of his faults endearing. But sometimes I’m embarrassed to be associated with him in public.
That’s kind of the way I feel about Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga.
I only picked up a copy of Twilight because the girls in our youth group could speak of nothing else for weeks, and I wanted to know firsthand what had inspired this frenzy. I finished the book in two days. I ordered the rest of the books in the series from Amazon the next day. I told no one.
The Twilight Saga is not great literature. I cringed reading these books. I rolled my eyes. I laughed out loud at parts that weren’t supposed to be funny. And then I turned the page and kept reading.
Twilight bashing is a favored pastime of men, critics, the literary set, and particularly of male literary critics. How dare Stephenie Meyer girl-ify the sacred (er, profane) genre of vampire and werewolf lore? Vegetarian Vampires?! Sunshine Sparkly Vampires?! FOUL! Werewolves that transform at will?! FOUL! (Nerd alert: Actually, in book 4 we discover that the Quileutes are really shape shifters, not werewolves, so that makes it feasible)
Note to these guys: the whole vampire/ werewolf dynamic is just a plot device, the means through which Meyer builds characters with superhuman abilities, places Bella Swan in constant danger, and juxtaposes desire and restraint. This is not a vampire story. It’s a love story, a fantasy that appeals to a fanbase of teenage girls and former teenage girls. And since, to my knowledge, vampires don’t exist anyway…who cares?
For better or worse, these books make me feel half my age. And it’s not about the gorgeous guy characters or the fact that Bella is the center of the universe, the target of every villain, constantly being rescued by above mentioned gorgeous guys (pssst…this is like crack to a teenage girl). It’s because my teenage experience was so Bella-esque (except for the part where all the guys wanted to date me…yeah, that never happened). I wasn’t comfortable at dances. I was clumsy. The more hedonistic teenagerish pursuits held no appeal for me. I read Shakespeare and Austen because I wanted to. And I was thoroughly convinced of my own ordinariness. That’s the feeling Stephenie Meyer exploited to make me love her characters. Bella is the one person in the world whose thoughts Edward Cullen cannot hear. She is the lone mysterious female on the planet, so she captivates him. She doesn’t change a thing about herself, yet he loves her sacrificially. Why? Because he discovers what she does not see—that she is, in fact, extraordinary. She is pure, selfless, noble, and lovely. She is nothing like the rest.
Fellas, this is what most of us ladies long for. To be chosen above all others by a worthy man, just for who we are.
For this, I willingly overlook all the melodrama, the co-dependence, the poorly written prose, and Bella’s total lack of upper level thinking skills. I.e., Jake, the Quileute werewolf: “Remember that story I told you about “the cold ones” and the wolves? Well, I can’t tell you why I’ve transformed into a giant, half-naked, super-heated man-boy because it’s against the rules. Think, Bella…you know this…”
Spare me. Please.
I will also concede the fact that Meyer’s heroes, with their male model looks, superhuman strength, and complete devotion to Bella’s happiness, set a standard with which no man, and certainly no hormonal seventeen year old boy, could compete. In a sense, this is porn for girls, particularly in the case of Edward Cullen, who has frittered away the past century by racking up multiple graduate degrees, memorizing the complete works of Shakespeare, becoming fluent in several languages, and formulating the perfect product to maintain his signature hairdo. Oh, and he’s also a master composer and pianist, though when the lullaby he composed for Bella is brought to the screen in Twilight, it sounds exactly like an excerpt from a John Tesh CD. FOUL! But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Here’s the straight dope: My husband is a youth guy. I hang with teenage girls. And I have watched helplessly as young ladies I love have cheapened themselves, have given themselves away and been used and tossed aside…for NOTHING. They don’t know what chivalry looks like. They don’t believe they’ll be receiving any better offers. I want the bar set higher.
And now, a few thoughts about the Twilight movie franchise:
I think any time a book is adapted to the screen there are both gains and losses. I appreciate many of the changes that made Twilight and New Moon watchable (btw, I think New Moon far exceeds Twilight in terms of watchability). I flipped past whole chapters of New Moon, for example, because…yes, Bella, we get it. You’re miserable without Edward. You can’t breathe. There’s a hole in your chest…blah blah blah. Thank you, makers of New Moon, for sparing us some of this angst. The action and fight scenes were exciting under Chris Weitz’s direction. Sceenwriter Melissa Rosenberg made a good call by adding some violence to the Volterra sequences.
Some reviewers have suggested that this entire generation of fans will watch these movies again as adults and realize just how terrible they are. Of course they will. And they’ll keep watching them.
Consider Saved By the Bell. This show was horribly acted. They aired the episodes out of order. One week Zack loves Kelly Kapowski. The next week, it’s Stacy Carosi or that girl wrestler or (fill in the blank). They’re awful. But do I own every single episode, including the feature length specials? Yes, I do. Do I sniffle a little when Zack and Kelly exchange vows in Las Vegas? Yes, I do. My grandmother has a similar relationship with The Rockford Files. It’s pop culture, folks. Nobody ever said it would be anthologized and handed down to future generations.
The CGI wolves of New Moon were hilariously un-scary, which is just the way Matt (the youth guy husband) and I like it. The special effects in Twilight were equally bad. The scene where Edward runs up the hill to the meadow with Bella on his back is just plain silly. But then, the whole premise behind this saga is just plain silly. Once you make peace with that, the hokey moments (i.e. Jacob Black removing his shirt for the first time to reveal his anabolic steroid use) become your favorites.
On the other hand, the Edward and Bella of cinema are not the lovers who live in the pages of the books. These two are described in the book as old souls, and you can see why they would end up together. Bella does all the grocery shopping and cooking. She reads Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Shakespeare for fun. She cleans the house. She’s separate from the other kids because she’s just not into teenagerish activities. Kristen Stewart’s Bella, on the other hand, is a sulky, dreary, tomboy with some kind of nervous tic who is too cool for everything. For his part, Rob Pattinson captures the tortured aspect of Edward Cullen’s existence, and that’s about it. Meyer’s Edward is charming and eloquent and witty. He speaks (and thinks) like a man from another time. And he smiles from time to time, too.
Because I write for a publicity firm, I feel like I can spot focused, intentional messaging when I see it. Frankly, Meyer’s Bella is a politically incorrect model for teenage girls—too needy, too dependent, and too traditional in her domesticity. The Bella we encounter on screen presents the other extreme. She’s almost emotionless. She’s too cool to be vulnerable. She’s a vegetarian (not that I’m hating on vegetarians) who delivers lines like, “Take control…you’re a strong, independent woman.” This line was inserted for a reason, and I understand why. But in making Edward the undead James Dean and Bella the empowered, stoic feminist, the filmmakers have made the silly premise of this saga even less plausible.
In short, the movies are too cool to really tell the story. The real Edward and Bella are a couple of squares who get to know each other the old-fashioned way. We don’t witness this courtship in the film. Consequently, there is little magic between these two. When compared to the much more convincing onscreen chemistry between Bella and Jake (who also bests Edward’s physique and is not shown getting his butt kicked in Italy), viewers unfamiliar with the books wonder why this is even a competition.
All that being said, I will be pre-ordering the DVD of New Moon on Amazon. I can’t help myself.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
WHEN MARY ROACH WROTE ABOUT CADAVER RESEARCH, I DECIDED TO DONATE MY CORPSE TO SCIENCE. NOW SHE'S WRITING ABOUT SEX AND ORGASMS - DARE I SAY MORE?
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Unlike the MEGA SHARK VERSUS GIANT OCTOPUS review, this one is about the kind of movie that you will almost never find on this site. Here we usually revel in cheese and bad production values. Myles, the hamster, and I generally do not make forays into the world of artistic visionary kinda stuff. If it’s not playing at the local multiplex, we usually stay away. But when I found out that Sufjan Stevens had made a movie, I was all over it.
Sufjan is an all-time favorite of mine and Seven Swans (and Come On, Feel the Illinoise, of course) occupies a place in my personal hall of fame. The thought of him making a film (about an expressway, no less), was completely intriguing. Here’s little bit of backstory: Sufjan was commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music to create a film about
The movie, just released last month, is a visual and auditory banquet. It opens with a panoramic shot of the BQE while a drone fills the audio space, almost as if the orchestra is tuning up for the performance. Then, as the scenes start to change, the scope of the project comes into view. The whole film is presented with three separate panes of film, sometimes joined, sometimes unique. The effect is a triptych, almost a trinity, of image. Three visuals, three words, three hula hoopers – yes, the Hooper Heroes join the film. These lovely ladies play the roles of Botanica, Quantas, and Electress (BQE, get it?) and provide the human element to counterbalance the grit and concrete of the Expressway.
Sufjan provides sweeping vistas of sound juxtaposed against grainy, dirty, and beautiful buildings and street life. The visuals present a melting pot of imagery - the modernity of McDonalds alongside shoes hanging from power lines next to the shells of tenement buildings. The three panels often show the same scene from three distinct vantage points, but even when they are joined to form a unified image, it’s never seamless, always fractured; it's never whole, but still complete.
About a third of the way into the film, Act II starts, and the hula hoopers take center stage. The music turns introspective, shots get tighter, and the actions slows. The hooper scenes serve as salve to eyes overindulged on urban sprawl. Seeing humans soothes and smooths away the harsh edges of concrete we’ve been watching. At the halfway point, the main musical theme returns to close ups of trucks and cars on the BQE, along with shots framed in such a way the birth canal imagery is impossible to miss. In an interview with Paste Magazine, Sufjan said, “If skyscrapers are the ultimate phallic symbols, then the urban expressway is the ultimate birth canal, the uterine wall, the anatomical passageway, the ultimate means of egress, and the process by which we are all born again. The is the Motherhood of Civilization, the Breast of Being, the fallopian tube, the biological canal from which all of life emerges in resplendent beauty, newborn and newly fashioned with the immaculate countenance of a baby.” And he doesn’t beat around the bush with it – Sufjan proves to be the Georgia O’Keefe of New York Expressways.
The film continues and we get some visual trickery, a kaleidoscope effect, some night shooting, etc. In fact, my favorite scene is of fast motion of lights at night along with the hoopers in fast motion - the confluence of lights and speed creates an effect that looks dramatically like graffiti.
The film comes to a slide that says THE END. Don’t believe it. There’s still more. In fact, if THE BQE is a love letter to
The film comes to a slide that says THE END. Don’t believe it. There’s still more. In fact, if THE BQE is a love letter to
I know this is long, and forgive me. But I could say much more about this film. Keep in mind, this is not a documentary – it is a museum piece. There are no vocals until the very end. No dialogue, only music. It runs a short 51 minutes and yes, it does get monotonous (and monotonal) at times, but that only serves to remind the viewer of the traffic on the BQE – monotonous. This is unlike anything we usually talk about here, and it’s a little difficult to put into words. It is a piece of art. It’s not something you invite your buddies over to watch with you (unless they’re big nerds like me who dig this sort of thing), but it’s really, really, really good. It’s the kind of film that people win awards for. Not Oscars or Golden Globes, but important awards.
THE BQE gets 5