Sunday, May 30, 2010

What's up Netflix!

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus- 5 stars- Terry Gilliam is back (as if he ever went away) with this amazing trip through dream land and fantasy. Featuring everything you've come to love about Gilliam- outlandish costumes, beautiful FX, fine acting, and a lyrical script- recall the days of "Brazil" and "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen". Maybe I'm biased as we share a birthday, but no one makes me think quite the same way as Mr. Gilliam. Probably more famous as Heath Ledger's final movie (and he is genius in it), I hope it will also be remembered as the time Gilliam tapped into his own imagination, instead of reworking someone else's, and found success where everyone told him he would fail. The story revolves around the great Doctor's travelling group of misfits as they attempt to entertain (and possibly gain your soul) in the seedier parts of London. Early on we learn that Parnassus, in exchange for immortality, promised his daughter to the Devil (the delicious Tom Waits) on her 16th birthday. Lily Cole, model turned actress, plays his daughter and I see a real future for her if she continues to make smart choices. Sweeping into the equation is Heath Ledger's amnesiac who wants to help the troop get rich and win back the daughter from the Devil. After Ledger's death, Gilliam reworked the film and cast three actors (Johnny Depp-great, Jude Law- whimsical, and Colin Farrell- miscast) to fill in for Ledger when he falls into the dream world of Parnassus' greatest parlor trick- a magical mirror. It's almost hard to imagine this was not what Gilliam had in mind from the very beginning, it plays so well. A must see for everyone!

The Messenger- 4 stars- I knew to expect an emotional journey with this film, I just didn't expect it to hit me the way that it did. Oren Moverman's first feature is about the war in Iraq except it isn't. It's about the soldiers who fight, except it isn't. It's about love and loss and fear and redemption. Woody Harrelson (with well deserved Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations) and Ben Foster (what can't he do?) are soldiers tasked with notifying families when their loved one has been killed in action. Foster, himself seriously injured in action, is off balance and damaged; trying to find the solace needed to carry out this task. Harrelson, on the other hand, has been doing this a long time and seems un-phased by what goes on around him. The chemistry between these two actors is palpable. They fall into these characters rather than play them. The film has been seen as "anti-war" but I don't see that. It is simply a side of war we don't get to see and would rather not think about. A wonderful documentary with real notification officers and effected families is a real gut wrencher.

The Box- 4 stars- A lot of people hated this movie (as evidenced by the 2.6 star rating on Netflix). I, on the other hand, really liked it. It reminded me, in tone and execution, like an old "Twilight Zone" or "Outer Limits" episode (in fact it was a "Twilight Zone" episode). My delight was made all the more as it is based on a Richard Matheson short "Button, Button"- I simply adore him! If you are someone who wants everything spelled out for you, if you do not like classic SciFi TV, then I would avoid this film. The premise is simple: What if you pushed a button and received 1 million dollars, except someone you didn't know would die? What would you do? How would it affect you? Frank Langella is perfectly creepy as the man with the proposition. It loses 1 star due to Cameron Diaz's horrid southern accent and lake of chemistry between her and her husband, James Marsden. The film is a bit long but ends before you want to stab yourself or wander off to do something else. I am a big fan of Richard Kelly's first film "Donnie Darko" and think if you love (and I mean Love) that movie, you will probably like this one as well. If you were indifferent or just think it was okay, I would avoid anything else he's done. Heck, I'd avoid "Southland Tales" as well regardless- I couldn't even finish watching it was so bad. Note to Mr. Kelly, while I enjoy your tweets, if your next movie is a dud I will be forced to write off "Donnie Darko" as a fluke and erase you from my memory. You have been warned.

Ordinary People- 5 stars- I keep forgetting if I've seen this movie, and always remember about half way through that I have. For me, that's a plus. It's almost impossible for me to re-watch most movies so the fact that I can do so with this one makes me like it even more. Winner for Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Redford) and Best Supporting Actor (then newcomer Timothy Hutton); it is a classic that should be on everyone's must watch list. If you a parent who either wasn't one in 1980 when it came out or had just had a kid, I suggest you watch this movie again. If you have ever been a disaffected youth, watch this movie. If you have ever suffered great loss (and it's been adequate time to recover), watch this movie. The Jarrett clan seems impossibly put together, which of course they are not. The youngest, Hutton, has recently been released from the hospital following a suicide attempt. His mother, Mary Tyler Moore, has no idea how to communicate with anyone especially her wounded son. Donald Sutherland is the father trying to hold the clan together. Sporadic intercuts of the past punctuate the narrative giving us a glimpse into what happened in the past to dishevel this perfect suburban family. The acting and writing are sublime. The direction and cinematography is a bit dated, but not in an obnoxious way. I kept thinking the whole time, "Why did I never have a shrink as awesome as Judd Hirsch?!"

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Random Saturday to the Rescue

* I just posted an amazing Lavender Pound Cake recipe on my foodie blog here. I know using lavender in anything outside of the shower or a closet sachet is a bit out there for many of us, but fresh lavender has a very different scent than the dried blossoms. It's almost citrusy. This cake is SO good I had to give half away for fear I'd gorge myself with it over the weekend.

* If anyone can tell me why I saved "327 Holliston St" in my phone I would much appreciate it. Where does this address take me? What city is it in? I gotta tell you, Googlemaps was no help.

* This is the scariest place I've been all week:

* My mind has gone completely blank. A great idea popped into my head while I was cruising Googlemaps and now I've completely forgotten it. Frak!

* Said in a bar last week: "I have an active sex life in other people's minds".

* If someone can explain this to me (and doesn't make me vomit in the process), I'll give you a dollar:
* Word of the day Jennie has been promoted to another office, so now I have to come up with witty random words all on my own. Tear. Today's word is: Morose.

* Can I get this on a poster?

* Thanks to I am now obsessed with this, and this, and these.

*NSFW: Marilyn Manson's mock-trailer for "Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll". This film is not yet in production (from what I hear, it's still looking for funding), but man, does it look interesting. At the very least you know Manson will show you something visually interesting and probably deeply disturbing. Sign me up!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hola Summer (hello mustaches)

Tuesday a bunch of us visited our friends/bartenders at Stan's Blue Note in Dallas for some cheap drinks and hopefully drunken debauchery. What we didn't expect was the fabulous display of mustaches. A local bike gang (that's bicycle gang folks) showed up and I think every guy had some sort of emo/indie facial hair. It was amazing. In case you don't know, I'm on a huge facial hair kick right now. My attraction to the stache waxes and wanes, but it never leaves completely. There's just something about a guy who bucks conventional norms and fashion to sport a handlebar or Doc Holliday mustache. I just want to pet it. In a mere two month's I'll be able to show my support for all things bristly when I visit my friend in Brooklyn. She's holding this shirt hostage until I get there:
It's as if H&M has a direct view into my subconscious.

Now that the summer is here, I'm left to figure out how to spend my evenings without my favorite TV shows/friends. I can't believe I have to wait months to find out what happens next on The Vampire Diaries, or if Grey's Anatomy can handle losing their main Grey, or what city The Amazing Race contestants will piss all over. I already miss Southland. Will the Gleeks win regional's? Will anyone finally put Sue Sylvester in her place? Will Alicia Florek choose her corrupt cheating husband or go for the unknown with her boss Will on The Good Wife (arguably TVs best new drama)? What about Law & Order? It was a great series finally, but did it need to be cancelled to make room for a Hollywood edition? Don't we have enough going on in LA and NY? What about Law & Order: Chicago, or Law & Order: Seattle? I'd love to see some cops strung out on Voodoo donuts chasing hippies around town in the rain. Speaking of the end of the line, Saving Grace finishes this season which means no more surly Holly Hunter drinking and smoking up a storm. Why god, why?!

[side note: Did anyone catch "The Good Guys" on Fox? I was excited because it's set and partially filmed in Dallas (go big D), but couldn't even finish watching it was so bad. You really want me to believe one of the cops camps out in an Airstream trailer under the Star of Texas ferris wheel in the middle of Fair Park? Not hardly. Way to dash my hopes of a killer summer series and familiar locales.]

It's safe to say I'm addicted to TV, and I make no apologies about it. Maybe it makes me a bit dumber, but I make up for it with reading and thinking deep complex thoughts to myself (okay, maybe not the last part). Why shouldn't I subscribe to the teacher of the masses- the boob tube? What am I going to do this summer? A quick google search and help from The Futon Critic put everything into perspective. Here's what my DVR will look like come official summer:

* Finally, Weeds returns. What the heck will Nancy Botwin get herself into this season?
* The Closer (really, there's nothing else on. I could take it or leave it depending on the story)
* It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (thank you Comedy Central!)

* Masterchef (they had me at Gordon Ramsey- I just love him)
* Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List (if you get a chance to see her perform, do it)
* Memphis Beat (Jason Lee, check)

* Is it too late to get into Happy Town? Probably. Damn.
* So You Think You Can Dance (this is the dance show with real dancers- watch it!)
* Top Chef 7
* Tosh.0
* Ghost Hunters Academy (if it's not better than last season, it's dead to me. oh, a pun!)

* So You Think You Can Dance: Results show
* Any 30 Rock & Community episodes I missed (which would be most of 30 Rock)
* Moonlight ( I watched when it was originally on CBS- damn them- but the CW is rerunning the series. Check it out)
* Paranormal Investigators (FBI trained spook de-bunkers. Awesome)
* Eureka returns!!!
* Haven (based on a Stephen King short story should scare me, but his shorts tend to be pretty good)

* Graham Norton returns!
* Mostly this seems like a good drinking night

* Mad Men returns (I am literally salivating at the mouth. If you're not down with Sterling Cooper, now's the time)
* True Blood (I now officially love Sundays)

What shows are you excited to watch this summer?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What's up Netflix!

I don't know why this didn't post a couple weeks ago, but here are some more movie reviews:

The Brothers Bloom- 4 stars- In the tradition of David Mamet and director Rian Johnson's freshman effort "Brick", "The Brothers Bloom" weaves a tangled web about, above, and beyond the grift. I love movies about "the con". I am constantly amazed by the intelligence and planning of the writer/director who tackles a con movie and does so well (See: The Grifters, House of Cards, Revolver). We follow the Bloom brothers from adolecense and into adulthood as they become two of the greatest con men the world has ever know. Pulled into one last heist by his brother (Mark Ruffalo- always amazing), Adrien Brody finds himself thrust into the con himself, no longer sure who is playing whom. Rachel Weisz as the mark and all around fun time gal also shines. I can't wait to see what Johnson does next! Both of his films are whimsical without being childish and clever without being too smart. He elicits fine performances from all his actors and knows his way around a sharp barb. Very good!

Motherhood- 4 stars- This movie was in and out of the theatre faster than you could say, "Hey isn't that Uma Thurman?" My only thought as to why is it's an extremely difficult film to market. The premise sounds lame and alienating: the day in the life of a harried mother of 2 as she attempts to put together a birthday party for her daughter. With little help from her husband, she struggles to balance "me time" with her role as wife, mother, chauffer, cook, and human being. I figured I'd catch it on DVD, and I'm glad I did. Uma Thurman gives an amazing performance (perhaps drawn from personal experience) as she struggles to reconcile with the knowledge that she no longer works, at least not in the sense that seems to mean anything to most people. She schedules out niches of time for herself in an otherwise jam packed day. I really appreciated all that my mother did for me when I was a child after seeing this film. I just wish life ended the way it always does in movies- with justice and satisfaction for its heroine.

First Snow- 2 stars- I love Guy Pearce, which is the only reason I rented this movie. Unfortunately, I almost fell asleep several times while watching. Pearce plays a guy with no redeeming qualities (which does not lead me to immediately dislike a movie), yet we're expected to believe he's on a journey to redemption that we never see. For some reason, he decides to get his palm read (by a miscast J.K. Simmons) at a gas station. Here he learns he will die, and just after the first snow. Already, we don't care. He's scummy and a jerk- good riddance. This movie is quiet and ambles about in what seems much longer than its 102 minutes. I would rent Memento or The Proposition instead. Unless, that is, you've got some work to do and would like something on in the background

Daybreakers- 3 stars- About half way through watching, it becomes obvious why this film was shelved for a year before release. Add to that the 2 years it took to make and you start getting the picture. It's not a bad effort from newbie filmmakers The Spierig Brothers, but all I'm left thinking about is what the script looked like before Lionsgate got a hold of it. Is this the better version or the worse? Ethan Hawke does a fine job emoting the same presence he did in "Gattaca" (I wish I'd watched that movie). Once the problem in the story is solved, the movie takes a major dive. Not only is the solution laughable, it stalls the action. I think the biggest problem might have been a collection of too many ideas and no good editor. What kind of movie does this want to be? Sci-fi Drama? Horror? Socio-political drama? It never seems to figure it out. "Daybreakers" goes in the vault with all the other Frankenstein films- those that seem to be made from two different movies, cut in half, and taped together. I think there are some that will find this movie far more entertaining, perhaps someone without a long and working knowledge of vampire films; hence the 3 stars. For me, it just made me sad.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant- 2 stars- I totally fell asleep watching this movie. There's a sizeable chunk in the middle that's missing from my memory. That being said, I can't imagine there being a sequel, so what's the point in watching what I missed? I get what Chris Weitz was trying to do here, but he fell short (even more so than his interpretation of "The Golden Compass"). The CG is sometimes wonderful (as in the case of Hayek's growing beard), but is also at odds with itself (as in the case of the vampire's fast motion). The adult acting is way over the top and distracting. John C Reilly, whom I normally love, was chewing the scenery and Salma Hayek seemed not to know why she was there. The young leads, especially newcomer Chris Massoglia, do a respectable job with what's given. All in all, it seemed like an animated movie acted out with live actors. A definite miss, unless you're fans of the books.

Hero Worship

hero {he’ro} n, pl. –roes 1 any person, esp. a man, admired for courage, nobility, etc. 2 the central character in a novel, play, etc.

Heroes shouldn’t be real people. Heroes should be mythical beings or, if not mythical, then perhaps simply an extraordinary being. If you have the opportunity to meet your hero, don’t. They will only disappoint you.

How one chooses their hero is unimportant so long as they follow the one and only rule of hero worship. It is best to encourage children to choose heroes they do not know but whom they wish to emulate. Family members, friends, acquaintances should of course be avoided. Choosing a familiar hero not only diminished the status of Hero, but also sets the child up for heartache and sadness. The age old tale of the person who meets their hero only to find they are an abhorrent human being is recited frequently and should be used as a cautionary tale. It is most probably true. On the off chance you meet someone who has met their hero and was not disappointed, you should remind yourself that they are the exception not the rule.

One should never meet their heroes.

In the chance that you are an adult and only now learning about this rule, you would be best advised to change your hero if they are someone whom you know. This may prove difficult depending on the length of time said person has been your hero, but I assure you it is for the best. Instead of a father or mother or brother or sister, choose a historical figure; perhaps one that is already dead. This will ensure you have little chance of meeting them. A President, an athelete, a movie star, a scientist, a writer, a painter, a candlestick maker. Any of these would make for a fine hero. Of course, as with anyone in the public eye, there may be some information that is objectionable about them. Keep in mind that they are dead and therefore you cannot know their side of the story. Imagine it is myth. In any case, what ever they have (or have not) done, it will not have been aimed directly at you so you are still safer from disappointment then if you had chosen someone you knew.

One should never meet their heroes.

Maybe this sounds cynical and cold hearted. Maybe it is. What chance are you willing to take with your hero? Should they not always be kept in the highest regard? Would you be willing to risk the repercussions of an actual person turning out to be the opposite of whom and what you thought they were? Would you even know if you are capable of overlooking such a thing? The answer is: probably not. As humans we believe our heroes to be infallible, unable to disappoint. In which I answer: see above.

One should never meet their heroes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Can't Breath

Last night, I think I died for a second before being resurrected like Ripley in "Alien 4".

My allergies (at least I assume that's what they are. I've never been tested. Testings for losers) have been the worst these past two months. Just when I think I've over the plague, it comes back two fold. Now, I'm coughing all the time except when I wake up in the morning which is super weird. Last night, despite the overdose of generic NyQuil, my throat was sealed shut with phlegm. Sorry, I know that's gross, but imagine how I felt. I'd like to say my life passed before my eyes but it didn't. Instead, I lay there thinking, "Great. This is how it ends? Woman suffocated by self". So lame.

Add to my distress the fact I've worked 7 straight days and it's no wonder I haven't gotten better. I need sleep and relaxation and I have no idea when I'm going to get either. Sure I'm finally off tomorrow, but it's payday and that means one thing: shopping. I need food and more medicine and probably something pretty just for me. I have exhausted the recommended length of time I should take my prescription cough medicine so now I'm screwed.

I have also lost the ability to speak English. Unfortunately, I have not developed the ability to speak another language or suddenly get better at the foreign languages I already kind of know. This short post has taken the better part of a half hour (not including the amazing artwork above). Mostly for spell checking and to remember what I was talking about. Mostly.
[side note: I totally misspelled "mostly". can I go home?]

Send me good juju, please!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

WWQTW?- Vivre sa Vie

Last night was the 3rd meeting of my intro to film/movie club WWQTW? (You can check out previous installments by clicking on the tag below). I was SO excited about this meeting as we were going to watch what may in fact be my favorite film of all time. Usually, when asked what my favorite movie is, I demure and say I'm not sure. This is a lie. Sometimes, I say the name of a movie I think they would like or appreciate me saying is my favorite. This happens rarely. Usually, I pick one of two pre-set answers based on the person asking the question: "Heavy" or "Pulp Fiction". Now, I love these two films. "Pulp Fiction" was the first time I fully understood the film making process and what it meant to be a director. I can vividly recall the night I saw it at Collin Creek Mall. It was a Saturday... "Heavy" is my go to film with other film buffs. It's the first feature from James Mangold (Girl, Interrupted; Copland) and stars Live Tyler and Pruitt Taylor Vince. I can't watch the trailer for this movie with welling up with tears- and I never cry!

All this being said, my favorite movie is probably "Vivre sa Vie" or "My Life to Live (A Film in 12 Scenes)". I never mentioned it because it was out of print until this year and very difficult to find. It took me almost a year of searching online to find a legitimate print to order. It always seemes mean to say your favorite movie was one that no one could see; like wearing amazing boots you got from a trip to Tokyo just so you could say, "Oh them? Their Japanese". Now, thanks to Criterion, everyone can see this lost gem by Jean-Luc Godard.
Nana: "I forget I'm responsible, but I am."

Released in 1962, "Vivre sa Vie" tells the story of Nana (Anna Karina- Godard's wife at the time), a young woman who abandons her husband and son to try to make it as an actress. Instead, she falls into a life of prostitution (coincidentally called "the life" in France) and self analysis. I chose this film not only because I love it, but also because I believe it best expresses the mission and aesthetic of the Nouvelle Vague movement. The French New Wave created one of the most influential movements in cinema of all time: The idea of director as "auteur", the alienation of the audience, the subtle winks at the knowledge that what you were watching is fictional, the lightweight movement of the camera and free flow of sound that makes you believe it may in fact be documentary (see: cinéma vérité). The New Wave strived to show real life in cinema, while never forgetting you are watching a movie.

[side note: When I grow up, I want to be Anna Karina. Just saying.]

Godard is considered by many to be the most provocative and extreme filmmakers in the genre. In "Vivre sa Vie" he uses title cards to separate the action ("Reminds me of a play," says Steph. We then digress into a discussion of the many versions of the bible!). The camera is kept in medium and close up shots with no real masters. At anytime in a conversation, it may wander/pan to the window, the street, the back of someones head. We are constantly put in the position of voyeur while being reminded that what we see is not real. At first, this camera movement was distracting (and somewhat nauseating) to many of last nights viewers. After a quick smoke break (Nana, as well as everyone in the film, smokes so frequently it's hard to refrain oneself), the movement was seen as another device created to capture the full attention of the audience. Even after repeated viewings, I find myself leaning to the right or left, attempting to see what is just out of frame. Godard also didn't believe in explaining his films to people. It is up to you as the audience to decide what they are about. In conjunction, the backgrounds of his characters are often omitted and we jump forward in time without warning or notice. Godard's refusal to explain the motivations of his characters creates the effect of alienating the audience, it "displaces you" (Word of the day Jennie). Yet, it is only in the coercion of the viewer to decide for themselves that he makes us an active participant in what is normally a passive experience.

Nana: "Escape is a pipe dream."
Nana: "That's life."

Godard's ability to write for women should also not be overlooked. Just as in "Breathless", he creates a modern woman who elicits confusion, anger, sympathy, and recognition from the audience. We end up identifying with Nana, especially after Chapter 11 when she meets the philosopher in the cafe. In him she finds a kindred spirit, a good listener who is not interested in her for money or sex. She dreams of a bigger and better life, of the power of love and words, of the question of happiness and life itself. It is a decidedly human experience wrapped around a rather unusual circumstance. After her meeting with the philosopher, "it gave me more insight into her thoughts and feelings. Before, I didn't like her... Then she became a real person" (Steph Too). Much is said about the Edgar Allan Poe story read to Nana by her lover, but I saw little online that mentioned the story from "The Three Musketeers" that was told to her by the philosopher. While the Poe story ("The Oval Portrait") may convey the feelings of the auteur to his muse, it is in the Dumas story that we learn more about the muse. That everything that has happened before led us to this quite and short moment, that the final chapter of the story that follows sums it up; is testament to the power of words, the lack of them, and for keeping your cards close to your chest. The audience is stunned when the film ends, I know many of the club was, and it is only moments after it ends that the conversation starts flowing. Steph Too points out here that "in current American film, [knowing Nana's background] would have given us more closure. Here, that's not the point. That's not what I'm used to."

The Philosopher: "An instant of thought can only be grasped through words."

Suggested viewing:
also by Godard: "Breathless", "Weekend", "Pierre le Fou"
Francois Truffaut: "The 400 Blows", "Jules et Jim"
Alain Resnais: "Last Year at Marenbad"
Claude Chabrol: "Le Bonne Femmes"
Jacques Demy: "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg"
Spike Lee: "She's Gotta Have It"
Quentin Tarantino: "Reservoir Dogs" [side note: Tarantino's production company is called A Band Apart after Godard's film "Bande a Part" about a heist gone wrong.]
Bernardo Bertolucci: "The Dreamers" (NC-17)
Jean Cocteau: "Orphee", "la Belle et la Bete"
Jean-Pierre Juenet: "Amelie", "Delicatessan"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturday Free for All!

* I got nothing today, but felt bad about not posting so much this week. I'm getting sick again and I totally blame AMC theatres and "Robin Hood". I felt fine until I went to the advanced screening, now I'm coughing again and feel like I have a fever even though I don't. It makes it so much worse that I'm stuck, alone, at work. I just want to go to sleep. But instead, I have 4.5 hours left of work before I go to the grocery to get more cold medicine and figure out what I'm making for WWQTW on Monday. (I can't wait to tell you all about it. We are watching what may arguably be my favorite movie- no pressure).

* I think the office is haunted. I keep hearing the back door open and someone typing upstairs, but there's no one there. It's freaking me out! Be gone demon! Step into the light children, all are welcome!

* Watch out pro-choice'ers: A pro-lifer by the name of Marjorie Dannenfelser is clambering to oust Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). She founded and heads the Susan B. Anthony List which is hoping to put representatives in Congress who are pro-life and anti-choice concerning abortions. Read more about her here. (Special thanks to Femme Writes for the heads up).

* So, I'm trying to get ready for work this morning (not an easy task), and I keep seeing movement outside in my courtyard. I think nothing of it, but there's an accompanying noise that startles my cat. I peek outside and find a DirecTV guy waking away at my tree and messing with my dish. Unfortunately, I was running late for work so I just bolted out the door without speaking to him. Who called him? Was he supposed to fix my neighbors dish and got mine instead/as well? I'll tell you, if my TV starts working I will continue to pay the ridiculous bill I get for basic cable at least 1 more month. Otherwise, I'm going to kick them in the shins and demand restitution. I understand that if there's severe weather my dish might stop working, but what's the excuse for now signal yesterday when there was only a light drizzle? Or for the past week?

* Do you watch "The Vampire Diaries"? Did you watch the season finale? WHAT THE FUCK!!!!! This is why this show is one of the best things on TV (Ian Somerhalder isn't too bad himself). Put it in your queue ASAP. It's what "Twilight" could have been- sexy, mysterious, dangerous, sexy.

* If the fire alarm at work doesn't stop going off, I'm going to stab myself or it. Whichever seems easier at the time.
* My Vegan Chocolate Chip recipe is posted on Veggie Sometimes. Check it out, they're delicious!
* Today's word of the day is: disappointed. See also: ill

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Movie Review: Robin Hood

3 1/2 stars

Last night Word-of-the-day Jennie and myself attended an advanced screening of Ridley Scott's latest epic "Robin Hood". Be warned, possible spoilers are contained below (though I doubt they'll do much to dissuade you).

I couldn't have been more excited to win passes courtesy of Gordon & the Whale (a pretty neat movie site). I was even more excited when we actually got into the movie- a lot of people were turned away. The story of Robin Hood is one I love and remember fondly from childhood. The adventures of a rag tag group of misfits and thieves who steal from the rich to give to the poor fuel so many of my fantasies and dreams. Surely an origin story would be amazing as well.

[side note: The original title of this film was "Nottingham" and was supposed to show the story of Robin Hood from the perspective of the Sheriff. What I wouldn't give to see that script (much less that movie)!]

My problems with this movie are many and varied. First, it doesn't play like a Ridley Scott move, but more like an introspective Bruckheimer flick. That's not necessarily a bad thing mind you, we love violence and explosions, yet it is handled unevenly and jars the mind from story to action instead of enhancing it (or in the case of Bruckheimer- dominating it). The fight scenes could have been worse (remember "The Bourne Supremacy"? Who was fighting who?); the quick cuts from close, medium, and long shot are often distracting in film. However, I was able to determine the majority of what was going on, even when mud and sand made them all look the same.

Second, the film maker's are not afraid to tell us we're idiots. Case in point: title cards. I love a good title card. There's nothing worse than watching an historical drama and having no idea when in time you are. Or an espionage tale that takes us to Madrid, then Zurick, then Moscow. I do not, however, need to be constantly reminded of an unchanging location. Title card: Blah Blah France. Robin and his merry men are fighting for King Richard the Lionheart in France. Something happens and they must escape to the cost to catch a boat home. Title card: Some French forest. Robin and him men are in an ambush. They proceed towards the coast. Title card: Coast of France. Robin and his men ride into view. Seriously? I KNOW THEY'RE IN FRANCE. How dumb do you think I am? Wait, don't answer that.

Third, remember when story was king, especially when the story being told was based on books and legend? Me too. I wonder who shot, killed, and mounted Story. I miss it.

Forth, faux feminist agendas. Maid Marion (Blanchett), a far cry from the young naive girl implied in other versions of the story, is a tough as nails, take no prisoner, horseback riding (men's style!), woman left to tend the farm and the land. Sure, I'll buy it. Women left at home while the men are at war are forced into roles they would normally not find themselves. I'm not sure why that means she's lost all semblance of breeding and manners, but that's for another time. What bothers me greatly is this: Why is Marion dressed in armor (wow, they had her size!) and showing up to battle the French? Does plowing fields make you a worthy contributor to war? Is she an expert swordsman? We saw in the opening frames of the film she's somewhat proficient with a bow, but archers are rarely in hand to hand combat. It would have made more sense for her to station herself on a ridge and shot arrows all day. Of course, Robin is all for this- yea, sexy! And of course, Marion cannot hold her own wait and almost gets herself and Robin killed. Drama! Except it isn't. It's stupid and does nothing to move the story further (see above).

Fifth, yea casting! Boo casting! By the time Robin Hood would have been Russell Crowe's age, he would have been a well-established outlaw. Same holds true for Maid Marion. This doesn't particularly bother me too much as the ages of the other players was set according to its stars. They fit. Sometimes, it's exciting. look! It's Max von Sydow as Sir William (the real Robin of Loxley's father). I heart him so much. Hey! It's that guy from "er" with an interesting accent (Scott Grimes, you did alright. Be proud) and Friar Tuck was on "Still Standing". Good for them. Then, there are my problems. King John is played by Oscar Isaac (who as far as acting goes does a fine job), however his bright blue contact lenses were a distraction. Isaac is from Guatemala, a land not known for it's Saxon heritage. Were there no English actors who could play the part? I kept wondering, is King John adopted? There is no way he's related to Danny Huston nor the son of Eileen Atkins. Seriously? I also feel bad for Matthew MacFadyen who must have thought he was getting an amazing role as Sheriff of Nottingham, instead only to find his screen time greatly diminished and he was forced to wear the most unfortunate wig that no man who's played Mr Darcy should be forced to wear.

Final thoughts: Rent it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy (Grand)Mothers Day

I'm sure there are a lot of people my age who love Betty White because she reminds them of their grandmother. Well, I'm no different. My Grandmother died when I was 9, but the picture I have of her in my mind is a dead ringer for Ms. White right down to the haircut and penchant for pullovers. My Grandmother never had to worry about "taking any guff" because we never had reason to give her any. She took us to the Louisville Zoo (still my favorite) and Hogan's Fountain (the closest thing to a water park in Louisville).

Considering how little time I had with her, she made a great impact on my life. She grew tomatoes, peppers, and blackberries in the backyard. My sister and I used to pick them along with Honeysuckle blossoms, pull out their stamen's, and drink their nectar. She taught me how to play badminton. I remember, vividly, making coleslaw from scratch with her. She had an ancient vegetable mill (which I've never seen since) that we used to shred the cabbage and carrots. Her homemade dressing was divine and ruined me for other coleslaw's for years. They just never tasted as good.

When my sister and I were little, our favorite thing in the world was playing the "Cats" soundtrack on my Grandparents large console record player. We would tuck our blankeys into the waist of our pants and leap from chair to davenport to floor, singing and dancing our hearts out.

They used to take us to the country club several times a week and we'd swim and get golden brown while they played 9 and 18 holes of golf. I don't remember how we paid for the sandwiches and ice cream we would get from the clubhouse. Surely, they gave us a dollar.

My Grandmother was a product of the depression and immigration. I remember complaining that I was hungry during one of our road trips from Louisville to Dallas. Immediately, she opened the glove compartment in their boat of a car and produced 2 Shoney's donut sticks. It dawned on my later that we hadn't stopped at a Shoney's yet that year.

When my Grandmother died, I remember we were at home watching TV. The phone kept ringing and we tried to ignore it. PBS was playing a miniseries we wanted to see and this was well before DVR. I'm convinced my father knew it would be bad news if he answered the phone. Eventually, he answered and the atmosphere of the room immediately changed. I remember lying on the floor, annoyed that I was missing the action on TV with the mute on. My sister cried. I never did.

In my own way, I think that's what Grandma would have wanted. She would have hated interrupting her granddaughters afternoon and ruining the day- surely it could wait. She always took our side and never wanted to bother us or put anyone out. She was the classiest dame I ever met, though I didn't know it at the time.

I love my Grandmother (and my Gram's who is still with us) and hope we can all take a moment today to remember and thank not only our Mom's, but the Grandmother's that helped make us the way we are.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hola Saturday!

* You can read all about my experience participating in my first Meet Up here. You can also find my amazing Tempeh Piccata recipe there.

* I am officially in love with Yogurt Land. $2.50 for a giant cup of frozen yogurt and delicious toppings? Yes please! I got the Red Velvet Batter (yum) with brownie bits (not so much), Dutch Chocolate (with Oreo bits), and Lychee Tart (fav!) with strawberries. It really hit the spot while we waited for...

* The Jen Lancaster book signing. I find her amusing and dysfunctional on a relatable level. She's also a major sassy-pants and has an attitude which I also love. She read a passage from the new book, did a quick Q&A, and then we all queued up to get our books signed. We got there an hour in advance and ended up with group G. Our group (which included the always lovely shine , Lauren, and Gofahne ). No matter the wait (about 1.5 hours), we hunkered down next to the cookbooks (bad idea, we were famished) and waited. I think I had more fun talking and reading on the floor with my girls than I did at the actual signing. Still, I love my book and love getting books signed even more. This is why I will never get a kindle or a nook or an eReader or whatever else they're calling the same thing. They have no personality, no presence. You can't get them signed or inscribe them to loved ones. They don't look impressive or majestic on a book shelf.

* Jennie's word of the day is: merriment

* Mother's Day is tomorrow and I've got nothing planned. I thought about getting my Moms flowers, but those die and with 2 cats it's kind of a hassle to find a place to put them. I could get chocolates or candy, but my Dad would probably eat a bunch of them and that's no bueno. What do you get? I'm thinking a card and the pleasure of my company (at least for a little while once I get off work). We never did a big show of Mother's or Father's Day in my house. A couple cards came in, sometimes chocolates, mostly dinner and a movie.

* Have you seen this trailer? Watch now, please:

* Yesterday I had a major case of the fitzgiggles. At first we wanted to blame the Starbucks, but how does a decaf soy frapp make you crazy? Maybe I was just hungry. This could certainly be blamed as all I had eaten that day were some cucumber rolls from Whole Foods (amazing by the way). I really think it was just lounging on the floor at Barnes and Noble and standing in line- these things make me wonky apparently! Random words kept popping into my head. "Elephant!" "White Chocolate Elephant!" God, I'm a weirdo. The positive is I kept the ladies entertained while we waited to get our books signed, and they kept me upright and out of the arms of the law. A thousand thank yous!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Women's Writes: Repo Women

On the 5th of every month, bloggers from around the world are open to write about rights and issues concerning women. First started by Shine and Marie , we're hoping to bring a variety of women's issues to the forefront to make people aware of what's going on. For the month of May, we've chosen to write about Women's Reproductive Rights and Issues. Please join us in telling us your stories, thoughts, and ideas on a monthly basis. To read the first installment, click here.

I had nothing planned for this instalment of Women's Writes, but after reading many amazing blogs from some hilarious and strong women I decided I needed to come up with something. I'm nothing if not easily influenced (/sarc).

I think part of my problem with coming up with something to write about is I'm a bit out of the loop as far as women's reproduction goes. No, no, I know about my lady bits; I just don't have much use for them. I haven't had a serious boyfriend in years (*sigh*) and what action I do get is limited to one-off affairs. I've never needed the services of Planned Parenthood or a gyno (I heart my Internist!). I'm not a very good woman (but you knew that).

Like a crash of lightening, I thought of the perfect topic for this blog while writing this blog- crazy. Here's what bothers me: Woman's medical services are often not covered by insurance. I've been pretty lucky and my yearly visits and tests have always been covered. My co-pay on birth control (should I ever need it- cross fingers) is treated like any other medication. I can see any specialist I like. This, however, is not always the case and is losing favor at alarming speeds. Many insurance companies don't cover a woman's basic reproductive health panel. Many don't cover birth control (though rest assured Viagra is covered!). Many don't cover mammograms until you hit your 50s. Did you know pregnancy is a pre-existing condition? Uh, hello! What the frak?

I'm not saying this is some sort of conspiracy set up by pro-life advocates, simply that we are still second class citizens where our own health is concerned. Think about the number of woman who are diagnosed with breast cancer early because they had access to mammograms? How many lives would be saved? How many unwanted pregnancies and children put into the state's care if every woman could get access to basic birth control. I'm sure it's cheaper than caring for the over 581,000 children in the foster care system. How many other cancers, tumors, cysts, and other reproductive issues would be caught and fixed if women could get a pap smear?

Thank god I don't plan on having any children, because my current insurance doesn't provide for maternity leave. They call it "short term disability". So, giving birth and bonding with my baby in it's first few months is a disability? Do you know how long you have to pay for STD before you get even 3 months off? You basically have to start now or before you plan to get pregnant. Heaven help the woman who gets pregnant accidentally.

Why is men's health covered and ours isn't?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What's Up Netflix!

Where the Wild Things Are- 3 stars- I don't even know where to begin. When asked if I liked this movie I responded, "Uh, I didn't hate it." This statement seems to be the general consensus of all those I've asked as well. I agree with the mates I watched this flick with that being on drugs might help, but even the high ones said the same thing- go figure! It is lovely to look at- that is indisputable; however there is no story. I understand that taking a book with 10 lines and turning it into a feature length film is tough, but when 94 minutes feels like 2 1/2 hours, you gotta wonder, "What the heck are they talking about?" I still don't know. I think the only way I would recommend this movie is if you are having a party and want something on in the background that won't distract people but would still be amusing muted.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee- 4 stars- I had heard a lot of good things about this movie. As written and directed by professional sad face Rebecca Miller (and I don't mean that in any disrespect), it follows the life of Pippa Lee- 40 something wife of a book editor at least 25 years older than her (the plucky Alan Arkin). In flashbacks we see how Pippa, a previous free spirit, became the suffocated and slightly "noosed" homemaker. Her interactions with a man slightly younger, and himself a wounded soul (wonderfully played by Keanu Reeves- yes you heard that right), spur her to take stock of the woman she's become and the woman she wishes she were. This movie is definitely depressing, but I didn't feel sad watching it. If anything, I identified with Pippa's youthful longing to be loved and accepted, her foray's into dangerous behaviour, and her realization that the life she always wanted may not be the one that's best for her. I recommend to all ladies reading this and to any man who can't seem to figure his lady out (or simply wants to look sympathetic and get some action).

2012- 3 stars- Roland Emmerich has built a career out of making the same disaster movie over and over again (see Stargate, Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla). What no one seems to mention is that he convinces some amazing actor's to be in them. So, it stands to reason that something interesting is going on there even if it doesn't make it to the screen. "2012" is a bad amalgam of "Independence Day" meets "The Day After Tomorrow". It has all the floods, earthquakes, and falling buildings of the later; while substituting aliens for earths own pissy cycle. This movie had me for the first 2 hours or so, but there was no reason for it to be 159 minutes long. Emmerich's films always seem to have a few too many characters. Sure, they're developed and kinda interesting, but you could do with out them and not even notice. It's just another movie about capitalist greed and evil government masked as a call to arms "green" movie. I love John Cusack, so was forced to watch this film eventually. Woody Harrelson shows up for the best extended cameo ever as a possibly crazy conspiracy theorist. In the end, "2012" is fun but you know you've seen it all before.

Women in Trouble- 4 stars- Wish I'd read some of these reviews before sending my copy back- I totally missed Joseph Gordon-Levitt! I liked this movie a lot. It reminded me not just of Almodovar but of one of my favorite filmmakers, Greg Araki. The film follows and weaves together multiple women in various stages of "trouble"- the porn star who suffers a life changing event, the therapist who's marriage is in trouble, the prostitutes who moon light as porn stars, frisky flight attendants... If you don't like films about sex and its consequences, this is not for you. If you don't like movies about female relationships that would NEVER be on Lifetime, this is not for you. If you are a fan of foreign (especially Spanish and French films) or mid to late 90's independent cinema; you just might get it! Some of the reviews I read about this movie pointed out how disjointed and oddly written it was, as if that were a bad thing. I think they missed the point- it's a movie that doesn't worry that you know you're watching a film. You know the ones- dialog that's too cleaver or witty, acting that seems static, situations that blend fantasy with reality. Why is that a bad thing?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Dear Saturday:

* "Why is this show all about something that's dumb?" -Trent, age 6, in response to the SyFy original series "Stargate Universe".

* So, Thursday I discovered it is possible to have a bad second date even when the first one was great. I thought of another new/old rule for dating: Don't talk too much and learn to listen. Being nervous myself (our first date was drinks, so it was easier to loosen up and relax), excess talking doesn't really bother me. What does get my goat is someone who ignores your attempts to join the dialog or steer things your way. Shouldn't you want to know about me? On a related note, not asking questions and listening to answers can lead you to assume certain falsehoods and annoy your date. Case in point: I recently began a more plant based diet (I kill my body enough as it is with cigarettes and beer, might as well do something nice for it as well) which I told my date. He didn't really ask much more about it except to say he could never give up steak. When he picked me up for our dinner date, he said he picked seafood since he knew he couldn't take me to a steak house. Uh... I would have loved to go to a steak house! I so rarely if ever get to go to one seeing as how they are usually above my meager budget. Why couldn't we get steak? Instead, we had the most laughably bad service at a Cajun seafood restaurant. Date Rule #6b- If you make fun of the bad service and your date doesn't reciprocate, say nothing else!

* "If I were some sort of bad ass I'd ride a Harley Davidson, but I ride a bicycle." -Gentleman on the patio of Lakewood Landing. He was hilarious all night.

* Someone asked my what my favorite move was and I almost threw up- that's too hard! Can we break it down by genre? So, I tried to think of what movies I would take with me on a desert island that just happened to have a TV and DVD player not to mention electricity. That premise threw me off balance so I adjusted it slightly: If you're house were on fire, what movies would you grab? The list basically proved I would die a fiery death. In no particular order, they are:
* Jennie's Word of the Day: melon ball -I think she's losing it ;)

* It's Derby Day! AKA The Kentucky Derby, aka the horse race, aka the ponies. I've been playing the ponies since I was a little girl- one of the positives of having your Granddad in Louisville. Every year we'd watch the race on TV and hope our horse placed. A couple weeks later, my sister and I would receive a letter from our Granddad with a full run down of the race. If we were lucky, a couple dollars would be inside as well. I had the privilege of visiting Churchill Downs once when I was a child and always dreamed of attending The Derby proper. Now that I no longer have relatives there it seems a bit less likely, but a girl can dream right? So, where ever you are today at 6:24 PM EDT, drink a Mint Julep for me!
My Picks:
Discreetly Mine (38-1)- a long shot and he's still young and inexperienced, but certainly one to watch
Dublin (17-1)- truthfully, I just like the name but he has a good chance to place
Sidney's Candy (10-1)- your best bet, undefeated