Oscars 2011: The Tele-Cast Thus Far, and Some Thoughts on the Winners

Hubby chose the start of the Oscar tele-cast to insist we finish doing the taxes.  Needless to say, this was a tad distracting.  With one eye on the flat-screen HDTV, therefore, self was kept running back and forth to her files of itemized receipts.  What little she saw (in between running and fetching for hubby) was:

“The Fighter”: Featuring a Trifecta of Fine Performances

Self watched “The Fighter” with hubby today (And right now, Mark Wahlberg’s handsome mug is close-up on flat-screen HDTV). This movie featured a trifecta of great performances, and these are the three:

Self would also like to include the Vengeful Chorus of the five sisters — what a riot they were! So many scenes would not have worked without their malevolent, sniping presence.

But — Melissa Leo! Shock! Self has just seen her in her Oscar gown, and she looks: a) waaay younger than she does in the movie; and b) waaay waaaay prettier. In “The Fighter,” she plays Mark Wahlberg’s avaricious and self-dramatizing Mom. How the title character can focus on his bouts when he is surrounded by so much drama (Most created by his Mom) is almost beyond comprehension.

Then there’s Christian Bale. From the very first frame, self was in shock. He played jittery, he played ridiculous, he played hollow-eyed crack addict. It was a very physical performance, every bit as demanding as Wahlberg’s role. But when he was in a scene, self could watch no one else. Except, except for the scenes he had with –

Amy Adams. Self has loved this actress for years. Her performances are always so grounded. Here, self loves her vulnerable yet feisty bartender, the little pouch of fat that she allows to peak over the waistband of her short shorts; the way her eyes look dreamy, but her mouth and her words are not;  the timing of her verbal jabs;  the way she looks utterly believable in every scene (and even steals some from Christian Bale, quite a feat!), whether she is playing flirtatious in a bar, romantic with Wahlberg, or screaming profanities and punching out the hero’s sister. What a performance!  Self can imagine no one else in the role.

Self can hardly wait to see who wins the Best Supporting Actor (She hopes Bale) and Best Supporting Actress (She hopes Adams, but it won’t be. It’ll probably be that tall young girl from “True Grit.”)

Self also finds herself being extremely curious about the director, David O. Russell.  (Oh, she discovers from IMDB that he directed “Three Kings”!!  Self loved that movie!)

Five out of five stars. The best movie self has seen so far this year.

Stay tuned.

Anthony Lane on Peter Weir

And here is self, curled up in bed, reading yet another New Yorker (She might as well go ahead and renew her subscription.  Yes, she’d better), this one of January 31, 2011.

She’s reading an Anthony Lane review of Peter Weir’s latest movie, “The Way Back” (She’s missed him since “Master and Commander,” one of her 10 Favorite Films of All Time –  along with “Platoon,” “The Usual Suspects,” “L.A. Confidential,” “Alien,” “Blade Runner,” “Lantana” –  Self’s list keeps changing, but Peter Weir’s “Master and Commander” is pretty much a constant).

Anyhoo, Lane gives a re-cap of some of Peter Weir’s past movies, and fails to mention:  a) “Last Picnic at Hanging Rock” b) “Witness” and c) “Master and Commander.”  He does get in mention of one of self’s least-favorite Peter Weir movies, “The Truman Show.”  And another that she has never seen:  “Green Card,” in which, according to Lane, “jungle music thrummed at night” through Andie MacDowell’s apartment while “she and Gerard Depardieu lay in separate rooms, awake with unappeasable lust.”  (Sold! Self will rent this one from Netflix, soon as she’s finished viewing “Splice”!)

Here’s Lane again, killing self with witticisms:  He has praise for Ed Harris, who “plays an American known as Smith.”  Someone asks him for a first name.  “Mr.,” he replies.  This is a movie about men who escape from a Stalinist prison camp, but while Harris’ features are appropriately “riven and desperate,” the “rest of the actors, through no fault of their own, never look as shrivelled by hunger as they should.”

And then Lane goes on to reveal aspects of the plot, and –  Stop right there, self! You know you’ll see this movie, no matter what!

So self decides to stop reading.  She does think it is pretty amazing that this movie is based on a true story, and some of the escapees did make it to freedom, “crossing the Himalayas into India after a trek of some four thousand miles.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The New Yorker: To Renew or Not Renew?

Self has been plagued by indecision.  Her subscription expires this year.  She thinks they always publish the same people.  On the other hand, this was where she first read Roberto Bolaño, and Haruki Murakami, and Terese Svoboda.  And Tea Obreht.  And Yoko Ogawa.  But does she really have enough bucks to extend her subscription?  Her funds are running low, she needs to save up for future trips to Bacolod.  She had to pay another vet bill for Gracie today:  $230.

Self decides she’ll put off making a decision (again)

In the meantime, hubby has gone off to see Nic Cage in Drive Angry.  Self did not feel like seeing a movie today.  Instead, she curled up and started reading –  yup, you guessed it;  a back issue of The New Yorker.  This issue was Feb. 7, 2011.  The article that had caught her attention was in Personal History:  the author was Francisco Goldman.

Self has read two novels by Francisco Goldman and loved them both.

There is something gripping about the way this article begins.  The accompanying photographs are of a woman named Aura.  She is attractive.  In both pictures, she is relaxed.  One is dated 2004, the other 2007.

Goldman writes that Aura was “a twenty-seven-year-old from Mexico City, a graduate student in Latin American literature on a Fulbright scholarship at Columbia,” while he was “forty-nine, born in Boston, the son of Guatemalan and Russian immigrants, working as a journalist and writing a novel.”  They had been living together for “almost a year.”

And so self reads on, pulled by the inexorable force of wanting to know what happened.  What happened to the woman named Aura?  The feel of the article is so much like a mystery.  Sentences here and there resonate with awful doom:

My first morning, I went swimming and then to breakfast at a café on the beach, where the waiter told me that the last time he’d gone into the ocean there he’d come out bleeding from both ears.  That night, in my hotel room, I lay in bed listening to the waves, which now sounded to me as if they were grinding bones.

Goldman describes how he proposed to Aura.  They were at a beach again.

I couldn’t go back to Mexico City, where we were spending the summer, without having proposed.  I excused myself from the table and went to our room.  A light rain was falling, one of those warm tropical drizzles which feel like the moisture-saturated air inside a cloud, as soft as silk against your face.

Oh, self would just love to know, know what happens to this couple.  So, although she almost never reads an article straight through to the end, that’s what she finds herself doing now.

Here are Aura and Goldman on their first date.  It turns out she has written a short story.  She shows it to him:

The story was about a young man in an airport who couldn’t remember if he was there because he was arriving or because he was going somewhere.

And then, to further complicate the story, it turns out that Goldman works from home, but Aura has a killer commute, to Columbia from the apartment she shares with Goldman in Brooklyn.  Goldman writes:

…  she regularly got lost.  She’d absent-mindedly miss her stop or take the train in the wrong direction and, engrossed in her book, her thoughts, or her iPod, not notice until she was deep into Brooklyn.  Then she’d call from a pay phone in some subway station I’d never heard of.

He gave her a lot of attention (Of course!  He was in love!) and then would worry:

How am I ever going to get another damn book written with this woman making me walk her to the subway every morning and cajoling me into coming up to Columbia to have lunch with her?

And then:  they are traveling to their favorite beach in Mexico: Mazunte.  There is a last-minute change of plans, they have to spend the night sleeping in separate dorm rooms in a hostel in Oaxaca. But his wife, Goldman remembers, was determined to get to Mazunte, as soon as possible:

Where, as we slept that night, was Aura’s wave in its long journey to Mazunte?

!!!!

OK, now self simply has to stop.  Back to work, woman!  You know this is the last free time of your weekend!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Filipino American Literary Symposium This Saturday, 26 February 2011

How is a Symposium different from a Conference?  Self isn’t sure.

All she knows is:  it is FREEZING in self’s house here in Redwood City, probably a result of the 70-year-old floor heater (Self learned from the real estate agent who helped with the purchase that this house was built in 1939.  A certified antique!  Just like self!) having given up the ghost.  Self knows just what hubby will say:  We have no money!  Double up on your sweaters! Okey-dokey!

Here’s about the symposium, which Karen Llagas and Edwin Lozada helped organize.  Karen, aside from being a fab poet, has energy to the nth power.  If only self could bottle a little of that, for the days when she is shivering at her computer.  Edwin teaches at Woodside High School, apart from writing poetry and organizing and doing a gazillion other community-related work!

BRIDGING OUR LITERARY COMMUNITY:  A LITERARY SYMPOSIUM

Saturday, 26 February 2011, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Jack Adams Hall in the Cesar Chavez Union Center, San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco

Workshops open to all.

Costs for the whole day (sliding scale):

Students:  $25 – $30
General:  $35 – $40

Writing Workshops will be led by the following:

  • Randall Mann, Poetry
  • Barbara Jane Reyes, Poetry
  • Tony Robles, Short Story
  • Oscar Peñaranda, Short Story
  • Anthem Salgado, Blogging
  • Janet Mendoza Stickmon, Memoir
  • Allan Manalo, Playwriting

For more information and to register visit: http://www.pawainc.com/workshop.html or email:
Edwin Lozada: edlozada@carayanpress.com

Latest Book Deals Announced in Publisher’s Lunch Weekly, 23 February 2011

Latest deal announcements from Publishers Weekly :

Debut

  • Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home, “the story of an unlikely friendship between two lost souls –  a lonely fourteen-year-old girl and the stranger who appears at her late uncle’s funeral –  and the ways in which their lives become intertwined as they each try to come to terms with their grief,” to Dial Press, at auction.

General/Other

  • Lyndsay Faye’s The God of Gotham, “taking place in the summer of 1845, when the NYPD was founded and the Great Potato Famine hit Ireland, and how the two intersect when a reluctant young police officer must track down a brutal serial killer seemingly hell bent on fanning the flames of anti-Irish immigrant sentiment; and a second book in a continuing series,” to Amy Einhorn Books, at auction
  • Kristen den Hartog’s The Girl Giant, “part coming of age story, part portrait of a marriage, set just after World War II about a child giant whose affliction gives her the mysterious ability to see into the emotional secrets of her family’s past and present (also being published in Canada in April 2011 by Freehand Books under the title And Me Among Them), to Simon & Schuster for publication in Spring 2012

Memoir

  • Actress Tatum O’Neal’s memoir Found:  A Daughter’s Journey Home, “a follow-up to her 2004 New York Times-bestselling memoir A Paper Life, part memoir, part Hollywood tell-all, part personal journey, a story of recovery and forgiveness, now sober following a drug arrest two and a half years ago, and an inspiring story of reconciliation between between beloved, albeit damaged, family members,” to William Morrow, for publication in June 2011

There were other fascinating deal announcements, such as first-time novelist Rhonda Riley’s Adam Hope, the “story of a young woman in Appalachia at the end of World War II, who is sent off to manage her aunt’s farm and discovers a mysterious stranger in the red clay mud, and begins a lifelong love affair” but, alas, self has to get started on giving on-line writing students feedback on their first writing assignments.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Self Watched “Unknown” Yesterday and Lived to Tell the Tale — Er, to Deliver This Capsule Review

Self is quite bemused at Liam Neeson’s turning into the new Harrison Ford.  Whatever.  Even at his age, he is very easy on the eyes.

The plot of this movie hinges on Liam Neeson absent-mindedly leaving behind his briefcase (with the all-important identifications, i.e., a passport)  at the Berlin Airport.  He doesn’t discover the loss until he arrives at his hotel, and then has to catch a cab to take him back to the airport.  Since this is movieland, the cab Neeson hails turns out to be driven by a woman.  And not just any woman:   Diane Kruger. What are the odds, dear blog readers?

Diane Kruger turns out to be a refugee from Bosnia:  her whole family was murdered, etc etc.  And, more important, she turns out to be conveniently un-attached.  There does happen to be a male friend, but he has a wife and children back in Senegal.

Now, aside from being a wicked/good cab driver, Diane Kruger apparently knows all the best underground clubs in Berlin.  And in addition possesses enough arm strength to man-handle (or at least do creditable damage to) two of the meanest-looking thugs you ever saw wearing dark coats.

The theater at the first screening yesterday was absolutely full.  Full of middle-aged people.  Wow!  Our generation has finally found its new poster boy!  Liam Neeson!

The only boring part of “Unknown” was the car chase scene.  Everything moved at a fairly predictable clip (Self forgot to check if Mr. Neeson’s car was a stick shift):  self knew that some cars would turn turtle and crash, and that some other cars would blow up, and that some would hit Liam Neeson’s car broadside, and that no one would be able to catch up to Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger.

In the movie, Berlin looked very very cold.  Self has been there in October, and it was actually quite pleasant.  A very important scene takes place at a photography exhibition.  The exhibit consisted of blow-ups of people’s faces in extreme close-up.  Self couldn’t help but think:  Stella Kalaw is way better than this!  Stella needs to get herself an exhibit in Berlin, on the double!

So, yesterday, self saw a couple of fab previews.  One was of that Matt Damon/Emily Blunt Matrix/Bourne clone whose title self cannot remember; another preview was for Battle:  Los Angeles; yet another had Ryan Reynolds taking off his shirt for only the xxxxth time (for The Green Lantern of course); and, most thrilling of all, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender!  Together in an X-Men movie!  Oh happy happy joy joy!  Self loves that James McAvoy is so versatile.  She certainly likes him in action mode.  The other day, she was able to catch “Wanted” on TV.  That was a truly enjoyable movie, one of her favorites the year it came out.

Of additional interest:  self decided she was hungry enough to spring for the Black Angus beef hot dog sold at the movie concession stand.  She must admit:  she’s been itching to try it ever since it got added to the food offerings, perhaps a year ago.  Imagine her shock at being told the price:  $5.  And it didn’t taste noticeably different from the regular hot dog, which is Nathan’s.  Since self thought it would be too embarrassing to tell the check-out girl that she had changed her mind, she actually did fork over her $5.  And afterwards thought:  How unbelievable!  You have just paid $5 for a length of hot dog that’s about six inches (not, of course, including the bread, which would make the over-all item longer)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Also Reading: Valerie Trueblood’s Short Stories

Self is absolutely enjoying Valerie Trueblood’s story collection Marry or Burn.  (It’s very nice to be reading fiction and nonfiction simultaneously.  Especially when the nonfiction –  Christine Montross’ Body of Work –  can be downright macabre)

Trueblood is the equal of William Trevor, Alice Munro, Mary Gaitskill.

That’s how much self loves this book.

Here’s how the second story in the collection, “Suitors,” begins:

MOODY FARMER

TALL STREET PERSON

BORDERLINE BUSBOY

These were not the captions under the three faces chosen for our daughter by Lali of DateMate.  They were our captions.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Of Note

The Middle East has certainly been cooking since the start of the year.

First, Egypt, now Libya.  Yes, even in self’s state of Bacolod stupefaction, she was able to absorb world news (TV in L’Fisher Chalet Room 2030, her own private ticket to the entire world!)

Then, last night, self saw a clip of Moammar Gadhafi on TV, and all she could think was: “That man has been the recipient of some maaajor plastic surgery!”  Either that or Botox.  (Why not?  He’s a dictator, he can afford it — !)  The tell-tale signs are there:  the tightness of the skin, the face that is a blurred replica of the old face.

She knows what people look like when they age.  If age comes naturally, one does not end up looking like an effigy.  Does not end up looking like a Photoshop concoction.

And that’s all self has to say on the subject.

Stay tuned.

From Christine Montross’ BODY OF WORK: All About the Resurrection Trade

A few pages earlier — sometime last night — self read a passage in Body of Work:  Meditations on Morality From the Human Anatomy Lab, in which the author interviews two foreign-born pathologists:  one from Nigeria and another from Iraq.  The Iraqi pathologist tells Montross that “none of the corpses in his medical school were native Iraqis.”  Instead, all of the bodies brought to labs for dissection appeared to be “Southeast Asian.”  This truly gave self a lurch.  The man continued by saying that he thought they might be  from Vietnam or Cambodia.

Know what self was thinking?  She was thinking that Vietnamese do not show up in Iraq in sizable enough numbers to make the above situation even remotely plausible.  Self was thinking:  Those bodies are most likely Filipinos.  Only no one knows what we are and when they look at us they think:  Vietnamese.

It is Tuesday morning.  The long weekend is over.  Self got two-and-a-half hours sleep because hubby kept coughing.  Not just the “clearing my throat” kind of stuff.  Self means honest to goodness explosions.  (That’ll be quite enough, self.  One of your New Year’s resolutions might be to stop being such a Drama Queen.)

At least, bleary-eyed though she is, self can still read.

Here’s a passage from Body of Work that self read only a few minutes ago:

As communities grew more vigilant in watching their burial grounds and fending off body snatchers, the demand for bodies nonetheless continued to grow.  As a result the resurrection trade became an import-export trade, with cities like Dublin, nearer to rural areas, shipping bodies across the sea to London.

It’s not difficult to conjure the unpleasantries that must have been associated with the transportation of decomposing bodies over long distances in a ship’s unrefrigerated cargo hold.  The inevitable shipping errors also occurred, sending packages of dry goods and foodstuffs to medical college and thus presumably delivering the intended cadavers to unfortunate, unsuspecting recipients.

Self sincerely hopes that the above excerpt does not interfere with dear blog readers’ breakfast.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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