“Lucy”: Feminine Degradation

Something about self’s mood today — she feels extremely argumentative.  Ornery.  So, take the following with a grain of salt, dear blog readers.

Self likes Luc Besson.

She really does.

She can never forget that Besson gave us the glorious Annie Parillaud in “La Femme Nikita.”

And Scarjo is one phenomenal actress.

And beautiful, too.

But “Lucy” is just one more in that long line of sub-genres that are little more than titillating flirtations with feminine degradation.

Like what happened to Noomi Rapace in “Prometheus”?  You will like “Lucy.”

Like how the “Kill Bill” movies are one long revenge fantasy enacted by statuesque Uma Thurman?

You might like “Lucy” (though Besson and Tarantino are light years apart — that is, in terms of cinematic wit)

And what was that movie Kathryn Bigelow did with Ralph Fiennes, “Strange Days,” the one where you put on these special glasses, and while you’re raping a woman you can experience HER fear, which heightens your pleasure?  The one that had Juliette Lewis’s skateboarding Goth waif bonding with pervert played by (typecast) Tom Sizemore?

Ugh.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!

One of the most painful scenes in “Lucy” was the one where Scarjo, having been kicked so many times in the stomach, starts crawling up the walls (literally).  That was creepy and grotesque, as if science fiction was melding with Kafka.  Might Scarjo actually turn into a bug?  At one point, she grabs her long chain (she is chained to the wall) and runs full tilt — into, presumably, a wall.  But mercifully, we are not actually treated to the glorious sight of a beautiful woman’s face slamming against stone.  Mercifully, there is a cut right here.  Next time we see Scarjo, she appears quite composed, with no external disfigurement other than a cut lip.

???##!!!

There is something self likes about “Lucy,” though.

Scarjo acquires a craggy-faced sidekick, a French investigator/cop(?) called del Rio.  Now, that guy, though not conventionally handsome, is actually quite a find.

Not to mention, he is an excellent straight man.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Analyzing Hawke, the Appeal

“I have this planet of regret sitting on my shoulders.” —  Jesse, Ethan Hawke’s character in Reality Bites (1994)

There is a long essay by Dan Chiasson in the June 5, 2014 issue of The New York Review of Books about Richard Linklater’s trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight.

Since self saw Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight in real time — that is, at the time they were released (as opposed to renting on Netflix, say), the films too mark moments in her life, each separated by nine-year gaps.

But Hawke.

This morning, she sits in the living room preparatory to writing, and what she finds while flipping through cable channels is Reality Bites.  Oh the music, the music, the music:  Social Distortion, Talking Heads, Frampton, The Knack, Lisa Loeb . . .  And there’s Hawke telling Winona, My Dad just died . . .

Self realizes that Hawke has been in so many movies that she considers “significant” in her life:  Reality Bites, Hamlet (the one where Denmark is a corporation), Gattaca.  And he did the audio books for The Call of the Wild and White Fang, which self played every day for son years ago, when ferrying him to and from school.

Reality Bites must have been filmed before Hamlet.  Hawke just transfers his slacker personality from one movie to another, without a break. Self applauds the strategy.

Here’s a moment in Before Sunset that is reproduced in part in the Dan Chiasson essay.  A French journalist has just asked Jesse, who’s on a book tour, to share details on his next project.  Jesse replies:

Ah, I don’t know, man, I don’t know . . .  I’ve been . . . I’ve been thinking about this . . .  Well, I always kind of wanted to write a book that all took place within the space of a pop song, you know, like three or four minutes long, the whole thing.

The story, the idea is that . . .  there’s this guy.  Right?  And . . .  he’s totally depressed.  I mean, his great dream was to be a lover, an adventurer, you know, riding motorcycles through South America, and instead he’s sitting at a marble table, eating lobster, and he’s got a good job and a beautiful wife, right?  But you know, everything that he needs.  But that doesn’t matter, ’cause what he wants is to fight for meaning.

You know, happiness is in the doing, right, not in the . . .  getting what you want . . .

You see what self means about Hawke?  His performances are always so natural; you seem to be watching him rather than a movie. Could Russell Crowe or Christian Bale ever do these lines? Don’t think so.

He makes such a virtue out of being inarticulate.  In that, his appeal is so, so quintessentially American.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

“How To Train Your Dragon 2″

Today, self was where she usually is in the summer:  watching a movie!

Her face is so familiar to all the concession stand people at the downtown Redwood City Century 20 that she regularly gets asked:  “So what movie are we seeing today?” And then she gets to hear what they think, if they’ve seen the movie already.

Today she saw “How To Train Your Dragon 2.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Daily Beast’s Best Movies (Thus Far) of 2014, with Commentary From Self

This time, no pussyfooting around (what, self wonders, is the origin of that word ‘pussyfooting’?), self will go directly to the list she stumbled across today, on The Daily Beast.

The Best Movies of 2014 (So Far):

  1. Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater.  Wow, self has heard such great things about this movie.  Read Sheila O’Malley’s dissection/praise of it, here.
  2. Snowpiercer, directed by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho and starring, of all people, CHRIS EVANS!  Frickin’ hot Captain America!  It is science fiction, it is the year 2031, it is dystopian (Pardon self’s french:  Dystopian is fast becoming the most-overused word in the movie reviewer’s lexicon)
  3. The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed of course by Wes Anderson and featuring not one but TWO pairs of bedroom eyes (Fiennes and Brody’s) and the best birthmark ever to appear in a supporting role in a movie — wait, didn’t this movie come out last year?  Nevertheless.  Self liked it.  Onwards!
  4. The Raid 2, the first truly kick-ass action movie from Asia in a long, long time, and it’s from Indonesia.  Self missed the sequel, but the first one was pulse-poundingly great.  The first one was FIVE STARS!
  5. Ida, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, and of course Polish. Set in 1960s Poland etc. Next!
  6. Only Lovers Left Alive, directed by Jim Jarmusch:  A vampire movie!  Directed by His Fabulousness!  And starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton!  Sold!
  7. Manakamana, directed by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez:  a documentary about various enlightenment seekers who make the pilgrimage to Nepal’s Manakamana temple.  Self wants to see it.  She may end up wanting to make the pilgrimage herself.  But pilgrimages never quite come out the way self expects.  She’s got the requisite curiosity, and that in spades, but travel tends to bring out the cynic in her.
  8. The Immigrant, directed by James Gray:  Starring — oh no! — Joaquin Phoenix, an actor who has singularly failed to arouse even one iota of interest in self, not even when he played Johnny Cash and self ended up ferrying Niece G and a whole car full of Stanford freshmen to the Redwood City Bayshore Cinema to see Walk the Line.  But why oh why is he paired with the lovely Marion Cotillard, an actress whose performance in that whale movie, Rust and Bone, the one where she played a whale trainer who loses her legs in a horrific accident in a Seaworld-like theme park, turned self into a sobbing mess for exactly three months — wow, this is a tough one.  Jury’s still out on this one.
  9. Begin Again, directed by John Carney.  Self saw this just yesterday.  Of its inclusion in this list she can thus unequivocally say:  YES! YES! YES! At first it would seem a most unlikely choice for one of The Daily Beast’s Best Movies (Thus Far) of 2014, because let’s just say Keira Knightley as a twee British singer who is done wrong by a self-absorbed boyfriend played by People’s Most Beautiful Person of 2013, Maroon Five front man Adam Levine, is not exactly what one automatically thinks of as “Best Movie” material, but what the hoo, self bit down her reservations and she ended up loving Mark Ruffalo’s performance (which was only to be expected), and she loved Keira Knightley’s performance, and she loved Hailee Seinfeld’s performance, and she even loved Adam Levine’s performance, and the only so-so performance came surprisingly from an actress self normally admires, Catherine Keener.
  10. Palo Alto, directed by Gia Coppola (granddaughter of Francis Ford), and based on the short story collection by that flake (who also happens to be a surprisingly good actor) James Franco.  She is so tired of Franco’s ubiquitous talent, but yes she did indeed browse through this collection when she first saw it in Kepler’s, last year.  And — self hates you, James Franco!  Because the stories were quite good!  Aaaargh!  And self loves Mia Wasiwokska.  Ever since she saw her in Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre, and The Kids Are All Right.
  11. Life Itself, a documentary by Steve James, about the late great Roger Ebert.  Of course self will see it.  Of course.
  12. Neighbors, by Nicholas Forgetting Sarah Marshall Stoller.  Self somehow missed this one when it came to the local cineplex.  But she likes the premise.  She even likes the cast (Rogen, Rose Byrne, the younger Franco, and Zac E)
  13. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Matt Felicity Reeves:  Oh yes, this was the movie self saw just the day before she saw Begin Again (Yes, self is quite a movie nut) and it was definitely great.  Any movie in which the apes outshine Jason Clarke and Keri Russell is indisputably great.  Kudos to Jason Clarke for not acting too hard.  He has a real, shambling, laid-back charm.  BTW, Keri Russell has very toned arms.  Self found the sight of them a tad distracting.  Because the actress obviously had to have put in many, many gym hours in order to get arms like those.  And self wasn’t sure this was something Russell’s movie character might have done. (Anyone have the same reaction?  Self, why must you always be such a nitpicker!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

The New York Review of Books, May 22, 2014

Today, self got to see Paul Haggis’s new movie, “Third Person,” and it is seamless and complex and lovely and moody.  It focuses on odd couples.  The woman who most aroused self’s sympathy was the woman played by Mila Kunis.  Having said that, James Franco gives such a wicked and sly performance, as her ex-husband.  He projects such smugness, with just a glance.  His partner, a beautiful, long-legged French gazelle, is the third leg of a triangle, and she also delivers a performance that is complex and moving.  In fact, all the actors in this movie were at the top of their game (well, maybe not Liam Neeson, who gets by on looking worried, all of the time)

Now, self has been weeding her Pile of Stuff of unnecessary materials.  She has so much catch-up reading to do!

One of the back issues self picks up is The New York Review of Books of May 22, 2014.  There’s a review by Masha Gessen of a translation of one of Dovlatov’s works:  Pushkin Hills.  Gessen quotes another Russian emigré writer, Joseph Brodsky, who says of Sergei Dovlatov:

His stories rest primarily on the rhythm of the sentence; the cadence of the narrative voice.  They are written like poems: the plot is secondary, it is but a pretext for speech.  It is song rather than storytelling.

Self wonders how Dovlatov could have escaped her notice until now.

Another excellent review is by Michael Gorra, on Starting Over:  Stories by Elizabeth Spencer.  Spencer wrote The Light in the Piazza, which has such an audacious plot self is sure that Spenser, if having to pitch to a publishing house today,  would never be signed on.

Another of the reviews that stood out is Francine Prose’s review of Emma Donoghue’s latest, Frog Music.

Self is currently reading Richard Price’s Lush Life.  She hopes she can do a better job of finishing it than she did with Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story collection, Unaccustomed Earth.  Self kept obsessively going back over the first page of Unaccustomed Earth because of course the writing is lovely.  If only it wasn’t so stately and dolorous.  She got about halfway through it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Current Fan Fiction Fave’s Everlark Ship Still Not Yet Ready to Sail, in the Meantime at the Cineplex . . .

Oh, fan fiction.  You have self on pins and needles all the time.  All the time.

The Fourth of July weekend is coming up. On the Monday following (July 7), self sails off to Squaw Valley for the Writers Conference.  She just arranged to share a ride with someone from Benicia.  Excited!

This afternoon, self casts a very cursory look over the summer movie offerings.  She still wants to see “22 Jump Street”, though The Man saw it while she was in Los Angeles and declared it not good at all.

She still wants to see “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” as she loved the first one.

She’s seen “Edge of Tomorrow.”  Oh, that was good!  Emily Blunt is packin’.  It is so great when an actress with proven dramatic chops switches gears.  Blunt’s Full Metal Bitch deserves a place on the pantheon of Female Action Stars — maybe not quite on the level of Femme Nikita or Ripley, but definitely equal to Scarjo’s Black Widow.

She still wants to see “The Fault in Our Stars.”  Son and Jennie saw it and liked it, though Jennie maintained that the book was better.

She saw “Maleficent” down in Pasadena, with Son and Jennie.  3 1/2 out of 4 stars.  Self found Jolie’s razor-sharp cheekbones a tad distracting.  So was her lightning-fast change into leather pants in the movie’s climactic confrontation.

“X-Men:  Days of Future Past” — four out of four stars!  Magnificent!  Love the Vietnamese-talking Mystique!  Love J-Law/Mystique in 70s bo-ho hippie attire!  Love unrequited angst between J-Law/Mystique and McAvoy/Xavier and also with Hoult/Beast, and the jealous macho-ness of Fassbender/Magneto!  Not to mention, Ellen Page is one darn cute actress!  She hasn’t been this cute since “Juno”!

Finally, self still wants to see “Godzilla.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

First Saturday in June (2014): Reading The Guardian On the Train From Cork

The Guardian really likes Tom Cruise.  Self remembers reading rave reviews for some movie he did two years ago (“Oblivion”?), and now they’ve given “Edge of Tomorrow” (a kind of “Groundhog Day”/ science fiction mash-up) a positive review. OK, mebbe self is confusing The Guardian with CinemaBlend.com?  Here, anyway, is the link to The Guardian review.

Self is back in Dublin.  The train trip from Cork was very long.

Yes, she’s just been taking lightning trips all over Ireland.

Today was a beautiful day.  Not even the smallest cloud in the sky.

She met a Read the rest of this entry »

Checking the New Movies, May 2014

This morning, self went to Cinemablend and the Roger Ebert site, looking for reviews of movies recently opened in the U.S. Because she’ll be home in a few weeks, and gardening and watching movies are possibly her two favorite activities in California. She likes watching TV, too — especially when Game of Thrones or Saturday Night Live are on. Anyhoo, back to movies.

She sees that a bunch of new horror movies have opened, and that Spidey 2 didn’t get such good reviews (Andrew Garfield, don’t sell your soul down the river. On the basis of Boy A and The Social Network, you’re capable of so much more)

By a circomlocutious route, she arrives at The Guardian’s film blog, and finds that six “key British movies” are being honored with commemmorative stamps.

The six are:

  • A Matter of Life and Death
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Secrets and Lies
  • Bend It Like Beckham

Self really liked Alfie, with Michael Caine.  She thinks Chariots of Fire was a safe choice, though she found the movie rather dripp-y.  She also liked My Beautiful Laundrette and My Left Foot.

Bend It Like Beckham?  Really?  Enjoyable movie, but.  Really?

She’d definitely list a movie like Maurice (early Hugh Grant) ahead of Bend It Like Beckham.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Iconic Shades: A VANITY FAIR Post (February 2014 Issue)

Self probably hasn’t mentioned Vanity Fair in almost a year.  Strange how this year has gone.

She’s still on the same Jhumpa Lahiri short story, the one she began two weeks ago.  Ordinarily, she’d tear through this collection (Unaccustomed Earth) in a week or two.

Anyhoo, let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth.  Here she is this evening, perusing the February 2014 issue.

On p. 46, the Fanfair section, there’s a piece on sunglasses inspired by classic Hollywood looks.

You could go “Dark Thriller,” like Audrey Hepburn in Charade (1963).

You could go “Lolita Luxe,” like Sue Lyon in Lolita (1962).

You could go “Killer Glam,” like Michelle Pfeiffer in Scarface (1983).

Or you could do “Riviera Chic,” like Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief (1955).

You could also go “Anonymous Cool,” like Cary Grant in North by Northwest (1959).

You could do “Going Gonzo,” like Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998).

Or you could go “Dapper Affair” like Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown Affair.

Or you could go “Need for Speed” like Tom Cruise in Top Gun (1986).

These are the makers of the aforementioned sunglasses:  Dries Van Noten, Alexander McQueen, Linda Farrow, Balenciaga, Prism Portofino, Persol, Isabel Marant (for Oliver Peoples), Tom Ford, Warby Parker, and Saint Laurent.

The sunglasses start at $95 (Warby Parker) and go as high as $620 (the Linda Farrow cat-eye).

Three of the eight movies listed above star Cary Grant.  What does that tell you? He was the coolest, absolutely the coolest.  Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp don’t even come close.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Tomorrow’s Game of Thrones (Season 4, Episode 3)

In preparation for the last episode of Game of Thrones Season 4 self will get to see before she embarks on her latest travels, self is re-watching (for the fourth time) Game of Thrones 4.2

This is self’s most favorite episode of Season 4 (because there are no scenes of Read the rest of this entry »

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