Noah, Biblical Action Hero

Self loved the movie.

At least, the Read the rest of this entry »

David Denby on Jack Ryan (The New Yorker, 20 January 2014)

How self loves an article such as this, the one Denby wrote on Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, a review that seems to span all the great movie heroes of self’s life (excepting the science fiction ones like Neo and Ripley.  And mugging, self-deprecating ones like Indiana Jones.  And even puppy-ish ones like Luke Skywalker.  But, self, one cannot have everything.  If there’s a lemon meringue pie in front of you, stop pining for rhubarb because whatever)

So, self knows the Jack Ryan movie came out months and months ago.  Maybe even prior to Christmas. Cut her some slack here, dear blog readers.  Since December, self has:

Been to Claremont

Been to Seattle

Been to North Hollywood

And now she’s about to go to the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Ireland.

Not to mention, two writers groups meetings, driving around in a car that failed a smog test four times (white-knuckling all the way) falling into passionate love with fanfiction, applying to a summer writing conference, and writing poems/stories/novellas and anything and everything under the sun involving words.  And of course, madly taking pictures of her garden and so forth.  No wonder it’s taken her six weeks to get just a third of the way through The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed.

Now to the Denby article.

Chris Pine, he says, is “an enjoyably talented actor” who “gives a successful impression of a man frightened to death.” (And she knows exactly what scene Denby is referring to.  It comes early.  Self will not tell.  Rent the movie on Netflix)

When Denby thoughtfully summarizes the plot (Ryan is in Afghanistan, “his helicopter goes down”), self realized with a shock that she had absolutely no memory of any of these scenes.  She even forgot how Ryan and Keira Knightley’s character met.  But now Denby tells her that Knightley plays “a medical student who is holding out for a date until” Ryan “can overcome the excruciating pain and run like a track star,” which sort of reminds self of Katniss holding back her love until Peeta gets over wanting to kill her.  Ehem!  Kevin Costner is also in this movie (Again, self almost forgot).  Here, according to Denby, he tries “to look mysterious and dangerous by not doing much.” (Note to self: Examine Laurence Fishburne’s performance in the Matrix movies to tease out possible parallels?)

The movie “is set in the new Moscow, which, despite many cutting-edge skyscrapers and a glass-and-metal office of icy brilliance . . . ” (and which, self might add, is flooding the pages of The New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review with literary product, which means it will be years — even, decades — before writers from marginalized communities and 3rd world countries like the Philippines manage to break through) “is pretty much like the perfidious old Moscow that Clancy prized in Cold War days.”

And now, this being David Denby, some background on Tom Clancy:

Tom Clancy was an insurance salesman in Maryland when, in the early nineteen-eighties, he wrote a book, The Hunt for Red October, that Ronald Reagan, with a handsome public mention, turned into a best-seller . . .  He died last October.

Oh. Self didn’t know.

Somewhere in this review is the million-dollar question:  How do the Jack Ryan films stack up against James Bond and Jason Bourne?

James Bond, “no matter who plays him, and no matter what the actor’s age, always seems about forty . . . ”  In contrast, “Jason Bourne does age — his story, as recorded in the three movies starring Matt Damon, was consecutive and heart-wrenching.  Bond and Bourne, one playful, one serious, are both genuine franchise heroes.  Ryan is just a property.”

Denby goes through the list of actors who have played Jack Ryan:  Alec Baldwin (arguably the most handsome Jack Ryan), Harrison Ford (the sturdiest Jack Ryan), and Ben Affleck (Self totally forgot that Affleck even played Jack Ryan).

He also gives credit where credit is due:  to Paul Greengrass, the master of shaky-cam technique, who honed it to such great effect in the first Bourne movie and inspired a whole group of shaky cam practitioners like Doug Liman and Gary Ross. (Self knows there will never ben another like Paul Greengrass.  She saw United 93 in the old Bayshore Century 20, by herself in the middle of the day, and the last five minutes of that movie were as incoherent as food mixed up in a blender. And yet, she groaned. Not out of frustration, but out of sympathy.  Because that is probably what it felt like to be on a plane pointing straight down to the ground.  Anything else — a steady cam, say, with close-ups on the unknown actors who played the passengers — would have been grossly insulting)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Denby on Katniss

The New Yorker, 2 December 2013

The New Yorker, 2 December 2013

Apologies, dear blog readers.  Self knows there’s a new science fiction movie out, one that’s starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James.  She’s excited to see it, just hasn’t had a chance yet.

The Pile of Stuff is truly — enormous.

This morning, she reaches in, pulls out a New Yorker, and settles down to read the movie reviews.  Just to show you how old this issue is, the movie being reviewed is The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire.

It’s very interesting:  Denby writes that teenagers tend to view the gladiatorial fights-to-the-death literally, while their “elders” think about them metaphorically (“as a metaphor for capitalism, with its terrifying job market . . . ” or “as a satiric exaggeration of talent-show ruthlessness”)

“Distraction,” Denby writes, “is supposed to work miracles.”

(Well, it does, David.  It does.  What can self say?  Distraction is, in fact, a most excellent and potent tool.  Just ask parents of recalcitrant toddlers, beleaguered office managers, conniving politicians, crafty taxi drivers and military strategists, thieves and other people up to no good, magicians, low-lifes, jerks both run-of-the-mill and spectacular etc etc etc)

While the first Hunger Games movie was “an embarrassment,” Denby calls “the first forty-five minutes or so” of Catching Fire “impressive.”

An excerpt from the review:

For Katniss, the pleasure of victory never arrives.  At the very beginning of the movie, we see her in silhouette, crouching at the edge of a pond, a huntress poised to uncoil.  She hates being a celebrity, and she certainly has no desire to lead a revolution.  Jennifer Lawrence’s gray-green eyes and her formidable concentration dominate the camera.  She resembles a storybook Indian princess and she projects the kind of strength that Katharine Hepburn had . . .

As for the rest of the characters, Denby assigns one adjective (more or less) for each:  Peeta is “doleful” and Gale is “faithful.”  Caesar Flickerman is “unctuous and hostile.”

Woody Harrelson gets a little something extra:  As Haymitch, he is a “hard-drinking realist” who nevertheless “guides Katniss through every terror” and “is the core of intelligence in the movie . . .  his glare and his acid voice cut through the meaningless fashion show.”

And that is about all self can squeeze out for now.  Oh Pile of Stuff.

P.S. Can self share a secret with dear blog readers? She longs, longs for the filmed version of Mockingjay, knows it’s not arriving until Nov. 21 this year, and has already decided to clear her November calendar. Yup, that’s right: no travels, no workshops, no classes, even NO WRITING (if that’s even possible). Most of all:  No angst, no domestic crisis, no recriminations, no regrets over things said or unsaid, no self-doubt, no dithering, no envy of others getting NEAs or Guggenheims or MacDowell acceptances, no wringing of the hands, no mundane distractions, no remodeling projects, no Tweets, no literary contests, no reading of book reviews, no compiling of “Best of 2014″ lists, no planting, no housecleaning, no shopping whether for essentials or non-essentials (even food), no entertaining of mysterious knocks on the front door or of phone calls from solicitors, no bewailing of personal imperfections, no exaggerations, no facials, no massages, no Vinyasa Flow classes, no research in Green or Hoover libraries etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

“300: Rise of an Empire”

This movie is not a prequel, neither is it a sequel.

It is a simul-quel!

Self doesn’t know whether simul-quel is a real word, but let her explain:  The events take place around the same time as Leonidas leads his handsome and buff half-nekkid army of hot men to the Hot Gates to offer up their tremendous physiques in sacrificial battle against a Persian giant (conveniently named Xerxes, which means he is a historical character) who is adorned with the most fantastic body piercings.

Anyhoo, The Man saw the movie Saturday (by himself, as self was too busy checking her FB page) and swore when he got home that Tom Wisdom was in it, by means of simul-quel or something.

Yeah, right!  Self caught a wee glance, for about 10 seconds!

Nevertheless, here are her thoughts:

The hero is named Themistocles, and everyone keeps whispering the first syllable of his name so it comes off sounding like “mistocles,” which then led self to think of the word “miracles” or “mystical” or some such.  Or perhaps self is just hard of hearing.

When the action is not happening, we are shown scenes in Athens.  The people of Athens are a pasty-faced bunch, draped in red and blue and white togas.  Because they are intellectual, get it?  When Themistocles/Mistocles appears in Sparta to appeal for aid, self got so excited.  Because now we were in the realm of buff bods and lots of wrestling.

About halfway through the movie, it occurred to self that the battles were simply an excuse for two hot generals to play out some very subliminal erotic urges.  For as Freud pointed out, the Oedipus Complex is strong in the human psyche.  Or was he referring to the Erotic Complex?  Anyhoo, all those subliminal urges are definitely in play here.

At one point, a face-to-face between the two generals is arranged, and Themistocles/Mistocles is ushered onto the Persian general’s boat, and this general just happens to be played by Eva Green, her bountiful bosom on full display.  Since Themistocles/Mistocles is not apparently burdened with a wife (as Leonidas was in 300, though Leonidas himself probably had no complaints about having a wife as hot as Lena Headey), and as Eva Green plays a totally bloodthirsty whore of no morals (called, of all things, ARTEMISIA), they engage in rough sex.  And when Themistocles still refuses to switch sides, Artemisia throws a major hissy fit and has him thrown off her ship (but not before he’s had time to salvage his modesty — at this point, though, who cares? — by draping himself in his blue Athenian toga).  The Athenians waiting back on shore for the return of their general look a little — skeptical, shall we say — when he returns sweating like a horse and rather close-lipped about the negotiations.  (Self, you have an absolutely filthy mind!  Why would you think that was what the Athenian henchmen of Themistocles/Mistocles were thinking?  They seemed perfectly poker-faced.  Respectful, even!  Self’s just saying)

Eva Green, Eva Green.  Sigh.  Why has she appeared in only a few tacky movies since immortalizing Vesper Lynde in Daniel Craig’s first Bond movie, Casino Royale?  It is incredible how much energy she puts into her role here.  But, why not. If one is going to commit to a role which calls for bloodthirsty beheadings as well as rough sex, one has to commit 100%.  And Eva Green certainly delivers.  Nay, more than delivers!  Her performance is so 120% it’s almost bat-shit crazy!  And that is what makes this a movie worth seeing.  (Aside from the Spartans and 10 seconds of Tom Wisdom)

Self would also like to say that she waited until the end credits to see who was responsible for the costumes.  Because Eva Green’s clothing was of the full-on dominatrix variety, and self loved all the ripped/torn bodices, the chain-mail sleeves, the golden (rhinoceros?) horns poking out of her back, the boots, the metal covering the outer lobes of Artemisia’s left (and only her left) ear.  And self thought she even glimpsed a wee bit of fishnet stocking. But how could that be, when the last epic shot does not show any coverings at all over Artemisia’s legs.?  Self is sure, though, that in one of the close-ups, she saw fishnet.

She wondered what other actress might bring this level of commitment to such a role.  Jena Malone, perhaps.  It has to be someone who could convincingly present a sexy femme who gets progressively sexier with the appearance of each new, bloody scar.

There was even a poignant father-son-fighting-together scene, which recalled the Tom Wisdom/guy-who-played-his-father pairing in 300.  Only, in the Rise of Empire scenario, the father was waaaay hotter (in self’s humble opinion, at least) than the son.

Self will comment on the transformation of normal-looking Xerxes into Rodrigo Santoro draped in body piercings, in Part 2.

Stay tuned.

Week Before AWP Exhaustion and Self Is Already Exhausted

So, what better way to lose herself for a few minutes, or even an hour, than in reading Hunger Games fanfiction?  She found a really good one today.  Dear blog readers will probably laugh but it is no joke:  one of self’s bookmarked sites is Mockingjay.net.

No, self will not go there.

Instead, she continues with Divergent.  Because the movie — well, the movie stars Shailene Woodley.  And self loves Shailene Woodley.  She’s loved her ever since The Descendants.

These are the young actresses self particularly loves:  Jennifer Lawrence, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt (well, she’s a bit older; still, self loves her), Jena Malone and Shailene Woodley.  Oh!  She also likes Felicity Jones.  She liked Natalie Mendoza in The Descent.  She likes Lilly Collins. And Lupita Nyong’o who was absolutely incandescent in 12 Years a Slave.

Where were we?

Oh yes, Divergent.

On p. 33, self finds out a little bit more about the world of the book:

The narrator’s father has returned from a hard day at work.  He is some kind of political leader.

The narrator explains:

The city is ruled by a council of fifty people, composed entirely of representatives from Abnegation, because our faction is regarded as incorruptible, due to our commitment to selflessness.  Our leaders are selected by their peers for their impeccable character, moral fortitude, and leadership skills. Representatives from each of the other factions can speak in the meetings on behalf of a particular issue, but ultimately, the decision is the council’s . . .  It has been that way since the beginning of the great peace, when the factions were formed.  I think the system persists because we’re afraid of what might happen if it didn’t:  war.

Self loses herself in conjecture.  To tell the truth, self belongs in a faction like Abnegation.  But she longs to break out of it because it is just, so, so — limp. For instance, p. 34:  “We aren’t supposed to speak at the dinner table unless our parents ask us a direct question, and they usually don’t.”

Members of Abnegation must be humble and self-effacing all the time.  They must not take pride in their looks or in their character or in their intelligence or in their creativity.

What. A. Terrible. Way. To. Be.

Self knows, because she spent — oh, about 80% of her life doing all those self-abnegating things.  And it did her not. One. Bit. Of. Good.

Until self suddenly had this mind-blowing revelation, courtesy of Manang Marilou of Bacolod:  Nobody cares if you are miserable.  So you might as well be happy.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The New Yorker Remembers Philip Seymour Hoffman (Feb. 17 & 24, 2014 Issue)

Anthony Lane’s piece on Philip Seymour Hoffman is in the current issue (Feb. 17 & 24, 2014) of The New Yorker.  Below, a few excerpts:

Leading man, character actor, supporting player:  really, who gives a damn?  Either you hold an audience, so tight that it feels lashed to the seats, or you don’t.  That is why the distinction between Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, at the Academy Awards, grows ever more ludicrous — essential, of course, to the smooth structure of the night, but untrue, Read the rest of this entry »

Southern Vivid

In a few days, self is hopping on a plane and heading south to visit Sole Fruit of Her Loins.  It’s been an age, almost a year, since she’s been down there.

Which is a pity because self hugely enjoys the southern part of her home state.  Movie nut that she is, how could she not?

The southern part of California is like the northern part, only everything is bigger and the weather is always warmer.   South means huge palmettos, gardens as lush and colorful as a Rousseau painting, Vroman’s, and The Huntington Botanic Gardens.  It means Claremont and driving and malls that feel shiny and new and women with great tans and poodles.

It means cavernous movie theaters where you get to pick a seat based on a seating chart (Just like in the movie theaters in that mall in Magalang, Pampanga!)

Anyhoo, travel energizes self.  Always.

And, son and Jennie are there.  Which means self will not be alone, as she usually is during her hectic peregrinations.

Now, she will have dinners to share and people to talk to.  She will discover new restaurants (though the milk shakes down south are humongous.  Those could keep you going two full days, at least)

And you know what else is down south?  Her Villanueva relatives from Bacolod –  woot hoot!  For some reason, they all settled down there.  All except for niece Ri Na, who’s in Sacramento (Must visit her soon!)

Yesterday, self received both good news and bad news.

The good was that she got an e-mail from the editors of the Crab Orchard Review that her short story “Crackers” had been accepted for their special issue on writing from The West and Beyond, which is planned for publication in September this year.

Right after that, she got two contest results, and naturally she did not win or even place.

Back to the good.

Ever since self got that e-mail from Crab Orchard Review, she’s been checking her “in” box almost every two hours, just to make sure she didn’t dream the whole thing.  Because, folks, she’s been sending her stories to this particular magazine for decades.  She sometimes panics and thinks:  It’s a mistake!  They didn’t mean to put self’s name on the acceptance letter!  Someone will apologize and say, That letter wasn’t meant for you!  It was meant for someone else!

Anyhoo, self still hasn’t gotten the retraction, so she still feels pretty great.

Deciding which books to bring along is harder than the decision about what to wear.  First of all, BLGF is 1000-plus pages and is, moreover, hardcover, so if self decides to bring it she will have to check in her luggage.  Must. Discuss. With. Jennie.

Self happened to glance at her text messages just a minute ago, and there’s another message from Jennie to dress “business casual” for an event she’s taking self to.  Oooh, fun!  Self asks Jennie whether that means a suit, or can she just wear a skirt and sweater?  Does she need to bring along pumps?

Self had almost decided to leave BLGF behind, in favor of some less prodigious paperback, when she gets yet another Jennie Text:  Bring your books!

YAY!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Mondays: Quote of the Day (3 February 2014)

Self just can’t get over having to type year “2014.” It feels momentous because of Philip Seymour-Hoffman.

By sheer coincidence, the story self has been reading in The New Yorker of 20 January 2014, by Akhil Sharma, begins this way:

As far back as I can remember, my parents have bothered each other.  In India, we lived in two concrete rooms on the roof of a house.  The bathroom stood separate from the living quarters.  The sink was attached to one of the exterior walls.  Each night, my father would stand before the sink, the sky above him full of stars, and brush his teeth until his gums bled.  Then he would spit the blood into the sink and turn to my mother and say, “Death, Shuba, death.”

“Yes, yes, beat drums,” my mother said once.  “Tell the newspapers, too.  Make sure everyone knows this thing you have discovered.”  Like many people of her generation, those born before Independence, my mother viewed gloom as unpatriotic.

The title of the story is “A Mistake.”

Self fervently wishes that 2014 will turn out to be a good year.  She did finally do some things she’d been wanting to do for months:  she decided to visit Sole Fruit of Her Loins this coming weekend, and she signed up for yoga classes (which have been extremely fun).

And while yesterday turned out to be a terrible day for Peyton Manning, it was good for California because it rained steadily (at last! Though we’ll need lots more to get through the drought).  Self and The Man caught the Oscar-Nominated Short Films (Animation) at the Aquarius, and afterwards had coffee around the corner at La Boulange.

Of the short animation films, self’s favorite was Feral, directed by Daniel Sousa.  The Man said it was “too dark,” but self liked that it was.  The one she found the most corny was Room on the Broom, an entry from the UK which featured some very heavy hitters doing voice work: Gillian Anderson, Sally Hawkins, and Simon Pegg.

Which brings us back to Philip Seymour-Hoffman.  Self found out while perusing the web, late last night, and it was terrible.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

June 2012 Cover of The Guardian

The rise of Matthew McConaughey.

Apologies for blogging so much about actors and actresses, dear blog readers.  But the Golden Globes are taking place this coming weekend.

Moreover, she’s been reading Joe Morgenstern’s “The Year’s Top Performers” article, in the Wall Street Journal of 3 January 2014.

Morgenstern writes:  “My favorite performance this year concentrated a universe of bewilderment and self-delusion in the person of a once-vibrant woman and, not incidentally, constituted a master class in how great acting is done.”

More from Morgenstern:  “Surely the most spectacular reinvention — self-reinvention — by an actor last year was accomplished by Matthew McConaughey.  Over the course of almost two decades he’d done extremely well with playing handsome young men with sharp edges to their psyches, men who often found reason to remove their shirts.  Then came his electrifying 2012 appearance as a malign club owner in Magic Mike.”

Self would not really go so far as to call McConaughey’s acting in Magic Mike “electrifying,” but she will say this:  One Sunday in June 2012, she descended from her room on an upper floor of Hawthornden, saw the Sunday Guardian on the hall table (people were always trying to be the first to get to it), went to the Sunday magazine and saw on the cover:  shirtless Matthew McConaughey, in a cowboy hat, one arm extended to the ceiling.  HOOOLY MOLY!!!!  Self could not wait to get back to the States so she could see Magic Mike!

Another thing about the Morgenstern article?  He has nice things to say about Rescue Dawn.  Self just added the film to her Netflix queue.

And BTW, last night’s premiere episode of Justified Season 5 was excellent.  Had self drooling all over again.  No one can rock blue jeans like Timothy Olyphant.  Plus there was a moving tribute to Elmore Leonard from the cast (All hail, Tim O, rocking the thread bracelets and long hair) and producer.  It was very moving.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Current Netflix: “Before Midnight”

Self was bummed she missed this one when it was showing in theaters.  Thank God for Netflix.  She watched Before Midnight today, and was so mesmerized she couldn’t even get up to get a drink of water.  It was like watching an action film where you know if you look away for even just a few seconds, you’re going to miss some kinetic bit that might knock your socks off.  When was the last time you felt this way about a movie that was ALL TALK?  What an achievement.  Congratulations to Hawke, Delpy and director Richard Linklater.  All the reviews keep describing Before Midnight as the final installment of a trilogy.  Noooo!  Self wants to check in again, 10 years from now, when Hawke and Delpy are in their 50s.  Let’s keep this thing going for a couple more decades?  Surely that’s not too much to ask?

Read the rest of this entry »

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