Quote of the Day: Glenn Kenney

What admiration self has for Chaz, Roger Ebert’s widow, who kept his name alive with the site RogerEbert.com, where you can find a collection of great reviews on all the most recently released movies (It is so much better than Rotten Tomatoes. On RogerEbert.com, a reviewer can actually say Suicide Squad stinks, and it will have 10x the persuasive power of someone on Rotten Tomatoes saying Suicide Squad stinks. Even though they both mean the same thing: that Suicide Squad really really stinks)

Self was looking over recently released movies (She’s just seen two back-to-back: Pete’s Dragon and Indignation. Since she’s already gotten this far, she might as well keep going with the one-movie-a-day!) and was un-enthused until she got to the three-star review of Ben-Hur by Glenn Kenney.

Self did not realize that the star of Ben-Hur was Jack Huston, Anjelica Huston’s nephew. She also did not realize that she’s actually seen him before: in American Hustle, seducing J-Law’s tempestuous character (who was married to Christian Bale’s character)

She did not realize that the director of Ben-Hur was Timur Bekmambetov. This guy is grrrreat! He directed Wanted, with James McAvoy. Sometimes self gets him confused with Tarsem Singh, who directed 2011’s The Immortals, a movie Roger Ebert described as “without doubt the best-looking awful movie you will ever see.” But, self digresses.

Kenney begins his review by calling Ben-Hur “a masterpiece of condensation.” Self likes that opening sentence so much that she continues reading the review. And comes to another great sentence:

  • “… this Ben-Hur has more Christ in it than any previous version.”

And that’s it. That’s her sentence of the day.

In this movie, Jesus has a cameo. And is played by, of all people, Rodrigo Santoro, whose body piercings in 300 are etched in self’s memory to this day.

This is such a fun review. Just one more quote: “The characters all speak in a completely contemporary tone, which shows the influence of — what do you know? Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, which was criticized for (among other things) having the apostles talk like they’d just jumped off the IRT.” Har, har, har! Thank you, Glenn Kenney.

Since self is challenged in the time department this week, and she’s already posted twice today about movies, she’ll just slip this one in: She loved Pete’s Dragon except for the dragon. He looked like a stuffed toy.

Don’t get self wrong: she believes in dragons. But if a studio with deep pockets like Disney does a movie about dragons, she would like to see a screen dragon who is All Creature. One who looks like it could positively reek. You might call this the Game of Thrones Affect: it’s the satisfaction of knowing that when you look at a wildling, you can imagine wildling body odor.

The boy, however, that boy was really feral. More feral even than the dragon. She hasn’t seen a boy that convincingly feral since the kid in Road Warrior.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Indignation”: It Ends

SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILER ALERT!!! MAAAAAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!

Interesting the way the characters in this movie spoke. No one in this movie really sounded natural delivering the dialogue, but in a way self supposes this was done deliberately, to reflect an “uptight” decade in American life (the 1950s).

Everyone, that is, except for:

  • Logan Lerman
  • The actors who played Logan Lerman’s parents, especially the woman who played his mother
  • His childhood chums, discussing the death of one of their friends in Korea
  • His college roommates, one of whom (the phlegmatic big guy) was very, very good

This arch-ironic delivery, however, ends up being pure acting gold when it comes to the portrayal of a Dean of a University located in, of all places, Winesburg, Ohio (How very Sherwood Anderson!).

Nothing the Dean said (mainly a string of platitudes) made any sense. He was all about double-talk and veiled warnings, yet he delivered them with such a sense of conviction, as a man absolutely unshakeable in his moral beliefs, a man who’s been taken over so completely by his need to uphold the “right” standards that he doesn’t even know how to react when Logan’s character says (at least 5x): “I’m about to throw up. I have to go.” (Because self has seen Animal House at least 3x, she knew exactly how this scene was going to go down. Can we all admit right now that Animal House is classic?)

The performances in this movie were really, really on point.

Lerman’s character, who hails from Newark, New Jersey, is completely out of his depth. Not only is he from Newark, New Jersey, he’s the son of a butcher. Not only is he the son of a butcher, he’s the son of a kosher butcher. Can you imagine? Oh the horrors of a guy like this attending university in Winesburg!

Lerman’s character is an atheist but unfortunately for him, he’s the only “out” atheist on campus. Everyone else — aside from 80 Jews — is Christian.

There’s a femme fatale. Okay, so she slit one wrist, was treated, she’s okay now. (Self is so tired of these fragile college girls, these doomed Sylvia Plath iterations, who mess up the lives of innocents like our hero played by Logan Lerman.)

The whole time self was watching, she could feel the “remove” in time.

And then the end. Let’s just say, not since that trendy woman’s novel where a woman kept going to bars and sleeping with strangers and ended up describing how she was killed, on the very last page, has self ever felt so cheated, cheated, cheated!

You cannot do first person when you’re dead at the end, all right?

If you’re dead — unless you’re an angel or a ghost or the second coming of Alice Sebold — you cannot tell a story like this, where everything is wrapped up so prettily in hindsight. Because the human being who lives the story will not tell it like this. He’ll be all: I cannot believe I’m going down like this! This sucks!

But, Holy Cow, LOGAN LERMAN.

Self had to turn to her seatmate and ask, What the heck just happened there? Is he really dead?

The woman’s countenance was completely shattered. Yes, she said. He is dead.

And with that, self left the theatre in a very bad mood. Practically stomped out. Like, she could not believe she just spent two hours listening to Logan Lerman’s poetic narration.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Reading, in Bath: Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen

“Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.”

“Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocket-book. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warning, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

Moments, Florence

Self is still looking for pictures to accord with the Daily Post Photo Challenge this week, RARE.

Back in November 2015, she got a surprise invitation from her niece Irene to go on a trip to Florence.

But of course! Self has decided that she will never say NO when it comes to travel. And she’d never been to Florence.  All the pictures below are from that trip.

First, a picture taken in the Piazza Signoria. Self had spent the day at the Palazzo Vecchio, her niece had gone to the Uffizi. We met up at the square to have dinner. Self took the picture from one of the sidewalk cafés:

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Piazza Signoria, Florence’s Iconic Square: November 2015

On our first morning in Florence, self and Irene were wending our way from our hotel to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore when we passed a library. And though the library was not in any of our guidebooks, self never passed a library she didn’t wish to explore.

So here’s what was inside:

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Self’s ever-curious soul led her to this library, on a street close to the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral.

It turned out to be a library made up entirely of opera librettos. And self thought that was the most fabulous thing.

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The most rare and fabulous thing.

Stay tuned.

Basho and “The Freeze”

Self is still reading Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

In the poem below, Basho describes entering the province of Kaga:

I walked into the fumes
Of early-ripening rice,
On the right below me
The waters of the Angry Sea.

* * *

The poem suddenly reminds self of her dystopian short story “The Freeze,” which Bluestem Magazine published last year. Sometime while Obama is President, the Russians do something that shuts the whole world down.

Everyone starts dying. A woman decides to walk out of San Francisco and head south. To make sure she doesn’t lose her way, she decides to walk Highway 1, always making sure that the ocean is to her right. She meets a band of teen-agers.

The story begins with the woman chanting the following:

Redwood, Oak, Laurel, Manzanita, Pine.
Redwood, Oak, Laurel, Manzanita, Pine.
Redwood, Oak, Laurel, Manzanita, Pine.

And darn if self hasn’t just decided that the story ended much too soon. She has to continue, if only so she can figure out for herself what happens to the woman and her teen-age companions. She’s thinking: sequel.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Frame: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 26 August 2016

Another interesting Photo Challenge from The Daily Post!

Self was inspired by fellow bloggers Cerita Riyanti and  Serendipity.

So many beautiful examples of framing.

Here are a couple of self’s:

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The Huntington Gardens, Pasadena, California

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Window Seat, Unit # 1, Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig, Ireland

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Self received a small ceramic lamp (Shaped like a cottage, with one wall cut away, the lamp is about eight inches tall) as a present from her parents when she was about three or four. Made in Japan. Who knows why this tableaux from Little Red Riding Hood was made the subject. Decades later, self is a writer whose love of fairy tales continues unabated to this day.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Northanger Abbey: Men

Self must confess that the reason she started reading Jane Austen again is the movie Love & Friendship, directed by Whit Stillman, and starring the delicious trifecta of Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, and Xavier Samuel (She would name more of the actors if she wasn’t so very short of time today). The movie was based on Austen’s unfinished novella, Lady Susan. Anyhoo, it’s quite a good movie, one of self’s favorites so far in 2016.

Northanger Abbey is not as self remembered. There are very long discussions of novels whose titles make them sound “genre” (See her previous post). And nothing happens other than: breakfast, tea, dances, and sitting in bed to recover from dances.

Since self writes fan fiction, she doesn’t mind genre. She doesn’t mind any kind of writing, as long as it’s good.

Anyhoo, the plot of Northanger Abbey concerns — as far as self can make out, the narrative is very circomlocutious — two young, unmarried women who meet at Bath, become fast friends, and then share opinions on everything from novels to keeping up appearances, to men. The novel thus far is just a series of conversations. Time is passing but who cares? The smallest detail of daily life is not too mundane to receive meticulous attention.

One of the young ladies (self forgets which) states that men “are very often amazingly impertinent if you do not treat them with spirit, and make them keep their distance.”

Her conversant protests that “they always behave very well to me.”

Upon which, the first lady responds:

  • Oh! They give themselves such airs. They are the most conceited creatures in the world, and think themselves of so much importance! — By the bye, though I have thought of it a hundred times, I have always forgotten to ask you what is your favorite complexion in a man. Do you like them best dark or fair?

To which the other lady responds that her preference is for “brown skin, with dark eyes, and rather dark hair.” The other says that she prefers her men “sallow.” (Pardon, self always mixes up “sallow” with “hepatitis B” or consumption or ill health)

Which is so fascinating, self wonders how old Jane Austen was when she wrote this, she is so looking forward to reading more! This would be considered chick lit if the sentences weren’t so very very very long and if something more were at stake than how to pass an indolent holiday in Bath.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Austen: In Defence of Novelists

Quicker than you can say SQUASHED BANANA, self whips through Swimming Studies and begins the next book on her reading list, Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

She’s pretty sure she’s read this before, but has no memory of the plot.

Somewhere in the early chapters, Austen goes on a riff about the status of novelists in English society. Self did not know you can get exercised this way, and go on to write what is essentially an argument, and plop that in the middle of a novel. Where is the scene? Where is the narrative arc?

Clearly, the English novel in Austen’s day was a very accommodating genre.

Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers.

Jane, Jane, Jane. Deep breaths.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Loneliness of the Swimmer

  • You get very tired and depressed, and you wish you had the social life that a lot of your friends have, you wish you could go out with this girl, but it’s so hard to have that. You’re too tired . . .  You wake up and your alarm goes off at five, and you just, you just hear the snow blowing outside, and you’re in a nice warm waterbed and you say, I don’t wanna go out there. Who wants to dive into water at five o’clock in the morning?

Victor Davis, in the swimming documentary The Fast and the Furious, by Alex Baumann

SWIMMING STUDIES: About Pools

Maybe because self is reading Swimming Studies, she starts looking up information on Land’s End and the Sutro Baths.

The magnate who developed Sutro Baths was named Sutro (Duh, but of course!).

Sutro Baths was the centerpiece of a resort bordering the Pacific. San Franciscans could get there by paying 5 cents for a trolley ride.

In a way, self understands what Sutro was aiming for, because her very own grandfather built a resort, right in the middle of sugar cane fields in Barangay Granada in Negros Occidental in the Philippines.

Self’s grandfather, like Sutro, was a populist. The most loyal patrons of Santa Fe Resort are workers. The entrance fee is still ridiculously low because self’s family understands the demographic: the patrons come from the surrounding fields, workers wanting a break. It was called Santa Fe because her grandfather loved American westerns. In addition, he had a huge crush on the American swimmer/film star Esther Williams, so there’s a statue of her in Santa Fe, in Barangay Granada.

Self’s grandfather built an Olympic-size pool which remains a major draw to this day: It was the first, and possibly still the only, Olympic-size pool in the Philippines.

Who does that? Who has such a crush on Esther Williams that he builds an Olympic-size pool in the middle of an island. Not only in the middle of an island, in the middle of sugar cane fields.

When journalists come to write about self’s island, they never mention Santa Fe Resort. It’s such an eccentric thing, the location. The fact is, it’s nowhere near a beach. Consequently, there is no tourist traffic. There are no Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, American or Europeans. In Santa Fe Resort, you will encounter Filipinos. Just Filipinos.

It is a resort built by a man who only got a high school education. A resort for the people who live within a few kilometers, who are from that place.

Self spent every summer of her childhood there.

Sometimes she wonders if those summers were the reason she is a writer now. Because, her grandfather showed her: you can do anything, if you use your imagination.

It is a terrible thing is to have no imagination, to have your dreams stay small.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Ripper Street: Love

Trigger Warning: Gore. Lots and lots of gore.

Wounds don’t just bleed, they suppurate. Blood comes out in great gouts from cheeks, throats, everywhere.

And there is also one terrific love story.

It may be the final season, but there are five seasons to binge-watch.

YAY!

Stay tuned.

Fan Fiction Writer Appreciation Day

Today is Fan Fiction Writer Appreciation Day on tumblr.

YAY!

To show her appreciation, self is quoting from the most recent chapter of a fan fic she’s been following since the start of the year.

“Double turns, Katniss, this isn’t a district company!” Plutarch shouts at her as she drops out of her first turn. Katniss hadn’t even realized she’d singled the piqué and she nods as she goes into her second turn, a double this time.

“They should also be clean, Katniss!” Plutarch sounds exasperated with her. Katniss breathes out, and does the last four piqués into a soutenu, finishing with a pas de chat. She holds herself there, waiting for Plutarch’s nod of approval, then drops her arms when nothing comes.

Oh, down the rabbit hole self goes.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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