More Thoughts on “Gravity” / Watching “Witness”

Last night, Peter Weir’s “Witness” was showing on cable.  Self had just read a post on “Great Female Performances” written by Sheila O’Malley, whose blog, The Sheila Variations, self reads whenever she has the time (or, often, even when she doesn’t have the time, ha ha haaa!)  One of her “20 Surprising Female Performances” was Kelly McGillis in “Witness.”  And, wouldn’t you know, in a strange convergence of blog reading and strange-events-that-happen-in-real-life, The Man all on his own last night, without self’s having breathed a WORD about Kelly McGillis, found “Witness” on cable.

We ended up watching the whole thing, from beginning to end.

First of all, how great was the cinematography?

And had anyone before even thought to set a thriller in Amish country?

And how great was Peter Weir’s work with, not only Kelly McGillis, but also Harrison Ford, Danny Glover, and Lukas Haas?

Bonus points:  a very, very young Viggo Mortensen playing an Amish lad; Alexander Godunov in a really deft performance as an Amish suitor; Harrison Ford at the height of his hot-ness; and sequences about the right way to raise a barn in one day.

Give Director Peter Weir his Lifetime Achievement Oscar already!  Self would like to think “Witness” was rewarded with Oscars.  But even if it wasn’t, “Witness” will always be on self’s short list of really great movies.

As for Kelly McGillis, self agrees with Sheila O’Malley:  The actress’s performance, even though she is mostly fully clothed, with hair bundled up under a white cap, is exquisitely erotic.  In fact, it’s far more erotic than any of the recent skin-baring “bold and racy” Hollywood movies could ever be.

*     *     *     *

And now to “Gravity.”  Self landed on some site with a discussion thread called “I Didn’t Like Gravity.”  The criticism ranged around the dialogue, claiming it was hoky and sentimental, and George Clooney was just acting himself, and how come Sandra Bullock’s character had to be metaphorically “rescued” by re-appearance of George Clooney?

Self then began to doubt her fondness for the movie.  But she decided that no, she still considers it a great feminist movie, and a very moving one at that.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!

For one thing, there is a point in the film where Bullock’s Dr. Ryan approaches a turn.  Maybe it’s right after she reveals that her four-year-old daughter was killed in a meaningless playground incident (Hit her head, died), or maybe it’s before that.

Whatever.  The point is: she does turn.  And what self thinks is really moving is: Even though Bullock’s character is a lonely, isolated soul, with no family or children to keep living for, at some point she decides that just HER OWN LIFE is worth fighting for.  And she WILL fight.  Even if it means going out again in space and donning that awful space suit!  Even though she’s seen what can happen “out there.”  But if it’s the only chance she has to survive, my golly she will do it!

And self particularly liked the editing here, because the change wasn’t shown by Dr. Ryan suddenly having a different expression on her face, or anything so obvious as that.  No.  We only realized that Dr. Ryan had decided to FIGHT FOR HER LIFE when she re-appeared, outside the shuttle in that bulky, awful, ungainly space suit.  And we didn’t even realize what we were realizing, not until much, much later.

More thoughts are tumbling out of self’s head about “Gravity” and Bullock’s character, but you know, self also happens to teach and she thinks this is enough of a break for the day.

Stay tuned.

Horizon 4: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Catching the inter-island ferry from Bacolod to Siquijor, March 2012

Catching the inter-island ferry from Bacolod to Siquijor, March 2012

View From the Roof of L'Fisher Chalet, Bacolod

View From the Roof of L’Fisher Chalet, Bacolod

Early Morning, South Seas Resort, Bantayan Beach

Early Morning, South Seas Resort, Bantayan Beach

Horizon 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Self loves participating in the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenges:  they give her an excuse to pore over her picture archives.  The theme of the week is HORIZON.

Here’s a picture taken from the hills above Cañada College, of son and self’s nephews, a long time ago.  Son is now in the Ph.D. program in Psychology at Claremont; William is in medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, and Chris, having just graduated from Tufts, is doing his first year of Teach America in Harlem:

Left to Right:  Andrew de Jesus, William Blackett, Chris Blackett

Left to Right: Andrew de Jesus, William Blackett, Chris Blackett

Here’s a recent one:  Amsterdam, July 2012:

The Sea in the Netherlands near Amsterdam (Photo by self. On a wobbly bike)

The Sea in the Netherlands near Amsterdam (Photo by self. On a wobbly bike):  July 2012

And also another recent one:  Paris, July 2012.

Why is self so fascinated by cloudy skies?  This is Paris, July 2012.

Why is self so fascinated by cloudy skies? This is Paris, July 2012.  Self was standing on a bridge spanning the Seine.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Brian Komei Dempster’s First Poetry Collection: TOPAZ

Brian teaches in the Asian Pacific American Program at the University of San Francisco.  He edited the anthology Making Home From War:  Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement (Heyday Books, 2011).  Topaz is his first published poetry collection.

STORM BREAKS

Every war begins somewhere. The boundaries
are me: my face, smile, language, my job. No matter what I did

your father thought I was crossing him. Between
your apartment and mine, we stood a breath

apart, your mouth a border shutting out

gentler words. I grabbed you by the T-shirt
like a bag of rice, you pushed me back, a ball of heat

enveloping us. When a forest ignites, balding the hills,
who lit the match, who flung it into the bed

of pine needles? Out the accusations came, armed

Apologies, dear blog readers, but self can go no further.  This is the first third of the poem.  Buy Brian’s book!  The publisher is Four Way Books.

Stay tuned.

American Food 101

Growing up in the Philippines, self did not develop a particular fondness for vegetables.

And then she came to California for graduate school and discovered:

Zucchini bread is quite good (Self’s first sight of a zucchini — ever — was the Safeway in Menlo Park)

Carrot cake is divine.

She of course had tried steak before, just not Rib-Eye.

And meat loaf!  Sort of like morcon, only better (Self eventually learned to cook quite a mean meat loaf)

She would never have thought of eating fresh tomatoes.

She tried her first taco here, in California.  It might have been at Taco Bell.  It might have been at Jack-in-the-Box.

She can’t remember trying peanut butter before grad school.  But she quickly acquired a predilection.

Broccoli — she never tasted it in the Philippines.  But The Man loves it.  Clearly, he had a very different upbringing from self’s (though he, too, is from Manila)

Another thing self was not prepared for:

RVs!  This mode of locomotion was very new to self.

RVs! This mode of locomotion was very new to self.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Horizon 2: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

The theme of this week’s WordPress photo challenge is HORIZON.

HORIZON:  The space or line where the sky meets earth.

We were on I-5 South, just passing Six Flags/Magic Mountain.  The roller coaster is in the lower left corner.

We were on I-5 South, just passing Six Flags/Magic Mountain. The roller coaster is in the lower left corner.

A hill in Edgewood Nature Preserve, Redwood City

A hill in Edgewood Nature Preserve, Redwood City

Negros Occidental:  A field of sugar cane, somewhere between Bacolod City and Murcia

Negros Occidental: A field of sugar cane, somewhere between Bacolod City and Murcia

Horizon: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Magalang, Pampanga, September 2013: It's more like a city than a town.

Magalang, Pampanga, September 2013: It’s more like a city than a town.

Returning to Ca' San Toma on the vaporetto (from an outing to Burano and Torcello):  April 2013

Returning to Ca’ San Toma on the vaporetto (from an outing to Burano and Torcello): April 2013

Above Sutro Baths.  Do you see how lovely the San Francisco weather can be in June?

Above Sutro Baths. Do you see how lovely the San Francisco weather can be in June?

 

 

 

Cadence: Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo’s “The Painting”

With any luck, self will finally get to the last story of The Best Philippine Short Stories of the Twentieth Century, edited by Isagani Cruz, which she began reading — oh, let’s see — about a decade ago.

The story self is reading at the moment is a marvel of unreliable narration.  The fact that the narrator is a young priest (from an illustrious family — even better!) makes the story feel very “slippery.”

The story begins with the priest telling the story of his family’s connection to the national hero (and there is only one, so if you are Filipino then you know who that hero is).

We proceed to the sacred mountain, and to the cult that venerates Jose Rizal as a minor deity.  And to the native priestesses — call them babaylan, if you wish.

I wonder if any of you have ever seen these priestesses.  They are impressive individuals.  All have a commanding presence, and some are strikingly beautiful.  This one was very tall and very fair, with strongly chiseled features in an ageless face; large, penetrating eyes, and long hair drawn back in a bun.  She had changed from her vestments into a loose white robe and was sitting in one of the wooden benches to one side of the chapel, where she always received people who wished to consult with her.

The Suprema was speaking with someone whose appearance was a striking contrast to hers — a woman in her late forties or early fifties, perhaps, of medium height, plain-looking, and a little on the stout side, her hair cut short, as though she did not wish to be bothered with it.  She wore thick glasses and a simple dress of some unfashionable color — I believe it was purple.  One of her shoes had fallen off, and she was swinging a bare foot to and fro as she talked.  They appeared to be having a good time, for their conversation was punctuated by laughter.

Dear blog readers, self can hardly wait to see where this story is going!

Stay tuned.

Inspired by Stephen King Interview in Vanity Fair, October 2013

Today, self lugged around the huge September 2013 issue of Vanity Fair, the one with Kate Upton and her magnificent, hydraulic chest on the cover.  She had to remind herself to turn it over so that it wouldn’t cause anyone to do a double-take.

The Proust Questionnaire is with Stephen King, one of her absolute faves.  One of the questions was:

Who are your favorite writers?

King responded:  Cormac McCarthy, John Le Carré, John Sandford, Margaret Atwood, Michael Connolly, Lee Child, Ruth Rendell, Patricia Highsmith, Larry McMurtry . . .

The list causes self to think back.  Specifically, to the books she read in 2012.  Which ones stood out in her memory?

  • Caesar:  Life of a Colossus, by Adrian Goldsworthy
  • Atonement, by Ian McEwan
  • The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, by Jennifer 8. Lee
  • Human Smoke, by Nicholson Baker
  • The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker
  • How Doctors Think, by Jerome Groopman, M.D.
  • The Beautiful and The Damned, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Finder, by Colin Harrison (This one she read in, of all places, PARIS)
  • I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Essays About Being a Woman, by Nora Ephron
  • The Last Empress, by Anchee Min
  • A Voyage Long and Strange:  Rediscovering the New World, by Tony Horwitz
  • Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama
  • Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, by Rhoda Janzen
  • Loot:  The Battle Over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World, by Sharon Waxman

So far this year, the most memorable books self has read are:

  • The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
  • Fiasco:  The American Military Adventure in Iraq, by Thomas E. Ricks
  • La’s Orchestra Saves the World, by Alexander McCall Smith
  • A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster
  • Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
  • The Quiet American, by Graham Greene
  • The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
  • Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser
  • Little Heathens:  Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression, by Mildred Armstrong Kalish
  • Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson
  • Don Quijote, by Miguel de Cervantes, in a translation by Burton Raffel
  • Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Human Factor, by Graham Greene
  • In Praise of Messy Lives, by Katie Roiphe

Perusing the two lists, the authors self might describe as her favorites are:  Nicholson Baker, Jerome Groopman, Anchee Min, Tony Horwitz, Gretchen Rubin, E. M. Forster, Hilary Mantel, Graham Greene, Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Theodore Dreiser, Miguel de Cervantes, Leo Tolstoy, and Katie Roiphe.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Hue of You 4: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Manggoes so sweet and fresh (take self home) . . .

Fresh Mango for Breakfast at Abe's Farm, Magalang, Pampanga

Fresh Mango for Breakfast at Abe’s Farm, Magalang, Pampanga:  September 2013

The colors of the walls in the restaurant were so striking:

With Alawi Canlas at Kabigting's, famous for its halo-halo:  September 2013

With Alawi Canlas at Kabigting’s, famous for its halo-halo: September 2013

The streets of any Asian city are so full of the hum and noise of traffic.  The streets are visual feasts as well.

Streets of Manila:  September 2013

Streets of Manila: September 2013

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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