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 sounded natural delivering the dialogue, but perhaps 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. How weird is it that Indignation and Animal House have a scene like this in common?)

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. From the moment her character was introduced, self knew she would mess up the hero’s life. (Yes, Hero, You Should Listen to Your Overprotective Mother!)

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!

Total disintegration would be preferable to tragic story arc (In hindsight, everything can be made to seem tragic. It’s “spin.” It’s also a cheat. That is self’s humble opinion. You can get away with it but please, not in first person)

But, Holy Cow, LOGAN LERMAN. The only other movies self has seen him in are 3:10 to Yuma and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Her main objection to him was that he looked like a girl. She won’t be saying that again, after this movie.

When the movie ended, 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, only to have it end up like this. So, all that before, that was his disembodied dead self telling us the story? Nooooo!

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.

Actually a Very Good Question

Self has been browsing movie reviews, and binge-watching Ripper Street, and tweeting with fans about it, and beginning yet another fan fiction, which she needs like a hole in the head, but this one’s irresistible, this one’s got a Really Really Dark Peeta, a Peeta who just might be a murderer! Like Jack the Ripper! . . . Sorry! Back to the reason for this post.

From Critic After Dark’s review of The Shallows (which self saw aaaaages ago, at the start of the summer — feels like a lifetime!) starring Blake Lively, whose legs are so on point self can’t even:

Then of course death crashes the party in the form of a humpback whale carcass. Clever way to account for the Great White cruising nearby (otherwise it’s a bit of a puzzler why the shark — which habituates the waters of California, Northeast United States, South Africa and Australia — is hanging around a Mexican beach) but also raises a whole other question: why forego this tasty, properly wet-aged all-you-can-eat buffet of rich blubber and tender meat for a bony surfer who would hardly make up a satisfying snack?

In answer to which self wishes she could insert a hundred “shrug” emojis!

And self  has a question of her own for reviewer Noel Vera: How does he know the carcass is that of a humpback whale? Because it literally is half gone. So there is no possible way to determine whether it really does have a humped back. Har, har, har! Sorry, self just couldn’t resist making a lame joke.

Self will close with a list of the summer 2016 movies she most enjoyed:

  • The Shallows
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Our Kind of Traitor
  • Café Society
  • Love & Friendship
  • Ghostbusters
  • Bad Moms

Oh, summer. Self can’t believe it’s almost over.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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.

Once Upon a Time in Manila

At the wedding of a good friend in Manila, ages and ages ago, self was seated at a table next to the table of the newlyweds, and found herself being introduced to members of the groom’s family. The younger sister of the groom was a lively, sparkling, intelligent and pretty girl, studying in either Harvard or MIT or any way one of the more prestigious schools in Boston, definitely not a nerd, and she was absolutely great. Self’s first thought was: “This girl would make an excellent date for one of my brothers. I’m going to set them up.”

After many, many back-and-forth messages, which took a huge chunk out of self’s limited time, the blind date was arranged. While this monumental event was being staged, self had a vague thought that the process was complicated. But she was valiant in her resolve to get her brother to go out with this wonderful girl. She would show how self-sacrificing she was! She would show what a benevolent older sister she was! She would never give up! Never!

After the date, self’s brother returned home in a terrible mood. Self means A REALLY REALLY TERRIBLE MOOD. He growled: I thought you said she was pretty.

She was! The only word self can think of to describe her is “spabilada.”

Self’s brother said: “She wore glasses. She was wearing a jumpsuit.”

The image of a jump-suited girl with glasses was truly horrible. Self thought she would die of embarrassment. Plus: All that work — for nothing! The whole situation was like Cinderella in reverse.

As Jamie Dornan’s character the serial killer in the police procedural “The Fall” would go: What? What? What?

Self can’t even.

Speaking of “The Fall” (Self knows: this is a terrible digression), Jamie Dornan makes such a good serial killer. His day job is working as a grief counselor, and it’s absolutely perfect because he can scope out the most vulnerable women, meet with them, and during the guise of counseling, get them to reveal things about themselves that he wouldn’t otherwise get to know. He also does this most outrageous thing, which self has never seen any other serial killer in movies or television do, and that is: when he is chastised for going to a woman’s home, he just mimics everything his superintendent says to him. For instance:

Superintendent: What do you think you are doing?

Serial K: What do you think you are doing?

Superintendent: Do you realize the seriousness?

Serial K: Do you realize the seriousness?

Superintendent: Why did you go to the client’s home?

Serial K: Why did you go to the client’s home?

Almost the whole way through, Serial Killer Jamie does this, and his boss can do nothing but stare. Self knows what the boss is thinking: Has this man gone absolutely bonkers?

Well, of course he has! Don’t just sit there! Do something!

But of course the boss does nothing. Because he is so confused.

Who wrote this screenplay? Self would like to shake her/his hand!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

More Fun!

Taking inspiration from this:

“. . . the bright colors, the message, the unexpectedness . . . “

— Michelle W., The Daily Post

Examples of FUN:

Self has quite the button collection. She pins them on her blazers and sweaters. Here’s one of her favorites:

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Button from the Whitney Museum Gift Shop: A Keith Haring? Not Sure.

Self read with her writers group at Lit Crawl 2015. The reading was held in Chrome, a bicycle store. It was packed:

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Memento: San Francisco Lit Crawl 2015

FINALLY:

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Too Funny: An Ed Ruscha

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Basho

You’re floating in a sea of tranquil words. You’re lost in reading Basho:

In their ecstasy of a single night
Under the moon of summer.

Nothing can be more tranquil than a Basho haiku.

And then:

  • That rugged mountain in the village of Sarashina is where the villagers in the remote past used to abandon their ageing mothers among the rocks.

Bam! It’s like a sudden blow to the head. You never see it coming.

“A Visit to Sarashina Village” is in Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, which self started reading about a week ago and which is going to be — self can feel it — the defining reading experience of the summer, if not of the entire 2016. It is a very, very thin book, but self advances about a page a day.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Café Society: Angst, But No Meltdown

Live every day like it’s your last, and one day you’ll be right.

— a character in Woody Allen’s Café Society

Why do Woody Allen’s recent movies end like that?

Why do they just seem to stop — as if the director realized he was running out of time and it would take at least an hour to untangle the mess he’s thrown his characters into but uh-oh, he doesn’t have the time or the budget so, rather than compromise with a manufactured ending, he just stops.

Sometimes, he can get away with it, but not here. No, no, no. Self refuses to accept that this ending “works.”

About the performances: Jesse Eisenberg, it’s almost a physical transformation. Is the actor really that skinny, that stooped, that — plain?

Kristen Stewart — not nearly as convincing as the California object of men’s desires. J-Law could have done this part, in her sleep. And she would have nailed it, too.

Blake Lively — her part was sooo under-written but she did her best with the little she was given.

Steve Carell — okay, you were good. So good that self hated you. Almost all the way through.

And Corey Stoll — Self knows. Corey who? But, what a performance. Scary and convincing. Watch for it.

Cinematography — aced. The settings were so beautifully framed, in almost every shot.

More later.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Fandango & Rotten Tomatoes Disagree Over “Suicide Squad”

Since self is so confused by the Rotten on Rotten Tomatoes and the 4 1/2 stars on Fandango, she goes straight to rogerebert.com.

It’s massive, messy, and noisy. And it stinks.

She notices Joel Kinnaman is in the cast. She almost forgot because of all the attention Margot Robbie was getting.

Then she feels sad because she remembers Kinnaman was with Mireille Enos in the dark detective series The Killing. And she really, really liked him there.

She heard over the grapevine that Suicide Squad advocates (Who?) are so incensed by the movie’s low rating on Rotten Tomatoes that they’re calling for the shut-down of the website.

Really?

Too funny.

Wow, is it really going to get down to that?

This is going to be fun.

Which reminds her: Aubrey Plaza is a great and witty actress but she is used so poorly in Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates that self can’t even. It’s really crass, but crass in a way that made her feel sorry for Plaza. (Anna Kendrick’s in the movie, too, but there is a little more respect shown for her character. Mebbe because she’s a bigger star?)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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