Poetry Sunday: Miguel Hernandez’s A Man-Eating Knife

A few days ago, self went to downtown Palo Alto, to Landmark Aquarius on Emerson, to watch Pedro Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers. Penelope Cruz is excellent as always. A gamine young actress named Milena Smit is a real scene-stealer.

In honor of the film’s subject, she’s quoting from Miguel Hernandez’s A Man-Eating Knife (in a translation by Don Share)

Where can I be
that I will not find loss?
Your destiny is the beach,
my calling is the sea.

Miguel Hernandez died in a Spanish prison at the age of thirty-one. Below, an excerpt from Octavio Paz’s Remember That Voice, written in memory of Hernandez from Mexico City, November 1942. The translation is by Eliot Weinberger.

Miguel Hernandez has died in prison in the village where he was born. He has died alone in a hostile Spain, the enemy of a Spain where he spent his youth, the antagonist of a Spain that rang out with his generosity. Let others curse his torturers, let others study and analyze his poetry. I want to remember him as he was.

I first saw him in 1937, singing Spanish folk songs. He had a deep voice, somewhat ragged, somewhat like an innocent animal: he sounded like the countryside, like a low echo in the valleys, like a stone falling into a ravine.

Past Squares 14: CLOSED FOR GOOD

Self has visited Paris three times. The second and third times, she stayed in the seventeenth arrondissement, close to the Arc de Triomphe. Around the corner from her, on the Avenue Mac Mahon, was a fabulous movie theatre, which was perfect because self is a movie aficionado and she ended up watching movie after movie there (French, with English subtitles) Much to her dismay/grief, she discovered recently that it had closed.

Today, for Past Squares, she wants to commemorate this fabulous place, Cinema Mac Mahon. Here’s a link to the theatre’s backstory. It “opened its doors in 1938”! She took these pictures in May 2017:

More of That Minimalist Esthetic in Ojai

From the WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge prompt for the week (which, alas, self only decided to read after she’d already selected this particular trio of photographs):

Minimalist photography is characterized by a large portion of negative space, a fairly monochromatic color palette . . .

Bedding, Motel Room, Ojai

Bedding, Motel Room, Ojai

Motel Room Curtains

Motel Room Curtains

The Motel Room Esthetic, Rule # 1:  ALWAYS put a jacuzzi next to the bed.

The Motel Room Esthetic, Rule # 1: ALWAYS put a jacuzzi next to the bed.

Self was able to catch four movies at the 15th Annual Ojai Film Festival. And she even got to sit in on the Q & A with the directors of two of the films, Bis Gleich and Care.

She watched a really cool science fiction animated short called Abiogenesis.  The art was beautiful.

There was a movie from Spain (Democracia) she really wished she could have seen. And a Swedish film about space travel (Into the Silent Sea) that sounded a lot like Gravity only with a man playing the Sandra Bullock role. And a movie about “one of the first same-sex couples in the world to be legally married,” a Filipino-American and an Australian (Limited Partnership).

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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.





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 »

Possibly A Site For Future Wanderings

Half of the time —  no, make that 75 % of the time —  self lives in the future.

That future is not always a bright and rosy picture.

But, self reflects, it is better to have a future, any future, rather than the alternative.  Isn’t that so, dear blog readers?

This morning, self is in a reflective mood, having capped off a wonderful weekend of movies:  three from CAAMFest and one in Palo Alto’s Aquarius (“Emperor” —  five stars!  And what a performance by Matthew Fox!)

For some reason, one of the things she took away from the festival was a mention of a bed-and-breakfast in Vigan.

Self has never been to Vigan, never.  Not even once.  Though she knows her sister’s kids were taken there, one summer several years ago.

She decides she might as well try going on her own.  She looks up the inn, and came up with this.

What is the meaning, self wonders, of the houses in garish blue and yellow paint?  Perhaps blue and yellow signify good luck?  Or perhaps those are the province’s national colors?  Or perhaps people just think blue and yellow are cool?

Which reminds self of the time the Colonel took her from Bir to Amritsar.  The car played only Elvis music because Pratibha, the Colonel’s wife, is a great aficionado of Elvis songs.  So we entered Punjab (to the tune of “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree”) and there, for the first time in India, self saw turbans.  Many, many turbans.  It was amazing, there was no warning that we had left Himachal Pradesh.  There were simply, suddenly, everywhere, men in turbans.  And not just any turbans.  Turbans in all colors of the rainbow:  pink, yellow, green, you name it.  And some of these turbans had printed designs, like flowers and stripes.  Self asked the Colonel whether the colors had any significance, and the Colonel replied, “It is a matter of personal taste.  Some people like the color yellow, others like the color pink, and so on.”


How fabulous!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Watching “Amour” on a Beautiful, Spring-Like Day

It was such a bee-yoo-ti-ful day!

The sun was shining, the birds were swooping around the trees . . .

And, of all things, self decided to go see Amour.

Nothing against the actors, who were fabulous. Especially Emmanuelle Riva. What an expressive face, and what a beautiful body the woman has! She doesn’t look 82.

Isabelle Huppert has morphed from her younger sex-pot days to a thin actress whose nerve endings seem on high-intensity, like a car’s headlights on a foggy evening. Self cannot tell you how much she set self’s teeth on edge, sitting there and demanding that her incapacitated mother work harder to enunciate.

Her mouth, or maybe just her whole lower jaw, reminds self so much of Anna Paquin. Now, that’s a highly irrelevant thought. It’s just that self is so excited she finally identified who Isabelle Huppert reminded her of. It took her hours to realize it was Paquin. She was sitting there, near the front of the theater, thinking the actress Huppert reminded her of was Claire Danes. But no, no, it was Paquin.

Throughout the movie, Huppert’s attire was jeans and a blazer. The blazer was navy and tapered, the better to show off Huppert’s thin, narrow, exemplary back. Self absolutely loved the look (Self! Get a grip! Why are you going on and on about Huppert’s blazer? You are supposed to be discussing this excruciating masterpiece! And reflecting on how, in a few years, you too may be in the position Emmanuelle Riva was in, reduced to uttering one word, over and over: “Hurts! Hurts!”)

At some point during the proceedings, self felt a maddening desire for a cupcake. Life’s too short, self was thinking. What am I doing in this dark theater on such a beautiful day? Perhaps I can drop by Sephora and try on a new lip gloss?

Self has a confession to make: she couldn’t finish the movie! Yes, she walked out! And because she had the bad judgment to sit in one of the front rows, the whole theater saw her walk out! (Self also happened to notice that practically everyone else in the audience was a senior. Wow! What courage! To sit through two hours of watching a beautiful woman’s physical disintegration! While undoubtedly undergoing your own physical disintegration! But that’s what’s so great about Americans — they have nerve! Remember when you watched United 93? How everyone sat there, patiently groaning? Because the plane’s final descent featured the Mother of All Shaky Cams? And let’s not forget the opening minutes of Cloverfield . . .  She watched it with son in a cavernous theater in Arroyo Grande, he was a sophomore, the entire theater was full of impetuous, running feet, whispers, giggles in the dark, and one plaintive voice in the back going, ” — the fuck is this?”)

Afterwards, at home, while The Man was watching Iowa State vs. some other team, you kept saying, “Will you euthanize me when the time comes? I’d do the same for you . . . ”

And The Man replied, “OK, OK, you want to be euthanized. Do you mind, I don’t want to think about that right now. I’m watching a game . . . ”

Self should mention that before landing on the college basketball game, self ordered The Man to hunt up what was showing on HBO-HD. And all he found was a Beyoncé concert. Which then gave self cause to wonder if she had done the right thing by signing up for a year of HBO …

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“The Raid: Redemption” — Definitely Five Stars!

Through sheer happenstance, today self was reading Eric D. Snider’s review of “The Lucky One” when she developed the impulse to look up all his “D” reviews.  She then decided to look up all his “B+” movies, which she then posted.  So, when the husband was in his next bad mood, self was ready with a plan of action, which involved looking at screening times for all the movies showing in her locality, which ultimately led to her to discover that one of Eric D. Snider’s “B+” movies, “The Raid:  Redemption,” was actually showing in the Century 20 of Redwood City, which practically knocked her for a loop, she didn’t believe at first the evidence of her own eyes, because:  a) The movie was from Indonesia, who ever heard of a movie from Indonesia showing in a Century 20??!! and b) Self had never heard of it until she read Eric D. Snider’s blog this afternoon.

But, faster than the husband could say “tiddleywinks,” self took off, and caught the movie just as the opening credits began to roll.   And about halfway through the movie —  which is about 90 minutes long —  self made the amazing discovery that:

The lead reminded her a lot of Barry Pepper!

Remember the guy in “Saving Private Ryan,” the one who plays the sharpshooter?  That’s Barry Pepper!

The actors even had the same kind of jug ears!

Of course, the guy in this Indonesian movie had black hair, and a swarthier complexion, but they had the same high cheekbones, the same sort of upside-down-triangle sort of face, and even the same kind of intensity.

Moreover, the Indonesian actor proves to be absolutely wicked with his fists.  Move over, Jet Li!  There’s a new action star on the horizon, and he’s Indonesian!  His name is Iko Uwais, which is thankfully not as long a name as it could be:  self has taught some students from Indonesia with names that were at least three times as long!


Not only does this guy (he plays a member of a SWAT police team) take out approximately 100 bad guys in a 15-floor tenement building, he does it all for the sake of his pregnant wife, who is due to deliver A BOY (!!) within two months.  Self cannot describe the excitement with which she watched him drag a wounded comrade down a hallway absolutely crammed with bad guys (All the bad guys were wearing the standard Asian bad-guy attire:  nondescript T-shirts, baggy pants, a whole arsenal of guns and/or machetes —  or what we Filipinos refer to as bolos).  Self almost fainted, until she watched this young guy let loose with the whirling fists.  Afterwards, the hallway was littered with bodies —  well, actually, corpses.  The young man manages to get his wounded comrade to safety, by knocking on the door of perhaps the only apartment in the entire building whose inhabitant, a nerd-y type wearing glasses (most likely an engineer), is the only one brave enough to open his door to the police!

This movie was heck-of-exciting.  Self was under the impression she was the only female in the (sparse) audience, but when she stood up to go, there was a young woman (in a flowery print dress) following right behind her —  and, like self, unaccompanied.

The world is just full of surprises!

CAVEAT:  The movie earns every bit of its “R” rating.  It is gruesome, gruesome, gruesome.  Self was so glad she was watching it by herself, so she wouldn’t have to listen to the husband groan.  (She left him at home watching “Aliens.”  For some reason, the husband doesn’t find “Alien” or “Predator” levels of gruesome at all hard to take.  She is 100% sure, though, that he would be moaning all through “The Raid:  Redemption”)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Saw “Biutiful,” Cried Buckets

See, it doesn’t work if Javier Bardem plays a hunk.  No!  He has to play a long-suffering sort, someone who is mystifyingly attached to a woman with an ugly nose, who mis-treats him in every possible way.  That is the Javier Bardem we all know and love!  (And, also, it helps to see him in a movie with sub-titles, as one can forget about his voice and simply focus on that physique; and those hooded eyes; and that shambling air.  And you, too, like self, can ask:  why why why does no woman around him seem to notice his hot-ness?  Well, that is what you call “suspension of disbelief.”  A really gigantic suspension of disbelief!)

Self is quite the Iñarritu newbie, as she can’t remember the last movie she’s seen him direct (might have been over a decade ago).  By the last half hour, though, self was simultaneously appalled and grieving, and she kept clutching her hair, and wiping her cheeks, and trying not to sob in such an obvious manner, which caused her to make audible gulps …  Woman seated next to self was also weeping, self could tell because of the way she kept making surreptitious movements with her hands across her cheeks.  As if self hasn’t seen this sort of behavior enacted hundreds of times in her long, long movie-going life!

Oh, Americans!  No use pretending our tear ducts are not getting a full work-out in this movie!

Self also thought she would faint when she saw the people on the ceiling.

Then, self was suddenly seized with a mad impulse to return to Tel Aviv, city of Dear Departed Ying’s last couple of months.  She was an angel, self saw her when she was five months from dying.  In April she still had energy and vitality.  But at the end of a long day, she waited for self with hungry eyes and listened avidly as self made up hilarious tales of her mis-adventures all around the city. (But self’s attachment to Tel Aviv, and to Ying, was no joke.  She loved the city from the start, from the first moment.  And she also loved Ying and still misses her terribly.  She said as much to Dearest Mum, on her last night in Manila, only a few weeks ago)

And in fact, as self left the theater — walking rather quickly, because there was a sign posted by the ticket clerk’s station saying that movie-goers should not park in the slots reserved for xxxx law firm, and that the tow warning was in effect 24/7 (Self wishes she had seen the warning before she parked, but of course that was impossible, as she would have had to go all the way inside the theater lobby before she saw it.  And after she saw the sign, she proceeded to watch the movie, thinking she might run out and check on her car from time to time.  But after the movie began, self didn’t feel like missing even a few minutes of this two-hour and forty-five minute weep-athon:  yes, even with the threat of having her car towed hanging like the Sword of Damocles over her head!) —  she began to formulate a wild plan.

Even before she’d arrived at her car, self had grabbed her cell phone and begun text-ing niece G:  “Want to come with me to Tel Aviv?”  Then she stopped.  Self, are you forgetting that you promised hubby, you crossed your heart and said you hoped to die, but you would only leave the country one more time this year, and that wouldn’t be until a long time from now, possibly just before Christmas?  Since when have you turned into such a dissembler ??!!

And by the way, what makes you think niece G would enjoy going to Tel Aviv with you ???  As opposed to someone her own age, with loads more energy?

After self arrived home, she blithely informed hubby (She was so blithe, when only a short while earlier, anyone looking at her would have thought she was in the depths of despair) that he was “lucky” he hadn’t accompanied her to see the movie:  it was “so depressing,” Javier Bardem’s character had cancer, etc etc etc.

Which brings self once again to the topic of Javier Bardem’s appeal:  In “The Sea Inside,” he played a man who was completely paralyzed, but whose inner life was absolutely rich and compelling.  This was a movie that really mined, to the fullest extent possible, the contrast between Bardem’s hunky inert body and the true hunkiness of his inner spirit, and, and —

The phone rings and —  my Lord!  It is son!  It’s been so long, self almost forgot what his voice sounded like!

Her first question:  When is Amanda’s birthday?

March 26, he says.  Great!  Thankfully, it is ahead and not before, and self already knows just what to get Amanda:  In fact, she saw it just yesterday afternoon, in the Emily Joubert store in Woodside.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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