The Book of Henry Movie: What the What

If you’ve ever wondered what Naomi Watts looks like holding a high-powered rifle in her hands, this movie is for you.

If you’ve ever wondered why American child actors are so darn cute, this movie is for you.

If you’ve ever had a creepy neighbor who reminds you all the time that you need to blower your yard, this movie is for you.

If you’ve ever wondered what kind of private life a waitress in a diner has, this movie is for you.

If you’ve ever wondered about tree-houses in general — their uses in a story — this movie is for you.

If you’ve ever wondered what boy geniuses do in their spare time, this movie is for you.

If you’ve ever had cause to doubt your eleven-year-old’s stock market advice, this movie is for you.

Stay tuned.


Three Days, Three Movies

Self has been so starved for movies.

In a prevous life, she’d be in her local cine-plex every other day.

The past couple of years, though, unless she feels really driven, she’ll go months without seeing a movie.

Here are some of the ways she shows her movie geek street cred:

Oxford, UK: She gave up seeing the Ashmolean in favor of watching Captain America (In all fairness, the movie theatre was so conveniently situated: just across from Gloucester Green)

London: She walked — walked — in full summer heat, from Russell Square to Shaftesbury Avenue, simply to watch X-Men in the Odeon.

Fort Bragg, CA: She went during a lull in a storm. The movie? Kingsmen, with Colin Firth. When she came out of the movie, the wind was blowing flat out. Self thought she was going to be swept into the ocean.

Now, in the past four days, she has seen three movies:

  • Band Aid
  • Beatriz at Dinner
  • Wonder Woman

Sorry to say, she nearly fell asleep during the action sequences at the end of Wonder Woman. But woke right up again when she saw, in the closing credits, the name of her friend’s daughter:


Of the movies she’s seen so far this summer, her favorite would be Beatriz at Dinner. For Connie Britton and John Lithgow’s performances.

Today, she’s going to see The Book of Henry, even though it hasn’t gotten good reviews. She loves Naomi Watts, even though she’s been so under-used by Hollywood lately.

A long time ago, self met a Mills College student at one of her San Francisco readings. Chatting with the young woman after the reading, the student revealed she made money by working part-time as an exotic dancer. And self happened to mention how much she liked Naomi Watts (What’s the connection to exotic dancing? Nothing), and the young woman said even though Watts had turned 40, if the young woman were a man, she’d definitely consider her hot.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned. Ten Best Films of 2014

Self has her own list. The only overlap with the list below is Birdman.

She’s excited to see Foxcatcher. (Maybe today).

Without further ado, here are the 10 best movies of 2014, selected by the collective who contribute reviews to

  1. Two Days, One Night (The movie that asks:  Would you give up a much-needed and well-deserved year-end bonus to save the job of a co-worker?)
  2. Selma (Spurred by the Birmingham church bombing, which killed four little girls)
  3. The Immigrant (James Gray confirms his place as one of the great cinematic poets of New York City)
  4. Birdman * (And not just because of Keaton, but because of the whole ensemble listed here: Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan, and Emma Stone)
  5. Only Lovers Left Alive (A vampire love story starring — slow clap here — Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton)
  6. Ida (Two Polish women — a study in contrasts — decide to find the answer to a personal mystery: what happened to the parents of one of them during the Holocaust?)
  7. The Grand Budapest Hotel (So meta. Self isn’t sure about this choice)
  8. Boyhood (Meta but in a different way. Elias Coltrane, in self’s humble opinion, stole the show)
  9. Inherent Vice (Stoner detective in fictional California beach town — supposedly based on a Thomas Pynchon novel)
  10. Under the Skin (Scarjo stars as “an alien prowling around Glasgow, Scotland, preying on unsuspecting men.” Perfect casting there. Self saw a similar movie, years and years ago, Rabid)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Letterman Last Night (Friday, 21 December 2012)

Naomi Watts was the guest on Letterman last night.  The musical number was by Darlene Love.  When Love began belting it out, self almost felt like getting up and daaancing!

It was so very nice to see Naomi Watts.  Self loves her.  Looooves her.  She loved her in King Kong, and she loved her in The Painted Veil.  She also loved her in The Ring, even though self kept her eyes closed for about a third of that movie.

So, Watts was on Letterman last night, and she looked grreat.  Her hair was long and straight (like it usually is), her skin looked fantastic, and she was wearing the greatest shoes!  Granted, most of the time the camera didn’t show her shoes.  But when she was walking to her seat, she did have the cutest shoes.

Her gold cuff bracelet were pretty fab, too.

This morning, self left a message with son.  He and Jennie are driving to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to spend Christmas with Jennie’s family.  When son called back, he said that they were already in Phoenix.  “Be careful!” self kept repeating.  “Be careful, so many loonies out there!”  She was thinking of Newtown.  She’s pretty anxious right now.  Eeek!  The Man even had a (rare) nightmare last night.  Self had to turn on the light.  He was so agitated.

Then she asked son which movies he’d want to see when he comes up, 2nd of January.  “Did you want to see Guilt Trip?” she asked hopefully.  “No,” son said.  He sounded most definite.  He said he and Jennie had already decided they would see Les Miserables together, on Christmas Day.  And they’d already seen Silver Linings Playbook.

“Didn’t you just love it?” self burst out.  “That Jennifer Lawrence is such a cutie pie!  She got nominated for a Golden Globe!”

“Yes,” son enthused.  “And so did the movie!”

Awww, it was just the cutest film.  Self will root for it come Oscar time.

Jennifer Lawrence and Naomi Watts are self’s two most favorite actresses (Except she doesn’t like Jennifer in Hunger Games.  Jennifer should, in self’s humble opinion, just leave those action roles behind.  Drama and/or comedy are really her forte).

And self also likes Keira Knightley.  She wants to see Anna Karenina (only it is sad and will probably make her cry).

Others whose movies never (or almost never) misses:  Amy Adams, Elizabeth Banks, Kate Beckinsale, Emily Blunt.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Some Things You Might Not Know About Self

  • She once, years ago, sat next to Kaui Hart Hemmings (author of the book on which Alexander Payne’s The Descendants was based) on a plane returning from an AWP Conference.
  • There is a book called Hello My Big Big Honey on self’s desk, next to her computer.
  • She just changed her password.
  • She can watch back-to-back airings of Bourne movies on cable TV.
  • She used to get very airsick.
  • She has a subscription to Condé Nast’s Traveler magazine.  And loves reading Vanity Fair.
  • She has tickets to the Stanford vs. Oregon State men’s basketball game.
  • She once tried to join a gym.  She let her membership expire after three months.
  • Her washing machine is, at this moment, filled to the brim with the remnants of an exploded goose down pillow.
  • Her house hasn’t been painted in 20 years.
  • She hasn’t mopped her kitchen floor in xx number of weeks.
  • She has just eaten a hard-boiled egg (supper).
  • Actors she likes:  Matt Damon, Colin Firth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Tommy Lee Jones, Edward Norton, Jeremy Renner, Sam Worthington
  • Actresses she likes:  Kate Beckinsale, Moon Bloodgood, Juliana Margulies, Helen Mirren, Carey Mulligan, Rosamund Pike, Meryl Streep, Mia Wasikowska, Naomi Watts
  • Her favorite movie of 2011 was “Mission Impossible:  Ghost Protocol” (Alas!  Too true!)  A runner-up might be “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
  • She has bought three Apple products in the past few months.
  • She likes reading biographies, memoirs, and war histories more than she enjoys reading fiction.
  • She skimmed through Crime and Punishment — twice.
  • She has read Tacitus.
  • She has written a fantastic story about pig babies that she is trying strenuously to place.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Alas, Poor Naomi!

Naomi Watts doesn’t seem to have any luck at all.

First, no one seemed to recognize how good she was in Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and she was not nominated for an Oscar.  Hey, being a “damsel in distress” involves a lot more than just screaming!  (Comparing two performances of the same role —  Jessica Lange’s and Naomi Watts’ —  self never got into Jessica’s because it seemed so mannered; Naomi’s rendition was much, much more natural.)

Last year, self watched her give two great performances:  As an independent woman in Rodrigo Garcia’s Mother and Child (playing the daughter of Annette Bening, who, unlike Naomi, was recognized); and playing the frustrated daughter of a flaky Mom in Woody’s You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger. While her BFF, Nicole Kidman, has only to hiccup and she gets recognized with an Oscar nomination (Kidman was nominated last year for her role in Rabbit Hole which, granted, was a very good movie, but so was Mother and Child.  So was You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger), Naomi Watts has only been nominated once (for 21 Grams, and that was a loooong time ago).

Now that Woody’s new movie, Midnight in Paris, is such a hit, critics invariably preface their reviews with the statement:

Compared to last year’s (disastrous/wan) You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger which was one of the worst movies of 2010 …

Hold on, people!  You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger was definitely NOT the worst movie of 2010.  Self guarantees:  critics who slam YWMATDS have not seen Skyline.  Or that rom-com with Jen that was a) not romantic; and b) not even funny.  Something called The Switch, which not even Jason Bateman could save.

And, too, it is NOT the worst Woody Allen movie, for that goes to —  oh, never mind.

Anyhoo, self would just like to say that she enjoyed You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger.  And she loves Naomi.  This actress has never once given a performance in which she can be accused of “phoning it in.” Her performance in Mother and Child was just shattering.  And as for You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger, self could have clobbered Woody for paying much more attention to the Freida Pinto part than to Naomi’s.

And now that self has gotten THAT off her chest, she would just like to say that “Super 8” is a really good movie (Very Spielberg-ian.  Also, self is just dying to reference a previous movie with Samuel L. Jackson, that has definite echoes in “Super 8,” but that would mean issuing a Spoiler Alert.  And self doesn’t want to do that.  At least not yet.  At least not right now).

Hubby chose to watch “Super 8” over self’s choice, “13 Assassins,” and self is glad she gave in and went along.  For one thing, it’s the first J. J. Abrams movie she’s seen since Star Trek.  And, secondly, Elle Fanning is in it.  And, thirdly, that cute guy who plays the coach in “Friday Night Lights” is in it.  And lastly the star of the movie, a young boy, is first-rate.  Self thinks that boy has a great career ahead of him.

So, “Super 8” brings to three the number of good movies self has watched in a row.  Let’s hope this streak lasts, for as long as possible.

Now, back to the real reason self began this post:

Big Congratulations to Old Dominion University’s Princess Perry, who was a finalist in the Bellingham Review 2010 Literary Contest.  Self did not place, alas, but at least she knows someone who did!

This would also be a good time to announce that a former UCLA Extension writing student, Chris Bloom, received an Honorable Mention in the most recently concluded Glimmer Train contest —  and wow, that is quite an achievement!  Congratulations, Chris!  Her story went up against a multitude of others, and so what if it didn’t win, just getting “Honorable Mention” is in itself an achievement.

And congratulations must also go to Laura Hoopes, yet another of self’s UCLA Extension writing students, who has her own blog, called West Coast Writers, and a story in the recently published anthology Mixed Blessings and Other Stories (Absolutely love that title!).  This was a story that Laura had put up for workshop, a story that self liked exceedingly.  Self is going to do a cut and paste of the comment Laura left on this blog, a few weeks ago.

And, finally, self cannot close without mentioning that a few years ago, Dave Johnson, yet another UCLA Extension writing student, e-mailed to let self know that a story she had liked so much when she first read it, all those years ago, had won a contest, judged by Yann Martel (author of one of self’s favorite novels, Life of Pi).  Dave sent out that story for fully three years before winning the contest.  He was almost on the point of giving up and had even thought:  “That teacher is just full of it!”  Or something to that effect.

You see, self really has a nose for these things.  When she says something is good, 9 times out of 10, she is right.  And the student succeeds in getting it placed.

Perhaps self should become a literary agent?  Bet she’d be good at it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

On a Roll

Self is kind of on a roll, in terms of movie-watching, that is.

While Dearest Mum was still in the area, and feeling sorely in need of some R & R, self went to see Patricia Clarkson in “Cairo Time,” which was showing at the Menlo Park Guild.  Boy, did she love it!  Of course it helped immeasurably that Clarkson’s leading man, the tall and soulful Alexander Siddig, is ridiculously good-looking.

Then self decided to see Naomi Watts in Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger.”  Self would not consider this movie one of Allen’s better efforts, but it is the first time (at least, to self’s knowledge) that he’s used Naomi Watts, so good for you, Woody, for finally finding a way to use the talents of the lovely Naomi.

Then, yesterday, self hot-footed it to the downtown Redwood City Century 20 and caught “The Social Network.”  That was a very, very entertaining movie.  First of all, it almost persuaded self that she belongs in the ranks of the cool because:  a)  She and hubby both graduated from Stanford, and Stanford is presented in the movie as “cool;” and b)  She spends quite a bit of time tooling around Palo Alto, which in “The Social Network” is presented as the site for budding entrepreneurs and much bong-smoking activity.  Not to mention serving as the home base for that revolutionary company, Facebook.

This afternoon, while hubby is engrossed with the Notre Dame/Pittsburgh football game (And self still can’t believe the Giants lost Game 2 last night —  GAAAAH!!), self decides to examine her movie choices.  Oops, she just missed the first screening of “Mao’s Last Dancer,” at the Aquarius!  And she only has 10 minutes in which to get to Palo Alto to catch the first screening of “Never Let Me Go”!  And “Waiting for Superman” has already started, at Palo Alto Square!

Oh, well.  She might as well spend the rest of the afternoon gardening.  Or reading reviews of Tess Uriza Holthe’s 2008 story collection, The Five-Forty-Five to Cannes (sounds interesting; she might order it)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Naomi Watts, Thou Shalt Not Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger

Self had quite an interesting afternoon, dear blog readers.  Self wended her way to Menlo Park, and there in the theater where only last week she had watched Patricia Clarkson in “Cairo Time” (Four stars!), she watched another of her favorite actresses, Naomi Watts, in Woody Allen’s latest, “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger.”

In this movie, Allen seemed to be channeling Neil La Butte, so acrid was the movie’s tone (Self fondly remembers Woody Allen’s Ingmar Bergman phase.  Then he managed to do the clever mystery thing without channeling Hitchcock, and now self doesn’t know what phase he is in, exactly) There was a slovenly writer named Josh Brolin who is pushed to the very brink of desperation (despite being married to long-suffering Naomi Watts) by the niggling conviction that he has no talent.  There is a beautiful woman across the way, played by an absolutely radiant Freida Pinto (of “Slumdog Millionaire”).  There was also Antonio Banderas sporting a Roman haircut and looking not bad for his age.

The last Woody Allen movie self liked was “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” which introduced Rebecca Hall to the world (Self liked Hall’s character so much better than Scar-Jo’s, and was so happy she got to partake of the carnal delights of Javier Bardem!).

*   Spoiler Alert!   *

In this one, self loved the characters (particularly Anthony Hopkins, as a millionaire hell-bent on recapturing his youth), and she always loves Naomi Watts, in whatever role she plays.  Watts plays almost saintly, but does a 180-degree turn in her very last scene.  In the meantime, her husband (played by Josh Brolin) successfully negotiates the entire movie while managing to avoid mentioning his wife’s name, not even once.  He does play the narcissistic writer well:  one of self’s favorite scenes in the movie has Brolin charging out of his apartment with his shirt unbuttoned, exposing a fantastic beer belly, and then seeing beautiful Ms. Pinto on the sidewalk with her very blonde, slim English boyfriend.

Self could not believe the movie ended without bringing closure to any of the characters, especially since Watts’ last scene was so fiery.  Well, perhaps one of the characters did find closure of sorts:  Naomi Watts’ mother, who alone among all the characters (with perhaps the exception of Ms. Pinto’s) seems to be completely un-troubled by financial constraints of any sort.  Life just isn’t fair.  Neither is this movie.  When self was presented with the black screen, she sat unmoving in her seat for a couple of moments, completely stunned and aching to know:  What happens to Sally?  What happens to Sally?  What in the heck happens to Sally?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Brain Cloud, 4th Thursday of July (2010): Clive, First San Carlos Farmers Market in AGES, No Pinkberry

8:27 pm, hubby’s just arrived home.

Self has left dinner (fried chicken and fresh corn) on the counter. She’s watching flat screen HDTV: there’s yummy-licious Clive Owen, in something called “The International” which was not, unfortunately, a very good movie, but did co-star Naomi Watts, and has the Guggenheim Museum in a very important starring role. Also, it has those very sexy-looking European bad guys. She loves it when Clive snarls at his partner (who’s been shot): “Don’t you fucking die!”

Let’s see: what happened today?

Self went to the San Carlos Farmers Market, the first time in perhaps two months. She bought a slab of ahi tuna, some really tender green beans, and two different kinds of chutney: green cilantro chutney and orange mango chutney. Apparently, they’ve changed their minds about allowing dogs there.

Self also made it back to the Hoover Archives, but this time decided to forgo Pinkberry on her way home.

She wrote a little — maybe two pages?

She contemplated joining a short story contest, decided to save her $20.

A pretty un-exciting day, but somehow strangely satisfying.

Stay tuned.

“Say Hi to Everybody”

Above quote was in the Annette Bening/Naomi Watts/Samuel L. Jackson movie that self saw at Palo Alto Square a few months ago.  The movie was “Mother and Child,” and it vanished in a jiffy.  But self will not soon forget the performances, particularly Naomi Watts’, as a ferociously ambitious woman whose psychic scars (She was adopted?  Does that qualify as a psychic scar?) lead her to make of all sexual partners mincemeat.

After one particular egregious affair (with her married next-door neighbor, whose wife is expecting their first child), she says, as the man gets up to leave:  “Say hi to everybody,” in a small, surprisingly child-like voice.  Self doesn’t know what it is about this actress, but her vulnerability shines in every role, even one as unlikable as this one.

Why is self thinking of Naomi Watts this morning, when “Ninja Assassin,” her next Netflix movie, is in the DVD player, and son is asleep in his room (having crawled in at 4 a.m.?)  Self just got through about three hours of writing.  She didn’t add a single page to any of her stories, even after spending all that time at her computer.  She really is astonished:  it felt like she’d written at least 10 pages worth of prose.  But, apparently, everything she wrote filled in these huge blank spaces on her various narratives.  Now those narratives look more “textured”  —  that is, there are not as many huge, gaping spaces.  But neither did her page count budge, not one inch.

To which, self can only respond:   AAARRRGGGH!!!!

What is the point of being a writer when you make no money, your neck aches all the time, and you can spend all morning at your desk, and you still end up with the same number of pages you had before you spent the morning at your laptop?  Why, God, why?

Self realizes she is being overly dramatic.  Lots of writers suffer similar frustrations, she is sure.  Now would be a good time for self to get some errands done, before son wakes up.  Because even if all she does is spend 10 minutes with son today (He is always in a rush to meet some friend or other, even when he visits home), she will feel the day has been an unqualified success!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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