Still Musing About “Midnight In Paris”

Yesterday afternoon, self was determined to get to Hoover Archives  —  garden, sweltering heat, and upcoming Stanford commencement (meaning:  no parking anywhere within one mile) be damned.

But she only got as far as The Café in the Arrillaga Alumni Center, because once she got to thinking about Rick’s Ice Cream . . .

My bad, OK?  My bad!  Self sat on a stool and ate a scoop of Swiss Mocha (which tasted just like chocolate:  where’s the mocha?) and watched as crowds of proud parents strolled through the heat …

Then she went home.

Did self ever impart to dear blog readers how long the lines to “Midnight in Paris” have been?  Self passes the Menlo Guild every day, on her way to Stanford.  Yesterday, Thursday, there were people lining up already at 3 p.m., and the next screening wasn’t until 4 p.m.  In fact, a local restaurant has been making this pitch:  If you see “Midnight in Paris” at the Guild, you are entitled to a free glass of wine at Bistro Vida afterwards.  You just have to walk to Santa Cruz Avenue, where the restaurant is located, and that’s not very far away at all.

Self is determined to see “Midnight in Paris” again, just not right away.  Anyway, she’s sure the movie will be around for at least a couple more weeks.  Congratulations, Woody!

Today, it suddenly occurred to self that “Midnight in Paris” is, almost note for note, a Cinderella story.

SPOILER ALERT!  SPOILER ALERT!

With Owen Wilson playing the Cinderella role (much as Edward Norton did in “The Painted Veil,” which is a very different kind of movie —  Self!  There you go again!  Can you not refrain from making these utterly meaningless and rambling digressions?), and the Evil Stepmother and Stepsisters played by troglodytes!  Oh, self didn’t really mean that the Rachel McAdams character and her parents are troglodytes.  Only:  YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING, THROWING OWEN WILSON OVER FOR MICHAEL SHEEN!  SHEEN’S FULL BEARD IS ABSOLUTELY NO MATCH FOR THE BUTTERSCOTCH STALLION’S SHAGGY MANE!

The only thing that self found a wee bit disconcerting about Owen Wilson’s performance is that he sometimes purses his lips.  If it had just been a few seconds, self would let it go.  It occurs in the scene when Wilson is seated on a bench with Carla Bruni-Sarkozy (otherwise known as the First Lady of France) playing The World’s Most Accommodating Tour Guide.  Anyhoo, Owen purses his lips, not in her direction, but in a far-off direction, where presumably Marion Cotillard awaits.  Self suddenly begins to wonder, Why, Owen, why?  Are you perhaps morphing into one of those helpful Filipinos who, when asked for directions, simply put their lips together and pout?  Filipinos can pout in four directions, didn’t you know?  If there was ever a “pursing of the lips” contest, a Filipino would win, no question.  The pursing means you don’t ever have to do anything as tiring as speaking to an absolute stranger.  Tourists have no status unless you’re European, male, and have cash crawling out of your wallet.  Self knows this because she herself has been a tourist in the Philippines, many times.  But that was before she discovered she could hide out in Bacolod.  Where she is not a tourist —  simply an eccentric writer.

Okey dokey, where were we?

Oh yes, the Cinderella parallel.  You see, a stagecoach comes along at midnight —  No, self no!  That is not a stagecoach that picks up forlorn Owen Wilson as he reclines on some steps in the most deserted alley in all of Paris.  That is a certified boxy French car!  With elegant people inside!  Who drink flutes of champagne!  Who take our hero with them to the most fabulous par-tay!

But Wilson can only access this world at midnight.  For in the daytime, it’s back to cinders-and-ash.  Oops, no, what self really means is:  it’s back to shopping on the Faubourg du Saint Honoré, with that pair of troglodytes (McAdams and Sheen), and they are in hell —  Oops no, what self means is:  They are in a museum.  Standing in front of a Picasso.  Which really is like hell when you have someone like the Michael Sheen character playing tour guide.

If self gets any more thoughts about this movie later today, she will impart them.

In the meanwhile, stay tuned.

Memorable Woody Allen Actresses

The following list was inspired by Moviefone’s “15 Most Memorable Actresses From Woody Allen Movies”.

(Self, can you not stop blogging, for even just a moment?  What’s come over you?  Not to worry, dear blog readers.  Self will not be able to post at all tomorrow, for she’s going to spend the entire morning in the Hoover Archives, reading the diary of James Halsema.  And then she’s driving aunt to the doctor, and then she’s having ol’ Bella groomed, and then she’s watering, and then she’s cooking, and that’s it.  KLONK!!)

Quotes of the (Most Fabulous, So Far in 2011) Wednesday

Self had Rick’s Cookie Dough Ice Cream!  At The Café in the Arrillaga Alumni Center, after the Feminist Studies Honors Presentation at Stanford!  (She still doesn’t think it’s as fabulous as Gelato Classico’s Lychee, however it is at least $2 cheaper for a small scoop)

Anyhoo, it was a most intelligent afternoon.  Self was in time to catch the last half of the Honors Presentations, and quite a diverse group it was:  There was a young woman who presented on feminist writing from Saudi Arabia, and another who talked about three generations of women ranchers in Wyoming.  There was a young woman who spoke about finding inspiration in Edward Hopper paintings while on Study Abroad in Italy, and another who spoke about being inspired by her two months working at an Iraqi refugee camp in Jordan.  There was yet another young woman who spoke about being inspired by Alice Munro’s The View From Castle Rock, and who had written a novella called, amusingly, The Budget.  All of the young women, it turned out, were from a class self had visited several years ago, at the invitation of Professor Valerie Miner.

Self doesn’t recall which of the young women said this, but it struck her as being so true:

Narrative creates us, as it is being created.

The last young woman to read, the one who was writing a novella, was a very humorous writer.  Here’s a quote from her novella:

Aunt Rita meant well and only came across as heartless because she had no tact.

BWAH.  HA.  HA.  HA!

And self thought the above only applied to Filipinos.

The young woman named her novella The Budget : the plot revolved around a cycle of letters between friends which eventually grows into a huge archive of personal memory.  When any of the women’s husbands asked what the women were so busy with, they replied:  “The budget.”

That young woman has tremendous perspicacity, self thinks.

The young woman who was writing short stories about the Iraqi refugee camp was blonde.  She talked of showing her stories to a friend who was from Jordan (or was it Saudi Arabia?).  The young man was from a rich family.  He asked her what gave her the right, what made her think she could appropriate these stories, these personal narratives that didn’t even belong to her.  Self thought it was very brave of that student to tell about this conversation, which must have been hurtful.  The young woman explained that she had “grown up in an America steeped with the consciousness of our relationship with the Middle East.” (Self put the young woman at about 22 years of age.  So, yes, she would still have been in primary school when 9/11 occurred)   The young woman said she learned, from the refugees, that “waiting is not a paralysis:  it is a reckoning.”

So, after that fabulous afternoon, self swung by the Menlo Park Library and checked out a copy of Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth.  The back cover has several blurbs which all refer to it as a “tragedy.”  Oh.  Self is such a Philistine —  she can’t remember how long it’s been since she’s read Edith Wharton.

Then she went home and waited for hubby.  Since he was working later than usual (Self simply surmised this because it was getting dark), she poured herself a glass of Merlot and went skipping about the web, looking for more reviews of “Midnight in Paris,” which is her # 1 most relaxing current activity, ever since she and hubby saw the movie last Sunday.  She hates that all the reviews spend so much ink detailing the plot when —  hello!  —  wouldn’t it be so much better if the viewer was surprised, as self was when she saw it?  She honestly hadn’t heard a thing, not a thing about it, which was good because then all the movie’s gags (and it really is a gag movie, just one that happens to be written by Woody Allen) were fresh.

Here’s a quote from Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian, who actually didn’t like the film all that much (He called it “a shallow examination of nostalgia”):

The view of Owen Wilson strolling, incidentally, shows a distinctive loping gait:  Like Robert Mitchum or John Wayne, he might have one of the most notable walks in Hollywood.

HA HA HA!  Only a British reviewer could mention Owen Wilson in the same breath as Robert Mitchum or John Wayne!

Stay tuned.

Most Scintillating Quote (of Yesterday): Mick LaSalle, SF Chronicle

The past is always romantic because it’s gone, just as the future is always frightening because you‘re gone.

—  Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle movie critic, in a review of Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”

Self read this sentence last night, but she only got around to quoting it today —  apologies, dear blog readers.  Self has had such a stimulating day:  Hubby was a veritable dynamo of energy, and took her to new dim sum place on site of erstwhile Joy Luck, on 4th Street in downtown San Mateo, where he had her get a succulent dish of crackling self-knows-not-what kind of animal deep-fried skin and self, never one to turn down crackling animal skin of any kind, accepted, whereupon the dish turned out to be “suckling pig,” and cost $16.95 for eight slices.

Nevertheless, we did not allow such a small thing to de-rail our good humor.  Following the most expensive dim sum meal self has ever ingested in at least 10 years, we went to Marina Mart in Foster City and bought a 25-lb. sack of long grain rice, which according to self’s rough calculations should last about six months — that is, unless son visits and invites his friends over for barbecue or for steak fondue, in which case the 25-lb. sack of rice will last about a month, but that is a small price to pay for the pleasure of son’s company.

Then hubby took self to the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos (There is a very interesting air show on June 17 -19, the “Vertical Challenge Helicopter Air Show”).

Then we passed by for some fro-yo at Harmony Frozen Yogurt on Laurel Street in San Carlos (which just happened to be having a sale:  small blueberry frozen yogurt with one topping, $1.95)

Anyhoo, self was still on some kind of high after watching Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris,” so she let her restless fingers wander over to Rotten Tomatoes, where she saw the film had a 92% freshness rating (Well deserved:  EVERYONE in the Menlo Park Guild was laughing, pretty much from the first to the last scene.  Self hasn’t enjoyed a movie performance as much as she enjoyed Owen Wilson’s, not in a long, long time  —  perhaps not since watching Zach Quinto in the “Star Trek” re-boot, and as dear blog readers are painfully aware, that movie was in a galaxy a long time ago and far far away …  J. J. Abrams, quit with the “Mission Impossible” sequels already and just make another Star Trek!)

While self is on the subject of movies, she thinks she’ll just go ahead and post a list of her favorite movies so far in 2011 (She doesn’t think the summer crop of movies will seriously impact this list of faves —  after all, summer = popcorn fare):

  1. “Biutiful” (Javier Bardem stars as a man trying heroically to be a good father and a good husband, in spite of having cancer.  In spite of having a drug-addicted wife who sleeps with his brother.  Need one say more?  Weeper, to the max)
  2. “The Lincoln Lawyer” (Starring the Matthew McConaughey mane, still perfect after 15 years!  With riveting cameo by one of self’s favorite actors, Michael Peña)
  3. “Win Win” (Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Melanie Lynskey as the most fresh-faced drug addict in the entire world, and a newcomer named Alex Shaffer)
  4. “Jane Eyre” (Michael Fassbender/Rochester + Mia Wasikowska/Jane Eyre who has the tiniest, teensiest waist in the whole world + Director Cary Fukunaga = instant Gothic Romance Classic)
  5. “Fast Five” (Paul Walker and his Converse sneakers; Vin Diesel and his cartoon-ish biceps; Jordana Brewster and her indeterminate ethnic beauty; hot young Asian American on the Fast Five team —  sorry, self does not have time to look up his actual name right at this moment = pure escapist fun)
  6. “Midnight in Paris” (See it for the performances:  Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, and of course Owen Wilson!)

Self will close with yet another quote from aforementioned critic, Mick La Salle:

Tom Hiddleston is too tall for Scott Fitzgerald, who was just a little bigger than Woody Allen.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Owen Wilson Channels Woody Allen — Well

Self’s birthday is July 14 which self knows is Bastille Day in Paris, and from reading The Scarlet Pimpernel (which was her favorite novel for about three years —  she read it for the first time when she was 12, in Bacolod for the summer, nothing to do except read and hang out at Lopues and have merienda at Bob‘s) self learned that the Bastille was a fearsome prison, and that the day the prisoners were released from the Bastille marked the start of the French Revolution.  Which ended in the beheading of the King and Queen of France.

But now, it is an excuse for Frenchmen and anyone in Paris to go around planting kisses on each other.  Last year, Bonnie M who lives in Paris was visiting the Bay Area.  The day she picked to visit Redwood City was (what a coincidence!) July 14.  We ended up having lunch at one of self’s favorite restaurants, New Kapadokia, and Bonnie treated self to the most scrumptious lunch.  (Thanks loads, Bonnie!  Self is thinking of you today!)

This afternoon, self was successful in persuading hubby to forgo watching the fourth installment of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, in favor of watching the unlikely (but totally deserved) rejuvenation of Owen Wilson’s acting career.

Time was (in “Shanghai Noon”) when self thought Owen Wilson was the coolest, funniest guy on the planet.  All he had to say was:  “Hey, hey, hey, we’re men, not piñatas,” and he had self practically rolling on the floor with laughter (That picture is also what self thinks of as Jackie Chan’s last decent movie)

Self still liked him in “Wedding Crashers.”  Actually, she also liked him in his one action role, the one about the American fighter pilot who ends up crash-landing behind enemy lines in Serbia, then has to go scampering hither and thither to avoid capture.

Actually, she also liked him in “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

Wait, he was also good in “The Darjeeling Limited.”  The whole time self was watching “The Darjeeling Limited,” though, she kept remembering his suicide attempt.  And so the movie (though good) ended up being not funny.  At least, not to self.  And not at that point in time.

Today, self persuaded hubby to see “Midnight in Paris.”  The movie is pretty much one long joke, but it’s exquisite.  And you know what?  Owen Wilson turns out to be the perfect guy to channel Woody Allen’s nebbish-y dialogue.  It helps that he is charming and younger than recent Woody Allen prototypes have been:  really, watching him slouch around Paris is not an exercise in frustration, it is cathartic:  After all, who doesn’t wish they could go slouching around Paris like Owen Wilson?  By the way, Allen packs the city with the most gorgeous women:  Marion Cotillard, Carla Bruni (The First Lady of France is so tall!  And she has the most elegant-looking feet!).  Rachel McAdams (though not playing a Parisian) is absolutely HOT in tight jeans!  The young French girl at the very end looks a little like Kate Moss.

And you know what else?  LOKI IS IN THIS MOVIE!  Yes, Tom Hiddleston, the guy with the soulful eyes who played Loki in “Thor,” and who stole all his scenes from Chris Hemsworth, is in this movie, appearing with gorgeous marcelled hair, playing F. Scott Fitzgerald!  And Adrien Brody is in this movie as well, doing a hilarious impression of the painter Salvador Dali (Pretty much all he talks about are rhinoceros — rhinoceri?!)  And Kathy Bates is in it, too, playing Gertrude Stein!  Talk about genius casting!

But anyhoo, what self really wants to say is:  All of Owen Wilson’s comedic gifts are on full display in this movie.  All he has to do is look at the camera with those big blue or grey eyes, and the audience knows exactly what he is thinking.  In fact, some of the movie’s biggest laughs are produced when Wilson stares directly at the camera, not speaking.

Self’s favorite scenes, however, are the ones that show Wilson just walking.  These scenes are mostly full-body shots, to include as much of the city streets as possible.  Wise decision.  Wilson’s character is perfectly communicated by his somewhat stooped shoulders, his clothes, his aimless walk —  that’s Woody 2.0 (meaning:  much improved)

Self sincerely hopes Woody Allen decides to use Owen Wilson again.  In fact, Allen should stop looking around for other actors to play his comedic alter-ego:  every time he decides to direct a romantic comedy, he should just go for Wilson.  Because something about Allen channeling his romantic yearnings through Owen Wilson feels absolutely apt.

*     *     *     *

P.S.  Read somewhere that the next Woody Allen-alter ego, in a film to be set in Rome, is Jesse Eisenberg.  Oh, cool!  Not sure he is up to the comedic challenge, but self likes him as an actor.  For sure, he made “The Social Network” the great film that it is.  Jesse, you have big shoes to fill.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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