Sentence of the Day: THE SUBTLE KNIFE, p. 2

So here it is, 2018, the year self decided to barrel through all of Philip Pullman.

Working in strict chronological order (if not in book publication order), she started with La Belle Sauvage, Vol. One of The Book of Dust, the prequel trilogy to His Dark Materials.

Five Stars!

She just finished The Golden Compass.

Four Stars!

She just began The Subtle Knife.

p. 2, Will Parry talking about his mother to his former piano teacher:

  • “She just needs someone to be kind to her, and I think you could do that quite easily, probably.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Golden Compass, p. 283

Self understands how Philip Pullman works his magic: he writes about evil in the most blank, affectless way. His main character, Lyra Belacqua, has grown up an orphan, but she has NO ANGST WHATSOEVER, or has none she cares to share with us anyway. So her thoughts are not muddled.

And his villains! His villains are people who used to be good, like Mrs. Coulter, and who remember how to act like they are good. So they are extremely convincing, to everyone but the main character.

Self understands how hard this would all be to translate to film. So she doesn’t think she’ll ever see a movie based on His Dark Materials or The Book of Dust. The books will always be better. In this case, anyway.

Here’s a scene between Lyra and Mrs. Coulter:

“Darling,” she said, “some of what’s good has to hurt us a little, and naturally it’s upsetting to others if you’re upset . . .  But it doesn’t mean your daemon is taken away from you. He’s still there! Goodness me, a lot of the grownups here have had the operation. The nurses seem happy enough, don’t they?”

Lyra blinked. Suddenly she understood their strange blank incuriosity, the way their little trotting daemons seemed to be sleepwalking.

Say nothing, she thought, and shut her mouth hard.

What’s so great about Lyra is, she’s so quick to recognize a lie.

She truly is her father’s daughter.

Stay tuned.

I’d Rather Be . . . In a Bookstore

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Linda Nietes greeting a customer at the bookshop she owns, Philippine Expressions (Inside a 1920s building, 479 W. Sixth St., San Pedro, CA). Linda is 81 years old. She has been running bookstores all her life.

Last Saturday, 17 March, International Woman’s Day, Linda Nietes invited six Filipina authors to Philippine Expressions Bookshop in San Pedro to read from their work. The authors were: poets Angela Narciso Torres and Irene Suico Soriano, and prose writers Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, Tessie Jayme, and self. The reading was held in the beautiful lobby of a 1920s-era building on 479 W. Sixth Street:

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Here’s son with Linda before the reading:

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Beautiful Event. Self was honored to be a part of it.

Here’s Linda, in her own words, about why she does what she does:

  • It is a ministry, an advocacy, a labor of love, and the results cannot be counted in dollars and cents. It is fulfilling only to the person who accepts the responsibility of creating a greater awareness and a higher consciousness among members of our community. I have found the field, planted an orchard. Saplings are growing and some have already grown and are blooming and even fruiting. Lucky will be the generation that will just pick the fruits of my labor, but I do not mind that because I understand what the role of a trailblazer is! You blaze the trail so that people will find their way. I was inspired by a quote: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Friday: San Francisco Native Son, Tony Robles

From Fingerprints of a Hunger Strike, by Tony Robles (San Francisco: Ithuriel’s Spear, 2017):

An Excerpt from Proud

City of St. Francis
I’m proud
Of being
Loved by you

And don’t worry,
I don’t hold that
Eviction against you

But it did come
As a surprise,
All wrapped in a
Gauze colored envelope

Just the way
It goes, I guess

I’d lived there
45 years, grew up
There, Mom’s died
There, at home,
Where she belonged

I got 60 days
To vacate

I’m proud
Of being loved
By you

And Mr. Fare Inspector,
I don’t got no ill feeling
Towards you for looking me
Up and down as though I
Were defective while you
Scrawled my life story on
That ticket you wrote me,
Legible only to a doctor or
Pharmacist

I’m proud
Of being
Loved by you

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Tony Robles’s Love/Hate Book About San Francisco Is Beautiful and Tragic

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

STORY 2: Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore

The baby of James Rouse, grandfather of actor Ed Norton, the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore is dedicated to “outsider art” — people from all walks of life who feel an inner urge to create and just do, without the benefit of formal training. There’s art by diagnosed schizophrenics and insomniacs, nurses and postal workers — all kinds of people. It is a great museum.

Stan Wright’s sculpture is made out of telephone wire. It’s called First Dance. He gifted it to the Visionary Art Museum, and it is amazing.

  • “It’s so hard to communicate with words, that’s why I do it with my hands . . . ” –Stan Wright
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Stan Wright, First Dance (Material Used: Telephone Wire)

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Stan Wright, First Dance: A Closer View

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Another Close-Up: All Hail, Visionary Art Museum, Champion of ‘Outsider Art’

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Sweet(er) in Redwood City, California

After years of hectic traveling, it is sweet indeed to be back in Redwood City:

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Even sweeter: having The Alienist to look forward to every week.

New episodes air every Monday night on TNT.

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Dakota Fanning is just killing it in the role of Sara Howard, secretary to Teddy Roosevelt. In this incarnation, Roosevelt is the New York City Police Commissioner (circa 1896).

It is also grrrreat to see Brian Geraghty in the cast. Self lost track of him after The Hurt Locker. Geraghty plays Roosevelt! (When self watched Geraghty in The Hurt Locker, all those years ago, she never imagined that the next thing she saw him in would be The Alienist, portraying a future American president)

Also great are Daniel Bruhl (who self hasn’t seen on the big screen since Inglorious Basterds) and Luke Evans (who self has seen in the Lord of the Rings movies and in Immortals)

Stay tuned.

THE SHAPE OF WATER

Self arrived back in the US on Jan. 19. She saw three movies in three days. Her pace has slowed somewhat. The Shape of Water is her 6th movie since getting back.

Self doesn’t like Sally Hawkins. She never has. Though, of all the movies she’s seen that star Sally Hawkins, this is the one she likes best. Hawkins is really good in this. And moreover, her signing is so beautiful: so elegant and precise. Her tub scenes were great.

Self still doesn’t like Sally Hawkins. She finds her movies predictable: they always follow the same trajectory. Which is not to say they’re bad — they always get heaps of critical praise. But they’re always about an eccentric or misunderstood woman who, despite it all, triumphs. And not just triumphs in an ordinary way: no, when a Hawkins woman triumphs, it’s always in a quirky way. Because she looks quirky. Get it? GAAAH.

The fact that this movie is Sally Hawkins being directed by Guillermo del Toro means that it’s more obviously a “message” movie. But del Toro does inject enough moments of strangeness to still make this a satisfying Guillermo del Toro movie.

There were parts that dragged, parts where she actually found herself nodding off (it’s been a long day; she drove to Mendocino from Redwood City, then had to move all her stuff into a new apartment). She felt the creature was a bit too anthropomorphized. Why did it have to have two legs, two eyes, two arms, etc? Why, if you forget the fish scales for a moment, it could practically be A MAN!

She sometimes loves Michael Shannon and she sometimes finds his performances “meh,” but he is perfect here. Per-fect.

And boy does Octavia Spencer ever ground this movie.

Two more supporting actors deserve kudos: Richard Jenkins (magnificent) and Michael Stuhlbarg.

Self would also like to say that Michael Shannon’s two fingers were real scene-stealers.

SPOILER ALERT

They were in a paper bag, can you imagine. Then they somehow magically got re-attached to Shannon’s hand. But the color was off. And darn if the first thing self looked at whenever Shannon was in a scene was: the hand with the two greyish fingers. The scene where Shannon explains how they came to be re-attached to his hand: priceless.

Also, the awful level of violence that Shannon’s character inflicts — not just on the creature, but on a fellow scientist. His scenes are what make this movie so much more than a fairy tale. Sometimes, self even laughed. Wait, she asked herself, why is she laughing in a scene where a clearly deranged character is acting out? Yes, Michael Shannon’s acting is just that good.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Hostiles”: Self Loved It

Because Bale. Because Pike. Boy do they ever sell that connection — so many notes of tenderness and respect, and hardly a word needs to be spoken between them. One never questions these two fine performers’ responses, never. And that’s something in a movie like this, that’s as much about the landscape as it is about the people in it.

Which is not to say “Hostiles” is a perfect movie; it isn’t.

But it’s brave.

Particularly in its commitment to maintaining the laconic rhythms of the Western landscape.

Self admits to being a tad confused by the quote used in the opening. Something about the American character being stoic, lonely, etc. Which seemed rather ponderous — even, overblown — a quote for a Western, of all things.

But then this Western isn’t really a Western. It’s more like a horror movie. With its bleakness, it reminded self somewhat of Ravenous (which apparently no one saw other than self and maybe two dozen people in the entire United States) or of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus.

Rosamund Pike’s character is absolutely luminous. And she goes through so much. It’s no wonder that at the end, Bale . . .

Self really loves the New Mexico setting.

And also the scenes between Bale and his commanding officer (played by Stephen Lang, who is perfectly cast — as are most of the other characters. Lang usually plays hard-bitten bad guys but, here, he is hard-bitten in a way that self can connect to. In other words, he’s allowed to appear human. He seems very exasperated by Bale’s character. Props to the screenplay)

And also the movie has Adam Beach (who is such a great actor) and Wes Studi!

Rosamund Pike breaks your heart. At the end, she deserved the best. Self wanted it for her SO MUCH.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Maze Runner: Death Cure

So excellent. Self can’t even. The best wrap-up to a YA series ever.

Three out of four stars.

Self knows of what she speaks: she’s a big fan of YA.

Just to show you this movie went beyond, self cried at the end. You’d think she was watching The Time-Traveler’s Wife, not Maze Runner.

There were a lot of high-powered actors in the cast: Patricia Clarkson, Aiden Gillen, Barry Pepper, Walton Goggins (sporting truly disgusting facial make-up: five stars!), Thomas Brodie-Sangster. Half the time self kept wondering when Woody Harrelson was going to show up. Self loves it when a YA action movie is way better than anyone has a reasonable right to expect.

The only thing that bothered self about the movie (Almost 2 1/2 hours long, and the time just flew by!) was that every time Aiden Gillen was on-screen, she kept thinking: Littlefinger! There is one scene in which Gillen stares creepily at Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) and it reminded her so much of all the times on Game of Thrones when Littlefinger is perv-ing on Sansa.

Movie’s best moment? In her humble opinion, when Min Ho gets up in Teresa’s face and yells: TRAITOR! So cathartic.

P.S. There was a preview for Jurassic World. Bryce Dallas Howard is truly growing into a Jessica Chastain-level beauty. In fact, for a moment that’s who self thought she was watching

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

1st Month Back, Fourth Movie: MAZE RUNNER, THE DEATH CURE

Self is all for action movies. She absolutely loves them.

If she doesn’t watch an action movie, it’s at least got to have Frances McDormand.

And now, woot hoot, the Maze Runner is back. For a few years, there was some doubt about whether star Dylan O’Brien was okay. He had a horrific accident while filming Movie # 2 of the Maze Runner, and filming shut down completely, which meant the accident was bad. But he made a thriller last year, and looked no different. And this year, he starts out with a bang, with the closing movie of the YA trilogy, and critics have been saying that it’s the best installment yet.

So, #pointsDylan.

From the way self got into 12 Strong, she knows she is ready for this.

Christy Lemire over on Roger Ebert, the review site, even compares the film to Mad Max: Fury Road. Of course, it’s not as good. Nothing can be as good as Mad Max: Fury Road. But to even earn that reference — that’s cool.

Tim Robey, writing for The Telegraph, has good fun classifying the series’ main characters into the following camps: Absolutely, Hell No, and I’ll Get Back to You on That.

On Team Hell No are the heroes. These are played by Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and Dexter Dardin. Let’s also throw in Rosa Salazar’s character, as self finds her so darn cute.

On Team Absolutely is a beauteous turncoat played by Kaya Scodelario.

And then Robey forgets who’s supposed to be on Team I’ll Get Back to You on That or maybe he just gets bored with his own review because he never says who.

But there are enough bits to convince self that she has to see this movie. Cinema’s just 10 miles north on 1, in Fort Bragg. And it’s not even raining.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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