Random Thoughts: “Beatriz at Dinner”

This movie beautifully captures the class divide in America.

Self was going to see Wonder Woman.

Her friend’s daughter directed Wonder Woman.

Every single Everlark fan fiction writer has seen Wonder Woman.

But something about the casting of Beatriz at Dinner intrigued her. It was Chloe Sevigny that finally pushed her over the edge. Sevigny is such a kick in the pants, every single time. She’s got this playfully acerbic affect. In Beatriz, she’s decked out in sky-high heels and positively towers over her fellow cast-mates. Just one look from those lazy doe eyes and one is pinned, forever, in the zone of the socially, painfully ridiculous.

Which happens to, of all people, Salma Hayek (playing against type).

Self would also like to say that John Lithgow is particularly good here. Usually, he has such an affable aspect. Here, his affability masks a most cruel arrogance. There is a fantasy sequence which, while shocking, makes complete cinematic sense.

Finally, the real standout — no, not Salma Hayek. It’s Connie Britton, who is best known for her role in Friday Night Lights.

God, this actress. Every brittle gesture and line of dialogue rings true.

The guy who plays her husband — his conversation makes great, casual use of the “F” word — is someone who self has seen before, but always in bit roles. He’s very well cast here.

Everyone is good in this film, but the weakest performance is from the guy playing Chloe Sevigny’s partner. He has some good lines, of which the best is a Mexican phrase he throws out (wittily, he thinks) after Beatriz delivers a heartfelt performance of a Mexican song for the group’s entertainment. Self thinks it’s something like Ay, cucaracha but it could easily be Caramba or something of that ilk. Whatever. It achieves its purpose, which is to establish Beatriz as the Other. And since it’s the end of the evening, and these people have had hours to interact with Beatriz, when the man utters that throwaway line we know all is lost, the evening’s been an utter waste of Beatriz’s (and our) time. It’s a heartbreaking conclusion: that no one can bridge that divide between rich and poor, brown and white, and it’s foolish to even try.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: San Francisco Chronicle, 26 January 2017

In a review of Silence! The Musical by Lily Janiak:

Lambs don’t actually appear in the 1991 thriller Silence of the Lambs; they’re a metaphor for the lifelong inner suffering of Jodie Foster’s character, FBI agent Clarice Starling.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

WSJ Bookshelf: 24 January 2017

William F. Bynum begins a review of Is It All In Your Head? by Suzanne O’Sullivan with this amazing paragraph:

Over a century ago, Alice James (1848 – 1892), sister of the novelist Henry and the psychologist and philosopher William, spent her life going from doctor to doctor with vague symptoms, tiredness and pains most prominent among them. Like Henry, she eventually gravitated to England, where she was happier, because “the god Holiday (was) worshipped so perpetually and effectually.” There at last she got a definite diagnosis: breast cancer. Although it was her death sentence, she was ecstatic, recording in her diary: “Ever since I have been ill, I have longed and longed for some palpable disease, no matter how conventionally dreadful a label it might have.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

A Surgeon’s Life

Fascinating review by Joshua Rothman in The New Yorker of 18 May 2015 (Self is sooo behind in her reading!) of a memoir by London neurosurgeon Henry Marsh. It’s an unflinching look by Marsh at his medical career and the failures that haunt him (“It’s not the successes I remember, but the failures.”) Incredibly, so much of his success or failure depends on, not training, not intelligence, not skill, but luck.

Rothman compares a neurosurgeon’s life to a soldier’s. Both are “deeply shaped by” something called “moral luck.” To perform under the burden of this awareness is impossible unless Marsh can successfully control “his own emotions. If he can’t control how a surgery turns out, he will control how he feels. He tries not to let his feelings add to his patients’ fear and unhappiness; at the same time, he tries never to lie. He yearns for feelings that are strong but realistic, fully voiced but even-keeled.”

In writing his book, “Marsh has seemingly violated his code; he expresses many of the feelings that he’s worked very hard to keep hidden.”


Marsh’s book is called Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery.

Subsequent research on Goodreads shows that it’s garnered a number of nominations and one prize: the J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography.

Stay tuned.

Matt Zoller Seitz Reviews “Love & Friendship” (Another of Self’s Favorite Movies of 2016)

Really nice review. Read it in http://www.rogerebert.com.

Kudos to Director Whit Stillman, lead Kate Beckinsale, and Xavier Samuel, who plays the man Beckinsale’s character sets her sights on.

  • “Love & Friendship feels like it was inevitable. The director Whit Stillman adapting Jane Austen is one of those ideas that sounds like it’s made up because it’s so perfect, like Wes Anderson announcing that he’s going to make an animated film about foxes based on a book by Roald Dahl.”
  • “Stillman’s films are comedies of manners . . .  the more brazen or ambitious characters run roughshod over people who have, well, manners.”
  • The main character, Susan, “is distinguished by her audacity, not just in her wants and desires but in the way she talks to other people, turning subtext into text in a way most people would not do unless the person they were talking about was in another room, or another state. But they’re standing right there! And they can’t get their minds around how staggeringly rude and entitled Susan is — most of all Reginald, who’s played with great precision by Samuel as a decent man who is so stunned by Susan’s nerve that he can barely bring himself to reprimand her: he’s too busy marveling at her existence.”

In addition, self is looking forward to seeing the following films, hopefully in the next few weeks:

  • Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson
  • Paul Verhoeven’s Elle
  • Denzel Washington’s adaptation of August Wilson’s Fences
  • Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea
  • Disney’s Moana

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

A. V. Club Review: PASSENGERS

As a committed Everlark fan fiction writer, self still hasn’t gotten over J-Law.

But the fandom is up in arms over Passengers.

Do dear blog readers know that there are a number of Hollywood screenplay writers who write Everlark? For fun?

Neither did self, until the rumbling about Passengers started.

First, there was a tremor over the photoshopping of Lawrence’s eyes in the promo posters.

Next, the trailers.

And finally, the screenplay. Apparently, Lawrence’s status as a feminist is strained to the utmost in this movie, where she is presented as a kind of trophy for Chris Pratt. There are, of course, worse things in life than becoming the trophy/girlfriend of Chris Pratt, but Lawrence surely deserved more than just to play that role.

This is a kick-ass woman, Hollywood! Self things she’s moved past the girlfriend roles.

From A. V. Club:

A spaceship malfunction wakes up Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) 90 years early “and he’s now doomed to live out the rest of his life surrounded by sushi bars and infinity pools, but not a single human companion.”

Unbeknownst to all (or maybe not unbeknownst to all!), Jim has developed an obsession with one of the sleeping passengers, of course a gorgeous blonde (played by Jennifer Lawrence) named Aurora. But, just so you know J-Law’s character is no bimbo, the script has her playing a journalist.

Preston “deliberately wakes her up early so he has someone to talk to.” (I’ll bet!) He then “proceeds to present an innocent face to his new friend/captive and to charm/manipulate her into” a “sexual relationship.”

As Yoda himself might say at this point: The ICK factor is high in this one.

Passengers becomes —  Barbarella???!!

Jane Fonda played Barbarella and she was good in the role.

Lawrence cannot play this role because, no matter how high the hot-ness factor, that gaze of hers is just too knowing, too capable of pinning a man to the floor.

So, who could play this role as space girlfriend? Someone curvy, since this is a male fantasy movie. Scarjo, perhaps? Margot Robbie? Or that woman in the TV series Quantico?

But there is a problem here because Lawrence for the life of her cannot play anything but shrewd. That’s just who she is. And whatever role she plays, big or small, the hugeness of the Lawrence bullshit-detector cannot be hidden, much less effaced. So it is really, really asking a lot of the audience to swallow the fact that one of the shrewdest actresses in movies today is playing someone who cannot read through a man’s intentions. Especially since the screenplay has her playing a journalist. And surely it doesn’t take a journalist, or even a whole village of journalists, to deduce that Jim Preston has an ulterior motive in waking Aurora up early? Because why wake up a journalist in outer space? Wouldn’t it make more sense to wake up an engineer? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have J-Law play an android? Space ship + woken up early + by Chris Pratt = yes, do go there.

Who wrote this?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Hell Or High Water”: Brilliance

For weeks, self had been wanting to see this movie. Why? First of all, Ben Foster doesn’t make that many movies. But every time she stumbles across a Ben Foster performance, no matter how small the supporting role, she’s noticed him. Admired what he brings to every part. Especially his eyes!

So, come on, you’ve probably seen the trailer and read the rave reviews. And self had been trying to see it for weeks. Weeks. So, finally, today, she succeeded in her quest. And, dear blog readers, her verdict:


She could see the legacy of Fargo and the Coen Brothers all over it. At least, in the first third or so. As the movie continued, she realized the director (who she’d never heard of before) was of a more melancholy bent.

She can’t say enough about the chemistry between the two leads, and even about the chemistry between the two supporting leads. Actually, this movie isn’t just about money and bad fortune and how when bad luck hits, it hits you from all directions.

It’s also about a kind of manliness that is perfectly embodied in Chris Pine. There are several shots of him with his back to the camera, and self swears: even his back is acting. His back, his shoulders, his legs. Chris Pine, who knew?


Her favorite scene in the movie is not, however, one with Pine. It’s a scene with Jeff Bridges and a walk-on. A walk-on whose presence is so, so grounding that self will never forget his lines:

“You look pretty winded, you ought to let me take the shot. That’s my gun.”

“Not on your life.”

There’s also another scene — involving a waitress — that recalls Jack Nicholson’s “Hold the Chicken” ordering-in-a-restaurant scene in Five Easy Pieces for scratch-your-head befuddlement. Self was in absolute stitches. Watch for it.

Brilliance. Just brilliance.

Stay tuned.



You May Share My Bed, Mr. A. Lincoln

from the Books section of the Wall Street Journal, Saturday/Sunday, 23 July – 24 July:

On the day Joshua Fry Speed met the 28-year-old Abraham Lincoln, Lincoln was destitute and looking for a place to stay in Springfield, ILL. Speed, scion of “a wealthy Louisiana plantation family”, owned a dry-goods store. “On impulse,” Speed invited “this newcomer to share his his double bed in the room above his store, rent to be discussed later.”

In Your Friend Forever, A. Lincoln, biographer Charles B. Strozier “maintains that , at a time when only ‘one percent’ had beds, or for that matter bedrooms . . .  Speed’s offer carried none of the sexualized connotations it would exude today . . .  For Lincoln, who had shared beds with other males throughout his impoverished life, Speed’s offer promised company at night, warmth in winter and split expenses year-round . . .  Of course they tossed and turned against each other every evening, but when they were awake they talked about navigating ‘the uncertain world of women.’ ”

A book about Abraham Lincoln’s sleeping arrangements during his young manhood? What next? Self is so there.

Nice review by Harold Holzer.

Stay tuned.

Mockingjay 2: Cry, Cry, Cry

Self can’t believe it.

She can’t believe IT’S OVER!

She caught the 1:20 p.m. screening at the AMC Loews almost directly across from the Lincoln Center, a few days ago. Only a block away from Alice Tully Hall, where Dearest Mum once played (when she was still a teen-ager). So ironic that self hasn’t yet been to a concert in Alice Tully Hall but here she is sitting in AMC Loews with a bucket of popcorn on her lap, anxiously awaiting the final film in The Hunger Games franchise. But ever since Niece Georgina recommended Suzanne Collins’s trilogy to self, self has been on a Peeta kick. Yes, her favorite character in The Hunger Games isn’t Katniss, it’s Peeta. And it’s always going to be Peeta. Forever and ever and ever .

J-Law, you were awesome! Every time the camera zoomed in, your facial expressions were so on point! Thank you for your portrayal. Now there’s talk of making a pre-quel with some younger actress. Ixnay! Self would much prefer a sequel: with you again.

Woody Harrelson, you were equally great!


And so were you, Elizabeth Banks! That scene where you bid Katniss good-bye, decked once more in your Capitol finery (How could Effie get away with dressing like that in District 13? Wouldn’t Coin have frowned on that kind of extravagance?), self found it so affecting.

It was nice to see Philip Seymour Hoffman’s smirk, one last time.

Although she didn’t initially agree with the choice of Donald Sutherland to play the role of President Snow, boy did he kill his part in this final installment. That conversation he has with Katniss near the end, when he says he doesn’t believe in waste, the part where he makes Katniss start questioning Coin’s motives, that part was made infinitely more believable because of Sutherland’s trademark sardonic delivery.

OMG, Finnick’s death was worse than it was in the book. Because it was so — graphic. And he was calling out to Katniss. And self almost couldn’t bear it.


JENA. JENA MALONE. Talk about the perfect Johanna. Mockingjay Part 1 suffered tremendously from her absence. But she was back! And self loves Jena/Johanna. Truly loves her.

P.S. Julianne Moore as Coin — her pupils had a disconcerting tendency to go all to black, and she looked like a soulless witch. Which, self guesses, was the point.

Tallies: One super-hot Galeniss scene, at the very beginning. Unfortunately, instead of pressing his advantage, Gale mopes. And mopes. And mopes some more. And, honestly, if self were Katniss, she wouldn’t have waited for Peeta. Even though self is Everlark to the max, if Liam were hanging around all the time, being all loyal and supportive, she would not blame Katniss at all for switching affections.

J-Hutch, if only there were more of you Not-Hijacked. If there was one flaw she saw in the film, it was that the end didn’t allow enough time for the “growing together” of Katniss and Peeta. Self was waiting for it, she was waiting for the voice-over narration, she ached to hear J-Law’s throaty voice say “Peeta and I grow back together.” But it was not to be.

There’s a scene where hot Peeta is bent over planting primrose bushes while Katniss sneaks up behind him. The camera starts zooming in on — ahem! Never mind. But no, F-Law was extremely respectful and provided no more than two or three seconds of  J-Hutch bent over. Please!

Not even the teeniest hint of anything in the end, just that cuddling thing K and P do, then — babies! Toast babies!

Ugh! Not enough time in the end! The end! The end!


Watched “Snowpiercer”

Boy oh boy what a disappointment.

She had been so looking forward to seeing it, most of last year.

She ordered it from Netflix streaming yesterday.

And sure, Chris Evans was in it, but it didn’t have to be Chris Evans, it could just have been any guy with a beard, because he was totally camouflaged under crummy grey outfits, for the entire movie.

And the lighting was very dark, which often made it hard for self to distinguish who was who.

Self did get a big kick out of Tilda Swinton as Mason, though. Talk about a unique career trajectory: She broke self’s heart in We Need to Talk About Kevin, she was a great and fearsome angel in Constantine (directed by FLAW — Francis “Hunger Games/Catching Fire” Lawrence). She has just been a consistently interesting actress. Who would have thought? She’s very odd-looking.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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