“Snowpiercer” the 2nd Time: Murkiness and Mayhem

First time self saw this movie was in Mendocino. She downloaded it from Netflix. It was January.

Nah-ah. Chris Evans, bearded and in knit hat, scowling. Okaaay. Role didn’t need to be played by Chris Evans. Anyone of sufficient height and bulk and scowl would have done quite nicely.

Little did she know that she’d be watching it again just nine months later, in far different circumstances. She still doesn’t love it, but it is interesting.

Tilda Swinton is just so weird. She’s weird-looking, and she is totally fearless. Self has seen her in The Deep End, in We Need To Talk About Kevin, in Constantine (playing the earthiest angel ever) and now in Snowpiercer, where she is downright repulsive, with big horsey teeth and spittle flying out of her mouth as she shrieks against the rebels. Granted, this character would not be everyone’s cup of tea. But Tilda plays it with — wit? She actually pulls off a line that goes something like: “Because of those stubborn rebels, 74% of you will die.”


Jamie Bell is in this movie. He is one fine actor. In the scene where an enemy holds a knife to his throat, and Chris Evans, his buddy, has to choose between saving Jamie or going after Tilda Swinton, once it becomes clear which way Chris Evans will go (and we all know there is only one way Chris Evans will go), the change in his features is remarkable.

If this were a normal science fiction thriller, Jamie Bell would have a look on his face something like, “Atta boy, Buddy! Go for the Kill! Don’t bother with me! I’m ready to offer my life for the Cause!” But the look on his face once he realizes he’s been given up, is actually — sad? So sad. Which is actually how self would look, if she knew she was going to die in the next few seconds.

Self also loves the bizarre classroom teacher played by Alison Pill.

In one scene, Chris Evans yells “Fire!” and we have no idea what that means. Then, a little boy starts running from the back of the train with a lighted torch, cheered on by a crowd of people. He hands off the torch to what appears to be a one-armed man. Self wasn’t sure if this runner was really a one-armed man, so she kept following this figure as he raced through the murky depths of the cinematography. When she was finally convinced that the man running indeed had only one arm, the torch was passed on to a really handsome, buff dude who might have auditioned for Fifty Shades of Grey. What? What is the meaning of these three successive runners? The child, the one-armed man, and buff dude? Since self has seen 300, she is well-prepared for this last runner to die (It’s called The Astinos Trope. There, she made something up. Just this very second). But, confounding all her low expectations, he actually makes it all the way to the end and manages to throw a knife and inflict the first wound on Tilda Swinton (Unfortunately, it hits her on the leg and is not fatal)

Also, there is the obligatory (ever since Saving Private Ryan) close and intimate fight scene, where two men arm-wrestle for a knife at close quarters, and the one whose side we are on loses. And the knife goes in very, very slowly. And it’s so terrible.

Self is so glad she didn’t see this movie in a theatre. She might have walked out. Like she did after 45 minutes of Far From the Madding Crowd. But since she’s watching it on a TV screen, and she has access to her laptop, it is able to engage her attention.

And she’s ended up writing a long post when all she wanted to do was toss something off.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Joe Morgenstern (Wall Street Journal) Reviews “Z For Zachariah”

All three characters, being human, are flawed, but in one case the flaws reveal themselves through an explosive episode of not-so-convincing behavior — Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal, 28 August 2015

Here’s the backstory:

It’s of course self’s faaaavorite kind of story: post-apocalyptic.

Margot Robbie plays Ann, a beautiful woman (great casting, there) who lives with her dog Pharaoh in a secluded valley that has miraculously evaded the effects of nuclear radiation. She is joined, first, by Loomis (Chiwetel Ejiofor), “clad in a radiation suit.” Shortly thereafter Caleb (Chris Pine) materializes.

Faster than one can say, LOVE TRIANGLE, Ann learns that “the notion of blessed sanctuary is no more plausible after Loomis wonders aloud about what could explain it (He figures it’s got something to do with the wind, or the lay of the land.)”


Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Karin Fossum’s Latest: THE DROWNED BOY

From the Review by Tom Nolan in The Wall Street Journal, Aug. 22-23, 2015:

“One has to be careful when judging another person’s grief,” cautions Norwegian police inspector Konrad Sejer, the “wily old fox” in award-winning Norse author Karin Fossum’s latest somber, intelligent, empathetic procedural novel, The Drowned Boy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). “Everyone grieves in his or her own way. Some people want to move on quickly whereas others want to hold on to it, wrap it round them.” Nonetheless, in the face of the weepy but defensive behavior of a 19-year-old mother whose 16-month-old son was found dead in the pond in back of the family house, the inspector concludes: “She has an odd manner, and I don’t believe her.”

The dead child’s father vows never to stop grieving, even as his brisk wife insists that they get on with life.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Anthony Lane Reviews “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”

It honestly doesn’t feel like summer because usually, in summer, self watches a movie a week.

Anyhoo, she wants to see “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.”

Browsing the web for reviews, she finds one by Anthony Lane, movie critic for The New Yorker.

As usual, he lands a zinger in his very first sentence:

  • How impossible can a mission be, if it is successfully completed fives times?

Hoo Hoo Ha Ha!

She will never forget what Lane wrote (20 years ago?) about the movie “Speed”:

  • When I first heard the plot of “Speed,” I did not stop laughing for a week.

Back to the current article: Lane also reviews James Ponsoldt’s “The End of the Tour,” about Infinite Jest author David Foster Wallace. This movie features Jason Segel (as DFW), Jesse Eisenberg as a reporter chronicling a book tour, and Joan Cusack as a tour escort and self really, really wants to see it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Pardon, It’s Back to THE 100

The coolest story line isn’t even in the CW TV series: It’s Glass. Glass. Glass.


Glass is Point of View # 4, which means she appears in Chapter # 4 (So tiresome, this multiple point of view thing. Self is skipping all the Clarke and Wells chapters. It’s just so un-interesting, what’s happening on Earth: The planet survived the radioactive apocalypse and is now some kind of fecund tropical garden, Clarke is becoming the Florence Nightingale of the group, Wells suffers acute unrequited love for Clarke, and Bellamy, aside from being very protective of Prim — ah, excuse self, she means Octavia — has very toned abs)

Unlike Bellamy and Wells who had to claw their way (metaphorically) into the ship headed for Earth (or Destruction, depending on the motives of the Chancellor/ Ruler/ Despot), Glass is smart. She figures she wants OFF the space ship to Earth. So, she manages to elude the guards and get off the space ship, and she manages to slip through all the search parties who are looking for her, and of course, it’s all because she is in love with a boy, and she fights like a tiger to get to the boy, Luke, and when she finally finally reaches his flat, and knocks on his door, he opens it, and SURPRISE SURPRISE there’s another woman right behind him, and Glass belatedly notices that the flat had been dark when Luke opened the door, so whatever he and this other woman had been doing before she interrupted was something they did in the dark, and . . .  and . . . self’s heart just breaks for that brave girl.

Moving on.

The other really cool thing about The 100 (aside from the fact that the author admits in her closing remarks that she didn’t think up the plot herself; someone gave it to her, and all she did was write it. Oh no, she dreamt up the characters. That’s right. Profuse apologies!) are the cornea slips.

That’s right: when a character gets a distant look in her/his eyes, and suddenly stops speaking, it doesn’t mean they’ve been hit by a tranquilizer blowdart. It means there is an incoming. Message, that is.

It is so cool not to have to dart to a cell phone or laptop to retrieve messages. Just have them transmitted to your cornea slip. That way, you don’t even have to look down and you will never ever be accused of having bad posture or worry about developing a double chin. You just tilt your chin upwards and read what’s on your cornea slip. Who ever thought of such a cool thang?

Thank you! Self would like to have one of those, if it can happen in the next 10 years (or while she’s still alive)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

What Is a Mestizo?

From J. H. Elliott’s review of Imperialism and the Origins of Mexican Culture, by Colin M. MacLachlan, in The New York Review of Books, 9 July 2015:

Although the racial definiton of a Mestizo is a person born to Indian and European parents, a better definition of a Mestizo is a person who functions within a modified culture drawn from both the indigenous and European historical-cultural experience: in short, those who embrace cultural mestizaje and organize their personal life and behavior accordingly.

Colonial Mexico was “an acutely caste-conscious society, in which the boundaries of each casta would be meticulously delineated in the famous sets of eighteenth-century casta paintings, more than a hundred of which are known.”

And that is all self can post for now, but she is sure dear blog readers will agree that image and reality are so far apart in the matter of race because no one wants to acknowledge any blurring of categories. It is just too difficult. But identity cannot be constructed without taking account of race, so what are we to do?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Colm Toibin, The New York Review of Books, 9 July 2015

Self used to have a subscription to The New York Review of Books. Oh how she mourns, mourns, mourns that absence, it was her go-to publication for really good writing, such as the one in the 9 July 2015 issue, Colm Toibin’s essay “The Hard-Won Truth of the North.”

In describing poet Elizabeth Bishop’s move from Nova Scotia to Worcester, Massachusetts, Toibin writes: “. . . the sudden disruption, the end of the familiar, came as a rare and ambiguous gift to the writers. Despite the pain involved, or precisely because of it, they found not only their subject, but their style.”

In discussing the Swedish writer Stig Dagerman (d. 1954, at the age of 31), Toibin writes: “Dagerman was in possession of several tones.”

Isn’t that such a beautiful sentence? It says it all.

Dagerman had “a gift for writing sharp and cool declarative sentences that is close to Hemingway.”

His short stories use “a tone close to that in the early stories of James Joyce’s Dubliners, which Joyce described to his publishers as a tone of ‘scrupulous meanness.’ ”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Books Self Is Interested After Perusing The Guardian’s Summer “Text on the Beach” Issue, 23 July 2015

Self used to do this. A LOT. Post about books she was interested in reading after picking up a copy of The New York Times Book Review (which she used to subscribe to. Until last year), The New York Review of Books (which she also used to subscribe to), The New Yorker (which she still subscribes to, but hasn’t read in six months) and The Economist (which she no longer subscribes to)

Anyhoo, after that very lengthy introduction, here is self with The Guardian’s Summer Reading issue, and after going through the whole thing, self has culled just three books. She must be in some kind of slump?

Here are her three:

  • Grey, by E. L. James — What what what? Self actually read the first two pages in Hodges Figgis in Dublin. And what do you know, she liked it! But The Guardian review is so silly. “Come again, if you insist . . . ” Self still wants to read it.
  • My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante — “The first part of the Neapolitan trilogy in which almost nothing happens.” (OK, these reviews are one-note and boring. Sorry, Jim Crace, Reviewer. Self will read in spite of)
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins — Let self dispense with the utterly dispensable: i.e., the review. And let’s just say, if this novel is indeed a riff on Gone, Girl, she likes. So “Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl, Girl On the Train” is a barrel of laughs.

Just for that, self is popping over to the London Review of Bookstore (Hey, last AWP Book Fair, in Minneapolis, she actually saw a table for the London Review of Books! She’s not sure if they’ve been coming every year, but this year was the first time she noticed them)

Side Note:  Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is in every bookstore window, all over Dublin and London. So happy for her. Promise to read the book, at least five years from now.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Moment in Mad Max When Tom Hardy Removes His Face Device

Lord, self never wanted to like Mad Max: Fury Road.

She saw the trailers and was — OMG, this movie’s been taken over by Charlize!

Not that self has anything against Charlize.

But seriously — there’s a reason this movie is called Mad Max. And that’s because it has to be about Mad Max. Later, Charlize can be in her own movie, and they can call it Imperator Furiosa.

Today, in Banff, took a class on book-making. Not writing — scrapbooking! (So nice to have non-verbal expression, for once! Also, the store was absolutely delightful, and so was the owner.) Wait a minute, self was about to write something about Mad Max. (Er, would you believe self has only seen a handful of movies this year? And it’s nearly half over! Must correct that situation pronto!)

Anyhoo, Tom Hardy. In that facial gear, self kept slipping up and thinking she was looking at Gerard Butler.

Not, however, when he finally succeeded in prying off the unholy device. And —

Ladies and Gentlemen, a new generation has arrived. His FACE, dear blog readers. THAT FACE.

Tom Hardy, you are so beautiful. After that, self never looked away from the screen once, not even while she was madly scribbling lines of dialogue into her take-everywhere notebook. She can barely decipher her scrawl now.

Self must also mention this other presence:  Nicholas Hoult. He plays a “War Boy” named Nux.

Okay, while not beautiful like Tom Hardy, he is moving. Self has seen him play a zombie, play a 12-year-old, play Jack in the Giant Beanstalk movie, and she always always finds him terribly easy to empathize with.

In fact, self would have to say the BEST lines of dialogue in this movie (What? There was dialogue? Hold on . . . Indeed there was! Not of the Shakesperean variety, mind you! But close, lol!)

For instance, somewhere in the middle of the movie:

Nux:  There’s high ground just beyond that thing.

Furiosa:  What thing.

One of the Brides:  He means the tree.

OMG, do you see what self means about the dialogue? It is economical, it is brisk, and it does the job!

Next line of memorable dialogue: Wives (aka Breeders) having a squabble. One wants to give up and return to her oh-so-unholy breeding activities. The other wives chase after her and tell her:

You. Are. Not. Thing.

Loved it, loved it, loved it.

Do dear blog readers know that self has a science fiction story set in a dystopian (apologies, but she has to use that word) future? And it is called Thing? It was published in the New Orleans Review, 2012.

Yes, you brides who are all played to great blank affect by possible real-life models: YOU ARE NOT THING.

Three cheers for George Miller for using such a great line in his movie.

And now to Nick Hoult’s lines:

I live.

I die.

I live again.

There was just something so nihilistic, so even Nietzsche about that line. About the movie, in fact. Captured the despair of the characters perfectly.

So, when the credits finally rolled, self waited to see those words:


Well done, sir. If she were in a movie theatre alone, she would have clapped.

Stay tuned.

Because Whole Treatises Could Be Written on Fan Fiction Hunger Games AU!

Self has just seen “Exodus.” Yeeees. Hard to believe, but she actually followed up watching “Birdman” (Thursday, at the height of the storm) with watching “Exodus.”

Although let’s not kick around Christian Bale. He’s about the best we have to play such roles. Bale is a real journeyman actor. Whatever role he agrees to play, he goes for it Read the rest of this entry »

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