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:

DIRECTED BY GEORGE MILLER.

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 »

Monday Pile of Stuff: New York Review of Books, Dec. 13, 2013

The Pile of Stuff is mythic: it contains missives from — who knows — years back.

This morning, the first thing self pulls out of it is a New York Review of Books from Dec. 19, 2013.

Self adores poetry in translation, here’s one on NYRB p. 34, a Charles Simic translation of Radmila Lazic’s Psalm of Despair (Following is the opening verse):

PSALM OF DESPAIR

by Radmila Lazic

I dwell in a land of despair
In the city of despair
Among desperate people
Myself desperate
I embrace my desperate lover
With desperate hands
Whispering desperate words
Kissing him with desperate lips

And here are a few of the books reviewed in the issue:

Levels of Life, by Julian Barnes (Knopf, $22.95) — “It is, not surprisingly, a marvel of flickering Barnesian leitmotifs . . . ” (Reviewer Cathleen Schine)

American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell, by Deborah Solomon (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28)

Undisputed Truth, by Mike Tyson with Larry Sloman (Blue Rider, $30)

My Lunches with Orson: Conversations between Henry Jaglom and Orson Welles, edited and with an introduction by Peter Biskind (Metropolitan, $28)

Orson Welles in Italy, by Alberto Anile, translated from the Italian by Marcus Perryman (Indiana University Press, $35)

This is Orson Welles: Conversations between Peter Bogdanovich and Orson Welles

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

What Does It All Mean?

Even as self posts, teen-agers are lining up in front of the downtown Century 20, anxiously awaiting the 12:01 a.m. screening of “Mockingjay, Part 1.”

It rained all day.  Naturally, self spent almost the entire day reading reviews.

Here’s a summary of responses from reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes:

  • Katniss is “listless and uncommunicative.” That’s OK. But two hours of J-Law being “listless and uncommunicative” is a bit much. At least it is for a few reviewers.
  • District 13 underground bunkers are not a happy place.
  • There is very little of J-Hutch, boo. Nevertheless, NPR feels he is “doing something fascinating as Peeta . . .  we see him only via the Capitol’s authorized interviews . . .  like Katniss, we can only guess at his current state of mind. Hutcherson’s strong, subtle performance lets us read any number of possibilities in his face and minimal line readings.” Thank God.
  • Jennifer Lawrence does not phone it in.  Sure, she has an Oscar now, and she has the unenviable task of delivering the film’s most cheesy lines (“If we burn, you burn with us!”), but she never phones it in. She is such a force. And, truthfully, the reason the franchise is raking it in is because fans believe in her as Katniss. No matter how clichéd the dialogue or the plot, she gives it her all.
  • Lionsgate shouldn’t have split the last book of The Hunger Games trilogy into two films. Doing so was a blatant and cynical grab for box office bucks. But, you know what, self is glad for J-Law getting more screen time as Katniss! So the final book became a four-hour movie instead of a two-hour movie, so what? For $11, it is definitely worth it. Think of what other stupid things people could be buying with $11:  CVS lipstick. Lunch at a fastfood joint. An airport paperback. Ummm, 1/5 of a tank of gas. a large bag of Frito-Lays.  Instead, we get to see the most entertaining actress of her generation on the big screen for four hours instead of two. No complaints here.

Stay tuned.

 

 

First NYTBR Post in Forever: 15 December 2013

Do not look a gift horse in the mouth.  It’s been nearly a year since this issue came into self’s hands. She has since suspended her New York Times Book Review subscription (in case dear blog readers were wondering. It was just too depressing seeing the book review in her mailbox every week, and not being able to read for months and months and months.)

It just so happens that the By the Book interview is with Michael Connelly, and he has many, many interesting book recommendations, which include the following:

  • Act of War:  Lyndon Johnson, North Korea, and the Capture of the Spy Ship Pueblo, by Jack Cheevers
  • The Public Burning, by Robert Coover
  • The Little Sister, by Raymond Chandler

This issue also has the list of Ten Best Books of 2013, and since self is well aware that time is a river, and self is disappearing quick, she has to be choosy about which of the Ten she really really wants to read, and it is these:

In Fiction

  • Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner
  • Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
  • Tenth of December: Stories, by George Saunders

In Nonfiction

  • Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, by Sheri Fink
  • Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala

One of the highlights of this issue is a review (by Anthony Doerr) of Brown Dog: Novellas, by Jim Harrison.  Self doesn’t know why exactly but she’s loved Jim Harrison for a long long time. His books are violent, they are pungent, they are precise, and they are very, very funny.

And here’s a round-up of a burgeoning sub-genre, the cookbook as memoir:

  • Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland, by Nina Mukerjee Furstenau
  • Three Squares: The Invention of the American Meal, by Abigail Carroll
  • Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern Writers and Food, by Peggy Wolff

And here’s a sub of a sub-genre, the fate of elephants in America:

  • Topsy: The Startling Story of the Crooked-Tailed Elephant, P. T. Barnum, and the American Wizard Thomas Edison, by Michael Daly
  • Behemoth:  The History of the Elephant in America, by Ronald B. Tobias

And one about elephants in Africa:

  • Silent Thunder, by Katy Payne

Finally, much thanks to Rivka Galchen and Pankaj Mishra for recommending (in the end-paper, Bookends) two books by authors self hasn’t yet read:

  • My Struggle, by Norwegian writer Ove Knausgaard
  • Zibaldone, by Giacomo Leopardi

Whew! Finally self has arrived at the end of a monster post. Stay tuned.

 

 

Books of The Economist, 22 February 2014 (Can Self Be Any More Behind in Reading

First, a novel. There is usually only one fiction review in each issue of The Economist. This one is in a box — the fact that it is means it must be special.

The Undertaking, by Audrey Magee (Atlantic Books) :

  • The best elements of this novel are intrusions of war into the domestic sphere.
  • A German soldier named Peter Ferber enlists the service of a marriage bureau and weds a girl he has never met in order to get home leave.

Next, a book about climate change:

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert (Henry Holt) :

  • As the climate warms, catastrophe looms. Yet it is oddly pleasurable to read Elizabeth Kolbert’s new book, which offers a ramble through mass extinctions, present and past.  Five such episodes in the past have 450 million years have wiped out plant and animal life on huge scales.

Finally, a biography of an American poet whose name seems to be popping up everywhere these days:

E. E. Cummings:  A Life, by Susan Cheever (Pantheon)

  • It was only in New York that he felt free. Surrounded by writers such as Marianne Moore and Edmund Wilson, and photographers such as Walker Evans, he spent over 40 years in Greenwich Village, living in the same apartment.
  • He wrote nearly 3,000 poems, two novels and four plays, as well as painting portraits.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Lucy”: Feminine Degradation

Something about self’s mood today — she feels extremely argumentative.  Ornery.  So, take the following with a grain of salt, dear blog readers.

Self likes Luc Besson.

She really does.

She can never forget that Besson gave us the glorious Annie Parillaud in “La Femme Nikita.”

And Scarjo is one phenomenal actress.

And beautiful, too.

But “Lucy” is just one more in that long line of sub-genres that are little more than titillating flirtations with feminine degradation.

Like what happened to Noomi Rapace in “Prometheus”?  You will like “Lucy.”

Like how the “Kill Bill” movies are one long revenge fantasy enacted by statuesque Uma Thurman?

You might like “Lucy” (though Besson and Tarantino are light years apart — that is, in terms of cinematic wit)

And what was that movie Kathryn Bigelow did with Ralph Fiennes, “Strange Days,” the one where you put on these special glasses, and while you’re raping a woman you can experience HER fear, which heightens your pleasure?  The one that had Juliette Lewis’s skateboarding Goth waif bonding with pervert played by (typecast) Tom Sizemore?

Ugh.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!

One of the most painful scenes in “Lucy” was the one where Scarjo, having been kicked so many times in the stomach, starts crawling up the walls (literally).  That was creepy and grotesque, as if science fiction was melding with Kafka.  Might Scarjo actually turn into a bug?  At one point, she grabs her long chain (she is chained to the wall) and runs full tilt — into, presumably, a wall.  But mercifully, we are not actually treated to the glorious sight of a beautiful woman’s face slamming against stone.  Mercifully, there is a cut right here.  Next time we see Scarjo, she appears quite composed, with no external disfigurement other than a cut lip.

???##!!!

There is something self likes about “Lucy,” though.

Scarjo acquires a craggy-faced sidekick, a French investigator/cop(?) called del Rio.  Now, that guy, though not conventionally handsome, is actually quite a find.

Not to mention, he is an excellent straight man.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Catching Up: Books of The Economist, 15 March 2014

No more apologies!  Self is going to get to the every single back issue of The Economist (Her subscription is good until next year), by hook or by crook!

Here are the books she wants to read, after perusing the Books and Arts section of 15 March 2014:

The Hard Thing About Hard Things:  Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, by Ben Horowitz:  Self chooses this book to read because part of it is a blow-by-blow of how a business failed.  The author’s advice for prospective entrepreneurs?  “If you are going to eat shit, don’t nibble.”  Mr. Horowitz took his company public, but alas his timing was poor, for the terrorist attacks on 9/11 hit just a short time later.  Mr. Horowitz goes into “wartime” mode.  Read how he does it.

The six-volume, 3,500-page autobiography by Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle (The first three have been translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett):  The Economist calls it “the most exhaustive account of a modern life ever written.” Mr. Kanusgaard turned out this magnum opus by writing 20 pages a day, “baring bits of his soul to a timetable, coping, on the one hand, with the growing fury of his family and, on the other, with the ever-present fear of failure.”  Not until almost at the end of the review is Proust even mentioned, but Proust was in the back of self’s mind from the moment she began reading it.  Like Proust, Knausgaard is obsessed “with the mechanics of memory: he claims that he does not have a good memory until he starts writing.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

The Daily Beast’s Best Movies (Thus Far) of 2014, with Commentary From Self

This time, no pussyfooting around (what, self wonders, is the origin of that word ‘pussyfooting’?), self will go directly to the list she stumbled across today, on The Daily Beast.

The Best Movies of 2014 (So Far):

  1. Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater.  Wow, self has heard such great things about this movie.  Read Sheila O’Malley’s dissection/praise of it, here.
  2. Snowpiercer, directed by South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho and starring, of all people, CHRIS EVANS!  Frickin’ hot Captain America!  It is science fiction, it is the year 2031, it is dystopian (Pardon self’s french:  Dystopian is fast becoming the most-overused word in the movie reviewer’s lexicon)
  3. The Grand Budapest Hotel, directed of course by Wes Anderson and featuring not one but TWO pairs of bedroom eyes (Fiennes and Brody’s) and the best birthmark ever to appear in a supporting role in a movie — wait, didn’t this movie come out last year?  Nevertheless.  Self liked it.  Onwards!
  4. The Raid 2, the first truly kick-ass action movie from Asia in a long, long time, and it’s from Indonesia.  Self missed the sequel, but the first one was pulse-poundingly great.  The first one was FIVE STARS!
  5. Ida, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski, and of course Polish. Set in 1960s Poland etc. Next!
  6. Only Lovers Left Alive, directed by Jim Jarmusch:  A vampire movie!  Directed by His Fabulousness!  And starring Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton!  Sold!
  7. Manakamana, directed by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez:  a documentary about various enlightenment seekers who make the pilgrimage to Nepal’s Manakamana temple.  Self wants to see it.  She may end up wanting to make the pilgrimage herself.  But pilgrimages never quite come out the way self expects.  She’s got the requisite curiosity, and that in spades, but travel tends to bring out the cynic in her.
  8. The Immigrant, directed by James Gray:  Starring — oh no! — Joaquin Phoenix, an actor who has singularly failed to arouse even one iota of interest in self, not even when he played Johnny Cash and self ended up ferrying Niece G and a whole car full of Stanford freshmen to the Redwood City Bayshore Cinema to see Walk the Line.  But why oh why is he paired with the lovely Marion Cotillard, an actress whose performance in that whale movie, Rust and Bone, the one where she played a whale trainer who loses her legs in a horrific accident in a Seaworld-like theme park, turned self into a sobbing mess for exactly three months — wow, this is a tough one.  Jury’s still out on this one.
  9. Begin Again, directed by John Carney.  Self saw this just yesterday.  Of its inclusion in this list she can thus unequivocally say:  YES! YES! YES! At first it would seem a most unlikely choice for one of The Daily Beast’s Best Movies (Thus Far) of 2014, because let’s just say Keira Knightley as a twee British singer who is done wrong by a self-absorbed boyfriend played by People’s Most Beautiful Person of 2013, Maroon Five front man Adam Levine, is not exactly what one automatically thinks of as “Best Movie” material, but what the hoo, self bit down her reservations and she ended up loving Mark Ruffalo’s performance (which was only to be expected), and she loved Keira Knightley’s performance, and she loved Hailee Seinfeld’s performance, and she even loved Adam Levine’s performance, and the only so-so performance came surprisingly from an actress self normally admires, Catherine Keener.
  10. Palo Alto, directed by Gia Coppola (granddaughter of Francis Ford), and based on the short story collection by that flake (who also happens to be a surprisingly good actor) James Franco.  She is so tired of Franco’s ubiquitous talent, but yes she did indeed browse through this collection when she first saw it in Kepler’s, last year.  And — self hates you, James Franco!  Because the stories were quite good!  Aaaargh!  And self loves Mia Wasiwokska.  Ever since she saw her in Cary Fukunaga’s Jane Eyre, and The Kids Are All Right.
  11. Life Itself, a documentary by Steve James, about the late great Roger Ebert.  Of course self will see it.  Of course.
  12. Neighbors, by Nicholas Forgetting Sarah Marshall Stoller.  Self somehow missed this one when it came to the local cineplex.  But she likes the premise.  She even likes the cast (Rogen, Rose Byrne, the younger Franco, and Zac E)
  13. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Matt Felicity Reeves:  Oh yes, this was the movie self saw just the day before she saw Begin Again (Yes, self is quite a movie nut) and it was definitely great.  Any movie in which the apes outshine Jason Clarke and Keri Russell is indisputably great.  Kudos to Jason Clarke for not acting too hard.  He has a real, shambling, laid-back charm.  BTW, Keri Russell has very toned arms.  Self found the sight of them a tad distracting.  Because the actress obviously had to have put in many, many gym hours in order to get arms like those.  And self wasn’t sure this was something Russell’s movie character might have done. (Anyone have the same reaction?  Self, why must you always be such a nitpicker!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

The New York Review of Books, May 22, 2014

Today, self got to see Paul Haggis’s new movie, “Third Person,” and it is seamless and complex and lovely and moody.  It focuses on odd couples.  The woman who most aroused self’s sympathy was the woman played by Mila Kunis.  Having said that, James Franco gives such a wicked and sly performance, as her ex-husband.  He projects such smugness, with just a glance.  His partner, a beautiful, long-legged French gazelle, is the third leg of a triangle, and she also delivers a performance that is complex and moving.  In fact, all the actors in this movie were at the top of their game (well, maybe not Liam Neeson, who gets by on looking worried, all of the time)

Now, self has been weeding her Pile of Stuff of unnecessary materials.  She has so much catch-up reading to do!

One of the back issues self picks up is The New York Review of Books of May 22, 2014.  There’s a review by Masha Gessen of a translation of one of Dovlatov’s works:  Pushkin Hills.  Gessen quotes another Russian emigré writer, Joseph Brodsky, who says of Sergei Dovlatov:

His stories rest primarily on the rhythm of the sentence; the cadence of the narrative voice.  They are written like poems: the plot is secondary, it is but a pretext for speech.  It is song rather than storytelling.

Self wonders how Dovlatov could have escaped her notice until now.

Another excellent review is by Michael Gorra, on Starting Over:  Stories by Elizabeth Spencer.  Spencer wrote The Light in the Piazza, which has such an audacious plot self is sure that Spenser, if having to pitch to a publishing house today,  would never be signed on.

Another of the reviews that stood out is Francine Prose’s review of Emma Donoghue’s latest, Frog Music.

Self is currently reading Richard Price’s Lush Life.  She hopes she can do a better job of finishing it than she did with Jhumpa Lahiri’s short story collection, Unaccustomed Earth.  Self kept obsessively going back over the first page of Unaccustomed Earth because of course the writing is lovely.  If only it wasn’t so stately and dolorous.  She got about halfway through it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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