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.

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.

#amfollowing: Architectural Digest

AD Report, 2 November 2017, by Tim Nelson:

From uranium ore to enlightening and instructive books like How To Avoid Huge Ships, you can buy pretty much anything via Amazon. Heck, they’ll even unlock the door to your home and leave the package inside for you now. But what happens when the product you buy is your home?

Self spent a few minutes looking at the available pre-fab tiny homes sold on Amazon. Here’s the one mentioned in the AD article.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Observer on Kenneth MacMillan’s Last Work, The Judas Tree

In June, self was soooo lucky: she got to watch the ballet Mayerling at the Royal Opera House, and loved it. She wasn’t feeling well (just like now; something about London, trying to do too much) and nearly went home after the first intermission. Then, while standing at the refreshments bar, she met an American woman who lives in New York and who gets annual subscriptions to the New York City Ballet. This woman flies to London to watch ballet, that is how big a deal it was for her. Upon finding out that self was planning to leave early, the woman said: “You can’t leave early. The pas de deux (or was it the gran jetés) in Act III are spectacular.” So self stayed. And she did get to watch that spectacular Act III.

This is a very, very long introduction to a review of Kenneth MacMillan’s final work, The Judas Tree, which is about gang rape. Gulp?

Anyhoo, the protagonists are a gang of construction workers at the Canary Wharf Tower. In the foreground, an East London construction site.

Several men enter. We understand them to be builders, although their muscle-mag appearance and narcissistic attitudes make them an unlikely labour force.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Three to Add to the Reading List

The first book is one which self initially approached with skepticism because the publisher is an academic press (Oxford) and she still remembers how they mangled a biography of Aung San Suu Kyi and doesn’t think she has forgiven them yet.

But anyhoo, there’s a new biography of Angela Carter (and gives cause to the 13 March 2017 New Yorker to share the interesting fact that she has been “pigeonholed as a white witch”) and self wants to give The Invention of Angela Carter, by Edmund Gordon, a go.

The next two books she’s adding to her reading list are from the Briefly Noted section (other books in the Briefly Noted section: The Schooldays of Jesus, by J. M. Coetzee, and A Book of American Martyrs, by Joyce Carol Oates): a biography called, simply, Jonathan Swift, by John Stubbs, and This Close to Happy, Daphne Merkin’s “memoir of struggling with depression.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

John Wick, Chapter 2: Keanu, Self Will Always Love You

Have you ever walked out of a film so struck by awe and wonder your skin is abuzz? Has a film ever left you so joyful and drunk on adrenaline that it made you more hopeful about the world? Has a lead performance in an action film ever had such balletic grace it made you marvel at the possibilities of the human body itself? This is exactly how I felt watching John Wick: Chapter Two, the sequel to the surprising 2014 action hit.

— Angelica Jade Bastien, rogerebert.com

Sentence of the Day: Critic After Dark’s Best of 2016

Self really likes Noel Vera’s film blog: he has interesting things to say about American films, and important things to say about Filipino films.

His “Best of 2016” is titled

Terrific Films, Terrible Year

And begins:

Can’t include any horror films because to my mind the entire genre has been rendered not only unfrightening but totally redundant by the world’s recent turn into fascism.

Pretty good opening sentence, wouldn’t you agree, dear blog readers?

Stay tuned.

Books About Eleanor Roosevelt: Reviewed in The Economist, 29 October 2016

  • Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, 1939 – 1962, by Blanche Wiesen Cook (Viking)
  • Eleanor and Hick: The Love Affair That Shaped a First Lady, by Susan Quinn (Penguin)

It is tempting to think that in a different era, Eleanor Roosevelt could have become president of the United States. Widely loved, the longest-serving First Lady was on the right side of history on virtually every subject including civil rights, acceptance of European refugees and the need to end Empires.


“She understood his needs, forgave his transgressions, buried her jealousies, and embarked on her own independent career . . .  FDR encouraged her independence and when he silenced her did so for reasons of state.”

Eleanor Roosevelt: The War Years and After, by Blanche Wiesen Cook

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: “Sleeping Beauty in Space,” a Review of PASSENGERS by Sunny Lanning

The movie is beautiful, brilliantly shot. The clean, curving lines of the halls and rooms, the luxurious amenities, the sense of echoing, empty space both within and without the ship, which employs a novel design style. The lingering shot on the long lines of Chris Pratt’s naked back and buttocks fits right into the elegant overall design.

— Sunny Lanning, in her blog Sincerely, Sunny

Self has been having an off-blog exchange with Sunny Lanning about things we like, and one of the things we like is J-Law.

Yup, that’s right. J-Law.

Self knows it’s sort of fashionable to dump on her right now. Indulge in fond memories of “Winter’s Bone” (which was truly great).

Self knows, “Passengers” did not get good reviews. Self reads Everlark tumblrs on a daily basis and people are wondering what happened to J-Law, blah blah blah.

Self has a feeling J-Law will endure.

In the meantime, enjoy the parallels Sunny Lanning draws between “Passengers” and Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.”

Self’s own personal take on the disappointment with the movie (Note: Self has not seen “Passengers.” But she kinda gets the process Chris Pratt is or has embarked on. It’s called Hollywoodization.), the blown hopes: it’s Pratt. In this role, he’s reaching for that next level. Self doesn’t argue that a J-Law would find him attractive — hot, even. But can we just not make the effort so predictable right now? It just seems so determined and so cynical.

Sunny found that originally “Passengers” was a Keanu Reeves project. Keanu/ J-Law would have been an interesting pairing!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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