It Begins

In the movie self just saw, Ben-Hur actually says “Wow.”

It’s a tad too long, but the final chariot race was thrilling. She saw it in 3D, which wouldn’t ever be her first choice, because 3D usually makes her dizzy, but she was short on time and had to grab the first screening that came up.

And she did not get dizzy! In fact, she forgot she was watching 3D about 10 minutes after the screen went black and this message appeared:

PUT ON YOUR 3D GLASSES NOW.

Today self, having forced herself to re-read the first 30 pages of Northanger Abbey, is finally beginning to see the point.

She must have been so tired earlier, when she first began reading. That’s the only explanation she can come up with for the words dancing like spots before her eyes.

Now, self has arrived at a part where Catherine is sure of her attraction to Mr. Tilney, and is still very equable to her best friend’s brother, John Thorpe. He’s such a natterer. But Catherine is much too nice to drive him away. Besides, she’s too humble and self-effacing to think that she has an actual suitor.

As self realized after reading Middlemarch last year, if a young woman is moral enough and innocent enough, her rich inner life can well prove to be her undoing: She can convince herself of the rightness of self-sacrifice like nobody’s business.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Northanger Abbey: Readers, Meet John Thorpe

Still in Bath.

We meet the brother of Isabella Thorpe, whose name is John Thorpe.

This is his appearance:

John Thorpe was a stout young man of middling height, who, with a plain face and ungraceful form, seemed fearful of being too handsome unless he wore the dress of a groom, and too much like a gentleman unless he were easy where he ought to be civil, and impudent where he might allowed to be easy.

The very plain-ness of the man means the heroine, Catherine, will be paired up with him because she, though not un-attractive, is decidedly not beautiful. So why should anyone in Bath, England, pay attention to her? Isn’t it rather presumptuous of her to go to Bath and look for romance? Most women of Austen’s day and age would be happy to have anyone, looks or affinity do not matter in the least.

Self knows there will be plot twists and blah blah blah, but why in God’s name does Austen allow John Thorpe to bore us the same way he bores Catherine with pages and pages of tomfoolery and dull dialogue that was delivered to greater effect by Tom Bennett in the recent movie Love & Friendship?

We get that John Thorpe has no other subject of conversation other than horses (“look at his loins; only see how he moves”) and gigs, and that he doesn’t see the value of novels, but — could Jane Austen please stop belaboring the point and get on with it, please? A point can be made twice. It cannot be made three times. This is a short novel.

All self can see in her head is the dinner scene in Love & Friendship when Tom Bennet takes great delight in “little green balls” on his dinner plate and asks what they are and Reginald de Courcy (who is brought to blazing life by a blazing hot Xavier Samuel) says, “They’re called peas.”

Speaking of Xavier Samuel, self cannot wait to have Love & Friendship in her Netflix feed.

Stay tuned.

Self’s Life in Books

In 2013, she read a total of 30 books.

In 2014, to her great disappointment, she managed to read only 7.

Thus far, in 2016, she’s read 18 books. Oh happy happy joy joy.

2013 was a great year for her reading life.

She read:

  • Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne
  • Anna Karenina
  • Don Quijote
  • Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses
  • Mildred Armstrong Kalish’s Litte Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression
  • Sister Carrie
  • The Leopard, by Giuseppe di Lampedusa
  • The Quiet American, by Graham Greene
  • Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
  • The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin
  • City of Thieves, by David Benioff
  • The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michae Connelly
  • Henry M. Stanley’s How I Found Livingstone in Central Africa

In 2015, self’s great reads were:

  • Silas Marner
  • Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin
  • The Act of Love, by Howard Jacobson
  • Middlemarch, by George Eliot
  • Bad Behavior, by Mary Gaitskill

This year, self’s favorite books have been:

  • The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins (which she just realized she’d already read five years ago: She didn’t remember a thing!)
  • Anjelica Huston’s second memoir, Watch Me
  • The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho
  • Swimming Studies, by Leanne Shapton

She’s struggling through Northanger Abbey. Really struggling. But she is determined to finish it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Glenn Kenney

What admiration self has for Chaz, Roger Ebert’s widow, who kept his name alive with the site RogerEbert.com, where you can find a collection of great reviews on all the most recently released movies (It is so much better than Rotten Tomatoes. On RogerEbert.com, a reviewer can actually say Suicide Squad stinks, and it will have 10x the persuasive power of someone on Rotten Tomatoes saying Suicide Squad stinks. Even though they both mean the same thing: that Suicide Squad really really stinks)

Self was looking over recently released movies (She’s just seen two back-to-back: Pete’s Dragon and Indignation. Since she’s already gotten this far, she might as well keep going with the one-movie-a-day!) and was un-enthused until she got to the three-star review of Ben-Hur by Glenn Kenney.

Self did not realize that the star of Ben-Hur was Jack Huston, Anjelica Huston’s nephew. She also did not realize that she’s actually seen him before: in American Hustle, seducing J-Law’s tempestuous character (who was married to Christian Bale’s character)

She did not realize that the director of Ben-Hur was Timur Bekmambetov. This guy is grrrreat! He directed Wanted, with James McAvoy. Sometimes self gets him confused with Tarsem Singh, who directed 2011’s The Immortals, a movie Roger Ebert described as “without doubt the best-looking awful movie you will ever see.” But, self digresses.

Kenney begins his review by calling Ben-Hur “a masterpiece of condensation.” Self likes that opening sentence so much that she continues reading the review. And comes to another great sentence:

  • “… this Ben-Hur has more Christ in it than any previous version.”

And that’s it. That’s her sentence of the day.

In this movie, Jesus has a cameo. And is played by, of all people, Rodrigo Santoro, whose body piercings in 300 are etched in self’s memory to this day.

This is such a fun review. Just one more quote: “The characters all speak in a completely contemporary tone, which shows the influence of — what do you know? Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, which was criticized for (among other things) having the apostles talk like they’d just jumped off the IRT.” Har, har, har! Thank you, Glenn Kenney.

Since self is challenged in the time department this week, and she’s already posted twice today about movies, she’ll just slip this one in: She loved Pete’s Dragon except for the dragon. He looked like a stuffed toy.

Don’t get self wrong: she believes in dragons. But if a studio with deep pockets like Disney does a movie about dragons, she would like to see a screen dragon who is All Creature. One who looks like it could positively reek. You might call this the Game of Thrones Affect: it’s the satisfaction of knowing that when you look at a wildling, you can imagine wildling body odor.

The boy, however, that boy was really feral. More feral even than the dragon. She hasn’t seen a boy that convincingly feral since the kid in Road Warrior.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Indignation”: It Ends

SPOILER ALERT!!! SPOILER ALERT!!! MAAAAAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!!

Interesting, the way the characters in this movie spoke. No one sounded natural delivering the dialogue, but perhaps this was done deliberately, to reflect an “uptight” decade in American life (the 1950s)?

Everyone, that is, except for:

  • Logan Lerman
  • The actors who played Logan Lerman’s parents, especially the woman who played his mother
  • His childhood chums, discussing the death of one of their friends in Korea
  • His college roommates, one of whom (the phlegmatic big guy) was very, very good

This arch-ironic delivery, however, ends up being pure acting gold when it comes to the portrayal of a Dean of a University located in, of all places, Winesburg, Ohio (How very Sherwood Anderson!).

Nothing the Dean said (mainly a string of platitudes) made any sense. He was all about double-talk and veiled warnings, yet he delivered them with such a sense of conviction, as a man absolutely unshakeable in his moral beliefs, a man who’s been taken over so completely by his need to uphold the “right” standards that he doesn’t even know how to react when Logan’s character says (at least 5x): “I’m about to throw up. I have to go.” (Because self has seen Animal House at least 3x, she knew exactly how this scene was going to go down. How weird is it that Indignation and Animal House have a scene like this in common?)

The performances in this movie were really, really on point.

Lerman’s character, who hails from Newark, New Jersey, is completely out of his depth. Not only is he from Newark, New Jersey, he’s the son of a butcher. Not only is he the son of a butcher, he’s the son of a kosher butcher. Can you imagine? Oh the horrors of a guy like this attending university in Winesburg!

Lerman’s character is an atheist but unfortunately for him, he’s the only “out” atheist on campus. Everyone else — aside from 80 Jews — is Christian.

There’s a femme fatale. Okay, so she slit one wrist, was treated, she’s okay now. Self is so tired of these fragile college girls, these doomed Sylvia Plath iterations, who mess up the lives of innocents like our hero played by Logan Lerman. From the moment her character was introduced, self knew she would mess up the hero’s life. (Yes, Hero, You Should Listen to Your Overprotective Mother!)

And then the end. Let’s just say, not since that trendy woman’s novel where a woman kept going to bars and sleeping with strangers and ended up describing how she was killed, on the very last page, has self ever felt so cheated, cheated, cheated!

You cannot do first person when you’re dead at the end, all right?

If you’re dead — unless you’re an angel or a ghost or the second coming of Alice Sebold — you cannot tell a story like this, where everything is wrapped up so prettily in hindsight. Because the human being who lives the story will not tell it like this. He’ll be all: I cannot believe I’m going down like this! This sucks!

Total disintegration would be preferable to tragic story arc (In hindsight, everything can be made to seem tragic. It’s “spin.” It’s also a cheat. That is self’s humble opinion. You can get away with it but please, not in first person)

But, Holy Cow, LOGAN LERMAN. The only other movies self has seen him in are 3:10 to Yuma and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. Her main objection to him was that he looked like a girl. She won’t be saying that again, after this movie.

When the movie ended, self had to turn to her seatmate and ask, What the heck just happened there? Is he really dead?

The woman’s countenance was completely shattered. Yes, she said. He is dead.

And with that, self left the theatre in a very bad mood. Practically stomped out. Like, she could not believe she just spent two hours listening to Logan Lerman’s poetic narration, only to have it end up like this. So, all that before, that was his disembodied dead self telling us the story? Nooooo!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Loneliness of the Swimmer

  • You get very tired and depressed, and you wish you had the social life that a lot of your friends have, you wish you could go out with this girl, but it’s so hard to have that. You’re too tired . . .  You wake up and your alarm goes off at five, and you just, you just hear the snow blowing outside, and you’re in a nice warm waterbed and you say, I don’t wanna go out there. Who wants to dive into water at five o’clock in the morning?

Victor Davis, in the swimming documentary The Fast and the Furious, by Alex Baumann

SWIMMING STUDIES: About Pools

Maybe because self is reading Swimming Studies, she starts looking up information on Land’s End and the Sutro Baths.

The magnate who developed Sutro Baths was named Sutro (Duh, but of course!).

Sutro Baths was the centerpiece of a resort bordering the Pacific. San Franciscans could get there by paying 5 cents for a trolley ride.

In a way, self understands what Sutro was aiming for, because her very own grandfather built a resort, right in the middle of sugar cane fields in Barangay Granada in Negros Occidental in the Philippines.

Self’s grandfather, like Sutro, was a populist. The most loyal patrons of Santa Fe Resort are workers. The entrance fee is still ridiculously low because self’s family understands the demographic: the patrons come from the surrounding fields, workers wanting a break. It was called Santa Fe because her grandfather loved American westerns. In addition, he had a huge crush on the American swimmer/film star Esther Williams, so there’s a statue of her in Santa Fe, in Barangay Granada.

Self’s grandfather built an Olympic-size pool which remains a major draw to this day: It was the first, and possibly still the only, Olympic-size pool in the Philippines.

Who does that? Who has such a crush on Esther Williams that he builds an Olympic-size pool in the middle of an island. Not only in the middle of an island, in the middle of sugar cane fields.

When journalists come to write about self’s island, they never mention Santa Fe Resort. It’s such an eccentric thing, the location. The fact is, it’s nowhere near a beach. Consequently, there is no tourist traffic. There are no Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, American or Europeans. In Santa Fe Resort, you will encounter Filipinos. Just Filipinos.

It is a resort built by a man who only got a high school education. A resort for the people who live within a few kilometers, who are from that place.

Self spent every summer of her childhood there.

Sometimes she wonders if those summers were the reason she is a writer now. Because, her grandfather showed her: you can do anything, if you use your imagination.

It is a terrible thing is to have no imagination, to have your dreams stay small.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Reading (2016)

  1. Memoir, Leanne Shapton, Swimming Studies
  2. Brick 96
  3. 2nd poetry collection, John Clegg, Holy Toledo
  4. Nonfiction, Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power
  5. Walasse Ting, 1 Cent Life
  6. Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

Actually a Very Good Question

Self has been browsing movie reviews, and binge-watching Ripper Street, and tweeting with fans about it, and beginning yet another fan fiction, which she needs like a hole in the head, but this one’s irresistible, this one’s got a Really Really Dark Peeta, a Peeta who just might be a murderer! Like Jack the Ripper! . . . Sorry! Back to the reason for this post.

From Critic After Dark’s review of The Shallows (which self saw aaaaages ago, at the start of the summer — feels like a lifetime!) starring Blake Lively, whose legs are so on point self can’t even:

Then of course death crashes the party in the form of a humpback whale carcass. Clever way to account for the Great White cruising nearby (otherwise it’s a bit of a puzzler why the shark — which habituates the waters of California, Northeast United States, South Africa and Australia — is hanging around a Mexican beach) but also raises a whole other question: why forego this tasty, properly wet-aged all-you-can-eat buffet of rich blubber and tender meat for a bony surfer who would hardly make up a satisfying snack?

In answer to which self wishes she could insert a hundred “shrug” emojis!

And self  has a question of her own for reviewer Noel Vera: How does he know the carcass is that of a humpback whale? Because it literally is half gone. So there is no possible way to determine whether it really does have a humped back. Har, har, har! Sorry, self just couldn’t resist making a lame joke.

Self will close with a list of the summer 2016 movies she most enjoyed:

  • The Shallows
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Our Kind of Traitor
  • Café Society
  • Love & Friendship
  • Ghostbusters
  • Bad Moms

Oh, summer. Self can’t believe it’s almost over.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

On-line Now: Self’s Newest Pieces

On-line now, August:

“The Future” in Monkeybicycle

“Spores” in decomP

decomP also posted a link to Morgan Cooke (Tyrone Guthrie friend!) reading “Spores.”

Stay tuned.

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