Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fingersmith and You Don't Mess with the Zohan

The other night I watched Fingersmith with my mother. I had seen it before and read the book when it came out. The book is wonderful and I had lent it to my mother, like, a year ago. She enjoyed it but never finished it. I thought the BBC adaptation was excellent, really capturing many, many aspects of the novel. Because there are so many surprising twists and turns, you kind of miss out on the experience if you already know everything, as did my mother and I.
Last night I went to see You Don't Mess with the Zohan, a silly comedy about an Israeli super-counter-terrorist whose secret dream is to become a hair-dresser. Although there were some funny moments, and there is something just naturally likable about Adam Sandler, it was at best forgettable, and at worst offensive. Even though I think that by making fun of EVERYONE it is supposed to be side-stepping any accusation of racism or anti-semitism, I can't imagine how an Israeli or Arab would feel watching it. But even that comment on my part is taking it too seriously. Although as my friend pointed out, this is a historic movie, being the first comedy about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I don't know that this effort is anything to celebrate.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sweet Smell of Success

I watched Sweet Smell of Success last night on my macbook. It's about the cut-throat entertainment publicity world, and is riddled with great lines, some scathing, some silly. The only ones that come to mind right now fall into the former category:

President! My big toe would make a better president.

Funny! If he's funny I'm a pretzel.

Anyway, I liked it; I liked it a lot, actually. But there was something missing. The characters were slightly two-dimensional. They basically stayed who they were, operating from one set of motives, till the very, very end. In particular Burt Lancaster's character was somewhat befuddling. Why was he such an asshole? Tony Curtis was great. I'm not sure if I've seen him in a movie before, but I'm going to look out for more of him.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Brief History of Anxiety

A Brief History of Anxiety: Yours and Mine by Patricia Pearson is a meditation on her own personal experiences as well as our culture's with anxiety. It is written in this gentle style that I am very fond of. It reads easy. But it contains a lot of information and ideas.

Although in the end it was rather unsatisfying (we have so much anxiety in our culture because of a lack of meaning, an emptiness left where Reason eradicated Religion, etc) her exploration of all sorts of phenomena - anxiety in other culture's, the neurology of anxiety, medication, self-help, and the like -- as well as her copious reference to other authors and research, made it a fascinating as well as pleasurable read.

I know that was an atrocious sentence. Forgive me.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

the molting sentence

I just read this lovely chapbook by my former creative writing teacher, Charles Borkhuis. Hypnogogic Sonnets is beautiful and dreamy (duh!), exploring a brilliant liminal state -- not just between sleep and consciousness, but the body and language, as well as... I'm not sure what. Mysterious, ineluctable ideas and experiences. The title of the sequence of sonnets had a powerful effect on my reading of them, tying them and grounding them. I read them more as a long poem, or serial poem, rather than as discrete, stand-alone poems.

Hypnogogic Sonnets kind of inspired me to explore my own hypnogogic state/s, perhaps through writing...

Here are some lines, taken out of context as usual, that particularly resonated:

he will write
of a howling in the grain

in the afterimage
a suffix of suns
behind closed lids

those stretch marks on the sheets

the molting sentence

a numbness sinks
through the bed in stages
a flashlight searching the woods

From the ridiculous to the sublime. really

Yesterday Tits! and I decided to be decadent and see a movie in the afternoon. To make it really, really decadent and trashy, the movie we chose was Sex and the City. Let me first say I was never a fan of this show. I never thought Sarah Jessica Parker was funny and the women all just kind of left me flabbergasted. Anyway, I've only ever seen it about three times, so I didn't have any expectations.
The movie was atrocious. Beyond atrocious. It was shrill and desperate and strained. There was no there there. There was absolutely no solid ground, no substance. Nothing at all to enjoy. Tits! said she felt assaulted, and that is the perfect way to describe it.
Anyway, thankfully, I also had tickets to a Metropolitan Opera summer concert in Prospect Park. They aren't doing one in Central Park this year, so it was kind of a big deal. I had VIP tickets through my mother and my friend and I were able to sit very close. I had never seen opera before, and even though this was just a concert and not a full production, it was amazing. I was riveted. Although it's weird, even though we were so close, it was hard to see and I found myself spending more than half the time looking at the giant projections. The singers were Angela Gheorgiu (soprano) and Roberto Alagna (tenor). They did about four duets and two solos each, and there were two pieces performed by the chorus. I was most enthralled by the chorus, actually, and Gheorgiu's solos were a very, very close second.
My friend and I enjoyed it so much that we are going to buy tickets to see the real opera some time soon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Vera Drake

What a strange movie this was! I liked it a lot. Vera Drake is rather monochromatic in every way. There is one steady, low, sweet, drab tone to it. Once the narrative peaks and Vera is caught, she cries basically through the rest of the movie. A seeping, hopeless kind of crying that is in key with the tenor of the first part of the movie, so that it doesn't feel like there are any highs and lows.

The acting and mood were so well done that the fact that the movie left me unsatisfied was obscured. No real motivation is provided for why Vera performs these abortions (for free) and why it was so important to her that kept it from her family. Actually, that was kind of the most powerful aspect emotionally: her having this huge, huge secret revealed. She really had a double life for twenty years with her family, going out and committing a felony on a weekly basis. In fact, because her actions didn't really make sense, in that the motivation was barely touched on, it seemed to me more like a shameful, compulsive perversity rather than a noble, mission-driven stance.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I hated this movie. Juno is ridiculous. It's about a teenager who becomes pregnant and decides to keep the baby but is like, yeah well whatever about it the whole time. A real alienated 21st century smart ass. It tries to be like Wes Andersen, but fails. I didn't care about any of the characters or laugh out loud once. I thought it was depressing. The movie ends with her getting together with the guy who got her pregnant. That's the ending, the baby is practically irrelevant.

Eeeee Eee Eeee

I finished Eeeee Eee Eeee by Tao Lin yesterday. I started it a while ago, but picked it up this weekend and read most of it in two sittings. It's very interesting. A kind of prose I like a lot, and alienated urban characters, etc. Lots to relate to, lots of little insights and funny little things. But ultimately empty in this way that doesn't take me out of my own emptiness and I don't know how much I like that. Definitely a little, but not a lot. Although I liked the book a lot.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Murakami and Amer

Yesterday I went to the huge Murakami retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. I'm not a fan of pop art and didn't really expect to like it. And I didn't! Sometimes not liking something can be satisfying. It reinforces the idea that you have opinions and have some things that you respond to and some things that you don't. I just found it too kitschy. Too kiddie and cartoony. Some I liked more than others, of course. It was fun and dizzying. But empty and alienating.
A wonderful serendipitous discovery: Ghada Amer! I had never heard of her. (Actually after seeing this exhibition I realize I saw a beautiful piece of hers a couple of years ago at the Brooklyn Museum's big feminist show: boxes embroidered with gold thread). There was an exhibit of her work in the feminist wing of the museum. She embroiders large canvases with patterns of erotic images and lets the string hang down in clumps, so it looks like streaks of paint and the images are kind of concealed. It seems a little like pentimento for a minute. They are very striking. Some look Pollack-like. This image here wasn't my favorite, but I liked it a lot!

Daniel Deronda

I watched the entire, three episode BBC Masterpiece Theater version of Daniel Deronda with my mother the other night. This is one of my all time favorite novels. It is so complex, with such intense, deep character development, and such unique plot lines. I thought the BBC did a great job. Of course so much dimension got lost, but they tend to stick closely to the books they adapt and pay a good deal of attention to detail that they still capture the gist.

It is one of the few novels where the "heroine" doesn't end up with the guy. I put heroine in quotes because it is really Daniel Deronda's story. Gwendolyn is such a strong, sad, unique character, however, that it feels like her story. The tragedy of her marriage to a sadist manages to trump everything else, that you find yourself rooting for her escape and fulfillment more than for Deronda's...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Letter and All About Eve

I'm just catching up here. Last week I watched both these movies with my mother. I had never seen The Letter before. It was so interesting and different than other old movies. It's about a woman who kills her lover and is being blackmailed by his wife. I just gave away the ending, but whatever.
I had seen All About Eve before, but liked it so much more this time. It struck me as more complex. Before I had been so alienated by Ann Baxter's phony performance. The other night I just looked past it and was drawn into the other relationships. The final turn, where the cold critic catches her and controls her felt particularly dark.