Sunday, June 28, 2009

House of Sand and Fog

I was surprised by how engrossed I became with House of Sand and Fog. For some reason when it came out I just sort of rolled my eyes at it. I don't know why.

It is a very intense story about a woman whose house is seized and the man who buys it for auction. I got sucked into the drama very quickly and really cared about all the characters -- well there was one that bugged me the whole time. Jennifer Connelly gets a boyfriend who is married and after one night with her he throws away his family and his career and acts like a total crazy person. It just seemed weird and was this very unpleasant element to the movie -- although his craziness was central to the plot. I guess I didn't totally buy into him. So that was a flaw.

Ben Kingsley was amazing as a determined and despotic Iranian trying to restore his family's dignity in the US. I think he might have won an academy award for it; I'm sure he was nominated.


Timecrimes is very scary and engrossing and has a simple, yet very tricky plot. The premise has to do with time travel, with someone who panic stricken, being chased by a crazy man in a pink bandage, runs right into a time machine. I just gave away a kind of surprise, but no one reads this blog anyway, so who cares.

It had the texture or feel of being an anxiety dream, as well as a horror story, as well as science fiction. I got kind of confused towards the end, as the main character kept messing up events in terrible ways and trying to make up for them, but I still enjoyed in immensely.

Friday, June 26, 2009


I just finished reading Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan.

It is a fascinating and very readable book. As much about the history of New York as anything else. It's really a sort of social history of rats. Although ethnographic research is involved: the author observes an alley downtown for a year...

It did NOT enamor me to rats, or change my utter, utter revulsion. At one point I had to put the book down for a couple of weeks because it icked me out so much and I was constantly thinking I heard rats.

I particularly enjoyed the parts about plague, and plague in the US.

I did get bored towards the end, and didn't read the Afterword.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Kid Could Paint That

Last night I watched a very interesting documentary about a four-year-old artist. My Kid Could Paint That is about the little girl and her family, and all the hype in the art world about her work. It starts off as a celebration of her talent and an exploration of the question, what is art?, and then takes a turn where it seems that her father was helping create the paintings. Throughout, you sense the little girl's ambivalence about painting and the attention, and there seems to be something ever so slightly off in the family. When 60 Minutes does a sort of expose, it kind of illuminates the fact that something is wrong, that she didn't do those paintings all by herself.

One thing I particularly liked was the presence of the filmmaker. He included footage of people he was interviewing telling him how they felt about him, that he was going to betray the family. And, it also included him expressing his doubts about how to proceed.

Monday, June 22, 2009


I saw this wonderful animated movie on Watch Instantly last night: WALL-E. It starts out so sad and grim that it's hard to believe it's for children. It takes place centuries in the future after humans have completely destroyed earth and have fled the planet. They had left robots behind to clean up the immense piles of garbage on earth, and when the movie starts there is one lone robot left, just going about his business, compacting and packing garbage. But, this little guy has a bit of a soul, and he also collects objects that catch his fancy and keeps them in his home. It's very sad, him all alone on the planet.

Eventually a "probe" from space comes and WALL-E and EVE enjoy a very sweet and interesting flirtation. When WALL-E gives her a weed he had found, she automatically shuts down and waits for the ship to bring her back to the humans, floating around in an automatically controlled space craft where they don't have to do anything but sit on their very fat asses and watch advertisements. WALL-E manages to come back with her, and there is a whole lot of adventure stuff about getting the humans back to earth. It is very sweet and very smart.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Poison Ivy

Ridiculous. Ridiculous. Ridiculous.

Poison Ivy is a ridiculous movie.

Drew Barrymore is sexy in it, however.

But really, it's plain retarded.

Although, I think if I were in high school I might have enjoyed it. Definitely not adult fare.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Under Words

I thoroughly enjoyed re-reading Robert Kelly's beautiful Under Words, which I had first read in college. I think it's my favorite book of his. I hadn't read him in years. This was lovely.

"... where nothing distracts
the self from unselfing..."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Innocents

I just watched a dreadful movie: The Innocents, based on the Henry James novella The Turn of the Screw. I never "got" that book, and although the movie was slightly less opaque, I didn't really get it either. It was just so overblown and over-acted. The story could possibly be interesting. I don't know. It reminded me of The Skeleton Key -- which I liked a lot more.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Presumed Innocent

I watched Presumed Innocent on my macbook on Netflix Watch Instantly in my bed while icing my feet last night.

I had seen this before, years ago. It had been on TV and my mom, who had seen it before, was watching it. I came in after it started, sat down and watched for about ten minutes and then it hit me, I said "the wife did it." My mom was shocked that I got it so quickly.

It was interesting watching it now, knowing she had done it and watching her acting.

It's a watchable legal thriller. Nothing special. And very 80s.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Anatomy of a Murder

Anatomy of a Murder is a classic courtroom drama that is way too long. It is kind of okay, but really I found the case uninteresting, the acting dated, and the direction somewhat cheesy. It just didn't do it for me.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Revolutionary Road

I loved Richard Yates' novel Revolutionary Road, about the sad, hopeless demise of a narcissistic couple trapped in suburbia. I read it decades ago and remember being very affected by it.

The movie, however, is a wash. The self-absorption and selfishness of the characters, which seemed tragic in the novel, come across as whiny and just plain unpleasant. I didn't feel for them.

I thought the performances were terrible as well. Leonardo DiCaprio overacted through the whole thing, furrowing his brows intensely, ridiculously. Kate Winslet affected a tremulous, winsome crankiness. Both grated on me. Winslet is very, very good at portraying unlikeable unhappy women: Little Children, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I continue to like her as an actress. This was just the wrong vehicle for both of them, and the direction was heavy-handed and coarse.

Weirdly, I was thoroughly gripped by the movie, in spite of its (to me) glaring flaws. I was fascinated and yet repelled, by the spectacle of them tearing away at each other. A slightly less melodramatic Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. It's unique to see such a close inspection of a relationship, and unique to see a movie so grim, with so little consolation in the end. So, for those reasons, I suppose I appreciated this movie.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Year of Magical Thinking

I just finished Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and I feel very shaky.

It's an elegantly, beautifully, unsentimentally written account of the year following her husband's death, which included a prolonged medical episode with her daughter as well.

At times I was bored. But mostly I couldn't breathe. It made me feel so scared about something going on in my own body. So, I could mainly only read it through my own narcissistic fear of death. Because of that, I feel like I missed a lot of the narrative. I feel like I wasn't there. It was almost as if I read it between my fingers, the way you watch the scary part of the movie. I couldn't look at it straight on.