Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Gift

I had first seen The Gift when it came out in theaters. (Apparently in 2000 -- I can't believe it was that long ago!).

I remembered liking it, and felt like a scary movie. It's fairly predictable, but very well acted. And, even knowing the ending I still got spooked. It has a star-studded cast: Kate Blanchett (as the psychic with a heart), Keanu Reeves (as the violent, ignorant, redneck), Hilary Swank (as his pathetic and abused wife), Giovanni Ribisi (as the town's crazy), and Katie Holmes (as the town's over-privileged slut).

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

I'm not sure how much I liked The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I definitely got into it. But there were so many things that I don't feel great about.

It's about someone who is born old and ages backward. And it was done in a very sentimental Driving-Miss-Daisy type of way. Like, if Charlie Kaufman did it, it would be a completely different movie, and it might have been different.

This was sort of a sleepy, sepia-toned, contemplation about aging and life. Anchored by a (for me) tepid and slightly contrived love story.

It was interesting to watch the makeup and how they did the aging. And in general I enjoyed watching Brad Pitt transform and go through his life.

It was "framed" with an annoying device: a woman (his love) was dying and she had her daughter read a book Benjamin had written about his life. While reading it, a hurricane is going on, which turns out to be Hurricane Katrina. It was just an annoying distraction. And it created unnecessary distance from the main story.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How Not To Look Old

I read How Not To Look Old: Fast and Effortless Ways to Look 10 Years Younger, 10 Pounds Lighter, 10 Times Better by Charla Krupp in one sitting last night.

This book, which looks and feels much more like a particularly thick magazine, is filled with useful information and tips, and as I read it I jotted down product recommendations in my notebook.

The advice boils down to a few simple things, and the chapter titles give them away (for example: "Put on Pink Lipstick" and "Whiten Your Teeth"). But it was very motivating to go through and have all these little pointers, many of which I am taking very seriously (I already whitened my teeth and started wearing pink lipstick from thumbing through the book a week or so ago in Barnes & Nobel).

I don't quite think this book is worth the sticker price. There's lots of filler and really feels like it should be less than $10, but I'm glad I got it, and, like I said, I couldn't put it down.

Some criticisms or things that would make it better: Instead of shots of celebrities to illustrate points, she could have used shots of "regular people". Also, everyone looked like they were in their forties, and it might have been helpful to show how things make differences on older, older women as well as on younger, older women. If that makes any sense. Finally, the style recommendations are pretty mainstream trendy (she says she's focused on people in office situations, which calls for a kind of narrow range of options) and not quite "cool."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sleeping with the Enemy

The other night I watched Sleeping with the Enemy. I have been on an 80s/90s kick recently. Just for the sake of easy digestibility, really. Anyway, I had seen this before but had forgotten that I had. It's very predictable.

It's about a woman who fakes her own death to escape an abusive husband who then ends up stalking her and trying to kill her.

I didn't pay that much attention to it, though I did get very scared (in spite of myself) during the last scene.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Metropolitan Opera Recital in Coffey Park

Last night I went to an all too short recital in Coffey Park. Put on by the Metropolitan Opera, the performance took place on a small stage in a small park in the middle of housing projects. I was part of a small audience.

The soprano was Joyce El-Khoury, and the bass was the very handsome Keith Miller. (I found out online that they are married to each other in real life). Their singing was delightful. The repertoire included a number of light crowd pleasers, including a few numbers in English, such as the "I Remember It Well" Maurice Chevalier song from Gigi.

I love the performance, but, alas, it was very short. Only 45 minutes!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Charlie Wilson's War

In spite of the fact that it was a bit sanctimonious, I very much enjoyed Charlie Wilson's War, about the efforts of three politically strange bedfellows raising money to support American covert support of Afghanistan against the Soviets in the late 80s. I knew virtually nothing about this conflict, or it's importance, until after 9/11 when Afghanistan was all over the news. I think I really would have preferred a documentary to a dramatic movie, although it's based on facts.

As narrative, it was okay. A little slack. The best parts for me were the repartee between Tom Hanks (as Charlie Wilson) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (as a gruff CIA agent).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Forbidden Lie$ ("spoiler" alert)

Forbidden Lie$ is a documentary about a woman who wrote a best-selling memoir about a friend of hers who was murdered by her father in an honor killing in Jordan.

Turns out, she made up most of the details, if not the entire story.

The documentary followed her trying to prove herself, but the lies she told kept unraveling and information came out that she was a con artist.

It was an interesting story, although I found the way it was filmed rather annoying. There were a number of dramatic re-enactments, which I never like; and the use of old movie footage to set certain scenes, which was distracting.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Illusionist

Another nothingish movie. The Illusionist is set in 19th century Vienna, I think. And the main characters are an "illusionist," his childhood sweetheart who is a duchess, an inspector, and the crowned prince, the duchess' fiance.

The way the movie is filmed gave me the impression that the director thought it was more interesting and intense than it actually is. It's about magic and illusion and ghosts. It's essentially a mystery. But it was filmed in this shrouded over-wrought way. I think if it had been done on a smaller scale it might have worked.

As it was, there was no emotional center. The love story was passive, with both actors phoning it in. As the inspector Paul Giamatti tried to muster up an interesting and believable performance. The poor man really did try, which is more than I can say for Ed Norton or Jessica Biel. But alas, Giamatti is a sucky actor and his efforts fell flat.

Guess I didn't like this one very much.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Leonard Cohen Live in London

Last night I watched Leonard Cohen Live in London, a concert aired by PBS and DVRd by mother for me.

It was great. He performed a lot of his later, more orchestrated work, and had a smooth, soft-shoe type delivery style. His voice is going, however, and that made me sad. Although, as my mother pointed out, if you closed your eyes and didn't see him straining, he sounded really good, like an old school crooner.

Francis Bacon

I went to the Francis Bacon retrospective at the Met today.
I hadn't been that familiar with his work, so it was sort of educational. I found it interesting, his paintings are dark and gloomy and surreal. Distorted, damaged, dream-like bodies literally leaking into the emptiness of his backgrounds.
As much as I appreciated the exhibit, I don't think I enjoyed it.
Also, I usually take advantage of my flexible schedule and see art on weekdays when the museums and galleries are less crowded. But today I was uptown visiting my mother and it seemed convenient. Still, I think the crowds made me cranky.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Fatal Bullet

A comic book I had been anxiously awaiting arrived today, and I devoured it on my subway rides. The Fatal Bullet: a true account of the assassination, lingering pain, death, and burial of James A. Garfield, twentieth president of the United States, also including the inglorious life and career of the despised assassin Guiteau is a wonderful historical piece. The writing is taut and very witty and the illustrations are great.

This is part of Rick Geary's series, A Treasury of Victorian Murder. I can't wait to dive into Lizzie Borden and Jack the Ripper next!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Clear and Present Danger

Last night I watched Clear and Present Danger. It held my interest but was basically forgettable. In fact, I've practically forgotten already what it was about. Oh, right, an illicit drug war initiated by the president... Harrison Ford was predictably self-righteous...