Saturday, January 30, 2016

Walking and Talking

I love Nicole Holofcener. Her movies do such a great job exploring women's relationships, particularly with each other. Last night I watched Walking and Talking, about a strained friendship. It's very good. Maybe not as good as Lovely and Amazing. The performances are great, and it was fun watching young Catherine Keener (a favorite) and Anne Heche (who I've always liked).

Tom Segura: Completely Normal

I really enjoyed the Netflix comedy special, Tom Segura: Completely Normal. My favorite bits included a catastrophic poop, a doctor's visit, and a cab ride. Funny stuff.


I thought Elizabeth, the period drama starring Cate Blanchet as a young Queen Elizabeth was pretty boring. The political intrigue was somewhat interesting, and the costumes were stunning. But Blanchet was kind of cold and inscrutable and I didn't connect emotionally at all.

Inside Man

I saw Inside Man in the theater when it first came out. It's about a big bank robbery on wall street where numerous hostages are held for 24 hours. The robbers heist scheme is intricate and fascinating and law enforcement is confused and behind a beat throughout. The performances are solid. Some elements are a bit flawed, particularly the snippets of interviews with hostages, but it's still a pretty watchable piece of entertainment.

The Argonauts

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson is a lovely, intelligent, deeply thoughtful, exploration of love, identity, relationships, the body, and motherhood. Drawing on theory and literature, Nelson engages in a critical, beautifully written "memoir" of her romantic relationship with a queer artist and their family-making. Her deep reading of various texts is intimate, and one thing that emerges from The Argonauts is how significant writing can be to our meaningful understanding of ourselves and our world.


proxy, by r. erica doyle, is an amazing poetry book, a sort of long poem exploring erotic relations and tensions between the self and desired. The language is incredibly raw and alive and beautiful -- short prose pieces that each glimmer on their own and create a deep, dazzling whole.

Here is an example:

Everything is a terrible color.

Gather in her breasts like sails. Like nets and draw deep, The hand pumps between. A link to turning inside out.

All the displaced lust in the world would not pacify this quest. The fist in the center of your chest is turning. Everything behind is wet and begging. Your ears pop in the tunnel. Fragrances of sound emerge dully. Postulate, postulate, gratiating consciousness. Around the fist the scar tissue thickens. You were born with that wound. It's getting deeper.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Obvious Child

I had read good reviews of Obvious Child when it first came out a little while ago. But I didn't want to see it because I found Jenny Slate to be so fucking obnoxious and unbearable on Parks and Recreation. I'm so glad I decided to get past that and give Obvious Child a try because it's a very sweet movie. Jenny Slate is terrific in it. She plays a young struggling comedian who gets pregnant after a one-night stand. Sounds boring, right? But it isn't. The movie is both raunchy and delicate. Jenny Slate's character has a neurotic in-your-face style that is tempered by lots of charm. The scenes are often very funny, but there is a gentle realism going on that makes this tender without being corny at all.

The movie gets it's title from the Paul Simon song, which is played during an important scene, and lends a beautiful tone to the whole thing.

The Grifters

I loved The Grifters when it first came out and considered it one of my favorite movies. I watched it again over the weekend and felt a little disappointed. I remembered it as being more tense and gripping. Also, I think at the time I thought the neo-noir style was cool, but now it felt dated and stilted. Which is not to say that it isn't good, just not as great as I remember. The cast is fantastic and the plot is engaging. The relationship dynamics were a little two dimensional. The ending, however, is pretty amazing.

The Overnight

The Overnight is a ridiculously awful movie that I wish I hadn't watched. It's about a normal-ish sweet couple who are invited to a dinner party by a more eccentric and mysterious couple. The movie tries to build tension and intrigue but it's all just so stupid. At a certain point you are supposed to be wondering who is going to hook up with whom, but I seriously could not have cared less.

Anthony Jeselnik: Thoughts and Prayers

Anthony Jeselnik: Thoughts and Prayers is arrogant, harsh, and often very, very funny. His delivery seems highly controlled, and his jokes are dark -- at times stupidly so. One of the things he is doing is seeing how far he can go, what he can get his audience to expose about themselves when they laugh at certain bits. My favorite joke, that I'll be repeating, is the one where he is discussing how much money he is making and asks, "Who was it that said the first million is the hardest?" The answer is quite surprising. I also loved and related to what he says about people's "thoughts and prayers" on social media on tragedy days.

Tom Segura: Mostly Stories

Tom Segura: Mostly Stories is an entertaining comedy special on Netflix that is just like it sounds -- the comedian telling stories. He's very good at it an enjoyable to listen to. He has a kind of curmudegeonly take on contemporary life that I can relate to, but there's no real hostility or aggression in his persona, which made the performance particularly palatable.

Nurse Jackie

This month I binge watched all of Nurse Jackie. I loved this show! It started off kind of quirky and comedic but through the seasons (7 of them) became more intense and dramatic. It follows a devoted, tough-cookie of an emergency room nurse who is married with children and juggling an affair with a coworker. The show centers on her addiction to pills, and this becomes more and more of the driving force of the narrative towards the last few seasons.

Edie Falco is amazing as Jackie, although sometimes her hard-edged bravado becomes tiring. What really makes Nurse Jackie special is the supporting cast -- from her best friend, to her lover, to her boss, to her husband, her kids, her coworkers, particularly Zoey, my favorite. Their performances are great, their scenes often hysterical, and throughout the seasons it's their love and commitment to her that makes Jackie a real character and not just a caricature.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Slow Learners

Slow Learners is a lame romcom on Netflix. It is about a high school librarian and guidance counselor who have crap love lives which they attribute to their respective geekiness. To address this they spend the summer working on being cool, and the whole thing is kind of ridiculous.

Sophie's Choice

The other week I watched Sophie's Choice. I didn't like it. It's cornball melodrama, romanticizing holocaust survivors and the mentally ill.

The story is told from the perspective of Stingo who moves to New York to become a writer, and he befriends the eccentric couple Sophie and Nathan. Nathan is manic and violent and Sophie is effusive and mysterious. Both of them kinda bugged the shit out of me, but Stingo was entranced. Sophie's Choice explores the tumultuous relationship between the couple, uncovering each's secret and dark past.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Looking Back on 2015

2015 was a stressful year for me, and unfortunately I read very little, fiction or non-fiction, which I regret and hope to turn around in 2016. Anyway, going through the year of What I Read and Watched, I have chosen several standouts.

Of the few art shows I saw Without/Color (part 1), was my favorite, featuring hauntingly beautiful and stark images by Meridith McNeal.

I enjoyed all the Netflix comedy specials I watched this year, but Aziz Ansari's Dangerously Delicious was the standout.

I always love dance, and it is always hard to choose a favorite, but this year I'm going to say Momix: Alchemia, for it's vibrant over-the-top, gorgeous production.

The most gripping documentary I watched in 2015 was hands down The Jinx.

My favorite novel was The First Bad Man.

I only saw a few movies in the theater this year, and most of them were kind of schlocky. Diary of a Teenage Girl, however, was excellent! Of the many movies I streamed, the favorites were all films I was viewing for a second time: Lovely and Amazing, Year of the Dog, and The World According to Garp.

I saw a number of great live music performances that I totally loved. Standouts include Macy Gray at City Winery, Sun Kil Moon at Town Hall, and Joan Armatrading at The Concert Hall.

I read numerous amazing poetry books this year, but my all time favorites were books by Joanna Fuhrman, and Ana Bozicevic. The Year of Yellow Butterflies and Rise in the Fall are both incredibly beautiful.

Once again, Company XIV made my year. This company is amazing in so many ways, it is always a year end favorite, big time. Cinderella, which I saw twice, is a fantastic piece of theater.

Finally, TV. I watched a lot this year. Got obsessively into several amazing shows. Of all of them I was most blown away by the second season of Transparent, the third season of Orange is the New Black, all of Mad Men, and the second season of The Comeback.

Making a Murderer

Making a Murderer is a recently released 10-part documentary on Netflix that is extremely compelling. It follows the legal case of Steven Avery, a man who in 2003 was exonerated for a wrongful conviction in 1985. After serving 18 years for a crime he did not commit he returns to his community in a working class county in Wisconsin. In the aftermath of his exoneration he becomes a sort of hero and receives national attention. During this time he files a 36-million dollar suit against the county for the miscarriage of justice. Then, he gets accused of another crime. A heinous murder that seems to have been committed on his property.

The documentary closely examines these cases, both which involve shady law enforcement practices. Avery's defense is based on the idea that the prosecution and law enforcement were over-zealously pursuing him as a suspect. All ten parts of Making a Murderer are fascinating and gripping and it's hard to stop watching.