Sunday, August 28, 2016

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of my all time favorite movies (I am a Charlie Kaufman nut). It is about a couple who each independently decide to use a strange service to erase the other from their memory after a difficult breakup.

It takes place in several time areas - the present where Joel and Clementine find themselves in Montauk, unsure why, and meet, seemingly for the first time -- Joel before and during the process of having his memory erased -- and Joel's mind during the procedure as each memory is experienced as it is deleted. In the first time area, the present, there is a strange numbness to their interactions; during the process of having his memory erased there are sort of complicated side stories about the people performing the procedure that in the end become very important. Much of the movie is in the memories themselves, going backwards in time, starting with tense and upsetting interactions during the demise of their relationship, then moving back to more fun and loving ones, as Joel begins to panic at the thought of losing them.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind has an unpleasant nerve racking feel, kind of like being in someone else's panic attack. The relationship between Joel and Clementine is not a good one -- she is frequently mean to him and his passivity is both maddening and heartbreaking. It's not that you want them to get back together. Instead you experience that terrible sense of loss and desire to retrieve a lost love, and to preserve something of it.

Crossing Delancey

I saw Crossing Delancey around when it came out back in the late 80s. It's about Isabel, a sort of sophisticated, literary woman on the upper west side who works at a fancy bookstore and has a crush on an arrogant and famous European novelist.

Her grandmother lives on the Lower East Side, which is presented as another world. Her grandmother is concerned about when Isabel will marry, and consults a matchmaker who sets Isabel up with a guy who owns the big neighborhood pickle store. Isabel has to deal with her own snobbishness as she initially rejects him and eventually begins to like him. I enjoyed Crossing Delancey, in part for nostalgic reasons, but it annoyed me how dismissive she was of the pickle man.

The Imposter

The Imposter tells such a strange story! It's a documentary about a boy in Texas who goes missing, and is found nearly four years later in Spain. But it's not him. At all. Even though the boy's family accepts him and lets them in to their lives as if he were their missing son.

The Imposter is about a European guy who has a compulsion to impersonate abused and missing teenagers. He was 23 when he convinced authorities he was the missing 16 year old from Texas. Even though he has brown eyes and the missing boy has blue. There are many strange things going on, and it is creepy how the family seemed to accept him without question.

Doll and Em

The first two seasons of Doll and Em on HBO are pretty good. It's about two women who have been friends since childhood. Em is a successful actress working in the states, and Doll's life falls apart in England and she comes to stay with Em, working as her assistant. The close friendship is often tense and sad as both women have tendency to undermine each other and are each threatened by the other. There are some great scenarios and I liked watching the characters develop. The storyline in the second season about the play became kind of annoying though.

Igby Goes Down

This summer I watched Igby Goes Down once again. I've seen it three times now. I really click with the humor and enjoy the wonderful ensemble cast in this dark, sad story about a fucked up rich family.

Igby's mom (Susan Sarandon) is dying of cancer. She has been an self-absorbed hardened mom to Igby and his very pretension older brother. Their father had a serious break with reality when they were children and has been in a mental hospital for years. Igby keeps getting kicked out of expensive high schools, and his long-time family friend (Jeff Goldblum) takes him under his wing. Goldblum is a rich and charming asshole with all the great lines. He has a mistress he keeps in a soho loft, Amanda Peet, whose drug use starts to get really messy. Igby is in love with her, as well as with Sukie, a college student played by Claire Danes, who is also romantically involved with Igby's brother. Throughout the movie you see Igby terrified of becoming like the adults around him, and while deeply scared of going crazy like his father, through flashbacks you see Igby develop compassion for this broken man.

A Perfect Murder

A Perfect Murder is perfectly good thriller. Not super amazing, but taut and engaging and it doesn't veer into any kind of nonsense toward the end.

Michael Douglas plays a successful hedge fund wall street type, married to a wealthy younger woman played by Gwyneth Paltrow. He discovers she is having an affair, and also learns that her lover has a history of seducing heiresses for their money. He decides to pay the lover a large sum of money to murder his wife and disappear. He has a perfectly planned burlary scenario. Which of course goes wrong. It gets pretty interesting, as the the burglar turns out not to be the lover and the lover tries to blackmail Michael Douglas. Gwyneth Paltrow is kind of vague and dim throughout, but eventually begins to suspect her husband.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, S2

Earlier this summer I watched the second season of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. As with S1, at first I found it jarring and odd and too broad and abrasive. But soon I got into it again. This season Kimmy is an Uber driver for a drunk who happens to be a therapist (played by Tina Fey), and who ends up helping Kimmy deal with her issues, both since coming up from the bunker and before.

Kimmy also continues to help Mrs. Voorhis, who remained my favorite. Titus's dating life gets serious, and Kimmy is reunited with her mom, played brilliantly by Lisa Kudrow. It was hysterical and whacky throughout, but there were a couple of moments with Lisa Kudrow that got me choked up.

Sedaris: When You Are Engulfed In Flames & Naked

This was a Sedaris summer for me. I read both collections, When You Are Engulfed In Flames and Naked. I really love his essays and can't imagine reading too many of them.  So many laugh out loud moments within well-structured and often complex narratives. The situations are often quite fascinating, in a micro way, and his observations can be astute. I love reading about his childhood and family -- particularly his mother, about his years during and after college, and his travels and life with Hugh. I feel like I know him.

I read Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls a couple of years ago, which I think is his most recent collection. I can't wait for the next one.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


In the winter I watched the first season of the new Netflix series, Love. At first I couldn't get into it -- I found both main characters unlikable and annoying. But as it moves on their big character flaws become more integrated into the narrative. There are some very funny moments, and the Australian roommate is hysterical. I'll happily watch the next season.

House of Cards

In the winter I watched all four seasons of House of Cards. There was so much I liked about it -- it was pretty intense. At first I hated it, but once I got into it I found it very compelling. Creepy and fascinating. The relationship between Frank and Claire Underwood was particularly interesting to me. Their cold quest for power and their ruthless competence.

As much as I liked it, often it was tedious. The plot sometimes was hard to keep up with, and at times it felt repetitive. Still, I can't wait for Season 5!

Friday, August 19, 2016


I'm doing a little catching up now on the blog. I binge watched Community last year, but never posted about it. I LOVED this show. So goofy, so funny, often clever, very lovable (though at times annoying). Every single character was great in their own way -- but Dean Pelton was my favorite. I wish every community college had a dean like him!

Chevy Chase was pretty awesome too. I couldn't stop laughing at his pratfalls -- somehow they always worked on me.

Body Snatchers

I have to admit I kind of liked the 1993 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, simply titled Body Snatchers. The twist that drew me in is that this is set on any army base. A scientist brings his family to the base for some research project. But because military personnel are already robotic and emotionally unexpressive, it is doubly creepy because it's harder to tell who is a pod person. Also, the little boy is the first to notice people aren't real, but of course no one believes him. The scariest thing is when his mother is taken over. The ending is pretty cool too.

Invasion (with SPOILER)

I've been fascinated with the cult classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers since I was a kid. Something about the mounting paranoia (a theme in many of the great movies from the 1970s), the creepy vacancy of the pod people, the robotic aggression.... Although I've seen the original version from the 50s (I think?), but it's the 1978 one with Donald Sutherland that haunted me.

So I couldn't resist watching a remake from the early 2000s starring Nicole Kidman, Invasion. While the 70s version played with anxieties about social conformity and conspiracy, this version is all about new virus hysteria. The pod people aren't in pods anymore, they are a virus transmitted through bodily contact and they majorly fuck with the immune system. Like earlier versions, the infestation comes from outer space, but it has much less of an alien theme. It's all about medical technology and the super-duper important scientists need to quickly figure things out and come up with an antidote. Another big difference is Invasion is cluttered with news stories about the takeover constantly on TV and in the background -- emphasizing the invasion as a national emergency, rather than an individual horror. It's a noisy, cluttered, panicked circus, not a slow, quiet, ominous takeover.

In all the versions I've seen (including one from the 90s that I'll post about in a second), the ending is always grim. The final scene of the Donald Sutherland one stuck with me forever. But Invasion doesn't go there. Instead, the crackerjack team of scientists come up with an antidote ridiculously quickly. Humanity is saved, and no one remembers when they were trying to kill each other. Ugh. Also, crazy car chase scenes and gratuitous moralizing about the trappings of ego, blah blah blah.