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Friday, December 31, 2010

Rob Pattinson in 2011

Busy, busy boy!  He's got 3 movies coming out in 2011 - all based on books, perhaps not completely coincidentally:

Water for Elephants, scheduled for April 22

Breaking Dawn, scheduled for November 11

Bel Ami, not yet scheduled but likely in the fall or during the holidays.

And he just signed onto another project, also based on a book - Don DeLillo's Comopolis, directed by David Cronenberg.

I recently watched 4 of his pre-Twilight movies (well, 3 are pre- and one is post-)

Remember Me - not based on a book!

How To Be - not based on a book, as far as I can tell, but the plot revolves around a book.

Little Ashes - sensual and rather offbeat film about the relationship among Spanish art icons Salvador Dali, Federico García Lorca, and Luis Buñuel.

The Bad Mother's Handbook - based on a popular British novel which I read several years ago.

Of course, he was in 2 of the Harry Potters movies, obviously based on books.

I think the only films of his that I still have to see are The Haunted Airman and Curse of the Ring.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Battlestar Galactica

So I finally watched the final (half) season of this series (4.5). Though I bought the DVDs many months ago, I never committed the time to see it (plus, I was a tiny bit ambivelent, since I'd heard it was not quite what fans had hoped for).  It's fitting that I watched over the holiday break, since I started the series 2 years ago during the same break, after having the 1st season DVDs for a year.

I have to say, I was quite disappointed.  I thought the episodes in general were inferior to previous seasons (to the point that I thought they seemed to be written by a completely different group of people).  Also, the plot lines wandered off in various directions that rarely seemed congruent with what happened previously (I wondered if the series was originally planned to be only 2 or 3 seasons, and the additional material had to be conjured and stretched to fill in the additional time).  Worse, the soap factor was off the charts - sometimes I thought I'd stumbled into an episode of As the World Turns - I especially thought Galen discovering that Hotdog was the real father of his son was just stupid, and served absolutely no purpose except to briefly give EJO's son, Bodie, a larger role.  The pregnancy (by Saul) and miscarriage experienced by Caprica 6 also felt like it came right out of daytime TV and ultimately seemed like a red herring (I found myself thinking that, at this point, the writers were throwing darts at a board to decide what to make these characters do next!)

The 2 hr finale was packed with silliness, despite a few genuine moments.  The writers seemed to have no idea what to do with the religious themes that intertwined the series so far, and most of it was vaguely addressed and barely resolved.  I was especially irritated with the strange role of destiny and God's will in the resolution, since it made little sense when considered beside the themes and action in previous seasons of the series.  For example, if the coordinates of the earth-like planet were embedded in a song that Kara knew from childhood, why did the survivors wander around space for 4 years (and if that song "turned on" the human Cylons/final 5, why were they so clueless about it's meaning)?  Also, the all-important feud with the Cylons that drove the action to this point, when viewed in the context of "God's will," seems pointless and without real drama or meaning.  I felt like they should have committed one way or another to the religious themes, instead of just tossing in a concept here and there (like "angels" and "God's plan").
I found myself continually rolling my eyes - Kara Thrace is a ghost?  Ellen Tigh, a slutty alcoholic, is the creator of the entire Cylon race and the inventor of Resurrection?  Balthar's relationship with the spirit of Caprica 6 had been treated all along as a delusion, but suddenly she's an Angel and she's joined by another Angel - him!  The ominous shared vison/dream of Hera being kidnapped by these two is suddenly a rescue, ordained from On High. 

I could go on and on.  The only episode I really liked was No Exit, which featured great acting and terrific dialog, and seemed much more similar to the tone and quality of previous seasons.  I also liked the 2-part mutiny storyline, The Oath and Blood on the Scales (I always wanted Mr Gaeta to have a bigger role, though not like this!) 

Despite these frustrations, I really liked the very last scene, set in the future (our present?) where we are poised to renew the man vs machine battle lines.  I found it quite clever and satisfying, which was especially surprising, after enduring 2 hours of sorely disappointing plot meanderings.  (I just loved the line "It doesn't like being called that.")  If the entire finale had been approached with this light touch, it would have been a lot more fun to watch.

All I have left to watch is The Plan, a sort of bridge movie, that shows what was happening with the Cylons when the series started.  It's gotten very mixed reviews from fans, and many of the best characters, including Kara, are absent.  But it still has to be better than most of the crap I could spend time watching, and it was directed by EJO, so I have to watch it out of loyalty to him, if nothing else!


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Racy" fairytales

Not sure where I heard about this originally, but it's sounded fun - "racy" retellings of traditional fairytales, all set in the court of King Louis XIV, in Versailles.

Awakened by a Kiss by Lila DePasqua.
And her second set of stories, A Princess in His Bed.

In an authors note, she says that many of the most famous fairytales, like Puss in Boots, were written during this period by Charles Perrault, so she took his stories (3 in each book) and set them during the period when he wrote them. And made them super sexy too, as fitting the "lusty" time period. The users on Goodreads love them.

In looking for a link to the book, I found an extensive sample of Awakened at Google books, and I couldn't help reading it.  It's very readable, actually quite good, but it's porn, there's no way around that.  But it's girly porn, and the surrounding story is a lot better than "regular" porn, by far.  I had expected some sex scenes, but nothing as explicit as this ("Awakened by a Kiss" sounds more sweet than raunchy).  The stories are good enough, they doesn't really need the extra, er, details.  They're fun and sexy already, though make only the barest nod to the fairytales they're based on (like Sleeping Beauty).  I'm a little embarrassed at reading it and liking it, and I chickened out putting it on my goodreads list.  But for all that, I bought the Kindle edition of Awakened, because I wanted to read the rest of the story I had started online (as well as the other 2 in the book), and it's not available at the library (though her second book is).


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Extreme foster care placement

I actually got choked up reading this amazing story about a pilot program in St Louis, using a different model to place hard-to-place kids (teens, blacks, sibling groups) in the foster care system by, among other things, employing investigators to look for family members.*  The program is poised to revolutionize the American foster care system - it's currently engaged in a 5-year outcomes evaluation.

I was so glad I got to read Time magazine's wonderful article - it was in my inaugural issue!  Weird side note: the author of the article is Curtis Sittenfeld, who wrote American Wife, a fictional autobiography (is that the right words) of Laura Bush, that I read a couple years ago.

*The conventional wisdom has long been that since these kids come from dysfunctional families, the entire family would likely be poor prospects, but this program is rejecting that premise and they have almost doubled the placement of hard-to-place kids into "forever families" - i.e., permanent homes.  They often find what they call a "family gem" - someone who is both appropriate and happy to help.  They have found that family members are better able to cope with these kids' special needs, and, even more importantly, teens are especially prone to feel disloyal when they accept non-family adoption, and often resist it - this program avoids this major obstacle.  Win-win-win, all around! 


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Weekend movies

Saw a bunch of movies over the holiday weekend.

With the kids in theaters:

Narnia/Voyage of the Dawn Treader - I saw the first movie, but not the second one (Prince Caspian), but this third installment stood on its own just fine.  Quite visually beautiful and a fairly involving story, with terrific secondary characters, especially the mouthy cousin.  I was a bit surprised that the first stop the ship makes is on an island overtaken by slave traders - that seemed like a rather mature topic for a family film!  But my kids didn't seem traumatized by it.

Gulliver's Travels - not bad, but not amazing.  A little too much Jack Black being Jack Black - mugging for the camera, dancing to rock n roll.  Emily Blunt, as the princess who finds her voice, is definitely the best thing in it, IMHO.

Secretariat - saw this at the local discount theater and I just loved it.  It was too talky for the kids, but I thought the story was involving and moving, and really entertaining.  Great cast, great performances, and not *too* Disneyfied.

On video with Caleb:

King Arthur (2004) - the Clive Owen/Kiera Knightley version. Quite good. Interesting - sets the story in the 5th century, when the "real" Arthur is believed to have lived, as the Roman Empire is fading from Briton, and removes all the magic and wizards and such. Clive is always delicious (though he is given a few too many Braveheart-style speeches), and Kiera is especially wonderful (the love triangle with Lancelot is presented very subtly, which I liked). The movie added some Romans (Clive) versus the locals (Kiera) plot, which reminded me a lot of Avatar, but in a good way. We watched the Making Of video and that was amazing - they spent a lot of money to make it authentic, but sadly, it didn't do well at the box office. Kind of surprising, considering the cast and the subject matter. Audiences are so fickle and unpredictable - they probably quite reasonably thought this would be a monster hit.

Centurion (2010) - similar setting and characters to King Arthur, a few hundred years earlier; the Romans fighting the Picts (Scottish locals).  Great acting and costumes, and glorious setting (filmed in Scotland and England).  Super bloody, but also great dialog and characters.  Worth watching, though I had to hide my eyes several times.

Dominic Sena double feature: Swordfish (2001) & Gone in 60 Seconds (2000).  Just a coincidence that we picked out 2 movies directed by the same guy.  Both were good, but not great.  Swordfish started out well, fresh and smart, but the first half was definitely better than the second half.  Gone had a great cast and some witty dialog, but it went on too long and could have used better editing.

On video:

The Back-Up Plan (2010) - Jennifer Lopez vehicle, with a yummy love interest played by Aussie Alex O'Loughlin; good but not great; some good moments, but uneven, and (as always) super contrived.  Pregnancy and childbirth turn out not to be as funny as this team thought it would be.  And as always, they skimp on the falling in love part - it seems to happen mostly off screen - why exactly did these two people decide they were perfect for each other?  Not a classic, but not a waste of time either.

The Sleeping Dictionary (2003) - surprisingly affecting drama set in Borneo in the early 20th century - Hugh Dancy is delicious as the naive British bureaucrat and Jessica Alba is quite compelling as the half white/half native Selima, who Hugh falls for.  Great cast and gorgeous setting.  My only complaint was the overly accepting attitude of the jilted wife (played by Emily Mortimer), who didn't seem to mind her husband leaving her for his first love.  Bonus - unexpected and very hot sex scenes.

North & South (2004) - a BBC miniseries from an (apparently) famous novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, set in the 1840s in an industrial town in northern England (a fictional city that is supposed to be Manchester).  Follows the P&P plotline pretty closely, which isn't a bad thing, of course.  The stars have good chemistry, and the commentary is a bit sharper than P&P - about working conditions in factories and unions and such.  Very worthwhile - I'll have to see other productions based on her books: Wives & Daughters, and Cranford.


Friday, December 24, 2010

P!nk does it again

I'm so impressed with her latest video - it's just a fun party song, "Raise Your Glass" - it even includes the line "why so serious?" - but she included strong messages against bullfighting and dairy farming.  Rock on!


Just a couple weeks after watching this video, I heard a song on the radio that sounded like Pink - not just the voice, but the gorgeous orchestral flourishes also, and sure enough, it's her new single, "Fuckin' Perfect" which includes these uplifting lyrics (obviously, the radio version leaves out the "f" word, but I like the song with it in):
You're so mean, when you talk about yourself, you were wrong

Change the voices in your head, make them like you instead
So complicated, look happy, you'll make it!
Filled with so much hatred...such a tired game
It's enough! I've done all I can think of
Chased down all my demons, I've seen you do the same

Oh, pretty pretty please, don't you ever ever feel
Like you're less than fuckin' perfect
Pretty pretty please, if you ever ever feel like you're nothing
You're fuckin' perfect to me

Reminds me a bit of Katy Perry's wonderful song, "Firework."  I sure do enjoy listening to these ladies belting out these positive messages - it's such a nice contrast to the constant barrage of crap about whores and hatred that flood the airways daily.  Apparently there's no official video yet for "Perfect," but I can't wait.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Class warfare" in books and movies

Terrific commentary by AO Scott in the NY Times, about the way class is currently represented in media, especially movies.  Thanks so much to my friend Suzanne, for sending this to me.  Below are a few of my favorite paragraphs:

. . . In the movies, which exist partly to smooth over the rough patches in our collective life, the same basic picture takes on a more benign coloration. Middle-classness is a norm, an ideal and a default setting. For a long time most commercial entertainments not set in the distant past or in some science-fiction superhero fantasyland have taken place in a realm of generic ease and relative affluence. Everyone seems to have a cool job, a fabulous kitchen, great clothes and a nice car. Nothing too fancy or showy, of course, and also nothing too clearly marked with real-world signs of status or its absence.

. . . There is no doubt that in the past year, through seasons of economic malaise and political anger, there has seemed to be a lot more division than consensus in American life. And this friction is often articulated and analyzed in what sounds like the language of class. Not in the old European (or, God forbid, socialist) sense of the word. The history of the world might be, as Karl Marx said, the history of class struggle but the history of American exceptionalism insists otherwise. So we have instead, at this moment in history, a culture war, a battle between populism and elitism, a sectional conflict between the coasts and the heartland and ideological dispute between liberals and conservatives.

. . . Someone once said that there are no red states or blue states, just united states, which may be true except for the united part. That, at least, is Mr. [Jonathan] Franzen’s insight [in his novel, Freedom]: that disunion is a much more diffuse and intimate condition than our political expressions of it might lead us to suppose. (And this leads him back, eventually, to a quiet rediscovery of the basic truth that we’re all in this together.)

. . . And this same assumption is at work in movies — and, especially, television series — that explore the fear of dropping out of the middle class rather than the impulse to climb into it. In John Wells’s “Company Men,” a brutal chronicle of corporate downsizing, the characters face the loss of jobs, income and, much more frighteningly, the collapse of their identities. It may be possible to claw your way from the middle to the top, but it is not as if the comforts of family and locale that hold Ree Dolly [in Winter's Bone] and Micky Ward [in The Fighter] in place are waiting for anyone on the way down. The battered petty-bourgeois breadwinners in “Hung” and “Breaking Bad,” for instance, find their way into stereotypical professions of the underclass (sex work and drug dealing), but only as a desperate means of staying in place. They do not become part of a culture of poverty, but rather parodic, degraded specimens of suburban individualism.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mad Men

Mad Men is making lots of the Top 10 TV shows of 2010 lists, no surprise.  I heard the NPR TV reviewer commenting on this and he said that while not that many people watch the show, everyone talks about the show, and it's a big cultural influence, on fashion and even on real ads.  Interesting.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snowiest month

According to the Golden Snowball website, the current total snowfall for Syracuse on the site is 72.7 inches.  We already broke the record for the snowiest December on record, and we need less than 6 more inches to be the all time snowiest month ever recorded!! There's other records being beaten this year, including snowiest day. Here's the info on the snowiest month from the site:


1. 78.1 INCHES JANUARY 2004
2. 72.6 INCHES FEBRUARY 1958
3. 72.2 INCHES JANUARY 1978
4. 71.0 INCHES JANUARY 1966
5. 70.8 INCHES DECEMBER 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010


Holy cow, a secretary in my department just emailed me to say that she doesn't like my "attitude."  Who the hell does she think she is?  And what on earth does she expect me to say in response?  I don't work for her, so she doesn't get a say in my attitude, or anything else.  In general, I have always found her "attitude" to be condescending and frankly ridiculous, but I was never so presumptuous as to think she'd be interested in my thoughts on it!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Green Zone

I didn't love this movie - Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass wanted to make an action movie with a message, and I think they succeeded, but it's not as compelling as it could be.  But it wasn't bad, and I loved this line from the end, which makes the whole thing worthwhile ~

Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear): Come on, none of this matters anymore. WMD? This doesn't matter.

Chief Warrant Officer Miller (Matt Damon): What the fuck are you talking about? Of course it fucking matters! The reasons we go to war always matter! It's all that matters! It fucking matters!


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Top Grossing Movies of 2010

I actually saw this list in EW.  I think it's fascinating that more than half of these movies are family films (even if you don't count Harry Potter in that category, which is a tough call).  Big, big money in movies for kids. 

The list below shows shows domestic gross and release date (in parentheses).  Harry Potter will probably move up the list, since it will make money over the holiday vacation. 

Side note - the natural break in this data is probably between 9 and 10, since the rest of the top 20 grossed between $100K and $200K, and the difference is about $35M compared to about $15M between 8-9, 7-8, 6-7. 

1 Toy Story 3 - $415,004,880  (6/18/10)
2 Alice in Wonderland (2010) - $334,191,110  (3/5/10)
3 Iron Man 2 - $312,128,345 (5/7/10)
4 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - $300,531,751 (6/30/10)
5 Inception - $292,485,544  (7/16/10)
6 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 - $265,546,000  (11/19/10)
7 Despicable Me - $250,488,000  (7/9/10)
8 Shrek Forever After - $238,395,990  (5/21/10)
9 How to Train Your Dragon - $217,581,231  (3/26/10)
10 The Karate Kid - $176,591,618  (6/11/10)

Also interesting is that this list is somewhat different when it's ordered by worldwide gross, though the top 2 are the same and it's still 1/2 family films:

1 Toy Story 3 - $1,063,143,492
2 Alice in Wonderland - $1,024,299,722
3 Inception - $825,408,570
4 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 - $824,146,000
5 Shrek Forever After - $737,441,993
6 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse - $693,480,124
7 Iron Man 2 - $621,751,988
8 Despicable Me - $538,822,315 
9 Clash of the Titans - $493,214,993
10 How to Train Your Dragon - $493,206,739


Friday, December 17, 2010

With Alana at Temple Concord

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Facebook minefield

So I'm ridiculously torn about how to respond to this - I got a Facebook friend request from someone I feuded with in high school.  I mean, this girl and I hated each other.  We almost got into a fist fight one day (over what, I have no idea - I have no recollection about why we hated each other.  I don't think there really was a reason, it was just one of those things.)  We were never friends in "real life" - should we be FB friends???  Is it weirder for her to send me a friend request, or for me, as an adult, 30 years later, to wonder if I should accept?


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Progress made

It seems like a good day~

DADT passed in the House.  The Senate claims they have 60 votes.

The tax deal passed in the Senate.  (I hate the deal, but at least something is getting done.)


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Golden Globe Nominations

Here's the link to the entire list.

Best Picture (Drama) has some interesting choices:

Black Swan
The Fighter
The King's Speech
The Social Network

Best Picture (Comedy/Musical):


Jennifer Lawrence from Winter's Bone was nominated (yay!), but there's some stiff competition - not sure she'll make the Oscar cut:






Monday, December 13, 2010

My new favorite website!

I recently stumbled upon MTV's movie site, nextmovie.com ("movies for the next generation" - which obviously doesn't mean me!), but the writing is so sharp and fun, that I'm already addicted.  Here's a recent post about the "hottest" books being developed into movies (just the intro, follow the link for the full list):

Books: They’re just like movies, only without CGI. So it’s no wonder that over the past century, Hollywood has consistently turned to books to provide the basis for some of its best works. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” for instance, was based on a book, while “Gigli” wasn’t. See how that works?  With that in mind, then, we decided to put together a sneak peak of all the coolest books currently being turned into major motion pictures. Because these days, the best library you can go to is your local Cineplex.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Weekend movies

I did a lot of cooking this weekend, so I got to watch some great videos:

Blood & Chocolate is a cross between Twilight and Underworld.  It's werewolves, not vampires, and the mythical creature is Vivian (as opposed to Edward).  It's also based on a book (like Twilight), but the movie deviates substantially from the book, especially at the end.  I saw it mostly for Hugh Dancy (who plays the Bella role) and I thought he was delicious, but I was especially impressed with the female lead, Agnes Bruckner, who is terrific (she's been in some stuff - she has that kind of face that you recognize, but can't quite place).  Apparently the movie was a big flop, but I don't know why - I thought it was romantic and had enough action, but not too much gore  Seems like a winning formula, but it didn't find an audience.  I told all my friends about it.

Winter's Bone was very good.  It made me think of Frozen River, in the best possible way - flawed but determined female lead solves problems and overcomes obstacles in gritty mileau, with sort of happy ending.  If Jennifer Lawrence doesn't get an Oscar nom, she will have been robbed!  Really worthwhile and satisfying movie.

Phoebe in Wonderland was disappointing.  And interesting premise and a terrific cast, but the story was presented in an uneven and ultimately sort of frustrating way . . . the mother insists that her daughter is just "imaginative," but she's clearly suffering from serious mental problems (OCD and some other stuff); the psychiatrist, whose advice the mother rejects, proves to ultimately be right, but he never reappears, and the supportive drama teacher disappears part way through and never returns, which seems odd and inexplicable (she delivers the key line in the movie, about how "normal" people are "awful," and then she exits, stage left).  I especially found the model of parenting to be deeply flawed and a little scary - the parents tolerate terrible behavior from their daughter, and the father even apologizes the one time he speaks sharply to her.  There doesn't seem to be any acknowledgement that her troubled behavior indicates that she needs help - the teachers and the principal who criticize the child are presented as wrong, stupid, insensitive, and almost evil. I found it rather muddled and quite disturbing.  The way Alice in Wonderland (the story, characters, and play) is used is, well, wonderful, and makes the movie worth watching (also for excellent performances), but it's not a particularly satisfying movie.

I finally got out to see Love and Other Drugs, which was good, but not great (probably not worth paying my sitter $30).  I liked the first half or so, and I appreciated their attempts to include a little criticism of the drug industry, but ultimately it was a rather standard romance, and the freshness of the first half faded into a pat and predictable ending.  And, as I heard, the off-color humor is off-putting - the slovenly younger brother was very over-utilized and I could have lived my whole life without seeing his naked rear humping a (totally gorgeous) woman at a party.  Overall, I think the movie needed better editing, and that might have helped a lot.  The friend I went with liked it more than I did.  I must admit, I agree with Suzanne, who said it's worth it just for Jake.  Totally true.  (Anne Hathaway is wonderful too, but JG is just yummy - he doesn't play romantic leads very often, so it's a treat to see him in full smolder mode.)


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yes, I'm saying more about Eclipse

Watched the Blu-Ray with friends tonight, and I have to say, it was a mistake.  The high definition really brings the film's flaws into focus.  The stagy scenes seem much stagier, almost campy - I hadn't noticed this before (watching in the theater and my bootleg).  The ladies I watched with like this one the most of the 3 movies, but it's not my favorite. I think the first one improves when you watch it again, but the opposite is true with this one.  In all 3 films, there is so much of the books missing, but the lost elements seem especially painful in this film.

Even worse is Kristen Stewart's wigs.  People always complain about her hair, but honestly, I never noticed it before.  It's so fake looking in high def, it's actually distracting.   Rob looks much better in the second half of this movie than the first, where his makeup, hair, and especially eyebrows are downright odd.  (I noticed this during previous viewings, but it's even more noticeable in high def.) 

My final complaint has nothing to do with the Blu-Ray, I've just had a chance to watch the extras.  So chintzy!!  A couple of extended scenes and only two deleted scenes!  Both are very good - one with Bella and her dad, and one with Bella and Angela, but they clearly filmed other stuff - they talked about it in the commentary - where is it?  The fans deserve more, IMHO.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Good news - bad news

I was delighted to hear that Amber Heard came out this week at the GLAAD 25th anniversary celebration, proudly announcing that she is a lesbian, saying, among other things, "I can’t be a part of the problem. I hate the idea of a label just as much as anyone else, but I’m with who I’m with, I love who I love."

Described as an "emerging Hollywood talent," she has appeared in "Zombieland" and "Pineapple Express,"  and will appear as Johnny Depp's "love interest" in "The Rum Diary," due out next year.

It was that last bit that gave me pause.  Johnny Depp is just a couple months younger than me, and Amber Heard is 24, so he's old enough to be her father.  Now, I suppose there are quite a few 24 year olds who would be thrilled to be the "love interest," or anything else, to Johnny Depp (along with a lot of other women of any age), but in terms of casting, I think it's a bit icky.  It also denies an actress of a more appropriate age (say, within a decade of his age!) from getting the part.  Just annoying, and it spoils my enjoyment of her news a bit.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Depressing news just keeps coming

Man, oh man, I'm so depressed about the news right now, I can barely stand to hear it.

Tax cut deal is just so discouraging, especially preserving the rates for top earners and the estate tax being included (no one was even talking about that - it's just a cherry on top).  I understand Obama making a deal while the opportunity exists, and at the same time, I appreciate the uproar on the left (though I doubt that will have any impact).  All so that we could extend unemployment benefits for 13 months, which I think is necessary, but this package increases the deficit by some gazillion dollars.  It's just crazy on several levels.

To add insult to injury, DADT did not "advance" in the Senate, despite high profile support and the survey report, that shows the vast majority of soldiers don't mind the repeal.  What's it going to take to do the right thing here???

And despite 2 recent high profile mine disasters, Republicans in the House of Representatives just blocked efforts by Democratic leaders to resurrect a major mine safety reform bill before the end of the year.  Again, what's it going to take to protect people in the most basic ways?

Digby is writing about all this stuff, of course, and more, and I love her commentary.  Here's something that stuck in my head:

"Democrats are always in the position of having to choose between some specific thing that will alleviate some suffering (however temporarily) in exchange for some heinous Galtian thievery and they end up taking the short term relief because they believe they have the responsibility to help people in the best way they can. Unfortunately, when dealing with nihilists, you end up creating more and more circumstances where such deals with the devil are necessary."

She notes more than once that this tax package (aka Christmas present for the richest 2%) is a result of Democratic timidity last year:  ". . .  the Democrats and Obama could have extended the middle class tax cuts during the worst of the recession as part of the stimulus back in 2009, which was probably the only time they could have done it with any good chance of passage."

And this, in a piece on the similarities and differences between Clinton and Obama: 

". . . that's why liberals and progressives are so frustrated. It's not just that they object to centrism on an ideological basis, which they do. It's that in this age of GOP political terrorism, centrists are effectively allies of the right wing. They foolishly thought that in a time of major economic crisis, discredited centrist and conservative ideology, a large congressional majority and a Democrat in the White House you might see just a little bit more of a push for real liberal policies."

And this, which totally nails my own perspective on Obama:

"I get the triangulation thing. The whole Village [political commetariat] is now characterizing him as being "the only grown-up" in the room, which I'm sure is exactly what they were going for. And I honestly wouldn't care if he railed at liberals all day long if he had used the power of the presidency and as head of his own party more strategically over the past two years. Huge opportunities were squandered and the advice that he relied on, both on policy and politics, has been inadequate to the task. Now the country is faced with a slavering beast of a right wing which has been revitalized while the rank and file of the Democratic party is confused at best."


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Fall movie update

This is the list I made in August, with notes about where I'm at in December:

Blue Valentine - not out yet; not sure I can handle it.
Hereafter - saw it; boring.
True Grit - still planning to see it.
Welcome to the Rileys - missed it in theaters, waiting for the video.
Never Let Me Go - heard this was quite underwhelming; waiting for video.
Jack Goes Boating  - not out yet.
The Debt - not out yet.

Lighter fare:

Morning Glory - heard it pretty much sucked; waiting for video.
How Do You Know - still planning to see it.
Love and Other Drugs - heard good stuff, planning to see it next weekend.

Movies for the kids:

Alpha and Omega - saw it; underwhelming.
Tangled - saw it; loved it!
Gulliver's Travels - still planning to see it.


These are some of the movies that I've heard about in the last couple of months that I'm hoping to see:

Black Swan - depressing and probably inaccessible (directed by Darren Aronofsky) but features terrific actresses in a movie about the experiences of women, such a rarity!!!  With Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder, Barbara Hershey.

Night Catches Us - fictionalized story about the Black Panthers in Philadelphia in 1976; great cast, including Kerry Washington; looks powerful

I Love You, Philip Morris - this movie was supposed to come out last year and never arrived, but this time, I think it's really coming.  A Must See, with Jim Carrey and Ewan MacGregor; based on the true story of a con artist who repeatedly escapes prison to be with his lover.

The King's Speech - with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter; getting great buzz

The Fighter - with Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo; looks powerful and I love all the actors

Rabbit Hole - Nicole Kidman, who I really like, is getting raves for her performance as a mother devastated by the loss of her 4 year old son.  Aaron Eckhart plays her husband.  Not sure I can stomach this, though - all the reviewers say it's a totally unflinching portrayal of grief.

The Company Men - about job loss and the impact on 3 men, with Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, and Chris Cooper (who I would watch in anything); getting good buzz and looks powerful

TRON: Legacy - loved the original, have to see what they do with the new one

The Tempest - with Helen Mirren in the king's role and Felicity Jones as Miranda, plus David Straithairn, Alan Cummings, Chris Cooper (see above) and Djimon Hounsou, directed by Julie Taymor; probably inaccessible, but you have to love the gender bending casting; Helen Mirren is making the publicity rounds right now, speaking bluntly about women in Hollywood (someone asked her if she only takes roles now that were originally written for men and she said "I certainly hope so" - I just love that!)

Kids want to see the new Narnia movie, Voyage of the Dawn Treader; I saw the first one, but not the second (Prince Caspian); overall I can take it or leave it, but I don't object to sitting through it.  Alana is back-tracking on her desire to see it, so Cal may go with his friend Jake and I may skip it; we'll see what happens.


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Marriage survey

I think the results of this survey are quite interesting.  I heard them discussing it on NPR yesterday, and then my friend Stessa posted this link on FB today:


I must admit that I object to the inflammatory title of this article (but what do you expect from the WSJ when it comes to reporting on "family values" issues?)   Compare theirs to the much more neutral NPR title:


More importantly, the title is misleading - there's no evidence that people are losing "faith" in marriage - economic factors are the major influence in these trends.


Monday, December 06, 2010

Holiday movie preview

The current issue of Newsweek offers a recap of the holiday movie offering - as in previous years, a cheerful collection of movies we can look forward to over the next couple of months. We've got dying fathers (Biutiful), dying marriages (Blue Valentine), dying careers (The Company Men), and dead kids (always a popular theme; Rabbit Hole). Other upbeat themes include nervous breakdowns (Black Swan), ennui (Somewhere), and crooked lobbyists (Casino Jack).  It may be a good thing that I won't probably get a chance to see many of these until after New Year's - not sure I could bear all the merriment.


Sunday, December 05, 2010

Marie Antoinette

I avoided this movie, by Sofia Coppola, even on video, because the critics were not kind, and even Suzanne said it was disappointing.  But then I read an interview with Kirsten Dunst, where she talks about how hurt she was by the reception the movie got, and it inspired me to give it a chance (she's insanely earnest and lovely).

I was pleasantly surprised - there's a lot more "there" there than I expected, despite the focus on spoiled teenagers living it up in luxury.  Of course, my expectations were very low, but I thought it was quite beautiful, and a quick check of Wikipedia makes it clear that it's quite historically accurate (though the actors are clearly older than 14 when they wed and events toward the end of the movie are compressed and rearranged a little).  I think I knew that it was at least partly based on Antonia Fraser's book, but I had forgotten.  Both the book and movie are obviously attempts to correct perceptions of M.A., who was not nearly the caricature that history has painted her (e.g., she never said "Let them eat cake.")  So I'm a bit biased in favor of this effort to improve her image (I'm similarly fascinated by a new bio of Cleopatra, which reminds us that she was a strong leader, not just a seductive vixen).

Anyway, I especially liked the first half of the movie, where you watch the sweet and rather clueless Marie adjust to life in the court in France.  I thought the last 1/3 of the movie was a bit slow, and I don't think it would have killed Sofia to include a little info about what was going on in France at the time, both in and outside the court (and a few less minutes of M.A. staring into space).  I realize Sofia had a certain goal, of presenting M.A.'s perspective, but there was barely a nod to the seismic shifts going on during her time and M.A. couldn't possibly have been completely unaware.


Trends in Reform Judaism

ATTENTION READERS:  Please do not email these comments, in whole, or especially in part, to any third parties.  Thank you.  (You know who you are - get a life and keep your nose out of mine.)

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Quite discouraged today, after hearing the rabbi talk (yet again) about the conservative trends in Reform Judaism (such as keeping kosher and other observances).  In "Classical" Reform Judaism, the rejection of those observances were dogma, but in the new Reform Judaism, supposedly, there is more opportunity to choose to observe.  In reality, though, the observances are becoming their own dogma, and those of us who would choose otherwise have no where to go.  (The rabbi referenced a recent conversation with another congregant, with views similar to mine, who apparently agrees with the rabbi that he is a "dying breed" - I'm pretty young to think of myself that way!)  I was not raised in a strong Reform tradition, because our little outpost community was an amalgam of many practices and perspectives.  However, I have affiliated with Reform Judaism as an adult, because of 1) the equal status of women, and 2) the rejection of observances that I consider archaic and without spiritual meaning or practical application.  My primary purpose for affiliating at all is to be part of a community, and "following the rules" for their own sake has no appeal to me, nor am I motivated to pass this approach along to my children.  Yet again, I am frozen in a dilemma, where I passionately want a different kind of practice that is not available to me, but I cannot leave, because of my (even stronger) desire to encourage a connection for my children.  Extremely depressing.


Saturday, December 04, 2010

Eclipse is finally here!

I didn't want to wait the few days it would take to get this movie shipped to me, so, even though I could have saved a couple (more) dollars at Amazon, I went over to Target to buy the DVD.  Cal took this photo of me.

I watched a bit of the movie with the Rob/Kristen commentary turned on, but I got really bored.  They don't say much, and they mumble and giggle a lot, and it's really tedious.  I can't imagine sitting through 2 solid hours of that.

So I switched to the Stephenie/Wyck commentary, and that was pretty interesting, at least for awhile, but then I started to wonder how much it was enhancing my viewing experience to know how difficult most of the filming was and how miserable the performers were during my favorite scenes.  I would have much preferred to hear more about how locations and costumes were chosen, and details about how and why scenes from the book were and were not included, instead of which backdrops were green screens and how much the rain intruded on things.

I guess sometimes it's better to just maintain the illusion and not get all the disbelief unsuspended!


Friday, December 03, 2010

Hanukkah mash-ups

Actually these probably count as song parodies, not mashups.  Anyway, people have sent me these adorable videos.  College students today are so inventive and they make Hanukkah seem so hip!

This one, called "Candlelight" is a remix of Taio Cruz's song "Dynamite" by a group called The Maccabeats at Yeshiva University.

This one is a remix of the Black Eyed Peas' song "I Got a Feeling" by a group called The Fountainheads from Ein Prat Academy in Israel.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

More "War on Christmas" bullshit

This afternoon I received what might be the stupidest email I've ever gotten, and that's saying something. An email petition, asking you to add your name at the bottom along with your preference ~ "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." Sheesh. How insecure about your own freaking holiday can you be? Like everyone in America isn't assaulted by Christmas for 6+ weeks a year.  And what kind of ding dong sends this to a Jewish person? Not that I was offended, it's just such an eye-rolling moment.
Here's part of the intro in the email:

It appears some people (I'm thinking the minority), are affecting how we (the majority), are celebrating the Christmas season. I'd like to know just how many people are offended by someone saying, "Merry Christmas" . . .

So, I'm sending you this email as my own project and asking you to send it to every person on your email list and pose the question, "Are you offended by these things or would you rather people just say "Merry Christmas"?

Hit the forward button. Go down to the bottom and put your name on the list and beside you name, either put Merry Christmas, if you are not offended, or Happy Holidays, if you are (don't be afraid to say what you feel, you're not going to be condemned because of it), this is a project to determine your preference.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Buzz on Eclipse

Can't wait for the DVD, due out on Saturday (I never heard why they didn't release it on a Tuesday, as is typical for DVDs), so I can watch the deleted scenes and the Making Of video.

Apparently David Slade (the director) is making the media rounds right now for the DVD release. I haven't seen any of the interviews, but excerpts are posted on the TwilightMoms website. Here's some of the most interesting tidbits (IMO):

1. "We had a very tight schedule so there wasn’t much time to be too sympathetic, to be honest,” Slade said. “We had to go. We had to shoot. We had shoot after shoot after shoot. We had a 50-day schedule which isn’t normally what you have for a film of this scale."

“So we just had to crack on,” he continued. “If anything, there wasn’t time to go, ‘How are you feeling today? Are you all right? What’s going on?”

They were so busy that Slade says he never even had the chance to get to know Pattinson, Stewart and the rest of the cast too well. “All the time we spent together was working,” he said. “We never hung out and had a beer. We were rehearsing. If we weren’t rehearsing, we were shooting. If we weren’t rehearsing or shooting, we were sleeping.”

[I wonder why the schedule was so tight. It can't have been because of money concerns. Maybe it had something do with the availability of all the actors.]

2. "Stephenie [Meyer] was there all the time, so even if it wasn’t clear in the novel, she would always have such a clear picture of this world and this universe, and she can answer any question. You could ask her a year apart and it will be the same answer she gives you, every time."

3.  Slade was pleased his cast was taking the whole project seriously and sincerely.  Everyone was committed, he says.“Kristen, in particular, was very tough on herself.”  Slade says because Stewart didn’t pull from her own life and her own person to play Bella Swan, she found it personally demanding to find Bella’s truth.  “She would say, ‘I don’t know who Bella is to me.’ In a lot of ways, I think she felt Bella was the antithesis to her, which presented a lot of challenges for Kristen. . . . She would beat herself up about it, because she wants to be there. She never wants to leave a scene undone. “There were tears,” says Slade. “But you move on and you keep going. . . . Even in rehearsals with Rob (Pattinson), there was a similar spiralling that would happen.”

[I shouldn't be surprised that KS is so neurotic, but I think some people would be amused that it's the 3rd movie and she's having a breakdown about how to portray this character . . .]
4. Q: Why don’t we see all the deleted scenes described in the commentaries on the DVD? Stewart describes the first thing she shot on the movie — a “fairly ridiculous” sequence in which she imagined herself in the fireside flashback as the Quileute elder chief’s third wife, who stabbed and sacrificed herself to distract the vengeful female vampire attacking the village. Meyer and Godfrey describe people laughing when they saw it. Understandable that they would choose not to include it. Ditto the scene Bella imagined after her kiss with Jacob on the mountain. She saw them having grown old together. “There were a lot of issues with prosthetic makeup,” Slade says with a groan, then a laugh. “It gives me a bit of a shiver, as a filmmaker. As an idea, it was wonderful. What happens with a film is it becomes organic and it grows, and it tells you what it wants, and it was screaming loudly, ‘I don’t want that!’ to me.” Another scene described in the commentaries never actually got shot. “Stephenie really wanted to see Edward as a young man again, and we had this vision scripted for awhile where Bella and he are together in Victorian times, as a kind of reverie,” Slade says.

[I just wanted to see the two little dark-haired children that Bella imagines in the book. That wouldn't have required any cheesy makeup. . . This is part of an interview in EW - I haven't seen it yet, so maybe the next issue.]

5. “This is the only thing I’ve ever done that’s had such a fan subculture, so with the deleted scenes I wanted to do a little justification for them,” Slade said. Chief among the scenes cut from the theatrical version of the film was an exchange between Stewart’s Bella and her on-screen dad Charlie, played by Billy Burke. The two have a bonding moment after her high school graduation, one of Bella’s last mortal activities before Pattinson’s Edward follows through on making her a vampire. “It’s all in Billy’s face, when you watch the film 30-odd times or more, there’s more in his face than in his words,” Slade said. “I was so confident that was going to make it in, we did it in one shot. It was two people trying to be as close to each other as possible.”

[Personally, I would have liked to see less of the Seattle vampires and more of these kind of scenes!]