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Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Road to Oscar

Surprisingly entertaining SAG awards show, IMO. Some great speeches - Natalie Portman: "work hard and don't be an asshole" and Christina Bale: "a life without empathy is not worth living." Good stuff!

It looks like the actor awards are definitely getting solidified - I'd be quite surprised if someone other than the SAG award winners won on Oscar night (the two above and Melissa Leo and Colin Firth). I had been thinking that Best Picture was a horse race (between The Social Network and The King's Speech), but I don't really think so anymore - SAG went old school with The King's Speech getting the ensemble award - I bet Oscar goes the same way (I think the mean age of the voters is something like 70).


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Weekend movies

I've seen a bunch of videos over the last week plus.  These are listed in the order that I enjoyed them:

Elvis and Annabelle. (2007)  Charming independent dramedy about a Texas beauty queen (Blake Lively) who dies, returns to life, and begins a relationship with a reclusive mortician-in-training (wonderful Max Mighella, from Art School Confidential) who witnessed, or maybe even facilitated, her awakening.  Rather quiet, but very involving, and quite emotional, with beautifully portrayed budding romance, as well as the lovely relationship between disabled father and devoted son.  Bonus - themes about miracles and redemption.  Very worthwhile.

Easy A. (2010) Funnier than I expected, though I liked the first half better than the second half. Further proof that good teen movies are good when the adult characters are well-written and well-acted. In fact, I'm not sure how they got all these great actors to take tiny roles in this fairly silly movie. Definitely makes it more watchable. Plus, Emma Stone is terrific - great comic timing and delivery. I can't wait to see what she does in The Help. One small quibble - Emma's character says she's unappealing to guys, but that's kind of ridiculous - e.g., she plays the super hot girl that Jesse Eisenberg wants to get with in Zombieland! Bonus - love interest is played by yummy Penn Badgley (also yummy in John Tucker Must Die).

The Edge of Love. (2008) Considering the themes of passion, betrayal, and wartime privations, the movie is somewhat emotionally remote, but it's certainly gorgeously made, and features wonderful actors giving stellar performances (reminded me a bit of Little Ashes, also surprisingly bloodless movie about passionate artists; also A Single Man, which was gorgeous but somewhat emotionally remote).  Fictionalized account of the relationship between Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys) and his longtime friend Vera Phillips (Kiera Knightley), as well as her husband (Cllian Murphy) and his wife (Sienna Miller), during and after WWII.  Also made me think of The Kids are Alright because all the characters are flawed in ways that make you cringe, so there's really no one to relate to.  Not a bad movie, but not especially compelling.

Frontrunners. (2008) Interesting doc about student union presidential election at Stuyvesant HS in NY, "the most competitive HS in America."  Could have been a little more involving.  The best part is that the actual frontrunner is a little Tracy Flick-ish (from the movie, Election) - a bit tightly wound and officious.  Not a waste of a hour and a half.

The September Issue. (2009) Not as gossipy as promoted, but a pretty interesting movie about Anna Wintour and Vogue magazine.  Couldn't help thinking about The Devil Wears Prada.

Bulletproof Monk.  (2003) Caleb's choice.  Not a bad action film - not too violent and the female lead is portrayed as smart and capable.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Defending Twilight, or not

Had to listen, yet again, to people disparaging the book, and this time I didn't even bother to defend it.  If people want to miss out on a great read, that's on them.  Even though I was skeptical myself, I get irritated when people dismiss the book out of hand, without ever reading it.  If you can't imagine what the appeal is, read a few chapters and find out!  The truth is, the book is much more Jane Eyre than Anne Rice or Bram Stoker, which becomes apparent almost immediately (Stephenie Meyer was an English Lit major in college; besides citing Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice as influences on the first book, the second book makes explicit references to Romeo and Juliet, the third book quotes Wuthering Heights in several places).  Open your mind.  It doesn't make you sophisticated or superior to put down something, just because it's popular.  I like it because it's a good book, not because other people like it, and it doesn't make me smarter or dumber because I like it.  People who have no idea what they're talking about are just that - people who have no idea what they're talking about.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Karen Owen and the new feminism

I don't know how I completely  missed this story last fall, when apparently it suffused the airways (I guess at the time I was obsessed with the election).  I read an excellent piece in the latest issue of The Atlantic by Caitlin Flanagan, and then a much shorter piece on HuffPost by Kate Fridkis before I read the actual PowerPoint slides.  Both authors comment on how self-hating and exploited KO really is - here is KP saying it much better than I could:

I didn't follow the immediate aftermath, the frantically jabbering media frenzy, because I didn't want to hear people call her empowered. I didn't want to read them praising her, or heaping insults on her, or describing her as something new and creative. I didn't want to read her described as anything except for ordinary and tragic. But somehow, the tragedy has been sucked out of stories like hers. She's telling it, after all, trumpeting it - yelling out her exploits as though they are actually her exploits, and not her being exploited and exploiting herself.  I'm exhausted by her story. A young woman who will do anything the boys want, while the boys don't even seem to want her very much. Everyone is incredibly drunk in it. They can't do anything before they are drunk. . . She is a cliché, and she is also a real, live person who is trying to make sense out of sex, power, and college.  I'm going to just say this: she isn't doing it right. In fact, she's doing it so wrong that it hurts to read it. And to celebrate her story is to celebrate her pain, the pain of a confused generation of girls who keep repeating to themselves, "It's better when it hurts. The bigger the better. I like to get pushed around during it. I like it when they don't care." It's to celebrate a version of college that should terrify parents and depress prospective students.

CF puts it even more bluntly:

The notion that Karen Owen is good at getting the guy, that she represents something awesome for the future of feminism, is an assertion that cannot withstand a careful reading of the actual PowerPoint, a package that—far more than Owen could ever have intended—constitutes a story, one with a beginning, middle, and very sad end, and reveals her to be one of the most pitiable women to emerge on the cultural scene in quite a while. . . Being rejected by Subject 1 was hurtful and embarrassing, but being treated like a whore by Subject 2 is what broke her heart and her spirit, and if you are the kind of person whose heart and spirit can be broken by a one-night stand, then you may not be the brave new face of anything at all.

My reaction to the actual slides was cringing less at the icky descriptions of her exploits and more at her casually revealing intimate details about her partners, like their post coital talk.  I had expected the men to come across as arrogant and cruel, but most seem genuine and ordinary, and a couple seem almost sweet.  She has since said she regrets it utterly, and didn't mean to hurt anyone.  Can it never have occurred to her how disrespectful she was being, whether she knew her "presentation" would go viral or not, whether some of them deserved it or not? Can you imagine the outcry if a guy had created a list like this, discussing in detail, among other things, the size of their partners' equipment, their talent in using it, and how overall entertaining they were. It's just so downright mean. 

The whole episode is so discouraging.  I fear for my daughter, if this is the pinnacle of "liberation" at this point.  KO apparently never had a boyfriend during her entire 4 years of college.  She never had any kind of real relationship with any of her "subjects" (deliberately so, according to her - she thought even giving them her number or being friends on FB was "stalkerish" and "clingy").  She gives extra points to hook-ups with the roommate, or in the same apt, of prior partners; once she even has sex with 2 men in the wee hours of the same morning (the day she is to graduate, so why not, she thinks, go out with a real bang).  Is it really empowering and admirable to so completely eshew connection or relationship?  It makes me ill to think this is what young women aspire to - how you can even call empty, almost anonymous sex like this "getting the guy" - it's completely beyond me; and "having sex like a guy" apparently means acting like a totally inconsiderate jerk.  I reject the obsession with partnering that is epitomized by, say, the 1950s, but this is no better.  Subjugating yourself to the pursuit of sexual conquest is not one iota more empowering than subjugating yourself to husband hunting.  Is there no middle ground?  Is real sexual equality impossible?

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After reading these stories, which are still reverberating around in my head, I heard Peggy Orenstein on NPR, discussing her book Cinderella Ate My Daughter, about the pervasiveness and long-term implications of princess culture.  I fairly recently read her excellent 2006 NY Times Magazine piece on the subject, which I guess she recently turned into a book.  I'm deeply grateful that my daughter is obsessed with animals instead of this stuff, though she is hardly untouched by it.

What can you do with all this, besides attempt to instill some self respect into your children, and do your best to occupy them with alternative activities in alternative milieus.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"A Strange Stirring"

Terry Gross is interviewing the author of this book, a retrospective on The Feminine Mystique (47 years later!)  I really enjoyed the conversation, and the book is immediately being added to my Amazon Wish List!

This really resonates with me, though I was born in the early 1960s, so I didn't read the book or have these experiences myself. I was exactly like Stephanie - I didn't want to be my (step)mother and I was encouraged to want more. I also felt the same way she did - I adored my dad, but he was a terrible husband (he needed a helpmate, but he was openly disrespectful of her intellect, etc).

I kept thinking of Mad Men during the discussion, as it perfectly portrays these issues, especially with the character Peggy, who is choosing a different (career-oriented) life, despite pressure from her own mother, and of course Betty, the suburban housewife, who is suffering from exactly what Betty Friedan described (maybe they chose the character's name as an homage!)


Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I thought it was a good speech.  It got a little dull in the second half, but a strong finish: "We do big things!"  I liked the emphasis on the future and our strenths, like innovation.  Loved the emphasis on education, but of course light on details. 

There's plenty for liberals to object to, and I object to some of it, but he mentioned DADT and the Dream Act, so I strongly approve of that.  And said lets fix more things about healthcare but move on from here, not backwards.

Other thoughts ~

Loved the bipartisan seating arrangements, which may be only symbolic, but a good symbol.  Loved the purple ties - I noticed Boehner and Cantor, but I'm sure there were more.  Loved the ribbons in honor of Gabby Giffords.  Loved Obama's jokes about salmon regulation and about trains - "no patdowns."

Didn't hate the Republican response by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).  At least he said "hold us all accountable for spending" instead of just blaming Obama for everything.  Fascinated by Michelle Bachman's alternate response.  Not sure she did herself any favors, but I will say that she sounded like less of a crazy person than usual. 


Monday, January 24, 2011

Oscar nominations - first impressions

Glad to see Jennifer Lawrence was included, and, bonus, her co-star, John Hawkes (as her creepy uncle) got nominated for Best Supporting Actor. 

I think Toy Story 3 is vastly overrated, and I don't think it deserves a slot in the main picture category, but it's a crowd pleaser to do that, and it did make a billion dollars worldwide. 

Christian Bale was amazing, and is favored to win, but, as I have said many times before, I really hate it when they fill slots in the Supporting categories with big A-list performers, and leave out character actors who are unlikely to ever get a shot at larger roles; plus the big name actor sucks up all the attention (and usually the award), leaving the character actors (and true supporting performers) in the wings.

I was surprised that Mila Kunis (Black Swan) and Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) were considered "snubbed" in the Supporting categories - I don't think either of them were especially powerful in their respective films. I think the fuss about them has more to do with them being attractive and popular, as opposed to true admiration for their performances.

I'll write more later, when I've had more time to think about it.

Suzanne's comment (I agree): "I admit it *is* fun to have 10 nominees - keeps things interesting. I think in the old system of just 5 best picture nominations, The Fighter would fight Winter's Bone for the last spot." [Asterisks indicate which she think would have been nominated if only 5]:

 * Black Swan
 * The Fighter
 The Kids Are All Right
* The King's Speech
127 Hours
* The Social Network
Toy Story 3
* True Grit
Winter's Bone


Sunday, January 23, 2011

"The decline and fall of Borders"

I stumbled upon this terrific book blog when I was looking for info on All Other Nights for the book club meeting this week.  Her recent entry on Borders perfectly captured how I feel about the store and the closings.  I remember the Borders in downtown Philadelphia (a city shockingly lacking in indies and used book stores) - I spent many happy hours there, heard many wonderful authors on tour (most memorably, Paul Rudnick, who wrote I'll Take It).  That store always made me think of how Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) describes his NY superstore in You've Got Mail (which I saw again on cable recently, and which now, a decade+ later, seems unbearably quaint about both the internet and bookstores): "I said we were great. I said you could sit and read for hours and no one will bother you. I said we have a hundred and fifty thousand titles. I showed them the New York section. I said we were a goddamn piazza - a place in the city where people can mingle and mix and be."

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Just another comment or two about the book blog - BostonBibliophile ~

She's Jewish, and rates lots of books with Jewish themes and characters, so that's a bonus for me.  She's also starting a companion movie blog, and often blogs about books being made into movies (I learned from her that a new Jane Eyre is due out this year with Mia Wasikowska, who I think is terrific).

I love her rating system:  BUY - BACKLIST - BEACH - BORROW - BURY

She gets a lot of free books as a reviewer, and she gives away books as well - so it's worth checking back at her site to get in on freebies.

She's a librarian, and gets a lot of her books at this site - Library Thing (note that it's a competitor of goodreads).


Saturday, January 22, 2011

"No Strings Attached"

I saw this movie tonight, and really enjoyed it. It was funny and sexy; very grownup without being crude just for the sake of it (like so many rom-coms these days).  It totally exceeded my expectations.

So I'm reading some user reviews on imdb, which mostly bitch about the movie being formulaic (why they should be surprised by that is a bit of a mystery to me) when I saw this:

"Natalie Portman is OK in this role, but not great. She might be getting a little too old to play the young chick role. Ashton does remarkably well, and we will enjoy seeing him in many more roles if he avoids the 'all looks and no acting ability' horde of current young actors. I hope he gets good guidance during his formative acting years."

Ashton is 3 years older than Natalie, and has been in over 20 movies, and a popular TV show that ran for several season - his reputation is firmly establish and he can hardly be described as in his "formative" years.

But it's the line about Natalie being to old for the "chick" role that really annoyed me. This guy doesn't like "all looks no ability" performances, but when an award-winning actress shows up, all he comments on is her age. (She's 29 - exactly the age of the character she's portraying!)

Both Natalie and Ashton were terrific in this movie, and they elevated the material, which was already pretty good, by their charming performances. Of course this poster is entitled to his opinion, but he looks like an idiot with these remarks.

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Then I read some commentary from a writer of a sex column, who starts by discussing what the movie is supposed to be:

"Paramount is clearly pushing this film, not as just another romantic comedy about women hunting for marriage and men succumbing to its sweet inevitability, but as a daring, edgy, ultra-modern exploration of the 'new' relationship models: casual, non-romantic, commitment-free sexual friendships, in which both women and men go in with no expectation of a capital-R Relationship, and no desire for it."

This description is basically ridiculous, because the movie is, in actuality, pushing a completely conventional relationship model.  The only unconventional aspect of the set-up is that the commitment phobe (who of course comes around) is the female lead rather than the male.  She is the one who insists on "no strings attached" while the male lead is smitten almost immediately and struggles to play the game by her rules.  Even his friend, who encourages him to enjoy this sex-without-love arrangement, begins a serious (and ultra-traditional) romantic relationship halfway through the movie.  Emma's sister also voices traditional views, insisting that her youthful marriage is the obvious choice when she is so in love with her partner.  Unlike Greta Christina, the writer of this critique, I found it charming, even if the studio performed a major bait-and-switch with it's advertising.


Friday, January 21, 2011

The bible and some other stuff

My friend Janet sent me this essay, ostensibly about the case of a gay couple's dispute with the religious owners of a Bed & Breakfast.  The article is just a great read, quite funny, and of course I agree with her views.  I especially like her description of the bible, which is exactly the way I look at it.  Below are a few of my favorite paragraphs~

Christina Patterson
You can't allow some people to invoke 'beliefs' and not others

 . . . if you take the Bible not as a thrillingly poetic, and gloriously contradictory and, at times, bloodcurdlingly violent, snapshot of a certain kind of history, but as the word of God - whatever that might mean - and you live in a society that has decided that men and women who are attracted to their own sex should be allowed to act on their natural (and maybe even God-given) instincts in forming relationships with people of their own sex, relationships that are sanctioned by the state, and the law, you've got what even an American would have to call a problem.

British Christians don't, on the whole, wave placards saying "God hates fags", or plan demonstrations suggesting that the murder of, say, a nine-year-old girl by a mad gunman is God's vengeance for homosexuality. What many of them do say – at least if they've embarked on the sanity-wrecking enterprise of taking the Bible literally – is that people can't help what they (in their view tragically) are, or who they're attracted to. What they can help is their behaviour. On this reading, it's fine to be gay, just as long as you never, in your whole life, have sex. No wonder people go to counsellors, hoping that their homosexuality will be "healed".

. . . Should Peter and Hazelmary Bull have been found guilty of discrimination for refusing to allow a gay couple to stay in their B&B? (Should Hazelmary have changed her name?) Should teachers in state schools be allowed to cover their heads, and faces – everything, in fact, but their eyes – because they believe their religious faith tells them to, and a Christian couple not be allowed to choose the paying guests in their own home? Would the gay couple have taken action if the B&B had been run by a Mr and Mrs Mohammed? Or would they have assumed that a Muslim couple probably wouldn't be overly keen on having a Mr and Mr in their master bedroom?

. . . The law says that you shouldn't discriminate against people because of their sexuality. And you shouldn't, but the law does seem to get very worked up about some things, and be very laid-back about others. Prostitution, for example, isn't illegal. Would it be illegal for a prostitute to refuse sex with a black man? Or with a man in a wheelchair? Or a lesbian?

I think if two gay men want a weekend in Cornwall, and have booked a room in a B&B, and haven't read the website which talks about the owners' prejudices (which they would call "beliefs"), they should probably be allowed to have it. Personally, I'm not sure that my top choice of vacation host would be someone who thought I was going to hell. I also think that if you have very strong feelings about other people's sexual behaviour, then you should probably choose a business that doesn't focus quite so heavily on beds.

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It was never said better than this "Letter to Dr Laura" from years ago, pointing out some of the most ridiculous aspects of Leviticus~

Dear Dr. Laura,
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?
g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?
i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24:10-16) Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.  Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Chosen People

NOTE TO READERS: Please do not share these comments in whole, or especially in part, with any third parties.  Thank you.  (If people are interested in my thoughts, they are welcome to come here to read them in full and in context.)

My heart kind of sank when I saw the reading for this month's Lunch and Learn with the rabbis, regarding the issue of the Jews being the "chosen" people.  It's one of many issues that I have trouble with, though I suppose that makes it a good topic for discussion.  The group was rather small, perhaps coincidentally.  Although the comments were thoughtful and intelligent, I ended up feeling very discouraged, because our conversation basically reinforced my discomfort with this issue.  Even people willing to admit that the issue is problematic are still willing to embrace our "choseness," though they admit that it requires "spin" to make the concept fit into our modern pluralistic world.  I finally said that I reject the notion (after the group danced around it for an hour), when one discussant suggested that maybe it's easier to think of ourselves as "teachers."   Even that kinder and gentler conceptualization communicates an inherently superior attitude that I just cannot accept.  It's too smug and condescending.  As I said in the group - anyone with knowledge of how rich and profound other religions are to their practitioners cannot accept that Jews are above them.  And beyond a few devout Christians, there aren't many non-Jews in the world who look to us to "teach" them.  It's rather ridiculous to contemplate.

The only upside to the reading is that I had never heard the interpretation of the story of Sinai which says that God threatened to drop the mountain on the Jews' heads in order to force them to accept the Torah and the covenant.  I just love that imagery, and it puts quite a different spin on the relationship between the Jews and God when you look at it that way!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bad day turns into good day

Today started out really bad.  The weather was appalling - freezing rain that made the roads slick and visibility bad.  The new bus schedule started, and the bus was 10 minutes late getting to the pick up spot and arrived 15 minutes late at the hospital.  I got an email from my boss, saying that there was no reason for me to attend the professional development class I went to.  And an hour later yet another email about the kids' Passover travel plans from my sister-in-law, who is being completely uncompromising over the arrangements, for no discernable reason (I finally told Larry to handle this issue, I'd done my share of it). Then I picked up Alana at school for her piano lesson, but she hadn't brought her book, so we had to run home for it.

I was thoroughly disgusted by this time, but things took a significant turn for the better. My replacement driver's license arrived in the mail, as well as my new glasses, ordered online, and they're awesome (see above!) After we dropped Cal at choir practice, Alana and I went to Payless, for their BOGO 1/2 price sale - I wanted some new winter boots, though I had little hope of there being any in my size. But there was! And bonus, a very cheap pair of cowboy boots, which completes my outfit for dinner at Dove Mountain in Tucson next month (see below!)  Alana also picked out a really rockin' pair of boots, already discounted.  All good. And even better, the dog didn't run off during our walk, as she did twice last week.  So what started as a really bad day ended on a high note.


Monday, January 17, 2011

"Lips Touch Three Times"

Felt absolutely transported by this trio of stories.  The book had gotten strong reviews on goodreads, and I read it on the basis of that (and the fact that it was on the shelf at the library), but it exceeded even my raised expectations.  The stories are just so beautiful; I can't remember the last time I read something that's so beautifully written. I definitely have to read her other books.

I liked each story better than the last one. Only the first story was sort of what I expected, in that it's actually a story *about* a kiss. In the other two, a kiss has a very important role, but the stories are about much more. 
The second story is about a young English woman in India who is cursed by a demon, but the story is also about an older woman who must deliver the curse because she's the human ambassador to Hell.  (You can see how inventive the story is! In the author's note at the end, she says that she borrowed from all sorts of folktales and mythologies.)  Her description of two young people falling in love is just lovely. And the themes of sacrifice and resourcefulness are wonderfully presented.
The third story is even more compelling, about several characters - a woman who grows up as the pet of a demon, and her daughter who holds a bitter secret unknown to either of them, and about a demon who is trying to reconnect with his human soul.  It's a gorgeous and fascinating story, one I stayed up way too late finishing.
(As a side note, I must say that the "demons" in this final story put me very much in mind of the vampires in Twilight - they are immortal, they have no souls, and they are cold to the touch.  They don't drink blood, of course; in fact, they eat nothing at all.  I'm sure the overlap is completely coincidental, and I'm certainly not trying to demean Laini Taylor by the comparison.  I just couldn't help noticing the similarities, which no doubt have more to do with the similarities in mythology in general, as opposed to LT borrowing from the earlier book [Twilight predates this book by more than a year].)
A wonderful book and a wonderful reading experience.  See, it's not too much to ask to be transported by a book!


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Golden Globe Awards Show

I didn't watch a lot of movies this weekend, despite the extra day, but I watched the entire Golden Globe awards show tonight, which I don't think I've done too often in the past.

I really enjoyed it.  There were a couple of great speeches - Natalie Portman seemed genuinely excited; Robert Downey Jr was quite funny; Annette Benning was the definition of class; Chris Colfer (from Glee) brought me to tears.  Some of the gowns were gorgeous (Melissa Leo, Clare Danes) and some were not (Julianne Moore, Tilda Swinton), but all were fun to see.  I also thought Ricky Gervais was sharp and funny; a little mean, but not unpleasant.

Probably my favorite thing was hearing Christian Bale speaking in his own voice (he won very early in the show, for Supporting Actor, for The Fighter; as expected of course).  He's from Wales and his accent is delicious!  I don't think I've ever heard his "real" voice - he needs to make a movie pronto where he gets to use his real accent!  Yummy!

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I did watch one video this weekend - Youth in Revolt with Michael Cera.  It had some funny moments, but overall, it wasn't my cup of tea.  Not a waste of time, but not memorable either.


Friday, January 14, 2011


I wanted to look smart and sophisticated like Jenny McCarthy:

Instead I look like Little Bo Peep:
(I kept telling her to angle it more towards my chin, but she just didn't.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Black Swan

I can't decide if I liked this movie or not, but I'm glad I saw it.  It was more harrowing than I expected, and gorier.  But it was a real tour-de-force for Natalie Portman - she's in almost every frame, and most of the time she's distraught.  It couldn't have been an easy movie to make, and she certainy engages you in her character's experience.  I also think it was really beautifully shot and well made.  So, cool movie, but hardly the Feel Good story of the year.  I was a bit frustrated with the ending - I thought the message was something about overcoming your fears to realize your dreams, but it seems like, ultimately, it was more about how your deepest desires will be the death of you.  I would have liked the former message better!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Needing a pick-me-up

I wore the scarf I got at the Komen walk last spring, because I needed something to balance out this frustrating day.  I managed to turn off my alarm last night, so I woke up late.  It's snowing this terrible sleety snow that's making the roads slick, but it's not pretty at all.  And I have drive in today, because I had to reschedule my chiropractor appt from Monday, because on Monday I had to go to the DMV to replace my driver's license, because I lost my wallet last Thursday (at the movies, AGAIN, like I did 2 years ago).  Ugh!!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

She who must be destroyed

The rabbi wrote a nice "mesage" in response to the tragedy in Tucson, but these 2 paragraphs put me very much in mind of my own situation a year and a half ago, when someone who disagreed with me decided that I was the "enemy" who must be vanquished.  Instead of having civilized conversations, and reaching reasonable compromises, every disagreement, no matter how minor, was treated exactly like this - a life-or-death struggle that was resolved, if you can even call it that, through an endless cycle of mutually assured destruction.  With generous dollops of backstabbing, gossip, undermining, insulting, and generally unproductive behavior.  Makes me absolutely sick, even to this very day.

Our society seems to have forgotten the difference between opponents and enemies. Those with whom we disagree on a particular issue or set of issues are not our enemies-we do not wish them harm. Rather, we see them as adversaries. We view those with whom we may hold even the deepest of disagreements as the opposition, but never threats to our very existence.

Ours is a nation built on the freedom to disagree. We Americans gave the world the unique gift of a representative democracy where all are free to support or oppose a policy without threat of retribution. That gift has languished of late, and today we live in a world where the other side is no longer a respected rival but now viewed as evil, one to be destroyed.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Tucson shooting

As it has become more clear that the Tucson shooter is less of a political fanatic and more just a deeply deranged individual, my perspective has shifted from the political climate more toward the easy access to guns, in Arizona and other places as well.  Gail Collins' commentary in the NY Times  today perfectly captures my current thinking.  Below is the last few paragraphs ~

 . . . If Loughner had gone to the Safeway carrying a regular pistol, the kind most Americans think of when they think of the right to bear arms, Giffords would probably still have been shot and we would still be having that conversation about whether it was a sane idea to put her Congressional district in the cross hairs of a rifle on the Internet.

But we might not have lost a federal judge, a 76-year-old church volunteer, two elderly women, Giffords’s 30-year-old constituent services director and a 9-year-old girl who had recently been elected to the student council at her school and went to the event because she wanted to see how democracy worked.

Loughner’s gun, a 9-millimeter Glock, is extremely easy to fire over and over, and it can carry a 30-bullet clip. It is “not suited for hunting or personal protection,” said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign. “What it’s good for is killing and injuring a lot of people quickly.”

America has a long, terrible history of political assassinations and attempts at political assassination. What we did not have until now is a history of attempted political assassination that took the lives of a large number of innocent bystanders. The difference is not about the Second Amendment. It’s about a technology the founding fathers could never have imagined.

“If this was the modern equivalent of what Sirhan Sirhan used to shoot Robert Kennedy or Arthur Bremer used to shoot George Wallace, you’d be talking about one or two victims,” said Helmke.

Giffords represents a pragmatic, interest-balancing form of politics that’s out of fashion. But, in that spirit, we should be able to find a way to accommodate the strong desire in many parts of the country for easy access to firearms with sane regulation of the kinds of weapons that make it easiest for crazy people to create mass slaughter.


Art imitates life

I know it's kinda sick and inappropriate, but the news is full of the recovery of Congresswoman Giffords, who was shot in the head at point blank range, and I can't help it, I keep thinking about this line from the 2000 movie, Traffic:

Francisco Flores: [about how he is going to assassinate Eduardo Ruiz] I want to use a bomb.

Helena Ayala: Are you kidding? Can't you just shoot him or something?

Francisco Flores: I don't really like guns. You shoot someone in the head three times and some pinche doctor will keep them alive.


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Weekend movies

Watched a couple of good-not-great movies this weekend on video:

Invincible - Watched this with Caleb.  I liked the first half better than the second half; overall it as very cliche and Disneyfied, though I loved the Philly setting.  Stupid title too.  Not as involving as some other sports movies, like Rememberthe Titans, but worth watching.

Stolen (2009) -  I watched this solely on the basis of Jon Hamm's presence.  I really liked the first half; it's very emotional and mysterious.  But I thought they gave away the mystery too soon, and the "answer" was improbable as hell, and kind of spoiled the movie, IMO (what on earth was this guy's motive?)  It felt very Lifetime Movie Channel at the end, especially the way the movie preys on parents' obsessive fear of having their child taken by a stranger, something that just doesn't happen that much.  A bit disappointing, but not a waste of time; great cast, with Josh Lucas and a bunch of other people, as well as JH.  And, bonus, brief appearance by Morena Baccarin, who played Inara in Firefly.

On the Stolen disc, there were a bunch of interesting previews, including these two, starring favorite actors of mine:

Swedish Auto (2006) - with the wonderful Lukas Haas, and, bonus, January Jones, looking luminous, no surprise.  Described in imdb user reviews as "slow" - clearly arty, but still looks worthwhile.

Uncertainty (2009) - with Joseph Gordon Levitt, who I'll watch in anything.  Described as in imdb user reviews as "experimental," it's compared with Run Lola Run, which I didn't love, but this still sounds worth watching. 


Saturday, January 08, 2011

Latest movies

Just loved everything I've seen lately:

True Grit - wonderful performances and the evocation of a place that is the hallmark of the Coen Brothers.

The Fighter - terrific movie: great acting, great writing, and the kind of feel good story arc that sends you home with a smile.  Bonus - no one dies!

The King's Speech - enjoyed it even more than I expected to!  The most entertaining movie imaginable about a guy who stutters and his speech therapist! 

Maze (2000) - written, directed by, and starring Rob Morrow as a guy with Tourette's. It's not a Lifetime channel/disease of the week movie at all. Very adult, very beautiful (he's an artist).  Costars the incomparable Laura Linney, who I would watch in anything. It's not super romantic (though there's a great kiss), but it's very good. It would make a good double feature with Dedication. Or something offbeat like Sex and Death 101 or The Last Word.  I wish he'd make more - I think he's a terrific director!

A quick check of Netflix shows that I missed THIS classic - his acting debut:

Private Resort (1985) - Chasing women for the weekend at a luxurious Miami resort, teen buddies Ben and Jack (Rob Morrow and Johnny Depp) get more than they bargained for after crossing paths with a crafty criminal. Throwing their hormone-driven plans off kilter, the two friends run afoul of a cross-dressing jewel thief (Hector Elizondo) and find themselves under scrutiny from a prying hotel detective. George Bowers directs the racy high jinks of this 1985 sex romp.

But a TV movie that he co-wrote with Fisher Stevens in 2009, called The Green Teem, is nowhere to be found.


Friday, January 07, 2011

2010 movie summary

My friend Suzanne sent me a list of the movies she saw in 2010, so with the help of Netflix, and my voting history page on imdb.com, I put together my own list.  Holy @#$* - I saw just over 150 movies last year.  That's almost one every other day.  Impressive.  Though the really funny part is, there's tons of movies that I wanted to see that I missed! On the other hand, sounds a little excessive - I should probably be doing something else with my time occasionally!!!  Actually, a couple handfuls of those are due to Caleb also having the movie bug, and he and I have lots of "family movie nights" at home, and of course, the kids and I see a lot of movies together in the theater (some more memorable than others).  And, there's nothing on TV any more, which helps (I watch nothing on network or cable TV, since Mad Men ended, other than news on CNN and MSNBC). 


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Censored version of Huck Finn

I heard this discussed, very intelligently, on CNN last night (the panel included an SU professor!) 

The basic argument for altering the book (replacing "nigger," which appears over 200 times, with "slave") is that schools won't include the book because it's too controversial.  And secondarily, that people just don't read the book, because it's too upsetting (or something like that). 

The argument for not changing it is basically that a) it's art, and censoring art is a slippery slope;  b) Twain chose the word deliberately; and c) how can we understand the impact of that word, and the attitudes behind it, if we purge it from our history?

I really get both sides of this debate.  If people won't read it, then it has no impact at all.  But if you alter it so fundamentally, it ceases to be what it actually is.  Quite a dilemma.

And how perfect is this Quote of the Day that just arrived in my inbox:

"Every suppressed or expunged word reverberates through the earth from side to side." - Ralph Waldo Emerson


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Eclipse and cast clean up at People's Choice awards

Here's the categories they won ~

Favorite Movie Actress – Kristen Stewart won

Favorite Movie – Eclipse won

Favorite Drama Movie – Eclipse won

Favorite On Screen Team – Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner won

And a few losses ~

Favorite Movie Actor – Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner lost to Johnny Depp

Favorite Movie Star Under 25 – Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart lost to Zac Efron

I wasn't surprised by the first one, but I was by the second one.  I'm thinking that the Twi-hards split their votes in this category (and the other one too, no doubt), but I'm still wondering about Zac's win - his film, Charlie McCloud, bombed at the box office, and many questioned his choice (he did that film instead of the Footloose remake). His acting was also ridiculed.  Maybe the fans felt bad for him?  He gave this really ernest speech too, which was lovely, but quite out of sync with the overall tone of the show, which was almost relentlessly irreverent and silly.

I have to just say that I thought Rob was hilarious, saying after the Favorite Movie win, "Thanks for the phone.  I think I broke it already."  He's so weird, but sweet.  And of course KS was awkward, though not nearly as off the charts as she was at the MTV award show.  She actually covered her face for a moment when Queen Latifah came down from the stage and told the cast to stand up and wave to the The People.  She's too funny - embarrassed by the attention, even now.  Bonus - Rob helps her up from her seat!!  Swoon!

Oh, and one more, completely unrelated note on the award show - Comedic TV performance ended up being the gay category!  Neil Patrick Harris won Actor and Jane Lynch won Actress.  Both openly thanked their (same sex) partners.  It was awesome!


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Movies in 2011

I shouldn't do this - I always change my mind about what I want to see.  But my new favorite movie site, MTV's NextMovie.com, has a jaunty list of upcoming movies and few caught my eye (the descriptions below are from the website, my comments are in brackets), in addition to ones I've already been thinking about and looking forward to (listed first):

The Company Men - Jan 21

Justin Bieber, Never Say Never - Feb 11 (I know, I know, but Alana wants to see it, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intrigued)

The Adjustment Bureau - Mar 4

Water for Elephants - Apr 22

Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides - May 20 (adding Penelope Cruz makes this a Must See)

The Help - Aug 12

Breaking Dawn, Pt 1 - Nov 18

* * * * * * *
Red Riding Hood - March 11
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Lukas Haas, Gary Oldman
The Scoop: A goth-modern take on the classic fairy tale. This time around, though, Red ain’t so little; instead, she’s played by Amada Seyfried as a young woman whose snowbound medieval village is under attack by a werewolf.  [The teaser trailer on imdb looks fascinating.]

Your Highness - April 8
Starring: Danny McBride, Zooey Deschanel, James Franco, Natalie Portman
The Scoop: James Francois a prince who has to go on one of those typical fantasy quests to save his true love — only his posse consists of his dumbass brother Thad (McBride). This may be the first medieval stoner comedy.  [This could be hilarious, or it could be incredibly stupid. Love the cast though.]

Something Borrowed - May 6
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, Colin Egglesfield
The Scoop:  Ginnifer plays a woman who falls in love with the fiancé of her best friend (Kate Hudson). [After "He's Not That Into You," I'd see GG in anything. This should be adorable.]

X-Men: First Class - June 3
Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
The Scoop: As much as we all swooned over Hugh Jackman’s hairy avenger Wolverine, the true heart of the original “X-Men” trilogy was the ideological struggle between Professor Charles Xavier and his more militant opposite, Magneto. This chapter turns back the clock to the days when the two were best buddies, aims to explain how their paths diverged, while also giving Hollywood the chance to reboot the franchise without having to pay A-listers like Jackman and Ian McKellen.  [I'd be a lot more horrified about the prospect of this prequel, if James McAvoy wasn't involved. And at this point, I'd watch Jennifer Lawrence in anything. This could actually be quite entertaining. Or it could be a debacle.]

Larry Crowne - July 1
Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Bryan Cranston
The Scoop: A less political story than the first pairing of Hanks and Roberts in Charlie Wilson's War, this story (co-written by Hanks and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” star Nia Vardalos) is about an unemployed, middle-aged guy (Hanks) who returns to college only to find unexpected romance with his professor (Roberts).

Friends With Benefits - July 22
Starring: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Patricia Clarkson
The Scoop: “Black Swan’s” Mila Kunis stars opposite JT in a film about two friends who start having casual sex with each other, and then things stop being quite so casual. If this sounds familiar, it's because "Black Swan’s" Natalie Portman is also starring in a movie (opposite Ashton Kutcher) this year (called “No Strings Attached”) about two friends with the same exact dilemma. [NextMovie says this one is much better than the Kutcher-Portman one.]

Moneyball - September 23
Starring: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman
The Scoop: The term “moneyball,” was coined for the book of the same name by author Michael Lewis,  and refers to a specific style of baseball management that favors a statistical approach to organizing a team, which in turn allows small market franchises to compete with bigger spenders. Directed by Bennett Miller, the guy who did the critically acclaimed “Capote.”

Now - Sept. 30
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Cillian Murphy, Justin Timberlake, Alex Pettyfer, Amanda Seyfried
The Scoop: Olivia Wilde, Justin Timberlake, Alex Pettyfer — this movie’s cast pretty much reads like a who’s who of the hottest young stars in 2011, as each of those big names has multiple big movies coming out this year. The biggest, though, may be this one, a near-future sci-fi epic where immortality has been attained, but only if you’re rich enough to afford it — and where time, therefore, really is money. When a scruffy dude (Timberlake) comes into a fortune in time/money, he ends up on the run from evil assholes (like Cillian Murphy) looking to poach his future.

Holiday releases include a "CGI-capture" version of Tintin; War Horse, a Disneyfied version of a popular book; Puss in Boots, a spinoff from Shrek; and the American remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  All possibilities - could be good, but I'm not committed yet.

One more comment: at last count there are 4 major comic book adaptions coming this year - Thor, Captain America, Green Hornet, and Green Lantern.  That seems excessive to me!  There's always at least 1 or 2, but 4 in one year seems like overkill.  I'm sure there's a lot of jockeying for the best release dates.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Katniss culture

The internets are abuzz with casting conjecture about The Hunger Games movie (which is moving ahead, supposedly, though never count your chickens, as they say).  In that context, I noticed that there seems to be a lot more women archers suddenly appearing on imdb. 

Late in December, the site featured a promo for Your Highness with Natalie Portman holding a bow.  This is a comedy, a period satire, but still. 

Just a few days later, the site featured another promo, for a movie called Hanna, with Saoirse Ronan (best known for Atonement and The Lovely Bones), as a girl raised to be an assassin by her ex-CIA father (Eric Bana).  It's not a period movie, but it's set in the "wilds" of Finland, which is close enough.

These 3 movies have very little in common besides their female sharpshooter, but it seems like more than pure coincidence.  Just sayin'.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

Chanel No. 5

I love Chanel No. 5, but I don't wear it much, because Larry's mom wore it when he was growing up, and he associates it with her.  This new book about "the most famous perfume in the world" looks great.  Here's a recap from NPR:

Supposedly, someone somewhere in the world buys a bottle every 30 seconds. Marilyn Monroe notoriously claimed to wear nothing to bed but a few drops of Chanel No. 5.

Cultural historian Tilar Mazzeo has written a new book about this legendary scent, The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume.

Mazzeo explains that you can find the earliest inspirations for her perfume in her unlikely childhood. Chanel was abandoned by her parents at an austere medieval convent in southwestern France.

There are two things about the convent that are very, very important for her, I think," Mazzeo says. "Because it's Cistercian, and the Cistercians believed in the symbolism of numbers, the number five was all around her."

Mazzeo says that mystical belief in numbers was at the root of Chanel's obsession with the number five, a number that she considered lucky all her life.

And more important, the convent gave young Coco Chanel a deep appreciation for the simple scent of cleanliness, of fresh laundry and scrubbed skin.

"I think that also was a register of cleanliness that really influenced her interest in scent," says Mazzeo.

When Chanel set out to invent her perfume, she was living as a kept woman with a succession of rich lovers. By the conventions of the day, that meant heavy, exotic scents like jasmine and musk.

"If you wore jasmine, you were a racy lady," says Mazzeo. "What a respectable young lady would wear would be rose or violet."

But Chanel thought women shouldn't smell like flowers; they should smell like women. So she designed a scent that married sensual jasmine and musk with new fragrance chemicals called aldehydes that created the clean laundry smell she remembered from the convent.

The combination was revolutionary at the time -- and it remains a best-seller even now, 90 years later.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year!

"2011" - doesn't seem possible because it sounds so futuristic!  Can't believe we're into the second decade of the new millenium.  Time just flies and flies.