Monday, April 30, 2012

Liveblogging Dancing with the "Stars": CLASSICAL NIGHT

First of all, Classical Night? That doesn't sound too promising. Sounds damn boring. But whatever--in for a penny, in for a pound. Speaking of pounds, Gladys Knight allegedly lost 60 of them participating in the show, but that didn't save her from being booted last week, and taking Tattooed Tristan with her. Alas.

How they attempt to make "Classical Night" at all relevant: Some floppy-haired bastard (is that Joshua Bell?) playing the fiddle. This has disaster written all over it. EXCEPT: Now they just got all Dangerous Liasons up in here. Officially hot. Where's Malcatraz?  It was Joshua Bell, incidentally. Playing some Vivaldi. Whose birthday, I happen to know, is March 4th. SHIT: There's some Toddler in a Tiara singing an aria later tonight. The outfits tonight? Totally freaksome.

Katherine and Mark: Rumba-ing to Canon in D. Pachelbel, don't you know. Mark just said, "Can't spell classical without 'ass'." Nice. Tom Bergeron just said their wardrobe was from "Game of Thrones the Musical." Well played, sir. It's more like "300: The Musical," but whatevs--I appreciate the sentiment. Mark also has a sizable tattoo on his back. It's taking away some of the boredom from this tired-ass rumba. It doesn't work with Canon in D. AND he's got script on his ribcage! Mark is inked, y'all, and rising in my estimation. I remember precisely nothing about the dance. Len loves it, of course. Carrie Ann: 9; Len: 9; Bruno: 9. But their hearts weren't in those 9's.

Melissa and Wax: ArgenTINE Tango with Wax, who is injured? What of this?  He has a pompadour and an injured ankle. I'm not sure if the two are related. He's bringing in Mini-Wax, aka, Val, as a possible ringer. Oh, the drama. And OF COURSE, Wax totally showed. He's not going to miss an opportunity to wear such a fancy frock coat. They're dancing to "Marriage of Figaro," which works quite nicely--with better dancers. They're pretty much crap--not on beat. CA: 7; L: 7; B: 7. Oooh--like Cs in graduate school.

They keep pitching "Team Dances." Sounds lame.

William "I'm Very Handsome" Levy and Cheryl: They're dancing the Viennese Waltz (one of my favorites) to some live performer who looks like Kirstin Dunst in Interview with the Vampire. Levy is trying to convince us all he's "from the streets." And he, like Wax, has an ankle injury. Ankle injuries are so hot right now. The creepy child is singing "Ave Maria" in the voice of a 45-year-old woman. I am officially wigged. They are pumping in serious smoke so we won't notice Levy's terrible feet. Works for me--such a pretty dance. Carrie Ann is seriously crushing on Levy. She's out-slobbering Bruno. CA: 9; L: 9; B: 9.

Roshon and Chelsea: Roshon has, unfortunately, not hit puberty since last week, which is going to make this ArgenTINE tango--which depends on his masculinity--really awkward. They bring in Wax Jr. for man lessons. This is the blind leading the stupid. If I am not very much mistaken, they are dancing to an instrumental version of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." Classical composers everywhere just rolled over in their crypts. Dude! They just cut away! Did Roshon cop a masculine feel? Was there a wardrobe malfunction? Something happened that Len doesn't want to talk about. I'm intrigued. DAMN--Bruno just said "size isn't everything." BURN. CA: 9; L: 8; B: 8. The 9 is ridiculous, Carrie Ann.

Donald and Peta: Another Viennese Waltz! Delightful! They have another live performer, of whom I have never heard, singing "La Donna Mobile." An aria that is no less charming for being so sexist in translation! But, when are they going to stop sitting in thrones, sipping from goblets, and start dancing? Ah, here we go. Nice frame, Donald! I say 10. And I also want to do my hair like Peta's. 10+. CA: 9; L: 9; B: 9. They clearly didn't take the good hair into consideration.

Derek and Whoever:  The paso doble--my favorite dance. And she's crying like a baby because she's not attractive enough for him during rehearsal. She's not wrong. Oh for the love of Christ, they've got her as a vampire. The sacrilege. There's not enough anger in this paso--and that's even with me helping along here at home. Judges were into it, though. CA: 10 (!); L: 10(!!); B: 10 (!!!!!). Whatever--I wasn't feeling it, but that might be because I loathe her and every word she says. They just executed the most awkward "chest" bump I've ever seen, in that Whoever thought that their pelvises were actually what was supposed to bump.

Jaleel and Kym: Jerkel takes his turn at the Viennese Waltz, and totally grabs Kym's boob during rehearsal. Not exactly classy for Classical Night, J. He's also dressed like some sort of unreconstructed Nazi. Not sure what that's about. And they're dancing to the theme to Downton Abbey--a rad show, but not exactly a "classical" composition. Classical Night pretty much went out the window when Lady Gaga made her appearance, I guess. I would say this is the weakest of the VWs tonight. CA: 8; L: 8; B: 8.

All right--here comes the "Team Dance." I'm envisioning a Jets vs. Sharks scenario. Unfortunately, the eerie pod child is back to serenade before the dance-off begins. Oh look! It's Tristan!

Jets: Team Tango. They swear like sailors, and, hilariously, the show bleeps out the curses, yet renders them in subtitles as "****!" Now they're dancing. It is not at all like Jets vs. Sharks, as they go one at a time. Bummer. The judges are ambivalent. I don't really understand how this is scored, but here we go: CA: 10; L: 8; B: 9.

Sharks: Team Paso. They begin by deeming the other team, "Team Kindergarten." Snap. Wax is demonstrating the correct shirt-taking-off protocol for Donald and Levy. Typical. The performance is starting off very intense--there's fire and this piece of music I hear all the time and LOVE and have no idea what it is. But it's super sexytime--shirts are flying around like Christmas candy. I think the paso did a lot of the work for them, but I liked this one better. CA: 9; L: 8; B: 9.

I think Wax the Gimp and Melissa are in trouble tomorrow.



Have you seen the trailer for Carnage?  It’s pretty great.   

I rented it this weekend and was not disappointed.  Based on the play, God of Carnage by Yazmina Reza, the film was pretty darn great.  I make no apologies for being a fan of director Roman Polanski’s work.  No, I’m not a fan of his personal life but the dude can direct.  I would have loved to see the London production starring Ralph Fiennes, Tamsin Greig (fabulous in Matt LeBlanc’s show Episodes), Janet McTeer and Ken Stott.  In fact as much as I liked the movie, I’m betting I would have loved the stage production.

The story is this: Two couples meet to discuss the recent event of one couple’s son hitting the other’s with a big stick.  That’s basically it. There’s lots of humor, stress and aggression (plus most of the adjectives used in the trailer).  The conversation switches between the boys, cobbler, and an abandoned hamster. There’s a constantly buzzing cell phone, beautiful tulips and vomit.  It’s pretty great.  Couple turns on couple, spouse against spouse and sex against sex.  It’s terribly satisfying to see these folks attempt to get through one conversation. 
As a viewer I found myself really involved in the story.  At varying points in the film I wanted to slap each one of them.  It's incredible how each character's worst quality comes out in the span of a very short time yet the film doesn't feel forced.  The interplay between the four characters is incredible.  I would think that actors would fight tooth and nail to be able to play these two couples.  There’s tons of development in the span of the film (a short 80 minutes), which is almost impossible to do.  It could have been mishandled and rushed but Polanski did it just right.  Oh, also I need to give a shout-out to the film’s composer, Alexandre Desplat.  I’m one of those weirdos that notices a movie’s score and Desplat hasn’t failed me yet.  His music grabbed me in the opening sequence (the incident between the boys) and was stellar.  Add to it Polanski's direction in keeping the camera far away while slowly moving in to the action and I was sold from the first minute.

The Raven

Director: James McTeigue

I used to be one of John Cusack’s biggest fans.  My friends loved him too, which is why, in college, we had a Cusack-a-thon (or two, I can’t remember how many times this occurred).  We would watch movies like (my personal favorite) Better Off Dead and recite the lines aloud.  My favorite is when the two tree trimmers see Cusack in the back of a dump truck and one says to the other, “Man, that’s a real shame when folks be throwin’ away a perfectly good white boy like that.”  How they got through that line with straight faces I’ll never know. 

Time passed and my love for him waned.  These things happen.  Like every actor he’s had some career highs and lows but I was hopeful with The Raven.  Actually, that’s not true.  When I first saw footage at Comic Con last summer I was skeptical.  It seemed to be riding on the coattails of Sherlock Holmes and that's just lazy.  But after seeing the trailer I thought I’d give it a chance.  There was potential for a dark, gritty thriller.  Plus I really like Luke Evans and think he’s on the brink of big things. 

It wasn’t great.  The script, specifically the dialogue, was a mess.  Plus it seemed like the actors, save for Mr. Evans, seemed to have trouble delivering their lines.  It was terribly unnatural coming out of their mouths.  The story was so-so and the plot moved along but there was just something about the actors' line delivery that threw me.  It got to be uncomfortable to watch.  Cusack, bless him, tried really hard.  Too hard, in fact.  My friend, Jenna, and I thought that it seemed like he was attempting a version of Snape.  Then we excitedly agreed that Alan Rickman would have been great in this movie.  Now there's a guy who can handle any kind dialogue with ease.  Evans was just barely able to rise above the material.  The female lead, Alice Eve, was fine but she didn’t have a lot to do. 

The direction, by James McTeigue, was meh.  There were some cool camera shots but it felt over-wrought.  Really I just couldn’t get past the script.  Poe would have been horrified.

Oh so I need to find one good thing, right? beloved Mr. Bates was in it but it was just one scene.  A woman behind me gleefully whispered to her husband, "It's Mr. Bates!" and that made me smile.  I love that he's recognizable to people now.  Of course that will make our (imaginary) marriage difficult when middle-aged women are throwing themselves at him all the time. But we'll laugh it off because everyone knows how loyal he is.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Review of Wings--Not the Paul McCartney One. Or the Tony Shalhoub One.

 So my efforts at blog-shirking have now officially gone bi-coastal. Jonathan Alexandratos, an NYC playwright, novelist, artist, and professor, is one of those people who only needs 45 minutes of sleep a night, so he watched a Soviet film and will now tell us enough about it to be impressive at cocktail parties.

My contribution? Don't piss her off.

Their “Wings” May Have Ours Beat
WARNING:  The “their” in the above title refers to the Soviets.  Which I know is sacrilege – but think of it this way: now, we exist, and they don’t.  But the beauty of celluloid is that it lasts past fallen empires.  Until it is realized that celluloid will explode after emitting enough nitrate, and said celluloid is transferred to DVD (or, yeah, Blu-Ray). 
The piece of celluloid (now DVD) in question is the 1966 Soviet film “Wings,” by Larisa Shepitko.  We Yanks had two “Wings”-titled entities: “Wings” (1927) and “Wings” (1990s TV show).  And those were great, especially the one with Tony Shalhoub.  But there’s something to the Soviet “Wings” that ought to be ruminated upon.
First: the plot (quick version).  An ex-Soviet fighter pilot (who is a woman!  Hurrah strong female roles!) works as the headmistress of a school after seeing a ton of action in World War II.  As a result, she spends her days daydreaming about the fact that, like, two seconds ago she was taking a personal interest in the discomfort of a not-insignificant number of Nazis.  She finds it difficult to shift her definition of “rough day” from “only took a small amount of shrapnel” to “kid threw up in the cafeteria.”  Understandably so.
The cinematography that frames this dilemma is the film’s most striking element.  Imagine a scene of a woman walking down a school hallway – business suit and all – intercut with clouds, seen from a cockpit, and the emergence of a high-stakes dogfight.  It begs the question: is monotony worth it, if one is allowed a period of time, however small, in which excitement reigns king?  Surely most get the monotony sans a period of life-or-death struggle, so maybe one might view the protagonist (named “Nadya”) as lucky.
Speaking of Nadya (the actresses name is a few Google clicks away, but they are a few Google clicks too many at this moment, evidently), the story’s lead is portrayed with such graceful sternness that one is eager to forget that “graceful sternness” is more or less an oxymoron.  She draws viewers in, with the understanding that the viewer will not learn all.  And that’s a powerful – and difficult! – thing to pull off: withholding.  (Especially now, when films are all-too-eager to, as a former professor of mine once said, “shoot [their] wad in the first ten minutes” [it was an…odd…lecture…he was engaged in].)
The script and direction are both, needless to say, stellar, but they found excellent support in the acting and cinematography of “Wings.”  The film’s available via the Eclipse series, a division of Criterion, and comes with “The Ascent,” Shepitko’s oft-considered masterpiece.
Shepitko, herself, died before her time – car accident – in the middle of working on a film, which her husband later finished.  Again, one is thankful for the endurance of celluloid.      

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Devilishly Smart look at The City of Angels

The stockiest of stock L.A. photos.

As I continue to drown in a sea of composition essays, Nat continues to take up my slack with another awesome reading list, this time based on her Southland stomping grounds. 

It seems no one likes LA but there sure is a lot of interest in what we do here. Movies abound about the city paved with gold (the streets are actually sparkly—different asphalt and all) and just turn on the TV to see a skewed “reality” version of how this slice of the left coast lives. Books are a tad more difficult to come by.

See the Sights!
            A LOT of what happens in LA is sightseeing. Seriously. I have to dodge sightseers to get fish from my Whole Foods. No lie. There was a group with cameras as I waited for my tilapia Monday. Luckily for the movies, LA has more interesting things to see than fish carcasses.
            The LA River: Or, rather, aqueduct which might actually contain a fish carcass or three. See Chinatown, Grease, and, amusingly, the latest season of America’s Next Top Model for a trip down the river without banjos.
The Griffith Observatory: This place is all kinds of awesome and newly re-opened after wild fire damage and general renovation. Rebel without a Cause features this shrine to geekiness prominently.
Hollywood Blvd.: The 2011 The Muppets centers on the re-furb of “The Muppet Theater” or, as we like to call it, El Capitan. Opened in 1926 by the same dude who opened The Egyptian and The Chinese (both within walking distance of El Capitan) it’s currently decked out with a giant Wurlitzer organ on which Disney songs are played before shows. Only Disney films show now but each is often accompanied by an exhibit with props/costumes and some sort of pre-show. I saw The Muppets here and was treated to a sing-a-long with Kermit and Miss Piggy (80s kid geek-out!). The Muppets also gives a glance into the nearby sights on Hollywood Blvd. as well as Jim Henson Studios which is just around the corner on La Brea.
Chinatown: For the best Chinese food go to Yang Chow posthaste. To see the silliest pop-culture “sight” ever, look on the side of the Foo Chow restaurant.

Get Your PoMo Cred On: Thomas Pynchon isn’t known for being what might be called “readable” but his latest is the closest you’re going to get. Inherent Vice is set in and around LA and is surprisingly (to me, at least) accessible, fun, and at least partially responsible for the advent of the “book trailer.”

Under No Circumstances Should You Watch This Film: The Postman Always Rings Twice. But, James M. Cain also wrote Mildred Pierce which was recently a passable mini-series for HBO and was an Oscar winning film for Joan Crawford.

Because Everyone Expects It: Nathaniel West’s Day of the Locusts is the LA novel with literary cred. It’s short. Give it a read and toss in Miss Lonelyhearts while you’re at it (they’re probably packaged in the same physical book anyway) even though it’s an NYC book.

Because No One Has Heard of It: As the girl who never read Brave New World but has read Chrome Yellow, I prefer an oddball Aldous Huxley and his After Many Summer Dies a Swan seems the perfect retort for “You haven’t read Brave New World?!?!.”

Creepy McCreepiness: James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia is a true crime/fiction hybrid novel. If you want to up the creep factor, check out the first season of American Horror Story and see Mena Suvari as the (in)famous actress. See also: Ellroy’s LA Confidential and the film that garnered Kim Basinger an Oscar. Meanwhile, did you know that the LA County Coroner’s Office has a gift shop? Skeletons in the Closet. Hee.

“I got friends in East LA”: For a look at the not-so-shiny side of Los Angeles, try The Revolt of the Cockroach People. Hunter S. Thompson wrote the intro because his Dr. Gonzo character is based on the author, Oscar Zeta Acosta, who mysteriously disappeared and likely died in 1971. True crime, indeed.

80s Flashback: Robert Downey Jr. brings the fabled LA drug habit and party sensibility in Less Than Zero based on Bret Easton Ellis’s book or, as I like to call it, “Less Disturbing than American Psycho.”

Hardboiled: Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep is an excellent example of  LA Noir (literature and film) but I prefer White Heat which basically gives you a car chase tour of old-town Los Angeles. See also: High Sierra, most of Chandler’s other books, and a million other noirs.

As if: LA is notorious for the air-head blonde stereotype and there isn’t a more fun film about such things (while being quite substantive, actually Kato) than Clueless.

Dude’s Got a Lady’s Name: I’ve never read any Evelyn Waugh but he wrote The Loved Ones about LA people.

Just ‘Cause She’s Awesome: You should read Anna Deavere Smith’s play Twilight Los Angeles.

The American Gangster’s Dream: The setting for Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard isn’t exclusively Los Angeles but the journey cross country makes it more of a Hollywood story. Read the book on the beach (I did, forever ago) and give the movie with a resurrected John Travolta a watch. Give the celluloid sequel, Be Cool, a skip (though the book may be worth it) and then go straight to whatever DVD/Blu Ray/streaming service you prefer and watch all of Justified. Immediately. Timothy Olyphant is yummy and says shit like “I got mad ninja skills, buddy” in a drawl slower than honey. Shut up about it not being about LA. They totally film it here.

McCool: They Shoot Horses Don’t They is a novel by Horace McCoy and a film directed by Sydney Pollack about an 879 hour dance marathon during the Depression. What?! Apparently Alexander McQueen recreated the dance marathon for a 2004 collection

Drive You to Distraction: Want to feel better about your city’s real estate prices? Or just snoop in homes of the wannabe famous (and sometimes the actually famous)? Curbed LA is all that and more of a time waster/what you might do if you won the lottery game. You’re welcome.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Liveblogging Dancing with the "Stars": MOTOWN NIGHT

First of all, Motown Night? Really? That doesn't scream "ballroom" to me, but whatever. I'm game. Oh, and Gavin "Bruno Mars" DeGraw got booted last week. Bummer. Please don't have the artist debasing him/herself be Smokey Robinson, please don't have the artist debasing him/herself be Smokey Robinson. . . .

Artist debasing him/herself: Shit. It's Smokey Robinson. Who is being played by wax model Smokey Robinson tonight. Damn, this is depressing. He still sounds great, though. And Martha Reeves. She still looks okay, but sounds wobbly and odd. Put them together, and you have a decent performance. Speaking of  . . .  The Temptations. Who look and sound EXACTLY THE SAME. Eerie. Now we have the walk of shame. All the couples are dressed in metallics this evening. How fashion forward. AND there's going to be a dance marathon tonight! Think they'll shoot somebody?

Gladys and Tattoed Tristan: Rumba to "My Girl." Someone has inexplicably costumed Tristan as if he were appearing in Revenge of the Nerds, Ireland edition. How very soulful. Obviously, they're making much hay of Gladys's own history with Motown Records. They dance after the break. . .

My cable just went out! NOOOOOO!!!!

I'm BACK, just in time to hear Roshon the Man-child call himself "sensual and sexy." I freaking doubt it.

According to my mom and aunt, Derek and what's-her-name will probably be safe.

Katherine the Diva and Derek's BFF Mark: They shall be dancing the samba to "Can't Get Next to You" During rehearsal, Mark just said Katherine felt "solid and contained" during their last performance. SEXUAL. As an aside, The Temptations are truly uncanny. Their voices haven't changed a bit. What devil have they bargained with? Beehived Katherine is owning her gold fringy, Beyonce in the "Crazy in Love" video dress. Their dance is a little uninspired, though, methinks. The judges thinks I am wrong. Carrie Ann, with short hair: 10 (WTF?); L: 9; B: 10 (WTF, again). I am clearly crap at judging the samba.

Donald and Peta: Foxtrot to "The Way You Do the Things You Do." During rehearsal, Peta brings in a standee of Len holding a 10 paddle for inspiration, and it looms in the back of the studio, like Hamlet's father. It's extremely creepy. Remember that "dead boy" that supposedly showed up in the background in "3 Men and a Baby"? It's like that. Performance: Donald's got great feet, y'all. He's looking a little stiff in the upper body, probably because Peta terrified him with that ghost Len. Oops, and he just stumbled a little, though didn't bust his ass like Wax a few weeks ago. So much for great feet. Judges like his charisma, and Len appears won over. CA: 9; L: 9; B: 9.

Melissa and Wax: Wax's chest is not exposed for this dance. The seventh seal has broken, Hell has frozen over, flocks of pigs are flying over Los Angeles right now. During rehearsal, Wax is swearing up a storm because Melissa's "legs are together." SEXUAL. Viennese Waltz after the break.

As my aunt has noted, there's a strange, white, ersatz Temptations group singing in the balcony to toss to commercial. To quote her again, "It's like there are four Michael Bubles up there."

Melissa and Wax, cont'd.: Oh God, Smokey's back. He hasn't blinked THIS ENTIRE SHOW. They're not doing too bad. Though I do love this dance, just by default. The judges also seem cautiously optimistic. CA: 8; L: 8; B: 8.

The Bubletions are singing my freaking FAVORITE Motown song, "I'll Be There." A travesty.

Jaleel and Kym: Trying to come back from being in the bottom two last week through the Cha Cha. Many a man has cha-chad their way to redemption, will Jerkel do the same? Well, this is an awesome song, too: "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." Reminds me of "The Big Chill." Jerkel is SELLING IT, and I'm buying. Go get it, Jaleel. Len is a fan, and in so saying, uses the expression "off the boil." I really enjoy that saying. CA: 10; L: 9; B: 10. Len has yet to ten anyone, but this ties them for the top tonight.

My mother insists Len HAS tenned someone, but I disagree. And I'm in charge of the blog, so I win.

William "I'm Very Handsome" Levy and Cheryl: Dancing the rumba tonight. Cheryl is all, we need to be sexy. Cheryl ain't no fool. Apparently, they literally set the studio on fire during rehearsal. Roshon was there with a fire extinguisher, because he's a Cub Scout. That's a tough act to match in performance. Shit, they've rolled out Smokey. Performance: ain't nothin' wrong with a little bump and grind, but I don't see much dancing skill here. The judges concur, with Len demonstrating his own superior "hip action," and Levy making a Viagra joke. It's a snake pit out there. CA: 9; L: 8; B: 10 (seriously, Bruno?)

Tom Bergeron just dropped a Fifty Shades of Grey joke. Well played, my friend.

They must be running short--Smokey in his pleather onesie and Mini-Wax are trotted out for "Tears of a Clown." When's the gd dance marathon?

GD Dance Marathon: There's some sort of complicated points scheme that I am paying no attention to. Basically, you get tapped out, like during the prom in Grease, or MMA. First out: Gladys and Tattoed Tristan. She's toast tomorrow. Maria and Derek are OUT. It's because he kept his shirt on. Roshon the Boy Genius and Chelsea are gone. I just saw the terrifying bouncer that "taps" the dancers. He looks like Jason Statham. Melissa and Wax are OUT. Donald and Peta gone. Three left. My attention is waning. Someone do something effed up. Jerkel and Kym out. So we have Levy, whose shirt is unbuttoned, and the opera singer. So Katherine and Mark won. That lacked luster, for me.

My prediction? Derek and Gladys will be in the bottom two next week. To my eternal regret.

The Cabin in the Woods

Director: Drew Goddard
Stars: Thor, the hottie from Grey's and a few others
Sunday blues got ya down?  Are you regretting last night’s kegger?  (Do kids still do those?)  Sad that the work week starts in less than 24 hours?  Well I have a plan for you: the MGL.  No, not GTL but MGL…Movie, Gym, Laundry.  Yes, you should still include laundry but definitely skip the tanning.  You have some options with the order of things.  You could do GML but then you’re going to the M all sweaty and gross from the G, however…sweaty and gross means less people would be inclined to sit near you in a theater.  If you’re doing the M with a friend or loved one then I highly recommend doing the G later. 

Here’s how you choose your M.  If you’re mourning the fact that Monday is closer than you think and you want to wallow, then go for the sappy drama.  Crying can be cathartic.  If having a 'case of the Mondays' makes you all punchy, find out where Expendables 2 (or really any Jason Statham flick) is playing.  But the best kind of M for absolutely any mood is a well-done horror.  Especially great are well-done horror movies that are also FUNNY!  These are rare but when they happen it is a joyous event indeed.  One such event occurred for me yesterday.  I have been waiting to see The Cabin in the Woods because I am a dyed-in-the-wool Whedonite.  I even liked Dollhouse.  So I was thrilled when the movie was being made and followed the production as best I could.  I was less thrilled when it was shelved due to ickyness over at MGM.  I was happy again when there was a release date on the books.  I was less happy when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to see it opening weekend.  

I read the reviews of Cabin (something I don’t normally do for a film I’m excited about) that were popping up after it premiered at SXSW.  Across the board folks said it was good as everyone wanted it to be.  My expectations shot up.  Guess what?  They were right.  I’m not going to get into the plot because you really need to experience it spoiler-free.  But for those of you Buffy fans out there I will say that this was like a super-charged episode of Buffy.  There is a big bad (or bads in this case) and lots of Whedonesque humor.  But because it’s an R-rated film we also got some saucy language, drug use, boobies, and a shirtless Jesse Williams (thanks!)  It followed the traditional horror formula right down to the casting of the slutty chick, the jock, the stoner, the smart kid and the virgin.  But then they turned that cast into an actual plot device.  Speaking of the cast, it was nice to see a couple of Whedon regulars (Amy Acker, Tom Lenk [Andrew!], and a ton of newbies. 

A great thing about Cabin is the discussion that happens outside of the main group but I can’t get into that without getting spoilery.  Just know that it got deep and slightly philosophical but then jumped out in time before it got too self-aware. The directing from Drew Goddard was very good and the script moved along at a decent pace. 

So after the M it’s time to hit the G.  Make sure you have some Missy Elliot to get you going.  “We Run This” is perfect for early in your cardio routine.  Losing steam?  Oddly, Dee Lite’s “Groove is in the Heart” is perfect to get you through those last few minutes.  Oh and don’t forget the L is in the dryer.

Tracy saw The Lucky One this weekend!  Don’t you want to know what she thought?  Head on over to her review at

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What's Your Dirty Little Reading Secret?

Natalie composed a very interesting list while avoiding grading. I'm avoiding grading by posting it here. I'm not sure I can come up with 10, though three of them are certainly located to your right on my Goodreads queue. Anybody else care to confess? 

Ten Dirty Little Secrets: Reading

I’m supposed to be grading papers. Instead I was perusing the internets and came across this little list: The Book Lady’s Blog: What are Your Dirty Little Reading Secrets. Of course I had to make my own list.

I’ve never read Moby Dick. While this may result in a big “who cares” from anyone who doesn’t know my credentials, start poking around and find out that I have a PhD in English and specialize in American Lit and “ooooooooh.” Meanwhile, I don’t quite care and think I may never read the novel.

I confuse William Gaddis and William Gibson. And haven’t read either.

I’ll put a book down if it’s not interesting and leave it for a long time. Like years. I have little to no guilt about this although I will keep the unfinished books separate from the books I have read in their entirety.

I HATE long chapters. I also hate incredibly short chapters. I want a chapter to be 20-50 pages long. And I want it clearly marked so I have a stopping point.

I’ve never read any of the Harry Potter books. I have seen all of the movies. I’m just not that into YA fiction. Sorry.

I love J.D. Salinger but am nonplussed about Catcher in the Rye. I read all of his work—seriously ALL of it—before Catcher and only got around to Catcher when I was in my mid-twenties. I didn’t share the same angst so I didn’t really connect to the book. Related: I named one of my girl cats Zooey. And I totally rock an original cover art Catcher t-shirt like a hipster.

I cannot read Cormac McCarthy. I’ve tried several times but his words are my Kryptonite.

I will read a book out of spite to prove a point. I read The 351 Books of Irma Arcuri just to count the sex acts because it was said the book had “just enough” blow jobs. I read A Visit from the Goon Squad just so I could argue that the Pulitzer was not deserved and know what I was talking about.

I avoid books with a lot of hype. It took the movie coming out for me to read The Hunger Games (see also: I don’t really read a lot of YA). I’ll also put off reading books that anyone suggests because he/she L.O.V.E.S. it. Who wants to read someone’s life-long favorite book and come back with “eh.”

I have a bookcase full of books I intend to read. This little hoarder tendency started when I was writing the dissertation and wanted desperately to read something other than what I had to write about. I had no time to read other things but I had time to browse the hard cover section.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Nat and I Take On Alec Guinness

Over at Docs on Films, Natalie and I watched Kind Hearts and Coronets, a film which was described to us as a "black comedy." Though we were not amused, we have hatched a genius scheme that will make us as rich and powerful as the Weinsteins. Check out our chat, and get in on the ground floor as an investor.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Sparks Scale

For incentive, I promise this post will feature Gosling content.
What follows is a companion piece to Alisa's sorta-rant against Nicholas Sparks, who is quite possibly the most pretentious author on the planet with the least talent to back it up (seriously, look for an interview with this guy--he's intolerable). And I've never read word one that he's written. However, there is something about the cheese-infused, hyper-melodramatic, scenery-is-more-interesting-than-the-actors adaptations of his novels that is my catnip and kryptonite. Since, I do have some sense of perspective about the slough of cinematic despond in which I immerse myself whenever a new Sparksy comes out, and can acknowledge that some are better than others, with "better" being an entirely relatively term, I offer a crude ranking system.  Spoilers follow, though if you've seen one Sparks, you can probably already guess that a major character will take a dirt nap before the two hours are through.

So, in honor of this weekend's premiere of The Lucky One (which yes, I'll totally be seeing tomorrow), I give you:

The Sparks Scale

Hideously Repellant: The Last Song

It should be clear from the poster why this one blows.

First of all, it stars Miley Cyrus. I'll give you a moment to process that. It. Stars. MILEY CYRUS. Like, in the sense that she "acts" in it, and naturally the soundtrack is filled with her stupid songs. Not only that, but the plot itself (which was "developed alongside" the film, as all good novels are) gives us all the absolute worst of Sparks cliches: we've got a terminal disease, we've got family strife, and we've got a heavy-handed Christian allegory. And it has the unmitigated gall to make national treasure Greg Kinnear show up every day and read his lines opposite, again I emphasize, MILEY CYRUS. The only saving grace is the presence of Liam "Gale" Hemsworth, but since they make him unnaturally obsessed with a lame loggerhead turtle subplot, even that brief bright spark is snuffed by crap.

Horrendously Insulting: Message in a Bottle

Starting to notice a trend in the posters?

The problem with this one (well, its problems are legion, but the one I'll focus on here) is the presence of Paul Newman. Paul mothereffing Newman. The film wants us to believe that the King of Cool somehow spawned a whiny, petulant, emotionally stunted Kevin Costner, and then didn't immediately drown him. Apparently, he wanted to leave that to Nicholas Sparks, who first makes us sit through a romance with Robin Wright (Penn) that is based on and almost undone by a deception so clumsy and unnecessary it feels ripped from the pages of The Babysitters Club.

Ridiculously Contrived: Nights at Rodanthe, Dear John
Also, there's a Franco factor to consider.

Though these two are quite different (one being firmly ensconced in the "middle-aged people get it on" genre, the other a solid entry in the "war is hell . . . on a relationship" category), they both rely on untimely death as a convenient mors ex machina to resolve pesky plot details. Nights at Rodanthe also totally plays the "girls love horses" card to suggest that Richard Gere's ghost is magic. But one must tip his hat to Dear John, for actually featuring a dying cancer patient articulating relief and excitement about his impending demise, because it means his wife will finally be able to bang Channing Tatum guilt-free. You cannot make this shit up. Unless you're Nicholas Sparks. 

Delightfully Cheesy: A Walk to Remember
She looks like the picture of health, doesn't she?
Now we're approaching the positive side of the scale. This classic doomed teen romance was my gateway drug to Sparksy. And I can never thank my dealer enough. All the usual plot devices are there--a wasting disease that makes no one look ugly, shilling for conservative values--but there are also the joys of the worst high school musical ever performed, in order to feature the talents of one Mandy Moore, Shane West doing his best Sir Lancelot impression to save his lady's honor from the indignity of appearing in the worst photo-shopped flyer ever created, and lots of high school angst. Always worth a watch when it appears on Lifetime. Which is bi-monthly.

Reasonably Acceptable: The Notebook
Because this happens.

 Well, half of it, anyway. This is the Sparks adaptation that people more emotionally stable than I might actually own without embarrassment. This exception is mainly due to the presence of two talented and extraordinarily good looking actors when they were still willing to do anything for work (Rachel McAdams and Mr. Ryan Gosling), who also happen to have such mad chemistry that they basically light the rest of the crap movie on fire. The other half makes a typical Sparks argument that love can cure Alzheimer's Disease, which would have placed this film squarely in the "Horrendously Insulting" category, but Ryan Gosling. And "the kiss." And "I wrote you every day for a year!" Do what I do--fast forward the old people parts, and bask in the glow of a bearded Gosling wrapped only in a blanket, eaten up by torment and bitter rage.

Only tomorrow will tell where The Lucky One will fall in the Sparks Scale (though my money's on Contrived).  

A Nicholas Sparks (sorta) rant


"Why I Will Not Be Seeing "The Lucky One" This Weekend" 
"I'm Not Emotionally Stable Enough for Nicholas Sparks"

Really that second title says it all but let me give you a little background about me and Mr. Sparks.  I have a weakness for Nicholas Sparks movies.  I can't be bothered to read his books.  I know they're quick reads but why bother when there will be a movie?  They aren't great works of literature and apparently they translate well to the screen so I don't see the need to read them.

*************SPOILERY BITS AHEAD****************

Let's do the list.  First up we have Message in a Bottle.  This one didn't suck me in but I got it and it was romantic and sweet but it didn't get to me like...stupid, effing A Walk to Remember.  The main character is young, beautiful, in love and DYING.  The boy of her dreams gives her everything on her bucket list only it's not some 'when I die in 60 years' list.  No. She's dying, like, soon.  I've only watched it twice because I hate that I cry no matter what.  I know what's coming.  It's so sappy and romantic and I'M SUCH A SUCKER FOR SAPPY AND ROMANTIC.  Ugh.  Next up is my favorite and probably most everyone else's too...The Notebook.  Firstly I really like Rachel McAdams.  She's one of the few actresses I always enjoy.  Also, I loved Ryan Gosling before this movie.  I spotted him in Remember the Titans, I saw The Believer the week it landed on DVD, I lusted after him (much like Sandra Bullock) in Murder By Numbers.  By the time The Notebook came out I was already a huge fan.  The movie just solidified my love for him.  Honestly.  Have you seen it?  You must have.  Hasn't everyone? He's wonderful.  I could go on so I'll stop myself here.  I didn't see Nights in Rodanthe. Apparently I don't care much for the movies starring people older than me.  I don't know why so don't ask me.  I did see Dear John and loved it.  It was sappy, romantic and I like both Channing Tatum and Amada Seyfried so I was all in.  I watched The Last Song and it's probably my biggest exception because I CAN'T STAND MILEY CYRUS.  She bugs me.  I didn't really even like the movie besides Greg Kinnear who is great in everything. 

There are a few other movies that seem like they should have been Sparks but weren't (The Vow, Charlie St. Cloud) and I've seen them too.  I'll say it again: I am a sucker for sappy, romantic movies.  Especially if there's death involved and there's always a death.

That brings us to The Lucky One.  I can't say much about the movie because, as you've probably guessed, I haven't read the book.  From what I can tell Zac Efron (so glad I'm legally allowed to swoon over him now. Yes, I think he's cute.  Shut up.) is a soldier whose life is saved by finding a picture. Oookay.  He has to find the girl in the picture, y'all!  They fall in love, someone dies, one of them pushes the other away but there's sure to be a lot of romantic things that happen.  I'm guessing this is what every relationship in the world must be like, right?  If Nicholas Sparks sticks to this formula, and he does, then this is what romance is supposed to be.  I personally have yet to experience this formula but according to Mr. Sparks this is what love is.  Poor me.  And also, Nicholas Sparks hates singletons.  Jerk.

So without unburdening my soul and letting you into my deepest, darkest neurotic thoughts, I'll just reiterate that I'm am currently unable to put up with the romance of it all (the death I don't mind so much...unless it's a pet.)  This movie, more so than others but not more than The Notebook, makes it seem like the characters are REALLY into each other.  Let's take a look at some of the screencaps I found: 

"I can't take my hands off of you."
"In order to read this tattoo I must use my hands."

Hands, hands, hands.

"Don't ever take your hands off of me."
"My hands.  They're not on her. Also... I've probably been pushed away, which is why I look so glum."
You know someone has just died.  At least he has hands for comforting purposes.
Even the premiere was all about hands.

If you go see it, please tell me how it was.  I'll see it eventually but when I'm in a less 'I'm feeling sorry for myself because my life isn't like a Nicholas Sparks movie kind of mood.'  Instead I'll be going to see a horror movie.  Yep, that's WAY more what I need right now.  Death (the good scary movie kind), destruction and gore.  BRING IT ON, WHEDON!

Also, Tracy has done a companion piece on Mr. Sparks.  So read it!  She's got some great things to say and has even seen Nights in Rodanthe.