Monday, February 28, 2011

Spartacus Finale, Oscars, Contest Winner.

I'll miss you, G.
1. Gods of the Arena Finale:

Congratulations, cast, crew, and creators of Spartacus, GOTA, your prequel was every bit as enjoyable as Blood and Sand, and the finale one of the best things all winter. I won't spoil anything about the ending, but really, I didn't see that one coming at all. Swoon, Gannicus (Dustin Clare). You're no Andy Whitfield, but you're something else, and you done good, son.

Oenomaus and Crixus? Looking forward to seeing you in 2012. And for the record, I loved the scenes in the finale when Lucretia first mentions shaving his beard and cutting his hair, then moments later just before the final battle, "CRIXUS! YOU'RE FIRST!" and we get a delicious look at the results . . . (!) Nicely done.

2. The Oscars.

As many of you probably already know, nothing pains me more than having to be a Debby Downer, (!) but was last night's award ceremony some sort of experiment in an Intro to Writing Awards Show class or something? Jeeeeesus Christ (as my old man used to say), would it kill you to hire an actual writer for something this major, or maybe some *experienced emcees?* I think Anne Hathaway was actually really trying quite hard, so, you know, good job there, but she and James Franco were horribly dull, not funny, and annoying all at once. Who wrote those intros? They were awful. If I were an emcee I would have complained. "We are fortunate to be able to breathe the same air as our next guest?" (! ! ! !) I doubt you'd come across anything that cheesy in a Stephanie Meyer novel! Those vignettes (opening segment where James and Anne are inserted into each Best Picture nominee, the auto-tune shit? The final Best Picture montage)---I've seen student films that had more talent and know-how.

What an enormous boner-kill. But congratulations to the winners, not only for nabbing the awards but for surviving that despicable program. Boo.

3. Oscar Fun Contest Winner: Elyssa Castillo, who correctly predicted *all* winners! (My husband also predicted all winners, but Elyssa submitted her answers first, so the prize is hers). Nice Job! I'm thinking of another contest for Mafia March, coming up, so stay tuned!!!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Trainspotting. And something . . . else.

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sin, Zero, Laura Palmer.

Yes, Yes, YES! I'd hit that for sure!
Sin City, 2005, directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez.
Written by Frank Miller
starring: Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Jamie King, Clive Owen, Brittany Murphy

"A film that explores the dark and miserable town, Basin City, and tells the story of three different people, all caught up in violent corruption." (IMDB).

This is enjoyable; visually, narratively, viscerally, all. I'm not a huge graphic novel reader, but I loved the look and feel of this film--all the black and whites (with reds and yellows thrown in for accent), splattering blood, how everyone was strikingly beautiful, even most of the hoodlums. And for some reason, the voiceover narratives really got me, I liked them a lot. I think probably because of all the sarcasm (precursor for Dexter's?)

My favorite section was Clive Owen (Dwight) joining forces with the professionals of Old Town: ("she made him into a pez-dispenser!") And the bit with the limb-devouring Elijah Wood was also good. Bookend scenes with Josh Harnett really made for a great open and close, it's a visually skillful, fun film. I think this might be the best thing on the LLL list; I recommend it highly.

No, no, NO!
Less Than Zero, 1987, directed by Marek Kanievska.
Written by Bret Easton Ellis (novel) and Harley Peyton (screenplay).
Starring: Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz, Robert Downey Junior.

"A college freshman returns to L.A. for the holidays at his ex-girlfriend's request, but discovers that his former best friend has an out-of-control drug habit." (IMDB).

This is so uncomfortable. I don't know which is worse, Jami Gertz's acting, the absolute legitimacy of RDJ's playing the addict, Julian, or FUCKING ANDREW MCCARTHY'S SWEATY, TONGUE-Y SEX SCENES. He was the same in St. Elmo's Fire, you'll probably remember. Stop it.

I actually welcomed the always-slimy James Spader just because it meant the other fools would shut up for 30 seconds. And literally had to look away for fear of heaving each time Clay (McCarthy) and Blair (Gertz) would start making out. . . YUCK.

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, 1990, written by Jennifer Lynch.

Yeesh. I hadn't read this in forever and then picked it up after FWWM last week; I don't think I can find anything nice to say about it. I guess it was interesting finding out the initials of all the people Laura slept with, but the characterizations of everyone, BOB, Leland, Bobby Briggs, and especially Jacques and Leo really seemed random and choppy, not at all like the characters we got to know in the series.

So I don't think it's exceptional writing, like, at all, and it's almost giving too much away, but this doesn't stop me from treasuring the two I own. . . it's about Twin Peaks and it's a book (!)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oscar Fun!

I haven't been into the Oscars since about 1998, but I have always enjoyed games, fun events, and any reason to celebrate, so here it is, another contest!

Cast your ballot, here or on Facebook, for each of the main five categories (best picture, actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress). Not who you *want* to win, who you think will win. Gift card (TBA, I'm thinking restaurant this time?) for participant who accurately predicts the most winners.

Best Picture (choose one)
1. The King's Speech
2. 127 Hours
3. Black Swan
4. The Fighter
5. Inception
6. The Kids Are All Right
7. The Social Network
8. Toy Story 3
9. True Grit
10. Winter's Bone

Best Actor (choose one)
1. James Franco (in 127 Hours)
2. Jeff Bridges (in True Grit)
3. Colin Firth (in The King's Speech)
4. Javier Bardem (in Biutiful)
5. Jesse Eisenberg (in The Social Network)

Best Actress (choose one)
1. Natalie Portman (in Black Swan)
2. Annette Bening (in The Kids Are All Right)
3. Nicole Kidman (in Rabbit Hole)
4. Jennifer Lawrence (in Winter's Bone)
5. Michelle Williams (in Blue Valentine)

Best Supporting Actor (choose one)
1. Christian Bale (in The Fighter)
2. Geoffrey Rush (in The King's Speech)
3. Mark Ruffalo (in The Kids Are All Right)
4. Jeremy Renner (in The Town)
5. John Hawkes (in Winter's Bone)

Best Supporting Actress (choose one)
1. Amy Adams (in The Fighter)
2. Melissa Leo (in The Fighter)
3. Helena Bonham Carter (in The King's Speech)
4. Hailee Steinfeld (in True Grit)
5. Jacki Weaver (in Animal Kingdom)

Have Fun!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Anna Quindlen and Spartacus.

Strange bedfellows, I know, but I don't want to be one of those annoying bloggers that posts things every 30 seconds. My annoying bits will come all at once, thank you.

1. Rise and Shine, by Anna Quindlen, 2006.

I don't really know why I had this; maybe my mother left it here. In any case, I was trying really hard to make it through my Thomas Mann Reader (that I started back in October) but seeing as my nightly routine usually involves at least a couple alcoholic beverages after I eat and come down here to try and write, and then a bath with whatever book I'm reading; the concentration factor was a little lacking these last few weeks . . . I kept zoning out in the tub and then squinting and trying really hard to concentrate on Death in Venice, telling myself that I owe it to myself to have read this . . . Finally I just said FUCK IT this is too heady right now. I'll come back to it again later. And then I picked this up instead.

It was fine, I guess. Not exactly my cup of tea, but competent. She seems to be very descriptive and good with words, so good job there, but here's my thing: Wordy people need to be either funny (Diablo Cody) or I don't know, edge-y (Quentin Tarantino) for me to really say I enjoy their writing. She was just wordy. That's all I can say.

2. How Reading Changed My Life, 1998, by Anna Quindlen.

See? This is probably an example of what will happen to me someday. I'll absolutely shred myself trying to roll out decent, intelligent fiction or media criticisms but people will really only want to hear about my non-ficitonal past and a day in the life of four kids and the 3493898988 fecal incidents that accompany such a lifestyle. People love writers with a flare for describing fecal incidents.

I liked this a lot. I LOVE TO HEAR PEOPLE TALK ABOUT BOOKS, it just makes me happy. And I love reading lists. It could be a complete works of Larry the Cable Guy list and I would still love it just because it was a list of books. And what I was getting at up there before was that fiction writers are usually really gifted at telling their own stories, and I was far more interested in this (of Quindlen's) than the other title.

3. ON BATIATUS: (spoilers, a lot).

So clearly, I've had a little wine, there's a full moon, and I love *everyone* right now, but I've been meaning to say this for a while, now.

Spartacus has really excellent emotional exchanges.

-Lucretia loves Quintus enough to murder his disapproving father. "Tell me I was wrong about you."
"You were wrong. I am far worse."
-Quintus loves Lucretia enough to leave the Ludus with nothing, to give up everything to be with her.
-Gannicus! Being champion gladiator and engaging in drunken three ways fall to the wayside once he falls in love with Melitta. That whole relationship shift between them completely gives me chills. (RIP, Melitta).
-in Blood and Sand, Spartacus OVERTAKES THE HOUSE OF BATIATUS to avenge his wife's death. "Was she really such a woman?" Mira asks him. "She was the sun."
-in Blood and Sand Crixus, the former champion gladiator cries openly to Naevia, "I have ruined us!"
This entire show is an exercise in denied love.
Hot, Crixus, but please do *something* with that mop. . .

Finale next week. :(

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fire Walk With Me

Fire Walk With Me, 1992. Written and directed by David Lynch.
starring: Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise

This is by far my favorite of Lynch's films; like Twin Peaks but with nudity, bludgeoning, and swearing. RIGHT ON. What I like best about this film is the utter comedy thrown in (with all the jazz music, love for blonds, and fear of the elderly). I don't think I've laughed so hard in months as during the first hour of this film. Just ridiculous.

-Gordon Kohl's voice, "GET ME AGENT CHESTER DESMOND IN FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA!" and uncomfortable beat with secretary before she walks out. And pretty much Gordon Kohl's voice anytime, anywhere.

-The whole Lil production. Seriously. "CHET! YOUR SURPRISE!"

-The entire scene from start to finish in the diner. The flashing lights in the front room together with Jack's explanation about Irene. Irene herself. "Are you talking about that little girl that got murdered?" "I KNOW SHIT FROM SHINOLA!" Once again, "Are you talking about that little girl that got murdered?"

-Carl (played by Harry Dean Stanton). The sharpie-written threats on the door. "This is all just the way she left it, I ain't touched a GODDAMNED THING!" Good Morning America = coffee. And all the creepy random people wandering in and around Carl's trailer: WHERE'S MY GODDAMNED HOT WATER? HOT WATER, CARL!" he replies, "I'm gonna get you a Valium."
Harry Dean Stanton is a genius.

This is where we live, Shelly!
The comedy factor obviously goes down from there, but it's a lovely ride. David Lynch is an extremely strange man in his own little world, but seriously. The man loves blondes and can write awkward/funny; aces in my book.

One final note: Once while discussing this film, at the part where Laura is doing lines in her mismatched lingerie up in her bedroom, I said, "WHAT THE FUCK IS SHE WEARING?" My brother in law responded (completely deadpan), "Nothin' but the best for Jacques and Leo. . . "

Bobby Briggs: I would so hit that.
I just love it. After LOST, Twin Peaks has got to be my very favorite television event. And I'm glad (for my own health and safety) that I didn't see this in high school. Bobby Briggs would have done me in. This has all gotten me into a very Twin Peaks kind of mood. (Laura Palmer? See you later!)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spartacus Love Triangle

Oenemaus? How you doin'?
Is anyone else watching Gods of the Arena? Hot, hot, HOT!

Despite the fact that I love the fighting, love the debauchery, and I love Quintus shouting, "HOUSE OF BATIATUS" every thirty seconds, the thing that's got me hooked is the love triangle between Oenomaus (Doctore), Mellita (his wife), and Gannicus.

Man, they were friends! This is serious!

It's so extremely well done that I'm scared for how it's going to end, and actually sitting here obsessing over it now. And as much as this pains me, I won't spoil it for anyone else by revealing any of the details, just know that it's really excellent.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Alexander, 2004. Written and directed by Oliver Stone.
starring: Colin Farrell, Val Kilmer, Angelina Jolie, Jared Leto, Anthony Hopkins.

"Alexander, the King of Macedonia and one of the greatest military leaders in the history of warfare, conquers much of the known world." (IMDB).

As far as epics go, this was fine. Not the greatest, but definitely not the worst, either (as anyone who's seen Lawrence of Arabia will probably agree). Oliver Stone knows how to lay out a film, but I do think it was slightly too long. Furthermore:

1. This needed to be gay-er. The only tender moments in the film happened between Alexander (Farrell) and his friend, confidant, and lover, Hephaistion (Leto). If you're trying to convince me that these two truly loved each other (which was a major part of the story and the way it ended), you're going to have to do better than putting eyeliner on Leto and having them hug each other a little longer than necessary. It wasn't enough. I'm not saying there needed to be Taxi Zum Klo-calibre sex going on, but come on, you gotta at least lay a realistic foundation! Homosexual relationships between men were common and not hidden during the period this film occupied, why shy away from it? Stone is no stranger to controversy, so this sterile, dolphin-friendly sort of brotherly love really seemed like a cop-out. Maybe the director's cut was better about this, I don't know.

2. Just as I will only see Juliette Lewis as Mallory Knox for the rest of her life, I only see Angelina Jolie as Olympias. This role was perfect; it just fit her. And this is by far the hottest she's ever looked in anything.

3. Speaking of hot . . . check this out (right). DAMN.

4. There were some really impressive shots. The charging battle lines on horseback? The aerial shots of the eagle flying between the two sides? Elephants charging? The world turns red once Alexander is wounded? Excellent, really excellent. When they come into Babylon it was almost as if they were stepping into Willy Wonka's factory, with all the color and spectacle. That was fun.
. . . is there an online moratorium on any images of the red shots during the final battle scene or something? This was a major part of the film and there is not one image to be found, COME ON! Now I'm pissed.

This is the perfect film to watch upon the birth of a new baby, stuck on the couch in silence for about three hours. Or laid up with some sort of injury. Other than that, it will probably feel like an extremely long amount of time to devote to something when there are things like Spartacus or Chicago Code to be watched. . .

5. For further pontification on the films of Oliver Stone, visit My Friend Donald's Blog

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy V-Day.

This is the kind of thing I like. And for my money, there is not anything cooler in the world than Slash stepping up onto that grand. (swoon).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Sliver.

Forgive me, but we've had quite an unpleasant few days around here. And the logo is just in case anyone wanted warning (about explicit content), so there you go.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith, 2005, directed by Doug Liman.
Written by Simon Kinberg.
starring: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt.

"A bored married couple is surprised to learn that they are both assassins hired by competing agencies to kill each other." (IMDB).

I liked this the first time I saw it and thought it was clever and funny. Yesterday, I was ready to give it a second go, made it to the part where John Smith (Pitt) does his fist-pump/kick as he gets out of his dune buggy (as Poison's Nothin' but a Good Time finishes)--which was the only part I truly enjoyed, until then, and then my 1.5 year old son decided that he was just going to omit his afternoon nap and all hell broke loose. I spent the remainder of the afternoon driving at a snail's pace around Harriet, Calhoun, and Isles trying to squeeze any number of minutes sleep out him. Which was a  FAIL.

I never finished the film and will probably now forever have negative feelings toward it because of the surrounding frustration. I like Doug Liman, by the way.

Sliver, 1993, directed by Phillip Noyce. Written by Ira Levin (novel), and Joe Eszterhas (screenplay).
starring: Sharon Stone, William Baldwin, Tom Berenger.

"Sliver Heights has everything a girl could want. Panoramic views of the city, a fully functional gym and a voyeuristic landlord with a minor oedipal complex and psychotic tendencies..." (IMDB).

I was still in a terrible mood when I opened this up hours later; after watching it I arrived at the decision that this was without a doubt the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. I saw this during my junior year of high school and thought it was *awesome.* Shows just how clueless I used to be. Nearly 100% of Sharon Stone's deliveries were worse than community theater: "The psychology of the lens!" "Caffeine withdrawl! That'd do it to me!" "Do I look like a . . . girl who would be . . . frightened of you?" It's pissing me off right now just thinking about it.

The only reason to watch this is for the intercourse, which like everything else in the film is weirdly creepy and awkward. Netflix sent the unrated edition (OOOH!) and the only thing added to the original is an extra scene in bed (shot from above) that was basically William Baldwin's ass, thrusting, while Sharon Stone does her best to look uncomfortable and as if she's trying to escape, and then during the infamous "pillar scene," (see left) they show it full length instead of from above the waist, which makes it all the more ridiculous because the only things that are moving are their torsos. STUPID. I'd still hit that, though.

Another one of my favorite moments of ridiculousness came at the end, as Zeke (Baldwin) tells Carly (Stone) to "open this cock-sucking door, now!"


Friday, February 11, 2011


Snatch, 2000. Written and directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring: Benicio del Toro, Dennis Farina, Brad Pitt, Jason Statham.

"Unscrupulous boxing promoters, violent bookmakers, a Russian gangster, incompetent amateur robbers, and supposedly Jewish jewelers fight to track down a priceless stolen diamond." (IMDB).

This is another one of my all time favorite films; it's just busy and fun. I think the most fun thing about it is deciphering what Mickey (Brad Pitt) is saying half the time. That and all the squeaking dog antics. I think the credits (as in Run Lola Run), the way the characters are introduced are genius. I may even like the credits better than the actual film. My very, very favorite item is the Hasidic diamond heist ending with a tight shot of Franky's pistol, "WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY GUY RITCHIE."  And Goddammit, I couldn't find an image of it anywhere; just trust me on this, it's pretty much the coolest thing, ever.

It almost makes you want to direct films, doesn't it, just to put your own name on a weapon after a killer opening sequence? When (if) my day ever comes, it'll be vertically down the length of a Hanzo sword. In the meantime, check this out:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fight Club.

Did you just use the word "sofa?" Bitch?
Fight Club, 1999. Directed by David Fincher. Written by Chuck Palahniuk (novel), Jim Uhls (screenplay). starring: Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter.

"An office employee and a soap salesman build a global organization to help vent male aggression." (IMDB).

There really is a lot to be said about this film, but either my cognitive reasoning skills have frozen, permanently, with the rest of The North Country, or I'm a little . . . hesitant to open up an ideological can of worms in discussing what the story lays out about the "Ikea Generation" and masculinity. I dug it fine, that's all I'll say.

1. I liked the way it looked and I loved 100% of the lines spoken; it was witty and, I don't know, grimy at the same time. Kind of like the other side of town where Se7en was happening but with less rain.

2. Brad Pitt does nothing for me, normally, but for some reason, Tyler Durden does quite a bit.

3. One of my favorite things about this is how HBC (Marla) is always falling off the bed. The yellow rubber gloves, "Who are you talking to?" "SHUT UP!" --I giggle every time. EVERY time. Most of the things I like best about this film are not nice or correct at all, but sometimes inappropriate bluntness is really refreshing. Marla was a fun character because of this.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Eyes Wide Shut

 Eyes Wide Shut, 1999. Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Written by Arthur Schnitzler (novel) and Stanley Kubrick (screenplay).
starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sidney Pollack.

"A New York City doctor, who is married to an art curator, pushes himself on a harrowing and dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery after his wife admits that she once almost cheated on him." (IMDB).

So, here we are. At pretty much everyone's definitive for conventional pornography in mainstream cinema, right? All I heard about for years was how Stanley Kubrick was releasing a bona-fide porno, blah, blah, blah. PORN. And while we'll get to what I actually consider this film to be a bit later, I'm guessing it did change quite a few industry conventions (not the least being CG blockers); it's an important film. Almost everyone I talked to about this absolutely hated it. But almost everyone I talked to also were fans of Cruise and not Kubrick, (in 1999, anyway) and I think that makes all the difference. I loved it.

1. Stanley knows what he's doing. In terms of mise en scene (environments, locations, settings, etc.) I think he was (and still is) the best around. If for no other reason, watch this film for the lights and colors. Music also was great.

2. Stanley is crafty; he usually doesn't come right out and say anything bluntly, but many, many times he'll convey things visually, metaphorically that you have to really work hard *not* to notice. He could have said (of all his films) "This character is isolated; this particular space is all-consuming." There are so many interesting ideas in this film: Dr. Bill's inability to command or finish any sort of sexual exchange. Orange Walls (ala Ulmann's office or Mr. Grady's bathroom in The Shining) All those little yellow lights everywhere? They have to mean something; I'm going with virility or prowess, or whatever it is Kubrick is suggesting that Bill lacks. This is the most beautiful emotionless film full of meaning I've ever seen.

No, Bill, really. I'm totally into it. . . 
3. This film, while having kind of a lot of sex, wasn't erotic to me at all. Every review I read really hyped up the eroticism, and yeah, it's physically present, I guess, but completely cold, impersonal, and empty, therefore uninteresting to me. Like robots having relations with each other. For me, this was about marital discomfort from the very beginning. Bill and Alice have awkward conversations and he doesn't really even seem to know her or acknowledge her at all, at least the way she wants. It's hard to miss that look of utter boredom and disdain in her eyes during their love scene early on. The dialogues are extremely slow with many, many beats in between words. Characters' walking seems stretched out. Even when things are running smoothly, (doctor's office, interactions with the daughter, or virtually any other character), Dr. Bill brings nothing but uncomfortable tension. A few critics didn't like the thriller aspect to the film, but I think it was necessary; without it, this would just be one uncomfortable exchange after another---OH THOSE WEALTHY NEW YORKERS! AREN'T THEY JUST *SO* CRAZY AND #*$&ED UP? Who wants to see that?

4. In terms of film vs. book, I'll take the film any day. The novel, Rhapsody: A Dream Novel, by Arthur Schnitzler, was first published in 1927 and in my opinion, was kind of boring. I'm sure it was quite a bombshell when it first came out, I'll give it that, but it really just proved to me that Stanley has the best knack, ever, for taking interesting or semi-interesting novels and turning them into unbelievable films.

5. If you are looking for any further reading on Kubrick or themes in Kubrick films, there is a really excellent book, A Cinema of Loneliness by Robert Phillip Kolker, that is very much worth checking out. It's unfortunately only current up to Full Metal Jacket, but many of the ideas translate to Eyes Wide Shut. (It also examines the themes of Penn, Scorcese, Spielberg, and Altman, so it's a fun, tape-your-glasses kind of film book to have).

6. Stanley is probably the best film director who ever lived, but the ending on this was a bit . . . unsatisfying. I don't know what would have made it better. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Film Vs. Book: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson, 2005.

If you want an official description, look below on the film write-up; I've always been terrible at those. I enjoyed this, but I can't put it into the "blew my skirt up" category. Stieg Larsson was obviously a smart guy (read about him here). Stephen King in On Writing said that there are books with good writing, books with good story, and some books with both; this was a book with a good story. That said, it was an unnecessarily long story that took many hundreds of pages to get going. I imagine some readers may have given up, not only because of length, but the complexities of the damned Vanger family----did there have to be quite so many of them? It was difficult (and not worth the energy) keeping all of them straight until actual events began to unfold which involved them; before they were involved in the plot, I completely blew each random Vanger off. Once it gets going, though, it really goes. It's a compelling story and not exactly a lightweight subject matter. There are a lot of details and a lot of words, so I think you need to be a person who likes details and words in order to enjoy it.

Sometimes I feel like rape, incest, and sexual assault in general are topics that are just *too* explosive, too personal, and this was no exception. As a reader, I'm disgusted and upset by this sort of thing; I very nearly quit reading Gerald's Game (King) for this reason. It's touchy. And for writers, I completely understand the desire to create experiments in good and evil, to explore dark topics, and then to (hopefully) bring at least some sort of catharsis to readers; good and evil is part of life! They can say they took the dark journey, were disturbed by it, but can still sleep at night knowing that somehow, the good in the world is out there. I get that. I think it worked in this novel mainly due to Lisbeth's (the girl with the proverbial DRAGON TATTOO) character, her background, and her ultimate revenge (many times over). I can dig revenge. If you check out the Wikipedia page for Stieg Larsson and find the INFLUENCES heading, you'll know just why he chose to write about this sort of thing. It's pretty major.

It's worth reading. And I really liked the ending.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, 2009, directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Written by Nikolaj Arcel.
starring: Michael Nygvist, Noomi Rapace.

"A journalist is aided in his search for a woman who has been missing -- or dead -- for forty years by a young female hacker." (IMDB).

I thought the film was better than the book. It was condensed, obviously, and in all the right places. They took some liberties with characters and chronology, all good ones. The actors looked *exactly* as I pictured them, and it's always fun when that happens. I've not been to Sweden, but it looked exactly as I pictured that too, or actually, just like Northern Minnesota and very cold. They seemed to drink a lot more coffee in the book, I kind of wished they had put that in because it made me giggle a lot at just how often they did it, and they axed my ending and did not explore that particular plot line---I wished they would have. Other than that, really excellent. Great instrumental music, awesome job showcasing still photography as a heavy part of the mystery--it actually really helped being able to put names to faces immediately, which wasn't possible in the book.
Nice work.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Run Lola, Run.

Run Lola, Run, 1998, directed by Tom Tykwer.
starring: Franke Potente, Mortiz Bleibtreu

"A young woman in Germany has twenty minutes to find and bring 100,000 Deutschmarks to her boyfriend before he robs a supermarket." (IMDB).

This is by far the tamest thing on the LLL list; it's crazy fun (and totally MANA for me). I really, really love this film. It's German, subtitled, and a bit heavy on camera motion, but it's very clever.

If I were a writer/director, I'd want to come out with something like this, a simple story told in an entertaining way with a killer soundtrack. The *telling* of the story is what's impressive, not just the narrative. I love the animated credits, each of the environments (Lola's room, streets, bank, casino), the split screens, the random flash forwards of the bystanders she encounters on her run (s), the fact that she somehow recalls the details of each failed attempt to get the money and then can act on them with each new encounter (DESMOND HUME?), the way she looked, Manni's completely sexy arm tattoo; all of it. It's a little like crack for your eyes.

I tried to get my mother to watch this when it first came out, she's a retired German teacher who doesn't get to speak it much anymore (unless Charlie or I get hammered enough start slurring old textbook dialogues); she didn't like it---said all the running made her too tired. And there is a lot of running. As this was actually pretty mild, despite being on the LLL list,  I watched this with my two oldest kids; they had fun noticing the differences each time around, like Hey! The dog snapped and made her fall down the steps, now she's running slower! Or Look! That nun was wearing sunglasses this time! That guy hit the other side of the car last time!

It's a good time, I really recommend it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Bound, 1996. Directed and Written by Andy and Lana Wachowski.
starring: Jennifer Tilly, Gina Gershon, Joe Pantoliano.

"Corky, a tough female ex con and her lover Violet concoct a scheme to steal millions of stashed mob money and pin the blame on Violet's crooked boyfriend Caeser." (IMDB).

This is what I've been blathering about; this here is *something.* Despite the fact that this is far from perfect, it's a compelling story that was made into an interesting, competent film. Some of it's a little far-fetched, maybe just a tad hurried, and clearly Jennifer Tilly's voice is like tin foil on fillings, but other than that? Really nicely done.

Let's just get the sex out of the way immediately, yeah? Wow. Of course the first time I saw this film that was pretty much all I remembered, who wouldn't? I don't think there was much mainstream lesbian sex in media-circulation back in 1996, was there? And before this film, both actresses annoyed me (GINA GERSHON IN SHOWGIRLS?) but somehow they just worked in this, really well. Some may argue that the characters were cliche, but I think it still works because this was kind of an exercise in excess---the sudden sex, Vi's breathy knockout persona, The Mafia, Caesar literally washing and ironing mob money, and so on. The Wachowskis are filmmakers who obviously dig extraordinary stories and love production; they are extremely well-practiced in both. There were technical moments throughout that were definitely forerunners to The Matrix films: bird's eye shots from above, slow dollies over objects, tight focus on objects in general (paint, phones, money, etc.). Awesome. These are two writer/directors that I completely put my faith in; I've honestly loved everything they've done.

That all said, the two things I loved best about this film were: Two *gay* women, pulling one over on the Mafia, and the new red truck at the end. Nice job.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

LLL Answers/Schedule.

1. Bound
2. Run Lola, Run
3. Eyes Wide Shut
4. Fight Club
5. Snatch
6. Mr. and Mrs. Smith
7. Alexander
8. Sliver
9. Sin City
10. Fire Walk With Me
11. Requiem for a Dream
12. Leaving Las Vegas
13. American Psycho
14. Trainspotting

Hopefully I can get this done in time for some Oscar fun, maybe beginning around the 20th?


Friday, February 4, 2011

Last Two on the List:

I had this horrible nightmare the other night that I went around asking everyone I knew what they thought the worst film ever made was, and that I said that I'd watch them just for the sake of torture. OH WAIT. THIS REALLY HAPPENED. I hope this proves just how much I'm willing to sacrifice for the "art" of being a Television Lady. . . I know, I know. I asked for it. But I'm extremely happy it's over.

The Wicker Man, 2006, directed and written by Neil LaBute.
starring: Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn.

"A sheriff investigating the disappearance of a young girl from a small island discovers there's a larger mystery to solve among the island's secretive, neo-pagan community." (IMDB).

I may have enjoyed this had it actually been a story with an ending. Masks were creepy and almost a little reminiscent of Pierre Tremond (Twin Peaks), and Badalamenti did the score, it wasn't a complete waste, but there *had* to have been a better way to end it. Did the original end this way too? Thumbs down. And don't dye Nic Cage's hair so dark or cake so much makeup on him next time; he's a man, he's going to get hotter with age. Let him.

Nights in Rodanthe, 2008, directed by George C. Wolf. Written by Ann Peacock.
starring: Diane Lane, Richard Gere.

"A doctor who is traveling to see his estranged son sparks with an unhappily married woman at a North Carolina inn." (IMDB).

Ugh. Shut it off after nineteen minutes. I know I said I wouldn't do that, but this was truly awful. Horrible dialogue, no matter who it was between. What a goddamned mess.
I can't decide who I wanted to punch more. . .

So what has all this taught me? Nothing I didn't already know, but I still found it a useful project. Films really can't recover from bad dialogue, it's the one thing that will sink a picture every time. That and Cameron Diaz. I've looked back on some of the previous entries, and it may seem as though I unfairly hate on chick flicks and I'd like to take a minute to address that. I know that I'm not a normal female. The media events I dig focus on power (Harry Potter, Spartacus), cleverness/ability (Kill Bill, Jackie Brown) and a special kind of depth and emotion (LOST, Toy Story 3). For me to accept sentimentality in something, I have to know, enjoy, and believe the character. These kind of things are lacking in literally *every* chick flick I watched, and I really can't believe that this the best that can be done. It's not taste, either, it's more than that. Don't tell me it's society, don't tell me we're still enslaved by men: these are stories, the task falls on the writers. WRITE SOMETHING BETTER.

Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As It Gets is a writer. When female fan asks him on his way to the elevator how he manages to write women so well, he says this: I think of a man. And then take away reason and accountability.

Something to think about.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Talk about vertigo: Altered States.

What condition my condition is in. . .
Altered States, 1980, directed by Ken Russell. Written by Paddy Chayefsky.
starring: William Hurt, Blair Brown, Bob Balaban.

" Harvard scientist conducts experiments on himself with a hallucinatory drug and an isolation chamber that may be causing him to regress genetically." (IMDB).

Um, NO. In addition to freezing my tail off most of the day, I spent the last three hours trying not to throw up; I blame the film. I didn't really dig it at all and actually fell asleep during the first half, but then every few moments I would hear some weird, jarring noise, wake up to find all kinds of trippy designs and flashes going on, and then see William Hurt either sweaty, bloody, or morphing into some ridiculous ball of energy or moving lumps. I'm not a good candidate for hallucinogens or films about hallucinogens (unless we're talking Lebowski, of course). Being dizzy and out of control is probably *the worst* thing I can imagine. Boo.

The one semi-positive thing I can say about this film is that the ending reminded me of a very popular music video from my youth, man banging on the walls, trapped in a hallway? Yeah? I liked A-ha's version of it a little better though, to tell the truth.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Troll/Troll 2 Double Feature. Low Budget.

1. Troll, 1986, directed by John Carl Buechler, written by Ed Naha.
2. Troll 2, 1990, directed by Claudio Fragasso, written by Rosella Drudi.
3. Fun House, 1981, directed by Tobe Hooper, written by Lawrence Block.
4. The Pink Chiquitas, 1987, directed and written by Anthony Currie.

I'm not writing them up individually because it really wouldn't be worth anyone's time. If anything, Troll was probably the best of all of them and Fun House is special because I saw it in Hawaii with Matt and my brother the last time we were there, but they were all pretty lame. Sometimes there are films that are bad that didn't have to be bad (Pearl Harbor, Gigli, Vanilla Sky); like there's just one thing that's consistently off, something that could easily be fixed, like dialogue, just rewrite it. Or Cameron Diaz's voice, just don't hire her! Then there are films like these, where everything is off, and the only way to save it would be to burn it. I try not to pick too much on low budget films because everyone has to start somewhere, but when dialogue is badly written, actors are disastrously inexperienced, production is slim to none, and the entire project is just kind of random and shoddy, it's hard to watch the result. These films weren't terrible, there were some interesting parts I guess, but they were just . . . lacking. Like watching someone's German video but without the saving grace of having Eminem on the soundtrack.

Ugh. My hands are freezing. This winter has been painfully lengthy. I think Television Lady needs to be based in Kona. Who's with me?