Thursday, March 31, 2011


Goodfellas, 1990, directed by Martin Scorcese.
Written by Nicholas Peleggi and Martin Scorcese.
starring: Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, and Joe Pesci

"Henry Hill and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy." (IMDB).

The great thing about Martin Scorcese is that he really loves films. You can see it in almost every scene he creates; this guy seriously loves films, he loves music, and more than anything else, he really cares about the characters he's bringing to life. You'll probably never see a greater example of it anywhere than this entire movie.

Lookin' hot. Lookin' DAMN hot!
The freeze frames: In the opening scene, after Tommy (Pesci) attacks a man in the trunk of their parked car with his mother's butcher knife, the film stops, freezing on Henry (Liotta). "As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster." After a teenage Henry ignites a lot full of cars with rags soaked in gasoline, the camera stops again, at a distance as the explosions and fire nearly engulf him from behind, "One day, some kids from the neighborhood carried my mother's groceries all the way home. You know why? It was outta respect."
-Henry's first introduction to Jimmy Conway
-the congratulatory huddle at Henry's first bust at the courthouse
-Henry's beating after his father receives the truancy notice from school

Instead of clubbing you over the head to make you notice that these events are important, he just stops the camera and freezes the action, like HEY! THIS STUFF WAS MAJOR! PAY ATTENTION! It's fun.

The music: amazing. And unlike Casino, almost perfectly balanced between emotion, action, and fill. Many scholarly pieces that are written about this film discuss Scorcese's "maturity" as a filmmaker, and how this film marked it; the music and its placement indicates this, scene after scene. You get Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, The Chantels, Bobby Vinton, The Shangri-las, A lot of Rolling Stones (score!), Cream, Derek and the Dominos, George Harrison, Sid Vicious, and Muddy Waters. The music really, really makes the film.

The writing: this is the (true) story of Henry Hill, written first in Nicholas Peleggi's novel Wiseguy, and rewritten as a screenplay by Peleggi and Scorcese. It's exciting, it's funny, and the way the story is told, from Henry's (and his wife Karen's) insider viewpoint is excellent. They're both competent narrators and interesting, likable personalities. As with many narratives in the Mafia genre, we get pretty early on that things start off well but then begin to decline---that's how a lot of film writers talk about Mafia pictures in general, as in how that decline is shown, how it's dealt with, how do they meet their ends, death, jail, witness protection? In this instance, Henry gets out, but not because he wants to; the striking thing about Henry's story is that we see just how dangerous these lives of these men really are: the cops, the drugs, the whackings . . . but it was also about status, belonging, and family. Not just gangster concepts, right?

Everyone talks about this scene, and it's well worth the buzz. There are very few serious bits of dialogue spoken, but the scene does a magnificent job of showing that sense of status and belonging up there. Yeah, the song was also used in Adventures in Babysitting, but this *completely* blows it away; it's one of my favorite scenes of any movie, ever.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Yeah, I know. This was supposed to be Mafia March, right? Better late than never.

"A Half-a one-a these! A HAAAALF!"
Casino, 1995, directed by Martin Scorcese.
Written by Nicholas Pileggi.
starring: Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone.

"Greed, deception, money, power, and murder occur between two mobsters." (imdb).

Jeez, that was a pretty lackluster description! If you can believe it, this was the first thing of Marty's I saw, and back then, I thought it was amazing. I still think it's worth watching, but knowing what I know now, I can safely say it's hardly the best of his films. This time I found it kind of over-long, bloated, and drowning in pop music. And Sharon Stone was decent, I guess, (nominated for Best Actress Oscar for this) but this time around I just kept envisioning KATE GOSSELIN the whole time, especially with that chopped 80s mop . . . thanks, reality TV. It was kind of sickening.

Also, there wasn't much *fun* in this film, it was pretty much all fights and not-nice people. What Goodfellas or The Sopranos (on deck tonight and tomorrow) did well, this film tanked at---and that's getting us to like the crew. Sam Rothstein (DeNiro) was good at his job and I kind of liked his constant pointing, arm gestures, and smoking, and clearly I'd still hit that a million times, but other than that he was kind of stuffy. Ginger (Stone) had a great wardrobe but was just not likable, at all. So that basically leaves Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) and Lester Diamond (JAMES WOODS!). Yes, I just said that James Woods was one of the best things about this film; he's a douche, but a well-done douche, and good for a few laughs at least. I think the best way to describe this film is a good (albeit long) introduction to Scorcese. If you like this, you'll *love* his other stuff. The clip below uses what I thought was the best song of the film, and slow-motions the in-the-end-they-all-get-whacked bit. And just to be clear, the cornfield scene shown is the G-rated version, compared to the actual film experience, length, sound of bats, etc. So if you do choose to see it, be aware. And don't let kids see this, either.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I really didn't want to write this; I've been putting it off for days. But I suppose if I'm going to join the "legitimate" media writers out there, I'm going to have to be honest and maybe unkind when something is really bad. I haven't ever had a problem bashing films before because 1. clearly no producer or director gives a good goddamn about what I think and 2. films are *productions,* group efforts, not the accomplishment (or in this case failing) of one single person---like the cast and crew of Vanilla Sky: they ALL had a hand in its badness.

Writing is different. I know this because I write and I know writers. Even if we know we've written something that honestly is not great, we live with our own judgements every day; judgements coming from other people are difficult. Here it is:

The Language of Fear, 1995 by Del James.

I really wanted to like this. A little background: "Without You," one of the short stories included in this collection was the inspiration behind Guns and Roses' epic video, November Rain. You'll probably remember the scrawling credit of James's name, I did, and searched high and low for the title when I was in high school. Couldn't find it anywhere. Then, back on Valentine's Day when I put the video on here, I looked it up on Amazon and there it was. Maybe I built it up too much because I was such a huge fan of the video and song, or maybe I'm just getting really intolerant and bitchy (and bitter and jealous!) when it comes to what gets published, but this collection was really difficult to read.

It's not the subject matter, which is dark. If anything all the porn, heroin, and general violence kept me reading just because they were interesting topics. And I've never been much of a format purist, but the lack of structure together with some really choppy writing had me cringing. A lot. I think the thing that bothered me the most was this constant referring to the main character (after introduction, exposition, pages and pages into the story) in this third person kind of way: "the drunkard," "the musician," "the junkie," etc., this after we already know the characters' names and the fact that they are these things. It was . . . cheesy. In some stories there was a really serious divide between whose point of view the story was told from and in "Adult Nature Material" there was a completely superfluous sex dream that really added nothing to what actually happened in the story but took up about half of the pages dedicated to it. Also, there wasn't much done in the way of alignment with any of the characters, many of them were just rude, selfish dicks with no redeeming qualities. There has to be *something* that makes us care about them, right? Otherwise, why bother?

The writing was mottled with way too many adjectives and adverbs and this really caused the narratives to suffer. I don't doubt that the author has first hand experience with much of what he's written about---I think these stories would have really been killer had he not let all the language get in the way. The author has really interesting things to say and obviously a lot of heart and honesty, but just tell us the story. Or maybe look into getting a bitchier editor. (Ugh. I already feel awful. Sorry).

Not. Even. Close. BUD.
Also: Grown Ups, 2010, directed by Dennis Dugan.

"After their high school basketball coach passes away, five good friends and former teammates reunite for a Fourth of July holiday weekend." (IMDB).

This was the opposite of funny. And honestly the worst thing I've seen in months. Who . . . why . . . HOW did this ever get made? I have to give the actors credit, their laughing all seemed to be genuine, which is baffling as nothing that happens is even remotely funny. It's not completely uninteresting though, it was kind of neat (and disgusting) trying to figure out whose children were the worst behaved . . . for maybe seven minutes. I shut it off. And squeezed it hard when I put it in the mailbox the next morning. And I'm not sorry. Boo.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Article!

How you doin'?
Matthew McConaughey for the win: The Lincoln Lawyer
Read the review on Examiner.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Remember, Let Go, Move On.

Finished it! If only there were some auctioned-off pieces of the Black Rock available, I could hammer together a killer frame!
That bottom right circle got FUBAR-ed one night when I picked it up after having a few drinks (!) and I didn't notice it until the next day, but all in all, it turned out pretty sweet!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dumb and Dumber; Tommy Gavin.

Yesterday I watched Dumb and Dumber on Netflix Instant Streaming and there were tons of extra scenes in it! Has anyone else seen this? More at the diner with Flo, a bit at the heart-pool hotel where Lloyd listens to the neighbors doing it through the wall, and then a random dialogue where Lloyd envisions marrying Mary (Mrs. Mary Christmas!). They were all actually duds, these scenes, but unexpected in the way that the Sixteen Candles scene is when the grandmother kicks Long Duck Dong in the business after the "lake, big lake" explanation. Also, the scene in the truck ("you can't triple-stamp a double stamp! You can't triple-stamp a double stamp Lloyd! You can't--You Can't--Lloyd, LLOYD!") This is what it's like having 4 kids all in the house at the same time in the winter of unending snow and I am the fool sitting in the middle, unable to escape. As Chazz Michael Michaels once put it: Whoever invented snow is an asshole.

I haven't got much else. LOST Stained Glass is nearly finished; one more season of Rescue Me until I'm caught up. Last year around this time we all got the world's biggest treat with Ab Aeterno (The Life and Times of Richard Alpert) . . . how I long for that kind of media-anticipation (!) In the meantime, take a look at this. And I hate American Idol.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rescue Me, Ebert, Porky's II.

Rescue Me: There is an episode, in the fourth season that is extremely difficult to watch. I'm not talking Janet (although I will not watch her anymore; that bit with her and the baby sent me over the edge) or any of the booze, cheatings, or beatings. It's titled SEVEN, and during the opening scene before the credits, 62 is called to an apartment fire where a woman and seven children are trapped. It's a little unlike any of the other fire scenes in that it's pretty majorly stylized (music playing the entire time, dialogues muted, a few slow shots, etc.) but despite this, it's almost unbearable. Many of the children are toddlers. Tommy and the new probie go up the ladder; Ken, Franco, and Garrity go inside the building. You know from the very beginning (that song!) that things are not going to go well.

This is the best example (after LOST) of the power of episodic television. It doesn't take long for characters to become real; you know them, you care about them, and most of all, you believe them. The scene in the apartment is terrifying because you're scared for the firefighters (even Garrity, who's a giant DOLT, but was the first one in---I was worried!), you're scared for the people inside, and a part of you is scared for yourself, because you know shit like this really happens. Space heaters, overrun outlets, wiring, all of it, it's real. The floor caves in. The mother throws her children out the window. Tommy nearly falls off the ladder. Seven tiny bodies, covered in blankets on the sidewalk. The looks on each of their faces . . . Jesus. It's heavy.

On a brighter note: I read YOUR MOVIE SUCKS by Roger Ebert this weekend. I really wish I could have found it when I was doing my worst films ever list because it was really useful and actually quite funny. I think my favorite thing about it was his scowl on the front cover, but the writing is very, very good too. I like Ebert a lot because he's a not only a great critic but a great writer; his sarcasm and media references are *hilarious* and extremely smart. Here are some:

"The film is set in a rainy jungle in Panama. I suspect it rains so much as an irritant, to make everything harder to see and hear. Maybe it's intended as atmosphere. Or maybe the sky gods are angry at the film." ---review of Basic.

"Battlefield Earth is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It's not merely bad, it's unpleasant in a hostile way." ---review of Battlefield Earth

"The film has been directed without grace, vision, or originality, and although you may walk out quoting lines of dialogue, it will not be because you admire them." ---review of Pearl Harbor

I loved this book. I've got two more on deck of his and seriously can't wait. And finally, I don't think I've had more fun reading someone else's review than his on Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood. Obviously, we agreed.

("dead as a #$*&*&@ doornail")
Last of all: Porky's Two, The Next Day, 1983, directed by Bob Clark. 
written by Roger Swaybill, Alan Ormsby, and Bob Clark
starring: Wyatt Knight, Dan Monahan, Khaki Hunter, Nancy Parsons.

"The naughty high schoolers of Angel Beach High now seek revenge on a group of KKK religious fanatics and corrupt politicians who want to shut down their Shakespeare production after they cast a Seminole transfer student in the lead." (IMDB).

This is probably the most ridiculously random and outlandish film that still manages to actually be funny. I think the original Porky's was a little tighter and better written, to be honest, but like I was saying up there about the episodic business, if I like a character, I'd probably watch them in anything, and Tommy, Pee-Wee, Meat, and Ballbreaker are great characters. Not exactly realistic, but interesting and very comical. The situations are ridiculous:

1. "I GOT LAID!" Pee-wee screams out upon waking; he gets to retire his "growth chart."
2. Tray of masturbating frogs.
3. Big Edna, Graveyard Gloria.
4. The Explanation Scene of Wendy's reputation.
5. The Shakespeare/The KKK/The Seminoles/The Righteous Flock/Commissioner Gebhart---these things are interesting, I guess but not as interesting as the characters just being ridiculous, themselves. Like the bit with Ballbreaker in the toilet with the snake ("Give you the snake? Get your own fuckin' snake, GIVE YOU THE SNAKE!") The film is good at shanannigans but a little out of its element with The Klan, politics, and religion. Although the scene in the gym where The Seminoles deliver a little (off-camera) payback to The Klan? That was sweet.

It's not stellar comedy, but as part of the entire package, Porky's, Porky's Two, and Porky's Revenge, it's something every eighties child will probably hold sacred.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ultimate Sitcom/Book Giveaway

First, check out Donald's Ultimate Sitcom Montage; I think you'll like it! His blog is excellent, too, so if you get sick of all my blathering, you should check his out.

Second, I'm giving away some books. Normally, I just haul them down to Starbucks where public randoms can just help themselves, but before I do that, I thought I'd just give my peeps a chance for dibs, if you want; some of them are decent books. So if you want a title, say so and it's yours. First come, first served. Let's say, limit of two per customer? And honestly, the non-fiction titles have hardly been touched, some of them never. Have at!

1. Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen
2. The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
3. Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne
4. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
5. Problogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income by Darrin Rowse
6. the M-Factor: How the Millennial Generation is Rocking the Workplace by Lynne C. Lancaster
7. The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
8. The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers by Christopher Vogler
9. Blog Schmog by Robert W. Bly

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Clone Wars: Children of the Force

Honestly, this show is more kick-ass than anything that happened in any of the films; if you're a Star Wars fan, seriously look into it. Cradle-robbing and the combined force of three Jedis? Nice! If you don't feel like watching all eleven minutes, start off at around 9:22, it's wicked cool!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My Article!

New Article on Examiner!

(I am Terry Griffith). And I do want that shirt, actually.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tommy, Clint, and One More Book.

1. Briefly: Rescue Me, Season 2.
"Tommy! Baby and me want you to bring us some more Soup-y!"
"That better be the baby talking, because if it's you I'm gonna come over there and punch you in the face."

(in the middle of heated argument inside illegally sublet apartment where they must keep their voices down, Sheila writes furiously on a piece of paper) "YOU'RE AN ASS HOLE."
(Tommy writes back) "DUH!"

And no matter how silly and ridiculous Sheila is with all her whining, her silly-crazy dynamic with Tommy makes me laugh and she's literally a million times better than bitch-face (Harper) Janet.

2. Film vs. Book: The Bridges of Madison County.

Book by Robert James Waller, 1992. I'm not really going to say much about the book (other than it's not very good). Stephen King mentioned that it was bad in On Writing, and I agree that it is. I think the guy had a good idea for a story but completely cheesed the hell out of its writing, even for 1992: "The  watermelon was perfect. The beer was cold. The evening was blue. Francesca Johnson was forty-five years old, and Hank Snow sang a train song on KMA, Shenandoah, Iowa." (grimace).

Film directed by Clint Eastwood, 1995.
Written by Richard LaGravenes (screenplay)
starring: Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep

"Photographer Robert Kincaid wanders into the life of housewife Francesca Johnson, for four days in the 1960s." (IMDB).

Now granted, this film is extremely cheesy. There are some scenes that are really hard to stomach, mostly involving the daughter and son reading the confessional notebooks, and some of the dialogue, even from Eastwood is a little . . . dorky. But there are some really nice, sentimental things that happen, too, and when compared to the novel, this film resonates. First off, I don't think that Meryl has ever looked prettier; secondly, Eastwood's Kincaid was like everyone he's ever played and no one he's ever played. A bit quiet, very subtle, but vulnerable. "I didn't want to need you." "Why?" "Because I can't have you!" Each time he came near Francesca (Streep), she wavered, or stammered, or held her breath, completely enchanted by him. I loved that; believe me, I've been there.  When she finally puts her hand on his shoulder after nearly two days' worth of obvious tension, it's amazing. The scene of him standing in the rain (yes, this is uncharacteristically sappy) turns me into a water works *every* time. It's almost too much, despite the fact that denied love in narratives is probably my favorite thing in the world.

So the film is worth seeing, definitely, but I think that even Sawyer would have pitched the book into the ocean, even with nothing else to read. (sorry).

3. Film and Literature: An Introduction and Reader, 1999, by Timothy Corrigan.
I think I picked this up at Half-Price last time I was there (getting Donald's gift card); it's a textbook, which is to say that it's not entertaining reading but scholarly reading mostly about film theory. Some people I went to school with really dug film theory; I really did not. Most of it is horribly long, hideously wordy (this from me, who loves words!), and *s u p e r* boring, times a million if it's been translated from French. I get the same feeling reading film theory that I do reading film reviews in City Pages, as in, HOW SMART DOES ONE NEED TO BE IN ORDER TO MAKE FILMS SOUND THIS LAME? If the word(s) post-modern comes up in a film review, sorry, I'm out.

My favorite chapters were on "Critical borders and boundaries;" themes, narratives, elements of style, and genres (15 pages). Out of the theorists (149 pages), only Eisenstein (whom I was forced to read, many times in school) didn't make me want to stick needles in my eyes. Kristin Thompson had an article in there toward the end, and I like her well enough (she's authored several film textbooks that are cool), but all in all this was just too theory-y. And call me immature, but I really only bought this because Emma and Clueless were pictured on the front cover---yeah, they each got about five lines worth of press inside:

"Does the fact that Cher knows Hamlet not via the presupposed Shakespearean original but only via Mel Gibson's role in Zeffirelli's movie signify her cultural illiteracy---or her literacy? Or does this exchange perhaps point us away from any presumptive original, be it Jane Austen's or Shakespeare's, and direct us instead toward a focus on just its mediating package, what might be called the Hollywoodization of Shakespeare in the 1990s?"

What a pisser.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

(kick-ass) Books!

1. Lost Encyclopedia, 2010. Written by Paul Terry and Tara Bennett.

I hate referring to us as "Losties," but this book is a Lostie's tape-your-glasses wet dream. The characters, the art, the books, and yes, the theories, are all in full effect. The number one reason to get this book is for the images, which are really, really excellent. Fish crackers, MacCutcheon Whisky, weapons, Dharma stations, Island locations, hieroglyphics, minor characters (and so on)---they're all in this alphabetized, complete volume.

Some attractive sections: Sawyer's nickname hall of fame; illustrations and definitions of the hieroglyphics found in the temple and the heart-of-the-island evil stopper; some interesting business about The Tempest (Dharma Station), The Truce between The Hostiles and Dharma, and The Purge, (stuff that the fans may have missed or hadn't seen yet); and Desmond's adventures in time-travel. Also, there is a two-page spread of the religious stained glass piece from the church at the finale's end---had I purchased this just a few months earlier I wouldn't have had to "draw" my own version of it for my cross stitch and could have just used this for my model and NOT A FROZEN IMAGE ON THE TELEVISION and it probably would have been a hell of a lot tighter . . .

Anyway, it's a fun, fun book and every Lost fan should definitely look into it. The only thing I really thought was missing was a complete, accurate map of the island; topography, Dharma Stations, Black Rock, Lighthouse, Cabin, Candidate Cave, all of it. If someone comes out with that (or explains to me where things are so I can re-do an exact replica cross stitch map DAMON and CARLTON I'm talking to you) I'll be first in line to slam my husband's money down on the counter. Yeah?

2. Views From The Loft: A Portable Writer's Workshop, 2010. Edited by Daniel Slager.

I think I picked this up last summer when it was first released and didn't start reading it until just this month, which is too bad, because it's a really killer collection of essays on writing. During some of them I quietly marveled (usually in the tub, where I do most of my reading) at the fact that these writers were speaking things, thoughts, from their own lives and experiences that I felt myself. It's weird when someone can do that, but it's kind of cool, too. I have to admit that I mostly skimmed over the poets because poetry just isn't relevant to what I'm doing right now. The exception was Barrie Jean Borich, who wrote a poetic essay to win a contest her chiropractor had---(Describe the life of your body: I have become aware of a double self. Some hidden force has hold of me, sending up life, then death, alternately. Living fills me until my dead self punches itself to the surface. Both selves can exist at once.) That was awesome.

My very favorite essays were the ones about fiction or the writing of fiction that were woven into the author's life and experiences. Kate DiCamillo's "Comes a Pony," CJ Hribal's "Power and Powerlessness," Susan Straight's "Why I Write Fiction," and Will Weaver's "Up-North Literary Life;" these were all personally touching, and so wonderfully well done I almost feel compelled to track down the authors (as many of them are local) to tell them so. It's a neat book; I plan on getting the next series as soon as it's released.

Friday, March 11, 2011

News Events and American Psycho.

This month has already been a crazy one, and I'm trying to keep some semblance of organization going inside my head, therefore, you can consider this kind of a little newsletter/game plan post, as well as the send off to the Locked, Loaded, and Laid list, ended appropriately enough, with Patrick Bateman and American Psycho.

The biggest news this month is probably that I started officially writing (official, no-profanity) film reviews for! It's fun, so far, and quite a test of discipline since I've basically written first-person, foul-mouthed, devil-may-care "reviews" for four straight years; I had no idea how rusty I'd gotten at actual *writing.* Anyway, I'm still planning to keep up on Television Lady, here, but will be altering my format a little bit, just for consistency's sake. TL will still focus on television, and older release/cheese films, just like always, but new film releases will be covered on Additionally, in order to keep local (which is what I've told them that I'll do), I'm going to be grabbing one film a week from Kowalski's Red Box and one from Washburn Library down the street, two places from my neighborhood. So I'm not leaving, I'm just . . . expanding. See you over there?

Also: I would like to open the floor to anyone who has anything to say, good films, bad films, television, guest blogging, and so on, let me know! Talk to me! Let's get something going, yeah?

And lastly: film vs. book.
American Psycho, 1991, by Bret Easton Ellis.
 Beginning on April Fools' Day 1989, American Psycho spans roughly three years in the life of wealthy young investment banker Patrick Bateman. Bateman, 26 years old when the story begins, narrates his everyday activities, from his daily life among the upper-class elite of New York to his forays into murder by nightfall. (wikipedia)

"These are terrible times." This obviously a very personal, very dark, hate-Valentine to the eighties from Ellis; someone just doesn't sit down and create a story like this out of thin air. If you were a child, like I was, during the eighties, it's possible that you too were unaware of just how bat-shit ridiculous the materialism and superficiality was, but clearly, it must have been massive. The descriptions of peoples' clothing labels, shoe and jewelry designers, costs of furniture, luggage, handbags, restaurant names, locations, menu offerings, costs, and fucking SKIN CARE ROUTINES literally go on for minimum, three pages each time there is a new setting and situation. The musical reviews (Huey Lewis, Phil Collins, Whitney Houston) also go on for days, but are somehow funnier than everything else because the artists are divorced from all the materialism, if you can imagine. As with any story with a million characters, some of who are mentioned once and never again, you start to filter out many of the names, but in this story, this faceless transparency business---everyone looking the same, everyone mistaking someone for someone else, and there being no real meaningful exchange about anything--is obviously the point of Patrick Bateman's issues. He wanted to fit in, but now that he has, he can't control his murderous rage at the world around him. And despite this, no one notices.

" . . . where there was nature and earth, life and water, I saw a desert landscape that was unending, resembling some sort of crater, so devoid of reason and light and spirit that the mind could not grasp it on any sort of conscious level and if you came close the mind would reel backward, unable to take it in . . . Fear, recrimination, innocence, sympathy, guilt, waste, failure, grief, were things, emotions, that no one felt anymore. Reflection is useless, the world is senseless. Evil is its only permanence. God is not alive. Love cannot be trusted. Surface, surface, surface was all that anyone found meaning in . . . this was civilization as I saw it, colossal and jagged."
Ending: THIS IS NOT AN EXIT. Fucking amazing.

American Psycho, 2000, directed by Mary Harron.
Written by Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner (screenplay)
starring: Christian Bale, Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon, Justin Theroux

The film is a much different experience from the book, but a good one, too. Pretentious, violent, sexual. It's amazing to me just how much work it must have been for the screenwriters to cut into a novel like this (399 pages), sort through the meaty parts and then throw out a film that still seemed to capture what was at the heart of the novel. I dig Mary Harron, a lot. Bale was a great Bateman; everyone was actually well-cast. And you get that everyone is superficial, doesn't really have any loyalty to anyone else, mistakes names and faces constantly, and are silly tools with money, but the book explains this *way* more, like, to the letter. Regardless, the film had a very specific look to it---tons of blacks, whites, and reds; a really great soundtrack, and big hair!. The aesthetics were amazing, even above and beyond Bale's many, many skin scenes (FTW). There were a lot of little dialogue things that obviously weren't meant to be funny, but became funny just because of Bale's stiff, banana-in-the-tailpipe delivery: "I was probably returning videotapes." "No Lewis, it's not me, you're mistaken." "Do you like Phil Collins?" "Your name is Kristie. You are to respond only to Kristie."
Fun and ridiculous.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rescue Me, Season One.

First off, this may just be my new favorite show. I am supposed to wait for Matt to watch any more episodes but I am considering being a big cheater and rolling through as many as I can at nap time . . . I used to do this with 24 and The Sopranos, too, and then I'd have to stay mum about having already seen the episodes, since I would (of course) watch them all over again a second time with Matt (cheater cheater cheater).

And secondly, I have developed a unnaturally obsessive case of lust for Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary). I cannot be the only one this has happened to, right? RIGHT?

The show is really, really (sarcastic, sexual, hilarious, tense, exciting) excellent. It's not at all politically correct, and that will kill it for probably a lot of viewers, but hey, there are all kinds of people in this world, and many of them have issues and aren't perfect but they're human beings---this show is a prime example of just that. My favorite thing about Tommy Gavin is probably his crazy obsession over his wife (from whom he's separated) and the way he parents his kids---"WHOEVER GOES TO BED RIGHT NOW GETS $20!"

It's not all sarcasm of course, there are some major events happening with these guys: Tommy's wife is seeing a douche-y investment banker and threatens to move out of state with their children; Lou still has trouble dealing with 9-11 so he secretly writes poetry which helps him to cope; Franco suddenly gets saddled with a daughter he didn't know he had; the Chief's wife might have Alzheimer's, and so on. Also there's the small issue of Tommy constantly seeing dead fire victims, most regularly, his dead cousin and fellow fire fighter, Jimmy. Denis Leary handles the dramatic parts of the show amazingly, making them almost more interesting than the snappy meanness he delivers for the majority of his scenes; vulnerability is a hard thing to capture but the show nails it, a lot, usually when you least expect it. Also contributing to this obsession over the show is the fact that Leary (together with Peter Tolan) wrote 84 episodes during the show's run between 2004 and 2010. Not exactly a lightweight.

Season 2: full steam ahead.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Requiem for a Dream.

Requiem for a Dream, 2000, directed by Darren Aronofsky.
Written by Hubert Selby, Jr. (novel and screenplay).
starring: Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Ellen Burstyn, Marlon Wayons.

"The drug-induced utopias of four Coney Island individuals are shattered when their addictions become stronger." (IMDB).

This film is hands down, the (best-done) most disturbing film in creation. Best done in that the writing, acting, and music are absolutely smashing, and most disturbing because, well, it's downright awful. Really, really awful, and I hesitate to even write honestly about this film because I know a lot of my followers actually use this blog to get ideas for what to watch----so maybe just skip this one, okay? The things that happen in this film are *impossible* to get out of your head, and they are really, really dark.  My own husband refused to watch the ending, just got up and bolted from the room, and this is a guy that thinks the film Happiness should be allowed . . .

First things first: Ellen Burstyn lost the Oscar for this film to Julia Roberts (in Erin Brockovich). The woman was utterly amazing in this film as Sara Goldfarb, UNBELIEVABLE, while Julia Roberts was at best acceptable. Burstyn pulled off a credible (Brighton Beach?) accent, probably worked her ass off during numerous time-lapse scenes, and played frantic/strung-out/crazy better than anyone I've seen. And she was the influence for the name of this blog, so you know, society owes her quite a lot (!).

Secondly: the music here makes the film. Clint Mansell composed the original music for the film, most famously the piece "Lux Aeterna" (eternal light), which has been used in probably millions of other media since. I was looking for a youtube link to a piano performance to put on here but the only videos available were really pedal-heavy (and wrist-y), among screaming kids running around in the background, or on a simulated keyboard, not an actual one, and none of them were keeping with the extremely high quality I like to exemplify on this blog. Bummer, I know.

And third? Most reviews focused on the drugs, which yes, get a lot of screen time, but this experience (for me) was more about loneliness and disappointment than addiction. Clearly, they all get addicted, but the scenes in the film that carried the most weight seemed to be the scenes where each character was relating to another one (Marilyn and Harry/Harry and Sara/Tyrone and his mother, etc.) You might blow them all off as junkies, but Darren Aronofsky has taken a lot of time and effort to point out that they are human beings, and not even the worst ones you'll ever meet. There is no optimism in what happens to any of them, and the score to this film is gut-wrenchingly sad for a reason. There is. No. Hope.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Something Wonderful.

You would think that by the fourth year of doing this blog I would somehow figure out how to not always be the last to know about good television, right? I just started watching Rescue Me.

I realize that not everyone is into Denis Leary's particular brand of crazy (I am), but this show is *amazingly* well written. I am hooked after three episodes. It wasn't just the sarcasm or the quickness or the extremely hot dudes, although these things were all really sweet; I think it was the scope of what was actually happening with these guys, Tommy Gavin (Leary), especially. I know people who do this, and just seeing a fraction of the stuff that happens inside a burning building was really worrisome. And impressive. And a total turn-on. Wow. 

I would *totally* hit that. Seriously.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Leaving Las Vegas

Leaving Las Vegas, 1995, directed by Mike Figgis
Written by John O'Brien (novel) and Mike Figgis (screenplay)
starring: Nicolas Cage, Elizabeth Shue

"Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who lost everything because of his drinking, arrives in Las Vegas to drink himself to death. There, he meets and forms an uneasy friendship and non-interference pact with prostitute Sera." (IMDB).

Nic Cage really hit it with this, clearly, but I happen to think that he's *always* this good. That said, the arms-thrown-up-in-victory-after-a-morning-gin-at-the-bar move, his shakes and dry heaves, his tears and emotional apology as he gets fired, the slurring, the sudden smoothness that comes when he gets a burst of energy and optimism from whatever he's been drinking---ALL of this, is so disturbing and sad but played extremely well. Best Actor Oscar went to Cage for this role, I still remember how pumped he was as he walked up to collect the statue; it was fun.

About the rest of the film: aside from the unsettling, disturbing subject matter of a man slowly drinking himself to death, there are many other dark and horrible things that happen here. Sera (Elizabeth Shue) isn't too happy with her life either, it seems (getting knifed by pimp, getting gang-raped and assaulted, etc.) so the relationship between them made sense, but most scenes were still really uncomfortable and tense. If you know someone with a drinking problem, which a lot of us do, *many* of Cage's scenes will be difficult. Getting canned from the screenwriting job and then going home to burn all his manuscripts struck a real chord with me, along with the violent outburst at the casino, ("I'm his father! I'm his father!") Not easy.

Liz? Looking Good!
The thing that I spent the most time thinking about this time around was actually the score---was anyone else at all jarred by it? It oscillates between different jazz genres, sometimes night club, other times like a Woody Allen clarinet kind of thing, and then there's also a Sting verse that seriously gets overplayed maybe 600 times . . . I don't know if it all really did much in the way of tying the room together, if you know what I mean. There are no uplifting moments in this film, maybe a few comical lines spoken (by Cage) but virtually everything else is a huge downer, and sometimes it felt like the music was going a little too far into Woody Allen-silly world, and not in an ironic way, either.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards, 2005.

This is a story of a doctor who, on the night of his twins' birth, sends away his new infant daughter when he realizes she has Down Syndrome, and the lifelong affect his decision has on not only himself, but his wife (who believes her daughter died at birth), his other child, and the delivery nurse who flees with the baby and raises her as her own daughter.

It was hard to know how to feel about this. My gut reaction is to get Beatrix Kiddo on Doctor Henry; YOU NEVER. TAKE. A WOMAN'S. CHILD. NEVER. And much of me can't get over that obstacle. I understood a lot of the grief in this novel, it was very well written and believable, but honestly, the only people I liked were Caroline (the nurse), Al, the truck driver she marries, and Phoebe, the daughter. Everyone else really sucked, and I'm sure that was the intended effect, but writing characters with no real redeeming qualities (other than their pain and sadness) doesn't do much in the way of making me care what happens to them. It was intelligent, and emotionally well written, but I was kind of relieved when it ended, to be honest. The very best parts dealt with Caroline's concern and love for Phoebe:

"Caroline felt a rush of despair. They'd never really see Phoebe, these men, they would never see her as more than different, slow to speak, and to master new things. How could she show them her beautiful daughter Phoebe, sitting on the rug in the living room and making a tower of blocks, her soft hair falling around her ears and an expression of absolute concentration on her face? Phoebe, putting a 45 on the little record player Caroline had bought her, enthralled by the music, dancing across the smooth oak floors. Or Phoebe's soft small hand suddenly on her knee, at a moment when Caroline was pensive or distracted, absorbed by the world and its concerns. You okay, Mom? she would say, or simply, I love you."

One final thought: I am really not a fan of any sort of third person-specific omniscient narration. I find it kind of lazy and annoying, and really sort of a cheat at storytelling, especially when the POV flip-flops from page to page as it did in this book a few times. Had it been contained wholly each character's chapter, I think it would have worked better. I know it's common, and these inside his head/inside her head kind of parallel stories are probably the norm these days, but it's sloppy. Maybe it's a control freak thing.

Also: check out FuckYeahLost today; my art is up! It's quite an honor to be on such a cool site; Gratitude to Crit and Louise!