Saturday, October 31, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts about Where the Wild Things Are since I saw it last week. The fact that I’m still thinking about it and mulling it over in my brain is a positive sign. I’ve even amended my first reaction which was "I never want to watch this again," to "Ok, maybe I NEED to watch this again."
I went in sure that I was going to love the film. The trailers alone filled me with so much happiness that I would tear up a little bit. Yes, I cry when I’m happy as well as when I’m sad. I retained my initial positive attitude as the film began but it soon started spiraling downward as the film progressed. By the end I was a wreck: crying, depressed, disappointed. I’m still kind of angry that Spike Jonze chose to tell the story in such a gloomy way that I was not left buoyed by it at all, but rather deflated.
I get what he was trying to do. I understand completely what his intent was and I even admire his determination. But what’s wrong with a little bit of happiness? What’s wrong with a little bit of joy? Every time those emotions peeked through in the film, they were quickly choked back by jealousy, mean spiritedness, and loneliness. Ugh.
Things I liked:
Max Records - the kid is incredible and he carries the film firmly on his strong, little shoulders.
The look of the film – everything was absolutely freaking gorgeous: cinematography, the use of light, set design, the creatures, props, everything. There were scenes that made my heart ache they were so beautiful.
The music – I have the soundtrack by "Karen O and the Kids" and it’s wonderful. The music taken on its own gives me the feeling that I wanted the film itself to give me.
The voice actors – these actors contributed stunning voice work for the wild things and it was a seamless transition from the expressions in their voices to the physical expressiveness of the creatures.
In the end, I still don’t know how I feel about the film. I wanted to love it, but I didn’t. I never thought of Sendak’s book as being a sad story but Spike Jonze gave us a sad film. The film captured my imagination with its unique visual beauty, but it didn’t capture my heart.
Monday, October 26, 2009
I finally went to see Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. I like Tarantino films. I have no problem with their violence or their wordiness. In fact, I rather love the wordiness. I especially love it when all those words are spoken by fantastic actors like Christoph Waltz and Brad Pitt.
From the opening scene when Christoph Waltz as S.S. Col. Hans Landa, AKA The Jew Hunter, sits down with a dairy farmer and with calm charm and twinkling eyes, hypnotically talks and talks the farmer into revealing what Landa wants to know, I knew exactly what I was in for and I was excited. Essentially the film was just successive talky vignettes of such fun and witty dialogue that it could have gone on forever and I wouldn't have noticed. I was shocked once the film was over to find that it had run two and a half hours.
Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine, the head of an elite, semi-rogue group of Jewish-American Nazi killing soldiers, using Apache tactics to terrorize the Germans, was a hoot. He obviously savored every word Tarantino gave him and delivered his lines with humor, vigor, and a devilish wink of his eye. I'd like an Inglourious Basterds spin off where Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine is the main character and appears in every scene. And throw in a romantic entanglement. I'd love to see how this guy woos a woman.
Also enjoyable were the femme fatales of this film played by Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger. Over the years Tarantino has become more and more adept at writing strong, capable women and these two were a joy to see onscreen.
Athough the film did have its share of gruesome images (scalpings, beatings, gunshot wounds, etc.) typical of a Tarantino film, it also had a good amount of tension created by uncomfortable silences, slips of the tongue and crafty conversation. I was often on the edge of my seat during the labyrinthine conversations that permeated the film waiting in fear for whatever reveal was coming and I didn't miss the bang bang violence in the least.
All in all Inglourious Basterds was an alternative reality WWII film filled with witty dialogue, biting satire, enough film references to satisfy any film geek, and fantastic performances by actors obviously having a blast.
Not a bad way to spend two and a half hours at the movies.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Dazed & Confused Magazine, November 2009
Styled by Kate Shillingford
Photographed by William Selden
Hair: Raphael Salley
Makeup: Anami Nishimura
Model: Katlin Aas
I found this spread on one of my favorite blogs: Tom & Lorenzo (click here). Go to their post to see who the designer is for each piece of clothing used in these shots and images of the pieces when they initially debuted on the runway.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Over the years it’s been nice to have a young niece because whenever there was a great kids’ movie that I wanted to see I could take her: Corpse Bride, A Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D, Lemony Snicket, Bridge to Terabithia, The Golden Compass, Speed Racer, Kung Fu Panda, and Coraline just to name a few. Plus it’s a nice bonding activity for just me and my niece. I get to be the cool aunt who takes her to the movies and buys her soda, popcorn, and whatever candy she wants. But. . .but. . .but. . .she’s not a kid anymore. Soon I’m going to have to start turning to my much younger niece Hailey (she’s not even four yet, still too young for movies) to see all the cartoons.
Although Kylie is growing up, it doesn’t mean we can’t go to the movies anymore, we just have to see different movies now. This past Sunday we went to see our first grown up movie together: Whip It! I pretty much grew up loving Drew Barrymore and from E.T. to Firestarter, Poison Ivy to Mad Love , Never Been Kissed to Charlie's Angels, Little Girl Lost to flashing her boobs at Letterman, Guess? model to Cover Girl model, actor to producer to director, I've watched her through all her highs and lows. In fact, I have been very eager to support her in her directorial debut and saddened by the lack of support from the rest of America. Drew is practically a national treasure, why won't people go out and see her movie??
Anyway, a colorful comedy about kick ass roller derby girls featuring a really cute boy was a perfect choice for Kylie and me to go see! It wasn't the best movie ever made, but we enjoyed it. It was cute and sweet and had a positive girl power message: be your own hero. I was glad to see that Ellen Page can transcend her Juno character; I didn’t get an even slightly Juno feeling from her in this. And Marcia Gay Harden elevates any movie she’s in. I didn’t buy nerdy Daniel Stern as some Texas hillbilly though. He looked perfectly ridiculous in a cowboy hat. The roller girls were all fabulous, especially Juliette Lewis as the "villain." The actual derby sequences could have been a bit more exciting. I’ve been to live roller derby in Los Angeles and it is amped up about 20 times more than what came across onscreen. But the film was still fun and luckily there were no sex scenes to have to watch with Kylie - I'm not ready for that awkwardness yet!
Hopefully Hollywood will continue to make these kinds of women empowerment, fun and frolicy films for me to take my now teenage niece to see! But not if we don't support these films and filmmakers! Go see Whip It right now!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Born October 20, 1958
"We each have only a limited amount of time here. We have to do more with it--pay attention, explore, be open to all of life. Because we have only one chance, we have to make life seem longer than it really is."
Monday, October 19, 2009
I just finished reading Craig Ferguson’s memoir American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot. It was truly fantastic.
I’ve loved Craig for years. His Late Late Show is the only late night talk show that I watch on a regular basis. What I love about his talk show is that he doesn’t do a standard monologue of lame jokes. He just stands in front of the camera and talks with honesty and warmth about anything and everything or sometimes nothing. Sure he has writers and they obviously do write some jokes, but you can tell that it’s completely spontaneous as to whether Craig actually tells the jokes or not. He can go off on crazy tangents, but he’s so good off the cuff that you’ll find yourself cracking up at next to nothing. He’s just naturally funny.
What I loved about his memoir was that he writes exactly how he talks: with humor, with honesty, and with warmth. Craig has lived a hell of a life, growing up in one of the worst cities in Scotland, being tormented by teachers and fellow students, swept up by the punk movement, drumming in different punk bands leading to drugs and alcoholism, eventually sobering up, finding a career in comedy, marrying three very different women and finally achieving his lifelong dream of becoming an American. He writes very openly about all of this, admitting when he was a sh*t, apologizing to those he hurt along the way, giving a big f*ck you to those that screwed him over, thankful for those who stuck by him, while being very funny and affectionate throughout.
The book is also short and sweet. There is no filler, no over dramatic bullsh*t, no long windedness. He knew what he wanted to say and he said it. I appreciate that. It’s a touching, funny, honest, warm, and compelling memoir. Oh and make sure that you read it with a Scottish accent.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The other night I went to see Rosemary's Baby on the big screen. I had never seen it and I think deep down it was because I always thought it was going to be a super scary movie and I don't do super scary. But it wasn't scary and I rather enjoyed it. It also got me thinking about the movies that did scare me. I've also read a few lists like this online. Since I don't really watch scary movies anymore, and when I do I can handle it a little better now that I'm an adult, what I've compiled here is my list of the 10 Movies That Scared the Crap Out of Me When I Was a Kid:
1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial - I know what you're thinking: who could be afraid of E.T.? But when I saw the movie at five years old it was quite scary. I remember being really freaked out at the beginning when E.T. is running through the woods and underbrush and you can't really see him, you just hear the noises he makes. I can remember clutching the armrest of the theater chair and hiding my eyes against my dad's shoulder. I can also remember the little boy sitting next to me asking his mother why I was hiding my eyes and her reply, "Because she's just a little girl and she's scared." Damn straight! Drew Barrymore as Gertie helped allay my fears of E.T. But overall it was still a scary movie for a five year old and I hid my eyes again when the big bad men in hazmat suits came for E.T. and Elliot.
2. The Dark Crystal - I saw this in the theater when it came out and I can remember spending the majority of the movie sitting on my dad's lap and again hiding my eyes. The skeksis FREAKED ME OUT! I was also creeped when they drained the poor podlings' essences.
3. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - Oompa Loompas, kids getting sucked into giant tubes, sent to incinerators, and turned into giant blueberries?? That is some scary shit. And Willy Wonka himself is creepy. And don't get me started on that damn tunnel. Sure I love it now and did as a kid too, but not on the first few viewings. It took awhile to get past the initial trauma.
4. Poltergeist - Oh Holy Jesus. I was seven when I watched this movie. We were at the house of some friends of our family and the whole group of adults and children were watching it on cable. How anyone could possibly think a seven year old should be watching this film is beyond me. At the time my mom, sister and I were moving into my soon-to-be stepdad's house. There was no furniture in the house yet because we were painting all the walls. That night after watching Poltergeist, my mom put me to bed in a sleeping bag on the floor of the master bedroom while mom and Mike stayed up late painting. I was terrified that the huge closet was going to come alive and suck me in. To this day, when I smell fresh paint I get a terrifying sense memory of Poltergeist.
5. Kingdom of the Spiders - I can't remember exactly when I saw this made for TV movie, but I must have been pretty young. All I remember is being terrified at the end when Shatner has to go down in the pitch black basement to replace a blown fuse and you just knew, KNEW there was going to be a gazillion tarantulas waiting to get him! And there were. But he survived. Yay.
6. The Watcher in the Woods - Disney does scary. The mom of a fellow girl scout rented this for all us girls to watch at a Halloween party. It's quite laughable to watch now, but of course when I was a kid it scared the bejeezus out of me. I still can't see the name Karen without seeing Narek written in the condensation of a window. Plus Bette Davis was a frightening old lady.
7. Carrie - One night I was hanging out with my older sister as she was getting ready to go out on a date. I was sitting on her waterbed as she put on her massive amounts of black makeup and feathered her hair just so. Her bedroom TV was tuned to a showing of Carrie. I was intrigued because even though it's spelled differently, the girl had my name and red hair like me. But as I continued to watch it I started to get more and more freaked because this Carrie was weird and people were mean to her and her mom was crazy and spoke with a terrible and overdramatic voice and oh no they've dumped a bucket of blood all over her!! And now she's killed everyone.
8. The Exorcist - My cousin Jenny and I were inseparable when we were kids. She was an only child and my sister was much older than me so we were each other's surrogate sibling in childhood. Jenny loved horror movies and her dad would rent them for her. One weekend while I was staying with them he rented the grandaddy of all horror films, The Exorcist. As soon as Regan stepped into the living room in front of her mom and her mom's friends and peed on the rug I knew I didn't want to watch this movie. The idea of this girl unable to control herself and peeing on a rug mortified me. Shortly after Regan started thrashing around on her bed against her will I had had enough. My uncle lived in a one bedroom apartment. I couldn't really GO anywhere to escape the terrible, frightening SOUNDS emanating from the TV. I remember to distract myself I looked through an entire JC Penney catalog. To this day it's those sounds that haunt me, not the visuals of the film. I have watched this as an adult and it is without a doubt the scariest movie I have ever seen. I envy those of you that watch it and laugh because you find it campy.
9. A Nightmare on Elm Street - One night my friend Helen stayed over. A Nightmare on Elm Street was the midnight movie on TV and we thought it would be really cool to stay up late and watch it. By the time Johnny Depp got sucked into that bed there was NO WAY I was going to fall asleep that night. Helen on the other hand, passed right out. I kept watching TV as a way to distract myself and not fall asleep. I think Bachelor Party came on. Tom Hanks would save me from Freddy Krueger. I finally fell asleep around dawn.
10. Alive - Again, I know what you're thinking: Alive? Alive scared the crap out of you? I know. It seems silly. Especially since I wasn't a kid anymore when I saw this, I was 16 or 17 which is kind of old to be scared by a movie. And really it didn't scare me as much as just really, really disturb me. The plane crash and then the survivors forced to eat the flesh of their dead friends was just ew, ew, ew, awful. It was difficult for me to fall asleep at night for weeks after watching this movie. I think the fact that it was a true story made it worse. I couldn't shake the creepy, terrible feeling it gave me.
That's it. Quite a list, huh? I know. I'm a big wimp and all of you could name dozens of scarier movies out there. But guess what? I haven't seen those.
Monday, October 12, 2009
I’ve always admired the films of Jane Campion. I know that The Piano is what she is acclaimed for, but my personal favorite has always been The Portrait of a Lady. Suffice to say, she sure can make fantastic period films. Her attention to detail when it comes to production design, sets, props, costumes, hair, etc. is astounding and she shows it off in such inventive ways: a character takes off their period shoes, picks one up and smells it, another traps a moth under a period drinking glass, here’s a close up of the back of this character’s neck so you can see how perfect their period hair is, and another rubs the soft feather of their period quill under their nose and over their lips. I revel in these details.
I went to see her new film, Bright Star, yesterday and well, I have a new favorite Jane Campion film. It’s the story of the last years of the English Romantic poet John Keats and his doomed love affair with the literal girl next door, Fanny Brawne, as seen from her point of view. It’s a magical film. Quiet, beautiful, restrained.
There were some shots in the film that were so gorgeous that I found my breath catching in my throat watching them. Fanny, John, and little Toots bend to smell each individual flower in the garden. Fanny sits on her bed, her room is all cool, soothing whites and blues, she clutches John’s letter in her hands, and a wind blows her curtain inward so that the ends of it nearly touch her face. Fanny, so rapturously in love, lies down in a field of purple flowers and as her young sister drops down at her side Fanny kisses the girl’s face and tells her she loves her. After John writes her a letter that says, “I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain,” Fanny has her siblings catch butterflies and transport them into her bedroom where she starts a butterfly farm so that soon there are butterflies perched on every surface as she rereads John’s letters over and over again. John climbs a flowering tree and literally lies down on the top of it. Fanny, in black, walks out onto a snow covered Hampstead Heath. I don’t remember the last time I saw a film so stunningly beautiful.
The acting is also excellent. Usually in Jane Campion’s films, the actors are allowed to chew the scenery now and then and sometimes even stray slightly into overacting. This time, Campion showed an enormous amount of restraint with her actors. Abbie Cornish and Ben Whishaw as our doomed lovers are remarkable as individuals and as a couple. The arc of their relationship was completely believable: from their early skepticism of one another, to their teacher/student relationship, to their passionate epistolary romance, to their pure and unequivocal love. Kerry Fox as Mrs. Brawne was the mother that any girl must have wanted in that time period: understanding yet realistic, and firm but not pushy. I must say I didn’t even recognize Kerry Fox and was shocked when I saw her name listed in the credits! Paul Schneider as Charles Brown, Keats’ friend and benefactor, who scrupulously tries to protect him from entrapment by Fanny, who he considers their intellectual unequal, stole most scenes he was in. I’ve always adored Paul Schneider in his myriad lovable loser roles and it was nice to see him stretch himself in this. His Irish brogue was well done, and his performance had fire and vitality. The scene where he admits that in the end he failed his friend John Keats is heartbreaking.
And ultimately the story is a heart breaker. We all know what is going to happen. Even if you don’t already know John Keats’ story, you can see the signs throughout the film. My tears started when little Toots, Fanny’s sister, tells Keats she loves him before he leaves for warmer climes in Italy where he hopes to restore his health. And the tears didn’t stop until well after the ending credits were over. This was also where Abbie Cornish really shined. Her scene of devastation should be taught in acting classes.
In the end I only have one criticism and it’s so minor that I almost wasn’t going to mention it, but it’s kind of funny so I will. Paul Schneider as Charles Brown has this odd pot belly and wears these ridiculous green plaid pants throughout the film. I want to know if he really gained weight for the role, or if they stuffed him with a pillow! Most of the time I didn’t notice it, but there are a few scenes when it really stuck out and made me laugh, it looked so silly. Although, maybe that was the point. Maybe Campion wants you to laugh at this character; he is the “villain” of the story after all. Unless you count tuberculosis as a villain!
But do you want to know the sign for me that this movie was really great? Despite my sobbing, I immediately wanted to watch the movie again. I think I’m going to go back sometime this week.
The title of the film is taken from a poem John wrote for Fanny:
Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art -
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors -
No - yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever - or else swoon to death.
Friday, October 9, 2009
For the Sunday closest to my sixth birthday, July 28, 1982, my dad took me to see Annie. My dad’s friend Mike came too because he also had a daughter, Donna, who was around my age. Donna and I didn’t really know each other but I remember she gave me a birthday present. It was a small 50 piece puzzle of an image of colorful crayons. The best thing about seeing Annie was that Dad and Mike let me and Donna sit in the front row of the theater! Better than that, they let us sit ALONE in the front row of the theater while they sat somewhere behind us. We thought we were soooooo cool sitting in the front row all by ourselves. And of course we loved Annie. She was spunky and beat up boys and manipulated the hell out of grownups and sang for the President and lived happily ever after with her Daddy Warbucks – and she was a redhead like me! Growing up I must have watched Annie dozens of times on Betamax and then VHS. Each time I watched it a different song became my favorite and each time I watched it Annie was spunkier, Miss Hannigan was funnier and Miss Farrell was more beautiful than the time before.
The other night I went to see Annie in the theater as part of Regal’s Flashback Features but I didn’t sit in the front row this time. I was surprised to see that it was directed by John Huston, not someone known for light family fare or musicals for that matter. Of course his name would have meant nothing to me when I was a kid, but it means something to me now. I don’t think Huston was the best choice as director for this film. Watching it as an adult, the staging is rather clunky and sometimes his camera choices during the dance sequences is just plain odd. Doesn’t matter, I still loved it and I still knew all the dialogue and songs.
I think Maybe (and all its reprises) is the best song in the film. It’s so very hopeful and so very sad at the same time.