Sunday, April 23, 2006

I am obsessed with Mary Tyler Moore.

Yes, It's true. A few weeks ago, I splurged on amazon and bought DVDs of Safe, Brokeback Mountain, Nine to Five, Moonstruck, and the second season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. A few days ago, the DVDs came. And ever since, I've been watching MTM nearly every free minute. I've even created many free minutes with which to watch it, when I should've been doing other things (for example, I have SO many lines to learn for tomorrow).

I don't know why I love it so. It's just a TV show. But I happen to believe that's it's the greatest TV comedy of all time. Or one of the greatest, anyway... when I was little, I'd always watch Nick at Nite and get totally bought up in the old comedies of the 60's and 70's... particularly the 70's shows like Taxi, Rhoda, and the best of the lot, Mary Tyler Moore (a great little analysis of the show can be read here). Then, a few years ago, I found out that the MTM show was being released on DVD, and I bought the first season. Then, the full release was stalled due to apparent lack of interest, so I thought the first season was all I'd get... eventually, I forgot about the rest of MTM and went on with my life.

But THEN, I recently saw that the second and third seasons had in fact been released on DVD, for sale on amazon, so I promptly bought season 2... and since it looks like the whole series will be available eventually, I think I'll be buying it all... you know, buying a TV show on DVD is like marrying someone... they used to only be around some of the time, and there used to be all this mystery, and you had to take what you could get, but then suddently they're around ALL the time, you can have them as much as you want, and you learn more about them than ever before (via the special features).

I really don't have the time to spend watching Mary Tyler Moore all the time, though... I need to limit my Mary time to when I'm doing something really boring, like doing laundry or cleaning my room, and I need comfy background noise. Even discarding all the legitimate responsibilites I have, there are still more pressing matters to attend to within the (decidedly low-priority) realm of obsessive viewing... like the Streepathon, for instace... that has to start VERY soon.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Streepathon starts... tomorrow.

Yup. I have sent Showgirls back to netflix and been informed that The Deer Hunter will arrive in my box tomorrow (side note: Showgirls was not quite as bad-tastically funny as I expected it to be... mostly I just found it dirty... though it did grow on me some while I had it). Anyway, Deer Hunter will be the beginning of my long Meryl Streep adventure... except I probably won't get to it till at least saturday, cause tomorrow is looking mighty busy (Dead White Males cast party! woop.) So yeah, Streepathon starts... saturday. I think.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Dead White Males (a.k.a. why I never post)

Glenn should find this interesting.

The reason I never post lately is that I'm very very busy with my life, namely a show I am in called Dead White Males. Glenn, maybe you've heard of it. It's Australian. It is by David Williamson (an Australian), and it's about the college humanities curriculum and the trend toward the poststructuralist, feminist, multiculturalist angle. It revolves around a college student named Angela Judd, who takes a class in lit theory and is exposed to the idea that ideology, not human nature, controls her life. The title refers to the traditional canon of writers who Angela's professor accuses of being hopelessly out of date and complicit in propogation of the regressive ideologies of their times.

I have a supporting role as Angela's father, Martin Judd, an unemployed middle management worker married to a pushy hard-core feminist executive. Very glamorous. Martin is writing a novel, though... he is a sarcastic/funny creative type who's learning to enjoy being a house-husband.

We had to change a bunch of lines, since the Australianism "bloody" appears an average of about once per sentence (not exaggerating here). But it's been a fun show to work on. The cast is chock full of cool people, and the play, on the whole, is quite funny. It does take up a lot of my time, though...

Friday, April 14, 2006

"Life Goals"... and my picture...

As I sit here typing on my blog, I have gotten to thinking of all the things I wish I knew how to do, and put to use. So I thought I'd type them here (if only so I had them recorded somewhere, so I could go back to them later and check my progress). These are basically my life goals (and by "life goals," I really mean "things I'd like to get learn/do within the next 10 or so years, so I can actually use said skills while I'm still young." Goals are listed in approximate order of priority:

1) Fall in love, and maintain a loving relationship with someone.

2) Have lots of great sex, with or without said person.

3) Become a successful actor/singer.

4) Add onto that, a successful writer/songwriter/composer.

5) Become a better dancer.

6) Learn to cook a few things very, very well (like certain salads, pies, pasta sauces, etc.).

7) See lots of good movies.

8) Read lots of good books/plays.

9) Become skilled on piano (which I once was), and guitar (which I never have been).

10) Become reasonably fluent in french (which I have studied formally), spanish (of which I know a bit), and italian (of which I know only a few words).

11) Obtain reasonably facility in German and/or Polish (the languages of my heritage.

12) Become extremely computer savvy (i.e. learn HTML, Photoshop, Final Cut, Garabe Band, etc.), and maybe expand the blog into my own website.

13) Get adequate sleep.

Note that the goal about sleep is right down at the bottom of the list... hence my being up at 3am right now (the timer on my blog is wrong), typing words aimlessly.

I don't think these are too terribly difficult to achieve, though... one thing at a time... and the bottom few things aren't all that important anyway... heh...

(oops, I forgot my goal about directing a play and/or my own film someday... oh well... that one probably won't happen anyway)

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I am through with grades (plus, an assortment of favorite films)

Well, at least, I'm through with grading films... for now. Attentive eyes may notice that the "A" I gave to A History of Violence has recently disappeared. This can be read as a sign that I don't think I'll be grading films regularly anymore. Not that I was all that stringent about it anyway. But now I find myself doubting and stressing over the grades I give films, and I think that's just kind of silly and irrelevant to anything truly important (i.e. I need to be more concerned with grades I'm getting in school right now than the grades I'm giving films... plus, hello, where is my life?). Plus, the subjectivity and inexplicable nuance of it all is overwhelming me.

aHoV, for example, is something I initially felt inclined to give an "A" to, but then on reviewing it, it does seem (as Glenn said) like it's a film with "A" moments but no unifying "A" grandeur. But then I can't seem to place it in either the "A-" or "B+" zone either, so I really don't know WHAT to make of it now. It was a good film with some great moments, along with some intangibles that I find intriguing... and that's all I know.

And then there's stuff like The Squid and the Whale and Junebug, both of which I respect the hell out of, and one of which I even kind of love (Junebug)... but which both just feel sort of too small and specific for the big "A" (i.e. better than good, but not quite GREAT). These types of films, to me, immediately scream "B+"... but then I get to thinking, "in a way, I think Junebug is really a better film than aHoV and maybe even better than BBM... but it's just so small and slight... I don't get those goosebumps while watching it." I dunno. It's all very strange... to the extent that I have trouble taking it seriously anymore.

Even Brokeback Mountain, which I love immensely, falls short in some ways. It gives me the goosebumps like few films ever have, but then there are some parts where I'm just like "eh... get to the good stuff... this is boring (i.e. some of those later scenes with the men and their families)." I know that sounds silly and shallow, but there are a few truly amazing (one might even say "perfect") films where this is never EVER the case. Thelma & Louise, for example. I find it phenomenally entertaining from start to finish. There is never a full moment. I could watch it everyday. It has the grandeur, the action, the sights, the sounds, the writing, the acting, the archetypal-story-with-a-timely-twist, the music that gives me shivers, the humor, the sexiness, the EVERYTHING one could want in a film... plus Susan, Geena, and Brad Pitt's naked ass. This is one film I'd have no problem giving an A+. But these are few and far between.

Anyway... I just think I'll be giving the grades a rest for a while... they are killing my life... besides, if I do a top ten list at the end of this year, it'll be much harder to predict this way (always a plus). For the record, though, here are some of my all-time favorites, with random notes/context/info:

Practically perfect in every way: Thelma & Louise

Practically perfect, but for it's obviously meager production budget:
Heavenly Creatures

Practically perfect, but maybe not quite as rewatchable: Amadeus

Practically perfect, but maybe a little dated: Cabaret

Practically perfect, but maybe not quite as "deep" as the above films, since it is first and foremost a comedy: Tootsie
(bonus points for remaining the funniest film I've ever seen)

Might enter Tootsie's league once I see it again, which I will, because I just bought it: Moonstruck (bonus points for starring Cher)

I still love it, but I can see how some might find it stale: Far From Heaven

Funny and moving in their surrealism and/or zaniness:
Being John Malkovich,
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,
Edward Scissorhands

Will always have a special place in my heart as the big gonzo musical and the little gay musical I fell in love with the year I came out:
Moulin Rouge!,
Hedwig and the Angry Inch

The best musical EVER, despite Rita Moreno's one obviously dubbed-over song and Natalie Wood's inability to pass as Puerto Rican: West Side Story

Another great musical, and the gold standard in wholesome family entertainment: The Sound of Music

Divine and life-changing if not exactly psychologically healthy: Dancer in the Dark (bonus points for being THE film that taught me how to love musicals, to which I have since devoted my life)

The film has some dull moments, but the whole "Llorando" sequence is transcendent: Mulholland Dr.

A childhood favorite I rediscovered as a young adult, which I'll love come hell or high water: The Witches (I just LOVE this movie... Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch... I mean... there really are no words...)

That perennial children's movie that just never gets old, despite the very real possibility that it's technically not actually very good:
The Wizard of Oz

As good as glam rock gets: Velvet Goldmine

...and my new obsession, a new addition to the gay canon, and one of the saddest, most romantic films I've ever seen:
Brokeback Mountain

Alright... I think that's enough.

I guess the focus of this post has changed... so I'll end with, "what are some of your favorite films, dear readers, and why do you love them so?"

Sunday, April 09, 2006

two films I gotta post on, part 2: Brokeback Mountain

I can't even remember now when I'd first heard the two glorious words Brokeback Mountain. I believe it was sometime in early 2005, back when it was still in production, and being referred to as "the gay cowboy movie" with no chance at mainstream success. Upon hearing more about it, I read the short story by Annie Proulx after ordering it special from Amazon. I remember reading it all on one night in early August, and not being particularly enthralled by it the first time... it took some time to have an effect on me... and even then, I think, only because I'm (un)fortunately an old soul who's profoundly affected by sad stories about love and loss, the cruelty of the past, and the promise of lives never lived. When faced with a sad story about impossible gay love, naturally I couldn't resist its magic.

I, like many, have been Jack Twist, and have also been Ennis, I suppose... both leave such an indelible mark on the psyche as perfect romantic archetypes, better represntatives of that breed than even Titanic's Jack and Rose.

How fitting that Titanic Jack's Brokeback counterpart is also named Jack, and that Rose's Brokeback counterpart, while not named Rose, is named Ennis Del Mar, a Gaelic/Spanish construction of Proulx's that could be translated as "island of the ocean," a name not dissimilar to Titanic's "heart of the ocean," the mythical blue diamond that, while thoroughly and passionately pursued by many, was lost in the depths of the sea.

How interesting also that, given the story's 1997 publication, it and the film Titanic must've been conceived during roughly the same time. It's no wonder Brokeback gave a nod to Titanic with its poster. The two films are soulmates, methinks.

I first saw the film over winter break on the beach, with a friend of a friend, a girl. It didn't really hit me that first time, and that disappointed me more than a can say. But I of course later viewed it a second time, at which point the emotions came flowing out. My first time seeing it, my expectations ruled the day, and I couldn't help but disengage from the film in front of me. But my second time, I was able to let it just flow through me ("like rain", as Lester Burnham would say), and the impact of that gentle flow was massive. It seemed that Ang Lee had perfectly calibrated every frame and sound for maximum emotional impact without even breaking a sweat (unlike some oscar-winning films which shall remain nameless)... and that perfect calibration, I think, offended me at first. It seemed too perfect, too composed, until I let myself feel it. It's not unlike how I'm offended by happy people whose lives are in more order than mine, who know what they're doing, who're like well-oiled machines, until I get to know them and realize how hard they worked to make themselves that way. This film took hard work. It took mind, heart, and soul, and hence it touches all three in turn. Sure, there are the slow bits... I suppose it's not a perfect film... but it's few imperfections seemed utterly necessary for the creation of what it did indeed achieve, and that achievement was massive.

After falling in love with the film on a second viewing, I savored my Brokeback Mountain soundtrack (to which I still listen nearly every day) and the story-to-screenplay collector's book that I promptly had my parents buy me. I obsessed for months. I went through the "phases of loss" after oscar night, until finally arriving at acceptance. And I recently bought the film itself and received it just yesterday in the mail... having watched it yet again, I can ensure myself and others that it still has me in its magnetic pull. May we all be blessed and cursed by our own night under the full moon, with that soon-to-be-soulmate beside us. Whether real, imagined, or somewhere in between, such predicaments are what I live and die for.

Favorite moments:

The first tent scene.

The second tent scene.

The lasso.

The reunion kiss.

The last meeting.

The ending.

...and most everything else. Ennis & Jack forever. I love you.

two films I gotta post on, part 1: A History of Violence

Upon returning this film to netflix, I realized that I just had to honor it with a post. It just provoked in me so much horrific, morbid wonder... What is there really, beneath the surface of this thing? And how by god was it put it there? The film is profoundly disturbing on many levels, and for that, I give it major props.

After not only viewing it, but also going through the commentary and behind-the-scenes footage and hearing from Cronenberg and others about it, I have a deep respect for it, and for everyone involved. Well, except maybe for Josh Olson (I still am not over how the ones who got the most recognition for this film were Josh Olson and William Hurt... that's just... wrong... it's like Catherine Hardwicke and Nikki Reed being louded for Thirteen, rather than Holly Hunter and Evan Rachel Wood). I don't think the script had much at all to do with the success of this film... it could've gone any which way. And though it's hard to pinpoint exactly what Cronenberg did with it that saved it from its own cheap thriller trappings, it's clear that he did something big. Everything, from the totally authentic performances, to the perfect music, to that lingering sense of confusion and uncertainty on display, indicates a powerful directorial hand at work.

A few things I learned are quite telling. For instance, it is revealed on the DVD that two of Maria Bello's best moments in the film did not even exist in the script; they were inserted totally by Bello and Cronenberg, and without them, Edie Stall would've just been another standard supporting wife. Thank god they fixed that. Perhaps I just feel the need to rant at the writer, Josh Olson, since this film proved wrong a (semi)famous Julianne Moore quote to the effect of "the screenplay isn't just a blueprint; it's all you have." WRONG, Julianne. Work with Cronenberg. He will prove you wrong (and also might help save your flailing career if you let him, so get on it!)... not to demean screenwriters, but what magic a great director can make... it doesn't have to be there in the writing.

And while on the topic of Julianne Moore, I think it's not unreasonable to compare Violence to Moore's own film Far From Heaven; both are highly stylized pieces about "perfect Americana" that might have been farsical if not for total commitment from great actors. Both gradually begin to explore the darkness that lurks beneath the surface of our placid societal exterior, and neither give easy answers as to how to reconcile the depth with the surface. Yet somehow the ending of Violence becomes far more disturbing; while Heaven leaves us awash in a kind of beautiful sadness, Violence leaves us with something else, something much harder (at least for me) to pin down. Like Heaven, it seems to ask, "now that we know our true nature, what is there left to do?" and leaves no answers. I suppose most great films leave its viewers with such a question, but the particular way Violence asked it left me trembling... perhaps in fear, perhaps in sadness, but mostly in that special rapture one feels when one is faced with a great work of art. Bravo, Cronenberg.

Favorite moments:

Tom Stall gazing at his son after a killing... Viggo is so scary, yet civilized... a perfect symbol for the layered feelings here.

Tom and Edie's second sex scene... "fuck YOU, Joey!".

Edie standing up to Fogerty... you GO girl.

The ending... a picture says a thousand words... and a good motion picture says a million.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Flags of our Fathers

What is it about this upcoming film (and it's title) that bothers me so? It is that Clint Eastwood and Paul Haggis might have another awards hit AGAIN (the third for each of them in the past four years)? Or is it just that title? Not only is it obnoxiously alliterative, in that "look how alliterative we made the title" kind of way, but it seems to be a direct nod to both nationalism and the patriarchy, simultaneously. Eww. When I look at the title, I can't help but picture lots of grumpy old men putting big flags and Bush/Cheney signs on their lawns. They're our fathers... and those are their flags. I mean, if they HAD to go alliterative, couldn't they have called it "Pride of our Parents"? OK, no, but you see my point, right?

I dunno. Unless the film turns out to be some kind of cheeky riff on patriotism/patriarchy, you know "deconstructing" them and whatnot, revealing them for the outmoded and inhumane paradigms that they are... kind of how Eastwood's M$B did a little bit with boxing (but not TOO much)... then I don't think I'll care much for it. But I'll give it a chance. Eh. Whatever.