Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bloomsbury TMI

For everything you wanted to know about John Maynard Keynes but were afraid to ask, see "The Sex Diaries of John Maynard Keynes" at More Intelligent Life, the quarterly from The Economist.

This site of The Economist's quarterly is quickly becoming one of favorite reads, so check it out if you're looking for good text.

The Bloomsbury group continues to be an endless source of fascination for me. My link into the tribe is Virginia Woolf, but the other characters tend to be quite entertaining as well.

For instance, there's Angelica Garnett (that's her up there on Clive's lap), Virginia Woolf's niece, daughter of Vanessa Bell, who was fathered not by Vanessa's husband(Clive Bell), but by Vanessa's lover, Duncan Grant (who was usually a homosexual, except obviously in this instance). Angelica wasn't told until she was thirteen who her real father was. She subsequently went on to marry one of Duncan's ex-lovers, David "Bunny" Garnett. They had two children, and eventually separated. See Angelica's memoir, Deceived with Kindness, for more.

I had the privilege of visiting Charleston, Vanessa's gorgeous house in West Firle, a few years ago. It's literally one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, filled with the imprints of the people who lived and worked there.

Bloomsbury, what a crazy group. They also managed to pump out some pretty good art, in their spare time.

Scarlett does Racial, Gender Politics

There is an interesting piece on NPR about the likeability of the character of Miss Katie Scarlett O'Hara, which I find very intriuging, mainly because I feel like this sort of problematic "choice" between one's identification as "black" or as a "feminist" directly relates to the Democratic campaign for President.

The author of the piece is a black woman, who, at the age of fifteen upon reading Gone with the Wind for the first time, finds herself admiring Scarlett. "Frankly, my dear, I found her unabashed self-interest delicious."

Of course, it's not difficult for yours truly to relate to Scarlett. I'm white, I'm Irish, I come from Georgia (as does my mother's side of my family), a place so seeped in the history of the Civil War it feels as though it happened days ago. The first time I read Gone with the Wind, I thought Scarlett was a total brat, and I couldn't understand her fascination with Ashley the pansy. But it was when I finally saw the epic film adaptation and watched Vivien Leigh take out that nasty yankee on the stairs that I finally realized Scarlett might have more grit and substance to her than I thought. In fact, Scarlett came off as . . . well, as a feminist!

I can't imagine what black female voters will do when comes time to vote in the primaries and choose a side. And as much as I'd like to say "we shouldn't incorporate gender and race into our decision as to who to elect to run this country," I think, unfortunately, that for many people, the ability to ignore those things is near to impossible.

But perhaps this piece suggests otherwise, if this author and other black women found themselves drawn to Scarlett for her hardheaded determination to survive and persevere no matter the costs (and to have a good time doing it, occasionally), then maybe there's more to this Presidental race than the ideal of a black or female President. Maybe it's about electing a dynamic person who's qualified for the job.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Technical Difficulties

For some reason, my new posts aren't showing up. At least, I can't seem them! If you can, give me a shout-out. Oy.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Madness of Werner Herzog

I realized tonight as I tried in vain to describe the plot of Aquirre, der Zorn Gottes (or, Aquirre, the Wrath of God) over dinner to my dear friend Cassandra, that Werner Herzog has become one of my personal heroes.

For those unfamiliar, Herzog was born Werner Stipetić in 1942. Although his parents were Croatian, Werner was born in Munich and after his father abandonned him and his mother shortly after returning from WWII, she and Werner moved to Austria. At the age of 12, Herzog moved to back Munich and shared an apartment with Klaus Kinski. He said, "I knew at that moment that I would be a film director and that I would direct Kinski."

Embarking on a film career with a stolen camera and working nights as a welder, Herzog went on to direct some of the finest films of the last three decades, and to become a major player (if not the player) of German New Wave Cinema. While his films have won many awards and been recognized in many ways, he is perhaps best known in the states as the director of the 2005 documentary Grizzly Man.

I was fortunate enough to see Aquirre, der Zorn Gottes in a TAG class I took in the 9th grade called "Film Criticism and Techniques." It was the first film class I ever took, and to this day, it remains the best film class I ever took. Aquirre was the first film assigned to us. After a struggle to locate a copy in Roswell, Georgia, my mother finally found one at a Blockbuster in downtown Atlanta. Home sick one day, I decided I would do some schoolwork by watching the movie. By the time it had ended, I was more ill than I had been and ended up taking another day off class.

For those of you who have seen Aquirre you know that it is not just a film about an insane meglomaniacal conquistadore set loose in the Amazonian jungle in search of gold. The film is also famous for the story behind it, and the lengths to which the cast and crew had to go to complete it. The first of five films Herzog would make with his best friend and arch nemesis Klaus Kinski, the incredible stories about the making of Aquirre that have since surfaced are endless. Kinski was a complete lunatic, ranting and raving during the entire process about the elements, scaring the hell out of the extras (who were natives of the area) and at one point firing a gun into a crowded hut which resulted in the loss of a crewman's finger. But the most insane story is supposedly, when Kinski threatened to leave the shoot out of frustration and anger at Herzog, Herzog threatened him with rifle, saying, "If you turn around and walk off this set, before you reach that boat I will put a bullet through your head." To which Kinksi replied, "You wouldn't dare." Herzog, steadying his aim simply replied, "Test me." Kinski finished the shoot.

Since then that story has been rebuked by Herzog in interviews. He claims it never happened. But I like to believe that it did. And certain extras have testified that they witnessed it.

As if that little ditty weren't enough, Herzog would go on to make Fitzcarraldo again working with Kinski, the story of Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, who dismantled and carried a 30 ton steamer over an isthmus so as to not lose time in a shipment of rubber. Herzog, in his insanity, decided to adapt Fitzgerald's story, except in Herzog's version the boat weighed 320 tons at three stories tall and remained intact as it was pulled over the isthmus (which in Herzog's case, of course, becomes a mountain). Yes, ladies and gentleman, Werner Herzog made a movie about an incredible feat but he made his movie even more unbelievable when he literally filmed this even larger boat being pulled over a mountain without special effects. In addition to this complete and utter insanity, Herzog insisted on shooting from inside the ship as it crashed through perilous rapids, endangering his life and injuring three crewmembers. All of this and more is documented in Herzog's film about his relationship with Kinski called, appropriately, My Best Fiend. I highly recommend it.

The madness rages on.

Once, Herzog bet a young American film student he would never finish his film. As incentive, he said, if you finish your film, I will eat my shoe. The two sealed the deal and the film student, Errol Morris, went on to complete the film in question, Gates of Heaven. True to his word, Herzog hired a French chef to cook his boot, and sat down and ate the entire thing with a fork and a knife. The event is documented in Les Blank's film, Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.

In 2005, as he was conducting an interview for his documentary Grizzly Man outside the theater, a sniper opened fire on Herzog. He simply said, "someone is shooting at us." He was hit by one of the pellets, which turned out to be plastic. The interviewer (who was from the BBC) understandably moved to end the interview. Herzog brushed himself off and insisted that they continue.

Recently, Herzog published a small book which he claims is his journal from 1974, when, upon hearing that his mentor, the film historian Lotte Eisner, was dying from cancer, he simply walked out of his house in Munich and walked all the way to her house in Paris (a distance of over 500 miles) because he claimed he knew that if he walked to see Lotte she would not die. Lotte did in fact live eight more years after Herzog's visit.

I have come to the conclusion that Herzog's films, Aquirre in particular, were the first films I ever saw that made me realize that film could have an intense physical and emotional effect on its audience, almost as if the director had intended the experience of viewing the film to be tortorous. Knowing more about Herzog I know that there is no "almost" involved. The intention is purely torture. And I thank him for opening my eyes to an entire world of cinema that I would not have developed an appreciation for if I had not seen Aquirre at age fifteen.

I will leave you, then, with a quote, from a complete madman who I admire for his endless, manical dedication to his art.

"[On Fitzcarraldo the investors] said to me, 'Well how can you continue, can you . . . do you have the strength, or the will, or the enthusiasm, or so . . . ?' And I said, 'How can you ask me this question . . . it is . . . if I abandon this project I would be a man without dreams and I don't want to live like that: I live my life or I end my life with this project.'"

Friday, January 25, 2008

Creepster McCreep

Apparently the skeletons of four people were uncovered during a recent renovation of Washington Square Park. This comes as no surprise, as apparently the land was used as a cemetary for the poor from 1797 to 1826, with over 20,000 people buried there. There are also tales (which may be apocryphal) that the site was also used for public executions.

News to me!

I don't know about you guys, but Washington Square Park has always creeped me out. I've never made a point of skulking around there. Although there was a Beatles love fest one night when we all sang "All you Need is Love," in general, the drug dealers and NYU students terrify me.

I'm sure New York is filled with skeletons and various other exciting relics from the past. Someone once told me that (what will eventually become) the 2nd Avenue subway tunnel contains a cafe from the early nineteen-hundreds, complete with bottles of of alcohol and tables.

All of this makes me want to go all Etheline Tenenbaum and start diggin' holes.

Do you have any spooky New York stories?

Have a fierce weekend!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

But mostly . . .

I hate the way I don't hate you,

not even close . . .

not even a little bit . . .

not even at all.

The 2008 Oscar Nominations

The nominations were announced this morning. Comments from the peanut gallery underneath. For a full list, click here.

Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

What should win: There Will Be Blood
What will win: Atonement

Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jason Reitman, Juno
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Who should win: Julian Schnabel
Who will win: Julian Schnabel or Paul Thomas Anderson

Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Who should win: Amy Ryan
Who will win: Cate Blanchett

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

Who should win: Casey Affleck
Who will win: Casey Affleck or Javier Bardem

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away From Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno

Who should win: Marion Cotillard
Who will win: Marion Cotillard or Julie Christie

George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

Who should win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Who will win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Diablo Cody, Juno
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Ratatouille
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages

Who should win: Diablo Cody
Who will win: Diablo Cody

Christopher Hampton, Atonement
Sarah Polley, Away from Her
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Who should win: Paul Thomas Anderson
Who will win: Christopher Hampton

Across the Universe
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
La Vie en Rose
Sweeney Todd

Who should win: Elizabeth
Who will win: Elizabeth

No End in Sight
Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience
Taxi to the Dark Side

What should win: Sicko
What will win: Sicko

The Kite Runner
Michael Clayton
3:10 to Yuma

Who should win: Jonny Greenwood
Who will win: Jonny Greenwood

Biggest Upset: Jonny Greenwood not being nominated
Biggest Relief: Thank God Keira Knightley isn't nominated

The New York Times critics weigh in.

What say ye?

Monday, January 21, 2008

There Will Be [a] Blood[y Genius Film]

Last night I braved the freezing temperatures and ventured out to see the best film of the year, There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day Lewis and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. My love of Daniel Day Lewis goes back to The Last of the Mohicans, where he spends most of the movie running around the mountains with hair down to his butt, shirt torn open. I remember seeing the film as a young girl and thinking, "now THAT is a man." PTA, at 37, is certainly the most talented American filmmaker working today, with Magnolia, Boogie Nights, and Punch Drunk Love under his belt. And with almost every review remarking on the brilliance of its supporting actors, Paul Dano and Dillion Freasier, it's an understatement to say I was looking forward to seeing There Will Be Blood.

The first thing that needs to be discussed is the soundtrack, written for the film by Jonny Greenwood, the guitarist for Radiohead. Aside from the brilliant performances, the music is the best thing about this film. It is one of the most unsettling scores I have ever heard: right from the beginning the crash of strings and synth is in direct contrast to the simple, stark landscape. But the music immediately sets the tone that "there will be blood," or at least a swarm of flesh-eating locusts. There is something very dangerous out in these empty hills, and it's blacker than oil.

Anderson brilliantly chooses his first scene. Daniel Plainview as a young man mining for silver or other precious metals, falls into his mine. With no dialogue, his agonizing cry as he tries to regain his breath and comes to the realization (at the same time as we do) that his leg is horribly mangled signals the beginning of what is a long, girthy descent into hell.

After his partner is killed in a mining accident, Daniel adopts the man's infant, calling him his own. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a family man. I run this business with my son and partner, H.W. Plainview." It would be difficult for any person not to feel for the poor baby, but in the scene where they make their way by train into town, and the baby reaches up to touch his new father's face, I found myself feeling for Daniel instead.

There are many moments like that. In fact, throughout the entire film, I found myself grasping at straws, slipping over and over as I attempted to decide whether or not I trusted Daniel Planview. His demeanor towards his son seemed to be the key to unlocking this man's identity. But soon I realized it didn't matter whether I trusted him or not, and there would be no way of knowing, which is a terrifying realization.

Obviously Dano's Eli, the young minister whose family's land Planview buys up to drill (with the promise that he will pay Eli $5,000 for his fledgling congregation) works as a foil to Planview's dark and brooding character. But as the film goes on, one notices that Eli is not so righteous as one thought. He is cut from the same meglomaniacal cloth as Daniel. And as Daniel says, "I don't want people to succeed," he sees Eli as a threat to not only his drilling, but his standing as the king of the hill. Violence flows seamlessly from Daniel to Eli. There is one confrontation in particular which I will leave for your viewing pleasure. But when Daniel tells Eli, "I will bury you underground," I believe him.

Anderson is an expert at explosive violence. It's no surprise to me that he chose to make a film about oil mining, as the geyser of oil and the business of getting it is perhaps best reflects the spurting geyser of veined human blood. But it is the chase, the game, that makes this movie more than just a good movie with brilliant actors. It is the smirk on the face of fate and men that make this film the best film of the year. Even as Eli is brutalized by Plainview in every sense of the word, he still manages a smile at Plainview's antics. And as Daniel utters a monologue to his supposed brother (who appears out of nowhere) about his contempt for all people, his face is like a grinning skull.

There Will Be Blood is a dance with the devil. Be prepared to be covered in the blackest grime of greed and evil. In a move which I consider sheer brilliance and bravery, there is no redemptive flavor to it.

The black blood of what we call human nature does not burn clean.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Happy Weekend

Mathieu Amarlic.

I promise, dear readers, to write something intelligent this weekend.

It's Friday, and I Have an Addiction

I'm currently trying to distract myself from endless clicks of the mouse that will fire more bullets into the already decimated mess that is my checking account. These are making it very difficult. I have a love/hate relationship with American Apparel. I love their clothes and I live in their leggings. But before I had a real job I interviewed there, and they forced me to model a silver tube top without a bra. (Ok, I admit it, the modeling-delusion in me sort of had fun).

The fact of the matter is I cannot afford to buy clothes right now.

No, no, no, no.


I will instead focus on my mission against cultural procrasination.

1. Last night I went to the kick off of the FSG Reading Series, hosted by my lovely friend Gena and our editor Lorin, at the Russian Samovar. Click here for more info. Sam Lipsyte and Richard Price read, and it was packed! The Russian Samovar infuses their own vodka. I had the pomegrante, which I highly recommend. The Peach was also a hit. We spotted Zadie Smith, who is even more beautiful in person. In fact, she literally glows.

2. Tonight I'm off to my friend WMC's The PAGE Series reading in tribute to Donald Barthelme. Featured readers include: Ed Hirsch, Donald Antrim, and Ted Mooney. 7pm, The National Arts Club. Free and open to the public!

3. Sometime this weekend I MUST see this movie. It is essential to this weekend. In fact, my weekend will not be COMPLETE until I have seen this film.

4. Also, I have to see There Will Be Blood.

5. And finally, on Tuesday I'll mosey over to The Sartorialist's opening at Danziger Projects, which Joanna pointed out on her fabulous blog this morning.

Hopefully, if my weekend is filled with enough kultur, I can avoid purchasing these:


Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Poetry of Sarah Manguso

I just realized that I have been writing so much about film lately! This realization comes along (unsurprisingly) with the quarter-life-crisis epiphany that perhaps I should have applied to Master's programs in Film Studies rather than Ph.D. programs in English Literature. But right now I'm telling myself that English is my sturdy horse and I can always do a film concentration. Hell, I don't even know if I'll get into school!

But along those lines, you all should really read Sarah Manguso.

Look, isn't she pretty? And I'm not just saying you should read her because she happens to be one of my authors (or will be, come June). Even if you don't like poetry, you'll like Manguso. She's an excellent writer and her poetry is the best contemporary poetry I have read in years.


Before I gave my eyes to a liar with ruined entrails
I saw the shape for the fifteenth time.

I thought I saw how the story got told.
And I gave it everything.

Blind I listen to all the little sounds.
How pretty they are.
I arrive and arrive.
Look——I am the statue that thinks it's running.

I don't know about you, but that last line really kicks me in the gut.

This poem is from her second collection of poetry, called, Siste Viator. Her first collection is entitled The Captain Lands in Paradise. See these and more (like a short story collection from McSweeney's) at her website.

Manguso's upcoming book (with us) is The Two Kinds of Decay, a memoir about a life-threatening illness that struck her when she was a freshman at Harvard. I hate illness memoirs, but I can honestly say this is one of the best books I've read, ever. Manguso's poetry (and her prose, which reads like poetry) has a psychic, celestial quality to it, and her comfort with violence and death is perplexingly both refreshing and terrifying. Siste Viator has been my amulet against bad blood and feelings of helplessness many a time. I recommend it for constant-carrying in your bag.

I'll let Sarah do the work here, but do let me know what you think.


Sometimes I think I understand the way things work
And then I find out that on Neptune it rains diamonds.
On this world you can get out of work early, unclog the drain,
hear music. Any of the above should prove the existence
of God or at least some kind of beautifying engine
but in Germany when they couldn't figure out
how to tranquilize the polar bear and he was standing
in the park, the cage door broken, they shot him dead.
Nine hundred pounds——that's a lot of dead bear.
Neptune's pretty close to immortal,
as we understand the word, and I wouldn't like to be
that planet. But if I had to I would take it,
the decades of punishing rain, and the fires
on neighboring planets I would watch,
thankful I was never touched by them,
and that the diamonds were mine.

My Criterion Collection Film Series

Last night was the inaugural meeting of my newly minted Criterion Collection Film Series. I hope to show a film from the collection (if you are unfamilar, check out their website in my links) every week at my apartment. Last night we watched M, the 1931 film by Fritz Lang about a group of criminals who decide to take the capture of a child-murderer into their own hands after the increased police presence starts to hurt their business. Peter Lorre, in his first talkie, plays the murderer, and is absolutely terrifying. It's refreshing to watch movies in which people look like people (or in this case, monsters) not airbrushed twits with nose-jobs. I think we'll move on to something a little lighter next week, perhaps French New Wave, but if you're in the area and interested in seeing great films, let me know!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Le Scaphandre et le papillon

Over Christmas break in Atlanta I saw Le Scaphandre et le papillon, or, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, a film by Julian Schnabel. The movie is based on a memoir by the same name of Jean-Dominique Bauby, who dictated the book by blinking with his one functioning eye for each letter when he was completely paralyzed by a devestating stroke at the age of 43. Bauby, until his stroke, had been the editor of French Elle and a man-about-Paris, having recently left his wife for another woman.

The film won the Best Director prize at Cannes and just recently won for Best Director, Best Foreign Film and Best screenplay at the Golden Globes.

Bauby is played by Mathieu Armalric, who you might remember as "Louis" the french money-man from Munich. (Which is a fantastic performance). Armalric has that "ugly-sexy" Frenchman quality which is so appealing, and as I entered the theater I found myself wondering if he would be able to pull off a role where he would be totally immobile and for the most part, completely unrecognizable. Of course the answer is yes, he pulls it off brilliantly. In fact, because Armalric is such a charismatic presence on screen, when the film flashbacks to Bauby pre-stroke, it's only more devestating to see him, young and vivacious, when you already know what he's become.

Schnabel chose to film almost entirely from Bauby's perspective, meaning as the audience we see out of his one-eye. In the beginning of the film, when Bauby wakes up from his stroke, everything is fuzzy and blurred. When Bauby cries, so does the lens, and when a lovely set of breasts find their way in his line of vision, we hear Bauby's inner monologue, which acts as an amazing comic relief throughout the film.

Schnabel is obviously obsessed with beauty and with beautiful women in particular. Bauby's physical therapists, Marie, played by Schnabel's wife, Olatz Lopez Garmendia, and the other, Henriette, played by Marie Josee Croze, may be the two most beautiful women I have ever seen. Marie Josee Croze, (who you also may remember from Munich as the murdering female spy (who later meets a grisly death with her cat) is quickly becoming one of my favorite actors.

Ultimately this is your run-of-the-mill story about a man who, when confronted by death, is forced into a realization that while he has lived his life to the fullest, he has not necessarily lived it in the noblest way, somewhat neglecting his children and certainly betraying his wife. But Schnabel's methods are anything but run-of-the-mill. And the scene that Bauby remembers, the last time he sees his father before the stroke, is one of the most touchingly realistic and humane moments I have ever seen on film. (This is largely due to the profound talent of Max von Sydow, who plays Bauby's father).

In a way, Bauby's stoke and subsequent imprisonment in his own body allows him the time (almost a year) to reconcile with his family and himself. The atonement takes the form of the book, which he dedicates to his children. Two days after finishing it, Jean-Dominique Bauby passed away.

Upon leaving the movie theater, I think we all were a little exhausted. Emotionally, that is. But there was a strange calm that reinforced itself as we drove home, almost as if it was too soon to say anything about the film. I myself wasn't entirely sure whether or not I had thought it a masterpiece. It was certainly good, but I thought it moved too slowly. This is the kind of movie that takes days (and now it has been weeks) to sink in. There are more moments I could discuss to prove my point, but I'll let you see them for yourself. I will say with full confidence that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is one of the best films of the year, and yes, it is a masterpiece.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Danke, Danke Schön

Thanks to everyone who responded to my post of self-pity last week. For a minute there I was worried you guys might be these kind of friends:

But I'm so glad you're obviously these kind of friends.

So, in conclusion:

La. Updates TK.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Does anyone read my stupid blog? The lack of comments recently is really beginning to depress me.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Film Favorites

Taken from Vintage Film.

What was the last film you watched?
In the theaters? Le Scaphandre et le papillon .

Name your top five films.
These change, quite frequently.
1] Vertigo
2] Citizen Kane
3] The Royal Tenenbaums
4] Mulholland Drive
5] Hannah and Her Sisters

Name your top actor.
Oh, lord. Daniel Day Lewis.

Top actress?
Cate Blanchett.

Most over-rated film?
Anything Julia Roberts is in. And I hate those fucking Oceans 11 movies.

Childhood favourites?
1] The Neverending Story
2] Return to Oz
3] Edward Scissorhands
4] Little Women
5] Super Mario Bros.

Favourite film score?
Psycho is the obvious choice, but I'm also quite fond of Thomas Newman's score for Little Women.

Two films you could watch over and over again?
1] Annie Hall
2] Kill Bill Vol. 1

Favourite Hitchcock?
Well, obviously Vertigo, but I love The 39 Steps, Psycho, The Birds, and that episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents called "Lamb to the Slaughter" with Barbara Bel Geddes. Pure genius!

Classic Q...Who would play you in a film?
I think it would have to be Maggie Gyllenhaal.

What about you?

Infrequent Political Rant

I'm a Hillary supporter because I think she would make a fantastic President and she's the most qualified out of all the democratic candidates. I love Barack, (literally, I love him—if he weren't married I would gladly oblige) but he's just too young. I think in another four to eight years I'd be more than happy to vote for him.

And, in general, I think it's amazing that there's a woman and a black man running for President at the same time. FINALLY.

However, democrats' reasoning for disliking Hillary disturbs me. First (and always) she's accused of being icy, stoic, or unfeeling. Women criticize her for being "too ambitious." Too ambitious?! For christsakes, she's running for President ! Then, in New Hampshire, when she shows some emotion (wildly miscontrued as "tears"), suddenly she's weak? She's underqualified? She's suddenly . . . a woman?!?!?! (See Maureen Dowd's Op-Ed in The New York Times). Catch-22, anyone? When she's ambitious she's a bitch, and when she's emotional, she's weak. She's a human being. She's allowed to be both. And yes, she's a woman, and her sex has a large part to do my decision to support her. I'm proud to say that.

Gloria Steinem's piece in The New York Times best communicates the horror over women's unwillingness to support Hillary. It disturbs and disgusts me that Obama is able to solidify a base because of his race, but Hillary is unable for some reason to do the same with her gender. And I don't think it's because she's "unlikeable." I think all of it goes back to the still taboo notion of a woman being in charge. Women themselves have freely admitted to me that they would be more comfortable with Obama in office simply because he is a man. Frankly, I find that sentiment politcally and socially disgusting.

I may have allegiance to Hillary because she and I share a sex, but I admire her and respect her for her ferocious intelligence, her die-hard ambition, and her strength under pressure. Yes, she is a politician. SO ARE ALL THE OTHER CANDIDATES. Reviling Clinton because she is "too political" means that you are uncomfortable with women being "political." I don't know about you, but I don't believe in double-standards. Men are cutthroat and unfeeling in their ambitions, and if a woman has to play the political game to win, so be it. She should not be cut down in the race for doing EXACTLY what every other candidate is doing: running for President of the United States.

I would love nothing more than to see Clinton and Obama on the same ticket, with Obama running for Vice-President, but being politicians I'm sure both are reluctant to pursue that option. You have to admit, at this point, it is a very attractive and inspiring hypothetical.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Tim's Back

When I was about ten, I saw Tim Burton's Beetlejuice at a friend's house after school. Her parents were "artists" and therefore considerably less vigilant about what we watched. Beetlejuice was packaged like a children's movie, and in many ways it is. But for those of you who have seen it, you know that in many ways it is definitely not for children. For a full year, I wore my bangs parted like Winona Ryder's.

Edward Scissorhands is a film that pretty much almost single handedly changed my life. In fact, anytime I hear Danny Elfman's score I weep. The movie also began what has been my life-long love affair with Johnny Depp.

If you can't tell, I am a huge Tim Burton fan.

Well, I was . . . until he re-made Planet of the Apes . Tim, you don't remake PLANET OF THE APES. Ever. Also: DO NOT EVER, I repeat, EVER, remake Hitchcock movies, filmmakers. Just don't do it. There isn't a point. I hear rumours of a Birds remake with Naomi Watts. WHY? Remaking cult or classic films is like trying to teach Bach the tenets of music theory.

Tim continued to make some bad decisions in the late 90s and early 2000s. He did make a beautiful film called Big Fish which I consider his "sell-out," film, and I suppose there were some fans of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , but let's face it. Those movies are nothing compared to the genius of his early films. (I forgot to mention Batman Returns !) On a side note, he also dumped his longtime girlfriend (and fiancee) Lisa Marie (who appears in Mars Attacks, Sleepy Hollow, and was the inspiration for Sally in A Nightmare Before Christmas ) for well-known homewrecker* Helena Bonham Carter. The two quickly shacked up, leaving Lisa Marie with no home. Eventually, because Tim and Lisa had lived as common law man and wife, she had to sue him to reimburse her for the property and possessions of which she had been co-owner.

*HBC famously broke up the marriage of power couple Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson when he cheated on her with Helena during the making of Frankenstein .

So when I heard Tim was doing a film version of Sondheim's masterpiece, Sweeney Todd, I was skeptical. Oh no, Tim, I thought. Not other remake. What are you doing? And Helena? Can she even sing? After seeing a preview I was excited, but I found myself lying awake at night, silently praying, please don't let me down this time, Tim. Don't let me down.

Rather than wasting your time reading my review, you could just read A.O. Scott's in The New York Times . I basically agree with everything he has to say. Although I disagree that it should be considered a "horror" film. In fact, between Sasha Baron Cohen's cameo and Johnny and Helena's duet about what kind of meat pies to sell, I would be tempted to call it a black comedy. But you know what? It isn't. It's a drama. And it is beautifully done. Tim really knows what's he doing when it comes to cinematography, costumes, and makeup. The film, in its blacks, greys and brilliant reds, is beautiful even when it is ugly.

This is a film about revenge. And revenge, much like the diseases in the Victorian age of London, spreads like a cancer, rendering Johnny Depp almost unrecognizable by the end of the film. (Yes, I suppose his Susan Sontag hair is pushing it in the beginning, but Johnny contorts into such expressions of rage and violence in this film that I was genuinely frightened of him). In fact, he is so blinded by his rage he can't even recognize himself.

I find it interesting that Tim has chosen to make a movie about hate and revenge at this point in his career, when he seems to be riding high, both personally and professionally. But all the same, that's Tim for you. Sweeney Todd is the anti-holiday movie. And for those of us bearing a grudge, I can't think of anything better to recommend than the sight of Johnny Depp, brandishing a razor, bathed in blood.

Tim, you've done it, old chum. Just keep it there, and write some original material. You're still one of the most important American filmmakers.