Monday, August 24, 2009

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned

I wrote a review of Wells Tower's Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, which is a debut collection of short fiction. Have a look, it's over at Identity Theory, a wonderful site for fiction, poetry, and interviews. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Re-blog: How Sloane Peterson from Ferris Bueller's Day Off Taught Me How to be a Good Girlfriend

Hi all. I just had to share this amazing blog entry from "No, they don't let me lick the bowl," in which blogger Laura explains how Sloane from Ferris Bueller can teach us to be better girlfriends. I think it's pretty spot-on, and most of my guy friends (including my man) have agreed. What do you think?

THE GUIDE TO BEING SO CHOICE aka How Sloane Peterson from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Taught me how to be an Awesome Girlfriend.

  • Get along with his friends if you don’t get along with his friends you are done. seriously. That is number 1. Even if you think his friends are uptight weirdos or hypochondriac freaks, HEY, he is friends with them for a reason, so cut the shit. You’ve probably got some weird and crappy friends too…
  • Rein him in, but only when necessary you are his girlfriend, not his mother. If he wants to sing to the city on a giant float, let him do it. He’s a big man and he can deal with the consequences. You can nicely remind him, Look, if you do that there might be trouble, but if you throw a bitch fit and give him the silent treatmeant you will look fucking retarded when he has a new girlfriend on his arm from the impressive stunts he’s pulled.
  • Be funny “He’s licking the glass and making obscene gestures with his hands.” simple as that.
  • Be confident Look, one of the reasons Ferris loved her was because she was cool and classy lady, she didn’t stress. She uttered the words and believed “He’s gonna marry me.” She probably knows if her boyfriend was running through a backyard and saw 2 girls tanning he probably would stop and say hello, but she also knows that he would spend hours of stress and risk his neck to get her out of school to just see her. Relax. You have him. He’s not going anywhere, and if he talks to other girls who the fuck cares YOU are the one he wants to marry.
  • Say Eloquent Shit did Sloane ever use the word “like” as much as you do in your daily conversation? No. Drop the habit that makes you seem like a dumb valley girl and trade it for stellar vocab terms like “warmth & compassion” and “devastatingly handsome.” Once you’ve mastered talking like an adult, you’ll be able to spew pearls of poetry like “The city looks so peaceful from up here…”
  • Pack lightly ever notice how tiny Sloane’s purse was? The bigger the purse, the lamer the girl. Its called baggage for a reason.
  • Be able to keep up with the boys Hey, if you’ve got cramps, take a fucking midol and strap in. You don’t ever wanna be the girlfriend who is a drag and never wants to go out. A girl who can say she cruised with the top down in a convertible, swung by the Stock Exchange, and took in a Cubs game all in one day, is sorta girl who you wanna keep around.
  • Look badass in a jacket with fringe The End.

Monday, August 17, 2009

28 Weeks Later, 2007

1. There's no such thing as rehabilitation after a viral zombie attack.
2. If the government says, "don't go here," you probably should listen.
3. Don't waste your time watching this movie.
4. Watch 28 Days Later instead.
5. Thanks.

I swear to goodness, if I have to watch one more horror movie with the an eye-gouge killing scene, I'll just laugh. It's not impressive anymore. Remember when Cillian Murphy gouged that guy's eyes out in the first 28 Days Later and it was awesome because no one had ever really done that before in a movie? Well, it's been done. And if I have to see it again I'm just going to throw in the towel.

It pains me to write that, because I really love horror movies. I love slasher flicks, suspense films, zombie movies, vampire stuff, the whole thing. But I didn't love this movie. I'll tell you why.

Nobody can catch a break in this movie. It turns out, while London has been secured, the rest of the UK still has zombies breaking into people's barns. Ron and Alice are a couple who somehow were able to ship their children out of England but couldn't get out themselves. When zombies break into the safe house where they're sitting with an elderly couple, a young man, and a single young woman, Ron promptly abandons his wife and runs for it. When his children are shipped back to him (London has been declared safe), he tells them he watched their mother die.

There's nothing subtle about this film. After being attacked by the infected, shot at by the United States Government, attacked again by their own father (who is now one of the infected), lost all the people who have tried to protect them, and rolling down an escalator filled with dead, decaying bodies, the two children who star in this film actually walk towards the light at the end of the subway tunnel.

Essentially the only interesting subtext in this movie is the total and complete breakdown of the nuclear family.
  • Dad leaves Mom to be eaten by zombies
  • Mom isn't really dead, turns out she's immune
  • But she's still a carrier, so she gives virus to Dad
  • Dad kills Mom (eye gouge)
  • Dad tries to kill kids
  • Kids have to kill Dad
  • Can someone give Sophocles a credit line on the DVD?
I could summarize the rest of this thing, but really there's no point. It's fairly grotesque and traumatic. I'm saddened that these two hours could've been spent watching a Von Trier film instead. If the zombies don't bite you, the government snipers will just kill you. They'll kill everything. Is that the point?

28 Days Later
is worlds away by far a superior film. If you haven't seen it, you really should. The best zombie movies (even the oldest, lowest budgets ones) are nuanced in their message. The virus is a metaphor. There is only overbearing imagery here. So we're all gonna die? I appreciate the gesture Mr. Fresnadillo, but DUH.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Moonstruck, 1987

In 1987, I was two years old. But I distinctly remember a cassette tape bearing the image of Cher dancing in front of the Moon being played over and over again in the early years of my life. My mom would say, "Oh, put on Moonstruck!" if she was making Italian food. And on the eight hour long car drive down to visit my Grandfather in Florida, both my Father and Mother would sing along to Dean Martin: When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that's amore!

I've finally just watched the movie for the first time.

First off, John Patrick Shanley wrote this thing? Really? The same guy who's responsible for this clunker? Unbelievable. Moonstruck is a Cinderella story, brimming with life. Loretta's a nice Italian girl, whose husband was struck down by a speeding bus seven years ago. Since she's decided that means she has "bad luck," she settles down into keeping the books at a funeral home, living with her parents, and dating this lame guy named Johnny Cammareri. He's sweet, but she doesn't love him. Johnny proposes marriage, and she accepts. Before he leaves to go see his ailing Mother in Palermo, he asks Loretta to do one thing: invite his younger brother to the wedding, who he hasn't seen in five years due to some "bad blood." She agrees.

It turns out, of course, that Ronny, Johnny's brother, is a "wolf," of a man. (See left). The grudge that he's been carrying against Johnny comes from when he was slicing some bread for Johnny in the slicer, and Johnny distracted him. Ronny lost his hand, and as a result, his girl left him for another man. After grilling him up a steak, Loretta concludes that Ronny's really mad at himself, not his brother. She asks if there's been another woman since the one that left. He asks if there's been another man since her husband died. It's inevitable that there's an explosive connection between the two of them.

It's no surprise that the salon Loretta visits the night before she meets Johnny at the Opera is called the Cinderella salon. And, never having been to the Opera "where's the Met?" Loretta asks, the music of La Bohème is really what seals the deal. (The music from this Opera tends to seal almost everybody's deal). Moonstruck's world is a pseudo New York, where people cheat, but families don't fall apart, people actually enjoy Opera, there's always the same little Italian cafe you can frequent on your block, and men you've just met days prior take you to the Opera and then propose marriage in front of your entire family. It's a romantic comedy.

But with lovely performances by the panther herself, Cher, Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello, and John Mahoney, to mention a few, the film raises itself up over other romantic comedies and becomes one of the most enjoyable movies ever made. It's easy to see why, years after it had premiered in the theaters, my parents wanted to relive the soundtrack in their own lives. Maybe that's why, after all those years of hearing La Bohème, I packed my bags and went off to school to become an Opera singer.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Julie & Julia

Julie & Julia is Nora Ephron's first film since Bewitched, which belly-flopped about four years ago. You may remember Ephron's earlier films more fondly: When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Michael, and You've Got Mail. Julie and Julia is based on a book of the same title by one Julie Powell, a struggling aspiring writer who decided to cook her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and write a blog about her experience. The blog became a book, and Ephron's used Powell's and Child's own memoir, My Life in France, for the material in Julie & Julia.

The resulting film lies somewhere in the netheregion between Biopic and Romantic Comedy. It is delightfully entertaining, with a stand-out performances (as usual) by Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci. I'm yet unconvinced of Amy Adams' talent as an actor. I was very impressed with her first foray onto the Hollywood scene with the little indie that blew up and earned her her first Oscar nomination, Junebug, but I've yet to see her apply herself with the same conviction and energy.

Julie and Julia share a story, according to Ephron, because they were / are both women who were looking for a passion that could turn itself into a career. They felt guilty about their lack of contentment with their lives because they had both married well, and found love, but wanted something more. This is a very feminine condundrum, perhaps less relevant today for women in particular, but certainly relevant to us all in the midst of the most devestating depression since well, the great depression.

Julie's story is less exciting, because her art (writing) is based so largely on Julia Child's story and artistry, that Julie as a character just simply fades as the film goes on. This is not necessarily the fault of anyone, just a matter of fact about the movie's entire premise. But what the film communicates beautifully is a sense of struggle and the hopeful resounding joy of finally succeeding, not at a desk job, not as a wife, but as an artist.

Watching Meryl Streep is like watching a panther stalk its prey in the jungle. She is subtle, effortless, and absolutely stunning. While her characterization at times falls into slapstick and camp, there was certainly an element of camp to the real Julia Child, so it doesn't feel forced. The humanizing moments, when Julia (who after years of trying to get pregnant had given up) receives a letter from her sister announcing she's expecting, breaks down in the kitchen, proclaiming, "I'm so happy!" through her tears, brought me to tears in seconds flat.

Never, perhaps, in my life, have I seen marriage depicted as such a positive relationship than in this film. I mean this, I think, as a compliment. There are lots of kisses in this movie. These are happy happy marriages. And while Ephron tries to throw in a spat between Julie and her husband, it feels rigid and strange. I can't remember the last time a director tried to convince his or her audience that marriage is a good idea. So, kudos, then, to Ephron. Love is real.

The real love affair, of course, is between these women and their passion: Julie's writing and Julia's cooking. In their worlds, the process eventually brings them to fulfillment. And then they've got it all: the career they want and a loving partner. So why do I sound skeptical? Maybe I am. There's a scene when Julia finally gets a letter of acceptance from Knopf for her cookbook. She immediately calls out to Paul, and bounces around her front porch with joy. This is it. This is the big moment. I suppose I just feel little jealous: I want the same thing for myself, to be able to call out to my partner and say, "Here it is, finally, look, I've done it, and all the meltdowns and all your support was worth it!" Until then, this film reminds us that we've got to focus on the day to day, and the little joys about finding the big kahuna.

The Challenge.

A.O. Scott, New York Times Film Critic

Dear Readers,

Inspired by my latest movie-going experience, Julie & Julia, (which I hope to review tonight or tomorrow), I hereby promise you and myself that I will write 200+ words on this blog about every single film I see, no matter the venue, no matter how Oscar worthy, or terrible the flick, I will review it here for you.

Starting today, Monday, August 10th, 2009.

Do I hear a "hell yes" ?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


I frequently transfer trains from Brooklyn (the L train) to the uptown 2/3 in an underground tunnel. There is always the same man there playing "Yesterday" on the guitar. He is, frankly, not a very talented guitar player nor a very good singer, and I have never heard him play any other song.

Today, he was strumming along as I passed by. There was a large group of small children, all dressed in the same color yellow t-shirt, presumably in summer camp, waiting for the second half of their party to get on the train to Brooklyn. As soon as I passed them, they began to sing along with the guitar guy: thirty kids, all under the age of ten, just singing "Yesterday" in the subway, totally unprompted, completely spontaneous.

This is just one of those New York moments.

And then, I come home to this message in my in-box from a college friend I lost touch with:


It has been a very very long time, but I just have to tell you that I’ve read several of your book reviews on Bookslut and I think you are just fabulous. After forwarding your Twilight review to nearly every female I know, I would feel remiss not to let you know how favorably the article has been received (“Hilarious” and “so valid,” being the most common remarks).

Anyway, I hope you keep writing. You certainly have a new fan in St. Louis.


It's been a nice day.