Thursday, February 25, 2010

Shutter Island

Props to Scorsese's legal team, because I Google-searched for a total of three minutes before I became exhausted for a photo of Michelle Williams in Shutter Island. This was really the only one I could find, which is a damn shame, because her part in the film happens to be the most beautiful and compelling.

It's alright, I understand why there aren't any photos: this is a twist-ending movie based on the twist-ending book by Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River. If everyone was allowed to post stills willy-nilly on Google, well then, what fun would the movie be?

The answer is, it's still fun, regardless of whether you know the twist ending (I called it on Twitter about a month ago) or not. Shutter Island is Scorsese's attempt at film noir. Unfortunately, for him and for us, he ends up closer to M. Night Shyamalan than to Hitchock.

Teddy, played by a beefy Leonardo DiCaprio, and his partner Chuck, the dreamy Mark Ruffalo, are called to Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of patient Rachel Salando. Of course, by the time they get there, it becomes obvious that Teddy has bigger problems than finding Rachel. For one thing, he's wracked with anxiety and flashbacks to his tour in Germany during WWII, and visions of his wife, who died in a fire in their apartment.

Most of these flashback scenes are the reason to see this film - visually stunning, eerie and gorgeous, Michelle Williams (in a beautiful yellow house dress evocative of her Vera Wang at the Oscars with Heath) seems to get more and more beautiful as the years go by. It's no wonder these scenes are the ones that appear in the trailer. And DiCaprio does a pretty good job at playing tortured. That said, I will still never be able to see him as a man. Every time I look at him, I see this:

That said, after the twist, Leo's brutish performance morphs into something remarkable. The same goes for Ruffalo, who, after a simple costume change, becomes a completely different person. The other actors, who are so talented that their supporting-status in this film is practically insulting, Ben Kingsley and Max von Sydow, seem to be playing down to the nature of the film. It's jarring - but appearances by Emily Mortimer and Jackie Earle Haley round out the ensemble.

Unfortunately, the stylistic music just gets annoying as hell, and the jumpy, black-out mental institution prison hallways are a bit much. This film houses none of the suspense of Taxi Driver or even The Departed (please, I don't expect Taxi Driver every time). Sadly (and predicatably) WWII is used solely for shock-value. Overall, there's too much silliness here for the film to get visceral. It's not a complete failure, but it is a failure, I think, for Marty Scorsese. Or perhaps this just isn't his genre.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tell 'em how you feel girls

My apologies for the delay on the blog - I headed home to Georgia to wish my mom a Happy Birthday in person and to see my brother who's home from Tokyo on his winter break. I'm back in New York now, back at work, getting adjusting to the full-time job schedule and writing my book in my spare time.

I've been thinking a lot about women lately - specifically women's bodies. Christina Hendricks (Joan on Mad Men) has been in the news lately after Cathy Horyn from the New York Times called her "not pretty" and a "big girl." Later the Times also admitted to stretching their photo of Hendricks arriving at the Golden Globes. Pretty despicable behavior from a reputable news source. Christina is the cover girl for New York magazine's fashion issue - and in it she says she's tired of all the talk about her weight.

The "infamous" Golden Globes dress
fuck you Cathy Horyn I'd like to see you pull this off

Supermodel Lara Stone (one of my personal favorites) recently told the press "People tell me I'm fat, but when I look in the mirror, that's not what I see." No shit! Lara's maybe one of the most gorgeous women on the planet, a throw-back to Bardot, a size four (!!!!) with one of the tightest, hottest bods and the most beautiful boobs in the fashion industry. But because of the pressure on her to lose weight, she developed an addiction to pills and alcohol. Now, thankfully, she's healthy and sober.

If this is fat, I fucking give up

I, too, have struggled with my weight, just like every woman does. I gained quite a bit in college because I had really unhealthy eating habits (a pint of ice cream practically every night - and I never thought twice about eating fried food and Taco Bell) I never exercised and I was depressed because I was in a toxic relationship. Now, I try to stay away from fast food, I've sworn off soda completely and I avoid fried foods (but I still eat french fries - a girl has to live man). Aside from the obvious goal of just being healthy, I want to feel good in my own body. I want to feel comfortable no matter what I'm wearing. I love clothes and I love fashion and I need for my clothes to fit properly. I try to get to the gym as much as I can, but by no means am I a compulsive exerciser. It's hard to find the time. But I'll be the first to admit living in New York has put much more pressure on me to lose weight and to be thin.

Lady Gaga has a song on her new album called "Dancer in the Dark," about a girl who feels good about herself until her boyfriend tells her she's a "mess"

Some girls won’t dance to the beat of the track
She won’t walk away

But she won’t look back

She looks good

But her boyfriend says
she’s a mess
She’s a mess She’s a mess
Now the girl is stressed

She’s a mess
. . .

Baby loves to dance in the dark

‘Cuz when he’s lookin’ She falls apart
Baby loves to dance in the dark (Tellem’, girls)
. . .




Tellem’ how you feel girls!

Work your blonde (Jean) Benet Ramsey

We’ll haunt like liberace

Find your freedom in the music

Find your jesus

Find your kubrick

You will never fall apart
Diana, you’re still in our hearts
Never let you fall apart

Together we’ll dance in the dark

Now, okay. Just reading these lyrics you may think "huh?" Has Jessica lost her mind? But, seriously. I want to say, thank you, Gaga, for writing an electro dance song that's about body image. I think this is an incredible feat - and on top of it, she's managed to reference (the female icons) and encourage a sense of female community - "together we'll dance in the dark." On top of it all, Dance in the Dark is a genius pop song, appropriate for dancing.

Gaga wants you to love yourself

Gaga knows what's it's like to be insulted for her looks - a google search will turn up "Gaga . . . Butterface . . . Hermaphrodite." Her entire gig is about individuality and wearing / doing whatever makes you happy - not to attract a man, but rather to push the envelope of what's considered sexual - isn't confidence and happiness the most attractive thing after all?

Christina Hendricks isn't the first gorgeous woman with big, beautiful breasts and hips. Not only that, Hendricks has the most beautiful complexion I've ever seen - and green eyes and red hair to top it all off. Sure, she's a different shape than the female starts we're used to seeing - and I think that's great. People come in all different sizes. Some are healthy, some aren't. The emphasis on weight, the pressure that women undergo every day to be thin whether they're in the spotlight or not, continues to be a lethal issue. It is literally a battle of life and death. So I'd like to encourage everyone, especially women, to stand behind each other, to defend each other, love your bodies and take good care of them. They belong to you. The minute you let someone else tell you what to do with your body, you're in the danger zone.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Candor Magazine

Shirley Jackson wants you to submit to CANDOR!

You may remember my call for submissions last year for my lit magazine, Candor.

Well, we launched the first issue and I'd love to extend the call for submissions once again to you, dear readers. This time I'm opening up the entry to men, too! So please feel free to post this anywhere, or forward on to your friends.

The theme for the upcoming issue is "gaiety."

We accept fiction, non-fiction, essays, and reviews. See all guidelines here. Send pieces to

I look forward to reading your work!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Dilettantsia's 2010 Oscar Predictions

Who's sorry now?

Let's face it: It's going to be a showdown between Avatar and The Hurt Locker. Kathryn Bigelow's already won the Director's Guild Award, which basically means if she doesn't win best director at the Oscars, hell will freeze over.

I'm afraid the Academy will pull another Crash / Brokeback Mountain on us and give Best Picture to Cameron and Best Director to Bigelow.

Full disclosure: I have not seen The Hurt Locker because I was broke as hell over the summer and I've tried to reserve it on DVD but it's impossible to get. So basically I'll be downloading it on iTunes for like ten million dollars because I support women filmmakers. It is near to impossible to get a film made as a female director (sorry, it's just the truth, it's an ugly world) and I would love to see Kathryn Bigelow win.

Also, yes, I concede that the technology in Avatar is mind-blowing or whatever, but the writing is shit and everyone knows it.

Best Picture
“The Blind Side”
“District 9″
“An Education”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
“A Serious Man”
“Up in the Air”

Best Direction
“Avatar” — James Cameron
“The Hurt Locker” — Kathryn Bigelow
“Inglourious Basterds” — Quentin Tarantino
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” — Lee Daniels
“Up in the Air” — Jason Reitman

Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney in “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth in “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”

Jeff Bridges is like the pretend un-sung hero of Hollywood. Which is bullshit, because everyone worships him for being "The Dude" from The Big Lebowski. That said, he hasn't really won any major accolades (although god knows he's been nominated ten thousand times) until Crazy Heart, so I think he'll get the golden statue.

Actress in a Leading Role
Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”
Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia”

I don't think the academy will give another statue to Meryl. Also there's been so much hype surrounding Sandra Bullock never winning anything and her heartfelt speeches at the Critics' and The Golden Globes make her kind of a darling for the win.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Matt Damon in “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”

Christoph Waltz was fantastic in this film and basically stole show from everyone. This is a no-brainer.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Penélope Cruz in “Nine”
Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air”
Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart”
Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Also a no-brainer. I don't think Mo'Nique has any competition whatsoever.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
“District 9” — Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
“An Education” — Screenplay by Nick Hornby
“In the Loop” — Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” — Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
“Up in the Air” — Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

Everyone loves this stupid movie, and I don't know why. The fact that it's been nominated for major awards makes it sort of competitive in the Best Picture category, but the Cameron/Bigelow head-to-head is just better. As amends, I think the academy will give best writing to Reitman.

Writing (Original Screenplay)
“The Hurt Locker” — Written by Mark Boal
“Inglourious Basterds” — Written by Quentin Tarantino
“The Messenger” — Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
“A Serious Man” — Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“Up” — Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

Obviously. No contest.

Animated Feature Film
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
“The Princess and the Frog”
“The Secret of Kells”

Duh! Everyone loves Pixar like it's crack-cocaine. Coraline really should win, but it won't.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Fruits of Labor Linkage

Charlotte Gainsbourg is the nicest, chicest person in the world; check out my interview with her as proof.

I reviewed Joshua Ferris' new novel, The Unnamed, for Time Out New York.

Finally, I got all boy-crazy at This Recording.

In further news, I just finished We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, thus cementing her as one of my favorite authors of all time.