Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bye bye, Miss American Pie

I've decided to post this now to see just how/if my mind changes come November. As it happens, the political stalemate that has been going about my head over the last few months has finally been decided in one direction.

I had been a Richardson fan since he announced his candidacy. Forget the fact that he's Latin (which I was drawn to): I honestly found him with both the most extensive track record on foreign policy of the bunch, not to mention one of the few that was a governor and therefore had experience running a state. I still think it's a shame he didn't catch any fire. Since he bowed out, I've been trying to figure out who I might fall behind: Clinton or Obama? (I didn't like Edwards the first time around and there's no reason to think I might be a fan this time.)

The two had been running neck and neck in my head until yesterday, when I read my good friend Marcy's posting on her blog about what has been happening in Michigan. The national media (OK, NPR, which is all I listen to) hasn't really been discussing the issue and, indeed, it may seem like a minor one. And yet, as Marcy so aptly points out, the notion of trying to pander to Florida voters and working to try to back-end her way into the Dem nomination is one taken "by a reckless person who put herself above the larger good."

And you know, I've had enough with eight years of that kind of attitude in a president who thinks they are bigger than they are.

Therefore, count me squarely in Obama's camp. I had been impressed anyway by how he has so effectively galvanized the young people of this country into getting something done; I hope they can keep the momentum going to actually elicit some -- dare I use the c-word? oh fine -- change.

Mind you, this all depends on what will happen on the other side as well. If Obama gets the dem nomination, I'm likely to vote that way no matter what; if Romney, Huckabee or Giuliani make it on the other side, I'll also vote dem no matter who the nominee is. If my choices are Clinton and McCain, however, at this point I imagine I'll have some serious thinking to do.

(All this written on the eve that, of all things, Obama is coming for a big rally at AU tomorrow -- complete with Caroline and Edward Kennedy providing their endorsement on campus. They will be about 100 feet or so from my office... except I won't be there, because tomorrow I have a day's training as an election judge for our own primary in a few weeks. Given that Maryland, Virginia and DC follow Sooper Dooper Toosday, I'm not sure our votes are really going to count for a ton, but still, it's my civic duty. And, given what happened last time I worked a primary, perhaps it's good that I go. Still, woulda been nice to finally attend a political rally, which I've actually never done, and one where I could bring my coffee mug and not have to put on a coat! Sigh.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

"You know something? You read too many comic books."

Because we are so very hip and cool, Angela and I often spend Saturday evenings sussing out what WETA, one of the local PBS stations is going to play as the classic movie of the evening. Having done a bit of work today, I thought I'd check out what was playing. Maybe it would be something good.

Today: Rebel without a Cause.

Oh, man.

I really love this movie. I have seen Rebel at least a dozen times, probably more. Sure, I own a copy. Many who know me know that I happen to also be somewhat obsessed with James Dean, primarily from this movie. (OK: entirely from this movie, since I only saw Giant about six months ago.) In many ways, it's incredibly hokey, so thoroughly entrenched in 50s teenspeak that it's a relic. I am so terrified that my students will make fun of the movie that I have yet to show it for a full class screening in the seven years I have been teaching movies.

And yet, Rebel is a thrilling portrait of the self-absorbed nature of teenage life, when even the most minor things are so darn IMPORTANT, that the world is just plain over. ("That's the edge. That's the end.") This, despite the fact that everyone -- including, I think, the characters themselves -- realizes that these are simply spoiled kids attempting to react, to respond to suburban ennui. Like so many of the melodramas of the period, Rebel is completely earnest in how it presents everything: the trauma, the drama is so real. In many ways, the film should still resonate; in 1955, during the age of Levittown when the United States is just coming to terms with this decade-and-a-half-old concept of "adolescence," this must have been like a bomb. It is also no wonder that the film critics from the 60s (at Cahiers in France, at Hablemos de cine in Peru, all over) went ga-ga over the film and its thrilling cornucopia of cinematic details: the intensity of that impossibly red jacket; the mixture of disdain and eroticism when Buzz takes Jim's cigarette from his mouth; the wonderful canted camera as Plato goes down for the last time; the truly terrifying light show at the planetarium (evocatively reflecting contemporary fear of "the Bomb") turning into a playful, almost water-like dance on Jim's face toward the end (see top photo); Nick Ray's brilliant use of Cinemascope from the opening credits when Jim is sprawled across the entire screen. (Yes, I walked out of a screening at the Michigan Theater in the mid-90s when it wasn't presented in widescreen format. Thanks, DFS, for turning me into a film snob.)

And oof, James Dean: has there ever been a more visceral character on screen than Jim Stark? This still below highlights a fascinating moment in the film: right after the chickee run where "a boy died" and right before Jim confronts his parents in the most animalistic way, Jim has a quiet moment where he enters though the back door, opens the icebox, takes a long swig of milk, then rubs the cool glass bottle on his forehead. Did I say that this is quiet? Not quite: Dean offers this moment a subtle tautness, reeking of desperation, emblazoning the moment with the contradictions that make up Jim Stark's life. Check out the mise-en-scene: Ray's choice of positioning the milk on the screen works in opposition to The Red Jacket, both played out vertically on screen, but interrupted by that supple, yet nervous face. No wonder boys and girls alike fell in love with him. Dean himself would be stupidly dead before it would be seen (and yes, I realize that's why he fascinates), but the performance bites, even in the scenes where he doesn't caterwaul -- which, of course, he also does.

This is the first in a new, infrequent series of cinematic gushing, inspired by and hopefully resonant with the work of the old-school French film critics who tended to just gush about their favorite movies. Tell me what you think -- and if I should continue, heh heh.

It came from beneath

I came home last night and Xan had gone to bed not long before. "Go say hi," Angela offered. "He's got to still be awake."

I went in his room. The covers, which usually I find tossed aside haphazardly, are this time over his face. I bend over to check him out.

Very slowly, the covers are pulled down by forces underneath them. A grin lies underneath. "I'm sleeping," he whispers.

"No, you're not," I laugh. "Not if you can tell me that you are."

"I'm sleeping," he repeats with the biggest grin, then slowly covers his face once again.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

This just in

TAKOMA PARK, MD. (AP) -- A local boy tried to get out of bed early last week when reports indicate that he was suddenly hit with what has been called a "sleep attack." Alexander, 2, was apparently caught by the attack in mid-escape, leaving him dangling off his bed. "I don't know how he does that," his father said, "but then again I also don't understand how he can fall asleep with his butt in the air either."

Attempts to wake the child were quickly quashed; attempts to quash giggles were not as successful.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Getting schooled

The scene: A few days before we take down the Christmas tree, I wander by. Xan is sitting on top of the leather Peruvian poof thang that we have; Angela is sitting cross-legged next to him. I notice that he has the book 500 Words to Grow On in his hand.

X: Dada, come!
J: What are you doing?
X: Sit in the circle, Dada.
J looks at A quizzically.
A: Storytime circle.
J [recognizing this as a school activity]: Oh! Right. Sorry. [sits]
X [approximating reading from a book]: OK, guys, this is an apple can y'all say "apple"?
J/A: Apple.
X: Very good, guys.
J [to A, aside]: "Y'all"? Who says that?
A [to J, aside]: Maybe from one of the work study students?
X: OK, guys. This is a cake can y'all say "cake"?
J/A: Cake.
X: Very good.
J [getting up]: I need a picture of this for the blog.
X [suddenly agitated]: No no, Dada! You need to sit down! It's circle time!
J grabs camera and quickly sits back down.
J [sheepish]: Sorry.
X: That's OK. OK, guys, this is a dinosaur can you say "dinosaur"?
J/A: Dinosaur.
X: Very good. And this is [eyeing a page full of colored crayons] redorangeyellowgreenbluepurplegraybrownblackaaaaandblack. Can you say redorangebluegreenblackwhitepurplewhitebrowngray?

Last night, there were more lessons. When he was born, the illustrious Julie Full Fare sent him a Green Eggs and Ham plate and cup set, the former of which has a saying from the book printed on it. "What's this, Daddy? asks this child, pointing to a word. (A note: "What's this?" is the question of the month and can apply to anything, kind of like we assume "Why?" is with most kids a little later on. Thanks to my sister-in-law's impishness over Christmas, I occasionally reply, "It's a pumpkin," just to keep him on his toes.) (Note to Julie: did you get our gift?)

I look at the word. "It spells Y-O-U. That spells 'you.'"

He looks at it. Looks back at me like I'm an idiot. "No, Daddy. X-A-N spells me. What does this spell?" And with that, the smacking of Dada's forehead continued.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Best Supporting Actress, Class of 2007: Tabu

I have seen so few movies in theaters this year and, admittedly, many of them just happen to have great male supporting roles but not so many female ones. Really, I'm a huge fan of Cate Blanchett's turn in I'm Not There, even if I'm not that much of a fan of the film -- but that would be too easy. I also really enjoyed Kelly MacDonald's turn in No Country for Old Men, but that could have something to do with the accent.

The Namesake, however, seems to hinge on the character of Ashima, both in terms of the chronology which really begins and ends with her, and in terms of the narrative structure, since she really is the character that holds it together. And, though she is very well known in India, her presence in Nair's film is refreshing, yet grounded. Plus, as can be seen above, she can pull off girlish rebellion while wearing her future husband's spats. It's not quite the lead role in this very ensemble film, but it's the linchpin and the performance sticks.

For these reasons and more, I submit my candidate for Best Supporting Actress 2007: Tabu.

This entry is part of the 2nd Annual Supporting Actress Blogathon -- please feel free to visit the other sites on the list, since I know for sure they have probably seen more films than I have and the list is always fun and varied

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

¡Feliz año de la papa!

That's right, folks. If you didn't know, it is now the Year of the Potato. Like my family, the potato comes from Peru. This must mean I'll be making more causa limeña, which I've been making fairly often these days. Perhaps because it's so yummy. Mmm.

Oh yes, Happy New Year as well.