Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cinematic Homonyms #1: Cherry Valance

It's time to play everyone's new favorite game: Cinematic Homonyms! I provide you with two characters with the same name and you tell me what you think of them, which one you prefer and how they might relate.

Today's entry (inspired by my showing Red River today): Cherry Valance

#1: Cherry Valance in Red River (D: Howard Hawks, 1948), played by John Ireland

#2: Cherry Valance in The Outisders (1983, D: Francis Ford Coppola), played by Diane Lane:
Personally, I think S.E. Hinton chose wisely in terms of naming her dreamy-eyed Oklahoma redhead Cherry in the novel. As played by Lane, the connection becomes very clear. The fun part is seeing what this does to the other characters, as she only have googly eyes for Dally/Matt Dillon, the same way that the original Cherry only had eyes for Matt/Montgomery Clift, which makes a very appropriate analogy. The RR still above is striking upon multiple viewings, since Ireland really only once looks away from Clift once during this speech. (And I'm not even getting into the gun showing scene. I mean, really.)

Anyway, which one do you prefer? And do you think they'd enjoy going out for sushi together? What do you think?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

¡Three, Amigos!

The buds are coming out, it's just starting to finally warm up more regularly and college basketball is in full force. Which means that, once again, someone has had a birthday. Xan turned three today, which seems unfathomable to me -- and apparently to him, as well. (More on that in a moment.)

First, what has now become a birthday tradition. Here is Xan three years ago, pretty much to the minute:
At age one:Age two:And, this year, at age 3:

It seems that the one consistent thing about Xan's birthday is that we all desperately need a haircut around this time. Someone has certainly learned how to ham it up in front of the camera now, even pulling out a good "cheeeeese" when necessary. Even wrapped in a towel, he can turn on the charisma.

Naturally, it wouldn't have been his birthday without cake. Or, as it was, cakes.

This year, we decided to use "trains" as a birthday theme, considering his obsession with them. You will note that this year's cake is actually made up of seven little cakes, all laid out on chocolate train tracks. You may remember last year's cake madness; this year, I joined the madness by being in charge of the tracks, realized that I didn't like it plain like that and added the "grass" with colored white chocolate. Please note that the cake pictured above was actually the second cake of its kind today -- and it's not even the "real party" cake, which will come when we have his friends over on Saturday. That will be an even more impressive feat. Yes, we are that mad about cake.

And just in case you think there's no "party madness" this year, please note the following picture, with an anonymous woman in the background who thought that making trains out of cardboard boxes would be simple.

(We would be gunning for crazy party parents of the year but, alas, that honor has been claimed by someone looking for her cake... er, cape.)

Happy birthday, kiddo.

Friday, March 14, 2008

My school spirit goes to 11

Seven years ago, when I first got to AU as a sabbatical replacement, the men's basketball team was on the verge of entering the hallowed March Madness dance. They had played wonderfully well, the clear favorite as they played the final game in the Patriot League against Holy Cross. They had not been beaten. Life was good. ESPN was coming to campus. There was an air of destiny.

I wanted them to lose so very badly.

Why the ire? For one thing, all the voice-mail messages. There were about three-per-day on my machine, popping up randomly before I could delete them. I've also never been a sport guy and, after Dartmouth, I really haven't developed any sense of school spirit around athletics. If I never went to a football game when I lived in Ann Arbor, you know that I'm not the athletics kinda guy. Seven years ago, I went to the pep rally (seemingly odd in this non-football school) with my teaching assistant, Stephen; both of us dressed in black and raised our pom-poms with a disaffected lower-case "rah" when they told us to cheer. I went home and was thrilled when the team lost, because that meant the hullabaloo was over.

Seven years later, the school is poised again. This time, I became aware of it when they started talking about in on NPR as the school to look out for. Uh-oh, I thought, here we go again. This time, it's against Colgate, but there is a rally planed this afternoon and tickets are available.

Here's the difference: I actually care this time. I want them to win. Perhaps this is due to the fact that I've had athletes in my classes on several occasions -- including the entire men's freestyle swim team for a whole year in two films classes. (I referred to them as a group as "da boyz.") Maybe I'm developing school spirit after all.

Or maybe it's that I can finally have a reason to have a public screening of This Is Spinal Tap. Since there is, miraculously, a connection:

UPDATE -- Oh my God: they did it!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In Bed with Middento

I recently pointed out to one of my classes that movies are not always released with the same titles everywhere else in the world. In some cases, it's because the significance of the title simply does not translate. Case in point: Madonna: Truth or Dare, which could not be released elsewhere with this title because, funny enough, the "fun party game" is only immediately recognizable in this country. Everywhere else (and this is how it was translated into other languages), the film was titled In Bed with Madonna.

These days, in case you'd like to know, this is what I am often In Bed with:

A. One Tigeroo. Still #1 favorite friend for almost three years now, although these days he apparently also "likes" to be squished all the way into a square basket about half his size.

B. Cool books for me to check out, often placed near or under my pillow. I came to bed at 3:00AM the other night and slammed my head down on this. (It's a hardcover.) (UPDATED NOTE: Item labeled "E" points out that I am actually the one who put said book in that location. This does not change the fact that I think the person who put it there is a bone-brain.)

C. (1) A train of cars, because anything put together in a row can be a train. (Can anyone guess the theme of this year's birthday party? Heck, at least this year we thought about it at least a week before his birthday, which is pretty good for us.) Making trains with trucks brings the best of two worlds together. Lately, the trucks are especially a good thing if accompanied by a (2) squished Mandy. This is easily #2 fave friend, but lately she has also been good to (a) stomp on, (b) rock over with the rocking horse, or (c) roll over with anything with wheels. On the plus side, he usually indicates that this makes her cry and comforts her accordingly. (On the minus side, he often announces that he's going to squish her and make her cry with particular glee. Perhaps it's not a bad thing we don't have another kid yet.)

D. Pizza. Apparently, my side of the bed is something like an oven,, because someone puts the pizza there to cook on a nearly daily basis. Please note its placement under the sheets: this is important, otherwise "the pizza won't cook right." It is usually forgotten there until I try to crawl into bed, so I can slam my knee on it before slamming my head on the book.

E. The Logic Puzzler. Most likely, I do not actually go to bed with the logic puzzles, but I do know that this person tends to be there when I head to bed... Wait a second, I've clearly been staying up much too late these days trying to get work done. Who is this? Do I know this person? How did I get here? Am I in another part of the world?....

Sunday, March 09, 2008

On Eduardo Noriega

This weekend was the SCMS annual conference, held this year in Philadlephia. I have had the good fortune to be able to present at the conference every year (except 2000) and it regularly becomes the energizing academic force for me every year. This year, blogging came into play as well: I have recently read about bloggers meeting other bloggers but hadn't done that myself until Stinkylulu sent me an email asking if we should meet while at SCMS -- and suddenly, I realized that several of the film blogs I've been lurking around were also written by young film nerds academics like me! It was a blast meeting Lulu and Nick (and QTA, whose own blog is now defunct because of silly pressures like having to write one's dissertation and all). Plus, I went to a couple panels directly related to blogging on films, so we'll see how this affects this space as well. (Although Nick and Lulu both said that the Xan-pics need to keep coming as well.)

My own paper was for a panel on the relationship between contemporary Latin American cinema and Ibermedia, the most prominent funding source for Latin American filmmaking, which happens to be located in Spain. The panel was great: one person wrote about the program itself, I gave some ideological implications resulting from the growing dependence on Ibermedia within Latin America, and a third offered a somewhat anthropological glimpse as an insider on a movie funded by Ibermedia. We had a robust crowd with over a half hour of questions (unheard of!) and a number of compliments after we broke.

And, of course, this meant that I talked a little about Eduardo Noriega.

You may or may not know that I am teaching a course on Stardom this semester and I am always tempted to discuss him because he fascinates me. He actually has made a number of films, of which I have seen four: Alejandro Amenábar's Tesis and Abre los ojos (Open Your Eyes), Guillermo del Toro's El espinazo del diablo (The Devil's Backbone) and Marcelo Piñeyro's Plata quemada (Burnt Money). With those heavy eyebrows and strong facial features, he's natural hunk hunk burning movie-starness; what fascinates me is how these four films (a) know that and (b) subsequently twist the characters around how smoldering he is. In all of these films, he is either crazy or a murderer or both -- and yet somehow the viewer wants to let him off the hook anyway because he's, ya know, hot. Amenábar in particular uses him in this way, particularly as he is paired with phenomenal character actor Fele Martínez, who conspicuously plays the normal (read: not hot, but also not crazy) guy in both of those films. Angela and I talked once about how the relative hotness of an actor often helps us identify with a character quicker and easier, justifying decisions like casting Jennifer Connelly in House of Sand and Fog for a character who was originally plain and dumpy. (Christian Metz would, I imagine, have quite the field day with this idea. But I digress.)

My paper, however, was not about Noriega's hotness (which is what I would talk about if and when I bring him up in class this semester) but rather his Spanish-ness. The image above comes from Plata quemada, which is actually an Argentine-Spanish co-production. While that production certainly gained cachet by casting Noriega after his performance in the break-out international hit Abre los ojos, doing so also slightly changed the narrative since the script (and novel) is based on a true story about two Argentines. My paper talked about his inclusion as such and the implications of diluting national cinematic identity when you throw a random Spaniard in a main role.

Naturally, I waited until the very last minute to finish my paper, which means I finished it very early Saturday morning before the presentation that afternoon. When I checked into my hotel, I had asked if there was a place to print nearby. They happily assured me that I could print there. Great, I thought, I'll just print it, grab something for breakfast and run to the first panel. Alas, when I came down to print, I discovered that the internal server was down and I wouldn't be able to print from the regular terminals -- but that there was one behind the front desk that I could print from.

It was only after I begun that I realized I was printing on the slowest printer ever. My 12-page document took 40 minutes to print. I was kicking myself.

Here's where things get a little spooky. While waiting for the interminable print job, I tried to find the printer application so that I could speed things up. In the process, I opened up the "Recent documents" drop-down menu. Clearly, whoever had used the computer before had been viewing some -- ahem -- naughty pictures of a sort, given some of the random document names that I saw on the list. While amusing, I would otherwise not note this -- except that smack in the middle of the list, I saw the name "eduardonoriega.jpg."

Now how weirdly coincidental is that? I'm printing a paper referencing this guy on the same computer that rather recently someone else is apparently ogling him -- which I guess only proves my original claim above, that he's a hunka hunka burning movie star. I think that for the next conference I go to, I'll try writing about some other semi-obscure randomly attractive actors that I like -- Emily Watson, Ricardo Darín, Shohreh Aghdashloo, maybe Maggie Cheung? -- to see if other hotel computers can be made to bend to my whim even before I arrive. (Or maybe I should just try to channel this to happen again. Because if they all show up at my hotel at the same time... well, I might just pass out in cinematic apoplexy.)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Li'l Devil

No news, frantically trying to finish up manuscript/SCMS paper/grading before Thursday. But I couldn't let this photo go by, which Angela took at breakfast and which I completely love. Yes, it does appear as if we have an honest-to-goodness boy on our hands.