Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Aughts, to be in pictures

Ten years ago on New Year's Eve, I remember working at this family restaurant in Pacific Grove, California, where my wife-of-less-than-a-year came specifically to bring me to the rocks by the beach so that we could watch the world end.

Remember, of course, that the end of the last decade was also the end of the millenium, and that this would cause all our computers to go back to 1900, and then we would all be plunged into the dark ages, and chaos and, well, yes. Prince had, after all, warned us that the end was then. So, in the immortal words of the Kitchens of Distinction, what happens now?

Lots of film folks are weighing in with their best-o'-the-aughts, none better in my opinion than Nick, who has a wildly and wonderfully eclectic list with morsels of information indicating why he likes them. Given that we had some free time coming home this last weekend whilst driving on the Delaware Turnpike Parking Lot, I mused upon what my own list would look like. Unlike any other film person writing right now, however, I cannot claim that I have seen a gargantuan number of movies this decade, what with the arrival of a job, a child, a book and tenure (in that order) over the last few years. (This is why I like Nick's list, since it provides a checklist of the most tantalizingly raised foie gras as well as the funkiest salted popcorn.) My own preference for certain kinds of movies therefore warps this list considerably; that there are fewer that come at the end of the decade is also no surprise, given that I have seen fewer films as the decade went on. Yet these, a baker's dozen, happen to be the movies that stick in my head, which is the greatest praise I can think of:
  • Brokeback Mountain (2005): When we first saw this movie at Telluride, Angela and I were a little underwhelmed; rumored even then to be the break-out hit of the year, we thought it a bit slow and Heath Ledger a bit... well, mumbly. We admitted at the time that it could have been simply because it was the fifth movie of the day, and that we were damn tired. Years have passed, the hype is over, the Oscar lost, the actor buried -- and still, the movie has a haunting lilt for me. I have since taught the film as a wonderful exercise in adaptation, given that Ang Lee imbues the spaces in Proulx's story with a delicate hand.
  • Donnie Darko (2001): This movie may be a one-hit wonder for Richard Kelly, who has not really done anything as mystifying as his debut -- but, oh, what an experience. I honestly think my feelings for this movie are more for how I saw it than the movie itself: after the slow boil at midnight screenings, I caught this with a graduate student at a midnight screening at the now-defunct Visions Theater while my wife was out of town. Baffled yet mesmerized by the movie, we realized that this one merited some discussion -- but I had to run to catch the last bus back to Glover Park. The grad students begged me to go for coffee -- and I suddenly realized that yes, indeed, I could stay out late! The conversations that the movie engendered were generally thrilling, with all sorts of viewers postulating about what the giant rabbit torturing Jake Gyllenhaal might mean; that alone makes it one of the most thrilling movie experiences of the decade. I saw the subsequent "Director's Cut" once, and never again: his clarifying his own film made me like it far less, and I much prefer the ambiguous original release.
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004): I notice that my list is terribly romantic, which amuses me given my own penchant for dark material. Sunshine, however, was irresistible from the get-go, combining the melancholy/beautiful nature of love with the wacky/ordinary nature of a small company erasing memories for those who want it. (That the pic is set in Rockville Centre, next to my hometown of Baldwin, is a bonus.) Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey are delights playing against type -- and against each other -- and the doomed couple, and the movie looks dirty/lovely throughout, with Gondry realizing that the most powerful way to use technology is to make it look ordinary.
  • Hable con ella (2002): This would probably be my pick if I had to only list one favorite: Almodóvar's engrossing love story that focuses, oddly enough for him, on men. I am a huge fan of the Spaniard (heck, I taught a course on him), and this movie cemented the deal for me (even though I really love Todo sobre mi madre and La mala educación -- which I didn't get at first, and now also totally enthralls me). I love the ethical strings this movie pulls at (what do you make of an otherwise nice guy who suddenly does something morally reprehensible -- and what then, when that act results in something positive?), and the movie is fun to teach to freshmen, who otherwise like their movies black-and-white, at least when it comes to good-and-bad. The performances throughout the film are matched by the multiple performances within the film: Caetano Veloso singing a hreatbreaking version of "Cucurrucú, paloma"; and the two dances that bookend the film so beautifully.
  • In the Mood for Love (2000): Peoplse who know my taste in movies know that I am all about sumptuous atmosphere with many layers to them. (This list only proves that point, I think.) Of the list, however, Wong Kar-Wai's sumptuous love letter to Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and the six thousand dresses that she wears throughout the film also has a complex love story to boot. The scene where they confront (and confirm for) each other that their spouses are having an affair, set to Nat King Cole singing in Spanish, is one of my favorite scenes in film.
  • Madeinusa (2006): So over the last decade, I happened to write a book about Peruvian cinema and all -- and yet this film only got one line in the whole tome. I agreed to lead a discussion about this film, sight unseen, sponsored by my university library -- but when it was over, I was in such shock from what I had seen, I barely knew how to begin. This assured first feature from Claudia Llosa is my current obsession (and the subject of an article in the works, heh heh), where Magaly Solier's performance dares you to not appreciate the levels at work throughout the film.
  • Moulin Rouge! (2001): We drove all the way to Santa Cruz back in the day to see this film, and were not that impressed when we saw it. After three separate times of teaching a course on the musical, I now completely love this film. Part of it is really wishing that I were Ewen McGregor; part of it, I'm sure, is that he sings "Your Song," which I serenaded Angela with before we were married; part of it must also be that Angela and I duet on the soundtrack when we go on long drives. But the flash and dazzle of the movie (somehow) holds, and more effectively that one would think. (It even does Singin' in the Rain one better by actually making the only new song a plot point.)
  • La niña santa (2004): I don't know whether this is the most melancholy melodrama or terrifying horror film I have seen in ages, but Argentine Lucretia Martel worked magic over the course of this decade. This whole movie, revealing the tensely wound stories festering in a hotel in the same location as her debut film, La ciénaga, seems to be shot in close-up, providing us with an uncomfortably intimate view of people gone horribly wrong.
  • Punch-Drunk Love (2002): I still really love this movie, more so than the other PTA flicks, largely because it becomes a minimalist tone-poem of sorts for Adam Sandler (whose shtick finally gets exposed as horrific rather than funny) and Emily Watson (who is, like, ah-maaazing). This was one of the first films I ever assigned for my introductory film class for their final papers, which yielded the most dynamic set of papers I have ever read. Th
  • Reconstruction (2003): Even though Breaking the Waves is one of my favorite films ever, I tired of Dogme films from Denmark by the middle of the decade (this, despite my love for Dancer in the Dark). Hence, I found this truffle from Christoffer Boe (seen at Telluride) a true visual delight, with an intriguingly meta-narrative that was beautiful and painful at once.
  • The Triplets of Belleville (2003): Another Telluride find. As I was contemplating the really fantastic Pixar flicks throughout the decade -- especially the work of Brad Bird, Ratatouille and The Incredibles -- I found myself coming back to this largely wordless gem, another love poem for yesteryear's animation, even as it uses some cutting edge processes to achieve them. (The bicyclist's wheels, for example, are digitally rendered.) The film has a joyful soul that is tinged with melancholy, and made it truer than most of the non-animated films that we see.
  • Yi Yi (2000): Yet another Telluride find, and a surprise hit there in the same year that another Taiwanese film took most of the thunder. I could not imagine a three-hour-long film about contemporary Taiwan, performed by many non-actors, would be even remotely interesting. How very wrong I was: I was riveted throughout the screening, and have every time I have seen it since. This was also the reason I was profoundly sound when the director, Edward Yang, died toward the end of the decade.
  • Y tu mamá también (2001): You knew this was coming. After all, Alfonso Cuarón happens to be the topic of my new project. And, let's face it, those eyes at the top of this blog come from this film. I have now seen this startling movie at least a dozen times, sometimes for class, sometimes for myself, and I am still finding new elements to the film. I first saw this in DC at a preview screening with a lot of gray heads in the audience, most of whom were confused by the sex-laden road-trip without confronting the really nuanced commentary lying just beneath the surface. Cuarón was there -- and now, oh, how I wish I had said something. That his other two films (Children of Men and yes, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) also could have made this list may say something about my auteurist obsession -- but may also say something about the quality of his work as well.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The current state of the weirdness of our movie-viewing culture (where we watch things on cable, on demand, online, on Netflix, on, Donder! on, Blitzen!) has resulted in the downsizing of Blockbuster. This should surprise absolutely no one, given their gigantic expansion nearly everywhere and the subsequent squeezing out of nearly every locally owned video store. (My own local store, Video Americain, is a mini-chain of four stores, and wonderfully eccentric. When you want to get, say Desk Set, you wonder whether it is listed under "Classics," "Katherine Hepburn," "Comedies" or "Walter Lang." Inevitably, you have to ask one of the semi-snotty employees. I love this place.) I have no love for Blockbuster whatsoever, given that they inevitably never had anything I wanted. At the one located 10 minutes away from my in-laws' place on Cape Cod, an employee finally admitted to me that although they receive virtually everything, anything that had not been rented in three months went on the "Previously Viewed For Sale" rack.

Actually, this is the only reason I ever liked Blockbuster: because the stuff I wanted would rue of quickly go on sale in the discount rack. This was particularly true of anything subtitled. ("Sir, you do realize that this movie is subtitled." "Yes, that's why I want it. The other ten in the basket are also subtitled.")

So, I have to say that the wonderful thing about the mass Blockbuster closing has been the sale. And because I don't need a copy of The Hangover, I can get all sorts of cool stuff that everyone has passed over. This is particularly cool now that all DVDs have gone down to $3 per disc. And hey, for me, this is a tax deduction! (Seriously, I'll probably use several of these in class; I already showed Hedwig and the Angry Inch as the final exam in my course on the musical.)

I had already passed through the store in Langley Park, MD a few weeks ago and hope to swing by the College Park one before they close when I get back to the DC area; yesterday, I cleaned out the one here in North Falmouth.

I can't be the only film geek doing this, however. When Hollywood Video closed last fall near campus, I picked up all sorts of cool stuff, including the Criterion version of Overlord; in Langley Park, I nabbed a whole bunch of Spanish-language stuff like Cilantro y Perejil and Tésis. I'm curious to know what other folks have picked up -- so, in an effort of full disclosure, here is what I nabbed from North Falmouth (and if you want to know why, just ask -- and I will tell why):
(Note: I'd actually like to pick up a copy of some Tyler Perry movie, but they were out of Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Can anyone suggest a better Tyler Perry?)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Be it resolved...

...that my New Year's resolution will be to revive this (and the other) blog. Oh yes, it will happen.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

O, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune!

This morning, Angela and I were awakened at around 5:30AM by, of all things, people screaming at each other. Perhaps if we lived in another neighborhood this would be something de rigeur, but in Takoma Park, it's a bit unusual. It is even more unusual that I woke up at all: I am known, after all, for having slept through bombs and four-year-olds crawling over my body. This must have been some fight.

After I discerned what was going on, I thought to myself, Who the heck is this? Our neighbors? No -- it's definitely a man and a woman fighting. The new folks across the way with the baby? No no, and besides, her parents are staying with them, so why would they be outside? The relatively new folks behind us? The semi-redneck next door? No, none of them, because the voices were too... too...

"I can't believe you would say that!!"
"Oh yeah? Tell me: HOW COULD YOU FUCK HIM??!"

...young. Ah yes, the world of the young, when everything is overly dramatic and the world is going to end at any moment. Granted, there is clearly some infidelity going on here and, well, clearly some craziness is inspired, perhaps warranted. And goodness knows that when it comes to movies, I'm a total sap for over-the-top melodrama. To spar on a public street in quiet Takoma Park at 5:30 in the morning, however?

Well, that's something for the young, I think. Let 'em have it. I'm thrilled to be old. Let me go back to sleep.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Hot off the press!

Back in 1998, I was floundering about for a dissertation topic when I took a graduate level French course on Cahiers du Cinéma with Carina Yervasi and was introduced to the concept of film journals. By this point, I had already learned a great deal about Latin American film history and, as a final project for this class, I decided to examine each and every page of Cahiers to look for material on Latin American film. This proved to be an arduous project -- but, oddly enough, also an exhilerating one, of sorts. (That paper is still in my electronic "trunk" of sorts, trying to burst its chains to try publication again. Quieto, quieto, soon, my friend...) I started looking for Latin American film journals written around the period of the 1960s and 70s, a high point of filmmaking from the region and discovered that the only one to survive the period of New Latin American Cinema from beginning to supposed end happened to come from Lima.

Lima? Peru?? Home?? But were there any movies made around then? Then why would one of the most respected film journals in Latin America come from a place that really didn't make any movies? It didn't make any sense.

Eleven years later, you can finally really read what I learned. Behold: my book. Finally. I hold the first copy, before the go on sale for real at the end of the month (although Amazon has it available at a discount for pre-order now! I know, I hate Amazon -- but, hey, discount!). In this picture, you can also see the snazzy cover art. I have to say: UPNE definitely knows how to make a pretty book. They rock.

Eleven years. Given that I've already started the next project, here's hoping it's not another decade until the next one. Huzzah!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Don't look back in anger

It has been quite a spring semester. Much teaching, a couple off-campus talks, a frazzled dash to the end of the semester and, oh yeah, tenure. The semester ended and the nuclear family rallied off to Lima for about 10 days, in between the spring and summer semesters, to meet the large extended part of the family residing down south.

If I blog lots about Peru over the next few days, it will undoubtedly be random and in fits and starts. Nonetheless, I figure I should do this. Peru is on my mind quite a bit now these days, and not just because I've been talking up Peruvian film (a presentation at the alma mater, where I also found out that the book will physically be done on Monday! whee!). The trip was the first time I have been "home" in about five years and Lima has changed in many significant ways.

A plus from the trip -- and, admittedly, a main goal -- was to get Xan interested in Peru in general. Given that he has a cousin who is only two months older than he is, this was an easy task. Now, all of a sudden, he isn't shutting out all the Spanish he is hearing, and has been mildly amused to find that folks speak the language not just in Peru. I'm not sure if we'll make like my parents and ship him off to South America when he turned 12 and surly (which is what happened to me), but who knows?

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Big News

From the beginning of this blog, the masthead has read "Musings on movies, fatherhood, the pre-tenure stresses, life in Takoma Park and other randomness."

The careful reader will observe that the masthead has now subtly been altered.

Because I am "pre-tenure" no more.

(aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!!!!!! ohmygodohmygodohmygod!!)

Thank you, thank you, un millón de gracias to everyone who has helped me through this.

Perhaps needless to say, I don't think my grading will be done by tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

If we have to wear green on the 17th...

...then let it be cinematically green!

Great Expectations

A Little Princess

(And check out the eyes in the banner, from Y tu mamá también, which I actually screened tonight to my class!)

Celebrating the two filmmakers I most associate with the color green: director Alfonso Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Not even remotely Irish, just like me!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Going against Amazon

Truth be told, I love Amazon. Not only do I have friends who work there (hi, Ted!), but it is an impressive space where one can find almost anything. I have found all sorts of obscure movies, CDs and books, many from used bookstores and bought at wonderful discounts. (Hour of the Assassin for 85 cents plus shipping! Woohoo!!) As a soon-to-be-published author myself, I will also admit that it has given me a minor kick to find my own book up there already available for pre-order, even as I am frantically in the midst of doing the index as I type this. (Although I am not actually attending my 20th high school reunion in a month, somehow the Amazon listing legitimizes my work for all my former classmates who otherwise could care less about academia.)

And then, on the blogroll to the right, I saw this: "Saving Shaman Drum."

Oh no, I thought. Not Shaman Drum.

The fact that Shaman Drum might be on its last legs probably should not be a surprise to me, but it fills me with great sorrow. I arrived in Ann Arbor right around the time that they moved into their current space on State Street, and I attended the opening party because it was a cool thing for a first-year graduate student in the humanities to do. I remember wandering around that party with my old friend Jack Chen (now atUCLA, apparently) as he made faces at a baby facing backwards in a backpack. I also got a phone call two days afterwards with a message that I had won a door prize: a new dictionary. I don't need a new dictionary, I have a perfectly good old one, I thought, and went in intending to ask to trade in the dictionary for perhaps a gift certificate so that I might be able to buy more textbooks. That is, until they handed me the gigantic, lovely American Heritage Dictionary, which immediately and inexplicably made me drool, causing me to say "thank you" and head for the door with a book that sits on the main floor of my house and still gets used regularly.

That book-love is what makes news of Shaman Drum's near-passing so sad -- and, as I read with horror, I realized that the reason it is probably failing is something I currently practice at my own institution: making my reading lists available to students early so that they can purchase them online. In my case, the reasoning is simply because the only option for our students at AU is the soul-less Follett bookstore which routinely has horrible service, never orders a sufficient amount of books and prices everything way over the list price. I have a number of saved e-mails where I tried to get someone to contact me about a book I had ordered that I was assured would come in, which never came in at all. This set my whole syllabus for that semester in a tailspin. I have not forgiven them for that. As such, I have actually recommended to students that they not buy at the bookstore, that they take the search into their own hands.

In part, however, my reasoning behind this was simply because our own university bookstore has a monopoly on the situation; at Michigan, I had the option of choosing between two more mainstream stores, or this little local one. I opted for the latter and loved it. At Dartmouth and UCSC, there were also other grass-roots oriented textbook-stores that successfully cut into the monopoly stores with better service and prices; in the case of the former, Wheelock Books, I was actually one of the first employees when they opened in the year after I graduated. I always wished I had another option at AU, but perhaps the large nature of Washington couldn't support that.

Shaman Drum, however, was much more than a textbook experience for me: they really do have an amazing commitment to the humanities and cultural studies in general, and I spent hours as a graduate student poring over their shelves for stuff that I should probably read. Given that my parents still live in Ann Arbor, I have actually gone there now that I am much older and done something similar (although doing it with a two- or three-year-old in tow is less of an idyllic experience, since he wants to visit a different section from the one I want to go to).

I miss Shaman Drum and it pains me that they might go. That said, I am now actively considering joining their Great Lakes Literary Arts Center solely to help them out -- and if there is a book I need, I may even bypass my own local bookstore (that would be Politics and Prose) to have them ship from Ann Arbor, if it will help them out. I certainly hope they stay alive, as that store helped shape me into the academic that I am in many ways. They deserve the support.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

The questions only get tougher

To his parents, after seeing the WAMU radio tower, "Why does the radio come over in waves? How does it get to our radio?"

To his mother, on the metro ride into work: "Mama, where does the sidewalk end?"

And, in a moment I'm not sure I necessarily want repeated, to his female babysitter lying next to him in bed after they have played for a few hours: "What's your name?"

Sunday, March 01, 2009

I am turbulent, fleshy, sensual, eating, drinking and breeding

Yes, well, I dare anyone to say the above isn't true.

But that's not the reason I'm posting it here. It also happens to be a line from Walt Whitman's massive poem "Song of Myself." Despite the fact that I was an English major in college, have a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and currently teach literature at a university, I had never read Whitman's poem. This is a major oversight, one that I cannot even justify by my emphasis in Latin American literature -- for I knew that José Martí's "Our América" is a response in the tradition of Whitman. I cannot even justify this as an oversight on the film front. After all, upon coming back to the United States for college, several of my friends wrote to me back in Lima that I had to see this movie which was all about me; when I went to see it, I discovered that ol' W.W. lorded over the English classroom like a spectre, sounding his "barbaric yawp" like the "sweaty toothed madman" that he is.

In any case, the oversight has been corrected in a most wonderful way.

On Friday, my colleague Linda Voris hosted a one-time public reading of "Song of Myself." It was possible to say that she decided to do this "just becuase," but she explained at the outset that this whole endeavor was inspired on Obama's inauguration day and the fervor his election alone generated. Each participant selected one of the 52 sections of the poem.

My colleague Katherine (who, mind you, we only just discovered was also an English major at Dartmouth at the same time I was!) threw down the gauntlet when she announced her choice, lamenting that "I would love to do #24, but I think that one should be read by someone manly." Naturally, I took this as a challenge; naturally (and blindly, really), I chose that selection.

I would suggest trying to read it out loud for yourself to see if you get the same results. I only read it once to myself the night before while watching ER, and discovered I really could not read it any other way with with a low, gravelly voice. It was all about sensuality, the corporeal -- and it was really fun to read:

I believe in the flesh and the appetites,
Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles, and each part and tag of me is a miracle.

Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whateve I touch or am touch'd from,
The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,
This head more than churches, bibles and all the creeds.

If I worship one thing more than another it shall be the spread of my own body, or any part of it,
Transluscent mould of me it shall be you!
Shaded ledges and rests it shall be you!
Firm masculine colter it shall be you!
Whatever goes to the tilth of me it shall be you!
You my rich blood! your milky stream pale strippings of my life!
Breat that presses against other breasts it shall be you!

I mean, really. You don't get better than this. No wonder why I am a Unitarian. I even got to do an encore when a couple people didn't show up and I got to pinch-hit with #42 as well. This particular section got a big laugh:

I know perfectly well my own egotism,
Know my omniverous lines and must not write any less,
And must fetch you whoever you are flush with myself.

The entire reading was really a magical experience, one I haven't had with poetry for a long time. All the different voices -- men, women, all with different accents and inflections -- made for a really exciting evening, one that finished in three hours, which was much shorter than I imagined. I wonder if it is a common occurrence to read Whitman like this -- or whether any other poets merit such a reading. Certainly, I'm using a bookstore gift certificate that has been burning a hole in my jacket pocket to buy some Whitman before I lose all this feeling.

And as for my section? Let me put it this way: three students came up to me afterwards to tell me that they were going to have a hard time coming to my class again next week; a fourth said he now never plans to miss any of my classes again.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Cine peruano es lo mejor

And when I say that Peruvian film is the best, this time (and for the first time) I actually have some proof to back me up.

A few weeks ago, Peruvian film blogs were all aflutter because Claudia Llosa's new film, La teta asustada, became the first Peruvian film to play in competition at the Berlin Film Festival, one of the top film festivals in the world (the level of Cannes, Venice, etc.). The movie considers the idea that the fear experienced during the period of high terrorism in Peru (the Shining Path years through the 1980s, which actually correspond with my own time in Lima) can be trasmitted through breast milk across generations, particularly among those who were raped. Certainly, Peruvian filmmaking has tackled the subject of Sendero Luminoso before, but perhaps not quite from a perspective this personal or traumatic, certianly not from the perspective of a woman. Selection for the festival was huge news and one which the Peruvian cineblogosphere got very excited about. Sure, Peruvian films had gone to San Sebatian, or Sundance, but none had ever gotten this far. It was quite an honor to be nominated, and the Peruvians were having a great time with it.

I'm pretty sure no one expected the movie to win.

And yet, lo and behold, there you can see Claudia Llosa, the director of La teta asustada kissing her Golden Bear. Reuters reports that Llosa commented simply, "This is for Peru. This is for our contry." The first time a Peruvian film actually gets to play in the game, it wins.


Granted, I have a huge vested interest in this film and Peruvian film in general since, after all, I have a book on the topic coming out in just a few months. (You can even pre-order it! Shameless plug!) I have not even seen the film, but the trailer is very impressive. I also confess to being a smitten fan of Llosa's only other film, Madeinusa, which I knew I had to write about even before I finished watching it. That movie completely rocked my foundation about film in general, not to mention films coming from my "other country." It is beautiful, disturbing, unique in its storytelling. I am not surprised that Llosa's follow-up appears to have similar qualities.

Very few people are pointing out the fact that Llosa is only the third woman to ever direct a feature-length movie in Peru (along with Nora de Izcué and Marianne Eyde). Filmmaking (and film criticism) in Peru has been dominated by men since the very beginning and the number of impressive films centered around women are very few; even fewer are those focusing on Quechua-speaking women. The win is a huge thunderbolt to Peruvian film and may shake many foundations there.

Not to mention that drop-dead gorgeous lead actress Magaly Solier now has the honor of being kissed on the hand by none other than drop-dead gorgeous (and amazonian in her own way) jury president Tilda Swinton.
I can't wait to see the film for myself. ¡Viva Perú!

UPDATE: Variety has its review up as well as coverage of the event. And there is a YouTube clip of the announcement, including a mesmerizing speech by Magaly in Quechua. (No, I cannot translate it.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

If you're looking for something to watch on DVD this week...

...AU's Media Services currently has my suggested flicks on their blog. Feel free to peruse at your leisure -- and let me know what you think if you've seen any of them.

Monday, February 09, 2009

All of a sudden, I'm glad I didn't write about the "laundry bags incident"

If you have a computer, you know about the "25 Things" meme that is heading all over Facebook at the moment. In fact, if you don't own a computer, you know about this, because other media outlets are also covering the ubiquity of the phenomenon.

Such as the Washington Post. Funny enough, this article got brought up at church yesterday, but I didn't think much about it -- until it was pointed out to me that one of my own responses was actually quoted in the article. (If I hadn't thought about it as little as possible, I would have easily figured out who would be writing such an article.) The piece is written fairly well, particularly given the form.

I'll let you figure out which one is mine. No, I did not poop in my pants as an adult.

(h/t to jenny for pointing this out)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Career moves

Recently, Xan let us know his plans for the future. If I'm not mistaken, this was offered up to Angela spontaneously, not as a reply to "What do you want to do when you grow up?"

In order of how this was happen, Xan is going to:
  • Drive a train
  • Be Tigeroo's dad
  • Be a dinosaur
  • Go to work at AU
  • Stop working so that he can be at home
Sounds like a plan to me!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

In which I offer proof that Laura Brown is a better cook than I am

The cake is less than she hoped it would be. She tries not to mind. It is only a cake, she tells herself. It is only a cake. ...

According to the clock on the wall, it is barely ten-thirty. She has plenty of time to make another cake. This time, she will prevent crumbs from getting caught in the icing. This time, she will trace the letters with a toothpick, so they'll be centered, and she'll leave the roses for last.

- Michael Cunningham, The Hours

Exhibit A:
On the left, you'll see the dregs of cake #1, which was an attempt at a double-laayered chocolate cake, aborted when both cakes stuck to the bottom of the pans they baked in, despite my having "lightly greased" each pan per the directions. Cake #2 had the opposite problem. While this time I greased and floured the pan, it was a bundt pan and the cake came out fairly quickly ... too quickly, in fact, as it practically fell apart as I turned it onto the plate. I ran out of time to make a third cake, before I went to pick up the person who said, "There will be cake on my birthday."

Unlike Laura Brown, however, I love my spouse immensely. So I resisted the urge to read Mrs. Dalloway (again) and go for a long drive.

Ah yes, and happy birthday, belovéd. I love you, clearly more than the cake loves me.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Coming up on America's Next Top Scullery Maid

Inaugural Ball guru Roxanne Roberts (along with many others) says that one should only ever think of wearing flats to one of these events.

Yes, well, tell that to my wife who bought the near-platform high heels yesterday. "But they're OK!" she says. "There are no seats," I say. "I'm going to wear them," she says. They really do kick ass.

To prove that they are comfortable she might not be crippled for life, she decides to do housework in the shoes.

After an hour and a half, her feet are still fine -- and, better yet, the floor is clean!

Let's see Tyra rock stilletos and a dustpan like that!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Stepping out!

Inaugural fever has hit DC like a ton of port-a-potties. Years ago, I envisioned there one day being someone I was excited to go see at an Inauguration Parade; that day has arrived -- but now I have a three-year-old and, wouldn't you know, presidents are inaugurated in this country in the cold. As such, we have generally been avoiding Inaugural mania while the warning keeps popping up that the city will quadruple in population for this event and that all forms of transportation, including passenger pigeon, will be overloaded on the day of the event. A quiet day at home, we thought, watching it on TV.

Then, a few days ago, a colleague sent us an invitation to the local Takoma Park Inaugural Ball. This seemed super-fun: our crunchy liberal hometown with a potluck affair, complete with dancing and childcare. What's not to love? This sounded pretty neat. He mentioned this at a meeting and wondered what we were doing in the morning. I said we were probably just watching the event on TV -- but that maybe we should all watch it together? Brunch! An Inaugural brunch for those of us with kids too chicken to brave everything! Sold. My menu developed easily:
  • vegetarian breafast tacOs
  • cherry-whole wheat scOnes
  • cheeriOs (or the equivalent from trader jOe's)
  • bacOn
  • dOnuts
  • cOffee
  • Orange jOOce (with champagne to make mimOsas)
  • bagels (this, requested by Xan when we told him what the theme was)
Fabulous. Then all we needed to do was get the tickets for the Takoma Park ball! Angela had been hounding me to get them, if we had indeed decided to go. She, the antisocial one, had left this decision up to me; I, in my inimitable manner, had procrastinated.

At Xan's gymnastics class, our friend KC told me that she was trying to procure Inaugural Ball tickets. "Really?" I said. "Yeah," she said. "Would you want to go?" "Well, I think we're going to the local Takoma Park one," I said, realizing I still hadn't gotten tickets yet. I came home and hopped online to get the tickets.

Sold out.


Our one chance to get decked out and hang out with the neighbors. Ah well. A quiet evening at home, then. No big deal.

And then -- KC calls Angela, wonders if I've told her about the Inaugural tickets. Tells her that she's secured four. Wants to know if we'd like to accompany them.



Within the span of about an hour, Angela in particular goes from being totally blasé about Inaugural Day brouhaha to joining the madness, pulling a U-turn the likes of which I haven't seen since we got engaged (at which point she-who-had-never-thought-she-would-get-married all of a sudden bought a trunkload of wedding-oriented magazines). She happens to be at the second-hand store when she gets the call and lands a beaded evening gown for $35. I use Facebook to procure childcare. We spend hours at the mall today looking for sundry items (control-top pantyhose, platform stilletos, a nice dark shade of lipstick -- and then Angela needed some things as well). We come home, Angela finds that the beaded dress is too long, but then she comes out in a black, slinky thing that she had in the back of the closet and I say, damn! and insist she only think of wearing that. Xan, getting into the spirit, puts on an elephant costume; we worry that this is the first sign he might turn into a Republican and contemplate therapy. Angela does a dry-run of fab makeup for the evening, comes out in full get-up, I say damn!! and hurry Xan to bed.

We don't even know what time the shindig begins.

We're a little excited.

More to come...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What I get for not updating this blog more frequently

Yesterday was my second day of class in the new semester. I teach my upper-level class in the early afternoon, half of which have taken one of my classes before; in other words, they know me and my idiosyncrasies fairly well. My introductory film class, however, meets at 8:30AM. I hate teaching at this time; they hate taking classes at this time; we all nonetheless try to make it all work.

I had my computer open and up on the big screen in the room, showing some clips and the trailer for Singin' in the Rain. In discussing trailers, one person mentioned Don LaFontaine, the voice-over artist for trailers who recently passed away; reminded by the mention of his name, I asked if anyone had seen the trailer for Comedian, the Jerry Seinfeld documentary. No one had, so I said, "Give me a moment to open my browser. It's definitely worth it." I pulled up the browser and continued with whatever I was saying while I was waiting for Firefox to open.

In the middle of a sentence, however, the entire class started laughing. I stopped, turned around.

Naturally, my browser opens on my blog. If you scroll down to see the posting immediately before this one, you'll see what was displayed on a very large screen behind my head. Photo included.

I turned back, very red in the face, and said, "I can explain that..."

Let's see if that shows up on evaluations.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Do ya think I'm sexy?

This is my official photograph for the university. It's a couple years old, but it gets the point across. I'm not going to sell any magazines, it's true, but I do OK.

Oh, except, wait. I forget that the above photograph demonstrates that I'm sexy as all get-out.

Granted, perhaps you could just learn that from my wife after a couple shots of vodka. But according to a new poll, apparently it's not just me, but my profession that makes me sexy. I received this from another professor in my department, and responded that now I really need to hit the gym this semester; another person replied, "Why bother? Just wear your glasses!" (To wit, Angela has actually rejected my tentative flirting with contact lenses, since she indeed thinks glasses are better.)

So how do I translate this to higher student evaluations? Hmmm....

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Best Supporting Actress, Class of 2008: Diane Wiest

Gosh, I wasn't going to do this this year. I have been embarrassingly lax in going to the movies this year. I said this last year but I did an even worse job this year. Stinkylulu has been reminding me for weeks about this, and I've been pained about it because I thought, "You know what? I have nothing."

And yet...

It's the list that's currently up that inspired me. Granted, it's a very strong list, which is typical of this particular effort, since people really defend their choices well. In particular, I noted the various nods toward Synecdoche, New York, which had a slew of wonderful acting going on, mostly by women and mostly in supporting roles. (The casting of this film is so uncanny that I had to get to the end of the flick to realize that Samantha Morton was not doing double duty, that my crush-object Emily Watson looks so much like Morton made digital editing unnecessary. Michelle Williams also proves once again that her previous nomination was no fluke.)

But I realized that my own favorite from that film was missing from the list.

I'm discovering over the course of these blogathons that I'm drawn to the performance that for me yields the crux of the entire story. For me this year, and particularly for this film, that performance was masterfully maneuvered by the queen of contemporary supporting actressing, Diane Wiest. Really, has she done lead work that equals the strength of her supporting performances? It seems redundant to mention it here, and her again -- and yet, it is so deserved here. The character of Ellen becomes the one that Caden melts into (or is it the other way around); Wiest proves to be the one person able to be dismissive at first blush as she enters the world of Synecdoche, only to take it over completely (and literally) by the end. We believe her in this position. Part of it, I realize, is from the power that her supporting-actressing yields here -- but it's power well-used by Kauffman, to the extent that she only needs to appear in the last quarter of a rather long film to make it work.

For these reasons and more, I submit my candidate for Best Supporting Actress 2008: Diant Wiest.

This entry is part of the 3rd 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