Monthly Archives: February 2013
Today in half-assed reviews from lazy people:
- What the hell am I watching? I thought this movie was a drama, not a giant news parody.
- Is this not supposed to be a parody? I feel like this is supposed to be a parody.
- Oh, good.
- I like you, Mr. Carter.
- And you, Mr. Leland.
- Good lord this Susan woman is annoying.
- Alright, so it took about half the run-time to get going, but I’m actually enjoying it now.
- Oh my god, this singing instructor is the single greatest thing I have ever seen in my life.
- Susan, I take it back; you may stay.
- Seriously impressed with the maturity and thoughtfulness of this film.
- Well, that was pretty darn good. It’s not going to the top of any lists, I don’t think (unless that list is Top 10 Movies Called Citizen Kane), but I see what the hype is about. It’s gotta be a damned good movie for film students to study, that much is clear.
Back to work!
Alright, let’s make this quick.
Here is my high-tech, top-notch studio set-up for taking the slideshow pictures:
So please excuse the crappiness of the following.
Basically, from this to this in 17 days:
That site is awesome, by the way. I made this in about 10 minutes. And sure, you may say something along the lines of, “Yes, that’s obvious,” but I respond: “Bite me.”
(Part of the reason the last few pictures don’t match up at all is because once the plant got to a certain height, it kept tipping itself over. I had to move it, and the stuff around it, to keep it upright. Maybe I’ll do this again in a few years with…better preparation.)
When the thing flowered, I thought it would make a great present for my mom, but on my way over to gifting her with it, the stem snapped. Because I kill things.
Fortunately, we had some twist ties and a stick available, so we made it an emergency splint, and it’s now happily living alongside mom’s other plants. They seem to have overlooked the disfigurement, and accepted it as one of their own.
(I would also like to note that this is the 42nd item I have completed on my list, therefore CRAPPY PLANT SLIDESHOW is clearly the meaning of Life, the Universe, and 100 Things to Do in 1000 Days.)
I knew going in that this was not the best movie to watch during lunch and dinner breaks from work, but I am on a time crunch, here. And actually, it could have been a lot worse.
And since I’m on said time crunch, here is a brief collection of notes I made, which will also serve as a half-assed review.
- I feel like older movies should come with a “this is pre-cell phones” reminder, because I kept wanting to scream at everyone and then remembering this movie was made in 1991.
- When does it put the lotion in the basket? Is that not this movie?
- Oh, there it is.
- Damn, Anthony Hopkins is creepy as fuck.
- Of course poor Jame became a serial killer. Can you imagine living your whole life with an unfinished name? “JUST ADD AN S! OR AN I!” He’d yell in his sleep, waking up in a cold sweat, knowing he’d never be complete.
- I hope he eats Dr. Chilton’s face right off.
- Well, that I really enjoyed. Well, not “enjoyed.” Liked. Well, not “liked.” Okay, that was a good movie, and I’m glad I watched it. THIS is what I mean when I say I want suspense. Not whatever the fuck The Shining was (I’m sorry, I really didn’t like that movie).
Thank you for your time.
Hey, remember how on February 1st I was all, “next week, I’ll put up part 2 of my Les Mis thing!”
So here’s Part the Next, and Part the Third will be arriving at some point in the future. That’s about as firm a deadline as I can give you. Enjoy.
We open 8 years later with people singing about how much their lives suck, just in case you forgot what you were watching. It’s Les Mis. Mis is short for Misery.
Here, we meet Fantine, a down-on-her luck miserable person working in a factory with several most miserable people. In a plot twist that will surprise absolutely no one, their boss is somewhat of a total fuck nugget.
Charming. The foreman is also approximately 20 feet tall, what the hell?
The workers immediately take to picking on Fantine, mainly just to make her life harder.
Blue lady: “Oh, you have an illegitimate child tucked away somewhere, do you? I consider it my God-given duty to punish you through song.”
Luckily, the boss, and the hero of our story, Jean Valjean rushes to the scene.
Only to immediately pass the buck back to the foreman.
Way to go, Valjean. Fantine, who not only will not have sex with the foreman, but has a child and therefore must, at some point in the past, have had sex with another man who is not the foreman, the whore, is immediately fired.
Having been branded a whore, and this being 19th Century France, there is only one thing Fantine can now do.
She becomes an actual whore.
Fantine’s story in the book is, I think, the most depressing thing I have ever read. I feel a list coming on.
- abandoned by lover
- while pregnant
- to raise the baby by herself
- unable to do so, she puts the baby into the care of another family
- who, unbeknownst to her, are horrible horrible people
- they demand money from her
- so she works and works and works to send money for her daughter to people who don’t need it and won’t use it for her daughter anyway
- so she’s alone in the world, without even the company of her own daughter, working for pittance which won’t even go to good use. but at least she has her health. and her teeth.
- HA! She is fired from her job for no real reason except she’s not slutty enough for the foreman and everyone else is too busy looking out for themselves to take her side
- so she turns to prostitution for money
- she is debased and physically, mentally, and emotionally abused
- she sells her body for money, her hair for money, her teeth for money.
- then she loses her health
- on her sick bed, she doesn’t even survive long enough to say goodbye to her daughter.
And you think you had it bad, Sirius Black.
Aw, Fantine. I wish I could say things will get better. But they really, really won’t.
And now it is time for Lovely ladies.
The guys give it their all, though.
Sigh. You know a musical is depressing when its comic relief songs involve swindling, abuse, and prostitution. Although I guess a title that literally translates to “The Miserable People” is also a bit of a giveaway.
Fantine sells her hair, and a guy immediately decides that she is the whole he must have. He must have been attracted by the light glancing off her skull.
A dandy comes around, asking after Fantine. He is directed to her by a Lovely Lady who calles her “A bit of skirt, she’s the one sold her hair.”
Well, yes, I should think that much was obvious.
The guy who plays the rich asshole does a great job. I’m simultaneously disgusted and fascinated by him.
So he pushes himself on Fantine, who doesn’t want anything to do with him because even her utter desperation has limits (WE’LL SEE WHAT WE CAN DO ABOUT THAT), and winds up injuring him as she pushes him away.
Good god, this musical.
OH GOODIE, JAVERT’S HERE! This can only go well.
The rich dick ponces around explaining that he was merely passing by when this LOONY attacked him out of nowhere for no reason, and he just can’t understand why people keep doing that.
Javert, would you believe it, I was walking through the park…
“When this prostitute attacked myeh!” Myeh! He actually says MYEH! Oh, he’s wonderfully horrible.
Fantine pleads mercy for her daughter, and then some dramatic music happens.
I said above, I love these sung-through productions, but the lack of actual moving characters has several obvious drawbacks, including the fact that Javert appears to be saying that he has only known one other who could rescue a prostitute, then stand still while the horn section plays something that sounds vaguely like Star Wars, and that seems like an awfully specific comparison to draw.
For those who don’t know, Javert has just rescued a man trapped under a heavy object, thus reminding Javert of this super strong hunk he once knew back in prison…
Valjean gives him the non-suspicious shifty eyes, and Javert leaves. But even 8 years later, Will Farrell’s guilt trip rings through time and space, and Valjean knows he has to turn himself in. Although, if there’s a brand on the skin, wouldn’t Javert just see that it’s not there on the other guy and release him? I’m being dense now, aren’t I?
Anyway, Fantine dies in Valjean’s…general area (seriously, this show has no staging) because god has run out of ways to torture here on earth and is bored now.
Javert has had quite enough of this and scares the ever-loving shit out of everyone by singing at Valjean as though he totally knew it was him all along, and what are you talking about arrested the wrong man? Who said “this time there will be no mistake?” And screw the random dead woman! Because Javert’s timing is impeccable (seriously, wait until you see the rest of the show).
They sing at each other some more, plainly not listening to a word the other is saying.
Valjean crosses his heart and hopes to die that he’s just going to go rescue the dead prostitute’s daughter quickly, and he’ll be right back, and then Javert can have his way with him, pinky swear. Javert is understandably skeptical about this, but I think Valjean would be as good as his word as long as no one waves any bread in his face.
That’s why Alfie Bo is my favourite Valjean
So Valjean tenderly tells Fantine’s body that he’ll make sure Cosette is safe and cared for while Javert hilariously yells some more about stalking him for the rest of time. Seriously, dude – READ THE ROOM.
And that is all for now! Again, thanks to Patrick for helping me put it together.
My favourite of all the new TV shows I’ve watched for this project. God, I’ve enjoyed this show.
The writing is great and the acting is great, and best of all, it’s fucking hilarious and sweet. And it’s Canada, so they’re allowed to swear.
And talk about fellatio.
This amazed me, until I realised that it had broadcast on what is, essentially, the Canadian version of HBO.
At any rate, let’s get to the reviewing.
One of the things that struck me most in the first season, there’s almost no music. When the great revelation comes and this time the actors are REALLY acting (it’s a show about theatre), you can tell because they’re doing a damn good job; they don’t need to rely on music and staging. And the actors in this show are pretty much uniformly amazing – everyone is at the top of their game.
The first episode was a bit boring, but I had a good enough time that I could see why people recommended it. And mid-way through the second episode (I won’t spoil anything, but it was due to the appearance of a green cooler), I realized I wasn’t going to get to sleep that night.
Season 2 I was willing to give a pass for the use of music because they were making a point theatrically with Macbeth.
Season 3 was probably my least favourite, but I loved the ending. Part of what I loved about season 1 was the lack of music or people telling you what to feel. It seemed that each season they trusted the audience less and less. There’s a moment while watching the climactic scene when Geoffery and Oliver discuss how heartbreaking a performance is. We know, and if we don’t, it’s because it’s not heartbreaking enough. There were some other small things – they were a bit hard (though hilarious) on musicals, and the seasonal patterns were becoming a bit obvious by this time (something keeps Geoffrey and Ellen apart, Richard follows people stupidly, and there’s a romance between a male and a female pair of the younger actors, etc). But I really did love it all, and season 3 is not as good as seasons 1 and 2 in the same way that a billion dollars is not as good as a billion and one dollars.
There are only 6 episodes per season, and each season is about putting on a different Shakespearean play, and they’re just so tightly plotted and paced that each season is impossible to stop. Thankfully, the END of the season IS a decent stopping point. And because there are so few episodes, and because the writers knew what they were doing from the beginning, it has that all-important thing in a Donna-approved show: spectacular continuity.
Did I mention this show is Canadian? I’m so proud of us.
In an excellent piece of timing, I found out my second day of a four day binge show-watching that the AV Club is doing write ups of the series every Wednesday. In the fourth episode, there is a great discussion in the comments about Ellen’s character. AV Club comments are usually quite funny, but I’m especially enjoying the Darren Nicholls quotes that keep popping up, and how much everyone loves Anna. Because she is amazing (Anna/Priest Guy for life!). So if you’re interested (and, if you like TV, then YOU SHOULD BE), take a look.
And now, the Quote Section:
Cyril: [singing] Cheer up, Hamlet; chin up, Hamlet; buck up, you melancholy Dane! So your uncle is a cad who murdered Dad and married Mum. That’s really no excuse to be as glum as you’ve become! So wise up, Hamlet; rise up, Hamlet; perk up and sing a new refrain. Your incessant monologizing fills the castle with ennui. Your antic disposition is embarrassing to see. And by the way, you sulky brat, the answer is to be! You’re driving poor Ophelia insane. So shut up, you rogue and peasant; grow up, it’s most unpleasant; cheer up, you melancholy Dane!
Cheryl: He’s not crazy.
Geoffrey: Not anymore.
Owner: You attacked me with a knife!
Geoffrey: Oh, that was a prop.
Richard Smith-Jones: Anna, I can’t comfort you. I’m on hold.
Darren Nichols: I am Darren Nichols. Deal with THAT.
Richard Smith-Jones: Darren, everybody cries when they get stabbed. There’s no shame in that.
Geoffrey Tennant: I would’ve cut my throat, but you’re not allowed to do that in front of subscribers.
Guard: Are you a suicide risk?
Geoffrey Tennant: Isn’t everybody?
Richard Smith-Jones: Darren, let me take you to breakfast and we can discuss the incident.
Darren Nichols: You make it sound like an ill-timed fart. I was stabbed!
Cyril: [singing] Call me superstitious or cowardly or weak, but I’ll never play a character whose name one dare not speak. I’ll play Hamlet in doublet and hose or either of the Dromios but, sorry, I won’t play Mackers. I’ll play Richard the Third with a hump and wig, or Henry the Eighth (that selfish pig) but, sorry, I don’t do Mackers. Every soul who plays this role risks injury or death, I’d rather sweep the bloody stage than ever do Mac-you-know-who. So gimme King Lear, Cleopatra, Romeo, Juliet, doesn’t mattra – I’ll play them all for free. But I’d be crackers to take on Mackers. You see, I’m skittish about the Scottish tragedy. (Och, aye.)
Richard: So Nadine’s neck is broken? Is that what you’re saying?
Anna Conroy: Yes!
Richard: We’ll have to find a replacement.
Anna: Yes! And her neck is broken! Which is much worse than having to find a replacement director!
Richard: Yes! I’m not being insensitive, Anna! I’m just thinking ahead, OK? Let’s send her some flowers, alright? A basket – big. Let’s pray she doesn’t sue.
Anna: Of course, because that would be truly horrible.
Richard: What? I’m not heartless! I’m just… I’m detail-oriented.
Geoffrey: Which would you prefer: an empty house with a great play, or a full house with a piece of garbage?
Richard: GARBAGE! GARBAGE! I want GARBAGE!
Cyril: [singing] When life takes its toll, when fate treats you bad, you used to be king, but now you’ve been had, alone with your Fool, you think you’ll go mad— it’s nice to take a walk in the rain! A stomp through a storm is what I’d advise, when people you trust tell nothing but lies; and kidnap your friend and gouge out his eyes—it’s nice to take a walk in the rain! Your older daughters are evil plotters; a pitter-patter shower will keep you sane. When all has been said and all have been slain, it’s good to take a walk in the rain, for several hours. Helps to have a howl in the rain, without your clothes on. Nice to take a walk in the rain.
Darren Nichols: I must say, I’ve fallen in love with the musical genre. It’s the art-form of the common man. If you want to communicate something with the proletariat, cover it in sequins and make it sing. It’s noisy, vulgar and utterly meaningless—I love it!
Geoffrey Tennant: I have a responsibility to the entire company, to the festival. This is about theatre ethics.
Oliver Welles: Theatre ethics? That’s like saying “whorehouse morals.”
Ellen: This isn’t a sitcom.
Geoffery: Oh well yes actually, it is. I have a broken wang and there is a lizard queen living downstairs.
Oh this is no good, now all I want to do is watch it again…
Note: Special thanks to Patrick for helping me get this post together in time for my deadline. My stupid, poorly timed, self-imposed deadline.
Also note: this series takes the place of Ashes to Ashes on my List, because I was having some trouble finding it for my viewing pleasure. And because I S&A was on Netflix and amazing, and I am lazy.
I read a LOT of Holocaust lit as a kid (Jasper, Lisa, Daniel’s Story, Endless Steppe, Number the Stars, Diary of Anne Frank, Devil’s Arithmetic, and more). I know I watched Schindler’s List in middle school, but I don’t remember if seeing that movie was what led me to the books, or whether the timing was coincidental. At any rate, after my young adult binge, I…never really touched the topic since. It can be so exhausting to mentally put yourself in that place (thank god, of course, that I have the luxury of taking the break).
But last year, I began working at the Azrieli Foundation, which publishes the memoirs of Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Canada. At the time, they had published 20 English language stories, although I believe that number is now 21. I was given the entire library to read, and it took me about a month to work myself up to the challenge.
What finally pushed me to start reading the books were the videos. The Foundation has also begun releasing short movies of survivors who have published memoirs with them. The movies feature a mix of book excerpts, interviews with the authors, and animation. I watched these videos during an afternoon of booth-manning, and not only did I finally feel ready to read the books, I also felt like I needed to. The videos were incredibly effective because once you hear them speak, and see them communicate, you (or at least I) feel the need to know them better.
Zuzana Sermer is a very thoughtful and articulate woman, and her memoir is probably the most novelistic of the ones I’ve read. One simile that really stuck with me was her comparison between Communism and zoos, and war, somewhat, and jungles. “Inhabitants of a zoo may be safe,” she writes, “but they are helpless captives without the richness that makes life worth living.”
I’ve reviewed 4 of these memoirs already. It’s difficult to find new things to say after reading and reviewing so many of a similar type of book, so I’m going to end with the following, which comes from my previous review and states my feelings as clearly as I can phrase them:
These people come from all over the world and have experienced anything from convents to concentration camps. I don’t feel comfortable rating these books – they’re personal and historical documents, not intentional works of literature, so I’m temporarily shelving my star system for now. However, I did want to review them, because I think they deserve to be read, thought about, and remembered.
Each memoir is unique and fascinating, and each has a worthy and important story to tell. On the one hand, this is so obvious as to become trite (everyone has a story to tell! everyone is important!), but on the other hand, it is an important reminder that we can never know the full story of any situation, and there are as many sides to the same story as there are people to tell it.
Cannonball Read: 46/52
(Cannonball Read V: 7/36)
Seriously, someone explain to me what I was thinking when I decided to post every day this month. Why THIS month? What is the MATTER with me?
Anyway, so I’m whitening my teeth for the next two weeks. Strangely, a diet of coke and tea on top of poor braces hygiene as a teenager hasn’t left me with the most attractive of chompers. And people always yell at me not to smile with my mouth closed, so fine. Just for you guys, I’ll make myself NOT look like a 13th century peasant. The things I do for other people.
The last time I wrote a book review (Stargirl), I began by saying, “I have been incredibly busy lately finishing up the memoir project, as the deadline for the completed manuscript is the end of this month. So perhaps staging this “one post per day” nonsense could have waited until next month, but oh well.”
Then it turned into a 600+ word review, so I got rid of that intro. But I’m using it for this review, because damn, February was a stupid month to choose for this project.
First, I would like to point out that if you are going to have a book take place in Britain, with characters from Britain, consisting of the letters that these British characters from Britain are writing to other British Britains, then you bloody well spell “honour” with a U, dammit! I’m not sure who is to blame for this, the publishers, the editors, or the authors, but come. on.
As for the actual story itself? Well, I found it endearing. Of course, it was incredibly cutesy (like Stars Hollow on rainbows), and most of the main characters lacked any actual human flaws. Also, and this is a common problem in epistolary novels, most of the many different characters’ letters – male and female, old and young, educated/literary and not – read suspiciously like they were written by the exact same person. I’m sure developing a unique voice for 10+ original characters is a difficult job, but them’s the breaks if you choose to structure your novel through letter.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society reminded me of nothing so much as The Secret Garden – so, so sickeningly sweet, and everyone is ridiculously wonderful, but you don’t really care because sometimes people really can be like that, and it works. There’s room in the world for books like this (and room for books like The Big Sleep, equally).
In short, hating this book is kind of like hating a litter of puppies. Most of the time, it’s just adorable and solves all the problems in the world, but every once in a while, if you’re feeling particularly bitter, all the cuteness might make you feel a bit…stabby.
Cannonball Read: 45/52
(Cannonball Read V: 6/36)
(Ok, this review also isn’t as short as I thought it would be. Hurrah for long-windedness.)
Today, I completed the meaning of life.
Or, what I actually did, was a crossed off the 42nd item on my List.
And I almost didn’t get home in time to write about it because I was seeing and then meeting the cast of AVENUE Q! (It’s my second time seeing the show, and it was just as good this time around, even though the theatre was smaller and the choreography a bit more…intimate.) Kate/Lucy was great, as were Nicky and Trekkie, and musical lovers now have one more convert to count among their number because I AM ALWAYS RIGHT. About musicals being awesome.
[When Nataly sends it, there will be a picture of me with the awesome Nicky. Until then, here I am with the British Brian and Gary Coleman, who, for once, was played by a guy.]
BUT ABOUT THE MOVIE.
I have always really loved Christopher Nolan. Batman Begins was my first, and it was filled, filled, with celebrity crushes. Liam Neeson, Christian Bale, Cillian Murphy, I’m pretty sure there was someone else but it’s 11:47pm, it was great stuff. I’ve since seen the rest of the Batman movies, Inception, and the Prestige (the latter is one of my all time favourites, and not just for the reason(s) you’d think), so I put his classic 2000 film Memento on my list (I also intend to watch all of them, eventually).
So what did I think?
Well, it was pretty good. I watched it twice (because I am nothing if not thorough) to make sure I fully understood everything. I loved the editing style, the acting was good, the story was interesting, all the ingredients were there for a great movie. I liked it. But I didn’t LOVE it (sorry Patrick). As much as I love Nolan, I can’t disagree with the criticism that his movies often come across as cold, clinical intellectual exercises more than stories, and I think probably the reason I didn’t love this movie as much as I could have was because this one fits that to a T. Once you’ve unwound the narrative, there’s not a lot left in there to offer. Sure, there were some suggestions of food for thought regarding the unreliability of memory and the importance it plays in our lives and our view of ourselves, but it was like someone took a picture of the food rather than actually getting the ingredients together and eating it. Every time the story came close to actually talking about issues of lying to oneself and misrememberances, it was pushed aside in favour of REVENGE and TWISTS.
I probably sound harsher than I mean to. I like a good gimmick as much as the next person, and I didn’t have a bad time watching it, either time. I also enjoyed doing a bit of reading on it after. I even came up with my own theories –
- I liked the linking of the black and white story with the colour story through the Polaroids.
- Leonard killed Teddy in revenge for Teddy using him. If he had more than approx. 10 minutes of time to play with, he might have cooled down and re-thought that decision.
- The wife probably had diabetes, and Leonard was mixing up memories from before the “incident” because that happens even when you HAVEN’T been permanently psychologically and physiologically scarred.
There’s a lot of fascinating stuff out there, and I think I might want to watch the chronological cut of the film one of these days (here is an excellent visual for the structure of the movie). For me, this movie is like Paul Rudd is like religion for Jeff Winger. I see the appeal, and I would never take it away from anyone. But I would also never stand in line for it.
The clock is actually chiming midnight as I press “publish.”
Nearly forgot to post today.
Last August, some friends and I took a ROAD TRIP to South Carolina (which, according to an unnecessarily rude road sign, is reserved specifically for South Carolinians) to meet up with another friend. It was awesome, and copious Community references were made.
I have never played paintball before (because I was afraid of pain, and this was long before the TOOTH ABSCESS OF DOOM that occurred in December), so we made an extra special outing of that.
It was pretty terrifying at first – the mask you wear to protect your face from flying projectiles is pretty suffocating, so you get to not only look and sound just like, but feel just like Darth Vader! Then there’s the fact that people you can’t see are shooting at you from all directions, and some of them (AHEM) aim to hurt. And the adrenaline rush actually made me shake like a person suffering from actual war-related distress.
But, it was also awesomely exhilarating, and I even managed to win one game (it was a team win, but…let me have my pride).
And after it all, the best thing ever happened.
Everyone knows that.