Thursday, May 30, 2013

Thank You Marian

My friend was scanning pictures and came across this one of me holding up my dog, Louise. We had her from 2001 - 2008.

She was a very easy going pooch. I would lift her and say, "Kunta Kinte."

It's a forever thing...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Could Be Simpler?

Happy Berkshires.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Behind The Candelabra: Liberace

The Liberace movie on HBO with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, directed by Steven Soderbergh, with appearances by Debbie Reynolds, Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Cheyenne Jackson and Paul Reiser, was well acted. It was also boring. It was a story maybe not necessary to be told but told anyway.

However, it would have been hard to miss.  Douglas and Damon did not have much chemistry. I think the relationship as it actually happened must have been a pretty straight forward trade off that eventually hit the rails. Like the marriages of Tom Cruise. Does Nicole really have a story? Not really. It was a transaction, they had. Transactions that are agreed upon in the light of day, or even covertly, or perhaps unconsciously, do not make great stories. Unless the characters are so compelling---and also well  understood.

My impression is that neither of these characters were ever really known. Liberace never came out from behind the outfits and the silly shows. Scott Thorson, his lover-and-son-in-one, was in the foster care system and was guarded, heavily, by Liberace, so was not known, either.

As a young person, I saw Liberace going strong. I had no interest in what he did. He looked so ridiculous. He seemed like an offshoot of Lawrence Welk. He was doing something kind of subversive yet pretending he wasn't. I never liked that. Inuendo? Nah.  He did not seem gay as much as weird man-lady in monstrous fur. He also seemed to be someone who was imitation royalty and because of this, he almost seemed flown in from middle Europa of the middle ages. He was one of the few men who informed the world what a gay man was. To me, this was horrifying. Embarrassing.

And, well, he died. And they made a movie. Soderbergh, declaring having given up directing films (for now)--made a real flatty. But being in service to Richard LaGravanese's this-then-this-happened script, maybe what Soderbergh did was spectacular. I only hit pause twice. I smell Emmys. But do I ever really get that smell out of my nose?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Frances Ha

In these days of action films being proffered around the globe, where guns and boobs and worlds that look like video games are the norm, it is a pleasure to watch a movie without guns, or boobs, not even a kiss.

Has the world turned upside down?  Where the money-makers have nothing but prurience on the mind and the arty folk are all chaste?

Yep.  It's interesting to be middle aged and to have seen everything change.  Yesterday's experiments are the money makers of the entrenched studio system--forty years later. 

And now the arty guys and girls just want to be simple people. Bare and real.

Love it.

And now for Frances Ha.  A lot has already been written about this movie so feel free to hang out on Al Gore's Interwebs and poke around.

My simple review:

The opening is sketchy and I don't fully believe this "great best friendship" off the bat. But we have to accept it to accept the movie. So accept it I did.

The acting isn't amazingly interesting. But it is real.  The uncomfortable social and work situations Frances finds herself in, you get pulled along hard.  Especially horrifying was one of those dinner scenes where everyone else is settled in and "normal" and has self esteem...and then there's Frances.Very Eric Rhomer from a scene from Summer (remember Marie Riviere in Summer?--talking about her vegetarianism and how it makes her feel light---to a table of meat eaters?  Amazing movie. Le Rayon Vert is the original title).  Turns out Noah Baumbach is a Rhomer fan. As am I. Naturally. As the movie rolls forward, you get more used to the almost flat style of acting...and you can't stop but say, "More, please."  More, in that you could watch this kind of acting in everything you ever watch. But also More, because you wouldn't mind if they got just a bit more high stakey...on the other hand, each character is hiding behind a persona that covers their bruised inner life. It does make sense. No schmacting here...

Greta Gerwig is extremely watchable. She lumbers when she walks. She is at the last moment of youthy youth and you feel it. She lets you in on it. This is probably the best script, or close to it (after The Squid and the Whale) of Noah Baumbach's. Greta's writing work was a boon to this screenplay.

Much of the supporting cast is completely realistic and enjoyable. All these privileged yet on-the-edge of dissatisfaction people...yep, buy it, entirely.

Grace Gummer is excellent as a poised and confident dancer. We'll see her doing larger roles soon. She has a natural ability in front of the camera. And she is not afraid of appearing angry or nasty. (Note: she worked on my play a few years ago, when she was a fresh tadpole out of college. Smart person, always asking the good questions.)

The shooting is brill. The black and white. Wonderful to watch.

New York is a star here, but not the main attraction. And the only thing this movie has in common with the TV show Girls is that it is in English, has Adam Driver in the cast and deals with 20-something trouble. And the only thing it has in common with Woody Allen's Manhattan is that it takes place, mostly, one borough over, in Brooklyn. Just trying to clear that up for y'all. This movie is not some sad little rip-off.

Frances Ha deserves to be experienced and talked about on its own merits. 

Completely worth seeing. It is one of the few films that I've seen in a long time that forces you into a full experience. It is not a huge story. But you really feel it. It digs right into you.

After you see this, rent Truffaut's 400 Blows if you haven't already. Another movie that is all about the experience. Completely worth the time.

Movies:  They're good when they're good.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

In Switzerland...

In Switzerland, there is enough underground space and supplies for every single citizen so when the big bombs of nuclear waste or terrible chemical warfare arrives, people can go underground and live. This is a reflection of the reflexive collective of a moderate-to-right nation.  They agree that everyone should remain alive in the face of calamity.

If our nation had anything close to that kind of care for its citizens, there would not be all these young corpses scattered under that collapsed school in Oklahoma. I like Oklahoma. The people are, in general, agreeable, warm, friendly and unpretentious. But the ideas lodged in the minds of most citizens of red states of going-it-alone-with-no-one-but-family-and-Jesus, well, that kind of kills your kids. Underground tunnels are tougher than Jesus.

Why there would be schools without safe places for children to take shelter during tornadoes in a tornado prone is hard to fathom. Take a lesson from the engineering, not-God-fearing Swiss. These tornado victims don't need prayers. They need infrastructure.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Glossy Pop. Sure. Suit & Tie

Apparently, this song is an ode to being handsome and well dressed. And I don't mind.

Justin Timberlake is having a great time. (I believe.)  Being in his body, his voice. It was shot incredibly.

Is it fatuous? Of course! That's the idea. Sometimes the greatest and deepest statement is as simple as, "Fuck it. I look good. I feel good. I'm having at it."

I also love the cereal bowl, early on, catching youth in action. And Jay-Z is gonna "Show you how to do it, son." It's like an initiation. Wealthy, successful, talented Justin Timberlake is forever young. This is what a successful youth will do for you. He can get many more years out of it.

In 1999, I was a writer for Miss Teen USA in Shreveport, Louisiana. I wrote jokes for the host, Carson Daly. It was a bit of a disaster. I had two things going against me. First, the other writer who was the main writer had been doing this gig for a few years and he behaved in an excited nostalgic manner about being back in Louisiana doing this gig. The sighs of sentiment, however, were covering a deep and aggressive territorial-ism. I was a threat. Boohoo. How ungenerous.  Second, Carson Daly hated my jokes. They were subtle, to say the least, the sort of jokes about the idea that a joke even has to be made is the joke. He didn't get it. Not long after, I was taken off joke writing and mostly handled Carson's water bottles. We were glued to each other. His status was higher. I had to quietly do what I was told. Blech. Paychecks.

The day before my joke writing days for Carson Daly were declared unofficially over, the guest band for Miss Teen USA 1999 showed up. It was none other than NSnyc. A wild dress rehearsal audience went wild. The energy of the band, especially of Justin Timberlake, was pitched so high and smooth, physically authoritative and ascendant. I had not ever been so close to this sort of thing. It was a thrill. Seeing the boys going back and forth to their trailers. Their ease and strength. It also became clear to me that I would never be in a boy band. I am 19 years older than Justin. With that clarity, I sobbed. But then I pulled it together to watch the band. They really were amazing.

In the Suit & Tie vid, he is still a very young man. But I'm not crying about it now. I'm just dancing along. And I don't care who knows it.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

Why Stay?

Adam, my recognized-by-New-York-State-Husband, has two nieces who are twins.

One has spent a year teaching English in France.

The other one has spent a few years teaching English in Dharamshala, India. This is the area of India where religious refugees from China have made their home. It's Buddhist, it's Tibetan, get used to it.

This is what she has to say about living with Tibetans:

"You know how in the west, whenever you meet someone, you hate them a little? That doesn't happen here."

She's staying.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Smashing Waste of Time

I cannot possibly be looking for sympathy. If you have something even slightly pressing to do right now, go do it. Because what I am about to complain about is not worth one speck of your attention.

But I am in a state of loss-confusion-quandary for the time spent watching…every-single-episode-of-Smash.

Okay, in the first season, I sort of enjoyed some episodes. There was an excitement.

But this second season. And then with the dead guy. And the tribute.  I hate tributes. Especially with golden flashbacks. All my flashbacks of dead people are in real color, the same as I am seeing right now.

And the sentiment! This is the problem with musicals. The horrendously cheesy sentiment. I love music. I like stories. I’ll watch a person dance for almost no reason. But the creamy honey sentiment? Who needs it? Real life is so much more interesting and so much more deeply felt than that. Sentiment is the complete lack of real feeling.

And yet, we watched and watched. I would say I am embarrassed and ashamed if I wasn’t so confused by my compulsion. Okay, I just admitted my compulsion and now, underneath, exposed—is my embarrassment and shame.

I will not take it on. I release it to the network-horror Gods who, in their smashing way, allowed it/mucked it/took hours of my life.

Three more episodes for us. And a correctly due cancellation. I do not like seeing people thrust out of their jobs. But in this case…I imagine them all moving onto better things.

Note: Cute people are not really suicidal. Nor do they care much about others.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Ten Ideas for May 10

  1. Karl Rove is Mr. Potato Head.
  2. Benedryl cures jet lag taken one hour before you want to be asleep.
  3. Gas mileage needs to be a thing of the past.
  4. I don’t understand why I don’t have a dog or a dog door.
  5. Why, Annie, again?
  6. Salient Soderbergh gives his State of Cinema Talk here:
  7. The worst part about getting older is getting older.
  8. We keep watching SMASH. So cliché. The show and the watchers.
  9. I stepped in shit in the park. I was happy the soles of my shoes were almost flat.
  10. Europe is post-religious and sort of Socialist. More please.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

We Have Returned from the Perigord

Put down your groceries and scroll through the 738 Pictures. 
Click any pic to enlarge

We highly recommend this part of France. All the loveliness, without any of the fuss. And friendly. Book your tix today.   Medieval market towns, castles, rivers, cave paintings, cheap houses for rent and all the duck and cheese you can snarf.

I'd type more about it, but my fingers have gotten too fat.