Monday, October 12, 2009

From Czechoslovakia with Love


I've been listening to a lot of beat music lately and somehow stumbled across a wild Czechoslovakian band called The Matadors. They combine adorably broken English with pretty awesome songs and of course, matador costumes! It couldn't get better or more peculiar. Check out their cover of Ike and Tina Turner's incredible classic "It's Gonna Work out Fine". Seriously, could the lead singer get any more loveable as he traipses erratically about the stage? Also, if you like this, listen to their original and uniquely titled pieces "Hate Everything Except of Hattered" [sic] and "Get Down from the Tree."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Ach-Yah or Nicht-Nicht?


Now for what you’ve all been waiting for: my Brüno review. Let me just start by saying that this film is just as hilarious and perhaps even more outrageous, disgusting, incendiary and complicated than its predecessor Borat. The undeniably brilliant Sacha Baron Cohen has a knack for creating films that – whether you love or hate them – raise many issues and cannot be ignored. In fact, eliciting strong reactions from his audience and spurring discussion is arguably what he is best at, and with Brüno this proves to be no exception. However, while Brüno is fascinating and undeniably hysterical, it is also a definite disappointment especially when compared to Borat.

In many ways it is unfair – though inevitable – to compare the two films. Borat had the huge advantage of coming first and of being utterly unique, thus creating – in my opinion – a revolutionary oasis in the arid world of modern cinema. Never before had someone blended fiction and fact in such an innovative and socially relevant, revealing way. Thus it is unavoidable that Brüno would fail to be as fresh, as it follows the exact same method of storytelling. However, Brüno not only falls short in this respect; it is less structured and not nearly as culturally significant as Borat.

While both films follow a clear plotline, Brüno spends much time meandering. Borat follows a plainly directed course across America in his quest to make a documentary about “U.S and A” and find his beloved “Pam-ella,” but Brüno’s quest is murkier. He starts out in Austria, where he finds himself in the middle of a major faux pas and seeks to rectify his fall from social grace by becoming internationally famous. Fair enough. From here he decides to travels rather haphazardly from Austria to America to the “Middle Earth” (or Middle East) and then back to America, which makes for a more convoluted, less understandable plotline.

However, the film’s structural concerns are minimal compared to its larger shortcomings. In essence, the point of Brüno is vastly underdeveloped. While Borat sought to expose America’s latent anti-Semitism, racism and misogyny, Brüno tackles homophobia, shallowness and general ignorance but with much less success. For whatever reason, Brüno fails to uncover nearly as much damning material from those he interviews.

To the film’s credit, some scenes work brilliantly; my favorite is one in which Brüno interviews stage parents about casting their toddlers in an extremely un-P.C photo shoot that involves pushing a Jewish child into a stove. Their willingness to comply with the horrific questions he asks them just to get their children cast – including if their two year-olds could undergo liposuction or operate large, out of date machinery – are truly horrifying and Baron Cohen scores big in exposing cultural ignorance in all its hideousness. Other successful scenes include the “Jew Converter” scene, and one in which Brüno interviews two of the dumbest charity organizers ever.

However, too often Brüno attempts to uncover hidden prejudices by putting people in strange, uncomfortable situations, but fails in attaining his goal. For example, scenes like the one where he locks himself in a room with Ron Paul and begins to undress, or tells Paula Abdul to sit on a person instead of a chair while discussing her good deeds for humanity are hilarious but fail to expose anything about society. In both cases, Paul and Abdul act as anyone would if put in such a ridiculous, awkward situation and thus, while the scenes succeed on a comedic level, they don’t have much any cultural significance.

Perhaps this trend of setting up a ridiculous yet ultimately pointless scenarios is most noticeable in the scene in which Brüno takes his African baby on a talk show and proceeds to insult the intelligence of his audience by calling Africa a “country filled with African Americans,” and proclaiming that he got his baby (named O.J) by “swapping him for an ipod.” The audience is understandably irate, and it is extremely unclear who is being made fun of and exposed as ignorant. Surely it’s not the justifiably enraged audience, so it must be Brüno himself. But if that’s the case, then what’s the point of the scene?

Here we get into the complicated and over-discussed issue of whether – by watching and laughing at Brüno – we are laughing at or with gay people. Though I don’t personally find Brüno offensive (despite the fact that he is a stupid, crude caricature of a gay man), I completely understand how many people would find him to be so. Borat, by contrast, was also a disgusting character, but the film sought to condemn the traits Borat himself held, while Brüno arguably seeks to expose homophobia, not make gay people look worse. Regardless of one’s personal response to Brüno, his character and many of the scenes in his film are less clear and socially relevant than Borat, making me question who or what I was really laughing at and why.

So yes, Brüno is just as funny as Borat. I laughed the whole way through. But the film is not nearly as revealing or important as its predecessor, which is what made Borat such a success. The bottom line is, see this movie. It’s impossible not to have a strong reaction to it, and the issues that it raises – however feebly – are important ones to discuss. In fact, perhaps the fact that Baron Cohen was unable to obtain more direct examples of homophobia is itself significant. Is homophobia that much of a repressed issue that no one will admit to it despite the fact that gay marriage is illegal nearly countrywide? Perhaps matters like this – which Brüno hints at without really delving into – are what make this film most fascinating.

Drag Yourself to the Theater


I’m a total sucker for scary movies, but of course I don’t consider many things very scary, hence most horror films disappoint. Drag Me to Hell (directed by Sam Raimi) is not really an exception as it wasn’t particularly frightening, but I wasn’t so much disappointed as amused. This film was all over the place; it was simultaneously contrived and typical of the horror genre, while at the same time funny and almost avant-garde in its kitchy peculiarity. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and instead of trying to stick to the books of what defines a horror film, Raimi has fun weaving disparate elements of horror, comedy and camp together into this devilishly enjoyable offering.

The film stars Alison Lohman who is perfectly cast as Christine Brown – a kind hearted if meek loan officer who hopes to garner a promotion by putting her foot down and refusing a loan to a haggard and hideous gypsy woman (Lorna Raver). After refusing the loan, the woman curses Christine and strange, terrible things begin to happen. She seeks the help of Rham Jas (Dileep Rao), a sexy psychic who tries to aid her in purging the curse before she is literally dragged to hell. Will she succeed? I won’t say, but her experience makes for one bizarre film.

Much of the film relies on moments of contrived shock value as per usual of the horror genre. For example, scenes like the one in which Christine finds herself alone in a darkened parking garage with the grotesquely predatory gypsy rely on typical elements of scary films – dramatic mood music, eerie sound effects, suspenseful editing, and surprising reveals. However, the scene stops being so generic when the old woman loses her false teeth and winds up gumming rather than biting Christine’s face for what can only be described as an inordinate amount of time. Though it might not sound funny, this disgusting scene undercut the formulaic tension of a horror film with disturbingly gross-out humor.

At other times Drag Me to Hell also strays from the prototype of a horror film with absurdly campy scenes like the one in which Christine has dinner with her boyfriend’s parents. Shot in oddly washed out colors which add to the scene’s surreal nature, Raimi makes no pretense at trying to be scary, but instead plays up the film’s macabre, fantastical side with Christine talking to herself, yelling profanities at the dinner table, and even consuming a fly and consequently burping it up. The film also takes on an almost Twin Peaks-esque vibe when a plagued Christine ponders how to escape her curse whilst wandering around an all-night diner filled with an odd assortment of nutty characters worthy of their own film. It’s a scene that has little thematic relevance to the rest of the movie, but nonetheless it fits well into the creepy yet quirky world Raimi has created.

Perhaps my biggest gripe with the film is the unwarranted anomaly that is Justin Long who plays Christine’s boyfriend. I do not just mean to imply that he is out of place and unwanted in only this film, I mean that he is never needed or appropriate in any film ever. What is the point of this guy? He is almost as perversely unnecessary as Shia LaBeouf. Justin (and Shia – though his worthlessness can be saved for another post) is not good looking or charismatic enough to ever play leading or supporting roles, nor interesting or adept enough to be a character actor. He is an extremely limited performer who seems to have no niche at all in the dog-eat-dog world that is Hollywood and frankly I’m shocked that he continues to book roles. If you’re looking to cast the adorable, dependable type (which is what I would peg Justin’s character as in this film) there are a handful – neigh, a few hundred – other actors who fit the bill better than Justin. This is true for any role that Justin has ever landed. I’m baffled and annoyed that his career continues to rise when his parts could go to some much more deserving, struggling actor. Justin is worse than insufferable mediocrities like Jude Law or Hugh Jackman with their tedious blandness; he is a nonentity that I am embarrassed to have taken up this much of my time discussing as he isn’t worth any time at all.

Whatever, apart from Justin, this film is weird, strange fun. Go see it - you'll be in for one hellish good time!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Amazing!


Have you seen Brüno yet? Ish have! Ish loved it! Go see it! No time to review now, ish am too busy being fabulous. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

So Far, so Tasty


Yay more Top Chef! Granted, I don’t think Top Chef: Masters is as palatable (or some other lame food-related quip) as a regular installment of the show, but it is enough to satiate some of my cravings (ok, I’ll stop). Mainly, Masters falls short because it doesn’t follow the same group of people week by week – rather, it features four different, already established “master” cheftestants who face off head to head with one winning and going on to the Champions Round – thus making it more difficult to root for anyone in particular. Also, as a result of their “master” statuses, none of these chefs takes the competition too seriously – why should they? – so the whole thing feels a bit half-assed at times. Furthermore, because of the high caliber of chefs, the judges’ criticism is pretty bland (sorry, last food related adjective, I promise) and scathing reviews are one of the things that make normal Top Chef so fun. Also, I miss Tom and Gail (though apparently she’ll be on later this season) and yes, even Padma. This new host, Kelly Choi, is pretty but a bit lackluster (I avoided a food word there). And, notably missing from the lineup of competing chefs are the dreamy Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain both of whom I would love to see compete. But really, I should stop complaining; the show is still fun, and it is pretty impressive to see how talented these people are and how much passion they have for food.

So I think I’ll give you a week-by-week rundown and just share a few of my thoughts.

Week One – I was glad Hubert Keller won. He’s obviously incredibly talented and also has a good personality – I won’t mind seeing him again come the Champions Round. The best part of this episode though was seeing all the chefs confused by Whole Foods as they don’t do their own shopping and mystified by microwaves.

Week Two – My big problem here was that the woman who won – Suzanne Tracht – was by far the least interesting of the four contestants and I don’t care to see her compete again. Both Wylie Dufresne and Graham Elliot Bowles were fascinating to watch, had interesting personalities and a great bromance/rivalry. It’s a shame one of them didn’t win.

Week Three – I had a similar problem with this one as I did with episode two. I liked Rick Bayless least out of all the cheftestants – he reminds me of someone’s possibly gay overbearing father and just gives me the creeps – and yet he is the one who I will have to see compete again.

I also think it’s amusing to note that at the end of every episode when they add the picture of that week’s winner to the Champions Round in which six slots represent the six winning chefs, the unfilled slots all show Hubert’s silhouette. Weird, right? Anyways, I’ll report more next week. So far, I’m rooting for Hubert.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hangover-Rated?


There are lots of reasons why I didn’t want to see The Hangover. First, it’s been lauded as one of the best comedies in years and I was worried that the film would not live up to its hype – films rarely do. I was also worried that the hype was generated purely by the hoi polloi who tend to laugh at anything – you know who you are – thus, that there was really nothing worth hyping in the first place. I was also worried that like Wedding Crashers – to which The Hangover has been compared – the film would rely on gross situational gags in lieu of originality, clever writing, or inspired performances. Bizarrely and perplexingly, this film does derive much of its humor from crude and lewd gags, but somehow still manages not to fall short of its lofty hype.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the best film ever. It isn’t profound or genius, nor will it change your outlook on life. But then again, it isn’t trying to. And what it is trying to do – tell a simple story in a hilarious way – is done exceedingly well. The premise is easy and you probably know it already: three men go to Las Vegas for their friend’s bachelor party. The only problem is, upon waking up (predictably hungover) after a night of wild debauchery - including a tiger, a baby, and a naked Chinese man - that none of them can remember, the groom is missing. The rest of the film is a loosely constructed mystery complete with clues in which the men try to piece together the events of their blacked out evening in an effort to locate their lost friend.

Both explicitly and in terms of its structure the film advocates that “it’s not where you’re going, it’s how you get there.” The film’s end goal of finding the groom is entirely secondary to the fun that is experienced along the way. The film is akin to many “roadtrip” films like Harold and Kumar in that the characters are propelled through a loose narrative via a series of relatively unconnected but entirely enjoyable episodes with an end goal that is really just a MacGuffin. However, while so many films of this nature can be poorly constructed and tiring, The Hangover is tightly written, well edited and the pace never lags.

Also, though the film has so many examples of crude humor and un-PC scenarios that it makes Wedding Crashers look like the clichéd, essentially G-rated, by-the-book family film that it really is, The Hangover is still inexplicably pretty charming. I think the film manages to be both raunchy and endearing because it doesn’t use these gags merely to cover up for a weak plot or sub par acting. Instead, the film succeeds in part because of these jokes but also by it’s clever construction and excellent performances. All three of the male leads are superbly portrayed and strangely likeable despite their idiocy. I must say, in particular Ed Helms really stands out – he’s my favorite character in the American version of The Office and he’s great here as the dorkily uptight and domesticated dentist. I feel like this guy’s going to become the next big comic actor, you wait and see. Zak Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper are also excellent and the supporting cast is great as well.

Best Thing Zac Efron has Ever Done


Check out the hilarity!

Update:
P.S. I'm a little weirded out/pleased that my website has now been linked on some sort of Zac Efron aggregator twitter fan site. Efron-ites, feel welcome, I'm not really a Zac hater or anything, just FYI. I may have to start posting more inadvertent, vague, tangential references to Zac just to garner more hits. Thanks Effron-ites!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Days of Swine and Roses


Since that dismal week in which 30 Rock, The Office, Lost and Survivor all ended en masse, followed shortly by the demise of The Hills and Gossip Girl, there is really only one show that I’m currently following (as I can’t find episodes of Top Chef: Masters online yet!), and that’s The Bachelorette.

On this go-round, it’s Jillian – last season of The Bachelor’s third runner-up – who is taking a stab at finding everlasting love. Now let’s not pretend that there’s ever been a fantastic or even half decent season of The Bachelor or Bachelorette, but this one is particularly sub par. The men this time are really juvenile and - as my title suggests - swine-like, and to exacerbate things, Jill seems to have especially poor taste in picking from this disappointing pool of seeming adolescents.

Also, and this is lobbing a blow pretty far below the belt, or rather, below the eyes – that’s right, this blow is landing right on Jillian’s oversized nose – but Jillian is simply not pretty enough to be believably leading around a pack of twenty some mild to moderate hotties. Ok, to be fair, Jillian is a cool enough girl; I would even consider having a drink with her, which is not something I would endure with just anyone. Jillian’s personality is fine, and in a perfect world maybe bunches of hotties would flock to an awkward looking girl with an above average personality. But – and do I even need to say this? – we don’t live in a perfect world and the men on this season are clearly not above shallow behavior. In fact, so many of them are petty and full of testosterone that it makes watching the show unbearable at times.

There are a few decent catches on the show, however, and one who has earned the Film Noix stamp of approval. This lucky gent is Reid – a 29 year-old realtor from Philadephia.

I know, he sounds like a snooze fest but he’s actually really cute (don't trust that abysmal picture, it was the best I could find) and seems to have a good sense of humor. He’s hands down the one I would pick. I actually would go so far as to venture that – if he is rejected by Jill and asked to be the next bachelor – I might finally make my long overdue reality TV debut by competing for his undying affection on the show. Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sorry (Again)!


Behold! I have emerged from my dormant cavern of blog silence, stiff and sore from what must seem to you like eons of literary hibernation. Indeed, it’s been nigh two months since I put fingers to keyboard and enlightened you with some exquisite insight from the rich and limitless stock of my imagination. And before you berate me with your grievances due to my prolonged and unexplained absence – I can only guess how hard it must have been for you to cope in lieu of my heretofore semi-frequent updates – let me just say that I’m sorry. In an attempt to win you back into my favor, I’ll share with you one of the things that has been eating up an enormous chunk of my time – granted it is only one facet of my infinitely busy life, but it is the one that I estimate will garner the most sympathy points.

Here she is: the end of the rainbow, my pot of gold, mommy’s little girl to have and hold. A precious gem, is what she is, and she’s mommy’s little girl. Ok, I’ll stop quoting lyrics and for once cut to the chase. I have a little kitty!

Technically, she’s not mine – she’s just my foster baby, but I’ve had her since she was a wee bottle baby and it’s been months now and I love her with all my heart. I’ve had other foster cats but they’ve all been adopted. While I’ve been sad to see them go, this one has been with me the longest and is quite simply, the most wonderful. I really hope no one wants to adopt her and that I get to keep her, even though I’m not sure this is such a good idea as I don’t think people should adopt cats unless they can guarantee a good home for the next twenty or so years. I also can’t come up with a name that is perfect enough for her – she’s too heavenly for any name to stick. Instead I just keep calling her Baby Angel Princess. I know this is cringe-worthy, but seriously, it fits her better than anything else that’s come to mind. Feast on these glamour shots you lucky bastards:





Friday, April 3, 2009

Ach yah!

The trailer for Bruno has been released and it is FABULOUS! Ish am so, so excited and absolutely can't wait! My favorite part is the "traditional African name" Bruno gives his baby. Further proof that Sacha Baron Cohen is the most brilliant mind of our generation. Check it out - it's so 2009!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dial M for Milland


I love movies with creepy leading characters. From The Talented Mr. Ripley to Night of the Hunter to M that sort of thing never ceases to thrill me. The more I can empathize with the creepster, the better. A baddy with little motivation is pointless and not really worth watching (think Spielberg’s atrocious War of the Worlds – there was no reason why the aliens were attacking Earth, thus they were ineffective antagonists. And yeah, this is only the tip of the iceberg as to why this film was bad, but this is not the time or the place to discuss the film's multitude of flaws). No, you need to be able to get inside your villain’s head in order to craft a truly eerie, bloodcurdling film. I recently rewatched Dial M for Murder, a Hitchcock that I had virtually forgotten about altogether and am happy to report that I was totally creeped out by the brilliance of Hitch’s leading man.

The villain in question is former tennis star Tony (Ray Milland), who discovers that his wealthy wife Margot (Grace Kelly) has been having an affair with sleazy writer Mark (Robert Cummings) and – out of boredom, annoyance and lack of funds – decides to plot her murder. It’s a pretty straightforward story that could have dragged and lost its momentum with a less adept director, but Hitchcock – the self proclaimed “master of suspense” – keeps the ball rolling at an irritatingly gripping pace. I literally couldn’t stop watching.

While the bulk of the film’s dramatic tension and general success should be attributed to Hitchcock, I was no less than bowled over by the subtlety and nuance of Milland’s performance. I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I have only seen four of Milland’s other works, but in all these films he played sympathetic, charming and affable leading men. Even in The Lost Weekend – in which Milland delivers a heartbreaking performance as a deeply troubled alcoholic – he still portrayed a sweetheart for whom you couldn’t help but feel deeply sorry. In Murder, however, his character is cold blooded, calculated and passionless. His hatred for his wife is far from the sort of emotional fury you might expect from a jilted husband; it’s a smooth, detached, quiet sort of hatred that makes him all the more deadly. Seemingly emotionless, he is motivated to carry out her murder as much because of her infidelity and wealth as from a general boredom with his situation in life and a fascination with seeing if he can pull off a perfect crime. He’s a chilling, terrifying character that Milland plays with so much skill that I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for him every excruciating step along the way.

His cool villainous persona is all the more effective in contrast with Kelly’s and Cummings’ characters who exemplify the sort of watered down, irksome blandness it is near impossible not to loathe. I’ve never been a big Grace Kelly fan; I find her beautiful but drearily insipid. Long before she was the princess of Monaco, she was still an ice princess of the first degree and her frigid demeanor distances her from viewers. Also, her wooden, affected speech is grating, pretentious and distracting. No thank you. Cummings’ character is little better; he proficiently plays a hack but the role has little merit to begin with, and is thus not improved with his somewhat limited acting chops. However, the pair's shortcomings only serve to heighten the brilliance of Milland’s performance and further build audience complicity with his nefarious pursuits.

Shot virtually only in one room, it is a wonder that this film doesn’t feel constrained. It is a testament to Hitchcock’s innovative direction and camera choices (fun fact: the film was shot in 3D!), the fascinating plot developments and of course Milland’s phenomenal performance that the film not only doesn't feel fenced in, but rather soars. This is easily one of Hitchcock’s top films and one of his best villains. If you like creepy characters as much as me, or even if you just like suspense, or are merely fond of looking at Grace Kelly, I would highly recommend this film.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

California Dreamin'


Awash in the homesickness that goes hand in hand with enduring a frostbitten New York winter, I have been yearning for a hiatus from the snow, a vacay from the oppressive winds constantly blowing my hair in my mouth, an escape from my dark little bug infested basement apartment where I don’t even get cell reception. The inimitable Tom Robbins says: “weather should be either celebrated or ignored,” and I couldn’t agree more, but truth be told I’m better at celebrating than ignoring and thus, it is hard to cope with the entirely uncelebratory weather. However, in an attempt to ignore the cold, I decided to flee to the comparatively balmy homeland of Northern California at least on a mental plane by watching Humbolt County.

The film follows Peter, a neurotic and sheltered UCLA medical student (portrayed by the oddly wooden Jeremy Strong) who – after studying for three days – fails his final exam, which is proctored by his father (Peter Bogdanovich) and winds up having a one-night-stand with a free spirited singer Bogart (Fairuza Balk) who drives up the coast to her home of Humboldt county while Peter is passed out from exhaustion in the passenger’s seat. Upon awakening he finds himself in an entirely mystical, secluded realm of redwood trees, pot groves and stunning headlands. The beautiful familiarity of the locale was almost too much for me!

After a few days of trying to leave Humboldt to return to his formative life, Peter decides to stay for a while as he grows closer to Bogart’s far out surrogate family, including her iconoclast adoptive father Jack (skillfully played by Brad Douriff), perma-stoned adoptive mother Rosie (Frances Conroy) and their son Max (played by the handsome Chris Messina), a cynical, flawed but deeply human pot grower and single father who becomes Peter’s close friend. From here, the story follows a fairly conventional route as uptight Peter – who previously never thought life had anything to offer beyond becoming a doctor – learns to appreciate a new way of life and lets go of his preconceived notions.

This all sounds pretty trite and clichéd, I’ll admit. But what redeems this movie is the strong character development. Apart from Peter himself (who I found the weakest of the bunch), each role is well written and skillfully acted and resultantly the film is full of nuanced, relatable dialogue and characters. Also, while writer/director team Darren Grodsky and Danny Jacobs certainly depict these Northern Californians in a positive light, they avoid idealizing them or their lifestyle. Instead, each of the oddballs Peter encounters is mired and lost in their own personal disconnect from reality just as much as Peter is himself. Additionally, Bogdanovich’s role as Peter’s hardened father is humanized rather than condemned for being straight and narrow. Ultimately the film does not suggest that one way of life is better than another, but instead urges its viewers to follow their own path, rather than feeling confined to a predetermined one.

My least favorite part of the film (without giving too much away) comes at the end when we learn that Max suffers from an as-yet-unmentioned drinking problem. For the sake of tying up all the lose ends, this development fit neatly into the film but seemed out of place in terms of Max’s already well established character. Thus, this alcoholic add-on and its subsequent repercussions on the overall plot seemed tacked on and forced. In short, this isn’t a brilliant film – it’s not going to blow your mind or change the way you live your life – but it’s well done and entirely enjoyable. In particular, Messina’s performance really shines. I'd recommend Humboldt County to all, but highly recommend it to Northern Californians, especially those who are currently stuck on the bloody East Coast dreaming of their beloved homeland.

I'm Back...

I feel like all I do is apologize to you for my near criminally negligent lack of posting. I won't even bother to explain this time; those of you who know me know that I've been inescapably detained and those of you who don't will have to live in the titillated darkness wondering to what I could possibly be referring.

Instead of excuses (though trust me, were I to elaborate, the excuses would be good ones), I'll propose a conciliatory gift of laughter through my old friend Bruno. Behold the sassy fashionista extract some deep observations from one Miami club owner. It's not just humorous, it's informative: you'll learn amazing new facts about how such catastrophes as WWII and Apartheid could have been avoided (who knew it could be so simple!), and you'll also hear a mind blowing story about Matt Damon!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Officially Famous Now

Granted I was already unofficially famous, but today I became officially a really big deal. That's right, I'm on IMDB now. Click here to see the page in all its glory.

This whole thing is very random to me as I have been in countless short films and this one (in which is have a tiny, negligible part) is the one that finally cements my status as rising star, it girl of the 2010s, witty and ingenious comedienne, etc. You get the drift. Anyways, three cheers for me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Apologies, Teasers, Rewards and MORE!


This is my "I'm so sorry" face.

So basically this week has just slipped away from me. I'd love to blame my lack of posts on some legit excuse, but that would mean lying to your face, and I think you know that I have too much respect for you to do that. So I'll fess up. I've basically just been partying too much. When you don't have a job it's hard to convince yourself to stay in and sleep when you could be ripping it up and painting the town red, blue, yellow and every shade in between. And given my predilections for rash, spontaneous behavior the latter option is evermore lustrous than the gimpy former.

But as a result of my debaucheries, I have little entertainment opinions, critiques or even rant seshes to unfold onto your computer screens. Apologies. I do instead have many scintillating stories from some of my more rowdy activities this week, but I figure for the sake of preserving the posterity of this blog, I will save these rampantly hedonistic tales of glory for my close personal acquaintances, not for the prying eyes of every Tom and Judy that frequents this blog with their prying eyes.

What I do hope to accomplish in writing this woefully unstructured post is to let you know that, audience, I have not forgotten thee. Here are some teasers of posts that will very shortly be up on Film Noix:
  • Deconstructing Nevan - A op-ed piece in which I tear apart and ultimately exalt the man, the myth, the legend that is The City's Nevan Donahue. This will be full of juicy behind the scenes tidbits and is sure to be a crowd pleaser.
  • Humboldt County - Yes, that's right, I actually saw a film. Surprising, I know. I have already written the bulk of it before I got distracted and never finished it. But it will be up soon, promise.
  • I've also seen some other flicks if you can believe it, many of which coincidentally (?) star Seth Rogin so maybe I'll review one or all of these, and I also watched How To Lose Friends and Alienate People which is the "true story" about none other than our relentless little Top Chef troll, Toby Young, so I'll probably write that up.
And finally, as promised, some rewards for bothering to read this again ill-structured and self-aggrandizing post. You deserve it, you've been such good, good loyal readers:

First, I offer you my sacred photo with Chef Harold, the winner of Top Chef season 1. This photo serves to remind all you Top Chef fans of the laud, respect and glory that once accompanied the show's winners before the entire Top Chef empire fell from grace by crowning Hosea Top Chef and putting poor Padma in those horrid get ups! Behold: bask in the wonder of Chef Harold:

Next up, I give you my recipe for Hot Buttered Rum, a drink so magnificent, so delightfully dreamy and warm it almost makes you forget you're still six inches deep in an apparently unending winter. After repeated trips to Little Branch - an underground speakeasy in Tribeca - with Nora or Jonathan, I finally realized a) that Hot Buttered Rum is incredible, and b) that I couldn't justify paying or having someone else pay $13 for it. I had to look elsewhere. So I assembled many ingredients in my apartment and became experimenting. And now, presto, the product of my hard work is finished and has earned high praise like: "Better than Little Branch" - Nora Schaffer.

  • 2 shots of spiced rum
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 ounce butter (preferably salted)
  • nutmeg (preferably freshly ground)
  • hot water
  • (You could also add cinnamon, which the above photo which I did not take imples)
Put your water on to boil. Now just throw the rum, brown sugar and butter into a large mug while you wait for the water to heat. When the water boils, pour it in. Stir the contents together while adding your nutmeg. Sip, enjoy, bliss out.

And lastly, I was going to post a Fleetwood Mac video, but though I love the music, the videos were whack, so instead I'm going with the old tried and true. Here's an amazing excerpt from 30 Rock. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Crossing the Line


Don’t get me wrong, I love watching the turmoil, tantrums and general exploitation of human emotions that run ramped in reality TV as much as (well, more than) the next person, but even I have my limit. I thoroughly enjoyed when weirdo Billy from Survivor misinterpreted hottie Candace’s words of consolation for “love at first sight” and publicly proclaimed their love as his prize for playing the game; this was one of the best moments of reality TV ever, and its genius was due in large part to the fabulous effect of using others’ misfortunes for entertainment purposes. But tonight, The Bachelor – one of my longstanding favorite shows – crossed a line between what is morally acceptable to exploit for the sake of good TV and what is just plain cruel.

If you missed it, I’ll fill you in quickly. In tonight's finale, Jason – our bachelor who we trust and love implicitly – must choose between Melissa and Molly, who – for the sake of keeping this relatively brief – are both beautiful and sweet and whatnot. After two hours of unnecessary screentime, Jason rejects Molly, cries (as if he’s the one in anguish), and then tells Melissa he loves her and proposes to her. The excitement is not over yet though; as the third hour of the seemingly endless finale is ushered in, thankless host Chris Harrison promises us that this final segment will bring the “most shocking ending in Bachelor history,” so our attention is piqued and we are rapt and excited little viewers.

Guess what happens. Jason tells Chris that – unbeknownst to Melissa – he has had problems with the engagement and is still in love with Molly! Melissa is brought out thinking that the two are merely going to talk about their relationship when – surprise! – Jason publicly dumps her and she is given about seven minutes to vent before being shooed off to allow enough screentime for Jason and Molly’s tearful reunion. Disgusting. The whole thing went beyond being unnecessarily painful to downright inhumane and vicious.

I understand that the entire premise of shows like The Bachelor derives from milking human emotions – mainly pain – for the sake of attracting viewers, but this finale went beyond the limit of what is morally tolerable. The agony that Melissa had to endure went so far past what she bargained for (in which the worse case scenario is going to the final two only to not be picked) that if I were her, I would sue ABC for undue stress and emotional trauma. The fact is that if anyone on the production team cared a bean about the wellbeing of its contestants, they would have spared Melissa the devastation of what happened tonight by having Jason break up with her offscreen (which would still have been just as “shocking”). Deciding to televise the scandal shows that producers for shows like this one have become completely disconnected from what is morally acceptable in favor of treating people like objects who they can freely exploit to achieve the most emotional output for profit.

I’d never thought the day would come when I would throw up my hands and say “enough,” but that day has come. I cannot sit by and watch – thereby validating and tolerating – this sort of abuse. I’m giving up watching future seasons of The Bachelor in hopes that people like me will cause producers to reevaluate their treatment of others and perhaps regain a piece of their long lost morality.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Out of the Frying Pan and into the Fire


Does this person look like a winner?

Pools of outrage, disgust and blind fury are flooding my eyes. I just watched the Top Chef finale and I am irate. As I’ve stated and probably overstated, this season has been – to use yet another bad food metaphor – a bit less than delicious albeit still somewhat watchable. Now, with last night’s finale, what was a stale season has curdled and become putrid with the appointment of “douche boy” Hosea as Top Chef. Honestly, his entirely unmerited victory makes a complete mockery out of the establishment that is Top Chef and is an injustice to past winners whose titles actually stood for something. I’m so mad I can barely see straight enough to type this.

I wasn’t even paying attention to most of the episode because I was so confident that Stefan – the only remaining deserving cheftestant – was a cinch to win. One of the only things I remember about the show was how stupid and even more Neanderthal-esque Hosea looked with that ridiculous, asymmetrical soul patch growing on his hideously receding jawline. It adds insult to injury when an already offensive looking person goes and does something like growing a soul patch. No good can come of it, so please boys, shave them off. The look works on no one, but especially not on appropriately nicknamed “douche boy”.

The only other minutely interesting snippet that I can recall from the episode was that for once Toby Young wasn’t the biggest fool in the room, because inexplicably “jazz legend” Branford Marsalis was present and had only two things to say, both of which made Toby’s comments seem like divinely received words of wisdom: “It’s really cool sitting around listening to chefs talk cause they talk just like musicians,” and “I agree with just about everything everyone’s said.” What a complete and utter dolt. If one has nothing interesting to say, say nothing at all, especially if one is being filmed.

Only did I spring up and actually pay attention when Padma delivered the unbelievable verdict that it was Hosea, not Stefan who had received the lofty title. My partially digested food made a move to escape from whence it entered my body and I uttered a cry of stupefied horror. The show has now lost all credibility and I am seriously considering not watching the next installment. I feel like the producers owe Stefan as well as all the previous seasons’ winners a giant apology for so harshly tarnishing the meaning of what it is to be Top Chef.

And now, I’m not only outraged, but perplexed – did other people actually like Hosea? Though I’m normally an astute viewer, maybe he had at least one redemptive quality that in my Jeff-induced trance I somehow missed? Seriously, if you can think of even one reason why this backwoods Cro-Magnon is deserving, send it my way. Until then, I shall remain in my outraged, nauseous state, so please hurry.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Really?


This is our final four? So many words flood into my mind when I ponder the way this season of Top Chef has panned out, including but not strictly limited to: disappointing, regrettable, lamentable and perplexing.

I just don't get it. I'm not sure what went wrong with Bravo's carefully oiled culinary machine, but a wrench of indiscernible shape, size or origin seems to have been thrown into its wiring. I don’t know if it’s because of Padma's déclassé outfits, or because Gail Simmons and Anthony Bourdain are gone, or the fact that the obscure-movie-referencing, woefully unknowledgeable troll known as Toby Young has replaced them, but this season is just not as sumptuous as those of an earlier vintage.

I think it was when we lost our last shining hope of a happy outcome at the end of the season (Cheftestant Jamie) that I truly gave up. It's hard for me to even work up the zeal to write anything at all about these mundane remaining four aspiring chefs. But I guess - for lack of having anything better to do that this hour of the night - I will write a brief summary of our remaining four. From crappiest to least crappy:

Hosea - I don't get this guy. I mean, he's strictly mediocre yet because someone else has always screwed up worse than he has, he's still in the game. With his weirdly oblong head and back-woods hick appearance and am disinclined to trust him. I mean, he would be fine - he wouln't even cross my field of vision - if he left somewhere in the middle, but because he's in the finale, I simply can't stand for this.
Chance of Winning: 0%

Fabio - I don't hate him. I guess he has a winning personality as the judges keep attesting over and over again ("I wanted to spend the whole day with him" - Gail Simmons), but his Italian stallion charms just don't work on me. His food seems solid though lacking the innovation of say a Jamie or a Stefan.
Chance of Winning: 30%

Carla - The same case that was made for Hosea can be made for Carla. She's been pretty mediocre throughout the show (albeit she has impressively come on strong recently!) and has only survived because of others' misfortunes. I like her, though. She's quirky with those bizarre bug eyes (a former model? Seriously?) and the way she keeps comparing herself to a turtle is oddly fitting. Also she's tall, and I have a soft spot for tall women.
Chance of Winning: 0%

Stefan - I don't really care for Stefan; the villanous status that Bravo shamlessly tried to adhere to him never really held as well as the one with which Hung (Season 3) was branded. He's not really all that evil or conniving, nor for that matter is he loveable or endearing. Again, he's pretty mediocre, though I do like the fact that he has a crush on Jamie (who doesn't?). Despite my wishy-washy feelings toward his personality, I will admit that if anyone but Stefan wins, this season will officially qualify as not only boring but completely unfair. He's just an all around superior chef to everyone else (with the possible exception of Jamie).
Chance of Winning: 70%

Jamie -
Should have won. Should not have been voted off. By far my favorite cheftestant aside from my culinary boyfriend Jeff. She is included here for honorary purposes only.

Mendocino Murders


So on Valentine’s Day I was informed by my friend Clare of some sad and shocking news: John Nettles – who plays the shrewdly dapper Detective Chief Inspector Barnaby in Midsomer Murders – is leaving the show at the end of this season. For those of you who haven’t seen it but are fans of cozy British mysteries, Midsomer is simply the most guiltily delectable. For the past 12 years, Nettles and a delightfully incompetent, fish-out-of-water, city-savvy sidekick have been sweating it out in Midsomer – a quaint but inexplicably deadly county in which no less than 200 people have been murdered. As they plunder the depths of the county, they uncover wrongdoings – infidelity, blackmail, incest, you name it – as incongruous with the picturesque countryside as they are evil. Mixing cozy, granny-esque elements like book clubs and high tea with improbable and oft ridiculous murder is simply a divine combination and this show should truly not be missed.

So as the intelligent reader may have already concluded, I was crushed by the news that Nettles is planning on leaving. This is really pretty huge news to a diehard fan like me and while I wish him the best in his career, I spent the better part of V-day thinking that there was no way the show could go on without him. But now I’ve hatched a plan that, if followed out, will not only turn the lemons that blossomed when John told us this grievous news into lemonade but will perpetuate the brilliance of the show and give me a job as well!

So here’s the deal: As dedicated fans already know (yawn, old news), while DCI Barnaby has remained a constant character throughout the series, his sidekick has changed three times. The show started with the adorably inept Sergeant Troy – a cute, slightly wet behind the ears, darling who gave the show a sort of comic softness that Barnaby alone could not provide. While I was distraught when I learned that Troy left the show, I was surprised to discover that the show didn’t suck without him.

Phase 2 (Post Troy) featured a new sidekick – Sergeant Dan Scott – who, while not as bumbling as his predecessor, was equally loveable and even better looking. Phase two was a success!

While I haven’t progressed this far in my viewing of the show, I do know that in 2005, the tides again turned when Scott left the show and was replaced by DS Ben Jones. While I haven’t seen any of these episodes, I’m going to venture a guess that Phase 3 (Post Scott) still has had some of the glory of its two former phases.

Now, for Phase Four (Post Barnaby), I have an ingenious solution for what to do with the loss of Nettles. He should be replaced by me and Clare and the name of the show should be changed to Mendocino Murders.

This will successfully bring new life and scope to the enterprise, and provide me with a job amidst this abysmal economy. Mendocino Murders is something Clare and I have been discussing for ages, and once years ago we commissioned and starred in a highly controversial detective play in which Clare played the inspector and I the suspect. Thus, we have plenty of experience. I suggest Clare should be the main inspector (she’s British, so it will be a fitting homage to Midsomer even though the show will now be set in California), and I the sidekick, but we can work all of that out in pre-production.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Looking Perfection in the Eye


And now for something completely different. Here, friends, I give you a video clip that changed my life. This is the very end of Third Man and yes I do recommend you watch the full movie, and no seeing the end won’t ruin the entire film. It stars the inimitable Joseph Cotton and the legendary Orson Welles. But really, this clip is the best part of the movie and – dare I say it – perhaps the most cinematically perfect ending of any film ever. It’s so rapturous in its gentle simplicity, so poetically tragic and succinct it brings me to tears. The score is inspired, the long-take cinematography gorgeous, the whole thing is utterly flawless.

To think that I first glimpsed this small wonder in – horror of horrors – my Clint Eastwood class in which my professor inexplicably showed it to us in an effort to make us appreciate Eastwood more, though it probably did the opposite by pointing out how flawed his films are in comparison. But from that moment on, I was a changed woman. I went home and found the clip on YouTube and spent months hunting down the ethereal and haunting zither music of Anton Karas. I had been touched like someone who had had a religious vision or whatnot, and I too felt like I had seen the light. I had witnessed perfection, stood eye to eye with it, perhaps even grazed it a little, and now was never to be the same.

So please, watch and savor the delight of seeing something so wholly perfect.

Too Much of a Good Thing


The past 24 hours have been regrettable on so many levels, one of which being that I woke up at the ungodly early hour of 7 (I typically don’t rise before noon) only to find that in last night’s compromised state I had fallen asleep with my head flat on my keys. That’s not great. I’m not even sure how that’s possible.

So what did I do at this impious hour of the morn? I tried to fall back asleep. Those of you who know me are aware that I can readily fall asleep almost at the drop of a hat. I’ve been known to pass out in classes, movie theaters (habitually), or even at the dinner table (this was a problem when I fell asleep during the second course of my friend’s graduation dinner). But for some reason, this morning sleep just was not – and is not – coming.

It was during this foggy hour – head reeling, stomach turning, eyes bloodshot from the unfamiliar morning light – that I turned to my old friend, Arrested Development, in hopes it would lull me gently back into the pillowy folds of sleep. As I’ve already established, this did not happen; something else, something infinitely more tragic and regrettable happened. I discovered I can’t watch Arrested Development anymore.

I’ve killed it. And it was quite possibly the best thing that ever happened to me. Discovering Arrested Development was like happening upon a secret group of best friends I never knew I had but who were mine and only mine. Nothing could come between us. They were always there when I needed them, waiting to make me laugh when I was having a bad day, or - as previously stated - soothing me into sleep when I needed to pass out. I mean, seriously, what other friend is that consistently there for you in a bind? (Other than a pet, which I am not allowed to have in my apartment.)

But now that my love affair with the Bluth family has been going on for years, and I’ve seen and re-seen every episode an embarrassing number of times (no, I won’t tell you how many), I find that I just can’t keep doing it anymore. It’s making me feel like I’m in a continuous cycle of humorous but demented depravity, and that’s not a good thing. And I feel bad turning my back on my old buddy, especially one that has given me so much: namely, someone to look up to and aspire to be like (Lucille Bluth), and monikers for my cats back in California (Buster and Lucille – I know, I did pick super names, thanks).

Granted, I have found new vices, new best friends – such as 30 Rock – but these Johnny-come-latelies will never replace or take away the beauty, the sheer brilliance, and phenomenal synergy which runs so abundantly in Arrested Development. Thus it makes me sad that while objectively I can still appreciate the miracle that is the show, I can no longer actively partake in it. And Arrested Development isn’t the first friend I’ve lost either – I also lost Clueless, the lunch specials from Thai Market, and the Bee Gees all from the same gluttonous overindulgence.

So I am issuing a warning. I must pace myself. As much as I love to passionately throw myself into things and embrace every inch of them, I must slow down. So I will be strictly moderating my 30 Rock intake from now on (if only that Alec Baldwin wasn’t such a gloriously wolf-like hunk), as well as perhaps my alcohol intake (even though I strive to live every day Like Lucille Bluth) to avoid more fates like sleeping on my keys or writing weird things on Kelly Rutherford’s IMDB message board as I did several days ago.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Werewolf Bar Mitzvah

Behold the unencumbered brillance that is 30 Rock. Ladies, gents and "freaky-deakys," I give you Tracy Jordan's masterful single from one of his albums. Watch, listen, bliss out.

Things I Hate: Magnolia Bakery


Those of you who know me are aware that I am trying to turn over a new leaf by thinking more positively about life. This has been working out pretty well so far, but today I find myself in a black mood. While normally I would shake it off by telling myself “it’s not a big deal” or “relax” or “just go drink it off”, today I am reveling and even justifying this black mood. Here’s my rationale: I’m not being negative about my own life (I still think I’m pretty awesome) – I’m irritated by the unbelievable idiocy of many of those who surround me. Today has been one of those tiresome days when the remarkable stupidity and sheer lunacy of mankind seems to be drawn towards me like the proverbial moth to a flame making it ever more difficult to assume the best about my fellow man. While I won’t bore you with the more personal of these irksome occurrences, I will enlighten you with a morsel I think we New Yorkers can all relate to (and hopefully all detest): Magnolia Bakery and its lemming-like followers.

Today I was peacefully enjoying the glorious weather in the Village when I happened upon that undeservedly packed sham that is Magnolia Bakery. As per usual, there was a crowd that less resembled humans than farm animals wrapping well around the block. I say this not to sound unnecessarily harsh but because these people vapidly queue up like lambs to the slaughter only to be shamefully branded with one of those pathetic little cupcakes which they then parade around the neighborhood like doltish, empty-eyed prized heifers showing off their first place ribbons. It was a totally disgusting human spectacle, the sort that – like watching a trainwreck – I couldn’t stop watching. I also couldn’t resist shouting “Overrated” to hopefully deter a couple of people who perhaps didn’t realize how meretricious these cupcakes really are. But none were deterred.

I finally was forced to stop my bloodthirsty exclamations after Jonathan told me that I was “being a douche.” Though I really don’t care what any of those people thought, I did feel slightly guilty. It was then that I decided to take my protest from the oral to the global realm via my blog. This way more people can read, understand and hopefully agree with my detestation of Magnolia Bakery.

My reason for hating Magnolia are twofold:
  1. 1. This is largely personal reason and isn’t a valid argument, but I think cupcakes suck. I don’t eat sweets at all really, but the reason isn’t because of the massive and repulsive amount of empty calories, but because I don’t like the way they make me feel. The only time I change my tune is when something really wonderful, delectable and rare is brought before me. Give me a piece of fattening, gourmet cheesecake, or a handmade chocolate ganache, and I’ll happily and guiltlessly indulge. But for the life of me I can’t understand the trend of stuffing one’s face with sub-par sweets. Things like Tasty Delight just baffle me because if you are going to eat something sugary (which in my opinion should be rarely), then do it right. Go for the good stuff, don’t eat mediocre shiz on a regular basis. And in my opinion, Magnolia cupcakes qualify as strongly mediocre. So next time you are going to grab a cupcake, look elsewhere – not only are Maggys 389 calories each, but they taste lame and aren’t really all that cheap!
  2. 2. The other reason is the hype. I hate hate hate when things are popular only because of media attention. We all know how the media can be responsible for spurning misinformed, generalized beliefs; one such culprit is SNL. Before the election, the show helped solidify a mass impression of Sarah Palin as dense and grossly irresponsible, which – while she clearly was – may have influenced voters who had no other basis of knowledge about Palin to vote against her. While it was people – not the media – who were responsible for electing Obama (thank God!), I don’t know how I feel about celebrity and media endorsements of such issues even if they do selfishly benefit my particular agenda. By the same token, SNL (along with that dastardly Sex and the City) helped plug Magnolia Bakery in its skit “Lazy Sunday,” contributing to the public’s unquestioning and fervent frequenting of the shop.
I urge you to be personally responsible for your own actions; thus, if you truly like cupcakes and think Maggys is actually the best, then fine. Go there. But otherwise, you owe it to your body and your soul as a not-completely-optionless consumer to go elsewhere in search for a fix of your sweet teeth!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Farewell, My Lovely


This is old news to any Top Chef fan worth their weight in black truffle oil but necessary nonetheless. This past Wednesday was a sad day because cheftestant Jeff – that cute little apple of my eye, that Dr. Chase resembling little Romeo, that culinary boyfriend of mine – was asked to pack his knives and go. In tribute to Chef Jeff, a limerick:
There once was a chef from Miami
who cooked with strange things like haloumi,
despite his sweet blond tresses
he never wore no dresses,
Oh Jeff, how we miss you already!
Jeff, that was a poor excuse for poetry, but it will have to suffice. Anyways, know that your memory lives on in we dedicated Top Chef fans, and that - amidst a sea of bald men (Colicchio, Young, Stefan), your pretty, blond mop top will be missed.

Aaahh!!! Real Monsters

Evidently my wicked ways have caught up with me for today I clearly evoked the wrath of some entirely mirthless god. I warn you, stop reading right now if you don’t want to relive the horrific, skin-crawling, nausea-inducing wretchedness of what occurred on this fateful, woebegone and cursed day.

The day started out fine enough. I awoke a bit hungover but blissfully unaware of the terror that lurked irrevocably around the metaphorical corner of my day. Still couched in the sleepy ignorance of the as-yet-untainted morning, I caught an F train and went back to my apartment. From there I puttered around for a bit (being lazily unemployed, I do quite a bit of puttering), perhaps whistling a few bars of one jaunty tune or another, still with no ominous feelings for what was to come. Then it happened: like the idiot who opened Pandora’s box, I moved my dresser and just like that my nightmare scuttled – literally – into reality.

It was a centipede of vile and epic proportions. It had a plethora of all too vivid sinewy, long legs and these absolutely disgusting weird feeler-antennae things emerging on both ends of its grotesquely lengthy body, giving the impression that it had two heads. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I googled “disgusting insect with long legs” and it came right up because I guess I’m not the only one who has been stirred into a tizzy by these little monsters. Someone under the alias of 3verlasting Hero even said in an off-topic video game forum that the centipede is one of the the two "scariest loking bug/animal[s] in the world" and I couldn't agree more. I took this picture amidst my freakout:

It was a fast little sucker too and so entrancing in its abhorrent disgustingness as it crawled out from behind the dresser that for a full 20 or so minutes I just stared at it not knowing what to do. Then rational thought finally intruded upon my still hypnotized mind. I decided it had to be either taken outside or killed. I tried to get a cup and piece of paper to trap it, but the thought of getting close enough to trap it was way to scary so I quickly abandoned that idea. Then I picked up a book and thought of squashing it, but – though I stood poised with book in hand for many a minute – I could not bring myself to do it. My reasons were two-fold: I really didn’t want to imagine the icky squishing sensation that would occur were I to fling the book at the mischievous devil, and additionally, I was so mesmerized by its profound, multi-legged ugliness that I halfway respected it.

So I did the third best thing, which was call my parents to ask them what to do in my time of crisis. Let me tell you now, they were entirely unsympathetic and I hope they read this. They told me I was being silly and my dad mocked me with his oft-invoked, shaming saying: “And you still think you’d be a good contestant on Survivor? You wouldn’t last a day out there!” He then chided me for waking him up so early in the morning (3 hours earlier California time) and hung up on me.

Somewhere during their onslaught of disgust at my wimpiness, the creature in question disappeared. One second it was on the ceiling, the next it was gone without a trace – it could have been anywhere! Driven near insane by the paranoid sensation that it was everywhere on my body all at once, I ran into my roommate’s room and hid there debating what to do. I couldn’t call one of my chivalrous, brave friends asking them to rescue me because most of them were at work, so I called my fellow unemployed friend Zander and asked him to talk me down from my highly distressed state. He was a total pro and was much more understanding than the rents, let me say. Finally we decided that the best course of action was a defensive one: escape! It was clear that – like Harry and Voldemort – neither the insect nor I could exist while the other survived. So I threw on a random assortment of clothes and ran from the house and was gone all day. I have only just returned now, and I’m still shaking in my mini-boots. I’m sure he/she is lurking in my bedding or in one of my drawers just waiting to send me into another state of apoplectic terror. Centipede be warned, you are messing with someone who next time may actually work up the courage to throw a book at you, or at least get someone more brave to do it for her. Either way, its war.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sex, Lies and the City


An obligatory right of passage one must endure when coming to a women’s college in Manhattan is watching Sex and the City. I swear, no less than half of the girls on my hall had all six seasons on DVD, and probably a third chose to come to Barnard for little other reason than to emulate one of the show’s fab four. No joke, these were girls who categorized themselves as either Carries, Charlottes, Samanthas or Mirandas and dressed and acted accordingly. With all this fervor, it was not long before someone shoved a copy of the first season into my hands and I began to watch. I wasn’t in love, in fact I had a sneaking suspicion that I hated it, but I also felt that perhaps I couldn’t judge until I had seen the bulk of what the show had to offer. So whether I was spurned to watch in order to maintain a guise of being open minded or to confirm the hatred forming in my already narrowing mind, I watched every episode. Now I can safely say – without any risk of being labeled preemptively judgmental – that I hate it.

I don’t buy the chemistry between the four women, find Sarah Jessica insanely obnoxious and don’t understand Mr. Big’s appeal. However, all these things are completely subjective and not really at the core of what makes the show so reproachable. My biggest problem is that Sex seems to be trying – unsuccessfully – to redefine what a woman in her 40s can be. Rather than being confined to housewifery, the show purports that women can be successful, savvy and “fabulous” – whatever that dubious expression may mean – without needing a man. While this is all well and good in theory, the show is really its own worst enemy; while these women pretend to be strong, fierce and independent, all they talk about is sex and men. Each prove time and time again that their lives do revolve around men as they put up with the most ridiculous crap from the losers they date, never talk about their jobs, families or anything else that would define them as individuals with actual souls, and ritually go out to bars dressed like hussies and prowl around for tail. Instead of promoting an image of the alternative, 40-something woman as empowered, strong and independent, all the show does is make New York’s single gals look pathetic and easy. Worst is the fact that – like my Barnard first year cohorts – a vast number of people actually think that the sadistic and degrading behavior of the four tramps on the show is representative of the rest of us here in NYC.

And just when the commotion from the series had died down leaving the city partially in ruins in its wake, the half-witted frenzy was again dredged up when the bitches came back – not any prettier, smarter or loveable, just a bit more wrinkly – in the cleverly named Sex and the City: The Movie. Naturally, I would never pay money to see that shit in the theater, and apart from a drunken attempt to watch a pirated copy this summer (I passed out from boredom and alcohol halfway through), I avoided seeing it. However, I recently discovered that one of my roommates has a copy, and I think I must have had a sick, self-congratulating desire to prove myself correct in my hunch that the movie would be terrible, because two days ago I cracked and watched the second half of the film. I must tell you now how abysmally loathsome, how embarrassingly backward and ungodly deplorable it is.

Spoilers be damned – I’m giving you all the salient points! The film starts promisingly enough; each of the ladies has a significant other, thus keeping them off the streets trolling for men, though not guaranteeing that they have anything interesting to say. The movie swims along fine until Big stands Carrie up at the altar. Now in my opinion this is one of the most reprehensible, hurtful and humiliating things a person can ever do, and no matter what – especially given his incredibly shady track record – Big should not be forgiven. Now for a while, I actually thought Carrie wasn’t going to give in and take him back. She moves into a new apartment, hires a token black assistant who helps her keep it real, and for a sec I thought the movie was going to end with Carrie slowly getting over the breakup – Big-less but independent - and actually developing some self-respect. No, of course not. How could I be so stupid?

She takes Big back. Even that didn’t bother me so much, but it was the way she took him back that was truly offensive and disgusting. At a dinner with Miranda 5 months after the wedding day, Carrie is still obsessing and says it is her own fault that Big stood her up because she didn’t listen to his wishes to have a small wedding (a concern I think he voiced maybe once?) and that she “let the wedding get bigger than Big”. Apart from the fact that that phrase is ridiculously annoying, it’s also pathetic. Then Miranda confesses that the day before the wedding – in a fury after finding out her husband cheated on her – she tells Big “You two are crazy to get married, marriage ruins everything”. Carrie lashes out and tells Miranda that she’s the reason Big stood her up. Thus, in summary, it’s pretty much everyone’s fault but Big’s that he was too immature and selfish to show up to his own wedding. What kind of a message is this?

Finally she finds out that he sent her a bunch of emails (since when were those romantic?) of famous love poems he probably just cut and pasted from Google. She thinks the whole thing is super romantic, and they get back together and agree to have a smaller wedding. The whole film reeks of hypocrisy and pretty much made me want to vomit all over the DVD, preventing anyone else from watching such backward and demeaning filth. And now I hear they are going to be coming back to the big screen again in a sequel? They’ve already done enough damage to modern women – can’t they just disappear already?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Unhitching Hitchcock


Greetings again. In a desperate attempt to redeem this blog from its tawdry turn of late into being merely TV (and worse, reality TV) centric, I shall wrestle it from its purgatory depths with something just a smidge more highbrow. I shall in fact endeavor to reign this blog back toward its titular roots by discussing my undying and largely platonic love of – you guessed it – film. The natal purpose of this blog was – if you can believe it – to provide you, my breathless readers, with my quasi-sage advice on what films to see or skip. What it has mutated into is neither regrettable nor laudable, but I would like to return at least fleetingly to my primary purpose by filling y’all in on a few films that I truly think should be added to one’s “bucket list” of things to see before dying. Besides, I staunchly refuse – much to the chagrin of Zander over at Zandervision – to publish a list of my favorite films on Facebook as I refuse to take Facebook seriously. But perhaps here on Film Noix – which I take deathly seriously – I can at last open the floodgates of filmic reverie and let my favorite films pour forth onto your computer screens. (Also, I have no cable and because my Internet barely works I can’t stream shows online, so posting about current TV is next to impossible, so I’ll have to look elsewhere for literary fodder.)

With these thoughts in mind, I shall share just a few of my favorite films from one of the all time greats, Alfred Hitchcock. I’ve seen almost every non-silent Hitchcock film, and while many have blurred together into my head, some stand out against the test of time and a few of these I will relate to you momentarily. Though it is questionable if any of Hitch’s films would scratch my Top 10 list of all time best films, I feel that as a director, his body of work is unparalleled. Also, though I love his films because of their implicit suspense, what I find most fascinating about Hitchcock is the complex and troubling way in which he addresses gender roles. So without further ado, here is a sampling of Hitchcock films that I urge you to sink your teeth into, and after that I’ll provide a few that I advise saying “nicht-nicht” to in the inimitable words of Bruno.

Notorious – This is a brilliant espionage thriller made all the better through Hitchcock’s characteristically spot-on casting. And though my bosom friend Nora thinks it’s sexist, I actually feel the opposite. I grappled for years with how I feel about Hitchcock’s often problematic portrayals of women, and have finally come to the perhaps incorrect conclusion that – though he may consciously choose to depict women in compromising, misogynistic roles – he has a deep respect for the fairer sex and does not condone sexism or intend to promote it. So while many of his female characters may seem relegated to positions of inferiority, Hitchcock does so knowingly and without the intent of proclaiming such statuses acceptable. In the case of Notorious, the unbearably gorgeous Ingrid Bergman is unwieldy, brave, and flawed and though her lover tells her she lacks the qualities of a chaste “lady”, she is an entirely relatable heroine who proves that courage and intelligence outweigh 1945’s concept of what a woman should be.

Vertigo – Brilliant, beautiful and sad, this is one of Hitchcock’s most romantic and also most complicated films. The first half is a thrilling ghost tale, the second a tragic love story. Here Hitchcock goes against viewers’ expectations by casting the effortlessly adorable Jimmy Stewart in a role that is deplorable and almost completely devoid of sympathy. Hitchcock’s recurrent mother issues come to light here as Stewart’s immature, limited character can only assimilate women into one of two harmless prototypes: mother or victim. The two women in the movie – who both desperately love him – fail to please him as he in incapable of seeing them as anything other than one or the other of these two roles – roles that they cannot possibly live up to. Here again Hitch lands himself into hot water as both women must conform to these roles so as to remain a part of his life. The beautiful Kim Novak completely changes and resultantly loses her identity in an effort to appear a victim, while his devoted and supportive friend tries to get him to see her sexually, and when this fails, Stewart has no place for her in his life. But again, I argue that rather than proclaiming Stewart’s treatment of women acceptable, the film instead empathizes with Novak by depicting the fragile and impossible roles women feel obligated to adopt in order to conform to society’s image of an ideal woman.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith
– No, this isn’t connected to that Brangelina thing. This is a completely unconventional Hitchcock in that it is not a suspense. It’s a screwball comedy featuring the queen of screwballs and one of my most beloved actresses, Carole Lombard. It is fabled that Hitch wanted so badly to make a movie with her that he completely departed from his go-to genre just to better suit her amazing comedic strengths. It’s by no means his best, but I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it and found that it warmed my heart – something I didn’t know Hitch could do. As Annette Insdorf pointed out in one of her classes, many screwballs perhaps negatively depict women as being scatterbrained, impulsive, silly and unreasonable. While Mr. and Mrs. Smith is not any different from this stereotype, I am again going to argue that Lombard’s character – like her character in so many other screwballs – is in fact an empowering representation of femininity. Firstly, she is of equal if not greater importance than her male counterpart. Secondly, her deftly brilliant comic timing elevates her to a status of comic genius shared by few other women. Thirdly, she is headstrong, uncompromising and has self-respect. Regardless, this is a very funny movie that I think anyone would enjoy so long as you check your Hitchcock expectations at the door.

Psycho
– Ok you’ve probably already seen this one. But if you haven’t, I’ll try not to ruin the ending. This is definitely one of Hitch’s most successful efforts and is still one of the scariest films I’ve ever seen. This is also the film – along with the masterful Strangers on a Train – that most directly confronts Hitchcock’s mother issue. Of all the films I am choosing to review, this one has the weakest female lead, namely because a third of the way through the film, our protagonist (Janet Leigh) dies. By replacing the lead with two relative throwaways after Leigh’s death, Psycho becomes one of Hitchcock’s more perplexing stories, as it is hard to truly empathize with any of the characters. It also raises the question of if Hitchcock is punishing Leigh – a sexually liberated, thieving woman – by killing her off. I don’t personally think so, as before she dies she intends to return her stolen money and it is the fault of a guiltily sexually repressed male loner with mother issues that she meets her end.

Rear Window
– This isn’t my favorite Hitchcock, it isn’t even in my top 10. I don’t really like it, to be honest. I do appreciate it, however, because it’s pretty fascinating in its own right, which is why I am reviewing it here, and recommending it to those of you who don’t find long movies with little action incredibly boring. What I did respect about this movie was again the way that Hitch uses harmless, loveable Stewart to play a sexually stunted character who finds women utterly terrifying. Stewart’s fiancé, played by Grace Kelly, represents both mother and victim as he – a peeping tom and an invalid – acts simultaneously as a child who she must care for, and as her savior who rescues her in a crucial moment. The fact that she wishes to get married proves threatening to Stewart who is stuck at a juvenile stage of development (reiterated by the phallic long-lensed camera that is ever present on his lap) and can only assimilate her as either mother or victim. She is repeatedly shown in eerie shots in which she looms over him as he awakens like something from a nightmare. Again, though Hitch depicts Kelly as a threat to her lover, he makes it clear that it is the immature Stewart – who cannot accept her for who she really is – who is at fault, not the blameless, almost saintly Kelly.

Whew, that was a lot of typing. I’ll just end this post by listing a few other extremely “bucket list” worthy Hitch flicks that I don’t have the strength to review:
The Lady Vanishes
Stage Fright
Strangers on a Train
Suspicion


And here are some that I think are pretty overrated. Nicht-nicht!:
39 Steps
Life Boat
Marnie

Shadow of a Doubt