Friday Randomness

Friday again…what’s new pussycat? I hope you’re well. I haven’t been around here much lately, and it’s not because life is so darned exciting that I haven’t the time, or so darned horrid that I can’t manage it. It’s just how it’s been lately, I guess. The spirit hasn’t moved me. But it’s moving me a bit now, so I’ll give you some random ‘Thinking About…” type stuff, OK?

Maya and her chorale group from school sang at a swanky fundraiser last night at our local swanky rep center. The fundraiser was to raise money for the city education foundation, which spends its money on crazy, extravagant things like librarian salaries, English and math tutoring, counselors, etc. It was swanky, though, so we didn’t buy tickets. Instead, we spent a couple of hours at the local bookstore (Barnes & Noble…all of our independent places have closed down), and then we walked over to Starbucks and had a cup, and relaxed. We went over to the theater at the time they were supposed to finish, and they hadn’t gone on stage yet. So we went inside out of the sprinkling rain, and waited in the lobby. We were there for a little while, listening to the performance being piped in, when we got the great idea to try to sneak in and see them. They performed 2 songs, and we sneaked in about 1/3 way through the second song, so we didn’t see much, but they were GREAT. It was lovely to see her on a big time stage like that, and they really sounded good. Fun.

I was tempted by several books at the bookstore, but I decided to get them from the library instead. I know the bookstore needs my money, but I need it more than they do, and I trust myself to put it to better use than they would.  So…the books I put on hold to read are:

You can easily see that at $15 – $25 each at my local B&N, this was going to break the bank.  So I did the right thing.  I was a bit nonplussed to pop over to the library website upon our return home to find that I am 1st in line for several books at one time.  I hate that feeling, having many library books come at me all at once.  I feel like I have to rush through them and get them back for the next person.*  Then I realized, duh, if I’m #1 in line for them, there is no one waiting, so I can renew them if I don’t finish in time.  That was a relief.  I’m very much looking forward to some good reading time in my near future.

I’ve read Gatsby before, of course, but not since high school, and all I really remember is laughing at my teacher’s massive crush on Robert Redford, which I did not understand, because he’s old and everything.  I have a vague recollection of not liking the story much, but maybe this time I’ll enjoy it more?  I want to read that one first or second, because I’d like to have it more freshly in mind before I see the new film adaptation that comes out in May.  Actually, looking at that sentence, I realize I have more time than I thought I did.  That’s a good thing, too.

I’ve read other books by Chevalier, Patchett, and Pamuk, and liked them all quite a bit, so I’m looking forward to reading these newer efforts.  The others just caught my eye for whatever reason.

Maya is taking the SAT tomorrow.  I don’t envy her that, but I do know that she’ll do well, and be relieved when it is OVER.  This whole college thing is stressing her out.  She doesn’t really know much of what she wants to do with her life, or where she wants to go to college.  She’s thinking about teaching, and about some kind of journalism.  I know she’d be successful at both, assuming there are still jobs in journalism in the next 10 – 20 years.  I know the face of journalism is changing rapidly, but people still need to read and write, right?  I sure hope so.

I’m going to lunch with Dorothy today.  I miss her blog.  I’m happy to see her pretty face, though, which is even better than her blog.  But her blog was pretty funny.  I do miss the days when so many of my real life friends and family were blogging.

Ted and I went to see Side Effects last weekend.  Rumor has it that Steven Soderbergh is getting out of feature films or something to that effect, and this is his last big film.  I hope that’s not true, that he takes a much needed rest for a few years, but comes back to it, because I am definitely a fan of his work.  I’m not saying I’ve seen every film he’s made, or that I’ve loved every one that I have seen, but I did love Sex, Lies, and Videotape way back when, and have enjoyed many of his films since.   I would say that Side Effects was among the better films in his catalog.  It’s a twisty turny suspense type film, and not really what I expected it to be at all.  I generally try not to read reviews of a movie before I see it, because I find if they hate the movie, it dampens my enjoyment, and I notice the things that they mention.  So I won’t say more about this one, except that the performances were really good, the story was interesting and kept me guessing, and I came out of the theater really glad we had seen it.  If you get a chance, I highly recommend it.

What else…not much.  Watched an episode of The West Wing on Netflix the other day, and I’m thinking I’d like to re-watch that series.  It’s a nice place to spend some time.  Last weekend was girl scout cookies, and now we’re done with that for the year.  It’s dry dry dry here, though it did sprinkle today.  California needs a wet, wet spring, and we almost never get that.  If you know of any rain dances, please, do one for us.

Happy Friday, and have a great weekend!

*Saturday evening update…went to the library today, and 5 books I had put on hold were there.  Guess I’ll be reading a bunch in the next few weeks, yeah?

The Hobbit


Our local paper had this to say about The Hobbit: “‘The Hobbit,’ a movie that is exactly one Jar Jar Binks away from being as bad as ‘The Phantom Menace’.” In other words, the reviewer hated it. We read the review, and decided to go see the movie anyway. I didn’t hate it that much, but I’m not sure I really liked it, either. For such a charming story, I’m sorry to say that the film felt bloated and somewhat boring.

Part of the problem, I think, is that a book is not a film, and a film isn’t a book. You have to do some trimming if you’re going to have decent pacing, etc. in the movie version. Instead, scenes that are long in the book come out even longer in the film, and instead of making The Hobbit a stand alone film, they have instead decided to try to make it line up with The Lord of the Rings, including appendices that Tolkien included in the back of The Return of the King. Having just finished the book, I kept noticing things that were not in the book at all. Galadrial for one. I’ve heard that a lot of the elves from The Lord of the Rings are in the trilogy, where they really weren’t in the book. There were indeed some elves, but not the same characters.

So there you are, in a 3-D environment (I didn’t feel like 3-D added anything at all to the film. Then again, I rarely feel that it adds to a film.), watching scenes that have more to do with tying in to other films you’ve already seen than making a cohesive story on their own. In that way, I guess it is a bit like Phantom Menace. I wish that they had stuck with original ideas, to make one good movie out of it. Then if they wanted build a bridge between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I guess they could have done so.

Overall it was a disappointing film, though not entirely without charm. There were some wonderful scenes, and gosh, the scenery was lovely.

Rereading ‘Gone With The Wind’

Gone With The Wind

The story of Scarlett O’Hara and the ruin of the south is so tied in with the film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel, “Gone With The Wind“, that if you’ve seen the film, it’s difficult to separate the two in your mind.  I first read “Gone With the Wind” in the 8th grade, and the love triangle between Scarlett, Ashley, and Rhett absorbed me completely.  I’ve read the book so many times since that I can open it at any page and know what’s going on, just by reading one sentence.  It’s one of those books.  I was thinking about it recently, however, and I realized that I’ve only read the entire book, cover to cover, once or twice.  I tend to find myself thinking about a scene in the story, and I open the book and read that scene.  I may get pulled in and read another chapter or two, but not more than that.  It’s just too long and all encompassing to get pulled into very often.  So I decided that I wanted to come at it with fresh eyes, or as fresh as possible, and read it from cover to cover.

Being 30 years older than I was in the 8th grade also helped me to change my perspective a bit.  I slowed down and noticed the story of the war, that Mitchell really seemed to love the south, and at the same time, to be criticizing the ‘Glorious Cause’ and all that it stood for.  She admitted that there was perhaps a beauty to that antebellum time, but at the same time, she notes that it was a beautiful time only to a privileged few, and that for the majority of people, it was a very restrictive time that would allow little in the way of non-conformity or difference.  Certainly had the war not come along, Scarlett, with her steel will and wild ways, would have stifled and chaffed at the bit.  Not to mention the issues of slavery and racism.  Indeed, issues which are glossed over and treated as though they were nothing.  And they’re not nothing.  Not at all.  From an Atlantic article on race in GWTW:

But some readers had found Mitchell’s treatment of race less a cartoon than a nightmare. She had, for example, depicted her leading black characters as content with slavery, uninterested in freedom. They often seemed more like pets than people. When Scarlett and Big Sam were reunited after the war, “his watermelon-pink tongue lapped out, his whole body wiggled, and his joyful contortions were as ludicrous as the gambolings of a mastiff.” The “good” black characters both loved and needed the whites. Though Mammy was one of the strongest characters in the novel, she could not manage Tara after the war without the guidance of her white masters. Her mind was too simple, not yet fully evolved, as readers could infer from a description of her as she looked at the once-grand plantation, her face “sad with the uncomprehending sadness of a monkey’s face.”

These are the passages in Gone With the Wind that get under my skin, in a bad way. When you skim the book, as I have for so many years, you can ignore these sections. But by doing so, you not only miss the depth of Mitchell’s criticism of Southern culture, and some very moving descriptions of the happenings during the war, you miss some of the moments that point you towards Mitchell’s own racism, which is an ugly thing indeed. When I admit my love for this book, I’m always a little bit afraid that my black friends will think less of me for it. But I’m not brave enough to ask their thoughts. I’ve never brought it up in a black friend’s presence, but I wonder…can a black reader get past these ugly passages, or are they too damn insulting? I mean, there is a lot of dignity in many of the black roles in GWTW, but the passages comparing the slaves (and former slaves) to animals are difficult to reconcile.

As for Scarlett, as I said in my meme the other day, I love her. I love how she does the right thing when it’s important, and not when it isn’t. How she’s selfish when it comes to the conventions of the day, but generous when it comes to life vs. death and her family. I do draw the line at her hiring convict labor for her lumber mill. That was selfish, and no one gained anything from that. I can’t love her for that.

What about you, my friends? Have you read Gone With the Wind? Did the racist sections trouble you? The convicts? The husband stealing? Personally, I’m more willing to forgive Scarlett the convict labor and the husband stealing, because she is a flawed character, and Mitchell is trying to show that, not hide it. The racism, I think, is Mitchell’s more than Scarlett’s.

By the way, if you’d like a bit of an antidote to the ugly racism in Gone With the Wind, may I suggest that you might enjoy The Wind Done Gone? I loved it. Truly.

Lincoln


Daniel Day-Lewis does an amazing job portraying our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln. He conveys the humanity and intelligence, along with the awkwardness and sorrow. Lincoln was perhaps singularly suited to deal with the issues of slavery and union, with bringing our nation out of a time of bondage, and into an era of freedom.

The film wasn’t what I expected. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but I purposefully ignored reviews and articles about it, not wanting to have anything ruined for me. I think I expected it to handle more of his presidency. Instead, the film covers the period between his re-election and his assassination, a time in which he determined the time was right to force the issue of abolishing slavery once and for all. The film follows his reasoning, the struggles in Congress (which many today might appreciate), the political maneuvering to get the votes needed. It’s a tricky plot, and one that might have become bogged down in minutia, translating into boredom. They didn’t.

I felt like I should have capital “L” loved the movie, and I didn’t. I liked it a lot, maybe even little “l” loved it, but it felt like there was perhaps something missing. I was touched by the scenes of Lincoln interacting with the soldiers, with the dignity that they had in their conversations, and by the scene of him riding his horse through the aftermath of a gory battle. The scenes of battle themselves were horrific, in true Spielberg fashion, though not as overblown as he can sometimes get.

What I enjoyed most were the performances. Day-Lewis was amazing, as always, and here especially so. David Straitharn as Seward, and Tommy Lee Jones as Stephens, more than held their own. I’m not sure that Sally Field was the best person to play Mary Todd Lincoln…Lincoln was about Lewis’ age when he died, but Mrs. Lincoln was 10 years younger than her husband, while Sally Field is 10 years older than Lewis. So we have a 65 year old woman playing a 46 year old woman. I’m not a Lincoln scholar, so I don’t know much about Mrs. Lincoln, other than both she and her husband suffered from depression; that she was from a Southern slave holding family, and that she felt the death of her son keenly. Sally Field did a wonderful job of conveying that pain, and that she was unwilling to go through it again. I’m not sure there was more in the role for her than that, and perhaps there should have been.

Overall, I’d highly recommend Lincoln. I just really wanted to LOVE it, and I didn’t.

The Sessions


My MIL and I intended to see ‘A Royal Affair‘ on Wednesday, but though the newspaper and the internet both assured me that it was playing at our neighborhood theater, it was not. Frustrating. I wanted to see it, but now, I’ll probably wait until it comes to Netflix. Not to be deterred, however, since my MIL had driven 1/2 hour just to see the movie with me, we looked at their offerings, and found something else. We chose ‘The Sessions.’ Wow, I’m glad we did.

If you’re not familiar with the plot, “The Sessions” is based on the true story of a late-30 something, Mark O’Brian (played by John Hawkes), who was paralyzed by polio as a child. Now an adult, he spends the majority of his time in an iron lung, and has assistants to help him with his every move. He cannot move his hands or his legs or his trunk, but he can FEEL them. He is devout in his Catholic faith, but lonely and wondering if perhaps there is some help out there for him in the sexual world.

William H. Macy is wonderful as Mark’s priest, a loving and caring man, trying to find the right path between scripture and true kindness and humanity. Helen Hunt is amazing as Mark’s therapist Cheryl, whose goal is to help her clients become comfortable with their sexuality, to help them find a way to find sexual joy in their future, where she will no longer be necessary. To have a 49 year old actress in a role where she has to be completely naked (and truly, most of us would be very happy to have our bodies that fit, muscular, and trim at 35, talk about brushing up closely with 50) is a brave move. To show the emotions involved in Cheryl’s career is amazing. It made me wonder if she went through this every single time she saw a new client. And wait, have I not mentioned Hawkes’ performance as O’Brian? He brings so much humanity, dignity, and humor to the role, that it’s a wonderful experience to watch.

I really, really enjoyed this film. I hope there are Oscars involved, but even if there aren’t, this is truly a film worth watching. Bring your hanky.

Skyfall

Skyfall
If you like your James Bond movies full of action, adventure, PG sex, and some campy fun, this is not the James Bond movie for you. If you prefer action, adventure, PG sex, and a dark undertone of aging and at at least some level, not really liking your job, it is.

Full disclosure here, I don’t really care for James Bond movies. They’re all a bit too shoot em up, far too sexist, and at their heart, boring, for me. I know, how can a person who loves to watch Flashdance dare to judge? The answer is, I can’t, and I won’t, I just thought you should know going in that Bond isn’t my favorite genre. Ted usually likes them, though, and as Lincoln doesn’t get to our neighborhood until next week, we thought we’d go check it out.

All in all, it was a satisfying story, with sweeping panoramas of the Scottish moors, car chases, train chases, motorcycle chases, a worthy (and somewhat justified) villain, and plenty of sexy eye candy for both the guys and the gals in the audience. Judy Dench reprises her role as M, the top in command at MI6, and her role as calculating and controlled as ever. She makes the tough decisions, and she expects everyone to go along with them. Sometimes that means leaving an operative to bleed to death rather than staying to help, sometimes that means ordering one agent to take a shot that might hit another agent. It’s all in the name of the greater good, and the end justifies the means.

Javier Bardem plays the twisted villain, and he’s suitably creepy, and of course, has infinite weapons, foot soldiers, and devious plans at his disposal. Ted said his favorite Bond villains are the ones who laugh and seem like they’re having a good time. Bardem is such a villain.

If you’re a Bond fan, nothing I can say will dissuade you from going, nor should it. It was a good movie. Just not as fun and silly as some of the earlier films in the franchise.

Flight


Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Capt. ‘Whip’ Whit­aker in Flight is that of a thoroughly gifted airline pilot, but one who has nothing else going for him in life. He is a functioning alcoholic, one whose way of coping with a brutal hangover is to snort a line of cocaine. ‘Flight’ begins with Whip waking up in a hotel room with a beautiful (and very naked) young woman, who is an attendant on the flight he is piloting from Florida to Georgia in 90 minutes. He’s seriously hung over, snorts his coke, gets in a fight on the phone with his ex-wife, and then goes to work, where you would not know that there is anything wrong.

Once the plane is in the air, things start to go wrong. They are flying in extreme turbulence, and the plane is being tossed around. He figures out an unconventional way to get the airplane up and out of the storm, and the passengers cheer when they find themselves in relative calm and blue skies. Whip leaves the plane in the capable hands of his co-pilot, goes out front to say hello to the passengers, and pours himself a stiff drink. Then he goes back into the cockpit, and takes a nap. He is awoken by something going very wrong with the airplane, which is now pointed nose down, straight for Earth. If the scene of extreme turbulence doesn’t turn you off of flying, the scene where Whip has to figure out how to get the plane safely to the ground will have you thinking, “3,000 mile trip? No thanks, I’ll walk.” It’s harrowing.
This is perhaps the first 20 minutes of the film. The other 2 hours are Whip drinking, drinking, and then drinking some more. He is being investigated for his role in the accident, toxicology reports have shown his drinking and cocaine use, and yet, he is a hero in the media.

Washington was pretty amazing in this film. It’s easy to picture him as the competent, cool headed pilot who can accomplish anything. It’s more difficult to picture him as a middle aged man with an eye for beautiful, much younger, women, with a drinking problem that threatens to destroy him. In the end, it is a moral tale of a complicated man coming to terms with himself.

I liked it a lot. It was engaging and interesting, and I didn’t know who to root for. I didn’t want Whip to be persecuted…it was his skills in the air that saved so many lives. Most pilots could not have landed that airplane stone cold sober. And at the same time, seeing him chug vodka while in the drivers seat was enough to make the audience feel that seeing him put behind bars might not be the worst thing in the world.

Cloud Atlas

cool graphic found here

Cloud Atlas is a 2004 novel by David Mitchell, which I reviewed back in 2007 on this very blog. The book was so ambitious, and was such a treat to read. It was told in nesting chapters, with different characters, and different genres, which refer to each other and interconnect in interesting ways. I loved it. When I heard it was being made into a film, I wondered how the different genres would translate…Melvillian sea story, 20th century crime drama, post apocalyptic tale, amongst others. I’m happy to report that they did a darned good job with it. I’m not sure I loved it as much as the book (because, duh, it’s a book), but the stories were well told, and while it seemed like it might be confusing, I didn’t find it to be so at all. It was, however, 3 hours long. Ted’s a good guy and sprung for the HD experience, which meant $$$, but also very comfortable seats and not too crowded. Worth it when you’re sitting there that long.

Check out my book review if you’re at all interested in finding out the stories involved.  I highly recommend both the book and the film.  Really interesting, really fun in parts, and sometimes sad and touching.  I’d say it’s worthwhile.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower


Ted and I went to see ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower‘ yesterday. I really, really liked it. Here’s the quick wrap up, without giving anything away.

Charlie is a damaged and shy high school freshman, excluded from groups that he had hoped to be included in…his senior sister and her boyfriend won’t eat lunch with him, his friend from middle school friend won’t eat lunch with him, and his older brother’s football teammates won’t eat lunch with him. He’s on his own. On his first day, he makes only one friend, and that’s his English teacher, which even Charlie knows is pathetic.

Time goes by, and he finally makes a friend, Patrick from his shop class. Patrick has a step-sister, Sam, and the three of them soon become fast friends. From Patrick and Sam, he meets other friends, damaged kids like himself, and becomes part of a group. He’s thrilled to have a group of friends, people who he can care about, and who obviously care about him.

Charlie’s story turns out to be darker and more complicated than you get from your average teen movie, as are the stories of Patrick and Sam.  These kids are damaged goods, but so sweet and likable, you fall in love with them as a viewer.  I liked how real they seemed, how they were so true to themselves and to each other.  Most kids, I sure as hell hope, are not damaged like these kids.  But there’s something about the poignancy of teen life that FEELS damaged sometimes, even if your biggest problem is the boy you love at school who doesn’t know you exist.  It’s such a high emotion, high intensity, black and white time of life.   The actors did a great job, really bringing the emotions of their characters to the front, but in very subtle and quiet ways.

I’ve not read the book, but after seeing the movie, I went and put it on hold at the library.  I’m 125th on the list, so it might be awhile.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

I remember going to see Short Cuts in 1993, the Robert Altman directed film based on the short stories of Raymond Carver. I remember being so shaken by the coldness and hopelessness of the characters that I had to leave the theater for a few minutes, to stand outside and breathe, and try to believe that the real world wasn’t this kind of place.

A few weeks ago, I heard part of an interview (click the link to go to the site, where you can listen to the interview, if you’re so inclined) on our local NPR station with Molly Ringwald, who has a new book of short stories out that she is promoting. I was intrigued because the interviewer gave her such high praise, and I don’t know him to always be so effusive. He compared her writing to the work of Raymond Carver, which she liked, because she said she really admired Mr. Carver’s work, and especially loved What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. So I picked the book up from the library, not knowing that Short Cuts was based on the short stories of Raymond Carver, two of which are included in this book.

What to say about these stories? I can repeat what I’ve read elsewhere, because it’s true. Mr. Carver says a lot in very few words. You get the feeling, reading his stories, that you’re zooming in on a singular moment in the character’s life, and of course, it’s never a good singular moment. Never the moment when they’re at their best or the world is treating them well. For me, they were so brief, so disquieting and sad, they gave me that same feeling that I had in the movie theater, the feeling of wanting to put the book down for a bit, and breathe. Perhaps this is a better medium for his work. On film, in a theater, you leave and you miss important things. With a book, you can put it down and leave it for a few days. You may miss a bit of the cohesion between the stories, which do seem to build on each other in a pretty interesting way. But at least you can breathe.

The Skin I Live In


Whilst Maya was off at her Homecoming dance last Saturday, watching in horror the spectacle that is ‘freak dancing’, Ted and I were at home with a DVD, watching in horror the extreme weirdness that is The Skin I Live In. Which is not to say that we didn’t like it. We both did, quite a bit. But God, it was strange, and sure left a person with some insane images. Picture Boxing Helena, but done well. (Let me stop here to say, if you’ve not seen Boxing Helena, good for you. Keep it that way. Seriously.)

In The Skin I Live In, Antonio Banderas plays a brilliant but seriously disturbed plastic surgeon, who lost his wife years ago to a fiery car crash. He is obsessed with skin, with creating a new, synthetic skin, that can withstand extreme heat (and mosquito bites!). Unbeknownst to the scientific community, he has been testing this skin, not on lab rats as he claims, but on a girl that he keeps prisoner in his house, a large mansion which includes a surgical lab and cameras everywhere. That’s it. That’s not at all it to the story, but that’s all I’m going to tell you here, because to tell you more would ruin the film. If you’re the least bit interested, don’t read more about it, because there are many twists and turns, and you don’t want to ruin it for yourself.

The film explores many themes…identity, obsession, revenge, and more. I recommend this film, but be warned. It’s weird.

Priceless


If you are sympathetic with characters like Vivian in Pretty Woman and Holly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, you’ll love Audrey Tautou as Irene in the 2006 French Comedy, Priceless. More like Holly than Vivian, Irene isn’t an obvious prostitute. But she is a loose woman, looking for a sugar daddy to pay her bills, so that she can live the rest of her life in comfort and ease, using her youth, beauty, and sexuality as weapons in the war of the sexes.

She’s snagged a wealthy, wealthy man, who is ready to propose and keep her in the manner to which she has become accustomed. Enter Gad Elmaleh as Jean, a bartender at a sleepy hotel bar, who Irene mistakes for a wealthy option to her much older almost fiance, who is sleeping upstairs. They have a sweet flirtation that turns into more, and the next thing you know, they’re waking up together in the most expensive suite in the hotel (because bartenders always have the master keys, and know which rooms are vacant in beautiful hotels in the French Riviera). The thought that a gold-digger who is as fashionably knowledgeable as Irene, would mistake a cheap hotel uniform tuxedo for the type of superior tuxedo owned by a wealthy entrepreneur, or perhaps the son of inherited wealth, might be believable to some, but not to anyone who has ever worn a cheap uniform tux in a hotel, restaurant, or bar. Ahem.

Setting that aside, and the morality of her behavior, and the fact that when she discovers that her new lover is in fact, poor, and that her liaison with him has cost her the marriage she had been cultivating, she decides to show him, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that she is out of his league, by bankrupting him in the course of one meal…a meal where she orders the most expensive things on the menu, even though she doesn’t like them. Jean is all in. He knows he cannot keep this up, knows that the second the money stops, she will be gone. He doesn’t care a bit. He is so infatuated with Irene that he transfers his money from his savings into his checking account, so he can blow off years of his savings just to spend a few hours with her. At the end of the evening, in desperation, as she is ready to leave, he finds a loose Euro coin in his pocket, and gives it to her, if she will just stand there and let him look at her for 10 more seconds. She takes the coin. 10 seconds later, she’s gone.

Anyone less charming than Tautou would take this role and make it what it should be…one of a mean, desperate woman who has no faith in herself or her fellow human beings. But, like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, she is charming and lovely, and once he backs off and she sees him in another role (now that of gigolo, just like the character Paul in Tiffany’s, he’s now the kept man of an attractive older woman), she becomes his friend and shows him the tools of the trade, and how to get the most money for his time.

Mostly they can’t keep away from each other, and indeed, it’s a charming, sweet movie, with a sort of seamy underbelly, since at its heart, it’s about youth selling itself for security, and the desperation of those who are no longer young and beautiful, to pay great sums of money to fool themselves that they are still attractive to those who are. Believe it or not, aside from everything critical and cynical I just said, I actually liked this film. It was cute and fun. If you like a frothy romantic comedy, and are willing to ignore the seedier side of it all, I highly recommend this film. Also, the fact that it’s in French doesn’t hurt. Nothing sounds quite so desperate or slimy, when spoken in French.

Celeste and Jesse Forever

Celeste and Jesse Forever
Celeste and Jesse are best friends, and have been for decades. They adore each other, and want to spend every waking moment in each other’s company. Their time is full of inside jokes and laughter. They took the advice to marry your best friend, which it turns out, isn’t always the best idea. So now, they’re getting a divorce. But they’re clinging mightily to their friendship, unwilling to spend time apart or admit to anyone that they shouldn’t be together every minute of every day.

Of course, they need to figure some things out. They need to figure out how to be friends and not be married anymore. Or actually, how to be great friends and how to be divorced from each other. How to grow up and move on. Not an easy prospect.

Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg were both great in this movie. Both pitch perfect, charming, and believable as both lovers and great friends. But there were moments in the movie that seemed a bit slow to me. I liked it quite a bit, but I didn’t love it. I’d give it a straight B, whereas perhaps yesterday’s “2 Days in New York” would be a B+.

2 Days in New York


We went to see 2 Days in New York in Berkeley on Saturday, on our way home from Santa Cruz (which was lovely, by the way). If you’re a fan of Julie Delpy, then you should see (first) 2 Days in Paris, and (now) 2 Days in New York. I adore Delpy in the “Before Sunrise” and “Before Sunset” films, where she talks talks talks and is charming and French and lovely. In “2 Days in Paris” and “2 Days in New York”, she is more wacky and insane…or, more accurately, somewhat, almost sane, in a family of insanity. In “2 Days in Paris”, she is a Parisian (Marion) living in New York, traveling with her American boyfriend (Jack, played by Adam Goldberg), and they stop in Paris for 2 days so she can visit her family, and insanity ensues, mainly because her (many many) ex-lovers keep showing up, and her parents (played by Delpy’s real parents) are crazier than your parents. Think about that.

In “2 days in New York”, several years have passed. Marion and Jack have broken up, but they have a son, Lulu. She is now in a serious, living together relationship, with Mingus (Chris Rock) and his daughter, Willow. All seems to be sane and somewhat serious, until Marion’s family appears. Her father (again played by Delpy’s real life father), her sister Rose (co-writer Alexia Landeau), and Rose’s boyfriend (also Marion’s ex-boyfriend), Manu (Alexandre Nahon) appear for a visit, to support Marion in the exhibition of her newest artwork. Rose is coming on to Mingus, Manu is trying to score pot, and the father is simply wonderful. To say that this is a dysfunctional family is the height of restraint. They’re insane. And yet, not so over the top that you can’t believe that such things couldn’t happen…we all have families, after all.

I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. With the high price of films these days, I sometimes rate them on whether they’re full price worthy, or matinee’ worthy. Not many films make full price worthy in my mind. $10.50 is a lot. But we paid $8 per person today, and I thought it was definitely worth at least that. If the film comes within a reasonable distance of you, go see it.

Monday Randomness

IMG_1188
Last week was Ted and my 19th wedding anniversary (link is to Ted’s blog, where you can see a slideshow if you’re interested….we look so YOUNG to me). It seems so strange that so many years have gone by, and yet I still sometimes feel 27. But then I look at my pictures, at my face in the mirror, and I think, oh yeah, I’m not 27 anymore. Oh well. We had a lovely day.

We started off by driving to Muir Woods for a hike, with a pit-stop in Sausalito for sandwiches. We saw a segment on Check, Please, Bay Area about a deli counter in a little market, Davey Jones Deli, and we thought we’d get sandwiches there. All I can say is, YUM. Perhaps the best sandwich I’ve ever had. The ingredients were so obviously made with care, obviously the best possible quality, extremely fresh, all of that. Also, quite innovative. I had the porkberrywich, which is seasonal and not on their menu, and consists of pulled pork, strawberries, raspberries, maybe some mustard in there, and Cole Slaw sans mayo, on a dutch crunch roll. Really, really good. Ted had the Cuban, which was (clipped from their website) ‘Pulled Pork, Ham, Turkey, & Cheese with plenty Irish Mustard, Pickle & Pepperoncini, Fresh Jalapeno, Lemon, & Cilantro, Lettuce, Tomato, & Onion with Roast Garlic & Red Pepper Sauces on a Po’ Boy Roll.’ Maya went traditional, and had a tuna salad sandwich. She wasn’t as impressed as Ted and I were. I think she liked it OK, but she’s loyal to Morucci’s sandwiches, closer to home. I’ll be diplomatic, and say that if you’re in the Walnut Creek/Lafayette area (aka, the wrong side of the tunnel), go to Morucci’s, but if you’re anywhere near Sausalito, go to Davey Jones Deli. It was pricey, sandwiches were $12 or $13 each, maybe a bit more. Three sandwiches, three drinks, one small bag of chips, $42. But you could taste the quality, so I felt like it was money well spent.
IMG_1053
Then we moved on to Muir Woods, which was packed with people. Tourists galore. We heard people speaking Italian, German, French, Hindi, and English in many accents, Southern, South African, British. I could have done without the crowds, but the trees are beautiful. It’s such a peaceful, beautiful place. The coastal valleys of California used to be populated with these old growth redwoods, but most of them were cleared for the wood, and for houses. Luckily, people were thinking ahead a bit, and saved this beautiful place. After hiking for a couple of hours, we made our way back to the car for the ride home.
IMG_1178
Once we got home, Ted and I wanted to go out to a celebratory Anniversary dinner. Maya didn’t really want to go, which was fine with all of us. It was nice to spend family time together, and then have couple time together in the evening. So I made her a grilled cheese sandwich and some fruit for dinner, then Ted and I went out to one of our favorite local spots, Chevalier. Our favorite part of our honeymoon was in Paris, so we often try to have French food for our anniversary. I went all cheese, with a cheese plate appetizer and stuffed squash blossoms for my entree, which was delicious, but I don’t think I’d do all cheese again. Pretty rich stuff. The squash blossoms are something I’ve seen made on TV a few times, and had vowed to try if I ever saw it on a menu. These were stuffed with goat cheese, and very yummy. Ted started with a salad, and then moved on to a skirt steak. He really enjoyed it. It was a lovely anniversary.

Chevalier
On a more somber note, I went to Stockton that Saturday. I have a friend, Helene, whose lovely 18 year old daughter, Bronte, passed away from complications of Cerebral Palsy and Pneumonia. Helene and I are not close friends, we have not kept in touch over the years, I had never met Bronte, but when I heard of her loss, I wanted to be there for her. I came away wishing that I had met her. Everyone who met her talked about her wonderful, joyous spirit. She will be greatly missed by many people. Mostly, of course, her broken hearted parents. I cannot imagine anything worse.

Also while in Stockton, I stopped to see my Grandma, who hasn’t been feeling well as of late. I was dismayed and shocked to see that she has lost quite a bit of weight. She’s always been a tiny woman, so she didn’t have anything to lose. She looks to weigh about 90 lbs, she’s weak and tired. She needs to eat more, to give herself the strength the get better. She has no appetite. She eats two or three bites, and loses interest. Why does it seem to always come down to food? With my mom, who couldn’t eat, and lost 60 lbs in her last few months. She had the weight to lose, but you can’t really live on your fat, your body needs nutrition. With Genevieve, who didn’t eat much, who had to be coaxed. It’s so stressful. So now the thing is to try to get my Grandma eating, hopefully nutritious foods with lots of calories, but which won’t upset her stomach. The other thing to do, which is amazingly difficult, is to try to accept that perhaps this is the beginning of her decline, and that she may not be with us forever. I don’t want to accept that in the least. I love her so much. She means the world to me. But she’s suffering right now, and I don’t want that, either. Sigh. I feel worried. Last night my dreams were of ideas for fattening foods that I might get her to eat. Not very restful.

What else…we saw another really good movie a few weeks ago, Safety Not Guaranteed. It’s about a magazine intern who’s covering a story for her magazine; a man has put an add in the paper, that he’s looking for someone to time travel with him. Safety not guaranteed. So she pretends to be interested in his theories of time travel, and to be willing to go back in time with him, in order to root out the story. Quirky and wonderful, and ultimately quite touching.

Maya has finally gotten Ted and me hooked on Game of Thrones. She’s been trying for awhile. We don’t get HBO, but for some reason it’s working on OnDemand right now. I have no idea why, but we’re enjoying it. We just finished Season 1 last night. Wowee.

Maya took her first AP class this year, AP European History. She got her test results on Friday, and she got a 5! Wow, amazing stuff. The scale is 1 – 5, and many colleges give credit if you get a 3 or above. She was hoping for a 3. Nicely done. She’s also doing swim team this summer, in a very casual, rec-team sort of way, which means she goes to practice every day, but only goes to the meets that she feels like attending. Fine with us. She has already shaved 6 or 7 seconds off of her time from the beginning of the season. She came to the sport late, starting last year at the age of 15, when you swim 100 meters, and most of the kids had been swimming for at least 5 or 6 years, some more.

Ted’s still looking for work. I’m enjoying having him around the house. He’s sleeping well and getting a lot of time in following his favorite hobby, road biking. Nothing like free time to let you improve your health and bike condition, huh? Unemployment isn’t so bad, really, except for the lack of a paycheck. So he’s keeping his contacts and applies for a variety of things. There are a couple of possibilities out there. Keep your fingers crossed for something GOOD to come along very soon.