Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reading/Watching/Etc.


READING:


Up Till Now: The Autobiography by William Shatner
I just cracked this open last night, but it's already entertaining me, and that's all I ask.

Wall Street's Bailout Hustle (Rolling Stone, February 2010)
This was intensely depressing. Eye-opening, but depressing. I mean, I already knew the whole Wall Street bailout stunk, but between Matt Taibbi's coverage in Rolling Stone and This American Life/NPR's Planet Money's podcasts on the subject, I've become painfully aware of just how much it stunk. Why aren't we all out rioting in the streets over this bullshit?

Weekly World News (archived on Google Books)
In a world gone mad, sometimes theirs truly was the voice of reason. Or, well, at least a really awesome variation on reason.

One-Yard Wonders: 101 Sewing Projects
I haven't sat behind a sewing machine since...uh, home economics class in the 8th grade? No, it can't be that long, can it? Hmm...I guess it can. Anyway, this caught my eye when I was browsing at the book store down the street last week, and I decided to pick it up on a whim, hoping it inspires me to try sewing again. It's something I keep meaning to do, but never get around to it...there's lots of simple but cute/functional projects in this book that look like they won't tax my dormant sewing skills too heavily, and it includes some pattern pieces and I really liked that it's bound in a spiral binder, too. It makes the whole enterprise appear very user-friendly, which may be just the confidence booster I need to get started.

And Baby Makes Four - 100 Mile Challenge
Starting on Easter weekend, my friend Regina is undertaking a year-long mission to only eat food grown within a 100-mile radius of her home in Brooklyn. She's been keeping a weekly diary on her blog about her plans, talking about her efforts to connect with farmers/vendors, trips to the local farmer's markets, her husband's concerns ("There is bacon within 100 miles, right?"), and the foods she'll miss once she gets started.


WATCHING:


The Hurt Locker
A very good, tightly-wound war movie. It tied my stomach up in knots while I watched it. It doesn't lay things out in black and white; the characters, their circumstances, and the locale aren't presented as simply "good" or "bad," and it doesn't give any easy answers.

(500) Days of Summer
Overrated. I liked some of the ways they played around with the story structure, but I found a few of the characters completely unbelievable (the little sister who talked like a psychotherapist, for starters) and all the band name-dropping was lame. It was trying too hard to be cool, and isn't that the very antithesis of cool?

Defending Your Life
I saw this on VHS back when it came out in the early 1990s, and it's held up surprisingly well. Funny, thoughtful, and honest -- it's definitely got a little schmaltz mixed in there, too, but the "trial" scenes give it some real emotional heft and its depiction of the afterlife is clever and fun.

Big Fan
Parts of this made me laugh, and parts just made me cringe because I felt so bad for the main character. It really walks the fine line between black comedy and drama...depending on your frame of mind when you watch it, some scenes might strike you as hilarious, or they might come off as more tragic (or maybe a little bit of both). That being said, the final act was really well-done.

Synecdoche, New York
I f&*%#@g hated it. This is the most misguidedly self-indulgent movie I've seen since Battlefield Earth, and I think it's even WORSE than Battlefield Earth because hey -- at least I could laugh at that! This made me want to go stick my head in the oven & crank up the gas. And slit my wrists & take a handful of pills for good measure, just in case the gas took too long to off me. Joyless, plotless, pretentious. I watched one of the extras on the DVD about the making of the film, and not even the damn script supervisor could keep track of who was who and where they were! What a bunch of wankery.

The Invention of Lying
The premise of this movie is fantastic food for thought -- and there are so many ways you could approach it, it must have been difficult to narrow it down to just a handful of key plot points. But ultimately, maybe it's an idea that's too big & unwieldy for a movie to tackle; it's not for lack of trying, as the script's funny and the cast is great. I think it was just too much to execute in less than two hours. (Maybe it would work better as a novel, where there'd be more space to play around with the concept?)

Moon
Excellent. The story twists and curves just enough to keep you guessing, and Sam Rockwell's performance is brilliant -- I can't believe he didn't get an Oscar nomination for this. The set design is beautiful (the moon exteriors, especially) and made me feel fully immersed in Sam's world -- it was obvious that a huge amount of thought had gone into every detail of the production. One of the best of '09.

The Late Shift
Okay, it's a TV movie, so it's not great. But after reading the book, I was curious to see it...and I think it's a pretty decent adaptation. The guy who plays Leno is a little wooden (and his face, a little plastic), but John Michael Higgins, despite Letterman's many years of protestations that "that guy doesn't look anything like me!", gets his imitation pretty spot-on if you ask me. And Kathy Bates is freakin' awesome. (If you read the book, yes, the person she played really was that psycho.)

The Business of Being Born
This was informative in the sense that I feel it opened up a good dialogue about why home births and midwifery fell out of practice in the U.S., and I enjoyed following the stories of the women featured in it and their home birthing experiences. However, I felt it was a little light on facts & stats in some parts; I would have liked a little more detail about midwifery in other countries, for instance, and maybe it would have been interesting to broaden their scope beyond the NYC area and interview midwifes in other parts of the country?

In the Loop
I'll admit it: I watched it with the closed captioning on. The dialogue in this flies so fast I could hardly keep up without it, but oh my god, it's hilarious. It takes profanity to a whole new level. Great casting (nice to see Anna Chlumsky again!), and even though the end result of the international wrangling is kind of a foregone conclusion from the get-go, it sure was fun to watch it all unravel.

Avatar
Watching this was a chore. The story was weak (Pocahontas in space), the special effects were alright but kind of distracting at times (too many scenes looked like cheap black light posters from Spencer Gifts in the mall), and most of the actors were pretty mediocre (then again, the dialogue wasn't all that great, so that probably didn't give them much to work with). Maybe it deserved some technical/cinematography Oscars, but it definitely didn't deserve Best Picture (nor Best Director) so I was glad to see The Hurt Locker take those trophies home.

Valentine's Day
This is the schlockiest piece of schlock ever schlocked. It's like they mated Love Actually with the hokiest Hallmark card imaginable and figured, "Hey, it sucks, but let's cast a bunch of famous people so maybe no one notices how wretched the dialogue is." Hands-down the blandest, most witless romantic comedy I've ever seen. And what gives with the creepy little Ken-doll-faced boy spending the entire movie in deep swoon? Have the screenwriters never met a little boy? NO CHILD TALKS LIKE THAT. When a little boy likes a little girl, he throws stuff at her, he doesn't spend the day running around town trying to buy her flowers. "She's the only other girl in school with Frank Zappa on her iPod"? I call bullshit.

Sidenote: Taylor Swift's "acting" is even more grating than her singing, and that's saying something.


Andy Richter on Regis & Kelly
Andy dishes some dirt. Good for him.



Late Night with Conan O'Brien - a compendium of Walker, Texas Ranger clips


ETC.:

- I'm cautiously optimistic that I'll finish the baby blanket I'm making for my friend Erica's baby shower on Saturday...it's a little dicey, but I'm making good headway and not kicking myself too hard yet over the fact that I waited so long to start it. This time I'm trying something a little different, so we'll see how that all comes together. If it's not done by party time on Saturday, would it be gauche to just slip an I.O.U. into an envelope?

- Speaking of projects I've procrastinated on for far too long: I need to clean up my heap of craft crap in the basement. Good lord, it's threatening to swallow the computer desk whole! Maybe that'll move to the top of my list post-baby blanket...unless something else catches my eye first.

3 comments:

regina said...

I have yet to see business of being born-mostly because of the heavy on the NYC take. Most of the country is much better at birthing babies than NYC. and other countries have all these weird restrictions about home births that would be nice to see addressed,
Hope Davis who was in that Synecdoche movie was a mom in my classroom last year. She is awesome, but i still haven't seen the movie.

Laurie said...

I love Defending Your Life. I found it on VHS at Savers a couple months ago and picked it up because a)it was $1.99 and b) I love Albert Brooks. I was not disappointed - it was such an interesting, cute and funny film! Are you at all a fan of Albert Brooks? I really liked the movie he was in with LeeLee Sobieski, My First Mister.

Mary said...

I've never seen "My First Mister"--I'll have to add that to my ever-expanding list. Albert Brooks is one of those guys whose work I always appreciate, though--I'm probably most familiar with "Defending Your Life" and his guest spots on "The Simpsons" over the years, but I liked "The Muse" and "Broadcast News," too.