Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving, Pseudo-Bout With Sadness, Then a Couple of Grifters

Man, oh, man. I thought it was going to be a sad Thanksgiving: I had to work the Wednesday and Friday flanking this great Thursday, while most every one of my other friends got to go home for their holiday. And last year's T-giving was spent without my former Favorite or my family; I thought I was due for another ill-fated day.

Wrong. First, I ran into an old friend while waiting in a grocery store line yesterday evening -- it resulted in an invite to a potluck Turkey Day dinner. Second, I awoke to a wonderful gift from AMC (the channel).

It was 8:30am, and what do I see the moment I hit the remote's "Guide"? "The Sting." I flip to it, and the movie's trademark score is bellowing out to me, telling me I've the good fortune of catching the flick from the start. Shortly thereafter, my Paul (Newman) is seated drunkenly at a cards table, assuring me that I should be thankful for a Thanksgiving spent alone, watching him.

At the first commercial break, reliable old AMC tells me they're playing the Godfather trilogy post-Sting. Oh, how the gods work in mysterious ways.

Also, I have great rationalization skills. I love "The Sting," or any collaborative efforts by Redford and my sweet Mr. Newman. They make great Grifters. And it's been much too long since I've seen Marlon Brando on the small screen. Happy Turkey.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

6th Grade, Jean-Claude, JCVD

It was the first day of 6th grade, and I waltzed into Mrs. Bertelli's English class and took a seat. Given that this was a large, public junior high in Texas, the school was a melting pot of neighboring elementary schools' grads. To break the ice, we were asked to fill out an About Me and partner up with a stranger.

One question was about our favorite movies.

"Pulp Fiction, Tombstone and Timecop," I scribbled, my little 11-year old self so confident in my choices. And, oh, how I explained the plots with such enthusiasm to my boy partner -- still a friend -- who was grateful for my violent, descriptive tales of gangsters, cowboys and time-traveling cops.

The next day, after she'd gone home and read our About Mes, my teacher took me aside and asked politely, if concernedly, if my parents had indeed let me see these films.

"Yup! They're so great. Have you seen them?? Usually, I fall asleep to one of them!"

I'll remember the look of shock and disgust on her face, always. (It should have been respect and admiration for the prodigious child that stood before her. Alas.)

Thankfully, my teacher never had to talk to Mama G, who would've scolded me harshly for letting on to what she has always termed my "warped" taste in movies, and peculiar habits regarding them.

Of the three great films I boasted as my favorites, I'd most recently seen "Timecop." I thought it was the most brilliant movie. Which brings me to the point. As we all know, Jean-Claude Van Damme, the "Muscles from Brussels," is the star of that awesome sci-fi flick.

And now he stars in "JCVD."

It's very "Being John Malkovich," in its meta look into his life. He plays a washed up action movie star, who's endured plenty of woe-is-me, self-inflicted drama during his public life. He's had drug issues, has married too many ladies, has a child he can't take custody of ... the whole nine.

It mirrors his real life. BUT, it's also a great heist movie. The two storylines (that of JCVD's real life, and that of the heist film) roll with each other quite seamlessly. He returns to Belgium after a nasty custody war, ready to reinvent himself. But he's broke (drugs will do that to you?) and finds himself desperate and begging people in a post office to help him out; he's the figurehead of American-made dreams for the Belgian folk, after all.

Suddenly, he's coopted into a crime scenario.

The movie's construction is of my favorite style. It's the "before the question, here's the answer" style. So, that means it's reminiscent of a Pulp-Fictionesque backwards shoot ... we know how we end before we know how we got there. And it's done very well.

For his part, JCVD shows an almost miraculous acting talent. It was one of the most impressive things I've seen of late. He actually acts and taps into some crazy feeling. The reviews/interviews I've read say that it's all real; it causes some discomfort, I must admit -- he at one point levitates when he's at his wit's end, and speaks directly to the viewer. He tells of his regrets, his feelings of failure.

Oh, poor JCVD -- we forgive you your faults ... and he does some nice roundhouses.

Once more, JCVD trailer:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Miserable Day, Obesity, Tommy Boy

Oh, what a miserable day! Disgruntled, stodgy coworkers cursing and yelling for no reason (I'm a lady!); more bad news about our sad, struggling, beaten-down economy; the cold.

It was one of those days where I (seeking my silverlining) looked around me and thought how thankful I was that the Bloomberg building is built entirely of glass; no matter where I look, I'm reminded I need to hobble up a few floors before I jump -- better safe than sorry!

But I did finally go back to the gym. After a two-month hiatus, the time had finally come to get it together.

I knew it was time when, this morning as I lay in my newly-heated room cursing the gods for making me get up, I stretched and patted my stomach, err, gut. Oh, how all these fancy dinners and fine foods do dare take their toll.

I was then reminded of one of my old favorite stupid comedies from when I was a kid. Particularly, one scene from "Tommy Boy." I found myself humming the tune all day, and watching the YouTube a few times, which provided me what very little bit of entertainment I had all day. Useless post, cute clip.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Quantum, Bond, Intimidating Chats ... Movie Week Continues

I lived out my movie dreams this weekend. I went, I saw, I danced (the last wasn't related to the movies, it was of a Saturday-night social nature -- and it was ugly ... hobbled legs shouldn't try doing the Butterfly).

The "Cyclops" adventure -- unofficial premiere -- was awesome; Sci-Fi movies featuring one-eyed beasts in a Rome that I can only pretend to be historically-knowledgable about are best seen amongst a large group of people ... and talked about with said group over drinks afterwards.

Saturday was, as hoped, spent watching Quantum of Solace; I'm one of the only folks I know who really enjoyed it. I have to re-read some of the criticism, but from what I'd gleaned pre-viewing, most critics were mixed. Erroneous.

Post-movie, Movie Friend and I joined his family for coffee and post-viewing conversation. My initial thoughts were superficial: "Oh, well, I went in with rather lowered expectations, which were exceeded, so, I don't know -- I thought it was really great! I think Daniel Craig's an on-screen gem, a darker Bond (which suits my movie tastes), and while the action scenes were head-spinning, they didn't last SO long that I was bored." Etc.

Friend's father simply nodded and said, "Hmm. Elaborate."

Well, no pressure there.

So, I elaborated. "Weeeellllll, so I reviewed this documentary 'Flow' recently about the demonization of water privatization/commoditization ... I thought this was a very fantastical account of what someone would dream up about the evils of that industry." Wow, Grice, way to think of some bologna on those feet -- though I really had been thinking about that throughout the film. When I did that Flow review, I did so much research on that issue that it resonated well with me.

I think the movie is very, very smartly written. As was discussed over coffee, it's more of a Bourne film, rather than a traditional Bond film - which lends to some criticism, considering its arguable lack of cohesion with the genre ... but regardless, a great movie, for me.

I saw "JCVD" tonight, which I'll save for tomorrow to write about ... but it was excellent. From Rot Tom's: "In a bold and self-deprecating role, Jean-Claude finds himself out of money, fighting for custody of his daughter and losing every good action role to Steven Seagal."

The "JCVD" trailer:

I really, really respected this film.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Premiere, Quantum, Slumdogs

It's going to be a movie-filled weekend, and upcoming week or so since my best movie friend is in town.

First, a few friends and I are going to my movie friend's movie premiere! He has a huge -- let's say starring role in it, because we can -- and his loved ones are throwing him a premiere and party to celebrate his impending (realized?) success.

Actually, he's kept tonight somewhat shrouded in mystery, so who knows what ridiculous event is happening tonight. But, no matter, I hear there will be a red carpet. Alas, we're in a Great Recession, so my chucks and jeans may have to do.

The movie is "Cyclops," and it's produced by Roger Corman. (Brother Grice, known for his love of strange movies, nearly peed himself when I told him Corman was involved.)

Can't seem to embed it, but it can be found here.

So, following that wonderful one-eyed Sci-Fi monster movie, tomorrow will be Bond time! Quantum of Solace -- yes, I know, it's not supposed to be as good as Daniel Craig's last one, but it's 007, and I find him very handsome. Might see it at the Ziegfeld, which would be neat.

Finally, I hope to see "Slumdog Millionaire" on Sunday. Aside from having an awesome title, this movie's been getting awesome, awesome reviews. It's from director Danny Boyle (of "Trainspotting," "28 Days Later") and from its IMDB page:

The story of Jamal Malik (Patel), an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who is about to experience the biggest day of his life. With the whole nation watching, he is just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India's "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" But when the show breaks for the night, police arrest him on suspicion of cheating.

Sooooooo, it should be quite the weekend. My movie friend just said that some 190 people are invited to the red carpet event tonight. 53 minutes until they open the factory doors and let me go home!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More Fancy Food, Great Friends, Then! A Dark (K)Night

A couple nights ago, my favorite food critic took a friend and me out to a fancy dinner. And, oh, what a great time we had. We gorged on goat and scallops and sweetbreads and more! (At least now my impending-gout will have been worth it.)

"How 'bout we three grab a quick cocktail after this?" Food Critic asks.

"Of course!" New Friend and I decide, effortlessly.

We travel uptown a bit and are happy and chatty in the cab.

"Oh, how lucky we are," we think, naively.

We arrive: an over-priced, swanky lounge -- just the thing to top off an excessive dinner.

We walk through those beautiful doors -- they may have parted for us, inexplicably -- and into the gilded first room. We peek in. Crowded, but, oh well, nothing will ruin this night.

We head in further, ready for some sweet, sweet bartender to mix us a sweet, sweet drink, when: OH NO, duck, Grice! Who is it...nooooo...y? yea? And is he wi.....? No!

Yes! That's when it became a Dark (K)Night, and it reminded me of the restaurant scene in "The Dark Knight."

Where were you gods?!! I work hard on this karma.

Oooohhhh, I exaggerate. Kind of. At least my table got to laugh a lot and my story gets more and more sensational each time I relate it, obviously.

As for The Dark Knight, in brief, I was disappointed. As I've written before, I was part of a group of fools who waited in a line around the block at 2 a.m. on opening night. My expectations, needless to say, were extremely high; and as with most things fated to high expectations it was likely to disappoint (For things that have been fated to high expectations, see: above situation, the causes of broken heart, people, humanity etc.! Ha.).

A couple of main criticisms: it was confusing. My Old Friend came out of the movie talking about how it changed his life, but he hadn't even picked up on what exactly happened to Maggie Gyllenhaal's character, when and why. I was shocked, but the more I talked about it with people, I found many had been confused too.

Oh, and we certainly needed more face-time and reasons to care for the fate of Gyllenhaal in the first place! I didn't really care about that woman, a few more scenes would've upped my endearment level.

But it was already much too long. When poor Heath Ledger wasn't mesmerizing us on-screen (obviously, he's brilliant in the film), I found myself wandering around in my brain and wondering after the price of tea in China.

Finally, I wanted to throw my popcorn at the screen when I found that the way we're going to find out whether good or evil wins out is by making us watch a contrived situation (!) about convicts versus "good people" battling it out on the bay ... I wanted to blow both boats up. I was so angry! Not only have we seen a million scenes like that a million times, it was just ... oh, I've worked myself up.

But, I will leave us with one of the best scenes, the interrogation scene.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Walking on `Stilts,' Feeling Like the Elephant Man: `A Silent, Unresisting Target for Your Ridicule'

I've been thinking of blogging about this for days. I sought advice from Brother Grice about my hesitation; his consolation: "Well, Sister, when in doubt, blog it out." Since when did New Media work its way into flippant axioms?

I couldn't bring myself to air my grievance until half an hour ago. Bossman came over and whispered: "So, how's it working out?" I knew exactly what he meant, I'd confided in him that I was being made to wear lifts in my shoes to help out the hobbled walk.

I blurted out, "I feel like the Elephant Man! That's how it's working out." The truth is, I haven't even gotten the "lifts" yet (actually, it's an insole), but the moment old Doogie Howser (the doctor) told me what I had to do, I wore the saddest frown for a good hour. A whole very long hour, until I began thinking it was kind of funny, talked to Mother and Brother Grice and several others who were happy for a progressive step in the leg-healing process, and of course, I spoke to many hecklers who are near and dear to my heart.

So, I guess walking on a small stilt on one side is better than walking around hobbled-like. And, "The Elephant Man" is a great movie; as one of my dear friends once told me, "You're like a crippled monster!" It's so true.

A Day in the `City,' New Friends, Roosevelt Island -- and Utter Gluttony

I've done lots of thinking about how to explain this weekend. I had thoughts of linking Willy Wonka, Seven, and Dark Water to clarify/confuse what went on over these few days.

Saturday morning at 6:55 a.m., I called my friend to wake her, to make sure she could pack and be on our agreed corner by 8:00 a.m.

A car picks us up and we begin our journey to Atlantic City (usually, the most depressing place in the world). In the car, we meet: well, several media contacts, but more importantly, new friends. We all hit it off from the start.

We arrive and are put up in a swank new hotel ... roll around on the bed and thank the gods for our good fortunes.

Time to go meet all the chefs in our dine-around. I don't know the term for it, but it's something about taking a tour of all the fancy restaurants, while they try to woo you. We met a chef who "blows" sugar and used to work for W. Bush ... hence the Willy Wonka reference; we met a handsome, handsome egotistical chef who served us kobe beef and lobster and shrimp and sake; we met a less-handsome, but perhaps more reknown (?) man whose restaurant is in a basement but is beautiful. There, we ate spaghetti, all types of Italian foods, drank white wine and were seated at a communal table that allowed for some good bonding.

Because I'm not good at holding my alcohol, I knew myself and went to take a nap before the evening's events happened. When I did, I was told we had a credit posted to the room ... so, I ordered more food and a movie. You bet the latter was true.

When we got home to New York, three of us from the trip leapt up to Roosevelt Island ("leapt" is ill-used ... it took a bus ride, a tram ride, and a long walk -- and I'm a gimp) and that's where I was reminded of Dark Water -- with Jennifer Connelly, which was shot on RI.

What this all means is, I embodied a few of these characters this weekend. Let's have a little retrospective look at Seven:

Friday, November 7, 2008

New Reviews and Zomg, Spielberg May Remake `Old Boy'

I don't even care about my witless little reviews that I slaved over this past week; Steven Spielberg is in talks to remake "Old Boy." The clouds have parted and the gods are smiling down on us (me). Says Variety:

Steven Spielberg and Will Smith are in early discussions to collaborate on a remake of Chan Wook-park's "Oldboy." DreamWorks is in the process of securing the remake rights, and the new pic will be distributed by Universal.

In the 2003 Korean original, a man gets kidnapped and held in a shabby cell for 15 years without explanation. Suddenly, he's released and given money, a cell phone and clothes and is set on a path to discover who destroyed his life so he can take revenge.

I wrote about my experience with "Old Boy" here. Happy Friday.

My Bloomberg reviews of "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," "Role Models," and "The Guitar" are here. Meh.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New Roommates, Animal House, Reminiscent

I'm going with "colossal" score on the new roommate situation.

The weekend has been one great slumber party, or something reminiscent of one.

I brought over my junk on Saturday morning; the MIT grad, now doctorate-in-waiting Columbia biologist is sitting with a lady on the couch, cracking open a beer. Really? "This is a no judgment zone," he defends. Clearly, sir, no judgment.

The little grey-haired poodle is traipsing around the living room. My room is (at the time) still inhabited by the guy who's moving (and his girlfriend, and his younger brother and his girlfriend). What a sigh of relief. These people have their "shit together," without having it together whatsoever.

By weekend's end, I'd mediated couples' fights, been outfitted for a date with MIT's scarf as a flourish and watched The Simpsons on a Sunday afternoon, as all Sunday afternoons are meant to be spent.

The other roommate, Duke '05 guy, is awesome as well. Grey-haired poodle (named "Hendrix") was his family dog -- the poor pup spent Dude's senior year with him at a Duke frat house ... sweet dog, little brains.

And they've already taken to defending me, almost making Date come to the apartment to check him out and telling me things everyone wants to hear after heartbreak.

The environment is a bit like Animal House in that there's a slew of people about at any moment who are acting like grown children. I don't mind.