Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shameful Reviews From Last Week, Friend in Town, Movie Marathons

I'd avoided posting my latest reviews from last week. It was so unfair!

At about 6:45pm on Tuesday evening, I received an e-mail from my editor. I often avoid opening messages from my superiors so close to the end of the day (Who said that?), but given this regarded the only part of my job that I like, I clicked to find that they decided to run my reviews early: "Please send them first thing in the morning."

Considering I never turn them in until Thursday, I was hardly prepared (hadn't started researching, let alone writing!). But I was meeting a friend for dinner, who was already on her way, so I couldn't cancel.

This meant I was an antsy dinner partner at a time when she needed my full ears-attention; upon returning home and engaging in requisite roommate banter, I didn't get started until 10pm. Maybe later.

The result was an all-nighter, a half-alive Ms. Grice the next day and my worst-quality reviews to date.

Enough disclaimers? Never.

I usually paste the text here, but I can't bear to re-read. "Yes Man" and "Tale of Despereaux" on the Bl'erg's website. I can't believe "Yes Man" beat out Will Smith's "Seven Pounds" this weekend, by the way.

In other news, the weekend was mostly great. After enduring a full cancellation Friday night and a near all-day delay on Saturday thanks to the relentless snow gods, my Poor Friend finally made it on a flight to Manhattan.

So far, I've made us Mexican omelettes and a taco dinner; in one day, we watched "Goodfellas," "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," "Thief," "Blood Diamond," "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson," and "Fried Green Tomatoes." (After a few more movie marathons, I plan to compile some thoughts on the best and worst of them all.) And we've walked around the city for hours -- thanks to the cold, I think my gimp limb is too numb to feel the pain.

Perhaps I can have Happy Holidays with a good friend, without being home.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So Many Enchiladas, Great Mexicans, a Famous Wood Chipper

How many enchiladas can this half-bred Mexican make in a matter of hours, you ask? 36.

Did we include homemade guacamole, salsa, and rice and beans with that? But of course.

My level of human domestication has never been higher.

As planned, Mexican Monday Night went down at the Grice homestead last night. I even switched up my work schedule so I could come in at the crack of dawn, and leave in the afternoon; I needed to entertain my anxiety of cooking for stomachs other than my own.

After last week's Roommate Night, I'd told the boys I could make some mean Mexican food; as I wandered aimlessly around the grocery store yesterday, I reconsidered my bold cooking claim.

But, oh, what a nice time was had.

With the help of two fine Lady Friends, we made enough food to take us into next week (Recession!), we managed to set off the fire alarm -- but fix it in a style that would make Lucille Ball proud -- and we ended the night on the couch, Youtubing Dire Straits and Peter Gabriel, thanks to my fond childhood memories of the music videos for "Money for Nothing" and "Sledgehammer." We threw in some Robert Palmer, for good measure.

Our collective food coma was alive and well.

I had such a good time and newfound appreciation for My Roots that I spent a good part of my morning revisiting some Mexican movie greats.

Remember "Amores Perros"? It stars the beautiful Gael Garcia Bernal and it interweaves three great twisted, distinct storylines into wonderful movie darkness. There's dogfighting, a supermodel who loses her leg, a hitman. Anyone who knows me would know I'd love this movie on that sentence alone.

And, while "La Mala Educacion" (which I wrote about before) is by Pedro Almodóvar, a Spaniard, not a Mexicano, (It's all the same? No, they like tapas, we like grease.), it also stars the beautiful Bernal. This is a particularly bizarre scene, with him studying a transvestite.

Finally, I stumbled upon one other (unrelated) movie scene today, as I was wandering around in my brain tunnels.

I have a Friend arriving in New York on Friday; we were talking about his trip, and he mentioned how glad he was to be getting out of the arctic weather he's been braving. I realized that every time we talk about how unbearably cold it is there, my mind's mental picture calls up "Fargo." While geographically incorrect, he said it was representative of his surroundings.

I said I hoped he had a solid wood chipper, which refers to this lovely little scene.

Hurray for holiday company.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chasing After the Carrot Stick, New Reviews Next Week ... Bon Weekend

Well, that's how I feel (the above image).

I was getting ready to go off and have a proper lunch, like a human, instead of indulging in a plethora of free work snacks and ramen [read: salt]. I decided I ought to check my messages before I left, like an employee, instead of a freeloading resource-drain [read: me].

"Please stop by my desk when you have a moment," writes Bloomberg Movie Critic the Elder.

Thankfully, I've been dressing "nicely" the past few days, my second-hand sweaters and one pair of dress pants having been unearthed from the bowels of my bedroom. (I'm awaiting my performance review.)

I smoothed down the tresses, winced at my reflection and sauntered over.

Maybe I'd forgotten to produce some of his movie trailers? Maybe one of the editors mentioned I'd been a couple hours late on my deadline during the last round of reviews?!? Maybe he was going to say: Look, kid, we're in a recession and they're nixing the Arts department. We rarely have in-person rendezvous.

He was flustered and scatterbrained when I got there.

"Aaahhh, uubb, oofff, umm, GOD, I'm in such movie disaster! Did you SEE my reviews this week??? [Umm, yes, why, yes I did. And my jealousy was palpable.] I had to do 7 for one day! I could only write capsules!!! [Oh, you poor dear.] I have a proposition for you ... can you ... umm, I have some movies for next week -- are you available for ..."

"The answer is YES!" I blurted out, uncontrollably and embarrassingly. (Who's lazy now, punk?) He was taken aback, but pleased.

So, crisis: averted; my paranoia: in check.

Of course, as I walked away, I realized that since I started doing movie reviews, they have me do them juuuuuuuust frequently enough that I'm the hopeless little horse chasing after the elusive carrot stick.

In my case, I sit at my desk all day long like the man featured in the picture above, but then the moment something good happens, the clouds part and ... sunshine. Suddenly, I'm happier at my workplace and L.A. lingers further in the backdrop. Sigh-o-rama.

The first two I'm seeing are "The Tale of Despereaux" and "Yes Man." Anything will do.

It just so happens that my roommate and I watched "Liar, Liar" recently; it was an active decision, not just something we stumbled upon on TV. It'll be interesting to see what Mr. Carrey brings to the screen in "Yes Man."

"Yes Man"

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Great Roommate Night, On Dissing L.A. (and my Life Plans), Confusion

"Jou're schoost being lazy, baby," he accused, his Chilean drawl masking any attempts at enunciation.

He was my "date" for a long-awaited Roommate-Night Dinner. The two roommate studs were bringing their lady friends, so I had to find an Other. I chose a friend I've known for many years ... and now he was accusing me of being lazy! I felt like sending him out of the stodgy, but awesome, Columbia/Princeton Club, sans food, wine or my friendship.

I glared back at him, mentally tainting many of our shared memories due to his gall.

While I make it my job to seek out the end of the Interweb at work, wasting away my days on G-chat or writing on this bloggle, I like to think of myself as "selectively focused" -- not lazy.

When I have to write my movie reviews for work, I become a compulsive, self-loathing wreck; quality may not bear witness to that fact, but it's true. I can't sleep and I like to lock myself up in my room, far from others who aren't familiar with my painful writing process.

Or, when I have rare fits of fiction writing -- when I'm trying to kill Lucas Jackson, say -- one can't make me eat or tear me away from my scribbled notes or computer.

Or, when I play wikipedia wars! I'll be damned if I let my bladder get the best of me ... I will find my way from "fleece" to "anus" in fewer clicks than you. A lazier person might not show such discipline to the sport.

I digress.

So, he was calling me lazy when I told him about my wanting to move to L.A. -- or my considering a move to L.A. He dismissed it right away: a flippant wave of the hand, slight roll of the eyeballs and an unmistakable cluck of the tongue.

But, Dear Friend, I want to work in movies! Sure, I'll write about them 'til I'm blue in the face, but I ... I ... need to be Out There to do it proper! Right??!

Oh, I was just plain wrong, according to this man. Did I remember our trip out to L.A. some six, seven years ago? How awful the place was? How we had fun, but how we thanked our lucky stars to be spending our youth on the better coast?

Well, yes, I do. But ...

(I tend to have friends who like to talk over me.)

And did I realize that more and more production is being done out East? Did I realize that I could find a job out here, without upending my life and being irrational? Did I realize that it's just lazy of me that I haven't been looking? Did I realize that he has a ton of contacts and connections???!

Oh, all these people and their "connections."

So, once again, I've no idea what to do. And the movie gods are no help, either -- I love two movies that are focused on the greatness of these cities. I've recently watched both.

A great Steve Martin in a great scene from "L.A. Story." I need a wise signpost to guide me:

And Woody Allen waxing romantic in "Manhattan."

Despite all the confusion and dismissal of my Life Plans, we had a great night. And now we've planned for Mexican Monday Night at the apartment -- this Lady's in charge of the enchiladas, since I'm brown. So nice to have a happy home life.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Brilliant Slumdog, Lady Crush, Why Can't I Just Move to LA?

We walked in a minute late; our protagonist and potential "Millionaire" was already strung up, being tortured. My pulse, it quickened.

Attached to our "Slumdog"'s toes were some kind of cables, which were being used to zap the truth out of him.

"HOW did you know the answers?!!!" thunders the Indian policeman in charge of finding out how our hero hit the 10-million (rupees) mark on the country's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

"I just knew them," he sputters, his eyeballs rolling round loosely in their sockets.

And so begins "Slumdog Millionaire." It was the second film in last Thursday's Double Feature Night (the first was "Milk," which will be dealt with at another time -- it was very good, but this film was fantastic).

Walking into the movie with my lovely date, we both had similar expectations. We'd heard some of the hype, knew it was supposed to be "great," but were both pretty unclear what we were in for.

"I was imagining a lot of bright colors, flashes, eclecticism," we later mused, quite ignorantly. Not the intricate, smart, layered, brilliant little film that unfolded.

After the opening torture scene, we're taken back to Jamal (a.k.a. "Slumdog," or Dev Patel) sitting on the set of "Millionaire." The snaky host lets out his first question; then we enter Jamal's head.

We live through a memory of his childhood in a civil-war torn Mumbai. We follow him and his brother playing innocently, if mischievously, in their slum of a neighborhood, when suddenly a Hindu mob descends upon the slums, beating anyone in sight in an extremely violent, visceral early scene.

They're orphaned. But before they begin the remarkable adventure of raising themselves, we cut to his memory of a child standing in front of them (after their mother is slain) holding the very object being questioned about on Millionaire. Though he's never received anything more than a street-smarts education, you quickly realize that he's able to answer the most obscure questions because they all relate to some significant moment in his twisted Tom-Sawyer life.

So, that's the format for each of the questions. We jump from present-time in the police station, as the inspector and his lackey take turns beating on him from time-to-time, back to him on the show's set, and back to his childhood memories responsible for his Millionaire-making responses. We watch them escape child slavery (after seeing a horribly painful scene involving boiling water and a poor child's eyes); we see them criss-crossing the whole of India, riding atop moving trains; we watch Salim, his brother, evolve into the criminal we always knew he'd become; and of course, there's a love story. (For feelings on Love, however, see prior post.)

It's beautiful, brilliantly interwoven -- quite seamless.

At one point, the police inspector calls Jamal's story "bizarrely plausible," and I suppose that's one of the most impressive parts of the whole film. Despite its twists and turns and coincidences and self-made constructs, it doesn't feel contrived.

Oh, and his love interest, Latika (Freida Pinto), is one of the most beautiful actresses I can think of. It was hard to pay attention to what was going on around them when she was on screen. Lady crush! (pictured above)

In other news, I ran into the elder Bloomberg movie critic, who said he has a gaggle of movies for me to review in January. Why, gods, can you not make it easy for me to just up and leave for L.A.?!?!?!!? Sigh.

In other, other news, I finally gave into the realization that it's going to be a White Christmas; and, there is no snow in Houston (home). Sorry, Mama G. :'(

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Some Pork & Egg Buns, a Sleepover, New York Weekends

Well, there went the weekend.

There was dancing; there was drinking; there was the requisite drunk-dialing, just to keep me honest. (Why, oh, why do the gods shame us so? Why, oh, why do I push off my [warranted] self-guilt onto some elusive "gods"?? One will never know.)

It all culminated in a sleepover, chez Grice.

"Do you remember this morning when you nuzzled into my ... my ... bosom?" she asked. The answer was: no, it must've been a subconscious, warm-body reflex.

Thankfully, Lady holds on her shoulders one of the few heads upon which I foist my love troubles, so she didn't take my nuzzling as some latent flirtation. Ha.

Note: Dear lord, please feed this attention-seeking, self-loathing monster...something, soon.

After lolling about in bed, lamenting life, exchanging stories, et cetera, we decided breakfast was needed. Fried pork-egg buns -- again ... while the wallet's getting thinner, the waistline's thickening, readily.

To top it off, we then trudged/hobbled to coffee; I had my little cup in my little (err, huge) frozen fingers, and I stood looking for the cream. Skim (never). 1% (nope). 2% (closer).

This woman came up to me, having spotted my scouring eyes, and handed me the half-and-half.

When I pinch my protruding little belly, I've no one to blame but myself.

So onwards to the movie reference.

I walked my lovely lady friend to her subway destination some many blocks away from my warm home. I realized, while doing so, that I own neither a scarf nor gloves. That long walk home reminded me of only one scene (lies) ... the scene in "The Shining" when Jack is chasing Danny in the maze. You need only watch the first couple seconds to understand the feeling.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bankruptcy Class for Suckers, Dreamless Fields, and Double Feature Night

Don't know what "prepackaged bankruptcy" is or how to write about it properly? Oh, really? Neither do/did I.

To remind myself that there are a few marbles rolling around upstairs, I signed up for a class on PB at work. It was taught by a small, squirrelly old man, who was dropping colloquialisms like "cotton-pickin" left and right; he was a bankruptcy lawyer, a brilliant one, or so was said in his introduction. And he spoke like folks from home! Fantastic.

So, should GM, Chrysler and Ford fold? Consolidation? What are the ramifications? Outlook?

I awaited elucidation. Good thing I wasn't holding my breath.

He was certainly brilliant, explaining exactly why the media is misusing "prepacks," and I was following. That was out of the way, what's more, Old Man?

Oh, they HAVE to file bankruptcy. He explained the domino effect, how suppliers, workers, so many auxiliary industries will just be wiped out if they don't! Taxpayers, saddled with debt! It all made sense (sort of, let's be honest).

Then people started asking questions.

Oh, sure, he was biased-- admittedly: "A surgeon's always going to believe your best bet is to cut out the disease." But he held his ground.

Until he didn't. People pushed him a little further, and then it came out: "Well...well...uh... [yes?] Well, ok I agree the government should just foot the bill ... I agree with that too." [Too?]

You could see this brilliant man standing there fighting with himself after he'd just waxed brilliant, confident. Finally, he just said "Well, you know what? F*ck all ... there's going to be so much blood. I don't know what to tell you. Except, you could run a plow over the whole Midwest."

The only thing I could think of was Kevin Costner and his beautiful corn fields and home and family being plowed over. Run over one by one by cars that are indirectly responsible for their demise.

Below, a clip with the great James Earl Jones in "Field of Dreams."

Despite the depressing discourse on the outlook for our fair nation, one thing to be optimistic about: Tonight is DOUBLE FEATURE night! Finally seeing "Slumdog Millionaire," and we're supposed to see "Milk," post-slumming it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Real Bout of Sadness, Looking Like Medusa, and Leo DiCaprio

Oh, what a sad day! I was devastated twice, and the causes were both of my own doing.

It all started off so innocently. I asked my brilliant lady friend a follow-up question over G-chat.

"So, who was your ex-boyfriend? I don't know too much about him. Sorry I've never asked!" I typed, ignorantly.

The result was a marathon tale of tragedy. A horrible, horrible, soul-crushing, sad, tumultuous, terrifying-in-its-familiarity, ongoing, misery-inducing tale. We talked and talked; pictures were shared (!); we commiserated.

And, of course, this little lady's fear was confirmed: Love, it's for the birds.

Devastation number 1.

(I tend to shy away from matters-of-the-heart conversations -- "shy away," "run away," semantics -- this might be why.)

But then, my fortuitous coworker talked at me: "Psst, turn it to in-house channel 36."

"Sir, don't you know I'm going through tremendous devastation at the moment? Sheesh." I think.

But then who's staring at me on the set of Charlie Rose? Leonardo DiCaprio! Oh, yes, one of my favorite and embarrassing first crushes, first loves. Immediately, I message my movie-work friend. It was time for another mission. (The last mission resulted in a run-in with Sean Penn.)

We monitored our tubes intently. I got antsy.

And then I did a terrible thing. I went to the bathroom; I wanted to -- yes, really -- take down my ratty hair and put on a little makeup, a thing I used to do before I lost any care for hygeine or vanity. (If I was going to meet the eye of a man whose career-making movie I saw ... well, too many times ... I didn't want him to think he saw Medusa standing before him!)

Back to my desk I rushed; but it was too late. I stared at the screen as he stood up from Charlie's round table. No! We have three flights to climb! And I'm crippled!

We still tried, and we failed. Vanity, one of the seven deadly sins for a reason.

Of course, I came back and watched the "Never let go" scene from "Titanic," to make me feel even better. Because you know how Rose dies in this movie? Old and alone, that's how. Her young, beautiful boy dies on her, and she dies old, sad and alone, still harboring feelings.

Devastation 2 (which confirmed aforementioned Devastation 1.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hospital Food, Nurse Ratched, Verbal Kent

In a couple days, a close college comrade has to take himself to the hospital. I know the experience well, since, as I consistently remind us on this here bloggle, I'm hobbled.

Back in school, he spent a stint in the Harvard hospital; I'd go round after class and sit with him and tell him the ins-and-outs of my and our closest friends' days.

I'd tell him what we'd all talked about during our campouts in the dining hall; I'd give him my thoughts on friends' romantic lives; I'd tell him what time I got up, my first internal musings of the morning. I have an amazing talent of being able to talk about nothing, for hours.

Because he was so lethargic, he had no choice but to lay there and let me ramble. It's always been a running joke between us that I manage to turn all our conversations back to myself (I call it "relating"!), so I took advantage of the fact he couldn't complain, or make mean jokes at my expense. Though that was years ago, he reminds me of that week when I could blabber with impunity, often.

This time around, I fear he's going to have more of his wits about him, so I may not be able to talk his ear off. As I was thinking of my upcoming week of hospital-food lunches, I thought of one of my favorite hospital-related characters.

It's the evil Nurse Ratched from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Mama Grice gets compared to her when she complains about her job.

Jokes aside, I hope Friend's nurse is nicer than Ms. Ratched; otherwise, I may go Jack-Nicholson on her, as seen in this scene ... and we all know that didn't end well for him. Sometimes, I'd like a lobotomy, though.

And since I'm complaining as usual about the hobbling, I'd been looking for a reason to post the end scene of "The Usual Suspects." So, why not now?!

I often imagine myself as Verbal Kent in the end of TUS, as we're watching his feet, and suddenly he starts walking right while we're being explained his ruse. For a look into what my mind imagines may some day happen to me, start at 02:17.