Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lazy Sundays, Detectives, Roommate Appreciation

I was lazing about this afternoon, talking with one of the roommates, who was splayed out on the couch, saying he's "recovering."

"Yeah, I hear ya," I empathised.

We began (he began) flipping through the channels as I sat tip-tapping away, being at once entertained by alligators on Discovery (especially given the upcoming adventure), turned off by "Harry Potter," then once again super entertained by detective shows.

I thought we were on the same page, due to our simultaneous scoffs at what was on-screen, and our shakes of heads when something bizarre was shown; a commercial break broke the narrative of our detective lore and I looked over at him, the roommate, and said "Good god(s)."

"I know, there's no evidence," he responded, looking at me with a sincere nod of understanding, underneath the thin sheet covering him and his ailing body.

"What?" I shot back, with a dagger of a stare.

"Come on, no evidence."

I explained how the physical evidence showed, proved, even, that there was no waaaaaay that the homicide (suicide, yeah, right) wasn't full-proof. I even propped myself up near the ledge of our window to show that due to the laws of physics, just, no way.

As the detective show later recounted the case, he, roommate, said, "Oooooohhh, yeah, that point ... yeah, that one's where they got him."

"You didn't pick up on that the first time around?!?!?!? God, how do I even live with you?" I responded, rhetorically.

Ph.D. candidate at Columbia, and no picking out an obviously deliberate murder plot -- storytelling must be some kind of craft, I try to tell myself.

It made me think of "Misery," mostly because Kathy Bates' cabin-fever craziness leads her to become obsessed with a literary idol and kidnap him, only to later try to come up with a cover-up to fool her detective followers.

Oh-ho, how I can't wait till I can let my mind wander Down Home.

Hello South, See You in Two Weeks ... and a Look at "Sin Nombre"

It was a big, long week, this last one. Three days spent in the theaters, five hours spent with a film critic in the Sony Pictures building, whose stories and experiences made me want to curl up in a little ball of unworthiness, a freelancing interview, annnnnnd my idea of tooling around the South for a bit is now going to be a reality, come the middle of June. Tickets are bought.

Per the last part, Mama G and Little Morgan Grice are coming with me.

I was rambling on the phone to Mother Grice, as I'm wont to do, about how I wanted to take this trip, how I hated being idle -- especially here in New York -- and how I thought it might be nice and kind of me to help old Brother Grice out by taking his little Heathen Child off his hands for a bit this summer by making her listen to me howl in the car along to whatever songs I'd like (the Grices take sort of a Top-Down approach to our pop culture sensibilities -- I was never allowed to touch the radio, so neither would she. Hmph.)

So, on I'm going about what towns I'd like to take her to, how I was made to go on a road trip through the South with Papa and Brother G when I was just her age (though, Back Then, Father Grice was so cheap that we camped most of the time -- even in the rain, where I nearly caught pneumonia ... a self-diagnosis). I also took one with Grandmother Grice and my Aunt, which is one of my enduring favorite memories -- a lot of swimming in eel-infested waters, driving golf carts, mimicking Southern drawls, listening to racist tales told by ladies of leisure, all the good stuff.

"Were you not even going to invite me?" said this voice which hadn't had a chance to speak for fifteen minutes, as I spoke so rudely of my upcoming Adventure.

"Ahhh ... What?"

"You weren't even going to invite me?!!!?" The shock, the horror.

"I ... I ... well, don't you have to work???" I said, falling back to my childhood mentality where She'd complain about finances, and I'd look up and say, well, why don't you just work more? This, from a spoiled child to a Mother who was already working 70 hours a week on her feet lifting and turning patients, feeding and caring for them, only to come home to this Worthless Rat of a child, me -- and even worse, my brother.

"Ooohhh, Burra [donkey girl], I should slap you. [Internal: I always used to outrun you when I heard those words.] I can ask for time off! Ahh, Mija, it could be an Adventure. [Ahh, Mama, I love your genes.] I've always wanted to take my time and go through the South, just wander and look at things. Remember when we drove to New York, but we had to go so fast because I HAD TO GET TO WORK, so YOU could live there and explore??? When you were 18, and I was an OLD WOMAN, whose BONES were already tired??? [I could sense the capitalizations -- and hear them.]"

"Do you want to come, Mama?"

I feel a little bad for Little Morgan -- when Mama Grice and I are together with her, oof, if we're tough critics of her when dealing with her separately, it's ... well, it's something when we're tag-teaming; I often think that I'm going soft on her just to counterbalance Mother G's iron fist -- that coming from someone who goes over Baby Grice's homework with her and stares at her with a furrowed brow and asks, simply: "Morgan, what's wrong with you?" Hey, just want her to be the best she can be. (?)

First stop will be Columbus, TX, which is pictured above. Every year from age 8 until ... 16, 17? we'd stop in Columbus on our way to San Marcus, TX for my piano competitions in the early summer; I'd had to go to the bathroom the first year, and Mama G accidentally got off on an exit too soon and we stumbled into this quaint, tiny town. For years, I'd claim with the utmost of certainty, that I was going to live there when I grew up; you could tell that everyone knew everyone and they were always hosting a big arts and crafts fair on the weekend of the piano tourneys, so I thought it was the greatest.

After that, I think we'll go tubing in the Hill Country, then off to my Grandma's place in the woods of Mississippi; she lives there in this beautiful little home, 9 miles deep into the woods, with her husband -- surrounded by her sisters' homes.

When she moved there a few years back, she filed for a formal changing of the name of her street (a street that isn't really a street -- it's a dust road in the middle of the woods) to Patriot's Way (Poplarville, Mississippi). She then adorned the last 3 miles of the 9-mile labyrinth of woods with American flags.

We have interesting conversations, and I started transcribing them a couple Christmases ago to use in my short stories; people often ask me if I have to do it in secret, her fearing that I'll make her look bad somewhere down the line.

Please, the woman will even recite, rote, it seems, the stories back to me to make sure I got every (awful, but great) detail right ... last time, she scurried her tiny little self upstairs to get a printout of an email she recently had written to my grandfather (her ex-husband, twice removed -- a man who left her years ago to move to Brazil with a woman one year older than my own mother ... who later had a son [my 11-year old uncle] who he named Charles, my own father's name -- and worthless Brother G's name, to be thorough -- which we all found out on an "It's a Boy!" card, Grandmother Grice included]). The e-mail contents were hilarious, and she made a copy of it for me, without my asking, so I could keep it and use it whenever I decided to write about it.

This could be as fun as the Colombia Adventure.

Oh, and the movies I saw were: "Sin Nombre" (jury's still out ... maybe a little too close to home, maybe great, maybe a little slow.), "Soul Power" (saw it with the movie reviewer, who I now have quite the crush on) and "Drag Me to Hell."

More on that, later.

A look at "Sin Nombre."

"A psychic once told me ... You'll make it to the U.S.A. not in God's hands, but in the hands of the devil."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Rudo y Cursi," Gael and Diego ...Must. Move. Away. From. Idols.

It's really just rude of me to not write about "Rudo y Cursi" -- it stars two of my favorite men, and had I not gotten sidetracked by trying to write my own little fictions, I'd have written this up days ago.

"Rudo y Cursi" stars Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna -- think "Y Tu Mama Tambien" -- as brothers. They live and work on a banana farm in Mexico (if I didn't already have them as idols after my heart, their situation would be so similar to my family's that I'd not be able to resist ... anyway)

We have a voiceover narrator who comes on scene very early on. He has a gravelly voice, and his car just broke down, just down the way. The brothers help him push the heap of a mess a couple miles, down some dirt roads, and all's well.

We quickly come to know that he's a talent agent. Specifically, sports. Soccer, to be exact. The brothers are good at soccer.

They're told to fight for the position - Score and you get the position; block and you look good. What's a man to do?

There is so much ego, so much made-up rivalry, such despair in their downfalls. The narrator gets a bit annoying, but, overall, the movie's fantastic. It views like a short story that is well worth it. Highly recommend.

And, Gael and Diego?? I'd give two arms to be sitting between them both; of course, I'd be looking left and right the whole time, pinching myself to make sure I wasn't dead or dreaming -- but, holy moly, they are up there with PN.

Monday, May 25, 2009

End of First Online Netflix Project, Kramer vs. Kramer -- Back to Texas?

Finally, the end of the first Online Netflix Project -- the final movie that day was "Kramer vs. Kramer," (1979) a flick starring Dustin Hoffman, as Ted, and Meryl Streep, as Joanna. Both are Kramers, and they're going through a divorce, poor Billy Kramer (Justin Henry) has to handle his own little fate.

The reason it was such a bizarre offering from Lady Netflix, is because old Hoffman so resembles Francois Cluzet from "Tell No One" from the prior stop on the 'Flix project -- not just a little, in a "Oh, he kind of looks like..."-way; no, this is a straight God-uses-templates type of imitation.

Ted is a hot-shot at a New York ad agency; the early scenes show him bustling around the office, talking things up to his boss, grabbing drinks with the right folks, angling to "bring home the bacon," as he puts it -- this was the 70s, so you have to suspend embarrassment for overused cliches.

We flash to Ms. Streep, packing her bags in their modest Manhattan home -- she tucks in little Billy, tells him how much Mommy loves him. She's characteristically able to be cold-ish and detached; that woman has a way with coming off as unemotional, while still being striking and altogether endearing.

Mr. Hoffman has to assume the role of full-time dad, all the while his boss is pressuring him, asking for 120% in order to justify the promotion he's offering him; Hoffster is torn between trying to remain the man he was, an all-star, with raising his little boy. We don't see Streep for a good hour.

His priorities change, she resurfaces and wants her kid back, he balks, she sues, there are court scenes.

It's quite good, and you get to see one of the first "It's my fault." dialogues from a child regarding a parents' divorce. I'll admit some heart strings were tugged, and I very well may watch it again soon. It's a very real film, despite its overwroughtness at times.

If my fingers could type fast enough, I'd explain that the following day I watched 7 movies -- Revolutionary Road, S. Darko (shoot me, please, shoot me), Dog Day Afternoon (let me live forever, please, let me live forever), Batman Returns (It was suggested by Madame Flix, I had to), Angels and Demons (friend dragged me), Ferris Bueller, and The Graduate.

The next day, it was similar.

I think I'm moving back to Texas -- perhaps it's too much talking to Mama and Brother G, but ... I've been writing my own fiction a ton, annnnnnd, it just seems that my characters flourish there. Why sit and be lonely in NY?

I can watch my movies anywhere.

Kramer vs. Kramer can be found here online on Netflix.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Online Netflix Project Continued, New Love, Francois Cluzet -- "Tell No One"

Lordy, lordy.

A couple nights ago was my best friend from Home's fake birthday (it's today -- Happy Bday, Indian!!!!!), so it was spent traveling uptown and downtown and then waaaaaaaaaaaay back uptown to Columbia to congratulate him on finishing his second year of law school. (Congratulations, again, sir -- and cheers to many a day spent with you this summer in DC. Wahoo. End of congratulations.) Then I spoke with Brother G about the tribulations of his life; today, my head still hurts.

BUT, that doesn't mean I can forget to meander on the last two movies of the First Online Netflix Project.
Sweet Lady Netflix next suggested: "Tell No One," a movie I'd heard good things about, but I had no idea what it was about. Exactly what I like.

"Tell No One" (2006) is a French flick starring an extremely dashing Fran├žois Cluzet, as a poor dear doctor whose wife was stolen and murdered after a romantic stint,
lakeside. Or, was she?
After being hit upside the head after swimming across a lake to go looking after his wife, having heard her screams, he falls back into the lake yet somehow manages to be found unconscious, comatose, on the shore. We don't get to see any of that, rather, we're placed eight years into the future, when he's become quite the chain smoker and has dizzying displays of alcoholism -- the man is in very bad shape, he lost his lady, after all.
Straight from a progressive Agatha Christie novel, it seems, he receives an email from an anonymous address, telling him to log onto a site at a certain time; but, be careful, "They" are watching.
Say what?
The email's subject line contains a message that only she and he would gain knowledge from (they've been a couple since they were children), but she's DEAD, so, who's playing these mean tricks on him?
He manages to log on after having to deal with some detectives he just can't shake; after all this time, they still suspect he's the murderer of his wife. When he logs on, the clouds part, the gods smile down sweetly and --
There she is, staring up at him from the entrance to some subway station, location unknown.
Well, well. Eight years, and now THIS? What's the poor man to do?
There's a ton of intrigue, a lot of Murder She Wrote, thugs, chase scenes, shoot ups, cover ups, found guns, smoking guns, fingerprints, lying fathers, oof. It was one of the better Clue, Crime, Mystery movies I've seen in a long while. Keep it up, Lady N'flix, I thought.
I really love this trailer -- it gives you a great idea of what the film is about ... to the point where you think to yourself it must be a failure, but it's not. It delivers -- and it's not my new, desperate love for Francois Cluzet coloring my opinion. I love watching him be chased, allllll hot and bothered.

Next up .......... a film starring the man who looks exactly like Francois! I couldn't believe it -- there I was, fantasizing about moving to France and finding my True Love, Francois, and Lady NF threw one at me starring his doppelganger. Dustin Hoffman.
God was so good to me that day -- but, I need more than gummy bears to sustain me, so time to leave my room. I've been watching "Martyrs" all morning, a great feel-good Sunday morning film.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Online Netflix Project: Great for the Unemployed -- ("Let the Right One In," "Dark Days")

I conducted an experiment yesterday. It wasn't really a conscious decision; rather, it was only after I drowned in a movie pool's deep-end that I had the idea, posthumously. In 10 1/2 hours, I watched four movies. I had an online Netflix journey.

I awoke around 7:30am and decided I'd sit down to some online Netflix viewing, since sleeping more wasn't an option. My choice? "Let the Right One In," that Swedish vampire movie everyone (that's relative) has been talking about for, well, an embarrassingly long time, but somehow I keep missing.

After a stark film about Swedish vampires at seven in the morning, I'd have to be able to sleep! Oh, delusion.

"Let the Right One In" (2008) opens with a shot of Oskar's (Kare Hedebrant) reflection as he stares bleakly into the Swedish snow that extends forever; he looks like a character out of "Village of the Damned," with unnatural-looking white hair, and matching skin. He's 12-years old and he spends his days snipping out articles of heinous murders and unspeakable deeds, daily assembling them into a little book -- a little Death Diary, say. Since he's the target of a bully and two lackeys at school, he also spends much time plotting sweet revenge. A little boy after my heart.

He's lonely. His mother isn't much of a presence, his father lives somewhere in another town, where he entertains questionable characters, may be gay and may be an alcoholic -- the scene explaining their relationship is very vague, and a little hard to understand. But neither parent is particularly attached, and so, Oskar is lonely.

Then Eli (Lina Leandersson) moves in next door. She doesn't go to school, but she dooooesss come out at night to stand barefoot in the snowy courtyard ("Aren't you cold?" "I've forgotten how.") and look eerie. They strike up a friendship after she schools Oskar on his Rubik's Cube, and soon they are trading Morse code communiques through the walls.

Eli lives with a strange, pock-marked man who's meant to help her, lighten the load a little for old Eli. There's a great early scene where he uses this contraption (almost as cool as Chigurh's in "No Country") that he carries around in a box with him to vaporize some acid substance, before administering it to the patient to make him pass out; for the bloodletting, he has his whole system down! Turns them upside down to let it all drain out. The acid is key in another great scene later involving the old man.

There's a lot of blood, a look at the inside of a slimy face, one shot of some crazy-looking private parts, a sweet and subtle love story between our two bloodthirsty stars -- all the while being very, very thoughtful. It is pretty fantastic.

You can watch "Let the Right One In" here online on Netflix.

"Squeal like a pig!"

So. the 12-year olds came and went, and while my eyelids were fighting the good fight to close, I sought out some tooth picks to foist them apart -- I juuuuuust wanted to see what Netflix suggested for me; She always seems to suggest such sweet things.

"Dark Days." Oooohhhh, that sounds up my alley, I thought, characteristically.

"Dark Days" (2000) is a documentary by Marc Singer about homeless people who've spent years building shacks, cooking food, becoming a community, doing crack -- all the good stuff we terrestrial creatures do, but they've been doing these things waaaay underground New York City, in an abandoned railroad tunnel.

The first two-thirds of the film (which was shot with a 16 mm camera, on black and white film)follows half a dozen or so of these characters through their daily lives. They've all constructed these huts using things found upstairs, or, "on the streets," where we wasteful, slovenly nuts -- who pay rent and bills and value, oh, the moon -- have chucked out perfectly good plywood, pans, clothes, slow cookers, TVs, you name it. And, not only can they, in turn, sell these things, they can use them! Somehow, they're able to tap into some electricity, feeding off Mother Manhattan. Take that ConEd!

Every day, they surface and start their day of dumpster diving, during which a few of the characters seem really excited by their daily treasure hunt. Upon arriving to one empty can, a man tosses what little's left inside and says with a sigh, "Oh, don't you worry, things'll pick up." But it's not said with desperation, or fear that he'll go starving, it's his love of the game that's hurting.

It all didn't seem half bad (except for the rats), and there were times that I glanced around my little hovel and thought, well, if things don't pick up -- there's always this. Until the Bad Guys came: Amtrak was kicking them out. Sigh.

In the end, the documentary was certainly interesting and entertaining. Singer does a good job of mixing the sadness of the situation with the jokes, and each character's backstory was uniquely shocking and upsetting. One was a former convict whose daughter was later raped, dismembered and burned; one was a 20-something who'd been abandoned by his parents as a young child; and, of course, a few were down-on-their-luck crackheads -- a nice assortment. Singer's dedication to the documentary was also noble, driven by helping the community financially and eventually securing them all housing vouchers. Swell dude.

You can watch "Dark Days" on Netflix here.

Here is a particularly sad scene, as one of the characters talks about losing her two boys in a fire.

After "Dark Days," I'd already decided what I needed to do -- I let Her suggest another to me, so smart Ms. Netflix, and then another. Where would She lead me? To great things, that's where.

But my fingers hurt, so I'll ramble on those, later.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Adaptation, Sleep - Please - and, Pool Parties

I awoke this morning to my small DVD player sitting atop my stomach; "Adaptation" was playing. Or, rather, the DVD menu to Adaptation was playing on repeat as I twisted and turned, subconsciously trying not to harm my little DVD player. While I was in Colombia, the former tenant of my room came and removed my bed, my desk (found a new one on the street and carried it up, all by myself!), and my nice TV, which was mounted to the wall.

Hendrix, our dog, was scratching on my door -- my head was pounding with some pigflu-type illness that has been idly annoying me since we got back from Colombia.

I lay there looking up at the ceiling, wishing I were at least looking up at something that made me happy; instead, I was looking at a white, barren wall, no more promising or happy than a tin surface reflecting the inside of a tubular wormhole, with concentric circles whose overlapping areas were empty.

Ahh, yes -- but then I went to a pool party.

I traipsed all the way to Union Square (hmmm, a few blocks), got on the Subway and went alone to a daytime pool party -- me, someone who balks at interactions with folks I don't really know. And, I had a great time.

I even got to talk about movies with random new friends who must've thought I was a recluse with nothing better to do with her time than go hang out with acquaintances -- outside her own neighborhood.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sloth, Who Cares?

I guess I had to come home, some time.
Since I've been back, it's been a characteristically strange experience; after day one, the roommates re-embraced me and my little self. I've third-wheeled to the point where I can no longer look at myself in the mirror; I've fifth-wheeled to the point where it's just an embarrassment. I'm now sharing short stories with a roommate's father, and I've taken to commisserating with other cripples so I can feel alright -- the whole nine.

No, it's been great being back, but I miss Colombia more than I'd care to admit. Mama G says I have a "Wandering Gene," I'd say I have a curious brain. She's probably right.

I miss Colombia, I miss My Friend, I miss Margaret Sands reading next to me as we decided what to do next; I miss it all, especially when I'm here in a city that has little to offer a lout like me. I'm trying to write my short story submissions, I've reveiwed the short films I'm supposed to judge, I walked the dog!

Now, what?

Well, it's Friday -- sooooo, I suppose it's time to ... watch some more movies, see some friends and not care about what I haven't accomplished.

But maybe manana I'll post the precises of the short stories I'm submitting -- even if to hate myself for doing so.