Apr 17, 2014

the tipsy televisualist: The (Hanni)Blooming Rose

So...in case you haven't heard me talk non-stop of late about how Hannibal is the best show on television, let me say it once again: Hannibal is the best show on television.  To the point where I attempted to throw a brunch/viewing/pool party - which, I know, you're thinking Hannibal + food = EW!, but trust me - that sadly had to be delayed.  However, my neighbors ended up coming over the next day for a GoT-viewing fest that got, well, a bit cray. So, in the spirit of #honoreverypart , I decided to make use of the leftover fruit and wine.  While dicing up strawberries and sloppily pouring wine, I found that my kitchen was beginning to resemble a crime scene.  Which led to one of those flashes of inspiration - hey, why not create a Hannibal-themed cocktail, esp. because 'The Bee's Knees' factored into Cleo's 'Takiawase' recap?

So. I give you, The Blooming Rose.  Or the (Hanni)Blooming Rose, if you prefer.  Which, while I don't necessarily approve of #hannibloom , I do certainly understand why it is happening. Alana has her reasons.  

[I can't quite figure out how to do accent marks on this new macbook yet, but one is supposed to be there. As in, rose, the wine between red and white.] 

You will need the following:

  • A large carafe, that holds between 2 and 3 liters of liquid.
  • 2 cartons - usually one pound per carton - of Strawberries.
  • 1.5 L of red wine. So, two normal bottles. Or a magnum/large bottle/box.
  • Sugar Cubes. 
  • Peychaud's Bitters.
  • Orange Bitters. [I used Fee's Bros., though there's a variety available.]
  • Ginger Ale.
  • Adorable Fox Basket from Target. [Optional.]
Let's take a look at our set-up, shall we?:

Some notes before we get to step one:

First, a note on the wine.  While Dr. Lecter would probably devour me for using BOXED wine, it makes absolutely NO SENSE to break one's budget for any wine that one is using for Sangria-ish purposes. Think about it - are you really going to make a Mimosa by cutting Dom with OJ?  Of course not.  I went with Target's Vitner's Red (a) there's a Target within stumbling distance of my house, so 'hey, let's go get wine!!!' after [SPOILER EVENT] on GoT seemed like a good idea at the time and (b) I think the Target-brand wine is pretty decent, for what it costs.  If you want to be apropos and break out a Chianti, do so. And you could make this incredible fava bean-containing braised chicken dish.

Next, sugar cubes are a MUST for cocktail crafting.  I always have some in the bar. Some recipes may call for a (tea)spoonful of sugar , but it's a HELL of a lot easier to just rely on cubes.  Plus, it's more fun to watch cubes dissolve. 

Finally, if you do not already have bitters on-hand, you might as well pick up Angostura bitters along with the Peychaud's and the orange.  Those three bitters are used in an infinite variety of cocktails, so they're handy.

Now, to the actual recipe part:
  • Dice and de-stem your strawberries and place them in the carafe.
  • Pour the wine in the carafe, completely covering the strawberries.  Not enough?  ADD MOAR WINE.
  • Soak a sugar cube in Peychaud's. Soak another in the orange bitters. Toss them both into the carafe and shake until they dissolve.
  • Place the carafe of the boozy strawberry mixture in the fridge and leave it there overnight, if possible.  At least let them soak for a good 6-8 hours.

[Since Fuller did 'Mockingbird Lane' and we're crafting a pop-culture-themed cocktail, I thought displaying @TimFederle 's awesome book would be apt.]

Grab a champagne flute and toss a Peychaud's-soaked sugar cube into it. Muddle it, pour a dash of Ginger Ale to dissolve it or simply leave as is. Fill the flute up halfway with the strawberry-infused wine. Top off with Ginger Ale. Garnish with boozy berries, as desired.

[Sidenote: I initially decided to go with Ginger Ale rather than topping with champagne or citrus-y sparkling water simply because it is the secret ingredient in one of my favorite sangria recipes. Since, I've tried it with Lemon Perrier instead, which makes a delicious yet significantly lighter variation.]

We have a beverage that, like Hannibloom itself, is complex.

A Peychaud's-soaked sugar cube may look pretty in pink or simple and sweet.

But, like Alana and Hannibal coming together, what happens when pink meets blood-red results in the sum of the parts being far more intriguing.

Dec 15, 2013


Finally, a chance for The Academy to placate those who continue to bemoan the 23-year-long injustice of Goodfellas not winning Best Picture.  David O Russell gets all up in classic Scorsese and may have found the chocolate to his peanut butter in the process, finally making a near-perfect Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of a movie out of his “let’s toss everything together and see if it’s tasty” approach.  I’ve seen less delighted folks on Twitter dub this “Mediocre-Fellas” which may be amusing, but is totally unfair.

I like Scorsese as much as the next cinephile, but in a LOT of ways, I find Gangster Mode Marty to often be the least interesting Marty.  The Departed was in no way the Best Picture of that year, much less the best thing Scorsese has done in the last decade.  (That would be The Aviator, folks.)  Worst of all, even the worst attempt at the next “great” crime movie tends to have no trouble getting made and is over-praised by sheer virtue of its genre because it’s butch and is thus automatically awesome since "wouldn’t it just be SO COOL, dudes? To be Mickey or Nucky?"  Do we really NEED another “Magic City” or “Mob City” or American Gangster or Gangster Squad on our screens this year?  Much less this glut continuing for the next ten years?

Yes, as it turns out. What we needed is David O Russell.  His faster, funnier, looser touch cuts a swath through the solemn self-seriousness that plagues so many of these also-rans as they try desperately to convince us that they’re not making a shallow crime movie, they’re making a Scorsese-level smart one.  I don’t think Russell is trying to convince us of anything, much less the beaten-like-a-dead-horse trope that “crime doesn’t pay.”  Crime, as it seems here, seems to pay AWESOMELY.

It looks awesome, sounds awesome, and dresses awesomely while also being utterly ridiculous-slash-patently absurd, even when shit gets dangerous and real.  Like the con men and women of the film, David O Russell has confidence. Supreme confidence that crafting a sublimely entertaining movie IS art, in and of itself.  You know, like the ultimate master craftsman of artful entertainments Steven Soderbergh does.  Surfaces can be substantial and don't let anyone tell you any different.

This is one of the least Oscar Bait-y Oscar Bait movies in recent memory, in the best possible way. It glibly tosses aside the “oh, I’ll just make a boring prestige biopic that dully and dutifully recounts events because as long as I have great actors, I’ll win statues” formula (I’m side-eyeing you SO HARD still, The Queen) with its cheek-tonguing opening punchline that “some of this actually happened."

Like the hair, American Hustle is big, bold and brassy.  It’s funny in parts, it’s sad in parts, it drags in parts, but it never stops being eminently watchable and utterly original.  It’s got a song in its heart, a boogie in its shoes (and nights) and a throbbing rock-hard erection in its bell-bottoms.  That’s right, it’s not only straight-up hilarious, it’s also straight-up horny as hell.  You thought carnality and sexiness disappeared from American movies - movies made by and for grown-ups with grown-up desires - by the time the 70s ended.  You thought now such things could now only be the province of premium cable dramas.  You thought wrong.  David O Russell has come along to restore your faith and should be awarded handsomely for it.

Have pretensions of prestige all you want, but watching attractive people wear great outfits and say clever things as they try to talk each other into fucking * IS* one of the great sublime pleasures of movie-going.  And it’s art.  If you think otherwise, might I remind you of the first movie to pull off the total Oscar sweep a la Silence of the Lambs or One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest?  Yeah, that happened one night.  One Oscar night long ago, a funny-sexy-flirty flash of the gams was deemed as worthy of recognition as the BIG DRAMATIC ACTING of playing gay, crippled or fat.

Most importantly, for someone who gave up on one of those premium cable dramas early on as “Boardwalk Empire” made me feel like the new slogan should be “you’re not just an HBO subscriber, you’re also Paz de la Huerta’s gynecologist,” this movie does accomplishes a rare and refreshing thing by being a mob movie/con caper that’s ALL. ABOUT. THE. WOMEN.

David O Russell gives them the best outfits, the best lines, and the biggest moments.

He lets them be funny and crazy and sad, fierce and vulnerable and fearless and scared, totally open and totally inscrutable.  He lets them be human and complex.  He lets them be everything, usually all at once.  (“Everything.  All At Once.” is totally the motto on the Russell family crest.)

His camera might as well be the hands of a moon-eyed, punch-drunk, horny teen who just landed a chance with the Prom Queen, because he can’t keep seem to keep it off them for more than a minute. But he not only passes the Bechdel Test, he can’t seem to pass up a single opportunity to interrupt the ostensible plot to give Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence another line to knock out of the park or scene to steal. He treats them lavishingly and lovingly, basking in their incredible beauty AND their formidable talents.  He never stops tossing them the keys so they can take over driving the plot.

There is no doubt that he’s just as intensely and insanely in lust and love with them as the dudes he’s written to be crazy about them are.  Amy Adams’s con persona consists of not changing her appearance whatsoever and adopting an ever-shifting English accent.  That’s all she needs to do to convince people she holds the title of Lady Edith.

The homage to the greatest romcom con woman of all time couldn’t be clearer and Russell creates a movie worthy to be called a delightfully duplicitous,  Dionsyian-driven, disco-dancing daughter of The Lady Eve - by way of classic Scorsese meeting a Soderbergh caper.

All while being undeniably a David O Russell movie.  Impressively, he pulls off the feat of not only working in an entirely new genre than his last two pictures, but manages to reunite all the main actors from those films - half of which he directed to Oscar wins - while avoiding the reunion trap of relying on the same tricks that won previous praise.  Instead, he is constantly remixing and refreshing his troupe in ceaselessly-shifting narrative and emotional combinations from scene to scene.  He can toss in new performers like Louis CK to great effect while driving his old reliables to different heights, exposing previously untapped qualities and new depths of talent.  I mean, who among us would have believed in Amy Adams's sex appeal enough to let her play the part of an absolute sex bomb goddess?

Is it perfect?  No.  Is it shaggy?  Yes.  Shaggy and messy and too much is this man's wheelhouse.

Jennifer Lawrence's long-suffering Rosslyn can’t seem to help herself from saying whatever she’s thinking or doing whatever she wants, like starting kitchen fires by putting metal in the microwave - or as it's dubbed here, “ the science oven.”   David O Russell works the same way – but his “everything AND the kitchen sink AND metal in the science oven” approach has never been more enjoyable or more expertly accomplished.  He’s gone from indie auteur to enfant terrible to persona non grata to Oscar comeback kid in the span of two decades.  Now he finally has the clout and freedom to make pretty much whatever kind of movie he wants and, my god, we should let him do it.

Because a slightly imperfect but totally refreshing take on a moribund genre is a dozen times more satisfying than a boring but perfectly plotted prestige picture.  Give me a romcom/dramedy about mental illness-slash-sports-movie-slash-ballroom-dancing-let’s-put-on-a-show movie rather than a solemn self-serious take on the struggles of bipolar disorder.  Give me a con caper with a screwball comedy love quadrangle interrupting a mob movie period piece. Give him an Oscar, give him these actors, give him all the money he needs, and give him a leash long enough to let him explore and explode whatever genre he wants to do next.

Given how the dancing sequences were among the best scenes of SLP and the bravura sing-along Jennifer Lawrence does here of “Live and Let Die,” I’m personally hoping he’ll tackle a musical.  How amazing could it potentially be?  This amazing: in American Hustle, he manages to take the song *most* overused by cinema to signify how wild-and-crazy the 60s/70s were - "White Rabbit" - and manages to do it in a way that's so fresh, funny and fantastic that I actually gasped.

Will his next movie be pitch-perfect?  Probably not.  Will it be shaggy?  Undoubtedly so.

Will it be as well made, acted the hell out of and superbly entertaining as American Hustle is?  Who knows?  If we've learned nothing else, we've learned that David O Russell will never stop surprising us.  But no awarding body should wait to reward his talent two-decades down the line with an unwarranted better-to-recognize-you-later-than-never Departed-style win when he's earned it now.

Jun 23, 2013

Hannibal, S1: Devoured by the dream.

(Please note: the majority of this analysis/post/breakdown was composed prior to the Hannibal S1 finale - though a minor finale scene/spoiler is mentioned, as well as some other minor plot points from the season, I have strived my hardest to focus primarily on the VISUAL aspects of the show while keeping plot points vague so that newbies can be entertained.)

My initial jumping-off point/inspiration for this post was Matt Zoller Seitz's astute analysis/assessment on Vulture of the show as "the most beautiful show on network TV" after the pilot.  

Seriously, you guys, this show is the most gorgeous thing on (HD)TV right now.  Especially network TV.  Forget streaming, forget computer viewing,  I'm buying the S1 Blu & watching it on the largest screen possible.  

Besides the unaired episode (which is available to buy on iTunes and Amazon Prime, FYI, and is a must-purchase) we're getting the UNEDITED version on those Blus? I...don't possibly know what could be more graphic than what we've already seen but bring it on.  I am finally breaking my personal boycott as to buying shows individually by the season on DVD/Blu-Ray to avoid: (1) double-dipping/paying twice-thrice-etc. when complete sets come out and (2) disappointment if the show turns to suck later.  Hannibal is one of THE great S1's of contemporary drama - put it besides 'Homeland' and 'Lost' and 'Mad Men' - only, perhaps, moreso, based on the clear design as a miniseries/self-contained narrative.  

'This is my design.'

Bryan Fuller recently revealed to Sepinwall that, thanks to foreign pre-sales - which, given the franchise's built-in name recognition as well as the Euro popularity of the leads, must have been high - he always knew a S2 was a given, lending himself the freedom to design S1 as meticulously and fearlessly as he wanted.

The formula behind Hannibal is anything but formulaic: Take the tour-de-force acting showcases and monologues and dialogues that psychiatry brings about ala 'In Treatment,' take the visuals-first approach of 'Se7en' and 'The Cell' that MZS cites and you still don't come close to capturing the beauty of Hannibal.

What has taken this series from very good to great to flat-out-masterpiece is the building and weaving of that unique atmosphere of menace and beauty and dread and dark humor all at once that "Twin Peaks" had, that Lynchian surrealism. No other show on TV shifts its viewers and victims back and forth -between dreams, fugues, reality, flashbacks, visions, hallucinations, rewinds, etc. - as much.  No other show "shows" temporal/physical shifts between 'types' of reality as frequently and as effortlessly as Hannibal has this spring/summer. Part of that is making sure there is an outgrowth of Will's "condition" of superhuman empathy - seeing through others' eyes, thinking like they think - mirrored in the narrative, feel and "look" of the show itself.  No other devotes itself as thoroughly to communicating narrative/character/theme/mood etc. via framing, production design, costumes, editing, etc. first and with traditional, expositional, dialogue-driven story last.

The other crucial part is slicing and dicing through of the very idea that there IS a "distinction" and narrative "importance" between real/imagined, fantasy/reality, dreaming/waking to suggest - as later Peaks and Lynch's recent works increasingly suggest - that it makes no difference at all. It's all a dream. It's a movie after all. Or a TV show. 

Is "Invitation to Love" - which is a soap opera within a show - any more real or important than "Twin Peaks" itself - which isnot merely a town but also a soap/show to begin with?  (A show, mind you, devoted to repeating & deconstructing every soap trope that every was.).  Is Patricia Arquette's blonde or brunette the real girl or are they both the same?  Is Naomi Watts really Betty or Diane?  Are the grainy B&W videotapes in Lynch's (maligned-at-the-time but ultimately prophetic as his template) 'Lost Highway' any more reliable at telling us the 'truth' of the narrative when our protagonist says, point blank, that he doesn't keep a camcorder to avoid a preference for documenting things "the way they happened" versus "the way he remembers them"?

Part of us already knows going in that it IS all a dream, all fakery, all part of the same crazy quilt *because* it's a film or TV show. An illusion.  "A dream of dark and troubling things," to quote the tagline/synopsis for Lynch's 'Eraserhead.'

On some level, the audience has no choice to accept Arquette regardless of her hair color, accept Betty AND Diane, etc. because we see them all.

Will owns many stray dogs.  Will rents the hallucination of Dire Ravenstag time and again.  Will *actually* kills a man. Will imagines(?) killing his daughter.  Will sees himself killing his victims as he uses his unique gift to enter and fugue into and backwardsly reconstruct the minds and crimes of the show's killers.  There may be a chyron on the bottom of the screen of exterior shots to identify exactly where we are but we often "see" these places through Will's dislocation/disassociation from strict temporal certainly with the time-lapse photography shuffling between day/night/light/dark/real/imagined/etc.

The one word that is that is a man's dying hissed whisper to Will, the invitation to madness is: "see?"

Repeated, constantly, through the show, foregrounding the importance on visuals, is the further refrain, "what do you see?"

We see what Will sees.  

Unlike, say, Hugh Dancy's wife's brilliant madness in 'Homeland,' the show not merely shows and tells us of the protagonist's mental health and way of "seeing" the world via  conventional, third-person-objective storytelling, this show forces us to view it through Will's eyes.

Will sees a stag.  We see a stag.  There is ultimately no difference or distinction between whether or not the stag is "really" there or not.  Because we do see a stag.  The stag is up-there on-screen.  We have no choice but to "see" them.  

We know, going in, that we *have* to accept what we see as an image because the image is there.  We had already agreed to see when we went to the movie or turned on am the show. To helplessly watch the illusion unfold before us.  To enter the dream.

(It isn't JUST Will - in the finale, the show uses its visual and sonic palette to plunge us into and inside Dr Bloom's rage.  We have previously been privy to a girl's hallucinatory trip on mushrooms and, in the image I personally found the most terrifying of the season, the POV of a character with face blindness.  However, putting the audience Will's perspective is not only the most frequented by the narrative, but the one explicitly favored by the show's design to begin with from the pilot via plunging us into his pendulum fugue state in the 1st act...)

Lynch once said: "I want to dream when I go to a film." 

We know a film or show is ultimately all a dream, an illusion to start.  We go in anyway. Watching the movie/show to begin with means we have to surrender to the dream.

Hannibal is the first show in a long time to suggest that same possibility, that same rapture, that same willing and helpless audience surrender to subconscious and conscious and shifting and changing states that Lynch makes possible by declaring the film state as dream state and the film state as a dream state is as possible on TV at it is there.

Hannibal demonstrates unparalleled strength in this 1st season by not merely merely taking on a new way of telling a familiar story told in roughly a baker's dozen of movies & Harris's novels , but also by taking on of THE oldest tropes in the book - "to catch a killer, he must think like one" - in a novel way.  By making sure WE think like one.  By seeing what Will sees.  What the killers saw.  To give us no choice but to enter into that mind, that dream, that warped perspective ourselves.
The only way to escape in Hannibal, perhaps, is death. We know people are going to die. We know the monster Hannibal is going to become. 

It's predestined by the fact that this is a prequel to, oh, roughly, a bakers dozen of books and films that continue This Story.

But the stellar direction, writing and - Mads, oh my god, you guys, Mads's conception of Doctor Lecter in this is one of *the* most brilliant character reinventions by an actor I've seen ever - render us helpless. 

We know.  We give anyway.  We surrender to the dream.  We know he is going to break Will/our hearts.  That's Hannibal.  We were told from the start from the title of the show, the name of the story we thought we had seen countless times before.

But no, not merely break. Devour them. Us. 

Fannibals don't care.

We whisper to This Show: "Eat me."

How else could we expect this to end?

We knew from the start he was Cannibal.

Feb 18, 2013

gold men & metallic boleros: 2013 OscarBlerg - HOBBITTIME

So, I am DETERMINED to participate in what I recently dubbed the Annual OscarBlerg this year.  For those of you who know me but not my friends, Holly, Livvy & Jesse have been a part of an online Oscar roundtable for years and it is AMAZING and BITCHY and silly and serious and brilliant and fun all at once.  In other words, it approaches the Big Awards exactly as it should be approached.

[The title/heading, for what it's worth, stems from the insane METALLIC PYTHON BOLERO that Jennifer Hudson wore to pick up her 'Dreamgirls' trophy.  It was so spectacularly bizarre and WRONG that Holly and I not only screamed out simultaneously when it appeared on the red carpet, but also clutched each other for reassurance whenever it appeared.  We regularly bring up said METALLIC PYTHON BOLERO without context and mention that we must 'Never Forget' its insanity.]

Alas, I am SEVERELY behind in my viewing this year.  Without any good excuses as to why.   Should I not manage to binge the unviewed nominees in a mad rush over the next week like LiLo binges on cocaine or Hathaway snorts up attention, I still want to make *some* contribution.  So I shall be covering what I *have* seen, film by film rather than by category.

Let's begin with the spiteful, irrational rant that will likely result in Livvy hopping on a plane to LAX ASAP to punch me directly in the face.  Ready?

The film: 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'
Nominated for: Best Achievement in Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Achievement in Production Design, Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Snubbed For: Nothing.
Should Be Dropped From these Categories: All of the above.
Deserves?: Hooooooooo, boy.  Here we go:

So, at the end of Susann's novel 'The Love Machine,' a character ends up being at a party in which someone is beaten senseless with an Oscar and somehow sorta takes the fall while the circumstances make it falsely seem like this was part of a gay crime of passion.  [The details *may* be Seconal-hazy, but I believe those are the basics.]  *That* fate is kinder and better than what Jackson & company 'deserve.'

Retroactively revoking all the LOTR statuettes as though they were caught doping is better than they deserve.  Having everyone believe that the only reason they won in the first place is because of a Palance/Tomei name-calling snafu is better and kinder.

No, what Jackson and every single person on the crew of this "film" - which, yes, the airquotes around film are deliberate and we shall get to that momentarily - is no less than a burgundy-lipped Melanie Laurent gathering up every single hard drive in existence containing the 48 FPS 3D HFR LOTR:TH:AUJ and setting it ablaze while forcing Jackson and company to watch as their cinematic crime burns and the avenging angel cackles magnificently.

Truly, words fail me at trying to capture the visual experience that was viewing this in HFR.  And, yes, I saw it at a VERY good theater displaying and projecting it in the quote-unquote 'proper' or 'intended' fashion.  (Alas, this dreck ended up being the very last thing I saw at Grauman's Chinese before they lamely were sold and became TCL Theaters)

It wasn't merely 'different' or 'new' or 'unsettling.'  It was ACTIVELY WRONG.  And bad.  It looked bad & wrong.  Unnatural and too natural at the same time.  Far too real-slash-far too fake.  Any sort of motion or action - especially motion within the frame *combined* with camera motion - seemed like it was being played on fast-forward rather than unfolding naturally.  The bizareness of how HFR ruins the simplest cinematic action was jarringly noticeable in any close-up of hands - which, this film has a lot of.

Note that all the nominations for this film fall under visuals.  And I will not argue against the fact that the many accolades and awards that the LOTR franchise are merited.  But not anymore.  What previously looked *right* and good and correct now looks flat-out wrong.  The wiglines and the seams and the sets all *show* now.  You aren't being magically transported to Rivendell anymore.  You are being shown what Holly and I both dubbed a Kinkade Painting.

The thing is, the decision to shoot and distribute this in HFR wasn't a spur-of-the-moment undertaking.  It was carefully thought out and planned - and yet, the visual shoddiness and wrongness made me think that no one on-board even looked at dailies at any point during the years of production.

How visually wrong is HFR Hobbit?  I would rather sit through a Stephen Sommers's film festival because at least Sommers is not serving up mediocre visuals while screaming at me that this is the FUTURE OF MOVIES.

Stop the future, I want to get off.

The ego, audacity and sheer hubris displayed by Jackson saying at the first hint of criticism that "NO NO NO, the audience will get USED to it after 10 or 20 minutes" or "Well, LIFE doesn't have a frame rate so this is more true to life!" or "it makes the 3D smoother!" (it didn't do so remotely, BTW - the 3D Imax Visual Feast of the Year was Prometheus, by a mile) is making James Cameron seem humble and grounded.

Nov 25, 2012

in which we talk about the thing I do not talk about

It will be two years in two weeks or so, give or take.   It feels like it was yesterday and it feels like it was a decade ago at the same time.

If you are one of the few to actually know me outside this blog, outside this nom de plume, you know that my mother and I have//had a relationship that is best described as "it's complicated" from the Facebook pull-down menu.  If you are among those few to know me well, you know she's gone.

I'd like to pretend I'm doing fine.  I'd like to pretend it didn't happen.  I'd like to pretend the world spins forward, just as it had before.

But that's impossible.  It is the thing that can not be undone.  The irrevocable.  The demarcation between 'before her' and 'after.'  The Rubicon, the Styx, the Hellmouth.

I can apply Wite-Out to as much of her memory as possible.   Redact.  Leave my life looking like the Watergate transcripts.

(Longtime readers may notice that I completely deleted the post in which I called her a big fat bitch, kinda, for her Christmas Card that should be the stuff of LEGENDARY EPICS, in terms of passive-aggressiveness.  But she WAS being a big fat bitch.  But now she's dead.  So I feel guilty calling her that.  Then I feel guilty about whitewashing the past, as though rewriting our history does her a disservice.)

But that doesn't bring her back.  Doesn't make it any less real.  Any less hard.  Any less now and possibly forever.

It's hard not to feel alone.  Feel bereft.  Feel abandoned.

One of those hazy childhood incidents that became a source of ongoing jokes between us was when I somehow lost myself in a toy story and stood there muttering to a cashier that 'mommy come back, mommy always come back' until she did.  Then one day she doesn't.

The absolutely, hilariously, poignantly tragic thing?  It was stairs.  This woman survived being born with a hole in her heart (literal, not just metaphorical), survived breast cancer and radiation and a double mastectomy, survived nearly 60 odd years of the trials and tribulations that we call life.  And it was a missed step in our back staircase that took her down.  Broke her spine.  Would leave her a quadriplegic.

And if you know my mother, you know that a life in which she could not dance would be no life worth living.  So she chose not to.  We chose not to.  We had to find documents and wills and powers of attorneys.  We had to plead her case before a tribunal of medical experts and hospital staff to assure them that we would not sue them for complying with the wishes she had made clear to us for decades.  She had to desperately plea her case - after a surgery left her vocal cords useless but her mouth able to mouth words  - had to plea her case to a shrink, to a nurse, to God.  To die.  To stop.  To end.

The hardest thing is trying to believe it wasn't an ending.  To our story.  To her.

I'm not what you call a religious man because my family did religion like they did everything else - weirdly, uniquely and like no other family I know.  At best, I could be described as a sampler of spirituality without settling down to strict adherence to any one religion.  Which is kinda how she did things.  I always gave her some snark for being so new-age-y but what do you expect of one who came of age in the Age of Aquarius?   And while she turned much more to Catholicism in the wake of her father's death, I do not have such cold comfort.  Such explanations.  Such reasons.

The biggest bullshit aphorism ever perpetuated is that 'everything happens for a reason.'

The world is not reasonable.  The twists of fate are not reasonable.  Mankind is not reasonable.

No reason or afterlife or narrative arc you could come up with will justify a world without her in it.

I can only try to write that narrative from now on.  The after.  It's how I can honor her.  Remember her. Keep her here, keep her now, keep her alive.

She used to always ask me why I didn't write about her.  Why, if I wanted to be a writer. Why, if I wanted to make it.  Why, if one should write what one knows.  I told her that no one would believe it was drawn from life.  That no one would believe she was real.  She was much too much for life, much less art imitating such.

But here we are, two years later.  And all I know is that she is - was - the realest woman I've ever known.  And loved.  And lost.

Sep 16, 2012

there will be beauty

I believe in America.  I believe in Altman.  I believe in Anderson.

(Anderson believes in America, too.  For Xenu’s sake, Julianne Moore’s character in ‘Boogie Nights’ is *actually called* Amber Waves.)

I believe in hope.   I believe in grandeur.  I believe in promise.

If you believe in one, any, all of these things, than you owe it to yourself - and to America, really - to take what may be perhaps your last opportunity to see a fiction feature film in 70mm.

Now, this is going to take some work and effort on your part.  TWC has, for some reason, decided to be making up the release plan for ‘The Master’ as they go along - what with the secretive surprise screenings and last-minute one-night-only affairs.  (To the point that *I* was actually wrong, for once, regarding something film-related and I was absolutely convinced that only the Arclight was showing it here in LA.  Absolutely convinced and VERY ARGUMENTATIVE about it and I perhaps owe some people an apology.  Mea culpa, you guys)

I promise you the work will be worth it.  

I could break out film history or tech specs or numbers to convince you of why this - celluloid, 70 - is the way a film should be shot and seen.

I could but I won’t.  If you need convincing of the inherent superiority of celluloid, Theodore Roznak’s ‘Flicker’ makes the argument far better than I.  

Instead, I will simply tell you that you’ve never really seen film until you see it in 70.

Case in point - 2001.  A Space Odyssey.  Back in the dark days of home video - pan and scanned, box TVs, VHS, etc - I watched it.  I thought it was boring and dull and pretentious and lame.

Then I saw it on the big screen.  In 70 mm.  The Egyptian, specifically.  And I saw it again for the first time - because I was really truly seeing it.  Its great big dazzling visuals and beautiful score - Kubrick and Clarke’s vision and visionariness - simply couldn’t be contained or done justice on a 26-inch screen.

Then I went through the same thing with Lawrence of Arabia.   

All those big grand epics of old.  

They’re bigger and better and bolder when they’re in 70.

70 - and America - is a place where the hills are alive with the sound of music and it’s full of stars.  Where anything is possible.

Don’t you want to go to that place?

Don’t you want to believe?

In the magic and beauty of movies and America?

Then go.  

(As I said, this shit really should be done via official channels and marketing and things are changing last minute, but the Unofficial PT Anderson Fanblog has a list of cities and screenings.)

Apr 27, 2012

'girls' on film.

Quick question: have you seen both episodes of Girls?  Second question: if no, has that stopped you from writing/blogging/snarking about Girls?  Yeah, that's what I thought.

(If not, you can watch the entire first episode on YouTube here.  HBO is worried that job-challenged 20something women might not be premium cable subscribers, so they're trying new things.)

Here's the thing - as the Firewall & Iceberg Podcast so brilliantly put it recently, this is what happens when a niche show gets hyped up beyond belief.  Despite what the bloggers and the NY echo chamber and everyone else has been writing about for MONTHS (seriously, when it finally premiered, wasn't it a letdown because you thought it had been on for a season?), this is NOT a show for everybody.

But that's okay.  It clearly is not being conceived or made as a show for everybody.  HBO shows are automatically not 'huge' hits in the way network shows can be.  It's a different model.  And within that model, there is going to be a range of shows - from 'it's not TV, it's HBO' to 'it is TV, only with more tits and ass and blood' (hey there True Blood!) to 'we don't know what this is yet but let's put it on.'  Girls, IMO, falls into the last category.  Which is fine.  And totally okay.  What is totally not okay is rather than saying 'oh, this isn't for me but I can see how it can be for someone' is to say 'UGH, LENA DUNHAM IS FAT AND WHITE AND DUMB AND PRIVILEGED AND THIS SHOW DOESN'T DESERVE TO EXIST.'

Firstly, if Lena Dunham is 'fat,' I am going to go up to every single woman whom I am friends with and give them a hug.  Then I am going to take a long hard look in the mirror.  I'm not going to lie - I used to be a lanky bastard, now I'm more Jason Segel-ish.  (I love you antidepressants but I hate your weight gain!).  I'm blessed-ish with a good face and a sense of hunor.  I might not have a six pack.  Neither does Lena. But, odds are, neither do you.  Here's the thing, saying "I didn't get a boner when she showed her tits" is not an adequate or appropriate dismissal of the show itself because she is NOT showing her tits so you can get a boner.  Based on how the sex scenes are written/staged/acted/etc, it is safe to say that titillation is not on their agenda.  How often did you complain about Turtle and Drama pulling in extremely high quality poontang despite their less-than-conventionally-attractive looks?  Oh, you didn't?  But that's different, Entourage is just a fantasy, just a TV show or whatever.

Well, my dears, so is this.  It might be in a more indie mode or hailed differently but all art is artificial.  Taking an insular view of a certain demographic of Brooklyn girls in their 20s is not far removed from an insular view of Hollywood Brotastic-ness which, despite SEVEN SEASONS, never achieved the level of satire it promised.

Which is where we get into the 'white and privileged' criticism.  Yes, Girls is.  And so?

It is beyond disingenuous for white liberal writers to pull out the 'UGH, it's a portrait of NY without (m)any people of color and therefore it is BAD and SHOULDN'T BE ON TV!'  if they have remained silent about, say, How I Met Your Mother.  Or Bored to Death.  Or Friends.  Or SATC.  Or Louie.     This is entirely different than, say, looking at it in a larger perspective of TV's lack of racial diversity.  Or people of color wondering when the show that's 'the voice of a generation' is going to come along for them.  Is Girls racist?  Uh, maybe.  Depends on how you qualify 'racist'.  But as Maureen Ryan brilliantly put it - "Girls Isn't Racist, Television Is Racist (and Sexist)."  This is a conversation that needs to be happening, definitely.  But it is unfair to use the lack of diversity to dismiss the show offhand - without engaging with the show's content itself - and not condemn a bazillion other programs.

And here's where the show's content becomes crucial - that issue of privilege.  Firstly, being the daughter of the drummer of Bad Company is NOT the same thing as being Chet Haze.  I will pay 30 bucks cash money if you can find me ANYONE in the midwest (outside of film geeks) who knew who Lena Dunham's parents were before the coverage of this show/the press for Tiny Furniture.  So can it with the "this was greenlit because of nepotism" shit.  Seriously.  Going back to the aforementioned Firewall & Iceberg Podcast, they pointed out that NO ONE disses J.J. Abrams or Joss Whedon on being able to work in the industry because their parents did.  More importantly, this show is not acting as though the issue of privilege isn't an issue.  Quite the opposite.  It is, somewhat, the entire point of the show.  These people are, without a doubt, privileged.  And yet they think they are worldly and cultured rather than insulated.  They have 'first world problems' and yet, to them, their problems are so overwhelming and the end of the world.  That's the central conflict.  That's the satire.  That's the point.  You can dismiss it as being upper-class or Brooklyn or overly white or whatever.  But the show is aware of that.  So are the characters but not nearly as self-aware as they'd like.

Bad sex?  Struggling between ideals and reality?  Thinking one's worldliness is greater than it is? Welcome to being in your 20s.  Yes, it spoke to me.  As a white gay dude.  Not a fat rich NYC nepotist chick.  But if it didn't speak to you, that's cool.  But say that.  Or say 'I thought this scene was bad' or 'the acting didn't do it for me.'  Don't say "THIS FAT RICH WHITE CHICK DOESN'T NEED A PLACE ON MY TV."

Art earns itself the right to exist by the virtue of the content itself.  Not whatever qualities the artist has.  Or, in other words, if you have ever watched Chinatown and thought 'damn, that's a good movie' rather than 'Roman Polanski is a rapist and a horrible person and I must dismiss this now,' then shut your face.  That 'right to exist' can be granted by many things, but one of the main ones is, as they told us in screenwriting classes, 'having a voice.'  Which this does.  Clearly and distinctively.  It may be drawn from Woody Allen or Whit Stillman or whatever, but it is still a unique voice.  I picture that in a year or two or five, film types will know what you mean by 'Lena Dunham-esque' or 'get me a Lena Dunham type' as well as 'Wes Anderson-y.'  You don't have to like her voice.  You don't have to listen.  But you shouldn't try to silence it for reasons that have nothing to do with the show or the voice itself and have everything to do with white liberal guilt/hating fat chicks/etc.  If it speaks to your experience, great, but if it doesn't, that's okay.  But you can't dismiss that experience itself anymore than you can condemn the works of Spike Lee for being 'too black' or Hitchcock for being 'too British' without coming up with an actual criticism about the work itself.

Is she the voice of our generation?  Doubtful.  Is she a voice of a generation?  Definitely.