Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bad Boy, Oscar! Take a Time-Out!

I just thought I'd open the floor to bash Oscar on his narrow-minded and confounding nominee choices this year. I'll start with the easy one: no Best Picture for Walk the Line?! Oscar is such an asshole. I'll leave the other egregious mistakes (A History of Violence, please?) to you two. Also: is Crash as overrated as it seems to be? I don't want to make that claim with nothing to back it up, but the mere presence of Sandra Bullock would indicate that it sucks. So what'd you think of the noms? And have you made your picks yet?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Kitchen Confidential and Never Let Me Go

Book #1: Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain.

Sandy and Maya both read this back when they were in diapers or something, so I have nothing new to say about it other than what you've already said to each other, probably over dinner at Tony's restaurant in NY (did you go to Les Halles while you were there? I can't remember). I'll just boil it down: Cooking. Drinking, cooking, drugging, cooking, fucking, cooking, eating. Cooking. Pretty sweet.

Book #2: Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

Right away, it's clear that something is not quite on at Hailsham. It's got all the hallmarks of a normal English boarding school, but instead of preparing its students for university, it's molding them for something much bleaker. The students know they are a part of a research program, but the details are always shadowy. Though nominally a sci-fi tale, this book lacks that certain "HEY WOWIE LOOK AT THIS CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!" that defines much of the genre. Narrated by Kathy, a former student of Hailsham, the story is told in a prosaic tone that places it firmly in reality. Ishiguro also set the story sometime in the recent past, which serves to accomplish the same thing. This ain't Gattaca, basically.

This book has also been called a horror story, and it does have a slow-burn creepiness. And the way Ishiguro deftly and almost casually reveals bits of information creates a building sense of dread, so by the time I set it down I had a serious pit in my stomach. But like all great examples of horror and sci-fi, this book transcends genre classification. The actual story - the one above the plot points and setting - is about friendship and will and survival. It's a book that slowly breaks your heart, and when I finished it (the same day I started it), I just stared at the last page for a few minutes - pit in stomach and lump in throat - and then started crying like a little baby.

Underworld Evolution

Sandy's Movie #4

Sorry I have to waste a post on this silly, stupid movie but I did in fact see it, and it does in fact count. This flick was riDICulous. It actually continues from the very minute the first movie left off, and I needed Cliff's Notes because the filmmakers expected viewers to be able to dive right back into the story without any re-cap. Not to mention the mythology is completely convoluted and stupid. Hey, just a technicality standing in the way of seeing Kate B. in a leather bodysuit, right?

I was standing outside the theater afterwards, waiting for my companions to finish draining their lizards, and this lard-ass usher goes, "I wanna clean the Underworld 2 Theater. I like that crowd. It's all like, white trash." More like geek trash, but whatever. For the record, I didn't pay for my own ticket!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Have you heard of this Munich movie?

Carrie - Movie #2

I'm clinging to the caboose of the bandwagon over here. But I did finally see this yesterday, and it was worth the wait. The film doesn't even feel like Spielberg - I can't really connect it to his other work, stylistically. The whole cast was great, especially Eric Bana, whom I previously felt was all hype. Daniel "007" Craig was as charming as I imagine Bond is supposed to be, and Ciaran Hinds was an excellent curmudgeon. I hope to see Capote this week, so both of you stay away from that one for a few days, OK?

Friday, January 20, 2006


Maya – Movie #5

Well, I wouldn’t recommend this film to anybody probably. I did enjoy it, but it was on the slow side, even for me. On the whole it was definitely worth watching, and even though I wasn’t super excited about it, it reminded me of why I love French films. #1 – People in French films usually live in Paris, and drive teeny-tiny cars (see above picture for proof). #2 – Virtually every French film is ready-made for film studies classes. It’s almost as if they’re making these films solely to be picked apart in a film class. #3 – French actors and actresses all look like real human beings, unlike the surgically-modified Cyborgs we have populating the movie screens of America.

All right… hmmm… Carrie’s falling behind in the movie department. There’s good stuff out now, see it while you can… you don’t want to be cramming 25 movies into the month of December.

Tales of a Female Nomad

Sandy's Book #2: Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman

When she found her marriage dissolving after something like 30 years, Rita Golden Gelman began a 15-year-journey during which she lived (for months or even years at a time) in Mexico, Guatemala, Indonesia, and New Zealand, and traveled to Nicaragua, Israel and Thailand to boot. This old bird is absolutely fearless, and her story is truly inspirational. You mean this fat white lady in her 60s can hike through Indonesian Borneo? She can hitchhike across Mexico (in the 80s)? She can drive a beater car along a craggy cliff, on the left side of the road? OK, so she does a lot of things I would never in a million years try, but it works out for her and she comes away with great stories. I highly recommend this book to whet your appetite for travel and adventure.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Munich - Again

Maya – Movie #4

Stop the presses! Sandy and I like the same movie! Well, it happens from time to time, but not that often. I’d say this is easily Spielberg’s best movie. I’m not a Spielberg fan, obviously, but I appreciate a well-crafted movie… Apparently he knows how to make one of those. He usually panders too much and loses me, but this movie absolutely succeeded. The painstaking detail in each shot was frankly mind-boggling. There are problems of course – the characterizations are too simplistic, he’s too obsessed with having his heroes be completely noble, he’s a slight hair away from being a straight-up misogynist… but overall I’d say the movie is a resounding success and one of the best of the year. And that’s not even counting a huge-ass part for my future boyfriend, Mathieu Amalric. Hey, his English is flawless! Time to cast him in movies that are more readily accessible in the United States!

No, seriously, go see this movie. I’ll be seeing it again for sure.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Sandy's Movie #3

On Saturday night I rented Red Eye, a really lame movie about "terrorism." On Sunday I saw Munich, an excellent movie about Terrorism. Best movie of the season, I say. Steven, you done good this time, and I am willing to forgive the 3-hour running time if you forgive that I didn't stay for the credits. Girl's gotta pee. What I appreciate about this movie is that it isn't Zionist. It doesn't take a side, or rather it takes everyone's side and then shows why everyone's fucked up.

Powerfulness aside, let's count what else I liked about this movie. Hottt men (Erica Bana, love! Mathieu Almaric, you sexy black-eyed kitten, love!) '70s-era hair and wardrobe, love! Foreign locations, love! Multi-lingual, love! Al Green, love! Erica Bana, love! (He's worth a second mention.)

Maya, your boy had a juicy part. OK that's all I'm gonna say til you gals have seen this. Word up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Maya – Movie #3

Heath Ledger is awesome. What can I say, this movie totally won me over. I was almost tempted to put it on my Best-Of 2005 list. Basically, this movie takes the Chocolat formula and applies it to a late 18th-century Bodice-Ripping Mistaken-Identity Comedy-Action Template. And it worked. I thought Chocolat was sappy, drippy, and boring – in spite of Johnny Depp. And somehow I got all wound up over Casanova, in spite of NO Johnny Depp. I generally am not a fan of “sex comedies” that you can safely watch with your mother… Yet here it is, a crowd-pleaser that I loved. I am definitely seeing this movie again when it hits the budget theaters. And Jeremy Irons wears the craziest wig.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Sandy's Cultural Event #1

Whaaaa... do I really have to go to 24 more of these things?

OMSI stands for the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and I used to love this place. My elementary school took annual field trips here. Sad to say, the exhibits haven't changed much in 15 years. But the prices sure have-- whoa, Nellie! $19 for the "Museum Combo" includes admission to the museum, a planetarium show OR submarine tour, and an OMNIMAX movie. We didn't go this route (clearly for high rollers only.) And how's this for waste of resources: the IMAX films they were showing were Harry Potter 4 and The Polar Express. Hel-LO, Science Museum hai? I wanna see something with volcanoes or coral reefs or glaciers. Ugh. We just did the museum and the Planetarium show (which I'd already seen. And it was only 25 minutes long. $5.50 per person. WTF?) So I will heretofore refer to OMSI as the Old Museum for Suckers and Imbeciles. Oh, and when it comes to these educational museum thingies, I think adults should actually be cheaper than kids. I mean in theory, we already paid college tuition to learn all this stuff. And it's not as amusing when you're over 12.


Sandy's Movie #2

I just looked up the meaning of the title because the movie didn't explain it, which I kind of dig. Like Magnolia-- remember how much that one pissed people off? So according to a blogger who may or may not be credible, it's the dreamed-up named of an idyllic unified Arabic state.

I'm not gonna pretend I understood what was going on in this film 100% of the time. There are too many characters who look the same and talk the same and seem to have the same job (and they're all middle-aged white guys.) This movie made me feel dirty. It brings to light issues most of us would probably remain ignorant about. It's not a pretty picture, but I'm glad it got made. Props to George Clooney for his integrity (until he goes forward with that rumored Oceans 13 shite.)

I just wanna add that Alexander Siddig rocks this movie, like he rocked Kingdom of Heaven. He is a desert babe.

Brokeback Mountain, again

Movie #1

I agree with Sandy on everything. Except, I thought Anne Hathaway was really great. Especially in that telephone scene at the end where the camera just sits on her forever and pretty much all of her acting comes from the clicks in her throat and tears in her eyes, but everything she says is still even and snippy. That was awesome. I thought she was better than Michelle Williams, but I admit I still have a grudge against Dawson's Creek.

Also, my audience was perfect. No snickering, no loud sobbing, no TALKING. It was super. I suppose my next movie will be a joint post with Maya, when we see something in Chicago! Maya, what haven't you seen yet?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman

Maya - Book #1

Can I count this as a book of the year even though I’m not reading it cover-to-cover? I have to read it on a regular basis, so I’m pretty sure I can count it. And who would read a insanely dense 675 page acupuncture manual from cover-to-cover anyway?

Well, this book is of very little interest to anyone reading this blog, but it does contain many drawings of completely naked people, so if any of you want to take a peek at it next time you’re at my house, feel free.

Maya – Movies #1 and #2

OK, let me just say that it’s true, I will have no problem seeing three times the suggested number of movies. I will probably read zero books… unless you count textbooks, and believe me, I’ll post about them as I’m reading them… haven’t exactly cracked the books yet this quarter.

So, I always try to see a movie in the theater the first day of the year (just to get things started right). Since Diego and Andrea were with me I wanted to pick something that wasn’t dialog-heavy (Diego’s English is very good, but a slapstick-based comedy is obviously a better choice). Movie #1 was Fun with Dick and Jane.

I don’t think this movie merits the bad reviews it’s getting. If you think Jim Carrey is completely hilarious (and I do), then this movie is definitely worth watching. The whole setup with the Enron-style corporate debacle (and Jim Carrey as the fall guy) is a total riot.

Movie #2 was along slightly different lines…. Touch of Evil, which I’ve never seen before. It was playing at the Music Box and Kelly convinced me to go. I had no idea that it would be so hilarious. The night manager of the hotel has got to be one of the funniest characters in film history. I won’t say much about the film since plenty has been said already… I love the fact that I got the year off to a start with two such completely different movies. And Movie #3 should be happening tomorrow…

Friday, January 06, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

Sandy's Movie #1

Nice blog you got here! Thanks for inviting me over. Why yes, I'd love a cup'o tea.

I saw Brokeback, a.k.a Bareback, a.k.a. Humpback Mountain last night. You'll be heartened to know that the hoopla is well-deserved. High marks all around, from the shots of breathtaking mountain vistas to the score (which I predict will take the golden statue) to the already much-lauded performances. Heath is deliciously taciturn as Ennis Del Mar, and Gylly holds his own. I'd say tween idol Anne Hathaway is the weakest link here, but maybe just in comparison to the rest of the cast, which is perfect. Oh, and you see Anne's boobies. (So if you're having problems convincing your skeptical straight boyfriend to see this movie, you can entice him with the promise of nubile young breasteses.)

Now I just have to comment on Portland's filmgoing audiences, which are among the most obnoxious I have ever encountered, including Flint, Michigan's. This is an art film, which we saw at an "art theater," in a downtown area. It was a weeknight. One would expect a sophisticated group of people who know how to shut the fuck up during a movie. Alas... Portlanders have this grunting thing going on. Example: the trailer for French thriller Cache begins with review after review appearing dramatically on the screen saying things like "A creepy thriller that will leave you reeling" --Important Person. Now any thoughtful moviegoer will understand what's going on here-- it's called "marketing." But the folks in this audience couldn't keep themselves from GASPING OUT LOUD at the amazing reviews being lavished upon this movie! I mean the experience of watching this trailer was almost orgasmic for them. And the gasping/grunting/tsking did not stop for the next 2 hours. They emoted to Heath and Gylly too. It wasn't just the lady behind me either (though she persistently yapped to her companion throughout) -- these gasps came from all corners of the theater. OK tell me the truth - am I overreacting? Or do I have cause to say something like "Hey you sheep boys! Stop your jibber-jabbing!"

That's 1/25 movies. Over and out.


Sandy's Book #1: Japanland by Karin Muller

Well actually I finished a book on Jan. 2 called You Are Here by Wesley Gibson, but since I started it before 2006, I'm not counting it as my first book of the year. (By the way, it was very good.)

Karin Muller makes travel documentaries for PBS, National Geographic, etc. What a lucky bitch. Anyway, while she was in Japan filming her 4-hour documentary called--surprise!-- Japanland (apparently without any kind of crew), she accumulated a lot of fodder for this here book, most of which came from her host family, the Tanankas. She paints a wonderfully unflattering portrait of her host mother, Yukiko; I loved hating this woman. Muller's writing style is frank and funny, and she clearly demonstrates her own chutzpa.

Now to get nit-picky: this book would've benefited from a more fastidious editor. There were several factual errors and misrepresentations, though perhaps only someone who'd spent time in Japan would've noticed. Anyway they were pretty minor, but I wanted to feel self-righteous so I mentioned them. Ha.

Personally I find stories about kabuki, samurai festivals, and archery rather dull. I skimmed the chapters in the book that dwelled too much on old-tymey Japan. But there's plenty of modern-day fun and frolick to make this a quick and enjoyable read for anyone who's got an interest in how one western female viewed Japan and its people. It even made me a little natsukashii for Nihon. Nostalgic. Tear.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Highpoint Center for Printmaking

Cultural Event #1

On Monday, having somewhat recovered from the New Year's Eve revelry, Boyfriend Bud and I agreed to meet Amanda and the Wonder Twins for coffee. Teague and Keely had driven from Rhinelander to spend the holiday with Amanda, and were headed back that afternoon after Keely stopped by Highpoint to visit her friend Justin from Madison in his new digs. We all decided to tag along, and Bud was especially curious because he took printmaking courses in school, and has been itching to do more ever since.

Justin made a very convincing argument for the awesomeness of Highpoint - the facilities, equipment, work and whole attitude. Part of what they do is to help artists create the prints of their work. That basically means that the artist creates the piece or pieces, and Highpoint staff puts in some of the legwork to actually produce them. They also teach classes for adults of all experience levels, and for children from underfunded schools. It's a pretty cool organization.

Now frankly, three-fifths of us knew next to nothing about printmaking or even, you know, "art." So the other two asked all the questions, while Amanda, Teague and I pointed at things around the gallery and said, "Pretty." It also gave Teague an opportunity to practice his "looking at art" face, with accompanying gestures and sounds. Anyway, Highpoint is less than a mile from my apartment, and I've always wondered what it was about, so I was glad to have a guided tour of it. I still know next to nothing about how to make a print, but Bud just signed up for classes this winter, so I'll try to photograph his creations and post them in March. (Technology! What will it think of next?)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The 25 Thing Challenge

25 books, 25 movies, and 25 cultural events.

New Year's resolutions are funny things. I've always liked the idea of them, but have never actually followed through on one. Maybe that's because mine usually take the shape of vague karmic promises, like, "Be better to my body" or "Be a better human being." Well, that shit's for hippies and Oprah. What I need are tangibles. Numbers. This year will be different.

Now, 25 books doesn't sound like a lot. I know people who read a book a week. I call these people "lucky bastards who use mass transportation." Or conversely, "unlucky bastards who don't have cable." Meanwhile, I bet I read about ten books last year. TEN. I was an English major once, folks. It wasn't unusual to read ten books for one class. So I was looking for a number that was high enough to be a goal, but low enough that not reaching it would be pathetic and shameful. Because I was raised Catholic, see, so shame is my behavior modifier of choice.

In the face of Maya's formidable 100 Movie Challenge of 2004, my measly 25 movies is pretty laughable. But this past year, I'm pretty sure I went to the theater less than 15 times. Granted, Hollywood churned out a lot of terrible shit in 2005, but I know of at least one week in which there were no fewer than nine movies playing that I wanted to see. And out of those? I saw one. I'm setting this goal so that rare moments like that one won't slip by me again. Plus for every National Treasure, there's some tiny little indie that needs my admission fee to survive. Clap your hands if you believe in indies!

And finally, the 25 cultural events. Welllllll... I might be a little loosey-goosey with my definition here. I'm going to say it includes concerts, plays, gallery tours, museum visits, etc. But it's also going to include super awesome things like the Great Minnesota Get-Together (the State Fair) and major athletic events.

This means that once a week (on average) I must go to a movie or attend a cultural event. See now, when I put it that way, it sounds less like homework and more like actual fun.