Thursday, March 30, 2006


Movie #15

Here’s a picture of non-fat Clooney to soothe your eyes.

So I saw Syriana (thanks Logan Budget Theater). It was so-so. Some good moments, but nothing too inspiring. The story was a little obtuse, and some of the story lines didn’t seem to converge at all… like the kids who lost their jobs and then ended up at a Muslim terrorist training camp – that was just a parallel storyline, right? Or was I supposed to somehow connect that concretely with the other story lines (besides the obvious fact that the oil company merger affected all the stories… argh, I can’t think about it right now).

My main complaint was actually the star-studded cast. They got a shitload of great actors, and they all did a good job. I found it distracting. Munich was the opposite since they cast mainly obscure and/or foreign actors. Instead of following the movie tonight, my internal monologue went something like this… “OK, so George Clooney is kind of fatter, but definitely still within the realm of hotness if he’d only shave his beard off… OK, the two oil companies are merging, I get that, and this is going to affect the politics of Iran by… Oh! Matt Damon is in this? He looks pretty good too, for a blonde white-boy. Oh, I like Amanda Peet even though she’s only in shitty movies. Jeffrey Wright is so cool, why don’t people know who he is? But he was way hotter back in the Basquiat days. Hey, Christopher Plummer! I’m glad he came back from nowhere to star in movies again. Gee, Chris Cooper plays the scary Southern pig-types a little too well. Is that Hank Azaria playing Prince Nasir? (It wasn’t.) William Hurt again! I’m so glad he kicked his alcoholism. I don’t find him particularly attractive… but he’s got that something… yeah, I’d do him.” Etc., etc. It was ridiculous. If I’m watching a serious movie about Middle Eastern politics, it makes me feel bad to fall into a celebrity stream-of-consciousness.

Sorry to take up so much blog space with my ranting. My five-word review of Syriana would be “Go see Ask the Dust.”

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Scorching Hot

Movie #15 – Ask the Dust

This movie is really excellent. I’m not just saying that because I got to see Colin Farrell’s booty (as if we all haven’t seen that enough). It’s really well-written and well-acted, kind of in the style of 40s romances where the witty remarks fly and there’s always some sort of simmering resentment in the air. I haven’t read the original book but I though Robert Towne did a superb job recreating the atmosphere of Los Angeles during the depression. Although it is a romance the main theme is racism, and the film doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable moments. It’s also surprisingly funny – overall, way better than I expected it to be. Oh, and it’s aggressively sexy. I won’t say any more, but I don’t think anyone will be disappointed by the sex scenes.

Now a comment about movie marketing – I’ve heard this movie is going to get a big push later in the year. Not sure if that’s true or not (if that’s the case, why is it being released on a limited basis in cities right now?) In any case it’s being pushed as an independent art film, which I suppose it is by today’s standards. To me it seems like a solid Hollywood film (written and directed by a dependable name, with two really huge and bankable stars). Both the leads take all their clothes off (in case anyone needs a reason to persuade their boyfriend to see this movie: Yes, Salma Hayek looks pretty darn good). I don’t understand why the production company didn’t open this movie nationwide, slip a bunch of stories about the nudity into the press, and plant a story about Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek banging each other or something inane like that. They would make loads more money and it seems like a pretty easy sell to me. I appreciate the fact that they’re trying to do this with some integrity and sell it as an art film for intelligent people, but I thought all movie producers were money-hungry whores. Just a little confused here.

French Women Don't Get Fat

Sandy's book #6: French Women Don't Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

Apparently French women are these wise, wordly creatures who have the utmost appreciation for fine chocolates, wines, breads and a completely healthy outlook on eating and how it relates to their bodies. And they NEVER work out. I don't know any Frenchies personally, so I'm not in a position to dispute this. If this Guiliano woman is to be believed, however, then I've just read a goldmine of nuggets on how to ward off disease, obesity, and the negative signs of aging! Jackpot! I do concede that this book was pretty interesting, and I've already taken a handful of new Frenchie behaviors away from it. Par example... (Guiliano sprinkles all these Frenchie phrases throughout the book and it got on my nerves. She doesn't bother to translate half of them. I took French 101 but I don't know what the hell in dans le peau blah blah means, lady!) Anyway, for example... I am striving striving to drink 8 glasses of water per day and even keeping track in a little notebook. In two weeks the most I've drunk in one day is six glasses. Also I am going to STOP eating junk chocolate; only the finest artisan dark chocolate (uh, or Trader Joe's) will do for my lips. And as soon as the Farmer's Market begins, I am going to stock up on fruits and veg at least weekly. I've begun to notice how ghastly supermarket produce is and how fast it rots. I ain't gonna stop working out though. This femme seems to think ironing clothes is an effective calorie-burner?!

Monday, March 27, 2006


Sandy's Book #5: Out by Natsuo Kirino

I read this book last summer but felt like reading it again because I wanted to remind myself that living in Japan can suck. It's purportedly feminist crime fiction and paints a really bleak picture of being a Japanese houswife/woman in general. This is a gleefully gory story about four ladies who work the night-shift at a bento factory and get involved in some nasty business... They are making a Hollywood movie out of it (starring white actresses no doubt) and will inevitably ruin the whole spirit of the book, so I suggest picking this up sooner rather than later. It's one of my new faves!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

One Day, Two Churches

Cultural Events #3 & #4

My friend Ryan called me this morning and asked me to go to the Kriya Yoga Temple with him this morning. It’s only 3 blocks from my house, so why not? It was a pretty low-key religious affair: The leader (Swami? Guru?) spoke for awhile about learning to let go of things in our life that are not important to us, and then we did about a ½ hour of guided meditation. I learned the mantra “Om nama Shiva ya, Shiva ya nama om.” This is supposed to dissolve anything which is hanging in your mind and causing “emotionality” (I guess negative emotions). She also said that ideally you should never do anything you don’t want to do (i.e. you should have a strong purpose in your life and not let anything distract you from that purpose). Hey, I don’t want a job, and I think the Yogi is right, I shouldn’t get one.

In the afternoon I drove to Wilmette to hear the Lawrence University Choir perform at the Bahá’i Temple. I was in choir for 2 years while at school there, so wanted to revisit my past, I suppose. The concert was good – I was impressed by one piece in particular, a modern piece in Estonian (they performed it memorized – no mean feat for a choir. Remember, most vocal students are musically illiterate). It was a very dramatic and almost frightening piece. Towards the end someone’s cell phone went off. I was suddenly reminded why I never go to classical performances anymore – besides the usually prohibitive cost, I haven’t been to one in the last 5 years that wasn’t ruined by some moron’s cell phone. It makes me want to fucking slaughter people! Anyway, the performance was only 40 minutes long, but worth the drive… nice to see the temple again too.

Friday, March 24, 2006

V for Vendetta

Sandy's Movie #7

This flick rocks! And there aren't even any hot guys in it so, you know, I must be serious. Hollywood seems saturated with political movies right now (Good Night and Good Luck; American Dreamz; Thank You for Smoking; Looking for Comedy...) but this one is a standout, I'm sure. It doesn't satirize or tipsy-toe about. It's really the best kind of political/futuristic movie... the kind that fills you with dread and hope simultaneously. Like Armageddon! Ha ha, just kidding. 15 years from now, film students will write 20-page essays on the historical context of V for Vendetta. Those will be some interesting papers. [Shudder]. Anyway, tied with Munich for best film I've seen this year.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Tracy & the Plastics, Belle & Sebastian

Cultural Event #5

Last year about this time, the Walker Art Center was holding its Grand Opening celebration. All sorts of cool people attended - like crazy Bjork and her crazy husband Matthew Barney - and so did I. Make no mistake, I am not cool. But I happen to have a few cool friends who had invites to the party, so I got to go along. The highlight of the evening was a performance by Tracy and The Plastics. Tracy sings live, while a video of her "bandmates" plays behind her. She carries on conversations with them (partially scripted, partially improvised), while also singing a few tunes. The whole performance was hilarious and clever, with a storyline that followed the music. So when I saw that she was playing another gig in the Twin Cities, I knew I had to go especially because Tracy is only playing a couple more shows before she calls it quits. Unfortunately, this show wasn't half as good as the Walker show. The crowd was drunk and rowdy, which Tracy seemed to enjoy, but the performance suffered from the interruptions. There didn't seem to be much of a storyline, so the video seemed to have little to do with the live performance. Eh, for six bucks, it was still a good time.

Cultural Event #6

Time was, I'd see about two concerts a year, so two in one week is pretty intense. Bud's awesome landlord got us tickets (7th row, center) for the sold-out Belle and Sebastian show Sunday night. As a casual fan of the band (i.e., I've had many friends who were big fans and therefore I've been exposed to the music, but never sought it out on my own), I didn't have any expectations for this show. Happily, it was one of the best I've seen since I've been here. I wish it hadn't taken the repressed Minnesota crowd so long to get into it (the frontman had to sort of give permission for people to stand up), but it hardly mattered. And I saw a bunch of people I recognized from Madison - really the whole crowd looked like they probably matriculated from the good ol' UW. Also, the Scottish accent is pretty hot, even on a little waif.

Movie #14 - Walk the Line

I went to see the 2:15 showing at the Logan Budget Theater. I thought I would be one of the only people there. Surprise, surprise – retired people go to movies! The theater was jam-packed with the 60+ crowd. There were only two other people around my age there (I’m sure they’re unemployed as well). These are my compadres now. Anyway, with my new income of zero dollars, I can’t pass up a $3 movie. I thought Walk the Line was OK, not great by any means, but the acting was good, and I was happy to see Robert Patrick play the abusive poppa. I liked the parts where Joaquin is drunk and popping pills and generally acting up. But I’m pretty immune to the typical Hollywood biopic formula, so it left me more or less unmoved.


South Side St. Patrick’s Day Parade – Complete and Utter Drunken Insanity

So on Sunday we bought tickets on a chartered bus to the South Side of Chicago for the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. Apparently this is a common thing, because it’s really difficult to get down to the South Side any other way, and nobody wants to be driving to a giant parade where everyone is drunk. So we show up at an Irish pub at 9:30 in the morning (Kelly, Ivy, her sister Lavender, and me) and proceed to have a drink. We weren’t sure if we were going to get a spot on the bus or not because we didn’t reserve our tickets, but we got the last four seats. There was free beer on the bus:

After about 10 minutes, the bus broke down and we had to get off and stand on the side of the road waiting for another bus. I heard some frat boy remark that he felt like a “refugee.” Yeah, I think we all felt like refugees… it’s a real hard life. We were laughing about that for the rest of the day.

Then we got to the parade, and I drank way too much whiskey. I tripped and fell, and banged up my knee and my forehead. Oh, ouch! The last time I had a drunken falling accident was Steve’s birthday in Madison (Sandy, I’m sure you remember that day well). Anyway it was weird to have one of those days of supreme drunkenness when neither Andrea, Sandy, nor Steve were there.

I saw part of the parade, it was pretty cool. Then we had to eat food so I wouldn’t die, and catch the bus back to the North Side (I slept the whole way). Then we got home and I slowly sobered up. Ryan came over and we spent the evening attempting to watch S.W.A.T. (I fell asleep on the couch, and Ryan fell asleep using my butt as a pillow). I feel like I really exorcised some demons. What a great cultural event.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Sandy's Book #4: Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk

I don't know if I spelled Dude's name right and I am too lazy to look it up. OK so I read this for a book club I might join... eh, I wasn't digging it. In fact I had been reading three books simulatenously and not finishing any of them because I was always going back to this crap out of a sense of duty. Yay, I finally got to the end and now I can give my other, more likable books their due attention. So what is it about old Chucky P.? Males seem to adore his books and the movie(s) based on them. But Dude is pretty much a misogynist, or at least his characters are-- has anyone noticed? I know this Survivor book is technically a "satire," but I loathed the main character too much to find him amusing. The narrator is the last living member of a suicide cult who somehow becomes a spiritual guru for the nation. I didn't learn anything about myself or about the world from reading this, so I consider it pretty much a waste of time. Boo.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Portland Japanese Garden

Sandy's Cultural Event #5

Oops, I forgot to write about this last week. We finally went to the locally revered Japanese Garden, which is not even a 10-minute walk from our apartment. The cherry blossoms on 23rd Ave were blooming, so I'd assumed they'd be blooming in the garden, too. Nope. Nary a bud in sight. So it was pretty dumb to pay the $7 to wander around before anything colorful appears. Though it was lovely anyway, I'm going to want to go back in spring and again in fall, which adds up to okane takusan. Hmm, I forget if that's the right way to say "a lot of money" in Japanese. Whatever.

Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor)

Sandy's Movie #6

The only thing I'd read about this movie was Kenneth Turan's ubiquitous "A popcorn movie with a vodka chaser..." tidbit, which told me absolutely nothing. Oh, and I think EW gave it a D-. Based on those preconceptions, I was pleasantly surprised by Night Watch. This wasn't Underworld: Moscow. There were some real production values (a-hem, not the editing... but some artfully-done subtitling and decent S F/X) and an actual STORY. It was a major blockbuster in Russia in 2004, and they submitted it as their Academy Award hopeful. Ha ha ha, that's funny, because as I was watching it I was thinking "Not an Academy Award movie by any stretch, but for Russia, pretty good."

Friday, March 10, 2006


Viewing #5 of Movie #6

What do unemployed people do? They drive 156 miles and cross the state line to Wisconsin so that they can see any movie they damn well want to!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Midwest Independent Film Festival

Cultural Event #2

Does a collection of short films made by people in the Midwest count as a cultural event or a film? For me it counts as a cultural event, because I see way too many movies already. Plus, there was a before-party and an afterparty, and I got free beer thanks to the sponsorship of Goose Island Brewery. I would never have gone to this screening on my own, ironically enough, because I tend to stay away from low-budget films and/or films not starring Colin Farrell. But my friend Ivy encouraged me to go, and her fiancé is the producer, and I already know him too, and my love of cinema is too well-known for me to get out of things like this. I don’t know why I was initially hesitant. I had a great time, talked to some interesting people, and got free food, free beer, and free entry. I’ll definitely be going next month (it happens on the first Tuesday of every month at Landmark).

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Sickness in Seattle

Since my weekend trip to Seattle involved no movies, books, or cultural events, I realize it does not count toward my quota. However, I just wanted to give myself a shout out for trying to experience something new in the form of a pretty hip city. Of course since I was bedridden with some kind of upper respitory piece-of-shit-virus most of the weekend, the only things I really experienced were satellite TV and a whole lot of self-pity. Hey, that almost sort of rhymed (city-shit-pity). I tried to eat (not much of an appetite) in a couple of good restaurants, though, and intended to drink Seattle's Best Coffee... but ended up with tea. I guess you could call it a big bummer of a weekend trip, but at least it didn't rain.