Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I Can Read

I finally read a book, Solaris by Stanislav Lem. The American version of this movie is really one of my all-time favorites. The Russian version, not so much (although apparently Tarkovsky himself admitted it was his least-successful film).

The book is pretty good, although it took me a month to read in spite of being only 200 pages long. It’s difficult to critique books that are translated from another language, and this one certainly had some extensive passages that were overly dry. It also had some beautifully poetic passages, and I was glad to finally read the source material for these movies. Both movies take quite a few liberties with the book, but I can understand that, since large parts of the book are really unfilmable (or simply not filmic). Instead of sticking slavishly to the book, they use it as a jumping-off point.

I seriously doubt I’ll hit 25 books this year.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Movie #25 – The New World

I hit 25 movies! But by Sandy’s estimation, it’s only 20 when you subtract 5 viewings of The New World.

So, I was overjoyed to hear that the University of Chicago was showing The New World. I planned on going twice but only went on Sunday. I convinced my friend Ryan to go with me, and he loved it. I swear every time I watch this movie, I see something new. I sat slightly farther back than usual, and this time the film was digitally projected (not sure why?) The image did look slightly different – it was very crisp, and some of the colors were even more vivid, but there’s always some slight pixellation noticeable with digital projection. It still looked fantastic though.

Oddly enough, this was the only screening where I had to shush somebody. There were two smartasses chatting through THE WHOLE MOVIE. It was very quiet, and they were pretty far away from me, but at one point I had to shush them. I never encountered a noisy person at any of the other five screenings (including the Wisconsin budget theater screening, where I was surrounded by country bumpkins). No, the chatty cathies were at the University of Chicago, where everyone is supposed to be such a braniac. Pfffft.

Cultural Event #8 – Crappy Music

I met some friends at the Pontiac Bar in Wicker Park Saturday night. We were there to hear some band playing that was a friend of a friend, or something. We sat outside instead, the music was some kind of alt-country chick-rockin’-out music that I don’t care for. Not even sure what the band was called. Then the outdoor patio closed (at midnight, Chicago law, grrr…) and we had to go inside. The Pontiac has the ambiance of an old dirty garage, in case you’ve never been there. The second band to go on was called “Tank Engine” and it was absolutely horrid. It was a two-person band with the girl on drums. I hate two-person bands (unless it’s electronic music), the sound is just too thin and simple for my tastes. This band apparently thought of themselves as quirky and punky. They were just cacophonous. Neither one could sing in tune, and it was so noisy, with so much unpleasant feedback, my ears were shredded. I don’t mind having my ears shredded by noise if it’s something I want to hear, but this was ridiculous. I kind of felt bad – everyone in the place was crammed as far away from the band as possible, and only about two people were clapping. They would open their songs with lame lines like “Has anyone ever been on a spaceship? This song is about our trip on a spaceship.” Like I said, I feel bad for ripping on some “struggling artists” but these guys should keep their day jobs.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Thank God for Budget Theaters

Sandy's movie #12

Granted Scary Movie 4 was only about 75 minutes long, but surely there should've been more than one laugh in that time! Time to retire Cindy Campbell.

Beavers vs. Isotopes

Sandy's cultural event #6

For a minor league baseball game, this was purdy durned exciting. The Albuquerque Isotopes totally sucked, so Portland won 4-1. You might be wondering about Albuquergue's lame-o team name... well, F.X.'s best guess was that the A-bomb (or was it H-bomb?) test down there in the New Mexico desert left lotsa isotopes in its wake. As for Portland's team name... uh. You can fill in your own pussy joke there. My favorite thing about baseball games are the concessions, and of course we loaded up on disgustilicious sausages, nachos, pizza, and beer. If that's not a recipe for a vomit burp I don't know what is. Yo, and I got kind of into that Starspangled Banner business. It was a great all-American evening.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Movie #24

The Panic in Needle Park

Finally saw vintage Al Pacino in The Panic in Needle Park. I liked a lot of things about the film: The setting, early 70s New York City… Kitty Winn, who plays Al’s girlfriend and is a very convincing emaciated junkie – she apparently quit acting in films in 1978 (according to imdb.com)… Al, of course, who is cute as a button, in spite of being too healthy-looking for a chronic junkie…
Didn’t like the pacing (it was a little slow, but I suppose that’s the point). The print was really, really old and washed-out. But I enjoyed the screening nonetheless.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Story of the Sea, Twins v. White Sox

Cultural Event #9

A whole slew of people stumbled into the dark and tiny 7th Street Entry at First Avenue to see Story of the Sea, because my friend Kate (of the illustrious Kate and Joe) was celebrating her birthday and wanted to do it up dirty rocker style. The three-piece band loud and fun and their awesome drummer kept the performance really tight. It's probably the best performance I've seen by a local band. Somehow, I still managed to almost nod off a couple of times, but that's another story. I look forward to seeing them again when I'm a little more awake and a little more drunk.

Cultural Event #10

My awesome aunt and uncle gave Bud and I tickets to a Twins game on Sunday night, and we had a great time. Well, we had a great first inning anyway after the White Sox led off with three runs. The notoriously fickle Twins fans (or at least the Uutala faction) were ready to throw it in, but then! The Twins got up and hit for seven runs. This was going to be a great game! And it was, actually, except that we somehow ended up losing by two. Eh, such is baseball.

Before the game even started, we were each handed a button at the door that said, "Build It!" The Minnesota legislature has been looking at three separate stadium proposals - one for the Twins, Vikings, and Gophers - and none of them passed. AGAIN. I have two words for the stadium planners: RETRACTABLE. ROOF. No one will go to games that might get rained out. We're used to the dome, and while I would love nothing more than to see my first baseball game under a bright sunny sky, I would NOT like to see my first game with soggy shoes and a poncho over my face. But listen, Minnesotans: If you want to see professional sports in your state, you're gonna have to pay. It's not going to be a lot and it's not going to be forever, but it has to happen or the teams will leave. Make your choice.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Art School Crapidential

Sandy's Movie #11

Terry Zwigoff, what crawled up your ass and killed your directorial talent? Are you still smoldering because you didn't get enough props for American Splendor? (You directed that, right?) Because this movie seems kind of like an allegory for the props you didn't get. Oh, and it sucks. Guess you and your buddy producer/actor John Malkovich (who is aging horribly, BTW) decided to take the American publica for the proverbial dick wank. Poo on YOU, Terry.

The angry lesbians sitting next to me seemed to like it though-?? And they sure liked their fish tacos enough to take the uneaten portion out of the plastic an hour into the movie to finish... how I love the sound of crinkling plastic in a darkened theater!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Misión Imposible Número Tres Otra Vez!

This movie was pretty damn exciting. It would be a good one to watch while running on the treadmill: It gets the adrenaline pumping, that’s for sure. I especially liked the last part filmed in Shanghai – it looks like Futuristic City of the Future, I’m surprised it’s not used as a setting in American films more often.

Sandy’s right, Michelle Monaghan looks a lot like Katie Holmes, and she plays the typical simpering thin idiotic female love interest. Tom Cruise is still good-looking, but his intensity is unsettling since he always has such a blank look in his eyes (maybe that’s the look of someone who’s sure he’s right about everything? In other words, the Scientology look?) And about Phillip Seymour Hoffman – basically, NOT enough PSH. He was in the movie for maybe 15 minutes. But this movie is definitely worth seeing in the theater. The attack scene on the bridge is worth the ticket price alone. If you want to see explosions, that is.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Movies #21 and #22

Movie #21 was the Midwest Independent Film Festival again (first Tuesday of every month). This time it was a program of comedic shorts, and for the most part they were all very funny. I’m pretty impressed with the generally high quality of films they show every month.

Movie #22 was The Notorious Bettie Page. I figured I should see it on the big screen since Mary Harron is one of the few (relatively) well-known feminist directors in this country, and one of her films is in my top ten all-time favorites (that would be American Psycho). It was definitely a good movie, artfully done, great performances all around, etc. I was still somewhat underwhelmed, who knows why. Gretchen Mol really does resemble Bettie Page very closely. Was the real Bettie Page such an airhead? I certainly don’t know. It’s worth seeing, but not anywhere near the level of Harron’s last film.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat

Sandy's book #8
Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat by Naomi Moriyama with William Doyle

Following the recent trend of nutrition books here on the 25/25/25... here's one I checked out because of its hilarious title. I suppose it's possible that Japanese women really don't get old, and that all those bent-over, bow-legged, blue-haired ladies wandering Tokyo are over 90 years old and therefore completely justified in being bent-over, blue-haired and bow-legged.
Anyway, I confess that this book has influenced the way I've been eating/cooking lately. We just spent a small fortune at the Asian supermarket on stuff like mirin, wakame, miso paste, hon dashi, a big-ass bag of Nishiki rice... man, I don't even know what else. It was a lot. All so I could start doing "Japanese home cooking" like this lady and her gaijin husband/co-writer advocate. Be warned: this book is really cheesy. Par example, check out this passage about edamame, which reads like a lusty romance novel about a little green snack:

“I slowly squeeze a pod between my index finger and thumb to push a bean loose. As soon as the edge of a bean is out, I bring it to my lips and squeeze the pod harder to pop it into my mouth. Sliding my fingers up the pod, I repeat the squeezing and popping motions two more times, until each of the three beans that are usually in a pod have been eaten.”

There's lots more of excruciating descriptions like this one, but in between the loaded statistics and bad writing, there's some good practical advice about maintaining a healthy lifestyle and prolonging good health. Banzai!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Mission: Impossible Tres

Sandy's pelicula numero #10

Some of you maybe too embarrassed (read: snobby) to see MI3 on opening weekend, but not I. No, I and my trusty mainstream boyfriend braved the masses to attend a Friday night screening. The theater was sold out, so I guess there are enough Scientologist sympathizers / people not on Ritalin / people apathetic to celebrity gossip to fill a theater. Actually come to think of it, almost half of the people in the theater seemed to be from Asian countries… with all the Mexicans on the streets celebrating Cinco de Mayo, and all the Asians in the cinema, downtown Portland was looking a lot like California! Radical! Anyway, here are my thoughts on the movie-- which I rather enjoyed:
  1. How the heck did they find an actress who looks exactly like Katie Holmes to play Tom Cruise’s girlfriend?
  2. Ironically, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers sounds LESS gay speaking Italian.
  3. I can’t help but root for Phillip Seymour Hoffman even when he’s a villain.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Now that's what I call comedy!

Cultural Event #8 - Comedy in the Suburbs

That's not the actual title of the show. I think it was "Scott Hanson, with Dave Mordahl and Special Guests." My friend Brian Beatty was one of the special guests, so we packed the car and an overnight bag for the long, scary drive to Burnsville, MN - AKA Land of 10,000 Minivans. The show was in a party room of a bowling alley. Technically, it's called the "Brunswick Family Fun Zone" or something similar, but we weren't tricked by that little ruse.

Anyway, the show consisted of five openers who'd all appeared in a New Year's Eve show with Louie Anderson. Of the five, Brian was the best and most interesting. His delivery and material are totally original - he reads short poems on stage and speaks very slowly and softly. But then he's dressed like a guy who lives in a remote cabin in the woods, so the result is rather disorienting. A couple of the other guys had some pretty good jokes, but their acts weren't as unique or cohesive as Brian's. As for the stars of the show, Scott Hanson mainly just made me uncomfortable, because he picked on a few people in the audience, and he always looks like he's about to keel over. Dave Mordahl is uber-Republican - who knew? Really sharp and funny, but kind of a dick. There were a few too many homophobic, ethnocentric, "damn lib-rulls" jokes for my taste.

In fact, there were a few too many of those throughout the night, period. That, plus a few assholes in the audience, proved that you don't have to drive too far before you're in a red state.

The Fast Track One-Day Detox Diet

Book #5, by Ann Louise Gittleman
Y'all - do not buy into this "one-day" nonsense. This was 11 days of choking down broccoli spear after kale leaf after dandelion root tea. With one day of fasting in the middle. First, the upsides: I did lose six pounds. And I did discover some new foods that I like (including the kale). And I did learn some things about why those green foods are so important. Now, the downsides: I spent at least $100 on food for those 11 days. And it was HELLA annoying to try to plan meals without using any grains. And I don't like eating two servings of meat every day. And I missed bread and sugar so much that I almost cried.

I actually took on this challenge because I'd been sick for four weeks, wasn't sleeping well, and suddenly my pants were all uncomfortable. I knew something wasn't right inside and I started googling for a one-day detox. I ended up believing Gittleman's line that a fast detox won't work if your organs are still full of toxins, and decided to do the 11 days. It was hard, and I'm not sure it was really worth it. The hassle of trying to fit in all of the specific foods from each group, while avoiding pretty much every food I usually eat (including all grains, beans, cheese) was really taxing. I mean, it's nice to see the six pounds gone, but surely at least a few of those will come back quickly. I'm not sick anymore, but I'm also not sleeping any better. I only really felt good on the day of and day after the fast (during which you drink a cranberry juice mixture). From now on, I think I'd just get a cleansing kit and be done with it.

Rats Saw God

Book #4 - Rats Saw God, by Rob Thomas

... or as Bud would call him, "the multi-talented lead singer of matchbox twenty and creator of Veronica Mars." He's actually only the second of those things, but it's funnier Bud's way. I bought this book for like $4 due to my all-consuming love for Veronica Mars. The tone of Rats Saw God is only a short leap from Veronica Mars, and I liked that about it - the kids are pretty cynical and their sometimes-silly attempts to work out their angst ring true. Who doesn't look back at their teen years and cringe a little? It's a YA novel (but doesn't the cover make it look like gay porn?), and as far as those go, it's pretty good. It's darker than the stuff I was reading as a tween, and includes more sex and drugs as well.

Damn! I'm so far behind on this 25 books thing! I should have at least eight books read by now. What the hell have I been doing with my time? Oh right - Food Network and HGTV. That's pathetic.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Immigration March – Cultural Event #7

The May 1 march really was one of the first times in my life where I actually felt proud to be an American. Sorry to sound sappy, but it’s true. The diversity and multiculturalism we have here is mind-boggling. Yeah, it’s only really visible in big cities, and yeah, there are problems inherent with unfettered immigration.

But there are a couple glaring historical issues which people tend to neatly ignore when the immigration discussion comes up: 1. This country was founded by immigrants who ripped it away from its natural inhabitants and 2. Actually, #1 is probably enough. Why can’t we take this multiculturalism and just run with it? I saw a bunch of signs which stated some interesting ideas:

1. America – An Immigrant Nation Since 1776
2. We’re trying to “immigrate” to the United States (with a map of Mexico as it existed before we colonized… oh, oops, we actually took away a huge chunk of Mexico by force, including the entire area that the Bush clan claims to be from…. Guess we forgot about that)
3. A Day Without a Mexican is a Day Without Sunshine (Uh… OK, this one doesn’t make much sense)

I read an interview with a policeman that this was the largest march he’s seen in Chicago in the past 30 years. Supposedly around 500,000 people, but it’s hard to estimate when the numbers get that big. The aerial shots were really awesome. It was so great to march through the middle of downtown because the noise from all the protestors was reverberating off the buildings, along with the 10 or so helicopters overhead. It was not a normal Monday. Here’s a picture of the cutest sleepy Mexican baby.