Thursday, August 24, 2006

Eat Pray Love

By Elizabeth Gilbert
Sandy's Book #15

I started this book the day before it was due back at the library. Suffice it to say it was well worth the overdue fines I am about to pay. Its premise is nothing new: American lady gets scarred by man(s). Gets itchy feet. Goes on quest around the world to find herself. What appealed to me about this particular incarnation of the tale were her destinations: Italy, India, Indonesia. The first two countries are places I have been infatuated with for a while. Indonesia piqued my interest just recently due to 1) Tony Bourdain's adulation of the place and 2) what I keep reading about in divorcee travel memoirs like this one. Bali sounds like a helluva place and-- despite my rather adamant "boycott" of Indonesia last year because of the unfortunate incarceration of Australian Shapelle Corby (try searching Yahoo! Australia if you know nothing about this news story)-- I might just like to go there some day. But first I have to learn to meditate.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

CLICK – Movie #41

This movie was retarded. It won me over in the last 45 minutes or so, when the movie really went over the deep end. There were a few moments that elicited genuine laughter. Is that all it takes for a Hollywood movie to succeed? In a way it pisses me off, because Hollywood movies are pretty much weak, asinine TV pilots with 50 million dollar budgets. I haven’t watched a straight-up Hollywood movie in awhile, and I forgot how lame they are, really. They’re basically two-hour commercials. I hate the commercialism (I’m not going to eat Twinkies no matter how many times I see the damn box onscreen, hello!), crass sexism, racism, and idiotic lowest-common-denominator factor. I hate the way every female extra clearly just came from the “extra stable” of overly thin and surgeried women.
I did laugh at this film, but honestly – that’s a fluke of writing and the chemistry of the actors. When Adam Sandler finds the remote control in the fat folds of his belly, that makes me laugh. When Christopher Walken wears puffy red earmuffs, that makes me laugh. But Adam Sandler JUST did a “family lesson” movie last year, called Spanglish. That was a touching and honest movie which I recommended to a lot of people. This movie, Click? I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

By Haruki Murakami
Sandy's Book #14

I get it now. I see what all the fuss is about when it comes to Murakami, Japan's supreme, all-time greatest, most genius, coolest novelist EVER. I'm a little slow on the uptake I guess, because I thought Norwegian Wood was just so-so. His short stories left me cold. I liked Sputnik Sweetheart pretty well, so I decided to give this long-ass (500+ pages) birdie chronicle a try. That was a year ago-- I gave up after 75 pages. But I came back, baby, and that shit ended up being a page-turner. Now I am hooked. I cannot wait to read that Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World that's been chillin' on my bookshelf for more than three years now. Yeah I think I bought it when Maya woke up from her coma and said her subconscious was just like that book... but I still haven't read it. But thanks to my newfound appreciate for Murakami, I am moving it to the top of my queue.

Little Miss Sunshine

Sandy's Movie #24

YES! Finally, a summer movie I can get behind! What? It's not a "summer movie," you say? Well it has sunshine in the title, losers! Let me have my soapbox. I love road trip movies. I also love dysfunctional family movies. I also love Toni Collette-- she might even be one of my top three favorite working actresses (as an actual actress, not as an object... if we were talking objects than I'd be leaning more towards the Salma Hayek-type chicks...) AND finally, I love that little butterball 7-year-old who plays Olive Hoover. I'd like to see her take on Dakota Fanning in a cage match.

Yeah so to sum up, see this movie! I laughed, I cried, I almost backfisted the wench behind me who would not SHUT THE FUCK UP! But it's all good. I loved this movie.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Talladega Nights

Movie #15

People, this movie is retarded. And wonderful. I haven't laughed so hard in a theater since Dodgeball, which should tell you something about my taste level. This is one of those movies where you keep seeing familiar faces, and it feels like each person is at the top of their comedic game. Special shoutouts go to Leslie Bibb, Gary Cole and Molly Shannon for bringing a spark to each of their roles. Sacha Baron Cohen's villainous turn as a gay, French Formula One driver manages to surprise and baffle at the same time.

I'm beginning to wonder how many more versions of this character Will Ferrell will be able to create; he's really cornered the market on deluded, barely literate jackasses. And Ricky Bobby may be the best one yet. If you're into Will Ferrell, if you like John C. Reilly, if you love Anchorman, if you feel ambivalent about America, you must immediately see this movie.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cultural Events #20 and #21

Mystery Performance and Anoushka Shankar

Andrea likes to go to live performances more than I do (I prefer movies, as everyone has probably noticed by now). It was her idea to go to one of the Chicago Reader’s “Hot Picks” last week – an experimental music performance by a man whose name I can’t remember at a gallery. I can’t remember the name of the gallery either. The art being exhibitied was erotica – the most memorable piece was a nighttime cityscape with an enormous pink penis swooping down from above, and there was an inquisitive face on the head of the penis. We were debating what the name of the piece should be (I settled on “It Came at Night”) but it ended up being something like “The Start of It All” (I can’t even remember what the title really was). The performance was somewhat interesting – the performer had constructed pallets (the kind you put paint on) with metal and wooden rods coming out, plugged the whole thing into an amp, and then manipulated the rods with various things. The gallery owner was spinning some of his recordings behind him. It sounded like it would have been good background music for an intelligent thriller or horror movie. There was an enormous crowd of about 25 people.

A few days later we went to another free concert at Millennium Park, this time Anoushka Shankar. The music was really quite enjoyable, and I might even consider buying one of her CDs. It was easy to listen to but somewhat experimental at the same time. The evening was only marred by our lack of food and alcohol. We came unprepared, and had to stare at everyone’s enormous picnic spreads. After dismissing the idea of stealing other people’s unwanted food, we bought wine from the food tent ($5 for a little bottle of Vendange – kind of a crappy deal). It was better than nothing.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Movie #40


Here is a picture of the lead actor in Lemming, Laurent Lucas (any relation?) Patty and I thought he was really hot (it helps to imagine French coming out of his mouth) but my sister disagreed.

This was a good psychological thriller – very action-packed for a French film (but slow-paced by any other standards). It’s definitely influenced by David Lynch, but slightly more comprehensible. I enjoyed the performance of the lead actor very much, and want to see him in other movies. He slowly unravels over the course of the film, and I thought his portrayal was subtle but entirely fascinating.

The best thing about this film was the sound editing - I’m impressed when directors put so much detail into the sound of a film. There were recurring sound motifs, and the soundtrack was sparse and used very effectively. Some of the music was Ligeti, and I’m not sure about the rest. I guess I could look on imdb, but my head is killing me. Anyway, the French certainly seem to know how to put a movie together well, if nothing else. Even if you’re bored by the slow pace and far-fetched plot, the look and sound of this film is better than anything you’re likely to see coming out of Hollywood anytime soon.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Cultural Event #19

I would have a picture of Tom Waits here, but blogger won't let me post pictures anymore for some reason.

Well, last night I saw Tom Waits for the second and perhaps last time. There was buzz in the line that this would be his last tour, but who knows if that’s true or not. One thing is for sure: He almost never tours.

When we got to the Auditorium Theatre an hour before the show started, it was a total madhouse. The people running the show acted as if they’d never dealt with a crowd before – now I KNOW this can’t be true, this is one of the most famous theaters in downtown Chicago. There were three different lines, none of which were marked. We were told by a security guard to wait in one line for Will Call, only to find at the front of the line that it was for ticketholders. Then we had to get in another line for Will Call, which was extremely long. They were clearly unprepared for this event for some reason. We finally got through the doors 10 minutes before showtime, and there was a long line still stretching out the door. They thoughtfully started the show 45 minutes late so everyone got in. Pretty lame nonetheless.

We chit-chatted with people in line and inside. The guy sitting next to me flew in from Lincoln, Nebraska to see the show. I heard about people flying in from New York. I didn’t talk to anyone who was actually from Chicago, but I did see one person I recognized. Anyway the show was amazing, but not as overwhelmingly so as his last show. The bass was too quiet and I couldn’t pin down what key some of the songs were in, giving the show a more atonal effect than usual (although that’s an effect he’s been going for in his more recent releases). He told some of his trademark deadpan joke/monologues. One was a riff on 9th and Hennepin (the name of one of his old songs). Imagine this in his gravelly voice with tinkly piano accompaniment:

“9th and Hennepin…. Street names don’t mean the same thing nowadays…. I told someone about 9th and Hennepin the other day, and he told me ‘my wife bought some sandals there…’ Sandals? I got SHOT there. I was caught in the middle of a pimp war. The pimps were eleven years old and they were throwing silverware at each other. You may think I’m making this story up, but it’s true.”

Anyway his vocal cords sounded just as shredded as ever. I really hope this is not his last tour. His son was playing drums, and if nothing else, I imagine that will be encouragement to keep doing shows from time to time (he’s cited the main reason for not doing shows is that he doesn’t want to leave his family).

I also had another celebrity sighting (2 in two weeks… what’s up with that?) This was a solid, “Hey, it’s that guy” sighting. He was standing with his daughter on his shoulders and talking to a fan outside. All I could remember is that he played a crazy hillbilly in something, and it was killing me until this morning when Kelly was singing songs from O Brother, Where Art Thou? I suddenly realized he was in that movie, and it was Tim Blake Nelson. He counts as a real celebrity – he got top billing with George Clooney for crying out loud! He’s also been in a ton of other movies – you’ll recognize his face if you go to imdb.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Scoop (Scoop-ah-doop, scoop-ah-doop)

Sandy's movie #23

Carrie was right! (Dang, Uute, how often do you see a movie before me? I may never write those words again...) I'm underwhelmed. It's really been a crapshoot with Woody these last, oh, 16 years or so... and this one ends up somewhere between Small Time Crooks and Match Point on the spectrum. That is to say, Small Time Crooks was rubbish and Match Point was clever... so Scoop was... mediocre. That wasn't written with very much conviction, I know. Scarlett turns in an uneven performance, starting out completely high school drama club but redeeming herself by the end. Woody is nebbishy and charming. Hugh's nipples stand at attention for the duration. The story is, basically, Manhattan Murder Mystery across the pond and on hallucinogens.

By the by, there was a group of about four teenage girls sitting right behind me, ostensibly there to admire ScarJo's wardrobe. They gabbed to eachother the entire time and-- as teen girls are wont to do-- said lame shit like "That is so weird" and "That is so dumb" and "Oh my god! Scarlett! She's so cuuute." I only shhhhed them once because-- guess what?-- they ignored me anyway, and my pleas to Marc of "Can you please make them shut up?" were fruitless. Next time I may resort to a stinkbomb. (Do you think I'd get kicked out for that?)

Friday, August 04, 2006


I've never seen this movie on the big screen before... needless to say, it was amazing. It’s one of those films that you watch on DVD and think the whole time, “Dammit, I need to see this on the big screen!” Well, The Music Box came through with a new print and delivered.

The visual highlights (probably obvious to anyone who's seen the
The burning fields - completely breathtaking.
The way so many scenes were shot in the dawn/pre-dawn hours - it's
very unusual to see that kind of lighting in a film, and gives it an
otherwordly feel. (Or maybe it just feels otherwordly to me because
I'm never awake at that time, thank god.)
Richard Gere's face - he's totally gorgeous.
Sam Shepard's face - I never thought he looked great before, but on
the big screen he really does. I found him more sympathetic during
this viewing than ever before.

Anyway, I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about this film, but I
probably need to (after midterms are over). There are many parallels
between Days of Heaven and my personal favorite Malick film, The New World.

A Cook's Tour

Book #10, A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain

This blog should maybe just be called "Three Girls and their obsession with a celebrity chef." I finished Tony's second book finally, about five years after the two of you read it. Totally loved, of course. The only issue I had with it is that sometimes it feels a little disjointed; you think he's finished with Vietnam, and then two chapters later, you're back there. And it seems like that may have been a choice on his part - maybe he had too much to say and that section would have been too long, or maybe he wanted to have more of a thread in the book - but it's still a little odd to keep finding yourself back in Vietnam. Although I will say that his stories totally made me want to take a trip there, and it wasn't even on my radar before this.

This book really makes you want to eat a lot and have a lot of booze. I tried to always have a little snack and a drink around while reading it, or I would get kind of testy.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Movie #38

Midwest Film Festival – Documentary Shorts

I haven’t been to this film fest in a couple months, so finally made it back. Documentaries are not necessarily my favorite genre… I guess that’s a way of saying I go out of my way to avoid them. I think they’re generally poorly done. The most noticeable thing I saw was a “teaser” promo for a movie called Indestructible. It’s being filmed by a first-time director who suffers from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). They showed interview clips with a lot of ALS sufferers, and apparently a lot of the film details how a Chinese herbal remedy is one of the only treatments which seems to prolong their lives (along with improving their quality of life). Although the clip was only 8 minutes long, it was very personal and affecting. I actually was crying… I guess I’m kind of a pussy when it comes to these matters. But I really hope this film sees the light of day (i.e. gets proper financing so it can be released in some way).

The trailer is here:
  • Indestructible Film

  • It doesn’t look like it’s going to be a masterful film at all, but I think it’s rare that directors are so connected with the subject material.

    Otherwise, the only notable event of the night was my celebrity sighting of Greg Hollimon (otherwise known as Principal Onyx Blackman). While walking to the afterparty, I spotted him sitting at an outdoors restaurant. I told him it was nice to see him and shook his hand, without revealing the fact that I knew him from Strangers With Candy. He was very nice (and cute too). I’m a downright pro when it comes to holding it together in front of celebrities. OK, Greg Hollimon is a minor celebrity, but he counts, dammit! You can buy a movie ticket and see his ass onscreen right this moment – if that doesn’t make you a celebrity, I don’t know what does.

    Fireworks/Sommerfest; Diplo/CSS

    Cultural Event #14, Minnesota Summer Fun

    A few weeks ago, Bud and I ventured downtown to watch the big Aquatennial (water-yearly? annually waterful?) Fireworks Show on the river. On the Fourth, we took a chance that we'd be able to see fireworks from our roof deck (read: preferred to keep drinking and stay home). That was cool (see pic above), but this show was something else entirely. It was like a Grand Finale the whole time. So awesome and LOUD. Also loud was the woman sitting next to us who was one of those people who can't do anything without detailing how often, how many times, how long, how much they do this thing. Not one firework could go off without this woman gracing the whole riverfront with her opinion, "Oh! I love the purple ones. But they're not as good as the white ones that sparkle. I wonder when they're going to do those. Usually they would have already done those by now. You should see those. Just wait, they're the best." BARF.

    After the show was over, we walked toward Orchestra Hall for Sommerfest. It was a balmy evening - perfect for sitting outdoors and listening to music. This particular evening there was a band playing Cuban music, and people were salsa dancing (with varying degrees of success). I was not among them, but it did inspire us to take lessons after my knees get better.

    Cultural Event #15, Diplo and CSS at the Varsity

    After a 12-hour workday, I arrived with aching feet at the Diplo show. I missed the first opener, but was there in time for CSS (Cansei de Ser Sexy - apparently Portuguese for "I'm tired of being sexy," which was something Beyonce said once). They were a lot of fun, and completely different from any concert I've seen lately. The lead singer (who goes by the name Lovefoxxx) is like a combination of Bjork and Karen Oh (in look and persona), minus the scariness. When she threatens to "break your face in two," you feel more like tousling her head than running for cover. She's a little ball of energy, and a great frontwoman.

    Diplo came onstage, and quickly filled the dancefloor. He was spinning more recent hiphop and dance tracks, but got his biggest response early on when he played "Walk Like an Egyptian." It's to his credit that I never left the dancefloor (except for a G&T break), despite my blistered feet and aching knees. His set was full of recognizable pop, dance, hiphop and techno tracks, which was a great surprise for me. It's not the sort of stuff you sit and nod along with - it's the sort that makes you get up and shake your booty. That's a great way to spend a Monday night.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    Scoop and Miami Vice

    Movie #13 - Scoop

    I should probably start by saying that I'm not a Woody Allen fan. I don't get the appeal, and the enjoyment of his films often depends on their very Woody-ness. You can look at a lot of them and say, "Well, it's got Woody and it's got the funny stuff," but that's about all it's got going for it. For many people, that's enough. The thing about Scoop is that it's got that off-kilter sense of humor, but it's also got a tricky storyline with some truly unexpected goings-on. The performances from the male principals are all great, but Scarlett "I'll Show You Wooden" Johansson is a little outmatched here. She's required to put out more energy than I've ever seen from her, and she doesn't always pull it off. The film starts out focused on her character, but really doesn't pick up until she meets Woody's. The most illuminating thing for me was the noticeable difference in energy in scenes with Woody and without. Any scenes that don't involve him kind of feel like filler until he comes back. Have I finally seen the light? Maybe I'm just more comfortable with Woody when he's not trying to romance a woman 40 years younger or 40 times sexier.

    Movie #14 - Miami Vice

    Sounds like Maya and I had identical experiences with this film. I'm pretty sure I missed half of the dialogue, but I still followed the story OK without it. I wish Jaime Foxx had more to do here, because his character definitely felt secondary to me, and he didn't have much personality. In fact, I would say that is my only problem with the film. I recognize (from other spy/police/military movies or TV shows) that people in this line of work often have to repress emotion, stay strong, blah blah. But I don't think that means that they lose all traces of personality, or individuality, or sense of humor. No one is given definable personality traits other than "tough," "stoic," "smart-ass" or "resourceful." The women in the film were almost interchangeable. Anyway, maybe that was all intentional - maybe Michael Mann wanted to emphasize the psychological impact of living undercover - but it doesn't make for a very interesting cast of characters.

    And yet... still totally cool and fun and I would like to see it again. So maybe I'm shallow.