Monday, December 25, 2006

The Holiday

Slim pickings here in Sheboygan, WI. We saw this on Christmas Eve. It has cute moments and Kate Winslet is gorgeous, but overall it’s a chick flick you should feel free to skip. Jude Law’s character is the embodiment of what Dan Savage has been complaining about in his column lately – the completely unbelievable male lead in romantic comedies which trains gullible women to believe that men like this actually exist – which they don’t. Anywhere. In the entire world. And that’s fine, because I don’t think I could deal with a man like that. But at every one of the contrived “sweet” plot twists involving Jude Law’s character, everyone in the audience said, “Awwww…” I’m serious! I had to admit he looked more handsome than usual. Whatever, I’m excited to get back to Chicago and a better selection of films.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Movie #92 – The Queen

So close to 100, I can taste it… but I’m still not sure I’ll hit 100 this year. Actually, what am I saying? I’ll do it, easily. Only 7 more this year? No problem.

Much to my surprise, the Logan Budget theater is now showing The Queen. I was hoping that I’d be the only person at the 4:20 screening, but there was a crowd of about 6. I’ve still never been the only person in a theater at a movie since I moved to Chicago – and that’s after at least 350 separate viewings. Oh well.

This movie was great. Very funny and well-filmed. Everyone seems to agree that Helen Mirren is the bomb – and she is. The part was absolutely perfectly acted, down to the most miniscule detail. I smell an Oscar nomination! Me and a bunch of other people! I don’t have a whole lot else to say about this movie, but it did make me think about what it must be like to live under monarchy rule – I mean, I’ve always known England is a monarchy, and I’ve seen countless British movies and TV programs, but it never really occurred to me how much that political system can influence people on a daily basis.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Mini Movie Day

I went to River East for another full day of movies, but couldn’t time it out right to see three movies, so just stuck to two. They raised ticket prices again – now the pre-noon shows are $6 (and night screenings are $10 – ouch!)

This was a pleasant diversion, but as with all of Christopher Guest’s movies, it felt slight. Lots of funny characters and situations, but nothing earth-shattering. Taking a stab at Hollywood types is pretty easy satire, after all. It’s definitely worth watching for Catherine O’Hara’s shocking and all-too-real transformation over the course of the film. You’ll know what I mean if you see it – I don’t quite know how she pulled it off, but it’s scary.

This movie is getting mixed reviews, which is bound to happen since it’s an Art Film with a capital A. It’s definitely overblown and strains credibility, but I was extremely moved by it. All the special effects are done the old-fashioned way, with sculpted miniatures and manipulated microscopic images. When viewed as just a series of images, the movie is a staggering achievement, and one of the most artfully-filmed movies I’ve ever seen. It also has a twisty-turny narrative that quite frankly made little sense. But if you’re able to sit back and just let yourself get washed away, it’s mind-blowing. I was crying and devastated by the end of the film. Seriously, Darren Aronofsky deserves accolades for this movie – how many directors set out to make movies that are celestial, transcendant, elusive, and cerebral? He’s hitting big issues here head-on, and there are no easy answers. Gut-wrenching and eye-searing. Definitely in the top ten of the year.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Wonder Spot

Book #15 - The Wonder Spot, by Melissa Bank

Let's just start off by lamenting the fact that I'm going to be a minimum of eight books off my (stupidly easy) goal of 25 for the year. That is sad and pathetic, but I'm planning to do penance by adding whatever I've got remaining this year to my 25 for next year. Someday, I will stop watching so much Intervention and Top Chef, and start on my two full shelves of unread books.

A little time in the airport and on the plane to Chicago and back (hi Maya!) was the perfect amount of time in which to read The Wonder Spot. This is the second novel by Melissa Bank, the author of The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing, which Sandy posted about earlier this year. This novel follows the same narrative style - short vignettes about one woman at various points in her life. It's chick lit in that it's by and about a chick, and she dates people. That's pretty much the model, right?

Well, to be more specific, the model is something like: "Girl is underappreciated and underpaid at the law office / publishing house / ad firm where she works, but at least she's got her gay best friend who helps Girl shop for shoes so that she looks fabulous for her date with Dream Guy who is in fact not as wonderful as he seems, but in the meantime Good Buddy is waiting in the wings and it turns out he is in fact her perfect match."

Thankfully, Melissa Bank avoids most of those traps. There is no one guy waiting in the wings for Sophie. There are many guys, all shapes and ages, all of them a little wrong in their own ways. Even in the end, it's not clear that Sophie has found happily ever after. Instead, to quote a chick lit fave, she's found "happy right now." OK, seriously, the book is not as cheesy as it sounds.

But it's impossible not to compare it with Girl's Guide, and I found it less 3-dimensional. The characters and the world they inhabit seemed less real and less engaging. It's a good read, but I hope that Melissa Bank tries something new with her next book, because I think she's got it in her.