Thursday, December 31, 2009

heppy noo years

This is the time of year I want to coat my head in a hair mask, cover my body in Vaseline, climb into a giant clean white sock, and hibernate like a bearkin for three to four months. And when winter's over: climb out, exfoliate, emerge baby-skinned new from the elements. Instead...we moisturize day by day. And give thanks for the new year and for surviving the old.
Which I do.
OSCAR: Felix, go to bed.
FELIX: Somehow it doesn't seem so bad now. I mean I think I can live with this thing.
OSCAR: Live with it tomorrow. Go to bed tonight.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The closet's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
(cf "To His Coy Mistress")

Monday, December 28, 2009

Today's irascible and wholly unprovoked thought: What the hell was up with AOL keywords? I suddenly got really mad thinking about them. Who was AOL to think they could divide up the whole universe with their own crude--and commerce-based--taxonomy?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

end of the polystyrene epoch

Today I backed up my computer's hard drive, then went and sold all my CDs. Before that I had gone through them and made sure they were all ripped onto iTunes, feeling odd and protective as I handled them--I chose these (I thought); why am I getting rid of them? I felt lost and panicked. But then I didn't. I don't want to say how much money I got for them, because the number is a ridiculous $.xx on the dollar, but I'm glad I got something. It was a thrill to get rid of my floppy inadequate Ikea media storage.

p.s. I kept the opera CDs.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Love! Fun, not too kitschy, packaging design, and GREAT packaging, period. I never got the necessity of the immediately-messy-upon-opening box of cornstarch, of which one never needs more than a tablespoon at a time, anyhow. Hence the actual size of this package also pleases. Yay.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Young Tori

Giving this one a big Eh. Some ingredients were there to make me happy, including E. Blunt, but in the end all the pretty conventional Sweeping Drama unfocused my attention. The movie seemed terribly turgid (disappointing; Gosford Park is such a great script). The textiles were unbelievable, needless to say, but the swoop of the biopic was strangely old-fashioned and bing-bang-boom. The bad guy tossed back liquor and toppled chairs in the scenes in which he wasn't scheming so we'd know he was bad. For instance. And the soundtrack violates Handel's Zadok the Priest horribly (I'm going to blame Fergie for that particular bit...why not). I liked very much the line about "punishing, not hating," but first impression of this flick definitely Eh.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

pull-apart deliciousness

(Enjoy this representative photo of not actual, but equally delicious-looking) Pancakes Northern Style at Lao Beijing tonight in Chinatown. Yummy fair food, basically. Perfect on a windy precipitous night. Warm steamy stretchy bready.

10 uncomfortable moments in prose

This list is random in a confusing, not cute, way. But there you go.

1. Doing an injury puts you below your enemy; revenging one makes you but even with him; forgiving it sets you above him. (Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanac)

I'm not so sure about that. Many oft-quoted ideas about forgiveness have a sort of encouraging edge (forgiving is so divine--you should totally do it) that's not really accurate. Forgiving is (just) forgiving. It's a great thing, but it doesn't make you better than good. The line has rather the air of a whited sepulchre, which isn't very Franklinny.

2. With a half-repentant, half-amused expression, Laurie gathered up all Jo's letters, smoothed, folded, and put them neatly into a small drawer of the desk, stood a minute turning the ring thoughtfully on his finger, then slowly drew it off, laid it with the letters, locked the drawer, and went out to hear High Mass at Saint Stefan's, feeling as if there had been a funeral, and though not overwhelmed with affliction, this seemed a more proper way to spend the rest of the day than in writing letters to charming young ladies. (Louisa May Alcott, Little Women)

What a great long sentence that is. I like it. I like very much "went out to hear High Mass at Saint Stefan's," which rings in my head a lot for some reason. But I will never buy the idea that it made more sense for Laurie to end up with Amy, not Jo. At least not for the reasons Alcott would have had us believe. I'm just not buying the idea that there was too much personality on both sides for Laurie and Jo to be happy together. It reminds me of a passage in Busman's Honeymoon: "[she] thinks there is too much intelligence on both sides--but I tell her not to be such a confirmed pessimist. I know heaps of couples who are both stupid as owls and not happy at all--so it doesn't really follow, one way or the other, does it?"

3. age cannot wither her (Shakespeare, Antony and Cleopatra)

Well, yes it can (boobs). But you get to keep the bags they came in! (Is that a really old joke? I heard it the other day and couldn't stop laughing.)

4. Honey Bunches of Oats (Post Cereals)

The noun adjunct in this product's name drives me batshit. I want to yell at the happy workers in their commercials (in the manner of Mary Haines): It's wrong, shockingly wrong! The fact that it works really well as a brand name and has good rhythm to it just makes the noun adjunct business more irritating, because this cereal isn't going away.

5. If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything. (Mark Twain)

That's crap. The truth is no signpost sunk in's as slippery as lies, the truth. Especially in the crucible of the brain. Remembering the truth is hard, the more so because sometimes you are remembering correctly but it's hard to know which is which. Slithy toves. I'm all for not lying, though.

6. I would be working in my little office and suddenly go as fast as I could out the door and up the road, until I had no breath left. Or my sister Anne would look at me and say, judiciously, as if I were a vase of flowers to be moved here and there, "You must go to Mexico." Then she would buy a ticket for me, and a new hat, and she would take care of visas. (MFK Fisher, The Gastronomical Me)

This passage--while beautiful--highlights a crucial Fisher problem: her funny verb usage which makes things that happened once seem as if they happened a lot; sometimes, it seems, in order to give situations weight. This passage feels like it catches her in the act (her sister bought lots of plane tickets and hats?), because it doesn't really make sense in the plural.

7. What am I gonna do when they invade Benedict Canyon armed with Uzis? Hold up a sign that says: DON'T SHOOT, I WAS EMPATHETIC . . . ? (Julia Phillips, You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again)

The "they" in this are African-Americans, and it's one of the cringier moments in that cringey, sad, but addictive book. It just doesn't quite work, even with her articulated self-awareness. Errrnngh.

8. But there was really no use entering upon an unrequited passion unless you were prepared to keep it up for at least five years. Seven years was best. There was something very noble about loving a person for seven years and getting nothing in return. (Barbara Pym, Gervase and Flora)

I love Barbara Pym, I love Gervase and Flora, I love how jolly Flora is in the face of rejection, I have made my peace with some Pym ideas that itch, I even kind of like the subversiveness of that line viewed in the abstract, but

9. It is my nature to persist in the positive. I may brood about a past failure but I am an optimist about what's to be. (Doris Day, Her Own Story)

This comes in the passage in which Doris is describing her feelings at her wedding to Marty Melcher, her third husband and manager who had a hand in bilking her of her life's earnings. You kind of want to leap into the book at that point and say, please stop calling this 'optimism'! Take the blinders off! But whatever. Monday morning quarterbacking.

10. The Champagne of Beers (Miller High Life)

I've never quite gotten this. Champagne, in the end, is ultimately just a category of liquor, which beer is also. So it's kind of like saying the Cotton of Silks. The Steak of Cakes. The A of Bs.
Yeah, baby (check out #3). Agreed, as both a giver and receiver.
Mascara Language gets even more action-movie with L'Oreal's Telescopic Explosion (you wouldn't think you'd want to put any of these things near your eyes, sometimes). TA-POW. The design is action movie too, suggestive of the telescope a general would decisively snap shut before barking war orders.

The absolute best part--to look at, haven't tried it yet--is the little brush, which is downright Seussian, and makes me think of this pompom on Sophie Tucker's head. I wish I could get a better photo of the fabulous spiky brush--it's totally cool, at least in its pristine state. We'll see if it actually works, which is why I bought it, cuteness aside. I find the physics of mascara application with current brush design extremely cumbersome, at least when using one's own arms.

Addendum: This stuff ROCKS. Yay lil spiky ball.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Note: Do not spill cocoa powder if you can help it. Trying to clean it up is like chasing mercury around the bathroom floor with a dust pan when you break a thermometer, the various states of matter fighting you at every turn. Cocoa is pernicious. It's powder, but it's also smeary and staining, not quite a solid, and has a density like osmium. It's both hard to collect and too easy to disperse at the same time. Like anthrax! Only yummy.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

pommes samedi soir!

Inspired by: cold weather; no real hurry for dinner combined with a fairly urgent need to use up some superannuated potatoes; tales of truffade (how neato does that stuff sound, although the cheese would probably kill me); a vague desire for rösti or something, eaten while wearing a ski sweater; and reading the (fairly fluffy, at times, I thought) article about Nora Ephron in The New Yorker from this spring, which made me think of Heartburn, and then in turn about her particular methods in it for potatoes. I didn't actually follow a recipe here, but this was basically (yet another not entirely successful attempt at) pommes anna. A pile of nicely cooked potatoes, with some hint of their former symmetry and order.

1. Layered sliced potatoes nicely and evenly in concentric circles in in pan with lots of butter and oil and shakings of salt & pepper over each whole layer. Dabbed bits (great bits) of butter all over the top. Started heat at medium high, turned it to medium low when I clamped on the lid and cooked easily for maybe...1-1/2 sitcoms. Longer than half an hour, less than an hour.

2. Removed lid and put plate slightly smaller than pan directly onto potatoes, weighted down with cans. Cooked for a while that way, encouraging the Fusing of the potatoes--maybe 20 minutes? Removed plate and loosened underneath carefully with a flexible spatula. Drained off extra fat as well as I could, holding the potatoes in place.

3. Put plate onto cooked potatoes and flipped out/over. Slid uncooked side into pan and turned up the heat. Crisped/cooked for another 5/10 minutes. Slid potato cake out onto a plate, whinging pitifully as the beautiful whorls of potatoes started to fall apart, but also realizing I didn't care that much. (I am a blotter--I blot the top and bottom of the thing.)

One strange phenomenon of getting older: not bothering to get embarrassed. Something genuinely embarrassing or humiliating happens--you react--move to react--but then catch yourself up short. Or lose steam.

Should I bother feeling bad about this? Being embarrassed? Do I want to? Nah, don't think so. Not really in the mood.

You choose to not be embarrassed. It's not a reactive decision, nor the empowering casting off of social strictures--nor is it the Fuck You that needs to be lobbed at shame sometimes to put in its place. It's just choice. Do I really want to get embarrassed about this, this thing that should embarrass me, by all rights? Eh. Neh. I could, but...not in the mood.

two seats

I was at the NAAFA convention (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) in Atlanta in 2002, the year that Southwest Airlines began enforcing their policy of making large--I think specifically "obese"--passengers pay for an extra seat if deemed necessary by their staff. It was the first time an airline had done this, although (as I understand it) most airlines had/have such policies in place, just not overtly enforced at that point. The clueless way the Southwest rep handled the press conference, as well as my perception of the general attitude of the company, made me determined to never fly their airline again, and I didn't for almost five years.

Now, though, things have changed, the main point being that I have accepted the idea of paying for two seats. I'm not thrilled, but I am willing to do it, for the comfort and safety of me and others and for my peace of mind. The last time I flew with just one seat (it was on Ted/United) a man pitched a fit and held up the plane--take-off was delayed for 15 minutes--as five flight attendants and customer service reps clustered around him and he complained about sitting next to me. Never again, and I hope that meathead continues to dodge bad karma.

The funniest part is that Southwest has become my airline of choice and I am extremely loyal to them. It turns out that having taken the step early on, the airline is much better accustomed to dealing with passengers of size. They have practice at dealing with the situation, and do so in a quiet, efficient fashion. They don't pretend the situation doesn't exist, they just manage it--no big deal. Their flight attendants hand out seat extenders, no fuss, and you are given a ticket to put in the tray table latch of your second seat to eliminate confusion about the "empty" spot. The airline makes every effort to refund you the cost of the second ticket if there is any empty room or non-working airline staff on the plane, and do so quickly, usually in less than four days. I appreciate that particular gesture on their part enormously--it really changes the flavor of this transaction in which I cough up twice the normal fare.

Most importantly, you are allowed to pre-board, so that you can get your two seats together.

Together. You wouldn't think that'd be necessary, but some airlines make large passengers buy two seats these days, then fight them about the second seat. I'm not going to name names, since the experiences aren't my own, but I have heard more stories these days from people I know flying on other airlines who buy two tickets only to have to defend the second spot. Flight attendants--caught in a fight with gate staff, sometimes--try to give it away, ask to give it away, challenge the passenger, sometimes don't even let them board at a time when they can find two seats next to each other. I've even heard of people who bought seats giving up their extra seat with no compensation, at the urging of flight attendants.

This shit makes me insane with fury. Not to mention it's slightly insane, period (would you like your two seats together, or many rows apart, sir?). If you make passengers of size buy two tickets, you actually can not give away the second seat to somebody else, nor make it impossible to use. What is the point? These policies have to be clear right up front, and the customer shouldn't be caught in the mess as airline staff tries to be "tactful" and tramples all over customer rights in the meantime. Not to mention if the airlines are so concerned about other passengers' comfort, why aren't they ensuring the second seat is used as bought? Aren't they trying to obviate situations where people are squished together uncomfortably? More than usual, I mean.

There is a really nasty flavor to this kind of terrible customer service. Bullying and shaming and dishonest. Unfair. Grinding up people in corporate waffling. Decide what you are trying to do, airlines.

I feel have reached a state of pretty happy détente with Southwest. I make my good faith gesture of coughing up for an extra seat, they reciprocate by refunding me for the gamble if they can. It's not perfect--I had to concede something significant to do it, and, note, there are no frequent flyer miles attached to the second seat if you pay for it--but I'm just fine with it so far. Goddang.

Friday, December 18, 2009

hüsker dü?

This time ten years ago: WTO riots in Seattle and Y2K fears. The end of forms with "19__" on them. Seventeen years of waiting to hear "1999" at just the right time finally pay off. Forgive me if it goes astray!


* I can sum up my problem with Alton Brown with one word: "Uh." It's how he uhs and why he uhs and the fact that he uhs. Blich.

* As the World Turns is going off the air. I feel the urge to contact my grandmother in a seance and see what she thinks. This is significant.

* Oh I wish I had seen Waiting for Godot with John Goodman this spring! Just do. Would like to see what he did with it.

* I liked J.R. Jones' article about Up in the Air coverage...touched on a phenom that's always itched. The About Schmidt / As Good As It Gets thing where appeal of Popular Actor is grafted into unlikeable-ish character and...there ya go (and usually Oscar). Not much story. Oh, I am short-handing.

* Tony Soprano totally bites it, by the way (in re: the last episode). That has become eminently clear to me, now that I know the show. No bones about it. What else is that? That's what that is.

* Tai Shan is going back to da panda homeland. Godspeed, lil dude! We will find a subletter for your apartment.
It is interesting, really, dead interesting, to my dilettantin' mind that "tadpole" didn't catch on, but "cougar" did, by way of describing the sexual dynamic between younger men and older women. In abstracted ways it makes sense (plus the tadpole image isn't particularly evocative), but it also seems terribly revealing about frightened attitudes toward female sexuality. The most popular definitions on are filled with lines like: "The cougar can frequently be seen in a padded bra, cleavage exposed, propped up against a swanky bar . . . waiting, watching, calculating; gearing up to sink her claws into an innocent young and strapping buck who happens to cross her path" and "It is not uncommon for the same Cougar to attack (sleep with) many different men in the same group of friends." There are other definitions there that are more complimentary (whatever)--with references to confidence, looks, financial status, emotional maturity--but the general impression gained is of predatory sexuality: "End state, she will be going for the kill, just like you." Cripes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Many congratters to Martha, Sheila and Paul--friends and compatriots, all--on the release of the Soup & Bread cookbook. I attended the snowy release party last Wednesday and it was sheer pleasure to surf each well-designed, thoughtfully edited, and beautifully illustrated page. I'm very happy to have some connection with the book--including a family recipe occupying the last spot. The book's for sale at various spots in Chicago and online (see S&B website for details).

The cookbook's great, but so is the grand idea from which it springs. Here's to a great Soup & Bread winter 2010. [photo stolen from their site]

Sunday, December 13, 2009

whitecaps of Martha madness

I used to be obsessed, as a person with an ongoing Martha Stewart habit--like any drug habit, silly and stupid, and I am full of cynicism as I light the crack pipe--with the absurd unrealism of Martha's nightstands. Their pristine, embarrassment- and product-free environments in which only reading glasses, books, fresh flowers and water are allowed to live.

I think I am more obsessed these days, though, with the unrealistic nature of all the home offices featured in her magazine. I'm getting downright pissed, which is silly, since I'm not paying for grotty realism here, but I'm starting to think these feelings might permanently unbalance the pain/pleasure Martha ratio.

The editing that goes on in the home office tableaux is too much to take! What is allowed to exist in them are:
  • pretty pens, uniform clumps of sharpened pencils
  • letterpress or engraved invitations
  • vintage stamps
  • photos, preferably old
  • paraphernalia related to old-fashioned activities such as writing airmail letters
  • well-designed office supplies, chosen in careful amounts
  • tickets, etc.
What is excluded is the actual--unfortunate, but real, actual--raw matter of office existence, which is PAPER. The deluge of PAPER we all live with, rich or poor. Paper paper paper. Bills, legal documents, applications, forms, statements, letters, printouts...not to mention the catalogs you can't keep out of your life, prospectuses, brochures... Nothing. Every once in a while a tri-folded piece of paper will appear in one of the Martha offices, but that's it. Nothing on 8-1/2 x 11" ever appears in these photos. Nothing computer-generated, nothing printed, nothing mass-mailed. No taxes, no insurance forms, no school applications, not the slightest hint of junk mail. No shredders. No nothing.

I'm taking this personally. It is a denial of one of the biggest demands of modern living, and the stated goals of her magazine, for what its worth--organization and such--to exclude evidence of the constant flow of paper in and out of our lives from these office scenarios.

These offices that look like the dainty surface of C.Z. Guest's escritoire, c. 1950: what are they telling us? There is an intimation in the set design they offer that anything other than the pretty acoutrement, which often are, frankly, signs of a lifestyle not shared by all, are indelicate. And not to be seen. Best kept out of sight. Managed--they are lurking in all the cloth clovered boxes and files, we feel--but not central. Somebody else is dealing with All That, maybe.

I think my reaction to the phenomenon of the MStew office is partly a matter of sensitivity--I don't care when they do the same thing, basically, in kitchens or closets. I get off on that. But here I find it painful and too full of denial to be comfortable. The flood of paper exists in absolutely everyone's life. You can divert it--maybe--but you can't cut it off. It's flowing through those offices somewhere.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Few Thoughts on Cab Creep

It is possible that I know more about riding in Chicago cabs than any human being now alive. Okay, maybe not, but I have logged serious, serious time in cabs, pushed many bills through the Plexiglass barriers, and can note therefore with some confidence:

The Very Most Annoying Thing That Cab Drivers Do

The Creep (AKA Taxi Creep, Cap Creep) is a function of a cab driver's (complete) inability to come to a complete stop--an inability to bring the vehicle to rest. Cab drivers spend all day--weeks, years--whizzing around the city, sliding through yellow lights, making rolling stops, getting through traffic as fast as they can (most of them, anyway), and eventually some drivers--or actually maybe the ones who do this have always done so, because they seem really attached to this behavior--just can't stop, period. They can't stop not stopping.

What happens during the Creep is that the cab will brake to a red light, but immediately take his foot of the brake and periodically pump it, so that the 60 seconds that you're at the light comprises a series of little herky-jerky lurches as you get farther and farther out through the crosswalks and beyond. I've been in cabs that were halfway through an intersection already when the light turns green. Creepers just can't sit there. They can usually manage about three seconds of Still, before they--unconsciously, I think--are in motion again with another pump. And another and another.

It's not just the slow creep into pedestrian traffic and intersections that is annoying, it's the feeling it creates. You can feel the (unconscious, but) building impatience from the driver's foot, through the cab, into your own body. You want to tell the dude (I've had about three female cab drivers in 20 years) to just stop. Stop! You can't make it go any faster, you aren't exempt from the normal rules of traffic, I'm tired of my body being hiccuped forward in tiny little lurches over and over. Please stop! (A parallel phenomenon, by the way, is the driver who does the same with the gas pedal--pumps the gas over and over, so that time on the open road is a series of accelerations rather than smooth rolling. It's just as annnoying. Please Go!)

There is absolutely nothing to do about the Creep, by the way. I do often make an involuntary gesture of putting my hand up on the seat in front of me to try to "stop" it--involuntary, inevitable, probably passive-aggressive in origin--but that does nothing. All I can do is note it.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

An even better version of "Forever, For Always, For Love" by Lalah Hathaway. That woman is making that song her own. Can't even believe some of the stuff she's doing with it.

Friday, December 04, 2009

I was on the 21st floor of a building today and got a slice of a view through the windows, that particular city view you get up high next to a nearby tall building (in this case the Hancock). It's not contextualized, that kind of view--just a slice of the window grid. A floor or two vertically, maybe, and nowhere near the whole width of the building. It looks fake, like a painted scenery backdrop positioned just outside the window you're looking out of. Flat. Fills the whole window.

This particular kind of view makes you realize how totally fabulous the Hancock building is. Because you always know it's the Hancock building, no matter how little of it you can see. You almost always get some of the cross brace. The single best example of brand identification I know.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

10 Movies I Had Not Seen But Recently Saw, So Now I've Seen Them

(see here for the plan)

Nothing comprehensive or even particularly pithy about these notes, just some thoughts. I really enjoyed seeing the movies, all but #9. And maybe #10.

1. The Big Lebowski

I found it both laborious and hilarious. Two things make me laugh even thinking about them: John Goodman yelling "Anti-Semite!" then clobbering that guy; and the no-dialogue cut to the shot of the three of them eating hamburgers in the wrecked car. I can see how this movie would grow on one in a culty way. All the repetition and all the "fuck"s...gotta be in that headspace, where it's not annoying (cause it can be) but good-droney and gets funnier. John Goodman is king, more or less.

2. The Insider

Me liked. Really liked R. Crowe. It is sort of a poignant movie to watch in the wake of deathofmedia, even feeling a little cynical about Al Pacino's heroics. I especially liked the moody cool colors (color wheel-wise) and Michael Mann threat/quiet in the opening suburban scenes.

3. Bottle Rocket

Not sure how well this movie has didn't stick with me particularly, and I get tired of movies where dudes are playing at being bad (content, form, otherwise). But I enjoyed. It showcased what I think critic J.R. Jones accurately calls Wes Anderson's most "irritating" aspects--"the precociousness, the sense of white-bread privilege" and "most endearing"--"the comic timing, the dollhouse ordering of invented worlds."

4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Why did we need to see Brooke Adams' boobies? That seemed very gratuitous. But I liked it. I thought parts of it were beautifully made (for some reason the scene shot from inside the car with Adams and Donald Sutherland really stuck with me). Great use of sound. And how interesting to see the phenom of San Francisco in the 70s in situ--seen critically, even. The premise of people's core selves disappearing is a chilling one. Very what-we're-all-afraid-of.

5. Zero Effect

Uneven, but really neat at times. I liked its neo-Sherlock Holmes aspect; liked weird-ass Bill Pullman; liked the unstrung insane genius stuff. Also its sense of humor (same with Bottle Rocket) and pacing. It was satisfying that the plot did not move along--most of the time--with big pointed gaspy revelations, but with evidence of Zero's observation, usually after the fact.

6. Gattaca

I would seriously pay to watch Jude Law dial the phone and not just because he's pretty. He is so good at being vulnerable, dissolute, petulant, scarred (oh I wish he'd try Sebastian Flyte, although I suppose he's too old). Anyhow, his performance helped sell this film for me, despite the ethanhawkeness and some overwroughtness. The quiet, thought-out aspects of its mise-en-scene linger. Not the more outre Brazil/Bladerunner-like echoes of time past, such as the ballroom, but the discipline in the costuming and set design. And I loved the use of Marin Civic Center and concrete, all the burnt-out yellows in the sky.

7. RKO 281

Melanie Griffith is strangely good and well-cast as Marion Davies in this film. Same with John Malkovich (very well-matched use of his nervy skills) and Roy Scheider. Liev Schreiber was missing the secret smile that made Orson Welles so Orson Welles, but he was good too. The scene in the elevator with Hearst and Welles, when the mixed phenomenon that is the transfer of power and attention/aging/achieving of the pointed finger is acknowledged, is great, and James Cromwell and Schreiber did it well.

8. The Shawshank Redemption

I am happy to say I did not know what was going to happen, and that this made watching the film incredibly entertaining. I gasped/clapped-hand-to-bosom both when the kid gets shot and at the moment when the hole in the cell wall is revealed by the sound of the rock going through the poster (see photo). I enjoyed strangely much the incidental music that plays against "If I Didn't Care" in the opening scenes, creeps in and undercuts it as they weave over and under each other--it has a mood not usually heard in expositions, it feels. I had an idea before I watched it that this movie was more sappy than tough, but it earns its ending. Oh--and the glistening shot of the mops in the tar and the aerial shot over the prison wall. Oh--and I love that the movie has two bad guys; that the focus shifts and a bigger, longer-term evil--that is less about physical power--is revealed. Three actorly notes: Morgan Freeman's last parole board scene made my heart clench; Tim Robbins wasn't quite as good as the movie, I thought--he needed to be weirder; it is so wrong to have a crush on Clancy Brown, but I always have.

9. Unbreakable

My first reaction: what a steaming pile of shit. That feeling hasn't changed much, although I remember it slightly less unpleasantly now. The filmmaking is downright masturbatory at times (oh the new-toy pans and pull-backs and slow tracking and widgey squidgy twitchies...the opening scene in the dressing room was ridiculous) and the titles at the end, which solemnly tell you What Happened to the characters, made me laugh out loud. But you know, Bruce Willis isn't half bad. The movie feels young in not very good ways.

10. Se7en

I can't believe I made it through this movie, and really, I didn't. I listened to most of it--not watched, listened; spoiled the plot twists with internet searching; squinted at it; got up and vacuumed, took out the trash; unloaded the dishwasher; watched it out of the corner of my eye; tried to get out of watching it in the middle with a gabbling phone call. I really couldn't handle it. It's very well-shaped/-made and clever, and all that cleverness is in service of just awful, awful shit. I had the sense it might be a little smug, but who knows. Morgan Freeman is great, although I think he was better in Shawshank (again, who knows); he seems to do better when he is bad as well as good, or even a lot bad (Street Smart). Still deciding what I think of the transfer of the story from the city out to the desert at the end...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

who knew (not I)

There is now something even bigger than Super Plus in the tampon market: Ultra. Ne plus ultra!