Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Kids are All Right

The Kids Are All Right

I really was looking forward to this movie b/c I kept hearing great things about it, especially the performances.  While I thought the performances were really good, Annette Bening was really fabulous in this- I've really not seen any of her other movies besides American Beauty but I didn't like her much in that, while I absolutely loved her in this.  Julianne Moore was also great- Bening and Moore play a lesbian couple, Nic (rule and order oriented) and Jules (flightier), respectively, parents to two teenagers.  When their children, Joni and Laser, contact their sperm donor Paul, everyone becomes a bit enchanted with him (Nic less so than everyone else though).

I was disappointed that in the first half of the movie, Paul is really put front and center, perhaps b/c most of the characters are enamored with him.  It reminded me of why Knocked Up didn't really sit well with me b/c somehow the women can't ever "win;" sure they have a right to be mad at their significant others for being irresponsible, but don't the guys just seem funnier and don't they seem to have more fun?  It reminds me of how with TAs, for example, if you're a male TA and you're not a very strict grader, then you're considered "laid back" and that is totally cool, whereas if you're a female TA, it's hard to be anything but nit picky or a pushover (when you're less strict.)  And I seriously am not much of a feminist by any means.

The Kids Are All Right didn't quite go as far as that but it made me really uneasy when Jules, thankful for just being around someone who really appreciates her, starts an affair with Paul.  Later scenes in the movie made me feel for Jules's situation a bit more (For example a scene at the restaurant bar when she asks Nic if she sees her, if she's still attracted to her is heart breaking.  And I do understand where Jules is coming from- her spouse, Nic, is a successful doctor, while she's mostly been at home raising the kids or doing odd jobs), but still, it doesn't really make sense to have a LESBIAN character suddenly go straight for a guy.  And in that sense, the movie disappoints me b/c I was expecting a movie about lesbian parents to be more progressive.  The movie becomes much stronger when it brings the focus back on the family.  

Saturday, December 25, 2010


When some people get frustrated, they bake/cook.  Those people are, consequently, really awesome to have as house-mates or roommates.  When I get frustrated, I write and after a while of scribbling or furiously typing, I start feeling better.  (even though it is xmas).  I don't currently have a terrible amount of backlog since I got back into reading books (sort of) so if anyone has any book recommendations, especially something dark and Gothic, I would really appreciate hearing them.  I'll start off with the most recent and work backwards.       

Blood Diamond 
Danny Archer: T.I.A. This is Africa. 
Notables: About blood diamonds and child soldiers in war-torn Sierra Leone.  Features Leonardo Di Caprio with a Rhodesian accent (interesting huh?).  

Blood Diamond is a solid movie.  I like that it was about issues we don't usually see movies about: child soldiers and blood diamonds.  I like that it doesn't ever really get too preachy and that Danny Archer, our anti-hero remains an anti-hero, the devious smuggler that he is throughout it.  The skinned baboon, just when we thought that Danny was an okay guy who will eventually *do the right thing*, was a chilling reminder of what type of person he really was.  The cinematography, the relatively frequent shots of the African backdrop was also stunningly beautiful.  Dijmon Hounsou was fantastic as distressed father Solomon Vandy and really, the moral center and heart of the movie.  While I generally liked Jennifer Connelly's character journalist Maddy Brown, I'm still not sure if I see the character as anything more than a very cool and very kick ass Robin Scherbatsky had Robin decided to become a journalist, instead of a news anchor.  Ultimately, though, I don't think Blood Diamond will come off as being too memorable b/c while it is a good movie, I think it could have really benefited by having a less polished, big-budget- movie feel.  It doesn't spare us details in the violence but had it been gritter, in this case, it really could have made the movie more resonant and memorable.                    

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously
And then too there was the matter of the blog.  Old Sam could write whatever he wanted because no one was ever going to read it.  But I had an audience, disembodied and tiny though it might be.  I wasn't much afraid of writing something that would make me look pathetic or incompetent, nor of getting myself sued.  But I didn't want to look, you know conceited.  Because under the sheer terror, I was pretty damned proud of myself.   - Julia Powell
Julia Powell's memoir is entertaining and chronicles when Powell pursued the Julie/Julia project: to make all 586 dishes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol 1 and keep a blog about it.  Powell has a really great writing voice that's entertaining, sometimes profane ("Bitch rice" in reference to this very particular way Julia Child makes rice has got to be one of my favorite terms ever), funny, self-deprecating, and very relatable.  Even towards the end when she's getting all these interviews about her project and she's finally become satisfied and happy, more or less, with her life, it really comes as a natural progression- she addresses her successes in a very approachable way and you think, that yes, if you were in her situation you'd feel and act similarly.  You actually feel happy for her and I think that's a very hard feat to accomplish b/c usually when I read books where the protagonist somehow pulls their lives together over the course of the book, it feels sudden and like "okay, perhaps for this particular protagonist, it works out well that way, but there's no way it'll work like that in real/my life."             

My Cousin Rachel
He swing between earth and sky upon his gibbet, or, as my cousin Ambrose told me, betwixt heaven and hell.  Heaven, he would never achieve, and the hell that he had known was lost to him.  Ambrose prodded at the body with his stick.  I can see it now, moving with the wind like a weather-vane on a rusty pivot, a poor scarecrow of what had been a man. - Daphne du Marier
Damn.  What a beginning.  What a fabulous, moody, dark tone My Cousin Rachel had and maintained for at least the first 10 chapters or so.  I ordered this book off since it got 4.5 stars and I'd read Daphne du Marier's other novel, Rebecca, a long time ago and remembered really liking it-especially how gorgeous the writing was and also just how tautly constructed the story was.  The first 10 chapters of My Cousin Rachel are fantastic.  Philip Ashley narrates the past, when he was more innocent and naive, and It's a dark world the characters inhabit.  Ambrose Ashley never really comes across as harsh a character as he does in the first chapter and proves himself to be a likable, quirky sort of uncle.  The book really is at its best when Ambrose first leaves for his yearly vacation and he, a sworn bachelor, suddenly gets married to his cousin Rachel.  There's something that never seems quite right although it's hard to put in words.  It's unfortunate that the novel loses its momentum, the eeriness when  Rachel arrives and Philip starts getting charmed by her.  I spent a good amount of time being utterly frustrated by how idiotic Philip's decisions and reasoning became as time progressed and while the novel does pick up again towards the last few chapters (post birthday), I remain frustrated by all the ambiguity.  

Speaking of ambiguity...
Eyes Wide Shut is extremely ambiguous, and I'm still not quite sure what to think of it.  It has some incredibly sexy scenes- the opening- wow! (and I'm a straight girl lol) and the infamous orgy scene just drips with sensuality but is disturbing- really worth seeing though.  The pacing feels off sometimes, the long conversation near the end really kills the mood of the movie.  Eyes Wide Shut is at its very best near the beginning of the middle, when Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise), haunted by his wife Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman)'s declaration that she would have cheated on him, risked and given up their whole marriage and family just to be with this sailor they saw once at a hotel on vacation, starts on his infamous trek across town.  On the trek, he encounters various women who all show an interest in him until finally, culminating in a visit to the infamous mansion.  Regardless of the ambiguity though, I applaud this movie for having a Xmasy backdrop.

And with that, Merry Christmas to all and to all-