Monday, July 30, 2007

Film: Sunshine

Danny Boyle never makes the same film twice. Not even the same genre. Not even the same universe. That's part of the reason I love his movies so much.

This one started off a bit too scifi for me--I get a little bored with pretty shots of spaceships and stars. But it was visually interesting enough (read: it had Cillian Murphy) to keep me involved until things started going nuts.

After that scary, this-is-where-everything-changes point, it was so intense I pulled me hoodie up over my head and nearly hid from the screen. Hands to mouth, gasping, jumping, loving every second of it.

dir. by Danny Boyle, 2007

Book: The Spiderwick Chronicles vol. 1: The Field Guide

by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi (2003).

Super-fast but fun little read. The illustrations really made this book for me--reminded me of old Nancy Drew volumes (where the pictures have a quote from the text and then you read the chapter, wondering when you'll get to that sentence).

I wonder how many of the five books the movie will cover. The first book could be done very quickly onscreen, but who knows how it'll actually play out. Anyway, I'm excited to read more.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Film: Angel-A

Luc Besson is one of my faves. And Rie Rassmussen is an absolute goddess. How could I not love this movie?

Well. I was almost bothered by the Rohmer-style hyper-talkative bent of the film. I think things like that are easier to deal with when you aren't reading subtitles, when you can look into the actors' faces and hear their inflections (Before Sunrise, for instance, was all talk but I loved it).

But by the end of the movie, as I realized what it was really about, I felt completely swept away by it. I owe it to Jacob from TWoP that I have the words and phrases to think about this movie: the ramp up to God, which is terrible, but not so terrible that you wouldn't fight like hell to avoid the ramp back down.

dir. by Luc Besson, 2005

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Film: The Illusionist

One of the more beautiful pieces of cinema I've seen recently. The pace was a little bit slow, but the visuals were such a delight, I couldn't even begin to be bored.

I enjoyed the blurred line between "magic" and "illusion," which was primarily the function of the gorgeous camera work. Eisenheim's tricks really do seem to be impossible, because the film effects allow them to be seamless.

I really want to read the short story this was based on, to see how this effect is achieved with words.

The Illusionist
dir. by Neil Burger, 2006

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Graphic Novel: Runaways vol. 3

by Brian K. Vaughan, Adrian Alphona, et al (2007).

And thus ends the creators' run on one of the best comics I've ever read. Seriously, Runaways just keeps getting more and more awesome as the issues tick by. The kids keep growing up, which both sucks and is a lot of fun, at alternating moments.

The dialogue packed the hardest punch in this volume--always funny, witty, and a bit more Joss-y than I remember. Which fits, since Whedon has taken over writing duties for the 6 issues that come directly after this. As Jenny said, "They're easing you into it." There are a lot of parallels between the structure and specifics of this story and your garden-variety Whedon tale: chosen family, teenagers with super powers, the growing-up-is-hell theme, mistrust of adults. I point these out not as a negative, but because they're the kinds of things that make a story resonate with me.

If these next 6 issues are going to be the last (they haven't announced anyone else taking on writing duties afterwards), then I'm hoping for an epic superhero battle on par with Joss Whedon's tv and movie work.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by J. K. Rowling (2007).

Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl, and they were in many, many stories. They were in love, like really totally in love, but one or the other (or both) were charged with a Quest. And at the conclusion of this Quest, circumstances were such that they just couldn't be together, no matter how much love there had been.

The final book in the Harry Potter series is, thankfully, not that kind of story. It's a big story, and I could say a lot of things here about it. But the only really important thing, for me at this moment, is that it ends with love, with friendship and hope and life going on.

Of course, as another Hero once said, "The hardest thing about this world is having to live in it."

Monday, July 23, 2007

Book: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

by J.K. Rowling (2005).

I come really late to the Harry Potter fandom, mostly due to the fact that the books and movies became wildly popular while I was in college, and I didn't allow myself time to get hooked. But between the new movie, the last book of the series, and all my friends who adore HP, I wanted to jump on the bandwagon, for once, so as not to miss out.

12:01 am Saturday morning saw the release of the 7th book, but I had to read the 6th (the only story I knew nothing about), while waiting for Jenny to finish with her copy of the 7th. I plowed through book 6's 650-odd pages in less than a day.

I had been spoiled on one major thing back in 2005, but it didn't ruin any of my enjoyment--and that's a testament to how good these books are. Also compulsively readable, which I had forgotten in the 6 or so years since I read 1 through 3.

The story of the Half-Blood Prince works, in some ways, like part one of a two-part tv episode. Thinking back on it, there's not a huge amount of separate plot (as opposed to the first book, for instance). But it didn't read like that at the time. I guess it is also the story of the old guard imparting vital knowledge to the younger set, then stepping back and leaving them to the do the real work on their own. It's also about deception, double-crossing, and how maybe everyone is just as terrible as you had hoped they weren't (and I mean that all across the board, from Malfoy to Snape to Hermione and Ron)--much in the same way the story of book 5 is about how everyone is an orphan.

I said in my entry about the 5th movie that it had to be the loneliest sustained place in the plot; that prediction definitely bore out here. Everyone gets to have someone, even if they don't know it yet, even if they have to end it before taking the next step on the journey. Thank goodness for Rowling and her believable 16-year-olds. Thank goodness, also, for the quiet maturity and determination of Harry himself. I think he's earned that hero title a million times more than Frodo ever did.

And now I'm resuming my complete media lockdown, so I can finish book 7 without being spoiled.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Book: The Ruby in the Smoke

by Philip Pullman (1985).

Quick-reading Victorian mystery story from the author of my favorite series of fantasy books ever. This book in no way held up to the amazing-ness of His Dark Materials, but it was thoroughly enjoyable in its own right.

Sally Lockhart is a Victorian heroine after my own heart: smart, tough, capable, afraid but almost never paralyzed by her fear. She gets thrown into the middle of a double mystery, and rather than turn away from it, she plunges herself in with determination. A little bit of a Victorian-era Veronica Mars, you might say.

(This quality comes up in a lot of my favorite stories, and the best response, I think, is always to dive in straightaway. Your life is probably going to get fucked up anyway, if that mystery is knocking on your door, so there's no point in playing ostrich and thinking you'll stay safe. Just turn around and face it head on, and you save yourself the time, the crying/denying/hiding/etc. Plus your dignity.)

And now I get to watch the BBC filmed version of the story, starring Billie Piper, my all-time favorite companion.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Graphic Novel: Serenity: Those Left Behind

by Joss Whedon et al (2006).

Reread because the first time around, last summer, I hadn't seen the series in too long, and missed out on a bunch of the things that give impact to the story.

Much better this time around, since I actually know what's going on. The story is good, but very short. I guess it was just meant to be a little piece of filler, fitting between the show and the movie. The art is amazing. Well, the action doesn't always come across perfectly. But let's be honest--I'd rather see live action than read a comic, but I'd rather read a comic than not have more of the Firefly/Serenity 'verse at all.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Book: A Natural History of the Senses

by Diane Ackerman (1994).

One of my new favorite works of non-fiction. Ackerman plumbs the depth and expands the breadth of each of our five senses. She uses poetry, science, art, analysis, and many wonderful anecdotes to tease out truths (as opposed to mere facts) about human sense and sensation.

She clearly embraces her own senses, and emerges in the book as lovingly devoted to creating and capturing moments of sensual delight. When she writes about seeing, or smelling, or tasting, something particularly wonderful, she enhances the reader's own sense of sensing.

This book left me feeling very inspired, and that's something I both appreciate, and desperately want more of.

Film: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Remember how I said the movies take a dark turn at the end of Goblet of Fire? I loved it, and I thought it was the perfect move for the story. This film continues that darkness, carries it all the way through, and broke my heart with it. I'm intensely impressed.

I thought (having only recently caught up with the story) it was possible that the story remained in the arena of entertainment, light and fun for the majority, not daring to jump into the dark places of real storytelling. I was totally wrong. And I love that.

This movie was slower, less thrilling, more depressing than its predecessors. But everything was so intensely felt, the experience was completely satisfying. It felt like a slow burn. It felt like the middle of something epic. It was also sophisticated, looking both to the outside world and to personal mythologies. The consolidated authority held power over all of our outcast heroes. It treated them unfairly. But so did the world. Everyone in this movie was an orphan. But they've learned to work together, and there's nowhere to go but up. (Which doesn't mean it isn't going to suck, and be really hard to deal with, and kill people and make you cry. It is. But I think this was the loneliest sustained point of the story.)

I don't know what happens next, so I don't know if the story will deliver on all its promises. But I'm holding out hope that it will.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
dir. by David Yates, 2007

Monday, July 09, 2007

Book: Strapless

John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X by Deborah Davis (2003).

Madame X is one of my favorite paintings, but until I heard about this book a few years ago, I never knew there was the story of a scandal behind it.

Virginie Amélie Avegno Gautreau, called Amélie by her friends, originally appeared in the portrait with one strap of her luscious black dress hanging off her shoulder. When exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1884, it shocked and offended the fickle French. Both painter and model were disparaged in major news sources.

Davis tells the story of Amélie and Sargent, the history of the painting, and what happened at the end of it all. She evokes late 19th century Paris with style and grace, making the book a compelling read. And yet, little actually happened. No lives were ruined, only hampered briefly.

Still, it's refreshing to read this story, which was lost to history until rather recently. Sargent repainted the strap to sit demurely on her shoulder, and only a photograph and an engraving of the painting as originally displayed survive today. Davis does well to leave out any feminist implications, instead letting her work of uncovering Amélie's history speak for itself.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Film: Bright Young Things

Like the history of the English frame of mind from 1931 - 1945ish. Which means it was fun, and then awful, and totally inexplicable. I don't know that I enjoyed all the plot twists toward the end. But I did enjoy David Tennant, and to be honest, that's the only real reason I watched it.

Bright Young Things
dir. by Stephen Fry, 2003

Film: Tranformers

Michael Bay: "My helicopters. Let me show you them."

No really, I enjoyed the movie immensely. I cared about the Autobots, I liked the humans, I got the story, and the action was awesome. Perfect summer entertainment.

And now I'm going to pretend that my car can transform into an ass-kicking robot.

dir. by Michael Bay, 2007

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Film: The Great Harry Potter (Re)Watch

All four movies in just a few days. I had only previously seen the first two, and read the first three books. Still like the first two films, but my goodness am I glad they started getting new directors.

Alfonso Cuaron is, of course, a genius in my book and has turned in the best complete package so far. The kids are all super-attractive, messy like real people, fun and funny like the kids you actually want to hang out with, and the colors are gorgeous.

The fourth film was a spectacle, all about the giant tableau (Quidditch World Cup) and Ralph Fiennes. These things are perfectly alright with me. Ron and the twins just keep getting cuter. But then there is that terribly sad ending, and it becomes so awfully real. Real hurt. The only turn things should have taken.

Mainly I am excited for the fifth movie--I don't know what happens, and I like that. I am up for being surprised.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Film: Casanova

I doubt that there could be more things I love in one place than there are in this Masterpiece Theatre miniseries. Peter O'Toole, David Tennant, Russel T Davies, period costumes, period dance, lots of sex, blasphemy, literature, doomed love, all the capitals of Europe.

But more than just my personal button-pushing geeky things, the story tracked emotionally. I was engaged the whole way through. I cried really hard at the end.

After seeing this, Casanova takes a place next to Cyrano de Bergerac as one of my favorite famous lovers.

(Masterpiece Theatre miniseries)
dir. by Sheree Folkson, 2005

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Film: The Producers

Like we didn't know I'd love this.

Plus: John Barrowman as a blonde!

The Producers
dir. by Susan Stroman, 2005

Monday, July 02, 2007

Louvre Atlanta, second visit

Splendid and beautiful, and so very comforting. I stood for a long time in front of The Arcadian Shepherds.

And I got to visit with Mme de Pompadour, who really is like an old friend to me now.

On the Annie Leibowitz exhibition at the High

I wish I could find a copy of the Cash family portrait on display. Johnny, his grandson, Roseanne, and June, all on the porch together, in maybe 2001. I wish I could find a copy of it so I could always remember how it looks. But what I will remember is how I stood in front of it, in a gallery teeming with people, and was still, and cried.