Friday, August 31, 2007

Film: To Have and Have Not

Apparently this movie has little in common with Hemingway's novel. What it does have is a whole lot of awesome. Bogey plays it somewhat differently than his hard-boiled detective (Spade or Marlowe)--here he's kind, caring, performs emergency surgery with confidence, and smiles a whole lot.

But who wouldn't smile at Lauren Bacall? She's only 19 here, in her first film role ever, but she has all the grace and worldliness of an actress who's been working for years. She tosses off the best lines of the film with a smoldering look, like she knows she destined for stardom and romance.

"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and -- blow."

To Have and Have Not
dir. by Howard Hawks, 1944

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Film: The Night of the Hunter

A visually iconic film: even if most people couldn't name it, they'd recognize the idea of a man with LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles. Robert Mitchum is that man, here, a traveling preacher who murders widows for money and believes that God tells him to.

This film is in the noir tradition, though instead of presenting the foggy or rain-slicked urban streets of a city, it deals entirely with rural West Virginia and the Ohio River. Shots of various animals are interspersed (rather than shots of city lights and lonely diners)--the whole effect is kind of strange.

The story is strange too. I wonder if the original plot didn't suffer under the strict rules of the Production Code. We're presented with many dualities: love/hate, good/evil, male/female. The children at the center of the film are saved by a woman who raises orphans and teaches them Bible stories, but who unfortunately talks to herself in much the same way the preacher does. This convention, particularly at the very end, lends a creepiness that I don't think was intended.

Still, I'm amazed that in 1955 a movie with such strong themes of female empowerment, female love and protection, and anti-religiosity was made at all. I love those bits, of course--how religion is really just an excuse for people to enact their bullshit personal politics all over you, and how children inevitably get caught in the middle. And how shit like that will kill you, because you really have to be a terrible person to manipulate people based on how fucked-up you are in the head and then have nerve to call that God.

The Night of the Hunter
dir. by Charles Laughton, 1955

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Film: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid

This movie wasn't really about its plot (notice the incredible lack of exposition) but about its characters. Or really, about its actors. Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn show everybody how it's done, and look like they're having the easiest time in the world doing it. Bob Dylan stands and squints a lot, and you love it because he's fucking Bob Dylan. Peckinpah throws in some of his beloved children (creepily hanging around the gallows and various dead bodies, but not really being put in danger the way they were in The Wild Bunch), naked breasts, somber landscapes--the whole thing has this tone to it that's very odd, very solemn, but it works.

And the soundtrack fucking owns. Cause it's Bob Dylan.

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid

dir. by Sam Peckinpah, 1973

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Film: Cracker Crazy: Invisible Histories of the Sunshine State

A weird documentary--totally one-sided, I'm sure, but interesting nonetheless. Deals with the hidden, ultra-violent history of Florida. I learned some things I never knew, heard stories about places I've lived, and generally laughed a lot at the archival footage and its eerie (sometimes entirely racist) narration. Worth seeing, for sure.

Cracker Crazy: Invisible Histories of the Sunshine State
dir. by Georg Kozulinski
presented by the Atlanta Underground Film Festival

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Some movies I have seen recently

Young Guns II was really strange. Oddly paced and not as fun as the first, but still pretty cool.

Me and You and Everyone We Know was cute and way weirder than I expected.

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus was the most amazing thing I've seen in a long time. Top five, for sure. I can't even really write about it, since it felt so close to me.

Stranger than Fiction was much, much better than I thought it would be. Maggie Gyllenhaal is my dream girl.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Film: Dead and Breakfast

How did I not hear about this movie sooner? It has a million and one things I love: Bianca Lawson, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Texas, country songs, zombies, Buddhists, Jeremy Sisto, line dancing, badass chicks, lots of cussing in Southern accents. On and on and on.

Totally hilarious, totally worth seeing unedited. And I want the soundtrack.

Dead and Breakfast
dir. by Matthew Leutwyler, 2004

Monday, August 13, 2007

Film: Stardust

The second Neil Gaiman novel I ever read finally becomes a movie--and does the book justice in a big way. Things have changed, it's true, but I really think all the changes were for the better (well, except for that perplexing opening scene with the scientists).

The humor is subtle, the landscapes are gorgeous, the fantasy is imaginative. The cast is splendid, especially Charlie Cox as Tristran. That boy needs to be a star. I really don't think I could heap enough praise on the film.

This was absolutely the most fun I've had at a movie in a long, long time. Possibly ever.

dir. by Matthew Vaughan, 2007

Film: Young Guns

"Regulators. We regulate any stealing off this property. And we're damn good too. But you can't be any geek off the street. Gotta be handy with the steel if you know what I mean, earn your keep."

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Book: The Historian

by Elizabeth Kostova (2005).

Bargain bin buy so I'd have a beach read when I went on vacation. Turns out I loved this book. I'm a big geek for historical research, monasteries, and really old books, so it's no wonder, really. This book reminded me of A.S. Byatt's Possession, and that's a big compliment. The story drags a bit in the middle, but picks back up again pretty quickly. The end in awesome, in that it subverts what you think the climax will be, and turns everything from a monster-hunting story into a family drama about people who are really lovely and worth being invested in.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Travel dreams: Villa Lante

Giardini #1
Originally uploaded by Roby Ferrari
I am now officially saving up to travel to Rome, Viterbo, and Bagnaia. My goal is to have enough money to go by September of next year.

I have wanted to see the Villa Lante, in Bagnaia, since I was 17. Time to make it happen.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Virtual monastery tours

I just found this absolutely fascinating page of virtual tours of monasteries, by a professor at Georgia College.

The Atlanta Water Gardens

Visiting the Atlanta Water Gardens is one of those extreme pleasures that soothes me for the rest of the day. I think it is entirely possibly that all my favorite places in the world relate directly to water.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Graphic novel: Young Avengers vol. 1

Sidekicks, by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung (2006).

I picked this book up solely because I wanted to catch myself up on the Young Avengers storyline, so I could read the Civil War Young Avengers/Runaways crossover.

And now, I kind of have a thing for teenage superheroes. This is no Runaways, by any means, but it's pretty enjoyable. Witty dialogue, awesomely huge fight scenes, appearances by Iron Man and Captain America, subtle but unmistakable references to a couple of the characters being gay--all of these things are positives as far as I'm concerned. The art in this book is fantastic as well. Wiccan is really hot.

I'm such a fangirl.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Book: Firebirds Rising

edited by Sharyn November (2006).

Not a terrific anthology, but it had a few moments. The Kelly Link story, "The Wizards of Perfil," was probably my favorite. "I'll Give You My Word" by Diana Wynne Jones and "In the House of the Seven Librarians" by Ellen Klages were my other favorites. Some of the stories I skipped outright. The Francesca Lia Block story was nothing special. "The House on the Planet" by Tanith Lee surprised me, in a good way. Emma Bull's "What Used to be Good Still Is" not only has a really cool title, but it got me excited for her new novel, Territory.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Film: 300

I love the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, and this movie does it big, stylized, and beautiful. I loved it. I loved that it was epic and still under 2 hours. I loved that Azazeal from Hex was in it. I loved that David Wenham not only has a wicked hot voice, but he also looks like he could be Nathan Fillion's older brother. And I loved the oracle scene the most, as if you had to guess.

dir. by Zack Snyder, 2007