Friday, October 28, 2011

Teach your children well

Walking down the street this morning, coffee in one hand, dragging my renewed vacuum cleaner in the other, I was repeatedly stopped by passerby, all men, with cheeky comments like "Ah, my fantasy come true! Coffee and cleanliness" or "Hey, pretty lady, wanna come clean my carpets for me?" or, the best/worst, "Now, that is sexy. A woman who brings me breakfast when she comes to clean my house." Wow. I was too stunned to really react as I wish I had. I said nothing. At least I didn't smile, giving them at least a little bit of what they wanted.

That the image of a woman with coffee and a vacuum cleaner would illicit such responses from absolute strangers is remarkable to me, literally, like I NEED to remark upon it. When and where do such stereotypes become embodied I wonder. When are boys taught that a good girl cleans for them? That they deserve to be "brought" coffee? That they can speak to women they don't know this way? I don't know. I just hope all the women and men I know who are raising boys right now actively teach them the opposite of the stereotype. That they teach them to respect themselves enough to respect all the women in their lives, even the ones they don't know who are simply walking down their neighborhood street.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

be however you want to be

Seems like everywhere I look there's a photo of Halle Berry looking impossibly fit in a bikini top and sarong with the caption "How Halle looks so amazing on her 45th birthday!"

Simple. She eats sparingly, and nothing past 7pm (or so I've read), and works out with a trainer 4-5 days a week. I understand that being gorgeous is just part of her job, why she makes millions of dollars even though I can't remember the last film she made of any worth. Who I really feel sorry for is her daughter because what she's being taught is deny yourself to be what the world wants you to be. We tell our daughters you can be whatever you astronaut, artist, president...which is true. What we don't tell them is that you can't be however you want. It's a struggle in this world as a female to have too strong a voice, a contrary opinion, or viewpoint. And when almost every woman I know with a young daughter is on a perpetual diet I wonder what exactly we are teaching them about being however they want.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Feelin like a hater lately

I've realized that yes, I pretty much live for watching movies and reading novels, but I really also like to vent. A blog can really be like an out loud diary in which I vent and don't edit and thus I will be more able to actually express this stuff that drives me bonkers, like...

~ runners who don't leave enough room between themselves and anyone else so they bump you as they race by, only to turn back around and glare at you, yes you, because you dared to walk instead of run. it's your knees, people.

~ rick perry announcing he's running for president.

~ drivers who park so poorly they end up taking up two spaces.

~ people who make their dogs run alongside them while they bike. really?

~ racism tanking our economy.

In general, just f&*^$in tired of this narcissistic, ego-driven, paternalistic society we find ourselves in. "Oh, but not in the bay area!" folks say...ummm, yeah, even here.
I've failed in the past, but I swear I'm gonna keep writin' this crap down so some people here it and our wee ones inherit a better earth.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Academy Awards: I've Seen it All Before

Okay, I'm back. I know, I know, it's been a while since I've written, but now we are in post-Oscars week and I feel it's time to voice my hurt.

Last night I finally saw "The King's Speech." This is what I wrote before I actually saw it: "Speech is a lovely film with stellar performances, a story of triumph, and a friendship of such beauty it could only be fictional, only it's not. I knew I was going to cry at least once going into the film, but was surprised by how truly moved I was." And guess what, it's all true, except for the crying part, which never quite happened. My heart did swell once or twice, though, and I did watch with bated breath and clenched fists as Bertie delivered his final speech, mostly stammer free.

In the end, Speech is like a a charming cafe with surprisingly good cappuccino that you happen upon while strolling with a lover. You didn't expect too much from it and thus are happily surprised to find it so warm and inviting, if just a wee bit precious. Geoffrey Rush is perfection. Everything from the way he performs Shakespeare for his sons to the way his eyes grow still with pain whenever Bertie struggles to get a word out, his is a truly empathetic performance. In some ways, I would have preferred a film about Lionel Logue and his life, a failed actor who achieves his greatest performance as coach, confidant, and mentor to a king.

I also thought it was a beautiful film to look at and am surprised it didn't win awards for best performance by a wall (the aging one in Logue's office we so often see Colin Firth against) or best use of fog to convey a stroll that is about to end badly.

Alas, no, it is not worthy of Best Picture, especially in a year when The Social Network, The Fighter, and Winter's Bone exist. What really galls me, though, is Tom Hooper triumphing over David Fincher. Really? Hooper has one trick up his sleeve, using the microphones and many other props throughout the film, as metaphors for the fishbowl of a world Bertie finds himself in. So often the academy awards people for a body of work so it is even more surprising they went for the 39-year old Hooper whose past credits barely include any feature films, but instead lay mostly in fine television, such as John Adams and lots of Masterpiece Theatre.

I know it is more rare for the right film to win than not, yet still, every year when my choice loses I feel somehow snowed, robbed, bamboozled. I blame Harvey Weinstein.

As for the ceremony itself what can I say except... Oy! Anne Hathaway trying too hard, James Franco barely trying at all. Putting the twenty-eight year-old starlet in dress after dress better suited to my Aunt Ida on my mother's side, putting Franco in drag (um, why? all for that lame Charlie Sheen joke?). They had so little chemistry I felt uncomfortable for them. In fact, I think they hate each other. AWKward.

Corey Haim being left out of the Memoriams.....Hello, has no one in the Academy seen LUCAS?!

When the highlight is a young NYU film student with a fantastic fro winning for Best Short Film you know you're in trouble.

For dresses I am partial to Scarlett Johannson's wine-colored lace number that showed off her awesome throwback figure, Cate Blanchett's crazy-spacey-architectural-with-yellow- appliques/or-was-that-pee-number, and Hallie Steinfeld's- I may only be 14 but I know how this is done better than y'all -ballerina look.

For more on the true nature of the Oscars and someone else's opinions that I agree with check out the New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis' piece :

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Fighter: When your ack's against the ropes

"The Fighter," like all great sports movies, is about so much more than sports. It's really about family and the lengths to which we'll go for the love of one. It is about the fight waged within the boxing ring, as well as the fight waged within oneself. At the center of this timeless tale is Mark Wahlberg as Mickey Ward, a junior welterweight from Lowell, Mass. Wahlberg consistently surprises me. He is such a quiet actor, so quiet that sometimes one has to wonder if he is really acting. And maybe he isn't. Maybe his performances in films like "Three Kings", "I Heart Huckabees", "Date Night" and now The Fighter are mostly extensions of himself, but even if that is the case he has this beautifully still presence that makes you listen, wonder, and root for him. He can somehow play both punk and prince, comedy and tragedy, making him all the more intriguing to watch.

No more is this the case than in his latest film when all the press has been about Christian Bale, as Ward's older brother, the drug-addled Dickie Ecklund, in a performance that never stops moving. They're both excellent, but Wahlberg's wounded eyes and exhausted posture ground the film in its intense heart. He is a man being suffocated by his family, their need, their want, their demand. At times I was reminded of Michael Corleone in "The Godfather" who takes on the mantle of his imposing father because no one is else in the family is suited to do so, not because he wants to. And in the same way that Mickey must, in some ways, fight his way into glory because his brother no longer can, Michael takes on his role once an attempt is made on his father's life and revenge must be gotten. In a family, being the strongest or the smartest is usually also the greatest burden.

Mickey has a gaggle of sisters, akin to the Shakesperean furies, a mother who uses him as much as she loves him, and a brother whose destructive tendencies are all the more heartbreaking because these brothers really are the loves of each other's lives. And this is what The Fighter does so well; it illustrates the complicated nature of love and family. Mickey's mother is neither demon nor angel, but she is desperate. In her son, she sees an escape from a middling, cash-strapped life and boy does she want it. For Dickie Ecklund, his brother represents a chance at the good life, filled with all the glory he never attained. But Dickie also wants to see his little brother succeed because, to put it simply, he loves him. No more is this truth more apparent than once the final credits have started rolling and we get a glimpse of the real Mickey and Dickie in all their brotherly love. It's rare that you see an american film deal with so many shifting shades of gray and uneasily answered questions.

Which is why Mickey's story reminded me also of "The Wire" (quite possibly the greatest television show I have ever seen, by the way). The Wire too is constantly exploring themes of family and loyalty and where the individual fits into all this, if they do at all. And if you didn't have your family what would be the point to it all anyway? How far should you go to help your family before you risk losing yourself? How does an individual seek their own happiness without becoming selfish in that quest? Again, these are not easily answered questions, but they are ones worth asking and I love the makers of The Fighter for asking them.
Other boxing films I'd recommend: Ali, Girlfight, Requiem for a Heavyweight, and Million Dollar Baby

Friday, January 28, 2011

Considering this blog is, among other things, an ode to my undying love for all things pop culture (I mean, hello, I'm watching Sex and the City as I write this), I thought I'd start with my thoughts on this week's Oscar nominations...

Seeing that the 'The King's Speech' garnered more nominational love than 'The Social Network' my prediction is that Speech will win picture, while Fincher will take home director honors, akin to the year 'Crash' beat out 'Brokeback Mountain' (which still stings), but Ang Lee took Director.

Speech is a lovely film with stellar performances, a story of triumph, and a friendship of such beauty it could only be fictional, only it's not. I knew I was going to cry at least once going into the film, but was surprised by how truly moved I was. Okay, to be honest, I haven't actually seen Speech yet, but I feel like I have and that's why it will probably win. It's a period drama, British to boot, and safe. Unlike Network which may not be about serial killers, but really is as dark and moody as any other Fincher film you're likely to see. Network is truly about something shaping our present and our future and we know those movies never get the Academy's love. Why deal with the unknown of the future when the past is so pretty and...past?

Colin Firth pretty much has a lock on best actor, which is just fine with me, especially since it'll be like he's winning for last year's A Single Man, as well, a quiet, haunting performance that was literally heartbreaking. For me, he will always be Mr. Darcy emerging from the water in wet shirt and scowl.

And while I love me some Annette Bening I'm afraid not even she can beat the media juggernaut that is Natalie Portman. Don't get me wrong, I won't be disappointed if Natalie takes Best Actress for Black Swan. I thought she was quite exceptional actually; fragile, feral, and frightening (this sentence has been brought to you by the letter 'F').

I just kind of love Bening's complete oeuvre (oh yeah, breakin' out the francais). She's never been afraid to play characters who are unlikable, but who also somehow elicit our sympathy in the end (see American Beauty, Mother and Child, and even The Kids Are Alright). I love her for not being all botox-y. I love her for her short, spiky hair, her bookish glasses, and for her marriage to Warren Beatty. I know that last one might seem like a strange reason, but I think it takes one awesome woman to marry such a notorious ladies man and then have four kids with him. That standing ovation she got at the Golden Globes...I bet you all those folks are thinking the same thing.

While Portman gets my love not only because she is a fellow Jewess and my birthday twin, but because she chooses roles in challenging films like 'V For Vendetta,' 'Closer,' and 'Black Swan,' and up until now, has kept her private life private. Which is why I'm concerned for her. Hugely successful and acclaimed film, multiple awards, cute dancer fiance, baby-on-the-way, $20 million opening in January. She's having a run similar to Sandra Bullock's last year and we all know what happened there....

Celebrity is a twisted deal with a greedy devil. Is an Academy Award and your pick of any script for the next ten years really worth being unable to go outside unaccompanied or take your dog for a walk without having your picture snapped a bazillion times? I'm not claiming celebrities don't get what they ask for or that working a couple of months a year, having all your needs tended to, plus all that money is some hardship. I'm just saying that often when someone has been famous for years, but then suddenly their fame reaches a new level whereby their visage is splashed across countless magazine covers and they have paparazzi hiding in their backyard foliage, their career can take on the makings of a prison, albeit a swanky one with fancy clothes and nice shoes. Just ask the kids from the 'Twilight' about the fame monster taking over.

Christian Bale appears to be another lock for 'The Fighter.' By playing a real-life person with a drug problem that he lost serious weight to play he achieved the acting trifecta. The only way I see him losing is if the Academy punishes him for being a surly bad boy who upon occasion smacks his mom and sister around. If he does lose it will most definitely be to Geoffrey Rush. Personally, I would love to see Mark Ruffalo get the statue for portraying the mellow and carelessly sexy Alice Waters-esque restauranteur/sperm donor in 'The Kids Are Alright.' He just makes being irresponsible look so damn inviting. Of course, if I had a friend and they were dating him I'd surely say, "Run!" But that's why I like the movies.

Supporting Actress...I'm all about Melissa Leo, a journey-woman who was so fine for all those years on 'Homicide: Life on the Street' and in a little seen, but devastating indie called 'Frozen River.' Amy Adams has plenty of time to win her own and Helena Bonham Carter...well, no one really wants to see Ms. Mismatched shoes and crazy bird's nest hair get up there, do they?

For once, I am invested in the musical categories. Would love to see Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross win for soundtrack for Social Network. Following the pitch-perfect, dialogue rich opening scene between Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara, we see Eisenberg angrily trudging back to his dorm and the eerie, but beckoning music so sets the film's tone it instantly becomes its own character.

Rollo and Dido, the brother and sister duo of Faithless, a favorite group of mine, are nominated for best song for '127 Hours.' Them winning would just be too cool to actually happen, but here's hoping. Incidentally, the song that begins the movie, 'Never Hear Surf Music Again' by Free Blood, is fantastic, pure Danny Boyle drop-kicking you right into the story.

Well, until February 27th...