Saturday, December 22, 2007

Movies, Winter 2007-2008

Started my winter viewing with a bang, by watching Evita (1996). I thought Madonna was wonderful as Evita, and Jonathan Pryce was delightful as Juan Perón. Antonio Banderas can sing -- who knew? He plays Che, the voice of the people/narrator. The IMdb board is still busy with debate about this film, contrasting it with the original stage play by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, and also comparing the life of Evita as portrayed in the film to the historical Eva Duarte Perón. All in all, an excellent viewing experience. The library CD had no special features, although I would have welcomed historical/biographical background, at least. And the soundtrack CD is on order!

In a slight change of pace, we watched Ratatouille (2007), which is totally delightful and fun.

Oddly, next up is another film set in Paris, with another character voiced by Ian Holm (Jonathan Pryce was another of the bad guys!). Not important, just odd. The futuristic noirish thriller Renaissance (2006),, very dark and abstract. This Paris is not a nice place, and the company (Avalon) trying to gain the very power of life and death are not nice people. Neither is Karas, the world-weary cop voiced by Daniel Craig. But his car is pretty dang cool, and so is this film.

Birth (2004) was beautiful, engaging, and chillingly, deeply creepy. Nichole Kidman gives an absolutely tour-de-force performance, and the kid who plays Sean is amazing -- and deeply creepy, as is Anne Heche as the dead husband's secret lover. Her performance lets you know something is *off* before Sean confronts Anna for the first time.

Dark Victory (1939) is another tour-de-force performance, Bette Davis' favorite of her career. She is in virtually every moment of this film, where she sparkles, vibrates, droops, rides, shines, and finally, dies beautifully. I also loved Geraldine Fitzgerald as Judith's best friend Ann. Humphrey Bogart was mis-cast as the horse trainer, but shone in his one scene.

Another wonderful film set in Paris tonight - Ninotchka (1939), Greta Garbo's first comedy. It's very funny, smart, serious, and touching. Garbo is marvelous, of course, as an automaton brought to life by the love of Léon, Comte d'Agoult (brilliantly played by Melvyn Douglas), whom her entire background has taught her to distrust and disapprove. The other supporting parts are all pitch-perfect, as is the cinematography, writing, and pacing. Wonderful film!

Stardust is a magical Neil Gaiman novel brought to life. We watch Tristan Thorn (played by newcomer Charlie Cox) become a man by learning to love, and thus, displaying courage. Claire Danes was perfect as the fallen star Yvaine, Michelle Pfeiffer was *great* as the witch pursuing Yvaine, and Robert De Niro was mostly great as Captain Shakespeare. I didn't buy his closeted gay man/cross-dresser, but that's a quibble. Even the special effects didn't bother me one iota. Now I want to read the book. :-)

*Complete* change of pace: Repo Man (1984), also completely delightful. Cult favorite, for SO many reasons, two of which are Harry Dean Stanton, in the role of his lifetime, and Emilio Estavez as his punk disciple. Alan Cox and Michael Nesmith created a masterpiece for pennies!

Finally, out to the theater! We saw Sweeney Todd (2007) in all its bloody glory. Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, and Alan Rickman as the strangely sexy/creepy Judge Turpin were all top-notch. Who knew Johnny Depp could sing? His solos and duets were all wonderful, and his razor oh, so deft. Sacha Baron Cohen was barely recognizable as the swishy Signor Adolfo Pirelli, and wonderful and his boy Toby, played by Ed Sanders, was winsome. The only disappointment was Jayne Wisener as Johanna. She looked the part, but her singing was much too brittle. That's a tiny quibble, however. It was a completely satisfying night at the movies.

The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (1978) -- funny, heart-warming for Beatles fans. The songs are hilarious -- close, but parody. Eric Idle who dreamed this up, wrote it, and played Dirk McQuickly (Paul McCartney) and the narrator is a genius. Neil Innes, who wrote all the music, was Ron Nasty (John Lennon), and sang lead most convincingly. If you love The Beatles, you'll love this film.

I must have been on a Beatles kick when I was ordering films from the library, because I also view Backbeat (1994), which is a dramatization of the friendship of Stuart Sutcliffe, the original bassist, and John Lennon in Liverpool and then Hamburg. After Stu falls in love with a German artist, he decides to return to his own art, and leave the band. Shortly thereafter, Beatles fans know, he died suddenly. The music is just wonderful, and the boys playing Stuart, John, Paul and George do a great job. Pete Best is the drummer for most of the film, but a sleeping Ringo appears for a couple of minutes too. This is The Beatles before they were famous, and it's GREAT!

Intense, and so dark, so very, very dark -- 8MM (1999), staring Nicolas Cage in an amazing role. This film was disturbing on so many levels; I can understand why it wasn't a hit. Still, if you can stand a film about the murder of a young girl for sexual pleasure, then you are in for a dark treat. Joaquin Phoenix as Max California is a black cherry on top.

But, as Max California says, "There are some things that you see, and you can't unsee them. Know what I mean?" Be warned that this is one dark, intense film.

Ha! If you want to see a great rip-off of the cheesy teen films of the Fifties, by John Waters, starring JOHNNY DEPP, with wonderful music, then you have to see Cry Baby (1990). Johnny was trying to escape his 21 Jump Street box, and wow, did this wacky classic do that for him! If you love John Waters, it is well-worth listening to his commentary, and the DVD extras are all great too. This might be worth buying, since no-one seems to have heard of it, and there is a version coming to Broadway in April! Some of the other amazing actors John got to appear in this film: Polly Bergen as Mrs. Vernon-Williams, Iggy Pop as Uncle Belvedere, Ricki Lake as Pepper Walker (Cry Baby's sister), Traci Lords (newly escaped from the porn industry), Troy Donahue and Mink Stole as one hilariously over-the-top set of parents, Joe Dallesandro and Joey Heatherton as another, and David Nelson as Wanda's father and Patricia Hearst (playing her own mother?) as the mom. Cherry on the sundae is a cameo Willem Dafoe as the Hateful Prison Guard, who even spanks our Cry Baby ("That's Mr. Baby to you!")!

Velvet Goldmine (1998) is a dream; a dream about glam rock. The soundtrack is dreamy, and *I want it!* The costumes are over the top, as they were in those days. And the plot, the plot..... amazing, confusing, convoluted. Loosely based on the personas of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, with a lot of references to others of the era, and wonderfully played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Ewan McGregor, and Toni Collette. Christian Bale's character is the touchstone, experiencing the liberation and eventual disenchantment of the young rock fan of the time. Warning -- some wonderful nudity and such!

The Argentines sure know how to make a movie, based on Burnt Money (Plata quemada) (2000) and now Glue (2006) a wonderful Alexis Dos Santos picture of small-town teen life in the Patagonian desert. If you are offended by drug use (huffing glue) or intense teen sensuality, this isn't the film for you. I loved this vivid, unscripted look at the lives of these kids. Wonderfully acted by real-life friends Nahuel Pérez Biscayart as Lucas, Inés Efron as Andrea, and Nahuel Viale as Nacho.

Shortbus (2006) finally arrived from the library! What a great film. If sex (LOTS of sex) and nudity bother you, this film isn't for you. Unless you want to get over that? In which case, watch as a guilty pleasure, until you get over the guilt. :-) John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) scores big with me on this one -- both how the film appears on the screen, on the ears (wonderful soundtrack), but also his process. He wanted people comfortable with their sexuality, so he advertised for couples as the "sextras" and sex/sexuality questions were a major part of the interview process for the main character actors. Sook-Yin Lee as "pre-orgasmic" Sofia, Paul Dawson as the depressed James, and Lindsay Beamish as the lonely artist/dominatrix Severin were the main stories, and PJ DeBoy as Jamie, Raphael Barker as Rob, Peter Stickles as Caleb, the Stalker, Jay Brannan as Ceth, and Adam Hardman as Jesse, the John, played the major partners. Ray Rivas as the Shabbos Goy had a brilliant cameo, and Justin Bond as himself, and the conductor of the Shortbus is just wonderful. Shanti Carson as Leah has no lines, but her beautiful, joyous, compassionate gaze is a show-stopper. When she shows up in the final scene, you know that this film has a happy ending. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Seems like everything Neil Gaiman touches is magic. Mirrormask (2005) got a limited US release for some reason, but it is out on DVD, and you should see it. Gaiman wrote it with his graphic novel partner Dave McKean in a more intense collaboration than they usually have, and that intensity shows, I think. The art is wonderful, and there is fine acting, writing, filming, cgi-ing (is that a word?) by a band of beginners at making movies.

Tonight, Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985). William Hurt won the Oscar as Best Actor for this, as well he should have. Raul Julia was also wonderful as the revolutionary who comes to love his gay cell-mate, and Sonia Braga plays a triple role - Leni Lamaison and the Spider Woman, the heroines of the movies acted/told by Luis to help pass the time, and Marta, Valentin's beloved. What a lovely melding of plot elements, direction, acting, and camera work. Perhaps the men were allowed their beautiful, loving kiss because Valentin was "not gay"!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Movies, Fall 2007

Not a strong beginning for the season, sadly. Premonition (2007) is a Sandra Bullock vehicle all the way. She gives a strong performance, but the plot weakness works against her, unfortunately. Still, I found lots to like about this film and wish it had all hung together. See Wikipedia for the best explantion of the plot and theme I find.

Next up, About Schmidt (2002), Jack Nicholson at his delightful old self. Schmidt has almost disappeared into the conformity of his so-called life, but his retirement and almost simultaneous death of his wife, instead of killing him, open him, quite unexpectedly, to life for the rest of his years. Delightful, sad, funny, and outrageous.

The Incredibles (2004) was charming fun. So many fun references to action/adventure/spy etc. films! In fact, it starts out good, and keeps getting better and better.

Back to the movies! Finished La Fille sur le pont (The Girl on the Bridge) (1999) tonight. Vanessa Paridis (perfect!) and Daniel Auteuil (amazing!) run around Europe testing their luck. Who knew knife-throwing could be erotic? Another Leconte (L' Homme du train (2002)) masterpiece.

Colin got Peter Pan (1953) for his birthday. It is showing its age, but is still a Disney classic.

Twisted! Another wonderful French film with the ever-amazing Daniel Auteuil, this time as an ugly man, through and through. Jean de Florette (1986) shows the banality of evil and greed set against the foolish, sunny, innocent but stubborn optimism of Gérard Depardieu as Jean de Florette. Yves Montand is malignant as the evil old mastermind of the dirty plotting for Jean's land.
Soon, we'll watch part two, which is called Manon des sources (Manon of the Spring)(1986) where Manon gains her revenge against the men who caused the death of her father, and changed her life forever. - Finally watched Manon, which was thoroughly satisfying. I was happy to see Manon give up her revenge, and let her enemies destroy themselves, without involving herself in that. Yves Montand is completely incredibly wonderful in the end. I felt that he understood how completely wrong he had been about life, and how he had been entirely at fault.

Broken Flowers (2005) -- leaves me with as few words as Bill Murray's character uttered throughout the film. Great performance from him, and everyone else. I need to see more Jarmusch films!

I must say something about Firefly, even though I'm only in mid-series, and it's a TV show, and one cancelled after one season, at that. All I can say about that, is that TV execs are idiots. At least we got the Serenity film out of it, to sum up and finish the story. Good show!

If you are wondering why you see so much of the same stuff on your movie screen, over and over again, see This Film Has Not Yet Been Rated, and see what we have allowed the MPAA to do to American film. What a disgrace! But a fun, frustrating documentary comforts the fan -- a bit.

Grim, dark, gripping: The Number 23 (2007). Jim Carrey in one of his best dramatic roles ever. Much of the cast plays duel roles (or do they?) as he sinks obsessively into a novel and into disturbing dreams of obsession and murder.

Another dark masterpiece: Bringing Out the Dead (1999). Nic Cage is burnt out and seeing ghosts of those people he's failed to save in his years as a paramedic. But his compassion still burns within him, even as he sleepwalks through life. Wonderful soundtrack -- I wish I had access to all those songs. And the cinematography is absolutely splendid.

What an interesting night at the movies! First up, Strictly Ballroom (1992), first of Baz Luhrmann's "Red Curtain Trilogy", this one is set in Australia, and in his past. Funny and touching, with those *amazing* ballroom dancing costumes, hair and makeup. Under-rated gem.

Next, the disturbing Mysterious Skin (2004). Painful to watch, wonderful acting, writing, characters, cinematography, music -- but I can't say much else at this point. Haunting, in all senses of the word.

I'm a bit behind on movies, both watching them, and reviewing them here. Last night we watched the short Andre's Mother (1990), which was made for public TV. Very nice character study of two characters brought together by shared grief. Richard Thomas is more likeable than I've ever seen him, as Andre's grieving lover, and Sada Thompson as Andre's mother is so *frozen*. In the scenes with her mother, played by Sylvia Sidney (who steals every scene she's in), you see the roots of her damage.

Five Easy Pieces is a Nicholson classic that I haven't seen since Bob and I watched it in the theater, back in 1970. What a great film, from the first frame to the last, wrapped around the amazing scene in the diner: [Bobby wants plain toast, which isn't on the menu]
Bobby: I'd like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee.
Waitress: A #2, chicken salad sand. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else?
Bobby: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules.
Waitress: You want me to hold the chicken, huh?
Bobby: I want you to hold it between your knees.

'Nuff said.

Ghost in the Shell Kôkaku kidôtai (1995), an early anime. A beautiful cyborg on the hunt for the Puppet Master, realizes that she too is "a living, thinking entity that was created in the sea of information" as he was. Beautifully done.

Finally, at Lou's urging, tonight I watched the truly dreadful Saw (2004). While I see the draw of the puzzle, the mystery, the drama, the film at base is about cruelty; cruelty displayed for us as entertainment. It isn't the gore that got to me, but the absolutely pointless cruelty. I wish this film did not exist.

Last night I finally got to the really wonderful Capote (2005). Philip Seymour Hoffman absolutely *shines* as Truman Capote, from when he chooses the topic of his next article, which soon grows into the book In Cold Blood. Catherine Keener as Nelle Harper Lee, Capote's childhood friend who acts as his assistant during the trips to Kansas, is his calm center. This is right before Lee's classic To Kill A Mockingbird was published. And finally, Clifton Collins Jr. as the murderer Perry Smith is absolutely captivating. All other aspects of the film are spot-on; no wonder it won an Oscar!

Inspired by a Hallowe'en series of scary film scenes, I ordered Jacob's Ladder (1990) because I love Tim Robbins. I won't give away the plot, but this film will MESS WITH YOUR MIND. Quite satisfying, if immensely disturbing. The supporting characters, the writing, sets, cinematography all combine to make this well worth your time. I'm not a huge fan of director Adrian Lyne, but this film raises him in my estimation. Oh, and Danny Aiello is an angel!

Tales of the City (1993) ( and the imaginatively named More Tales of the City ( have been completely absorbing me. After watching the first series, I got the first book, the second, have now finished the third, and ordered the final trilogy. I may do a separate blog post just about this series, and the wonderful Armistead Maupin. I plan to read all of his books. What a prince!

Tonight, Colin and I watched the charming and beautiful Les Choristes (The Chorus, 2004). Wonderfully cast, acted, directed, filmed, and sung. If you like choral music, or are interested in education, you should see this film. If you enjoy good French film, you should see this. A very HUMAN film. I loved it.

Finally watched Wait Until Dark (1967), which features Audrey Hepburn as the blind Suzy, still trying to find her way in the world. As the tension builds, she sheds her fear and gathers her courage and intelligence to fight for her life against a trio of hardened criminals trying to play her. What a wonderful thriller! A couple of the scenes near the end were extremely frightening. Richard Crenna and Alan Arkin were top-notch, and Audrey Hepburn, of course, was her meltingly great self. What a dream she is!

Also long-awaited was Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), which is a Frank Capra/Cary Grant madcap masterpiece! Yes, Grant is over-the-top, but I think that was just what the film needed.

Down the stretch to the Solstice, and a new year's worth of films. We rented The Family Stone (2005) so Bob could see it. I like it just as much the second time! Finally got Freaks (1932) from the library as a VHS tape. I hope they put this on DVD, and clean it up a bit. Sound is muddy, and it's sometimes hard to see exactly what is happening. But there isn't a creepier movie out there -- the casual, sly cruelty of Cleo and Hercules towards little Hans is met by the frightening anger and violence of all the freaks, who expose her for the monster she truly is. She is shown to be the true freak.

Also watched Burnt Money (Plata quemada) (2000), a wonderful Argentine film based on a true crime story. Leonardo Sbaraglia as El Nene and Eduardo Noriega as Ángel just burn up the screen. Pablo Echarri as El Cuervo is crazysexy as hell, too! Dolores Fonzi as Vivi also shines on the screen. If sex, drugs, nudity and crime offend you, this is not your film. But if magnetic characters walking and even dancing to their doom is your style, check it out!

The Night Listener (2006) was wonderful, but not as good as the book. More of a thriller, with much less emphasis on the shifting relationships. Robin Williams and Toni Collette were both outstanding, however. And Bobby Cannivale is a dream, as always! Be sure to watch the "making of" segment, if you are interested in Armistead Maupin and his former partner Terry Anderson.

The Phantom of the Opera (1925) haunted my dreams for a few days. Yes, it seems so over-played, but the attention you must focus on a silent film (this edition has music and the opera singing) makes it a very intense experience. The extras on the DVD, with photos of the sets, an old silent ad, etc., are also enjoyable.

The Dinner Game, originally Le Dîner de cons (1998) is a French film I'm on the fence about. It is very engaging, but rather mean-spirited. At the end, the real fool is shown to be the supposed smarty who was trying to get points with his similarly mean-spirited friends by showing off the biggest fool, played by Jacques Villeret (now sadly deceased), but Pignon ends up helping the handsome and rich Pierre Brochant, played brilliantly by Thierry Lhermitte.

I missed the first few minutes of Walk the Line (2005), but the rest of the film is excellent. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash and June Carter did a wonderful job both acting and singing, although Phoenix in particular often reminded me that he was NOT Johnny Cash, just because their looks are different. Nevertheless, he seemed to channel Johnny Cash. You don't have to love country music, or Cash's music, to love this film.

What an intense experience the most recent Phantom of the Opera (2004) is! So rich, dense, and wonderful. I'm so glad I got so see Lon Chaney's powerful but unsympathetic Phantom before the modern Gerard Butler version, much more slick, sympathetic and obsessed. Emmy Rossum as Christine was just divine, perfectly balanced between her longing for her dead father and the Angel of Music he had promised would comfort her in her grief, and her love for her childhood sweetheart Raoul, played by Patrick Wilson. I so wish his hair had not been so greasy and long, LOL. Wilson's Raoul was much stronger than the 1925 character, who was a bit of a wimp. Oh, the music, especially Butler and Rossum's duets! Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendour. Grasp it, sense it - tremulous and tender. Turn your face away from the garish light of day, turn your thoughts away from cold, unfeeling light - and listen to the music of the night!... Softly, deftly, music shall carress you. Hear it, feel it, Secretly possess you.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997) is based on a true story, and set in Savannah, Georgia where the murder happened. A few of the characters were minor players in the original tragedy. Clint Eastwood made a leisurely film, and even Jude Law's firecracker of a character doesn't wake it up much. The Lady Chablis playing herself, however, steals every scene she's in. And Irma P. Hall as Minerva anchors the wild tale.

The final film I watched this Fall was The Cockettes (2002), which was a total trip back to the late Sixties San Francisco. I adore this film, and anyone who cares about gay history, the Sixties, art or drama should SEE THIS FILM! As John Waters so wisely said, "the Cockettes were basically complete sexual anarchy. which is always a good thing."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Movies, Spring & Summer 2007

What I can remember from summer and fall 2007. I guess I'll start a new list on the Equinox!

An amazing film to end summer with, was Good Night, and Good Luck (2005). Wow, the guts it took to create the reality this film was based upon, and then the courage to make the film NOW -- immeasurable. David Strathairn was beat by beat perfect as Edward R. Murrow, but George Clooney wrote AND directed. It is unbelievable to me that it was nominated for so many awards, but won so few. Not a SINGLE Oscar, with six nominations! Courage was admired if not practiced in the past; now I guess it is so rare that it can be almost ignored. Don't ignore this film, though. Imagine if we still had a press with eyes, heart, and backbone?

I guess I'm trying to pack in as many films as possible before the equinox! First up tonight was The Holiday (2006), a pleasant romantic comedy. Very nice to have two leading ladies; both get their groove back by trading houses for a couple of weeks. Perspective really is everything, I guess. Nice to see Eli Wallach with a juicy little part. Unfortunately, he's the only part of the film not totally predictable.

Now, the second film, Caché (Hidden) (2005), by contrast, had my heart in my mouth. The tension builds oh so slowly, until it is nearly unbearable. Daniel Auteuil as Georges Laurent carries the film, like a heavier and ever more painful burden. Juliette Binoche as his wife Anne is as usual marvelous; mystified, angry, and perhaps hiding her own secrets. Maurice Bénichou as the tortured Majid -- I don't know what to say. He has very few lines, but is really the center of the plot. Little is explained, but so much is made clear. My heart is still beating very loudly. I like this film so much that I checked the DVD out of the library, just to view the last few scenes again, and watch all of the DVD extras -- an interview with Michael Haneke, director and writer, plus a documentary about the making of the film. Not much hidden is made clear, however. This is a film made for thoughtful pondering.

Tonight's movie was a real surprise. Although I love Nicholas Cage, Weatherman (2005) was both a painful and pleasureable experience. Filmed in Chicago, it was just beat for beat surprising and *right*. Casting was excellent; special pleasures were Michael Caine as David Spritz' father, and his two children, played by Gemmenne de la Peña and Nicholas Hoult. See this film!

Tonight was a double feature, of two I had seen some time ago. First, Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy (2000), charming but a bit too thin. Not as good as I remembered, especially after just finishing Tales of the City. Fun to see Zach Braff as a frickin' BLOND, and to see him, Andrew Keegan, and Justin Theroux as such youngsters! Second up, Joss Stone's Serenity (2005), which WAS as good as I remembered. I've just *got* to see Firefly, the cancelled series which the movie grew out of.

The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) - great film about the classic years of Hollywood; David O. Selznick's Hollywood. Wonderful thread about the Hollywood connections:

Tales of the City (1993) is more of a mini-series than a film, but it has some great moments, and great scenes. Armistead Maupin wrote the novel, Richard Kramer the teleplay. Two thumbs up! All of the commentary on the DVD is worth the listen. I wish it was completely uncut, however.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) is a rather dated character study of a Scottish teacher who gives everything to "her girls", for good and for ill. Fabulous acting by Maggie Smith, however, and a wonderful supporting role as the cold-blooded'Sandy' by Pamela Franklin. I'm stunned that she hasn't become a huge star by now! Celia Johnson is also wonderful as the long-suffering school mistress who finally gets rid of Miss Brodie.

Les Amants du Pont-Neuf (1991) or Lovers on the Bridge: wonderful! The more I think about this film, the more in love with it I am. Written and directed by Leos Carax, and beautifully acted by Juliette Binoche as Michèle Stalens, Denis Lavant as Alex, and Klaus-Michael Grüber perfect as Hans. What an excellent film.

Another French film, this time a cartoon -- Les Triplettes de Belleville (2003). So unusual, and not for everyone -- it isn't pretty, and the comedy is dark. Absolutely enchanting! Created by the genius Sylvain Chomet who wrote and directed, with music by Ben Charest.

Finally saw Little Miss Sunshine! (2006) Well worth waiting for! Offbeat, funny, and heart-breaking.

Also "finally saw" -- Aladdin (1994)! Much better than I thought it would be; not nearly what it could have been. Oh, well.

Some time in the last few months, I also "finally saw" My Own Private Idaho (1991). One of the posters on IMDb called it a "surreal character study," and that's true, but it's more than that. Not for everyone, to be sure. Gritty, Shakespearean, and bewildering by turn, it is ultimately just REAL. River Phoenix is amazing, and Keanu Reeves as Scott Favor is too.

And we've just finished the entire run of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, of which I watched a bit over half this time around. Someday I hope to finish watching Angel, and then watch both series intertwined as they were originally televised.

Martin Scorsese's insanely great Dylan documentary No Direction Home (2005) was well worth watching twice. Maybe only once if you don't love Dylan's music:

Empire Records (1995) was fun. A bit cliched, but the music made up for that.

Zorro the Gay Blade (1981) -- over-the-top, great fun. George Hamilton is FABU!

The Libertine (2004) was chilling, yet engaging. Johnny Depp is electrifying.

Whale Rider (2002) is amazing! I loved everything about this New Zealand film. Absolutely top-notch. Keisha Castle-Hughes is unbelievably wonderful. She is heart-breaking.

I think I forgot to write about Swimming Pool (2003) before. We watched it quite awhile ago, but I still ponder it, at times. Very interesting film!

M. Butterfly (1993) was a revelation. Such sensitive, beautiful acting, and an excellent riff on the operatic tale of Madame Butterfly. Jeremy Irons, always excellent, plays René Gallimard, based on a historical character, who is in fact still alive. John Lone as Song Liling is electrifying.

The high points of the summer, of course, were Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007), which were both enormous fun. HP just gets better and better, as the story darkens. Pirates was the finale, and a topping good one it was! ARRRRR!

Earlier, we saw Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del fauno, 2006), a dark tale indeed, set in Fascist Spain. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Books! 2007

Been reading lots of books lately.

The Front Runner: a novel about love by Patricia Nell Warren first, so I can return it back to the library. Checked it out because it was listed as one of the top 5 books in the 40th anniversary issue of The Advocate. I enjoyed almost every word of this book, although some of the language is a bit cold and clinical ("homosexual" is used a lot), but perhaps that relates to how early the story begins, and how repressed the narrator was in the beginning. He makes quite a journey from beginning to end, and it reads more like an autobiography of a track coach than than a novel.

Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutherfurd was fascinating, educational, and satisfyingly LONG (1033 pages). It reminded me a bit of James Michener's novels, treating the history of the land and the people who live on it, intertwined. Sarum is the old name for the area around Salisbury, including the grand old earth and stone works Stonehenge in the south of England. The story begins with the retreat of the ice 12,000 years ago, up to a glimpse of life in 1985. A few families are followed for most or all of that twelve millenia! Rudimentary family descents are shown with the maps.

I re-read the first six Harry Potter books before digging into Harry Potter . What a wonderful conclusion to a great series! Rather than winding down, they only got better and better.

Another great series, also (sadly) coming to an end is the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden has grown in power, smarts, experience, and likeability!

I started another series, beginning with Evans above by J. Rhys Bowen, but have stopped with one. Set in Wales, you'd think they would be right up my alley, but ..... eh.

Finishing lotsa books lately -- reviewed Sex in Middlesex on the genblog. Finally finished Living By Fiction by Annie Dillard. If you are interested in modern fiction, and interested in thinking more deeply about it, get this one, and read it slowly. I had to put it down every page or two and think for a day or so. Yes, it's that good. Now finishing Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, and think I'm going to read all of them. Quite delish!

Finished More Tales of the City, and it is a gripping, hilarious, sad, shocking page-turner. Maupin can sure spin a tale!

Further Tales of the City is a bit far-fetched, but perhaps that's because Jim Jones and the deaths in Jonestown are the background to a major part of the plot. Mary Ann continues to mature and grow stronger, as do the rest of our beloveds. DeDe in particular becomes a force to be reckoned with -- and in league with Mary Ann! I would love to know who the un-named gay actor is -- my guess is Rock Hudson.

The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease was a novel I picked up on sale, and what a bargain it was! Set in the 14th Century, it tells the story of rich and poor, religious and not, politics local, religious and national. The illuminator of the title and the woman he comes to love, Lady Kathryn of Blackingham Manor are the couple the story weaves around. I loved it.

Losing patience at waiting for Middlesex, tonight I decided to read the long-awaited The Maytrees by Annie Dillard. Oh, she had to be older to write this wonderful, poetic novel, and I think you might have to be older to read it, too. Set in Cape Code, for the most part, it is the story of Lou and Toby Maytrees, their lives and loves, art, poetry, work and thoughts. And such thoughts! Annie Dillard is a national treasure. Living By Fiction was difficult for me, but so illuminating! Even though I had not read many of the modern novels to which she referred. I would love to take a class where that was the curriculum -- her book, and the modern novels. I think it would have to be a year long! I shall have to read more of her books, since Pilgrim At Tinker Creek was immensely important to me years ago. But for now, since I don't have Middlesex, I'll finish the Tales of the City final trilogy, and report back!

Back to Barbary Lane has the final three novels of the series; Babycakes (1984), Significant Others (1987), and Sure of You (1989). In Babycakes we connect with Mona again, first in Seattle, and then -- can it be -- in London? Michael trades his apartment in Barbary Lane for digs in London, and adventure ensues. Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, Mary Ann continues her climb up the ladder of fame, stepping on Brian's heart all the way. Still, he gets a baby out of it all! Significant Others introduces us to Thack, Michael's new lover. Brian gets his own AIDS scare, and Mary Ann continues to hone her act. DeDe & D'Or have their adventure at a lesbian women's arts and music festival (Wimminwood), while Booter (Frannie's new husband) frolics and mourns at the Bohemian Grove a few miles away. Finally, an full-size model named Wren draws them all together in a crazy and almost frightening wrap. Brian and Michael become partners in the nursery business. Sure of You follows Brian and Mary Ann to the end of their relationship, and almost to the end of Brian and Michael's partnership also. Mona and Anna Madrigal journey to Lesbos together, re-cementing their relationship. Thack and Michael also grow closer, as they live and build their life together. I'm happy to say that Armistead has written one more book to cap the series, which was published this summer, Michael Tolliver Lives. As soon as I can order it from the library, I'll be reading it! What an amazing series, braiding comedy, wisdom and grief together in a wonderful human pageant. Having now read Michael Tolliver Lives, I'll just say that it is a very satisfying end to the series. We get to catch up with everyone, thank goodness!

Hah! I was gonna write a long review of Middlesex, but instead, I'll simply link to Tamaranth's review:

Thanks to LibraryThing for everything.

Now on tap, Nuala O'Faolain's second memoir, Almost There (2003) is leaving me eager to read her first memoir, Are You Somebody? (1998), and her novel, My Dream of You (2002), and her biography of the Irish criminal, The Story of Chicago May which came out in 2005. What a lovely writer.

Next up, Armistead Maupin's The Night Listener which I'll read soon, since I have the movie on DVD from the library also!(I did like the book much more than the film, especially since I'm such a Maupin fan.

My Dream of You was even better than I had hoped. Totally absorbing, and so rich in history, language, feeling, Ireland, wonderful characters, and thoughts about love, sex, passion, family, aging. Completely satisfying. :-)

Are You Somebody: Memoirs of a Dublin Woman, Nuala O'Faolain's first book, was also great. Not as well written in places, but the writing gets better and better through to the end, which is *amazing.* Written as the foreward for a collection of her Irish Times columns, it was a huge best-seller in Ireland in 1996-7. When an American publisher picked it up, she wrote an afterword, and the columns were not included. The afterward alone is worth the read.

Thus endeth books read in 2007.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Fresh Peach Ice Cream

If you can wait, fresh peach yumminess in the Winter

A great way to use a box of ripe peaches. Put four peaches in a freezer bag, and suck out the air before freezing. I use four because they are easy to stack and use. If your family likes this as much as mine did, you can freeze TWO boxes of peaches!

When you want fresh ice cream, take out a peach or two, and run under warm water until the skin comes off. Cut in quarter and remove the pit. Put in the blender or food processor with a bit of sugar, honey, or Splenda, and some milk or soy milk. Blend and enjoy! Add some protein powder and a bit more liquid, and make it a smoothie. Nectarines would probably work, as well -- skip the skin removal step.


Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire; you will what you imagine; and at last you create what you will. - George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950

Monday, June 18, 2007

Loving for All, 40 years after Loving vs. Virginia

Loving for All

By Mildred Loving

Prepared for Delivery on June 12, 2007,

The 40th Anniversary of the Loving vs. Virginia Announcement
When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married.

We didn’t get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn’t allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom.

When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is?

Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the "crime" of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared: "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.

We left, and got a lawyer. Richard and I had to fight, but still were not fighting for a cause. We were fighting for our love.

Though it turned out we had to fight, happily Richard and I didn’t have to fight alone. Thanks to groups like the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, and so many good people around the country willing to speak up, we took our case for the freedom to marry all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, "The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men," a "basic civil right."

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.
Thanks to the Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington for reprinting this wonderful statement in its newsletter.

A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it. - Maxwell Planck

Saturday, April 28, 2007

German Sex-Ed Book for Pre-Schoolers

Translation of German sex-ed book for pre-schoolers:

"Here you see a baby. Do you know how it came into the world ?"

"Here you see a mother and father. They are going to have a baby together."

"Here Father and Mother have no clothes on. You can see Mother's breasts and Mother's * . People call it the vagina. {* word for female genital that a child would use}

"You can see Daddy's **. People call it the penis. You can also see the little sack that he has between his legs; it is named 'scrotum'." {** word for male genital that a child would use}

"Mother and Father love each other very much. They kiss each other. Father's penis is growing large. It sticks out rigidly."

"Mother and Father would like for Father's penis to go into Mother's vagina. That is really beautiful."

"Mother and Father lie down on the bed. They put the penis in the vagina. They play with each other. Father and Mother rock to and fro."

"That is what people call intercourse. That can be very nice. That's how Mother and Father create a child, if they want to."

"Mother and Father love each other very much. They would like to have a child. There are many little sperms in the Father's little sack. When Father and Mother sleep together, the sperm cells come out of the penis."

"The sperm cells swim into the Mother's vagina, and come to a cavity in Mother's belly."

"This cavity is called the uterus. Sometimes there is is a little egg in it."

"Many, many days are passing by. Nine months have passed, since the little sperm and the egg have found each other. Now the child is so large that is wants to get out."

"Mother's belly has become so big that she almost doesn't fit into a dress anymore. 'I can feel my uterus contracting,' says the Mother to the Father. 'Soon I will give birth to our child.' "

Father drives Mother to the hospital.

"Mother lies in the hospital in a bed. The doctor comes and talks to Mother and Father. The doctor will help Mother with the birth of the child."

"Then the Mother begins to give birth. First the head of the child comes out of Mother's vagina . Then the arms of the child come out."

"Now the child has come all the way out of the Mother. The doctor has cut the umbilical cord. Also the placenta has come out. "

"Mother and Child rest for a few days. Then they come back home. If the child is hungry , it drinks milk from Mother's breasts."


Mutterkuchen (lit. mother's cake) is really the german word for placenta as is Fruchtwasseer (lit. fruit water) for amniotic fluid.

From the responses to a post about the book on Boing-Boing.

"Abstinence-only sex education" is a little like "just hold it" potty training. - Roy Zimmerman,

Thursday, February 01, 2007

On being awakened

the nothingness
Where I used to be

© Valorie 2007