Sunday, November 16, 2008

Foreign Film bouquet

Last night, from England, The Killing of Sister George (1968), at the time of US release, so shocking that it was given an X rating! On one viewing, I found it disquieting, since all the women were so hard and manipulative, with the exception of the small part of the neighbor, a whore, who was .... friendly, in the best sense. Since I'm still thinking this film over, and it has such high marks from so many people on IMDb, I guess I should see the DVD version before I give an equivocal rating. Props to Robert Aldritch, the director, for making a landmark lesbian film in the Sixties -- before Stonewall! And to Beryl Reid (June 'George' Buckridge), Susannah York (Alice 'Childie' McNaught) and Coral Browne (Mercy Croft) who gambled their careers on these roles, and did such a superb job.

Another shocker, this one from Germany and Hungary - Mephisto (1981). What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lost his soul? This is the bargain made by Mephisto, which is a slightly fictionalized story of German actor Gustaf Gründgens who gave up his ideals to remain an actor once the Nazis took power. Completely excellent.

From France, charming Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink) (1997), about a little boy who must express himself as a girl to be happy and himself. I loved the depiction of French family life, especially the neighborhood parties. And young Georges Du Fresne (Ludovic Fabre) is completely charming.

Finally, from France and Italy, the hilarious comedy La Cage aux folles (1978) which is based on the musical play of the same name, and most Americans know by The Birdcage based on the same play. Superior in many ways to the remake, it left me wishing yet again that I knew French! I was sad to read on the IMDb message board that Michel Serrault, who played Albin Mougeotte /'Zaza Napoli' so magnificently, with such dignity, hysteria and love, has died. Also, Rémi Laurent who played the son, died of AIDS in 1989. RIP.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Madame Butterfly

Madame Butterfly (1995) is the Puccini opera presented as a film, directed by Frédéric Mitterrand. It was a bit difficult to sink into the film, with all the dialog in song. The acting was a bit stiff and artificial in the opening of the well-known story. Richard Troxell sings and acts the villain Pinkerton wonderfully, and I loved to HATE him, and felt a bit of understanding, if not pity for him at the tragic end of Butterfly. Ying Huang sang Butterfly beautifully, but her acting at first was quite stiff. Fortunately, she became her character fully by the moving end of the film/opera. Richard Cowan as Sharpless and Ning Liang as Suzuki were both wonderful in their supporting roles.

The sets and setting were gorgeous, but I longed to see the ship sail into the bay, and felt cheated by the bit of old film shown instead. I suppose it was a matter of the budget, but it added to the artificiality of an opera on film, and not in the good way!

True Blood, and the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries

True Blood is the TV series of the year for me (HBO). I'm enjoying it so much I just had to buy the books it is based on, written by Charlaine Harris. "Goofy charm....humour and occasional terror" just about sum them up. Set in Louisiana near Shreveport, the village of Bon Temps is full of characters, but there is a murderer killing women who have been with vampires! As Sookie tries to solve the mystery, she gets more and more involved in the life of the supernatural beings she seems to find everywhere, and along the way encounters romance and lots of danger.

The series has some wonderful music, and some side-plots and characters that differ from the books. It will be interesting to see how they diverge as time goes on -- I surely hope that this series runs for YEARS. The HBO site lists 12 episodes in the first season.

So far, there are eight books, and I'm into the sixth. Dead Until Dark, Living Dead in Dallas, Club Dead, Dead to the World, Dead as a Doornail, Definitely Dead, Altogether Dead (ordered), From Dead to Worse (pre-ordered). All great fun! Charlaine Harris' site lists some books with short stories set in Sookie's world too.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Flip side of the 1890s, and more Stephen Fry

Tipping the Velvet (2002) is the BBC adaptation of Sarah Waters' novel. I've only seen the first of three episodes, and I'm loving it so far. I'm especially happy to be seeing it in the same week as Wilde since that is also set primarily in 1890s London. However, Wilde is a biography, whereas this is a coming of age tale. Oscar Wilde was upper middle class, and this takes place around the theatre world, which is working class; in fact Nan begins as an oyster girl. Some would call this a lesbian film, because the main characters are "tipping the velvet," a British term in the time for women's oral sex. The women play male impersonators on the stage, and are lesbians, so obviously this is one essential element of the story.

Now I want very much to read the novel. :-)

In another connection, also saw Stephen Fry in Peter's Friends by Kenneth Branagh, which also features Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, and Rita Rudner, to name those I knew. Imelda Stanton, who was Vera Drake in the film of the same name, was great as the over-protective, grieving mother. Branagh gives himself a juicy little role as the self-loathing fellow in the group of old friends who meet to celebrate New Year's 1992. The collage which opens the film is *wonderful*, if the story is a bit predictable. A quiet delight anyway. Yes, I did notice similarities to The Big Chill. However, there is room for more than one reunion movie on Earth.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Genius! Oscar Wilde, Samuel R. Delany, and Stephen Fry

Two great films about geniuses, who were gay! Wilde (1997) is an eloquent re-telling of the life of Oscar Wilde, who died at the turn of the century, after falling from perhaps the most celebrated person in all of England, to becoming the most scorned and accursed. Stephen Fry is perfect as Wilde, while Jude Law seems to personify the spoiled, selfish but beautiful Bosie. A small delight is seeing Orlando Bloom's face for a minute or two as part of a gang of rent boys who catches Wilde's eye and seems to set some unsettling knowledge free inside of Wilde.

Lou picked out The Polymath, or the Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman (2007) to see at the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival this year, and it was DELIGHTFUL. And the film-maker Fred Barney Taylor was there for comments and questions at the end. Now I need to read more of Sam Delany's books!

The contrast between his life as a gay man could not be in greater contrast to that of Oscar Wilde, who seemed to focus on intellect and the ideal, while Delany definitely focused on the body, and having lots of sexual encounters—100 per week for many years, he says. They were both married to women, too. Sylistically, the films were worlds apart, also. Wilde is a BBC biopic, rather stately and beautiful. Polymath is about an science-fiction author from New York, and it features very abstract images and gritty New York.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

So Much Art!

October has been bursting with art, both film and literature. I finally read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Perhaps because I've been depressed and sad, missing those who are gone, but reading about this child's rape and murder, and how she (in Heaven) and her family on Earth learned to come to terms with their grief and finally, with one another, was just what I needed.

While I was more passive and just watching films, I saw:

The amazing Discreet Charm of the Bourgeousie (Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie) (1972) by Luis Buñuel: Is there a plot? I don't know, and I don't care. Six rather despicable people never manage to dine together, no matter how many times they try. Be warned, there is a body count! I wanted so much to know French for this film rather than rely on the sub-titles. My only criticism is that it could have been tightened, somewhat.

The funny The Valet (La Doublure) (2006) by Francis Veber (The Closet, The Dinner Game): Again, I want to know the French, not rely on the sub-titles, which seem to miss quite a few of the jokes. Veber likes to call his Fool by the same name each time, François Pignon. This Pignon is ably played by actor/stand-up comic Gad Elmaleh. The ever-great Daniel Atueil plays the evil magnate who winds the plot into action, and Kristin Scott-Thomas (who knew she speaks French with a perfect accent) as the wife who really wields all the power. Alice Taglioni as the supermodel/mistress shows she has heart and brains to match her beauty.

To Be and To Have (Être et avoir) (2002): Sensitive, gentle, beautiful documentary. Rather slow, but that is part of the beauty. A one-room schoolroom in the French countryside - sink in and soak it up. The children are wonderful, as is their patient teacher.

French Twist (Gazon maudit) (1995): Fun little French sex comedy.

Fucking Åmål (1998) -- redistributed in the US as Show Me Love (2000): Absolutely satisfying as a Swedish coming-of-age film; wonderful music; the first feature by Lukas Moodysson. I adored both Alexandra Dahlström as the desperate and lonely Elin Olsson, and Rebecka Liljeberg shone as the equally desperate although popular Agnes Ahlberg. All the minor characters were excellent also. Only the conclusion of the film was lacking.

I'll add Tillsammans (Together) (2000) here, Moodyson's follow-up. Rather than focussing on small town teens, this film is a 1970s commune seen through the eyes of two reluctant additions, age 13 and 8 or so. When their parent's marriage falls apart, their uncle Göran brings them into the commune. The comedy is very gentle and humane, and also very familiar. We've met these people, and even when I didn't like them, I was rooting for their success. Very satisfying. . Be warned - nudity and implied sex acts.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Small Favor: a novel of the Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher

Small Favor (2008) was the latest in the Dresden Files series. I thought it was the last one, but evidently Jim Butcher intends to continue, YEAH! With each book, I like Harry more, and the other characters as well.

In this one, he has to juggle the dangerous struggle between the Fairy factions for Winter and Summer, plus deal with his old enemy/compadre Marcone. Another delightful romp around Chicago and surrounds, as Harry gains wisdom -- and power. It will be too long until the next one!

Romance and Cigarettes (2005)

Romance and Cigarettes isn't for everybody, but I found it delightfully funny, and refreshingly different. John Turturro is a talented writer and director, and isn't afraid to take chances. His talented cast obviously enjoyed the shoot. I almost like James Gandolfini at this point! Susan Sarandon is splendid, and Kate Winslet is on fire! (almost literally). Smaller roles by Steve Buscemi, Bobby Cannavale, Mandy Moore, Mary-Louise Parker, Aida Turturro, Christopher Walken, Elaine Stritch as Nick's Mother, and a couple bits by Eddie Izzard as the church organist/choir director were all FUN.

If you like unusual, check it out! Be aware that Kate Winslet has a very dirty mouth in this one!

Monday, March 10, 2008


Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) is regarded by some as one of the best films ever created. I'll withhold judgement until I see a better copy; the VHS from the library was nearly unwatchable. If it is as truly great as some of the scenes seemed they could be, it is well worth a Criterion DVD. I did find it absorbing, even though it appeared to be through fog on a lake. The Moloch scene was truly incredible - humans being sacrificed in lock-step to the insatiable machine. I want to see this one, restored.

The Battleship Potemkin

or Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925) is a hugely influential silent film, which almost was not produced or distributed because there is no romance, nor movie stars. It is based upon a historical mutiny aboard the Potemkin, which resulted in a massacre in Odessa. It was banned in some countries because it was feared that the film would instigate revolt. According to Roger Ebert, "It was banned at various times in the United States and France, and for a longer time than any other film in British history; even Stalin banned it, at a time when mutiny was against the party line.",

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A Boy and His Dog

Yikes. I still can't like A Boy and His Dog (1975) although it's called a black comedy. The violence against women killed any humor I might have found in it otherwise. Don Johnson did hold his own against a talking dog, who seemed to be the only HUMAN in the entire film. The dog was the woman-hunter, however, and didn't seem to regard women as humans. Their only function in the film was as something to rape. Horrifying.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Start the Revolution Without Me

Blah. I must have been in the wrong mood for Start the Revolution Without Me (1970) because reading the IMDb quotes page brings a smile to my face, that wasn't there watching it. Perhaps Bud Yorkin, the director, is just not Mel Brooksian enough to give it that necessary oomph.

It really was most dreadfully silly, and funny. Donald Sutherland and Gene Wilder playing double roles, as the mis-matched sets of twins who raised as nobles, and peasants. They are so wonderfully young, energetic, funny and silly!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Random Harvest

Finally, a movie Bob and I could both love! Random Harvest (1942) is a perfect Hollywood film, although it is set in England. Ronald Colman, although old for the role of Smithy, is perfectly paired with Greer Garson, who plays the most patient, loving wife EVER. Of course Paula gets her beloved Smithy in the end, thank GOODNESS!!!!!! They just don't make 'em like this, any more! Adapted from a novel by James Hilton. I think the title is awful, but other than that, it's perfect!

Apartment Zero

Continuing my viewing of films set or filmed in Argentina, Apartment Zero (Conviviendo con la muerte)(1989) is set and filmed in Buenos Aires, with a sub-plot of the mercenaries who killed so many in Argentina. Another theme which I loved was movie trivia and film stars. Colin Firth as the emotionally crippled Adrian LeDuc is masterful, while his opposite Hart Bochner as the mysterious Jack Carney is stunning, charming, completely frightening. Every smaller role is so well done -- what a great film this was. I'm amazed that it is not better known. I found both commentary tracks interesting also -- especially the writer/director Martin Donovan.

Practical Magic

Rory brought one of his favorite movies, Practical Magic (1998) for us to watch. Adapted from an Alice Hoffman novel, it has a cast of wonderful women actors: Sandra Bullock as Sally Owens, Nicole Kidman as her sister, party-girl Gillian Owens, Stockard Channing as Aunt Frances 'Fran' Owens and Dianne Wiest as Aunt Bridget 'Jet' Owens. Goran Visnjic (E.R.) has a juicy part as the sexy but evil Jimmy Angelov, while Aidan Quinn gets to be the good guy Officer Gary Hallet. Quite good fun, especially when the phone tree is turned into a circle for a good old fashioned exorcism.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Bicycle Thief

Ladri di biciclette (1948) AKA Bicycle Thieves, is a wonderful and depressing look at post-War Italy. A family so poor that the sheets must be hocked to get the bicycle back -- which was pawned to buy food. And then on the first day of the job that bicycle was required to do, the bicycle is stolen. The rest of the film is the futile and exhausting efforts of father and son to find and reclaim the bicycle. Neo-Realism is powerful, but oh, so sad. Vittorio De Sica deserved the special Oscar awarded him the year after he refused to allow censors to cut his masterpiece.

Cinema Paradiso

Nuovo cinema Paradiso (1988) might be the finest film I've ever seen. And wonderfully, the director's cut is almost a different film, and also very fine. Another film about the movies and love of movies, Cinema Paradiso follows the life of an impoverished Sicilian boy as he grows up and becomes a successful film-maker. His own father gone, he befriends Alfredo, the projectionist at Cinema Paradiso. So wonderfully satisfying in every way, this is one film I'll want to watch over and over again. I don't know how autobiographical this film is, but Giusseppe Tornatore is a genius.

Can't Stop the Music

It's the Village People, so hold your hats! Over the top, strangely "de-gayed", but fun. It got the very first RAZZIE (worst movie of the year), but some people still class it as their favorite! So if you like a movie so bad it's good, with more cheese than a Big Mac, pop some corn and enjoy the movie!

Just a Question of Love

Juste une question d'amour (2000) was OK. I know that parents DO agonize over their sons' coming out -- but in France do they? I thought that sort of blind stupidity was American. ::sigh:: I guess not. The boys are cute, the accepting mother is nice, and the rest of them -- I should have more sympathy, but it was very difficult to excuse their behavior. Yay for French TV though -- this was a made-for-TV movie! You have to love a film about coming out that isn't full of cliches, and has a happy ending!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Walking, Affirmations

I've started a new project, ahead of my coming trip to Scotland with Dad and my sister Kimberly. Bob is my inspiration - he's been walking over 10,000 steps per day for over a month. I got a little pedometer like his, and have been walking now for almost two weeks. I reached 10K steps on the fourth day, and decided that I wanted to do 10,000 aerobic steps per day, 7 days per week, until March 31st, the day before we depart. I reached 10K aerobic steps this last week, and have maintained it daily now for four days. So I'll have about 5 weeks of that before we leave. I'm hoping that it will improve my overall health and stamina, perhaps lose a bit of weight, and definitely tighten up a bit. Blogging about the walks daily at

Yesterday, I paged through a book that Pig recommended, called Real Fitness for Real Women: A Unique Workout Program for the Plus-Size Woman, by Rochelle Rice. Her first step to fitness is crafting and using affirmations, as the way to develop your will, determination, courage to follow through. As I walked, I crafted my affirmation today, and noticed that as I said it to myself, my stride changed. I walked taller, more confidently, more powerfully. I want that all the time!

I am a powerful, healthy, beautiful woman. Remember.

I'm sure I'll change this as I go along -- it isn't quite what I was saying today, but I can't recall the original wording now. Do any of my readers have affirmations you use? Do you mind sharing?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Neil Young, Heart of Gold

Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006) is more than just a concert film. It is a biography of Young in concert, by masterful film-maker Jonathan Demme. With the DVD extras, you see this concert from the idea and song-writing to the actual performance. The concert itself is dreamlike and perfect. Neil Young is a genius who has enriched my life since I first heard his voice.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Terry Pratchett works

Terry Pratchett deserves his own post, so I'm excising stuff from previous posts.

(from a 2005 post)
Thanks to Thomas I have fallen in love with Terry Pratchett, and recently finished Monstrous Regiment (2003). Hilarious, as usual! A send-up of war, and gender politics, quite needed in these dark days as we close in on the elections. [hmmmm -- how much has changed?]

According to Terry Prachett, he has written 26 Discworld novels. I've read Hogfather, The Fifth Elephant, and Wyrd Sisters. So 22 more -- I'd better get on it! Hmmmmm - Heart O has 29:
1) The Color of Magic
2) The Light Fantastic
3) Equal Rites
4) Mort
5) Sourcery
6) Wyrd Sisters *
7) Pyramids
8) Guards! Guards!
9) Eric
10) Moving Pictures
11) Reaper Man
12) Witches Abroad
13) Small Gods
14) Lords and Ladies
15) Men at Arms
16 Soul Music
17) Interesting Times
18) Maskerade
19) Feet of Clay
20) Hogfather *
21) Jingo
22) The Last Continent
23) Carpe Jugulum
24) The Fifth Elephant *
25) The Truth
26) Thief of Time
27) Night Watch
28) Monstrous Regiment *
29) Going Postal *

Just finished my first non-Diskworld Pratchett, The Wee Free Men (2003), which I absolutely LOVED. And am about to embark on the second book about Tiffany Aching and her buddies the Wee Free Men (aka the Nac Mac Feegle, or "pictsies"), A Hat Full of Sky. Looking forward to the pleasure. I've been snacking on too many books, and not reading enough of them whole.

Finally got Going Postal by Terry Prachett (2004) from the library. What a hoot! This is a wonderful riff on modern communications and the nature of freedom, integrity and .... HOPE. Three cheers for Moist Van Lipwig, arch-swindler!

Good Omens is reviewed with the Neil Gaiman works:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

How much is the Iraq war costing us?

Children of Paradise (Les Enfants du Paradis)

Marcel Carnes's Children of Paradise (Les Enfants du Paradis) (1945) is a miracle of film-making, created under the most extreme circumstances of Nazi occupation and political and economic stresses, but appearing a light and perfect as a wedding cake. Every element of the film combines to create an artistic whole, although Carne had to create two films because of Nazi edict. I've put the Criterion DVD set on my wish list, and can hardly wait to see all the wonderful extras and the brilliant clean copy they are able to offer. This film has been lauded as the best of French film, as well as the best film of all time. I'm not qualified to make such a judgement, but many scenes are unforgettable, and it is completely engrossing. I intended to watch only the first half last night, but couldn't resist the second reel!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Joss Whedon, genius

Writer, director, producer and composer weren't enough for Joss. When his Buffy The Vampire Slayer went off the air in 2003, he wasn't done with the saga. So he decided to write a comic book series, or as they are now known, graphic novels! I've read the first collection, issued as Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight Volume I, and Fray, which I checked out in one book which collects issues one through eight of the Dark Horse comic-book miniseries.

Previously reviewed: Buffy, Angel (have only watched part of the series), Serenity:, and Firefly:

Under the Cherry Moon - Prince

Under the Cherry Moon (1986) was good, and I'm not a Prince fan. I enjoyed the acting, the dancing, the humor, the music, the black and white look of Nice on the French Riviera. Prince directed and stars, and of course wrote and performs all the music. His female lead is a very young Kristin Scott Thomas, in her first film role. Altogether a fun experience. Available at KCLS.

Zachariah - what a trip!

Zachariah (1971) was a completely unexpected pleasure. I couldn't figure out who the strangely familiar CUTE guy was, until I read the DVD box -- Don Johnson! In a film with Country Joe and the Fish! Actually, I couldn't stop shaking my head throughout the entire film, which looked just as fun as all get-out to make, on the lowest budget possible. Well, they did spend some money on great costuming, and the sets were cardboard or sticks and grass, LOL! Still, it all fit together, and although our young men obviously love one another truly, the road to happiness is rocky. There is a wonderful, exhaustive review of this film here:
IMDb: Available from KCLS.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Neil Gaiman works

Stardust (1999) is the latest Neil Gaiman book I've finished. Quite different than the movie of the same name, it is a delightful short novel. Coming of age by going to Fairie, and then never being able to go home again -- it's hardly a new plot. But Gaiman creates a hero who grows and changes, who has a history, who learns to love, and to change. As does the Star, who learns to live upon the Earth, to make a life here, to heal and forgive and love. Some of the minor characters grow and change too. I'm loving this Gaiman fellow!

Previously read and reviewed: Neverwhere, American Gods, the films MirrorMask and Stardust. Now reading Creatures of the Night (with Michael Zulli, artist: Dark Horse Books, undated), a graphic fantasy short collection. I liked the two short stories, and the artwork was OK. One can read the entire book in much less than an hour.

I'll review Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (1990) here, although Terry Pratchett is listed as the first of the two authors, but he does say that Gaiman sent him the first six pages, LOL! They both say that they wrote the book as a lark, and were pleased and surprised as Punch when it was not only published, but became a Cult Classic. Very funny, and a wonderful blend of the two authors. I'm quite pleased that they were able to double-handedly avert Armageddon, which sounds very unpleasant!

Next up: Sandman, the graphic novel.

Charlie Chaplin's City Lights

City Lights (1931) is a nearly perfect film. Chaplin didn't want to make a "talky," even though that's what the public clamored for. The only "talking" is in the opening (hilarious) sequence, when some city blowhards voices are quacked through a reed -- by Chaplin himself. In fact, he composed the film score, also, so it is not a "silent" film. While this film is so funny that occasionally I could only wheeze, it also is thoughtful, and the final scene has to be seen to be believed, it is so perfect. It fills my heart with joy and sadness at the same time, and may be the best ending of any film ever made. Charles Chaplin poured his heart, his talent, his money, and his time into this film, and I think it will stand forever as one of the finest.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tristram Shandy

I'm going to try a new way of doing this, since I'm noticing that I'm interested in more book/film pairs. Or more films by one director, one producer, following one actor, etc. Too complicated to group all the films and books together by when I watched 'em, so from now one I'll group them in a more logical fashion, or do one-off posts. So:

Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story (2005). Certainly cock and bull, and if you enjoy Brit self-referential humor, mockumentary, or post-modernist wandering -- or Steve Coogan! -- you will love this film. If, on the other hand, you want a 3-act film, with a beginning, middle and ending, this will not be the movie for you. By all means get the DVD and watch all the extras, because it is packed with funny stuff. Also, it inspired me to buy and read Tristram Shandy, one of those books I've had on my to-read list ever since I heard about it. Now it's on my Amazon wishlist!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Books 2008

Nuala O'Faolain's first book was actually completed in 2008, but I included it in 2007, since I started it then, and read the rest of her books in 2007 also.

On to Peter Segal's funny Book of Vice: Very Naughty Things (And How To Do Them) (2007). Sex clubs, houses full of swingers, obscenely expensive and delicious food (food porn?), gambling, strippers, porn stars. Fun, fun, fun! Who knew NPR hosts could be such fun. An essential bit: the three necessary elements of vice that distinguish it from sin and give it that irresistible frisson; social disapprobation, actual pleasure and shame. Yup!

Neverwhere (1997) is wonderful! Rather than writing a review, refer to, which pretty much says it all. Loved it, loved it, loved it! "Mind the Gap"!

American Gods (2001), also by Neil Gaiman, is a huge dark comedy, and a mind-fuck. So if you like being whirled around a bit, and have the patience to read through a long novel with many side stories, pick this up! You might enjoy the review: