Saturday, March 20, 2010

Whirlwind part quatre

In film:
  • I finally watched Slumdog Millionaire. I liked it well enough, even if after the first 20 minutes it became predictable (though still enjoyable). Because I automatically like most films that play around with timelines, I appreciated how Jamal's answers on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" are drawn from various points in his life and lead to his present predicament.

    The film had all the trappings of a feel-good movie: rags to riches with a little bit of luck and hard work and true love. It wasn't a typical bootstrap story, but it still had echoes of Horatio Alger.

    Sadly, the one thing that didn't make sense to me was the love story itself. Either it was the acting or the script or both, but I didn't get the impression that the two protagonists were "destined" for each other. In fact, the two characters behaved more like siblings until almost the end of the movie.

    Other than that, it was a decent story -- and had a great soundtrack to boot!

  • La Cage aux Folles had been in my Netflix queue for ages, and I finally got around to watching it. The Birdcage is an old favorite of mine, so I've long wanted to see the original.

    ....Aaand now I think a little less of The Birdcage. Turns out, there were few
    Americanizations in the remake of the farcical tale about two gay men who pretend to be a hetero couple for the benefit of their son's financee's ultra-conservative parents. Few changes in the American version also mean, unfortunately, little originality in the Robin Williams movie I've loved for so long. Despite the original French film being 20 years old and, well, French, the dialogue and antics and slapstick were identical. (Surprisingly --and a bit delightfully, I'll admit-- it all still worked and made sense decades later and a continent and culture away!)

    Great movie!

  • The Hurt Locker was a disappointment. A friend and I found ourselves wondering how the hell it won Best Picture at the Oscars. As war movies go, this didn't bring anything new to the genre. The thing that made it different was that the servicemen were part of a bomb disposal unit.

    But the character development was nonexistent, and there was a lo
    t of random dialogue that wasn't followed up on later in the film. Then there was the machismo. Like any war movie, it's bound to be there, but without the character development the male bonding that war movies can normally do well, it was kind of bizarre.

    We tried, for a few hours after the film, to read something deeper into it. (The isolation of the viewer from the characters mimics the isolation of the soldiers from everyone else as well as the desert itself? The character who changes his mind about kids and says "I want a son" in the end reinforces the changing nature of masculinity, paternity, and/or paternalism?) In the end, we concluded that we were over-reaching.

    And even though I know it wasn't an anti-war film, parts of it didn't sit well with me. (How can you not think of current, highly publicized human rights abuses in Iraq when the main character in the film goes vigilante with a gun in a residential section of Baghdad and invades civilian homes? Compartmentalizing can only go so far. I can't watch a movie about a war that hasn't ended and pretend to be in a vacuum.)

    As war itself changes, so do the films and literature that take place in it. Maybe I haven't changed with the times, and am trapped watching a new kind of war movie with the old kind's experience. Maybe that was the point?

    But that might be over-reaching, too...
In books:
  • I have a new medieval mystery series that continues my trend of female protagonists. Margaret Frazer's Sister Frevisse seems to be the nun equivalent of the Brother Cadfael series that started me off on the genre decades ago. Loosely based on some of the tales of Chaucer (who is also part of the background story), the series takes place in 15th-century England. The Novice's Tale featured a fierce pack of nuns, defending a wrongly accused novice from accusations of murder. I liked the main characters enough, so we'll see if the next few books warrant reading the entire series!

  • The author of my last medieval mystery series has a new book, and it's set in 19th-century Portland, OR. The Shanghai Tunnel was nothing like Sharan Newman's Catherine Levendeur series. Our heroine this time is a missionary's daughter and sea captain's widow. But the plot itself was slower to develop. The idea was fascinating: tiny, new little town on the Willamette River becomes the center of dark dealings in the opium trade and Taiping Rebellion. As a stand-alone mystery it was okay, but not overwhelming. If it becomes a series I would read more -- the characters have such rich, if fictional, backgrounds that would be fun to delve into more for future books.

    But clearly I'll need to tour the Shanghai Tunnels in Portland next time I visit!

In shoes:
  • Love Privos. Third pair already. So comfy.

  • The Bellevue Arts Museum's exhibit on Beth Levine was fun. I'd never been to BAM before, so that was a pleasant first. But because the exhibit is titled "The First Lady of Shoes" and I only scanned a review before going to see it with Mild Abandon, I mistakenly thought the exhibit had something to do with shoes worn by the various FLOTUS. (I wasn't far from wrong: Beth Levine did design shoes worn by a few First Ladies in the '60s and '70s...)

    At any rate, in a time when women had fewer economic (let alone creative) independence, Levine designed the shoes that were sold under her husband's name. She also introduced a lot of shoes to the American shoe market that I have not necessarily been able to walk in properly but can appreciate and coo over nonetheless: the mule, the stiletto (though Dior apparently inaccurately gets credit), and the fashion boot.

    It was a fun exhibit, and refreshing to see fashion intersect with both women's history and historically male-dominated business and industry.

    Why does this remind me to put Coco Avant Chanel in my Netflix queue?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Logo mojo

I have also had time (16 minutes, to be precise) to watch the Oscar-winning short film Logorama.

The film is a mish-mash of Hollywood disaster genre scripts, set in a Los Angeles (naturally) made up entirely of logos. Ronald McDonald robs a bank and takes hostages in a diner; Michelin men are the police. A waitress and kid flee the disaster zone but still can't escape Logo Land and the destruction it wreaks on LA.

It's hard not to draw a social commentary from the film, or be reminded of Naomi Klein's seminal book about logos and branding. Like the logos that make up a collective, trademarked Toontown, the viewer is visually barraged by the brands that make up our everyday lives. Is it art or infiltration? (Or both?) The film has three layers, in essence: the actual robbery-hostage-escape drama; the destruction, rebirth, and symbolism of the logos themselves and the logo world; and the silent commentary on the viewers' consumerism.

Take a bite out of the Apple apple, Eve?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

'Frisco fangs

Oh look! Some down time, as the state legislature debates revenue and possibly goes into special session. All my overdue library books were not in vain.

The sequel to Bloodsucking Fiends, in typical Christopher Moore style, was hilariously irreverent. You Suck starts with Fiends' unwitting vampire turning her boyfriend into one, too. The cast of characters from the old book returns -- everyone from the ancient evil vampire to a Safeway peanut gallery stoner crew. An amusing and clover addition to the list of protagonists includes a goth girl who narrates of some chapters.

It was a quick read: nothing deep or heavy, and perfect for escapism while twiddling thumbs and waiting around for a revenue package from Olympia.