Archive for the 'Journal' Category

Dancing vampires are still scarier than Twilight

So remember how I used to post regularly to my blog? And then I graduated grad school and basically stopped blogging, because having a full time job makes it hard to devote an hour or two a day to blogging and to keeping up with a full TV schedule? (And as I write I am weeks behind on Mad Men.) I do miss regular posting, but once you get out of the habit it’s hard to get back in. So I will be doing the National Blog Posting Month thing for November. I have some stuff going on this month, so I can’t promise that some of the posts won’t just be YouTube videos and exclamation points as opposed to thoughtful cultural critique, but I will do my best to make sure something goes up every day.

I hope everyone reading this had a good Halloween. I didn’t really do anything this year (which is lame, but I am Old and have been very Tired lately) except watch the Guy Maddin Dracula Ballet. It was pretty amazing, in that it was shot in classic silent film style (intertitles, coloured filters to set the mood, irises everywhere), but was also Guy Maddin so it was an adaptation that was subtly funny and self-aware in terms of the issues of scary foreigners and the threat of female sexuality in the original. (The ship arrives to intertitles saying “Immigrants!” “Others! From Other Lands!” I love Guy Maddin so hard.) Also, it had dancing.

Dracula ballet!

You say I’m too kind and sentimental, like you could catch affection (Gossip Girl Season 2)

So I sort of fell off with the Gossip Girl blogging this year for two reasons: 1) I’ve sort of fallen off with all my blogging and 2) it got really hard to come up with things to say besides “So, Dan and Serena got back together and then broke up again. Again.” Though I loved parts of this season, there was definitely an ebb around the period of Blair getting kicked out of Yale (twice) for (as TWOP’s Jacob has pointed out) inviting someone to the opera at the wrong time, and the aforementioned Serena-Dan relationship yo-yo, not to mention basically the fact that disgusting Aaron Rose was ever on the show. It’s like they had 19 episodes worth of story, but they had to shoot 25.

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Tri-Weekly Movies, February 23-March 15

Hi everyone! What’s up. I’ve been kind of taking an internet vacation from everything but facebook and email and food websites, mainly since I’d started finding all my free time eaten up with my car-crash-type fascination with It’s kind of nice, even if Alex now has to update me on all the dumb internet stuff.

But on to more important things.

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Winter Prom! (Gossip Girl, Season 2, Episode 12)

Obviously there are a thousand places on the internet you can get Gossip Girl recaps, so this one’s going to be all about the party dresses:

The most prominent last night, Vanessa’s is beautiful, belongs to someone else, and is transparent when you hold it up to the light.

Serena’s is everything at once. It manages to both be a big-skirted ballgown and show off her legs at the same time. Like her, it shouldn’t be that gorgeous, but it works. (And the less said about her no-tie boyfriend, the better.)

Jenny’s reflects her current situation all too well: she is a black-hearted little Dickensian seamstress. With fishnet tights, standby of any girl who’s trying to be more bad than she really is.

The mean girls are all forgettable in pastels.

Blair’s is a little harder to pin down. It’s more structured and old-fashioned, almost parodic of old-Hollywood glamour. It’s a bit too old for her, but she wears it like armor. (Chuck’s tux is like a normal tux, except that his dinner jacket is covered in sequins.)

Also, I know that many might decry the influence of Gossip Girl on teen girls, encouraging, as it does, bitchiness, acquisitiveness, and a complacency about an economy and culture that’s kind of broken. But I don’t know that Gossip Girl isn’t a step above many of the classic teen soap operas even by the measure of female representation. S & B are no Buffy (who had her own problems, but let’s not get into that now), but they’re not exactly passive victims either. They may be bitches, but that’s not a bad thing anymore, remember? Bitches get stuff done. The Gossip Girls, they go after what they want, even if means crazily running away from home to start their own clothing line.1 Gossip Girls don’t let boys walk all over them. Gossip Girls masturbate.

And while I am mostly grossed out by the transformation of Chuck from would-be rapist to romantic hero, I do applaud that they made their gross alpha-male sex dude the most fey man on television.

  1. Which, as a sentence, is hilarious. 

Weekly Movies, November 10-16

Before I get to my sad weekly movie, I need to talk about the new Star Trek trailer: SO BAD.

I can’t even talk about how bad this looks. Alex showed it to me last night and I just started sputtering “SO bad. SO unbelievably bad.” Hoverbikes! Spunky children! (Just like those Star Wars prequels)! “I will not allow you to lecture me.” “Then why don’t you stop me?” It’s like Amok Time, but with a naked chick to quell the homoerotic subtext. (I like to think about the fact that slash fiction might not exist if it weren’t for Star Trek sometimes.)

Other movie trailer that makes me despair for all of cinema: Confessions of a Shopaholic.

It honestly doesn’t look like the same class of train wreck as Star Trek: The New Class, but I just get angry every time I see it. Something inside me just twitches, I think the part that wishes this kind of faux-Bridget Jones thing was over already. Also, most poorly timed movie ever, yes? The premise of the story is basically: “Credit card debt, LOL.” Actually, it might be the best timed movie ever, since the full premise is: “Credit card debt, LOL. Wait, cute girl with huge debts falls for rich guy! Problem solved.” It’s totally the new depression version of those golddigger musicals from the 1930s. We’re in the money, indeed.


  1. Joe Vs. The Volcano (John Patrick Shanley, 1990): This movie managed to be both totally awesome and completely terrible at the same time. I kind of admire it for that, even though I can’t really excuse its astounding feats of racism. The story is — Joe is a hypochondriac who finds out he’s dying which allows him to finally start living. He does this by agreeing to jump into a volcano so an industrialist can buy minerals from a fictional island tribe who’ve got crazy superstitions. A magical black cab driver played by Ossie Davis teaches him how to dress. Then he meets some Meg Ryans (she plays three different characters, for no apparent reason). He and the third Meg Ryan go on a boat to the island — but then the boat sinks, so they ride his ridiculous steamer trunks until they drift to the appropriate island.

Then they realize they’re suddenly in love, so they jump into the volcano together. Then they get magically shot out of the volcano, the whole island civilization (a civilization that combines Polynesian, Hebrew, Italian, and other traditions to be equal-opportunity offensive to all ethnicities — seriously, Nathan Lane is involved) is destroyed, but it’s a happy ending, because they realize that blonde Meg Ryan’s dad actually defrauded Joe, by paying his doctor to tell him he was dying of a brain cloud, but actually Joe is totally fine and therefore just almost killed himself for no reason.
It jumps around in tone like crazy, and some of the parts are totally awesome.
The whole first part in the factory looks like Metropolis or Brazil. The way that Shanley creates the fluorescent light atmosphere is really great.

This opening image of the crooked path is pretty clever as an way to start the movie, as well. It’s interesting and German Expressionist-y, and it’s a pretty clear signal about how the narrative’s going to proceed.
I also found LA Meg Ryan really funny, almost despite myself. The bit where she recites the poem? Priceless. “Long ago, the delicate tangles of his hair… covered the emptiness of my hand.”

Of course, this is a movie where he’s a prince just for not boning her.
I totally get why it’s a cult movie, because it’s really unlike anything else I’ve ever seen, and it’s kind of a mess with flashes of greatness. But seriously.

I have no response to that.

(Bi) Weekly Movies October 27-November 9

  1. The Innocents (Jack Clatyton, 1961): You know that thing that happens when you’re talking about a movie, and then a few days later, it’s on TV? I love that thing. It’s really not a surprising thing in this case, because it’s a movie about ghosts and it was on last week, but still. 
This though? Is amazing. It’s from 1961, but it feels like it could be much newer, from the way it starts out with a lone child’s voice singing over the studio logos to the way it ends with a grown woman kissing a little boy. A lot of that might be how heavily it influenced The Others, though. The story is a bit different – the period is a lot earlier, it’s a governess instead of a mother, her fear is of a religious as opposed to a health-related paranoia, and it’s actually kind of creepier since the danger is sexuality, kind of. The wiki page is actually pretty useful and well put together, noting cinematographer Freddie Francis’s use of deep focus, which is one of the things that made it seem so modern. 
It also paraphrases from Christopher Frayling’s DVD commentary:
 “Frayling attributes the Freudian subtext to screenwriter Truman Capote, whose contribution gives the film a Southern Gothic feel – with the governess’s repressed erotic sensibility counterpointed by shots of lush and decaying plants and rapacious insect life. Reportedly, when first screened. Twentieth Century Fox executives were disturbed by the scene (which doesn’t occur in the novella) where the governess kisses the boy Miles directly on the lips.” 
So that pretty much sums up how great this movie is.
  2. Itty Bitty Titty Committee (Jamie Babbit, 2007): I don’t know how to feel about movies like this. See, the actual story is a pretty average coming of age story, but with added radical feminism tied in, as for Anna, coming of age involves joining a Guerilla Girls-esque gang called Clits in Action. There was some stuff I really liked, like how Melonie Diaz’s character’s mom was totally okay with her being gay and actually turned out to be pretty cool, having interned at Ms. back in the day. I like Diaz a lot, think she has a lot of promise. And I loved Carly Pope’s ridiculous bangs and huge glasses, as Shulie, the most humourless of all the feminist gang. Oh, and the soundtrack was great, full of music I like by bands like Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, Heavens to Betsy, and Sleater-Kinney. But I’m not really sure who the audience for it was. It’s not that I object to radical feminist activism being the catalyst for someone’s coming of age, but as someone who’s you, know, completed college, the politics felt kind of naïve and, while the whole thing was entertaining, it didn’t totally work. The cinematical review isn’t very patient with the movie but ultimately concludes: “it’s new, it’s fresh, it’s now, and it subtly packs a powerful message into what’s, essentially, just another light, breezy night out with the girls.” Thing is, I don’t think it is all that new or fresh. All those hip bands on the soundtrack? Still great and hip, but all presently defunct. (And Le Tigre still rocks, but I can’t really feel the same way about them after hearing “Deceptacon” used to sell skin cream. I realize radical feminists gots to get paid, but this movie certainly doesn’t.) And a lot of the inspirations are even older: The Guerilla Girls (about which cinematical is wrong on two counts: not from the ’70s, and actually still active) started in 1985; Shulamith Firestone (after whom Shulie named herself) published The Dialectic of Sex in 1979; and the zines ‘n’ punk culture that the movie draws on so much is pure ’90s. So less than new or fresh or now, the whole thing felt nostalgic for a different kind of activism. The Clits do have a website, but they realize it’s not really working when they install a tracker and find out no one reads it. In 2007? Seriously? There is a totally robust feminist blogosphere that would love things like putting a statue of Angela Davis in a public park, and link to the website of the group responsible. Awareness? Raised!
  3. Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008): I find it really interesting that this is coming out the same year as Twilight. I haven’t read Twilight, but I have it on good authority that it’s about a teenage girl who falls in love with a creepy stalker vampire who looks teenaged but is actually way older and that they have teen angst but without any of the moral problems of even Buffy, because he’s a good vampire who is never really evil? See, Let The Right One In has some of the same storyline — there’s this sad disaffected 12-year-old boy, who falls in love with a 12-year-old vampire girl — but the whole thing is not just played as starry-eyed angst, it is really really creepy from start to finish. It’s set in Sweden, so the whole thing is played out against this grey-skyed background of ice and snow and visible breath. But of course there’s killing of actual people and it’s actually really dark and violent and you wind up kind of rooting for the child vampire, but also being deeply horrified by your rooting for them, like any good horror movie.
  4. Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 2008): This is the kind of movie that’s really hard to do well, with the artsy handheld camera work, the family drama where the bad sister comes home from rehab for the good sister’s wedding and they all deal with the horrible thing that happened before, and the emphasis on people’s feelings. But this one was done really well — the acting is great across the board, the story’s powerful and emotionally affective, it’s really intelligent about class and race — and that makes it really hard to write about critically. I could talk about the never-ending carefully multicultural wedding celebration and how that’s really modeled as this happy world that Kym can’t be a part of; I could talk about the way weight issues are handled and/or not handled; I could talk about the way Demme appears to use on-set musicians for the whole soundtrack and how amazing it is when Kym’s finally like “are they going to play all weekend?” and Rachel’s fiance is from TV On The Radio; I could talk about how I kind of still felt like crying hours after the movie ended. I don’t really know; I do think Anne Hathaway should win an Oscar. This was so far from anything I’d seen her do — and I have generally liked her in other stuff — and it would hopefully keep her out of doing Kate Hudson movies.
  5. Zoot Suit (Luis Valdez, 1981): I really thought this was going to be good. It’s about the prejudice faced by young chicanos who wore zoot suits in World War II, culminating in the famous “zoot suit riots” where a bunch of sailors went to a Mexican neighbourhood and beat up a bunch of dudes for wearing baggy pants. Also, it’s a musical. In which Edward James Olmos dances and sings! How could it be bad? But it’s terrible. And I am someone who kind of loves The Wiz, so you know my standards for postmodern musicals about racial identity are vanishingly low. But seriously, it’s just painful. It’s an adaptation of the play that gave Olmos his big break — as the representation of the conflicted chicano identity of the hero, a kid who was just about to ship out to war, but gets railroaded on a false murder charge and winds up spending two years in jail because of a disgustingly racist judge. (Based on a real incident, but heavily altered for the film, from what I understand.) Unfortunately, it’s a really direct adaptation of a really…theatrical play. So it opens with an audience coming into a theatre, is obviously all shot on a soundstage, and cuts to the audience reacting to stuff at key moments. Even Olmos lets me down, giving the biggest, most ridiculous performance ever (despite the rather low-key work of Daniel Valdez as Henry Reyna, resulting in a situation where Olmos is kind of playing the dark alter-ego of a brick, as Alex put it). I don’t really blame him though, I blame the director, who adapted his own play and obviously just instructed Olmos to give his stage performance on film. The raw material — the Sleepy Lagoon trials, the defendants’ relationship with the white activists who worked on their appeal, the racial tensions leading up to the zoot suit riots — this stuff is all really rich, interesting material, that you could totally make an amazing movie out of, and I think someone should. Maybe EJO! He directs, BSG’s over now, and he’s really big on Chicano issues, so I bet he’d do a good job with it.

Not so weekly movies

This is kind of a programming note. Remember how I used to update my blog regularly? I bet you’re wondering what happened to that.

Well, I was unemployed and kind of depressed (colloquially speaking, not clinically), I went to Texas, and then I got a full time job. The job thing is pretty exciting and it is a good job, but I’m maintaining my don’t write about work on your blog policy, brought to you by my modicum of good sense.

But the thing I will write is, I have basically a totally different schedule than I did before, and I haven’t yet figured out how the whole thing is going to work, in terms of blogging and working and sleeping. It’s not that I don’t have the time, it’s just that the routine’s still getting fine-tuned a bit. Streamlined, let’s say. In other words, things might be a bit weird, like, a long stretch of no posts followed by a bunch of posts all one after the other.

I’ve got a couple of things coming — check back for more Gossip Girl stuff (I missed the Yale episode, and the Dangerous Liasons episode, and Jenny’s downward spiral), a more current weekly movies soon, my conflicted feelings about Privileged, and maybe even my new love of Designing Women. I am also thinking about stealing Ashley’s format for a fall TV roundup type post.

So anyway, I saw a bunch of movies that I never wrote up. Well, I wrote them up, but I never polished the post or added pictures or anything. Some of these are pretty dated, since it’s like a month’s worth or something. This is for…since my last weekly movies til this week. There were some no movie weeks in there, what with pilot season and all. Continue Reading »

Reflections a few days after 90210

I’m not sure I want to devote whole paragraphs to this show. It wasn’t very good. I will probably still watch this week. (On the other hand, this week’s ANTM was epic, so the CW has that going for it.)

  • None of Jessica Walter’s lines are inherently funny, but she is so good she actually turns banal phrases into hilarity.
  • Annie would be a better heroine if she had a flaw or if someone disliked her for a reason that was actually her fault.
  • What kind of high school does Spring Awakening as its school play? It’s, um, not the kind of thing I would have wanted to perform in front of my parents.
  • Jennie Garth has actually gotten prettier and more likeable as she’s aged.
  • I hope Brandon isn’t Kelly’s baby daddy.
  • What’s the point of bringing Brenda back if she’s going to be nice all the time?
  • How much more would I like “Silver” if she was played by Willa Holland?
  • Is “I’m breaking up with us” the new “I choose me”?

Summer Movies, July 7-August 24

I’m back! Things might still be slow for the next little bit, as I still haven’t actually defended my thesis, plus I have a lot of stuff going on in the next couple of months, but there will be updates.

Anyway, I kept a list of the movies I did manage to see since I went on hiatus. It is long. Continue Reading »

Hiatus Time

Heyyy internet.

So I’ve tried to put off the part of thesis writing where you totally panic and write like a maniac as long as I could, but that time is officially upon me. This means you won’t be seeing updates from me until the end of the summer.

Hopefully the next time I talk to you I will be plus one masters degree. Wish me luck!

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