Category: Movies

Oscar Sunday and Movie Monday: Swept Away and Django Unchained

Jessica Chastain at 2012 Oscars.  She's awesome.

Jessica Chastain at 2012 Oscars in Alexander McQueen.  She’s awesome.

So the Oscars are this Sunday.  Oh yeah, another chance for Hollywood to congratulate itself.  Yessss* but also a good time to invite friends over, make food and drink.  Of course we watch the Red Carpet and talk to the TV and criticize the fashion choices.  And yes we print out Oscar ballots to add in some friendly competition.  I wish that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were hosting but c’est la vie.  They chose Seth MacFarlane.  Hmm.  I’m sure he’ll be better than James Franco and Ann Hathaway.

I am not romantic about who wins and loses an Academy Award.  For a good laugh read this Oscar voter’s take on this year’s nominees from The Hollywood Reporter.  It does not disappoint.  I agree with him on a few things.  Maybe I’m an old curmudgeon.

I especially agree with him on “Django Unchained.”  For a brilliant breakdown read Jesse Williams‘ take.  I agree with him, a lot.

This brings me to a post I trashed.  It’s the first time I’ve done that.  I made it a goal not to be negative here and not to rant, too much.  In the end I decided that I should post it.  I watched two movies and had strong reactions to them, and to me, this warrants attention.

*There’s an article in the Atlantic about the study of extra vowels and elongation of words.  I am guiltyyyy and I like it!


It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the movies.  Since it’s Awards season it’s time to see how many of the movies that are nominated we can see.  I had no desire to see “Django Unchained” but bf wanted to see it since there was an Italian Western movie called “Django” from 1966.  The star of that movie, Franco Nero, has a cameo in “Django Unchained.”

I wasn’t excited by the previews for “Django Unchained” and by the second hour of the movie I was bored.  The first half establishes the how and why and has some nice moments for Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx but as it prodded on I kept looking at my watch.  I liked “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.”  I even liked “Kill Bill” because the ladies got to exact revenge and chop up people, but I’m over the revenge stories, Quentin.  Can we try something else?  Can we also try to be a little less masturbatory with the monologues and unnecessary scenes?  I’m so glad you can craft a screenplay and an interesting scene but they’re not needed.

“Swept Away” is not an Oscar contender but it arrived via Netflix.  I knew of its existence because of the Guy Ritchie remake starring his then wife Madonna and the son of Giancarlo Giannini, Adriano.  I never saw it.  I did want to see “Swept Away.”  Now I wish that I could unsee it.  There are parts of the movie that are more disturbing than “Django Unchained.”  I sincerely dislike violence against your fellow human being.  Yes I watch it in movies, and even that makes me uncomfortable, but the calculated violence and manipulation in real life brings a lot of existential and religious questions to mind.

I did not enjoy watching Giancarlo Giannini’s character, the stereotypical Silician Gennarino,  verbally, mentally and physically abuse the haughty, rich Italian from the North, Raffaella, played by Mariangela Melato (Just a note, she recently died).  I understand why the Director Lina Wertmueller created the characters but I did not like them.  I’m not a fan of violence against women.  And if Raffaella has Stockholm Syndrome, well I sure hope she was faking it for survival.

The scenery was lovely and it made me want to jump on a boat and sail around the Mediterranean but the strange games played between rich and poor, man and woman do nothing for me.

Bruce Lee vs. Chuck Norris at the Colosseum

My friend Jason sent me this video wondering if Bruce Lee was the Colosseum.  Oh how I wish he was.

There are so many things I love about this clip.  Look how they slowly unbutton (Bruce) and undo their belt (Chuck) to remove their jackets.  The sounds of their flexing and popping joints and muscles pre-fight cannot be real, but I love it.  I’m impressed how Bruce’s lats flare out like the hood of a cobra.  Poor Chuck’s chest and shoulder hair look glued on a la current movies where they make fun of 70s and 80s body hair.  The kitten and cat add that extra Roman touch (although we hardly saw any cats on our trip) even adding some sound effects.  Are the cats and Bruce making the same sounds?  And what about their facial expressions?  Amazing.

Les Miz Advent Calendar

Tis the season for advent calendars and the Christmas Day movie premiere of “Les Miserables.”  One of my friends at Summer camp knew all the songs and incorporated them into our daily activities.  I miss her.  I get chills every time I see the trailer so hopefully it lives up to my expectations.  While we wait for it we can amuse ourselves with a Les Miz Advent Calendar as put together by Margaret Lyons and Amanda Dobbins at Vulture on  So far my favorite day was December 2 when they posted a video of Jason Segel and Paul Rudd singing “Confrontation.”

Late to the Kiki Party

But can you ever be late?  “Lock the door, lower the blinds and fire up the smoke machine.”  Leave it to an episode of Glee for me to discover “Let’s Have a Kiki” by the Scissor Sisters.  I have their first two albums but missed their third and now I know about their fourth and perhaps last album.  When Kurt (Chris Colfer), Rachel (Lea Michele) and Isabelle (Sarah Jessica Parker)  started singing and dancing I thought whatever this is I like it.  Finally  Rachel and Kurt are having a NY experience: a house party with drag queens and Carrie from “Sex and the City!”  Hahaha.  The mashup of Turkey Lurkey Time with the song isn’t too annoying.

The Scissor Sisters haven’t released an official video for the song but one was made by the Videodrome Discotheque which was approved by Jake Shears and has a collage of Liberace, RuPaul, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Cher, Queen, Donna Summer, Candy Darling, Dressed to KillThe Boys in the BandMyra BreckinridgeThe Wiz, Boy George,ShowgirlsPerfectThe Phantom of Paradise, Cher’s workout video, Richard Simmons, LisztomaniaCan’t Stop the Music, The Golden Girls and possibly more.  Oh and Ana Matronic’s intro/message is longer and funnier so watch it!

Let’s Have a Kiki!

The Bond Rule, or How to Spice up the Bond Franchise

Ben Greenman introduces The Bond Rule:

“The Bond Rule requires that the winner every Academy Award for Best Director be invited (and by “invited” I mean forced under penalty of Oscar forfeiture) to spend the ensuing year directing a James Bond movie. Is there a better way to ensure a steady stream of fascinating, sometimes surreal, James Bond movies? There is not.”

I vote yes for The Bond Rule!  The New Yorker Blog

Stranded by Sandy

Dangling crane at One57, East 57th Street, Manhattan

I consider myself lucky in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  My apartment wasn’t flooded and I have power and running water again.  I lost nothing valuable.  I thought about not writing about my experience last week since it’s nothing like what people in the Rockaways, Coney Island, Red Hook, Staten Island, the Jersey Shore or Long Island are going through but it was something nonetheless.

A week ago Sunday we were warned about Hurricane Sandy’s arrival in a part of the U.S. that should not get hurricanes.  Frigid temperatures, snow, rain, heat and humidity but surely not hurricanes.  Growing up in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in the late 80s through 1996 I saw my fair share of tropical storms and hurricanes.  Hurricane Hugo in 1989 was the most memorable.  My family chose to evacuate to a hospital about 1-2 hours inland (Myrtle Beach is essentially an island created when they built the Intracoastal Waterway).  We filled up the bathtubs with water to flush the toilets and made sure we had flashlights, drinking water, candles and non-perishable food.  After Hugo hit we drove back to the Beach only to be stopped by the National Guard who didn’t care if my stepdad was an emergency medicine physician who could help people.  Eventually, after 1 hour of negotiation, they let us through and we made our way back home.  Since we lived in a cul-de-sac the neighbors dragged out their charcoal and gas grills and for a few days of fun cookouts.  Then came the peanut butter and jelly.  With all the downed power lines, fallen trees and debris I think it took a week for us to regain power.  My parents vowed never to evacuate again if another hurricane threatened us.  We never had to.  They’ve had other bad storms since, nothing quite like Hugo, but a curious thing has happened in the weather pattern which I’ll get to.

So I was sitting in my NY apartment watching everyone on TV go on about this Hurricane Sandy.  I was planning on riding out the storm at my bf’s place in the Financial District, Lower Manhattan.  I wasn’t really concerned about Sandy.  It’s New York.  Sandy is only a Category 1 so how bad can it be?  Plus I wasn’t sure who to believe because every storm gets elevated to world ending leaving me unsure how to evaluate these things.  Leave it to my parents to change my thinking.  As I was calmly getting my things organized they called to tell me that I needed to move all my things to higher ground.   I chuckled incredulously at their suggestion that my apartment would get flooded.  Not me, not here.  Their concern of me staying at my bf’s 38th floor apartment for this incoming storm didn’t sink in.  Well it did in the end.  I hung up the phone crying out of panic because now I was really confused about what was coming.  I called the super of my building and he said we wouldn’t get flooded.  I checked the NYC Evacuation Zone map and since I was in Zone C I felt reassured.  I grabbed my bag and headed downtown. More

Movie Mondays: Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to Travel

Diana Vreeland. Courtesy

I think part of my success as an editor came from never worrying about a fact, a cause, an atmosphere.  It was me–projecting to the public.  That was my job.  I think I always had a perfectly clear view of what was possible for the public.  Give ’em what they never knew they wanted.”  D.V.

I love Diana Vreeland.  She  is an icon.  The movie “Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to Travel” is a wonderful and entertaining portrait that is a must see if you have an interest in fashion, photography, celebrity, beauty or publishing.  She was such a ball of energy and creativity.  Her colleagues and assistants said she was difficult and demanding but I think she had to be to see her avant-garde visions carried out.

You gotta have style.  It helps you get down the stairs.  It helps you get up in the morning.  It’s a way of life.  Without it, you’re nobody.  I’m not talking about lots of clothes.”  D.V.

Vreeland was hired by Carmel Snow at Harper’s Bazaar first as a contributor which evolved into fashion editor of the magazine, and stayed there for 25 years (1937-1962).  She followed this with a stint at Vogue as Editor-in-Chief (1962-1971).  And if that wasn’t enough she was a consultant at the Costume Institute of The Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1972 until 1986.  The flip side of all this is that she never got a raise while at Harper’s Bazaar and was passed over for a promotion.  Her time at Vogue was cut short because the magazine wasn’t doing so well under her and her expenses for photo shoots weren’t helping.  Fortunately her friends rallied to get her a job at the Costume Institute where she revolutionized the department.

Vogue always did stand for people’s lives.  I mean, a new dress doesn’t get you anywhere; it’s the life you’re living in the dress, and the sort of life you had lived before, and what you will do in it later.”  D.V.     More

Movie Mondays: The Master and Arbitrage

I love going to the movies.  Sometimes I get a cherry coke because it tastes so much better than from a bottle–that direct combination of syrup and soda is so sugary and bad.  I always try to get there in time for the previews, but most of all I love getting way too involved and wrapped up in the characters and story.

Movies are one of the constants of my life, from childhood until now.  So much of my middle and high school social life revolved around the movies.  We would go to the mall, meet our boyfriends and “watch” a movie.  I saw “Dances with Wolves” and “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” 3 times each, once for real, and the other 2, well sort of.

In college, I can’t remember which year or semester, I had just finished finals week and my dad picked me up and we saw 2 or 3 movies in a row.  He thought it was a good way to relax and I couldn’t agree more.  At the Apollo, the local theater in Oberlin, Ohio (I went to Oberlin),  it was the first and maybe only time I heard 40s rolling down the aisle.  Aaaahhh the movies.

These days I find particular joy in my Movie Mondays.  I work Tuesday through Saturday which gives me a Sunday-Monday weekend.  It was strange at first but now after working this way for so long it’s hard to imagine it any other way.  Monday always felt like I was playing hooky until I noticed lots of other people going to the movies on Monday too.  Oh well.

This past Monday I saw “Arbitrage.”  I won’t give away exactly what happens.  It captures a series of major events in the life of a powerful finance guy played by Richard Gere.  He was handsome in “American Gigolo” and he has good chemistry with some of his leading ladies but he’s never done much for me.  What was remarkable is how his character made bad decisions but somehow through luck, power and money he ends up okay (Duh, it’s the movies).  He’s not a nice man.  He gives to charity and seems like he cares about others but really he is selfish, entitled, classicist, racist.  I left wondering how many guys like him are out there now getting away with terrible things since only a few (Bernie Madoff) get caught.

The townhouse he and his family live in had the most amazing chandelier that descended through the center of the stairwell of the house.  It was rectangular in shape with millions of rectangle-shaped crystals forming a sparkling column of light, a very modern-contemporary touch in a rather traditional but not chintz and tassel covered home.

There was a scene of Susan Sarandon on the elliptical machine.  She had on an off the shoulder shirt and there was no visible bra strap.  From paparazzi photos I know she’s well-endowed so how the heck is she bouncing around without support?  No one works out in a strapless bra.  Unless you’re Amanda Bynes.

“The Master” left me feeling uneasy about what I had just seen.  I know that Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix were both amazing, and Amy Adams held her own, but whoa, it was a lot to take in.  The cinematography was beautiful.  I loved the shots of the swirling turquoise, deep blue water and the light present in all the scenes.

Here you have portraits of men who feel beholden to none, resolute in their paths and just a tad crazy.  It’s hard for me to say I loved the movie because the characters that Hoffman and Phoenix play are not likeable.  I want to know what happened to them to make them the way they are.

I’ll try to be more timely in my Movie Monday posts.  I want to see the Diana Vreeland movie, “Diana Vreeland: The Eye has to Travel” and I’m excited about the new James Bond, “Skyfall,” but right now there’s not too much I want to play $13 to see.

I saw Daniel Craig in the street once and his eyes are really that blue.  Happy Weekend!