Recently cringed to:
The sounds of Dubya's bumbling inarticulateness thrown into sharp relief against the polished pronouncements of new Prime Minister Gordon Brown during their recent press conference. OMG. Embarrassing.
The Matador: A wicked sly grin of a movie. The fun is fleeting, but there's something in its kick-in-the-pants attitude that I have to salute.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie: WTF? Obviously the charm of this critically renowned classic is beyond my grasp. I like a good farce. I like a good political satire. This didn't feel like either to me. Perhaps I'm too bourgeois to truly appreciate it.
Recently obsessed with:
Mika's addictive pop explosion of a song entitled "Grace Kelly." I've been listening to it during my commute for a straight week and it still turns my mood buoyant in a matter of nanoseconds. Awesome, blossom! Found via Private Joker's "Song of the Week" archives.
Monday, July 23, 2007
Before putting down $10 to see the film, I'd read a string of reviews saying that Steve Buscemi's new directorial effort Interview was conclusive proof that Sienna Miller was a good actress. I was misinformed and my money was misspent.
Since Sienna first popped onto the pop culture radar a few years back, most famously as Jude Law's main squeeze, I questioned the wisdom of anointing her a starlet. Without seeing any of her films, I sensed she possessed a certain kind of Teflon pretty (your eyes slip right off of it and no feature sticks in your head) and zero-sum persona.
When I saw the trailer for Interview, my interest was piqued. It had all the markings of one of my favorite film genres—the conversation movie. Being set almost exclusively in a New York loft, it also brought to mind one of my favorite talky movies What Happened Was. Both films pair a man and woman in the awkward early stages of getting to know each other, but only one film can boast a well-written script—the latter.
Yep. If you're going to make a conversation movie, you'd better make sure the dialogue is diverting and believable. Interview offered neither quality in its script. I'm a big fan of Buscemi, but he does nothing new here in his role as a bitter journalist on his way down the fourth estate's totem pole who is forced to do a fluff piece on Sienna's character—a TV/slasher movie star named Katya.
While there were clips in the film of Katya's TV performances that were truly bad, Sienna's acting was uneven throughout and it was tough to get a bearing on her character because of it. The pace and plot of the film was just as scatter shot, leading to an unsatisfying cinematic experience.
Too bad, really. The premise was an interesting one—a cat and mouse game between celebrity and mouthpiece with some hints of sexual tension to boot—but there is no kick, no wit, no high stakes in this feline meets rodent tale. All it left me thinking was, "I wish had a bottle of red wine and a Manhattan loft like that to drink it in."
Monday, July 16, 2007
This was one of those weekends that make Los Angeles seem like a pretty great place to be. For starters, on Saturday night, I was able to perform some of ye olde improv comedy with the great group of people who form my troupe—something that would probably be hard to pull off if I resided in the hinterlands. My personal highlight of the show was making a random Rocky reference in a really bad Italian accent and hearing the audience implode with laughter. Sweeeeeeet.
Come Sunday afternoon, after some dim sum, a friend and I walked from her downtown pad to a free outdoor concert performed by the aurally delicious Barcelona band The Pinker Tones. They played my favorite song of theirs—"Pink Freud" (exclusively in German!)—and everything.
As we danced with a motley crew of our fellow Angelenos—from bobbing toddlers to bopping geriatrics—by the water fountain-surrounded stage, there was a feeling of metropolitan-based joie de vivre that is hard to come by in this ciudad.
Once the band bid us adieu, mi amiga y yo wandered down the street towards the MOCA gift shop for some browsing. Along the way, we stopped to watch a scene from an action film being shot in an intersection and tried to figure out if the girl in the leather jacket was Jodie Foster or her stunt double. Inconclusive.
Post-movie shooting and MOCA shopping, we wandered over to the garden of Gehry's breathtaking Disney Hall—feeling like we'd come upon a deserted space ship of silver shapeliness.
After I dropped my friend off at her apartment, I popped over the hill for a barley milk tea with boba in Chinatown and drove home, happily sipping, with the "magic hour" light turning the whole crazy town a hazy shade of saffron.
Summer in the city ain't so shabby. ¡Olé, L.A.!
Friday, July 13, 2007
This especially well-written Washington Post news story by Allison Klein is not to be missed. Extra! Extra! Read all about how a Capitol Hill family turns an attempted robbery during a backyard dinner party into a celebration of humanity. Cheers to Cha Cha and Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry for saving the day.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
People everywhere are falling in love with the major studio boutique film Once, but I'm not one of them. I was so bored, I ended up staring at the aisle floor lights at least twice during the film. Not a good sign, I'd say.
My main beef with the film was that every plot development was way too neatly contrived, from start to finish. This is a calculated attempt at charm, disguised in a scratchy wool sweater and unkempt beard. Blech. No fault of the likeable leads, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, though. They do a fine job and have a nicely linked back story in real life of becoming friends and musical collaborators before making this movie.
Once is being called a modern-day musical, since so much of the movie revolves around expressing oneself through song, but this film's moments-in-song felt more like extended music videos to me. In true musicals, the story is moved forward through song--characters express their feelings about what's happening in that exact moment. Here the songs were based on past experiences, making them much less engaging--although the music was pretty, accessible and help set the bittersweet mood of unrequited love.
And not to split hairs, but I've run in enough musician-populated circles to know that the rehearsal and recording scenes in Once are terribly inaccurate. That will only bug those who know better.
So now I've given Once my grumpy once-over. Those who are willing to be swept along by the artificial sweetness will be pleased as punch when walking out of the theater. I, on the other hand, like my sugar in the raw.
Monday, July 02, 2007
"Did either of you just see La Vie En Rose?" asked the brunette, 30-something beauty in the crimson dress that made full use of her bosom.
Three of us female types were each at our own sink in the restroom of the city's poshest cinemaplex when this query was made. I glanced up into the mirror, hands still mid-soaping. The third woman, she of non-crimson bosomy-ness, ignored the question and kept her head down. I turned, eyelids smeared with mascara, to answer: "Yes, I did. It was beautiful. I'm still crying."
"I'm limp," sighed the crimson one, as she shook her hands dry while reaching for the paper towel dispenser.
She and I shook our heads at each other, smiling meaningfully, as she exited the public loo. Just another one of those bonding-between-strangers moments that makes movies so magical.
Devastatingly beautiful. That is how I would describe the film La Vie En Rose, its story, its heroine and its star. Basically a biopic of France's sweetheart, Edith Piaf, the film captures something far more significant than a timeline of biographical facts. It captures a woman's heart.
Sure, I felt the need to quibble early on while watching the film with director Olivier Dahan's decision to jump jarringly back in forth in time. But as the end credits rolled and I was still wiping tears from my cheeks, I had to wonder if this segue-shattering had been intended to dilute the impact of the tale's tragedy by giving glimpses of the gut-wrenching future within the gut-wrenching past. Perhaps so. Nevertheless, by the film's conclusion, I'd forgiven all possible editing missteps for the glorious genius of the heartbreaking whole.
Co-writers Dahan and Isabelle Sobelman were blessed with the gift of a true story that delivered on all dramatic counts--childhood sorrow, miracles, heartbreak, romance, triumph, defeat, peace.
The filmmakers were also blessed with the casting of the utterly remarkable Marion Cotillard, who deserves every best actress award they're giving out in the next twelve months. She inhabits this enigmatic diva--from her doe-eyed, shoulder-mincing street performer days to her mink-draped, full-diaphramed musical royalty status to the frail, confused paleness of a goddess's old age--with guts, fire and compassion.
To the filmmakers, cast, crew and Edith herself, I must say: Bravo. Encore. Merci.