Monday, January 28, 2008

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

2007, so far

Here's another thing that grosses me out: the use of the word "skin" to describe things like cell-phone covers or the background of a MySpace page. Bit too Cronenbergian for me. I love Cronenberg, but I never, ever want to touch anything that's been in any of his movies, Viggo Mortensen excepted.

Last night I went to a fancy art museum and saw this crazy Syrian movie (free! because I am a student-level patron of the arts) called Sacrifices that made me want to call in Samuel L Jackson and have him do his famous Pulp Fiction number. The recurring "punch line" in the film is that someone says, "What?" and the person they're talking to says, "What 'what'?" Over and over; it's like 90 percent of the dialogue. After a while, even though the movie was very beautiful and strange, the what-saying got on my nerves. I was like,

Anyway. Everyone else on earth has been doing top-10 movie lists, but I can't be bothered to narrow it down that much. Internet space is infinite. So here are the 2007-release films that I actually saw in 2007 and liked, vaguely in order but not strictly so. I'm not writing much about any of them because other people have done so a lot better than I could, but arguments are of course encouraged.

  • Lust, Caution -- starring my only real boyfriend (sorry, Brando; sorry, Hutz), Tony Leung Chiu Wai (the pic is from In the Mood for Love, though; and probably it's really Wong Kar-wai who's my boyfriend after all; when I die and my life flashes before my eyes, I hope it turns out he directed it).

  • No Country for Old Men
  • The Host
  • Children of Men
  • Grindhouse -- I liked the Rodriguez half (Planet Terror) a lot better than the Tarantino half (Death Proof), but maybe because I haven't seen the longer version of Death Proof; it supposedly rules. Even the shortened version was pretty sweet, and holy hooch, Kurt Russell! Yow. But the girls' conversations I thought were draggy and inane (unusual for QT). Allegedly the timing is better in the longer version; there are pauses, etc.
  • Margot at the Wedding
  • Sweeney Todd -- I want to be in a Johnny Depp/Helena Bonham Carter sandwich. Mrs Lovett's dream scene of a happy goth picnic on the beach is my favorite part, esp when his hand creeps over to her knee for a second, then hastily retreats. So sad. But at least he tried.
  • The Darjeeling Limited -- Watching Owen Wilson unbandage his face in the mirror as his brothers look on is excruciating. It's audible. Gross. That whole scene is a weird combination of suspenseful, tender and scary; the rest of the movie is so perfect and beautiful, and suddenly they're peeling the facade away, just for a second, and you get a peek at this poor wounded naked thing and it's just heartbreaking. Well, I thought so anyway.
  • The Lives of Others
  • Romance & Cigarettes -- Kate Winslett is the coolest dame. I've loved her since she peed in the desert with Harvey Keitel all those years ago. She goes all out in this one, too.
  • Dans Paris -- no living boy should be allowed to be so cute, not even a French one. It's just ridiculous.
  • Lars & the Real Girl
  • 10 Canoes
  • Paprika -- I really liked the scary dream music in this.
  • Rescue Dawn
  • Avenue Montaigne
  • Waitress -- the best of the oops-I'm-pregnant movies.
  • Helvetica
  • Charlie Wilson's War -- Have read a bunch of negative reviews of this, so I'll concede that I might've liked it mainly because I saw it on my most-fun vacation day in Portland, palling around with Bradford. Motorcycles, lunch, weaponry, beer, then a matinee -- it's possible my judgment was clouded, but at the time I thought this movie was a lot of fun.
  • This Is England -- tiny skinheads! So cute.
  • Juno -- I think they actually speak leet in here once or twice.
  • Knocked Up
  • Red Road
  • Shoot 'Em Up
  • 28 Weeks Later - there went my crush on Robert Carlyle.
  • Night of Lust -- dug up out of the California soil by Seth & his Simple Farm Boy, screened in NYC at the Pioneer Theater. Ancient pulp-crime story spliced together with utterly non sequitur closeups of French boobies. Everyone but me and two icky dudes walked out twenty minutes into it, but that's okay.
  • Day Watch -- not as good as Night Watch.
  • The Golden Compass -- I know, I know. Everyone hated it. It's probably terrible. But I went on a night when I was desperate for sparkly escapism, and it did what I needed it to do. Also made me kind of want to read the books, for what it's worth.

Here are the movies I didn't like:

  • Death at a Funeral (I don't think anybody else saw this)
  • Into the Wild (just calm down, alright Eddie Vedder? Jesus.)
  • Jindabyne
  • Mystic Ball (death to hippies)
  • The Jane Austen Book Club (icky-sticky girl stuff, but not that hideous until the last 30 seconds, when to my surprise it turns into a bodysnatcher-zombie film)

I've also missed a lot of movies I should've seen, including Eastern Promises. Still haven't made it to I'm Not There, or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, or There Will Be Blood. (Maybe today!) Last year, when I was freelancing at Willamette Week, I saw 74 movies (not counting older stuff and things I watched at home or at the beer theater). (Oh how I miss the beer theater.) My favorites from 2006, since nobody asked, include The Science of Sleep; Don't Come Knocking; Russian Dolls; Kekexili: Mountain Patrol; and Night Watch.

And as long as we're in a reflective mood, here are some memorable live shows I saw in 2007:

  • Shock Troops (Cocksparrer tribute band, feat. the former teenage boyfriend on guitar, and he looked right at me during "Teenage Heart"), Ash Street, Jan 13
  • The Shotgun (sadly disbanded), Tonic Lounge, Jan 17
  • Hunches & Black Lips at Dante's, Jan 18
  • Daniel Menche (astounding!) at Doug Fir, Jan 21
  • Tragedy & Defect Defect in Gresham, Jan 27
  • Polysics, Dante's, Jan 28
  • Dagger of the Mind (first glimpse of the teenager's Shakespearean power-metal band-- also known as that time Becky fought the hooker on the kitchen floor), Simmhut, Feb 9
  • 2 Ton Boa at Rotture, March 2
  • Dagger of the Mind at Monkey Pub March 24 & Wetspot (teenager gets his naked butt whipped, likes it) March 25, Seattle
  • DJ Dieselboy, on a boat, Hudson River, NYC, Sept 2
  • Marcellus Hall, Lakeside Lounge, NYC, Dec 8 (see below)
As for books, lots of what I read from 2007 were comix. Some good ones:
  • Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White by Taiyo Matsumoto
  • Shortcomings, by Adrian Tomine
  • The Salon, Nick Bertozzi

In the fiction category, the winner was of course Willy Vlautin's novel The Motel Life. And I really want to read the new Junot Diaz book; his short stories are excellent.

I am now officially tired of thinking, despite this being a remarkably shallow, analysis-free glob post; also I have to go finish a graphic-novels review that's due tomorrow.
So long.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

What'll it be?

I couldn't sleep last night, and the reason for it made me remember why I started this glob way back when. Given that the world might kill me at any time in any number of boring ways (cancer, traffic accidents, heart disease), I thought it would be fun to court the weirdest and least likely methods of passive self-destruction. It makes me feel better about the ways in which I'm actively self-destructive: motorcycle racing, for example. (I mean, if I've already been infected by the mad cow virus, which I might be, perhaps via contaminated contact-lens solution, which can happen, by the way, I read about it on the Internet, then why not go ahead and take some risks, seeing as how I'm doomed already?) The best part is the suspense: incubation periods on some of these things are immense.

Anyway, lately I've been certain that the radiator in the room above my room is going to come crashing through the floor/ceiling and crush my head while I sleep. This is unlikely. But no part of the building strikes me as being terrifically sturdy. And my radiator struggles daily to unbolt itself and walk across the room; I have to assume the other radiators feel the same way. If it does happen, it'll be a nice echo of one of my favorite books from childhood, Flat Stanley.

I'm also terrified of/fascinated by deep vein thrombosis. The words alone: deep vein thrombosis. I fly a lot, and every time I'm on an airplane, if I can't fall asleep, I spend the whole time with the ominous voice of a cheap TV announcer in my head making echoey pronouncements about deep vein thrombosis. Days later I worry that I picked it up on the plane and any second now it'll drop me.

Fun girl!

Over Christmas break I got some information from my dad about food poisoning. That's another good one. Who hasn't had a little bout of food poisoning, right? You barf your lungs out, crap your guts out, think you're at death's door, and then you get better. Usually the only lasting effect is that you never eat at that restaurant again. However! Did you know that sometimes, the food-poisoning bug sticks around, lurking in there somewhere, unnoticed for decades? It's true -- it's even in a story by the Associated Press, which I would quote for you except that doing so violates copyright laws, probably. Anyway, the AP says scientists have found links between E. coli and kidney failure, salmonella and arthritis, and campylobacter and a "mysterious paralysis" 10 to 20 years after an episode of food poisoning.

That's right: paralysis. Exciting, isn't it?

Campylobacter, by the way, is the most frequently diagnosed form of food poisoning, infecting up to 4 million people a year. Of course not all 4 million of them will end up mysteriously paralyzed 20 years later. It's a gamble. Unfortunately, my research has failed to determine whether the odds are better or worse than those for mad cow, bird flu etc. We'll just have to wait a few decades and see how it turns out.

Not that I think this is really a fair comparison, but only about 88,000 people were injured in motorcycle accidents in 2006. Most of them were also not paralyzed. The main difference here is that one group is going to have to explain that what happened was they ate a chicken sandwich.

How cool is that?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Travis Bickle's mohawk is a wig!

It's true - I've seen it with my own eyes, a little stripe of fur in a glass case along the wall, right next to the denture-looking chunks of plastic Marlon Brando wore inside his face for The Godfather. Just a few of the many revelations this past weekend at the excellent Museum of the Moving Image. (Looking for the link just now I see that George Romero Himself will be there in February. Sweet.) I was surprised and a little disappointed to learn that Method Acting doesn't include hair and teeth. I mean, jeez, DeNiro, I thought you were supposed to be committed.

Brenda drove in from Boston on Thursday night. I met her at the New Museum.... Admission is free on Thursdays, and it's a good thing, too; the knowledge that I'd given them no money was all that kept me from spontaneously combusting out of sheer annoyance. Exhibits included a crumpled-up plastic bag on the floor; pieces of cardboard glued together into the shapes of houses and painted white; and a pile of thrift-store clothes we weren't even allowed to try on.

Maybe I was just in a bad mood. I'd had a cold all week. To be fair, the bookstore is outstanding.

We consoled ourselves with cheap falafel and a trudge through the rainy streets in search of entertainment. And guess who we saw? No kidding: Marcellus Hall! Right there on the street corner. But I didn't notice him until too late, and besides he was surrounded by girls, so I just swooned internally a little bit and kept on walking. We found the Bulgarian disco, where Eugene Hutz (my boyfriend) of Gogol Bordello sometimes DJs on Thursday nights, but it was too early, so instead we went into the Cake Shop because it looked warm. The Cake Shop is a cake shop but also a microscopic record store and occasional indie-rock venue. I got a hot toddy in the World's Largest Coffee Mug, and Brenda got a slab of cake the size of a minivan. The guy next to me kept staring at the cake; later he told me he had quit smoking three days earlier. Maybe that explains it.

We flipped through the CDs (you remember those); they had a copy of the Starvations for three bucks, but I already own it. Then we went back to Mehanata, the Bulgarian bar, but Hutz was not there. It was hilarious anyway. I love watching people dance. It reinforces the wisdom of my policy never to do so myself (barring extraordinary circumstances and/or tequila).

Next day we drove out to Queens and dug the Museum of the Moving Image, which restored my faith in museums (though shook it a little in the acting department). It was fun to be driven around. We ate lunch in Jackson Heights, at the famed Jackson Diner, an Indian buffet. Jackson Heights is basically fifteen ethnic neighborhoods crammed into two blocks. You can go from Ecuador to Bangladesh to Mexico in five seconds. The Jackson Heights Historic District (much bigger than two blocks) was a planned community starting around 1917; it's famous for its giant brick apartment buildings with fancy manicured private gardens. They look like the older dorms at Reed.

We explored a bit, then ditched the car back at my place and took the subway into Manhattan. Friday is pay-what-you-want at most of the museums, so we hit the ICP and the Whitney, both pretty good. The big draw at the Whitney was the Kara Walker retrospective, and it justified the hype. The mood in the museum was all very serious, and you weren't allowed to laugh even at the parts that were funny. Back in Brooklyn Heights we met Brenda's friend Amy and went to a place that had -- believe it! -- Rogue Chocolate Stout on tap.

I spent the rest of the weekend reading comix for a review due this week and finishing John Reed's book on the Russian Revolution. School started Tuesday. And here we are.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Mystery Solved, A Grudge Relinquished

Some of you know about my many ridiculous grammar-based hangups: peeves too petty to explain, futile boycotts, anonymous edits scribbled in anger on innocent restaurant menus. Well, as of Sunday morning, I have one less such hangup. The Sunday Times contained an obituary for Carl N. Karcher, 90, founder of Carl's Jr Hamburger Chain. Carl's Jr, I'm now ashamed to admit, topped my list of hated restaurants not because of its infamous six-dollar burger ($4.19 when it first came out) but because of that irritating and (I thought) just plain wrong apostrophe in its name. Operating on the principle that nobody knows how to use an apostrophe, I figured there was a guy named Carl Jr who owned the restaurant but couldn't be bothered to hire a copy editor. Wrong! Here's the key paragraph from the obit:

"He opened the first Carl's Jr -- named 'Jr.' to distinguish it from his full-service eatery -- in 1956."

Damn. Good old Carl! I take back all those awful things I said about you, buddy. RIP.