Friday, December 31, 2010

Black Swan

I saw Black Swan a few weeks ago but for some reason haven’t been able to get my thoughts together on this film.  But it’s time to get this done.

Black Swan (2010)

Netflix description:

In [this] psychological thriller, ambitious New York City ballet dancer Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) lands the lead role in "Swan Lake" but soon thinks her dreams of stardom are threatened by a rival ballerina (Mila Kunis). As opening night approaches and the pressure to be perfect builds, Nina's obsession descends into paranoia and delusion.


In talking with my friends that are cinephiles, I discovered that they didn’t love it.

I did like it.  I enjoyed the intensity and how the director really got us into her head, even though it was a scary confused place.  The sexuality in its stunted, subtle, and not-so-subtle forms was almost a character in and of itself.  The filming added to the intensity; the viewer was so close to the main character – literally.  The camera kept us bouncing behind her as she walked, focused on her super slim face as she struggled to achieve perfection yet spontaneity. 

The director, Darren Aronofsky, who is known for Pi, Requiem for a Dream, and The Wrestler, is not a man who goes after cheery, happy-ending stories.  The themes of battling with oneself, violence, and confusion are present in Black Swan as they are in his other films.  So, in that way this movie was similar to previous movies, but I didn’t feel it was so similar as to be a tired, too familiar effort. 

There’s an interview on Fresh Air with Natalie Portman that is  fascinating in its description of her 1-year training for the film and all the things she had to do to get her small body to be ballerina-like.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Winter’s Bone > True Grit

This holiday weekend I saw both of the following movies – True Grit and Winter’s Bone.  The main female character in Winter’s Bone had more “true grit” than anyone in the movie True Grit.

True Grit (2010)

I didn’t get into this film.  I have not seen the original John Wayne movie.

Being a fan of the Coen brothers was a major draw for me.  I love their range as filmmakers.  A list of their films below exemplifies that statement and also shows some of my favorites:

  • Raising Arizona (1987)
  • Fargo (1996)
  • The Big Lebowski (1998)
  • Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
  • No Country for Old Men (2007)
  • Burn After Reading (2008)
  • A Serious Man (2009)

My love of their creative range means that my feelings towards this film have little to do with True Grit being a different genre than previous efforts.  After reading through several reviews to find out why this movie has been met with such critical acclaim, it seems I disliked everything that most liked about the film. 

I found the dialogue long-winded and without wit.  I found the main female lead’s flaunting of knowledge to be extreme and prissy as opposed to refreshing, which is uncharacteristic of me because I’m partial to strong, smart female leads in general.  The language and strict use of diction was annoying.  The landscape and cinematography were not very pronounced.   I could go on but I think the point has been made.


Winter’s Bone (2010)

The female lead in this movie, while the opposite of her well-educated, proper True Grit counterpart, has more balls.  But, then, the weight of her burden is real (two young siblings and a mentally ill mother) as opposed to simply the drive of revenge. 


Netflix description:

…Set deep in the Ozarks, resilient teen Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) goes on the trail of her missing, drug-dealing father when his absence jeopardizes the family's safety. Her deadbeat dad has a key court date pending, and Ree is determined that he show up -- despite the objections of the insular Dolly clan.

The description says nothing of the exquisite detail in the film.  The hungry dogs and horse, the wailing cows at auction, the kids having fun on the trampoline amid the impending doom of their lives, the filthy clutter of the cheap, old houses, the simple joy of sitting with family playing a banjo.

There’s not a whole lot of joy in this movie, I’ll admit, and you can feel the harsh cold of the southern Missouri winter that’s mirrored in the faces and actions of Ree’s “family.”  They were all scary – from the hard, lined faces of the women to the scraggly, unkempt men – but Ree’s journey illuminated the world of old “Hatfield and McCoy” rules of family loyalty and the effect of drugs and its money.

What she unflinchingly does in an effort to save her family is remarkable.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

NYC stickers

These are some stickers spotted in NYC in October 2010.  They were on the backs of signs, on walls, and the very last one was posted inside a subway station.

NYC 2010 095 NYC 2010 096 NYC 2010 097 NYC 2010 098 NYC 2010 099

NYC 2010 255

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Last Night

Last Night (1998)
As mentioned in earlier posts, I am fascinated with the apocalyptic and that’s what drew me to this movie.  It’s been on my list for years, but it only just became available through streaming Netflix in the past few months. 
Netflix description:
What do you do when you have six hours to live? Last Night chronicles a small group of people whose lives intersect as a nameless apocalypse descends on them. A woman (Sandra Oh) tries to locate her husband to fulfill a suicide pact, while a young man (Callum Keith Rennie) has a rendezvous with a former high school teacher.
Unfortunately, they don’t ever give any indication whatsoever about the cause of the apocalypse!  All the viewer knows is that the world will end at midnight.  From context clues I inferred that the sun was exploding or a large meteor was headed towards the earth or something of that sort.
The apocalypse was clearly just a backdrop for a movie that really wanted to focus on the craziness of human relationships, family, sex, and timing. It was a bit too contemplative for an end of the world film.  That said, one shot near the end with two characters holding a gun to each other’s head was well done and slightly impacting.  Otherwise it was only mildly engaging visually.
There was also one line from the preview (and the film) that I found compelling.  The same two characters mentioned above were trying to quickly get to know each other in the last hour of the world.  She tries to speed the process by saying to him, “tell me something to make me love you.”  Now there’s an interesting question.  What would you say?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Love and Other Drugs

Lots of Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway sex as well as lots of naked Anne Hathaway.


Netflix description:

Pharmaceutical representative Jamie Randall (Gyllenhaal) becomes a player in the big game of male-performance-enhancement-drug sales and, along the way, finds unexpected romance with a woman (Hathaway) suffering from Parkinson's disease. Based on the real-life Jamie Reidy's memoir, Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.

The first third of the movie was enthralling because of the focus on the pharmaceutical industry.  The process of training their salespeople and how certain drugs get on your doctor’s shelf as opposed to others was both fascinating and scary.  Then the love story started.

As previously mentioned, there were more than a few steamy sex scenes, but Gyllenhaal and Hathaway did have good chemistry, which is what made the scenes steamy I guess.   I’m not a fan of Hathaway’s performance in Rachel Getting Married (for which she earned an Oscar nomination), but her performance in this film was better than expected (and it did get her a Golden Globe nomination). 

Overall, the movie was fun and a little more complex than your typical romantic comedy, but the dialogue in general was lacking.  Also, there were just a few too many “look how cute I am” Gyllenhaal shots and big-eyed Hathaway scenes.  I do have to admit that the last few minutes of Gyllenhaal voiceover talking about how one person, even just a chance encounter, can change your life was particularly resonant. 

Oh, it’s interesting to remember that Gyllenhaal and Hathaway were a “couple” in Brokeback Mountain five years ago.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

yuppie problems

From web site referenced below:

“Line at wine store taking forever [because] some guy tried to pay with Discover card. Really?”

Some years back (maybe December 2006?) the first and only New Years Eve party this condo has seen was held.  One couple stayed late and we ended up talking about computer issues or something that was causing somewhat serious disruption to one of our lives.

At the time I was reading What is the What by Dave Eggers, which is basically the story of a Sudanese refugee and his amazingly tragic life. With this in mind, I started to chastise all of us for our focus on these little things in our lives that we complain about when in distant (and not too distant) lands there are entire villages being wiped off the planet due to civil unrest, dictatorships, etc. 

I called these little things “yuppie problems.”

The phrase “yuppie problems” is now referenced humorously.  For example, I have a friend who got very worked up because the company from which he orders the bulbs for his garden messed up his order.  As in they sent him Russian garlic instead of some other kind.  I pointed out to him that this was definitely a yuppie problem.

Of course, I asked the Googles about yuppie problems and it seems there are others out there posting on the interwebs about this.

There is an entire web site devoted to this topic (see initial quote at beginning of this post)!  Then there are web sites with individual yuppie problem posts:

  • “Yuppie problems: What the hell are we going to do with all this Fennel?”
  • “The next time I have a meltdown over something as trivial as reformatting PowerPoint presentation slides, I should remind myself that I don’t save lives for a living.”
  • “I am having serious yuppie problems this weekend, including burning a small chunk of hair with a straightening iron and winding up with too many leftovers from my couples’ board game party.”

That’s the story of yuppie problems.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


The Friday before Halloween this year I ran the Scream Scram 5K at Washington Park here in Denver. This is a run that benefits the Boys and Girls Club and a run in which the participants are supposed to be in costume and a surprising amount of people were.  I was one of the exceptions as you can see below in the photo of me and Beaker (an amazing costume and the awe-inspiring assistant to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew).


Anyway, one of the draws of doing the run was the t-shirt.  This is special because typically t-shirts associated with athletic events are mediocre at best.  Not this one.  This one had a unique drawing of a strange being (and its cat) that was oddly alluring:


Turns out that a friend knew about the artist and shared a web site – The Daily Monster. In direct contradiction to the site’s title, the artist doesn’t actually post a daily monster (at least not that I can tell), but there are some pretty fantastic monsters featured:



This hits right at the center of my desire for whimsical art – love it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Garfield or not


Similar to DJ music, “Garfield Minus Garfield” takes existing art and bends it to make a something entirely fresh.  Just read the site’s purpose:

Garfield Minus Garfield is a site dedicated to removing Garfield from the Garfield comic strips in order to reveal the existential angst of a certain young Mr. Jon Arbuckle. It is a journey deep into the mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and depression in a quiet American suburb.

This is the original strip of the above sans Garfield strip:ga960201

What a brilliant idea.  I read Garfield in fourth grade and don’t remember rolling on the floor laughing or anything.  I was amused by Garfield and Odie. Imagine a fourth grade girl kind of chuckling while flipping through Garfield books.  The top strip is far funnier than with the cat.  Sort of a Fight Club concept – you can think back to all the Garfield strips you ever read and imagine that Garfield was just a figment of Jon’s imagination.



Thursday, December 2, 2010


“It usually just pops right off,” is what the dental assistant said to me yesterday.  I was in to dentist office to get a crown put on, which usually means you don’t need to get the numbing injection.  Typically they pull off the temporary crown and put on the new/permanent crown.  Not yesterday. It couldn’t be that easy.

For those of you who don’t have crowns yet, you get a temporary because the impression they take of your tooth has to be sent off (somewhere) to be created out of a more permanent material (there are several options and, honestly, I don’t know what mine is made of). In the interim you get a temporary tooth that is put on with a very light adhesive – usually.

Guess what? The dental assistant who put on my temporary crown 2.5 weeks ago put it on with permanent cement.  That meant that the temporary had to be drilled off.  This, of course, meant I had to get the numbing injection!!  Now, you may recall from a previous post that I am a very fearful dentist patient.  The dentist even remarked that, of all her patients, it’s uncanny that this happened to me…Oh the irony.

speaking of irony: