Thursday, June 30, 2011

catching up with ... burlesque

A movie I missed in theaters but was intrigued to see was Burlesque. Seeing it now after watching Christina Aguilera weekly on The Voice was a bit surreal. Chistina's "persona" on The Voice is very similar to the character Cher plays in Burlesque, a mamma-hen to young performers. But Christina's styling on The Voice is so over-the-top burlesque glam. There seems to be some life/art crossover happening that Aguilera hasn't completely reconciled.

All that aside, she looks and sounds great in Burlesque, which is a also a very fun movie. The glittery eye shadow budget clearly was greater than the one set aside for the scriptwriter (actually writer and  director Steve Antin, who has also acted and is the brother of Pussycat Dolls founder Robin Antin). The plot strings together so many show-biz cliches that anyone in the audience could have written better dialogue for the actors in their sleep. But none of that really matters. Burlesque is about Cher and Aguilera getting to look fab and have fun a in a series of splashy musical numbers.

The supporting cast is amazing. Stanley Tucci plays Cher's gay factotum, and as always, is just wonderful to have around. Kristin Bell plays the resident bad girl rival for Aguilera, and for some reason looks a lot like Parker Posey — was she the original choice for the character? She gets quickly shuttled into the background, as her story and her character is never a real threat to the main plot, which is about Cher maybe losing her burlesque club and Aguilera climbing to the heights of ... singing in Cher's burlesque club.

And that is where Burlesque gets all of its goofy charm and fun. Aguilera's Iowa waitress wants to leave her boring existence and go to L.A. She pounds the big city pavement for about one afternoon and then is attracted to the bright bulbs on the flashing "Burlesque" sign. Once inside, sipping a free drink from a cute bartender (love interest Cam Gigandet), her world is rocked. She turns to look at the girls lip-synching on-stage in their glittery eye make-up and their spangly costumes and watered-down Bob Fosse choreography and she is transported. She is in heaven.

It's this twist from the typical "I'm going to Hollywood and make it big" movies that makes Burlesque a little confusing, yet endearing. This girl doesn't have big career aspirations. She's got this amazing, powerhouse voice, and there are intimations that she could quickly move on to the big-time, but she never gives any indication that she is in the least bit interested in doing so. Its kind of refreshing. She just wants to sing and take her clothes off in front of an audience. It's weird, but it's kind of empowering, too.

Aguilera's character gets to sing and dance and wear a succession of amazing outfits and wonderful wigs. She also frequently daydreams, seeing herself in extravagantly staged burlesque numbers, belting out a song. In some ways the entire movie is one long fevered daydream of a girl from Iowa who can really sing.

The musical numbers are ridiculous and ridiculously entertaining, mining moves from music videos and old movies. The only sore spot was the criminal underuse of Alan Cumming, who could have really added something — at the very least one show-stopping musical number — to the movie. This is the guy (who I was lucky enough to see) who reinvigorated Cabaret on the stage. He could have taught them all to out-Fosse Fosse. The people behind Burlesque clearly are aware of this, as they stage one risqué background number with him and two girls, but it's frankly not enough.

Cher gets a mid-movie number, "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," which is lit beautifully, looking at times like a colorized BW clip. She has a nice rapport with both Aguilera and Tucci. The movie plot requires her to spend most of her time being pissed off about something, so her main expression is to purse her lips and then for scenes when she's really fed up, purse them some more, but she's Cher and she's fabulous and she should make more movies. But Burlesque belongs to Aguilera. Now if she could just start styling herself in her real life (or at least her role on The Voice) as she looks in this movie. One can dream.
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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

peace and quiet is for libraries

It seems out of reach, as the renovation of the place next door continues ...

From Classic Legends

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

he'll always be siːn biːn to me

[major plot spoilers and phonetic pronunciations abound]

The first time I think I saw Sean Bean (siːn biːn) was in the movie Stormy Monday. It's a nice little '80s noir, with a great cast. Probably not many have seen it. I walked in for Sting, but walked out adding Bean to my list of interesting actors to watch. I know he played a hero in the Sharpe series of movies in the '90s, but they ran on public television when I didn't have a TV, or wasn't around most nights. I know he was in the Derek Jarman film, Caravaggio.

I started calling him Siːn Biːn sometime after Stormy Monday and before Caravaggio. It was a joke that I shared with my best movie buddy Mary, and we basically infected everyone else we came across with our special pronunciation. It was geeky and nerdy and an in-joke that was funny and understandable to probably no one but us, and we loved it. It cemented him as one of "our" actors. I know that other friends started referring to him with all long vowel sounds as well. It became such a habit that I frankly can't pronounce his name correctly anymore. I have to catch myself when taking to someone new about him — not that I do talk about him all that often, but Game of Thrones has caused his name to come up a bit more frequently of late.

Post-Caravaggio, the next time Sean Bean made an impression (although I know that I must have seen him in other things) was in the great thriller Ronin, where he played what has become his signature character — a weak man who aspires to be a big man but is hopelessly out of his league. Bean's character was pathetic and at times icky, but his portrayal was always downright wonderful.

More recently Bean was also wonderful as Boromir in Lord of the Rings. He was the absolutely perfect person to play that character, a conflicted, almost-hero who wants to do what's right, but just can't. His death at the end of The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is tragic, and also one of the best scenes in director Peter Jackson's trilogy. It's a much more emotional scene than Gandalf's fall into the abyss. Because even if you haven't read Tolkien, every literary and filmic trope tells the audience that Gandalf will be back. But Boromir's death, and Bean's portrayal, are achingly human. He ends up dying a hero's death — the moment his eyes clear from the spell cast by the Ring he gives his life to save his hobbit friends.

So I should have known, should have been prepared, for what was coming in Game of Thrones to Bean's Eddard "Ned" Stark. But like Ned, I was hoping that somehow, some way, he would get a last-minute reprieve before the sword blade came down. But Ned's death was the perfect book-end to his execution of a deserter in the first episode of the series, "The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword." Ned's philosophy of life was in direct opposition to just about everyone in King's Landing, especially Joffrey Lannister.

I absolutely love the HBO series, which is based on the books by George R. R. Martin. I haven't read the books. Apart from reading Dune way back when I haven't really read much fantasy. I haven't missed the genre for any particular reason. I just have so many books to read all the time. I do have Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea trilogy waiting in the wings. (Since the series ended I picked up the first book in the series, A Game of Thrones, on sale at Target, but after I read it, I really don't want to read ahead. It's going to be a long wait for the second season, which doesn't begin until next spring. Maybe I'l get a chance to finally read Earthsea in the meantime.)

So I wasn't in the know about Ned's fate, although as the first season progressed, it seemed more and more likely that not just Ned, but no one might get out of Westeros alive. But for once Bean seemed to be the clear-cut hero of the piece. His character was stubborn and clueless, a Bean specialty, but he was also a leader — strong and brave, with a sense of honor. Unfortunately, he was also the only character who talked and walked that way. Poor Ned.

His stint is over in Game of Thrones, but he has a bunch of movies in the pipeline, and there are plenty of movies to watch from his catalogue in the meantime. Bean is a go-to guy for screen villains in action movies, too. Some of his better known bad guy parts have been in National Treasure, GoldenEye, and Patriot Games. Whether he's playing a terrorist, or a would-be hero, or an abject failure, or even a dramatic role as the stubborn son of Richard Harris in the magnificent film The Field, Sean Bean always fascinates. That's Siːn Biːn ...
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Monday, June 27, 2011

here's not looking at you, kid

Article first published as Book Review: Humphrey Bogart: The Making of A Legend by Darwin Porter on Blogcritics.

Humphrey Bogart, The Making of A Legend could possibly be the worst book ever written. The only reason I hesitate calling it definitely the worst is because Porter has written so many other books based on dead movie stars who can't defend themselves or their reputations that I'm sure there are some other contenders for the title.

Porter cites no sources, but has a handy dandy paragraph at the beginning of the book claiming that every conversation can be cited — although he incudes no citations, but merely a list of books on Hollywood in the bibliography at the back of the book that he may or may not have read and taken stories from. He writes the book in the present tense, with full-blown conversations and details as to what Bogie, or "Hump," as he claims he was called for most of his early life, was eating for breakfast lunch and dinner on a particular day — practically always ham and eggs. Bogie was in as endless a pursuit to find a plate of ham and eggs as he was a drink in a speakeasy or nightclub, but Porter rarely mentions what specific alcohol he was swilling, or his smoking, which he was supposed to have been doing in as much abundance.

Boring meals inventory aside, what the book is truly about is sex, sex, sex. The "making" of Humphrey Bogart — get it? According to Porter, not only did Bogart "ball" every actress he met, but they all came on to him, as well as every other actor he met. From his tender years growing up in Connecticut and even before he got kicked out of Andover, everyone he encountered was sex-obsessed and bisexual or gay, including his old man. His father and all of Hollywood may or may not have been bisexual. That doesn't matter. It's Porter's prurient way of portraying every other person Bogie comes across, his implication that what they were doing was sleazy, that becomes distasteful.

Supposedly Bogie's first wife, Helen Menken, was bisexual, as was almost every starlet he had an affair with and every actor he worked with once he got to Hollywood — Barbara Stanwyck, Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, George Raft, etc., etc. Porter throws in more well-documented gay actors, such as Tallulah Bankhead and Marlene Dietrich to add credibility to his "everybody's gay" motif. I'm not sure why he feels so compelled to out stars from so long ago. Does he really think anyone would be surprised or even titillated to know that actors and actresses, people on the stage and attracted to the arts, would be gay? Outing frequently appears a very short step from self-loathing.

Menken and Bogart, c. 1926
When he isn't outing actors Porters's cataloging sexual trysts that occurred over 80 years ago. If he was revealing something that everyone didn't already know about Hollywood, that many actors and actresses had to (and still have to, or choose to) sleep with someone to get ahead, it might be more interesting. But the sheer purported volume of Bogie's liaisons, true or not, becomes numbing. By the time he had supposedly fallen in love with co-star Ingrid Bergman during Casablanca I had long ceased to care. Lauren Bacall is strangely given short-shrift, treated as not a great romance, but a side note, as Porter instead concentrates on Bogie's hairdresser (who supplied hairpieces and wigs in the '40s and '50s to conceal his rapidly receding hairline) and alleged mistress Verita Thompson, going so far as to include two images of covers of her highly suspect tell-all, Bogie and Me.

Bogie himself doesn't indulge in the Hollywood bisexual parade, except to get constantly propositioned by handsome actors and confided in by pal Spencer Tracy about his latest boy toy. But all of these revelations soon lose any impact they might have had as long bogus conversations soon make the book read like fiction rather than biography or even gossip. Except Humphrey Bogart, The Making of A Legend is not even on par with a trashy romance novel, as everyone only talks about one thing — how to get laid or how they just got laid. I have no doubt that Broadway in the '20s and Hollywood in the '30s and '40s was a bawdy place, but surely the conversations were more interesting than this purported post-coital one between Bogie and Barbara Stanwyck:
"It was Mae Clarke who taught me the joy of lesbian love. But, as you also know from tonight, I'm not completely weaned from men either. I don't want to deny myself any pleasure. Too much was denied me as a girl. As a woman, I'll go after what I want. If I want to get fucked by a man, you know I can go for that the way I bagged you tonight. If I want a woman, I'll chase her down and get her. I've already set my sights on that blonde German bitch, Dietrich. Who knows? Marlene and me might become a thing."
"Invite me over," Hump said. "From what I've seen of Dietrich I'd go for her in a minute. ..." 
Bogart and Bergman filming Casablanca
If that sort of stilted dialogue trying to pass as "oral history" sounds interesting to you, then by all means, go ahead. There's 501 more pages of this shit (a word Porter claims Bogart hated and refused to use). At the end of the book the publisher, Blood Moon Productions, is described as "publishing that applies the tabloid standards of today to the tinseltown scandals of yesterday." That pretty much sums it up. How convenient to write about the dead, too. Porter has also written salacious biographies of Merv Griffin, Michael Jackson, Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, Howard Hughes, Katharine Hepburn, and Paul Newman.

I was hoping for a fun, even trashy read about one of the great actors in the movies. But by the time the book gets to when he made Casablanca, long before he finally met Lauren Bacall, I was pretty worn out. And strangely, once Bogie starts getting successful, the typos in the book escalate. Maybe spell-check doesn't work so well when one cuts-and-pastes from too many celebrity biographies. It might be worth skipping through the pages of this mess if you see it in a bookstore or the library (where I should have left it) if you want some completely unsubstantiated gossip about people who have been dead for decades. But if you want to read a biography about Humphrey Bogart, this ain't the book.

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

crazy buffet

My daughter loves buffets, as she loves to pick and choose her own food. Yesterday we went for lunch at a local Asian fusion buffet restaurant. They also have some cool koi ponds outside, which is alway a big hit with the kid (and me). We had a great time and were able to get home before a much-needed thunderstorm happened. All in all, a good day.

At Crazy Buffet

At Crazy Buffet
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

just one more thing ...

Like many, I grew up with Columbo, the rumpled, supposedly forgetful, always sly and wise television detective. My dad loved Peter Falk and the show and the rest of the family grew to look forward to watching him too. But Falk was much more than his cigar-smoking, just rolled out of bed looking, basset hound owning, Old Hollywood star arresting, character. I haven't seen any of these in ages, but I can still remember enjoying watching him chase down murderers Roddy MacDowall, Leonard Nimoy, Louis Jourdan, Ray Milland, William Shatner, best buddy John Cassavetes, and frequent co-star Patrick McGoohan.

Columbo frequently liked the murderers he's after, too. "They're nice people."

Everyone knows about his glass eye, lost in a childhood bout with cancer. And that he appeared in quite a few of Cassavetes's films, including Husbands, Mikey and Nicky, and A Woman Under the Influence.

But many of his other roles in films have resonated as much, if not more, than these classic roles for me:

I have always loved him as a comedic side-kick, in such films as The Great Race, Pocketful of Miracles, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and Robin and the Seven Hoods.

He is wonderful as the wise grandfather who narrates The Princess Bride.

He is an absolute angel in Wim Wenders's beautiful Wings of Desire. "I can't see you, but I know you're here."

Falk apparently suffered from dementia in recent years, which adds a sad note of irony to his iconic character, the memory-challenged Columbo. Falk himself was always memorable and delightful to watch.

R.I.P. Peter Falk ♥♥♥
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Friday, June 24, 2011

"there's nothing we can do"

We took my mom to see a back doctor this week to get a more expert opinion on her back pain. He looked at her x-rays and couldn't find any new fractures, thankfully (she had two hairline fractures back in 2004), and basically told us, that as far as she is concerned, with her age, and arthritis and osteopenia (not quite osteoporosis), there was really nothing else we could do that we weren't doing already —  basically pain management — and we could add some heat, a back brace, and hitting the pool (in a gentle way).

It was depressing to hear, yet at the same time liberating. It's always hard to hear that you've hit the wall, and with my mom, it seems that this is a message I am going to have to get used to hearing. But on the up side, it also means that we are doing everything right, so there's no reason to continue to poke and prod - she's an old lady (sorry, mom) and she's going to hurt, and now we know what to do when she does.

My mom is actually finally starting to do a bit better with her back, which is a real relief for all. I've managed to get her out every day this week, which may not sound like a big deal, but if you were around here at the end of May, it was something just to get her from her bed to the bathroom. We have been to the movies, a museum and out to lunch, etc. Summer is starting to finally feel like summer.

Painkillers are still a big part of the program, and they come with a whole other set of issues - appetite suppression, plumbing clogger. But they have definitely helped her get over the worse of her pain, and for that I am grateful. The pain was quite extreme in the beginning when this all started, Memorial Day weekend — geez, has it been a month already? When you're plus 70 years, the spectre of addiction is just that, a spectre. The old lady hurts, so bring on the pills, now. And who knows, maybe tomorrow everybody will hit the pool.
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

the meaning of life

"What is it that makes you want to write songs? In a way you want to stretch yourself into other people's hearts. You want to plant yourself there, or at last get a resonance, where other people become a bigger instrument than the one you're playing. It becomes almost an obsession to touch other people."
I was brought up in a Beatles household. My mom played Lucy on the Sky with Diamonds as our lullaby at bedtime. I never really heard the Rolling Stones until I was much older, on the radio. I didn't buy a Stones album until Some Girls, which is still my favorite Stones album. A college roommate had Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street, which I helped to wear out, but I still never really knew much about the band. While in art school in NYC I rode an elevator with Mick Jagger once, but I never saw Keith in person.

So I'm not sure why I have been intrigued to read Life, Keith Richards' autobiography that he wrote with James Fox, ever since I heard it was coming out, but I was. Throughout the book "Keef" keeps reminding the reader how he came from the wrong side of the tracks and wasn't as educated as people he met along the way, like longtime flame Anita Pallenberg, but the man has a wonderful way with words. His writing is entertaining and well, musical. The book is also available in audio format, with Keith reading excerpts and Johnny Depp doing the bulk. Talk about a dream team.

Life begins with Keith talking about his post-war childhood (he was born in December of 1943) in Dartford, Kent, England. He really brings the area and era to life, with his tales of troubles at school and relationship with his parents and maternal grandfather, Gus, who helped to introduce him to music by fostering a love for musical instruments, especially stringed instruments. Richards' introduction and then love and obsession with blues music is fascinating. He immersed himself in all kinds of music, from Bix Beiderbecke and Sarah Vaughan to Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. When he met Mick Jagger, who was also nursing a similar obsession, it was like coming home. He wrote about Mick in a letter to his aunt: "You know I was keen on Chuck Berry and I thought I was the only fan for miles but one mornin' ... I was holding one of Chuck's records when a guy I knew at primary school 7-11 yrs ... came up to me. He's got every record Chuck Berry ever made and all his mates have too. ... Anyways the guy on the station, he is called Mick Jagger . . . the greatest R&B singer this side of the Atlantic and I don't mean maybe."

The Glimmer Twins quickly became inseparable. The nascent Stones began to play together, always trying to learn how to play better. In the beginning the two really didn't have much ambition with their music, apart from a desire to perfect the playing and performing of their musical heroes' songs. They didn't have any original songs, which is why the Beatles gave them a song, "I Wanna Be Your Man." Their manager, Andrew Oldham, literally shut the pair in a room together one day and told them not to come out until they had written a song. Oldham knew that the only way to break through, to really succeed in pop music, was to sell songs and play original material, like the Beatles. It took them a while, but Mick and Keith did just that. It wasn't easy, but once they clicked, it was alchemy. Their first song was "As Tears Go By." Not bad for a first effort.

Life is full of anecdotes about the road - sex, drugs and rock and roll. As far as sex was concerned, he was very different from pal Jagger. When the Stones first hit the big time, the girls were just as frenzied as they were for the Beatles, "Nothing like ... three thousand teenage chicks throwing themselves at you. Or being carried out on stretchers. All the bouffants awry. Skirts up to their waists, sweating, red, eyes rolling. That's the spirit, girl. That's how we like 'em." Where Jagger may have taken advantage of the endless stream of women, Keith wanted companionship, but sometimes not much more, "I've never been able to go to bed with a woman just for sex. I've no interest in that." He didn't lack for companionship - he had a long-term relationship with Pallenberg, but when he was on the road, he was apparently drawn to a more motherly kind of gal, as he writes about the positive aspects of groupies, "Flo, who I've already mentioned, was one of my favorites ... we slept together many times, never fucked, or very rarely. We just crashed out or stayed up and listened to music. A lot of it was to do with music."

There are many times in the book when Richards refers to women as chicks or bitches, but it never seems misogynistic. He talks in the vernacular of life on the road, where the sheer numbers of women must have been staggering. And so many had one agenda - to screw a rock star. In his private life he had two very long-term relationships, first with Pallenberg, with whom he had three kids (one died in infancy) and later with Patti Hansen, who he married and had two daughters.

As he slid into songwriting, so did he slide into drugs, following the inevitable road from grass to cocaine (pharmaceutical-grade only he stresses) to heroin. Richards' drug intake was prodigious. He was hardly a junkie on his own, as heroin usage is usually a shared experience and is dependent on others. But he managed to use it for a decade, and then, finally to kick it. He never glorifies his drug use, but he doesn't apologize for it, either. He's always the rock star, always the artist, always observant, “I never particularly liked being that famous ... I could face people easier on the stuff, but I could do that with booze too. It isn’t really the whole answer. I also felt I was doing it not to be a ‘pop star.’ There was something I didn’t really like about that end of what I was doing, the blah blah blah. That was very difficult to handle, and I could handle it better on smack. Mick chose flattery, which is very like junk — a departure from reality. I chose junk.”

Jagger is mostly in the background throughout the 547 page book, until the penultimate chapter, which begins, "It was the beginning of the '80s when Mick started to become unbearable." The rest of the book is occasionally peppered with his irritation with his "best mate," ... Do you know Mick Jagger? ...Yeah, which one? He's a nice bunch of guys." At times their rivalry got downright juvenile, but then, they were boys together. Richards can't resist a jibe about a retaliatory fling he had with Jagger's long-time girlfriend Marianne Faithfull, "While you were doing that, I was knocking Marianne, man. While you're missing it, I'm kissing it." Funny for a 60-something year-old man to still feel hurt and pissed enough about Jagger sleeping with his "old lady" Pallenberg in 1968. Tell us how you really feel, Keef.

Reading between the lines, a lot of the problems between Jagger and Richards can probably be traced back to Richards' drug use. When Keith was a junkie it was probably very difficult for Jagger in the beginning, and then he began to pick up the slack, handling the business of the band. Richards refers many times to Jagger suffering from L.V.S., Lead Vocalist Syndrome. Surely Jagger's ego is enormous, but to be fair, how must he have felt, after being essentially in charge and picking up the slack for over a decade, when Keith cleaned up and suddenly expected to take over?

Keith's drug use and dependency was a constant. He'd go through withdrawal and then immediately go right back on the stuff. Some of his strategies to ensure a fix are downright hilarious, especially a story he told about ensuring he could shoot up as soon as he got off a transatlantic flight and arrived in New York, "When I traveled I would wear a hat and use a needle to fix a little feather to the hatband, so it was just a hat pin. ... I'd go down to FAO Schwarz, the toy shop right across Fifth Avenue from the Plaza. ...  buy a doctor and nurse play set, a little plastic box with a red cross on it. That had the barrel and the syringe that fitted the needle that I'd brought. I'd go round, 'I'll have three teddy bears, I'll have that remote-control car, oh, and give me two doctor and nurse kits!'"

Keith, as much as anyone, is amazed at his experience with drugs, "How was all that music produced - two songs a day written on a heroin habit, on what appeared to be high energy?" But Richards also talks a lot about rock and roll, and his writing about music is fascinating. Even though he explained it in great detail, I'm not sure I completely understand his five-string open tuning and its impact on music and musicians, but I do recognize that the songs he talks about using that technique sound unique. He also explains why he prefers to play with another guitarist, their playing "weaving" together. He makes me want to start downloading not just Stones' tunes, but things he has done solo and with other artists, and to listen more closely again to one of my favorite albums, Tom Waits' Rain Dogs, where he played guitar and sang backing vocals (I didn't realize or remember he was even on it.)

Life is a wonderful read, a real glimpse into what it was like to become a rock and roll star, in a way and a world that can never be repeated. It's also about a true artist, a man who loves music more than anything.  Keith Richards is someone who has had a very unusual life, out of the mainstream, and lived to tell the tale. And he's witty and intelligent. Rock on, Keef.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

summer movie catch-up — Mr. Popper's Penguins

Considering how our summer has gotten off to such a strange start, it is amazing to me that we have been able to see most of the new summer movies — at least the ones I can take the kid to. I still have to do some catching up with some more grown-up fare. I've also been intending to catch-up with writing about the movies we've seen recently, so here is a quick take:

Mr. Popper's Penguins wasn't as different from the original book as reported. The bare bones of the Atwaters' wonderful book were there — a penguin sent as a gift to Mr. Popper in a box from an explorer, more penguins joining the first, the penguins having babies and wreaking (funny) havoc. The movie updates Mr. Popper from a house painter to a (sort of) ruthless New York businessman, from a family man to a divorced dad who needs to reconnect with his kids and ex. This plot device is very of-the-moment for family comedies, but the updated story isn't the thing. Mr. Popper's Penguins is primarily an opportunity for Jim Carrey to have a blast and take the audience along with him.

Carrey has more than proved that he is a serious actor, in such films as The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but his real gifts as a performer have always been how he uses his face and body. He's a brilliant physical comedian and it's a blast to watch his tall and lanky form in contrast to the waddling penguins, or trying to spin Angela Lansbury in a diversionary dance move. There is a sequence filmed at the Guggenheim Museum that makes more of that crazy architectural space than any exhibition ever did.

Once he accepts that he might actually want to keep his unexpected penguin pets, Popper turns his sleek and stark divorced-dad millian dollar Manhattan bachelor pad (because this is a movie and everyone in the movies in New York live in million dollar apartments) into a snow-filled playground for himself, his kids and the penguins. The movie was reportedly filmed on a refrigerated soundstage and the results are the best part of the movie, as Carrey & Co. frolic with real and CGI birds and for a while make it seem viable to have a bunch of crazy birds living in his ice-covered living room.

One aspect of the book that wasn't included in the movie was Mr. Popper deciding to train the penguins to be in a circus act. This might have been a really funny thing for Jim Carrey to do, but Mr. Popper's Penguins wants to stay squarely in the area of family reunion flick. It keeps things nice, and it makes it a fun movie to take the kids to. But now that Carrey seems to want to mug again, don't rein him in, let him mug. When he does, even penguins fly.
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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

i saw the light

With Dan Flavin, originally uploaded by xoxoxoe.

I love this shot of the kid getting into some art at the Norton.

Monday, June 20, 2011

no sugar added, part deux (or is it trois?)

I've been feeling lately that I've let myself go nutritionally — it's been stressful with my mom's back injury, and when I get stressed I want to eat crap. And when I want to eat crap the inevitable 10+ pounds start to creep in. So before I start going down a shame spiral I can hopefully nip this in the bud.

And what are the prime offenders? Soda, natch. Cookies or a regular form of dessert. Fast food — not the food itself, actually, but the not having to cook that evening is my reward. But I can also buy ready-made salads instead of Mickey D's fries, so that bud is easily nipped. The soda thing is hard, because if it's in the house, it's easy to drink, and for some strange reason it seems to be the only thing my mom wants to drink nowadays. I have been sneaking in Gatorade to her OK beverage list, but Dr. Pepper still tops her list.

I really don't want the kid to become a soda junkie, because you don't have to read any of the many recent reports to know that kids drinking and eating too many empty calories is a set-up for all sorts of bad health down the line. An occasional soda as a treat if we're out, fine. And don't even try saying diet soda, because the only thing worse for your body than regular soda would be diet soda.

So for myself, I'm re-instilling my "no sugar added" regime, for at least a month, hopefully three. That's usually what it takes for me to get the getting-back-in-shape ball a -rollin' After the initial three-month deprivation period, the sugar is not only not missed, but it just doesn't taste that good.
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Sunday, June 19, 2011

happy father's day

I still miss the old man ...

JFP & Bunny, 8th Street, Belmar

Here he is in front of his parents' house in Belmar, Jersey Shore
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