Wednesday, August 31, 2011

the soulful eyes of michael sarrazin

I just caught an old movie, Sometimes a Great Notion (1970), with Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Lee Remick, and Michael Sarrazin about a struggling family with a logging business in Oregon. It was interesting, with beautiful scenery and gorgeous actors. It was a stick-it-to-the-man-story (co-produced by Newman), a simply told and photographed movie, but with deep emotional undercurrents — the sort of movie that they made tons of in the '70s and don't seem capable of making that much anymore. Everything nowadays is so packaged and slick.

It made me wonder whatever happened to the handsome actor Sarrazin and a quick check on imdb informed me that he had had died earlier this year, after a bout with cancer, at the age of 70. There was nothing slick or packaged about Sarrazin, whose soulful eyes and delivery made him one of the most sought after actors for a time. His peak popularity was in the '70s. I first saw him on television in some great movies — The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975), For Pete's Sake (1974), The Flim-Flam Man (1967), Frankenstein: The True Story (1973), and They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)

Sarrazin had expressive, emotive eyes and seemed sympathetic, someone you wanted to watch on screen. He was also incredibly crush-worthy. He apparently had worked steadily since his stardom's peak in the '70s, sometimes in his native Canada, but I had lost track of him and his work, as apparently so did Hollywood.

How did I miss this one? In Search of Gregory stars Julie Christie, in Rome, who has an incestuous relationship with her brother (John Hurt), and may be in love with a man she has never met (Michael Sarrazin). By all accounts it's not a great film, but it sounds quirky and arty and worth a look.

RIP Michael Sarrazin, an interesting talent.
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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

buffy's back ... with an evil twin

I'm interested in checking out Sarah Michele Gellar's new show this fall, Ringer. It's a mystery/suspense show where she plays twins. I'm glad she's back on television and I hope this series is fun for her and the audience.

Doesn't every actor want to play their evil twin? Not so sure audiences clamor for twin stories, but they do make for quirky, sometimes campy classics. Here are some of my favorites:

Bette Davis plays sisters Margaret (rich and bad, a husband murderer) and Edith (good and poor) in Dead Ringer. This is not a great movie, but it is compellingly watchable. Bette has to vie with good guy cop suitor Karl Malden and naughty boy toy Peter Lawford in this sordid '60s murder mystery. Apparently Bette played twins in another earlier film, A Stolen Life, which I have yet to see.

Eddie Murphy as movie star Kit ("Keep it Together, K-I-T") Ramsay and his nerdy brother Jiff in Bowfinger, a sarcastically funny take on Hollywood from Frank Oz and Steve Martin. This movie is just as funny whether you're watching it for the first or fifteenth time and Murphy is truly great at two very different, wacked out twins. He has always liked to play multiple characters, and did that to perfection in The Nutty Professor, his riff on Jerry Lewis's '60s version.

Jeremy Irons as creepy twins in the creepy Dead Ringers, directed by creepy David Cronenberg, who always seems to make creepy movies. They play twin gynecologists, who both start messing around with the wonderful Geneviève Bujold, who deserves much better.

Nicolas Cage plays screenwriter Charlie Kauffman and his nebbish brother Donald in Spike Jones's Adaptation, a surreal take on Susan Orleans's bestseller about the orchid industry in Florida. Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton and Chris Cooper are along with the Cage (s) for the ride.

Twin-age is not limited to comedy and arty films. Action-adventure's own Jean Claude Van Damme beats himself up in Double Impact - what's not to love about that? Well, a lot actually, but it's still pretty fun.

If you were expecting the classic twinfest The Parent Trap, I'm sorry, but I don't like either version, Mills or Lohan. But I do love the concept of identical cousins, which isn't exactly a twin scenario, but it's wacky enough to fit this theme, and has that unforgettable theme song, to boot.

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Monday, August 29, 2011

the many lives of jane fonda

Article first published as Book Review: Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman by Patricia Bosworth on Blogcritics.

Patricia Bosworth's soon to be released biography, Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman, is a good companion novel to Brooke Hayward's Hollywood coming-of-age biography, and recent re-release, Haywire. Not only did Jane and Brooke grow up together, both the daughters of Hollywood stars — Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullavan, respectively— but their parents were also married to one another once upon a time, and the families' fates seemed to be intertwined. They were neighbors, first in Hollywood, and then later in Connecticut, when their actor parents pursued their New York stage careers. Both of the girls' mothers also committed suicide.

Jane Fonda and Henry Fonda
From the prologue:
Frances Fonda, slit her throat when Jane was twelve. Her suicide is the crucial event in Jane’s life and it haunts her to this day. After the suicide Henry Fonda, always the perfectionist, became even more remote, escaping into his work and three more marriages; each wife seemed younger than the last. Jane kept on battling for his love. She triumphed on Broadway and then went on to make forty-one movies, creating characters as disparate as the naive cowgirl in Cat Ballou and the giddy newlywed Corie in Barefoot in the Park to the tough-talking call girl Bree Daniels in Klute, for which she won her first Oscar. 
In her twenties she began to reinvent herself to attract and please a succession of father substitutes. She shifted seamlessly from playing film director Roger Vadim’s Parisian sex kitten, to political activist and exercise guru when she was married to radical Tom Hayden. Finally, she became the trophy wife of maverick billionaire Ted Turner, a man as famous as she is.
That is Bosworth's, a frequent contributor to Vanity Fair's, nutshell version of Jane and the relationships in her life. Her book proceeds to try to give details of Jane's career, her demons, and her many romances. In a way it's really all you need to know about Fonda, who always seemed to define herself by the people (men, primarily) and trends that surrounded her. Yet that paragraph also tells nothing about her, as Jane constantly changes direction, on an endless quest for self-knowledge. After reading this fairly comprehensive biography, one wonders if she actually does knows herself, but just doesn't want to admit it, own it.

Brooke Hayward is one of many people that Bosworth has interviewed to put together this informative biography. Besides sessions with Jane herself, Bosworth also spoke to her brother Peter Fonda, her children, Henry Fonda's ex-wives as well as many people from all facets of her life.

As much as Jane was profoundly affected by her mother's death, it is clear that her father was always the more influential of the two in her life, even when Frances was still alive. Jane wanted desperately to emulate him, and by all accounts she has succeeded, although she doesn't seem to see that for herself. Like her dad, family is extremely important to her, but also like him, she rarely can find the time or energy to actually spend time with them.

Bosworth dutifully chronicles Fonda's recurring laments since childhood that she couldn't get her father's attention, or that she never got an emotional enough reaction from him in the form of compliments or hugs or words. Even when he praises her in print it isn't enough — he didn't do it to her face. It doesn't seem to matter to Jane that he cried for her — he didn't do it it front of her, he didn't act it out for her.

Roger Vadim directing Jane in Barbarella

Paradoxically, Jane has only weak excuses when trying to explain why she was able to leave her baby daughter Vanessa with father Roger Vadim to drive across the United States to participate in the anti-(Vietnam) war movement. It is clear from quotes later in the book that Vanessa was raised primarily by her father — she even called him "maman," and has never completely forgiven her mother for her desertion. These are precisely the same issues Jane had with her own mother — Frances ignored her and lavished attention on "preferred" son Peter while she hopelessly and fruitlessly tried to attract attention and approval from husband Henry.

Jane closely resembled her father, in personality and physicality. Her long-term bulimia was both a product of her Hollywood existence and her desire to look more like him. She has assumed a more traditionally male role in her life — she was away from home a lot, relegating the raising of her kids to others, finally wanting to reconnect with family in her 60s, when her many careers were on the back-burner.

On the surface her story reads like the evolution of a feminist, and Jane did live through the beginnings of that movement. But of all the political causes she has leant her voice to, she never really fully committed to feminism, probably because she realized that she wasn't completely walking the walk. As independent as she was, there was always a man in her life that she was trying to impress or help. She's the embodiment of the modern female paradox — wanting to support and nurture, but also wanting to be in charge, independent.

The book, like her life, is divided into sections. The first part centers on her youth as the daughter of a movie star, with a focus on Henry Fonda and the people he brought into her orbit. She literally met everyone in Hollywood, in the last great era of the studio system — Tyrone Power, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper. Fonda's ex-wife Margaret Sullavan was a close family friend.

A playbill from The Actors Studio' production of Strange Interlude, which featured Jane and an all-star cast 

It must have been obvious to everyone but Jane that she was born to be an actress. Bosworth chronicles her reluctant pursuit of an acting career. Even after appearing with her father on stage she still seemed in denial and only got serious about acting after a lot of hesitation and encouragement from others — mainly Susan Strasberg urging her to meet with her father Lee, the famous guru of the Method style of acting and The Actors Studio.

Fonda was a bit of a late bloomer, considering her "in" to the industry. She finally found her way to the Actors Studio and made her first movie, Tall Story (1960). She also met Marilyn Monroe, who became a huge influence and was the initial impetus for Jane's evolution into a sex kitten, which was finalized by her life and films in France in the mid '60s and first husband Roger Vadim's casting her in sexy romps like La Curée, Circle of Love and Barbarella.

Bosworth relates how Vadim molded and celebrated Jane's sexy persona as well as their private life, which reflected his ideas of sexual freedom, as they explored multiple partners and ménage à trois. After she and Vadim had their daughter Vanessa, she got bored with acting and threesomes and seized onto politics. Prompted by the more politically outspoken French intellectuals who opposed the war in Vietnam, like her friend the great French actress Simone Signoret, Jane desperately wanted to channel her excess energy into a worthwhile cause. And to escape her recent motherhood.

Jane's dissatisfaction with career, marriage and motherhood sounds eerily like Henry Fonda, who only seemed to check in with his family when it suited him. When he was home he preferred to spend his time puttering in the garden or his paint studio than interact with his family.

Jane was a dilettante in the beginning, attaching herself to so many causes that she quickly gained criticism, with many doubting her sincerity. The most glaring example was her infamous "Hanoi Jane" episode, which still causes trouble for her on occasion. Jane's anti-war campaigning got her invited to visit Hanoi in 1972. One of the stops on her North Vietnam tour was an air defense installation. Jane, either on her own, or responding to a request from someone there, climbed up on the gun, while photographers snapped photo after photo. “I simply wasn’t thinking about what I was doing ..." Not thinking that posing on a gun potentially aimed at American airplanes overhead might be misconstrued by some as hostile. She came home to an outraged public and a Nixon White House all too eager to charge her with treason.

Tom Hayden and Jane

Jane weathered the subsequent ostracism, investigations and criticism. And then she met Tom Hayden, who was only too happy to help her focus her activism and to benefit from her star power. Exit Vadim, enter new husband Hayden. She was the main breadwinner in her marriage to Hayden. Her revolutionary Workout empire in the '80s was originally designed to fund his political career and causes. She also managed to make some movies during their marriage, her "comeback" in Hollywood, as much funding his campaigns as fulfilling her own artistic ambitions: Fun with Dick and Jane and Julia (1977), Coming Home and California Suite (1978), The China Syndrome (1979), Nine to Five (1980), On Golden Pond (1981), Agnes of God (1985), The Morning After (1986).

Her marriage to Hayden ended when he told her he had fallen in love with another woman, much like Henry Fonda had told Frances he was leaving her for another woman so many years before. But Hayden, according to Bosworth, had been having extramarital affairs for years, as well as concealing his alcoholism. Whether Jane had been faithful or not isn't stated, but she did apparently embark on an affair with costar Kris Kristofferson during the filming of the flop Rollover in 1981, when their marriage was on the skids.

She may have tried to steer clear of marriage for a while, but soon the extremely charismatic and over-the-top pushy Ted Turner started to pursue her. She managed to hold him off for a while, reluctant to embark on a relationship with someone who was such a blatant womanizer. But he promised to devote himself to only her and they were wed, in 1991. She was the ultimate trophy wife to Turner, helping him promote CNN and follow his empire-building dreams. They were constantly on the go early in their marriage, which may have kept the straying hounds at bay for a while, but ultimately people don't change, and according to Bosworth, Jane became fed up with the lifestyle and his extra women and the marriage ended in 2001.

Jane with Ted Turner
Turner actually gets short shrift in the book, compared to the longer sections with Vadim and Hayden. But Jane's most important male relationship is always with her father. Even after he passed away, she continued to try and emulate him, always searching for his approval.

As interesting as it is to read about Jane and her sometimes manic lifestyle, the book made me want to know more about her brother Peter. He always seems on the outskirts of Jane's life, but he was battling the same demons, and it seems, more successfully. Why did she never seek him out, try to share experiences with him? They did once see a therapist together:
Jane ranted on and on about Tom [Hayden] and their parents. After about fifteen minutes, the therapist interrupted with "What do you have to say about this, Peter?"

He hadn't known how to react, because "Jane was cutting to the chase — leaving out all the details. Yeah, our mother was a victim, yeah our father was larger than life — and we had survived, we were survivors, almost in spite of ourselves. But Jane didn't get what happened along the way. Anyhow, her version of our life is different from my version. But what the fuck? The end result is the same."
Jane, look how he's looking at you  how much more proof do you need?
Maybe an over-examined life just leaves a person with questions — too busy asking, never pausing for any answers. At least that seems to be a recurring theme for Jane. I was fascinated reading about Jane Fonda and her whirlwind life that touched on Hollywood, American politics and business in Jane Fonda: The Private Life of a Public Woman. But I'd much rather grab a cup of coffee with her brother Peter, who might actually listen to the conversations around the table.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

the dragonflies are back

Last night the sky was chock-full of dragonflies ...

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

secret florence

Article first published as Book Review: Secret Florence by Niccolo Rinaldi on Blogcritics.

I love Florence. It is my favorite and one of the most accessible of Italian cities. I have been there a few times and was lucky enough to stay for almost a week once and really feel a part of the city.
I walked everywhere, seeking out frescoes by the Fras — Angelica and Filippo Lippi. I crossed the Ponte Vecchio in search of Masaccio and Florentine steak. I found Della Robbia ceramic details on buildings while laundering my clothes at the convenient laundromats. I searched out the little devils painted into so many frescoes in churches — it’s not just about angels in Florence. I tried to find a pair of red shoes, which seemed the right sort of Florentine footwear.

I knew that Florence was more than just the tick-it-off-your-list city with the Uffizi and Duomo, but after reading Secret Florence, I realize that I have only just scratched the surface of this enchanting city. I would imagine that even long-time residents might also find many spots in its pages that they have yet to explore. I’m not quite the insider I hoped I was, but this very different sort of guidebook might help me become one. And it definitely makes me want to start planning my next trip.
Secret Florence is very cleverly organized by city section, adding additional guidance to places where travelers will already be headed: Piazza Della Signoria, Duomo/San Lorenzo, Santa Maria Novella, SS Annunziata, Santa Croce, Oltrarno, and the Outskirts of Florence. But in each section the emphasis is on little details that might easily be missed, while you were preoccupied by the bigger, more-travelled sites.

For example, The Palazzo Vecchio at the Piazza Della Signoria is a frequent tourist spot. Its tall clock tower is not only visually impressive, but it makes it a terrific meeting place. It also is still functioning as the city’s town Hall and has a replica of Michelangelo’s famous "David" sculpture outside (for the real one you need to visit the Accademia). But there is also art inside the Palazzo Vecchio, and Secret Florence doesn’t guide you through the masterpieces by Michelangelo and Ghirlandaio as other guide books might, but instead poses an interesting question regarding a “missing” fresco by Leonardo da Vinci.

Other highlights, suggested points of interest, include:

Artist’s clever and hidden self portraits — Benevenuto Cellini’s face on the back of his famous "Perseus" sculpture, Lorenzo Ghiberti’s head on the bronze doors of the Baptistery

A Florentine fast food delicacy made from a cow’s fourth stomach, lampredotto, if you dare

The astronomical qualities of the Duomo, and how to watch the sun transit the building on the summer solstice to land on a perfect circle of marble on the floor.

A fresco depicting the family of Amerigo Vespucci, from whom America gets its name — with Amerigo, who was only a child when it was painted, shown as a cherub

An equestrian statue of Ferdinando I which features a concentric circle of bees (as a symbol of power, but mostly used as a counting game for children)

Traces of Florentia, Roman Florence

The love nest of English poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Casa Guidi

A Japanese garden in the center of anItalian rose garden, in Oltrarno

The book includes an alphabetic index and an even more helpful thematic index, which helps you pinpoint areas of interest such as architecture, gardens, history, painting, religion, science, etc.
Secret Florence is chock-full of anecdotes, so makes for interesting reading about the city and its art and history. It’s definitely a fresh look at the city and would make for a great resource for some quirky walking tours once you’ve tired of standing in line to get into the Uffizi.
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Friday, August 26, 2011

katey has breakfast near tiffany's and some sex in the city: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Check out my review of Rules of Civility by Amor Towles on BlogHer, in the BlogHer book club!

An excerpt:
Many people have a year when everything in their life changed — they met that certain someone, or they got their heart broken, or someone significant died or left their life. For heroine Katey Kontent (I'm not kidding, that's her name in the book) the year was 1938 and the events were all of the above ...
Jitterbug dancers, New York, 1938, Wikimedia Commons
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

hopefully the apple won't fall far from the steve

Steve Jobs resigned as the CEO of Apple yesterday (he wants to step back and be Chairman of the Board) and I'm sure all the Macheads out there, myself included, gasped and said a silent prayer that it's not for dire health reasons.

Jobs has been more than influential for the computer industry, he has been inspirational. I wish him and the company continued success.

Steve's letter:
To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.


Best of luck, Steve in your new role. I know that Apple will continue to turn out cool stuff and get us all to "think different."
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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

life is a carousel

It spins round and round, up and down ...

exciting, scary, colorful ...
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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

good night irene

Everyone here is bracing for Hurricane Irene, which, like most tropical hurricanes, is unpredictable and could go any direction at any moment. Right now, it seems like south Florida will escape the eye. Hopefully that trend will continue and that it will miss the rest of the eastern seaboard as well.

I am getting my first taste of hurricane season mania here. So many people have the weather on 24/7. Not to mention the long gas lines and stockpiling. I get that we should all be prepared, but I also think some folks just like to overdramatize, to feel part of a bigger something.

The preoccupation with the weather by people in Florida, impending hurricane or no, is just as perplexing to me as the folks in the DC metro area who could only talk about the best way to approach the Capital Beltway. So many people I knew there would always have "the best route" and loved to talk and talk about different approaches in and out of the city. Yawn. I would get to wherever I was going whichever road I took. It was impossible to get lost, the Beltway circles the city. But I digress.

I just don't need any more drama than I already have. I can't control the weather, but I also don't want it to control me. When my daughter asked what a hurricane was like I told her it's a bit like the scene in The Wizard of Oz with the twister, except coming from the ocean. I'm not sure how reassuring that was, but she adores the movie and now has a pretty good idea.

Either we'll stay here and hunker down or we'll be told we have to leave. Like everyone else, I have to keep an eye on the weather. Just not every 15 minutes.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

first day of school

Second grade.

She was so excited, she raced down the hall to her classroom without even a look or a wave back. I was equal parts crushed and proud.

My little girl grows up and up and up.

First day of school - 2nd grade

First day of school - 2nd grade
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

the annotated sense and sensibility — even more to love

Article first published as Book Review: The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen, Edited and Annotated by David M. Shapard on Blogcritics.

Pride and Prejudice may be Jane Austen's most well-known and popular novel, but Sense and Sensibility has always been my favorite. The Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, are two sides of the feminine personality coin — Elinor, so serious, who must think long and deeply about everything before she speaks or acts, and Marianne, the epitome of the Romantic ideal, lovely and emotional and impulsive — the perfect romantic heroine.

In The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, David M. Shapard has added annotations and images to augment Austen’s classic novel. It is a handsome paperback, but also a serious one to immerse oneself in — with over 700 pages of complete and unabridged text, all of Shapard's notes on the right-hand pages. Contributing to the book's heft, Shapard repeats definitions throughout the book, so the reader doesn't need to flip back and check an earlier definition.

Annotations include black and white period illustrations, maps of England where the characters travel, word definitions, backgrounds in history, a chronology of events in the novel, a bibliography, and Shapard's interpretations of Austen's novel and her characters.

Sense and Sensibility was the first novel that Austen published, in 1811. The book, written "by a lady," was even a financial success. The book is a romance — the two young Dashwood girls are having their first real adventures in love. Marianne is involved in a full-fledged romance with handsome neighbor Mr. Willoughby and can't understand what her sister sees in the shy Edward Ferrars. She even complains about his lack of verve to her mother:
"Oh! Mama, how spiritless, how tame was Edward's manner in reading to us last night! I felt for my sister most severely. Yet she bore it with so much composure, she seemed scarcely to notice it. I could hardly keep my seat. To hear those beautiful lines which have frequently almost driven me wild, pronounced with such impenetrable calmness, such dreadful indifference!"
Marianne is fond of exclamation marks. But Sense and Sensibility is also about putting forth Austen's philosophy of love — passion versus intellect. And Austen definitely weighs in favor of the latter.

Older sister Elinor is not quite as emotionless as her younger sister assumes. When pressed to speak about Edward and her feelings for him, she tells her sister,
"I have seen a great deal of him, have studied his sentiments, and heard his opinion on subjects of literature and taste; and, upon the whole, I venture to pronounce that his mind is well-informed, his enjoyment of books exceedingly great, his imagination lively, his observation just and correct, and his taste delicate and pure... I do not attempt to deny that I think very highly of him — that I greatly esteem, that I like him."
That is a great admission for Elinor. She is putting her feelings out in the world and her heart on the line as much as the more demonstrative Marianne has done, but just in her own way.

Marianne is so open about her feelings for Willoughby that her behavior borders on scandalous (for the time.) As her relationship to Willoughby falls apart (she was never a suitable bride for him, as the Dashwood's are not rich enough), Elinor also faces heartbreak, as Edward has long been betrothed to another. Sense and Sensibilty follows how both girls cope with their loves and their lives and is one of Austen's most satisfying stories. The Annotated Sense and Sensibiity is a lovely addition to any Austen-philes's collection, and a wonderful way for readers to immerse themselves not only in the timeless story, but in the customs of 19th century rural England.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

ever have a movie preview make you angry? one day ...

I can't help it, but the preview for One Day pisses me the hell off. I watch rom-coms, even ones that makes the audience sit through one hour and 47 minutes of the two leads being kept apart. It's directed by Lone Scherfig, who made the wonderful An Education, which gave me pause, until I heard about the plot, which sets up bad behavior to hold off the inevitable realization by the two that they should be together — something anyone could have figured out in the first five minutes. And then the movie throws in a heavy dose of some dire circumstances for the tearjerker factor. As if all of that wasn't bad enough, I remembered what ticked me off in the first place. The movie is set in Scotland and England and the two leads are supposed to be young Brits, who, as the publicity blurb burbles:
Emma Morley and Dexter Mayhew begin a friendship that will last a lifetime. She is a working-class girl of principle and ambition who dreams of making the world a better place. He is a wealthy charmer who dreams that the world will be his playground. For the next two decades, key moments of their relationship are experienced over several July 15ths in their lives.
Dexter is played by Jim Sturgess and Emma, the "working-class girl of principle and ambition" is played by ... Anne Hathaway. Why? Were there no young British actresses available? I did not buy her as a "Yorkshire lass" in just a few preview clips. I can't imagine having to sit through one hour and 47 minutes of her playing Brit, and then waiting for the inevitable heartbreaking scene. No. Just no.

Dick van Dyke, in his legendary attempt at the Cockney accent

How did an American actress get the part? In a typical Hollywood b.s. fairytale version, Hathaway said in an interview that appeared in the Toronto Sun:
"I got slipped the script ... I flew to London and then I proceeded to have, like, the worst meeting of my life. I ... I got so terrified that I wasn't going to get the part, I grabbed a piece of paper and just wrote a bunch of songs. ... 'I clearly didn't communicate to you what I needed to today. But I think these songs can do it for me.' So she [director Lone Scherfig] went home and gave a listen and she said, 'Can I hear more songs?' I don't know why that worked, but I got the part."
Uh huh. I'm guessing that Hathaway's box office appeal had more to do with her getting the part than a mix tape, but whatever she wants to believe, fine. This just brings up the age-old question — Why do American Hollywood actresses insist on trying to do (badly) British (and sometimes even Southern) accents? Apart from Meryl Streep, they should just not do attempt it. Also good at an accent: Frances McDormand in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow and the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Instead of trying to fit the square peg of an American accent into the round hole of a British one, it would be smarter for a director or writer to just rewrite the part as an American. If they can't change the character's nationality, as in this film or Shakespeare in Love (Gwyneth does the Brit accent better than most), than give a young British girl a chance. That goes for Renee Zellwegger in Bridget Jones's Diary, too.

We'll see how One Day fares at the box office this weekend; if others are as put off by the casting and the premise as I am.
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Friday, August 19, 2011


Two upcoming films that I'm excited to see are both set in Victorian times. One, a ghost story starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, and Janet McTeer, The Woman in Black, looks super creepy and wonderful:

It's a Hammer film — the studio seems to be getting back to its Hammer Horror movie roots with this film and last year's impressive Let Me In.

The other, Hysteria, starring Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Price, Maggie Gyllenhal, and Rupert Everett, looks to take a comic twist on what was once a serious subject  the malady of "hysteria," a female complaint, which could encompass anything from mental illness to loneliness to, according to this film, just needing a good and practiced "hand":

According to The Guardian, the film mixes both the historical and hysterical, by having the plot center on the invention of the vibrator, by telling "... the story of the accidental discovery of motorised sex aids in Victorian England. ... There are humorous elements, for sure, but ultimately it's a film about female emancipation and liberation. ... This so-called disorder (hysteria) was diagnosed when women exhibited symptoms such as anxiety, sleeplessness, irritability, nervousness, fluid retention, insomnia and erotic fantasy."

I'm not so sure how much of a feminist twist the film will actually be taking, but it still looks like fun. I've like both of the young leading actors for quite a while — Radcliffe since Harry rode the dragon in Goblet of Fire and Dancy since The Jane Austen Book Club. The Woman in Black is currently scheduled to come out in February 2012. Hysteria doesn't have a release date as yet, but will be shown next month at the Toronto Film Festival.
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Thursday, August 18, 2011

come as you are ... frances bean cobain

I'm loving the photos that are everywhere of Frances Bean Cobain. In some great black and white shots by Hedi Slimane she is portrayed as a true grunge heiress.

In another shoot, by Rocky Schenck, she is a glam Hollywood goddess.

I still love her dad's music and I wish the kid the best. She has quite a legacy to contend with, but like every person entering their twenties, it's time to escape the shadow of the parents.

Good luck kid, you take a great picture.
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Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I grew up in New Jersey, where diners are everywhere. What is so special about this quintessentially American eating place? It is just an interpretation of the cafe, brought to this country with immigrants from the old world to the new. But there is something so comfortable, so social about a diner. And not social in the new media sense.

My family would eat out occasionally at restaurants when I was growing up — we didn't eat out as often then as I seem to do with my daughter today — when out-of-town relatives or friends would come to the shore for a visit. Going out to a restaurant would be a treat for my brother and me. But even better would be summertime weekend mornings, when my dad, instead of going out to the local convenience store or bakery for his fresh rolls and the paper (he was very old world, buying the day's food each day) would instead tell everyone to get in the car and we'd go out to a diner for breakfast.

Dad taught me to eat my eggs and hash browns with ketchup. To contemplate whether to have orange juice or grapefruit juice or tomato juice (in those improbably small glasses) with my meal. To order a side of rye toast, which came buttered, with the little novelty jellies in packets on the side.

New Jersey, The Diner State
New Jersey, The Diner State, R.L. Segal

When I left New Jersey to go to college in New York I noticed that in the big city the diner had given way to the coffee shop. It was a step more "restaurant-ey" than a diner, with an even more expanded menu. My friends and I would spend countless hours talking and eating and laughing in the coffee shops on Waverly Place or Canal Street, or the Ukrainian versions in the East Village. Like my beloved Jersey diners, you could still order breakfast all day, but now it would include new choices, like challah bread french toast and kielbasa and eggs.

Starbucks started to move in and replace many of the diners and coffee shops, in New York City and the rest of the country. But it wasn't just the spaces that changed. A bunch of kids sitting around a table for hours yakking has been replaced by the internet culture of people plugged in to their laptops, hoarding seats near outlets for recharging, conversation making way for texting. People do business from their local Starbucks.

I'm not a dinosaur. I love technology. But I do miss the days of arguing about art or music or comparing notes on men and movies, all things you can still do at Starbucks, but somehow not in an as leisurely manner as when we used to hog a table at the local diner. It's far more common seeing a bunch of people sitting at a table together these days with their eyes all trained on their smart phones, rather than looking at each other and telling jokes, or just generally goofing off.

Sculptor Louise Bourgeois in an Upper Westside coffee shop, Inge Morath, 1992.

Diners and coffeeshops offered a myriad of menu choices. Spaghetti? The retro '50s burger and fries and milkshake? A whole meal, like moussaka or pastitsio, with soup, vegetable and salad? Or what about some dessert? The omnipresent counter with cakes and the pies underneath glass covers, intended to entice. And they did. People now are on the move, on the run, no time for a piece of pie.

When I moved to D.C. from New York I was suddenly bereft of diners and coffee shops. There was a decent theme chain that tried to replicate the look of a '50s diner, but it just wasn't the same thing. D.C. has a lot of things to offer, but coffee shop culture is not one of them.

When we moved last year to Florida I was prepared for the worst. But to my pleasant surprise, at least where we live, there are diner-like joints everywhere. I quickly realized it must be all the transplanted New Jerseyans and New Yorkers (and other east Coast-ers) who brought their diner culture south with them. So when we go out for that weekend brunch treat I have been trying the club sandwich, or the tomato soup and grilled cheese special, or the greek salad with soup combo, or the dijon chicken salad plate, or, if I'm in the mood, eggs and homefries with ketchup on the side — at any time of the day. It's like a little bit of home.

Diners and coffee shops are loved in the movies, too:

A scene from Diner
Maybe Jack should have ordered rye toast
Dumb and Dumber and diner
I used to live two doors down from the famous Katz's — famous even before Harry and Sally went there
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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

catching up with ... tales from earthsea

Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki was busy working on his film Howl's Moving Castle, so couldn't helm Tales from Earthsea, but he must have paid more than a few visits to the studio, as his hand is all over this lovely little anime from 2006. Miyazaki's son, Goro Miyazaki, stepped in for his father to direct the film, a loose adaptation of Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea novels. The team at Studio Ghibli delivered the gorgeous painted backgrounds and compelling characters that viewers have come to expect from them. I recently saw the English-voiced version, and even with a pretty standard good vs. evil plot, it was still a treat.

Arren befriends a dragon
Good wizard Sparrowhawk
The movie begins with two dragons, black and white and beautifully rendered, fighting each other over the sea. One kills the other — a bad omen — and the news travels quickly to the King of Enlad, who is then killed by his son, Prince Arren (Matt Levin). Arren is wracked with guilt, and seems haunted by a shadow of himself. He meets a great wizard, Sparrowhawk (Timothy Dalton), a girl, Therru (Blaire Restaneo), and a woman, Tenar (Mariska Hargitay). Together they must try and prevent the evil wizard Cob (Willem Dafoe), who is obsessed with discovering the secret of eternal life. And Arren must decide whether to run from, or face up to, his crime.

Dalton and Defoe are especially good in their voicing of their characters, two wizards in combat, each with a very different interpretation of the eternal battle of life over death. Themes of love and conquering death make for a more adult and sometimes somber story, with some fairly graphic violence at the end of the film, as compared to other Studio Ghibli offerings like My Neighbor Totoro and The Cat Returns. But Hayao Miyazaki, who worked on the story for his son's film, has always added a touch of melancholy to his characters.

Arren has a dark side

The early Bowie-esque Cob

There are images that just take your breath away — 

Anything featuring the dragons

Our first look at Cob in his medieval fortress

An abandoned villa where Arren first meets Therru

The vistas of the seaside town Hort Town

Arren listening to Therru sing a song of loss and mourning

Wolves advancing to attack Arren in the desert.

Tales from Earthsea is a wonderful animated film, full of color and texture, but you should probably tuck in the kiddies and settle back and enjoy this one for yourself.

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