BNBC · stuff I read

LbW: The House on Haunted Hill

Join me for chills and (psychological) thrills in steamy July – the Literature by Women book group is reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. We might even watch a movie adaptation or two.

In addition, we’ll be starting nominations for the next round of reads near the end of the month with voting in early August. Don’t miss out!

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movie star drool

Netflix is always good to me

My crazy, insane week(s) left me little precious brain function to actually focus on much of anything – so Netflix saved my sanity (my friends did, too, by convincing me to go to the midnight release of Transformers 2 the evening after we turned the grant in…).

I watched:

Richard III (thought I blogged this, but I guess not) – having seen the Olivier version (with the wig-that-needed-it’s-own-credit) I wanted to see Ian McKellan’s performance. Now, this one is set in some weird, Nazi-themed, 1930s-era England with Richard III’s fascist army taking over England so I was prepared for some strangeness; I do happen to like alternative settings for Shakespeare and usually don’t make many bones about it unless the casting is hinky. And there was hinky – Annette Benning as Elizabeth Wydville and Robert Downey, Jr. as her brother Lord Rivers; couldn’t they have tried for an English accent? Because the words do not roll “trippingly on the tongue” in the American. McKellan was truly a vile Richard, Kristin Scott Thomas very tragic as Anne Neville, Nigel Hawthorne gave such a moving performance as the Duke of Clarence, and Dame Maggie Smith is fantastic as Richard’s mum. The glamorous 1930s setting was shot beautifully but did get a little creepy because it started to look like photographs of the Windsors about the time of Edward VIII’s abdication.

Time Bandits – I’m not sure how I escaped the 1980s without having seen this loony romp through time particularly because I loved the over-the-top Baron Munchausen and Monty Python. Terry Gilliam sure makes some weird but ultimately enjoyable movies. I was really taken by David Rappaport’s performance as Randall, became convinced I’d seen him in a movie recently, and was saddened to read that he committed suicide nearly 20 years ago.

The Name of the Rose – a re-watch, having seen it eons ago when my dad did a shot-gun approach to Mr. Movies rentals (I had just had my wisdom teeth out and he neglected to ask what I wanted, before I got pickled on Lortab, so he just picked out some things from areas he thought I’d like – and that my younger brothers would watch with me since they were keeping an eye on me and changing out my icepacks). My brothers were enthralled and all I could remember was “lurid” in my hopped-up state. Since then I’ve read the book – awesome, by the way – and I really appreciated Annaud’s attention to detail; I also thought the casting was excellent, even Christian Slater.

This Film is Not Yet Rated – a serious/honest/funny investigation/documentary about the whys and what-are-they-thinkings of the secretive MPAA. Who are sucky bastards by the way. Quit moralizing about my films. Don’t be such secretive nincompoops, you’re not NSA. If people aren’t smart enough to police their own children at the movie theatre and leave the brats there all day that shouldn’t interfere with someone’s creative vision or my ability to see said vision’s results. Bring on the NC-17 ratings – I hate it when immature teenagers come to my art films anyway. Oh, and the filmmaker interviews John Waters (awesome!).

Ghosts – This is a 1987 BBC production of Ibsen’s play starring Dame Judi Dench (Mrs. Alving), Kenneth Branagh (her son, Oswald), Michael Gambon (Pastor Manders), and the late, lamented Natasha Richardson (Regina, the Alving’s maid). I was interested in this adaptation because Kenneth Branagh described his “corpsing” while on the set (and he was the least experienced actor of the cast) in his autobiography, Beginning. This is a very spare (i.e. small cast, precise dialogue) play but beautifully done by the actors. Dame Judi is one of my very favorites.

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake – this is the “all male” version done in the 1990s, choreographed by Matthew Bourne, and danced wonderfully by the awesome Adam Cooper. I was less enthused with the palace scenes, etc. (as I am with the traditional version) and was very impressed by the actual swan sequence; it came far too late into the piece for my taste – they should have cut some of the psychological stuff – but the dancers were very well trained. I was seriously unimpressed with the camera work; who needs close-ups of faces during variations and phrases. Save the closeups for mime sequences and “between” sections. Grr. The object of recording a dance piece is so we can see the dance.

Born to be Wild: The Leading Men of American Ballet Theatre – Ahhhh, my ballet boys. Vladimir Malakhov, Angel Corella, Ethan Steifel (my hottie), and the studly Jose Manuel Carreno in an documentary about the four leading male dancers at ABT. Aside from visiting each dancer’s beginnings, the documentary follows the creation of a piece set on the four of them by Mark Morris (who is quite funny when he’s creating). A live performance of the new work ends the documentary and is a beautiful example of HOW YOU FILM BALLET/DANCE (see above for how you should not). The documentary should have been twice as long, IMO, because one hour wasn’t enough. [OMG, Le Corsiare isn’t available on DVD yet, *sob* I want my Ethan/Angel/Vladi fix]

And then…I went to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen with some friends from the store, all of them having seen the first one….I have not. It’s in the Netflix queue. Installment #2 was a good two hours plus of entertainment (not quite worth it’s $10, but entertainment none-the-less) but it could also have shortened up by throwing out a few stupid shots (the tenth testicle joke via the giant Decepticon’s “balls” was clearly aimed at the 13 year olds who should have been in bed and was unnecessary) and a few characters (did we need the “jive”-talking Autobots?). There were also a few characters lost in the shuffle, disappointingly one of those being the little Tonka Truck Decepticon that Mikayla “trains” who seems to drop out of the film after the lot of them arrive in Egypt. I had a few odd Matrix flashbacks – check out the Decepticon’s germination pods – which wasn’t helped by Megatron being voiced by Mr. Smith aka Elrond aka Hugo Weaving. As far as preview goodness, I was disappointed by there being only three:
1. G-Force: a very silly-looking, stupid-looking, tie-in-ready movie about anthropomorphized guinea pigs trained as some sort of CIA attack team who wind up in a pet store after their project is decommissioned; best part of the preview was the mice and that will probably turn out to be the best part of the movie; Bill Nighy is in this – who roped him in?
2. 2012 – another “OMG, the end of the world!!!!!!!” movie by the king of “destroy every major city on Earth” disaster movies, Roland Emmerich; this one has John Cusack in it instead of Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum; Emmerich destroys the Eiffel Tower which is notable because….
the first shot of ….
3. GI-Joe:The Rise of Cobra ‘s preview shows the Eiffel Tower being eaten/destroyed by some green stuff deployed by Cobra Commander (who is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun, odd); guess the French are on everyone’s bad-list; this one looks pretty good, not sure if it’s good enough for a theatre viewing

And that’s it for now! Tune in later for info regarding things I might actually read and books I might actually buy (or have bought).

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesday (a few days late): The White Tiger

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

– Grab your current read
– Open to a random page
– Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page and BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
– Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

“Do you have to hit the servants, Father?”
“This is not America, son. Don’t ask questions like that.”
~The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
The White Tiger is the F2F group’s July read. Need to get cracking on that one.
new books (yay)

Books, books, books!

This week has been a stressful one at the “real” job – grant season sucks the life out of me (hence the lack of posts). At the store we’ve been having employee appreciation week and, well, it makes life slightly more bearable due to retail therapy at a discount. But only slightly because there’s always checking account shock that sets in later due to large quantity of books purchased – it’s still not that cheap.

Purchased this week:
Art and Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light by Leonard Shlain
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon
The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton
Netherland by Joseph O’Neill (I did not buy this because POTUS read it, I’d been planning to purchase when the paperback came out; Obama just has good taste)
Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde (this is the audio read by Emily Gray)
Jeanette Winterson (Vintage Living Texts Series) edited by Margaret Reynolds
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine, 1880-1930 edited by John Harley Warner and James M. Edmonson
Who Killed Iago? A Book of Fiendishly Challenging Literary Quizzes by James Walton
The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
Knitting Little Luxuries by Louisa Harding
Operation Shylock: A Confession by Phillip Roth
My Father’s Tears and Other Stories by John Updike
Feminine Knits: 22 Timeless Designs by Lene Holme Samsoe

Oh dear. I think I might have to have a lie down.

movie star drool

And you are bothering me because…?

My parents celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary tomorrow (June 7). I joined the rest of the family for a group portrait today, which turned out OK but it seems all of us squint the same eye when we smile, and I dropped by my favorite DVD outlet (which shall remain unnamed) to take advantage of a buy-2-get-1 sale. The store remains unnamed for the following reason.

I was browsing through the selection and mulling over which DVD I should buy for my third choice (I had already chosen Little Dorrit and Le Cercle Rouge). I was looking through the selection of Criterion Collection DVDs (again) and debating between Trafic, The Tales of Hoffmann, Rififi, or a Kurosawa – they didn’t have Withnail and I when I was accosted by a middle-aged, balding man (because that’s who lurks in the video store) who was very friendly with the store staff but he didn’t appear to be working:

Balding dude: Excuse me, I see you are looking at the Criterion Collection and no one does that.
[A very long pause.]
Me: ….And?
Balding dude: They’re really overpriced.
[Another very long pause.]
Me: ….And?
Balding dude: Uh…you can probably get those movies for less elsewhere.
[who the heck is this guy?]
Me: Considering that Criterion is involved in creating film documentaries, film preservation, and distribution of hard-to-find films, particularly those films that show exemplary construction, I would say the prices are reasonable.
[like, seriously, wtf is it your business what I look at or purchase]
Balding dude: Oh….what have you chosen already? Can I see?
[if we weren’t in public I would tell you to get fucked and fast]
Me: Le Cercle Rouge and Little Dorrit. Little Dorrit is not a Criterion film.
[I am starting to use my “I am smarter than you are and you should realize that” voice]
Balding dude [who is fast becoming the most irritating person in the planet]: Oh, they have foreign films? Really?
[for serious, am I on Candid Camera?]
Me: Yes. They do. And they do good work and are often the only distribuor in the US for those films. That’s why they cost so much – the initial take of the film wasn’t in the hundreds of millions.

I glared at him and walked off. He vacated the area after several minutes

Is this what the world is coming to these days? Creepy middle-aged men, who have professed aloud their favorite movie to be Re-animator, lurking in the DVD section of stores to pounce on unsuspecting shoppers and shower said shoppers with stupidity? Does this fall under worst pick-up line ever? I’m pretty sure this guy either worked at the store or had worked at that store because he seemed to know all the employees by name.

Thank you very much for ruining my shopping experience, Balding Dude. You are the kind of person who makes me want to do all my shopping online.

Incidentally, the third film I chose was Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood Macbeth with Japanese Noh Theatre elements…..awesome. I almost got Ran but I’ve never seen it; I am somewhat cheap in that I won’t spend that much money on something I’ve never seen.

Booking Through Thursday

BTT: Sticky, sticky books

“Booking Through Thursday” is hosted by Deb.

I saw this over at Shelley’s, and thought it sounded like a great question for all of you:

“This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.”

1. And the Band Played On by Randy Shilts
2. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
6. Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher
7. The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar (and if I’ve mixed up your names, I’m really sorry – I was under a time limit)
8. The One Hundredth Thing About Caroline by Lois Lowry
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling
10. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
11. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
12. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
13. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
14. The Collector by John Fowles
15. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Edit: Whew! That was unexpectedly tough – do books stick with me because they’re a favorite (Pooh) or because they leave a massive impression (And the Band Played On)? Hard to say.

stuff I read

Beowulf on the Beach

Jack Murnighan has set out to make classic literature fun again by providing a road-map, if you will, to fifty of the greatest Western classics. Don’t believe me? Here’s the blurb:

Feel bad about not reading or not enjoying the so-called great books? Don’t sweat it, it’s not your fault. Did anyone tell you that Anna Karenina is a beach read, that Dickens is hilarious, that the Iliad’s battle scenes rival Hollywood’s for gore, or that Joyce is at his best when he’s talking about booze, sex, or organ meats?

Writer and professor Jack Murnighan says it’s time to give literature another look, but this time you’ll enjoy yourself. With a little help, you’ll see just how great the great books are: how they can make you laugh, moisten your eyes, turn you on, and leave you awestruck and deeply moved. Beowulf on the Beach is your field guide–erudite, witty, and fun-loving–for helping you read and relish fifty of the biggest (and most skipped) classics of all time. For each book, Murnighan reveals how to get the most out of your reading and provides a crib sheet that includes the Buzz, the Best Line, What’s Sexy, and What to Skip. – via the product page at BN.com

Murnighan takes each piece and breaks each one down into the major parts of the work, why that work is so great, what’s the best line/scene, interesting tidbits, and, yes, where the naughty bits are in each work (the “what’s sexy” parts).

Disclaimer: I’ve read 36 of the 50 works that Murnighan profiles in his book so I didn’t read this because I feel guilty about my personal lack of exposure to classical literature (yes, I counted). I was more interested in Beowulf on the Beach because I wanted to see what Murnighan thought about the fifty pieces he chose (and what he said to skip).

In general, Murnighan really just wants everyone to re-visit (or visit for the first time) pieces of classical literature that have been shoved down our throats at school and, this time, read only the good parts (if you’re type-A like me you’ll read the whole thing anyway). I laughed a lot while reading Beowulf on the Beach and that was another one of Murnighan’s points; literature is meant to be fun not tweedy and tedious, even Ulysses or Gravity’s Rainbow (Murnighan says he’s a “recovering academic” in the Preface). Since I wasn’t reading the book for guidance, I made a game out of seeing how many euphemisms for “sex” are used throughout the book (nooky, nook-nook, the beast that makes two backs, the nasty, etc). There are a lot, which makes the work seem a little juvenile at times, but is useful in that it brings many of the pieces down from the stratosphere of high art. Everything seems a bit more accessible and besides, on the whole we have too many Puritan hang-ups about sex in this country.

The only quibble I had with the book was in the secondary title: “What to Love and What to Skip in Literature’s 50 Greatest Works.” The greatest works? Really? Because I remember reading in “A Note on the Selections” that Murnighan states he wasn’t trying to make a definitive list. Rather, he was trying for a wide range of works in the Western oeuvre (he claims Eastern Canon is not his specialty), trying to pare the Canon down to a manageable number for one book, and injecting a little of his own opinion into the list. So while Murnighan is not trying to make a statement about Canon, part of his title does (did he choose it, I wonder). Since Murnighan had to re-read all the books over in order to write his own book, he’s entitled to choose works that he personally admires (heck, I do the same thing with my book group at BNBC). I do admit to being surprised to see Musil’s The Man Without Qualities on the list but no Steinbeck or Wharton.

I think Beowulf at the Beach is a book meant for everyone, bibliophiles and classical neophytes alike.