Saturday, September 29, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

P and P Again

The 2005 Pride and Prejudice was on last night. This version of the story is significant for several things: the dirtyness and sweatiness of the country folk, Keira Knightly's god-awful dresses/how god-awful Keira Knightly looks in most of her dresses, the progression of time sequence when she's on the swing in the yard and most especially, the sequence after the Darcy proposal when she's in Charlotte's house walking from room to room in the dimness. There's a progression of time in this sequence in which KK as EB looks in the mirror as afternoon turns to evening turns to night which is just spectacular. I also like Jena Malone's Lydia Bennet, who I want to punch in the face even more than Julia Sawalha's Lydia. Donald Sutherland has some wonderful moments too. Cinematography is quite moody and evocative, which is usually, though not always, appropriate for the scene.

Otherwise, it does not hold a candle to the BBC version. Casting talented, trained actors and directing them to create performances that sound the depths of the complexity of the text, people! Ignore it at your peril!

Friday, September 21, 2007


I'm in a coffee shop down the street waiting for the rain. I don't quite believe that it will actually rain. To that end, I don't have a jacket with me or an umbrella and am wearing sandals. The last few days have been beautiful bright fall days with a coda of coolness to remind us to snuggle up and make soup, because winter's coming. I had forgotten LA was capable of anything other than endless summer and I'm so happy to put away my tank tops and re-embrace the collared and sweatered contents of my wardrobe.

This past year has been a dry one and the year before that was dry as well. I've heard rumours that this is year two of a ten-year drought. I hope not. The first year I lived here was a winter of torrential rain (there's mostly no other kind in this place). The streets became rivers, billboards peeled, and the dry hills sprung into an Irish kind of green. Neko Case is correct when she tells you LA is beautiful when it rains.

So I'm keeping a weather eye on the palm trees growing in the Post Office parking lot across the street and smelling the breeze for clues.

And it just started raining.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Women In Art

I love paintings.

The Vast Wasteland

I hate the television for a number of reasons. One: I haven't had TV for the whole time I've been in LA, until last March when I moved in with Rebecca. Two: movie school can sometimes take away the appetite for watching anything because the thought of looking at all that work is exhausting. Three: TV is mostly crap. Four: TV is an assault on the senses that my crotchety old self can rarely abide. Five: DVDs and online episodes. And finally Six, the most visceral reason: the deaf old lady upstairs and her volume button in the middle of the night/at the crack of dawn.

No, I stick to movies. And my Netflix list is long and filled with many good-for-me films from long lists of recommended viewing. I put other things in there too. I haven't seen any of the Die Hard movies, so those are on my own list of recommended viewing, and there are some things that come out that I'm not willing to pay to see on the big screen. For the most part, though, I've set myself a dubiously entertaining schedule of a lot of older, slower, foreigner, blacker and whiter movies. Not that they're not great films. A lot of them are Great Films. They're just hard to sit down to after a long day. I've been watching a lot of them in multiple sittings, which is doubtless less rewarding than watching the whole thing straight through, but hey, I'm watching them, so shut up.

The other night I decided to click through the TV channels and see what movies were on there. I saw the end of Just Friends, which is predictable, though Ryan Reynolds and Anna Faris are super funny. And I caught the end of Just Like Heaven, the Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo RomCom starring San Francisco and ghosts. I just watched Mr. Ruffalo in My Life Without Me, and was impressed with his ability to turn banal writing and apparently absent direction into a pretty nuanced and credible performance. I hope he got paid a lot of money to do this Heaven movie, though, because it is one of the worst bad movies I have ever watched part of. The writing was poo, the acting (sorry Reese) was at times like watching a middle school play (but then, what are you going to do with such terrible writing?), the sets and the lighting looked faker than Britney Spears' current weave.

Here's my thought, though: this movie got MADE. People looked at this shitty, schmaltzy, predictable, surface-value script and said: let's make it! Mark and Reese wanted to make it. People wanted to lay money down to make it. And now people want to rent it. It's middling in the Netflix Top 100 Rentals In Your Area.

All this points to me cracking open my RomCom notebook and trying to have more ideas today. Because if you can write something that simplistic and get paid for it? That would be Just Like Heaven.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Across The Universe - Trailer

Come Together

I saw Across The Universe last night. I have a big enormous heart with an arrow through it for Julie Taymor and her movies. So anything she makes, I am game for. Across The Universe, however, is the story of The Sixties, which I typically don't have a big heart for, let alone an arrow. I'm not 57, and I refuse to ride the coattails of another generation's nostalgia. The trailer's proliferation of sweet-sixties moments were excused by the explosion of crazy imagery at the end, cut on the beat of Hey Jude. Hard to resist, that.

I did have certain late-60s Beatles tracks as an important part of my childhood, however out-of-cultural-context they may have been in the early eighties. As a little kid, I had a murky belief that my cousin Jeb was Paul McCartney (he has a resemblence and introduced Yellow Submarine to our household when I was 8 or 9). When John said that I wasn't going to make it with anyone anyhow carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, I had to figure out who he was talking about. I was 12 or 13 when I found out that Lucy in her diamond sky was a drug reference.

I was seated next to a B.O.-tinged old hippy with a white goatee--what better way to see the show?

The movie will no doubt be torn a new one by critics with my same distaste for movies about coming-of-age forty years after it happened. Those people missed what happened onscreen. The old hippy next to me cried, so did I. I was struck by the beauty of watching someone simply sing a beautiful song. The Beatles wrote some extraordinary songs, and in this movie, they are fresh and heartfelt in narrative context. Add this to Taymor's visionary mise-en-scene and understanding of the thrill of visuals, and it's a feast. When it was all over, the hippy next to me asked me if I liked it and I said yes and he said he liked it too.

A while ago Doretta and I talked about how she had grown up listening to a certain Beatles compilation album (the Red album 1962-66) and I had grown up to a later grouping of songs (the Blue album 1967-70) and as a result she was more into pop and I was more into rock/folk. At the time, I didn't really buy into the idea that one album's worth of music could shape my current tastes so specifically, but I've since changed my mind.

The most exciting thing the film was walking out of the theatre and feeling like a movie can change the way you see the world. It's easy to forget that hauling shot bags or writing production reports or reading another crappy script. But it's true.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Downside of Little Old Ladies

Today, I will admit to you, was a day I spent reading, mostly. I felt guilty about not getting more done, but escaped the guilt by reading, see how that works? Anyway, it was my mom's fault. She sent me a 500-page novel that was very absorbing and then three days ago scolded me for not reading it. So I finished it today.

When I woke up (having falling asleep reading last night) I went into the living room to read. I was sitting on the couch when someone knocks quietly on the door. I have a policy of not answering the door when I am in my pyjamas and I'm not expecting someone. Especially in the middle of the day. My Protestant work ethic based shame is strong. So I sit tight and don't answer. They knock again. And again. I'm starting to feel creeped out. And then this little voice says, "Robyn?"

So I answer it. It's my next door neighbor, this 70-something woman who is friendly but always has an earful ready about the way people park out back or how the city never asked her if she wanted a tree planted outside her window. She tells me that she's going away for a couple days and I should help myself to her LA Times. I try to act nonchalant in my pyjamas at eleven in the morning.

How did she know I was home! And how did she know I was in the living room! The curtains were mostly closed! Was she around our side of the house peeking through them? Creepy! I miss living on the second floor.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Moving Violations

Today while running a tiny fly hit me in the eye. I found it later and dug it out. I'll keep you posted on whether I go blind. Yesterday while running I was attacked by a wee chiuaua. While I was dancing around trying not to step on it and its tiny fierce teeth, I had the fleeting thought to squash it. And then little kids came to get it and I didn't.

Once while biking a bug flew in my mouth and straight down my throat. And once while walking in the woods at dusk a bat flew straight into my chest.

It's good to know animals can be idiots too.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Gastro-Intestinal Path To Enlightenment

So Katie came to town and man, did she get a good plateful of LA deliciousness: dolphins at Little Zuma, stumbling upon movie sets with recognizable actors, Disneyland, riding bikes on the Venice boardwalk, witnessing car accidents and calling 911, extreme and unbearable heat, camping out in movie theatres and watching several movies in a row to avoid unbearable heat, Mulholland Drive, Sunset Strip, Melrose Ave and only the briefest, long-distance glimpses of the Valley, impromtu BBQs in grassy backyards, film cast and crew wrap parties, drunken karaoke, and some hours in a coffee shops where everyone is writing a screenplay on their laptop.

Part and parcel of all this was some serious LA eating: Pink's the day she arrived (I had a heart-burn-wrenching spicy polish with chili, cheese, and three strips of bacon in a tortilla, she had a foot-long jalapeno dog with chili and saukraut), quickly followed by Pinkberry and when we got home that night, a dinner of popcorn and frozen, chocolate-covered bananas. And whiskey tonics. We ate at El Coyote, El Cholo, Loteria, Swinger's, bought pie from Du-par's, had more Pinkberry, had frozen chocolate-covered bananas in Disneyland (and meat on a stick in Adventureland), made pancakes, ate barbeque at picnic benches, drank poolside cocktails in our bathing suits at the Avalon Hotel and Irish car bombs at Tom Bergen's. And then had more Pinkberry.

Last month I did the Master Cleanse, which is the state of shutting down your digestive tract by only feeding it a concoction of water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and grade B maple syrup, with intermitant gluggings of salt water to flush away all the evil stuff that gets sloughed off. I read a whole book on it before I did it, so I was reasonably assured that it 1) wouldn't kill me and 2) it might have some health benefits. It was a weird experience, totally turning off food. For one, it totally changed my schedule. Making food for myself and then making time to eat it takes up a lot of time, it turns out. Not to mention buying groceries and managing the whole do-I-have-enough-milk-for-tomorrow thing. But it also made some things a little awkward. When I got to campus early, killing time by getting a tea was no longer an option. Meeting people for dinner didn't work so well. I wasn't ever hungry per se. I did miss food a bit at the beginning, but that was soon replaced by an aesthetic smugness (which can sustain me for quite a while). I did have to make sure I had a bottle of The Concoction with me at all times, otherwise a serious fatigue and inner hollowness would set in that didn't feel quite right.

By day four (of ten prescribed days), I was watching Abel Gance's Napoleon at LACMA and decided to throw in the towel. It's not that I was watching a four-hour-long silent film from 1927 because the film is actually mesmerizing. It's more that I felt that the encroaching dizzyness and the skinnyness were better suited to some shopoholic fashionista anorexic that I was not. I had some delicious broth and a heavenly glass of orange juice that evening.

What did I learn from all of this? That food is spectacular. And also that I can go through phases of monkish discipline and emerge with wisdom. A wisdom that can support chasing a meal of the most insane hotdog ever with ice cream, popcorn and chocolate.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Springtime for Kitties

The heat wave has finally popped. The best indication of this is that the cats are running around chasing each other again and trying to jump up on my lap again and accidentally cover me with fur and hit me in the face with their tails/asses again. The cats were worrisome during this heat wave. They would just lay on the floor in the living room or the hall, despondent. Sometimes they'd lay directly across from each other and look into each other's despondent eyes. They could not, unlike us humans, Google LA public pools or ride their bikes up to Pinkberry. They couldn't even go to work in a freezing cold office all day. Nope, they just lay around like pools of fur.

We tried to cool them down. We put ice cubes in their water bowls a lot. I tried to make them comfortable with the cold packs from the freezer (too weird, they got scared). We moved the fan into the hallway during the day to circulate the air. Once, I picked OJ up and opened the freezer and held him up to it.

But the best solution is just for it to be LESS HOT. And lo it is. And Pig is blithely getting fur all over my shirt right now.

Books Are Cool

Henry David Thoreau has been credited with saying that, "Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries". This has got to be true, even if you not are living pond-side and eating weeds. Here's the thing: swap out the word "money" for the words "air conditioning" and it still works. Wahoo!

I've spent some quality time with Katie in libraries lately, enjoying the temperate climes and the studious atmosphere. Except for surprising a homeless woman unpacking her entire kit in the bathroom, it's been unremarkable and productive. Viva libraries! Especially those within biking distance of your house on mornings when you it's so hot you can hardly put your brain in enough order to leave the house.

It's brought me to finally suceed in several days' worth of the three hours or three good pages discipline.

The maggot situation is holding steady, by the way.

And now, for all my Southland readers: