missroserose: (Default)
Hello again, Chicago! It's good to be back. I was saying to Brian recently that my semi-regular trips home to Anchorage, over the years, have been an excellent indicator of how much I like where I'm living. When we lived in Juneau, it was nice to get somewhere that felt (slightly) less isolated; when I was coming from Arizona, it was such a relief to get out of the heat and see green and open water again. Now, as much as I like visiting my mother, I'm genuinely sorry that it has to come at the expense of a week-plus of things to do in Chicago, hah. But! My mother is all moved in to her new place (if still in the throes of her decorating frenzy), and it's even more gorgeous than the pictures made it look. It's not somewhere I'd want to live permanently - far too isolated, with nothing within walking distance - but it'll be nice to visit her now and then for a change of pace. (Luckily, she feels much the same way about Chicago. Hurrah for complementary family preferences!)

Speaking of things to do in Chicago, last night I some friends and I went to the first of this summer's movies In Millennium Park. (We brought a picnic dinner, but despite arriving almost an hour early, the entire lawn was taken, so we ended up grabbing seats and just passing the fried chicken and salad and wine back and forth.) I actually enjoyed the movie far more than I expected to. Ferris Bueller's Day Off isn't a favorite of mine, exactly - I always found Ferris to be kind of a twerp, which isn't helped by his complete lack of character arc - but there's something undeniably special about getting to see all those gorgeous shots of Chicago while surrounded by that very same skyline and a cheering crowd. The best part, by far, was when damn near the entire pavilion got up and danced and sang to the "Twist & Shout" sequence. (I was lamenting on Facebook that I didn't get any pictures/video, but...that would have meant I'd have to stop dancing and singing. Nah.) Afterward, Lindsay got a picture of Brian and Jamila and me under the Pritzker's frankly amazing architecture, and later on in the evening I got a nice shot of part of the nighttime skyline as seen through the superstructure. This city is far from perfect, but I do love the very real sense of civic pride we have.

Speaking of civic pride, I've gotten on the sucker list for the Lyric Opera's educational outreach programs, and I've got to give their phone fundraisers credit - they know their stuff. They always ask if now's a good time to talk, they're unfailingly gracious, they ask you about your recent experience at whatever performance, talk about the goals and achievements of their programs, and start with an aspirational sell - "These are all the awesome thank-you gifts you get if you donate at this level" - but never come off as less than wholeheartedly grateful if you offer a (sometimes much) smaller donation. I think what's really impressed me, though, is their enthusiasm; they don't come off as hired telemarketers, but people who are genuinely passionate about music and opera and want to share it with the community. Helping give kids in underfunded schools in my community access to art and music education is a pretty easy sell for me already, but way to make people feel good about giving, Lyric. A++ would donate again.

And speaking of...hrmm. Not sure how I can segue into something about biking from opera fundraising. But! I've got my bike all kitted out for pedaling around Chicago. (Bet y'all can't guess what I named it, heh.) I'm still taking baby steps regarding where and how much traffic I'm comfortable dealing with, but as I was telling my mother, I actually feel far safer on the streets in Chicago than I would in someplace suburban like Anchorage. For one thing, the exponential traffic density and unpredictable patterns mean that people are paying much closer attention to the road, as well as by necessity limiting their speed. Plus people here are much more used to cyclists on the road. In Anchorage traffic moves too quickly; you have to ride either on the shoulder, the sidewalk, or a bike path, and cars don't look for you. I nearly got run over a few times crossing streets as a teenager; while driving my mother's car just a few days ago, I was a little saddened to see a woman on a bike slam on her brakes when she saw me about to cross her path to turn into a parking lot. (I would have let her go first!...but you just can't depend on that attitude in suburban environments.) By comparison, I took a fairly busy road to the store during rush hour yesterday, and actually made better time than most of the cars by dint of being able to cruise by in the gap between the parked cars and the flow of traffic. Though I did keep a very close eye out for car doors that might open in my path.
missroserose: (Life = Creation)
Technically I have class right now, but it's my clinic-skills class, which is the precursor to entering student clinic. And since the three members of my class are all strongly ahead of the curve, and our attendance numbers plenty high for state requirements, the instructor simply had us take the final on the second day and gave us the last few classes as either practice time or time off, as we preferred. Given how rarely I get to sleep in anymore, and the fact that I've worked quite a bit at the front desk and thus already know pretty well where everything is, I picked the "time off" option. I got to sleep until 9:00 AM! It was glorious.

School continues to go well. I finished my Foundations of Massage class with full marks, so I'm officially able (if not licensed) to do a one-hour classical massage. I've been doing my best to keep learning/devising new techniques, however, both because it's good to be able to customize and because, frankly, doing the same set of moves on person after person gets old fast. I have a practice partner who's been coming over every Tuesday afternoon for a month now; yesterday, I tried some new techniques and also made a significant effort to stay present and not be mentally multitasking (which is usually my biggest liability; I'm so used to cogitating on multiple subjects at once that it's tough for me to stay in the moment). She said afterward that it was the best massage I'd given her yet, and while I'd never done badly, she could really see how I was improving. I'm pretty pleased about that. On to Massage for Specific Conditions, Further Western Techniques, and Eastern Modalities!

On the work-study side of things, I recently finished Internal Anatomy and Physiology, which was a rather poorly-designed class: we were cramming an entire semester-long intro-level class into five weeks; the textbook was aimed at high school students and thus was written in a fairly juvenile tone; the curriculum, while useful information, wasn't made particularly applicable to bodyworkers, which made a lot of the students resent how quickly we were supposed to be learning the information, especially as many of us weren't used to high-intensity academic performance. I did fine, in part because I have a bit of a background in it from my psychology courses/reading, but a lot of the other students were struggling to keep up. Because I'm me, I wrote a pretty extensive critique with some suggestions in the end-of-class course evaluation; I didn't really expect it to have an effect, but I've heard through the grapevine that once my Pathology for Bodyworkers course is done I'm going to be working with the teacher to combine the two courses and make it more applicable/accessible. I'm seriously jazzed about this; one of my biggest frustrations with postsecondary education in the past has been how the administration clearly couldn't care less about the students and their opinions, except as a source of cashflow and enrollment numbers. Admittedly, this is a much smaller (and private) school, so caring is probably easier here, but I admit I'm especially pleased they've been so on-the-ball about recognizing that I want to contribute. (This has not always been the case with organizations I've been associated with.) Maybe I'll see if they want me to stay on part-time as a teacher/administrator after I graduate.

In non-school-related news (I do still have some parts of my life that aren't school-oriented, heh), on Saturday Brian and I had a case of multi-spoon-resistant-derp - we weren't sick, exactly, but neither of us had any energy or could even really think. So we ordered Domino's and sat on the couch to watch Lucy, our Netflix rental. (Capsule review: Fun action flick, with a bit of philosophy thrown in; not as smart as it thinks it is, but eminently stylish with laudable science-forward humanistic themes, even if the premise is a bit of folk wisdom that's been repeatedly disproven.) After that was done, we were still feeling derpy, so we fired up Hulu and watched Agent Carter, which I'd been hearing good things about. Color me impressed - it's a stylish and well-shot secret-agent-noir, with some great performances, some very clever misdirection in the writing, and a refreshing lack of the usual misogynistic "action-girl" tropes. It's definitely part of the Greater Marvel Cinematic Universe (there are moments when you think you're just watching a noir but then Comic Book Trope #384 comes along and you go "oh, right"), but it does a very nice job standing on its own, and Hayley Atwell absolutely kills the lead role, with a very human mixture of determination and vulnerability. If it sounds like something you'd enjoy, check it out; I haven't heard if ABC has plans to renew it, and I'd very much like to see a full second season.

Okay, morning decadence is over. Time to get into gear and start my day. Anatomy quiz later!
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
First, a personal note: This has been an especially great movie year for my husband. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed them too, but this is the second movie this year that had a main character who was practically Brian's avatar - first there was the slightly-misanthropic-but-genuinely-wanted-to-be-liked tech-wizard ensemble member who saves the day multiple times (and who also happened to be a cute fuzzy animal), and now there's a movie whose primary protagonist is a super-gifted half-Japanese kid dealing with severe personal loss and depression precisely by learning to reach out to people and being a tech wizard and (eventually) becoming a superhero. Some of this is probably just demographics - now that we're in our 30s, people our age and with our generational values (love of technology, importance of diversity/teamwork, distrust of authority without proven reason for its continuance) are starting to be in decision-making teams on projects like major movies. But the very specificity of how well he has resonated with these films has been a complete joy to watch.

Although, to be fair, Big Hero 6 is a pretty complete joy to watch even if you're not the wife of a slightly-misanthropic super-smart tech-wizard half-Japanese man who loves superheroes and has dealt with severe personal loss. I hope this film becomes a primary text in screenwriting courses; it's an amazing example of how to develop character without slackening the pell-mell pace of its 90-minute screen-time, and does a great job balancing genuinely deep emotional moments with real humor and sweetness. Somewhat ironically, then, my only real complaint about the story has to do with how well its characters are developed, and the associated implications for group dynamics. But in order to discuss it, we're getting into early-film spoiler territory. It's a pretty predictable plot point, but they pull it off well enough that it carries real weight, so if you want to go in blind, here's a cut. )

Still, even with my group-psychology quibble, this is a fantastic movie; the sort that carries all sorts of Positive Messages for kids (the role of human connection in overcoming hardship, the importance of skill-diversity in team-building, the necessity of not letting your emotions control you so you lose sight of the bigger picture) while still being the most colorful outright comic-book FUN you can have. And it was a nearly perfect movie to see on a day when I'd been dealing with major emotional vulnerability. A

Busy times

Oct. 3rd, 2014 10:39 am
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
It's been an interesting couple of weeks. I haven't been on social media much, largely because I've been unusually busy, so here's a bit of a retrospective.

My Alaska trip turned out to contain visits with several friends I see far too seldom, which was wonderful. CJ was there for the first part of the trip. I saw Carl, of course, and met his new girlfriend, who I liked quite a bit and who (in true Alaska small-population fashion) turned out to have been a favorite admin of my mother's at her previous job. Robs drove down from Fairbanks and stayed for a few days, and even snuggled with me in my mother's twin guest bed. (We were woken up Thursday morning by a 6.1 earthquake - felt like a carnival ride being given a good shake. Fortunately nothing breakable fell down, even in my mother's glass studio.) And on the way back Sunday, I spent a longish layover in Seattle hanging out at Pike Place Market with John, my sole other high-school-era friend, whom I haven't seen in years.

Monday I had my cleaning shift at the yoga studio, and I was rather thrown by how exhausted I was from the day of travel. Even though almost all I was doing was sitting, and it was a daytime trip so I'd gotten plenty of sleep, my focus was shot for a good two days after. (Is this part of getting older? Because I have to say I do not approve.) Fortunately I have the shift down to a routine at this point, so I just put on some music and bopped along with the mop and it didn't matter that I was only firing on maybe 60% of my usual thrusters. Then I went home and slept some more. Tuesday I had intended on cleaning the house up, but still felt like my brain was full of static, so I ended up sleeping a goodly portion of it too.

By Wednesday I felt much better, which was good, because I had one of two make-up shifts I was doing this week, and a lecture to attend at the opera house. As it happens, when you're a season subscriber, even a bare-minimum four-show seats-in-the-rafters one, they invite you to all sorts of preview concerts and lectures and whatnot; anything to drum up enthusiasm and (hopefully, eventually) donations. I'd missed a number of such events by being in Alaska at the end of September, but was here for this one, a talk from Ana María Martínez, who's playing Donna Elvira in this season's production of Don Giovanni. She turned out to be very warm and personable, and while I don't think I learned anything I hadn't already known or guessed about the life of an opera diva, it was neat to meet her up close. Plus afterward we got a tour of the backstage area, and it was thoroughly impressive seeing the sheer scale of the sets and curtains and flyspace, and the detail work that went into the props and dressings. (Brian, who always likes technical stuff and used to run tech with his high school theatre group, was completely fascinated and wowed.) Our tickets for Don Giovanni are for the 14th; I'm really looking forward to it.

Thursday was a busy day; I went to Helen's extra-intense yoga class, then was cleaning at home and then at the studio, and finally we had Raven over for a long-overdue thank-you-for-getting-us-this-Chicago-opportunity dinner. Brian got to show off his amazing fried catfish recipe, and we all watched one of my favorite films. I swear, even though I remember distinctly my first emotional response to it, I've seen it so many times now that I forget how thoroughly dark (and, frankly, almost traumatizing) it is when you see it the first time. But the screenplay is so smart, the acting so believable, the dialogue (for all its coal-black timbre) so hilarious and the characters so real and true in the way they cling to their objectively-insane worldviews that it's become one of my all-time favorite films. I was excited to share it with Raven, because I thought she'd appreciate all that about it too; but seeing her initial reaction made me remember and sort of cringe and apologize; it's probably a bit heavy of a story to drop on someone after a long day of work in a city far from their home. Fortunately she was gracious about it, as always. And the catfish was a hit, so hurray.

Today I'm finally getting to relax, which is awesome. I'm going to wander downtown to have lunch with Brian, and over to Banana Republic. (In Alaska, I found the amazing-looking suit jacket I'd been drooling over all summer for half-off plus no tax. Score! They didn't have the matching pants in my size, but I was able to order them and have them shipped to me....but the shop that shipped them forgot to take the inventory control tag off. Oops. Still, they fit beautifully, for all of that, so I'm now in possession of a heck of a sharp-looking suit. Now to figure out what to wear it to. Maybe the opera? I do look rather more genderqueer with my hair super short.) I know I need to do laundry at some point. I may make the monthly pilgrimage to Costco and Trader Joe's. We'll see how the day shakes out.
missroserose: (Inspire)
Short answer: Go see it.

Somewhat longer, art-and-social-analysis answer: I've been afraid for a while that Disney had forgotten how to evolve. It makes sense, in a way, that they'd do so in fits and starts; they're the masters of finding a formula that sells, and given what they spend on the Disney Hypermarketing Juggernaut, it makes sense that they would stick to what they know works. Even when they come under fire for it, as they have for the sociopolitical issues with the princess-story formula that made them so successful in the 1990s, they're hesitant to change; as Michael Eisner infamously said in an internal memo, "We have no obligation to make history. We have no obligation to make art. We have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective."

And, in all fairness, Disney's never tried to claim they were anything other than popular entertainment, reflective of the zeitgeist rather than zeitgeist-determining. Whether or not they have a moral responsibility to teach better lessons simply because they're such a cultural juggernaut and so prevalent in kids' minds is a fascinating and complex discussion, and frankly beside the point right now. What matters is, they've never been trailblazers. When they change, it's largely because they're forced to, because market forces are moving away from whatever their previous formula was. You see it in the differences between the simplistic nature of the classic Disney films (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White) versus the Second Golden Age of Disney, where the heroines start to show some agency and take matters into their own hands (even though their ultimate goal is still to get married and live happily ever after, and even though they're still constantly going on about how everything is all their fault). Mulan was something of a redheaded stepchild in this grouping; it had a romantic subplot, but was more about family and cultural values than romance. Though I loved it at the time, it must not have done as well at the box office, because afterward Disney seemed to be floundering with the whole princess deal; Tangled was visually stunning, but a huge step backward in terms of character and story. (I'm not including Brave in this analysis, as it was done by the folks at Pixar, who've shown themselves over and over to be willing to take risks and tell far more complex stories than the House of Mouse, even after being absorbed into it.)

So you can see why it is that I'm so excited to see Disney come out with a princess story that's not only not centrally about romance, but in fact is in many ways a deconstruction of the princess-story tropes. It shows that our culture is changing, that people are saying they want better role models for their daughters. Anna and Elsa embody common princess-y tropes, but they're fully developed characters with motivations and flaws. Anna's aggressive wide-eyed naiveté especially is played, not as a desirable quality, but as a state of arrested development that gets her into trouble. Elsa's repressive and insecure coming-of-age is perhaps a touch heavy-handed in the metaphor department, but for anyone who's been through adolescence and puberty and the difficulty of learning to own one's own power, it's hard not to identify with her turmoil.

And then, of course the visuals are just stunning, from the ice and snow to the summer landscape at the end - they obviously got the art team from Tangled to work on it, but this time paired them up with a proper screenplay. Plus there are a number of subtle-but-entertaining visual and audio nods to the 90s-era princess films, which make for a nice acknowledgement that most of the parents taking their kids to see this now probably grew up watching them. Also, as a side note, I was especially entertained by a direct visual quotation from Watchmen, of all things - when Elsa raises her ice palace while belting out a showstopping number, it's very reminiscent of Dr. Manhattan's watch palace coming out of the sands of Mars. Brian cracked me up when he commented "Maybe Dr. Manhattan would've come off as a lot less of a sad sack if he'd had a little musical theatre in him."

Speaking of which, holy crap - the music! Maybe I'm just still scarred from the awful movie version of Les Miserables, but it was So Refreshing to hear awesome musical numbers sung by people with the pipes to do them justice.

Absolutely worth seeing, possibly more than once. And especially worth supporting, because as near as I can tell, the marketing on this one has been rather restrained - I admittedly don't live in an ad-saturated environment, and don't have kids, but even I usually hear of upcoming Disney films more than a week in advance. I suspect Disney is sort of testing the waters to see whether this angle on the princess film has commercial legs, and I really would like to see this be the bellwether of a whole new phase of their development, rather than another one-off.
missroserose: (Psychosomatic)
Basically the same formula as the other two, with all the knobs turned up to 11 - that is, some excellent character moments that give the obligatory action sequences real emotional investment. Robert Downey Jr. continues to thoroughly own the role and does a good job bringing both the movie's character arc and the series' to a believable resolution; Gwyneth Paltrow avoids "shrill killjoy girlfriend" by the skin of her teeth and gets to do some actual heavy lifting on her own. And it's especially gratifying to see both a superhero and a relationship that've avoided breakup or reboot (or fridge-stuffing) long enough to have actual maturity. Arguably the best of the series, even if "Pepper Potts" remains one of the most god-awful superhero-girlfriend names ever. A-
missroserose: (Masquerade)
Warm Bodies: Smarter than it had any right to be, and surprisingly sweet. Works better on a metaphorical level (love as an inspiration to rise out of apathy and change oneself for the better) than a literal one, but given the usual quality of the dreck aimed at teenagers in the movies, the fact that it even has a metaphorical level (plus a few entertainingly vicious bits of satire towards the beginning) sets it apart. Worth the matinee, though I'm a little miffed at myself that I didn't get the "R/Julie" reference until the balcony scene. B-
missroserose: (Christmas Picard)
{A whole Christmas season and I haven't used my Picard icon once? Shame on me. Better fix that, even if it's not quite a perfect fit for the mood.}

Christmas has been lovely. Last night the Bisbee Royale (local bar/stage/venue that was refurbished and opened up this year) was showing A Christmas Story, which I'd somehow managed to miss all through my childhood. (Brian had been meaning to watch it with me, but he grew up with 24-hour marathons of it on TNT, so he'd never quite been able to work up much enthusiasm to rent it.) While I will happily agree with him that it's not a great movie, watching it half-blitzed on excellent cognac with a whole group of folks cackling equally loudly at poor Ralphie is possibly the ideal way to enjoy it. Especially when you have a husband to drive you home.

We did get home, and opened our presents; I got Brian a lot of silly toys from ThinkGeek, including a cuddly Portal turret to go with the cuddly Endeavour shuttle he got at the California Science Center (how did I forget to mention that we went to see Endeavour while we were in LA?), and he got me a couple of books and a lovely new shirt. The standout gift, though, had to be the gorgeous wine stopper our landlords gave us - it has a sculpture of a copper butterfly with the most gorgeous cloisonne work. My favorite kind of art: gorgeous, functional, and likely to get a goodly amount of use.

For Christmas Day, we invited our friends Evan and Michelle over to hang out while Brian made an amazing ham dinner. I even used a tablecloth and set the table and everything - I was a little surprised to find that over the years we've managed to accumulate some lovely Christmas dishes, nice glassware, candles, and a centerpiece. It's like we have an actual household with nice holiday things! Not that I'm complaining; mostly I was just a bit surprised, as I've never really set out to accumulate special china or what have you.

Now the friends have gone (taking some leftovers with them, thankfully), and the house is quiet once more. I feel like there should be softly falling snow outside, though of course there isn't (it's 46 degrees out, after all). And I feel...not let down, exactly. But contemplative.

Honestly, I've always found the tail end of Christmas to be a far more contemplative/wistful time than New Year's. New Year's is exciting; it's the beginning of another cycle, full of all sorts of possibilities. Christmas, especially the end of Christmas...it's another year done with. Everything important, all the big milestones and events and plans, are over. You're just in that strange week-long limbo until the calendars all tick over and you can start something new.

(Now that I think on it, it's always felt odd to me, that week between Christmas and New Year's. Poised between two stages, as it were. I'm almost certain I've read about various indigenous cultures that had terms for that state of in-betweeness, often with rather interesting beliefs about it - a child who had reached their age of majority but not yet completed their rite of passage into adulthood, for instance, was in some cultures thought to be without a soul (having given up their childhood soul but not yet gained their adult one). I remember as a kid thinking that this last week of the year felt oddly...empty, somehow. Like a held breath, just waiting for the right moment to let it all out.)

It's been a good year in many, many ways. Brian and I have managed to get better at communicating and to improve on more than a few issues in our relationship. I bought a guitar and have been learning to play it (although it seems weird to think that I've been playing for less than a year; it's really felt more like I've always been a guitarist, and just been on break for a while, and am reminding myself how it all goes again). I traveled to the East Coast for the first time, and spent some time with a good friend while also meeting the nifty people he lives with/around. I auditioned for a prestigious music school, despite it being [a] scary as hell, [b] quite a bit of effort and [c] a long shot anyway. I went back to Alaska and saw people I miss greatly, while also confirming my hunch that, frankly, I've outgrown the place.

But I think I'm ready to move on. This next year promises to be interesting, though so far it's been coy as to the details. And the only way to find them out, really, is to go forward.

Onward and upward...
missroserose: (Masquerade)
Snow White by way of Bollywood, with side trips through Wonderland, Oz, and even a quick dalliance with Zorro...with all the knobs turned to 11. Its lighthearted tone is both its saving grace and its weakest point; we spend so much time in the fractured-fairy-tale headspace that the few heartfelt-meaning moments fall a bit flat. Still, it's not long before something else silly happens and we're back to admiring the sheer audacity of its unapologetic ridiculousness. Special mentions for the sound design (it gave our surround system a workout) and the costumes, which look like King Bidgood's In The Bathtub come to life. B+
missroserose: (Balloons and Ocean)
I'm not certain I can really review the movie version of Cloud Atlas properly. I loved the book so much that I've listened to/read it multiple times in the past couple of months, so I'm already fairly familiar with the various stories it presents. However, speaking as someone who did love the book (and shared in the author's doubts that it could be adapted at all, despite having watched the glorious trailer multiple times) I can say that, even with the necessary compression of each story for film, there were only a couple of places where the movie disappointed, and those were fairly minor.

I'm amused to see it hanging on to a 55 on Metacritic; honestly, that's about what I would have predicted. Personally, I will happily admit its flaws but feel it greater than the sum of its parts; however, in order to realize the latter aspect, one has to understand its individual parts, which for those not already familiar with the story would almost certainly require repeat viewings. And, of course, if you don't connect with the film on an emotional level, you're not likely to sit through its three-hour length again just to work out the details. On that level, therefore, it's something of a binary experience; you're either going to 'get' it intuitively, or you won't. Even if you don't, though, I'd argue that it's worth at least one viewing; the pacing is masterful (it truly doesn't feel like three hours aside from the inevitable bladder pressure) and combination of its ambition and cinematic mastery are both well worth appreciation.  Just don't go in expecting it to spoon-feed you a formulaic story, as I suspect a few of the critics did.

Anyway, that's the objective review/recommendation part done with, inasmuch as there is one. Now, much as I did with another rather ambitious adaptation a few years ago, it's discussion time! Following, some fairly detailed thoughts on what worked, what didn't, where the source material was better and where it manages to supersede the original work.

My thoughts below. Spoilery, and not really very sensical if you don't know the story, anyway. )

I'm interested in other folks' thoughts, so if you've seen the movie (or read the book), please comment.  (Disagreement is allowed, I promise. :)  And if you haven't, hurry up and go see it so we can talk about it! 
missroserose: (Masquerade)
Cabin In The Woods: Darkly comic, extremely clever, eminently watchable even if (perhaps especially if) you're not a fan of the horror genre. Not quite enough heart to be a see-it-over-and-over-again classic, but absolutely recommended for a fun movie night with friends. And to fellow review junkies out there - seriously, just go in cold. Trust me on this one.

Also, I think horror movies are pretty much done now. But then, I think that might've been Joss Whedon's point anyway. A-
missroserose: (Masquerade)
Cabin In The Woods: Darkly comic, extremely clever, eminently watchable even if (perhaps especially if) you're not a fan of the horror genre. Not quite enough heart to be a see-it-over-and-over-again classic, but absolutely recommended for a fun movie night with friends. And to fellow review junkies out there - seriously, just go in cold. Trust me on this one.

Also, I think horror movies are pretty much done now. But then, I think that might've been Joss Whedon's point anyway. A-
missroserose: (Glamour Model)
The Dark Knight Rises: First act gets a 7, second gets a 5, third a 9 - would have been a 10 but for a fairly obvious plot hole. Still, it ends on a very strong note, which almost makes up for the just plain lazy writing during the middle section. Frankly, that part was more puzzling than anything, as Christopher Nolan's screenplays are usually very good about having all the loose ends tucked away (in appearance, if not actuality). Still, the ending is appropriate and uplifting enough to earn forgiveness. Also, a big gold star to whomever designed Anne Hathaway's costume - in addition to the catsuit looking practical *and* flattering, the goggles-that-suggested-cat-ears were a great touch. B+

A Game of Thrones: Watched the first three episodes over the past couple of weeks. That actually does a pretty good job of summing up my reaction to it; the production values are fantastic, but the characters have been stock and rarely likable, which leads to most of the drama being frankly ham-handed. Still, things have gotten gradually better over the course of said episodes, so I'll probably watch at least the next couple. It's just unusual for it to take this long for me to decide whether or not to watch a show. Also? More Tyrian and less of the rest of the Lannisters, please. C+ (so far)

My boobs: Tried on some bras at Victoria's Secret while I was waiting for the movie. Either their sizes have gotten smaller, or I'm a solid 34C now. o.O I knew I'd gained some weight, but still...never thought I'd make C-cup, especially that firmly (no pun intended). I guess there's an upside to putting on a few pounds. C (what I did there?)
missroserose: (Glamour Model)
The Dark Knight Rises: First act gets a 7, second gets a 5, third a 9 - would have been a 10 but for a fairly obvious plot hole. Still, it ends on a very strong note, which almost makes up for the just plain lazy writing during the middle section. Frankly, that part was more puzzling than anything, as Christopher Nolan's screenplays are usually very good about having all the loose ends tucked away (in appearance, if not actuality). Still, the ending is appropriate and uplifting enough to earn forgiveness. Also, a big gold star to whomever designed Anne Hathaway's costume - in addition to the catsuit looking practical *and* flattering, the goggles-that-suggested-cat-ears were a great touch. B+

A Game of Thrones: Watched the first three episodes over the past couple of weeks. That actually does a pretty good job of summing up my reaction to it; the production values are fantastic, but the characters have been stock and rarely likable, which leads to most of the drama being frankly ham-handed. Still, things have gotten gradually better over the course of said episodes, so I'll probably watch at least the next couple. It's just unusual for it to take this long for me to decide whether or not to watch a show. Also? More Tyrian and less of the rest of the Lannisters, please. C+ (so far)

My boobs: Tried on some bras at Victoria's Secret while I was waiting for the movie. Either their sizes have gotten smaller, or I'm a solid 34C now. o.O I knew I'd gained some weight, but still...never thought I'd make C-cup, especially that firmly (no pun intended). I guess there's an upside to putting on a few pounds. C (what I did there?)
missroserose: (After the Storm)
About a year ago, the convertible that [livejournal.com profile] cyranocyrano gave me finally hit the "more money than I could justify immediately spending on it" stage with regards to maintenance. Between parts and labor, it was going to need something like $1600 worth of repairs - new sensor for the speedometer, new brakes, new power steering assembly, new tie rods, probably some other things I'm not remembering. I thought about saving for it, but ended up waffling for nearly a year; I don't need a car of my own in our current job/home situation, and whenever the opportunity came up, there were other things I/we wanted to spend the money on. Rebuilding our home theater system. A nice Christmas. Brian's guitar. Visiting Alaska.

For whatever reason, what pushed me into action was the realization that, if I personally had the $1600 right now, even without Brian's feelings to consider, I would absolutely spend it on a guitar rather than fix the car. Combined with the sense of guilt for letting it sit unused for so long, I finally bit the bullet, took a picture with my phone, and posted an ad on Craigslist.

I actually got a surprising number of responses, considering that the car was damn near 20 years old, in need of serious maintenance, and I was asking $800 for it. I admit, I was a little worried it wouldn't even start after a year of sitting...but it turned right over with a jump start. (God bless Japanese engineering.) The battery was flat, but the kid I ended up selling it to didn't mind - I offered to knock the price of a battery off the purchase price, so he bought a battery, I sold him the car for $680, and we were both happy.

I admit I had my doubts about said kid at the start - he kept almost-disappearing communication-wise, and didn't come by when he said he was going to; a couple of times I was ready to write him off as another Craigslist flake. But it turned out that he was just young, combined with a tricky transportation situation and a lot of family obligations. I ended up going out to Sierra Vista to get him and his cousin (who works on cars and put the new battery in for us). It was kind of awkward socially at first; they were both a little shy and didn't say much, and I'm told that I can be intimidating, especially to young men who...er...have yet to really get their lives together. But after a few failed conversational gambits, I pulled out my ice-breaker trump card: "What's your biggest pet peeve?" The kid's cousin actually came up with one that I'd never heard before, but I could totally see: "The sound someone's teeth make when they scrape against a fork." And after that things were a little easier. Which I was glad for, since I discovered that you have to sign the title in the presence of a notary in Arizona, and finding one was something of a mini-adventure all its own.

Anyway, it's done now, and while I'm not sorry about it (and I'm especially pleased that it was over relatively quickly - my previous experience with selling an older car was a much more drawn-out and annoying occurrence), I admit to a certain amount of wistfulness. She was far from a perfect car, but she was the convertible that I asked for and that someone special to me gave me at a time when I was feeling very alone and isolated, and I had a lot of good times driving her around. But, as said friend pointed out when I texted him saying I was going to miss the car, "She'll make a beautiful guitar."

After all of that, I was almost ready to throw in the towel for the day, but I'd promised Allison (one of my new coworkers who unfortunately quit early on due to family problems - really a shame, as she was an excellent worker in addition to our getting on well) cocktails and a movie. As it turned out, she wasn't even able to come over until later that evening, so I had time for a shower and a nap, after which I felt far more human. And I'm glad I didn't cancel - we had a fantastic time watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and having appropriately candy-colored cocktails, and on the whole it ended up being a net positive energy-wise. (Social situations are often hit-and-miss for me, depending on the people involved in my mood...I guess that's why I always score right in the middle on those introvert/extrovert tests.) And while we were waiting for her husband to come pick her up, she asked me to play something on my guitar, and since I was slightly tipsy, I played her the one (very simple) song I can actually sort of play decently. And rather than saying "Oh, that's a really easy song" or "You've been practicing that for a month now, why can't you play it perfectly?" she actually cheered and seemed really impressed.

It was a nice reminder that not everyone lives inside my head.
missroserose: (After the Storm)
About a year ago, the convertible that [livejournal.com profile] cyranocyrano gave me finally hit the "more money than I could justify immediately spending on it" stage with regards to maintenance. Between parts and labor, it was going to need something like $1600 worth of repairs - new sensor for the speedometer, new brakes, new power steering assembly, new tie rods, probably some other things I'm not remembering. I thought about saving for it, but ended up waffling for nearly a year; I don't need a car of my own in our current job/home situation, and whenever the opportunity came up, there were other things I/we wanted to spend the money on. Rebuilding our home theater system. A nice Christmas. Brian's guitar. Visiting Alaska.

For whatever reason, what pushed me into action was the realization that, if I personally had the $1600 right now, even without Brian's feelings to consider, I would absolutely spend it on a guitar rather than fix the car. Combined with the sense of guilt for letting it sit unused for so long, I finally bit the bullet, took a picture with my phone, and posted an ad on Craigslist.

I actually got a surprising number of responses, considering that the car was damn near 20 years old, in need of serious maintenance, and I was asking $800 for it. I admit, I was a little worried it wouldn't even start after a year of sitting...but it turned right over with a jump start. (God bless Japanese engineering.) The battery was flat, but the kid I ended up selling it to didn't mind - I offered to knock the price of a battery off the purchase price, so he bought a battery, I sold him the car for $680, and we were both happy.

I admit I had my doubts about said kid at the start - he kept almost-disappearing communication-wise, and didn't come by when he said he was going to; a couple of times I was ready to write him off as another Craigslist flake. But it turned out that he was just young, combined with a tricky transportation situation and a lot of family obligations. I ended up going out to Sierra Vista to get him and his cousin (who works on cars and put the new battery in for us). It was kind of awkward socially at first; they were both a little shy and didn't say much, and I'm told that I can be intimidating, especially to young men who...er...have yet to really get their lives together. But after a few failed conversational gambits, I pulled out my ice-breaker trump card: "What's your biggest pet peeve?" The kid's cousin actually came up with one that I'd never heard before, but I could totally see: "The sound someone's teeth make when they scrape against a fork." And after that things were a little easier. Which I was glad for, since I discovered that you have to sign the title in the presence of a notary in Arizona, and finding one was something of a mini-adventure all its own.

Anyway, it's done now, and while I'm not sorry about it (and I'm especially pleased that it was over relatively quickly - my previous experience with selling an older car was a much more drawn-out and annoying occurrence), I admit to a certain amount of wistfulness. She was far from a perfect car, but she was the convertible that I asked for and that someone special to me gave me at a time when I was feeling very alone and isolated, and I had a lot of good times driving her around. But, as said friend pointed out when I texted him saying I was going to miss the car, "She'll make a beautiful guitar."

After all of that, I was almost ready to throw in the towel for the day, but I'd promised Allison (one of my new coworkers who unfortunately quit early on due to family problems - really a shame, as she was an excellent worker in addition to our getting on well) cocktails and a movie. As it turned out, she wasn't even able to come over until later that evening, so I had time for a shower and a nap, after which I felt far more human. And I'm glad I didn't cancel - we had a fantastic time watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and having appropriately candy-colored cocktails, and on the whole it ended up being a net positive energy-wise. (Social situations are often hit-and-miss for me, depending on the people involved in my mood...I guess that's why I always score right in the middle on those introvert/extrovert tests.) And while we were waiting for her husband to come pick her up, she asked me to play something on my guitar, and since I was slightly tipsy, I played her the one (very simple) song I can actually sort of play decently. And rather than saying "Oh, that's a really easy song" or "You've been practicing that for a month now, why can't you play it perfectly?" she actually cheered and seemed really impressed.

It was a nice reminder that not everyone lives inside my head.
missroserose: (Default)
So, at the behest of my husband, I've seen Pulp Fiction and both episodes of Kill Bill, and I feel I've finally tried enough Tarantino to decide I'm just not going to be a fan.

He's occupied an odd spot in my brain for a while, with a significant amount of cognitive dissonance. I admire his artistry quite a bit; I know there are people who call him a hack, but I have at least a little idea how difficult it is to mash up genres and styles like that and make it work. I also appreciate the pure glee with which he obviously makes his movies; I love to see anyone do something that they really love, especially when they also do it well. It's wonderful to see craftsmanship and enthusiasm in equal measures in any art form. So even though his movies aren't the sort of thing I'd normally enjoy, I really wanted to like them.

Thing is...well, obviously, I don't, or else there wouldn't be any cognitive dissonance. And I've spent quite some time dissecting what it is that so thoroughly turns me off about him. His reputation as a smarmy egotistical jerk (which, honestly, isn't helped by his default expression in every picture of him I've ever seen) doesn't help, but I've never been one to criticize art for the artist's faults. It's true that I generally prefer the understated-and-effective to the sort of ridiculous over-the-top-ness that he specializes in, but I've still enjoyed movies that are over-the-top when they go completely over-the-top (a la The Producers), and if there's one criticism you can't level at Tarantino, it's a tendency to hold back. The hyper-violence might be part of it too, but I've enjoyed many -- well, if not equally violent films, far more realistically violent ones (The Hunger Games comes to mind). I don't mind satire and pastiche as art forms. And I certainly have nothing against black comedies about crazy people - one of my all-time favorite films is In Bruges, ferchrissake.

Ultimately, what I think really turns me off about his movies is his fondness for exploitation. I know the word "gratuitous" is so overused as to be meaningless in movie criticism, but that's how a number of his scenes felt to me - the extended focus on The Bride's helplessness in the burying-alive sequence, the S&M rapists in Pulp Fiction, the coma sequence in the first volume of Kill Bill. Again, I realize that's part of the style that Tarantino's pastiche-ing, and it's obvious that he enjoys mondo-film-style titillation, and hey, if that's your thing, great. But to me, that sort of taboo-stomping for cheap thrills frankly just comes across as juvenile, especially with the gender-bullying mixed in. It's the same reason I don't much like Frank Miller, even though (again) I can admire the artistry of the two films based on his work that I've seen. The exploitative aspects just plain leave a bad taste in my mouth.
missroserose: (Default)
So, at the behest of my husband, I've seen Pulp Fiction and both episodes of Kill Bill, and I feel I've finally tried enough Tarantino to decide I'm just not going to be a fan.

He's occupied an odd spot in my brain for a while, with a significant amount of cognitive dissonance. I admire his artistry quite a bit; I know there are people who call him a hack, but I have at least a little idea how difficult it is to mash up genres and styles like that and make it work. I also appreciate the pure glee with which he obviously makes his movies; I love to see anyone do something that they really love, especially when they also do it well. It's wonderful to see craftsmanship and enthusiasm in equal measures in any art form. So even though his movies aren't the sort of thing I'd normally enjoy, I really wanted to like them.

Thing is...well, obviously, I don't, or else there wouldn't be any cognitive dissonance. And I've spent quite some time dissecting what it is that so thoroughly turns me off about him. His reputation as a smarmy egotistical jerk (which, honestly, isn't helped by his default expression in every picture of him I've ever seen) doesn't help, but I've never been one to criticize art for the artist's faults. It's true that I generally prefer the understated-and-effective to the sort of ridiculous over-the-top-ness that he specializes in, but I've still enjoyed movies that are over-the-top when they go completely over-the-top (a la The Producers), and if there's one criticism you can't level at Tarantino, it's a tendency to hold back. The hyper-violence might be part of it too, but I've enjoyed many -- well, if not equally violent films, far more realistically violent ones (The Hunger Games comes to mind). I don't mind satire and pastiche as art forms. And I certainly have nothing against black comedies about crazy people - one of my all-time favorite films is In Bruges, ferchrissake.

Ultimately, what I think really turns me off about his movies is his fondness for exploitation. I know the word "gratuitous" is so overused as to be meaningless in movie criticism, but that's how a number of his scenes felt to me - the extended focus on The Bride's helplessness in the burying-alive sequence, the S&M rapists in Pulp Fiction, the coma sequence in the first volume of Kill Bill. Again, I realize that's part of the style that Tarantino's pastiche-ing, and it's obvious that he enjoys mondo-film-style titillation, and hey, if that's your thing, great. But to me, that sort of taboo-stomping for cheap thrills frankly just comes across as juvenile, especially with the gender-bullying mixed in. It's the same reason I don't much like Frank Miller, even though (again) I can admire the artistry of the two films based on his work that I've seen. The exploitative aspects just plain leave a bad taste in my mouth.
missroserose: (Kick Back & Read)
I loved this book back when I first read it in...2003, I think? So when I heard they were making a movie out of it, and that Rob Marshall (who did Chicago, one of my all-time favorite movies) was directing, I was quite excited.

Then the reviews came out, and they were...mixed, to say the least. I still meant to go see it, but somehow it never made it to the top of the priority list. Later I meant to rent the Blu-ray and watch it on our old home theater, but again, it never quite made it to the top of the Netflix queue. I think, ultimately, I was afraid that it wouldn't hold up to the book at all and would just be a disappointment.

Nearly a decade later, thanks to the vagaries of Blockbuster Online's service (review still forthcoming!), the disc shows up in my mailbox. We still don't get around to watching it right away, but last night we finally sat down and popped it in, even though neither of us held much in the way of expectations.

Here's the thing: The book is a masterpiece of subtlety and nuance. It does an amazing job depicting a strongly hierarchical culture where acceptable behavior and desires are strictly dictated by one's status, relationships, and place in society, but with very real people working within those constraints, who often have to figure out how to express and accommodate their less-than-acceptable desires in ways that work within the culture. And it does it all in some beautifully poetic language that somehow manages to keep from becoming overly purple.

Obviously, when you're taking a life story and condensing it down to a two-hour movie, a lot of subtlety and nuance is going to be lost. And, sadly, that's what happens here: Sayuri's internal qualms against the strictures of geisha life become a classic Hollywood tantrum scene of the sort to make any actual Japanese person cringe, and her quiet intelligence and gift for expression are reduced to a few one-liners; Nobu's crotchety-and-controlling-but-also-kind-and-fiercely-smart-and-observant personality is reduced to "controlling asshole" (and he grows an arm!); the vibrant picture of how Japanese culture changes throughout the 30s and 40s (and how WWII affects it so dramatically) is pushed to the background. It's not as thorough a gutting as I've seen in some other adaptations, and frankly I think most of the compromises are understandable given the restrictions of the format, but I can see why fans of the book might be disappointed and even angry to think that people might see the simplistic and occasionally trite story in the movie and assume the book is like that as well.

All that said, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the film. Rob Marshall may not be a big one for subtlety, but I'll be damned if he doesn't know how to make a stunning movie. The costume and set design budgets for this film must have been huge; the recreation of 1930s Kyoto is just gorgeous, with all sorts of little period touches and what must be hundreds of costumed extras to properly depict the teeming masses of humanity that lived (and still live) in Japanese cities. And the cinematography is beyond reproach; nearly every single shot looks like it might be a painting, with amazing use of light, color, and composition throughout. Similarly, John Williams' score (famously featuring Yo-Yo Ma on cello and Itzhak Perlman on violin) absolutely deserved its Academy Award nomination. Even though I didn't find the story as presented on-screen very compelling, the artistry of these elements alone were enough that I didn't find myself impatient for it to end. (And for those who don't know me and how centrally I prize storytelling in any format, let me clarify - that's about the highest praise I can offer.)

Ultimately, I'm surprised to find myself saying I'd recommend both versions to anyone interested in the story. The caveat being, of course, that they're very different works with very different strengths. But I'm glad I wasn't as turned off by the film as I thought I'd be, and if it doesn't quite do the story in the book justice, it's at least a worthy piece of art on its own.

On a more lighthearted note: Much was made at the time of how the Japanese roles were being played primarily by Chinese actors, largely because (thanks to the brief concurrent popularity of wuxia films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) their names were more recognizable to a Western audience. Speaking as a bona fide White Person who truly and honestly can't identify from physical attributes any given Japanese, Chinese, Thai or Korean person, I didn't find the substitutions jarring. I do, however, have quite a bit of experience with Japanese accents, so I had a pretty good idea which actors were Japanese and which not from that alone. Brian, unsurprisingly, could easily tell who was and who wasn't Japanese; when Ken Watanabe showed up on-screen for the first time, he commented "Why, hello there, first Japanese person with a speaking role we've seen in this entire movie about Japan." I snorted.
missroserose: (Kick Back & Read)
I loved this book back when I first read it in...2003, I think? So when I heard they were making a movie out of it, and that Rob Marshall (who did Chicago, one of my all-time favorite movies) was directing, I was quite excited.

Then the reviews came out, and they were...mixed, to say the least. I still meant to go see it, but somehow it never made it to the top of the priority list. Later I meant to rent the Blu-ray and watch it on our old home theater, but again, it never quite made it to the top of the Netflix queue. I think, ultimately, I was afraid that it wouldn't hold up to the book at all and would just be a disappointment.

Nearly a decade later, thanks to the vagaries of Blockbuster Online's service (review still forthcoming!), the disc shows up in my mailbox. We still don't get around to watching it right away, but last night we finally sat down and popped it in, even though neither of us held much in the way of expectations.

Here's the thing: The book is a masterpiece of subtlety and nuance. It does an amazing job depicting a strongly hierarchical culture where acceptable behavior and desires are strictly dictated by one's status, relationships, and place in society, but with very real people working within those constraints, who often have to figure out how to express and accommodate their less-than-acceptable desires in ways that work within the culture. And it does it all in some beautifully poetic language that somehow manages to keep from becoming overly purple.

Obviously, when you're taking a life story and condensing it down to a two-hour movie, a lot of subtlety and nuance is going to be lost. And, sadly, that's what happens here: Sayuri's internal qualms against the strictures of geisha life become a classic Hollywood tantrum scene of the sort to make any actual Japanese person cringe, and her quiet intelligence and gift for expression are reduced to a few one-liners; Nobu's crotchety-and-controlling-but-also-kind-and-fiercely-smart-and-observant personality is reduced to "controlling asshole" (and he grows an arm!); the vibrant picture of how Japanese culture changes throughout the 30s and 40s (and how WWII affects it so dramatically) is pushed to the background. It's not as thorough a gutting as I've seen in some other adaptations, and frankly I think most of the compromises are understandable given the restrictions of the format, but I can see why fans of the book might be disappointed and even angry to think that people might see the simplistic and occasionally trite story in the movie and assume the book is like that as well.

All that said, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the film. Rob Marshall may not be a big one for subtlety, but I'll be damned if he doesn't know how to make a stunning movie. The costume and set design budgets for this film must have been huge; the recreation of 1930s Kyoto is just gorgeous, with all sorts of little period touches and what must be hundreds of costumed extras to properly depict the teeming masses of humanity that lived (and still live) in Japanese cities. And the cinematography is beyond reproach; nearly every single shot looks like it might be a painting, with amazing use of light, color, and composition throughout. Similarly, John Williams' score (famously featuring Yo-Yo Ma on cello and Itzhak Perlman on violin) absolutely deserved its Academy Award nomination. Even though I didn't find the story as presented on-screen very compelling, the artistry of these elements alone were enough that I didn't find myself impatient for it to end. (And for those who don't know me and how centrally I prize storytelling in any format, let me clarify - that's about the highest praise I can offer.)

Ultimately, I'm surprised to find myself saying I'd recommend both versions to anyone interested in the story. The caveat being, of course, that they're very different works with very different strengths. But I'm glad I wasn't as turned off by the film as I thought I'd be, and if it doesn't quite do the story in the book justice, it's at least a worthy piece of art on its own.

On a more lighthearted note: Much was made at the time of how the Japanese roles were being played primarily by Chinese actors, largely because (thanks to the brief concurrent popularity of wuxia films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) their names were more recognizable to a Western audience. Speaking as a bona fide White Person who truly and honestly can't identify from physical attributes any given Japanese, Chinese, Thai or Korean person, I didn't find the substitutions jarring. I do, however, have quite a bit of experience with Japanese accents, so I had a pretty good idea which actors were Japanese and which not from that alone. Brian, unsurprisingly, could easily tell who was and who wasn't Japanese; when Ken Watanabe showed up on-screen for the first time, he commented "Why, hello there, first Japanese person with a speaking role we've seen in this entire movie about Japan." I snorted.

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