Friday, January 2, 2009

Year of the Ox

Happy New Year! It’s been quite awhile since I wrote a blog with substance, so this one may be a bit longer than usual. Perhaps I’ll write it in chapters; feel free to have a snack in between!

I’ve spent a small fortune during the past 2 weeks seeing movies; there are several great movies out that will factor into the Oscars, and since I’m an Academy Awards freak, I see as many as possible so I can judge for myself. First, a word about the price of movies these days: “Holy S*#t!” Really, someone should be regulating what these theaters are charging. Initially, I thought it was just the Union Square 14 that charges $14.50, but I paid that price at Chelsea Cinemas and $12.00 at 3rd and 11th. I paid $10.50 at a theater in Southampton. God forbid you want the entire movie-going experience, after a small popcorn ($4.75 to $5.75!), you’ve just dropped twenty bucks, not including transportation! It’s absurd and unfair. As a result of this price gauging, I’ve started dropping my garbage on the floor of the theater again, something I stopped doing in my 20’s. It’s immature, I know, but if I’m forced to pay over ten dollars to see a movie, I’m not worrying about collecting my own trash—I’ll drop it on the floor if I want to, damn it!

In case you care, here’s my brief reviews:

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD – Leonardo DiCaprio is all grown up and can act without Marty Scorsese inspiring him. In a few scenes toward the beginning of the film, Leo is at his best—we’ve never seen him act so well. Kate Winslet is stunning, in a variety of ways. She anchors the film; her talent emanates from within. I agree with the critics who posit that this film is proof positive that Kate Winslet is the best actress of her generation. The set design and costumes are exquisitely perfect, and the supporting cast is fantastic, especially Michael Shannon. It’s not a perfect film, but it is a very, very good film. See it.

DOUBT – When I walked out of the theater, I turned to my friend and asked, “Do you think Meryl Streep might be the best actress ever?” The more I think about it, the more I think she is. Perhaps Bette Davis was in her league, but really, Streep is unbelievable, and here she shares screen time with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is a tremendously gifted actor. Amy Adams graduates to the big leagues here, and keeps up with Streep quite well. The stunning shocker in DOUBT, and a lock for Best Supporting Actress, I think, is Viola Davis (she is apparently the only actor to appear in both the Broadway show and the film). She’s on screen for less than ten minutes, but I’m still thinking about her performance, 4 days later. DOUBT is not as much of a “downer” film as I’d expected, and its length is perfect—as soon as you’ve really started thinking, it’s over; it does not force you to content with the moral issues for longer than necessary. It is a powerful film, but it is not an overwhelming film. See it.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE – This is a gritty, real, sweet and funny coming-of-age film, but it’s so much more than that. Whatever I write here will minimize it, because this is not the type of film Americans are often exposed to, yet at the same time its foreignness is what makes it spectacular, because in the end, there is nothing foreign about love. The cinematography is beautiful, and the soundtrack will haunt (and amuse) you—I bought it on ITunes yesterday. Please see this movie—and stay an extra 5 minutes to watch the end credits—you’ll get a bonus smile!

MILK – As one who often cries in movies, I was surprised at how dry-eyed I was during the previous 3 films. I got teary at the end of REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, and I did cry some happy tears at the end of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. It wasn’t until the last scene of MILK, however, that I truly cried. It’s a sad, sad final scene, but I think I also cried for the loss of—for our loss of—Harvey Milk’s exuberance and his reminder that without hope we are lost. It also occurred to me that Harvey Milk would have possibly forced Ronald Reagan to confront the AIDS virus years before he (half-heartedly) did, and funnel money toward research rather than ignore it and cause thousands of deaths. I’ve respected Gus Van Sant for a long time, and I’ve watched Sean Penn in awe and admiration for many years—both director and actor embraced the life of Harvey Milk in a way few artists are able to achieve. The entire cast is terrific. Somewhere, Harvey is proud. See this movie.

In Other News
Other than this blog, I’m not writing. I have not been writing. I have been reading; I have even been reading about writing (I re-read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird every few years; I’m currently meandering through it). But I have not been writing—there are many reasons and no reasons for this. I am in a new one-bedroom apartment, alone (more on this later). The windows suck, and the rooms are cold. I spend most of my time in my bedroom, because I can sit on my bed, under the covers, and check email, waste time on the Internet, watch movies on my laptop, or read. Since I don’t spend any time in the living room, I am not used to it, not comfortable sitting at my desk and chair. I also think I’m just scared to start another novel. The word another, while thrilling because it reminds me the first one was actually published, is heady and loaded—what if my second attempt goes nowhere? What if I realize by the end of the first chapter that my characters are bland and my plot unsustainable? What if . . .? Another issue, which I knew long ago would be a problem, is that I function much better with deadlines. Most of CLOSER TO FINE was written within a year and a half, and for that entire time I had due dates, either as part of a writing workshop class or with my thesis advisor. Deadlines motivate and sometimes force me to get the words out; even if a first draft stinks, my basic ideas were on paper and it is always easier to edit than create. I have no deadlines, no class waiting to read my work, no thesis advisor expecting three new chapters.

These are all fairly lame excuses, I know. I need to just get over myself, quiet the doubting voices in my head, and sit down to write. I will. Soon. Maybe this weekend. This completes the first chapter of my first 2009 blog.

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