Thursday, November 10, 2011

Anton Walbrook and Glynis Johns in "The 49th Parallel," directed by Michael Powell.

Well, I've been writing more and watching and reading less, overall.  But I suppose, with the glorious Anton Walbrook looming over my blog entry, I will jump straight to films.

Films watched in October 2011:

1.) The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, 1943, dir. by Michael Powell
2.) The 49th Parallel, 1941, dir. by Michael Powell
3.) Remorques, aka Stormy Waters, 1941, dir. by Jean Gremillon
4.) The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, 1936, dir. by Henry Hathaway
5.) The Age of Innocence, 1993, dir. by Martin Scorcese
6.) The Last King of Scotland, 2006, dir. by Kevin Macdonald
7.) Meek's Cutoff, 2010, dir. by Kelly Riechardt
8.) The Fly, 1986, dir. by David Cronenberg
9.) Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, 2008, dir. by Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg
10.) The Conspiritor, 2010, dir. by Robert Redford
11.) Good Hair, 2009, dir. by Jeff Stillson
12.) Three Strangers, 1946, dir. by Jean Negulesco
13.) Big Fan, 2009, dir. by Robert D. Siegel

So many great movies this month.  I don't know if it's possible to choose a favorite.  The one that got into  my dreams - well four of them did: "Colonel Blimp," "49th Parallel," "Meek's Cutoff" and "The Last King of Scotland."  I am so absolutely in love with Michael Powell's films.  And I have recently watched "The Red Shoes" and realized how brilliant Anton Walbrook is, well... was.  Sadly he died prematurely.  But, what a presence.  He plays such an against-type character in "49th" too, he's an Amish farmer in Canada.  Still, when he is onscreen, hardly anyone else is.

"Meek's Cutoff": I've been waiting to see this movie for so long. I'm a fan of Kelly Riechardt - I loved "Wendy and Lucy" and "Old Joy."  When I heard about the topic for Meek's I got very excited.  I think every western ever filmed (and I am a western fan, and there's been plenty of great ones) should be redone through a woman's eyes.  This is what made me curious and excited to see "Meek's."  Reichardt, you have to hand it to her, she does not pander to a mainstream audience.  This film is slow, hypnotic, and doesn't tell you how to react.  I think my favorite moment was when Michelle Williams loads a gun - it's realistic, takes an absurd amount of time, and barely has any authority over anyone once it's loaded.  I actually let out a big laugh at the end - not because it was funny, but because Reichardt has such guts!  Jesus!  I am a huge fan of this woman.  I cannot wait for her next movie, "Night Moves" which is in pre-production.

I really loved "The Last King of Scotland," too.  James McAvoy is so good, he should have been nominated for an oscar too, along with Forest Whitaker.

I was so happy to see "The Fly" again.  When I saw it the first time,  I was so moved by it, I could not stop crying at the end.  I wanted to see if I still felt that way.  Wow, it was even better!  God, Jeff Goldblum is so sexy, so funny, and so perfect in this role.  And Geena Davis is great.  I had a laughing, cringing, crying good time seeing it again.  The extras on the DVD are pretty good too.  Lots of interviews with people recently about their memories of making this film.

I'd been wanting to see Chris Rock's documentary, "Good Hair," for a long time.  It was directed by a fellow Spokane, Washington native: Jeff Stillson.  It was really good - Rock is great at making a topic funny and serious at the same time.  I learned a lot too.

I felt "The Conspirator" (about the plotters to kill Lincoln) was so underrated when it came out. Why wasn't it nominated for tons of awards?  Redford directing, a great historic epic, fantastic acting (James McAvoy again!  It's my James McAvoy month!)   I was surprised I hadn't seen it before or read more about it.  Robin Wright was so good in her part as Mary Surratt.  Why wasn't she nominated for an oscar? The part was really demanding and difficult and she pulled it off well.

I was glad to finally see "Big Fan." I'm a huge fan (and glad to say friend) of Patton Oswalt's and yet I ahd never seen this film.

Books read in October 2011.  Only one. Yes, only one.

"A Visit From The Good Squad," by Jennifer Egan.   It was brilliant.

But before that, I have to confess: I got off the book treadmill.  Wait, that's not the right way to put it. I imposed these restricitons on my reading about two years ago and it's had the most fantastic results. Unfortunately it requires some discipline.  My self-imposed reading rule was: only one book at a time.  Take the book with you everywhere, christen it - it's the book you are currently reading.  Stick with it until the end.  Read at least an hour a day, then and only then can you move onto magazines and other reading material.  This might sound sort of silly, these self-imposed rules, but it had dramatic results. You see, I was really lazy and promiscuous about my book reading. I would read a third of this book, lose it in the house, and then move onto a third of another book. It never added up to anything and I wasn't finishing anything.  It all gave me this unfinished feeling that I did not like.  There were tradeoffs, mostly in terms of The New Yorker.  I wasn't reading it as much. I wasn't reading the paper as much.  Nor the New Scientist, or Mother Jones, or any of the other magazines I like and subscribe to. But it felt good overall. I was reading the way I enjoy reading, the whole book, diving in and seeing it through.  But then, this month, I lost a book I started, and then I grabbed another and lost it somewhere and then I bout "Goon Squad" and began it and I have to say it really took some force to get me to read it all the way through.

Partly this is because the book is non-linear. It's a set of linked stories that draw you closer to a big set of characters.  The chapters jump around in time and fling themselves into far-off characters you don't expect to know.  It's really good - God the writing is astonishingly good, but the book itself has the feeling to it that I usually get from my haphazard reading style of yesteryear - a chapter here and there.  So it was difficult to see it through. The book almost wants you to put it down. Except I didn't because I was laughing and gasping and digging into these people.  It was a really good book.

I'm doing a bit better now, but more on that in November's entry...

In the meantime, I am not travelling, I'm hunkering down, and writing my "Mother" book.  I've been doing the workshops on Saturdays.  It's helped me, the workshops. I can see where I get stuck in the same old themes.  But it's also excrutiating and I often wonder why I'm doing it.  This week I'm going to read something I'm working on for The Guardian and a piece about nanny's.

My new assistant Pam (oh how I love saying that) lent me a couple of DVDs, it's of a series on Showtime that I've not watched before: "Episodes."  There are seven esisodes of "Episodes."  I've watched four.  They're so damn funny. I acutally woke up last night thinking about them.  If you can watch get hold of them, please watch them. Matt LeBlanc stars.  It's hilarious.  So funny and well written.  I think I'll watch the final three today.

It looks like it's going to snow today.  Here we go....