Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Okay, I totally admit it. Sometimes I am stupid about films. Sometimes I don't get why they are special. Sometimes ... I am totally lame.

Case in point - the movie "Once". As soon as this had been released on DVD, I rented it and watched it. I didn't know much about it other than it was supposed to be really amazing. I hate when someone tells me that about a film too because the key to happiness, I swear, is lowered expectations. After I watched this, I was like, wot? There was hardly any plot, the film looks like it was filmed in a day by an amateur and if there was a script it had to be a two page one because most of it was just music. Really good music, but still, music. Without plot. Which, I find a plot, you know, usually necessary. Especially in a movie.

Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard

Fast-forward 8 months later and I came across this film again. If you haven't seen it, it is about a Czech girl and an Irish guy in Ireland. The guy, played by Glen Hansard, has kinda stalled in life and needs someone to give him a little push. The girl, played by Marketa Irglova, is the one who comes along to supply said push. That really is the entire plot of the movie.

Please keep in mind this is a REALLY independent film. By that, I mean, we are talking a budget of $150,000 and 17 days to shoot this. There are some shaky shots and while you watch it you are definitely aware that you are watching a really low-budget film. However, I think that is part of the charm of this. No studio would have ever let this film fly if they didn't stay SERIOUSLY under the radar - which was the filmmaker's strategy from the beginning with the ridiculously low budget.

So what makes it worth watching? The idea behind the film was to make a modern day musical for younger audiences. They didn't think actors breaking out into song would work on a young audience so they wove the music into what the movie was about. And the music alone is beautiful, moving and powerful. In fact, one of the songs from the movie won an Oscar. Then you add the main characters into the movie. The filmmaker wanted to make it all about the music so he decided to hire musicians instead of actors. He used long lenses to capture most of the shots at a distance because the cameras in the face of non-actors would be too distracting and intimidating. It was a brilliant way to do it. Both of the leads were already friends and their chemistry is great. The guy looks so vulnerable in scenes with her and the girl is so persistent and charming.

There are several scenes in this film that I really like. One is the 90 second, mostly ad-libbed song they use to sum up the guy's past relationship and how he got stalled in life. And he sings it on a bus. And it is funny. Another is when the guy and girl are talking and she reveals she is married and that her husband is still in the Czech Republic where she left him, yet he wants to come to Ireland to be with her. She is saying that she wants her daughter to grow up with her father too and she isn't sure what she should do. The guy asks her "Do you love him?" She answers him in Czech and refuses to translate it. I, of course, did a search and found out that she said "No. I love you." Which is both beautiful and perfect.

I see this as a story about friendship and how sometimes people drop into our lives at just the moment we need them. I am not sure why this is, but it has happened to me several times and it is always a wonderful gift.

And what is with the title, "Once"? The filmmaker says it references all the guys he knew that hung in the pubs in Ireland saying "Once I get my record deal" or "Once I get my own flat" or whatever. The guys who kept waiting for something to happen, but didn't do anything to make it happen. That is the way the guy in the film is and the girl pushes him past the "Once" type of thinking.

All around, for the resources it had, this was an underrated and brilliant film. But don't expect it to be amazing. It isn't amazing. It is brilliant in it's subtlety and yeah, I admit it, I was lame for not getting it the first time.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Guilt Flowers

I received flowers the other day. No, not like the one pictured above. The one pictured above I bought for myself at a farmer's market a few weeks ago. The flowers I received the other day were what I call "Guilt Flowers" and are my least favorite to receive. I understand trying to say I am sorry through flowers as a gesture, but somehow the giver seems to think it is a quick fix and the receiver thinks "You slept with 20 women behind my back and you think a $40 flower arrangement will make it all better?" Yeeeeeah.

In the case of my flowers, they weren't from a boyfriend who had transgressed in some way. They were actually from a co-worker. I am sure this makes it an abnormality as far as the tradition of the guilt flowers go. I don't think co-workers usually buy each other flowers and have them delivered, but the story of why they bought me the flowers might be good for a chuckle.

I received an unsolicited instant message from the co-worker complaining about ... well, me. They ranted for a few sentences before I realized they actually thought they were talking to someone else and had sent the IM to the person that irked them instead of the person with which they wanted to vent. I asked them what they were talking about and they apologized and said they had meant to send it to another co-worker. So basically, I meant to talk about you behind your back and accidentally did it to your face. Oopsie.

Well, that was the first time. I let it slide.

Last week, you guessed it, I received another unsolicited instant message complaining about me ... again. This time, after I realized what had happened, I told them they had done it again. They immediately said they were sorry. I am sure they were. They were sorry they were stupid enough to do it again. I didn't let them have it, but I also didn't let it slide this time. I pointed out this was the second time in just a few weeks so that means a few things to me. 1) They talk about me behind my back a lot. 2) I must be doing a poor job in their opinion and am a poor teammate and would like to know how I can improve to make things better for them. I thought this was a better approach than just going off on them. Of course, they took the cowardly way out and said I was perfect and they were sorry.

My question here is how would you have handled it? Also, how do you look at the pretty flowers without seeing 'GUILT' written all over them? :-)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hot Princess

Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in "Roman Holiday"

I am not going to do a review of "Roman Holiday" now. A friend of mine did a delightfully irreverent one here the other day. I just wanted to blog a few random thoughts, like, how amazingly tiny, but yet, still beautiful Audrey Hepburn was in this movie. I almost stared exclusively at her waist trying to imagine what it would have looked like in person, especially if the camera adds 10 pounds! I pondered which of my body parts would be smaller in diameter than her waist. I came up with fingers (maybe not the thumb though), toes and possibly my nose. I got me dear old Mom's Irish nose though, so even that body part is questionable. Seriously, she was so gorgeous, but so tiny. I don't think I would have even had the guts to hug her for fear of snapping her like a twig.

Other than her tiny waist. I will share two favorite quotes from the movie:
  1. Irving (played by Eddie Albert) says, "It's always open season on princesses."
  2. Irving (still played by Eddie Albert) says, "Joe, we can't go running around town with a hot princess!"
Lastly, a few random thoughts and tidbits.
  1. Why did Irving get all the best lines?
  2. Did the scene of the undercover agents walking in the same outfit towards the barge party remind anyone else of a scene out of "Reservoir Dogs"? If only they had slowed the speed, it would have been a perfect match. :-)
  3. Apparently, Gregory Peck decided to do the "hand in the sleeve" trick at the Mouth of Truth statue because he had seen Red Skelton do a bit like that when someone offered to shake his hand. Peck ran it by William Wyler, the director, but they did not tell Audrey Hepburn what would happen. Her scream and surprise was a true reaction and that is what was used for the movie. I do love her reaction in this scene knowing that. I also like Peck reacting to her reaction.
  4. I know it is a sappy movie, but I can't help but think of the romantic comedy "Only You" when I see this film. I am probably the only person on earth who bothered to watch it and will admit to it.
  5. It is astounding that this is her first big role and she pulls it off so beautifully. Well done, Audrey.

And to end ... another still from the movie. One can never have enough eye candy of Audrey:

Ahhh, ché bellezza!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Searching For Paradise (2002)

Okay, here is the funny part about me watching this movie. I often build up a stock pile of movies I think I want to see and randomly pick one that looks good. I grabbed this one because it was about a girl tracking down a movie star she has a crush on. That sounded like a comedy and sounded like good fun to me. I wanted something I could watch, have a good laugh and the least of which ... write a review about. Boy, did I get that one wrong. I haven't been so wrong since I popped in "The Apartment" to watch, years ago, because I was a bit down and it said it was a comedy.

So here is how I was wrong: I find movies dealing with the death of a parent to be very difficult to watch. I have my own experiences there and that makes the subject matter painful. At the same time, much like a train wreck, I can't force myself to turn away. I have some strange desire to want to know how this person handled it, what this person was feeling, when did it get better, etc.

Given all the above, "Search For Paradise" is a blessedly short movie at just under 90 minutes. It stars Susan May Pratt as Gilda Mattei and Chris Noth as Michael De Santis. I should insert a caveat that this is an independent film and not terribly good as far as an example of cinematic glory. That is okay with me, though, I don't think every movie I watch needs to be a masterpiece. If you do, you might as well stop reading this now. :-)

Gilda is an 18 year-old girl who watched her father die from some kind of an unspecified illness and afterwards, discovers that he had a secret long-term affair with an Italian woman. She has difficulty coming to grips with this information and misdirects a lot of hostility during her grief at her mother. At the same time, she runs away from the situation by going to visit her grandparents. There, yet again, she discovers that her beloved grandfather also had his own extra-curricular activities, shall we say? Again, more misdirected hostility at a boy she meets. Yet again, she runs away from the situation - this time to Virgina.

Throughout the entire setup of the film, she has a crush on Michael, whom she has never met and who just happens to be a mega-movie star. Of course, that is why she runs to Virginia. The movie star she has dreamed about for so long is filming a movie in Virginia and through a clever rouse, she has landed an interview with him. (How come I never thought of that? I want my own clever rouse.)

The whole point of this movie is how one deals with grief. In the case of Gilda, she slips into a fantasy world where even she has trouble distinguishing it from reality at times. Let's face it, she is really, really messed up. She attempts to escape from her pain by running to the fantasy of whom she thinks is her ideal man - Michael the movie star. Somehow, I think she believes Michael can replace that void in her life, left by the death of her father.

In addition to escapism, one must toss in a huge heapin' dose of fantasy here too. I can't really say that I totally understand her obsession with her father's mistress. She obsesses about her and even somewhat becomes her to land the interview. I would guess this has a lot to do with her young age - she plays a part so as to be bold enough to flaunt her sexuality that she isn't quite comfortable enough to do as "herself" yet.

Susan May Pratt is wonderful in this movie as Gilda. She is a relatively unknown actress. I think I have only seen her in one other movie ("10 Things I Hate About You") and it was a small role. In this movie though, she shines. Her face is so expressive and she is able to play someone who is so deep in grief, but fighting it every step of the way. She looks so young and so vulnerable, which is perfect for the role. She does an amazing job.

On a personal note, I have to admit I could really identify with Gilda in the running away and trying to escape the grief process. I did the exact same thing after my father died. It didn't work well for me either. As I told a dear friend recently "That grief witch is going to get her pound of flesh from you, one way or another." It probably comes as no surprise that this very messed up girl who has gone through a difficult and messed up time does come crashing back into reality and has to deal with it eventually.

So, if you are up for a short movie either about dealing with grief or about fulfilling the fantasy of meeting your movie star crush (or both, how strange is that?) this is definitely worth your time. Even if for Susan May Pratt's performance alone.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Place in the Sun (1951)

Abbynormal's Review of "A Place in the Sun" aka (in my world) "Make your holiday Death's holiday too" (Direct quote from the film, believe it or not)

Stunning Elizabeth Taylor and ... well, Montgomery Clift too

This film stars Elizabeth Taylor as Angela Vickers, Shelley Winters as Alice Tripp (not pictured here) and Montgomery Clift as George Eastman.

I have to tell you up front, that I am not much of a fan of Montgomery Clift. You may have guessed that from my captioning of the picture. I think it is because I don't find him even remotely attractive. I know, that is very shallow - I can't help it. It is my blog and I can be shallow if I want to. I think of him as an adult version of James Dean, but I realize that is very unfair to him. James Dean, I mean. I do believe Montgomery Clift to be a good actor, I just don't enjoy watching him do it. In this film, I would say he does a great job of fever acting. He acts by shaking and sweating a lot. Oh, and the ever popular brooding technique. I have never seen a more superior example of brooding while sweating and shaking. Marvelous. I am sure I have upset someone out there. All you Montgomery Clift fans, feel free to tell me off, er set me straight, and explain what you see that I don't see in him.

As for the film, from the moment George Eastman saw Angela Vickers speed by in her white convertible, he was a goner. An obsessive stalker was born. This is a classic love triangle story of sorts, brought about by a man's fantasy and loneliness. George loves Angela who epitomizes everything he wants out of life - wealth, position and glamour. George settles for Alice, in the meantime, who is frumpy, poor and plain. He settles out of loneliness as he believes Angela will never even notice him. Eventually, he does catch her eye (why, I don't know) and she even falls in love with him too (again, why?). This would be a happy ending and the realization of his fantasy if it weren't for that pesky Alice. Apparently, she managed to go and get herself pregnant by him and expects him to do the "right" thing. If he does not, she threatens to go to the papers with the story and scandalize his family. That is the setup of the movie in a nutshell. I will go no further with the plot as I do not wish to ruin it for anyone who has yet to see it.

One of the themes of this film is class division. George's parents were poor missionaries focused on religious gains instead of monetary gains. George has very little education, but has enough ambition to burn. He fantasizes of a rich, glamorous life like that of his Uncle and his family. This class division theme is so brilliantly setup by a long shot in the beginning of the movie (which I love) where the camera is behind the "well to do" Eastman family as George Eastman walks down a long corridor to enter the room and stand opposite them. "Them vs. George" or "Rich vs. Poor" is so clearly setup without a word being said. This theme of him trying to fit into rich society and trying to accepted by his Uncle's family and friends, while the dalliance with Alice drags him back to the lower class, is present throughout the entire film.

I pondered why he ever got involved with Alice anyway. I ran through theories of forbidden fruit since he was told he was not allowed to date any women that worked at his Uncle's factory where he was employed. In the end, I think it had less to do with forbidden fruit and more to do with simple loneliness. He had been in the town for months without a date and Angela, whom he was pining for, had yet to even notice him. From Alice's standpoint, I feel gutted for her in the beginning. Here is this poor working girl, just another face on a factory floor of dozens upon dozens of girls. Yet, the man whom she believes to be another rich Eastman, looks her way. He notices this plain and frumpy Alice and smiles at her. He even asks her out. Of all the girls, he picks her. I am sure this was intoxicating and for one of the few times in her life, she probably felt special. She believed his advances were sincere. Sadly, I think she was wrong. I believe he was just using her to fill the void till something better came along.

And boy, did something better come along (no offense intended towards Shelley Winters here). Elizabeth Taylor as Angela is just stunning. The camera eats her up. The film was shot in B&W to help hammer home the dark themes of the movie. Many of the scenes with Alice and George are done with heavy shadows. All of the scenes with George and Angela, on the other hand, are beautifully lit and gorgeous. The light on Angela's face makes her glow. Every time she appears, the film literally turns from dark to light. The scene where George professes his love to Angela and she does the same in return is breathtakingly romantic and not to be missed - even if it is Montgomery Clift instead of, say, Cary Grant. :-)

Towards the end though, my sympathy stays strong with the beautiful Angela. She accepted this lower class man, fell in love with him and did absolutely nothing wrong. My sympathy for Alice waned a bit when she went from just being a sad character to being a shrill, demanding and desperate woman who decides to blackmail to get what she wants. I understand that she is in a terrible spot, but still, by the end of the scene where she threatens him and is such a witch - I too just wanted her to go away and so we could get back to the charm of Angela. As for George, well, I never had much sympathy for George so I never lost or gained any there.

I believe if you like a movie, one viewing is not nearly enough. Upon first viewing, if you are like me, you are in total plot lust. You are dying to know what happens next, almost to the exclusion of being able to pay attention to anything else other than .. what's going to happen? Upon second viewing, you can calm down a bit and begin to enjoy all of the parts of the film, not just the plot. For instance, if you already know the arc the characters are going to take, you can enjoy watching masterful actors use their skill to get there. Also, you can pay more attention to how shots are set up and notice those nuggets in a movie that make it great, that you couldn't possibly even recognize on the first viewing. An example from "A Place in the Sun" would be, for instance, a foreshadowing device. There are many of these sprinkled through the film, but my favorite has to be the Ophelia painting on the wall in George's room at the boarding house. I love that painting and I love the use of it in this film.

My last though on this film is not one that is originally mine and I won't dissect it too much. I wanted to briefly point out how much I love that "The Talented Mr. Ripley" seems to be so closely tied to the themes of this movie. If you have seen both, I think you will see what I mean.

In summary, if you haven't already guessed, I highly recommend this film. It has it all - drama, romance, suspense - so it has a little bit of something for everyone.

Now, discuss :-)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rubber Gloves

Sometimes you have to bring out the big guns. It is never pretty when that is necessary.

That, my friends, is a picture of my big guns. I took the photo last night prior to handling the job. I keep sets of these on hand for something, extraordinary, lets say euphemistically. I don't need them for washing dishes or the like so they get very little attention. Last night, though, I was all about the rubber gloves.

As I mentioned in my very first post (golf clap, thank you) - strange things just seem to happen. So last night I had just finished my evening's entertainment which consisted of my usual repertoire ... a movie. After it ended I decided it was time for bed. As such, I headed down the hall to the bedroom. As I was directly across from the open door of my guest bathroom I heard the sound of running water. I never use this bathroom so I found that odd. As I turned on the light, to my horror, I could hear my upstairs neighbor flushing (I live in a condo) and the vent directly over my guest toilet and under hers, suddenly rush with water. I guess this had been happening for a bit, but the successive flushing this evening (I don't even WANT to know what was going on up there in HER bathroom) had caused a cumulative effect of ... uhmm ... yellow-brownish water. I am not saying what your automatically thinking is what it was, but whatever it was, it reeked and it was gross.

So guess who had to clean everything up last night? One hint: Not my upstairs neighbor. Another hint: Not my cats.

Anyway, if i had a gratitude journal like Mama O says you should, it would say one thing in today's entry: "Man, I love those rubber gloves."

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

To Blog Or Not To Blog?

I have asked myself that question many times in many different ways. It seems that blogging in itself is a bit of an exercise in vanity or ego. Why on earth would I think anything I had to say would be even remotely interesting to anyone else? The answer there is that I really don't think my thoughts interest anyone, not even me sometimes. :-)

So, why blog?

For me, I miss it. I had a blog for several years on another site. I used to enjoy thinking of ideas to blog about. As my audience grew, I would come up with contests and try to come up with creative ways to interact. I don't want this blog to become a reincarnation of that blog but I have found I miss the exercise of writing. Of thinking of writing ideas, exploring them and fleshing them out. I miss the joy of coming up with something that I alone (most of the time) created.

As for what I will blog about? Heck, I have no clue. I suspect I will mostly write about the following three things:

1) Movies
  • I have sworn off almost all TV so at some point every day, you will find me watching a movie. There is nothing better than talking about movies. Well, almost nothing better.
2) Strange happenings
  • I don't know if it is just me, but I seem to have these strange ... things ... that just seem to happen. I don't know why, but they are usually good for an amusing story at least. Well, amusing since it happened to ME and not YOU.

3) Travel, Trips and Thotos

  • Okay, that really should be Travel, Trips and Photos, but I was digging the alliteration too much to give it up. I love to travel and take photos. You can see by that little slide show thingy in the upper-right hand corner that I love taking photos and I take A LOT.

So here we are at the beginning. If you have any absolutely brilliant ideas of what to see here, please, let me know. All suggestions will be taken seriously and possibly ridiculed. Okay, not really, but maybe. :-)