Monthly Archives: January 2021

Cinema Saturday, 1/30/21

Money Monster

Year: 2016
Runtime: 1h 38m
Rated: R

Director: Jodie Foster

Writers: Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf

Stars: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell

“Once again, it all boils down to good old-fashioned fraud.”

Initial: With George Clooney starring and Jodie Foster directing, this movie has been on my TBW list for a while.

What Did I Think:
Believe it or not, I watched this movie on Tuesday before the whole GameStop nonsense really hit. This film has little to do with the current situation other than being about the stock market and involving high frequency trading.

George Clooney has done a lot of very solid *good* movies. Money Monster is one of those. Clooney plays a charismatic/smarmy Jim Cramer-like character, the host of a Mad Money-like stock advice show. Chickens come home to roost for Clooney’s Lee Gates when a disgruntled viewer takes him to task for advice Lee had given about a stock whose value had nose-dived due to a algorithm “glitch.” What had gone wrong? Lee really didn’t care…until he’s forced to. His director Patty (Julia Roberts) and the CCO of the tanked company (played by Caitriona Balfe) work the mystery from the other side of the camera. Sometimes the tone of this movie is a little off. It’s not quite satire, like Network, so the humor maybe falls flat. The cast, though, is excellent. I hope George Clooney and Julia Roberts had fun in this movie, because I’d love to see them together in more films.


Audition

Year: 1999
Runtime: 1h 55m
Rated: R

Director: Takashi Miike

Writers: Ryû Murakami, Daisuke Tengan

Stars: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki

“Words create lies. Pain can be trusted.”

Initial: Well-regarded Japanese horror film.

What Did I Think:
(possible spoilers ahead)
I thought this movie was a little more of a video-dating-gone-wrong situation, but instead our male victim, Aoyama, is more deceptive, using his position as a film producer to “audition” girls to be his potential new wife. He is smitten with Asami, a young woman who, according to her CV, lost her ballet career due to a hip injury. She is not who she seems to be. She is in fact a very damaged woman, bent on sharing the pain that’s been inflicted on her with unsuspecting men. The interesting thing about Audition is that Asami isn’t taking revenge on Aoyama for his deception; she’s just angry at all men. The movie is trippier than I expected. Though there are no supernatural aspects, the audience is (maybe) given information about Asami in a way that feels more like Aoyama having nightmares. Negative points for cramming a dog into this story, its only purpose to be killed off late in the film…because *that* is what assured us that Asami is unhinged.

Miscellanea, 1/28/21

From Around the Internet

This week, a few informative YouTube channels I really enjoy:

  • Tasting History with Max Miller – “Love Food? Can’t get enough of History? Every Tuesday, I show you how to make a different historic dish while exploring the history surrounding it.”
  • Jill Bearup’s That’s Fighting Talk – I haven’t explored much of Bearup’s channel, but I love her videos about movie story-telling through fight scenes.
  • Behind the Seams with Gavia Baker-Whitelaw – Similarly, Baker-Whitelaw investigates how costume design adds to movies in ways you might not even realize.
  • Company Man – Company Man presents short histories on companies and products, often that have had a rise and a fall. Definitely in the category of things I never knew I wanted to know about.

Watching

Aside from movies for Cinema Saturday and my film class, I’ve been watching Trust, a 2018 show I remembered being in production and finally caught up to.

About The Weather, and everything else

We finally got some rain and wintery weather here in AZ. The change is nice, but it does mean that we’re staying inside yet all the more. Not much else going on.

Reading Notes, 1/25/21

Finished Reading

“The Abbot’s Ghost” by Louisa May Alcott ended up being a DNF for me. I wasn’t following along with everyone’s machinations and Alcott wasn’t helping me out by leaving out the majority of dialog tags.

Read “A Descent into the Maelstrom” because I wanted to see how Poe describes the seas.

Willa Cather Short Story Project

January’s story is “Lou, the Prophet,” originally published in 1892 in The Hesperian, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s student newspaper. Chris Wolak has some good information about Cather’s involvement with the paper in her “reminder” post for this month.

Lou is a young immigrant from Denmark. He came to the US when he was 15, which means he’s old enough to truly remember and compare his old home with the new. At age 22, he’s working his plot of land, but it isn’t going so well. He’s said to be “weak in the head,” but it feels like his misfortunes have been due to fate rather than mismanagement. The winter took his cattle and the dry summer is taking his corn. He has a dream one night that the Devil is holding back the rain clouds, that the sinfulness of man is why it hadn’t rained. He becomes a prophet, but his only proselytes are a group of young boys.

The life of a farmer is full of hardships, but through his dream, Lou conjures up a reason for his misfortune that is more than that. The other adults in this story think Lou has gone mad and that maybe he’s a danger (maybe they don’t want to hear that their sins might be responsible for their troubles), but the boys believe him. They’ll continue to tell his story.

Deal Me In

3♦️: “The Great Carbuncle” by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I added a few Hawthorne tales to my DMI list this year after Dale @ Mirror with Clouds had a few on his 2020 list. Here, a party of “adventurers” seek a legendary stone. This is a story with a firm moral compass, which is pretty obvious: the name of one characters is Ichabod Pigsnort… Only the best of this party will have any chance at the stone. Will it be the scientist? Will it be the Seeker? Will it be the Poet? Or will it be the ridiculously sweet newlyweds? (It won’t be Mr. Pigsnort. That’s not a spoiler.)

Currently Reading

Dune. Dune by Frank Herbert is the only thing on my plate this week. I’m about half way through. I want to have it finished by Sunday. I think I’ll read William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland next.


Cinema Saturday, 1/23/21

Eastern Promises

Year: 2007
Runtime: 1h 40m
Rated: R

Director: David Cronenberg

Writer: Steven Knight

Stars: Naomi Watts, Viggo Mortensen, Armin Mueller-Stahl

Sentimental value? Ah. I’ve heard of that.

Initial: Re-watch. As my husband noted, “I remember that being a solid movie, but I don’t remember anything else about it.”

What Did I Think:
You know, barring some of his more recent movies that I haven’t seen, this is probably the most normal of David Cronenberg’s film. It’s really just a gangland drama. Don’t get me wrong, it is well done; this is a solid movie, but it lacks that extra Cronenberg weirdness. I guess that can be either a bug or a feature depending on your point of view. And, yeah, I didn’t really remember much of the plot. I enjoyed it like the first time I watched it!



In & Of Itself

Year: 2020
Runtime: 1h 30m
Rated: N/R

Director: Frank Oz

Writer: Derek DelGaudio

Stars: Derek DelGaudio

Initial: I had heard numerous magicians on numerous podcasts talking about how good Derek DelGaudio’s stage show was, but, dang, the Hulu summary makes it sound painfully pretentious.

What Did I Think:
Listen, In & Of Itself is probably best watched cold, without knowing anything else about it. If you have Hulu, maybe you want to delay reading the rest of this until you’ve watched it.

In & Of Itself is the teleplay version of DelGaudio’s very successful one-man show. DelGaudio combines personal narrative and storytelling with some really impressive magic effects. One of the most interesting things to me is the variety of magic during the show, throughout only six set pieces. If a magician got up on stage and just rapid-fired the tricks, they wouldn’t hold together as a show. Instead, DelGaudio makes an anthology of them with a gentle wrap-around narrative. He is an extremely proficient card handler, but it’s the non-corny mentalism at the climax of the show that is outstanding—mostly because it wears none of the trappings of mentalism.

The Classic Meme 2.0 ~ Er, from October…

A shelf of books.
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Back in October, I was in the throes of Halloween so I didn’t get around to answering this question from The Classics Club:

Discuss the classics you read as a child.
Who introduced you to them?
Which ones were you favourites?
Do you still reread them as an adult? Why? Why Not?

But what is time anyway? So, here’s a Classics Meme “catch-up” post.

On the weird side, I remember reading Edgar Allan Poe stories and Sherlock Holmes stories as a kid. For K-6th grade, I attended a small Lutheran school but within its library were some abridged, illustrated editions of classic horror tales, including Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” I probably checked them out a dozen times each. I binged Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories one summer before junior high while enamored with Jeremy Brett’s portrayal on TV. Of course I still read Poe and Doyle. Their themes and language are a literary gift that keeps on giving.

Illustration by John Lawn from "The Masque of the Red Death."
Illustration by John Lawn

On the less weird side, as many girls do, I went through a horse phase. I read a few of Marguerite Henry’s books (King of the Wind being my favorite) and many of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. These, I haven’t had any want to reread, even though my Mom recently returned the Black Stallion books I’d left with her when I moved away. Young protagonists have always been hard to sell to me; it hasn’t gotten any easier now that I’m in my 40s…

I probably would have enjoyed Roald Dahl or Lloyd Alexander, but I seemingly never crossed paths with them as a kid. Perhaps if I could go back in time I’d slip a book into young Katherine’s stack and say, “I got two words for you, kid: oracular pig.”

Reading Notes, 1/18/21

Finished Reading

Strange Cures by Rob Zabrecky

I am most familiar with Rob Zabrecky as a slightly off-kilter magician. He was in fact also the front man for the band Possum Dixon*. Strange Cures is about Zabrecky’s early life, childhood through early thirties, which is mostly his music career and his slip into (and eventually out of) drug addiction. It’s also a sort of love letter to Los Angeles. I love narratives with a strong sense of place, so that was appealing to me. The writing is sometimes choppy. There are shifts in tense that I assume are purposeful. It’s kind of like in a film where, while the character is narrating in voice-over, a flashback happens. What was twenty years ago is suddenly last Thursday.

*I was vaguely aware of Possum Dixon and had probably heard their music since they were no doubt played on the River, Iowa Western’s radio station, which, while I didn’t like everything they played, was a welcome change from the Top 40 station that was played incessantly at my workplace…until I became a manager and took control of the radio.

Here’s a little bit of the Rob Zabrecky I’m more familiar with.

This is my first book for the Shelf Love challenge (#1 of 21+). I purchased this book in September of last year and own it in paperback.

Deal Me In

Week 2: 7♠️
“Eveline’s Visitant” by Mary Elizabeth Braddon – Two weeks, two great Mary Elizabeth Braddon stories.

It was at a masked ball at the Palais Royal that my fatal quarrel with my first cousin André de Brissac began.

Isn’t that just juiciest beginning to a story?

Currently Reading

I started my read-through of the Dune series. My intent is to finish Frank Herbert’s six Dune books by October (when the movie comes out). I also intend to see the movie in the theater, so if you all could get vaccinated when possible and mask-up until then, that would be great! 😬

I’m apparently in the mood for a sensation novel. The Abbot’s Ghost by Louisa May Alcott is my current “bedside” reading.


Cinema Saturday, 1/16/21

Surfing with the Enemy

Year: 2011
Runtime: 56m
Rated: NR

Director: Scott Braman, Adam Preskill

Writer: Adam Preskill

Stars: Lance Henriksen (narrator)

We’re all like family, like brothers. I imagine this happens with surfers all over the world. I think this is what happens with surfers. I hope so.

Initial: So, while puttering around on Letterboxd, I realized that I had seen a mere 10% of Lance Henriksen’s films. The man is a working actor, yo. So I thought I’d see where his filmography might take me. #LanceHenriksenProject

What Did I Think:
Last year I took a Coursera course called (something like) Sports and Society. This documentary would fit its syllabus perfectly. In a country that is paranoid about its citizens defecting by swimming/boating away, there is a surf scene. It’s small and underground, but with enough potential that the surfers kind of hope the government makes them an “official” sport so they can have freedom to train and freedom to compete. I love hearing people talk about what they love and are passionate about and that’s all over the place in this documentary.


Gretel & Hansel

Year: 2020
Runtime: 1h 27m
Rated: PG-13

Director: Osgood Perkins

Writer: Rob Hayes

Stars: Sophia Lillis, Samuel Leakey, Alice Krige

Say that again and I will turn your tongue into a flower, to remind you how pretty and dumb and temporary you’ve chosen to be.

Initial: I had watched I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, also directed by Perkins, back in April. I was pretty intrigued by him doing a “Hansel and Gretel” adaptation.

What Did I Think:
This is only the second film by Oz Perkins I’ve watched, but after I Am the Pretty Thing…, I felt I had a good idea what to expect: slow, intentional film-making. Happily, Gretel & Hansel has more plot going on to balance out every autumnal shot that’s held just a moment longer than expected. My goodness, this is a beautiful movie, which isn’t something I say often about horror films. This retelling focuses on Gretel, being the one that needs to out-wit the witch by allowing herself to be powerful. So, yes, there is female empowerment in this movie, but not in a preachy way. I also really like the soundtrack which has a strong Goth/synth vibe. It also gives the film an anachronistic feeling. It’s a timeless fairy tale.