Monday, March 29, 2010
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
It Happened Tuesday Night
Greensboro on a Tuesday night has never been a hotbed of activity. But this week, one Samantha Simpson graced the town with her presence once again and the city lit up.
Well, technically, it was probably already lit up, but I certainly enjoyed her visit, lights or no lights. We ate at the Thai Pan downtown (I wholeheartedly recommend the pineapple sticky rice), where a group of young twenty-somethings walked in on death-defying heels. We walked the streets among the rowdy college students whose purpose in life seems to be to block the sidewalk. We arrived at the reason for our excursion: the Carolina Theatre, where they were showing It Happened One Night.
We bought popcorn and beer and settled in our seats under an ornate ceiling just as the lights dimmed and the movie began. Both Sam and I have seen the movie many times, but there was a sort of supreme satisfaction in watching it among a group of people and enjoying the anticipation of laughter when Clark Gable is about to yell, "Quit bawlin'! Quit bawlin'!" Part of me did wish that I had seen the movie that way for the first time. But another part felt vindicated, as one of my favorites received the attention of the big screen again.
It seemed quite fitting, in this time in our nation's financial history, to be watching It Happened One Night on a $5 ticket. The movie is set during the Depression and garners a good deal of its laughs from lampooning the rich. Still, the movie makes equal fun of Peter Warne (Clark Gable) and his questionable worldly knowledge of things like dunking a donut and hitchhiking.
The movie has it both ways as Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) manages to be both the spoiled heiress and the poor little rich girl. Peter is a self-righteous man-of-the-people while at the same time being quite concerned with his own finances. Ellie's father is both the controlling over-zealous father and the level-headed architect of the couple's happiness. (How many fathers do you know who provide a getaway car for their daughter on her wedding day?)
Sam and I appreciated every moment, from Ellie diving off the yacht to the final strains of Joshua's horn. I only wish more of my favorite movies would make it back to the theatre.
If you haven't seen the movie, you now have no excuse. Get thee to Netflix!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Conversations with My (Former) Roommate
This is true. The walls echo and mock those of us who live alone. I'm certain it will stop once I've finished hanging pictures, buying furniture, and filling my closets with new junk. For now, though, I have to live on the memory-scraps of conversations I had with Stephanie before we split up our apartment last week.
Stephanie packs the kitchen while I do something less useful.
STEPHANIE: Do you want this box of tea?
STEPHANIE: How about this quinoa?
SAM: Throw it out.
STEPHANIE: What about these spices?
SAM: You can keep them. You won't buy any more if I take them away.
STEPHANIE: Yes I would! ...No, I wouldn't.
STEPHANIE: What about these knives?
SAM: Those aren't my knives.
STEPHANIE: Yes, they are.
SAM: I don't think so.
STEPHANIE: I'm putting them in this box.
SAM: But they aren't mine!
SAM: Stephanie. Those aren't my knives.
STEPHANIE: You're taking these knives.
I still maintain those aren't my knives.
Later, Stephanie packs the decorations in the living room while I pass the time.
STEPHANIE: Where do you want me to pack this Russian doll?
SAM: That's not my doll.
STEPHANIE: [sighs] It's not my doll.
SAM: Why would I even have that? It's not mine.
STEPHANIE: But it's not mine.
SAM: Yes, it is.
STEPHANIE: Wait, didn't James bring this back from Russia for you?
SAM:...Well, maybe he did.
STEPHANIE: Maybe he brought you those knives from Russia, too.
SAM: Those aren't my knives.
Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Judy, Julie, and the Inevitable Creep Factor
Recently, I took a long road trip and, in the course of preparing for that road trip, I stumbled upon Librivox. It's a site that offers free downloads of audiobooks in the public domain. I downloaded and burned several books for my trip. One of these books was Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster.
It's probably not a book I would have chosen to read the old-fashioned way. I was only slightly interested in it when I saw it on LibriVox because I'd seen the Fred Astaire movie of the same name and wanted to see how the two compared. The answer is that both book and movie hinge on a somewhat creepy premise (the main character falls in love with her much older benefactor), but the former actually does something a bit more interesting in the mean time.
In the book, Jerusha "Judy" Abbott is an American orphan who is sent to college by an anonymous benefactor and required to send him a monthly letter. With the exception of the first chapter, the book is narrated by Judy in the form of her letters to her Daddy-Long-Legs (the nickname deriving from her solitary imcomplete glimpse of him at the orphanage). As a result, we are given a fascinating slice of the life of a woman's college in the early 1900s (the book was published in 1912). Judy lists her subjects--French, Chemistry, Latin--and the traditions of the college, such as attending chapel and hearing visiting preachers. She is frank as she details her dislike of the orphanage she came from and her shame at being an orphan. Her letters reveal a good deal of spirit, as she rebels against her benefactor when he tries to control her unduly. All in all, Daddy-Long-Legs was a fascinating listen, if for nothing else than Judy's bald declaration that she's a Socialist.
Not that it's surprising, but the Hollywood adaptation of the book in 1955 leaves out most of what was interesting about the book. Judy has become Julie, a French orphan played by Leslie Caron. The awful American orphanage has become a delightful French one with adorably accented moppets singing along to their English lesson. And the focus of the film is not Julie Andre, but Jervis Pendleton, the benefactor and the part played by Fred Astaire. Julie's letters, her personality and voice, are sparingly meted out in the film, for the most part exchanged for colorful 50s-style dance numbers. Her college days (the main focus of the book) are telegraphed in passing scenes in her dorm and one school dance. Whereas Judy was an aspiring writer, we are left to wonder what, if anything, Julie plans to do with her life. In rewatching the film yesterday, I was struck by what was lost in that transition. Not only is the film far from feminist, any incidental critique of capitalism in the United States is excised. America is entirely a land of opportunity for the poor French girl, rather than a place where capitalism is kind to some and cruel to others. Of course, the film is a product of the time it was created--a time when women's rights were retreating under cultural attack while at the same time consumerism was on the rise.
Still, this comparison of book and movie makes me wonder what a more accurate adaptation would look like. Or even, how an adaptation that set the story in our time would play out. It could certainly be no more unfortunately creepy than a 56-year-old Fred Astaire romancing a 24-year-old Leslie Caron:
Sunday, July 05, 2009
There's not much to the Gambier parade. A World War II leads the string of "floats," which include a convertible carrying the Citizen of the Year, a tractor, a clump of motorcycles, a school bus, the ambulance, a horse-drawn carriage (advertising a local pizza place), a gang of teenaged writing campers, another gang of mimes, (yes, mimes!) and all the neighborhood dogs. The people in the parade toss candy in the streets... and there's enough time for them to double back and collect candy from the streets.
Also, apparently, characters like this show up to... read poetry.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
I believe the illustrious Seth Green said, "There are two kinds of people in this world: Michael Jackson fans and losers."
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
David Lynch in His Spare Time, and Mine
It's officially summer and the one thing I most associate with summer is a road trip. So it seems quite appropriate that I've recently become captivated by David Lynch's Interview Project. It's a documentary rooted in movement across the U.S., spaced out in time (episodes are posted every three days) and place (the interviews come from people found along the road and the website includes a map that shows where each person was when they spoke). Right now, to me, it feels like traveling, without the billboards and gas station bathrooms.
However, the project is interesting for several reasons beyond the visceral experience. My first question upon seeing the project, even before the first episode posted, was, "Why is David Lynch doing this?" And with David Lynch framing each interview with a brief introduction, the question becomes "What does it mean that David Lynch is attached to these interviews?" Lynch is, of course, known for his dark and surreal movies and that reputation has me looking for the dark underbelly in this project. So far, Lynch's overt contributions are eerie tones over the beginning and end screens of each interview as well as his overly earnest introductions. From these introductions, it's clear that he did not actually interview these people. He refers to "the team" finding people along the way. So, what does his presence, and that of his company name, ABSURDA (which appears at the end of the episode), do to our perception of each interview?
If David Lynch has us looking for the dark and subversive, then the ABSURDA stamp seems to undermine an otherwise mild editorial tone. The music accompanying each interview evokes a nostalgic Americana, with strains of harmonica and banjo. Each interview is intercut with shots of the road, the surrounding landscape, the still subject. Are Lynch and the team out to sincerely appreciate or are they waiting for each subject to reveal his or her darker side?
So far, there have been a couple of darker sides. The series begins with Jess, a man in his sixties who frankly states that he has many regrets and has not spoken to his children in 25 years. Then there is Tommie Holliday, who is waiting for his girlfriend to get out of jail so that he can move to Montana with her. It is in this interview that the editorial presence makes itself most known. As Tommie relays the sensational details of his girlfriend's crime (which include the use of a machine gun), the interview is intercut with a black screen, then we hear sounds of shots and white bullet holes appear on the screen. Following that, the music becomes ironically light as Tommie describes his dreams to get away from everyone with his girlfriend in Montana.
The mocking tone that closes Tommie's interview seems out of place in the project, as the other five interviews that have been posted at this time contain no such editorial judgements. It will be interesting to see, in the next year, how this project develops and what sort of turns it takes. Will there be more episodes like Tommie's? I hope not. I much prefer the less intrusive editing of the other episodes, where the people and the road are the focus. If you haven't already, you should check this out.