Archive for June, 2008

A few of my favorite things (The Bravery, a discussion meandering into Molly Bloom and the bible)

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

One of the bands I’ve been on a kick for lately is The Bravery. I’d not heard of them until someone recommended Believe.

The first video I saw as I was poking around for more was Honest Mistake.

In the first 3 seconds with the belt buckle, black and white footage and synth, I was suddenly tense, alert for more. I felt I *knew* this band, though I was sure I’d not heard this song ever before. At around 8 seconds, seeing the guitar player w/ the heavy-handed eye-shadow, I started thinking excitedly “oh, no way!” and recalling various Brit bands of the 80s. The dominoes are a nice touch but it was at the start of the vocals, the first view of the singer at around 38 secs that I was thinking “yes! Yes!” like the last page of Ulysses* or Madeline Kahn in History of the World.

Next up was Fearless. I don’t want to ruin the surprise of the video, but my reaction was more laughter and thinking “ha, yes! awesome!”

It occurs to me this is a little like the cooler, rougher, tougher, less garish, 00 version of the waves/boat bits of Rio (or perhaps the singer just reminds me of a young, skinnier, more soulful Simon Le Bon?)

No Brakes actually has some color (granted it’s mostly blue)

Their music makes me think of The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, early U2 (when they were still young and passionately eager), Social Distortion, INXS and from the 00s, The Killers but it’s all its own (like how Fearless can remind me of Rio and yet be its own, rough-edged and cool). They are familiar and new (they’re not even, surprisingly perhaps, British, they’re from NYC) — like taking the best of many 80s bands, blending it, distilling it and making it something singular and fresh.

As part of my long ongoing “Poor Impulse Control Theater” I bought all of their stuff that I could find and am still enjoying it. (Also recommended lately (recommended to me and by me now) btw is Mates of State Now (though I find the video slightly creepy) and the sweet and soft Chinese Translation by M. Ward.)

* Mind you, this is probably the only bit of the book I understand (though see Stephen Fry, the first comment, on A Cheats Guide to Ulysses), but it’s a bit I understand completely, ‘yes’ as the word of female desire.

“…I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. – James Joyce, Ulysses

The Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy reminds me a bit of the woman’s voice, ‘beloved’ in Song of Solomon

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth,
for your love is better than wine… I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys… I sat down under his shadow with great delight, his fruit was sweet to my taste… His left hand is under my head. His right hand embraces me.,,,I am a wall, and my breasts like towers, then I was in his eyes like one who found peace.- Song of Solomon

It occurs to me as I read them both again that Fearless is to Rio, as Molly Bloom is to Song of Solomon: rougher, distilled, new and familiar, each perfectly it’s own thing.

Things I saw the other day (crowds of smoke)

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

The other day Max found some gorgeous images of long-exposure shots of crowds in St. Petersburg, Russia by Alexey Titarenko.

They’re gorgeous and eerie, like mobs of people turned into clouds of smoke.

It reminds me slightly of mood of the Russian series: Night Watch and Day Watch.

Time Traveler’s Wife, Eric Bana

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Dean mentioned the other day that they’re making a movie of The Time Traveler’s Wife, a wonderful book. It is a moving love story (moving, as one can gather from the title, in time as well as emotion). It is both complex and achingly simple. I was bracing myself to be disappointed when I followed the link to read about the movie. I was shocked, ecstatic, when I saw they’d cast Eric Bana. I thought: “They got it right, for once, absolutely, perfectly, right!”

Eric Bana is one of my favorite actors. He is very masculine yet exudes vulnerability. He is complex yet never pretentious and even when playing violent characters, (as he often seems to do), can project an amazing gentleness. He is always completely believable and more just than being believable, he adds something indescribable, something compelling and he is so subtly arresting that he can seem like the most real thing in the movie, as though other parts fade slightly into the background. It’s hard to take your eyes off him.

The first time I saw him was in the Australian movie Chopper about a notorious criminal, Chopper Read. I remember being floored by his performance.

The killer who feels no remorse is a movie cliché, but Chopper is about a killer whose remorse is as strong as his initial desire to wound, a much more interesting basis for a drama. Every time he hurts someone in the movie, he becomes immediately regretful and worried about their safety. ‘You alright Keith?’ he asks Keithy George (David Field) after stabbing him nine times in the face in H Division, the most notorious wing of Pentridge Prison….

– “Chopper” from Australian Screen

A scene from the movie which still echos with me is in a prison room where Chopper’s friend Jimmy stabs him several times. The look on Bana’s face and his tone when he asks: “What are you doing, mate?” in a genuinely surprised, bemused, even caring way, amazed me.

In another scene, he’s out of prison and with his hooker girlfriend; she is talking about her clients and he plaintively asks her something like: “but I’m the only one you kiss, right?”. Then there’s a scene later when he beats her and yells at her after: “Now look what you’ve done! Your Mum’s upset!” with something like anguish. The crashing together of horrifying acts and a such a likable character is what makes the movie so disorienting and so amazing. I liked this character, it’s hard not to, but I had a hard time reconciling this continued desire to like him as he did such awful things. I think the scene of him hitting his girlfriend (you don’t actually see the blows connect, which in some ways makes it worse, as your mind fills in the action) was the first time in a movie that I’d gotten a glimpse behind the dark part of love mixed with anger and felt the merest twinge of sympathy for the pain which drives the aggressor. It wasn’t a glimpse I wanted to have and my reaction confused and upset me. It’s rare enough to be moved at all by films, let alone be moved to an understanding, to a place I hadn’t wished to see. Bana is a much more likable and sympathetic person than the real Chopper, I’m sure — he was the one who was so likable and he wasn’t really hitting the girl, but I had to consciously think like this, distinguishing the actor from the character. My thought after seeing this movie and the feelings it inspired was that he was an almost dangerously good actor.

The next movie I saw him in was Black Hawk Down. Though this is a big-budget war movie, I felt an unexpected level of empathy for the characters and, as when I watched the movie Master and Commander, I felt I got a brief glimpse into the world of men in war, grasped some of the fortitude it must take to not just to run at people who are shooting at you, but what must be the constant stress and pressure of living up to some notion of honor or masculinity or even just getting through the situation. Probably because my personality type is so exactly opposite this physical, militaristic, masculine type, I find it fascinating, if intensely foreign, to watch it in such a well done movie (with, however, no little gratitude in the end for being as abstract, introspective and female as I am). Bana has a small role but he stands out and shows his amazing skill with accents.

I thought he was one of the most watchable parts of the roundly awful (though wonderfully fun) Troy and I loved his performance in the Hulk.

I think Ang Lee’s Hulk is very under-appreciated and Bana’s performance is the saving grace of the movie for me.

There is something powerful and moving in watching a gentle, thoughtful man who has previously relied on a fierce suppression of emotion, wrestle with childhood demons and hurts, wrestle with his own rage and strength. Bruce says to Betty: “Even now I can feel it, buried somewhere deep inside, watching me, waiting… But you know what scares me the most? When I can’t fight it anymore, when it takes over, when I totally lose control… I like it. ”

One aspect I haven’t seen addressed in the reviews I’ve read is the issue of adoption as part of what makes Bruce the way he is. In the beginning, Bruce doesn’t know where he came from, doesn’t know who is he is; he is deeply different and he uses a supression of emotion as defense against the world, against others, against what lurks underneath in his genes and in his mind.

I think too that there’s a message in the movie about love, about acceptance and understanding; that in some ways, rage is a less powerful force and that it is love that saves. The relationship between Betty and Bruce is important though not very deeply explored. It it she to whom he tries to express himself; it is her presence, wanting to be near her, which allows him to transform from monster to man.

Though I know it is based on a comic-book I was frustrated at the comic-book rules of the movie like that in the end he must leave the woman he loves and isolate himself in a jungle where his remaining strength is not understanding but anger (like how Spider Man leaves Mary Jane at the end of Spider Man 1 and how Batman can have a girlfriend but not a long-term relationship). I would happily cut out almost all parts with Nick Nolte or the CGI monster, too. In fact, now I’m imagining a movie where the green bits happen ‘off stage’ and we see only the man and what moves him. It would be more subtle but, to me at least, more interesting (though I suppose that movie would have to be called “The Bruce!”). The movie is a let-down in many ways but I think that Lee explored things in a very interesting and deeper, if flawed way, and that Bana managed to make a three-dimensional character in a two-dimensional story.

The last movie I saw him in was Munich. The movie opens with the taking and killing of Israeli hostages at the Olympic Games of 1972 and it traces the aftermath and retaliation by a small, undercover group of Israelis, led by Bana’s character Avner.

Again, I found Bana’s performance absolutely mesmerizing. It’s like the other actors almost recede to the background in his presence somehow. It took me forever to recognize Mathieu Kassovitz as Nino from Amelie and Daniel Craig, who I thought was pitch-perfect: masculine, suave and controlled as James Bond, hardly registered. Ciarán Hinds stood out in a wonderful performance as Carl the “cleaner” but Bana was the heart of the movie.

This movie might be one of the most haunting performances of his that I’ve seen. These men do not start out as cold, professional killers. Avner is a loving husband and father and his joy in and longing for the family he must spend so much time away from is affecting. As the story progresses and the assassinations become further and further removed from the sense of rightness, or righteousness they started with, the men begin to question what they’re doing, what matters and to lose themselves. You can see Avner disintegrating from the inside, the wear on his face, in his eyes. It becomes agonizing to watch and the final scenes, when he comes back to his wife and his family damaged and obsessed, are painful and sad.

I’m looking forward to seeing him, one of my favorite actors, as Henry DeTamble, one of my favorite literary characters.

Henry: How does it feel? How does it feel?

Sometimes it feels as though your attention has wandered for just an instant. Then, with a start, you realize that the book you were holding, the red plaid cotton shirt with white buttons, the favorite black jeans and the maroon socks with an almost-hole in one heel, the living room, the about-to-whistle tea kettle in the kitchen: all of these have vanished. You are standing, naked as a jaybird, up to your ankles in ice water in a ditch along an unidentified rural route. You wait a minute to see if maybe you will just snap right back to your book, your apartment, et cetera. After about five minutes of swearing and shivering and hoping to hell you can just disappear, you start walking in any direction, which will eventually yield a farmhouse, where you have the option of stealing or explaining. Stealing will sometimes land you in jail, but explaining is more tedious and time consuming and involves lying anyway, and also sometimes results in being hauled off to jail, so what the hell….

How does it feel?

It feels exactly like one of those dreams in which you suddenly realize that you have to take a test you haven’t studied for and you aren’t wearing any clothes. And you’ve left your wallet at home…

Is there a logic, a rule to all this coming and going, all this dislocation? Is there a way to stay put, to embrace the present with every cell? I don’t know. There are clues; as with any disease there are patterns, possibilities. Exhaustion, loud noises, stress, standing up suddenly, flashing light — any of these can trigger an episode. But: I can be reading the Sunday Times, coffee in hand and Clare dozing beside me on our bed and suddenly I’m in 1976 watching my thirteen-year-old self mow my grandparents’ lawn. Some of these episodes last only moments; it’s like listening to a car radio that’s having trouble holding on to a station. I find myself in crowds, audiences, mobs. Just as often I am alone, in a field, house, car, on a beach, in a grammar school in the middle of the night…

It’s ironic, really. All my pleasures are homey ones: armchair splendor, the sedate excitements of domesticity. All I ask for are humble delights. A mystery novel in bed, the smell of Clare’s long red-gold hair damp from washing, a postcard from a friend on vacation, cream dispersing into coffee, the softness of the skin under Clare’s breasts, the symmetry of grocery bags sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be unpacked. I love meandering through the stacks at the library after the patrons have gone home, lightly touching the spines of the books. These are the things that can pierce me with longing when I am displaced from them by Time’s whim…

I hate to be where she is not, when she is not. And yet, I am always going, and she cannot follow.

– Audrey Niffenegger
The Time Traveler’s Wife

Things I saw yesterday (White Stripes – Friends)

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

This song makes me happy.

*Awesome* things I saw today (Muse – Knights of cydonia )

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Dean had recommended this Muse song yesterday. I like Muse and have described them as having loads of exclamation marks in their music — they have kind of an epic, modern-opera feel. I’ve liked other videos by them. On a lark I went to find a video for Knights to Twitter that I liked the song and was absolutely blown away.

Simply put, this video is *awesome*!! It’s got space- age karate cowboys! I didn’t even know that this is what I wanted and needed in life but it clearly is and then they went and threw in robots and a unicorn! Just when I thought it couldn’t get more awesome, it did!

I showed Dean the video and he too liked it. He said the only thing that was missing was a vampire. Enjoy!

P.S. At around 3:13, the space-cowboy (Maurice?) picks something out of a box on the bed and I can’t tell for the life of me, what it is. Any ideas?

and the nominee is….

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

The headline from The Huffington Post right now is “Tonight’s the Night” with the above picture.

FWIW, if you’re interested in more info, Al Giordano’s The Field – (Update: The Field has moved as of 6/13/08) is the best political blog I’ve found this primary season. Kudos as well to the delightful love of demonstrable fact and analysis at The Jed Report . And in the realm of corporate media, I’m quite keen on the mild-seeming yet sharply insightful Chuck Todd at MSNBC and his dry responses and numbers-crunching.