Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What's 'UP!' ?

The Film: UP
The Voice Talent: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, John Ratzenberger, and others.
The Dealio: Carl is the neighborhood grouch: flinty, anti-social and fiercely solo. But, that's now...Before, quite early in the movie, we discover the real scoop on Carl: as a boy, he was the shy, but dying-to-break-free-of -his-shell half of an odd-couple sort of team. His life takes a definite turn for the 'out there' when he encounters his future: soon to be his partner in crime, best friend and the love of his life in a little tomboy named Ellie. In a nearly wordless montage of scenes, the couple's life spools out before our amused, delighted-and, OK, sometimes, pretty tear-soaked-eyes. We watch, co-conspirators, as the pair hatches the greatest most out-of-this world journey conceivable; then we sigh, helplessly, when the world intervenes with obstacles, lessons, losses and sacrifice. Will these two ever get that adventure into which they had poured so much love, attention, and planning? You begin to think, 'No!' Tears threaten again.
When Ellie dies, so does the largest part of Carl's heart. He grieves, but also feels enormous guilt: Ellie, after all, never got to have her grand adventure- and Carl never got to share in her wonder and joy. Years pass, and Carl deliberately closes off his heart and soul, simply withdrawing from anything outside his day-to-day grind. Call it life lived as the anti-adventure. After a gigantic over-reaction, he is ordered by a judge to leave the only happy home he has ever known: his and Ellie's place. Forced into a facility where he can be 'looked after', (argh!) what's a grouchy, ex-thrill-seeker to do? Simple: pull up roots- literally- and head out- at long last- on the jaunt to end all jaunts. Using balloon-power, Carl sets sail in a house full of memories and memorabilia. Plus a certain gung-ho explorer scout/ involuntary hitchhiker named Russell. Yes, there is serious action. Yes, there are creatures weird and wonderful. But mostly, there is dawning recognition of kindred spirits in both Russell and Doug the Dog. And, finally, finally, there is grace, and dreams coming through, and a surprising understanding that there are still enormous possibilities in everyday life for each of us, fictional and non-.
The Grading Session: 6+ stars out of 5. The art is phenomenal, the voice characteristations, neat, intriguing and skillful. And that tremendously moving story. So, fans? Don't forget the hanky.
This is one for the home library.
Lessons Learned: Ad it's a terrific, and terrifically important, one: sometimes, the greatest adventure in the entire world is not actually an action sequence, but, rather, the indescribable joy of living each day, well and truly loved by your very best friend.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Too many issues!

The Film: Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs
The Contributors: Jon Heder, Anna Faris, James Caan...'and a whole bunch of other people'.
The Dealio: Have to warn you: this was one of the premier book over at the HQ of the Corp P+10, lo, these many years ago. At the time, the story seemed pretty straightforward, pretty simple. Now...the film. Wow. What can I say? This film has more issues than Newsweek magazine! As I seem to recall, the story dealt with a kid with great smarts who invented a machine to produce food from the weather. Simple. Uncomplicated. Dare I say it? Fun! Now, the movie. The first 30-40 minutes streak by in a glory of 2 D splendor (yeah, yeah, yeah. I saw it in 2D. Listen, after all this summer has offered, I was 3D'd out! Soooooo-reeeeeee.). Then, all of a sudden, I became aware that something I did NOT recall from the book was creeping in. At first, I was not sure what was happening. Then, all of a sudden, I had it: there were issues: issues about greed, issues about not addressing-or even considering- global warming and the dangers of rampant messin' about with science. Obesity pandemic issues. Issues related on the inability of fathers and sons to communicate. Issues both political and non. Hey! Wait just a filigreed moment, y'all. Who-or what- just hijacked this book? Not good. Even in the theater crowd I was part of (which), I could sense an uneasiness. A desire to escape. Then I had it: the direction of the original story had been supplanted. Now, instead of a story -plain and simple- about someone discovering the really important things that make life worth living, we are delving, face-forward- into a total issue blood bath. Now we need to worry about giant, roasted chickens attacking. Now we have to rely on science to lend a helping hand- where, moments before, it was the same science, in the hands of the greedy, which started the mess in the first place. But, let's not forget, there are other issues here: nerd power, beauty discrimination, age-ism, the destructive power of absolute authority, communication breakdown and bullyism. What began life as a pretty entertaining book with lots of sweetness and fun has transformed (apologies for using that word, TJ!) go into a gigantic preach-a-thon. What's next? Mitchell is Moving as a diatribe against global warming? Pul-eez! Folks, grab the reins! Do it now.
The Grading Session: 3.82 out of 5 stars. Serious point loss for the dilution of the sense of joy and accomplishment in the original. But, suh-WEET use of voice-casting (I'm talkin' about you, Jimmy Caan, getting your bad, ol' Tony Soprano on).
Lessons Learned: It is bad to eat too much. It is bad to pigeonhole someone for the way they look. It is hard for fathers to speak to sons (well....OK, personal evidence makes me a tad unsure about this one). It is not only not true, it is absolutely evil to think that if a little is good, a lot is way better. ' Really. Who knew? Oh. Right. Pretty much everyone. Lastly: even if we don't 'get' what our kids are trying to do, if it gives them joy and doesn't result in the SWAT team permanently camped outside our house...it's all good. This is not a bad film. Only a self-aware, co-opted one.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Weirdness!

The Film: The Informant!
The Participants: Matt Damon and a whole lot of 'B list' actors-including the Smothers Brothers! -who act their butts off, often unrecognisably, but always to excellent effect.
The Dealio: OK, spots fans, (puttin' on my Bahstin accent, however awkwardly), think we all suspected Matt Damon ('Matt Daymin! Matt Daymin!') had a pretty good sense of humor about himself and his career. Fer sher, we knew that he was capable of chameleon-like submersion into his roles...to a point of near seamless personality assumption.
Now, here comes yet another opportunity for Damon to show his ability to change it up. In The Informant!, he effortlessly assumed a role ('based on a true story') that is a near sibling of Stephen in Shattered Glass. An idiot savant who takes on much more than he bargained for, in an effort to cover his own gadumphka, but without accepting any possibility that he might, just possibly, be... what's the phrase I am looking for? Oh, right: guilty as hell.
In nearly 30 lbs of extra avoirdupois and a ridiculous toup, Damon swaggers, self-talks and schmoozes his way through meetings with the Eff-Bee-freakin'-Eye, his superiors (in every way) at ADM, his wife and assorted overseas dignitaries. What? You have a problem with that? OK, how about, instead of coming clean... another of his implausible tales? On and on it goes, and with every game of mental chicken, our 'hero' flies just a taddy bit closer to the sun. Yet no one ever calls him on his line of bull-pucky. And, here we, the audience, sit, absorbing every fabrication, and, somehow, still believing in the man, hoping something, somehow, will break free and allow him to triumph in the end.
The Grading Session: Gotta be 3.98 stars out of 5. Sorry Steven Soderberg, but you needed a better editor. I know you've heard me say this before, but an ace editor can literally transform an OK flick into an Academy Award nom. This film, while engratiating, just outstayed it's welcome by about 15 minutes. I'm just sayin'.
Lessons Learned: Only the strong- and the really sneaky, unencumbered by any sense of honesty or basic social value- can survive a Federal probe. Also- Damon can successfully pull off pretty much any role, from that of a penner of fairy tales, to a drug-addicted soldier to a math wiz to a master thief. Also: who, exactly, says crime doesn't pay...at least for the un-faint-hearted?

The Ties that Chafe, Bind...and Shelter

The Book: The Namesake
The Writer:Jhumpa Lahiri
The Dealio: With my strong preference for stories about dysfunctional families, both fictional and non-, never thought I would find myself recommending one about a family that is hyper-functional. This is the one to break that habit of mine: The Namesake introduces us to a young, extremely well-educated, but cool- perhaps emotionally distant-Ashoke, who brings his new bride, Ashima, to Cambridge, MA where he works as a professor at MIT. In winter. To a postage-stamp of an apartment. And then picks up his life much as before.
The first few chapters flash back and forth between the couple's past to present, to the woman's struggle to figure out how even the basic things work in the US, then on through their lives together. Soon children come along- including the uniquely named Gogol Ganguly, the namesake of the book's title. Through succeeding chapters, we sneak a peek into the lives of each major player, watch as generations struggle first, to adapt, then, later, to grow, to find a place where old world and new meet, clash, then learn to move along side by side, no longer irritated or challenged, but, finally, comforted and supported.
Moments of laugh-out-loud humor and gentle, awkward but genuine romance dance alongside tear-inducing episodes of friction and resistance as each person struggles to understand and enbrace the old, while asserting a separate, newer identity with the new. With the gentle patience of an orchid breeder or a miniatures' crafter, Lahiri demonstrates again and again an understanding of the urgency of both sides of this generational dissonance. The exquisite placement of two very tiny scenes involving Gogol's father's shoes-of all things!- is guaranteed to move you-perhaps even to tears, as two people, separated by more than 20 years, come to realize how important this man is, was, and is going to remain in both their lives. And it takes a gifted writer to produce such delicate treats without any self-awareness or mawkishness. There are so many genuine touches, details and such affection for each of the main characters that, by the end of the story, we truly feel we have met and known these people...or wish that we had.
The Grading Session: 5 stars out of 5. As a bonus, this book became a film- which, wonder of wonders, is absolutely authentic and true to the original story, (Although the family was inexplicably moved from MA to NY in this transition. A tiny thing, really, but...well, why?) I also recommend the movie as one of great, good spirit and touching grace.
Lessons Learned: Sure, the ties of family can chafe, bind and frustrate. But, it is so important to remember that they can also nurture, shelter and support when we need it most.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

If you prefer the real thing

The Film : The September Issue (documentary)
The Actual Divas/Divos: Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington, Sienna Miller, Thakoon, Andre Leon Talley and a whole bunch of fashion-obsessed people whose names I neither know nor care about.
The Dealio: Based on the September 2007 issue of Vogue (arguably, the most 'important' magazine issue of the year, and definitely, the One guaranteed to send postal delivery personnel up into the bell tower strictly for the purpose of picking off innocent passersby. It weighs, by trad, between 7 and 10 lbs, see?), this film takes you behind the velvet curtain for a peek at what really goes into the publication of this issue.
If you saw The Devil Wears Prada, then you already know the set-up. Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep- so, yeah, Anna Wintour needs to hit her knees nightly to thank the film-making power brokers for this bit of flattering casting. I'm just saying) is Anna Wintour. Who sat directly behind Meryl during the premier of TDWP, causing this response, from MS: 'All during the movie, I was praying I wouldn't take a stiletto heel to the back of my neck!' Or words to that effect.
Yes, yes, there is insanity, chaos and wild hyperbole...but this is fashion, you know. Neither as frosty, nor as human, as portrayed by Streep, Wintour is a tiny figure who must, surely, have had some face hoist in her past. Face blank and stiff and whisping in a subdued tone, this woman is always right. If you don't believe me, ask any of the multiple toadies who appear to do 180s on their opinions at such warp-speed, one almost fears some sort of permanent damage to the brain. But, then, OK, it is fashion, so why worry about that?
Enter Grace. Just when you thought Wintour could find no one to inform her that the emperor is actually, well, naked, in walks Grace Coddington. Grace-a highly placed assistant editor, is the person who shepherds everyone through the process of bringing out this mag every month with the humor, cynicism, and total lack lack of kowtowing, you realise that you have located the sole rational center of equilibrium in this fun-house ride. Grace was a model, until an MVA put her out of that biz forever. She is the one who says, 'No. That's just wrong' or 'Reeeeeeeaaaaalllllyyyy? Hmmm. That's crap.' Or, significantly, 'She said that, eh? Well, we'll see about that one!' She simply shines forth from the assemblage of glitterati who are first to catch your eye, and quite steals the show from them all. Yes, Anna, even from you! And, oh, yeah, not to lose sleep over this- the Issue came out on deadline and weighed in respectably. Sorry postal carriers everywhere.
The Grading Session: 4.8 starts out of 5. Point 2 stars off because the music was not consistently special enough for that minim of star-age.
Lessons Learned:Multiple. First of all, who says Miranda (sorry, I meant Anna), is always right? Sometimes, it seems that people with power flex their muscle just because they can. It is vital, then, that there be a Grace Coddington in everyone's life. Here's something interesting: the average number of 'content' pages for Vogue remains a pretty consistent 100-130 pages;the remainder of the 900+ are ads, people! Ads! Next: not nearly the posh array of 'do's', shindigs and fun social events one would think. However, on the other hand, it is vastly helpful to have absolutely no social life whatever if you are in this position. So, I guess it all evens out. Lastly, whatever they are paying Grace...it is not nearly enough.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

(500) Days of Summer

The Film: (500) Days Of Summer
The Participants: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, a quirky soundtrack.
The Dealio: Don't say you weren't warned: the movie begins with the statement 'This is not a love story.' Still, despite the clear warning, one hopes. Told with the swashbuckling insouciance of a Vegas dealer after a shot glass full of adrenalin, the story flips, wildly, between the present, the first meeting, the grinding end, throws you a coupla days in a row, just to settle you down, then hits you with a leap forward, then back into the salad days. In addition, there are split screen scenes ('reality' on one side, 'imagined' on the other), the insertion of a rouncy-bouncy s & d (song and dance. Don't make me have to stop and explain everything) that features choreography, animation and the funniest use of a post-snog ear-to-ear grin evuh. Still, interesting to note that this was billed as a chick flick; Prendie thought it did not have an unauthentic moment to it (as long as we were talking about the relationships). And that soundtrack! How about that for lagniappe?
The Grading Session: Let's see about 4. 37 stars out of 5 here. Two very appealing actors, good music, entertaining, engaging story with just enough quirks to keep you interested, and not so many you want to slap the writers for being so self-impressed.
Lessons Learned: Never assume that both halves of a couple are on exactly the same page. Or even, in the same book. And, also, how heart-breaking is it when someone who has said,basically, 'Not interested in anything permanent', goes off and, in the course of 4 weeks, winds up walking down an aisle dressed to the nines, towards someone not you? Oh, baby. That'll leave a mark.

Monday, September 21, 2009


The Film: 9
The Participants: the voices of Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connolly, and many more
The Dealio: OK, so first, a little rantique (half rant, half critique): am I the only person on the face of the earth who is getting 'over' the word 'dystopia'? I mean, as a word, it's just fine. However, having never heard the word until about 15 years ago, (OK, a bit earlier, re: A Clockwork Orange. That time, it truly fit), I begin to weary of every person involved in a film which is lacking in originality, but was filmed entirely with a smudged, dirty lens, in grey, black, brown or smog-navy, giving themselves a free pass from doing any heavy lifting on the creativity end of things by smacking on the 'd word' label. As if that excuses anything (Gamer, I am staring right at you!).
Whew. Feeling much better, I am moved to continue with the film '9'. Yep, billed as 'an insightful view into a dystopian society'. Pu-leez! Briefly, the story takes us PH (post humans) on an Earth that is grey, black, brown and, also, lest we forget, smog-navy. The sole 'survivors' are a ragtag set on 9 burlap creatures having been gussied up with the tools that seem to presage their personalities and/or assignments in this new world. The old world ended when machines outsmarted their human creators, and we can see that this is a bad thing, because the quasi-human burlap thingies are the sole possessors of the remaining remnants of human emotions: bravery, kindnesses, caring, loyalty, etc. First- the art direction is sumptuous, clever and entertaining in a way that bumps right up against scary (again, this was a PG-13 film with many, many little ones under the age of 5 in attendance. But you must have read my previous rantique, no?). The story is neither particularly inventive nor revelatory, and is undeserving of the beautiful renderings of both machines and burlappies. I found myself checking my watch more and more as the movie progressed on little cats' feet. There, that's not so good, is it?
The Grading Session: 3.25 stars out of 5. Mostly for the art of the thing.
Lessons Learned: Be cautious when a film is described as being 'dystopian in theme and nature', even if the contributors are some extremely talented individuals.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

a rantique

This is along the lines of a bit of a rant. I can't help it! Every time I find myself in a movie that is animated...or, even worse, not, I am at a loss to understand how parents can bring their 2-4 year olds into a PG-13 movie. I know, I know: it is up to the parent to monitor such things, but Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince or Coraline, (crap! that one gave me nightmares!), are hardly the stuff upon which to sharpen the kiddies' film-watching teeth. This comes from a parent who willfully took her sons to see Henry V when they were 3 and 5 years old. But, in the case of a movie where a child is audible crying out to his dad, 'Daddy! Please, what is that woman doing to all those kids' eyes!?' I really do think a taddy bit of research beforehand would have been prudent...and should have been compulsory. If I sound like the censorship mafia, I do apologise. But, consider this: if you have children with great imaginations- and, having one my own self, I can surely recognise it in others of whatever age- isn't it part of your job to make sure, as much as you can, that these little ones have the opportunity to grow into their imaginations before they have to confront some pretty dire situations, and attempt to figure these things out in their own, not-yet-ready-for-prime-time-minds? I realise that I may be holding an unfair and unpopular minority stand on such things. So, let me know what you think, whether you agree with me or not.
Let the pelting with rocks and garbage begin.

Tiny but mighty

The Book: 84 Charing Cross Road
The Writer: Helene Hanff
The Dealio: Say you are a dedicated letter writer. Or maybe you just like getting letters. Or, even that you view hand-written correspondence with the intellectual curiosity of a true science, spotting the Rosetta Stone (not sure what it is, but...intrigued). Well, then 84 Charing Cross Road is just the ticket for you. This tiny (112 pages) book starts out slowly, subtly enough: a NY actress with a passion for the written word, spies an ad in a magazine for 'gently used books for sale' via mail-order. In the grip of nostalgia for those days, long gone, of 'sending away' for things, I moved quickly through the early days of the relationship between Helene and the mysterious 'FPD' of Marks and Co in London. Helene casts wide her net of requests; he, silently, courteously and efficiently (for the most part), responds by locating, then wrapping and sending the books of her dreams. Usually. She is bold, dashing and slashing with powerful word and pen. He is shy, unassuming and scholarly, taking his task- over the course of 20 + years- of tracking down and supplying the varied written, bound words as faithfully and obsessively as a code-breaker on the trail of the elusive Enigma. Through their correspondence, we learn, not only about books and authors, but about the world post World War II, issues of the day, personal highs and lows, and, most importantly, about humor and the many faces of kindness and caring, of becoming involved and getting exercised over the everyday trials and triumphs of people who will probably never meet. But...so what if we don't ever meet the person on the other end of the paper trail? The delight is in the evolving nature of a very unique friendship. That, yeah, plus the joys of writing-and receiving- an actual letter we can take out, read, relive and take comfort from (which).
The Grading Session: 5+ stars out of 5 (there is a sequel 'The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, if you want to know what happened next). The plus is for the fact that this is non-fiction, and tells an engrossing tale in such a economic expenditure of pages. A lovely movie was made from this book in 2002, starring Ann Bancroft as Helene and Antony Hopkins as Frank Doel. Indulge, please. Then, discuss among yourselves. I'll wait.
Lessons Learned: While it is gratifying to get e mails from those we long to hear from, there is a certain clandestine thrill about marching back from the letter box with an actual communique in your hands. And, as a compulsive re-reader, I never under-estimate the pleasure of a return visit to the same. I no longer am the letter writer I once was (and do confess to feeling like the last, surviving practitioner of that lost art), I am resolved to get back into the wonderful, and personal art of creative correspondence.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

From The Dysfunctional Families Files

The Book: Three Little Words
The Writer: Ashley Rhodes-Corder
The Dealio: (NOTE: This is from the audio book). This non-fiction account is one of those rare books read by the author, in which that fact actually adds to the ambiance and enjoyment of the experience. Hello, John LeCarre and Madeline L'Engle. Are you listening?!The reader is immediately plunged into the thick of things, as 2 year old Ashley, under the care (ha!) of her teenage mom and mom's twin sister, relates a typical day at the trailer where all the cool kids hang out, but Ashley is more in the nature of a mascot, and has been on self-care for some time now. Precocious and tough-thank God, because she will have to be- Ashley plays a pivotal, but recurring, role in getting her mom and her mom's boyfriend, out of scrapes with the law. ('If we are pulled over, get really noisy and whiny. Really act up' she is told over and over again). Naturally, it is not long before there are more traffic stops, and more babies, and finally forced separation from her mother by the state. Thus begins Ashley's transformation from 'ordinary kid' to property of the foster systems of several states. Throughout the many separations, and reunions (usually under the watchful eyes of social workers and lawyers, sometimes with her mother in handcuffs, sometimes while she is high or paranoid), always ending on the same note: "Don't you ever call anyone but me 'Momma'. I am the one who loves you best. And I will come and get you. Soon.'Corder tells her story with a matter-of-factness which is at once disarming and alarming. The things that children will learn to tolerate is truly terrifying. Her half brother is sometimes in the same foster home, sometimes not; he has not learned the knack of just fitting in, of gliding below the radar. But Ashley knows, almost too well. She has worked out a system, honed by heartbreak, broken promises and cruelty, for turning herself into the perfect chameleon. What is most engaging. to me about this story is the total lack of sugar-coating Ashley gives to her observations of her own behavior and reactions. In a cruel, challenging and illogical world, fraught with violence and short on happy endings, she is a true survivor, and her story is a standout.
The Grading Session: 4.999 stars out of 5. I felt compelled to shave a widget off, only because the stories involving her crises with 'the wicked witch' and the detailed retelling of this or that birthday celebrations went on just a skosh too long.
Lessons Learned: Truth absolutely is stranger than fiction. But so much more rewarding when justice is served, piping hot. NOTE: you can do an Internet search of Ashley Rhodes-Corder and see actual pictures of her and the major players in the story. And, remember, as you are reading this, the writer was less than 24 years old when she wrote it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

now this is the way it was supposed to be

The Film: Inglourious Basterds

The Peeps: Christoph Waltz, Diane Kreuger, other unknown, excellent actors and, oh, yeah, this Brad Pitt guy, cast against type.

The Dealio: Set in the midyears of WWII, QT messes with history and -a bit- with your mind, in a simple boy-meets-girl tale. Except that the girl is a chameleon with a taste for fire and irony, the boy is a nationally known, and feared, Nazi officer whose job it is to hunt down and obliterate Jewish families who have successfully gone underground and out of range for the usual methods of elimination. Add in the usual Tarentino touches: 40's featurette style fonts and spotlights, eccentric, but totally workable musical selections, violence of high and exotic varieties, and a bit of historical fact-bending. Hey, it's his story, not history, folks. If this is something that sounds really repulsive to you, you are clearly not a fan. Go see GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra. However, if you have been waiting with truculence and barely concealed impatience for this thing to hit the screen, you have probably already seen this one. The smooth performances and barely-hidden glee of righting (writing?) an historical wrong, and finally bringing justice to bear, was very appealing to me. And, of course, the ever-present tongue-in-cheek attitude towards even the tiniest nuance of the tale was rivetting to witness. Question for Q: Is it actually possible that Landa (Waltz, as the aforementioned Nazi officer) was present at more places in Europe than the entire Easy Company (Just asking as a die hard fan of BOB)? Man, that guy's like the energiser bunny. But don't worry too much about what happens to him....

The Grading Session: 4.9 stars out of 5. Gonna knock 0.1 of a smidgen off for the length of the film, which I felt was unnecessary, but only because the 'card game' went on far too long. For Quentin fans, this is the banquet at the end of a very long, hard fast. Wherever will his subversive little mind prowl next?

Lessons Learned: Never underestimate the power of really motivated, inventive people bent on revenge. Oh, wait, this too: sometimes, taking off the uniform does not provide one with a free pass from the past one thought it would. Word.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Gerbils, the USN and the '60's and '70's...what's not to like

The Book: The Gerbil Farmer's Daughter
The Writer: Holly Robinson
The Pitch: Yes, she means gerbils in the literal sense. Through much of the book, this very unusual family moves from place to place as the dad- an active duty Navy officer- guides his family through a series of byzantine protocols for dealing with the naybs. Numero uno in his credo is: do not, under any circumstances, even hint at what he does for a living (I'd think the occasional show of uniforms would sort of give this away, but, maybe their neighbors were less well informed or less interested than 9/10th of America). What really is interesting about the family is what the aitch is going on in their garage(s). Hint: see the title. No mere dabbler in the subject of gerbils, DG Robinson becomes the world's foremost authority (save one) on gerbils, going on to create a series of articles on same and to set about monopolising the global gerbil-supply business. Against that setting play the highs and lows of frequent departures, of orders requiring turn-on-a-dime moves (including one to an abandoned ranch the Robinsons thought the locals called the 'Popper House'. Nope: it was called the Pauper House- but with a Downeast accent.), a sarcastic, brainy and prickly mom, Holly's adventurous, daring spirit, a dad never at a loss for the next strange plan to ensure prosperity, and a tragedy that puts some weight behind the odd 'hobby' DG has. Factor in the pains and pangs of always being the new kid...with the added bitter pill of having a notably 'weird' family (whom you view as perfectly average. Doesn't everyone's dad hide 20,000 gerbils in a series of sheds? And count toilet-paper sheets? And instruct the family that everything he does is to be considered eyes only, top secret?). Welcome to life at the Robinsons.
The Grading Session: 3.75 stars out of 5; photos included, cuz I know you are going to want to see what the real-life folks looked like.
Lessons Learned: Into each family a little weird must fall. The secret is to use all of that 'uniqueness' to shape your own, individual identity, future...and, maybe, to write a book...or a screenplay (right, Nicky P.?)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dis N Data

This is in the nature of a 'clean-up' post, and refers to one film I have already dealt with (which) and one which I have not even mentioned here before.
First things first:
I am writing in reaction to a review I saw on TV (At The Movies, but several others have raised the same issue).
The Film: Julie and Julia
The Dealio: Read the book, saw the film. Loved the film far more than the book. But, here's an interesting thing- to me, anyway- everyone is praising Meryl Streep (who is definitely praiseworthy) and lambasting Amy Adams. The descriptors I hear most often are 'whiny' and 'dramatic' and 'self-centred'. OK, folks, one more time: this is an actor, portraying a real person. Secondly, I have dipped my toes (not literally, don't worry about sanitary issues) into Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and I am here to tell you, I have felt the urge to be whiny and self centred and dramatic. These are enormously demanding and intricately choreographed undertakings, dear ones. At the end of the evening, I have been tempted to curl up in a ball on the kitchen floor and just have myself a nice, old-fashioned sob fest. So, let's give Amy a break here, OK? Besides, who could possibly compare to the incredible Streep playing the universally revered Julia C.?
OK on to the second piece of this post.
Went to see Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince with my sister, Barb. It was in 3 D and IMAX. HA! It cost us $10/per- although we used her golden tickets, that was the 'up sale' for ticket-users of that show. Then we were asked to purchase 3 D specs for $4- each. Aaaaaand, that's OK with me, as long as we would have the opportunity to actually use them for more than the opening 3.20 minute segment. I truly felt ripped off, especially as, in this particular film, there were so many opportunities to use the technology. But, nooooo. So, who exactly am I ticked off with(which)? Well, I guess it's a mixed bag, here. But, I am going to come down hard on the side of the theatres which are showing the film. I think it is unmitigated gall to call something IMAX 3 D, charge you extra for same, and then give you such a tiny piece of what might be called either 3 D or IMAX (I truly did not get that IMAX experience, either, so, maybe the theatre was not exactly set up for this?).
Whew. I am so glad to get these off my chest.
And don't worry, this is-hopefully- an aberration. Will return next time with some words on actual books and films. Until then, 'OK, people! Make it work!'