Wednesday, June 27, 2007

chicken, egg, &c.

I had to have been in middle school when my dad first told me about the classic Mel Brooks comedy The Producers (1968). We rented it and watched it together, and ever since then, it has been one of my favorite movies of all time. Who can forget the first time they entertained the concept of springtime for Hitler? My dad had to explain to me some of the cultural cues of the late '60s that I was missing for all of the humor to stick, but otherwise, I had a blast. By high school, all of my close friends had seen it too, and we used to get a kick out of breaking pregnant silences with a hearty singalong of, "Germany was having trouble, what a sad sad story..."

In 2001, when we heard that Mel Brooks was adapting his movie into a stage musical, I was mostly excited. Though to be honest, I wasn't sure why the entirety of The Producers had to be turned into a musical, when the songs in Springtime for Hitler stand on their own. I ended up seeing the musical version when it came to the Pantages in Hollywood starring Jason Alexander and Martin Short. It was funny and entertaining, sure. But I was pretty underwhelmed, I guess. Then, in 2005, I made the unfortunate decision to watch the movie adaptation of the stage musical adaptation of the original movie, starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick who brought Zero Mostel's and Gene Wilder's roles to the stage in the first place. Oy. I understand that Mel Brooks was making mad dolla off of this morphing franchise, but really - a lot of the magic of the dialogue and the original genius actors was lost with the pointless new songs.

Now, hairstory (oh, I know I slay you) is repeating itself. In 2002, someone got the bright idea to turn John Waters' 1988 film Hairspray into a Broadway musical. About this, I can't say much. I have never seen the musical nor listened to the soundtrack, but I do know that it has been very well-received by audiences. I would tend to think that the source material is much more appropriate for the stage than The Producers was, because of Waters' fine skill with camp. Also, the whole thing is about music and dancing, not just a few scenes. Now, Adam Shankman, who brought us such comedy hits as A Walk to Remember and The Pacifier, as well as such artful masterpieces as Bringing Down the House and Cheaper by the Dozen 2, will be at the helm of the movie adaptation of the stage adaptation of the original.*

For some reason, I have a lot more confidence that the new version of Hairspray will be a lot better than the new version of The Producers even though I have not seen the musical, and it involves the most hideous looking version of John Travolta this side of treating his son's medical conditions by giving him a stress test. Certainly, I will miss Divine, Ricki Lake, and Jerry Stiller, but I think that at least Travolta and Queen Latifah have proven their experience in musicals, Christopher Walken is a great dancer (see bottom of post, beneath trailer, for proof), and Shankman is a dancer/choreographer. I'm curious if the original film's racial issues have been altered in any way for the new movie, though I would be surprised if they were, considering that even in '88 it was a period piece. But they changed the character of LSD from a hippie to a homosexual in The Producers, so you never know.

I'd be interested to know if any of my readers have seen the Hairspray musical, or can give any other insight, as I know very little about the details. Any thoughts on whether or not Hollywood may want to adapt Pink Flamingos for a younger audience?

(Spike Jonze is the shit.)

*Really, I can't hate on Shankman for directing really cheezy movies like Cheaper by the Dozen 2. Hell, The Pacifier was even kind of fun (maybe because I watched it with Czech subtitles in an empty theater in Prague, wondering what I was doing with my life?). As an aspiring screenwriter, I know that the key to success is most likely selling out as early as possible. How many times have I said, "If making it big means I have to crap out a few Scary Movie 8s starring DMX and Steven Seagal, then so be it." I'm personally hoping that Shankman's dance experience will shine, as I would love to see movie musicals really have a strong presence for modern audiences.

Monday, June 25, 2007

hot mess

Okay, so I'm no tabloid writer. I adore tabloids, and would love nothing more than to waste my life away reading about people who don't matter in my personal life, and all the trouble they get themselves into. So I must confess that Paris Hilton has been on my mind quite a bit these past few days. So, she's leaving jail soon - can't wait for the interviews and ghostwritten book. Then, of course, there's darling LL, who - let's face it - is every little girl's dream. I mean, before she got coke-bloat and started looking like an old Judy Garland. As far as Britney's concerned, I would just like to go on record as having always believed Xtina was going to come out ahead in that race.

So, those are our main American trashy starlets (sorry M-K and Ash, you've been boring me for a little while; Nicole, you better confirm that pregnancy or go to jail or something to shake things up; and Mischa, you're English anyway, right?), and my extremely abridged thoughts about them. I mean, I could go oooon, but I won't. Then there's the faves from across the pond, talented hot messes Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse. I've been listening to a lot of Winehouse lately, and I saw Lily Allen in concert a little while ago, so you can tell that I am a fan of both. I mean, Lily Allen drank jager onstage and chain-smoked and forgot her lyrics and all that. And Amy...homegirl is missing a tooth. And all that ruckus with Blake Fielder-Civil - outstanding. For shame, Pete Doherty and Kate Moss!

I'm not exactly sure what compelled me to write about these crazy cats, except I feel like if I'm going to write a blog about pop culture, I can't ignore the tabloids, which I spend a decent chunk of my day reading anyway. I don't intend to write about them frequently, I kind of just wanted to put my thoughts out there. But as much as I love Tara Reid's unfortunate areloae and Britney Spears' horrific extensions, I would also like to go on record and say that I wouldn't be able to enjoy their antics if it weren't for the beautiful young Hollywood actresses who make it worthwhile. I mean, if they were all trashy, I would just feel bad. Like a 24/7 exposure to Maury Povich show guests if they were all filthy rich. But knowing that there also exist level-headed beauties makes it all go down a lot easier. So here's to my real favorites...

what? why? huhhh?

For months and months, everyone has been telling me how much I need to see Oldboy. I was all set to add it to my Netflix queue, when I realized that director Chan-wook Park had created a sort of stylistic trilogy in 2005, and I wanted to watch them in order. I'm very picky about watching movies or reading books in order if I can, so I waited and waited to watch Oldboy until I had time to watch the first film, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. In fact, I still haven't seen Oldboy, though it is coming next on my queue. Last night I settled in to watch Sympathy, which I was expecting to be a suspenseful gore-fest. What I got was...something else.

I've seen some weird movies, both domestic and foreign. I've seen crazy game shows and other random snippets of things on TV that have thrown me for a loop. And that's not even talking about the internet. Online, there is a whole world of strange that a single person can only scratch the surface of. When I was finished watching Sympathy last night, I turned to my friend Evan and said something which most adequately describes what we had just experienced. "I've seen a video of a Japanese girl in a pleather kitten costume fellating a severed octopus tentacle, and that made more narrative sense than this movie."


The beginning of Sympathy is promising. The plot and character motivations are set up, and bad things start to happen that cause that perfect sense of suspenseful unease that a viewer is supposed to feel at the beginning of a horror movie, before all the really bad things happen. Our protagonist (?), Ryu, is a deaf-mute factory worker whose sister is in desperate need of a kidney transplant. Since he is the wrong blood type, they are waiting for an organ to become available from a suitable donor. Increasingly panicked that this isn't going to happen, Ryu contacts a black market organ tradeswoman, who says she will find him a kidney in return for one of his own, and 10 million Won. He wakes up naked in an abandoned building, missing a kidney and without any of the money he had saved up. The junkie "surgeon" has escaped the deal and will not be providing a kidney for his sister. A few weeks later, their real doctor informs them that there is finally a match off the donor list. "You still have that 10 million Won saved up, right?"

Ryu's girlfriend Yeong-mi, some sort of political activist (frankly, I never understood her manifesto), encourages him to kidnap Yu-sun, the daughter of Park, who is the president of the company who had fired him for missing too many days at work after his dirty kidney surgery, and use the ransom money to pay for Ryu's sister's surgery. Since they are not bad people, they kidnap her, but they treat her very well, and tell her that they are friends of her father's who are babysitting for a while. This is also the story that Ryu and his girlfriend tell to his sister. For some time they all live together quite happily, waiting for the ransom to go through. While Ryu and Yeong-mi are out getting the briefcase full of money from Park, Ryu's sister finds out that Yu-sun is not a friend's daughter, but a kidnapping victim. (Sidenote: Bo-bae Han, who plays Yu-sun, is possibly the cutest little girl ever. All little kids should wear big glasses to remind me of myself as a little girl!) Distraught, and worried that she is too much of a burden to her brother because of her illness, Ryu's sister kills herself. Whoops. Ryu takes her body to the lake where they played as children, because that is where she wanted to be buried. Of course, he can't leave Yu-sun alone, so she has to come along. Poor thing. Of course, she drowns.

This is when things start getting weeeeeird. I can't even really describe the rest of the movie. The cops get involved. There's a mentally retarded guy who comes out of nowhere and just changes everything up. There's a totally random sex scene, a couple of murderous rampages, and at least two autopsies which Park is a witness to for NO reason whatsoever. Honestly, I have no idea what the message of this movie was supposed to be. Evan was able to gleam some sort of communist sentiment from it, based off of the apparent victory of Yeong-mi's terrorist group above all the other characters, but that was a bit of a stretch.

Really, I don't even know what to say. It was an experience. Some of the scenes were certainly visually appealing, and I am still quite looking forward to Oldboy. But Sympathy wasn't even that gory or frightening. It was just totally confusing. After watching it, Evan and I tried to come up with a list of movies we'd seen that were worse, and when movies like Battlefield Earth and Must Love Dogs are out there, it really throws off the whole curve. More to come when I get to see Oldboy and Lady Vengeance next.

*the movie ends*
Kat: Um...
Evan: For real?
Kat: F'real?
Evan: Fuh reeeal?
Kat: 4Real?
Evan: Was this worse than Serendipity?

Monday, June 18, 2007

falling slowly

This weekend I went to the Laemmle 7 in Pasadena, where I have made so many movie memories that it's difficult to quantify. On Saturday at the matinee, I made another. My dad and I went to see Once, a small Irish film about love, music, and their inextricable link. It's difficult to describe Once because it is one of the least plot-driven movies I've ever seen. I keep seeing it described as the reinvented movie musical, but for some reason it doesn't come across that way to me. Musicals convey story and action in their songs, where the music in Once conveys emotion and character. There's more backstory than there is plot here, and I think that is somehow truer to life than I would have imagined. How often do we spend the day dwelling on our pasts instead of paying attention to the movement forward that we're living through? Our main characters in this movie, The Guy and The Girl, are given the chance to stop and look at what is happening to them, and it is a gift to the audience that we get to witness this landmark week in each of their lives.

The music that carries the film is absolutely stunning. The filmmaker has referred to it as a video album, and that description totally gelled with the experience I had of watching it. Sometimes I just had to close my eyes and listen to the music as it reverberated off the worn fabric lining the walls. Watching this movie for the first time is like listening to a beautiful album alone on your headphones and not wanting to escape the environment you've created between you and the music. Walking around afterwards, it took quite some time for the street sounds to permeate the dusky atmosphere I was in.

I've conveyed to you the experience of Once without being able to give any real details about the picture. I think this movie is for anyone who's ever loved music. If you understand how music can take care of you in difficult times, and exalt with you when you're happy, then you'll be moved by the songs quite a bit. I intend to buy the soundtrack as soon as I'm off work today, and listen to it until I can't anymore, for fear of being overwhelmed by it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

lady business

Last semester I took a course that focused entirely on Jane Austen. We read her novels, her letters, her juvenilia, her unfinished works, her biographies. We read articles about her, watched adaptations of her novels, and we talked about her role in society. It was very interesting to see how at the end of the semester, after we had all become Austen scholars, all of the students' opinions of her had changed. Many people came into the class with the same stereotype as exists in the rest of society, which is that Jane Austen is only read by teenage girls and housewives looking for something light to read about romance. As it turns out, Austen is ranked among the greatest of British authors to have lasted since her lifetime. Readers' devotion to Austen's work and the mysterious minutiae of her life parallels that of Shakespeare addicts, and yet Austen maintains this less-than-flattering public image.

I recently saw a trailer (see bottom of post) for the upcoming Austen biopic entitled Becoming Jane. It stars Anne Hathaway and tells the story of "her true love" or some other such nonsense according to Mr. Voice-Over man. Here's the thing - we don't know a whole hell of a lot about Austen's romance by the sea. We know she rejected a proposal from an eligible suitor, which was a very bad financial decision for her to make. I am really curious how this movie is going to be all happy and romantic if the true story ended with her being a spinster writing letters to her spinster sister and being dependent on the kindness of her brothers. I mean, this is basically Shakespeare in Love but probably with less nudity.

Reportedly, Anne Hathaway does a good job and was coached into having a very appropriate dialectic accent for Austen's time and location. She is quite pretty, though, and Austen scholars will always point out how since her death, Austen has been 'prettified' by those promoting her. The best image there is of her is a sketch done by her sister in which she looks pointed, sour, and a little old. Her relatives revamped this portrait to be published with her works, making her look young, angelic, and quite lovely. Yet more changes are being made to her appearance nowadays, which continues to fly in the face of the feminist Austen tradition.

I guess I'm just curious to see how Bennetizing this film will be on the image and reputation of Austen herself. My hope is that some of what scholars know to be true will be left untainted by this movie, as it is being released in conjunction with a new biography of the same name, I believe. Maybe after it comes out I should have a marathon of all the literary biopics, from Shakespeare in Love to Wilde, Sylvia, The Hours (kinda), Capote, Miss Potter, and any others I can find.

P.S. I did a Google search of "literary biopics," and apparently Michelle Williams, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Evan Rachel Wood have been cast to play the Brontë sisters. Yowza.

fish out of water

I first heard of Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones when I was a high school freshman, and read an excerpt from it in a girls' magazine - I want to say it was "Girl's Life," but I can't be sure. I knew the premise was that narrator Susie had been raped and murdered, and that the bulk of the novel consisted of her watching her family cope from heaven. I certainly remember being fascinated by the concept of Susie watching her earthbound younger sister, who has had the opportunity to grow up, losing her virginity while at summer camp. "'I'm ready,' my sister said. At fourteen, my sister sailed away from me into a place I'd never been. In the walls of my sex there was horror and blood. In the walls of hers there were windows." (P. 125)

I loved the novel when I first read it, so much so that I convinced both of my parents to read it as well. Despite the fact that it was geared and marketed to young women, I believe both of them were as struck by it as I was. The relationships between Susie's parents and sister compete with the observations of the murdered girl to be the most captivating theme in the book.

Jeremy Smith's article on CHUD let me know that Peter Jackson will be turning the novel into a film. Those familiar with Jackson's work will know that he can make a movie that isn't a blockbuster heavy on special effects. So I'm willing to believe that Jackson can reign himself in and give us this story without layering it on too thick. But I'm really not sure about how this novel will translate to the screen. It's difficult for well-written narration to come across as too hokey or obvious in film, I think. Little Children did a good job of not going too heavy on the narration while keeping the storybook feeling of the novel. But even with that and the wonderful performances, there was still something off for me after having enjoyed the book.

This is a common problem for adaptations: that fans of the written narrative will always be let down by the film. The Harry Potter movies, for example, have always disappointed me, because there are too many omissions and changes. Then there's something like The Grapes of Wrath, where I could never expect a filmmaker to come close to the brilliance of Steinbeck's prose (I'm a little obsessed with Steinbeck, by the way), so the movie is still impressive on its own. But it pleases me to see Peter Jackson on the project, because The Lord of the Rings is the only novel whose film adaptations have exceeded my expectations. Even Gone With the Wind leaves me wishing that so many things hadn't been changed, and I love that movie.

However, there is a scene in the novel The Lovely Bones which I won't spoil, because I highly recommend reading it, which I just do not understand how it could be translated to the screen. It morphs narration with the visually and intellectually complex concept of corporeality, and I really don't know if they'll even keep it in the adaptation. Though I guess Jackson would be the man to try, so we'll see.

How do you feel about novel adaptations onscreen? Any outstanding ones you'd like to recommend?

series finales

So, I can't really write about it as I don't have cable at the moment, but I know that everyone is talking about The Sopranos series finale, and from what I gather, everything was left up in the air. On KROQ's Kevin and Bean show this morning, a lot of people were calling in either glad or concerned that the fate of Tony was not revealed to us. I used to watch The Sopranos pretty regularly for a couple of years somewhere in the middle of its run, and someday I'd like to rent all the seasons and just follow all of the characters' story lines, but as of now, I don't have a lot to say. I am very curious, though, what everyone else thought about the series finale, so please comment!

Also, I was thinking about series finale styles in general. What were your favorite series finales? Your least favorite? Is it better to cauterize every hanging question there was, or allow each viewer to decide what sort of ending will make them the happiest? Certainly I think the success of a series finale is tied to the timing of it. If the show's creators let the show go on too long, the finale may be a dud because no one cares about the outcome anyway. If the show got cancelled before its time should have been up, fans may find the ending to be rushed.

Arrested Development was a show that was certainly canned before its fans wanted it to be. I was there with the Bluths from the beginning, and I could have stayed with them until George Michael (and Maeby?) had kids of their own. The third season was a mixed bag for me, because though I loved it, the creators and the viewers were so painfully aware of the show's fate. Self-referential in-jokes are at once genius and saddening. In the end, we find out all we wanted to know about George Bluth, Sr., George Michael and Maeby, and the Bluth Company itself. Despite the cruel cruel trick of teasing us into thinking a movie was in the works, everything was wrapped up, which I appreciated. I think when audiences are invested in a show, and they don't have a chance to follow them as long as they'd like, the least the show's creators can do is answer the outstanding questions.

Six Feet Under was my favorite series finale by far, though. Like a lot of HBO shows, this one was difficult for me to follow because with going off to school and everything, I couldn't always keep up with the random placement of seasons. But I made sure to tune in for the series finale, which still haunts me when I think about it. Every episode of the show had begun with a character's death, a fade-to-black, and a title card displaying their name and years of life. The finale began with a birth, which was a beautiful tack to take anyway, but it was the final sequence of the show that threw me for a loop. Audiences always regret missing out on what happens to the characters of a show they love after the final credits. Six Feet Under showed us how each of the main characters would die years into the future. These scenes were intercut with a shot of Claire driving across the country to start life fresh. For a show about death, I thought it was very smart that we got absolute closure. We got to see where life would take each of our characters. Years later I was in a sort of a funk, driving around the L.A. freeways and listening to Indie 103.1 when Sia's "Breathe Me" came on the radio. I had to pull over to the side of the road because the song was so beautiful. I didn't remember at the time, but that was the song playing during the final sequence of Six Feet Under, and it was magical. Watch the clip below...

Clearly these two finales stuck with me, and while I'm sure there are others that I have enjoyed or appreciated, I am curious what it is you look for in a series finale, and what your favorite have been!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

summer lovin'

This post brought to you by my never-ending romance with my television. "Kat love TV. Marriage?" (That's a UK Office joke, for you plebes out there...) I decided it would be unfair to the greatest season of all if I did not give a little insight about what I'm watching on TV this summer. Because I won't have cable again until the fall, I must continue to scour network programming. Luckily for me, Fox has completely taken care of all of my needs. Though the only reality show I watch with any regularity during the school year is America's Next Top Model, reality is pretty much all I go for during the summer. So here's a brief explanation about the three shows I've been following lately.

Hell's Kitchen
Mondays at 9PM on Fox
I started watching Chef Gordon Ramsay's quest for a new chef to hire last summer, and it became quite addictive. When I told a friend that I liked to watch it, he said, "Well, why? You can enjoy the singing when you watch American Idol, but you don't get to eat the food!" But alas - Hell's Kitchen has almost as much drama as ANTM, and a cast of contestants so frequently pitiable or scorned that I don't know why sadistic reality TV watchers don't pay closer attention to this show. This season just premiered this week, and is already promising to have better editing and drama than last year's. Besides, if seeing things onscreen that you aren't experiencing in real life wasn't pleasurable, the food network wouldn't exist. Let alone the porn industry.

On The Lot
Tuesdays at 8PM on Fox
I have been watching this show with, for some reason, not as much interest as I think I should have. Maybe because I do not (yet) have directorial aspirations, I cannot be as captivated by this show as other film students. But there's something strange about this show. I would think that enough people would be interested in watching short films once a week, but I think there's a formatting problem that makes it difficult to carry out. I have enjoyed a number of the shorts that have been shown, but I think the show lacks a personality. Garry Marshall is the most captivating person onscreen, and while he's quite a character, that's not really a good thing when there are enough talented young people around showing their work. I'd like to see this show get a little revamped for next season, because I think it could be interesting to apply the reality show competition to film.

So You Think You Can Dance?
Wednesdays and Thursdays at 9pm on Fox
I had really wanted to watch this show during its first season, and I can't remember why I was never available when it was airing. But last year I got a little obsessed. Produced by the same geniuses behind Pop Idol, etc., SYTYCD has pretty much the same format. There are three to four judges (Nasty Nigel and Mary Murphy being the most memorable), and each week contestants work with a different expert choreographer. Also, the early episodes of each season have both impressive performances and hilariously bad ones - sound familiar? Why I love the show, though, is that by and large the personalities are more fun to watch. Also, I love the dancing almost every time, whereas I am rarely entertained by the singing on Idol anymore. Plus, I respect the way that they make dancers from different backgrounds compete in other styles that will challenge them, proving who is a great dancer, not just a one-trick pony. Last night they picked the top 20, notable because of the presence of Lacey, sister to last year's winner Benji, and the return of Hok! Hok was a favorite of a lot of people's last year when he would have been put through to the top 20 if it weren't for his lack of a work visa. I'm looking forward to seeing who he's partnered with next week!

richard reid a laugh riot? he is now!

You can read about my expectations for Judd Apatow's current box office hit Knocked Up here, and I am pleased to report that the movie actually did exceed my expectations! I like to guess what tone a movie is going to take by the trailers that are shown right before it, and the pre-show experience was a little bit of a red herring this time. Trailers were for the standard teen comedy fare (including Superbad, which I am excited for...), whose audience Knocked Up certainly appealed to, but the characters and the situations they got into were so believable and well-crafted, that I think older moviegoers could have had as much fun watching it as teenagers could.

On a message board I frequent, someone said that they liked how the film portrayed both sides of a conflict evenly, without vilifying either side. I thought this was a great way to express what I liked so much about the movie. It is true that not every argument has a right answer or party, and I was glad to be reminded of that by the interactions between the two couples. That alone was enough to make me, as a viewer, feel like a friend to all of the main characters. I didn't want to pick sides, because I sympathized with everyone. It may not seem like much, but to be able to appeal to male and female audience members equally using humor is something that I am very impressed by.

Secondary and tertiary actors Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Harold Ramis, and Kristen Wiig were excellent. Ramis was perfectly cast as Seth Rogen's father, and Wiig is one of SNL's best assets right now (do a YouTube search for "SNL" + "Body Fusion" or "Sloths" or the eponymous "Dick in a Box," and you'll see what I mean). Her comedy is borne out of restrained displeasure, and it gets me every time. Paul Rudd - who, first of all, has gotten way better looking with age - played such a good counterpart to Leslie Mann, because they seemed so polar even though they were realistic enough to have shades of each other's characters in themselves. I just wish they could have used Firefly's Alan Tudyk a little more.

I think Apatow uses weed humor as a bit of a crutch, when there are always plenty of other elements to his stoner characters that could elicit laughs. I thought the celebrity nude scene humor was awesome, and just the sort of quotable fare that will make this movie last. The ribbing among Ben and his friends was just too funny. Too, too funny. I'm cracking up a little bit at work right now, and I'd hate to draw attention to the fact that I'm blogging on the clock...

Katherine Heigl was beautiful, and played the vulnerable yet capable character very well. I thought she emoted at all the right times, but wasn't simply a hormonal mess. At a couple of points she was a little too reminiscent of the character of Izzie Stevens, whom I've grown to dislike, but it's hard to say if that's more my fault than hers.

There were a couple of points at which I wondered how audiences at large would react to the possibly pro-life sentiment displayed by the film. Neither of the main characters really considers abortion or adoption, and the two supporting characters who suggest the former option do it so cruelly that I would think few audience members could sympathize with them. I think this is interesting in light of how common alternatives to keeping an unplanned baby are displayed in the media, compared to how much more common it is for Americans to raise their unplanned kids. I was glad to see that Apatow didn't force Ben and Alison to have a shotgun wedding in order to appease those put off by the premarital baby-making, because I don't think it would have made much sense for the characters.

B.J. Novak's cameo was well-played, but my giddiness at the prolonged presence of real-life doctor and ...sensual... comedian Dr. Ken makes me want to leave you with one thing:

Saturday, June 2, 2007

movie magic

When I first began this blog a few months ago, I was musing about what it is about cinema that is "the magic of the movies." Though I had concluded it had something to do with the illusion caused by light shone through static images, I recently proved to myself that that is only a part of it. Last Friday night I went to the AMC theater in Burbank, whose walls are festooned with the slogan, "where the people who make the movies, see the movies," and settled in to watch Waitress. I didn't think much of the popcorn smell and cushioned seats that we're all so used to, but when the lights went down and the screen lit up, I realized just how long it must have been since the last time I saw a movie in theaters. I'm such a bad film studies major sometimes. Come to think of it, I think the last one I'd seen was 300. That is way too long ago.

Sidenote: there were many excellent trailers shown before the movie began, but one that particularly caught my attention was for Evening. Based on a novel by Michael Cunningham, and starring many of the same actresses that were in the adaptation of his moving homage to Virginia Woolf, Evening looks even better than The Hours. It has the same focus on mothers, daughters, long-lost remembered romances, generations, and sadness, but what can I say? Claire Danes has a much more prominent role this time, so I am bound to think it's better! Also, her love interest is played by Patrick Wilson, and their chemistry has already proven captivating...

The opening credits of Waitress set the tone for the experience to come. It is so clear how much love Adrienne Shelly and her D.P. had for the film and its characters, as is evidenced by the beautiful portrayal of pies. Our main character, Jenna, was raised by a mother who loved making pies, and carries in herself that same passion. The pies in the film are caressed and kneaded and made with the most spectacular panoply of colors and fillings. It actually made me go home and make a very simple pudding pie. Because Jenna and her pies are so inextricably linked, it is a pleasure to see Keri Russell's radiant onscreen presence treated with the same care and closeness as her pastries.

Performances were excellent across the board, as Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, and Shelly were always pleasant to watch. But the most incredible performance for me had to come from Andy Griffith. Portlier now than I ever would have thought he'd be, he cut such a perfect figure as Joe, the crotchety old pie-shop owner. Ruddy cheeks above a snug bowtie, white, wing-like eyebrows, and a maw that never stops flapping. He was perfectly cast. Other perfect casting was on display with the minor characters of Ogie and Cal. Jeremy Sisto, as Jenna's abusive, smothering husband Earl, must have done a great job, because I keep thinking of the Six Feet Under alum as a greasy creep, which keeps me from wanting to compliment him too much.

I think what pleased me the most about the film is that every time it had the chance to take a turn for the trite, it never gave in to temptation. In a movie about adultery, that's a pretty difficult thing to do. I don't want to spoil the denouement, but it managed to strike a clean balance between realism and fantasy. Certain expectable conventions were present, but they were tempered by the frank look into our characters' lives.

Though it is not directly related to the viewer's experience of the film, I think it is important to say that watching Waitress with an understanding of the awful end to Shelly's life is a bit painful. Clearly, a lot of love went into this film, and I admire so much people who are able to dedicate themselves to the one thing that makes them feel alive. As another non sequitur, I must say that it is a pleasure to see Nathan Fillion onscreen. As much as I love him as Captain Mal Reynolds in Firefly, he is much more than a one-note actor.

As the film came to a close, it became evident to me that I had really been moved by the experience of witnessing a universe unfurl itself, allowing a roomful of willing spectators to get a peek at its minutiae, only to close up and hide its future from us as we move along to our own. This is a big part of the magic of the movies, I think. Man, I just love watching them... does collective escapism make anyone else praise Xenu as much as I do?

season finales

Welcome back to my blog, those of you who read it! Summer has finally gotten into swing and I am starting to get used to my new work schedule, so I owe a long overdue update. Now this information may be tediously old hat for you, but I did want to give my input about some of the season finales that aired a couple of weeks ago.

Though not without their flaws, the last few episodes of this season have been outstanding. I felt more like the fangirl that I was during the first two seasons when I found myself scouring the internet for screencaps and theories about certain events that came into play, and from my discussions with other losties, I am not the only one. A lot of people stopped watching after the first few mediocre episodes of the season, and I feel so bad for them. Now is my chance to get excited all over again about some of the things they missed out on. Firstly there was Jacob, whose eleven frames onscreen reminded me so much of the creepy masterpiece "Carnivale" that used to be on HBO. Then there's the further layers of the societies on and off the island, with dharma, and natives, and the lesbians (probably) in the new hatch. Of course, Desmond's foresight and the resulting Charlie storyline raise a whole plethora of questions to add to the preexisting ones for the next few seasons (four-toed statue, anyone?). But smoothing over the many other questions I have about the last few episodes (people who don't age, John freaking Locke), let me just say, "WALT! WAAAAAAAAALT!" omg walt lolz

Grey's Anatomy
Guuuuuuuuh... this season finale was such a letdown after the stellar endings to the first two seasons. Lady Grey, M.D., III seems like such an unecessary addition to this show which is already starting to mire itself in useless quagmires. I think the show really shot itself in the foot when Izzie and George did the thing that must not be named, and I am holding on to some very strained hope that it can recover next season. I had a feeling that Burke was going to get written out of the show somehow, and I suppose it makes sense that he'd be the one to leave the relationship with Cristina, but it was done in such a depressing way. I'm long past caring about the Mer/Der dynamic, but when the only hope for happiness that any of the characters had is gone, what is going to want to make the audience of the once-bubbly show keep tuning in? I couldn't understand what the reasoning was behing any of the chief of surgery / chief resident decisions were, though Chandra Wilson and T.R. Knight's interaction was very well done. They have always had good onscreen chemistry. The saving grace of the episode was the final scene when Meredith cut off Cristina's dress for her, and hugged her so tight, her best friend falling apart from the weight of her freedom. Their relationship has always been my favorite on the show, and I liked that they were holding each other up there at the end.

The Office
I've already said most of what needs to be said about the amazing progress of this show, but the season finale tonight cemented it in my opinion as an American TV classic in the making. As far as Jim and Pam go...I always want them to make it, no matter how hot and hip and smart Rashida Jones is. It bears repeating that fans of the UK Office will beware a romantic denouement, as it seems unlikely to stay strong as long as the show continues. I'm so glad Jim's cojones grew back, though. And I wish that I could be linked on even if it is only a Word document open on Creed's computer. Also - for looking directly in the camera in the way that you did, B.J. Novak, you are my American Idol.

Because of the excellent way in which next season's villain was teased, I thought it was a little bit of a letdown that Sylar didn't die at the end. I mean, it's a smart move to hang onto him just in case things get a little weak down the line, but it was just such a transparent move. I was very glad to see Nathan's character fleshed out more in this episode, and I must say I can't wait to find out what crazy stuff Mama Petrelli can do! Hiro and Ando did not disappoint in their interactions, and the final scene with Hiro was beautifully suspenseful. Though it's not my favorite show on television, I look forward to continuing to have fun with it next season.