Sunday, November 25, 2007

trailer sunday

When Did You Last See Your Father? (TBD)
What is it about me that makes me crave British movies about sad families all the time? Unless maybe it's just Colin Firth luring me in. I don't know, this particular movie doesn't look any different than any other one about the same thing, but after having watched Distant Voices / Still Lives, it's nice to get back to convention. Anyway, it's directed by Anand Tucker, who made Shopgirl and Hilary and Jackie, two movies I really appreciate, and has a proven cast, so maybe there is something special here to be surprised by!

(November 9)
So, apparently this has already come out, but I only just heard of it. The first Bollywood film to be distributed by a Hollywood company, even the trailer gives this film a different look than most of the Bollywood films I've seen. My first thought was, "Baz Luhrmann, on sedatives, makes a Bollywood movie." Now, I just really want Baz Luhrmann to make a Bollywood movie. Actually, Saawariya is the latest adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's short story "White Nights." I'm sure I'll rent this one.

There Will Be Blood
(December 26)
Paul Thomas Anderson. Daniel Day Lewis. Paul Dano, of Lifetime Original Movie Too Young to Be a Dad fame. Adaptation of Upton Sinclair's novel Oil! I think the last time a collection of factoids about a movie made me this excited was when I heard, "Jake Gyllenhaal Heath Ledger gay cowboys" back at girls' school. And this time, I'm excited about the movie, not just the possible ramifications on the slash fan fiction market. It will be very interesting to see what PTA does with someone else's source material, for a change. I'm more than curious. Same goes with Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which looks like it's going to buck all of his conventions except for casting! You know I'm all over ensembles that stick together, as with these two directors and, say, Christopher Guest. So it's very exciting when they veer away from formula.

Cloverfield (January 18)
So, buzz has been buzzing about this JJ Abrams project for some time now, and I must say that I thought the teaser trailer that came out a few months ago was quite a bit scarier than the extended one we have now, but I'm still looking forward to this. I'm generally into the apocalyptic type of horror film, and from what I've seen online, the monsters here are supposed to be particularly terrifying. I'm interested to see how a big budget and a reliance on "handheld-looking" camera work will play out, as I think we've moved far past the motion sick times of Blair Witch. Also, I hope the Smoke Monster gets a cameo.

Harold and Kumar 2 (April 25)
A couple of months ago, needing something mindless to watch while sick in bed, I watched a really crappy bootleg of Harold and Kumar on TVLinks (RIP). I was expecting something awful, as I've never been a fan of those gross-out movies that teen boys love but are otherwise completely stupid, but ever since Grandma's Boy hit me like a ton of bricks, I thought I'd give it a chance. H&K was a lot funnier than I was expecting, and I don't know why no one had ever told me about the hilarious commentary on racial perceptions! There were plenty of pointless sequences in the movie, but I guess they had to suck in their target audience of stoner preteens somehow. The sequel looks like it will provide a lot more of what I enjoyed about the first one, and I just hope it can make fun of current events without reminding anyone of Delta Farce (having even referenced it makes me want to throw up).

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Yesterday, my parents and I chose not to observe the holiest of American holidays (Black Friday), but instead went to see the movie Bella (trailer at bottom of post). I hadn't heard of it before, even though it won the People's Choice Award at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival, but my dad had seen producer and star Eduardo Verastegui interviewed on The O'Reilly Factor, and it made him very excited to take us to see it.

A lot of buzz about the film centers around the fact that it has a strong pro-life message, and that the Hollywood liberals won't give it a very good distribution. Maybe it's hard for me to look beyond my own beliefs on the matter, but I really don't understand how someone with any political association could view this film as detrimental. Bella absolutely is pro-life, and it is also pro-choice. It gives an honest portrayal of a couple of key characters, and does not judge them, in the end. In the film, Nina is fired from her waitressing job on the same day that she finds out she is pregnant. Her friend Jose, the chef at the restaurant where she had worked, spends the day with her so that she will feel less alone. (Spoilers below, not that it really matters...)

At the beginning, Nina feels that she has only one option, one choice, and that is abortion. She seems resigned to the fact that she could not possibly provide a good life for a child, having been conditioned to feel that way by the unsatisfying life she led with her distant mother after the death of her father when she was a child. Jose also seems to feel that his life is without options at the beginning of the film, as his happiness and innocence left him the day years ago when he killed a young girl with his car in a tragic accident, ending her life as well as his promising soccer career. Jose's brother Manny, who fires Nina, is stuck in a rut as well, taking people for granted and focusing only on the successes and failures in life - missing out on the joy of the world around him. Throughout the course of only two days, these three characters all experience profound change in their lives, and it is a beautiful sight to witness.

When Jose is able to show Nina that families can be happy, by introducing her to his own loving one, it opens up her eyes to the fact that lives change, and people can amount to so much. Jose's mother and father are immigrants who have been able to make an extraordinary life for themselves, and raised three successful sons. While Jose's mother explains to Nina that they adopted their first son, Manny, Jose himself comes to the realization that helping Nina bring her child into the world - even by asking her to let him adopt the child himself - is exactly what he needs to do in order to be whole again. Still haunted by the child whose life he took years earlier, Jose has come to deeply value human life, which is so precious, and can be so easily lost.

Realizing the change occurring in his brother, Manny is able to learn some of the same things that Nina does, which is that there is pleasure to be found every day as long as we open ourselves up to it. The transformation in all three characters is believable, and beautiful, and refreshingly affirming to see in an independent/foreign-ish film nowadays. In my opinion, the film is strongly pro-choice without being pro-abortion, and pro-life in the respect that we are wasting our valuable moments on earth if we do not take a moment to stop and appreciate all that we have. Cathartic scenes in a garden, on a beach, around a kitchen table, and on a street talking with a blind man all bolster this aspect of the story.

Despite Verastegui's Passionate Jesus-beard which he wears in all the non-flashback segments of the movie (and a shame, because he's way hot), I didn't find this movie to be too preachy or religious at all, something I am usually highly sensitive to in pop culture. The Puerto Rican / Mexican family of Jose and Manny prays before eating, which is about as churchy as the movie gets, and even less than a similar family would be in real life. I highly recommend this film to anyone older than a preteen, and I really feel that it will make you think a little more about how much time you spend worrying versus enjoying life.

evan taylor

Okay, so for some time now I had been wanting to see August Rush pretty badly, because I adore music, movies about music, and every once in awhile I just want a reason to get the warm fuzzies. So today, to escape the fact that my senior thesis is due in eight days and I have a 10 page paper to write (oh, and I think I'm supposed to be reading a light short story called Ulysses for my James Joyce class, too...), I decided to enjoy some alone time and take myself to the theater.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, breezy T-shirt weather in Claremont, I took a leisurely half-hour stroll to the Laemmle in the new expansion of The Village. Walking along the plush carpet of kelly green grass that stretches across Pomona College, dry leaves crunching under my shoes, I absorbed the beautiful day around me, almost regretting my choice to go sit in a dark room for a couple of hours in the middle of the afternoon. But I also was getting in to the perfect mood to be watching a sweet story about a family that finds itself through the bonds of music.

I was kind of...really wrong. I think I'd have been better off enjoying a smoothie while sitting outside, or at least doing something productive if I was going to be indoors all afternoon. Something about this movie really rubbed me the wrong way, and it was a shame to be so disappointed by it. It is, of course, possible for a movie to be sweet and meaningful without being...boring; Keri Russel's last starring turn in Waitress proved this. Unfortunately, too much of August Rush is slow, unbelievable, or creepy to allow the sweet moments to shine through.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Keri Russell certainly were the most enjoyable people to watch in this film (not just because they're both insanely beautiful people), and even their scenes were sometimes so over-the-top treacle sweet that I expected Hector Elizondo to pop up out of nowhere. I was expecting that Terence Howard and Freddie Highmore might be given more of an opportunity to shine, as well, but instead, it was as if what their best scenes might have been had been edited out. Robin Williams was just creepy, and I kind of want to rent One Hour Photo and Insomnia just to see if this is just how he is onscreen nowadays.

I feel like this movie aimed way too high in trying to convey love of music to the audience, at the expense of believability in the characters and scenarios. Case in point: the first time the title character sees sheet music - ever - he masters the piano and the organ. My eyes rolled out of my head and had to be persuaded to jump back in their sockets after that. I guess this might be a good movie for kids, but otherwise, I think it can be avoided. If you want a touching movie, I would certainly recommend Waitress, which just came out on DVD, or the incredible What Dreams May Come, in which both Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding, Jr. are stellar (I know, right?).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Just wrapping up the last day at school before taking a short Thanksgiving break. I hope you all have an enjoyable few days, and I'll be back this weekend with a review of August Rush and some more thoughts about the strike, of course. For now, I've got to go drive a friend to the airport.

Have a great holiday, and be grateful for everything you have!

Monday, November 19, 2007

a little more self-promotion, just for kicks

I just want to share a short I made for my video class called "Los Suenos del Deseo," which is a parody of a telenovela. When I compressed the file on Final Cut, the fonts and titles got all screwed up, but it doesn't really matter too much...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

"nobody knows where we might end up..."

This morning I watched Thursday's episode of Grey's Anatomy online (sorry, no ad revenue for the writers...), and am very glad to say that it was as good of an episode as some of the better ones from seasons 1 and 2. Ever since about the second half of season 3, Grey's and I really lost the spark in our relationship, but this week's episode, "Forever Young," reminded me of the way that Grey's used to be tense, touching, and funny. And these last few episodes have brought back Dr. Hahn as a full-time cast member, which makes me SO happy. And now I'm listening to Rod Stewart all day.

I've been a big fan of actress Brooke Smith for years now, based solely upon her role in the excellent movie Series 7: The Contenders. I caught it randomly on iFC one day, and ever since, I have considered it to be one of the cleverest and funniest things I've ever experienced. It plays as a marathon of a season of a reality TV show in which the contestants (picked at random from a lottery of unwilling participants) are each given a gun, and the winner is the last one alive. Also, there's an incredible flashback to a music video two of the characters made in the '80s as goth teenagers to Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," that might be the best parody-within-a-parody ever created. I can't go into much more detail than that, but I really hope anyone who ever hears of it gets a chance to see it. (Trailer at bottom of post)

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I had to watch Vanya on 42nd Street for my Film and Literature class, and was pleased to see Brooke Smith in another starring role. Everyone in the film is amazing (I always like Julianne Moore a lot more than I think I will, and Wallace Shawn is my favorite person in the entire world), and I am so glad I saw it, but Smith was just something else. She had this sweetness and temperance and humility that I would never have expected from my limited exposure to her work. One constant that I did expect from her performance was the passion she imbues into her characters, and I was not disappointed.

Of course, she is probably best known as Catherine Martin, the girl who puts the lotion in the basket in The Silence of the Lambs. I haven't seen that movie in forever, and I didn't remember that it was her, but I know I've seen Brooke Smith in other roles. Iron Jawed Angels, for example, or one of her many guest roles on TV. But I'm glad to have the chance to see her every week (for the next few weeks, at least) on Grey's, because I am a very big fan.

As far as this last episode of GA is concerned, it was nice to see the characters forced to own up to their all-too-controlling immaturities, and what better way than against the backdrop of a bus load of injured high-schoolers? The performance from Chandra Wilson was particularly impressive.

Friday, November 16, 2007

hooray for hollywood

Here is the short video I filmed on Tuesday, which incorporates footage of the strike and some footage of L.A. that I compiled as my "landscape" project for my video class. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

gotta say, the chants could use a rewrite...

...Just because I don't think Norma Rae would be too impressed with, "How greedy can they get? They won't even share the net!" As for me, it just makes me think of Sandra Bullock getting her identity stolen.

Tuesday morning, Anderson Cooper came to speak at my school. The subject was about how we college students can move up in the world by "following our bliss," which was some advice his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, gave him when he was our age. That, and to wear vertical stripes, which are slimming (just like these here mom jeans). Taking this advice, I left Claremont immediately after his speech was over, and made it to the picket lines at Universal Studios with just an hour before the day's picketing was scheduled to be over at 2pm. At first, I guess I really didn't understand what the strike line experience was going to be like, as I had only seen the supermarket strikes of a few years ago. I was expecting that everyone would be mingling around networking, and I'd just fit right in. Though that didn't turn out to be the case, the actual experience of supporting the strike and being a demonstrator became what I found I wanted to do.

Now, watching news footage of the strike, or the WGA's YouTube channel can be a little bit unusual. There are guitar-strumming SAG members and rich folk chanting "Union Power!" which is a little disconcerting when the conventional archetype of a union member is a blue-collar laborer. That aside, there are Union issues at hand here, and I think the interconnectivity of the WGA, DGA, and SAG is very interesting to watch. Certainly, there is a rank-and-file in the WGA, as not everyone is a head writer for a successful primetime show or a screenwriter making millions and winning Oscars. Maybe Tuesday was a unique day to go to the strike, as "Picketing With the Stars" day happened to coincide with my one afternoon off, so there was a different sort of feeling on Lankershim Blvd. And a lot more media attention.

Though I did have the chance to meet a few TV stars, I was particularly excited to meet Josh Schwartz, creator of what is quickly becoming one of my favorite shows of all time: Gossip Girl. I think I was a little obnoxious, actually, asking him about Rufus' backstory on the show...maybe it's because I look like I'm 14 that everyone I talked to was a little like, "why are you here?" but I think once I explained that I'm an aspiring writer who was there to support the WGA, I became a little less annoying. Also, I was walking around with my digital camera around my wrist, my borrowed camcorder in one hand, and my found picket sign in the other. Sometime in the next couple of days I should have finished editing the video I took of the strike (which includes a little Sarah Silverman, and a great moment in which Jack Black says simply, "Go. Writers." So sad I couldn't get the camera on quick enough to catch John Cho, too.

Oh, and does anyone know who this woman is? Ed Helms told me that she's a writer on The Office, and I have been racking my brain trying to think of her name! Speaking of The Office, it's a shame I missed out on Stanley and Creed's appearance earlier in the day, but that's life. I thought it was a great experience to meet the writers that I did, and really get a first-hand view of what this strike is really like. I would encourage any supporters of the WGA to make it down to the lines and help demonstrate, or to be one of the many people driving by, honking their horns in support.

Stay tuned sometime this weekend to see the video footage I got - it's pretty cool, if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

tom waits for no man

Every once in awhile, my life is as poetic and mimetic of art as I'd always like for it to be. How appropriate, then, that my quest to see Wristcutters: A Love Story, was just that - a quest! I wanted to see a movie about people on a mission so badly that of course a few obstacles had to get in my way. But, last Wednesday, I finally got a chance to see it!

Unfortunately, I missed the first couple of minutes (parking in Los Feliz was, as ever, a hassle). It's a good thing that I only missed a few, because the whole picture is only 88 minutes long! I wasn't just surprised at the end that it was over, either - there were times during the film when I found myself thinking, "an act break already?" Despite the rushed pace of the movie, I enjoyed myself about as much as I think the filmmakers expected me to. There were a few laughter-inducing scenes, but for the most part I sat absorbing the characters without really cracking a smile. The fact is, the characters aren't the most sympathetic, because they all killed themselves. It's not like I wanted to judge them or anything, but their post-death personalities weren't super approachable, either.

Though the film had a lot of moments that made fun of itself, which I appreciated, and I thought the premise was smart and funny, it still felt unfinished. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more (and as much as the trailer led me to believe I would) if the filmmakers had had the budget or whatever it was that prevented them from fleshing out the second half of the movie. It's not necessarily that I wanted to know everything about Tom Waits' character and the People in Charge - after all, Defending Your Life withholds information about the diegesis without being unsatisfying. But the conflation of all the plotlines at the climax was just so rushed, and I felt like a lot of entertaining material might be sitting on the cutting room floor (or in the writer's head).

I like seeing Patrick Fugit coming into more adult roles, and this had just enough adolescence in it to be age-appropriate. Leslie Bibb, Will Arnett, Tom Waits, and Shea Whigham were all very entertaining, and Shannyn Sossamon wasn't as annoying as she...could have been, in this role. So, I can recommend this film, but I really wish that the filmmakers had sat on it long enough to complete it. And if anyone's looking to enjoy Tom Waits acting in another film, I highly recommend Short Cuts, Robert Altman's 1993 adaptation of some of Raymond Carver's short stories. It's got a great ensemble cast - why wouldn't it, it's Altman!

Monday, November 12, 2007

si se puede

For a while now, I've been wanting to collect my thoughts about the writers' strike, but I haven't known exactly what to say. It's a tricky strike to talk about because, more than a lot of labor union strikes, it has the media attention necessary to get the whole country, and members of the international community forced to pay attention. Of course, I think that labor strikes do impact many aspects of society, but the writers' strike nearly cripples the entertainment industry, which almost every American integrates into their lives daily (whether intentionally or not).

I've done a little bit of research, and I think that what the WGA is demanding is entirely reasonable. Certainly, the deal struck between them and the AMPTP regarding residuals from the home video market in the '80s is in need of being retrofitted to the current situation in which DVDs (which are cheaper to make than VHS tapes) are one of the main ways in which audiences feed their hunger for TV shows and movies which they don't have the time to watch when first aired. As far as new media is concerned, I think it's very beneficial to the writers that they got their panties in a twist about it sooner rather than later. The studios were able to get away with the home video thing back in the 80s because they weren't sure where the market was going to be going, and now the writers want to make sure the same thing doesn't happen with online content. I understand, from the studios' perspective, that no one wants to set anything in stone with a medium that changes so quickly, but already advertising revenue and personal ownership sales are being lost to the people who make up the creative backbone of the industry.

Now, all of this aside, there is so much collateral damage caused by the shutdown of production that anyone in the industry - or in Los Angeles - has a vested interest in the strike lasting as short as possible. When the last strike, in 1988, lasted 22 weeks, it lost the industry so many jobs and so much money that I really hope they don't ever come any more frequently than every twenty years or so. Already, too many people have lost their jobs, too many local restaurants and businesses have lost their customers, and in a few weeks (less tragically), people will have run out of new episodes of the shows they're used to tuning in to.

Of course, I support the strike. As someone who hopes to be an employed guild member within the next couple of years, I am so glad that the picketers are trying to get better contracts for themselves that I, too, will be able to benefit from. Tomorrow I have the afternoon free, and I am looking forward to having the opportunity to visiting the picket lines and seeing it all happen firsthand. I know I'm not the only young writer aware of the networking possibilities of supporting the strike in person, but mostly I think this could be another invaluable learning experience. All of this is happening right now, when I am trying to break in to the business, and I want to see it with my own eyes. Jane Espenson, currently a writer for Battlestar Galactica, has written that she's glad to see aspiring writers showing their support, and with picket information readily available on Chad Gervich's blog Script Notes, affiliated with the WGA magazine Writer's Digest, I feel confident going down and talking to people.

So, if you're in Burbank tomorrow, at Warner Brothers, Disney, or Universal, sometime in the afternoon, look for a short-haired girl in glasses and a red shirt, armed with snacks and business cards!

wasting words on lower cases and capitals

I guess this will have to be considered my strongly worded letter...

First, I must apologize, because this post may be a bit stilted. I'm having some trouble organizing my thoughts about the last concert I went to, and am just trying to get them out, I guess. Last weekend, I went to the first night of Brand New's three-night engagement at the Wiltern. For some background, Brand New is my favorite band of all time. Now, I know this makes me incredibly, incredibly emo. But that's okay. When I was a lonely teenager at all girls' school, full of angst and pretension, emo was the right choice for me. Dashboard Confessional, of course, was my gateway band into the genre, and for that I am grateful, if not unique. But for as much as Chris Carrabba's music defined a generation of skinny adolescents with heavy bangs, Brand New was the band whose CDs I listened to over and over and over again, every night when I was trying too hard to get everything out into my journal to sleep.

When I was a sophomore in high school, I first heard "The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows." It, of course, blew my mind / changed my life / you name it. Ever since then, pretty much every track off of the band's first two albums, Your Favorite Weapon and Deja Entendu, have meant a lot to me. It's one of those things that's difficult to describe, but I know that most people have experienced this kind of love for music, so hopefully you get it. Last year I picked up their latest album, The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me, and was a little flummoxed. Of course, loving the band so much, I couldn't help but have exceedingly high expectations, but I really had a hard time getting into it. "Jesus" is one of the band's best songs, and represents a lot of the deepening introversion that has been evident as the band has aged, but it is one of only a couple of standouts on the album. Maybe it's because it didn't come along at the same crucial point in my musical development as the first two albums, but this third disc from the band just never resonated as much with me.

The last time that I had seen Brand New live was when they opened for Dashboard at the Universal Amphitheater in 2003. At the time, my friend and I were the only people around us in the audience who had heard of them, and it was an excellent performance. The stadium was barely filled, as most people were still not there for the next opening act, MxPx, but I still had a great time listening to Jesse Lacey & Co. So last weekend, I could barely contain my excitement to finally see them again. My friends Tiff and Esther had seen Lacey perform solo in February, and reported that he performed about equally from all three albums. My anticipation only mounted - finally the chance to be in an audience full of Brand New fans, listening to the songs we collectively adore. We got to the Wiltern an hour early so we could wait in line to get wristbands for the pit. mewithoutYou was a good opening act, and I really enjoyed Thrice, whom I'd never really listened to before (their guitarist, Teppei Teppanishi, is kind of the hottest man ever, too). Brand New came on. I was...floored. They were passionate, excellent performers. About a quarter of the way into their set, they played three of their older songs. Then, they kept playing. Every track off the new album. They left the stage. Tiff, Esther, and I stood with our mouths agape. The band came back for their encore. They had to play the crowd favorites from their older albums, right? Right?! They had a jam session.

We walked outside, silently, and drank our iced coffees, trying to figure out what had happened. Maybe it was because they didn't want to play all the same songs for every night of their engagement in L.A. Maybe they just...don't like the old songs anymore? Maybe they...hate me? I don't know. It was really, really disappointing. At this point, I continue to be at a loss for words. I just feel like those acne-faced boys standing in front of us, who were rocking out to the newer, blander music, while standing confused during the retro interlude. Except, you know, the opposite.

I don't know. I felt really bad. I still feel bad. It just would have been so helpful to be able to hear those amazing songs performed live again. And I know, it is just SO emo to be saying all this. Dare I say that the three of us cried a little bit on the drive home, listening to the old favorites on Esther's iPod? "They were better before their third album came out." "I liked them when they were underground." "They suck now that they sold out." "They don't care about their fans anymore." So, yeah...I get it. This whole post is pretty embarrassing. But goddammit I love that music. So much. And I just miss it, is all. So I'm going to keep listening to it until I feel better. Old school...

mewithoutYou lead singer playing the accordion

Thrice in action

Jesse Lacey

Sunday, November 11, 2007

"but bono can't scat!"

On Tuesday, October 30th, musical legend and humanitarian Bono, lead singer of U2, came to speak at my school about...something. I don't know, the environment, I guess, or aid to Africa. I think it was that last one. I wasn't there, because I had already bought tickets to see Regina Spektor live at the Wiltern! I went with my friend Ash, who had already seen her at Coachella, but for me it was the first time.

There is not much to say about Regina as a performer beyond what a great musician she is, and anyone who's listened to her music (her albums Begin to Hope or Soviet Kitsch, or watched an episode of Grey's Anatomy or seen a commercial on TV) already knows that, I hope. Her voice can sweep from the throaty depths reminiscent of her Soviet homeland, to the unbearable lightness of being in one phrase, and carries with it stories that are incredibly easy to relate to, even if tempered with sometimes nonsensical vocal trills.

The stage was set very simply, and it wasn't until later in the evening that I understood the visual implications of the lighting. Her beautiful grand piano was set up on stage left, with clusters of "twinkle lights" (is there a real name for those?) strewn around its legs. Hanging from the ceiling were exposed light bulbs on cords of different lengths. Three slightly larger ones descended directly above the piano while the rest mostly illuminated the back of the stage. Stage right had a lot of negative space, but Regina used it when she stood to sing a capella or play the electric guitar for some songs. Finally, sitting alone next to her piano was an abandoned disco ball. At first glance this setup looked like Regina had found herself an abandoned loft with various lighting equipment in it, and brought her piano there to have a private practice space. Later on, spotlit, and with the light bulbs and twinkle lights reflecting off the disco ball, she looked like she was playing her piano on a cloud in the night sky, the moon in the distance and the stars gathered to hear her play. It was quite lovely, and perfectly suited her personality.

I'd say she performed about evenly from both of the popular albums, with a couple of songs that I hadn't heard before, but the audience was highly receptive to each song she played. Actually, when she returned for her extra-long encore (about five songs - almost a mini set!), I think the screams in the Wiltern were the loudest I'd ever heard them. And speaking of the audience...boy, were they obnoxious. I understand the impulse to sing along at a concert, and I certainly have done so, but it's much more acceptable at a rock concert, or under your breath. I think it defeats the purpose of paying $40 to listen to a chanteuse playing and singing solo when the teenage girl behind you is trying to out-diva the woman on stage. Regina, though, was performing for herself, which was the lasting impression of the whole concert. She's not necessarily a great entertainer, but because she's such an amazing performer, I got the impression she'd be up there singing with or without us, and we had the good fortune to be able to listen in. Because she often changed up the length of notes held or times she repeated a syllable, audience divas mimicking the CDs had a little trouble keeping up. It was pretty funny from where I was standing, behind a too-tall frizzy ponytail.

I think the two most impressive stage shows I've seen at the Wiltern (one of the most beautiful places in LA, if you ask me, along with the Henry Fonda) were Death Cab for Cutie and Imogen Heap. Imogen's stage set up was similar to Regina's, but had a really incredible see-through piano, and of course a lot more equipment. But for simplicity, Regina really created a wonderful experience for me.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

once is the reason for the swell season

So, I'm going to have a couple new entries coming up in the next few days, but this past week has been seriously one of the busiest of my life. Good news, though: I finished the first draft of my screenplay! Anyway, tonight I was hoping to attend The Swell Season concert at the Wiltern. Unfortunately I found out too late about the chance to see Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova perform together, live. Saddest moment of my life. Anyway, tonight is the homecoming dance/party at school, so I will have something fun to do. Just wanted to spread the good news that Once is finally coming out on DVD on December 18th. Can't wait!

Friday, November 2, 2007

if introspection were a sport...

...Wes Anderson would have the gold medal. Ever since I was a freshman in high school, I have been a devoted Wes Anderson fan. My friend Elisa and I used to watch movie trailers on the computers at school when we were bored in class, and we both became obsessed with the one for The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). When I finally saw it in theaters, it was one of the first times that I was conscious of a film experience really affecting me. I distinctly remember emerging from the matinee in the wintry afternoon and the sunlight reflecting off of my world a little differently. At this point, I've seen that movie so many times that I don't even know if I can pinpoint what it is that makes it one of my favorites, but something about it really struck me.

For some reason I cannot remember, I didn't see another Wes Anderson movie until my freshman year of college, when I was really looking forward to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004). Unfortunately, I was terribly disappointed. Somehow it transformed all of the heartfelt charm I was expecting into silliness without meaning. It's highly possible that I need to watch it again, though. I wouldn't be surprised if I like it better upon a second you'll see in just a moment.

Now, what I'm about to say will be considered anathema to most Wes Anderson fans, but I have to be honest. I didn't see Rushmore (1998) until a little over a year ago. And I hated it! You can imagine my surprise. It's just as Anderson in form as my beloved Royal Tenenbaums, it stars my soulmate Jason Schwartzman at the zenith of his quirky confidence, and I myself went to a weird prep school where I failed to exceed academically. Not to mention the fact that I became an avid Brand New fan years before knowing the title of "Sic Transit Gloria...Glory Fades" came from this movie. I was upset that the only thing I really enjoyed in the film were the theatrical adaptations by the Max Fischer Players. So, a few weeks ago I decided to re-watch the movie, and really give it my full attention. I don't know what was different, but I really enjoyed it this time. I still prefer The Royal Tenenbaums, perhaps because it was my first, but I now think I could happily watch Rushmore many more times.

In between watching Hotel Chevalier for the first time on iTunes and seeing The Darjeeling Limited in theaters, I rented Bottle Rocket (1996), which I was pleasantly surprised by. It made me notice Owen Wilson as an actor more than I'd really paid attention to him in other Anderson films (even though he's great in Royal, he's excellent here). I think it may have been more true to the intent of the film to place an even heavier emphasis on the Wilson brothers' characters though, because I found myself so drawn to the Inez subplot that I wasn't that interested in the crime capers the movie was actually about.

As a longtime devoted fan of Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman, I couldn't wait to see Hotel Chevalier, which, incidentally, contains Ms. Portman's first-ever nude scene! Now, I know that sounds pretty sensational to be focusing on, but I know that she's been very selective about nudity in previous films that have called for it, so I figured that if Wes Anderson could get her to take her clothes off in front of the camera, she must have found it a worthy film to make. So, I really enjoyed the movie - I know some people found it slow, but it worked especially well with Portman's character, and the stasis that Schwartzman's had fallen into in his life. The dialogue was very honest, and I thought that the composition of the shots was even more painterly than I'd usually expect from Anderson.

This set the scene for just how much I'd like The Darjeeling Limited. I don't know exactly how, since none of the characters are really that sympathetic, but the film totally managed to evoke my affective response. From the very beginning, when Adrien Brody outstrips Bill Murray as they're both running for the train, I was completely delighted. I was surprised by how well the Indian backdrop complemented the tried-and-true subject matter of these grown men acting like children, and when the sad moments in the story come along, it is very effective. I caught a case of the giggles throughout, certainly, but when the scene in the river took me by surprise, I was not the only one gasping in the theater. The interplay between the brothers' interactions in India and in New York, portrayed in the final third of the film, punctuated the story very nicely, and helped me to understand so many of its nuances. Finally, the film's closing set piece was a marvelous sort of bow to the audience, reminding us how much Anderson likes to stage his films as tableau pieces, putting curious characters on display for our inspection.

According to IMDb, Anderson's next project is The Fantastic Mr. Fox, an animated (I think) adaptation of Roald Dahl's book. I am very interested to see what he will do with another author's source material, and can't wait to re-watch Rushmore and The Life Aquatic, hoping only to increase my regard for his entire body of work.