11 October 2009

Friday of Great Books Week

When you give a book as a special gift, what is it?  Why?


Crime and Punishment. It should be read several times by every thoughtful person. It says- there is justice. We condemn ourselves by the work of our conscience- if we let it do its work.  And that somehow puts revenge, and anger, and horror in its place: God's hands.  Not ours.  Ours is only to love.  Obviously I could go on forever, here, but what you really need to do is Read the Book.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Thursday of Great Books Week

"I hated this book when I had to read it in high school, but when I read it as an adult on my own I loved it."

Hmmm... Unlike my peers, I liked most of the books I was assigned, with the exception of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises which I have not revisited.
I do know that I didn't really appreciate reading Shakespeare,  especially the comedies, until I took a class from Michael Kirschner at North Seattle Community College.  He also made me treasure more profoundly Yeats, who I already loved, but didn't really know, especially Sailing to Byzantium.  He was a wonderful teacher.

-- Posted from my iPhone

My 10 best movie characters since 1980

I shamelessly steal blog ideas, apparently.  Maybe that's my schtick. Trying to come up with names for our Admin department's celebration of Name Your PC Day (no joke- it's Nov 20), I happened upon Film Squish, running a 10 favorite characters roundtable with other film bloggers, of which I am not one.   ( I was trying to find evil computer characters from movies- besides Hal, BTW.  Open to suggestions...)  So I started thinking, and realized I have some definite ideas about this.

Like my beloved Filmspotting boys, I have set some parameters around my 10 favorite characters:

1. The movie has to made after 1980. I just don't know enough earlier movies- maybe another time I will try it.
2. The film must be live action, not animated. Basically because all 10 would be Miyazake characters.
3.  This is a Nice List.  Maybe some time I will post a Mean List.

Okay, with those caveats in mind, ahem.

10.   Ace Ventura. (I know, I know, I just can't help it.)
Truly, I never laugh as hard as I do when these movies are on.  Look at his fricking hair?! How can you not laugh?  "Die, Devil Bird, Die!!"

9.   Dale Cooper.
 This is a cheat, because most of what I love about Agent Cooper comes from the TV series, but his confident, OCD, cherry pie lovin' self is just so delectable. 
From Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

8.   Marge Gunderson.
The single most badass pregnant cop in movie history.  That kid is so lucky to have such a mom.  From her accent to her black coffee to her awkward flirtation with an old classmate, Frances MacDormand is unbelievably good.
From Fargo.

7.   Han Solo.
The prototype for all smartass rebel scoundrels.  Or the archetype.  Or the apex.  Whatever.  
I cry every damn time he is sucked down into the carbon freezing mechanism.

6.   John McClane.
Well, really, what do you expect me to do?  Ripped out David Addison, finally able to kick some ass and be snarcky at the same time?  I'd like seconds, please.  And thirds.  And fourths. And with a vengeance.

5.  Christian (from Moulin Rouge!)
Sweet, naive Christian, taught all the hard lessons about reality in one year in Montmartre. Ewan MacGregor has never been so completely lovable.  He still makes my heart pound when he belts out "....My gift is my song...and this one's for you..." and stops Satine's antics cold.  So sweet and sincere, I just want to put him in my pocket. 

4.   Annie Savoy 
"I believe in the Church of Baseball", says the all-knowing, proud Annie at the beginning of Bull DurhamBy the time the movie ends we know Annie a little better- she's tired of the games, of her cynical way in the world, and really just wants to be.   With Crash Davis.  
Who doesn't?
From Bull Durham

3.   Venkman.
"Back off man. I'm a scientist."
What more can I add? 
From Ghostbusters.

2.   The Dude.
Because that rug really tied the room together.  Because he made me laugh in the worst days of my divorce.  Because he is quite possibly the laziest man in Los Angeles County.  Because sometimes there's a man...sometimes there's a man.
From The Big Lebowski 

1.   Marion Ravenwood.
The strong, sexy counterpart to Indy (and kind of representing him on this list, since I love them together more than any of his other stories), Marion is so adorable, and proud, and kind of foolish, and so human in a way that women are not usually in action movies.  I loved her and wanted to be her from the first time I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I still do.

-- Posted from my iPhone

07 October 2009

Wednesday, Great Books Week

" I don't have to write my autobiography because someone already wrote it..."

Well, being a number 4 in the Enneagram system I bristle at this question, because of course I am so unique that no one could capture me in a novel, let alone someone I never knew.  But that's lazy, so I forced myself to look harder  as Rafiki says.  Then I remembered Steppenwolf.  I so need to reread Steppenwolf.  I found it profoundly disturbing when I read it in college- it was godless existentialism on a primal level and it freaked me out.  I feel like a total black- turtlenecked geek saying it, but Hesse's book describes my inner life more clearly than anything else I've read, with the possible exception of Notes from Underground.  Of course the details of daily life are all wrong, but the entrenched sensation of not belonging is spot on.

06 October 2009

Tuesday of Great Books Week

When I was a child, my favorite book was...

Okay, I cheat. It's a tie. I absolutely adored Emily of New Moon, the lesser known precocious orphan creation of Lucy Maud Montgomery. Black haired and black eyed Emily is a writer, which I always fancied myself to be, whose imagination runs wild. Add in the unbelievable idyll that is New Moon farm and childhood love Teddy, and... sigh. Escapism. I read it to my girls last year and they loved Emily as much as me.

A close tie is the Arabian Nights' Entertainments, illustrated by Dalziel, I think... though I suspect the edition I had was a mash up of pre-raphaelite woodcuts.  They were transporting.  I adored reading the strange stories and losing myself in the bizarre and beautiful world of the pictures.  This is the one book I heartily regret not holding onto into adulthood.

-- Posted from my iPhone

05 October 2009

Monday of Great Books Week

A tweet from Grammar Girl led me to the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors Great Books Week blog tour.  I'm in!

Day 1, Monday
Seven books for a desert island: what I would need to get me by.
  1. The Bible.  Maybe Eugene Peterson's emminently readable The Message, or the New King James with an Orthodox commentary.
  2. Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin.  Haunting images, industrial New York, fantasy and history, this book leaves me with a physical ache to wrap up in a rug and take a midnight sleigh ride through time across a frozen lake.
  3. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky.  Alyosha!  I would happily while away the hours with you and your corrupted old father and your tortured brothers.
  4. Dracula, Bram Stoker.  I never tire of the old bat; the screenplay and production has played in my head a million times, each one a million times better than Coppola's.  Damn Keanu!
  5. The Lord of the Rings, Tolkein. Duh.
  6. The Golden Bough,  James Frazer.  Just because I have never found the time to read this definitive survey of folk culture and symbolism that has inspired everything from TS Eliot's The Wasteland to Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King.
  7. Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut.  Lucky me! Lucky mud!  An appropriately absurdist apocalyptic love story.  Love it to pieces.

Monster, give me my child!

Dracula, Chapter IV

Clearly things are getting a little freaky for our poor Jonathan. Now he knows the Count sleeps in a coffin filled with freshly turned earth (which kind of begs the question, isn't it overkill to have the dirt AND the coffin?). He's seen the bewailing mother looking for her child devoured by wolves. Don't think I've seen that in a movie, either. He's been psychologically tortured- you can go no you can't! You are my friend you are dinner for my girl posse! He's done. I can completely picture the poor guy just breaking down, saying his goodbyes to Mina and the cruel, cruel world. Get this chap a brandy, stat!
Hard to imagine he'll go back to his recipe gathering Mina quite the same gent as left a month ago.
Pretty bummed somebody thought of the whole Jonathan-twitter-thing before I did.  Could be hilarious...

-- Posted from my iPhone

04 October 2009

Welcome to my house!

the incomparable Bela Legosi

Dracula: Ch.s II, III

Interestingly, I don't think I have ever seen a movie Dracula that even comes close to Stoker's description:

"His face was a strong- a very strong- aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere.  His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion.  The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years.  For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed; the chin was broad and stong, and the cheeks firm though thin.  The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor."
In other words, not:

nobody doesn't like christopher lee

or this guy, misplaced his name. (Sorry dude.)

In fact, to be really honest with you, he sounds a lot more like my dad:


ha, ha.   Can't picture Dracula in a Disneyland hoodie, though.

So, our brave, if kind of distracted, hero Jonathan Harker, the kindly solicitor from London, has arrived at Dracula's crazy castle on the cliff and has been plunged into a long, weird dream.  He has found himself locked in, served by the master of the house himself, who at first appears to be just another lonely senior citizen in the Carpathians who needs someone to talk to.  He even just adores London, like any sober minded, white non-Englishman would, clearly.  However, as Jonathan starts sleeping through the days and spending his nights alone or chatting with the kindly old man, reality begins to slip.  Did he really see Dracula creep down the wall like a lizard?  Did he really get a near-hickey from a fair lady with "great wavy masses of golden hair and eyes like pale sapphires"?  We aren't really sure yet, but clearly Jonathan is more than just a pretty face.  (Argh!  That's Keanu poisoning my mind again!)
My favorite movie Jonathan: Bruno Ganz in 1979's Nosferatu.  In fact, I need to rewatch this movie soon.  I remember the plague scenes being profoundly disturbing.

I can't just let the stuff about the crucifix go, either.  It's more of that East vs. West mentality-  and I think Bram Stoker was brilliant to work it in.  Nothing has been more distressing to the puritanical Calvinist tradition than religions claiming to be Christian and relying on objects and icons as tangible symbols of their faith.  Finding himself deeply comforted by a rosary given to him by an old lady in a village, Jonathan muses: "It is odd that a thing which I have been taught to regard with disfavour and as idolatrous shoudl in a time of loneliness and trouble be of help.  Is it that there is something in the essence of the thing itself, or that it is a  medium, a tangible help, in conveying memories of sympathy and comfort?"  I just read a review of Karen Armstrong's new book, The Case for God, in which she argues (I think?) that the monotheism people are angry at today is a modern, post enlightment version of the great mystery people embraced in times of joy and trouble, as they might embrace great beauty in art and music.  In other words, Jonathan, the crucifix is comforting you, darling, because you have left your Reasonable England and are in the Eastern trenches with the medieval forces of good and evil, of beauty and repulsion, faith and fear.  It seats the whole story in a primeval mood.

02 October 2009

leaving the West and entering the East

Chapter 1, Dracula
I am fairly disheartened to discover how deeply the visage of Keanu Reeves has burrowed into my psyche; I keep being startled at how well he puts thoughts and observations together... is it at all possible I can shake him from my memory and regain my admiration for the naive Jonathan Harker, with his wide eyed British exoticism and sweet reminders to get paprika recipes for Mina? I had especially forgotten his tourist's description of the peasants ("picturesque"!) - (Mem., must sketch one of these marvelous barbarian Slovaks for the blog) and infatuation with the countryside.  SO Victorian, dude. 
Also found it hilarious that on the 4th of May, being the eve of St George's day, "when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway..."  May 4 was the day I was married to my formerly beloved ex-husband.  Sigh.  Should have done my research, I suppose.  We were doomed from the start.