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The other day I ran across Broadcast News on one of the movie channels and watched the last half or so.  I remember loving that movie back in the day, but it has been a long, long– LONG– time since I’d seen it last.  I think I actually have it on VHS tape but god knows whether it’ll still play.

Anyway, I was puttering around in the living room and just pausing here and there to admire 80s-era Holly Hunter.  Man, I just loved her back then– short and soft, but firery and topped off with that Southern accent.  Swoon!  That’s not to say I don’t appreciate her more recent work– the super-lean, hard-edge but with a secret soft core Holly Hunter in Saving Grace was some great acting– but gimme Raising Arizona Holly Hunter any day!

Anyway, there was a brief exchange between Holly Hunter’s character Jane and her good friend Aaron played by Albert Brooks.  They’re on the phone, and Aaron says:

Ok, I’ll meet you at the place near the thing where we went that time.

My ears perk up– I could have sworn that line was from When Harry Met Sally, another 80s-era movie that I love that also deals with the complications of men and women being friends.  I always thought that was a brilliant line because of the subtext– he’s actually not saying what place, what thing, what time, and yet she knows exactly what he’s talking about.  That line really illustrates how deep their friendship is, they’re so close they don’t even really need to complete their sentences or thoughts and the other knows what they’re talking about.  There’s so much history, so much story behind that 15 word sentence– I love it!

The problem with their friendship of course is that nefarious problem that crops up so often when a single woman is friends with a single man– one or the other wants more, and those feelings can sometimes throw a big-ass monkey-wrench into the works, especially when the other friend falls for someone else.  Which can lead to this ugliness:

JANE
I just want to sit here longer, I mean
the feeling is powerful — why’s that?

AARON
Maybe the best part of your life is over
and you don’t want to get up and start
the bad part.

Jane looks at him levelly.

JANE
You are now required to sit here with
me.
(a beat; then)
Come on…be smart for a second —
what do you think will happen to us?

AARON
Okay, that’s very easy.  Five, six
years from now I’ll be in town to
collect an award representing the surge
in foreign coverage by local stations.

JANE
(smile, it’s like old times)
Yes.

AARON
I’ll be walking with my wife and two
children — we’ll bump into you on
the street, my youngest son will say
something and I’ll tell him…
(deliberately)
…it’s not nice to make fun of single,
fat ladies.

JANE
You won’t be able to stay mad at me,
right?

AARON
I hope so…
(on her look he relents)
No.  I’m not really mad.
(nodding head as if reciting a catechism)
I’ll miss you, we’ll talk, we’ll always
be friends…we’ll get hot for each other
every few years at dinner and never act
on it, okay?

Watching that scene gave me shivers.  There was such bitterness in his words, and while Jane managed to take it in stride, you just knew it hurt her deeply (especially given Ms. Hunter’s great acting).   And the worst thing was, I could really relate to Aaron.  A lot of what was going on between Aaron and Jane reminded me of the discussion a couple months back that popped up around a couple blogposts of mine (In Defense of the Beta Man over on Simply Solo, The Friend Zone, Mating Habits of the Beta Men).  Aaron was very much the Beta man, while the object of Jane’s affection Tom was an Alpha man and pretty much Aaron’s worst nightmare.

One of the points I raised in my blogposts was how really good romantic relationships can develop from a base of friendship, but what struck me rewatching Broadcast News now was just how dangerous that avenue can be, and how reasonable it is for single women to steer clear of being friends with single men because of the complications and potential ugliness and hurt that can occur.

I could relate to Aaron because I know how much it hurts to see someone you care about deeply fall for someone else when you’re right there for her, especially if you know– being her friend– how wrong that person is for her.  I think many Beta men who get regularly put into the Friend Zone can relate.

And yet, when I watched that scene and heard the bitterness and hurt come rushing out of Aaron’s mouth and expressed through his body language, it made me realize that there’s a special responsibility you need to shoulder when you take up the mantle of friendship with someone you may be attracted to.  You need to realize that friendship is all that they may want or need from you.  Friendship is a gift that opens up so much life to you– someone who cares about you, who thinks about you, who’s there for you during good times and bad.

One of the things that I’ve been trying to teach my children lately is learning to value being happy for other’s good fortune, and some of the struggle in teaching them that makes me realize that it’s not exactly a natural human response… and yet I believe strongly it’s a vital thing to learn!  So much joy can come into your life when you open yourself up to loving other people’s happiness.

On the flip side, giving in to envy and bitterness can just eat you up inside, leaving you angry and mean and not at all attractive.  If ever there’s a chance for winning over the woman you love from afar, being bitter is not going to help things.

What do you think?

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The other day Sex Nerd Sandra put up an interesting post on her blog called Sometimes a Girl Just Wants Good Head.  Here’s some of what she wrote:

I’m inspired by a play I saw tonight. Set in 1963, The Magic Bullet Theory was a fun who-shot-JFK ride rich with witty dialogue. One topic that came up several times was blowjobs. One man-character says “women were put on this earth for 2 reasons: to suck our dicks and take our balls.”

Now, contextually, that remark fit with the character and his point, so I don’t mean to get all up in feminism’s business, but it did stir something in my psyche. Later in the story during a fabulous montage scene, a blowjob is artfully woven into the dance number for a brief few moments.

That blowjob business got me a little, well, distracted. First in the hot kind of way. Then I got kind of mad. The passionate voice in my head said, “Why do I never hear women saying, ‘oh man, all I need right now is a good eating out,’ hmm? Why do I never get to see cunnilingus depicted in such a fun & casual manner? I’m not ALL flowers and cuddling, ya know!”

I’ve just never seen a woman portrayed that way. The character in the play receiving aforementioned head was a lawyer. He was a professional going about his job and having a little fun on the side. Good times all around. What if a woman were playing the part?

My first thought reading this was:  YES!  I would totally love to see that.  A woman lawyer professional having a little fun with a guy going down on her on the side.  Good times all around!

My second thought was… would we ever see such a role?

It’s hard to imagine now, especially in the context of a renewed assault on women’s rights we’re seeing in the political arena right now.  But I think we will, and likely sooner rather than later.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.  And if there’s any justice in this universe, this country will eventually shake off the Puritanical morals that put a real damper on expressions of female desire and sexuality.  Not to mention I’d imagine such a role done well would likely be a gigantic hit for whatever network was bold enough to try it.

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New Years Day always gives us a chance to reflect back on the things we did in the previous year.  One big thing I did was create this blog.  I’ve been a writer at heart since I was in middle school, with dreams of being a published author, and years later, dreams of being a screenwriter.  Things didn’t work out that way (as of yet) but I did get into writing about a hobby of mine, and have proudly been a paid professional hobby writer for well over a decade.

Even though it’s a lot of fun to write about a hobby you love, it’s a pretty narrow niche potential audience, and it occurred to me last year that starting a blog might be a good way to stretch my writing chops and expand my audience and network of readers and other writers.  When I was contemplating what to write about, the fact that I was going through a divorce and needing to start my life over seemed like the perfect thing to write about.  Not only would it be much more accessible to readers, but it could also be cathartic to write, providing me with a way to shape my thoughts and feelings going forward, to help me learn from mistakes in the past and focus on the sorts of people I want to be in my life going forward.

The concept was that the blog name “My Ideal Woman” be the first part of an affirmative sentence, with each blog post title “… She’d be (something something)” as the second part of the sentence.  Eventually ideas for posts came that didn’t exactly fit the paradigm but that was my original framing.

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GREAT movie!

[NOTE:  I recently watched Lost in Translation again and, even after all these years, I still find the movie mesmerizing and enchanting.  But having gone through the crucible of a failed marriage the movie resonates even deeper.  Murray’s Bob is a lifer in a loveless and cold marriage and feels disconnected from his kids.  Johansson’s Charlotte is just starting out in married life but is justifiably having second thoughts and concerns due to a spouse that seems to take her for granted and not be all that interested in her.  They both are longing for something greater, more meaningful. I relate and connect to both of their characters in such different ways than I did back when I first saw the movie and was moved by it.

I’ve always thought of “art” as the space between what the artist creates and what the viewer brings, it’s that intermingling of intention, perception and perspective that makes something special that moves us.  I find it a rare joy when you can enjoy a film one one way when you first watch it, and have that enjoyment change in tone and texture as you yourself have changed over time.  I thought I’d repost this review I wrote up for Livejournal back when it first came out in theaters.]

I could feel at the time
There was no way of knowing
Fallen leaves in the night
Who can say where they’re blowing

Scarlett Johansson is intoxicating. She first hit my radar in the delightful Ghost World where she gave a solid performance in a supporting role that nearly felt like a co-lead. With Lost in Translation, she’s even better. The critics have been showering praise on Bill Murray– and it’s warranted. It’s his finest performance ever. I guess he’s getting the attention since, for the first time that I can remember, he truly transcends himself. When you watch you often forget that it’s Bill Murray up there, you think of him as his character Bob.

Lean on me

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So I recently saw The Matador, a film for which I’d heard good buzz and was cautiously optimistic about. And I have to say that the buzz and optimism was very much on the mark and I thoroughly enjoyed the film. First, a quick summary of the film for those who might not be aware of this nice little destination film–

Sundance’s official summary: If Pierce Brosnan wearing a black Speedo, cowboy boots, and sunglasses and smoking a cigar wasn’t in itself worth the price of admission, everything else one gets in this rapturously conceived comedy about a lonely hit man would certainly be enough. But the glorious excesses that writer/director Richard Shepard offers are just part of the considerable range of payoffs that make The Matador a delightful mix of genres that simultaneously spoofs the buddy film, killers, and ordinary American life while it plumbs the complexities of the human heart.

“When a traveling salesman, Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), accidentally meets up with Julian (Brosnan), “a facilitator of fatalities,” at a Mexico City bar, their subsequent evening together intertwines their lives in an unexpected, but lasting, bond. Each one is facing what could be a life-changing moment, and though they ostensibly have nothing in common, they’re drawn together.

“When the twists and turns of fate are revealed, it becomes clear that Shepard has crafted an enormously entertaining work that takes the hit-man film and spins it on its head while creating a funny and strangely poignant story that is original and genuinely moving. With an outrageously unique performance by Brosnan, and great turns by Kinnear and Hope Davis, The Matador is a film that will stay fixed in your memory long after the curtain has closed.”

The few commercials I’ve seen seem to play The Matador up as a lot more funny than it is. There are some laugh-out-loud moments, but it’s much more charming and sweet than uproarious. When I’d heard Brosnan had gotten a Golden Globe nomination, I figured it was just props for Pierce playing against type as a scruffy, aging and unscrupulous hitman. After seeing the film, I now think the nom was very much warranted. Brosnan’s Julian is a rich and complicated character, and Pierce Brosnan, who’s always been so very Pierce Brosnan in all of his roles (even Bond), is subsumed by the role. For much of the movie I’m looking at the screen and not seeing Brosnan, I’m seeing Julian the soul-weary killer looking for a friend.

Brosnan at his worst is Brosnan at his best

Kinnear’s Danny is very much a typical sweet Kinnear character, but Kinnear is just so damn appealing that we don’t mind. Plus, Kinnear does inject some sadness, fear of failure and insecurity that gives this Kinnear character more depth than typical. He’s as good here as he was in As Good As It Gets. Danny’s wife is played magnificently by Hope Davis, who does a lot with her limited screen time, and naturally embodies the inherent warmth, stability and unassuming sexiness of a best friend, lover and wife. She and Kinnear show us a marriage that’s imperfect, flawed, haunted by tragedy and yet beautiful in their camaraderie and love for each other.

Partners in crime

This blog being entitled “My Ideal Woman” I’d like to pause my review a moment to talk about Hope Davis.  I just love her low-key beauty.  Her sexiness is not blatant or in your face, but it’s there nonetheless.  I’m always drawn to actresses that don’t have that stereotypical “model-quality” beauty, but instead have their own fresh, unique look.

Here's to you, Hope

Of course, this quality lets her very nicely melt into her roles, so when you watch her on screen you’re not aware you’re looking at Hope Davis, you’re just watching her character do what she does.  Still, whenever I’m done watching a movie with Hope Davis she lingers in my mind, and I wish she’d be in more films.

She lingers...

Back to the review… Writer and Director Richard Shepherd brilliantly executes the film, chock full of moments where a lesser skilled moviemaker would go too far and degenerate the movie into a silly farce (and not in a good way). Shepherd goes to the edge, flirts with it some, and just when you are certain he’s going to teeter over into disaster pulls you back and spins you around in an unexpected way. Particularly nice is how some scenes are not shown chronologically; characters and plot are illuminated in one way, and then the scenes are shown later, casting new light on characters and plot points. This is not done in a fun and manipulative Tarrantino-esque way, but much more organically and naturally, layering on nuance and texture to situations and relationships we thought we already understood. First impressions (and second and third) don’t last until the credits; the character arcs don’t allow that. We fall in love with the characters over and over again.

It’s always nice to find films that exceed expectations. I fully expect that it’s not a film that everyone will enjoy, but as the credits rolled my mind turned over scenes and my heart turned over a variety of emotions– joy, sadness, envy, surprise, hope. It made me yearn to write stories equally as subtle, bursting with pinpoints of surprisingly beautiful moments.

If you get a chance to see it, I think it likely you will enjoy it too. If you’ve already seen it, let me know what you think.

(before I go, I did find a rare pic of Hope where she is projecting her sexiness a bit more than usual…)

you go girl 🙂

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The other night I was watching Frida on Starz.  I’ve watched it before, but not lately– not since I started writing this blog, but I think something about being high on two margaritas (two REALLY BIG margaritas) took it up another level, left me in a swirl of emotions, desires and deep thoughts.

In the first post I wrote on this blog, …She Would Be Creative, I talked how I enjoy being around creative people, and creative women in particular.  “The Universe is creation.  Life is creation.  The amazing thing about humankind is our ability to look at the world around us and affect change.”

There’s an energy that flows between creative minds that creates this awesome feedback loop, and as I watched the two artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera begin their love affair, I couldn’t help but be captivated imagining how amazing it must have been to add physical and emotional passion to their creative connection.

There’s the scene where they are about to get intimate, and Frida expresses some hesitancy due to her disfigurement from the bus & trolly collision that badly injured her.

Frida:  I have a scar.

Diego:  Let me see it…  (after seeing the scar) You’re perfect.  Perfect.

That scene carried me back to the guest spot I wrote for Simply Solo, The Spice of Life, writing about firsts.  “The first time you learn that something you find adorable in your lady – her nose, her lips, her ears, or her fingers – is something she’s self-conscious about.”  So often things that your lover views as flaws are things that you find precious.  The scars don’t make Frida ugly, the scars are just another part of the woman he loves.

Visually the scene very much evokes to me the feelings I had while writing …She’d Have Curves (pt 2), as Diego’s hands trace Frida’s hips.

Later on in the movie (and well into my second margarita) Leon Trotsky comes to stay with Frida and Diego.  Trotsky has been exiled from Soviet Russia by Stalin and is a hunted man, and as played by Geoffrey Rush he exudes energy and a force that makes perfect sense of Frida’s attraction to him, despite his being 30 years her senior.

It got me thinking that the energy that drives revolutionaries can be very similar to the energy that drives artists– both are creative endeavors, trying to release into the world something new and better.  The people in the movie discussed politics with as much passion as they did art.  I could see modern day parallels.  I don’t imagine it’s an coincidence that so many in the arts and in Hollywood tend to sympathize with the political left — “progressives” — in this country.  There’s an inherent optimism in creation, whether in art, in politics, or in making a child to bring into this world.  Falling in love is the ultimate expression of optimism, right?

What really got to me most I suppose at the end of Frida and all the thoughts and emotions swirling through me is how writing this blog seems to have changed the way I look at things– movies, TV, people I meet, daily life.  The written word is not as visceral or stimulative to the senses as other art forms, but I’ve read plenty that has moved me deeply.  Apparently the act of writing itself can change your own perspective!  Have you ever written something or a series of things that seemed to have changed how you thought or looked at the world?

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As I drove to go see Crazy, Stupid, Love I realized this was the first time I’d been to see a movie in 2011… and it was the end of August.  What a fucking travesty that I don’t even have time to go out to see a movie!  I used to go see 2-3 movies a month, often just by myself since I’m such a movie buff and it seemed difficult to coerce friends and significant others to go see them with regularity.  Yet another reason why I’ve got to change things, get more free time in my life.

Anyway, back to the movie review.  Since I first saw the previews for Crazy, Stupid, Love I knew it was a movie I wanted to go see.  The leads are all actors I like, and the premise really hit home—dude in his 40s, works hard, married, two kids and suddenly his wife asks for a divorce.  Check, check, check, check and check!  Dude moves out and struggles to start again, and gets help from ladies’ man.  The part about “gets help from ladies’ man” is where our stories diverge, but I was certainly hooked by the setup and intrigued by the notion of these two men from wildly different social backgrounds learning from each other.

Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly play out that way, to the slight detriment to an otherwise totally enjoyable night at the movies.

For the most part though it was great.  Steve Carrell did a wonderful job as the blind-sided schlep who’s in shock when his wife orders a divorce for dessert.  Of course, if eternally gorgeous Julianne Moore was your wife having her dump you would be catastrophic.  I mean, seriously…

it's hard to beat red hair and freckles in my book...

She tries hard to be the sad, unsatisfied middle-aged housewife… and Julianne Moore actually is 51, married with children, but seriously come on…

seriously, come on...

She’s a great actress and I’d get caught up in the scene and she’d be Emily the mom and ex-wife, but suddenly there’d be a close-up and other scenes flash through my head– making out with Amanda Seyfried in Chloe, her awesome orgasm face when she’s shagging Ralph Fiennes in the pivotal scene from The End of the Affair, and so many gorgeous nude and sex scenes in Boogie Nights…

Somehow though I don’t mind the distractions…

So back to Steve Carrell’s schlep Cal.  He devastated, numb… and goes out into the world to start his new life.  Gets an apartment, has the kids over (totally hit home with me).  But then he goes out drinking every night… which is when I stop relating on a personal level.  In fact, it’s a bit distracting because it does hit so close to home which is why that angle rang a bit false– I understand why you’d want to drown yourself in sorrow, but buying drinks in a bar is expensive.  Renting an apartment by yourself while also paying child support is expensive.  Yes, Cal and Emily both are shown to have decent jobs, but not necessarily upper upper upper middle class jobs.  I mean, me and my ex both have decent jobs, but I’m having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet (which is why I’m hunting for a roommate).  When I want to drown my sorrows, I hit the ABC store and kick back in my recliner.  Not only is it much more economical but I’m not risking a DUI or killing someone driving home.

Of course, drowning his sorrows night after night at a singles bar one way to advance the plot, which involves sad-sack Cal meeting up with Jacob, played by the incredibly handsome Ryan Gosling.  Ladies, if you’re lamenting the lack of eye-candy in your life, Mr. Gosling provides quite a bit of it.  Jacob is a lady-killer, with moves so smooth he never has to spend the night alone.  Of course, the womanizing is to paper over inner pain and tormoil, and so we figure the arc of the story involves Cal and Jacob helping each other deal with and overcome their pain.

Emma Stone is cute! Red hair is nice... does she have freckles?

Add to the mix cute and perky Emma Stone, who pops up as Hannah, the object of Jacob’s affection but who is one woman unmoved by his overt charms.  She actually plays a larger role in the movie than I initially figured she would.  This role is much more “grown-up” than previous roles I’ve seen her in, and at 23 she should be playing older roles and yet she looks so young and tiny it almost feels like Jacob trying to score with a high-schooler.Another woman in the mix is Analeigh Tipton, who plays Jessica, a high-school senior who babysits for Cal and Emily.  Analeigh plays Jessica well, adding in the right level of teenage awkwardness and innocence, and yet the actress herself just radiates this feline sexiness that I had moments lamenting this was not rated R so there was no chance of American Beauty-style shenanigans.  I mean, just check her out:

It's okay, she's actually 23...

It almost felt like they miscast the movie; even though they’re actually the same age, having Emma Stone be the babysitter and Analeigh Tipton be the law student who gets tangled up with Gosling would have “felt” more correct.  Now, I still liked Emma’s performance — speaking of movie rating, she’s central to a funny scene where they’re talking about movie ratings in a fun almost self-referential/meta way that I won’t spoil here because it’s quite amusing with a surprising twist.  Of course, Ms. Stone is a bigger star and Hannah is a bigger role so the producers probably wouldn’t have even thought about switching the roles… especially given the PG-13 rating.  If it were rated R and Hannah’s role called for nudity it might have been weird seeing Emma naked.  She just looks too young and cute to see unclothed on the big screen.  I think she needs some more seasoning before she goes that route.

Which is actually a nice segue for the next woman I’d like to talk about– Marisa Tomei.  She’s a woman that just seems to get more and more sexy the older she gets.  I remember when she first hit the scene she was a lot like Emma Stone– cute, perky, soooo young looking.  The years have given her a bit more curves, laugh lines, and a self-assuredness that just radiates sex appeal.  Her turns in Rescue Me and Before the Devil Knows Your Dead… whooie, red hot!

Mmmmmmmarisa....

Marisa plays Kate, a woman Cal meets in a bar after Jacob gives him tips and a make-over, and the scenes between Cal and Kate offer up quite a few laughs.

One last woman I’d like to mention — the awesome Liza Lapira plays Liz, Hannah’s best friend and confidant who in some ways is trying to help Hannah somewhat like Jacob is trying to help Cal.

Looooove Liza!

She isn’t on screen much, but when she was I found myself riveted by her smile and great dialogue.  I tried to remember where I had seen her from, and later realized she was on one of my favorite cancelled TV shows– Traffic Light.  The show revolved around 3 friends in various stages of relationships, and Liza played the spouse to the married friend.  A what a spouse– her performance was a tour-de-force and it was a damn shame the ratings didn’t carry the show to a second season.

Now, about 2/3rds of the way through the movie I realized that the plot was angling back towards the gravitational pull of a relatively tidy Hollywood romantic comedy ending, and I was a tad disappointed.  I thought the potential was there for something better, more muddled and complex and ultimately more satisfying.  I won’t spoil the details, but in terms of Hollywood romantic comedies it actually ended pretty well and I found myself smiling and even a little sentimentally misty-eyed.  However, in my idealized version of this movie, Cal would end up with Marisa Tomei, at least for the short-term (I mean who wouldn’t want at least a year with Marisa Tomei??).  And Emily realizes she made a huge mistake giving up on Cal and laments that it’s too late to go back.  It would make for a bittersweet ending and a break with Hollywood convention, but sometimes that’s a bit much to ask from movies these days.

Go see the movie, tell me what you thought about it in the comments!

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