The Junk Food of Writing

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Ouch. Sour Patch Kids scratch my tongue.

Christmas was lovely; my family Christmas party was a drunken mess, as it very well should be.

To escape my New Jersey household, tomorrow’s agenda includes a train, Manhattan, Thai food, Woody Allen and Caché. Color me excited. I am torn, however, whether to buy a ticket online in advance for Match Point tomorrow. While it would be ideal to catch the 2:15 showing (I will arrive in Manhattan around 1:20, and then walk ten blocks – so I will probably approach the theater around 2:45), I cannot justify spending more money for the “convenience fee.” It is not that I am frugal, I just refuse to pay unnecessary charges to companies that are looking to make a “convenient” buck on paranoid payers. Plus, I simply enjoy buying a ticket the old way -- you know, at the box office.

It seems as if I will be in Boston for New Years. And, apparently, I will be embarking on my first “road trip” (5 hours constitutes as a minor road trip at least, right?). My friend claims that he is not sure how reliable his car is to make the trip, but questionable reliability is part of the road-trip-fun, isn’t it? It should be a good time, nonetheless.

Speaking of Boston, as I was walking up my street with my iPod earphones in place a couple weeks ago, I heard some familiar lyrics. The lyrics themselves, which were attached to a song by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists called “Bridges, Squares,” were recognizable due to their local relevance to me. Immediately, Mr. Leo mentions Kendall Square, a location which I frequent (mostly to see films at the arthouse, walk past a coffee shop which seems to be perpetually closed, and get food at a creepy Thai place with shady servers). The song subsequently name-drops the ‘Charles River’ and the ‘Red Line T train’ – two appellations every Bostonian must know. It was the next line that really hit home – they mentioned Joy Street, that wonderful lane that I live on. When I reached a computer, I checked the lyrics and, to my chagrin, I misheard those last lyrics, which are actually “joins stream.” How disappointing – I am, however, willing to be delusional if you are, because that would just be so cool if my street was actually featured in the song.

Oh, and inspired musicians – I think I know about those. Aside from some snazzy musical numbers in Walk the Line, however, I would never have thought that Johnny Cash was a very inspirational artist. I would just think he is another romantic sap with some standard-biopic-life-moments.

Walk the Line (Mangold, 2005): B-, 6/10 [Disappointingly falls into the unambitious, paint-by-the-numbers biopic category with last year’s Ray. Walk the Line simply lacks passion and, consequently, is rather drab and ineffective; also, there is absolutely no sort of surprise. By focusing on the love story (which, essentially, it strives to be), the film marginalizes what Johnny Cash actually was -- an artist. The film is too preoccupied with showing Cash's most embarrassing moments, including his drug addiction (which is quite trite) and his (what a shocker) antagonism with his father. Aside from that, I found Phoneix and Witherspoon to be outstandingly convincing, yet their relationship remained unconvincing. And I guess I should start blaming the actual fame-struggling musicians themselves for leading such generic lives (fight with my father, yell at my wife, cheat on her, and then do some drugs) – or perhaps I should blame filmmakers for solely including these insipid details. How about Johnny Cash’s religious epiphany? Remember – one of his main musical inspirations. Oh, and I could have sworn that Mangold seemed as if he wanted to ditch this project and just make a film about Dylan instead. He has a strange facsination with OTHER musicians (Elvis? Come on). Then again, he probably just did that so people would say, "look it's Elvis!" and, "did he just mention THE Bob Dylan!?" and feel good about themselves for recognition of the name-dropping. The film itself walks a thin line between a standard romantic comedy and a generic biopic.]

Brokeback Mountain (Lee, 2005): B+, 8/10 [Not quite the overwhelming theater experience I expected -- perhaps I can blame the audience, who laughed through the most devastating moments in the film (shocking, since I was in a metropolis), for that. I cannot, however, deny its resonating affect. To me, the film was about how unsatisfying life is when you must repress such feelings. I initially thought that the characters were a bit too worn out by the end of the film, but I must say I almost disagree with myself. I will undoubtedly see the film again sometime soon and come to an unwavering decision. It's a film that has rewarded me much more afterwards. My theater experience did not overwhelm me with emotion, but, upon reflection, I am glad that it did not. The overall lack of cultivation in the character's lives is directly (but not exclusively) due to their repression. Someone argued to me that the film felt a bit too "inert," but, to me, that is the most unsettling aspect of their relationship and, consequently, their lives. The ending, contrary to popular belief, is not very ambiguous. Ms. Hathaway's expression (no, not her timeline hairstyles) is the key to the truth. Speaking of the wives, Michelle Williams gives the most truly heartbreaking performance in the film. Her role, while being sorrowfully mislabeled as "small," is crucial -- and she handled it perfectly.]

Cries and Whispers (Bergman, 1972): A-/B+, 8.5/10 [Scarlet red pervades nearly every frame of this somber, painstakingly honest meditation on sisterhood, mortality (and other’s reactions to it), and happiness (yes, happiness). Such deep crimson red is highly appropriate to convey the stark emotions felt while watching the film. The truly strong martyr in the film is the maid (and so much more), Anna. Loyal and compassionate, she serves to symbolize the audience as she witnesses, and must endure, many of the events which occur in the scenes outside the minds of the characters. She’s also a maternal figure (in one scene, she even utilizes her breast to comfort a dying woman). To both its credit and detraction, the film is absolutely suffocating, Bergman does not let it breath as much as his other films that I have seen. Aesthetically speaking, however, the film is simply superlative; the cinematography meticulously captures the profiles of the multi-faceted characters and the ephemeral imagery (which can be rather overt) are all meticulously presented.]

I will now leave, and present to you a cinnamon bun which is said to eerily resemble Mother Teresa. Frankly, I think anyone who thinks so is delusional, but we are talking about religion, so such a reaction is appropriate (it DID come from Tennessee, after all). Apparently, it was recently stolen from the Bongo Java, where it was given bakery birth. Actually, I am that hell-bound thief. I stole it just so I could show you loyal readers – so at least I am a considerate kleptomaniac.


  • I might be embarking on a road trip of my own sometime during the first half of next year. My friend, who is also going to FSU, wants to drive up there. That's like...7-9 hours depending on how many bathroom breaks are taken.

    My Christmas wasn't full of booze, but I have a new fetish: red wine. I have a picture of me a little red-faced and tipsy, but I'm not sure if I want to share.

    By Blogger Kathleen, at 3:28 PM  

  • Oh, and I also changed the name of my blog (Salinger!), so please update your link!

    By Blogger Kathleen, at 3:36 PM  

  • I hate you for getting to see Cache and Match Point so soon (post those grades!)... as far as I know, these two titles aren't opening here until late January! As for your trip to Manhattan, I'm not even going to respond (you lucky, lucky bastard).

    Those convenience/handling/service fees on buying tickets online are ridiculous. I also refuse to pay them, much to the annoyance of my friends and family. My reasoning is the same as yours - just go early!

    Glad to see you sought out Cries and Whispers and recognized its brilliance (and although I know it's petty to nitpick about grades, please remove that "B+"; it was bad enough seeing a minus next to that A on your Axis signature).

    By Blogger Ali, at 3:44 PM  

  • To Kathleen, with love and squalor: Great new title, if I may say so myself. I just finished reading Seymour: An Introduction. Therefore, no more "new" Salinger for me. Unfortunate, yet inevitable (I can always reread, of course).

    Red wine is quite a fetish. In fact, it is what got me so drunk at my family party. The wine was flowing freely!

    To Ali, with cries and whispers: Oh, envy -- how I love when people feel it towards me.

    And just to calm you down, here are some grades:

    Match Point: B-
    Caché: B+

    Wow, it's like throwing meat to a dog; you just want more, don't you? I'll have thoughts up after I return from Boston, probably sometime within the first week of January.

    As for the Manhattan "trip" (it's hardly a trip, more like a second-residence), didn't you previously state that you had many opportunities to visit Manhattan, yet passed on every experience? If so, shame on you. You should stop into Manhattan sometime this summer. Maybe we could even meet up for some weirdo esoteric flick at one of the multiple arthouses.

    Sorry, but Cries and Whispers is so in-your-face symbolic that it lost a bit of its effect (hence, the hesitation to give it a full A-). I threw together my thoughts in a rather slapdash manner; retrospectively, I regret forgetting to mention its fantastic scene of face-analysis (and that couple looked familiar -- have I seen them bickering at each other before?).

    By Blogger Nick M., at 9:48 PM  

  • And your "B" streak continues. You're becoming like James Berardinelli - give something four stars already!

    My sister was living briefly in Manhattan last summer, and she would have hosted me several times, but I had no money to make the trip. Or, I would have had enough to pay for the ticket, but no cash to spend over there (so what would be the point?). However, she will be permanently moving there this summer, so I'll try harder to make it happen this time around.

    Weirdo art flick? Yes, but more importantly we need to see something commercial and half-baked so we can rip it apart and feel good about ourselves afterwards. Like Memoirs of a Geisha.

    By Blogger Ali, at 3:13 PM  

  • Ali, please, please never compare me to James B. again.

    I actually have not given out any four stars this year -- just two 3½ stars. Hey, if any four-star films were released, I would have given them their due.

    As for the Manhattan trip, we'll just have to make it a double feature.

    Oh, and UPDATE your journal, lazyboy.

    By Blogger Nick M., at 3:22 PM  

  • James Berardinelli is creepy ;)

    By Blogger JavierAG, at 8:43 PM  

  • Indeed! And completely unsurprising.

    By Blogger Nick M., at 10:17 PM  

  • What?? Weren't you surprised at the 4-star rating of "Munich"??? (Um. Sarcasm).

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