Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Year in Review - Books

I read a lot more this year than I thought I would, given that the first 2/3 of the year I was pregnant and not feeling well, and then the last 1/3 I have been taking care of an infant. But I wouldn't say, as I did last year, that it was a good reading year. I read some books that I really did enjoy (marked with a *), and I found some new (for me) authors that I really liked - particularly Douglas Adams and EL Doctorow. But it took me until March or April to get to a book that I really liked. 2009 seems to have been a year of books that I am still indifferent about.

In 2010, I hope to finally finish the Modern Library's Top 100 of the 20th Century - that will be a big accomplishment, considering I've been "actively" working the list since 2005. I also hopefully will FINALLY get to some books that have been at the top of my TBR pile for a few years: In Cold Blood, The Shipping News, and maybe even Possession. We'll see though - the focus will be getting through the ML list, and with such tomes as Parade's End, Studs Lonigan and Finnegan's Wake still to go, it may be a struggle.

Here's the Read in '09 list:

  1. A Room with a View - EM Forster
  2. American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis
  3. Empty Phantoms - Interviews with Jack Kerouac
  4. Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
  5. Fight Club - Chuck Palahnuik
  6. Fatelessness - Imre Kertesz
  7. Amok - Stefan Zweig
  8. Time's Arrow -Martin Amis
  9. Closely Watched Trains - Bohumil Hrabal
  10. The Rainbow - DH Lawrence
  11. Justine - Lawrence Durrell
  12. The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler*
  13. Atonement - Ian McEwan*
  14. Henderson the Rain King - Saul Bellow
  15. Ragtime - EL Doctorow*
  16. High Wind in Jamaica - Richard Hughes
  17. A Dance to the Music of Time (4th Movement) - Anthony Powell*
  18. A Handful of Dust - Evelyn Waugh
  19. Golden Bowl - Henry James
  20. Pale Fire - Vladimir Nabokov*
  21. Balthasar - Lawrence Durrell
  22. And Then We Came to the End - Joshua Ferris*
  23. Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll
  24. Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
  25. Chocky - John Wyndham
  26. The 39 Steps - John Buchan
  27. King Lear - William Shakespeare
  28. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams*
  29. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - Jonathan Safran Foer*
  30. The Naked and the Dead - Norman Mailer
  31. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
  32. Under the Net - Iris Murdoch
  33. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
  34. Winnie-the-Pooh - AA Milne
  35. 1919 - John Dos Passos
  36. Zuelika Dobson - Max Beerbohm
  37. No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy*
  38. Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren
  39. The Ginger Man - J.P. Donleavy

2009 Year in Review - Movies

I didn't watch as many movies as I did last year. Once again, this is mostly due to pregnancy and then the arrival of Brendan in August. But I did ok considering. Favorites are underlined/bolded.
  1. Le Cercle Rouge
  2. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (I LOVED this! Definately the best I watched all year)
  3. Soylent Green (not bad for a Charlton Heston film)
  4. Thumbsucker
  5. Double Life of Veronique (A movie I really wanted to love, but it just left me cold)
  6. Meatballs
  7. Divine Horsemen
  8. Fateless
  9. Atonement
  10. Slum Dog Millionaire
  11. Three Penny Opera (I was pretty disappointed in this one)
  12. Wonderful/Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (Did she support the Nazis or not? Was Triumph of the Will a propaganda film, or a documentary? I still don't know.)
  13. The Big Sleep
  14. Return to Oz
  15. Cabaret
  16. Clash of the Titans (Can't wait for 2010's remake of this starring Ralph Fiennes)
  17. Appaloosa (I know I watched this, but honestly, I can't remember a thing about it)
  18. L'Avventura (Didn't really get it when I watched it, but appreciate it more after reading Ebert's review)
  19. Frozen River
  20. Battleship Potemkin
  21. The Public Enemy (1931 version with James Cagney, not Johnny Depp)
  22. Monkey Business (I enjoyed Duck Soup to this, but it was classic Marx Brothers nonetheless...and I love me some Marx Bros.)
  23. The Trouble With Harry
  24. Incident at Oglala (Should my "neighbor" Leonard Peltier really be in prison? Probably not.)
  25. Rear Window (After years of only seeing parts of this film, I finally saw the whole thing)
  26. Gran Torino (Terribly disturbing)
  27. The Fire Within
  28. Iris
  29. Stranger Than Fiction (No matter how many films I see her in, I cannot conceive of Maggie Gyllenhall as a romatic lead at all, but this movie was cute anyway)
  30. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (I think this has been called "celluloid excrement," and I can't say that I disagree)
  31. No Country for Old Men

The Ginger Man

I cannot say that I went into reading this book with an open mind. I was expecting not to like it. That expectation was largely based on Doug Shaw's review. And guess what - once again he was right.

Doug sums up the plot of The Ginger Man so succinctly, I will just let him tell it to you:

Okay, okay, quiet down now, I got a joke for you. Stop me if you've heard this one: ...[Sebastian Dangerfield] walks into a bar, right? Gets blind drunk, smashes up some things, goes home, and pawns his woman's stuff to get more money to buy booze. Wait, it gets better. She gets mad, he smacks her, and she leaves eventually. He pawns the rest of her stuff, gets drunk, and finds another woman who has sex with him and falls in love with him...

Wait, it gets better... after this new woman falls in love with him, this guy walks into a bar. Gets blind drunk, smashes up some things, goes home, and pawns this new woman's stuff to get more money to buy booze. She gets mad, he smacks her, and she leaves eventually...

That plot synopsis I just gave you is the entire story of The Ginger Man. That one theme, over and over. And over.

The Nation says that this novel is "a comic masterpiece." The New Yorker called it "a triumph of comic writing." Let me give you some quotes here, and you tell me if you think this is comedic:

[Sebastian] took the child's pillow from under its head and pressed it hard on the screaming mouth.

"I'll kill it, God damn it, I'll kill it, if it doesn't shut up."

AND

[Sebastian's wife]: "That we've been starving. That the baby has rickets. And because you're drinking every penny we get. And this house too and that you slapped and punched me when I was pregnant, threw me out of bed and pushed me down the stairs. That we're in debt, owe hundreds of pounds, the whole loathsome truth."

...He slowly reached out and took the shade off the lamp. He placed it on his little table.

"Are you going to shut up?"

"No."

He took the lamp by the neck and smashed it to pieces on the wall.

"Now shut up."

HOW ABOUT THIS:

[Sebastian:] "Well god damn it, another word out of you and I'll bat you in the bloody face..."...Sebastian's arm whistled through the air. The flat of his palm cracked against the side of her face and Mary sat stunned. He slapped her again. "I'm going to kick the living shit out of you. Do you hear me?"

That's hillarious, isn't it? Jay McInerney - whose book Big City, Bright Lights is on my TBR pile, calls Dangerfield thoroughly charming. Yeah - Dangerfield seems like the type of person you'd really enjoy knowing, doesn't it? I'm not sure on what planet someone would find Dangerfield charming, but it isn't on the planet I live on (or would want to live on).

I don't know that I've run across another literary character that I so thoroughly detested. At first I debated who I disliked more - Sebastian Dangerfield or Rabbit Angstrom. But Dangerfield wins hands down. At least Rabbit, Run wasn't supposed to be funny.

I'll be frank here, as this is pretty much all that I have to say about this novel (which is a waste of paper, if you asked me). Sebastian Dangerfield is an Asshole - with a capital A. A story about an abusive guy who takes all his money (and his wife's money, and his girlfriend's money, and his friend's money, etc.) to get drunk and schmooze women, while his wife and infant daughter virtually starve in a house that is literally falling down is not funny. In fact, I find it incredibly disturbing that anyone would think this is funny, or that such a character is "charming." And if you are someone who thinks this character is charming, or sympathetic, or funny, I'll venture to guess that you're probably an Asshole - with a capital A - too. So there.

Please don't construe this as a softening of any anti-Henry James-ness, but I think that I would rather reread The Ambassadors than have to encounter Sebastian Dangerfield ever again. The only use for my copy of this novel is to give it to Brendan to fart on.

Monday, December 28, 2009

1984

1984 is personal. My reaction to it was purely personal. Obviously I know and understand its links and parallels with the USSR, but I didn't care about any of that. To quote from my 2006 journal entry about this novel:

1984 bothers me....I don’t give a shit about big brother, loss of privacy, the ability to or possibility of altering the past, the social commentary, its relevance to today, etc. I don’t care. What bothers me is the story about Julia.

I was deeply disturbed by the love story here. DEEPLY disturbed. And it all centered around this:

"...Confession is not betrayal. What you say or do doesn't matter: only feelings matter. If they could make me stop loving you - that would be the real betrayal."

I wrote extensively about this in my journal at the time. I read 1984 when I was dating Shawn - about a year and a half into our relationship. Everything was still fairly new, and we were still in the lovey-dovey stage. And I completely felt Winston in this instance - he and Julia know they will be tortured, and that they will give the other up. But no matter what, they would still love each other. That feeling would still be there.

And then there is Room 101 and the rats. And Winston really does betray her, in his own definition of the word. He tells O'Brien - do it to her, not to me. His own self-preservation instinct is stronger than his feelings for Julia. And Julia did the same thing. This FLOORED me. It had me questioning everything: would I do the same thing? Would Shawn? And what did that mean? I was bewildered and confused for days.

I continued in my journal:

...After Winston is arrested and begins to be tortured, all I wondered about was Julia – was she constantly on his mind, there with him, etc. Because I would like to imagine that I would feel him there with me. But then I think about those tortures – being kicked in the back where my discs are bad, or to be beaten, shocked, and it's frightening because maybe it would be so bad that I wouldn’t think or feel anything but my own pain. It’s frightening that someone could take him away from me in that manner. Then there was the scene when they shock his brain to convince him of things, and I became afraid of someone who would remove him from my brain in such a way to make me forget that I love him. But then in the end, with the rats, when he tells them to do it to Julia instead...That was the betrayal – he thought of himself to her detriment. What bothers me is that someone else can force you to that point, and you can believe all you want that it won’t or couldn’t happen, but it can. Until just now, I thought that what bothered me was that someone else could do that to me – someone else could force me to betray him but when I was just writing that, I realized that someone could do that to him as well – he could betray me in the same way, and suddenly, I’m not sure which is more disturbing.
I read a lot, but it's rare when a book truly elicits a reaction, or that really moves me. I'm not talking about feelings of frustration, boredom, and general anger at a book or author (*cough cough* Henry James *cough cough*). I'm not talking about being engrossed in the plot. I'm talking about something that stays with you, and that when I recall it, it brings that emotion back up. I can really enjoy a book: its plot, its language or style, etc., but it's those that are not only reading experiences but emotional experiences as well that I love. I get anxious just remembering my reaction to this novel, and that says a lot. I'm not sure that I could stomach reading it again, but I'm sure that I will some day. 1984 may not be my favorite book, but it certainly was able to bring forth really strong emotions. And THAT makes it a damn good book.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pippi Longstocking

Last night I finished Pippi Longstocking. I had never read it before.

I mentioned this briefly here: as far as I can tell, Pippi Longstocking is the ONLY children's book included in the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list (2008 edition - not included on 2006 list). This bothers me. If we are going to start included children's books on such a list, that is fine, but there are many others that would come to mind before Pippi Longstocking. What about Winnie-the-Pooh? Charlotte's Web? Even The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe isn't included. WHY ONLY PIPPI?

The editors of the 1,001 list revamped it in 2008 to address criticism that it was too Anglo-centric. So they took out all these classics of Western literature - Dickens, Faulkner, Austen, Woolf, and added all these non-Anglo texts to the list. (There isn't anything inherently wrong with that, but see my reasoning here, here and here for why the editors didn't go about it in the right way.) The only explanation I can come up with for the appearance of Pippi in that misguided reshuffle is that someone thought - we don't have enough Swedes on here! And put Pippi Longstocking on there to fill that gap (for those wondering, the 2008 ed. included nine books by Swedes; five of those nine were not included in the 2006 edition). With that logic, I can see why they left off all those other great children's books that I mentioned - because they are all written by British or American men, which clearly didn't fit their new model.

I know I should get so frustrated with a silly book list, but I take these things seriously. They chopped The Brothers Karamozov, The Sound and the Fury, and Pilgrim's Progress off the list, and added Pippi Longstocking. There is something very wrong with that. Not all baseball players deserve to be at Cooperstown, if you know what I mean, even if they are decent.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

No Country For Old Men

I feel completely unqualified to write about this book. McCarthy always makes me feel this way. I just don’t ever know what to say. McCarthy is so singular that there are no comparisons to make.

I often want to call his prose “sparse,” but that word implies “less than what is necessary” which isn’t what I mean at all. It is only what is necessary – no less, but no more either. While I truly love the flourish of well written prose, McCarthy’s is as stripped down as it could possibly get. Even quotation marks are an unneeded extravagance. This writing style highlights the bleakness of his topics: apocalyptic disaster, absolute evil, etc. The horror speaks for itself – McCarthy doesn’t need a lot of words to convey it.

I won’t go into the plot details here, mostly because I don't feel like it, but also because the story is probably familiar to most. I am fascinated by two characters in this story: Moss and Chigurh. Moss: he thinks that HE is the “ultimate bad-ass”. He greatly overestimates his abilities in this department. He is no match for Chigurh – but then again nobody is, not even Wells. But here is Moss, repeatedly told not to try to outrun this thing, because it will not work. He will get you. But Moss is so caught up in himself. “I’m going to make you my special project” – he says something like that to Chigurh, and you just want to laugh at him. Yeah, ok Moss. He’s just so dumb in that respect.

I keep reflecting on Chigurh, and found a lot of insights about him in some research. He’s not a “character” in the traditional sense. He doesn’t have a personality. Characters change and react to their surroundings and the events that happen to them. Chigurh just IS. And he is simply not responsible for the deaths of the people he murdered. Fate has put these people in his way, and that wasn’t their doing. At some point, they made a choice which led THEM to HIM in a sense, not the other way around.

What more can I say? Again – McCarthy always leaves me speechless.

One woman who attended my local book club when I was participating said that she was disappointed in No Country for Old Men’s translation into feature film. She felt it didn’t do the book justice. I’m not sure I completely agree. Perhaps the film wasn’t great at showing that Chigurh isn’t just a bad guy. He is THE bad guy– a force of nature, destiny personified - conscienceless, ruled by fate, meting out some kind of divine justice. Maybe he is best described as beyond good and evil. It didn’t matter to him that he could have let Carla Jean go, just to be nice or whatever. Everyone involved had to die – just because they did. I only say that this might not have been conveyed in the right way due to Shawn’s reaction: “I don’t like the ending,” he said. “They didn’t get the bad guy. I hate it when the bad guy gets away.” I didn’t try to explain that you simply CANNOT get Chigurh. If you could, No Country would be just another chase story, no different from a number of other Tommy Lee Jones movies. Chigurh is beyond that. I don’t know that anything that said was much as included in the novel but not the movie, but I’m not sure that this all-important element came through. That’s probably why so many people were confused by the ending. They went to the cinema expecting to see a modern western staring Tommy Lee Jones, but they got something different.

The denouement, when seen through the lens of what the general viewing public may have expected from this film, was anticlimactic. But I believe that Bell is perhaps the central figure in this story. HE is the one that has a change, though perhaps that is simply because he’s the only one that doesn’t end up dead. In the beginning, we find the Sheriff realizing that he is confronting something that simply wasn’t when he got in the law enforcement business. I don't want to say "didn't exist," but just wasn't. He doesn’t understand this new thing, this new force. He doesn’t WANT to understand. He wants no part of that world. He thought at some point God would come into his life, but what he finds instead is Chigurh – who in a way is like some people’s conception of God. In the end, he has to opt out. Is the ending ambiguous? Yes. But perhaps less ambiguous than The Road with the fish… and the ties between those two novels, with the fire being carried forward, has been pointed out many times by people more qualified than me to discuss this.

I enjoyed this from the Scanners discussion forum (regarding the film, but applies to the novel as well):

Chigurh is by no means the focus of "No Country For Old Men" (it's more about the other characters' responses to his presence), but he bothers some people because they don't know who he is or what he represents. And that's just fine. Ask yourself, "What does he seek?" (in the words of his movie-killer antithesis, the cannibal psychologist Dr. Hannibal Lecter)... and where does that get you? He seeks $2 million in a leather satchel. As Joel Coen once said to me in an interview about "Barton Fink": "The question is: Where would it get you if something that's a little bit ambiguous in the movie is made clear? It doesn't get you anywhere." Sometimes, if certain questions don't appear to have an answer, maybe that's enough of an answer. Or maybe it's a superfluous question."

One (hopefully non-superfluous) question I do have to ask – and maybe it makes me look like a moron – but who the hell was Chigurh working for? Was he working for anyone? If any explanation was given, I missed it.

I really only started this book because I’m (1) not into The Big Money for some reason – I guess I needed a break after 1919 and have kind of given up for the time being; and (2) I am having a difficult time stomaching The Ginger Man. Watch for seething post on that coming up in a few weeks. McCarthy is always a nice break from the mundane. I can’t wait for Blood Meridian in 2010 (which will also eventually be made into a film).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Zuleika Dobson

I had no preconceived notions of what Zuleika Dobson was going to be like. I didn’t even go into expecting it to be a comedy, because in my mind I kept getting it mixed up with Zlata’s Diary and therefore thought it might be about someone in Eastern Europe. But it actually has nothing to do with Eastern Europe. I kind of wish that it did, though. Roger Ebert’s words about a movie he REALLY didn’t like come to mind: It has to be seen to be believed, but I don’t recommend that.

What to say about this mess that is Zuleika Dobson?

I suppose I should lay out the plot here first. We have Zuleika Dobson, who is very beautiful and makes her living as a conjurer, putting on parlor tricks for rich people in Europe and America. (She’s “less than mediocre” at her profession, but I suppose she gets by on her looks.) At the beginning of the novel, she is coming to stay with her grandfather at Oxford.

Zuleika is notorious for not falling in love with anyone. That is until she sees the Duke of Dorset, a student at Oxford. He is notorious for the same thing. Of course, they fall in love, but only briefly. The day after they meet, Zuleika visits the Duke, but when she learns that he loves her, she isn’t interested anymore. Yeah, the whole thing lasted about 12 hours. The Duke is still smitten of course, and decides to kill himself for love of Zuleika. He tells her of his plan. She is excited that someone would do this for her.

The problem is that all of Oxford is in love with her apparently, and when word gets around that Dorset is going to kill himself for her, all the other males at Oxford decide to do the same.

How does Zuleika respond? Well, she must do something for all these young me who are going to throw themselves in the river for her. So she puts on her conjuring show. How kind of her! When the Duke is walking Zuleika back to her rooms after the show, he tells her that he wants to live, and asks her to release him from his promise to kill himself. Zuleika is disgusted by the suggestion.

And then we get to Chapter 11. Geesh, this book exhausts me.

The Duke has now decided not to kill himself over Zuleika. But then he gets a letter from home about two owls, and apparently that means that he is going to die. So he hasn’t prolonged his life any after all. He knows that no one will believe him if he says, “it’s silly for all of us to kill ourselves over this woman, but I’m going to die today anyway.” He walks around Oxford trying to talk people out of the mass suicide but without any success.

And then we get to this entire subplot, where his landlady’s daughter is in love with him. The morning that he is going to jump in the river, he confronts her about it, and she admits that she loves him. He tells her that he hates Zuleika, and gives Katie a pair of pearl earrings that Zuleika had given him as a trinket. He kisses Katie and then goes to kill himself. All the undergraduates kill themselves by jumping into the river and yelling “Zuleika!”

But it doesn't end there. There was one undergraduate that doesn’t kill himself, though he intended to: Noaks, who lived with Dorset. When Katie, after finding out that everybody has committed suicide, goes to ready Noaks’ and Dorset’s room for their families, she finds Noaks hiding behind a curtain. He doesn’t want anyone to know that he didn’t kill himself over Zuleika, because that would make him a coward. Katie tells him that she loves him, because he didn’t kill himself over Zuleika, who Katie hates because of the situation with Dorset. Noaks, pleased that somebody likes him (he’s kind of a dork) asks her to marry him – well, more like he gives her a ring and says now they are engaged. Before too long Zuleika shows up, and Noaks tries to make excuses to her why he isn’t dead like the rest of them. But now Zuleika loves him precisely because he is the only one left. Katie of course overhears all of this, throws Noaks ring at her, informs Zuleika that Noaks was just chicken and that she knows that Dorset didn’t kill himself over her. This kid Clarence (who I assume is Katie’s brother, though I’m not sure that we’re ever told that) goes to beat up Noaks, but Noaks jumps (or falls) out the window and dies.

Zuleika decides that she is going to enter a convent so that she can’t wreck havoc like that again, but at the last minute, terribly worried that everyone will find out that Dorset didn’t kill himself over her, decides to go to Cambridge, presumably so that she can do the same thing again.

Phew. That took a lot to recount, and it wasn’t a very long book.

Despite its attempts to be a comedy, I found Zuleika Dobson to be terribly unfunny. By Chapter 3 or so, I was wondering what the hell was this thing? Is Beerbohm being serious about this? I really didn’t get at first that he’s being facetious – that it’s supposed to be some sort of satire. If taken seriously, it reminds me of the melodramas I tried to write when I was 12 years old. That’s not a complement, in case you were wondering. This is TERRIBLE! I thought. How the [expletive] did this drivel end up on the Modern Library list? How could ANYONE possibly like this? But as I started to research other bloggers/online reviewers who read Zuleika, I find that they all had over-the-moon praise for it. Orrin, the reviewer at Brothers Judd said, “the revelation of this satirical baroque masterpiece justifies all the wretched dreck I’ve waded through on this list.” The reviewer at 70proof called it “wonderfully clever,” “genuinely funny and significant” and said that its verbosity “only adds to the pleasure.” WHAT???? I’m not entirely sure that I was reading the same novel as they were.

The New York Times, at least gets closer to my feelings. One article there states, “Beerbohm cannot approach real harshness. For a satirist he’s too congenial…The visciousness that makes Juvenal and Jonathan Swift great is beyond his modestly ironic touch.” Perhaps that is what is wrong with it…I don’t know. It feels like there was potential there, but something wasn’t right.

A new revelation has suddenly come to me. I have known girls like Zuleika, and they annoy the piss out of me. These are the girls that fawn over all the men – even ones they do not like – because they cannot stand to be in a room with someone of the opposite sex and not be the complete center of their attention. I had a roommate like this once. I know it comes from a place of insecurity, but it is annoying nonetheless. It’s frustrating when you can’t bring a boy home with you because you know your roommate will be clawing at him all night, and though I mean no disrespect to any males reading this blog, but most men are too stupid to realize what females like this are doing. I didn’t realize until now that perhaps the reason this book frustrated me so much was because Zuleika is TOTALLY like that roommate.

I could be snarky here. And trust me, I want to be. I feel almost compelled to be an ass about people who think this book is worthwhile (William Styron, one of the Modern Library list’s judges called it “a toothless pretender”). But it’s the Christmas season, so maybe I should try to be nice or something. So rather than blast those crazy reviewers who enjoyed this novel, I will leave you with a phrase my grandmother always says when someone enjoys something she doesn’t, and can’t understand why they like it because she thinks it’s stupid, but she wants to be nice: “It’s good we don’t all like the same things.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Holiday 2009 SLIFR Quiz

Ok - I may be REALLY out of my league here but I've been meaning to fill one of these out for a long time, and I finally did it! Yay for me!

PROFESSOR RUSSELL JOHNSON'S "MY ANCESTORS CAME OVER ON THE MINNOW" THANKSGIVING/CHRISTMAS MOVIE QUIZ

1) Second-favorite Coen Brothers movie.
Fargo

2) Movie seen only on home format that you would pay to see on the biggest movie screen possible?
The Wizard of Oz

3) Japan or France?
France

4) Favorite moment/line from a western.
I know they may take away my American card for this, but I don’t like westerns.

5) Of all the arts the movies draw upon to become what they are, which is the most important, or the one you value most?
Literature, of course! Actually, thanks to Dos Passos, I am now completely fascinated by the influence that film had on the novel.

6) Most misunderstood movie of the 2000s (The Naughties?).
Because I can’t answer “misunderstood” I’m going to say underrated: Idiocracy. This is where we potentially are headed, people.

7) Name a filmmaker/actor/actress/film you once unashamedly loved who has fallen furthest in your esteem.

Angelina Jolie. Her fall from my esteem has more to do with her personal life than her acting. I suppose I liked her better when she was nutso. Is this kind of like admitting I don’t like Mother Teresa or something? because that’s what it feels like.

8) Herbert Lom or Patrick Magee?
I cannot answer this, as I do not know enough of either’s work to make a judgement call

9) Which is your least favorite David Lynch film
Blue Velvet

10) Gordon Willis or Conrad Hall?
Willis

11) Second favorite Don Siegel movie.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers. First favorite: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (it’s the only one of his I’ve seen, but with the line “Gessner!” i feel it has a right to more than one slot).

12) Last movie you saw on DVD/Blu-ray? In theaters?
DVD – the delightful Stranger Than Fiction. I honestly don’t remember the last movie I saw in the theaters. It must have been Slumdog.

13) Which DVD in your private collection screams hardest to be replaced by a Blu-ray?
Not upgrading yet.

14) Eddie Deezen or Christopher Mintz-Plasse?
See my answer to #8; but based on their wiki photos, I’m going to go with Deezen.

15) Actor/actress who you feel automatically elevates whatever project they are in, or whom you would watch in virtually anything.
This one was harder than I imagined it would be. There are the obvious old-timers, like Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant. I’m wracking my brain for something that George Clooney was in that I didn’t like, and I can’t think of any, so maybe I should answer him. But I’m also thinking Kate Winslet. Yes, that includes Titanic. Oh and Christina Ricci.

16) Fight Club -- yes or no?
A very unenthusiastic yes.

17) Teresa Wright or Olivia De Havilland?
See answer to #8. Yeah – I’m admitting it; I’ve never seen Gone with the Wind. Please don’t throw tomatoes!

18) Favorite moment/line from a film noir.
There are so many things I could put here, but I’ll go with my long-time favorite, from the wonderful movie WHICH IS NOT YET OUT ON DVD DAMN IT!, The Blue Dahlia – “Bourbon straight with a bourbon chaser.” Loves it.

19) Best (or worst) death scene involving an obvious dummy substituting for a human or any other unsuccessful special effect(s)
I can’t think of an answer for this.

20) What's the least you've spent on a film and still regretted it?
I’ve seen some real stinkers at the drive-ins (<$2/film) (The Saint being one of them), but I wouldn’t say I regretted it. They were a waste of time, but I wouldn’t say regret. Only two films fit the regret category: Saw and Pink Flamingos.

21) Van Johnson or Van Heflin?
Yeah, once again, haven’t seen anything either of them were in. Though Van Johnson looks familiar.

22) Favorite Alan Rudolph film.
Does the fact that Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle is in my Netflix queue count for anything?

23) Name a documentary that you believe more people should see.
Hearth and Harvest – because my husband’s in it! Otherwise, I’ll say Jesus Camp. It’s a blatant depiction of sanctioned child abuse.

24) In deference to this quiz’s professor, name a favorite film which revolves around someone becoming stranded.
A favorite of mine from when I was a pre-teen, Shipwreck (or was it Shipwrecked?)

25) Is there a moment when your knowledge of film, or lack thereof, caused you an unusual degree of embarrassment and/or humiliation? If so, please share.
Yes – admitting in #18 that I never saw Gone with the Wind. I am constantly embarrassed when a film is referenced that I didn't see. I am taking steps to correct this, though.

26) Ann Sheridan or Geraldine Fitzgerald?
I don’t think I’ve seen anything either of the them were in. This quiz should be my answer for #25.

27) Do you or any of your family members physically resemble movie actors or other notable figures in the film world? If so, who?
No.

28) Is there a movie you have purposely avoided seeing? If so, why?
There are so many movies in this category I wouldn’t know where to start. In general I avoid seeing run-of-the-mill romantic comedies (sorry Sarah Jessica Parker!) and all the slasher films that have been coming out in the last 5-10 years. I also refuse to see anything with Seth Rogen, because I think he’s an ass.

29) Movie with the most palpable or otherwise effective wintry atmosphere or ambience.
The Snowman.

30) Gerrit Graham or Jeffrey Jones?
Jeffrey Jones. One I can finally answer!

31) The best cinematic antidote to a cultural stereotype (sexual, political, regional, whatever).
I can’t answer this one…it would require too much thought, and when I get up at 5:30 for more than two days in a row, I just don’t have it.

32) Second favorite John Wayne movie.
My American card may be revoked for this too – I don’t like John Wayne. Please don’t throw tomatoes.

33) Favorite movie car chase.
The Bourne Identity.

34) In the spirit of His Girl Friday, propose a gender-switched remake of a classic or not-so-classic film.
Honestly, I have no idea. Cannot think!

35) Barbara Rhoades or Barbara Feldon?
Yeah, maybe you could just keep looking at #8?

36) Favorite Andre De Toth movie.
*Sigh* See #8. Again.

37) If you could take one filmmaker's entire body of work and erase it from all time and memory, as if it had never happened, whose oeuvre would it be?
Luis Bunuel. I feel guilty about it, but I just can't stand it!

38) Name a film you actively hated when you first encountered it, only to see it again later in life and fall in love with it.
I wouldn’t say hated, but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind wasn’t what I expected, which disappointed me at first. But now I feel better about it.

39) Max Ophuls or Marcel Ophuls?
I’ll give you one guess of what my answer here is.

40) In which club would you most want an active membership, the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, the Cutters or the Warriors? And which member would you most resemble, either physically or in personality?
Is it terrible of me to admit I don’t know what is referred to by the Cutters? Perhaps this should be my answer to #25. And having never seen The Warriors, I’m going to have to go with Delta Tau Chi. Hopefully the answer to the second part isn’t Belushi.

41) Your favorite movie cliché.
The noir femme fatale

42) Vincente Minnelli or Stanley Donen?
Well, I saw Donen’s Funny Face and didn’t really like it. Never saw anything by Minnelli. Except Liza. Harharhar.

43) Favorite Christmas-themed horror movie or sequence.
Gremlins - can that count as horror?

44) Favorite moment of self- or selfless sacrifice in a movie.
Perhaps this is because it’s fresh in my mind, but I love Will Ferrell stepping in front of the bus in Stranger Than Fiction.

45) If you were the cinematic Spanish Inquisition, which movie cult (or cult movie) would you decimate?
Pink Flamingoes. There is simply no excuse.

46) Caroline Munro or Veronica Carlson?
So, have I earned my film dunce cap yet?

47) Favorite eye-patch wearing director.
I guess I’m required to answer John Ford, aren’t I?

48) Favorite ambiguous movie ending.
Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. That whole film was ambiguous.

49) In giving thanks for the movies this year, what are you most thankful for?
I’m thankful that I saw the following movies: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, The Trouble with Harry, Gran Torino, Iris, Stranger Than Fiction. And I’m looking forward to someday seeing the following movies that were released this year: The Informant, The Men Who Stare At Goats, The Road

50) George Kennedy or Alan North?
They just had to throw in one last embarrassment, didn’t they?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A U.S.A. Resource

I'm currently in about 2/3 of the way through Dos Passos's 1919, the second installment in the USA trilogy. Because I allowed such a huge gap between my reading of the first installment and this one, I am having a hell of a time keeping track of characters and remembering who we know from 42nd Parallel, and how those characters relate and interact with the characters in 1919. I have search high and low, and haven't really been able to find much information about USA, specifically a character list. This is an egregious oversight on the part of book readers/bloggers. But today I stumbled upon this website, which is really excellent.