Friday, April 30, 2010

Foyle's War

A last (probably) series is airing starting this Sunday on PBS. I reviewed it here on Slant. They are not the best episodes but they are very good. In particular, the last one is excellent. A great finale to a great show.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Happy Town

A show that's both kind of terrible and very watchable. Starts Wednesday on ABC. My review on Slant is here.

Poetry Monday

I never think of April as the cruelest month, but the month of inventory.

April Inventory
by W. D. Snodgrass

The green catalpa tree has turned
All white; the cherry blooms once more.
In one whole year I haven’t learned
A blessed thing they pay you for.
The blossoms snow down in my hair;
The trees and I will soon be bare.

The trees have more than I to spare.
The sleek, expensive girls I teach,
Younger and pinker every year,
Bloom gradually out of reach.
The pear tree lets its petals drop
Like dandruff on a tabletop.

The girls have grown so young by now
I have to nudge myself to stare.
This year they smile and mind me how
My teeth are falling with my hair.
In thirty years I may not get
Younger, shrewder, or out of debt.

The tenth time, just a year ago,
I made myself a little list
Of all the things I’d ought to know,
Then told my parents, analyst,
And everyone who’s trusted me
I’d be substantial, presently.

I haven’t read one book about
A book or memorized one plot.
Or found a mind I did not doubt.
I learned one date. And then forgot.
And one by one the solid scholars
Get the degrees, the jobs, the dollars.

And smile above their starchy collars.
I taught my classes Whitehead’s notions;
One lovely girl, a song of Mahler’s.
Lacking a source-book or promotions,
I showed one child the colors of
A luna moth and how to love.

I taught myself to name my name,
To bark back, loosen love and crying;
To ease my woman so she came,
To ease an old man who was dying.
I have not learned how often I
Can wine, can love, but choose to die.

I have not learned there is a lie
Love shall be blonder, slimmer, younger;
That my equivocating eye
Loves only by my body’s hunger;
That I have forces, true to feel,
Or that the lovely world is real.

While scholars speak authority
And wear their ulcers on their sleeves,
My eyes in spectacles shall see
These trees procure and spend their leaves.
There is value underneath
The gold and silver in my teeth.

Though trees turn bare and girls turn wives,
We shall afford our costly seasons;
There is a gentleness survives
That will outspeak and has its reasons.
There is a loveliness exists,
Preserves us, not for specialists.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Overlook (2007)

A mediocre Bosch mystery. If you can't figure this one out in the first couple of chapters then you need to be sent back to remedial mystery reading 101. Still, despite its mediocrity, it zips by with some suspenseful scenes and I did like the central crime, an overly elaborate stab at perfection.

The Beach Girls (1959)

One day I will have read everything written by John D. MacDonald, and that will be a sad day, but till then ...

Another very good book, this one about a group of uncivilized boozy boatbums in the waning days before their rundown marina is gentrified. Yes, this book actually has nothing to do whatsoever with its title or its description. It contains a long description of one crazed party, and a couple of sick and twisted murders. There's no beach mentioned in the book, but plenty of girls, young and old.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Forrest Gump (1994)

A movie I'd never seen. It looked trite and overlong in 1994 and I avoided it, and have been avoiding it ever since. However, recently trapped under a volcanic ash plume in Paris, and with no English television, I finally watched this entire movie, albeit in French. First off, I don't think I really missed anything not watching it in English. I understood it all. Second, it was fairly trite and overlong, although it had its moments, most of those moments created by its excellent cinematography and still-impressive special effects. For instance, I really enjoyed watching Forrest become a world-beater at Ping Pong. I enjoyed that more than the ridiculous death scene of Jenny from AIDs. But really: What is this movie about? If Forrest wasn't a simpleton there is no movie. It's just some guy being photoshopped through a flipbook of history.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Clash of the Titans (2010)

I like Greek mythology films and I like humans with swords fighting things like giant scorpions, so I was always going to go see this film. I went with a big group to Somerville Theatre. As my friend Todd said, Somerville theater doesn't have 3-D but it does have beer-goggle-vision which is undoubtedly better. The movie was just okay. Perseus was a dud without a lot of motivation. I remember that in the 1981 version he wants to save Andromeda from the Kraken because, basically, she's a damsel in distress. In this one he just wants revenge on Hades, and that's it. He does not register a single other emotion. The other big problem was that the action scenes were very poorly done with herky-jerky camera work and sub-par digital creatures. They were utterly confusing. At least with Ray Harryhausen, even though it was clear that the creatures were big blobs of clay, the action was filmed to make sense.

The good stuff? The Kraken wasn't bad, and there was a great shot of his head right in front of Andromeda. Also, I love watching RSC-trained actors play Greek gods in cheesy movies. I loved it in the original and I loved it in this. Ralph Fiennes is an absolute crazed Hades and Liam Neeson is a decent sparkly Zeus. I wished there had been more of Danny Huston as Poseidon. The best performance was probably Mads Mikkelsen (Le Chiffre in Casino Royale) as Draco, an Argos soldier. He has Pippi Longstocking hair and still looks tough. He also seems to be having fun, something Sam Worthington never remotely registers.

For those fans of the original, Bubo makes a cameo.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How To Make It In America

HBO has become the place for very mediocre sitcoms. Bored to Death. Hung. The Life and Times of Tim. None of these are terrible but they aren't great either. How To Make It In America had a certain charm--mainly because of Victor Rasuk and Bryan Greenberg--but now that it's over I have to conclude that it was pretty underwhelming. Better than Entourage but that's not saying much.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Poetry Monday

In Paris with You
by James Fenton

Don’t talk to me of love. I’ve had an earful
And I get tearful when I’ve downed a drink or two.
I’m one of your talking wounded.
I’m a hostage. I’m maroonded.
But I’m in Paris with you.

Yes I’m angry at the way I’ve been bamboozled
And resentful at the mess that I’ve been through.
I admit I’m on the rebound
And I don’t care where are we bound.
I’m in Paris with you.

Do you mind if we do not go to the Louvre,
If we say sod off to sodding Notre Dame,
If we skip the Champs Elysées
And remain here in this sleazy
Old hotel room
Doing this and that
To what and whom
Learning who you are,
Learning what I am.

Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris,
The little bit of Paris in our view.
There’s that crack across the ceiling
And the hotel walls are peeling
And I’m in Paris with you.

Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris.
I’m in Paris with the slightest thing you do.
I’m in Paris with your eyes, your mouth,
I’m in Paris with … all points south.
Am I embarrassing you?
I’m in Paris with you.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Deep Blue Goodbye

It was just confirmed that a filmed version of the first Travis McGee novel is in the works, with Leonard DiCaprio producing and playing Travis McGee, and Oliver Stone directing. I don't usually comment on film projects because it seems like a waste of time and energy. Why complain about a film that hasn't been made yet? On the flip side, why get over-excited about a film that hasn't been made yet? Opinions are for movies you've seen, books you've read. The rest is pissing in the wind.

That said, and there was clearly going to be a "that said" coming along, I am very attached to the Travis McGee character. John D. MacDonald is my favorite American writer and the Travis McGee series was his bread-and-butter. I am thrilled that DiCaprio is tackling the books as a producer but I think Oliver Stone is the wrong director. I actually think Oliver Stone is probably the wrong director for anything--I just haven't particularly liked his movies in a while, or maybe ever. (I remember Salvador being good). Also, DiCaprio is all wrong for Travis McGee, who is really a laconic, rangy type, like a young Clint Eastwood, circa Play Misty for Me. Maybe he'll be okay, but he just seems too boyish and too earnest for the role.

So here's my two cents, and it's really just a pipe-dream, but there is a perfect Travis McGee out there right now, a young Clint Eastwood: Timothy Olyphant, currently burning up the small screen on Justified. He'd be perfect, in my humble, premature opinion. Just sayin'.