Dear Readers,

I now consider this blog to be my Juvenelia. Have fun perusing the archives, and find me at my new haunt, here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

We're Your Dreamgirls, oooohhh

Saw Dreamgirls yesterday, hoping to be wowed, awed, and overpowered by the movie-musical. I was overpowered by Jennifer Hudson-- not just her potent pipes, but her charismatic face and serious acting skills put the other Dreams to shame. Beyonce, love her as much as I do, couldn't compete. The movie was mixed; it had moments of sublimity, it lookedgorgeous, and was full of powerful sounds and songs. Eddie Murphy was simultaneously hilarious and tragic, a definite highlight. But too many of the more maudlin songs from the musical were kept on at the expense of a quick-flowing plot. While songs that advance the plot are understandable on stage when the actors are far away and you can't see their facial expressions, in a movie like this they just seemed ridiculous. Furthermore, I was hoping for some more huge song and dance numbers to give Twyla Tharp a run for her money.

But quibbles aside, it was a lovely filmgoing experience, and worth the hype. Some of the songs are definitely still stomping and howling and emoting their way across my brain.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Christians and the Pagans...

Looking for some holiday cheer? Let socially-conscious, witty and self-aware chanteuse (and personal hero of fellow-ette's) Dar Williams provide it.
My favorite verse?

The food was great, the tree plugged in, the meal had gone without a hitch, Till Timmy turned to Amber and said, "Is it true that you're a witch?"His mom jumped up and said, "The pies are burning," and she hit the kitchen, And it was Jane who spoke, she said, "It's true, your cousin's not a Christian, But we love trees, we love the snow, the friends we have, the world we share,
And you find magic from your God, and we find magic everywhere."

Thursday, December 21, 2006

I Actually Pity Lindsay Lohan

After a hard, tough few days watching oodles and oodles of year-end recap shows, I have this to add to my thoughts on the scandals and successes of '06:

<---girl, you ROCK that Kabbalah bracelet!

Cogent point number 1)
Leave Lindsay Alone:
Sure, she's a wardrobe malfunctioning, nearly illiterate, somewhat vulgar human being, but can you blame her? Look at her insane, battling parents and the way they pushed her from like the age of two months onward. As someone wise once said, she's the Michael Jackson of her time. What really pushed me over the edge, though, from Lindsey-haterdom to a more neutrally disgusted position, was watching several year-end recap shows show footage of Lindsey shopping...and then seeing the pan-out to the literally fifty cameras that were following her as she did so. I just found that to be a most pathetic sight. I mean, I would go nuts too if they were following me as I tried on my [insert designer name here because I don't know who's hip] outfits.

Oh, but if you get any good Lohan-gossip, send it my way.

Cogent point number 2) I want to amend what I said a while back about my favorite music of '06. It's not that pop beat out every other genre, it's that pop was so soundly influenced by other genres..."Hips Don't Lie", "My Love", and "Promiscuous" not to mention all of Fergie's stuff, were essentially hip-hop songs with some techno, dance and reggaeton influences thrown in to a to make them extra spicy. And, umm, singers with white or white-ish skin (cough, cough, Elvis). So it's not that Hip Hop is Dead, as Nas proclaims, but rather that the mainstream has embraced it. Which may mean it's dead. Fuck if I know. Next point.

Cogent Point Number 3) As for Indie Music, I absomalutely loved Franz-Ferdinand's "Take Me Out" and Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Gold Lion" for my mainstream-Williamsburgy not-really indie are they? fix, and appreciated the straight-up melodic rock with a strong beat that both songs embraced. I mean, if you can listen to a song at the gym, how alternative is it, really? But seriously, how much more valuable a contribution to society are you making when you help people burn calories? Riddle me that, Kim's Video staff.

Not-very cogent point number 4) Movies this year sucked. I mean, they really sucked. I think that besides Borat, one of the only really stirring movies I saw this year was friggin' Memoirs of a Geisha, and I saw that in like January because it was an '05 movie for fuck's sake.. The Illusionist was excellent but a very limited scope, and Dave Chappelle's Block Party was probably the most thought-provoking and subtly intellectual film I viewed this year. Now I'm not discounting The Queen. The Queen may be good. I plan to see it over vacation and issue my judgement/proclamation.
And lastly, Talladega Nights is worth a mention exclusively for the Sacha Baron Cohen character and the scene where Mos Def and Elvis Costello are walking arm and arm in his garden. What a crowning moment.

Some sort of point number 5)
Good Reads, Bad Reads, Whatever. Do I look like I care?
Schadenfreude alert! I just had to point out this article denouncing Literary darling Marisha Pessl because, ummm, let's see...I am jealous of her!

As for books I read this year that actually came out this year and I can talk about with some degree of expertise, uhh, I think they were Lisey's Story, and The Thirteenth Tale, the latter of which I actually got to write about for publication. They were both really absorbing and gruesome and fun. Take that, Richard f'in Ford!

The end, for now.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Justin Timberlake is funnier than the entire SNL cast put together.

We tuned in to SNL last night to see JT perform some bomb tracks off of Futuresex/Lovesounds, but instead ended up shrieking with laughter as Justin worked like a pro, showing unabashed enthusiasm and willingness to make fun of himself.
It's so interesting to watch an episode like this one or the Hugh Laurie one where the hosts are able play characters instead of "straight people" and are willing to dress in drag or other silly costumes and let go of celeb self-consciousness, and compare the results with the way the show is when there's a dull host (Matthew Fox or Paris Hilton). I think everything from the skits to weekend update is affected.


*Opening monologue paid tribute to the chipmunks Christmas song... resuscitating a gem.

*Justin dancing it up as a cup-o-soup to the tune of salt-n-pepa "shoop" and "whoop there it is."

*The "!@#$ck in a box" digital short, found here joins the ranks of the Natalie Portman rap and Lazy Sunday as hilarious viral shyte!

*The Barry Gibb Talk Show-- one of my favorite SNL skits ever because of the catchy recurring tune.

*The gay couple from New Joisey returning on Weekend Update.

*Seth Myers: Barack Obama appeared in New Hampshire last week. When he heard about it, President Bush asked "did we catch him?"

Also, JT's new album is so freakin' funky. And he is so awesome. I hate people who hate on him just because he's pop (i.e., the borough of Williamsburg, the staff at Kim's Video, etc...) They don't know to appreciate the real thing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Holocaust Denier Conference is a world class gathering of thugs

And every time I read about this so-called-conference, I can't stop thinking about this scene from Blazing Saddles (apolos for the poor quality):

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Holiday! Celebrate!

We eagerly went to the Nancy Meyer's-directed chick-flick/Ro-Co on opening weekend, to give a hearty "fuck you" to Apocalypto among other reasons. The movie was super-adorable, incredibly romantic and easy on the eye, but the relentless focus on eye-candy couple Cameron Diaz and Jude Law at the expense of Kate Winslet and Jack Black's much more interesting, combustible, believable pair was really disappointing. I think it must have happened in the cutting room, because surely anyone more interested in charisma and freshness than in box-office numbers wouldn't have let the movie be so lopsided.

It's not that the Law/Diaz romance didn't have its charms, because their overly dysfuctional courtship was cute and sweet at moments. But it was a let-down for those of us excited to see Kate in her first contemporary comedy and Jack sporting his more serious side that so much valuable screen time was wasted just watching the two more chiseled, somewhat vapid blondes moon over each other. And both Diaz and Law are so traditionally good-looking and were so impeccably groomed (a characteristic of Nancy Meyers' movies-- does she ever portray shlumpy women who aren't super-neat and put together?) that their romance belongs in fantasyland. The slower, more self-effacing and bumbling characters that Winslet and Black embodied so well were magnetic, interesting, and new. So of course, they were sacrificed. The meta-ironic part of it all is that Eli Wallach's character, an aging screenwriter, rails against the way box office results and money dictate severything in Hollywood these days. So it would seem!

At the risk of repeating myself, the England-America house-swapping/self-finding trope was much better done by Maeve Binchy in the lovely novel Tara Road. It was made into a movie with Andie MacDowell that I now am eager to Netflix for comparison's sake. I imagine I'll find it more genuine. Nonetheless, it bugs me that the critics are always eager to pounce on female directors for pandering to female audiences with pleasurably gift-wrapped romances, yet they're willing to praise a Michael Mann or a Mel Gibson for laying on the gore and guns and even call them auteurs or visionaries. It's amazing how much of our conception of high-taste is still determined by gender stereotypes.

PS. Speaking of gender stereotypes, Rufus Sewell's turn as a cad of the caddiest sort justifies my putting him on my hunkiest actors in period-dramas list. He almost upstages Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones playing the same role-- and Kate Winslet would have made a much better Bridget as well. How about Bridget Jones, the remake, with Sewell, Winslet, and Jack Black-- and not a ditzy blonde in sight?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Imagine all the people...

We miss you, John Lennon...

Went to Strawberry Fields tonight with friends despite the absolutely frigid temperatures... it was so icy and bitter that the crowds were not nearly as copious and chill as in the past. Everyone was in a single, tight circle around the "imagine" mosaic instead of the usual six splinter factions I've seen in the past.
On the other hand, I haven't come out on the 8th since high school, and the marked difference in the police presence (and massive spotlights that gave the bare trees an eerie white glow) also seem to have made a difference in the vibe. Nonetheless, by nine or so, the usual mix of ex-hippies, star-struck high school students, curious Eruropean tourists and assorted freaks were loudly belting out everything from "I Feel Fine" to "I am the Walrus." There was even a spirited rendition of "Mother" off of Plastic Ono Band, and the requisite and appropriate "Give Peace a Chance." The packed bodies and rising voices kept us warm enough to say for ten or so songs, but we lacked the flasks that many were passing around, so we retired to the very un-Lennony Starbucks around the corner for Peppermint Mochas and other holiday drinks. We toasted John's memory. His death was so senseless, his life so rich and interesting, and the legions of fans who braved the icy night to sing his songs is just a small example of the influence he had.
We all shine on.

A Wedding in December

Just finished another Anita Shreve book as a respite from all the weighty prose I've been wading through. People sometimes rag on Shreve because she's a popular writer (As we know, Egalitarian Bookworms pooh-pooh that sort of thing) and easily readable, but I find her books to be a pleasant and absorbing experience. They feel like they're happening to you... you're effortlessly gliding through a new world with its inevitable catastrophes (Shreve loves the haunting presence of sudden, tragic deaths from the past as much as Virginia Woolf loves run-on sentences) and passionate relationships that are often either rebounds from those tragic losses or infidelities with difficult consequences. She handles both these topics with painful, beautiful, understanding.

This book in particular is about a group of high school friends, who lost their most popular and charismatic member in a horrifying accident just before graduation. They come back together after 30 years for the wedding of two of their friends-- one of whom is suffering from cancer. If it sounds thoroughly depressing, Shreve keeps it from being so.
She does a lovely job of giving us sympathy for all the right characters and leaving the perspective of the really obnoxious ones to our own imagination. The New England scenery that her pen loves so much-- particularly that rocky Maine coast, and the deep woods and hills of the snowy Berkshires and White Mountains, is as stark and appropriate a background as ever. A Shreve novel is always a wonderful diversion and a gentle but thorough excursion into heady emotional territory. I just sometimes wish that her novels were even longer and meatier so that I can stay with them for as long a time as possible. concusion, don't hate on Shreve, cause Anita. A-really-nita. And so do you.

What's up with all these "Best of 2006 " lists?

I'm going to start my own best of 2006 list and add to it whenever I please.

Let's begin, shall we?

Best techie invention to take us by storm in '06: The googlification of the world (gmail chat is hot, and now even my blogger is googled!)

Best surprise political announcement in '06: Barack "walking, talking hope-maching" Obama saying he may run for president edges out Donald "Maureen Dowd is obsessed with me and calls me Rummy" Rumsfeld saying bye-bye at long last.

Best Celeb Drama of 'o6: Shiloh Jolie-Pitt kicks Suri's baby butt (but they're both so cute).

Best Hip-shaking singles for your all night booty-rocking needs: A tie between "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira and "My Love" by Justin T. Proof that 100% pure pop music is now more inventive than almost any other genre on the top 40. (Don't worry, indie rock, I haven't forgotten about you.)

Most Tired Celebs Ever: The "princess pack": Paris, Jess, Lindsey, Nicole and the Olsen Twins. Get some intelligence and lose the faux boho duds.

Best Video Spoofing Most Tired Celebs Ever: Pink's "Stupid girls."

and more to come as this "Long December" rolls onward.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cry the Beloved Country

Fellowette has arrived at the decision that it's mad hard to write about reading the two kinds of books she unoriginally reads...1) the kind that are like so famous and renowned and stuff that they're given the title "classics..." and 2) the kind that hella people are buying and consuming so that they're given the name "bestsellers".

Why so difficult, pray tell? Because, duh, everyone's saying stuff about these tomes already. And I'm not that fucking inventive. It was easier back when I was blogging about being a disgruntled New York City Teaching Fellow and just channeling my experience nurturing the troubled youth of this nation into a sometimes less than sane/coherent but eminently write-able narrative.
Nonetheless, onwards I stride.
On the subject of of youths and nations, the latest classic I read, thanks to my NYPL subscription, is Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Patton. It's one of those books that one knows, from its first paragraph onward, is fully intended to be the author's piece de resistance, his/her statement on a major social problem, a sweeping something that will matter. Like Beloved or A Passage to India, such a novel aims to Speak the Truth as well as tell as story. So it's all the more wonderful when a book like this manages to whisk you into a gripping story and endear you to its characters despite the weightiness of its subject, (in this case, the horrible legacy left by imperialism and the breakup of the tribal structure in South Africa.)
Cry is an uplifting tragedy, if the genre exists, and the undercurrent of universal strife that runs steadily through the story doesn't stop us from acquainting ourselves greedily with a new set of customs and cultures, humor and sorrow... and the rhythm of Patton's english is so different from ours it gives us a sense of place immediately.
The book is about an aging tribal pastor, Stephen Kumalo, and his son Absalom (yep, the name is symbolic) and the tragic events that befal them when they leave their village for the big city of Johannesberg. Absalom falls into a life of thugdom, to use a very modern expression, and his father sets out to follow him. Terrible things follow.

The saddest thing about the story is how much it resonates with today's America, which despite having no explicit institutionalized apartheid, has a deadly legacy of exclusion and legally sanctioned discrimination that it refuses to contend with.

Cry was different from other novels of its kind because of its decidedly hopeful tone despite the horrors it chronicles, and the time and credit it gives to several characters from the white ruling class who have altruistic tendencies. Patton's strong attempt to be honest and almost impartial almost makes the overall effect more devastating. Because despite the kindness of the white characters, Patton puts a critique into the mouth of a young student of agriculture: if they hadn't broken things up to begin with, they wouldn't have to mend them.