Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

This just in ...

"The National Association of Realtors says that it is not the legal obligation of a real estate agent to tell a prospective buyer about alleged haunting."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My goodness, is it Wednesday already?

I've done it again: been planning a tremendous post and as such have neglected this space since Friday ... which wouldn't normally unnerve me if my last post didn't announce itself quite so boldly as having been created on Friday.

First off, I'm feeling much less Halloween-y (yes, yes, weenie, quite funny, I know) than usual this year and I don't know why. I can't seem to catch up with October and it's already gone (I'm really obsessing over days and dates in this post). This makes me sad since it's my favorite month and I usually like to savor it. Not that I didn't have many perfectly lovely Sundays riding my bike past the yellow leaves of Green-Wood Cemetery in the late afternoon sun. I did ... but in terms of the books and movies I usually enjoy around this time of year, I've been remiss (I'm reading Fun in a Chinese Laundry and it's taking me a long time to get through for some reason ... might be dog-earing all the pages that's slowing me down). In any case, there'll be a somewhat ghosty post coming up, I promise (though it may not feature any actual ghosts, more vampires and ghoulish doctors). For the moment, the phrase "spilt tea on a wool sweater" describes my current mood best -- indoorsy, hobbity, and a bit absentminded, all in the best possible way. Hence the vintage wallpaper images ...

Secondly, I'm pleased to link to the one person more cranky than me when it comes to blockbuster art shows -- for those who remember my tirade against the Turner show at the Met this summer, trust me, I got nothing on this guy. Though I only found fault with Turner, this cat has the temerity to find fault with Picasso himself. Did Picasso have a soul, or not? Discuss.

Finally, this is may current favorite headline: Cool Weather Twisters Strike in the Dark.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy Friday, Dizzy Davis

Since it's Friday, I'll just list a quick roundup of things that merit my roaring, gushing approval.

Sarah Weinman reviews a newly re-discovered work of detective fiction, which has been lost since 1865. The book is called "New York Detective" and features a fictional detective named James Brampton. Incidentally, Brampton is also the name of a smallish town in Ontario, Canada, with which I am most familiar.

A 24-year-old intern at the San Diego Police Department apparently cracked a 36-year old cold murder case. This better not turn out to be some kind of hoax, or I'll be disappointed.

Finally, on the cinematic front, Ceiling Zero is a freaking awesome Howard Hawks movie that I saw at BAM last night and which everyone should see if they get the chance. I'm sure there'll be an intelligent post on it somewhere soon (Rob?), but for now I'd like to say that its mix of comedy, melodrama, adventure, camaraderie and James Cagney really did it for me. (Pat O'Brien's not bad either.) Someone smarter than me once said:

"Howard Hawks's 1936 film is a superlative airport melodrama, comparable with Only Angels Have Wings. All of the lines of Frank "Spig" Wead's stage play are there and the action is confined to a few sketchy sets, yet the film is never theatrical ... [T]he overlapping, speeding dialogue is perfectly launched, as Hawks cuts to the core of the play with his own meditations on personality and responsibility."

I'd also like to note (for you dramatists out there) that it's a perfect example of Lajos Egri's principle of plot growing out of character. James Cagney's daredevil drives the whole story forward, and all actions spring out of his characteristic reactions within the world of the film. It's all about going down in a blaze of glory, and will make you nostalgic for the old, pre-de-icing days of aviation, when delivering the night mail was full of glory.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

'appy Birthday Angela Lansbury!

Before she was sweet yet savvy J.B. Fletcher, she was a hot buttered strumpet in Gaslight and a tragic heroine in The Picture of Dorian Grey, among other illustrious roles. And she's eighty-three today!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

"He died cheerfully in a gibbet of his own making"

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie contains one of cinema's most ridiculous spinsters, whose overweening affectation and carefully constructed fantasy world are intended to mark her as unique but only make it all the more painfully obvious that she is one of many of the type who fancies her own brand of whimsy to be special and different when she is, in fact, a dime a dozen. Colorful frocks and vintage bicycles do not a free spirit make. Take note, ladies of Brooklyn.

And yet, Maggie Smith's interpretation of Miss Jean Brodie is terribly entertaining, because it's so ridiculous and because her accent is soooo much fun to imitate. "Little gehls!" "I am in my prrrrime!" Her students imitate her too, and I am sure they were just as delighted with themselves as I was. There's almost nothing as fun as putting on a fake Scottish accent and swaning around uttering fanciful proclamations about Mussolini.

Other than some fairly marvelous dialogue, and some truly great speeches from Maggie Smith, the best thing about this movie is the dynamic between Jean and her cunning, nasty little student, Sandra. Plain, vicious Sandra resents her mentor's affection for pretty Jenny, a fellow student in the Brodie Set. Her jealousy of the hated Jenny drives her to turn on her master and destroy her: she rats her out to the uptight headmistress Miss Mackay. Dimwitted Mary McGregor is a pawn in their game -- when she runs off to Spain to fight for Franco and is promptly exploded on a train, Sandra immediately runs squealing to the schoolboard.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie perfectly captures the psychotic nature of teenage girls, and the final confrontation between master and pupil is a beautiful fireworks display. This scene demonstrates the interplay between manipulator and manipulated, with the change in power dynamics leading us to wonder who is, indeed, the most dangerous one? Narcissist Jean Brodie, who's apparently oblivious to her own bad influence, or the young, angry Lolita who's perfectly capable of killing without compunction? Miss Jean Brodie seems almost vulnerable by the end of it; the viewer osscilates between condemning one or the other, but ultimately you have to feel sorry for both the wretched teacher, stripped of the one duty that gave her life meaning, and the girl who tried to tangle in adult affairs and ended up hardened. Another thought: was Jean Brodie "assassinated" by provincialism? If she'd lived in Paris rather than Edinburgh, would she have gotten in any trouble at all? Would underage students sleeping with art teachers be a big deal, really? She'd still be on the wrong side of the fence politically, though, which might have done her in eventually. The lesson, schoolmarms of the world, is to keep your personal life and your politics out of the classroom no matter where you live.

In the final scene there is a voice over, perhaps one of the few really effective voice overs I can think of, in which Jean Brodie repeats her little speech that she gives to her girls at the beginning of each term: "I am in the business of putting old heads on young shoulders," and it's hard not to be moved by it, especially as tears stream down Sandra's normally composed face.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Celine and Julie Go Boating

If you see a mystery girl in the park

You should borrow her clothes

And find her at the library

And watch her magic act

And play tricks on her cousin

And her magic act

And eat lots of magic sweets

Until you find a magic house

Full of mad rich people and a murder mystery ...

And solve the mystery!

They won't even notice you

They're too busy being in the story

And fighting amongst themselves

But you have to save the little girl

So keep careful watch

They can't even see you!

Or maybe they can ...

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

America's Top Young Scientist

In a world of my own, this girl would be Queen, or at least a very high-ranking person ...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Two Girls Named Marie

In a world of my own, film criticism would just be pictures ...

Also, I have just saved you 90 minutes.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

My Head Might Explode

Due to the awesomeness of this Cinematic Spinsters round-up, if only because it mentions Now Voyager, my one of my nana's favorite movies, and because it quotes someone named Professor Mustard. And Jezebel adds even more spinsters to the canon, this time literary in nature. Hurray!