Hey! Warning! I’m assuming that, unlike me, you’ve all already seen Aliens. If not, don’t read any further, lest you be spoiled.

So. Aliens, right? Until tonight, I’d never watched it. (Call me a fake geek girl, I dare you.) I’m not sure how it is I never saw it before — I love Alien (it’s one of my all-time favorite movies), and I saw Alien 3 in the theaters when it was new. But that last might actually be the problem. The first few minutes of that movie basically told me that whatever had happened in Aliens, it didn’t matter because they took everything away quickly (and depressingly), without so much as a second thought. Also, space marines, which are not really my favorite thing ever.

Not seeing Aliens, though, that’s one of those things you need to keep a secret from people, and I accidentally let it slip. In public. I’m uncomfortable being mocked, so obviously that needed fixing. On the other hand, I don’t have any problem mocking things myself, especially ’80s movies that I don’t have any nostalgic affection for.

So! A break from Bond, so we can do:


Aliens (1986)

The most terrifying thing in Aliens so far is the idea that these suit collars might actually become a real thing:


Somehow, like a facehugger, ’90s action cinema has implanted the seeds of all its supporting actors in a single movie.

Oh, Paul Reiser. How did you ever become a romantic lead with your magic mouth that drips only lies?

Speaking of which, how did he pull of this hairstyle for thirteen years straight? And was it around this time he fronted Styx?

Yay, kickass female marines. I mean, it was 1986! YAY, KICKASS FEMALE MARINES.

There’s nothing less comforting than an android who insists he’s programmed not to kill you. Right? Right.

I’m assuming this urge to hit Bill Paxton in the face will continue undiminished. Especially since I still felt that urge in 1997.

Aside: you know, James Cameron says that he wrote the scripts for this, Rambo, and Terminator all in a space of three months. And you know what? Every minute of that shows.

I love that a girl has the biggest goddamn gun in this movie.

Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier to tell them why they can’t shoot down there?

Bill Paxton. You are still annoying. But you have the best facial overacting in this movie.

Wait, how is it that this enormous ship doesn’t have any personnel on it when the marines are on away mission?

Yeah, Burke. That’s how you die.

Noooo, Vasquez!!!

This shot of the shuttle flying into the reactor complex is so cheesy. It’s Total Recall cheesy. Which — I mean, the rest of the movie managed to look pretty good, special effects-wise. Why blow it in the climax?

Oooh, there’s the money shot.

Attention Alien Queen: this is the ugliest childbirth video I’ve ever seen.

This ending is like revenge porn. (And here we bring up Rambo again.) SHOOT ALL THE THINGS WITH ALL THE THINGS.

That was a badass call, Ripley. Badass call.

I was wondering when the power lifter was going to show up. Filmmaking 101: If you show a power lifter, at some point that power lifter must lift something. Powerfully.

Oh, Bishop. You were creepy but you didn’t kill us. You’re worth at least ten Burkes in my mind.

Aaaaaand, THIS PART OF THE MOVIE STILL RUINED BY ALIEN 3. Damn it, Fox. You are banned, Alien 3. Go home.


Bond Fifty: Plenty Of Tool

A. Trying to process this poster art literally is either madness, or the basis of an infinitely better movie than this one.

B. Omg, ladies. That cannot be comfortable.


Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

It only takes one minute for Sean Connery to basically destroy all of the authenticity of character built up by the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Sorry, Mrs. Bond.

Oh Jesus, it’s these two. The bad hair twins. Can I stop the movie now?

Hmm, Tiffany Case has Peter Franks’s thumbprint to compare against, but not a photo of his face? Really? OVERTHINKING IT.

“That’s quite a nice little nothing you’re almost wearing.” Yes, it is.

But seriously, Jill St. John wears some crazy-ass outfits in this movie, and she makes them work. Damn her.

Plenty. Plenty O’Toole. This may be the worst Bond name ever. Also I can’t believe this is Natalie Wood’s sister.

Sean Connery, you are so old. So, so old.

Oooh, but the typography nerd in me LOVES the ’70s signage inside McCarran Airport.

That’s a radiation shield. Right.

These astronauts trying to take Bond down understand they’re not actually in a low-gravity environment, right? Why are they moving so slowly?

I’m pretty sure all of my childhood conceptions of Las Vegas were created by this movie, plus those casino ladies from Koyaanisqatsi.

Of all the stupid plans to kill Bond, this “let’s bury him in a pipeline” is the worst ever. Him coming out of the hatch in a tuxedo is a nice gag, though.

Yay, Bambi and Thumper. I hate this movie because whenever I hear the names Bambi and Thumper I think of these two in the woods with a skunk.


Wait, maybe they’re the ones who were in the space suits from before.

Okay, I’m really not sure Jill is carrying off this blue and beige thing.

Parachuting down in a giant shiny inflatable ball would only work if they’re not going to shoot you, and that would be ridiculous. Oh, they’re not going to shoot you? At all? Joke’s on me, I guess.

This ending is so bad. If Blofeld had shot him we wouldn’t have this stupid ending. I hate Blofeld.

I am totally putting on the Rocky Horror Picture Show after this. It’ll be a Charles Gray double feature. (Oooh-oooh)


Bond Fifty: Two

There continues to be an incomprehensible number of discs in this box.

Tomorrow Never Dies

Tired cunnilingus pun … saved by M and Moneypenny’s “Don’t ask”, “Don’t tell.”

I can’t tell if Teri Hatcher is terribly acting the part of a good liar or brilliantly acting the part of a terrible liar.

It says something when the Rupert Murdoch caricature who wants to start World War III comes off as nicer than the real Rupert Murdoch, amirite? Relatedly, this Mac keeps insisting I mean “emirate” when I write “amirite.”

I’m sorry I made fun of you, Lotus. Come back! Bond should not be driving a BMW!

K. D. Lang’s end theme is so much better than the official theme song! Wtf, people?



I have to say, the opening stunt sequence is amazing. Even if Stunt Jaws looks like he’s four feet tall with paper teeth in high definition.

This movie is totally more fun if you imagine that Hugo Drax is being played by a young James Lipton.

“Moonraker” may be the most stunningly gorgeous of the opening themes, and nobody remembers it. Say it with me: Shirley Fucking Bassey.

First it’s a clown, and then it has Jaws in it. THIS IS NOT HELPING.

Half of the scenes in this movie need to end with Yakety Sax playing. So ridiculous.

Pew! Pew! Pew!



Telling us that someone strikes “like thunderball” has absolutely no meaning if you don’t tell us what the hell a “thunderball” is.

Unless it means this?


Incidentally, there’s a Marvel super villain named “Thunderball” who apparently gained super-strength by holding a magical crowbar that was struck by lightning, and who uses a wrecking ball as a weapon. This has made the whole re-watching project worth it.

Apparently Bond is bedding women for “King and Country,” despite the fact that Elizabeth II has been on the throne for thirteen years. I guess it wasn’t very proper to do the nasty in the name of the Queen.


Omg, another underwater fight scene. Somebody get the bends already.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

This opening theme kicks ass. I like how the imagery keeps trying to remind us that, yes, this is in the same series as those Connery flicks.

I feel like I’ve watched an hour of baccarat scenes in all these movies now and I still have no idea what’s going on or how this is a game.

George Lazenby’s head looks like it’s made of Sculpy. But he makes up for it with a passion for frilly and ruffled shirts. No, really, he actually looks pretty good in most of these suits, but this brown-orange golf outfit is — OH MY GOD YOU DID NOT JUST SLAP DIANA RIGG IN THE FACE

Something tells me Draco is not going to win father of the year anytime soon.

Ernst Stavro Kojak!

You know, this movie is actually not bad. It even has curling! Bobsleds! An epic ski chase! And this stuntman… does not look at all like Diana Rigg.

More later! And did you know there’s a whole blog dedicated to The Suits Of James Bond? Omg.


Bond Fifty

I’m making my way through the Bond 50 Blu-ray box set, which was an unexpected and beautiful Christmas gift. The movies look and sound absolutely gorgeous in high definition, so it’s been a real treat to see them again. Of course, there are some really bad films, and most of the rest are at least a little cheesy. Rather than flooding twitter with snark, I collected some random outbursts here.

The Spy Who Loved Me


This movie sparked 1: A lifelong desire to visit Egypt, and 2: A lifelong fear of elevators, and/or Mozart.

Did we used to think the Lotus Esprit was pretty? It looks like a Pontiac Fiero, if you could imagine a Fiero not turning to red dust on contact with water.

Casino Royale

Watching Casino Royale after Skyfall, it’s amazing how young Daniel Craig looks here.

Best. Opening. Titles. Ever.

I’ve decided to add life goal #44: Ride a horse on a beach wearing a bikini.

I keep expecting James Garner to show up as security at the card game.


Die Another Day

This may be the prettiest looking pile of shit ever made. I remembered the shitty but had forgotten the pretty.

Bikini entrances, ranked in order of rewatchability: 3. Halle Berry, 2. Ursula Andress, 1. Daniel Craig

Wait, dude is getting his entire DNA replaced but they can’t extract a few diamonds from the skin on his face??

I love John Cleese, but he is not doing it for me as Q.

Aghglhlh invisible car


Holy crap, this movie looks good on Blu-ray.

It’s amazing how much of the film is dedicated to a round of golf.

Ummm, hello rape-based conversion of implied lesbian with cutesy soundtrack. Helpful commentary reminds us this used to be a common plot device.

You Only Live Twice

“Why do Chinese girls taste different from all other girls?”
“You think we better, huh?”
“No, just different. Like Peking Duck is different from Russian Caviar. But I love them both.”
“Darling, I give you very best duck.”


There is nothing else I can write about this movie after that.

Licence to Kill

This isn’t as bad as I remember. It’s still pretty bad.

Drugs Bartlet is my Wayne Newton Cover Band.

I keep expecting Sam Waterston to appear as Pam’s handler.

Worst Bond hair, ranked: 3. Licence To Kill, 2. A View To a Kill, 1. Diamonds Are Forever

Jesus, Benicio del Toro was hot in this movie. Benicio del Toro. Benicio del Totoro.


Secret World (42/365)


Another only-photo-I-took-today day, a chance shot I snapped on the escalator down from seeing The Secret World of Arrietty. Deciding to take a picture on an escalator is a fun exercise in unpredictability — by the time I had my camera out and ready the shot was nothing like the one I’d started acting on.

Yes, I realize I could have just gone up and down again. Yes.


Arrietty was really good, I thought. It’s a placid, nostalgic film in the vein of Totoro and Whisper of the Heart, in which the conflict, such as it is, is on a decidedly personal scale (though of no less import to the characters involved). This is an ordinary world touched with magic, rather than in the other kind of Ghibli movie, in which epic adventure epic something somethings, sometimes with airships. I don’t have a problem with that kind of grandiosity, but it seems harder, somehow, to do it this way.

Miyazaki scripted this movie and didn’t direct, but like Whisper, you can very much feel his hand in it. I don’t want to take anything away from Yonebayashi, the director, because I don’t know which parts came from whom, but there’s a definite Miyazaki-ness about the movie that you don’t really get in, say, Ghibli’s Takahata films. This is a movie suffused with scenes of nature. It’s filled with ghosts of family history and past heartbreak. It’s set entirely in a place untouched by time in the middle of encroaching urban sprawl. In fact, if it weren’t for the bookend scenes of cars and travel, you might not even be able to place it in any specific where or when at all, which I love. As it is, I loved the weirdness of a film clearly set in Japan having mostly western-named characters, and not caring about that at all.

Also a Miyazaki hallmark: A great female protagonist. Though for once, she has awesome hair. I wonder if that was Yonebayashi’s influence?

(Yes, I’m ashamed for fixating on that. But seriously, her hair is awesome, although maybe second to the heroine in Disney/Pixar’s Brave trailer, which played beforehand.)

The score by Cecile Corbel was really nice. It actually was reminiscent of Joe Hisaishi’s early, charming scores for Totoro and Kiki, but with a little touch of Celtic flair. Lots of harp, which I liked. The sung music was stranger, especially at the end of the movie: “I am fourteen years old / I am pretty” — really? And the song about “Summer love with my best friend” that closed the credits was hilariously inappropriate, but I guess I understand why after discovering it was sung by Bridgit Mendler, who voiced Arrietty. She did a really superb job with the voice acting, and as someone who usually hates dubs, I figure that gives her license for at least one terrible song.

Speaking of voice acting, the biggest problem I had was continually hearing Carol Burnett’s voice coming out of the wrong face.

So! All in all, I really liked it. I’m not going to say it’s a contender for best Ghibli movie ever, but it’s worthy of the imprint. The most useful thing I can probably say is that I already want to see it again. But in Japanese this time.

Finally, a disclaimer: I admit I haven’t read The Borrowers, yet, but I hadn’t read Howl’s Moving Castle when I saw that movie either. I will get to it now, I promise.


Object of Anger (17/365)


I’m tired, and I left my laptop in the car, so just the photos today.


Oh, but Oscar nominations are out! Is this the first year of the Animated Feature category that Pixar has been shut out? Not that they didn’t deserve it. Cars 2 was terrible.

I know it shouldn’t (and I love him), but it makes me feel better that Jeph Jacques draws a shitty spaceship.


Flash frozen (11/365)


SOPA blackout day; SOPA whiteout day. Not quite the one hoped for, but it was snowy nonetheless. Three days of this has left all of the vegetation around here unhappy, but as is often the case, there’s a profound beauty that can be found in unhappiness. I’m not sure I captured it very well.

At this point, I am absolutely stir-crazy. This follows my memory of the 2008 snow-in, which lasted a lot longer than this promises to be — which is good, because the next stage is murderous rage. If the roads are clear tomorrow I’m going to rescue my car and drive and drive and drive, and take pictures of everything but snow.

One of my favorite movies, Next Stop Wonderland, is now on Netflix Instant Watch. It’s a quirky little rom-com, not to everyone’s taste, but I absolutely love it. There was a time when I was watching it once a week to keep me happy! It may entirely be the soundtrack, which introduced me to bossa nova music.

Astrud Gilberto. Elis Regina. Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Also! Philip Seymour Hoffman as the douchey ex-boyfriend!

It’s a Starz Play title, so you’ve only got until the end of February before Netflix loses streaming rights.

Also, while you’re there, you can catch my other once-a-week movie of years past, Shall We Dance? — the Japanese one. So good!

I had some other links to share, but they’re all blacked out right now. Good for them! I never figured out how to both (1) be lazy, and (2) learn how to do it on my site. So I called my congresspeople instead. Did you?


He’s creepy, yes

I love Michael Fassbender, but his Rochester really brings the creepy, controlling nature of that character to the fore.

Also, Jane apparently REALLY LOVES KISSING.


Oopsie Daisy

I want to look forward to The Great Gatsby and all, but then I remember Baz Luhrmann is directing and, honestly, the giant animatronic T.J. Eckleburg tromping through the barren landscape of Long Island shooting lasers from his eyes just wasn’t my favorite part of the book.


Gut check

I’m watching a movie in which over the last hour Sophie Marceau has slowly been transforming into Monica Bellucci. To her horror.

I wish I had that problem.


Down by the Bay

How does a movie like Transformers get made without any sense of irony whatsoever? Is this like Paris Hilton’s cover of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”

I totally just typed “Paris Hitler” there, and no, I have no idea where that came from.


Musubi, again

As Jim commented more than a couple months ago (but still on the front page! I am so lame!), there’s a new Hawaiian restaurant in Wallingford, and it makes a beautiful spam musubi — my new favorite in Seattle! Hawaiian Breeze makes them perfectly-formed and plump, with a great balance between spam and rice, crispy, high-quality nori, and just a touch of sauce. Yummy! Their BBQ shortribs feature a very flavorful, savory-sweet glaze, and loco moco is just wonderful, if you’re a fan — dense, beefy patty and tasty gravy (though honestly, I do prefer my eggs more on the runny side). So quiet, though — I fret about their long-term prospects. So please! Go and eat, you’ll be happy. (oh, Miranda, you would so fall in love, I just know it!)

Ashamed to admit it, but Just sat through all of The Perfect Man. Yuck! Can’t anyone make a good romantic comedy anymore??

(and why am I doing this to myself instead of going to SIFF?)


Oh my god

Oh my god. Alexander Siddig was Julian Bashir on Deep Space 9??


Another media weekend

Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven was an ambitious film which had, for me, a hugely compelling premise, atmosphere to spare, and lots of visual flair from this most visual of directors. On the other hand, it was weak in characterization and lopsided, with a heavy, drawn-out exposition and rushed middle and final acts. But after seeing the recently-released director’s cut, I need to completely revise my opinion. With 3-plus hours in which to breathe, the movie assumes the epic scope lamely aspired to by its shorter version, fed by moments and touches of color which fill in the world around the plot. Most notable is an entire arc involving Sibylla and her son — a character completely absent from the theatrical cut — which give her actions in the second half, previously an inexplicable mess, real pathos and motivation. If you have a taste for contemplative medieval epics (and yes, despite the huge action sequences, it is in the end a meditation on the madness of holy war), you probably owe it to yourself to give this movie a try. Please, though, stick to the director’s cut!

Also somehow ended up seeing Aeon Flux. Ahem. Not much else to say, except it’s worth noting that Martin Csokas cleans up really well (cf. Kingdom of Heaven).

The Da Vinci Code? Perhaps unsurprisingly (but only to my friends, who think I can’t shut up about how much I hate Dan Brown), I saw that one too. It’s better than the novel, if only for the fact that the most annoying character of all — the narrator — has been wholly removed. The cast is quite good, transcending the material and raising it to the level of pleasant diversion. I’m still loath to say I thought it was a good movie, though was pleased to note that they fixed up the most unbelievable moment in the story so I won’t have to complain about it anymore.

Beside that, SIFF is now in full swing. I haven’t even looked at the listings yet! I am so off my game*.

Anyone want to see any movies with me?

* seriously, I haven’t even seen X3 yet. I’m so scared that Brett Ratner will ruin everything. Someone reassure me, please!


Hard Boiled

Feeling better now. Baby steps.

From Eureka, another version of the Fat Kreme Burger out in the wild.

Vince recommended Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon to me, knowing my love of classic John Varley stories and film noir, and it was a fun read. Morgan has the tone of far-future noir down pat, with an intelligently speculative setting and lots of hard-boiled action. If you enjoy the typical noir antihero — aggressive, haunted, misogynistic — then Takeshi Kovacs should be right up your alley; subversive, this is not. But the choking masculinity effectively evokes the ghosts of Mickey Spillane, of Hammet, of Chandler, and more recently, the graphic fiction of Frank Miller*. So! If you’re looking for that kind of literary fix, this may be right up your alley.

Directly afterwards, started reading Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which in many bizarre ways is exactly the same book (well, at least as far as I’ve gotten in it).

* speaking of which, how great is it that they’re finally releasing a real DVD of Double Indemnity?


Radio free Pemberley

If you’re an Austenite (but don’t subscribe to the essential AustenBlog), you might want to know that BBC7 is broadcasting radio dramatizations of Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion over this and the next two weeks. Once they’ve aired, they’ll be available for on-demand streaming for seven days afterward.

I know it’s gross RealPlayer and all, but well, you might not let that stop you if you’re anything at all like me.

Incidentally, I finally watched the new Pride & Prejudice — yum, yum, yummy, yum. But honestly, what’s with the super-cheesy tacked-on ending? Still, one should not let such things get in the way of the yumminess.

(most of that last blurb applies word for word to V for Vendetta too)


The rule of four

Kyle tagged me on this meme ages ago, but I never noticed because he sneakily named me after the fact. Which should teach me about leaving snarky comments. Or something.

Four jobs I’ve had:

1. Graphic designer
2. Computer helpdesk
3. Library assistant
4. Cram school tutor

Four movies I can watch over and over:

1. Next Stop Wonderland
2. Shall We Dance?
3. Whisper of the Heart
4. Koyaanisqatsi

Four places I’ve lived:

1. Cambridge, Massachusetts
2. Aurora, Illinois
3. Lisle, Illinois
4. Seattle, Washington

Four TV shows I love:

1. Battlestar Galactica
2. Sports Night
3. His & Her Circumstances
4. Arrested Development

Four places I’ve vacationed:

1. Cairo, Egypt
2. Maui, Hawai’i
3. Edinburgh, Scotland
4. Seoul, South Korea

Four of my favorite dishes:

1. Tojo’s smoked sablefish soup
2. Ikuradon, mmm!
3. Sticky toffee pudding
4. Spaghetti alla carbonara

Four sites I visit daily:

1. Bloglines
…and If it isn’t something I can read in Bloglines, I always forget to keep up.

Four places I would rather be right now:

1-4. With you, you, you and you.

Four bloggers I am tagging:

Everyone and her mother has already done this meme, so if you haven’t and are reading this… tag!


And I said what?

I still have these things on the back burner, you see — our night of oysters and ahi* and gravlax, recent restaurant expeditions for Twenty-Five for $25, a story or two… but I’ve been finding myself immersed in Kameo, of all things**. That and fixing up house, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Whisper of the Heart, and Neko Case’s latest lovely, and… well, you get the idea.

Apparently, I am a

according to this. In case you’ve never noticed, I’m totally, irrationally in love with online personality tests. After all, if the internet didn’t tell me who I am, how would I know? And where would I be without all these labels?

You can take the quiz for yourself, or psych me (I have no idea what that means, but apparently you’ll need this receipt: e859946eaaed). Or, you can avoid the madness altogether. I won’t blame you!

Also, if you’re still here, thanks for sticking around. I mean it.

* haven’t fixed up any photos yet, but this was Miranda’s faux wild ginger tuna bruschetta, which was something close to divine. Thanks!!
** … but I’m done now!


Tales of Earthsea

July will see the release of Tales of Earthsea, a new adaptation of Ursula LeGuin’s fantasy series by Goro Miyazaki, son of Hayao. I don’t quite know what to think — there’s been a public war of words and silence between father and son with respect to this movie, and it’s hard to make out whether it’s rooted in Miyazaki père’s opinion of Miyazaki fils’ worth as an animator, or the usual family drama. So on the one hand, there are huge expectations, but on the other…

Well, there’s no way it can be worse than Sci Fi’s Legend of Earthsea. I mean, ick.

Anyway, if you’re interested, you can find English translations of Miyazaki’s Earthsea blog at nausicaa.net.

Teavana month one, part one: Turkish Tea.

[Teavana Turkish]

An herbal brew, lovely & subtle — almost too much so on first sip; mostly dried apple with a touch of added spice. Smells like mulled cider, v. nice for a cold night.



Spending sixteen hour days at work isn’t boding well for the start of NaNoWriMo, but I’ll try to have some amusing story tidbits to post at least some of the time. Thank you all for your story suggestions so far (and please continue to add more, as I’ll be checking back on that thread for the rest of the month). On the bright side, things should ease down on that front after this weekend, so I should have at least three weeks of moderately open time.

In the meantime I’m looking forward to taking a peek at what y’all are writing (yes, I’m looking at you!). You are going to share, right? Save me from work!

TCM has been showing a really thorough Hitchcock retrospective over the last few weeks, and I’ve been recorded a fair chunk of it. So far, I’ve rewatched Shadow of a Doubt (with a nice making-of documentary — so good!) and seen Suspicion for the first time (ugh — Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine in this stinker? Hard to believe, but there you go) On tap: The Trouble with Harry, To Catch a Thief, The Lady Vanishes

In other news, Universal’s finally re-released Vertigo and Psycho in remastered widescreen, but the only way to get them is in an expensive (but otherwise tasty-looking) 14-disc box set. Wah.

Happy Halloween, everyone! What’d you dress up as?


Since I found serenity…

Signs of going mad: watched the entirety of Firefly on Saturday, followed by Serenity this afternoon, an ordeal both tiring and fun. Spent the rest of the day singing the theme song with all sorts of made up words, since I’d forgotten what they were supposed to be, but I’m glad it was that instead of the crazy-making singing octopus snack bar song. Anyone have an MP3 of the theme? I think I probably just need to hear it once with the right words to get it out of my head.

I am wondering how a future world seemingly dominated by Chinese & Asiatic culture and language can have so few Asians walking around, or in fact, anyone between white & black on the racial spectrum — aside from Inara and the ladies of the Heart of Gold, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

Still! It was fun, and so very, very quotable. But I do rather feel like I never want to watch television again.

This is so so wrong.


Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

Watched Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters from the disadvantaged viewpoint of someone who hasn’t yet read any of his work, and found myself kind of underwhelmed and ambivalent by it. There’s something a little off about the overall direction and/or narrative, causing a story that should have been extremely compelling — the stranger-than-fiction life and death of Yukio Mishima — to never quite dig itself an emotional foothold, despite leading man Ken Ogata’s heroic efforts. This leads to a total sense of anticlimax in the fourth and final chapter, where the author’s explosive last hours seem rather pedestrian, as if the movie’s already decided the interesting part is over, just as most viewers will be expecting it to begin.

In a sense, it’s correct. There’s real meat and beauty in the vibrant dramatizations of three novels (The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Kyoko’s House and Runaway Horses) woven into the film’s first three chapters. Highly stylized and charged with color and energy, they paint a far more vivid picture of the man and his inner life than the factual sections do. I’ve no idea whether it’s an accurate one, but it really doesn’t matter as far as moviemaking goes: I adore the atmosphere of these segments, which seem to live in a visual world straight out of a ’50s-era Suzuki yakuza epic, and are perfectly married to Philip Glass’s score. It may not be biography, but it’s probably worth a rental for these alone.

More importantly: now I really want to read the books brought to life in the movie, as well as the two I currently have checked out from the library (Spring Snow, which I’ve mentioned before, and the short story collection Acts of Worship, which I haven’t). I may well decide I hate them afterwards, but I guess it means the movie was effective after all. Hee.


On demand media

Experimenting with Movable Type’s dynamic publishing mode. Monthly archives are now generated on-the-fly, and I can also join all the cool kids and keep tag-based archives without bogging down rebuilding. Now all I have to do is go back and tag all my old entries! I’d meant to do individual entry pages too, but so far I’m in love with too many plugins that won’t work under PHP.

Incidentally, commenting should now be somewhat faster.

In media news:

Criterion has just announced they’ll release two all-time greats on DVD: Ran and Ugetsu. The Mizoguchi is a real gem — supernatural, mysterious, and intensely sad, I haven’t seen it in years and yet it’s haunted me in some way or another ever since.

Have actually been enjoying (non-Katrina-related) television recently: Slings and Arrows on Sundance, very Canadian, really good (and lord knows I have a thing for Paul Gross); Rome on HBO is right up my historical alley, and I’m also enjoying the slew of tie-in documentaries on History Channel; Transgeneration will be airing on Sundance starting September 20.

Books keep rolling in from the library, god bless: Kare Kano in English (it is my blog namesake, after all), Spring Snow, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Never Let Me Go. Clearly something has gone terribly wrong and I’ve had to put a freeze on my holds, as I despair of finishing these all in time…


The Da Vinci Code

Finished The Da Vinci Code a few minutes ago, and not a minute too soon. Reading it was like listening to a know-it-all explaining the story of a Jerry Bruckheimer film without a time limit. Consider:

“… Langdon noted with uneasiness that these particular cloisters lived up to their Latin ties to the word claustrophobic.”

Do you know anyone who talks like this all the time? Do you like to spend time with this person? There are whole pages of discussions of things like the golden ratio and fibonacci sequences that come off as masturbatory. Plot twists and puzzle solutions are condescendingly telegraphed with marquee lights pages ahead of time as if reaffirming the idea that Langdon (and by extension, Dan Brown) is just that much smarter than the reader.

Still, I’ve no-one to blame but myself. Despite the silly plot and tone I still stayed up late and finished the whole thing, if only to witness unbelievable moments such as three supposed Da Vinci scholars staring at a “code” of clearly-reversed cursive lettering and not recognizing what was going on. That’s not all of it, however — I guess I’m a bit of a sheep after all.

Summary? Let’s just say that it was about as entertaining as National Treasure with three times the time investment.

It’s possible that I’m just feeling annoyed at a book that has yet to be released in paperback after two years in print. I doubt it, though. Thank goodness for the library — where I also picked up some Mishima as a palate cleanser.

In other news, I’ve had that poppy cover of “Pure Imagination” (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory) from the Mastercard commercial stuck in my head all evening, which kicked off a brief google search to find out how I might get ahold of it in a more on-demand format. Phooey on Wikipedia for making it so easy to find bad news.



No, I will not be in some huge line at midnight like everyone else, nor will I be raw-eyed and happily reading into the wee hours of the morning. Being a completist and an authenticist* (read: snob), I pre-ordered the Canadian edition of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince from Chapters — and since I only got the shipping notice today, probably won’t see it for another week. Oh, the anticipation!

I’m almost used to it now, since this is the third time I’ve gone this route. I remember actually attending a lineup for The Goblet of Fire at Barnes & Noble (they even had drink service!), but really, that was only to keep my other Potter-mad friends company. The woman at checkout looked at me as if I’d grown three heads when I said I wasn’t there to buy.

Anyways. One week! Assuming there’s no hang-up at customs.

If you think I’m avoiding you in the next few days, please don’t be offended: it’s probably only because I’m afraid of spoilers!

* no joke! I even bought the movie version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone from Canada so that my books and discs would match!


Making frites

[Making frites]

Dug this one out of the archives, where that expanse of white shirt-back kept getting in the way of any appreciation I could muster. I’m still not sure it works, but there’s just something — in her glance, or the dance reflected in hazy shadow on the spatter shield…

This was taken at Pommes Frites in Manhattan, the best place ever.

I said this in comments, but I watched the rest of the BBC Jane Eyre last night. Still so good, but St. John Rivers? Total freak!

Piling up for an Austen marathon: should I rent the BBC Northanger Abbey? Anyone seen it?

Currently in the pile:

Finally, I just discovered AustenBlog today and have spent far too much time reading it — and through it found the trailer for Focus Features’ new Pride & Prejudice. Matthew McFadyen? Keira Knightley? Sign me up, please!

And, back to Brontë: SB says I must see the 1944 Jane Eyre with Orson Welles, but it doesn’t seem to be available on disc. Sigh…


The big half-day

[...warm in your embrace]

Real 1/2-birthday today, spent lazily at home, one brief moment of weekend rest in a whirlwind month-plus of nonstop travel for weddings, birthdays, and other assorted miscellany. Even had a chance to take an early afternoon nap, that rarest of pleasures — v. heavenly!

Won’t go into too much detail about today (some things stay secret!), but instead, some recent observations:

Divine bread/cheese combinations: Great Harvest’s rosemary & garlic loaf with Beecher’s flagship; also, honey whole wheat (Great Harvest too) and Tintern (wonderful Welsh cheddar with shallots & chives). Poor lactose intolerant me, with my irresistible love of cheese. Love is pain, as they say.

Have also been playing a lot of Dance Dance Revolution (thank you, Cobalt Flux!) lately and I think I’m slowly getting better. I’ve been passing some seven-footers and passed my first heavy-difficulty song just the other day. Best of all, that after-workout glow is back, and I love it!

Thanks to kakumei, I’ve been able to try out some foreign DDR releases, and we’re totally getting the short end of the stick here in the States. The Japanese version of Extreme is just stuffed to the gills with fun, cute J-pop tracks, while Dancing Stage Fusion — a European release — is more Eurodance-heavy (incidentally, v. surprised & excited to find my television displays PAL video just fine!). DDR Festival seems to be more of a re-import of some of the U.S. tracks back into Japan, but has a few fun anime/J-pop songs as well. Still, nothing beats Dreamcast’s 2nd ReMix in my eyes (with all-time faves: “Boys,” “Dub-I-Dub,” “Butterfly,” “Hero” &c.). I miss it so much.

I’m not going to be wowing the aisles at Gameworks anytime soon, but still! Getting better.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou still makes me cry.

Finally, thank you to v. for the pretty pretty!

Think I’ll finish celebrating with a hot bath and the last of the Lush stash. Love you all!


Belfast, midday

Walking weather: too warm for a coat by day, but evenings are still chill, and with constant threat of rain, it’s hard to decide what to wear. Trust me to pick the wrong outfit, every time.

Hear New York has hit the 80s — ugh! So sorry, Miranda.

Watched Sideways and am finding I really, really want a glass of Pinot Noir (apparently, am not alone in this reaction). All I have is Riesling, which’ll do for now.

She lies asleep in a cheap hotel room, legs wrapped around the lone tendril of blanket remaining on the bed. It is midday in Belfast, a hot summer’s day; unobstructed, bright rays of sunlight stream through the windows and illuminate the peaceful expression on her face.
The room is a small one, barely enough for the twin bed and the nightstand next to it. The only other piece of furniture in the room is a wooden chair, its presence inexplicable without an accompanying desk, or table. At the moment it serves as a closet; over its back is draped a black, leather overcoat, stylish but outlandishly inappropriate for the weather. Leaning against the legs of the chair is a medium-sized travel bag, locked shut. Next to that sits a small, metal case, the sort that could probably survive a nuclear explosion. In small piles leading from the chair to the side of the bed are various pieces of clothing, haphazardly discarded in the haste to retire.
Outside, a bustling city street, unusually active for a Sunday afternoon. A man with a prosthetic hand is walking three dogs on leashes. A florist leaves his stand momentarily to chase after a customer who forgot her change. The doorman of the posh hotel across the street takes off his cap so that he can wipe sweat off his brow. A minor car accident has blocked traffic, almost directly under the window. Two men exit a limousine which has become caught in the snarl. A faint movement—there, in the alley, but there’s nothing. Perhaps a shift in the light, or a random shadow?
She lies on the ratty mattress, sensing none of this, and it is the most comfortable place she has ever been.


Denying allegations

Is ne(one)piphany turning into a photolog? No, I’ve just been busy. Also killed my poor router during firmware update shenanigans and no internet access for awhile. I promise to get back on track soon, but in the meantime, enjoy the cute bunny, or seek drama elsewhere.

In other news: Ronald Reagan died, which made me feel a little sad as his election in 1980 was pretty much my first political memory. But Peter, of course, says it better. Ray Charles died, which made me feel a lot sad. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was fabby — little Danny Radcliffe is turning into Tobey Maguire (and yes, K. D. Lang). Jet brought a suitcase of Italian Beef from Chicago. Genie immigrated from St. Louis, while Kurt is moving back. Six Apart made things all better. This game is unexpected goodness, and I seem, after all, to have no natural talent for poker.

Finally, I’ve spent entirely too much time paper shopping, and not enough crafting. This will change soon enough, oh yes.



It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?

I’m the timid type, so when the server started getting hammered by outside linkage to the Fat Kreme Photo Essay, I figured it was best to lay low for a bit. Besides, you never can tell where the hackers are hiding.

Here we go, rapid-fire:

Movies: Le Pacte des Loups was fun. You can totally tell that Christophe Gans is a fan of Hong Kong wuxia films, and there’s a real look to this film that evokes the pre-Raphaelite movement. X2 had a lot for a fan of the 80’s books to bite into, and set up even more for the next go-round. Also, eye candy. Seriously. Identity was creepy and played with enough intriguing concepts to distinguish itself from the pack, despite uneven direction. Better Luck Tomorrow was much, much better than I was expecting.

Upcoming travel plans: Off to Chicago this weekend for some family catch-up time and other hijinx. The end of the month will see me in New York City, but probably not at Nobu. In between, the docket includes a puzzle hunt, freesia’s show, a dinner expedition or two and hopefully some quality time with friends.

Meme watch:

Apropos of nothing, but something pretty I came upon while web-surfing:

Wall-Painting of Ladies and Papyri (det.) | 17th-c. BC
(from the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, Santorini, Greece)

Finally, word is that Ginger Altoids are starting to hit the shelves again, at least in Seattle. Perhaps it’ll be a seasonal thing. At any rate, keep your eyes peeled!


To the new tower of Babel!

Watched the new restoration of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis on DVD last night, which was wonderfully clear; a revelation, truly, and despite controversy about playback speed, a very affecting experience. Did find myself longing at times for a little Pat Benatar or Freddy Mercury — surely I cannot be the only fan of Giorgio Moroder’s 1984 pop-score “reinvention” of the film? — to the point where earlier tonight I dug out my ancient VHS copy of the long out-of-print Vestron video release. Cheesy at times, yes (this is the man who unleashed Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” on the world, after all), but is it really any less so than Gottfried Huppertz’s cloying original score*, included on the current Kino disc? One could argue that the driving electronic beats of Moroder are actually more appropriate to the mechanical heartbeat of Metropolis. On the other hand, Adam Ant. Hee, point taken.

The real tragedy here is that I completely missed the Alloy Orchestra’s run of Metropolis when they came through Seattle a few years ago.

Speaking of reinvented scores, for a real treat (both cinematically and musically), check out the Criterion Collection’s DVD release of The Passion of Joan of Arc, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent masterpiece**, with Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light included as an alternate audio track. The movie by itself is a transcendental experience (possibly my favorite film ever), and the music (featuring Anonymous 4) is nothing to sniff at either. I became familiar with each separately, not realizing at first that Einhorn had designed Voices to accompany the film. Together, well, wow.

* the advantage both scores have in this case is that they are both infinitely better than the nadir of Metropolis-related music, which surely has to go to the atrocious 1989 musical, first staged in London (and which nevertheless has an inexplicable following).
**Passion is a film whose history is as spotted and star-crossed as Metropolis itself. A victim of mishap and censors, its story has a happy ending: a print of Dreyer’s original cut was miraculously recovered from a mental hospital in 1981, nearly fifty years after its original form was thought irretrievably lost. Faint hope for Metropolis?

Shocked to discover while grabbing links for this entry that Anonymous 4 is disbanding…!


Whither ginger?

Had correspondents on the search for Ginger Altoids all day yesterday, with absolutely no success. Am beginning to wonder whether this is all an elaborately constructed hoax, but no: I certainly held a tin in my hands on Friday, and even sampled a mint. Suggestions were helpfully offered but sadly misleading… We struck out at Trader Joe’s, where some on the web had reported success, and an enthusiastic tip that the Mercer Larry’s had them as of 4 p.m. on Saturday seems to have been in error (Eggy: “The lady there looked at me as if she had never heard of them” — like Keyser Soze, gone without a trace).

Have a few more yuppie market prospects to check out before I’ll be willing to concede defeat; alternately, if anyone has a lead on where they might be ordered online, that just might do as well. At this point, any word merely corroborating their existence would be a comfort!

DVD news, in short: Disney will be releasing Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Castle in the Sky Laputa in one- and two-disc special editions, all in April. Both original and dubbed soundtracks will be included, as well as as-yet-unspecified special features. More than I had hoped for! Also, Dreamworks will release the original Japanese version of Ring on the same day that last year’s American remake arrives on DVD.

Hear that? That’s the sound of a lot of tense movie fans sighing in relief.



If you feel you can handle it, you absolutely must see 9|11, an extraordinarily powerful, feature-length documentary by brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet. Originally a project to film the progress of a rookie firefighter, the filmmakers ended up in the middle of everything on 11 September, catching much of the harrowing event (including what is probably the only extant footage of the first plane hitting tower one) on videotape. Not merely a study of the day itself, it tracks the firefighters from mid-June through the aftermath and cleanup on the WTC site, and features lots of commentary by those most directly involved. Nothing exploitative here, just profound human drama.

It’s out on DVD right now, with bonus interviews. Thanks to Tony for the recommendation.

Okay, I promise I’ll stop dwelling on this subject now. Thanks for listening and for the support over the last couple of days, everyone. And I promise I won’t delete my previous post.

P.S. First entry from the new laptop!


Royale with cheese

Contrary to popular expectations, there is a Quarter Pounder with cheese sandwich served in McDonald’s restaurants in Egypt. The odd thing is that right next to it on the menu is a completely different sandwich called a McRoyale (to all intents and purposes, equivalent to the not-so-accurately monikered “Big ‘n’ Tasty”). For a second, I almost considered ordering it, but the resemblance was too great.

Now, one could ask (and quite rightly) why an American traveling abroad would choose to sup at that most American of establishments, especially in the middle of a huge cultural and commercial area like Midan Tahrir. First: yes, it’s truly and excessively sad, but I do enjoy springboarding a conversation with ridiculous situations like that. More importantly, I actually find foreign versions of familiar things to be really fascinating and possibly more exotic than the authentic cuisine of a region.

For instance, say you’re in London and you’re confronted with the choice between a dead-to-rights vindaloo (available at who-knows-how-many fine Indian restaurants in any decent-sized U.S. metropolis) and a Lamb McCurry burger from the golden arches.

“A-ha!” you exclaim. “Presented that way, obviously the latter!”

No? Ah, fine.

Though it’s certainly how I chose, I’ll admit that that may not have been the most appetizing example. At any rate, you’re never going to find a McChicken Korma on this side of the Pond, or a kimchi & bulgogi pie in an States-side Pizza Hut. Given the chance, I’ve tried them all — even the Burger King bean burger (a lot tastier than it looked!).

On this night, however, it was not to be. As exotic experiences go, this Cairene McDonald’s was a giant letdown; aside from the aforementioned McRoyale, there was nothing even remotely strange on the menu. Alas, B. was tired and didn’t have the energy to find another restaurant, so there, in the shadow of the pyramids, I dined on a Big Mac and fries.

I blame Quentin Tarantino.


Cognitive dissonance

Oh my god, I’m listening to a Hindi cover of “Mony, Mony” right now. Actually, it might be better described as a “free adaptation,” but there’s no ambiguity about the source material.

For those intensely curious, it’s “Koi Nahin Aisa,” from the soundtrack to Dillagi.

(Good grief, now it’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” Same movie.)


Spirited Away

Saw Miyazaki’s Spirited Away this afternoon, and it was just incredible. It was big, beautiful, weird, dark, whimsical… that last one, especially, a Miyazaki trademark I thought sorely lacking in Mononoke Hime and a big reason why I haven’t ever thought of that film (despite its wide acclaim) as one of his better works.

Truthfully, I’ve never really been able to rank Miyazaki’s output; each one is so different that at various times, any of his pictures have had special resonance with me. Totoro and Kiki talk directly to earlier versions of me, Porco Rosso to my hopelessly romantic core (and I suspect, something more complex as I get older), Laputa to my sense of adventure and wonder. Mononoke is the exception, because in many respects it’s a reinvention of his earlier Kaze no tani no Nausicaa rather than its own distinct work. It remains to be seen where Sen will stand; I suspect many more viewings will be necessary before I know for sure.

Hopefully Disney will market it well. I think it would appeal to kids hopped up on Harry Potter or Roald Dahl books.

Last night was Battle Royale, a film from Japan dealing with a class of high schoolers who are left on an island with weapons and explosive collars around their necks. Their task: only one can remain alive after the third day, or everyone dies. I would say Lord of the Flies on speed, but I haven’t read (or seen) it yet.

Can’t say I was a real fan of this film, but a lot of the recent hyper-violent Japanese movies that have been getting popular over here in the last few years (for example, about a billion pictures by Takashi Miike) haven’t done much for me, either. Come to think of it, this applies even to more introspective films, such as Shunji Iwai’s Lily Chou-Chou no subete. I think there’s something about the modern Japanese youth experience that I just can’t relate to, and that’s affecting my ability to enjoy these pictures.

Of course there’s something about lots of anime youth titles that I click with instantly, stuff like Kareshi kanojo no jijo. But most of what I like is at least four years old now and the live action films I talked about are all from the last two years. There’s also probably a noticeable age gap between the folks who made the anime and these new, hotshot directors.

Is this just a way of saying I feel old? I guess so.

Oddly enough, I’ve very much been enjoying youth-oriented Korean films from the same timeframe. Something else to wonder about?


Cinema overload

Saw three at SIFF today, pretty much using up the entire day (and which involved lots of sitting in traffic, standing in line, etc.). Here’s a mini-report!

Pistol Opera - Seijun Suzuki’s “sequel” (35 years later) of his classic Branded to Kill. Was possibly the most confusing movie I’ve ever seen, though certainly beautiful to look at. It had all of the eccentricities of the earlier film, without any of the coherence, and was shot in brilliant technicolor (Branded was black and white). A nice performance from ESUMI Makiko as the hardboiled assassin-protagonist chica. (5/10)

Monkey Love - an indie romantic comedy, shot in digital. The projection left a little to be desired, with blocky, low resolution NTSC (converted from a PAL master), but after awhile it was easy to tune it out and just enjoy the story. Well-acted, well-written, and very entertaining. matter eater lad, Valerie and Klar all agreed. Afterwards, there was a short Q&A with some of the cast and crew. Particuarly liked Jeremy Renner, whose most significant previous role was Jeffrey Dahmer — go figure! I love SIFF. (8/10)

Hi, Dharma - A fun, fun fish-out-of-water comedy from South Korea, involving a group of gangsters who hide out in a mountain monastery. Most of the film deals with the friction between the monks and the hoodlums, both groups having a hard time dealing with the situation they’ve fallen into. A good natured, hilarious flick (with some action thrown in too). (8/10)

No more movies until Friday. Phew!


Men With Brooms

Someday I’ll compile a full report on SIFF 2002, but that day is not today. After missing two weekend films for which I’d already bought tickets (Takashi Miike’s Happiness of the Katakuris and the non-Miike May), I made sure to head out early to catch today’s 4:30 showing of Men With Brooms at the Harvard Exit Theater. It’s a Canadian comedy… about curling.

I watched (out of pure fascination) a lot of the CBC’s coverage of curling during the Salt Lake City Olympics (in fact, I first saw commercials for Men With Brooms during these broadcasts), and, well, I came away completely confused. Now that I’ve seen this film, though, I think I finally have an idea of what’s going on. The movie itself was pretty funny as well; sure, the script was rather painful at parts and hit every sports movie cliche in the book, but there were plenty of real laughs peppered liberally throughout. Best of all, the film takes shots at things an outsider might find ridiculous about curling (and indeed, sports in general), but you never get the feeling that writer/director/star Paul Gross has anything but a deep admiration or affection for the sport. I’d give it 7/10 (probably the highest rating I’d give to any post-Naked Gun film starring Leslie Nielsen). Really entertaining.

After the film, kakumei and I went to Delfino’s at University Village for dinner. Still the best Chicago-style pizza I’ve found in the area. The only, in fact.

Random-but-related factoid of the day: The Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien has a painting in its collection by Breughel the Elder entitled “The Hunters in the Snow,” dated 1565. Suspiciously familiar activity in the background?



Greetings from the world of the living [, non-ironic]!

Pretty much on the other side of the flu now, and will hopefully be updating again. Spent the days subsisting on online Scrabble. Mom called and said my brother, three thousand miles away, has also caught the flu. He’s running 105, and I don’t envy him one bit!

Feel a little cheated after going four days with a moderate fever and not a single dream that persisted after I woke up! This is be par for the course with me. I think there are only two dreams I’ve had in my life that I remember with any kind of clarity. Do people write about dreams in blogs? I would if I could!

Lish called me “old.” Good or bad?

In other news, our wonderful Canadian neighbours have released another disc of a film that we won’t see for who knows how long in the USA. This time it’s Nagisa Oshima’s dreamy & violent Gohatto (Taboo), an exploration of homoerotic love in the samurai ranks. I do recommend, especially for those who can get their grubby little hands on the DVD. New Yorker Films has released a VHS in the states, so that might be an easier option.

Two good films, just released on DVD by Miramax Home Entertainment: Purple Noon, Rene Clement’s 1960 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, and The Young Girls of Rochefort, Jacques Demy’s lighthearted musical followup to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. Alain Delon and Catherine Deneuve! Yum. Oh, and Belle de Jour, although I never was a big fan.

It’s good to be out of the house, although working past midnight may not be the best thing for me. Time to skedaddle!

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