Friday, January 20, 2012

MOVIES I LOVE : Go Rent Them

Movies I love...

This list could go on forever, but I'll start here. Please let me know if you take my advice and then hate the movie. That's always an interesting phenomenon. I think that happened recently with a book I recommended to my sister.

Okay, so here we go:

THE GHOST AND MRS MUIR :  This one's from 1947. I really love this movie. It is supremely charming and romantic.  Rex Harrison is a sexy, sea-faring ghost. And Gene Tierney is just breathtakingly beautiful.

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD: (1962) This, for me, is just the greatest of all movies. More than any other movie, this one (combined with reading the book) was an unforgettable and unmatched experience starting at probably age 9 and continuing through adulthood. It is the only movie during which I could close my eyes and simply listen---the writing and the voices of Gregory Peck and Company are that wonderful.

PAN'S LABYRINTH: (2006) Part fantasy, but mostly a story of war and brutality. Heartbreaking and utterly gorgeous. (Spanish language film, so you will have to do subtitles).

THE ORPHANAGE : (2007) The most poignant ghost story you will ever see. I did not cry the first time I saw it, but I cried every time after that. (Also a Spanish language film).

KLUTE: (1971) Jane Fonda is a call-girl and a stalking-victim. Donald Sutherland is a private detective. This movie has brilliant performances (Jane took home the Oscar for Best Actress), killer direction, and one of the creepiest scores put to film. Honestly, I do not recommend that women watch this while alone in the house at night. It could totally mess with your mind. But I still recommend it, because it is AWESOME.

HOUSEBOAT: (1958) This is a light, romantic comedy brought to you by the 1950s---along the lines of those Tammy movies (which I love) and those Doris Day flicks. But this one has Sophia Loren and Cary Grant. 'Nuf said. Two of the most good-looking people you'll ever see in film.

MEMENTO: (2000) This movie could drive a person crazy. You are somewhat trapped in the mind of a person who has no short-term memory. It requires an almost exhausting concentration effort in order to keep track and not get lost, but it is totally worth it. Who doesn't love a good head trip?

UNFAITHFUL: (2002) Great, great, great performances by Diane Lane and, rather surprisingly, Richard Gere. Do not, no matter how tempting, cheat on your spouse. Nothing good can come of this. Although, honestly, it would be extremely difficult to pass on Olivier Martinez; he's the definition of hot in this movie.

NOTES ON A SCANDAL: (2006) Two riveting performances by two great actresses (Dame Judy Dench and Cate Blanchett). This was a stunner for me. There was more than one point in the film where I was thinking, "Holy Crap". I love that.

THE USUAL SUSPECTS: (1995)  Kevin Spacey is just great here. Plus Pete Postlethwaite---gotta love him. Also, I really enjoy Benizio Del Torro and his weird-ass speech impediment. It's a confusing plotline at times, but the end really pays off bigtime.

Okay, a start. I'm sure there will be more to come...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

NEW MOVIE REVIEW: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Gary Oldman is the BOMB (remember that one---from the nineties!) in this movie. He portrays George Smiley, a shrewd retired agent of the British version of the CIA---an organization fondly referred to as "the Circus". The thing about Oldman here is that he takes stoic to a-whole-notha level. Consequently, the few (like maybe three) times he does show some emotion, it really packs a wallop.


1. When he observes his wife making-out with another man---for 2 seconds he really looks like he's going to have a stroke.
2. When he is "pressing" a wayward colleague for information, he doesn't actually press or act threatening at all. But at one point, he simply leans into the guy's ear and says, "Tell me the address" in a quietly persuasive tone. He has just the smallest smirk about him and it is chilling---like bbbbrrrrrrrr.
3. When he returns to his home after the whole mess is over, his whole body just kind of drops when he sees his wife in the kitchen. We only see her forearm.

The setting is the 1970's. And these ain't your James Bond or Jason Bourne kind of secret agents. Nobody is super-strong or has snazzy equipment. There are no car chases, no roof-jumpings, no explosions. These are more the real deal guys who steal government secrets and occasionally kill people.

The pace is very slow, but engrossing, as Smiley attempts to ferret out who among the top members of the Circus is actually a double-agent working for the Russians. It's a lonely life working in the spy business. You can't trust anyone, it would seem. I liked that this movie was very realistic in that way. The life of a secret agent appears to be kind of a sad one. This job not only didn't seem glamorous, it seemed like knowing you could get killed at anytime was the only real "excitement". People who like that brand of excitement are kinda nutz. Hence, by Jules logic, people who work for the CIA and the like are kinda nutz.

Still, a cool film. 4 stars. Go see it. George Smiley is a strange bird, but you really appreciate him.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Several posts ago, I reviewed The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. In that review I really struggled---and failed--- to articulate a solid reason why I found that book so compelling.  Now, after reading Affinity, I have a better handle on what makes her books successful sellers. 

First off, as with The Little Stranger, Affinity moves along very slowly toward its climax. After an initial event involving a ghost and a death, nothing terribly exciting happens for quite some time. Still, you are pulled into the day-to day workings of a very specific and detailed place in time. The images and voices of the period are so well drawn that you become immersed. It's truly an unfamiliar world for most of us, and Ms. Water's has a way of letting you hear, see, feel and even smell that world miraculously without becoming bogged down in descriptors. She gives just the right amount of information. It's the next best thing to being there.

She also uses first person narration to great advantage in both books. While the gentleman narrator in The Little Stranger seemed a very "normal" sort of person, the two narrators in Affinity are both very troubled women. One is a curiosity, for sure. The other, though, is someone we can easily relate to, understand, and sympathize with. In each case, your interest is piqued and held even as you seem to travel with them through their daily routine comings and goings.

Both books are psychological ghost stories. Is this real? Is it imagined? Is it mental illness or a cruel hoax? They are not, then, overtly scary, but more worrisome, sorrowful and melancholy.

A bit about the subject matter in Affinity. I'm just gonna be blunt here. Most of us are not lesbians--estimates go as high as 8% or so, I think. I'm in California, so I feel like there are more, but the fact is that probably 90% of  women are straight.  So, even the subtlest of Victorian lesbianism is interesting, I think. It's something we don't know much about. Besides not having the life experience, we haven't read a lot on the subject either. I can safely say this is my first Victorian lesbian romance, and I suspect that is the case for most of the readers. But, hey, it won't necessarily be my last. It is not the same thing as hetero romance. There are commonalities, of course, but it's different and, hence, more interesting on some levels. 

I hope that doesn't scare anyone off. It is the subtlest of subtle, truly. Give it a whirl!