Sunday, May 31, 2009

Recap: 31 May 2009

In this entry:
  1. Movies: Hooray!
  2. Writing: Blurg + a small hooray!
  3. Reading: I <3>
  4. Dreams Do Come True

1. What I Watched
  • Night at the Museum 2 (2½ stars): There are certainly worse ways to spend a couple of hours in a movie theatre, but the sequel to 2006's surprisingly amusing NatM was a pretty big letdown. I wasn't expecting much, but it seemed like every single joke went on about 5 to 10 seconds too long. There is one exchange between Ben Stiller and Hank Azaria that is absolutely hilarious, but that's about it. It's not terrible, and kids will like it, but, overall, kind of disappointing.
  • YPF (4 stars): I first read about this movie over at Roger Ebert's blog last year, and so, when it showed up on Netflix's Instant Player, I decided to give it a shot. Full disclosure (no pun intended): Y stands for Young, and P stands for People, and I'll let you infer the F from there. The movie follows several couples through the act of, well, coupling. What transpires is at times hilarious, at other times heartbreaking, and pretty much all emotions in between. It's also worth noting that, despite it being a movie about sex, it's surprisingly chaste. Sure, there are boobs and butts, but they're very rarely gratuitous (only The Roomates toes the line, in my opinion). So, if you're open-minded, check it out. I, like Ebert, was pleasantly surprised.
  • [Guilty Pleasure Movie Night] Kingdom of Heaven [director's cut] (4 stars): If you've only ever seen the theatrical version of this movie, you haven't seen the movie. There's so much that makes absolutely no sense in the theatrical release because they cut out HUGE chunks of character development. Seriously huge. The director's cut is definitely epic at 3 hours and 19 minutes, but it's totally worth it.
  • Harold & Maude (3½ stars): It took me a while to get into this movie because I didn't like Harold. Normally in a movie, even when the protag isn't a very good person, there's still some clue given to the audience that you're supposed to root for him. I didn't see that. But eventually Maude won me over, kind of like she won Harold over. Five adjectives for this film: quirky, dark, funny, heartbreaking, heartwarming. There you go.
  • Up (5 stars): Best Movie of the Year (so far). I doubt anything's going to beat it, frankly. I was in substantial tears twice (thanks in part to the fact that protag Carl looks a lot like my grandpa), and was laughing heartily throughout. Truly fantastic. Disney-Pixar continues to raise the bar. In my opinion, this is their best yet.
  • Duck Soup (2 stars): I know this is supposed to be a classic movie and all, but I just didn't get it. I thought it was lazy. The comedy didn't mesh at all with the few threads of a story. It should have been either a simple sketch comedy show, or they should have worked a lot harder on creating an actual story in which the comedy could be organic. As it was, it was like the opposite of synergy.
  • Cassandra's Dream (3 stars): Another foray into Woody Allen territory. Frankly, this 2007 thriller didn't strike me as his best work, despite fine performances by Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell. It took a very long time to actually get started, but, once it did, it trotted along nicely enough. I think it's a movie that will grow on me in hindsight, thanks to my sister pointing out the theme (when is loyalty right?). Still, it's not as slick as some of his other thrillers, like Match Point.
  • Mostly Martha (4 stars): I loved this movie. It was remade in 2007 as a Catherine Zeta-Jones vehicle called No Reservations. I haven't seen that version, but I imagine it'd be hard to beat this one. It's the story of a Type A, German chef who's life is disrupted when her niece comes to live with her after her sister's sudden death in a car accident. Throw in an Italian chef who comes to work in her restaurant? Lots of fun, and maybe the best "leaves you wanting more" scene I've seen in years. (Bit of trivia: the Italian chef is played by Sergio Castellitto, who also played Mraz in Prince Caspian; he was much nicer in this.)
2. What I Read
A week ago, I found myself absolutely compelled to read The Picture of Dorian Gray again. Couldn't help myself. I read it slowly this time: trying to absorb every word, attempting to wrap my head around each of Lord Henry's epigrams, letting the imagery and the feelings sink in. And I still devoured it in a week's time. It was exactly what I needed for the emotions I've been dealing with lately, and I've now admitted to myself that it's become my favorite novel of all time, usurping the position that was held by Les Misérables since 1996.

I'm also reading a fluffy little novel called The Romance Readers' Book Club. Not really my usual type of stuff, but the back cover and the title intrigued me, and it was on clearance at Borders.

3. What I'm Writing
Ugh. Do we have to talk about this? OK, fine. I'm still muddling through The Sound of Silence. It's like pulling teeth, and it's still coming out way too short this time around. So annoying.

I've also started outlining hardcore for the rewrite of my Doppelgänger script. I'm going back to basics on this one, doing the 40-scene with the conflict and emotion change factors, hoping to break out of my screenwriting rut.

The silver lining is I wrote a short story last week that got a lot of very nice feedback on twitter. Being compared to both The Twilight Zone and Neil Gaiman was definitely a writing career highlight. It was also one of those rare occurrences when you're writing and suddenly things just click, with no effort of your own. True magic, I think: rare and to be savored when it happens.

Speaking of Neil Gaiman...

4. My Conversation with Neil Gaiman
The scene: Twitter
The time: The afternoon of May 22nd
Me: Had dream that @neilhimself tweeted at me, which caused me to let forth a joyful yawp, which woke me up. But at least I woke up smiling.
And then:

That's right, people. Neil Gaiman makes dreams come true. Literally. How awesome is that? I still get a little thrill of excitement thinking about that moment, which did indeed include a yawp of joy and also a little dance and lots of jumping around a bit of screaming and a phone call to my mother in which she became concerned that her eldest daughter had finally dropped off the deep end. All of which seems like a completely reasonable reaction to having a conversation (yes, I'm calling it a conversation!) with Neil Freaking Gaiman.