Monday, January 30, 2012

My Gray Morning's Sundance Wrap-Up

* Sundance Award Winner

*The Law In These Parts 101 minutes D
Apparently, I didn't understand this award winning doc about Israel, Palestinians and the occupied territories post war 1967. It was over my head (and frankly, a little boring). But congratulations to these courageous documentarians nonetheless.

Payback 82 minutes C
A documentary about social inequality, based on the book by Margaret Atwood.  I liked the idea, but hated the execution of this documentary.  The information and images are presented in a way that's confusing and slow building.

*Young and Wild 90 minutes A
Loved this film! A young nympho comes of age and enjoys bacon and tofu.   

Corpo Celeste 98 minutes C+
RW had to explain parts of this one, because I know nothing about catechism and Catholics.  Good acting by a young actor.  Slow start, strong ending. 

Red Hook Summer 130 min C-
Spike Lee's new, overlong, sprawling mess... But it was a great Q & A afterwards.

V/H/S 104 minutes  B-
Normally, horror flicks aren't my cup of tea, but I have to admit that this one had me on the edge of my seat!  Annoying, intriguing, and if you have a weak stomach, eat afterwards and not before.

The Pursuit of Loneliness 96 minutes B-
A slow black and white film about loneliness and death.  Not for everyone, but oddly likable. 

Shorts Program III

DOL (First Birthday) 12 minutes A-
A gay couple in the closet, but the kids are alright  

The Fort  12 minutes B
About a weird kid in the woods

Frozen Stories 26 minutes B-
At this point I was really tired...

L Train 11 minutes A  
and I cried...

Rolling On the Floor Laughing 19 minutes  A-
A family gathering that goes horribly wrong.

Surveillant 17 minutes B-
I kept waiting for something dramatic to happen... it never did.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Gray Morning's Best of Film & Music 2011

The best in films and music (i.e. my favorites) based on what I saw and heard last year.  Enjoy!

10. The Big Year
9. Bridesmaids
8. Higher Ground
7. Young Adult
6. The Off Hours
5. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
4. The Future
3. 50/50
2. The Ides of March
1. Another Earth
Honorable mentioned: Beginners, Horrible Bosses, Swell Season, Beats, Rhymes & Life, Midnight in Paris 

5. Wilco - The Whole Love 
4. Drake - Take Care
3. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committe Part 2
2. REM - Collapse Into Now   
1. Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, Ultra.
Honorable Mentioned: Ryan Adams - Ashes & Fire, Wild Flag - Wild Flag, James Blake - James Blake

Thursday, January 19, 2012

First Impression Music Reviews - Kathleen Edwards, Wilco & the Indigo Girls

Released January 2012 
Kathleen Edwards - Voyageur B+
I absolutely can't get enough of the book-end tracks on this album.  It opens with an Empty Threat, and ends with a declaration that, For the Record, "I only wanted to sings songs."  After one listen I was ready to declare this (her fourth album) the best yet, but that would have been premature.  It is however, the best album of 2012, so far... Favorite Tracks- Empty Threat, Change the Sheets, For the Record.

Released September 2011
Wilco - The Whole Love B+ 
Intially, I had a hard time wrapping my head around this one, despite some undeniable hooks and the eclectic sounds.  Truth be told, I've lost a little love for Wilco and I don't know why.  Once, I considered them one of the most vital acts in music, now I feel like they have outgrown me.  Their welcoming the whole love with open arms, and without the trepidation I've come to know and love.  Nonetheless,  The Whole Love gets better and better each time I spin it. Perhaps, this old flame is worth rekindling. Favorite Tracks- I Love My Label, Art of AlmostOne Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)

Released October 2011
Indigo Girls - Beauty Queen Sister B-
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the Indigo Girls are one of the most underrated acts in music history.  Last October, critic Bill Clifford wrote that they can "certainly be considered along side the likes of Simon & Garfunkel, Hall & Oates and the Everly Brothers," and I couldn't agree more.  It's been almost 25 years since the independent release of Strange Fire, their first album.  These ladies are still making music that moves me, and telling stories that need to be told. Favorite Tracks- Feed and Water the Horses, We Get to Feel it All, Birthday Song.          

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sexton's God Thing (Book Review)

Publication Date: March 1975
The Awful Rowing Towards God - Anne Sexton B+

I loved the dark and speculative tone of this collection.  Sexton keenly questions the meaning of God's existence (and ours), while introspectively coming to grips with her own failures and regrets.  The fact that she (allegedly) planned her suicide, and the posthumous publication of this book, adds intrigue and validity.

In the poem, "Is It True," Sexton ruminates- Occasionally the devil has crawled in and out of me through my cigarettes I suppose.  While "Rowing," the collection's opening poem, mesmerizes and sets the pace.  I found the majority of these poems to be compellingly and powerful; yet, a few had the tendency to keep rambling long after the point... sorta like a great pop song that is six minutes, when it should be three minutes.  Nevertheless, The Awful Rowing Towards God really resonated with me.  I can't believe I found this treasure for only $2 at the used book store.    

Here's an excerpt from the poem "Rowing"

Then there was life
with its cruel houses
and people who seldom touched-
though touch is all-
but I grew,
like a pig in a trenchcoat I grew,
and then there were many strange apparitions,
the nagging rain, the sun turning into poison
and all of that, saws working through my heart,
but I grew, I grew,
and God was there like an island I had not rowed to,
still ignorant of Him, my arms, and my legs worked,
and I grew, I grew,
I wore rubies and bought tomatoes
and now, in my middle age,
about nineteen in the head I'd say,
I am rowing, I am rowing
though the oarlocks stick and are rusty
and the sea blinks and rolls
like a worried eyeball,
but I am rowing, I am rowing,
though the wind pushes me back
and I know that that island will not be perfect,
it will have the flaws of life,
the absurdities of the dinner table,
but there will be a door
and I will open it
and I will get rid of the rat inside me,
the gnawing pestilential rat.
God will take it with his two hands
and embrace it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Carnage - Movie Review

Carnage (R) 79 min C+
Dysfunctional couples get overheated in a (stylish) New York apartment

Starring Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, John C. Reilly

This latest offering from esteemed director, Roman Polanski, is an adaptation of Yasmina Reza's award-winning play God of Carnage. It's one room, two couples and a fight to the finish. Good performances all around, but it's always hard to take my eyes off Kate Winslet (vomit and all).

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Shame - Movie Review

Shame (NC-17) 101 minutes B-
Sex & the City through the eyes of a Predator

Starring Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, Lucy Walters, Nicole Beharie and James Badge Dale

How is it that a film about sex addiction is this unsexy...?  Well, that's one of the things that makes Shame so effective, so uncomfortable and so real.  It's not an "entertaining" film, and it's certainly not for everyone.  It is however, an intriguing voyeuristic study of sexually addiction. 

Brandon Sullivan (Fassbender), is a sexually compulsive New Yorker who is surprisingly dull aside from his obsession.  Early into the film we observe Brandon paying for sex, pleasuring himself in the shower, showing up late for work, pleasuring himself in the office restroom, and getting his work computer confiscated because he unknowingly downloaded several viruses.  It's obvious he has a problem; but, like all good addicts he hides it well and maintains his predatory routine without any major complications.  Until, that is, his capricious sister (Mulligan) crashes his stylish, one bedroom, Manhattan apartment.  She's needs a place to stay indefinitely, and as film critic Keith Uhlich so wonderfully wrote, "it majorly f*cks up his mojo because he suddenly has to give a damn about someone."

The film really takes off when Brandon's sister, Sissy, enters the picture.  She is equally as damaged as her brother.  Her arrival sets off a chain of events that brings Brandon's addiction and her problems to a dangerous crescendo.  It took awhile for me to sink my teeth into this film, but when I did it really lingered.  Shame is a hard film to swallow.  But Fassbender's vivid portrayal, Mulligan's rendition of "New York, New York" (the best I've ever heard), and a sordid peak into the misunderstood world of sexual addition, makes this ambitious film worth exploring if you're curious about such things.  Otherwise, I suggest you proceed with caution.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol - Movie Review

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (PG-13) 133 minutes C
Ethan Hunt is back! Run Ethan, Run!

Starring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michel Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Josh Holloway, Anil Kapoor and Léa Seydoux.

I must admit, I was a little disappointed with this latest installment of Mission Impossible.  That's not to say that it won't satisfy many of you reading this review.  After all, it's currently the number one film in America, and it's receiving good reviews from my colleagues.  I am not one who is easily impressed by hot cars, cool suits, slick gadgets and action sequences.  Especially, when I don't feel any emotional attachment to the characters.  Even the girl on girl fight scene and a curvy (post-pregnancy) Paula Patton did little to get me interested. 

I'm reluctant to imply that I am trashing this film because there were some nice moments (I liked the Kremlin scene). Fans of the genre/franchise will most likely feel as though they got their money's worth.  But despite the smarter and edgier facade, Ghost Protocol doesn't live up to the hype.  Fun? I guess... but mostly forgettable.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Young Adult - Movie Review

Young Adult (R) 94 minutes B+
Punch Drunk Love

Starring Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser and Jill Eikenberry.

Young Adult is a Hollywood comedy about a tall, skinny, intoxicating blonde who goes back to her hometown to win the heart of her (happily married) high school boyfriend.  Normally, a Hollywood comedy with this storyline would be uber-lame, and reserved for the likes of Kate Hudson and Patrick Dempsey.  But thanks to director Jason Reitman (Juno & Up In the Air) and screenwriter Diablo Cody (Juno & Jennifer's Body), Young Adult doesn't suck.   It's actually one of the best films of the year. 

Mavis Gary (Theron) is a 37 year-old ghost writer of a popular series of YA novels.  She left her small Minnesota town after high school, moved to the big city and became something of a success story.  Yet, a recent divorce and waning popularity of the aforementioned novels has driven her to drink.  Fueled by vulnerability, alcohol and immaturity, Mavis is bringing sexy back with cringeworthy, funny and sad results.  After a little bit of a slow start, this film provided one of my favorite endings of the year.

You won't be able to take your eyes off of Charlize Theron, while Patton Oswalt continues to prove that he is more than just a funny guy.  Recommended!

Confessional Blogging & Dieting (Book Reviews)

Publication Date: November 2011
Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee - Megan Boyle B+

This book sparked my creativity, and provided a lot of writing prompts. Selected Unpublished Blog Posts of a Mexican Panda Express Employee is funny, relatable, and a little sad. It's like reading the secret life of the pretty girl you see in class or at the office, but never speak to. Lately, I've been listening to Juliana Hatfield's new album (There's Always Another Girl), and I've decided that Megan Boyle might be the literary equivalent. Hatfield's first solo album, 1992's Hey Babe, was an impressive, confessional, debut full of hooks and self-doubt. The album garnered plenty of attention; yet, it was her next album, 1993's Become What You Are, that really put her on the map. If this book is Boyle's Hey Babe, I can't wait to read what's next.
Publication Date: December 2005 
The Sonoma Diet - Connie Guttersen C+

The Sonoma Diet is intriguing because much of the food it encourages is food I already eat on a regular basis. Yet, I have the sneaking suspicion that it's nowhere near as easy as it sounds. I don't doubt that it works, but who wants to give up sugar, wine and cheese for ten days? I will however, incorporate some of these practices and recipes into my daily routine. This book (we have the hardcover & audio version) covers all the bases, provides helpful nutritional insight and motivates me to improve my diet just in time for the new year. Unfortunately, I don't have the willpower to commit to any diet 100%, but doing half a diet (along with exercise) is better than nothing at all.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Tower Heist - Movie Review

Tower Heist (PG-13) 104 minutes C
Dumb Fun
Starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Casey Affleck, Alan Alda, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, Gabourey Sidibe

This is mindless fun with an interesting cast of characters.  I would've liked it less had I waited to see it on video.  Well worth the $6.00 I paid for two admissions.