Monthly Archives

March 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel

March 31, 2014

Dear Reader,

This weekend has been very movie heavy for me, with my Saturday night friend date to see The Grand Budapest Hotel topping it all off perfectly. I saw it at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, a place I recommend like crazy. It is an old restored art deco theatre about half an hour from Boston proper in (you guessed it) a neighborhood called Coolidge Corner.

It’s hard to not know you are watching a Wes Anderson movie. There are certain elements and certain techniques that he employs that make it impossible to watch it and not notice that you are watching something very atypical (and gorgeous). Anderson movies have always had that quirky, dreamy, color-saturated quality that his devotees find so appealing, but The Grand Budapest Hotel shows each of his trademarks at their highest and most coherent pitch. The whole film is practically gift-wrapped and tied with a pretty blue bow. And unwrapping it is beyond enjoyable, laughter-inducing, and sad. Here are some of my favorite elements:

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First, the artistic elements. Each shot, and I do mean each and every shot, is intricately planned out and coherent. The character’s clothing, the background coloring, and the placement of the bodies in each shot contains as much attention to composition as any master artwork. The cinematography is odd and brilliant, with puppets, graphic elements, and animation popping up here and there. Yet it never feels out of joint and is not even intensely noticeable. A puppet or an animation might be employed to show Zero and Gustave H. in a cable car going up a mountain, but that very contrived moment still fits in seamlessly and passes before the audience really notices what is going on.

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Second, the acting. I could easily print a list of the actors involved in this project and just leave it at that, but suffice it to say that there is a level of overplaying here that fits in perfectly with the bullet-fast dialogue and plot that seems to require an infinite amount of energy to keep up with. Everyone is larger than themselves. They are not so much people as ideas, and yet they are relatable enough to cause a sigh when one is unceremoniously bumped off or two of them fall in love.

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Third, the humor. The best thing about the humor is that it is uncomfortable and sad and still funny. You laugh and feel a bit bad for laughing, but the jokes take you so much by surprise that you’re laughing before you realize that that cat just got thrown out a four story window. You are also tempted to believe you are watching a comedy for almost the entire movie. And then it ends and you realize you never really were. Instead, you were watching a dark nostalgia-fest comprised of many moments that are just too jarring not to laugh at.

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All in all, I recommend this movie a lot. I recommend it even just based on the strength of the fact that I haven’t even mentioned the plot in all of my praising. And if I can review a movie at length, as I have done here, and not even hint at what it is about, you know there is a lot going on to recommend it.

My rating: Want It On My Shelf Forevermore.

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Cinema Sins

March 29, 2014

Dear Reader,

I have been thinking a lot about movies this weekend and also watching a lot of things about movies. YouTube has so much to offer that it is easy to get caught in the swirling vortex and emerge hours later, blinking at the light of a day you had forgotten about. CinemaSins, a YouTube channel dedicated to revealing the idiosyncrasies in popular films, is one of the best time suckers I have found in a while. One series they feature works off the premise of revealing “Everything wrong with insert film here in insert time here.” An example: “Everything Wrong with Iron Man in 4 Minutes or Less.” In these videos a hilarious running commentary on various carefully chosen scenes tallies up the so-called “sins” that these movies have committed.

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Memes, for your viewing pleasure.

 

What I love about these videos, outside of how side-achingly funny they are, is how much they poke fun at the numerous logical inconsistencies in popular cinema. They proudly proclaim that “No movie is without sin” and personally dedicate themselves to proving that statement. They have speared dozens of movies in varying lengths of time and various levels of vitriol, and I seldom find myself disagreeing with them. What sets them apart from the usual herd of people carping about continuity and plot arcs is the extreme reliance on logic. For instance, one video entirely breaks down the time-turner plot line in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which has driven me insane for a while because it doesn’t logically track and is never fully explained.

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Another great aspect of this series of videos is its reliance on the belief that no movie really is without these issues. Even if you see a movie on there you absolutely love, hearing it broken down and poked fun at is a lot easier to take when it is couched in the concept that every single movie ever made could be fodder for this particular joke.

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If you are looking for even more hilarious  and logical fun-poking at your favorite (or least favorite) movies, check out Screen Junkies “Honest Trailers” series, which does something similar to the series mentioned above, but focuses exclusively on movie trailers. Both of these are great ways to clear your head if, like me, you easily get caught up in cinematic magic and sometimes need to be de-programmed and brought back down to earth just a little bit. While laughing uproariously. 🙂

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And if you want to get super Inception-y and watch this video, in which they poke fun at themselves for poking fun. So have fun friends, and enjoy feeling your weekend slip away from you.

Challenge Accepted

March 27, 2014

“I live in two worlds, one is a world of books. I’ve been a resident of Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County, hunted the white whale aboard the Pequod, fought alongside Napoleon, sailed a raft with Huck and Jim, committed absurdities with Ignatius J. Reilly, rode a sad train with Anna Karenina and strolled down Swann’s Way. It’s a rewarding world.”

-Rory Gilmore

Dear Reader,

I’m a reader. Born and raised, from Curious George and Madeline to Tolstoy and Austen. So the Rory Gilmore Reading List was a godsend. When I was watching Gilmore Girls on a regular basis I kept a journal in which I would write down every reference someone on the show made and then look up the ones I didn’t understand. Every time I watched the show I would look up fewer references, something that always made me feel like I was getting smarter.

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Now Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge posts are not a new thing in the blogosphere, but I still thought I should add my two cents in. In case you don’t know what I am talking about, the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge stemmed from a list that Australian writer Patrick Lenton compiled of all 339 books referenced or read on the show. He then challenged himself to read them all. And really, you could do worse.

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So as part of this blog, I will review a Rory Gilmore Reading List book whenever I complete one, in order to try and give you all a little direction if you feel like picking up the challenge yourself.  This has, of course, inspired me to binge-watch Gilmore Girls today. So I guess I know what I will be doing for the next month or so.

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So take a look at the list, pick one, and read away friends! Because really, does anyone not want to be as smart and cool as Rory?

DIY-ing Myself a Home

March 25, 2014

Dear Reader,

When I decided to move to Boston, I knew that I would be living for the first time in my own place. As a consequence, I went a little decorating crazy. I’ve always loved the idea of making things with my own two hands, or at least making existing things more beautiful. IKEA is a really extraordinary place for people with low funds and high expectations, but I felt the need to vary my furniture a bit. So I went thrift store and antique shopping with my excellent mother and picked up a gem of a desk. I also repurposed two side tables and an old chair, all of which had been in my family home in some capacity for my entire childhood.

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Picture taken in terrible lighting to emphasize “before” status.

The desk was sitting outside the shop nearly buried under other things. When I found it it was one of those really exciting and perfect moments I usually only experience in shoe stores.

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Picture taken in even worse lighting to achieve desired effect.

So in order to brighten up these pieces I turned to Pinterest, as I do for a crazy amount of things these days. I wasn’t really sure how involved or time consuming it would be to complete my mission, but it turns out it was actually not very hard at all. The only things that I needed were: paint, primer, brushes, sandpaper, stain, and furniture wax. I could tell you exactly what colors I used and what brand of primer and stain and wax, but honestly what I did was walk into Home Depot and say, “Hey I need these things. Give me the best ones” and they did. But here is a quick step by step if you want to try this yourself:

1.Place furniture piece on a large towel or newspaper.

2. Sand like crazy. Sand until the finish is well and truly off. Sand until it feels smooth under your hand with no varnish or finish to impede your progress.

3.Take your primer and do a coat. Let dry. Do another coat. Let dry.

4. Paint it up pretty. I used a palette of off-white, light blue, and black. Make sure they go well together. Paint again.

5.If you need to use stain for any of your pieces like I did, make sure the surface is clean and then take a rag, dip it in, and rub it consistently in long even strokes across the whole surface, let dry. Repeat if you want it darker.

6.After the pieces have been drying for about 24 hours, take some furniture wax and rub it over the surface with a rag to seal the whole thing. This keeps the paint on there nice and tight and also keeps the water out. After waxing, take off the excess with a rag.

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The chair, after. Still in pretty terrible lighting. But prettier.

The last part is the most fun, in my opinion. I spray painted the handles of my side tables a different color to give it some pizzaz, then reattached them. I also picked up a new knob for my desk drawer at Pier 1 and screwed it on. Finally, I recovered the seat of my chair. This was also way easier than it sounds. I removed the seat cover by unscrewing it from the bottom, then cut off the existing fabric, wrapped the new fabric around the seat (after cutting it to size of course), and then nailed in furniture tacks to keep it in place. The results were just… awesome. In total it took me about three or four hours of concentrated work per piece, with time in between to let the paint dry and all.

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My side tables, after.

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The much-improved after.

And that all  was the first step I took to making myself a home 🙂

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Remember: If you make yourself a pretty and comfortable home, a naked cat might come hang out in your bed.

P.S. I also had a beautiful and excellent set of parents who helped me out with all of this. Not an absolute necessity if you are DIYing, but it never hurts 🙂

 

Cinderella

March 23, 2014

Dear Reader,

There’s something about Cinderella that endures. I think it is partly the dress, partly the shoes, partly the falling in love with royalty at first sight thing. It is a fairytale that we want to keep in our social consciousness, despite the fact that the original fairytale is somewhat gruesome and the more well-known Disney version is very cleaned up and simplistic. Cinderella is playing on Broadway currently and Cinderella dresses are all the rage since Lupita Nyong’o’s Prada confection. But my story is about the ballet.Cinderella- The Person I Am Tonight

The Boston Ballet just finished playing Cinderella, and what is so attractive and mesmerizing about their production is how well it balances fairytale love story and real emotion. The stepsisters are played in drag (because there just are no ugly ballerinas), and their cavorting and physical comedy is full of slapstick prat-falls and sexual jokes, something that was both unexpected and refreshing. Cinderella’s father is not dead, as the Disney versions would have us believe, but merely emotionally absent and incapable of stirring himself to help his downtrodden daughter. The ballerina playing Cinderella repeated the same gesture every time he left the room, an elegant outstretched hand held in the air longingly, then dropped to her side in defeat. All this changes, of course, with true fairytale fashion. An old crone who becomes a beautiful fairy, lovely women representing the four seasons, pageboys, mice turning into footman, pumpkin coaches, and a dress to end all dresses, are only some of the sumptuous delights that await both you and Cinderella on the way to the ball.Cinderella- The Person I Am Tonight

As for the ball and its famous Prince Charming, he is filled with longing just like his future bride. He wanders among guests who are all partnered (with the notable exception of the stepsisters, who are all too happy to offer him their hands) and makes little longing gestures of controlled frustration. And then, of course, all his longing is met by the beauty who descends the stairs (en pointe).  His dancing is impressive, but he mostly acts as her frame, giving her what she needs to achieve movement that brought tears to my eyes and caused the audience to frequently break out in whoops of joy and praise before she’d even paused for a bow. The rest unfolds just as it ought to, and the lovers walk off arm in arm into the palace while glitter rains down upon them. Cinderella- The Person I Am Tonight

As for me, this is officially the fanciest date I have taken myself on so far. Tickets were going fast so my friends ended up having to give it a miss, but I didn’t mind. The experience was so overwhelmingly lovely that I barely noticed anyone else was in the theatre.Cinderella- The Person I Am Tonight

I drank my intermission glass of champagne and walked out afterwards on lighter and more graceful feet, finding it impossible not to notice how my ballet flats sparkled on the pavement.  

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The right pair of shoes can change your life 🙂

If this looked like fun to you, and it most certainly was, there are two more ballets coming up in their season. Pricked is playing May 8-18 and Balanchine’s Jewels runs from May 22-June 1. Don’t miss them. I know I certainly won’t.

On-stage photography all courtesy of the Boston Ballet.