Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Happy Oscars to all and to all a good night!

Now that it's been a couple days and I've had some actual sleep, perhaps I can be more coherent about the Oscars. Then again, maybe not. Well, I always say, a little rambling incoherence never hurt anybody.

It has come to my attention that some of my friends think I'm disappointed in this year's Academy Awards. Au contraire! I loved them! I hearted them majorly! Sure, it would have been nice if Adriana Barraza had pulled a Marcia Gay Harden, but I wasn't really expecting that on any level. Nor was I really expecting Leonardo DiCaprio to upset Forest Whitaker. I was just happy Leo was nominated for Blood Diamond; that, in my opinion, was one of the Academy's few rational responses to The Departed.

And on that note, don't get me wrong about The Departed, either. I am overjoyed for Martin Scorsese, and I'm not all that upset about it winning Best Picture. I just don't think it WAS the Best Picture. But that's never stopped a film from winning before, if the mood was right. I do wish that Babel would have won that category as well as the one it almost always pulls along with it, provided the Best Picture winner is nominated in both, and that's Film Editing, but I gave up the fantasy relatively early in the evening. (And I MIGHT have still had a chance in the Oscar pool had I trusted my love for the wonderfully witty and touching The Lives of Others and not thought Pan's Labyrinth would inevitably triumph in the foreign film category.)

Adapted screenplay, now that irks me a bit. Notes on a Scandal was a phenomenal screenplay (the best thing about Notes, I daresay) and I actually thought it might win, but other than that, there wasn't much competition. Borat? I personally would have been OK with that, because I'm the one who insists that movie was way more scripted than most people believe. Children of Men? Visionary, bizarre, unsettling, but not so much because of the screenplay. (And, hello, how much does Michael Caine rule? Seriously. I also just watched him in The Prestige...more on that later...) As for the Little Children, ugh. Some "adaptation"--wasn't it largely voiceover of paragraphs from Perrotta's book? Leaving Notes... aside, the real problem with this category wasn't The Departed's win, but that Thank You For Smoking wasn't nominated.

Now let's get to Melissa for a second, by way of Leo. Leo DiCaprio and Al Gore, side by side, bringing me joy. Could I have predicted this moment? No, but what a gem it was. I just love that Al Gore was all over the Oscars. It's so in-your-face to Bush, if one wants to take it that way, which I certainly do. And yet, it's also not about that, because as Melissa Etheridge (and Al) pointed out, global warming and the related issue of our disastrous energy policies are neither a Republican nor a Democrat issue, but a human issue.

While we're reflecting on Melissa's speech, which is officially my Favorite Oscar Speech By a Lesbian With Guitar, can I just point out that she thanked her wife, and no one batted an eyelash? I love it. Remember all the whoop-te-do back in the early 1990s when such a big mainstream star Tom Hanks dared to play gay and get an Oscar for it(Philadelphia)? I like progress. Which, coincidentally, was also her theme, that progress and hope are possible and real. She is so triumphant! Go, Melissa, go!

Actually, here's an interesting point to ponder/debate. A cursory Internet search has shown me that some people out there did in fact bat an eyelash, so maybe my perception of no one being bothered by that comment was influenced by my being in New York City, surrounded by film-loving twenty- and thirty-somethings at an Oscar party in Park Slope. A friend from Middle America texted me the next day that he'd be more impressed when that comment got no upset reaction in Kansas. Well, Kansas? How did it play there? Are you proud of your hometown girl, or did you throw bloody diamonds at your TV and cry, "Silly woman, wives are for men!"

I don't think An Inconvenient Truth was the best documentary. I think it was a great science lecture, but so not a film. I thought Who Killed the Electric Car? was the far superior film of the year with regards to our willful disregard of the destruction our oil consumption brings, but that wasn't even nominated, shockingly. As for the nominees, I was a true believer in Jesus Camp, and I thought for sure anyone who had seen it would feel the same. I thought it was sure to be like 2004, when everyone was all about Super Size Me, but only until they saw Born Into Brothels. I really thought Jesus was going to triumph like the Brothels did. Alas, no.

As for "too long," I will never say those words about the Oscar broadcast, because I love it. I always want it to last a long time. I want to revel in it and luxuriate in the wit and the speeches and the surprises and the tension and the seat fillers and the whole thing. But even for the less enlightened folk who think it should end in time for them to watch their 10 o'clock news or whatever, come on! This production was awesome! And Ellen is my hero. Her bits with Scorsese (giving him a script) and Eastwood (having Spielberg take a picture of them "for Myspace") were genius. Tom Hanks is a genius ("You bet, Chris. More fun!" as he escorted Valium-laden William Monahan off the stage) and Emily Blunt/Anne Hathaway playing their characters as to who-got-Meryl's-coffee? were fun, too. And can we talk about Clint Eastwood presenting Ennio Morricone's award and translating -- sort of -- his speech? And Scorsese asking his trio of director presenters to "double check the envelope"...I love it! I love it all!

Ahhhh, there was just so much goodness. It was a good, good year. The New York Times the next day said, among other things, "Oscar night is the new Christmas." They didn't really mean it in an entirely flattering way, throwing around other words like "bloated," I believe. But I stand by that statement, and I mean it in a fantastic way. The anticipation...the prizes...the wonder and awe...the spectacle and decoration...it was even red AND GREEN this year!

Before I go, back to Babel for one (figurative) second. I urge you to do yourselves a favor and watch this film (now on DVD) (need I say it? really? OK, here: Netflix). It's challenging, it's disturbing, and it captures humanity's capacity for redemption and transcendence. All those words are true on about five different levels, too. Gustavo Santaolalla won Best Original Score for that film's music, and I rejoice in that choice. His was an overlooked speech, but he said something quite nice in it: "In our soul rests, I think, our own true identity, beyond languages, countries, races, and religions."

Viva Oscar!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Whirlwinds, of stage & screen and flakes & flautas

How much did the Oscars rock?! Seriously! It was one of the best productions in years. If not the best I've seen. I knew it would be great as soon as I heard Laura Ziskin was producing and I had high hopes for Ellen besides. Well they did not disappoint!

There were so many wonderful moments! And I only have a few minutes, so I can't revel in them all now. I will say this: three cheers for Martin Scorsese, at long last given his Oscar, and what a moment that was, with George and Steven and Francis
(surely I don't have to tell you that's Lucas/Spielberg/Ford Coppola) presenting him the award. I should have realized that he would ride his wave of glory right on through to Best Picture as well. I was doing quite well in the betting pool at the Oscar party I attended except for not counting on The Departed getting best picture, editing, and adapted screenplay. I so knew Scorsese was going to win, and indeed I wanted him to, but I just had such high hopes for Babel to win more things. At least it won score. I should have thought it through more about The Departed, and I'd be a richer woman today. Oh well.

The other surprises I got totally wrong were Supporting Actor and Foreign Language Film. The actors had all just seemed so in the bag. Poor Eddie Murphy, but here's to Little Miss Sunshine! Oh yeah!! My own personally longed for upset would have been Adriana Barraza over Jennifer Hudson, in what I liked to think of as the Hudson-frontrunner-supporting-actress-upset tradition (recall Kate, Almost Famous, losing to Marcia Gay Harden...) but it was not meant to be.

And though Pan's Labyrinth won cinematography, art direction, and make-up, which I knew it would, it did not win foreign film, and I was so sure....instead, The Lives of Others! Wow! But I love that that happened. I thought The Lives of Others was fantastic. It was witty as all get-out in the midst of its political drama story and it had a stellar ending that brought a little tear...good stuff. Highly recommended.

There were so many wonderful moments, but for now my favorite is when Ellen mused about how Jennifer Hudson was on American Idol, and America didn't vote for her, and now she's here at the Oscars, and then look, Al Gore's here, and, well, America DID vote for him...genius! (And the bit with Leo asking Al to make a "major announcement" and then him finally acquiescing but getting played off was grand, too!)

Oh and how can I forget Melissa! I still really must investigate how many Best Songs have ever been from a documentary. My money's on zero. But I loved seeing her up there and I have more to say about the show but I so have to run and just, well, hurrah Oscars and hurrah glorious beautiful yesterday with The Vagina Monologues matinee, then Mexican food for dinner, then the fantastic fun time at the Oscars party.

I am so utterly exhausted it's actually amazing I made it through my classes today without zonking out completely. I did have the fluttering lids thing going on a few times, but I recovered nicely, for the most part. Although I got precious little sleep last night and it was definitely not a restful weekend, it was all gloriously worth it. What a big ol' bunch of fun times!

--end incoherent ramblings of exhaustion--

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Long Island sound of silence

So, this weekend I will be performing in The Vagina Monologues here at Hofstra. Total number of friends from The City who are coming to the show? Apparently two. TWO. Sheesh! You'd think I'd asked them to swim the Long Island Sound or something. Manhattanites are clearly even more intimidated about going to Long Island than Bostonians are about going to Cambridge. One of my friends even said flat out when we first got together after I moved here that I'd be coming into the city to hang out with her because she "certainly" wasn't going to go to Long Island. Hello! I am a mere 20 miles away from you people! And the Long Island Rail Road is so wonderful; at this point I think of it as a dear friend. But I guess some people are just afraid, and consequently will miss my off-off-offoffoffoff Broadway debut.

Whatever. I'm totally excited about the show! I love it! I love the fabulous ladies in the cast and the grand time we've had preparing and I love that starting tomorrow we are finally going to perform and it will benefit a good cause and spread a glorious and wonderful message of reclaiming peace!

But I'm really, really busy because of it, too. Off I go...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sometimes the bird who sleeps 'til noon gets the worm

So, I really like the Oscars. (Um, right, duh! But stick with me; I have a point.) And I've sort of come to like the idea that the Oscars are my winter/spring "occasion." It's like this: the path from winter to spring is sprinkled with occasions. The big holiday season ends after New Year's, but then you get through the winter and into the spring with one-day events that are cause for some celebration and effort at festivity. But, these occasions all resonate differently with everyone. There's the Super Bowl--some love it, some hate it, but pretty much everyone checks out of productivity for the day. There's Valentine's Day -- UGH -- I needn't go into my thoughts on that again at the moment. There's St. Patrick's Day, which is also not really a holiday and no day off work or anything but definitely a festive day that elicits much participation; you start out enjoying it as a child wearing green and pinching people and then you grow up and realize there's even more fun to be had that day! Even Easter, one could make the argument, is again not thoroughly holiday like (being on Sunday, never a day off work!) but definitely occasion-like.

Well, none of the abovementioned occasions are my end-all and be-all, though I like and participate in some more than others. (Interestingly, I seem to prefer the ones that also tend to be more about beer than the Church and saints and things. And how great is St. Patrick's for blending the two?)

But the Oscars -- that is my day! I love it. I look forward to it, I take the day off work (except when it was RGIS! Grrr!), I run home to watch between morning pre-school and the 3:30 class when I'm in Korea and it's Monday there already by the time the broadcast starts ... I, like many others, gather with friends and acquaintances to eat, drink, and make merry. It's my favorite winter-on-the-path-to-spring occasion!

I'm sure most people who read my blog already know this. But how exciting, people, it's a mere week away! And here's a funny thing. Today as I glanced at one of my Long Island Bus schedules, I noted that this particular schedule is through Feb 25, 2007. You know, they issue new bus and train schedules from time to time so one has to remember to pick them up each time the MTA puts out the new ones, and next week I will do just that. But I think it's funny that this one goes through Feb 25th, Oscar day! It's as if New York's transit powers that be even recognize the seminal eventness of the Oscars and mark their changing of the seasons by it! Ha!

I love to amuse myself.

What's that, you say? You still haven't seen all the nominees? Me either. I'm close, though. The only major ones I'm missing are Half Nelson and United 93. By major, I mean nominated in one of the "major" categories -- best picture, acting, directing, screenplay...and Half Nelson has just arrived from Netflix while United 93 is on the way. I've seen all the multiple major nominees, and a lot of the so-called "minor" nominees. Most recently I watched The Good Shepherd, which was surprisingly good. And it was about Cuba! Total Cubaness on my screen, I love that! It was all about Cuba and betrayal, which (as all the faithful readers of my book-in-progress will know once I ever finally finish and publish it) are two of my favorite issues, especially when they intertwine.

Before that I saw The Lives of Others, the German nominee in the Foreign Film category. I loved it! It was really witty. And it had layers. I like layers. Also, it had what I thought was one of the best endings of anything that I've seen in a while. Nicely done.

Oscar! Oscar! Oscar! Not to mention being so busy this week with The Vagina Monologues. Who needs studying?

Oh! And speaking of occasions, happy Lunar New Year, everyone! Don't forget what I taught you here on this blog last year: it's not just the Chinese New Year, as so many in the U.S. seem to have the tendency to refer to it. It's the year of the pig. But I heard that China is apparently not displaying pigs everywhere in an effort to not offend their minority Muslim population. Isn't that fascinating? I love China. And I hate that people here are so threatened by it, and also so all-fire clueless about it.

"Baby, I said, it's all in our hands,
got to learn to respect what we don't understand.
We are fortunate ones,
fortunate ones, I swear..."

-- indigo girls, 'fugitive'

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Snow day/job

Dude. What's wrong with these people? They've been breathlessly anticipating a massive dumping of snow for days ("Any minute! No, really! It's going to start snowing!! SOON!!!") and now that it has snowed a bit, the university has closed early. Classes after 2 p.m. cancelled and non-essential offices closed. Hello? It's, like, slush out there. I'm looking out a window right now and there is nothing falling from that sky. And every web site I consult puts us in the 1-3" part of this storm.

Three inches? We're closing up shop for THREE inches? What's with Long Island? I'm so totally not impressed by this snow.

When did I become a hardscrabble, weather-enduring New Englander?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

V is for ...

Think, for a moment, of all the things it can be for. There's victory of course. It's so everywhere pop culturally, too. Just last year there was the trippier-than-thou V for Vendetta in which Natalie Portman shaves her head and is uncannily not annoying. Back in the day, there was the mini-series V, equally ridiculous and riveting, which was about the "visitors"... were they aliens? lizards? or the incarnation of our worst selves?

Of course, this time of year, our thoughts turn to V-Day on February 14, or, as I like to think of it, the Lousiest Excuse for a Holiday an Occasion Even Before Hallmark Got Involved and Surely St. Valentine Is Rolling In His Grave...

But there's another V-Day, this month, and it is all courtesy of Eve Ensler, writer-activist-woman extraordinaire, who a decade ago launched the phenomenon that is The Vagina Monologues.

I first heard of it when an old friend from college (where are you, Ms. Torres???) saw the production in New York back when no one had heard of it and she immediately sent me (in Los Angeles, then) her program and such with info about the play and the movement and was all breathlessly "Linda, you'll love this!" Naturally, I did. And since then, of course it's become so famous it's even known by many people who don't run in the feminist/activist/theatrical/women's studies/political/bookstore/college/sassy circles in which I so often run.

But it was on a total whim of finals-studying-procrastination last December that I auditioned for Hofstra's production. And, well, here I am. We're deep into rehearsals and I am pleased as punch to be doing this show with such a wonderful group of women.

For those of you who don't know thing one about it, start here:

Eve Ensler was disturbed, as well she should be, by the sheer amount of violence against women in this world. I think Ensler's initial hypothesis was that part of the reason there is so much violence specifically directed at a body part is that people are so uncomfortable with the mere word "vagina." Let alone talking about it, which leads to a chicken-and-egg thing of being afraid to talk about rape and violence, and so on.

Some of the show is funny, some of it is sad, some parts are touching, and some are shocking. It is vivid, and relevant. Some people think it's controversial, but that's such an easy label to throw on something that you personally feel uncomfortable about in the hopes it will stick and make others uncomfortable, too.

I have various lines in different parts of the play, and my full monologue is part of a three-monologue series called "The Memory of Her Face," a recent addition to the production. It tells three stories, from Baghdad, Islamabad, and Juarez. I speak about Juarez, and the systemic rape, murder, mutilation, and body-dumping of a slew of girls and young women happening there that has been in the news (NPR-like news, that is) a lot in recent years but remains woefully underinvestigated.

More details here about our specific production:


But it's also a worldwide movement! And the VDay site has a lot of great information. I encourage you to check it out. You can even find a show in your area, for those lucky souls who aren't anywhere near Long Island. You can also Netflix the DVD.

V-Day. Until the violence stops.

Monday, February 05, 2007

February is the friskiest month!

Wow, I went a while without posting. I guess that happens. Often. Or maybe the last week just seems long. It was definitely action-packed, or was that emotion- and epiphany-packed? Or does time just pass differently when you're taking an antibiotic and not drinkng any beer? (That was a joke, don't get up in a snit.)

And the upcoming week is going to be just as busy! This is probably going to be a very end-of-Korea-like month as far as blog posting goes. I can see it now. If I ever have a second to post it might just be to say I don't have time to post.

Melissa, my teacher friend from Korea, is due to arrive on Long Island ANY MINUTE. I know, lucky her. But I am EXCITED! She is back in the U.S. and on a big ol' road trip (of which I am very jealous) and she is going to hang here this week. I told myself I'd get ahead in the reading for all of my classes before she came. That's funny. Yeah, right. Nonetheless, I'm so excited to show my little world to my friend(no one comes to Long Island. And who can blame them?) and also to have some Korea nostalgia, or really just friendship emotional nostalgia.

Also, the rehearsal schedule for The Vagina Monologues is in full swing. I haven't really posted about that, yet. So, note to self, post about that. Soon.

Meanwhile, why haven't you (YES, you!) taken the fun quiz I made up that I posted here a couple entries ago so you can see how well you know me?!? Go do that.

Wheeeeeeee, February fun times!