Just Giblets

Favorite Books Read in 2012 – #’s 12 & 11

6th January 2013
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2012 – #’s 12 & 11

It really hit me as I prepared to write this blog entry, the high quality of writing and creativity in the books I read this year, because the fact that these two books didn’t crack my top 10 astounds me.  This is a pair of outstanding reads, beautifully written, imaginative, emotionally moving, and powerful.  What is perhaps even more remarkable is that both of these exquisite novels are debuts.  Congratulations to both talented authors.

#12 – The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

M.L. Stedman’s debut novel tells an emotional tale of loss, love, and lies, set on the isolated western coast of Australia in the early 1900′s. Tom Sherbourne is a decorated war hero trying to reconcile his role during the war, and his own difficult childhood. He takes an isolating job as a lighthouse keeper on the remote island of Janus Rock, but that doesn’t prevent him from meeting, falling in love with, and marrying Isabel. The two share a powerful bond and set up life on Janus Rock, but after three miscarriages and the doubtful prospect of having a child of their own, Isabel is consumed with grief. When a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a newborn baby, Isabel sees this as a sign from God that she should raise this little girl as her own, despite the fact that there is no sign of a mother. The choices Isabel and Tom make a difficult and will have consequences in their future that will shatter several lives. Stedman’s writing is adept in describing the isolation and beauty of Janus Rock, the power of the ocean, the grace and beauty of the lighthouse, and the complex ethical and emotional issues that emerge from the Sherbourne’s actions. The Light Between Oceans reminded me of my favorite film from 2011 called A SEPARATION (from Iran). The similarities lie in the fact that good people are forced to make decisions for which there is no good result, and we understand and even empathize with each decision made, knowing that the end result will be painful and devastating for all involved. This is a powerful read.

#11 – The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Profoundly, beautiful coming-of-age story set to a slow, apocalyptic end-of-the world tale. When the residents of a southern Californian suburb first hear that the earth’s rotation is slowing, there is a brief panic, but human beings being the adaptable lot they are, soon things fall into step again, with some minor tweaks. But as the earth’s rotation continues to slow, and more, serious consequences begin to emerge, 12-year-old Julia, and others, begin to understand that nothing will be the same again. Yet even as the human race begins its presumed road to extinction, Julia must cope with the realities of being a young teen, including buying her first bra, negotiating the whimsical nature of friendship, and falling in love for the first time. Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel is heart-rending in its tragic inevitability, yet hopeful in the way Julia move though adolescence into adulthood.

posted in 2012, Authors, Books, Movies, Reviews, Year-end lists | at 11:20 am | 0 Comments
26th March 2012
by Michael

In NYC, we saw…

Carrie: The Musical

Goodbye

Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman

Now. Here. This.

Now. Here. This.

Susan Blackwell

Susan Blackwell

19th March 2012
by Michael

How I Voted (with thanks to Kriofske Mix)

A Separation

Asghar Farhadi's A SEPARATION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m borrowing this blog post idea from my friend Chris at Kriofske Mix.  As most of you know, I run an independent film society, the Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film.  Tonight marks our 18th annual Chlotrudis Awards Ceremony, when the winners of our 2011 awards are announced.  You’ll find out who won after tonight, but I am going to post my votes here as an addendum to my favorite films of the year.  Like Chris, I will also include some favorite choices that didn’t quite make this year’s ballot.  My choice in each category is in bold.

Ensemble Cast

Another Year
Artist, The
Margin Call
Midnight in Paris
Separation, A
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

The Iranian film A Separation blew me away, and was my favorite film of 2011.  The mix of professional and non-professional actors did an outstanding job telling this challenging story in a visceral and emotional way.

Should have been nominatedMeek’s Cutoff.  Led by strong turns by Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano and Shirley Henderson, this ensemble truly captured the pioneering spirit and the hardships of walking across this grand country.

Production Design

13 Assassins
Artist, The
Illusionist, The
Last Circus, The
Melancholia
Midnight in Paris

Lars von Trier’s Melancholia was sumptuous in it’s look and feel, from a grand, old estate tricked out for an expansive wedding, to the amazing experience of the end of the world, the production design on this film was mind-blowing.

Should have been nominatedHeartbeats.  Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats vibrated with a hipster vibe and a colorful palette that truly captured the tangle web of young people in love.

Cinematography

13 Assassins
Artist, The
Bellflower
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Melancholia
Tree of Life
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

The dreamy camerawork capturing the jungles of Thailand, and the dream landscapes of Uncle Boonmee’s past lives create a surreal tapestry in the latest film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Should have been nominated:  Weekend.  The intimate camerawork of Urszula Pontikos in Andrew Haigh’s Weekend works seamlessly with the charismatic performances of the two leads to create a believable portrait of two men meeting for a one-night stand and slowly falling love, or something very close to it over the course of a weekend.  From long hours in a cramped apartment to an evening in a traveling amusement park, Pontikos captures the feeling in the visuals perfectly.

Adapted Screenplay

Descendants, The
Hedgehog, The
Higher Ground
Music Never Stopped, The
Submarine

This adaptation of Carolyn S. Briggs’ memoir beautifully captures one woman’s struggle with faith.  The devout Christians in this community are three-dimensional, finely nuanced characters, and Corinne’s journey as she starts to question her faith is deftly and powerfully explored.

Should have been nominated:  I’m satisfied with the nominations we got.

Original Screenplay

Another Year
Guard, The
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Poetry
Weekend

Andrew Haigh’s screenplay for Weekend was beautifully scripted, although both Martha Marcy May Marlene and Poetry gave it a run for its money.

Should have been nominated:  I’ve got several films I would have liked to have seen nominated in this category; most notably Another Earth, The Future and Meek’s Cutoff – all amazingly original films that I loved last year, all of which didn’t get nominations for anything.  I also think the astounding screenplay for A Separation deserved a nod.

Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer for Beginners
Jean-Pierre Darroussin for Havre, Le
John Hawkes for Martha Marcy May Marlene
Shahab Hosseini for Separation, A
John C. Reilly for Terri

No contest here for me.  Shahab Hosseini was riveting as a short-tempered man caught in a untenable situation.  The entire cast of A Separation was amazing, and I was glad to be able to vote for one of them in this category.

Should have been nominated:  I particularly enjoyed performances by Bruce Greenwood in the ensemble of Meek’s Cutoff – that man can play anyone – and Scott Speedman in Barney’s Version – he really captured the self-destructive, suicidal artist/writer perfectly.

Supporting Actress

Lesley Manville for Another Year
Shailene Woodley for Descendants, The
Frances Fisher for Janie Jones
Kristin Scott Thomas for Love Crime
Kim Wayans for Pariah
Melissa Leo for Red State

Most of my choices didn’t make the ballot in this category, and while Lesley Manville and Kim Wayans were incredibly strong in their respective roles, it was Frances Fisher, in a single scene of Janie Jones that stuck with me the longest.

Should have been nominated:  My choices in this category were radically different, but my top choice for this category would have been Amy Ryan in Win Win.  She is such a natural and gifted actress, and in this film she perfectly captured the New Jersey housewife without coming off as a stereotype.  Other standouts in this category include Sarah Polley in a brief but memorable role in Trigger, Charlotte Gainsbourg in Melancholia, and Sarah Paulson in Marcy Martha May Marlene.  Additionally, I saw Take Shelter after nominations were submitted, but had I seen it earlier I would have been hard-pressed to leave Jessica Chastain’s sublime performance out of this list.

Best Actor

Jean Dujardin for Artist, The
Javier Bardem for Biutiful
Chris New for Weekend
Stellan Skarsgard for Somewhat Gentle Man, A
Michael Shannon for Take Shelter
Tom Cullen for Weekend

I was sure I was going to go for one of Weekend’s superb leads, and I was leaning toward Chris New, but after seeing Take Shelter late in the game I was blown away by Michael Shannon in the underrated Take Shelter.

Should have been nominated:  Alessandro Nivola is an underrated actor, and his rock ‘n roller who discovers he’s got a teenaged daughter was beautifully handled in Janie Jones.  Stephen Spinella also put in a terrific comic turn in Rubber.

Best Actress

Berenice Bejo for Artist, The
Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene
Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia
Adepero Oduye for Pariah
Jeong-hie Yun for Poetry
Tracy Wright for Trigger

This was a very difficult decision, with powerful performances all around.  Adepero Oduye nailed in in Pariah, and Jeong-hie Yun conveyed so much in Poetry, but Tracy Wright not only got the sentimental vote from me, but it was a career high for the incredibly talented actress.

Should have been nominated:  You know I love my actresses, and there were a handful of extremely worthy contenders that didn’t make it.  Britt Marling was astounding in the overlooked Another Earth, as was Michelle Williams in the similarly skipped over Meek’s Cutoff.  Trieste Kelly Dunn really shone in the tiny indie Cold Weather, but my top choice for this category was Vera Farmiga – so perfectly understated and three-dimensional as a woman questioning her faith in Higher Ground.

Best Director

3 Assassins
Another Year
Artist, The
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Melancholia
Separation, A

No contest here either.  A Separation was my top film of 2011, as director Asghar Farhadi was a master at bringing this uncomfortable story to the screen.  There isn’t a misstep in this film.

Should have been nominated:  I have a short list of directors that should have made this list including Bruce McDonald for Trigger, Miranda July for The Future, and Aki Kurismkai for  Le Havre, Vera Farmiga for Higher Gound, but my top choice for director that was overlooked was Kelly Reichardt who really showed her mastery of the art in Meek’s Cutoff.

Best Documentary

Bill Cunningham New York
Buck
Into the Abyss
Pina
Senna
Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls

I waffled between Buck and Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls but ultimately I couldn’t resist Buck‘s powerful, charismatic pull

Should have been nominated:  No problems with this list.

Best Movie

Another Year
Artist, The
Pariah
Poetry
Weekend

 All great films, but it had to be Weekend for me.  This intimate portrait of two men meeting for a one night stand then unexpectedly falling in love over the course of a weekend as natural and exquisite.
Should have been nominated:  It should come as no surprise from my earlier comments that Another Earth, Higher Ground and Meek’s Cutoff were all on my list of Best Movie contenders.  But the biggest omission in my opinion was my number one film of 2011, A Separation.
Buried Treasure
Arbor, The
Littlerock
These Amazing Shadows
Trigger
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
What a tough choice this year.  All of the films were terrific, and with the exception of These Amazing Shadows which just didn’t meet the heights of the other four, I could have gone with any of them.
Should have been nominated:  I was charmed by the brother/sister story of Cold Weather and would have liked to have seen it in this category.
posted in Movies | at 9:06 am | 0 Comments
21st June 2011
by Michael

Filmmaking on the Edge

Just got back yesterday from the 13th Provincetown International Film Festival. I will write more extensively on the festival soon (I hope), but for now I thought I’d post a list of the films I saw and the rating I gave them (based on a 1 – 5 scale; 5 being the best). They are listed alphabetically, and categorized by Narratives and Documentaries.

Narratives

  • Another Earth (5 cats)
  • Happy Happy (4 cats)
  • Higher Ground (5 cats)
  • Janie Jones (4 cats)
  • Mangus! (2 cats)
  • Maria My Love (5 cats)
  • The Perfect Family (3 cats)
  • Varla Jean and the Mushroom Heads (3 cats
  • Weekend (4 cats)

Documentaries

  • Buck (5 cats)
  • Hit So Hard (4 cats)
  • Hot Coffee (5 cats)
  • Page One (3 cats)
  • Tabloid (3 cats)

14 films and a bucketload of parties. Really nice filmmakers and good friends. Festival experienc? 5 cats.

posted in Film Festivals, Movies, Provincetown, Travel | at 7:54 am | 0 Comments
10th July 2009
by Scot

Forever Plaid, Not So Bad. (Not so hot, either.)

Forever PlaidThanks to Chris Caggiano and some lady at NCM Fathom (a division of National CineMedia), Michael and I were able to see the one-time-only 20th Anniversary Special “cinecast” of Forever Plaid. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it. It’s a four person musical that opened Off-Broadway in 1990 and ran for many years. (The 20th anniversary, presumably, celebrates one of its pre-New York limited runs in smaller theaters.)

The premise of the show is that a quartet of clean-cut young men, on their way to pick up snazzy plaid tuxedos to top off their burgeoning swing/jazz vocal career, are killed when their Mercury crashes into a busload of Catholic schoolgirls who were headed to watch the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. We are able to watch them perform the show they always meant to do because they have one tiny reprieve from the afterlife. That’s about it for the plot and it always has been. It’s basically a cute excuse to perform a lot of nice 50′s and 60′s tight harmony numbers well, with a wink and a nudge.

The show is now pretty much a staple of regional dinner theatres, and truth be told, that’s probably where it should stay. It’s a cute show and with the right voices, makes for a satisfying dessert. My 86-year-old (I think that’s right) father-in-law would love it. My grandma would have loved it too, if I’d taken her twenty years ago. But alas, she passed several years ago. I was really hoping to love it too because I really dig the sounds of The Hi-Lo’s, who I consider the masters of this kind of tight harmony vocal acrobatics. But in the end, the film and associated live-broadcast performance left me feeling like I’d watched a fun HBO theatre special from 1980, like Annette O’Toole in Vanities or Margot Kidder in Bus Stop — an amusing two hours, but kinda like “donuts for dinner.”

So here I sit, wanting something a little meteor meatier. Why? The voices were just fine. The guys were mostly coming across very sincere, so the jokes played just fine. Some jokes were pretty lame, and the constant bumbling was a bit much to stomach outside of a dinner theatre setting, but I’m not one to quibble about that.

But first of all, the evening was presented as if it were going to be a live broadcast of the stage show. At least, that’s what I thought from the trailer we saw Tuesday at the Harvard Square Lowes. Instead, what we got was a live introduction from Fred Willard at some unknown theater in Los Angeles rambling on about how awesome it was that this was being broadcast in 500 cinemas in the U.S. and Canada. Then they showed a movie. A movie staged and shot months before. Then, the live broadcast returned to Fred Willard’s theater and — to their credit — the cast members performed some live numbers.

Second, the voices were lovely, but they did not have the energy or punch of The Hi-Lo’s. That’s just me, I know, raising my expectations based on a really high bar. The Hi-Lo’s were named that for a reason: a really, really wide range of pitch, including a first tenor that sounded like a freaking coronet. (If you haven’t heard them, lemme play you a few tracks.) Besides a few bass-heavy numbers, the Plaids were more like The Four Freshmen or … I dunno, the Ink Spots. More suited for recordings or concerts than dynamic theatre. In fact, it wasn’t until the after-film live numbers that I could even hear the high tenor wail and then I think it wore on him cause he started to crack or go flat after the first couple numbers.

Third, the direction of the film was just awful. Sorry, but you know how I said it was like an 80′s HBO theatre special? Let me amend that by saying it was like an 80′s HBO theatre special run through Adobe After Effects. Someone didn’t trust the actors to keep our attention and insisted on inserting all kinds of graphics and animation over the performers. Particularly distracting was the sheet music frame around the Scottish number and the floating business cards around their event-related medley. Ick. But what do you expect? The director was Stuart Ross, the man who conceived, wrote, and directed the stage show. All he’s credited with directing on IMDB are this film, one episode of Frasier, and one episode of Veronica’s Closet. It looks like Dad ran Baby’s first birthday through some cheesy iMovie effects.

And finally, the film boasts that it has original cast members from the stage show. Well, David Engel, who plays the bass vocalist Smudge is pretty cool. He’s my favorite performer, all told, in the film. He’s adorably goofy, but not too annoying, and gets an awesome “stud moment” late in the show. But Stan Chandler, who plays the first tenor Jinx is looking… well, like he should be 20 years younger. Oddly, so does Larry Raben, who plays Sparky, the “cut up” of the group. I’m not sure why he was cast, since he was not in the original cast and he’s playing the role created by one of my favorites — Jason Graae. Not sure what Jason’s been up to lately. He must be lying low. The fourth member, Frankie was played by Daniel Reichard of Jersey Boys fame. He was pretty good, but I can’t say I have the same attraction to him that Chris does. He’s a little too pretty.

The evening was not bad by any means, however. There is a singalong component to Forever Plaid, which I love under most contexts. I was singing my lungs out to “Matilda” along with a few others in the audience. And the after-film performance had a bit of that too. It was kind of difficult, since there were only 17 people in our audience at the Fenway 13 cinema (including the four of us who got in on Chris’s press comps), and the live performance tried to divide us into four-part harmony. But WTF. I took the high road and sang the first tenor in falsetto because there were so few people there to be embarrassed in front of.

But there were two really special parts of the evening. In the post-film performance, the Plaids trot out — OMG — Carol Effing Channing!!! She sings “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” admonishing the audience for applauding after the first verse because “I’m not DZHUN yeyat!” And then the Plaids try to get her to teach “us” how to sing “Sh-boom, Sh-boom. Ya-da-da-da-da, Ya-da-da-da.” But she’s unsure if she’s singing the right number of “Ya-da-da’s.” Priceless. And God knows, this may be the closest I get to seeing her live before she leaves us!

The other special part was getting to meet Chris and his friend Victor, who he knows from the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. Such charismatic men, both! At one point, I turned to Michael to explain that Forever Plaid was a bit like Nunsense, but since it had very little plot, it was more like Oil City Symphony. Chris grabbed my hand and said, “You just said Oil City Symphony. We are going to get on just fine.” Or something like that. My heart melted in a totally non-adulturous way.

Here’s to the power of digital media. It can stream Fred Willard live to 17 people in Boston. Or it can make really awesome friends.

posted in 1980s, Friends, Movies, Musicals, Reviews, Theatre, Web | at 1:35 am | 3 Comments
1st July 2009
by Scot

A perfect place for zombies

Carnival of SoulsIn the last two days, I’ve watched a good bit of b-film horror, including Silent Night, Bloody Night, Horror Hotel (aka The City of the Dead), and most of Carnival of Souls. And now, the fog lays low on our street. It’s quite creepy really, and I’ve just looked over our back balcony to the tree-canopied backyard that cannot grow grass, only moss.

I can’t help thinking we need to throw a Thriller party.

I know. That’s so unlike me.

posted in 1980s, Horror, Movies, OMGWTFBBQ!?, Weather | at 12:05 am | 0 Comments
12th November 2008
by Scot

Rhoda as Tallulah? Awesome.

Valerie/Tallulah

Valerie ---------------------> Tallulah

I’m just ecstatic hearing that Valerie Harper (yeah, Mary’s Rhoda) is playing Tallulah Bankhead in a new play entitled Looped. Apparently, the title comes from the idea that the whole play takes place during an ADR session for Tallu’s classing Hammer horror film, Die! Die! My Darling!

I lost some respect for Valerie after she walked off the set of a show named after her. Jeesh, during the first season, even. Pretty freaking sad if you can replace her with Sandy Duncan and still manage to keep the series running for five more seasons. And that union president race against Laura Ingalls got pretty nasty. But this just may make up for all of that.

What? You haven’t seen Die! Die! My Darling!? Holy frijoles, get over here quick. I’m itching to watch it again, especially since Tallu plays a bible-thumping vegetarian who — once upon a time — was a … well, a loose, jazz-loving woman. Okay, she was a whore. And Stephanie Powers plays the mod girl Tallu kidnaps. And a very young Donald Sutherland plays the retarded groundskeeper. What’s not to love?!

10th July 2008
by Scot

Long, luxurious, blond hair

Michael’s away, so I get to watch The Sound of Music on DVD. Do you think Julie, in her long career, ever wished for long, flowing blond locks?

Julie Andrews\'s short hairstyles

posted in Movies, Music, Musicals | at 10:05 pm | 0 Comments
4th May 2008
by Scot

I’ll never understand

… why this was cut from Bombay Dreams. (Originally Tumbld by Michael’s buddy Jonno.)

posted in Movies, Music, Whacky People | at 2:46 pm | 0 Comments
3rd May 2008
by Michael

I love this woman’s review.

Karina Longworth at SPOUT reviews IRON MAN.  IRONMAN makes us hard is the title of this fantastic review.  Go take a look.

posted in Comics, Movies | at 9:40 pm | 1 Comment
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