Reviewing

  • Dec. 8th, 2010 at 7:57 AM
my_daroga: From Powell's "Peeping Tom" (camera)
I used to re-watch movies all the time. I'd come home from school, probably in the middle-school era, and watch one of the Star Wars saga. Or later, as a teen, my best friend and I would have to see Pride and Prejudice or Anne of Green Gables every six months or so. I think, at that time, it was about recapturing a feeling or wanting to live in that "world" a little longer or just the comfort of familiar narratives.

Now, I still re-watch movies all the time. But the experience has changed somewhat. Sometimes I revisit old favorites for comfort's sake, and sometimes to share with someone the joys of something they hadn't seen before. But most often, I'm re-watching because I am a different person from the one who saw that film last time.

This might mean that, yes, I saw Casablanca when I was twelve or something and obviously my reactions are going to be different now. But it might also mean that I saw it in college (I just saw Grand Illusion again which made NO IMPRESSION on me ten years ago but killed me this time) or even that I saw it last week but Mr. Daroga or [personal profile] lettered needs to see it and I don't mind watching again at all. Sometimes I'm a different person because I don't remember. Sometimes it's because I was in a different mood, or inattentive, at the time. Sometimes it's because I've read and seen a lot since then so my critical viewing is different. And sometimes I think it's as simple as viewing something again because I couldn't catch everything the first time, and I'm no longer looking for comforting familiarity but to see more.

I've been thinking about this because lately I've been revisiting a lot of classics I either missed before or haven't seen since I was very young, and more often than not if I like it I end up making someone else watch it with me the next day or next week. And I wonder, should I really need to see Stagecoach again already? But it is different, on second viewing, because the person who watched it yesterday has already changed enough to make it so, whether it's my mood, my opinions, or what I happen to pick up the second time. I still re-watch for pleasure, but when I do City Lights again it will also be because in the past two weeks I've read Chaplin's autobiography/seen Limelight/watched old Mutual two-reel comedies. My experience of the film will be different enough already that in a sense it will be like watching something new.

It's curious, because while I've become more selective in my opinions, I also feel that I can "get something" from nearly anything. It all tells me something, and it's part of that paradox of increased expertise: the better informed you are, the more you'll see the flaws and the less you might be able to recapture the simple pleasures. But you're also opening up another world through knowing more. I don't know if I'd be able to escape into repeating viewings of The Empire Strikes Back anymore. But I'd be getting something else out of it.

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my_daroga: Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera (phantom)
Title: Like Everybody Else (3/11)
Fandom: Phantom of the Opera (Leroux, Kay)
Rating: Mature (sexual content)
Summary: A sequel to the events of the novel, Christine returns to Erik to live as his wife. But the promises Erik made are difficult to keep, and a kiss is not enough.
Notes: Thanks to [personal profile] stefanie_bean for her editing help and [personal profile] lettered for her support and inspiration. Also available at the AO3 and The Fifth Cellar.

Chapter Three )
my_daroga: Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera (phantom)
Title: Like Everybody Else (2/11)
Fandom: Phantom of the Opera (Leroux, Kay)
Rating: Mature (sexual content)
Summary: A sequel to the events of the novel, Christine returns to Erik to live as his wife. But the promises Erik made are difficult to keep, and a kiss is not enough.
Notes: Thanks to [personal profile] stefanie_bean for her editing help and [personal profile] lettered for her support and inspiration. Also available at the AO3 and The Fifth Cellar.

Chapter Two )

November movies

  • Dec. 1st, 2010 at 8:45 AM
my_daroga: From Powell's "Peeping Tom" (camera)
Movies in bold are ones I hadn't seen before. Ones with asterisks, I saw in a theater.

Monsieur Verdoux (1947)
Limelight (1952)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World* (2010)
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
The Scarlet Empress (1934)
Valley Girl* (1983)
Get Crazy* (1983)
Harold and Maude (1971)
Evening Primrose (1966)
A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
In Cold Blood (1967)
Nicholas Nickleby (2002)
Shakespeare in Love (1998) (don't ask)
Hearts of Darkness (1991)
Queen Kelly (1932)
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1973)

My comment for the month? Seriously, why had I never seen In Cold Blood? I'm totally blown away.

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The Church of Man Love

  • Nov. 29th, 2010 at 8:51 AM
my_daroga: ambiguous? (batman)
Photobucket


Has anyone else encountered the phrase "GlamRPF" in their fandom travels and been really disappointed that it's not David Bowie/Iggy Pop/Marc Bolan/Lou Reed?

I think the reason I'm so confused is they cornered "glam" long before Adam Lambert and on top of that, there's a whole group of them, whereas as far as I can tell, GlamRPF is... Adam Lambert RPF. The problem, probably, is not enough people writing about David Bowie having sex, which is a CRIME.

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Bowie's waiting...


In other news...

...I've been recognized several times as "Captain Kirk" and once, last night, as Puck. Usually while at other theatrical productions unaffiliated with the ones I was part of. Which feels awesome, actually, and despite the fact there's no value or review in "hey, I saw you," it reminds me to keep trying and that eight (or more? I've lost count) rejections in a row doesn't mean no one wants me.

Also I think I know my Halloween costume for next year. It's highly unoriginal, and quite early, but if I get started now I may indeed have procured a topcoat, baggy pants, large shoes, suspenders, a cane, and a bowler by next October.
my_daroga: Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera (phantom)
Title: Like Everybody Else (1/11)
Fandom: Phantom of the Opera (Leroux, Kay)
Rating: Mature
Words: ~46,000
Summary: A sequel to the events of the novel, Christine returns to Erik to live as his wife. But the promises Erik made are difficult to keep, and a kiss is not enough.
Notes: Thanks to [personal profile] stefanie_bean for her editing help and [personal profile] lettered for her support and inspiration. Also available at the AO3 and The Fifth Cellar.

Author's note )


I’m not really a bad man. Love me and you’ll see! To be good, all I ever needed was to be loved. If you loved me, I’d be as gentle as a lamb and you could do whatever you pleased with me.

Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera


Chapter 1 )

Writing Wrongs

  • Nov. 26th, 2010 at 4:40 PM
my_daroga: ambiguous? (batman)
I angst a lot about writing. I angst about not doing it, and doing it, and what I'm doing wrong and (as is more to the point, lately) how I don't do it at all. It's to the point where I'm not sure I want to write, because writers write, and I don't.

But I think that, apart from just Not Writing or Wasting Time Roleplaying Instead of Writing, part of my "problem" is that so much of what I might want to write seems "wrong." Watching a lot of silent film lately has brought this home to me. There's so much going on in there that is "wrong" on at least two levels, as far as the modern, conscientious viewer is concerned:

1) It is often "melodramatic" or unrealistic, with lots of pathetic orphans and grand schemes and dramatic forced marriages/kidnappings/rescues/circuses/rags to riches and vice versa/ridiculousness.

and

2) It often contains really really bad sexism, racism, ableism, classism, pretty much any-ism-you-can-think-of.

id-fic and super-anxiety )

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Regarding Season 5 of The Wire

  • Nov. 26th, 2010 at 10:31 AM
my_daroga: From Powell's "Peeping Tom" (camera)
Christine, you were right. I can't even believe what I'm seeing.

With three episodes to go... )

Also, I'm spoiled for television forever. I don't see how I can go on after this.

The best cheesecake ever!

  • Nov. 25th, 2010 at 8:21 AM
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (iconic)
As you are no doubt aware, I never post recipes here. So I don't know if I've offered this one before, and I'm irritated that I didn't think to do so until it was too late to be of use this Thanksgiving. But this recipe comes from one of those self-made company recipe books from decades, ago, the kind that company men's wives all submitted their favorites to and someone typed up and bound inexpertly and my mother still has somewhere. I have the recipe on a scrap of paper, because it's really simple.

This cheesecake is not a New York style cheesecake, and in fact I prefer it to any other cheesecake I've ever had. It's not dense and dry, but creamy and cheesy. And the sour cream topping adds something lovely. So here you go: cheesecake that many of my non-cheesecake-loving friends have enjoyed.

Creamy Cheesecake )
So that's it! I hope someone tries this out and enjoys it--it's one of the only things I make and it'd be great to spread it around a little.

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Too many thoughts about Chaplin

  • Nov. 22nd, 2010 at 8:45 PM
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
I just finished watching Limelight, and a few days ago did Monsieur Verdoux, which means in the past few months I've seen The Kid, City Lights, Modern Times, The Great Dictator and Unknown Chaplin as well as the last two. And I'm trying to get my thoughts on Chaplin in order, because I'm fascinated by him and by my reaction to him. What's especially interesting is how I was, for the past thirty years, singularly uninterested in him--he was too famous, and it is/was in vogue to prefer Keaton, as if there's some sort of rule about only liking one or that you have to claim some sort of allegience. There's a strange criticism I've internalized along the way, something about Chaplin being too sentimental, too concerned with pathos, as if that's a negative attribute.
Read more... )

Yuletide

  • Nov. 17th, 2010 at 7:07 AM
my_daroga: Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera (phantom)
I an effort to find a smaller "challenge" to get me writing, I was considering Yuletide. But now that Phantom's off the list again, I'm not sure what I have to offer! My repertoire is so limited, I wanted to have something I was solid in on my list.

In other news, I know I've been very quiet. Sort of overwhelmed by everything, and I keep meaning to catch up and to update but it's been easier to go watch movies. I hope everyone's okay and enjoying the autumn.

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NaNoWriMo and October Movies

  • Nov. 1st, 2010 at 10:15 AM
my_daroga: "Match me, Sidney." (noir)
October movies )

I think I'm going to do NaNo, which means starting today. Of course it also means figuring out something to write about--I am leery of this because it seems these days I can't finish 1,000 words, let alone 50,000, but the rest of the household is doing it and maybe that's incentive enough. If I have to wait to watch The Wire anyway... I have a few ideas that might stretch that far, though none are "original" fiction. (I did once have a roleplay character who was sort of based on a male version of Carlotta as played by Orson Welles who got turned into a werelynx, but I do not know what that novel would be about.)

Anyway, the two fannish ideas I've had that might be novels are:

1) A sort of mash-up of Phantom of the Opera and Sunset Boulevard, wherein Erik=Norma, Christine=Joe, and I get to deal with gender reversal as well as the noir setting and Hollywood and all that.

2) A TOS Star Trek fic with time travel, sort of like if The Time Traveler's Wife was about Kirk and Spock and Kirk kept popping in and out of Spock's life and he had to deal with covering for Kirk as well as dealing with the out-of-joint nature of their relationship.

The problem with either is that I started them, and didn't get past basic logistic note-taking before I decided they wouldn't work or were too hard, and at this point I can't exactly remember the point of either.

This... is not an auspicious beginning.

ETA: Well. That lasted six whole hours!
my_daroga: Orson Welles (orson)
Just watched Josef von Sternberg's Morocco and I understand why I've only ever seen the bit at the beginning where Dietrich is in tails and a top hat. The scene is brilliant, and more on that in a bit, but the movie is sluggish, lacks the depth and point of Der Blaue Engel, and Gary Cooper is both the least interesting playboy and the most wooden actor in the history of ever. I don't know if it's a causal relationship, but I don't get it at all.

Photobucket


Marlena Dietrich is lovely and definitely has presence, though I still don't really understand her flatness during musical numbers--I don't mean her pitch, but her affect. It's sort of strange. But the gender politics are cracktastic, at least superficially. Dietrich comes out in top hat and tails, smoking. She sings a song in French, denies the touch of a few men, plucks a flower from a woman's hair and kisses her. She then throws the flower to Gary Cooper, a foreign legionnaire, who puts it behind his ear. It's all very daring and yet heteronormative (it denies heteronormativity only to re-establish it) and her image in this scene is justifiably an icon. (There's also a lovely bit later in her room where he gives her a casual salute upon leaving and she copies it at the closed door.

But the romance, and the love triangle, is entirely dull and I don't really see what she sees in him. I'm actually more interested in what's behind Adolphe Menjou's motives, knowing all along that she doesn't love him. It's a fairly conventional, if sexually charged, love story, but it would have been vastly improved by a leading man with S.A. even remotely approaching Dietrich's.

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Kind of mad and probably going to take it

  • Oct. 20th, 2010 at 7:16 AM
my_daroga: (oh my)
I realize I probably say this every year or so, but I'm so fed up with politics. I'm so fed up with the prevailing strategy of "hey, I didn't vote for X" when, for me, the problem is that not enough legislation has made it through, not too much. So who am I supposed to support? The endless cycle of "I'm an outsider, I'll change things" which is obviously untrue is ridiculous. The Democrats haven't been seen to do anything, and the Republicans actually want to do less, so in the end what are we voting for?

I'm so tired of being told that I'm not an American by people who think that my support of tax dollars going to programs is un-American. (It's okay when non-US people tell me I'm not American, because I think it's a compliment, but it's still sad.) If I can live on what I make, then people making several hundred thousand dollars more can afford some taxes. Obviously the difference is philosophical, not a matter of financial survival, but am I that far out of step with my country that I can't relate to any of them?

There's a fundamental impossibility in all of it, in that Obama was supposed to change everything, and didn't, and people are angry about that but also angry at the things that were changed, "because I didn't see any improvement." And that assumes an expertise in the layperson that is nonsensical to me. For one thing, people are pretty subjective about reporting those things, and for another, I don't think most of us are qualified to sit on our front porches and say "X politician/law/program did nothing because my view hasn't altered." Every year we vote for change and then hogtie the people we elect. And somehow assume that the one year they've been in charge explains the past eight.

Now, I'm not saying "Obama is our savior" or anything like that--but I am disappointed on the opposite end from where all the ads seem to be targeted, with everyone denying responsibility for the stuff he has been able to do. It just seems pretty short-sighted to run screaming from policies that most economists claim we'd be worse of without, and selfish to judge the current climate only by how much your house is worth. This isn't to downplay the impact the economy has had on people, and some people are well within their rights to complain. I'm just saying that I can't be the only person out there who's surviving and doesn't respond to the call to turn away from social programs and healthcare and treating corporations like corporations, not people.

But you wouldn't know that, from our options. Or the polls.

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A story of two humans

  • Oct. 19th, 2010 at 10:01 AM
my_daroga: From Powell's "Peeping Tom" (camera)
So in the past two days, I've watched F.W. Murnau's Sunrise twice. I've been hearing about it since school, but sort of half-avoiding it because I had heard so much about how "beautiful" it was with a sense of "don't really bother about the story." A lot of the time, that doesn't work for me. I'm not very visually-oriented, though it's more complicated than that because I'm not bad at certain aesthetic functions. For instance, I'm find with layout, and I could draw if I put my mind to it. But I tend to pay more attention to narrative and character, and when someone says "Oh, don't go for that, go for the images" they often mean it in a big-budget shiny overlay sense, and if it's not underpinned by the narrative I have trouble caring.

But I was wrong about Sunrise. It's gorgeous, yes--I'd say it's the most technically accomplished silent film I've ever seen, and probably better aesthetically than anything for about ten years after it--but the visuals absolutely tell the story. And I shouldn't have been that surprised, but everything about it delights me. From the "interactive" intertitles to the amazing cinematography to the way the whole thing has an archetypal, fairy-tale sensibility, I love it. It's a silent film that is absolutely perfect as a silent film, rather than it being a limit imposed by technology (and by 1927, those limits were about to disappear). And I know that silent film proponents will argue that silent film shouldn't be judged as technologically limited, but one has to admit that some filmmakers did a lot better than others at non-verbal storytelling.

The Masters of Cinema blu-ray disc is, too, a strong argument for having more silent/black and white film on HD formats. The picture is amazing, and I'm so used to seeing silent pictures on fuzzy washed-out prints that it was a relief. I wonder how many blu-ray producers are going back to original sources and really doing right by the film and the format.

I've also been watching some von Stroheim (Blind Husbands, Foolish Wives) and von Sternberg (only Der Blaue Engel so far, but I've got a Dietrich collection waiting for me) in an effort to fill some of the holes in my film education. Interesting stuff! Though I find Stroheim more interesting as a person than a filmmaker--though of course those things are intricately related. He's just so absurd and, ultimately, tragic. No opinion yet on Sternberg but I will observe that Dietrich was pretty hot before she became MARLENE DIETRICH with scary cheekbones. And I enjoyed the film, especially Emil Jannings, and to bring this back to Murnau I need to see The Last Laugh.

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The Wire is Awesome

  • Oct. 13th, 2010 at 2:59 PM
my_daroga: From Powell's "Peeping Tom" (camera)
This is old news, I know. But we've got one episode left in Season 3 (NO SPOILERS, PLEASE), and I want to take this moment to rhapsodize about how much I love this show. For those of you who don't know, it's about crime and policing in Baltimore, and it ran five seasons in the mid-2000s.

For one thing, I've never seen a series unfold like this one does. Storylines get ever-more complicated, folding in elements that seemed unimportant episodes or seasons ago, and just keep going. But what really impresses me is what this means for the characters. Everyone is a person. Initially it was hard to get into because no one was immediately likable, but the attention to detail here means that villains have feelings and heroes have failings and everything in between. And what the show does an excellent job of is explaining why things are the way they are. Why people commit acts we all think are reprehensible, how corruption happens, why crime and drugs and the rest aren't easy to rub out. And as we get to know each character, their motivations and reactions are illuminated, so that we see both how some decisions are arbitrary and how, even so, everything we know leading up to that decision, that moment, informs it. There are consequences for actions on this show, even when the consequence seems to be nothing changes.

It's a very depressing vision.

I love shows that balance the thematic and the episodic, as Mad Men does very well and BtVS tried to. But I also love how The Wire is a continuous narrative, showing you every step of the way without assuming you need to actually be led. The writing is fantastic, a lot of the cinematography is great, and there's some good editing.

And the characters. Oh my god. The richness of having to get to know these people really pays off, and I find myself marveling at the feelings people I HATED can arouse. I don't recognize any of the actors, and there are some amazing ones here. (And it really goes to show how WHITE American television is, next to something like this.) There are so many characters I cheer for every time we see them on screen, knowing we're going to get a little more Bubs or Omar or Prop Joe. None of them are simple and none of them are predictable. They're human. I don't mean to talk it up as the second coming, but it's an astonishing accomplishment, so far. Even in terms of illustrating a very real situation--fictionalized, of course--than in my life I never am exposed to.

We just get so little "entertainment" that truly explores those grey areas, those questions we don't have any answers to. And this one attacks race, and crime, and poverty, and policy, and human nature with such bravery I'm continually astonished by it.

I'm being deliberately vague for anyone who doesn't want spoilers, but feel free to discuss anything up to the end of season 3 if you want!

September Films

  • Oct. 12th, 2010 at 8:46 AM
my_daroga: "Match me, Sidney." (noir)
I'm in a slump. I'm trying to catch up on flisty things, but I'm not finding any acting "work" and I'm uninspired in writing (even fannishly), and it makes me a little disengaged.

Anything exciting going on, guys?

Movies in bold are ones I hadn't seen before. Ones with asterisks, I saw in a theater.

Bigger Than Life (1956)
City Lights (1931)
Cairo Time (2009)*
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Ran (1985)*
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Hamlet (2009, television movie)
Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)*
Barry Lyndon (1975)
A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
Casablanca (1942)
The Dawn Patrol (1938)
Pretty Poison (1968)
The Dawn Patrol (1938)
Joy Division (2007)
Modern Times (1936)
How to Steal a Million (1966)

I have also:
-Just finished S1 of Avatar: TLA
-Watched some Jeremy Brett Holmes for the first time in years!
-Gotten almost to the end of S3 of The Wire

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Indoor and Outdoor wildlife

  • Sep. 10th, 2010 at 2:55 PM
my_daroga: Sirius from Diana Wynne Jones' Dogsbody. Based on my dog. (dog)
Okay, so there are rats. Let's just get that out of the way now. But they're cute! And so far, not in the house. Here are a few photos of rats eating leaves, and then a rat being eaten, all taken on the same day from different windows of my house.

SERIOUSLY, CROWS EATING A RAT, DON'T CLICK IF YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE THAT.

Followed by kitty portraits, because I got some nice ones.

Rats eat leaves )

Crows eat rat. Squirrel is all, what's up OMG? )

Soothing pictures of KITTIES )

The problem of Siddig el Fadil

  • Sep. 6th, 2010 at 2:04 PM
my_daroga: Tatsuya from "Touch" (cartoon)
This weekend, [personal profile] lettered and I went to see Cairo Time. It's a film about an American woman, played by Patricia Clarkson, who travels to Cairo to meet her husband, who is held up in Gaza doing UN work. She's befriended by his old friend and colleague, played by Siddig El Fadil (aka Alexander Siddig), who now owns a coffee shop.

This isn't really a review, because there isn't much to review. What follows is an update of the orientalist fantasy: white woman goes East, learns that Things Are Different Here and Exotic Men Are Hot, and in the bargain we don't really get a lot of action. Which is too bad, because most of what I took away from this film (other than that this was the same old thing, only a little more PC) was that El Fadil is STILL HOT.

According to IMDB, he said about this film: "It was a real treasure, a treat, to find a character, a role, that wasn't intent on trying to blow up the White House or hijack an airplane." Which, having seen no trailers, made me interested in seeing the film. But there's really nothing new here, and the fact he's not a bad guy is about all you can say about the role. This is ridiculous.

Walking out of the theater, it occurred to me that aside from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine I have never seen el Fadil play a role in which he is not meant to stand in for an entire country. None of which, it must be said, are his own (the Sudan or, actually, England). Granted, the things I have seen him in portray him as intelligent/good/interesting/etc, and not a terrorist. But he's always meant to stand in for "Arabia"/"Syriana"/Egypt. He cannot simply play a man. (Perhaps the question about whether it's any coincidence that DS9 is the only place I've not seen this happen is mitigated by the fact I've not seen all of his movies.)

This is nothing new to you, of course, and in fact I'm using him now to stand in for any actor of quality who is relegated to parts like this, even when the portrayal is more or less positive. The only good part Art Malik ever got was as an English-educated Indian man who doesn't fit in in either world, and thereafter he was an Arab terrorist. But even that one good part was about his being Indian, though of course he's really Pakistani. Few non-white actors seem have made the leap, though I'd argue Ben Kingsley and Denzel Washington are the first who come to mind.

Given the Avatar: the Last Airbender and Earthsea debacles, among others, it should be obvious that if we can't even hire actors of the appropriate ethnicity to play explicitly non-white characters, we should not hope to get non-white actors, even good and/or hot ones, in the roles of everyday people and romantic leads and everything else. But it's a waste of resources, along with being morally reprehensible.

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