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Books and Movies (Art and Literature)
Wednesday, 21 September 2005
Vistas Flim Festival
Off to the Vistas Film Festival in Dallas tonight. Hot today and it looks like heavy rain by Friday when Rita moves through.

This is the annual Latino Film Festival here, which I have attended every year since moving here, with an all-events pass: they only way to attend a film festival. Hang it round your neck, head off to the theatre, and spend the day in and out of films and chatting with filmmakers in the cafe and partying with all in the evening! Good fun.

The DART train runs right to the Angelika Film Center, which makes it even more fun (even when you get on the wrong train to go home and don't find out until the last stop what you've done).

Posted by alimcj at 3:55 PM CDT
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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: Books
I know it's not just me, and I wonder how many other people were disappointed by the newest book in the series -- especially after the richness of detail, character, and language in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I found it thin and undeveloped and wonder if there were any intentional reason for this or if it was caused by Rowling's marriage, pregnancy, and birth of a new child taking her focus away from the series, if she's tired of the series and in a rush to finish, or if, as so many people are now aware that there is a hidden code in the books that helps to predict the outcome, she is now depending on Harry Potter Sleuths to fill in the details because the books are read so carefully and discussed in groups and with her online. After waiting for the book and learning to sleuth clues myself, rereading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and still rereading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I was actually appalled at the quality of the latest book -- beginning with a number of grammatical and spelling errors in the first several chapters (thankfully, they stopped). The errors I attributed to Scholastic being in such a rush to get it out on time that a sloppy job was done. The rest of the book I can find no explanation for -- other than being tired of the series and busy with family affairs, as the series was begun during a period when she had fewer demands on her time and on perhaps her reliance on readers to furnish details. It was especially surprising after the quality of the last book -- this does happen, you know, but somehow I expected better -- and the rising levels of literary quality with the growth of Harry through the series. In the meantime, I have been amusing myself with the reread of OOP and pondering why a Badger is the totem symbol for Hufflepuff, reading Prince Caspian (Book II, Chronicles of Narnia), because I saw a badger in it, and looking for my copy of the Wind in the Willows, both of which "any literate British schoolchild" would have read, as someone on the Harry Potter for Adults yahoo group advised. With the appearance of this book, I am doubting even more that the series is all that dense in hidden clues as an interactive game for readers. I was in some doubt before, considering that readers have found far more richness in the books than was originally planned. They will stand the test of time, I am sure, and I wonder if the same fascination with finding hidden clues, paying attention to page and chapter structure to divine the future of Harry Potter and Hogwarts. I imagine I will finally get around to reading The Lord of the Rings after breaking down to watch the first film on television not so long ago. I had never been able to muddle through The Hobbit (and wonder if I will ever be able to).

Posted by alimcj at 2:00 PM CDT
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Friday, 18 July 2003
I hate it when I fall behind
Mood:  don't ask
Now Playing: "Whale Rider"
Aw Jeez, I just hate it when I start something like this and then get behind -- I was all up to date with the Philip Guston exhibit at the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art and a movie the same weekend and the program fritzed and fizzled and pizzled and the entry was lost; I couldn't pull myself together to assemble it again and then I went to what and what and what? What have I seen and read? Stone Reader: that must be on there. Two books from Stone Reader: Call It Sleep and A Fan's Notes. We saw "Made Up" and got to meet Tony Shalhoub and the sisters. We saw "The Man without a Past." We saw "Whale Rider."
Read Shrink Rap. Read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Started to read the new (but not newest) Michael Connelly, Chasing the Dime, and gave up. Watched the director's cut of "Apocalypse Now." Made more sense.

Posted by alimcj at 9:50 AM CDT
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Sunday, 25 May 2003

Posted by alimcj at 2:02 PM CDT
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Wednesday, 14 May 2003
Still slogging through The Matrix: see Fritz Lang's Metropolis instead
Well, I still haven't managed to slog through the rest of The Matrix, but see it as a sort of guideline for computer games: If your imagination hasn't been dulled by tv and video games and computer graphics, video games are flat by comparison; if your imagination has been dulled by tv and video games, you might need a sort of road map to help liven up the video games coming from this movie, so the film characters round out the flatness of the video game characters....

Very derivative. Fritz Lang's Metropolis still has it all over this one. The French Delicatessen is another variant on this subterranean other-world lower depths sort of theme and, for that matter, so is H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, which I saw not too long ago in a theatre (The Orpheum in Los Angeles) with a student who was in awe of the special effects simply because they were not digital special effects and so were much more exciting to him. I was impressed with his reaction.

Posted by alimcj at 4:56 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 14 May 2003 4:57 PM CDT
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Sunday, 11 May 2003
The Matrix
Taped The Matrix Friday night to watch later. Watched part of it last night: it's worse than I thought it would be. Haven't finished watching it, but am so far unimpressed with the "digital wonders" it's supposed to represent: choose an adjective or two: derivative, unsophisticated, awkward or heavy-handed, trite, pedestrian, boring, lame. Yawn.

Let's see if I revise my opinion after forcing myself to sit through the rest of it. I know where we're going, but it's an awfully long ride!

Posted by alimcj at 12:32 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 14 May 2003 4:48 PM CDT
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The Dancer Upstairs
Saw The Dancer Upstairs last night. I liked it very much: wonderful faces (now I really do need to get out my thesaurus and find some other words of praise besides wonderful and marvelous and terrific; "awesome" isn't in my vocabulary, so don't be looking for it, unless I'm knocked flat on my back by a thunderously magnificent spectacle of God and nature).

I usually agree with the Dallas Morning News reviews of films, but here I can't. The reviewer had described it as a mood in search of a plot, but it had a fairly straightforward and easy to follow plot.

Great scenes and color; good cast of characters with expressive faces and bodies. Javier Bardem delicious as usual with his carefully modulated voice and eyes that make you want to follow him anywhere.

Fun in that it was in English, most actors speaking English as a second language, all written material in the movie in Spanish, and some in Chinese. For somebody who knows English, Spanish, and Chinese, it was supremely comfortable. For the Dallas reviewer it was obtusely enigmatic.

Lovely scenery and sets and performances within the movie; wide assortment of "ethnic" faces; perfect manicures not in evidence as much as in Hollywood. The only people with perfect manicures were those whose manicures said something about their priorities -- a part of their characters.

I am fortunate to have landed in a place where the closest three theatres are all multi-screen indie theatres!

Posted by alimcj at 12:21 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, 11 May 2003 12:24 PM CDT
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Saturday, 10 May 2003
Stone Reader
Had the pleasure of seeing Stone Reader last Thursday night at the Angelika Dallas. A wonderful film that deals with books and the people who read them and love them. It's made me think twice about being embarrassed to have so many books on our shelves here (most are still in boxes after our 10-ton move to Dallas; most of those ten tons were books! I guess about a ton of it was my Volkswagen bug).

A fun documentary film that embraces all sorts of people and places, their commonality a love of books.

Stone Reader website

Posted by alimcj at 2:45 PM CDT
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A Beautiful Mind Revisited
Well, I'm just about done wading through the book A Beautiful Mind and have to take back what I just said about the film's being one of those cinematic rarities that adds to the understanding of a novel. A Passage to India will have to remain alone in that category.

I never thought I'd say anything bad about a Ron Howard film, but here it is.
I'm sorry to say that the film A Beautiful Mind bears so little resemblance to actual facts as to be an abomination: short of using John Nash's name and one sentence he is said to have uttered, about not feeling he should be in the faculty lounge, it has no resemblance to reality at all. Worse, its fanciful portrayal of schizophrenia is so Hollywoodized as to do a great disservice to schizophrenics. Now, I will look into John Nash's autobiographical essay to see if perhaps there is anything contained in there that supports what we saw in the film, but I'm doubtful.

John Nash's schizophrenia was typical of the schizophrenia suffered by genius; one is already isolated by a high degree of intelligence and, if one's talents lie in a field that few work in, the isolation is even greater. It tends to megalomania. Schizophrenic delusion is perhaps the only common thing about John Nash.

A Beautiful Mind was indeed an entertaining movie. I'll have to revisit it to see if it is still as entertaining as a fiction. It was stimulating to think that it was a careful representation of a delusional state of mind; it is, however, a fantasy.

Posted by alimcj at 2:40 PM CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 14 May 2003 4:59 PM CDT
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Sunday, 4 May 2003
Whew! Daze is right -- just found myself again
    What have I seen recently?

    On tv last night, for the third time
  • The Usual Suspects;
    on video last week,
  • The Man Who Wasn't There: I'd been waiting until I felt neo-noirish and found out that, although it was photographed in wonderful b&w noir style and contained twists on wonderful noir cliches, it is a hysterically funny comedy of errors, along the lines of Dr. Strangelove, although thematically quite different;

    In the theatre last week,
  • Spider
  • James Ellroy's Feast of Death

I'm seeing that shifts in perception, shifts in perspective between real and imagined, is an underlying theme in recent movies. I remarked on it as a great means of getting people to attend a film twice or see the video after seeing the movie after I saw and enjoyed The Sixth Sense and have since seen it in The Others, A Beautiful Mind, Spider, and The Usual Suspects.

BTW, I'm now reading A Beautiful Mind and find the movie to be one of those rarities, like A Passage to India, which actually improve on the book.

Posted by alimcj at 11:26 AM CDT
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