Watching "Frances Ha"
Published on June 11, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Noah Baumbach film "Frances Ha."

Here's an excerpt:

"The films of Noah Baumbach often find characters at unsettled moments in their lives.

His brilliant debut, 1995’s 'Kicking and Screaming,' focused on a group of directionless friends in the year following their college graduation. His 2010 film 'Greenberg' cast its lens on an abrasive middle-aged man who moves home to Los Angeles to housesit for his brother and winds up reuniting with and alienating his old friends. Baumbach’s latest film, the extremely enjoyable 'Frances Ha,' tells the story of a young woman who just can’t seem to grow up and get her act together, even though her friends are making the transition to adulthood and leaving her behind.

'Frances Ha' is filmed in lustrous black-and-white, and its fluidity, attention to young adults and sense of joy and heartache recall the films of the French New Wave. But the movie is also clearly influenced by the low-budget American independent films that fall into the so-called mumblecore subgenre. These movies often focus on the dysfunctional romantic lives and career dissatisfaction of aimless young adults. At their best, they have a blunt honesty and sexual frankness that tends to be lacking from more mainstream films; at their worst, they are poorly shot and ugly. It’s as if Baumbach watched these films and thought, 'I can make a better mumblecore film,' rolled up his sleeves and went to work."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Summer Concert Preview
Published on June 10, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I list the summer concerts I'm excited about.

Click here to see what they are.

Gardening Without Pesticides
Published on June 10, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about gardening and living without pesticides in her column Greenpoint.

Here's an excerpt:

"We live in a hilly place, naturally forested enough that an unmowed field will turn to brush, then pines, then mixed woods within a decade.

Where we live, you have to work hard to keep a field. My husband does some of that work, haying some of the little fields around us. That gives us some fodder for our animals and helps the neighbors keep some land from growing to forest.

This place is not considered good agricultural land, but it’s ideal for us. In fact, we moved to the Adirondack foothills on purpose to garden, just because it’s not prime for agriculture."

Click here to read the whole thing.


Finding Friends, Anywhere
Published on June 10, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I humbly suggest that it's OK to be friends with the people you work with.

Here's an excerpt:

"I used to hang out with a colleague who didn’t believe in forming close friendships with the people she worked with.

'We can’t really be friends,' she once told me, during a day spent sailing and picnicking. 'At least, not good friends. We work together.'

I didn’t really know what to say to this.

For one thing, it seemed like the sort of thought you might just keep to yourself. Even if it was true, why point it out? But it was also the sort of comment that made me feel like just packing up and going home. Why would I want to spend the day with someone who could never be anything more than a good acquaintance? Wouldn’t I rather devote my limited energy for socializing to people I actually care about? And who care about me?

Not surprisingly, my friendship (or nonfriendship) with my colleague eventually fizzled out. We drifted apart, as people sometimes do, but the nature of our rupture was ultimately philosophical: I believe that you can be friends with the people you work with, and she does not.

If you Google the words 'workplace friendship,' you’ll find countless articles and essays and blog posts on the topic. They have titles such as 'The Three Rules of Workplace Friendships' and 'Workplace Friendships: Asset or Liability?' and 'The Top 10 Tips for Workplace Friendships.'

This last piece, from U.S. News and World Report, offers such tips as 'keep your business and personal lives separate,' 'use the friendship to your benefit' and 'don’t complain about your boss.' Another piece, on The Daily Mail website, seemed to view workplace friendships as a tragic consequence of modern life, suggesting that our 'work colleagues are our closest friends because we are too busy to keep in touch with old mates.'

I read the articles on workplace friendship with the same curiosity I might bring to an etiquette guide from an alien planet."

Click here to read the whole thing.

Some Recent Reads
Published on June 7, 2013 by Sara Foss

Music: Barry Wenig on his favorite Beatles songs

Movies: Annalisa Parent on schmalty summer sci-fi, and Sara Foss on "The Great Gatsby"

Parenting: J LeBlanc on her second pregnancy

Television: J.K. Eisen on "Hemlock Grove"

NBA Finals Pick
Published on June 6, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I make my NBA finals pick.

Click here to read it.

Watching "The Great Gatsby"
Published on June 5, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I review the new Baz Luhrmann spectacle "The Great Gatsby."

Here's an excerpt:

"Maybe 'The Great Gatsby' just wasn’t meant to be a movie.

Not that director Baz Luhrmann’s take on the great F. Scott Fitzgerald novel is a bad film. It’s engaging and absorbing, with a bright, sumptuous and sometimes dizzying style that almost always makes for a visual feast. And it’s well-acted and fairly faithful to the book. But Luhrmann’s reverence for the novel is actually a bit of a hindrance after a while: He makes such liberal use of Fitzgerald’s stirring prose (at times, quotes from the book dance across the screen as Nick Carraway types) that almost every frame makes you think, 'What I should really do is re-read this book.' In the end, 'The Great Gatsby' is a decent enough film, undone by its inability to achieve the same level of greatness as the book from which its adapted.

Of course, it’s a bit unfair to knock the new film version for failing to reach the same impressive heights as the novel — one of the greatest in American literature. And 'The Great Gatsby' is actually better than anyone had a right to expect. I’m actually a fan of two of Luhrmann’s earlier films, 'Moulin Rouge!' and 'Strictly Ballroom,' but I wasn’t sure 'The Great Gatsby' would benefit from his flair for excess, anachronistic use of pop music, and big, bold emotional flourishes. Could he capture the subtleties and nuances of Fitzgerald’s book?"

Click here to read the whole thing.

Schmaltzy Sci-Fi Hits Summer Screens
Published on June 4, 2013 by guest author: Annalisa Parent

OK, I'll admit it. I'm that annoying person you go to the movies with - not the one who talks through the whole thing or whose cell phone rings. I'm the one who always knows the plot before it happens. 

Last night I went to the drive-in. (Yes, we still have a drive-in, and it's a thriving business in our Vermont summers.) What I like about the drive-in, among other things, is that it offers you the chance to see a double feature (for those of you who weren't teenagers in the 1950s' height of drive-in popularity, that's “two movies in a row, Dawg.”) 

Sometimes it happens that the two movies you want to see fall in the same time slot, and so last night instead of watching Iron Man 3 as I’d hoped (perfect drive-in fodder, by the way), my friend and I watched M. Night Shyamalan's After Earth. Yeah, I said M. Night Shyamalan. Are you as surprised as we were that he's even affiliated with the film? It’s probably because all of the billing has been about Will Smith and his son Jaden who feature in the film, with nary a mention of this famous director. 

It’s almost as if Shyamalan’s not a part of the family. (Mostly because he isn’t.) To be sure, this film is a family affair. Smith wrote the screenplay. His wife Jada produced. And his son starred. 


And Another Thing!
The Beatles Story
Published on June 3, 2013 by guest author: Barry Wenig

I’ve been a Beatlephile (I’ve been told that’s what they call us; “Beatlemaniac” is undignified) since 1969 when I bought the 45 of “Get Back” as a seven-year-old. I had been very impressed by the film “Yellow Submarine” earlier that year, and off I went into Pepperland.  

I began my Beatles’ “jones” in earnest in 1976, when I starting purchasing their albums with my Long Island Newsday (NY) carrier money. At first, I bought the Beatles' Capitol L.P.s. But once I found out that the American albums had fewer songs on them (a mere 10 compared to the 14 tracks on their British counterpart label, Parlophone), I started buying the English album versions. If my local T.S.S. (Time Square Stores) didn’t have them, I’d have them special-ordered.  

I had just moved out to a new county (Suffolk) and a new school district (Middle Island) from Queens that summer, and it was hard to make friends as I entered my first year of High School. And so … the Beatles became my friends. They offered rock and roll and romance.   

I thrilled to the discovery of each new album, and was proud of my rarer selections: a German bootleg of a 1966 live concert in Japan (!); a Dutch version of Magical Mystery Tour (with the songs on Side 2 in true, rather than “reprocessed” stereo); a Parlophone album called “The Beatles in Italy," which featured the set list from their 1965 concert in Italy (not live, but I could settle for that).  


Notes on "The Room"
Published on June 3, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I ponder the phenomenom of the cult film "The Room."

Here's an excerpt:

"I’ve never been a big proponent of watching terrible movies just for the fun of it. I’d rather watch a good movie. However, occasionally my curiosity gets the best of me, which is why I’ve watched what is arguably the worst film in history, 'Plan 9 From Outer Space,' and the Joan Collins’ bomb 'Trog.' And I’m a huge fan of 'Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,' a bad film with a goofy charm that’s tough to resist, and a defender of 'Showgirls.'

A few years ago I became aware of the cult surrounding the awful 2003 film 'The Room' from a Harper’s magazine article by Tom Bissell. The phenomenom intrigued me, and I put the movie in my Netflix queue, even though 'The Room' sounded like the sort of thing that was best experienced on the big screen, in a room full of 'Room' devotees. So when I heard that Proctors was screening the film at the end of May, I decided that I had to go.

'The Room' is an odd little item — a passion project created by a group of talentless people. Films this inept are rare. By the end of it, I felt like I could buy a video camera tomorrow and make a film that’s about 10 times better than 'The Room' ... though probably not so hysterically awful and strange.

Of the film’s writer, director and star, Tommy Wiseau, Bissell writes, 'He tried to make a conventional film and wound up with something so inexplicable and casually surreal that no practicing surrealist could ever convincingly ape its form, except by exact imitation. It is the movie that an alien who has never seen a movie might make after having had movies thoroughly explained to him.' Later in the article, Bissell wonders, 'What does it say about contemporary American culture that the Rocky Horror Picture show of our time is not a winning exercise in leering camp and butt-shaking grooviness but an earnest melodrama distinguished by what it is unable to provide? Why are so many people responding to a megalomaniacal feat of formal incompetence? Is it the satisfaction of seeing the auteur myth cruelly exploded, or watching an artist reach for the stars and wind up with his hand around a urinal cake?'"

Click here to read the whole thing.

Recent Viewing: Films
Published on June 2, 2013 by Sara Foss

Iron Man 3 (2013) ***

Upstream Color (2013) ****

People on Sunday (1930) ***

Hansel and Gretel (2009) ***

Tamara Drewe (2010) ***

The Angels' Share (2013) ***

The Stepfather (1987) ***

The Room (2003) Stars Not Applicable

The Adventures of Milo and Otis (1986) ***1/3

Yojimbo (1961) ****

Lessons in Parenting
Pregnancy, Take Two
Published on June 2, 2013 by guest author: J LeBlanc

During my first pregnancy, once I was obviously showing, it was interesting to see people’s reaction. For the most part, they were quite chivalrous. Family and friends encouraged me to sit down and put my feet up; strangers at the supermarket would open the door for me and shower me with kind smiles. This kind of behavior was much more rare the second time around. The first time, it was as though people were secretly thinking, “You have no idea what you are in for — take it easy, because it will be your last chance!” Seeing me with a toddler in tow, it became, “You knew what this would be like — and you decided to do it again?”     

There also seemed to be an assumption on the part of others that I was an “old pro” now, with one pregnancy under my belt. One of the first places I saw this shift was from my midwives. With my son, the midwives carefully and kindly tried to prepare me for what it would mean to have a natural childbirth — each and every time I came in. They told me not to expect to go to the hospital the moment I began having contractions and held true to this when I did call them, telling me to go back to bed, to try and get some sleep. With my daughter, they cautioned me not to delay calling, as I had had a relatively fast labor the first time and each of them lived 40 minutes or more from the hospital.     


More Bacon Than Onions
Published on June 2, 2013 by Sara Foss

Over at the DG, I write about my Memorial Day weekend, which started off cold and dreary but finished rather nicely.

Here's an excerpt:

"I spent Memorial Day weekend in New Hampshire.

Before I went, I put a good deal of thought into packing my suitcase.

I was only going to be away for three days, but the somewhat grim and unpredictable weather forecast forced me to plan for a wide range of conditions.

Would it rain for three straight days? Would it be cold? Would it be warm? Should I bring both sandals and sneakers and hiking boots? Should I bring multiple fleeces and thick woolen socks? Would a winter hat and gloves be necessary?

I answered yes to all of these questions, which made for a very full suitcase. I looked like I was leaving on a weeklong vacation.

The temperature dropped steadily as I headed northeast on Saturday, dipping to 38 degrees as I drove over Hogback Mountain, a 2,400-plus foot peak in southern Vermont. Gloomily, I wondered whether it would snow. The rain that had awoken me earlier in the day showed no signs of letting up. Strong gusts of wind shook the trees and the American flags displayed for the holiday. Most cars had their headlights on because of the increasingly dark skies."

Click here to read the whole thing.


«Previous   1 2