2 Days in Paris

No, it’s not the limply-anticipated sequel to the Hilton heiress’s sex video…

It’s the new Julie Delpy film!

I know, I can’t believe it either.

2 Days in Paris covers just that amount of time in the lives of Marion and Jack, a binational couple who live primarily in New York but who have just enjoyed a vacation to Venice. They stop in Paris to visit with Marion’s family and rest before heading back stateside.

Adam Goldberg and Delpy portray what felt to be a realistic relationship, at least in the way that a relationship can get after two years. The dialogue in the film was natural, and again, I hate to say “realistic,” but I think I’ve said some of the things they say to each other. Mostly, they argue, play-fight, and come up with new reasons not to have sex (“This French condom is too small!” “The condom wasn’t small; your ego was too big!” etc). Jack founders through Paris with minute French language skills while Marion runs into former lover after former lover, friends, etc.

The film follows a traditional relationship-based romantic comedy arc (boy has girl/boy might lose girl/situation is resolved), but Delpy’s direction enlivens what would otherwise be a film of talking heads laid over a Paris travelogue. Delpy infuses the story with commentary on international relations and French culture, but her filming style was the most apparent element she brought. Infusing much of the film with fast motion photography or jump cuts, Delpy keeps the viewer from drifting off into boredom when the couple isn’t fighting or loving.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. It definitely had some missteps along the way, but it was an interesting film, kind of a quiet and reflective film—a nice change of pace, although my week has turned out to be distinctly French, hasn’t it?

Snake in Fridge: Nearly Entertaining Theatre

I want to begin this review by saying that there is nothing more painful than having to admit that someone’s work of art, something they poured a lot of time, effort, and artistry into, wasn’t enjoyable.

But that’s my summary of Nearly Naked Theatre’s production of Snake in Fridge. What appeared to be a raucous romp in the vein of, say, Rocky Horror Picture Show was actually more like an afterschool special.

I felt like the majority of fault rested with the playwright. At two and a half hours, the play is just too long, too rambling, unfocused. The dialog is clunky and unrealistic, as evidenced by the actor’s tripping over their words on several occasions. The story tried to weave too many subplots, some of which didn’t even come to a resolution. For example, the synopsis alludes to the fact that the house in the play “may or may not be demanding a human sacrifice,” but that doesn’t even come into play until after the first hour of the play elapses!

The play was rated “NC-17” by the theatre, and we were not short on wang (pun intended) in this show. There was a lot of wang running around the stage, and some boobs (in context). I’m not offended by nudity unless it’s my own. What was admirable to me, though, was that almost every male actor in the show went buff at some point—admirable because the theatre itself was about 20 degrees.

The performances weren’t among the best I’ve seen in Valley theatre, but many of them were uneven. I keep feeling, though, that the script didn’t give the actors much to go on. Characters were charicatures and had few interesting qualities. One character, Randy, wasn’t even fully developed in the script, and another, Charles, inexplicably appears in the second act.

This play was an unfortunate mess, but it’s true redeeming quality was that this production company tried everything they could to get it to work. The best part by far was the set design, which incorporated no less than 20 individual smaller sets, ranging from a nudie bar to a bathroom to a dance club to–yes–even the driver’s seat of a car, complete with headlights. This innovative set-up kept the play working on the few credible legs it had going for it.

I Know What You Did Last Weekend

Last night I paid money to see a Lindsay Lohan movie and I didn’t even regret it.

I Know Who Killed Me seems to want to be your typical revived-sniff film along the lines of the recent Captivity: young girl in trouble, is tortured by an unseen man for his enjoyment, etc. But it takes some strange twists and turns along the way—one of which lands squarely in absurdity—and is done with a fairly masterful cinematic hand.

Lohan’s performance is actually worth mentioning as she creates two unique personalities in the film: one, a red-drenched stripper in a “gentlemen’s club,” the other a seemingly Anne of Green Gables-ish student of creative writing (!) heading to Yale (!).

Although the plot isn’t what I’d call “gripping” (I’d unraveled the mystery halfway through, and I’m a dumb movie watcher, so if I figure it out–wow.), but what is unique about the film is its use of color. The use of blue and turquoise tones throughout the film becomes almost hypnotic in a strange way as I would say a majority of costumes, sets, and props incorporate the color. It does through mise-en-scene what a film like Traffic did in post production, drenching the actual film stock in a bluish tone to create mood. The effect is otherwordly and wonderful here. The two worlds in the film are constrasted using the blue tone and a harsh, seething red tone.

Along with the color saturation, the director has edited this film well, artfully, in fact, by using fades-to-red and fades-to-blues that are actually fairly haunting. The editing is, at times, effectively jarring as well, giving the overall narrative a choppy, truncated…dare I say amputated?…feel.

Although not what I’d consider a classic of cinema, this film was created by someone who is obviously a student of the classics of cinema, taking notes from both Hitchcock and Almodóvar along the way, and this is probably something I’d watch again, and not just because Lohan’s boyfriend is the film is endearingly earnest and cute, although those are both traits I applaud in a man.

You would also enjoy this film if you’ve ever fantasized about torturing Lindsay Lohan.

The Death of Green Day

The Simpsons Movie is an extended episode of the series, with more nudity, swearing, and more pokes at Fox’s lame programming and advertising practices. Although there were frequent moments of “How the heck is this going to be part of the plot?” things really did come together. You will be humming “Spider-Pig” when you leave the theater. You will be discussing naked skateboarding. And you will be reminded that presidents are “elected to lead, not to read.”

Transformations

Let me begin by confessing that I write this review from the perspective of a grown man who has moved a medium-sized box of Transformers action figures from house to house 19 times over the course of his life.

That said, I was a little disappointed by Transformers.

What’s great about the film is that it stays true to the original cartoon’s mythos and symbology, where the Autobots supplant Sam’s own parents in their roles as protector, guardian, advisor, and encouragers (rather than the “limiter” and “belittling” roles they end up carrying out, mostly accidentally, it seems). The Transformers’ actual shifts from machine to robot are visually impressive, although I’m going to complain a bit about Michael Bay’s grotesquely shaky camera work during the action scenes, which tends to blur these maneuvers into mere suggestions.

There are some gaping plot coincidences that occur in the film, most of which are “annoying” rather than “cosmic” because the entire film hinges on the plausibility of the coincidences (which are mostly implausible—aside from the fact that this is a film about giant robots from outer space—or laughable). There are also too many characters, and there was not enough Tom Lenk (Buffy alum who played both a henchman vamp for Harmony and Andrew of the Trio).

I also get annoyed by villains whose sheer desire is to destroy things for the sake of destruction. Although nihilism seems awfully villainous on the surface, it is also one of the great ideological paradoxes, much like the conventional notion of anarchy. This is the second time recently I’ve discussed the Iago figure in modern film, but here, the Iago of Megatron isn’t developed enough for us to fear him. Plus, didn’t Megatron originally transform into a handgun?

The film was also about 30 minutes too long, like every Michael Bay film ever made. With so many characters, he needs extra exposition to (barely) introduce them to us and to orchestrate some kind of mechanism that will make us care about them. But we never get to spend enough time with anyone except Sam, who is the only fully realized character in the film, to care if they live or die.

What I loved about the film was (shocking) Shia LeBoeuf. As an actor, I think he is always fully invested in his character and the story; he also captures the awkwardness of adolescence with aplomb. Most of the laughs he solicits are the best kind—we laugh because we’ve been there before. Plus, he’s adorable. And who doesn’t love adorable?

What was interesting to me about Transformers was how virulently anti-war it was, pointedly so, as evidenced by the mock-cameo by our Commander-in-Chief on AirForce One, who asks politely for some “Ding-Dongs.” More than that, though, Transformers wants to be an overt warning against the horrors of war, reminding us that there are no winners, just degrees of losing.

All that said, there are much worse ways for you to blow $10 and two and a half hours of your life. The film is visually stunning, it moves pretty quickly, and the action sequences are, per the Bay brand, intense and operatic—almost orgiastic. I was actually reminded of the episode of Ultimate Cage Fighter I watched recently—a post for another time—in which two shirtless, tattooed men tried to beat the living shit out of each other—in the missionary position.

I’m not above a little self-googling…

…because it yields little gems like this:

“One of our pivotal poets,” writes Sarah Vap and Charles Jensen in their front-page interview of Lynn Emmanuel. (I will refrain from playing with Sarah’s last name, though it would be quite appropriate.) A PIVOTAL POET? Why not one of our TENURED POETS or SAFE POETS or POET FELLOWS, instead? It is quite amazing the different terms poets invent to inflate themselves and their activities, which are far too often diversionary, inoffensive (maybe it’s damn time poetry offended!), self-serving, and sociopolitically disengaged. How deft of Emmanuel in her attempt to make herself appear as a non- establishment poet by mentioning her having been a mere assistant to one. “When I was a fellow at the Breadloaf Writers Conference, like everyone else, I was an assistant to an established poet,” she notes. Why didn’t Vap and Jensen ask how many asses she had to kiss to get to Breadloaf? The interview is an example of base hagiography, as most such interviews tend to be in the world of poesy. No tough questions at all!

“Not long ago, somebody asked me about what is being called the proliferation of MFA programs at universities,” notes Emmanuel. “I think we should discuss the proliferation of ROTC programs at universities. Should there not be as many MFA programs as ROTC programs on university campuses? In fact, if the draft is re-instated, I think every young man who is drafted should also be required to get an MFA.” Her response, of course, is a non-answer to this pertinent question. Emmanuel could have at least added that every young woman should be required to demand equal opportunity regarding any future draft. That would have permitted complete deflection of the question, while at least propping up the non-answer with a statement of equality.

But why did the two interviewers, Vap and Jensen, fail to push her on that pertinent question? Why didn’t they ask if perhaps the real reason for such programs was to assure jobs and grant money for TENURED POETS, advertising revenues for magazines like Poetry Flash, indoctrination of students in the canon (i.e., the celebrity poet game), selling more books for the big publishers, and especially increased size for university corporations obsessed with growth? Do not MFA programs constitute a multimillion-dollar business in America? Why did the great poets of the past not need such programs to fill their heads with canon? What MFA programs tend not to do is question and challenge canon. Instead, they tend to reinforce it. “The majority of poems written in the 1950s have long been deemed inconsequential” (Edward Brunner), quotes Emmanuel. But the same can and will be said about poems written during any decade and regarding any MFA graduating class. But more importantly note how Emmanuel fails to ask the question: who did the deeming? This is what is being taught (or rather not taught) in MFA programs.

Nat Hentoff had once asked: “What caused the ivory tower to become such a snake pit?” Well, I dared answer that question: “snakes in black robes!” Thus, we have POET SNAKES too… in black robes. Yes, they do exist. I’m not saying that Emmanuel is one of them, but that’s certainly a possibility, at least when she was in charge of the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburg. In the interview, she evokes, unsurprisingly, the activist poetry of the 60s. Perhaps by mentioning it, she is able to avoid dealing with how she, child of the 60s, sold out like so many others to become a tenured poet of the 21st century. Well, she doesn’t use that term, preferring instead the vacuous term “outlaw” to describe other tenured poets, including Ginsberg and Creeley, who were quite canonic and establishment in the long run. Perhaps Emmanuel is also an outlaw poet or maybe even a “poet from hell” (the words are those of Tratford Press). Perhaps one day soon she’ll be featured next to the verse of Pirate Poet Johnny Depp. In any event, hopefully posterity will not fall prey to the outlaw charade.

On another note, why does a well-to-do academic poet write poetry about poverty (the central theme in her book, The Dig)? Write what you know, not what you don’t know, goes the adage. Emmanuel should be writing about the sell-out snakes in her immediate surroundings, the ivory tower, and how, in the long run, they really support the system, proponent of war and Big Business. Why do Vap and Jensen fail to ask that question? Wouldn’t it be a lot more effective if poets who dared be engaged wrote poetry critical of the hand that feeds them, as opposed to poetry critical of BUSH or what happened during 9/11? Poets need to write poems that RISK. Criticizing the war risks nothing at all. In fact, it probably constitutes a good publicity stunt, at least for the celebrity poets. Poets need to criticize the core of corruption found in every damn institution in the nation, including the University of Pittsburg. But for a TENURED POET, criticizing ones chairperson or university president or the NEA or Breadloaf IS RISKY, which is why most do not do so. Most poets cannot comprehend this fundamental principle. Have they been all too indoctrinated by MFA canon-pushing programs?