Monthly Archives: February 2010

A Big Chunk of 2009 Films

Those limited release movies always start to open everywhere else in January and February of the next year. So there’s always period of one or two weeks early in the year where I’m trying to cram in as many of these previously limited release films before the Oscars. While I still have a few left I’d like to see, I crammed last week full of 2009 movies.

The first one I saw was Tom Ford’s A Single Man. I knew going in that it was probably going to be a very stylish movie, and that it would probably make me want to watch Mad Men. The film was very stylish, but it was also an extremely emotional experience. The style actually lends itself to that. There’s a deep ache to the film and the story that is absolutely perfect for this despairing man. I am a HUGE Colin Firth fan. Not only do I think he’s a dreamboat, but I’ve also always thought that he’s a better actor than people give him credit for. In A Single Man, he proves it. It’s definitely the role of a lifetime. I imagine it can’t be easy for actors, once they start to get older, to start again, to take on a role that’s very much about getting older. First plays the role without any fear at all. It’s a brilliant performance.

The next night, my friends and I watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs OnDemand. It’s based on a children’s book that I adored growing up. My mother has problems with Hollywood adapting books like this and Where the Wild Things Are. She gets all pissed because she thinks that making a movie of it ruins a kid’s imagination. Whatever. This movie was awesome. It was easily one of the funniest movies from last year. I actually liked it more than Up (but not as much as Coraline). I love this trend in animated films, where the humor can work really well for the adults, too. This one was a bit of a surprise, and I highly recommend it. I can’t believe the Academy didn’t nominated it for Best Animated Feature. Shame on you, Academy.

The day after that, my friend and I went to see Crazy Heart. I was really excited to see it, but in the end I wasn’t blown away. Jeff Bridges’ performance is amazing, and I’m having a tough time choosing between him and Firth for Best Actor. While The Dude is still my favorite of his performances, this is neck and neck with Seabiscuit for my second favorite. Maggie Gyllenhaal is also incredible, and I’m so happy she was nominated for it. She’s been one of my favorite actresses since Secretary (which she totally deserved a nomination for) and this performance is perfect. Colin Farrell is also quite good, as is Robert Duvall. The performances are what make this movie. That’s the reason to see it, and they make the movie really good. But it’s slow moving and kind of dull in spots.

Finally, a week later, we saw The Messenger, another movie I was really looking forward to. And this one didn’t disappoint. In fact, I’d say it exceeded my expectations. It really is a heartwrenching movie, filmed with a bare honesty and acted to perfection. Woody Harrelson was nominated, and he was wonderful and completely deserves it. But I can’t believe Ben Foster isn’t receiving more attention for this film. His performance is phenomenal. Samantha Morton, who I always love, is also really great.

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Absalom, Absalom! Chapter 7

Why, hello there, ridiculously long chapter! I’d almost go so far as to call you a novella. But I did manage to finish you in one day, so go me!

Now things get tawdry. Or rather, we learn new information that makes old information tawdry. In this chapter, we get more about Sutpen’s own life, how he came to Yoknapatawpha County in the first place, and more about what happened to him after Miss Rosa left Sutpen’s Hundred.

Though the section is narrated by Quentin, still recounting stories heard from his father and grandfather, we are for the first time hearing something that Sutpen told himself. Most of the information which Quentin relays to Shreve here comes from stories that Sutpen told General Compson.

The storytelling here is pretty jarring. Quentin tells the story of Sutpen telling the story. So Quentin is telling two separate stories at the same time – first of a time when the french architect Sutpen brought to build the mansion tried to escape him. Sutpen and Compson took the slave and dogs out to search for him, and it’s during this time that Sutpen told Compson of his childhood. So Quentin is also telling that as well.

Sutpen was born in a hillbilly log cabin in what is now West Virginia. When he was still young, his father moved the family to Southern Virginia to work on a plantation.  It was here that Sutpen began to understand the difference not just between races, but between the haves and the have nots.  At age 14 he ran away to the West Indies (he never really says how he got there, just that he went), where he learned the language and eventually got work on a sugar plantation. After stamping out a slave revolt, he was promised the daughter of the plantation owner. They were married and had a son, but when he found out his wife had negro blood, he decided that she and their child didn’t fit into his plan, and he renounced them.

The first son that Sutpen had, Quentin learned when he went out to Sutpen’s Hundred that night with Miss Rosa, was Charles Bon.

So Sutpen divorced his first wife and traveled to Jefferson, making arrangements to provide for the woman and the boy, and taking his 20 wild negroes with him.

I have to cut out of the young Sutpen narrative to comment on a part of the book that amused me, during Compson and Sutpen’s search for the architect. I don’t know if Faulkner meant it to be amusing or not. There’s a part where he talks about the wild negroes chasing the man, and later finding him, and whooping aloud as though it was a game and they were now going to be allowed to cook him and eat him. For some reason that just tickled me. Cannibalism = comedic gold.

Anyway, back to the story. About 30 years pass, and Charles Bon shows up as Henry’s college pal. He allowed the friendship and initial courtship to go on, not out of cruelty, but because he truly had no idea what to do. Then, on that second Christmas, he had his talk with Henry, not telling him of the octoroon wife and child, but the truth, that Charles Bon was his brother. Henry refused to believe it (although pretty much every single narrator believes that whatever his father told him, deep down he really did know it to be true).  Sutpen was then unsure of whether or not to play his “final trump card”. He could allow Judith and Charles to marry, which would fulfill his dynasty to the outside world, but on the inside he’d know it was a failure, or he could stop the marriage and surely ruin his dynasty. In the end, he decided to play that trump card, and he told Henry of Bon’s negro blood. This was the thing that sent Henry over the edge on the matter.

Sutpen then came home to a mess, one son dead, the other vanished, and a daughter widowed before she was even a bride. After Rosa’s departure he took to bed with Wash Jones’ granddaughter Milly, without any clear intention of marrying her, though Jones, in his hero worship, believed that Sutpen would “make it right”. But the say Milly delivered her child, it did not turn out the way either Sutpen or Jones wanted it. Milly had a daughter, not the son Sutpen was hoping for, and he insulted her by casting them aside. Jones, who had not even tried to hide his granddaughter’s condition from the town, believing Sutpen would marry her, but growing more and more apprehensive about the situation each passing day, killed Sutpen in a rage. Then, when the cops came for him, he slit both Milly and the baby girl’s throats, and was then killed by the police.

Sutpen’s ending is extremely tragic and also kind of “small” for a man of such myth and legend. Not only is the death tragic, but so is his murderer. I just find it extremely sad that this man, who so idolized and worshiped Sutpen, was so brokenhearted by this one act that he killed him for it. And that it was this slight, probably not even the worst he committed in his life, that brought Sutpen to his end.

This chapter, through Quentin’s brief moments of inner monologue, tie Absalom, Absalom! to The Sound and the Fury yet again. There are only a few very brief moments of Quentin’s inner dialogue, but it’s already a little bit frantic and frayed. This part of the story takes place in the winter. In the spring, Quentin will kill himself.

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Absalom, Absalom! Chapter 6

Time got away from me yesterday, and I ended up just not having time to read. I’m glad that today’s (or rather, yesterday’s) chapter was short. And I’m glad I have tomorrow off, because Chapter 7 looks like it’s probably around 70 pages.

Anywho, this chapter is a little bit complicated because there are three separate narrators and, in typical Faulkner fashion, the shift between narrators is sometimes really sudden. The three narrators this time are Quentin, his father, and his roommate Shreve.

Shreve’s appearance as narrator and listener is important. Faulkner introduces a new character halfway through the book to represent the reader. Shreve is not from the South, is in fact Canadian, so his wonder with the story matches the reader’s. This idea of the old South is something completely and totally foreign to him, and he’s fascinated by Quentin’s telling of it.

Early on in the chapter we get the story so far, summarized rather quickly by Shreve, and I find this part kind of amusing and charming. What’s taken Quentin, Mr. Compson, and Rosa half a book to tell in their flowery Southern way is told in less than a few pages by Shreve.

But we do get new info in this chapter. For one thing, we learn that Miss Rosa has died. He gets a letter from his father telling him the news, and he has to explain to Shreve that Miss Rosa was not a relative.

This chapter is about the last few years of Sutpen’s life, but it’s mostly about what happened to the family after he died. The legend may be Thomas Sutpen, but the story goes on long after he’s gone.

Sutpen realizes he cannot rebuild his plantation, so he opens a shop selling  supplies to freed slaves. But he spends most of his time getting drunk with Wash Jones, and then spending his evenings *ahem* with Jones’s granddaughter Milly.  Milly give birth to Sutpen’s child, but he insults both Milly and the child by casting them aside (presumably because the child was a girl). Wash Jones then kills Sutpen with a rusty scythe, the very scythe Sutpen had given him years before to do his chores.

Quentin remembers going to Sutpen’s Hundred and seeing the graves of the family. Not just Ellen, Thomas, and Charles Bon, but other’s. Judith has died by this point as well, and there is also a grave Charles Etienne St. Valery Bon, Charles’ son with his French-Negro wife/mistress (new word, “wifestress”). After her father’s death, Judith contacted the woman to come up and see Charles’ grave. The woman stayed at the house mourning for several days, in which time Clytie took care of the child. A year later, when the mother disappeared (it’s never stated whether she died or simply abandoned the child) Clytie went to New Orleans to recover the boy, and she and Judith raised him. Clytie kept him from socializing with anyone in the town, and the rumors about who he was flew. General Compson at first assumed that Sutpen had had a son with Clytie, his own daughter.

After getting into a violent fight, young Charles was arrested, and Judith brought General Compson to get him out of trouble. Compson then gave the boy money and sent him away. Charles returned a year later with black wife, who gave birth to a son, Jim Bond, who was a “big, saddle-colored idiot”.

Quentin imagines a scene between Judith and young Charles, where she tells him he should leave town, that they’ll say he’s Henry’s son (so that he can deny is negro blood) and that she’ll raise the child herself. Quentin’s imagined scene ends with Judith telling Charles to call her “Aunt Judith.”

Charles defiantly stays, and two years later catches yellow fever. Judith devotes herself to nursing him back to health, and they both eventually die of the illness. Clytie stays on at Sutpen’s Hundred to raise Jim Bond herself.

We get another bit of a tease at the end of the chapter, with Shreve recounting Quentin’s visit to Sutpen’s Hundred with Miss Rosa, how Miss Rosa, though she hasn’t been there in over 40 years, knows that something’s different, that something is hiding there. When they went there, they found Jim Bond and Clytie, but Miss Rosa still knew someone else was there.

This section brings the story out of “town fable” and into reality for Quentin. Jim Bond is only a few years older than he is, and Quentin remembers, as a child, sneaking up to Sutpen’s mansion with his friends, daring each other to go into the house, and seeing Jim Bond. The story becomes less magical and mythic as it slides into the territory of Quentin’s actual memories.

The most interesting thing about this chapter is the relationship between Judith and young Charles. It’s hard to tell why she wanted to boy with her at Sutpen’s Hundred, why she wanted to raise him, and why she was so set on raising his son. There are two reasons. One being that she loved Charles Bon and wanted his son with her, since it would be the closest thing she’d have to having been married to him. The other is that she somehow discovered her true relationship to Bon.

Young Charles’ problem, other than being raised by two women who weren’t his mother, and being brought into a world where he didn’t even speak the language, is his issue with his race. While he was mostly white, the fact that there was any “negro” blood in him drove him to hate himself. He’d spend time in negro bars, but he’d end up getting into fights. He took a negro wife, but it seemed to be done more out of defiance than anything.

The Sutpen story has been brought up to the present time of the book. But there are still so many pieces to the puzzle.

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Jack/Claire… but not in a shipcest way

Apparently, my Jack/Claire obsession has caused some confusion for people with whom I chat about LOST. I guess because I ship couples so hardcore that it’s generally the most important thing to me on a show, people just assume that if I’m obsessed with a relationship between two characters, that means I want them to bang.

That so not what it is with Jack and Claire. I want them to reunite as brother and sister. I want them to have picnics and to get to know each other and for Jack to maybe beat up people who are mean to Claire and for Claire to try to set up Jack with the right girl and for maybe one of them to have to donate bone marrow to the other at some point in time.

As the final hours of LOST get knocked down week by week, I become increasingly nervous that I’m never going to get my Jack/Claire reunion. And now that Claire is batshit nuts, I’m pretty worried that said reunion is going to end in Jack having to put Claire down like Old Yeller. Before I wanted the reunion to happen in the “on island” reality, because I’m pretty confident the flashsideways reality will cease to be by the end of the season. But at this point, I don’t care if the reunion happens in the flashsideways. I just need the satisfaction of seeing it, even if it is blinked out of existence.

So, why am I so obsessed with them. Well, the obsession isn’t unique to LOST. I have a weird thing for long lost family storylines. I think back to the time when I was obsessed with Heroes (it’s really hard to actually believe there was a time when I was obsessed with Heroes), and the Claire/Nathan long lost daughter story was easily my favorite thing about the show. Despite the fact that they wasted some great opportunity there and hardly ever addressed the fact. But I still say the moment at the end of a season three episode (I can’t remember which one) where Nathan and Claire, who have been on the run together, decide to return to New York and fight back, was probably the best moment of the series.

There was also the ridiculous storyline in the last season of Ally McBeal where she found out she had a daughter. And, hey, oh my god, totally making the connection now as I type, that was Hayden Panetierre, too! Holy shit! Anyway, yeah, I say it was ridiculous, but that storyline totally HAD me.

I guess it goes back to my soap opera roots. Before I loved, or even really followed, primetime television, soap operas were what I knew. I’ve pretty much been on a steady diet of soaps since I came out of the womb. I’ve been growing up with long lost family members finding each other. Hey, Victoria is a Spaulding! (And she’s black, so it’s kind of like a Faulkner novel! No, Guiding Light, it really isn’t). Holy shit, Buzz is a alive! What’re ya gonna do, Harley and Frank? Whoa, Dinah is Vanessa and Ross’s daughter! And she grew up as a carny! Awesome!

But really, I can’t blame it all on the soaps. I’ve also been brought up on a steady diet of the dead coming back to life, and not in any mysterious island way, but just in a “wow, James Stenbeck is REALLY good at faking his death” way, and if that happened on LOST, I’d be pretty pissed.

There’s just something tremendously satisfying to me to see two troubled people find out that there’s someone else out there that they can count on, not just through circumstance, but through blood.

And speaking of soap operas…. I still maintain that Roger Thorpe is totally running the island.

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Faulkner TCM Alert

For those of you following Faulkner February, I just wanted to let you know that The Reivers will be on TCM on Saturday morning at 5pm as part of 31 Days of Oscar. The films stars Steve McQueen.

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Human Target, or how television made me think that Jackie Earl Haley is sexy

Okay, the post title is a little simplistic. I intend to talk about the overall awesomeness of Fox’s Human Target, not just the fact that it’s made me think that Jackie Earl Haley is sexy.

But, I know me. And I’m probably going to get massively derailed by that thought.

Anyhoo, I’ll start with the fact that Human Target stars both Mark Valley and Chi McBride. Which, I’m not gonna lie, made me really nervous to watch it. Not because I don’t love them, and not because I thought that a show they were doing would be bad. On the contrary. I was actually terrified that their presence, and then my watching it, would doom the show.

I’m cursed. Shows I love get canceled. Goodbye, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. So long, Freaks and Geeks. See you later, Eastwick. Oh, no. Wait. I won’t see you later. Because you got canceled.

I also happened to love with every fiber of my being Keen Eddie and Pushing Daisies, which starred Mark Valley and Chi McBride, respectively.

So, I was tentative going into it, and I’m still a little nervous about its chances. I was trying hard not to fall completely in love with. 20 minutes in I knew it was futile. This show had stolen my heart.

It doesn’t have the compelling narrative or amazing characters of,  say, Lost. But what it does, it does so damn well. It’s action movie-quality on a weekly television show. It provides an hour of plain old incredible fun, stuffed with snarky, sarcastic humor.

Some people have expressed surprise that this is the kind of thing I’m enjoying. These people clearly have not heard of my undying love for Wanted and Terminator Salvation.

And then there’s Oscar nominee Jackie Earl Haley, playing the role of all around badass Guerrero. Normally, not a particularly attractive man (though I won’t lie… I found him kind of attractive in Watchmen. Even without the mask). I don’t know what it is about Human Target that makes him so sexy. It might be the fact that he has hair, or his uber nerdy glasses, or the fact that he tells people he’ll take a beating, but then he’ll hunt them down and kill them in their sleep.

Is that weird? I think that might be a little weird.

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Absalom, Absalom! Pages 107-140

I’ve decided to do this in chapters instead of 50 page chunks because, unlike the other books I’ve read so far, the chapters are all distinctly about separate things, so it doesn’t flow as well to cut out in the middle of a chapter. And some days I just don’t have time to read 80 pages just so that I can finish both chapters.

Miss Rosa has finally picked Quentin up for their mysterious after-dark errand, so this section is narrated by her. We get yet another view of Henry’s slaying of Charles Bon. Since Miss Rosa was actually alive at the time, we can assume it’s more factual than Mr. Compson’s imaginings. But she wasn’t there during the actual murder, so tells it mostly from the point when she arrived.

Rosa arrives at the house after being summoned by Wash Jones – who lived with his granddaughter on Sutpen’s property – after Bon has already been killed and Henry has already fled. She’s met inside the house by Clytie, Sutpen’s eldest daughter, by a slave woman. Rosa dislikes Clytie intensely. She tells stories about how she would have to play alongside her with Judith and Henry – who both seemed to be completely aware that Clytie was their sister and had no problem with it. Rosa sees Sutpen completely in Clytie. Rosa tries to run up the stairs to the room where Judith is with Bon’s body, but Clytie stops her, grabbing her wrist and saying, “Don’t go up there, Rosa.” Rosa’s pretty pissed about the whole situation, not least of which a slave girl giving her orders, and an EPIC staredown ensues before Judith comes out and calls it off.

Rosa is disturbed by Judith’s calm. She merely says, “Yes, Rosa?” as if it’s any other day and tells Clytie to prepare more food for dinner.

Jones and another white man take a few hours to build a coffin and then the put Bon in it, and they and the three girls carry him out to be buried. Rosa never once sees Bon, alive or dead, and has a difficult time even comprehending the notion of him now that she’s carrying his body off to be buried.

Judith continues to show no emotion over the murder, even after Rosa moves into the house. The only indication she give that she even cares is when she goes out to clear off the grave.

Judith, Rosa, and Clytie then live together in the house, alone, working hard to keep the house resembling something Sutpen could come home to. Rosa remembers the time as being a blur, the there was never any joy nor particular friendship between the three women. They were just doing what they had to survive.

Sutpen finally returns. He greets Judith with his gruff form of affection (a kiss to the forehead) which she accepts stiffly. They have a quick four sentence exchange about Henry and Bon, and Judith finally bursts into tears. But as soon as they appear, they’re gone. Sutpen then greets Clytie. However, he doesn’t recognize Rosa. Judith has to remind him of who she is.

The four live together not too unlike the way the three women lived together before Sutpen’s return for several months. Then, one afternoon, while in the garden, Rosa looks up to see Sutpen looking at her, not with love, but as though he’s seeing her for the first time. He proposes later that night, in front of Judith and Clytie, and Rosa accepts.

Nothing happens for a long while, Rosa thinking that Sutpen wouldn’t even be sad if she left. Then he insults her honor with his request that she bear him a child before they marry. The insult leads her to quit the mansion and return to her home in town, where she has to depend on the food she steals from her neighbors to live.  She doesn’t think about Sutpen again until she’s told of his death.

At this point Quentin kind of zones out because he, predictably, is stuck on the idea of Henry and Judith, brother and sister. He imagines the scene of Henry rushing into Judith’s room, her still in her underthings, telling her she can’t marry Bon because he’s killed him. This ties into Quentin’s feelings in The Sound and the Fury, his desire to keep Caddy from marrying, his attempt to “save” and take her away where only he can have her by telling his father they’ve committed incest.

So, Quentin’s mind is wrapped up in that little thing, so he has to have Miss Rosa repeat the last thing she said. Which is that there’s something hiding at Sutpen’s Hundred.

DUN DUN DUN.

With that last bit of info, the story enters a new phase. Until this point, we’ve felt that we’re hearing a story that has long since finished. But now we know that there’s more to it, more than the townspeople know by legend, and that we’re going to get to see how the story really ends.

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