Sunday, June 29, 2008

May Round-up

Another month almost done, and another round-up not done. This is going to be a little sloppier than usual, as I'm just going to ramble...

Movies Seen: Sixteen, with three in a theater. For some reason, I included two of those, "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and "Starting Out in the Evening" last time. Not sure how that happened. Those were also the best DVDs I watched in May, and since I already talked about them in last month's round-up, let's move on to the theatrical releases...

First up was the documentary "Watch Horror Films: Keep America Strong" which was about the local production of "Creature Features" and its hosts, Bob Wilkins and John Stanley. It was a gas seeing clips from that old show, and brought back fond memories of my youth. The showing was a benefit for Bob Wilkins, who has Alzheimer's, and his wife was there along with John Stanley and some of the people who made the film. I'm glad I was able to make it.

The second theatrical experience was "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which I already talked about here. Which leaves "Sex and the City," the opening night experience of which I talked briefly about here, but I didn't really talk about the movie. And now so much time has gone by, and I've had so many conversations about it, that I actually don't really feel like writing something that is thought out and composed. So I'll just break it down into lazy writer's bullet points. But be warned, there are spoilers ahead.

* I found it amusing how many people were utterly surprised by the movie's amazing opening weekend numbers. I knew the minute the movie was announced it was going to be huge. It came at just the right time, with the show gaining new fans in its syndication, and enough time had passed after the series finale to build up anticipation. There's nothing shocking about the fact that, yes, women will go see movies in record droves when there's something aimed specifically at them. That said, I don't see anything like this happening again, at least nothing quite so large...but I hope it sends a message that blockbusters can be made out of more than goddamn comic books.

* I was kind of shocked by many of the reviews, and how incredibly sexist some of them were. I mean, look at the caricature that accompanies the New Yorker review. Seriously?

* Which isn't to say I think the movie is beyond criticism. In fact, I think most of it is bloody awful. But when reviews start to harp on how the show is totally unrealistic, and is superficial, or basking in the glory of consumerist culture, all I can say is, get a grip. The show is and always was a fairy tale. As for real life women taking the thing seriously, and thinking they live lives that are just like the "Sex and the City" girls', all I can say is, they're wrong. But I can no sooner blame the movie for that than I can blame something like "Superman" for some kid jumping off a garage roof because he thinks he can fly.

* Which leads to one of the articles I thought hit the nail on the head as far as how the movie fits into the summer blockbuster realm. The women are superheroes!

I especially like this quote:
Pointing out that Carrie could never afford her apartment, let alone her wardrobe, is about as useful as questioning Robert Downey Jr.'s ability to create cold fusion in a cave in Afghanistan — it misses the point of the movie entirely. Why is it okay for Iron Man to collect expensive cars but materialistic for Carrie to collect shoes? Surely her carbon footprint is the smaller of the two.
Amen, sister.

* As for the movie itself, I can understand why it felt the need to, once again, put us all through a Carrie and Big break-up. Whether you like Big or not, or whether you think they belong together or not, you have to face the fact that the show was always about them. Even in seasons where Big wasn't so, well, big, he was still the man that had the biggest influence on Carrie's life. So they had to take that relationship, and recycle it for the movie for the (few) people who were coming into the story cold. I suppose they had hopes that the movie could stand alone, (which just isn't true), so once again we have Carrie and Big crashing and burning. The movie is the show in microcosm. But for fans of the show, who had their fairy tale ending with the series finale, this is about as entertaining as a dealing with a real friend who keeps breaking up and getting back together with the same guy over and over again. Most of the movie is downright depressing, with Carrie dealing with her heartbreak, picking up the pieces, and finding herself again...only to TAKE BIG BACK IN THE END. Now, I have always been on the pro-Carrie and Big side, but this? Was too much. The only way that decision could have sat well with me was if they decided NOT to get married, and just live happily ever after as they had been for the years between the series and movie. But no. Apparently marriage is the end all and be all of female existence. (Unless your name is Samantha, in which case, keep doing what you're doing. But get a dog to fill some of the inevitable void. And also? Don't you dare get fat!)

* Finally, if your husband cheats on you? You should take him back. At least that's what the Miranda storyline was telling us. Once again, Miranda seemed to get the short end of the stick. Her character has always had the worst experiences in the show, like she was being punished for something. (Even in the series finale, everyone got a happy ending, while Miranda was stuck in Brooklyn bathing her senile mother-in-law.)

* Ultimately, I don't fault the movie for being superficial or "unrealistic." But I do fault it for sending out some pretty fucked up messages about love and marriage...and let's not even mention the insulting "Mammy"-like character created for Jennifer Hudson.

Books Read: Three. I tried once again to stick to my no new books rules, and succeeded with two of them. The first was "Girlbomb" by Janice Erlbaum, which was given to me by a friend a long time ago. It was an engrossing memoir about a teenage girl's years living in shelters and group homes. But memoirs are a dime a dozen these days, and while I don't think this one necessarily has the taint of lies that some many seem to do, it just wasn't anything extraordinary. But I do admire the writer for up and leaving her home when she was so young (her mother had an abusive boyfriend that she kept taking back, until Erlbaum couldn't take it anymore, and left) but the admiration for her fades as she gets older and turns into kind of jerk.

I broke my rule with the month's second book, which was a direct result of my reading Stephen King's "Cell" in April. I was eager to recapture that engrossing experience, so I bought "Lisey's Story." And it was far from engrossing. It was a chore to get through. It's less of an outright genre story than many of King's books, but it felt like he just couldn't allow himself to go with straight dramatic fiction, and had to throw in a fantastic element that was, to me, the most annoying aspect of the book. Add to it the fact that it was seemingly a million pages long, and filled with some really uncomfortable moments of sadistic violence towards the titular character, and it was not the enjoyable and riveting experience reading "Cell" was. But at least it kicked my desire for more King books. For now, anyway.

Lastly was "The Reader" by Bernard Schlink, which has been sitting on my to-read shelf for so long, I have no idea how it got there. I read it in a day. It was great.

Fancy Dinners Out: None. Unless you count the Cheesecake Factory, which I personally don't think should ever be equated with "fine dining." Just why is that place such an attraction, anyway? The one in Macy's here is always, ALWAYS, crowded.

Live Shows Seen: None, alas.

Shoes Bought: Two pair, on sale at Macy's. These Steve Maddens, in red--cute, and surprisingly comfortable. And these totally awesome heels in blue; they have bows AND jewels. What's not to love?

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