Archive for March 2012

On the Many Offensive Reviews of The Hunger Games



Experiencing a tv show or movie a week later than everyone else has its advantages. You meet a work after the hype cycle deflates.

In the case of The Hunger Games, the early reviews tempered my (admittedly stratospheric) expectations. End result: true love was ever in my favor.

Unfortunately, the hype cycle didn't totally pass me by. In fact, I was more than a little flummoxed to see so much attention paid to something that I personally adore. It's not like when a band goes mainstream, as they've usually changed their sound by the time that happens. A TV show either reboots or evolves. A novel (or film), on the other hand, remains in-state forever (George Lucas notwithstanding).

Being a lifetime geek-of-all-trades, I'm not so accustomed to so much attention being paid to something I love for what it is. These circumstances must surround every over-hyped event, but it's the first time it's happened with something I love.

And I'm still surprised how much ugliness that attention inspires. The racism around the casting of Rue and Cinna, the misogyny from even the most blue-striped reviewers, the total lack of interest in understanding why a phenomenon becomes a phenomenon. The whole "I don't care what statistics you show me, I don't want to read this book, therefore it must be a romance, read by evil female tweens."

It's difficult to engage with the speakers of these words, because all evidence to the contrary exists in the text. Rue's dark-skinned, the story's a brutal dystopian action thriller, and Katniss is a goddamn superhero who's only interested in romance as a tool to help her win this most gory of reality shows. Again, all in the text (and by text, I mean both the movie and the novel).

I'm not saying you have to like the Hunger Games. Plenty of people hated the novels, for legitimate reasons (too much violence and brutality, mainly). But if, as a reviewer, you choose to attack the fans rather than explicate why it's a good or bad movie, I wish that you find a swarm of tracker-jackers in your bed.

Finally, after reading so much carping about world-building, about neutered violence, about Twilight for some reason I've yet to understand, I'm left with just one question. Does anyone really have a problem with staring at Jennifer Lawrence's face for 2.5 hours?

The Good Wife in Review: Blue Ribbon Panel, or, The Ballad of Alicia vs. Diane

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We open with a delightfully tentative tete-a-tete between the OTP of this show: Alicia and Kalinda. Things may not be "tequila shots and heart-to-hearts" just yet, but the episode confirms that they're back together, and when things get better, they'll be better that ever. Both have a firmer understanding of what they mean to each other this time.

So when Lana Delaney attempts to assert some sort of alpha relationship with Kalinda, witness Alicia's claws:


(credit to

Please feel free to offer captions for that gif. But why invent shipper-y things when we have canon: "You got a little hot in there." But I digress...

Every time Alicia interrogates Kalinda, we know she's not just checking into K's finances. She's testing whether this relationship can work in any way that doesn't equate total entropy. Diane is placed at the center of this right at the start, just as she's placed at the center of Alicia's other big fight this episode: against the white patriarchy.

"I'm the woman." "I'm the black!"

It's so easy to be lost in admiration for our beloved Diane Lockhart that one can be forgiven for failing to notice how much she's changed. Alicia's not much younger than her, but she's still got some level of optimism about the law.

It has to be said, however, how quickly Alicia's bent her moral code. It's taken 30 years for Diane to become hardened, and Alicia's nearly there after just 3. It's fair to say that Diane's life has never been thrown as helter-skelter as Alicia's, but no one would say she isn't smart (except for the bizarre vaudeville threesome of Julius/David/Eli, obviously).

As a result, it's great to see Alicia (very nearly almost) stand up for something. But you can see the wheels turning in her head; she's almost ready to throw Peter to the wolves. Figuring out what's holding her back is more interesting than figuring out why she didn't lay down justice on Matthew Perry's head.

I figure that whatever stubborn thread prevents her from screwing Peter is also making her myopically insane about that old house. Even the flashbacks demonstrate that the happy moments buckle under the weight of the trauma...the good things live in memory, while the bad live on in every movement, every day. She may have forgiven Peter, but she can't change the past.

I'd like to think her obsession with the house is some last-ditch attempt to figure out who she was. We know (and Kalinda knows) that her new self is better. That said, I'm happy to see a good Jackie smack-down or three before Alicia realizes that.


-An officer named Zimmerman unlawfully kills a man for no reason other than the fact that he's black. The Good Wife oracle strikes again, this time far too close for comfort.

-Seriously guys, a lot of other stuff happened, and it was mostly amazing. I can only reiterate that I don't do recaps.

Poem of the Day: Adrienne Rich's "Diving into the Wreck"

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Good night, Adrienne Rich. To my sadness, I didn't know you were still alive.

Perhaps it's generational: the assumption that all the poets I studied and loved in school are long passed. Like many of the great female poets of the mid-century, Rich was packaged in my mind with the Great Suicides - Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Sara Teasdale. Her death of natural cause seems a triumph over her generation.

That she was alive meant the possibility of two-way conversation. She spoke to me, and I assumed that was it. Now this really is it; this one-way road of reading and appreciating and loving, with no chance of extending the conversation passed a monologue.

There really is a difference between how we read the dead and how we read the living. But that's a blog post for another day.

For now, one of my favorite works: "Diving into the Wreck" Think about which image stick most strongly in your mind.

"Diving into the Wreck" by Adrienne Rich

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and away into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear


The End of Civilization is Nigh: The Tacocopter

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I don't even know what to say.

A Silicon Valley startup has developed a product that effectively combines all that is wrong with America (gas guzzlers, killer robots, total laziness) with that which is oh, so right: the mighty taco.

There's just one problem: the FAA.

The Huffpost had a chat with one of the founders of the company, which resulted in this delightful quote:

"Current U.S. FAA regulations prevent ... using UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, like drones] for commercial purposes at the moment," Simpson said over Gchat. "Honestly I think it's not totally unreasonable to regulate something as potentially dangerous as having flying robots slinging tacos over people's heads ... [O]n the other hand, it's a little bit ironic that that's the case in a country where you can be killed by drone with no judicial review."

Oh the benevolence of airlifting tacos. Nonetheless, the issue of using drones for friendlier purpose isn't the real problem. I don't even want to speculate about how much energy the tacocopter uses as it buzzes around, saving people the trouble of walking half a mile to the nearest taqueria.

On the plus side, this technology has real potential to help people. On the other hand, it could be what leads society to this:


See also: The pizza vending machine.

The Real MVP of The Godfather Movies: John Cazale as Fredo Corleone

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John Cazale starred in five films, all nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, and three winners. As batting averages go, not even his fiancée before his early death, Meryl Streep, can boast of such a hot ratio (had they had the chance to procreate, one can but assume that their kids would have like 30 Academy Awards by the age of 20).

But I come not to praise Cazale in totality, I come to talk of Fredo, perhaps the most important character in the Corleone family, who sets all kinds of events in motion.

He sticks out like a sore thumb from the rest of his family, with none of the charm of Michael, the brains of Vito, the certainty of Connie, or even the brute force of Sonny. In pretty much every way possible, Fredo's pathetic.

His conviction that he's not such a loser, and his many attempts to mask that basic fact, are what make him such a compelling character. We know that his death is the ultimate result of his total weakness, and we still almost forgive him for it.

For as Fredo becomes more helpless, Michael becomes more brutal. Fredo's punished, ultimately, for putting himself first. But what does Michael do? He claims to act in defense of the family, but as time goes on, that justification rings more and more hollow. Michael, too, acts only in his own regard, in defense of his own pride.

In one moment, Fredo loses his life, but Michael loses everything else. Poor Fredo, despite being a complete waste of a human being, nonetheless precipitates Michael's total conversion to darkness.

Hot Trailer: Cosmopolis

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I have but one thing to say: David Cronenberg directing a novel by Don Delillo. I know, right? I haven't actually read Cosmopolis, but unlike most of his work, it sounds like there's nary a baseball to be seen:

It is an April day in the year 2000 and an era is about to end. The booming times of market optimism -- when the culture boiled with money and corporations seemed more vital and influential than governments -- are poised to crash. Eric Packer, a billionaire asset manager at age twenty-eight, emerges from his penthouse triplex and settles into his lavishly customized white stretch limousine. Today he is a man with two missions: to pursue a cataclysmic bet against the yen and to get a haircut across town. Stalled in traffic by a presidential motorcade, a music idol's funeral, and a violent political demonstration, Eric receives a string of visitors -- experts on security, technology, currency, finance, and a few sexual partners -- as the limo sputters toward an increasingly uncertain future. (via Goodreads)

So not even a little topical, then.

I've often thought that Delillo's as un-filmable as David Foster Wallace, but I'm not against people trying. And if anyone can put a fresh (and weird) spin on the (already weird)novel, it's Cronenberg. Then again, it's got R-Patz in it, who's mostly proved to be box office poison outside of a pair of YA series. But it's also got Samantha Morton, Juliette Binoche and Paul Giamatti?

Enjoy the trailer, at any rate!

Hot Trailer: Hemingway and Gelhorn

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If you can get past the existential oddness of Clive Owen as Big Papa, (and I'm pretty sure I can, though Clive Owen looks more like the manifestation of Captain Haddock than Hemingway), this movie has a 72% chance of my loving it.

Martha Gelhorn was always one of my favorite women of the Lost Generation (essentially consigned to history as one of Hemingway's long-suffering wives, she's a spectacular writer in her own right).

The trailer doesn't tell us to much about the film, but you can definitely color me intrigued. There's a suggestion that the tale is told from Gelhorn's perspective, which would make it far more interesting than if it were told from Ernest's voice.

Will this be a return to form for Nicole Kidman? One can only hope.


The Good Wife In Review: "Gloves Come Off", or, Diane Lockhart Wins At Everything



This episode featured the most important thing to happen in this year of The Good Wife: the restoration of my beloved Alicia/Kalinda. But not without a red herring, of course. Kalinda poured her heart into that bottle of beer, and Alicia smashed it onto the floor, along with my heart and soul.

Alicia's searching for a home, but at last, she finds Kalinda instead. (Which may or may not have resulted in my jumping feverishly upon the couch like a small child).


I can but hope this puts an end to a storyline I'd describe loosely as "Alicia's head is spinning out of control", and she's allowed to return to some level of confidence.

It's become apparent that many of the headwinds in Alicia's life have been caused by a lack of choice; she couldn't choose the direction of her marriage, she couldn't choose her friendships in a way that suited her, she couldn't choose to continue a torrid affair that brought her some amount of pleasure.

Having financial freedom will, at a base level, allow her some level of choice. The freedom to choose where you live is freedom indeed. And that freedom, that restoration of a certain amount of control, allows Alicia to make another choice (the best choice): letting Kalinda back into her life.


Contrast with Diane, who's nothing but the amalgamation of choices well-made. Importantly, they're not the right choices for some false ideal of womanhood, but the right choices for her. When she pulls out her little black iPhone for a booty call, we cheer, for she deserves real lovin' from real men.

Even so, it's becoming so tense, watching these two very different women stand in the same room as each other, recognizing each other as both equals and opposites. When Diane tells Alicia off, you have to know that on some level she's proud of Alicia, that Alicia's finally gotten tough and taken control of her life.

And because Diane's not a hater, she recognizes Alicia as her equal, and gives her the damned raise. Well done, Alicia. Harvard Business Review would be proud (and so, I assume, is Canning).


-As always, brief interactions between Cary and Alicia set the heart aflutter. A weirder, truer friendship has never been seen on television.

-Oh, Canning, and his fictional chauffeurs.

-I for one hope that Diane doesn't make a choice between Kurt and Jack. She deserves all the ruggedly hot men she can get her hands on.

-Tammy...still sucks. Though she seems to be the catalyst that brought Alicia back to Kalinda, so I can't hate her too much. Add to the fact that she uttered the following sentence aloud: "Will never not responds." So much grammatical hate. Also she says "It wasn't over between Will and I." So much more hate. Alicia, throw a book at that woman. Preferably a guide to grammatical English.

-Whoever staged the direction of this scene is my absolute hero:


The Last Supper symbolism isn't lost on me. Does this mean that David Lee is Mary Magdalene?

Pretty Abandoned Things: Buzludzha in Bulgaria

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An intrepid photographer named Timothy Allen recently ventured into the abandoned remains of Buzludzha in Bulgaria, an enormous building designed to be a glorious monument to the success of communism. Like Communism, this too did pass. You should read his full account of his discovery here (and all images are credited to him, and there are MANY many more).

In better days, Buzludzha resembled something created by aliens rather than man:


And now, this is all that remains, the perfect evil lair for a Bond film:


Even indoors, the whole experience seems more evocative of the intergalactic than the earthly communistic:


Time did its work, however, changing this:


Into this:


(I do love it, it's all my time travel fantasies come true, the sort that feature in all my favorite classic Doctor Who episodes. But I digress).

Buzludzha remains abandoned due to ideological issues. The Bulgarian Socialist Party have taken control of the building, but haven't found a use for it (there's little point in pretending that a sidelined party has the right (or the money) to make such an extravagant statement as restoring the building).

And so it stands, derelict, a concrete reminder of a very peculiar point in human history, when a sort of madness overtook central Europe for the better part of a century. What will future generations think of such a useless monument, built to an enormous scale despite a total lack of proximity to human beings?

Go forth to Timothy Allen's original post, and make sure and read through the comments thread.

Hot Trailer: On the Road



Well, folks, they've made On the Road into a movie, and it looks pretty fabulous (what an insane cast! All the young 'uns and Viggo Mortenson too! And Amy Adams, and Kirsten Dunst, apart from the pretty folks in the picture above).

The whole thing could turn out to be a disaster, but I'm hopeful since it's got the same creative team as The Motorcycle Diaries, director Walter Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera.

Check it out for yourself (treat yo' self!):

On the road - Official trailer - (HD 1080p) by MK2diffusion

A Few Thoughts On the Kony Viral Whatever, or, Changing Your Facebook Status Catches Dictators!

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They say a picture (such as the one above) is worth a thousand words. And yet, few things are as well said as 140 characters of Teju Cole. "The world is nothing but a problem to be solved by enthusiasm."

And hipster white dudes! We must all celebrate the entrenchment of heinous stereotypes because, hey, we didn't know there were child soldiers in Africa. And not just any country in Africa, by the way, but obviously the conditions are exactly the same throughout the whole dark continent.

Creating a false narrative (and therefore a false consciousness) will create lasting barriers to effective action from other individuals and organizations.

And by the way, guys, as Visible Children points out, Invisible Children's finances are public:

Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production.

Even Foreign Affairs takes umbrage with IC's myopia, stating that it:

“manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.”

In other words, it's racist.

I leave you with Cole's rather provocative (and infinitely less sarcastic) 7 thoughts on the banality of sentimentality.


Hope, Unease and Disappointment in Forgotten Brooklyn: She's Gotta Have It



This post was intended to resurrect my long dormant Filling the Gaps series, but as sometimes (often) happens, a film moves me to consider more than its parts, or even the sum of its parts.

In She's Gotta Have It, Spike Lee provides us with a time capsule of a time when independent African-American film burst into the mainstream, providing hope for a whole new type of cinematic experience, only to surrender to racial stereotyping, insidious in the works of Tyler Perry, and backward in the case of The Help.

Spike Lee cannot have predicted the consequences of this film. In creating an almost Woody Allen-esque psychological portrait or urbane, educated, professional African-Americans in Brooklyn, he exposed Brooklyn to the masses. Now guess who can't afford to live in Brooklyn Heights anymore? Middle-class African-Americans. He set out to show America that there's a place in where blacks aren't gangbangers or drug dealers, but poets, artists, dancers and philosophers. It worked.

For someone who's living smack in the middle of the one-mile radius in which Lee filmed, his loving panoramas of Fort Greene, the Brooklyn Bridge and Jay Street provide a view into what now seems like a parallel universe. There are no white people on the streets of She's Gotta Have It. There are few black people in DUMBO today.

So in between all the grand moments of "hey, that's my street!" and "hey, that's my office!", and "hey, the waterfront doesn't have boats anymore!", watching this film also created a pyschological unease. That was 1986. This is 2012. In just over 25 years, Brooklyn has seen one of the most dramatic demographic shifts of anywhere in the country.

But since Lee could never have known what would follow, it leaves us to look at the movie itself, which is as brilliant, moving, and as ahead of its time as so many have stated. He claims he didn't set out to create a feminist film, and yet that's what we're left with. Nola and her many lovers, never disguising her lifestyle to any of them, unwilling to apologize for taking pleasure in her sexuality.


Each lover approaches Nola's lifestyle as a "disease," a mental ailment that she needs to cured of, for a woman that doesn't want to settle down must surely be unnatural. Of course, this is a comedy, so each man's approach to curing her is markedly different. The one who seems most sympathetic throughout the movie does punish her most brutally in the film, in a manner that I'm not convinced fits into the movie.

If you haven't seen She's Gotta Have It, make sure you do. It's a wonderful film for many reasons, not least it's gender and racial politics. It's also incredibly funny.





The Good Wife in Review: "After the Fall," or "The Merry Wives of Gardner"



It's been a few weeks since I've jumped off the Good Wife blogging train, and I've missed you all dearly! Admittedly, it's harder to find the motivation to write during these "transitional" episodes, which seem more concerned with setting up future drama than with driving the story along in themselves.

I recently connected with another superfan, the wonderful writer of Lockhart Gardner. She matches my irrational love of all things Kalinda with an irrational love of all things Gardner, so we have a grand ol' time. Like Will's sisters, when Kalinda and Will are in scenes together, our heads explode (and probably the neighbors' as well, what with all the disconnected screeching. Anyway...).

Which allows me to neatly segue into the events of this episode, which might be neatly retitled The Merry Wives of Gardner. Not sure who's Falstaff in this situation, but I digress.

Once again, the episode was pretty Alicia-free, which makes me slightly concerned for the narrative of the show. Love or her hate her (and those who hate her, I know you're out there, but I really don't get it), the show's definitely about her. So while it's nice to see Will's domestic life for a change, it's a bit jarring, given that the plotline doesn't really tie back in to the story at large. And Will? Just go backpacking. No one said 6 months off means 6 months SITTING IN YOUR AWESOME-SAUCE APARTMENT.

Alicia spent most of her time this episode taking a backseat to Caitlin, which, first of all, EWWW CAITLIN, and second of all, really? Alicia's never been prone to professional jealousy (see: wonderful relationship with Cary in season 1), so it's weird that it's manifesting with Caitlin, especially given that she KNOWS Caitlin's gotten where she is with family connections. Not to say that Caitlin's incompetent, but David Lee transparently intervenes on her behalf. I look forward to finding out what Faustian bargain she's been forced to make with him in regards to the imminent political coup of extreme skullduggery and viewer joy.

This show's never more enjoyable than when it takes on office politics. It certainly helps that David Lee and Julius are such well-rounded characters, even though we can never tell exactly what they're planning next. In many ways, Eli's much more predictable in his behavior, so I'm not sure he's gonna land on top of this little play. We're starting to see a childish side to his character that I'm enjoying, as he scolds Peter and tries, yet again, to play silly power games with Diane.

I suppose what makes the whole thing so wonderful's that we know, deep in our hearts, that any number of David Lees, Julius's and Eli's still can't compete with one amazing Diane Lockhart. Though the writers will undoubtedly attempt to convince us (me) otherwise.


Oh Cary. There goes that moral higher ground, eh? I've been saddened by how ADA Pine's been repeatedly passed over, as she's clearly the most competent, driven person in the state's attorney's office. I smell a coup in the office, coming from her direction. She's not dumb enough to fall for Wendy's transparent manipulations, and she's dangerous. Cary's building a laundry list of enemies from women he used to fancy...apart from Kalinda, of course.

As for Peter? Was anyone even slightly surprised at his turn away from keeping his hands clean? Peter's fundamentally a party politician. When he behaves otherwise, it's because he knows that decision still serves himself. It's a slippery slope: I can only hope we get to bear witness to a whole shitload of Peter getting his hands dirty.

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