A Good Yarn

Monday, October 22, 2007

I'm Back!

And I'll bet most of you didn't even know that I was gone. I feel sort of strange announcing on the internet "Hey, world! I'm going to be gone for a few days, so my house will be empty. Come on over and help yourself to anything you want." So, sorry for no warnings about my absence.

Before I left, I got a chance to see David Sedaris again. This was one of his best "readings" ever. He just seemed really relaxed and happy and the stuff he read was highly entertaining, of course. If you haven't read any of his books, I'll once again urge you to pick one up. Or better yet, get a book on tape so you can hear his words as they should be - spoken by the author.

I went to Utah for work. It was a nice, uneventful trip. I got a little bit of knitting done because we flew into Vegas and had a bit of a drive to Utah and back. I worked on the ribbed sweater for Michael, so it looks exactly the same as the front and I won't bore you with a picture.

I also had time to read on the plane, so I finished up this mystery:

It's the latest in the V.I. Warshawski series. If you haven't read this series, it's about a Chicago private detective named Victoria, but known as V.I. She's a tough lady from the South Side who went to college and then law school and eventually became a private investigator. She has a fondness for expensive shoes. She lives upstairs from an elderly gentleman who sort of watches over her and they share ownership of two dogs. I really like the character and the series. Unlike a lot of mystery series, this one hasn't deteriorated over time, in my opinion. Paretsky always includes some sharply pointed political aspects to her books and this one is no different. In this one, V.I. gets roped into coaching the girls' basketball team at her old high school when her old coach gets ill. She starts looking for corporate donations to pay for a real coach, including meeting with the family owners of "By-Smart", clearly based on the Waltons and Wal-Mart. She ends up getting tangled up in the family's internal squabbles and a murder investigation. Paretsky also explores the issues of immigration, low wages, health insurance coverage and teenage pregnancy. If you like a good mystery with a liberal bent, I'd recommend this one.

We spent the last night in Vegas because we had an early morning flight, so I got to have dinner at Spago in Caesar's Palace. Oh, fancy! Everyone really enjoyed their dinners. I had a blue-cheese encrusted steak with fingerling potatoes. For dessert, I had a sampler platter, so I got to try the strawberries with a vanilla custard, peach melba, a mocha cake ala mode and a creme brulee. I just love to try little bits of different things. If you're in Vegas and have some money to drop for dinner, I would highly recommend Spago.

When I got back, I had tickets for a sneak preview of this movie:

One of my favorite movies of the year!! Ryan Gosling plays Lars, a guy from Wisconsin who cannot connect with other people, not even his brother and sister-in-law. They live in his childhood home while Lars lives in the garage. One day at work, one of Lars' co-workers shows him a website selling real dolls - sex dolls that are very lifelike. Lars orders one and when it arrives, he's convinced it's a real woman named Bianca who he met on the internet. Lars' family and everyone in town treat Bianca like a real woman because they're trying to help Lars. This of course leads to some really funny scenes, where the ridiculousness of this big doll being treated as a person is shown. But the film has so much heart. You just so want to join the town in taking care of Lars. Gosling does just an amazing job in the film. He's a man of few words, but a lot of intense emotions. Gosling conveys so much with his facial expressions and his body language. The rest of the cast is superb also. I was just blown away by the actor who plays Lars' brother, Paul Schneider. He's got his own complicated feelings about Lars and Bianca and their family and childhood and he also conveys so much through his face. I can't wait to see this guy in more films. I also just loved all the little details in the film - it doesn't lay things out explicitly, but it trusts the audience that they're going to be able to connect the dots and figure things out. I just loved this little film and I hope it gets a wide audience.

I've already seen three Lead Actor Oscar contenders (Ryan Gosling, George Clooney and Emile Hirsch) and it's only October. It's going to be another hard year to chose a winner.

This weekend also kicked off the new season of Talk Cinema over at the Edina Theater. The first selection was this:

It's a remake of an earlier film and stage play. Michael Caine plays a successful thriller writer living in an English mansion that looks like a normal country mansion on the outside, but inside is all poured concrete and stainless steel - all the furniture is highly modern and sparse and he has all manner of mechanized devices - a fishtank that slide up and down, lights and music that chance with a push of a button, an open elevator that takes you between floors. Jude Law plays an unsuccessful actor who is having an affair with Michael Caine's wife. He comes to Caine's house to plead his girlfriend's case for a divorce. In the original version of the film, Michael Caine played the younger man and Laurence Olivier played the older man. I don't want to go into too much detail, but the two men begin a series of battles of wit with each other. You get the feeling they aren't even really battling over the woman, but rather for intellectual supremecy over the other. The film is written by Harold Pinter and directed by Kenneth Branagh. It is highly stylized, both in writing and in look. The language is snappy and quick, and I especially enjoyed the first scenes, when the two men are meeting each other for the first time and sizing each other up. It's quite funny, but the humor almost disappears by the end of the film. I absolutely loved the look of the film too - all reflections and odd camera angles and extreme close ups. It is meant to be over the top, I think, and it worked for me, but my friend felt like it went too far. Overall, I didn't care of the movie much, though. As the film went on, each of the men got nastier and nastier and there are a number of twists and turns. For me, by the end, I really didn't care what happened to these men and I couldn't invest in what was happening on screen, because I felt like it could all be just a trick anyway. So, overall I'd say it was nice to look at and listen to, but I can't really recommend it.

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