Happy Two Thousand and Sex! All the staff and volunteers at Sunshine Jen would like to wish all our readers and commentators a very happy new year with lots of good quality sex (or whatever rocks your boat) in O-sex.
Bye bye 2005, bye bye. Fly off into that sunset called the past. Go hang out with your buddy, 2004.
As 05 ends, we wanted to take a few thousand words to sort through our culture vulture files and pay tribute to some stuff and nonsense that passed through the old retinas in the past year.
Some of these films and books came out before 2005, but the Sunshine Jen culture vulture staff experienced them in 2005, so they are going on the 05 list. Why should year end lists be only about the new and the exciting? Sometimes, the little bit older is just fine. Besides, we all grew a little bit older in the last year.
Redcat, the performance space in the basement of the Disney Hall downtown, presented a new print of India Song in October. I have only seen this 1975 Marguerite Duras film in art houses in New York. It has never been released on video or DVD. In French with English subtitles, the words of this film float in the hot incense-filled air of India as we learn the story of Anne-Marie Stretter (embodied beautifully by Delphine Seyrig). Every time I see this film I see something new in it and walk out of the theatre with a big smile on my face. This is one of my favorite films of all time.
Good Night, and Good Luck
George Clooney, George Clooney, George Clooney. He is such a beautiful man even in horn rimmed glasses and a wife-beater shirt showing through his white shirt. He has made an intelligent film for adults by dramatizing Edward R. Murrow's standing up to Joseph McCarthy. David Strathairn does not embody Murrow, but plays him as a classic hero with dignity, empathy, and (most importantly) humanity. His Murrow teaches us that in times of chaos, calmness is essential, and that thoughts and words do have value even in the world of television.
I liked the book better than the movie. It's such an easy thing to say. The book gave us such a beautiful interior world. However, I do like the movie. First of all, I want Claire Danes to play me in the movie about my life. Second, I want Steve Martin to play me but older. Third, I want Jason Schwartzman to just show up because he is always good, and in this film, he, like a younger Steve Martin, is a wild and crazy guy. This film desperately wants to be simple but finds that so much in the simple is remarkably complex.
I really dig Transporter 2 or a hundred and one uses for a garden hose in close quarters combat. Not only can Jason Statham(as transporter Frank Martin) kick serious ass, but he can do a bit of acting. Throw in a lethal airborne virus, and I was thrilled. The last line of the film, spoken by the Transporter, is 'I'm listening'. What can I say; he made my modern girl sensibility go pitter-pat.
Yep. Another film about a writer. This time, it's Truman Capote writing In Cold Blood. Philip Seymour Hoffman is all that everyone says he is and flies off the screen at you. Never has artistic egotism been so much fun, but Catherine Keener as Harper Lee (she wrote that book about the girl and the bird) grounds the proceedings. It's a great story about how obsessions can consume a writer.
Walk the Line
Joaquin Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix, Joaquin Phoenix. No one could have done it better in the Johnny Cash wild ride. Man, myth, fact, and fiction all blur together and come out with a movie that's almost high opera dressed in black. This movie reaches and most of the time grabs, but all that reaching makes in ripe for parody. Luckily, Reese Witherspoon, in a feat of perfect casting, brings some wit to the proceedings. Besides, Folsom Prison Blues ain't such a bad song to have stuck in your head for a day after seeing this movie. I liked it. It's about love. All you need is love---and a few uppers.
The Constant Gardner
This movie based on the John LeCarre novel is really about a man who realizes how much he loves his wife. Sure, it's set in Africa and deals with Drug Corporation corruption and exploitation, but it really is a very sweet film.
The Wedding Crashers
Forget the alien invading dark knight bullshit, this is the king of summer movies. Actually, forget summer movies. Best picture right here!
The rhythm of this title is just like Cinderella. Cinderella-Syriana-Cinderella-Syriana. They could quite possibly be the same movie. Replace evil step mother and step sisters with Oil Company executives. Replace fairy god mother with an aging CIA operative. However, in Syriana, the ball is a much more dangerous place. In this film which is the closest one to a dance this year, the tempo constantly changes, but everything flows together like oil roaring in the pipeline. This film is all about the oil (and the money) but you don't see a drop of it.
This film came out last year, but I saw it this year in Singapore. I really hated the play that this film was based on, but this is probably the best adaptation you could do of it. The final shot of Natalie Portman is a cinematic triumph, and Jude Law again proves that he's not just a pretty boy (how many times does he have to prove that?). Clive Owen takes it as raw as he can. Unfortunately, Julia Roberts is a little out of her league, but the camera still loves her.
This film came out a few years ago, but I watched it this year first on one of those cable stations where the movies get shown over and over again while being cut up by commercials. I then saw it all together on DVD and was quite moved. Maybe it's because I'm from the Midwest. You gotta forget everything you know about Eminem because here, he's playing a character that only he can play. It's a film about words, how words can save you and make you strong. The scene where he's on the bus with his headphones on trying to write lyric or the scene at the roach coach where you go from nothing to hightened language to an MGM musical number or the scene at the battle at the end, it's all just in the words.
A History of Violence
The family that shoots guns together stays together---or maybe not. In this David Cronenberg film, I was amazed by how he slipped on the mundanity of the Midwest like an old pair of slippers. Viggo Mortensen gives such a simple performance that it will probably be forgotten at awards time---he's never really been flashy---even in Lord of the Rings, he seemed very much the reluctant king. Like a gun, all the parts of this film fit together and once the shooting starts, everything is different-or is it?
Robert Towne Movies
At this year's LA Film Festival, Robert Towne came to speak. Before that, I spent a week watching Robert Towne movies. I watched Personal Best, Chinatown, The Two Jakes, Shampoo, Without Limits, and Tequila Sunrise. In all his films, his characters live outside the rules of the society. I wanted to ask him about this, but I choked. Oh well.
There is one lyric in Rent that always make me wince. During the La Vie Boheme number, Mark the filmmaker pays tribute to Sondheim as one of the great Bohemians. Sondheim is sooo not a Bohemian. Oscar Hammerstein was his mentor for christsakes. Wincing aside, some of these songs are stunning. Unfortunately, Chris Columbus didn't pull his camera back and shoot these big songs with a lot of space. Also unfortunately, many of original Broadway cast are too old to be believable in their youthful artistic idealism. Still, I loved watching Angel and Tom Collins fall in love and prance through the streets and subways. I lived in the East Village a long time ago. It sucked. But these kids, these wacky rent kids, got me. No other road, no other way, no day but today.
The George Lucas Award for Disappointment: Cinderella Man
I wanted to like this film. I really wanted to like this film. But it's too damn dumb ass especially after last year's Million Dollar Baby. Never before has the Great Depression looked so nice as if the filmmakers were taking valium and subscribing to feel good books on tape.
Movies I Plan to See in January 2006:
Brokeback Mountain, King Kong, Breakfast on Pluto, Match Point, The Squid and the Whale. Nothing like a bunch of lighthearted movies to start off the new year.
This is my list of some books that I read and liked this past year. Also, I can talk about them in a somewhat coherent manner.
The icing on the cake:
The Riders by Tim Winton
I love Tim Winton's words. Sometimes when I read his stuff, I just want to roll around naked in them. Yes, he's that good. This is a novel about an Australian man trying to move his family to Ireland and how complications ensue when his wife does not show up. Moving out of his west Australian landscapes, Winton captures the collision of the old world with the new world while exploring mysteries that can not be solved. Sometimes, there are no answers.
The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek
Yes, I bought it because Jelinek won the Nobel and the cover had Isabelle Hubert kissing a young man on the floor of a bathroom. I can be so easily sold on these things. Still, this book is one wild ride complete with a control freak mother from hell. Some of the wildest writing on sexual obsession I've read in years, and the bathroom scene does not disappoint.
Bacacay by Witold Gombrowicz
New translations of early stories by Maestro Gombrowicz.
The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin
Steve Martin writes about the Los Angeles that I see with such wit and humanity that I hope he gives up the film career and does it full time. Come on, Steve, you don't have to make Cheaper by the Dozen 2.
Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
When I read David Sedaris, I get a smile on my face which is usually followed by gagging chuckle forming in the back of my throat which then explodes into a full on HAHAHAH as I spew saliva onto the page.
The sprinkles on the cake:
What I Loved and The Enchantment of Lily Dahl by Siri Hustvedt
She creates these worlds and then lets the reader walk around in them with her characters. Lily Dahl is shorter and little sharper, but What I Loved has a stunning first half.
The Best of Myles by Flann O'Brien
Before there was blogging, there was Myles na Gopaleen.
Birth of Tragedy by F. Nietzche
Ten years ago, I read this book. This year I went back to it. Them wacky classic Greeks.
Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
From page 116: 'Wir supposed tae be doon here fir a fuckin laugh, no tae talk aboot fukin books n aw that fuckin shite. See if it wis up tae me, ah'd git ivray fuckin book n pit thum on a great big fuckin pile n burn the fuckin loat. Aw books ur fir is fir smart cunts tae show oaf aboot how much shite thuv fuckin read. Ye git aw ye fuckin need tae ken ootay the paper n fae the telly. Posin cunts. Ah'll gie thum fuckin books. . . '
An Idiot Girl's Christmas by Laurie Notaro
Short vignettes about Midwestern Christmas angst. A story about shopping with Grandma at the Mall made me laugh out loud.
I claim to not watch a lot of TV, but I did come up with three guilty pleasures on the brain-sucker.
This is the reality show about the competing fashion designers hosted by Heidi Klum. In fashion, you're either in or you're out. I do not sew, can not make clothes, and black clothes are the center of my fashion universe. Still, I love this show. I was totally psyched when Jay won the first season---his collection was way cool. Now in the second season, I was totally bummed when Daniel Franco got eliminated. Also, I never thought the words Barbie and Challenge would ever go together. Nick won the Barbie Challenge by the way.
I Love the 80s Strikes Back
This is that show on VH-1 where 'television personalities', minor celebrities, and whoever they can get talk about completely irrelevant cultural stuff from the 80s. But dude, I remember that stuff too. Whoah.
I think if I knew Rory Gilmore in real life, she would annoy the shit out of me. Still she jumps around this show and talks faster than most. At its core, it's about mothers and daughters, but it doesn't make me want to vomit.