Monday, April 27, 2009

HBO Monday

After a long drive and a long brainstorming session with Mom, I think I've figured the story out. Today should be a good working day, as it's raining steadily. Really, it's not a fit day out for man or beast, as I learned when I opened the front door to get the newspaper and the golden retriever being walked past my house (without a leash, grrr) saw the open door, apparently decided he'd had enough of being wet, and made a mad dash up my front walk to try to get inside. I have a very short walk, and the owner's ineffectual "Come back here!" calls (why is it that the people who choose to walk their dogs without leashes are the ones who have the least clue how to give voice commands that a dog will actually respond to?) were doing no good, so I had to rapidly slam the door shut before I faced trying to evict a wet, shaggy golden retriever. I did not hear a body slamming against the door, so either the dog stopped in time or the owner did eventually get him under control.

So, yeah, that's how my day started.

I've had some HBO time in the past few weeks, so here's a quick rundown of movies I've watched lately:

Nim's Island -- really cute quasi-fantasy kids' movie. Nim lives on a remote island with her adventurer/scientist dad (Gerard Butler. Yum). One thing they enjoy doing together is reading adventure stories about Alex Rover, an Indiana Jones type. Then while her dad is off on an expedition, Nim sees an e-mail (via satellite connection) from Alex Rover, seeking research help -- and then when her dad doesn't come back and her island seems to be in danger of invasion, she asks her hero to come save her, not knowing that "Alex Rover" is actually a neurotic, agoraphobic novelist (Jodie Foster). With prodding from her character (also played by Gerard Butler) Alex ventures out of her comfort zone to come to the rescue.

Of course, I couldn't identify at all with a novelist who hates leaving the house. However, I am not by any means a germophobe. Since one of my hot buttons is the way novelists are portrayed in other media, I was a bit confused by the situation. Were these meant to be novels, in which the main character and first-person narrator had the same name as the author? In that case, well, that seems a bit odd, and she didn't have grounds to gripe when people were disappointed in meeting her. Here's a tip: if you want to differentiate yourself from your character, use a name other than your own for the character. Or were these supposedly true stories? In which case we've got a literary scandal that makes James Frey look like Honest Abe. But I may be overthinking, as this was a children's movie based on a children's book. And it was a lot of fun.

But speaking of agoraphobic non-germophobes, I caught the HBO version of Grey Gardens, then immediately found the original documentary and read some of the initial magazine articles that inspired the documentary. In case you haven't heard of it, it's about Jackie Kennedy's aunt and cousin who were discovered to be living in utter squalor in a Hamptons mansion that was falling down around them. Apparently, in the 70s, the documentary that showed the two eccentric women living a supposedly "artistic" life became a cult (and possibly camp) hit that was seen as heralding people living life on their own terms. I thought it was terribly sad, as well as an indictment of the uselessness of the aristocracy and what happens to people who are so used to living off money earned by other people and having people do things for them that they can't take care of themselves or earn their own money.

This did inspire me to start cleaning my house, because there is a slippery slope between lazy clutter and utter squalor (however, I don't have cats, so I doubt I could ever get quite that bad).

This weekend, I finally watched the Sex and the City movie. I was never a huge fan of the series because I thought they were all very annoying women who lived shallow lives. I never was able to see them as any kind of feminist icons. In fact, I took the series as a sort of deconstructionist take on the sexual revolution, proving that the so-called liberation was actually confining and that most of their problems could have been avoided if they hadn't given up the idea of sexual morality, but I'm rather contrary that way. The movie was pretty much more of the same. All their problems came about because they were horribly selfish and self-centered. The only person I actually liked was Jennifer Hudson's character, and I would have been far more interested in a movie from her point of view -- the girl who gets a job as personal assistant to this crazy writer whose life is totally out of control. The weird thing about both series and movies is that I always seem to find myself siding with the men in most disputes. There's something oddly misogynistic in spite of all the lip service to "girl power." If you want me to take the women's side, then the women need to actually be right every so often and not just bitchy and selfish and seen to be right just because they're women and the primary audience is women (I feel that way about a lot of romantic comedy films -- it doesn't matter if your audience is all female, the fact that the character is female doesn't make her automatically right).

To recover from that, I stumbled across a fun little kids' movie on one of the HBO Family channels that I'd never heard of, which was surprising because the cast was insane. The movie was called Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker (though IMDB just calls it Stormbreaker). It's sort of a James Bond for kids, about a teenage boy being raised by his uncle who discovers that his uncle is a spy and that the guy stuff he and his uncle do together (SCUBA diving, mountain climbing, etc.) and the hobbies he's encouraged to pursue (martial arts, foreign languages) have all been about training him to be a spy. It's all rather improbable, but in good fun. However, just about everyone is in it. I giggled my way through the opening credits because I couldn't believe the cast. There's Ewan McGregor, Bill Nighy, Stephen Fry, Robbie Coltrane, Mickey Rourke, Andy Serkis, Damian Lewis, and the list goes on. Half the fun was playing "spot the British actor." It's apparently based on a series of novels written by the guy who wrote the Foyle's War TV series. I'll have to look for the books because they're likely to be even more fun than the movie.

But it is Monday, so no more movies. It's time for work.

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