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Monday, March 25, 2013

Happy Birthday Sarah Jessica Parker!

I'd like to commemorate a very special day in honor of one glamorous lady by the name of Sarah Jessica Parker. Better known as Carrie Bradshaw by those who claim to admire her as a so-called actress and by those who claim her to be a fashion icon, she has spread her feminine wisdom across generations of women who have adopted Sex and the City as a recreational how-to on life. As Carrie, she has taught women the facts of relationships and dating: from the mythical Mr. Right to the diabolical Mr. Big, this savvy New Yorker has a remarkable grasp on the schematics of the female psyche. Her insight is transmitted onto her little column in the New York Star--oddly enough titled Sex and the City--where various women learn and are blessed if they should ever encounter Miss Bradshaw in her city. She scours New York in search for delectable tidbits and tales to embellish her column with, including the informative stories of her wonderful girlfriends: Miranda Hobbes, Charlotte York, and Samantha Jones. Taboo subjects such as funky spunk, revirginization, the faux orgasm, and so much more flourish in abundance this series called Sex and the City, and if you need further clarification, just read the title. Or perhaps you'll do yourself the pleasure of experiencing this iconic television show, especially if you are a woman. A woman who has never seen this show has not yet developed--they must first witness what not to do in the relationship world and learn from the best.

Golly, what a delight it is to speak in overflowing praise sarcastically. I surely hope that the introduction you just read came off as mocking, for it certainly was. While I'll agree that Carrie Bradshaw is some sort of fashion icon as well as a role model for multitudes of women, I do not concur with that statement being factual. Not only is Carrie dim-witted in the department of love and relationships, but she has absolutely no sense--fashion or otherwise. Dressing in skimpy shorts and stockings, "matched" with a top that is in a totally different color, may qualify as stylish to the color-blind and mentally unadjusted, but to New York I am sure she'd be silently chastised. Behold, that is just an example of her considerable lack of such a fashion sense. As for her knowledge on men and love, the scope is just as limited. Her key relationship with the notorious Mr. Big, for instance, sets the tone for her entire attitude towards the dating stratosphere. She claims that he has commitment issues when she, herself, cannot commit to the supposedly ideal Aidan in later seasons; she even finds herself in bed with Mr. Big while in a relationship with Aidan. Sure, Mr. Big is married at the time also, but she is so self-righteous in her demeanor, justifying her illicit actions the entirety of this lucid affair. Cheating is cheating, as she so declares earlier at a time or two. Oh, but she cheated with the former love of her life; moreover, he enticed her into the affair, making her a victim in this charade. Then, when all is out in the open, Aidan has to forgive her? And she won't even satisfy his broken heart with the assurance that she will never see Mr. Big again? Absurdity in its finest. I highlight this fallacy in Carrie's character in particular because I happen to be watching that season now, as I work effortlessly on my elliptical. I am a physically active individual. Good girl. Anyway, Carrie Bradshaw has many, many flaws, though somehow she comes off as (dare I say it) likable. Perhaps it is her self-delusion, how she convinces herself of certain things that are far from reality; perhaps her narration has inspired me to write in such a manner that pleases myself as well as you all, I am sure; or perhaps, deep within, I want to be Carrie Bradshaw. Doesn't every idealistic single girl want that? In some shape or form, maybe I strive for her life. Though I certainly hope I am not as foolish and self-absorbed as she is, or as careless with her expenses. Carrie Bradshaw is fabulous, in her convoluted, vapid sort of way, and I can only hope that I will be as lucky and successful as she is. That's all she is, really. Lucky.


Sarah Jessica Parker is defined by this character. She is Carrie Bradshaw. Seriously. In every cinematic role she has taken, it has been the identical performance as seen here in Sex and the City. Oddly enough, for those films she receives Razzie nominations, and in the television series she received six Golden Globe wins. Peculiar bit of fact, that is. I view Sarah Jessica Parker (or SJP, affectionately) through the eyes of one who has gotten close to Carrie Bradshaw. Her appearance alone triggers me to giggle at her stylish vanity and seemingly polite daintiness, which alludes to how nice she is in interviews and the like. She is the epitome of pretentious: valuing herself over others yet reaching out to them as if they were charity cases, and dressing glamorously which is actually quite tasteless. Nevertheless, I'm rather fond of the silly girl. Here's to forty-eight years of being fabulous.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Nostalgic Treat

To answer your question: Yes, I am still engaged in the occupation of completing LOST. However, considering that even a series as spell-binding as that can get tiresome, there comes a period where actual cinema is necessary. In this week's sabbatical, I am pleased to announce the ever-satisfying feeling of enjoyment from a new release. Indeed, I've been overjoyed with the appearance of a recent picture that tickles the chords of recollection. In other words, the following movie struck memorable pangs of the past, resembling beloved films of the late nineties and early two-thousands. How I miss the simple sweetness of those pictures, and how they brought me to awes and smiles when the climatic yet anticipated scene arose--such were the moments of sheer and utter bliss in filmmaking. And now the familiar genre has been resurrected in the form of Parental Guidance.

This fresh holiday film (referring only to the time it was released, not the content) is anything but fresh, if you're a fellow nineties-nostalgic. If you are, however, living among the present, as many surely are, this will be rather unconventional for a family film. Lately, the genre "family film" has all but expired in a fast-paced, cynical realm of cinematic reality and drama. If there happens to be a family in the plot, some form of dysfunction is present, making it an expected dramatic film of the late two-thousands. Every once in a while, the public, I believe, needs that wholesome mildness in films like Parental Guidance to inspire feelings of comfort and sanguinity. (Well, maybe not sanguinity. Serenity?) Like the saccharine quality found in nineties pictures--nothing similar comes to mind at the moment other than Meet the Fockers, which is past the nineties era--the amusement factor in Parental Guidance not once fails to please the audience. If that audience, evidently, consists of my dad and I. For the sake of this post, I'll just emphasize the overall idea and sentiment this movie surely does garner.

The film begins with Artie Decker (played by that familiar, lovable Billy Crystal) as he undergoes a personal crisis when he loses his comfortable job commentating baseball games. Fraught with anxiety over what to do next, his wife Diane (played by that lovable, familiar Bette Midler) suggests that they visit their only daughter and three grandchildren for the week. Conveniently, their daughter, Alice (played by the still-stunning Marisa Tomei), actually needs them to babysit her kids for the week as she joins her husband at some conference. (I wonder what type of conferences involve drinking and playing tennis. Just a wandering tangent of thought for those who have seen the movie.) Strangely, Alice seems exceedingly reluctant to have her parents stay with her kids, a predicament that is not supported by their extended absence. They may have been negligent in their roles as grandparents, but shouldn't their appearance now harbor some hope and reassurance? Either way, the hijinks that is traditional grandparents watching over the grandkids commences, pleasingly enough, almost immediately. There is no dragging period of nonsense or useless introductions, such as in the also recent Playing For Keeps. For those suspicious of this film's value, take consolation in knowing that there are no pointless scenes that are a waste of your precious time--everything in Parental Guidance suits its purpose to entertain. As for the entertainment, there is plenty to be had. Whether you enjoy physical humor that reaches an ideal point of remaining funny (as opposed to the excessive bodily humor of Adam Sandler or Kevin James); or you admire the classic wit of Billy Crystal or the bewitching flair of Bette Midler; or a scene of uncomplicated affection is more than welcome for you and your fellow viewers, then by all means enjoy this confection of nostalgia. Did I mention that this very much resembles a lovely nineties/early two-thousands movie?

Granted it is a childish scene, the depiction of new-age parenting is hauntingly accurate.
The overall theme of the movie is a battle between old-school and new-age parenting. The verdict? Traditionalist teachings clearly surpasses the hands-off, be-who-you-want-to-be mindset of this new generation of ours. This defeat may explain the poor reviews, as asinine and frivolous as it may be in theory. Most of the critics are one of these "new-age" parents, most likely, and they feel guilty that their techniques are potential failures. Cruel accusation, true, but is it that outrageous? Those who shake their heads aggressively at the screen, do not despair, for the first step in improvement is accepting your state of denial. Boy, what a head on me. Regarding the movie, Billy Crystal and Bette Midler represent the traditional parents: They believe in discipline, strict yet fair doctrines, and good 'ol wholesome fun. (Fittingly, that is the overtone of the entire movie, pleasantly enough.) Their guidelines prove to be cataclysmic initially, since the new-age children are not accustomed to such hands-on treatment, but in the end they will benefit the kids in life. Marisa Tomei and her husband, who shall not be named, represent the new-age parents: They believe in allowing the kids to express themselves freely, even if it means outright inappropriate behavior, and to just let them be alone in their "unique and special minds". No, no, no, this is not parenting. In fact, this is a lack of parenting, for the term implies actually teaching and being involved in the lives of these youths. Letting them do whatever they so please will only result in unruly delinquents and a tense household. Catastrophic household, actually. Luckily, the traditionalists arrive to fulfill their own desires of grand-parenting, as well as improve the temperament of their daughter's domestic existence. By the final scene, the whole family is submerged in a blissful aura of, well, happiness. It's a double-statement, but emphasizes the outcome. This applies not only to the on-screen family but also to those at home watching the movie. A surprising delight in lines of cinema, Parental Guidance appears to the masses as a film with real joys and heart for the entire family to take pleasure in.

I am aware of the rotten reception this film has received, bombarded with nasty comments such as it being a "blow to the brain for moviegoers", though it is all very expected of this generation. Interestingly enough, I do not consider myself among this new generation of anti-sentimentalism and excessively harsh cynicism, even though my birthday suggests otherwise. What falters in each of those horrid reviews is the lack of, shall we say, imagination? Perhaps if the critics stepped outside of their pseudo-intellectual shells and actually watched a movie in the frame of mind that the film is inclined towards (i.e. innocent, warm simplicity), they would enjoy the substance rather than scowl at the sappy predictability. Seriously, when your guard is down and the bitter sarcasm fades, a sweet-as-pie picture is just sweet with no need to read in between the lines. This is not Argo or Zero Dark Thirty where the entertainment emerges from intellectual intrigue and suspense. Parental Guidance is an adorable picture that will just make you warm and serene inside--no deeper analysis required.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Where The Heart Is...

Greetings and salutations. It has been quite a while since I've adorned this blog with some well-pronunciated dialogue, or rather monologue since it is only me. There is valid reasoning behind this: a fresh obsession. For me it is fresh, but for others the Others it is trite and outdated: LOST. I am told that it requires capitalization because of its vast significance, and the fact that it is capitalized in the opening titles. Anyway, that would be my completely justified purpose for not writing in such a long while. Consider it a televised sabbatical, only difference is that you cannot actually witness me watching the series. Obviously, for that would be strange. Why, then, am I writing now? Well, it just so happens that I took a well-needed pause in my quest to discover the glory and fascination of LOST in the form of a double-feature. That is, two films that are not continuations of another, but are merely two separate movies I watched recently. The title of this post, moreover, relates to the subject matter of each film. I am aware that is happens to be the title of an actual movie, and it just so happens that it is one of the deuce I watched. What, exactly, is my angle? Well, I intend to compare two films in order to identify when compassion and wholeheartedness can support, and when the absence of such qualities can throw the production into a tedious slump.

Playing For Keeps - This is the other film I watched, which I'll find you appreciate since it is a new release. Then again, it was not well-received by the critics, which can safely assure that the public did not care for it much either. I am speaking for myself, of course, and must declare that the critics were spot-on in their mordent reviews. (I wanted to use that word "mordent" since I was reminded of the word and its connotation for me, personally, earlier today. It means bitter or harsh in nature.) The film itself was nothing out of the ordinary, other than the fact that it was utterly dull and plotless. That is, it had absolutely no course to which any normal film would follow in its duration. From beginning to end, this movie had no real reason for being in existence, and proved to be a waste of my time. Why waste your time, then, by explaining why it was a waste of time? Oh, well. The star of this lousy production is Sparta's very own Gerard Butler, assuming the well-acquianted role of "dead-beat dad", though the film does very little to explain just why he fills the shoes of that character. Throughout the movie, the former soccer player (his character, that is) nearly beds an entire suburban neighborhood once he's occupied the job of Little League soccer coach. He fills this position in an attempt to get closer to his estranged son, who hasn't even spent the night at his new apartment yet, as well as to rekindle his romance with his ex-wife, played flaccidly by Jessica Biel. Is it just me, or has she gotten much more obnoxious and unattractive? My condolences to Justin Timberlake, a man with feasible talent and charisma, unlike his blushing yet pasty new bride. In a Razzie-worthy performance, Jessica Biel portrays the typical ex-wife, concerned facial expressions and all, as she tumbles through corny dialogue and unappealing tear-scenes. Another stifling aspect of the film is Dennis Quaid, whose purpose here was negligible and whose performance was excessive and faulty. Within the disheveled construction of the film, Gerard Butler's character, again, nearly beds an entire village, including the uncomfortably obsessive Judy Greer (in a supporting role suiting her eternal background-actress status), a sexy Catherine Zeta-Jones (stunning as ever, though her acting has faltered in recent years), and a confused Uma Thurman (also glowing in appearance, though severely lacking everywhere else). In the end, as expected, he reconciles with his wife in the pinnacle of corny scenes: the two play soccer playfully with their son. Aww. What ruins this Hallmark moment is the nature of itself, in its ingenuity and artificial-sweetener inadequacy. Nothing in the film made me gush in adoration at all, for I was much too numbed by the intermittent shutting of my eyelids. 
And this.
Beyond the lack of affectionate enjoyment, Playing For Keeps lacked a solid storyline. I understand that Gerard Butler used to be a famous soccer player, but what happened? Was it simply that he had gotten too old for the sport? And what of his marriage? Was he unfaithful? That would certainly explain why women were catapulting themselves onto him as if they just could not resist his charm. Had the film shown a brief montage of his life with Jessica Biel, perhaps it would not have been as sour. The tone of the film suggests that Gerard Butler is changing, from an unworthy spouse and father to a great man deserving of his ex and son, yet there is a blatant dearth in how that transformation occurs. What made him so intolerable to live with? As I said, a clip of Jessica Biel finding lipstick on his collar would have justified the swarm of women in suburbia desiring him, as well as how he changed. The fact that he rejected both Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta-Jones seems preposterous in content of the film, for they clearly surpass Jessica Biel in every way; however, if he had a propensity for infidelity, this rejection would have reasonable cause. A changed man. Not the case with Playing For Keeps, I'm afraid. As unintended, the film failed to reach that ideal warmth such lighthearted comedies strive for--which brings me to my next film of the evening.

Where The Heart Is - Yes, that is also the title of this post. Either I am alluding to the film's prominent edge over the previous film, or the intended purpose of this post. To analyze how wholeheartedness can distract a viewer from the total lack of point. Regardless of why, this pleasant piece truly brightened my mood after Playing For Keeps, urging me to stay up past a reasonable hour for slumber. But it was well worth it. Originally, I had no plan to watch this, on account of my father's reaction towards it. From what he recalled, the film surrounded some sort of degenerate family and the heavily dramatic episodes that accompany such a predicament of Southern depravation. This, however, is far from the situation of the film. Far from it, to reiterate. While the setting is Sequoyah, Oklahoma, and there is a hint of redneck "hick" within, Where The Heart Is is an absolutely adorable slice of cinema, most likely because of the leading actresses. Natalie Portman, in her ripe age of seventeen and already gleaming with promise and talent, portrays Novalee Nation, a white-trash youngling who gives birth in a Wal-Mart after her boyfriend and baby daddy abandon her at the store. From there, she gains fame as the "Wal-Mart Mommy" along with her daughter, Americus, and meets several lifelong companions, including a sweet yet loose mother of five, a kind and understanding older woman who takes Novalee in, and her future sweetheart, Forney. 
That sweet yet loose mother I just mentioned is played by Ashley Judd, the second actress who makes this film all the more naturally-sweet; her performance here, might I add, proves that she is a dreadfully underused actress, for her talents are manifest. Both her tears and those of Natalie Portman are, by far, the most genuine in cinema, placating this airy picture as one that is completely realistic and, better yet, wonderful. In an attempt to remain reclusive of the specific plot elements, I'll just say that the scenes displayed here are rather impacting and emotional, in the sense that it will certainly affect you rather than bore you. Unlike documentaries and unsuccessful films of this kind (such as the former film), Where The Heart Is achieves that sought-after quality of genuine warmth while also remaining blithe and at a state of tranquility. Whether the content will affect you deeply or the treat of beholding truly graceful actresses such as Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd, Where The Heart Is will certainly have you consider the idea of the film--that love and compassion is wherever you are moved by--and recall this film fondly, rather than think of it as that one about white-trash folk. It is not the run-of-the-mill white-trash feel-good film. It is actual quality that is worth much more recognition than it is granted.

There you have it, a short summary of the only films I've seen in the past few weeks. This should be a meaningful sentiment for those reading now, for neither of these films really required much discussion. I felt I should write something as all, if not for you then for myself. It's been nearly two weeks, hasn't it? But that is the sort of drivel I save for introductions. Anyway, I have already returned to roam through LOST, abandoning the realm of cinema for only a little while longer. Halfway through the fifth season, I have one more to go, then...it's over. Oh, the rising fear of conclusion. Is it true that everyone dies at the end? Rhetorical question, of course, even though I know the answer. Despite this promise of another elongated absence, what does loom ahead is a massive analysis of LOST, a la Desperate Housewives. Remember that juggernaut of a post last autumn? Expect another. Surely, I can't be serious. Oh, but I am. I will not even satisfy this end with an Aitplane! reference. Good evening, and good morrow to one and all.