If Crap, Then Quit?

swallowtail1 I may have been able to put a fuzzy halo around my Swallowtail with the aid of Photoshop, but there’s nothing angelic or even remotely lovely about this, this . . . uch, I don’t even know what to call it – because I certainly don’t want this icky thing around my neck.

When I went to Rhinebeck last November, I was all about yarny yarn – yarn you could really sink your teeth into – nothing processed, something straight off the farm, something so organic that if you bit into it, it would crunch like an apple, and juice would dribble down your chin. I was over the handpaint, the variegated, the neons, the pastels – all I wanted was natural – browns, greys, blacks. My yarn store employee/yarn snob purist phase was in high gear.

I found this yarn in the very last booth, from a farm that sold mostly Shetland sock yarn. They (this mystery farm I can’t remember) have a large booth every year, with fair isle sock kits (in naturals – greys, brown, black and white), and single skeins, and very warm, sturdy,flora-184 workhorse looking shawls and socks knit up. For whatever reason, I didn’t pick up the Shetland, I picked this up – and I don’t even remember what it is. I walked around with it, trying to decide if I was going to buy it, or if perhaps I was going to buy 2 – thinking big, thinking Irish Diamonds, or Frost Flowers and Leaves. I went back to the bin where I had found it, and this other woman pulled a young (not the aged, traitorous Dawkins that’s going to the Broncos, and who will never last five years) Brian Dawkins move, swooping in front of me, snatching the skein from my tentative, outreaching fingertips, and then, gloating, doing  a little happy dance in front of my face. And, I immediately thought, fine, I’ll show you aggressive woman I will never see again, I do not need thousands of yards.  I only need 400 or so perfect yards.  This will make a lovely lovely Swallowtail. So there.   And, I have a handsome, hot boyfriend, so nya nya.  This is Joe and I at Rhinebeck – just thought I’d throw us in here so that there is a happy, successful, positive part of this post (because happiness in life is so much more important than happiness in knitting).

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I took my yarn home, and wound it into a ball that night. So far so good. I cast on, still ok, it was only 3 stitches. And then I began to knit. Well, what can I say, I got what I wanted – this yarn was definitely natural – so natural that I felt like the sheep was sitting next to me while I knit – not only did it feel like I was knitting it off the sheep – as it felt — there’s no other way to put this – down right dirty —  it strangely, smelled like little sheepy was in the room as well. I wanted the yarn to be from a farm – I didn’t want the farm as well. 

And, it just looked like crap.  The twist was wrong – again, as if it were not so much spun, but kind of combed off the sheep straight into a skein.  Yet, I persevered – this is all natural yarn, as natural as Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter, from an honest to G-d farm, combined with a well-established, much knit pattern that has yielded many a beautiful shawl, it’s gotta be awesome, right?  The yarn snob in me said, it must, of course.  

And, I knit on.  The beginning/middle section looked like a fuzzy wuzzy blob, that seemed to be calling “BAAAHHHH!!!”  I got to the nupps.  Not only was it a struggle, but they seemed to be felting as I knit them – butterfly cocoons that resembled shibori balls rather than delicate nupps.  Yet, I thought, blocking, blocking will make it all better.

All of this knitting really calls the question – when does one quit, when one seemed to have had the best laid plans?  Is there ever a right time just to cut your loses?  Or, will you simply be left wondering what would have happened had you finished?

In The Way We Were, Robert Redford says to Barbra Streisand, after they have tried to break up, but because he is such a weak willed, spineless creature, he is going back to her, , “You never give up, do you?”  And she replies, “Not  unless I’m absolutely forced to.”  But, does she say this because she knows she’s already won, she’s getting her way, he’s coming back?  Would she say that if she had the insight to know it was really time to throw in the towel?  

The answer to this question is a simple equation — If pain > potential success ->quit.  Here, while potential success was extremely low, the pain was still less, in fact perservering was almost painless in the face of quitting –  I knit so fast, it certainly wasn’t going to kill me to find out what was going to happen in the last chapter (even though I knew, as if I had flipped to the end of the book – the monster at the end of the book!)  So, for me, following this healthy equation, finishing was logical.  While I in my knitter’s heart of hearts knew this was never going to be a thing of beauty, I would never have been satisified until I had seen it to it’s conclusion. 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to figure impatience into the equation – I wasn’t suffering, but I still wanted it over – and I ended up casting off so tightly, that I couldn’t block the points into the thing, nor could I really draw out the pattern – not that it really mattered, because the thing felted in the blocking anyway – a teeny tiny aggitation, and it was like glue.  There’s no way I can take the bind off out.  And, I know I shouldn’t – because a redo would definitely up the pain ante, and this thing – and that’s all it will ever be – a thing – will never amount to a scintilla of success.

 

And what of my snobbery?  In this case, perhaps the potential for success aspect of the equation was subject to a bit of puffery – I’m a more than proficient knitter, I usually have good taste in yarn, this was a good choice of pattern, but I don’t really have an equation to determine success without the subjectivity of attitude and ego.  Perhaps there should be a little division by humility (if pain > (potential succes/some humility) -> quit).   But, you knit, you learn, and at Maryland Sheep and Wool, I will conquer.

 

Oh, did I say something about humility?

America’s First Dog

First Poodle?  Portuguese waterdog, smudderdog, that’s a poodle.  No, no, no!

The only appropriate choice for First Dog, is of course, the Boston Terrier, because it truly is America’s first breed – a true American concoction, bred from a cross between an English Bulldog and a white English Terrier. This dog symbolizes the American immigrant experience. First a fighter, now the quintessential “American Gentleman,” the Boston Terrier is intelligent, self-sufficient, yet charming, affectionate, and of course, very talented.  Apple pie, pizza, french fries and chicken soup all rolled into one.  And that allergy Malia suffers from?  Nonsense.  Suck it for the right dog.

LEMON FOR FIRST DOG

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(Well, a Boston Terrier like Lemon – Lemon doesn’t need the White House, she has us!)

Book Review – The Long (LONG!) Walk Home

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 I downloaded this book (yes, downloaded – I am all about my Kindle – a post for a different day . . .) after reading the first two Kay Scarpetta novels The Scarpetta Collection, Vol. 1: Postmortem / Body of Evidence, which were bundled together, practically with a bow.  These pre-CSI novels featuring Virigina medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, if read separately, are probably ok, passable crime fiction.  But, when read back to back, Kay is just so incredibily stupid that they are hard to stomach.  How on earth does she let the killer get into her house TWICE!  You would think after the first book she would have learned her lesson.  I’ve been working in criminal law for nearly 12 years, and never once has the Medical Examiner ever a. been in the paper for any other reason than as a side note in a homicide case, i.e. “the medical examiner testified that the cause of death was homicide,” b. been identified as an investigator on the case as opposed to the Homicide Detective, c. ever been tracked down by a homicidal maniac, or become the target of any homicidal maniacs rage. My clients know exactly who arrested them (the homicide detective) and who is prosecuting them (the da), however, the medical examiner or even the crime lab technician is never ever on their radar as an “enemy.” The plots of these books, if given more than a passing thought, make absolutely no sense.

 

Oh, wait, I’m supposed to be reviewing The Long Walk Home — anyway my point in bringing up the Scarpetta novels was not to illustrate just how insipid highly-educated and respected Kay actually is, and how, as time after time she puts herself in jeopardy only to be saved by the Sipowizc-like male detective, she is really an anti-feminist creation reminscent of fainting, hyperventilating heroines of fairy tales, but to explain why I went all the way to the other end of the spectrum – a stylized romance novel, because make no mistake, The Long Walk Home is nothing more than a Harlequinn novel in a fancy party dress.  I just wanted to read something nice — no blood spatter, no crazed maniac, no infuriating woman character who is infuriating simply for the reason that she’s supposed to be a strong role model for women in a field dominated by men, yet she lets the men dominate her over and over again – oh, yeah, the Long Walk Home – – –

 

Anyway, The Long Walk Home – I wanted sweet, I got saccharine overload.  This book is Bridges of Madison County on uppers – basically, the same story, rewritten with heavy handed protestations of undying love and of course, a happy ending.  Yucko.  I should have just reread Bridges of Madison County.

 

The Long Walk Home tells the story of Alec, who travels to North Wales to scatter his ex-wife’s ashes along the Welsh countryside.  Yes, not wife, ex-wife – an ex-wife who on one hand is portrayed as the ultimate asshole, but on the other hand, of course, completely irresistible.  I suppose she has to be an asshole for us to believe that the woman he meets on his journey, Fiona — the proprietor of a Welsh bed and breakfast that she runs while her sickly, peticide poisoned husband David manages the family sheep farm with the aid of a local boy who of course is in love with the farmer’s daughter, who brings home her citified asshole boyfriend — is his true soulmate after he’s just travelled thousands of miles, mostly on foot, to dispose of the ashes of another woman.  That may have been a run-on sentence – but this is a run-on novel – on and on it goes – Fi and Alex drink lots of wine, and eat yummy meals, and fall in love – and, even though the setting is Wales, you can hear strains of The Heather on the Hill in the background, and a leprachaun popping out of the woodwork wouldn’t be surprising at all, this book is so laden with stereotypes and cliches.    Alec writes love poetry to Fi, and he spends quiet moments pondering what the British would possibly do if there were no tea.  Alec, like the author of the novel, is a former Washington speech writer, yet he takes to farming like a natural, birthing breeched sheep and cleaning out dung in the barn.   And, if he was not already beatified when the book began, he certainly is when he stumbles across David, his rival, Fi’s husband, dying of hypothermia on the edge of a cliff, seconds from death.  Of course, Alec summons help, saves his lover’s husband, and then takes off, leaving her to care for this completely disabled, brain damaged guy who beat the crap out of her right before he tried to kill himself on the moutain, for her own good – it was the right thing to do.   Yeah, whatever. 

 

If you want to read a romance novel, like I did, don’t read something that’s pretending to be something else – because to become something else – “literary” fiction in this case, I suppose – the writer will employ all kinds of heavy handed techniques in order to mask what it really is – a sappy, poorly written, trashy novel.

To Snark or Not to Stark?

“And they don’t need me to tell them?”  What was I thinking when I wrote that yesterday? 

 

Of course, Angelina Jolie – you need my help!!

 

Actually, what I was thinking about was a review I read of David Denby’s new book, Snark: It’s Mean, It’s Personal, and It’s Ruining Our Conversation.  In the book, Denby, a film critic (hmmm, has he ever heard that thing about people in glass houses?) for the New Yorker, excoriates internet snarkers, who with their  “I’m in the know and you are loser” attitude are ruining our national conversation by spewing insults, invectives, and venonmous talk, without purpose, point or perspective.  And that a snarker  joke is just a smokescreen for anger and abuse, much like a schoolkid sticking his leg out from under his desk in order to trip the class nerd.  The book was not particularly well reviewed, but the review, still managed to shame me, concluding, “No, what we need is a revolution in sensibility, a return to civil discourse, a way of opening, rather than closing down, debate.

This, too, is what Denby means to argue, that we deserve better, not just from our media outlets, but also from ourselves.” 

 sensesensibility

A revolution in sensibility – exactly.  My favorite scene in the movie Sense and Sensibility is when Marianne and Elinor revist the spot where Marianne fell, and there she met Willoughby.  Marianne is ashamed of her behavior (behavior much like that documented in the never-to-be a classic, He’s Just Not That Into You), and Elinor gasps, “Surely you do not compare your conduct to his?”  And Marianne responds, “No, I compare it to what it should have been, I compare it to yours.”   

 

And, therefore, yesterday, I resolved to behave like Elinor, to promote the revolution in Sensibility – and nod and pass on the Oscar fashion, because really, why should I just put forth my completely unconstructive criticism?  I will return to civil discourse, and only say nice things.  Isn’t that the Jane way, if you don’t have anything nice to say, speak about the weather?

 

Well, the weather is cold outside, and that’s about all there is to say about the weather.

 

Sensibility is boring. 

 

So, with that said – I’m certainly not trying to shut down civil discourse — always, please disagree with me – the more the merrier at Chez Lemontines. 

 

And, what I did get right in yesterday’s post is that, there’s not much to say about this year’s Oscar fashion-less.  Mostly playing in straight, safe, probably to avoid being snarked – but here are a few observations:

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Note to Angie – Stay home!  If you’re going to come to a big party, where frankly you are a guest of honor, be gracious — there’s no need to snub Tim Gunn on the runaway.  The man is simply worshipping at your Diorred feet, and there’s no need to kick him in the teeth.  You have everything – a handsome (but oh so dim) partner, children the rest of us don’t want, but you obviously do, a fantastic career, and world adoration, and the rest of us, all we have to bask with pride in is the notion that we seem to be the only ones left in this country paying taxes  – smile dammit, and be happy – it won’t break your face (or maybe it will – I have no idea what work you’ve done to your face, and if it really will break your face, then by all means, go with the puss face you had on all night).  And black, again, really?   I would think that would be the most difficult color for you at this point – nothing shows baby spit more than black. 

 

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Dear Viola, dear dear Viola – I wanted you to win the Oscar, not be the Oscar!

 

Oscars Arrivals

 

Memo:  To SJP

From:  Your Tailor

Re:  Your Oscar Dress

   We have been mulling over your latest fitting, and because our suggestions fell on completely deaf ears (ears that apparently believe they are 25 years old as opposed to 45 years old), we feel compelled, in order to avoid any future liability, to reduce our thoughts to writing – simply put, this dress does not fit you, and you should not attempt to wear it on the red carpet.  If you do so, you and your breasts will look foolish. 

   Best regards.

US-OSCARS-ARRIVALS-CYRUS

Dear Miley – Get yourself a copy of Sense and Sensibility immediately! 

Oscars Arrivals

Plea to Natalie – please help Miley dress for the next award ceremony!  It’s only fitting that the best dressed should reach down and help the worst dressed.

robert-downey

Mickey Rourke was not the only comeback story on the red carpet – Robert Downey Jr. look at you!  You got it right!!!!  You cut your hair, you shaved your face, you put on a tux – doesn’t it feel good!  And, you did it all knowing that you weren’t going to win.  Next year, Robert, next year!

 

I could go on, but those are my highlights – or low lights.  Oh, there is one left:

 

tinafey

Lemon would be sad if I left out her namesake.  Good job Tina!  And, go ahead, fall in love with Steve Martin any day!

So, the new blog isn’t even a week old, and already my credibility is shaky with my stinky Oscar picks. Well, at least with my best Actor pick, I may have gotten it wrong, but Sean Penn validated why I could have easily been right when he said, “I did not expect this, but I, and I want it to be very clear, that I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me often.” And, my vision clouded by a fantastic comeback tale, I had forgotten that Mickey Rourke was equally an asshole for many years, and while he may have run up a bill of $60,000 worth of therapy or whatever that crazy figure was to become this emissary of the possibility of change, the bottomline is still, a comeback to what? Really, what does Mickey Rourke go on to do now?

I didn’t actually see much of the Oscar telecast, aside from the award giving. That’s the price you pay when you host a party. Non award moments are for cleaning up plates, refilling food, catching up on dishes, etc. But, I can say this about the actual award giving – I would much prefer to see a clip of the actor/actresses performance than a circle jerk of tributes and accolades by former award winners. This may be the nominees childhood fantasy, having a battle axe like Sophia Loren slur pretties and platitudes about your performance that in all likelihood she didn’t see, but it didn’t do too much for me. I like an Oscar ceremony filled with movie clips, not song and dance numbers that are straight out of American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, not the resurgence of the American movie musical. There’s just something wrong with a show that doesn’t let Peter Gabriel sing the entirety of his song, yet turns the show into a High School Musical, well after that age demographic should have been in bed.

And, I could talk about Oscar fashion – but it was almost kind of fashionless – nothing really stuck out, everyone played it pretty safe, and those that didn’t – well they just looked ridiculous (Miley Cyrus), and they don’t need me to tell them that.

Why I Hate Benjamin Button and My Final Picks

This was a great year for movies.  Historically, in times of economic crisis, people flock to the movies, and this year was no different.  And, thankfully, the movies were a remarkable place for retreat – for entertainment, for introspection, and for, of course, popcorn.

Milk and the Reader raised awareness, and nudged at our collective conscience.  Frost/Nixon was not only a vehicle to showcase the talent of a tragically overlooked actor, but an overdue reminder of the need for accountability in our elected leaders.

But this, this is the year of the Slumdog – Slumdog Millionaire.  While there’s something a bit daft about a kid going on a game show in the hopes of finding and winning his childhood soulmate, this film touched us – the storytelling, to me, was reminiscent of Life is Beautiful.  The children in this film were so good, they broke your heart.  By the time love triumphs over greed and evil, and everyone is dancing in a train station a la Fame’s Hot Lunch cafeteria scene, I was doing a bouncy little chair dance along with them.  I don’t know what Jai Ho means, but it sounds joyous and lovely.

So, my pick for Best Picture, and everyone’s pick, is Slumdog Millionaire.  Not only will it win, it should win.

And what about Benjamin Button, this Gump rip-off, this playground for digital technology substituting for actual acting?  Button, to me, was not a movie, but a video game, and honestly, I would have preferred to see Mamma Mia nominated than this unimaginative Speilberg knock-off.

Which brings me to the category of Best Adapted Screenplay, and again, I would toss Button right out of this category too – the only source material from which this movie grew was Forrest Gump, not F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, because the only thing Button adapts from the original short story is the title, and the concept of aging backwards.  The original story was honest in way that Brad’s Button never imagines.  Button in the story, while aging backwards, is still human, and flawed.  He does not have a “life is like a box of chocolate attitude.”  To the contrary, he’s a jealous creature, and competitive; he’s a bad son, a bad husband and a bad father.     He is attracted to his wife while they are the same age, but as she ages, and he grows younger, he gets bored, and hides her away.  And this, frankly, is believable.  Eventually, he becomes a child to the children he parented,  but having been a bad parent, they are hardly ideal parents to him.  In Fitzgerald’s Button, aging, whether backward or forward, will get you to the same place in the end, and when you get there, you will either be loved or you won’t – it all depends on how you lived.

Again, for Adapted Screenplay – I’m going with Slumdog.

So, here are my final picks:

Best Picture:  Slumdog

Actor:  Mickey Rourke

Supporting Actor:  Heath Ledger – not just because he’s tragically dead, but because he was great

Actress:  Kate Winslet

Supporting Actress:  Viola Davis – it may have only been 12 minutes – but toe to toe with Meryl Streep for 12 minutes counts for at least 24

Director:  Danny Boyle

Documentary Feature:  Man on a Wire

Documentary Short:  The Conscience of Nhem En

Animated Feature:  Wall-E

Foreign Language Film – Waltz with Bashir

Original Screenplay – Milk

Adapted Screenplay – Slumdog

Cinematography – Slumdog

Art Direction – The Dark Knight

Animated Short – Presto

Life Action Short – The Pig

Visual Effects – Benjamin Button

Costume Design – The Duchess

Film Editing – Slumdog

Sound Mixing – The Dark Knight

Sound Editing – The Dark Knight

Original Score – Slumdog

Original Song – Jai Ho

Makeup – Benjamin Button

So, chill those champagne flutes, and enjoy the Hugh Jackman show!

Best “Leading” Actress – Oscar 2009

This year’s Best Actress category really calls the question, “What is a leading actress?” Is it based on actual screen time? how many actresses are actually in the movie? or is it simply a studio designation?  We know it’s not the latter, because Harvey Weinstein ran a pretty hot and heavy campaign for Kate Winslet’s Hanna Schmitz to be nominated as a supporting role, and the Academy saw fit to nominate her as Best Actress. And, with the bumping of her performance in Revolutionary Road, and “upgrading” The Reader to the Best Actress platform, one has to wonder – will the Academy vote for her actual performance in the Reader, or will they vote for her based on two Oscar worthy performances in the same year.

Traditionally, if an actress is nominated in two categories, one of two things will happen – a complete shut out, or they will snag the Best Supporting Actress award. Before the nominations came out, and I was doing my pre-picking, I had Kate Winslet as a sure thing for Best Supporting Actress for The Reader. And, now that I’ve actually seen The Reader, this is the right category, this is where this performance should be nominated. The Academy simply got it wrong.

winsletreader2 Hanna Schmitz is a supporting role, not because she’s not on screen for a significant period of time (she is), and not because there are other actresses in the film that could fit the bill as the lead actress (there aren’t). And, it’s not because of strategy – that’s the category Kate is most likely to win. It’s because the Reader is not Hanna’s story — it is the story of Michael Berg, a teenager who embarks on a doomed affair with Hanna Schmitz, a much older woman, and a former, unrepentent, Nazi prison guard, and how she changed him, and ultimately, how he changed her.

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David Kross, as the young Michael Berg, was really fantastic, and that he is not nominated in the Best Actor category can only be attributed to 2 things – a. he hasn’t put his time in yet, and is too much of an unknown, and b. this was really a strong year for male performances (see below)  (although I would have bumped Brad Pitt any day for this kid, and likewise, come to think of it, I would boot Angelina Jolie out of this race for that whiny, weepy performance in Changeling, a great disappointment from Clint Eastwood, and at most, a mediocre movie. Brad and Angie were nominated simply for their star appeal, and what they bring to the red carpet – which this year has fans salivating for a showdown with this superstar twosome and Jennifer Aniston and John Mayer. Team Anison/Mayer anyone?).  While I was waiting in line in the bathroom after the movie, a woman was shocked that Hanna was not ashamed of her role in the war, but rather her inability to read.  I don’t think that’s entirely accurate – Hanna Schmitz is a very complicated character, and that’s an oversimplification, but the movie is not about her struggles with her past, or her accountability for her actions.  It’s about Michael’s struggle to understand her, not only what she did to him, but what she did in the context of national history,  in the face of the overwhelming sentiment of Germany at the time, that understanding is of no moment, and irrelevant – she was responsible for the deaths of more than 300 people, what more is there to understand?

Kate Winslet’s performance truly “supports” David Kross.  His need to understand is made reasonable, understandable, and almost achingly necessary because she makes an unlikable character so interesting, and her flaws almost endearing.  This performance should be rewarded – but will it be in the leading spot, in the wrong category, up against an icon like Meryl Streep?  I’m tentatively going to say yes, but in truth, I could easily change my mind by Sunday.

Meryl Streep is a two time Oscar winner, has been nominated 15 times, and the tagline “greatest living American Actress,” might as was well be tatooed on her forehead.  But, being nominated 14 previous times, and only winning 2 times, means that she had to sit in the loser’s chair 12 times.  And this year, when she won the SAG award, and gave her somewhat dopey, but endearing acceptance speech (I talked about acceptances speeches in the previous post – I think Meryl and Kate cancel each other out here), you could tell, she really really wants to win, and the Academy might give it to her, and they wouldn’t be wrong.  Doubt is a good film, and Meryl’s performance, while at times over the top, was at times, also mesmerizing.

20a1-doubt1In Doubt, Meryl Streep’s Sister Aloysios runs her Catholic school with an iron fist, and in her role as principal, goes head to head with Philip Seymour Hoffman, the parish priest.  When she points her steel finger at Hoffman, with her limited proof, but only her firm, resolved belief, I believed her.  And, in the end when she expresses doubt – you see the pain on her face, as her doubt is not about whether the priest was actually guilty – of that she has no doubt – but a doubt at the very core of her being – a doubt in the church, with its sexist heirarchy, that would not only subordinate such behavior, but actually elevate this man to a higher position.  Some people probably found her character unlikable, unsympathetic, that she could convict without proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but I liked her – I was with her in her struggles as a woman in a male run/male dominated institution.  I envied her belief in her own instincts, and I respected her almost feral protectiveness of the children in her school, and a sympathized with her inability to modernize.

And, in the end, there was no doubt this was Meryl Streep’s movie.  She was the undisputed  lead, this was her story.  And this primacy, along with the fact that it really would be painful to see her lose for the 13th time, may put her over the hump, in the face of Kate Winslet’s two standout performances.

And what of the other nominees?  There’s buzz abounding that Melissa Leo is going to pull a huge upset for Frozen River – possible, always possible, but I don’t think enough people saw the movie.  And Anne Hathaway – not her turn, and like Eddie Murphy who sabotaged Dream Girls with Norbit, Bride Wars killed any chance she had.  But, on the other hand, she may get some pity points for having a jailed ex-boyfriend who publically humiliated her on an almost unfathomable scale.  You never know.

So, in this moment, I’m going with Kate Winslet, but by Sunday . . .

Smackdown – Best Actor Oscar 2009

There’s no ring, no Rocky Balboa chant, no championship belt, but this year’s Oscar race for Best Actor features two heavyweights duking it out for the coveted naked little man statuette.  I say two, because although Richard Jenkins and Frank Langella offer Oscar worthy performances, and frankly, in another year it may have been Frank Langella’s turn for his uncanny romp as Nixon, I really think it boils down to Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke.  (Yes, I am ignoring Brad Pitt – I’m ignoring everything about Benjamin Button – I really wish Button had been born at 60 as opposed to 80 so that the movie could have been 2 hours shorter). 

seanpenn2Milk is a standard Hollywood biopic.  That it is about the first openly gay politican is of no moment when you talk about originality as it relates to genre.  The story is told in flashbacks, as Harvey tells of his political rise and personal failures into a tape recorder – Harvey is closeted, Harvey moves to San Fran, Harvey becomes the mayor of Castro Street, Harvey is elected to office, Harvey fights Prop 6 and Anita Bryant, Harvey is assassinated.  The story is illuminated and made moving, interesting, and inspirational by an outstanding supporting cast; Milk is a sum of its parts, and while Sean Penn’s performance is fantastic, it cannot stand alone from this truly ensemble piece.  

seanpennThat’s not to say that the moments when Penn is alone, in his room, talking into a microphone, to an impersonal audience because he has lost those truly closest to him, fall flat.  Sean Penn has told his story into a tape recorder before – in the Assassination of Richard Nixon, Penn plays an man suffering from a pyschotic break, who rants and raves into a tape recorder.  I didn’t really get that movie, and was ambivalent about his character.  But in Milk, Sean Penn, having practiced this narrative technique, gets it right – some of the finest acting in this film comes during the quiet moments in Harvey’s apartment, listening to Penn’s voice, and watching his face,  regrets, failures, triumphs, and fear, all there, in every breath he takes, and with every line on his face.  By the time Penn has a bullhorn in his hand, and he gleeful announces, “My name is Harvey Milk, and I am here to recruit you,” the audience is already in his pocket. 

 

And, following the passage of Proposition 8, this performance has terrific Oscar appeal.  A win for Penn would be a resounding rejection on the part of the Hollywood commnity against Prop. 8, and in the arts/theater community a proactive vote for change (and an apology for passing on Brokeback Mountain).  But, a vote for Penn is really a vote for Milk and what he stood for and the need for a new voice for the disenfranchised, and those who require equal civil rights for all now.  And, the bottom line is Harvey Milk is not nominated, Sean Penn is, and Sean Penn, well, is kind of an asshole.

 

A speech can’t win you an Oscar or lose you one, I would like to think.  That Kate Winslet gushed and cried, and looked fairly ridiculous coaching herself to “steady steady” or whatever it was she gasped will hopefully not be her undoing.  Likewise, you would like to think that the ill conceived things that come of Sean Penn’s mouth will not keep him from the podium – but they just might – his speech at the SAG awards was really a slap in the face to all t.v. actors, and guess what – most of them vote. 

 

No, this Hollywood, I think, is somewhat postmodern, in that the story about making the movie is the final factor in vote casting, the movie in the end, is about the movie making.  Perhaps this is not only postmodern, it’s also a bit narcissitic – an actor who votes perhaps believes that actors transcend  the actual acting.   And, in this case, where the performances were so close, so good – I think Mickey Rourke’s personal story, a story that makes you see the Wrestler through an entirely different prism, will land Rourke the naked little man.

 

mickeyrourkeThe Wrestler is an unpleasant, hard film to watch.  Rourke’s character, a wrestler who can no longer wrestler, is not a tragic figure because he is not capable of redemption, he is a tragic figure because he is completely capable, but rejects it.  Although his wrestling career is over, he has every opportunity to make a new life for himself, repair the relationship with his daughter, start a new relationship with a single mother, a naked Marissa Tomei, working the hard life as a stripper.  This is a movie about aging, but it’s also a movie about opportunities and second chances.  Rourke’s Randy the Ram can’t embrace life outside the ring, squanders his second chance, and is left with no option, in his own mind, but to seek suicide by wrestle, and just end it all instead of finalling giving in to adulthood and middle age.  Middle age and responsibility  is more ravaging to him than the steroid infested, cocaine enahanced life of pro wrestling, that’s only highlights seem to be muted cheers from an equally aging crowd and the occasional fan adoration over an autograph or photo op.  And, it’s is really hard to watch this loser make the same mistakes over and over again.  When he misses a crucial dinner date with his daughter, you find yourself saying, no no no you jackass, and you find yourself more involved in his life than he is.

 

And, when I say that Mickey Rourke playing this character makes you view the movie through a different prism, I’m not saying it’s Rourke’s personal story – but it’s similar -his strange attempt at a boxing career, his crazy promise as an actor potentially wasted and ruined by bad choices fueled by drugs and the need for money, and his winning the Oscar would give the movie a whole new meaning – Randy the Ram, broken loser, Mickey Roure – Oscar winner! In this day and age, we all would like to think that redemption is not only possible, but that we are each worthy of it.

 

And Mickey Rourke has been all over the media circuit just being so darn nice, humble, thankful, gracious – the kind of guy you want to give an award to.  To me, Mickey Rourke is like a client  at a VOP – a violation of probation hearing.  As a new public defender, you”re assigned to do these violation hearings every other day.  You stand there next to your client, and struggle to think of something, anything to say that will move the judge to give your guy a second chance, or a tenth chance, sometimes.  And Mickey is that guy – that guy you really really want to have another chance, and this movie is it for him.  It is a brave performance.  Sean Penn may be labeled as brave for taking on an openly gay character requiring him to indeed portray the sexual lifestyle that goes with it.  But, to me, eh, not so brave.  Here, Rourke opens himself up, exposes himself in so many ways – playing an unlikable guy, a raw guy – Rourke breaks himself into a million pieces, for all to pick up, examine and judge.

 

And, I think, the Academy is going to reward this comeback story, it needs this comeback story – we need this comeback story.  And for gosh sakes, the man’s dog died over the weekend – he needs an Oscar, and he’s my pick.

There’s still knitting going on in the city, but . . .

Welcome to my new blog, Lemontines – like a Hallmark Valentine, when I care enough to write the very best . . . or when I care enough to write something good . . . or when I just feel like writing anything.  For a long winded explanation of the name, you can read about it here.

At Penn State, my short story professor spent a lot of time ruminating on the concept of naming – if we name it, does it become?  Is it in the act of naming, that a thing takes root, grows, becomes?  Is a tree truly a tree until we actually name it?  At 9:00 a.m. when I had the class, all I wanted to do was name the exit — it was all a lot of existential hoo ha to me, but for whatever reason, it’s something that stuck with me. 

When I named my last blog, Knit and the City, in the naming, it “became” – it became a blog about knitting, and only, aside from the knitting metaphor that really was about something else entirely, about knitting.  I stopped blogging at Knit and the City sometime last September, mostly because I was bored.  With Ravelry, the ultimate myspace for knitters, I had an outlet to write about knitting, post pictures of knitting, make comments about other people’s knitting, and get comments about my own knitting.  What was the point of blogging about knitting?  So, here I am, at my new doman, with a name that, when I say it to myself or think about it – Lemontines – makes me happy.  And the risk?  I’m here . . . all by myself.

There was an article in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer about Facebook, and the current “chain letter” that’s been going around – the 25 things about you note, where the recipient of the chain note posts 25 random things about themselves, with the given being that they most certainly have an audience.  The author of the article suggested that this online  attitude of  “of course I have an audience,” smacks of narcissism.  But aren’t blogs the ultimately 25 random things about oneself? Is an audience assumed if you have a blog?

I assume no such thing – I’m happy when someone reads my blog, but I don’t assume it, and leaving Knit and the City, which because of the podcast and the fantastic knitting community, had a small following, really might be a big mistake. 

So, if you’ve found me – welcome!  I intend to blog about anything and everything – movies, books, little things here and there I find interesting, random thoughts that pop into my head, and of course, I’ll still write about my knitting.  Maintaining my own domain, as opposed to being hosted by Blogger, is a challenge, and I’m enjoying figuring out the code.  Hopefully, I’ll be a more regular writer, because it is the act of writing that I missed from Knit and the City.  Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’ve lost words – so much of my communication is face to face, where an expression can substitute for the proper adjective, or through texting and email – where everything is shorthand. 

I’m looking forward to finding this lost vocabulary,  and hopefully, putting it to good use.  And, if not, maybe I’ll at least become better at the Times Crossword puzzle.

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