Last night JM and I watched Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which confirmed for me that you are not only the most adorable actress in Hollywood, but you are also among the most talented.
Sure, it helps that your character Maria-Elena was written rather brilliantly and seemed already fully sketched well before you appeared on screen. Indeed, the first part of the movie is spent waiting for you to appear, from the moment we learn from the other characters about how the tempestuous and mercurial Maria-Elena stabbed her ex husband and later tried to kill herself. Most actors would have a hard time stepping into such an overdetermined narrative, but not you. You filled it up. Made it a little funny, even.
p.s. congratulations on your oscar.
p.p.s. you make me want to start drinking diet coke again.
When I was a graduate student I did some dumb things. Like that email complaining about an administrator that I accidentally sent to the administrator. Oops! And a couple of snotty, haughty letters about hiring issues wherein I, who had not yet stepped foot on the job market, pretended I knew what I was talking about. Cringe.
I'm embarrassed about these now and am grateful that I was in a department where such mis-steps could be forgiven. This week I have had cause to remember those dumb things in part because a group of graduate students here has been acting in a manner that I find quite appalling. (None of these graduate students, for the record, is in my own field, though the controversy is swirling around that field.)
The controversy is about changes being implemented in the rhetoric program. I have no problem with people raising concerns--and any drastic change is going to draw attention, even pushback--but the manner with which concerns have gotten raised is what really bothers me. This department prides itself on a supportive environment for graduate students; what is more, faculty political views range pretty much from liberal to radical, and many colleagues would rather have their books wither at the hands of angry peer reviews than be deemed unsympathetic to graduate students.
For my part, though, that goodwill has been eroded after the behavior I have witnessed and heard about this week. The behavior runs the gamut from bullying other graduate students who offer alternative viewpoints or--worse--reducing them to tears with facebook tirades, to circulating anonymous biased surveys, to writing nasty, disrespectful letters of protest, to undermining departmental protocols for raising concerns, to trying to pit faculty members against each other. All because of some curricular reform that is in my view much needed and still very much in the works.
Graduate students, I urge you to learn collegiality early on. You are professionals, and professionals treat each other with respect, not derisive dismissal. I am deeply saddened about the behavior around here, and in response to that behavior I maybe haven't been the model of collegiality myself, in part because I felt like some rears needed some serious kicking. While the department is fortunate to have leaders who have stepped in to clear up the confusion and paranoia, I fear lasting damage has been done, and it spreads across your ranks (the graduate ranks) like a spilled bottle of toxins.
People, it's really not worth it. Try stepping outside of your own narrow interests to see a broader institutional picture, including (gasp!) the people who take these classes. Write your dissertations, teach your classes, and work on being collegial and navigating differences with respect. It will be good practice, and your future colleagues will be grateful.
I am happy to report that I have come to an important decision on Joaquin Phoenix. In case you haven't heard, he has recently and quite publicly (of course) renounced acting in order to launch a career in rap. Since then he has fallen off stage in medias rap and turned in a baffling Letterman appearance. The first time I saw the Letterman clip, I was horrified that people found a drug addled celebrity so funny and that Letterman was such a jerko. But after filling in JM about the various Andy Kaufmann theories, doing some joint research on the issue, and re-watching the Letterman episode, I have decided that yes, in fact, this is one big, awesome act. For starters, Phoenix is at once too lucid, nervous, and detached in the Letterman appearance for this to be an instance of drug use. Also, Letterman appears to be following a script (more than usual). And finally, there's the "documentary" that Casey Affleck is making about Phoenix's career transition, which suggests to me that this is an in-character sort of period for JP. Ben Stiller's imitation of Phoenix on the Oscars tonight was, honestly, a touch better than Phoenix himself. And also? It just helps me sleep better to think he's working.
This weekend I was happily reminded just how important it can be to stay connected with a good friend in a moving, breathing, shopping, eating, and drinking kind of way. Something like facebook simply can't substitute for a day, night, and morning of conversation that winds around and springs from material objects and amusing situations that a city like Chicago can serve up. Or sometimes the city is an incidental backdrop, as with the discussion about medieval accounts of Aristotle's natural philosophy that spilled from the cab into the restaurant, and the one about animals and rhetoric while wandering past baroque paintings and happening on frog-man.
Today JM and I had the first of a series of lasts here in our house. There are lasts that I won't bother trying to keep up with, and I promise not to bore you with too many of them. Some (like our last tuna sandwiches at the embassy with C and S) will be best left unmarked as such, or else we'll end up with a big soppy mess. This one, though, is fine because it involves only ourselves and the dogs, and we hope to be able to replicate it when we move: the last fire in our fireplace. We know it's the last because when we cleaned out the garage we deliberately hauled the remaining firewood into the house, thinking--hoping!--that this will be the last frigid weekend of the winter, and this morning we set fire to a huge pile of small logs. Because they were so small and so many, the fire burned hot and loud for a few hours while I read the paper nearby. Tillie likes to get as close to the fire as possible, and so she laid down on the rug in front of it until her chest turned pink from the heat. Then she curled up in the chair. Tomorrow, if there's time, I'll sweep out all the ashes, and that will be that.
when i am old and retired and reflecting on my life, one of my favorite mundane
things to remember will be this: going to see a movie and then calling up e! to talk about it. e!, you see, has all of what andy on the office calls "the dets" about movies she likes, like about how guns 'n roses was the only band that granted permission to use their actual song for this film. we talk about problems with movies (e.g., the way this one glosses over health care issues) and things we loved (me: those beautiful tights in the match against the staple-gun guy; e!: rourke's hair-as-character; both of us: omg, the deli slicer scene), and how hot (marisa tomei!) or not the actors were and why or why not. if one of us is, say, on a long solo road trip, and the other one is on a long solo run with a high-quality headset/mic, we can easily log upwards of forty minutes on one movie. and i even forgot to ask her to settle a discussion JM and i had about whether an actor would take steroids to bulk up for a role like this. i mean, if art imitates life and all.
This week I started on another article--working through a backlog here--on Burke and nonhuman animals. To this end, I have reread a bunch of Burke, taking notes whenever animals pop up. So far in Permanence and Change, I have made notes about chickens, a trout, grasshoppers, an eagle, horses, birds (more generally), a fox, a lion, a lamb, a cow, mosquitoes, apes, termites, a rabbit, and an old hen. Oh, and lots of dogs, including Schopenhauer barking like one.
JM ordered up this dvd, and I picked it out of a lineup. Plotwise, the film is Godzilla meets War of the Worlds, and stylewise it is Blair Witch Project meets 28 Days Later. Both of those last two scared the bejeezus out of me, so. Oh yes, and there are an awful lot of 9/11-ish details too: the mass exodus via the Brooklyn Bridge, papers floating after major explosions, dust tunneling between buildings. Oh, and terror. There's a lot of that too.
Cloverfield, as you Lost lovers may know, was made by Lost creator J.J. Abrams, and I can see the resemblance--the characters never exit the way they enter, very beautiful long-haired women, always some sort of military presence.
The plot is basically this: a bunch of twentysomethings are having a goodbye party in a cool, huge, exposed-brick type place with a socially awkward fellow making the rounds with a digital handheld when something attacks Manhattan!
The beginning of the film tells us that the recording was found in the area "formerly known as Central Park," a sure bet that things do not go all that well for the party-goers. The only thing novel about this film is the way the recording is dubbed over another recording of a happier day (about a month earlier) when the party's guest of honor made it with one of the really beautiful women. So on occasion there's a user error in the recording of horror night, and bits of that other day pop up. The splice-y effect is rather jarring, and it's a nifty way to layer plots. Again, not all that new, unless it is considered in the camera-as-character vein. Then it's pretty interesting.
Oh, and there's an awful lot going on in this film with what Ali G likes to call techmology. Those twentysomethings sure do like to send text messages and capture shots of tentacular jurrasicky monsters with their cell cameras. So maybe it wasn't that good, but I didn't get bored for a minute.
If you've seen Cloverfield and hated it or loved it or (like me) didn't feel all that strongly one way or the other, you'll probably like the South Park spoof. Go here for a clip.
And why the hell is this movie called Cloverfield? I gather it's the name of the monster, but no one knows that in the movie, because no one really knows WTF is going on in the movie.
Cloverfield is rated PG-13 for "violence, terror, and disturbing images."