Saturday, June 6, 2009

In moments of quiet, I'm strangely drawn toward you, but - well, there haven't been any quiet moments.


This is my hundredth post, so let's make this one count! I have so much to talk about. Let's start with Deadwood, because an introduction is long overdue. I was recommended the series years ago: I watched the pilot about four times and a few more episodes but there always seemed to be more interesting things that got in the way so I never actually watched the show properly until this year. Well, let me tell you this: Deadwood is a thing of beauty. It's like a painting come to life. It's beautiful and gutsy and heartbreaking and funny and touching. The picspam I linked to actually talks about all the reasons Deadwood is awesome. But I just want to add something: watch the whole series before judging. Please. It's only 36 episodes and it's the only way to see the whole picture. Because the characters are so complex and the world so rich and original (this is greatly helped by the breathtaking cinematography, painstaking attention to detail and haunting score - god, the score, I swear, the piece Iguazu composed by Gustavo Santaolalla is magnificent) it might take you three whole seasons just to get used to this series, its words and its profound greatness. And watch out for the seasons finales - their beauty made me cry. Each episode will leave you exhausted, though, because there are just too many layers, but it's so worth it. Deadwood is about power, good and evil, chaos, basic instincts and ultimately about how we can work with and against all this and be full human beings. It's a study in sociology about what makes society (and it ain't pretty) with characters you can root for. I wish somebody would write something about the women of Deadwood - it's a man's world, but the women may just be the most complex and interesting characters of the show. This series makes a point. This series is smart. It's something you can go back to and write essays about. I miss it so much already.

Bringing Up Baby (1938) is a very good movie indeed. I thought My Man Godfrey was nutty but Bringing Up Baby is off the charts. I couldn't stop laughing and had to rewind because I'd miss too much while I was busy rolling on the floor! The title of this post is a quote taken directly from the movie. It has everything: good physical comedy, great one-liners, Katharine Hepburn has a very original role that she masters beautifully, Cary Grant is funny and geeky and the supporting cast is top-notch, not at all caricatures. A movie in which a woman buys a leopard to catch the eye of a paleontologist is a winner in my book, anyway. After watching this, I was more critical of The Philadelphia Story, which I watched shortly after: the first part of the movie is excellent but the second part was too melodramatic and romantic for my taste - Kate plays a strong woman called Tracy in a classic divorce-remarriage plot, often used in screwball comedies but the lines are so great and fresh. I didn't like Jimmy Stewart much in this picture but Cary Grant is always welcome. He does comedy so well. The young actress who plays her sister Dinah, Virginia Wedleir, is suprisingly talented. Some lines to lure you in:

Liz Imbrie: Oh it's all right Tracy. We all go haywire at times and if we don't, maybe we ought to.

Macaulay Connor: I would sell my grandmother for a drink - and you know how I love my grandmother.

Dinah Lord: Nothing ever possibly in the least ever happens here. Mother, how do you get smallpox?

Margaret Lord: Oh, dear. Is there no such thing as privacy any more?
Tracy Lord: Only in bed, mother, and not always there.

I've already said this before but I'll repeat it: what I like most about "classic" comedies is that they're all about theatre, really. It's all about dialog and the way this dialog is delivered. Add to that a challenging pace and excellent acting and you've got a winner.

Alice Swallow: Oh David, what have you done?
David Huxley: Just name anything, and I've done it.

Susan Vance: You've just had a bad day, that's all.
David Huxley: That's a masterpiece of understatement.

Moving on to books! Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson was nothing like what I expected it to be. I didn't expect it to be so funny, full of supernatural elements and the writing so smart and playful, it was all the more moving as it never thinks of being sentimental. It's realistic in terms of feelings and characterization but the writing is very special. I'm no good with summaries, so I asked Wikipedia to the rescue:
"The main character is a young girl named Jeanette, who is adopted by evangelists. She believes she is destined to become a missionary. The book depicts religious enthusiasm as an exploration of the power of love. As an adolescent, Jeanette experiences lesbian tendencies and her mother's group of religious friends subject her and her girlfriend to exorcisms." I loved Jeanette, the heroine. She's sensible, honest and hilarious. Will definitely read more of Winterson's books.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff was a lovely read. It's a true epistolary exchange between an American reader and a British bookseller living in England that starts in the middle of the Second World War. Helene regularly sends letters to order books she can't buy in the US and little by little, a friendship develops and Helene starts to send the bookshop parcels of food and other delicacies the staff can't buy because of rationing. What I liked most was Helene's passion for books. She's very honest and passionate about her loves. Even though her tastes in books are not the same as mine, I found a kindred spirit and a same obsession for reading. The correspondence was really touching and funny - Helene is such a great woman who doesn't love by halves, I like this kind of people. It's strange reading this today: I can easily have access to books published abroad and I take advantage of that immensely as you know. Still, I would have loved to have my personal bookseller sending me parcels of goodies every month, someone with whom I could discuss the books I purchase and who would be on the lookout for books I might be interested in. Reading is such a lonely activity, I feel the need to talk to other readers sometimes.

And last, but certainly not least, I finally bought and read Harry, a History by Melissa Anelli (webmistress of The Leaky Cauldron, one of the most popular fansites along with Mugglenet - I've always prefered Leaky myself), which is really a history of the fandom and how it developed. I can't express how much I loved this book. I read it in two sittings only because I started it late in the afternoon. It felt as if I were reading the story of my life so far, only with extras - Melissa attended every convention, tons of Wizard rock concerts, hosts the most listened to podcast on Potter and most of all, interviewed J.K. Rowling the day after the release of Half-Blood Prince in the most interesting interview for a fan because she asked specific questions about the plot. The second interview was for this book, Jo reminisces on how it all happened. This book is a story of what I wish my life could have been, and in a way, already was.
I cannot think of anyone who would have made a more worthy reporter of what happened for so many years. Melissa is the most excellent spokesperson and I was proud of her for standing by so many of the reasons why Harry Potter means so much to me.
It is such a privilege to be able to understand all the references, and Melissa explains them so well - the shipping wars, Laura Mallory, the fanfictions, Sugar Quill vs, the Wizard rock, the conventions. My favourite parts had to do with the release of Deathly Hallows - Melissa remembers the day it was published - because it affected all of the fandom in this eerie way - when you know something will never be the same and yet sense this accomplishment, this ultimate reward. I remember this specific passage when Jo talks about looking at her own reflection in the Mirror of Erised created for the movie when she visited the set: she saw herself surrounded with her books, Britain's most successful author. In the mirror she saw not a better version of her life but her life. Reading Harry, a History, it felt like looking in the Mirror and see a different version of myself, so close because we'd all experienced the same things, but so far because Melissa had experienced them to the full and made each one count.
I already knew Harry Potter was a part of me and would be forever - the books influenced my life from the way I vote to the way I laugh. What I didn't know is that there could be ways to be influenced by these books even more, and Melissa proved that. I felt humbled by and jealous of what she got to see, to hear, to read, to meet. I think, though, that she more than proved she was worthy of the dream life of any Potter fan - ultimately, I was simply happy someone in the world who could appreciate it entirely got to have this life. "I graduated in Potter studies" should be on her biography.
I'm so proud of this fandom and proud to be a part of it.
I hear Melissa's already writing a second book, but she didn't say what it was about. To me, it means it's not over. I said that this book was the story of my life so far, only with extras. I'm happy, grateful and relieved to know that there are still some changes to record and stories to tell.

In Philosopher's Stone, Dumbledore tells Harry: Ah, music. A magic beyond all we do here! While I'm still waiting for my letter from Hogwarts, I agree that music is magical. A 3-minute song can set your mood for a whole day. Today I feel like posting some Sam Cooke. The man invented soul music all by himself. I love soul when it's sung by Sam Cooke.

Let me tell you 'bout a place
Somewhere up-a New York way

Where the people are so gay

Twistin' the night away-ay

Here they have a lot of fun
Puttin' trouble on the run

Man, you find the old and young

Twistin' the night away

They're twistin', twistin', everybody's feelin' great

They're twistin', twistin', they're twistin' the night away


I wish you a very happy month of June!
The wonderfully versatile and talented Joan Blondell