Several movies

Three more days of work for the rest of 2009, including today, which is almost over. Day job work, that is. I still have some work on fiction to do before December falls off the calendar. I also stumbled upon a character’s voice for another short story that I plan to work on in early 2010, so I need to cultivate that one for a while and come up with his story.

We watched a few films this weekend. On Saturday we went out to see Have You Heard About the Morgans? I’ll give that one the award for the lamest, most irrelevant title of the year. Sure, one of the characters utters that line, but it is hardly reflective of the story. Hugh Grant is his usual bumbling, self-effacing self, which is a good thing if you like him, which we do. Sarah Jessica Parker wasn’t annoying, which was about the best I could hope from her. Bonus, though, for discovering that the film also stars Sam Elliott as his gruff usual self and Mary Steenburgen as his wife, Wilfred Brimley as an even gruffer guy, and Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss as a modern incarnation of her character on that show. It’s light, amusing fare, entirely predictable but really funny at times. One wonders why New Mexico had to stand in as Wyoming, though.

Then we watched Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock, which is based on the memoirs of the main character, the president of town council who managed to bring the Woodstock concert to town after its permit was killed elsewhere. Elliott is a young closeted gay man who is trying to break free from his domineering mother but who keeps getting sucked back in by the latest financial problem. The family owns a fleabag motel in a tiny, out of the way town, and the bank is about to foreclose. Elliott runs a festival every summer, mostly a record player set up in public, and there’s a traveling theatrical group living in the barn. The guy who comes to evaluate the terrain for the concert looks like a cross between Jim Morrison and Leo Sayer from Godspell. The concert is both a blessing and a curse, of course. Eugene Levy plays Yasgur, the farm owner who rents out his property, Richard (John Boy) Thomas is almost unrecognizable as one of the organizers, and Liev Schrieber is hilarious as the cross-dressing former marine who now goes by the name Vilma who is hired to head security. The concert itself is very much in the background in the film. At best we here a few strains of music in the distance. Mostly it’s about the people who come for the spectacle and the ones who are impacted by its arrival. I liked the motorcycle cop who came out to bust a few heads and ended up with a flower stuck in his helmet visor. I’m sure the real event was much more like bedlam–it comes off as a very mellow time for all.

Last night we watched Easy Virtue, an adaptation of a Noel Coward play starring Jessica Biel as an American who marries a younger English man from a landed family headed by Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth. Really lead by Thomas, as Firth is perpetually on the outs because he didn’t come straight home after the Great War but instead caroused around Europe until he came back with his tail between his legs. Larita (Biel) is thought to be a floozy by most and is instantly despised by Thomas, though not for the reasons that seem apparent at the beginning. The biggest threat Larita poses is in taking her new husband John away from the family home, which he is expected to save from financial ruin. Larita has a history (she’s a widow) and also likes to drive fast cars and was pictured “winning” a race in Monte Carlo until her gender disqualified her. It’s a costume drama with lots of UK/US humo(u)r and the usual friction between classes. Larita finds a sympathetic ear in Firth (and vice versa) and she relates better to the servants than her new family. Firth makes the movie, as he so often does.

Jeff Strand predicted the outcome of Survivor several weeks ago. I think it was pretty much ordained, too. Russell blustered his way through to the end, leaving corpses and mangled bodies in his wake. He couldn’t have gotten as far as he did without using the tactics he did, but in the end the ones who held his destiny in his hands were the ones he’d treated so poorly, so what did he expect? I don’t think I believe him when he says that he’s not like that in real life. I also thought he demonstrated poor grace as a loser, and the gag where he threw yet another pair of socks into the fire came off as feeble, too. I thought it was pretty funny, after watching the Ponderosa videos, to realize that Jaison was drunk during his first appearance as a juror, having just chugged a glass of wine from losing wine pong with Eric on top of several previous glasses! It was a pretty strong season, all in all, and I have little doubt that Russell will be one of the villains in the spring. I suspect that there are people out there studying his strategy and trying to solve the enigma — how do you scheme and backstab and plot and connive your way to the end and still have more than a couple of people willing to vote for you?

Funny moment of the reunion show: when one of the early contestants told Jeff that he made her break out in a sweat every time he spoke to her. His reaction was priceless. I wish the reunion show ran for two hours instead of just one.

Upgraded to Word Press 2.9. Cross your fingers it doesn’t go ka-blooey!

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