Monday, January 13, 2003

over fine southern dining at georgia brown's last nite, in honor of my parents turning 26, my brother told two jokes:

1) in england during the war it was common practice for enlisted soldiers to spend weekends, get meals and some hospitality, with british families. one woman requested, "please, no jews or blacks." that friday, she opened her door to five african-american men. "there must be some mistake," said she. "no ma'am," said one of the men. "general cohen, he doesn't make mistakes."
2) one new leader of his country found on his desk two letters from his predecessor, numbered 1 and 2 and to be opened in the case of the first emergency (1) and the second (2). well, the first emergency happened. the new leader opened the first envelope and the letter said, "blame me." he did; his people bought it. life went on. a year later another emergency hit. he opened the second envelope and the letter said, "now sit down and write two letters."

my grandfather told a story:
stationed in england during the second WW, he developed the habit of walking with his head down (stupid british weather) and his hands in his pockets. a superior officer was heading his way and he weighed exposing his hand to the cold against exposing himself to the officer's wrath. he decided to take his chances and not salute, hoping the officer would ignore him. five steps past each other, the officer barked, "sargeant!" my grandfather froze and turned around. "don't you remember me?" said the officer. "it's morris -- we went to hebrew skool together ..."

and i saw the hours. gorgeous film. meryl streep is all you could ask for in an actress (i ask you: in that first scene, when she goes into the bathroom and there's a beautiful white orchid next to the sink -- is that a coincidence?) nicole kidman manages to disappear into the role. those shapeless dresses help, as does phillip glass's constant evocative mood-setting score, but she gives an honest performance, one i believed. julianne moore had arguably the most difficult task. that section of the book occurs almost entirely in her head. that she manages to convey as much as she does without speaking, voice-over, or narration is remarkable.
(conceivably both streep and moore could be nominated for two films. i wonder if that would be a first.)
read the novel, if you haven't. the film does it justice, and, as it's one of my favorites, that's saying something.

so: tho i still haven't seen talk to her, here's my top ten for 2002:
1) adaptation. only if you're willing to work with it. complicated, layered, completely original. real in a way that films almost never are and unreal in the way great films should be.
2) the hours. "someone has to die so the rest of us can value life more." have a life-affirming cookie afterwards.
3) chicago. the most enjoyable film of the year -- cocky, ironic, exciting, it seems to like itself quite as much as you do.
4) y tu mama tambien. the beautifully photographed, smart-ass, wake-up-call coming-of-age you never had.
5) the pianist. haunting, unrelenting, like, you have to imagine, the memories of warsaw in the 40s must be.
6) far from heaven. the first film i've seen to capture the spirit of the 50s earnestly, without disdain or melodrama.
7) monsoon wedding. more colorful, more subtle, and more joyous than the big fat greek one.
8) punch drunk love. who knew an adam sandler flick could leave you grinning at the credits? bizarre, imperfect, but captivating.
9) catch me if you can. winning, diverting, easy on the eyes. the best spielberg film i've seen in ages.
10 ) secretary. a deviant, risky romantic comedy that gets points for originality and excellent performances.
runners up: about schmidt, which i'm still on the fence about, and bowling for columbine.

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