Tuesday, September 30, 2003

lost & found

my review, which will probably appear under some hideous title in the phoenix on thursday of "Lost in Translation":
The bourgeoning subculture of fan fiction pairs two romantically-unaffiliated fictional characters and creates for them a story of their own. The internet overflows with fan fiction about Harry&Hermione from Harry Potter, Xena&Gabrielle from Xena: Warrior Princess, and various Star Trek captains with each other.

Whether consciously or not, what Sofia Coppola has created in her new film Lost in Translation is a piece of fan fiction that ingeniously pairs Bill Murray�s character, Herman Blume, from Rushmore, with Scarlet Johansson�s character, Rebecca, from Ghost World.

Devising a fantastical erotic scenario for those two characters would be untrue to both. Instead Coppola simply places them in the same swanky Tokyo hotel. Their mutual sense of alienation, coupled with insomnia, is enough to guarantee that Murray and Johansson will meet and recognize the other as a kindred spirit.

Murray�s character, an aging movie star, is in Japan to earn $2 million shooting whiskey commercials. Johansson�s, a 22 year old Yale grad, is in Japan accompanying her husband, a photographer, who is shooting movie stars.

Both spend their copious unstructured time wandering around the hotel or the city alone � and then, once they meet, together. It is in this aspect of the film particularly that Coppola reveals herself as a skillful director. Whether Johansson is examining Tokyo�s video arcades and high tech billboards, or temples and a flower-arranging class, Coppola herself maintains the same calm pace.

The effect produces more than a consistency of tone. Coppola captures vividly what is like not to be in Tokyo, but to be an American tourist in Tokyo. To view the city at arm�s length, fascinated by the details and equally unwilling to attempt to delve beneath the surface.

Neither Murray nor Johansson speaks Japanese. Much of the film�s humor derives from simple yet effective sight gags (Murray in a packed elevator of Japanese business men, standing a head taller than the rest of them) and typical cultural miscommunications. Without being offensive, the film manages to be surprisingly funny as well as, eventually, touching.

The relationship that develops between Murray and Johansson is what allows both to transcend the limits of their original Rushmore/ Ghost World characters. That relationship feels far more believable and, at the same time, more complex and unique, than what Hollywood usually comes up with.

Naturally, since they are Man and Woman, and even more so because as individuals they are so similar, sexual tension creeps into the story. At no point does it disappear, but, refreshingly, at no point does it take over. It becomes just another layer of their many-layered friendship.

Bill Murray deserves special praise for elevating wry, truly funny disaffection to an art form. If you couldn�t tell from Groundhog Day or if you thought Rushmore was a fluke, his performance here should erase all reasonable doubt: the man has talent.

Coppola�s previous film, The Virgin Suicides, while generally well-regarded, was also self-indulgent and slow. At moments, Lost in Translation feels like it could use some tough love editing. But as a whole it succeeds where Virgin Suicides failed, managing to be a thought-provoking, visually remarkable mood piece. The risks she takes here, such as prioritizing character over plot, pay off: they establish her as an artist as well as one of the most successful practitioners of fan fiction to date.

Monday, September 29, 2003



Two college seniors sit side by side on a red bench waiting for a train. SD, tall and lanky, carries one bag. ES, shorter and not-so-lanky, carries three. both look shaken.

yeah. that ... was pretty awful.

i think the worst part was when he made the class hate you for actually having done the assignment.

or how 'bout when he made fun of you for being vegetarian?

do you want a drink?

do you have one?
from one bag, Es withdraws a statuesque bottle of WHITE CHOCOLATE GODIVA LIQUEUR. from another bag she withdraws TWO PLASTIC SHOTGLASSES.
do you see any cops?

the conductor ...

Es and S.D. hang their heads as the CONDUCTOR passes by, bellowing for a station stop. once she's gone, Es pours out two shots.
to the most disappointing class ever.

hear hear.
both drink.
i think i'm going to need another.
S.D. extends his empty cup. Es pours liberally.

now here's where it gets fun! reader, choose your ending:
a) out of nowhere a police officer appears. he reads Es and S.D. the riot act on having open bottles of alcohol in public. fortunately he's convinced by their chagrin and apologies and lets them off with a warning -- but not before Es and S.D. miss their train and have to covertly drink more while waiting for the next

b) out of nowhere the despised professor appears, begging their pardon for having wasted their time over 4 weeks worth of classes, for pretending to be funny, for the racist cosby joke, for making Es say to the entire class of UPenn students, "i didn't date in high skool," & for insulting the semi-colon. unswayed by the apologies, Es hits him upside the head with the bottle of WHITE CHOCOLATE GODIVA LIQUEUR.

c) out of nowhere jesus appears. be patient, jesus counsels. bide your time. bite your tongues. believe me, in the next world, we have a special place for people who pretend to be funny, and a corner roped off for those who make racist cosby jokes.

d) none of the above. but the godiva was damn good.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

mi y'hiyeh veh mi ya'mut

coming home for rosh hashanah, the new year, means, primarily, the party my mother throws the afternoon of the first day. (the holiday lasts two.) essentially the same people come and feast on essentially the same menu. my friends grab plates of food and adjourn upstairs to eat on my bed and catch each other up on what's happened in the month since we've seen each other.

this year neither of my brothers came home to host with me, and sheba wasn't underfoot shnoring bits of turkey or meat. but as usual, people drank and had a merry time and stayed all afternoon, cornering me whenever i ventured downstairs to tell me i looked lovely and have i started college yet, or have i finished, or what am i doing next.

the party passed more quickly than it often has. i'm delaying the going back to college, even though i haven't been sleeping well in my old bed and even though my friends are heading back on schedule. surely it's my duty to hang around until the last of the poached salmon is et.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

be published

the washington post is publishing 600-800 word opinion pieces by undergraduates during the month of september. guidlines can be found here. send send send! think how depressing twill be if the results are dominated by young conservatives.

Monday, September 22, 2003

youth is a passing thing

I'm feeling bizarrely sad. The basement of McCabe isn't helping matters. Neither is the flourescent light or the chai I bought to get the taste of onions out of my mouth after 3 pieces of Belgian chocolate didn't do the trick. Even so I'm reluctant to return to my room, having ventured out for the purpose of doing homework (in which purpose I've been thwarted by the library gods) because i don't want to not-find ben there. i know in my head i'll not-find ben there; i'll find sex and the city: season 4, which will be a comfort, but not a ben-sized comfort.

at least my class today was good. last week i chose to crawl under the table and shoot myself rather than listen to the prof continue to ramble on about the cosby show, attractive v. unattractive female movie stars, cave paintings, and the like. it's supposed to be a screenwriting workshop for god's sake. he was treating it like a 3-hour marathon comedy special. even chris rock doesn't get 3 hours.

today was better. today at least we discussed movies. or, well, he talked for the vast majority of the time. maybe my standards have fallen precipitously. but he talked about the movies we were supposed to have seen; that's something. he said intelligent albeit uncited things, things he could have stolen from any number of people -- still, worthwhile, interesting things. it's nearly impossible to copywrite ideas anyway.

incidentally the gender genie determined from the above entry that i'm female -- barely. there was a 3 point difference in my scores. my use of "the"s nearly pushed me to the other side: apparently "the" is a typical masculine word. "but" is a typically feminine one.

maybe it's best to simply marvel at the genie and not bother trying to understand the underlying logical principles. maybe that's a typical feminine response. but!

Sunday, September 21, 2003

meat tenderizer

a bee stung me! in sharples, our dining hall, which looks like a ski lodge, is never called a cafeteria, and isn't usually a WWI battlefield where killer bees lurk in trenches waiting to jump out and attack.

a bee! stung me! i thought that only happened to whiny children, or people misguided enough to wear yellow. and honestly, it hurts. now i understand why people are afraid of those damned creatures. the one that got me didn't fall down and die, like they're supposed to; he merely continued on his merry masochistic way.

my hand swelled up and a nurse sprinkled meat tenderizer on like it was fairy dust, then sealed the deal by handing me a medicine bottle in a plastic baggie. that's ice, she said helpfully. just hold it with your hand.
i walked out of the medical building and back to my room, tenderized and clutching ice in the form of a bottle of pills, and i heard a girl behind me giggle to a boy, "what, did she get stung by a bee or something?"

also, i got my fortune told in philly yesterday, but more about that later.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

ben takes good pictures

there are a bunch of me but these are the 3 i like:

and and

here's one of my illustrious father:

course, you could just investigate the lot. do it fast if you're on the eastern seaboard, before isabel gets you.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

welcome to the monkey house


gephardt? dean?


i have long flowy curtains in my room now (located mostly around the window, although one, longer than the other, trails on the floor). i am also afraid of cockroaches. brigid found one in her room yesterday and kindly stopped to tell me about it before she went to bed. how she could have gone to bed, without even the reassuring presence of flowy curtains, i don't understand; it was hard enough for me in my situation.

also, i have a carpet. for some reason when i arrived at my lovely room in one of the nicest buildings on campus, i never thought to look down. turns out i live on linoleum. luckily shorey had a spare rug and she was willing to walk it with me all the way from her 15-minutes-away dorm. unluckily it smells rather rank. presently it's sitting out in the hallway until it learns to behave itself and smell like a civilized carpet.

shorey also hung the curtains. or is it hanged? it is useful to have useful friends.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

put yourself in my shoes

imagine: you're too tired to write a substantial entry. dispiriting days do that to you. also going to sleep at 3:30 for no better reason than because you've watched too many scary movies recently and are frightened to turn off the lights and be alone.

waking up and rushing off, disoriented, to tennis, only to swing vainly at every ball -- in one case, even attempt to serve and manage to thwack yourself in the back with the ball -- in another case, snapping unadvisably at the chill tennis instructor whose only offense was to ask you AGAIN to define for the class what a continental grip is -- should teach you that this, as a plan, is flawed.

a whole day spent in philly with nothing to show for it. 3 hour long penn class merely pissed you off and the registration gaffe afterwards exacerbated it, as did having to tred carefully in your tractionless platform sandals so as not to fall in the sudden soddenness of the afternoon. thank god for your friend s. kelly who procured falafel and SATC with you to calm you down and walked you to the train.

actually you're fine. you had a lovely weekend with your boy and his family. your hair withstood the humidity today remarkably well. so what if you don't have a movie review this week? go to sleep; everything will be better tomorrow.

Friday, September 12, 2003

it's about purity

driving up to new york on september 11th felt distinctly eerie. none of my fellow passengers seemed unduly stressed out. a few of them wore "i [heart] usa" buttons or t-shirts with flags, but quite possibly no more than normal in this day and age.

to avoid traffic, or something, we approached ny city via jersey city, which was a jumble of ethnicities you never see on television. women in saris, muslim men, a barefoot barelegged black baby running in circles while a couple watched from a porch, a few quickwalking youngish white folks but for the most part skin color ran the gamut from peanut butter to coca-cola.

stores boasted, Cheap _______ ! [nails, fish, shoes], some strictly in arabic.

i have to admit i held my breath while we crossed the bridge. i have to admit i thought, in the words of my predecessor, If i die, i die. i even may have thought it in hebrew, for extra kicks.

of course, nothing happened. i was glad to be getting off campus though. i wanted no part of any remembrance of the day, not leftist not rightist. for me it was enough to spend the day in class (normal) and travelling to new york (uneventful) and urge the arrival of september 12 as quickly as possible.

speaking of 12, here's my review of thirteen. por favor, ignore the shittyass titling, courtesy of my editor who hates me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

and you know i'm never hyperbolic. yesterday just bit. i tried to make things better by being pretty: i walked around all day in a bright pink skirt with striped pink'n'purple knee socks and barely any black, by my standards, just a shirt and boots to balance it out. it didn't work. everything just went wrong yesterday, in minor but increasingly irritating ways until i finally had a mini breakdown, read 5 chapters of hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, and conked out.

today, i was determined, should be better. and indeed it has been! it's been gorgeous outside. i feel pretty enough in my spiffy new (black) pants and new (black) shirt that says "hottie" in letters that look like they were spraypainted. i've eaten chocolate coconut cake, watched dressed to kill, read a whole wonderful book of dykes to watch out for, played tennis, watched the simpsons, seinfeld, and west wing, and am in the process of ordering pizza and watching some like it hot. i've made plans to visit my boyfriend tomorrow, with whom i had this exchange:

him: they're teddy bear feminists.
me: what the hell are teddy bear feminists?
him: feminists who give teddy bears to people.

this, need i say, is the life.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

this is why i keep him around

what a perfect way to relax after a helter-skelter day: to the streamed sounds of wfuv courtesy of m'ben. 8 - 12 pm on sundays this station plays the hard-to-classify music i like so much. gershwin-y, cole-porterish, 20s-30s music to which you can just see swishy skirts travelling in circles around a dance floor with three piece suits ...

after exercising my legal right -- hell, virtual obligation -- as a 21 year old to drink the past two nights, i'm taking it easy now. of course i did a lot of co|motion stuff this afternoon/evening before i allowed myself to take it easy. and of course the night where a group of us got drunk on pina coladas and vanilla vodka and played charades was in and of itself easier than the night where a small group of us saw depressing though quality art filmage, then brooded over cocktails.

in general i've felt older recently. an interesting feeling, and one that is probably not unconnected to being a senior. while i like the frosh i've met, it's not watching them run around that makes me feel like a senior, exactly. it's something else that i'm trying to put my finger on, something related to the feeling of unshakable familiarity & comfort -- even, perhaps, the beginning of a sense that i could be (soon) ready to move on. (not now, and not too soon, but, perhaps, soon.)

Saturday, September 06, 2003

at last!

well hi there, blogger. nice to see you too. yes, it's been a while, hasn't it. where have you been hiding.

since i've just emptied my mind at the lj i have little left for blogger, even though out of love and loyalty of course i tried blogger first.

i did, at elizabeth's mom's behest, see a chiropractor this week. twice, even. my neck feels almost entirely better, but don't tell friendly dr. boy-band-frontman-on-steroids because he wags his finger at discussing symptom disappearance. the focus of chiropractic care is to make your spine work at 100%. if your symptoms go away, that's merely a fringe benefit.

still: my neck feels better. ben came to visit; surely that helped too. he found it weird to have so recently graudated and returned. i found it comfortingly normal.

also, my first film review of the year, dirty pretty things. yes, the title sucks. i apologize. i'll do better next time. the review did garner me the first compliment i've ever received from my editor.
stay tuned next week for my review of thirteen.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

ester incapacitated

ouch. i've done something uncalled for to my neck and now my leftward mobility is curtailed. i can't lift my left arm, even to do my hair. this severely limits my options so it's a damn good thing it's already getting dark.

stefanie, daughter of a chiropractor and very much a true believer, informed me that ice is better than heat; that sleeping on more than one pillow is toxic and sleeping on your stomach is a death wish; and that i need to go get myself Corrected. she and eliz frequent a chiropractor about 15 minutes away by car so they don't see this as a big deal, but i find it a little scary. i mean, it looks like it hurts.

if by tomorrow i still can't turn my head to the left, i'll go with them. but ugh.