Sunday, December 17, 2006

arts, lately

Not long ago this year I found myself increasing distressed with my literary options -- Special Topics in what? Fortress of who? Why can't you people stop being so exhaustively clever and just WRITE? Lately, however, I have experienced an uptick in quality. The trick, apparently? Switching from longform to short. Essays/stories read fast, and often funny; and best of all, if you find yourself despairing of one, you can flip to the next.

In this fashion, I have read:
- The Ladies of Grace Adieu (Clarke, Susanna)
- I Feel Bad About My Neck (Ephron, Nora)
- Shiksa Goddess (Wasserstein, Wendy)
- How To Be Alone (Franzen, Jonathan) (thanks, Yanni)
and a little earlier this year,
- Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith (Lamott, Anne)

In general, I am very much a girl of novels. Some memoirs sneak in now and again, as do some "serious" books, but in both cases, usually those written to resemble novels. It's been interesting to focus on the small, the concise and self-contained.

With movies, I've had less luck. Stranger Than Fiction and Little Children, my most recent theatrical experiences, are both entertaining in the moment, well-directed and bursting with well-acted pathos. But neither has enough substance, really, to compare to the Queen, the only truly, 100% worthwhile thing I've seen this year. (Little Miss Sunshine runs a close second, with 49 Up in third.)

I have to admit I preferred STF's ending to LC's, which I found predictably disturbing. I hope it's not giving too much away to reveal that STF, being a darkish comedy, chooses to pursue a happy ending, while LC, being a literary tragedy, revels in an unhappy, supposedly redemptive one. Frankly, part of me wishes they'd swapped. Who needs all that resolution? Let the wrong people die! Let the good-hearted sinners be rewarded!

Apparently the Departed and the upcoming Letters from Iwo Jima are excellent. But why do they have to be so durned, well, masculine? Like Apocalypto, the testosterone emanates from the screen when I watch previews. First I'd have to grow loins and then gird them to watch either flick, and who has the energy, or the stem cells?

Babel and Volver remain on my list. I'm not terribly optimistic that I'll have a horse in this race that I'll be as passionate about as I was about Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.


Nate said...

The bits of How To Be Alone that I've read were great! I tried to read fewer tomes and more 200-250 pagers. That helps.

You're right, nothing this year that I feel much inclined to champion. And Eternal Sunshine is still one of the best in years. Don't get too keyed up for The Departed. It's well made, acted, directed, hyper-clever and genuinely tense in moments, but if I'm talking Best Picture stuff, I need a little more... resonance, or something, which I just don't think The Departed has. In the end, it's just a cat and mouse movie. Maybe if Boston was more of a presence in it, like in Mystic River, where it was almost a character, or maybe if the cat and mouse was the means to subtly dissect the story of the American city, like in The Wire or something, we'd be talking more weight here, more gravity, but in the end it's just a movie about who will get caught first. You'll enjoy it, but I can't think of anything else to say about it.

I'm going to start yelling "first!" on these.

Anonymous said...

"death by pad thai" is a great collection of essays. some funny, some wistful, all entertaining.

Adam said...

I like Europe Central by W T Vollmann. But then, I would.