27 April 2008

Today's Thing

Today's thing is a poem by Robert Herrick.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rosebuds why ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the Sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, the worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time;
And while ye may, go merry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

Robert Herrick was raised in the post-Shakespeare era. Shakespeare was born in 1564 and died in 1616; Herrick was born in 1591 and died in 1674. Their lives were surprisingly opposed; Shakespeare was born in the small village of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, more than one hundred miles from London, and he used his talents to get to London and make a name for himself almost as quickly as possible. Herrick, by contrast, was born in Cheapside and worked under his uncle who was jeweler to the king; after taking orders, he took a post as vicar in Devonshire, over a hundred miles from London. You can see, though, some very strong Shakespearean influences in this poem. The last stanza in particular reminds me of the lyrics for a song Shakespeare put into 'Much Ado About Nothing':

Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny nonny.

I love the message of this poem. Most people who recognize it probably know it from the film 'Dead Poet's Society.' I was lucky enough to have a high school English teacher who forced poetry down our throats. Most people in my class who couldn't stand Shakespeare loved this poem. Something about its message of not wasting time resonated with us then. "That age is best which is the first." When we were fifteen, we definitely agreed.

23 April 2008

Today's Thing

A quote regarding a statue of the Virgin Mary in a mountain side grotto:

"Did you know, no matter how bad the light is, no matter how long you stare at it, no matter how much drink you've taken, ..."

"Go on."

"That statue will not move a whisker."

Taken from Ballykissangel, Season 1 (though in the UK and Ireland they say Series 1) finale, "Missing You Already."

22 April 2008

Today's Thing

How do you imagine they did that?

21 April 2008

Today's Thing

A quote on the institution of divorce:

"You've got an old-fashioned idea that divorce is something that lasts forever. ''Till death do us part.' Why, divorce doesn't mean anything these days, Hildy. Just a few words mumbled over you by a judge."

- Taken from 'His Girl Friday', spoken by the incomparable Cary Grant.

Kind of puts things in a bit of perspective, doesn't it?

20 April 2008

Sweeney Todd

Tim Burton jaunts gaily along the fine line between genius and insanity in 'Sweeney Todd', and one must admire the way he makes you want to come along for the ride.

Adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name, Burton and actor Johnny Depp pair for their sixth film together, bringing the vengeance-driven barber of Fleet Street to DVD earlier this month. Just as delightful as Depp and Burton is the supporting cast of Alan Rickman as the villainous Judge Turpin and Helena Bonham-Carter as the frugal Mrs. Lovett, who turns Todd's victims into the best-selling meat pies in London.

Depp and company sing the music by Stephen Sondheim, who was a consultant on the project during filming. The score has left many other experienced professionals tripping over words and struggling to keep up, but Depp manages well enough in the role of Todd. He exhibits a mild range but an impressive emotive element blended with superb acting. Where some might focus too much on Sondheim's tongue-twisting lyrics or difficult tunes, Depp finds a happy equilibrium between both. Helena is not as lucky; her struggles with the score leave you cringing in front of your DVD player. Her priceless comedic comedic timing saves her more than once. She's not a singer, but she's a fine actress. Rickman is perfectly despicable in every way. If you don't love to hate him by his second scene, you should check your pulse.

Burton's color palette in the film disappoints in its similarity to 'Sleepy Hollow', his 1999 film also starring Depp. Both films are steeped in grays and blacks, even during the "sunny" scenes, with little variation or exception. What is new in 'Todd' is the use of blood. The bright reds and striking maroons flow and fly like living creatures, sometimes helped by the miracle of computer-generated images. Yet somehow in the middle of this bloodbath, Burton gets you to root for Todd to "have his revenge," even as you cringe at each thudding crack of bones from the bodies he sends down the chute into Lovett's baking room. And in this mad killing spree, Burton still finds moments of humor that fit in remarkably well with the ludicrous-yet-reasonable story line. Insanity never looked so appetizing.

Today's Thing

To make you all laugh: A pancake shaped (vaguely) like a foot.

Kind of reminds me of pictures of Chinese women who'd had their feet bound that I saw in my FemStudies class in college.

Photograph (and pancake) by Zunera Mirza.

19 April 2008

Today's Thing

A quote for you to ponder as we edge ever closer to the Pennsylvania primary:

"There are 340 billionaires in this country, and 40 million living below the poverty line. Wake up, 7-11. This is the third world."

-- taken from Season 2 of Weeds

16 April 2008

Peter Jackson

I appreciate artful film making. The clever shot, the subtle camera work, all these thing contribute to making a good movie. But sometimes even the most artistic director can go overboard. And in my opinion, no modern day film maker is guilty of this than Peter Jackson.

I understand that the Lord of the Ring books were extremely detailed, and that to overlook any of them was to risk alienating a portion of the movie-going audience. It's the same problem that any director responsible for adapting any staple of pop culture, be it book, video game, or anything. But like the 'Harry Potter' movies, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet in order to keep your movies watchable.

The Lord of the Ring movies were not horrible. They had great shots and a script that bore a remarkable resemblance to the original work. But they weren't perfect, and not especially deserving of the Oscars they were awarded. Each had their own particular problems, but the one they shared was length. Cutting even 30 minutes from each of the films would have sped up the pace and made the films more engaging, more exciting, more invigorating. Instead, the first one moved so slowly that I fell asleep in the middle of it, not once, not twice, but five times before a friend of mine had to jab me in the shoulder with a pencil to keep me awake.

'King Kong' kept my attention much better - at least, for the first hour and a half. It had some corny and often contradictory dialogue ("an island never before seen by man; the ruins of an ancient civilization." If it's the ruins of an ancient civilization, then obviously it was seen by man at some time or another.) In spite of that, I hardly noticed that so much time had gone by (the pairing of Jack Black and Colin Hanks just has that effect on me.) But then the film would go through spurts of indulgent special effects followed by empty lags that seemed to last forever. By the time you get to Kong on the top of the Empire State Building, a scene which Jackson said made him cry when he saw the original (made in 1933), you want to cry too - of boredom. By then, the film has ceased being about the plot at all, and is rather all about the special effects. The underlying theme of fearing and hating what we don't understand has taken a back seat to whatever magic Jackson can put on the screen. And the effects are certainly spectacular. But they're not enough to sustain a movie for three and a half hours.

Every time I hear Jackson is directing a new movie, my first impulse is to get excited. After all, the man is an artist who can make a camera shot look as picturesque as a Monet. But I always have to temper these thoughts with what Jackson has proven to me to be his fatal flaw; overindulgence. If any singe moment in the film can be overdone, stretched to the breaking point and drained of its feeling, Jackson is sure to do it. A part of me can't wait for 'The Lovely Bones' to come out (tentatively scheduled for March 13, 2009 release). Another part of me knows that seeing it might ruin the story for me forever.