Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Sunday Salon: Sharing Books We Love, Bad Movies, Russian Romances, and More

First of all, I want to thank everyone who commented on my post on Thursday about the desire to share the works of art we love with the people we love and why we might hesitate sometimes to do that. People brought up really great points that both helped me clarify my own thinking and also consider other things.

As I was responding to the idea of worrying too much about what others think, (which I will freely admit to doing, I DO care too much about what other people think, not all people, but some people) I realized in a clearer way that part of the hesitation isn't so much that if I say I love such and such a book, and it was this really deep and personal experience and they end up hating it that they will think less of me so much as it becomes this whole other thing that can't be shared. I mean yes I do want the people I love, like even, to think I have good taste, who doesn't? But more than good taste I want to have that shared experience of loving something. I mean, the rarity of that is why so many of us are online, I know, we seek out the people we know exist that share a love for the things we love. But also sometimes these books we love or this music we love speaks to us in a language all its own that only other people that love it get, and so it can feel lonely to have that rejected by someone we care about. I hope this makes sense.

Ana also brought up how book blogging specifically prevents her from sharing pure fannish love for something because she's so attuned to addressing potential issues with a work, and several people agreed on that front. I do think book blogging has made me more aware when I read of how I will talk about a book. I also think I will feel compelled to mention certain things, though I suspect it's different for Ana, whose readership probably expects a very certain kind of analysis from her. Anyway, if you originally read the post in a feed reader and didn't click through for comments, I highly recommend you do because it's been one of my favorite discussions on the blog in a long time.

Terrible Films I Watched (including 2 Film Club rejects)

Okay so the film that finally pushed me to start film club was Lars von Trier's Antichrist. You may notice it's not on the film club schedule. That's because Carrie actually read more about the film than I did and sent me increasingly alarmed emails. I finally read a bit about it on wikipedia and realized that there was no way I could suggest people watch this movie. Then, I thought I might not watch it either, was on Amazon Prime and I heard that Melancholia was kind of related to it and some people I respect really liked Melancholia and so I decided to give it a go anyway. Oh my gosh, I wish I hadn't, I mean the film is VERY graphic and disturbing and now all those images are in my head forever and I wish they weren't. :( And I even quit well before the end!

Everything annoyed me about the movie though, from the get go, from the wildly graphic sex scene in the beginning while their toddler child calmly pushes a chair up to the window so he can eventually fall out and die, to the annoying way the husband tried to counsel and fix his wife. I mean every time he opened his mouth I wanted to slap him. And then they go to a cabin in the woods and everything gets really weird, and there's tons of sex and genital mutilation, and just...WHY DO MOVIES LIKE THIS EXIST? I cannot think of a single redeeming quality to this one at all.

So then I watched Melancholia which I can kind of appreciate more, like this idea of melancholia as something very personal that destroyed the character of Justine in the first part, and as the name of the planet that crashes into Earth in the end. And it was just a more palatable movie, but Charlotte Gainsbourg is in it, and she was the main female in Antichrist and so the instant she came on screen, I had horrific flashbacks that never really went away. Antichrist really scarred me y'all! The first half of the movie is all about Kirsten Dunst's character and she's getting married but also she's battling depression in a big way and she ends up doing all this stupid stuff and loses her husband straight away and her job etc.

The second part focuses on her sister Claire who is anxious about the impending crash of Melancholia the planet into Earth and follows her increasing anxiety as the world is coming to an end. Justine is fairly calm in the face of it, because Justine has already lost her battle to melancholia in the first half of the film. Also this is all filmed at some castle or something and the setting is really beautiful. And the really weird slow-motion prologue in the beginning
basically tells the whole story of the film. I didn't really like that the sex stuff in this movie, I thought it was really unnecessary, like there's this scene where Justine takes off all her clothes and lays out in the moon and I didn't get the point. But whatever. I looked up Lars von Trier's other movies, and the only other one I've seen is Dancer in the Dark which is also a movie that disturbed me deeply. I would actually like to watch it again sometime as it's been years, but clearly his story telling/film making has a way of getting under one's skin, though not necessarily in the best way to be honest.

The other film club reject I watched was The Skin I Live In I can't remember who suggested this, sorry. But the only reason I rejected it was because it wasn't out yet and I didn't know what the availability would be. When I saw it released and at Redbox I took a chance and OH MY GOSH. This movie is so disturbing and weird. Okay MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW.

**SPOILERS**It opens with Antonio Banderas doing all these experiments on skin and trying to create a new kind of skin that doesn't burn because his wife was in a car accident and suffered from severe burns and died. And you see this woman he keeps locked up in a room that he experiments on with the skin and you don't who she really is, but she tries to commit suicide and it doesn't work, and she also suggests she and Antonio just live together. And then this guy comes to the house dressed up in a tiger costume and he breaks in and he thinks the woman is the dead wife who apparently he had an affair with and the he rapes her. Antonio (sorry I don't know his character's name!!) comes home and finds them and shoots the guy. And the housekeeper tells Vera a ton of history like how those two guys were actually brothers and the guy in the tiger costume had an affair with his wife and they were running away together when they got in the car accident and he left her behind to burn. Antonio found her in the car and saved her but she was all covered in burns and wanted to die. Until one day she heard her daughter singing on the lawn and she felt some life and she got up to go to the window and she accidentally catches her reflection in the window and jumps to her death right in front of her daughter.

And then Antonio Banderas years later takes his daughter to a party shortly after she's released from a psychiatric hospital and she's all sweet and sort of hopeful and happy and then her date tries to rape her, which sends her over the edge until she eventually commits suicide as well. So of course Antonio Banderas does the natural thing and kidnaps the attempted rapist and chains him up. AND THEN he starts experimenting on him. Do you see where this is going? He gives him a sex change, new skin, etc. etc. until he has completely remade him over into the image of his dead wife, and call her Vera. **SPOILERS**

So that's another weird movie that I wish I could forget. I sort of want to curl up with Little Women, Sense & Sensibility, and You've Got Mail to purify myself.

Have any of you seen any of these movies? Am I missing something crucial?

Reading and Books!

I read Beth Kephart's Small Damages this week and it's wonderful! I also read This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers and it was also wonderful!

Also I'm continuing with The Bronze Horseman. I was reading this with a couple of friends but they bailed on me and I want to finish so I figured I could chronicle my thoughts here instead since I know a lot of you have read it. Spoilers because this a reading journal--since I was planning on discussing I have a lot of saved up thoughts, lol.

I've now finished the first book (the book is divided into two books I think) and the first part was rough going for me because it focused on the romance which was a bunch of stuff I don't really like about romances all bundled up into one starting with:

  • love at first sight

  • reformed player changes his ways for true love

  • girl is virginal and innocent and that's a lot of her appeal to him

  • stupid contrived obstacles keeping them apart. It grated in this story because they could have been really good

  • In addition to that the character development is awful, in that I didn't have a strong feel for who the characters were. I think I'm supposed to think of Tatiana as being really good and kind and selfless, but that's all I got. The other characters felt pretty one dimensional. And the prose is pretty plain and simple.

    But...despite that there are enough things I like about it to keep reading. As far as the romance goes, there was this one part where Tatiana is describing Alexander and how sure of himself hie is, and I really identified with that as being something that happens when you fall in love, how you start to marvel at the very sense of self that other person has. Alexander's back story is really interesting as well, I wonder if there were really people who renounced their US citizenship to live in the ideal communist society? But the book really started to get good for me when Leningrad was starving. I know that sounds terrible, but I thought this section was really well done, she really effectively described the slow way they starved, the greed of her cousin in stealing the food, the way that at first they were ravenous and then they could barely function, watching people die all around them, watching their rations turn into sawdust and cardboard bread, the family members dying, people dying on the street, people attacking them for food, and eventually eating the dead bodies out in the street. It was one of the better starvation accounts I've read really. I wanted to go buy the whole grocery store while reading. As I was reading it, I started thinking I had maybe read a book about the starving of Leningrad before and I have! It wasn't nearly as affecting though, since I barely remembered that was what it was about.

    Also, I don't know somehow this section helped me forgive the love story between Alexander and Tatiana because I realized that during a war like that, during a life and death situation you want to have something to hold onto or believe in, something bigger and outside of the war. So even if the love felt impossible, they both needed it to keep going. And I also thought that the big lie they tell Dasha has the ultimate consequence which reinforces the idea that epic lovers often dehumanize the people around them in the name of their love.

    Finally, one other little thing I appreciate is the way she weaves in these ideas of things they long for but don't have in their culture. Tatiana wants privacy but doesn't even know if a word for such a concept exists, she tries to articulate what she means and can't. And then later she longs for a prayer to say over the deceased but she doesn't know any prayers and if you know what I'm talking about, yes I cried a little during that part!

    I've never been to Russia, but I did visit a friend who taught in Mongolia for awhile and there was a lot of lingering Soviet influence there. So I just imagined the apartment buildings I saw in Mongolia as the kind of place where Tatiana's family lived.

    Other Tidbits

    I hit 50,000 tweets this week. I meant to make sure my 50,000th was something special but it ended up being a retweet because I forgot. Oh well at least I share info!

    Wordpress changed their comment policy this week and it's awful. But Teresa gives you the scoop on how to comment on wordpress blogs now.

    Also enjoyed S.D. Smith's piece at The Rabbit Room about being afraid to let good books pass on.

    And I just realized this is already REALLY long so I'll stop for now. I hope you all have fabulous weeks planned. I'm enjoying our rainy weekend! Let me know what you think about anything.....


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