Archive for the ‘television and media’ Category

…and the city

February 16, 2009

Every so often I spend (waste) a few hours watching my old Sex and the City DVDs.  I knit and remind myself of every detail in those shows…which I kind of know by heart and am generally very embarrassed about.

But this isn’t about that.

Watching a few episodes today reminded me about something that I think usually gets lost as background: the city.

I know the show did some great things for tourism in New York City in particular.  In a sea of cop shows, it was one of the few truly positive portrayals of the city on television.  But it did more than make New York accessible to masses of women. It portrayed this fantastic lifestyle of walking to meet your friends at some interesting new restaurant or bar or gallery, having countless interesting new people to meet, and having so many exciting amenities at your fingertips.

Kind of like how I think many people view college.

But then something happens and many of us let those completely desirable things go when we graduate as though it’s to be grouped with other college activities that probably should be left behind…like binge drinking.  And we move to soulless places and live insular lives.  I don’t want that statement to be confused with living in suburban places.  I’ve seen some suburban places (all older suburbs, though) that are pretty nice and very different from the cul-de-sac ridden, completely unwalkable, and demographically homogenous suburbia in which I was raised.

My ultimate point is that I hope Sex and the City does more than make New York City a great place to visit.  The city was a real and significant character in the show.  And it seems clear that this should be the case for all of us.  The places we live should be real and significant characters in our lives.  They should excite us in some way and relate to us so that they are not just meaningless collections of roads we must drive on to get some buildings we must go to.  I currently live in a city and probably will live in one for the rest of my life if I’m lucky, but I don’t think this only need apply to cities–which I understand don’t work for everyone.  The problem is I see the great things about cities being touted as luxuries, as though in order for homes to be affordable, we have to grit our teeth through hours of congestion, zero public spaces and even no sidewalks.

Maybe a buyer’s market is our time to ask for places that engage us.  Maybe cranes halted by a bad economy and kept from creating more far off islands of not-actually-affordable housing are an opportunity to rethink what we’re doing with the land in and around our cities.

While New York was definitely more exciting than my current home of DC, the city and I do have a relationship.  It’s not always good–but it’s engaging and interesting.  It has a personality, whether the city and I are meant to be or not.

Or maybe all of this is just a sad indication that this nerdy lady watches Sex and the City and misses the whole sex thing in favor of the whole city thing…

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Mona goes to the movies, take 2.

July 11, 2008

Go see this movie.

Seriously.

In fact, here’s a trailer:

I spend much of my life lamenting the impending doom of life on earth because of the environmental disrespect done by humankind as a whole.  

While this movie shows the darkest side of what is possible given our current trajectory (climate change, obesity, diabetes, the proliferation of cheap plastic crap), it also injects some hope into even those of us that can be perceived as impenetrable.

I remember when I was a child I would roll my eyes at that whole “children are our future” crap.  Now that I’m *a little* older, I can only see the promise in knowing that the world’s children will grow up with the messages in this movie — ultimately, that humans can do (and are doing) a lot of damage, but that we are powerful creatures that also have the capacity to turn things around.

It happens to be a powerful and nuanced message for adults as well. 

Lastly, it’s visually beautiful, witty, and charming…and I’m being told that there are even some 2001 references (which I kind of missed).

So here’s another of the few trailers and featurettes:

My first space odyssey

May 1, 2008

DC is blessed with many things and one of them is the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD. It constantly has interesting film festivals and series and currently is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Kubrick’s masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey by bringing it back to the big screen. What’s even better is they’re showing the 70mm version. I had strangely never seen the movie before, despite some serious admiration for Stanley Kubrick (after my high school photography teacher told me he saw me as a future successful cinematographer I’ve always toyed with the notion of ditching everything and going to film school). In any case, the theatre offered possibly the best way to first see the movie: with booming audio, 70mm visual detail, and the ambiance of a truly beautiful theatre complete with a curtain to close and then open for intermission (it’s a rather long movie).

Because of the length I was kind of worried to see it. I’m 26 years old in real life, but I have the schedule of a grandma. I was seriously worried I wouldn’t be able to stay awake since the movie started at 8pm — seriously — I had coffee and tea to prep.

But I loved it! And of course my thoughts were provoked.

A recurring theme in my life has recently been a desire to go back to the days when technology was inspiring. This is undoubtedly due to my increased obsession with the Twilight Zone, which portrays future technological advancements as seriously problematic, but awe-inspiring nonetheless. 2001 is similar. The future is clean, minimalist, and boundless. We can travel anywhere, do anything, and while computers or robots may turn against us, we still ultimately control our world and the future is optimistic because of the amazing advancements humans can make so quickly. We see the “Dawn of Man” where primitive man learns to use a bone as a weapon and tool and then an immediate cut to man flying around in elaborate spaceships to Jupiter. Maybe the 60s was generally a decade of futuristic obsession, but it’s something I think we’re missing these days. Inspiring technology. Astronauts don’t even go into space anymore. More than 95% of them can expect to stay on earth like the rest of us. Our only excitement is in the form of a thinner laptop, a smaller cell phone, or now even cloned meat (eww! in my humble opinion…). But there’s no optimistic vision for the future. There’s no coming together on deciding what the world could be in 50 years. It seems like 2001 seemed like such a long time from 1968–enough time that the world would be unrecognizable and beyond the imaginations of normal folks. I know a lot of revolutionary progress happened between then and now, but isn’t technology advancing faster now? So why don’t I feel that same way about 2051? Is it just me or does everyone feel like there will just be more people, more pollution and more complaining about gas prices?

I now digress into my 2nd point of fascination with the movie: it’s prophetic style.

In the scenes at the HIlton Space Station before the mission to the moon, you see lots of men in suits — lovely skinny suits with interesting tweedy and checkered patterns. I suppose they reflect the style of time, but they do also strangely reflect some suiting styles of the “aughts” a la Thom Browne: the nerdy suit with skinny legs cuffed at the ankle (or often higher for TB) and very close-fitting jackets.

At the Hilton Space Station

Thom Browne in his signature nerdy suit.

The suits may just be a harkening back to vintage style, but I think there’s something modern about it — and on screen the style reeked of fashion foresight. Maybe it’s just because I’m a sucker for the skinny suit.

More Thom Browne, absolutely hideous I think, but reminiscent of the 2001 space suit, which inspired me to draw out a grey, overall-ish piece that I’ll hopefully sew together sometime soon.

This one was the most obvious to me the second I saw it:

This is Hal. He’s the super computer that runs the spaceship going to Jupiter and goes nuts near the end.

This is the Samsung Juke cell phone. While Hal’s circle is his “eye” and not an MP3 dial, the second I saw it I thought it looked like an ipod or this phone, or the many like it.

Speaking of inspiring technology, I’m getting a new sewing machine–the Bernina Aurora 430. It’s pretty much the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in action. More details to come when it’s actually in my hands. While this is not at all what I meant before, it really did inspire me to start drawing out clothing designs again. While it’s not much, my cell phone has never inspired me to do much more than wish the damn thing had never been invented.

Car Commercials Suck

April 22, 2008

So I know that I should expect nothing from car commercials.  I know that they always depict cars as super fun and liberating by having someone drive really fast on a magical open road where no other cars seem to be.  Never mind the fact that congestion is rising insanely fast around the nation making a car more of a prison than some fantasical freedom device.  I heard an interesting statistic that in the London center the average speed is 3 mph (!!!).  In 1890 it was also 3mph.  Hooray for progress.

But this Dodge video really gets me.  In this stupid commercial the car somehow is supposed to get you this lifestyle that ironically is wholly dependent on there being no cars to run you over while you play with your friends in the street.  

Maybe it’s because it’s in an urban setting, making it even more unrealistic.  But it promotes this fun, spontaneous lifestyle, where you can play with your friends and neighbors, all of whom are around in big crowds in an expanse of central public open space.  You can do this by driving to the magic place (otherwise known as a city) with your big SUV, but keep in mind this fantasy is only possible if you’re the only one on earth allowed to drive your car.  So good luck with that. 

Bad TV Confessions.

March 25, 2008

This is a bad one. Real bad. But I use knitting as an excuse. I haven’t been able to keep myself on track with the several slow-going projects I have in progress, so I started the Rochefort Chapeau courtesy of the Purl Bee with some Alpaca Kid Lustre from my stash–not eco-friendly per se, but it’s from my stash, thus requiring no new purchase, production, transport, and so on. In doing so I needed some tv in the background.

I don’t have cable (which I think should count for something) and so American Idol was the only thing on. There I said it.

The thing is I felt some thoughts actually being provoked by the show…(I didn’t know this show could do that). To be fair I only have a couple of thoughts, so it’s not like I went crazy or anything.

First. This country girl on the show sang God Bless America, which Simon stated to be “clever.” Since Bush, I now find the use of that song to be of the boot-in-Al-Qaeda’s-ass variety that bullies people into patriotism. Apparently since she sang an I-love-America song it’s patently unpatriotic to deem her annoying and generic and not “vote” for her. And you could see that Paula and Randy hated it, hated the song and felt that those sentiments could not actually be expressed to an American audience. For Paula, I wouldn’t have said anything disparaging either–she’s half middle-eastern (Syrian-Palestinian no less). So country girl was alright, but my friend down the street sings better. I don’t have a friend down the street, but I know a woman across the river that sings WAY better. And she doesn’t give me the willies with one of those pre-Patriot Act I’m-proud-to-be-an-American-where-at-least-I-know-I’m-free (to have my rights ignored by the aforementioned Patriot Act) songs.

By the way–um, totally proud to be an American…(don’t hurt me).  In all honesty, I really am proud to be an American.  I’ve traveled a lot and lived abroad a few times now.  My life in America is something I feel truly lucky to have and it’s something I miss strongly after a few months living in a developing country.  However, I do not need some country singer that I assume has zero global perspective to tell me I need to feel proud and lucky to have her/his God bless America.

Ok, so second. There was a guy at the end of the show that was pretty damn impressive. He sang a quite original arrangement of Billy Jean and it was gooood. I was wowed. Wowed by American Idol. That in itself is wowing. But, seriously this last performance was stellar. I can’t imagine that he came up with the arrangement, but his delivery alone was enough to put him far above the others. It was artist quality. So all you folks that won’t vote in the presidential election, but never miss an Idol vote–vote for this one.

Now let’s never speak of this again.

Mona goes to the movies.

March 16, 2008

It’s true. I went to the movies. Spring is coming in Washington and for Mona that means leaving the house every once in a while. For you, that means witnessing my foray into movie reviews…well, not really reviews…but thoughts…

Last night I saw Be Kind Rewind, written and directed by Michel Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and maybe more forgettably The Science of Sleep (which I didn’t see but heard was appropriately sleepifying despite the participation of my secret lover, Gael Garcia Bernal). I adored Eternal Sunshine and so thought Be Kind Rewind was promising. Also promising was the cast: Mos Def (my husband), Danny Glover, Jack Black, Mia Farrow, and Melonie Diaz (who I’d never heard of, but was adorable and fantastic).

This is so not how a movie “review” is supposed to go, but I thought “Be Kind Rewind” was like totally the best name ever! No seriously, I thought it was pretty clever and cute since the plot revolves around a video store of that name still selling VHS tapes.

So onto the plot. It’s about the lovely aforementioned video store in Passaic, NJ, owned by Danny Glover and eventually run by Mos Def. Jack Black is their crazy friend…whose brain gets “magnetized” after a power plant sabotage gone awry. With this magnetized brain he then accidentally erases all the tapes in the video store. This makes no sense, but will if/when you see the movie. Long story short, in order to keep the struggling VHS-only store afloat (and from being taken by the city for modern “urban renewal”) they remake a bunch of the movies in the store…themselves. They do their own 20 minute versions of major movies like Rush Hour, the Lion King, Ghostbusters, Robocop, and so on. The town ends up loving the self-made shorts–better than the movies. The story goes on, but I think that’s enough information…I don’t want to ruin anything.

So, I thought the movie was great. Gondry has a way with fantasy that makes it palatable to even those that hate fantansy…It’s steeped in reality using the most innocent and simple twists (like being magnetized or having your memory erased), that aren’t outside the realm of even the most atrophied imagination. I think it’s sort of like magical realism without the typical style and imagery used in Latin American literature, like windmills.

The heart of the plot I think is brilliant-making 20 minute versions of blockbuster movies, which the characters really take seriously. It gets at the idea that when we can see the heights of creativity within our own limits it’s inspiring. When we see that 2 fools can use a bunch of crap in a junkyard and some intense and hillarious creativity (like instead of building a ginormously tall organ, assembling one on the ground and shooting from above) it makes it feel so accessible…and doable even by yourself. The movie you’re watching becomes more than an escape…Anyway, it made me want to make my own little movies.

It’s a little cutesy, but in this sweet way that you can’t really fault it for. For me, the sweetness actually may have negated some elements of the movie that could have been cliche, which if I elaborate on could ruin it for you.

Another thing I saw while at the movies was a preview for this movie, Young at Heart:

There’s an obvious shoutout to my fellow knitters in there, but the preview looked incredible–about a chorus of senior citizens singing rock and roll and punk, like the Clash, the Ramones, etc. They’ve performed all over, even at a jail in LA where inmates loved the performance and were genuinely inspired. Can’t wait to see it.

Why Parker Posey, Why?

March 14, 2008

I don’t really watch primetime TV anymore. But sometimes I have it on while I knit.

Right now I’m watching The Return of Jezebel James.

I saw the previews for this show a few times and was baffled. It’s a sitcom. A seemingly mediocre sitcom, but starring Parker Posey and Lauren Ambrose. Two actresses I adore. Ever since Ms. Posey uttered, “Wipe that face off your head, bitch” in Dazed and Confused I’ve been in love. And I loved Lauren Ambrose in Six Feet Under…one of my most favoritest shows. These are 2 actresses I think have artistic and intellectual integrity.

So I’m confused and I’m watching the show hoping that it will be something witty enough to merit their involvement.

But so far it’s laugh tracks and lame jokes.

At first I thought Parker Posey’s acting was kind of horrendous in it…like she knows it’s stupid writing and she’s making fun of it. Or I guess I hope that’s what’s going on.

But every once in a while I see a slight glimmer of promise that it could be weird and quirky…but I feel like it’s only because these 2 women are in it. The laugh track is really irking me.

Glimmer aside, the show sucks. I just don’t get why they’re in it. Maybe there’s something in it I’m missing…

I’ll promptly be turning off the show and putting on the Six Feet Under DVD I have from Netflix…and reminisce about better times.