This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Brief Encounter And Glimpse Of A Midlife Crises

I am a big believer in public transportation. Mostly the subway, sometimes [not often] the bus. Whenever I can realistically ditch my car, I will. Yes, sometimes my fellow riders smell funny or scratch themselves or speak in funny languages I can't understand. But other times, my encounters are more revealing in other ways. Occasionally, I'm touched by the snapshots of life I'm able to observe and those people that fleetingly pass through my day. Here's one from awhile back:

Midlife Crisis on the Orange Line

Another stop. The doors open. A Latino man sits next to me. He is of stocky build and after only a moment I realize that he is in search of some kind of human connection. He asks the woman across from us if the book she is reading is good. She has her nose buried in a Margot Kidder paperback. She has short, straight blond hair and the demeanor of a typical librarian. She looks at him momentarily and replies, "Yes," and goes back to reading. She crosses her legs. The man looks away in the direction of our future destinations.

Another stop. The doors open. Some students get on. The man notices them, turns to me, and asks if I'm also in school.

"No," I reply. "It's been awhile."

I try to be polite, but I can't think of anything else to say. The man glances again at one of the students and says,

"High school... that was the best time of my life... not a care in the world."

He pauses. The student looks at him briefly and turns away. The man then hangs his head and says, unremarkably and rather glumly:

"I turn 56 next month."

Another stop. The doors open. The man and I get off. We say friendly goodbyes--as polite strangers do. I watch him walk away-- a man unaware that he has many adventures ahead if he only looks for them.


Copyright 2010 by KLiedle
Photo credit: Metro Library And Archive/

Monday, January 18, 2010

Technology: Wii, Mii, and Getting Ahead.

When it comes to computers and technology, I can usually figure things out-- mostly out of perseverance. That isn't to say that I necessarily like it or that I'm even close to being technologically advanced. In some ways, it's really gotten irritatingly fast and furious. Damn those printer drivers and software updates that have rendered the "scanner" function of my perfectly good printer useless. (Thanks again, HP!)

It was only last year that I finally got an ipod. I do enjoy it, especially for working out and music on the go. Yet, I'm only utilizing a fraction of its memory and I've run out of data. I can't even fill 4GB. Does that make me an ipod loser? Then again, I'm not a downloader. I still come from the school of CDs and full-length albums. It just seems strange for me to download an itune.

I don't have texting on my cell phone. There are no games or apps and I can't surf the internet with a click of a button or check my e-mail remotely. I'm on Facebook, but I can't even begin to compete with those who change their profile pic every couple of days and put way too much thought into coming up with a catchy, cool status update to send from their iPhone [appropriately enough.] I don't have the time, the inclination, or the iPhone for that.

I got a GPS for Christmas two years ago and it was only six months ago that I finally got around to opening the box.

"This is actually pretty convenient," I thought as I wondered why I hadn't tried it earlier. [Although, I still have an old school Thomas Guide to L.A. in the car-- still the "go-to guide" as far as I'm concerned. ]

This year, I got Wii Fit Plus for Christmas. I decided to be more "up on things" this time around so I hooked it up. Although, it will never replace my regular workout, it definitely has its pluses-- especially on those rare, rainy L.A. days-- like today. I like the balance games-- namely the snowboarding, the ski slalom and even the aerobic hula hooping even though I feel [and look] ridiculous doing it. The yoga and training exercises have potential, but I hate having to listen to the trainer explain every little movement. I have exercised before in my lifetime. The little, jumping Wii balance board icon with its ultra computer-sounding voice can be super-annoying, too. Apart from that, I think I may actually use my Wii often enough that it won't collect dust. I've even gotten a reluctant friend hooked on some of the Wii activities. We're competing on top scores.

Some, okay most, of this technology is highly unnecessary. We've just allowed ourselves to get lazy and bored. I was perfectly fine without the ipod, the GPS, the Wii, and even e-mail [way back when] but all of it opens up a new world of possibilities.

When jogging with the Wii, for instance, a friend pointed out, "OR you could just jog for real outside..." Well, yeah, sure I could, but Wii jogging in place in front of a faux waterfall won't replace real jogging-- it's just a different experience.

Microwaves have become ubiquitous, yet they still haven't replaced ovens. And we were, I might mention, the last family in the neighborhood to get a microwave. (My mom was convinced that it was shooting radiation microwaves into our brains. I guess the jury's still out on that. I still try not to stand in front of the microwave for that very reason.)

In short, technology has its ups and downs. Some days I hate, hate it and other days, the convenience factor makes me never want to look back. On the other hand, some people have trouble looking forward. To this day, my mom still has dial-up internet. She can't even view episodes of our web series, "It's Always Smoggy In L.A." and she pays more than I do for DSL. Her new years resolution is high-speed. By the time she gets it, technology will be onto the next big thing and we'll both be left in the dust.

Certainly things will continue to somersault ahead of me faster than I want to follow, but technology has certainly improved some things. Although, HP, if you're out there, stop with the software updates-- seriously. Not all of us can afford to get a whole new system of doing things every time you decide to upgrade.

Copyright 2010 by KLiedle
Wii Photo Credit: Bakerella/

Friday, January 1, 2010

Nine Divided by Nine = One Movie That Could've Been Much More

2009 was the year of the Nine: As the decade came to a close, Hollywood capitalized on Lucky number '9' by bringing us District 9,( a sci-fi action film),9 (a post-apocalyptic animated film), and as if that weren't enough: Nine ( a movie based on a musical based on a film by Fellini.)

By all accounts, Nine, has suffered much from critics-- even considering its award recognition, including 5 Golden Globe Noms. LA Weekly was harsh. The Hollywood Reporter felt that much of the talent brought together for the film was all-and-out squandered. Rotten Tomatoes users and reviewers have ranked it a dismal 37% thus far.

It didn't have to be this way. Directed by Rob Marshall, who successfully brought Chicago to the screen, Nine boasted a regal cast of talent: Daniel Day-Lewis (Guido Contini), Penelope Cruz (Carla), Marion Cotillard (Luisa Contini), Sophia Loren (Mamma), Dame Judi Dench (Lilli), Kate Hudson (Stephanie), Nicole Kidman (Claudia), and Fergie (Saraghina.) It was the big-screen adaptation of a Tony Award-winning musical, itself based on a classic film by Federico Fellini. It could've been a dazzling, sexy, stylish, and visually stunning music-o-rama, but that film, it turned out, only existed in the 3-minute version of the film (otherwise known as its trailer.)

I read the reviews, heard the word-of-mouth, but was nonetheless intrigued to check it out for myself the other day. Two hours later, I'd drawn my own conclusion-- I agreed with the critics. In my opinion, "Nine" ultimately falls flat.

My opinion came with a certain amount of sadness because I really wanted to like the film. Not that there aren't entertaining moments (because they are), but the film never quite seems to gelatinize into anything meaningful or memorable. Yes, Nine has an ensemble of some of our greatest actors, wonderfully executed shots here and there, and glimmers of seducing Italiano razzle-dazzle, but it's just not enough.

The film meanders through Guido's life directionless (reminiscent of 8 1/2), but unlike that film, we as an audience, never get into Guido's head. We never really know him nor do we get a sense that he knows much of anything about himself. We do learn about the torturous pressure his success has brought him and the seductive lure of all the women in his life-- beautiful women who seem to flitter into his seemingly enchanted life like snowflakes. Each of them, uniquely yet similarly touch his skin, but remain ice-cold in one way or another. There is a disconnect to these relationships. Women who could be sexy and strong, sensitive and assertive, are instead only objectified by Guido (and by transference Marshall's lens.)

The editing merges the past and present with color and black and white-- as if a dream. The film opens with promise, as Guido escapes and seeks reassurance from his unfletchingly confident Lilli (played by the always superb Judi Dench.) Then, things start to go amiss. The musical numbers are entertaining at times, but nothing sticks-- not in the way that songs in musicals are supposed to stick. Musicals are supposed to have scores, musical numbers that define them. Day-Lewis, Kidman, Cruz, Cotillard, Hudson, Dench, Loren, and Fergie all have what equates to a "commercial break" worth of musical material. Kidman, as film star Claudia Jenssen, gets a little more than a turn at a screen test while reminding Guido that she has yet to see a script. Penelope Cruz plays the eye candy on the verge of suicide--allowing her to model a fantastic selection of lingerie, as well as shed a tear of two. Fergie and Hudson gets the lion's share of what turns out to be the film's only memorable songs, "Cinema Italiano" and "Be Italian," respectively, but even those songs are played out ad nauseum. The song selections could've been stronger, the choreography more showy and innovative. For a Hollywood movie musical, Nine merely goes through the motions.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the film had nothing to do with the costuming or the sets or the musical numbers. It had to do with Guido's relationship with his art and its conflict with his relationship with his wife. In this, Marion Cotillard holds her own. She's not particularly showy and she doesn't get an irritatingly memorable song to sing. Yet to me, she shines above them all. Cotillard plays Luisa with heartfelt emotion.

She stood alone onstage singing "My Husband Makes Movies" and I was captivated. She channeled real emotion; she sung with passion. I could feel her pain, her love for Guido and yet her resentment toward him, specifically the art that occupies his time and focus and the women that fill out his fantasies-- complete with corsets and fishnets. And then Cotillard's moment is over and one can only hope that Guido learns that Luisa is just the direction and stability that he needs to accomplish his art. For me, it is in this that Nine redeems itself. In the final shot, as Guido and the younger version of himself rise above the stage on a camera crane, and Guido yells "Action," I only wish that the rest of the film could've taken some and fulfilled its own potential.

Luisa Contini: Thank you.
Guido Contini: What for?
Luisa Contini: Thank you for reminding me I'm not special. You don't even see what you do to me. Even the moments I think are ours, it's just... you working to get what you want.

(From Nine --Directed by Rob Marshall, Screenplay by Michael Tolkin and Anthony Minghella.)

Review by Kendra Liedle
Copyright 2010 by KLiedle