film, politics


Dear Zmierzch: Przed świtem; Część 1,

I would definitely not recommend seeing you to any women who have had, might someday have, or know anyone who has ever had a baby, a difficult pregnancy, complications, a miscarriage, or an abortion. In summary, memorable: yes; enjoyable: no. By turns dreary and sickening. If you want to hear a lot more about what I thought about the film, and why it’s so awful, read on; if you don’t, don’t.

Continue reading

film, Poland, politics

Last night,

after buying a train ticket for my trip to Wrocław tomorrow, I went to the first evening of the Warsaw Film Festival, at the Kinoteka in the Pałac Kultury i Nauki, and saw the European premiere of an incredible documentary, “A Bitter Taste of Freedom,” about the career and murder of journalist Anna Politovskaya.

She was killed, in all likelihood (her murder is still very much unsolved) as retaliation for her conducting hard-hitting investigative journalism, about Chechnya and refugee issues within Russia. Her writing was heavily critical of the Russian government.

Yesterday’s date (10/8/11) was the five-year anniversary of the attack on Politovskaya, and her death. The film had been screened earlier that day for an audience of her family members in Russia.

The producer, Malcolm Dixelius, was present for a Q&A with the audience afterwards.

Here’s more about the film, from an August Variety review:

Profoundly moving, politically provocative and apt to provoke moral outrage in anyone short of Vladimir Putin, “A Bitter Taste of Freedom” is acclaimed documentarian Maria Goldovskaya’s portrait of her longtime friend Anna Politkovskaya, the crusading Russian journalist whose still-unsolved 2006 murder remains a symbol of the national corruption she tried to expose. Goldovskaya does not concern herself with the killing as much as with Politkovskaya’s character and the conflicts in Chechnya she covered so doggedly, presumably leading to her death. Festival play and likely ecstatic word of mouth should lead to a specialty run beyond the pic’s Oscar-qualifying DocuWeeks berth.

Pic reps a very personal follow-up to Goldovskaya’s 1991 docu “A Taste of Freedom,” in which Politkovskaya and her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Russian TV personality Sasha, were subjects. That film was made during Russia’s honeymoon with democracy; that things haven’t quite worked out is clear from the title of the new pic, which was originally intended to be a sequel set in the post-Putin era.

In preparation for a film that would have reassessed the course of Russian history since the fall of communism, Goldovskaya interviewed Politkovskaya extensively, yielding the powerful, poignant conversations that are at the heart of “A Bitter Taste of Freedom.” Politkovskaya, whose public persona seemed rather severe (especially to Westerners who saw her only in still photographs), is heartbreakingly lovely here, not just physically, but artistically: From the resolve she brings to her work, she seems to know she’s sealing her own fate.

film, gradschool, workstyle, writing


back from HP7, part 1, which was appropriately gloomy and isolated. Nice and gray. The Death Eaters’ banquet at the beginning was excellent, as was the entire sequence in the Ministry. I object only to the size of the tent that Harry, Ron, and Hermione had to hang out in. Far too tall and pretty on the inside. (I know, it’s magical, but still–if Ron had had a tent that big, he never would have run away.)

Working–the end-of-semester crunch is crunching–at a friend’s house, on a laptop, on about four things at once–portfolio/thesis draft revisions, two essays, applications–and nothing with great seriousness. (Perhaps I ought to write thank-you cards to all my professors. That seems like the most important thing to do.) Somehow, nothing seems quite as pressing as the turkey did.

Baltimore, film

on roach velocity

Saw THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO tonight. Excellent, although people who don’t like seeing lots of mutilated bodies onscreen should avoid. Also, unnecessary Swedish National Socialists. Really good movie, though. Fantastic acting.

After, with friends, observing slow-moving Baltimore roach saunter across sidewalk, I found myself defending Los Angeles’s superiority yet again, saying, “If we were in LA, that roach would be moving much faster.” Now, that isn’t true. I can think of slow-moving LA roaches: I can even think of one I’ve written into a poem. However, I think that I now have my new poetic theme around which to organize thesis: Ways In Which LA Will Usurp Your City’s Greatness By Winning Battles No One Wants To Win. Best traffic, best roaches, best heat, etc.


a transporting experience to another reality

I do not intend to be restrained about this: AVATAR is awesome. I hope to see it at least three more times in the next two weeks, and after that, once every two weeks for the duration of its theatrical release. I had extremely high expectations for this film, and they were met. There is no one I know who would not enjoy it, and I know that I know some very particular people. I am addressing you, particular people. Go.

That’s what it is—it’s transport, you know? It’s a transporting experience to another reality, another world, and I think that people need that. You need it periodically in your life, and in your cinematic life. That’s what we set out to do with this movie.

– James Cameron interviewed in Vanity Fair


did you always want to direct?

“People say, ‘Did you always want to direct?’ or ‘Do you think you’ll ever direct again?’ I’m always very polite about it,” she said, adding, with good-natured defiance, “Do you really think I haven’t been preparing for this my whole life? And I’m just going to try it once and then never do it again? It baffles me. And then I just think, ‘Oh God, they just don’t know me.’ ”

I love you, Drew. I and every other woman I know. We all love you. Thank you.

Baltimore, film, gradschool, poetry, writing

it must be some sort of diabolical mind control

On Wednesday and Thursday of last week, I had individual meetings with about two-thirds of the students in my class. I’ll meet the rest next week. We talked about their artistic tastes and their writing experiences. It took a lot of time to meet with all of them, but I hope it will be worth it in terms of establishing a good workshop relationship.

On Friday, we discussed Elizabeth Bishop’s “In The Waiting Room” and Seamus Heaney’s “Digging,” and got into a spirited discussion about enjambment.

And thus far I have obeyed the Department of Health and Safety mandate of taking at least 24 consecutive hours entirely off from all kinds of work each week: from Friday at 2 pm till Saturday at 2 pm, all I did was watch movies and hang out with friends. It was wonderful. We went to the Evergreen House, a very creepy museum and house belonging to a Baltimore railroad baron’s family, and saw screenings of the animated TELL-TALE HEART and the live-shmaction THE RAVEN projected outside, as part of a Poe exhibit. We also saw an old edition of Poe with illustrations, and one of his signed letters. The man’s handwriting had more flourishes than a fencing match.

And then I also watched TANPOPO, which I would watch again this very second. You couldn’t pay me enough to sit through THE RAVEN again, except for the magician’s duel section – which I would like to get an isolated clip of. Clearly, Dr. Scarabus’s powers extend far beyond the walls of the castle.

We were hoping someone would read Poe’s The Raven aloud, but no one did – so that situation was rectified later in the evening through recitation. I have never read so much poetry aloud as I have here, with these people. It’s great. The Raven, as a poem, is perhaps just slightly too long – but, my God, there are great lines in it.

Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!

I also read Annabel Lee last night, and, as usual, it blew what remained of my mind. Did you know it was one of the last complete poems composed by Poe? I did not.

I am now sort of back on the clock, now. I have a new first draft going. It has to use imagery – we have assignments for workshop – and, as you all know, imagery is my weakness. So this was good for me to try. In writing the draft, I found some stuff I would not normally have found.

animation, Baltimore, film

the greatest city in America, indeed

Okay, Baltimore, you win. Having now watched THE LITTLE MERMAID, the first Ashman/Menken Disney collaboration, and all the special features, I can report something important: Howard Ashman, the brilliant lyricist of both BATB and TLM, was born in (wait for it)
Baltimore, Maryland.

John Waters is featured all throughout the TLM features talking about Ashman.

This means more to me than any other connection I’ve had with this city so far. Even Poe. There has to be stuff about him here: and I have to find it. As if this wasn’t enough, Ashman was Jewish – something else I just learned tonight.

dialogue, film

he must have been a happy man

Last night, we watched Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. The midsummer Maryland humidity watched the movie with us, and we sat in silence, too hot to laugh, sweating into the couches while the men on the screen sweated into their cowboy hats.

CHEYENNE: You know, Jill, you remind me of my mother.
(Pause. Stare.)
She was the biggest whore in Alameda, and the finest woman that ever lived. Whoever my father was, for an hour or for a month, he must have been a happy man.

film, theater

I use antlers in all of my decorating

One last “why Menken/Ashman are in yr house, eating yr dinner” post from BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – I’m almost done rhapsodizing about how theatrical it is. First, Gaston has Lady M’s line, “Screw your courage to the sticking place!” They just throw it in there, in perfect rhythm with the rest of it. And then, I realized that the “No one fights like Gaston” number is totally that amazing number you give the character actor, the one who doesn’t get the girl…it’s the “Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat” or even the “Make Them Laugh” of this movie.

So good.

Lyricist Howard Ashman died of AIDS six months before the film was released, which is something I also didn’t know in 1991.