Movie-wise: I cried like an idiot through a large chunk of The Savages. In a good way! I really heartily enjoyed it. Performances are great, it deals with race in a lot of subtle and interesting ways I wasn't expecting at all, and, yes, it totally nails the swirling vortex of emotional hysteria one feels when one is forced to care for an infirm, belligerent parent.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was extraordinarily aesthetically pleasing. I don't really care how accurate it is or isn't in its portrayal of the events that transpired after Jean-Dominique Bauby's stroke, but all the arty, impressionistic stuff it's doing does sort of stake a flag in the territory of his life in a way that turns the story, as it's presented here, into this irreducible unit that has to be swallowed whole if it is to be swallowed at all. Which is kind of a weird way of saying I found myself curiously emotionally unaffected by it, though it was inarguably beautifully made. I don't believe it was built to be a tearjerker by any means, but I feel like I spent a fairly significant portion of the movie thinking about what a risky move it would be for a publisher to put out the autobiography of a person with locked-in syndrome when, instead, I should have been contemplating the catastrophic personal ramifications of actually having locked-in syndrome and what that medical condition means for the essential nature of one's own humanity, blah blah blah. (Not to turn this blog into a Javier Bardem fan site or anything, but I remember loving The Sea Inside when it came out a few years ago. It goes for a more straight-ahead narrative treatment of a similar situation and, while probably a bit more talky, it's also certainly no less poetic and, for me, quite a bit more touching and thought-provoking.)
Be Kind Rewind was, perhaps inevitably, a bit of a letdown. For as much as I love him, Gondry needs equal-strength creative opposition. He needs a Bjork or a Charlie Kaufman to keep him sharp and to give his whimsy more of a solid central point from which to spiral out and back and around. He can't continue to direct the movies that he's also written, no matter how much he allows the actors to improvise. It just ends up being fluff on top of fluff. Highly enjoyable fluff, but fluff nonetheless. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most intense reaction Be Kind Rewind elicited in me was a desire to finally see the Block Party concert film he did with Dave Chappelle. (Equal. Strength. Creative. Opposition.) There's all this cool stuff Be Kind is doing (or, attempting to do) with ideas of the importance and vitality of self-made, self-sustaining, improvised street-corner culture that seems like it was probably directly inspired by his experience of directing that film. Also, Mos Def is sooo ridiculously charming it left me convinced that he's one of the most underutilized actors in Hollywood right now. I don't know if I actually believe that in the cold light of day, but I definitely believed it during the film's 101-minute running time. And, all of my griping to one side, the final few minutes of the movie, when you see the crowd's faces illuminated by the reflected flickers of the film they're watching projected on a bed sheet hung across the wall while some faintly jazzy piano tinkles on the soundtrack, fucking destroyed me. Beautiful stuff. Oh, and as predicted, Gondry's hilarious self-made version of the trailer has popped up on YouTube here.
Music-wise: I was listening this morning to a mix that J. Ward made me last spring, and wow, Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" still sounds really great. Remember when everybody was still excited about that album? Good times.
Also, I've finally found the perfect way to enjoy Bloc Party: put the albums on my iPod, forget they're there, then flip out with excitement when some pounding drums and burbling bass come up on shuffle, and I'm all "holy crap, this sounds great, who the fuck is this? Oh, it's Bloc Party--awesome!"
RIP Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons & Dragons. There was a nice piece on Gygax and the D&D gaming systems in The Believer back in September 2006. Check it out.
While perusing my bookshelves this weekend, I noticed that my Virginia Woolf section was looking a little thin. Does anybody out there in Wrestling Entropy-land have my copies of Jacob's Room and/or Mrs. Dalloway? It's no big deal; just let me know so I don't start putting ads on milk cartons.