erik lundegaard

Friday September 19, 2014

Movie Review: The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013)

WARNING: SPOILERS

The Italian horror/sex genre giallo, popularized by directors like Mario Bava in the 1960s and ’70s, uses elements of nightmare within its narrative but the narrative itself is fairly straightforward. “The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears,” a French-language homage to the genre by Hélene Cattet and Bruno Forzani (“Amer”), is less narrative and more nightmare.

It’s also boring. The way other people’s dreams are boring.

As Dan (Klaus Tange) returns to Paris from a business trip, we see, intercut, a woman involved in kinky sex games gone awry. The Strange Color of Your Body's TearsAt home, Dan’s wife, Edwige (whose name is an homage to giallo actress Edwige Fenech), is missing, yet the apartment door is chained from inside. How?

Dan searches, obsessed, anxious. A detective shows up, suspicious. A older neighbor woman in apartment 7 sits in the shadows (with great legs) and talks of how her husband went missing. She blames the apartment above, but when Dan ascends the stairs he’s on the roof, where a naked woman stands on the ledge. They share a cigarette.

By this point, it’s almost a parody of a foreign movie: the sexuality, the incomprehensibility, the dreamscape.

It gets more confusing. Does Dan wake with his wife’s head in his bed? Doe he wake to get slashed in the back? Is he awake? Where does sleeping end and waking begin? Do we care?

Everyone has their own story, even the suspicious detective. We get his in flashback. When we came back to the apartment, Dan asks, straight-faced, “What has it got to do with my wife?” I laughed out loud.

The movie, suffused in reds and greens, is as repetitious as hell, and includes many closeups of male eyes in panic or desire, and women, losing clothes or encased in fetishistic gloves, forever out of reach. I found a few lines and images in the second half intellectually stimulating but it wasn’t enough, and the resolution was awful: clouding what felt like a rare insight.

Larger question: Why are we getting all of these arthouse versions of exploitation flicks? They were part of my “11 Worst Movies and Five Worst Trends of 2013,” and they still seem with us.

-- This review originally appeared in shorter form in the Seattle Times.

Posted at 05:46 AM on Sep 19, 2014 in category Movie Reviews - 2013
Tags: , , , ,
No Comments yet   |   Permalink  
Thursday September 18, 2014

The AL Wild Card: Does Anyone Want to Win This Thing?

In the last week, the Kansas City Royals have vaulted past the Seattle Mariners and into a tie with the Oakland A's for the AL Wild Card lead, so in my mind they're on fire. Except they're not. In the last 10 games, KC has gone 4-6. To their advantage, both the M's and A's have gone 3-7. So “on fire.”

Which means Cleveland must be coming up on all of them, right? Yes and no. They've also gone 4-6 over the last 10 games. As have the Yankees. Toronto and Tampa Bay, in comparison, have been the '71 Orioles: 5-5 over their last 10.

Here's the AL Wild Card race as of today:

TEAM W L PCT GB L10
Kansas City 83 68 .550 - 4-6
Oakland 83 68 .550 - 3-7
Seattle 81 70 .536 2 3-7
Cleveland 78 73 .517 5 4-6
NY Yankees 77 74 .510 6 4-6
Toronto 77 74 .510 6 4-6
Tampa Bay 74 79 .484 10 4-6

Among non-division leaders, the winningest teams in the AL during this period have been the Chicago White Sox and the Texas Rangers. Both are a scorching 6-4.

Posted at 12:58 PM on Sep 18, 2014 in category Baseball
Tags:
No Comments yet   |   Permalink  

Quote of the Day

“Minorities trampled on by the democratic process have recourse to the courts; the recourse is called constitutional law.”

-- Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in soundly rejecting the state's argument, in Baskin v. Bogan, that courts should defer to the democratic process in, for example, matters of gay marriage. Via Linda Greenhouse's Op-Ed, “The Moment at Hand,” which focuses on the journey of Judge Posner on marriage equality: from “no” to “maybe” to “yes, and now.”

Greenhouse goes on to comtemplate whether Baskin or one of the other same-sex marriage cases, overwhelming confirmed in the federal circuit, will be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court this session. Overall, her article is celebratory—how far we've come, etc.—but there's a dark corollary of past decisions (from Plessy v. Ferguson to Bowers v. Hardwick) in that celebration: the rights of minorities are indeed protected by the U.S. Constitution from the democratic process ... as long as the minority in question isn't too despised. 

Posted at 07:00 AM on Sep 18, 2014 in category Quote of the Day
Tags: ,
No Comments yet   |   Permalink  

Women in Cinema: SIFF Trailer

I don't know who created this trailer for the “Women in Cinema” series from SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) but they know what they're doing. I saw it the other night at a showing of “Sagrada” at SIFF Uptown and was blown away. It made me wish I was around this weekend (the series is from Sept. 18-21), but I'll be at the Port Townsend Film Festival with friends—one of whom, a woman in cinema, is showing her documentary “The Only Real Game,” about the popularity of baseball in Manipur, a border state in northeast India. 

Lynn Shelton's new movie, “Laggies,” is premiering tonight at the reborn Egyptian on Capitol Hill. Jeff Wells, who hasn't been a huge fan of Shelton's previous work (“Humpday,” etc.), thinks it's her breakout movie

Posted at 05:25 AM on Sep 18, 2014 in category Trailers
Tags: , ,
No Comments yet   |   Permalink  
Wednesday September 17, 2014

Just How Bad are the 2014 Yankees?

The following stats are via Katie Sharp at “It's About the Money,” a Yankees blog:

  • For the first time in nearly 25 years, the Yankees will not have a player with more than 5.0 WAR, a mark that is considered the threshold for a “Superstar” player.
  • For the first time since 1968, the Yankees are not likely to have a player with 75 RBI.
  • For the first time since 1968, the Yankees probably won’t have a player with an average of .280 or better qualify for the batting title (Ellsbury is the leader at .273).
  • Entering this week the Yankees leader in OPS+ ... was Gardner at 118, meaning his OPS is 18 percent better than today’s average player. If that holds, it would be just the second season in the last 100 years that the Yankees did not have a player qualify for the batting title with an OPS+ of 120 or higher.

When you think about it, it's rather amazing the Yankees even have a winning record.

But don't worry, Katie, you'll get your superstar next year. A-Rod's due back, right?

Sad Yankees fan

2014: The year of the sad Yankees fan.

Posted at 12:16 PM on Sep 17, 2014 in category Yankees Suck
No tags
No Comments yet   |   Permalink  

Movie Review: Love Is Strange (2014)

WARNING: SPOILERS

Near the end of “Love Is Strange,” the slice-of-life indie directed by Ira Sachs, George (Alfred Molina), the longtime companion and new husband of Ben (John Lithgow), critiques a student’s classical music performance thus: “When a piece is that romantic, there’s no need to embellish it.”

He could be describing the movie.

Ben and George, a painter and a music instructor, have been living together for decades. As the movie opens (on a stockinged foot at the end of the bed), they are getting ready for another day. Ben slumps into the shower, they dress (necktie for George, bowtie for Ben), Ben can’t find his glasses. They talk to the housekeepers (Two of them? Are they preparing for a party?), then try to flag a cab on the streets of Manhattan. “We’ll have better luck on 6th,” George says. Love Is StrangeAnd off they go. To? A wedding. Theirs. It’s both another day and their wedding day. It’s a moment of triumph and celebration. Short-lived, it turns out.

George, you see, is a music instructor at Saint Grace Academy, where most folks, including Father Raymond (John Cullum), know he’s gay, know he lives with Ben, don’t care. But gay marriage? That’s toxic. Or political. And somehow (New York Times wedding page, maybe?) the Bishop finds out and George is fired. As a result, he and Ben can no longer afford to live where they live. As a result, they are forced to live apart.

The dramatist’s dilemma isn’t how to bring the lovers together but how to keep them apart for 90 minutes. Sachs’ approach here is novel. He keeps the lovers apart by marrying them.

No place
Question: Once it becomes apparent that the sale of their apartment won’t net them the income they need, why not just take the Poughkeepsie option? That’s where Ben’s niece, the brassy Mindy (Christina Kirk), lives, and she has room for both of them. But it’s not Manhattan. And the folks we saw at the wedding—friends and family—decide Ben and George need to live in Manhattan. So they divvy them up: George goes with the gay cops downstairs, Ben with his nephew Elliot (Darren E. Burrows of “Northern Exposure”), and his family—novelist wife Kate (Marisa Tomei), teenage son Joey (Charlie Tahan)—across town. Ben gets the bottom bunk in Joey’s room. Tensions quickly fester.

Joey no longer has space, Kate no longer has space. (Tomei is excellent at being just this side of awful.) At first Ben is oblivious—going on and on in the living room as Kate tries to work on her second novel—and then painfully aware. He walks on metaphoric tiptoes. He paints on the roof of the apartment building, using Joey’s friend, Vlad (Eric Tabach), as a model, but this only makes Joey angry. When he comes home at night, Elliot and Kate are talking quietly (privately) in the living room, so he ducks into the bedroom—where Joey, hanging with Vlad, yells at him for not knocking. He has no place.

Neither does George. He’s with the hunky cops who are always partying, and he’s not a partier. One night he turns up rain-soaked at Elliot and Kate’s. For a moment, everyone’s surprised. Then he falls into Ben’s arms and sobs. It’s a powerful beautiful scene, and, per the above quote, unembellished. It just happens. It reveals, retroactively, all the tension and loneliness he’s feeling.

The movie is full of this kind of humanity. Another scene I loved: Joey and Ben talking at night in the bunkbeds. Joey, a kid without many friends, is still slightly angry at Ben, and possibly feeling guilty, too. Before going to bed, trying better to understand him maybe, Ben asks Joey if he’s ever been in love. Joey talks of seeing this girl on vacation one summer. He never spoke with her, he just saw her. She saw him, too. That seems key for him: being seen. He knows she lives in the city, too. “You should say hello,” Ben says matter-of-factly. That’s it. No resolution, no obvious epiphany. Just an ordinary scene that feels like everything.

Every place
Sachs, who co-wrote the movie with Mauricio Zacharias (“Madame Satã”), has a nice habit of transitioning weeks or months ahead without explanation. We figure it out by and by. Oh, they’re going to their wedding. Oh, Ben is living with them. The ending is this way, too.

After George finds them a nice, rent-controlled apartment, he and Ben celebrate at a local bar. They talk, comfortably. They walk down the street, comfortably, until they’re out of sight. You think that might be the end, but no. They talk before Ben takes the subway home. Apparently they haven’t moved in yet. Then we fade to black. Is that the end?

No. We see Joey waiting outside their new apartment, and George takes him upstairs. Joey admires the place, then apologizes for not being at the service. Service? Yes. Ben’s. Joey brings out a painting, Ben’s last, the one with Vlad on the rooftop, and he helps George hang it. Then he leaves. On the stairs down, he breaks down. Is he thinking about how he wasn’t that nice to his Uncle Ben at the end? How he called Vlad “gay” for posing for him? Or maybe he’s just feeling all that he’s lost? After 30 seconds or so, an eternity of screentime, he starts walking again, and one assumes that’s the end. No. The final scenes are Joey riding his skateboard around the more picturesque, treelined streets of Manhattan with a girl. The girl? The vacation girl? Did he finally say hello? Who knows? But at least he’s finally said hello to someone. And maybe he wouldn’t have without Ben’s bunkbed conversation. The things we leave behind.

“Love Is Strange,” despite the title, contains no Mickey and Sylvia on the soundtrack. Chopin piano pieces instead. Played without embellishment.

Posted at 06:30 AM on Sep 17, 2014 in category Movie Reviews - 2014
Tags: , , , , , ,
No Comments yet   |   Permalink  
Tuesday September 16, 2014

Quote of the Day

“I know Ronald Reagan’s public statements concerning the Panama Canal contained gross factual errors. ... He has clearly represented himself in an irresponsible manner on an issue which could affect the nation’s security.” 

-- Sen. Barry Goldwater, stumping for Pres. Gerald Ford during thre 1976 Nebraska GOP primary. Reagan won the state anyway while Goldwater eceived profanity-laden hate mail from right-wing conservatives. I know: Goldwater. As recounted in “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.”

The Invisible Bridge

Posted at 11:38 AM on Sep 16, 2014 in category Quote of the Day
Tags: , ,
No Comments yet   |   Permalink  

#2hole

How badly is Derek Jeter doing in the second half of this, his final, interminable, farewell season? I’m almost beginning to root for him.

Here are his numbers pre- and post-All-Star game:

  AVG OBP SLG OPS
Pre-All Star .272 .324 .322 .646
Post-All Star .211 .254 .256 .510

But even that doesn’t get at how poorly he’s done lately.

On August 28, New York Post columnist Ken Davidoff asked Yankees manager Joe Girardi about the efficacy of batting Jeter No. 2 for a team that, then, still had an outside shot of making the postseason.

“Yeah,” Girardi said. “But it’s not like we have a bunch of guys hitting .300.”

Which: 1) couldn’t have made the “bunch of guys” very happy; and 2) there’s bad and there’s bad. At that point, Jeter had the worst OPS among regular Yankees, but it wasn’t a stark difference. Basically Girardi was saying, “He’s not doing so poorly, nor is the rest of the team doing so well, to move someone like him down in the order.” And he was kind of right.

But those were the good old days.

Since then, Jeter’s gone 7 for 61, a .114 batting average. He’s got one extra-base hit (a double on Sept. 4), three walks, no stolen bases. He’s scored two runs.

He’s gone from having the worst OPS among qualifying Yankees to the third-worst OPS (.596) among the 150 qualifying players in Major League Baseball. Thank god for Houston’s Matt Dominguez (.593) and Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart (.570). Although at least Cozart is an apparent Mozart with the glove: his defensive WAR is 2.7, making his overall WAR 2.3 Jeter’s is -0.2. You could make the argument that Derek Jeter is the worst regular player in all of Major League Baseball right now.

Is this how he goes, toothless and hitless, a burdensome lightweight at the top of the Yankees lineup? He makes the rounds, accepts the gifts in opposing ballparks, smiles for the crowds. He plays gags with reporters’ phone. He gets written about again and again. Meanwhile, his team is dying on the vine. Jeter was always considered the ultimate team player but from a distance he’s never seemed like the ultimate team player to me. It was A-Rod, after all, who agreed to switch positions. Jeter, at 40, is still out there at short. I get the feeling he’ll show up next year, too, to everyone’s embarrassment. He’ll be the Bartleby the Scrivener of shortstops. Leave? “I prefer not to.”

As a longtime Jeter hater, I assume his hitlessness won’t last. I assume, shortly, Jeter will get hot again, or at least lukewarm, because he always does. As I said, I’m almost rooting for it.

Jeter with the Los Angeles Angels

Derek Jeter posing with the best team in baseball. 

Posted at 06:25 AM on Sep 16, 2014 in category Yankees Suck
Tags: ,
No Comments yet   |   Permalink  
Monday September 15, 2014

Hey Kids, Help Mariners Manager Lloyd McClendon! What's YOUR 2014 Mariners Lineup Look Like?

Yesterday I tweet-riffed (tweefed?) when I saw that Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon had Kyle Seager, the second-best hitter on the team, batting sixth, behind such stalwarts as Chris Denorfia (.209), Kendrys Morales (.221) and Corey Hart (.197).

I wasn't the only one. From David Schoenfeld, a Seattle native, in his post, “Ten Questions for the Stretch Run”:

Look, Lloyd McClendon doesn't have a lot of great options once he gets past Cano and Kyle Seager, especially with the somewhat hot Dustin Ackley out with a sprained ankle. Seattle MarinersBut why was he hitting Seager sixth Sunday? OK, Jon Lester, lefty-lefty matchup, I see that. Seager is still one of his better hitters against left-handers (not that he's great with a .255/.306/.385 line). Plus, Lester is actually a reverse platoon, so batting Chris Denorfia (.203 with the Mariners) and Corey Hart (.201 on the season) in the second and fifth spots and moving Seager down is one of worst decisions I've seen all season. There is zero logic behind it. None. ...

M's lost 4-0. They're now a game back in the Wild Card hunt.

Schoenfeld's right: McClendon doesn't have a lot of great options, but he does have better ones. Example: I know he hasn't played long—35 games, 99 at-bats—but Chris Taylor may have the best batting eye on the team. At least, within this small sample size, he's leading the team in walks/at-bats ratio. Yep, better than Robinson Cano. When he plays, he's usually batting eighth or ninth. But why not second? Sure, righty/righty, lefty/lefty if you go Jackson, Taylor, Cano, Seager. But do you have to mix it up that much when you have so few options?

Go something like this maybe?

  1. Jackson, CF (R)
  2. Taylor, SS (R)
  3. Cano, 2B (L)
  4. Seager, 3B (L)
  5. Zunino, C (R)
  6. Saunders, RF (L)
  7. Ackley, LF (L)

Then pick your poison for DH and 1B—two positions, by the way, that should be batting much higher in the order. If we just had anyone good in them.

I don't know. What's your Sept. 2014 Mariners lineup look like?

Posted at 02:15 PM on Sep 15, 2014 in category Seattle Mariners
Tags: ,
2 Comments   |   Permalink  

Movie Review: When the Game Stands Tall (2014)

WARNING: SPOILERS

Winning is fun but relentless winning is hardly dramatic. There’s nothing to overcome. There’s no story there.

Neil Hayes’ book, “When the Game Stands Tall,” about the record-shattering 151-game win streak by De La Salle, a private Catholic high school football team in Concord, Cal., is mostly about its 2002 season; but Hayes includes an epilogue about the 2004 team that finally lost a game. (To Bellevue, by the way, at Qwest Field. Represent.)

When the Game Stands Tall

So that’s what this movie focuses on: losing, and how you recover from it.

There are some natural contradictions to mine here. Winning, for Coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), is a byproduct of playing the game right (humility, teamwork, etc.); but glory, humility’s opposite, is a byproduct of winning all the time.So how do you keep egos in check when you never lose? When does the byproduct of playing the game right cause you to play the game wrong?

Sadly, the movie dramatizes all of this with reductive situations and stock characters: the me-first, team-last dude who is cured like that by a trip to a VA hospital; the glory-seeking father in the stands (Clancy Brown, the prison guard in “The Shawshank Redemption,” doomed to play such roles). Neither rabid fans nor the probing media help. And aren’t we, the movie audience, part of the problem, too? We want them to win as much as anyone.

First-half subplots—Ladouceur’s heart attack, a senseless murder—are more-or-less forgotten in the second. Caviezel’s Ladouceur is sourly inscrutable, his talks with his wife (Laura Dern) are dull business, and the grace moment at the end is hardly graceful.

The movie raises religious and philosophical questions (via Luke 6:38 and Matthew 23:12) about whether what we put out in the world is returned to us, but it sticks with the ultimate American answer: There is no problem so great that winning a football game won’t solve it.

-- This review originally appeared, in slightly different form, in The Seattle Times.

Posted at 05:14 AM on Sep 15, 2014 in category Movie Reviews - 2014
Tags: , , , ,
No Comments yet   |   Permalink  
All previous entries
 RSS    Facebook

Twitter: @ErikLundegaard

ARCHIVES

All previous entries

LINKS
Movies
Jeffrey Wells
The Film Experience
Roger Ebert
Baseball
Rob Neyer
Joe Posnanski
Cardboard Gods
Politics
Andrew Sullivan
Alex Pareene
Hendrik Hertzberg
Friends
Cloud Five Comics
Copy Curmudgeon
Deb Ellis
Andrew Engelson
Jerry Grillo
Tim Harrison
Eric Hanson
Ben Stocking
Jim Walsh
dative-querulous