Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Measuring Comedy.

In response to sleepy e's question about the maximum length for comedies, I post the following list. It appears that the ceiling is about 2 hours, though there are some that balloon to gargantuan proportions. Counterintuitive, signifying nothing, and I sat around and did this research together, arguing all the while if a lengthier film correlated with flabby pacing (I say yes, counterintuitive isn't so sure). The list:

Annie Hall 93 min.
Rushmore 93 min.
The Opposite of Sex 105 min.
There’s Something About Mary 119 min.
Me, Myself, and Irene 116 min.
The Wedding Crashers 119 min.
Bowfinger 97 min.
I Heart Huckabees 106 min.
Heathers 102 min.
Lost in Translation 102 min.
Groundhog Day 101 min.
Raising Arizona 94 min.
Young Frankenstein 106 min.
Bringing Up Baby 102 min.
Some Like It Hot 120 min.
A Night at the Opera 93 min.
Duck Soup 68 min.
Royal Tenenbaums 109 min.
Bottle Rocket 93 min.
Blazing Saddles 93 min.
Dumb & Dumber 107 min.
Kingpin 113 min.
Lost in America 91 min.
Tampopo 114 min.
Pink Panther Returns 113 min.
Dr. Strangelove 93 min.
The Jerk 94 min.
As Good as it Gets 139 min.
Airplane! 88 min.
Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Forum 99 min.
It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World 192 min.
The Producers (Mel Brooks version) 88 min.
The Producers (2005 version) 138 min.
The Gold Rush 88 min. (24 fps)
Home Alone 103 min.
Sixteen Candles 93 min.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles 93 min.
Tommy Boy 97 min.
Uncle Buck 100 min.
Midnight Run 126 min.
What about Bob? 99 min.
Ghostbusters 107 min.
Shaun of the Dead 99 min.
The Van 100 min.
Full Monty 91 min.
Millions 98 min.
The Snapper 87 min.
Goodbye, Lenin! 121 min.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Help! I need somebody!

Sunday, I was compulsively watching New York, New York, which, in case anyone's wondering, is no one involved's finest effort, and yet it's kind of hard to stop watching it. For one thing, I forgot that Liza Minelli was so young when she made it, and that girl can sing.

Anyhoo: my son came into the room, took one look at the television, and said, "What are you watching?"

I replied, "It's New York, New York--it's not very good, but I can't seem to stop watching it."

Gently removing the remote from my hand, he said, "Here--let me help you with that," and changed the channel. Whew.

Here are a few other things I sometimes need help with:

  • editing the contents of my closet
  • re-watching movies
  • keeping all the shit I've agreed to do straight
  • remembering to attend board meetings
  • buying ever more stuff
  • relaxing

It's lucky that I have people who love me, people who will take me by the hand.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Slow + blog = slog.

Weekend accomplishments:
  • desultory replies to student e-mails
  • cried at two movies; posted reviews of same
  • fretted over late hours of teenage son
  • took many naps
  • tried new oatmeal cookie recipe (into which I added a little cardamom and some roasted cacao nibs--btw, "nibs" makes these cookies sound vaguely naughty, don't you think?)
  • went to used CD store where teenage son and I found lots of treasure (Ben Folds stuff for him, new Cat Power release for me)
  • took B to the dog park twice

Holing up, evidently, till spring.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

You don't need a bodhi tree to know which way the wind blows.

After the noise of the holidays (I'm still stuck there, sorry! --we had the last of the big parties for awhile on Sunday, with piles of enchiladas and so forth, and a cake, and the Christmas tree came down), it's just me, the historian, and Bruiser, which means the little economy of our lives is rather circumspect. On the days I don't teach, I hang around with the B-dog for several hours, working at my online classes, before showing up for meetings; on the days I teach, he hangs around with himself. When we come home--or more precisely, when the historian comes home--Bruiser believes it's time for action.

It's been cold enough that the mud at the dog park is either frozen or at least not sloppy; but it's also cold enough that no one but Bruiser really wants to go to the dog park. For awhile, we had a workable compromise, taking him to the schoolyard nearby, but he's unpredictable--he could see another dog or some teenagers and think he needs to check them out right now, and no amount of calling or remonstrating will stop him. We don't want to see him run into the road. This state of affairs means that sometimes Bruiser has to get his action by bringing us various things with which to stage a tug-of-war.

We hate to disappoint him. Maybe Bruiser has better tools for dealing with disappointment than I do--he never pouts, for instance. (He does, however, dismantle things with his teeth--maybe pouting equates on the unproductiveness scale.) Whereas I found myself nearly unbearably disappointed by two facts: one, the slate of Law and Order: Criminal Intent episodes with which I had intended to divert myself last night were all episodes I'd seen before, and two, the Jazz played horribly last night.

I could practice non-attachment and meditate upon the impermanence of all things, including new episodes of L&O:CI and good basketball, but I find that generally, the best solution there is to go to bed early and hope for better luck the next day. Last night, I dismantled several magazines (though not with my teeth) before finally giving in and exercising the reset option.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Last night, after hearing the Yellowjackets' set at the Sheraton, we stopped in at the Sinclair station ("No Public Restrooms") for a Coke. Guess who walked in behind us? The Great Man himself, Jerry Sloan. Since we just got done with jazz, we didn't know what had happened with The Jazz, so we were both tongue-tied. Even if I had known that the Jazz won, though, I'm not sure I would have said anything. I really like Jerry Sloan on TV--he's one of my favorite basketball characters (Chair of the Curmudgeon Society, hard-ass Originalist, etc.). But he's a little scary in real life, in my opinion. Still shockingly tall, for one thing.

My friend Jen lives in Park City, which is now, and for a little while longer, Celebrity Central, as you all know. She has promised--and delivered--breaking Celebrity Updates ("this just in--Team Aniston has entered the building!"). Maybe some people manage to be nonplussed at the presence of celebrities. I have a friend who has chatted up, over the years, the likes of Robert Palmer, Sandra Bullock, and Anthony Lane, to which I say: My friend, I salute you. I, however, turn into an idiot. I saw David Strathairn at the farmer's market a couple of years ago--I'm not sure why he was at the farmer's market in SLC, but there you go, one of the enigmas of celebrity life--and here was my dignified, cool response: (pointing) "That's a movie star!" Worse, I repeated this remark, and even worse, he heard it. Jeez.

In my writing classes, we're talking about profiles today--a genre that these days often serves the marketing purposes of the entertainment industry. What is it about the famous that is so fascinating? I know how to deconstruct it, but analysis doesn't undo the glamour.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A movie to talk about.

Last night, the historian and I saw Match Point, which has the virtue of being a Woody Allen film that almost makes you forget how many lousy movies he's made of late. It's fluid, engaging, provocative, pretty much well-acted, pretty-much well-written--an enjoyable film. As we walked out of the theater, we began talking about it--what we thought of the premise of the movie (it's a movie with a thesis, like Crimes and Misdemeanors and Melinda and Melinda--a "what happens if X is true?" kind of thesis, which the movie then works out), what were the film's longueurs, whether the characters were well-enough developed and whether we felt we understood the main character's motivations, and so on.

I find myself more sensitive lately to certain misogynies in the movies I've seen. (We saw The Ice Harvest a few weeks ago, which actually made me mad on this point.) One point this film could be said to have made, though perhaps unwittingly (I said to the historian), is that it sucks to be a woman. The narrative strategy of the film is to get you to identify enough with the protagonist--the class-climbing male--that you sickeningly assent to his worst actions. Poor Scarlett Johanssen's character: for half the film she gets to be a vampy babe saying fatale-ish things, then the other half, she gets to be a harpy. She was darn good, and she looked wonderful, but it's a thankless part, ultimately. It made me want to revisit the W. Allen films I truly love (for the record, they are: Annie Hall, Love and Death, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Sweet and Lowdown, and I guess that's it) to see what I think of the way each film treated its female characters.

We woke up slow this morning, and found ourselves thinking again about the film. We had a similar experience a couple of weeks ago, when we saw Munich and had a very spirited conversation about it afterward. My beloved felt that it favored Israel's view of itself as justified in vengeful actions; my response was almost precisely the opposite. I've been re-reading reviews of the film to check my own responses (not that I need to be right or anything). At this point, though, what I find myself glad for is to be seeing films that stick around in my mind awhile, giving me a reason to consider and reconsider, a reason to keep talking.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hope I Die Before I Get Old.

New year, old me: recently I visited a professor from my undergraduate years. We had breakfast in the university's student center cafeteria, then he showed me around the brand new humanities building. It was a really nice visit, but guess what? He's older now than when he was my teacher. Me, too.

I've been thinking about age for awhile now. I've never had any anxiety about my birthdays--not any of the milestone ones, for instance, thirty or forty. Maybe because I was never athletic nor have I ever considered myself a beauty, I haven't thought much about decay or decline--I've never had such an exalted sense of myself (perhaps I've been vain about my mind, but then there's that amazing dearth of self-discipline and follow-through to temper the vanity).

On the weekend, the day before her birthday, my small, breakable mother fell, caught herself with her hand, and broke her wrist. My aged grandmother, whom I visited today, has broken all sorts of parts. On the whole, I've been remarkably healthy all my life. I've had a bunch of kids, all without incident, never had surgery or any major illness (sometimes I have to exaggerate a cold just to get a day off). But if my mom's getting old, if my grandmother is demonstrably old, if I have a child who has a child, then hey, I'm clearly not getting any younger myself.

My grandma is ninety-one and in the kind of health that keeps her here, but just barely. The last of her generation just died a week or so ago. My dad and my aunt visit her devotedly, one of my cousins and I go fairly often, but in lots of ways she'd rather be gone. "I want to go home," she told me last week when I went to see her at the care center where she stays. It's a common but sad story. I've told my kids to put something slippery on the floor when I get to that point. My youngest son pointed out that falling might not kill me, and suggested poison. Clever lad, that one.

I don't really want to die before I get old. What I want is to get old but stay healthy and self-sufficient and witty and in full possession of my faculties (which I reminded my son, in case he decided to slip me the mickey before I was ready). I don't want eternal youth. I just don't want to live so long that I'm waiting around to die.

Friday, January 13, 2006


The house is all but empty--my daughter and granddaughter have gone back to Scotland, my college daughter is back in Logan. My son, the youngest, is still here, but will go back to his dad's on the weekend. So mostly it's quiet, leaving us all to our thoughts. The Christmas tree is still up, by the way. My goal is to have it down no later than Valentine's day.

Last night I found myself watching a round of television, most of which was unworthy of my time. At the same time, I was loading a bunch of cds onto ITunes, mostly because my son has been doing it in preparation for the IPod he intends to buy with the money he makes from his new job at the movie theater. He's been loading a bunch of my cds (NIN, anyone? I'm not sure I want my 17 year old listening to that, but it's too late). Now I'm going to load any of his I find interesting. Plus, it happens that the cd collections of a bunch of people come in and out of my house to find their way into the ITunes of my son. I might as well take advantage of that.

During the TV-watching, cd-loading process, here are some other things I did: spoke to two of my daughters and one of my sons on the phone; took my youngest over to his dad's to pick up a car; added three students to a section of English 2010; answered some e-mail; made popcorn and a Diet Coke; looked over my style notebook. The result was that I really enjoyed only a little of any of these activities.

My computer is a little hesitant--balky--as I'm loading the cds and blogging and e-mailing and so on. I feel it is trying to tell me something.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The staff of life.

Here, for your edification and delight, is a record of all the movies I saw in 2005, with comments. Seventy-four all told, which doesn't include the second (and even third) times I saw certain films.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Bruiser's Christmas vacation.

Bruiser interrogates college coeds, on their way home from Utah State University for Christmas break, using my couch as a way station.

Bruiser digs the snow, and he and Miriam become snow buddies.

Bruiser takes a much-needed rest after 24-hour partying.


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