LISTENING

As it was the holiday season, I was listening to Christmas music. While I like a good “Jingle Bell Rock,” or The Beach Boy’s “Little Saint Nick,” I’ve found this year I’ve been more interested in Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. I totally dig it, the famous numbers and the more obscure ones. I also have a friend who released a Christmas-themed compilation on Christmas: Scarves’ SUPER EXTRA SUPER CHRISTMAS. It’s a mix of a bunch of different flavors. There’s more electronic stuff, more folksy stuff, more straight rock. I’m not sure all the details about this release, but here’s the bandcamp so you can (AND SHOULD!) check it out for yourself!

WATCHING

Joy (Russell, 2015). I wasn’t at first interested in seeing this movie. I remembering hearing about it over a year ago and thinking: ehh… The trailer didn’t make me feel any differently about it. But last week I saw the trailer again and felt this urge to see it. I’m glad I did. I liked it a lot. I think it had it’s weak points (I actually don’t think David O. Russell‘s scripts are that good. I think he just has really good actors. Obviously his scripts aren’t bad, but I think that’s his biggest weakness. A few times during the film, I was thinking: where are we in the narrative? It lagged.), but on the whole I liked it the most of the other films by him in recent years (Silver Linings PlaybookAmerican Hustle). I like that the film made me feel empowered. Watching it, I was like: I don’t have a family to support, I’m not in mountains of debt, why am I not pursuing my ideas?!?

A few more things I liked about it:

1) Isabella Rossellini, whoa! Cool to see her in a recent film. She’s been in plenty, but none I’ve seen. And seeing Dascha Polanco from Orange Is The New Black in a film is awesome as well.

2) Isabella Rossellini plays a weird character (Trudy) and I’m not sure how I feel about the character, but I liked that when, in the beginning, Trudy is deciding whether or not to invest in Joy’s idea, Trudy asks if Joy would ever pull a gun on a business adversary. Joy’s answer is “yes,” and she gets the money. That leads to this kind of Chekov’s gun scenario that heightens the final climax in the film. Again, the initial scene with Trudy asking that question seems kinda weird/unrealistic, but potentially worth it for the suspense at the end.

3) The very beginning of the film is a black and white soap opera, but it’s not the final cut of the soap opera. It’s the wide shot of a scene playing out. It’s awkward and not really boring, but definitely less dramatic than the edited version we see shortly thereafter. I found this incredibly weird and thus incredibly important. Why start your film about Joy Mangano with this? During the denouement, Joy stands in front of a toy show and snow begins to fall. She looks up and sees it’s coming from a box set up to provide Christmas aesthetics to the shop. I feel like these two scenes are linked, and also linked to a self-criticism of biopics in general: we create these heightened or false presentations of events because in reality, life is rather boring. Dramatic things happen, but not in the ways they do in film. I’m curious what other people thought of the beginning scene. Here’s Richard Brodsky’s take for The New Yorker.

 

READING

I finished the book on Popper and Wittgenstein, and now I’m eager to learn more about Wittgenstein’s “ideas.” If anyone knows of any other books, please share! In the mean time, I have a lot of books by friends I’ve been meaning to read, so I will most likely read these from my Kindle while spending the NYE weekend away in Osaka!

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