The Storm that Wasn’t.

Out here in the western part of the state we didn’t get so much as a stray snowflake from the so-called blizzard.  We already have a foot of snow on the ground, so I’m not exactly complaining, but it was a surprise to wake up to nothing when I was expecting at least a foot more.

Definitely for the best, however. Last storm we bartered a loaf of fresh-baked bread for our neighbor snow-blowing our driveway.  But I didn’t have enough flour or time to bake this weekend. That came today. And check out that loaf on the right — an experiment, cinnamon raisin. I don’t know about the nutritional value, but seriously, nothing beats the taste of home-made bread.

So I didn’t bake bread, I didn’t shovel snow, and I certainly didn’t do any of the reading and writing I’d been hankering for.  And yet somehow the weekend is gone.  The one poetry task I finished was a grant application. Maybe that’s where my head was: between choosing the poems, filling out the forms, writing up the artist résumé, printing it all up in duplicate, and then waiting in line at the post office — the Christmas season not being the ideal time to have to mail non-xmas items — it took a while. That, at least, is done.

We did watch a DVD Saturday night, “Julie & Julia”, and it was wonderful, I don’t think I stopped smiling throughout the entire movie. Julia Child’s small memoir, My Life in France, is now at the top of my reading list.

But I made the mistake of then Googling Julie Powell, the author of the memoir Julie & Julia (which I haven’t read) which inspired the film, because heavens, Amy Adams is just so darn likable! Not that I mistook a movie for the true story, but I was curious. The movie kind of charts two artists discovering their medium, and I was interested in seeing what Julie Powell was up to lately. Julia, well, nothing new there.

And it turns out that Julie Powell has a new memoir out, Cleaving, which explores a less savory side of food, butchery, as well as detailing the troubles of her marriage. None of which I ever wanted to know.  Which is why I don’t read memoirs.

So now I’m endeavoring to forget everything I read online — not that I read much, one article informed plenty. One of the biggest delights of the movie is its depiction of two truly loving marriages, it was incredibly cockle-warming, and that’s what I’d rather hold on to. It’s winter, and cold enough, blizzard or no.

The Iron Giant.

The current favorite movie in our household is “The Iron Giant” (1999), based on the story by Ted Hughes. (You can click on this link to read a plot summary.) Great movie, with every viewing we see something new (which is good b/c we’ve seen it a LOT) — and the voice actors do a wonderful job.

There’s a scene near the beginning in which Hogarth, the school boy around which the movie revolves, hopped up on espresso (“coffeezilla”), paces and rants about the bullies at school who pound him because he thinks he’s smarter than them, and he says, “But I don’t think I’m smarter than them, I just do the stinking homework!”

I know exactly how he feels. Though grown-ups tend NOT to pound other grown-ups, we can be snarky with/about those who experience good fortune. When we feel that dark side coming on, it would be helpful then to remember: maybe he got that raise because he worked for it; maybe she got that grant because she earned it.  Maybe they did the stinking homework.  Somebody getting what she wants in this world is cause to celebrate. And maybe tomorrow it’ll be you.

There’s a poem by Jennifer Michael Hecht that ties in perfectly with this. Tomorrow. Boy’s crying, time’s up.

“The Mist”.

We did not drive to the coast yesterday — both Vincent & Lance had colds, so we went out for breakfast at Foxtowne Diner and walked to the playground in the morning, and had a quiet and restful afternoon. My idea of a good day.

Which I needed, because I woke up in a foul mood: on Saturday night, Lance & I watched “The Mist” on DVD, based on the novella by Stephen King. I don’t watch scary movies, because they’re scary movies, they give me nightmares, but Lance didn’t want to watch it alone. So I watched it with him (“Honey, could you turn that light out?” “NO.”). And as scary movies go, it was pretty damn good. Most horror flicks these days are just exercises in masochism & blood, but this was very character-driven. Which is why the ending is so awful. Not merely shocking, but wrong wrong wrong.

If you haven’t seen it, and don’t want to know the end, don’t read further, because the movie’s conclusion is different from the one for the novella, which leaves the characters driving through the mist, not sure where or if the mist ends. In the movie, after you’ve watched all the struggles & deaths of some great characters (how could they kill you, Ollie, o the injustice!) 5 characters make it to the Land Rover and drive off: the main character, his young son, a blonde school teacher, an older teacher played Frances Steenburgen, and an older man. They drive through scene after scene of wreckage until the gas runs out. This is where things go awry.

Now Lance tells me the following scene is an homage to a scene from the docudrama, “The Night that Panicked America,” which is about the airing of Orson Wells’ “The War of the Worlds.” He says that part of that film focuses on a family’s reaction as they listen to the program on the radio: a father, mother, young son, and the grandparents, in a panic, flee their apartment by car. Driving down a tunnel, a firetruck approaches from the opposite direction. The father’s panicking, mistaking the firetruck for aliens, and he holds a gun in his hand — contemplates killing his family rather then letting them fall into the hands of aliens. Before he can do anything, the firetruck overtakes them, and tells them to go home, for crying out loud, this is a tunnel, what’re they doing, get out of the way. Chastened, they return home feeling foolish, but safe.

Back to “The Mist”: the father, child, woman, & older couple sit in the Land Rover surrounded by mist, out of gas, and hear ominous sounds approaching. By now we’ve seen all the awful creatures in the mist, so yes, we, the audience, are aware that they are in grave danger, stranded like that. But it’s been 2 hours, they’ve fought like hell to get that far, so when the father looks at the gun in his hand and counts how many bullets are left (“Four.” “But there are five of us.”), I don’t really believe he’ll do something so daft, especially to his sweet little boy. But the next scene pulls back to an external shot of the Land Rover — the interior flashes, four shots. Then back to the father, who howls into the steering wheel, then gets out of the car to call to the monsters to come and get him.

Instead, the cavalry arrives: the army, row upon row of tanks and soldiers with torches, and they push back the mist. The father sinks to his knees in horror. Roll credits.

Monsters didn’t keep me from sleeping that night, but outrage. And Lance, who made me watch the film in the first place, says, “But it’s only a movie.” Which is so breathtakingly beside the point.

I think this will all tie into poetry, or at least writing:

Maybe the filmmakers were going for an ironic ending, but it’s a cheap shot, and completely unfair. Let’s face it, a horror flick is not where you go for verisimilitude, and the least you should get for your time and high blood pressure is a hopeful ending. Redemption. Genre films should not be trying to buck convention, they’re all about convention. If I want bleakness and despair, I’ll watch an independent film.

That said, I’d accept the depressing nature of “The Mist”‘s conclusion if it seemed earned, but it’s all wrong for the characters as they’ve been portrayed throughout the film, the people we the audience have come to know and root for. They’d keep fighting!

Here it is: the conclusion of any piece of art is only believable, true, if it’s been earned. I tend to rush early drafts of my poems to the end, I’m good at endings. But then I have to go back and work to make those endings right and satisfying. Otherwise I’m left with some good lines, but a bad poem. The people behind “The Mist” worked to create a really compelling film, and ruined it with a “shocking” ending. This is one of those times I’d actually appreciate an alternate ending in the extras bit on DVD!

Thanks for listening. I feel better now.

*

On another topic entirely: Lance questions me every day whether I’ve posted the news yet here, and when I intend to, so I guess I’ll go ahead, seeing as he’s told everyone and their grandmothers since we found out:

Yes, I’m pregnant, due on Christmas day (poor baby), which makes me 7 weeks along. I will make every attempt to not regale you with pregnancy tales. Unless you ask. I will only say now that, as with Vincent, so far everything’s great, no morning sickness, just fatigue and ravenous, I-could-eat-my-desk, hunger. After our initial surprise, we’re very happy — I’m one of 6, and always wanted Vincent to have a sibling closer in age (his half-brothers are 20+ yrs older).  We weren’t exactly planning for one soon, but we’re excited nonetheless. Vincent is always sweet with babies, so hopefully he’ll be happy too when the new baby comes home, and not rage against being knocked from his only-child-prince’s perch. Good times.

Le Bossu Trois.

“If you do not come to Lagardère, Lagardère will go to you!” Those are the words in the form of oath taken by Lagardère to Count de Gonzague, who plots a conspiracy against his friend, the brilliant Duke de Nevers, to capture the wealth of his rich cousin. It will take sixteen years for the Knight Lagardère to avenge his friend, save his honour, and find love.

I cleaned it up a little, but that is the Google translation from the French about the film. It was the rollicking adventure that I remembered, with funny & smart dialogue. I was swept up all over again.

Until the end. I didn’t remember that at all.  Those French! I don’t care if he’s not her father after all, that does not mean they can be together. Some things just aren’t done. It’s creepy.

So that meant I had to Google Le Bossu and see its history — from the extras it was clear that it’s a remake. And not only is it based on a cloak-and-dagger novel series by Paul Féval published in 1858, but the first film version was in 1910! There have been 7 film versions in total, and 2 TV movies. So everyone in France must know this story — does Foster Dad always get the girl in the end?? Marianne? Andrew?

Now I have to see if there’s an English edition of the novel…

Le Bossu Deux.

For two nights now it’s been sitting in its envelope on top of our DVD player.  But for one reason or another we still haven’t had the time to watch it.

!

I guess after ten years I can stand the suspense another day.  Tomorrow night for sure.  I’ll make Vincent watch it if that’s what it takes.  Besides, if memory serves, there are no guns, just sword fights.

Hmmm.

Le Bossu et Tim Mayo.

Labor Day weekend in 1998 I was in Montreal. As it happens, that’s also the weekend that they have a film festival every year, which I discovered accidentally walking down Elizabeth St. in the evening: a film was being shown against a building, just beginning, actually, and people were sitting all over. So I sat down too, not initially realizing that not only would the film be in French, but there’d be no subtitles.

Oh.

But it was exciting, suspenseful, Daniel Auteuil and Vincent Perez were in the cast, and though I didn’t follow the finer points of the plot, I was completely swept up.

About a half hour before the movie ended, we were drenched by a raging thunderstorm. Big thunder booms, flashes of lightning. But no one moved. Not a single person. We, all of us, had to see how it ended. It was that good.

For all these years, I’ve been longing to see this movie again, this time with subtitles, so I could understand what the stakes were, the story beneath the action, but the only thing I could discover was the title, Le Bossu, which translates to “The Hunchback.”

But thanks to the miracle of the internet, I have at last the information I needed — and I know why I couldn’t find it before. Literal-minded me, I was looking all this time for a movie called, “The Hunchback,” but the English title is “On Guard.” Stupid title, but there it is. Anyway, I shall have it safely placed inside my DVD player tomorrow night, and all its secrets shall be revealed….

*

Tim Mayo read last week as part of the Collected Poets Series, and I wanted to post one of the poems from his new chapbook, The Loneliness of Dogs (Pudding House, 2008) for those of you that weren’t able to come, a taste of what you missed:

Confession to the Dark Lady

Now I am an old man touching desire
like the
nombril of my body,
picking lint out of the center of my being,
folding myself to sleep like a towel.
I dream of your lips red as welts
against your white face, and I cannot
imagine your teeth, because the redness
of my dream blooms so vermilion–
but you must have smiled at me, once,
making the measured grimace of my face
relax its muscles, letting something,
hard as a pearl, go limp in my brain.

That thief, time…

Time to write, time to parent, time to be with my husband, time to tend to my friendships, time to update here, clearly there’s not enough time in a day for everything, but one thing that has helped since we moved into our apt–we have no cable, which around here means no TV.

I love TV–Heroes, Project Runway, 24, American Idol, LOST…and Lance is a news junkie. But when we moved, we decided not to hook up the cable, and it’s been wonderfully freeing. Our time is our own. Actually, it’s Vincent’s–but then he sleeps, and we can read, talk, write. And anything we truly pine for we can rent on DVD eventually, right?

Speaking of which, we rented Once last weekend, and it was just wonderful. That these actual musicians, who are excellent, you must hear them, can also act so naturally–I am so envious. People who can do many things well are freaks of nature. Anyway, I want a sequel, I want to know what happens next. And I want to own that CD.