Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Word From Mrs. Undies...

My husband's mother Margaret died peacefully in her sleep this morning after a long illness. Yesterday I was at my father's grave and today I'm heading to Virginia to bury my mother-in-law. She loved her flowers and her children and she made the absolute BEST cocoanut pies!!
She was a strong woman who worked beside her husband on their farm her whole life. She will be greatly missed by all. Please think of her along with the many thousands who lost their lives for our freedom on this Memorial Day. God bless and may peace be with you.

A Word From Mrs. Undies...

My husband's mother Margaret died peacefully in her sleep this morning after a long illness. Yesterday I was at my father's grave and today I'm heading to Virginia to bury my mother-in-law. She loved her flowers and her children and she made the absolute BEST cocoanut pies!!
She was a strong woman who worked beside her husband on their farm her whole life. She will be greatly missed by all. Please think of her along with the many thousands who lost their lives for our freedom on this Memorial Day. God bless and may peace be with you.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bunchie's Scrapbook: Summer Travel Edition - Places I've Been Lost - Part 1


Where: Buffalo, NY

When: July, 1990

Situation: I got off the freeway to fill up with cheap American gas before crossing into Canada. I couldn’t find a gas station, and took a wrong turn and was suddenly in a dilapidated neighborhood where all the signs were in Polish or Russian or something. Gigantic birds were wandering around. It was the weirdest, creepiest place I’d ever been.

Solution:
I drove along the Lake figuring it would have to run into the Peace Bridge eventually. It did.





Where: Arles, France

When: March, 1994

Situation: Arles is a town of charming, winding streets perfect for strolling. However the streets are not laid out according to any logical format, and before long, we were hopelessly turned around. We wandered for an hour. Then, it started to rain. Hard.

Solution:
A friendly Gendarme, who at first thought we were trying to report a stolen car, eventually understood we were lost and drew us a map back to our hotel.





Where: Phoenix, Arizona

When: May, 2010

Situation:
I figured that if I headed west on McDowell Road I would eventually run into the 303. I drove halfway to California until the road turned to dirt and dead-ended at an abandoned ranch, which looked suspiciously like a Meth Lab. It had a hand-lettered sign that said “Theifs Will Be Shot”

Solution:
I turned around and got the hell out of there.




Where: Jacksonville, Florida

When: Several times during the 1980s

Situation: The interchange of I-10 and I-95 is a doozy, and if you’re not paying attention, you could end up in one of those swampy backwaters Marjorie Rawlings used to write about.

Solution: I stopped going to Florida altogether.

Bunchie's Scrapbook: Summer Travel Edition - Places I've Been Lost - Part 1


Where: Buffalo, NY

When: July, 1990

Situation: I got off the freeway to fill up with cheap American gas before crossing into Canada. I couldn’t find a gas station, and took a wrong turn and was suddenly in a dilapidated neighborhood where all the signs were in Polish or Russian or something. Gigantic birds were wandering around. It was the weirdest, creepiest place I’d ever been.

Solution:
I drove along the Lake figuring it would have to run into the Peace Bridge eventually. It did.





Where: Arles, France

When: March, 1994

Situation: Arles is a town of charming, winding streets perfect for strolling. However the streets are not laid out according to any logical format, and before long, we were hopelessly turned around. We wandered for an hour. Then, it started to rain. Hard.

Solution:
A friendly Gendarme, who at first thought we were trying to report a stolen car, eventually understood we were lost and drew us a map back to our hotel.





Where: Phoenix, Arizona

When: May, 2010

Situation:
I figured that if I headed west on McDowell Road I would eventually run into the 303. I drove halfway to California until the road turned to dirt and dead-ended at an abandoned ranch, which looked suspiciously like a Meth Lab. It had a hand-lettered sign that said “Theifs Will Be Shot”

Solution:
I turned around and got the hell out of there.




Where: Jacksonville, Florida

When: Several times during the 1980s

Situation: The interchange of I-10 and I-95 is a doozy, and if you’re not paying attention, you could end up in one of those swampy backwaters Marjorie Rawlings used to write about.

Solution: I stopped going to Florida altogether.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Matter of Taste (2000)***


A Matter of Taste is a well executed film: excellent production, nicely photographed and well acted. But by the time it’s over, like the principle characters, you may find yourself feeling a bit empty. This anti-romance details the growing dependency between a filthy rich CEO (Bernard Giraudeau) and a handsome young waiter (Jean-Pierre Lorit) back during the last days of the 1990’s financial bubble. The two meet during a business dinner and Giraudeau, oddly fascinated by his young server’s demeanor and ability to identify complex culinary seasonings, hires Lorit at an astronomical sum to serve as a personal food taster.


This premise is not as preposterous as it sounds for director Bernard Rapp does a good job of selling us on Giraudeau’s unique superstitions and paranoid fears. The story appears to be headed one direction – a burgeoning gay relationship, despite the character’s protestations - but the bond between the two men slowly develops into something much larger and more mysterious than mere physicality. Giraudeau seeks a mental and physiological oneness with his young employee that can only be achieved by Lorit’s complete and absolute fealty to his employer and, to that purpose, Giraudeau sets out to break the young man’s will and utterly subjugate Lorit’s individuality.


There is really nothing romantic going on here at all. The goal is sheer unvarnished power; the power to own, and the power to remake in one’s image. Yet, Giraudeau’s authoritarian experiment makes him surprisingly vulnerable, for what is a deity without worshippers? So whenever Lorit finds the head games just too much to bear, it is Giraudeau who must come crawling back, laden with abject apologies. If Bernard Rapp is guilty of anything it’s overstating, as he does not seem to know how to end this cycle of abuse and contrition.


The stakes get larger and larger until ultimately the whole story ceases to be a metaphorical fable and becomes an embarrassing self parody. As an audience we feel cheated, for we have dutifully followed this trail down many blind and increasingly far-fetched alleys, only to have the entire construction topple into a heap of melodramatic hokum. A Matter of Taste does many things well, but at its conclusion, the only thing this reviewer felt was a vague sense of relief. Similar to when a neighbor's blaring car alarm finally shuts off.

IMDb

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A Matter of Taste (2000)***


A Matter of Taste is a well executed film: excellent production, nicely photographed and well acted. But by the time it’s over, like the principle characters, you may find yourself feeling a bit empty. This anti-romance details the growing dependency between a filthy rich CEO (Bernard Giraudeau) and a handsome young waiter (Jean-Pierre Lorit) back during the last days of the 1990’s financial bubble. The two meet during a business dinner and Giraudeau, oddly fascinated by his young server’s demeanor and ability to identify complex culinary seasonings, hires Lorit at an astronomical sum to serve as a personal food taster.


This premise is not as preposterous as it sounds for director Bernard Rapp does a good job of selling us on Giraudeau’s unique superstitions and paranoid fears. The story appears to be headed one direction – a burgeoning gay relationship, despite the character’s protestations - but the bond between the two men slowly develops into something much larger and more mysterious than mere physicality. Giraudeau seeks a mental and physiological oneness with his young employee that can only be achieved by Lorit’s complete and absolute fealty to his employer and, to that purpose, Giraudeau sets out to break the young man’s will and utterly subjugate Lorit’s individuality.


There is really nothing romantic going on here at all. The goal is sheer unvarnished power; the power to own, and the power to remake in one’s image. Yet, Giraudeau’s authoritarian experiment makes him surprisingly vulnerable, for what is a deity without worshippers? So whenever Lorit finds the head games just too much to bear, it is Giraudeau who must come crawling back, laden with abject apologies. If Bernard Rapp is guilty of anything it’s overstating, as he does not seem to know how to end this cycle of abuse and contrition.


The stakes get larger and larger until ultimately the whole story ceases to be a metaphorical fable and becomes an embarrassing self parody. As an audience we feel cheated, for we have dutifully followed this trail down many blind and increasingly far-fetched alleys, only to have the entire construction topple into a heap of melodramatic hokum. A Matter of Taste does many things well, but at its conclusion, the only thing this reviewer felt was a vague sense of relief. Similar to when a neighbor's blaring car alarm finally shuts off.

IMDb

Add to Queue

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Girl on the Train (2009)*****


The Girl on the Train is a complex and richly observed film all about lies; big ones, small ones, kind ones and dangerous ones. Emilie Dequenne – proving her Palme d’Or winning performance in Rosetta was no fluke – is outstanding as an aimless young woman named Jeanne, who seems to be just marking time and waiting for her life to begin.


She lives with her mother (Catherine Deneuve), who runs a day-care out of their home and scours the internet want ads in search of secretarial work for her unambitious daughter. Concurrently, we meet a Jewish family lead by a successful lawyer (Michel Blanc), his precocious grandson Nathan (Jeremie Quaegebeur) and Nathan’s estranged parents (Matheiu Demy and Ronit Elkabetz). The film is divided into two parts, and the bulk of the first act deals with Jeanne’s burgeoning relationship with a dodgy amateur wrestler (Nicolas Duvachelle), who mysteriously always has plenty of Euros on hand.


The impressionable Jeanne slowly falls under the full sway of her hunky suitor, but an act of violence reveals the shocking true nature of their relationship, and eventually Jeanne realizes that in the most important romance of her life, she has been treated as a virtual nonentity. The sum total of the lies Dequenne has been told throughout the film begin to seriously affect her psyche, blurring her own ability to judge real from imaginary.


She then concocts a fable that casts her as the pitiable victim of a hate crime, and the news media, being what it is, latches onto the story and transforms it into a nationwide spectacle. When Deneuve turns to her old flame Blanc for legal help, eventually Jeanne meets young Nathan, whose unrelenting frankness gets him barred from the dinner table, and two of them spend an innocent night together that shows her the value of sharply defined truth, and ultimately changes her course in life.


Director Techine is operating on many levels of commentary here, and he does a great job of tangling the narrative threads in such a way that they form a strong rope rather than a hopeless jumble. He uses visual design as a subtle way of depicting not only class differences, but mental acuity as well.


Deneuve and Dequenne dress in garishly mismatched colorful patterns, while Blanc and his family are always clad in muted solid colors. Deneuve’s suburban home is decorated in busy floral prints while Blanc’s office is painted in charcoal and off white. Blanc invariably leaves his window open, letting in the clamor of the street, and while his daughter-in-law complains about the noise, Blanc is so mentally focused the din does not bother him.


Blanc is not susceptible to outside influences, be it the rumble of random traffic or the droning of the news media. That trait has been inherited by Nathan, who sees through the clutter of adult lies with wisdom far beyond his years. Or perhaps, like a character from a J.D. Salinger story, it is his lack of years that gives him such moral certainty.


Regardless, Nathan and Jeanne manage to find their way to personal peace, despite the swirling maelstrom of distortions and half-truths that surrounds them. And yes, Nathan’s character does take on religious overtones, as if this young Jewish child has been sent to save the world; and if not the whole world, at least one confused and bewildered soul.



IMDb

Add to Queue

The Girl on the Train (2009)*****


The Girl on the Train is a complex and richly observed film all about lies; big ones, small ones, kind ones and dangerous ones. Emilie Dequenne – proving her Palme d’Or winning performance in Rosetta was no fluke – is outstanding as an aimless young woman named Jeanne, who seems to be just marking time and waiting for her life to begin.


She lives with her mother (Catherine Deneuve), who runs a day-care out of their home and scours the internet want ads in search of secretarial work for her unambitious daughter. Concurrently, we meet a Jewish family lead by a successful lawyer (Michel Blanc), his precocious grandson Nathan (Jeremie Quaegebeur) and Nathan’s estranged parents (Matheiu Demy and Ronit Elkabetz). The film is divided into two parts, and the bulk of the first act deals with Jeanne’s burgeoning relationship with a dodgy amateur wrestler (Nicolas Duvachelle), who mysteriously always has plenty of Euros on hand.


The impressionable Jeanne slowly falls under the full sway of her hunky suitor, but an act of violence reveals the shocking true nature of their relationship, and eventually Jeanne realizes that in the most important romance of her life, she has been treated as a virtual nonentity. The sum total of the lies Dequenne has been told throughout the film begin to seriously affect her psyche, blurring her own ability to judge real from imaginary.


She then concocts a fable that casts her as the pitiable victim of a hate crime, and the news media, being what it is, latches onto the story and transforms it into a nationwide spectacle. When Deneuve turns to her old flame Blanc for legal help, eventually Jeanne meets young Nathan, whose unrelenting frankness gets him barred from the dinner table, and two of them spend an innocent night together that shows her the value of sharply defined truth, and ultimately changes her course in life.


Director Techine is operating on many levels of commentary here, and he does a great job of tangling the narrative threads in such a way that they form a strong rope rather than a hopeless jumble. He uses visual design as a subtle way of depicting not only class differences, but mental acuity as well.


Deneuve and Dequenne dress in garishly mismatched colorful patterns, while Blanc and his family are always clad in muted solid colors. Deneuve’s suburban home is decorated in busy floral prints while Blanc’s office is painted in charcoal and off white. Blanc invariably leaves his window open, letting in the clamor of the street, and while his daughter-in-law complains about the noise, Blanc is so mentally focused the din does not bother him.


Blanc is not susceptible to outside influences, be it the rumble of random traffic or the droning of the news media. That trait has been inherited by Nathan, who sees through the clutter of adult lies with wisdom far beyond his years. Or perhaps, like a character from a J.D. Salinger story, it is his lack of years that gives him such moral certainty.


Regardless, Nathan and Jeanne manage to find their way to personal peace, despite the swirling maelstrom of distortions and half-truths that surrounds them. And yes, Nathan’s character does take on religious overtones, as if this young Jewish child has been sent to save the world; and if not the whole world, at least one confused and bewildered soul.



IMDb

Add to Queue

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bunchie's Time Machine: 1886

I decided to test my Time Machine


I set the control with just a few clicks
And transported myself back to 1886



I saw my great, great, great grandfather Logan


Living and breathing from head to toe
And heard firsthand his historic tale of woe



He started life as a farmer


But found the grind a terrible bore
So he joined the army, hoping for a war



As his “luck” would have it,


He didn’t have very long to wait
Because soon began The War Between The States



He jumped to the Confederate side


Virginia’s honor he had to save
Although he’d never owned a single slave



They made him an officer


And he looked dashing in dress gray
For him Bull Run was a very successful day



He was promoted to Captain


And the future looked very bright
But there were many bloody battles to fight



As the war raged on


The carnage grew more brutal in kind
He witnessed horrors that boggled his mind



He got lost in the woods near Stone Mountain


Separated from his unit, he wandered for days
In the wilds of Georgia, everything was a haze



Enemy soldiers eventually found him


He surrendered starving and filthy as a pig
Imprisoned for the rest of the war in a Union brig



Back home, his family was very worried


No word from him for over a year
Understandably, they had the worst kind of fear



After Appomattox, he was eventually released


And made his way home to the Virginia farm
Older and wiser, but safe from harm



The family rushed out to greet him


With joyful cheers and cries
They could hardly believe their eyes



So Logan again took up the plow


And he rarely felt bored or sad
Compared to war, farming wasn’t so bad



I returned to 2010, where I often wonder






Do we really know what we are doing?
Because it seems like another Civil War is brewing...




10 Years of The Savages

The Savages struck a vibrant chord with me when it was first released 10 years ago. It’s all about a pair of 40-ish siblings...