Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sweet nothings

I watched Pride and Prejudice, starring Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, this week. It was nominated for 4 Academy Awards in 2005, so I figured it was worth a shot. And it was! I loved the score, I loved the cinematography, and I loved the casting.

Kiera Knightley made a wonderful Elizabeth Bennet, and Matthew Macfadyen was a superb Darcy. Both of their performances were great. Macfadyen seemed to understand that, at first, Darcy had to be quite an unlikable character. However, as the movie progresses, the viewer (as well as Lizzie) learns more about him and grows to like him. It seems that, sometimes, actors are afraid to fully embody those unlikable characters unless they know they are playing the villain. But there are plenty of unlikable people in everyday life who are not villains. They are just cold, or boorish, or rude, or whatever. There are LOTS of folks with no bad intentions who are just plain draggy to be with.

I really enjoyed how the movie stayed largely true to the novel we've all known and loved, and how the film became a nice, compact study of the time period in which the characters lived. I haven't seen much else that Joe Wright, the director, has done, but you can bet I'll be keeping an eye on him for the future.

Near the end of the film, Darcy comes walking out of the morning mist, long coattails flapping in the breeze, to tell Lizzie that she has bewitched him, body and soul. Now, why on earth hasn't anyone said that to me lately? Lines like that bring out the romantic is us all. (Especially me!)

Also, I've been to a (sort-of) new restaurant in the Jackson area. Years ago, Cerami's was an Italian favorite among Jackson diners. The restaurant was closed for a time, but now it's back, and with new digs in Brandon on Lakeland Drive. Eaters in the know tell me that many of the fixtures at the old Cerami's can be found in the new restaurant, including the salad cart and the stained glass window that proudly proclaims "Cerami's ~ 1977." My experience at the new restaurant was mixed. I loved the signature salad, featuring the olive salad, bleu cheese, and house vinaigrette. I was less impressed with the fish special, tilapia with a parmesan crust. I found the fish to be a tad underdone in the thickest part of the meat. We had canolis for dessert, and there were very, very sweet. When we received our bill, we found we had been overcharged. (We had been rung up for canneloni instead of canoli.) The mistake was quickly rectified. While I did enjoy my dinner at Cerami's, I think there are better places to find Italian food in Jackson. With competition from hard-hitters such as Amerigo's and Bravo!, Cerami's is going to have to do a little more to get first dibs on my dining dollar. If you're interested in checking it out for yourself, it's located at 5417 Lakeland Drive in Brandon. If need be, you can call ahead for directions (or to check the specials) at 601-919-2829.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Music to live by.

TV is totally blowing me away lately. I'm a fan of Grey's Anatomy and Lost, and they are both coming to an end for the season. In particular, I was really impressed with the music on the Grey's Anatomy finale last week. The final song they played, "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol, was a great fit for the scene. I've been downloading their songs all week. Also, "Grace," featuring Kate Havnevik, which they played during the scene where Meredith and Derek finally succumbed to temptation in the exam room, has also been on my short list. Unfortunately, I haven't found anywhere online where it can be purchased. Kate's posted it on her myspace page, though, located at http://www.myspace.com/katehavnevik. You have to go there to listen to it. Let's hope she wises up and lets us download it from somewhere soon. I love her "Nowhere Warm" as well. She has a very ethereal sound.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Movie report!

I recently saw Crash, which won the 2005 Oscar for Best Picture. Whoa. No wonder. Paul Haggis, in his directing debut, gives us a story the explores the themes of race and violence in Los Angeles, but I think the story could be easily translated to any city peopled by a mix of ethnic citizens. The name comes from the idea that different people leading different lives can collide, and that, in some cases, these collisions represent the only times people truly connect in our society, an environment where people design their lives to minimize contact with others.

The cast reads like a attendance list of Hollywood glitterati: Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Terrence Howard, Ryan Phillipe, Brendan Fraser. Many of the scenes are little acting studies in tone, gesture, and facial expression. All characters have very different roles: Dillon and Phillipe are cops with different values, Cheadle is a detective, Fraser is the D.A., Bullock is his wife, and Terrence Howard is a television producer. Other key figures include a Mexican locksmith, two African-American car thieves, and a Persian couple and their daughter.

I really loved how the film was engaging, riveting, but that it explored a topic that really mattered. Crash takes a hard look at some thorny issues in our society, things that people don't tend to talk about without becoming emotional or further inflaming the situation. I also liked that the film didn't pretend to have all the answers. Instead, it showed the complexity of the problem and provided much food for thought. It illustrated how those with the best intentions sometimes find themselves the architects of the injustices they despise in society, and how those who are up to no good sometimes end up accomplishing quite alot of it. The film also spoke to me regarding self-definition: how we define ourselves, how we let others define us, what we think makes us who we are, what we think betrays our identities.

Paul Haggis' previous credits include the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby, another film that I loved that dealt with unpopular social issues. Haggis is definitely proving himself as someone who says things that we are all thinking, but afraid to verbalize. I can't wait for his next film. Projects currently titled Honeymoon with Harry and The Last Kiss are in the works.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Fly me to the moon

This weekend, hubby and I went to the Silver Star/Golden Moon casino (AKA Pearl River Resort) in Philadelphia, Mississippi, to celebrate a special occasion. I hadn't been to the area since the Golden Moon part of the resort was built, and it does make for an interesting approach to the development! Imagine a long building, curved like a ribbon on the ground. Stories of the edifice get progressively higher in a stairstep pattern, until they reach an apex adorned by a huge, spherical structure. Wild, huh? Check out what I mean by clicking here.

Well, the twinkling globe at the top of the building houses a restaurant called the Galaxy. We dined there last night, watching the sun set and the (few) lights of Philadelphia twinkle on in the darkness. The food was quite good, and the service was more than excellent. We started with two seafood cakes served with a variety of sauces, and then moved on to rolls and dinner salads. For my entree, I chose a lobster-basil pasta with a rich cream sauce, washed down with a glass of Cabernet. (Needless to say, I was too full for dessert.) One level above the restaurant is the Bella Luna Bar, which is deocrated with mod little vinyl chairs and cute bar tables. It all makes for a fun, if slightly campy, evening.

I also toured the shops of both casinos, but I wasn't really blown away by any of the merchandise. They sell a mix of promotional items emblazoned with the resort logo, homewares, jewelry, and apparel/accessories. (Most of it could be had at a retail location in Jackson for much less money.) I had really wanted to check out the Choctaw Authentic Arts and Crafts shop, but, alas, it was closed. Maybe next time!

The Elephant in the room

I recently saw Elephant, directed by Gus Van Sant. This movie won big at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, and I'm still trying to figure out why. The movie chronicles two days in the life of a several high school students, two of whom are plotting a school killing spree. The name of the movie comes from the old story of several blind men touching and describing different parts of an elephant. (Each man is firmly convinced that he alone realizes what type of animal he is confronting. In truth, none of the men are aware, because they do not see the entire picture of the elephant.) The film is shot in LONG shots, which follow the various students as they go about their daily activities. While many of their paths cross (you see some of the characters walking by in the background while the camera focuses on whoever you're following at that moment), they don't interact very much.

For the most part, I found this film unrewarding. First of all, I thought that the characters were dealt with very superficially. Van Sant doesn't let us get too close to any of them, and as a result I didn't care too much about any of them. Secondly, the majority of the movie just follows kids as they walk through high school halls, check out books, and eat lunch in the cafeteria. I think that a minimum of this action might have been necessary to set the scene and re-introduce us to high school life, but these shots made up the bulk of the movie. And they were, well, boring. (Who wants to go back to high school? Not this viewer.) Lastly, I felt that the erotic scene between the two shooters was gratuitous. It just felt thrown in and strained, and nothing I'd seen previously seemed to make it necessary or even meaningful.

On the whole, I thought the film was not very provocative, even though it dealt with a topic that could have been mined for some cathartic discussion and thought. The film seemed totally disconnected from any of the events that occured. Van Sant seemed to have no direction, no reason for making this film. He just gives us a fly-on-the-wall perspective of a school shooting that is detatched and emotionless. I really didn't think that was the best treatment for this subject matter.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

One Writer's Beginnings

A quick note on doings in the Jackson area - The Eudora Welty House, run in part by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, recently opened to the public. Welty, the author of such Southern classics as The Optimist's Daughter, A Curtain of Green, The Golden Apples, and The Robber Bridegroom, was one of my favorite local celebrities until her death in 2001.

I used to wait tables at Bill's Greek Tavern in Jackson, where she came in sometimes for special occasions. (I waited on Willie Morris there once, too. I remember how he brought his own booze. He was a good tipper.) She also strolled around the old Jitney 14 (now a McDade's Grocery), filling her cart.

I was lucky enough to study with Dr. Suzanne Marrs at Millsaps College, one of the nation's most noted Welty scholars. She was a veritable font of information about Welty, her writings, and her influences. A year or so after Welty's death, Dr. Marrs asked me to do a quick walk-through of the Welty house to take photographs for use online (they are long gone now, replaced with much better-looking and more professional images). One of the strongest memories I have is of all the books, stacked and shelved everywhere, bookmarked, some open, just all over the place. Clearly, Welty was a prolific reader as well as a gifted writer. While taking pictures, I was able to sit in the chair that Welty wrote in, in front of her old typewriter. I tried to will any talent up from the chair and into my bones. No luck with that so far; I'll keep you updated.

Anyway, the house (cleared a bit and neatened up, I notice from the photos online) and restored gardens are available for touring. To inquire about touring the home, call 601-353-7762.