Monday, July 30, 2007

Scrubs, Some Family, and Seventies Cinema

Oy, that alliteration is clunky. 'Scarlett' was the obvious choice but I had actual guilt about excluding the rest of the M-C tribe.

Thing 1- Jenna Fischer was nominated. Boo. But so was Neil Patrick Harris! Like Drew, I'm ecstatic about that nod as well as the one for the cast of Heroes. Everything else was exactly as predicted. I'm kind of obsessed with Scrubs right now (in syndication) so I'm bummed Zach Braff et al weren't recognized. Those actors are some of the most underrated comedians on television.

Thing 2- Yesterday, I got back from a fantastic Berkeley visit. In between catching up and playing with the babies, my sister and I worked on feminizing some of Julian's hand-me-downs for lovely Scarlett. (Pictures to follow. Maybe.) Julian is as cuddly sweet and articulate and hilarious as ever. In Liptonian (Pivotian) speak, the sound or noise that I love is his tiny, adorable voice saying, "I want you to play with me, Auntie Em." And all of my misgivings about Scarlett have completely vanished. Man, do I love that baby girl.

Thing 3- I'm currently reading Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls regarding the New Hollywood movement in the seventies. I remain dubious about the veracity of much of Biskind's reporting as the book's anecdotal content seems largely apocryphal. Still, it's a fascinating chronological synthesis of sex, drugs, and the filmic revolution. The book has inspired me to finally sit down and watch all of those '70s classics I've never seen.

To date:
8. Young Frankenstein (1974)

7. Shampoo (1975)- Not Robert Towne's finest script, but the film epitomizes the absence of happy endings in this decade. One of the few generically romantic comedies that doesn't end with a kiss, marriage, and/or birth.

6. The Godfather II (1974)- A brilliant film, but it needs the context of the first one and as such can't transcend its predecessor's significance.

5. MASH (1972)- Black comedy at its best. A superb film.

4. The Godfather (1972)- Brilliant.

3. Five Easy Pieces (1970)- I was surprised by how much I loved this. A really sparse character study that never relies on cliches or contrivances. Really strong, literate storytelling anchored by resonant, thoughtful performances. If you like quiet, indie character pieces, I highly recommend it.

2. Chinatown (1974)- From beginning to end, a phenomenal film. Robert Towne's finest script. Everything works in this film- the story, the setting, the characters (and actors,) the mystery, the eleventh hour reveal, and the deeply nihilistic conclusion. A fantastic period piece, a smart whodunit; this is really elegant filmmaking.

1. Network (1976)- Network might be the best film ever made. It might also be my new favorite film. I'll have to watch it a few more times to truly decide, but fortunately, it absolutely warrants repeated viewings. In fact, thirty years later when everything the film predicted has come to pass, it almost requires repeated viewings. There's much to be said about the breadth and depth of Paddy Chayefsky's prescient satire, but what stuck with me most is that Network is a film by adults for adults. Of all the lunacies and betrayals Cassandra-ed by Peter Finch's character, youth obsessed culture is at most, implicit and arguably, ignored altogether. But the youth obsession, the MySpace-ing that permeates all media now, precludes films like Network from getting made and being seen. To its extreme credit, Network never feels like a lecture (which is more than I can say for Spike Lee's homage, Bamboozled.) It is smart and accessible, well-paced and clever, darkly funny with genuine moments of tragedy. It is quite possibly the most incredible film in a decade of incredible films and everyone should see it and see it again.

This entry feels a bit like blog consomme. I'm going to try to avoid this approach from now on.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Emmy Noms Eve

Considering how TV obsessed I am, I really don't have a lot of investment in the Emmys as an institution. Hollywood politics aside, the creator of the greatest television show in my lifetime thus far and possibly ever, has yet to win one. (Yep, it's Joss.) Any awards show that purports to be about excellence in television and yet never recognized the brilliance of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer isn't really worth its salt. But...

Considering how TV obsessed I am, I'd be remiss to not acknowledge that nominations (however unwarranted they may be) are once again upon us. In about 12 hours, all nominees will officially be announced (and I'm sure I'll have much more to say,) but in the interim, a few Emmy-related random observations and opinions.

1. Jenna Fischer. This is a hugely unpopular opinion throughout the world wide web and the world over but, I do not care for Jenna Fischer. I don't want to read her blog, I don't want to be her BFF and I don't think she's a very good actress. I'm sure she's a lovely person (though I recently saw an interview that would suggest otherwise,) but she's just not that interesting to me on screen and she's kinda made me hate Pam. I didn't enjoy The Speech and I thought the moment really highlighted Fischer's limitations as an actress. Of course, The Speech is probably the exact moment that will garner her a nod.

2. Heroes. I don't think Heroes has a chance of earning any substantive nominations (make up is probably its best bet,) but no other show kept me engaged or on the edge of my seat as much as Heroes did in its inaugural season. I don't have a lot to say about the dialogue, but to its credit, the acting on Heroes far surpasses what's typically seen in such genre-driven programs. You want to hate her because she's seventeen and looks like Malibu Beach Skipper, but Hayden Panettiere is really fucking good. As is Jack Coleman.

3. Lauren Graham. Lauren Graham will inevitably be passed over, but it doesn't change the fact that she delivered yet again one of the strongest consistently excellent performances on tv in Gilmore's seventh and final season. Lauren Graham is awesome. She offered more talent and nuance and depth and humor (and whatever other flowery noun is appropriate) in her two seconds of screentime on Studio 60 than most actresses in their entire 06-07 runs to say nothing of the work she did as Lorelai Gilmore.

4. Other random people who deserve nominations but won't get them include Greg Berlanti (Brothers and Sisters,) Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars,) Josh Schwartz (The O.C.- say what you will about the show but this past season was some of the best work Schwartz has ever done,) Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother,) Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother,) Steven Weber (Studio 60,) Matthew Perry (Studio 60,) Kelly Bishop (Gilmore Girls,) Matthew Rhys (Brothers and Sisters,) and others I'm sure I'm forgetting at the moment but will no doubt be reminded of tomorrow when collective fandoms explode the internet over what does and does not get nominated.

Stay Tuned.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Scarlett For the First Time

Shehecheyanu For Scarlett
The Shehecheyanu is a Jewish prayer invoked to celebrate new blessings or joyous rare occurrences. The birth of a baby is just one occasion during which it is custom to voice this happy recitation. Though I'm not attending Shabbat Services tonight, I'll definitely say a shehecheyanu for my new niece, Scarlett (and Whitney, Ryan, and Julian.) All four of you that occasionally read this, if you're comfortable, I invite you to do the same.

Transliteration: Baruch ata adonai elohenu melech ha olam, shehecheyanu, v'kiyimanu, v'higiyanu laz'man hazeh.
Translation: Blessed are You Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe who has given us life, sustained us, and allowed us to reach this day.

She is beautiful and healthy and tiny and perfect. I can't wait to see her again.

JMC Over the Holiday

At some point I'll take the chance to recap the awesomely bad series finale of Hidden Palms and rail against the injustice of Chuy getting cut from SYTYCD at least ten weeks too early, but right now I'm going to obnoxiously gush about my nephew, Julian. Because I can. And frequently do.

One of the coolest, most memorable experiences of my life was being at the hospital when Julian was born in October 2004. I held him when he was a little over two hours old and fell in love with him on the spot. I'd (geekily) made a message tee earlier that month that read 'Auntie Em' and wore it for the main event. I was living in Santa Cruz at the time so the hour and a half trek to Berkeley was nothing and I made it as many times as I could. My sister would thank me for the free childcare and I'd think, are you crazy? Thank you for letting me play with your baby for the night, weekend, etc. I'd voraciously print out pictures of him from her website and tape them up on my wall, I'd rock and sing him to sleep, and I quickly realized that being an aunt actually surpassed all of my extremely high expectations w/r/t the experience. As is maybe apparent, I'm a kid person. I've been watching them forever and I practically salivate at the sight of babies. One of the coolest, new things about being an aunt is that if your first impulse is wanting to hold a perfect stranger's baby, being around one that you always have permission to pick up is a little like crack.
As such I should've been thrilled when my sister announced she was pregnant again last Thanksgiving. But I wasn't. Instead, I was kinda apprehensive. My first thought wasn't 'oh great, a new baby!' but instead, 'what about Julian?' I was a little worried that I wasn't as ecstatic as I thought I would be (or should be) at the prospect of having a new little person around. Of course the more I got used to the idea, the more excited I became especially once we learned that 'Baby' was actually 'Baby Girl.'

Cut to Six Months Later:
Scarlett Lake, nee Baby Girl was born this past Wednesday during the midmorning of the holiday. She weighed in at 6 lbs. 14 oz. and possesses a full head of jet black hair. She's tiny and pink and gorgeous and you forget that a person can actually be that small. Holding her on the day of her birth, stroking her perfect fingers and toes, and staring into her big grey-blue eyes was such an awesome memorable experience. She and my sister are both doing very well which is everything we could've hoped for.

The very best part of the last few days though was, without a doubt, the time I got to spend with Julian. Making his breakfast, putting him to bed each night, playing at the park, reading stories and singing songs, hearing him say "Auntie Em" in his tiny, little toddler voice- there might be nothing in this world that I adore as much as I adore him.
Some highlights from the week include...
On baking a cake for Scarlett's arrival (as pictured above)-
Auntie Em: J, what are we doing?
J: Making a cake!
Auntie Em: Who's the cake for?
J: the baby?
Auntie Em: What's the baby's name?
J: I want some more delicious cake please!

J: What's Grandpa Rick doing?
Auntie Em: He's sleeping. And he's snoring.
J: *looks at Grandpa Rick and back at me* I want to read The Napping House now.

On noticing my red shoes-
J: Auntie Em has red shoes and Julian has red shoes too!

After a huge sip of agua fresca at Picante in Berkeley-
J: *rubs his tummy* then (exaggeratedly) Yum, yuuuuuum. *prolonged giggling*

On wearing me out-
J: I want Auntie Em to sit up and do another puzzle with me and do stickers too, please.

Which I immediately did. Who could possibly resist?