Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for December, 2010


December 30, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies No Comments →

We don’t have to wait 20 years for the next Terrence Malick movie: Tree Of Life is out next year. The gap between his films is down to 7 years.

This one looks beautiful but aren’t they all.

Strangers on Trains: The Locomotive Montage

December 30, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies, Traveling 4 Comments →

Everything that happens has already happened; we’ve seen it at the movies.

Umberto D by Vittorio De Sica

The train picks up speed as it leaves the station. There’s an old man standing on the tracks, clutching a little dog named Flag. The man is a retired professor who has nothing left in the world but his hat and his dog. And his dignity, but it’s hard to hang on to that when you’re hungry. So Umberto is standing on the railroad tracks waiting to die. Flag must die with him because he cannot be left alone. As the train draws near, Flag yelps in terror and jumps out of Umberto’s grasp. The old man gives chase, abandoning his death.

I Vitelloni by Federico Fellini

Moraldo watches from a window on the train. For months he haunted the station, watching the trains arrive in their small town where everyone he knows and has ever known has lived all their lives. Then he watches the trains depart for places he only dreams about. No one ever leaves their small town, but this morning Moraldo got on the train and now he’s sick with fear and excitement.

It Happened One Night by Frank Capra

A pretty woman in expensive clothes walks into the train car, holding a delicate hand out to keep from stumbling. She settles into the empty seat next to Moraldo and nods at him. She is the daughter of a fabulously wealthy man; she has just run away from home to go to the man she loves. Or thinks she does, until she meets the broke but dashing journalist who wants exclusive rights to her story. She will detest him at first, but that’s the way these romantic comedies go.

North By Northwest by Alfred Hitchcock

Across the aisle, his face concealed by a borrowed newspaper he’s pretending to read, sits the adman Roger Thornhill. Who is wanted for a murder he did not commit, framed by people he does not know. His life has taken a very strange turn: one minute he’s meeting people for drinks at The Plaza, the next minute he’s being chased down the highway by a cropdusting plane. He’s a little old for this, and for dangling off a rock face on Mount Rushmore, but charm is a more powerful weapon than his tormentors suspect. Thornhill scans the passenger’s faces for a certain cool blonde, then he sees something that causes his eyes to pop out of his head like a cartoon coyote’s.

Some Like It Hot by Billy Wilder

Sugar Kane sashays through the train car, her hips describing figure eights, her bosoms a marvel of cantilevering. No, not that blonde, that one spells trouble. Sugar sings in an all-girl band and she likes the drink a little too much. Behind her, tottering on high heels, are two of the ugliest women Thornhill has ever seen. One of them drops her purse right on his foot; he retrieves it and hands it back to her. “Thanks, bub,” the woman says in a low, manly voice. “My pleasure,” says the startled Thornhill, and he notices the other woman repeat the words in his accent. These unprepossessing women are in fact men. They are also on the run, from the law and the mob, but their strategy for staying alive requires being in drag.

The Palm Beach Story by Preston Sturges

The not-quite all-girl band lurches through the coach and ends up in the wrong car. Much to the delight of its occupants, the Ale and Quail Club, a group of eccentric millionaires on a drinking and hunting vacation. Showgirls and rich old geezers, it’s the perfect combination: a party breaks out in the private car, the drinks flow, guns are produced and the windows shot out.

Casablanca by Michael Curtiz

The steward flees this hilarity to summon the conductor, and runs past Rick, who is standing in the door of the moving train, reading a letter. Rick’s loyal sidekick Sam the piano player tugs at his sleeve saying, “Boss, we have to go inside.” Big drops of rain pelt Rick’s hat and roll off the brim onto the paper he’s holding, blotting out the words as he reads them. Ilsa has just dumped him.

* * * * *

The Locomotive Montage is in Twisted 9, now available at National Bookstores.

Now to find the books

December 29, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Television 6 Comments →

Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter: Your perfect holiday family drama

December 28, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies 6 Comments →

But first, An Ode to Mark Wahlberg.

When Mark Wahlberg first burst into our consciousness as Marky Mark, burst being the word, abs, pecs and attitude exploding out of his clothes and onto Calvin Klein underwear billboards, we were mesmerized but not convinced that his career would outlast his ads. (We conveniently ignored the fact that he would’ve been in New Kids On The Block with his brother Donnie.) We figured that he would move on to D-list celebrityhood like so many underwear models before him and be forgotten until the obligatory D.U.I. or arrest for sticking up a convenience store.

He was a mediocre rapper, even in the white rapper category—perhaps not as laughable as a Vanilla Ice, accent on perhaps (“I wanna see sweat coming out your pores”?), but without the literary breadth of an Eminem. Consider his hit single Good Vibrations, which is distinguished by his giant man-boobs and the vocals of Loleatta Holloway.

Yet he surprised us with his transition to the movies—not with a bang, but gradually building up momentum. Sometime in the mid-90s my druid and I caught a screening of the movie Fear, and when Mark Wahlberg walked into the frame we sat bolt upright in our seats and cried, “Sino yan!?” (Who is that?!—a reliable gauge for cinematic electricity as we also had Sino Yan moments when we beheld Russell Crowe in The Quick and The Dead and Edward Norton in Primal Fear.) He was so good in that movie, so compelling that we questioned Reese Witherspoon’s ability to make decisions. (Okay he’s scary but. . .)

Then came Boogie Nights where in the midst of Paul Thomas Anderson’s killer ensemble he blew us away. Even without the famous final shot. Sure there are Huh?! moments in his filmography—I’ll never get back the two hours I wasted on Rock Star, and the remake of Charade (Charade!) was unforgivable. But that was a brilliant performance as the foul-mouthed cop in The Departed, where he stole scenes from Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson. He has established himself as a canny producer—We Own The Night, the HBO series Entourage and Boardwalk Empire. And now he has produced and starred in The Fighter, directed by his David O. Russell (Three Kings).

In short Mark Wahlberg has proven us wrong, and we are happy to be wrong. Thank you.

If the word “dysfunctional” had been in use in Tolstoy’s day the famous first line of Anna Karenina would’ve been different. Consider the family in The Fighter, based on the story of the boxer Micky Ward. (This is the project for which Mark Wahlberg studied Manny Pacquiao’s moves.) The mother (Melissa Leo) is a domineering harpy who favors her eldest son Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale) and refuses to accept that he is a crackhead.

The father—of two or three of the nine grown children—has no say in anything. Dicky, once a promising boxer, is a screw-up who keeps talking about his comeback. The younger son Micky, also a boxer, is literally bloodied by his mother’s and brother’s stupid decisions. His girlfriend (Amy Adams) helps him get out of his family’s clutches, but then he finds himself pulled between his crazy family, his girlfriend, and his own need to make something of himself.

This holiday season as you spend mandatory time with your families, fielding intrusive questions and raking up old issues, take comfort in the family drama of The Fighter. (As The Royal Tenenbaums ad so wisely put it, “Family is not a word, it’s a sentence.”) Micky Ward has the advantage of being a boxer—he can work out his emotional turmoil in the ring, absorb punishment and dish out pain. You can only drink too much, lock yourself in the bathroom, and scream.

A lot has been said about the performances in The Fighter. Yes, they are stellar. Melissa Leo is both hateful and sympathetic. Amy Adams who is wonderful at fragile-but-strong roles demonstrates that she can also be sexy-tough. (We wish the filmmakers had also found characters for Dicky and Micky’s seven sisters, a cartoon Greek chorus with bigger hair.)

Christian Bale (whose Sino Yan?! moment came earlier, as the child in Empire of the Sun—I am still terrified by that scene where he drops his toy plane and lets go of his mother’s hand) has the showiest role as the crackhead Dicky. This could have been the ultimate reaching for the ham-and-cheese acting prize, but Bale finds the humanity in this loser held together by bluster and fake mama’s boy pride. When Dicky comes face to face with what he really is, you forget that this is the big acting moment—you almost look away because it’s too real.

Christian Bale in The Fighter reminds me of John Cazale. John Cazale only appeared in five movies, but those movies were The Godfather 1 and 2 (“Freddo you broke my heart”), The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deer Hunter.

Finally there’s Mark Wahlberg as Micky Ward. Mark Wahlberg stands at the center of this emotional tornado and calmly holds it together. It is a quiet, understated performance—he lets his body speak for him, which makes perfect sense because it was the muscles that drew us in the first place.

The Fighter is not The Raging Bull—nothing is, maybe not even The Raging Bull. But David O. Russell has a light touch and an energetic style that transforms this standard melodrama into a contender.

Our house, 4 am

December 27, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Pointless Anecdotes 10 Comments →

Starring Koosi and Mat.

At last! Everyone is asleep. We have the living room to ourselves, nyahahahaaa. We, the mighty goddess Bast, may now contemplate our universe in peace and. . .

Who turned on the light?

Oh it’s you, foundling. Shouldn’t you be sucking up to the human?

I’ve been living here for six years, eight if you add the time I was roaming the neighborhood. Besides, we’re all foundlings. The human did not spawn us.

You have the temerity to address us, tabby of doubtful antecedents?! We are Koosalagoopagoop Galadriel Ivanisevic O’Brien, incarnation of the mighty goddess Bast!

– I am Matthias Eomer Octavian Federer-Urban!
– Hisssssssssss!
– Hisssssssssss!

The Weekly LitWit Challenge 4.2: Something Sensational

December 26, 2010 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Contest 27 Comments →

“I never travel without my diary,” wrote Oscar Wilde. “One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” This piece of advice changed my attitude towards journal-writing completely. If you had a boring, uneventful day, why bore yourself all over again by recounting it in your diary?

Oh, right, posterity. You’re assuming that in the future people will be interested in your day-to-day existence. Maybe if you invent a teleportation device or figure out how to turn air into food. But if you’re hoping to be remembered for your diary of life in the early part of the 21st century, stop.

People, you have to be considerate. You can’t just think about yourselves—think about the people who might read your diary. Your nosy boyfriend or girlfriend, your mother (Aaaaaaaaaaaaa), the servants, colleagues who hate you. Do you want to confirm their suspicion that you are slowly but surely expiring from ennui? You have a blog/facebook account for that; your secret personal diary is another matter. Give them something to make their eyes pop out of the backs of their heads.

Your assignment this week: Write a diary of your week. Any seven-day stretch. Make it Sensational. Exaggerate. Embellish the facts, gild the truth, fabricate a life if you have to. Give the Yucch-meter something sensational to read on the last week of 2010.

Word limit for all seven entries: 1,000 words.
The prize: Two winners will each receive the Moleskine hardcover pocket daily diary 2011.
Deadline: 12 noon on Sunday, 2 January 2011.

The Weekly LitWit Challenge is brought to you by our friends at National Bookstore.