Sunday, March 27, 2011

Melinda and Melinda

The first thing someone (me) might notice about Melinda and Melinda is the person of color on the DVD cover. It brings up a complex issue of race and Woody Allen's vision of New York (and the world). I don't particularly feel up to the task of pursuing it, but I did find this dialogue between two random and anonymous strangers that I will let stand in place of any comment I might make. I do think the issue is an interesting one, and my contribution to the conversation, if I were technologically savvy, would be to embed a clip from Everyone Says I Love You right here: [x]. Obviously, I am not technologically savvy, so I will have to describe the scene. First of all, Everyone Says I Love You is full of diverse ethnicities. But my favorite example is from the very end where the narrator says she has recently been seeing a rapper and there's a shot of him with actual rapping which is so unconventional for a Woody Allen movie.

Now that that's over with, we can look at the actual movie which has nothing to do with race. The premise is that the same story can be told as a tragedy or a comedy, depending on your outlook. The ramification being that it is a microcosm of life. But first of all, it isn't the same story, and secondly, I didn't find the tragedy to be tragic nor the comedy funny.

I don't know if this movie would have been better if it had obeyed its own premise more precisely. It would have become redundant with slight differentiations enhancing each element. Or it could have been Rashomon. Because the idea is that you can read the same story as either tragic or comic. Not that you can retell the skeleton of a story two completely different ways with different results. But that was what Melinda and Melinda did.

Tragedy, in the words of Richard Dreyfus from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, is when "the bad end unhappily, the good unluckily." I'm not going to say that the Melinda of the tragic story deserved what she got, but she did drive herself there. I failed to find it compelling or convincing as a tragic story. "I'm one of those heroines too high-strung for existence on this planet," Melinda admits. "Although I brought my worst troubles on myself." And the only thing funny about the comedy part was Will Ferrell who probably would have been even funnier if he hadn't just been doing Woody Allen.

You'd think that this would be the ultimate expression of Woody Allen's oeuvre considering he is always pitting his humor against pathos. There are his funny movies and there are his serious movies. But never before has he so extremely attempted to divest them of each other diametrically. Which is what, unfortunately, keeps it from congealing into a whole.

Anything Else

Jason Biggs plays a character who is a bear rug in a grizzly bear world. He just lies down and lets everyone walk all over him, and they take every opportunity to do so.

My theory is that Woody Allen has traveled from the future to alter his own history. That was why they were wearing the same outfit when they met. Woody wants to impart some post-9/11 constructive paranoia in himself so that he will get out of New York before the planes hit the fan.

"It's very important you learn to depend only on yourself," Woody says about masturbation. But he intends for Jason to apply it to his life.

There are some pretty funny quips peppered through the beginning of the movie, but they kind of die out at about the same time as my interest. I think when I first saw this movie I thought it was "not bad." And that's about all I can say for it now, unless my theory about time travel is true. I suppose it is as true as anything else.

Hollywood Ending

It's been ten years since Woody Allen's character has made a good movie. He's derisively referred to as an "auteur genius." But when his ex-wife gives him a chance to make a comeback movie, he's stricken with psychosomatic blindness.

It's interesting to note that ten years is how long Woody has been with Soon-Yi, his step-daughter whom he later married. Also the blindness of the movie was caused by his estranged relationship with his son. Which must mirror Woody's feelings about his own estranged son.

I've often suggested an autobiographical approach to reading Woody Allen's films. And I've been waiting to see how he would depict his relationship with his step-daughter. It's sort of a very delicate issue because on one hand, I know that a lot of people like to dismiss him as a pedophile and refuse to watch his movies on that basis. But I take a more practical view point in which I don't let any error of judgment in his personal life affect my viewing of his movies. Because in the end, I believe that Woody really wants to rewrite his life. To put a kind of Hollywood ending on the messy aspects of life that maybe he regrets. Although I don't really think he regrets being with Soon-Yi. But it is interesting that, given the chance to depict his Hollywood ending, he chooses to return to his ex-wife (whoever that may represent in Woody's actual life).

I don't think my interpretation is far-fetched. "In order to make movies, you have to think about the audience. You have to. Otherwise, you're just making movies for yourself, like artistic masturbation... You're a narcissist," one character says to Woody Allen. To which he replies: "I'm a classic narcissist then." Woody's movies aren't primarily made for us, for me to blog about them. They are made for himself, "to produce a kind of working through-situation so that [he] can get in touch with feelings [he] didn't know [he] had," as he said in Manhattan.

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

Small Time Crooks only gave the promise of a caper which may have whetted Woody's appetite to make a full-fledged noir/comedy.

You get the feeling that he is playing, having fun with the genre. His back-and-forth bantering is not meant to be taken seriously and is hilarious.

The basic premise is that Woody Allen is an insurance investigator who has run afoul of the new efficiency supervisor, Helen Hunt. She wants to streamline and update things and he lives by his his instincts and street code. But when they're both hypnotized, a pandora's box is opened where jewel thievery seems uncannily unsovlable and laten longing is brought to the fore.

I'm not even tempted really to dig around and see if there is anything to assist my thesis about Woody's autobiographical method of film-making. Ok, so I'm a little tempted. But this is such a fun film. It may not be a great film, but it is light hearted and happy ending, and that is enough for me.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Small Time Crooks

This is the first movie in a long time where Woody doesn't play an urban intellectual. You know, there's always a novelist, editor, director, something. I try not to read too much into his movies, but it makes me think he's gone back to his Take the Money and Run period.

The movie starts out with this Ladykillers-esque idea to buy an empty pizza joint and tunnel into a nearby bank. Woody's wife, Frenchy (Tracey Ullman), would be the front, selling cookies. But the front is an actual success where the robbery is not. They become rich but not happy. Frenchy wants to be civilized and cultured, but Woody misses having cheeseburgers. In the end, everything returns to status quo.

Woody Allen likes the finer things like Brecht and Bergman, but he also likes baseball and bimboes.
I also thought that it was interesting that his character preferred to make an honest living by stealing than to live a fake life off honestly-earned income.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sweet and Lowdown

Emmet Ray was the second-best jazz guitarist in the world, according to this faux bio-pic.

"You keep your feelings all locked up and you can't feel nothing for anybody else," Emmet's girl tells him.
"You say that like it's a bad thing. Some terrible things happen to people in love. I know, I've seen it. I enjoy the company of women. I love 'em. It's just that I don't need 'em. I guess, you know, that's the way it is when you're a true artist... I let my feelings come out through my music."
"Maybe if you let your feelings out in real life, then your music would be even better."

This sounds like echoes of Woody Allen. But it is also genuine to the character.
Emmet is the lowdown part of the movie. He is crass and emotionally withdrawn. Until he meets sweet Hattie. Hattie possesses the one quality I prefer in women: speechlessness. Just kidding. Samantha Morton is terrific as the mute girl who is the only woman Emmet ever loves, if he would only admit it to himself.

This movie is one of Woody Allen's saddest for me.


Every decade, Woody Allen is in fewer of his own movies, but there is always a surrogate. This time it is Kenneth Brannagh and he is a struggling writer. He goes from travel writing to screenplays and then a novel. He also can't stick to any woman. There doesn't seem to be any real substance in this Altmanesque film. This is supposed to be Woody's take on "a society in which everyone is famous," to borrow a line from the movie. And it is full of celebrities. But they don't do anything. Maybe that's the critique. That celebrity is a facade and the notion of notriety is shallow at best. Even if that were true, I don't know if it makes the movie exactly a scathing commentary. I think that the later Small Time Crooks, although not directly about celebrities, is a much more astute indictment of success in the supposed American dream.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Deconstructing Harry

1. Deconstruction in literature is the process of examining contradictions in a text to prove that there is no one truth. There are multiple interpretations of meaning. At the end of the movie, someone says that although Harry's stories are sad, she enjoys deconstructing them to find the happiness that lies underneath.

2. Deconstructivism is a movement (especially in architecture) that focuses on fragmentation as a source of stylistic innovation. The outward manifestation of inner struggle.

3. Woody Allen plays a writer writing about writers who lately has a writing block although he is being honored for his work. The not being able to write about writing about writing telescopes the film so that we look at it very closely, so close as to obscure the metaphor.

4. Through his stories and flashbacks, Harry's relationship with women is seen as a series of failures and now he can't get anyone to go with him to the honoring ceremony except a prostitute.

5. "I can't love," Woody Allen says. He goes from one doomed relationship to another because he knows that if he ever stays with any one person he will be unveiled for the miserable person he is.

6. "You put your art in your work. I put it in my life," Billy Crystal's character tells Woody Allen. He returns to the idea that although he might not know how to live, he can reinterpret things in art and try to redeem himself.

7. "This is not a book. We are not characters in a fictional... thing," Woody Allen tells Elisabeth Shue. Which is simultaneously true and not true. The internal contradiction of the statement proves the deconstruction that Woody Allen is performing in this movie. He is simultaneously hiding himself through fiction and revealing himself. "It's me thinly disguised. In fact, I don't even think I should disguise it anymore. It's me."

Everyone Says I Love You

I'm trying to disentangle my loathing of the musical form from my criticism of Woody Allen. It's almost impossible. I mean, I get the whole suspension of disbelief thing which seems natural to a Woody Allen film. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. But even if I were to disregard the music entirely (which you really can't do; it's not a topical ointment), I still don't think I would have really liked this movie.

There aren't any strong characters. Everyone seemes to be filmed obliquely. I don't think I once saw the narrator's face straight on. Edward Norton is miscast as a sort of Woody Allen impersonator. Natalie Portman just stands in the background eating sandwiches.

There's a lot of puddle jumping from New York to Paris to Italy for no real reason except to provide exotic backgrounds.

It's not very romantic. Granted, there's always a boy-loses-girl moment in the RomCom formula. But when Drew Barrymore leaves Edward Norton for an excon, even if it was compulsive and ill-planned, she gives a pretty good reason for not being with Norton: he's a gerbil. So that when boy gets girl back, it seems disingenuous. And then there is Woody Allen's seduction of Julia Roberts. He uses information she confided to her psychiatrist to fake his way into her fantasies. And it works. But he doesn't really love her and she doesn't love him, so of course it doesn't last. No relationship really ends up perfectly like in your typical RomCom. I guess for that I can be grateful. But it's just odd that the romantic climax of the movie is Woody kissing his ex-wife who is remarried. Despite all the earmarks of the musical romantic comedy, it never fully is one.

There were a few moments where the format of the musical actually enhanced the humor, like when the homeless bum started singing or the guy in the wheelchair was dancing. So I think I liked the ideas of the movie's premise (which I'm not thoroughly convinced were intentional). Subverting the musical romantic comedy with an imperfect ending and unexpected, maybe even self-contradictory elements. But actually having to watch it made my nose bleed.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I like Ofelia's description of this cover.


The ninja untied his shoes so fast. The ninja slipped through the door crack and kicked off his slippers. The ninja opened and closed the door so fast it was like he had walked through it, not even a click was allowed to escape from the lock slipping back into its bolt.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Words Replacing Words Replacing Words

Kenneth Koch (whom Ofelia called the Kurt Vonnegut of poetry) wrote a poem, "The Brassiere Factory" and then Ofelia replaced some of the words in it to make "Government Film Society, or Something," of which I have replaced some of the words.

"One Whore Moans Best"

Is Grover meant to be a flaming gay, he, Liam,
Warmed by a moral waffle zebra, 40 tunes and
Emotional pitchers swamp of soda! Eyes washer and only
If beasts would kink undo Zorro's fine ass
Unto the halo zamfir often armoire
Canned amoebas slain
Icky albumen
Or an age off humble oaken incest shat
The water's gross butt-white buff, a low wand
Thin a shunned erection ass 'til
4 hours can wide owls, eels, with our licker?
And yell, "Ow!" aches
Staring lightweight foiled zebra farts on you
Offer tits and pies
Alms and our mural
One whore moans best hammered us
Undewed bent harmed bike locks
Width uses daiquiris my sheen gums and dicing thick anglers
Anklers show deli tightful bust ill warfield always
Undo dun bear hair or plain
4 hallways now and riots full of sheepless thistle taste
Them ill attendants chained dwarf angers top oops and
Eye pun is head of ewe euphoria chew chimp
Fort anchors amp crop abscess gout murderess lies in thermal
Underwear then unfill mustard thick radon
The air swims purring total
Lie prone upon the shit
Warmed by our mortal wealth-themed deities
Intoned a hefty beau cherry
And food stank stops for wearing on both breasts Mabeline

Ofelia Should Return My Emails

I don't know who Pirooz Kalayeh is, but he got to interview Ms. Hunt. She has still not returned any of my emails.

He says that her stories "weld together reality and interior examinations." Is that true?

OH says she's interested in lying: "I want my characters to also lie in this way," i.e., in a way that is elaborate and convincing.

She refers to Stephen Dixon, who, ok I get it, is an inspiration and someone I should read.

She talks about the "attempt to get to that level of concentration where writing is very easy and enjoyable." There is nothing more frustrating than not being at that place and trying to ge there. Because then writing becomes impossibly painful.

"I think [it is a distraction] when the sentences consistently have too many words." This is something I've probably utmostly admired about Ofelia, her exactitude in word usage.

"I feel like there is no truth and that all people create their own truth through some kind of personal perception, frame of reference, context etc..." This is almost exactly the idea behind my story, "Maybe Maybe."

We're so alike, Ofelia.

Review of Reviews

Ofelia has reviewed 31 books on Goodreads. I was kind of curious what books she liked and maybe she would say how they influenced her or whatever. So I read her reviews. I'd read 9 of the books she reviewed. Some of her descriptions of books made me want to read them, like What's for Dinner by James Schuyler, The Second Marriage by Frederick Barthelme, Frances Johnson by Stacey Levine, and My Life by Anton Chekhov.

She said that Vacation by Deb Olin Unferth was her favorite book the year she read it and made her write Vacation imitation stories, which means now I'm going to have to read it and see if that's true. "Understanding things is delusional or something," she wrote about Moon Deluxe by Frederick Barthelme, which is something Ofelia seems to want to foster through her own stories.

I think I've tried reading Stephen Dixon before unsuccessfully. But Ofelia seems to really like him. "Stephen Dixon can write how I think," she says.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Poems That Have the Word Poem in the Title Poem

Poems that have the word "poem" in the title are what?
I'm not really even sure what a manatee is.
In other poems and/or stories, Ofelia Hunt mentions:
Dolphins, elephants, whales, seals and penguins.
Maybe a manatee is a combination of these.
I feel like maybe it is Ofelia's mission
To keep writing until every word
Is cross-referenced in every other
Story/poem of hers.

A Contemplation of Words

This poem has these words.

"Don't" - well, that's 2 words, isn't it, mushed together. do - action,
                 to make an act, factually. not - the opposite of that.
                 taken together = to keep from doing an action, being
                 still or dormant, deadlike

"rob" - that's like stealing, but more precisely, maybe needing a
             weapon, but isn't that armed robbery?

"the" - article (not of clothing) denoting particulation or

"bank" - money-putting place, or side of river

"From" - ok, so that's a preposition, to me it indicates a reverse
                movement, receding away. "used as a function word
                to indicate the starting or focal point of an activity"
                ~ Merriam Webster

"here" - the point or place where one is, any location designated
               by the positioning of the person of reference

"to" - homynym of either 2 or, also, too. the expanse of
           juxtaposing positions, transitioning between

"somewhere" - a vague locale, nonspecific, perhaps unknown

"else" - as opposed to this one; other

"My" - yours, if you were speaking. belonging to the owner of
              this word

"eventual" - wait for it, it hasn't happened yet, but it is going to.
                       future tense of "event"

"bloodless" - no blood, whatever that is. the lack or absence of
                         a thing called blood

"coup" - eg: de ville = not. "a highly, successful, unexpected, act,
                or move; a clever action or accomplishment"

"I" - the person who is speaking, first person singular, presumably
         the author, or some other unknown I (you? me?)

"have" - to be in possession of, to own, to be holding

"a" - this article is one but not specifically

"monocle" - it literally means "one eye," so it could mean cycloptic.
                      but typically refers to a single eye glass worn by
                      fancy pants in the 1800's and Planters Peanut's
                      mascot, Mr. Peanut.

"Smash" - onomatopoeic word for the sound of one hand clapping
                    if it is made of glass

"them" - those other guys

"onto" - kind of like this: an arching arrow with the tip pointing
               down at a flat plane

"windshields" - typically of a car, being the front glass acting
                             as a shield against not only wind but also
                             insects and other potential objects that would
                             otherwise smash into the driver's face.

But then I read what Amber wrote and thought, "oh, shit, me too."

I am Five (#6)

I think there is something about writing more than one story in which certain facts overlap but other facts do not. Ofelia writes about Madison again.

[This is one exhibit of why I think maybe Ofelia is a candy nihilist. She writes about making a boat out of the bones and what-not of a sunbathing lady.]

I think, I think by writing certain things repeatedly, it is assimilating the aspect of fact. So that fact and fiction rub against each other like sexy kittens. One is a cat and one is a fat man dressed in a cat costume.

Or, maybe these things actually happened or are real. There is no symbolism or intention only pure unexpurgated confession. These are the things that happened. This is how they happened. I-5 is not a metaphor, it's a fucking highway.

Expert Hunter

"Sometimes I talk to comfort people," Ofelia writes in "I Take His Picture."

I want to be the foremost Ofelia Hunt scholar. I want people to come to me to ask for elucidation upon texts. I want to be her expert.

I want to know what Ofelia is thinking when she sits down to write a story about killing her brother and boyfriend (not the same person). Even if they aren't her brother or boyfriend.

She thinks, "I am going to write a story."

There are a million stories that could be written. I've written some of them. Ofelia's written some of them. But now she must write another one. Sometimes she writes to comfort people. But now she wants people to be uncomfortable. She wants them to be dead.

She thinks about how you take a shot with a camera but also a gun. You take a picture and you take a life. She thinks about the things that someone might expect her to write about photography and brothers and boyfriends and guns. She writes those things, but also other unexpected things. She writes about the blown-away bits of her brother and the parts of her body where they might end up. I don't know why.

Pop Poetry

Things that are specific make things that are absurd more so. Which is why OH's poems (and others who do this same sort of thing) drop pop culture references like Warhol. And things that are cruel make things that are nice better. And I don't know, something about irony, unless it is not ironic.