Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday Morning Amuse Bouche

Single men in commercials look good, drive fast, and drink beer. Then they meet women, get married, and become good-for-nothing doofy husbands. Sarah Haskins investigates.

Via Current

Friday, August 14, 2009

That Others May Become Holier Than I, Provided That I May Become As Holy As I Should

I have started to say this prayer once a day, and I should probably make it 24 times a day, and I'm still not sure that's enough to work the miracle I require!

For you non-Catholics out there, the ellipsis means you finish the sentence with "Deliver me, Jesus" for the first half, and "Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it" for the second half.

Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930),
Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X

A Potpourri Of Movies and Books: Our Heroine Is Having Trouble Focusing

Not much is on my mind today, though I apologize for the surfeit of movie posts this week. I did start two books, gave them the ol' college try, found them to be ridiculous (despite my best efforts), and abandoned them. The books were Through A Glass Darkly, by Karleen Koen and Breaking Dawn, the final Twilight book, by Stephanie Meyer. I think I've covered enough Twilight stuff here, so I'll touch briefly on Through A Glass Darkly, a sweeping historical saga set in England and France in the early and mid 1700's, which is what prompted me to check it out of the library.

I don't know, there's nothing wrong with it, really, I just felt like I'd read it all before: naive young heroine gets married to a much older libertine whom she adores, her grandmamma is a clever and fierce matriarch, her mother is a scandal magnet, etc. etc. etc. I put it down before the libertine and the naif actually married, but I would guess he grows to love her because she's both beautiful and spunky, and she grows disillusioned with what she imagined the glamour of court would be. I DO like that kind of love story, but I like it when it's less than 500 pages, otherwise I'm reading too much about draperies and carpets and servants polishing the silver.

Yowza! The above makes me sound like a terrible snob, and that's not true at all. I just have a very short attention span (thanks for nothing, MTV), so a book must be amazing to keep me from skipping over whole sections of detail to get to the action, and I get bored quickly - even with action - if my attention is not immediately grabbed. I need my historical romances short and sweet; more Georgette Heyer (thanks, Anchoress) than Herman Wouk.

Without a book to read this week, I've been watching movies in the evening, and last night, I decided to try From Here to Eternity (I know! It's crazy! First time!) WHOA. That is an awesome movie. I'm not even going to say anything else except if you've seen it, you'll know what I mean, and if you haven't, you should see it. I think First Sergeant Milton Warden goes into Our Heroine's Pantheon of Most Romantic Male Fictional Characters Of All Time, and you know what, they don't call this kiss iconic for nothin'.

Iconic kiss aside, this is the scene that really got me. RIP, Maggio.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Half In Love With Easeful Death Is No Way To Woo A Widow

I watched The Ghost and Mrs. Muir last night, because Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison had me on a bit of an "impossible love" kick, but it didn't move me like HK,MA. I don't think it's the story's fault, which I love in theory: young widow, moves into haunted seaside cottage, falls for ghost of crusty old sea captain which haunts the place, their love proves impossible (for obvious reasons). That part's fairly awesome. But the actors left much to be desired, which hurts me to write because Rex Harrison is The Best (especially as Henry Higgins, the quintessential crusty Brit). As the ghost of an old sea salt, however, he took the whole "crust" thing one step beyond the rabbit-proof fence. There were too many "Arrrrgghhhs," and "fetch me slippers, woman" and he wore a ridiculous beard that looked fake, with the end result being I just didn't buy him as an appealing love interest for the widow, especially since he's dead. You have to bring your A-game when you're a ghost looking for love, wouldn't you agree?

Gene Tierney, on the other hand, spends the entire move doing this:

Sticking her nose in the air in response to everything that's said to her, which was supposed to demonstrate that Mrs. Muir was a strong, independent woman, but really just made her exceedingly rude. Tierney looks lovely, though.

Anyhow, I found it a disappointment. However, one scene that made me happy was toward the beginning; Mrs. Muir tells the Captain his house reminds her of something, and he responds that he modelled it off lines from John Keats' Ode to A Nightingale, a poem that I have not read in years, though I loved it when I was studying the Romantics. For your sakes and mine, I have reprinted it below. The lines that inspired the Captain are in italics:

Ode to a Nightingale


MY heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
’Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,5
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.10


O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,15
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:20


Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,25
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.30


Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,35
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.40


I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;45
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.50


Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,55
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.60


Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path65
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.70


Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toil me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades75
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

Our Heroine Loves The Impossible Love Story, Especially When It Stars Robert Mitchum

Last night I watched Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison, and I fell in love with it. It is such a strong story, with fantastic actors playing characters who are truly good people. Plus, it combines two great human dramas: love and war.

The plot revolves around a working-class Marine and a modest Irish nun who find themselves stranded together behind enemy lines on a remote island in the Pacific, circa 1944. At first, the island is deserted (save themselves), but eventually the Japanese build a weather station on the beach, making our hero's and heroine's existences extremely tenuous.

The G.I., Corporal Allison, is an orphan, raised on the streets, with no official religion, and no family except for the Corps. He's a killing-machine Marine, the epitome of the rugged Yank survivor. But never, until he meets Sister Angela, has he used those skills for anything other than his own self-preservation. When he finds Sister Angela alone on the island, he never doubts for one second that it's his duty to look after her, and in doing so, he gives his life meaning for the first time. As he says, "I, uh... I've never loved anyone or anybody before... I've never even *lived* before. Never really... lived... inside."

Awwwww.....come on! Do you have a heart of stone, or is that, like, the sweetest thing ever said on film?

I kept thinking that this movie could never get made this same way nowadays, with it's simple belief in quiet human courage and mutual respect. If it was made today, they'd sleep together, of course, and she'd have a crisis of faith and would end up an agnostic. Mr. Allison would be an atheist, and he'd tell her she was stupid to throw her life away on a God who'd abandoned her on the island. And she'd tell him that was true, and then there would be sex, and she'd probably stay a nun after their rescue, but it would have nothing to do with her loving Christ, but would be because she wanted to work for social justice. And at the end she'd tell him she was grateful he showed her how to be a real woman, or something ridiculous like that. (Does that sound far-fetched and cynical? Maybe, but then again, I saw the Brideshead Revisited remake/butchering.)

Instead he says this (while drunk, hence the slurring):

Isn't that so much better?! It's still a gut punch to poor Sister Angela, "How are you going to define yourself here, probably for years, without the Church?" But he at least recognizes the Church as a choice, and that he's got the same problem as she, "How do I define myself here, probably for years, without the Corps.?" The answer, of course, is that they only have each other,* and yet it's still impossible for them to be together.

This movie goes into the pantheon of Our Heroine's All-Time Favorites, which hasn't had a new addition since Quiz Show. Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison is that good - because of the story, the acting, the romance, and this shirtless guy:

*They also have God, I know, which is what Sister Angela points out to Corporal Allison at the very beginning of the movie, but during their dark night of the soul it doesn't seem that way to either of them.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Our Heroine Goes To The Movies: The Perfect Getaway

Saw The Perfect Getaway this weekend with BMT. You guys, it was THE BEST!

It's impossible for someone of my poor skill to write about without spoiling. I feel comfortable saying just a few things. For those of you who don't know, it's a thriller starring Steve Zahn (love him!), Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant, Marley Shelton and some other young actors I don't recognize. Zahn and Jovovich play one of three couples who meet while hiking to a remote beach in Hawaii. On their way to the beach, the couples learn from other hikers that a pair of newlyweds has been murdered in Oahu, and police believe the killers are a couple, and that they've escaped to the national park where all our characters now find themselves. Awesomeness ensues.

First. It's not a slasher flick, so don't worry that I'm trying to convince you to see Friday the 13th or anything. There is remarkably little violence, and I say that having a weak tummy for movie gore. The whole movie is based on tension. But the source of the tension is one of my favorite literary tropes: cognitive dissonance. It's like a cinematic Benito Cereno*! The movie's greatness lies in the way it makes you uncomfortable with the delta between what you expect the characters to do based on your assumptions about them, and what they actually do. "Why does everything seem a little off?" is the question which pricks you the entire time.

Second, it's got a sense of humor about being a thriller, which makes it entertainingly meta. Zahn and Olyphant spend almost the entire film talking about how to write a great action screenplay, a conversation through which the movie tells you that it knows what you expect to happen, and then it (awesomely) both gives you what you expect, and it doesn't. I knew these conversations were clues, and I STILL couldn't anticipate the next scene.

Oh, it's SO GOOD, but beyond what I've written I can't go without spoilers. I definitely give it Our Heroine's Lace Handerchief of Approval, though in the interest of full disclosure, BMT would only go so far as to describe it as "good," not as far as, "the best film so far of 2009" which is how I described it. Make of that what you will.

The trailer, you guys:

* Hollywood, take a memo: Our Heroine, has always, always, thought Benito Cereno would make a FANTASTIC, murky period thriller.