Monday, January 29, 2007

Quote of the Week

"I just shot it the way you see a thing. I shoot straightforward too. I resent camera movements that you become conscious of. I don't use any camera tricks. The camera is usually eye height. The audience sees just what we see."

Howard Hawks

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Favorite Television Episode of the Week (1/21-1/27): Derelict's Pick

24 was its usual frantic, anything-goes self; Medium was a nice mix of pathos and black comedy; Heroes felt like a recap episode, but it was nice to have the show back (is it wrong that I love Bad Glasses Man so much?); and Rome continues to dazzle with its visual excellence (though I can't help feeling that without Caesar, the show's various characters and plots no longer have the same cohesion and interconnectedness that they had in the first season -- hopefully, Octavian will become that character around which all the other characters and storylines meet).

But without The Office to compete with, Battlestar Galactica ("Rapture" airdate: 1/21/07) has emerged the winner this week. The mid-season season premiere was frantic and overstuffed, but it was filled with so many great, memorable moments: Helo holding Sharon's lifeless body, her blood splattered on the wall behind them, her memories and thoughts at that very moment being transferred to the cylon resurrection ship; Caprica Six finally growing a conscience and stopping Boomer from snapping Hera's neck, in a scene that echoed the scene from the miniseries in which Six herself snapped a baby's neck in its stroller; the boxing of the Number Threes (farewell Lucy Lawless, I'll miss your awesomeness); Adama being his usual badass self, calling the cylons' bluff by bringing in the nukes; the supernova and the continuation of this show's amazing special effects. Everything about BSG that I love was here -- mystical weirdness, action, romance, angst, Gaius Baltar -- everything. It's kinda hard to believe that I'd never even watched an episode of this show a month ago and now I'm hooked.

Prediction(totally unspoiled): the member of the final five D'Anna saw in the temple was Tom Zarek

Friday, January 26, 2007

Happy Birthday Joan Leslie!

We don't usually do birthday shout-outs here, but Joan's a girl from D-Town, and we like to celebrate the hometown stars. Born January 26, 1925, in Detroit, Joan's celebrating her 82nd birthday. She worked opposite Humphrey Bogart and Gary Cooper when she was sixteen, James Cagney when she was seventeen, and Fred Astaire when she was eighteen -- not a bad resume for a teenager! This website devoted to her is a nice resource with some great pictures (including magazine covers from the 40s), as well as several interviews and news items.

Joan's mostly known for her ingenue roles at Warner Bros., but I rather liked her performance in Nicholas Ray's campy Born to Be Bad (RKO, 1950), a film that showed she could have been more than the pretty, spunky girl-next-door.

What's kinda crazy (to me at least) is that Joan Leslie and Paul Newman were born on the exact same day (Jan. 26, 1925), and yet they seem to be from two different movie eras entirely -- Joan, the essence of war-time studio system Hollywood, and Newman, the rebellious modern actor from the new Hollywood of the 50s and 60s. Happy birthday to both!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Quote of the Week

"They have goaded and jaded their artistic feelings too much to enjoy anything simply beautiful. They are aesthetes; and the definition of an aesthete is a man who is experienced enough to admire a good picture, but not inexperienced enough to see it."

G.K. Chesterton

The Only Oscar Votes That Matter

I'm totally bored by this year's Oscars, but Edward Copeland's got the results of his fabulous survey of the Best Best Actress winners and Worst Best Actress winners of past years. I participated in both the Best and Worst categories, and a few of my picks made both top tens, and I was quoted a few times in my real-life name (why I didn't sign my ballot with "The Derelict" I'll never know, but anyhoo, "Jenni" is me -- such confusion!).

For the worst (and more) go here. For the best (and more) go here. And I couldn't be happier to see who made the number one spot for Best of the Best. I love when my opinions are validated by the opinions of others!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Favorite Television of Episode of the Week (1/14-1/20): Derelict's Pick

Rome and 24 had their (outstanding) premieres this week; Medium and My Name is Earl contributed solid, entertaining episodes; and Heroes and Battlestar Galactica are still on hiatus.

But once again The Office was my favorite. "The Return" (air date: 1/18) was funny, and Jammy, and filled with great character moments (Phyllis: "Dwight had a big personality and I have a big personality, and a lot of times, when two people like that get together, it can be explosive"), and it was more understated in its humor, which I like. There weren't a lot of laugh-out-loud moments (though I did love when Andy's phone rang in the ceiling), but there were a lot of little touches, little sight gags and character reactions that were quietly hilarious. It's what the show does best: creating comedy out of the real, and yet at the same time, mixing it with the absurd. Dialogue is key here: When Dwight asks Michael if the office party is for him (when it's clearly for Oscar's return), Michael doesn't simply lie and say "yes," he pauses ever so slightly, tries to appear cool and nonchalant (successfully, I might add) despite being about to lie, and answers in that not-as-funny-as-he-thinks-it-is reply, "Guilty." It's perfect Michael -- the word, the line, the acting by Steve Carell -- a totally absurd and ridiculous character, and yet so totally real -- I've known guys who talk like this. This week's episode was filled with these little moments of reality amidst the silliness. They're funny and painfully familiar at the same time.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Addition by Addition

Just pointing out that I'm adding a few more links to the sidebar. Enjoy!


Bright Lights After Dark

The Bleat

Peter Suderman

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


The Office's "Traveling Salesmen" overtakes the only other new episode I watched all week -- My Name is Earl's "Buried Treasure" --to win this week's "Favorite Television Episode of the Week." Randy's "My name is Randy" voice-over was hilariously dim-witted, but the combination of Andy and Dwigt on The Office was the ultimate in stupid-guy silliness, so it wins. And is it wrong that I love the Angela/Dwight 'ship?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Odds and Sod's

  • I've got my T.V. Pick of the Week up on the sidebar, and my choice this week was Medium's newest, "Mother's Little Helper." Patricia Arquette is a great and underrated actress and the show usually delivers solid, though sometimes predictable, horror/mystery. What makes each week so interesting, though, is the way the show plays with things like animation, music, sound, color, etc. The first episode of the season had Bridgette (Maria Lark), the middle sister aged somewhere around 10, having dreams like her mother, only in the form of a kid's cartoon. One of the most disturbing murders I've ever seen on network T.V. involved a cartoon monkey. This week's episode opens with what quickly becomes recognizable as a dream as we see Ariel (Sofia Vassilieva), Alison's (Patricia Arquette) oldest daughter, attending a dance with a cute boy and they are being called up as the dance king and queen. Slow-mo kicks at this point, as the kids and teachers cheer Ariel on to her triumph. It's unmistakably an allusion to Carrie (Brian DePalma, 1976). After the bucket of pig's blood drenches Ariel, she begins the anticipated telekinetic freak-out, and Alison wakes up from her nightmare obviously disturbed. Of course, Ariel is having the same dream, only in her dream, it's flower petals and not blood that fall from above. The gimmick of the show is that Alison can see dead people and has dreams that are communications from murder victims about how they died. The other gimmick is that her daughters (at least the two eldest), have the same abilities, only not as pronounced as their mother's. The DePalma/Carrie homage at the beginning was a cute, funny little joke about Alison's fears for her daughters and their (often unwanted) powers. What surprised me about the episode was that the opening wasn't just a minor cinematic joke, but a stylistic foreshadowing. Later, when both Alison and Ariel are having dreams of the double murder of a mother and daughter, Alison dreaming from the mother's perspective, and Ariel from the daughter's, we see the events in split screen -- that very signature style of Brian DePalma. The opening of the episode worked not only as a great character moment for Alison (how perfect that the fears of a Gen-Xer with a "gifted" teenage daughter would manifest themselves as a modified version of the signature scene from Carrie) -- as well as a set-up one of the story lines of the episode, Ariel's anxiety over the spring dance -- but it also foreshadowed the stylistic choice to show the audience the murders through split-screen. Overall, I guess I'm just a sucker for this type of cinematic in-joke. It was fun.
  • I didn't pick the new episode of the The Office this week (for Pick of the Week) because The Office is so awesome week in and week out that I've just come to expect it and have ceased being "wowed" by its awesomeness. Does that make sense? (Although, being a JaMichael shipper, mon, almost pushed this episode to Best of the Week for me, and I loved Dwigt's tenderness with Pam.)
  • Can't wait for new seasons of 24 and Rome! January 14, baby!
  • This month on TCM, Jean Arthur is the featured star. I've loved her since I first saw You Can't Take It With You about ten years ago. But I was shocked, shocked! to find out recently that she was born in 1900! That would have made her 38 when she was in YCTIWY. I always thought she was probably early 20s in that film. Apparently not.
  • I haven't seen The Good German yet, and I want to, but I remember reading some article online that mentioned Soderbergh's idea that The Good German would be the film Michael Curtiz would have made if he didn't have to worry about the Production Code (ah, here's where I read about that, not a direct quote unfortunately; scroll down to read the comment that mentions Soderbergh's idea re: Curtiz and the Code). But don't we already know what filmmakers of that era would have made without the Code?
  • And since we're on the subject of the Hays Code, I watched The Miracle of Morgan's Creek this weekend and the dvd had a couple of documentaries, one about the movie and the Production Code. One of the commentators said that the Code was, in a way, a kind of form that directors had to adhere to, like the form of a sonnet, and that this form often made them think creatively and ended up enhancing their work. This is something I've often thought myself -- that rather than being limiting, the Code was a way for filmmakers to find creative answers to things they wanted to put in their movies. We certainly wouldn't have had some of the hilarity of Morgan's Creek without the Hays Code as comedic target. The Good German, from my reading of other critics, sounds like a poem with fourteen lines, just with the rhymes in all the wrong places.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Year, New Look

Welcome to the "new look" Stuff that dreams are made of! We've switched to the new blogger and jazzed the place up a bit. Figured it was a little more fun, with the bright colors and pictures and all.

Notice a couple of new features on the sidebar at left: "Television Episode of the Week" and "Derelict's Rolling Top Ten." Hopefully both will be updated frequently. The Television Ep of the Week is just that: the best episode from the shows we watch each week (hopefully we'll have additional posts explaining our choices). The Rolling Top Ten is basically my favorite top ten movies of the moment. They're "rolling" since I'll probably change them frequently. These are not my top ten movies of all-time or anything -- just what I'm digging at the moment.