[REVIEW] Cosmopolis – Digested and Respected

And now a review of Cosmopolis because a status on my Facebook was not enough…

I have been watching a lot of movies lately thanks to my handy dandy UGC card. And afterwards I have been reviewing them very briefly on my facebook wall (I am lame). I tried that with David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis… but it was just too difficult. So much to say… It’s that kind of movie.

I honestly am not very well versed in David Cronenberg’s style/movies as I am pretty sure this is the first one I have seen. So this perhaps will be a useful to other Cronenberg philistines like me.

Enough of that… Quick! Plot Synopsis! Go!

Eric Parker (Robert Pattinson) is a young billionaire tech/financial/genius guy. It’s not a very good day for him as his life spirals out of control.

The movie is artfully and of course purposefully, based primarily in Parker’s limo.  He is among but withdrawn from the people, sealed off with cork so that he does not hear the outside world… much. Parker meets with the people in his life as he slowly is driven to go get a hair cut.

Also, it is a commentary on Capitalism.

Weird huh?  It is.

See it!  Or not…

Cosmopolis is a mind meld or a mind “f***” to be crude about it. As I am told it is typical Cronenberg style, as the king of venereal horror (fancy talk for body/mind horror).

Cosmopolis is not a normal “enjoyable” movie, though you may find it enjoyable.  The trailer will trick the masses into seeing it (as it makes it out to be some cool action/NINesque music video flick) but the masses will not enjoy it.

Even in France, a nation known for dry drawn out movies and polite patient audiences, there was a mass exodus in 15 minute intervals. At least 10% of the people left.

But even if you do not enjoy it… I argue you should respect it.  It is an exercise of the mind. Something not so enjoyable for those who went to the movies for escape (after all we have plays and books for thinking!)

In fact, it feels very much like an esoteric play, especially given the style of acting which is wooden like a poorly rehearsed play.  But I can only assume Cronenberg wanted this from his actors.

Very dry. Very disconnected. At first very alientating… but in the end perfect for the reality of the film.  Because that is what it is… disconnected “slice” (I cringe to say that cliché) of realities on either ends of the economic scale.

How to enjoy this film

You will hate this movie until you accept its weirdness.  Like the main character Parker, you must observe the passing world.

And afterwards you may find yourself needing to “digest” the film. Austin and I walked home instead of biked just so we could discuss it.

Digest it, think about it afterwards, bring a friend so you may discuss it later: but during it, just hang on to each word and observe.

The acting… did Pattinson sparkle?

Robert Pattinson… was really good in it, or maybe the “plasticness” of the acting style necessary for this movie fit his style of acting. Actually though it made me want to check out his following flicks.

I must say I found myself impressed with his bed eye acting style (well really… perhaps “romanced by it” is a better turn of phrase).  I understand why the girls swoon.  He has sexual magnetism even when getting an anal check up (pretty good scene actually!) or hugging a big burly black man.

On other actors not named Pattison

Some really grade A acting overall: intense and funny at parts.

You get to know the characters in passing… there is little to no explaination and you may fall behind if you do not pay attention to the nuances of each line… it really is a quite unforgiving film.

You may not even realize who the characters are until well after they are off screen.

But still the characters, each basically in their own strange vignette as they come into contact with the main character, are interesting and on the whole very well acted.

I especially enjoyed Paul Giamatti‘s (though usually he is not my style) and Samantha Morton‘s performances.

[ELITISM ALERT] And another thing…

After reading some reviews… this is going to sound really bad. But if you think this movie is poorly constructed, its probably because you didn’t understand it… And this probably threatened you.

You don’t have to love or even enjoy this movie but you should respect it.

So in the end?

I have convinced myself the more I think about it… I really enjoyed the mental exercise that is Cosmopolis.

I dare you to try it – S

Doomsday Book – Book Review… OF DOOM

So in my many forays into “having too many hobbies” I have founded/maintained for the last two years a book club, Y.A.W.E.R.S. (YAY! Adults Who Enjoy Reading Still formally known as Young Adults Who Enjoy Reading Still).

Here’s my review of our May read…

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Synopsis:

Dooms Day Book CoverIt is the not so exciting future (other then… you know time travel) where historians are the new Indiana Joneses, the bell crazed British are sending historians back to the past, by themselves, to chronicle history.  Shenanigans occur.  One part historical fiction, one part sci fi, another part medical drama.  A pretty surprising multifaceted book, that despite long sometimes frustrating inner monologues will keep you guessing (and you’ll find you were probably right) and interested until the end.

Thoughts:

I liked this book.  It wasn’t what I expected (mostly because I’m bad at reading back covers/reviews).  It really has a little about everything and keeps you interested.  Connie Willis’ view of the future is not super exciting (then again it’s only 50 years from now) but the time travel aspect adds a twist.  She in my opinion cops out though with the book’s universe rule that you can’t travel back in time and effect the past because “the net” that takes you back won’t let you go if you can screw it up.  Really takes a lot of balls to trust in that one.

The characters aren’t SUPER endearing but they are likeable enough.  The parts in the past both anglicize the people of the time and forces the point that its not the fairy tale era that SCA members day dream about.  Apperantly she did her research though (didn’t travel back in time though… :/ Where’s the commitment?) as best as she could and its pretty accurate to the 1300s.

One sometimes frustrating and sometimes interesting aspect of the book was Connie Willis’ ability to really get in the head of the unreliable narrators.  Large stretches of the book are spent with the characters listing what they needed to do full of self doubt or full hardy promise.  Made me stress and urge them a long.  It wasn’t Grapes of Wrath in length of description though so it was barable. The way she stretches on inner monologues also is mirrored in her plot reveals.  Good twists but I guessed them 50-100 pages before as there is very obvious lead up.

Rating:

3 out of 5 penguins for gumption!

Read On – S

Life is a Carnival… when on a cruise.

Ready to embrace deadly sin #3 and #7? Take a cruise! Food, food, food, food, food, food, laying around, lots of fatness, red neon burns and food. People say they want to lose weight for a cruise but honestly as long as you take neck up pictures, cruises are the safest fat zones ever. Because there will always be someone fatter than you, redder than you & wearing less clothes than you.

But enough of the pithiness.  I enjoy cruises. Though they make me feel slightly guilty in their extravagance.  They are pound for pound (literally) the best value you can get from a vacation and a nice departure from the usual hectic, you have to remember to do stuff vacations.  Because the beauty about the cruise is, other than liquor, souvenirs and some tipping, everything is paid for up front.  So all you have to do is show up.  Then you can meander the ship, either taking advantage of the onslaught of onboard activities (karaoke, mini golf, wall climbing, etc) or just catch some sun with a drink.  And I don’t even like sun.  Then all of a sudden you arrive in an exciting location for 8 hours but even then you could stay on the boat.  If you do get off the boat, you can meander around that exciting location and then meander back on boat.  I say this with great love for my fiance but our first cruise we fought for exactly zero percent of the time.  And that’s not to say we fight a lot but usually with vacations/site seeing there’s bound to be at least a small tiff.  With cruises they take out the messy part of “having to be responsible for yourself” in order to enjoy yourself or get somewhere.  That leads to a very stress free vacation.  Especially if you don’t have the internet so can’t check work email.  I’m sure there were ways to get to it but I did not look…

My History With Ships

Austin and I have taken two cruises in the last year:

  1. Royal Caribbean  – Monarch of the Seas – 3 days – Bahamas & Coco Cay – for our 4 year anniversary.
  2. Carnival – Inspiration – 5 days – Grand Caymens & Couzumel – took our mom’s as their christmas present

We were frightened about trying Carnival after a SUPER awesome first cruise with Royal Caribbean.  We heard that it just wouldn’t be up to snuff.  To be honest we found ourselves constantly and sometimes obnoxiously comparing Carnival to Royal Caribbean (“Well you know on Royal Cariiibbeaaannn…”) BUT the difference was not that stark.  And while we liked Royal Caribbean better, Carnival was still VERY good and we would take a cruise with them again, especially since they are cheaper.  You get what you pay for but you still get a pretty good deal!

Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival: Sudden Death

Some key comparisons and tips (sorry for the table style… you’ll have to imagine the borders):

Criteria Royal Caribbean Carnival Stuff To Know
Food Pretty Impressed! Wasn’t as impressed but still delectable. Good selection on both. Pretty much unending food. Carnival might have had more nonstop food.  Pace yourself… its not going anywhere.
Dining Methods If you pay your tips when buying your tickets (there’s an obligatory $7-$10 per person per day tip) you can get “My Time Dining”. Which means you have to select a time block (early or late) but each day you can go to the Maitre De and select a specific time and server depending on your mood. We got to know our server (Tony!) so we always asked for him. You then can show up at that time and get sat straight away rather then waiting. It’s European style though, as in, you get sat possibly with other groups. But we enjoyed the chance to meet other people and on our anniversary celebration date they sat us alone on request. We really enjoyed this method of dining. They also have the option of sit down breakfast. Carnival once again you choose Early or Late but there is only one seating time. Though they would still sit you if you come late. You also get an assigned table which is nice but we missed meeting random people at dinner. One thing nice which Royal Caribbean may have had but perhaps we didn’t take advantage of was you could have sit down dining for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner. We preferred this rather than buffet style, very relaxing. For Breakfast and Lunch you get sat randomly sometimes with others groups.  Tip per day is paid at the end. Cruise sit down dining is certainly an experience… an extravagance. I just never truly was able to sit down and order five entrees if I wanted without one single care of the bill. Because there is no bill. In fact, on Royal Carribean since we were the last dining group they PUSHED us to order more, because it was going to go to waste anyway. Both also offer free room service. Which we never took advantage of.   Bring extra cash if you want to reward your favorite servers.  Which they will become your chums and you will want to.
Service Amazing!! Very good. Very close to Royal Caribbean. Maybe not as lavish though? It’s AMAZING what good service you get even though your servers aren’t asking for a tip. I was expecting to have crappy service but cruise service is the best I’ve ever had. Both cruiselines employ people from allll over the world and they take their job seriously and with pride. It was very interesting and fun to meet such diverse and happy people. I still remember everyone who served us as they really become part of our vacation experience. Thanks Tony, Slavko, Rado & Aslam! But honestly I found overall that service is better over seas, so perhaps its the “take your time and dine” mentality of europe and aisa I like. I could sit for hours in a Parisian bistro/cafe with only a cup a coffee without any dirty looks from the server…. not so much in the US. But then again servers more have to rely on tips in the states it seems. Tipping is not obligatory overseas. Hence why foreigners get a bad rap when they come to the US, as they are not used to tipping.
Onboard Activities Rock climbing, dance shows, trivia gameshows, gambling, gamboling, karoake, ping pong, live music, weird old people grinding night clubs, meetups & lots of sun. Same stuff only not as good dance shows and minigolf and water slides instead of Rock Climbing. We did less on this cruise but the quality seemed fine and they were better about announcing things coming up. Do as little or as much as you want. Most activities are free, some have fees like wine tastings. Both will have a daily newsletter keeping you up to date.
Cabin Nice, clean, small, dark. Bigger! I suppose this depends on the ship but we were very impressed on the size and cleanliness. People were constantly cleaning and tje rooms were immaculate. For a cheaper cruise we were impressed. They also had this feature which was a fake window (pictures to follow/really it was a curtain with a light behind it) which at first I laughed at but was pretty nice, made it feel less like a closet. The fake window did not follow daylight outside so you could keep it dark if you wanted. Surprisingly enough though Carnival’s rooms were not as dark as Royal Caribbean’s so it wasn’t as disorientatingly tomb like. I think the door wasn’t as tight? You can take that as a plus or minus. I like to be buried. Bring a watch… your cellphone will not be reliable and while they have wake up calls you will want to not TOTALLY lose your sense of time. Our first cruise we forgot and ended up buying one on the boat. Water proof is best.  This is also useful for when you are off the boat and need to know when to return.
Alcohol We were to scared to sneak on alcohol though we heard of many people successful on the ship (disguising it as soda or just checking it). We ended up spending quite a bit on alcohol, but the drinks were priced at a reasonable bar price and well mixed and strong. Tipping was appreciated and you could choose the amount. Mixed drinks sucked. And seemed more expensive. Also, the tip was included. BUT Carnival allows you to bring on a 750ml bottle of wine per person for the departure day. We filled the bottles with colored vodka and corked them. It was excellent. So we ended up saving money on that. Still spent a lot of money though… Great thing about Cruises is that you can buy cheap alcohol to take home after the cruise. Sometimes buy one get one! We always stock up. They do not let you have it until you leave so that’s not an option for drinking on the boat. One thing to note is that if you want to buy alcohol off the ship, lets say Grand Caymans you have to do it as much as 2 hours before departure so they can deliver it to the ship. We got burned on this. But at Couzumel you could carry it on and check it! So you’ll want to check on this at each port of call, as ships don’t really advertise it as they want you to buy on board. Also, both cruiselines allow you to take on soda in your checked baggage. You can use this as a trojan horse just to ensure your alcohol doesn’t get confiscated. I heard some stories of that. Or you could use it to bring on soda/water/juice… Soda you have to pay for. But you can get a soda pass which makes it cheaper. Side note: on Royal Caribbean cappuccinos at dinner you had to pay for (Carnival it was free).
Decor Very nice. Very crazy disco casino (perhaps to encourage you to go to the casino). But it was an older ship. My mom was not drinking and claimed that looking at the main atrium lights for more then 15 minutes made her feel drunk. Also really dark in the main atrium… rather then light and airy. Just strange. But not tooo obnoxious. You’ll see in the pictures to follow… Also the main buffet room looked like the inside of an alien that swallowed you.
Off the Boat/Excursions Did one snorkel trip in Bahamas. Was nice! Did none. Found a local excursion to do. Both cruiselines seem to offer a variety of excursions. But two things to note: 1. Will be more expensive then going on a tour given by the locals. 2. They will leave you if you get delayed by your tour if you are on a tour that is noncruiseline affiliated. So its up to you. Pay more but be secure? Or pay less and risk being left? But to be honest, if you just take tours with buffer time, you will most likely be fine. In Grand Caymans, we took a 3 hour Sting ray petting/snorkeling excursion and it ROCKED and was at least $60 cheaper per person then the boat one. Technically you don’t even have to plan that far ahead though we made reservations. Just walk off the boat, peruse the different signs for local tours bombarding you as you get off the boat and go! Don’t get robbed. ;p I would say, if you are interested in snorkeling, bring your own gear for islands you can snorkel right off the beach (Coco Cay, Couzumel). Otherwise you have to pay $40 to rent them. In Couzumel we just rented a jeep and drove around stopping and ruins and beach side bars. It was only $70 with insurance and a lot of fun! Though potentially nerve wracking of the place has bad traffic.

So overall both good.

Picture Recap

Just a few pictures from our last Carnival cruise. A few more here….

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Austin with our corked vodka. You could probably get screw top and glue it to look like its sealed.

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Carnival Room. It’s roomy! We have a window!

It's a lie!
Or its a terrible lie…

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Dress up night with our lovely mothers.

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Tattoo’d and white.

Dancing with Aslam
Dancing with Aslam our Waiter

Dance and you Will be Their God
Man dance a little in the crazy disco atrium and you become a cruise star. Old people love to see swing dancing.

So I guess that’s it! Try a cruise even if you hate the sun like me! Because some sun is good. And relaxation is even better. Also check out: http://www.vacationstogo.com/. Never have done me wrong.  Though a travel agent helped us find a single for cheaper on our last cruise.

Next I review Tom Cruise – S

Superior Donuts: It Ain't Horse Fat!

So tonight I went to Mad Cow Theatre‘s production of Superior Donuts., in its first ever debut on an nonbroadway stage. Mad Cow Theatre is a small theatre that makes awesome use of its space and whose season is varied, affordable and worth the subscription. Acting is not always up to par but valiant and ambitious in its scope.

Superior Donuts Cover

Superior Donuts is an endearing dramedy about an intellectual poor black kid who forces himself into the life of an embittered draft dodging donut maker son of a Polish immigrant, saving him (and himself in the process) from certain loneliness and failure.

Sounds a bit sappy, huh? I’ll spare the sugary donut metaphors.

But really the play is pretty interesting and has quite a bit of the depth. The play explores the dynamics of the American Dream and personal faults of a wide splash of ethnic backgrounds in a small Chicago burrough, from Croatian porn selling immigrants to star trekies. Good and attention keeping writing overall.

As for the production: The set was awesome (as per usual) but it didn’t make up for the lack luster main actor. I’ve seen him in other productions and he ALMOST fit but the wavering accent really kinda lost it for me. Franco, the young ragamuffin, was much better but still in the first serious scene wasn’t quite convincing. The secondary eccentric characters were much more awesome (and sinister) and hilarious. Overall the comedy could have been a little bit more discrete and fitting if the director toned down the acting. Still as the play hit its climax the acting hit its stride (accents or not) and the emotional payoff was good.

All in All: It was my second favorite play I’ve seen at Mad Cow (of 4 this season) and worth checking out.

I give it a three out of five penguins. – S

P.S. It also will most certainly get you hungry for donuts. I bet they did better in concession sales in this production than any other (except maybe Superior Concessions). So bring a few dollars and support local theatre.