August-alia 2022: Reading, Watching

August is my birth month (yes, Leo, alas) and so therefore somewhat special for me. ‘Spect that’s vestiges of the days when I looked forward to my birthday. I spent most of it in Amherst, Massachusetts with two delightful dogs (Pebbles and Sharik) but otherwise by myself. My son was in California.

Pebbles, a cairn terrier, and sharik, a schnoodle, taking a break amidst a sunny afternoon walk
Pebbles, a Cairn terrier, and Sharik, a schnoodle, taking a break amidst a sunny afternoon walk

On the 15th I thought I did very serious damage to my left knee while mountain biking a black diamond trail. Turns out I was only off the bike for three days. Yet I was off my game and for two weeks rode less than 100 miles (and Amherst has some incredible hills to climb).

The author, showing off his new tshirt, drinking a beer, and reading "the haunting of hill house"
Your beloved author, showing off his new tshirt, drinking a beer, and reading “The Haunting of Hill House” in wild, wooly Amherst, Massachusetts

What I read and viewed:

8/1
— James Joyce, Ulysses, 10 pp.

8/2
The Boys, #3.5-8
Thank God that is done for a while. Needed to be done with that.

8/3
The Boys, Omnibus Vol.1
Sat down and read the first volume of collected issues of this comic. Honestly, the television series is better than this tripe.

The cover of prescod-weinstein's recent book "the disordered cosmos"
Follow the link to see the mélange of comments on this book.

8/4
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, The Disordered Cosmos, 15 pp.
Very much appreciate P-W’s commitment to re-situating science in its historical and political conditions. Yet I find myself somehow occasionally put off by her occasional glibness. Inclined to believe that is my own fault. But there are definitely expository problems.

8/5
Seven (1995)
I associate this film with Syracuse, New York where I lived with a future drug addict (she was my girlfriend) and read Marx. The reading Marx was great.
Was really impressed by this film, and so watched David Fincher‘s career with deep interest thereafter. Undoubtedly parts of this film are clever. Yet I never really get wrath from Brad Pitt, which is pretty important for the role he plays. Mainly petulance and irritation. And I positively hate Gwyneth Paltrow’s character.
Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 10 pp.
A new éleve wants to read. Boy, I really need to see the new translation …

8/6
Disordered Cosmos, 30 pp.
Ulysses, 10 pp. Finished Eumaeus.
Stuart Gilbert, J.J.’s Ulysses, 5 pp. Gilbert has been my guide through this book. Although he’s not been much of a guide. More of a commentator.

8/7
Scene of the Crime (Ed Brubaker comic series)
House of Gucci (2021)
What’s the rumpus? No justifiable hubbub, as far as I can tell. Adam Driver is the most talented performer in this film. Yet even he seemed a bit anemic.
And I say that acknowledging that both Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons are cast members. This is just Al Pacino being Al Pacino. Is he really acting anymore?
Feel like I should say something about Lady Gaga … but underwhelmed by her performance. She was undoubtedly the core of this film. But it wasn’t really much of a film.

8/9
Midnight Run (1988)
Believe this was a film that a new VCR permitted repeated watchings thereof. A buddy travel film. To me it’s realism lite. And Charles Grodin is such an oddity.
J.J.’s Ulysses, 25 pp.
Odyssey, Bk. XXIII

8/14-16
Disordered Cosmos, 75 pp.

Book cover for thomas perry's "the old man," which inspired the fx series of the same name
The book that “The Old Man” series was based on. Man, I just read Ulysses, you think I’m going to read that crap?

8/17
The Old Man, #1.1-7 (2021)
The Big Lebowski made me more aware of Jeff Bridges than ever before. So I was slightly more compelled to see this. But my viewing was mainly an effect of not being able to walk around without pain.
Not bad, but the female companion (Amy Brenneman) seems little believable, mostly.
Beauvoir, Second Sex, Introduction

8/18
A Test Of Violence (1969)
A short film by Stuart Cooper, who also made Overlord, inspired by the paintings of Juan Genovés.
Overlord (1975)
Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth, Sartre Preface

8/19
Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
This film seems really overrated. DiCaprio is good in this role, as are most of the characters. But they are just interested in sex and drugs. It’s frat boy culture at its worst. So the scenes where Belfort is comparing his company to Ellis Island are particularly galling.

Still with kirk douglas from otto preminger's 1965 film "in harm's way"
This scene with Kirk Douglas is the core of In Harm’s Way (1965).

8/20
In Harm’s Way (1965)
An ensemble film like few others, directed by Otto Preminger. Wonderful. Stars John WayneKirk Douglas and Patricia Neal, with a supporting cast featuring Henry Fonda in a lengthy cameo, Tom TryonPaula PrentissStanley HollowayBurgess MeredithBrandon deWildeJill HaworthDana Andrews, and Franchot Tone.
L’Avventura (1960)
First in a series of films by Michelangelo Antonioni, all of which star Monica Vitti. Perhaps the second, third time I’ve seen. But previous viewings made the scene on the island salient.

Cover of the criterion collection edition of antonioni's 1960 film l'avventura

Is L’Avventura one of your favorite films, and if so, why?

Great question.
As you know, I’m a little doubtful about favorite film questions. Makes me think of High Fidelity and top fives and whatnot.

Monica Vitti is ravishing. And ravishing in a way that her beauty fills you with pathetic longing.

In the film she’s at first merely orbiting near the drama and then slowly, inadvertently, becomes the drama. She’s wound by doubt and desire.


8/21
La Notte (1961)
The second film in the series beginning with L’Avventura. Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau. Reminiscent of Before Midnight (2013) in fact, but without the existential pathos and with Monica Vitti playing the industrialist’s seductive daughter.
Shirley Jackson, Haunting of Hill House, 70 pp.

8/22-3
Haunting of Hill House, 50 pp.
In the end, the Haunting is a better book than We Have Always Lived in a Castle. The latter is more eloquent, more ornate. But the Haunting truly takes you somewhere you didn’t want to go. Mostly the narrative is conventionally told, so the indications that something is wrong are at first fleeting, then more common, then consummate.

8/24
— Finished The Haunting of Hill House
Asphalt Jungle (1950)
This is such a beautiful little film. In my essay on The Killing I claim that this film too is a study is misanthropy. Undoubtedly there are features of it, yet those are unavoidable for a noir.
On the other hand, Sterling Hayden‘s character is — to my mind — the best role he ever played. Similarly, Sam Jaffe‘s Riedenschneider is a genuinely interesting figure, at first so proper and careful and at last betrayed by a simple pleasure (and that girl dancing was incredible!).
Odyssey, Bk. XXIV
Last chapter of the Odyssey and so therefore finished. Its beginning with Agamemnon and Achilles speaking in the afterlife is somewhat strange (apparently critics believe it was tacked on later). It seems somehow appropriate because the shades of these figure haunt any reference to the Trojan War. Also, the lack of enmity between these figures is notable, is it not?

Because I’m daft I always think what version of a person goes to the afterworld? Is it the person when you died? And if so, why that person?

Still from a scene with monica vitti and gabriele ferzetti the 1960 film "l'avventura"
Still from a scene with Monica Vitti and Gabriele Ferzetti the 1960 film “L’Avvventura”: Most stills only include her, since she’s the central character, but Ferzetti’s character is also important.

8/26
Cynthia Ozick, The Shawl, 35 pp.
The short story, first published in the New Yorker, to I presume great acclaim. Incredible.

8/27
— Finished The Shawl

8/28
Vice (2018)
This is a fun film, but mainly just a fun film.
Let it be absolutely clear that I have no love for Dick Cheney. But lots of important details are absent here. Yes, it’s probably mostly factual. For what that’s worth. But facts without context are empty ciphers.

8/29
The Gray Man (2022)
This was so dreadful that I turned it off after 10 minutes and only watched the rest a few days later during very serious boredom. It never gets better. The dialogue was written by idiots.
L’Eclisse (1962)
To redeem myself, I watched the last in the series of films including L’Avventura and La Notte.
The last part of this film is beautiful and striking. But there is a blackface scene that is …
Ulysses, 15 pp.

Below is a link to the final scene, which is one of my favorite parts. Yet I doubt how effective it can be if you haven’t watched most of the film. So beware.

8/30
Ulysses, 15 pp.