Read, Viewed: August 2021

August is the month of my birth (Read: yes, I’m a Leo).

But it was a rather sad month, consumption included. At least I had the gumption to quit reading Portnoy’s Complaint, which although entertaining and funny at first, quickly became tendentious and facile.
Among those moments of grace that I experienced were when I finished Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars and then Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome. Also, I treated myself to viewing again the 2000 British gangster film Sexy Beast, starring Ian McShane, Ben Kingsley, and Ray Winstone (not in that order).

Galileo Galilei, Dialogue Concerning the Two Major World Systems, 40 pp.
— Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint, 5 pp.

Still from the 1984 film Falling In Love, starring Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep, with a noticeable dearth of charm.
Still from the 1984 film Falling In Love, starring Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep, with a noticeable dearth of charm.

Falling in Love (1984): Undoubtedly someone thought that Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro, two of the best actors of their era, would necessarily create a good film. It didn’t turn out so much. Streep’s Molly is sympathetic; DeNiro’s Frank is as well. But neither of them are especially interesting. Does one know why they have fallen in love with each other?
Which raises a question if this is what is required for the effective portrayal of a love story.

— Olympics television coverage

Still from the 1996 film "Marvin's Room," when Meryl Streep had finally successfully drowned memories of the sleeper "Falling In Love."
Still from the 1996 film Marvin’s Room, when Meryl Streep had finally successfully drowned memories of the sleeper “Falling In Love.”

Marvin’s Room (1996). Stars Meryl Streep, Diane Keaton, Leonardo DiCaprio, others.
Dialogue, 5 pp.: A hilarious set of analogies, at the beginning of the second day, belittling Simplicius’ claim that to critique Aristotle requires knowledge of the entirety of his works—that no single claim can be separated from the whole: that the alphabet contains all knowledge, that the color palette contains all images.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012): It was a long and bored and lonely day.

M.O.D.O.K., a character from the Marvel Universe
Meet M.O.D.O.K., a character from the Marvel Universe (Mental/Mobile/ Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing): I’ve never really understood this character.

— Finished Love’s Lovely Counterfeit. It’s true. It may have inspired some of Miller’s Crossing. But it lacks the emotional complexity of the latter.
Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet, #1-5: At one point he steals M.O.D.O.K.‘s chair. It’s very hilarious, I think.

Deadpool, Shiklah, and an AIM soldier friends with the former. Flying around in M.O.D.O.K.'s chair.
Deadpool, Shiklah, and an AIM soldier friends with the former. Flying around in M.O.D.O.K.’s chair.

Tag (2019): Adults playing tag, one of which is preternaturally gifted in this game and has never been tagged.
Although I’ve found no evidence for it, I’m deeply certain that “Chili” was meant to be played by Owen Wilson. Or else, Jake Johnson tries to act like Owen Wilson.
— Cain, Butterfly, 10 pp.

Trailer for the 2000 film Sexy Beast, starring Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley, and Ian McShane

Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet, #6-7
Layer Cake (2006): I’d watched this film once before, I thought. But I didn’t remember the ending. A second watching it didn’t weather well.
— Cain, Butterfly, 15 pp.

Ray Winstone in the opening scene of the 2000 film Sexy Beast.
Ray Winstone in the opening of Sexy Beast

Sexy Beast (2009): I’ve always really admired this film. Ray Winstone is great. As Is Ben Kingsley, Ian McShane. The music is great. The dream imagery is startling, terrifying. The conceit of the robbery is brilliant. The natural disaster is brilliant.

Ian McShane in a still from the 2000 film Sexy Beast, directed by Jonathan Glazer and also starring Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley
Ian McShane in a still from Sexy Beast

— NYRB on true crime, protests in Columbia
— Cain, Butterfly, 40 pp.

— Finished Cain, Butterfly. Not his best. Apparently made into a horrible 1982 film, starring Stacy Keach, Pia Zadora, and Orson Welles, among others.
— NYRB on Protests in Columbia, Janet Malcolm, Nathaniel Rich’s new book (not that Nathaniel Rich!)

— Lois Lowry, Number the Stars, finished.

Image inspired by the 2018 action film Peppermint
A Razzie is not strong enough censure for this film, its writer, and Jennifer Garner

Peppermint (2018): Gods of good film, please forgive me my trepasses.
The Vault (2021): Trying to wash the taste of Peppermint (sorry, I just couldn’t not) out of my mouth. Eh … Liam Cunningham‘s character Davos Seaworth in Game of Thrones (the HBO series, not the book … I mean, I’m an adult, so the books are just empty pleasures) was so good that I really wanted to see him in another film. But this wasn’t really it.

Snatch (2000): Given the fact that I’ve watched this several times, perhaps I like it. It’s probably the best of Guy Ritchie’s films. But that is a pretty low bar. His films are just gunplay and mildly interesting caricature of certain criminals, right?
— Galileo, Dialogue …, 5 pp.
Spinoza, Ethics, 5 pp.: Reading Spinoza is an experience of serenity, when you know what he’s saying. I think I fall into that category (I have taught an entire course on the book).

A rhizome, which might be read as an object symbolizing Spinozism.
A rhizome, which might be read as an object symbolizing Spinozism.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999): I suspect no one looks back on their involvement in this film with pride, but especially Nicole Kidman does not.

Star Trek (2009): I really enjoyed this the first time that I saw it. Some of the scenes with the younger Kirk are just really, really bad. I always feel a little sad about Chris Pine, for having to make films like this, especially after seeing him in Hell or High Water (2016), which is really good and in which he is really good.
This Star Trek film is one of the best Star Trek films, but you don’t watch Star Trek films because they are great drama or even compelling stories.
With that said, Leonard Nimoy’s presence in this film touched me. What can I say, when I was a kid I watched the original Star Trek—admittedly, already in syndication—with my dad and sister. It was a formative experience. Even if I know it’s vacuous shit, it’s still part of me.
— Paul Auster, Karasik, Mazzicchelli, City of Glass, 1994 adaptation, 40 pp. I read this novel as a novel, years and years ago. I read a number of Auster novels. Perhaps the entire New York trilogy. But I think he’s a minor novelist, and his greatest contribution is writing the Music of Chance, especially so that in 1993 Phillip Haas could make the film Music of Chance with Mandy Patinkin and James Spader (and James Spader is so good in it).

Mandy Patinkin and James Spader in the 1993 film Music of Chance

Lupin, (2021) #6-8. Watched the first season of this a month or more ago. Now finishing it, in desperation.
— Spinoza, Ethics, Def 1-8, Ax 1-7, P 1-10. More fleeting serenity.

Lupin, #9-10. Aha. Okay, on to the next.

Madagascar 2 (2008), 50 minutes. Progeny wanted to watch. Watched.
— Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome, 10 pp. Have never read any novels by Edith Wharton previously and felt this lack. Found this book sitting on the floor and staring at me, as books are wont to do when they are being moved from shelf to shelf.
Apparently I received this from my high school friend Kirsten Lageman (née Moore, although I suspect she was happy to get rid of that surname), who in turn stole it from the storeroom of Wheeling Park High School (of Criticism and Theory), where I once attended (horrible, prison-like institution). On the fly leaf are a list of the names of previous consumers in grades 9th, 10th, 11th, etc.
On page 101, Richardson, I presume, gave his/her judgment. Unfortunately, he/she did not share the reasons and/or excerpts that led him/her to this judgment. The world is poorer, to be sure.

— Finished Madagascar 2
Top Spin (2014). Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear eats you. This was the latter. Apparently one of the girls when on to Princeton and then published one of those sordid millenials-are-changing-everything books (talk about ideas not built for posterity!) and probably enriching her to some degrees.
Ethan Frome, 30 pp.

Ethan Frome, 60 pp.

— Finished Ethan Frome. My own judgment veers radically away from that of the aforementioned Richardson. Do not think this book “SUCKS.” Yet I aver that Richardson’s rejoinder that I have merely acquiesced to the literary hoi polloi may have some merit.
Dare I assume that Richardson’s allergy was to the profound emotional upsets to which Ethan submitted himself? That Richardson was horrified by Ethan’s submission to the powers of fate and responsibility?
Ethan Frome is a tale of the bear again winning the contest. And then the moment of grace? Well did not posterity again finding justification in the reversals Ethan’s intentions and expectations suffered?
Also, the word querulous was used with excessive liberality. Applied to Zenobia, repeatedly, no doubt.

What have I read, watched lately? Funny you should ask.