La Doublure (The Valet)

First of all, La Doublure does not translate into The Valet. In the movie’s context, doublure is French for  stand in or double, usually in theatre. Many of of Francis Veber’s comedies have games of pretense in their plots involving a character named François Pignon. Previous well known Veber films of similar nature are Le Dîner de cons (The Dinner Game) and Le Placard (The Closet). I think the latter is still my favourite of the three Veber movies I’ve seen so far. La Doublure is still very enjoyable though with nice comedic performances, and as with the others, the protagonist’s evolution in the movie makes for a feel-good movie. Veber’s comedies are not as vulgar as Hollywood ones, but still definitively French. There are is almost always a cool blonde or two, and there are a lot of rich jerks. I think Hollywood could pull off his scripts, but it would not seem as clever or with the right tone. Watching Veber’s films makes me consider how few good American comedic films are being produced.

Volver

My first Pedro Almodóvar film; I just didn’t manage to watch any of his films until now. This Spanish drama has a great cast, strong script, good music, and wonderful direction. I love the overhead shots employed. The theme of death, and the strong focus on women is poignant and well executed. The twists are a bit predictable if you’re an avid film watcher, but that does not mean the movie does not hold you with its characters and the acting. I have only ever seen Penelop Cruz in Vanilla Sky, her presence in this movie is charismatic and definitely shows her as a star. The ease of which she inhabits her character and dominates the screen is wonderful. As I’ve read someone say, she is the Diane Keaton to Almodóvar’s Woody Allen (Cruz is actually going to be in the next Woody Allen movie). I am definitely going to go watch Talk to Her and Bad Education when I can the chances.

Splendor in the Grass

I confess that I did not actually see the end of this movie, but I saw most of the movie. The ending was not a surprise when I found out about it. Like most Elia Kazan movies from that era, there is a lot of angst. As for the acting, Warren Beatty is hot in his first role and of the three Natalie Wood films I have seen, this is probably her best work. I think Deannie’s (Wood) descent into madness/nervous breakdown is fastening as is the film’s take on late 1920’s sexuality and young love from a 1961 perspective. It is outdated in some ways, but I think many of the themes are still very relevant such as the Madonna/Whore complex which is explored. I wonder about how it was received at the time because even watching it in a less conservative time, some of the scenes were very sad in the treatment of women. Bud’s (Beatty) sister’s portrayal as a girl who only boys talk to in the dark was annoying, but the movie pushed the point home about how far she would go. Her last scene is almost lurid in its depiction of “the other type of girl”. The constant idea for men to seek these other girls, use them, but marry a nice girl like Deannie. While she must remain pure as that is what good girls are for, and “nice girls” don’t have sexual urges. It does seem outdated for Deannie to go mad from a broken heart, but I think if you consider the pressure she was under and her sensitive, young nature, it probably was not completely far fetched at the time. It is definitely a movie to consider gender roles and stereotypes then and now.

Danica Scarf

Danica

Danica started December 12th 2007, finished December 25th 2007
Pattern: Danica by Jesse Loesburg – Knitty, Winter 2005
Yarn: Patons SWS in Natural Earth – 80g 110yds 70% Wool 30% Soy – 4 skeins
Needles: #8/5mm straight bamboo
Modifications: Due to yarn change, no changing of yarn between sections. Added fringe from Lady Eleanor Stole in Scarf Style.
Lessons Learned: Entrelac and knitting backwards (purling on the RS)
Cost of Project: $20 for yarn
Would I knit it again? Yes. Not for awhile though. I want to make the LE stole one day.

Entrelac Winter warmth

Pattern Notes and Comments: For a scarf, this took a long time even though I knit backwards. You should definitely learn to knit backwards for entrelac. I enjoyed it for the most part because I was able to memorise the pattern by the end and watching the squares and triangles shape up was neat. I really do want to make the LE stole one day. This is going to my bulky winter scarf for awhile. I did not block it, but I’ll wash it eventually so then it’ll be blocked.

The fringe I made is really ugly which is why there isn’t a photo of it. I wasn’t in the mood to make a fringe; I just wanted to finish the scarf so I didn’t make the effort. It is the nice knotted fringe from the LE stole in Scarf Style. It matches my Fake Isle Hat now though. It’s definitely over 60″, and when I do wash it, I know I could probably stretch it quite a bit.

An Assembly Such As This

The first of Pamela Aidan’s trilogy of Pride and Prejudice from the perspective of Mr. Darcy. Two P&P interpretive books in a month? I’m on a roll it seems. This book ends in London not too long after Darcy and co. leave Hertfordshire after the Netherfield Ball. I requested this book based on an LJ friends review of it; she mentioned that the second book should be skipped because it is set in the months when Elizabeth is not present at all. I am definitely going to skip the book because while the book was not too bad in parts, the ending dragged incredibly when Darcy arrived in London. The trilogy intends to be a character sketch of Mr. Darcy and his world which is quite mundane apparently as the end of this book is an indication. The third book is apparently the best so I look forward to that, but I think Mr. Darcy’s Diary is  better than this.

Specimen Days

Michael Cunningham’s The Hours is a book that I really liked when I read years ago. I bought a used copy of it last year, but I have not reread it. I remember the beautiful prose, the wonderful mimickery of Woolf’s writing style and Cunningham’s own distinct prose. Specimen Days uses Walt Whitman instead of Virgina Woolf as a common thread in its three stories of the past, present, and future. This a unique novel, with each story being written stylistically different but sharing common themes, settings, and character names. The Whitman poetry and some other props (a bowl, horses) are used in each story as well linking these odd stories together in this novel. I really like Cunningham’s writing. It is best displayed in the first story of 19th century New York, but it takes interesting turns in the last two stories, one of which is almost classic Science Fiction. It is not a thriller or particularly fast moving novel, but I read it quick enough. His writing is not too labourious, but possibly too slow or boring for those who like conventional stories or novels. Definitely will be more of Cunningham as I anticipate any new book from him.

Lemon Poppyseed Bread

This my second time I’m making a recipe from JoyofBaking, and I’ll make another recipe from the site today. I think it’s consistently delivered good results. This loaf is really good. The lemon glaze and the zest give the loaf its quality result. The hand mixer is in storage so I used my arms. That was not good overall. I also think you could use less butter than called for in the recipe. As usual, I reduced the sugar.

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This Side of Paradise

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel. It has been awhile since I read The Great Gatsby, but I remember liking it especially since I studied it in school. This novel had some fun prose and interesting writing. Not the most riveting, but not the most boring thing I’ve read in awhile either. The novel started with that particular romanticism that captured the pre-World War I era, and while the war itself is not elaborated on, the book does a good job of exploring the effects of people post-war. It reminded me of Maugham’s Of Human Bondage which is a particular favourite of mine. The novel is in some ways less refined tha TGG, but it really outlines the themes and the raw writing potential of Fitzgerald. I am not quite sure how I how feel about the author. I do like him it, but am not passionately in love with his works as some other. Still, I will continue to read his works. This was read for the Second Chances and Something About Me Challenge.

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Notable Books

I am a part of the Notable Books Challenge. There is no book limit, and this post serves more as a reference for myself of books to check out if I am out of and in pursuit of more reading material (unlikely but still possible) in 2008. It includes books from the New York Times Most Noteable Books 2007 and the Publisher’s Weekly Best Books 2007.

The Gathering and Shortcomings are definitely going to be read because they are for my other challenges.
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Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Cake

Chocolate Chip Convention

This cake is gooey, cinnamony, and chocolately. It could be eaten as a coffee cake for tea or snacks, but it could be a small birthday party cake as well. For people like my Dad who do not like chocolate, raisins could probably be used instead. It’s a little bit of work to separate the eggs and layer the cake, but I think it’s well worth it.
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Mr. Darcy’s Diary

After a couple of boring P&P modern retellings and Mr. Darcy perspective books, I learned to be conservative with published Jane Austen “interpretations”. Not all of them are bad, but not all of them are good either. This was on the Express Collection shelf at the library, and I didn’t have much to lose as it looked short. Also, a blurb on the back says Austenblog approved of this book. Those snarky Austenites definitely have an authority. This book was fun. While it is done in the format of Darcy’s diary entries, but it is just a literary device to let us in on the literary heart throb’s thoughts. Kudos to Ms Grange for her ability to capture Austen’s style. The writing is shrewd in its own way, and it really is a nice companion to Pride & Prejudice as you read it. It is a lovely way to reread P&P and reminisce about the original. Though, I have one slightly spoilery comment below.

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Layer Cake

This British crime film was probably one of the reasons the producers of the Bond films hired Daniel Craig as James Bond. A thinner Craig (before he gained all that 007 muscle) shows his acting prowess as a conflicted drug dealer amidst all the motley layers of the British crime world. It goes without saying that DG is attractive in this as he is ever, but part of his appeal is that his sexiness seems subtle and under the surface yet not. The movie is not for those who do not like swearing, violence, drug use/dealing, and criminals being “glamourized.” If you don’t like Guy Ritchie films such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels which featured tough-love-dad-Sting or Brad-Pitt-with-accent Snatch, look away. Apparently, Ritchie was even suppose to direct it, but his frequent producer and friend Matthew Vaughn took the helm (Vaughn recently directed Stardust; something I want to see as well). For a debut, it was nicely directed. Good soundtrack, many subplots and “layers” in the script (adapted from a novel by the same author), and as with most British TV/film production, I recognized almost every one of the actors from another Brit series or movie. That’s always fun for me because I seem to attach easily to actors. I liked almost all the cast except Sienna Miller; she’s just one of those rare celebrities I can not warm up to. There is suppose to be a sequel of the novel in the works which may open up for a sequel of this movie; I’d watch it especially if Mr Craig reprises his role.