Monday, February 7, 2011

buenos aires en diciembre

flashback to december, again. i wish there was some kind of sound effect i could add to accompany this. we haven't posted many photos from our daily life in buenos aires yet, mostly because i wanted to do this epic organization and captioning effort that would have melted your faces and blown your minds. realizing that this will prevent us from ever posting more photos, here are some snaps from back in december.

it's funny how when away from home, each month (or sometimes even week) feels like a completely different epoch. as if darwinian-galapagos evolution would take place in between and a new set of beasties would be with us on our trip. in december, we lived in palermo soho. which is a convenient analogy, actually. it feels a lot like nyc's soho, full of boutiques and restaurants and many humans speaking english. there were great things about living there in terms of access to bars and dining, but it was suboptimal in terms of true immersion in an ex-US city. so in january we moved to a different part of the barrio (palermo is big), on the border btw palermo viejo and recoleta. we like our new neighborhood better because it feels more residential, less riddled with ex-pats. and we're closer to the trains and to better helado. but i digress.

in december, we went to spanish school 20 hours a week. it was called I.B.L. we don't recommend it. we chose it thinking we were signing up for a small school justin had gone to several years ago called I.L.E.E. but IBL ate ILEE in some sort of corporate take over and there was no sign of his alma mater. i say corporate because it felt like they were pretty focused on taking your cash-- the classes were overcrowded with people at disparate levels. it was fun meeting people from all over the world (a typical class might have australians, brits, germans, dutch, kuwaitis, brazilians, etc.), but of course none of these people spoke spanish so during breaks etc. we always defaulted to english. bah. (although many of the fun people we met through school are in these photos-- they are the december finches). entonces, in january we switched to private tutors where the learning is more targeted to your individual strengths/weaknesses and every word you speak is in spanish. plus it gave us more time to write/play poker/live etc.

december was also different from january in that the city was hot as heck, humid, and packed with people. there were events almost every night. we went to a jazz festival, inside and outdoor concerts, a futbol game, etc etc and one of the cooler city events i have seen-- noche de las librerias, or the night of the bookstores. they block off a main drag (corrientes) to pedestrian traffic and have live music while people wander about looking at and buying books. this is one of my favorite stretches in buenos aires, as it is crowded with bookstores (my favorite thing on earth outside of "parks and recreation") and theaters. on this night, the bookstores have big sales and stay open until 2 am. it was mad cool. the busyness of december is partially why this blog was not born until january.

in december we were still finding our feet. i learned not to have my gadgets out and not to text while walking and other idiot-american activities (my blackberry was stolen while i was using the GPS, ugh). we did a lot of fun tourist-y sight seeing, like going to the big san telmo fair. we went to a lot of dinners. it felt sort of like a vacation with intensive school, whereas january has felt more like we just live here like humans. it took me awhile to start jogging with my ipod and that sort of thing. and we cook a lot more now, etc.

one thing that has been consistent is my obsession with the ice cream. it is called helado (secondary to the italian influences) and it is creamier, denser, tastier, and superior to american ice cream in every way. i will devote a separate post to my helado explorations, flavors, and establishments as this has been the main focal point of my culinary experience. (lostie will have to blog on the meat, because i just eat this grilled cheese thing called provoleta at the parrillas.) helado allows for the combination of the classic argentine confection dulce de leche (like caramel, but much much better) and ice cream which has revolutionized my existence. i am going to go eat some now even though i haven't had lunch yet. damn you, helado. damn you!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

loerkus reviews "somewhere" (aka "rincon del corazon")

*some minor spoiler alerts-- not a suspense film but if you want to see it maybe wait to read this*

you will have noted from previous posts that the quality of north american cinema that we are exporting to south america is the true bottom of the barrel. my present day favoritism of television over movies generally is due to the fact that i find the quality of movies overall to be less than it was 10 years ago and television overall to be higher (thank you to buffy and the x-files!). there is a lot of incredible acting and storytelling on television now. but i digress.

due to this vortex of celluloid pain (including movies with titles so interchangeable i actually don't know which if any of offerings such as "unstoppable" vs. "unthinkable" etc etc are good), we decided on "somewhere" as the best choice as we had both enjoyed "lost in translation" a good deal (and in fact are experiencing our own version of same at the present moment).  sofia coppola's new film is quite similar to "lost in translation," focusing on a movie star who is adrift in a sea of his own ultimate meaninglessness despite having many sought after perks of life (e.g., financial solvency, scruffy beauty, fame, easy access to massage therapy).  this movie star (called johnny marco and played by stephen dorff) is lolling about in the chateau marmont rather than a hotel in tokyo, so his fame seems more relevant than that of bill murray's washed up character in "lost." however, if the point that once one is famous, one's own identiy/personality/soul is washed away and the assumptions/commodifications of the global populace are projected onto the tabula rasa thus revealed is to be believed, than the characters really are close cousins, if not brothers.  the dorff version even takes a trip to italy where the ludicrous components of italian pop culture are pumped for our amusement, much as the quirks of japanese media were in "lost."

this is all to say that "somewhere" is not a particularly original or distinct offering from coppola, who treads familiar ground (down to the soundtrack of an au courant french band, as she did in "virgin suicides").  taken as a whole i found the film lacking across a couple levels:

1) character development and relationships are wan.  the ostensible driving action of the story is that Marco's 11-year-old daughter comes to live with him for a few weeks in the chateau. certain glaring aspects of his listless existence are therefore thrown into bas-relief, but rather than truly exploring this delicate interaction, we are shown many scenes of elle fanning cooking pasta and making elaborate breakfast foods that i at age 34 am still not capable of executing to illustrate her preternatural maturity (the result of having self-oriented parentals and of course only thinly obscuring her elfin fragility). coppola relies on silent moments with emotive music playing to convey the feelings of the characters, and she is not quite at the level of scorsese or cameron crowe. it feels flat rather than buoyant.

2) she takes too long to convey the absurd. in an effort to portray the existential ennui of the character, she includes a plethora of dreamlike, anesthetized sequences designed to capture the soul crushing vacuousness of los angeles and the film industry when taken to its full levels of disillusionment.  e.g.: marco has twin pole dancers who come to his room while he watches them looking bored and depressed. and it is effectively absurdist-- the dancers are ├╝ber-blond, tan, young, and seem absolutely guileless rather than sexually calculated; they are physically beautiful, but their dancing is awkward and painful. painful to the extreme-- the overriding sound you hear during this sequence is the harsh squeaking of their skin rubbing on the poles. ouch.  this would be a brilliant sequence-- except! coppola literally takes up 5 minutes of screen time on these dancers. squeak. squeak. squeak. the point is to convey the existential ennui of the character, not to induce existential ennui in the audience. and then-- unbelievably-- she brings these squeakers back! for another 5 minutes! i started banging my head against the theater wall to make sure my nerve endings were still working. there are a couple different examples of this.

all this being said, there are a few moments of true brilliance in the film. a scene where marco goes to an f/x shop to be fitted for a mask of his head is stunning. the extra moments she spends on his head, floating disembodied and cut off from any sensorial input, are more emotionally devastating than the first 30 minutes of the film combined. we also loved a shot where he is taking publicity photos and the camera pulls back to show he's standing on a box to accentuate his height. the little pin to the balloon here was terrific.

and stephen dorff is really good. he commits in the big breakdown scene and my favorite subtle moment from him was when he brings back the pole girls and is really trying to look enthusiastic. it was exciting to see him back on screen in something at least directionally artistic. we both liked him, and j and i often have different takes on performances. j liked fanning-- i thought she fit the floaty mood of the film well, but outside of one scene at the end where she feels like a person, i thought she was treated too much like a pretty doll. i *would* however like to own many of the stripey cotton sundresses she sports in the film.

coppola does, also, beautifully capture the dreamlike qualities of LA-- alone in his spaceship, marco drives and drives and drives. and the chateau marmont pool is the clearest, brightest, azul-est jewel glittering in that glittery city. 

overall review is 2 alfajores. but i still might buy the soundtrack. and move to LA.