My Dinner With Failure, Or, The Importance of Context in Foreign Films

Play a game of charades with some friends and see how far you get if you have to act out anything more complicated than simple nouns or verbs. Chicken? Easy. Chicken Little? Somewhat harder, but there will still be copious pantomiming to get the point across. Even if you know the person very well, you’ll still occasionally have to guess what they’re trying to depict.

Recently I wrote about my cinematic fail in watching Force Majeure. Basically I failed to understand the newest Netflix interface and didn’t push that most important of buttons when it comes to foreign film-viewing: SUBTITLES Now, you can totally fumble your way through a foreign film without subtitles given the right conditions. Such conditions include:

  • A passing familiarity with the language (I know enough French to follow some movies without reading the titles, but if anything gets more complicated than the present tense or basic concepts, I’m sunk)
  • A passing familiarity with the culture (You don’t have to master the pluperfect verb tense to know when people are yelling at each other)
  • A passing familiarity with the story (You might recognize themes or situations from famous plays, books, mythology, or graphic novels)
  • A story simple enough to surpass language (Dead Snow comes to mind; do we really need to know why the zombies of reanimated Nazis are harassing these attractive skiers and ruining their holiday? Do we?)

But!  As I learned, context is key, and for context you must have translation, some kind of intermediary to help guide you to the salient points.

Picture this: two well-dressed people are meeting in a Parisian cafe. The director has done his job, and despite the beautiful, laid-back surroundings, the score is tense, as are the faces of our characters. You know it’s a crime film, you know someone young was murdered and dumped in a ditch and had some kind of relation to these two. Now: what more do you want to know? Who started it? Was it justified? How long’s it been going on?

I don’t need translation to watch Godzilla to know that giant monsters destroying buildings is a bad thing, but what about trying to guess what was happening in the Avengers (assuming you were unfamiliar with the characters)?

“There’s a big blue ball, and it’s just absorbed this little gold ball, and now it’s… there are a lot of windows, and now there are robots everywhere but there’s also one robot who … is standing there talking about something, and now there’s a bigger one and a man in a suit with lasers and now there’s a farm where the people are and again we’re back to the city and robots lots of robots and OMG FLYING TOWN and another flying man with lasers coming out of his head and now everything is okay but might not be. Whatever, it was worth the 10 bucks.”

Context is everything, especially in an age when so little culture is shared on an intimate level. With no subtitles or dubbing, I might recognize a Thai person by their mode of dress or the sound of their language or the shape of the letters on signs in the background or the presence of tuktuks, because those are the big contextual markers. I won’t recognize the little nuanced ones, like the nature of their relationships with other people. I might miss little gestures accompanying the person’s movements that indicate their relationship, like a deferment to an older relative or a rolled eye to indicate a tiresome friend. Even something that should define a relationship, like a sex scene, doesn’t help because you don’t know if these people are together, cheating, or engaging in a forbidden affair.

Play a game of charades with some friends and see how far you get if you have to act out anything more complicated than simple nouns or verbs. Chicken? Easy. Chicken Little? Somewhat harder, but there will still be copious pantomiming to get the point across. Even if you know the person very well, you’ll still occasionally have to guess what they’re trying to depict.

A movie without context is a series of Rorshach images that the viewer can pull all kinds of things from, depending on their perspective.

Preacher Casting!

Preacher is not a graphic novel for everyone, but I would have said the same about Walking Dead and that blew up like marshmallows in a microwave – I know kindergarten teachers who are rabid fans. Hopefully this show will have the same appeal while sticking to the storylines.

Cassidy has been found!

Joseph Gilgun Cast As Cassidy

Preacher's Hard-Drinking Irish Vampire Cassidy Has Been Found

The site tells me I might remember him as Rudy from Misfits. I don’t know who Rudy is or what the Misfits are but he has the right face for it!

Also, Ruth Negga has been cast as Tulip.

And Ian Colletti as Arseface.

I find myself distressingly out of the loop with these actors – I have no idea who any of them are!

I am so happy this show’s getting made, and on AMC no less, so they won’t shy from some of the…errmm… edgier content in the stories. There’s so much to look forward to – I can’t wait to see who they get for Starr!

And although it’s looking like my dreams of seeing Woody Harrelson as Jody won’t be realized, I am curious to see who they do get to play that role.

Preacher is not a graphic novel for everyone, but I would have said the same about Walking Dead and that blew up like marshmallows in a microwave – I know kindergarten teachers who are rabid fans. Hopefully this show will have the same appeal while sticking to the storylines.

Breakdown: Jesse Custer (the ubiquitous Preacher, not yet cast) has lost his faith and is drinking himself to oblivion while preaching in a small, shithole town in Texas when a strange entity takes up residence in his body. The entity is a creature of limitless power that gives Custer the Word of God, allowing him to command people to do his bidding. However, Custer is conflicted about this power and only uses it in moments of great need – such as defending the love of his life, Tulip, or his drunken reprobate best friend, Irish Vampire Cassidy. Jesse sets out on a quest, with his friends in tow, to understand this power, and ultimately to force God to answer for the faults in His creation. Along the way he encounters a vast, international organization that controls the nations of the world and is bent on bringing about the apocalypse; a couple serial killers and inbred hicks; the KKK; a voodoo priest; an old cowboy; his father’s past as a Vietnam veteran; and a rejected astronaut who has written his life’s message on the earth since he was denied his shot at the stars.

The series was printed in the 90s and is a CLASSIC of modern graphic novels. It deals with so much and is such a uniquely American story.

I CANNOT WAIT!  😀

Didja Miss Me?

Please forgive me my ramble! I have had a rough few months and I just had to make a mark on the internet for the exact moment when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel again!

I hope to get back into the habit of posting film reviews (I have a LOT of them in backlog!) regularly again, and reading other people’s blogs. I do miss catching up with folks!

Whew. 

As it does, Life Got Hectic.

Here is a summary of things that happened in the second half of 2014:

May

  • Laid off from a job I loved. The company wasn’t doing well and still isn’t, and has literally gone from 250 employees in its heyday to about 30. I have made some really awesome friends at that job, and it was like being thrown out of a a family. I am afraid for other friends who are still there.
  • I find another job and, despite my disbelief, manage to land it. I start at a new company downtown, doing something pretty interesting with some intelligent, pleasant people. I mostly keep to myself.

June

  • My car begins to act up.
  • I rent a car and a friend and I head up to Atlanta for my best friend’s baby shower. When we are about to leave and make the drive home, I burst into near-hysterical sobs at the idea of leaving the first place I have been happy in months. My friend warns me that if I am not honest with myself about how I feel at my new job, I will only be more miserable.
  • I decide I want to go back to school, and get a Professional Writing Certificate, which is only 15 hours of Grad School classes. Since I don’t need a GRE score to apply, I go for it.

July

  • July 4th weekend doesn’t go well. I’m in a terrible depressive mood and I’m angry about everything. I take it out on my significant other on our way back from a barbeque. I apologize and he forgives me later, but it still bothers me.
  • My car continues to deteriorate, and my parents offer to loan me money for a down payment on another. Despite my pride, I take them up on it.
  • I get a used 2013 Fiat 500. I love it, but I didn’t negotiate the best finance price. Still, it’s not too much, and I have a reasonable monthly payment.
  • Our dryer acts up, and I try to save some money by fixing it myself. I wind up cutting myself  horribly on the unfinished aluminum that houses the heating element, and nearly maim myself. I still don’t have insurance at my new job, so I fix myself up the best I can. My left  is the worse of my thumbs, and bleeds for twelve hours before it stops. Changing the bandages is awkward and painful, and we wind up paying a guy to fix the dryer in addition to getting me a tetanus shot at the Minute Clinic. The NP at the clinic says I should have gone to the ER for stitches, but as it’s closed up now there’s nothing more she can do. I still have a pretty wicked scar, and it doesn’t quite bend the same.

August

  • I am accepted to UCF, and am incredibly proud.
  • I attend orientation and realize I should have already signed up for classes. I scramble to find one that’s both online and open, and wind up signing up for one that is WAY above my level.
  • A recruiter contacts me for a possible job opening at a company most of my friends work at. I send him my resume, and he says he’ll be in touch.
  • I make an impulse decision and buy tickets for Nine Inch Nails for myself and my significant other. It’s my first time seeing them live, but I’ve been a fan since 1995.
  • At the show, I find out Robin Williams has died. We still have a good time, but I am upset. I haven’t written my feelings out about that because it’s still taking a while for everything to settle down. I see a quote later about the whole thing: “Being lonely isn’t the worst thing in the world; the worst thing in the world is being around people who make you feel alone” and I realize I have been unhappy for some time now.
  • Terrible news: my Aunt has died, very unexpectedly, at the age of 53. Her 21-year-old son found her. She had been there a few days with no air conditioning on, and temperatures in South Georgia were in the high 90s.
  • The family gets together in Waycross to help my cousin make the arrangements and help him clean out his mother’s apartment. She had been hoarding and hadn’t cleaned for years. My other aunt and I do most of the cleaning so my mother and cousin don’t see the worst of it.

September

  • The first weekend in September, a week after she passed, we bury her. Because of her condition, it is a closed casket. Despite how upset I am, I am a pallbearer, and I am proud to say I was able to carry my share of the burden. We bury her on September 5th, which happens to be my mother’s birthday. The rest of the weekend is difficult, but the family does its best.
  • The rest of September is busy, yet a blur. I have things written down on my calendar and I know I was busy, but unless I look it up I have no idea what happened during that month.
  • As I am doing my coursework, I realize that I am really in over my head in the course, and that my heart isn’t in pursuing the professional writing certificate. I decide I will do my best to finish the semester and then bow out. Realizing this is liberating for me – I am glad I took the course and had the experiences I did, and want to pursue my MA in Creative Writing, but not now.
  • At work, my lead writes me a heartfelt email about how much he appreciates my efforts on our project. Other people express how much they like me and appreciate my work. I appreciate it, but I still feel hollow.

October

  • Life moves forward. I do things with friends, and try to get out more. I try to make an effort to work on my novel.
  • I see some movies with friends, including a special midnight showing of Aliens at our local art/revival theater, the Enzian. It’s a great time and I feel appreciated.
  • My job has an employee appreciation day at Wonderworks, an Orlando attraction that is part-fun center, part science museum. We do laser tag, and there is a ROPES course on the top floor that is 30 feet high. It dredges up memories of a ROPES course I took in high school over the summer.
  • I volunteer at Central Florida VegFest, a huge vegetarian/vegan festival. It’s fascinating, and educational, but I am not inspired to give up meat or dairy. Just to eat from more humane sources.
  • Halloween at work is fun – I go as the Winter Soldier from the recent Captain America movie. I wear it to my friend’s huge yearly Halloween party and it’s a big hit.
  • I try to get back into working out regularly, since Tough Mudder 2014 is coming up and I don’t want to embarrass myself.

November

  • My parents come for the TM, and it’s a lot of fun. Some of my former coworkers are there, and we run into each other at various obstacles. I carry someone’s brother during the Wounded Warrior carry, and I’m surprised I’m able to do it. I’m not as sore afterward as I thought I would be, although I get stuck in the mud on the last obstacle.
  • I take all of us to see Gone With the Wind at the Enzian for a belated birthday event for my Mom, as she is a “Southern Bell” and her actual birthday was a dreary affair because of the funeral. It is a big hit – although it was my first time seeing it and I had Opinions, I keep them to myself (mostly) so as not to spoil our time.
  • I get contacted by the recruiter again, and I finally interview at the company where all my friends work. I don’t expect anything to come of it deep down, and when I get the offer I am shocked… I’m so surprised I can’t even think how I feel. They want me to start the following week, but I insist on putting in a full two weeks’ notice where I am. I tell my coworkers and bosses first thing in the morning rather than agonize over it all day.
  • I stay home for Thanksgiving, and make a meal for my significant other and I since he has to work. I am hugely thankful for how well I am doing in life, and spend most of the holiday alone, mentally recharging.

December

  • Day two of my new job, and I’m happier than I’ve been in months. I’m getting a little pay raise, I work ten minutes from my house, and best of all, I’m working with almost two dozen people from my old job, several of which I count among my close friends.
  • Just now, I wrote my final paper for my class. I’m thrilled to be done with it, and haven’t felt this free or happy in a long time.
  • I have Big Plans for Xmas presents, my boyfriend is graduating with his BS, and I feel like I am getting back to a regular workout regimen again. I can finally appreciate how good life is again.

TL;DR:

Please forgive me my ramble! I have had a rough few months and I just had to make a mark on the internet for the exact moment when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel again!

I hope to get back into the habit of posting film reviews (I have a LOT of them in backlog!) regularly again, and reading other people’s blogs. I do miss catching up with folks!

Have a wonderful rest of your day! I hope we can catch up soon!

Real Life News Bulletin

My last day at work will be the 9th. It’s nothing to do with performance, and in fact they would have me back once things get better in the industry, but unfortunately there’s just not enough work right now. I work for a government contractor and we don’t have as much to do as we’d like, so there have been a LOT of cuts. I’m not the only one, either.

Howdy folks!

I have good news and bad news.

The good news is, I’ll be posting more frequently.

The bad news is, I’ll be posting more frequently because I am getting laid off.

*sad trumpet sound*

My last day at work will be the 9th. It’s nothing to do with performance, and in fact they would have me back once things get better in the industry, but unfortunately there’s just not enough work right now. I work for a government contractor and we don’t have as much to do as we’d like, so there have been a LOT of cuts. I’m not the only one, either.

But I’ve got several years’ experience in this industry behind me, plenty of resumes out floating around, and most importantly, an emergency fund saved up to see me through. And of course, there’s unemployment.

So I am worried, but not really worried. I have to say I’ve been planning for this since January. And while I had a new job and disposable income and such, I never REALLY forgot what being unemployed, broke, and desperate felt like. I don’t think anyone who’s felt it ever really does. So I tried to make sure my boyfriend and I live somewhat frugal lifestyles. I don’t go out for meals TOO much, rarely shop for anything but essentials, and try to save money where I can. I do treat myself once in a while, and even then it tends to be a single item.

So don’t worry for me! I’m fine, there are jobs out there, I’m smart and experienced and very professional. All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

(Although if you have any leads on instructional design or copywriting jobs in the Orlando area, send me an email!)

Old World Evil Entry Number 2: Hannibal (2001)

Lecter’s corruption extends to the audience, too. When some truly awful people (Mason Verger is a drug-addled billionaire and convicted pederast) come after him, Lecter defends himself: Pazzi tries to run some game and gets a gypsy boy and himself shanked, Verger tries to torture him to death and the result is probably the strangest thing Gary Oldman has ever had to do as an actor. And we find ourselves cheering for this predator of humans. After all, he has a moral code and he follows it, even protecting Starling when she is in danger. That is Verger’s fatal error – he thinks that Lecter is as corrupt and evil as he is, when in fact Verger is threatening one of the few people on earth Lecter cares about and respects.

Hannibal movie poster.jpg

For the record, I have never liked this poster. I get what they are doing: only part of his face is shown, the other side hidden in shadow, reminding us of his duality. One side of his personality is erudite, refined, the consummate gentleman, but we are not to be fooled – we must remember he is savage beneath the facade, as the red, demonic eye indicates. So I get that, but it just doesn’t work for me. I do like how it echoes Caravaggio’s use of light in his paintings, and he often depicted gruesome scenes in beautiful ways, so it has that going for it.

I knew who Hannibal Lecter was waaaaay before I ever saw Silence of the Lambs. He is as much an American cultural icon as Jason, John Wayne, or Tom Sawyer. I was about 12 when SOTL came out, which was a little young, so I didn’t see the film until I was 17 or so, and I was instantly fascinated.

Even though Lecter is a main character in SOTL, we spend very little time with him and never see him in his natural element. Every time he’s onscreen we’re riveted. We want more of this character. If you read Red Dragon and saw the film Manhunter, again your appetite was whetted for more.

So when the book Hannibal came out it caused quite a stir – finally, we would see Hannibal in his natural habitat! Free-roaming Lecter, at last! It promised to be the difference between seeing a tiger in the zoo and seeing one in the jungles of India: no walls, no rules.

The book definitely offered more than we had before – almost too much. The Hannibal parts were good, great even, but all the other stuff – Mason Verger and his bodybuilder sister who was omitted from the movie, the Italian crooked cop, the memory palace stuff, Krendler being a douche, and Starling’s fall from grace – there was just SO MUCH of it. It’s also entirely possible that SOTL as a book was good but not great, and the film turned it into something more memorable. I read the book about 20 years ago but can’t recall much of it- the movie has overridden it, I think.

But when we’re hanging out with Hannibal Lecter in his parts of the book, everything is awesome. 

Free-Range Hannibal
Hannibal-Lecter-in-Florence REALNESS

He hangs out in bistros sipping espresso from those little-bitty cups, demitasses. He wears amazing suits, hats, and sunglasses, and gloves all the time. The two latter are not just because he’s dressed to the nines – they allow him to hide his face from surveillance cameras and ensure he leaves no fingerprints behind. He creates individual bouquets of THE FANCIEST hand cream so he can write a letter to Starling on beautiful paper, sealed in red wax. The scent of the hand cream is intentional – it is a clue she can use in order to find him. He’s acting as the interim director of the Palazzo Vecchio, a museum/libarary in Florence, Italy under the name “Dr. Fell.” Even when he’s hanging out at home, his pajamas or whatever he’s wearing when Pazzi pays him a visit appear to be silk or maybe fine linen. During the scene he’s sipping red wine and treating the museum’s archives like a personal gift shop.

One of the movie’s many themes is corruption, and Hannibal’s corrupting effect on others. For example, an Italian cop in debt begins to suspect Hannibal. His wife has expensive tastes, and the huge reward that Mason Verger is offering for Lecter’s location and capture is too tempting for him to ignore, which leads to his demise. Starling too is corrupted, although she tries valiantly to warn the Italian authorities and Pazzi in particular about Lecter.  Verger was corrupted before he even wandered across Lecter’s path, but Verger himself acts as a corrupting influence on his own people: he has his private physician all tangled up in his evil schemes. (Ironically it’s Lecter who frees the man from the private hell he’s made for himself – given the choice between saving Verger and throwing him to the maneating pigs [long story], Lecter shouts ‘Hey Cordelle! Throw him in!  You can always say it was me!”).

Once Lecter realizes Verger is on to him, he decides he’s been away dallying in Italy too long, and heads stateside. He boosts walking shitbag Paul Krendler’s Amex and goes on a little shopping spree, and I am here to tell you that  if a ‘Hannibal Lecter’ cooking collection existed I would totally ruin my credit buying stuff from it. He purchases copper pots and pans , fancy dinnerware and flatware, flowers, and cooking tools, in addition to some Gucci shoes for Starling. Sur Le Table or Williams-Sonoma ought to get on that. Hell, even just an Amazon Wish List would be fascinating reading.

Thomas Harris and George R. R. Martin should start a catering business. Weirdest dinner party ever.

Lecter’s corruption extends to the audience, too. When some truly awful people (Mason Verger is a drug-addled billionaire and convicted pederast) come after him, Lecter defends himself:  Pazzi tries to run some game and gets a gypsy boy and himself shanked, Verger tries to torture him to death and the result is probably the strangest thing Gary Oldman has ever had to do as an actor. And we find ourselves cheering for this predator of humans. After all, he has a moral code and he follows it, even protecting Starling when she is in danger. That is Verger’s fatal error – he thinks that Lecter is as corrupt and evil as he is, when in fact Verger is threatening one of the few people on earth Lecter cares about and respects.

I am excited to watch the tv show with Mads Mikkaelson. I haven’t seen it yet, but all the fandom stuff I’ve seen has me curious to check it out. A friend said that the show has the same kind of cooking eyecandy that Hannibal the movie did, so I’m looking forward to it.

Hannibal the movie is available on Instant Watch. The show doesn’t seem to be, but I’ve heard it is available on Amazon Prime.

Bon Appetit!