October 18, 2012 by Julia
Movie: Rope, starring Jimmy Stewart and directed by Alfred Hitchcock (Released 1948)
This is probably tied with Rear Window for my favorite Hitchcock movie, in part because I adore Jimmy Stewart, and am a total sucker for old-fashioned movie sets depicting city landscapes. I love all the ambient noise coming through the windows: traffic, distant music, friendly yelling, the occasional siren, and the skyscraper windows lighting up as the “sun” goes down. Rope is especially full of ambiance, as it plays out in real time in one environment, with hardly a cut.
The premise is creepy, of course. Two twenty-something guys decide to strangle a colleague whom they deem to be inferior, just for the heck of it – a justified social experiment, survival of the fittest, they’re doing the world a favor by weeding out the mediocre people, etc. And then just to spice things up, they immediately hold a dinner party with friends and family of the victim, on the chest hiding the actual body. Jimmy Stewart plays Rupert, a guest who is an old mutual professor of the killers and the victim. One of the killers is remorseless and has to resist boasting about what he’s done; the other killer is a nervous wreck who keeps playing an eerie little piece on the piano while breaking out in flop sweat. I love the eerie little piece, too. Jimmy is cranky and suspicious and righteous and wonderful. The whole thing is a neat, tense little package of suspenseful storytelling.
Album: Vows, Kimbra (Released 2012)
This is one of the few albums released this year that held my attention from beginning to end. See, I like new stuff, too! Actually, I am always, always looking for new music. Thank God for Spotify.
The first track, Settle Down, might be the best one. It has so many things going for it – all of which add up to make it interesting and melodically satisfying. It has this awesome, quirky handclap beat that expands after the first verse into a bass-heavy thump that makes me want to do my best interpretive dance while cooking dinner. There are lots of layers. I am a fan of layers – harmonizing, interesting mixing, quiet/loud, slow/fast, what have you. And then to top it all off, the lyrics are actually pretty funny and unexpected: all about settling down together and having a kid named Nebraska Jones and making vows. Watching the video, it looks as though she’s actually saying girls shouldn’t settle down too quickly or they’ll sell themselves short. Pro-wifedom or anti-wifedom, I just like the juxtaposition of the words with the music.
Other tracks that have especially grown on me are Home, Posse and Good Intent. If you like Feist, Sia or Regina Spektor, Kimbra is totes worth checking out. I wouldn’t mind being her for a day or two, shoot a quirky music video in a retro dress, have coffee with Gotye, get all dramatic and yodel-y in the shower. You know the drill.
Book: Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon, published 1995
I read this book after having fallen asleep to the movie twice – no offense to Tobey Maguire or Michael Douglas, both of whom I like very much. I loved Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and thought I’d give this a try during a trip to Alaska. It turned out to be perfect. Through the power of the characters, Chabon drew me in to the admittedly meandering story, which involves a sad-sack womanizing professor/author and an oddball student/possible literary genius as they go on misadventures over the course of a long and hilariously melodramatic weekend. The people involved jumped off the page and made me laugh out loud with their crazy-making humanity. The themes of the writing life, and coming-of-age were nice bonuses for me, too. It was warm and enjoyable and observant. I savored every moment of the non-guilty pleasure it provided. (Isn’t non-guilty pleasure great? Maybe even better than guilty pleasures.)
(Side note: I actually enjoyed this waaay more than the Pulitzer Prize winning The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which felt very ambitious yet not satisfying to me. It didn’t come alive – it was like I could see all the mechanics, which stripped away the magic. It was a struggle for me to get through. I’m of course aware that my opinion is subjective, and many people love the book.)