Category: Watched Things

Cute Native American Art

John and I are Antiques Roadshow fans. I like the stories behind small artifacts in people’s lives; he likes to make fun of how the “jackpot” winners pretend that they are not going to immediately sell their grandmother’s vase that they had always thought was ugly anyway.

The finds on AR are often ugly, or beautiful, or confusing—they’re rarely cute, like this neat-o 1920s Navajo rug featured on last week’s show.


I love the geometric shapes and the simplicity of the figures—especially the minimalist faces.


As I was oohing and ahhing over it, the appraiser mentioned that the Navajo were reluctant to make these kinds of weavings for commercial purposes because they contained religious motifs. That made me think twice about getting too inspired by it, except in a general way. There’s something a little uncomfortable about the thought of using a motif because you think it’s cute and pretty when it has sacred meanings to a group of people. I think it’s unlikely that I would unintentionally cross this kind of line, but it’s interesting to think about nevertheless.

By the way, the rug ended up being worth between three and five thousand dollars. It’s not getting stepped on anytime soon!

Summer Reading

My July 4th weekend consisted largely of reading and sleeping in the grass. How appropriate that I was reading this book.


I loved it. It’s been a long time since I got excited about a book, so I feel the need to spread the word. As you can see, it’s The Accidental by Ali Smith. It came out a few years ago.

While I’m talking of new favorite things, the best movie I saw recently was Please Give (not spectacular, but unexpectedly good), and in the music category I’ve been enjoying The National’s Boxer (admittedly late to this one too).

Work of Art on Bravo

Update: It looks like John will be reviewing Work of Art weekly on the A.V. Club! You can read all of his reviews here.

If you’re a fan of Project Runway-style reality shows, you might be interested in checking out tonight’s premiere of Work of Art, a new “creative challenge” show, on Bravo at 11 pm.


I’m pretty unsure how well an art-based competition show will work over the course of a season, but that’s part of what intrigues me about it. John reviewed it on the A.V. Club website, so you can see what he has to say before setting your DVR. (I caught a peek at the preview copy the other day as he was watching it, and thankfully the scary clown on an easel is not the best it has to offer.)

2009 “Best of”s

How about some “best-of” lists for 2009? I don’t keep up with all the latest in any media, but here’s what I enjoyed this year anyway.

Best new movies
In the Loop
Up in the Air

Best new-to-me movies
Paris, Texas (1984)
Notes on a Scandal (2006)

Best new album
Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion

Best new-to-me albums
The Fiery Furnaces’ Blueberry Boat (2004)
Parenthetical Girls’ Entanglements (2008)
John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme (1964)

Best new TV
Mad Men
Friday Night Lights
Parks and Recreation
Curb Your Enthusiasm

Best new-to-me TV
Friday Night Lights (The first 3 seasons)

Best new book
Turns out I didn’t read any 2009 books this year! But I read a lot of new short fiction, particularly from Tin House.
Oh, I forgot The Believers by Zoe Heller!

Best new-to-me book
Beloved by Toni Morrison (1998)

Best new game
Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure

Best new-to-me games
LEGO Batman (2008)
Rock Band 2 (2008)

Best new cats
Soupy and Nipsey!


August 09 Movies

August turned out to be a big movie-watching month for me. Here are the movies I saw and what I thought upon seeing.

In the theater


You, The Living

The rave reviews that this “quirky” film from Denmark received seemed too good to be true, and it was indeed pretty unpleasant! I will never enjoy the tuba again. And the vignettes! No more “vignette” movies for a while.

Julie & Julia

Meryl Streep as Julia was delightful and amazing. As much as I love Amy Adams, though (and I do), Julie could have choked on a duck bone for all I cared about her story. But then the movie would never have been made, I guess. It was a pretty good movie.



This is the 2007 French animated movie about a girl growing up in Iran. The animation was great, the Iran stuff was interesting, the main character (and her English voice acting) was just-OK/bordering-on-annoying. I recommend it.


Gold Diggers of 1933

The perfect economic downturn movie! Everyone should see this before the year is up and the recovery is official. It opens with showgirls decked out in “sexy” costumes made of coins and singing “We’re in the Money.” Classic Busby Berkley, with musical numbers that are both brilliant and very odd. The plot is stupid, of course.


Heavenly Creatures

This is Peter Jackson’s movie about two girls who murdered one of their mothers in New Zealand in the 1950s, starring Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey (pictured). The fantasy sequences reminded me of the kinds of movies that I watched over and over again as a kid, like Labyrinth and The Princess Bride. The film’s commitment to getting into the girls’ lively imaginations made the murder all the more disturbing, and I probably liked Kate Winslet in this more than in anything else I’ve seen her in.


Annie Hall

Nothing needs to be said about this classic, only that the OETA Movie Club is awesome.

July 09 Movies

When I wasn’t knitting tiny things in July, I watched a few movies. Here are the movies that I saw and what I thought of them.

In the theater

The Hangover

I had heard from a trusted source (who will go unnamed) that this was a funny movie. Eh, it started out pretty funny, then it got progressively less so. Also, the plot didn’t really work for me, even as a silly comedy plot. I give it a C+. (The plus is for Ed Helms. I met him once!)


In the Loop

A funny and very smart political satire, with not one lagging moment. The best movie I’ve seen in a theater in a really long time. John overheard a woman saying that she “didn’t laugh once” as we were exiting the theater, which was almost as funny as the movie. I suppose she didn’t like the bad language.


I kind of liked this small movie. The acting was done in a natural style and the whole thing was very sensitive. There was one scene that employed horrible tinkly indie music, but since it was just one scene, I could forgive it for that.




Everybody seems to know about Stanley Kubric’s Lolita, but no one seems to have actually seen it, as far as I can tell. So I decided to see it, and I liked it. By far my favorite thing about it was Peter Sellers as Quilty (Humbert Humbert’s rival). He is so great! The girl who played Lolita, Sue Lyon, was also very good. Unfortunately she doesn’t appear to have had much of a successful acting career after this.


You’ve Got Mail

I can explain this one. See, John and I have been watching the reruns of Frasier on Lifetime lately, and because they come on several times a day, our DVR is often set to that channel already when I turn the TV on. So when I feel like watching television at other times and there’s nothing on but a Meg Ryan movie WITH commercials that I can fast forward through… so it just happened.

I totally have memories of my own AOL days, so that aspect of the movie (and the way that the Internet spurs some heated debate in some scenes) is sort of interesting. The rest? Not so much, and really dated, and so what if I teared up a little at the end.

June 09 Movies

I like movies, so why not write a few quick reviews of what I’ve seen lately? I might start summing up all the movies I see at the end of every month, just for fun.

In the theater:


I bet a lot of you have seen Up. Up was very good! I liked the character development (and yay for a cute old guy as the hero) and the way that the house served as a metaphor throughout the entire movie. This May New York Times feature on the way Pixar worked on the character designs made me want to see the movie, and it was also a little inspirational. Animation seems like fun (hard work, though).



Not great! I hadn’t heard much about Departures, but since it won Best Foreign Film at the Oscars this year, I figured it was worth seeing. It was like a just-OK made for TV movie: the characters were good, the story was not bad, but it was so sappy and cliche that I was kind of embarrassed to be watching it in public. For me, a redeeming quality was that the Japanese language was simple and so it was fun to follow along. But surely there were other movies made in other non-US countries in 2008 that were much better.


A Streetcar Named Desire

I was reading something about the career of Marlon Brando and that’s why I decided to rent this. He is great in Streetcar! And cute! But the Blanche DuBois character (played by Vivien Leigh) was a complete turnoff. I guess that’s on purpose, but knowing that didn’t make it easier to watch. The theatricality of the whole thing was a bit much for me, but I could more or less appreciate the directing and so on. Seeing Streetcar for the first time also made me want to re-watch that episode of The Simpsons in which Marge and Ned Flanders perform the play in a local theater production. I bet it will be funnier to me now.

The Remains of the Day

I think I rented The Remains of the Day because I had recently read Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go and I learned that he also wrote the novel that this movie is based on. And I like Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. The movie was very good—sad and frustrating to see how their relationship plays out, but also interesting to see the day-to-day lives of the butlers and maids in an English manor in the 1930s. If you haven’t seen it, or if you haven’t seen it in 15 years, I would recommend it.


My Dinner with Andre

This 1981 movie was finally just released on DVD. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s two guys eating dinner and talking for two hours. Quite literally! This is my favorite line from the film:

“OK, we are bored. We are bored now.”

At least at that particular moment, it perfectly summed up how I was feeling about My Dinner with Andre: a lot of the time, I found myself wanting to interrupt Andre (played by Andre Gregory, as more or less himself) and change the subject from boring artist-hippie retreats to something, anything else. It certainly was a different kind of film, and that was a little interesting, but I just wish that the conversation had been a little more balanced. Wallace Shawn (also playing himself) makes some attempt to counter Andre’s nonsense in the second half, but they’re both speaking from within what seems to me like a very dated worldview (dated even for the early ’80s), in which people and experiences are either “fake” or “real,” with nothing in between. Bleh.

On TV:

Sometimes I watch (usually bad) movies on TV because I have nothing better to do, but not this month.


Last Chance Harvey

On Friday John and I took a bus to New Hampshire, and the traffic getting out of the city was so bad that the driver played two movies instead of the usual one. The second one was Last Chance Harvey and hey, I like Emma Thompson, and Dustin Hoffman has his charm too. Too bad that the movie was pretty mediocre, even for a romance about an older couple. I don’t really have much else to say about it, except that it was a fine way to spend a couple hours of a 7-hour bus ride.

Boy this post turned out much longer than I had expected! Maybe in the future I’ll just write about movies as I see them instead of saving them for the end of the month.

Look Around You

Here is a new (to me) television show that I’m pretty excited about. Look Around You is a British spoof on early 1980s educational science shows, done in a deadpan style that is totally spot-on. (Anybody remember 321 Contact?) Most of the people I’ve mentioned it to haven’t seen it, so I thought I would post a clip here.

The show originally aired in the UK a few years back, and it’s now being shown in the US on Adult Swim. (The later episodes include a cast of friendly hosts, but I think I prefer the documentary-style episodes like the one above.)