Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Jonathan in Williamsburg and Margot At The Wedding

So far, I have lived in Williamsburg for three full weeks (this is my fourth week), and aside from having to stand most of the time for my entire ride on the L and A/C/E trains to get to and from work, it isn’t all that bad. I’m still getting my city legs, as it were. I mean, I love walking and it was one of the primary reasons I wanted to move out of the sticks (standup comedy, socializing and career options being the others), but I’m still adjusting to walking all the time again. Mind you, I’m no slouch. For shits and giggles last weekend, I walked from my apartment to Chinatown, crossing the Williamsburg Bridge in the process. It took me about 40 minutes, all told (I think I got where I was going in the same amount of time I would have had I taken the J train).

I’ve had a blast so far, having caught up with some friends from college that I haven’t seen in excess of a decade, and catching up with close friends I’ve missed since their own moves westward. Three full weeks and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to stop into a cafe for a bit to write down some thoughts electronically. Of course, most of what I was thinking I would type out is totally gone from my memory banks. Other things are too fresh to post now. In due time, there will be more stories. All just a part of life in the big city.

I’ve been going back and forth to Long Island on the weekends to pack up more and more of my crap. I am not into material possessions, as it were, but I AM a record collector. This puts me in kind of a quandary. I want to own less things, but all I own are records and CDs and tapes (well, and books and DVDs, to be fair, but if I had a smaller CD collection, like say, more normal people, it wouldn’t be an issue), and I am concerned that my furniture won’t fit in my bedroom in my apartment (although my bedroom is bigger than my previous occupancy, a quaint summer cottage on the water deep in suburbia that I lived in year-round, there was a living room and a front porch where all my CDs seemed to reside, all over everything). Mostly, I just want to have my bed and my TV in my room. And my other chair. I’ve been waiting for my other roommate to get back from tour to move the bigger items, because he has a van. I think he has returned from tour, but I haven’t seen him yet. I hope we at least stay in this place for a little while. Hauling all my belongings up three flights of stairs ought to last me awhile. Especially considering that I haven’t moved really in nearly seven years (I hardly count moving across the driveway, although my brother still managed to drop one of my speakers, breaking the peg that fastens the grille to the body of the speaker).

I made pretty good use of being on Long Island for the extended holiday weekend, though. On Thanksgiving, I saw “Margot At The Wedding” AND “The Giant Claw!” First off, I will preface my comments on “Margot” with the disclosure that I am a HUGE fan of Noah Baumbach, going back to several years ago when IFC would show “Kicking and Screaming” (not the Will Ferrell vehicle about kids playing soccer) in regular rotation, all because I heard that Dean Wareham did the music for his film “Mr. Jealousy.” As a big fan of Galaxie 500 and Luna, I knew it had to be good. Oh, and it was. Needless to say, I am a fan of Whit Stillman’s movies, as well. That whole Upper West Side intelligentsia thing that I had sort of mythologized and romanticized when I was a youngster (I envied my Uncle as I helped him move into his Chelsea co-op, imagining how amazing it must be to work and live in the center of the city).

Anyways, I had high expectations for “Margot” based on previous Baumbach excursions. I had heard some negative rumblings, but I held them in check until I could see for myself. First of all, let me say some nice things about the film. Jack Black was fantastic. He gets to show a serious, sensitive side that we should get to see more. Jennifer Jason Leigh is always wonderful, and her turn as Pauline is no exception. The actors playing the teenagers are superb as well. Unfortunately for all other parties involved, Nicole Kidman can’t even muster up enough emotion to portray a cold, neurotic bitch. Margot is a role that seems written for Parker Posey. Granted, that was probably what everyone would expect her to play, but I think the film would have been helped considerably by that casting choice. I mean, the film is a character study (it certainly isn’t an exercise in plot writing), so why bother employing an actor who can’t show depth? Margot is a complex woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She should vacillate between barbed insults and overly prodding suggestions and sheer lunacy. Ms. Kidman doesn’t really do this character justice.

What’s funny to me is that while I enjoyed watching this film, and I enjoyed a lot of the dialogue and pithy barbs tossed at a steady stream to whomever is in the room with whichever character opens his or her mouth, I was disappointed with the way it ended. The reason this is funny us because I am a big fan of Raymond Carver’s short stories, which are generally just snapshots of characters’ lives. They rarely start at the beginning or have a real end. Carver tended to fill in the colors, almost like a still-life with words. I love his approach. Yet, apply this approach to this film, and it left me perturbed. Is that a double-standard? Having said that, I would like to watch this again, and not just because Jennifer Jason Leigh gives the camera a little something something in one scene.

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