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Monday, August 31, 2009

From Le Guin to Bradbury

前年不知讲到什么,话头转到了 Ray Bradbury,我说起小时候(颇小,十岁左右吧)在中文科幻小说杂志上看见他的短篇 The Fog Horn,悲从(不知啥玩意儿)中来。后来到了美国,某日起意在图书馆翻出含此篇的小说集看了下原版,又哭。听了我的控诉之后, S 同学翻了翻他的箱子,搜出一本蒲公英酒 (Dandelion Wine),极老旧的短篇集,说他觉得太平淡太闷且几乎没什么科幻内容,看不下去,送给我。

昨天说起 Ursula Le Guin,以及为什么一本小薄书 A Wizard of the Earthsea 看了一礼拜多还看不完。不知道为什么,每隔一阵就 TMD 的让我无端端地伤感。于是我连带承认终究还是没看完蒲公英酒,看不下去,隔两篇就要哇哇大哭一场,臭老头臭老太,我服了你了还不行么?

可是,此生终究要把这本书看完的(这就是借书的好处了,还书之前不看完就难受),最好再回去把蒲公英酒也看完。哭死算了。

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Lone Star



两个主角 Elizabeth Pena 和 Chris Cooper。

在某些方面 John Sayles 的代表作 Lone Star (1996) 对我的意义跟《高度戒备》 有点象,留下极深的印象,在某种程度上改变了我看世界(美国)的眼光。现在重看毫不褪色,只有更喜欢。这是一部接近完美的影片,从剧本到导演到一大班演员,到摄影和音乐(用了不少很有风味的老歌),将一堆无穷复杂的话题举重若轻地揉合在一起。

Sayles 不是德州人,那时候也不知什么原因,对德州的历史和人文特征发生了浓厚的兴趣(后来兴趣又转向外国)。他一直在自己的作品里探索 Americana 和别的文化的社会和人文含义(李安也是类似的兴趣,但我却远远更喜欢 Sayles 的思路)。他拍的电影全是自己写自己筹钱自己拍摄,决不让大公司操纵一根线,是在 Cassavetes 之后是最纯粹的独立影人。有些人觉得他的一些作品里有太多的政治色彩 (例如 Matewan 和 Men with Guns),但是他的另一些作品却跟政治毫无关系,而是纯粹对人生和命运的讨论 (例如 Limbo) 甚至神话题材 (The Secret of Roan Inish),总之涉猎极广极杂。可以看得出,他并不是以政治立场决定艺术表现和态度,而是反过来,他对人性和社会的观察和态度导致了他的政治立场。所以他的作品有视角有主题,但并不说教。

Lone Star 是他的作品中娱乐性和故事性最强的,原因是剧本的结构借用了传统的侦探悬疑套路。一开头,德州临界墨西哥某镇附近的沙漠里挖出了一具二十年前的尸体,警长Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) 调查发现死人是当年的警长Charlie Wade。Wade 以暴戾腐败著称,某日失踪后接替他的 Buddy Deeds, Sam 的父亲,成为此镇历史上最受爱戴的好人警长。但是 Sam 从小就跟父亲矛盾重重,特别是因为父亲花心搞外遇,对母亲冷淡,令他一早逃离家乡,在别处晃荡了二十年父母都过世才回来,被当地政客推着接替死去的爹的旧职。他回来的一个主要原因是青梅竹马的爱人,镇上墨西哥餐馆儿老板娘 Mercedes 的女儿 Pilar (Elizabeth Pena) 仍然在本地当中学教师,她现在是个寡妇,他已经离婚,他们还在深深相爱。中年人的爱情,很少见到这么诚恳坦白不装蒜仍然笨拙而痴情的描写。

这是一个关于历史的故事, Sam 跟父亲 Buddy 的历史,Pilar 之母亲 Mercedes 的历史,酒馆的黑人老板跟在军队里当军官的儿子 (Joe Morton) 之间的家庭矛盾史。在这些家庭与个人的历史的背后是这片土地的历史---美国与墨西哥,白人、墨西哥人、黑人、印第安人,大家的历史混杂在一起,充满了独特的矛盾斗争与爱恨交错,跟美国其他地方的社会和种族关系的历史既有相似之处却又有重大差别。我能感觉到,John Sayles 的好奇心远远压倒他的政治观点,谢天谢地,他宁可不动声色地描述复杂而模棱两可的现实和人性,而不跳进去发表议论和道德评论。 【我想:这是为什么好的艺术家多半是自由思想派的原因,因为保守派思想倾向于硬邦邦的道德立场,很少人能够描绘混乱矛盾的人性而不加评论】

Lone Star 影片中充满了模棱两可的人物和关系,谁也不是圣人,而纯粹的坏人只有 Wade 一人,不过他只是一个 plot device。所以这又是一个关于表象与真相的故事,每个人都有一个外表性格和真实内心,虽然后者连自己也未必承认接受。这些主题都融合在一起 --- 如果你想要了解到一个人或者一个地方的真实本质,就逃避不了挖掘他或它的真实历史,而且得做好思想准备,接受深深浅浅的灰色,没有黑白分明的答案。

Sayles 喜欢拍 ensemble 的戏,总是弄一大群长期合作的演员,都是肯拿很少的工资替他白干活的。这里面的 ensemble 质量很高,除了 Mercedes 老太太以外,其他演员都非常出色。 Cooper 和 Pena 自不必说,戏份很少的配角也半步都未走错,连只有一场戏的 Frances McDormand (演 Sam 的前妻,一个 bipolar 足球狂)都抢眼得不得了(这还是在她因 Fargo 而轰动之前)。很大一个因素是剧本写得好,对话非常有性格,非常含蓄细腻,到处都是双关语,让人回味半天,很多感情戏和对手戏都是言语之外的暗示和流露,又充满幽默和深意。当年看此片时,印象最深的是 Joe Morton,那时候他出镜率颇高 (Speed, Terminator 2),人很低调但是演技特别厉害,而且声音也很好听。他的表演非常细腻微妙,但是能把观众的注意力抓得紧紧的,细微的声调变化,稍微扬扬眉毛,精确地表达感情,连嗓门都不用抬高,高手啊。正因为他的演技太 subtle 了,人太聪明了,而且因为他是黑人,所以绝大多数导演们根本不知道怎么用他。在此片中虽然是配角,但这是他演过的最有戏最有层次的一个角色。

Sayles 其实是很文艺的,但是并不喜欢玩花里胡哨的手法技巧。在 Lone Star 里面,我特别喜欢他融合闪回和现实戏的手法,极其朴素,极其有效,完全是有机地为主题服务 --- 现实不能摆脱历史的 haunting,不管今人如何努力地想忘记过去。

几年以后有人以美国的种族关系和矛盾为主题拍了 Crash,有人很喜欢,有人很厌恶。且不说它的质量和成就,单从表现主题的艺术手法来看,跟 Lone Star 相比就逊色太远太远了,人物描写也相对太苍白无力。Lone Star 讲的东西既包括又远远超过种族和社会的问题,将社会国家民族的“大话题”跟个人内心深处的“小话题”(加引号是因为我自己并不这么看待大vs小话题)融合为一体,充满感慨却又不简单化,对大小问题都拒绝下定论做评判。很少有一部影片包含这么丰富这么多层次这么有机复杂的内容。例如,关于种族矛盾和冲突,只取 Joe Morton 跟新近女兵的一段对话戏为例,短短五分钟,三言两语,就极其精彩地讲出了这个问题的复杂和无奈,戏尾的一句话,Morton 轻微的一声叹息,甚至都没有拍面部表情,一切都那么微妙,一眨眼就错过了。我简直没有见过比这更真实更完美的处理。

Sayles 讲故事和剪裁的手法反应了他看待人生和历史的态度(我认为)。他的故事给人一种很强的感觉:这些人物在这个故事的框架之外仍有漫长的人生和其他故事,你们观众看到的故事只是他们的人生(以及历史)的短暂一瞬,过去有很多未曾言及的历史,未来亦有更多未知的经历,没有明显的开头和收尾,余味无穷。(同样的特点在 Limbo 中更加明显。)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

正在读

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin。很薄一本,虽然 fantasy 不是我那杯茶,却放不下。

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mad Men

刚看完 George Smiley 控诉情报机关的官僚无人性, Mad Men 又来一笔大公司的官僚及无人性,只不过没有那么血淋淋而已。

Mad Men drives me mad. 真是此分钟不知下一分钟会发生什么事。他们这些编剧是怎么维持每一集都充满了意料之外又情理之中的惊奇转折呢?!

中间有一段写广告的 Peggy 跟 Don Draper 抱怨 diet pepsi 的广告多么蠢多么傻多么无厘头,二十五岁女人扮十四岁,逗得 the boys 咯咯傻笑。"It's so phony." Don 疲倦地回答,你是写广告的,不是艺术家,不需要真情实感,"Keep some tools in your tool box." 妈的,看得我差点哭出来。虽然不是搞间谍活动,写广告一样杀死灵魂。

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

在本地图书馆看见这套DVD,十分整齐,没人识货没人借,我就借回来周末看完。虽然风格非常近似,但我觉得比 Smiley's People 好看不少,主要是剧本情节的线索和层次递进更有条理,更抓人;SP 的中心情节一直拖到最后才讲出来,前面一多半都让人摸不着头脑。不知道是否因为 TTSS 的剧本完全是另一个人写的,而 SP 的剧本是 LeCarre 与另一个作者(babysitter? 清道夫?)合写的缘故。

老一辈英国演员真是 ... 唉,充满自信。镜头停留在脸上半天,没有半点急吼吼地要表现什么,细腻得要死,抬抬眼皮,掸下烟灰,牵牵嘴角。不过倒很喜欢演被排挤出门的 Head of Research Connie 的老太太,风湿关节炎的细节完全真实。

TTSS 据说是建立在 Kim Philby 的真实事件之上编的。一刀一刀地扎在情报部门盘根错节的官僚内幕上,简直就是 TMD 控诉文学。最搞笑的是,这些蠢事全是真的,谁也编不出这么荒谬的故事来。看得出 LeCarre (以及他的理想化身 Smiley)还是心怀一定的理想主义,不能真的用冷漠隔离和玩世不恭的态度来看待爱国主义和 "the cause" 这些东西。但是作为毛姆和 Greene 的读者,以及非大英帝国的子民,我这个旁观者难免得到黄粱一梦的结论。冷战时期真有大量的 double agents,你喂我一点情报,我喂你一点情报,彼此交换,彼此卧底,彼此策反。英国的MI6有很长一段几乎就是被苏联驾驭,经常弄点小来来的成就,哄得 White Hall 心花怒放。如故事中的间接傀儡 Percy Alleline,升官发财,政绩昭彰,哄得大家皆大欢喜。莫斯科那边 Karla 也从同一棵树上摘果子,一样步步高升。两边的间谍机构看似死敌,倒更像一个双头一体的怪物,互相依赖寄生,从各自政府手里不停讹到更多的资金和人手和权力,用来继续维持自己生存的意义。这跟那个“我们在哈瓦那的人”有啥区别? It's an existential joke. 人类社会的生产力提高了,不需要人人都种田耕地养活自己,多出那么多闲人来干啥?瞎折腾,给自己制造生存和发达的借口。

唯一让我觉得腻味的是每个人物时时刻刻都要拿 Anne Smiley 出来说事,当场给 George Smiley 没脸。次数太多,没完没了,到后来我都听烦了。这说明啥?英国人有礼貌和内敛的说法是子虚乌有的谣言?抑或作者自有关于不忠女人的 obsession?金庸就对“不忠的女人”很有 obsession,动不动就写出来泄愤。换作毛姆,拿来调侃下搞不定男女关系的英国男人,才好玩呢。

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Cold Souls



It is lovely and haunting and genuinely funny.

很多人把 Sophie Barthes 的这部影片跟 Charlie Kaufman 相比,都是 "What if?" 类型的在现实里异想天开的故事。Kaufman 的片子我只看过两部 Being John Malkovich 和 Adaptation,都觉得有点虎头蛇尾的印象,设定太鬼马了,反而伤害了整个故事情节的发展,两部片子都是还没到第三幕我已经不记得他在讲什么了,只 记得第一幕的神奇设定。所以对于 “冷灵魂” 我也没抱太大的希望,但是看完以后却觉得超值,第三幕之后并不失望。

情节设定被每个影评都 揭露了,很简单,就是抽取和储存灵魂的服务啦。Paul Giamatti 演契诃夫的 Uncle Vanya 演得走火入魔了,心情沉重得吃不消了,跑去抽灵魂。 Giamatti 和医生 (David Stathairn) 之间有两段笑抽掉的对手戏。

抽灵魂的技术听上去很玄,但是 Sophie Barthes 把一切都搞得颇为简单直接和低技术。

然 后,事情没有象 Giamatti 希望的那样发展 --- 事情总不会象人物期望的那样发展。没有了灵魂的他,虽然心情象只高飞的风筝,(讽刺加暗示“灵魂被狗吃了”的弦外之音)却演不好戏了!还小小地来了一段演 得奇臭的 Uncle Vanya,爆笑。其实这是一个很值得停留想一想的理论,没有灵魂的轻松愉快,跟高明的演技(还有讲故事 --- 我加一句)是 contraindicated,不能同时在一个人身上出现。不过, Barthes 没有停留,继续下一步情节,他的灵魂被走私到俄国去了,因为走私灵魂的大老板的美女太太是个演员,吵着要一个美国大明星的灵魂。Giamatti 暂时用上了一个俄国女人的灵魂,急急忙忙地想把自己的灵魂追回来。

因为这是一部喜剧,又是小成本,没有大老板撑腰吹捧,Paul Giamatti 的表演估计也不会得到大批人的推崇和宣传,但实际上细细观察,他演得可真好。很多场戏里根本没有一句台词解释,全靠肢体和表情,立刻把人物当时的心情和思 想传递得清清楚楚。他可不是 Brad Pitt,土豆口袋一样身体被拖来拖去,搬来搬去,经常瘫倒在床上,椅子上,让我这个肚腩控看得口水直流,恨不得上去捏一把、揉两下。

据 说,Barthes 的灵感来源不是 Kaufman (我完全同意,在灵魂上两个人完全不同),而是果戈里(死灵魂)和 Woody Allen (Barthes 做过一个梦,梦见 Woody Allen 发现自己的灵魂是一粒豆之后暴跳如雷),当然还有 Chekhov。

影片 的后半段十分低调但并不敷衍,有点梦幻色彩。灵魂是什么样儿,相信每个人都有不同的 vision,而编导的 vision ,颇有诗意但并不煽情,倒也合适。结尾静静地落幕时,一开始我的第一反应是,哎?还是有点 Kaufman 的虎头蛇尾,没有高潮嘛。但是一分钟以后立刻明白自己错了,不,这是故意的仿 Chekhov 式的结尾。高潮的有,只不过故意被低调处理,然后用清淡回味的手法画上最后一笔,非常隽永。

影片有很强的半俄国味儿,放在一个很现代美国的环境里,效果是种奇妙的陌生和倾斜感。后来一查,哦,原来 Barthes 是法国人。难怪感觉不美国呢,但也并不法国。

Bleeding Heart 完

看完了。觉得 Ian Rankin 跟我大概气场不合,或者化学作用不对。这本杀手故事和前一本间谍故事,其实都没有任何让我反感的成分,但是也没有抓住我的东西。最后给他一个机会,看一本 Rebus, 如果再不合就算了。

不过还是有好玩的地方,例如,把美国写成过枪瘾的 Wild West,对美国的观察,玩两岸英文的游戏。因为有几乎一半的内容是美国背景,特别让美国读者对比两边用词的差别,例如car boot/trunk,housing scheme/project。我忍不住想他是不是写完了让一个美国朋友帮他修改这些用词。

下面看什么涅? John Scalzi 的幽默科幻还是Ursula Le Guin 的地海?

或者编自己的故事娱乐,都想好了题目 "Let Them Eat Meat"。好想找个故纸堆躲起来,与世隔绝。

Friday, August 21, 2009

Funny



我只看过一个 Henry James 的短篇,还是很久以前的事了。他的小说改编的电影倒是看过两部。今天无事翻了翻 Wikipedia 里的资料,发现一些很好笑的东西。

Critics have jokingly described three phases in the development of James's prose: "James the First, James the Second, and The Old Pretender"

H.G. Wells harshly portrayed James as a hippopotamus laboriously attempting to pick up a pea that has got into a corner of its cage.

捶地大笑。

一个很奇怪的现象。Henry James 家里颇富裕,而且他自己的文学事业也颇成功,著作等身,想必从来不需要担心衣食,但是他的小说里常常讲关于钱的事情。钱钱钱,有钱的怕失去或者被人骗去,没钱的拼命去搞钱,由穷变富的被腐败,最后大家两败俱伤。放在 Dickens 身上很好理解,为什么 James 也对钱的主题那么耿耿于怀念念不忘涅?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Smiley's People




This is a slow-paced and deliberate TV series. I don't know in what country this kind of filmmaking is still around any more. Scenes go on for a full minute. Characters are allowed speak slowly. Very interesting and absorbing. Nowadays even British spy series are frantic (eg, MI-5) and barely coherent.

I remember Alec Guiness' voice very well, because I have seen Star Wars too many times -- "Luke. Use the Force!"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tantalizing gossips

Frankly, I don't know why I'm even writing this down. Shame on me.

Rumor has it that the 2009 US Men's Champion Jeremy Abbott dated and was later dumped by Drew Meekins, who had previously dated and then dumped the 3-time US Men's Champion Johnny Weir. Who the f_ck is Meekins? A mere pairs skater with no particular fame, yet apparently is absolutely irresistible and has an impressive posse of admirers and defenders.

The female version of Meekins might be the Canadian pairs skater Jessica Dube, who looks cute and wholesome. Nobody would suspect her for such a lethal seductress by just looking at her. Yet she has already caused at least one barfight between two top Canadian male skaters --- her own pairs partner Bryce Davison and the top Canadian ice dancer Scott Moir. Then there are rumors that she is "quite a player" and has been messing around with others in the skating circle, including the past world champion David Pelletier. Unfortunately Bryce Davison is still holding a torch for her, which has made their working partnership a big mess. Ironically --- or perhaps deliberately --- their freeskate was "Carmen" last year and "The Way We Were" this year. Art imitating life, as they say.

There are more bizarre and dramatic nuggets in Jessica Dube's personal history. Quick, someone make a TV series about her! The girl lives on the edge --- the blade's edge!



Dube & Davison

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bleeding Heart

看完了三分之二。情节是满紧凑的,也不乏巧妙之处,但是我总觉得很难彻底地带入其中的几个主要人物。女主角有点 naive 又有点 ditsy, 二号男主角是典型的“丑陋的美国人”,一号男主角是一个心地善良的杀手。每每让我想起 Raymond Chandler 的抱怨,“别跟我说心地善良的黑帮份子,心地善良的人不会去当黑帮的”。这个文弱(有血友病)而且无恶意的男主角,忽然开始反省自己的职业(收钱杀人)道德,有点儿缺乏说服力哎。当然我不反对偶尔来来这种饭特希,不过,这把年纪了,有点咽不下去。

倒是描写苏格兰北方景色,虽然短,却颇传神。好吧,我被说服了,如果要去,绝不自己开车。Ian Rankin 通过“丑陋美国男”的视角对苏格兰和英国大加贬斥百般讥讽,也许是最有趣的段落啦。反过来,男女主角又跑到美国太平洋西岸猎奇一番。大概他想玩一通文化比较吧?

我知道他在这里是玩角色颠覆。杀手善良敏感,侦探粗野而滥用药物。且对比英国人(但不是苏格兰人)与美国人的反差。美国侦探的章节特别用美国英语的口吻写出来,穿插对比英国视角,还真有点 Two countries separated by a common language 的味道。

Sunday, August 16, 2009

District 9



After the climax and near the end, when the human villain was torn to pieces by aliens, someone in the theater cheered and applauded. It attested to the the achievement of Neill Blomkamp that by now our sympathy was firmly on the aliens' side against humans --- and the aliens weren't even cute or particularly anthropomorphic. Buggy-eyed childlike E.T. they ain't, although they did like to eat cat food.

It is not easy to feel all warm and fuzzy about humanity nowadays. Perhaps the world has always been violent and dark and depressing, but meanness and cruelty have never been so vividly exposed and close to home since the 1970s.

The movie left out much explanation, although perhaps that was not a fatal deficiency, since the main narrative was carried out from a pseudodocumentary/newscast
point of view by humans. Many of District 9's secrets remained. Nevertheless, some things did not quite add up and really deserved a little more explanation. If the aliens had plenty of weapons, which appeared to be more powerful than human weapons (otherwise MNU would not be so desperate to make it work), why did they lie down and suffer the injustice and oppression by humans? Yes, they were outnumbered, but one would expect them to at least riot and storm out of District 9 and kill a few more humans, no?

One could argue that white men ruled South Africa for a hundred years while locals were the population majority. Yet the local Africans were not able to overthrow the white rulers during apartheid. Perhaps Blomkamp understood the power dynamics too well, and we understand very little. Nevertheless, one problem was that the aliens had guns --- and pretty big guns at that. It was mentioned in passing that they seemed very passive and unmotivated with no leadership. I think this element deserved better explanation.

If one were to flip the premise around, it was a familiar story --- If humans were the weak minority fighting for survival, like "Planet of the Apes" and "The Terminator". By turning the cliche upside down, it is a reflection and perhaps an accusation on everyone. Rather than celebrating the "human spirit" and thus winning instant allegiance from the audience. The moral position in this movie had to be fought and earned. Yet earn it did.

A sadness permeated to the core of the movie, amidst all the blood and gore and flying limbs and severed heads. It was the realization that this was not a story about the near future or about alien invasions or about fictional thrills, but rather an allegory about our time, our world, and us.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Currently Watching

Bleak House.

大家都演得不错。布景也很有气氛。唯一讨厌的是导演滥用 atmospheric sound effects! 每次切换镜头都要 "whoosh" 一下,甚至还搞什么神神叨叨的镜头拉来拖去的,so annoying!

Olive Kitteridge 完

听完了。很有趣,整个一本都是 tragedy 呀,depression 呀,乱七八糟的真实人生和千疮百孔,但是到了最后一篇,却是一个光明的尾巴。倒让我想起 barb 最近讲的吉本香蕉---其实其他日本小说也经常有这种口吻---死啊死的,最后却得到一个“还是得坚强地活下去”的结论。

不仅 life-affirming,而且最后一篇充满了幽默感,虽然有点墨墨黑的幽默。也算是无奈的苦中作乐吧。

看完觉得总体来说还是不错的。推荐一下。最喜欢的还是栩栩如生的日常描写,中间有一个故事发生在纽约布鲁伦,其他全部在 Vermont 小镇,典型的新英格兰文化和气氛,人人都认识人人,都知道人人的家长里短。另一个特点是描写人脑子里想的是一套,嘴上说的又是另一套。这条原则我一定要好好学习牢记在心,也是 Mad Men 的一大优点。现实主义精髓啊,没有人是想什么就说什么的。夫妻之间也许心里想的是“我绝不能让他染指一分钱财产,都是我的,我的!”但是嘴上说的却是“你不要这么想不开,这么俭省嘛,多吃点,别客气。”或者心里想的是“臭婆子,我好讨厌你,我好后悔当年娶了你。”嘴上却说,“我送你到门口等班车接你上班。”

很多书评说 Olive 是一个 difficult person。没错,她脾气很不好,又顽固又负面,经常抱怨这抱怨那,而且从来不跟人道歉!丈夫是一个软绵绵的老好人,她却经常讥讽和抱怨他。跟第一个媳妇搞不好关系,简直憎恨她。跟儿子也吵架。但是越到后来我越喜欢甚至认同她了。想想我喜欢 Olive 和 Wallander 这种人,大概因为我跟他们差不多,都是倔犟、悲观、情绪不稳的脾气,遇到一些小事会忽然暴跳起来,愤怒得要砸东西。有时很善良,对人很好,而且看人的直觉和洞察力挺准,有时则对人产生强烈的厌恶和反感。感情强烈,脾气暴躁。Olive 经常腹诽一些美化人生的励志口号,毫不粉饰地指出人生的荒谬和无稽,让我看得痛快得发笑。毛姆就在某个短篇里说,说实话让人吃惊,惹人发笑,因为大家根本没听过没想过最坦白的真话,都习惯了粉饰太平的陈腔滥调,听到真话可惊呆了不是?

Be Still My Heart!


Season 3 of Mad Men is coming this Sunday.
Last season, it got a little too strange near the end. A very open and open-ended finale. Who knows what will happen this season! Oh I cannot wait.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

English accents

I can't believe there is an archive of all accents and dialects on the British Isle.

Wiki has a fairly general overview of the regional accents in England itself.

主要还是青春期钟情过某些人的缘故,特别对英格兰东北部口音和苏格兰口音比较熟悉。也许也是因为对口音比较敏感的缘故,喜欢注意这套玩意儿。作为一个"外地人",我听得出宁波话与上海话的差别。遗憾的是听不出澳洲与NZ口音的差别。一个亲戚高中毕业就被送到NZ念书,一开口就是NZ口音,特别可爱。

伦敦口音 (Cockney) 是最早听过的土话,大概是小时候看"跟我学"节目留下的最深印象。最典型的 illustration 大概是 My Fair Lady。那部电影回头看真有点好莱坞式的乱搞,让荷兰裔的 Audrey Hepburn 主演。舞台剧比较靠谱,女主角是 Julie Andrews.

中文媒体总是想当然耳地把标准牛津口音说成是伦敦口音,每次都让我的编辑天性大发。北京口音其实也不是标准华语,但是够接近,不过这些记者大概也不知道北京话其实不是标准普通话。

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

花样滑冰八卦:终极冰妈





故事一开始,韩国某小镇一女青年,极其热爱花样滑冰但是从小没条件实现自己的冰上公主梦。成年后遇到一个驻韩国美军基地上的一个大兵,与之结婚。婚后两人无儿女,在韩国当地领养了一个一岁女孩儿,取名 Ann Patrice McDonough 。不久一家三口离开韩国到美国定居。多年以后,妈妈 Julie McDonough 亲口承认,她领养这个女孩儿就是为了要“制造出”一个花样滑冰选手,就是要在她身上实现自己的滑冰梦,甚至在领养的时候,她特地挑了一个“最瘦小的婴儿”,因为“身材越小越适合练滑冰”。

从此以后,Julie 的全部生命都投入到培养 Ann Patrice 的滑冰事业之中。据说她坚决要求一手操办控制女儿的训练和比赛的一切,把丈夫 Bob 排除在外。没过几年二人离婚,Bob 说他付出了大把大把的育儿费,因为,滑冰是一项极其烧钱的事业。为了筹集经费,Ann Patrice 的所有表演服装都由 Julie 缝制,Julie 还给其他选手做衣服补贴家用。Julie 带着女儿到 Colorado Springs 的著名俱乐部训练,师从 Tom Zakrasjek。Ann Patrice 从小就被认为是滑冰界的未来之星,在2002年获得世界青少年锦标赛女单冠军,仅16岁,大家都认为她前程远大。03年全美成年级锦标赛,她排第四名,而且已经在国际比赛中击败过顶尖选手如 Sasha Cohen。2004年,她还不满19岁,在全美赛上成绩滑落到第六,突然消失了。

很久以后才有报道,原来她独自离家出走从 Colorado 跑到纽约。开始根本不进冰场的门,后来渐渐在滑冰场找到工作,加入冰场的课教小孩儿学溜冰,给初级选手当当教练,过着非常低调的生活。有人猜想她回到冰场是因为对溜冰还是有些感情;也有人认为那只是因为她的一生都被溜冰占据,虽然也有上学毕业,但是跟社会完全脱离,在冰场之外很难适应。

最近这个话题又在网上论坛被拎了出来,看见一个目击者说:
[At 2002 Sectionals,] I've never seen any skater give up that badly and appear to try so hard to not make it to nationals. I'll never forget the way she skated off the ice with that smirk. Then the judges gave her a big stinking gift by sending her to nationals anyway.
我翻了翻网上关于她的报道,发现她总是拒绝讨论与她养母 Julie 的关系。每次看到对她的访问,都让人觉得太心酸了。

资料:
2006 年Colorado 本地报纸对她的报道

LifeSkate 网上杂志对她的报道

另一个选手 Jenny Kirk 写的 blog,关于过度投入的冰妈们,她并未点名 AP McDonough,但是却用了她的照片,所指不言而喻。

YouTube 上 AP McDonough 的录像

滑冰界著名的爹妈还有过去的法国 Surya Bonaly 的养母 Suzanne Bonaly,现在的韩国 Yu-Na Kim 的亲妈,Sonia Henie 的亲爹,都是控制欲过强的典型。

别以为这种现象只限于 “望女成凤”,男孩子玩冰球,神经冰爸比冰妈有过之而无不及,冰球更糟,打架斗殴是家常便饭,曾有过竞争心过强的冰爸在场下跟其他冰爸发生争执而将对方打死的惨案。都是自己梦想不成,耿耿于怀,转移到下一代身上的结果。

The Tailor of Panama

这片子有点乱糟糟的,特别是高潮和结尾,稀里糊涂就糊弄过去了。让人想起 Wag the Dog。

电影总是这样,把血淋淋的现实温柔化,否则观众的肠胃受不了,那么投资人也拿不回钱来。不知道 Le Carre 是心甘情愿还是怨气冲天地妥协,粉饰下太平。

看看是2000年拍的,如果是03年以后写的剧本,想必会有点不同,或者03年以后他们都没胃口把这种题材的故事拍成喜剧了。

回头看过来,一切都在意料之中,这些讥讽帝国主义的文艺作品都是真的,电影比小说粉红,小说比现实粉红。

Jamie Lee Curtis 小小地露了下乳房。身材真不错。

毫无关联地回忆起一个曾经相亲过一次的男生,台湾人,从小在巴拿马长大,总是笑眯眯的,家里开过农场(好象),说起过喜欢动物。跟我真是金星与冥王星之间的距离,但是激发了我的某种好奇,虽然再也没见过面,却留下一定印象。

Monday, August 10, 2009

Currently Reading

现在听到 Olive Kitteridge 里面第八个还是第九个故事 (lost count),撑不住倒向了那个评论者的观点。如此 relentlessly tragic 的故事,一个又一个,没完没了,终于让人吃不消了。再加上最近工作很繁重,碰上至难写的课题,所以更需要纯娱乐一下。

昨晚看的 Company 就很娱乐。下次看见 Stephen Sondheim 的剧要考虑买票看看。

正好上礼拜一个同事跑来送给我一本书---她家里扔垃圾,借机回收利用的。她知道我看侦探小说,就把一本 Ian Rankin 的惊栗小说给了我。本来我一直想看 Rankin 的爱丁堡系列(警长 Rebus),结果又不是,背景是伦敦,男主角是杀手。上次就胡乱看过一本他的小说,结果是个间谍故事的。什么时候干脆买它几本 Rebus ,看你往哪儿躲。这本杀手小说比间谍好看,节奏和悬念都不错。目前的印象是, Rankin 同学还是太正直加纯洁了,写什么心地善良的杀手!可见是个老派人。

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Unit

NPR 的 Jess Crispin 如此评论 The Unit:

Echoing work by Marge Piercy and Margaret Atwood, The Unit is as thought-provoking as it is compulsively readable.

Readable? Are you joking? 说实话很多次我想把这本书扔掉。看到一半的时候实在受不了了,后半本在不分前后左右的一片混乱中翻完。这是我见过的最 creepy 和 disturbing 的小说之一。

故事很简单,甚至有点苍白,讲一个五十岁中年女人 Dorrit Weger 按照法律被送到一个巨大的监狱里。虽然里面有吃有喝,有健身房和室内花园,有人给你铺床洗衣,你也不必干活糊口,可以跟人交朋友甚至恋爱,但这是一个地道的监狱。在不远的未来,法律规定,所有对社会没有贡献的人,包括女人过50岁男人过60岁而没有孩子,对GDP没有直接贡献,创造不了社会财富的人(例如作家艺术家音乐家),都被定性为 "dispensable",送到 The Unit 里面去当“志愿者”,献身做药物和其他医学试验,贡献人体器官,从角膜肝脏肾脏之类不致命的器官开始直到 "the final donations"。

被关起来的这些人都很逆来顺受,勉强接受“造福人类”的官方说法,一边无力地哭泣和绝望地发发牢骚,一边建立一种弱者互相取暖的友谊,有些人觉得在外面的生活比里面更糟更寒冷更一无所有,在里面没两年可活至少不用忧愁衣食。反正这些都是“社会不成功人士”,无法给社会提供商业价值或者生殖价值,弃之可惜,不如用之。

我很想付之一笑,很想说,太假了,太不可信了,有这么没用的人么?人类自保的天性在哪里?哪有人会这么束手就擒,让政府和别人用发展社会生产力的借口把自己当块肉给瓜分了?是是是,我知道这是寓言不是写实,但是寓言里的人也忒被动,忒难让读者代入了。

可是让我又想吐又想砍人的原因在于,现实中世界上每天有拼命挣扎自保的人,也有躺倒任人宰割的人,有的是开门揖盗,心甘情愿地说“请来抢劫我吧”, “请把我的儿女送入绞肉机吧”,“请把我当垃圾扔掉吧”的人,只不过大多数人是蠢,无知,短视,被洗脑,被愚弄,另一些少数人则是人微言轻,被强盗带领的愚蠢民众席卷在荒谬的洪流中没法脱身。故事里最让我特别恶心的地方是,作为免不了接触道家理论的中国人,遁世清流总是一个 option,总有一个道观或寺庙可投。而 Ninni Holmqvist 的故事恰恰抓的就是你们这些遁世的书生,最 dispensable,最适合用来做器官工厂,毫无用处,又不会反抗。我倒希望她编的都是假的,绝不可能,跟现实一点关系都没有,但是没这么容易,实际上根本不是写未来和预言,而是对现实的折射。

作者住在瑞典 Skane,跟 Henning Mankell 设定的 Wallander 大概是邻居吧?她的某些观点,特别是对现代社会的看法,跟 Mankell 非常相近。

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Sentimentality of David Wilson



(Emily Hughes and David Wilson)

I had been wanting to write about a specific aspect of David Wilson's body of work. Romanticism is not the only style he has done, nor is it the largest component, but it does seem to be very close to his heart. He is very good at adapting himself to each skater's individuality, so it sometimes takes a bit of digging to guess at his own feelings. From the little bit I know about him and the few glimpses in person and, most important, from his most personal work, I conclude that he is a person filled with an enormous amount of emotions and empathy. He feels deeply and acutely. Such people are often both blessed and burdened by their inner richness and sensitivity.

Thus I wrote this and posted it on FSUniverse:

I saw Wilson's first ice dance program, Somewhere in Time, choreographed for Dubreuil and Lauzon, in the fall of 2005 at Skate Canada. At the time I had not seen the movie and did not quite grasp the force of his vision. In the subsequent years, I have been sometimes impressed and sometimes captivated by a number of his programs. It is amazing that he continues to put out at least a few memorable programs every year. The way he cuts music together into a smooth and coherent and dramatic story is ... sublime.

Yesterday I watched the movie Somewhere in Time, and then I went back to the Dubreuil/Lauzon free dance on YouTube again. I was floored. Damn him! He put the entire movie into the program. The music theme in the soundtrack by John Barry is extremely emotional and overwhelming. Wilson chose to start with the less familiar tunes outside of the theme and made us wait -- just like the structure of the movie, in which we are made to wait along with the main character Richard (Christopher Reeve) until he meets Elise (Jane Seymour) for the first time over half an hour into the movie. So that when the familiar theme swells up, we are swept away with delicious satisfaction. And the ending, the rising lift that had Marie-France hovering above Patrice, one can easily make the connection with the movie's ending.

In the past few years, Wilson has been steadily and quietly put on some movie-based programs. From Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence to Ararat, to the two distinct Dr. Zhivago last year, he is exploring and presenting an expansively sentimental and unabashedly romantic series of programs.

As common as it is, romance is the hardest genre to do well. An extra half teaspoon of sugar, it turns bitter. An extra half teaspoon of emotion, it feels cheesy. Yet romanticism has a universal appeal to everyone but the most hardened or cynical (or too eager to appear tough, or too young to have tasted disappointment). It is almost impossible to master, because it requires an impeccable emotional calculation with absolute sincerity. In his programs, David Wilson pushes and pushes all the way to the brink of too much, and then stops on a dime before going over the cliff and falling into cheesiness and high fructose corn syrup.

His best work reveals him as a person, like a novel reveals the fundamental psychology of its author and a painting reveals the deepest temperament of the artist. I cannot help but feel convinced that 1) David Wilson loves movies, especially romantic, emotional movies, 2) he is a master of storytelling, 3) he is not at all afraid of bearing his sentimentality and romanticism to the world, 4) he likes to get inside people's heart, find the softest spot, and own it. It is genius. It is the intention of most arts --- to move others and make them feel what you feel and, in the process, connect individual humans with an invisible bond that make us whole.
A few days after I posted this analysis, someone posted a follow-up message:

David Wilson was sent this post by a friend and he said he could not believe what Jun wrote. He said she "totally gets me" and he is going to keep her post because it really touched his heart.

Knowing that he has read it just warms my heart.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Olive Kitteridge



简直巧极了,今天正好看见华盛顿邮报上登了一篇 Elizabeth Strout 的专访

似乎她在获得今年的普利策小说奖之前并不是 Phillip Roth 或 Tom Wolfe 这种文坛巨星,更不是门路广大的学院派。

现在已听了 Oliver Kitteridge 中前三篇,这是一本由短篇小说汇集起来的书,这三篇都是侧面从别人的眼光来看 Olive,后面才会直接写她。仿佛她是一个释放巨大热量的恒星,让人难以直视,只好先从镜像开始,慢慢地习惯和熟悉她这个人。

十分纯粹的现实主义手法,没有一点玩花的,跟很多现代文学巨星(特别是男巨星)不同。细腻可触栩栩如生的东北小镇,点滴人生,家长里短,象印花棉布一样摸着实在。让我联想起对电影女导演的印象,她也是凑近普通人的脸细细凝望,从一地鸡毛的人生琐事看进他们的灵魂,而这些灵魂全不陌生,人人认得出。小镇的人生,跟别处也差不多,我们都是各自的历史的奴隶,生活不会啪地一下被戏剧性地颠覆 (coughIanMcEwancough)。我猜想,男作家/影人和女作家/影人的根本差别在于女人没有那么强的欲望,时刻要 impress 别人,时刻要 outsmart 竞争对手,因而不怕使用最朴素的手法。

记得看到有个书评人说,Olive Kitteridge 好是写得好,但是太悲观太灰暗了,relentlessly sad. 的确,小说里的死人数目几乎可以跟日本小说相比了,动不动就是死于自杀、疾病、意外。只不过这些死亡都是鬼魂,游荡在各个人物的历史和背景里出没作祟。但是这种作品很显然是作者非得写不可的掏心掏肺。 This is who she is. This is what she MUST write. 难道大笔一挥,叫她变成另一个人?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Somewhere in Time


I sort of have a sense why this is such a cult classic. The question that I cannot answer now (unless I twist time myself) is whether I would have given the movie a second thought if I had NOT read about it being a cult classic and had NOT been swept away by the original soundtrack by John Barry, and if I had not seen the incredible ice dance program choreographed by David Wilson based on not just the soundtrack but rather the movie itself.

Romance is generally not my genre. I'd like to believe that I would nevertheless have sensed the strangeness in this movie directed by a Frenchman Jeannot Szwarc. In some ways it feels foreign, slightly detached, dreamlike --- not in the way Terry Gilliam made "12 Monkeys." One thing I disliked about "12 Monkeys" is how self-conscious it is about the time travel plot device. "Somewhere in Time" seems so primitive, so old-fashioned about the time travel device that the whole thing fits together perfectly, harmoniously old-fashioned in every aspect.

In some ways the movie's aesthetics reminds me a bit of Julian Schnabel, meticulously visual, with an eye of a painter. Well, strangely enough, Szwarc is a Frenchman who works largely in the US, Schnabel is an American who directed a French movie ("The Diving Bell and Butterfly"). Another coincidence is that Szwarc actually directed an episode of Heroes.

In looking up background stuff about the novel's author on which the movie was based, I found out (thanks to wikipedia) that this rather silly device (hypnotizing yourself into the past) has its own little subgenre. Richard Matheson's "Bid Time Return" is hardly the only one. Fascinating. I'm suddenly having an urge to look up some more "old-style" science fiction and fantasies based on old scientific theories and stuff and inhale their strange, musty charm, like "Somewhere in Time."

Currently Reading

Cannot get hold of a print version of Olive Kitteridge, but am listening to an audio version available from the library. The best novels take you to a different world and allow you to walk in it, breathe the air, and meet these strangers. Vivid and tangible.

Also reading "The Unit". It is disturbing beyond words. I am both horrified and fascinated. I might either walk out half-way or devour it. Hard to say.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Agent to the Stars 完

很轻松愉快的小说,很快翻完。今天坐在地铁上一边看一边笑。除了情节风趣,而且让我回忆起一些洛杉矶的娱乐圈轶事和传闻,不过没有那么 cut-throat ,很亲切,很善良,很有安全感。在这里可以下载,完全免费的在线小说。

赞了几句,于是又被塞了一本 Scalzi 的小说 The Android's Dream。名字想必是引用 Philip K. Dick 的名著 Do Androids Dream of Electrical Sheep?

慢慢看。

Saturday, August 1, 2009

速写一集

昨天傍晚下了班不想做饭,到街对面的 mall 里面买沙拉,周围 food court 里很多上班族和购物族在吃那里晚饭。我照例东张西望,看见附近不远坐了一对男人。迅速地下结论是父子俩。虽然一个高且胖,一个相对瘦且矮,但是白头发稀疏的规律和年纪的差别,加上二人默默地对坐的姿态,都给我父子的感觉。高且胖的大约五十多岁,他爸爸看上去不知有没有八十了,驼背哈腰,短裤下露出两条布满老年斑的瘦腿。两人都穿着肥大的短裤和老头汗衫。

两人各自全神贯注地手持一堆花花绿绿的 lottery 彩票纸,拿硬币细细地刮呀刮,倒没有什么贪婪或者充满希望的表情,只是特别认真和耐心。老爸还拿出一个黑框的放大镜,鼻子凑近了看纸上的数字。

我想起 mall 与地铁站相通的地下走廊墙上有个电子广告牌,天天报告 powerball 的目前奖数,每天下班的时候都看见它从十几个米林慢慢涨到一百多米林,偶尔幻想个半秒如果我有这么多钱会怎么用。但是我从来不买彩票,所以当然从来不可能中什么奖。不过可以推想在这 mall 里有卖彩票的店家。

忽然高胖的儿子站起身来转身走开,表情并未透露失望或喜悦,跟老爸说了一句什么话,对方也没有特别的反应。我被好奇心捉住:中了奖去兑换还是刮完了把废纸扔掉?可惜他消失在拥挤的人群里,我没来得及追上。

Timon of Athens

During the intermission of Timon of Athens at Folger, I eavesdropped on a discussion among the 3 persons (who looked like a mother with t...

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