last weekend

Ahhh, Saturday. This was a really busy week at the U, getting things ready before classes start Monday morning. I had two 7:30 a.m. meetings this week, which meant that my wacked-out sleep schedule of the past month got a stiff kick in the rear. I'd like to be a consistently early riser -- I think it's actually better for my mental health to get up early. I know it's better for my physical health if I get up at the same time every day. But sometimes staying up late is just so appealing. When I was younger, I was definitely a late-night person. So I have those tendencies too. In any case, after three days in a row of getting up at 6, (and 7 today) I'm now getting in the groove. I'd like to get up at 6 or 6:30 most days I think -- although my normal routine does NOT involve being dressed, caffeinated, and on the road before 7:00 a.m. -- thankfully. But if I can get up that early and do the morning walks, it would give me some good work time before needing to shift gears into teaching mode for the afternoon and evening. (My faithful readers will remember that at the beginning of the summer I was talking about a similar getting up early plan. It worked for a while, and then my sleep cycles started to drift...) I've been reading Steve Pavlina's tips on sleep management and going to give it another try.

I'm looking forward to my classes -- I've substantially reworked both of my courses for the semester, and I'm using a number of new readings, so I've got a lot of new prep to do, but I'm pleased with the changes I've made. I have a half-written post about teaching (in response to the great Teaching Carnival posts I've been reading) -- maybe I can actually finish it this weekend.

Mostly, though, I was working such long days at the office that when I got home the last thing I wanted to do was sit in front of the computer, or even read anything. GF and I watched the last DVD available of BSG -- aarrggh! negativecapability warned me that at the break midway in season 2 there was a horrible cliffhanger -- she's so right. Now we have to wait until midSeptember when the DVD of season 2.5 comes out.

Last night we went to see Scoop, which was a lot of fun. The last few Woody Allen films I've seen have really grown on me. And Scarlet Johannsen doesn't irritate me so much as she used to -- I was never entirely sure if it was her, or the pedophilic movies she was in originally. (Lost in Translation completely icked me out, even though I know so many people loved it.) But now that she's getting a bit older, I like her better. (And even though she's clearly Woody Allen's current muse, she's not portrayed as his sexual interest in any of these recent films they've done together.) I'm curious, too, about the cluster of films this year that deal with illusionists -- this one is comic, but there's also The Prestige and The Illusionist coming out soon, and they both look really interesting. Random coincidence? Deeper cultural pattern?

Last weekend we also saw The Descent, and Shadowboxer. The Descent is basically a better version of The Cave, with an all-female cast. If you like entrapment/disaster adventure-thrillers, you can't hardly go wrong with this one. The basic premise of both films is pretty standard (expedition goes awry, bad stuff happens, some people die, some make it) -- and I've been told there's a Scottish folk tale about cannibals that lies behind these movies as well as lots of other horror films. But what's interesting to me are the anxieties about evolution that these films play on. In each case there are creatures in the caves (oh, don't tell me you didn't know that -- you can still see the movie) that used to be human, but have adapted to life underground and have become something else. The protagonists need climbing gear and lights and other equipment, but the slithery creatures don't . . . these fears about the direction of human development are very 19th century in some ways.

In contrast to most of the critics, I really, really liked Shadowboxer. It's not for everybody -- it's extremely violent, dark, sexy, and perverse. But I found it visually and intellectually satisfying. The look of the film is incredibly beautiful, and Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr are wonderful together. It's The Grifters meets Oedipus in a Euro-hip-hop fusion that looks like nothing else on screen right now. Over the top, melodramatic, but compelling -- terminal cancer, hired killers, mob lords, and a crazy Macy Gray. Mo'Nique does a great performance as a crack-addicted nurse named Precious, paired off with Joseph Gordon-Levitt -- their subplot could almost have been a whole movie on its own -- you want to know more about lots of the peripheral characters. There's a richness to this world that fills out the noir plot and draws you in.

The fall looks like it will be full of good films. . . and I'm so excited about Viva Pedro. I think it's interesting that they're putting the darker, earlier films (like Matador) last in the retrospective, after pulling in audiences with the crowdpleasing romps like Women on the Verge. Smart from a marketing perspective, but not historical enough for my liking. And of course there are all the other Almodovar films that they're not re-releasing. I think I saw all of these during their original release, but I'll definitely go out to see them again on the big screen.

My weekend plans involve: more course planning and prep; working on a conference paper; finishing my closet purge; working out; hanging out with GF and the dogs who I've barely seen for a few days; and maybe another movie (the lines last week for Little Miss Sunshine were too annoying, but maybe we can sqeeze in a matinee today). And a haircut for the start of the semester. It does NOT involve going in to campus, which right now makes me very, very happy.