August 8th, 2003


Hannah and Her Sisters

I stopped watching Woody Allen movies a while ago, as his self-insertion began to get creepier, but some of his mid-career ones were great. Am rewatching HaHS now. I love what Allen does with music; the soundtrack for this film is one of my all-time favorites, and I've wanted to buy a copy for years but it's out of print and grossly overpriced, even used. My favorite song is "I'm in Love Again," but I also like the harpsichord piece, which is so great at setting a thematic mood.

What's interesting about a film like this is how ambiguous the characters are. Like here, you have Elliot cheating on Hannah with Lee and his mental voiceover after the act of infidelity is so self-satisfied and then castigating. I feel twinges of loathing at his transparent self-delusion, and yet the movie's portryal is rawly honest--the movie doesn't try to paint its characters as better than they are (an honesty I admire in stories too). So anyway, you just know that this is how a man gets about cheating: he talks himself into a desperate sense of love that's really just midlife crisis and lust, then feels all cozy once he's lived out his fantasy--doubts creep in, he is immediately less interested in leaving his wife. Right now I'm watching the scene when Hannah raises questions about their marriage and he turns it around and attacks her for interrogating him. He's awful, but he's human.

The relationships between the sisters in this are so painfully true too, and each one of them can be likeable one minute and then a total bitch the next, and their insecurities with each other are so sharp--especially Lee and Holly, because Hannah always looms over them as this paragon.

In the end, I identify with Holly the most--not in characteristics, but in some essence of character. She's the artistic one and she flails around, trying one thing and then another, always short of money, always wracked by envy of everyone around her.

When I think about the movie, I think about the sisters and tend to forget how Mickey's (Allen's) existential angst, hypochondria, tumor fear, and religious crisis threads through this. His terrible date with Holly is this brilliant misery of clashing styles and musical tastes, and we get that first version of Cole Porter's "I'm In Love Again," which ends the movie in one of my favorite scenes: when Mickey comes up behind Holly, the woman he's unexpectedly settled with at last, and Holly gazes at their embracing bodies in the mirror with this little smile, and they talk about this and that as the music plays, and then she tells him she's pregnant. And you can just feel her utter joy. Dianne Wiest is great here. Well, all the actresses are, even when the dialogue as written gets a little stilted. Barbara Hershey's lips are so odd, though.

Now I'm watching the lunch scene where the camera slowly revolves around the table showing one actress after the other as they snap and jab, with Lee's guilt over her infidelity with Hannah's husband running as an unspoken undercurrent throughout.

Favorite line: when Norma, the boozy old actress, scathingly refers to her husband as a "haircut that passes for a man."

Hannah: "Do you find me too giving, too competent, too disgustingly perfect?" This is one of the best roles for Mia Farrow--her high-pitched and rather grating whininess, and that edge of unlikeability she always carries with her, suit her character well here.

Mmm. Holly and Mickey make me so happy. He sees her in the music store--the "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" theme music playing over the scene--and he comes in and greets her with an affable recollection of their date from hell, and they insult each other cheerfully. And their conversation here is one of the best and most natural in the movie. And then she goes to his place the next day and reads her script to him. I love that she turns out to be a good writer and that Mickey loves her script so much. Their reactions--his to the script, hers to his praise--are endearing.

Love the New York scenery in the fall. And Mickey's story about his suicide attempt. This is Allen at his best, dealing with the biggest possible human issues flat out like this, in a way both funny and straightforward. I can't think of a lot of movies that do what this one does. Most movies only pay attention to surfaces--coast by on action, sound and fury. And part of the beauty are the voiceovers. When I think of voiceovers now, I think of the screenwriter's rant in Adaptation about how terrible a device they are ("...and God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends! God help you! That's flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character."), but this movie proves how eloquent it can be to just let the characters say what they're thinking. (Which in turn makes me think of that comment of Jane Espenson's, I believe, in the DVD commentary to--is it "Wild at Heart"? Where she talks about Joss's rewrite and how he has Willow simply ask the question straight from her heart, instead of leaving it unsaid. And I think the line was, "Don't you love me?")

The movie's last scene still kills me. I am always surprised when I am moved by such traditional stuff--marriage, love, pregnancy--when I don't consider myself sentimental, especially about heterosexual romance and rituals. And when the idea of pregnancy is in fact deeply...well, shudder. But this scene--immediately as soon as the music shifts and Mickey starts kissing her, I begin to cry. Just tears running down my face. It's the best ending ever.

you know...

I bet Peter Wingfield would have made a great Sherlock Holmes.

And if I had 20 icons I could iconize that thought. Hmmph.

You know what I like about stories? This is just a random observation. I like when writers are going with the flow and they let the story do what it wants to do, instead of trying to force the story to do what *they* want it to do. Like in this story I read a while back, called Golden Bands to Bind Them. A lot of things were well done in the story, but where I really got zinged was when it switched gears with smooth skill into script dialogue:
Buffy: How'd you convince Giles to let you out of the tub?

Spike: Asked.

Buffy: Did you find anything remotely useful during research yesterday?

Spike: No.

Buffy: Sounds like maybe Anya is onto something.

Spike: Maybe.
And so on. Dialogue that in a normal narrative format might quickly get tiresome is pefectly offset and framed by the style, which highlights Spike's terse, staccato responses.

And then later when Buffy goes on a date with Riley, we again bump off the beaten path and get a snapshot of their date:
Buffy went to class. Buffy met Riley. They went to the Espresso Pump for a pair of lattes. They talked about class. They talked about Iowa and L.A. and old friends they'd left behind. Riley smiled. Buffy laughed. The coffee was good.
And it's perfect--the short little sentences convey the awkward baby steps of their interaction, each moment sequentially blocked off, simplified and rote. It also gets across the brightly colored "Dick and Jane" tone to their relationship--its stilted normalcy.

I think that's brilliant. It's great when authors maximize the richness of their medium, words, instead of letting themselves be limited. But of course now that I've called attention this this, some of you are thinking: okay, well, I'd like to do something like that, but now I'm too self-conscious. At least, I know I'd be feeling like that. But time will pass and maybe this thought will take root. I think this is how I've learned a lot of what I've learned in writing, by stashing away tricks stolen from other people. Some kinds of theft are good.


I've been wanting to read a recommended story, Betty Plotnick's "The Bitch," but the web site where it's hosted has been down for weeks--at least, it is every time I go there. Does anyone have a copy saved? (Er, Betty?)

yes, I really am just exercising my icons.

I thought a bit about whether I should reread Golden Bands to Bind Them and discover if my liking for it was wildly off, my discernment impaired by the novelty of a first-time read, but I don't think it was. I leave a story pretty quickly if I don't find it worthwhile--I have a low threshold for boredom these days. I mean, it may not be obvious because I don't usually (a) take the time to read a bad story and then (b) rip it to shreds, but I really am a pretty finicky reader. So, it wasn't a perfect story, but it was fun. It's disconcerting though to discover that the authorial moves that make me sit up and go ooh (like watching a little foot snap from a gymnast) can actually throw someone else out of a story. I sometimes wonder if writers read differently than non-writers--not that I'm leaping to any conclusions, but I wonder if, like a painter having a painter's eye, a writer has a writer's eye. Probably the answer is: yes and no. There is probably as much difference within any group of writers as there is between readers and writers.

Anyway. I've been reading recs over at Sandy's Fannish Butterfly page. And I've realized I'm behind enough in my reading that many of the stories are new to me even though the page was, I think, last updated in November. And there was a story by koimistress! Smallville, A Nice, Friendly Game. And I had a nice, sexy read. And then some. I love writers who show off Lex's fantastically shiny brain--and Clark's too--and get at the game-playing that you know is inevitable between them. Fated.

Also, kassrachel wrote a Snape/Harry story, Clay, that I had somehow missed! It's like finding Christmas presents in the closet six months later! Either that or I've forgotten that I read it, and so it is as if new--which wouldn't be an insult to the story, by the way, but merely indication of how dim my brain is most days. I've just started reading the story, but I know that it will be good. Because, duh, Kass.

I also read a, um, Snape/Hagrid story that kind of got me worked up. Except...disturbed, too. I mean. Um. I'll just let you go to Sandy's page and find that for yourself if you're so inclined. I feel dubious about the characterization but it didn't bother me so much as the strangely manly and straightforward depiction of sex. I thought I liked that. Well, I *did* like that. But I still feel vaguely unsettled by it. I can't say why. I think it's the effect of voyeurism the story has. Reading the sex scenes, I felt a bit like I was actually witnessing something private and unvarnished--matter of fact and unpretty--that disrupted my usual expectations about erotic fan-fiction. Not so much a puncturing of any romantic fuzziness, because I read unromantic stuff, but almost a thwarting of a more subtle effect--the prism of of the female gaze.

Either that or it was just a stylistic thing somewhat off, out of synch with my own preferences.

I make no sense. But really, did I mention the story got me worked up? I do have a weakness for that whole size thing. I *am* a size queen. One of my bulletproof kinks, I guess.

Oh, and Betty Plotnick's story? Was bitchin'!

::ducks and runs::