Imbolc’s capricious concoction of fanciful confections

Brooklyn snow Feb 2014

The continued accumulation of snow and cold gives an indication why Imbolc is one of the Celtic fire festivals. Ostensibly marking the annual alteration of the Goddess from the crone back into the maiden, this year she seems to’ve returned in the form of the Snow Queen instead. Had a lovely walk through Prospect Park after dark amid the winter wonderland that NYC has become these past few days. Pretty magical, the empty park, snow covered— looked like a fantastical set of a movie. None of the photographs I captured really do it any justice, so that’s one from daytime, a school playground.

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Cranky Reviews!

In other news, I’ve seen a couple of the awards season favorites in the movie world in recent weeks; American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street. Although the latter was definitely more engaging, I found them both to be rather bloated and meandering, suffering from the common Hollywood movie trait of taking themselves too seriously. Both movies were longer than necessary, and seemed to all but forget what they were on about, getting lost in sidewinding pockets of time period minutiae or style-over-substance, before finally, finally getting on with the story and mercifully coming to their rather unceremonious ends.

While Hustle is listed as a comedy-drama (precious little comedy happened), both felt as if the aim was to make epic, sprawling biopics, a favorite genre in Hollywood, but these films center around characters who are essentially a bunch of thieving pricks, amoral at best. Flashy and interesting in theory, I suppose, but over-glamorized. One gets the impression that we’re almost meant to admire the characters. Particularly in the case of Wolf; ostensibly based on a true story, that asshole is still profiting from his past transgressions— even more now that his book has been optioned into an award-winning movie. A real American success story! Ugh, Hollywood.

Anyway, it seems to me that both could have been quite good had the directors cut the fat and maybe not been so high on their own artistry or whatever. They come off feeling exactly like the awards vehicles for stars that they were crafted to be; self-indulgent and overblown. In the case of Wolf, there were no less than four times that I thought “Please, not another goddamned speech,” but a monologue is one of the many tactics that seem to convince audiences a movie / actor is great, along with response-manipulation via music montage, another device employed so liberally as to be ineffective and threadbare by the end. As for Hustle, I found myself bored much of the time, and cared little about the fate of any of the characters, a major problem in storytelling. (To be fair, I find Bradley Cooper extremely irritating, which worked against it, but had it been a really well-crafted movie that prejudice would have been neutralized.)

I hate to be so cranky about things well-regarded, but a thing ought to earn its reputation and accolades. In a similar case to these two movies, last month my book club read A Visit from the Goon Squad (by Jennifer Egan), a Pulitzer prize winning novel, and not a one of us could discern on what grounds that book received such stellar recognition. While it was a page-turning read on the whole that made interesting use of one or two devices (and poor use of a ‘spoiler’ device), it had a sophomoric quality that made me assume it had been written by a young author, guessing at the effects of the passing of decades, but was surprised to learn the author was in her late 40s while writing it. Ah well, to each his own— who am I to argue with Best Sellers and Blockbusters?


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