26 May 2006

The Insomniac Commits An Update (Of Sorts)

Amy Acker      Usually, it bloody blows being an insomniac.  One of the few benefits, though, as I rediscovered this morning, was rewatching the Angel episodes that introduced Amy Acker to the series.  Damn that lass did adorability to perfection.  More pointedly, though, I was impressed with her impeccable sense of comic timing, a quality that's very, very rare among young actresses.  (And among pretty ones, almost non-existent.)  She seems to do everything with those gargantuan, often giddy-looking eyes and with that lanky, almost spindly frame that always seems to shrink in on itself.  No wonder she seems perpetually aflutter: if she isn't suppressing a giggle, she's releasing one, either way with the infectious enthusiasm of a four year-old getting away with something.  It's not hard to see in retrospect why she so lightened up the otherwise ponderous and clunky Angel -- and easily became the best thing about it.  Too bad the writers of Alias didn't learn to make better use of her in their final season.  Good comediennes are so rare, I find myself hoping she'll get the chance to follow through.  After all, do we really want to be stuck with Kate Hudsons and Jennifer Anistons?  Gawd, I hope not.
      Other late-night-cum-early-morning watching has included finally locating the old Neil Simon chestnut Murder By Death on DVD, and sitting through the eye-splittingly bad Troy.  All involved with that engorged mess of a movie took a public scouring, but especially dreadful, I thought, was Peter O'Toole who, as Priam, looks as if he's undergoing electroshock therapy just to keep his eyes at maximum mad bulge.  (Shall I conveniently forget Brian Cox, as Agamemnon, snarling and barking like a rabid German shepherd?  Would that I could....)  It has occurred to me that in future years if I am ever teaching The Iliad, I will encourage students should they misguidedly begin to convince themselves that watching Troy will give them the nuts-and-bolts of the story.  Yes, Menelaus is killed by Hector.  Really!  Don't worry, you'll be fine for the test!  Snicker, evil snicker....
Lawrence devising his miracle      The Doctor's maternal unit, however, returned a few days ago from Lost Wages-- er, Las Vegas-- with an unexpected gift, the DVD set of the restored Lawrence of Arabia, truly one of the great films of all-time.  It's not something I'd have bought for myself, mainly because I have said version on VHS and so it would have been an indulgence I'd have disallowed.  That said, though, I found myself the night of receiving it watching the whole bloody set--  first the added features, then key scenes of the film (the train attack, Sherif Ali's manifestation), and then surrendering and watching the move entire from start to finish-- and being utterly riveted for the six hours it took to screen.  There's little one can say about that movie that hasn't already been said, but I was especially struck by the magnificent tactility of it.  It's as if one could extend one's hand into the screen and run one's fingers through the desert sands.  In so many ways, the movie shores (?) itself on key physical elements-- sun, dust, rock, smoke and even occasionally water-- and those vast sands in-between become a gigantic tabula rasa upon which destiny is made and unmade.  I know of few films that alternate with such dizzying profundity between centripetal and centrifugal perspecta as to be truly epic in both sweep and sensibility.  Only two directors, to my mind, deeply and genuinely understood the art of the epic, Akira Kurosawa and David Lean, and Lean with Lawrence may well have set the bar for that understanding beyond anyone else's reach.  (Cecil B. DeMille, Stanley Kubrick and Bernardo Bertolucci are all, alas, graspers despite their finest efforts.)  If you have not seen Lawrence, or if you have but not recently, I urge you to watch it again-- and again and again-- with due dispatch.  Then see if you can get through more than ten minutes of Troy without wanting to empty your stomach.  Lawrence is a masterwork; Troy is just a Pittance.
      In other "news," I'm getting increasingly skeptical about a few of the positions for next year for which I almost dared to have that bizarre thing some call "hope."  Don't ask me why.  Just call it a sneaking suspicion.  (Admittedly, I'm usually pessimistic, but I'm almost invariably proven right when I am.)  On the flip-side, though, a visit to one of my locals the other night brought to my attention that Van The Man is coming to Toronto in early August.  Tickets go on sale Monday, so I guess I'll have to figure out very quickly whom I'm going to have to kill or canoodle to get me into those nosebleeds.  It occurs to me to that the last time I saw the Belfast Cowboy in concert-- eleven years ago!!-- I was, well, a very, very different person than I am now.  (Some of us had to pay our dues in Canada.)  But, alas, another sleepless day awaits.  I just might have to hard nose the highway....

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