Friday, October 18, 2013

The Humdrum of Gravity

I wasn't very eager to see Gravity. Boredom was a guaranteed companion, coupled with the annoyance of donning the bulky plastic 3D glasses over my prescription ones did not sweeten the deal. Nevertheless, the film was playing at a near by theater and I had a free Sunday afternoon to spare. I pushed my skepticism aside and went to an 11:00 showing. Although the local AMC I frequent quite frequently cannot compete with the modern facilities of its Manhattan counterparts, I always have a good time at its early shows due to the mature clientele of respectable town residents. Even when the theater is packed, the morning movie goers are always polite and courteous to others.

I sat through the previews, both 3D and flat, with deflated enthusiasm and  I braced myself for the onset of nausea promised by most of the reviews I read prior. I am happy to report that Gravity was a 90 minute nausea free affair for me. Since I suffer from frequent bouts of motion sickness and always get dizzy at planetariums, I am led to believe the nausea rumors were merely a Hollywood ploy in an attempt to authenticate the outer space experience of the movie. As a nausea expert, I find it hard to believe that Dr. Ryan could have performed her duties while disposed. Moreover, the lack of perspiration and heavy breathing are counter to my motion sickness experiences. With these first few scenes my conviction dimensioned even further.

I understand that gravity is a movie about outer space and in that respect the cosmic imagery is truly amazing. I was transported and thoroughly moved upon the site of George Clooney and Sandara Bullock aimlessly floating around with earth in the background centered on the illuminated outlines of the Red Sea and river Nile as George asked, "Where's home?" (I'm from Egypt). There were a couple of head jerking moments successfully employing 3D gimmickry. Yet, had Gravity stayed true to it's original purpose as a movie about space, I wouldn't have deplored it as much. However the invisible intrusion of Hollywood is blatantly apparent with the film's feeble attempts to create a plot and characters that defy reason and stretch the realms of physical possibility. 

I must say that the best thing about Gravity is it's brevity. I believe the film makers would have been better off in keeping the story simply about astronauts doing what astronauts do. So if you want to gaze into outer space, then by all means see Gravity (preferably in imax). If you are looking for adventure I believe you'd be better off with Prisoners or Captain Philips.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Everything Good Must Come to an End

Those of you who follow my blog (who are you by the way? Do you actually exist or are you a figment of my imagination?) will know that I harbor a school girl crush on James Franco. It started innocently enough at the end of 2012 when Mr. Franco showed me much kindness at a time I was low on any positive sentiment and has flourished through a yearful of Franco shit. In the beginning I secretly followed his artistic fortes, writing about my Franco induced adventures in my journal, until a colleague at work started to mercilessly tease me, shouting Your boyfriend was on Howard Stern or Letterman or whatever as he passed me in the corridor. As long as I was being ridiculed for this crush, I might as well shifted it into high gear. I vowed to experience as much of Franco's art as I could. 2013 has been a busy year for James Franco and thus it has been quite easy to work on my Year of The Franco project, in which I have,
  • Read 4 of his books. With the 5th "Actors Anonymous" at the top of my to read pile
  • Watched 7 of his old movies, 6 of his new releases, and 3 on my to see list
  • Attended his performance art show at MOMA PS1 titled Bird Shit
  • Attended 3 of his book signings in NYC - I even got to ask him a question in the Q&A section of one of the events
Not to mention a long list of books I have read because of him. A detailed description of this odyssey will be posted on my blog on Dec 29 2013, if God is willing. It has been quite the ride. I have enjoyed every bit of it. But now it's time for me to crawl out of my head and back into reality.

I always, always feel very awkward at James Franco events - refer to my post about Bird Shit for details. One phrase comes to mind as I stand in the line of very young - mostly artistic - creative minds,"I'm too old for this shit!" With every event I am overwhelmed with a dread of absurdity and pathetic notions and swear to never return again, yet all is forgotten as he dispenses a dedicated smile, reducing me to a giggly blushing twelve year old. That has always been a huge part of the allure. For all of you out there doubting that Mr. Franco is great and powerful, let me confirm his magical smile as it has the ability to shave decades off a woman's age, rendering her to a silly preteen. It never ceased to amaze me that I - a well composed, eloquent, forceful, mature woman of 37 - could be reduced to a babbling fool by the cheer whimsy of a kind sincere smile. Experiencing the antithesis of Amira (at least who I am expected to be) was intoxicating. I indulged in my Franco habit in hopes of sustaining the euphoric bliss. Our serendipitous chance and planned encounters miraculously aligned with either holidays I was celebrating alone in NYC or receiving dispiriting news from back home. I hung onto the feeble moments of juvenile joy to hide away from my bleak reality. I allowed myself to regale in these events as long as they made me happy, that is until the last book signing at The Strand - Quel Cauchemar !

I stumbled across this event in the comments section of one of Franco's Instragrams with a remark of "See you at The Strand". Curiosity lead me to the event page of www.strandbooks.com. Tucked snuggle in the October calendar was James Franco's book signing for the release of his novel "Actors Anonymous". I immediately reached for my credit card and purchased admissions a month in advance. I won't state the obvious and call this an impulse purchase - as it definitely was, but I was also motivated by two factors,
  1. The first signing I attended for Mr. Franco was in July - also at The Strand - for his book "A California Childhood". The book was released in March, thus I already owned a copy and really didn't need a second one. I opted for the gift card option (which I used to buy his chap book "Strongest of The Litter") to gain access to the event. An interesting discussion led by Frank Bidart preceded the signing. I even got to ask James a question, but I didn't get a signed copy of the book. At the time I didn't think much about having a signed copy
  2. Early September, I attended another signing for his art book "Moving Pictures / Moving Sculptures" at the PACE Gallery in Chelsea. I stood before him as he sat at a table and signed his name with a doddle of a decrepit smilie face ( BTW James what's up with those smilie faces. They're not even smilie faces. They have a coned shaped nose, so that makes them more of a snowman. Therefore there's a headless snowman somewhere. Moreover, why do they have stubble? any way). We engaged in small talk and I got a dedicated  smile, all for me, just for me. 
As a result I really really wanted a signed copy of Actors Anonymous, in hopes of getting another smile. So without hesitation I purchased admission and resolved to be at The Strand on October 13 at 7:00 pm.

On the day of , I arrived at 5:20 pm, almost three hours before the event, as it was pushed to 8:00 pm, only to find that a queue had already started. I took my place inline. Equipped with a book, I was ready for the wait. While the staff handed out the wristbands, they informed us that the books will be signed but not personalized (i.e. no meeting James and thus no individual smiles will be dispensed upon us like pixie dust).  Dismayed at the news, I debated leaving then and there but I wanted my already paid-for book. At 7:00 pm we were ushered into the loft to discover that it was standing room only. My initial reaction was, "I'm too old for this shit!" I had a coveted spot near the roped off area. As more people joined the herd, they elbowed their way nearer to the podium thus crowding the space further with each human addition. My claustrophobia kicked in and I couldn't breath. I retreated to the far side of the loft. At the very end there was a dusty crate with two inhabitants on the top. I asked their permission to join them and they obliged (they were a nice couple). Since I had a good vantage point of the podium from my seated position, but not for long, I really shouldn't complain but I'm afraid it just got worse from this point onwards. Franco didn't show up until 8:30 pm (bless the heart of those who kept standing around the podium for him, some of them were in heels for crying at loud!). By then the loft was half full and I couldn't see James atop the podium from any angle, nor could I hear him well. The only remedy would have been to stand on top of the crate with the others, but neither my knees nor my ego would permit this. The place was just insanely crazy. As Franco embarked on step number five of Actors Anonymous, I decided to leave. I limped down five flights of stairs and claimed my pre-signed copy at the exit. I rushed to Union Square and took the R train back to Herald Square, then I ran to Penn Station to catch the 8:55 LIRR train. Next morning I woke up to an array of aches and pains traversing my body, reminding me yet again that I'm too old for this shit and apparently too short to handle the Franco pandemonium.

I don't blame James for the atrocious time I had. I blame The Strand. Needless to say, I will not be attending any of their future events. But I also owe them a debt of gratitude for making me retire my Franco colored glasses and revert back to a normal admirer of his art.