Sunday, July 27, 2008

You Can Check Out Any Time You Like . . .

. . . and I did manage to leave California! (Insert guitar riff here.)

Some things I rode on my recent vacation, more or less in order:

  • A JetBlue plane to Oakland
  • A hotel shuttle van
  • The BART train
  • The Caltrain to San Jose
  • A rental car
  • A Southwest flight to Orange County
  • Many private cars of James's family and friends
  • A boogie board in the ocean off San Clemente -- the first time I've swum in the Pacific
  • The L.A. Metrolink commuter train
  • The L.A. Metro subway -- so much cleaner and better at station (and Internet) communication than our New York subway system
  • Many L.A. Metro buses -- ditto
  • The Getty Center tramway
  • The L.A. Metro light rail
  • A taxi
  • A Warner Bros. tram for the studio tour
  • A JetBlue plane to New York
  • And the Airtrain and the A and F subway trains to JFK and back -- not clean or communicative, but mine and therefore home.
On Wednesday we saw "The Dark Knight," which is marvelous and horrifying. "Iron Man" earlier this summer represented all the light and bright and sparkling parts of comic books: wisecracking heroes, and cool gadgets and superpowers, and cute redheaded assistants in heels, and big fights with clearly identified bad guys -- very BAM! POW! ZOWIE! (And hugely enjoyable: I saw it twice in the theatre.) "The Dark Knight" is the flip side of that, dark and serious and thoughtful: a hero who wants to give up his cape, who questions the wisdom and right use of his gadgets and superpowers, with a ladylove who's involved with someone else, and thematic and character doubling everywhere you look. It's the graphic novel as opposed to the comic book, or a superhero film as made by Ingmar Bergman, with late Hitchcock nodding in for the action sequences. Heath Ledger clearly looked deep into the abyss for his role as the Joker, and the skill of his performance underlines the tremendous loss -- that, possibly, he couldn't look away. Perfectly controlled, brilliant, terrifying. I wouldn't take anyone under the age of a very mature 12, as the Joker's nihilism and violence are deeply disturbing. But for adults, it is eminently worth seeing, for the intelligence and ambition of the plotting and themes, the quality of the performances, and the final sense of hope at the end -- not the individual exuberance of "Iron Man," but a communal hope tempered by the knowledge of the world's darkness, and strengthened in the knowledge of how that darkness can be overcome. Excellent film.

N.B.: I saw it in IMAX, and if it's at all possible for you to see it in IMAX, I strongly recommend you expend the extra effort and money for the aerial shots of Gotham City and Hong Kong alone. Other reviews: Scott Foundas in L.A. Weekly; Todd Alcott; Reverse Shot, which disliked it.

And the Warner Bros. studio tour was great fun -- I saw the exterior of the orphanage from "Annie" (my favorite movie when I was six); looked in the windows of Luke's diner from "Gilmore Girls" and walked around the Star's Hollow town square; at a distance, caught a little bit of a taping of "Pushing Daisies" (the great spoiler I can reveal exclusively here: Anna Friel will wear a yellow dress and step out of a door in a future episode); sat on the couch from "Friends"; and, most excitingly for me, found an entire floor of Harry Potter memorabilia in the studio museum. A model Acromantula! The flying Ford Anglia! Hermione's Yule Ball gown! The Sorting Hat (or whoever was running it) mistakenly named me a Hufflepuff (I'm straight-up Ravenclaw, baby), but it correctly identified James as a long-lost Weasley cousin and assigned him to Gryffindor.

Finally, on the reading/work front, I finished Away, which I very much admired, and A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer, a most unusual romance novel, and I'm about two-thirds of the way through Brideshead Revisited, which I don't especially like but seem compelled to go forward with (much the same way the protagonist relates to the Brideshead family, actually). And I wrote the illustration notes and a solid first draft of my Terminus speech, and bought two excellent pairs of Clarks sandals on sale. So, altogether, a successful vacation.


  1. I was absolutely astounded by The Dark Knight. I saw it after a day at the Comicon in San Diego. After drowning in the Sci-Fi comic book world all day, I didn't know if I was really up for it. But, I was glad we made the effort. Funny enough, I saw it with a group of children's book illustrators. Ledger was intense and beautifully evil. We all absolutely loved the film, but agreed that we would not bring our kids to see it for a few years. It was not exactly the comedic and silly interpretation of Batman that previously ensnared our illustrious governor... Thanks to your recommendation, I will now have to go back and see it in IMAX!

    J.H. Everett

  2. Hope you enjoyed visiting Northern Ca. and saw all the reasons why I love living there! You also picked the BEST place to boogy-board, my little sister lives and surfs in San Clemente and loves it!

    Welcome Back! :)


  4. Welcome back!

    And I agree entirely with you on TDK. Heath Ledger's performance was astounding--so many little details that made the character really seem real, especially given how unrealistic he could be.

    And I agree with you on the age. There was a 5 year old in the row behind us when we saw it--a 5 year old! ...although the really disturbing part was when the kid laughed when Joker did his "disappearing pencil" trick...

  5. Welcome back! You've been missed.

    A squid question: I sent a squid on May 20, and have since read blog entries that you have sent responses out (once on May 24, too soon, and then just before your vacation). I've received nothing, and I did enclose a SASE. Are there some still hanging around, in the corner of the shelf, bottom of the drawer, still to be reviewed/returned? Or should I consider it (sob) lost?

  6. You were able to check out without having to stab anything with your steely knives? Awesome!

    Sounds like a great vacation!

  7. Ugh. I saw The Dark Knight at the IMAX theatre.

    If you are prone to motion sickness--DON'T DO IT.

    I had to keep my eyes closed for half of the movie.