Saturday, February 17, 2007


I know it’s gotta be totally lame and the mark of a true amateur to start every post by apologizing for the length of time since the last one, but here I am doing it again. It’s the last time, I swear! New leaf turned!

Really no excuses not to be writing this past week—after an ominously mild December and January, we finally had the Perfect Storm this past week. Snow actually closed the University; I hardly had any classes at all, so in theory I had lots of time for personal growth and artistic development. You can see how that turned out. But it was nice not to leave the house at all on Wednesday, even to get the mail. It was like house arrest, which I have to say has gotten a bad rap. I could go for a spell of house arrest.

I guess I’ve seen some movies. Which ones? Saw Pan’s Labyrinth, to complete the Great 2006 Mexican Trilogy, after Babel and Children of Men. Pretty damned solid. (I think I liked it better than Babel and not as much as Children.) Compared to those two movies, Pan’s Labyrinth is a stroll in the sunshine, which is saying something since it’s still pretty dark. Director Del Toro is working in part with fairy-tale material, but the movie earns its R-rating. The “real world” plot of the movie, in which a sadistic fascist officer (Sergi Lopez) tries to crush a band of leftist guerrillas in the hinterlands of civil-war Spain, is grimly thrilling and bloody as hell. The other half is the story of a little girl whose mother, in an act of spectacularly bad judgement, has married the creepy officer in question. The girl, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), like many a movie kid before her, is obsessed with faintly disturbing fairy tales, and we can’t help but notice that she has a life well suited to the genre. She has a Wicked Stepfather, after all, and she has been taken against her will to something like a castle in the forest, with the ominous—and unexplained—ruined stone labyrinth of the title lurking nearby. With all this to set her off, it’s not surprising that she builds an elaborate fantasy to hang out in, inhabited by delicate insectile fairies and a seven-foot faun who tells her that she is a princess, the daughter of the King of the Underworld. That sounds comforting, but Ofelia’s fantasy doesn’t seem like much of an escape—the faun seems capricious and cruel, another bad parent-figure, and the tasks that he sets her to prove herself seem arbitrary and strange. But Del Toro knows how to make disturbing creatures—even if you haven’t seen Mimic or (yikes) Blade II, you’ve at least seen pictures of the Eyeball Monster, right? Sure you have. Imagine being the sort of kid that would dream up that guy. But you believe that this girl would—she’s strange and compelling and wants so badly to be heroic. She’s so much better than the little wide-eyed screechy girl in Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, which in many ways is the same movie.

Pan’s Labyrinth is sort of a companion piece, almost a sequel, to Del Toro’s 2001 film, The Devil’s Backbone, a ghost story set in a 1930’s Spanish orphanage. I sort of feel that he needs to make another movie, to complete a Spanish Trilogy of his own. These movies aren’t politically or historically sophisticated or anything, but he’s clearly got a way with this material and his heart’s in the right place. We’ll see.

Lots of new music and stuff, too, so plenty more to come this week. I have DSL now, which may be the greatest time-waster yet invented, but now I can get all kinds of free songs and stuff, so I’m having a fun time. Maybe I’ll put some links on here, when I’ve a moment.

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