Movie Review: Being Julia

Being Julia (2004)

Director: István Szabó

Writers: W. Somerset Maugham (novel) Ronald Harwood (screenplay)


Things I liked:  Michael Gambon as a ghost/Julia’s conscience.  I also really enjoyed Julia’s assistant (Juliet Stevenson).  The two of them made the movie for me.  At some point when I wasn’t paying attention I started sympathizing with Julia more than I had before; when Avice auditioned I wanted her to be dreadful because I didn’t want her to be a worthy rival any more than Julia did.  The scene where Roger tells his mother how artificial he thinks she is was one of the most moving scenes of the film.  My favorite part of the scene where Julia upstages Avice was the little smile Roger gave when he realized exactly what his mother was doing.  This real enough for you, kid?


Things I didn’t like: It’s always problematic when you have stage acting scenes in a film because it’s hard to distinguish the “on stage” acting with the acting that the actors are doing in the movie.  Also, of course, acting styles change.  So having acknowledged that, I’m going to say that based on the scenes of Julia acting, it’s hard to believe that she’s the successful actress she is.  Not that Avice seemed much better.  Shaun Evans’s American accent is very inconsistent.  Not Cary Elwes bad, but close.


Over all thoughts:  I was really kinda meh about the whole thing.  It wasn’t a bad movie, I just didn’t care for it that much.  I don’t feel like watching it was a waste of my time, but I don’t feel the inclination to watch it again.


Rating: Two and a half jars of peanut butter

Move Over Cary Elwes–You’re Not the Only Bad Accent In Town

Some of you may remember that we here at MTVMPB do, on occasion, hand out our own awards for the less-recognized aspects of film and television.  Things that even Mtv Movie Awards doesn’t bother to recognize.  These awards have nothing to do with new releases–any work is eligible whenever we damn well make it so.  On the list of elements we choose to recognize is the “Worst American Accent”–an award meant to honor those from outside the US who try–and utterly fail–to imitate one of our many native accents.

We usually refer to this as the “Cary Elwes Award” as his work in Twister was what inspired this particular category.  While he still reigns as the only winner in the Feature Film sub-category, we are honored to finally recognize another outstandingly bad attempt to sound American, this time in the sub-category of “Miniseries.”

A truly realistic Southern drawl may be something easily conjured for the purposes of a quick, mocking comedic impression, however the convincing level of execution needed for a dramatic miniseries is far more of a challenge.  After all, Southern accents come in so many subtle variations from sweet seductive drawl of a Georgia peach, to the piquant twang of Central Texas, it’s no wonder that so many fail in the attempt to pull this off.

But few have failed in a manner as epic as Miranda Otto in the BBC miniseries The Way We Live Now.

Holy.  Shitballs.

Don’t get us wrong, we’re Miranda Otto fans around here.  She rocked the Rohan thing when she played everyone’s favorite shieldmaid, Eowyn in the Lord of the Rings films.  Sure, we wanted to see more with her and Faramir in the Houses of Healing, but we were all pretty damn happy to cheer at “I am no man!” when she sent that Nazgul back to meet his maker.  And, beyond that, she was also great in comedies like Danny Deckchair.  Seeing her name in the opening credits for this miniseries seemed like a fantastic sign for what lay ahead.

Until she opened her mouth.

Oh, for the love of all that is holy.

It’s clear it’s supposed to be Southern, but it’s so fake, so generically over-the-top that it is literally painful to hear.  And it’s sad, because the character to which she’s attaching this audiological abomination is actually an interesting character (two words: pistol. packing.).  The acting is great, it’s just that the accent with which the lines are delivered completely throws one out of the moment.  And also, it makes me feel….bad.

Which is why it deserves an award.  If it’s going to be that awful, we’re going to turn it into something positive by pinning an honor on it.  Woohoo!

So, for “Worst American Accent in a Miniseries” we salute Miranda Otto.  Now go find the vocal coach who trained you on that and pinch him/her on the arm.  Hard.

Coffee with Molly Ivins

Would we drink coffee with Molly Ivins?

Kristy:  Um… I feel like I should have a cute, colloquial way of saying “Hell yeah” but Cammy’s the one who’s good at that.  So I’ll just say Hell yeah.  I have to give Cammy the credit of introducing me to Molly, and I’m incredibly grateful for that.  For one thing, it’s another case of owing her a cup of something (coffee or something stronger if she prefers) for the hours of amusement she’s given me.  Not to mention a couple of readings I assigned to my composition classes.  Also, there’s a lot I’d like to talk with her about and commiserate on.  Being the liberal daughter of a Texas conservative, every time Molly talks about her father it sounds… very familiar.  But what I’ve always loved about Molly went way beyond political orientation–it was a lot more about her willingness to critique everyone and her ability to point out the humor in everything.  So you can’t tell me it wouldn’t be delightful to people watch with her.

Cammy:  By cute colloquialism, I’m assuming Kristy means something along the lines of “Does a wild bear shit in the woods?”  So to this, I’ll say,”Did Han shoot first?”  YES.   Even though I’m most definitely not a liberal, I still love Molly.  She would lampoon anyone on either side of the aisle with sharp insight and the kind of humor that would literally leave my sides aching–and I love equal opportunity mockery.  Granted, she didn’t have to work hard, at least not when she was covering her native Texas politics.  The utter madhouse of the Lone Star State was (and still is) comedy gold.  She bucked trends, pissed some people off (a lot of people) and even when I totally disagreed with her politics, I had to give her credit for her style.  She painted some of the most accurate pictures of Texas I’ve ever read, and shared them with the world*.  For all that, I owe her several rounds of the beverages of her choice.  I’d love to hear her tell stories–because Lord knows she has them–of the insanity of Austin with the Lege in session that didn’t quite make the article/book cut.   And how pissed is she that she’s not around to address the wonder of Governor Good-Hair trying to go national on us?  I want to know if she truly has the same kind of misguided, twisted pride that our state gave the world people as nutty as H. Ross Perot.  I also want to talk about our mutual love of Texas.  As she once said, “ I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.”  I’m always ready to talk about how we can love a state that manages to thrive in a state of total fucked-up insanity, especially with someone, who like me, left the state, got educated on the East Coast….and still managed to love that misfit of a state.

Kristy:  For the record “Does a wild bear shit in the woods?” and “Did Han shoot first?” are what we folklory types call “sarcastic interrogatives.” Totally counts as a cut colloquialism.

*See this article in The Nation:

“What is this ‘week end’?”

Gee, Dowager Countess, I’m not sure I know what a “week end” is either*.  While the unbearable dullness of paying calls to the same people, dining in the same circles, and making the same complaints about one’s staff would definitely yield a week that seems never ending, so too does returning to one’s corner of the cube farm to bask in the glow of monitors shining multi-layered spreadsheets for 7 days straight.

I think ol’ Lady Grantham got the better end of the deal with her reasons for confusion over this “week end” concept.  It’s like we’re in the same boat, but she’s first class and I’m crammed in next to the boiler pipes. And the ship is probably the Titanic.

(Thus goeth my excuse for missing Friday’s post.  Worked late.  Then worked some more and if you think Sunday was a day of rest, au contraire my Freunden….Now I face the horror of returning yet again bright and early tomorrow.)

*Apologies to the non Downton Abbey viewing set who do not get this reference.

Very Pretty Vampire

Okay, so my topic for today is less a Time Vampire and more of a Space Vampire, but it does suck up a bit of my time in arranging said space.

It being summer and me not having classes or paid employment (I still have a job. They don’t pay me to do it. I keep doing it. Clearly I am insane.) I’ve been trying to get my apartment in order. It becomes a disaster area over the course of every semester and it takes the entire time in between to even begin to sort it out. Which is why it’s taken me until now to get to a certain area of my bedroom and come to a nasty, though really not all that unexpected, conclusion.

I have a cosmetics problem.

Anyone who knows me in person knows I love make up! I blame it on a couple of factors: 1) I started dance performances at age eight and dance performances require make up, hence it was part of my world from a very early age. 2) My mother was a Mary Kay lady. 3) I went through my teen years with really, really horrible skin. To give you an idea how bad my skin was: I once had a bad asthma attack in gym class and a helpful classmate decided it would help to daub my face with a damp paper towel (it didn’t). By the time I finally recovered the school nurse patted me on the hand and said, “Sweetie… is there someone we can call to bring you some more make up?” Yeah… it was bad.

I’m no longer dancing, Mom broke up with Mary Kay and my acne hasn’t gone away, but it’s improved dramatically. But I still love make up. And although you’re not supposed to keep that stuff for very long, I’m only good about keeping to that when it comes to liquid products that go near my eyes (ie mascara and liquid liner). In recent years I have been diligent about not letting myself buy anything more, but it’s of limited helpfulness at this point. After going through my bedroom and bathroom I now have an entire shoe box filled with nail polish. I probably have enough lipstick/gloss to fill a shoe box too, but it’s spread through multiple containers. I will say I’m much better about eye shadow, but clearly at this point that’s not saying much. And to my credit I only have one blush, but I do also have a bronzer (though I rarely use it. I’m not good with bronzer). Add to that four different forms of foundation, loose powder, shine removers, concealers, etc, etc…

And yeah… I’ve got a problem. The trouble is, what to do about it? I can’t donate it, to my knowledge no charities take open cosmetics (oh yes, they’re all open). And they’re all perfectly good. I know because in my sorting I threw out a bunch that weren’t. And I use make up on a daily basis, but it’s barely making a dent in my store pile. It’s not fair. The only consolation I can give myself is that I got a lot of it free and a lot of the rest of it at a discounted rate. So it’s not the money hole it sounds like.

But I’m afraid I still might end up drowning in it.

Musikalischer Mittwoch: With Office Zombies!

As overdone as the zombie thing is these days, it’s still totally acceptable in the form of geeky music.  Especially when it’s a song dealing with a zombie take over in the office.  Because, well, a zombie take over in my office would be a total delight.

“Re: Your  Brains” is a staple in the diet of Jonathan Coulton fans–so I’m sure it’s nothing new to many of you.  It has all the key features of Coulton’s well-known songs: great music with a catchy tune and hysterical/geeky/just damn-good lyrics and high-quality delivery.

This particular ditty is a musical e-mail from an un-dead co-worker who really just wants to eat your brains.  Bob from the office down the hall is totally polite in his message, and–accompanied by great guitar work and a rock-anthemic chorus you can belt out with co-workers–he lays out the memo and the ultimatum  “All we want to do is eat your brains.  We’re not unreasonable/ No one’s gonna eat your eyes.”

What’s not to love right there?  But, it goes further….it’s got all the necessary elements of a typical corporate office e-mail–all the phrases, the cliches, the passive-aggressive comments.  That’s actually more horrifying than the idea of  having your brains eaten.

Bonus fun for this song:  you can listen to the whole thing (and lot more) online for free at Coulton’s website (downloads are a buck), and it’s available under a Creative Commons license (along with all the other songs written by Coulton).


The Center of the Earthquake

Okay, so this blog doesn’t really do current events. We tend to figure there are enough people on the internet that do that. But today I’m bringing you a slightly different perspective on today’s east coast earthquake.

I was in a meeting this afternoon and forgot to silence my cell phone. Rude, I know, but I don’t get many calls or texts so I tend to forget. Well the damn thing wouldn’t stop making noise. Nobody seemed to notice and I didn’t check it (I have a few manners) until I was out at my car. I was slightly concerned when I realized I’d received several emergency alerts from the college where I used to teach just outside of DC talking about an earthquake evacuation. At first I thought that someone must have hacked into the text alert system, but a quick check of the news when I got home confirmed that there had, in fact, been an earthquake in Virginia.

It also revealed that the epicenter of the quake was in Mineral, Virginia where I work sometimes during the Summer. (This prompting one friend to blame it on a mutual friend of ours who is buried there—it was his fault. Of Fault.) I will say that when I first turned on CNN the anchor (who I learned at that point was a UVA grad, but I’ll try not to hold it against her) was talking to someone in Louisa, but most of the coverage has gone away from the center if you will. Most of what I’ve seen since then has focused on the impact of the quake in DC or even NYC. I think the damage to the National Cathedral is sad and all, but it’s another one of those cases of only focusing on urban impact and forgetting everyone else.

Several people on twitter were referring to it as #nycearthquake when it was no such thing. I saw one person complaining about a 20 minute interruption in normal programming saying it was no big deal. I realize we’re not talking Japan or Haiti here and I realize as earthquakes go it could have been much, much worse. But it’s not nothing either. Louisa High School where a friend of mine works received some scary damage and several students and a teacher were injured. Another friend posted pictures of an unbelievable mess in an A.C. Moore.

So yeah… Just remember when you watch news coverage of all of these disasters that for all the people they show you, there are probably people that they aren’t. And sometimes the damage they’re showing is just where they have cameras already, not where it’s worst.

Coffee With….The Muppet Master

Would We Have Coffee With…..Jim Henson?

Cammy:  Do I even have to say it?  I mean, it’s not like I’ve been quiet about my love for the Muppets.  Of course I want to have a cup of coffee with Jim Henson.  Like so many other “Coffee With…” nominees, it’s partly as a (totally inadequate) thank you.  The Muppets on Sesame Street contributed heavily to the early childhood educational experiences of tons of us, and for us lucky 70s/early 80s kids, The Muppet Show made a wide variety of high quality entertainment accessible to us small fry (while still entertaining our parents).  Does he know just how much of an impact that’s had on those of us now in our 30s and 40s (he spent plenty of time trying to bring puppetry to an adult audience instead of just kids…it just took us Muppet-kids growing up, I think).  I’d like to ask him what he thinks of the way CGI is coming to replace more and more of what would once have been done with puppetry (ahem, YODA).  And, what Muppet did he think was the most under-rated?
Kristy:  Well Cammy just about said it all.  Absolutely.  Of course.  For all the reasons Cammy listed.  Like a huge chunk of our generation I was raised on Sesame Street and the Muppet Show.  So yeah, I need to thank him.  But like Cammy I’d also like his take on developments in film technology since his death.  I’d also like to know what he thinks of Henson Company projects after his era.  How does he feel about projects like Farscape?

Blue Moon Ice Cream Recipe

One of my friends has been bugging me to make Blue Moon ice cream.  He even offered to pay me to do it.  I was totally willing, but I had no idea what Blue Moon ice cream is.  Apparently it’s something which is made only in the northern Midwest (which explains why I never encountered it).  I told him I’d make the ice cream figuring there had to be a good recipe online.  Well… it seems no one really knows what flavor Blue Moon is.  Some people say raspberry, some say pineapple, some say blue curacao and white crème de cacao.  It seems there are several dairies that make it and none of them have ever disclosed their secret ingredients.  Since my friend had specifically requested it, I asked him what flavor he was looking for.  He informed me that the worst Blue Moons are the fruitiest and his preference was for blue curacao (… which is fruity… he seemed to think it was an almond flavor, but that’s beside the point)  So knowing what I was looking for, I went looking for a recipe.

Every recipe on the internet for a blue curacao based Blue Moon involved buying vanilla ice cream from a store and folding in the liqueur.  Well anyone who knows me and my love of my ice cream maker knows I’m not going to do that.  So I had to come up with my own recipe from scratch.  Without knowing what my final product was supposed to taste like.  Knowing it had great emotional association for my friend.  Fun times!

Fortunately, it was deemed a rousing success.  I think my friend just about made himself sick on it he loved it so much.  In my continuing obsession with naming all my ice cream recipes after fictional characters this has been named alternately “Maddie Hayes Ice Cream” and “Mystique Ice Cream.”

About 5 cups of dairy product (combination of milk, half and half, and heavy cream.  I used 1 cup milk, 2 cups half and half and two cups heavy cream.  Ordinarily I use a higher ratio of milk, but I had less milk than I thought in the refrigerator)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon cream cheese (low fat is fine, fat free is a crime against nature)
2 ½ ounces blue curacao
1 ½ ounces white crème de cacao
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Splash of almond extract

Set aside one cup of heavy cream (or half and half if you’re not using any heavy cream).  But three tablespoons (or so, no need to be precise here) in a separate bowl and mix with the corn starch.  Set to the side.  Put your remaining dairy product in a saucepan over moderate-low heat.  Once the milk mixture is warm, whisk in the sugar and stir till dissolved.  Meanwhile, whisk the cream cheese in a large bowl (or preferably a large liquid measure) until really soft.  Continue heating the milk mixture until lots of small bubbles form (not to boiling) and then add in the corn starch mixture.  Whisk frequently until the mixture is thickened (I’m very imprecise on this part and just go by the way it ripples when I stir—you want big soft waves not little ripples).  Pour into the bowl with the cream cheese and whisk quickly until the cream cheese is dissolved.

Mix the spirits and extracts together.  Allow the custard to cool somewhat then add in the spirits.  Then pour in the reserved cream until your total volume is six cups.  Put in the refrigerator and chill until cold.  Then freeze in your ice cream maker following the directions of your machine.  Put in the refrigerator until hard.

The amount of liquor in this means that it will never freeze really hard.  But it is fairly delicious.

BBC Costume Drama Matriarch Cage Match

For an appallingly long time, Kristy and I have entertained ourselves and others by starting discussions over the potential outcomes of fictitious cage-matches between characters, actors, random people we met at college….For the most part, you should imagine these matches in terms of American Gladiator, preferably the bit with the giant Q-Tip® things, although now and then the individuals and circumstance call for something a bit more violent and painful (or useless and stupid).

It’s been a while since we last engaged in this kind of speculation, but it came up in an e-mail chain last week (taken directly from the e-mail in which I posed this to Kristy):

Lady Catherine DeBourgh, Mrs. Thornton (aka, John’s Mom), and Lady Violet Crawley go at it Amer, er British Old-Lady Gladiator style.  Three will enter, only one will emerge victorious…..Discuss.

For those who are not so disturbingly acquainted with BBC costume dramas, that would be:

Lady Catherine DeBourgh from Pride & Prejudice

Mrs. Hannah Thornton from North and South

And the Dowager Countess Violet Crawley from Downton Abbey

All three are formidable, potentially scary, definitely overbearing gals.   Is it a balanced match which will drag on in agony, or is there a clear winner to dispatch the other two back to their needlework and smelling salts?

We challenge YOU to bring your comments.  Hit us with your take on the way this plays out.  We have our own discussion which we’ll share later this week….but the game’s more fun with others contributing.