Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Once Upon a Time: Part Two

Read Part One Here

I'm going through each episode of Once Upon a Time and writing quick one to two paragraph thoughts on them. Last week i did episodes 1-5. This week, 6-10!

The Shepherd:On the one hand, I really really loved Charming's backstory and how we see him get to the point where he and Snow met a few episodes back. As usual, the show is best when giving the fairy tale characters depth and history. He's not simply some handsome prince who has been coddled his entire life, he has a terrible history and of COURSE Rumpelstiltskin is involved. Meanwhile in the real world, I got the sense that this show is going to follow on of the love story paths that I can't stand, where people waffle around with the exact same decision over and over and over again. Granted, this episode gave it something extra but it seems like every single week the story is going to be "David decides between Mary Margaret and Kathryn." Boring.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: WOW. I was really losing my faith in this show at this point, I was contemplating just watching the Enchanted Forest sections and skipping the real world stuff because it had gotten dull. Of course, that would just ruin half of it because the stories are starting to get really well intertwined as we see the same themes and relationships play out in the real world as the Enchanted Forest. But anyway, what a powerful episode, and one that actually starts to make Regina interesting too! I also secretly loved that we saw Snow before her transformation into confident and capable fighter, and we saw that even at her core at all times she was compassionate and caring.

Desperate Souls: Aaaand, we're back to the real world being more or less boring and dull unless Rumpelstiltskin is directly involved. This entire episode, if he wasn't in the scene, then it was just not that great. I think that's what's driving me the most nuts here, the real world has the potential and the Enchanted Forest proves the writers aren't terrible and that the cast has the chops to pull this off. But the entire "let's play politics" storyline...*sigh*. I don't even know what it is. I can't explain why it didn't work for me. Except to point out that Regina is back to being dull and not even an interesting villain. RESPONSIBILITY! YOU DON'T KNOW WHO I AM! Lather, rinse, repeat. Regina, honey, I don't care what you're capable of.

Meanwhile, learning Rumpelstiltskin's backstory? AMAZING. Even with it being rather predictable, it didn't matter. I cared every moment about his fate, and Bae. I wanted the outcome to be different even though I knew it wouldn't be. Robert Carlyle makes this show, you have to admit. He is hands down the best actor in the entire cast, and he would make me believe anything. But most of all, he makes me believe that he has depth and layers. He makes me think that he has a grand plan and we'll never know what it is until he's READY for us to know. Give that man all the awards.

True North: There were a few things I liked about this episode, but each one seemed to be balanced out by something I really couldn't stand. Regina is back to her exact. same. things. Get a new tune, please, I'm begging you. But Emma is really taking control and making changes throughout the town. Gretel is awesome, and I loved her. Hansel was a bit of a nitwit. There were shades of stories yet to come with the talk of Henry's father, which was great. But the fact that Emma lied to Henry is not only not called out (not really, he should have figured it out) it's never again revisited in the show so far. If it's not a major plot point early in Season Two I'll be really cranky. Regina's question to Gretel revealed something about her then doesn't do anything with it.

Emma's rants about the foster system to Mary Margaret were interesting on one level because she's talking to the mother who "abandoned" her. But nobody ever called Emma on her blatant bias and the fact that she's full of crap in these scenes. Nobody even questions her, which comes off as an endorsement of her ideals on foster care as truth, which people have justifiably called the show out for. It's fine for Emma to have these feelings based on her experiences, she's a character with a history and layers, etc. But it's that there is nothing to counter those views or even point out her biased views that it becomes a problem.

Last thing about this episode is that it's when it really hit home to me what one of my primary issues is: the art and costume design isn't really working for me at all, especially in the Enchanted Forest. Sometimes they have a home run, the blind witch was kind of awesome. Apparently I'm the only person in the world that absolutely hated Regina's look in this episode. But my problem is that it all comes across looking really cheap to me. The wigs are obviously wigs, they don't look remotely like real hair and most of them don't even seem to fit. Half the costumes look great, the other half look like their made out of the discount bin. Regina's spells almost always look like the cheapest CG possible, and all of these pulls me completely out of the story. Maybe this is all intentional and they want the Enchanted Forest to look fake, but it's really not helping me at all and it's making it hard for me to forgive the story when it bores me.

7:15 A.M.: And we're back to David can't make a decision. Yay! The Enchanted Forest story as we see Snow and Charming circle around each other continues to be interesting and make me love everything (even poor Stealthy). I'm reminded once again that Rumple is playing the long game and I still don't know exactly what he's up to but it's bound to be awesome. Charming has all the character depth and emotions that David is still lacking. I'll be honest, I didn't hate the real world parts of this story at all. In fact I was glad that it seemed like there was finally decision making, yay! David is becoming confident and dealing with his issues! He's growing and changing and raising the stakes and all the stuff characters are supposed to do! It's about time.

Part Two Overview: All in all, I had promised myself I would watch at least until Skin Deep (which I'll talk about next week) and there were points during this section that it was a good thing I had decided that because I would have just walked away from the show, looked up some spoilers, and been happy with my life. I wish the show could be consistent, and have the same sort of acting and character development they show off in the Enchanted Forest during the real world sections. And I wish the art design and costume design skills from the real world sections were being applied to the fairy tale ones. If the show could just balance that out, it could be really amazing.

Cindy Sherman at MoMA

Last weekend, my best friend and I went to New York City to go to see the current Cindy Sherman exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.

I first learned who Cindy Sherman was in undergrad at Hollins University. I became an art history minor by accident (I realized my junior year that I had just taken enough of the right classes that I just needed one more to already have the minor completed). So, being a film and photography major with a minor in art history, it seems only natural that from the moment I first laid eyes on Untitled Film Still #21, I was completely and totally hooked.

Of course, I ended up doing a final project based on her work for my Modern Art class. It was a computer program/presentation where I took a selection of the Untitled Film Stills and the Centerfold series and broke them down into the archetypes they represented and compared them to specific films. It's probably the most elementary of ways you can look at Sherman's work, but I loved doing it and I'm still proud of it.

I missed out on seeing the entire Untitled Film Stills series when MoMA first exhibited it a few years ago, right after they acquired the complete set because I hadn't been exposed to Sherman's photography yet. I saw a few when I went on a trip to NYC in 2009, but I always regretted missing the entire thing. So when MoMA announced that they were doing an exhibit of Cindy Sherman's work that included the Film Stills and more pieces from her entire career, I really wanted to go. My best friend stepped up, and said we should go together and a plan was made.

The thing that I love most about Sherman's photography is that she plays with symbolism and archetypes so perfectly, and in a way that is mostly accessible to a large portion of the general public. This isn't like some artwork where you know it must mean something but you're completely lost as to what until you read a ten page artist's statement that explains what each individual piece represents to him. Sherman is using what we know, and she creates a commentary about it that is often equal parts celebration and critique.

The reason that the Film Stills series is so powerful is that we all know these pictures. We know these women, we know their histories and their stories. I would wager if you took one of them out into the streets of a city and asked people if they had seen the movie it was from, most would answer with "Yeah, I can't remember the title, but I've seen that one." Film is a visual medium, created using a short of shorthand language that we all know so that we understand things without being told. Tropes exist in film specifically so we don't have to spend a lot of time telling the audience things that we could convey with wardrobe choices, hairstyle, or even camera angle.

Sherman understands the vernacular and uses it to her advantage. There probably never has been as perfect a critique or exploration of women's film roles in that "Golden Age" of cinema. I've read entire books that were using pages upon pages of long winded sentences to try to explain what Sherman can say in a single image.

And the interesting thing is that those were some of her earliest works. She went on to examine many other types of popular culture and art, from Centerfolds to Renaissance painting to Hollywood Head Shots. And each time she's done it with the same skill and ability to speak the language of the art form and resonate with a wide audience.

If you're even remotely near NYC, you have to go check out the exhibit in the next few days while it's still up - through June 11th. MoMA is a fantastic museum anyway, and well worth a look when you're in town. But if nothing else, you should spend a few hours this week looking at the website for the exhibit or reading about Sherman, because she's an artist you really should know about.

The Pleasures of Cooking for One by Judith Jones

It's hard to review a cookbook, especially one that you haven't actually cooked anything from.

But what I can tell you is that this book was basically not at all what I was looking for and I was more than a little disappointed. Which isn't exactly the book's fault, because it was clear I was not at all the target for this particular cookbook.

See, I mostly do single serve meals for myself because my husband and I eat such very different things. Plus, I do about half of my work from home, so I can make my own lunch if I wanted. So I've been actively looking for recipes and cookbooks that focus on small portions and cooking for one or two people. This book seemed perfect.

Only the thing is that it's written by a woman with a fantastic food pedigree (she has one recipe that she designed specifically for a meal with Julia Child when she worked for her). Meanwhile, I only own a handful of pots and pans and barely know how to do much more than brown hamburger.

Most of the time, I can find a way to take very fancy recipes and adapt some of the flavors and techniques into things I can manage. At the least, I learn a bit about what goes well together for future reference. But in the end, I don't cook with a ton of spices and ingredients because it's expensive and an indulgence I don't need. If food was important to me, the way it seems to be for Jones, then that would probably be different. I would make it a priority.

But the thing people with money never seem to realize is that every single ingredient you add to a recipe is a much larger cost than you would think. First, there's just buying the item in the first place. Then, there's the fact that unless you're using it up in this recipe, you're going to have to store it. If you don't have a large kitchen, this is a huge problem.

Lastly, there's the problem of waste. Last time I made one of my favorite recipes, I had to spend twice as much per ounce on some of the ingredients because I bought the smallest sizes possible of things like horseradish that I just don't use before it goes bad (unless I'm making the same recipes nearly every day). I still ended up throwing away half the bottle. And I don't really believe in wasting food like that, I'm trying very hard to curb my food waste.

So when a recipe calls for something like cumin, then there's really not much for me to do because there's no way that I have the money, space, or need for an entire bottle of cumin. And the majority of people that I know are the same way. This cookbook was basically for a social and economic class of people that I don't belong to. Some of the food sounded pretty great, but the only recipe I really wanted to keep was the Hollandaise for One, because I love hollandaise and the only ingredients are butter, egg, lemon juice and salt. Although the last time I bought lemon juice I had to throw out almost the entire bottle of that, so who knows.