Monday, November 02, 2009


1. haunting the hill house

It was a weekend that involved goat cheese-stuffed figs, plentiful Halloween candy and an Oprah sighting, so I don’t really need to tell you it was good, do I?

Friday night, AK and I took our long-delayed cooking class at Hipcooks East, where a whole world opened up to me in a small Brewery loft—a world of sea salt, live clams, candying one’s own cashews and not cutting one’s finger off with a dull knife. All new notions. Then I opened my mouth and ate the global proportions of figs, Portuguese seafood stew and chocolate soufflĂ© that we made with the help of a friendly, ebullient chef named Kiersten.

On Halloween night we passed out peanut butter cups to exactly three trick-or-treaters, meaning we officially ate more candy than we gave away. Then it was on to JP’s legendary annual Gothtober party in Echo Park. Dressed as Little Edie, I practiced for my future as an eccentric old lady by making AK park illegally rather than find a spot on the crazy-steep hills surrounding JP’s place. (Seriously, that shit freaks me out—Baxter and its neighboring avenues make San Francisco look like the prairie.)

Pics forthcoming.

2. waiting for oprah

Sunday we lined up for free rush tickets to the premiere of Precious, which I thought was a screening of Precious. But plenty of paparazzi and Mariah Carey fans knew otherwise, so the streets of Hollywood Boulevard were clogged with more insanity than usual. Afterward, AK and I agreed that, as with getting an MFA in creative writing, we wouldn’t have done it if we’d known what we were getting into, but we had no regrets.

Because, okay, I’ll admit that it was kind of cool to walk out of the bathroom and see Oprah (an exec producer on the film) standing there, joking to someone about how someone was taking a long time and maybe having some sort of problem in the bathroom she’d originally planned to use. The weird part was seeing a dozen people start buzzing and getting on phones as they tried to prepare a Bathroom Plan B.

It has to be so bizarre to wake up every day and be Oprah.

But my favorite cast-and-crew moment was when director Lee Daniels introduced the movie and thanked his boyfriend by name. It’s not every day that an African-American Hollywood director publicly acknowledges his boyfriend, you know? Rock on, Lee Daniels.

3. pushing precious

Further evidence that he’s not an everyday kind of person was the movie itself, based on Sapphire’s novel Push, which I read and liked in college (I clapped my loudest when she got on stage—it’s not every day that a poet gets to walk the red carpet either). The movie’s premise is simple and not entirely new: Girl from tough circumstances gets out of those circumstances with help from a devoted teacher. But its execution elevated it above that often cringe-inducing genre.

It takes a village to turn 16-year-old Precious Jones into the troubled kid she is at the beginning of the movie: rapist father, violently angry mother, ridiculing classmates, welfare bureaucracy, crack-plagued Harlem streets. And, rather than just one self-sacrificing teacher, it takes a village to get her out: teacher, guidance counselor, social worker, nurse, new supportive classmates (a sassy group of girls I adored).

This seemed believable to me and, in a movie that portrays plenty of hopelessness, kind of encouraging. In Precious and, in my opinion, in life, no single person can defeat an entire web of injustice. But sometimes the counter-web of social services can actually work. It’s not a glamorous savior: The alternative school where Precious blossoms is just as dingy and fluorescent-lit as her previous school. Even Mariah Carey, as her therapist, has flat bangs and a touch of hair on her upper lip. And Precious does not ace an AP test or defeat some rich-kid school at debate or medal in the Olympics. But the steps she takes, with growing humor and bravery, are everything.

It’s opening Nov. 6, and I’m pretty sure you’ll like it as much as Oprah and I did.


Claire said...

I always think of The Haunting of Hill House fondly though I've never seen it. Worked on a film that shot on The Queen Mary one day and during lunch some of us snuck into the studio where THoH was shooting. The sets were MASSIVE and amazing! Loved that.

When I lived in SF, I was good about curbing my wheels, but yeah, steep hills I could live without. And parallel parking, in general, but also with the threat of cable cars rounding corners.

Ooh, I've lost all street cred, I'm afraid, as I often get sucked into those "cringe-inducing" student gets out of bad situation movies. I have an MFA I don't use, that's worth... oh wait, that's even less street cred, right? ;)

Michelle Panik said...

Mariah Carey is a therapist?

I've got to see this.

Cheryl said...

C: There's nothing wrong with watching uplifting movies while parked on a nice flat surface and employing your expensive useless degree to analyze them. It's one of my favorite pastimes.

MP: And she's good, too.

Eeleen Lee said...

just saw this movie.
agree with the execution point.the acting also adds shine to this film.