RENT (2005)

No, I didn’t see the play. But there is a film. And here I was watching it, just a few hours ago. It wasn’t on my original list for this year, but today I wanted to just sit down and watch something. I clicked around Hulu, looking for some classics because I was in the mood for catching up on an old film. But there I saw the film version of Rent from 2005, directed by Christopher Columbus and featuring some familiar names.

I have never listened through the soundtrack all the way through, though I am familiar with a bunch of the major musicals.

Mostly I want to talk about the cinematography. I mean, mostly I want to talk about a lot of things about shooting cinematic takes on Manhattan. And mostly I want to write like the person I had envisioned myself becoming.

Beauty & The Beast

I never watched the Disney animated Beauty and the Beast. I was already a teenager when it arrived in theaters.


Belle sits on a fountain, teaching the sheep. The story book she has just taken out of the town book collection. The moment that she meets Prince Charming. But she won’t realize it’s him til Chapter 3. 

She really is a funny girl, that Belle. 


I think I am perhaps far too in character as Belle right now.


I watched it–it’s true, I did. The new Beauty and the Beast. The live action one. I was excited about this for a number of reasons–not the least of which being that in it, Belle is played by Emma Watson, who plays Hermione Granger. And what we need from the filmiverse is exactly this double casting.

Groundhog Day

6:46 am.

I woke up and wished that I was dead 

With an aching in my head

I lay motionless in bed

I thought of you and where you’d gone

And the world spins madly on

Actually, I’ve already been awake for–I don’t know, an hour? And it’s been a vaguely crappy hour. Not as bad as these lyrics by The Weepies, but they’re salient here, and I was just about to take an all natural sleeping capsule and make myself get a few more hours before another day of what would inevitably be I_just_wish_it_would_stop #everysecondofthisisshittastic every waking moment I’m alive. (Moving on to Citizen Cope here, as you may have recognized.)

I was thinking about going back to sleep but it became a toss-up, a 50/50 chance, a lock-step confusion with myself. I grabbed the phone of my nightstand and checked the time. 6:46 am, *Groundhog Day*. I’ve never seen Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day is on my list. I guess, let’s get up, put on something other than these fuzzy snowman pajamas, and figure out how to locate a copy of this DVD. Or watch it in teeny tiny clips on YouTube. Let’s fucking do Groundhog Day, you guys.

7:41 am.

My laptop battery is on 21% and also the port where you plug in the recharging cord is dented; it requires complicated manual finagling to make tiny magnetic bumps meet prongs, or whatever’s in there. The battery icon on the screen looks like it’s recharging, but the light on the wire doodad isn’t lit. I put that aside to see if it was recharging, and went to brush my teeth. Right now, the rechargeable toothbrush is the only thing working at 100%, and that’s because it’s new–like, bought yesterday, new. My iPhone has been cracked and banged around–Instagram is all bokeh, and Safari pages are taking like 30 seconds to load. In other words, my recent tech run-in’s are making this season as time-wastingly, shit-tastically, frustratingly psychologically debilitating as when I was still using PC’s, and before the iPhone was invented. Life can go eff itself right now, and please don’t snort at me through your red rum, children. It’s the perfect annoying set-up to force me to reprise 2006-2008. Now, I haven’t seen Groundhog Day, but I know it’s about deja vu’ing through the crap-fertilized tulips, and that’s just about where I am at right now. Laptop now on 18%. And let’s see if I can get a WordPress app to be able to update from the iPhone of Dr. StrangeJill. …And locate an actual DVD of Groundhog Day.

I’ve already missed the actual Groundhog Day Celebration at the Staten Island Zoo–I just checked on the iPhone while I was brushing my teeth. I would have gone. I want to integrate the local events and jaunts into journalism into my essay process. I want to be Joan Didion, goddamnit. But anyhow, Staten Island Chuck (who’s actually a female) made her appearance at 7:30 am, without Mayor de Blasio showing up to drop her. (The previous groundhog who held the honorary name “Staten Island Chuck” was dropped by the Mayor in 2014 and died soon after.  A groundhog previous to her actually bit Mayor Bloomberg.) Things get very literally Groundhog Day here in Staten Island. Groundhogs attack mayors, get dropped, die. Staten Island is a great place to write about movies without ever getting to write about the movie.

8:02 pm.

“Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today!”

8:08 pm.

“What would *you* do, if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?”

The Birds

I don’t want to write. I don’t want to write at all.

…wait, that was starting to feel better. I feel like reading the Kameron Hurley book: The Geek Feminist Revolution. It’s in my pile of books to read. I already bought it. I’ve had it for months. It’s in my pile. I’m writing in the same inner monologue cadence as screenwriter Charlie Kaufman uses in Adaptation. I’m hearing this in Nicholas Cage. I am writing. This is shame.

I will write about The Birds. I am now looking at the spine of Wicked. I’ve already read that. I read that years ago. I started rereading it a few days into the New Year. I am participating in a social media blog promotion: the British Books Challenge. It’s quite eponymously about reading British books and posting about them. Wicked isn’t a British book; it was a counter-reaction to beginning the first few days of the new year beginning to reread The Hobbit. My blog post on The Hobbit is underway in another place. This is my post about The Birds.

My post about The Birds got underway in another place as well: on Twitter. (My post on The Hobbit is staunchly holding its place on my blog since I began it a few hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve.) My post about The Birds–which is this, by now–needs to take you on a detour to explain about how it started on Twitter. But first I’ll tell you that I read The Birds. The film is based on a short story, and I read it last weekend. The short story was written by a British woman. I’ll add it to my list for The British Books Challenge: “I read a short story by a British woman. Daphne du Maurier. It was 31 home printer pages’ worth of story, and I don’t know what to say about the story itself right now. I do know that the estate of du Maurier keeps a beautiful, informative homepage on the writer and her works, and the website–from the moment I came across it–was going to arrive in the post. I knew I’d want to mention it.”

I want to write about homepages, online references, archives at our fingertips–and I want to integrate discussion of these sources into my new batch of essays. Just like we toggle among many open windows on the computer, we can toggle in our research and critical writing among sources: primary texts, analyses of them, documentaries about them, resources, websites, social media mentions. I started out my writerly career in theater reviews, but now I can hardly hope to attempt writing without wanting to show the world the miracle of the many sources.

Being this voracious a geek is accompanied by this OCD about documenting–and narrating the documenting. Ah, it seems there *was* a reason that I had the voice from Adaptation in my mind as I began writing this. I don’t want to do a close reading of a primary text anymore–I want to have a fascinated geeky adventure while experiencing it and write about that.


I was interested in watching The Birds because of real live birds. Hear me out: maybe this essay isn’t about the movie itself yet (and maybe it won’t be much about the film itself at all), but it is about real live shame. The birds were how I decided to go vegan.


Last week I watched The Birds.









Cinema Shame

Hello, and happy to be here.

I’ll start with my list and expand from there.

  1. The Birds. If we’re talking the word “penitence, I’d like to start with my true penitence: I feel terrible about eating poultry every time I see flocks of birds. I don’t want to give a whole speech about veganism–and I’m not currently a vegan, though I was for a while–but when I saw the call to participate in Cinema Shame on Twitter, I wanted to volunteer from where I’m actively penitent. So: sorry, birds. I live in an area where there is a very large bird population (the middle of Staten Island, New York).
  2. Across the Universe
  3. Groundhog Day
  4. Wet Hot American Summer
  5. Staten Island Summer
  6. Withnail and I
  7. Diary of a Teenage Girl
  8. Beauty and the Beast
  9. La Dolce Vita
  10. Mallrats
  11. Deadpool
  12. Ghostbusters