I’m only two episodes in so, you know, maybe it’s too early to offer any kind of helpful or accurate assesment, but as of right now, here is how I feel about House of Cards. I love this show the way I love Ted’s Montana Grill, which is to say: despite myself, and therefore in a way that somewhat resembles a guilty pleasure, although I don’t believe in those, and anyway this is more complex.
But, OK, have you ever been to a Ted’s Montana Grill? It’s Ted Turner’s burger chain that works very very hard to make you forget it’s a burger chain; the interiors are all dimly-lit and wood-paneled and leather-seated, lots of brass touches on the light fixtures, lots of buffalo heads everywhere and scruffy paintings of cowboys and whatnot. If there was a suspendered dude with a handlebar mustache plinking out some jaunty lil tune from a piano in the corner, it would not feel out of place, although this is not something I have personally experienced at either of the three locations I have visited before. But all of them have involved, somewhere in the restaurant, whose double-hinged quarter-door things, like the kind that bad guys bust through in Westerns as tumbleweeds roll past in the background. Every action inside a Ted’s Montana Grill could be conceivably soundtracked by Ennio Morricone. That’s the kind of place it is. Except it’s a big sprawly chain owned by the dude who started CNN and used to boink Jane Fonda.
But also—the food is pretty good. I’ve gotten the same burger both times I’ve gone recently, but I could probably eat it at least once a week. Also they bring you little pickles as an appetizer, and the pickles are pretty good. But, duh, because everything about the place feels very exactingly tailored to the experience of enjoyment, like there is just enough salt and fat in every bite, and just enough rough touches in the decor to make you almost forget you are sitting amidst some very highly deliberated-over thing specifically constructed for mass appeal and, indeed, your individual approval. Nothing about it is mind-blowing but it’s still really satisfying just because feels, like, 2% better than I would have expected it to be.
I’m not sure if anyone else feels this way about the show, I haven’t been reading much about it and probably won’t, because I will be watching it (this is my new post-Girls strategy: watch don’t read), but I mentioned this to Joe last night and he said YES, EXACTLY, and then we high-fived because we’re smug married assholes.
We also high-fived when I figured out, without the help of IMDB, that the actress who plays the secretary/ladyfriend of Senator Muscles is the same girl from Cabin in the Woods (which is something more comparable to visiting a McDonalds and settling in for some real legit American terribleness and then realizing, oh my god, this Big Mac is actually a beautiful and hilarious essay about the shittiness of Big Macs!).
Something about Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit just slays me. I watched the movie last night for what may well have been the fourth time, and every time this has happened, and seemingly with increasing intensity—there are scenes where I find myself on the verge of tears, total lump in the throat and everything, for no apparent reason other than that Mattie Ross, in her hands, is just such a tremendous little badass. But also, she is such a fourteen year old girl. She is a fourteen year old girl as I knew them, as perhaps I was myself—part firecracker, part prude. She knows exactly what she wants, occasionally somehow knows how to get it, but is still living in the fantasy world of late-childhood. Her conversations with Little Blackie are where you really see this, where she seems just like another little girl telling secrets to her horse—the horse she’s riding through Indian territory along with a strange drunk U.S. Marshall who she’s hired to kill the man who killed her father (and who, in fact, she will eventually kill herself). She knows just enough to be dangerous, the rest patched together with pluck and sass and dumb luck. Also, those braids.
I don’t remember what I used to think of this song, but a few years ago I saw Silence of the Lambs for the first time. This was something I thought I would never do because for a very long time in my life I was painfully averse to anything deathly or scary, especially movies, and I was under the impression that this was the scariest of all scary movies. Turns out, it’s mostly just incredibly, deeply, marrow-curdlingly creepy. I had never eaten fava beans before but I’m not sure I could stomach them now. Also: this song. Like I said, I don’t know what I used to think of it. But after that scene where what’s her face is driving home at night, in the dark, alone in her car, thumb-drumming on the steering wheel and singing along to it, and Buffalo Bill (do you even know his name, or his game, at that point? I don’t remember) is clearly creepin’ on up behind her in his creeper van—that is where my mind goes when I hear this song, now. And on one hand, it’s great. Driving alone and singing along to whatever’s on the stereo is actually one of my favorite things in life, and seeing that character in that movie have that kind of moment with this song made me love the song, or made me realize I already loved it. But also now every time I hear it, like I did today when I was running errands at lunch and it came on my car radio that miraculously decided to start working after a while of not working, and was still stuck on 97.1 THE RIVER, ATLANTA’S CLASSIC HITS from last time it was working, I am overcome with this total cloud of sickly dread and this OH MY GOD, GIRL, DR. VAN CREEPENSTEIN BACK THERE IS GOING TO KILL YOU, TAKE YOUR TOM PETTY CASSETTE AND GET OUT OF THERE, LIKE SERIOUSLY, YOU COULD MAYBE GUESS HOW HORRIBLE YOUR LIFE IS ABOUT TO BECOME, BUT YOU WOULD BE OFF BY ABOUT 5000% (IT WILL INVOLVE LOTION IN A BASKET) (ALSO A DUDE WHO WANTS TO MAKE AN OUTFIT OUT OF YOUR SKIN) (SORRY FOR THE SPOILERS BUT THIS IS YOUR LIFE) (ALSO ONE DAY YOU WILL END UP ON GREY’S ANATOMY) (YEAH SORRY ABOUT THAT, BUT SERIOUSLY, DON’T GET IN THAT VAN). And that lasts for three minutes, or however long, and then an Aerosmith song comes on and I become filled with a different kind of bad feeling entirely.
The Wicker Man! Everyone talks about the bees and the bear punch and while those scenes are indeed beautiful and stupid things, my favorite part is any time Nicolas Cage is on a bicycle. He’s such a bad bike rider! He’s a worse bike rider than he is a detective, and he’s a terrible detective. This makes no sense because, as we see in the movie’s utterly pointless prologue, he’s skilled enough on a motorcycle to swoop over and pick up a doll tossed out of a station wagon window by a pseudo-portentous blonde child without breaking a sweat and/or his neck. Yet he wobbles up and down the (shockingly well-hewn!) paths of Misandry Island like a drunk seven-year-old. Then there’s the part where he bike-jacks a schoolteacher in a bird mask. Then there’s the part where he comes out of some Misandry Cottage where he’s been doing vague, aggressive, impotent detective work and he looks to where he left his bike against the hedge and the bike is GONE and to emphasize this fact the score gives us a dramatic sting, like almost literally a “DUN DUN DAAH.” He’s like the Wicked Witch of the Oh My God This Movie, Let’s Not Even Talk About The Misuse of Ellen Burstyn, And What Was LeeLee Sobieski Even Doing There?
When my friend Ben did a Kickstarter to fund his restoration of Manos: The Hands of Fate, he had Level Press make some really weirdly gorgeous posters for backer rewards. A few of the posters are on sale now if you’d like to bring one of these strange beautiful things into your home. Joe and I have one framed in our living room (the red is more hot pink IRL) and it brings me huge amounts of joy. The moths!