Taxes are done—assuming the IRS doesn’t find a problem with my e-filing. Given the whole must-get-them-in thing, I thought quicker would be better, so I tried it. Slow (particularly entering the W2s—something I probably won’t have to do next year), but it does do a lot of the math for me.
And now it’s done. And we got a new wireless printer today, so I was able to print out the results straight from my laptop for my records.
Still, I really should have been on this sooner—I’m never this close to the last minute with my returns, but with only one month … I’ve already iCalendared myself to go over my estimated taxes in for April (or at least check whether they’re due) a lot earlier.
I also discovered in the course of entering data that I have North Carolina state taxes due. Amazingly, I have enough on reserve to cover that too. I’ve set the date to do those well before April 15, too.
Okay, now onto the fun stuff …
THE KING’S SPEECH (2010) deserves its Oscar noms (in terms of being excellent—I haven’t seen enough other films to compare it), as eccentric speech therapist Geoffrey Rush helps Colin Firth’s royal self overcome his stuttering and become the king England needs during World War II. Very well acted, with Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth II’s Queen Mum, Derek Jacobi as the Archbishop of Canterbury and Guy Pearce as the Duke of Windsor. Unusual in showing the latter’s giving up the throne for Wallace Simpson as an act of selfishness rather than love (I’m not disputing the characterization, having no opinion either way). “Can you say the F word?”
In some ways, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) actually works better for me now that I can look at it without all the build-up and hype on my mind. Not only is this film genuinely scary, but it’s very well-made: When things start to go wrong, it feels more like an Into the Wild-type story than horror, but slowly, things get worse … and it’s entirely plausible as the cinema verité it’s supposed to be. I think it would double-bill well with some of Val Lewton’s work. “It’s my fault we’re out here where we are—hungry, and cold, and hunted.”
GOMORRA (2008) is a multistranded Italian film showing the effect of the Camorra on Naples’ drug-dealing,fashion industry and illegal waste dumping. This was well made, but a little too slow-paced for me. “All this for a couple of snot-nosed kids?”
THE DOUBLE by Jose Saramago has a history teacher with an early midlife crisis horrified to spot his exact double in a bit party in a video; he then begins a rather stalkerish search to identify and eventually meet the guy, with consequences neither one anticipates (I can’t say I was all that surprised). This is neither as deep or as clever as I’d expect from a Nobel-winning writer, but it is funny in a black-humored way and Saramago’s bubbly, vibrant writing style kept me reading.
SKIN: A Natural History by Nina G. Jablonski, is a good look at “the largest organ in our body”: Its cellular structure, its evolutionary history, how sweat works, why we lost our hair, the long history of tattooing. A bit dryer than the best pop-science books, but still interesting.
THE AMERICAN FILM MUSICAL by Rick Altman is good enough that I wish it had been better. Altman’s thesis is that the key to musicals is Opposites Attract (“Alternating scenes aren’t used to advance the narrative chronologically—they establish the male and female leads are flip sides of the coin.” [he also points out how often those opposites are Serious Artiste and Hoofer, which he sees as the genre arguing for its own legitimacy]), which plays out in the subgenre of Fairy Tale Musical (where the lovers’ union leads to Good Governance), Backstage Musical (where it leads to a great performance [in this category Altman also includes Putting on a TV Show, musical biopics and Funny Face’s Putting on a Magazine]) and Folk Musical (where it heals whatever rifts are in the community, such as between farmers and cattlemen in Oklahoma). Trouble is, his schemata doesn’t really work: Altman admits Gene Kelly is very hard to fit into a duality scheme, for instance, as so many of his dances aren’t even with the Pretty Girl; he also concedes that the backstage musical has increasingly rejected its own premise with films such as A Star is Born and All That Jazz showing couples that don’t end happily ever after (and I can think of a number of musicals that don’t seem to fit his system at all). Altman is also overly pretentious in spots, constantly grumbling about how Hollywood reduces us to passive consumers—he finds it positively sinister that Oklahoma, a commercial movie made with modern technology, can wax nostalgic about frontier life. Worth keeping though, despite its flaws.
REX LIBRIS: I, Librarian, by James Turner is an enjoyable bizarre TPB about an immortal survivor of the Library of Alexandria, now working under Thoth at the Middleton County Library where he has to deal with everything from Japanese demon warriors refusing to keep their voices down to an alien warlord with a seriously overdue book. Great, off-the-wall fun.