Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

In theaters.

Seeing Indy again was fun, but I was most excited about the return of Marion, whom I adored as a little girl. As played by Karen Allen, Marion was nobody’s blushing damsel or flighty ditz. She was proud and smart and resourceful, a fitting match for Indiana Jones—and she still is in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Allen and Harrison Ford both are showing their years (and I mean that in the best way possible), but they still have a great, crackling chemistry, and the reunion of their characters is so charming that I didn’t even roll my eyes at the movie’s sappy coda. (Well, that’s a lie. But I didn’t roll them that hard.)

I can’t say everything else about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was as much fun as the reappearance of Marion Ravenwood, but the movie has its moments, I guess, and nobody embarrassed him- or herself. And when you’re talking about a series entry arriving nearly two decades after the previous installment, maybe that’s not bad.

Uglies, Pretties, Specials, and Extras

By Scott Westerfeld. Published in 2005, 2005, 2006, and 2007, respectively.

When I was about eleven years old, I decided I was far too grown up for children’s books. I refused to even set foot in the Young Adult section and instead wandered with proud determination through general fiction. I didn’t always truly get the books, but I unnerved a few middle-school teachers by declaring Larry McMurtry’s epic, violent, Pulitzer Prize–winning Lonesome Dove my favorite novel, and—let’s face it—that was part of the reason I was reading it. (To be fair, though, I never would have gotten through the eight-hundred-page tome if I didn’t genuinely enjoy it.)

Anyway, Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series is exactly the sort of thing I would have dismissed out of hand as a teenager but also exactly the sort of thing I would have enjoyed if I hadn’t been so vain. The writing itself is serviceable, if not particularly inspiring, but the characters are interesting, the ideas are provocative, and nothing is black-and-white. I would have appreciated that then, and I appreciate it now.

Jeff Koons on the Roof

Special exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through October 26.

Inside, the enormous shiny metal balloon dog might look overwhelming or creepy, but outside, underneath the vast blue sky on the Met’s roof garden, it’s charming and whimsical, a giant-child’s plaything. Even after all the trouble to get to the roof, even when the sun creates a glare on the lacquer, the sculpture feels utterly blithe. It makes me smile just to look at it.

Russian Roots

The New York City Ballet on Friday, May 9.

The choreography in the Russian Roots program ranges from the primly beautiful to the slightly jazzy to the quasi-tribal, which is why it’s such a trip that they’re all choreographed by the same man: Jerome Robbins, whose Russian heritage the title references. The pieces are quite different in mood and texture, but as my dad pointed out afterword, knowing they come from the same person gives one license to the similarities among them, the way modern touches turn up in the classic “Andantino” and traditional steps create a foundation for the brutal “Les Noces.”

My muse is stressed out

Sean and I are fine, but we’ve been coping with assorted family issues that have made it difficult for me to get into a writing frame of mind, hence the lapse in posts.

Iron Man

In theaters.

As Sean and I left the movie theater, Sean pointed out how Iron Man is a second-tier Batman. Both Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne (their everyday identities) lack superpowers, per se, but possess such extraordinary wealth and ingenuity that they can build or acquire technology to compensate. Sean prefers Batman’s backstory, but I think it’s not so much Batman as Batman’s world that makes him more compelling. I’m hardly a comics aficionado, but what impresses me about Gotham is its moral complexity. The villains aren’t necessary evil, or at least they weren’t always, and Batman himself walks a fine line between justice and vengeance. The world is shaded in gray, without absolutes, which is why it feels so resonant, so recognizable, superheroics notwithstanding.

But Iron Man (at least as portrayed in this movie—I’ve never read the comics) exists in a sharply black-and-white universe, which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t make so many feints at real, contemporary issues. This Iron Man tries to have it both ways—grittily recognizable universe and pat, rah-rah heroics—and the dissonance is painful. It’s a shame because Robert Downey Jr. is great, and the robotic exoskeleton thing is pretty cool. Iron Man has much to recommend it, but I walked out of the theater not with a grin but a wince.