Movies


Alfred Hitchcock -

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I am starting to feel like the Tippi Hedron character in Hitchcock’s The Birds because every time I go for a solo walk around our little hamlet, I get swooped on by maniac starlings and robins.

And I blame Rob. He shredded a robin last spring with the grill of the little truck. and a few days later, birds began suicide missions against our downstairs windows. I lost track of the number of stiff and reeking of revenge feathery carcasses needing to be disposed of, but the creepiest incident of all was this robin, who perched everywhere, peering into our windows. Every window I glanced out of, there it was. Like the crows on the playground at the Bodega Bay School.

Shortly after, I was targeted for eye plucking every time I took a walk.

At first, I thought “huh, weird”, and then I thought “omg it’s personal” because I was out with Dee, and they ignored her totally, which is good because I haven’t taught her the duck, cover your eyes and run bird attack safety awareness thing yet. I thought, incorrectly it appears, that “stop, drop and roll” might be more useful.

But now I am convinced I am on some avian hit list and when the flocking together feathered ones rise up – I’m going to be one of the first they make a pecked and shredded example of in the coming holocaust:


Bora Bora

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Rob picked the movie last night. He’s a big Vince Vaughn fan but we’d ended up taking Couples Retreat out of the library because Rob had gone searching for Jon Favreau films because the guy is responsible for IronMan. We’d watched IronMan 2 the other night – and it was time sucked from life that we’ll never recover, nevermind that Robert Downey Jr. plays narcissism like a Stradivarius. But, Couple’s Retreat. I think Vaughn is one-dimensional on his best day of acting but I’ll watch Jason Bateman in anything.

The premise of the film is that a group of friends travel to an exotic island to a resort that combines holiday and couple’s counseling. Bateman’s character and his wife, played by Kristen Bell, are on the verge of divorce after a year of unsuccessfully trying to conceive and they need the others to come along on this last-ditch effort to save their marriage because the resort offers a reduced rate for groups.

Mostly, it’s not funny. All the couples are in various states of dysfunction or relationship neglect. How that is funny escapes me, but there was a tantric yoga scene that was hilarious.

Yoga can be … intimate. Even when it doesn’t mean to be.

Tantric yoga though – is trying hard to be … cozy.

Along with yoga, there is the prerequisite counseling sessions with a shady looking bunch of therapists, dubious skill building activities and painfully unfunny dialogue

Ultimately, however, there is a happy ending. All is well. Unsurprisingly it is when the couples simply talk to each other that they are able to work through the issues that threaten them. Talking? Who knew? Apparently, a lot of people or why would the idea of couple’s therapy be cliché enough to make a rom-com about it?

It’s progress that the most stereotypical unlucky in love single in the movie is a guy and not the proverbially desperate white female of a certain age (that age being shockingly young anymore). And again, the problem was a common one – not copping to what you want, need and just being who you are – because honestly, that should be good enough if someone really loves you.

And that’s where the happy ending was to be found in Couple’s Retreat. In being one’s self and not accepting another person’s crap for your personal layering. Lesson being this – it’s only when you understand who you are, what you need and that you will be okay if taking action to be and get causes upheaval in your life – it’s then that everything will be okay. And more likely, people will still love you.

Just saying.


Hot Tub Time Machine

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Of course, I wouldn’t have a hot tub because they are unsanitary skin flake stews marinating in secreted bodily residue, and traveling through time shouldn’t be done when damp or barely dressed because that is asking for a more awkward than necessarily fish out of your own time zone experience than landing somewhere in your own past would be otherwise,

I’ve been pondering 1986 on and off since Rob and I snuggled in to watch John Cusack‘s Hot Tub Time Machine. Destined to be another non-classic in his mid-life crisis collection along with the equally phoned in 2012, it begs two questions. What would you do if you had a pivotal weekend in your life to live over and what kind of mid-life hell is Cusack going through to have not only starred in but produced such a puerile piece of a complete time suck like this?

The first question occupies me more than the second though it is hard to watch yet another movie in Cusack’s slow fall from watchable to just another movie star cashing a paycheck. The movie for all its seriously lowbrow reach focuses on the question of going back in time to “right yourself”. The main characters are Al Bundy off-track and stuck so firmly in the weeds they’ve wandered into courtesy of poor life choices and the plain old drift that most of us allow to direct our course. You know what I mean. We paddle furiously until we find that sweet spot in the river and then allow the undertow to do the rest. We figure that the channels we’ve chosen should simply flow along, carrying us to where we want to end up, but the reality is that this only happens for those yellow plastic ducks in wading pools at carnivals. The kind that bob in an endless loop, waiting to be plucked for possible fabulous prizes.

I find that back to the past stories fall into two categories. There is Ray Bradbury‘s “butterfly effect” where any deviation from the original past, no matter how slight, spells doom for the future. Or there is the big fix that puts everyone into a utopia ala the McFly family‘s hunky dory happy ending in the first Back to the Future. The possibility that the past can’t be altered because it’s fixed (as some scientists theorize) is never entertained. It’s never like Emily Webb trying to relive her 12th birthday, stuck in a play where ad-libbing isn’t allowed.

“Where were you in January of 1986?” I asked Rob after the movie was over.

“Mick had just turned one, and I was in my first year of university,” He said.

Rob was already righting his path. An old married man of 24 going back to school to secure that better life.

In January of 1986 I was living in an apartment near the TKE house in Iowa City. Challenger was a couple of months away from blowing up. I was finishing up course work to get ready for my student teaching in the coming fall. It was a crappy winter. I was feeling sorry for myself because everyone had a boyfriend but me. Not having a boyfriend was a huge drama-rama thing for me though the reality – that I never bothered to really acknowledge – was that I did next to nothing to actually remedy the problem. Prospects abounded and one that I was even interested in a more serious way (that being relative to who I was at the time), I let slip because the truth (not something I was big on admitting) was that I didn’t want a boyfriend. My ambivalence couldn’t have been higher or more plain but nothing is as blind as 22.

But if going back to 1986 were an option, what makes us think that the outcome will be horror movie or happily ever materialism after? It’s like people who believe they’ve lived before are only ever victims of great historical tragedy or famous people. There is no ordinary. No average option.

Time travel theory – the serious shit – postulates that traveling backward is the only option. The future doesn’t exist and you can’t travel to somewhere that isn’t yet. Back is done. It’s like photos in an album or stepping into a home movie and wandering about like visitors to a re-enactment of a historical event. The outcome has already been decided. Nothing left to see there but the details that you’ve forgotten or altered as you’ve aged and waxed nostalgic.

My 22-year-old self would be too annoying and it would drive me crazy to be stuck inside her limited worldview.

Cusack and company naturally improved their futures in the superficial sense. They had money, goods and the women of their dreams. Presumably better attitudes and a little gratitude came along with the upgrade but the film doesn’t go there really.

I’ve gone over the side of the wading pool a few times in my life. Saw opportunity or took a chance. The only way to effect change is by going forward. The past has been and done.


Senators' party membership by state, since Feb...

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It’s Midterms, people, and though I am not as frenzied as I was for the ’08 POTUS race, I have fears.

Not for me personally as I live in the Canadian Utopia, but for all of you, who should be planning your exit strategies if things go drastically to the right because 2012 is the year the Mayans decided to end their calendar with – just saying.

As I imagine the airways are polluted with negative ads and phones are bombarded with robo-calls, perhaps a good movie is in order. Fave political movies?

Let’s see. This is what Time Magazine thinks:

I’ve seen Bob Roberts, The Candidate, Citizen Kane And Primary Colors. The last is probably my favorite Travolta role ever and the saddest, most apt commentary on the enigma that is Bill Clinton ever.

But I loved Kevin Kline in Dave.

And Michael Douglas as The American President.

I like my politics with a bit of chick flick.

How about you?


Entrance of the James Bond exhibition, Science...

Image by Craig Grobler via Flickr

… but I got a better invite as the husband lured me with snuggling and a movie. That it happens to be a movie we tried to watch once upon a time and he pulled the veto plug on it thirty minutes in doesn’t matter.

Why?

Well, he insists that didn’t happen and I will snuggle through the worst movie – almost.

So it’s Bond – one of the newer James Bonds – and quality time goodness.

I’ll blog in the morning. Really. Promise. I am so behind on my education pieces at Care2 that I am literally chaining myself to the keyboard until I write. And I have yoga writing and a guru wanna-be to tweak a bit.

‘Til morning then?


If I were going to write a memoir, that’s what I’d call it and then subtitle it with – Lather, Rinse and Repeat.

I bring this up for two reasons.

The first is that my blog reader is crammed with Eat, Pray, Love crap as the Julia Roberts adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book is opening or has opened.

The reviews are mostly “meh”. No surprise. The novel itself isn’t much. One review pronounced it too “talk-y” as in the character constantly describes how she feels and her observations about every freaking thing. As if a movie about a writer documenting her journey to enlightenment should be somehow more visual than word-packed.

My favorite review so far was written by Helena Andrews at The Root. It took up the theme of Gilbert’s book and named it “white girl problems”. Couldn’t have found a better genre for it.

White girl problems are essentially the non-issues the pale and the privileged focus on in the absence of actual adversity.

When I attempted to read Eat, Pray, Love, Will was just going into hospice. A book by a woman bemoaning her serial monogamy – that horrid pretty girl issue of having always been someone’s girlfriend or wife – while I was losing the only man I’d ever had a long-term relationship with in my entire 41 years didn’t go over well.

Sucks to be her, I mentally eye-rolled as I put the book on a shelf never to be cracked open again until I decided that some of her syrupy half-wit might be useful when I was writing comps for my education masters about six months later. I knew Gilbert was a poser but my professor didn’t.

Andrews though draws this awesome comparison between “white girl problems” lit/memoirs and a line from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. There is a scene where the Mad Hatter observes that in the real world, Alice has lost her “muchness”.

“You were much more … muchier.”

White girls in the real world then are searching for their muchness.

Gilbert’s muchness turned out to be the exact thing she thought was her problem – love and being in a relationship – because her journey ends when she meets the man she is now married to.

So much for issues.

Which brings me to my second reason, and it is related to the loss of muchness. My memoir. The one that’s pretty much written and is screaming to be edited and shopped.

I can’t.

I know. I have been saying that for a while now, but I am sure of the reason behind my reluctance. And it goes beyond my belief that books about overcoming tragedy by being plucky, witty and boot-strappy are so common place that they’ve become clichés onto themselves.

Rob followed a link to a widow blog and the author was describing her experiences at a Blogher style convention for widows complete with keynote speakers, author panels and how-to workshops. A couple of her encounters with people who’d mined literature from their experiences and turned them into books and/or workshops had left her feeling removed and as though she was possibly doing widowhood and grieving wrong.

And then I knew why I haven’t finished my memoir.

I can’t give people their muchness back. I could write a memoir, package it and sell it out of workshops and conventions, but a person’s muchness comes from within not from without.

I felt/still feel sometimes as though I didn’t do widowhood right. The way I felt, and the things I needed to do for myself, were often so out of step with other widows, books on grieving and even memoirs of widows that I wondered how I could be so far out in the weeds when everyone else seemed to know where the paved road was.

I can’t do that to someone else. Lead them to believe – even inadvertently – that I know the way.

Especially since I really don’t believe there is a process to grief or a one size fits all way to navigate the first year or that the whole honoring of someone’s memory should even be numbered in the top twenty of a person’s priority list.

The blogger mentioned how pleased some of the authors seemed with themselves, their lives and this opportunity to basically headline a conference. And I can totally understand her and them.

It’s amazing when people read what you’ve written and tell you it meant something to them. It would be easy to let that dominate and forget that the subject matter makes you more responsible to your readers than that of a fiction writer.

If what I write inspires someone, wow, but if it makes someone feel inadequate, wrong, or persecuted by the fates? Ouch. It would bother me the same way that the kid in my 3rd hour English class who’d given up because he’d never gotten a grade above a D used to bother me. Even though that wasn’t really my fault, I had to fix it. It was my job.

Memoirists open their lives for reasons that are far different from that of a fiction writer. It’s more than telling a good story. My story and opinions as a blueprint for grieving would be a responsibility like the one I took on as a teacher. And it would mean never fully closing the door. The pain would always have access of sorts to my now. A liberty that it doesn’t deserve and that I don’t owe it.

Besides, I’ve written my story – here and in a hundred different places all over the webosphere via comments and guest posts.

Purge, Pack and Move would be an awesome title though.  Sigh.


Is it nudity or violence? What tips the scale and motivates a parent to make the “off limits” call?

The daughter is enthralled by the story of the Titanic. Her cousin lent her a book when we were last in Iowa, and when we got home she actually checked a documentary dvd on the disaster out of the library … and watched the whole thing in one sitting.

Okay that last part she gets from me. I love historical documentaries. I once celebrated the Fourth of July holiday by watching Ken Burns’ Civil War* from start to finish.

But Dee’s fascination with Titanic went into overdrive when she discovered there was a movie about it.

Nothing beats history except the Hollywoodization of it.

For a decade plus old film, it is still surprising hard to check out of the library. I had to get in queue, and we waited a month.

And as the credits rolled, I had my reservations.

“People die,” I reminded Dee.

“Yes,” she said, “I know that. The ship sank.”

“This is only sort of make-believe,” I cautioned.

“I know,” she replied in that tone. THAT tone. The one that reminds me that she isn’t feeble-minded and that I am being over-protective.

So I girded myself, and we watched the first half on Friday night.

It’s a horrible movie. Very James Cameron. Cheesy. Trite. Insipid dialogue. Caricatures in place of characters. CGI that wouldn’t pass muster on a Wii.

And the acting? Aside from Kathy Bates, who couldn’t be awful if she tried, it was spectacularly awful. DiCaprio and Winslet give it their all – but the script was hokey and stacked against them from the opening bell.

But even as death loomed, what really made question my parenting skills were the bare breasts.

Yeah, not the liberal use of “fuck” and “shit”, or “shite” depending, but nekkid titties.

We are not particularly modest in our household. I don’t duck for cover when the daughter is about, and Rob and I sleep in the nude.**

Perhaps it was the suggestiveness? Eight is still a bit too young for the “full monty” explanation of sex.

Last night was the infamous “Jack sketches Rose in the nude scene” and by this time, Dee was firmly indoctrinated into the “Jack is an artist, so it’s okay” camp.

But the sex in the car?

Nothing is shown. It’s all suggested and then cut-away to another scene before coming back to find them sweating and undressed (ironically, Winslet’s breasts – so prominent during the “art” scene are strategically covered now.)

“Um,” Dee said, “are they naked?”

“Yes,” I said – steeling myself for a “grown-ups in love sometimes get naked when they kiss” explanation.

“Hmmm,” and her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed and she said no more.

Bullet dodged for another day.

But then came the iceberg. The panic. The rising water. The frantic, and tragically doomed, people scrambling for boats.

After a scene which highlighted a father lying to his young daughters so he could get them onto a life boat with their mother, she asked,

“Can I have a tissue?”

“Should we turn this off now and finish later?”

“Yes,” she agreed. “You and Dad and I would have been on a boat together, wouldn’t have we?”

And of course I didn’t lie to her. It was women and children first and the majority of the men on Titanic who had any balls or integrity went down with the ship.***

She hasn’t asked to watch the end today. She knows Rose lives and that Jack dies. We talked about that in advance. But in the larger scheme, this isn’t make-believe. People really died. Dads really died.

Maybe I should have copped out and told her the movie wasn’t appropriate for kids – and maybe it really isn’t – but she watched the documentary already, and it was far more grim and real.

At eight I was still watching Disney mostly. Was I better off for being sheltered?

I have vetoed films that I know other kids her age have seen already. Pop stuff. Fantastical but dark.

She doesn’t want commercial tv. She is far less exposed to the over-sexed culture and mindless distraction that numbs mind and soul than the majority of her peers.

She knows death first hand, so it’s pointless to pretend it doesn’t exist.

And it’s futile to shield her from the fact that human beings mainly exist to couple. The world revolves around that … and killing each other.

I am betting it will be a while before she asks to finish the movie and when we do, it will not be in the evening before bed.

*I still marvel at how the Civil War became Ken’s. Alien historians a thousand years from now will marvel that one man caused all that destruction a hundred years prior to his own birth.

** Rob, by the way, is covered up and if  Dee were a boy, it would be the opposite situation. For example, I began shooing my nephews out of the room when I dressed when they hit five. Although, I am not so concerned about the over five year old boys whose mothers bring them into the women’s change room at the pool. That’s their problem.

***And yeah, that sounds sexist but seriously? Who would really cheer on the idea of men first in a situation like this?