Saturday, February 15, 2014

50 Shades of Smartass: Chapter 15

Well, here's another 20 page chapter of pointlessness. See, it seems like there's a story being told, because characters talk endlessly, but really nothing much happens. We've had about 50 or so pages of story so far, but unfortunately for us, it's been spread out over 250 pages of typing.

:: So, we start almost literally where the last chapter left off, because we need to experience every moment of Ana's idiotic life. Christian shows up at her door to celebrate her acceptance and discuss the soft limits yet again.

:: "Nothing beats a good Bollinger." "Interesting choice of words." "Oh, I like your ready wit, Anastasia." Wait, when did the wit happen? I missed the wit. Where was it? Did it get cut out?

:: Blah blah blah extraneous details about her apartment and teacups and fumfah fumfah fooferaw. He catches the quote she pulled from Tess of the d'Urbervilles and deems it "very apt," which it certainly is not. I get it, EL James read Tess of the d'Urbervilles and wants us all to know that it's just as much an inspiration for this novel as her masturbatory fantasies of Robert Pattinson. Except the parallel she thinks is there isn't there. Also, dear Nyalarthotep in the walls, do not compare yourself to the literary canon when you're writing fanfiction, because it just makes your work look even more ridiculous and small.

Christian does say: "I thought I was d'Urberville, not Angel." You are correct. Alec d'Urberville was a rich sexual predator, so, yeah, that part I'll give you, James. Well, except that you're comparing him to the other guy in a ham-fisted attempt to get us to see this as a dark, tragic romance, which it most certainly is not.

:: So, Ana's uncomfortable with the books and wants to give them back, but Christian refuses and tells her not to "defy" him, so she figures they're hers and she can donate them to a charity auction, which makes him angry and remote, so she backpedals immediately, trying to save the whole night. He even sort of questions her character, saying "As a submissive you would just be grateful for them. You just accept what I buy you because it pleases me for you to do so." Sorry, but you don't get to dictate her reactions, you just have to accept them and go from there. She says expensive gifts make her feel cheap. He plays it off by downplaying the gift entirely, dismissing her feelings, and then changing the subject.

Ana, he has been at your apartment for three pages. (Three pages in EL James' world equals about two minutes of actual time.) It should be a warning sign that you two can't even have a celebration without hostility and hurt feelings. Also, it should be a warning sign that Christian is uncomfortable when the focus is on you and your feelings and anything outside of being "his."

:: When pouring, Christian actually says, "with relish," "Bollinger Grand Annee Rose, 1999, an excellent vintage." It's like a caricature of a rich person. It's so stupid. Also, can a book get called out for having near-constant product placement? It's like EL James somehow thought corporations were going to send her Bollinger or Audis or MacBooks as thank-yous, or something.

:: Christian's sister Mia is coming into town. I wonder if she'll be the same kind of vague, shadowy non-character as his brother Elwood or Marmot or Petey or Stuckey or Jasper or whatever the hell his name was.

:: Christian basically interrogates Ana about her internship interviews and all kinds of shit because EL James is just padding and stalling again because, I guess, serious books are thick. He also bugs her about whether she ate, and she says to us "not this old chestnut" because, again, Ana speaks the way modern 22 year-olds do.

(Adding to this reference is the fact that Family Guy defended Marilyn Manson about half a decade after Marilyn Manson stopped being relevant.)

:: "The next time you roll your eyes at me, I will take you across my knee." It made me sigh in exasperation, but it makes Ana's panties start melting, so what the hell do I know?

:: And then the list comes out and we have to talk through the list again, for something like the third or fourth fucking time. Ana's having reservations about anal sex, to which Christian responds: "I’ll agree to the fisting, but I’d really like to claim your ass, Anastasia."

Also: "Your ass will need training."

"Your ass will need training."

"Your ass will need training."

"Your ass will need training."

"Your ass will need training."

This is written like it's either supposed to be sexy or oddly matter-of-fact, but it's just gross and stupid. This novel is about as erotic as papier-mâché. Can you smell that smell? That odor of pulp, starch and glue? That smell is exactly how sexy this novel is. Mmm, musty!

:: "I've never had this conversation in so much detail." Well, thank goodness we're here for this one!

:: I know I keep bringing it up, but seriously, it is the worst part of this whole thing: I'm an atheist, but I pray every week for Ana's inner goddess to take an arrow to the frontal lobe.

:: "'I promised not to laugh. I've apologized twice.' He glares at me. 'Don't make me do it again,' he warns. And I think I visibly shrink..." Ana characterizes this moment of abusive threatening as "bossy." Portrait of a naive character who is in over her head but is merely a thinly-veiled author avatar being written by a woman who is in over her head.

:: Ana actually has a cogent question: how is she going to use safewords if she's gagged? Christian's dismissive response? "First of all, I hope you never have to use them. But if you’re gagged, we’ll use hand signals."

Hand signals? Hand signals? Hand signals? HAND? SIGNALS? A tied-up and bound woman is going to use hand signals as a safeword? What? Just, stop. Stop it. How has this guy, who is dismissive of your every concern, earned any trust when it comes to any of this?

He's constantly telling her this is all about her and her limits but every time he hits a limit he tries to talk his way through it, telling her it's all part of the package and it just comes with the territory, but that's not what a D/s relationship is, for fuck's sake. Ana blanches, Christian insists, then talks until she starts to get overwhelmed. Naw, naw baby, it's all going to be so pleasurable for you and this is all about you and I'll train your ass and this is all part of the deal, and trust me, baby, come on, just trust me you don't even know better come on trust me.

:: "'You're biting your lip,' he says darkly."

Oh, crap!

:: Oh, and did I mention Christian is basically just feeding her alcohol this whole time? Keep on refilling that cup. He's getting her drunk on an empty stomach. Yeah, he really cares about her consent, whining (and wining) his way into getting whatever he wants, and whatever she doesn't want, well, she just doesn't know she wants it yet, apparently.

Then, he pulls the biggest dick move yet. Remember, Ana wants more. So Christian says, well, when she's not his sub, "perhaps we could try." So, you know, Ana may be reluctant to take it up the ass, but, hey, this all might just be leading to bigger and better things for us, so why not just bend over a little and we'll see where this goes, huh? How much more manipulative can this asshole get?

How about a car. A car more manipulative.

Yes, he's gotten Ana an Audi for her graduation because he doesn't like her old deathtrap (I'm sure the fact that it's Jose's has nothing to do with this decision), and oh by the way, accepting this expensive gift you're not comfortable with is literally a condition of us trying to have anything remotely resembling a normal relationship, and by the way I already ran this car thing past your dad without telling you, and he thinks it's a fabulous idea so, you know, if you turn this car down it's like spitting in both of our faces jsyk.

She's pissed. He doesn't give a fuck. She agrees to accept the car as a loan. He gets really angry and says "It's taking all my self-control not to fuck you on the hood of this car right now, just to show you that you are mine, and if I want to buy you a fucking car, I'll buy you a fucking car." He pulls her hair and drags her inside. She actually is chastened and apologizes for throwing his gifts back in his face, meekly adding "You scare me when you're angry."

Hands up: who thinks being afraid of the man you're with is a sign you're in a healthy relationship?

Yes, being scared means you think he's going to hurt you in some way. You should not be scared your boyfriend is going to hurt you in some way.

:: What happens next? Fucking. Poorly-written fucking. Duh.

:: "'You. Are. Going. To. Have. To. Learn. To. Keep. Still,' he whispers..." You. Are. Going. To. Have. To. Learn. To. Keep. Still. I'm. Captain. Of. The. Starship. Enterprise. I. Am. Responsible. For. The. Lives. Of. Four. Hundred. And. Thirty. Crew. Members.

:: "No bra, Ms. Steele. I like that." Jesus, stop talking.

:: She's all thrilled and amazed because he wants her to undress him and she's never undressed a man before and she approaches it with the thrill and wonder of a baby petting a dog for the first time. She also has to be straight-up told how to put a condom on him, which is probably one of the most self-explanatory things you'll ever figure out for yourself. There's a reason they don't keep changing the design; it's pretty fucking self-evident.

:: "Holy shit." "Holy fuck." "Hmm." "Whoa." "Suddenly it's Christmas." "Oh." "Holy crap." "Oh my." "Fuck!" "Oh, please." "He really is a fine specimen of man." That's pretty much the whole experience.

:: I never want to hear it called an "oh-so-happy trail" again. Ever. Ever. Do not defy me.

:: "That's right, baby, feel me, feel all of me." Jeebus Q. Kazoo, will you please stop talking?

:: Anyway, she sucks him off for a bit, then she's on top, which is so mind-blowing that she (and EL James) stop communicating coherently and the final paragraph is just words and Ana loses her mind or dies or passes out or some fucking thing. We'll find out next chapter, since I'm sure we'll pick up right where we left off, as the EL Jamesian style seems to be just moving forward in infinitesimal-yet-vague detail with no context or depth.

Blah blah blah.

Update: Thanks to my wife's comments, I now really hope there's an ass training montage in the movie, set to either "You're the Best Around" or the training music from Rocky IV.

Katurday

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day from Muppets Most Wanted

Valentines Day Peanuts



And probably today's most important question...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Marvels: Strange Tales #110

"The Human Torch vs. the Wizard and Paste-Pot Pete!" by Stan Lee, Ernie Hart & Dick Ayers
(July 1963)

This is the first Marvel issue to prove that teaming two villains together doesn't necessarily mean a thrilling issue. I mean, this isn't Doctor Doom teaming with Prince Namor. This is a couple of Human Torch villains wasting some time together scheming. The Wizard has been the Human Torch's best villain so far, and Paste-Pot Pete, I reluctantly admit, was also a decent thorn in Johnny's side. But being the top tier solo Human Torch villains is sort of like being the slickest operator in Duluth; the mere fact that you appear in Strange Tales means you aren't good enough to get into the majors. There's a reason these guys haven't cracked their way into Fantastic Four.

Basically, Paste-Pot Pete breaks the Wizard out of prison, they don't get along (Pete in particular resents the arrogant Wizard treating him like a lackey), they try to discredit the Torch by impersonating him and harassing millionaire Cyrus Cartwright, who just turns out to be the Torch in disguise, so they trap the Torch in a hall of mirrors where his oxygen is running out, but then he escapes and sends the bickering duo back to jail. Oh, and now Johnny has to stay up late to study for tomorrow's exam, because you should always end on something approximating a joke.

Larry Lieber, please come back.

Stray observations:

:: Today in overselling it:

Wow, that's really overselling it, even for Marvel.

:: This story spends four pages watching Johnny train and then flipping through his scrapbook basically to remind us who the Wizard and Paste-Pot Pete are, just to establish that they could be some sort of threat to the Human Torch. It's wasted pages, I think; the readers know Johnny by now, and the villains could have been better established in the story itself, which would have left time for something to really grab you. Even Dick Ayers' reliable art suffers from the compression of the story, because he has to draw smaller and smaller panels to pack it all in. It just passes right by.

:: There's a one-panel appearance by the Fantastic Four as Reed calls Johnny and offers some help, which Johnny rejects because "I'm not a baby!" Reed sure is fickle depending on who's writing him; sometimes he offers help, and sometimes he refuses it because Johnny has to learn how to be a man on his own or whatever excuse he has this month. How about some consistency on that bit of characterization?

But let's move on to the issue's third feature, which is the exciting debut of...

"Dr. Strange, Master of Black Magic!" by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

Dr. Strange is the first hero in the Marvel Universe who doesn't feel at all like a traditional superhero. Even Nick Fury is like a larger-than-life version of a World War II soldier. Strange hearkens back to the Golden Age, when characters like the Spectre or the Green Lama were meting out justice, or Stan's acknowledged inspiration, Chandu the Magician. Though the opening narration identifies Dr. Strange as a superhero, this is Stan Lee and Steve Ditko doing horror comics again, and bringing Orientalism and Eastern mysticism back into comics, but through the prism of Marvel's superhero style. And, importantly, this is where the Marvel Universe's vast cosmology begins.

Our introduction to Dr. Strange comes via a man who is tortured with restlessness. He keeps seeing a bound, hooded, shadowy figure in his nightmares. He comes to Dr. Strange's Greenwich Village apartment to ask for help, and Strange agrees to enter the man's dreams, then goes into a trance and travels, in spirit form, to a hidden temple in Asia to visit his master, the Ancient One. The Ancient One tells him to rely on his magic amulet if there is danger.

That night, Strange enters the man's dream and confronts the bound figure, who reveals himself as the symbol of evil, who has come to torment the man for his misdeeds against a Mr. Crang. But Strange is suddenly set upon by an ancient foe, Nightmare, who will not let Strange return to his mortal form.

As this is happening, the man wakes up and, realizing Strange has heard Crang's name, pulls out a gun to shoot Dr. Strange, his body still in a trance. Strange's spirit sends out a call for help to the Ancient One, who acts through Dr. Strange's amulet and hypnotizes the man with the gun. Strange is then able to get past Nightmare and return to his body, where the man confesses that his nightmares must have been caused by all the men he'd ruined in business--the most recent being Mr. Crang. The man agrees to confess to his crimes.

This is a small story--only 5 pages--but it feels completely epic. We're in realms we've never really experienced in the Marvel Universe before, and it's very exciting and new. The excitement is palpable; Stan and Steve come across as really engaged in their work, and believe me, you can tell when Stan's just not feeling it. (Once again, I point you in the direction of The Incredible Hulk. Where do you suppose Hulk is these days? We won't see him again for a few months...)

Stray observations:

:: Steve Ditko is the perfect artist for this series. Even though the story's quite compressed and Ditko has to put in a lot of panels, he does a fantastic job with them, moving the story along and creating a lot of mood and character.

I love the surreal tone, the psychedelic weirdness of this whole thing and I'm excited to see more of it. (The story ends by promising us more of Dr. Strange next issue.)

This was a great introduction story, showing us the concept of our new hero in action. Stan and Steve will do that usual thing where they wait for positive reader response, but I promise it won't take as a long to get more Dr. Strange as it did to get more Spider-Man.

Next Marvels: Well, I guess Iron Man hasn't had an underground kingdom story yet, so let's do that.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)
I don't know, I just thought it was bullshit for the same reason I thought the same director's United 93 was bullshit: by approaching the material as a docudrama, the filmmakers are removed from the responsibility of having a viewpoint or saying anything at all about what it's portraying. Aside from some really ham-handed dialogue in the film's opening which spells out the obviousness of the parallels between the two main characters--a parallel which I found rather simplistic and reductive--the film just sort of happens and is supposed to be suspenseful, even though it's so resolute in its "just the facts" refusal to engage its subjects on an emotional or intellectual level that I didn't know who I cared about or why. It was just there, and it has nothing to say about anything. And I think that's disingenuous, especially when there's a lot to talk about where Somalia is concerned and why it needs to resort to piracy. I learned more about it from reading this Cracked article than from a frame of this movie. This movie only exists to be nominated for Oscars. *1/2

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (2013)
Dealt with more fully here. ****

KING KONG ESCAPES (1967)
Fun, silly Rankin-Bass/Toho production that is in part based on the Rankin-Bass animated series The King Kong Show. Mechani-Kong is pretty awesome and fun. I would kind of love to see this made now with modern effects, because a mechanical giant gorilla is always a good thing. ***

ELYSIUM (2013)
A bleak but interesting skiffy action flick about class. In 2154, the 1% live on an orbital habitat called Elysium, where they live in comfort and have all of their health needs cared for, while the rest of the population lives on Earth in extreme poverty, their labor making Elysium possible for a few, and under the rule of harsh, draconian laws. Part of me wishes it hadn't been such an action movie, as I think there's always a moment when movies like this stop engaging with their ideas and the characters turn into predictable puppets of the third act, but it's shot and edited very well. Matt Damon is engaging as the man who challenges Elysium; I just always find him very amiable and likable. Very good movie, very timely (using science fiction to explore the way the rich exploit the poor has been relevant since pretty much the beginning of science fiction), and well-made. ***1/2

THE PROJECTIONIST (1971)
Interesting little movie about a movie theater projectionist (Chuck McCann) who fantasizes about being in the kinds of films he shows. It doesn't totally come off, I think, in large part to the silliness of his very long fantasy about being a hero in a Flash Gordon-style adventure, but the scene itself--a silent movie within the movie--is well done. (I do get annoyed easily when people make fun of silent films for being cheesy and overblown; certainly there are cheesy, overblown silent films, but there are also masterpieces.) I loved the scenes of McCann walking around 1968 New York City, and the way the film played with its editing and referencing itself, and particularly the scenes of McCann imagining himself in those sort of love story montages of early 60s British films (themselves influenced by the New Wave). There's also a great scene where McCann does impressions. Rodney Dangerfield, in his first film, plays the hostile, dictatorial theater manager who represents the enemy in McCann's fantasies, and I really wanted to see more of him; there's one scene where he's dressing down his ushers that's quite good and left me wanting more. There are a lot of good, disparate elements in this film that never quite add up, but it also has a lot of interesting things to say about our relation to pop culture, to film, and how we experience life through the prism of both. **1/2

THE LOST WEEKEND (1945)
Billy Wilder's excellent study of an alcoholic, played with intensity by Ray Milland. This is another one of those movies that I can't quite believe it took me this long to see. The film is mostly uncompromising in its portrayal of addiction, taking us into darker territory than I expected for a movie from 1945 (Milland's DT-induced hallucinations involving a mouse, a bat, and a streak of blood surprised and horrified me). Wilder is a director who seems to be hit or miss for me, but when he hits with me, he hits hard. Excellent stuff. ****

TESS (1979)
As a three-hour adaptation of a Victorian novel, Roman Polanski's Tess is surprisingly vibrant and alive. That's due in large part to his approach to the material (not exactly contemporary, but quite full-blooded), but in larger part to Nastassja Kinski, who played Tess when she was still a relatively inexperienced actress. She's not affected or mannered. She's something of a child of nature (the nature/pagan symbolism is all over this film) who is doomed to be the victim of the men in her life, even as she never seems to quite understand just what it is these various men want from her. It's a lovely, delicate movie that takes us closer and closer to its inevitable tragedy in a compelling, quiet way. ****

AUNTIE MAME (1958)
This is a wonderful, funny movie; it surprised me with its emotional depth. Rosalind Russell is so excellent and lovable as the main character, a bohemian woman trying to raise her late brother's son during the Great Depression. The film--adapted from a stage play that was itself adapted from a novel--has the structure of a musical, though it has no songs; appropriately enough, it was written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, who wrote or adapted a number of great screen musicals, including On the Town, Singin' in the Rain, and The Band Wagon. I like the snappiness and the pacing of it, but it never detracts from an emotional core the grounds the film. I also like the stagey direction by Morton DaCosta (who directed the play on stage); I know "stagey" is often (and often tiresomely) used as a negative criticism, but here DaCosta uses stage-like lighting cues, which is a device I found very interesting. Used against the oversize sets, it has a way of taking us just enough outside of reality to accept this larger-than-life character as a character and not as a caricature. I liked it very much. ****

Z (1969)
It can be hard to make a compelling political thriller, but here, on only his third film, Costa-Gavras makes it look effortless. I was riveted to this film, a thinly-fictionalized account of the 1963 assassination of Greek politician Grigoris Lambrakis. The film knows the raw hatred that the call for change can bring out of people, and it was hard for me to watch this film without getting angry. There's really no victory here, no justice; sometimes it seems like there's never justice in the world, there are only regimes and organizations protecting themselves, even when they don't really bother to hide what they're doing. The film starts with the seemingly accidental death of a politician calling for nuclear disarmament, and an investigation follows that gets bigger and bigger until it leads to a government conspiracy. But... well, Roger Ebert put it best when he described as a film about how "even moral victories are corrupted." A powerful, suspenseful film. ****

A MAN AND A WOMAN (1966)
I love the simplicity of this film. A man (Jean-Louis Trintignant, who also played a major role in Z) and a woman (Anouk Aimee) meet by chance at their childrens' boarding school and begin to fall in love, their budding relationship complicated by their professions and by their memories of their dead spouses. There's not much more to the story than that; so much of this film's emotional resonance is carried by the very human performances of the actors, the visual imagery, and Frances Lai's score. So much of it plays out without any dialogue; we simply watch as two strangers grow closer and begin to care for one another until it almost hurts them to be apart. It's simple, but timeless, and beautifully human. ****

E is for Emotional Violence (A Film Review)

Last week, I saw the movie August: Osage County, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I'm going to talk about why, and I'll do my best not to spoil it for anyone who wants to check it out.

This one took me by surprise. Based on the advertising, I expected the film to be somewhat of a quirky family comedy. And in some ways, I suppose it is. But it's also dark, emotionally brutal, and revealing. And it hit me very close to home. A lot closer than I expected.

The film--based on a play written by Tracy Letts, who also wrote the screenplay--is about a family that gathers together when their patriarch (Sam Shepard) disappears. He soon turns up dead, and the concerned gathering turns into a funeral.

Meryl Streep plays Violet, the family matriarch, a proud, foul-mouthed woman dying of cancer. She plays a sort of person who you can imagine was once vivacious and optimistic about life, but whose dissatisfaction has ground her down over time and who has allowed her illness to be the excuse she uses to let her festering resentments bubble to the surface. She's a master of emotional violence, and uses it to put down her loved ones almost constantly.

We can see the toll its taken on her relationship with her three daughters. Barbara (Julia Roberts) has a similar mean streak that she wields bluntly at her increasingly-estranged husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and surgically against her vegetarian daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin). Karen (Juliette Lewis) is the one who has fled the home, but is flighty and unable to manage her life successfully; she arrives with her latest sleazy boyfriend in tow (Dermot Mulroney) and talks of a life plan that no one takes seriously. And finally Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), the youngest, has never left home, unhappily accepting her role as her mother's caregiver and growing increasingly restless. The three daughters have self-esteem that's been ground away and is now rapidly eroding, but are tragically repeating the cycle of emotional abuse; even as victims, they've internalized this idea that being torn down and wounded is actually affection.

That's what you learn when you're raised by someone who tears you down; you mistake it for affection, and it carries over into your other relationships, and without even knowing it, you're repeating the pattern, treating someone cruelly and thinking it's not a big deal or that you're only taking the time to do it because that person means something to you. And it takes you a long time--if you ever do--to realize just how messed up that sounds. You realize that you learned how to be a bully. And if you're lucky, you realize it before it's too late.

Julia Roberts' character reminds me so much of my Mom in this movie. My Mom has that same streak of cruelty. I inherited it from her, and it's only in the last couple of years that I've realized it and forced myself to stop mistaking being good at insulting people for being witty. And I'm very good at insulting people. Horribly good, because I usually figure out pretty quickly exactly what to bring up that will hurt a person the most. That's something I'm not proud of. But I learned it from my mean Mom. And she learned it from her mean Mom, who treated her the same way. Meryl Streep in this movie is so much my Grandma, putting people down and making them ashamed of their perceived flaws and ripping into them in an almost casual way; I've even heard my Grandma say what Violet says in the film's big funeral dinner scene: "I'm just telling the truth." People who say that are usually only saying that because the truth hurts the most, and people who deal in preemptive emotional warfare take their shots unexpectedly and early, so that when other people react, they can claim they're the ones being bullied and silenced.

There's a devastating scene that Meryl Streep plays with perfect, understated quiet, where Violet recounts an act of very, very calculated emotional savagery that her own mother committed against her, with the terrible resignation of someone who has never gotten over it but has forced themselves repeatedly to try and accept that they have. And you see the key, of course, is that the abuser was once the abused, and merely came to be an abuser because they were raised by one. That's the tragedy of the cycle of abuse. No one's a monster; they just learned to do monstrous things. And they will often cling to their resentments and their abusive behavior because they have nothing else to make them feel anchored in the world. There are a lot of lonely, bitter people in this world, wondering why their children never call or visit, and they don't always understand that it's because no one wants to return to the scene of their violent emotional traumas, because they don't always recognize that that's what they were. They were just telling the truth. For your own good.

This story seems very cathartic for Letts--I don't want to speculate about his family or upbringing, but the characters are so real, he must have some kind of experience with people like this. What really adds emotional depth is that none of the characters are entirely sympathetic, but none of them are entirely unforgivable, either. Violet has a sister, Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale), who does the same to her only child, a son (Benedict Cumberbatch), putting him down for being a failure. I didn't even know Cumberbatch was in this movie, and he's excellent in it, playing... well, playing me. A grown man who, because of his family and the way he's been constantly cut down, has almost no faith in himself and believes he's really the loser people have told him he is. He's sad and fearful, uncomfortable even around his own family, and very low functioning. His father (Chris Cooper) is very supportive and forgiving, but he's also just as capable of engaging in the same behavior as his wife. I found that to be a very true-to-life dichotomy for the character; we like him for standing up for his son and defending him to his wife, but we also remember the way he rather brutally belittles Jean's vegetarian beliefs at the table.

This is one of the few films I've ever seen that reminded me so much of my own family. I appreciated the way it attempted to deal with meanness, cruelty and abuse in a meaningful, revealing way. Like I said, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it, and I hope I can learn from it and reflect more fully on why I am the way I am and how not to be so cruel and mean. I've taken a lot of steps over the years--it's part of the reason why I don't do the Throwdown anymore, because I became so weary of dealing in that level of negativity--but I have a lot farther to go. I've seen what this abuse cycle has done to people as both victims and victimizers. I'm not going to commit that kind of emotional violence against people--up to and especially including myself.

ABC Wednesday

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shirley Temple 1928-2014

I'm sorry to hear this morning that Shirley Temple Black has passed away. She was 85 years old. I always knew who Shirley Temple was, but I never saw one of her movies--one of her real child star vehicles, I mean--until about five years ago. Honestly, I think I would have hated them as a child. It's that kind of thing like children's comics where I think I actually appreciated the simplicity more as an adult. Granted, I haven't liked every one I've seen, but the ones I did like, I really loved. And they happened to come along in my life at times when I really needed to feel good. So, I thank her for those few hours of happiness.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Song of the Week: "Dig a Pony"

Songs for Becca #3. Since everyone's posting the Beatles today for the anniversary of the Ed Sullivan appearance, here's Becca's favorite Beatles song. Well, today she says this is her favorite Beatles song. It changes. She just digs the Beatles, particularly Let It Be and, I've noticed, particularly songs John wrote for Yoko, like this one.