tell it to me tuesday – fodder for comfort

(And coincidentally, my 200th post!)

So it figures, I chose this topic and then cannot narrow it down to just one book or one movie. If I were to have a weekend all to myself, and just wanted to turn to a book or movie that I knew, time and again, would give me pleasure…well, the list is small, but the choice difficult.
TITMT_comfortbooks1For books, it is easier. As much as I love books and have a long list of favorites or important ones, the one set I can turn to without fail is the Harry Potter series and in the following order: Book 6, Book 7, Book 4, Book 3, Book 1, Book 5 and Book 2. Two was always my least favorite, and I love Six (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) above all the others for the all the things Harry learns, for his love, and for his pain. It is most special to me and there are always more hidden gems of wisdom and connections to make, even though it ends as it does.

Movies, on the other hand, I am far more moody with. If I’m feeling sentimental and totally girly and looking for the happy ending, I know I can always turn to Pride & Prejudice – the A&E version ONLY, because of course there is no proper pride without Colin Firth and no duly understood prejudice without Jennifer Ehle. But if I don’t have a full 6 hours to devote to allowing my heart to swoon over Pemberley, then Love Actually is my modus operandi.
TITMT_comfortbooksMmm…still thinking about Colin Firth. And the look upon Mr. Darcy’s face when he hears Elizabeth does love him. Be still, my heart!


However, some days, I am just in need of a good cry. For that, I turn to either Meet Joe Black or Playing By Heart. I can always count on the masterful performances of Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt to bring the daddy’s girl in me to a weeping puddle. And the ‘Goodnight Moon’ scene in Playing By Heart unfailingly and unflinchingly tugs at my heart strings.

What about you?

What book or movie do you turn to when you are in need of its comfort?

The Rules
I think there is real power in the human voice, as flawed as it may be. And when the voices speak together, when you have a multitude of voices speaking, patterns begin to emerge and there you can begin to understand truth. So in the spirit of the personal narrative, I am hosting a weekly challenge every Tuesday morning, where I will post a topic (ranging from the banal to the intimate) and ask readers to respond. I would love to see everyone’s answers and how similar and different they all are.

You can respond in any way you choose. You can give a fictional response or a true one. You can use words, sentences, and/or photographs. If you have a blog, you can link it with Mr. Linky below. Please be sure to include “Tell It To Me Tuesdays” in the title, and link back to this post. Feel free to use the “Tell It To Me Tuesday” button available to the right. If you don’t have a blog, but want to join in, you can just leave a comment. Please follow the rules. I don’t want to have to delete links. I like links! Don’t make me delete them.


Next week’s challenge: Finish this phrase: “When I was a child…”

rabbits, tears, vampires & werewolves

I had a whirlwind of a weekend and it seems there’s so much I want to tell you about it all, but they’re little disparate thoughts that I can’t quite wrap my head around, so we’re going a little stream-of-consciousness today and hopefully some order will emerge from the madness by the end of it.

On Friday, my husband and I went to see this play performed at UCSB:
Rabbit-F09The Rabbit Hole was an amazing production. We were a bit leery before seeing it because we had heard that it wasn’t very good. By intermission, we were sure we had been had. It was funny, it was raw, it was real, and in many ways, very touching. The story was about a husband and wife suffering with the loss of their little boy who had been killed in a tragic accident. The boy had been playing with the dog, when suddenly the dog ran out into the street, the boy chased after the dog and got hit by a car driven by a young high school-age boy. The play deals with the aftermath of their grief: how the husband and wife lose touch with each other, the feelings of guilt of all the things they could have, should have done, the feelings of blame that they try to tamp down because it was an accident and no one is to blame, feelings of jealousy seeing the irresponsible sister get pregnant when the bereaved one was clearly the better (i.e. more deserving) mother, and the struggle of negotiating a way between holding on and letting go. Holding on to their son’s memory and their grief, and letting go of him and moving on with their lives.

Also, the set design was absolutely brilliant. It was set up in an arrangement I understand is called something like “tennis court seating”, where the set is constructed in the middle of the room and there is audience seating on two opposite sides. So as the play went on, I could see the faces of the other audience members reacting to what was happening in the play. Somehow it made the whole thing more intimate as the lines between stage and audience blurred and audience became part of the stage.

What I loved most about this production actually comes from a line of insight written in the program. The playwright explained in his bio that a teacher of his had told him that to write a good play, one must write about something they fear. He said he didn’t understand this immediately, and it was only after his son was born that he finally really got it: his worst fear was the loss of a son. And I love that he didn’t just make a play about being scared to lose a child, what he did was play that fear out. What would happen if one lost a child? What are the consequences and repercussions of that loss? What does that fear really consist of? So his play did not deal so much with the act of losing a child as it did with all the subsidiary feelings and relationship dynamics that occur as a result of that loss.

It makes me see my own work in a new light, and gives me ideas for some direction to take in the future.

On Saturday, we attended another performance that dealt with a particular kind of loss: this time, it was suicide. NECTAR performance company produced a collection of dance, spoken word, video, and music all centered around alchemy: turning lead into gold, taking pain and making it something positive, powerful and uplifting. Proceeds went to benefit families who have been affected by suicide. It ended with a moment of silence, where people collected together and spoke softly the names of people this performance had stirred up for them. It was an intense moment, and tears were shed. I found myself remarking on my weekend being steeped in death: both accidental and intentional. It made for a heady weekend.

I could probably say something weighty here about how we foist off death, doing so many things to stave it off and pretend it doesn’t exist, instead of recognizing it as part of life, or about how sometimes we go through life so unthinkingly, on autopilot, and how we might look and wonder what about our lives is so very different from death. But instead, I’m just ending with an observation that something I was told I wouldn’t like was something I found profoundly moving and important, while something by all means I was supposed to enjoy, I found less satisfying.

Sunday ended with a trip to see New Moon, which really…I have to say was crap. I was entertained, but it was crap. It sort of dragged, but thankfully being only 130 minutes long, did not drag as long as the books did. There were moments when I cried, but only because I have been in a dark place like that before. There were moments when I laughed, but it was mostly due to the cheese, like when Robert Pattinson ran Baywatch-style, through the woods. The part I found most entertaining, honestly, was the audience, who sighed, and swooned and gasped every time some dark, muscled man ripped off his shirt. Ladies, I’m sorry, but y’all need ta get laid. And after spending two hours looking at dark, muscled men, it is a bit of an unpleasant shock to go back to thin, pasty white vampire. Makes the whole Team Edward thing a little difficult. I would say I’d be Team Edward, but given the choice between snuggling up to a warm man versus a cold one…I’d probably chose the furnace. There are some parts of my body that just would not abide a cold one. I’m just sayin’. Shrivel, dry up and wince are words that come to mind. I did read all the books and found them addictive, but mostly because I just HAD to know how it ended. Everything in the middle was just one long drag of puff. I know how it ends, so I’m not clinging to the movies, desperate to find out anything (and really, how she resolves the whole love triangle thing is just weird). So the next two…it’s all about the Netflix. The first movie (which shock of all shocks as I’ve never said this before about any movie-book translation) was better than the book and shall remain my favorite purely for entertainment purposes.

Grand takeaway from all this? Man, I’m pooped.

is this what we want from our movies?

wanted_angelina_jolieApparently, movies with strong female leads are death knells at the box office, so Hollywood is saying ix-nay to movies of that type. Check out this Washington Post article on it. I’m speechless. I’d noticed the plethora of movies based on comic books and rogue-American-saving-the-world and was a little bored by the same old narrative. I hadn’t noticed what absence that entailed.

Is it really true we only want to see traditional, damsel-in-distress, simpering women? Or only women as part of a comedic ensemble?

I hope not.

The Ballad of Jack & Rose

Watching this movie, for me, was something like watching an exquisitely produced and gorgeously rendered slow-motion series of train wrecks. It was so beautiful, and yet so traumatic to watch. The acting, direction, and cinematography were all absolutely superb, and the characters had such great – or at least understandable – intentions and desires, but they went about them all the wrong way. And you, the audience, know the travesty is coming and are powerless to stop it.

My husband and I got two very different readings of the movie. Or perhaps, more accurately, we came away from it with two very different messages. Honestly, what he got from it was probably much closer to the filmmaker’s intent. It’s as the film wanted to say “See? This is how it’s supposed to be! Happiness is freedom from the corruption of others.”

I wanted to shout “No! You’ve got it all wrong!” Because if that is indeed what the movie intended, then I disagree with it’s basic view of human nature and the purpose and effects of human society, and I can draw evidence from it’s own characters and plot to show why I disagree.

I realize at this point I’m not doing a very good job of selling this movie. But if you like independent films, films with multiple possible interpretations, or movies that make you think about where you stand in this world, then this is the movie for you. (Highly recommended for burners, artists, philosophers, and political and literary theorists. Burners especially will relate to the difficulty of moving between an ideal world and the ‘default world’.) I don’t want to spoil any of the movie for anyone, so I won’t say exactly what happens in it. Beyond its premise, I’ll only say what it made me think about.

Daniel Day-Lewis does an outstanding job of portraying an environmentally-conscious father, Jack, who raises his daughter, Rose, on a remote island where they are almost entirely self-sufficient. They live in near total peace and happy harmony until he becomes terminally ill and realizes he must work out some other arrangement to care for his daughter when he passes away. So he tries to introduce other people to their little happy commune and trouble ensues from there. Catherine Keener, Paul Dano, Jason Lee, and Beau Bridges also star in this film.

It’s rather difficult to discuss without getting into specifics, but what I thought when I saw the movie was that it shows just how powerful socialization is in shaping us. Our parents and all the people around us have a very important role to play in shaping our beliefs, in how we interact with the world, and what we know to be right and wrong. And what I really thought when I saw it was that what is really important is to have a variety of people around us, to teach us right from wrong as well as how to interact well with others. Perhaps it’s the Buddhist in me speaking, but what I saw was a need for balance: that going too far for one ideal means sacrificing others (and in this movie, it puts you in the awkward position of facing the question: is incest wrong because society says it’s wrong, or is there something inherently wrong with incestuous relationships?). Growing up with only her father, Rose acquired all his ideals, but she also suffered tremendously because of his failings. Because he didn’t know how to communicate, she didn’t either – and her attempts at communication devolved into increasingly hurtful and dangerous actions designed to protect her self interest. I’m not saying she is wrong; only that she didn’t know better. She had only ever been allowed to be with her father, could only know what it was to love him, which led to a sexual mess when it came to any positive feelings towards men.

We may not always like what people different from us do and say, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are indecent people. As different as people may be, we do share commonalities, and more importantly, there is often something we can learn from others. Ideology is important, having a set of values is what defines us as a people and as individuals, but sometimes ideological coherence is not itself ideal. Ideals taken to the extreme can lead to suffering, and ultimately undermine their own purpose.

Hollywood’s Running Out of Ideas

Is it just me or do we seem to be hurtling toward a critical mass of re-hashed ideas dominating the silver screen? How many books/TV shows/previous movies are going to be spun and re-spun and regurgitated before we all, as an audience, regurgitate? It seems the list keeps growing: Chronicles of Narnia, Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Iron Man, Spiderwick Chronicles, and The Reader just last year alone. Then we have Star Trek, The Transformers, and Dukes of Hazzard. I swear, I think the upsurge of indy-style flicks might be my only saving grace–though movies about awkward teenagers may reach their own critical mass pretty soon.

Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love some of these movies, and I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with taking something and re-appropriating it in a different form. But I do take umbrage when EVERYTHING coming out is a complete knock-off of something else.

Last night I went to Angels & Demons (see, I don’t mind re-appropriation!), but I think every single one of the previews for the movie I saw was ripped from some other source. There was My Sister’s Keeper, which is of course a Jodi Picoult novel. There was My Life in Ruins, which by involving the following three elements: Nia Vardalos, Greece, and awkward romance, manages to feel like the exact same movie as My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding. Then there was another movie, whose title I couldn’t be bothered to remember, involving Johnny Depp as yet another criminal we can’t help but love.

And the one that really ticked me off was The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. This upcoming release involves Denzel Washington as the reluctant do-gooder who gets sucked into saving the world (or at least lower Manhattan) from an impending terrorist threat (terrorist played by John Travolta). John Turturro and Luis Guzman are also starring, and I’m almost willing to bet they will play two of the spunky, but endearing hostages. Anybody else sick of the reluctant hero saving the world from a terrorist attack? I’m bored already. All we need now is another man-against-nature movie about the Armageddon, and I might swear myself off movies all together.

"Rachel Getting Married"

I was all set to write my own little review of “Rachel Getting Married”, but a quick glance online showed me the critics have already hashed it out well. Everything I had wanted to say is already out there. It’s fabulous. Raw. Real. Emotional. Powerful. Anne Hathaway is brilliant in a way totally unexpected, given her past repertoire. Rosemarie DeWitt plays with unparalleled subtlety and grace the wounded older sister-bride. The cast of characters is multicultural, diverse, touching and spot on. And by not leaving any mention within the film of its multiracial nature, the filmmakers impart an even more powerful statement to the viewer: we are here, all the same, all human, with hopes, loves, needs and desires. As different as we are, we are all family.

And though the critics have already said all this, I still feel compelled to respond to the film because it so moved me. The film delves into the complex hurts and history of an addict and her dysfunctional family, but it also transcends that into something more. While the film traverses a world of pain, in the end, what you feel is hope. And even though the ending feels unresolved, it’s okay. It’s the perfect ending because it is real. In real life, there isn’t always a happy resolution. Sometimes, things do just go on. But what matters is (what I thought to be) the film’s ultimate message: that underneath and above it all, family is stronger than anything. No matter the hurts, no matter the history, family always has the power to forgive in a way no one else can. And family has the power to love, in spite of it all.

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