I’ve been listening, off and on, since driving to NY in early October, to Rachel Maddow’s book Blowout. The full and much more informative title is Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth.
It’s a disturbing and highly engaging experience. Maddow weaves together seemingly disparate threads in a narrative that you just know is going to get tied together at the end. Like her opening monologues, the elements can be a bit confounding at first. There’s Rex Tillerson, Vladimir Putin, the Sochi Olympics, fracking, oligarchs in Ukraine, and yes, even the pudgy orange miasma.
And it’s remarkable to me how theories about the hidden hand of corporate control — theories that seemed slightly paranoid and fantastical in college — actually were pretty realistic. I always suspected as much.
In 2010, the words “earthquake swarm” entered the lexicon in Oklahoma. That same year, a trove of Michael Jackson memorabilia – including his iconic crystal-encrusted white glove – was sold at auction for over $1 million to a guy who was, officially, just the lowly forestry minister of the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. And in 2014, Ukrainian revolutionaries raided the palace of their ousted president and found a zoo of peacocks, gilded toilets, and a floating restaurant modeled after a Spanish galleon. Unlikely as it might seem, there is a thread connecting these events, and Rachel Maddow follows it to its crooked source: the unimaginably lucrative and equally corrupting oil and gas industry.
From a review of the book…
Don’t those gilded toilets sound familiar?
They might not be the Illuminati, but there certainly seems to be a web of hungry corporations and crime-boss oligarchs vying with governments for power. And, it appears they’re quite good at exploiting fears of the ‘other’ to enlist the loyalty of folks whose necks are actually under these dudes’ tassel-loafered feet.
As an antidote to the all-too-true horrors of Blowout, I have also been reading Wendell Berry’sJayber Crow and am excited that there are so many books to explore that are centered in Port William. In this world of angst and acrimony, there’s something so grounding and calming about the simple ways of everyday life. This isn’t to deny the realities of the world, but we each have to find sustenance somewhere.
It seems an odd way to describe the swamp creature who inhabits the White House. But he actually is very transparent. Not in the sense of being authentic or honest, but rather transparent because he is so primitive and he blurts out his projections like prophecies.
And they are. Prophetic projections.
Indeed, anyone who debates Trump (if he is around to run in the next election and has the wherewithal to actually debate) should just say, over and over:
“I’m rubber you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you!”
Childhood taunt appropriate for usage with Drumpf at all times.
You can thank me, whenever — no rush.
His comments on the recent death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are a case in point:
“He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.”
Sounds like how Donnie might be feeling about the impeachment inquiry…
“The thug who tried so hard to intimidate others spent his last moments in utter fear, in total panic and dread, terrified of the American forces bearing down on him.”
Adam and Nancy are coming and you’re in a dead-end tunnel, Donnie.
“The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel, and he had dragged three of his young children with him. They were led to certain death.”
Eric, Ivanka and Junior, you might want to take some precautions.
I could go on and on. The fakery of Trump is also so incredibly apparent. His photo in the Situation Room looks absolutely staged. Here he is, essentially a little boy bully trying to look all adult and thoughtful and serious, surrounded by others who often seem to be trying to do the same. (I imagine his jaw must hurt from all the clenching. Meanwhile, look how Pence is straining to stay focused and repress his attraction to national security adviser Robert O’Brien, in the reddish tie.)
Contrast this with a photo of Obama in the Situation Room that’s been making the rounds since the Trump play-acting. It shows human beings who are actually concerned — not about how they look but about what is happening on the other side of the globe to other human beings. Pretty stark.
So after his big announcement (and I don’t mean to make light of what happened, only of the clownish and transparent egocentricity of the messenger), Trump had to go to Game 5 of the World Series.
There, where unlike at his rallies, he had absolutely no control over the ‘audience’ he was loudly and decisively booed. You can hear the fans first applauding some veterans who were being honored. Then the camera shifts to Trump. It was a decisive change in tone that went a long way toward restoring my faith in us!
There were also chants of “Lock him up” — echoing another prescient prognostication or portentous prophecy made by this pusillanimous @POTUS.
I’m proposing a new addition to the DSM V or VI or VII or whatever number we are up to at this point.
Below I’ve enumerated the classic PTSD symptom criteria in the DSM-5.
Then, in a nice bold, bright red, italic font that matches the color of his ugly long ties, I’ve added the symptoms of President Trump Stress Disorder.
It’s an affliction that is of mounting concern to folks in the mental health community — and I believe it should be of concern to you as well.
Please read the symptoms below and consider whether you might be a sufferer.
And I’d be interested in hearing about your experience. The professionals at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), before they were all fired, had been collecting data on this looming public health crisis. I would like to be able to help them, in my own, small way.
Criterion A You were exposed to one or more event(s) that involved death or threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or threatened sexual violation. In addition, these events were experienced in one or more of the following ways:
You experienced the event(Yup, I was following the returns that night.)
You witnessed the event as it occurred to someone else (Others were there, too, and it was horrifying.)
You learned about an event where a close relative or friend experienced an actual or threatened violent or accidental death (This has happened to me on Twitter numerous times and I have seen it happen to others, too.)
You experienced repeated exposure to distressing details of an event, such as a police officer repeatedly hearing details about child sexual abuse. (The daily news is a constant reminder. The repetition is harrowing and, while each day it seems we have hit rock bottom, the next day there’s a new low. The horror is unending and unrelenting.)
Criterion B You experience at least one of the following intrusive symptoms associated with the traumatic event:
Unexpected or expected reoccurring, involuntary, and intrusive upsetting memories of the traumatic event. (I think back on that night and other events of this horrible presidency and images come unbidden, often.)
Repeated upsetting dreams where the content of the dreams is related to the traumatic event. (Yes, and I have even had dreams with Eric in them, which seems quite unfair.)
The experience of some type of dissociation (for example, flashbacks) where you feel as though the traumatic event is happening again (Election night 2016 still feels unreal, and yet there he is…)
Strong and persistent distress upon exposure to cues that are either inside or outside of your body that is connected to your traumatic event (Hearing his voice creates strong and persistent distress and, while I believe the sound is coming from outside of my body I am sometimes not sure…)
Strong bodily reactions (for example, increased heart rate) upon exposure to a reminder of the traumatic event. (My resting heart rate has gone up since Trump was elected, and contrary to his opinion, it is NOT because I am attracted to him.)
Criterion C Frequent avoidance of reminders associated with the traumatic event, as demonstrated by one of the following:
Avoidance of thoughts, feelings, or physical sensations that bring up memories of the traumatic event. (I generally avoid things, so it’s hard to tell whether they are connected to the election.)
Avoidance of people, places, conversations, activities, objects, or situations that bring up memories of the traumatic event. (Pick-up trucks with American flags scare me and I avoid them when I see them.)
Criterion D At least two of the following negative changes in thoughts and mood that occurred or worsened following the experience of the traumatic event:
The inability to remember an important aspect of the traumatic event. (I can’t remember what I drank that night…)
Persistent and elevated negative evaluations about yourself, others, or the world (for example, “I am unlovable,” or “The world is an evil place”) (The GOP…)
Elevated self-blame or blame of others about the cause or consequence of a traumatic event. (The GOP…)
A negative emotional state (for example, shame, anger, or fear) that is pervasive. (Yup!)
Loss of interest in activities that you used to enjoy. (Following the news.)
Feeling detached from others. (The GOP…)
The inability to experience positive emotions (for example, happiness, love, joy). (He took my joy, I want it back…with a nod to Lucinda Williams.)
Criterion E At least two of the following changes in arousal that started or worsened following the experience of a traumatic event:
Irritability or aggressive behavior. (Can you say Twitter?)
Impulsive or self-destructive behavior. (Does drinking while watching Maddow count?)
Feeling constantly “on guard” or like danger is lurking around every corner (or hypervigilance). (Because it is…)
Heightened startle response. (Actually, the craziness is more numbing…)
Difficulty concentrating. (Oh yes…I am constantly checking to see if he is still alive. So far, he has been.)
Problems sleeping. (Indeed.)
Criterion F The above symptoms last for more than one month. (How many days has it been? Get the current count HERE.)
Criterion G The symptoms bring about considerable distress and/or interfere greatly with a number of different areas of your life. (YES — Have you not been paying attention?)
Criterion H The symptoms are not due to a medical condition or some form of substance use. (Unfortunately, that is no longer clear.)
WHAT TO DO
The main thing is, DON’T let this continue.
Your health and well-being are at stake.
So, pay attention, but not to excess.
Remember to exercise, eat plenty of vegetables, and try to sleep without utilizing sleep aids. (See the movie Judy if you have any questions or doubts about this.)
…to pen a blog post every once in awhile. Why do I step away for so long? And why do I subject you to this roller coaster of iron-clad commitment and then inevitable failure-to-follow-through? Is this some kind of sick, co-dependent relationship we’re in here?
On Track, Off Track, WTF?
I was thinking about this today — how I vow to stay on track and then fall off track over and over. It started me wondering if there’s something wrong with this whole idea of being on track or off. I mean, wherever I am, relative to this ‘track’ that I’ve fabricated, I still exist and am relatively okay. So why do I make myself feel not-quite-okay by creating a track and falling off of it over and over again? Why not have a more inclusive track to begin with? Or maybe one that’s gently banked or has some guardrails so that it’s harder to fall off?
Don’t blame it on goals…
I mean, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals. But I seem to set unrealistic goals for myself and then perpetually fall short. In part that’s because I get a little jolt of pleasure from the goals themselves. They may be grandiose, but I believe they are possible…until they aren’t. And that’s the main reason I do it (set goals, I mean). It’s not for the goals so much as for that initial feeling. In that moment, I am in total denial about what follows.
Getting better, though…
Yes, I really am. Maybe it comes with age. As my expectations become more realistic I’m on less of a roller coaster. And I am widening my track, too. When I make less grandiose promises, both to myself and to others, I’m better able to fulfill them. That, in turn, allows me to trust myself more. Trusting that I’ll follow-through I have less need to pump myself up with those BIG promises that lead straight downhill after the first flush of pleasure. So no big promises as I pop in to say hello. I’m NOT setting any sugary, gooey, grandiose goals. But, realistically, I do know I’ll be back. And that kinda feels like being on track!
So, some months ago I stopped looking for trouble on Twitter. (Just as an aside, wouldn’t Looking for Trouble on Twitter make a kinda cool book title?)
That shift has actually been a huge relief. I hardly ever think of Ann Coulter or James Woods anymore (except for just now, dammit).
And today, after having received some feedback (offline) about my last post, I’m thinking that I need to pull it back a little further.
Criticizing the man who is the current POTUS and criticizing his fellow travelers is all well and good. But it’s the tiny hands stuff that I’m thinking I need to pull back on.
Honestly, it’s just a cheap thrill and I’ll do better to put my mind to more thoughtful diatribes.
Okay, okay, not diatribes at all. I hear you, I really do!
Let’s just say research and thoughtful discourse, and the occasional whiff of trenchant wit. But nothing outright attacking, demeaning, or too heavy-handed.
Just mostly high-minded stuff. No more making up my own conspiracy theories, and no more mention of turtles or tiny hands. It’s all attacking in the most juvenile of ways and undermines the slim possibility that anyone other than the choir could ever be successfully preached to here.
Yes, Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein and Robert Kraft and…
The list goes on and on and includes many current and former members of Trump’s murky, swamp-gas-perfumed cabinet.
In all the reporting of their execrable exploits, why does no one write about their pathetic ineptitude, humiliating neediness, and stunning emotional impoverishment?
I mean, these are dudes who apparently can’t get a date on their own. I’m sure that is difficult to cope with.
And, unfortunately, in a twist that’s sad (but also horrific when coupled with power and money) their need for attention and validation is a vast, dark, and insatiable maw of emptiness. It’s an emptiness that they are desperate to fill.
Strongmen vs. Strong Men
Studies show that, while strong men are actually strong, kind and competent, strongmen share some interesting common traits including:
Extremely fragile egos (83% as measured by frequency of pouting, tantrums, and retaliatory lashing out);
Egos that need to be constantly fed (100%, obviously),
A tendency to talk about themselves all the time (87% as measured by video footage of Donald Trump, along with anecdotal reports by friends and family members of other assorted strongmen),
Being happy to exploit others without guilt or shame (again, 100% of the time — and here we have the swamp at its finest) and
Remarkably tiny hands (a whopping 96% based on observation, common sense, and photographic evidence).
So, some strongmen are bullies. These are the ones like Trump who ‘grab ’em.’ Full of bluster, they are hollow snowflakes whose needs, as Adrienne Rich would say, if she were to describe them, “mock their gear.”
And then there are the ones who feel entitled to whatever they want but are more dainty and circumspect about it all. But don’t be fooled — their needs must be constantly fed, too. These are the Jeffrey Epsteins and, one has to assume, the Robert Krafts of the world. They hire others to bring them what they want. Then they just sit back and wait for delivery.
Strip away the power and money from any of these creatures, and they might actually have to deal meaningfully with their issues. But as it is, they keep finding ways to feed themselves what they want, getting emptier and emptier (and weaker and weaker) in the process.
Empty husks when they die, no one honestly laments or misses them.
And, truth be told, I imagine that, as terrified of death as they are, there is probably some corner of their twisted, shrunk, and lonely souls that is glad to have it all over with. It just can’t be fun, being one of those desperately empty and needy strongmen.
I feel like I should be more nervous this morning. Are you?
The USWNT is the juggernaut and the Dutch are the upstart team that replaced the usual suspects (Germany, are you listening?) in the final. So will the upstart challenge the juggernaut?
I’m hoping to see more from Rose Lavelle today. Check out her nutmeg in the video below. She was Julie Foudy’s pick as the breakthrough player in this World Cup. (Sir Hits A Lot picked Mallory Pugh- but maybe he was getting a little ahead of himself?!?)
Whatever happens later this morning, I am going to miss having the Women’s World Cup in my life.
What everyone seems to agree about is that these plants require some fairly special circumstances to bloom, and so, I feel very honored when I come upon one. (And honestly, the idea of an orchid of any sort growing wild kinda blows me away…)
And since you asked, here’s what I’ve learned about myself and life, as I’ve thought about Lady Slippers this spring:
I’ve frequently caught myself thinking that these 3 Lady Slipper sightings represent their entire population in the woods. This pulls me up short, as I remember that I am only seeing the ones that are adjacent to my path. There is more unknown than known, even about the most familiar places. And my path, as much as I love it, is a narrow one. It feels important to remember that, but I often don’t. Ego-centricity seems to be a natural reflex.
When I have walked, these recent weeks, I have also caught myself scanning the nearby terrain for Lady Slippers. Here, I note that:
Scanning my surroundings means that I miss things right in my path. If I’m not careful, as I look around, I run the risk of tripping on a rock or root and taking a tumble. Surely there’s a life lesson in this!
Looking for one thing means I may miss something else. Am I so focused on the next Lady Slipper that I miss the Scarlet Tanager in the trees?
And have I just become acquisitive when it comes to Lady Slippers? Am I not fully appreciating the ones I’ve seen if I keep looking for others? It feels a little ‘Ugly American’ somehow, to keep wanting more…
They’re fading now, our Lady Slippers. As I walk, I pay my respects to each one, glad to see them and knowing that they will be gone soon enough.
I’ve appreciated their companionship, these recent weeks, and will miss them when they’re gone…
So, what do you think? Did they score too much? Celebrate too much?
If you visit Twitter and do a quick search on USWNT or #USWNT you’ll get a sense of the range of opinions. And I feel like I’ve got the same range inside.
I felt terrible for Thailand, and at the same time, how insulting would it have been for the US to pull back and not play at full-throttle? Wonder what full-throttle looks like?
Here are the goal-scorers, and when they scored their goals…
Alex Morgan (12′, 53′, 74′, 81′, 87′)
Rose Lavelle (20′, 56′)
Lindsey Horan (32′)
Samantha Mewis (50′, 54′)
Megan Rapinoe (79′)
Mallory Pugh (85′)
Carli Lloyd (90′ +2)
And as someone on Twitter wrote, each goal has its own story behind it…the hours of practice, the family and friend support, the personal bests and team records being chased.
It isn’t just a simple matter of ‘running up the score.’
No team has ever scored as many goals in a World Cup — men’s or women’s. Only one other player (Michelle Akers) has scored as many goals in a World Cup (1991). I am sure these kinds of benchmarks are in players’ minds as they eye the goal.
And goal differential is important in something like the WWC. So there’s that.
But were the celebrations necessary? Should they have been more muted? Julie Foudy and Kate Markgraf thought so in a post-game interview on ESPN. And our Canadian friends called us out in no uncertain terms.
And just listen to how Kristine Lilly reflects, in 2019, on a Norwegian celebration that took place in 1995…
So, personally, while I get it that you don’t take your foot off the accelerator when you’re playing in matches you’ve dreamed about all your life, I kind of agree that the celebrations could have been more muted.
Maybe I’m especially sensitive to it in the age of Trump. It’s easy to project his boorish behavior onto all Americans, so anything smacking of ego gets a wee bit heightened these days. And I suspect that some of the ire we just heard from Canada is as much about his orangeness as about the USWNT.
Whatever you think about yesterday’s match, the US Women have gotten the attention of the world and now have a target on their backs (if they didn’t before). Are they now the villains of the WWC?
And would we be saying the same about a men’s team in similar circumstances?
It’s underway and in 2019, I hardly know a thing about it.
Last night we watched a couple of matches, staying with Germany-China the longest. Germany struggled to get things going, and China looked like they were about to break through at the end of the first half. But the #2 team in the world eventually prevailed 1-0 and came away with work to do.
Here are the Groups and their rankings:
Group A: France (4), Norway (12), South Korea (14), Nigeria (38)
Group B: Germany (2), Spain (13), China (16), South Africa (49)
Group C: Australia (6), Brazil (10), Italy (15), Jamaica (53)
Group D: England (3), Japan (7), Scotland (20), Argentina (37)
Group E: Canada (5), Netherlands (8), New Zealand (19), Cameroon (46)
Group F: USA (1), Sweden (9), Thailand (34), Chile (39)
Look at England at #3 — a surprise to me (not because of any knowledge I have but because England appears to have gotten good while I wasn’t paying attention, and in spite of BREXIT.
Last night before bed I watched a brief interview with Julie Foudy who singled out Rose LaValle as her breakout player for the USWNT in this World Cup. A large part of the challenge (according to the interview which is on the FIFA site somewhere) will be the midfield play.
And below is a link to a cool video, commemorating the ’99ers (just because). I’ve watched nearly the whole thing. It’s about reflecting on their experience, about women’s sports (and persistent inequities) and includes a lot of memories, inspiration, fun, and light moments among the 4 players (Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly, and Brianna Scurry). I heartily recommend it!
If Beale Street Could Talk: Quiet, beautiful, heartfelt, devastating. America wears many masks. This movie strips a few of them away. It shines a light on quite a lot of ugliness. As well, it illuminates dignity and resilience in the face of a system built on the abuse of privilege and power. A perfect movie to see on the eve of what is hopefully Donald Trump's second and final SOTU.
Shoplifters: A beautifully honest, quiet movie that is at once uplifting and devastating. Universal questions are raised and left open for pondering. What is a family? How do people survive in our world today? And how do we judge their choices?
Green Book: Very enjoyable movie and yet deeply flawed. The white guy comes across as the hero in ways that are typical for the American movie industry, and comfortably misleading in terms of the realities of our culture. Especially in the current socio/political atmosphere, can't we do better than this?
On the Basis of Sex: We applauded, we cried, we felt so glad that RBG was as prescient as she was. And I felt personally glad that her love of opera clearly predates her connection with Scalia. What an inspiring woman -- and a good movie about her early years as a student, professor, and attorney.
The Favourite: Did I say that being a queen was no fun? This definitely seems to have carried forward to Queen Anne's reign. Strong performances again, and more belly laughs than you'd think. And right along with it, grief, emptiness, ambition, and gouty excess.
Mary Queen of Scots: Being a queen was no fun in the 16th century. Excellent, complex performances in this one. I found Elizabeth especially compelling. Very unclear who actually wins out in this one.
Another Year: Loved this one! It's about a couple, and their friends, and their lives – painful in spots, and wonderfully everyday and enriching, to my mind. Great performances – and who knew there was so much wine being drunk in England!?
Tiny Furniture: A young woman (aka Lena Dunham) comes home after graduating from college and tries to find herself – or not. A character study that I found humorous and touching – and sometimes a little disturbing and/or self-indulgent. It's definitely a privilege to have the leisure to "find oneself." After this..."Girls."
Rabbit Hole: Painful/powerful movie about loss and grieving. Hard to watch but well worth the effort, with a strong cast and an especially on the mark performance by Nicole Kidman. I continue to be glad to see that she is clearly outstripping Tom Cruise as an artist. You go girl!
The Kids Are Alright: Very enjoyable movie with great performances and an excellent cast. Two kids whose moms are lesbians decide they want to find out something about their "father" – and everything moves on from that point.
The King's Speech: Warm, funny, inspiring – and apparently a bit of a rewrite of history, to boot! Colin Firth puts out an amazing performance – and was well rewarded for it. Everyone else is great too, and if you're one of the few people left who hasn't seen it, it's definitely worth a look!
Black Swan: This is a disturbing movie that I really loved – and in case you haven't noticed, I do have a tendency to like disturbing movies. What's real and what isn't? You be the judge. Also, be on the lookout for Winona Ryder – you'll never recognized her!
Blue Valentine: A couple in trouble – how they started and how they got to where they are. A good movie with excellent performances that left me wondering, especially in Michelle Williams' case, whether she was thinking about what's his name (her partner who died suddenly – the guy who starred in Broke Back Mountain – for some reason I can't remember his name – oh yeah, Heath Ledger).
Shutter Island: A dark period piece that has the creepy feel of the 1950s (creepy to me at any rate) and has stayed with me more than I would've thought. A movie with surprises – definitely worth a look.
Cyrus: I don't remember this one so well, but have a vague recollection of walking out of the theater feeling not so enthralled. I believe it's supposed to be funny – but as you can tell it didn't really make an impression.
I Am Love: Really beautiful, sumptuous movie that made me hungry, just watching it. A keeper!
The Girl Who Played with Fire: The second in the three part series involving the girl with the dragon tattoo, this movie was much harder to watch than the first, as Salander's triumph isn't quite so clear at the end. Painful, painful, painful.
Scott Pilgrim Versus the World: I loved this comic book take on young love. Went to the movie on a whim and came away very happy to have seen it! Quite a few laugh out loud moments – and touching, as well.
Going the Distance: A very lightweight romcom that kinda left me feeling like I had just spent an hour and a half reading People magazine. In other words, pretty much a waste of time.
Never Let Me Go: Wow! This was an amazing, stark, and moving movie about kids who are basically raised to become organ donors. Very much worth seeing.
The Town: Ben Affleck's movie about bank robbers. It's okay. Not great, but okay. It does make me curious about Charlestown – will have to go there one day.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger: A Woody Allen movie that I honestly don't remember very well. It's pretty much about adults behaving badly – something that Woody knows a little something about.
The Social Network: The movie about Facebook. I found it very interesting and well done, and was especially fascinated/disturbed by the window on the incredible privilege and elitism still thriving at undergrad Harvard.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest: Number three in the Dragon trilogy. I found this, in many ways, the weakest of the three movies – although that's not to say that it was weak. Perhaps my enjoyment was affected by the fact that I hadn't read the book. Anyway, it's a great trilogy and I was sorry to see it come to an end.
Fair Game: The movie about the Valerie Plame affair. One of the things that I found most interesting was how it uncovered my own biases, as she was clearly a very serious and talented agent, but because of her blonde haired beauty, I pretty much assumed that she was a lightweight in real life. I appreciated, also, the depiction of her husband as a bit of a media hound, which was how he seemed to me at the time. And of course, there are the despicable characters of the Bush administration. Glad they were on display in all their glory!
City Island: This was a fine, if predictable, movie about a family in which everyone has a secret and is telling lies. I mostly loved it because it gave me a glimpse of where my friend CB lives!
Winter's Bone: Wow! Unrelenting, stark, and ultimately uplifting – at least to my mind. This is a painful movie about life when you're the daughter of someone who runs a meth lab. Winter's Bone is a perfect title.
Please Give: Quirky, sweet, slice-of-life movie. I loved the low-key character development and good humor of it all. Enjoyable, with a great cast and few false notes.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Tho' parts of the book were missing, this was an excellent rendition of an excellent book. Not for the faint of heart, tho'! Lisbeth Salander is an Emma Peel for the 21st Century (watch for more from Noomi Rapace - I will be)!
Me and Orson Welles: Or was it Orson Welles and me? (If Orson had anything to do with the title, I'm guessing the latter.) I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, even as it reminded me of why the world of the theatre holds absolutely no appeal for yours truly! Nice to see Claire Danes back ... still have to finish watching Temple Grandin, too!
Crazy Heart: I left this movie thinking ... "Eh?" but it has stayed with me. Jeff Bridges does give a wonderful performance. The amount of smoking and drinking was nauseating - as I guess it was supposed to be - all in an understated, Jeff Bridges sort of a way.
A Single Man: One of the best movies of the year in my book. Haunting, beautifully acted and filmed ... marred only by an unnecessarily heavy-handed ending, IMHO. That was the only flaw in an otherwise brilliant bit of artistry. Colin Firth was perfect, and this was an amazing writing/directing debut for Tom Ford! See it!!!
Young Victoria: I am eternally grateful to have not been born the heir to a throne. Life was confusing enough! This was an enjoyable, tear-jerker of a movie that left me wanting to know more about the details. Perhaps a bio for Bookeaters?
Precious: Wow, wow, wow. Two weeks in a row - another amazing movie at Red River. This is a challenging and important movie ... about life in America ... every single day ... everywhere.
The Messenger: Wow, wow, wow. This is one of the best movies I have seen in quite some time. Its focus is on two men who notifiy NOK (next of kin) when a soldier dies. It is a raw, wrenching, unflinching and uplifting journey - not to be missed. Seriously
Damned United: This was a study in soccer, ambition, and friendship. For soccer buffs who actually know the players (I'm a late-comer to the game) the movie would be that much better. I loved it, though - and recommend it highly.
A Serious Man: The Book of Job envisioned by the Coen brothers evoked the early sixties and suburbia with humor, pathos ... and a slightly nauseating quality that tells me they pretty much hit the nail on the head. As one of the goyim, I am sure there were hundreds of nuances that were lost on me ... but I loved it (nausea aside) nonetheless!
Cold Souls: The premise of this movie is deeply strange, yet it is presented in an entirely believable way. It's by turns very moving and then hilarious (in ways that, in retrospect, are hard to capture/explain). The ending leaves a puzzled feeling - but that's not really bothersome. In many ways, puzzled is the appropriate way to walk out of the theater after "Cold Souls." Check it out!
Adam: Nicely done! Not a movie that will stay with you for a long time, but I liked it. The father (Peter Gallagher) seemed a tad overdone -and unnecessarily so. Unmemorable soundtrack - but since I mention it, does that make it memorable? Now I'm starting to feel like Steven Wright - not necessarily a bad thing!
Taking Woodstock: Even going in with low expectations, this offering from Ang Lee just wasn't good. Vilma was a high point in an otherwise shoddy effort. Harsh, eh? And watch out, world - it's only 6:30 AM!
Julie and Julia: I was not as bothered by Julie as some reviewers were - maybe because I liked seeing a blogger hit the big time. Meryl Streep was amazing as Julia .. and this is definitely not a movie to see on an empty stomach! Never have I enjoyed watching people eat as much as I did watching this flick!
500 Days of Summer: I think I wasn't supposed to, but I loved it. Engaging characters and script, great soundtrack. Not as quirky and lovable as "Away We Go" - but not far behind, either.
Whatever Works: People either like or hate this latest offering from Woody Allen. I must admit that it's a little weird to see this May-December relationship on-screen, feeling so creeped out by Woody's real-life choices. But I'd say he pulls it off. There are some really great lines throughout the movie, and while not entirely believable, I didn't mind being along for the ride. A pleasant diversion for sure.
Goodbye, Solo: Interesting movie that basically contrasts life energy and death energy, IMHO. Solo is the epitome of resilience - love him! Meanwhile William seems bent on being miserable, for reasons that the movie leaves mysterious. I didn't find him very a likable or compelling character - but Solo makes up for it.
Moon: I hesitate to write this one up, as I was tired when I saw it - and missed portions. But form my bleary vantage point, this seemed an intriguing movie set on the moon and exploring themes of identity, isolation, etc. It was not my usual fare - and I wasn't up to snuff - but at least had the wherewithall to be able tell that it was quality work!
Cheri: I liked this a lot better than Easy Virtue - maybe because I went into it having already seen EV and had my expectations lowered. Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates are fun to watch as always - and I liked Rupert Friend in the title role. It all got a little too serious at the end - a tone-shift that didn't quite fit with the bulk of the movie. Still - a pleasant diversion on a rainy July evening!
Away We Go: This was an excellent movie in every regard. Great dialogue and plot line, endearing cast/characters, heartwarming/funny story that avoids tipping over into overly-sweet territory ... and great soundtrack, to boot! See it, if you haven't already.
Easy Virtue: Not my cup of tea - but I suspect it would have helped, going in, to know that this was a movie based on a Noel Coward play. The characters felt stilted and unbelievable to me, as it was - and I couldn't muster much concern for what became of them. All things considered, I'd rather have been in Philadelphia!
Sugar: Sugar is a baseball flick that is sweetly and realistically done - and definitely like no Hollywood film on the subject. The characters are real and the life is hard - and the film depicts it all in a matter-of-fact way that brings the realities home more surely than something more "dramatic" ever could. Two thumbs up on this one!
Sunshine Cleaning: Director Christine Jeffs has a winner in this tale about the hard times and resiliency of the Lorkowski family. Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin shine in this movie about a bio-hazard clean-up company. Yes, that's correct. And the movie had the potential to cross the line into sappiness several times but demurred. For that I am eternally thankful. (Okay, eternally may be a little over the top.) Darn good flick, though - check it out.
Milk: Sean Penn deserves an Oscar for his amazing portrayal of Harvey Milk. It actually didn't even feel like a portrayal - more a channeling. Such a loss - that yet another creative and energetic and good leader, was senselessly murdered all those years ago. Fear, hatred and guns - why don't we remove at least the last ingredient in the tragic mix?
Doubt: Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman are amazing, and Viola Davis is a heartbreaking revelation in this battle royale. I was left with less doubt at the end than some of my compatriots ... but that took nothing away from the experience. Meryl Streep deserves an Oscar, IMHO ... and I definitely want her on my side, always!
Slumdog Millionaire: Just a great movie, start to finish. Magical,epic, and a nail-biter (even though you know what's going to happen ... pretty much. The dancing at the end did my heart good - and having M.I.A. in the soundtrack didn't hurt, either!
The Secret Life of Bees: Or was it The Secret Lives of Bees? Anyway, whatever - I want Queen Latifah to be my mother!!! (What was Bill Clinton thinking, throwing her under the bus all those years ago?) The movie was entertaining but not a home run by any means. Too predictable ... but Alicia Keys was wonderfully cranky-verging-on-scary and the Queen was queenly and the honey looked delicious and it was nice hearing India Arie in the soundtrack!
Happy Go Lucky: I think I was supposed to like this more than I did. Perhaps it suffered by being seen pretty much on the heels of Rachel. I found Poppy to be a sometimes intriguing and sometimes annoying character. The relentless joking and "upbeatness" felt distancing and unnecessary. I didn't hate this movie by any means - but something was missing for me.
Rachel Getting Married: Jonathan Demme and an amazing script and cast just blew me away with this effort. The characters are fascinating and complicated and most every interaction in the film left me engaged and wanting to know more! Debra Winger was stupendous - although it's been so long since I've seen her that I kept trying to find the bull-riding Urban Cowboy persona within the steely, distant mother of this wedding movie. (She's not there.) Margot at the Wedding was very good - but Rachel puts her in her place. I highly recommend this to everyone!
Religulous: Bill Maher skewers the rampant "illogic" of religion in this free-wheeling film. His wit is right on target and as barbed as you'd expect. I found myself squirming every once in awhile. I don't mind you picking on the Pope, Bill ... but same as with Michael Moore ... sometimes when you set up "common folks" to look like fools, I cringe. Still, Religulous is worth a look for sure. The best point Bill makes? That conservatives of a religulous bent are about finding answers - while liberals are about asking questions. I can go with that!
Roman de gare: This was an intriguing, surprising, suspenseful, funny, quirky movie that I thoroughly enjoyed. The characters and plot lines are deftly developed. You should definitely check it out if you get the chance!
Young at Heart: YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS MOVIE! It's a documentary about a choral group of octogenarians in Northampton, MA. Very inspiring ... definitely something to check out!
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: Enjoyable, light fare with a stellar performance by my favorite police chief, Frances McDormand!
The Visitor: Now this was an excellent movie ... from start to finish. It was similar to Smart People in that it had an academic as the main character. However, all similarities ended pretty much right there. In this warm, funny, and wrenching movie, the characters are well and subtly developed, the plot is (unfortunately) believable ... and there are no false notes. I would urge you to see it - you won't be sorry!
Smart People: Looks like we're getting back on track with our Tuesday night movie schedule ... for the time being. Smart People was enjoyable but left me unenthralled. (It probably didn't help that we ran into a totally enthralled movie-goer on the way in who was seeing it for the second time. High expectations may have killed this one for me.) Overall, I found the characters exaggerated and mildly unlikeable ... the dialogue stilted and self-conscious, perhaps just the way smart people talk. But then the lessons about loosening up and being less self-absorbed weren't exactly ground-breaking. Overall, it wasn't a wasted evening ... but not a movie I'll be putting at the top of my list, either.
4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days): Winner of the Palm D'Or at Cannes, this film by Romania's Cristian Mungiu certainly deserves the accolades it receives. It's a realistic and emotionally unflinching story of a woman who helps her friend obtain an illegal abortion in 1987 Romania. The story is harrowing, the acting wonderful, and the cinematography amazing. This film makes Juno look like Disney pablum!
Taxi to the Dark Side: This was a harrowing and eye-opening look at what our country has become under the leadership of Bush/Cheney after 9/11. The "road taken" has definitely been a trip to the dark side. Disgusting and important to see ... as we make our way back toward the light!
Michael Clayton: What an excellent movie! Engaging, engrossing, well-acted. Tilda Swinton certainly deserved an award for her protrayal of what I have to think must be the secret, inner life of Condi Rice.
Persepolis: This animated memoir is an engaging, heartbreaking, uplifting, realistic look at life in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Go see it! It humanizes what our current regime so consistently tries to dehumanize. An important movie, Persepolis is based on the book by Marjane Satrapi.
Margot at the Wedding: Dark, funny, tough to watch and very well acted.
I'm Not There: Bob Dylan's not my favorite, but this was a fascinating movie to watch (albeit long) and since he wasn't there, I couldn't very well feel annoyed by him. Cate Blanchette was just amazing - and I loved the surreal, Fellini-esque feel of the Richard Gere parts.
Atonement: Lush, compelling, painful - I especially loved Vanessa Redgrave's starkly powerful 5 minutes - and the Fellini-esque (can you tell I love Fellini?) flavor of the scenes of the evacuating troops on the beach - complete with ferris wheels - somehow depicting the disorienting horror of war in ways that blood and gore never could. Great movie!
Juno: Well, I went to see it. I totally agree with my friends who found the clinic scene extremely misleading, off-base, and gratuitously negative in its depiction of the women's health movement and its workers. In an otherwise nice movie, this was a thoughtless lapse ... and I was sad to see so many women in Juno's age group in the theater (one of them actually pregnant) ... who'll be coming away with a false impression that could so seriously affect their lives!
The Savages: Wow, what a good movie! Philip Seymour Hoffman has had an amazing run this year between this, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," and that other movie with Tom Hanks ... the name of which is escaping me at the moment ... Charlie Somebody's War. Anyway - he and Laura Linney are just wonderful as siblings dealing with their aging/ailing father. Painful and real ... and set in gritty, wintry Buffalo ... in perfect contrast to Sun City. (The latter looks like a setting that would do David Lynch proud.) Check it out if you haven't seen it!