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Showing posts from 2017

The Shape of Water – The Ethics of Love

Monsters are primitive creatures and when we go to movies about them we are going to be confronted by primitive material.  Well, there is plenty of sex, violence and black and white thinking in this movie for it to qualify as a primitive movie but, despite that, or maybe because of it, it is a delightful love story – one that is surprisingly warm – at least for the older members of the crowd who went to the movies together.  In talking about it afterwards it was surprising that the reluctant wife and I, along with her parents, were fully supportive of the interspecies coupling that was depicted, while the two reluctant (and old enough to go to a movie like this) stepdaughters found that aspect of the film to be not just off putting but morally reprehensible.  They, who are generally on the side of all things liberal and progressive, became quite dismissive of the idea that humans should pair with anything but other humans.
We enter the film on an underwater ocean dive where we come a…

Paterson- Was Kylo Ren Really a Bus Driver?

The Indy Movie Paterson showed up in our mailbox the day after watching Star Wars – The Last Jedi and imagine our surprise to see Kylo Ren, Jedi drop-out, master of the Dark Side and would be master of the Universe driving a bus and writing poetry in Paterson, New Jersey.  This quirky little film was on our watch list because it had been well reviewed and we had not had a chance to see it.  How refreshing to see an actor,Adam Driver, who can portray both ends of a very broad spectrum of ethical functioning.  I had actually been concerned by what I considered to be his semitic features in his role as Darth Vader’s heir apparent.  So it was with some relief that a quick Google search clarified that he was raised a choir boy and that his stepfather is a pastor.  According to Wikipedia, he was a bit of a terror as a kid, and he sold Fuller brushes after high school before joining the Marines and then ultimately ending up at Julliard to hone his acting chops.
In Paterson, he plays a local…

Star Wars – The Last Jedi

The central problem in this film is also the central problem with the film.  Our Hero, Luke Skywalker, the young, brash and impetuous fighter for all that is right and good, has grown old and bitter and withdrawn from the galaxy.  When Ray, the next generation force gifted woman hungry for training tracks him down and shows up on his doorstep – the final scene in the last film – Luke has no interest in her and no interest in training her in the first scene in this film - and his refusal is hardly believable.  What happened?  Well, the movie explains the steps that led to this point, but the more central question is, what has happened to Luke the character and Mark Hamill the actor?  The answer within the movie is provided by Ray; Luke has closed himself off to the force.  As for Mark Hamill, playing an old curmudgeon seems to no longer allow the force to be with him either.  The flatness of a forceless central character felt to me, as I watched the film, to be a central flaw of the f…

Battle of the Sexes - Biopics (and psychoanalysis) bring life to ghosts

Where were you in 1973 when Billie Jean King played Bobby Riggs at the Astrodome?  I was where many other Americans were, watching it on TV.  Visually it was odd.  The Astrodome was huge and the tennis court was small.  This was not a tennis venue.  Even 13 year old me could tell that.  And what I remember most – but what was not depicted in the movie – was that Bobby Riggs (what thirteen year old had heard of Bobby Riggs) intentionally dumped his first serve into the net to express his disdain for Billie Jean King.  I hated him for that.  Billie Jean King was cool – I liked watching her play on TV.  Plus, you should always respect your opponent.  And when it became apparent to me early on that Billie Jean was going to win, I kind of thought Bobby deserved to lose – but perhaps more importantly I thought that he wasn’t in BJK’s class (and she did take him apart).  It felt like a foregone conclusion that she would win.
The movie Battle of the Sexes manages to make that foregone conclu…

Fences – Denzel Washington’s filming of August Wilson’s play.

Fences played in our local theater years ago and I wanted to see it then – and wanted to see it again when it came out on the screen last year.  Watching it in the intimate theater of the small screen in our home recently, we finally became acquainted with the play – and this movie production seemed confined by the play – it seemed to be bursting at the seams of the small movie set that was created for it – but also not to be quite big enough for the screen that it would burst out onto. It is a powerfully intimate play that should not be as broadly populated as a movie screen allows.  The production thus interferes with the pleasure – if you can call brutal confrontation with the realities that our circumscribed lives dump on us a pleasure – of engaging with this material because it seems oddly remote, unreal, and therefore, as it were, staged.  And this is too bad, because this really is very good theater.  I am glad to have had a shadow experience of it – though rue not having seen…

Edward Abbey’s The Brave Cowboy

When I first landed in Albuquerque, I felt like I might as well have landed on the moon.  A sophomore in college, I had transferred from the “home” campus of my college in Annapolis, Maryland, to the campus in Santa Fe.  Never having been to the southwest before, I was unprepared for its austere beauty.  Riding “The Roadrunner”, the van that carried travelers from the Albuquerque airport to Santa Fe, some 60 miles away, I noticed every new scrap of green that appeared as we travelled higher up into the mountains – out of Albuquerque’s dustbowl and into Santa Fe’s, by contrast, verdant high desert.  During my four years there – school and one more where I tried to join the tiny middle class in a city that includes many poor and very wealthy citizens often living cheek by jowl – I pined for the lush green of the Midwest.  My friends would claim that I just needed to slow down – that the mountains around us were waves that were cresting and, if we could slow enough, we could see that th…

Anything is Possible – A blessing or a curse?

Elizabeth Strout’s latest novel, Anything is Possible, seems to me to be her bleakest offering yet.  I have written about her Pulitzer Prize winning Olive Kitteridge, which I used to teach personality theory, and this book is structured like that one – every story has some tie – usually many of them – to a single character, but in Anything is Possible, Lucy Barton, about whom Strout has previously written a novel, does not shows up in every stand-alone chapter if only to breeze through as Olive did – in fact she only appears in person in one of them.  There are ties to her – and all of the other characters - in every chapter, though.  Sometimes the ties are are obscure and it is only when the chapter is almost over that we realize, “Oh, that’s the same Charlie who she talked about in the last chapter,” and sometimes we don’t even realize that the selfsame people are being referenced.  Some of the interconnections are so obscure that we are only likely to catch them on a second readin…

Get Out! Fear and Horror

Fear:  this is the predominant subjective experience of African Americans as related by DorothyHolmes, an African American Psychoanalyst, in her Plenary Address to theAmerican Psychoanalytic Association
Horror: what better means of conveying fear to an audience within a movie setting?  The master of horror – before it became a cheap thrill industry – was Hitchcock, and it was Hitchcock’s conscious intent to induce in the audience the fear he felt as a five year old child when he was taken to be locked in the local constable’s jail cell for an overnight stay after some infraction that he had committed at home.  Apparently his father was friends with the constable and thought this would teach young Alfred a lesson – boy did it ever (btw, there are various versions of this tale, I don’t know which is true – I offer this one less as a historical note than to illustrate that movies can be used to communicate emotions – and fear is one that Hitchcock traded in – apparently from some earl…