Government Movies & TV Politics

Corruptio Optimi Pessima

Corruptio optimi pessima-2“Corruptio optimi pessima. Corruption of the best is the worst.”

I’m a West Wing girl. I mean, I love The West Wing. I think it’s the finest show ever written for TV, bar none. I think Aaron Sorkin is a genius, and if I could have lunch with one person who is alive today, believe it or not, it would be him.

I love The West Wing because it has taught me more life lessons than anything I’ve ever watched. More than any piece of art. More than the movies. It’s The West Wing. I love that the characters are all flawed in many ways, yet spectacularly brilliant and caring in other ways. I love that we can forgive them their daily sins, the same way I would like my own to be forgiven. I love that they go in a room and say what they have to say and then leave. They never repeat themselves over and over again the way I do when I’m not watching.

Fourth of July is approaching, and I wanted to write something about my love of America, and about my realization that we are not living in the best period of our history. We are living in a dark time from which we may not recover. Benjamin Franklin said the government can’t work if everyone in government doesn’t respect one another. I think we can all agree that right now, no one on either side of the political aisle, in the men’s and ladies rooms, or in the parking lots of the Capitol respect one another. In fact, I believe that many of them have no self respect, either. And, truth? What’s that in the beltway?

So, what to write about my country on her fabulous birthday? A call to action for myself and the rest of us comes to mind. So of course I turn to The West Wing, Season 5, Episode 14, An Khe. Leo McGarry, The President’s Chief of Staff, is a Vietnam War veteran. He was shot down and saved by his friend O’Neill, who carried him through the jungles for three days until they were rescued. Leo is loyal to “the finest man I have ever called a friend.” His friend is now the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company that makes things the government uses to do bad things in other places. Specifically helicopters. Leo finds out that his friend has crossed to the dark side and bribed someone to get a contract. I have just made a long, fabulous story short. You get the picture. O’Neill has let Leo down and Leo is stunned.

Fast-forward to Leo alone in his office after his friend confesses. Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s version of “My Country Tis of Thee” starts to play in the background, and the president comes in to see if Leo is all right. Leo begins to cry and tells the story of that long ago day when his amazing friend saved his life in the jungle. Then he explains that others died attempting to rescue them. He says that he and the fallen CEO had an obligation to those who went before — those who died — to lead lives on honor and service that would make those men proud of them. And the President quietly says, “Corruptio optimi pessima — Corruption of the best is the worst.”

Corruption of the best is the worst. Corruptio optimi pessima. Never has this quote been more appropriate than this moment in time. Not just in the presidency but in all the halls of our government. All of them.

We all have an obligation to start checking our facts before we republish the propaganda that clogs our inboxes and our minds. We have an obligation to respect other points of view — and to ask for the data to back up those points of view. And if we are to honor those who gave up so much for our freedoms (and I do not include not wearing a mask as a right of citizenship), we must take action to ensure that every American can vote easily and have access to health care—and also that every American pays the taxes they are supposed to pay and works hard to better their lives and not just to get a free ride; these things and a host of others have gone by the wayside. We need to learn to take care of the environment, to understand the land the way those that were here first did. We are out of control as a nation, and this is a day on which we should take a moment away from fireworks and hot dogs and steaks and red, white, and blue linens, and commit to doing the right thing.

God Bless America.

Post Script:

The plot line about the defense contracting controversy is apparently based on a real life incident. A 2003 lease agreement of 100 Boeing K-767  tankers by the US Air Force led to the imprisonment of a Pentagon staffer and the forced resignation of Boeing CEO Phil Condit. The main opponent of the deal was Senator John McCain – from Arizone like the fictional Senator Hunt; in addition, Hunt has been presented on the show as a maverick who is amenable to bipartisan projects, not unlike Senator McCain. McCain, when informed about the West Wing episode, was amused.

Very little is revealed about the title of the episode – An Khe. The only reference to the name is in the opening scene, when Leo, as a Vietnam War fighter pilot, tells ground control that he is approaching An Khe. An Khe was an actual base camp in Vietnam during the war.

Movies & TV Women

Favorite Feminist Disney Character: Cruella De Vil

2015-02-03-Cruella6-thumbWhenever I’m asked my favorite feminist Disney character, I don’t waver. “Why, it’s Cruella de Vil,” I reply without hesitation.

I was 8 years old when “101 Dalmatians” was released. I felt relief when I saw her on the screen.

Cinderella made me anxious. I couldn’t see an ounce of myself in her. Why would she not fight back? Why was she so nice to such awful people? And Bambi? Let’s not even go there. Snow White? How come she had to do all the work for so many of them? And her hair? It wasn’t like mine — perfectly coiffed even after she had been struggling in the woods all that time? Those female characters didn’t reflect my sense of self at all, and if anything, they made me doubt myself.

I stood up to the boys in the playground and insisted they let me play dodgeball with them. My hair had cowlicks in a few unfortunate places, and I had blue glasses with rhinestones, which seemed like a good choice in the store, but not so much when I hit the playground. I had skinned knees and eczema, which I am convinced was caused by my anxiety based on the female characters that stared me down from the enormous cinema screens and made me feel bad about myself. And let’s not even speak about the ridiculous Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music”! Seriously?!

So imagine my surprise when Cruella de Vil came to me in “101 Dalmatians”: disheveled hair flying out behind her, careening this side of out of control through the streets with a cigarette hanging from her mouth, furious when she didn’t get her way. I loved her. My friends and I were talking about what we would name our daughters when we had them after marrying some “Prince Charming” or another (I think we can all agree on the misnomer of that myth), and I said, “Cruella. I will name my daughter Cruella.” They thought I was nuts, and clearly, I came to my senses years later when I named my daughter Sarah, but I really liked that she was authentically herself. She made me less ashamed of whom I sometimes felt I was inside. And she was funny; at least, I thought she was. And I never believed she would have all those puppies killed for a coat, and frankly, with the number of fur coats on the women who came to our house for Saturday night dinner parties, I wasn’t really aware that it was an issue.

But the history of the creation of Cruella is what is important too. She was a real character, unlike Snow White or Cinderella.

“Cruella was the creation of Marc Davis. Davis wanted her to be a contemporary woman, and he began searching for someone in the real world whom he could then use as the model for this fiendish fashion maven. And he eventually found her at a cocktail party that he and his wife Alice attended in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

Now, because this woman was a family acquaintance (and, more importantly, because her children are still alive, and let’s face it, no one would ever want to hear that their mother’s awful behavior at a cocktail party over 50 years ago served as the inspiration for the way Cruella de Vil moves and behaves), the Davises have never revealed the name of this woman. However, given that Davis’ original concept sketches for Cruella showed her to be a far more attractive woman … it’s often been suggested that Davis was inspired by one of the wives of the other artists and animators he worked directly with at Disney. But the inspiration for Cruella came from within the Davis family’s very small circle of friends.

That said, in order to further obscure the identity of the acquaintance who inspired the flamboyant way that Cruella moves and acts, Davis had veteran character actress Mary Wickes come in to shoot some live-action reference footage for the film. And a lot of the comic choices that Wickes made Davis then incorporated in Cruella.

But as to who the family friend was who served as the inspiration for this Disney villain, Davis took this secret to the grave when he passed in January 2000. And while his wife Alice is still with us, she honors her husband’s wishes and, to this day, has not revealed who the real-life inspiration for Cruella de Vil is or was.” Excerpt from Huffington Post.

Let’s face it, ladies; we all work hard to overcome that which is inside us that doesn’t sing to our better angels. I remember my therapist (I’ve mentioned him before; he was blind and I realize now that seeing a blind therapist to see yourself more clearly has some real roadblocks) asking me, “When are you going to start behaving the way you want to be remembered?” It was a pivotal moment in my personal quest for greatness, although not particularly helpful in unraveling the complexity of the family in which I grew up and their effect on my personality.

I try every day to behave the way I want to be remembered. But it was Cruella that enabled me to look in the mirror and see that we all have the “bad girl” inside us — or at least Ido, and I will own her. I will apologize when she is unchecked and shows me my worst self. I will see her coming to the doorway of my life, and shut the door in her face when I can. And, I get to control her as long as I don’t pretend she isn’t there. So here’s to Cruella de Vil, my first heroine. And as for Cinderella and Snow White? Bite me, ladies.

Movies & TV Personal Essays

Shonda Rhimes & My Sister

003ap111112147082_193432I have been reading Shonda Rhimes’ new book, Year of Yes. You know Shonda Rhimes, the creator and writer of the great Grey’s Anatomy. Great book. Game changing book. Merely one chapter into it, I realized that my sister Leslie is Shonda’s twin sister.

We moved a lot while I was growing up. Fifteen times by the time I was sixteen, or sixteen times by the time I was fifteen; who can remember? I was in sixth grade when we moved to Cleveland in the middle of the school year, and Leslie was in the first grade. A few weeks into our enrollment at the new school, Leslie’s teacher came up to me in the hall close to tears and said, “I was so sorry to hear about your brother.”

I didn’t have a brother. Actually I did, but I didn’t know I had him until I was sixty and my mom was dying, and it came out then. Another story for another time. But when I was in the sixth grade, I did not have a brother.

“Thank you,” I said, not knowing what else to say. “That’s okay, really.”

“And to have him eaten by a lion at the zoo. I can understand why your mom needed to move you all right away.”


I went home and told my mom. She called Leslie in and asked her why she’d told her class she had a brother who got eaten by a lion at the zoo. I can remember the scene like it was yesterday.

“Because it was show and tell and I didn’t have anything and everyone had really cool things to tell so I made it up. It was the best story at show and tell.”

Alrighty then.

Fast forward to Shonda’s book, in which she says she is a great storyteller, and that whether her stories are true or not is no matter. She wrote that when she was in the second grade she told everyone in her class that her family were spies from the Soviet Union, and that if they told anyone, she could be killed by the American government. She said the next thing she knew, she was on her knees with the nuns doing yet another set of Hail Marys.

OH MY GOD! My sister is Shonda’s twin. She has the same genius creative mind, and she knows how to weave a tale. But while Shonda’s family celebrated such creativity, I can assure you mine did not.

I called up my sister, totally excited. My sister works for a big-deal Fortune 100 company, and her sense of humor is not usually on display on a Friday morning at 10:00 a.m.

“Oh my GOD! Do you know who Shonda Rhimes is?”

“No, what do you want?”

“She is the creator, director, and writer of Grey’s Anatomy for God’s sake! AND How to Get Away with Murder AND Scandal! Jesus, where have you been?”

“What do you want?”

“You are her twin sister.”

“What do you want?”

I told her the story about the lion eating our sad younger brother (may he rest in peace) when she was six, and she remembered it. Then I told her about Shonda’s similar story, and that clearly the two of them are soul sisters. She said she will read the book. I’m really hoping she does.

Here is the thing. I love that Shonda Rhimes embraces her talent for embellishment, and that she saw even way back when what it could mean to her. Being yourself and embracing what makes you you is not always easy. I made my sister promise to read the book, which I doubt she will, and I hung up knowing with clarity that legitimizing who you are as a person with the honest tales of our history, including brothers eaten by tigers and the time I blamed the missing cookies in Leslie when she wasn’t anywhere near them, is a part of celebrating it all. Humans. Fabulously creative. Fabulously flawed. With secret twins all around.

So here’s to the creative kids and their imaginations, and what they bring to storytelling. And here’s to my sister, who is very special unless I’m mad at her.

Movies & TV Politics

Donald Trump’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame

images-1I am so sad about our country and the discourse around the presidential election coming before us in a short year and a few months. These are serious times, and all I see in the media is that which is beneath the discourse I’m hoping to hear.

So, of course, in my typical fashion, I go to the screen.

Here is the fabulous speech for The American President, written by the great Aaron Sorkin, and performed with presidential stature by Michael Douglas. I quote his articulate response to his political opponent here, but I’ve changed it a bit to fit our times. I hope one of the candidates running will ask Sorkin to write the response to Donald Trump for them. I’m begging.

For the sake of having a voice, let’s present it as if it’s Jeb Bush giving the speech.

President Andrew Shepard aka Jeb Bush:
“For the last couple of months, Donald Trump has suggested that being president of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on those that make up this country, I can tell you without hesitation based on my family’s history: being President of this country is entirely about character. America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”. I’ve known Donald for years, and I’ve been operating under the assumption that the reason Donald devotes so much time and energy to shouting at the rain was that he simply didn’t get it. Well, I was wrong. Donald’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. Donald’s problem is that he can’t sell it! We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Donald Trump is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. Oh wait, there is a third. He’s interested in the fame his inflammatory remarks provide him. And, those things, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character. And you say that someone who spent four years in a North Vietnam prison camp rather than leave his fellow soldiers behind, is not a hero. And, you don’t mention you avoided the draft three times. And, you count on the fact that the story will not be about you, but the hero you called a coward. And, you tell them that McCain is to blame for their lot in life, and you go on television and you call him a loser. Senator McCain has done nothing to you, Donald. He has done nothing but serve the military and the country, represent the interests of public school teachers, and lobby for the safety of our citizens. You want a character debate, Donald? You better stick with someone else, ’cause John McCain is way out of your league.

President Andrew Shepherd aka Jeb Bush
We’ve got serious problems, and we need serious people, and if you want to talk about character, Donald, you’d better come with more than character assaults and tasteless quips. If you want to talk about character and American values, fine. Just tell me where and when, and I’ll show up. This is a time for serious people, Donald, and your fifteen minutes are up. My name is Jeb Bush, and I am running for President.

Watch the speech here.

By the way, I’m not a registered Republican, but I’d sure like to see the discourse elevated.

Movies & TV Politics

Return to Normandy. Colonel John J. Wessmiller’s Story

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 7.20.29 AMThrough my podcast, Screen Thoughts, in which Emily O’Toole and I (using the alias, Justine Hollister) talk about all things on the screen, I was invited to a rough cut screening of Return to Normandy, a short film about Colonel John J. Wessmiller’s return to Normandy, more than seventy years after he landed there on D-Day. You all remember D-Day—we learned about it in high school. We learned the date when it took place, that it was a surprise, that lots of men died, and that it was the beginning of the end for the Germans because the Allies had no intention of turning back.

I haven’t ever thought much about D-Day. Then there was the 70th anniversary, and Obama and some other world leaders celebrated our might yet again and that was the end of that. Not so fast.

Colonel Wessmiller didn’t get to go to Normandy on the anniversary. Team Wessmiller was told that The White House chose someone local to go after stringing him along for quite some time. They ‘chose’ someone else? I have not yet uncovered the underbelly of that part of the story, but I assure you I’m not done trying. There are five men still alive who were there that day. Five. I have to move on now to the good part of this tale because I’m just not sure what to do about the injustice of “no room at the anniversary inn” for the Colonel, who was actually there.

The Colonel’s war story is not really that unusual, I would guess. He lost a lot of men and friends when they turned a corner and mistakenly headed east instead of north and ran into the German army – literally. He dove into the bushes and then crawled through the window of a small cottage, where he stole a bicycle with two flat tires to ride to get help. He was the sole survivor of his group of warriors that day, and 70+ years later he carefully crafted a list of their names to pay tribute at the cemetery in Normandy (which looks remarkably like Arlington). But to watch his telling of it, and to see his determination to go back and pay tribute to it all, is a gift that keeps giving. This short film must be seen by all. It’s about compassion, commitment, and courage. You remember compassion, commitment, and courage. They used to be three tenets of our great nation. The Colonel reminds us all of what we ought to be to the world, and I for one want him around telling it for years to come. His grandson’s film will ensure that he is.

Forty years after the war ended, Colonel Wessmiller sent a new bike to replace the one he’d stolen, and now thirty years later still, everyone in the theater watched on the screen as the man whose bike he’d stolen thanked him for being an American, and for coming across the pond to save another nation because it was the right thing to do. Then the granddaughter of that Frenchman kissed the Colonel, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. Money had been raised, and the Colonel made the trip back to Normandy to pay tribute to the fallen and to be thanked by those who tell him, “but for you we would be Germans!”

My husband, H2 (Husband #2), is French. He and his family escaped to America through Portugal after the Nazi’s invaded. He was lucky—they were Jewish, and the end would not have been good for him. He took me to Normandy on one of our monthly trips to France, and I walked the beach on which the Colonel had stood. But now I was seeing it through new eyes, and I really understood better. It made me wish I’d stood with a straighter spine when I looked out over it twenty years ago. That stretch of beach will forever mark that time in the world’s history when thousands of men ran into harm’s way because they were asked to. Each soft wave whispers “thank you” forevermore.

I have so many questions for the Colonel, and it appears I may actually get to ask them, as we’ve invited him to join our podcast about his film and his remarkable history. Lucky, lucky me. I want to ask him why he and his band of brothers didn’t seem to suffer when they returned home the way in the way that our men now do? Did they just keep it in? What is the difference? I want to ask him what he would say now to those friends he lost that day, about the life he lived after they were gone. I’d like to ask him about his thoughts on the trip over to Omaha Beach in the boat the night before D-Day. Mostly though, I just want to thank him for his service.

Five men remaining. Don’t we need to make sure we hear from all them of them before they join the rest of their brethren? Each and every one of them.

Movies & TV Politics

Brian Williams & You & Me

imgres-1I really like Brian Williams. He’s very cute. His daughter, Allison, reminds me of my fabulous daughter about whom I’m not allowed to blog. He’s very funny. I especially like him on David Lettermen. The two of them combined are like what you want your dad to be. When I heard last week about his demise – his fall from grace surrounding his exaggeration of his exposure to danger in the middle east – I was sad. I send my best to him and his family.

Then I started to read the call to action throughout all social media platforms for him to resign. Be fired. Tarred and feathered. How could he possibly have let down the public trust? Men and women delivering the news have a responsibility to tell the truth. Excuse me?

Nothing happened to us. All that happened is that it turns out that Brian Williams is an ass like the rest of us, maybe more of one. The fact that he thought he could embellish the way he did and not get caught was … well Brian, I hate to say it; it was just plain stupid. I never embellish things that are easy to prove wrong. Smart embellishers like myself choose things that are not easily exposed.

Setting that aside, here’s a newsflash. It is our responsibility as citizens to fact check our information. If you start from the premise that those delivering the information are only putting out factual pieces of data without their own ‘spin’ on it than you are stupider (Is it stupider or more stupid? I hate the english language.) than bad boy Brian.

Let’s review a few things.

  • Joe Scarborough. Well, Mika’s father thinks he’s ignorant and said so. Let’s not look too closely about why he resigned from Congress a few months after winning re-election, but if you want to read about it, here is it. Let’s see. Brian Williams should resign but Joe stays?
  • Doris Kearn Goodwin is still on the news and she admitted to plagiarizing an entire section of a book. That’s so much worse than embellishment.
  • Fox News anchor people knowingly embellish every single day – and that is a fact – and no one asks them to resign.
  • Can we talk about Al Sharpton and his torrid past? Now he’s a newscaster? Seriously, the man can’t pronounce half the words over three syllables that he uses. Bill O’Reilly?

Need I go on?

Here is the thing. The way Brian delivers the news is lovely. He makes us smile and tells the sad tales of our ridiculous self-destructive actions as a global group of mammals in a way that is calming. It’s hard to deliver such awful tidings night after night in a way that is palatable. I don’t want him fired. I just will make a mental note to not believe without question things he says that make himself look more fabulous than the rest of us.

It is our responsibility to stop putting people on the screen on pedestals. We are responsible for doing our own due diligence around that which we believe. Not Brian Williams. That said, if NBC news wants me to watch it, it needs to put forth the best, most accurate work they can. Then put a pretty guy like Brian on to deliver it in a way I can stomach.

So, get over yourselves everyone. According to the Center of Psychological Motivation Research, 92% of all individuals embellish stories in retelling them. It’s about ego. Who among us hasn’t gone to the dark side in the name of our sagging egos?

I made the last paragraph up. It is a lie. Big difference between a lie and an embellishment. Just sayin.

Movies & TV

Movies, TV, and Me

ScreenThoughtsLogo160hHello loyal Freesia Lane followers….

It’s me, terrified Christine.

I love movies. I love t.v. (or some of it), and I have really smart friends. One friend, in particular, is an award-winning documentarian, and she and I get going on movies and t.v. and the end game is me leaving with my head spinning. I love it.

Long story short, when we were at dinner with a third friend (yes, I do have more than one friend), the third friend said we should do a Siskel & Ebert show. Really? How fun would that be? Well, since none of the networks or Cable networks came running to find us, we decided to dabble a bit and do some Podcasting. Podcasting is t.v. without a visual.

I am hoping we can entice you to go and listen to one or two, sign up to receive them if you like what we are doing, or tell me to stick to Freesia, where I have a following of those that think I’m swell just the way I am.

Click here to listen on iTunes, which is the best place to listen for us to gain traction. Please be sure and rate the podcasts you listen to, and sign up if you feel inclined.

If you don’t have an iTunes account, we do have a website, so click here to listen to us there.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time. And forward this to a movie-loving friend if you want to be my best friend for life.

Here’s to movies and all things screen where we can learn the lessons of our life while eating popcorn. Oh, and for the record, I’m Hollister. She’s O’Toole.



Movies & TV

The Judge Movie Review

imgresI have a really smart friend who we shall call Rebecca. She and I attend film festivals together, meet monthly to discuss films, writing, T.V. and life. She is way smarter than me, but I’m pretty sure she tolerates me because of my sharp tongue and quick wit. Anyway, I texted her as soon as I left The Judge last weekend and told her it was one of the best films of the year and she needed to see it. Immediately.

Here are the text messages that ensued. If you haven’t seen the movie, they won’t make sense. If you have seen it, then she will spoil your enjoyment of it – if enjoyment was your experience. So read further with care.

Rebecca: I saw The Judge last night.

Christine: Judging (get it, tee hee) from your lack of expletives, you didn’t like it?

Rebecca: I am so sorry. It was this year’s Philomena for me. Are you going to replace me on your friendship tree with Hilaria Baldwin? (Note: She thinks that Alec and I belong together, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of the sharp wit to which I referred earlier.)

Christine: We are so done. You are dead to me.

Rebecca: Oh dear – in the world of “The Judge” women that means either I am (a) shot through a Gaussian filter watering the hydrangeas and am not allowed to talk and drop dead or (b) look like a high school volleyball player but am told to water the hydrangeas (and drop dead) or (c) married to freaky Vincent Donofrio (who never got an apology from his brother for crippling him) but sit creepily behind him and am never allowed to utter one word the ENTIRE movie (so could not even ask someone to call 911 for me) or (d) the wasted Vera Farmiga role in bad biker clothes and one black dress who pokes a whimpering Robert Downey Junior up my bar with a stick because I made George Clooney do it in “up in the air” – oh wait if I am a woman in “the judge” I am not allowed to talk…

Christine: You don’t have to look like a volleyball player, your ass has to look like a high school volleyball player’s ass. Quit exaggerating. And, why should he apologize to the big brother who got in the car without being tied up and was probably as drunk as Robert Downey Junior?

Rebecca: Not to beat my horse but I have more where that came from… the great falling out between father and son is…?! Robert Downey Junior is so mad at his father that he refuses to visit his mother for at least two decades (no matter how sweet she was) because RDJ got high, totalled the car their father probably bought for them, crippled his brother and ruined his professional baseball career? And the great compelling legal case I’m supposed to sit through is watching Ken Howard (in some truly bad chin shots) dispense justice over another judge who may have hit a rapist/murderer whose own mother visited him twice in 20 years – when that same murderer rapist was so drugged out that there is no way he could have ridden his bicycle in a straight line? I think it all comes down to this… I could have enjoyed the movie more if Robert Downey Junior’s head cleared the roof of his SUV and I could believe he was on the same team as Vera Farmiga even when wearing a pink Metallica T-shirt, unable to ride a bicycle, and she is the only car driving down the road – and if he could buck up and get through a scene with her without whining, whimpering or weeping…

Christine: Oh honey. You missed Downey’s brilliant performance. The nuance of taking his jacket off the chair when leaving the hospital and stopping to straighten the chair. As for visiting his mother, she wouldn’t leave the routine that kept her on the farm under the tyrant’s thumb. Downey’s ability to seethe with anger while being vulnerable is why he will probably have the Robin Williams Seymour Hoffman ending. He goes where we don’t dare. And the dialogue was great. And he did say he was sorry with every glance. Every hug. Did you need to hear it? Seriously? And, again, the bro was the older brother responsible for himself. The were both drunk in the car. I could go on but watching latest Homeland episode. So not good. (Note: I was trying to change the subject, but she’d have no part in that.)

Rebecca: And it didn’t bother you that we meet the older brother when he gives a Bob Dole handshake and then in the very next scene is moving his hand while lying on the couch? the amazing police work when they don’t find the only security camera footage until the trial has already started?

Christine: Nope. Not at all. None of those things bothered me in the least. I am a big picture person. Wallow in your details. It bothers me that they have crazy Carrie almost drowning her baby. (Note: Again with a reference to Homeland, desperately trying to move on, but some people just can’t do that. They have to beat a dead horse.) That bothers me. 

Rebecca: What would have been really interesting for me to watch is to have Robert Downey Junior’s mother still alive (barely) so she could weigh in on how these two men tossed their family down the tubes for so many years – to have her death be caused by someone the judge showed leniency towards – and then to watch the judge (who has revered the law for 50 years) take it into his own hands and have Robert Downey Junior – who has manipulated the law with no reverence for it – have to try to convince his father otherwise – and fail – and then realize the father blames himself for the leniency – the same thing he blamed his bad fathering on… And then have Robert Downey Junior grow up…

I’m sure you agree, she went too far. I picked up the phone.

“Don’t say a word bitch. Robert Downey Junior is one of the best actors ever, and his performance in The Judge made me cry all the way home. Literally. The pent up rage. The pain. The hope. All of which are present in most of us when it comes to our family, and I can’t help it if you had a better childhood than the rest of us. Live with it.” And, then of course I hung up. That’s the way to take control of a conversation that is out of control. I gave her the opportunity twice to move to Homeland. Not my fault she didn’t take it.

But, here’s the problem. She is right. There are way too many flaws – too many times they told us what they’d already shown us, but I still say there were amazing lessons to be learned about making sure you realize that what you think is the reason someone is the way they are might not be the reason at all. And, that Robert Downey Junior gives it all each and every time, and I, for one, thank him for it. And, the casting was great all around, although who can see anyone on the screen when Downey Junior is there?

So, Rebecca, or whatever your name is, yes, you are right as usual. But I still loved it, as I did Philomena, where you again showed no soul.

Movies & TV

Gone Girl Movie Review

imgres-1Am I the only one? Gone Girl just didn’t work for me, although I will give it a great casting award. Overall though, it’s not the Academy Award nominee they are speaking about. Sometimes more is just more, not better, and this movie contains too many twists and turns, too many scenes, and too many flawed characters to have it come together like the symphony it could have been. Editing. It’s always in the editing.

Let’s do casting. Affleck is always good as an imperfect person, and judging from my one exposure to him smoking a cigar at a restaurant in New York City like a pompous, self-centered asshole, I have a feeling he is perfect for that role. Unjustified cockiness always makes a man vulnerable to a woman smarter than himself. Rosmund Pike won the role of Amy over Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, and Natalie Portman, all of whom would have been safer box-office draw choices. it was a bold move that paid off. She is great in the role, although you are never taken in to like her, and that’s a bit of a problem. How did she fool him when she never fools us?

And, the title Gone Girl? She is no ‘girl,’ and the titled bothered me when I read the book as well.

Then there is the introduction of Amy as a bad girl, which comes too early in the plot for the likes of me; I prefer a slow build in a movie. So if you have to bring her out into the open early, do it from the get-go so we are not led on a wild goose chase that goes nowhere. A movie needn’t follow a book chapter and verse, and this one could have been dissected much better by changing the Amy arc.

But there is an issue even larger than Amy’s exposure. You have to compare Gone Girl with the best of the best of the very bad girl thriller movies, Basic Instinct, in which Sharon Stone takes us on a whirlwind ride of stress and uncertainty that makes a thriller a thriller. And when you hold Gone Girl up next to Basic Instinct, Gone Girl comes up short on every front. I think it’s the script, direction, and music.

Basic Instinct was tight with very little dialogue; it was all in the action. It had stronger music and visuals that led you to your own conclusions, whereas Gone Girl is in your face, chock full of too many scenes with too much happening in them. Did we need to see her lose her money and change her plan? Did we need to have his father show up at the police station? None of those things and other subplots advanced the plot, which should have taken an hour and a half to unfold instead of two and a half. Edit. Edit. Edit. It’s the mark of a great storyteller, to know when you are taking too long to tell the story, and I fear that David Fincher just couldn’t figure that out. And he hasn’t had that issue in the past, which leads me to think that he let the book drive the movie, and he shouldn’t have.

Then we move to the music. The people who created the score actually said they felt it was like serving milk that was one day spoiled, and I couldn’t agree more. Music should drive the bus of my emotions in a thriller, and it didn’t.

Then there is the deja vu issue that leads me to wonder if the book is based on the real list story of Lace Peterson. That first hour and a half is a literal repeat of the Laci story, who was in fact pregnant and murdered by her louse of a husband Scott Peterson. Peterson played the terrified husband in front of the cameras, only to become the most reviled man in the country after his girlfriend, who didn’t know he was married, exposed him for the cad he was. I wonder if the Peterson case drove the idea for the book? Can’t say for sure, but it was there on the screen from the get-go, and I for one just couldn’t shake the feeling that a different ending would have been more plausible. And to make it even more like those events in 2006, Ben looks like Scott Peterson. Yuck.

Then we move on to the fact that there are too many loose ends. Wouldn’t the couple who stole her money have recognized her when she returned? Was there only a 24-hour video take at the house? Did his sister have no other life? Her parents? Seriously? I know, I know. Picky, picky, picky. But in a thriller, buttoning up the details and making a clear road to the end is critical, and for me, Gone Girl was just all over the place.

Oh and one more thing. As I re-read this, I think it’s disjointed and all over the place with thoughts that don’t flow together. Oh, wait. So my review mirrors the movie. And, why wouldn’t it?

History Movies & TV Women

Anita Hill Documentary

imgres1991. Anita Hill.

I lived in New York City and had just started The Women’s Resource Center when Anita Hill came out of the closet and spoke what she said was her truth. I watched a Berlin Wall of white men strangle her with ridiculous, repetitive questions on TV for what I think was two straight days. She barely reacted. She just kept answering the same questions over and over again in the same way. They didn’t make a dent in her, but as it turns out, they didn’t need to. Preventing Clarence Thomas from being appointed to the Supreme Court was not the point of what they were doing. It was supposed to be the point but it wasn’t. I’m not sure what the point was, and Anita brings that home. It was a required exercise in futility, with Democrats and Republicans both doing the same thing. Anita was put on trial, and it was a hung jury. Maybe she was lying. Maybe she wasn’t. But no one on that Senate committee was her advocate, and it is really interesting that none of them paid for that mistake with us female voters.

At that time no one knew what to do with what Anita was saying. Sexual Harassment? Mumble. Bumble.

I remember talking about the situation over dinner with H2 (Husband #2) and a couple of our friends. H2 was Vice Chairman of a major investment banking company, and our companions were a billionaire friend and his wife. Those two men were titans of industry, rarely at a loss for words or for opinions—but they stammered. They didn’t know what to say. They were uncomfortable, and they surely didn’t understand that it was all about power. That if you have someone working for you, you have all the power. You have the power to make sure they never get another job. You have the power to keep them held up in a job holding pattern that rivals Chicago O’Hare at rush hour. And like the rest of the men in the country, they just wanted this whole thing to disappear. They weren’t defending Thomas; they just didn’t want it on the radar, and to be honest, I’m not sure they thought that what he’d done would make him a bad judge. I think a lot of people thought that.

So now there is a movie about the whole drama called Anita, and watching it brought the entire time back, but in a different way than I remembered it. I didn’t see the nuances of it all at the time. I didn’t think about the fact that Kennedy needed to sit silent, as he was having his own female issues at the time. He would surely have spoken up otherwise, right? Joseph Biden was in charge, and he let Thomas turn it into a black white thing when it was nothing of the sort. History will have to hold Biden accountable for not delving deeper into the accusations. He never asked for additional testimony. He never asked Anita about the fact that she had been willing to take a lie detector test.

I marched for Anita in New York. I attended a gathering at Hunter College where she spoke. She was not a mover-shaker speaker. She was cerebral and I wasn’t, so she didn’t call me to do more, and when it was all over, we basically went back to our lives and didn’t let it affect our vote the next time around. Shame on us women. When will we own our power and start to make people accountable?

Why is this movie important? Because it’s our hestory. And our girls need to see it. They need to see what one woman gave up to tell her truth, and while I won’t be so stupid as to say I know she was telling the truth, I know she was telling the truth. Download this film on iTunes and watch it with your daughters. Tell them what you remember of that two-month period. Oh, the times they are a-changing, and watching how it all began will help to ensure that it doesn’t continue.

Oh, and Joe Biden? You just lost my vote even if Hillary doesn’t run.