Reviews…or, Is My Opinion God?

Of course it is.  I am the deity of this blog, and don’t you forget it.

So, my reviews, in reverse order from what I’ve watched most recently back into the distant past of 2 months ago:

Hope Springs:  I have long thought that if a role didn’t depend on a great accent and physical interpretation, Meryl Streep just doesn’t look as talented.  I thought that when I saw her in the violin movie a million years ago, and I’ve thought it again.  In Hope Springs her character borders on caricature and sometimes downright crosses the line.  Tommy Lee Jones has an equally recognizable type, but he brings something beyond the recognizability–a journey of revelation into this shut down guy’s heart.  I loved his performance and love him, hated the writing (I’ve been married for 25 years and there’s a lot more beneath the surface than this writer seems to get) and knew ahead of time exactly what expression would appear on Meryl’s face.  Recommend:  skip it.

Other Desert Cities:  I have great admiration for Speakeasy as a theatre company–I like the plays they choose a great deal and love what they try to do for and with theatre.  So I hate to say that this play needed an intense rewrite (what happens to playwrights who have written for television?).  I’d heard a lot about Karen MacDonald–and I thought the character and her performance of all those complication and layers really stole the show.  Anne Gottlieb was probably miscast and overacted almost every single moment.  I’d skip this one, much as I hate to say it.

Les Mis:  I have written on FB about the redefining of the film musical, done here with great vision and commitment to the medium of film and to the close up used to reveal the bottom of human suffering.  Yes, the singing is raw and hard to hear.  Yes, Russell Crowe sucks.  But Anne Hathaway’s performance of I Dreamed a Dream will haunt me for years.  I think the film is imperfect and uneven and a great risk, and it gives me hope for the art of film-making…there are new creative ventures still to be made outside of special effects.  BRAVO!  Own it!

The Wire:  I am totally and completely IN LOVE.  Idris Elba is my new fantasy actor–okay, I loved him already from watching Luther (where his co-star Ruth Wilson is even better than he is).  But almost without exception this show stays true to the bone.  FANTASTIC!

The Impossible:  Do writers think we’re stupid?  And what’s with the critics saying this is the best film of the year?  Okay, a disaster film that really takes you inside the experience of disaster.  Showing a great deal of human kindness under pressure. And, okay, there isn’t a bad performance.  But there also isn’t a story.  NO STORY.  Which means no real revelation.  Disaster happens, people lose each other, find each other, over.  There isn’t a point of identification or an exploration of any one character’s humanity to the point of showing what people are capable of under terrible stress and calamity (okay, a little with the oldest son).  If you like to watch disaster, great. Cinematography, great.  But, again.  NO STORY.

Lincoln:  I’m not sure what keeps this from being the best film of the year.  Maybe it’s that we don’t like intellectual movies–because the story is about political chess moves, and the passion of Lincoln, and his goodness.  But here it is–I think Tony Kushner is one of the top 5 living writers, and to hear the gorgeous language in a film with that kind of performance by Daniel Day Lewis…see it.  It’s nice to remember courage, and artistry, and the thinking brain.  (But don’t go sleepy, because the film is really more like theatre, and you have to ENGAGE.)

Silver Linings Playbook:  You know, after the fact I forget how disturbing the movie was, because it has a typical Hollywood ending (cheapening what’s come before, and undermining the grit of the beginning and middle).  I think of it as a comedy.  But this is memory as revision, and the truth is that the grit and the neurosis and dysfunction of the movie are so real in the beginning that the movie is almost an indie.  I say that as a compliment.  Up until the stupid dance competition, the movie is excellent.  Bradley Cooper did okay, and the rest of the cast was much better than okay, with Jennifer Lawrence stealing the film as I suspect she will every film she’s ever in.  Anyhow, see it.  Try not to let the ending ruin it for you.

Argo:  I thought Ben Affleck was exceptional and don’t understand why he isn’t nominated for acting awards.  I thought everyone else was excellent, too, and the filming was excellent, but this is another Hollywood ending and I wasn’t on the edge of my seat…I knew what would happen, everyone did, but I didn’t get as interested in the machinations as I did with Lincoln.  I just knew what had to happen to make the next thing happen.  Good movie.  Worth seeing.  I admire Affleck and think he is underrated in many ways.  But, not enough surprise, sorry.

Marigold Hotel.  Judi Dench.  Maggie Smith.  Need I say more?  I don’t care about expected or unexpected, just about the most fantastic ensemble maybe ever.

Downton Abbey:  Season 1 was great, but by the end of season 2 I was getting a little sick of all the soap opera instead of really good new ideas.  I mean, can everyone quit picking on Bates, already?  I hate to say that the death of Lady Sybil is the best thing yet, but it is.  And I liked both the character and the actor.  At least it was a surprise.  I’d like more surprises, please.  Less groaning soap opera and some real insight instead.

Django Unchained–Haven’t seen it.  I’m a complete wimp when it comes to violence, so I unfortunately have never seen a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Zero Dark Thirty–See above.  I regret my inability to watch torture, but there you go.

Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles Made the List

On the rather long list of people I am in love with is Jennifer Nettles.  I fell for her totally and completely the first time I saw her on PBS.  I said to my partner, “Come see!  This woman is made of joy!”

I don’t even really like country music and I watched the whole program, because Nettles’ sense of fun was so infectious.  I hadn’t ever seen a musician do what she did–and it filled the living room, the way it must have filled the auditorium.

This was, of course, before Sugarland and Nettles made it big.  I’ve kept half an eye on her, to see if she would be changed by fame.  Sometimes I thought her voice sounded kind of nasal.  I thought there was too much twang.  But I never got tired of watching her.

So yesterday, when I was zoning out of everything I should have been doing and watching Internet tv, Hulu gave me the option to watch Duets, and I was like, what the hell.  I haven’t wanted to watch the show, mind you.  Like, all we need is more reality tv.

I was wrong.  Kelly Clarkson remains completely herself and very spontaneous in what she says, which is great.  But Jennifer Nettles–it’s truly amazing to watch her work a duet.  She is entirely generous in the arrangement (she sings much less than her contestants), and in performance she calibrates her voice so she never overpowers her partner.  The episode I watched had two incredibly moving ballads (both by the guys working with her), and she was so genuinely kind to them, so empowering, I was like, Is this even for real?  I mean, ON TELEVISION, someone is truly partnering someone else?

Kelly Clarkson is also very empowering BTW, but the two male coaches (John Legend and Robin something or other) sometimes even sing more than their contestants!  But it’s the way Jennifer Nettles connects, the way she joins with her mentees, that’s so outstanding.  I have to ask, Does she have Meisner training?

Regardless, she has remained herself, relatively ego-free for the business she’s in, feet on the ground, available to the people around her…at least that’s how it looks.

In other words, it can be done.

Thank you, Jennifer Nettles, for exemplifying grace.  It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?  The most awake Buddhist monks are joyful.  The more joy, the more depth and compassion.  (And, BTW, the woman can really sing…so clear when she’s not singing country.)

Anyhow, in my own quest for grace, it’s probably a good thing that I gave up wearing black and being “Ms. Dark Side,” all sharp and sardonic at, what?  22?


When my partner and I got heavy into meditation, we turned off the television and didn’t watch it (except for So You Think You Can Dance) for the summer.

However, I got sick this fall and went on a binge, catching up on all the episodes of the Closer I’d missed.  Then I started watching this sick soap opera called Revenge.  I’d call it a soft revenge show.  So far no one has killed anyone.  Which, frankly, allows me to enjoy it all the more as the bad guys get what’s coming to them.

I have surrendered to the fact that we, as human beings, as a whole race, are just not all that evolved.  Our brains require revenge fantasies if not the actual thing, and people like Mother Theresa are just mutants, or else they have private undiscovered aggression that is so secret no one knows about it.

I LOVE REVENGE FANTASIES!  And television revenge fantasies, accompanied by ridiculous wealth, privilege and good looks…well, it’s Dynasty all over again.  We love it.  The meaner the better.  Revenge is ALL THAT.

So, in blog after blog of reaching for the light, meditating through pain, suffering mightily through couples therapy, I am now taking a break to have some revenge fantasies of my own.

I imagine actually turning the Sheepdog into a sheepdog.  Slowly.  First legs, then torso, then a very underachieving tail, then front paws, one after another, leaving her with just her head, only the mouth a dog’s mouth with only dog sounds.  Or maybe a human body with a dog head.  Or maybe everything changing and changing back again, over and over again.

See?  That makes me feel so peaceful.  Obviously my unevolved brain needs these things.

The therapist who fell asleep on me?  She’s turning into an infant.  In fact, I am now a witch, and that’s the spell–every time she yawns, fake nods, makes fake therapist sounds, PRESTO CHANGEO and she’s a little baby.  But with her own cat’s eye glasses and nervous tics.  That is obviously extra cruel.

I think I am experiencing nirvana.

Think of it…a life with actual consequences for the wicked.  (I don’t count myself among the wicked because my fantasy life, while now somewhat public, doesn’t count as action.)  Every life contains miscarriages of justice.  If you’re minority, or a woman, probably more than if you’re born into privilege.  My unevolved brain needs to plot revenge to balance the scale, to feel that I am fit for survival.  I’m saying it is a biological imperative to indulge in revenge fantasies.  If you don’t, you either develop mindbody syndrome, actually go for revenge, or take out your anger at the injustice of life on the unsuspecting innocent…in other words, your family.

Think of it.  Our brains could develop further.  We could become more capable of enlightenment.  And idealist or no, I also have a German pragmatic streak that tells me to deal with what I’ve got.  An unevolved brain.

Why do we lie to ourselves about this?

We tell the truth in what we create, in which people get what’s coming to them.  We tell the truth in the myths of religion, the avenging as well as loving God.

Revenge fantasies.  Good for the soul.

I am NOT kidding.