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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

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Film

So, I wrote a piece about one of two Stephen King films…..

……..that are coming out this summer.  The first is The Dark Tower, starring Idris Elba as Roland Deschain, the gunslinger, and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black who fled across the desert, and which is scheduled to arrive in theaters in July.

But the one I’m really excited about is IT and in this piece, I explain why.

Enjoy! And stay away from creepy clowns with balloons that float.

IT: Part One: The Loser’s Club is scheduled to be released on September 8, 2017.

My copies of IT.

So, I’ve seen Beauty & the Beast (2017) twice now…..

……..and I loved it both times.  I also cried at the sheer beauty (pun not intended) of feelings it evoked in me, regarding the characters and the story.  This is not a review, only my response to a number of reviews about the film and its flaws.

The most common theme in all of the reviews I’ve read is how it’s Belle who bends and changes first, that it’s her responsibility to change the man, rather than the man doing it of his own volition.

I heartily disagree with that assessment.

I’m not excusing the Beast’s behavior (he’s a jerk and needs to learn about boundaries), but it’s his poor behavior that’s the catalyst.  It’s the reason Belle flees the castle in the first place – he’s rude, he’s being an asshole and he scares her over something that she does not realize has significant importance, not just to the Beast, but to his servants, as well. [1]

After scaring her out of his castle, the Beast realizes his error and almost becomes paralyzed with despair.  He knows he blew it, he knows he’s probably ruined the only hope to undo the curse that he and the castle are under and he wallows.  In many ways, his behavior is of someone who has given up all hope, who does not even dare to acknowledge that there is hope.

I understand that feeling.  I’ve been in that black pit of despair.  I did not treat my nearest and dearest well during that time.  Would anyone?

But what does the Beast do then?

For reasons never explained in the animated film or (presumably) the Broadway production or even in the 2017 version, the Beast goes after Belle.

Why?

What would be the point?  If he’s such a misogynistic, self-centered asshole, why would he do that?   Was he obligated to go after her?  No, he was not.  Was he obligated to save her life?  No.  The Beast CHOSE to go after Belle (to apologize, presumably, but, as observed earlier, it’s not made clear), and he ends up SAVING her life.  Was he obligated to that, too?  No, he was not.  He chose to do it because it was the right thing to do.

The Beast changed first.

It was his selfless act of saving her from the wolves that allows her to change her mind.

And yet, no one sees that. No one sees that he recognized his error (self-awareness) and went after her, to apologize (again, there’s no reason stated for why he went after her) and ends up risking his life for her.

All they see is that she changes her mind about him.

Belle didn’t reassess her opinion of the Beast out of nowhere. There was a motivating factor.

He saved her life, at great risk to himself, of his own free will.

She could have let him die and you see her move to leave him again, while he’s wounded and too weak to follow.  But she doesn’t – she recognized that he saved her life.  He chose to bend first, not Belle.

My argument here is that it was not Belle who initiated the change in their dynamic first.  She didn’t in the animated version nor in this version (and not in the Broadway production, either, I’m assuming).  I’ve read many reviews of this movie, and no one, NO ONE, remembers that Beast risked his life to save Belle BEFORE Belle decides to reassess her opinion of Beast.

Nothing happens in a vacuum.

Belle bends, but the Beast did it first.

*****

[1]  As for his relationship with the servants and why they couldn’t help Beast change his abusive and rude behavior?  Their relationship dynamics are in an already established hierarchy (master and servants).  As anyone in a family knows, effecting change in someone’s behavior is difficult enough as it is.  To effect it in someone you know is even more so.  Sometimes, it takes a stranger, someone from outside, to hold a mirror up to you before you can see it.

So, I’m re-watching Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)…….

…….starring Diane Lane as writer Frances Mayes. I hadn’t seen it in a long while (like maybe a year? Two years?) and, given the mood I’m in, it seemed like a great idea to pop this in the DVD player. I remember at the time it came out, I’d been invited to go down to Los Angeles to see an original play written and starring some friends of mine. So, I went with a large group in a chartered bus.

Sitting behind me on that bus were two women, significantly older than I, discussing the film and expressing disgust that Frances (Lane) couldn’t be complete until she had a man. I was tempted to turn around in my seat to disagree and explain why. I didn’t, much to my regret, so here I am, writing what would have been my response.

Frances the film character begins the story a happily married woman – or so she believes. As it turns out, she isn’t – her husband leaves her. Her friends, Patti (Sandra Oh) and her partner Grace (Kate Walsh) want to cheer her up by sending her off on a gay tour of Tuscany. They are unable to go due to Patti being pregnant after many attempts.

On this tour, Frances finds a crumbling and charming house that physically resembles her emotional state. It has such a resonating impact on her, that she takes her suitcase and leaves the tour to explore it. The first time she enters the house, she bumps her arm on a water spigot that doesn’t give water when turned on. She will continually ponder that spigot throughout the film, curious about its purpose and also due to the bruise it gave her.

On impulse, Frances buys the house and that simple action changes her life.

Not long after a severe thunder storm, Frances experiences a “What the hell did I just do? What was I thinking?” moment. She confesses to Martini, the Italian real estate agent who sold her the house, that she feels she made a huge error in purchasing the property, that there should be a wedding and a large family in that house, not a single woman running and hiding from her hurt. However, she cannot undo what she had done, so she perseveres and hires a renovation crew, one of whom eventually becomes like a younger brother to her.

As renovations begin and parts of the house is restored, Frances finds herself surrounded by new friends and an almost-family. She prepares huge feasts at a large table where all of them sit, laughing, talking, listening. She has even begun writing again, presumably detailing the events that had occurred. At the end of the renovations, just prior to the workers unveiling a gift to her, Frances discovers that the spigot is dripping. And after Frances meets the real love of her life and just before the film ends, the spigot is gushing water and Frances is standing in the middle of it, laughing.

Why am I focusing on that? Because Frances and the house were connected. Why am I giving you a semi-recap of the film? I wanted to make sure we were all up to speed and on the same page without spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t seen it. Where does my disagreement with the ladies’ disparaging assessment of the film come in?

Right here.

If you are familiar with Carl Jung (and even if you’re not, that’s okay), he expressed the idea that when one dreams of a house, one is dreaming of oneself. His theory about dreams is that everything we dream is an aspect of ourselves. If you dream of a house, each room represents an aspect of your personality, the attic is your higher consciousness and the basement is your subconscious. The condition of the house and the state of the rooms represent your health, either physically or emotionally.

Water is another symbol, of both the subconscious and of life itself. The house is dry, blocked from what is essential in order to survive. Frances herself is also blocked – rather than work on her own book, she reviews and edits the works of other people (1). As she gets to know the house, to make it her own while keeping its charm and character, both begin to come back to life, to feel cared for (2).

When Frances begins writing her own work again, she is freeing herself from her own emotional restraints. In other words, she is coming back to life and the house emphasizes this change in her by releasing water in drips from the old spigot in the wall.

By the end of the film, she and the house are not only home to her best friend Patty (Oh) and her daughter, but are hosts to a wedding. It is at this point that her friend, real estate agent Martini recalls their conversation from earlier in the film

Frances: What are you thinking?
Martini: What do I think?
Frances: Tell me.
Martini: I think you got your wish.
Frances: My wish?
Martini: On that day we looked for the snake, you said there wanted there to be a wedding here. And you said… you wanted there to be a family here.
Frances: You’re right… I got my wish. I got everything I asked for.

She realizes that he is right, that she has everything she wants – her life is full of friends, of love, of finding herself again after a traumatic experience. She lacks for nothing and she has stopped looking for things outside herself because she has found it within – by working on her house, being there for her friends, writing her book, being active in her new community. And here’s another symbol for you to ponder – working on and renovating her ‘new’ old home was a physical manifestation of Frances rebuilding her interior self.

She doesn’t need anyone to complete her because she’s already complete. Whether she understood it or not, Frances Mayes went on a journey to heal herself. By the end of the film, she had arrived back at herself – she became her truest, most authentic self, the same self she was before her hurts, but now older, wiser, stronger. There’s a reason why the true love of her life is given only five minutes of screen time, a handful of lines and is placed at the very end of the film.

His arrival is not important – hers is.

I suppose my disagreement with the two women on the bus boils down to this – their take away from the film was that Frances couldn’t be truly happy unless she had a man. What they didn’t see was that she was already happy, that she had been finding her happiness in herself and her projects and the people around her.

Regardless of the external circumstances, if you have joy in your life, you are complete. The only person who can take that away from you is you.

That is what Frances learned. And that’s why she was full and complete and ready for what life handed her.

tuscany

Recommended:
Under the Tuscan Sun (novel) by Frances Mayes (3)
Under the Tuscan Sun (film)
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

******
(1) That is something I’m familiar with – rather than work on my novel or work on my lines for a play I’m in, I’m writing my blog. It’s still writing and being creative, but…. it’s not the same.

(2) Not to anthropomorphize the house, but if you take care of your home, it takes care of you.

(3) The book came out in 1996 and differs from the 2003 film in many ways, but it is fun read and you will get something out of it.

 

So, I’m watching ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ (2010)…..

…..for the umpteenth time. I’ve read the book a number of times, too, over the years. I got a lot out of both. I’m aware that there are those who feel that Elizabeth Gilbert is a privileged woman, so who is she to feel angst or insecure, hurt or depressed? Well, she’s a human being, so she has every right to feel whatever she feels, just like everyone else does.

There are also those who feel that her travels can’t be theirs, whether for financial reasons or other obligations. This is true – her journey isn’t for them to take. They have to take their journey, wherever and however it leads them. No one can walk your path for you, nor can you walk someone else’s path for them. Walk alongside? Sure. We can all use that support, especially on the difficult and most bleakest parts of the path.

But there’s a line or two in the film (which I refer to as the Cliff Notes version of the book, hitting the highlights and keeping the same truth), that resonate with me. Both lines, spoken by men, have to do with love.

This is interesting, because a man broke her heart and it is men who are giving her the message that love is what will heal her.

In India, Richard from Texas speaks first, saying, “Believe in love again.”

How does she do that? How does one believe in love, when one’s heart is hurting, broken, shattered by another? Or grappling with guilt for hurting someone else’s heart? Does she feel that she deserves love, or not?

But in order to know the answer to those questions, before she can believe in love again, she must first love herself, forgive herself, let go and let love. She has to take down those walls she’d built, make peace with her past, and trust that the path she is on will take her where she needs to go as she does her work.

And while in Bali, she truly does find love. What does she do? She runs from it. Why? Because she was being asked to relinquish the control she’d established for herself, to be vulnerable to this man who was risking his vulnerability for her. His openness frightened her, because she wasn’t ready to be that open with him. In her fear, she strikes out at him and wounds him. And she runs away, with his insight echoing in her ears – she is afraid.

Thus, the second man speaking to her about love.

“Sometimes, to lose balance for love is part of living balanced life,” says Ketut Layer, the little wise medicine man in Bali. And she recognizes this truth to her core, and she races to correct her mistake in turning away love.

Love means handing someone your heart, which gives them power over you, and trusting them to not to break you. By trusting someone with your vulnerability, you risk being unbalanced, but if they honor that trust, there is balance.

What if they hurt you? What if they betray that trust?

What if they don’t?

IMG_20160227_115204-2-2-2

F.L.Y. = First Love Yourself.*

 

*Something that’s been said to me a number of times over the last few weeks.

So I have a beef with a line in the film ‘Julie & Julia’ (2009)…….

So I was watching the film, ‘Julie & Julia’ (2009), featuring Meryl Streep as the fearless Julia Child and Amy Adams as Julie Powell.
I love this film – it has Meryl Streep, it has food, it has France, it has a perfectly charming cat and, as a bonus, it has New York. This film, through Amy Adams’ character, always inspires me to want to take Julia Child’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ and devour the desserts (which is not always a feasible endeavor, albeit it would be a tasty one).
I enjoy watching the various mishaps Julie Powell (Adams) endures as she works to discipline herself into finishing what she’s started (for those who haven’t yet seen the film, Julie Powell has challenged herself to cook through Mastering the Art of French Cooking over the course of a year and keeps a blog about it). And Julia Child’s evident joy in all things French is translated to perfection through Meryl Streep’s brilliant performance.
This, however, is not a movie review. This is about a specific line that is used in the film that never fails to annoy me, as a writer, an indie author, an author-preneur. I’ve read the book, but it’s been awhile and I don’t recall reading that particular line (and if it is in the book, it probably annoyed me there, too).
What’s this line, you ask?

“You’re not a writer until someone publishes you.”

This, for me, is the single worst line in an otherwise enjoyable and above-standard film that features women in leading roles (their husbands are in the supportive role, which is quite rare).
If you keep a journal, you’re a writer. If you jot down poetry on random pieces of paper and keep them collected in a folder or notebook, you’re a writer. If you write songs, plays (stage or screen), short stories, novels – guess what, friends and neighbors? You’re a writer.
How do I know this? Because writing is an act – it is not a status, it is not a label, it is not qualified as such because it has been viewed by the outside world.
Writing is a deeply personal act – it is the conscious and the subconscious working together to weave imagery into word-form. Sometimes writing is about purging whatever is festering in one’s heart. Sometimes a character or two demand that you take them out and do something with them.

Or it’s something else entirely.

Whatever the case, if you are putting pen to paper and producing words because you are driven to do so (because to not do so is to deny that creative spark a chance to express itself), you are a writer.
And when there are days (and there are these dull days) when the urge to write is non-existent and yet, you still push through and get words out (and they may be terrible words, it happens, don’t stress, that’s what re-writing and revision is for), you, my friend, are a writer.
So, to go back to that line again and put it in a little bit of context – Julie (Amy Adams) is complaining that she could write, she has lots of ideas (her exact word is thoughts).
This is all directed at her husband, who is, rightfully, pointing out that she does write, she wrote a novel.
To which she responds, “Half a novel. No one wanted to publish it, anyway.” And then the offending line, “You’re not a writer until someone publishes you.”

And that’s where she misses the point – no one will publish your book if you only have half a book. And they won’t even look at it if it hasn’t been written. Because the only difference between a writer who is not published and a writer who is published is a contract from a publisher.

Writers write. Always.

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