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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

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Evening Thoughts (3)

1. In the last couple of years, I’ve encountered three types of bullies. They all did the same thing – attacked certain aspects of my person that threatened their ideas about who they were and their place in the world. Needless to say, none of these people are in my life.

2. My physical reaction to being bullied, regardless of the kind of bullying, is the same – shortness of breath; panic attacks; weight gain or retention; wearing baggy clothes in order to hide or disappear; severe anxiety; loss of appetite; shrinking into myself; nervy.

3. Given my experience, you will almost never recognize when someone is being bullied. Bullying is not always about broken bones or bruises – a lot of it is gaslighting and manipulation.

4. In the last four months, I’ve lost 20 pounds. My diet did not change; my activity level did not change (walking a mile 3 or 4 times a week; cleaning horse pens). Only one thing changed – I was no longer being bullied and/or harassed.

5. I give far too many chances to too many who don’t deserve a first chance, but once I’m done, you’re out.

6. I am always happy.

7. If I seem anxious or stressed, ask and listen. Really listen, without your ego.

8. Do not fuck with a Pisces. Some fish have razor sharp teeth and they bite hard.

9. My favorite shark is the carcharodon carcharias.

10. My favorite summer movie is JAWS (1975).

11. My most unique skill is remembering conversations verbatim, which is hilarious, because there’s a good portion of my life that I don’t remember.

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More Random Snippets of Poetry

So, I’ve been in a somewhat lyrical and poetic mood for the last few days.  Not sure where it’s coming from, because I don’t identify as being a poet.  Then again, both my grandmother and my mother are poets, so I guess there’s a little bit in me.

 

October 2, 2017
1. In theater, movies and books,
Characters and plot keep us hooked.
But there’s an unsung piece
That threads itself into our hearts.
By use of sound, cadence and pace,
Music is more than the sum of its art.

2. This is a tail, er, tale of two cats.
One is gray and persnickity,
The other is orange and snugly.
Someday, they will become best mates.

Review: IT: Chapter One (2017)

Before I even set foot into the movie theater, I felt surrounded by references to Stephen King’s IT.  When I walked into my favorite Irish pub, Smoky Robinson’s “The Way You Do the Thing You Do” was playing over the sound system, which is used during some of the Losers Club scenes in the 1990 TV adaptation (most notably, the dam building scene).  On the walls are the names of the counties in Ireland – Derry, Maine is named after County Derry, as King notes in the book. Having re-read IT twice in the last couple of months (and on another re-read currently), it felt like a good sign.

From my local Irish pub.

Interestingly, the two adaptations intersect at the same place – in the TV mini-series, 1990 shows the Losers Club as adults; 1989 is the starting point for the Losers as kids.  I remember seeing the TV mini-series when it aired.  Watching the current film, I remembered 1989 and where I was and what I was doing while the Losers were battling bullies, abuse, indifferent adults and Pennywise.  I picked up IT for the first time when I was 17, about two to three years before that intersection.  I read the book in three days. It was my life – except, you know, without the killer clown living in the sewers under the city (although, where I live, I would not be surprised).

Comparing and contrasting the two adaptations is a fruitless exercise, although many of the new film’s shots echoed the original.  Adaptations and re-makes are tricky, especially when the film-makers want to honor the sources that came before.  This was particularly noticeable at the beginning, when Bill and Georgie are building the paper boat.  When Bill sends Georgie to the basement for the paraffin, the shot of Georgie standing at the top of the basement stairs and his very palpable fear of the dark echoes the 1990 version.  Even the Denbrough house resembles its TV counterpart.

First one inside the theater – I had my pick of seats!

Seeing the 2017 movie was like falling into the book – all 1192 pages of IT.  Having read the book so many times, I could probably find my way around Derry without a map.  I recognized Up-Mile Hill as Mike cycled his way to make a delivery to the butcher shop.  The statue of Paul Bunyan watches over the park, just as he did in the book. The rotting house on Neibolt Street, where Eddie encounters the leper, has sunflowers in the front yard.  The Kenduskeag River that flows through town and into the Barrens, where Ben runs to while trying to escape Henry Bowers and his gang.

Derry, Maine is, as the book description says, as familiar to me as my own hometown.

The 1986 novel.

Many of the events that occur in the book happen in the movie and while, in some cases, the context remains the same, how it occurs is different.  The Apocalyptic Rock Fight, for example, is how Mike Hanlon meets and becomes a part of the Losers Club.  In the novel and the TV mini-series, Mike is running away from the Bowers gang when he stumbles upon the six kids who would become his best friends in the quarry.  In this adaptation, the Losers come upon Mike being beaten up by Henry and his gang.  Beverly strikes the first blow with a well-aimed rock that eventually drives the bullies away.  This scene is, in fact, the only time we see Beverly’s skill and keen eye – the sling-shot and silver slugs were removed from this adaptation, for what purpose, I am not quite sure.

As closely as the 2017 film adheres to the novel (or, at least, the kids’ story), it deviates in many ways from the source material.  Most of the deviation is with the characters – Ben (as the New Kid on the Block) is the historian of the group, not Mike, and his first encounter with It is not as a mummified clown, but a child victim of the ironworks explosion of 1908.  Bill is the one who uses a weapon against Pennywise in their final showdown, not Beverly. Instead of being chased by Henry Bowers and fellow bullies, Eddie breaks his arm falling through the ceiling of the Neibolt Street house.

The 1990 adaptation.

Adaptations and re-makes are tricky – fans of both the original source and the original adaptation are likely to hold a microscopic lens to the new interpretation.  Changes, re-shuffling of scenes and assigning one character’s skills/interests to another often occur to make a more cohesive narrative in a linear medium like film.  Even The Black Stallion (1979) bears little resemblance to the novel it’s based on, but it still tells the same story.

There are many references to the novel IT (1986) in this film.  Some went by so quickly, that I know I didn’t catch all of them.  More than once, I found myself anticipating and reciting bits of dialogue among the kids that came from the novel.  And it wasn’t until the end that I realized that the camera angles were at the same height as the Losers, making the entire experience told from their points of view.

Did I enjoy this film?  You bet I did.  Were there some quibbles?  Of course – I felt that the characters of Beverly and Mike were not utilized as well as they could have been, but it wasn’t my directorial vision on-screen.  However, I have many questions that hopefully will be answered in the follow up, featuring the Losers as adults.

I’ll be seeing IT again, perhaps this weekend, perhaps next week.  As I said, it was like falling into the novel that I didn’t just read, but lived.

And it’s a journey that I don’t mind repeating, to a childhood I do remember and the friends I shared it with.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.

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 love to watch scary movies……

…….and the spookier, the better, like Carnival of Souls (1962), The Haunting (1963), or Suspiria (1977). Haunting, surreal, these films engage your imagination and get under your skin. They’re scary because you’re emotionally involved with the characters and you root for them to escape until the very end.

Suspiria is an interesting film because the actors spoke their native language (English, German and Italian). Since they knew the script, they simply responded as if they understood. When the film went into post-production, the German and Italian languages were dubbed into English. The film would be dubbed in other languages for release in foreign markets.

I also discovered Japanese horror films, starting with Ringu (after seeing the American remake, The Ring) and then Ju-on (The Grudge). I was delighted – they are surreal and spooky and go in directions you don’t quite expect. Nor are the stories wrapped up in a tidy bow – there are loose ends that don’t get explained and an unsettling feeling that even happiness has an underlying sense of sorrow.

From my experience, Japanese horror films have an ambiguity to them that modern American horror films do not. I find that ambiguity fascinating, which is present in The Haunting – is the house haunted or is it Eleanor? – because with each viewing, you feel closer to uncovering the answer to the question, even as it ends. This kind of story-telling isn’t as present in American horror as it used to be, and I wish it would make a come-back.

Because I enjoy their horror films, I want to learn Japanese. This is due to the fact that a lot can get lost in translation. There may not be an English equivalent to specific word, so the line or meaning gets changed. Language is important – emphasis on the wrong syllable or vowel, and it can turn a compliment into an insult. One word can have multiple meanings, depending on context.

Thus, learning the language. Besides, it’s good for the brain, it’s a useful skill (because you never know when you’ll need it) and it makes it easier when traveling to a country where that language is spoken.

🙂

A small portion of my foreign language dictionary collection.
A small portion of my foreign language dictionary collection.

So, when I was seven years old…….

……….my dad took me and my brother to see a movie. This was not an unusual thing – he would take us to see a lot of movies as we grew up (most notably, JAWS 2 when I was 8 and my brother was 5).

This movie was different. I remember asking my dad, “Why is it called Star Wars?”

He replied, “Because it’s about a war in the stars.”

I didn’t understand that (I was 7), but I loved that movie with all my little girl heart. I loved it so much, I wanted to be in it.

So I made up stories to amuse myself. And I added myself into those adventures of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo and Leia Organa. I was Leia’s best friend and Han’s little sister (whether by blood or in spirit, I don’t remember).

I got two of every Leia action figure available at the time, so that my character could be on the same worlds as the others. I wrote myself into the movies and had side adventures where they joined me and my Wookie co-pilot.

Star Wars is why I started writing. Leia Organa is the template of all my female leads and the friendships they form.

Sherlock Holmes may be my first love, but Carrie Fisher was my first hero, with intelligence, wit, humor, kindness and no fucks to give.

Recommended:
Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Credit: Pacify Mind
Photo Credit: Pacify Mind

So, 2016 has been a fairly tumultuous year…..

…….and on that note, I’m going to focus on what it meant for me. There are far more articulate voices discussing the global implications of this last year, so I’ll leave it for them. I haven’t even come close to thinking about the loss of so many talented artists that I grew up listening to and how they inspired and influenced me. Reading the outpouring of love has been inspiring in and of itself. Listening to their music or reading their work or watching their performances has been a reminder that Prince and David Bowie and many others will continue to influence long after we’ve gone and turned to dust.

This post isn’t about that.

2016, for  me, was a little weird in some respects and very exciting in others. The weird aspect (and this is in a very good way) was that it resembled 1984. Not the Orwellian novel, but the year I turned 14. Return of the Jedi had come out the year before and Ghostbusters was on the horizon. I discovered another science fiction film series, seeing Star Trek III The Search for Spock seven of nine (1) showings in my local theater. I was thrilled when I discovered the TV series and the spin-offs that followed.

Following that trend, 2016 offered up a Star Trek film, a Ghostbusters film and a Star Wars film, the latter following on the heels of Episode VII. Was I a happy camper? Suffice to say, my inner 14 year old geek (nerd?) was delighted beyond words.

What was exciting about 2016?

I did a lot of traveling. I traveled to areas only a couple of hours from where I live by car, to both visit friends and to recharge. I traveled to another state to help my brother move (I came back by train, which is always a plus – trains are a great way to travel).

I fulfilled a life-long dream and traveled to Ireland, one of the many countries that my ancestors emigrated from in the nineteenth. It was a tour, starting and ending in Dublin, and I loved every minute of it. I drank more tea in a day than I’ve drunk in a month and I felt more awake and alert than I ever did with coffee. Shocking, I know, but there it is. I met some amazing people, both on the tour and among the Irish. Not surprisingly, I was asked many times if I had family in Ireland – I think I do, but I’m not sure who they are. This is a mystery I fully intend to solve over the course of the next year.

I’m feeling more secure in what I want for myself and a better vision of what I want my future to look like. I’m taking steps to follow my passion, make a plan and find a way. That’s what I know I can do, right this minute, for both the practical and the fanciful.

In a tumultuous year, making a plan and visualizing your ideal future can be the anchor you need to finally breathe.

 

(1) Star Trek Voyager reference, completely unintentional.

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