Sep 30 2009

Apparently not finished with the cougar business.

a502bdfcce273b1a3bbe571add4ad2aeIt’s not every day I wake up feeling ready to take on Judith Warner. She writes a blog called Domestic Disturbances for the NY Times, for God sake. She’s in my blog roll. She’s a serious writer, a good writer. Not a frivolous, fake writer like me. Not a writer who shrieks about beautiful British baby boy bands, makes up words and overuses ellipses . . . What if she googles her name and finds this post? I’m scared. Girls like her were the reason I never participated in Model United Nations in high school: dour, pearl laden, hyper brainy sourpusses, with convictions. I had no convictions. I had other fine attributes, like pep, for instance. Perseverance. But convictions? Not so much. The thing about people with convictions that frightens me is that the convictions often seem to muscle out the humor. And without the humor, well, I’m afraid everything is very serious and sure, and when everything is very serious and sure, then you scare me.

Last week Ms. Warner wrote a post which was a full on attack of Courtney Cox’s new show, Cougartown, which premiered on ABC last Wednesday. Given my recent ruminations on the cougar thing, I was curious about how the topic would be treated by network TV and, sort of assuming I’d hate it, I DVRed the show. Truth be told, I’ve got nothing but love for Courtney Cox, notwithstanding the fact that she married a bit of a buffoon – incidentally seven years her junior, I’m told . . . by Ms. Warner. On Thursday night when Doctor Dash was on call, I put the kids to bed and settled in to watch the show with a glass of wine in my hand and a blanket over my legs. Delicious. On Friday morning I read Ms. Warner’s post over a cup of coffee and while beautifully written, per usual, her angry barrage of words put me in the position of feeling like I had to defend myself and worse yet, defend Cougartown!

Starting with the latter, the show is not, as Judith posits, “intended to say anything real about the state of American middle-age womanhood.” (Parenthetically, why jump to the term “middle age” so easily, Judith? Fight back! Fight sister! It’s a new day!) It’s just a show and although it had moments that made me howl with laughter, not even a very good one. It’s network TV for one thing. Fluff. The writing is mediocre – stick it on Showtime or HBO and it could be genius. Why expect anything of substance? Why read anything into it? It is simple entertainment. Don’t give it more credit than is due. I think she was so busy huffing in outrage that she actually missed the message that actually was there: that in our youth obsessed society, a woman who finds herself on her own in her forties might actually and rightfully feel vulnerable, constrained by social mores, unable to do what she really wants to do.

The show, and the cougar phenomenon in general, is not so much about “a woman who uses her younger mate to puff up her vanity and enhance her sense of power and control”, but about commerce and demographics. Women aren’t willing to be set out to pasture at the age of 40. They’re staying in the game, whether they’re single or married or in between, and as such want to be represented in the media, catered to commercially, and all around embraced by society for the fine fine women they are, in all aspects. Cox looks terrific and classy in the show. She’s acutely aware of the fact that she doesn’t want to turn into one of the women she makes fun of – the caricature of a cougar. She is lovely and goofy. I guess the only thing I have to say to Judith Warner (and I sure hope I’m not actually saying this to Judith Warner), is: lighten up, girl. Have a little fun. 

It’s the following passage that got me feeling all sheepish and queasy about my recent blog post, however: “Most women in their 40s, however conflicted, however sometimes confused, aren’t actually spiraling into self-doubting despair, but are actually working their way toward some greater degree of self-acceptance. Many experience — along with the shift in body mass that pulls things down and pushes them sideways — a kind of psychic shift that frees up some of the energy that once went into external appearances. Many come into their own, creatively, professionally. And in motherhood, in friendships, in romantic relationships.” I must have skipped my psychic shift because I just don’t think it’s completely necessary to let everything get pulled down and sideways just so I can worry about more important matters. It seems as if she’s saying that caring about how you look is mutually exclusive with greater, more worthy, intellectual pursuits. I don’t know, Judith. If you had spent your college years wrapped in ten pounds of beer fat and flannel, looking like Eddie Vedder in drag, maybe you wouldn’t judge a girl for feeling better about how she looks now than she did then. Maybe Courtney Cox looking as good as she does, doesn’t mean she is “spiraling into self-doubting despair”, grasping at her fading youth, clinging to an impossible girlish ghost. Maybe she’s healthy. Maybe she exercises. Maybe she’s a great cook and eats her veggies. Maybe she really likes clothes and baubles and beautiful things. Maybe she has a modicum of pride. Maybe she does it for herself, not for any man. Maybe, just maybe, she can have her cake, and eat it too.


Sep 1 2009

Into Temptation

20090825__090828m-temp_KristenPaint me impressed. Our friend Pat Coyle (Irish Laddie for purposes of this blog) wrote and directed (and acted in – that’s him above) a beautiful film called Into Temptation whose run at the Lagoon has gotten extended for a week, which makes this post of imminent import. I would like you to go. Go to support a local film maker, who had to move mountains to get this baby, his baby, made and seen. Go to see a movie that will remind you how much you used to love movies before life got so busy, when you had the time to go to every indie and foreign film playing at the corner movie house, when every once in a great while you were left stunned, unable to get out of your seat until the last credit rolled off the screen into crackling silence. Go to see our fair city preen and strut her stuff up on the big screen, as plain by day and gaudy by night as the hookers in the movie. Go to see a movie that sounds pitch perfect. Not one false note. Just go. You’ve got one week. Show times here.

I’ll leave the synopsis to the professionals here and here, but I just want to say that this movie is a really good reminder that film, despite being such a grand, sweeping, larger than life medium, can also be heartbreakingly perfect for presenting a very simple and soulful story like this one. In this age of Hollywood blockbusters, Megaplexes and supersized Cokes, you forget that sometimes, sitting in a lumpy theater seat in the dark and letting your pulse slow down for a couple hours, can be one of the most transformative and lovely experiences around. This movie, Pat’s movie, forces you to pay attention with all your senses, because there is nothing too obvious, too loud, too Hollywoodish about it. You listen and watch the way you’d listen and watch in a dark wood – for the tiny, the telling, the salient and true.

I think it takes a really deft hand to control a movie, to allow the truth of the relationships to emerge through restrained dialogue, almost imperceptible glances, the slant in a person’s shoulders. The acting is outstanding, the music perfection, and the story, well, the story is as deeply affecting as they come. The movie manages to be funny, smart, thrilling and crushingly sad. It reveals itself in small moments of tension, quirkiness, humanity, doubt and despair while the macro questions about God, loneliness, and existential angst loom like a shadowy figure just around the corner. It is a treat and a treasure. It is a challenge. It is art.

Hat’s off, Irish Laddie.


Jul 16 2009

The Hangover

the-hangover-stillI know that among the general populace this post would fall under the category of news as old as my grandmother’s oldest knickers. However, in MY populace (to wit: one of parents with young children at the height of hot, busy summers), it is completely possible that what I have to say may yet be relevant, even timely. And listen carefully, because this is important.

Go see The Hangover. Like, immediately. To all my mamas out there who tune in here, take my advice and set this shit up! Get a sitter and take your man. You will be goddess for the day and I guarantee you will both laugh your asses off. What could be better? Nothing. Nothing is better than laughing. And nothing nothing nothing is better than being the goddess, and all the favors that flow from said status, however short-lived.

Maybe I have an overdeveloped boy-brain, but The Hangover is as close to a perfect comedy as I have ever seen. It is about everything that is lovable and stupid about guys and guy friendships, told in a really creative way that just keeps upping the ante – that manages to be completely outrageous, raunchy and hysterical and yet salvage a bit of heart. The music is great, the cinematography is great, the acting is great, gah, the whole thing was such an intensely enjoyable escape. Dash and I were rolling in aisles, I was shrieking like a baboon, we were DYING! DYING, I tell you! We are thoroughly dead now, it was so funny.

Just GO.


Apr 27 2009

Aw Bea.

arthur2-full1I’m not sure what the appeal of Golden Girls could have been for a young teen, but I loved it. Maybe it was the fact that my parents had banned me from watching Laverne and Shirley as a child, their reason being, and I quote: They are cheap ladies! Cheap ladies! No further explanation necessary, apparently. Perhaps the Golden Girls seemed like cheap ladies disguised as old ladies. They were certainly as sassy and brassy and funny as Laverne and Shirley. Perhaps, despite their age (which seemed ancient to me back then), it was clear to me that their female friendships were as compelling and enduring as my own. Perhaps I enjoyed them because both of my grandmothers lived in Argentina, and it was a bit of an old lady fix. Or maybe I just watched a lot of TV. 

I don’t remember any particular plot lines. Just a lot of robes, house dresses, pastel pantsuits, wicker furniture, lanais, whipped white hair and cheesecake. Their Miami condo, decorated in 80’s tropicalia, probably smelled of powder and perfume and I fantasized about all the sweet creamy confections they might have in their refrigerator, about falling asleep on the mauve couch printed in sage palm fronds. I fancied I might be welcomed there – fawned over, even. Bea Arthur was a classy lady with a great voice and wit. She could move laugh tracks with a mere look of exasperation or a raised eyebrow. I’m sad to see her go.


Apr 26 2009

Adventureland

adventureland_200812171624You know that feeling the first time you kiss someone you really like? You feel like you’re falling, right? Adventureland is, hands down, the sweetest movie I’ve seen in a long time and taps right into that dizzying free fall – that vertiginous, dangerous, utterly perfect last three inches before your lips meet.

Jesse Eisenberg plays James, a likeable if slightly uptight protagonist who wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s smart, he’s sincere and he’s stuck working at a cheesy amusement park in his hometown of Pittsburgh instead of traveling around Europe after college as planned. He ends up falling in love with the beautiful and troubled Em played by Kristen Stewart. Eisenberg is perfection – he is authentic and restrained and brings us all the angst, yearning, butterflies, sharp pangs and small humilations of young love with total immediacy and subtlety.

The movie is set in 1987. This is my era – I was 17. The soundtrack is full of ridiculous gems that make you chuckle (Your Love – The Outfield) and that hit you in the gut (Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely – Husker Du, Pale Blue Eyes - Lou Reed). Nostalgia tends to make me slightly queasy, but since this movie so deftly sidesteps sappiness, it was easy to just relax and indulge. It’s a coming-of-age flick with brains and heart.

Doctor Dash and I picked this movie because we just wanted to escape and laugh a little – we didn’t really want to have to think. The last thing we expected was to feel. And remember.


Feb 4 2009

Rest in Peace, Ricardo.

Ah, Ricardo. I was indeed saddened to hear of your passing.  You will be missed by multitudes – by me. You bring me back, Ric . . . may I call you Ric?  Ric, seeing your handsome Mexican aristocratic features brings me back to a more innocent time. To my girlhood, Ric.  How peculiar that you, a gentleman old enough to be my the older brother of my father, should feel so inextricably woven with my youth – those tender years when I wiled away the hours watching TV on my belly on a musty brown shag rug in the basement of a split level suburban Detroit home. Your prominent and distinguished eyebrows, so reminiscent of my own at the time, bring back a flood of memories as softly contoured and rosy-hued as one of your fantasy sequences where you doled out wishes and life lessons with such knowing benevolence from your tropical pleasure cove. Ric, seeing you in your impeccable white suit, sitting with such ease and grace in that wicker wing chair, flanked by your trusty numero dos, Tattoo, is like opening a beautifully wrapped but long forgotten box tucked way back in my girlhood closet. Inside that box, Ric, are memories – oh so many memories. Memories of the most perfect Saturday night imaginable for a girl of eight in 1978: McDonald’s for dinner, the arrival of a babysitter, a fragrant and breezy kiss goodbye from the parents and the best night of TV in history.  

The holy trinity of TV:  Dance Fever, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island.

Oh Ric, I wish I could hold your soft tanned lovingly manicured hand as I take this walk down memory lane.  I’m sure you remember Dance Fever: four couples, four sets of razzle dazzle costumes, four shots at the big one!  All disco dancing their little hearts out under the sexy gaze and slithery pulsating hips of Danny Terrio. Oh, Ric, don’t make that face. Danny had nothing on you.  He strutted around in jazz shoes and white vests and yes, he had great hair, but he was just an acorn to your strong magnificent oak. You were a father figure to Danny, Ric. Surely, after all these years, you have come to see that?

After that extravaganza of sequins, sparkle, panache and heart came The Love Boat, setting a course for adventure, our minds on a new romance. Again with the face Ric! I’m shocked. What’s that you say? Captain Merrill Stubing was a bald paunchy nelly? Well, of course! He was just trying to be you with the white captain’s suit and all, but he couldn’t hold a candle. This is beneath you, Ric. You should feel sorry for Captain Stubing – he spent his whole career sucking in his gut and talking about you. But you must admit, Ric, The Love Boat promises something for every one – including this eight year old girl.  I might have missed the significance of most of the sultry looks, meaningful glances, and coy double entendres cast about in the soft breezes of the Promenade deck, but oh, how I loved that show. Ric, I know this is going to make you crazy, but I had a crush on Gopher for a little while. Get up, stop that! I know he wasn’t attractive, but I had to pick someone to have a crush on, and he was the only choice when you think about it.  I suppose now I would have picked Doc, but back then, well, Gopher just seemed so friendly.  Oh I know, I’m not proud of it, but I was eight, Ric! Cut me some slack. And really, it was that pool I was hot after. Imagine that!  A pool on a ship! Funny, at this point in my life, I hope to never see a pool on a ship, but back then . . . oh, how titillating that was. Do you happen to know, Ric, being such a man of the world, whether you feel the pitch and roll of the ship when you are in the pool? I always wondered.

And finally, Ricardo, your show. Be still my beating heart – the fabulously escapist and inimitable Fantasy Island came last of all. It was quite late by then, maybe ten o’clock, and my drowsy state probably enhanced the dreamlike qualities of your show. Ric, I wouldn’t have missed it for all the stickers in the world. I forced myself to stay awake. I imagined my eyelids held apart with toothpicks, like those of a sleepy cartoon character. Oh Ric, I loved that opening sequence, with the float plane and Tattoo – you really found a winning formula there. I loved the lays and the drinks and the expressions on your guests’ faces as they alighted from the plane: wonder, skepticism, confusion. Oh, Ric, it was just too much! Each episode was so exciting, an unwritten chapter in a book of wonders and you were the magician, Ric.  A dashing, distinguished, and wise magician. You allowed your guests to seek and strive, to chase their dreams, but you always knew when to step in to save them from themselves.  Danger, romance, longing. You were a virtuoso, Ric, a puppet master of unequaled skill and wisdom. Eventually I would lose my battle with the sandman, the toothpicks snapping into useless splinters. I would drift off to the sounds of your deep and knowing chuckle, the pitter patter of Tattoo’s little shoes on the dock, the propeller, revving and then fading into the distant horizon. Have a safe flight, Ric . . . and a happy landing.  And one more thing.  Thanks.


Jun 25 2008

A veritable feast of guilty pleasures.

sexandthecity-mv-34

2008 Craig Blankenhorn / New Line Cinema

I had a great day.  My long time sitter agreed to stand in my flip flops so I could go do my thing for a few hours.  After procuring face paint from my neighbor at 8:30 in the morning and drawing a fairly realistic Argentina flag on Saint James’ cheek for soccer camp, getting everyone fed and sunscreened and dressed for the day, I peeled off in my trusty minivan hoping to make it to yoga on time.  The irony of driving like a crazed Indy-500 wannabe to get to yoga is not lost on me.  Nevertheless, I made it (after being away for far too long) and had a beautiful class with my favorite teacher, Sydney.  Sigh.  I love yoga.  And the day just kept getting better.

 

I went to see  Sex in the City by myself.  My ultimate, all time favorite, guilty pleasure is to see movies alone in the middle of the day.  When I was working, I would hop on to moviefone.com, grab my blackberry and bust a move for a matinee three or four times a year.  In Boston, it involved taking the T to Harvard Square, but my clandestine cinematic affairs got ridiculously easy when they put those theaters in Block E.  Uugh.  Don’t get me started on Block E though, because I will get all hot and bothered, start shaking my finger and enumerating everything that is wrong with America and its deep seeded cultural propensity for pandering to the least common denominator in everything from cuisine to politics to architecture to entertainment.  For those who don’t live here, Block E used to be a perfectly nice parking lot filled with perfectly nice drug dealers and crack whores.  Right across from City Center, the most godawful mall in this great land, Block E provided a pleasant open black top for loitering, parking cars, cutting through to Toby’s and other assorted shady dealings.  Does anyone besides me remember Toby’s?  Great bar, great food, humongous genius chef who busted out some of the most delicious and spicy Asian-inspired green beans and equally delicious and spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches – phenomenal burgers too.  The place was dark and clubby, civilized, authentic, lived in, plush and tobacco stained, the way any good watering hole worth its salt should be.  Anyway, something happened to Toby, Toby’s closed, and some of the most obtuse and talentless hacks in the history of this city were put in charge of redeveloping the block which resulted in the second most godawful mall in the land.  Block E is a depressing, impenetrable monolith, the architectural equivalent of an insipid, obese, bastard devoid of any charm or smarts and it is filled with crappy businesses seemingly handpicked to appeal to insipid, obese, bastards.  The smell alone of Cold Stone Creamery makes me want to barf.  But I digress.  I was supposed to be thinking happy thoughts.  

So after yoga I hightailed it over to Edina for the 11:00 show.  I had to pee and was so gratified to see that the movie theater had installed Dyson Airblade hand dryers – the kind Ed Begley, Jr. put in his house, to his wife’s consternation.  They use less energy than those pathetic old dryers and it’s a fait accompli in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.  Love these things.  I’m always torn in public restrooms because I am equal parts squeamish, impatient, and concerned about our environment . . . so how to dry my hands. Usually I just run them through my hair as I ninja my way out, trying not to touch anything.  So if I’m not mistaken, these super fancy hand dryers are the brainchild of that dashing British guy who invented those yellow vacuum cleaners with more suction.  This cute man is doing God’s work, if you ask me – keeping people from slowly going insane as they pass their vacuum over the same cheerio over and over.  

And get this!  When I purchased my popcorn and drink, I was surprised and delighted to learn that the butter is self-serve!  Like I said, the day just kept getting better!  Woooh, baby!  Except that it’s hard to get the butter into the middle of the bag with out drenching the top . . .  much better to have a concession stand worker with a good work ethic fill the bag half-way, squirt butter, fill it the rest of the way and squirt again.  I fully admit these sound like the musings of an insipid, obese, American bastard.

Nevertheless, as I settled into my seat in a nearly empty theater with my buttered popcorn and my diet coke, I felt like Pee Wee Herman at a skin flick.  The most delicious combination of guilty and contented.  A tall, stiff drink of contentment with a twist of guilt.  And then, and then . . . the movie started and I just about wept.  The clothes are nothing short of SPECTACULAR.  Wardrobe has taken everything they were doing right with the show and made it even better and bigger, befitting the celluloid screen.  There is a scene where Carrie is trying on wedding dresses for a Vogue shoot and, oh sweet mother, do they pull out the big guns: Wang, Carolina Herrera, Lacroix, Lanvin, Dior, Oscar de la Renta and the topper, an edgy, alarming, and drop dead sophisticated Vivienne Westwood (which was not my favorite, but would have been my pick for Carrie too).  Each confection just gets better and better . . . the drama mounting . . . the luxe gorgeousness washing over you in waves of tulle and organza and silk, each dress unique and so beautifully conceived and executed.  And it was like this the whole entire movie.  I was delirious!  It’s like fashionista porn.  A sartorial fantasy beyond my wildest imagination.  And there was this studded black belt that kept popping up – très rocker chic – très my cup of tea.

Not to be a blowhard poo-pooer, but I thought the movie itself was flawed in that it hinged on the cowardice of man that was so profound, so unforgivable, that it almost seemed unbelievable.  He was a mouse, not a man, and it was an  unequivocal deal breaker, through and through.  Forgiveness, redemption, love . . .  the movie  dealt with all the themes you’d expect to see in a romantic comedy, no real surprises.  The hanger was ordinary, but the threads hanging on it were thoroughly extraordinary, transporting, satisfying and worth every second and penny.  And not for nothing, the movie displays some true blue girl-friendship and loyalty and that is always wonderful to see.  Especially when the girlfriends are running around in astonishingly beautiful fur wraps, polka dot dresses, and insane white boots, both tall and short.  Oh, Dorothy, I need to see it again!

And when I got out of the movie it was two o’clock.  I thought about getting a pedicure, but really, I was completely sated.  I was ready to go home and hang with my kids.  I was ready to leave behind the Manolos and slip back into my flip flops.

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