Monday, January 16, 2017

La-La Land



Photo: Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, watching a movie and each other, in La-La Land. From popmatters.com, just click here. The photo below is from the same page.

Disclaimer: Here there be spoilers. Consider yourself forewarned. If you want to see the movie, you might want to wait to read this.


My better half and I saw La-La Land recently, mostly because she's seen some "guy films" recently and I owed her one. She said I like depressing, serious films, so I should see this movie, which she said would be a happy musical. I offered the opinion that she would be surprised, that I had a feeling that all would not be well. Unfortunately, I was right about this.

It is a very good musical about going for your dreams--and the price you have to pay. There ain't nothin' free in this world, right? The movie's buzz has overplayed the feel-good vibe it sometimes has, and has vastly underplayed the sad ending, when both accomplish their dreams, but realize, perhaps, that they aren't completely happy. (Though, at the end, she seems happier than he does. But, I have to ask, perhaps in ignorance: If you're crazy about everything jazz, can you be happy? What draws people to a music genre that sounds, to me [again, perhaps in my ignorance], as unhappy and sad?) This note of sadness is especially surprising for Mia--Emma Stone's character--who has a husband and child at that point, but who looks back, wistfully, at the guy she left behind. The closing scenes, where Ryan Gosling's character plays in his head the emotions and relationship with Mia that might have been--and that would have been in the feel-good musical romances of MGM's past, which La-La Land respectfully emulates--are very touching and very sad. I walked out of the theater even more affected and sad than I thought I'd be.

When Gosling's Sebastian convinces Stone's Mia to go back and try out for a movie role she'd been singled out for--and when one of the people at the audition mentions it'll be a 3-4 month shoot in Paris (this is actually on the short side of many shoots)--I could see how the stars were aligning. And the irony being set up: If he doesn't convince her to go to the audition, she doesn't get the role. If she doesn't get the role, she doesn't go to Paris and perhaps they don't permanently break up. He knows this, as he'd previously been on the road a lot and she had suffered for it. (Though, to be fair, he'd stayed loyal and returned as happily and as often as he could to her.) So by convincing her to go for her dreams, he's showing that he loves her. And so because he loves her, he loses her. Such is life, especially if you live in La-La Land, figuratively and literally. (You know, how dreamers just think la-la-la-la-la and live in La-La Land? Get it? [My father used to say that to me all the time, usually when I was writing.] I had to explain that to someone recently, about what that means, and that it's not just another nickname for Los Angeles.)




I really appreciated the theme of going for your dreams, despite the immense rejection and obstacles that will come your way. I'm the only artist (I write stories and novels and tons of other things) and dreamer I know, so it's very frustrating to share my sadness and despair in the face of rejection. I don't know anyone else that well who can understand what it feels like to spend 20 years writing a novel that doesn't sell. And getting scammed when you're 21 by an "agent." (I was very heart-warmed to see that Gosling's character had also been scammed.) Nobody I know can relate.

I haven't been as brave as La-La Land's characters. I haven't gone all-out without a safety net. I've got a great career and benefits now, and I write when I can. I feel I'm too safe, too soft, to content and satisfied with my measly sales. But that all could've been different in my early-20s, when I was writing and floundering, and nobody was feeling me. Maybe I wouldn't have stopped writing for 9 years if I'd had someone then to talk to, to understand. I'd be a published novelist now with those 9 non-writing years back. (I know now that it's more my fault for letting the scam agent stop me than it was the scammer's for scamming me.) I didn't have a Mia at that time, or a Sebastian to come get me, to have confidence in me to keep me going.

But I digress. I think. Maybe not, for the message of the movie is to keep going, to try to achieve your dreams. And you'll have to accept the consequences as well. The ending of this movie reminded me of the ending to a depressing folksy song from the 70s. The end refrain mentions that "she wanted to be an actress / and I wanted to learn to fly." (Please leave a comment if you know the title.) Both in the song achieve their dreams, sort of: She's an unhappy trophy wife and he's an unhappy cabbie. She's an actress, because she has to act happy, and act like she loves her husband and her life. He has learned to fly, but as the end of the song goes: "I fly / so high / when I'm stoned." Well, La-La Land's characters aren't stoned (and let's not fall back on a stereotype about jazz musicians and drugs), but they aren't exactly happy, either. Not. At. All.

So go see this movie, but don't believe all the overhyped whimsy of this film. There is some, but I'm here to tell ya, this movie, in a way, is more depressing to me than the serious, depressing films I'm accused of preferring.

Do I really believe this movie is as sad as, say, Forrest Gump and Saving Private Ryan?

Yup. Yes I do.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Meryl Streep, With Class, Smokes Trump



Photo: From secondnexus.com, at this address. I know it's two different pics, but doesn't it look like he's shouting at her, and she's laughing at him?

Rather than take the moment for herself, and talk about herself, and congratulate herself, like the subject of her comments would have, Meryl Streep took a moment to remind the Foreign Press to make sure that they behave like the press, to call the powerful to account for any outlandish behavior our new and childish leader may exhibit. They're gonna be busy.

Here's the clip, in case you missed it, from msn.com, at the Golden Globes. Just click this link.

After her classy, understated, honest and stirring comments, I said to my better half: "How long until he calls her a terrible actress, or that she's overrated"--a common Trump tweet word--"or that her movies suck?"

Answer: Not long at all. He took to Twitter faster than you can say "he took to Twitter," and quickly thumb-typed that Streep was “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood.”

Overrated is, of course, one word. Obama would've known that. Then again, classy statesmen--and stateswomen--say things verbally, without hiding behind texted social media. They know how to say things, to state things with class and authority. They could type and write things correctly, too, but the point is they don't have to. They don't jump on social media like a miffed adolescent. Though I understand that to compare Trump to an offended adolescent is an insult to offended adolescents everywhere.

The reaction to his reaction was severe and swift. Note to Trump: You will not win a fight by denigrating Streep's acting ability. Hollywood not just loves her; it respects her. This is a fight you will lose. And it wasn't cool to compare yourself to Jesus over the holiday break, either, by the way.

SNL's former alumni, Rachel Dratch, said: “Anyone who calls #Meryl ‘overrated’ is unfit to serve."

Judd Apatow said, “She is over rated as an actress like Michael Jordan is over rated as a basketball player or Sully as a pilot or Ted Williams at baseball."

Star Trek's Mr. Sulu, George Takei, imitating a typical Trump tweet (which will be a common alliteration these next four years, just watch), wrote: “What a small, small man. SAD!"

J.K. Rowling, Ellen Degeneres and many others chimed in.

The best part of Streep's rather short remarks (considering how long-winded she could've been, and as you-know-who would've been) is that she was hurt by the exact same one thing that I have said stung me the most. Out of all the outlandish (and illegal, and stalking, and abusive, and...) things he has said and done over the years, still the most unbelievable, jaw-dropping, soul-sucking thing to me was when he mocked, mimicked and bullied that mentally and physically disabled New York Times reporter. More than the assaults on women--which would be bad enough, normally, of course--and more than the xenophobia, more than the outright lies (You didn't really believe Mexico was going to pay for a wall that costs billions, did you?) and more than anything else, when he verbally mimicked and physically emulated a disabled person on worldwide television, I was so flabbergasted, hurt, offended, and even now I just cannot effing believe I saw what I saw and heard what I heard, and I cannot believe so many people would not mind their President behaving this way--a way that would cause any teacher at any level to throw him out of their classroom and I know this is a terrible run-on sentence but I still can't get over it...How can someone vote for a butthole who behaves like this?

Well, Streep referenced it a lot better than I just did, with a lot more class than I ever could, because I'm so angry--and because it's possible that I just don't have as much class and poise as she does. Streep, as usual, said it with class and poise. Trump, as usual, did not respond with class and poise. She correctly compared his antics to a performance, one that successfully entertained its target audience, people who were ready to "bare their teeth" and connect to that kind of immature mindset and misbehavior.

What's going to happen when a leader of a country like China or Korea says something bad about him? Is it possible he could start World War III with a f---ing tweet?!?

You know, I think it is.


Monday, January 2, 2017

The 30 Books I Read in 2016, with Authors and Ratings

Well, here are [see title] from my Goodreads page, which you can find a link for somewhere to the right of this. How many have you read? Do you agree with my ratings? These are all reviewed on my Goodreads page, so if you're interested, feel free to read them. Many of them have also been reviewed for this blog. They're in alphabetical order by title, because that's how Goodreads had it. Because of the screwy formatting, the rating I gave the book is the one in brackets. Like [3 out of 5 stars.] Don't ask me why. It didn't appear that way in the draft.

For those wondering, 30 books is my personal best for any one year, surpassing the 28 from 2015. I read 10,933 pages in 2016, which is second to 2015's 11,605. (The Game of Thrones books are very long.) My 2016 pages average to about 210 and 1/4 pages a week. The year before, I averaged 223 pages a week. Of the 30 listed here, the best written were the two by Geraldine March, by far. Shockingly well-written, like you're there. At times the Leibermann books in Vienna, circa 1900-1905, were amongst the most interesting. Lots of things to Google and Wikipedia there. The Black Chaos book has a story of mine, so that was self-serving, but the other zombie stories in there are very good, too. I thought Stacy Schiff's book on the "witches" of Salem was so awesome that I bought two copies and I'm outlining a novel that will be set in Salem in 1692. Her book motivated me to write a fictional account of some of what I read there, plus other things in my own research. All in all, it was a very good year for reading, even though my own writing and sales lagged behind it.

I hope your 2017 is going well!


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