Persons of the Year

Bravo, Time!

Time magazine made a good choice, I think, in naming the Silence Breakers, i.e. the people who’ve come forward to expose sexual harassment. We certainly need to clean up our society. After reading about Harry Weinstein, Louie C.K., Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Al Franken and more it’s clear that the entertainment and government need to do a clean sweep. This is an issue that’s time has come. Before sexual harassment could just be stuck in a “He said/She said” cycle.

Now since anyone can have a recorder in their pocket and fools will send unseemly messages or have photos taken, getting evidence, hard cold evidence, is possible. And when it’s shared, justice occurs.

I’ve been shocked by the revelations and with each on hoped that it wasn’t true. (Well, not with Harvey Weinstein because he was nothing to me. I didn’t get the news from him or think of him at all.)

I would expect that this is an issue all sensible people can agree on. Yet, I was surprised when I read the Variety article on Matt Lauer, not just by his licentious actions, but by his fans who pledged their loyalty to Lauer and encouraged him to forget about his NBC dismissal and to start a podcast.

(Huh? No one makes $25 million a year on a podcast and Matt didn’t gain fame by his own ideas or stories. He interviewed others. Who’s now going to agree to be interviewed on Matt’s podcast? Other than Charlie Rose and Harvey Weinstein. Lauer is toxic by his own actions.)

Yesterday, I heeded a recommendation to read the New York Times article on the Weinstein Complicity Machine. Wow! This fiend convinced people to cover for him by paying a gossip columnist to find dirt on people and then blackmailing them should they think of revealing Weinstein’s deeds, by threatening to boycott talent agencies if they supported the actresses that he’d attacked or harassed. It’s sickening, but it’s something that needs to be read. I do think Harvey Weinstein belongs behind bars.

I think we really are united to clean up society and show these powerful people that they can’t harass, intimidate and hurt other people. I feel sorry for the spouses and children of these men now that the whole world knows about this heinous, habitual actions. My hope is that all these revelations and the attention they’re getting

Mr. Six

Mr. Six (left), his pal (right)

Mr. Six (left), his pal (right)

At a hotel, I asked a concierge for a list of good Chinese movies and Mr. Six was among them–and wow did it belong there.

I found it on a Singapore Air flight and this tale of the clash of the old and poor Beijingers with the rich and young blew me away. The film opens in the hutongs of Beijing where an old time gangster, nicknamed Mr. Six, lives and rules dispensing justice as he threatens pickpockets and intervenes between the police and a poor vendor. Mr Six, a widower, hasn’t even heard from his twenty-something son in six months. He knows the kid doesn’t care about him. He soon hears that his son’s been kidnapped as vengeance for sleeping with a super-rich kid’s girlfriend and then keying that guy’s Ferrari.

Mr. Six knows his son was in the wrong and tracks down the gang of rich car racers, who might as well come from another world. Their culture and mores have little in common with this old geezer who has a very clear, almost eye-for-an-eye view of justice.

Rich kid with blond hair and scratched Ferrari

Rich kid with blond hair and scratched Ferrari

Mr. Six shocks and impresses the kid his son wronged in a curious way. He’s given 48 hours to come up with 20,000 to pay for the car’s paint job. Mr. Six then proceeds to make the rounds of his old pals, some who’re squeaking by and others who’ve become wealthy to get the money. The film is a good look into China’s culture today. The young are (in some regions more than others) not buying into the old ethos. Materialism is on the rise and taking its toll in the form of souls. Mr. Six has the old justice system down, and it differs from Western ways so he surprised me again and again.

Also the film itself takes some interesting turns that wouldn’t come up in an American film. At one point the young, spoiled kids agree to meet Mr Six and his cronies to resolve the matter with a big fight. The old guys show up, but the young ones don’t. I can’t remember a no-show like that in a Western film. Returning home, Mr. Six gets surrounded by henchmen sent by the rich kid’s dad. They proceed to threaten and beat him.

The film captivates and has stayed with me and will for quite some time.

 Warning: Mr. Six will strangle and fight anyone who’s treating his son unjustly. It’s not as violent as The Godfather but there’s a lot of fighting and some blood.

The Way Way Back

way way bac

Starring Liam James as Duncan, a gawky, alienated teenager who might as well have been kidnapped by his mother’s new boyfriend, endures a summer amongst the shallow and immature of all ages. The title comes from Duncan’s seat in the boyfriend’s old station wagon, the way way back. This also represents his place in this group, that might become a family – way, way on the margins.

With Steve Carell as Trent, the jerky boyfriend,  Toni Collette as Pam the doormat girlfriend/mother, The Way Way Back shows a society where most adults are clueless, self-absorbed, lost drinkers.  The film adroitly mixes comedy and pathos. The strength of the film is the banter of Owen (Sam Rockwell), the manager of a nearby water park and Betty, (Alison Janney) the loud, drinking neighbor who has no qualms about inviting herself to any party and who has no idea how or why to keep a secret. Both Rockwell and Janney are terrific and get all the best lines. Owen’s cursed with Peter Pan syndrome avoidance, but blessed with a sense of decency and an ability to notice Duncan’s needs and reach out to Duncan, whose been forced to spend a summer with Trent who tells Duncan that on a scale of 1 to 10, he’s a 3.

The scenes at Trent’s summer house are painful. Trent’s a jerk, Duncan’s mother contents herself with her low status in the circle of friends and Trent’s daughter is a beautiful, unhappy teenage queen bee. No wonder Duncan escapes to the rundown water park, where real fun and ironically a bit of wisdom can be found.

I enjoyed the film as much as the summer house cliques made me want to cringe. Though it’s sent in our era, I kept thinking, this would be better set in the ’70s or ’80s as it could have a better sound track. Also, the characters seem like they belong in the pre-smart phone days. Some plot lines didn’t make sense because problems would have been solved by calling someone. Also, I never bought that all these characters would stay at their summer homes all summer long. Pam is a caterer. While she could take off as long as she wanted, wouldn’t she get calls for fall parties? I know she was supposed to be a doormat, but even doormat’s have experiences and responsibilities worth including.

Trent and the other men’s jobs aren’t specified. In my experience the men come up to the summer homes on the weekends or for one full week. Here they seem to be there all summer long.

I wish Pam’s character was more fleshed out. It was also very weird how she would be attracted to a father who was so obviously indifferent to his daughter. They rarely spoke to each other and a perceptive woman would notice that and care. Yet Pam doesn’t.

John McWhorter on Txting

O mores, o tempora?

Not quite. In this fascinating Ted Talk linguist McWhorter asserts that texting isn’t really writing as we know it. He goes on to assure us this is not the death knell of writing.

I’m relieved.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl

Here’s a good post on the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl. I’m not as bothered by the term as the writer is, but her point of view is interesting.

To me the female lead in 500 Days of Summer was like something out of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. But this post made me think.

Reel Feminist

There are few cinematic terms I despise as much as the phrase “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” (MPDG for short).  My problems with this term are legion, so first off let’s have a little history.  Nathan Rabin coined the term when describing Kirsten Dunst’s character ‘Claire’ in the Cameron Crowe film Elizabethtown.  According to Rabin, Dunst epitomizes the MPDG, a female character who “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”  These women are describes as bubbly, childlike muses who exist solely to inspire a male protagonist, encouraging him to embrace and enjoy life.

The MPDG is one of those cinematic terms that was assimilated as soon as it was uttered; a lot of people accepted its existence as fact immediately, as if Rabin’s term was absolute and not to be questioned.  No one…

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Glee as of Late

I’m catching up on Glee episodes and it hasn’t been as fun as it used to be. I’m staying with the show out of loyalty. While the stars are just as talented, the story lines aren’t grabbing me. I mentioned earlier my skepticism over Burt Hummel as a senator. Now we’re to believe Sue‘s desperately wants to be a mother. I just don’t buy it. I feel Sue’s pregnancy is mainly a gag, just as Finn and Rachel’s engagement seems like a contrivance that grew out of boredom in the writers’ room. I really don’t buy Finn’s depression or ennui or that a kid his age would find marriage as a means of fulfillment. It doesn’t ring true.

Then I was disappointed with Rachel’s dads. They should have introduced those characters earlier. Now after all these years, they are on camera, having never come to her performances or intervened when she was suspended, which showed them to be lax at best, when clearly they’d be helicopter parents of the first degree. I also wished one of them was Black as I found that line in the pilot so funny, the one about how they didn’t know who the real father was. Jeff Goldblum was fine, but after three years whomever they got had to be great. The writing was decent, but not great.

A major disappointment for me as a Glee Project viewer has been how Sam, Damien and Lindsay have been given overly stereotyped minor roles. They’re the sideshow in the sideshow of McKinley High and haven’t been accorded the role of say new characters like Sam or even Blaine. I get that all the characters are over the top and stereotyped, but it’s a fine line and in this case has disappointed.

I’m not a big fan of Michael Jackson and could do without a second show emphasizing his music. Early on in that episode Rachel voices my indifference and I thought the show would serve to blow us away and win the non-Michael fans over. It really didn’t.

I really didn’t like the storyline with Will as an incompetent Spanish teacher. He’s too conscientious for that. He’s the kind of guy who would have gotten up to speed early on if he wasn’t up to a teaching task. It was clearly an excuse to bring on Ricky Martin. I liked the idea of a show with Latin music, but take the time to come up with a good storyline. It’s not hard. Make Martin a new teacher in the department. Also, the writers need to know about their arena. In K-12 most everyone has tenure. If you don’t get it by year three, you’re stupid not to leave. It’s a sign they don’t want you.

As for the plot line with Kurowski (I think that’s the spelling) attempting suicide was worth covering, however, was lost amidst all the other plot lines. It’s alright if that kind of event is a show stopper. It’s a major deal in any setting and it leaves people numb. Here it came off as a PSA and in fact, I find Glee’s gotten too overtly didactic. Let the drama teach. Embed facts more naturally as they did in Boston Legal, or leave them out.

I haven’t stopped believin’ in Glee, but could. I hope things don’t come to that.

Less than cable but still . . .

Netflix, my main supplier of entertainment, is doubling their prices September 1. Currently, I get one DVD at a time and all the streaming I want for $7.99. What a deal. In a few weeks to get the same service I’ll have to pay $15.98. It’s not that much more money, but it is double the current price so the proportion shocks me. (Is there an English word with a negative connotation that means to slightly shock? I need one here.)

I probably watch 5-6 DVDs a month and stream 30 minutes of video a day.

I can understand Netflix’s need to raise prices, but question the choice to double them. If I ran Netflix, I’d probably offer $7.99 for either the DVD or streaming option as they will do, but then charge $11.98 for the combined option.

I do now feel like the drug user who’s coaxed into an addiction by cheap high and now that I’m hooked, made to pay a higher price.

But I’m not that hooked. I do have, which I haven’t watched much and in the fall there will be more viewing options. And I’ve got a reading list that keeps getting longer, so this change won’t be that painful. It’s more annoying than anything else.

The Glee Project

Any Gleek going through withdrawal should take a look at the Oxygen’s The Glee Project, a competition for a spot on next season’s Glee. It follows the usual reality show attrition formula, like The Next Food Network Star or what seems like a dozen others. Yet because the contestants are talented and their stories are compelling.

Each week the contestants must do a number within a time constraint and the best performer gets a one-on-one coaching session with a Glee cast member. Next the contestants work on a video that relates to a Glee theme like vulnerability or theatricality. Like the characters on Glee, the contestants must not only perform well, but deal with their own frailties and flaws to make it.

I enjoyed seeing the producers, choreographers and voice coach work with the contestants, challenging them to move beyond the safe or even the dull. As I do with The Next Food Network Star, I see the critiques as relevant. Shows like The Apprentice or Survivor are contrived, but The Glee Project’s challenges draw one in because they’re realistic.

As always, this reality show gives us a glimpse at the behind the scenes drama back in the dorms. We see friendships develop and rivalries foment. Without fail, after a couple episodes I’ve got contestants who irk me and others I’m rooting for. I wouldn’t mind if Lindsay, a terrific singer, without an ounce of humility and terrible social skills, was cut. Here there are more favorites than people who annoy.

The next new episode isn’t till the week after next so you can catch up on

where’s the next Juno?

Few films blew me away like Juno, the story of a witty, perceptive pregnant teen. It was so fresh, so funny. After seeing it I naively hoped for a film revolution, a steady diet of such vibrant films. At the very least I’d hoped to see great film after great film written by Diablo Cody.

Actually there hasn’t been much from Cody. I did an internet search and learned that a horror film she wrote and a TV series she created have been released, but I had to do a search to find that out. Also, she wrote the script for Burlesque, which was panned. Not a good sign. I figure if her newer works were actually good, I’d hear some buzz.