Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cerebral Violation

Rotten Tomatoes gave it an A-. Roger Ebert gave it 4 1/2 stars. His critique is apt and hard to say any clearer:

Watching [There Will be Blood] is like viewing a natural disaster that you cannot turn away from. By that I do not mean that the movie is bad, any more than it is good. It is a force beyond categories. It has scenes of terror and poignancy, scenes of ruthless chicanery, scenes awesome for their scope, moments echoing with whispers and an ending that in some peculiar way this material demands, because it could not conclude on an appropriate note -- there has been nothing appropriate about it. Those who hate the ending, and there may be many, might be asked to dictate a different one. Something bittersweet, perhaps? Grandly tragic? Only madness can supply a termination for this story.

Visit his website to read a full review.

The NY Times reviewed it as an enigma of film as well, proclaiming the title An American Primitive, Forged in a Crucible of Blood and Oil.

And The Rolling Stone calls it a "beautiful beast of a movie," and states that, "[s]eeing There Will Be Blood is like going ten rounds with a raging bull. You feel so pummeled it's hard to get your head clear." The article goes on to describe the main character, Daniel Plainview, as "the dark underside of the American success story, or, if you want to extend the metaphor, of America itself. He rapes and pillages in the name of progress and winds up estranged from the human species he has long ago forgotten to call his own." The article closes with the summation that this film "hits with hurricane force. Lovers of formula and sugarcoating will hate it. Screw them. In terms of excitement, imagination and rule-busting experimentation, it's a gusher."

I just watched it last night. I know, I came out in 2007 and I'm just getting around to watching it. I'm slow when it comes to contemporary entertainment. But truly...I'd never heard of it until I was flipping through Netflix's library and thought, dismissively, "Enh...I guess...maybe Devin will like it." It finally came up in our que and it still ended up sitting next to the DVD player for a month before we watched it (something about it's near 3-hour run-time that made it less appealing than our other entertainment options).

It's been a long time since I reacted so emotionally to a much so, I actually dreamed scenes from it over and over during the night. This one made me curious, suspicious, expectant...I hated it. But, since hate is so far from indifference, there must have been something wonderfully viral about downright violated my cerebral cortex. And you don't recover from something like that quickly. Or forget it.

There have been few films that have struck me so profoundly. Possibly films like Platoon, Shindler's List, Life is Beautiful, Trainspotting, Kids, Lolita, and link. I vaguely remember feeling about this sick to my stomach and yet rabidly continuing to turn the pages of The Jungle.

P.P.S. I'm so proud that I finally figured out how to use the link function in html. Yay for me, the techno-dope.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Random Acts of Stupidity

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

We've all done something stupid. Some of us have a longer and more elaborate list to share; but no one is immune. I don't say this to excuse my own moments when my intelligence seems to be taking a nap. I just say it to preface my explanation so that you might remember that you too could easily have been in my shoes.

My "Oh, Shit!" might mirror one of your own, in which case there are a pair of us to roll our eyes in synchronicity, sigh, and give ourselves up to the inevitable criticism of those who portend to love us and support us. Why is it that those who love us most are the first to laugh at us (not with us) and never let us live it down when we wake up with "the dumb" and can't "brain" the way we should?

This is my story.

A lovely, late evening. Cold, crisp, clear...the moon so bright in the night sky that no porch light was needed to guide me and my son to the car. Eight o'clock...with my mother-in-law jaunting behind with the baby bag, I pointed up to the sky and diverted my son's attention from leaving grandma's house. He said it sweetly and clearly, "Moon." Awww...

I unlocked the passenger door so I could hit the automatic unlock for the back door and put him in his carseat. I placed my keys out of the way, like I often do, in the door handle so I could buckle him safely in. For all those non-readers out there...this is foreshadowing. You should now have a sense of foreboding and should probably have a vague prediction about what is about to happen.

I closed the door and heard a resonating "Click".

"Oh, Shit."

But, rather than freaking out like I normally would, I was calm. I could think of no other solution than to call my husband to bring me his set of keys. The problem? He is a reserve police officer and he was on duty. The other problem? My cell phone was locked in my car.

So, I borrowed my mother-in-law's phone and called him, only to interrupt his dinner with, "Honey?" (Spouses always open a conversation in which they've done something stupid or potentially fight-worthy with a term of endearment in the form of a question.)

"Honey...we have a problem."
"I locked my keys in my car..."
"...and the baby's inside."

Why is it that when you tell a loved one you've done something stupid they always make you repeat it?

"Do you have one of my car keys with you?"
"Can you bring it to me?"

He took a minute or two to explain my stupidity to his FTO officer and sounded rather exasperated.

"Is your car running?"
"So it's cold inside."

He didn't say it as a question...but as a needle jabbed into my wound of parental inadequacy.

"Okay, we'll be there as soon as we can."

So, not only have a locked my son in the cold, cold car, I've interrupted my husband's dinner. Guilt is now added to my stupidity, creating a lovely cocktail of embarrassment. I'm wondering if he'll show up with his siren blaring and his lights flashing to add horror and shame into the mix.

My mother-in-law and I stood outside the car, talking to and making faces at my son, who appeared to be affected very little by the evening's turn in activity. He yawned several times and played with his own feet. He didn't seem to be judging me...yet. He just seemed confused over the fact that we kept standing outside when I'd just promised him (bribed him) we were going home to see his puppies (it's how I get him to leave willingly without throwing a fit).

Several cars came and went. Finally, the police arrived.

Now, I've had very few dealings with the police. In fact, I can count them on one hand: one wagged his finger at me as I almost ran a stop sign when I was 16, a few showed up to a high school party and told us all to go home, one showed up to take my statement after someone hit my car in a mall parking lot, one banged on my college apartment door in the middle of the night, mistaking my apartment with the noisy one next door, and one pulled me over for a speeding ticket (my very first at age 31).

So, even though it was my husband, maybe you'll understand that there was an air of illicitness about the whole thing. I suddenly got the panicky tingles, like I'd done something very wrong. I apologized profusely and played down my stupidity with a goofy, guilty smile. My husband unlocked the car and opened up the door to my check on him and, I suppose, make sure I hadn't killed him in the process of being dumb. I apologized to his FTO officer...who was riding shotgun.

"He even had to call his sergeant to tell him he was leaving so far out of the normal patrol area."


Suffice it to say, I know I will not be living this down for quite some time.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


“I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather... Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.” Will Shriner

I remember, distantly, listening to the unsettling story of my grandfather's attempted (or at least considered) suicide. I'm not sure I have all the details, though I am sure I listened with rapt, if not incredulous, attention. Basically the events are thus...

My father, a young boy at the time (my mind loses the age), walked in on my grandfather, while he sat, with his back to the door, on the edge of the bed. My father saw a gun in his hands. He watched him for several minutes (which could have been horrified, stretched seconds), fondling the gun, turning it over in his hands slowly, with a look of great pain on his long, stern face. He ran his hand down his face, rubbing his eyes, as if tired, rubbing away the frustration.

My grandfather never saw my father. My father turned around and walked out. They never spoke of it, and my father never said anything about it to anyone until the moment he placed the memory in my hands. A loaded gun, so much weight to bear.

I know little about my paternal grandfather. His name was William. He fought in WWII. He wore hand-me-down girls' clothing until he was five. He was unhappy and had little humor. He had beautiful handwriting and wrote longing, haunting love letters to my grandmother during the war. He was serious but never finished anything. He smoked all of his cigarettes to the exact same length and then lined them up in the ashtray, pushing the ashes to the side. He drank too much Coke and slept in front of the T.V. He died instantly of an aortic aneurysm, shoveling snow, almost a year to the date before I was born.

I saw his ghost when I was 7, at my grandmother's funeral. He was sitting next to me in the pew. He didn't say anything to me, but he looked as real as any person there, and it felt like I knew him, like it made sense for him to be sitting next to me, silent. I didn't know it was him until a few years later when I saw a picture of him for the first time.

My grandfather was a moody man. Quite possibly bi-polar. Suicidal even. Or at least unhappy.

I wonder sometimes what he left me. Besides letters, beautiful words and romance that seemed to fade as soon as his boots hit American soil. I have this feeling that he lived a different life in his mind. His pen spoke more than his lips ever could, and those around him suffered for it. His wife buried her loneliness in alcohol and died at 70. His daughter struggles to keep her head up as M.S. takes the last bits of strength in her body. His son, an everlasting legacy of both the father and the mother...stoic, troubled, silent, and laughing. His grand-daughter...a leaf hanging, dangling, unwilling to let go of the tree.