Throwback Thursday-Swimfan (2002)

Stupid mistakes are part of life. The question is, what will the consequences of those mistakes be?

In the 2002 movie, Swimfan, Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford) has it all. A promising swimming career, a past that is behind him and a solid relationship with his girlfriend, Amy Miller (Shiri Appleby). Then he has a one night stand with Madison Bell (Erika Christensen).  Ben tries to make it clear to Madison that he has a girlfriend and is not interested in her, but Madison does not seem to care. She only wants Ben and will say and do anything to have him.

 

This movie is best described as Fatal Attraction set in high school. It’s not entirely bad, but the narrative and characters are a little cliche for me.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Tracee Ellis Ross’ Children’s Book for Handsy Men

Sometimes it seems like some grown men have the maturity of a toddler.  Talking to them like grownups gets us nowhere. We need to talk to them on a level that they understand.

Enter Tracee Ellis Ross, who is guess hosting on Jimmy Kimmel Live this week. The video below is brilliant, funny and hits the point home. No means no, means no. End of story. If you don’t understand the word no, just watch the news and see the men whose professional and personal lives have been destroyed because they didn’t understand the meaning of the word. It’s not exactly a path in life that someone would actively choose to take, if they understood the meaning of the word.

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Add Another One To The List IX: Danny Masterson

The list of prominent dishonorable men accused of sexual assault and/or sexual harassment has added a new name to the list: Danny Masterson.

Mr. Masterson has been fired from his Netflix series, The Ranch, after he was accused of rape by multiple women.

The women who make these accusations are not just a series of body parts that make up the female human body. We are someone’s wife, someone’s mother, someone’s sister, someone’s daughter, etc. The problem is that the perpetrators don’t see us like that.

Mr. Masterson has a wife and a daughter. I would ask him and every man accused of similar heinous actions how they would feel if it was their wife, their mother, their sister, their daughter, etc, who was raped or made to feel less the human because she is a woman? Would they be so willing to act as they did? I would think not.

I feel no sympathy for Mr. Masterson and I applaud the women who have come forward. Karma, after all, is a b*tch and she has no problem speaking up and fighting back.

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Billy Bush Finally Speaks

We all remember the Billy Bush Access Hollywood tape from last fall.

It was what many of us hoped would be the downfall of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign. Instead Trump won the election and Billy Bush‘s life and career were left in tatters.

Though he publicly apologized for the video’s content last year, Trump has recently rescinded that apology and claimed that it was not him making those statements.  In response to the rescinded apology, Billy Bush has not only written a NY Times Op-Ed about the video, but he also recently appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to talk about not only the video, but how his life has changed since last fall.

It’s not easy to do what he did, especially considering the very public downfall that occurred after the release of the video. Nor is it easy to forgive him for condoning Trump’s behavior. But the fact that he is willing to speak up says a lot. I hope more will join him. Perhaps then, this country will return to a state of normalcy.

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Thoughts On The 200th Anniversary Of Persuasion

No one goes through life without making mistakes or having regrets. It is part of being human.

200 years after, Jane Austen‘s final completed book, Persuasion, was published posthumously with Northanger Abbey, the first novel she completed.

It’s been nearly a decade since Anne Elliot saw Frederick Wentworth, her former fiance. At the time, Anne was 19 and living with her sisters and her emotionally bankrupt, but spendthrift aristocratic father. Frederick was a penniless sailor, not exactly an appropriate match for a daughter of the aristocracy.  Lady Russell, who was a close friend to Anne’s late mother and acts as a mother figure to Anne and her sisters, convinces Anne to break off the engagement. Anne does as advised.

Cut to the present time. Anne’s father has bankrupted the family and they must leave their ancestral home, Kellynch Hall, for more financially feasible lodgings in Bath. Before going to Bath with her father and sister, Anne spends some time with her married younger sister, Mary. Among the visitors to Mary’s home are the Admiral and Mrs. Croft, who have signed the lease on Kellynch Hall. Frederick Wentworth is Mrs. Croft’s brother, he too is welcomed into Mary’s home. The tension between Anne and Fredrick is palpable. Can their relationship be repaired and move forward or will they both be stuck in the past?

Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel. Not just because of the maturity of Austen’s voice as a writer, but also because the narrative contains a maturity that did not exist in her previous novels.  Their breakup weights heavily on the mind of both lead characters and colors how they see themselves and their world for most of the novel. That breakup and that unspoken anger/grief feels very modern, even though the book was published 200 years ago.  Austen was writing this novel at the very end of her life. It almost feels like she was using this novel as a way of exploring her own regrets, especially when it came to the question of how her life had turned out, had she made a different set of decisions.

Persuasion is beautiful, heartbreaking, romantic and simply one of the best books ever written. If you have not read this book, do yourself a favor and read it. I promise you that you will not be disappointed.

 

 

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The Shape Of Water Movie Review

The story of a romance between a human female and a non human or super human male is not new to readers or audiences.  This basic narrative has been rebooted many times over in many different ways for generations. The question is, can the writer or writers make their narrative stand out from similar narratives?

The new film, The Shape Of Water, takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute woman who works for a government facility in the janitorial department. She spends her time with her co-worker and friend (who talks enough for both of them),  Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her middle-aged bachelor neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins). One day, a new classified experiment arrives the facility under the control of Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). Elisa and Zelda are told to keep their time in the laboratory short, but Elisa’s curiosity gets the best of her.

The experiment is an Amphibian Man (Doug Jones), who Mr. Strickland would like to kill and experiment on. But Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) has a conscious and a secret reason for keeping the creature alive. Can Elisa save this creature and how will that forever change them both?

Using a fairy tale, Beauty and The Beast motif, this film is one of my favorite in 2017. I loved the basic fairy tale narrative blended with life in the early 60’s. Both The Cold War and The Civil Rights Movement are so seamlessly blended into the plot that the audience forgets about the history lesson they are receiving. I would not be surprised if this film did well come awards season.

I recommend it.

The Shape Of Water is presently in theaters. 

 

 

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Add Another One To The List Part VIII: James Levine

The list of prominent men accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment has grown today to include one more name: James Levine.

Mr. Levine the legendary conductor of the Metropolitan Opera. He has conducted orchestras all around the world and has mentored musicians and singers who have become successful in their own right.

Mr. Levine has been accused of taking advantage of a young man from the time he was a teenager until the time when he was an adult.

The myth about sexual assault is that the victim is female and the perpetrator is male. That is a fallacy. Victims and perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment can a male and a female or two men and two women. Unfortunately, this fact is often under-reported.

The fact is that we need to have this conversation, regardless of who is the victim and who is perpetrator. We need to openly and honestly talk about this because both sexual assault and sexual harassment are a stain on humanity. Until that stain is cleaned (i.e. these events are prevented and prosecuted, if they cannot be prevented), we will always have this stain on our cultural consciousness.

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Add Another One To The List Part VII: Geoffrey Rush

The list of prominent men accused of sexual assault or harassment by their female colleagues continues to grow. The newest name on this list is Australian actor Geoffrey Rush.

Rush, star of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, has stepped down from his role as as president of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts because of claims of inappropriate behavior by female staff.

The fact is that male privilege has gone unchecked for far too long. We are so ingrained, as a worldwide culture to not only show preference to men, but to look away and/or call women names who have had the balls to speak up when men have taken advantage of us sexually.

Frankly, it’s about bloody time that change is finally happening. If it makes some people (especially men) uncomfortable, then so be it. I would rather be uncomfortable and know that we are finally seeing real change rather than go back to watching the same sh*t happen all over again.

I could go on, but I think the skit from Saturday Night Live last night says it all.

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Once Upon A Time Character Review: Snow White/ Mary Margaret Blanchard

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Once Upon A Time. I am only writing up to the end of season 6. Read at your own risk if you have still not seen the previous seasons.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Once Upon A Time to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

Snow White is one of the quintessential fairy tales. The jealous stepmother, the poison apple, the handsome prince are all part of the basic narrative and character makeup of the fairy tale genre. But that does not mean that every writer has to stick to the same basic narrative and character arc.

In Once Upon A Time, there are two versions of Snow White  (played by Ginnifer Goodwin). In fairy tale land, Snow White is for the most part, the same character that audiences have come to know, with a few minor and important updates. In Storybrooke, she is Mary Margaret Blanchard, a teacher who in the beginning of the first season, like of most of the characters, were unaware of their true identities due to the curse that brought them to Storybrooke in the first place.

When the curse was lifted at the end of the first season, Snow White and Mary Margaret merged into one character. While she has her true love, Prince Charming/David Nolan (Josh Dallas, Goodwin’s real life husband), she also continually in the cross-hairs of her stepmother, The Evil Queen/Regina Mills).

This Snow White is an interesting mix of the traditional Snow White and characteristics of a modern, independent woman who audiences have come to expect.  She has a good heart and takes care of those around her, but also has no problem being a bad-ass when circumstances arise.

To sum it up: While traditional fairy tale characters (especially female characters) are great, they have been done to death. What the writers Of Once Upon A Time have very smartly done is taking the basic characters and narratives that exist with the fairy tale world and twisted them into new characters and narratives that audiences have not seen before. With Snow White, they have retained the skeleton of the character, but have made her human.

As writers, our job is not to create stock characters, but to use those stock characteristics as a building block for the character arc.  Stock characters are great, but if a writer just uses that stock character without building it up, the reader may feel like they have seen the story before and walk away. We don’t want the reader to walk away, so we must make sure that our characters are built up enough to stand on their own two feet and not rely on the standard stock character that has been seen for far too long.

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Thoughts On The 20th Anniversary of Anastasia

*Warning: this post contains spoilers read at your own risk.

On November 21st, 1997, the animated film Anastasia hit theaters.

Loosely based on the myth that Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia somehow survived the murder of her family in 1918, Anya (voiced by Meg Ryan) is an orphan who wants nothing more to find her family. Two con men, Dimitri (voiced by John Cusack) and Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer) convince her that she is Anastasia. Unbeknownst to Anya, there is a reward for the safe return of the grand duchess to her grandmother, The Dowager Empress Marie (voiced by Angela Lansbury). Neither Dimitri or Vladimir had any plans of splitting the reward with Anya, if she is believed to be Anastasia.

While this is happening, Rasputin (voiced by Christopher Lloyd) has risen from the dead and is eager to finish what he started ten years ago.

I look at this film, as I do its 1956 predecessor starring Yul Brynner and Ingrid Bergman, as a what if version of history. Especially in regards to the fact that Anastasia and Dimitri lived happily ever after. Marriages between commoners and royalty did not happen in that period.

Granted, the remains of  all of the Romanovs were not found and made saints of the Russian Orthodox Church until after this film came out. This left wiggle room for the screenwriters to use the myth of the surviving Anastasia as the skeleton of the narrative.

As a narrative loosely based on a myth, it’s a reasonably good film. But to hold it up as historical fact requires a bit too much for me.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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