Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

September Culture Update

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

As loyal readers may recall, I have a saying about this time of year: “When it’s September, it’s December.” In past seasons, I’ve enjoyed the rapid free-fall into the holidays, but this year I’m experiencing some freak-out. There’s a lot I’d like to accomplish before the calendar turns over into another year. But honestly, rather than attempt to get it all done, I’m probably going to have to breathe into some lower expectations. Sanity matters! As does my physical health.

Meanwhile, a culture update:

1) American-Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang. Delightful, surprising, funny, and smart graphic memoir about the author’s experiences as the only Chinese-American in his school—what it felt like, how he coped, and what happened when he attempted to date. His story is braided together with the ancient Chinese fable of the Monkey-King, which is not only beautifully (and hilariously) rendered but which pays off in unpredictable ways. I found the book perfectly composed, both at the level of the frame and the level of the story. Highly recommended.

2) Season 3 of BoJack Horseman, Netflix. A look at Wikipedia reveals that I am not alone in my assessment of this show. I set the first season down after a couple of episodes and didn’t bother to check out Season 2. But when someone I trusted recommended the third season, I gave it a shot, and I could not stop watching—and exclaiming wonder. It’s not just smarter and funnier; it’s deeper. BoJack is now just as likable as he is lost; his relationships matter, and so does the arc of every other character (even/especially Sarah Lynn). Plus, the storytelling has become wildly innovative, with techniques I’d never seen before (but instantly understood). No opportunity has been overlooked; every moment is densely packed with gifts from the writers. LOVED it.

3) A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry. Another rec from people I respect, and I agree that it’s fantastic and important; I learned a tremendous, crushing amount about India during the Emergency years. But I could barely tolerate it. As I wrote to a friend, the quotient of brutality and injustice essentially broke me, such that I felt my heart closing (and my eyes squinting). The title refers to life’s supposed balance between what is intolerable and what is beautiful, and to me, this book lands heavily in the intolerable camp. Still, I can’t blame a book for an honest portrayal. And the beauty is there. One of my mothers-in-law told me that she found A Fine Balance especially memorable; she read it many years ago and still thinks of it.

4) Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Charming, hilarious, heartfelt story of a foster kid and his antisocial foster father, on the lam in the New Zealand bush. Watch the trailer; it’s everything you imagine it will be, and then some. Emotionally rewarding. Muchos tears. A good movie to see with the hubband, if your husband loves wilderness, feelings, kindness, and teenagers.

Happy December!

Misleading

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

The trailer for The Lobster makes it look like a madcap send-up of our culture’s obsession with romance and its privileging of romantic couples. The actual movie is a logically inconsistent and stomach-turningly violent examination of the atrocities of totalitarianism.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

While I’m on the topic, you know what else had a misleading trailer? The Savages. Looks like a bittersweet family comedy, admittedly dealing with some tough content, right? It’s actually a dive into a depressive and largely non-redeemed tunnel of mortality. (Yes, I have been carrying this resentment since 2007.)

YOU HAVE BEEN DOUBLY WARNED.

Oscar Movies: Belated

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

Like anyone who cares about emotional depth and aesthetic achievement (to say nothing of racial diversity) in film, the Oscars don’t mean much to me. But, by prolonging the in-theater runs of certain movies I’ve been meaning to see but haven’t yet gotten around to, they do make life more pleasurable. In other words, we just saw Spotlight, yay!

Here’s what we got to in February/March:

1) The Big Short. I’ve done some reading/listening to podcasts about the mortgage crisis, so I had what I considered to be a fairly good understanding of what happened. But nothing brought it together for me the way this movie did, and with such a compelling, propulsive story, too. My favorite thing about the movie was Steve Carell’s hilariously intense performance; is he ever not good? (Nope. He’s always good*.) I also found Ryan Gosling impressively unrecognizable (for a moment, I thought he was Ryan Reynolds), and nobody does Method like Christian Bale**.

What I didn’t like were the condescending interruptions to explain the financial technicalities. I thought, first, that the writers could have found a way to get the exposition into the action (that’s your job, yo), and second, that having a conventionally beautiful naked woman in a bubble bath as one of your explainers is at best forgetting to include quite a few members of your audience and at worst insulting to women. Was there not a single person on McKay’s team who could have said something to him about that? There should have been at least one person. It’s not a good idea to make a film without somebody on your team’s representing, like, 50% of the human race.

*Remind me to write, at some point, of the miracle that is comedians who act. I have noticed that almost unfailingly, comedians are fantastic actors, just stunningly good, whereas actors are almost always NOT successful comedians.

**Fine, and Daniel Day-Lewis.

2) Brooklyn. Gorgeous and wonderfully emotional, especially for anyone who left a childhood home (with a mother who wanted her to stay) and traveled far away to make a new life. Basically, I sobbed through the entire thing. Loved Saoirse Ronan’s face in this movie. SO quietly expressive.

3) Spotlight. Intelligently told and smartly acted. Fascinating throughout. There were moments when I thought that Mark Ruffalo’s jutting lower jaw was going to bite off some of the scenery, but I got used to it after a while. As John pointed out, Michael Keaton was the real achievement here; his performance was so subtle and accomplished that the movie star disappeared into the character. And Rachel McAdams was a delight, too. So much fun to see a woman in a professional role, doing her work and being treated just like . . . oh, you know, a man. Oh—and Liev Schreiber! Liev Schreiber! Liev Schreiber!

Re: the sexual abuse scandals (plural, plural, plural) in the Catholic Church. What I said to John was, “I remember when all of this started coming out, in the early 2000′s. And there was this huge degree of shock, and Catholics were totally rocked by it. But my experience of this had been that everyone had always known about it, right? It was even a trope, the pedophile priest. There were jokes in campy movies about it. I don’t understand why it was so surprising.” But this movie makes it clear: People knew but they didn’t know. People thought that there was a priest here and there who was abusing kids but that he was removed from the system. What nobody knew was that there were, for example, 246 priests in Boston alone who had been accused and over 1000 victims in Boston alone who would come forward—and that abuse would come to light in hundreds of other cities around the world. In other words, it was (and is) a massive, systemic problem that went up to and was covered up by the highest levels.

And, you know, WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW. Now I get it.

Macbeth, Again

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

After seeing last night’s Berkeley Rep performance of Macbeth (with Frances McDormand as Lady Macbeth, yo!), it was fun to cycle back to my blog entry of 6.5 years ago, after we’d seen the show at OSF. I was reminded of how electrified I was by the OSF performance, which was useful in light of—well, of feeling not a whole lot of anything after the Rep production. (Sorry, Berkeley Rep! The run is either entirely or very nearly sold out, so . . . I doubt this review [reaching, as it will, multiple tens of people] will decrease sales.)

I think the problem was the direction, which made me notice everything that’s weird about the play, especially the pacing. For instance, why is the annoying scene between Malcolm and Macduff, where Malcolm pretends to be abjectly sinful to test Macduff’s loyalty to Scotland, so freaking interminable? Do most directors just cut it from the play? I was also surprised by how brief Lady Macbeth’s hand-washing scene is (though: nicely done, Frances McDormand) as well as Macbeth’s “tomorrow” speech. And then there’s the fact that so many very important things happen in a flash and offstage—the killing of Duncan, the death of Lady Macbeth—whereas the slaying of Macduff’s wife and children, which is admittedly horrifying and important but which you would not expect to see, given the above, is dramatized.

During the Rep production I was struck by how unjustified Lady Macbeth’s murderous ambition is. I mean, maybe this is the sort of thing where Shakespeare is writing for King James, so he can’t imply that a man who became King of Scotland (apparently for 10 years!) would have murdered his predecessors, but wasn’t that just part of Scottish history? (I suppose kings aren’t exactly known for their ability to tolerate reality.) Either way, the play gives the initial impetus to kill Duncan to Lady Macbeth, and . . . I just wasn’t buying it this time around. She gets the letter from Macbeth about the witches’ prophesy, and that’s enough to convince her to plot the murder of a beloved king?

Funnily enough, I think costuming was at issue here. In the OSF production, Lady Macbeth was dressed in a velvet crimson gown (the only spot of color in an otherwise black/gray set and costume-scape); it was as though she was already bathed in blood, and she was instantly identifiable as a site of power. The Rep chose to go full-on period piece (i.e., 1040ish), with costumes in layers of drab cotton and linen, which left Frances McDormand in an Eileen Fisher-style getup (no makeup or hair, either) that broadcast vulnerability, not power. The raw unadornment of this look also siphoned impact away from the sleepwalking scene, in which Lady Macbeth is supposed to be shockingly unraveled and exposed; in the Rep production, she looked exactly the same.

Another costuming issue: With actors playing multiple parts, the costuming should have been different enough to avoid confusion. It wasn’t—to the point where it looked as though Macduff were in the forest with the murderers when they ambushed Banquo and Fleance. Turns out it was just the Third Murderer, looking exactly (literally exactly) like Macduff.

There was some silly staging, too, where characters ran in place, toward the audience, while video of a receding forest was projected on a screen behind them. The audience had to stifle laughter. Oh, and so many cawing crows! I joked to John that Macbeth was most certainly the Thane of CAWdor.

On the other hand, great banquet scene. I’d never seen it played both for horror and for laughs, and while I was a bit worried that the director intended otherwise (i.e., just horror, no laughs), John convinced me that it was a good thing either way.

An addendum to my 2009 question re: witches: Last night I learned from a sign hanging in the bathroom that King James was obsessed with witches, to the tune of writing a book called Demonology and advocating for witch hunts. (That’s . . . not great.) So, now I have a basic answer to “Why witches?”, although it doesn’t explain their aesthetic or thematic purpose in the play.

Bottom line: I wish the director had made a host of different choices. I’d also really like to see a production that isn’t done with such obvious genre tropes but is still horrifying. Like, what if everything were extremely stylish and minimal? Maybe a Calvin Klein version?

Quick Bites

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

January, you guys. It always slams. Although (as one of my favorite t-shirts says), I brought this upon myself. Every year when we return from our two-week holiday sojourn, I feel an intense compulsion to Set It All Up for the ensuing year, inevitably working myself into a lather about stuff that has a much longer deadline than I’m pretending. Mostly I’m talking about taxes. I should lay off a little on the taxes. (Too late, Chipmunk.)

There hasn’t been as much time to consume culture as I’d like, but we managed to see Anomalisa, which is excellent. Definitely the kind of thing you need to talk about; there was a lot of “What the crap did that mean?” in the women’s bathroom (and in the froyo line) post-showing. For me it was fairly clear what was happening at a basic level; it was the deeper stuff, and the less obvious details, that took some time to get at. And John and I were somewhat at odds in terms of Is this Everyman or Is this Guy His Own Self? (John thinks the former, I think a bit of both.) Point being, though, great movie. Charlie Kaufman is a good thing in this world, even though he appears to be bearing more than his share of the suffering load.

I also read Pastrix, which I had been hoping to get to for some time and which I liked a lot. Smart, funny, vulnerable. I’ve got Bolz-Weber’s next one queued for the nearish future. Oh, and her Moth story is delightful.

I’m also halfway through My Name is Lucy Barton, which I’m very much enjoying, particularly for its almost subversive darkness. The tone feels yarny and homespun but also barbed; everywhere there are stinging little lines, or facts, that stop me cold. I’m curious to see where Strout is taking us, because at the moment it’s hard to imagine. I have a sense of what I’m wanting to see resolved without knowing whether it will be, or of course whatever else will emerge.

Finally, it had been years since I’d read The Line of Beauty, one of my all-time favorites, so I returned to that over the holidays, and it’s as gorgeous and intelligent and complex as I had remembered. Hollinghurst manages to create a protagonist who is immensely sympathetic but also problematic, such that we don’t necessarily question what he’s doing until it all unravels and we think, “Wait—that wasn’t such a good idea, was it? Any of it?” Except that also, he’s essentially blameless. His fault is that he chooses the wrong people to associate with (he sees people as things, and he prefers beautiful, expensive things), but what they do to him—and the AIDS crisis—well, obviously neither of those is his fault.

I also watched the 2006 BBC miniseries, and HOLY SHIT the acting. It’s three hours when imho it should have been six, so I don’t feel that we get the full weight of events. But Dan Stevens as Nick! Such a nuanced performance. So many finely tuned emotions flickering across his face, practically the entire spectrum of human feeling, so perfectly and carefully shown. I read somewhere that Stevens left Downton Abbey because he couldn’t stand the writing, and if so, Mr. Dan, I am feeling you.

Franzen, Again (+ Two Movies Worth Seeing)

Monday, September 14th, 2015

I thought about not writing about the new Jonathan Franzen novel. I also thought about writing about it at length. I had the idea to pitch a piece called “I am a Feminist, and I Love Jonathan Franzen—Although Not Unequivocally.” But when I began the (inside-my-head) outlining process, I determined that the piece would run to book-length, since my response to Franzen is multiply layered and since he’s always writing and saying (very) problematic things that beg for a response. (Google “Jonathan Franzen Iraqi war orphan” and weep.) Even a recent phone chat re: Franzen with a friend (Hi, Sarah!) ran into the many tens of minutes.

So, here’s what I’ll say about Purity: It’s a fascinating read, but it doesn’t feel like more than the sum of its parts. Its parts are impressive and riveting and beautifully sentenced as per Franzen, but in the end, the emotional connection just isn’t there for me. It’s a convergent novel that doesn’t quite converge.

In The Corrections (solidly maintaining its status as my all-time favorite novel), the characters are so gorgeously and completely drawn that even when nearly everything they do feels problematic (Enid, Albert, Gary), I’m with them. The narration is bathed in compassion (while also finding plenty of space for irony), with insight after insight about family psychology raining down like a shower of illuminating diamonds. (And Franzen spends these diamonds so freely! So generously!) Plus, the structure is impeccably composed. Everything knits together deliciously at the end.

In Freedom, which I also think is a gargantuan accomplishment, Franzen is equally compassionate to his central characters; he dives equally deeply into their unique dilemmas. (He also manages to write about topics—obsessive college friendships between women that have the power to direct the course of a life!—that I had never seen written about before, at least in that way.) And while in some senses I feel that Freedom is the Vilette to The CorrectionsJane Erye (in other words, it’s the messier, more disheveled, less perfect—but perhaps more raw and alive—novel), when I recently read Freedom for the third or fourth time, I appreciated just how carefully constructed it is.

Purity . . . well. The parts are there, as I said. The flame of aliveness . . . isn’t. At least not to me and not on my first read. I find myself wishing that Franzen would choose another structure to work with, another way of writing a novel, that isn’t a convergent multinarrative. Stick with one character throughout? Tell it chronologically? Maybe don’t worry so much about sociopoliticocultural relevance? Because he has written this type of novel twice before (and maybe more than twice? I read Strong Motion, but too many years ago now), it’s starting to feel formulaic.

Two movies worth seeing:

1) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Beautiful, funny, warm, sad movie about teenagers and death and friendship and art. I wish we lived in a world where this movie, and not The Fault in Our Stars (rendered unwatchable past 20 minutes via painfully awkward script—and I liked the book fine!) was the teen movie about cancer that everyone saw. It’s so much more sensitive and delicate and aware. It’s also funny! Highly recommended.

2) Diary of a Teenage Girl: Darker and more disturbing than the preview (fwiw), and/but really, really good. Committed to realness in a way I love. Integrates art and animation in ways that feel just right. Portrays a teenager from her own point of view, without condescending. Looks at sexuality without the lens of moral judgment but instead the frame of personal experience—i.e., what does and does not feel okay to the person experiencing the sex. Plus, fantastic performances all around, but especially by Bel Powley.

Gots Me Some Opinions

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015
Media Consumer

Media Consumer

Books (lots!) have been read. Movies (plenty!) have been seen. Television shows (Transparent! Is absolutely as fantastic as everyone has said!) have been watched, albeit belatedly. But here is what I want to talk about: the supposedly feminist arguments against Trainwreck*.

I keep hearing/reading people say that Trainwreck is a non-/anti-feminist copout, because instead of allowing the Amy character to live a happily single life, it pairs her with a man in a heteronormative relationship, invalidating her previous choices in the process. And . . . argh. I feel frustrated by this view.

Because Trainwreck isn’t a about a woman who wants to be single (totally valid life choice, I hope it goes without saying but will say anyway) or who wants to be partnered but doesn’t meet anyone worth partnering with. In either of those cases (great example of the latter: Whip It), sure, any film with integrity, let alone a feminist consciousness, would leave its protagonist single at the end. Trainwreck, au contraire, is about a woman who does want to be partnered but is terrified of intimacy. That’s a real thing. And it’s not feminist or anti-feminist; it’s just psychology.

At the beginning of the movie, it may seem as though Amy is living a liberated life, and to some extent, she is; she has sex casually with any number of partners without feeling bad about it. I’m glad to live in a (part of the) world where that’s possible (for some women), but it doesn’t mean that every woman wants that, or should want it to be considered a feminist. In fact, I think it’s fairly evident from the git-go that Amy is terrified of real connection—as opposed to, say, having sampled both real connection and emotion-free sex and chosen the sex.

But even if you see her character as initially having made the conscious lifestyle choice of non-attachment, that point of view is soon dismantled—and dismantled a good while before Amy spells it out for her sister by saying something along the lines of, “I made fun of your marriage because marriage is something I thought I could never have.” Because by the time Aaron (Bill Hader) comes along, the movie makes it abundantly clear that Amy likes him and wants to be with him. What’s in her way is not a desire to be single and keep sexin’ it up with people she’s too drunk to remember**; it’s a terror of being truly coupled.

It’s not anti-feminist to want authentic emotional connection with a man—especially a kind-to-the-core, egalitarian guy like Aaron, who cares about Amy’s feelings and wants to support her***. It may be feminist to prefer being single over an unhappy partnership with a man . . . but I don’t know about even that. Because isn’t feminism simply about gender equality? And doesn’t that mean that we want all the same rights and privileges that men have? And isn’t one of those privileges making our own decisions about our romantic lives, whatever those decisions are?

If you want to have random sex forever, yay! If you want to be monogamously coupled, yay! If you want to stay in a bad relationship with a woman because of the kids, yay! (I mean, ouch, painful, but yay!) You can do whatever, because those decisions are yours. Feminism does not exclude monogamous heterosexual relationships anymore than it excludes polyamorous lesbian relationships.

*I do agree that there are problems with the portrayals of people of color in the movie; here’s a good place to start for more on that.

**I may have betrayed a slight personal bias here.

***Here are my feelings about Aaron: He is perfect.

Fin.

 

 

Hot Tub!

Monday, May 11th, 2015

After 13.5 years together and many, many visits to the hot tubs of others/hot springs/mineral baths/hotel jacuzzis, we finally have a round, silky, womblike bowl of happiness in our very own back yard. It only took half a million dollars and about twenty visits from an electrician. But it’s in there! And it works! And we’ve gone in every single night, under the cool and cloudy Oakland skies. HEAVEN.

Now that I’ve returned from my mini-sabbatical, I’m here to report on some recently consumed media.

  • While We’re Young: Noah Baumbach’s latest. When I heard the premise, I worried that it would be a small-stakes movie about manners (and perhaps more specifically/annoyingly, a send-up of hipster accoutrements—too easy!) But it was deeper than that. And more nuanced. And even a little surprising. With fantastic facial-expression acting from both Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts!
  • Second season of Looking: Better than the first, which I liked quite a lot. Alas, there will not be a third season; only a wrap-up special (which, according to me, isn’t needed). My quibbles had been mainly of the “People are talking a smidge too sassily to represent actual humans; please dial down” variety and also, particularly w/r/t the Patrick/Kevin plot, “Things are happening far too quickly and fake-feelings-y for me to invest.” The writers mainly resolved both of those issues in the second season, with but a few slip-ups. Solidly satisfying viewing.
  • Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town: John Krakauer’s latest. The story here is vastly compelling and enraging at the same time, so eminently worth reading/knowing about and also not easy to take in. I have complex opinions that in some cases differ from what Krakaeur is driving at, but I’m smart enough not to post them here. If you’d like to know, find your way to me privately and we can hash it all out in the comfort of email.
  • Mad Men: Yes, I am among the feverish hordes watching this beloved show slip through our fingers and into television history. I am perhaps not among the hordes in that I wish that the show had ended with the “Lost Horizon” episode, which was satisfying in every possible way and included one of the most perfect and soulful scenes in the show’s history (i.e., Peggy rollerskating around Roger in the abandoned office) as well as one of the most kick-ass (Peggy arriving for her first day of work). At the end of that episode, we knew (enough of) what was happening to every single important character, and everything made perfect sense. And then . . . last night. Sigh. I just couldn’t get on board with any of it—like, zero amount. I think I’ll just pretend it never happened.

Talk to Me in My Ear Right Now Just Us

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Is it possible that I’ve not yet publicly discussed my love of podcasts?

I love podcasts. At least, I love the podcasts I love, which include almost the entire arts/culture NPR suite (a few caveats, but basically), especially Pop Culture Happy Hour; WTF (but of course); The Longest Shortest Time; Death, Sex & Money (Anna Sale, YOU ARE THE DOUGHNUT); The MothStartUp; and some new ones I’m just ramping up on, like Yo, Is this Racist? (Brilliant concept, that, and finely executed, too.)

(Yeah, I did Serial. I did Serial so hard that I was lined up and waiting for it pre-release.)

I love podcasts so much that I am joining Pop Culture Happy Hour’s Glen Weldon in worrying that my listening time has cut into my novel-reading time, which doesn’t feel one bit of good. And which I would like to change, et rapidement. So, Self. Maybe pay attention to what you just wrote there.

ANYway, at the moment I want to say only one quick thing (okay, maybe a few things) about one podcast (okay, maybe a few podcasts), starting with Invisibilia, the new one from NPR. And that’s this: It is so very close to being what I love. And yet, those echoes of RadioLab! Those purposefully stuttering intros and reassurances that we’re smart enough to comprehend their complicated science and those mugging co-hosts (whom I really like anyway) (but wish they would stop mugging)!

I know I’ve documented my deep frustration with RadioLab, the short version of which is CONDESCENSION, so when I heard that Invisibilia was essentially a cross-polination between RL and This American Life, I wished mightily for the heavier hand of influence to fall from TAL. It . . . doesn’t.

But there’s an addendum to that, too. Which is: Is it me, or has TAL gotten progressively more smug (and pandering) (and condescending) over the years? I was a fan waaaay back in the beginning of the game, in the middish 90′s. And true, I was awfully young then (barely a kitten) (with the itty-bittiest of claws) (and less discernment), but my sense is that for many years, TAL didn’t use cloying tactics and was instead basically story-forward.

These days! I mean, in the latest episode, which features a fantastically intelligent BBC piece about William Burroughs (about whom I care, basically, not at all—but it doesn’t matter! because the piece is stunning!), Ira finds it necessary to say something like, “We’re going to start the audio right now, okay? Right now.”

Sigh.

One more thing: I think these shows, not unlike a certain TED juggernaut, have a tendency to vastly oversimplify the science and draw Big Life Conclusions that aren’t properly substantiated. Even Serial, which was admirably careful about substantiating any claims it made, did something that pained me in its inaccuracy, which was to ask people if they were sure about things that they remembered.

I guess it’s not common knowledge, but what I understand to be scientifically true, based on the very cool work of this guy, is that certainty has absolutely no relationship to the truth; in fact, in some cases, being certain can have an inverse relationship with the truth such that the more certain you are, the less likely it is to be true. So asking someone how sure they feel about whether something happened is literally pointless. (Try it with your husband! See for yourself!)

And and and, I think it is common knowledge, at least among people who study the criminal justice system, that memory is highly unreliable in any case, that we remake our memories every time we recall them, and so nobody’s memory should be relied upon to convict: There should be actual evidence. I get that there’s a need to try to establish a narrative, and you can do that fairly reliably when multiple people’s stories line up, but even then, there are so many ways those people’s memories can be polluted, including the way the question is asked, what they may have already heard about the case, etc.

Serial does a good job of discussing the problems with memory, but it still makes the mistake of, for example, saying that it’s “unlikely” that Asia McClain is remembering the right day if her memory of talking to Adnan is tied to her memory of snow (given that it wasn’t snowing on January 13th, the day that Hae Min Lee went missing). Well, no. Because as the Serial post says earlier, her memory could be conflating that day with another day—and/or, I’ll add, it could be conflating what she and Adnan talked about with what she talked about with someone else, on some other day. It happens all the time. It’s how memory works*.

And . . . this was supposed to be a short post. I guess I’ll save my opinions about Big Hero 6 (funny! charming! sob-inducing!) and Chef (simultaneously well-meaning and depressingly, obliviously sexist—plus! a primer on social media marketing!) for another time. Or, for just now, via parentheticals.

*Conveniently, The New York Times just printed a piece that bears, I believe, some relevance here.

Premature/Overdue: A Marriage

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Remember this? Prophecy, as per usual. Because here we are.

And this year perhaps even moreso than most, as my two close buddies are going through Major Life Events—a baby for one, a wedding for the other—which has occupied much of my extracurricular time in increasingly intense and joyous ways. OHMYGODbaby! OHMYGODwedding! has essentially been my state of mind for the past couple of months.

Of course, in the interstices, there’s trying to get even a few household chores accomplished, one of which is to get John a dresser. He has a dresser, technically—or he did, until my tolerance for its presence in our bedroom reached its limit. It was a beautiful piece of furniture, at least on the surface—a sleek, white modern tallboy purchased from the Crate & Barrel seconds outlet—but I became worried that, come the earthquake, it would fall on him and break both of his legs*. And then where would we be? With the hospitals filled with other victims, ambulances nowhere to be found, and me unable to lift him even an inch?

*Inelegantly constructed (i.e., from layers of thick particle board), it weighs about 200 lbs. Not kidding.

True, we could have simply attached the dresser to the wall, but a) we knew we weren’t keeping it, and b) don’t wanna make holes in the wall until I have to. (I have learned the hard way that holes in the wall tend to remain holes in the wall.) So, the dresser is out of the bedroom. In the interim, John has arranged his clothes on a bookshelf next to his closet.

Cue the following conversation, which we had Saturday morning:

Me: I’m thinking bank and farmer’s market today, but I don’t know if I can get to the Bowl.

J: I can do the Bowl.

Me: You did the Bowl last week.

J: Yeah, but you did it for like 10 weeks before that.

Me: I don’t mind doing the Bowl.

J: Okay, but you have to do calligraphy for C’s wedding today, so I can do it.

Me: In that case, I think I might have time to do a little Craigslist dresser-shopping for you.

J: Oh, no. That’s premature. There’s no need for that.

Me: [Chuckling.] That’s . . . premature?

J: [Also chuckling.] Yeah, I mean, we have plenty of time for that.

Me: [Laughing.] You know, some might say that it is in fact not premature at all. Some might say, after talking about this for several years, that it is in fact overdue.

J: [Laughing harder.] Oh, no. It is definitely not overdue. It’s most certainly premature.

Me: [Hysterically laughing.] Yes, I can see how we certainly could not say that it was overdue, not when you’re living out of a bookcase and when there is a giant space on that side of the bedroom.

J: [Hysterically laughing.]  Absolutely. Because we are nowhere near the point where the dresser is actually necessary.

M: [Doubled over laughing.] Not at all! We could go for years like this! With an open bookcase serving perfectly well!

[We laugh so hard at the naming of this elemental difference in perspective that we cannot speak for 30 seconds or so. Then, when we recover . . .]

J: You should blog about this. Premature slash overdue: a marriage.

Yes, my friends, that is in fact a diagnostic/organizing principle about our marriage—that what John would call premature, I would call overdue.

In other news:

The first essay in Meghan Daum’s new book is very much worth the price of admission. It is gloriously honest and scathing and smart, about her relationship with her mother and her mother’s relationship with her mother. I tore through it and can’t wait to get back to it for a second read. I understand that it’s the very point of the book (hence the title, The Unspeakable) that Daum is daring to say what so many people won’t, but I was awed nevertheless by the thrill of bearing witness to such a frank account, by how enlivening that immensely fresh breath of air turned out to be.

We finally got around to Pride, a movie John has long wanted to see and which delivered in all the ways we knew it would—i.e., it’s basically engineered so that you’ll cry every, oh, seven minutes or so. Still and all, in this case I didn’t much mind that level of manipulation. There’s so much to love and to celebrate. An entirely feel-good way to end Thanksgiving and launch ourselves into the slide toward the winter holidays.