Culture + Rodents

Two movies, a book, and baby rats!


Blue Valentine had been billed as a gorgeous movie about a relationship beyond saving, which if you’re trying to get me into the theater is one of the more compelling pitches you can make. (Another: “It’s a dysfunctional family dramedy.”) Relationship dynamics is a beloved topic, and I’m always interested to see whether I can imagine a way forward for a vexed couple. Plus, I love to compare notes with John.

(This is how I pitched the movie to him: “The reviewer from the Chron says that you feel for both of them but can’t imagine how to help them. But I have a feeling we’ll know.”) (Please insert humility.)

It is a beautiful movie, raw and gritty and real, and unflinching in the best way. I was blown away by its bravery in the face of abortion, among other things. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams’ acting is mind-blowingly open—they’re practically flayed, here—and the present/past scene splicing allows the story to unfold in full emotional bloom. (Richard Brody, you and I are in diametric opposition on this point, grrr.) As a whole, the film is an indelible aesthetic experience, not easily forgotten, and I was grateful to Derek Cianfrance for laboring to get his vision on the screen.

One gripe: If the point is that love can tragically crumble in the face of regular life, Gosling’s character should not become an alcoholic. Because the obvious problem is that he can’t stop drinking, and there shouldn’t be an obvious problem. There’s a moment late in the film when Dean says to Cindy, “Tell me what to do. Just tell me what to do.” And John and I almost said it out loud, in harmony: “Stop drinking.” John’s argument was that presumably she’s already told him, and he can’t, but in that case, alcoholism is still the culprit in a movie that doesn’t need, or want, a culprit.

By the way, that would have been the way forward for these two: 1) Deal with the alcoholism and 2) Deal with the accrued feelings beneath. That’s pretty much always our prescription, so I’ll spare you the NorCal details (couple’s therapy, bodywork, etc.). But just in case you were wondering.

And then there’s Somewhere, a movie whose trailer promises so much more than the film delivers. Oh, Sophia Coppola, why can’t you make another Lost in Translation? She’s certainly working the same theme—alienation/disaffection of a movie star—but in this case, we’re imprisoned in a dead consciousness, forced to spend 90 listless minutes with a man who has emptied out. Elle Fanning should have been in every scene! But I suppose that would have made it another Lost in Translation, or something so close to it that Coppola would worried about repeating herself. Sigh.


I’m nearly finished with Persuasion, which I’m reading as part of my anti-poverty-via-Kindle campaign. (I also downloaded some Dickens, but . . . oy.) Did Jane Austen invent the romantic comedy? Because the whole thing is like one big Sandra Bullock movie, wherein the plot is constructed to keep the lovers apart until the last possible moment, except for short, highly charged, and fleeting moments designed to string us along. I’m 77% finished and have taken to yelling “Just kiss already!” at the screen.

Also, is it horrible that I am only now realizing that I’ve probably read it before? I’d thought that Pride and Prejudice was the only Austen novel I’d read, but as I’ve made my way through Persuasion I’ve had a vague sense memory of previously having underlined every occurrence of the verb “to persuade” in the text, and of having felt pree-ty smart for doing so, as though nobody else in the history of literary criticism would have noticed Austen’s very intentional use of the word.  Heh. Youth. (Except probably I was at least 20.)


At long last, the baby rats are here—Melanie and Michelle. I’m embarrassed that their names are so similar to mine, but it’s not as though I chose them. They just obviously were Melanie and Michelle, and I had no choice but to acknowledge as much. They’re hooded, i.e., black-headed, with black stripes down the back and white everything else, including bellies. I love a white fur belly! Yes I do!

So far, they’re still settling in, figuring out their ginormous cage, and getting braver by the day. Last night my friend Judy and I (hi, Judy!) had them out for quite a while, and Melanie gained enough courage to leave the safety of my fleece jacket for the hills and valleys of the couch! (Michelle snuggled down into Judy’s hood and went to sleep.)

I’m sure we’ll find our rhythm as we go. But it’s already clear that they’re going to need heaps of intellectual stimulation, as predicted, so I’m scheduling play dates for anyone who wants them. Got kids? Want some warm ratty snuggles? Bay Area peeps, make yourselves known!

One Response to “Culture + Rodents”

  1. aphrodite says:

    Howdy! 🙂 Yay for ratties in da hood! 🙂

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