Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Brave" IS brave, but leaves the significant tear unattended

Andrew O’Hehir at Salon has suggested that Brave, however feminist, doesn’t really undermine patriarchy – the daughter weaves a spell of command and rhetoric to sway them to her side, but ultimately it’s to the men to determine when sharp changes to tradition can be undertaken.  But the whole (or almost the whole – see below) of what Brave does is show only women as capable of the maturity, the majesty to see what the realm needs to survive; the men, are twits, practically always ready to hack at one-another over the smallest slight.  The men, that is, though they can supply buffoonish charms, are mostly a drink-fest and a random melee waiting to happen:  does the movie really supply any doubt as to who maneuvered these realm-saving “patriarchal” traditions into place in the first place?  Andrew’s former peer at Salon, Stephanie Zacharek, has argued that Brave is closer to Ratatouille and The Incredibles than to Wall-E and Up; and with its preference to show ordinary folk as afflictions on those mentally at least one rung up, there’s no doubt about it – it is. 
You could tell by the released preview of the film that it is the dynamic between mother and daughter which was going to make this movie good (and maybe great), and this certainly proved true, with the surprise being that the film actually ends up becoming more the mother’s than the daughter’s.  (Asked now to conjure up an emblematic image, it wouldn’t be the redhead’s magnificent locks, but the queen’s surprise as she tries to cover her bare self from view, or her eyes as she started turning whole bear.)  We remember not the young lass shooting arrows, but her delight at seeing her mother gain competency catching fish – it’s not so much the mother countenancing the changes in her teenage daughter, that is, but the daughter countenancing her mother’s accommodations to new status and frightening powers.  I liked this, but it goes against the natural order, against plain fairness, frankly.  It’s nice that the mother knows new adventures and stretchings out of the possibilities of self, but if the daughter doesn’t have her time now, during her teenage years, when the whole pull of her lifeforce is directing her that way, her best bet for it will be after she’s married and with kids, when her adventuring might be mixed with anger at her previous long denial and not do them any good. 
You always hope films directed at young kids will still introduce them to something adult.  What is adult is to appreciate that the reason teenagers can actually end up shortchanging their efforts to individuate, is owing to fear of the anger this arouses in their mothers (to the mothers, their individuation feels vindictive), not to their mothers ultimately prevailing to induce some appreciation of the complicated ways of the world into their still limited and fully self-absorbed minds.  The youth agrees to marry – whomever, to cruelly circumscribe herself the beautiful adventure of finding a soulmate, after “maturely” coming to appreciate her desire for as much as selfish.  A whole environment is Truman-show produced to show her brave act of telling her mom to piss the hell off, as something so intrinsically abase it would lead to the like of her mom being permanently disabled, and a whole realm at the cusp of war.  Fortunately, the mother has been apparently introduced to enough fun that she ends up speaking up (or effectively motioning, if you prefer) for the wisdom of allowance, for her daughter’s needs for the same, and – with permission granted – thereby her daughter sways a bit off the masochistic and is saved the fate of being life-long humped by one of the idiot clansmen claiming her.
Still, there is a sense that the adult does make its appearance here, perhaps to be mulled over and chewed on without us being so much consciously aware we’re up to as much.   When the mother starts losing her own persona and going whole bear, the daughter is face to face with someone who just a moment ago was her familiar mother but has suddenly become someone fully absent from her, and also very, very frightening and savage.  I would argue that, outside of a few very lucky ones, there’s isn’t any girl out there who hasn’t known wicked fear at experiencing from their own mothers, this sort of upsetting transformation.  The look the bear directs at the daughter in the film, a quick but very impressionable one, as of someone suddenly alien who means her terrific harm, is of the obliterating kind that foremost keeps young women from fully being comfortable with their intuitions to explore the adult, with their developing mental checks, inner-scolds, that keep them from letting life be too much about ostensible mother-betrayal and self-realization.   We only get this look twice in this film, and perhaps you are agreeing – thank god for it!
Putting something this true into the film can’t quite be called brave, as it’s too “subliminal,” too deniable, to seem more than what a good-intentioned but also very careful place-holder might put forth.  Same thing can be said with the film’s other brave element – its actually countenancing that what a family needs is a strong wife, able kids, and a strong father.  As mentioned, the real father in this film is an idiot, and overtly this film belongs with a depressing, long slew of films we’re likely to see forthcoming, where it’s near beyond countenancing that female members don’t just simply take over.   All the men in this film are like cartoon characters put in odd pathetic abundant company to a sex possessed of something vibrant and real – exempting one notable exception.   The adult male monster bear – possessed somewhere inside by the spirit of a ranging, founding-father clansman – has no truck for idiots or fools, either, nor is he about to be toyed about by wee fey boys who idolize sweets, and he is a fantastic creature which inspires equally fantastic engagement on part of mother and daughter to be brought down.  His is a powerful “voice” – the mother “bear” is something in defense of her “cub,” but he never in the battle, owing to someone else’s ferocity, loses his own magnificence – and the three of them together undeniably in their engagement inspire something along the lines of great, create a landmark encounter from which a worthy mythology might be constructed (the father’s engagement with the bear, from which he wrung out a lifetime of tale-telling, was in comparison but Ekler vs. Sugar Ray).  The young girl’s talk of bravery subsequently, in fact, only gains some credence owing it. 
The most significant rift in this film is between mother-daughter and an astray father, who has no “in” to meaningful involvement with his family, and pretends to have true volition only with the rush that comes from fleeing his impotence with them and wading into battles with other intrinsically cowardly men.   The great bear shows such a presence the other two need to be at their best to shape its fate, and as it’s not so hard to imagine something understood mostly as majestic being something that should be slotted at or near the head on your own side, the great bear serves for a moment as akin to a beloved strong, fierce, formidable father surprising the involved conspiracies women were shaping by appearing forthright into their dynamic after a long spell of traveling was finally over.  And to everyone’s relief.  
I would argue that mostly owing to the male bear, and not to the movie-short shown just before Brave, which in retrospect seems a calculated effort to perhaps alleviate some young men’s feeling shortchanged by the film, boys might find themselves feeling provisioned by this theater experience.  But I still strongly suspect that a lot of young men will walk away from Brave feeling as if mocked by it, as if having suffered yet another rebuff.  The film informs us that progress in society involves further exploring the relationship between mothers and daughters, putting men on the backburner for a change.  What a film like this, as well as a societal current which favors its view, denies is that real progress would come when boys, not girls, become more subject of their mothers’ attention and love.  In real life, mothers and daughters already have extensive involvements with one-another, with the result being, and though I’ve talked in this review mostly of the harm, still mostly a fleshing out of the personality on the part of the daughter, the development of more soul and intrinsic warmth.  Boys still mostly lose sight of their mothers, and as the psychohistorian Lloyd DeMause argues in his great essay, “Why Men are More Violent,” though “mothers may dominate their little girls and expect them to share their troubles, [. . .] domination has been found to be far less damaging to the child’s psyche than abandonment and routine distancing.”  Without involved contact with their mothers, in comparison to girls, boys become personality-thin, evidently deprived and sadly dull.  That is, the film actually shows a truth in showcasing teenage boys as unappealing to the eye, without any needing to look to their fathers to know there’s no use trying to excuse them for just going through an awkward stage, and in still showing more-or-less infant boys – still within the realm of maternal attention – as far more captivating and spirited.  May a brave film appear that actually overtly argues that something should be done about this deplorable true-life actuality (and please not by Adam Sandler, who I've long appreciated but no longer trust).

Thursday, June 21, 2012

"More cuts, please!": Current films and our self-torture

More Cuts, Please:  Current Films and Our Self-Torture
Patrick Hallstein / McEvoy-Halston  2012

If you’re like me and you’re beginning to notice a lot of evil being passed off as innocuous, just a joke, or even as good, and you’re wondering why this has become so widespread, why people are doing the opposite of the holy crusader and enterprising ways to target, to demean the precariously placed, let me tell you what this is all about.  Most people are not comfortable when too much of the good life has been made available to them.  All the great things they’re hugging to themselves has them feeling they’re worthy of disownment, of catastrophic punishment, as this was the crippling experience they were made to feel when they first as children started attending more to their own needs than the unmet ones of their mothers.  The superego, set up as a child to protect him from reviving this intolerable experience, by dissuading him from having too much fun in life, takes over and comes up with a scheme that’ll save the self from oblivion.  Individually, we agree to take actually good things as only of a form we can lament as gross and sinful – self-love, gluttony, and so on – and collectively we make sure society is restructured so that, rather being dominated by an aspiring middle class, it becomes of the smallish quotient of the protected prospering accompanied by the spread of losers.  The moment when we began to become more focused on our own individual lives and our mothers turned away from us, abandoned us – intentionally – for our unconsciously presumed to be deliberate abandonment of them, is replicated and stretched out for a tedious sum of years.  And this time “the child” does not find way to inevitably grow anyway, but simply to suffer wounds, sores – degradations – it intuited it deserved for this most quintessential and worst of crimes, while “the mother” is put in plain view in her absolute worst light, self-absorbed, disconnected, cruel, thereby allowing the child to demonstrate absolute obeisance to her will by seeing all but allowing himself to register nothing.  Woe to all those, that is, who’d call Her a tyrant!  Thereby – believe it or not – a worse fate is felt to have been averted. 

Most people alive unconsciously want our society to be for awhile of disconnected winners and afflicted losers.  This sounds ridiculous to you, I know, but how do you account for the fact that Romney has been mostly identified at this point as an elite, lifelong ensconced in pampered surrounds, as an uncaring asshole who bullied other kids and is thoughtless to those – our pets – defined by their being under our care, as someone who unabashedly is a friend to corporations and who is very, very awkwardly trying to fit what is evidently wholesale their agenda into packaging that sounds at least a bit bottom-up, and yet very plausibly has a legitimate shot at the presidency? And how do you account for the fact that since dealing with the cleanup of  9-11 the very last thing we’ve had to worry about is mass public denial of the afflictions to public service men and women, debilitated through their experience in whatever service they’ve undertaken – the physical injuries they’ve suffered, the psychological ones driving them to suicide, the financial ones telling them they’ve got destitution awaiting them in their home life as well – with I think the near conscious collective realization that no one for a good while is going to do much about it, even with all the facts laid bare, week after week, by our news media?

Politics and economics produce the carnage.  What the media does is ensure we all know it’s being done, transforming all the incoming variant data of external suffering into quotients of sacrifice we can please ourselves by counting and stacking up.  Fairly assessed to be at the helm of this madness is what is most commonly assumed to be a tag-along – popular arts, which, rather than offering escapes, keeps us at some level keen that none of this carnage owes to happenstance but rather entirely to our dictates.  Films, that is, are directed – if it’s on the screen, it’s ’cause somebody wanted it there.  And more and more we’re assuming they’re done, not by auteurs lead by their own idiosyncrasies, but by those skilled at taking percipient guesses as to what we’re going to want next.

What we wanted not that long ago were still films that told us we really don’t deserve to be kept stunted, and that what we really need are more sparks of encouragement and love in our lives to start us on the path to realizing ourselves – Wall-E is perhaps the strongest last evidence of this.  The grossly askew in this film are the robots put in power when society had become all corporate, determined to slacken human beings into their most passive forms to expedite vulgar profit-making – specifically Auto, who can only recognize real life as something aberrant and destructive.  To the perceptive, the ostensibly ordinary in this movie, like Wall-E and the corpulent, childish captain, are more evolved than the superficially superior specimens – to Eve, who is shown as massively repressed, as essentially deprived, despite her lavished-upon Apple-white gloss, her Maximilian physique and power.  Part of the point of Eve in the movie is in fact to show up an awesome arsenal as mostly just good protection to absorb the shocks and blows that might incur should you chance to actually begin a souled life.  The difference between her and the tiny line-making robot, whom Wall-E drives into fits over the most trivial of trespasses as fair register of its inanity, is ultimately trivial. 

But around the time Wall-E was released came also very popular Ratatouille and Dark Knight, and subsequently it has become evident that whereas Wall-E was at the crest of something good, these films were at the core of something foul which has become the bulk of our view.  Ratatouille is the dark to Wall-E’s light.  Wall-E holds to the generous view that what is greatest in humans is to be possessed by each one of them, regardless of cultivation or IQ; Ratatouille to the opinion that the masses are dispossessed of anything worthy, and only worth a nod if they at some level recognize their bumpkinness and put themselves at your disposal.  That is, while Wall-E gives you irrepressible Wall-E, as well as the indefatigable captain, Ratatouille gives you limp-noodle Linguini as your representative of the average.  While Wall-E portrays manipulation and control of the masses as evil, Ratatouille shows it as necessary – not just to ensure the cultivated and smart collect within the society they truly belong to, but because without being ordered and directed about nothing notable will ever be realized.  (Ditto everything said here with Brad Bird’s subsequent film, Mission Impossible 3, which conspicuously delineates regular cops as “not rocket scientists,” as idiots, that is, and allows abusive handling of Ethan’s limp-noodle ally Bogdan for his being dispossessed of any ability to help himself.)

The issue in Dark Knight is why the exceptional should care about those so execrable they’d annihilate a true hero who stood amongst them if it would quit them of a momentary uprise in uncertainty and fear; and the only reason the Joker doesn’t quite entirely win this debate, isn’t really owing to the fact that the business man doesn’t end up turning the key and blowing up the other ship, as he remains as we assessed him first, not in anyway credible as a man; but because if Batman stops being interested in the people, Batman in all likelihood stops being interesting to the Joker, who’d already gotten bored with what the rest of humanity makes available to him.  The lieutenant deserves exemption, and so too Maggie Glynwethall as the love interest, but for the most part humanity is drab and scurried, and is actually at its most fetching when harassed into lipstick and white paint before sacrifice.  And when bound into some kind of tight collection, your thoughts can become quickly inclined to ponder over just much really is lost is someone connived to cart them off – “elsewhere.”

Dark Knight is no doubt to me the most important movie of our time.  Products of genius are only really possible when your own visions can be taken aloft by the prevailing inclinations of an era – it wants what you have to offer, and your unconscious intuition of this gives full confidence to your initiatives.  And when it starts demanding sacrifice, demeaning attitudes towards human beings it prefers portrayed as diseased, a masterpiece like Dark Knight arrives to daunt those who’d hope to mount something built of love and hope.  To me there is something intense about this film, specifically, that probably helped shoulder out some of the hopeful in our obviously downward-plummeting era; and mostly afterwards what I’ve experienced in movies not made by auteurs who’d built their reputations on films made decades ago, is not so much great bombasts of, well, evil, but steady deposits made in film after film of quick but telling swipes taken at the dignity of average, struggling people. 

We get films more akin to Iron Man, released around the same time as Dark Knight, which might even be noted for their positive estimations of people, but which rather seem to have in supplicant modesty queued up so the new Big Man on the scene can see who they’re truly in sympathy with.  Tony Stark is moved to change his business wholesale after he really gets what his weapons are all about, how much damage they do to regular people, how much they inflate petty tyrants.  He removes his tie, and sits amongst the people eating a cheeseburger – and corporate-heads panic!  But man-of-the-people Tony Stark prompts the civilians he now champions to in fact behave in a manner which historically has served as pretext to launch armies to wipe them out.  When he as Iron Man arrives to save the men from being shot before their distraught sons, daughters and wives, he leaves the boss terrorist to the fate of the peasants, whom one is presumed to assume will converge on him and deliver a fate crueler than anything he could possibly deliver.  One is presumed to assume that they’d immediately mob him and rip him up into a debris cloud of sinew and viscera before he could even quite squeal out a “NOOOOOOOO!!!,” leaving us with a still haughty Tony Stark, deliverer of clean blows, as well as the apropos, and the ravaged peasants, dispensers in their revenge of a mess of blood and gore.  It’s just a quick scene, and the rest of the movie prattles about as far as I can remember under the assumption of the dignity of the people, but what a denigrating truth it drove in:  the common people can be counted upon to degenerate into savages; you might loosen your tie amongst them, but how much closer would you really want to get – yuck!

This spring, week after week I saw the cuts, gauges, wounds, films are plainly eager to make to regular people.  Friends with Kids has been praised for its generous treatment of the long considered but ultimately discarded love interests.  But how kind is it to decide against the gorgeous, talented brunette – Megan Fox’s character – for showing her possessed of an aversion to kids as if they were spiders, or dirty rodents, delineating her as someone who, though she has cleaned herself up nicely, remains solidly fucked-up at the core?  And how nice is it to show the considered love-interest who is comfortable with kids, and is also nice, sweet and reliable to boot, as possessed of a shortchanged, mundane appreciation of play?  When she squeals in alarm at the kid in the restaurant, she is the trauma-informed kid, born of a trailer park, who rose to become what someone born in that position and is beautiful and determined is plausibly able to do – get to New York and become a star performer.  When his dull intellect blanches at seeing any sense to her morbid games, he is the unimaginative lower-order intelligence who certainly didn’t come through Berkeley, and who has succeeded, but who may not thrive for long as society displaces everyone who cannot make instant play with whatever demands are put before them, like her ad-man perfect partner can.  The trauma-infused lower orders, and the stunted middling ones, are considered for equal status – but damningly rejected.  An especially hard hit given that they are ostensibly represented by their best.

If you can only trudge through life, leaving the dreaming and their carrying out to the higher orders, you shouldn’t and you’re not going to feel safe enough to feel the world has gifted you a safe-zone wherein to figure out what you want in life, to feel convinced that for you the world can still about testing, trying, learning, developing, ably riding and otherwise enjoying.  You’ll go on like a soldier in the trenches, knowing at any minute you or your best mate may be shot down, and you’ll be upset for a half hour before – out of necessity – putting your mind as to how their demise might enfranchise you.  Friends with Kids knows that the friends belong to the protected circle, that they enjoy knowing that they are the ones who can frighten the servile with instant doom.  Done much like as in Iron Man, where it looks to be about something else, this film showcases the vulnerability of the working class, of everyday folk, by making it seem mostly about a means for Adam’s Scott’s character to show much he cares about his lifelong best friend.  Perhaps the whole life of an insufficiently fawning servant – the nanny – is up in the air, to make one nice milestone moment happen for a privileged couple.  It’s Atonement, but without the mother surprising all by appearing out of nowhere and raging head on at the car, making ample demonstration at the injustice done to one of the working orders – to her dear, beloved son – just to demonstrate the resiliency of an idiotic, rigid social order.

In What to Expect When You’re Expecting a whole class of people get it too, and just as sneakily as with Iron Man and Friends with Kids.  While the rich in the film can seem dopey, they’ve got heart, and can indeed learn a new trick or two as well; the poor, or at least the precariously placed, are the opposite of redeemed.  A wad of money is denied most of the movie by a son with a sense of pride, but finally accepted to show he’d abandoned selfishness in favor of learned selfless concern for his wife.  Very nice, except the means by which this wad of money was put to generous use counted on the fact that nurses – presumably way past the luxury of professional and personal pride, having known too long cuts to their pay, instability of hours, and an overall environment resonate with abuse – are most likely now open to your bribes.  It’s a chilling moment.  The son of the rich dad is made to seem loving – that he bumped his wife up ahead of others doesn’t count against him, as he is only doing what anybody would do to save the life of their loved ones – and the professional who is supposed to be in right frame of mind to countenance one person’s upset against that experienced by all the patients, comes out looking possessed of the moral center of a street hood. 

If the nurse who accepted the bribe got caught, he might end up a hood – this at least is the working assumption in 21 Jump Street.  In this movie, which showcases the Abu Ghraib-akin humiliations you can feel free to subject gang members to (the two main-character police men mock hump one of them from behind while he lay pinned on the ground), the head of a new drug ring centered at a high school is a teacher, who was driven to it, we are told, owing to the paltry wages paid him.  His situation isn’t even hinted at as something worth concern, though.  Instead, he is the medium whereby the film feels comfortable trying out humiliations you may not ever have seen before as a source of humor  – specifically, his penis gets shot off, and we see him fumbling about on the ground trying to find it.  Teachers, we are told, are, like the nurses of What to Expect, part of a now suspect occupation.  They are like lower class occupations of old where people involved in them were presumed to be always just this close to going illicit.  It is true that the high school teacher involved is a boorish male, and it is worth considering that he is subject of remorseless abuse mostly because of his belonging to this category of disrepute, but another contemporary film, Me and My Boy, does have you wondering if, no, while not apt to be portrayed as drug dealers, we’ve still presumed female teachers might have been forced to go so off-kilter that boys’ dreams of teacher sex is something some of them might be voraciously making happen.   

One might assume those of one working class occupation – the police – come out of 21 Jump Street okay – but this actually needs to be considered.  The one character with smarts is shown to be someone who, if he’d actually been treated with some respect in high school, would have been off to Berkeley rather than exploring the trades.  This would have meant, like Tony Stark in Iron Man, not just being in possession of a posh pad, but never needing to dirty himself, not ever needing to find some kind of compensation within the realm of the macho which seals the deal as to what kind of social rung he belongs to.  He humiliates his opponent, but as the film shows, his world is easily one where he and his partner could end up being, and essentially at random, shot to pieces.  Just after their preparing themselves for just such a fate, the original (that is, the TV show) 21 Jump Street cops surprise us with their appearance and prevent this from happening; but any pleasure incurring from their visit is quickly replaced by shock at how quickly they become dispatched by a hail of bullets – star status, we are conclusively being told, is eclipsed by their being in the role of discardable cops.  No magic exists now to keep members of the working class safe. 
       
Construction workers are the ones who get it in Dark Shadows; they’re one of two groups we see the awakened vampire presume to prey upon in the film.  The other group is composed of young sensitive hippies, who are done away with, it is made to seem, simply for being out of sorts and vulnerable to society for existing outside their heyday.  To be vulnerable means someone is going to get to prey on you very brutally, and to have it portrayed as the most inessential of side matters, an after-thought, and maybe – if it can, as with this film, look to be mostly about rounding out our understanding of someone relevant – of no import at all.  Unlike Monty Python’s Holy Grail, no trail of police officers is due to track him down for his butchery.  If lords were slain it would be a different matter, but no one is going to speak up for the working class dregs or other similarly disenfranchised – again with this film, it’s do to them as you wish, while you mostly attend to curious plucks on the threads extending out of your privilege. 

Unlike Wall-E, debilitations aren’t adorned on men but for their triumphant shedding of them.  The momentum of these films isn’t towards their standing on their own two feet, but towards being loaded down by encumbrances, and pretty much accepting that their fate is be drawn down inexorably as sacrifices into a predatory maw, ála the most iconic moment of Toy Story 3.  The critic Stephanie Zacharek said of The Avengers that “it’s time for Whedon to retire the idea of the hole in sky that suddenly breaks open, unleashing horrors upon an unsuspecting world.”  But, I’m sorry, the portal isn’t going away, because dealing with a felt need to feed it is in fact the primary concern of our age.  It is the maw of our mothers, which wants representatives of our self-ambitioning, self-nourishing selves sacrificed to it so it can know satiation and justice – the time for self and societal-growth is over; it’s now about who’s to pay the price for accumulating for decades, and how much each guilty one.  If you already had some sense as to what this age was about, you could pretty much have predicted that Snow White and the Huntsman would have a scene where the expectant queen would have before her a multiple of strewn-about youths, drained into carcasses for her replenishment.  So, too, that the experience of watching Prometheus could fairly be described – as one commenter at the movie-review site Movieline did – as being riddled with a million wounds; and that the pursuit of origins, rewarding, renewing discovery – enlightenment – would be easily outmatched by some wretched-awful beast’s insistent demand that it’s going to be about biology, about your body as host and its about presumptive spawning. You could also have predicted that the girl would come out okay – so long as she was shown thoroughly decimated beforehand.  And especially if it could be made to seem a choice between wholly-taken-down-a-notch her and some still proud figure, which is of course what we get, with her being lead to believe for a moment that her just-deceased husband had managed to impregnate her, only to find out that this miracle had occurred owing only to his already being in part a DNA-manipulating beast-thing (making her someone who essentially was fucked by a fiend, and near-forced to give birth to its kid), and with his being of a species of humanity which has presumed to temper themselves into gods.

The humiliations we’re seeing applied in all these movies towards the kinds of people we know are most precariously placed, isn’t about Hollywood not giving a damn, but about our being able to show we’ll actually pay for films which show people like us treated abominably.  We’re cutting ourselves to pieces, and the abasement happening to us in society, through loss of jobs, through service in war, through competition in schools and being owned by student loans, through pleasure-critical, self-lacerating diet and fitness regimes, takes on the environment, stances on youth and youth culture, on your sheer right to have any confidence in your ability to supply yourself just the basics, is our best hope to show ourselves so afflicted we can’t possibly be taken as greedy types that deserve to be sucked into the maw. We’ll feel ourselves drawn into it, but our own sure scar-procuring, fervent self-brutalization will keep us from ultimately deeming it’ll much be moved at the finish to actually seek nourishment from us – any pride still there that might yet be sucked from us, isn’t worth anyone’s trouble, no matter how voracious.

We’ll come out of this at some point, and it’ll actually come with our sense of pride being replenished.  But this story, friends – also essentially dark – will come at another time.  As a preview, it'll be about re-polluting categories of people fifty years of collective effort has been put into humanizing.  

Review: "That's My Boy"



Adam Sandler deserves credit for being angry that a culture he grew up knowing pleasures from, has essentially been demarcated subsequently as something you can only bring up with shame.  The really quite wonderful Grosse Pointe Blank is, however, an indication of this unfair pattern – the 80s were Reagan and aids, a time to get trapped in.  Well, in truth, so it was – it was a period where society seemed mostly interested in abandoning its dependents and building remove so to not hear their complaint (bang on, Risky Business and Breakfast Club).  The kinds of things we were offered to take pleasure from showed what growing up in that decade did to our preferences – I’m sorry, but though Vanilla Ice, Mustang 5.0s, gloomy uterine strip clubs did please for seeming to grant us access to black culture, powerhouse prowess, the illicit, something is off with you in retrospect if you can’t see that the main reason to now stand up for them is because they once meant something to kids.   The kids who grew up with them may rightfully still feel better provisioned than today’s, and I think they are, but this is only because things have just become more scrutinized, tightened up.  
But I did still enjoy Vanilla Ice, I did still know awe at the power of the 5.0s, I was excited by the sense of realm-transgression offered in the strip club; and I thought when we turned away from those we began to feel guilty about taking enjoyment from, kicked them while they were down so that we could feel for awhile like we were in charge, it was an indication of the extent of the damage we’d incurred.  We abandoned our stars hard, near encouraging them to suicide themselves so to not trail us through our lives.  Sandler bravely stands up for them, and is trying to use his Hollywood power to encourage a safe-zone whereby we can do something about this period so many of us grew up in other than flee it, and feel cool for doing so.  With the considerable help of his work, the pieces come back into view, and you’re not going to be allowed to say, simply, “God, did we really grow up with that?,” a response that has for subsequent decades shortchanged us the ability to really reflect and engage with the past that determined much of our adult selves.   It’s become time for Sandler’s long, aggressively appreciative engagement with it.  You need not only to hear of Vanilla Ice again, know that he survived his suicide-attempts and is occupied fruitfully making homes, but spend part of an evening with him, even if just to allow you the slow goodbye someone who was once (he was, assholes, don’t deny it) a meaningful part of yours deserves.  
But it’s never time to believe that this period did not ultimately shortchange us.  It did.  It became cool to pick on anybody who could remind us of our father-shortchanged (80s were the time for divorce, and I don't remember seeing my dad all that much -- did you?), mother-overwhelmed selves – gays in particular.   I do appreciate that this film was made out of truly righteous anger at what is always denied when we talk about teachers sexually preying on their students – specifically, that this was a dream near every male student had, which shouldn’t have become something which can’t be mentioned lest you be made to seem to have given excuse for rampant human victimization everywhere.  But it’s not so cool to suggest that maybe there was something right about young men’s fear of gay culture as well.  Think about it, the right of young men not to be ashamed of their fantasies is stuck up for by someone with the formidableness – Sandler – to show he knows something about the charms of mature love – Saran Sarandon and Adam Sandler together mostly ends up communicating the beauty of an erroneous but still well-watched pair.   It is stuck up for by someone with the formidableness to argue that what kids need badly is more attendance; and to convey the pleasure to both parties that come from this with convincing honesty – there’s not, as there more than sometimes is with Wes Anderson, any coveting of the lost-look, the apartness, being abandoned is often pictured as giving you.   Alone, his kid isn't centered enough to sufficiently stand up for himself -- and that's about right.   
But it is also stuck up for by someone who shows you another coupling society sees as a crime, and aggressively supports its judgment – bother-sister incest.  The two involved somehow, but still appropriately, become the good-looking people, the kind that scared the insecure 80s boys of the sort who burrowed into Dungeons and Dragons dens, forestalling meaningful self-development, went to strip clubs because it brought women down to essentials you could handle, were the first to join in on dissing “the fags,” Mili Vanilli.  They become the kind of people who readily picked on us, but whom we might imagine actually picking on, if they could somehow be tipped over into a category of priss for their liking, say, jazz dance (they wore pink Ralph Lauren, so to ignorant us, plausible enough), if they could be made to seem -- gay.
This is a shameful aspect to this movie.  There were a couple parts in it that drove a few people in the audience to pick up and leave; but even at their worst the fact that so much of Sandler’s main point deserves respect, and because he has cast some of the more empathic, more good, SNL members of times past in this movie (Ana Gasteyer in particular), I worked my way through them – but are you really okay with the stripper blowjob scene?, can you honestly say the girl giving the blowjob didn’t exist in this movie to play the part of the insecure youth who is outmatched and overwhelmed by someone older -- specifically here by the stripper matriarch -- and then used by men at will, so that while one insecure youth is redeemed in this film, another is sacrificed? did the 80-year-old’s sexual advance, ostensbily about some other thing redeemed, not still remind you of the shower scene of the Shining?  But if Sandler endorses what are in fact true offenses, unable to recognize them simply as bad because they happened to also be discredited at a time when society was cruelly concerned to make young men feel suspect about themselves, their inherent inclinations, what they did to shore up some sense of themselves as strong, as in charge, rather than perennially preyed upon, I’m sorry, but I’m turning on him hard.  It won’t be about abandonment, but about communicating to him that he is now just as much picking on people himself. 
One last thing, did Sandler know by choosing to make his character the one who drove the 5.0, leaving ostensibly redeemed Vanilla Ice to the passenger seat, in the context of macho he thereby shamed him.   One wonders if part of his purpose in redeeming people everyone else seems bent on denying, is that thereby they become his doll collection, all his own to play with.  

Thoughts on "Prometheus"


1)  "Prometheus" succeeds in showing us that whatever the ultimate secrets of the universe might be, they're going to have to be really something to not instinctively seem less rousing than when a spirited human being is roused into action out of fidelity to a felt truth that she is part of something worthwhile and good in this world.  The android draws wonder from two things in the movie -- the aliens' cosmological map, evidence of their distilled, focused interest in us; and the anthropologist's surprising resiliance.  I did find the light show appealing, but when we realize the star men are considerably less possessed of life than the android is -- that they're really just battle robots, further evolution of the android looks to involve his drawing wonder that the young woman hasn't shorn herself of needing to find something outside of herself for authority and inspiration.  "It speaks for you that you want to see greatness in everyone around you, for it betrays that you know greatness inside yourself, and that it is worth pursuing, but it wasn't so much in your boyfriend, and it hasn't proved so much in ancestors, however celestially hued ... Look, girl -- people like you are the evidence that someone out there should cast about and look for something better, which means the opposite that you should be occupying yourself doing the same thing.  Your not conceiving of yourself as akin to the origins of life, as someone who through her spirit can stir other people to greater things, is inhibiting you from just making rather than studying and searching.  The cultural products these aliens have made is barren and gross; let's see what you might come up with, instead.  Adventure, is better than answers, for it means not finding out but interacting, changing, challenging -- I go with you now to the home planet 'cause I see this has become your main point." 
Maybe the film needed to be set in Venice.  As is, all those not blind can see is her spirit.  
2)  Mind you, the great vaginal-placental beast in this movie is really quite something.  I was happy that someone with our DNA could offer a bit of resistance to it.  It says something that Ridley Scott still keeps us focused on the female anthropologist; anyone less developed would have been thinking only of the climax moment involving satisfying the vivid, hungry maw, and no personality would have been fleshed out for us in the film.  She's the counterforce, the outside, that keeps us from being tentacled and sucked in to the squid horror like everyone else.  
3)  I thought the android and the lady anthropologist made a great pair; I am glad they went off on adventures together.   

"Friends with Kids" is about the "with kids" part



Maria Aspan has written an article praising “Friends with Kids,” and I would feel inclined to do the same if I felt the film began to open up for new explorations what had felt foreclosed in pattern.  But I tend to find that in many films that tip the hat to your preferences, you’ll relax enough in them to want to praise them for the new they’ve shown you, the possibilities, considerations, they’ve lived out for you.  “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” if, like the central characters, you’re comfortably mainstream, uninterested in having the intellectual edge on anyone and more just participating in the -- to you -- exciting trends/new truths manifesting now, does have the material to have you thanking it for what it did right too, for it fleshing out in a compelling fashion a whole variety of ways expecting a child affects you and your partner.  But if the mainstream is loathsome to you, the film becomes simply garbage; no true explorations, just extensions into drudgery.  Myself, I can certainly put myself in the frame of mind to consider New York’ smart-set elitism garbage, and dismiss the film as readily as most critics did “What to Expect.”
I’ll do so now.  Noam Chomsky has argued that most of what should be discussed regarding politics and the economy, isn’t actually engaged by the media.  He would have us see them, the members of the media, as obsessing over a permitted sliver as if it were all the world.  I felt a bit like Chomsky regarding the media while thinking upon Aspan’s review.  She found the film refreshing, as opening up new ground.  I agreed that, sure, it might do that, but limited to the latitude permissible to a class that is otherwise comfortable when most of the innovative is off the table.  I find this an era of foreclosed opportunities, an era so staving off it drives people into thoughts of ongoing demonstrations in hopes it might initiate a grand happening that would pull us into a grand narrative that would stop us from feeling immobilized.  The only people I can imagine as finding this era, on the contrary, flourishing, as provisioning, as perfect avenue to explore terra incognita or at least the previously criminally overlooked, are people deemed no threat to the presiding directive – no growth! – of this era.  They have to be people who get a kick out an era – regardless of how bad – for it’s enabling them.  They have to be people who get a kick out of the fact that if they threaten to fire you for ill-service, color will drain from your face as you know that, once again amongst the unemployed, conditions might have worsened so this time you could be out for good.  Kindness is their option, and one they’ll use; but they tolerate and even like that if they withdraw it, it could well mean oblivion for you:  they are agents of a ruling nastiness and keep their weapons of you-destroy ready at their hip.  They have to be people who like that despite whatever ostensible growth they’re incurring, none of them are especially distinctive.  The point is to cow through betraying the daunting inevitability of the ruling class.  Stick within the medium of expectations – something you’re so wonderfully entirely built to do – and you’ll communicate you’re impossible to dislodge, of being principally a member, not an individual ostensibly to be taken at his/her measure.  You take one of them, study him or her, and you see his or her cohort, even if he or she distinguishes him/herself for his/her struggling while being studied in isolation.  They have to be people who are comfortable with the fact that if you do anything truly notable and different, doom awaits you for going grand when minute variations are what’s called for; for imposing on your own what we’ve all agreed is to be so abandoned to the imperatives of the era that it seem beyond the human and under prerogative of God. 
This must seem mad as hell, for the innovation the film explores is of two friends successfully raising a kid together, not exactly something not extraneous, right?  Well, actually, what they foremost are, are a variant of the marriage possibilities readily allowed in a movie moved by the most mundane of Hollywood world-views, namely, already-discussed, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” with this movie, rather than former party animals who thought it cool to cheese-out their wedding in Los Vegas, we get the New Yorker preference for the cosmopolitan kept alive while a couple have their kid.   What’s important is that, like all their other sophisticated friends, they’re finally down the path of having one.
Couldn’t they have just kept single, that is, not have a kid?  Not if they plausibly wanted to seem as if they weren’t on some other path from their friends -- a very treacherous one.  That is, it was once New York to be double-income-no kids, ’til maybe about ten years ago.  And previously all that New York independence and sophistication was differentiating you from the hordes of common North Americans, but you were all in your own way expanding.  But now that easy credit isn’t keeping them feeling of the same status as those post-wars blue-collars whose jobs were garnering more for them than many white-collar ones, now that the idea of having kids feels wrong to their financial situations, now that they’re beginning to feel out the possibility that they’re of the 99 % dispossessed rather than of the plump middle class, and that their historical role is not to determine what is essentially great about America but to show in their wreckage just how bad-behaving America must for a long time have been, the smart-set having kids has become a very different thing.  
A grand culling has clearly been called for, and if you’re not feeling cowed, evolution has clearly distinguished you as its favored, even if ultimately only for your effectively humiliating its scorned.  And you’re expected to literally breed the future, even if your role makes your prized offspring into sordid dumpings onto the poor.  If you choose instead to not have kids, you’re wrong to the times for defying expectations others are finding themselves ruled by.  Everyone, even the most rich, are best understood for their having surrendered – the prospering to arrogance, though an essentially false facsimile of it.  Everyone is doing their thing, letting themselves be drawn into prevailing currents, and there you are standing apart, clearly with His will so manifest, believing yourself more special than God.  The price you’ll pay is to be judged asocial, out of bounds but in precarious plain view everywhere you go, even in New York.  

Review: What to Expect When You're Expecting



Alison Willmore, in her review of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” aired her humble request to Hollywood that when it makes a film which features a young, precariously situated couple, with no obvious love-bond yet who have conceived a child, that it at least –- then -- bring up the possibility of abortion.  Certainly seems reasonable, except since by expecting the film leads us to think of the late-term child rather than onset protoplasm, I thought the request actually out of place here.  Yet I appreciate the attack in any case, for the film, if not as bad as critics have taken it as, is vile, very much advocating Willmore’s other concern with the film, that you haven’t known human fulfillment until you’ve had a kid. 
You could be an Adonis, and be a rival -- for a moment.  But as the film shows with the comparison of Chris Rock’s character, Vic, leader of the men with babies for being amply besot with them, against Davis, a single man of exceptional endowment -- muscles, good looks, the sexy job, and even if now just with but one, surely at his beck and call armfuls of ripe gorgeous babes spread out in conveniently-remote-from-one-another exotic locals -- it’s not to your advantage to be the Greek hero when the times are all Christ submission and community of grace.  You’re allowed it -- rivalry -- for a moment, ’cause isn’t there even with Christ some admirable, some singular, standing up to God?; but if you don’t let up it’ll leave you seeming impressive solid granite the rest of us will nevertheless walk around, pleasantly more attendant to generous broad blue skies and relaxed human activity, the multiple other attractions available to us in the park.  You’re the best we could imagine, before we became endowed with children and got with humanity’s overall central pattern; now you’re the gorgeous gladiator we admire, but which never shames us for registering more and more as being delimited to the arena of boyhood while we partake in the communal flow opened up by adult life.  And that you finally did end up with kid, saved you.  Getting in with the times has saved you the stress of having to keep your musculature proving it might never lapse to the point of acknowledging defeat – which, even if somehow successful, is counter-intuitive enough to draw our consideration, but never having us thinking that something central had now just been disproved:  eternity is across generations, not in the distinction arisen in one:  it's better to be average, but with a kid.
And this is probably best case.  The next is that you’re in service to someone who is fecund, as the fat sales assistant is, bearing the worst of her master’s – store owner Wendy’s -- lapses, aping out the worst of her ridiculousness to pacify her effect, sitting on her hands when her personal possessions get smashed in error … but at least she isn’t abandoned.  
But if you’re with kid, you’re part of the group which seems bent on mending any difficulties they have, surmounting any limitations that have been conceived -- the obtuse will become attendant when it matters.  You’ll cross paths many times, and though you may never know one another, the possibility is ever possible – and if you do it’ll be to fortify one another, attaching into one greater complex macromolecule, interlocking and expanding, exhilaratingly, by divine right.  This ex potencia, which still exists for the young couple for not talking abortion, for at least being oriented the same as the other far better economically situated couples, would have been denied them if they’d considered abortion.   Their (even if playfully) at-war ocean-side food carts would never port into the safe and secure denizens of the affluent, in loyal vassalage, but also recognizably within the same family, as the full-sized margarita stand by the pool of the super rich race driver baits their income-makers with.  They’d be the egregious wedding photo the adopting parents try to hide, but without any excuse.  People can be goofy as they enthusiastically become part of the married fold – it’s odd commemoration, this Los Vegas-style, but the attitude is essentially right, and they’re in it all the same.  What they don’t do is have an abortion, inflict willingly the worst possible out-0f-your-hands calamity.  God’s ways might be unknowable, but it’s easy to spot the mechanisms of the Beast; they tear vicious gaping cuts through the fabric of reality we’ve all collaborated to knit, leaving all of us feeling shaken and sundered.  Asocial kid killers, with knives -- slash, slash.  It's obvious what we're at some point going to have to do with them. 

Take the kids to "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"


Alison Willmore, in her  review of "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," argues that the film "is a precision instrument aimed directly at the heart of its intended underserved older audience," and one wonders if even if its intention was to serve only them, if the reality is that it could and should serve a swath more.  The film, like the Harry Potter series, features both young and old, with key storylines for both, only with "Hotel" the focus is on the latter rather than the former.  But one could never say of "Harry Potter" that it's principally for the young, that it serves its intended audience well -- and only them -- without expecting reproach for this being obvious nonsense, that "Harry" is, rather, clearly universal, with appeal to anyone who hasn't lost all touch with life.  In fact, if you were to say that the films / books were only for the 7 to 12 set (or, as they move along, the adolescent), and that adults enjoying them probably are still in contact with their youth but only in a pathetic, sad way, as A.S. Byatt did ... well, take care, for here very swiftly follows the torrent to bash gravities of humiliation against your small dribble of bile.  But as swift as so many are to defend books and films thought by some only for children, do we doubt how few would throw any disconcert Willmore's way for presiding "Hotel" as "for the aged only"? 
What, though, is a 12 year old to make of adults, not in their last years acting like infants, but maturely trying to square their desire for renewal, for new life, new adventures, with their understanding that they are besot with already established life courses, by ruts of routine responses and resurfacing old tricks, worsening in their ability to catch some good game?  It sure doesn't look much like a ride to entice fresh crowds into Disneyland.  Yet in this age where we've gotten used to books and films being targeted to the emotional and intellectual capabilities of differing children's age groups, to their set-determined particular interests, there's still the reminder of lasting books written just a generation or two ago by the likes of Roald Dahl, Richard Adams, Ursula LeGuin, Madeleine l'Engle, E.B. White, and Salinger, that don't sit so well with the idea that there isn't somehow something adult, already fathomed in the childish mind.  Personally, I've never thought enough thought has gone into how it is an older writer is able to write for children at all; instead thinking the proofs on how anyone cannot but offer, regardless of whom they're intending to write for, mostly unabashed contact with their 30 -, 40-, 50, 60-ish or on writer selves.  And if children go for it, it has to be that they're very fond of the adult in these writers, even as they still very much do appreciate the various considerations allotted them, the faeries, farm animals, and guardian wizards that assure them this is a world they can handle. 
Even with "Harry Potter" we're already a bit keen to this possibility.  As the series progressed there are encounters simply between adults that could challenge you to wonder, if all collected and left by themselves, how bogus it'd be to label them anything short of literature.  I'm thinking in particular of Snape and Dumbledore, of Snape and Voldemort; with the challenge, subsequent Snape's reveal, being to determine if the Snape we've long known without fully knowing his past is fair measure of the key early experiences we are told have determined him.  Yes -- we have to conclude to be satisfied with the reveal, in a blink sifting through forty or so years of another's developing -- this product, out of an already complex early person, could be begot from this; it plausibly fits.  And if we're not similarly now boomer-aged, knowing ourselves how great spans of time's drift accord with great early pushes in a set direction, how on earth might we determine this?  And yet I think it's possible that we may.  Or if not, at least that we might sense that we've already experienced enough of life, of how things go, to make us one day feel capable of doing so.  "I don't quite just now understand you -- but I did catch sight of you; you're not alien, and feel I'll one day see you straight," we, the 7 t0 12-year-old kid, even, might well feel the urge to communicate.
Of course, to say that small parts in children's books and films perhaps thought mostly for the adults are actually as much still for children, isn't to say that if "Up" was entirely about the life story of a loving married couple, or if "Fellowship of the Ring" somehow mostly about past-prime Bilbo settling into his own exotic hinterlands, kids couldn't get enough of it.  As alluded to, no doubt not to feel overwhelmed or wretchedly bored it's got to feel about them, not their grandparents.  But as true as this surely is, I'm tempted to argue the case anyway, perhaps through reminding people of just how literate people were a generation or two ago, of how many educators hoped to stuff as much classical literature into you, hoping you'll even oblige their skipping ahead past more-relatable "Romeo and Juliet" if "Hamlet" or "Lear" was judged the master work.  And of how this meant early encounters with works we'd introduce college kids to, presuming the opposite of child-obtuse pedagogy and rather Mozart-in-the-womb zeroing in on what kids actually need for life.  
Presuming something more, actually:  that what kids actually most want is not to be catered to but rather to be introduced to humanity's show, the best that human heritage has begotten -- the good stuff.  And they realize it not necessarily immediately, without, that is, some pushing, for garnering something from the great requires adjusting, at least temporary unsettlement and even repelling dis-ease; but rather sometime afterwards, after life has gone by some and the new and one-time perturbing has manifested more clearly as a facilitating component of you. 
There, I moved quickly from being tempted to make the case in favor of the difficult, the non-pleasing, to actually more-or-less making it; and I realize I did so because, despite believing that what kids can't help but love about the literature they read is their contact with adult minds, and that kids are more perspicacious than we often judge, capable of encounters with the adult before "this is for kids aged --" categories look to communicate, it's never the less true that if you take your kids to "Hotel" they may well hate you for it.  Unlike how the critic Stephanie Zacharek assessed another movie sure to be thought, as she puts it, "just a little nice movie for grannies and no one else" -- "Letters to Juliet" -- I cannot, that is, sincerely argue that kids will like it foremost for the youth they will find in these aging people.  In "Letters," Zacharek found the 73-year-old Vanessa Redgrave "living assurance that the young people we once were can stay alive is us, no matter how much we grow and change," proclaiming, when Claire finally meets her long-ago love, that "it takes zero imagination to see the face of the young Guenevere in this older one."  But though with Tom Wilkinson's plot-line in "Hotel" one can find the near equivalent of this particular moment, I declare "Hotel" worth a visit primarily because it makes you realize just how much better than you there is out there; it's appeal lies in its not being reassuring.  It teaches you that all that youthful energy you possess is not something you should so much be concerned not to lose, but be concerned to use, to acquire the depth fully available to you only in growing older.  
To be more fair to Zacharek's review, I'll note that though she singled out the moment of youthful presence in Claire as what in particular would reverberate with youth, it's clear she thinks they'll actually take to all they'll see of her.  She actually follows proclaiming the film not just for grandmas by drawing attention to Redgrave's adult substance, of how she "puts all she's got into something other actors might cast off," how "[s]he's present every moment," as much as her youthful vitality.  And she takes care to establish the moment immediately before Claire meets her long-ago love as a complex one, as something which to fully understand requires testing your acuity, some extension of yourself into behavior you may not quite be able to delineate for it possibly not yet being wholy part of your own resources.  This moment's all about adult considerations, about being aware that however much the 15 year old he fell in love with is gone (a cowing realization that has her shelter herself, not so much out of self-pity but "as if [. . .] trying to hide from herself"), "she's not."  
And -- now to be more fair to her as well -- Willmore's assessment of "Hotel" isn't just that it's pigeoned for old hearts not young ones, that it's simply "about growing old in a terribly British fashion," but about not-to-be-missed moments as well, presumably, with her herself being delighted by them, available to both young and old.  She highlights some of the ones I'd be inclined to; but rather than list them in the exact fashion she does -- "Billy Nighy joking with Judi Dench about his inability to fix a telephone, Maggie Smith forcing down local food in order to be polite, Tom Wilkinson joining in a game of pickup cricket and Penelope Wilton looking terrified during a tuk-tuk ride" -- I'd have been tempted to italicize the great actors' names as well:  for what we agree is so special is getting to see great living people interact smartly with one another, not our chance to see characters from a book so capably enfleshed.  Or do what Stephanie did with Vanessa Redgrave in "Letters," and involve myself more fully with why Penelope Wilton making clear with Nighy that it's over between them, or her thanking Wilkinson for sparing her further humiliation -- both moments of self-account that reminded you how much one must have to be able to convey so much self-possession after catastrophic revelations have deflated you to wondering if you're a fraud -- is so special.  
You get enough of great people here I'd be tempted to compare it to the Louvre, a storehouse one's never to early to start familiarizing oneself with; but to flatter it now surely a bit too unjustly, here you get the artist him/herself, as well as his/her oeuvre: a doubling down of greatness.  "Midnight in Paris" reminded Armond White of how far these actors were from the greats they portrayed; please don't underestimate who I wouldn't put these actors toe-to-toe with.  
So I think the kids should go to this "Hotel" for the elderly.  Don't be spooked by the specter of death; we're told it's of course going to lurk everywhere but it proves delineated and contained within a single source:  Tom, the only one not to be sparked to new purpose for his chasing down of an old one.  If kids never-the-less resist, I'll accord one legitimate reason why it might still be possible that if they flee your grasp and escape for, say, one more viewing of The Avengers, they might be wise to.  For this is a time when youth may be less about vitality than about constantly taking it -- the world does right now seem to have it out for them, with some now declaring it none other than a period of child / youth sacrifice, to beget a Generation Occupy.  They may, that is, simply have known just too much of it to garner treasures from a film where youth are shown denied yet once again.  They could be at the point of psychic toppling, with the trigger -- who knows exactly what?  And the key youth in the film, the young owner of the hotel, is here mostly denied.  Cover is of course provided, for no older person wants to think themselves intentionally presiding forever over the young; but there is a sense that the film is intentionally pitting aggressive youthfulness against elder wisdom/knowledge of people/canyness and patience, with the latter lot clearly triumphant.  The young owner ostensibly comes out with his dreams realized, his hotel afloat, and the resplendent wife he's fought for at his side; but the feel is mostly that he's gone from sole owner of a hotel to its bell hop, enthusiastically presenting himself to the ring of a bell.  This is good therapy for Maggie Smith's character, who's been head servant but never inexctricable to the family she served, but unfair to him. 
Still, the last time a generation turned whole-hog on a preceding generation it judged self-indulgent, the result was some vitality -- they felt they got their own era -- but, in my judgment, also a criminal curtailing of depth.  It was the '30s, with artists who thrived then sometimes being the ones unable to thrive in '20s Paris, for all the great but also incredibly daunting personalities they mixed with there; but were able to once self-sacrifice and common purpose, not self-indulgence and individual enrichment, became king.  Personally, I'd prefer not to think youth have had it so bad they'll take the barren ramshackle over the opulent for it at least being theirs, but the film does argue a case for this as well.  So, yes, at the finish, I'll admit there is still some valid last minute weighing to do ... but please do decide to take your kids to "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."  

Making "The Avengers" -- Men Only


Recently, Andrew O'Hehir had this to say concerning The Avengers and its (ostensibly) all-male demographic: 
I don't think I'm breaking any news if I tell you that "The Avengers," Joss Whedon's ensemble action-adventure that unites an entire posse of Marvel Comics superhoes, will be far and away this weekend's No. ! film at the box office. [. . .] Or that a large majority of those ticket buyers will be teenage boys and young men.  Like most summer "tentpole" productions -- those designed to support franchises, and ensure the financial future of major studioes -- "The Avengers" is aimed squarely at guys under 35, long the demographic, psychological and economic bulwark of the movie industry.  
All this is standard operating procedure in 21st-century Hollywood, where the industry is dominated by post-boomer males reared on the comic books, TV shows and blockbuster movies of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and the audience is understood in almost Pavlovian terms as a slavering horde of permanent adolescents. Audience familiarity and “pre-awareness” are greatly prized, so nearly all these guy-oriented movies derive from superhero comics or video games or other decades-old pop franchises. (It is, of course, possible to go too far into the pop-culture past. Let’s observe a moment of silence, once again, for“John Carter.”) We can certainly argue about which of these movies create an interesting twist on existing formula and which are cynical crap, but I don’t think we can argue that it makes much difference to the bottom line. “The Avengers” will make a kazillion dollars, and so did “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.” The differences between the two are mostly a matter of fine-grained detail; they’ve both got cartoonish male bonding, a lot of stuff blowing up, and hot-chick eye candy.
If you’re female and you’re interested in any or all of the above pictures, by the way, I apologize for making it sound as if you don’t exist. But in marketing terms, you don’t. 
[. . .] 
All of this reflects deeply ingrained social and cultural ideas about gender, which are present in people of both sexes. Maybe men’s preference for violent action yarns and women’s preference for sappy love stories — and our tendency to understand one as more “serious” than the other — are hard-wired in some biological way, although that falls a long way short of scientific truth. But despite the torrent of male-centric franchise flicks we’ll see this summer, and next summer, and for all the summers into the foreseeable future, the tide in the Hollywood gender wars has begun to shift, slightly but perceptibly.
I personally wonder if what we will see this year, next year, and further beyond are periodic interruptions by liberals of their basic enjoying of life to float out mouthy j'accuses at still-male-centric society, allowing some smaller bite, to come off themselves.  And I wonder if it was time for one such interruption to come from Andrew, and this is what actually explains why it is only in the comment section of this article that we learn why Joss Whedon's Avengers apparently wasn't permeated by Whedon's ostensibly natural female orientation, rather than for the film being in the end, mostly all Marvel.
What I am drawing upon here is not right-wing concerns, but rather that of some leftish occupiers -- Chris Hedges, specifically, as well as some of truthdig.  In "Death of the Liberal Class," Hedges challenged readers to imagine liberals as mostly being uninterested in what happens to most Americans, in actually finding them disgusting, and as having since the late '70s spent their time essentially walling themselves from them.  He contends they've actually become courtiers, a class distinct from "fellow Americans," and use "boutique" issues of race and gender to justify their privileges and relevancy while keeping the rest of America feeling suspect, probably owed their inferior place.  And so thereby life goes along comfortably, even if significant changes to American life -- the kind of stuff Hedges contends liberals once defined themselves by -- are intentionally forestalled, and democratic America comes to be increasingly pyramidic -- in accord with liberal preference.  If you're on my end, you might just indicate how much you agree with Andrew, but unless this becomes your one and only comment ever on a comment section, a brief passing by conveying no sense that you live on the web but rather are for the most part out and about on other things, though your heart will be deemed in the right place, the whole otherwise anthropology of you will keep you a jumble more than a bit comically less kept-together than he.
We are told that this essentially is Marvel's picture, not Joss Whedon's.  Personally, I wonder how someone supposedly so infused with female respect could ever not effuse his affectional ethos all over a film of his make.  If this film does indeed feel all-male, I'd encourage people to look back on his earlier works for signs of significant female discomfort that would lead him -- when such could be excused -- to ultimately seek to sublimate himself into projects where women end up shoved to the side while male concerns predominate.  A lot of men who champion women are trying to be good boys, showing their mothers their allegiance to them through their annhilating misbehaving boy-men -- their own bad boy selves.  These types always find some way to guilt-free revenge themselves for this ongoing maternal domination, though.  For Whedon, it might have been this opportunity to do damage through the excuse of following Marvel heritage.  Perhaps if this psychology holds true with Andrew, look for signs of it in the kinds of art movies he can preference which others blanche at -- ones that contain significant examples of female humiliation and torture, for example; for with art films, you could always convince yourself it was the other things that tintilated, or that the manner of the portrayal conveyed unmistakable criticism, or some such.