On Kids’ Movies, Tearfully

It’s no secret that I’m a cryer.

I have cried at Google commercials, movies, cute internet pictures, news articles….you name it. Sometimes it’s just a misty-eyed moment, and other times, it’s a full-on sob session. I can’t help it; I’m very empathetic and my weakness is adorable things.

A few weeks ago, I was babysitting my favorite 6-year old and we watched Brave. I had never seen it. It’s a lot of things, but it’s definitely a mother/daughter movie and I had reached near-Notebook levels of tears by the end. My 6-year old was very confused as to why I was sniffling on her couch watching the mom-turned-bear trying to become a human again but also survive and not lose herself to animal instincts while still being a mother.

“Why are you crying,” she asked.

Through my tears, I tried to summarize adolescence and especially parent stress, and how no matter what you do, even if you do something really stupid, they’ll still love you. I am pretty sure she thought I was completely crazy. She won’t remember that conversation, but she’ll grow up and be a teenager and it’ll all make sense.

Kids’ movies get to me. I cried at some ridiculous dolphin movie, and The Boxtrolls, and..I should just make a list, or better yet, maybe maybe a list of kids’ movies that I don’t cry while watching…that’d be so much easier.

Anyway – not the point – tonight we watched Despicable Me 2, which is such a fantastically wonderful movie. As we got to the end, and the main character (a lovely, reformed grump who adopted 3 adorable daughters and has a giant yellow entourage of incoherent helpers) is getting married to a woman with whom he’d worked on some spy work, I see my 6-year old’s head slide into my view from where she’d been behind me, brushing my hair.

She’d come to check to see if I was crying. “Not even a little bit!” I told her, slightly too proudly. She checked my face to make sure, and then giggled and went back to brushing my hair.

Wow. You know it’s bad when even the kids think that you’re probably crying.

🙂

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On the Marrow of Life, Lovely

(I don’t care that “lovely” isn’t technically an adverb. But if you were to use it as an adverb, then you would be able to attempt to encapsulate everything I’m trying to put in this post. Think of it that way. I do what I want; deal with it.)

I think I was a sophomore in high school when we read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.” At this point, I had not yet developed my hardened hatred for Hemingway  and was far more open to the literature from that time than I am now. I loved and hated the book.

At my core, I believe firmly in hopeless, foolish love. But at the same time, I recognize a situation that has no hope of ending well.  You can’t quite manage to tear your eyes away, watching the disaster unfold in front of you. It’s the compelling crash, but even as I see everything unravel, I hold out hope that there’s some way to fix it, for the characters to run off into the sunset together, happy and unburdened.

I also happen to adore Baz Luhrmann, mostly for “Romeo + Juliet”, but also “Moulin Rouge” and “Australia” — tear-jerkers, the lot of them. I’ve been meaning to go see “The Great Gatsby” but haven’t managed to find the time.

Evan came to visit me at Dairy Queen to try my roasted beets – his face was priceless, and he declared that he didn’t hate them, but I’m not sure if that was just an attempt to preemptively soothe my eager, anxious ego.

Spurred on by the wildling living inside me, I declared that I wanted night tennis (which is exactly what it sounds like); he did not. He suggested the movie; I readily agreed and plans were formed. He stayed for an hour and helped us close. Poor guy – his day off and he finds himself at work, sweeping and counting. I was thrilled, because we got out in time to make it to the last showing (11:15 PM; we’re madmen).

The theater was nearly vacant. I curled up and settled in for a long movie. It was breathtaking. I’m actually surprised that Luhrmann didn’t go for a more disconnected, surreal vibe. It obviously was, but I almost wanted more. It was elegant. I’m a sucker for Jay-Z and I loved the soundtrack. There were moments of brilliantly placed black humor.

The critics are right – we do lose some of the story through the visuals, but I think in the end, the story isn’t about the details. It’s about more than that. It transcends its own plot, as poignant and pertinent today as it was then. It speaks to experiences and heartbreak and the evils of obsession. You cannot repossess your past. There is no way to go back, no matter how hard one tries. There is only the bittersweet, hopeful march forward.

Speaking of the bittersweet, hopeful march forward, I’ve been on a journey of my own lately. It’s not bittersweet at all, it’s beautiful. The slow kindling of something into something more has created in me a warm radiance that seems so natural, I feel as though it’s always been there. It’s brimming with possibilities and the prospect of adventure.

For this, and so many other things, I am eternally grateful. I’ve been wondering Why now?, for it emerged suddenly but sweepingly, but I don’t want to wonder. I want to let this cloud of happiness swallow me whole, and I believe that’s exactly what I’m going to do. (He hates baseball and golf, too! Ugh, this is the best thing!)

We had our first book club meeting last night. The discussion was interesting, at times incomprehensible  and all around inconclusive, as I imagine every discussion about gendered communication to be. It was lovely. We sat on the porch outside, gathered around a table full of snacks, until the air grew too cool and we retired inside.

Then there was Game of Thrones. And of course, I fell asleep, warm and safe, pretending that I wouldn’t be unhappily woken by the rude intrusion of the daylight and the 4 alarms I set each night. But alas, employment called and I answered, reluctantly leaving my nest. (I won’t lie, I’m an insanely good nester. My bed consists of pillows and blankets and small bits of heaven.)

And now, I’m off to Chicago for a wedding! I always cry at weddings. I always cry at everything. The other day at Dairy Queen, a grandmother with tears in her eyes thanked me for letting them have their graduation party there, and told me how wonderful it was. And then I teared up. Because it was so sweet. She was so happy. It was just a cake. It was beautiful.

I haven’t been back to Chicago since last Memorial Day. I’m going to eat Dunkin Donuts, and touch the Bean like a tourist, and eat Portillo’s, and go to Laschet’s (or Laschet’s’z, as I call it), and stand by the lake. It’s going to be lovely. I have beautiful dresses to wear, too, so that never hurts.

Enjoy your weekend.

On Snow and the Oscars, Randomly

As Denver lay frozen under a blanket of desperately needed snow, Mike and I found ourselves both at home at the same time for the first time in quite a while. We shoveled together, him heaving shovelfuls of snow in my direction, me trying to sneak attack when he wasn’t looking. (I did manage one direct hit!)

After, I curled up on the giant bean bag and started trying to figure out how to use our new television remote. Buttons, man. A new remote is terrifying, uncharted technological territory. I feel like my grandpa, lost somewhere on Internet Explorer 6.0, errantly pushing keys and hoping something happens.

We decided to watch the Oscars, switching over to James Bond during commercial breaks. (All things James Bond make me happy. As a child, we watched all of the films, and I aspired to be the calm, suave gentleman/secret agent that he was. I realize now that I don’t have the heart for murder nor will I ever have the whole cool-under-pressure thing down – I panic and tell the truth when cornered. It’s usually a good thing, but in an MI6 situation, probably not the best.) 

The Oscars failed to hold my attention, but made me want to start making films again. In college, I hung out with a bunch of film students, so I participated in a slew of projects, from the ridiculous to the slightly more prestigious.

I had a blast – at one point, I was assisting one of my film professors with a short he was working on and I got to read with a woman who’d been in R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet videos. If you haven’t seen them, find them. Your life will be forever changed. (Not necessarily in a good way.) Film was fun, and even though I never took it as seriously as I should have, I learned a great deal.

So here’s where this is going to get oddly confessional – I get so engrossed in media. I cry at most episodes of Modern Family and The Walking Dead (it’s totally normal, I swear). That stupid, stupid Budweiser commercial with the Clydesdale from this year’s Super Bowl? Every time. It’s not even a minute long, and halfway through it, I’m looking up, furiously pretending that I’ve got something sedimentary in my eye.

I love the idea that people can communicate such an array of human experiences and emotions through film. (For the purpose of this post, it’s solely film.) Every time I see a movie in theaters (rare, but it does happen), I come out playing out my life like it’s a movie. I imagine camera angles and I begin to create the script of my life as I’m living it. This feeling lasts for about ten minutes before I think, “This is stupid,” and go about my business.

But to make films is to be able to capture elements of the soul. I think that films have helped to change and inspire, inform and educate, and most importantly, connect us all. Regardless of your feelings about the ceremonies, the starlets, and the general Hollywood problem, you must admit that at some point in your life, there was a film that touched your soul.

And then, of course, there’s Stepbrothers. I’ve yet to meet anyone who hated that movie. If community showings of Stepbrothers don’t bring us together, I’m not sure what will.

On Love, and Fall, and Family, Certainly

“The love of family and the admiration of friends is much more important than wealth and privilege.” – Charles Kuralt

Thank you, Charles.

***

Lame family-centric quotes aside, I’ve been feeling immensely grateful these past few weeks. Family is one of those things that can either be frustrating or wonderful, and I’m lucky enough to have a family that falls on the side of wonderful.

When we have dinner, we linger. We sit at the table long after the meal has ended, and I’m usually reprimanded for playing with my silverware, since I’m not one who’s mastered the concept of “still”.

My aunt from Vermont, who’s an awesome photographer – I thought her yearly Christmas book was awesome, but the facebook has allowed me to see pictures of adventures, gardening, sunsets, etc. – took pictures at the dinner we had a few weeks ago. (The one where Matt met the ENTIRE family.)

Here’s me, Matt, and my little neighbor:

This picture of my mom and brother stops me in my tracks, cracks my heart open, and makes love pour out of it. My mother and brother are not known for their willingness to engage in patient sitting for pictures, so this semi-candid shot blows my mind. My aunt has managed to capture them exactly as I see them in my mind when I imagine them. These are the faces they make during those moments when we are teasing each other about being “the worst guy” or pretending to be exasperated (sometimes it’s actual exasperation) and saying “You’re killing me, Smalls.” I am going to frame this picture.

***

Life seems to be increasingly hectic. In between all the working is the life part, and then the house-buying procedural part. This weekend was wonderful – Friday night, Matt came down to Denver and we went out to dinner, then walked and got dessert. He got to meet Jacob since we walked past the restaurant where he works. I like dinner dates with him. Somehow, it’s like we’re the only two people in the world. Interestingly enough, I’m becoming more and more self-conscious as time goes on, worried that I’m repeating myself too often, or talking too much (what’s new?), but at the same time, I’m more comfortable. It’s like we’ve been dating for years and dinners are merely a formality.

On Saturday, I worked at Dairy Queen then went to babysit, then found myself exhausted and went home. On Sunday, I worked, missed the home inspection, then drove to see Matt. He made me caprese lasagna (oh man, so good), we decorated an awesome Halloween gingerbread house, and then watched Moonrise Kingdom. 

I asked him to rub off on me with his healthy eating, so he made the lasagna with whole wheat noodles. I told him I was glad for that, and he seemed surprised. It’s not that I’m not a healthy eater, it’s just that lately, I’ve fallen into a bit of a rut as far as food goes. I’m definitely not making the healthiest choices; I can’t tell you the last time I went grocery shopping; I’m not watching my figure or anything. But I do enjoy healthy food. I don’t want to give him the impression that I’m someone who lives on McGriddles and Mountain Dew, even though right now, I totally am that guy.

Here’s the front of our house.

Halloween Haunted Gingerbread House

And here’s the back:

Spooky Haunted Gingerbread House Halloween

He got the kit at Target. I am very much enjoying his appreciation of all things Halloween. It was a nice Sunday night activity. But by far the best part of Sunday was Moonrise Kingdom.

I love Wes Anderson – he did Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, etc. – so when Matt suggested it, I was thrilled. It’s the story of young love – the two kids are about 12 – and the consequences of running away to be together. It is, for lack of better descriptive words, precious. The kids retain their innocence through their adventure, which begins with a courtship conducted entirely via letters.

They make an inventory of what she’s brought on their escape. (He’s some sort of scout, so he’s armed with all the necessary provisions.) She brings books, a record player, and a various amount of other things. It’s a very Katie Barry packing style.

When I was that age – twelve and up – I carried around everything I cared about. It was at twelve that we began taking vacations, and it was at twelve that I did not learn that you will eventually return home, and therefore don’t need to bring everything with you. I would pack two huge suitcases (this was back when you didn’t have to pay baggage fees), and I would fill them with everything, especially books.

I think I fell in love with Suzy when I saw her unpack a suitcase full of books. But I loved the purity of their young love and their determination and their struggles. You should go watch it. It will fill your soul with happiness and remind you of young love, which is something we too often neglect.

On All Intents and Purposes, Intensively

Last Friday, anticipation of our second date sang through my blood, mingling with the terror of an upcoming professional experience: my first trade show appearance. It’s simple: you go, you haul a booth, you set up said booth, then you stand in front of it (or off the side, angled close enough to be attached yet far enough away that you’re not blocking the text that you’ve so carefully crafted) and smile and answer questions about your software.

So I went. I struggled over what to wear, but decided on a loose tweed skirt, black tights, black cardigan, black flats. (Black flats were the best choice. I’m tall to begin with, and wasn’t in the mood to have my double-jointed ankles falling all over the conference.) It was perfect. I looked professional, appropriate, and blended in exactly as I wanted to.

We set up our booth. The attendees wandered through the hall. I smiled. I networked. I talked about legal software and more legal software, and I was happy. I was comfortable, the nerves were gone. At one point, an attendee came over to my table and told me that she wasn’t interested in legal software, but she thought that I was absolutely beautiful. I glowed with pleasure at the unexpected compliment. I love that legal administrators are the friendly grandmother type. It eased the nerves. Now I am one hundred percent sure I can take on lawyers, which I’m surprisingly not intimidated by at all. (That may or may not be a lie.)

It was a good day.

***

But date night was even better! Second date nerves had me throwing things all over my room, unsure of what to wear. I googled it, and one of the results said that I should have worn jeans and a cute top on the first date then upped it to a dress on the second. I rolled my eyes. In the end, I was cold, so I decided on skinny jeans, combat boots, and a gray sweater.

It was cold, dark, and snowing. I was late, but only because he was early. We ate sushi at the place by my house, and I found myself chattering nervously. After dinner, lulled into our first real extended silence, I swirled my water around in my glass and looked up at him. “Can I tell you something?” he asked. Then he told me that I terrify him, but in the best way. He compared me to a t-rex. I raised my eyebrows. Smart man that he is, he quickly assuaged my fears that I somehow resemble a lizard-like – worse, prehistoric – predator. The opposite, in fact. He is under the impression that I am radiant, intelligent, and wonderful. I’m not going to complain.

I told him about my errand-rule: you can tell a lot about a potential relationship by running errands. If doing lame but necessary things together is enjoyable and positive, then the relationship has a better chance of surviving. As it so happened, he needed to run some errands in preparation for Halloween. I was overjoyed, of course, since I find the idea utterly romantic. (Yeah, I get that it’s weird. Whatever.)

Our third date was on Sunday – a day date complete with errands, pure heaven – and it started off with bagels. Then it was off to Target in search of Halloween decorations. Since he commutes for our dates, I drove. Oh god, my car! He saw my car and didn’t leave me right then and there, so that’s got to be a good sign. We drove, and when he didn’t say anything. I started to breathe again.

Pulling into the Target parking lot, he asked me, “Have you ever seen 50/50″? I said no, but I knew what he was going to say. The car scene. Long story short: The guy gets into the girl’s car and it’s got stuff all over the floor. She’s talking and he’s like, “Pull over,” and she does, expecting him to get sick, but then he grabs stuff off her floor and goes to throw it away. She stops him and retrieves her dinner from the pile. It’s cute. When Katie first told me about the car scene in the movie, she ended the story with, “There’s still hope for us!” meaning that someone would still love us even though our cars are messy. She was right.

After two different Targets (when you need a furry spider with orange lights for your wall, you NEED a furry spider with orange lights for your wall), plenty of Halloween decorations and a pair of socks, and a viewing of the movie “Frankenweenie” – during which I cried twice because dogs and kids get me every time – we found ourselves in City Park, wandering.

City Park fall

Autumn in the park is beautiful. He gets credit for this photo, since I am nowhere near that talented a photographer. I wish he’d gotten one with my actual smile instead of my satisfied-but-haven’t-yet-broken-into-a-smile smile. But alas, the more I look at this picture, the more I like it.

This feels different, but in a good way. It’s intense and familiar. I know that I’m prone to leaping into things with both feet, but this is something I’m simultaneously leaping into and dipping just one big toe into. I want to make sure it’s right before going any further, except the more we discuss, the more I find we share. I am examining our motives for seeking out the companionship of another, questioning everything, basking in the newness of it all, and glowing, for no reason other than sometimes you just need to let the light through. The only way to know if it’s right is to forge on and build fierce memories. Fierce, like a t-rex.

On "The Help"

I have not had time to really read a book from start to finish in a long time.

Instead, I do what I normally do: start a book, read about a hundred and fifty pages, and set it down. I’ll start another book, then pick up that first book and finish it, or at least get a little further, and then repeat the cycle.
Pretty soon I’m halfway through about five books and finished with none.
One of my co-workers lent me the book “The Help.”
And so, with recently atypical abandon, I went to town on that book. Literally devoured it. I read nearly three hundred pages the first night.
The movie comes out today, and the blogosphere is up in arms about the racist-ness of the movie.
I’m rolling my eyes. Not because I’m a white bitch, but because I read something totally different in the book. Of course, it might be that I’m always wearing my feminism lenses.
Here’s the article that basically sums up a lot of the backlash: Why I’m Just Saying No to The Help
Before I begin, let me note that I don’t think the author of the article read the book.
Her refusal to see the movie is based on a whole bunch of other things – like people’s opinions and their reviews of the movie.
That’s all fine, but it strikes me as interesting that people are so quick to label this movie as one of those white-people-reinforcing sort of deals. Like, “oh, let’s take pity on the blacks. Those poor blacks, where would they be without us whites?”
Bullshit.
We’re so over-critical these days. We’re hot on the lawsuits, quick to jump to a conclusion, way less forgiving, and super focused on political correctness.
This book was not like the “Blind Side,” as some are claiming. By the way, how would the story of Michael Oher have been a different one had it not been framed by his race?
(Don’t get me wrong, there are serious race issues still in play today. And there are still a disproportionate number of under-educated, underemployed blacks. Expectations and cultural disparities exist. The prevailing attitudes and undercurrents are still not about equality. But that’s not always the case. And we can’t always revert to that rule – in my opinion, that sort of thinking helps perpetuate the oppression, self-inflicted or not.)
This book was about women. It was narrated by three women, two black and one white. They each had a ton of shit to deal with. The white one is college-educated but unmarried. That’s sort of a problem, since all of her upper-crust friends are married and having kids left and right. There is an educational disconnect here – Skeeter, the unmarried one, is more ambitious as a result of having finished college.
Her two friends are more obsessed with social standing that social justice.
That’s not to say that Skeeter herself is interested in social justice, she happens to stumble upon it and then grow into it as the story progresses. Her interests in writing the book about the black experience stem from her desire to attain legitimacy in the eyes of Ms. Stein, a New York-based editor.
The black women are so badass. There’s a woman who’s got five kids, a serious attitude, and an abusive husband. At the end of the book (SPOILER ALERT) – she’s leaving her husband. She’s more secure in her position than ever – granted, she’s still a maid, so there was really no upward mobility, but at least she has the gratitude and respect of the people she’s working for.
The other one has lost a son, is constantly fretting about money (who isn’t?), and is deeply attached to the white babies she’s raising. And it’s so fulfilling when the white child colors herself black in school, starts to identify the black woman as her mother, and then starts to play Rosa Parks with her younger brother and then lies to her father about who taught her all of those things. The maid has been telling them stories about Martian Luther King, the alien who didn’t fit in with the humans because he was green.
Aww, heartwarming as that all is, it’s also heartbreaking. There is violence directed at people in the movie, stories of horrible things done by the whites, stories of how hard life is for the blacks.
I guess for the first time, it really hit me that my grandparents were adults by the time that the Civil Rights Movement rolled around. That my mom was entering adolescence.
But that’s not my point:
This book is about women.
The men play supporting roles. They manage to dominate their women while at the same time being absolutely dominated. Leroy beats his wife. Johnny supports his even though she’ll never be able to carry a baby. The Senator’s son dumps Skeeter for her progressive views, god forbid. The socialite queen of the town runs her husband and supports his going-to-fail campaign for government.
It’s about being over-dependent on a husband. It’s about not having a future without one. It’s about upper-class misery, dependency on popularity, isolation.
It’s about women on their own. In the end, there are no love matches for the three. Skeeter’s lost her fiance, Minny’s dumped her good-for-nothing abusive drunk husband, and Aibileen hasn’t had one in a long time – her husband left her when their child was no more than a baby. They are independent, strong, driven women.
They are united in that.
They each have different goals to reach. It’s not one of those, “all the ends are so neatly tied up” sort of deals.
The book highlights the struggles faced by single women, shows the oppression of marriage – the social pressures and expectations from parents, children, family, friends. It also shows the power of community.
While it may not paint the most accurate picture of life in 1960s Jackson, Mississippi, I think it does a damn good job at reminding us that we’ve come a long way. We’ve still got a ways to go with both racism and feminism, but the battle is moving forward.
So read the book and get back to me. I’m going to go see the movie and let you know.