Brief Thoughts on Open-heartedness

Slowly but surely, I am settling into a deeper sense of believing and trusting in my own inner truth while simultaneously holding a deepening compassion for others who do not seem to understand where I’m coming from. This includes a few with whom I share some close, old history (i.e., my parents). I have found that the maturation of the psyche/soul takes quite a long while. Only just yesterday did I remind myself, yet again, that what I most value– next to and along with beauty– is to live with an open heart to the world and everyone in it. It’s a tall order but so worth striving for.

Thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Over time, I have grown more and more grateful for MLK, Jr. and his deep, visionary thinking. We are still as a society working on catching up with him, towards manifesting, slowly but surely– in a three steps forward, two steps backward kind of way– his beautiful dream.

I embrace his overall philosophy and feel freshly sad today that Dr. King’s life was cut so short. America and the world lost a great soul and thinker.

Mini Movie Review (THE BAT)

Last night, I rewatched the wonderful 1959 murder mystery B movie THE BAT, which I first saw around 2005. Agnes Moorehead was grand and full of life as a 50-something mystery writer with her devoted maid and (very likely) life partner, played by Lenita Lane. Vincent Price added more scenery chewing fun to the cast as a shady country doctor. I enjoyed how the main characters were not young and pretty, but, rather, middle aged and colorful. The storyline was simple and unoriginal, about a killer on the loose in a small, rural town. But, Ms. Moorehead, Ms. Lane, Mr. Price, and the men who played the butler (John Sutton) and the detective (Gavin Gordon) all acted superbly to the point of making the story quite secondary in importance. If you like old-time theatrical, chutzpah-filled acting, THE BAT is a great movie to watch on a cold winter night.

Movie Review (AQUAMAN)

The movie AQUAMAN should be re-titled SCHLOCKUAMAN or AQUA SCHLOCK. I saw the film to keep up with the whole story arc of the on-screen DC universe, since I do especially like and care about Wonder Woman and Superman. But, I found this movie covering the back story of Aquaman filled with way too bright and often sloppy CGI, which ended up giving the production an overall kitschy and tacky look. One group of Atlantean soldiers wore plastic-appearing suits that seemed to be taken right from a cheap toy set for children. Yet more kitsch.  Leading woman Princess Mera’s artificial cherry red hair fit right in with the rest of the scenery– all rather irritating.

Pacing was jarring to say the least, frenetic action constantly occurring with little to no meaningful build up of tension and character development. Even the music was uninteresting, being overly-synthed in places and lacking any catchy, memorable tune.  The script was unoriginal and often poorly written. A throw-away line said by Aquaman to Mera (Amber Heard) stands out: “You could have just peed on it.” How puerile and dumb. I’m not a Jason Momoa fan, though I have nothing against him. That said, his character of Arthur Curry/Aquaman is nothing but a muscle head/strong man with interesting tattoos. There is no depth of character delivered via any remarkable acting talent. No one in the story was particularly compelling or endearing to me. Everyone was pretty much two-dimensional.

AQUAMAN was yet another white-washed screenplay in terms of diversity. The only African American characters in the entire movie are a father-son duo of ruthless, cruel villains. As if black men haven’t been portrayed enough already as mainly either bad guys or mere supporting roles in blockbuster movies (BLACK PANTHER still being an exception, as great a film as that is). Okay, so Aquaman’s father, Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison), is played by a man of Maori and Scottish-Irish background and Jason Momoa himself is half Hawaiian. Randall Park, of Korean American descent, plays a nerdy guest scientist on TV newscasts in a few scenes. But, this small handful of non-white and part-white roles still felt token. Some were “safely” diluted with whiteness (including Momoa), and others were largely stereotyped, namely that of black men being brutish and cruel/evil and Asians being smart and awkward (nerdy). As for women of color, they do not appear to exist in the film– minus a dark-skinned female newscaster in one very brief scene from what I can recall.

I felt embarrassed for Nicole Kidman (as Queen Atlanna, mother of Aquaman) showing up in this expensive piece of trash. Is she that desperate for money and/or exposure these days? I’m wondering if she made sure to ask for extra pay just for having to walk about with matted, semi-dreadlocked hair in one scene. It didn’t work on Ms. Kidman at all.

I did enjoy one of Princess Mera’s court costumes and hairstyles and the underwater seahorses some of the Atlanteans rode upon. These few nice images were like finding bits of gold mixed here and there within a stack of junk metal and plastic. And Aquaman’s eventual costume of green and gold does look good on him. Finally, he cleaned up well, after being rather skanky looking throughout most of the show. At one point, his malodorousness is directly referred to. Lovely.  Hopefully, Aquaman also smelled much better towards the end, when he changed his outfit. However, I’m thinking the leading man’s stench is actually a purposeful reference to the quality of the movie. You never know.

Movie Review (MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS)

I very much enjoyed the movie MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS. The script was tightly written with much intrigue. I found the acting impeccable, which is what you can often expect with a cast of largely British Isles raised and trained actors.

I have long considered Queen Elizabeth I and her cousin Mary to be interesting, tragic figures in history. Queen Mary’s dilemma of being an ambitious woman in a time and place governed by men in every sphere was made heart-felt and immediate by the frequent closeups and claustrophobic, dark interior scenes throughout the film. Outside shots of Scotland’s beautiful yet spare countryside underscored the sense of isolation and emotional desolation Mary and her cousin Elizabeth surely experienced during their adult lives as female monarchs in a time of such misogyny and ongoing patriarchy.

Large-scale organized religion is mainly presented in the movie as a means of social control over the masses. Mary, being Catholic and a woman determined to think for herself– as she is portrayed in this screenplay at least– is villainized by Scottish Protestant Reformers, an official leader of them in the film referring to her as a “harlot” and other sexual insults. So while Scotland and England had broken free of the behemoth Catholic Church, another religion simply took its place to dictate human thought and behavior. I thought of American right wing evangelicals of today while watching the fire and brimstone preacher pillory Mary and agitate for revolt. In many ways, modern industrialized societies haven’t changed much since 1600s Britain.

Implications about gender and sexuality are believably explored in the movie, with Queen Elizabeth explicitly identifying more as a man than a woman, given that she chose not to marry (which would mean giving up most if not all of her power), did not bear any children, and lost much of her physical beauty after surviving small pox. She basically becomes a caricature of femininity, a drag queen, with her wearing of wigs, white makeup (to cover facial scarring), and grand dresses and jewelry. Identity-wise, all that is left for her is to be a ruler over a thriving kingdom that takes her seriously, like a king.

On the other hand, Mary’s path is less clear and more fraught, given that she is beautiful, clearly fertile, and enters a comparably less stable kingdom than England to rule. And this after being raised elsewhere (France) in a different culture and religion. The movie conveys that old Scottish culture was stark and had less appreciation for continental, soft, artistic sensibilities, as represented by Queen Mary’s gay, cross dressing Italian minstrel she keeps among her ladies in waiting. Like Mary, musician David Rizzio (Ismael Cruz Cordova) does not fit in though tries to within such a precarious context. Rizzio embodies and affirms Mary’s own softness, sensuality, and emotionality, her femininity (as understood in the old traditional sense), while she must quickly harden up for a traditionally masculine leadership role over a country. Mary’s complexity is a believable mix of both soft and hard, the masculine and feminine, fluid and so human really, conveyed through her willful determination to have power over others at all costs while also valuing music, spirituality, and close relationships. Aside from ruling, the young queen’s immediate priorities are God via an unwavering Catholic devotion, her treasonous half brother, her handsome but self-serving and sexually conflicted husband, the devoted and talented Rizzio (the only man around who– though a feminine man– seems to truly love her as a person), her ladies in waiting, her cousin Queen Elizabeth, and, finally, her motherhood (albeit brief) to Prince James. He would later be the king to unite both Scotland and England, fulfilling a deep wish for the Queen of Scots. Mary clearly has a lot on her mind at all times, for which a sense of androgyny comes in handy.

Twenty-four-year-old Irish American actress Saoirse Ronan portrays Mary Queen of Scots with deep mastery. Margot Robbie plays the comparably more hardened Queen Elizabeth just as capably. I could not think of a single actor who was less than stellar in this movie.

I appreciated the downplay of blood-letting and lack of overall violence shown throughout. If you are someone who must have gore and battle scenes, this film is not for you. Emotional expression and conflicting motivations are the primary arc of movement over the entire narrative. There is no reliance on extreme displays of aggression except where doing so cannot be avoided in order to further the storyline. Such action occurs with economy and thought, which is hard to come by in a lot of cinema these days. I highly recommend MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS, especially if you enjoy period dramas.