Mini Movie Review (THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS)

THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS (or what I’ve renamed THE MATRIX NON-ERECTIONS) was ridiculous and progressively lame with its self consciously making fun of itself unevenly mixed in with an often earnest narrative. Keanu Reeves as Neo, the protagonist, looked tired and miserable, which mirrored my own sense of weariness over this emotionally hollow, pointlessly action-packed movie. I could not help but wonder if, like his character, Reeves felt reluctant to be in such a nonsensical drama.

Neil Patrick Harris was increasingly annoying as a deceitful, smug psychiatrist, the Analyst, who controls much of what goes on in the Matrix.

I found myself not caring about the characters and overproduced CGI visuals of the film’s portrayal of a heavily mechanized dystopian future, from out of which the computer created world of illusion, the Matrix, exists. I can see why one of the two Wachowski sisters, both of who wrote and created the first three MATRIX movies, had nothing to do with making this fourth— and hopefully final— installment. The series ran its creative course by the third movie. I suppose this is ultimately an infomercial for the latest MATRIX video game. Ah, what still gets made anyway in hopes of squeezing out more profit from an idea and concept run dry.

Mini Movie Review (WEST SIDE STORY, the 2021 remake)

I finally watched Stephen Spielberg’s new remake of WEST SIDE STORY. To my surprise, I was very moved and impressed with the whole production. The acting, singing, and dancing were all top notch and the overall look of the movie felt believably 1950s vintage. There was just enough tweaking to properly update the story for our times, such as having a female-to-male trans character trying to join the Jets. I didn’t think I’d care so much about dramatis personae from out of this already long-done musical, but I very much cared and even found the viewing experience fresh and vibrant. Go figure.

Movie Review (SECRET ADMIRER)

When I was a teenager in the 1980s, I didn’t have much interest in romcoms, even the ones with adorable teen heart throbs like C. Thomas Howell, who’s my same age. I was too occupied keeping up with all the fantasy/sci-fi and (to a lesser extent) action blockbusters. Now, nearly four decades later, I finally watched SECRET ADMIRER, which originally came out in 1985, the year after I graduated from high school. At the time, I filed this movie away into my “to someday see” list in the back of my mind. With my tastes in assorted art media having softened and expanded with age, I find myself pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable this light, funny, and heartfelt film is. It has held up well with time because of a cohesive, easy to follow storyline with non-stop humor and an underlying innocence that is both refreshing and comfortingly escapist in such especially strained and trying times.

For me, SECRET ADMIRER evokes big-time nostalgia about living near Los Angeles in the 1980s where I wore clothes and hairstyles like the young guys in this movie, which takes place in LA. I found myself wondering if the high school at the beginning of the film was Santa Monica High, where my sister went in the early to mid 1990s. Neighborhoods and streets looked familiar. And C. Thomas Howell, the star of this often delightfully silly production, brought me right back to those moments I secretly lusted over him while doing my best to go about the business of school, work, and enduring an awkward, queer youth of loneliness, navigating a sprawling metropolis I hadn’t grown up in. Talk about a little time warp. Dee Wallace Stone (of E.T. and CUJO), who plays Howell’s character’s mother, is another 80s screen icon for me, pleasantly appealing. And then there’s a handful of other thespians in the cast, whose names continue to elude me as they did back then but whose faces are comfortably familiar like, well, several blocks of Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica or the Santa Monica Pier (which does not appear in the film, though some section/s of Wilshire might).

The plot is nothing particularly original: love triangle with many supporting characters, who offer lots of comedic moments. Boy (Howell) has a crush on a superficial blonde girl (Kelly Preston), whose good friend (Lori Laughlin) is also best friends with said boy. One of the two females leaves an unsigned love note in the locker of this boy and all sorts of misunderstandings and intrigue humorously ensue. Both the boy’s and blonde girl’s parents get drawn into the narrative as the love note makes its way around via being stashed in different belongings that travel to other places, where it is systematically read by supporting characters. A few other unsigned love notes get written, which keep the intrigue and various jealousies going. Finally and predictably, order and old balance between the players are restored and true love prevails.

At the end of a busy work week, I loved this feel-good fare– wholesome, pleasant comfort food for my eyes and brain. If you came of age in the 1980s and grew up in or near a large city (bonus points if it was LA or nearby), it’s possible you’ll especially enjoy this sweet, benign film, which was a walk down Memory Lane for me.

Brief Thoughts on the Mexican-American War and U.S. History

The Mexican-American War (April 25th, 1846-Feb. 2nd, 1848), provoked by U.S. troops on Mexican soil (now in Texas, if I read Howard Zinn correctly), was covered so briefly in my U.S. History classes, which I find both pathetic and appalling. What an enormous, awful mess, as all war is. It was just another example of an empire ruthlessly expanding on the backs of soldiers and innocent civilians, in this case Mexicans especially but also economically disenfranchised Americans (e.g., family members and friends of soldiers, themselves largely disenfranchised).

I humbly admit that, as a preteen and teenager, my interest in U.S. History was virtually nonexistent, sadly. I’m glad that has long since changed. The whitewashing and abridgement of whole chunks of America’s history, which appear to only be ratcheting up in several if not likely all– to varying degrees– state school systems, is deeply concerning. There are so many people who, like defiant children sticking their fingers in their ears and shouting and kicking at anyone sharing painful but relevant information, do not want our collective history known. Heaven forbid we actually learn from the past and grow from it.

Mini Movie Review (TO SIR, WITH LOVE)

To wind down from the work week and honor the recently deceased Sidney Poitier, I watched TO SIR, WITH LOVE (1967), which I last saw in 1983 on a little black and white TV. While Mr. Poitier was elegant, beautiful, and poised, as he always comes across on screen, this script was sadly dated in places and largely idealized fantasy. Mr. Poitier’s character’s slut shaming comments and sexist remarking about the importance of makeup for women had me cringing inside. And the sudden conversion of the rough, inner city students into devotees to their teacher (Poitier) was, well, verging on silly. That said, such an unrealistic, feel good story was just what I needed, like eating comfort food, but in this case for my eyes and brain. What was believable were all the women in the film— be they passengers on a bus, students, and a few other teachers— who all found darling Sidney’s character very attractive. He was easy on the eyes and listening to his pleasant voice and laugh felt soothing. The movie was a good excuse to showcase a particularly gorgeous, graceful person, where nothing else really mattered (even though this is ethically, politically neglectful). Sometimes I just need a dose of 1960s superficiality. Lulu’s singing the adorable, wholesome title song and the British setting and supporting cast were all lovely bonuses.

Professional-Personal Sea Change

Every so many years, I go through some intense period of professional growth which inevitably intertwines with my personal growth. The last time I felt this kind of sea change happening in my life was when I trained in Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy from Sept., 2012 (starting on my birthday) to May, 2014. Now, it’s occurring again for me while embarking on wholeheartedly learning Brainspotting (BSP) therapy. This time, the growth feels faster, while learning IFS, also intense at times, was comparatively more gradual. In between was getting taught EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) in 2017, which felt like a great augmentation to IFS yet its own powerful, technical tool. I did not feel a sense of collective enthusiasm and community around EMDR like there is with IFS and BSP.

It is awakening and buoying to my spirit to join another wave of something so transformative, a form of healing art that truly exists for the greater good. While I’m admittedly very tired from all this learning and application of something new, it’s a good tired.

Making Amends and Getting a Lukewarm Response

Last night, I was feeling a little vulnerable. After three decades of no contact with someone I’d met in college and coming across him on Facebook fairly recently, I just made amends for my problematic, hot/cold treatment of him when I was a lot younger and comparatively less wise and compassionate than I am now. Some days later (yesterday), he accepted my apologies but drew a boundary with fully resuming the friendship we once had, which had faded off through time and distance. However, he did leave a slight opening by indicating his current intention to maintain a very limited connection with me on Facebook may change, won’t necessarily remain “never” with having more contact. I certainly respect his wishes and told him so. Still, I felt a bit disappointed and vulnerable/exposed after reaching out and making amends, which I solidly feel was the right thing to do. Clearly, a part of me was hoping for a more open-hearted response, even though the reply I did get was ultimately fair, reasonable, and one that perhaps hints at trust of me by this other party needing to be rebuilt over time.

Why I Cherish Having a Home

I just completed an interesting memory and writing exercise, which was to list all the places I’ve lived in my lifetime. The total number is forty-five. This does not include a few months-long periods of homelessness (by my parents’ choice, never out of forced necessity) during my childhood while we traveled about, staying in friends’ homes, youth hostels, camp grounds, inns, a thatched roof hut, and even one overnight on the front door area to a priest’s house/rectory in Central America. It is no wonder I especially value the stability of hearth and home so so much.

Movie Review (SPENCER)

The movie SPENCER, starring Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana about five years before her tragic death, is purposefully claustrophobic, ponderous, and angst-ridden. The sound track underscores this overarching mood theme as the music creatively transitions in and out of being melodious classical to gentle jazz to cacophonous, irritating jazz before looping back to classical and so on. This effectively brought me the viewer into Diana’s troubled state of mind. Frequent closeups emphasize a sense of the heroine’s longing for intimacy and understanding from people in a family who largely have no clue about either. In this frigid relational desert, she finds an oasis of genuine connection with her two young sons and her favorite dresser (movingly played by Sally Hawkins from THE SHAPE OF WATER), a woman carrying a secret of her own. The result is a somewhat uneven, occasionally forced, narrative that takes place from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day at Sandringham House with the British Royal Family.

The Princess is clearly an outsider experiencing life with her in-laws as imprisoning and invalidating so much so that she feels driven to the edge of madness. Ms. Stewart performs excellently with what she is given to work with here, which sometimes is over-the-top melodrama and histrionics, while other times is compelling melancholy and sympathetic frustration and rage. The interiors of wherever this was filmed, which may actually have been Sandringham House, are exquisite. The physical coldness of the place, which Diana and her sons often make reference to, is an extension of the Royal family’s perpetual emotional iciness as well as that of a scowling, skulking old servant (an equerry, powerfully played by Timothy Spall) who is charged with keeping Diana on schedule and generally in line.

The acting by all the supporting players is superb, as British casts so often are. I felt proud of dear Ms. Stewart holding her own with all the talent around her. She clearly continues to hone her craft, and most certainly so with playing the tragic heroine trope.

This is a movie one needs to be in the right mood/head space for, especially for viewers who are used to constant on-screen action and/or rom com light fare. This is art house (or tries to be) psychological (melo)drama, and some of us like that sort of thing now and then.

Mini Book Review and Rant (DUNE by Frank Herbert)

I never could get into Frank Herbert’s modern classic sci-fi novel DUNE, though I sure tried. I find his writing to be overly-earnest and lacking a focused elegance that, say, J.R.R. Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy conveys. And Tolkien’s work often expresses a lyrical levity, balanced with all that narrative’s seriousness. Yes, LoTR, like DUNE, is indeed heterosexist but not then also grossly homophobic like Herbert’s novel and its sequels so endemically are. Regardless of this “apples vs. oranges” comparison some may feel I am unfairly making here, I have come to accept that it’s not a reflection on me somehow “missing something” over not being able to fully appreciate DUNE, including all of the movie and TV adaptations. It is simply a cumbersome, tedious writing style and universe with some sensibilities that are not at all simpatico with who I am, but, rather, actually crassly insult who I am.