I know all too well what it’s like to survive sexual and mental-emotional predation, which saps the spirit at its core. Far too many of us in the world have endured such abuse in one (or more) form or another. It is my life’s work to help others leave and heal from predatory behaving people, avoid falling into exhibiting such toxic behaviors then often learned from said individuals, and live lives more filled with peace, love, joy and healthy reciprocal relationships. So mote it be!
SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (released in December of 2021) is the latest installment of Marvel Studios’ and Columbia Pictures’ Spider-Man series, within and part of a larger arc of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). The movie has been one of the most financially successful (make of that what you will) mainstream studio productions to date. British pretty boy actor Tom Holland continues to portray American high school student Peter Parker/Spider-Man with a sunny disposition and wholesome sincerity that I appreciate. His enthusiasm, emotional sensitivity, and well-meaning naivete come through again, with the actress Zendaya (Holland’s real life girlfriend) affirming these qualities of his through her role as Michelle Jones-Watson (mainly called MJ), Parker’s love interest. For my taste, the on-hand funny quips to criminals and police officers could have been laid on even thicker by Holland’s Parker to better match Stan Lee’s comic book character creation’s way of speaking that I remember fondly reading while a child in the 1970s. But, I’m not complaining. Holland is so naturally adorable, offering up the lightest movie portrayal of the daring web-slinger in comparison to his two predecessors, Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. And in such a historical time of social upheaval and chaos, this unique screen presence of grounded, sincere, yet bubbly lightness is exactly what I need for good, fun cinematic escape. Let other tights-wearing crimefighters, such as Batman and Wolverine, be the dark tortured souls. Spidey is a likable, innocent-hearted, fun-loving kid– even though and in spite of experiencing more than his share of loss and alienation. Refreshing.
This latest Spider-Man story, which picks up right where its 2019 prequel SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME leaves off, is largely unremarkable and formulaic. In order to clear his name from being both exposed to the world as Spider-Man and wrongly slandered for murder and other misdeeds by the recently defeated criminal Quentin Beck (Jacob Gyllenhaal), Peter Parker enlists the help of the mighty sorcerer superhero Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). As has occurred in many science fiction/fantasy films and TV shows, the big plot device is to change the past somehow so that the present and future are different for the protagonist and, by extension, everyone else. Often, for example, a time machine of some sort is used or a divine being, such as an angel (think of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, which still gets aired on TV around Christmastime, I imagine), steps in and uses magic. In this case, it’s the impatient and authority-wielding Dr. Strange who is to be that convenient change agent via having all people forget that Peter Parker is Spider-Man– with a few exceptions. The spell Dr. Strange casts gets bungled because of Peter’s repeatedly interrupting him to fine-tune/modify his request. There are some cute, mildly amusing exchanges between Spidey and Dr. Strange, eliciting associations in our own lives so many of us viewers have of witnessing an older, condescending authority figure chastising a younger underling. In any case, this bungling mysteriously opens portals of two other universes between them and the one in which Tom Holland’s Peter Parker exists, thereby introducing us the audience to the “multiverse.” That’s where the fun begins, particularly when the two other Peter Parkers/Spider-Mans show up.
I had vaguely heard that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield would reprise their roles in this movie, but, honestly, I wasn’t sure. Five actors also reprise their super villain roles from earlier Spider-Man movies, making this latest show a reunion fest of sorts. Maguire’s quiet and pensive Peter Parker of three Spider-Man movies between 2002 and 2007 gets to dialogue with Garfield’s especially insecure and comparatively less defined but more overtly sorrowful Parker. These two men’s brief exchange shortly before the final fight scenes against the powerful antagonists had me smiling and laughing, such as when Maguire’s Parker repeatedly tells Garfield’s that he is “amazing,” a blatant reference to the latter actor’s starring in two “Amazing Spider-Man” films in 2012 and 2014. Such self consciousness of writing whereby a movie acknowledges and jokes about itself can be witty and clever or fall flat. Fortunately, the decent script writing in this instance and terrific, tongue-in-cheek delivery by Maguire and Garfield make for great entertainment and some moments of uniqueness in an otherwise cliche-filled story. Those handful of minutes– along with other brief, funny bits of dialogue and warm affection expressed between the three Peters — wonderfully stand out within a nearly two-and-a half-hour film. However, and in addition, the sweet, heart-felt chemistry between Tom Holland and Zendaya elicited my inner romantic, which cast a pleasant feel-good mood over this generally routine spectacle of action cinema. Finally, worth mentioning among the mind-numbing handful of CGI-enhanced super villains, Willem Dafoe adds a big dose of fun camp as the sinister, over-the-top Norman Osborn/Green Goblin. His demonic, dramatic face is fabulously Medieval.
I’m glad I waited to rent the movie to stream on my TV instead of needlessly raising my anxiety over risking Covid-19 exposure to watch it on a big screen. This was not that great a movie by any means. But, then, no movie is worth me going through such extra stress these days. Besides, I paused it often to take assorted breaks. As I age, I more appreciate the practical control that comes with having a remote on hand over passively watching moving pictures on a large screen, all encompassing that that so often is. For something lost, there’s something else gained.
It’s become so clear to me how I’ve spent much of my life running away– avoiding, escaping, surviving. Now, more and more, I’m committed to arriving and being present in the good life I’ve co-created with a wonderful husband in a safe, cozy home, and from within a relatively healthy body I continue to learn to better care for. Life is good. There’s no need to run anymore.
Queer filmmaker Bruce LaBruce’s quirky and sexy indie movie GERONTOPHILIA (2013) stars the beautiful, sensual Pier-Gabriel Lajoie as Lake, a French Canadian in his late teens who is sexually attracted to elderly men. I was not expecting much, so felt pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying this cinema gem of sweetness. Lake and his stylin’, old queen love interest, Marvin Peabody (Walter Borden), meet in a nursing home. They soon exude a believable emotional chemistry. I cared for both of them.
There is one disturbing dream sequence that left me wondering what LaBruce and his cowriter of the screenplay (Daniel Allen Cox) were thinking, but it did not taint my feelings for the characters.
The acting quality by many of the supporting cast members leaves much to be desired. However, this did not damage the production’s overall effectiveness for me, thanks to the sincere and compelling portrayals by Lajoie and Borden and the mostly succinct, riveting storyline.
If you like off-beat films about love and the human condition, this might be of interest to watch.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.