Mini Movie Review (Pasolini’s ARABIAN NIGHTS and THE DECAMERON) and Who I Personally Associate with Pasolini

I’ve been meaning for the longest time to watch some Pasolini movies, so I started with ARABIAN NIGHTS (1974) and THE DECAMERON (1971), which was by far the better of the two. I enjoyed the lush cinematography (especially in THE DECAMERON), costumes, and unvarnished sensuality the most about these two productions. THE DECAMERON contained more memorable humorous moments than ARABIAN NIGHTS did.

I intend to watch Pasolini’s productions of MEDEA (1969), starring Maria Callas, OEDIPUS REX (1967), and TEOREMA (1968) someday. I will probably eventually watch THE CANTERBURY TALES (1972) too. That will probably be enough for me with viewing Pasolini’s work. I think I’ll stay away from his sadistic final movie SALO (1975), which, some years ago, precipitated a mental breakdown of a young man I knew shortly after he’d watched it.

Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975) was an old flame of mine’s favorite filmmaker. I think he especially liked SALO, which he voluntarily referred to in at least two conversations with me, many years ago. In other respects, along the lines of why he seemed to enjoy the darker elements of Pasolini films, he also had some disturbingly warped views and tastes, such as a shameless pedophilia, which contributed to why I ultimately left him.

It’s interesting how watching some old movies can bring one to a different and/or enhanced perspective over memories of people, places, and situations.

Mini Movie Review (NOPE)

NOPE was the dope…until the hokey ending. I enjoyed the acting and found the four main characters interesting and likable. The movie’s cinematography was beautiful and there were some effectively creepy and suspenseful moments. Imagery and dialogue were often clever and creative. There was a lot of humor, much of it quite dark— all chuckle evoking. But, the very ending’s action and imagery did not match the quality of the rest of the production, leaving me with a deflated sense of “nope.” Ah, well.

Brief Thoughts on Brainspotting and IFS

Some nine plus months into doing Brainspotting (BSP) with most of my clients and experiencing healing from it for myself, I’ve noticed how BSP allows more space and focus for processing of, well, anything– more than any other treatment approach I’ve learned thus far.

I do find that Internal Family Systems (IFS) continues to be my main framework or lens through which I view my clients and their challenges. However, BSP facilitates faster processing for people with their true Selves and inner parts. This synthesis of approaches has led me to feel more effective as a psychotherapist while many of my clients get faster positive results in their treatment.

Mini Book Review (THE ORACLE OF MARACOOR by Gregory Maguire)

I breezed through this brand new second book of author Gregory Maguire’s trilogy ANOTHER DAY. He has expanded his Oz universe to include this new series, which takes place across the ocean from Oz in a land called Maracoor. Last year’s prequel, THE BRIDES OF MARACOOR, picked right up from the conclusion of the fourth and final book in THE WICKED YEARS. Maguire continues to be nimble with words, including with description, imagery, and dialogue. This is good, solid fun.

My Proposal for Federal Term Limits

I say term limits for all federal level political offices, set up in this way:

SCOTUS- One 12 year term, with the requirement that a justice retires by 70 years of age (which is the case for Massachusetts SJC justices). This means that, if a judge is older than 58 when appointed, their term will be shorter than 12 years. (Just think, Justice Thomas would have been gone from the bench over four years ago already.)

All other federal justices- One 12 year term, with the possibility of 70 years age of retirement requirement as well.

U.S. Senators- Two 6 year terms, then no more time in the Senate.

U.S. Representatives- Five or six terms of 2 years each, then no more time in the House.

U.S. President- Leave term limits as is. I used to think of changing this office to being one 6 year term, but now I think otherwise. Having Trump in office for another two years would have been that much more disastrous. Let voters continue to decide if a president should have a second 4 year term.

If someone wins a special election during mid term of a newly deceased or outgoing senator or representative, that remaining time counts as a whole term. No tagging on an extra partial term to a whole 10 or 12 years of term limits.

Add at least a four year lag time rule for how soon a former U.S. senator or rep. can join a lobbying firm after leaving office, if they are allowed to join one at all.

Short of implementing a Constitutional amendment for all of the above to be enshrined into law, I don’t think there is any other way to make these changes happen. Still, I like to dream.

Hot Mess Christian Walker

My impression of the physically adorable looking Christian Walker, one of the GOP U.S. Senate candidate’s (for GA) Herschel Walker’s children, is that he’s pretty mixed up inside. He’s out as gay but hates Queer pride. And he passionately supports Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a man he says he “loves.” Hmm, me thinks I detect some self hatred going on here. Well, after his life being “destroyed” (Christian’s own description) by his absent, narcissistic (my added descriptor) father, along with whatever else he grew up enduring, no wonder why this cute kid comes across as a hot mess. All that expression of beauty and joie de vivre is being so misguided and misdirected, imho.

I hope Christian Walker gets some serious psychotherapy and/or other kinds of life interventions that wake him the hell up. I empathize with and hold compassion for his hurt and rage at his absentee and lying parent. But, similar to his unhinged dad, Christian appears to be in the throes of a narcissistically driven political media frenzy. Sure, he’s young and on a journey to find out who he is. However, what an unmindful, hurtful way he’s doing so out on social media. Others’ lives (such as queer lives, including the true wellbeing of his own) are in the crosshairs of this obnoxiously manufactured culture war Christian has appeared to join the wrong side of. I guess this is yet another example of how apples don’t fall far from the tree. So sad.

Movie Review (I MISS YOU WHEN I SEE YOU)

Hong Kong-based film director Simon Chung’s I MISS YOU WHEN I SEE YOU (2018) riveted me from start to finish. Other than some early scenes set in Australia, the film takes place in Hong Kong. The narrative moves gracefully between flashbacks in secondary school and the present time, about eleven years later, of two best friends, Kevin Fong (Jun Li) and Jamie (Bryant Mak). Impressive acting and writing carries this tension-filled story along to an emotion-laden ending that left me feeling tired but relieved.

Kevin has long been in love with his best friend Jamie. He suffers from major depression to the point of him requiring psychiatric care at a residential facility. After Kevin leaves there, he and Jamie resume contact in Hong Kong. Thus begins a fraught process of reconnection between them, complicated by Jamie having a live-in girlfriend (Candy Cheung).

The film-work is purposefully uneven, juxtaposing harsh outdoor street lighting and claustrophobic indoor scenes with expansive and pleasant outside settings among trees and sky. I found myself longing for more of the latter, which intuitively made sense as the two main characters struggle to broaden and deepen their constricted lives. I the viewer felt effectively drawn into both their inner and outer emotional and sensory worlds.

Obviously and touchingly, this is a movie about the pursuit of true love between two men, one being the pursuer while the other is the avoider, made all the more complicated by the gay “taboo” element. But, on another level, this is a deeply moving screenplay about the challenge to reach a more genuine, meaningful state of existence. And that is what makes I MISS YOU WHEN I SEE YOU so humanly relatable, regardless of one’s gender or sexual orientation.

Movie Review (LOGAN)

The dystopian movie LOGAN (2017), starring Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, dramatically encapsulates a lot about the dark times we find ourselves in, particularly during the recent Trump administration. Drawing inspiration in part from the Western film genre, especially the touching 1953 classic SHANE (starring Alan Ladd), X-Men superhero Wolverine, a.k.a. Logan (born James Howlett), finds himself reluctantly defending the underdog everywhere he goes. Facing droves of heavily-armed government agents and a posse of hired thugs from an agribusiness corporation, a sick and aging Logan fights his way from the Texas-Mexico border to North Dakota. Traveling in tow are Charles Xavier, dementia-suffering nanogenarian and former leader of the X-Men, and Laura, a mysterious eleven-year-old girl with powers akin to Logan’s.

Logan has grown ill with heavy metal toxicity caused by the “adamantium” artificially sealed over his bones via a torturous procedure that occurred during an earlier film in the X-MEN series. This experience was akin to a shamanic rite of passage in which a painful, life-changing event to one’s mind and/or body results in a person being permanently changed for the better, usually in a psychological way (e.g., one becomes somehow wiser), but it can also be physical. Logan enjoys enhanced muscular strength and healing capacity from the adamantium, but at a high cost that manifests in this final installment.  There is a moral implication here:  We often pay for being stronger than others, particularly if we use our strength violently.  Live by the sword, die by the sword.  And Logan has lived by his sword (retractable claws and his whole body really)– largely thrust upon him to use– and is now dying by it, from within.

It is the near future and the X-Men are largely gone, the cause of their demise eventually revealed in the screenplay, but viewers must listen carefully.  Hiding out for the past several years in some run-down buildings by the Texas border, the Wolverine and his two compatriots just get by.  Caliban is the 3rd and only other remaining X-Man, though he soon goes behind the scenes for much of the film.  This leaves Wolverine alone to care for his old benefactor and father figure Xavier.

Laura, a savage, tomboy newcomer, escapes from a strange lab over the Mexican border and finds her way to Logan.  In the lab, children were genetically experimented on to create biological (mutant-based) weapons for sale to the U.S. military.  Logan finds himself roped into helping this girl reunite with the rest of the escaped mutant children who have taken refuge up in North Dakota, not far from the Canadian border. Canada has promised them safe haven from being hunted down by U.S. government special agents.  Wolverine becomes their escort and protector, but not before a lot of fights and property damage happen a long the way, the latter largely caused by Xavier’s dementia-induced seizures which bring on sonic earthquakes around him.

To keep the world safe from actual destruction, Wolverine makes sure Xavier stays sufficiently medicated via pills and injections he has purchased through clandestine methods, all to evade the authorities who have been after him, Xavier, and Caliban for years.  Like a grown son attending to an elderly, sick parent, Logan looks after the aged professor.  We the audience get to witness their tender exchanges, made more poignant by resentment-laden verbal repartee juxtaposed with frequent physical closeness from the care Logan provides and shows Xavier, historically the conscience of the X-Men yet now the most dangerous.  The two are remnants of a bygone era and only have each other, except for Laura and the rest of the new crop of mutants, though they are genetically engineered and designed to kill all the remaining natural mutants.  They are the future, or so Xavier hopes and Wolverine grudgingly, skeptically struggles to accept.  Additionally, an interesting twist involving both Laura and Logan arises.

For those of you who have followed the X-MEN movie franchise, this is one of the best in the series, if not numero uno, albeit by far the most graphically violent.  I usually avoid movies with such carnage.  However, the skillful acting, compelling main characters, and clever interweaving of multi-media (namely comic book and television imagery) into the narrative lend a dynamism to this modern tragedy and help contextualize the gruesome moments.  Logan muddles through a raw world of blind greed, fear, and authoritarian power run amok, and wants no part of any of it.  Surviving heaps of personal losses, the rough-hewn Wolverine pushes onward out of a stubborn moral need to keep a few others safe and alive, because, whether he likes it or not, he loves them.

The frequent references to “news” and clues arising from the comics about the X-Men is both a funny and clever story device.  Logan’s criticizing the accuracy of this particular media source is a timely attack on “fake news” and offers some witty comic relief in such a tension-filled narrative.

Like Shane in the late 19th century American frontier, Logan is a rugged individual who finds himself on the good side of justice for the bullied.  The references between these two movie heroes from different eras become a bit too direct/repetitive in a few places for my taste.  However, this is a minor flaw that didn’t mar the overall excellence of this powerful, poignant screenplay.  LOGAN is a superb finale and fitting tribute for Hugh Jackman and his compelling portrayal of the psychologically haunted and tortured (i.e., traumatized) Wolverine (my and many people’s favorite X-Man) in several movies over a seventeen year period.

To Glorify or Vilify the Queen? Neither for Me

Since the recent death of the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II (QE2 or the queen for short), there has been a flurry of positive and negative posts on social media about her and the British monarchy. I am admittedly not deeply informed about British history, including during the seventy plus year reign of QE2. In a broad sense, I know the British monarchy and the royal family wealth have benefited directly from colonial and post colonial capitalism, which was once extremely, and is still somewhat, exploitative and oppressive around much of the globe, such as Africa. Also, a lot of the Irish do not like the government the queen represented, so they did not like her either. Hence, for example, there are a share of Black identifying voices not mourning her death, due to her enabling of oppressive colonizing of them and/or their ancestors. It is arguable, as some have made the case in great detail, how QE2 in her role may not have caused or even did not directly cause such extensive oppression and exploitation. However, it is easier to point out how she allowed or enabled such unfair, inhumane treatment on a mass scale to continue. For many, including myself, enabling harm is viewed to be just as bad as directly causing something harmful.

Personally, I have neither vilified nor glorified QE2. But, I have expressed supportive acceptance of the varying feelings people have shared over her death, which have not all been warm and fuzzy. I’m fine with that. There can be, and naturally is, whether one likes it or not, room for all the range of feelings and emotions over such a world figure. I’m neither a fan nor ardent detractor of her. I do personally wonder about the need for a monarchy to be supported so much by English taxpayers in comparison to how a counterpart monarchy in, say, the Netherlands is more leanly funded by that country’s public. I honestly do not carry much investment in people’s responses about the queen, who embodied a powerful archetype for sure, a crowned female ruler (albeit symbolic only) over a prominent land. She was a living fairy tale character for a lot of people.

I do think there is a slim distinction between the institution of a monarchy and the person filling that role. On extremely rare occasion, people in high places are heroic and undo oppressive power from the inside out. Gorbachev in the former Soviet Union comes quickly to mind here, though he was elected and not in a far more ancient, entrenched position like QE2’s, which has developed so much awe, wonder, and protection around it, several centuries in the making. A part of me admittedly wishes more individuals would sacrifice their and others’ mass power when they are in positions to do so. Alas, it is easier to go along, make incremental changes here and there, if any, and still enable large parts of an institution’s harm to continue over others than to take larger, more radical risks. QE2 was no such daring person, no sacrificial heroine for deep systemic change. She was human, and a fairly conservative one at that, an upholder of layers of tradition valued by many, enabler of classism and racism, also valued by many, sadly.

Those who are more directly affected by an institution’s, such as a government’s, harm, including ancestrally, are going to feel pain from that legacy of harm. That pain can and does often present as raw and ugly, not thought out with rationality. The public discourse occurring seems natural to me, even if rough and downright toxic in places. Well, the way social media works these days, many jump on the opportunity to post extreme and uninformed memes about anything, and most certainly when the topic is political. But, much of that mean-spirited, extreme, polarizing language is a reflection of a larger problem than how QE2 is currently being discussed online, such as the deterioration in more intelligent, civil, and nuanced discourse.

Over time, history will judge the queen however, probably in a nuanced way. She certainly was no tyrant and couldn’t be if she tried, though I don’t believe she spoke out against all tyrants in the world when she could have. She does not seem to carry a wide reputation for being nasty. She was a grande dame in her own way, stoic to a degree we may not ever see again in public figures. I think this is both indicative of some healthy human evolution and also a unique loss.

QE2 had to know that she was stepping into controversy when agreeing to become a monarch, albeit a figurehead one. I’m sure she rolled with the punches as best she could and undoubtedly still is, wherever her life essence may happen to be.