Destination No Where –

It is the journey not the destination (some bumper stickers add the word stupid at the end of it but that seems redundant).  This pithy phrase is borrowed from a lot of different belief systems.  It has become cliché, however it doesn’t lessen the lesson.

Road movies exemplify this phrase, and that is probably why that particular genre of movies is so popular.  We vicariously get to see the phrase in action, and without risk we get to follow someone’s growth and see the person become different.  In movie parlance it is described as the arc of a character while in real life it is described as someone growing up or not. That or not seems to be more evident in girl road films for some reason.

Thelma and Louise (1991) is a feminist treatise on how women are belittled in society and so marginalized that when they do fight back they end up having to jump off a cliff into the Grand Canyon.  As treatises go this is a good one and done beautifully and really has some fun scenes with Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, but as far as road movies go it blows.  They had us up to the Grand Canyon, and we were rooting for them to take on more from the road and to break free and make it below the border into Mexico, but the destination trumped all of that thus the destination became more important than the journey, and this is why feminism can suck.  We finally got a road movie with two really good actresses and they arc and they progress and then they die.

We watched this movie with our mom and dad in the theater, and when they went off the cliff our dad got up from his aisle seat, with tears in his eyes and said, “Goddammit, I didn’t know they died!” and left the theater. That exclamation says it all.  If we are to learn anything from these characters to apply to real life it is this:  no one wants to go throughTexas, but if it means freedom and life then you choose Texas.  Metaphorically speaking Thelma could not get over her past enough to take care of herself in the present and the end result is the big abyss.

A sub genre of the road movies is the geographical cure movie – and girls don’t fare much better there. Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) is an example of this type, and when it appears on cable it is difficult to turn the channel.  Like all fairy tales we are taken in by the magical turn of events, but in this case it is truly unbelievable and it is hard to suspend disbelief.  Julia Roberts portrays a woman in an abusive relationship married to a creepy guy who makes her alphabetize canned goods and keeps an eagle eye on the length of the guest towels in the bathroom.  To get away she fakes her death by drowning in the Atlantic Ocean and flees to the Midwest.  There the light is perpetually early morning sunlight and it is always autumn, I think this is because Julia looks so pretty in browns and forest greens.  In this magical place called Iowa she falls in love with the nicest guy on earth.  Put the brakes on here, and slow down, because this just became a fairy tale.  She goes from a creepy control freak to a cute professor in a span of forty minutes?

Please do not read into this believing that we believe women who have been in abusive relationships can’t meet and fall madly in love with a nice guy.  What we are saying is someone got lazy and decided to bypass the whole epiphany experience when Julia’s character asks herself, “Wow, why would I get involved with such a bad person?  Could it be I have low self-esteem and need to look at my choices in life and do better by me from now on?”  Nowhere in the movie is a self-actualized moment.  It is fantasy that someone who was involved with a psycho-canned-goods-alphabetizer would look twice at a cute theater professor who is sweet and nice, unless that someone has done some work.  The kicker is it wouldn’t even have to be a major part of the story.

For example, earlier in the film there is foreshadowing by showing the husband straightening the tea towels, and then later in the movie Julia saves herself by noticing in her new soft focus home that her tea towels have been messed with and she realizes her creepy husband is in the house.  So, why not pan the camera at the beginning of the movie and show a self-help book or two in the house, better yet show a title or two in her gym bag (like she has to hide this from her husband).  Then when she gets to utopia Iowa and her house is all set up (because they spend a lot of time with a musical interlude showing Julia sprucing up her new home) the camera slows for a moment while she unpacks her books and one quick shot of her bookcase filled with Marianne Williamsons’ and Wayne Dyers’ and Deepak Chopras’. All it would take is one panoramic of the bookcase.*  That’s all, and now the mystery is solved.  She has truly changed her mind thus changing her life.  By showing her investment in self-help books we the audience believe she is serious.  Now enter cute theater professor and cue up Brown Eyed Girl.  I believe.

The Wizard of Oz (1939) is one of my fav road movies ever. And – it has a girl leading the pack.  This movie’s destination reinforces the journey’s message which is you can’t appreciate what you’ve got sometimes until you lose it and then you see that happiness truly is found in your own backyard.  Metaphorically speaking, and not assuming anyone’s stupidity, let’s expound on that by saying you can take the girl out of Kansas but you can’t take Kansas out of the girl.  Or, how ‘bout this one – wherever you are – there you are.  Wish you here. Is it better to see life filled with honor and integrity and standing up against tyranny or to see life as boring and always wanting something that is out of reach?  Dorothy and her friends had fun while living the life of warriors, and when she woke up from her journey she realized that boring old Kansas was home for the time being so why not find happiness there.

Recent road trip movies I love:

Away We Go (2009)

Due Date (2010)

Cedar Rapids (2011)  — okay not technically a road movie. It is a conference movie which has the same elements. Staid lead with a whacky co-lead that helps him loosens up.

The Hangover Movies – (2009 and 2011)

Please give me suggestions for more! (please use “comment” function on blog)

* Why self-help books? Because Kari and I could open a used bookstore with just our cast off self-help book collections.

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Anna Wintour Isn’t That Bad –

The documentary The September Issue, which focuses on Vogue magazine’s yearly four-pound-Bible-of-the-fashion-world September issue, was released in 2009. Why am I writing about it now? I am the director of a film festival and mother to a five year-old who was three when the film was released so basically I only have time to watch movies for purely entertainment reasons on ROKU when everyone is asleep. My husband and son would never watch a documentary on Anna Wintour with me. They have very pedestrian tastes.

After watching this film I realized Anna Wintour isn’t that bad and in fact she is my new role model.

My only reference for Anna Wintour was the film The Devil Wears Prada (2006), which is
based on the book of the same title written by a former underling of the aforementioned Miss Thing.  Meryl Streep plays this character to perfection but I am now convinced that character is not Anna Wintour.

The thing I loved about Anna Wintour in The September Issue was how economical she was – her speech, her gestures, her movements. She doesn’t waste energy with a lot of words and emotions. She conveys meaning with the subtlest of facial expressions. With the minimum of words. Without undue emotions. She is contained. And – commanding.

That’s why I know she wouldn’t waste her time explaining the introduction of cirlian blue into the world of fashion on the likes of that big, dumb Anne Hathaway like Meryl Streep did in the film The Devil Wears Prada (TDWP). That would be a big waste of her time.

Briefest rant on the film TDWP and Adrian Grenier – I wish the film had just been Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci and Emily Blount trading quips. I think Anne Hathaway is a real snore. Further, I can’t stand Adrian Griener who plays Anne’s boyfriend in the film. He’s the star of the HBO series Entourage which I used to love until I found out Griener was a total douche who thought he really was a famous actor and not just a lousy one who plays a talented one. And, where does he get off calling Seth Rogen fat and ugly? Seth Rogen is smart and funny which automatically makes him hot no matter his size.

Back to The September Issue. There is this sort of contrived drama between Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington, the creative director and hands-on-stylist at Vogue. Coddington is responsible for styling the intricately layered  and detailed photo spreads Vogue is known for. Her big compliant is that Anna edits her photo spreads. Grace – SHE’S THE  EDITOR OF VOGUE MAGAZINE! She edits. Really, Grace, twenty years working with her and it still raises your hackles?

The real villain in the film is Mario Testino who is hired to shoot the cover and centerpiece spread featuring Sienna Miller (who is like totally obsolete now) of the most critical issue of the year and he takes nine photos. Not nine good ones and the rest sort of so-so. He took nine photos period. Dude didn’t break a sweat.

His is the bad example of not expending enough energy. Anna Wintour expends by my estimation just enough energy. This concept of “energy expendtion”* has inspired me to be Anna Wintour for a week.

I expended too much energy doing everything! I am too talky, loud and emotional for my own good. Take my rant earlier – Anna Wintour would never waste her energy on the likes of Adrian Grenier. So, for the next week I will be like my new role model – Anna Wintour. I will use fewer words, less emotion, less movement. I will be economical in all aspects of human communication. (I should probably think about an iconic hairstyle while I’m at it.)

Thank you, Anna Wintour for being you.

*expendtion – I made that word up.

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The Christmas Story: BEST MOVIE EVER by guest author Lola Sizemore

This is the last of the holiday posts from SATM. Hope you are having great ones!

I know Lola from work-related projects. She is super smart and creative and a fellow Sag. Sags Rule! – KWP

By guest author – Lola Sizemore

One morning in the summer a few years back, I received a voice mail message from my little sister.

“I’m at the Christmas Story house!!! BUMPUSES!!!

There is only one thing, one nostalgic movie that can bring my sister and I together at any time of the year. The Christmas Story. And it makes even a business trip Cleveland, Ohio seems glorious when there is a detour to a national landmark: The Christmas Story house.

There are few holiday movies that everyone can enjoy. Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, while beautifully done in claymation, is for the kids. It’s a Wonderful life is lovely but the kids may not get it. Bad Santa is… well… not for anyone without a glass of scotch and a cheap cigar.

Everyone remembers that one toy they desperately desired. Everyone has embarrassing family stories of holidays gone wrong. Everyone remembers the class bully and some even remember the class bully getting a piece of karma as well. There’s a reason it play for 24 hours on TBS the day of Christmas. There’s something we all can be nostalgic about, even with a movie set in the 1940’s when I was surely not even born yet, because some things about the holidays never change.

And with that, I bring you the top 10 moments that make The Christmas Story AWESOME:

10. The Dangummit Furnace: Who has a furnace that blows black smoke through vents?! Pay close attention in this scene: the Old Man also falls on a pair of skates going down the stairs.

9. Santa Pushing Ralphie down the slide with his boot: First of all, the idea of Santa is creepy. An old man dressed in a flamboyantly red suit who wants children to sit on his lap? And then tells them he’ll come into their house at night with presents? How is this story still continuing?! In this movie, Santa is probably a felon. Definitely intoxicated. And his little elves aren’t exactly bursting with the Christmas spirit either. The weirdo kid in line? Amazing. However, they all make the scene great. And as a kid, made me never want to sit on Santa’s lap ever again.

8. Randy can’t put his arms down: Moms love to bundle up their kids when it snows. I had a horrendous one-piece suit that made me look like the purple Michelein man. I felt for Randy. Sure I wanted to be warm, but what happens when you fall? Or as in the movie, what happens when you fall and mean bullies are chasing you? “Randy lay there like a slug. It was his only defense.”

7. Tire changing incident: “My old man’s spare tires were actually only tires in the academic sense. They were round, they had once been made of rubber.” All Ralphie wanted to do was help his Old Man change a tire. And when bolts and screws went flying into the street, gleaming the road like marbles in a cartoon, he said the first word that comes to mind. “Fudge.” But it wasn’t fudge. Why do parents always ask, “Where did you learn that word?” I’m pushing the wrong side of my twenties and my mother still asks me this.

6. Farkus the Bully take down: Everyone dreams of taking down their nemesis. They push and push until you just flip out and whack them in the head with a homemade knitted mitten. Now, I would never condone violence, especially at Christmas, but you can’t help but think of this as a win for the little guy. Way to go, Ralphie. I mean, very bad kids. Never fight.

5. Flick getting his tongue stuck on a pole: When it’s a triple dog dare, you better do it. The filmmakers accomplished this by installing a vacuum in the pole that would suck the kid’s tongue in. However, if they wanted to be more authentic, they could have easily done this in wintertime Maine. When I was younger, the kid next door was dared to stick his tongue to a metal mailbox. He did. It stuck. And it was legendary.*

*I may or may not have been the one who dared him to stick his tongue to the mailbox. Sorry buddy.

4. A Chinese Christmas: It all started when the Bumpus Dogs devoured the Christmas turkey. The old man screamed “BUMPUSES!!” and the beloved bird was nothing more than a wing left on the floor. “We are going OUT for dinner.” The Parker family went to the only restaurant opened on Christmas day for what Ralphie affectionately called a “Chinese Turkey.” The presented bird? A duck with it’s head still on. “It’s smiling at me,” says the old man. To this day, people in my family will ALWAYS say this before every Christmas meal. There have even been a few holidays where my family has eaten Chinese food because, honestly, if it was good enough for the Parker family, it’s good enough for us.

Side note: Jack Nicholson was rumored to have been in the running to play the Old Man. Can you imagine the joker saying “it’s smiling at me” without being a creeper?

3. The bunny suit: Ah, yes, Aunt Clara. How did you know I wanted a pink bunny suit? We’ve all gotten a “bunny suit.” Mine was a knit sweater with penguins wearing Santa hats. On top of their hats? Bells. Real, annoying, jingling bells. We’ve all been there, kid.

Side note: This isn’t the last embarrassing outfit actor Peter Billingsley wore. He made a special cameo years later in Will Farrel’s Elf as what else but an elf. He also got to cuss a word worse than “fudge”: cotton headed ninny muggins.

2. The leg lamp: The gleam of electric sex. The major award. FRAGILE. Every scene involving this plot line is pure gold (and expected from director Bob Clark who’s previous work was the teen sex romp Porky’s).  But truly the best part is the most devastating… When the lamp breaks and the Old Man’s reactions of: “YOU USED ALL THE GLUE ON PURPOSE!” and “NADDAFINGA!!” It is customary in my family to use these two reactions at any time when something breaks, as it should be.

1. Christmas Morning: Well, of course he got the Red Ryder BB gun. And of course, he almost shot his eye out. But he got the BB gun and all was well. It reminds me of that moment as a kid when all the presents are unwrapped and you’re swimming in a sea of paper and bows. It’s THE END.

Lola is an art director, designer and Sagittarius. And sometimes she writes the same way she talks.


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Holidazed –

During the holidaze one of my most favorite activities is switching on the TV and running smack into the beginning of one of the Lifetime for Women holiday movies. My favorites are the scenarios that include a brittle professional woman who has no time for a relationship, is super busy; and then she bonks her head  on Christmas Eve and wakes up to find she has a husband and a couple of children. She spends a third of the movie acting funny and trying to go back to her old life, but she finds again and again that life is gone, baby gone.

And then at the end of the movie she realizes she likes her new life and is happy and content. These movies include really cool kids and a really dreamy husband. Lots of flannel and big mugs of hot cocoa or coffee and pretty fake snow that get stuck in the actress’s hair during one of her many freak-outs. These movies include a lot of jumping out of windows or running down the driveway to escape. If it wasn’t on Lifetime these scenes would be straight out of a Ira Levin novel (author of The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby). But it isn’t – so it’s funny.

What does this network really want women to feel? Mostly fear. It should be called Lifetime: A Channel to Scare Women. Still this network is a guilty pleasure of mine.

 Lifetime has given us their spin, albeit a little skewed with women having to marry and have children to bring true happiness. But, why isn’t the other way around? A woman who is a wife and mother gets bonked on the head and finds herself leading a Fortune 500 company and is really happy and secure. Sure she looks for those kids and her husband for a third of the movie, but at the end realizes, at the helm of her yacht in Barbados, that it is really good to be at the top, alone and rich.

Oh, I get the Lifetime movies. We tend to wax nostalgic at the end of a year and so we re-evaluate and reconsider choices and then at the end of the bottle of wine or carton of cigarettes or journaling or whatever you do when you wax nostalgic – you realize your life is good and you are happy. Or you realize the opposite. Yikes!

Please check out Nancy McKeon in Comfort and Joy (2003). It is exemplary for this theme. And it has Nancy McKeon! Jo from Facts of Life!

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