Monday, July 25, 2011

A Week of Pop Culture Goodies: 'HP7,' 'Secretariat,' 'Rescue Me,' 'Weeds' & 2 Comic Collections


The best film I saw over the course of last week was the final installment of the Harry Potter film series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which moved me, thrilled me and entertained me, flaws and all. While others may nitpick about not liking some of the changes made from J.K. Rowling’s sacred text (which I also adored), not appreciating the climatic Harry-Voldemort death scene, for example, I was okay with all of it. My 12-year-olds, who did indeed like the film, were nonetheless among those nitpickers who couldn’t get past the creative differences between the two works. They reviewed the film with me for CliqueClack Flicks here.

Over the weekend, my daughter and I found ourselves with some spare time, so I decided to check out our On Demand movies and settled upon the film Secretariat based on the true story of Penny Tweedy and her belief that she and her “Big Red” horse could overcome obstacles and sexism and doubt that Secretariat could win the triple crown.

It was eye opening to watch this with my 12-year-old daughter as she was appalled at the naked sexism lobbed at Tweedy as she was patronized and marginalized as a “housewife,” until she proved the boastful boobs wrong. The combination of doing her homework and studying up on the horseracing business, on horses, on the finances and not buying what other people were trying to tell her when she knew they were off base, combined with Tweedy's unshakable faith in her own gut instincts made Tweedy a hero, at least to the gal sitting next to me on the sofa. We need more films like this, more women like Tweedy.


Rescue Me is two episodes into its final season and, thus far, it’s been a weird, yet entertaining ride. Not too hellishly dark, at least not yet, the travails of Tommy Gavin, as he tries to help his oldest daughter remain sober (never mind himself), provide comfort to his fortysomething wife who’s pregnant and to his former lover/his dead cousin’s wife as she struggles with a grown son who sustained horrendous injuries while on the job with Tommy, not to mention the hot button of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 that's fast approaching, have proven quite emotional and, at the same time, oddly amusing.

Another storyline which shows promise, Lou’s struggle with weight loss and his “emotional eating,” which has not only put his own health in danger, but the lives of his colleagues when he rushes into a burning building, physically unfit to help anyone else escape.

My review of the latest episode -- where the main question was whether the Gavin women really run the Gavin family and rule over Tommy’s life was prominent -- is over on CliqueClack TV.

Weeds: I’m not quite sure what I think about the bizarre turns this show has taken. Way back in the beginning, when suburban mom/PTA volunteer Nancy Botwin turned to dealing pot in order to keep her family afloat on the heels of the sudden death of her husband kind of made sense, if you’re of the mind that selling pot’s not a big deal. (It was along the Breaking Bad’s Walter White’s initial thinking: Do what you need to do to protect/help your family.)

Then, as Nancy delved further into the drug trade, she changed. She got that U-Turn tattoo. She started trying to play bad guys off of one another which led to her neighborhood being burned to the ground. She reveled in messing around with a Mexican drug kingpin/politician Esteban, even when he was violent toward her. Her unexpected pregnancy with Esteban's child was the only thing that saved her life and stopped him from murdering her. After a brief reconciliation, which I did not buy, Nancy fled after her middle son killed Esteban’s political ally. After last season, which was spent with the Botwins on the run, we’re into this odd New York City-centered/Nancy-in-a-halfway-house scenario where she’s kicked off a new drug dealing biz when she’s barely out of custody, and is forced to wear a parade around Manhattan in a series of horrific 80s duds that smell like sweat. It’s gone so far off the rails from its original, somewhat plausible conceit, yet I just cannot turn away.

Earlier this month, New York Magazine’s Jillian Goodman wrote a piece entitled, “How Weeds Has Gone Wrong, and How It Could Have Saved Itself.” Among her recommendations: “For this season to turn itself around, we need something newer than a new locale, which can easily become the ground for old mistakes,” Goodman wrote. “It’d be great to see Nancy learn from all the stupid sh*% she’s pulled in the last six seasons and get some real growth. There are only so many times we can see that same old slack-jawed-but-pouty-I’ve-been-caught face before we’re going to change the channel for good.”


I’ve been reading Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and it’s not what I thought it would be. I first heard about this book more than a decade ago in an episode of Once and Again. Former high school bulimic Judy Brooks, now a beautiful, confident book store owner, recommended it to the anorexic Jessie Sammler telling the young teen, “This book saved me.”

Later, when the troubled Jessie was alone in her bedroom, you heard Jessie’s voice-over reading some lines from the book about a young teenage girl that reflected how alienated Jessie feels from her own world, her family and her peers. “With her it was like there were two places – the inside room and the outside room. School and the family and the things that happened every day were in the outside room. . .  Foreign countries and plan and music were on the inside room.”

Another excerpt: “She could be in the middle of a house full of people and still feel like she was locked up by herself.”

So I started reading it expecting, well, I don’t know exactly what I was expecting . . . maybe the insightful eloquence of that late, great ABC drama. That’s not exactly what the book turned out to be. It  follows a young girl, Mick Kelly, who has connections to other characters who all, like her, feel like societal outcasts, but for very different reasons. It’s a thought-provoking read to be sure, just not the one I thought I was getting into when I cracked it open.

On the flip side of the coin, I was pleased to receive two collections of cartoons from illustrators who truly get the humor of what it’s like to be a work-from-home mother and raise children in the hovering, helicopter nuttiness of now. On the heels of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, I definitely need the laughs of Jan Eliot’s Stone Soup Brace Yourself and Terri Libenson’s Pajama Diaries Déjà To-Do.

Image credits: FX,Comics Kingdom, Stone Soup Comics.

1 comment:

Cooley Horner said...

The final installment of "Harry Potter" literally blew my mind. I saw it at the Fenway Theater for the midnight premiere, and it was just a true "experience," as far as movies go. I cried three times, and it inspired me to start rereading all the books from the beginning. I read "Sorcerer's Stone" in a day over the weekend; I hadn't read it since I was 12 years old, and it was incredible to read it again and appreciate the scope of Rowling's talent.