Loving the Ricardos

I’m a college professor and a writer so no matter how hard of a professional day I have, let’s face it, I’m not working in the mines. 

Please don’t share that with my college’s senior leadership team or any producer, director or editor I might work with in the future.

Even though deep down they know the same applies to them.

#WriterLife

Nevertheless, it’s hell out there these days, isn’t it?  Or some human replica of what we imagine it to be.   

In a few weeks we’ll be going into our third calendar year of the COVID pandemic.  Though three doses of either a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine (Note: The third being your all important booster shot) can pretty much ensure you of not dying, becoming hospitalized or even seriously ill with this potential demon only 30% of the country have so far been boosted.

Don’t ask me why, that’s way above my pay grade.  Though if you press me I’ll say stupidity, stubbornness and willful ignorance, not necessarily in that order.

Yes, Grandma, they are.

To give you an idea of how infectious the new Omicron variant is, New York State set a record of 21,027 new cases on Thursday, the single HIGHEST number since this all began almost three calendar years ago.  (Note: Didn’t I just bring up those THREE calendar years?  Well, I’m doing it again).

There are all kinds of other statistics but perhaps none as sobering as almost 5.4 million deaths worldwide, including 805,000 in the U.S.  The numbers continue to go up and if you continue to be unvaccinated know hell is no longer just waiting for you outside your door but finding better and more clever ways to vaporize itself beneath it and into your system even as I write.

Just call him Omicron

This is why everyone needs to do TWO things this Christmas season.

#1 – GET YOUR F’N VACCINE.

And —

#2 – Watch BEING THE RICARDOS either at the movie theatre wearing a mask, or at home on Amazon beginning Tuesday, Dec. 21st.

You didn’t think we were going down that road, did you?

Wait, really?

But we are taking that turn because you and I and everyone we know is tired of talking about COVID and all of the things we can’t, shouldn’t or should do.  In fact, we’re going out of our f’n minds doing so.

Broadway is closing down left and right, local theatre the same.  Sporting events are getting cancelled or postponed and if you’re going to be attending a music concert in these winter months inside, good luck to you.

No, seriously, good luck.  You’ll need it.

Best wishes from Katniss

However, the one thing we can do is sit at home and partake in that age-old American tradition of watching a movie. 

The entertainment industry is trying to get us all to go out but, with infection numbers spiking so much in just two weeks PRIOR to Christmas, it’s getting more and more unlikely there is going to be a rush to anything at your local theatres.

EXCEPT for the new Spiderman: No Way Home, which broke box office records this weekend because we live in a sick world where the idea of watching a superhero is far more appealing to the American public than actually being one in real life by getting a f’n vaccine.

I mean he is so cute

But if you are actually an adult tired of all that, or a kid or adult like me who was never into superheroes (Note: Except the campy 1960s TV series Batman, which really doesn’t count because Tallulah Bankhead, Eartha Kitt, Victor Buono and Caesar Romero as super villains is too good to turn down), Being The Ricardos will momentary take your mind off of it all.

Not that writer-director Aaron Sorkin’s smart, fast-talking and clever take on the private and professional lives of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz – or as we still know them, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo of I Love Lucy fame- isn’t both super and heroic in its own way.

Super Lucy!

In fact, it is at times both serious and affecting.  But it is also always entertaining, thoroughly watchable and a marvel.  The latter is because somehow Mr. Sorkin has managed to throw us back into the 1950s via what is probably the most famous television series in history and yet somehow not get swallowed up by the legend of it all.

He’s is helped greatly by Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, who so manage to evoke the spirits of Lucy and Desi onscreen that it’s as if you’re eavesdropping on the better, mover clever version of every conversation, seduction and argument they’d tried to ever have but likely never literally ever had.

Thanks for the rave review!

This is what writing teachers and critics and writers like myself preach when we say that the work should evoke real life without ever literally being real life. 

This is because real life doesn’t happen in three-act structure and can often have endless deadly dull moments in the space of two hours. 

Films, on the other hand, can use those two hours to tell the story of a year, a month, or – in the case of Being the Ricardos – a key week in your life.  And they can do this by showcasing the spirit of your truth in a much more entertaining way than a bunch of cinema verite home movies that you personally shot or even lived could ever hope to do.

Get Back shade?

Movies, at their best, can capture the magic we know sometimes happens in life, with all the good and bad our humanity offers.  And with the right combination of artists and technicians they can also harness all that passion and verve we humans get to experience in a way that reminds us of who we are in those times, at times like these, where it’s easy to forget.

It helps that I Love Lucy still cracks me up and was one of my favorite shows as a kid.  But that’s not truly why I’m on the Ricardo/Sorkin soapbox at the moment.

No one like her!

It’s because for two hours the creative team behind this film made me forget how absolutely screwed up everything is at the moment by telling me a story about a fictional week in the lives of a couple of Americans where absolutely everything was also screwed up for them.

Yeah, it was literally quite different.  But screwed up is screwed up.

AND it made me laugh, forget and finally feel something other than COVID-stark raving madness while doing it.

Just in time for Christmas!

If that’s not the best holiday present you can give yourself in the next two weeks, I got nothin’ else.

But know you certainly won’t get it from The Power of the Dog, despite what every major film critics association want you to believe and labor with.

Meow.

But I’m right.

Being the Ricardos Trailer

A Bloody Mess

I check out worldwide sensations because I’m that kind of chair. 

The type that offers itself up to anyone who wants to take a load off and comfortably, nee honestly, jaw about the latest, greatest and not so greatest of events and phenomena happening in our world.

Get comfortable

This is what finally got me this week to tune into Netflix’s 9-episode global juggernaut Squid Game almost two months after its September 17 debut.

– When you’re watching a Saturday Night Live parody of something you’ve never seen you know it’s time.

– When you teach a classroom of college seniors who’ve all seen it (and loved it) and you’re the cheese stands alone you feel the pressure.

– Most importantly, when you’re a person who wants to express an intelligent opinion on what’s goin’ on rather than type/scream into your highly personalized social media newsfeed you owe it to yourself and anyone within eye or earshot to be informed.

Let’s do this

In other words, shut the f-k up if you haven’t at the very least watched it, read about it or experienced it.  Especially if IT’S everywhere, or seemingly everywhere, you turn.

This and an admitted morbid curiosity about everything even slightly morbid, is what led me to Squid Game. Or shall I say, in full confession, episode 1 of Squid Game.

Because the truth is Netflix would have to pay me, and do it quite handsomely, to get me to tune in to episodes 2-9.  And certainly a lot more beyond that to get through its now sure to be season 2.

That would be an X from the Chair

How much more? 

Not even the fictional cash prize of $38.4 million for SG’s fictional players would do it because I’ve lived long enough to know that there is ALWAYS an irretrievably toxic hidden cost for you when that much money is involved with something you know deep down is just plain wrong. 

At least for you.

This bloody mess of a series from South Korea taps into any number of hot button issues in the most banal, infantile, reductive and exploitative way possible.

Or, well, at least the first episode did. 

But after a lifetime of viewing thousands of TV series and movies I got it.  I truly did.  And, well, I seriously gave it a try.

I don’t hate you for loving it.  So don’t despise me for loathing it.

No regrets

Think of Squid Game as the worst volume or sequel in The Hunger Game seriesA story with all the depth of a Transformers film and all of the bloody action in every superhero movie combined were there no parents or uptight American studios to answer to.

The latter actually makes it sound appealing, which it clearly is, to some, um, many.  This, more than anything else, disturbs me.

It’s seemingly bathed in the issue of class, themes of the have and have nots, the worst of human nature and the best of intensions gone awry.

In a practical sense, it also has the irresistible story hook of a bunch of people playing a high stakes game.  I mean, who doesn’t love games?

Well, definitely not this lady.

More to the point, I love games.  I mean, I L-O-V-E them.  My husband and I used to have game nights, when we all felt safe doing such things so close together.

In fact, tonight I might even re-watch Michael Douglas and Sean Penn in the 1997 flick of twisted human desperation, The Game.  That’s how much I love them.

Which brings us back to the subject at hand.  How high stakes is Squid Game?  

Put it this way, if you screw up the rules even once, you die. 

Meaning you get quickly shot in the heart, through your head, out your brain, up your ass or even further down below until you disintegrate or explode into a bloody, flesh flattening heap.

That’s… a lot

As a viewer you’re mired in puddles and droplets and reaction shots of bullets impacting on the bodies of the dying spraying blood.  On everyone and everything.  Especially the surviving players.

And if you are a player who doesn’t survive your corpse will likely get piled atop or beside others and later get carted away.  You will die in that brightly colorful warm up suit they gave you to play this series of games you might remember from childhood.  On the other hand, if you don’t die and emerge victorious you will win $38.4 million.

Oh and it hovers over you in a giant gold piggy bank…

But the chances of that are the same chances you have of winning that amount in an American lottery, albeit at an unspeakable and, practically speaking, impossible to truly believe, voluntary risk-reward.

Since I didn’t venture past episode one, I can’t say exactly who is supplying the money.  But I do know the game is being watched on closed circuit TV by what is likely a small group of very, very, VERY rich people so it’s safe to assume it is them who are doing the financing and the viewing.

Oh man, the Chair is GOOD

In the show that I saw there is one person sitting on a lovely, sumptuous chair sipping either wine or liquor from a gorgeous glass, subtly luxuriating at the site of the carnage and yet, almost a little bit bored at spots.

No doubt this person has experience with the masses being exploited for their own amusement and financial gain. 

The latter is clearly the case since no uber wealthy person does this much research (Note: A detailed dossier on everything about the dozens of players has been assembled in advance), and spends this degree of time and money, without some big financial payoff for themselves in mind.

Even if the deal merely involves a way to satisfy themselves sexually or socially (Note: Or both) their true aphrodisiac, if we dare to be REAL about it, is ALWAYS the assemblage of money and power, their quest to be the top dog.

OK but ya gotta admit the masks are good

This is why all the players participating/hunted in this game are seriously in debt, near penniless or at the end of their rope in every other way with only one last chance to grab what they perceive as life’s ultimate reward – MONEY.

It’s so…profound.

Well, at least it thinks it is.

I pictured Jeff Bezos in a Blue flight suit, sipping Courvoisier from a short baccarat tulip glass in one hand as he slow-drew in smoke from a gurkha royal courtesean cigar (Note: Google it – ok, here) in the other while he every so often watched everyone I ever loved or cared about, or could have loved and care about if I knew them, bleed out.

He’s already starting to look like a Bond villain

Call me crazy but this, to me, is not entertainment.  Nor does it say anything, or anything much, about the human condition that I didn’t already know.

However (and it’s a BIG however), the success of Squid Game is another thing.  And it says a lot.  An awful lot.

Approximately 142 million people in 90 countries have streamed it.  It’s generated revenue of almost $900 million in these two months on a budget of about $24.1 million for ALL nine episodes.  That means each episode brings in 41.7% times what it cost to make. 

Woah

Not only are all its top creatives being courted by all the major Hollywood agencies, it is likely to go down as Netflix’ #1 most watched and most profitable first season program ever.

The only way Netflix isn’t doing season two is if there’s a worldwide apocalypse that shuts down every…. 

Okay, better not manifest that idea given the climate, both literally and figuratively, we’ve barely managed to survive in the last 18 months.

We’re all there with you

But for this we can’t blame Netflix.  As part of our new, connected/disconnected global community this is clearly in our nature.

I will be thinking about that in the coming days as the Kyle Rittenhouse jury figures out what to do about a real-life under age kid who shot into a crowd of people and drew blood and death as well as an audience well into the tens of millions and counting.

With equal dread.

Squid Game – “Red Light, Green Light”