Outside In

Two very dear friends of mine were diagnosed with Covid in the last month.  They were being very careful, whatever that means, but clearly not careful enough.

That is because careful enough means pretty much not leaving your home and, in the rare cases that you do, wearing a full series of KN95/94 masks and/or Hazmat suit AND a gas mask while staying 5-10 feet away from anything living, aside from yourself.

And that latter point is clearly debatable.

Getting my list together now

Yes, I exaggerate – but barely.  That is why whenever possible my action of choice is to, indeed, pretty much… not leave my home.

Now let’s be clear.  One of those friends is fully Covid recovered and the other one is less than a week in and doing quite well after a shot of those magic monoclonal antibodies.

Nevertheless I’ve made an executive decision.  At this point in my life I don’t want to take the chance of getting a virus where there’s a chance I can have brain fog that lingers any more than my actual age-related brain fog already does.

Cringe

Incidentally, I spoke to a neurologist friend about the latter pre-pandemic and in so many words he plainly told me that, no, Prevagen, the much advertised over the counter memory booster, doesn’t work.  Not to mention, all that stuff about natural vitamin supplements like gingko biloba helping me remember where I put my keys is snake oil.

Okay, he didn’t say exactly that. 

But when I proposed to him taking either of the two, or several others, he paused, smiled very slyly to himself or to me, I couldn’t tell which, and said,

Will taking them make you feel better? 

I tentatively replied,

Maybe at one point, but not after this conversation.

To which he smiled again while I simultaneously cried inside, and definitely to myself.

UGHHH!

Since there’s no way out in the way(s) that I used to go out (Note: Crowded restaurants where you can eat family style, or even put an attractive stranger’s fork in your mouth from the next table after they offer you a bite of something luscious (use your imagination)), I’m once again making the most of staying in and watching TV and movies on the big ass screen my husband and I bought during the first pandemic and are, yes, still paying for.

This is a luxury, I know.  As is being able to work from home most of the time and not go into an office everyday.  Not to mention, being in debt.

Yet can’t we have anything after four years of Trump, the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the decimation of Ukraine by the f-ckhead also known as Putin, AND the fact that now and forever I have to spend my life being in awe of and appreciative for Liz Cheney and her courage???

Yes, Dustin, we are in the upside down. Send down the sheet.

I say yes. (Note: With a whine)

So, here’s what I’ve re-discovered in the last few semi-quarantined weeks and nights watching BIG ASS TV.  My taste in movies and TV pretty much entirely depends on what I’m going through at the time and what is happening in the world around me. 

This week I discovered an absolutely perfect, eight episode, half-hour streaming show on Hulu called The Bear.  It’s about a very young, hot, famous chef – recently rated the #1 young chef in America, whose drug addict cook brother left him the run down, financially failing neighborhood lunch place that’s been in their family for years after committing suicide by shooting himself in the head.

Sounds like an upper, right?

Except, well, it is.

Messy but good!

All that fried food and meat (Note: I don’t even eat meat anymore!) and chocolate cakes are sustenance.  They’re the affirmation of life in a much too contained space.  The way the camera franticly moves from station to station and through the lives of each poor schnook stuck working there as it peels back their pains and pleasures is like looking into a mirror of everything you feel these days in one day all at once.

I admit the series is messy and the sweat and speed at which the ingredients and story points unfold can be dizzying and almost too homemade.  But that is exactly what makes it a must-see.  It made me less crazy knowing that the intensity of the times, whatever those times may be, affects everyone trying to work through it (even the food), in oddly affecting ways.

Fat Chance!

What I didn’t care for as much was the much-touted 2022 feature, Everything Everywhere All At Once.  And no, it’s not because I didn’t see it in a movie theatre on a MORE big ass screen.  It’s because, well, there were no rules and too many options and worlds and I kind of got the point after the first 35 minutes.

Michelle Yeoh is great as the matriarch of the local Chinese laundry whose life has become dronish to the point of self-evaporation.  As is the rest of the cast – her nerdish hubby, exasperated lesbian daughter, disapproving father.  And can we talk about an unrecognizable Jamie Lee Curtis as their crazy IRS auditor?

Talk about delicious.

Hot dog fingers and all!

Yet the so many fantastical trips the movie takes them on as fantastically different versions of themselves, seemingly endless roads and planes of existence not traveled so Yeoh can eventually __________ the ___________ is just…tedious.

I have just now lost every one of my film and TV students, I know.  But hear me out.  The movie works on its own terms but not for where I am at the moment.  If I’m going to go on fantastical journeys stuck in my house I want to feel like there’s a

logic and a point to it – even if there isn’t.  Illogical thinking is what got us here in the first place.  It’s what’s cursed us, not saved us.  I like lunacy as much as the next shut-in but when anything is possible and no one dies or is punished because of your clearly crazed actions in the name of your cause, then it’s hard to see how any of us will better our lives, much less survive, the insanity of this insane world, er, plane/plain.

Not even the rocks, Chairy??

Another hard pass for me is this third season of Amazon’s The Boys, a series I’ve loved up to this point. 

Sorry, I don’t want to see Homelander, the nihilistic most powerfully crazed superhero in the world who is also secretly an emotionally weak, weepy, family-starved man-boy, become the Trump-like leader on of  an alt-right following on steroids. 

It’s easy, uninspired and ultimately uninteresting.  Even with his blonde streaks, stars and stripes and overly long, er, cape. 

Lame

We live in a world of comic book actions.  All we need to do is turn on the TV or read a news story any day of the week.  Simply giving a Trump substitute a literal superpower makes him as infuriating and un-fascinating as the real thing. 

The lack of nuance of the heroes and villains this season also feels like really odd timing.  Given the urgency of all of our lives, you’d think the writers would want to find deeper, below the surface similarities, as they have in the past, and attempt to come up with something new and different., or at least bizarre (Note: Remember the season one nipple suckling?)  Even if, as in real life, what gets served up, doesn’t all work. 

Because if I wanted to see superficiality and silliness I’d go on Twitter and read a tweet from Marjorie Taylor-Greene or Jim “Gym” Jordan.   At the very least they could have created a super villain named Musk.  Or  DeSantis. 

aka Clown Parade

So it is with no regret that in my constant swirl of platform surfing I came upon an old, dependable favorite I’ve written about before.  It’s a series I first discovered on the Gramps Channel – ION – eight years ago.  A CBS show I NEVER watched first run but became addicted to in a year of reruns in the mid-2010s – Cold Case.

Now Cold Case was never available on DVD and seldom on cable over the years, mostly because of its music rights.  When you use the original recordings from artists like Springsteen and Nirvana, among dozens of others, to recreate the soundtrack to unsolved, imagined period crimes, you’ve pretty much limited your options.  Even though you’ve made the wisest of creative choices.

But given the joint partnerships and side deals that has infected so many producers, studios and streaming platforms (Note: Like a virus!!) ALL EIGHT SEASONS of Cold Case are available for the first time ever at any time, day or place with a paid subscription fee via HBO MAX.

And the angels sang!

I cannot tell you what this has done for self-imposed shut-ins like me who long to see a 45-minute crime story where the dead and/or murdered get justice to the tune of a pop song we know and/or have loved.  Even better is that empathic, tough as nails but with a soft underside, homicide detective of long forgotten “cold” cases, Lily Rush (Kathryn Morris) literally gets to SEE the imagined GHOST IMAGE of that dead person breathe a sigh of relief or sometimes literally tip a cap (Note: As Season #1’s gay-bashed homosexual baseball player in the early 1960s did) when their case is FINALLY solved decades later.

I could literally watch hours and hours and hours and hours of it in one sitting.  As I clearly have.

Don’t judge me!

No, it’s not real life at all.  It’s BETTER.  Especially when you’re stuck inside.

We regular people always win in some sort of small way at the end and the bad people are ALWAYS made to pay, often grandly.

It will FOREVER work for me.  Masked or unmasked.

Beyoncé – “Break My Soul”

Looking for a Hero

Catching up with The Batman this weekend – a film that was finally released theatrically in 2022 and promptly became the highest grossing movie so far this year with about $750,000,000 in worldwide ticket sales– was long overdue.

Ostensibly this is because I teach screenwriting and try to assign my students an old or new movie to see most weeks so storytelling and structure in different genres becomes second nature to them.

But truly – that’s merely the surface reason.

OK so this is the reason, right?

The real one is that I believe watching the top-grossing movie of any year allows you to stay informed

But also this..

What this means is that, like it or not, the film the most people go to see in any given year tells you quite a lot about our world — whether you want to know it or not.

So, here’s what I know after watching three hours of The Batman.

1. Robert Pattinson is a finer actor than you think and possesses great hair and seductively angular features.

2. Prosthetics have gotten to the point where, if Warner Bros. demanded it, the technical geniuses behind Hollywood moviemaking could make even ME look like The Batman.  Or Selena Kyle.

And, most importantly –

3. We live in a time where there are no SUPER heroes anymore.

But somehow we managed to have three Spidermans?

In writing classes we teach that no one is 100% altruistic.  Meaning every hero has a little bit of villain in them and every villain has a touch of a hero lurking somewhere in their souls.

The key to villains is they believe deep down what they’re doing is right and justified.

The path to a hero is that the vast majority of the world think their actions are right and justified. 

In our world there are no actionable super majorities to anything anymore.  Certainly not heroes.   I doubt even Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky would get a supermajority worldwide vote if we had a global lie detector.  Nor would Russian President Vladimir Putin achieve worldwide super villain status.

It’d be close for Zelensky

The 2022 probing portrait of Batman tells us everything about our lack of true SUPER HEROES.  It takes the moral ambiguities of the franchise, the conceit of most superhero franchises, and gloomily plants a barely faux hero – our hero – smack dab into heroic territory.

But because the bar is sooo low we think nothing of it.

we did finally see Batman’s makeup, so we’ll give it points for that

He’s an avenger/vigilante with a personal agenda so internal and so intense that he barely feels human.  Certainly he’d have a less than zero potential by the standards of any other era to become anything even approaching a valiant do-gooder.

More importantly, no one around him has much of a moral compass.  And the few who do are either operating with their own secret personal agenda or have not received enough screen time for any real them to properly emerge.

We think Gordon’s good??

This weekend I went to the annual TCM Film Festival in Hollywood and rewatched the 1978 classic Warren Beatty film, Heaven Can Wait.  It was a fantasy comedy remake of the 1941 movie Here Comes Mr. Jordan, which was based on a 1938 play of the same name.

And it shows – in all the best ways.

The late seventies were enough of a post Watergate time and pre-Ronald Reagan 1980s ME era for the world to still believe that a real life good guy could achieve hero status, inspiring others without giving into temptation himself. 

Classic

Sure, it helped that Warren Beatty at his most handsome played Joe Pendleton, a lifelong second-string quarterback for the L.A. Rams, who mistakenly dies and is escorted to a weigh station to heaven due to his incompetent Guardian Angel.

But when Joe is given a second chance and gets temporarily dropped into the body of a rich, unscrupulous industrialist, who among other things gleefully runs a conglomerate that thinks nothing of drilling oil and polluting entire small towns of people to slightly increase his profit margins (Note: Yes, this film was made in 1978), it seems a recipe for disaster.

Clearly, the good guy will be corrupted by all this money and power.  Because let’s face it, no believable good guy could ever be that heroic with all the oil and money in the world at his personal disposal.  At the very least he’d have to launch his own rocket ship to take him to the edge of outer space or perhaps invent his own super electronic auto before dropping back down to earth to help all the rest of us little people. 

I mean the guy already dresses like a supervillain

He’d have to become a bad guy who takes a stroll on the dark side, before rejoining the merely human race and inspiring them.

Because that’s the only way we’d believe it.

Except, well, no – not in the late 1970s.

Joe never succumbed to darkness.  In fact, he is nothing but good, well intentioned, hard working, loyal and kind, even to the two people he lives with who are trying to kill him in.

His everyman morality wins the day – a morality not born of some past traumas he has overcome but springs from the plain yet solid nice guy that Joe apparently always was.

Not sure I would consider this everyman hair #goodhair

He’s a regular fellow whose superpower is being moral.  A hopeful idea of a movie released during a time when we still had a few smidgeons of hope.

Heaven Can Wait was one of the top five grossing movies the year it was released. Among the others were Grease, National Lampoon’s Animal House and Superman.

It’s easy to sense a pattern here because there was one. 

Even in a year when two dark and raw post Vietnam War movies, The Deer Hunter and Coming Home, triumphed over Heaven Can Wait at the Academy Awards.

See, it’s not that the late 1970s were an uncynical time.  They were just, well, a little less immoral.

Bonnie Tyler – “Holding Out for a Hero”