A New Year?

It was a simple thought, really. But is anything simple when it comes from 2017’s most admired man in America?

Talk about the Audacity of Hope. Or Despair. How you read this message depends on what you see as the world and how you want to change it.

(Note: And yes, I’m calling it a message. I refuse to say what the above guy writes are tweets).

So – what HAS he written that has provoked so many negative, vitriolic responses? Things like:

— Empty words from a souless man  

— Liberalism: Logic’s Retarded Cousin

Or my personal favorite:

— Isis has run out of money now that Obama’s not in office.

Yes, those were real. And no, I didn’t include the very worst of them. One of my 2018 resolutions is to be more positive and the year has barely even started yet.

So then — let’s break it down.

Get Involved.

Get Engaged.

Stand up.

Don’t we ALL want (our fellow) citizens to do this? Or, maybe only the people who are fighting for what’s right. People on OUR SIDE.

You feel me???

I’ll cop to some of that. It was appalling to me that this was the year I saw tens of thousands of people unfazed that actual NAZIs or NAZI supporters were marching through the streets of Virginia – with weapons and lit Tiki torches they bought at Home Depot – shouting anti-Semitic and racist chants at Blacks, Jews and anyone else who would listen.

No, I didn’t want them to NOT be allowed to march. I was just mortified that so many other people I’ve probably met in traveling across our country don’t really care. Or, in part, agree with them.

I wonder if the drowning of sorrows has been good for the wine industry #illtakeabottle

So yeah, there’s a chunk of me that does NOT want them standing up any more than they already have or getting engaged any more than they probably did for fear that they will win. And continue to do so.

Each of us can make a difference, and all of us ought to try.

On the other hand, the healthier part of me relishes their engagement.  Because I can’t believe that the more engaged they get the more educated and real their worlds will become and they will meet enough Blacks and Jews, or be exposed to so many more real facts on their issues, that they will realize the error of their ways and spread the word to those who are like-minded.

Pass me the rosie shades

Historically, hate and exclusion always does LOSE in the very long term because human beings have the power of critical thinking and, at the end of the day, will do the right thing…after they’ve exhausted all other possibilities.

Okay, I didn’t make up that last part. It’s an unconscious paraphrase of what Winston Churchill once presumably said about us:

You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they have tried everything else.

Or a paraphrase of a key line from Anne Frank’s famous diary:

In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.

Trying to find that optimism

Anne, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and others after her, didn’t live to see the days of peace and tranquility. But we all stand in proof that they did happen. Which does not answer a question that always comes to mind when thinking about such wise, forward-thinking individuals:

What would they think of iPhones? What would they be like on social media? And – who would THEY say their most admired American is of the last few years? Or ten years?

So go keep changing the world in 2018.

I suspect that they might agree with the majority of Americans in every Gallup poll of the last decade and choose Barack Obama.

Mic drop forever

Yes, it was announced a few days ago that he once again topped the poll for the 10th time in a row. But it’s the fact that he did it this time that makes it so record-breaking. 2017 was the first year EVER that an elected American president did not win in his first year in office.

So clearly the world has not changed enough for some people.

Perhaps that is because our current president – nee ELECTORAL COLLEGE POTUS –wasn’t so much elected by the majority (Note: He LOST the popular vote by more than THREE MILLION) but barely chosen by a Constitutional anomaly (i.e. the Electoral College – a system designed to protect the voices of smaller states but, given the radical population shifts away from them in the last century, has caused a more lopsided tilt of power in recent years towards a much smaller but very vocal conservative base).

There’s that optimism again #help

This is not to tar and feather all of that base with raging responses citing Isis, a lack of soul and the 2017 politically incorrect use of the word retard.   Just some of them.

Do I really want them to continue to be engaged?

Oy.

Do we(I) have a lot of work do to.

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Who’s Naughty and Nice?

If the bar for presents from Santa Claus is who’s been naughty or nice why shouldn’t we also use it for all the fictional characters in our lives?   These days they seem far more alive than any number of real people we come across daily – especially those we see daily reports about on television.

Yes we, or perhaps only I, have gotten to the point where what’s out there on an hour-to-hour basis is more impossible to fathom than any extreme or even random action taken on any one of our favorite TV shows by any one of our favorite friends um, characters.

The best reason to be antisocial this season

The most overused expression of 2017 – aside from the world is ending – has to be “we live in The Golden Age of Television.” Nevertheless, we do. The choices feel infinite and, instead of what used to be 439 channels and still nothing to watch, we’ve now got so much we want to watch and so little time to do so.

Make of that last sentence what you will. And drink each time you ponder the part about time and little.

Certainly, it’d be a bit alarming to start buying actual gifts for your favorite friends characters. Or would it? I, for one, have a new bar for alarming and it’s neither nice or naughty. It’s scary.

Just call me Kenneth the Page

Which is not the case for the best of my fantasy buddies. They’re not only naughty AND nice, they never fail to disappoint me – especially in the toughest times – which in these days is every day.

THE LIST:

#5 – Hannah Baker (Thirteen Reasons Why) and Jack Pearson (This Is Us), played by Katherine Langford and Milo Ventimiglia

Just give me all the Kleenex now

Well, why NOT start with TWO DEAD PEOPLE? No, these are not spoilers. In the theme of reality IS fantasy these two characters are more alive to their friends and relatives in death than perhaps they ever were when they were actually living.

You can say both are naughty because they seemed to have ultimately caused their own deaths. For Hannah, it was a suicide. For Jack, well – the writers haven’t quite revealed it yet but the drinking and his repressed dark side are both pointing to a demise that was at least, in part, his own doing.

Which makes it all the more memorably heartbreaking to recognize that Jack and Hannah were/are both – so damn nice!

Jack Pearson is the fantasy Dad whose bon mots are timeless life lessons passed on to us, along with endless supplies of sensitivity and an eternally buoyant hairline. Oh, the hairline.

#HAIRENVY

Hannah Baker is girl that got away (literally), the girl who made you laugh, the girl who was the smartest and most infuriating in high school and the girl who you still wonder about decades later and would choose over almost any one else to have just one more final meeting with.

They both remind us that life is fleeting and every so often make us want to contact the estranged parent, friend or person we haven’t yet gotten the nerve to talk to before it’s too late. Which, in itself, is pretty damn nice, indeed.

#4 –  Dougie Jones/Agent Dale Cooper/Evil Doppelganger Cooper (Twin Peaks: The Return), played by Kyle Maclachlan

Hair is becoming a theme here

For those who didn’t tune in to this limited Showtime series to see what happened to Agent Cooper 25 years later, suffice it to say that these three people are indeed all part of one person.   No, you don’t want the explanation. Just accept it.

Dougie Jones walks and talks like a programmed robot (which he indeed may be) but all bets are off when he enables a “homeless” woman in Las Vegas to hit numerous jackpots on the slot machine and bring reams of his own winnings to his long suffering wife and kid – all while unwittingly bringing out the best of two dim-witted Mafia guys with his innate kindness.

Which doesn’t mean he’s incapable of choking a person who gets in his way. Though much of this is left to his Evil Doppelganger who shoots, bites, knives and brutally kicks his way through multiple murders. This version is the irresistible id of evil – someone we all revile because he’s the miniscule evil part of us we would never publicly admit we occasionally have to repress. Not that I just did.

Not me… all the time

As for Agent Cooper, what can you say about a guy who has barely aged a day in a quarter of a century? You admit he’s one of your faves, meet him for pie and coffee and find out his secrets – many of which are still to be revealed.   A 2042 sequel?   We’ll see. On second thought, maybe one of you will.

#3 –  Offred/June Osborne (The Handmaid’s Tale), played by Elisabeth Moss

Peggy Olson sure has changed #jonhammwhereareyou

No one expressed the naughtiness of our current reality and dystopic alternative reality than Offred. It feels reductionist to say the most famous handmaid on any plane was the precursor to the #MeToo movement and impossible to believe that she became the poster child for all of our worst fears about America in the Age of T—P.

Before Offred was an enslaved, raped and tortured handmaid she was the fun-loving, feisty and sweet June Osborne – just a gal making her way in a big city where she worked, fell in love and lived a life. It wouldn’t seem imaginable that her past could serve as prologue to her future but that’s the point – both we and June are often too busy and not observant enough to pick up the signs.

This is where Offred takes over and shows us there are times when naughty is the essential survival skill and nice is a but a mere luxury – some would say relic – of the past. If that seems applicable to the way we live now, well perhaps it is. Or soon will be.

#2 – Dustin Henderson (Stranger Things 2), played by Gaten Matarazzo

CODE RED

Twelve year-old Dustin has a lisp, unruly hair, mad crushes on two teenage girls who will prove unattainable and a look that will forever read best friend rather than star anything.

But Dustin also subverts every stereotype as we watch him not only tame his hair but prove time and time again he is the smartest, funniest and overall most charming in the room – or in town.

don’t forget that Farrah Fawcett hair product #thankssteve

This is not to say he is without his faults. Hiding a slimy and mysteriously growing little creature in your home and allowing it to eat everything you can find, including your (NO SPOILERS HERE but you can imagine) wasn’t the best of ideas. Nor is his unwavering loyalty to the bonds of childhood friendships. Or is it?

The latter is a question we all ask and re-ask ourselves through the decades, which is why every victory this kid has and each mistake he makes feels impossibly awful and improbably life-affirming.

Dustin manages to be a piece of the young us we will always be on the inside.   That he not only brings back those awkward times but makes us simultaneously long for them and embrace him, is the ultimate achievement of both the character AND the young actor who so effortlessly embodies him. And us.

#1 – Miriam (Midge) Maisel (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), played by Rachel Bronsnahan

Bring it, Midge!

What we all needed in 2017 and will need in the future is funny and MIDGE IS, most of all, FUNNY. Funny, funny, funny, funny. How ironic is it, then, that she exists in 1958, 1959 and 1960?

Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a relatively new streaming series that many of you have not yet sampled but will surely do so as it gains awards and attracts critical attention, steam and an expanded audience in the near future.   This is because it is indeed FUNNY. Funny, funny, funny, funny.

Midge is an unlikely mainstream star in her time – a young, Jewish housewife/daughter/mother on the upper west side of New York who is much too smart and too witty for her own good, at least in the decade in which she lives, yet just creative enough to make it work for herself in the most unlikely of professionals – stand up comedy. Or so one hopes.

SLAY

If you’ve ever wondered if you’d have been better off being born in another decade or place (and which of us haven’t this year), Midge gives you hope. She’s the ultimate problem solver for herself and everyone else – that is until it all falls apart and she has to rethink everything and everyone she once knew for sure.

She fails, gets lucky, fails again, opens her mouth when anyone in their right mind would hold back, gets lucky once more, stumbles – and through timing and fate keeps talking back – until she begins to finally get heard. Only to lose a little more ground once more after a big gain.

Midge gets shoved onstage, performs drunk and/or stoned, bombs big time and occasionally slays – in a small club in Greenwich Village, N.Y. with sticky seats where the men tell jokes and the women sit there and laugh.   It’s hilarious watching her discover what those close to her have always known but never ever told her – that she’s the best joke teller in the room.   But it’s even better when she begins to discover what pretty much everyone else in the world knows: she too is an artist – though not quite the kind she had thought or even ever hoped for.

That Girl

I have a close female friend in my life I’ve always called a can-do gal to her face and have always made sure she knew it was the highest of compliments. That is because this is a person who, despite everything, always manages to make it happen and always does so with humor. She has fun.   Not only that, when you’re with her you get to have fun. And at least feel like you’re accomplishing something.

Midge is this kind of person. You can’t help but want to hang out with her, hoping that some of that can-do joy will eventually rub off. Not to mention, she’s…well, you know.

That’s why these days she’s my #1. Fictionally, at least.

Fred Astaire – “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”

Creeps

Who are these men???? That’s the question I keep asking and answering for myself.

In the entertainment business they are some of the men I’ve always known and either instantly disliked or was intimidated by. Though I’m sure in a few cases they might have also been men I worked with or acquaintances I’ve even liked.

I really hope this mostly remains true

So far none of them are good friends, or even friends, and I don’t imagine that they will ever be revealed as such. Of course, at this point, I wouldn’t swear it.

Up is down, down is up and these days a bigoted sociopath from my hometown of Queens – the kind I’d met many times growing up and that I can assure you I was NEVER friends with – is the president of the United States. This is the type of guy most of us loathed and ran away from, especially members of the opposite sex, who usually deemed him as CREEP.

So quaint is that word – CREEP. It was the ultimate insult in the sixties and seventies. Nowadays it doesn’t even begin to describe what has become the almost indescribable. Instead, we’re getting vividly detailed accounts of what beforehand defied description. The true definition of what it REALLY meant back then to BE a CREEP.

Creeps everywhere!

Who knew? Certainly, none of us did. Or even do to this day. Though we’re learning – kicking and screaming as we’re dragged through the mire against our wills. Which is an essential element in this area of RE-education.

It was encouraging this week that Alabama rejected Roy Moore – an accused sexual predator of underage teenage girls from multiple sources and women – as their Senator. This was the first time in decades the most red of states in the Union will be represented there by a… DEMOCRAT.

ho ho ho!

But don’t get too encouraged. A plurality of Alabamians still don’t believe his accusers and most certainly the leader of the free world doesn’t. That is, if you believe our current U.S. president is still in the lead anywhere.

Talk about tough lifts.

Which brings us to the real story – POWER.

Who wears the shoe?

Tempting as it is to lump in sexual crimes with, well, sex – experts tell us it is seldom about the act and more about domination – what one can get away with. The latter is the real thrill – something that not only leaves a lifelong affect on the human objects subjected to each violation but on many other aspects of society as whole.

Who HAS the POWER and how that POWER is wielded determines quite a bit aside from who will eventually get to target a new VICTIM (or suffer as one). It can also very much tip the scales on who gets ahead in the world and how much gets, or doesn’t get accomplished – and in what way.

These roadblocks now seem metaphorical #womeninhollywood

This week Salma Hayek bravely wrote of how she had to say “no” to deposed, disgraced and as of now not-yet-charged ex Miramax/Weinstein Co. chair Harvey Weinstein. This list included saying no to:

  1. taking a shower with him or allowing him to watch her take one
  2. getting a massage from him OR his naked friend (while he watched).
  3. receiving oral sex from him
  4. or she performing #3 on another naked woman that he would provide.

and allow me to add: No, no, no, no, NO

Salacious and CREEPY as that may seem — what felt almost as bad if not worse (because we’re so used to the sex stuff from him at this point) were the ways in which she says Mr. Weinstein used his expertise in the business to derail her career once she said “no, no, no, et al.”

The ways in which he tried to NOT make Miramax’s Oscar-nominated “Frida,” which Ms. Hayek produced and starred in, after signing an agreement to do so.

And we’re glad Ms. Hayek persevered

The ways in which he belittled her artistic work to her face while she was filming the movie.

And the ways in which he tried NOT to release the movie once it was done and it became very clear he would NEVER get to HAVE her.

Though NONE of this mirrored the way in which he and his company took CREDIT for the movie AND her work on it, at every public turn of the film’s release.

Though trust me, she tells the tale far better than I do.

As do women like Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd. Oh sure, right now most of us are all #MeToo and #MeTooSupporters. But there was little guarantee of this when both actresses were first speaking to Ronan Farrow in several New Yorker exposees that broke the story nationwide a mere handful of months ago.

Anyone involved in any type of power position in the film biz during the last 20 plus years or so (as I have occasionally been) has heard numerous stories about those who were in the life is too short to work with category. Those whom you wanted to stay away from at all costs, if possible. The ones who were impossible, difficult and a NIGHTMARE on a project, who would get you derailed.

Kind of makes you think about how actresses are perceived #iseeyouKatherineHeigl #whatsthetruth

Well, as it turns out, both Ms. Judd and Ms. Sorvino were two names I had heard were impossible nightmares and difficult over the years – as had many of my friends.

I never gave it much thought since I hadn’t specifically been in a position to hire or reject either one of them on anything. I just took it as merely a well, perhaps – to be filed in the back of my mind as a small red flag if ever the opportunity arose for myself or any of my friends to choose, or not choose, to work with or hire either one of them – ever.

So, imagine my surprise – and that of many others, I suspect – when these particular tweets of support and testimony finally came this week – decades later – corroborating the smear campaign against both Ms. Sorvino and Ms. Judd.

Kind of makes you wonder what we could have seen from these ladies

From Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings – one of the most successful film trilogies ever made –– on the two actresses:

I recall Miramax telling us they were a nightmare to work with and we should avoid them at all costs. This was probably in 1998… I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women – and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list…

And this tweet from Terry Zwigoff, director of Dimension Films’ Bad Santa:

Needless to say both actresses tweeted their appreciation to finally know the truth after years of rumor and innuendo, and publicly thanked both directors for coming forward in support.

And yes it’s true, it does take courage even now with a deposed mogul like Mr. Weinstein, to volunteer the behind-the-scenes dirty laundry stories of how decisions are made at the major studio level. Other power players wonder, if the goings for them were to get tough, if even you – a financially and/or creatively successful director of hit movies – can be trusted to hire on a still incubating new project of theirs. Why take the risk? Is it worth it? Surely there is someone as equally talented. Not to mention…cheaper.

No, it’s not in the same league as being the victim of a sexual predator. But it’s a real good example of

  1. who these men are
  2. how they operate
  3. and exactly what they are capable of.

In business, that is. You, well, now know some of the rest.

#WatchYourBack. But more importantly, #WatchYourColleaguesBack.

Eric Clapton – “I Shot the Sheriff”

Ham and Dregs

He drinks a DOZEN DIET COKES per day.

He watches at least FOUR HOURS of TELEVISION (and sometimes up to EIGHT HOURS) per day.

He is often surrounded by guests at dinner where everyone consumes STEAKS (well-done) with tons of GRAVY, salad with gobs of BLUE CHEESE dressing topped with BACON crumbles, and MASSIVE slices of CAKE with EXTRA SCOOPS of EXTRA RICH ICE CREAM for dessert.

Melania in the vegetable garden: “He’ll never find me here!!”

He enjoys belittling employees, friends and enemies, particularly in front of others, loves to gossip, and gets moody after a couple of days of “peace.”

No – he’s not a SUPERHERO.

He’s…THE VILLAIN.

You don’t believe me?   Check this out.

It’s sad to learn – from 60 DIFFERENT SOURCES no less, many of who work or worked for him – that a sociopathic toddler daily dirties the rooms where Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy and Obama once stepped.

Talk about bad real estate

Though – full confession — he and I agree on one point. The entire liberal left as well as the vast MAJORITY of the country IS out to get him. We want to get him OUT OF OFFICE before the country crumbles under the weight of his overinflated ego and underinflated supramarginal gyrus.

The latter would be the part of the brain that helps us to distinguish our own emotional state from that of other people and is responsible for empathy and compassion.

Whole studies have been done on this. So perhaps he can finally make himself useful to society in his post-White House years (2018? 2019?) by volunteering his brain for scientific research.

Never gonna happen, Chairy.

Yeah, like that’ll happen. Volunteering, I mean. With nothing in it for him.

Though maybe if Putin orders it so….

Oooooo SHADE

If this sounds like a bit of an irrational rant, well perhaps it is. Rant, I mean. Because it’s certainly not irrational. In fact, reading it over feels incredibly rational. Especially for anyone who has lived in the United States for the past year and endures occasionally watching the news, reading a newspaper or has generally listened in on anyone else’s conversations around lunch or dinnertime.

This weekend my husband and I are finally getting to see Hamilton. This is that musical about one of our greatest unsung Founding Fathers who was never really credited with being a founding father and never became president.

Yet, he fought numerous bloody battles in the Revolutionary War, literally created our financial structures and helped end the international slave trade before dying at age 49.

Not throwing away his shot

No, he didn’t have bone spurs. He was a poor IMMIGRANT whose mother died when he was a child and whose father abandoned him until an older cousin took the poor kid in.

The rest of the story is, as they say, history, if not the type we were all taught in school at least the subject of a 2016 American musical that won the Pulitzer Prize (only one of nine musicals to do so) as well as 11 Tony Awards.

I, for one, would rather have the awards. They’re shinier, no one can take them away and history gets rewritten every few centuries or decades, depending on the era in which one lives.

Get Lin-Manuel’s ready #onlyOscarleft #matteroftime

It’s hard not wonder in which era we all reside. In terms of history, I mean.

Though it’s easy to illustrate we’ve evolved from the time of Hamilton. One doubts he could ever have dreamed a man with no governmental or legal experience – only gobs of money from personal business interests– could assume the presidency when the majority of the country hated him.

#nuffsaid

Certainly, the dentistry is better today. I’ll personally offer myself up as testimony to that. But not to the rest of it.

The burden of proof is on which indeed is more preferable will unfold as the weeks and month trudge on.

Do we choose steak, blue cheese, double ice cream and bacon?

Or do we subsist on something just a little more sensible?

Does googling cute pictures of the Obama family count? #comeback

What history will tell future generations – well, that’s a whole other story – and depends who’s in charge.

But I always check the art of the time if you really want to know the truth. Lord (or whomever you believe Him or Her to be) knows what they’ll find for 2018.

Hamilton — “The Room Where It Happens”

A Taxing Situation

The best part about the Senate Republicans passing this week’s tax bill was watching the video put up by Sen. Jon Tester from Montana – a fairly middle of the road Democrat.

He showed us the bill – all 479 bound pages of it with many hundreds of cross outs and handwritten new lines and paragraphs in the margins – and asked if any of us could decipher it for him. This was because he had literally just received these pages in his office and was being asked to vote on it in just a couple of hours.

Here’s the thing – as an experienced college writing professor I’ve read thousands of pages with handwritten cross-outs and wouldn’t swear to what any of them mean, much less cast my vote for or against. In fact, usually I require students to just resubmit.

It’s even worse with the stuff I’ve written over a lifetime as a screenwriter and journalist. One of my dirtiest little secrets is when I’m on deadline I am often forced to take my OWN scribbly, handwritten pages in hand and beg my OWN husband to translate something I once thought of, then rethought, which I now deem essential.

not mine, but might as well be #saywhaa

Yes he often does this (he knows me and my handwriting far better than I do) and yes this is yet one more of thousands of reasons why I married him despite the fact that the vast majority of Senate Republicans objected to it.

Though it is not merely for that reason that I more than see Mr. Tester’s point.

Let’s face it, almost no one really WANTS to read almost 500 pages in tax law or listen to endless hours of hearings about it (Note: The latter was done prior to the passage of Obamacare, no matter what you’ve heard).

… and the Senate is meeting them

In the same way almost no one really WANTS to go work out every other day, or really WANTS to go to the doctor every year or two for a physical, or really WANTS to go to work on a sunny day or even really WANTS to brush their teeth, be nice to their parents, spouse, friends and/or lovers in those off days when they’re sh-tty and you’re just not in the mood.

We do usually because we know it’s the smart choice and have learned through experience that when we’re not smart we’re stupid and that never ends well.

One way to cope

Often life – and its choices – are no more complicated than that.

We could spend a lot of time here trying to make a case why it’s not good to support an unread or half-read or barely or mostly read bill that will cause 13 million Americans to lose their health insurance, massively slash taxes for corporations, give the bottom 10% of earners in America $50 back in taxes and the top 1% $34,000.

In fact, we could go on about any number of things, but are instead providing just a few links that will explain it all for you far better than WE could:

There’s this one   ….. or this one  …… oh and this one too

Instead, know this:

YOU are in the —

Top 1% if your income is over $481,000.

Top 10% if your income is over $138,000

BOTTOM 50% if your income is under $39, 275.

Ummmm…. what?? #help

What?  That’s right. If you’re making MORE than $39,000 & change per year you’re living LARGE – better than 50% of the country.

Let that sink in – especially if you live in a big city where it’s a lot more expensive to live. Why, you’re practically rich! Or at least on your way! Though where – well, no one can be exactly sure.

But do we really need to be? That’s A LOT of reading.

Is there such a thing as “kidsplaining?” #orisitjustpatronizing

So instead, here’s some daunting math to once again review. Yes, it’s boring and not your subject, but still:

In 2019, if you’re in the bottom 10% of earners you get a $50 tax cut. But if you’re in the top 1% you get $34,000.

And the further good news is if you own or are a corporation you go from paying 35% in taxes to 20%.   Though that lets out about 90% of us, if not more, don’t worry. The new strategy is that all this new found money the rich gets will trickle down to you because THEY will put back in the economy.

LOL #whiteguys

Which means in about a year and a half, here’s what you’ll want to do:

Close your eyes, keep your hand out, go in the middle of the street and try NOT to think about the last time an Uber wealthy person bought a beach house or a new plane and as a result money came blowing back towards you. Or hit you on the head when you weren’t looking. Or reading.

How dumb do they think we are?

Seriously.

George Michael – “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime”

Stream of Culture

What keeps us apart is, in many ways, exactly what can bring us together. Well, not all of us. Let’s face it, there are always people on each side who are a lost cause and some subjects on which the most malleable of us choose to be unbendable.

For instance, there’s nothing you can say, do, write or text that will bring me around on our current Electoral College POTUS and, yes, the people who continue to support him.

Don’t even get me started

So don’t even try it. I’m not interested in understanding them, you or him. I’m only concerned with removal whether it be impeachment or otherwise –- as long as that otherwise is painful, messy and unforgiving.

But let’s leave politics out of it and go to the movies!!

See what I did there?

You… You’re Good

I watched two very different and relatively new films at home this weekend that got me thinking about this. Contrary to what we’ve all heard, there are popular films that DO make you think and some of them are available to you without leaving your home if you have access to home streaming or at least someone else’s account number to pilfer (Note: Oh, like THAT’S not happening – as we speak).

The struggle is real #butnotreally

The films? One was Mudbound and the other The Big Sick.

What makes these very different movies special is what actually makes them so similar: How they express our perpetual culture clash here in the US and worldwide – through various generations – and what interest, if any, we have in doing anything about it.

If you believe in the movies (and which of us doesn’t), there are always a few naysayers in the bunch, usually young people, who reject the purity and isolationist adherence to the true doctrinaire cultural heritage/thinking/values any said culture requires– in other words the dogma.

More than just beards and avocado toast

But I for one refuse to believe we have gotten so cynical that we reject the movies and the fact that they are actually reflective of real life today because, well, they have to be: — they’re always made by live humans who live in a particular time and those people in that time thus choose their subject matters for very particular, nee timely, reasons – for them.

Not sure exactly what was going on in the filmmaker minds of Mudbound and The Big Sick but we can guess.

They are both made by people of color exploring their backgrounds and the isolationist philosophies of their culture partly due to the repressiveness of the dominant white society. Of course, the same can be said about many white filmmakers who also feel the need to look back and understand these very same issues not only from their POVs but through the perspective of others not like them (Note: Yes, each of these above movies did also have Whites in prominent positions that helped get them made).

But guys, Judd Apatow flies coach! #endearing

In any event, if all of the above themes and reasons sound particularly timely for 2017 they should.   There are only so many superhero franchises and studio tent poles a conglomerate can afford and audiences will go see.   All you have to do is consider the box office results for Green Lantern, Fantastic Four, John Carter and The Lone Ranger in the last few years and you’ll understand.   Not even a conglomerate likes to write off $100,000,000 per asset. (Note: Yes, that’s what they call movies these days in the big glass tower/boardrooms and yes, that’s about on average, give or take some millions, what each of those films has lost).

That’s where movies like Mudbound and The Big Sick come in. Someone, and then more than one creative talent – and then some more – get committed to an idea or script that often burns a hole into their soul because they’ve either lived it, observed it or it resonates with them for some other very personal reason.

kind of like that pizza I can’t stop thinking about… but, you know, more important

In the case of Mudbound, it’s a book about a Black and a White family in the deep rural south that are involuntarily connected through racism, patriotism and all sorts of other isms. Yet putting it in the directorial hands of a Black, out lesbian director like Dee Rees (Pariah, Bessie Smith) takes it way beyond the usual Hollywoodization of this subject and gives us something uniquely 2017 even though it principal action occurs more than three quarters of a century ago.

it’ll stay with you

For The Big Sick, well – it’s a true and very personal autobiographical love story told from the perspective of standup comic Kumail Nanjadi – a unique talent who people felt comfortable enough to not only trust writing his own story (okay, co-writing) but to also play what is essentially a decade younger version of himself convincingly.

Still – there are numerous other reasons these films succeed creatively the way that they do.

And it’s not just the addition of Holly Hunter #itdoesnthurt

The Big Sick speaks to the difficulty and irony of love and how one never seems to find it in the right time and place – except when we do but are too dumb and/or scared to fully commit to it.   However, the magic of the film lies not only in the writing and performances but the fact that the onscreen (and real) Kumail is a transplanted Muslim-raised Pakistani who essentially grew up in the US with parents that still expected him to adhere to the ways of traditional culture and marry one of his own kind.

Yes, several decades ago we had the even more comedic breakout hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which, yes, too, was universal. But, um – NO, it didn’t quite have this kind of timeliness of being released into the world of Muslim bans and rash Trumpist nativism that is 2017 America. Though nothing like being lucky enough to catch time in a bottle….right???

That… and millions of dollars at the box office #winwin

In writing and starring in his own love story the real Kumail gives us what feels like an open and unvarnished (though certainly partially comic – hence the studio appeal) look into the truth of HIS family life and in the process de-myths some of the ridiculous stereotypes a large segment of the US clearly feels about his culture and families like his that they have, for THEIR own reasons, never taken the time to know.

On the other hand, as the film deftly communicates, maybe Kumail’s family also has not taken enough time to truly give the adopted country THEY chose to live in enough of a chance. This is why in the end The Big Sick is not a polemic for either side, which is why it is, indeed, a film uniquely today. When small windows of opportunity are jimmied open for non white, non-binary thinking creators it’s amazing how much color, critical acclaim and yes, even box office returns on one’s money, manage to sneak in.

Not to mention newfound mainstream fame #MrSaturdayNight

Mudbound, on the other hand, is an ugly look at an ugly past that we Americans never seen able to get past – southern racism – nee slavery. It’s sad and maddening yet somehow feels compelling and current.

This is partly due to the current US Senate race in Alabama with a Republican nominee (Roy Moore), an acknowledged white separatist and accused child molester, being this week wholeheartedly endorsed by our current sitting US president. It is also not coincidental it is being released at a time where Mr. Moore is running to claim a Senate seat vacated by our current US Attorney General (Jeff Sessions), a man once wholly rejected for a federal judgeship by an actual US Senate judiciary committee because he was deemed a racist.

Thank god for Kate McKinnon

Though Mudbound takes place in nearby rural Mississippi before, during and after World War II, and though it has a literary patina due to shifting narrative voiceovers by a handful of its primary characters, it is blunt in its depiction of how ethnicity and difference was (and by reflection, is) treated in large pockets of the Deep South. The foulness, the dirtiness and ever-pervading stench of what was and sometimes still is our uniquely American sin is reflected in every frame of the film.

Just giving it a fresh polish.. you know.. just in case

There is little true or enviable about this White family except that it has all the power in the world as it reigns over a Black family that is equally unenviable despite doing its best to be true to each other. Of course, the latter is impossible given the rigged system they’re living under where there isn’t a white billionaire in sight making big speeches promising to do so. This is one more among so many reasons everything about Mudbound has a scarily somber contemporary feel – the belief of so many that not only is the system they’re living under truly rigged but the fact that the one white billionaire continually making public speeches claiming he’ll help them will not be offering their family a helping hand at all. If anything, it will be quite the opposite.

Sly & The Family Stone – “Everyday People”

Giving (Extra) Thanks

Due to technical difficulties, enjoy this second serving of this week’s Notes post! 

There is a perfect little gem of a movie at your local theatre right now called Ladybird that perfectly evokes the real spirit of Thanksgiving. Or, at least, what it should be.

No, this is not because it has turkey dinners, enviable family gatherings or even any one real specific major revelation about what or whom we should all be majorly thankful for in life.

I mean, is there one such precious individual or experience that you can pinpoint from your past or present? Certainly I can’t think of one.

So instead what the immensely insightful writer-director Greta Gerwig (who will now finally be shed of the loaded and limiting moniker of “go-to indie actress”) has given us is a whole series of people and memories and hurts and pleasures from a fictionalized vision of her own last year of high school that trusts US to look inward and draw our own conclusions.

so angsty #inthebestway

Who was a jerk and who was wrong? Were you actually born into this family or unwillingly dropped into one of nature’s most regrettable mistakes? Are you right about more things than you’ve given yourself credit for or is that just your guilt or subconscious trying to sell you that there might have been two or more moments when THEY could have known better?

Of course we all have our THEYs but they differ depending on the age we are and what we’re experiencing.

This was the point of Ladybird for me and why it feels exactly right for Thanksgiving 2017.   We should be grateful for all of it – every last moment – for THEY have brought us to where WE are today.

If that’s not what we want we can choose to do better.

If that’s what we like we can look back in joy and appreciation – or in fear that it will inevitably one day all disintegrate and turn into dust and sand. Or we will.

a little light (and dark) humor

This is hardly revelatory stuff. Except in moments that you need to be reminded of it. Then it is.

It is also why the coming of age movie will always be a timeless and enduring genre that each generation or subset of a generation – yes that means anyone reading this – defines for itself.

No – this does not mean be grateful for the AWFUL (fill in this blank with the myriad sickening moments you’ve barely lived through or witnessed of your choice.

ah relief!

Please. This is not in any way meant to be inspirational and we have a whole host of upcoming holidays from which to draw those lessons from. But sometimes art – and yeah, many films these days still qualify as such – can remind all of us that what we get in any given year is usually a mixed bag that we figure out how to uniquely proceed through or get stuck in. It is this, all of this, that specifically makes us, individually – US.

And in the moments they are happening, we are usually the worst judges of US.

It seems not insightful but merely truthful to write this at the end of what has been a very difficult year for many of US – especially in the U.S. (Note: And its territories).

One supposes there are some – okay, at most a very small plurality – who get up each day singing the 2017 equivalent of Zippity-Doo-Da. But if you live in LA as I do, or in the NY or San Francisco areas, where many of my friends and relatives are located, it’s a tough lift to imagine.

Can we just stop with the term “Real Americans”? #dreamsfor2018

And yet –

I would like to see the negative events of 2017 – starting with Trumpism, moving through various climate and/or gun-related disasters, then segueing on to the public exposure of the nauseating ordinariness of sexual abuse in our culture, and finally ending with each of our own specific misfortunes in the last ten months – as part of a continuum.

They are part of what we are and have become – for sure.

But they DO NOT tell our ENTIRE story.

It’s too simplistic to define four years by 10 months or a single, seemingly cacophonic event. Just as it is way too reductive to define a young woman’s trajectory in life by the jerky boy she got rejected by in high school or the harsh, withholding mother who never understood her.

Even if your mother is played by the divine Laurie Metcalf

Ladybird respects her heroine enough not to underestimate her and it feels, at this time of the year, that we might all resist the temptation to pull the rug out from under ourselves or our worlds before our final scenes are played.

Some months ago I was seated at the bar of a hip restaurant in West Hollywood a dear friend had taken me to in order to cheer me up after some disconcerting news. (Note: Yes, the BAR – it was the only seating immediately available and it featured not only the same food but a real 180 degree CARRERA MARBLE countertop).

we’re very fancy

In any event, seated right next to me eating THE MOST FABULOUS food, was this very lovely, friendly and much more hip looking lesbian couple from London enjoying a pizza we knew we immediately had to order and, well many laughs we (well, I) clearly knew we had to be a part of.

After striking up a conversation, within minutes I’d somehow forgotten why we were there, tuned out the noise from any number of obnoxious Hollywood types within earshot and became thoroughly entranced with the very hip, funny London lesbianers’ tours of Venice Beach, the Hollywood sign, and tale of one particular dish at some other restaurant I’d been to many times that the most infectiously happy and hipper of the pair made me promise to go back and try because it would literally change my life.

me… 90% of the time

I felt better until it was almost time to leave when I suddenly and uncontrollably blurted out:

I just want you to know that Trump – so many of us didn’t support him. Please don’t think of us like that.

At which point, she put her hand on mine, looked me in the eye and replied:

Oh love, we know. We all know. Please, don’t take that on yourself.

MY EMOTIONS

She smiled, I nodded, she paid the check and she turned away. Then she got up and I noticed she was wearing a HUGE yet very stylishly hip diamond ring that sparkled her way towards the light by the door.

Wow, I thought, that’s quite a rock, no wonder she’s so happy.

Of course, as we know, nothing is ever that simple. Much as we’d like it to be.

Doris Day – “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah”