Modern Love

As I binge watched Amazon’s eight-episode Modern Love series this week I wondered what part of my relationship with my husband would serve as the jumping off point for our episode.

Nothing came to mind.

That is not because there wasn’t drama, comedy, love, hate and everything in between. (Note: Please, we’re talking about two gay men here).  It’s because after celebrating 32 years together this Oct. 24 there are too many stories.

There are also too many risks that the one story I did choose to tell would only come across to the collective YOU as a painfully self-satisfied humble brag.

what can I say?

Maybe something along the theme lines of:

— See, we almost broke up but then a series of inspired events where we both took chances brought us together!

— You think the perfect mate for you will never come along, well let me tell you about how many toads I had to kiss.

— Share your deepest secret publicly with the world and perhaps get some therapy, or meditate, or give someone a chance that you NEVER would have dated or befriended in the past and you too can be as happy as the ME in MY love story.  Why NOT, right?

I just can’t do it for numerous reasons, and one other, which we’ll get to in a minute.

For those unfamiliar with the world of Modern Love (Note: And which of us isn’t in some shape or form in the broader sense), the series is loosely based on real-life love stories that appear in a recurring column in the NY Times Style section.  It began 15 years ago and grew exponentially in popularity.  Four years ago it became a podcast.  This month it debuted as a half-hour streaming show and this past week it was renewed for season two.

… and that’s not even half the cast!

I guess that means it has good ratings but, seriously, with streaming platforms like Amazon (Note: And Netflix and Hulu and…) we don’t really know.  I mean, would you swear to it?  I certainly wouldn’t.  Maybe it’s a loss leader, like the perfect sized 125 inch Hi-Def TV on sale in limited quantities just to get you into Target on Christmas Day.

Losing interest, already?

Well, don’t.

Before deciding this universe is only for romance novel fans, rom-coms addicts, or those looking for a very special brand of reassuringly Hallmark non-holiday movies (i.e. women and gay men of certain age), not quite.  Actually, not at all.

Modern Love is not necessarily focused on romantic love and not always about happy endings for all concerned.  It can be about weird friendships, familial connections, unsettling dysfunction between parents and kids, old people too close to death’s door or mental illness.  Years ago I read one about a dog that I barely got over, though quickly decided I could have written better from my own experience.   (Note: See humble brag).  Yet on reflection I recently decided the latter was not true, it would have only been different.

Did I mention I love my dog?

The half hour format gives the show a bit of a kick as does the limited space the Times reserves for its frequent Sunday column.  You don’t like that particular story, you won’t be bored or annoyed for long.  But every so often you get whacked upside the head in a great, unexpected way by one of them.

To call them inspiring is to imply too much bathos.  The best ones emerge as unusually true and atypically heartfelt.  In fact, the best ones are the anti rom-com.

This is why actors such as Dev Patel, Catherine Keener, Anne Hathaway, Tina Fey, Jane Alexander, Andrew Scott and Andy Garcia were attracted to emotional season one roles that these days are scarce to sometimes non-existent (Note: Depending on the way you look and your age and your race) on the big screen.

YES, Catherine Keener, YES.

As Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and many others have opined in the last few weeks, not everyone – meaning actors AND moviegoers – can fit into the Marvel/DC Universe.

This came into specific focus when I began reading the extremely mixed and varied reactions to Amazon’s eight episodes.  Numerous critics felt at least half of them were flat and phony while others loved most of the entire series.  A reviewer for Entertainment Weekly rated them from best to worst and had the nerve to put MY LEAST FAVORITE at number one.  Imagine!

But that’s the way it is with love, modern or old-fashioned.  What floats your boat is a repellent to someone else.  This is fortunate because if reactions were universal I am fairly confident I would not be in a loving relationship for 32 years.

Very romantic

Which reminds me, towards the end of my binge something happened in my own story that may or may not read like a humble brag but stopped me right in my tracks at the moment.

My husband had come upstairs (Note: No, we didn’t couple binge it together!) for an Energy Drink to sustain him long enough to focus on finishing a chapter for the long overdue textbook he was writing.  He went to the fridge, looked up, poured the drink into a glass and finally noticed I was searching, frantically and frustrated, through the cupboards and drawers for something.

What are you looking for?

Do you have any gum?  I just really need a piece of gum.

Yes, I am addicted to Extra’s sugarless bubble gum.  A nasty habit but certainly better than drugs, McDonald’s or indiscriminate anything at this point in time for me.

Actually, I do.  It just so happens that I keep a secret package downstairs in a drawer in my office for this very reason.

.. and now I’m a puddle #thesweetest

At which point he proceeded to go down and up the stairs in less than a minute and proudly produce that pretty pink pack of overly sweet, plastic-wrapped, chemical deliciousness.

This might not make a good episode of Modern Love but it says everything I could possibly tell you about what might still float your boat after 32 years.

David Bowie – “Modern Love”

Not Joking

I’ve decided to wait a bit to see Joker.

Not that you asked and not that I’m afraid to venture out to a movie theatre showing Joker on its opening weekend.

Oh, yes.  Apparently, there is reason to be afraid.

My students actually brought this to my attention, noting more than several sets of their parents called them this week to warn them of the perils of venturing out.  These were mothers and fathers who were truly afraid their college juniors and seniors could possibly be shot at in a public venue that dared to show a movie that addressed the evolution of a cartoon villain into a gun toting vigilante who wanted revenge.

America, 2019 #sad

But it never even occurred to me to be scared and I have fears about pretty much everything.

Not being a parent and never one to miss the opening weekend of a movie I was desperate to see (Note:  Yes, I did see Judy on opening night.  Please.) I thought of venturing out to Joker.  But it wasn’t the prospect of the ridiculous crowds that go hand in hand with those huge box-office projections that made me stay home.

Reserved seating ensures you don’t have to wait in line for a ticket and I was willing to take my chances in the off chance of a flesh and blood gunman given I survived the eighties.  But, well, the rat f-ck in the parking lot, the talking in the theatre during the film, the inevitable crying kid who shouldn’t be there or texting teens with neon-screened phones who have to be there– I mean, really, I can wait.

I’m fine with this

And anyway, Martin Scorsese says any film that’s part of the Marvel Universe isn’t real cinema so I doubt that he feels any differently about DC/Batman origins.

Honestly, the closest I can think of them, as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being.” —  Martin Scorsese to Empire magazine this week.

Scorsese throws it down

If Scorsese is venting about high and low art we moviegoers are really in trouble.

Still, I get it, don’t you?  A steady diet of anything eventually makes it less special and inevitably, less than satisfying.  So how frustrating must it be for someone who is acknowledged as one of the best filmmakers of the century to watch the market for what he produces narrow further and further.

It’s the slow execution of everything he has given his life to.  The existential extinction of a widespread and very particular art form.

On the other hand, (and quite honestly) I can’t say I’m excited to see another Scorsese gangster movie, are you? Really excited?  I mean, are you really, really excited about the release of his latest three and a half hour long epic The Irishman early next month?  As excited as you were to see Goodfellas, Casino or even, say, The Departed?  Be honest.

I feel seen #truth

A superhero movie fan could argue a new gangster film from the director is the cinematic equivalent of a Scorsese theme park ride.   Others might, too.

This in no way lets the glut of Marvel/DC comic book movies off the hook.  Looking at what’s playing at what we used to refer to as real movie theatres at any given moment is a far, far cry from the last true golden age of cinema in the late sixties through the early to mid-seventies.

You know… before this #imissyoucarrie

The entertainment business has always revolved around making money, especially easy money.  So no one can blame movie studios, producers, directors, actors, et al for focusing on the broadest possible market with an emphasis on the key 18-24 year old demographic.

It’s said studios are most interested in a four-quadrant film, meaning the movie that will appeal to the widest swath of the population (Note:  What quadrant are you in?) but this is no longer the case.  It’s not even the case that whom they want to most appeal to are 18-24 year olds.

Most people when they go to a comic book movie #ifeelold

What is true is that superhero films accounted for more than 25% of total movie ticket sales last year, the equivalent of $11.38 billion.

Truth be told, this is a lot it is still far less than what we (okay I) might have imagined.  Until we realize, large as it is, it’s still a misleading statistic.  Those films might account for a quarter plus of releases but how wide of a release do the non-superhero movies get and how long do they really stick around?

In other words, 75% of the movies we have the option of going out to see might not have anything to do with Marvel or DC but if these films only play just one or two weeks in smaller, not easy to get to (or particularly desirable) theatres in not many cities, than what are the chances any of us will get to see them?  If a comic book hero is monopolizing 5 screens at an 8-screen multiplex do you want to brave the crowds on the weekend in order to see the latest indie offering starring Catherine Keener?  You might not even show up for a Jennifer Aniston rom-com or a Spike Lee joint.

Forget about the cost of a helmet or your bulletproof vest.

… and yet this is the film Catherine Keener did in 2018 #sigh

This is especially the case if you can wait a week or two and view them in the comfort of your large screened living room, which, in some cases, will offer images almost as large as the ones you might be treated to at one of the smaller multiplex screens that the non Marvel/DC movie you chose to attend would be relegated to.

It’s not an accident that Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is backed by Netflix, which will make it available online three weeks after it debuts nationwide at what Steven Spielberg refers to as real movie theatres.

in unison: “you talking to me?”

Okay, I’m paraphrasing.

What he actually said is that Netflix films (and those from other streaming services) should not receive equal treatment at the Academy Awards and should be nominated for Emmys.  His belief is once you commit to the TV format you are a television movie and not a film.

But does his point of view extend to movies primarily backed or financed by Netflix and other similar platforms?  Or does Scorsese’s The Irishman get a pass because clearly HE makes cinema?

What IS 2019 cinema, anyway?   What is NOT 2019 cinema?

.. and what the hell is this??? #geminiman

As famed multiple Oscar winning screenwriter William Goldman once said of those of us in and around the film business, nobody knows anything.

And that, unlike most of what’s offered at your local multiplex, includes everyone.

The Late Ones – “The Joker” (cover of Steve Miller Band)