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

The Fame Monster

I’ve been thinking a lot about the overheated spotlight of fame in the last few days. 

More specifically, what it means when we see someone relentlessly splattered on our screen or are unable to avoid incessantly reading about them in the news or on social media.

Who and what exactly are these people and how do they fit into the paradigm of who and what THEY really are?

Kinda like Kim K’s recent Met Gala look, you have to wonder… who is she?

And what do our reactions to and fascination with them say about us.

Two people now all over the news and in pop culture that couldn’t be more different prompted this.  

In fact, the only thing they share in this moment, and likely for all time, is an outsized level of notoriety that IMPLORES us ALL to have an opinion on them.

1. The late Princess Diana Spencer, aka The People’s Princess.

And….

2. Kyle Rittenhouse, the now 18-year-old AR-15 rifle-toting killer of two men a year ago that was just found not guilty of committing their murder.

I know. 

You sure Chairy?

It doesn’t feel right to even carry them in the same thought, does it?

But bear with me.

Earlier this week I received the first complimentary DVD of the 2021 Hollywood awards season, Spencer.  It’s a creepy little film about a reimagined pivotal week in Princess Diana’s life in 1991 where she is secluded at the Queen’s estate to celebrate Christmas with the Royal Family and must decide whether she wants to fully embrace her public doppelganger, Princess Di, or re-emerge as her fast disappearing true self, Diana Spencer, and in the process attempt to save her two young sons from the clutches of the royal version of the fame monster.

As dramatic as its poster!

If that sounds a little pretentious, well, it is.  But that’s because this film was directed by Pablo Larrain, who unapologetically played fast and loose with the facts of Jacqueline Kennedy’s life in Jackie (2016), a movie I personally loathed and would have turned off had I not been determined to blog about how truly disrespectful and sickening I thought it was.

Still, there is something about Spencer that sadly speaks to the latter part of 2021.

Not to mention that, in its way, and with the help of a disturbingly transformational performance by Kristen Stewart, it manages to give the people’s princess a momentarily quite happy ending.

Is Oscar calling?

It also helps that at the outset the filmmakers superimpose onscreen that what we are about to see is: a fable from a true tragedy.   As we watch what seems like yet another crushingly awful exploitation of a dead person’s life we can at least relax into the idea that the filmmakers have copped to the fact that they’re cherry picking their way through a reimagined and reassembled graveyard of facts to serve their own purpose.

Not quite noble but, hey, when you’re as famous as Diana was and continues to be you’ve willingly bargained away your anonymity for the type of riches and attention that the rest of us mere mortals can only dream of.

Or have you?

So many Dianas, how can we keep up?

In a sense that is the question Spencer asks and it’s best expressed when the philandering and quite awful version of her husband, Prince Charles, finally confronts what seems like a mid-nervous breakdown Diana with a sobering fact he presumes she had to have always known.

The idea that there are two of us, the personwe really are and the other one people take pictures of.

In the film Charles is speaking of the Royal Family, trying to drum it into Diana that this is what she signed up for and to think or act in any more authentic way will indeed literally drive her crazy.

Pretty generous casting

Yet given what we’ve “achieved”(Note: Ahem) in terms of world interconnectivity in the last three decades this has now become an undeniable fact of life for all of us.  

For it’d be naive to deny that in less than 24 hours any one of us could be living out the hideous fishbowl existence of our own 2021 version of Diana, but without the designer clothes and cool sports car she drives in Spencer.

Whether we enable it, whether we plan it or if, as in most cases, it happens quite accidentally.

This brings us to Kyle, the good ole boy cause celebre or object of international hate/love of the hour.

Ugh, this guy

The moment this then 17-year-old little shit chose to travel to another state with a semi-automatic rifle he didn’t own strapped on his shoulder so he could strut around like a big bad PROUD boy, pretending to be someone he was not (Note: A military-style paramedic vs. a princess for the people) he was immediately trading in his anonymous life and willingly putting himself in the crosshairs of danger – red, white and blue style.

It might be true that he hadn’t planned murder – or well, multiple shots with a war weapon directly into the bodies or two unarmed people he would kill, though later be found not guilty of committing a felony against – but this was always in the cards.

The reason they call them military-style weapons is that they’re meant to kill people in the most efficient manner possible.  To deny this is like denying that dating a famous person from a famously Royal family can very likely make you viscous fodder for the international consumption of venal gossip.

Justice had no chance against an AR15

The difference, of course, is that young Kyle chose a potentially lethal weapon that he could aim at others for fun, frolic and effect.   Diana chose a potentially lethal arena where many of the weapons of the world would eventually be borne down on her because, well, they could.  And it’s fun.

Kyle quickly and enthusiastically became the hunter.  Diana found herself hunted. 

And it’s always better to be armed when you find yourself in the midst of a hunt.  Until, well, it’s not.

By play acting soldier and making himself a minor in a minefield of social unrest, young Kyle was living out a video game fantasy of right wing revenge on the streets of Kenosha, WI over a year ago.  But as often happens in these situations, who he truly was or could have become (Note: We’ll never know) got swallowed by the events he set in motion to hideously public effect.

More of the same…

With his exoneration in criminal court last week, it might right now seem that he’s emerged victorious and gotten away with it.  Yet recent history often has a way of George Zimmerman-ing and Dan White-ing the crap out of people like him – shooters who walk away seemingly unscathed to only years later be hoisted on their own petards (Note:  I’ve been waiting decades to use that comic book phrase from “Batman” and this is the first time it’s ever seemed appropriate).

Kyle might have physically survived a situation his victims couldn’t (Note:  Tough crap crazy Judge Schroeder, I can use that word outside of your courtroom).  But it remains to be seen if he can survive himself.

He’s scheduled to do his first post-court interview with Tucker Carlson to air on Fox Monday night and there has already been talk of him being offered an internship via accused child sex trafficker, Rep. Matt Goetz (R-FL).   

Eyeroll of the century

So, I mean, that will certainly end well for him in the long run, right?  Like, what could go wrong as the years go on?

Fame and some potentially small fortune might be currently knocking at his door but one of the things we know all too well as 2021 is coming to a close is that everything comes at a cost. 

And I’m here to tell you as a college professor with two decades of experience that few, very few, 18 year olds have what it takes to weather the kind of relentless, ongoing storms Kyle will find himself in.

It’s a dangerous drug

Fame is a harsh, relentless and unforgiving mistress as all of us adults who’ve been fortunate enough to live through Diana’s death AND the last thirty years can attest to.

No matter what side you’re on and no matter how dastardly or noble your motivations or deeds.   Stay tuned.

Lady Gaga – “Monster”