Gilmore Girls (A Year in the Life): Love and Letting Go

rs_600x600-160912121013-600-gilmore-girls-funeralWhere you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to
If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead

~~ Carole King, “Where You Lead”

SPOILER ALERT: So, per usual, I’ll write this review for those who have already watched the show. However, since you might just want a little peak at the show, but you may not want to have those mysterious four words ruined for you, I won’t discuss them.

If you’re reading this, you probably have some strong feelings about Emily (Kelly Bishop), Lorelai (Lauren Graham), and Rory (Alexis Bledel). In the past weeks, I’ve read reviews of the Netflix 4-episode series that ranged from complete lambasts to absolute raves from folks who were not just in love with these episodes, they were already planning to watch the next 4 and gearing up for a complete re-watch of the first seven seasons.

I’m somewhere between those two extremes and am probably closer to the lambast than the rave. I should admit, first, that I am no GG superfan. I watched the show on and off as it was released. And, this past winter, I watched all the seasons again from start to finish because you know, Netflix. I was excited about the new season because I did feel like we left the GG world at an awkward place when the show ended the first time.

Overall, I thought that year-in-the-life approach was a good one. We weren’t overwhelmed with being submerged back in a cast and a setting that has moved on. Well, I guess mostly Melissa McCarthy moved on in the big way, but other actors, like Lauren Graham, have stayed busy too. I am a big fan of series that are more interested in telling a narrative, rather than providing a plot point for a neverending sequense of episodes that all seem kind of the same (Ahem… like Law & Order. I think I’m the only person I know who actively dislikes that show. DUN DUN).

Now, even with only four episodes, there was one that could have been entirely skipped. Yes, I mean the musical. That was AWFUL. I mean, I LOVE MUSICALS! Loooooooooovvvvveeee them. I can sing every song from The Wizard of Oz. I tear up when I hear “Edelweiss.” If you piss me off, I just might be singing “Defying Gravity” in my head to inspire me to stay focused on my own goals. But, this musical was not something to be excited about, and it wasn’t bad in a funny way. It was just bad. I get that was the point, so we could see Lorelai act as a critic and all, but we still had to suffer through WAY too much of it.

My other beef with the show has to do with Rory. I’m not quite as aghast as some folks, like Megan Burbank over at The Portland Mercury, who railed and against the show and ASP’s decisions for Rory, arguing, “Rory Gilmore deserved better than this.” But, I agree in sentiment, if not in kind, with those who were disappointed in how Rory’s ten years were presented. Really, I get that our lives don’t always follow a Hollywood arc, with everything landing neatly in our laps at just the right time to ensure absolute success. But I don’t think that it makes sense for this character to be at such a loss in all areas of her life, from her family to her love-life to her work. I also find it nearly unbelievable that the hard-working, organized, and bold Rory Gilmore would be so unorganized in her packing that she would have lost her underwear. I get that it was meant to be a running gag, but it didn’t make sense and wasn’t funny. (And, a minor irritation, the pool scenes were also not funny either).

gilmoreWhat I think the Netflix series gets perfect, though, is the healing and forward progression of Emily, Lorelai, and Rory. That’s why I started this review with an excerpt from the theme song. The show, really, isn’t about Rory. It isn’t about Lorelai. It’s about how Emily and her love, as unreasonable as it may seem throughout the original series, led to a child, Lorelai, who would love Rory as fiercely as she does, and how eventually Lorelai would return that love to her mother. Love is, after all, about making a choice to give to another. We may not understand Emily, but there are so many moments where she gives to Lorelai. And, as she gives, she asks to receive her daughter’s love in return. Now, I know that perhaps we’re meant to see this as wrong, as if Emily is being unreasonable, but I don’t think so.

This series reminded me of Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, when at the end the grandmother realizes that she had taught the girls so much, but that she had never taught them to be kind to her, to love her, which leads the children to almost treat the grandmother as if she were irrelevant. Lorelai’s Wild moment changes not her view of herself, but her view of her mother. She calls her mother and can finally give her mother what is needed, what is kind, and what is loving. This allows Lorelai to more fully experience love herself and to more fully love her own daughter.

This four-episode series was a good watch and a better ending than the series had originally. I’m not certain more episodes are really needed, but I’m sure I’ll watch them if they happen.

Ghostbusters (2016): Unafraid of Ghosts

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So, somehow I missed the anti-woman hype about the new Ghostbusters until about a week before I went to see it. The very idea that people thought that this would be a bad movie just BECAUSE it starred women just seems so dumb, especially after seeing it and finding out how good it was.

In this reboot, there are some jokes that fall flat and some characters that seem a bit wooden. Plus, the giant ghost villian at the end is both creepy and comical, which is a hard combo to pull off and doesn’t really work in this movie either. However, I don’t think that means it was a bad idea or that those issues are DUE to women being the lead characters.

What does work is the women playing these characters with so much gusto and joy. This movie was absolutely fun to watch. I know a lot of praise will go to McCarthy and Wiig, as it should, but I think Leslie Jones was the stand out in this movie. She was funny, real, and dynamic (not literary, more a force of energy and ideas and positivity).

The other thing that I really liked about this movie is that it wholeheartedly embraced the original Ghostbusters and people’s love for it. Each of the original Ghostbusters had a cameo, and I clapped when Sigourney Weaver popped it during the credits. I’m glad that this Ghostbusters wasn’t afraid of the ghosts of the first movie — it made this one so, so much better.

If you’re looking for a fun movie to see one afternoon, this one is a must-see. Brava to all!

Doctor Who: Tennant’s First Season

david-tennantOkay, get it out. That sigh that means David Tennant is so sexy, and when he cries over Rose Tyler, you have to pause the show because you’re crying so hard that you can’t hear him say “Rose Tyler.”

Whew. Don’t we all feel better now.

I, too, like Tennant and think that perhaps he’s the best Doctor in the recent series. If I had to put the new doctors in order, it would go like this:

  1. Tennant
  2. Eccleston
  3. Capaldi
  4. Smith

Now that you know where I stand, you can get over it when I tell you that this season of Doctor Who is just not great. It’s not. It has some of the WORST episodes. I’m not certain if Love and Monsters is actually worse than New Earth, but I do know that the moment paving_431when Elton talks about his love life with Ursula is probably one of the grossest moments on TV  (and I regularly watch G of T).  I don’t get this season’s fascination with flat people — Ursula and Cassandra. The weird jealousy plotlines with Sarah Jane and Rose and with Rose and Mickey were also distracting. I just don’t think that a woman who had travelled to other planets and seen as much as Sarah Jane saw would really be that petty. And, Mickey, poor Mickey, he really does get used like a human version of K-9, which I don’t like. Mickey is great.

This is the season that establishes Torchwood, but the episode with Queen Victoria is confusing, loud, and somewhat boring. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been able to pay attention either time that I’ve watched it. I don’t think Tennant really shines in this role until Rose leaves, but the episode where he says goodbye to Rose is a really good one. All in all, I say that this season may be somewhere near the bottom of my list, especially since the other Tennant seasons are so, so good.

I’m super excited about the next season — Doctor/Donna is my favorite combo. Come on, spaceman!

Doctor Who: Eccleston’s Season

doctor-who-season-one_50-1000x800I am re-watching Doctor Who in addition to Game of Thrones, in some ways as an antidote to the darkness and despair that is part of GoT. Don’t get me wrong — I like both shows, but sometimes, it’s important to have a little joy included with the terror, and there’s not much joy in GoT. There are times when DW is more filled with terror for me, since I really like the characters and don’t want them to die. In GoT, there aren’t many characters that I like much anymore and I expect them all to die in a horrible way, which makes the show less powerful, but that’s a whole other blog post.

So, to all the fans of Classic Who, be prepared to be disappointed. I did not start there, but with the reboot, the ninth season starring Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper. I do plan to watch the Classic Who episodes, but since I first fell in love with the Doctor while the Doctor was Eccleston, that’s where I’m starting my own review of the series. When I first watched this series, I found Rose to be slightly annoying. Upon this re-watch though, I liked her much more and found her excitement over the doctor and travelling to be endearing.

I think this season of the doctor was wonderful. It has some of the best episodes, including The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances. I know that folks generally are in love with David Tennant, and who can blame them, but I don’t think Tennant could have come into the show as successfully if Eccleston hadn’t set the stage for him. In Eccleston’s portrayal of The Doctor, we see a man who is absolutely soul-sick over the Time Wars and his place in them, but we also see a man who loves the universe and believes in the power of love and kindness and goodness. The scene in The Doctor Dances where Eccleston joyfully proclaims “Everybody Lives! This one time, everybody lives” shows just how much the Doctor wants to be able to save people and to give people the opportunity to enjoy all that there is to offer in this universe. I love when he picks up the little boy, Jamie, and says,
“Only 20 years to pop music. You’re going to love it.” Billie Piper helps us realize the importance of joy and love since what he and we learn from her journeys with him is to embrace life and to acknowledge all the parts of living this life that we have to lead.

Now, I’ll go ahead and tell you in advance that my favorite Doctor/Companion pairing is Tennant and Tate, but there’s a magic between Eccleston and Piper that allows for all the rest of the doctors to step in and move this series forward. I hate that Eccleston left “under a cloud” (as a former coworker would say whenever someone left the college under less than auspicious circumstances), but I’m so glad he was part of the series and this season.

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Everest (2015): Because It Was… About Mountaineering

Back in his younger days, my husband was a mountaineering dude — the kind that planned vacations around getting to a mountain, then climbing said mountain, then coming back down the mountain, and going home.

Now, I understand the attraction to the great outdoors and don’t even mind roughing it a bit. However, this need to go to the very top of all these different mountains, I’m not quite as in tune with.The famous George Mallory quote about climbing Mt. Everest “because it’s there” doesn’t resonate with me (maybe especially because he died on Everest after saying it) However, since my fella loves that stuff, we watched Everest.

This movie was about a disaster on Mt. Everest that occurred in 1996. I remember reading or hearing about this back in the day, prior to watching the movie, and I am pretty certain it was covered in a documentary that I watched about Everest (the Liam Neeson one).

This movie was decidedly “Meh.” I never understood how the characters knew one another. I could barely understand what they were talking about — in part because of the accents, but also because they were talking about a bunch of mountaineering stuff that I didn’t understand. I have no idea why Rob, the experienced guide, decided to let Doug go in the first place (in the movie, he seemed sick, like pneumonia sick) and I certainly don’t know why he was allowed to summit so late in the day.  There was a good bit of drama about O and ice and ropes and moving on — none of which made sense either. In fact, the only reason I understood anything at all in this movie was from my spotty memories of the documentary I’d watched.

Jake Gyllenhaal Michael Kelly Josh BrolinI know it’s not a film’s job to teach the audience everything about a subject, but surely the folks who made it had to have known that people other than mountaineers would watch it. There aren’t that many mountaineering, Everest-climbing people out there to make a film successful. Maybe they were banking on Jake Gyllenhaal‘s appeal, but really, he was the absolute least-interesting character in the movie. All I know about him is that he took steroids because he way maybe sick? and maybe that was bad? I don’t think that’s a fair presentation of the actual guy, who seemed to be doing all that he could.

Mount Everest is a draw for people from all over the world, even though it’s deadly and uncomfortable and dangerous. This movie didn’t really capture much of that, even though almost everyone in the movie dies. What the movie does that made it “meh” instead of just bad is present an account of a truly, horrible story (though given the high rate of death on  Mt. Everest, I’m sure there are many other accounts just as harrowing as this one could have been). I just wish that they’d done a better job with that story.

 

 

The Lobster

The Lobster (2016) is a great film. That being said, I’m not sure I recommend that you go see it. I don’t know who you are, but I know that you very well may leave the theater feeling sad about whoever you came to see the movie with, or if you came by yourself, well, you may leave feeling even more sad. Then again, you may leave feeling joyous, as you are not willing to go to an extreme in order to be with some one and, perhaps, this film confirms that decision for you.

 

We were at the beach (Eww)
Everybody had matching towels (Eww)
Somebody went under a dock (Eww)
And there they saw a rock (Eww)
It wasn’t a rock (Eww)
Was a rock lobster (Eww)

 

So, what makes this film, this sad film, also a great film? In part, it’s the premise — marriage is required in order to be part of society, with no exceptions for widows or recent divorces or broken hearts or even just those ill-suited for pairing. This premise is played out perfectly, with no tongue-in-cheek moments, a perfect, brilliant satire. The casting is also superb, and much has already been made of Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, deservedly so. The performance that stood out to me was Lea Seydoux playing the Loner Leader… who loves her parents.

The sad part is that the film leaves you with that premise and doesn’t give you an easy out or answer for the relentless coupling that society seems to require of us (I say all of this as a person who is happily married and hoping to remain so). I left the film feeling like coming to the theater with my husband, sharing a cookie with him during the showing, and leaving to have an after-movie chat and beer at the bar/restaurant next door was somehow contributing to the pervasive need for a “soulmate” and feeling a bit uneasy about that.

Macbeth (2015): Brief Candle

Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard play the key roles in this 2015 version of Macbeth, and they both play the parts so well that this very well may be the version that all other Macbeth interpretations are compared to.

The film is short — just two hours — and much of the original play is cut, though some additions (the death of a Macbeth child, for one) add depth to the play and strengthening the bond and motivation for Macbeth’s devotion to Lady Macbeth.

The film is dark, very dark, with much of the action taking part at night and in rooms lit only by firelight. The end, though, with the burning Birnham Wood as the background is bright, which seems a deliberate irony — in the darkest moment of the play, when Macbeth has nothing left and Lady Macbeth has killed herself, the film becomes so bright in the background that Macbeth is backlit in every shot. He and the other soldiers are the darkest element on the stage.

video-undefined-2962727000000578-107_636x358The final moments of the play, the tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow speech, and Fassbender and Cotillard’s excellent portrayals of the soul-crushing power of guilt make this version of Macbeth one you shouldn’t miss.