Friday, December 16, 2011

The sourpuss in the middle of this picture is me, 1970, at Christmas time.  I'm 11 years old.

Okay.  Now, let's start with the movie list.

Movies watched in November 2011:

1.) The Parent Trap, dir. David Swift, 1961
2.) Phantom Lady, dir. Robert Siodmak, 1944
3.) Louis Sullivan: The Struggle for American Architecture, dir. Mark Richard Smith, 2010
4.) I Am Love, dir. Luca Guadagnino, 2009
5.) West Side Story, dir. Ernest Lehman, 1961
6.) The River, dir. Jean Renoir, 1951
7.) The Goddess, dir. John Cromwell, 1958
8.) Bridesmaids, dir. by Paul Feig, 2011
9.) Hugo, dir. Martin Scorcese, 2011
10.) The Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, dir. Andrew Dominik, 2007
11.) The Spiral Staircase, dir. Robert Siodmak, 1945
12.) Moneyball, dir. Bennett Miller, 2011

It was a glorious month for movies.  I would say the highlight was "The River" by Jean Renoir.  I've been wanting to see this movie for a very long time, and my mother-in-law gave it to Mulan for her 12th birthday.  We all watched it together as a family, and then we watched all the wonderous extras on the DVD.  Then, on Thanksgiving, we all watched it again along with our dinner guests.  Our friends also have a 12 year-old daughter and I think this film was just the perfect after-dinner experience.  One of the all-time great coming-of-age movies.  It's like watching an epic poem.

I'ld say the next standout movie of the month, for me, was "Bridesmaids." I'm embarrassed I hadn't seen it before.  I know so many of the people in that movie - not really well, but I know them from the comedy world - and specifically through the Groundlings.  I had no idea it was so good.  Kristin Wiig is a master - funny, painfully poignantly funny.  She's the female Bill Murray of our time.  The script was so precise and loose at the same time - just the right combination for maximum laughs.  And the actors - the actors!   This film is my top favorite of all those Apatow-annointed comedies.   This film and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" are my favorites.  (Well, and "Forty Year Old Virgin.")  It's so satisfying to see a comedy hit a home run.  I think it's the hardest thing in the world to do.  Great script, hilarious women, really damn funny.  I was so astounded - just blown away - that I watched it again immediately!  Maya Rudolph was so good too, and Melissa McCarthy is so versitile and her timing is impeccable.

I loved "Hugo." I cried for fully the last half of the movie.  I'm so happy Scorcese made this movie.  It's absolutely in my top ten of the year.  The best use of 3D that I've ever seen, maybe with the exception (or inclusion) of Zemeckis  "A Christmas Carol" (2009.)

What else really grabbed me???  Oh, oh, oh! "I Am Love" was soooo great. That's another one I watched twice. I also watched all the extras on the DVD.  Lots of great interviews with the entire cast.  Tilda Swinton is such an astonishingly good actress.  It's a fantastic part for her.

"The Goddess" I'd seen a long, long time ago.  I forgot what an amazing actress Kim Stanley was.  A really haunting movie about Hollywood actresses.  Some fantastic performances...

Now, on to books.  I've been reading many motherhood oriented books while I write my book about motherhood. It's been very enjoyable and enlightening.

Books read in November 2011

1.)  Blue Nights, written by Joan Didion.
2.)  Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species, written by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy
3.) Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding, written by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy
4.) The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is the Least Valued, written by Ann Crittenden.
5.)  Cool, Calm and Contentious, written by Merrill Markoe.

I've obviously been concentrating on books under the theme of "mother" since I'm finishing up writing my book.  I loved the Blaffer Hrdy books - both of them are very good.  But the book which really rocked my world was The Price of Motherhood.  That book had a great and deep impact, along the lines of when I read Robert Wright's "The Moral Animal."  This book yanked me out of my world and my cynical and uninformed views of motherhood.  Ha - I know, big statement, but seriously, it did.  It's hard to paraphrase the ideas in this book without using cliches and hacky sound bites.   In fact, one of the reasons that parenting - mothering in particular - is so discounted in our culture is because it is over-the-top elevated with platitudes and pandering.  For example, I want to write that after reading this book I realized that raising a child is the most important job in the world, but that sounds like we've heard it a million times and now we're supposed to look over to that sweatered, mild, sweetly smiling woman in the corner and gaze at her admirably for just long enough to feel good about ourselves before we rush off to do some "real" work that actually means something, earns something, and gets some respect.

I think I lazily fell into a typical mindset of feeling two opposite things: that women who stay home with their children can't "do" anything really,  and that women who work don't "care enough" to stay home with their children.  Of course, now that I've written that down I am mortified - and I protest, I didn't think that!  Okay, maybe a little bit.  But after reading this book I have such compassion for all women out there - in the trenches.  Also, I realize that my desire to be at home with my kid as well has have a thriving career is what pretty much every woman wants. Idealizing women who stay home with their kids while at the same time allowing our government to discount, overtax, and fail to help support our children is ridiculous at best and sinister at worst.  I found a great website that is active in promoting laws that help mothers and children called:

I'm still digesting everything I've read in all three of these mother books, so I won't go on here.  More in the book!

Now, I read Joan Didion's book, "Blue Nights" and it is extremely well written, and interesting.  But I have to admit that Joan often leaves me impressed, but... cold.  I felt compassion for her situation, and I learned a lot about her daughter, but I have to say, there's no -- well.... not "no there there" but god, I hate to write this but... "no heart there."  Sorta. Kinda.  God, I feel guilty writing that.  Let me concentrate on what I did like - beautiful prose, sparse and elaborate at the same time.  Astonishing writer, Didion.

I have included a book I just finished, so that's cheating, but I have to!  I loved this book so much.  Merrill Markoe wrote another hilarious book, "Cool, Calm and Contentious."  There are so many great essays in this book.  One has the name "Jack Kerouac" in the title and I laughed so hard the book flew out of my hands and my family made faces at me because I was disrupting our reading time.  The stuff about her mother is chilling and funny and insightful.  The chapter called "Bobby" about her relationship with David Letterman - or rather, about what she's had to go through after her relationship and partnership with Dave Letterman, is so funny and awful and gets her point across without being harsh or mean.  That is a difficult line to walk, and she does it.  Did I mention it's funny.  It's fucking hilarious.  Luckily Merrill is a friend of mine so I could tell her all these things.  Some of the essays are so funny they should be in collections of the funniest essays of all.  Merrill should be writing for the New Yorker. GET THIS BOOK.

Okay.  I have to go.  I'm writing away.  I have my last workshop this Saturday and it's going to be a "Best of" so I'm psyched about it.  Then the holidays will engulf me.  I probably won't have read five books in December, in fact, I'll probably be lucky to get through one!

Happy Holidays....


Bill said...

medneTotally great post! Thanks very much! Once I heard "Letting Go of God", I knew you are valuable as both an originator of ideas and words and a presenter of them. These statements about books and films show me that all over again. Thanks, again.

Bill said...

I'm sorry my admiration of you is spoiled by my inserting the Captcha word at its beginning. I had to type those letters to leave my comment.

Brett said...

Speaking of Hayley Mills, did you ever watch her great movie, "The Family Way," that I gave you a lifetime ago?

MrsB said...

I read Blue Nights and had the same thought - what? is there more? Her Year of Magical Thinking was a revelation.
It made me wonder if her husband really was the only great love of her life to the exclusion of her daughter in a way.
That said - those two years must have been horrifying and dreadful. I look at pictures of her and it is written all over her face.

Jay Borcherding said...

What a great post this month: your enthusiasm is infectious. While snark and cynicism have their appeal, it is a detached appeal--your sincere appreciation for the books and movies of this past month was a nice little kick in the pants.

I've been feeling a little blue this holiday season, and Hitch's death didn't help, but you've cheered me up a little bit. Thank you, and I hope you, your family and your friends have a healthy and Happy New Year.

TimmyB said...

Netflix queue updated. Thank you, Julia. And happy holidays to all.

HemlockMan said...

I recall going to see my Catholic pals around the neighborhood. Their houses were always packed with their brothers and sisters. My parents were atheists. So I only had seven siblings.

Plainfield PRAAR said...

Julia, I don't know how to email you direcly but I HAVE TO KNOW what you think of this business with Victoria Jackson? Is she doing an extended Andy Kaufman or is she serious? It's hard to take her serious at all the way she presents herself and the way she speaks, but what she says is so outrageous that I wonder if it is all a scam. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Juiia, I enjoy your blog! But I searched on your book title on Amazon and it's already taken. Bummer.

Laurie Gray said...

I wouldn't worry about the title. In addition to the fact that you can't copyright a title, that 2006 book appears to be out of print. Even the publisher NavPress no longer has it on their current booklist. So it's very unlikely that anyone would mistakenly order that book over yours. It's much more likely that someone who wanted the older book would get yours. This is an amusing possibility since NavPress is a Christian publisher...

Unknown said...

Hi Julia -- saw your list of favourite movies -- just wondering if you had a chance to check out "Crazy Stupid Love". Really enjoyed that one. Thanks again for your contribution to "Parenting Beyond Belief". I flew you to Decatur Island awhile back -- you probably don't remember me. However, again, I really appreciated your story. Cheers!

Franco said...

I recently watching God Said Ha! and Letting Go of God. I just wanted to say that they were very funny and I cried a couple of times. You're intelligent and amazing.

Ben said...

Bridesmaids made me like Kristen Wiig again. I was impressed with her the first few years she was on SNL but a few years ago it felt like she was being pushed on the audience to a greater degree than what worked, and all her characters were becoming a variation of the same basic one: an attention-seeker with an assortment of random tics and social disorders.

The decline seems to be more a reflection of the writing than Wiig's ability as a performer, and from what I've heard about the show environment, I'm guessing even that is a combination of writers being more inclined to write for someone who "connects" with the audience, as well as the desire to have the next "hit" character. Wiig's actually mentioned how she retired a few of her characters, and she mentioned in an interview once about how they did a second sketch with a character she didn't feel warranted a return appearance.

I think part of what made the movie work is that Wiig was able to build a more rounded character. I'm looking forward to seeing her in more...she is quite a masterful actor.

Anonymous said...

A must share...need only free will, common sense and faith to weigh these writings/videos:
Peace & Love

Anonymous said...

A favorite 'Mommy Blog'
Best with your book, Julia!

Anonymous said...

Julia maybe the stupidest person on this earth, next to Bill Mahr. What a worthless piece of crap. If you believe in nothing, you are nothing. Not only does she hates god, thus she believes in God - she decides to tell people to do the same. I am not religious by any means, but I think worthless liberals like her - deserves to have someone tell her to shut the hell up and stay off the TV. What an idiot. But, I am not some religious zealot and say she is going to hell - that is not up to me. Sad just sad. Oh and stupid. Of course - I dont think hell would take her or an A-hole Baldwin.

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