Jan 12

“The End of the F***ing World”: In 8 Brief Episodes

The End of the F***ing World Isn’t Nearly As Bleak As It Looks. Jen Chaney, Vulture

Well, without the italics, it probably would be as bleak as it looks. But with italics it’s just a great Netflix series that caught my attention via a review headline.

The End of the F***ing World turns out to be a very binge-able eight episodes, of 20-ish minutes each, about bonded misfit teens James (Alex Lawther) and Alyssa (Jessica Darden).

So, what’s their deal? As you read the following series intro from Rob Lowman (Los Angeles Daily News), keep Sophie Gilbert‘s words (The Atlantic) in mind: it’s “a surprising tour de force, mashing up the pitch-black humor of British alternative comedies with the visual punch of an auteur-driven indie film.” Pitch-black humor, of course, is not for everyone’s tastes.

James and Alyssa are your average 17 year-olds, except James really wants to kill someone and Alyssa is about to blow at any moment.
When they meet, Alyssa, who is struggling with manic depression, says this about James, ‘I’m not saying he’s the answer, but he’s something.’ James sees her as somebody who would be ‘interesting to kill,’ so he pretends to be into her.

James, you see, thinks he may be a psychopath—and has valid reasons to think so that he’ll illustrate for you in quite brief but stomach-churning scenes.

Sonia Saraiya, Variety, notes additionally that both James and Alyssa are “full of fury: At their parents; at their stupid small town; at the other idiots in their school.”

Watch the (warning: NSFW) trailer for The End of the F***ing World:

If still intrigued, read more from Daniel Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter, about where and how this all goes:

The End swings wildly between deadpan hilarious, shockingly violent and a sweetness that’s occasionally just as shocking. It’s not a tone that will hit with every viewer, but you’ll know pretty quickly how much you’re able to forgive, much less embrace, and then The End keeps pushing into murkier and murkier complications. Nothing in the narrative is all that surprising. What’s satisfying is how even the outlandishness is grounded in the two main characters and defended through extensive and candid internal monologues that serve as counterpoint to the characters’ halting getting-to-know-you conversations.

Kevin Fallon, The Daily Beast: “For all their coldness and cynicism, both clearly just want to feel and to experience. There’s a sort of blanket sadness and compassion surrounding both characters, which is an interesting antidote to their saltiness and reckless behavior.”

Importantly, we do learn more about each teen’s upbringing and how they came to be where they are. Saraiya: “…(W)hat emerges is a portrait of two characters who find in each other a refuge from an uncaring and often cruel world. Our teenagers can be violent, but as the show makes clear, violence has also been heaped upon them…”

Do you think you now get the gist of this series? If not, you’re not alone. “The best thing about ‘The End of the F***ing World’ is that it’s hard to describe,” notes Saraiya. “It’s funny, and it’s sweet; it’s violent, and it’s romantic. Its leads are both reprehensible and totally sympathetic; both scared kids and responsible adults.”

In addition to garnering much enthusiasm from viewers, including an 8.5 on IMDB, The End also has a phenomenal retro soundtrack featuring songs from a wide variety of genres.

Wanna know how it all winds up for James and Alyssa? Just look at the title, says Jen Chaney in the aforementioned Vulture review. “[It] tells us pretty clearly,” she states, “that this show won’t have a happy ending. But even in its tragic moments, there are still glimmers of loveliness in The End of the F***ing World. You just have to be patient, and watch closely, to fully see them.”

Dec 07

“The Silence Breakers” Trump Trumpism

An excerpt from Time‘s article on “The Silence Breakers,” who’ve been named TIME Person of the Year 2017:

This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries. Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along. They’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women. These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought.

Trump came in second, disproving his previous boast that he’d be Person of the Year. As Rachel Withers at Slate noted in her headline, “Time’s 2017 Person of the Year Isn’t Trump. It’s a Rebuke of Trump.” And of Trumpism, I might add.

Who are “The Silence Breakers”? Those on the cover represent the many who’ve boldly come forth with recent allegations against powerful men who abuse and “include actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, Visa lobbyist Adama Iwu, Mexican agricultural worker Isabel Pascual, and one woman whose face cannot be seen” (Vox), who represents the many more victims who are not comfortable being named.

And it’s not only women who’ve been harassed and/or assaulted; some men are also represented.

Below are some of the most salient points made by writers Stephanie Zacharek, Eliana Dockterman, and Haley Sweetland Edwards in their Time “The Silence Breakers” essay.

Regarding Ashley Judd‘s admission that she previously hadn’t known how to report her alleged victimization by Harvey Weinstein:

When movie stars don’t know where to go, what hope is there for the rest of us? What hope is there for the janitor who’s being harassed by a co-worker but remains silent out of fear she’ll lose the job she needs to support her children? For the administrative assistant who repeatedly fends off a superior who won’t take no for an answer? For the hotel housekeeper who never knows, as she goes about replacing towels and cleaning toilets, if a guest is going to corner her in a room she can’t escape?

Almost everybody described wrestling with a palpable sense of shame. Had she somehow asked for it? Could she have deflected it? Was she making a big deal out of nothing?

Nearly all of the people TIME interviewed about their experiences expressed a crushing fear of what would happen to them personally, to their families or to their jobs if they spoke up.

Many of the people who have come forward also mentioned a different fear, one less visceral but no less real, as a reason for not speaking out: if you do, your complaint becomes your identity.

 “All social movements have highly visible precipitating factors,” says Aldon Morris, a professor of sociology at Northwestern University. “In this case, you had Harvey Weinstein, and before that you had Trump.”

In politics, at least, what constitutes disqualifying behavior seemed to depend not on your actions but on the allegiance of your tribe. In the 1990s, feminists stood up for accused abuser Bill Clinton instead of his ­accusers—a move many are belatedly regretting as the national conversation prompts a re-evaluation of the claims against the former President. And despite the allegations against Moore, both ­President Trump and the Republican National Committee support him.

Apr 10

“13 Reasons Why”: Teenage Suicide Aftermath

If you hear a song that makes you cry and you don’t want to cry anymore, you don’t listen to that song anymore…But you can’t get away from yourself. You can’t decide not to see yourself anymore. You can’t decide to turn off the noise in your head. Hannah in Jay Asher’s 2007 book Thirteen Reasons Why, the basis for Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why

Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times, about the premise of the new 13-episode series 13 Reasons Why

Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) appears more confident and insightful than most of her 17-year-old peers at Liberty High so, when she commits suicide, her parents, the faculty and most of the student body appear stunned. She did, however, leave behind a series of ‘old school’ cassette tapes that provide clues to why she ended her life — and who’s to blame.

The trailer’s below:

The 13 reasons, it turns out, are actually attributed to 13 different individuals, all of whom receive pertinent tapes. “The group must listen to all seven cassettes and follow her instructions on where to find clues. If they don’t? Their secrets will be publicly divulged. Just how Hannah will exact this posthumous punishment is part of the mystery.”

Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe, introduces Hannah’s friend Clay’s key role:

When the show begins, Clay Jensen [Dylan Minnette] has just received the tapes, and we gradually listen to them with him. The tapes also come with a map that takes Clay to some of the locations in Hannah’s chronicle, which includes both the smaller slights directed at her and weightier stories of slut-shaming and assault…

Clay is a sweet, low-key guy who’s shocked to discover that Hannah considered him one of the offenders. They worked together at the local movie theater, and he had a major but unexpressed crush on her — unexpressed, that is, unless you looked hard into his spellbound eyes. That’s one of the mysteries on the show: When will we find out what Clay did or didn’t do?

Leah Greenblatt, ew.com, on the various things that we find out happened to Hannah:

Some betrayals seem relatively small on their own: A nasty note passed, a face-saving rumor spread, a blossoming friendship derailed by a crush. But others are actual criminal offenses: private photos taken without permission, the cover-up of an accidental death, and, in separate episodes, two brutal rapes.

Maureen Ryan, Variety, lists some compelling questions raised—but not answered:

How can adults tell when the secrets teenagers are hiding are devastating or relatively benign? When do a frustrated teenager’s attempts to deploy healthy skepticism and reasonable detachment slide into depression, and how can a family member or friend spot the difference? How can young men and women — including LGBTQ youth — be true to who they are without fearing the most vicious attitudes of their peers and the community at large?

The essential conclusion of reviewer Dan Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter:

As a series, 13 Reasons Why advocates strongly for communication and basic human decency and shows many of the ways friends and loved ones failed Hannah. If it falls short in exploring the role of depression in Hannah’s situation, the accompanying 30-minute ‘Beyond the Reasons’ episode makes up some of that ground. The conversation-advancing special includes necessary outreach information, expert analysis, behind-the-scenes footage and features executive producers Selena Gomez and Mandy Teefey. It’s a valuable capper to a well-acted series that’s difficult to watch, yet always highly watchable.

Jan 13

“Martha Marcy May Marlene”: Woman Flees Abusive Cult

Another current and well-reviewed—though “smaller”—film is from first-time director/screenwriter Sean Durkin and is entitled Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011). The plot according to IMDB: “Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.” Following her escape, she winds up staying with her sister (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy).

Explanation of the title: Lead character “Martha” is given a cult name of “Marcy May” by the cult leader and is also dubbed “Marlene” by a fellow cult victim. She’s played by Elizabeth Olsen (sister to the more famous Olsen twins), who’s received stellar reviews.

Cult leader Patrick (John Hawkes) is described thusly by reviewer Anthony Lane (The New Yorker): “Like any good cult leader, he is a terrifying parody of a father figure, intent on making his kin feel at home. He has them fed, housed, and warmly encouraged—’You’re my favorite, and I won’t lose you,’ he says to Martha. He also rapes them.”

Before viewing the trailer below for Martha Marcy May Marlene, please consider whether you’re likely to become triggered by its content:

Selected Reviews

Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: “Durkin depicts a horror that some among us actually live, where the search for family leads to something familiar and dangerous.”

Stephen Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Olsen inhabits Martha’s broken world completely. And at the movie’s end – a jarring, boldly ambiguous end – we’re in her head, too, not sure what is real, and what is not.”

Andrew O’Hehir, Salon: “…an utterly gripping ride that will keep you guessing until the last second about what is real and what imagined, and whether Martha has entirely snapped the tether of sanity.”

Jan 12

“Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”: Women and Trauma

Two well-received and current films, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Martha Marcy May Marlene, deal with serious trauma issues in the lives of women. Tomorrow’s post will focus on the second of these films.

The most recent film adaptation of Stieg Larsson‘s book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011), directed by David Fincher, is now in theaters. If you’re not familiar with the themes of this film, you may be interested to know that sexual violence against women figures prominently. The book, in fact, was originally titled Men Who Hate Women (the English translation).

The trailer barely hints at this issue:

RAINN, or the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, states on its website that the film:

…illustrates the real life effects of sexual violence on victims and survivors, emphasizing the importance of getting help. Dragon Tattoo is the first of a trilogy of best selling mystery novels, about a ‘disgraced journalist and troubled young female computer hacker who investigate the mysterious disappearance of an industrialist’s niece.’
…Interwoven in the film’s main plot line is a series of incidences of violence against women. Each occurrence of sexual abuse, incest, and rape highlight the severity of these crimes against the victim: while an assault may only last moments, the effects of this serious crime can haunt a victim for his or her lifetime.

The character of Lisbeth (Rooney Mara), the “troubled young female computer hacker,” is a victim of violence who becomes a perpetrator of violence. Some viewers, whether ever victimized themselves or not, will identify with her and revel in her kick-ass attitude, and some may be unable to tolerate all the actual kick-ass. If you’re at all concerned, further reading and/or research on the film’s content may be in order.

One possible aid comes from A.O. Scott‘s (New York Times) film review: “Sexual violence is a lurid thread running through ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,’ and Mr. Fincher approaches it with queasy, teasing sensationalism. Lisbeth’s dealings with Bjurman include a vicious rape and a correspondingly brutal act of revenge, and there is something prurient and salacious about the way the initial assault is filmed. The vengeance, while graphic, is visually more circumspect.”