No More Mediocrity

There are some truly atrocious pieces of work that are still acceptable to love. Guilty pleasures, if you will. On my list are shows from TLC, the book Lovers and Players (you never see that twist at the end!), countless terrible movies my friends can’t believe I love, etc. There’s a line, though, that we as consumers of media need to draw between guilty pleasures, and wanting to drop things we hate but feel obligated to continue with.

I personally have never walked out of a movie. If it’s terrible, I end up adding my own, under-breath commentary to it. Just ask my friends; they hate taking me out to theaters. Books, however, I feel have less immediate social pressure convincing you to stick with

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Courtesy of we<3it

them.

 

There have been times when, curled up in bed, I’ve held a book in my hands that is uninteresting or just plain terrible, and I’ve actually felt guilty about putting it down! Sometimes, it’s because I don’t want to seem like a quitter. Other times, I feel like I owe the book one more chapter, maybe it’ll turn itself around…?

Time and time again, though, I’ve come to the end of a story and been deeply unsatisfied. To this I say, let’s make a pact to not continue with something if we truly dislike it. Recently, I even read that doing exercises you hate is even bad for you. Why suffer through another movie or novel or workout that takes a toll on your happiness? Unless, of course, your teacher is demanding you finish Catcher in the Rye (and for that, I’m truly sorry, but you’ve got to do it).

Guilt trip keeping you from stopping? Shut it down. Remember: your time and attention are valuable, and they should be spent enriching your life rather than disappointing you.

What’s on your to-read/to-watch list this week? For me, it’s The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin and FINALLY, I get to watch Memoirs of a Geisha, which remains one of my all-time favorite books!

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That Grey Area: Why I saw 50 Shades

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At first, I wasn’t going to see Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes, I’d read the books (sadly, that’s plural) when they came out. Yes, everyone and their mother has been simply agog about the titillating teasers that have been gracing the net. But I wasn’t going to do it. Why not? Because suddenly my Facebook feed was blowing up with posts like this:

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“‘It’s domestic violence dressed up as a sexy fantasy.'”

Yuck.

So when my best friend called me up and asked if I wanted to see it, I said no thanks. It wouldn’t feel right to give them my money. But as I was speaking these words to her, my brain started kicking into gear.

I won’t know unless I actually go and judge it for myself.

Then:

And I could write a blog post about it, so it could count as research.

In the same breath as saying no, I said yes, I’d go.

We ended up sneaking into a later showing than we’d bought reserved seats for, seeing as we arrived 30 minutes late. We didn’t want to miss a second of it. The lights dimmed, the previews were shown, and two hours later, we were walking out slightly dazed.

Here’s what I thought. As a side note, let’s focus solely on the movie, and put the books aside for a second.

** Warning: The Next Section May Include Plot Spoilers **

The Bad

  • Don’t count on this movie winning an Oscar anytime soon. The lines were sometimes laughable, and as I’m racking my brain, I can’t think of the plot as being anything more than their love story. What was Ana trying to do with her life? Not much, I guess.
  • Christian Grey is a controlling man with some seriously creepy ideas of romance, such as letting himself into Ana’s house without her knowledge.
  • Additionally, he does get her a computer and a car and follows her on her visit to her mom’s place. Like I said, controlling. And off putting.

The Good

  • I saw consent throughout the movie. He goes over the safe words they use more than once, and they even have a formal meeting about what she is and is not comfortable with. Anything she axes, he agrees to.
  • Dakota Johnson brought a life to Ana’s character that was refreshingly unexpected. Keep your eyes peeled for the ‘drunken call scene’, it was one of our favorites!
  • When she says stop, everything stops. She says leave, he leaves.
  • It was steamy. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Let me state here that I am not an expert on BDSM practices. I do know consent, though, and while Christian could be creepy, he seemed to follow the rules when it came to ‘yes means yes and no means no’.

As for being controlling? I don’t want to defend the character here, seeing as control is usually a factor in domestic abuse. However. Part of the whole premise is that Christian comes from a bad past. His birth mother was a drug addict and he saw a lot of messed up things in his childhood. Then his adoptive mother’s friend raped him when he was 15. Thus it seems only natural that he – as a character – craves control in his life. When and what he eats, how his company is run, his exercise routine. And it makes sense that this would carry over into his relationships.

Again, the controlling aspect is not okay, by any means.

And Ana balks at it! She hates it! It makes her feel trapped and kept and uncomfortable. She doesn’t like it when he chases her down to her mother’s house. She has an incredibly hard time trying to accept Christian’s tastes in the bedroom. It’s screwed up – all of it – and they both acknowledge this and try to work through it. He starts to change a little for her (several times the notion that he’s never let anyone else sleep in his bed with him before comes up).

Ana, on her end, tries to be open to his BDSM. At one point, she wants him to show her what the worst case scenario could be, so she can fully understand what she’s signing up for.

And you know what? She hates it. She doesn’t understand. She tells him he will never do that to her again. And she leaves. And that’s that.

This movie is imperfect – very imperfect – and in many ways lives up to the hype of being “mommy porn”. In it, though, I saw two worlds colliding and struggling to stay together, despite their differences. I saw a young woman stand up for her body and her wants, and that alone earned my $15.00 AMC ticket.

 

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I’ve Never Seen The Godfather {And Other True Confessions of A Bad Film Major}

Monogram I’ve never seen The Godfather. Or Clockwork Orange. Or Driving Miss Daisy, or Gone with the Wind, or The Hurt Locker. I’ve seen Citizen Kane, but only because I saw it in a class once. Actually, that’s probably the only reason I’ve seen any classic films. My house growing up was about action movies, blockbusters, and comedies that centered around fart jokes (classy stuff). Indiana JonesThe Master of DisguiseTop Gun – just to name some examples. TV was pretty limited too. For a good chunk of my life it was just PBS. When we finally did get cable, we could only watch it after 5PM. My parents were on a crusade to make my brother and I industrious, productive citizens that didn’t need to rely on the TV for entertainment.

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Dana Carvey as Pistachio in “The Master of Disguise”, a film that viewing should be required for.

And it worked. Kind of. Maybe not for my brother, who can quote favorite movies in their entirety. As for me, I enjoyed TV as a nice distraction every once in a while. A little SNL here, a little True Blood there.

And then came film school. The first day of every class started with the students introducing themselves, and their favorite movie or TV show. While I feebly put forth Forrest Gump, people were nonchalantly listing No Country for Old Men, Casablanca, and Metropolis. I was cowed by their discussions of different films’ mise-en-scène, the way they argued over whether Woody Allen was truly an auteur.

Over time, I learned these terms and the theories behind them. But as my knowledge grew, the number of classic and current films I saw…didn’t. In fact, I became a little obstinate, loving the look on a film junkie’s face when I confessed I’d never seen A Streetcar Named Desire.

Now, however, I’ve started to rethink my stance. Sure, I can blame upbringing or my inherent suspicion of anything that looks boring, but when it comes down to it, not seeing these films isn’t making me better at what I do. Which is write for film and TV.

Think about it. We learn history to know what came before us, so we can build off of it and learn from past mistakes. I think this idea can be applied to my film dilemma. How can I be the best writer I aspire to be when I’m not all that familiar with what has already been written? Truth is, I can’t.

Better behind five seasons of Breaking Bad than never! In order to get started on my research, I’ve started to compile a list of all the films and TV shows I’ve been recommended to see by various sources. Like most things in my life, this new movie-watching venture will have to be penciled into my calendar. The plan? Two movies a week (sorry, I don’t have the stamina for more than that) for the month of September. If all goes well, this could be a continuing trend!

Stay tuned to see if I can keep up, what my current favorites are, and how I rate these (so-called) masterpieces on the new Aub’O’Meter here at our new Let’s Get Reel page.

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Films will be rated on a scale of Grumpy Cat to YASSSSS.

Please feel free to list some movies or shows you think should definitely be added to my list down below in the comments!

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