November 15, 2018

This Happily Haunted House

"So I'm a ditherer? Well, I'm jolly well going to dither then."

 By Susie Duncan Sexton

As the dearest wedding photograph in history gradually fades alongside a flowery, yellowing marriage certificate filled with rules and regulations written in calligraphy -- both keepsakes tucked into a music box which creaks out "Camelot" upon the opening of its lid, reverent memories of my parents re-emerge. Then I drum my fingers atop the kitchen table as I await my husband's backing out my 20 year old automobile to take it for its oil change. The endless mystifying racket reminds me of my breakable, manic, nutty Jerry Lewis record, called "The Noisy Eater", which I wore out as a kid. I lean toward the screened window and get greeted with, "Just moving and scooting 'Jim Fleck's garbage cans' (a reference to our former city 'chief') so that I can drive this car out my own driveway." Truth be told, Don actually ran for mayor Haunted1118.jpgprompted by his ire over that very topic...garish Tupper-ware type receptacles no longer allowed in the alleys but now those bold, electric-blue eyesores instead stand at sloppy attention in front of our houses along the tree-lined streets

I am not in the mood for controversy. I prefer to submit a love letter to the finest humans whom I ever met and who graced this fortunate town with their presence for decades. 


Now, back at the computer to write of an elopement on September 18 of 1930 and a young couple of individuals starting life together in the Carolinas, I reach out to capture two frisky, feisty, plucky ghosts named Roy and Edna. On the fingers of one hand I calculate the number of times I clashed with either one or the other or, worse, that instant united front which they masterfully conjured up when faced with the sassiness of an errant child. And contrary to the views of some rotten publicists, I do not answer to misguided identifications as either "spoiled" or "brat". I am -- always have been -- one respectful kid who enjoyed a very special relationship with my parents. The three of us -- for 10 years joined at the hips (my married sisters in their own houses) -- had an absolute ball! I was blessed to realize that fact in real time. All mine! 

My "folks" -- an apt, quaint, typically Southern reference --really still should be alive to preen for their 82nd anniversary picture...but "posing" did not fit their style. My mom detested corsages, tore up pix of herself, and possessed the talent to have outwritten Margaret MitchellLillian Hellman, or Dorothy Parker. She preferred to remain unnoticed yet occasionally penned perfect poetry for which she once received a personal, hand-written "thank you" note from Jacqueline Kennedy. My dad died at the exact age that every Duncan dies...from a cerebral hemorrhage which is an appropriately rugged Scotsman's usual adieu to this world. Endure what life hands you; think independently; live with gusto; never back down; laugh often and exit quickly one fine day, with little fanfare, singing, "...And Ah'll be in Scotlan' afore ye..."! ("Loch Lomond") Kind, beautiful individuals. 

Neither phony nor stereotypical, my parents disagreed often, attended church regularly for networking and spiritual rejuvenation with a minimal dose of dogma, quietly performed good deeds, valued and strengthened family ties yet at a reasonable distance, maintained serious friendships throughout their lifetimes, and only neared divorce court when my dad bought a new car without permission or "adopted" pets without consultation or engaged in small downtown store ownership/co-management with "Snooks"/Edna which lasted about ten minutes. The "Corral" may be remembered by many of you. My dad paid dearly for offering Wranglers at an affordable price -- small town retailers do not enjoy competition no matter what they say. Our store paled in comparison to the Wal-Mart empire we all know and love presently. To this day, I borrow a treasured tip from my old man; when human beings behave like jack-asses, I simply diplomatically refer to such types as "damned peculiar" and move on with my life, brushing off my jeans while celebrating my genes!

Only a fool offers a template for marriage "between one man and one woman", such as might be dictated by spooky judges at a time-warped Salem Witch Trial; rather, I instead salute -- as I marvel at -- the collaboration between two determined, joyous, unique, unbiased, "live and let live" human beings setting an example which served me well when Mr. and Mrs. Duncan ruled my world and unto this very moment listening to Don lug trash containers about while CUSSing "a happy tune". Roy and Edna snuck away to become hitched only one year into The Great Depression-- weathering many storms. Both continue to live with me while dispensing their daily advice, whispered into my over-sized ears


Although I view awards with disdain since such silly pageantry and subjective selectivity generally cause divisiveness, dissension, and jealousy, I wish to correct an unforgivable over-sight. Being as I daily function like Leo G. Carroll who starred as "Topper", I long to bestow upon Edna (Constance Bennett) and Roy Duncan (Cary Grant) a posthumous certification -- "Citizens of the Year"! My beloved, sometimes aggravating, personal apparitions flit about, encouraging thoughts, inspiring dreams, and motivating positive action while I live in their tiny little house to which I was brought as an infant from Ft. Wayne's Lutheran Hospital. Their steadiness, sense of fairness and fun, and lack of pretentiousness enhanced our community. So, I wish a happy anniversary to my very own delightful citizen-ghosts who eternally haunt me! I love every minute of it! 


"So I'm a ditherer? Well, I'm jolly well going to dither then." ~ Cosmo Topper


"Topper (1937) is an American comedy film which tells the story of a stuffy, stuck-in-his-ways man who is haunted by the ghosts of a fun-loving married couple." WIKIPEDIA
 

NOTE:  Among the images in the above collage are ones of McLean Stevenson's sis, Ann Whitney, who portrayed a spiritualistic medium in the Wagon Wheel's August 2012 production of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit" (a "spiritual" cousin to the film "Topper"). I have discussed her brother Mac and our time performing together at Wagon Wheel in earlier writings, and I presented those to her the evening we attended the show.  She was a sheer delight. The lead actor in "Blithe Spirit", David Schlumpf masterfully dodged the ghost of his former wife while married to his current spouse.  Blurb in the program stated, "The play is so artful that it was able, in 1941 (amidst the crisis of war), to make jokes about ghosts at a time when the audience was feeling the real-life impact of lost loved ones."

_____________________

Read about movies and nostalgia, animal issues and sociopolitical concerns all discussed in Susie's book Secrets of an Old Typewriter and its follow-up Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels - print and ebook versions of both are available on Amazon (click the title). The books are also carried by these fine retailers: Ann Arbor's Bookbound and Common Language; Columbia City's Whitley County Historical Museum; and Fort Wayne's The Bookmark. And you can download from iTunes. Read her blog here, and meet other like-minded souls at her facebook fan page. Visit her author website at www.susieduncansexton.com.  Join a great group of animal advocates Squawk Back: Helping animals when others can't ... Or Won't. Roy's blog ReelRoyReviews can be found here.

 

September 26, 2018

Intuition and Instincts and Bumble Bees! Oh, My!

INTUITION AND INSTINCTS AND BUMBLE BEES!  OH, MY! 

 By Susie Duncan Sexton

 

"What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep!" ~ current Supreme Court nominee

  My Time-Sensitive Swan Song...or Not? IntuitionCollage918.jpg

 

As I lounged sleepily on a lawn chair three summer seasons past, I devoured a ROLLING STONE article about this blondish fellow named Donald Trump, a guy presently stacked in my musty basement, he being featured on umpteen PEOPLE Magazine covers highlighting zippy, scandal-hinting essays behind their splashy covers.  Some accounts date back to the 70s as I, the pack rat, seldom throw anything away, even trash.  I liked the biographical sketch, and I almost understood The Donald who would soon be running for president.  He reminded me of oodles of males I grew up with and attended college with and know even unto this very day.  I married one of them.  His name is Donald, too.  And the three of us boomers...THE Donald, Donald, and Susie are all the same age.  God help us!  Alarm bells!

 

 

I am thinking of tossing the ancient unread magazines and simultaneously avoiding the entire body of current information altogether, regarding tweet-obsessed Trump.  I know this person far too well already.  His misguided, manufactured, chaotic mess I fear impacts the entire universe as we know it, from environmental concerns on this our perilously poised planet up to and including His giddy proposals to involve and pollute outer space itself (dubbed "Space Force"?)--and everything in between heaven, earth and the deep blue sea. Who and what might be in harm's way? Nearly every human ethnicity, safari animals, farm animals, homeless Homo sapiens and domesticated animals, sundry forms of wildlife, immigrants from absolutely anywhere, border toddlers turned into orphans, feminists and all women and girls generally speaking, the reputations (by  mere association with role-model POTUS) of masses of other swaggering entitled white males who have at this stage gotten away with centuries of often murderous or near murderous misbehavior and rather suddenly cannot (Thank you, Ronan Farrow!), pure clean waterways, air quality, soil, weather patterns, "sh*t-hole countries", reputable countries once our allies, crazy power-hungry sinister autarchic countries clandestinely computer-hacking to assure an absolutely certain digital-cyber World War IIII, noble principles and hard-won values, monarch butterflies, and...bumble bees!  Whew!

 

Three summers back, I once enjoyed our now overgrown poison ivy festooned backyard and the sporadic appearances of frisky friendly bustling frolicking squirrels, the buzzing drone of hornets and sweat bees, the rustling leaves on huge trees with eerily frightening creaking trunks, the forlorn rusty birdbaths hosting splashing robins and wrens and Trumpian blue jays, the sunny fading of my winter-time accumulation of psoriasis bumps which otherwise can be cured via pricey pharmaceuticals, bearing side effects ranging from baldness through gastrointestinal distresses and concluding with terminal lymphoma (the Jackie Kennedy cancer) if one day I should opt to turn myself over to the drug-selling whims and talents of docs thriving upon kickbacks. (Oh, and the bonus being constant return trips to be checked for tuberculosis, reminiscent of the 50s patch-test days when TB was of epidemic proportions and will be yet again!) 

 

 

This "Florence the Hurricane" (Our FEMA director continually referred to Florence as Floyd which is a bit disconcerting?) summer of 2018 filled with call-girl/porn star/ former apprentice tell-all autobiographies, Bob Woodward's investigatory journalistic efforts (aptly entitled FEAR), cable TV pundits who presently seem like old and dear friends or characters in an overwrought millionth round of CLUE -- THE BOARDGAME, and high school high-jinks drinking binges and inventive dating practices of grown-up wholesome Supreme Court nominees provided a potpourri of boob tube viewing like none other. The plethora of indictments, manacles, and mug shots filled our screens like never before except maybe when we once watched Robert Stack/Eliot Ness hunt Al Capone down courtesy of Desilu Studios offering up THE UNTOUCHABLES -- as well as annual repeats of each of THE GODFATHER films!  (Not to mention, reporters struggling with pronunciations of an unfathomable number of Russian names of oligarchs.  I've never had this much questionable fun since the works of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky and Chekhov became required reading at Ball State University during the Communist-detesting 1960s.  Ah, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT and BROTHERS KARAMAZOV and WAR AND PEACE...where are you now?  Maybe in the basement with TRUMP?)

 

 

A VERY BRIEF EXPOSE' follows   (subtitled -- Implausibilities of Speaking Truth to Power?):

 

 

 

After living well into a seventh decade, if one is prohibited from telling it like it is or was, what then might be the point of ever having lived at all?  Not to be prim or prissy, I confess with some pride that I was not in the family way prior to any nuptials of which there has only been one as divorce is generally verboten on my side of the family. Approaching a half century "anniversary" of standing atop a tall ookily frosted cake while wearing a plastic virginal white gown and veil, one can rightfully eschew celebratory open houses, corsages, balloons, confetti, or cruises spent cavorting on walkers. How embarrassing to pretend otherwise. I need not stop to create a false illusion of wonderfulness and gaiety...rather, INSTEAD, the more pinpointed description of condescension and misunderstanding peppered so profusely through those years that personally I have forgotten whom I may have developed into if not ever stumbling and misstepping down the traditional Biblically ordained path toward what some call bliss and others more accurately label slavish obedience. I played with many sets of wedding paper dolls, brides and bridesmaids and flower girls in petticoats until the frilly gowns were tabbed onto their cardboard frames. Thus, I engaged in the allowed and encouraged bouts of romantic fantasizing, but not a Hell of a lot?

 

 

This past year, I rediscovered who more realistically lurks deep inside my heart and brain...totally certain that if I could start all over again, I might have given Jane Goodall a run for her money.  When I found myself fiercely threatened with strait-jacketed commitment (seriously?) due to prolonged grieving directed toward an aborted attempt to save a tiny runt-of-the-litter kitten's life (I have saved nearly-gee-I-dunno possibly hundreds of animals' lives during my own lifetime?), I became feministically livid!  Could it possibly be that some frigid chauvinistic judge (similar to a GOP Senator) at the Salem witch trials might be categorizing me as "mixed up" or diminishing me to poised, lady-like Anita Hill's suspect status at the hands of a politically aligned publicist named David Brock advertising her as "a little bit nutty and a whole lot of slutty" (resulting in Clarence Thomas becoming a Supreme Court Justice, no further questions asked? Dejavu?)  The foolish, unnecessary demise of the precious feline I still cannot reckon with and am full of remorse and cannot figure out how to blame my typically nurturing self when so many other assorted nincompoops added elements of confusion to the toxic mix.  At any rate, said kitty and his evidently virulent affinity toward ringworm are now off the face of the earth, and cross-contamination has possibly come to a close I guess, Mr. Fung! (References abound in that previous sentence...do some research by googling away to your heart's content.) 

 

 

One might find as old age gallops up and grabs one by the brittle hip-bones or twisted knees and shoves the heart into irregular fluttering palpitations and pushes the brain into occasional spooky dizziness and the eyeballs into partial "comes and goes" blindness, that any sane person might need conversion therapy after all (whatever that is?) to rethink exactly why very dumb but expected socially mandated choices may have been selected and to satisfy exactly whom?  Misguided dork Hugh Hefner began to publish ridiculously grievously irresponsibly salacious fictional picture magazines in his mommy's basement, and insecure males bought them only for the "articles", and "dating" became a quaint verb. Many of us who still wore training brassieres in high school or even college became terribly self-conscious and hard-pressed (to say the very least) not to make up for flat chests with creative petting (or else!) or enhanced bustline implants whenever marriages got boring or to withstand rude remarks, from pillars of the community attending social functions, once bosoms naturally sag due to such scientific (naughty word these days?) events called gravity. (No fooling...ask any dame who has encountered wandering eyeballs at some local dinner banquet, wherever and whenever Friday night FEESH FRIES occur! With side orders of coleslaw and baked beans finished off with Texas sheet cake squares!)

 

 

Listen up! Be your own person...be yourself...practice compassion...never be cautious about demonstrating sincere kindness.  None of us are earth-bound for very long...and for that we can be oddly grateful and cheer on folks such as, need I reiterate, Hillary  C., Nancy P., Courtney T.,  Dianne F., Debbie S., Maizie H., Amy K., Claire M., Elizabeth W.,  Maxine W., and Kamala H.  and Anita H. and a dear soul named Meghan McCain who delivered an explosively no-holds barred, chastising eulogy proclaiming her love and admiration for her late war hero daddy whose very recent  bravery on the Senate floor, killing an ill-conceived half-assed bill denying far too many citizens sufficient health care, impressed anybody with a heart.  Like father like daughter!  I can identify with that!  Anybody wanna stop by my curb on the day I plan to place old, outdated, moldy PEOPLE Magazines, and probably high school yearbooks and brassieres, out for the trash man? 

 

 

Feel free to check out or visit or nosily drop by my bloggity-blog where I engage in one-sided conversational monologues filled with gaiety, bragging, advice, alarmism, activism, dire warnings, perkiness, rhymes, sentence fragments and run-ons, opinions set in concrete, allusions, rebellion, cute photos, animal talk, ME TOO claims, VERSE IN FREE FORM, and a smattering of self-preservational condescension which I have learned from the person I married one fine day when verbal sparring became totally necessary to avoid being chopped up and deposited within various disposable suitcases like Raymond Burr's unfortunate wife in REAR WINDOW.  Yes, the old allowable but pathetically fragile male ego created a monster!  Long may she wave!  Patriarchy is HIStory; evolution is HERstory!   About time!

 

 

Look for my next investigatory installment dealing with the death of a 24 year old Magnavox television, the panicky emergency purchase of a flat screen 21st century Wal-Mart blue-light special "smart TV", learning to live with the disembodied commanding yet informative voice-overs of a high-pitched Asian lady BOT akin to Tokyo Rose during World War II, the puzzling need for four remote controls each of which performs only a single much needed function such as ON, OFF, channel change, and volume control as well as On-Demand capability, Pay Per View availability, etc., etc. and so forth, to be dealt with at the proper time as in NEVER!  We are learning the tricky yet fine art of juggling which is great exercise for couch potatoes.  Divorce is imminent once again.  Also featured will be an analysis of why we must update computer passwords on a daily basis and a shout-out for suggestions seeking creative magic "Open Sesame" phrases.  Special thanks to the farm family of a young comedian named Tim Conway whose temperamental, perhaps slightly faulty, doorbell constantly hummed and buzzed day and night.  No problem for positive thinkers who believe in half-FULL glasses!  Visitors waiting on the porch would be welcomed whenever the doorbell STOPPED ringing.  When Life hands us lemons, we must concoct ...daiquiris!  And to any physician I may have offended with my old lady candor I offer the following: Have you heard the one about the squirrel entering a tavern, requesting from the bartender a Hickory Daiquiri, DOC?  Time's up!  And no need for 25th amendment solutions!  Simply relax, and enjoy the very bumpy ride!

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS MANUAL INFORMATION: 

Am I listening to the doorbell as it does not ring?

Garbage truck whirring through winter, summer, autumn and spring?

Tim Conway and I shuffle to answer the door.

Whisked into memories today, forevermore.

Gather Trump and Dostoyevsky down basement stairs.

William Faulkner, love you best--ever in my prayers!

 

_____________________

 

Read about movies and nostalgia, animal issues and sociopolitical concerns all discussed in Susie's book Secrets of an Old Typewriter and its follow-up Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels - print and ebook versions of both are available on Amazon (click the title). The books are also carried by these fine retailers: Ann Arbor's Bookbound and Common Language; Columbia City's Whitley County Historical Museum; and Fort Wayne's The Bookmark. And you can download from iTunes. Read her blog here, and meet other like-minded souls at her facebook fan page. Visit her author website at www.susieduncansexton.com.  Join a great group of animal advocates Squawk Back: Helping animals when others can't ... Or Won't. Roy's blog ReelRoyReviews can be found here.

August 28, 2018

It's called karma ... and it's pronounced 'ha!' Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

MammaMia818.jpg

By Guest Columnist - Roy Sexton

 

Is it fashionable to hate Mamma Mia!, the international ABBA-stage musical sensation that was parlayed into the biggest box office film-musical of all time ten (!) years ago, starring Meryl Streep? Seems that way. Maybe it's misogyny or sour grapes or a general critical agnosticism toward anything big, silly, and fun. Maybe people don't want to admit how much they love infectious Swedish pop songs with nonsensical titles and lyrical metaphors that appear to have been crafted by a roomful of monkeys with typewriters.

Whatever. I liked it. Mostly.

Well, let me equivocate. I appreciated the gaga joy that the original film's cast seemed to be having - a group of award-winning pros (Streep, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters, Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard) who didn't give a flying fig that they were working from a junk script with a cringe-worthy concept (who's your daddy?). These talented souls could read an appliance repair manual aloud and make it seem zippy. So what happens when you offer them some catchy-as-eff songs and throw them on a plastic back-lot set designed by Olive Garden with a sound-stage-blue sky that makes your heart ache? Cinematic genius.

 

Franchise newcomer (is this a franchise yet?) Ol Parker takes over direction from Phyllida Lloyd on the nobody-asked-for-it sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. He does some spectacular reverse engineering to give us an actual film that is just as loopy as before but, you know, gives us characters and motivation and something resembling a plot (sort of).

 

Since this second entry is basically a greatest hits of a greatest hits package, some songs from the prior film get repeated; some B-side deep cuts you never knew existed (nor wanted to) are employed; and, as a score, all of the numbers are more seamlessly integrated into the story line ... which is basically TWO storylines.

 

First, Sophie (a luminous Seyfried) is (spoiler alert!) mourning the passing of her mother Donna (Streep, who adds to her odd gallery of beyond-the-grave "angel" characters here), and re-opens the picturesque Greek hotel as a tribute.

 

Second, in parallel, we learn through flashbacks how young Donna found her island retreat, slept with three different dudes in rapid succession (Jeremy Irvine, Hugh Skinner, Josh Dylan - all Abercrombie & Fitch adorable and completely disposably interchangeable), and subsequently declared, "To hell with all of ya!"

 

A crackerjack Lily James (Cinderella, Baby Driver) portrays young Donna. She effortlessly channels and brilliantly reinvents the madcap essence of Streep ... despite the fact that the two don't look one whit alike. Lily is brilliant in the role - unapologetic and fiery. By far, the smartest thing the filmmakers did was casting her. She makes the film. Jessica Keenan Wynn and Alexa Davies are a hoot as her pals (the younger versions of Baranski and Walters, respectively), and the trio present a compelling and believable dynamic as pals making their way in a world and era (1979) where their free-spirited agency ain't exactly celebrated. (The more things change...)

 

In the present day, we also see the addition of a criminally underutilized Andy Garcia as the hotel's concierge/handyman ridiculously named, yes, Fernando. He seems to exist primarily as a narrative device for Cher who literally helicopters in for the last twenty minutes of the movie, phoning in an absolutely brilliant approximation of Cher at her Cher-iest, to croon one of ABBA's most beloved tunes.

For some illogical reason, Cher, who is only three years older than Streep, plays Streep's mother. She is about as believable (pun intended) playing Streep's mother as I would be. Hell, I'd be more believable. "Do you belieeeeeve, in life after love ... love ... love?" But who cares? In the Teflon-coated Mamma Mia universe, all things exist in servitude to hedonistic joy. And you don't get more hedonistic nor more joyous than Cher singing "Fernando," as exquisitely escapist as a big movie moment can be. I adored the sequence and hated myself for doing so the next day.

 

Check your brain at the door, drink in the images and sounds, and enjoy the best party of the summer with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. Yes, I laughed, I sang, I danced, I cried, and I'm not ashamed to admit that. Much.

 Postcript ...

 There were four lines in the film that I jotted down as potential review titles. They are indicative of why this film is such simplistic, absurdist genius in our meme-happy culture. I chose one - spoken by Julie Walters (I think) - which seemed to perfectly reflect the position this sequel takes in relation to its most vocal critics: "It's called karma, and it's spelled 'ha'!" For the curious? The other three options were as follows: "Be still my beating vagina." "It's not easy being a mother. If it was, fathers would do it." AND "I judge a person's heart by the way they treat animals." Go see the film, have a ball, and tell me if I chose my title ... poorly.

 __________________________________

 

Reel Roy Reviews is now TWO books! You can purchase your copies by clicking here (print and digital). In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the first book is currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton's Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

 

 

July 6, 2018

Rachel and the Stranger -- a current events poem

 RachelStrangerCollage.jpg

RACHEL AND THE STRANGER -- a "Current Events" Poem, plus a Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, Too (the Past in Prose!)

 

By Susie Duncan Sexton

 

 "Donald Trump should build his wall out of Hillary Clinton's emails since no one ever can seem to get over them!" (borrowed from cute and witty Chicago friend Barb's Facebook page where she can be seen hugging her dear friend Rahm Emanuel!)

 

Been penning a "nostalgia" column for nearly a decade!

Thought I'd recycle a fun previous backyard escapade--

The definition of "nostalgia" connotes dreary warped time.

Instead, I'll salute the "present" while I am still (barely) in my prime?

 

Tricky to join densely populated protest marches at age 72.

Lost children kidnapped at a national border; stunned parents bereaved--what to do?

Travel bans reinstated, barring tired "huddled masses, yearning to breathe free"?

Civil rights imperiled via stackable Supreme Court potentiality?

 

Gerrymandering, political (in)correctness, battling tribes--red, white and blue?

Russian meddling, indictments, congressional hearings, strange Mafioso type zoo?

Health care, tariffs, stock market monitoring, national debt rising, porn stars cursed?

Global warming/climate change, volcanoes, hurricanes, allied-axis terms reversed?

Well, what about me?

Still dig a TV!

(or a)

Late night Facebook spree!

Gnarled finger strikes key....

 

(And now,  a segue from poetry to prose, from rhyming couplets to rambling giddiness, from topical poetry which is stranger than fiction to the sublime, instructive, maybe more sensible, yesteryears?)

 

...to investigate The (YOUTUBE) Dick Cavett Shows as that Yale graduate chats with the likes of Jimmy Hoffa, brothers RFK AND JFK, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Frank Capra, Marlon Brando, Jack Paar, William F. Buckley, Jr., Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren, Rex Harrison, Gore Vidal ad infinitum....

...whenever I feel like it, now that I'm ancient, I journey back in time to revisit some folks I did not fully appreciate in my younger, bustling, active days, yes, days, weeks, years that I naively believed would unroll and unfurl before me also ad infinitum!

 

I confess that I recently fell head over heels into deepest infatuation with "Bill" Holden and "Bob" Mitchum...or rather, as misguided adults in the time-warped forties and fifties referred to these two beef-cake-ish studs, "real men's men"!  Well, phooey on that description!  Reminiscent of the twitty Irish Spring advertising blitz short-changing females with the commercialized implication that possibly only males treasure bar soap, "I like them (Bob and Bill...AND soap I guess), too"...quite a lot!  Why? Both actors appear to be actual human beings revealing rugged individuality, real unashamedly candid candor, sensitivity, compassion, and quirks and delightful insecurities galore -- and they are handsome because they were each beautiful inside as well as outside....I KNOW THAT NOW!  Bob and Bill, accompanied by interviewer Cavett, visited my living room quite recently!  And so does dazzling, elegant Loretta Young twirl through THE door regularly at an ungodly hour...in black and white...starring in one 30-minute masterfully produced film after another that she and her second husband created and spearheaded -- and which are THE most inspirational televised tidbits that I have ever encountered. 

 

All of this euphoric, highly personal, shared glee is just to indicate that in recent googling, I rediscovered an old film referenced which I have yet to view.  Such an oversight is truly odd for me, because I once set my cap as a child to do nothing but watch films, if I could possibly get away with such an ambitious yet probably lazy scheme, for my entire lifetime!  Thus, before I croak, while surrounded by household-untended, tedious, boring, perilous chores and routines which are insurmountable at this stage (I need a staff--or I should have given birth to twelve devoted daughters to help me out during these waning days I may or may not have left?), I MUST purchase a DVD! (whoops!  only available on video?) This 1948 movie entitled RACHEL AND THE STRANGER intrigues my soul because ever-wise and relentlessly-gorgeous and usually-intuitive PLUS  "I-can-land-on-my-own-two-feet-given-any-circumstance" Loretta evidently might need to decide between whether she will stay with her clueless husband played by Mr. Holden, or leave him to fall into the waiting arms of Mr.(empathetic/sympathetic ) Mitchum--a quandary I truly could relish -- immediately!  Ms. Young, who can capably portray a screwball mother of seven or a spinster or an alcoholic or a nun or a farmer's wife (at the drop of a fashionable hat!), also faced this dilemma in THE BISHOP'S WIFE.  Would she stay with goofy, work-obsessed, uptight, ice-cold, priggish Bishop David Niven OR would she live out the rest of her days with adorable, attentive, gentleman-angel Cary Grant?  (The conclusion is rather tragic and incredible, and dare I say disappointing and anti-climactic, for romantics like myself!  David wins?  Ugh?)

 

I close now, kindred soul Mitchum remaining in my thoughts, knowing full well that I wished to run away with (double preposition--forgive me?) him just the other evening at midnight...only the two of us on horseback (Mitchum owned as many as 32 horses at one time!) into the sunset...if I simply could have willed myself onto the screen and outta this nutty chaos called real life.  If RACHEL AND THE STRANGER is/are available on DVD...or tape..., nobody shall see me again because ...well, you can call me -- (but "don't ever call me Shirley!") -- RACHEL...who escapes into another stratosphere, somewhere in some other space and time, with a stranger named Robert Mitchum!  Welcome to the cheeriest and happiest-ever-after TWILIGHT ZONE episode to be telecast for the pleasure of any viewing audience anywhere at any time since the creation of the universe itself...by Rod/God Serling, no doubt about it!

 

"You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Your next stop, the Twilight Zone!"  ~ Opening voice-over by Rod Himself!

 

"Film is one of the three universal languages, the other two: mathematics and music."  ~ Director Frank Capra

 

"Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull." ~ Rod Serling

 

"There is nothing in the dark that isn't there when the lights are on." ~ Rod Serling

 

"Imagination... its limits are only those of the mind itself." ~ Rod Serling

"Opportunity is often missed because we are broadcasting when we should be tuned in!"  ~ Loretta Young (in a designer dress) prior to closing her half hour of Loretta Young Presents with an invitation: "See you next week?" (broad smile)

 ___________________

Read about movies and nostalgia, animal issues and sociopolitical concerns all discussed in Susie's book Secrets of an Old Typewriter and its follow-up Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels - print and ebook versions of both are available on Amazon (click the title). The books are also carried by these fine retailers: Ann Arbor's Bookbound and Common Language; Columbia City's Whitley County Historical Museum; and Fort Wayne's The Bookmark. And you can download from iTunes. Read her blog here, and meet other like-minded souls at her facebook fan page. Visit her author website at www.susieduncansexton.com.  Join a great group of animal advocates Squawk Back: Helping animals when others can't ... Or Won't. Roy's blog ReelRoyReviews can be found here.

 

 

May 14, 2018

TRANSITIONS --"Through the Decades"

By Susie Duncan Sexton

 

Quite like a restless King Tut,

I yearned to avoid a rut.

Wide-eyed, toured a marketplace so Victorian

Everything  everywhere, yet no DeLorean!Transitions518.jpg

 

Repurposed bricks, mortar -- transformed from Presbyterian church--

Its irony hurled me into conflicted "museum" lurch.

Realizing tombs, spires, stained glass, pyramids and kitty cats

Cannot be "taken with you" unto the great hereafter--(RATS!)  

 

Weddings, Sunday School, Brownie Troop 210, May Breakfasts, Ladies' Church "Circles", gatherings past,

Chop Suey dinners, Babbitt-ish Rotary crowded my memory while browsing, aghast,

Either sides of aisles bulging with caned rockers, presidential posters, butter churns and toys,

Hoosier cabinets, Horatio Alger books, magazines, spinning wheels, glass marbles for boys!

 

Bible verses remind us to spurn the material.

Still, archival treasures charm one with the ethereal.

Cookies, muffins, cucumber sandwiches, cups of coffee

Provide fuel and sustenance via the basement café!

 

Of course, I wish to stay and stay only to return another glorious sun-shiny day,

But "I have promises to keep": a dental appointment two cobblestone blocks the other way!

(Purchase life-sized, rusty, bear statue fashioned from tin?)

Rush into lobby to await a replaced filling (-in)!

 

We wait, I and my antique grizzly Winnie the Pooh who'd vacated a pulpit to accompany me.

(Loretta Young last evening survived a tooth extraction, then married Hugh O'Brian on retro tv!)

Dr. Jim and hygienist Amy discuss "The Shape of Water" as I stare up speechless, then try to spit.

I inquire whether dried up boomer patients lose their ability to lick envelopes and must thus quit?*

 

Ah, life in a small town!  Walking to most any destination.  Accessibility to churchy churches or museum churches. Nobody plays too rough.

Humans who know us by our first names. Sidewalks connecting beauticians to veterinarians to chiropractors and to the dentist who is a film buff.

But best of all?  To receive the greatest compliment of my lifetime after seven decades of existence (as furthermore a Democrat)?

My inquisitiveness re the waning potency of elderly spittle? "Fear not, dear, you produce the saliva of a 20 year old!"*  And that was that!

 

(Thanks, Dr. Jim!)

  

"..and above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." ~ Roald Dahl

 

 Signed: The Old Type...Writer!

NOTE: The photographic collage includes images from The Vintage Antique Marketplace's Facebook page as well as some famous faces (King Tut, Loretta Young, and Hugh O'Brien to be specific. And fun fact: Deacon/U.S. Veep/Whitley County native son Thomas Riley Marshall was chairman of the building committee for the very church where this wonderful store now exists! Full circle!

 

 ___________________

Read about movies and nostalgia, animal issues and sociopolitical concerns all discussed in Susie's book Secrets of an Old Typewriter and its follow-up Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels - print and ebook versions of both are available on Amazon (click the title). The books are also carried by these fine retailers: Ann Arbor's Bookbound and Common Language; Columbia City's Whitley County Historical Museum; and Fort Wayne's The Bookmark. And you can download from iTunes. Read her blog here, and meet other like-minded souls at her facebook fan page. Visit her author website at www.susieduncansexton.com.  Join a great group of animal advocates Squawk Back: Helping animals when others can't ... Or Won't. Roy's blog ReelRoyReviews can be found here.

 

March 7, 2018

Old Type Writer: A room of her own (#OscarsSoRight?)

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(Graphic provided)
 
I'm finally catching up with all of the Oscar-nominated films from year-end 2017. There are many culprits for this delay, chiefly among them the fact that, for some reason, many of these flicks don't make it to the hinterlands of the Midwest until weeks after their initial release dates. My tendency toward over-commitment in daily life may also be to blame. C'est la vie. I've finally viewed The Post; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Lady Bird; The Shape of Water; and The Darkest Hour.
I can safely say the Academy got so much so right this year. (I'm sure they were nervously awaiting my seal of approval. Not.)
Much (digital) ink has already been spilled on these movies, and I'm feeling a touch lazy so I won't go into great detail about any of them. I will admit that personally only The Post and The Darkest Hour truly spoke to me, but I found all five to be thoughtfully composed with unique and arguably essential points-of-view and with timely themes, no doubt provoking many minds and healing many hearts in this rather contentious era.
However, what resonated with me most about all five films was the strength and agency of their leading female characters. Rarely have we seen a class of Oscar-nominated films (I, Tonya included) where the bravery, wit, wisdom, and tenacity of women are so consistently celebrated and intelligently explored. Perhaps it's the Trump effect, a cultural reclamation on behalf of Hillary, an anticipation of #MeToo and #TimesUp, or just a much-needed evolution (and growing up) in Hollywood. Who knows?

"Keep your finger out of my eye." Tom Hanks' Ben Bradlee to Meryl Streep's Katherine Graham in The Post

In The Post, Meryl Streep gives one of her most nuanced portrayals in an already incredible catalogue of film work. Her Katherine Graham is faced with an unwinnable, dare I say, Sophie's Choice: save her family's paper The Washington Post from financial ruin through a tricky public offering or take on the President of the United States and risk imprisonment to honor the paper's history of journalistic integrity by publishing the Pentagon Papers. Graham is "mansplained" up one side and down the other throughout the film. Streep's portrayal is sensitive to the social and historical context that women were acculturated to lean on men and seek their counsel if and when they were "permitted" any decision-making authority at all. Ostensibly, Spielberg's beautifully paced and utterly compelling movie is an allegory for our present times when we have a president who sees the Bill of Rights as less inalienable and more ignorable. However, I saw the film primarily as a powerful and subtle depiction of a woman (Graham) reclaiming her authority and driving our nation towards inexorable truth. It's a performance for the ages, IMHO.
"You're culpable because you joined the gang." - Frances McDormand's Mildred Hayes to her town minister in Three Billboards
Speaking of performances for the ages, we then have Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes in Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. McDormand is possibly the most cathartic and relatable actor of her generation, capable of channeling the inherent tension and internal conflict of id, ego, and superego unlike any other. Mildred may be her finest acting work, alas in a film that doesn't quite rise to her admittedly stratospheric level. Mildred's daughter was raped and then immolated, and, in Mildred's frustration that the local police have been incapable of solving the horrific crime, she finds the bluntest instrument at her disposal (the titular "three billboards") to send a crystal clear message that wouldn't be out of place on an N.W.A. record. McDormand is haunting and funny, heartbreaking and infuriating as a woman whose voice just can't be stifled by her small-minded small-town. I think I would have enjoyed the piece better as a one-woman show as most of the supporting cast offer more superficial readings of their respective characters. Further, a mid-film narrative twist nearly co-opts the whole enterprise in favor of Woody Harrelson's far-less-interesting Sheriff Willoughby. Sam Rockwell (Deputy Dixon) is both hammy and poignant as a foil for and target of McDormand's rage, and, by the time the film runs its course, the idea of a Thelma and Louise-style "road picture" with the two actors isn't without its potential charms.

"Don't you think they are the same thing? Love and attention?" - Lois Smith's Sister Sarah Joan to Soairse Ronan's Lady Bird in Lady Bird

Lady Bird, directed by Greta Gerwig, is a loving and scruffy slice-of-life with luminous Saoirse Ronan as Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson, a thoughtful and maddening and deep-feeling teen whose conscious rejection of organized religion and of conventional thinking runs afoul of her own desires to be liked and accepted and to "fit in" with her Catholic school's "popular kid" crowd. Any human who has ever wanted to be their authentic (weird) selves but ALSO get to sit at the best lunch table in school can totally relate (which means all of us). Ronan is brilliant in the role, as is Laurie Metcalf as her worried, worrying, worrisome mother Marion whose noble wishes to protect and to provide are as alienating as they are well-intentioned. The film is a delight, but gets bogged down mid-way with a conventional (if not completely appropriate) Mean Girls-esque subplot of Lady Bird rejecting her theatre nerd friends for the loose collection of pot-smoking athletes and gum-snapping rich kids who rule the school. The film is so interesting and so believable to that point that I found the predictability of that coming-of-age narrative a bit disappointing. Nonetheless, Ronan, Metcalf, and Gerwig give eloquent voices to the frustrations and fears of women navigating a rigged system where their respective needs and desires are often pitted in opposition to one another.

"Life is but the shipwreck of our plans." - wall calendar in The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water, directed with fairy tale elan by Guillermo del Toro, is like a soft core E.T.-meets-The Red Shoe Diaries. A co-worker of mine said it was more like a naughty Edward Scissorhands. I will accept that friendly amendment to my cinematic comparison. Shape of Water had my favorite cast of any of these films. Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones, and Richard Jenkins are all exceptional in their own rights, let alone collected in one place, in service to a visionary fable of tolerance, compassion, and love. Yet, the film overall left me cold. Perhaps, I'm a prude, but the random bits of "sexy time" between Hawkins' Eliza and Jones' otherworldly "Amphibian Man" were disruptive to the gentle narrative at play. I also could have done without said Amphibian Man biting the head off one of Jenkins' beloved cats, even if the moment is offered as an example of predatory innocence. Yuck. Regardless, Hawkins offers a brilliant and heartrending portrayal of a mute woman whose expressiveness far exceeds vocalization, and Shannon nearly steals the picture as a government official whose myopic masculinity and arrested development result in nothing but ugliness, violence, and missed opportunity.

"You are strong because you are imperfect." - Kristin Scott Thomas' Clementine Churchill to Gary Oldman's Winston Churchill in The Darkest Hour

As for Joe Wright's The Darkest Hour, yes, it is a movie which features a gobsmacking transformation of Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill. And, yes, Oldman is altogether breathtaking in his depiction of Churchill's genius eccentricity, shocking isolation, and dogged determination. However, the excellence of his work and of the film itself is greatly aided and abetted by the work of cast-mates Kristin Scott Thomas as Churchill's witty, wise, and anything-but-long-suffering wife Clementine and Lily James as Churchill's witty, wise, and anything-but-wide-eyed assistant Elizabeth Layton. The three actors bring sparkling life to Theory of Everything screenwriter Anthony McCarten's chatty script, and, while Churchill was clearly the odd-man-out where British politicos were concerned, his ultimate success could be attributed as much to the women in his life as to his own fiercely independent spirit. These are exceptional performances in a pretty good film.

In The Post, Streep's Graham quotes English essayist Samuel Johnson: "A woman's preaching is like a dog walking on his hind legs. It is not done well, and you are surprised to find it done at all." Her point, in the context of the film, is that society has not encouraged women to speak their truths, so the act of doing so, while arguably initially inelegant, is as shocking as it is necessary. In the case of these five films, truth is delivered elegantly and compellingly, and the class of Oscar nominees this year goes a long way toward giving women, as Virginia  Woolf once implored, a "room of their own."

_________________________________

Reel Roy Reviews is now TWO books! You can purchase your copies by clicking here (print and digital). In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the first book is currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton's Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

January 11, 2018

Reel Roy Reviews: The Greatest Showman

RoyReview1181.jpg

"When you are careless with other people, you bring ruin upon yourself." The Greatest Showman review

 

This may seem a quaint notion, but sometimes it's nice to have a movie that is simply affirming and joyous and a celebration of what can be best in the human spirit. That is The Greatest Showman's raison d'etre. The subject of PT Barnum's now-controversial life may seem an unlikely vehicle for such a film, but that is indeed what we have with Hugh Jackman's latest. I absolutely loved this movie.RoyReview1182.jpg

With music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, composers of La La Land and the recent Christmas Story Live!, the film will never be accused of being high-art, but then that is not what Barnum's stock-in-trade was either. With our present distaste for circuses and with the revisionist history that sees Barnum as less of an inclusive and big-hearted entrepreneur and more of an unethical and selfish opportunist, viewers are best-served to check those preconceptions at the door and approach the film as if Barnum is a mythological figure from American folklore, a la Johnny Appleseed or Paul Bunyan.
Barnum (Jackman) chides a theatre critic who has no use for the ringmaster's brand of populist entertainment, "A theatre critic who can't find joy in the theatre. Now, who's a fraud?" It seems to be as much a definition of Barnum's artistic philosophy as a caution to Twitter trolls in the audience ready to hate on The Greatest Showman's gee willkers approach to American cultural history.
Helmed by first-time director Michael Gracey (who had a reported assist from Logan's James Mangold) and with a screenplay written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Beauty and the Beast), the film offers a cursory look at the significant and recognizable moments in Barnum's life, like story beats in an oft-told fable ... with a heaping helping of Horatio Alger-ism: we Americans can be whoever and whatever we want to be, regardless how checkered our pasts (hell, just look at the White House and Capitol Hill).
This is not a detailed, cynical, warts-and-all biopic but rather a heartfelt and inspirational allegory (bordering on the twinkling best of Hallmark Hall-of-Fame's legendary output) that material success cannot substitute for authentic love. And that is just fine.
Hugh Jackman is totally in his element, throwback as he is to a Hollywood of another era where corny was not only king but was embraced and celebrated by the masses. It is a refreshingly positive (albeit whitewashed) take on a legendary American captain of industry - the kind of story-telling that was prevalent in 1950s Tinseltown technicolor fantasias ... or that librarians used to read aloud to us third-graders in our elementary school reading circles.
However, The Greatest Showman is smart enough to supercharge the proceedings with a percussive, propulsive, almost martial, contemporary pop score to hook a generation of audiences weaned on High School Musical or Glee.
This simplistic approach with its anachronistic score is surprisingly effective, at times both insidiously engaging and pleasantly disarming. Highlights include rousing opener "The Greatest Show," no-business-like-show-business anthem "Come Alive," bromantic stomp-duet "The Other Side," swoony/lurchy ballad "Rewrite the Stars," and rafter-rattling curtain call "From Now On."
The bones of the story are not dissimilar to those of Barnum!, the 1980 Cy Coleman Broadway stage musical starring Jim Dale and Glenn Close, but the proceedings couldn't be more fresh or modern. Disney Channel alumni Zendaya and Zac Efron deliver lovely paper doll turns in this 21st century panto-play. Michelle Williams is luminous, simultaneously distant and winsome - arm candy with an iron will - as Barnum's stoic wife Charity.
The supporting cast is rounded out with a strong team of stage alumni who relish every moment of this big-screen cartoon. Kealla Settle as Lettie Lutz, the "bearded lady," is one to watch. Her mid-movie barnstormer "This is Me" brings down the house with a can-you-hear-the-people-sing intensity that should leave you exhausted and enraged and damned "woke" ... if you have any heart at all.
The filmmakers (tom) thumb their noses at depth, knowing that the best celebration of Barnum's life as a huckster purveyor of humbug would be to deliver free-wheeling holiday escapism that energizes and enthralls. Yet, embedded within the cotton candy fluff is a timely and haunting message of acceptance and understanding and compassion.

Sociopolitically, the film does continue the troubling trope of "beautiful white dude as multiculti savior." However, it marries that message to a final act comeuppance for Barnum. Per the film, Barnum's fatal flaw is always looking past the talent in his midst to see who else might be coming through the door, breaking the most important of hearts in his unyielding aspiration for validation from an American elite that continually rejects his kind. After a final act tragedy, Barnum's family of freaks confronts him with this brutal truth, licking their wounds, rallying the troupe, and reminding us all that the greatest show exists with those who've been loyal to us all along.

It's all quite obvious and Hollywood-shallow self-serving, but I admit I cried and cheered and stomped my feet. Sometimes the corniest message - the most heartfelt one - is the one we all need to hear again and again. As Swedish Nightingale Jenny Lind (in an ethereal if underdeveloped portrayal by Rebecca Ferguson) warns Barnum, "When you are careless with other people, you bring ruin upon yourself." Family is what you make it, true success begins at home, and there is a place at the table for us all. Amen. #thisisme

________________________

Reel Roy Reviews is now TWO books! You can purchase your copies by clicking re (print and digital). In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the first book is currently is being carried by Bookbound, CommonLanguage Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan. My mom Susie Duncan Sexton's Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

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