Credit Where Credit is Due

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Firsts, Soulful, Uncategorized

My husband and I recently celebrated the our 8th wedding anniversary and our 9th anniversary of our first date. At that time, I reflected on how similar and, in contrast, how different we are. Events in the last month have clarified how much I treasure him and I want to make sure I never take him for granted. Note: while I won’t be going all “Shmooopy!” I will be pontificating on how awesome my mate is. Feel free to roll your eyes and click to another page.

If you don’t already know, one of the things Chooch and I have in common is our extreme social anxiety. The difference is that mine causes me to chatter nervously and his causes him to sit back quietly until he has a level of comfort. Some people perceive me as being extroverted and outgoing and him being withdrawn. In truth, the opposite is true. He is more likely to say yes to unfamiliar social engagements with unknown people. In many cases, I would simply stay in and miss out on the fun without him to urge me out into the world. In fact, that is exactly what he had to do to get me to go to any of the first meet-ups in 2008, including Balticon.

I frequently find myself speaking for both of us in the hopes that people will recognize just how amazing he is. This is a mistake, as it makes it appear as though he is with me, not that we are together, in what we do. Regardless of how it appears, he is NOT my tag-along, just “Viv’s husband” or an accessory. He is Chooch. A singularly magnificent man.

I get really pissed when I think he is overlooked or not getting credit for all he does, for our family and for others. I am shocked that more people don’t get that he is the reason the New Media parties we hosted in 2009 and 2010 were successful, along with countless other things for which I alone have gotten most of the praise. Possibly it’s because he’s busting his ass behind the scenes while I am doing more of the dressing and food prep. Just know that without him, little of what I dream up would actually happen.

To share with you who he is in my eyes, peep this list:

  • the reason that I am able to live in a loving home instead of a homeless shelter, since my health does not allow me to work and my disability was denied;
  • the enabler, builder and code monkey of my mostly goofy/sometimes creative musings;
  • the Yin to my Yang – I am emotional where he is logical and he is emotional where I am logical and I rely heavily on him for balance;
  • the first person that, when I have some hair brained scheme, actually listens and is supportive at the same time he is constructive in criticism and suggestions;
  • the fuel that feeds my craving to continually challenge myself, guiding me away from self-sabotage;
  • the kindest and most loving man I’ve ever known;
  • generous with his income on purchases for my children from a previous marriage, never saying that something they need is not going to be provided;
  • perfect in his imperfections;
  • glorious in his flawed humanity;
  • never out of patience with me, even when he has every right to be.

We recently rescued the ten year old dog of a family member that was no longer able to care for him. Only because my husband was willing, were we able to do the necessities that had been neglected for this loving pet (dental cleaning and removal of a diseased tooth, neutering/biopsy, analysis of a suspicious growth, vaccinations and grooming) that allowed for him to be adopted into an extremely loving family that will give him the best care and attention that could be hoped for any person, let alone animal.

Without Chooch’s generosity, this dog would have likely ended up at the shelter and after evaluation would have been put to sleep because of all his health issues. Especially with how “cage brave” (growling and barking at people) he was in his fear at what was happening. We were EXTREMELY lucky to have had the wonderful staff at the animal hospital, thanks to our future housemate, and the ability to afford to do even those basic necessities. Their kindness and love in taking care of this dog that needed so much and ensuring that he had it along with a healthy dose of love and affection is something I will never forget.

Because of this and countless other reasons, Chooch will always be the man of my dreams. A man that I was lucky enough to ensnare and trick into spending the rest of his life with me. A man that I made pinky swear on camera in front of Kaylee that he won’t die until after I do, because I love him so much that I cannot imagine life without him. She sealed the promise with a lick, by the way. Irrefutable contract in any court in the land, dontchaknow.  (Did you know I was so needy and high maintenance?)

So as the big world continues to rotate around the sun,

as people go about the hustle and bustle of their pre-holiday chaos,

I wake this morning knowing that there is one person that truly knows each and every one of my deep dark secrets, flaws and failings,

and he loves me anyways.

I am the luckiest woman I know.

 

Zombies, Harry Potter and Healing

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Family, Mom, No Whining, Too Long For Twitter, Uncategorized

I had previously never given zombies much thought, but recall that as a teen my friends and I watched every B-movies our tiny Texas town’s video store had. The grosser the better. Naturally, many of those had zombies of one type or another. I had certainly seen many more nasty movies in the intervening 19 years. And while I became more squeamish after my children’s separate but critical health issues, I don’t recall any zombie anxiety until Halloween of 2006.

While out shopping for Halloween costumes and decorations with the kids at a cheesily and spookily decorated party store, I realized I was shaky and freaked out by the skeletons and zombies. Although none of them resembled her, I envisioned my Mom in their place. Even worse, I was unable to stop picturing her in various stages of decomposition in her coffin, wearing the clothes she had been buried in. It was the first Halloween since her passing away, and I can assure you it freaked me right the fuck out. Happily that effect has eased immensely, mostly due to being inundated with movies, TV shows, songs, audio dramas, games and apocalypse preparedness plans. And I’ve been working hard with meditation to shut it down when it start to creep in.

But at my core, zombies still freak me out. It’s not something I like to think about, and have worked really hard not to hate those that make Zombie Jesus jokes and stuff like that. Especially those that continue to make them when they see my discomfort. But they don’t realize it’s not a religious issue for me. The Christian/Catholic in me doesn’t care. I reconciled that bit long ago. But having those images in my head? It’s why my zombie preparedness plan only has one constraint: Are our kids relying on me for survival? If yes, I’ll fight tooth, nail, blood and tears for their lives. No? Self-destruction. If my kids aren’t with us, then I want to be a goner in the first wave. I don’t want to see my loved ones like that. Yes, that’s very literal and takes the fun out of it. But that’s how my brain works. When I visualize it, it’s extremely hard to un-visualize it. This is true for all things. Chooch and I even have it as part of an “In Case I Become Undead” Pact: Zombie = bash my brains out. Vampire = join me.

But when hearing about zombies, I almost always return to  standing next to Mom’s coffin at the cemetery at her funeral.  I tried to be a solid and calming influence on all the kids, as I calmly put a rose on her coffin and gave the cold, hard wood one last touch. But on the inside, I felt like a four year old, screaming and throwing myself on the coffin and begging for Mommy to wake up. Not having to be brave or strong or a good example, and just being able to grieve and let it all out in one hysterical rush.

My family rode together to the cemetery in two limos and, to my comprehension at the time, were wanting to leave pretty quickly after the ceremony. But I had to force every step away from her. I didn’t want to leave her alone. I wanted to stay and keep her company the same way I had during her chemo treatments and for all those months in the hospital. Even when she was unconscious.

I wanted a blanket to cover her, as it was so cold that morning. I knew what she was wearing was lovely, but had no warmth. I worried about the rain and the snow, and her being left out in the elements without even an umbrella to keep her dry. Crazy, right? But I’d spent the last five months in constant care of her. I even carried her pain pills with me that morning, knowing she had no use for them but unable to leave them behind.

My whole life her feet were always ice cold, and I was suddenly mad at myself for not remembering to wrap the blanket I had been crocheting for her for months around her feet to keep them warm. I remembered too late and still have the unfinished blanket.

As we slowly walked to the cars, I remember telling Chooch how mad I was at myself, for not having anticipated the need to stay and driving separately. The family needed to leave, to be in motion, to have this part over. But I needed to stay and watch over my Mom for just a little bit longer. I curtailed my time and headed to the waiting car.

It doesn’t come as a shock to anyone who knows me that I have an undying love for my Mom. She was not perfect, and she made a lot of mistakes. I don’t see her through rose-colored glasses. But I still miss her everyday, and I don’t care one whit if anyone else thinks that it’s “unhealthy” or that I should be “over it” or that I’m “using it for sympathy.” My loss is my own, and I expect no one else to fully understand it. Not even my husband, and he knows everything about me. It’s a multi-faceted issue, one that is very private and inexplicable. I don’t see it ever completely fading away.

Today would have been Mom’s 68th birthday. I’ve been pushing it out of my mind with lots of activities and stuff going on, but now I can’t ignore it any more and the blues have arrived full force. Part of it is because of the big part that Harry Potter played in our lives. The first three books had a tremendous healing power after my divorce, and it was also a huge bonding thing for me and my boys. My oldest son, Naughty Bear was the perfect age to be spellbound by it, and we were just reminiscing about playing hooky to see the first showings on opening day for the first few movies to watch it together with my Mom and my Dad. We even had an Epic Harry Potter Halloween party. And I do mean Epic.

Chooch and I watched Harry Potter 7 tonight with LT and NB in anticipation of watching the final installment at the midnight showing on Thursday night. It pisses me off that she only got to see the first four movies, but at least she got to read all the books. Having it come out the same week as her birthday stirs up a bunch of sadness at what she’s missed in the last 5 1/2 years, but I’m working really hard to shift my attention instead to all she did experience, as well as the tremendous impact she had on the lives of her family and friends.

While DM’ing with a friend about it in Twitter, she reminded me to celebrate Mom, enjoy Harry Potter and have dessert first. That last is a tradition that had slipped my mind, based on my Mom taking LT to dinner one day and randomly deciding to have dessert before dinner. So I’m deciding on her birthday dessert in the morning.

I also want to toast Mom, but, and here’s the irony, when trying to think of a wine or liquor that she preferred, I suddenly remembered that the drink I most remember her ordering was a Zombie. She did order one or two Long Island Iced Teas in my memory, but over the years when she was in the rare mood for a drink in my presence, it was a Zombie.

Isn’t she a kick in the pants? It feels as if even now she’s pushing me to toughen up. I don’t even get to hold on to a weird weakness! So, yes. Mom. I get it. I need to do some more healing. Message received, loud and clear. The family I embrace is helping me to come to terms with a lot of things, including not having your physical presence in my life any longer.

I guess at this point I should apologize to anyone that’s bothered to read this far. I don’t have any grand closing statement or clear train of thought. I’m just clearing out the shadows in my brain and dumping ’em here for my own purposes.

So, Happy Birthday, Pocket Mom. I was damned lucky to have you as long as I did, and I know it.

Mom and Me on my wedding day, 2003

Balticon 45 – In Lieu of a Wrap-Up

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Uncategorized

As the title implies, I’m not doing a rundown of all the exquisitely awesome and awful things that happened this year. Chooch has con crud and I’m just not up to it with everything going on here.

Suffice it to say I saw many beloved friends, some old and some new, and this year’s con has had the greatest impact in my life of any I’ve attended.

I treasure all the laughter and kindnesses of friends, especially those that came to my reading. I couldn’t have made it through that without each of you there, lending me strength. I hope I did Mom proud.

If you attended and took photos, please add them to the Balticon 45 Flickr group I created. It’s a great way for folks to uncover the many photos taken, regardless of how they are tagged. If you rely solely on Facebook, I would ask you to reconsider for at least this pool of photos. Many have left FB due to privacy issues and it would be a shame for them not to see the photos you have taken and shared. You can always link to Flickr from Facebook, and you also get to see how many folks have viewed them and it allows for folks to “Favorite” them to find in the future.

The next episode of Into the Blender may include a run-down, if Chooch is in favor of it. If not, know that I tremendously enjoyed all of the events I participated in or attended.

Whether you made it to the show or not, if you want more info on Chooch’s band Ditched by Kate, you can go to their website. There will be information posted soon about how to get a physical  or digital copy of their EP, Stumble.

Motivation and Gratitude

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: No Whining, Soulful, Uncategorized

I’ve been channeling my energies in a different way in the last four or so years. It’s a trend I intend to continue as it has worked out well for me and those in my life. I thought I’d share my process, as I’ve been putting a lot of thought into how I can prioritize future endeavors. The plotting we’ve been doing has resulted in a lengthy list, far too much than can actually be done.

I used to try and take on all things that were expected of me, to varying degrees of success. I was routinely overwhelmed and the stress impacted daily life enjoyment for myself and to the loved ones in my presence. Anxious, over-extended and exhausted I had to make a change as I found that I was growing resentful and found little to no enjoyment in my accomplishments. Part of the need to take so much on was due to insecurity and a need to find approval from those that I was jumping through hoops for, part of it was in trying to fill the void left by my Mother’s far-too-early departure, and there are other parts that I haven’t even tried to examine. The end result is that changes were made, and while there is tremendous guilt, there is also less stress and more enjoyment in my accomplishments and life in general.

Besides putting my energy into where I see the greatest critical need, I also focus on the gratitude returned to me. Yes, it’s selfish, but this blog is a place where I strive for honesty, so why dress it as something it’s not? No one likes being taken for granted, and it happens far too often in our society. When we get a need met, we tend to assign that person to the task eternally, whether or not the person wants that eternal role.

Let’s be clear – I’m not talking tit for tat. That is typically obligatory reciprocation. I’m talking about the satisfaction and pleasure I get from any acknowledgment of effort immediately makes the effort and expense worthwhile, whether a loud squee, sincere and heartfelt “Thanks” or a quiet “You rock.”

For example, I was told during an employee performance appraisal that I received top marks and if he had the budget available I would have received a large cash award. Obviously, the money would have been lovely, but the verbal and documented kudos lifted my spirits and I happily continued to bust my ass.

As another example, in my goofball way I went slightly overboard at a get-together and felt a little silly for it. I felt tremendous pleasure when a young attendee told me, “This is a fun celebration!” The sparkle in his eyes and the way he said it made it clear that it was a spontaneous and genuine statement. Forget the “Thanks,” those five simple words had me floating amongst the stars!

As an aside, I certainly hope that I spread around sincere thanks to those that are important in my life. I’d hate to think that I withhold that from the great many people that make my life so rich, since I get so much joy from hearing. I do intend to try harder to ensure that I vocalize gratitude as well as making sure I express to those that I value just how much they mean to me. It only takes a moment, after all, and doesn’t cost a thing.

Fun in Measured Doses

Author: Chooch  //  Category: Dizzy, Games, Movies, Music, Uncategorized

For some reason, the potential impact of a concert-triggered migraine didn’t really occur to me until I was mired spinny and owie in a doozy at the They Might Be Giants concert earlier this year. While I was fine and happier than a newb geek has any right to be during Jonathan Coulton’s opening set, the much higher volume and lights sent me running from the venue for relief during TMBG. The horns certainly didn’t help. I was really bummed, since it was my first time actually making it to one of their shows and also because we were with friends Pat and Lisa, who we rarely get to spend time with.

Since then, I’ve been afraid to buy tickets to any shows. My recent heartbreak was newly found Metric playing in Richmond last month. My Scott Pilgrim Fangirl heart was broken at missing them (Their “Black Sheep” was performed by The Clash at Demonhead in the flick. Easily my fave song on the soundtrack.), but we couldn’t justify springing the dough for a show I might have to bail on.

My new heartbreak is the Linkin Park show in February. Their Hybrid Theory album literally catapulted me singing and screaming through a lot of rage and heartbreak at a dark time in my life. That album unsurprisingly resides on my “Perfect Album” list and I’ll always have a soft spot for them, regardless of what I think of their recent releases.  The Projekt Revolution concert I went to in Fairfax, VA was a high-energy, face-twisting, lustful-singing-at-the-top-of-your-lungs show and I loved fangirling after the show when I met them. Yes, I told Mike Shinoda what the album meant to me and how it helped me in a wrenchingly cathartic way.

Not surprisingly, I’ve also had to show restraint with movies although it’s only been recent ones that have really triggered the symptoms in any notable way.

After viewing Scott Pilgrim vs. The World three times in the theater and once at home, I’ve yet to see the ending boss fight. The visual effects drive a spike through my brain and I have to close my eyes and cover them to negate them. Bummer, but not unexpected. Video games have reportedly caused seizures in people before, and the movie is pretty heavy with video game effects. I was disappointed that I was unable to view it at home, as I was sure that the smaller screen would help. I was wrong.

Seeing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on the big screen last week hit me harder than I anticipated. It’s possible that the long day played a part in this, however. I was up at 6 a.m. and we went to the midnight-oh-one showing. There were a few scenes that were particularly harsh,  the one where Harry departs Privet drive, one with Hermione and a snatcher in the woods, the battle in the Ministry and the ending battle.  I was quite loopy after the end and needed to remain seated for a bit, and kindly Jett offered me her arm as we exited for stability.

I’ve already reduced my video game time, especially those that have a 3D effect. There have also been nights were I’ve had to log off of Lord of the Rings Online because of dizziness when navigating the Misty Mountain trails, among other things. But these don’t surprise me as much as concerts or movies since they are far more immersive.

I now have to stop and make a concerted effort to evaluate the possible effects, and even carry ear plugs with me, as I did the night of the Geek Radio Daily Pub Crawl and Chooch’s band practice the other night.  Although so far it’s only been the visual inputs that trigger dizziness, both the visual and the audio can trigger the migraines.

Talk about a buzz kill.

Fiction by Chooch, At Long Last

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Uncategorized

My husband Chooch has been writing fiction for a very long time. When we were dating, he even shared some of it with me. I was shocked and impressed at this creative side and have had growing admiration for him over the years with his music and writing, and his many other talents. To my knowledge, he’s never had his fiction out in the world beyond sharing with one or two people for input.

Now, I’m fairly certain that most of my readers are familiar with the wonderful fiction that Philippa Ballantine has shared with the world. As a part of the launch promotion for her newest book Geist, she invited some folks to write a short story in her world to be released in podcast form. I’m proud to say that my husband Chooch was one of those invited and although I’m a bit biased, I believe he wrote a wonderful story.

Pip has released the podcast version of his story, and it is fantastic. You can follow this link to Philippa’s post in order to give it a listen. Don’t forget to leave feedback if you are so inclined. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do, and don’t forget to pick up a copy (or five) of Geist!

If you enjoyed Chooch‘s story, tune into TuacaCon this coming Saturday as he hopes to do a reading of the first chapter of his original novel, Corsa.

A Night at the Opera, #85

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: AFI's Top 100 Movies, Chooch, Friends, Movies, Uncategorized

This is my first viewing of a complete Marx Brothers movie. I’ve seen pieces of their movies over the years, so was familiar with the basic idea of their comedy. It was filmed in 1935, and is pretty much exactly what I expected — a wealth of puns and one-liners and physical comedy. Yes, there were some “groaners” at the more obvious bits, but overall it was greatly enjoyable.

I watched it with Chooch and visiting bestie P.G. Holyfield. When I mentioned that we had A Night at the Opera, from Netflix, P.G. and Chooch opted to postpone watching The Walking Dead so we could watch it. Chuckles, guffaws and Bah!s were sprinkled throughout the viewing, as we all enjoyed it.

It’s easy to see how present day comedies continue to be heavily influenced by this and comedies like it. Don’t expect a life-changing experience here, just a light-hearted romp that is fun and funny. It frequently makes no sense, much in the same way that Bringing Up Baby did, but in this case I’m really glad to have seen it. The comedic timing of the physical and verbal jokes was impeccable, and kudos to the actors that were able to stay stoicly in character as they watched the antics of the comedians.  I now cannot wait to see Duck Soup, which is reportedly the best of all the Marx Brothers films.

As an aside, Chooch commented on the absurd hat that Groucho was wearing in the ocean liner dinner scene. Now I must have one as it was exquisite in its absurdity.

Exquisite, I say!

Taking Back November 1st

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Chooch, Exercise, Family, Health, Mom, No Whining, Soulful, Uncategorized

Today is the 8th anniversary of the first date that Chooch and I went on. We were already in love, thanks to our long distance courting, but it was still a first date. Full of nerves and awkwardness in spite of all the times we’d hung out over the previous year.

Today is our 7th wedding anniversary. We didn’t plan for it to be exactly one year later, it just sort of happened and we didn’t even realize the coincidence until some time later. We’re goofy like that.

Today is the 5th anniversary of the doctor telling my Mom that the cancer had won out, and there were no more treatment options available. He gave her six months, at best. She passed away 2 1/2 months later.

In the intervening years, our wedding anniversary has been bittersweet for me. My life changed in ways that I’ll never be able to truly express, and although our life isn’t perfect, it’s perfect for us. My husband has given me strength, confidence and unconditional love. He gave me wings to soar as high and fast as I wanted to, and the confidence in knowing that he will be there to catch me if I fall. I don’t speculate on whether or not he’ll be there, as we’ve done that for each other countless times over our short time together.

In fact, I always have add the years up a couple times, as it seems so short. We joke that we were already married before he even crossed the country to live here, so completely devoted and comfortable were we with each other. We feel like we’ve been together forever, and in a good way. I have complete and utter faith in his devotion, something I’ve never had before.

But since the day we learned that hope for my Mom was gone, it’s also been tinged with pain. I may write about that later, but for now I want to focus on what November 1, 2010 has become, as of this moment.

I’ve now deemed it my day of freedom. It sounds nonsensical, and the steps that led me to it may not suss out on close inspection, but that’s what it is.

This morning, with Chooch fighting some nasty cooties, I headed out for our usual run alone. My back has been bothering me since last week so I didn’t even take Kaylee along. As I headed out the door, I realized to my horror that my iPod battery was dead. No Couch to 5k coaching for me, and no music play list, either. I debated waiting until later when it was charged, but as I was in my gear already, I headed out. I decided on the longer route, because I was alone. It’s my favorite route, but Chooch doesn’t usually have time before work and since it’s over three miles I have to take a water container when Kaylee is with me. I was free to do it, so I did.

Without Robert Ullrey to prompt me, I decided to just run until I couldn’t run anymore, then walk the rest of the way. This is a very hilly route, and I just hoped to run for 15 minutes. When I finally stopped, I had run for just over 36 minutes, passing my starting point. This is my personal best on running time, especially impressive with the size of the hills. And I don’t just mean since I got hit with this weird illness a year ago — this is my all-time longest running time.

As is usual, when I’ve visualized a landmark goal and I start to think I won’t make it, I chant to myself. It’s different things, but usually at the really hard push it’s something along the lines of taking steps that Mom could no longer take, and that she couldn’t take for the last 2 1/2 months of her life, since she lost the ability to walk. It may sound creepy, but it works and I take great pride in taking those steps for her.

Reflecting on this, as I walked in my state of shock at beating my personal best by a significant number, I’ve decided to change my attitude about November 1st. Maybe it’s the approaching holidays, or maybe it was because I so much time working on the interview I did for the Breast Cancer Awareness Month topic for my Girls’ Rules Podcast, but I’ve been missing her and thinking of her so much these last few weeks. While Chooch and I celebrate our marriage, I also grieve this day as when we lost hope for Mom.

In taking back the day, I will instead focus on it being the day that she was granted freedom. She no longer had to worry about the petty concerns of living — her lifelong struggle with weight, managing the household and most importantly being strong for those of us that she loved so completely. She finally let me take burdens from her, as they were no longer her concern. She became focused in the now, and anything beyond the door to her hospital room was not her concern, once she knew that my dad was going to be okay without her there to do almost everything in the running of the house.

Reclaiming this day is already taking a lot of self-convincing to maintain, and I was crying while trying to explain it to my patient and loving Chooch. But it’s something that I need to do, because I know my Mom. She doesn’t want me crying for her on my anniversary. Knowing how much she loved me and Chooch, and how much she loved us being together, I know she wants us to celebrate our love and the unlikely circumstances that brought us together. So I’m letting go of all that pain from that day five years ago. I’m setting myself free, as I know she would do for me if she could.

Review of The Sixth Sense (#89)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: AFI's Top 100 Movies, Uncategorized

The Sixth Sense (1999), is number 89 on the list and I’d already seen this ages ago, but only once all the way through. I was very excited to have an excuse to watch it again, so we dusted off the copy from our DVD library last night and enjoyed it again.

When I saw this the first time, I had already seen Unbreakable and was blown away by M. Night’s vision and skill. Sadly, Sixth Sense had already been spoiled for me by the time I saw it on videotape. (Or DVD. Whatevs.) Real bummer, as I would’ve LOVED to have been surprised, but I dearly love it just the same.

In that vein, I refuse to spoil it for anyone and will not discuss what the big twist of the movie is, but I will beg you to see it if you haven’t already. As is typical by now, M. Night has multiple stories going on at once, each one compelling and believable: a haunted boy (literally) struggling to find a way out of a truly terrifying situation with the help of a doctor (Psychologist? Psychiatrist?); a loving couple with an untenable distance in their clearly painful marriage; and a beautifully depicted maternal love as the boy’s mother is confused and powerless, but still seeks out what is terrorizing her young son with an animalistic protectiveness that is both compelling and relatable.

It is supremely effed up what this kid sees in his day to day life, and it is heartbreaking what Cole is going through with his mother, trying to get her to understand and believe him without scaring her into thinking he’s insane. And seeing what his mother is going through trying to help him is excruciating for this mother. As I find true with all his films, except for The Village which I liked but did not LOVE, he tells a story that breaks my heart and then somewhat heals it. I know the director takes a lot of crap, but I find his movies to be compelling and well worth the time, every time.

The casting is magnificent in this film. Bruce Willis portrays the shrink Malcolm, who is trying to help Haley Joel Osment’s young and achingly fragile Cole through what he first believes to be psychological response to his father leaving the family. Toni Collette plays Cole’s mother, and this may have been the first movie I saw her in, because I had no recollection she was in it. Olivia Williams, who I had to go to IMDB to chase away the “I’ve seen her before” tickle (Mrs. Darling from Peter Pan and Adelle from Dollhouse), played Malcolm’s wife with a confused, loving and distant vibe. These four characters are the focus of the story, but I have to admit to running back to the DVD when I saw Donnie Wahlberg listed with the cast. I didn’t recognize him as Vincent at all. He was unrecognizable, amazing and believably insane in his portrayal of this broken young man. What a shame that only his brother gets accolades because this is truly a talented actor. I had no clue just how talented until now, but I hope he sees better roles than what show up on his current IMDB page.

Each of these actors, along with the supporting cast, give rich and soulful performances. It is not surprising that Osment’s is the most compelling portrayal, as he’s just so very young. It seems impossible that he would be able to carry a role so permeated with pain and terror at such a young age.

My two favorite lines from the movie:
“I never told you, but you sound a little like Dr. Seuss when you’re drunk.” Malcolm’s wife to Malcolm.
“I didn’t know you were funny.” Cole, after Malcolm performs a pathetic magic trick.

Bringing Up Baby (1938) is next on the list, and has already arrived. I’ve not seen it, and know nothing other than it stars Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. I love seeing movies with no preconceived notions about it, it’s freeing in a way, don’t you think?

Sophie's Choice (#91)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: AFI's Top 100 Movies, Uncategorized

Made in 1982, the first thing that hits me is how young Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline and Peter MacNicol were when this was made. Baby faces! The second thing that you realize is that Meryl as Sophie is going to be a tragic figure. The first scene that she is in is a huge argument and portrays a loud and passionate relationship with Kevin Kline’s Nathan. And just like Peter MacNicol’s Stingo, it’s hard not to forgive the turbulent scene with Sophie and Nathan and follow him as their magnetic personalities pull him along.

Now, having seen this movie, I’m guessing, sometime in the ’90s only the heart breaking ending stayed with me. (I mean, come on, it’s a robot test! If you weren’t deeply moved by her confession at the end of the movie then you are clearly a robot.)  Because of the 20 year or so gap, it was very like watching it for the first time, but with a knot in my stomach knowing the source of Sophie’s great pain.

I was as enamored with Nathan as Sophie and Stingo are, completely forgiving all of his passionate and crazed outbursts because of his powerful and intoxicating ability to make things up to them. I was completely in love with the fragile Sophie, so strong and yet so weak when she would stand up to Nathan to defend against his crazed claims.

As for Chooch, he chuckled when he heard the line from the latest xkcd, “Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me.” I didn’t catch it at all, and I’d read it half an hour before sitting down to the movie. He enjoyed the movie as well, but we haven’t had much time to discuss it yet.

As is standard for me whenever I watch a Meryl Streep movie, I completely forget that she is acting. It’s been said millions of times, but the woman can really take you along as she completely immerses herself in her role and the world she’s in. And seeing what she endured during the flashbacks, it’s so easy to see why she would stay with Nathan in spite of his verbal abuse and mental instability. Come on, after surviving Auschwitz being swept around in a Southern belle style hoop gown with that grand way that he has, it must have felt like Heaven to her broken soul. She was drawn to him like a moth to the flame, knowing he was dangerous but needing his warmth.

Obviously, this movie really affected me. I’m not sure that you have to be a parent to “get” how horrific a thing it is to be forced to choose which of your two children will live. Then add to that the knowledge that if you do not choose, both will die. In the end, I don’t think it’s any great leap to say that she had a death wish, and did not believe she deserved the life of quiet peace that Stingo offered. The guilt, pain and shame that she carried would not allow her such things. I think this is a Movie You Must See, so if you haven’t you should really consider doing so. Even though it’s somewhat spoiled for you, I think you’ll still find it worth your time.

Chooch and I have re-ranked the movies we have seen so far, and we are taking yet another page from Christiana and Mike’s Watching 100 Movies in that we are adding movies that we think belong on the list. The difference is that Chooch felt there were twenty movies that should be on the list. Insanity! I had only selected one, and have since talked him down to five. I’m now culling through my DVD collection and Netflix queue to find four more. Once that’s done I’ll do a post. I have a general plan of posting our rankings every tenth movie, but we’ll see if I stick to it.

Next up is Swing Time and the only thing I know about it is that it was released in 1936 and stars Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ll have seen one of their films all the way through, so I’m very excited to see if it holds up to all the acclaim.