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We Need To Talk About Kevin

Being a parent of a child who isn’t quite old enough to stay home unattended means that my husband and I don’t have the most thrilling social life in the world.  Unless my mother-in-law is free and well rested, we stay home while the rest of the world gets to run wild and free.  As a result, it’s rare that we get to the movie theater; we generally save our movie outings for things we absolutely cannot miss and things that will no doubt be spoiled for us on Twitter if we don’t get in early.  We Need To Talk About Kevin was one of those films I wanted to see badly, just not bad enough to catch it in theaters.  Thankfully, my husband spotted it on one of our movie channels and recorded it for us to watch.

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Based on a novel by Lionel Shriver, the film stars Tilda Swinton as Eva, the mother of a troubled and strange boy named Kevin (Ezra Miller).  [SPOILERS]  We see Eva in the present day, living alone and shunned by the community, as she tries to cope with the ruined life that is her new reality.  Through her memories, the audience is shown Eva’s family from the moment she becomes pregnant with her husband Franklin (John C. Reilly) up to the time her life fell apart.  As a baby, Kevin fills the home with his shrill cries, never giving his mother any peace as she tries her hardest to be the loving mother her son needs.  As a young child, Kevin refuses to be potty trained, wearing diapers and even mocking Eva by purposely soiling himself immediately after she has cleaned and changed him.  At only six or seven years old, Kevin seems to be intelligent beyond his years, more manipulative than any child should rightfully be, and even a bit evil.

While Kevin continuously tortures his mother with his lack of affection and his defiant attitude, he is the sweetest boy imaginable when dealing with Franklin.  His father does not get to see the cold and emotionless glare that Kevin lays on Eva, nor does he see any hint of the dark side of his son that is frightening and worrying Eva so much.  Franklin sees Kevin as “just a boy,” certain that his wife is simply overreacting or just not understanding her son properly.  Meanwhile in the present time, we see Eva struggling to repair the damage done to her small home by vandals while receiving nothing but hate, disapproval, or indifference from her community.  At this point, I’m assuming that Franklin divorced her after Kevin lost his mind and did something terrible to either the family or the community. 

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The film jumps a bit, skimming past Eva’s second pregnancy and the arrival of a daughter, Celia.  Blond and cheerful, Celia is the polar opposite of the dark and devious Kevin.  She is loving and clearly adores her parents and big brother.  As Eva tries to hold herself together, Franklin finds a new way to bond with Kevin by encouraging his new-found interest in archery and purchasing him a bow and arrow set.  Kevin is a natural, hitting bulls eye after bulls eye to the delight of Franklin.  There is no delight in Eva’s heart however; Celia’s lost pet is discovered by her in the kitchen’s garbage disposal, Celia is blinded in one eye by drain cleaner, and she suspects Kevin is guilty of the death and the injury.  Of course, Franklin is not hearing a word of it and dismisses her suspicions as their marriage crumbles even further.

As Kevin’s parents plan a divorce, the nearly sixteen year old Kevin plans a massacre.  While Eva is at work, Kevin brings his bow and arrow set to his high school and let’s loose on his classmates.  Multiple students are killed, some are permanently injured, and Kevin is incredibly pleased with himself.  The violent act quickly hits the news and Eva rushes to the school fearing for her son’s life.  When she arrives, she begins seeing bodies penetrated by the arrows she knows belong to her son.  When Kevin finally emerges from the school, the smirk on his face says it all and Eva slowly retreats from the scene as a broken woman.  She returns to her home in search of her husband and daughter, finding them dead in the backyard, two more victims of Kevin’s violence.

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Ezra Miller terrified me, as did Jasper Newell who portrayed the younger version of Kevin.  The cold, dead and dark eyes, the hate in his gaze when looking upon his mother, and the small hints of joy that entered his expression when causing his mother pain felt so real that I found myself loathing and hating Kevin even as a child.  He manipulates his clueless father into seeing him as a sweet little boy who is growing into a wonderful young man.  He gives his mother a single moment of normalcy one night while sick, cuddling up to her as she reads him a story, but quickly returns to his true self and gives her nothing more than indifference and defiance.  Both actors who played Kevin amazed me in the way they gave the character life and allowed the audience to feel the same pain and fear felt by Eva.

Tilda Swinton is perfect as Eva.  Socially awkward, often unsure, but always committed to being the best mother she knows how to be.  I myself would have given up on Kevin, but Eva hangs on for dear life and is constantly searching for ways to connect with him and to find a path to his heart.  She sticks with her son until the very end, remaining in a town where she is hated in order to be able to visit him in prison.  At the end of the film, Kevin’s shell cracks and his nervousness about a transfer to an adult facility seeps through.  As the visit concludes, Eva asks Kevin why he did it.  Kevin replies that he thought he used to know, but now is no longer sure.  Eva embraces her son and he is taken away.  It’s a sad moment, but Eva seems to be so hopeful that her child may finally become the son she wanted him to be.

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We Need To Talk About Kevin gives us a glimpse into the lives of a family that could very well mirror a family in your own neighborhood.  With the multiple and frequent violent acts in schools across the country, we are constantly struggling to find the WHY and the HOW.  Was it the fault of the parent?  Should the child have received therapy or medication?  What were the warning signs?  What was the reasoning?  In the film, Eva is blamed and tormented because of Kevin’s actions, even though she tried her best and did what she could to be a loving mother to her troubled child.  Could she have done more?  Of course, but no evidence exists that would allow us to say that certain actions would have prevented the violent events.  As outsiders, it’s easy for us to pass judgment and make suggestions, but impossible for us to know for sure what we would do if our own child lashed out.  This film allows us to get a glimpse at the creation of a psychopath and the horror of the aftermath, hopefully also giving us a bit of understanding and hopefully some sympathy.

I adored this film, but it also gave me nightmares.  It is terrifying to think that a child you created and loved could be so cold and heartless, even at a young age.  It’s scary to think that a child could be so manipulative and crafty that one parent could be totally blind to the problems while the other parent sees nothing but those problems.  It’s sad that a community could place blame on the family of the guilty party, adding to the pain and grief they are already feeling by shunning them and sometimes causing physical harm, emotional damage, or property damage.  If I didn’t ruin the surprise for you, I definitely recommend checking this film out.  I also plan on hunting down and reading the novel that inspired it; hopefully it lives up to the hype.  Happy viewing.

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Down With The Clown

I am going to scream.  I read an article on CNN about the two classy clowns that make up the Insane Clown Posse.  They stated that they’re fine with the criticism aimed directly at them but they take offense to the criticism aimed at their fans, the juggalos.  At The Gathering Of The Juggalos, they announced that they will be filing a lawsuit against the FBI for labeling their fans a gang.  Clown #1, Violent J, states “this is the government’s way of telling us what you can listen to, what you can wear.  They’re telling you that if you listen to this music and you support this music, you are going to be committing a crime in our eyes.”  The FBI states that while most juggalo related crimes are sporadic, disorganized, and often involve simple assault, drug use, or vandalism, a small number are forming organized subsets and engaging in gang-like activity, such as felony assault, theft, and drug sales.

I’ve already blogged about juggalos and exactly how I feel about their worth in this world, running down a list of the cringeworthy things they are guilty of doing.  One of the many twisted acts of self-professed juggalos was committed by 18-year-old Alex Pacheco, who murdered his 13-year-old girlfriend Kelsey Shannon, then had sex with her dead body.  They have been involved in hate crimes, targeting certain races or sexual orientations.  They call themselves family but will turn on a fellow juggalo at the drop of a hat.  I don’t care for Tila Tequila, but she didn’t deserve the attack at a Gathering a while back where she sustained notable injuries.  All in all, there isn’t much  you can say in a positive light about this group.

If liking a certain band and dressing a certain way in support of that band was a crime, the FBI would be identifying different gangs until the end of time.  If random acts of violence were all it took, Marilyn Manson fans would have been labeled a gang after the Columbine Massacre and Dark Knight fans would be a gang due to the Colorado shooting and subsequent arrests due to guns brought into theaters.  Far be it from me to put 100% trust and faith into our government, but I highly doubt the FBI is just going to label a group as a dangerous gang if they don’t have good reasoning behind it.

 

Let me stop for a second and say that I fully understand that not all people who call themselves juggalos or juggalettes are horrible human beings.  Some are just people with horrible taste in music and wardrobe.  That being said, when the majority of a group is violent, uses drugs, is disrespectful, and begins to organize and engage in illegal conduct on a felony level, you become a bit guilty by association.  Saying “well, I don’t do X, Y, and Z, so it’s okay” doesn’t cut it; associating with people who are doing vile things makes you equally as guilty.  This is why the “not all of us are like that” argument falls deaf ears with me.  Condoning is just as bad as participating and any level-headed person would not call themselves part of such an awful group.

 

Contrary to what Mr. J believes, this is not the government telling anyone what they can wear or what music to listen to.  I could (ugh) wear an ICP shirt and (gag) listen to their CD and not be harassed by anyone because I’m not out smoking weed, robbing my neighbors, and throwing rocks at people while I yell how much they suck.  I’m not teaming up with fellow juggalos to beat down a guy because he’s gay and I hate that, or organizing a way to sell more weed and maybe some meth with my friends, or spray painting hatchetmen across the sides of buildings to mark my territory.  Like it or not, juggalos, what you do is in fact gang activity and it deserves to be treated as such.

I almost hope the clowns do file this lawsuit.  I hope it goes to court and I hope they are laughed out of there, hanging their painted heads low with shame.  My hatred of these two morons and their idiot fans aside for a moment, it’s just nonsense to say that the government has it out for your fans and is trying to control wardrobe and music preferences simply because they can.  If the fans weren’t acting like Neanderthals and engaging in illegal and disgusting behavior, they would not have attracted the attention of the FBI and wouldn’t have earned the gang classification.

Rather than file a lawsuit, maybe these two circus acts should take advantage of the obvious power they have over their followers and try to curb the violence instead of encourage it.  Maybe they should take responsibility for the “family” they built rather than get cranky because they don’t want their fans to look bad.  When you knowingly reach out to the fringe members of society, the ones who are outcast and desperate to belong, then hammer this family bullshit into their heads, you are partially responsible for what is created.  It takes a sick individual to interpret their songs to mean it’s all right to murder and maim, but when that sick person is a key member of the “family,” the others will follow suit in their eagerness to belong.  I’m not saying ICP is responsible for juggalo behavior, but if they want to start throwing blame around for their fans looking bad, they need to start with themselves.

What Is Love? Baby.. Don’t Hurt Me!

Every time the general public seems to forget about Chris Brown, he does something idiotic and gets his name back on everyone’s mind.  He told the world to fuck off via Twitter after winning a Grammy (a tweet he later deleted) and he collaborated with Rihanna on a couple new songs.  Now he’s all I hear about; is he back with Rihanna, has the public forgiven him, how dare he be honored after what he did, and so on.

What Rihanna chooses to do at this point is her business and hers alone.  She doesn’t exactly present herself in such a way that she would ever be mistaken for some sort of role model; with her in-your-face sexuality and often inappropriate comments and behavior, she is hardly a woman that a young girl should want to model themselves after.  I don’t say that to slam Rihanna for the person she is, I’m just trying to make it clear that she obviously is not trying to be a role model for anyone.  If she wishes to forgive Chris Brown for beating her, so be it.  If she can overlook the violent behavior he’s exhibited since beating her, so be it.  And if she’s wrong and he ends up hitting her again, she has only herself to blame.

I have a zero tolerance policy for violence against women.  I’ve been that girl who’s made excuses to explain the bruises on her arms, the marks on her neck, the black eye.  I understand how difficult it can be to walk away and realize that love isn’t that type of pain.  I know the insecurities that a woman feels while in an abusive relationship and the reasons she’ll come up with for why she was beaten.  It’s a sad and sorry situation and while I was in it, I honestly didn’t think anything was wrong.  I thought it was normal, that I deserved it for being difficult, that it was an accident and wouldn’t happen again, and that I could fix it.  I was a pathetic shell of a person and sadly, it’s a common place for women to find themselves in.

I refused to open my eyes to see the situation as it truly was until I had my son.  At that point, something clicked inside my head and I realized that I was placing my child and myself in a dangerous situation with an unstable violent man who could kill us both if he came at us hard enough.  Prior to that, I remained in a daze.  I ignored horror stories from formerly abused women who tried to help.  I ignored those who extended their hand and offered assistance.  I have no doubt that people in Rihanna’s life are trying to help her as well, attempting to get her to open her eyes and realize that she’s putting herself back in harm’s way and sending the message that she isn’t good enough, that she’s worth so little that it’s acceptable to hit her.  I also suspect that it’s a waste of everyone’s time to try to get her to see something she just isn’t ready to face.

People like Chris Brown who lash out at women don’t change overnight, if at all.  They are cowardly selfish people who use their brute strength and the fear others have of them in order to keep control of certain situations and people in their lives.  They are amazing actors and have the ability to fool most everyone around them, giving off the impression of a sweet man who really loves the woman he’s with.  Lying is a vital and central part of their life and no one is better at creating a tall tale on a moment’s notice than they are.  Often they come from homes where they were abused or witnessed abuse, but that fact should in no way excuse their behavior.  There is no excuse for a man striking a woman and to make any is just shameful.

Should Chris Brown be forgiven?  Sure; it’s not healthy to hold a grudge forever and eventually you have to move on, especially those of us who aren’t ever going to interact with the guy and who just want to enjoy his music.  While it’s good to forgive, what he did is something that shouldn’t be forgotten.  If I had my way, he would never be allowed to be alone with a woman again as I have no doubt that eventually he will snap once again and some unfortunately woman will find themselves on the wrong end of his fist.  I would hope that females would be intelligent enough to avoid this guy like the plague, but if Rihanna’s behavior and the tweets from fans stating they would love Brown to beat them, chicks these days are as dumb as ever.

Ladies, I don’t care how wonderful you think a guy is, how worried you are about being single if you don’t stay with him, or what reasons you can come up with to blame yourself for being struck.  There has never been and will never be an acceptable reason for a man to strike a woman outside of you violently attacking him and the male fearing for his life or fearing severe bodily damage.  Most men are bigger than us, stronger than us, and able to fight at a higher skill level than us.  It’s not a sexist remark, it’s just fact.  It is foolish of any woman to go back to a man who hits her, especially if you have children involved.  Yes, accidents happen (I literally walked into a guy’s fist once) but it’s foolish and ignorant to call being struck out of anger an accident.  Call it like it is and decide what’s more important, your heart being broken or your bones.

Noomi VS Rooney

The last movie my husband and I caught in the theaters in 2011 was The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  I got the trilogy written by the late Stieg Larsson for my 2010 Christmas and instantly fell in love with the series and with the main character, Lisbeth Salander.  This was a damaged woman with a serious pair of brass balls and an iron will, a woman who I identified with in some ways, admired in others, and who I’d love to be friends with if she’d have me.  After I completed reading the trilogy, my husband and I watched the Swedish film trilogy starring Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth.  If you’re not familiar with this film series, you may recognize her name from Sherlock Holmes: Book of Shadows as she plays the gypsy Madam Simza Heron.

Watching Noomi on-screen in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was like watching Lisbeth be lifted off of the pages and placed on-screen; she managed to fully embody the character without any breaks in illusion or forced moments.  On becoming Lisbeth, Noomi said  “Lisbeth is a human being who’s suffered a lot. She needed to create her own world, her own set of rules, as the ones that exist haven’t helped her. She’s always been completely alone in her world, outside it she’s been vulnerable. [She] has locked away her emotions, her heart, to protect herself. Everything inside her is deeply rooted, and once she’s let someone in she’s incredibly faithful and loyal. She will fight to the death for what she believes in.”  She definitely dove deep inside this role to discover the inner workings of Lisbeth; throughout the entire trilogy, you are never watching Noomi play Lisbeth.  You are simply and beautifully watching Lisbeth Salander and her alone.

David Fincher, the director who took on the task of Americanizing this film, definitely had his work cut out for him.  Not only did he have to tackle a widely loved and successful book, but he also had to compete with an already brilliantly made film by Niels Arden Oplev.  Fincher cast Rooney Mara for the role of Lisbeth, a somewhat unknown actress who he had previously worked with in The Social Network.  Such a big deal was made in the media about Rooney’s drastic changes in “becoming Lisbeth,” including her choice to get her nipple pierced since it would add to the authentic and accurate feel of the film.  Judging from the reactions of most, I would say it worked and would expect Ms. Mara to have a great deal of success in her future if she is smart about her career.

It’s interesting to me to see different directors tackle the same project.  I preferred Fincher’s general casting choices over Oplev’s; Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist was much closer to what I pictured when I read the book rather than Oplev’s choice of Michael Nyqvist.  I enjoyed Fincher’s flashback sequences which were helpful without overloading the film or adding any confusion.  As far as the pacing of the films, I believe Oplev nailed it; he seemed to take his time while Fincher’s felt rushed, yet both films were around the same length.  Oplev stuck to Larsson’s word, while Fincher added a bit of creativity and tweaked a couple of things that threw me and didn’t seem to fit properly.  Fincher’s version was obviously easier to watch since it was in English, but it also sacrificed authenticity  when it shed the subtitles and the language.

The biggest difference and one that unquestionably puts Oplev’s version at the top is Lisbeth Salander, the woman who is at the center of the story.  I imagine it would be quite stressful to any actor to go through drastic physical changes and become a somewhat mentally unstable character who also manages to be borderline genius, who is a victim of sorts to rape and violence, but who refuses to remain a victim once the crime has been committed, a person who is endlessly complex but extremely guarded.  To become Lisbeth is to do much more than cut and dye your hair and learn to ride a motorcycle.  It’s more than a nipple piercing and an averted gaze.  It’s the difference between watching an actor play Lisbeth and just watching Lisbeth be Lisbeth.

Unfortunately for Rooney, she had to follow up Noomi’s breathtaking performance; had I never watched the Swedish version of the film, I imagine I would have been content with Fincher’s take on it.  I just didn’t believe Rooney as Lisbeth.  Some things weren’t quite her doing; the bleached eyebrows seemed a bit silly to me and some of the things they did with her hair didn’t match Lisbeth’s style and personality.  The performance itself was good but fell shy of being great; at times Rooney came off as acting like a bratty antisocial child rather than an introverted yet strong-willed woman.  At other times, Rooney looked out of place in the role as if she was extremely uncomfortable.  While Noomi managed to effortlessly exude beauty and sex appeal under the hardened image, Rooney either looked a bit too freakish or simply like a pretty girl playing Gothic dress-up.

Again, it’s quite possible that I’d feel totally different if I had never seen Oplev’s movie and was given Rooney as my first living version of Lisbeth.  I do hope that the movie is successful and Fincher signs on to complete the trilogy along with Rooney and the rest of the cast.  I encourage everyone to go catch the movie in theaters while it’s still out and hopefully it’ll peak your curiosity enough for you to read the books and/or watch the Swedish trilogy.  My Noomi/Rooney debate aside, I love a story with a strong female lead that isn’t drowning in Hollywood’s standard of beauty, typical gender roles, or anything else we’ve all seen time and time again.  The character of Lisbeth is one that is easy to fall in love with and I urge you to give her a chance.

Music Is Life Is Complicated

“Music is life” is a popular quote to stick on your profile page or post as a clever tweet or status update.  It’s always relevant and it always has deep meaning to someone at any given moment.  People often credit certain musicians as being their savior during tough times, for understanding them when no one else had the ability to.  Music can be our escape from reality; pop in your ear buds and crank up the iPod and sit back as the world around you ceases to exist for a few blissful moments while you’re lost in the melody.  It has the ability to simultaneously change the mood and actions of an entire crowd.  It speaks for us when we’re unable to find the words.

According to a study, one out of three popular songs contains references to drug or alcohol abuse.  Dr Carolyn West states that rap and hip hop exploit young black women and promote unhealthy lifestyles, causing adolescent girls to devalue themselves and underestimate what they can be and accomplish in this world.  Other common themes in some music include graphic violence, promiscuity, and speaking of suicide as a solution to life’s problems.  Some parents blame music for a drop in their child’s grades.  One study states that girls who watch rap music videos are three times more likely to assault a teacher and be arrested than the females their age who avoid watching those videos and listening to that type of music.

Who can forget the aftermath of Columbine when Marilyn Manson was crucified by the public for being the cause of the massacre.  Manson stated that he “definitely can see why they would pick me. Because I think it’s easy to throw my face on the TV, because in the end, I’m a poster boy for fear.”  Without a doubt, he is a freaky guy and was a very visible public figure at the time.  His music video for Sweet Dreams freaked me out a bit, I will admit, and his songs definitely aren’t for the faint of heart.  He was primarily blamed for the tragedy, along with violent video games and a couple other music groups, because the two boys enjoyed his music and seemed to be under the influence of the lyrics somehow.

“Music is life” doesn’t translate into meaning “music creates life.”  I didn’t start hating the homosexual community or thinking I should tie up my husband and put him in my trunk after listening to Eminem, nor did I become a gothic loner or a punk after listening to Garbage and Green Day in high school.  Music is to life what the colors of a sunset are to the weather; it’s an addition with minor changes that accent the whole without permanently altering it.  A beautiful sunset can make a bitterly cold day seem more pleasant, just as listening to your favorite song can make a bad day at work seem a little more upbeat.  Nothing has actually changed, you just chose to adjust your attitude and focus on something that made you happy.

You can argue that negative music influences negative behavior and you can show stats and research to back it up.  The thing is, just about everyone on this planet listens to music and the majority of those people listen to something that isn’t exactly PG.  Obviously, violent people will have a history of listening to violent music because there is so much of it out there.  That shouldn’t translate into meaning that music was the reason for their behavior.  People’s behavior is caused by people, not the tunes on the radio.  Behavior is adjusted to fit in based on the group dynamic and not on song lyrics; a group can become violent at a concert because of the atmosphere created by those in attendance.  If a person is feeble-minded enough to punch someone because the song told them to, should the musician be blamed for the irrational behavior of a disturbed person who interpreted their art incorrectly?

I attended a concert in 2006 where a man, Andy Richardson, received a fatal injury as Deftones was on stage at the Family Values Tour, a multi-band event;  he angered other men in the mosh pit by allegedly harassing one of their girlfriends and one of the males decided to punch Richardson, causing his head to hit the concrete.  Tragic, but what rubbed me the wrong way was Richardson’s mother blamed the security at the concert for her son’s death and expressed interest in pursuing legal action against Korn, the headliner of the event.  At no time did I see an interview or read a statement of Richardson’s family blaming the guy who delivered the punch that led to the fatal injury.  Instead, they blamed everyone else.  Stories popped up everywhere afterward claiming that the Family Values Tour was started by Korn as a way to promote violence and bad behavior and that their lyrics were extremely harmful.

I started writing this blog today after listening to Korn’s My Gift To You on my iPod.  It stemmed from a dream Jonathan Davis had about killing his wife; he shared the dream with her and she urged him to put it to song.  For some reason, I began thinking of what someone would think if they had never been exposed to this type of music, what they would think of me for listening to lyrics describing a man watching the life drain out of a woman.  I first heard the song back in 1998 when I was 16 or 17 and my impressionable teenage mind didn’t take it out of context then nor does it affect me negatively now.  That song is one that has always served as a way to cheer me up when I’m sad or even slightly annoyed, the same way hearing Ice Ice Baby makes me happy or listening to Sexy And I Know It by LMFAO makes me laugh and sing along.

Music for me has been a means of escape and a way of expressing emotions in a private manner.  When I was hospitalized in my freshman year in college over a scary experience, I got through it by listening to Rammstein and Rob Zombie nonstop; it distracted me from the medical procedure and put my mind at ease for the duration of my stay.  It’s impossible for me to be irritated at work when I have Sir Mix-a-Lot in my headphones.  The music I enjoy matches my personality, not because it had a hand in shaping it but because it appeals to it.  Music is not my life, it’s just a part of it.  I can’t blame it for any of my choices or actions and other than choosing to drop cash on concerts and CDs, it hasn’t influenced any of my decisions.  Music is one of life’s great accessories.  It might sound deep to assign it great meaning and say that it’s life and the universal language, but it just isn’t true.  Music speaks to us all differently and has various levels of importance from person to person.  It’s not the foundation to our lives, but simply a provider of a few bricks.  It doesn’t control who we are and what we do; those things lie solely on the individual.  We have to stop laying our blame on outside sources and start looking at the individuals who are responsible for the negative activities happening around the world.

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