no words can express…

Pontypool heart screenshot - Version 2

“St. Valentine’s Day is an excuse to express our most intense or obscure passions. But words can be a frail tool to capture the complications and complexities of this thing we call love: the sweet blush of infatuation, the kinship and kindness of true companions, the frenzy of unfettered lust, the torments of jealousy, betrayal, or heartbreak. So perhaps it’s no coincidence that three films set on Valentine’s Day hinge on the fragility and feebleness of words, creating worlds where meaning and reason fall apart.”- Kiss is Kill

Today at The Toast, my guide to three Valentine’s Day films where meaning falls apart: Pontypool, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

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Come and play with us…

You are the cocktailer. You have always been the cocktailer.

You are the cocktailer. You have always been the cocktailer.

“It’s February. The winter holidays are long over, the lights are coming down, and the dark is creeping in. It’s time to invite some friends over for a night of bright, lighthearted fun – quick, before the metaphorical winter closes in around you and snows you into the labyrinthian hotel of your heart.” – All Play and No Work

Today on The Toast, my menu – complete with recipes! – for a terrifyingly easy The Shining viewing party.

Come and play with us forever… and ever… and ever…

adventures in autofill

How well does the all-knowing Google predict my behavior through search terms? Eerily well.

While researching proper pull-up form in an uncharacteristic burst of athleticism, I typed in pull, and Google autofilled -ed pork parfait, taking me from not knowing such a thing existed to passionately craving it in the space of a split second.

Presumably, it’s only my earnestly geeky search history that persuaded Google to deliver the desired information about the particle collider despite me misspelling it as “large hardon.”

And just now when I typed sam, Google autofilled some options, ranking local blues master (and my beloved friend) Samuel James just between Samuel L. Jackson and samurai. That is an appropriately bad-ass ranking, Google.

The Igor Colada Song (Nice Cape)

Inspired by #supervillainpop:

I was weary of my Master
We’d been together too long
Like a reanimated monster
We’d let lay dead for too long

So while he dreamed in his ether mask
I browsed Craigslist in bed
In “miscellaneous romance”
There was this rant that I read

“If you like piña coladas
And making blood flow like rain,
If you’re not hung up on ethics,
Can procure half a brain.
If you’d like making love at midnight
With a dude in a cape
Then you’re the lackey I’ve looked for
Write to me and escape.”

I didn’t think about my Master
I know that sounds kind of mean
But me and my mad scientist
Had vented many a spleen
So I clicked on the button
And replied to his ad
And though I’m no evil genius
I thought it wasn’t half-mad

“Yes, I like piña coladas
And making blood flow like rain.
I hope that you’re into hunchbacks
And are crim’nally insane.
I’ve got to meet you by sundown
And cut through all this red-tape
At a lair on Skull Island
Where we’ll plan our escape.”

So I waited with high hopes
And he skulked in the place
I knew his scowl in an instant
I knew the scar on his face
It was my own ghastly Master
And he said, “Oh, it’s you.”
Then we laughed, “Mwahahaha,”
And he said, “I never knew

That you like piña coladas
And making blood flow like rain
And the glow of the lasers
As they dole out sweet pain.
If you’d like making love at midnight
With a dude in a cape,
You’re the lackey I’ve looked for
Come with me and escape.”

doorways

What’s scarier than reading uncanny stories all afternoon? Reading uncanny stories all afternoon, then looking up to realize that the darkness has encroached all around you, leaving you in a pitiful little pool of light spilling from your screen.

Scarier than that: with the goosebumps from those spooky stories still riddling your arms, tiptoeing down to the laundry room, unbalanced by heavy sacks of towels and sheets, flipping on the switch and knowing that some of the lights in that dark, dank basement suddenly fizzled. Scarier: having to tread down those stairs into that half-dark, around the turn at the landing into a room you can’t yet see, knowing that the dark in the spandrel just a few feet to your left is almost total.

Scarier than that: coming back upstairs and seeing your front door open — not just open, but swinging to and fro — and asking yourself “Didn’t I close that? I’m sure I closed that.”

Scarier than that: feeling foolish, knowing that the breeze (breeze? what breeze? the air is stifling still on this sticky, humid, unmoving day) must have nudged it open, entering the apartment door (which you’re sure YOU CLOSED). Then, feeling even more foolish, quickly and casually patrolling the few spots in your tiny home where an interloper might hide: peep into the kitchen, crane to see the bedroom corner closet, glance into the living room. Approaching the shower curtain, stop for one quick second to think of the sheer futility of this inspection. If there were someone something lurking there, they it would surely make quick work of you.

Scarier than that: having cleared the tiny apartment, sit down and prepare to laugh at yourself, closing the door firmly behind you. The laugh dies in your throat as the door pops itself off the latch and slowly creeeeeeeeaks open, inch by inch, letting the darkness ease in. Tell yourself it’s just the humidity swelling the jamb and playing havok with the latches, and I’m sure it is just the humidity. Just the humidity.

voices

This weekend, I started hearing voices.

Tiny, tinny voices in barely audible bursts, piping up periodically over a long evening alone while I searched them out in vain, and then again the next night.

At first, I thought maybe we were picking up some interference on our landline cordless phone, but that wasn’t it. I put my ear to the wall, thinking maybe it was trickling in from the apartment next door. I double-checked the old digital answering machine in case the recorder had corrupted and was playing smothered bits of garbled old messages.

I checked the volume on my laptop, then on The Fella’s laptop; maybe one of us had left a YouTube tab open and it was, I don’t know, buffering and playing a few seconds at a time. I even bent down and listened to the cable box, wifi router, and TV speakers, wondering if somehow they were sending out tiny blasts of static that my brain was translating into words.

Was it coming from outside the apartment? Maybe someone was doing laundry in the basement under our living room and listening to a staticky radio down there. Maybe someone on the neighbors’ porch was wearing a walkie-talkie. Or maybe a cable-company worker was up a pole somewhere I couldn’t see, with his walkie squawking quietly down to me.

But here’s the part that made me so eager to find a rational source for these tiny little voices: I recognized them.

Yeeeeah. I would have shrugged it off, but I knew these tiny voices, and knew them well. I found them weirdly familiar, comfortable, sympathetic.

After two days interrupted by brief searches for the source of these voices, I shrugged and gave up, perplexed and a little unsettled.

And then on Monday morning, I grabbed my iPod and discovered it had been sitting on the living room table playing RadioLab podcasts at a low volume… since Saturday. Instead of turning it off, I’d turned it down. Every so often, Jad Abumrad or Robert Krulwich would get excited about something and RAISE THEIR VOICES — their oh-so-familiar and friendly voices — which I would juuuuuust barely hear through the earbuds.

Phew.

The Woman

Let me be very, VERY clear: The Woman features brutal, unflinching violence and disturbing — even traumatic and triggering — themes. This is not a film for everyone. It’s hardly for anyone. But it struck a chord in me — hit it so hard and so relentlessly that I spent the second and third act rocking back and forth on the couch trying (and failing) to suppress my cries of second-hand anguish.

[note: I’m imbedding the trailer, but it edges closer to spoiling The Woman than my review does.]

In the first few minutes of The Woman, we see a feral woman striding surely through the woods, clad in rags and streaked with mud. She is powerful and fierce, commanding even the wolves. Cut to a jolting contrast: a neighborhood barbeque where we meet the Cleek family: mom Belle (Angela Bettis, the riveting star of director Lucky McKee’s May and Sick Girl) with her tight smile and flashing eyes, sulky daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter, Premium Rush), quietly obedient son Brian (Zach Rand), and twinkly little Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen), and the chipper, chirpy, casually controlling dad, Chris (Sean Bridgers, “Deadwood”). It’s inevitable that these two scenes will collide, and also inevitable what will happen when they do: the patriarch captures the wild woman and spends his free time trying to subdue her. And in this simple, brutal story, Lucky McKee taps into and articulates an anguish and an anger that lurk within me — and maybe within you.

The power of The Woman comes from its ability to surprise us even as it plays out the story that we know is coming, the story that we dread. McKee gives that dread its due, never turning from the stark horror of her subjugation. The sexual violence — and of course there is sexual violence, though smug, self-satisfied, self-congratulatory Chris takes his time building up to it, telling himself that he’s civilizing his charge, not imprisoning her— is not titillating or stirring, never framed for the audience’s scandalized pleasure. This is rape, plainly presented. It’s stomach-turning.

The Woman showcases McKee’s perfect grasp of sexualized horror tropes and reclaims them with flawless ironic aplomb, stirring up fury and horror and grief and empathy instead of fear and perverse thrills*. Some critics complained that The Woman is outrageous, dehumanizing, sickening. And those complaints are right, in a very limited, obtuse way: it is an outrage. Abuse and rape — and even worse, the way our culture conspires to shame victims of abuse and rape — are dehumanizing. The sheer beaming smugness of an abusive patriarch secure in his role is sickening. It’s not the movie that makes them so.

This viciously, mercilessly graphic film expresses something I’ve long felt in my heart: that misogynists, and those who support misogyny by standing silently by, aren’t just denying women’s abilities or intelligence or rights: they are denying our very humanity. They are arrogating the mantle of full humanity to themselves and denying it to me and to other women based purely on anatomy.

Before the film started, your editor remarked “Angela Bettis is in this! You like her! … but she isn’t The Woman.” Not very many minutes in, I wondered “… isn’t she?” I think she is. I think daughter Peggy is The Woman, as well. I think that — to a certain, all-too-common class of misogynist — I am. Misogynists aren’t just denying us some rights, they are dehumanizing me — and if you’re a woman, they’re dehumanizing you, too. And that’s terrifying. Once a person persuades themselves that you are less than fully human, they can allow themselves to do anything to you.

*Hey, I’m not knocking perverse thrills. There are a lot of movies and a lot of movie-watchers, and there’s a place for almost everything. But seeing an on-screen rape presented uncomplicatedly as a rape was weirdly, jarringly reassuring to me: a reminder that, despite our culture’s reliance on rape-as-drama or rape-as-redemption or rape-as-plot-catalyst, the actual act is just a brutal, painful act of personal terrorizing.