The Uninvited: Movie and Book

I’m copying this here lest I lost it. It’s an Amazon review of the book The Invited by Dorothy Macardle that also compares it to the film. It appeared first on Fantasy Literature website, wherever that is. I want to make sure I don’t lose track of this review:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/RNB2PBJ34U5SR/ref=cm_cr_getr_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B072HH8R24

The sisters are coming, to sing your blues away!

This Thursday, December 3, live to your living room!


Last year, I caught the Daughters of St. Paul Christmas concert by chance, in Cleveland. It wowed me— so much that I fantasized following them around with a videocam next year! Then COVID happened, and there wasn’t to be a 2020 tour. Except that there is, and it is visual.

It’s happening in two nights. Thursday, December 3 at 7pm CST / 8 pm EST.  On YouTube. 

https://www.youtube.com/c/DaughtersofStPaul

“Hillbilly Elegy”, a good film getting undeservedly bad reviews

Just watched “Hillbilly Elegy”, the Ron Howard film based on J. D. Vance’s bestseller from 2016. It is the story of a boy from Appalachia whose upbringing was rough but who made it out of poverty and into the Ivy League. It is on Netflix. The major critics are savaging the movie. I have not read the book. But as I went through the bad reviews last week, I became curious to discover why the movie was getting ridicule and even contempt. Not for Ron Howard, though— they mostly put the blame on J.D. Vance’s source material.

Having seen the film, I think the critics were unreasonably displeased with the tone of the movie. It wasn’t dark and gritty enough for urban tastes. And poverty must be unrelentingly dark mustn’t it? I used to think that Pauline Kael, as sharp as she could be in her evaluations of most movies, had a blind spot when it came to films about the inhabitants of impoverished rural regions. Unless the POV was ironic or despairing, movies about “hillbillies” and other unsophisticated folks were given the bum’s rush by Kael. She dismissed “Places in the Heart”, for example, as sentimental nonsense, offering as evidence the opening scene of a farm family saying grace. She saw that as an unconscionable signaling that the film would be about noble rustics, because why else would Hollywood include a scene of people praying?

Here is an excerpt from Owen Gleiberman’s review. I like Gleiberman, I often disagree with him but he has a true love for movies. Reading between the lines, below, I think he liked “Hillbilly Elegy” but does not want to go all out for it lest he lose his place at the “cool kids” table. So he has to get in some snark for the two leading ladies:

“You could put it another way, of course, and say that Glenn Close and Amy Adams, in a movie like this one, are all uglied up for the their Oscar close-ups. It’s the acting-as-transformation-into-human-troll school. Except that the actors, in this case, hit true notes. They communicate the inner agony of what it feels like to be the ‘her’ in ‘It didn’t start with her.’

The book took off just as Trump took office. The movie, coming at the end of his reign, could have felt (no pun intended) like a deliverance: a true-life tale that takes the Appalachian heart of darkness and lays it bare. Except that there’s a weird, bland flaw at the center of this adaptation. Ron Howard knows how to flirt with edge, but he’s drawn, by temperament, to healing and grace, to the urgency of people who mean well. “

We get it, Owen. Healing and grace detract from the commitment to “edge”.

“Hillbilly Elegy” is not a great film, but it is a good one. I think it doesn’t focus enough on a single story. A memoir is an overview or survey of a life, it doesn’t observe Aristotle’s rules of drama. But this film could have used more of a unifying focus.Glenn Close is terrific as J. D. Vance’s “Mamaw’, Amy Adams is good as his broken mother, and both unknown actors who played J.D. as a youth and a young Yale student were excellent. I enjoyed the movie very much. The critics are wrong. More and more, I think film critics wait to see what the Big Critics say about a movie and then write their own review as a variation on that judgment. There’s not a lot of diversity of opinions among professionals. You have to go to viewers’ reviews for that.

Just Kill Me: Another Disappointing YA Novel

Amazon Review: Rae Stabosz 2.0 out of 5 stars 

No… just, no
Reviewed in the United States on October 20, 2020

Warning: THEMATIC SPOILERS

Megan, the heroine of Just Kill Me, is a precocious high school student who suffers from the usual insecurities of adolescents everywhere. She fights with her mom, feels insecure about her physical appearance, and expresses herself through creative writing. She also longs for romance; she has never been kissed. A chance meeting with her favorite ex-babysitter (from when she was a kid) opens up the adult world—the world beyond her home— to her. The ex-babysitter gets her a job as a guide on a ghost tours start-up that is jostling its way to the front of the competitive tour businesses of Chicago. Through this job, young Megan launches herself into adulthood.

The author, Adam Selzer, has an extensive knowledge of Chicago ghost lore as well as experience in the business of recreational ghost tours. He puts that knowledge to good use in this book, and the reader learns a lot about local lore. Having married a guy who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, I appreciated this glimpse into the haunted history of my adopted hometown.

But I found myself shaking my head in frustration at the shallow moral universe the protagonist inhabits. I’m a Baby Boomer, born in 1949. Younger readers will no doubt feel justified in greeting my dismay over the morally shallow universe with their ubiquitous put-down, “Okay, boomer!” But the world of adolescent choices portrayed here is one that makes me sad. Is it really the case that sexting with a stranger on the internet is a neutral and acceptable rite of passage into one’s first romantic relationship? Is the mercy-killing of old folks an acceptable way among today’s young folks to gain an edge over one’s business competitors? Is it considered normal to respond to an unfortunate social media discovery by trying to destroy a person’s reputation? Are my grandchildren really growing up in such a cutthroat, morally shallow social milieu?

I do not want to give away the plot lines, so I won’t go into detail to explain how these ethical questions find their way into this not-quite-paranormal coming of age story. Suffice it to say that I love stories about the intersection of the world of the living with the world of the dead. I like a good exploration of hauntings. But the author of this YA novel has provided no moral compass for his protagonist at all. I found it very disappointing. Coming of age is a more complex and humanistically comic process than this surface look at growing up suggests.

Spring Sigh

Delaware wood line3

Spring Sigh
by Rae Stabosz

Tall trees stand in sunlight on the Delaware wood line.
Their upright majesties bare from winter
But stippled with suggestions of green buds
And creamy blooms.

Spring is coming.
Spring is here.
Spring is delayed.

Coronavirus covers the land.

O prickly round virus,
universally reviled,
your red flags a signal that the earth ignored

When will we see the last of you?

Coronavirus Honeymoon

tyrannosaurus2

CORONAVIRUS HONEYMOON, A tasty treat by Debora L. Hosey

“You didn’t load the dishwasher correctly!

“You didn’t empty the sink drainer!

“You bounced the closet door off its track!

“You put too much hot sauce on my eggs!

“You mismatched my socks!”

My husband’s morning complaints washed over me as I escaped to the back porch and breathed in the early morning freshness. We were quarantined, marooned, self-isolated—stuck—home together during this international now national coronavirus crisis. Three weeks together, more time together than the last 20 years put together…well, maybe not, but it sure feels like it.

From upstairs my beloved bellows: “Where’s the toilet paper?” I close my eyes, sigh, and think that there are many many Americans thinking that same thing right now.

“In the hall closet with the 50 others you bought!” I yell back…

I turn my face up to the sun and its warmth massages the tension headache away. I breathe in through my nose and out from my mouth a few times to calm me, and when I open my eyes again, there’s Tyrannosaurus Rex standing in front of me.

Of course there is. We stare at each other and I’m impressed by those teeth which exerted the strongest jaw pressure from any land animal that ever walked the earth. I hear my husband coming through the kitchen, shoes on as usual, and he yells, “Dammit, you let the coffee get cold.” I could swear the T-rex is looking at me with sympathy in his tiny, alert eyes.

The Hub comes out onto the porch and says, “What’s a t-rex doing here” as if it were my fault…as usual. Hub and I contemplate the t-rex standing in the pink petunias. Then the beast roars, his rancid, hot breath blowing us a step backward. I swear, I do swear, it winks at me.

He lunges forward and before we could react, he snatches the Hub between his jaws and shakes him, Hub’s shoes flying in different directions. I noticed the Hub was correct, I’d mismatched his socks…and then he swallows Hub in one big crunchy, gluppy gulp.

“Snap out of it, are you having a bad dream?” I feel the Hub’s hand on my shoulder, whole and warm. I smile in the darkness, and I reach for him and and feel his familiar warmth and scent and hold him tight.

“Just relieving some stress I say, and I kiss the top of his head.

 “You didn’t have to wake me up to do it!” he says, and I swear I can hear a roar somewhere in the night.

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