Category Archives: Movies

My Head Is Killing Me and Jason Segel Owes Me Money.

I’m feeling a bit lightheaded.  I’m really hungry, but it’s too hot to eat.  I’m also really, really thirsty, and I keep putting ice in my water but the ice keeps melting really, really quickly.  All I wanna do is take off my pants, but it feels like they’re plastered to my legs.  I could turn on the air-conditioning, but I feel that would be wasteful, seeing that this house is huge and I’m the only one here.  It’s hot.  It’s too damn hot.  My head feels hollow.  My brain has evaporated.  My brain.  My brain is GONE.

I just got back from taking a very long walk in the very hot sun.  Well, two walks, I guess.  In between those two walks, I saw The Five-Year Engagement.  

The horror.  THE HORROR.

I walked to the theater because I wasn’t doing anything else and it was just as hot inside my house as it was outside my house.   I threw on some jeans and a tank top and slathered myself in sunscreen.  I put the sunscreen in my Evelyn Evelyn tote bag, grabbed my CD player, loaded it with The Lyre of Orpheus, and headed out.  When I walked across the crosswalk in front of a freeway off-ramp, a group of bikers hooted at me.  It was all kinds of “Hey, baby!” and “Whoo-eee!” and even a, “Look at that ass!”  It didn’t make me feel sexy.  It made me feel like hurting someone.  Somehow, and much to the dismay of you, dear reader, I made it to the theater without beating anyone to death.  That would have made for a much more exciting post.

Ya know what?  I shoulda just gone to see Dark Shadows again.  Or I could have rolled the dice and asked for a ticket to The Avengers.   Instead I saw the movie that stars two actors I like and respect.  Do I no longer like and respect Jason Segel and Emily Blunt?  That would be preposterous.  Of course I still like and respect them.  I am most disappointed in Jason Segel.  Why?  Because he wrote the movie, and The Five-Year Engagement is not a movie — it is a festering pustule churning out ooze on a dead donkey’s dick.

Tom and Violet live in San Francisco.  Tom and Violet are in love.  Tom and Violet get engaged.  Things look good.  Tom works as a sous chef in the kitchen of a hip restaurant, and Violet is planning to study psychology at Berkeley.  But oh, she doesn’t get into Berkeley.  Instead, she has to go to school in the most Godforsaken state in the union.  That’s right, Michigan.  Oh, the dreaded Michigan.  A place where every man you meet is a deer hunter with a long, dirty beard and a drinking problem.  Every woman you meet is, well, you don’t meet many women, because this is, after all, MOVIE Michigan.  In this movie, the entire state of Michigan (because we never learn the name of the town Tom and Violet move to) has no redeeming qualities while San Francisco, a crowded city with a housing shortage, is 100% clean and pristine.  Yes.  There are absolutely no homeless people on the streets and all the houses look freshly painted and there’s no traffic.  Ever.

Tom and Violet agree that they are going to stay together during Violet’s two years of school, and that they will put the wedding on hold.  Nooo problem.  Of course, Violet has Nooo Problem adjusting to life in Michigan.  She loves her school, she loves her department, and she loves her one professor (played by the incomparable Welshman who deserves better than to be in this movie, Rhys Ifans).  Tom, on the other hand, is finding his new life farcically difficult.  He keep slipping in the snow.  Slipping a lot.  And he can’t find a job ANYWHERE except for a real down-home type of sandwich place, which, in my personal opinion, looked freaking delicious.  I’d eat there all the time.  But anyway, the point is Tom feels like a little girly man while Violet feels like she’s doing exactly what she’s worked for her entire life.

THAT’S. REALLY. IT.  That is the plot and the conflict.

So, one night Violet finds out that she may be staying at University of Michigan longer than originally expected.  When she tells Tom, he gets very sad and storms out of the room like a big, tough, emotionally stable man.  Later, we see them fighting in bed.  The fight, interestingly enough, is the best part of the movie because the dialogue isn’t peppered with unfunny and unoriginal and uncalled for penis jokes.  While I was watching the fight, I really felt like I was watching two adults who live on planet earth, not two adolescent cartoon characters who live in MOVIE Michigan.  In this ONE DECENT SCENE they talk about their feelings.  They talk about what pisses them off about their situation.  They talk about how they both hate having to postpone their wedding.  Through it all, they both really want to have a productive, mature conversation, but, as humans who dwell on planet earth, they can’t help but speak in bratty tones every once in a while.  It’s a good scene.

And then it ends.

Tom grows a beard.  Tom starts hunting every single day and pounding beers at 7am.  Tom kills and guts and skins and BBQs deer for dinner every night.  He brews his own mead.  He suddenly owns a crossbow.  Yes, Violet accidentally gets SHOT.  It’s HILARIOUS.  I SWEAR.

This period of the movie confused me.  Greatly.  It transformed from a shitty movie into a typical, benign sitcom.  Here’s the thing, though.  Part of the reason why events that occur in sitcoms are so broad and so extreme is because sitcoms have 20 minutes to tell stories, which is actually a decent excuse for sub par storytelling.  Why a full length feature film needs to resort to sitcommy situations in order to show that time has passed is beyond me.  Well, no, I know why it happens — because, like the plague, bad writing will always be with us.  I mean, combine bad writing with millions of dollars…Now I’m meandering.  Ya know what else meanders?  The Five-Year Engagement.

During Tom’s bearded hunting phase, Violet [finally] gets drunk and [predictably Good GOD predictably] kisses Rhys Ifans.  She feels guilty and runs off and finds Tom, who is already awake and miserably preparing dough for the miserable sandwich-making day that lies ahead.  Violet rambles about how much she loves him, and they decide to just get married.  Because, ya know, if they’re married, Tom will no longer have a problem with Michigan.

The wedding doesn’t end up happening, because Violet has to open her big mouth and tell Tom about the whole drunkenly kissing her professor thing.  Tom attempts to beat up the professor, and when he fails he then attempts to have drunken revenge sex with a sandwich-making co-worker.  When he realizes what he’s doing is wrong, he drunkenly stumbles through the snowy woods.  With NO PANTS ON.  Yes.  We see his butt.  And it’s not nearly as funny as his penis in Forgetting Sarah Marshall.  Let’s be honest, that was actually kinda funny.  Let’s be honest again.  We’ve SEEN the Segel Penis.  You can’t follow Segel Penis with Segel Butt.  It’s anti-climactic.

Tom wakes up in the frozen woods with no pants on.  He notices his toe is black.  He ends up in the hospital, where his toe is amputated.  Violet is there with him.  They break up.  We then see Tom and Violet in new relationships with people who aren’t right for them, and we are repeatedly slapped in the face with a BAD fucking metaphor that involves stale doughnuts.  It’s just a bad, bad metaphor.  So bad, I don’t know what it’s even supposed to MEAN.  I do know, however, that it is a pitiful and painful attempt at somewhat elevated screenwriting.  Sorry, but no.  Well, let me take that back.  I’m not sorry.  And no.

Don’t worry, they both get another half hour to find themselves before re-uniting and falling back in love and getting married in a ceremony so freaking saccharine it puts How I Met Your Mother to shame.  And ya know what?  I like How I Met Your Mother.  It can be as farcical and saccharine as it wants to.  It’s a stupid SITCOM on network television.  If that isn’t a handicap, I don’t know what is.

I honestly don’t remember the last shot of the movie.  Tom and Violet get married in a public park in San Francisco where no one is smoking pot, and then…then I don’t know.  Maybe the movie ends AT the wedding?  I can’t tell you.  WAIT, no, now I remember.  It ends with an unfunny callback to an unfunny joke that took place an hour-and-a-half earlier.  Ha.

Is it just me, or is being engaged for five years not entirely unheard of?  I agree it’s a long time, but it seems that putting a wedding on hold for things like higher education or job opportunities or temporary relocation is kind of common these days.  Am I the only person who holds this opinion?

I really was shocked to see “SCREENPLAY BY JASON SEGEL” flash across the screen during the end credits.  I know they can’t all be gems, but come on.  The man obviously knows how to write a screenplay, and I, personally, think he knows how to act.  He and Emily Blunt are just as charming as ever, and they really do have some good chemistry goin’ on.  Still, this movie sucks, and I do not know what the Hell happened.  In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, we at least get to see a depressive type of guy overcome his lower-than-healthy self-esteem, put on an excellent puppet show, and FORGET about that witch, Sarah Marshall.  What does The Five-Year Engagement show us?  Aside from how much Michigan sucks, what is the movie really about? Is it about how people should just get married as soon as they get engaged and not go to…to Michigan?

Jesus, Steff!  It’s about how life isn’t always perfect!  It’s about how love and marriage aren’t always perfect!  It’s about life, man!  It’s just like, ya know, it’s just real!

All right.  In that case, I stand corrected.  The Five-Year Engagement is about life.  And how Michigan is evil.

Regardless of what it’s really “about,” it left me with a headache and a general feeling of, “My brain is broke.”  Or, ya know what?  That could just as easily been the boiling sun’s fault.  My advice to myself?  You don’t need to leave the house to listen to Lyre of Orpheus.

I am now going to watch this live footage over and over again until the lameness is replaced by wanton badassary.  And I’m hungry.  Spinach and feta chicken sausage, here I come.

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My Back Pages.

This is a facebook post written to me by my friend, Ellanee, circa January 2008:

i hope that one day, i am as cool as you. i hope that one day, i make convenience store clerks fall in love with me while i am wearing pajama pants and i hope that one day, i own a [VHS tape] of malcolm mcdowell as a paraplegic. and that i can drink 500 glasses of water in 2 seconds.

I copied the post and saved it as a Word document.  I was that touched.

I can’t believe it was four years ago that Ellanee and I solidified our friendship one afternoon over too much Captain Morgan and too much burnt popcorn.  It was Sunday.  The plan was to watch the Tim Burton version of Sweeney Todd.  That was it.

“Want a drink?” became, “Want another drink?” which became, “Pause this, I have to pee” and, “Pause this, I have to smoke.”  Finally, it was, “Pause this, we’re out of popcorn.”

We walked down the street to the neighborhood liquor store.  At the time, I found it obscenely convenient to have a liquor store so nearby.  Looking back, it was just obscene.

The walk to the store was really something special.  It was raining and we looked ridiculous.  My hair was thrown up in a messy, greasy excuse for a bun, and I was wearing black pajama pants with hot pink bunny rabbits printed on them.  I also had on a black t-shirt with cartoon monkeys playing guitars.  I believe Ellanee and I were both wearing fuzzy slippers, but I may be thinking of a different occasion.  Ellanee was struggling to light her cigarette while avoiding puddles and remaining upright.  We weren’t just two tipsy college girls — we were poetic.  We were divine.  We were a scene from Withnail & I. 

We were Rain Dogs.

We exploded into the liquor store like a Ralph Steadman cartoon.  There was no one else in the store, which left us free to stumble down the aisles in our solitary fancy examining the tiny plastic bags of gummy sharks, debating whether or not we should buy apple rings, arguing about Swedish Fish versus Sour Patch Kids, etc.  We managed to look through the entire store without finding any popcorn.

I ran up to the counter and roared, “Do you have popcorn?

The hippie behind the counter smiled.

“Yeah,” he said.  “Over there.”

Our brief interaction was sobering.  I noticed he was young.  Then, I noticed he was wearing a beanie.  A beanie.  And he looked cute in it.  He looked damn cute in it.  A young, cute hippie in a beanie was smiling at me, the pajama-wearing, obscenity-spouting asshole who was drunkenly demanding popcorn at 3:00 in the afternoon on The Lord’s Day.

I managed to formulate a “Thank you,” and then stumbled in the direction of the popcorn.  I found Ellanee in the candy aisle.

“I know where the popcorn is,” I said.
“I want Red Vines.”
“Get some,” I said.
“Will you eat some?” she asked, raising her voice a bit.
“Maybe.”
“You have to eat some!”

I slammed the three-pack of popcorn down on the counter.

“You found it!” said the hippie.

“Yeah,” I managed.

He didn’t say anything; just smiled his hippie smile.

As soon as we were outside, Ellanee exploded with, “He liiiiiiiikes you!  He was kinda cuuuuuuuute!  He looooooooooves yoooooooou!”

I denied any and all accusations of winning the affection of the hippie behind the counter.

“It’s truuuuuuue!” she continued.  “He was lookin’ at you and smiiiiilin’ at yoooooou…”

“Bullshit.”

I used my hands to block the wind and rain from Ellanee’s lighter while she lit her cigarette.

“Nope,” she said.  “He fell in love with you.”

When we got back to my house we microwaved a bag of popcorn, mixed another pair of cocktails, and watched Johnny Depp kill a whole lotta people.

I was a junior in college and every little thing that happened to me was important.  All-nighters were news-worthy.  Class presentations were news-worthy.  I rewarded myself for making it to my 8am classes.  My idea of stress was having to write an essay and do laundry.  If I had a free evening, I spent it writing poetry or preparing for my radio show or watching some documentary about Bob Dylan or Nico and crying over music and history and my love for all that weird shit called “art.”

On January 17th, I will officially be 25 years old; my New Year’s Resolution is to act like it.  At the same time, I need to get back in touch with an earlier version of myself.  I don’t mean I’m going to casually get plastered on Sunday afternoons and start dating liquor store clerks (again), but I think it’s time I started taking myself seriously (again).  I want to think that what I do is important.  I want to reward myself for my hard work.  I want to set aside time for creativity.  I don’t want to cry about Bob Dylan and Nico because I feel shitty, but because I love Bob Dylan and Nico so damn much.

I hope that one day, I am as cool as 21-year-old Me.

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The Scuzzy Sons-of-Bitches Who Light Up My Life Part III: Captain Jack Sparrow

SCUZZY SON-OF-A-BITCH #3:

Captain Jack Sparrow

The Pirate Who Taught Me Not To Not Give A Fuck

(2003)

I have been putting way too much thought into this.

For the last two weeks I have been laboring over this little riff about Captain Jack Sparrow.  I’ve written, deleted, and re-written countless Perfect Introductions.  I’ve spent an obscene amount of hours tinkering with witticisms.  All I did last week at work was mess with this thing.  Was I happy with anything I wrote?  No, not really.

Sometimes, writing is very easy for me.  I’ll come up with 1,000 words in an hour, read them once, pat myself on the back, and call it a night.  Other times, I’ll write for two hours and then feel stuck.  I’ll know where I want to go, but have no idea how to get there.  I’ll then go back, read what I have, and think, “This is just not what I want.”  That moment is just plain crushing.  Why the Hell have I spent so much time on this piece of shit?  How the Hell have I spent so much time on this piece of shit?  Why even bother finishing this piece of shit?

When that happens, there’s only one thing I can do, and that is wait for The Muse to arrive.  Sometimes, she appears to me in the form of a song.  Other times, in the form of a memory.  Once that bitch shows up, shit gets real.  I don’t delete everything I have already done — I gut it like a dead fish.  I tear its insides out of its asshole.  I make that piece of shit my prison wife.  I make it work.

I have yet to get to that point.  All I’ve been doing for days is editing bits here and there — taking out a few things, rearranging a few things — and none of it has added up to much.  Where The Hell is The Muse?  Is she going to show up this time?

Here’s the thing: Captain Jack Sparrow is one of my favorite people of all time.  Yes.  I’m 24 years old, and I still idolize the stupid pirate Johnny Depp has been playing for eight years.  I know that most of the sequels sucked, but I still went to see ’em in the damn theater out of respect and love and loyalty. I’m not a Trekkie, I have never been to Comic-Con, and I didn’t see Captain America because I didn’t want to.  When it comes to Pirates of the Caribbean, I go full Dungeon Master.

That was a little scary for me to admit.  The fact that that was scary was scary for me to admit.  Somebody save me from myself!

I don’t suppose too many 24 year olds feel the same way about the freaking Pirates movies, but why not?  It’s true, Captain Jack Sparrow is not as iconic as Han Solo, Indiana Jones, or any other smooth-talkin’ hero played by Harrison Ford, but ya know what?  He will be.  I firmly believe that years from now, when Johnny Depp looks like Jack Nicholson, women all over America will show the Pirates movies to their kids, and a new generation of Captain Jack Sparrow worshippers will dress up as slightly gay pirates for Halloween.  Like it or not, good ol’ Captain Jack is here to stay.  Who am I to write about his greatness?

For the 500th time, here goes nothin’.

♥♥♥

What the Hell was popular in 2003?  I honestly can’t remember off the top of my head; I’d have to ask the internet.  Seriously.  I have no idea what songs came out that year, what the hit television shows were, or whether Brad was screwing Jenn or Angie.  Did Britney still have a whole head of hair?  Was Paris an amateur porn star yet?  Had NSYNC officially disbanded?  I don’t know.  I mean, I remember the U.S. invaded Iraq that year, but I don’t remember why.  Do you?

In 2003 I was in 10th grade.  I was 16.  I dug Bob Dylan and Harold And Maude.  “Idiot Wind” was my I’m-A-Teenager-And-Perpetually-Heartbroken anthem, and “Life On Mars?” was my bad day ballad.  I had Velvet Goldmine memorized.  My favorite TV shows were on BBC America.

You see, I don’t remember what was popular that year because I didn’t care.  Was I going to hear “Heroin” on KROQ?  Nopers.  Was I going to see Iggy Pop on MTV?  No freaking way.  Was I going to see Ardal O’Hanlon or Reece Shearsmith in People?  Not likely.  (Who the Hell are they?)  I didn’t care about anything that was happening in real time; I was only concerned with glam rock, hippy culture, and men from The UK.

Then I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl for the first time, and Johnny Depp made it to the top of my list of “concerns.”  The “first time”?  Yes.  Over the course of the summer, I saw it six times in the damn movie theater.  I didn’t go alone — my friends were more than happy to join me.

Me?  Little Miss I-Hate-Everything-That-Isn’t-Subtextually-About-Heroin-Addiction?

Yes, Pirates was a bigass, dumbass summer blockbuster, but let’s be frank here — there have been way bigger, way dumber summer blockbusters.  What made Pirates less dumb?  Captain Jack Sparrow.  He was an excellent character, and Johnny Depp played him brilliantly.  He was hilarious, sexy, and didn’t give a fuck.  At 16, I wished I didn’t give a fuck either.  I may not have cared about being trendy, but, despite my best efforts, I still cared about my grades, my appearance, my relationship status (thank GOODNESS facebook didn’t exist back then), and all the other bullshit that haunts teenage females.

When Captain Jack Sparrow first appeared on the screen, head held high as his shitty boat gradually sank to the bottom of the harbor, I felt what can only be described as Enlightened.  “Someday soon,” I thought, “I will not give a fuck.”

No, I didn’t start smudging my eyeliner and wearing a funny hat.  Je refuse.  I did, however, feel a little less crappy about having to wake up at 6am for my summer geometry class.  Nothing I can’t handle.  I also didn’t worry too much when I heard the ten-minute-warning bell during nutrition break.  So what if I’m thirty seconds late for the second half of class?  What’s my teacher really going to do about it?  When it was time to start studying for my final, I didn’t feel the overpowering anxiety that had plagued me since Ms. Bell’s 7th grade math class.  I’m not gonna fail this one.  Maybe I’ll get a B.  So what?  I don’t give a fuck.  

(2006)

Three years later, Pirates of the Caribbean II: Dead Man’s Chest was released.  I was one of the freaks who bought tickets days in advance.  Some people hated the movie, but I loved it.  I saw it four times in total.  This time around, though, my friends weren’t psyched to go over and over again —  I was the only person in the group who still considered Captain Jack Sparrow my fantasy boyfriend.  I had to get resourceful, IE: beg my parents to come with me.  Dorky?  I didn’t give a fuck.

One night, about a month later, I got into a pretty heated argument with the guy I was dating at the time.  We were having our nightly, “I miss you.  Summer’s been so lonely without you.  I can’t wait to see you in Santa Cruz.  Blah Blah Blah Bullshit” conversation when, quite suddenly, things turned evil.  He said some rather messed up things to me; things that stuck with me for a while.  At around 3am I called it quits and went to bed.  I just couldn’t defend myself anymore; it was exhausting.  This pattern continued for several nights, and every one of them was more miserable than the one before.  Why am I putting up with this? I wondered.

One of those nights, I had a dream that I was a pirate.   I had been kidnapped by Davey Jones’s crew, and we were in a small tavern by the ocean watching Davey Jones make some kind of “rah rah rah” speech up on a stage.  Next to me was the chest with Davey Jones’s heart, and I knew that I had to get the chest back to my crew so we could stab the heart and reclaim the sea.  (In case you missed it, that is pretty much the plot of Pirates II.)  Mustering all my courage, I grabbed the chest, threw it in my pirate satchel, and ran out of the tavern.  I knew that I’d be killed if the pirates caught me, but I had to take the risk.  I ran for a while, and then, gradually, the satchel became heavier and heavier.  I mean really heavy.  I tried to keep running, but that damn satchel was making it impossible for me to continue.

I woke up before the evil pirates made me into shark bait.  I rolled out of bed, picked up the phone, and made the call.  As I listened to the ringing, ringing, ringing, I thought about Captain Jack Sparrow at the end of the sequel, when the Kraken comes to eat him alive.  He knows he’s going to die, but rather than wait for that moment to arrive, he pulls out his sword and jumps right into the fucker’s mouth.

To this day, when I’m faced with a fucked up situation that is definitely going to hurt, I think of this scene.  Call it nerdy, but conjuring this image provides me with tremendous badassary.  It has never failed me.

♥♥♥

I suppose I had a difficult time putting all of this into words because in order to explain why Captain Jack Sparrow belongs on this list, I had to reveal some pretty weird stuff about myself.  Captain Jack Sparrow helped you pass geometry?  Captain Jack Sparrow helped you end a toxic relationship?  Yes. Yes, he did.  Does this mean you don’t love me anymore?

It is a Saturday evening in August, 2011.  As I write this, I am listening to Lou Reed’s “Satellite of Love.” I first heard this song when I was in ninth grade.  I had already fallen in love with “Perfect Day” thanks to Mark Renton, so I typed “Lou Reed” into KaZaa.  I have now been a Lou Reed fan for ten years, and “Satellite of Love” has never sounded bad to me.  I have never gotten tired of it, and I will never get over it.  You see what I’m getting at?  If it’s acceptable for Lou Reed, or any other musician, to be an important person in my life, then I don’t see what’s wrong with loving Captain Jack Sparrow the way that I do.

And anyway, I don’t give a fuck.

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The Scuzzy Sons-of-Bitches Who Light Up My Life Part I: Mark Renton

Yesterday, I got to have a good, long Skype session with my friend Zach, a former KZSC comrade.  Our conversation, I am happy to report, was quite brilliant.  We discussed the rise and fall of Microsoft and Nintendo, the inferior design of Facebook, and Yahoo’s inability to even try to compete with The Google Overlords.  During a brief moment of non-internet related banter, Zach mentioned that he was planning on teaching himself how to play the accordion.  I said that I could imagine him playing at The Poet And The Patriot; a bar in downtown Santa Cruz that only serves the finest beers and the cheapest wines.  We then got to talking about how fantastic it is to sit at the bar at The Poet and watch the frat boys and sorority girls order shorts of Jaeger and Patron, only to be turned down by the hard-assed, Irish bartenders.  “It helps keep out the riff-raff,” said Zach.  “If they want that shit, they can go to The Red.”

The Red is as trendy as it gets when it comes to downtown Santa Cruz drinking establishments.  There are drinks with funny names, or “signature cocktails,” if you prefer.  The girls are wearin’ mini-skirts, and everyone looks like they’ve showered.  The place smells of cologne and sugar cane, and it’s impossible for bums to sneak inside.  Despite all this, I could still walk in wearing jeans and a t-shirt and no one would glare at me.

There is a lower-level of The Red that is quite unlike its upstairs counterpart.  The lower-level allows smoking.  The lower-level isn’t as well-lit.  The lower-level isn’t the place to go for a neon pink “signature cocktail.”  The lower-level attracts girls in mini-skirts with tattoos on their arms.  The lower-level…just…feels more like home.  I used to hang out at the lower Red with my good friend, Ellanee, when we were in college.  We’d stay until closing time, having a blast being total assholes to all the poor fuckers who offered to buy us drinks.

“Ya know what I always loved?” I said to Zach, “The lower-Red.  It’s scuzzier.”  Zach laughed and said, “You would like the lower-Red, you classy, classy lady.”  I knew he was being ironic, which I found rather funny.  I also found it a bit perplexing.  In what ways, I wondered, am I not perfectly classy?  I burp in front of people, and I don’t give a shit if I’m caught grocery shopping in my pajama bottoms, but I don’t consider myself especially unclassy.  I had to settle this.  I said to Zach, “You know what?  It’s because I’m too much of a chicken to actually be scuzzy, so I’m attracted to people who really are.  I live vicariously.  It’s like I’m Lawrence Ferlinghetti and I’m just chillin’ watching all the Neil Cassadys run around.  They’ll all die, and I’ll be an old person riding my bike to my prestigious bookstore.”  Zach just laughed and said, “Imagining you as an old lady on a bike is funny.”

***

Scuzzy people.  Scuzzy fuckin’ low-life people.  I love them; especially, you guessed it, the males.  Yes, I am a Good Girl who loves Bad Fuckin’ Boys.  Not just any bad boy, mind you.  I’m talkin’ vagabonds.  Drifters.  Rockstars.  DIRTY HIPPIES!  The poets, the painters, the shitty novelists, the song-writers, the filmmakers…All that bullshit.  I love ’em stoned, I love ’em drunk, I love ’em strung out in the street quoting T.S. Eliot.  I love ’em in torn clothing with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths and knowing smirks on their lips.  I love five o’clock shadows and dirty coats that smell like bourbon and old shoes.  I love long hair and bare feet and sage-scented panchos.  I love paint-covered hands.  I love foul mouths.  I love bar fights and run-ins with the police.

Oh, how we danced away all of the lights, We’ve always been out of our minds…

I know, of course, deep-down, that I could never ever have a meaningful romantic relationship with a scuzzy son-of-a-bitch.  I know that.  I really, really do.  However, until I find my sensitive, loyal, well-mannered family man who makes six (or more) figures per year, I plan on continuing to fall in love with all the wrong men — at least the ones I see on the silver screen and hear on my shitty speakers.

I am not sure what my love for scuzzy men means.  Is it purely voyeuristic?  And why?  Am I rebelling against my suburban upbringing by idolizing vagrants?  Do I think that I have the power to take a starving artist and transform him into a well-to-do member of society?  Do I just wish Nick Cave’s “Hard On For Love” were about me?  Is this my specific take on penis envy?  Again, I am not sure.  All I know is that pictures of young Marlon Brando are great, but stories about young Marlon Brando living in his dirty New York apartment with a pet raccoon excite me even more.  I can’t explain it; I can only explore it.

Let the exploration begin!

SCUZZY SON-OF-A-BITCH #1:

Mark Renton

The Derelict That Started It All

(2002)

Those skin-tight jeans.  Those red Adidas.  That thick Scottish brogue.  That foul mouth.  Yes, Mark Renton is definitely my kind of sexy motherfucker.   Add to the mix a debilitating heroin addiction, and I’m in Good Girl Heaven.

My friend, Melanie, and I fell in love with Ewan McGregor via Moulin Rouge!  It wasn’t long before we had the damn movie memorized (including the u2/KISS/David Bowie mash-ups) and were desperate to see more of Ewan McGregor’s work; I have no idea why we chose to watch Trainspotting after months of  singing along to the “Elephant Love Medley.”

It was a Sunday afternoon.  I was 14-years-old.  When I saw Mark Renton overdose on heroin and sink into The Mother Superior’s living room floor while Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” oozed through the room, everything suddenly made sense.  “This is it,” I realized.  “I’ve always loved this stuff, and I’ve never known it.”

 NOTHING was the same for me after that.  Eve6 and Blink 182 and Dave Matthews Band were replaced by Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie.  If a book involved heroin, I had to read it.  My poor mother had to listen to Nevermind The Bollocks everyday as she drove me home from school.  I found a dusty old copy of Naked Lunch on my parents’ bookshelf.  Everything that came out of the UK was kickass, and everyone who made music in the 1970’s was a God.

Conversely, everything that was popular sucked.  It sucked hard, and I wanted nothing to do with it.

Thanks to that period of my life, I own way too many obscure Ewan McGregor movies on VHS (if anyone would like to join me to watch Lipstick On Your Collar or Scarlet & Black, please let me know), way too many books about punk rock (still haven’t read Lipstick Traces), and way too many copies of The Velvet Underground & Nico (CD, vinyl, two-disc remastered, burned copy of the two-disc remastered…).  Clutter aside, when I think about what may have happened to me if I had never fallen in lust with a fictional drug addict, I get very Existential.  For example, if I hadn’t fallen in love with Mark Renton, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with old music, and if I hadn’t fallen in love with old music I wouldn’t have fallen in love with old records, and if I hadn’t fallen in love with old records I wouldn’t have fallen in love with Jim Morrison (MORE ON HIM LATER), and if I hadn’t fallen in love with Jim Morrison…Would I have gone to UC Santa Cruz?  Would I have had my own radio show?  Would I have met half the people I consider my friends?  Would I have seen Patti Smith live?

Would I be into GAGA?

Life is just extraordinary, isn’t it?  If it hadn’t been for a little crush on an actor that turned into a tremendous fascination with various human subcultures…I mean, there’s nothing else I can possibly say, really.  I can’t possibly add more profundity by writing a few more measly words, can I?

How about this: thanks, Mark Renton, for being so Goddamn tragic.  And HOT.

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My Thoughts On “Blue Valentine”

   If you’re going to make a film about the downfall of a relationship, you better make sure the audience gives a shit about the people involved.

   I recently saw Blue Valentine, a film made famous before its release due to a very public debate over whether it should receive an “R” or an “NC-17” rating. The scene that upset the MPAA was of Ryan Gosling, the male lead, performing oral sex on co-star Michelle Williams, who, for whatever reason, has been nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. Well, Blue Valentine got the “R”rating, and the aforementioned controversial scene, like the movie, is, at best, underwhelming. Some may argue that the filmmakers deserve kudos for including a graphic oral sex scene; it’s such a gutsy thing to do. I say gimme a break. The scene doesn’t advance the story in any way. It isn’t symbolic, beautiful, ironic, or anything else that may help give it the label of “interesting” as opposed to “unnecessary.” Plus, it’s not like it was spectacularly shot. If I ever write director Derek Cianfrance a letter, it will simply say, “You’re not Bernardo Bertolucci. The ‘70‘s are over. Go home.”

   Enough whining about gratuitous sex — let’s go get down to it. Blue Valentine is “about” a married couple’s last attempt at salvaging whatever the Hell is left of their relationship. In the beginning of the film, Gosling and Williams decide to leave their daughter at grandpa’s house and spend the night at a cheesy motel to “get drunk and make love” and resolve whatever the Hell they need to resolve (you never really find out any specifics). En route to the motel, they both have flashbacks (Oh, you! I see what ya did there, Cianfrance, you utterly original filmmaker, you!) of the day they first met. Where? At a convalescent home. Gosling, a furniture mover, is moving an old man’s belongings into a new room when he spots Williams reading a saucy romance novel to her grandmother in a room across the hall. I cannot deny that Gosling looks rather attractive during the flashbacks, nor can I deny the fact that if I were approached by a cute, charming furniture mover with great facial hair and great tattoos, I would totally be tempted to go out with him (I’m so not kidding). However, at no point during the flashbacks did I think about how cute the two of them were when they first met/what a tragedy it was that their relationship goes south. Instead I thought, “I think I’ll have those frozen organic enchiladas when I get home.”

   The early flashbacks don’t offer much information other than the fact that the two leads come from humble, somewhat fucked up backgrounds. Like I said, all we are shown about Gosling is that he is a furniture mover. Meanwhile, all we are shown about Williams is her father is an angry bastard. I suspect I was supposed to be afraid of her father, but all he does is throw some meatloaf during a stereotypical “You call this dinner?” moment that’s about as believable as Brad’s Pitt’s accent in Troy. (You want a real “You call this dinner” scene? Watch Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Haven’t seen it? It’s Martin Scorsese. Stop jerking off to The Departed and visit Netflix.) After the meatloaf flinging, we see that Williams wants to break away from her white trash family and make something of herself, but totally ruins her chance when she lets her jock boyfriend screw her without a condom. You don’t understand, she coulda had class! She coulda been a contendah! She coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what she is. Let’s face it.

   At this time I wish to apologize to The Movie Gods for making a reference to On The Waterfront whist writing about Blue Valentine. References happen, and I’m sorry. I can’t help myself.

   What happens when they arrive at the cheesy motel, you ask? Williams takes a shower and Gosling tries to initiate shower sex, but Williams isn’t interested. Then they put some music on the CD player and dance. Then there’s more flashback bullshit, during which Gosling and Williams have a chance second-meeting on a bus and start flirting. They have an impromptu ice cream date and sing and dance in front of a freaking bridal store. While I watched Gosling and Williams give it their best, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. The shaky, It Feels Like You’re On The Outside Looking In! camera work was bothering me, plus I wanted to smack Cianfrance upside the head — yet again — for the bridal store bullshit. We know they end up getting married; we’re not stupid (although maybe we are, because we’re watching Blue Valentine).

   Flash forward to the motel — Gosling and Williams get very drunk and have an argument about Gosling’s “potential.” Williams talks about how Gosling is good at everything he does, and he shouldn’t continue to sell himself short. Gosling says that all he wants is to be a husband and a father. Blah blah blah, awkward sex scene that was obviously shot with the intention of being awkward, blah blah blah.

   I could go on and tell you about how underwhelmed I was by the ending, but, truthfully, I don’t really care to examine any more scenes because it is starting to bore me. This is all I am trying to convey: Blue Valentine is shit. I understand that the filmmakers wanted to present a true-to-life story (IE: cunnilingus and nipples) about two people who fall in love and then fall out of love. I understand that the realism (IE: cunnilingus and nipples) is meant to be mind-blowing. What I do not understand is how they, the filmmakers, failed at making me give a fuck about anything I saw on the screen. Throughout the entire film I wanted to care about something — the characters, the story, the fucking art direction — but I just didn’t. Instead, the thought of frozen organic enchiladas was the only thing keeping me awake. What was keeping me in the theater? The thought that I’d have a blast writing a scathing review.

   Here’s a clip. Williams has to leave the motel early in the morning because she gets called in to work. Not only does she warn Gosling of the possibility the night before, but she also leaves him a note the next morning. I have no idea why he claims he does not know what happened. Perhaps he cannot read? Perhaps that is the reason they fight all the time?




   Before going to see Blue Valentine on Saturday afternoon, I watched a bit of the 1968 period film The Lion in Winter, starring Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. The film takes place on an exceptionally stressful Christmas Eve, when King Henry II (O’Toole) is supposed to name an heir. His wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Hepburn), wants their son Richard (as in “The Lionhearted”) to succeed Henry, while Henry wants John (as in, “The Total Loser”) to be king. Given the circumstances, as well as given the two lead actors, drama ensues.

   In my humble opinion, The Lion in Winter features two of the most kickass performances ever captured on film. Just thinking about the performances heightens my energy level — my mind races and I start thinking about specific scenes and specific techniques and unique choices and unpredictable deliveries and the delicate art of combining subtlety and theatricality. Basically, the full moon rises and I become a Werenerd. Hepburn and O’Toole bring their A -Games as the deceitful, conniving, pissed off King and Queen, both presenting multidimensional performances that put Gosling and Williams to shame. (Duh.) Yes, The Lion in Winter is a work of historical fiction that involves references to King Louis and Thomas Beckett and Eleanor’s “uncle Raymond,” but period film whatnot aside, the film is about a troubled marriage. While The Lion in Winter doesn’t have graphic sex scenes with oh-so-realistic moaning sounds, it does have — gasp! — a fucking great script. Meaty dialogue. Subtext. Complex fucking characters. It tells the story of two people who were in love, and now are out of love, and dammit, I love both of the lead characters from start to finish. I love the horrible things they say to each other while they’re fighting, and I love the few tender moments they share together when they both let their guard down. The writer, James Goldman, neglected to include any scenes where Henry and Eleanor get drunk and yell at each other, and he didn’t include any sappy, indulgent flashbacks; no half-assed, old-hat shocking shit. He kept it simple and created people, not just parts.





   At this point, you may think that I am a judgmental, stuck-up bitch who tries too hard to be cynical. Not true. In truth, I wish I loved everything that I hate — life would be so much easier. I wish I totally dug all the films that are up for Oscars this year — I wish that Black Swan hadn’t made me smirk and that The King’s Speech was my idea of breathtaking. I wish that my top three celebrity crushes were Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Robert Pattinson instead of Marlon Brando, Peter O’Toole, and Robert De Niro. I wish I was counting down the days until the release of the Russell Brand version of Arthur! and that I had never heard of Dudley Moore. I wish my favorite film was The Notebook. Unfortunately, my parents instilled in me an appreciation for good shit, and now here I am, constantly having to bite my tongue when perfectly nice people talk about the brilliance that is It’s Complicated, or about how they can’t wait to see No Strings Attached. It’s a tough life, but fuck it — Blue Valentine is terrible, Michelle Williams didn’t deserve a nomination, and had it not been for those organic frozen enchiladas my Saturday night would have been ruined. For the love of Brando, watch something else. It really isn’t difficult to find something of substance — something conceived by an intelligent writer and brought to life by a brave director and powerful actors. Don’t settle for all the sterile garbage disguised as cutting-edge cinema — you’re better than that, and don’t forget it. Derek Cianfrance, blow me.

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I Guess I Must Be Having Fun

It is the evening of January 17, 2011, and I am now 24 years old.

As I typed that second clause, I imagined a camera zooming in, à la Sex and the City, capturing the words as they appeared, one at a time, to emphasize their gargantuan importance. Well, the words “I am now 24 years old” may not be as substantial as anything Carrie Bradshaw ever wrote (“Are we sluts?”), but I’m feeling rather, I don’t know. No, I do; I feel vulnerable. I feel vulnerable. I’m in control of very little, and that scares me a little. Happy birthday to me.

Having a birthday at the very beginning of a new year is strange. New Year’s resolutions aren’t just about how Next Year I Will Be Better At Such and Such — they’re about growing up. “This year, I’m going to lose 20 pounds.” Well, that’s cool, but for me that resolution sounds more like, “This year I’m going to lose 20 pounds because it looks like I still have my fucking baby fat and I’m an adult now and I’m another year older and for as long as I have a chubby little face I’m gonna look like a fucking teenager as opposed to a mysterious, grown woman and FOR FUCK’S SAKE, YOU KNOW WHAT ICE CREAM TASTES LIKE!”

Did I frighten anyone, just then? Good.

I had a fantastic time this weekend. See?

So, what’s my damage, right?

Well, I decided in December that 2011 is going to be all about working towards The Next Step. For as much as I’m enjoying living with my parents and working at an office part time, I realize that life cannot, and should not, go on like this forever. I do not wish for that to be the case, either. I have no doubt that some substantial changes are going to occur. Eventually. Meanwhile, I need to help get things moving. At least a bit. Right?

Just who am I talking to, and just what do I expect him or her to say to me?

Last week, I attempted to “get moving.” I thought to myself, “What kind of job would I be willing to settle for that somehow involves doing things that I like to do, and may possibly lead me down a rewarding, somewhat [if not extremely] lucrative path?” I narrowed it down to a few choices, and then got to Googling. I came up with nothing. I found no information on how to break in to any of the fields for which I searched. Feeling downhearted, I decided I had three options: go to bed, cry, or watch a Peter O’Toole movie. After choosing the third option, I realized I had three new options: The Ruling Class, What’s New, Pussycat? or something I haven’t already seen five times. I went on Netflix, and found a movie called The Creator, a comedy from 1985, where Mr. O’Toole plays a wacky scientist. Having very little expectations and wanting nothing more than an escape from the very real reality that I was feeling very, very sad, I hit “Play.”

The sub-plot just had to be a love story, and it just had to be a sweet one that really got to me. My mood suddenly went from, “I feel rather bummed that I’m going to live in Agoura for the rest of my twenties,” to, “I feel rather bummed that I’m going to live in Agoura for the rest of my twenties and be single for the rest of my Goddamn life.” I cried. I did. The sight of young Virginia Madsen naked in the shower with a dude didn’t arouse me — it made me insanely jealous and sad. I’ll say it again — I cried.

Hey, at least I was alone. I wasn’t bringing anyone else down with my wackness.

I continued watching the movie, because even though it wasn’t exactly serving as the greatest sanctuary, it was better than nothing. Plus, I find that crying while watching a movie is so much better than crying yourself to sleep. (How SAD is that sentence? FUCK!) A scene ended, and suddenly I was looking at Mr. O’Toole sitting at a table on the patio of the fucking Stevenson Coffee Shop at UC Santa Cruz. Not only did I go to UCSC, I lived at Stevenson College for two damn years. The patio at the Stevenson Coffee Shop was my favorite place on campus, and remains one of my favorite places in all of California. The patio is incredible — it’s elevated, and all the tables are surrounded by majestic trees that are several hundred feet tall. If you sit at the table in the middle of the most elevated part and look up, it’s like you’re looking through a tunnel to the heavens. I spent many days of my life sitting at that table socializing, studying, and daydreaming, always accompanied by a cup of dark roast coffee and a feeling of immeasurable tranquility — a feeling that I was very much not experiencing whilst watching The Creator… until I saw Peter fucking O’Toole, the current object of my idolatry, sitting at my table. I’m not entirely superstitious, I don’t completely believe in fate, and I’m pretty much Agnostic, but dammit, I know that I get markedly nervous when I see people open umbrellas indoors, I know that my “random” decision to borrow Blonde on Blonde from my dad when I was 14 was meant to be, and I know that the Stevenson Coffee Shop scene in The Creator was a message from the universe.

A few hours ago, I treated myself to yet another viewing of What’s New, Pussycat?, and a homemade banana split, consisting of non-fat frozen yogurt from Golden Spoon, an organic banana, and fat-free Reddi-Whip. When the movie ended, my dad decided it was time for the two of us to watch YouTube. We watched The Rolling Thunder Review version of “Tangled Up In Blue.” We watched Tom Waits sing “Pasties and a G-String” live in Germany. We watched Patti Smith being interviewed by Tom Snyder. We watching Jason Mraz sing “Blitzkreig Bop,” and when he said, “I first heard this song when I watched National Lampoon’s Vacation,” my dad exclaimed, “That shows just what a total DORK you are.” Then my dad put on “This Must Be The Place (Naive Medley),” by Talking Heads. It brought tears to my eyes.

After a few more videos and a few technical difficulties, dad gave up on YouTube and realized it was time to watch the Lakers, anyway. I went upstairs, thinking I’d finish the evening with some reading. Before cracking open my book, I went on facebook to read all my birthday wishes. Then I decided I needed to hear “This Must Be The Place” one more time. I guess I could say it brought tears to my eyes again, but that would be an understatement. The flood gates opened, and sweet Jack Guerney, they did not close for a good long while. I finally had to stop crying and run to the bathroom to wash the melted mascara out of my stinging eyes.

It is the evening of January 17, 2011, and I am now 24 years old. Old enough to know better, and young enough to still make a few stupid mistakes. Old enough to look for a grown-up job, and young enough to work part time. Old enough to set goals for the future, and young enough to escape with the help of a Peter O’Toole movie. Old enough to have a place of my own, but young enough to live with good ol’ mom and dad for a bit longer…

Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round

I can’t help it when I feel uncertain. I think that goes hand in hand with being in your twenties, not to mention being in your twenties after eight years of George W. Bush’s master plan. If there’s one thing most liberals and conservatives can agree on, it’s that things suck right now. My paycheck isn’t huge, I need to save money, and yet my fear of pesticides and Dollar Menus compels me to spring for organic lettuce and other luxuries.

When ya think about it, though, isn’t it really kind of exciting? Struggling through uncertainty, I mean?

I feel numb – born with a weak heart
I guess I must be having fun

It’s true, Google failed me the night I watched The Creator, but Google also fails me when I try to find copies of rare Marlon Brando movies. I can’t let an internet search engine dictate whether or not my life has any direction. Direction! How could my life possibly have NO direction?

God, I’ve been told over and over, for so many years by so many assholes, that it’s all about The Future, The Future, and The Future in that order, but what about right now? No, that question is not cliché, it’s legit. Is it not better to enjoy today with your eyes and ears open than to miss today entirely for the sake of a day that hasn’t even happened?

The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along…

Fuck all that. I’m only going to be 24 once. I’m only going to be 29 once. I’m only going to be 35, 48, and 64 once. Yes, I’m sticking to the idea that 2011/24 will be about moving towards The Next Step. Yes, I know that I can only do so much to control what happens to me in The Future. Yes, I know that there will be many more moments of crying on my couch, thinking If Only I Had A More Stimulating Job, or If Only I Had A Boyfriend, or If Only I Had Been A Dancer All These Years, but I know that moments like these are par for the course.

So what if there’s a bummer of an evening in my future? Peter O’Toole enjoyed a beautiful afternoon at the Stevenson Coffee Shop, sitting at the table where nothing can hurt you. And so did I. Many times.

Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It’s ok I know nothing’s wrong…nothing…

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A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes…In Which Case, What The Hell?

If you’ve been friends with me long enough for me to tell you about my bizarre dreams, then you know my dreams are rather intricate. Whenever I tell someone about a dream I just had, that someone usually says something like, “Wow…you remember a lot more about your dreams than I do,” or, “Wow…what a vivid imagination, Steff.”

I’m always somewhat surprised when I hear these reactions. For whatever reason, I have managed to maintain a “Doesn’t Everybody?” sort of outlook when it comes to my freaky memory and my freaky nocturnal adventures. (My dear friend, Kaley, is an exception. Her dreams tend to be as strange as mine. Thank God.)

All of my dreams, while utterly fantastic, tend to feature realistic elements of my personality that only arise at the most inconvenient moments. For example, a few years ago I had a dream I had a chance to score with an irresistible young British man, and as he was leading me up some stairs to his bedchamber I realized that beneath my party dress I was wearing Enormous Granny Panties. No, ladies, I don’t mean “Granny Panties” as in your typical full-ass underwear — these things went up way above my hips. My actual hips, that is, as opposed to the area where those Godforsaken low-rise jeans cling. Now, I don’t wear Enormous Granny Panties everyday. No. Not quite EVERY day…but wearing them under a “Beyonce, can you handle this?” kind of dress is definitely something I would do. I would assume that my dress would stay on, and, therefore, I may as well wear comfy undergarments.

You may have read about the time I got Jack Nicholson a bit excited when I gave him a hug. (http://thegraduate-steffic.blogspot.com/2010/08/slightly-more-sane-still-fcking-crazy.html) You may also have read about the time Dustin Hoffman visited me in my sleep and offered me his Jedi guidance. (http://thegraduate-steffic.blogspot.com/2010/07/my-spirit-animal-is-dustin-hoffman.html) Both dreams had realistic elements — Jack was coming over to watch a Laker game with my dad, and I met Dustin because I was disgusted by the glucose-free pomegranate martini that was being offered at the bar where my friends were chillin’. Well, last night I had another dream involving a celebrity, and, I have to say, I find it both hilarious and somewhat frustrating that even in my dreams I’m a total paranoid dork.

All right. So last summer I got into the habit of falling asleep to the movie Tropic Thunder. Since then, there have been many films in my What Do I Fall Asleep To Tonight? rotation, including:

1.) Taxi Driver (Always asleep before, “You talkin’ to me?”)
2.) The Deer Hunter (Always asleep before, “MAO!”)
3.) Raging Bull (Always asleep before, “You fuck my wife?”)
4.) A Streetcar Named Desire (Always asleep before, “STELLA!!!”)
5.) Last Tango in Paris (Always asleep before, “Go get the butter.”)

Lately, my bedtime story of choice has been True Romance (1993), starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette, written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott. (No, I do not believe this movie would have been better if Tarantino had directed it. I believe this movie would have been longer if Tarantino had directed it. I love Tarantino. The End.) According to imdb.com, the plot synopsis is as follows: “Clarence marries hooker Alabama, steals cocaine from her pimp, and tries to sell it in Hollywood, while the owners of the coke try to reclaim it.” While I agree that yes, that is pretty much the plot, I have to say this movie is also — surprise surprise — a love story. Don’t forget, the movie is called True Romance, and truthfully, I consider it one of the most romantic movies I’ve ever seen. I guess that makes me a bit screwy by society’s bullshit Nights In Rodanthe standards, but hey — FUCK society’s bullshit Nights In Rodanthe standards.

The movie begins with Mr. Slater at a bar talking about Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock. He says, ”In Jailhouse Rock he was everything rockabilly’s about. I mean, he is rockabilly. Mean, surly, nasty, rude. In that movie he couldn’t give a fuck about nothing except rockin’ and rollin’, living fast, dying young and leaving a good-looking corpse.” He says this in close-up, and when the camera pulls back, we see that he’s, well, not really talking to anyone, or at least not to anyone who’s actually listening. There’s a woman sitting to his left, puffing away at a cigarette, looking somewhat intrigued, somewhat bored. Indifferent, really. Mr. Slater works up the gonads to ask her out:

Clarence Worley: How ’bout you go to the movies with me tonight?
Lucy: What are we gonna see?
Clarence Worley: A Sonny Chiba triple feature. The Streetfighter, Return of the Streetfighter, and Sister of the Streetfighter.
Lucy: Who’s Sonny Chiba?
Clarence Worley: (somewhat taken aback) Who is Sonny Chiba? He is… he is bar none, the greatest actor working in martial arts movies today.
Lucy: (genuinely confused, unless she’s really just as bad of an actress as I think she is) You wanna take me to a kung fu movie?
Clarence Worley: (bashful) Three kung fu movies.

She turns him down, of course. Mr. Slater looks a bit bummed for a second, but he gets over the rejection and goes to the movies by himself.

Yes, I identify with this scene. Yes, I often find myself babbling about movies that nobody gives a shit about (which, in my opinion, is everyone else’s own damn fault). I moved back to Agoura fucking Hills on July 13th because there was going to be a showing of The Godfather at the Regency Theater on the 14th that I could not possibly miss. Some of the best dates I ever had with dudes were centered around either seeing movies in a theater or watching movies at my humble abode. I’m a movie freak. It’s true. Therefore, when Mr. Slater meets Miss Arquette at the Sonny Chiba triple feature and sparks fly, I swoon.

Finding true love via cinema is one thing, but let me tell you, the first time I ever saw the scene where Mr. Slater comes home and tells Miss Arquette that he’s just killed her pimp and she says, “I think what you did was so romantic,” I was thinking the same exact thing. And the scene where they make love in the phone booth? HELLO.

As far as Mr. Slater goes, he’s all right by me. I know he ran in to some trouble involving drugs, but hey, that’s par for the course in Hollywood. I consider it a huge injustice that Charlie Sheen gets to film an indefinite amount of episodes of 2 1/2 Men while poor Mr. Slater is lucky if he gets a guest role on Curb Your Enthusiasm. Mr. Slater is way hotter, I’m not gonna lie. Maybe it’s all in the Jack Nicholson impression, but truly, I don’t care. I’d watch kung-fu movies with him any day.

All right. So I’m a weirdo who thinks True Romance and Last Tango in Paris are two of the most romantic movies out there. Moving on, now, to what this has to do with anything at all.

Last night, as I have for several nights now, I fell asleep while watching True Romance. I dreamt that I was in a large room with three king-sized beds. I was in the room with Mr. Slater, and yes, I’m talkin’ 1990’s Mr. Slater. We were kissing. It was raining outside. It was hot. We made our way to one of the beds. We, uh, mounted the bed. Mr. Slater said, “This is the bed where I lost my virginity.” Weird, eh? I said, “Cool.” We continued kissing, although I could tell Mr. Slater wanted to take things to the next level. Goddammit, even Dream Steff can’t handle that stuff smoothly. Mr. Slater tried to remove some clothing, and, ya know, I asked him what he was doing. He straight up told me what was on his mind, as if I hadn’t already figured it out.

Sigmund Freud said that dreams are wishes. Explain, therefore, why my response to Mr. Slater’s advances was, “When was the last time you got checked for STD’s?”

Talk about the Blue Balls Heard Round The World. Mr. Slater looked at me like I was insane. He said, “Well, how ‘bout we just do it now, I’ll get tested tomorrow, and I’ll let you know what the results are.” I said “No.” It wasn’t “the right time.” Then, in true Steff Callas Dream fashion, Mr. Slater said, “Well, can I at least see your cute little dub?” Dub. My “dub.” My “DUB.” MY DUB. Dream Steff did NOT show Mr. Slater her “dub,” for Dream Steff is a lady.

Umm, yeah. I’ve now shared that with the internet, or BLOGGED, if you prefer. I’m not ashamed. I’m not embarrassed. I’m just…confused. Again.

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L’Amour.

                                                                                                          

It physically pains me to know that I’ll never get to sleep with Marlon Brando. I’ve lusted after many unattainable celebrities in my life, but Brando isn’t just any unattainable celebrity — he’s Brando. And he’s dead.


The most painful aspect of my predicament is that I know he would have taken me to his bed if I had been around to make advances. He was a self-proclaimed sex addict — if you made him an offer, he wouldn’t refuse. Of course, he’d only allow a woman to stay for two, maybe three nights in a row before he asked her to leave so he could “be alone,” IE: call another broad. This sort of bargain does not typically appeal to me, but a fling with Brando would be anything but typical. In fact, those two or three days would be the best damn days ever, especially if they took place before Brando reached 200+ pounds. We’d stay in bed eating ice-cream and popping Valium. He’d entertain me by playing his bongo drums or reciting Shakespeare. We’d hang out with Tim, his pet ocelot who knew how to use the toilet. We’d sing old songs at the top of our lungs. We’d dance. We’d talk about global issues and about how corporate fat cats were destroying the environment. We’d make love. We’d eat more ice- cream.


I find it interesting that despite being considered one of the greatest actors of all time (if not TheGreatest, until Meryl Streep kicks the bucket), Brando is only associated with a handful of classic films. Because this is my blog, I am going to go ahead and say that those films are (a) The Godfather, (b) On The Waterfront, and (c) A Streetcar Named Desire.


Only three films? Well, yeah, actually. Now, I’m not saying that these are the only films in which Brando is brilliant, because he’s brilliant in everything. I’ve simply listed his most iconic films. For example,just because his role in Mutiny on the Bounty isn’t as famous as his role in The Godfather, that does not mean it was not an astounding performance. Apocalypse Now, anyone?I first saw that movie in my film appreciation class in 12th grade. We watched it on a huge projector screen in a very dark room. George W. Bush had been re-elected six months earlier, and the terror (rather, “The Horror,”) of the Iraq War rarely left my mind. After watching this scene, it took me several minutes before I could formulate sentences:









Furthermore, Brando wasn’t exactly Lawrence Olivier when it came to performing Shakespeare, but did you seeJulius Caesar? Not only was Brando a huge Hollywood star at that point, he was a Hollywood hottie. Ya think the hottest hottie in Hollywood today could play Mark Antony? Leo’s great, but remember his Romeo?Brad’s hunky, but remember his Achilles? Robert Downey Jr would just be Tony Stark in a toga; Johnny Depp would insist on painting himself blue.










And have you seen THIS? This is, as young kids say today, full of win.









I’m not rambling. This is all very important.


All right. So even if you haven’t seen The Godfather, hearing the movie title most likely inspires you to think of a puffy old dude holding a cat. You may even be able to do a botched Don Corleone impression.










Haven’t seen On the Waterfront? You really should. At any rate, you’ve still heard someone say, “I coulda been a contender” (pronounced con-ten-deh).










No Streetcar? No problem. Does, “STELLAAAAAAA!!!” ring any bells?












“Steff, what are your favorite Brando films?” Gee. My favorites? I’d have to say The Godfather (funny accent), On the Waterfront (“contendeh”), A Streetcar Named Desire (“STELLA!”), and one more film which, in my personal opinion, is one of the best films of the 1970’s (and if it’s one of the best of the 1970’s, it’s one of the best ever made), Last Tango in Paris. What image does that movie usually conjure in a person’s mind? The scene that Last Tango is infamous for may be only half as well known as the “I coulda been a contender” monologue, but to the people who have seen the film, the words “Go get the butter” are quite significant.


Before I proceed, I have to say that while I LOVE this film, and while I believe that it is a work of art and not pornography, I must clarify that I would never show Last Tango to anyone who hasn’t seen worse. For example, while browsing through a Barnes and Noble with my Yia-yia (Greek grandma) last month, I picked up a copy of Last Tango on DVD so I could examine the price. My Yia-yia spent the next several minutes trying to convince me that we should watch it together. I let her know that that was not going to happen. “Is it too risqué?” she asked, grinning deviously. “It’s beyond risqué,” I said. My Yia-yia didn’t grow up during a time when you could type “tits” in to Google and get 45,600,000 results in 0.19 seconds. (Examine that sentence for a moment.) She has definitely not “seen worse.” I would also never show Last Tango to someone who wasn’t at least somewhat of a film enthusiast, or to someone who had zero interest in acting. If a person were to name Transformers, Eat, Pray, Love, or Talladega Nights as his or her favorite movie, the next words out of my mouth would not be, “Then you have to see Last Tango.” While I, Stephanie Callas, may possess the ability to watch the infamous Butter Scene and only focus on how great Brando’s dialogue is, I absolutely understand how other people could find the scene repulsive and upsetting. That being said, I am about to tell you why I, personally, think Last Tango is one of the most romantic films I have ever seen. If my writing inspires you to go out and find a copy of the film, that’s great. If you do a little research on your own and determine that you’d rather skip it, that’s fine, too. I get it.


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, allow me to be frank: the romantic movies of today totally suck. They suck, and they’re all the same. There’s a formula out there that’s been used so many times that I don’t even have to see these Goddamn movies to know exactly what happens in them: there’s a young woman who is on her cell phone all the time who meets a young man who likes beer and boobs and they bicker until they finally kiss at the one hour mark and then the girl goes to visit him the next day and he’s being whipped with a dead fish by a beautiful blonde woman but he can “explain everything” but the young woman runs away crying and then in the last ten minutes the young man charters a plane and jumps out of it and lands on the young woman’s roof and his parachute says “I LOVE YOU” and he sings “The Way You Look Tonight” with the Count Basie Orchestra in the background and all is right with the fucking world.


Did I miss anything?


I’m tired of female protagonists who are all supposed to be tight-assed workaholics who only learn how to enjoy life after meeting happy-go-lucky Matthew McConaughey. I’m tired of male love interests who have no redeeming qualities whatsoever until they start to show tenderness during some bullshit Now-They’re-In-Love-Montage. I’m tired of flawless hair and supernatural abs. I’m tired of bleached teeth and fake tans. I’m tired of bad soundtracks. I’m even tired of happy endings. Thankfully, Last Tango features none of these things.


The movie is about 20 year old Jeanne, a beautiful Parisienne, who has a passionate love affair with Paul, an American ex-patriot whose wife has just committed suicide. Paul and Jeanne promise each other that their affair will remain completely anonymous — they won’t even tell each other their names. This arrangement works out fine in the beginning, but soon their feelings for each other grow strong. As Jeanne falls in love with Paul, she yearns to tell him more and more about herself, as well as learn more about him. At the same time, Paul’s behavior spirals out of control as he struggles not only to make sense of his love for Jeanne, but also to cope with his wife’s suicide. There are many ups and downs as Jeanne realizes she is in love with a man who does not want to know her at all. Meanwhile, Paul makes every attempt to push Jeanne away, but what he really wants is to be close to her. (Raise your hand if you’ve experienced THAT.) The sadness is believable, the frustration is palpable, the sex is truthful, and the pillow talk is hauntingly familiar. The last ten minutes of the movie, while not at all happy, are absolutely beautiful. Mind-blowingly beautiful.


The sex is “truthful,” eh?


Jeanne and Paul’s first sexual encounter takes place while the two of them are looking at an apartment for rent. After an unremarkable conversation (“So, do you like the apartment?” “I don’t know. Are you going to rent it?” and so on), Paul shuts the door, walks over to Jeanne, throws her hat across the room, takes her in his arms, and lovingly carries her to the…wall. They make love like maniacs. Paul doesn’t bother removing any of Jeanne’s clothes — he simply rips the crotch of her tights. He remains fully clothed as well — his long, camel-colored coat hides everything. Jeanne wraps her legs around Paul’s waist, and they make love standing up. This first encounter, while romantically fantastic (a chance meeting with a stranger you proceed to screw against a wall of an apartment in PARIS), is actually quite realistic. While Maria Schneider, the actress who plays Jeanne, is rather petite in the film, Brando has a difficult time physically supporting her in this particular position. (Stanley Kowalski may have been able to maneuver this scene with a bit more sensual flair, but Last Tango Brando was 48 years old at the time.) As Paul makes love to Jeanne, he hunches forward, struggling to hold her upright. This doesn’t ruin everything, however, because there is still a fair amount of gasping and moaning. The sounds Paul and Jeanne make, however, aren’t the sensationalized screams of pleasure typically featured on Boardwalk Empire — they’re the sounds two people make when they are trying their best to keep the noise level down. They eventually fall to the floor, and after they climax, Jeanne breaks free from Paul and rolls to the other side of the room. They each lie on the floor gasping for air, neither of them aware of each other’s presence. There is no cuddling, not even nods of recognition — just two people trying to regain their composure before going about their day.

Paul moves in to the apartment, and he and Jeanne continue their affair when Jeanne arrives at his door to return the key she initially borrowed from the concierge. Paul then establishes the ground rules for their relationship: “I don’t want to know your name. You don’t have a name, and I don’t have a name either [. . .] I don’t want to know where you live or where you come from, I want to know nothing, nothing, nothing!” For whatever reason, rather than run back to her boyfriend (yes, her boyfriend, Tom, a filmmaker), Jeanne chooses to commit to the anonymous affair. Of course, Jeanne does not know that Paul’s desire to remain so distant from her stems from his newfound isolation brought on by his wife’s death. He has to control something. However, the next time Paul and Jeanne make love, they begin to establish a sense of intimacy:









Some people may think this scene is just weird, but I think that while it is unusual, it is also very sweet. No, Paul and Jeanne are not lying side by side gazing into each other’s eyes spouting out “Goo-goo gah-gah” bullshit. Instead, they’re acting silly. They’re daring to appear unattractive. They’re being themselves. They may not know each other’s names, but they do know that, for some reason, they are comfortable.


There are several scenes where we see Jeanne and Paul’s bond grow stronger during their post-coital interactions. Sadly, Paul is not always on board for more emotional intimacy. During one scene, Jeanne tells Paul a good deal about her childhood, blatantly ignoring Paul’s explicit conditions. Surprisingly, Paul does not protest. He only says, “I don’t mind if you tell the truth, but don’t give me the names. I can’t handle that. But go on, tell the truth.” He, too, talks about his childhood (his monologue being one of many moments in the film that make you want to raise a glass to Stella Adler). After Paul realizes that he has broken his own rules, however, he tries to distract Jeanne by asking her a rather unorthodox question: “When did you first come? How old were you?” She answers him, and when she finishes her story, Paul walks away from her without commenting. The camera remains on Jeanne for awhile, but when we see Paul again, he has tears in his eyes. He struggles to breath. His chin trembles. He is overwhelmed. How can he possibly have feelings for this half naked hot young thing? Why did he let her tell him about her past? Why did he listen? Why did he do the same? Walk away. Be very quiet. Cry.


Oh, Brando. How were you always so damn BELIEVABLE? How did you nail it every time? (By the way, there’s a scene where he talks to the body of his dead wife after she’s been all made-up for her wake…it’s astounding. The first lines of his monologue are, “You look ridiculous in that makeup. Like a caricature of a whore.” WHO SAYS THAT? Bravo!)


Jeanne does not know about Paul’s wife’s suicide until the end of the film. Therefore, she has no idea why Paul is acting so, well, so damn weird all the time. Still, she falls in love with him (like ya do), and she keeps coming back for more despite his unpredictable behavior. Every time Paul makes Jeanne cry, I want to cry, too. Every time she goes against her better judgment and ditches her fiancé to visit Paul, I can feel the burden of her desire. She’s stuck on a miserable old bastard who treats her like crap, and she comes back to him again and again. Oddly and refreshingly, despite her sub-par decisions, she doesn’t seem like a moron — she seems human.


Finally, while this movie is jam-packed with moments that make me sigh with cinephilia, I need to say, once again, that the last ten minutes of this film are too good to miss. I will not describe them here, partly because I do not want to give anything away, but mostly because I don’t think I could do the sequence justice with my words. All I will say is that the first time I watched the film, the last ten minutes — the only part of the film where Jeanne and Paul venture outside of the apartment together — took my breath away. I was literally on the edge of my seat, and I wasn’t sure why. I felt nervous, excited, and giddy. I was overwhelmed by how beautiful everything looked. Brando was hilarious and charming. I smiled at everything anyone said, and yet I felt like crying. It’s a perfect depiction of terrible timing. Don’t expect me to explain any further.


Movies that deal with romance need to be more than superficial puff pieces if they’re going to be any damn good. I don’t want to sit there thinking, “This woman is an idiot” or “This man isn’t worth a damn.” I want to think, “This poor woman is trapped” or, “I wish this man would get it together!” To me, Last Tango is one of the most romantic movies out there. Does Last Tango scream “FOREIGN FILM”? Yes. Is Last Tango a bit retro-looking? Yes. (All of Schneider’s outfits are kick ass, and her bush is epic.) Is some of the dialogue a bit too, “Hey, look at me”? Yes. Is Last Tango absolutely gorgeous? Does it make me want to cry for the past? Does it make me want to fall in love? Yes, yes, and yes. This film dares to show us its characters’ flaws. This film dares to suggest that sex isn’t always cinematic. This film dares to explore what happens in that moment when a person realizes that what he feels in his heart has changed from lust to love, and he knows he’s completely fucked…


It’s a Hell of a flick.


Bon nuit, mes amis. Bon nuit, Brando. You’re still the greatest leading man we’ve ever known. Je t’aime.




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“How was the movie, Steff?” “FUCK THAT MOVIE”

Talk about a total downer. I want to punch something.

I just came back home from seeing Going The Distance, the “romantic” “comedy” about the trials and tribulations of long distance relationships, starring Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. Awww! It’s cute cuz they’re DATING IN REAL LIFE! Gag me. Rather, to quote a line Miss Barrymore says more than once in this movie, “Suck my dick.”

I love Drew Barrymore. I have loved her since I was in fifth grade. I think she’s adorable and talented, and yeah, she was adorable and talented when she made this movie, too. “I’m a Mac” wasn’t bad, either. He, too, is adorable and, as far as I can see, somewhat talented as well. The two of them work very well together on screen, and whenever they kissed or laughed or told each other, “I love you,” I really did believe them. What I couldn’t believe was the fact that all of their friends were such total fucking morons. Justin Long’s friends, his only friends, are two Dudes who say really stupid, unfunny shit. They were trying to achieve the “realistic” dialogue portrayed in intelligent films such as Knocked Up, where the ridiculous conversations between Seth Rogen, Jason Seagull (ha), Jonah Hill, and the Other Two Guys were like totally realistic stuff that guys would like totally say! The Dude Dialogue in this movie was painfully forced. The movie could have had “realistic” dialogue and still not involved a superfluous, HACKNEYED, “You suck your own dick?” scene. I don’t care how vulgar young men can be — I don’t believe that even a stupid guy would put his arm around an old woman to help her across the street, meanwhile talking to her about his roommates’ masturbation techniques. Like OMG! Guys just don’t give a FUCK! It’s SO TRUE!To this I say, again, “Suck my Dick.”

Meanwhile, Drew Barrymore doesn’t seem to have any friends. Well, she does, but we only really meet two of them, and they each get about two minutes of screen time. Instead, we get to hear Drew yack about dry humping and cunnilingus with her sister, played by Christina Applegate. Whatever. The sister character is married to a fat, unhappy guy, and her daughter is possessed by some devil. The two sisters are such different people! It’s sooooo interesting! Kill me. Drew! Don’t end up like Christina Applegate! Take your time being a party girl and go ahead and date Justin Long from a distance! Be unconventional and HAPPY! Why, God?

I am not the cynical fucking person many people think I am. I did not go to the cinema tonight thinking, “Well THIS is gonna SUCK.” In reality, I actually wanted to see this damn movie. As I said before, I like both lead actors, and furthermore, I’m actually really hoping that one of these days there will be a romantic comedy that is actually romantic as well as genuinely comedic. Alas, Going the Distance is just as bad as all the other shitty RomComs that Hollywood manages to churn out year after year. It just stars better people.

What makes a movie funny? I don’t know. Definitely not a scene involving an open-door bathroom policy. I also don’t prefer Hitler jokes, but hey, I’m just an overly sensitive Santa Cruz liberal who needs to chill the fuck out, right? Gas chambers are hilarious. I’m missin’ out on all the yucks. “Suck my dick.”

The real question is What makes a movie romantic? Again, definitely not a fucking montage of two people frolicking (yes, FROLICKING) on the beach to The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” I want to care about the characters. I want to really want them to be together. I know I’m supposed to care because I’m just supposed to, but for some reason I didn’t really give a shit that Drew and Justin missed each other. They were in a long distance relationship. Those happen, ya know. And they’re difficult to maintain. And yeah, there were scenes here and there of Drew and Justin texting each other and missing each others’ calls and all that stuff, but at no point did I really feel their frustration. Whenever they would visit each other and desperately make out, I totally believed their passion…but still. This movie was about a long distance relationship. I wanted to see the distance. There were hardly any tears. There was only one argument. There were no nights of waiting by the phone. They seemed completely content to spend Christmas morning Skyping with each other. That ain’t right.

I recently re-watched the movie 500 Days of Summer. This movie is never going to end up in my Top 50 Favorite Movies, but damn, I really enjoyed it both times I saw it. Why’d I like this particular Boy Meets Girl flick? Because I felt every single second of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s heartbreak. From the moment Zoeey Deschanel first says that she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with him, I am in that guy’s corner 100%. You don’t even have to have had that exact experience to identify with the character. Everyone has had the experience of having a crush on a person who didn’t feel the same way, and it’s brutal. Absolutely fucking brutal, and ya wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. Therefore, the second you see that things are going to end rather horribly for good ol’ Joey, you become his best friend.

I wanted that from Going the Distance. I, myself, have been in several long distance relationships, and yes, that is why I saw the damn movie. I assumed that because I have experienced the pain and confusion of wanting to be with somebody who is hundreds of miles away that this movie would tug at my heartstrings in ways that other lame-o RomComs haven’t. It did no such thing. Instead of identifying with the characters, I was constantly annoyed. I kept thinking, “What the fuck are you whining about?” Their OH SO IMPOSSIBLE LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP was a fucking walk in the park. They were perfect for each other from beginning to end. Their ONLY problem was that they lived far away from each other. Neither of them ever questioned if they were doing the right thing by remaining loyal to someone so far away. There was never any mention of, “Hmm. This girl’s 31 years old and she goes out and gets completely hammered every single time something goes wrong.”

For me, the most painful part about long distance relationships is when you start getting the feeling of, “I’ve worked so hard and sacrificed to much to be with this person who I don’t even get to spend ANY time with, and now I wonder if I’ve been wasting my damn life.” There was none of that in this shitty movie. We know they missed each other because they kept saying, “I miss you.” I heard it, but I didn’t see it. Definitely didn’t see it. Nor did I feel it. I couldn’t ignore that there was a ton of bad shit that wasn’t happening in their relationship, and, therefore, I was in my own head the entire time thinking about my own failed fucking relationships. I wasn’t romanced. I didn’t laugh. I got depressed.

That’s why I go to the movies. To Escape.

They stay together, by the way. “Suck my dick.”

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Slightly More Sane, Still F*cking Crazy

I’ve been crying my eyes out at night lately and I’m loving it.

I’ve been told that it’s the key to mental health. At least that’s what my shrink told me right before I moved away from Santa Cruz. I was telling her that I had watched the Woody Allen movie Everyone Says I Love You the night before, and that I started crying rather dramatically when Woody sang, “I’m through with love, I’ll never fall again…”. It wasn’t a particularly sad moment in terms of the plot. Woody was simply standing alone in his apartment looking longingly out the window singing a sad love song, and yet that image was all it took to bring me to tears. Lots of them. She told me that because I was just beginning to learn how to be vulnerable again, I may start crying at seemingly random moments, “Even while watching a silly Woody Allen movie,” she added with a smile. She also said to me, “I think if you keep crying you won’t have any more panic attacks. You may have one, maybe two…”

The idea of eventually conquering this whole panic thing is more appealing to me than a soaking wet Stanley Kowalski fresh out of anger management. Needless to say, I started to make damn sure to cry my eyes out whenever I felt the inclination to do so. If good ol’ Woody Allen reminded me of my past heartbreak, I allowed the water works to run their course. This fairly simple exercise seemed to work: I didn’t feel so tightly wound, I was sleeping like a baby at night, and, more importantly, I wasn’t having panic attacks.

It was during this relatively healthy period that Dustin Hoffman visited me in a dream and told me he was my spirit guide. (If ya missed hearing about that, you can catch up here: http://thegraduate-steffic.blogspot.com/2010/07/my-spirit-animal-is-dustin-hoffman.html). I was already feeling great thanks to my weeping regimen, but after meeting Dusty in Las Vegas I was just plain giddy. For weeks. I even felt giddy the first few weeks I was back in Agoura. I wasn’t worrying about the job market or My Future or the fact that I now share a wall with my parents — I was only concerned with my Netflix queue. My only mistake, which turned out to be huge, was that I didn’t allow myself any time to really think about how my new [old] surroundings made me feel. When people would ask me how my transition was going, I would use my automatic I-Don’t-Give-A-Shit tone and say, “Eh, it’s fine.” In reality, I had no idea how the transition was going. I hadn’t thought about it, and, more importantly, I hadn’t really felt it. Feelings are scary, and I was too scared to know how I felt about my new [old] life in Agoura Fucking Hills.

I did not get away with operating on autopilot for very long. Not at all. Last weekend I drove up to Santa Cruz to see my friend Danielle perform in a production of The Music Man. I had a great time and I’m very thankful I was able to make the trip, but alas, I had to fight off a panic attack for the first hour of the drive back to Agoura. I pulled over at two different Call Box turn outs in twenty minutes, and as soon as I made it to Highway 101 I pulled over to the nearest restaurant and drank copious amounts of water. I even read a chapter of The Godfather in hopes I’d get lost in the story and forget about the tingling in my left arm, a sensation that is symptomatic of panic attacks, yet always convinces me that I’m going to die of heart failure as a 23 year old, menstruating woman. Eventually I calmed the Hell down and got home just fine, but because the panic attack I was fighting never fully developed, I felt a bit off for the next few days. I’d feel dizzy here and there, and my left arm still tingled from time to time. Instead of taking it easy, I got mad at myself. I was doing so well and then dammit, I was an anxious dick again.

Last Wednesday, aka: day three of tingly arms and a rapid heartbeat, I went to go watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s on the big screen at the Agoura Regency Theater. (They do these flashback Wednesdays. They’re fun. Although now that I think about it, I realize I will not be able to make it to Monty Python and the Holy Grail this week. Damn.) I had a perfectly lovely time, and by then, while I still had not looked inward and figured out why I was feeling so off, I was at least no longer angry…that’s what happens when I choose to just ignore things, anyway. During the last scene of the movie, Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard are sitting in a taxi cab having one of those final showdown arguments that happen in romantic films, and Audrey Hepburn says that she can’t be with him because he just wants to “put [her] in a cage.” George Peppard looks at her and says, “I don’t want to put you in a cage. I want to love you.”

Forget “I’m through with love.” That line of dialogue almost killed me. By some miracle, I was able to hold in my sobs until I was at home in my room ready for bed. But shit, did I ever let it all out. All I had to do was think about that line again, and the next thing I knew I was hyperventilating in the fetal position, covered in tears and snot. I cried about everything. I let all my negative thoughts pop in to my head, and then I cried ’em all out: I miss Santa Cruz, I hate the mall, I’m not dating George Peppard, and so on. It was great.

It has now been a week since I got back from Santa Cruz feeling like Tony Soprano after a plate of gabagool, and life is infinitely better. The tingly feeling in my left arm is gone, so unless fatal heart conditions come and go, I’m rather positive that it was psychosomatic. More importantly, I’m not mad at myself anymore. I tried to ignore what was going on in my head while I was visiting my favorite place in California, where I no longer live, but hey, I suppose it’s not too early to say that I finally learned my lesson. It’s simple, really: Feeling = [Moderate] Serenity, and Not Feeling = Shallow Breathing At A Call Box.

Dustin Hoffman visited me in a dream again. It was Saturday night, and I dreamed that I was sitting at a round table having dinner with my immediate family, and Dusty was sitting next to me. Like last time, I don’t remember anything we said to each other. What I do remember is that everyone had a good time, dinner was delicious, and Dusty was all smiles. In the dream I wanted to tell him that I was so very thankful to be having dinner with him, but I kept it to myself. I knew I’d see him again.

Then, as dreams do, the dinner scene faded away and I was suddenly in my parents’ house one sunny afternoon. My dad was having some friends over, maybe to watch a game on television, and so when the doorbell rang I walked up to answer it, knowing that it was most likely one of my dad’s guests. Through the window, I could see that the guest was my dad’s good buddy Jack Nicholson. (My father isn’t actually friends with Jack. This is dreamland.) He was wearing a white linen suit and sunglasses. (Duh.) I was happy it was him, and when I opened the door I squeeled, “Jack!” and threw my arms around him. I mean, Jack and I were good buddies as well and seeing him at my doorstep was not at all out of the ordinary, but still, I had to take advantage of embracing him. I mean, he’s JACK. As we hugged, Jack said, in his smoky, old man voice, “Oh, baby.” I pulled away, smiled at him, and he looked at me and said, “I haven’t so much as shot a pool cue in over a month.”

Oh, Jack. You may not be Dustin Hoffman when it comes to spirituality and tranquility, but you sure are fun. And the fact that you came to my house in boring old Agoura Hills to hang out with my dad and watch some boring sports game shows stupid little Me that my life, at this moment, is much more exciting than I think it is, not to mention the fact that I managed to work your ancient hormones in to a frenzy. Oy.

Bring on the confusion, the exhaustion, the laughter, the tears, and please, let’s keep the symbolic dreams of Hollywood legends coming night after night.

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