Movie Review: “The Shape of Water”

March 4, 2018 at 2:28 pm (By Amba) ()

Judging from the (lack of) response to this on FB, it should have been a blog post in the first place.

Saw #TheShapeofWater” today. Trying to frame how I felt about it. [SPOILER ALERT!!]

I love “Beauty and the Beast” stories (starting with Cocteau’s 1946 classic) and hoped to be able to give myself over to this one and suspend disbelief. The movie was too self-conscious, culturally referential, and full of in-jokes to be the kind you could give in to in that naïve way (what Paul Ricoeur would have called “first naïveté,” to be outré about it). In fact, I laughed out loud many times (even at “a god? I don’t know, he ate a cat …”). Yet it also had many touching moments, relented and deigned to fulfill one’s yearnings in the end, and it grew on me after it was over.

It’s interesting for someone who actually lived through the late 1950s–early 1960s to see that era turned into a garish mythological dreamtime (as also, differently, in “Mad Men”). It reminded me a bit of the quasi-Victorian alternate universe of Philip Pullman’s novels. Many sophisticated and subversive tropes about the entrenched sexism, racism, and Cold War machismo of that time wove through the movie. It was a nifty touch that a circa 1960 movie monster actually looked like a . . . circa 1960 movie monster, done up in the special effects of that time. And it was a funny and lovely contrast between human missionary position sex, shown in blatant splayed bare-ass full frontal, and human-monster sex, hidden discreetly behind a pulled shower curtain and alluded to with a shy, sly hand gesture.

Best picture? Hell, I don’t know. The postmodern self-consciousness of so many movies now seems to me a sign of decadence, as if culture is eating and recycling itself, with too little input from either raw experience or headlong imagination. This was an enjoyable movie, haunting and hilarious by turns, but not all-of-a-piece enough to be a great one.

A final note: was Del Toro doing a bit of subliminal “Hidden Persuaders” (1957!) influencing by making the monster look so much like an Oscar?

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Frontpaging myself . . .

December 3, 2017 at 1:34 pm (By Amba)

shamelessly. From a comment I posted on this (which gave me the opening to draft something I’d been thinking about anyway):

Even when we lack for nothing materially and even interpersonally (or especially when we lack for nothing, because then we are not distracted by the demands of necessity), our consciousness still torments us, to the point where seeking to soothe and pacify this insatiable inner craving and discontent is one of our major activities and expenses (be it by football, alcohol, opioids, workaholism, religion, or reading articles on the Internet). Taoism, Buddhism, and Stoicism are some of the thought systems that have attempted to confront this directly. What is this bone-deep, incessant dissatisfaction, the ground bass of self-awareness that we hear when all the other noise stops (Henderson the Rain King’s “I want I want I want”)? Is it only human, an artifact of our incomplete evolution, or is it shared by, say, cats and cetaceans, perfected by evolution 30 million years ago? Is it about knowing we’re going to die? Is it just about the ebb and flow of physiological states of need and satiation? Should we strive to extinguish it? Should we harness it to drive ourselves somewhere worthwhile instead of driving us crazy?

 

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Undeniable

December 2, 2017 at 1:19 pm (By Ron, Uncategorized) ()

Your enemies scoffed. Your friends fretted,  the closest of them doing so silently, almost stoically.  You had none of these feelings, for reasons you could not explain even to those most cherished.

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The future was yours to shape as you will — it is your Austerlitz Day! No whim or caprice shall be denied you today;  the heavens do not grant these days freely or often.  But it is this day, more than any other that reminds of what great triumphs you can achieve.  Do not fret or fear any obstacle; wryly view these as that which makes your success that much more amazing, more profound!  See your as yet unaccomplished goals in life as already vanquished foes, praying for your mercy and forbearance!  Your strength is more than willing to be generous in their defeat, because you know that the Fates could have turned on you and not them.  Forward!  Even more glory awaits!

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Hypochondria and Puritanism at 5 a.m.

November 28, 2017 at 12:02 pm (By Amba)

(wanna know what the “young old” think about early in the morning? I didn’t think so. but I’ll expose myself anyway.)

Journal entry, 11/28/2017

I’m scared of my body. I lie awake tuning in to its weird vibrations here and there like someone in a creaky old house, or an earthquake zone. Listening: was that a ghost’s step closer? a tremor?

I know that I’m past three score and ten (which is a real thing, it turns out) and my body could turn on me at any time. So is the tingle in my left big toe the beginning of ALS, or a brain tumor? (It’s probably sciatic nerve compression in my left lower back, where I’ve had sacroiliac pain, or common peroneal nerve irritation in my sore left knee. After yesterday’s amazing ATM [Awareness Through Movement© lesson], which differentiated extension of the lower spine, it vanished for a day. Also, I was walking up and downstairs in a new way that spared my knee.) Is the little string that repeatedly vibrates deep in my pelvis — now in the left groin, now just right of center — a muscle twitch (ALS again!) or an abdominal aortic aneurysm? Is it a reaction to the drastic demands for change and exertion I make on my body? Or have these things always been going on and am I just now attuned and undistracted (i.e. alone) enough to notice them? Who knows? Who cares? Something will get you, sooner or later, you can count on that. The real question is, how can I make use of rather than waste what’s left of my life? Not by lying awake listening to the first tendrils of the flood of mortality finger for cracks, trying the door.

Then too (ambivalence is all!), the “don’t waste your life” meme is so puritanical, and it just rouses its opposite, rebellion, so they are deadlocked. It’s the guilty puritan who wastes his or her life snacking on the couch and beating him/herself up for it. What a bore, “Should!” and “Don’t wanna!” in their endless Punch and Judy show. Superego and subversive soul . . . I was thinking yesterday that an inspired or guided blundering into situations is a richer way to live than setting a Project and plotting a course — the American self-help way. Ignore the landscape, build for the automobile, with its front-facing binocular focus, its blinders on, its headlamps tunneling through the fog to the same death that will claim those who’ve been wandering in the woods exulting shamelessly in their senses . . . But from another point of view, a Project is only a way of getting yourself into some new situations.

I’ve always lived myopically, using all my creativity to respond to, cope with, and understand comprehend whatever — whoever — came close enough for me to see and, better yet, touch. (“Comprehend” holds a better metaphor than “understand”; it’s hands-on.) Now? For the first time in my life, the field ahead and all around is clear, and I have the chance and the challenge to project something of my own onto that blank screen. It is so unaccustomed, and so absurd in the existential sense — undriven by the engine of reproduction and unawaited by any even imaginary expectant throng. Does it matter to me if it doesn’t matter?

I used to think this was what “acte gratuit” meant. What a disappointment to discover that it meant a murder committed for the hell of it — an adolescent male fantasy of the existentialists, a term coined by André Gide. . . . This is weirdly relevant.

The point is, I feel like an adolescent, but I am not. I am a “senescent,” a “moribund.” I don’t have an adolescent’s plausible illusion of unlimited time. I have some unknown but very finite amount of time until the clock inside strikes and my coach turns into a rotting pumpkin. And, maybe because I am abnormally healthy for my age, I can’t quite seem to get it. Is what I have my ear cocked inward for a kick in the ass? Do I need a ticking timer, a hard deadline to race against?

Doing something for someone else (usually editing) drags me back into the lifestream, contextualizes me, and gets my juices flowing. Everything exists in connection, nothing in isolation. Pull one thread and the whole peaks and puckers into a landscape.

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A Muffled Lantern

November 3, 2017 at 2:44 pm (Uncategorized)

 

There’s almost no new news about the “West Side terror attack.” I can’t decide if that’s media amnesia—the accelerating addiction to ever fresher thrills—or an admirable determination to go on with life.
All I know is, you’re still resonating with the emotion of a story and the media hustle you on. My first experience of this was Tiananmen Square, and it put me off media news consumption ever since. I am a slow-paced ruminant, I guess. I resist being turned into a media lab rat conditioned to await the next jolt from the electrode. Partly, it’s having lived with Jacques who had lived through something very real in real time. I got it a distant second-hand (second-hand is always distant*) and worked very hard to make it as real to myself as was humanly possible (which is not very) using only an imagination. Vicarious media participation in traumatic events is film-thin and can be peeled off just that easily. One feels one owes the directly traumatized more respect than that. And of course we privately give, in our imaginations, more respect than the amnesic media with their ratings cravings.
*(Jacques loved this quote from L.–F. Céline: “Experience is a muffled lantern that sheds its light only on the bearer.)

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The receiving instrument

October 26, 2017 at 11:06 am (Uncategorized)

(Some discoveries are too good just to drop on @#&^$*&!! Facebook where I myself will never see them again. Besides, I want Louise to see this.)

What a lovely term I never heard before — the “beholder’s share,” the unique creative contribution that each viewer/listener/reader brings to perceiving a work of art. It was coined by Alois Riegl of the Vienna school of art history and his disciples Ernst Kris (who became a psychoanalyst) and Ernst Gombrich.

I had come to this concept (without having a word for it) in regard to Jacques, who was an immensely generous and percipient listener to music, especially jazz — its ideal audience perhaps — who was obviously musically gifted, but had never learned, in his rough-and-tumble life, to play an instrument well. (It might have been the bass.) It struck me that “the ear is the fifth instrument in the quartet,” that no piece of music is complete or fulfilled without a listener, a witness, and that listening, like playing, must also be practiced and refined. And the same can be said for every art. Now I have a term for it. The beholder’s share.

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Whose foot is it, anyway?

December 22, 2016 at 8:28 pm (By Amba)

Sometimes it’s like that.

                                                                                               [better with the sound off]

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Why I love my housewarming gift

December 7, 2016 at 7:50 am (By Ron)

When I moved into my new place in March, the only person who sent me a housewarming
gift (and gave me some very nice congrats) was our bloggeress.  A box
from Zingermans arrived, (how many times do I fantasize about that!) and it
was a traditional housewarming gift, bread and salt.  The bread got inhaled
post haste, but let me talk about the salt.  Why do I love it?

1.) It’s simple.  It’s just salt.

2.) It’s practical without being boring or odd.

3.) It’s in a cool jar with a big cork topper.

4.) I keep it right by the stove and use it nearly every day.  When
I do, guess who it reminds me of?  Exactly!

5.) It adds flavor to anything and even a little texture as the crystals are
somewhat larger than normal.  Does it raise my blood pressure?  Maybe
a little, who cares? You think flavor comes for nothing?  Guess who
it reminds me of?  See #4.

6.) It has a “household saint” kind of feel that ancient Romans
would understand.  Salarium, bringer of flavor.

7.) Although it won’t won’t happen anytime soon, eventually the salt will
be gone, leaving the cool jar….which will get another purpose, maybe
to hold coins or my keys.  It will never not have a purpose.  It’s more
than I can say for me.

It connects to the giver, to the joy of cooking, to a new home, it’s
elemental…and it fills me with love for all of those.

Gratzi, Annie.

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It could be no other!

December 2, 2016 at 1:42 am (By Ron) ()

austerlitz-2016

 

The cosmic whimsy of the universe has made you L’empereur of your fate.  There is no way around it for any of us, as much as we would not wish it to be so.

And to be sure, Life is indeed the longest, hardest campaign even for those of us given gifts from the gods.  How many times resources are strained at best and non-existent at most typical!  How many grueling holding actions, forced retreats, barely avoided routs and even worse debacles are closer to you than kith and kin!  Those of you somberly nodding your heads as you read this know whence I speak.

But Today, that most glorious of days, Austerlitz Day, allows for no such gloom!

Your careful preparations, your adroit maneuver, and, above all, your indomitable will have brought you here, sublimely ready to reap the harvest of past circumspections.

The artillery of your passion and courage shall smash the weak fixed formations of melancholy arrayed before you! The infantry of a wise and calm heart shall seize and retain the high ground of what is most precious to you, and the cavalry of your energetic joy shall overtake and capture all past doubts and misfortunes for you to ransom as you deem fit!

That day….is today.  That day is your….Austerlitz Day.

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Turkey. Fish.

November 24, 2016 at 11:33 pm (By Ron) ()

I’m alone.  There’s no family, friends, money, food (unlike what the title implies, no turkey either).

I’ve come to accept this around the holidays;  that’s the way it’s been for a long time for me.

But things are better than they were at this time last year; long time readers of this blog are aware of that.  Last year at this point, I had just left a terrible situation was about to spend the winter on a sofa with rabbits lurking about.  Better than freezing to death!  And now, today, I’m in front of my fireplace with a cup of tea!

I just had a sort of strategic setback, but my health is slowly improving with the help of PT.  Just last week, the last batch of my CDs have returned; now I need to arrange to get their wooden storage cases back.

I know I haven’t posted here enough lately and I’ll try to fix that going forward.

 

Ron

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