Tag Archives: Pregnancy

Book Review: Push by Sapphire

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Rating: A-/  There is occasionally something cathartic about reading books that are real downers, if they are well done. A truly bleak book does something that a funny or light book can’t, which is to put the shittiness of the reader’s life into perspective. If nothing else, Push by Sapphire, an excellent book that was also made into an excellent movie called Precious, will make you want to hug your mom and buy her flowers. Whatever issues you might have had with her at the moment, by the end of this book you’ll probably be buying her free passes to the spa so she can treat herself. Continue reading Book Review: Push by Sapphire

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Movie Review: Locke (2013)

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Rating: B/ Tom Hardy, in a car. Driving. For an hour and a half. Who knew such a movie would be watchable, let alone oddly compelling? Construction foreman Ivan Locke (Hardy) is in a bit of a bind. The woman he recently had an affair with (whose voice on Locke’s speaker phone is provided by Olivia Colman) is carrying his baby and has just gone into premature labor, triggering some complications with the birth. So Ivan, feeling responsible (and rightfully so) for the woman’s situation, drops his important construction job the next morning and the opportunity to watch a big football game with his two adolescent sons (voiced by Tom Holland and Bill Milner) to be with her for the event. Ivan’s lover’s needy and vulnerable, his wife (voiced by Ruth Wilson) wants to hang his philandering balls out to dry, and the job site’s a mess without him. Determined to do the right thing for once, Ivan juggles his responsibilities via phone calls as he makes his way to witness the birth of his illegitimate child. Continue reading Movie Review: Locke (2013)

The Magdalene Sisters (2002)

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Never wanted to kick a nun in the face? Think again.

Now I am sure there are many decent, loving, and compassionate nuns in the Catholic Church who live by Christ’s example, but they’re nowhere to be found in actor/director Peter Mullan’s unrelentingly bleak drama, The Magdalene Sisters. Three young Irish women are sent to a brutal convent where they are subject to myriad humiliations and made to work night and day in the laundries for no pay.

These are the heroines’ crimes. Margaret (Anne-Marie Duff) got raped. Rose (Dorothy Duffy) got pregnant. Bernadette (Nora-Jane Noone) flirted with some boys over the fence of the orphanage where she has been placed indefinitely. For these ‘crimes’ the trio are considered fallen women, but you’d think fallen women would at least get to have more fun then these girls do. Degraded, bullied, and beaten into submission, the womens’ ultimate crime was being born in the wrong time, at the wrong place, to the wrong people.

That’s right. Heartbreakingly, the girls at the convents’ have been shamed by their families and pretty much given off to a life of virtual slavery. When one girl, Una (Mary Murray,) makes a successful escape attempt from the convent, her dad (writer/director Mullan) drags her back, beating her hysterically all the while, and shrieks “You’ve got no home. You got no mother. You got no father. You killed us, you slut. you killed us both.” Remember in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest when Billy Bibbit, played by Brad Dourif, kills himself because he is so shamed by the idea of his mama finding out he ain’t a virgin no more? This is that reality.

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I think this is why Kevin (Sean McDonagh,) Margaret’s first cousin and rapist, just stands impassively as Margaret tells her family what he did to her. This is the really disgusting thing. He knows he can get away with it. He knows that among many people in his society (1963 Catholic Ireland) that the men aren’t considered culpable for anything they do. While boys are casually told to keep it in their pants, women suffer the real brunt of it. And that’s not the most reprehensible thing on display in this movie.

 The Magdalene Sisters would seem totally out there if it weren’t reportedly based on a true story. How accurately based, I don’t know, and it’s easy to see why the Catholic church went nuts when this came out. What’s really interesting, though, is not the claimed attack on Christianity (which is a dime a dozen in movies and TV) but the performances (outstanding across the board) and the dynamics between the characters. Sister Bridget (Geraldine McEwan) is one of the most bone-chillingly evil villainesses in film history.

And there’s nothing worse than an evil person thoroughly convinced by their own moral superiority, who believes without a shadow of a doubt that they are going straight to heaven. Mostly Sister Bridget is someone you just want to punch, self-satisfied and heartless, who gets through her day with the loose-fitting mask of a urgently pedantic aunt or grandmother who knows what’s best for you, damn it. Occasionally (more often than occasionally) the mask slips and you see the complete hypocritical soullessness underneath.

Remove this as well and what do you get? Probably a woman who really hates herself. Because she is a woman and women, by definition, must be cleansed. She’s probably got a sad story beneath all the wickedness and bile (the movie at several instances, through the characters of Katy (Britta Smith) and Una, shows us that victimization is a cycle, only broken when someone has the strength to throw the towel in and choose not to hurt people,) but I’ll be damned if I know what it is.

It reminds me of what someone (don’t remember who,) once said, “Any true villain is a hero in their own eyes.” I have no idea how Sister Bridget and the other nuns could think they’re living in the example of Christ, but hey, you can convince yourself of anything if you believe it hard enough, Don’t make it so, I’m afraid.

If this movie has an overreaching flaw, it is that it sometimes seems a bit heavy-handed in it’s themes. But the drama will keep you glued to your seat and, as agonizing it is, you must watch to the end, just to see if the protagonists escape their circumstances. Ultimately, the free-spirited Bernadette is the most complex character, and her final act of defiance (simple and seemingly insignificant as it was) will give you goose pimples.

   The Magdalene Sisters will make you wonder what it would be like to have these girls’ strength, their resilience. And it will make you thankful you never had to come against these circumstances. Give me my comfortable life and my cowardice over their personal hell anytime, thanks. But still it will force you to think what you’d be made of under these conditions. And glad you’ll probably never have to know.

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Electricity by Ray Robinson

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Lily O’Connor’s neurology is a wild, untamed beast that knocks her on her face time and again. Afflicted with epilepsy, Lily knows the condition is more than the general public believes it be, and she determined to live as normal a life with the condition as possible. Saddled with a rough (and I mean rough) family (her mother is entirely to blame in causing the injury that led to her disorder, in an act too ghastly to mention,) Lily has learned to hide the hurt away, armed with a misanthropic wit. But the death of her beastly mother, grouped with the arrival of her gambler brother and the mystery of another sibling’s disappearance, shakes up Lily’s life in ways she never could have imagined and sends her on a quest for reconciliation on the dirty, chaotic streets of London.

So, apparently this is a movie now. It’s hard to picture how a film adaptation would work, to be honest. Electricity is a otherworldly experience, an journey through the senses shedding light on a condition no one would wish on themselves or their loved ones. How will a movie give us such an unyielding look into this woman’s mind? How will a movie explain how the seizures feel? But the miracle of this novel is that Lily O’Connor is so much more than her disability.

She’s tough, complicated, seriously flawed but fundamentally decent. The strength of Lily’s character ensures that Electricity will not a textbook slog through issues of disability and dignity. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever read so much onomatopoeia in one book. The book has an interesting feminine perspective on sexuality, as well as a heartbreaking take on sexual abuse (what if I didn’t fight back! What if I liked it?)

Lily believed she was in love with her mother’s boyfriend when she was about nine years old, and appreciated the attention in a time when she was all too often ignored and overlooked. But does that make it any better? Of course not. Sexual misconduct with a preteen is abuse whether or not the child thinks they enjoy it or not. In a way, Lily has to move past her own feelings and perceptions about the event just as much as she has to move past the abuse itself.

Lily is often a hard character to like. But you can’t hate her. You just can’t. She’s too vulnerable and damaged and real for that. However, the circumstances of her upbringing seemed a little too dire at times. That coupled with her truly horrific experience with men (only her wig-donning mentor, Al, emerges unscathed) makes Electricity a sometimes disturbing read. Lily is an often sexually ambiguous character; she reports to enjoy sex with men (although she can’t climax,) while her less-than-sisterly affections for her lesbian buddy Mel makes the reader wonder what side of the fence she’s really on.

The only parts of the book I felt were lacking were the sex scenes between Lily and her boyfriend, Dave. Here we are subjected to analogies such as “He licked my breasts like lollipops” that fall short on insight into a woman’s experience of sex. They were a little corny, to be frank. They didn’t quite fit in the otherwise smooth, flawless jigsaw puzzle that was this novel. Mostly, what stands out in Electricity was the close inside view of a misunderstood condition and Lily’s unique, dialect- and profanity-salted voice. Lyrical yet not tweedy, Electricity is a engrossing read.

Children of Men (2006)

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In these visions of the future, do things ever go even slightly well? Okay, okay, I’ll grant you “Star Trek,” with it’s intergalactic exploits and shows of compassion and friendship between James T. Kirk and the impeccably logical Vulcan Spock. “Star Wars” maybe, But for the most part, for every good thing that happens in a science fiction film, a hundred shitty things happen almost simultaneously.

Take the government for example. The government in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men” is shady at best, completely, reprehensibly corrupt at worst. They even offer suicide kits for disillusioned citizens with which to off themselves in a pinch. “Ah, but at least there IS a government,” you say? Well in this society, even total anarchy seems preferable to this Hell on earth. Never has a post-apocalyptic future looked so bleak.

In “Children of Men”‘s world, women have become infertile, causing mankind to lose faith in our survival. Politically apathetic citizen Theo (Clive Owen) is begrudgingly hired by his ex-girlfriend Julian (Julianne Moore) to smuggle the teenaged Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey,) the first pregnant woman in eighteen years, out of the ransacked Britain to a program that supposedly can help her.

Julian is a member of an underground group known as the Fish, which rebels against the government, often through acts of urban terrorism. She and Theo have a big-time history, having had and lost a child together. As Theo and Kee make a desperate bid for survival, everyone wants what Kee’s got for their own twisted agenda- including some of the Fish, who think ownership of the child will help their political cause.

“Children of Men” seems hyper realistic despite it’s mostly unreal premise, which nonetheless bears resemblance to many aspects of societal discord, including the Fish as kind of a post-apocalyptic IRA. The actors give excellent performances, including virtual unknown Ashity as Kee and Michael Caine as an amiable pothead who’s long since retreated to live apart from society’s electric eye.

I like the fact that Kee is promiscuous and not at all attempt to capture the sanctity of a Virgin Mary-type character. The girl’s got a mouth on her, and, you know, I kind of like that. However, she and Theo form a (strictly platonic) bond as they evade the corruption of futuristic Britain. There’s also a Holocaust-type vibe to the story as Illegal immigrants are caged and brutalized for the sake of the country’s ‘purity.’

I was initially not sure if I would like this movie, since it was not on my immediate radar, but “Children of Men” proved to be timeless science fiction, up to par with “Blade Runner” (I personally think “2001” is about as riveting as watching paint dry, to use a film-critique stereotype, so you won’t get my support on exulting that one.) I actually found myself tearing up at one point, which I only do occasionally, because “Children of Men” has what many apocalyptic fests lack- a heart. This is one of the few science fiction movies I would even readily describe as ‘beautiful.’

Violent but strangely sad and tender, “Children of Men”knocks it out of the ballpark and is most not just another stuff-goes-wrong-in-the-future motion picture. People with short attention spans might be disappointed, but those who approach the experience of watching a movie as akin to reading a book will instinctively know what I know- that patience, and thoughtfulness, holds its own rewards.

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Jug Face (2013)

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Yet further evidence that no good can come of incest, low budget fright flick “Jug Face” tells the story of Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter,) a teenager bound by the laws of a backwoods cult who gets impregnated before she is to be wed off to a local boy- by her brother (Daniel Manche,) no less, a ruffian of a kid with no compassion for his naive sis. Tradition requires that Ada, having broken the rules of her people, must be sacrificed to a monstrous pit occupied by a supernatural entity not far from her village.

Enter Dawai (Sean Bridgers,) resident town fool and prophet. Dawai’s a little on the simple side, but the powers of the pit work through him as he sculpts ‘jug-faces’ in the likeness of the pit’s next intended victim. After her misstep with her brother, Ada’s next on the list, but she hides her jug-face with the intent of saving her own life, tipping the balance and unleashing hell on the locals.

Firstly, the bad- convoluted plot points, cheeseball dream sequences, and awkward, formally conveyed dialogue by people who look far too polished and pretty to be playing backwoods hicks. The good- decent acting all around, good character development for this kind of movie, and a genuinely original premise. Bonus points for the development of Ada and Dawai’s friendship, as she tries to smuggle him of of a town that offers nothing but dead ends and shadowy menaces.

I was not completely convinced that Dawai was developmentally disabled- it seemed to me he could score mild to moderate on the Asperger’s scale, but Sean Bridgers gave a sensitive performance. Lauren Ashley Carter portrayed Ada with a wide-eyed innocence that comes with being a perpetual victim in a strange world. Most of the other characters range from ignorant hicks out for blood to sadistic abusers with persecution on their minds.

I loved, loved. LOVED the creepy montage at the beginning. The rest of the movie is a steady mix of highs and lows, a perfect candidate for a 3/5 rating. Alternately engrossing and contrived, “Jug Face” is a movie that will most likely be really enjoyed if the viewer considers it’s low budget roots and the filmmaker’s beginning baby steps toward horror greatness.

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Waitress (2007)

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Despite occasional glib and sitcomish moments, “Waitress” is mostly a detectible treat and a very entertaining feel-good comedy-drama. Impregnated by her useless husband Earl (Jeremy Sisto,) strong-minded Jenna (Keri Russell,) who has a gift for making pies, despairs at the presumed damper having a baby will have on her life. With the help of her girlfriends (Cheryl Hines and writer/director Adrienne Shelly, who was senselessly murdered shortly after the film was made,) the local diner’s grumpiest patron Old Joe (Andy Griffith,) and her handsome new doctor Jim Pomatter (Nathan Fillion,) with whom she begins a feverish affair, Jenna summons up the strength to break free of her oafish and increasingly abusive husband.

Jenna is immature, and that shows throughout, but it’s hard not to like her as she struggles with the troglodyte nightmare that is her husband. The entire cast makes the movie a treat worth savoring, but Jeremy Sisto is the stand-out as the possessive husband. Earl is both a total asshole and pathetically needy, and the conflict is established quickly- Jenna needs to earn money to enter and win a pie-making contest, getting away from Earl for good. Earl just wants his woman at home to bed him and make him steak.

The side characters are a little too ‘small-town Southern eccentric,’ but still very funny and entertaining. Old Joe is mean (more like obstinate,) but he’s not THAT mean, and he imparts one final surprise upon Jenna. Ogie (Eddie Jemison) the ‘stalking elf’ romances Jenna’s coworker Dawn (Shelly) with a vengeance, coming up with impromptu poetry and not taking no for an answer. He might would be creepy if we weren’t laughing so hard at his fervor. All the characters are human, if not always respectful or kind, and although adultery (one of the films’ main plotlines) is wrong, “Waitress” handles the subject gently rather than proselytizes.

I would have liked to get more background on gal pal Becky (Cheryl Hines)’s unfaithful and downright mean treatment towards he brain-damaged husband, which seems sometimes disturbingly downplayed. I’m not a big pie person, but I would jump for one of Jenna’s scrumptious creations, which are featured in fantasy scenes where Jenna plans her confections in her head. One ‘I hate my husband pie,’ coming up.

“Waitress” is a ‘chick flick,’ but one that boyfriends and husbands shouldn’t mind being dragged to this particular flick. It’s sweet, heartwarming, and often very funny, as Jenna comes to terms with her pregnancy and the symptoms and mood swings that come with it, as well as the big what ifs- will she make a good mother? Will this little boy or girl thank her someday for being brought into a world that seems less and less like a fairy tale? Gently moving entertainment.

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