“The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is;”

-Marcel Proust
La Prisonnière

I am beginning my first day in America at a Ramada Suites outside of Atlanta, GA, where after last-minute flight cancellations I slept, looked at jobs, and re-watched episodes of Hannibal, season 1.  All of these things I do absent-minded.

With Peace Corps I have seen so many fascinating places, tasted wonderful foods and elixirs, met great people and all of these things have doubtlessly impacted and changed me in ways that I haven’t begun yet to understand.  When I left, I promised people I would make the most of this time, and while there are things still left undone, on the whole I succeeded.

I am neither happy or sad that it is over, though I will doubtless begin missing people and of course the food (most flavorful fruits and vegetables imaginable). I feel simply content and ready.

In this last hour of putzing in my hotel room before setting out yet again, I am thankful for the experiences and the people who got me this far and for those ahead. I am curious to see in what ways America and everyone has and continues to change and if and how we continue to change together. I am eager to shape my new life and the new image of myself. Whatever that may become, it will be my design.

Shumë falëminderit të gjithë.

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Norman was born in a bucket in the spring of 2013.  After a troubled youth (see Cat II) we found a comfortable co-existence.  I was never a cat person, not really. I’m a Norman person.

The powers that be were against us and in the immediate future he won’t be joining me in the USA.  I’ve made arrangements and he’ll be well taken care of, but of course I worry.  I’ll figure something out.  Norman, you’re a bad-ass.

 

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On Wednesday, May 28, 2014, at the Skampa Theater in Elbasan, Albania, the second class of high school youth graduated from the Elbasan Youth Council and received certificates of accomplishment for their work throughout the year and contributions to the city of Elbasan.
Created in 2012, the Elbasan Youth Council (EYC)  is a partnership between Peace Corps volunteers and the Muncipality of Elbasan established to provide high school students from fourteen local high schools (including private, public, and vocational) a unique leadership development opportunity.

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This year 26 EYC members finished the 7 month program of weekly sessions focusing on topics that connect to municipality operations affecting youth, such as Environment, Social Services, Culture, Transportation, Health and Fitness and Recreational programs.  Session designs varied from group exercises, discussion forums and guest speakers.

In addition to the weekly sessions, participants of the Elbasan Youth Council also developed, planned and implemented projects that bring positive changes to the community. Along the way they develop important life skills such as leadership, public speaking, time management, fundraising, teamwork, creative thinking, flexibility and patience.

This year EYC developed 4 community projects including:

  • 2nd Annual art competition for high school youth, to increase awareness of cultural arts in the city and among youth.  Youth raised just over $1,000 to for awards and related costs and got the in-kind support of a local hotel restaurant to provide for a small award ceremony.
  • Anti-Drug and Violence presentations conducted in area high schools increasing education about the negative effects of drugs and violence and reaching nearly 250 high school students each.   Informational brochures were shared in all the schools and the Anti-Drug group is in discussion with a local television station to have their video aired.
  • Public Spaces groups organized the first Elbasan summer film festival, and got the in-kind support of the city and local business to use the cities big screen.  Movies will air in the evenings this June.

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The success of the program has received national attention as other cities are taking lessons learned from the EYC and applying them to their own youth programs or attempt to replicate it.

A graduate this year said that, being part of the Elbasan Youth Council, was the best experience of his life.  The youth are held to high expectations and they quickly realize all the many things they are capable of.  They graduate from the program having tested themselves in different ways forging along the way with new skills and friendships.

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…Why can’t we give love that one more chance
Why can’t we give love give love give love give love
Give love give love give love give love give love

Because love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the (People on streets) edge of the night
And loves (People on streets) dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves”

– from “Under Pressure” by David Bowie and Freddie Mercury

press release for the With Respect project.

In terms of the legal rights of persons identifying LGBT; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans* (transgender, transsexual, transvestite, etc), Albania has come a very long way in a short amount of time.  Since homosexuality was decriminalized in 1995, the criminal code was amended to include hate crimes against sexual orientation and gender identity, and a bill is being drafted to introduce same-sex marriage.  Despite the sweeping reforms, public opinion is still very negative towards the LGBT community.

In the fall of 2013, Peace Corps volunteer, Luis Vivaldi, working with representatives from Aleanca Kundër Diskriminimit LGBT (Alliance Against LGBT Discrimination), began work to raise awareness about the LGBT community, dispel myths and stereotypes and challenge prejudice. Funded through a USAID Small Projects Assistance grant, the message of the With Respect project traveled to 12 cities throughout Albania: Shkodër, Korçë, Gjirokastër, Kukës, Lezhë, Kuçovë, Çorovodë, Rubik, Vlorë, Fier, Prrenjas and Elbasan.

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250 youth were introduced to concepts of identity, stereotyping, prejudice and bullying, and LGBT bullying.  They shared stereotypes of the LGBT community, and with the facilitation of Aleanca leaders, Xheni Karaj, Sidita Zaja and Elvis Hoxha, participants got to talk openly about the issues and challenges faced by the LGBT community and leave with the message that all people deserve respect.

After the presentation kids who maybe had never met a gay or lesbian person wanted to have their pictures taken with the speakers, and many have signed up for the organization’s facebook page and have personally messaged the speakers.  After the conversation in Çorovodë, one student told her local PCV, “this morning when I woke up I realized that everyone is free to love who they want, and I like this, I did not think that yesterday, and now I do.” A student from Fier said to her volunteer, “I think I am a bully. I want to go apologize.”

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The work of Albanian Peace Corps volunteers has been the work of many people and on May 17, International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Peace Corps Albania and Peace Corps volunteers were among those awarded “Ally of the Year” for 2013.  Accepting on behalf of Peace Corps, Luis Vivaldi said, “I accept this on behalf of the Peace Corps and the work of volunteers past, current and future. I see this award not only as a mark of the work we have done for the LGBT community with our partners, …but also as a mark of the work to come.  Thank you very much.”

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Better and more entertaining things will be written in the future.  Just had to get this out to end the writer’s block.

Surprised by Evening
by Robert Bly

There is unknown dust that is near us 
Waves breaking on shores just over the hill 
Trees full of birds that we have never seen 
Nets drawn with dark fish.

The evening arrives; we look up and it is there 
It has come through the nets of the stars 
Through the tissues of the grass 
Walking quietly over the asylums of the waters.

The day shall never end we think:
We have hair that seemed born for the daylight;
But at last the quiet waters of the night will rise 
And our skin shall see far off as it does under water.

Elbasan Youth Council

 On Tuesday, March 25, the youth council presented their project ideas to the Elbasan Municipal Council.  Unfortunately I was too busy herding the council to take picture, and Prime Minister Edi Rama was in town, so news coverage had other (misguided?) priorities.  Happy to share that all the project ideas were unanimously approved.

Through our efforts, we have raised $450 USD to support the projects (special thanks to all the individual donors – more for you later) and the Art & Culture group has raised $700 for their Art competition which will take place on May 24th.

The Equity group presented to 8 schools and nearly 200 high school students on Violence and Bullying and the Anti-Drug group is wrapping edits on a PSA which they will play for classrooms and have secured a slot on a local television station to air, though the exact date hasn’t been confirmed. The Public Spaces group has gotten in-kind donation for the use of the public screen in the towns center, but dates for “film in the square” haven’t been confirmed.

A lot of the kids are in their last year of high school and “matura” exams are (hugely important) taking up a lot of their time.  Still I’m trying to walk that fine line of pressuring them to stick with their projects and put in the time and effort to pull them off well.


Rainbow Cities

A colleague and friend with Pink Embassy secured a grant to create six “Rainbow Cities” in Elbasan, Korce, Durres, Shkoder, Tirane and Vlore.  Based on a similar project done in the Netherlands and now other countries, it will take place in three phases over the next two years and seeks to increase local institutional capacity to meet the needs of LGBT citizens and raise local awareness and education about the rights of LGBT  citizens. See the initial report HERE.


Group 17

They are one day from swearing-in as full-fledged volunteers and going off to their sites.  Two new volunteers will come to Elbasan, and I hope to leave them as much information and material to ease the transition.  I will not lie, I have my own designs on what I would like to see happen and would hope that the Elbasan Youth Council and other projects will be a part of that, but each volunteers makes their own experience.  Good luck to all the players.


Transitioning

Group 15 members have already started leaving.  Last month I was feeling incredibly anxious about all the changes happening because I didn’t have a plan. I’m a planner. It manifested in a malaise about work, about writing this blog, about keeping up with things, about where I will live and do and whether Norman will be a part of any of it…and then I bought my plane ticket and all the pressure was finally off.

Now I am in a general state of contentment.  It’s coming to an end as it would and should and I feel ready for the next thing.

 

I am behind on this since obviously we are in May. I was a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of wrapping up two years of life in Albania and start thinking about the future.  The movies have kept me grounded.  I forget the name of the professor, but in a coursera class he described how through fiction we live out other possible lives and scenarios, testing ourselves and possibilities from a safe distance.  In this review I’ve enjoyed being a smuggler, conflicted, a sperm donor restauranteur, a drag queen undercover cop and a hundreds year old vampire polymath.

Smokey and the Bandit

I saw this because Jen insisted. Jason liked it for the car stunts, and it’s enjoyable if you don’t think about how very little there is to an absurd plot.

C.O.G.

Based on the life and essays of David Sedaris, Jonathan Groff shines as a young intelligent and well-educated man, who goes out into the world and finds he knows very little about it.  A journey of self-discovery, it feel like a collection of Sedaris work rather than a single story line, with multiple situations rolling from one to another and levels of characters revealing themselves to show that people are not black and white.

The Kids are All Right

This movie is not all right.

Tacones Lejanos

This film is true Almodovar fashion, a high melodrama concerned with transformation of character and the relationship between parents and their children. Rebeca goes to pick up her actress/singer mother Becky del Páramo from whom she has been estranged, after the latter, freed conveniently by the death of an overbearing husband (supplied by her daughter), returns to Spain after 20 years abroad.  Like most Almodovar films the plots are convoluted, as are the relationships between characters.  Love is a messy business, and sometimes deadly we find, when Rebeca (who works as a news anchor), confesses on live television to murdering her husband (a former lover of her mother).

[THERE BE SPOILERS]

Recriminations and blame run rampant, but what intrigued me most about this film is the Oedipal/Elektra nature of it.  Rebeca is so in love with her mother that she kills her father (or at least, the father figure) to be closer. Of course this doesn’t work, and early on when mother daughter are reunited, Rebeca admits to both loving and hating her daughter.  The nature of her complex also is found in her attachment to a drag performer “Femme Letal” (Miguel Bosé) who mimics the early work of del Páramo, who transforms in the film from mother substitute to lover, and fathers a child with Rebeca.

Guilt, love, and absolution are sought by the two lead characters, who both yearn to return to the home. Becky comes back to her childhood home, and in her final act, releases her daughter to transform herself into a mother and create a new home and life.

Only Loves Left Alive

Esther Perel discusses the human need for security and surprise in relationship.

I think her discussion sets up my thoughts on Only Lovers Left Alive quote nicely.  She says in her conversation with Guy Raz, that love is an all encompassing experience, leaving no part of ourselves untouched, but when couples enter relationship, at least in Western society, there is a tendency to conflate “partnership” and “friendship”, “stability” and “adventure”. We ask too much of the other and drive them away.

In her talk, she gives insight into how this paradox of love can be managed, and there is no better example I can think of, for a couple that has maintained love and desire, than Adam and Eve, the long-time lovers and protagonist of the film.  Their names are evocative of the first couple and this lends to their tale of two people who individually are wonderfully complete characters with passions, and interests, beauty and wisdom that is each their own, living on opposite ends of the world when the film begins, yet even when apart and they complete each other. During an early scene, while in the throes of blood ecstasy, a spinning record fades to an overhead spinning shot of Adam and then of Eve. Like yin and yang (also depicted by Adam’s full black dress to Eve’s pure white).

These two persevere throughout time, maintaing beautiful ritual until interrupted by the chaotic entrance of Eve’s sister Eva, whose actions toss their world into a tizzy.  The main crux of the film rests on restoring the balance to their relationship and world, and the audience wonders will they survive and endure.  In the final scenes I think there is hope they will.

8 Minutes Idle

It’s cute, quirky and British, but there’s not much else going for this odd little rom-com.  Dan (Tom Hughes) is kicked out of his house by his mother, played by a splendid Pippa Haywood who you need to see in Green Wings and in this little clip. Home and work life fuse when Dan secretly moves into the office storeroom with his cat.  His interactions with office mates unfold in a series of subplots: a tyrant boss who essentially rapes him, a dj co-worker who is seemingly the only one to genuinely care for and help him, a shy goof who can’t talk to girls but knows how to dance, and of course the pixie love interest, Teri.  None can escape the doldrums of this office interplay of relationships and sex, until an outside force changes everything, and the concerns and established hierarchies of the job are rendered moot and so is any chance of Dan becoming a character her drives his own change rather than just being a likable character and nice guy who is pushed around.  We can now focus on the relationship – which cute as it is, doesn’t carry the film.

 

Simon Amstell: Numb

I psychoanalyze vicariously through Simon Amstell. His style of story telling and self-reflection is painfully (hilariously) honest, admitting things to himself (and an audience) that others out of embarrassment and shame would hide away. He says what we think and that adds value.

This clip from his life and mine:

Watch Simon Amstell Numb Online Free Putlocker.

I Am Number Four

This movie is bad and the creators should feel bad.

Maniac

This remake avoids the gross obvious creepiness of the original 1988 main character, by casting Elijah Wood as Frank and he is exceptional.  Wood physically comes off as demure, soft-spoken and seemingly passive, but does perfectly in building up the unseen tension until he explodes in his moments of rage.  Done entirely from the point of view of Frank, we only see glimpses of him mostly through reflections, except for in his imagination when he pictures the ideal life and romance with Anna, a beautiful French photographer.  In those scenes the camera pans around and we see both characters undistorted, together, and picture perfect.  Frank, however is terribly broken by a traumatic past which manifests in migraines and visions that torment him and drive his mania. His brutality is unique and merciless, but at the same time the viewer (at least me) comes to care for this tortured artist character, even when he’s putting a butcher knife through someone’s face, or scalping his latest victim and mother figure stand-in.  In part because he does it out of love.  That kind of love proves deadly.

One scene I particularly enjoyed takes place in a cinema where we get a glimpse of the film, a b&w silent film, where a man is waking and preparing to kill a young woman. This mise-en-abîme mirrors beautifully Frank, and foreshadows what is to come between he and Anna.  Seconds after the glimpse, he feels the onset of another attack and the screen blurs and vibrates as his head throbs in pain. Exquisite.

Carnage
“I am glad our son kicked the shit out of your son
and I wipe my ass with your human rights!”
Nancy Cowan, Carnage

Years ago on one of my first trips to New York City, my friend Maureen and I saw the theatrical version of this film, written by Yazmin Reza and titled, God of Carnage, with Jeff Daniels and Hope Davis playing Alan and Nancy Cowan, and Marcia Gay Harden and James Gandolfini playing Penelope and Michael Longstreet. It’s difficult not to make the comparisons, and I think what made the original theatrical version for me was the script and the actor’s ability to really cut loose in that claustrophobic New York apartment.
Over the course of an afternoon two couples meet to discuss an incident between their two sons, but the veneer of politeness begins to crack and chip away.  There are great moments that expose these characters for who they are, in particular one scene towards the end when Alan (played by Cristoph Waltz) who I think understands best the social breakdown, says, “Yes Doodle, we do care, in a hysterical way, not like heroic figures in a social movement.” At once exposing the hypocrisy of politeness, yuppie causes, white girls in Africa, and freaking out because boys were being boys.

While it gets the point across, the film missed the explosive energy and decent into madness and absolute nihilism  of the theatrical version I saw, and ends less with a bang and more with a whimper.

Filth

Another film with great promise but that doesn’t deliver 100% is Filth, based on the Irvine Welsh novel and starring a fantastic cast led by James McAvoy (who you should watch in Trance).  While I liked the movie for its style, grit and humor, there are plot gaps that are important to the overall story and helping us understand crazed Detective Bruce Robertson’s motivations.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS.

Robertson has these occasional visions of a boy, covered in soot and obviously dead.  Towards the end we discover that this was his younger and higher achieving brother for whose death Robertson feels responsible despite screams and protestations at an imaginary psychiatrist that it was an accident.

We assume this guilt has messed him up, but is it the sole thing that has been responsible for his fall into chaos?  We also get that his wife and daughter have left him, but when was this? What was the cause? Admittedly he doesn’t know, saying,
“I think they’ve left me. I think my family have left me. I don’t know how. I can’t remember why. You see, there’s something wrong with me. There is something seriously wrong with me.” but what is it?!

All that being said, there are some great performances by Shirley Henderson, Eddie Marsan (who’s really been coming up in the world since Happy-Go-Lucky) and others, as well as a fantastic car scene sing-along to Silver Lady. The lyrics for which say a lot,

“Tired of drifting, searching, shifting through town to town
Every time I slip and slide a little further down
I can’t blame you if you won’t take me back
After everything I put you through
But honey you’re my last hope
And who else can I turn to

Come on Silver Lady take my word
I won’t run out on you again believe me”

Reconsideration
Thinking a bit more, there are scenes that take on a film noirish style where we hear short monologues by his wife Carole, regarding their marriage. Perhaps these scenes (which we later find out are him in drag, acting out his wife to feel close to her), reflect not only his interpretation of her perspective of their relationship, but a deluded version of it that fits perfectly in his world and desires, but obviously did not match up with hers.

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom

More than once while we watched this movie, Jen asked “Why was this made?” Disturbed acts of sadism, based on the novel 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade takes place in fascist Italy and meant to resemble Dante’s Inferno, but reminded me also of Boccacio’s Decameron, with each day devoted to storytelling with a particular thematic (and usually sexual) nature.
All I know of the meaning and metaphor behind this film I had to glean from Wikipedia, and while the images are terrible and cruel I think it was made to depict the baseness of the fascist ideology and life under the regime.
I’m glad I was finally able to watch it and highly recommend for cinephiles. It certainly merits a viewing and further study.

Watch a REALLY toned down trailer HERE.

Just to be clear I hate the musical Rent, but the subtle reference seems appropriate because that’s how I’m starting to see the remainder of my time.  Starting March 12, I have exactly 100 days until my Closure of Service (COS) and I am cut loose from Albania.  The countdown never stops.

Model United Nations
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking.
It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
-Albert Einstein

Last month 121 students participated in the 5th Albania Model United Nations.  This event was the culmination of 6 months of hard work in which students conducted research, held mock debates, and worked in teams to practice writing resolutions and position papers.  They debated issues on nuclear disarmament and development, human rights of migrants and the crisis in Syria, passing over 20 resolutions.

One of the highlights this year was, for the first time in the model’s history, we held the opening session in the Albanian Parliament.  Students from 14 cities across Albania, many of whom have never travelled outside of their city, got to sit in the legislative house of their country, in the seats of their political leaders.  When each stood up in turn to deliver their opening remarks, the pride they felt was palpable.

Parliament Shot

Norman
Molly Grue: Why won’t you help me? Why must you always speak in riddles
The Cat: Because I be, what I be. I would tell you what you want to know if I could, mum, but I be a cat. And no cat anywhere, ever gave anyone a straight answer.
The Last Unicorn (1982)

I just saw Norman’s mom skulking outside.  

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Last Saturday, I took Norman to be castrated. Overnight he had become a man, and that meant pissing everywhere and attracting all kinds of unwanted attention from neighborhood cats.  I had to lock him in the house for a week, a quarantine which ended on a beautiful day, perfect for airing out the smell of cat.  It has been stressful week for both of us what with the large number of guests I’ve had recently for Diten e Veresthe twice daily wrestling match to shove antibiotics down his throat, and the daily poop and piss clean up (why won’t you just use the litter box you ass?!).
We’ve had to reevaluate our ever evolving relationship.

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Closure of Service

Please don’t ask me what I’m doing.

Continuing to keep tabs on the films I watch (so much downtime in Peace Corps) and share my thoughts for those interested.

Philomena

Beautifully adapted by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena, is based on the true story of Philomena Lee, an elderly Irish woman who with the help of Martin Sixsmith, a journalist and recently fired government press advisor, tracks down the son taken from her.  That summary doesn’t do it justice – check out the trailer.

The two characters come very different places and social classes, yet so many times despite her seeming small town ignorance, Philomena shows herself to be more worldly than Martin would expect.  Despite his growing respect for her, however, Martin continues to return to her religion, disturbed by what he feels is blind adherence to an organization that has abused her trust.  There’s one particular scene that I enjoyed where Philomena asks Martin to take her to a church so she can confess.  He pokes at her and her religion saying “It’s the Catholic church that should go to confession, not you…”

Philomena – “I just hope God isn’t listening to you.”
Martin – “Well I don’t believe in God. Look. No thunderbolt.”
P – “What are you trying to prove?”
M – “Nothing. That you don’t need religion to live a happy and balanced life.
P – “You’re happy and balanced are you?”
M – “I’m a journalist, Philomena. We ask questions. We don’t believe something because we’re told it’s the truth. What does the Bible say, ‘Happy are those who do not see and believe’ Hooray for blind faith and ignorance.”
P – “And what do you believe in? Picking holes in everyone else? Being a smart aleck?”

The film sparked some serious controversy, and while the Roman Catholic church in Ireland comes under scrutiny, it is not religion to which Philomena turns, but her faith. Faith gives her the strength to love, to live a life without judgement of others, and most importantly, to forgive.

Dallas Buyers Club

It was good, not great, and the ending fell flat.

In Their Skin

So, I’ve been really wanting to watch a good horror film where the antagonist either so completely owns the situation that the brutality is almost godlike (a la Funny Games) or has the rug pulled right out from under him and quickly find himself the hapless victim (a la You’re Next – so I’ve heard. I still haven’t seen it.).  In Their Skin, was neither and was as flat as its monochromatic color palette.

The film starts off well – a man panicked and running before headlights until he can go no further is brutally executed by a figure who emerges off camera.  We then cut to the brooding, affluent Hughes family heading to their vacation home in a secluded mountain area, after the tragic loss of their daughter.  Up to now it’s a classic set up, with Josh Close and Selma Blair as the estranged couple and parents to surviving child Brendon (the only one seemingly unaffected by the death). Close and Blair do a great job of creating characters who are still shell-shocked and on edge, and it’s best apparent when the strange Sakowskis (led by James D’Arcy) show up.  The Sakowskis are a family un-used to riches trying a little to hard to ingratiate themselves and it creates a wonderful creepiness with tensions on both sides, which peaks in a moment when Mark (Close) suddenly yanks Bobby (D’Arcy) off the steps with barely restrained violence.

From this I felt led to believe that there’s more to Hughes than we know and I’m titillated by the prospects which never actualize.  From here the film goes bland.  The Sakowskis get violent and take the Hughes hostage with standard horror film panache.  James D’Arcy I enjoyed in his role as a crazy person, but there are awkward situations, especially towards the end which felt out of character, or just lazy.  In the meantime the viewer is left with a “twist” that lacks real drama, and I’m left still wanting a good horror film.

W.E.

I struggle with Madonna’s much maligned movie.  There are fragments of the film that I enjoy, but overall feel it deserves the criticism for the vision it attempts and fails to attain.  The story shifts back and forth between Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) the famous American who had the indecency to love and be loved by the heir to the British crown, Edward VIII (James D’Arcy), and Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) a woman enthralled by the aforementioned celebrity romance who is struggling in the cage of her own disastrous fairytale.

Stylistically it is a beautiful film and D’Arcy and Riseborough are wonderful.  Polished and glossy, it visually jumps off the screen like a fashion magazine.  Sets, props and costumes are so well placed in their perfection that it is distracting.  And therein lies my main problem with W.E..  It is so perfectly smooth but at the same time fragmented and disjointed with many small elements jarringly pulling you out of the moment, taking away from the overall story.  For example Abel Korzeniowski’s score, stunning as it is, is far too reminiscent of his composition for A Single Man, with some sections feeling directly lifted.  Then during a party scene, which in itself felt unnecessary, guests go wild to the tune of the Sex Pistols’ “Pretty Vacant”, which would be interesting if the anachronism had served a purpose other than being “cool”.

The story is expansive, and Madonna and co-writer Alex Keshishian use the juxtaposition of the two relationships to bringing a new perspective to the Wallis and Edward,  focusing not just on the romance but the sacrifices that Simpson made.  This might have worked, if both women’s stories were equally interesting and dynamic, but the modern tale is banal. The Wallis and Edward story is rich enough without adding an unnecessary and distracting storyline

In fact, it may have been too rich and too big for Madonna’s sophomore foray into directing.

Excited about…

Zero Theorum

Return of Hannibal and Bates Motel

We came down the monument of Shumen, still giddy from the impression of standing in the artistic presence of Bulgaria’s past but we had to hurry. The city choked in fog and chill, and thriller movie-esque night was descending.  We went to our next destination, Veliko Tarnovo – the capital of the second Bulgarian Empire and the “city of tsars”.

We barely arrived in our hostel, having gotten lost in the winding streets of the ancient city, when the reception guy herded us back out to a main plaza.  In the fog and moonlight we could see across the Yantra River, high up on the Tsarevets hill the old imperial fortress and castle. Other international and national tourist and locals milled about when the lights of local businesses and the surrounding hills cut out.  Embalmed in darkness, silence and anticipation spread when the show began.

The next day, I explored on my own and visited the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Holy Ascension of God.  According to wiki, it was the seat of Bulgarian Orthodox church during the 11th and 13th centuries until it was destroyed in 1393 by conquering Ottoman Turks.  Reconstructed in the 1970’s and 80’s it features one of the most amazing frescoes I have ever seen.

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Winding Down
“Now… there are two kinds of movies: those
with an ending, and those that don’t have an ending.
This movie needs an ending.”
Enzo, CQ (2001)

That afternoon we found ourselves back on the misty mountain roads heading towards Sofia, the culmination of our trip where Joe and I would bring in the new year in a freezing square with hundreds of delighted strangers, clutching hot greyano vino (mulled wine) and counting down the final seconds of 2013.

For the past few months since my trip back to the US I was feeling a little lost.  I had thought about extending my Peace Corps service for a third year, but recent events had left me exhausted and weary and I was ready for a change but every option looked the same with the same flat gray of the misty landscape we had only recently escaped.

3 min and 28 seconds away.  Joe and I, exhausted of conversation are entertained to look at those around us who gather tighter in the final minutes. I remember advice from multiple sources and conversations I’ve had about finding your personal passions and making the most of them.  2 min 50 seconds.  I think  that at the end of the day the thing that really gets me excited is film and storytelling and that I am known among my friends as a walking film database. 1 min 13 seconds. I think this is crazy to suddenly change directions in my life to pursue something so different from anything I’ve trained for. 56 seconds. I think I need to not be afraid and to embrace love and a new beginning …because death is coming. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  It’s 2014. Joe and I congratulate each other on being alive as fireworks burst and circle dancing begins.  We start heading back to the hostel hours later, turned around by yet another new city and a few glasses of mulled wine.  It matters not.  I may not know where I’m going but at least I have a direction.