Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Lion, or: Goodbye, Feelings

This month’s theme (essentially “Hey, this film made me think of you”) has unintentionally been the ultimate exercise in trust.  “Hey, let’s watch this emotional sucker punch of a film because I know how much you like a good reminder of how broken your feelings are” is one interpretation of this week’s pick.  However, I believe the intention with Lion is along the lines of “Hey, I know you like films with a realistic yet affirming story and rich emotional complexity, plus Nicole Kidman’s cool.”

/Also I may have suggested this one for the blog before but have lacked the emotional willpower to follow through and watch it.  That stops today.

The Film:


The Premise:

Based on the true story of a young man, raised in Tasmania by his adopted family, who used Google Earth to find his biological family in a small Indian village over 25 years later.

The Ramble:

Saroo lives with his mother, sister, and brother in rural India.  The family does what it can to scrape by–Saroo’s mother carries rocks, while Sarro and his brother Guddu performing the dangerous work of stealing coal from moving trains.  Saroo is especially close with his brother and always wants to be included whenever Guddu goes off alone to bring home something the family can trade for food.

I can no longer complete this post as my heart has broken into pieces too tiny to ever find and put together again.

One evening, Saroo insists on going along with his brother on a mysterious errand at the train station.  However, Saroo is unable to stay awake and falls asleep at the station.  When he wakes up, Saroo is on a moving train that doesn’t stop for days.  Eventually, the train stops in Calcutta and a lost Saroo has no idea how to return home.

After months of life on the streets dodging all manner of characters with ill intentions, a young man helps him talk to the police.  The police don’t recognize the name of his village and post his picture in hopes of someone claiming him.  Unfortunately, these efforts fail, and Saroo is sent to an orphanage that makes Dickens look tame.

Never trust a ginger.

Eventually, an Australian couple adopt Saroo and later, his brother Mantosh.  As they grow up, it becomes clear that Mantosh is a deeply troubled child who later turns to drugs.

I’d like Nicole to do more ’80s period pieces because she’s nailed that look.

The family dynamics become strained further when, after completing his university education, Saroo secretly determines to find his biological family.  Though his girlfriend Lucy believes his family should know what’s going on, Saroo insists it would hurt his mother too much to learn the truth.

I apologize for not preparing you for how good Dev looks in this film.

If you saw any of the trailers for this film or have seen any films that avoid an entirely nihilistic ending, you can probably guess whether Saroo is able to locate his family (plus I’ve never heard of anyone writing a book about looking for their biological family and then not finding them).  However, I challenge you to feel emotionally ready for the ending of this film because, unless your heart is made of stone, it will not happen.

The Rating:

4.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Though the plot is fairly straightforward, this film kept me engaged throughout as it battered my feelings.  It asks quite involved questions about the nature of family, privilege, identity, and loss.

Because this is a story driven by the experiences and feelings of its characters, the casting is so important here–and it’s perfect.  Dev and Nicole really stand out in their roles, and of course Sunny Pawar, who plays Saroo as a child.  He conveys so much emotion with his eyes and comes across as very genuine in some really devastating scenes.  I don’t even like kids, but I wanted to reach through the screen and hold him and tell him everything was going to be okay.

Possibly my only criticism is that Rooney Mara is almost entirely wasted in her role as the supportive girlfriend.  She has charisma here but not a lot to work with–it’s not even clear to me what she does in later scenes except go jogging and lecture Saroo about being honest with his family.  While she’s of course not the focus of the story, it would’ve been nice to see her fleshed out as a character and given more personality.

Everything else about this one is beautiful, though.

Would Christa use Google Earth to track this one down or run away faster than you can say “orange soda”?  Find out here!

TV Reviews

Thoughts (And Way Too Many Feelings) on BoJack Horseman: Season 4

*Spoilers for BoJack Horseman seasons 1-4 below*

Time’s arrow marches on, as Beatrice is fond of reminding us during season 4 of BoJack Horseman.  Like so many words of wisdom uttered through the course of the show, this phrase has been passed down from the family–along with emotional baggage, trauma, and deeply rooted bitterness.  Though time’s arrow marches on, our characters regularly dwell on a past dominated by physical and verbal abuse, mental health crises, and feelings of powerlessness even as they long to return to the good old days.

Oh, right.  And this is a comedy.

Though we begin the season with the titular BoJack MIA somewhere in the desert, our characters remaining in Hollywoo must keep calm and carry on.  Or at least carry on.

Diane and Mr. Peanutbutter start things out on a sour note with his campaign for Governor of California.  Both of Mr. Peanutbutter’s ex-wives, Jessica Biel and Katrina, are helping with the campaign, fueling Diane’s insecurity and amplifying her guilt over not supporting his political career.  Writing pieces in opposition to Mr. Peanutbutter’s political stances gets clicks for the blog Diane now writes for but creates tension at home.  Is there enough left of their marriage to keep them together?

While BoJack doesn’t appear at all in episode 1, he does of course return to Hollywoo eventually.  After fixing up (and subsequently destroying) the summer home where BoJack vacationed with his parents, he returns to discover his long-lost (and previously unknown) daughter Hollyhock has tracked him down.  His relationship with Hollyhock is complicated by the arrival of Beatrice, who moves in when she is no longer allowed to stay in her assisted living facility.  BoJack’s determination to be a better person (horse) and avoid letting his daughter down is strong…but so is his desire to seek petty vengeance against his mother (now suffering from dementia).  Let’s return to this one later because it is bleak.  Bleak.

Meanwhile, Todd is up to his usual misadventures while learning to live with and accept his asexuality.  After agreeing to a sham Hollywoo engagement and briefly becoming a fashion icon, Todd teams up with Mr. Peanutbutter for yet another ill-advised business proposal.  Their latest venture is the horrifying marriage of clowning and dentistry, which is eventually shut down by the BBB.  However, since it’s Todd, this failed business leads to another (equally horrifying) opportunity.  This is a pretty good season for Todd, who even gets an episode paying tribute to his generous nature.  Is this a turning point for Todd or will others take advantage of his good nature yet again?

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You’ve been reading this review for a while.  You deserve a picture.

Princess Carolyn, on the other hand, starts the season strong, but it becomes one of the worst for her on both a personal and professional level.  Her relationship with Ralph Stilton begins to crack when his mouse family fails to offer her a warm welcome (and even sings a song about hating cats).  Things unravel rather quickly in an episode in which a broken necklace is deeply symbolic (and even the framing device for this episode is meant to deceive you and destroy you emotionally).  All of Princess Carolyn’s dreams crumble before her eyes as her greatest strength (her ability to always land on her feet) becomes an obstacle preventing her from starting a family and achieving her professional goals.

Don’t worry, though, I’ve saved the saddest storyline for last—Beatrice Horseman.  Up until this season, she has been perhaps the most unsympathetic, horrific character on the show as one of the main reasons BoJack is so fucked up.  I still remember the emotional impact of season 2’s opening episode, in which all of BoJack’s resolve to change his life and adopt a brand new attitude is crushed by one short phone call with his mother.  Beatrice does still say and do terrible things in this season, but it’s hard to say as an elderly, ailing woman she deserves the treatment BoJack gives her.  We see more insight into her childhood and married life than ever before, which explains a great deal of her psychological and emotional trauma.

While BoJack’s life clearly demonstrates the impact of bad mothers, we also see what happens when fathers are terrible:  both BoJack’s father and grandfather.  We see the soul-crushing messages Beatrice receives as a child about her intelligence (she has too much) and body (also too much).  In her adult life, Beatrice holds the family together, gets her husband a job, and smooths over his (major) mistakes with no choice but to live bitterly with her regrets.  Perhaps most devastatingly, BoJack will never know the full story, and he and his mother continue to bring out the worst in each other.

As usual, this season consistently brings smart social and political commentary (see the entirety of Mr. Peanutbutter’s celebrity political campaign, as well as episodes about fracking and gun violence).  However, it’s at its strongest in the emotionally distressing way we’ve come to expect from BoJack during the latter half of the season.  It divides almost evenly, taking a dark(er) turn with episode 6, “Stupid Piece of Shit.”  We get insight into BoJack’s inner monologue, in which he constantly hurls verbal abuse at himself (his favorite insult being “you stupid piece of shit”).  This is much too real for me and culminates in Hollyhock asking if the voice in your head ever goes away.  (If only.)

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Here’s another picture.  Which in no way is expected to make you feel better.

It’s not an easy season to watch—as the series has progressed, we as the audience have maintained a great deal of sympathy for BoJack.  However, there have been an increasing number of times when it’s become more challenging to make excuses for his damaging behavior—to Sarah Lynn, Penny, Herb, and his mother.  Whether this pattern will continue with Hollyhock is a major question this season asks.

Possibly my only complaint this season is the relentless setting up of positive moments explicitly to knock them down.  It works for the most part because of the nature of this show, but after seeing the 4th (and 5th and 6th and 7th) character experience a moment of happiness only to see it shredded to pieces a scene later, it becomes a bit played out.  I started having an almost Pavlovian response to the sound of laughter or genuinely uplifting moments.

Always in the back of my mind during this season was how it will end (especially in light of season 3’s downer ending).  This is one of the show’s saddest endings but its final moment is tinged with hope (spoiler:  BoJack is SMILING [and it’s not for a scene]).  The lives of our characters have certainly changed a great deal from the beginning of the season to the end, and several of them even grow to some degree.  However, can these characters really change or will they fall back into repeating the same patterns?  Will they ever feel complete or continue to be broken?  Can they stop hurting themselves and the others around them?  If you figure it out, let me know.

While I love every moment of watching BoJack, I have worried that watching these characters continue to make the same mistakes would grow stale.  My fears were put to rest this season, which manages the same level of emotional devastation as usual without becoming monotonous.  Though I am now an empty husk, I really loved this season as much as any of the others…you know, in that masochistic BoJack kind of way that demands a whiskey chaser, 7 pizzas, and too many apple fritters.

Life Rants

On Counseling, or: How Does That Make You Feel?

Six different counselors have listened to me, and I don’t think there will be a seventh.  At least not for a while.

Some terminology first:  I use the word “counselor” over “therapist” because counselor to me suggests someone advising you versus someone “fixing” you.  Therapy inevitably winds up alongside concepts like physical therapy, which you do for a set amount of time until your muscles have healed.  Sometimes this is how counseling works—you do it until you no longer need it.  But I haven’t ever felt “fixed” so much as I’ve learned some new coping strategies and some ways to recognize when I’m not coping well.

I’ve had counselors I’ve really clicked with, and others not so much.  My latest taught me two things:  1. Sometimes the counselor is wrong for you, and 2. I have the tools I need to be my own best counselor.

I should clarify the first point—I don’t think my counselor was under-qualified or giving out bad advice, but it wasn’t advice that made sense for me.  The best counselors for me listen and help bring me to my own conclusions, whereas this one told me on several occasions what I should do and, implicitly, how I should feel.  She told me about the solace she has found in religion.  I honestly wish I could say the same, but I don’t, and the tone she took made me feel inexplicably guilty.

At the time, I was feeling inadequate about starting a new job, managing one of the worst family conflicts I’ve ever dealt with (and that’s saying something), and feeling extremely isolated.  According to the counselor I spoke with, the key to unlocking all of my problems was forgiveness (and, I swear, The Secret, but I will try to refrain from being overly snarky in this post).  I do know that I hold onto grudges and don’t forgive easily, but telling me that I should be more forgiving does absolutely nothing to help me feel better about myself.


We weren’t even halfway through our 6 sessions, and I already knew this counselor didn’t understand where I was coming from.  She told me I was adorable and angelic, both of which made me feel worse.  I catch myself being fake nice all of the time and suppressing the shit out of my negative emotions, so being complimented on how sweet I am just makes me feel like complete garbage.  She asked me if I love myself, and I don’t know how to fucking respond to that.  I’m human.  There are things I like about myself, and things that I don’t.  I know that one of the people I’m most reluctant to forgive is myself.

The worst was when I told her my reasons for coming in, and she paraphrased, “So you’d say you’ve had a pretty easy life.”  Would a single fucking person in the world say they’ve had an easy life?  Life is damn hard, no matter who you are.  I’ve certainly had privileges others haven’t, but I felt so obliterated when she said that, so completely invalidated.  In retrospect, I should’ve said that it wasn’t working out and asked to see another counselor, but I am so goddamn stubborn and feel like I’ve failed if I quit something.

Even though I don’t think of the sessions with this counselor as successful, being unable to connect with her gave me room to connect better with myself.  I realized I didn’t need these sessions at all—what I really needed was to give myself time alone to unravel my feelings, space to breathe, and compassion to be fair to myself even when I don’t like who I am.

I’m not particularly good at trusting or forgiving people or feeling like an authentic version of myself, whatever that actually means.  Sometimes I dig myself a pit of self-despair and don’t know how to get back out.  But that’s part of who I am, and I’ve gotten better at recognizing when I’m doing those things and trying to refocus my energy.

Believe me, I’m not saying you should ignore the advice your counselor gives you or skip out on counseling.  I am most certainly not an expert on mental health issues.  Besides, I really clicked with a couple of my counselors, one of whom I still imagine having conversations with when I’m feeling really low.  He really understood me and pushed me to follow through to conclusions I wasn’t necessarily comfortable with.   But even psychologists are only human.  Like all human relationships, some work out better than others, and it’s not your fault if they don’t.

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Weekend, or: It’s Your Fault, So Get Over It

This week’s film in our Big Fat Gay Blog Collab is Christa’s pick, Weekend. You can see Christa’s review here!

The Film:


Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

Opposites attract as two men who meet at a club spend a weekend together.

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film follows Russell over the course of a weekend that begins with some kind of straight people dinner party. Personally, this sounds like a terrible way to begin a weekend, and Russell isn’t particularly comfortable with the concept either, especially when the conversations turns to thoughts about strippers.

Russell eventually escapes to a club, where he picks up this guy, Glen, and brings him home. It becomes obvious that the two share a connection even though they have very different personalities. Glen is much more confident and comfortable with his sexuality and has an ongoing project where he interviews all of his hookups.

“This doesn’t happen to you after all of your one-night stands?”

In contrast, Russell has come out to only a few close friends and just sort of looks uncomfortable when his douchey coworkers say creepy things about women. One of Russell’s questions about Glen’s project is how it will be art versus people just talking filth. It’s quite an activist project because Glen’s statement is that gay people should be allowed to talk about sex openly without feeling ashamed.

Up to this moment, I felt a bit iffy about this movie. TBH, dinner party followed by night at the club sounds like a nightmare evening to me, and this is a bit of a talking movie. I lack patience; I’ve accepted this.

But anyway…my point is I love every single thing Glen says. On coming out to his parents on Mother’s Day: “Nature or nurture. It’s your fault, so get over it.” On Russell’s terrible childhood: “Is it really wrong that I find the whole orphan thing pretty sexy?” All of this while wearing a t-shirt that I NEED. Russell/Glen also have an adorable bicycle ride which I’m sure would end in severe head trauma in real life (at least if attempted by this blogger).

Riding a bicycle in general is one of those things that always looks appealing in film, but usually ends in tragedy for me.
Riding a bicycle in general is one of those things that always looks appealing in film, but usually ends in tragedy for me.

Don’t get too comfortable with the cuteness, though, because this movie wants to break your heart. Glen reveals that he’ll be leaving for Portland the next day to study art. Maybe Russell can come visit??? I also became really convinced at this point in the film that Glen wheezing and having difficulty breathing meant he has TB and/or lung cancer (it’s okay—he doesn’t. Seriously, if you cough once in any other film, you DIE).

Russell meets Glen at another club that evening, and it’s clear that Glen likes to be the center of attention and stir up controversy. Glen also doesn’t do boyfriends anymore and in general doesn’t particularly like anyone. On other members of the gay community: “Essentially, they’re all just idiots except they dance a lot more.”

The two ditch the club to go to a carnival and talk relationships/marriage. Glen is not a big fan of marriage and memorably tells Russell “Don’t tell me that people get married for love.” Russell, on the other hand, says getting married is about simultaneously saying “I love you” and “Fuck you,” which is honestly the most romantic description of marriage I’ve ever heard. Incidentally, readers, if you get married, PLEASE let me help you write your vows. I promise you so many occurrences of the word “fuck.”

They're even cute when they fight.
They’re even cute when they fight.

So as our film draws to a close, the tension between whether Glen will stay or go intensifies, as well as Russell’s internal conflict over keeping his life fairly private versus being more open.

One of the sweetest moments between the two happens when Russell pretends to come out to his father, played by Glen (yeah, I know, but if I can make it past the creepiness of the setup, so can you). One of the things Glen says is that he couldn’t be more proud of him than if he were the first man on the moon. I’m going to be honest, I may have teared up a little bit at that part. I also cried a bit at the ending. I may be crying right now. I might have to take a break from writing this post so my tears don’t ruin my computer and/or electrocute me.

You may want to prepare yourself emotionally for this film if you decide to watch.

The Critique:

I like that this is a rather quiet film with a focus on intimate dialogue and the ways we talk about sex and relationships. The film was a bit slow at times, but there were some completely adorable moments that won me over.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Largely because I feel Glen is the voice of a generation, or at least the voice of me.

Check out Christa’s thoughts here!

Blogging 101

10 Things I Hate About the Daily Prompt

I hate the daily prompt, guys.

“You’ve come into possession of one vial of truth serum. Who would you give it to (with the person’s consent, of course) — and what questions would you ask?”

It’s like these WordPress people know how much I despise talking about myself in blog posts. I’M JUST HERE TO WRITE MOVIE REVIEWS, OKAY???

So I’m going to avoid talking about myself and writing about what truth is to me or listing honest things about who I am. I’m into all that po-mo bullshit about truth being subjective anyway.

Since I primarily use this blog to post film reviews, I decided to write a short list of movies I honestly love to an embarrassing degree. This may be cheating slightly because I made an unnecessary list the last time I had no clue what to do with a prompt as well. IF BUZZFEED CAN DO IT, SO CAN I. Without further ado:

  1. 10 Things I Hate About You

Not that I’m embarrassed about the degree to which I ADORE this movie, but it was the first thing I thought of when I was trying to work on today’s prompt. Ha, kind of because I considered writing a list of reasons I hate the daily prompt. This was my favorite movie when I was 10 and is still my favorite comedy. Heath Ledger in our hearts forever.

  1. 13 Going on 30

I love ‘80s movies, guys, especially of the teen angst variety. So it kind of makes sense that I love this film, which is basically a tribute to those movies. Really cheesy, but so fun to watch and surprisingly heartfelt. Any movie that features a large group of people performing the “Thriller” dance has to be at least halfway decent.

  1. Dragonheart

Mixed reviews for this one, but you’ll have to stab me in the heart to kill my love of this movie. TOO SOON. I find this movie every bit as traumatizing as I did as a child. It pretends to be a fun medieval adventure and then it breaks your HEART. Sean Connery voices the dragon, which is pretty fantastic. The line “To the stars, Bowen. To the stars” in Sean Connery’s voice randomly pops into my head to this day.

  1. The English Patient

I know…it’s that movie Elaine from Seinfeld hates. As a result, this film has gotten the reputation of being boring and pretentious, but it’s so good. The desert shots are absolutely gorgeous, and the story is utterly devastating. I love that this movie is incredibly romantic, but it’s also a disturbing and kind of creepy love story. And I’m sorry, but I find Ralph Fiennes ridiculously attractive (ahem, even when he’s playing Voldemort), and this movie is basically the equivalent of looking at his face for 2 ½ hours.

  1. Miss Minoes

This is a Dutch children’s movie about a cat who is transformed into a woman and takes down an evil corporation. I don’t know if it would be considered a classic of filmmaking, but there are so many kittens in this movie, the acting is actually pretty great, and it never fails to make me laugh. I may post my Facebook review of this film here on WordPress someday.

  1. Penelope

Hmmmmmm…I’m starting to realize what a shallow human being I am when it comes to movie watching. I basically love this movie because James McAvoy is rocking some beautiful shaggy hair throughout, and he never once gets beaten or tortured (if you follow his career, this happens A LOT in most movies he’s in). The film kind of hits you over the head with its message and features some very one-dimensional characters, but it’s still pretty cute and mostly works.

  1. The Pink Panther (and all of its sequels)

I feel like such a jerk for neglecting to mention this movie more frequently. Obviously I love it if I named my damn blog in its honor. Peter Sellers is so brilliant in these movies, even when they devolve into absolute nonsense. Even though the first one has some spectacularly dark humor, I enjoy the sequels (esp. The Pink Panther Strikes Again) featuring Burt Kwok and Herbert Lom as well.

  1. Sabrina

Included this movie because the premise is really sketchy, but I love it anyway. Humphrey Bogart pretty much plans to seduce his younger brother’s fiancée because she’s their chauffeur’s daughter and not good enough to marry into the family. Plus Bogie is waaaaaaaaaay too old for Audrey Hepburn, but I just don’t care. It’s Humphrey Bogart. This movie is so much better than I’m making it sound, I swear.

  1. Shakespeare in Love

All I ever hear people say about this movie is that it shouldn’t have won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the outrage—Shakespeare in Love also won over Life Is Beautiful, one of my absolute favorite movies. Should this film have won Best Picture? I don’t know, but I LOVE all of the Shakespeare references, and I flipping love Judi Dench. Also, like his brother Ralph, Joseph Fiennes has a pretty nice face to watch for a couple of hours.

    10.  Star Trek IV

I think this is the most critically acclaimed of the Star Trek movies until the reboot. That being said, it’s still an incredibly cheesy movie that makes very little sense (even for Star Trek). This movie makes me laugh every time, though. It almost makes up for the effrontery to filmmaking that is Star Trek V (sorry, Shatner).

It should go without saying that I love a lot of bad movies too…but it was just too difficult to decide which ones to list here. Maybe I’ll do a top 10 bad movie countdown eventually.

I am also honestly trying to get my posts to 500 words or even 750…but I’m not a particularly concise writer. There’s a reason I don’t do Twitter.