Archive | Country Matters

Venus Approaches

The_Birth_of_Venus_by_William-Adolphe_Bouguereau_(1879)

July approaches, and peonies still preside on my bedside table though their season used to end in May. I chalk it up to the unseasonably mild weather, and complain not.

The baby doves on my fire escape are not babies anymore but also are still hanging out, peep-peep-peeping while their mother fusses over them like all the other Brooklyn mommies. Every morning as I drink my coffee I watch her nag them into flying a little further while their father observes from on high. Grace watches too, ears flattened, a burr forming low in her throat. Twice I’ve had to snatch her mid-air lest she hurl at them through the screen window; she seems to have located her predatory instincts quite nicely, thank you very much. Continue Reading →

The Problem With ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

Screen Shot 2016-06-28 at 9.30.35 AM“To Kill a Mockingbird” is mostly upheld for Gregory Peck’s Oscar-winning portrayal of good daddy Atticus Finch, iconically clad in tortoise shell glasses and cream linen suits. But in viewing the adaptation of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1960 novel today, I am taken aback by its micro-aggression–by the racism it perpetuates and condemns in equal measure.

It was released at the end of 1962, which was the last year before the cultural upheaval that we associate with the 1960s. In 1963, John F. Kennedy was shot, and America seemed to not only lose its innocence but its self-assurance. The assassinations of Bobby Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X followed, as did the Vietnam War and Watergate and, well, you get the picture. “To Kill a Mockingbird” was filmed during America’s last year of post-World War II complacency. For better and worse, you can tell. Continue Reading →

Not a Misnomer: ‘The Shining’

redrum baby“The Shining” may have been released thirty-six years ago, but it occupies as much real estate in our cultural imagination as when it launched on a wave of blood and geometric wallpaper. 2012’s documentary “Room 237” explored the myriad theories and rumors surrounding the hotel horror flick to a groundswell of ballyhoo. Earlier this year, mainstream news outlets reported that a paranormal expert claimed he’d seen two ghostly figures in a photo taken at the Colorado hotel where the film was shot. And a pivotal moment in this season’s finale of “Girls” referenced the film’s classic “Heeere’s Johnny” scene. There may be no clearer indication of zeitgeist status than a hat tip from Mz. Dunham.

Unlike many cult favorites (hello, “Lebowski”), “The Shining” knocked most everyone’s socks off from the get-go – even when they acknowledged its flaws. It was that rarest of things: an improvement, rather than a shoddy adaptation, of a Stephen King novel, not to mention a Stanley Kubrick film that eschewed the director’s characteristically icy elegance for over-the-top violence. The film vibrated, really, with a red, red rage. Or was that red rum? Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy