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Mean Moms

There’s an epidemic of mean moms in the entertainment I’m watching. Reese Witherspoon is hilarious as the take-no-prisoners Madeline in Big Little Lies: it’s Elle Woods, 10 years out of Harvard with her J.D. degree gathering dust in one of the many hundreds of rooms in her swank, NoCal beach house, polarizing principals, pupils and—most of all—the other moms at her daughter’s school. Debate her big heart versus her “meanness” all you like but, spoiler alert, someone is killed and the killer is not a man (although he deserved her wrath, for sure). 31-big-little-lies.w710.h473.2x

I just finished watching the elliptically named “Gypsy,” a Netflix series starring Naomi Watts as a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist whose cognition and behavior become increasingly suspect. “Boring, boring, boring,” lamented a Newsday reviewer, who complains that even “the city that never sleeps,” the series’ setting, “manages to doze off in the middle of the never-ending torpor that has become her life.” Agreed, but my point is: Watts’ character is attacked by a cadre of sniping and biting mean moms and she bites back.  I also object to her Connecticut home, which somehow has a view of the Tappan Zee Bridge from the backyard.

And who cares?

Then there’s the shelf full of books about mean moms. A same-named tome written by a daughter “overcoming the legacy of hurt. The comic-book like  “Mean Moms Rule: Why Doing the Hard Stuff Now Creates Good Kids Later” — wow, there’s just so much wrong with this book (including a terrible font) that we will set it aside.


And apparently, there’s a Jennifer Aniston vehicle called Mean Moms, that’s reported as stuck in development. Just as well, perhaps.


La La Land

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, talk-singing and walk-dancing through the light n’ lively score. Appealing, but I had to think twice about whether to put it on pause before I went to the bathroom or just let it run its predictable course. Best part was the lilting “City of Dreams.” Most tiresome: Stone’s stricken look, meant to convey resolve, sadness, disbelief. One look, many meanings. Second most tiresome: Stone’s dresses, which look like the kind of thing you’d wear to a high-school dance that isn’t quite a prom—knee-length, highly-colored, cap-sleeved, A-line. But the movie was a fitting choice for the flight to California—much better than “Swimming,” a dark novel about a family traumatized by the death of one of the sons, who bashed his head on the rock ledges around their freezing New Hampshire pond.

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I had resisted seeing the movie Jackie for reasons I can’t recall: it felt like a vehicle for Natalie Portman? The movie trailer looked kitschy?

But it informed my thoughts about women and power — and how during that time women were allowed to use power in only the most non-threatening ways, which sort of negates it, doesn’t it? Jackie had the makings of a powerful woman. She was high born and well-educated, taking a job as a reporter. She was beautiful and married Kennedy and would define the style of her time. There is one scene, near the end, when she watches as Jackie-like mannequins are unloaded from the back of truck, bound for Bergdorf’s windows.

Jackie, Jackie

But she suppresses her intelligence and confidence. Doubts her future and (although the movie doesn’t show it) flings herself into the arms of another powerful man.

Where is my husband? She asks, a little wild-eyed, during the famous, televised tour of the White House. She looks like a flight attendant, no, a stewardess, with her small steps and straight spine.

I’m here to serve you, her expression says.

When asked a question that strays from the subject of White House décor, she demurs: Oh that’s complicated, isn’t it?

When traveling with the President and their security detail, she is hesitant, looking over at him as she moves through the crowd.

But there’s scene on a dance floor, when she is wearing a flaming red dress — representing passion? Anger? Seduction? — looking assured and confident and powerful, twirling in her husband’s arms as the soundtrack plays Camelot: Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.

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45 Years

Saw this movie on a chill, dark day, snow falling softly, the first of the year. Likewise, the movie was quiet and dark, nothing to inspire a flare of awe or any kind of feeling in me, actually—just a story of two people in underlit rooms, and, they learn, an underlit marriage, even on the eve of celebrating its 45 anniversary.

I looked longingly at Charlotte Rampling. C’mon, you’re a beauty. Dazzle me! You play a deeply intelligent and proud character! Surprise me!

But she refused to be a circus monkey, entertaining on command. Laudably, I suppose. Her gaze was obscured by heavy lids. She wore unflattering cotton shirts and ill-fitting jeans. She smiled wryly at times but otherwise seemed joyless. Again, commendable that she stayed true to the appearance and mood of her character. Here, she is in the prime of her beauty, without the gloss and glamour typical of the film stars of her day.

Measure: Charlotte Rampling

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you can call me Aunt Vicky

In a home decor shop in Portland and the song “There she goes” comes on. The lovely and stylish gay sales guy apologizes for singing along.

I say the first thing that comes into my head: It was in The Parent Trap.

“I just watched that movie. I love that movie. I loved the first one too,” says my new friend (is how I think of him now). 

I agree with enthusiasm.

“I just re-watched the old one and I was so horrified at how mean the Dad’s new wife was. And her mother!” he says and then repeats one of the very best lines: “You can call me Aunt Vicky.” 

“Did you know the actress who played the hot new wife in the first movie, played the mean old mom in the second one?”

“No,” says my friend. “You are blowing my mind.” 

This is better said by IMDB: In the original The Parent Trap (1961), Joanna Barners was golddigger Vicki Robinson. 37 years later, she played Vicki Blake, mother of the new golddigger, in the remake The Parent Trap (1998).

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Looking for love, settling for crazy

Oh how I enjoyed Delia Ephron’s new book, whose title goes something like Mother, Sister, Wife, Dog. I had never read a word she has written. Judgmentally, I had categorized her under a word like schmaltz: funny the way Billy Crystal is with his mild observations about in laws and L.A. traffic. I knew she was associated with her sister’s work, also schmaltzy: When Harry Met Sally (there’s Billy again) and Sleepless in Seattle.

But her writing is so particular, so spare and lovely. She doesn’t do that thing that women writers do, putting themselves on a stage, mic in hand, offering up their feelings in suspiciously tidy packages. I say suspicious because if you’re talking about how you felt in the past — well, that’s just your story about it. Worst offenders here are those published in the Modern Love column, those “wise” and wry and wistful and worst of all whimsical musings about love gone wrong. With some kind of wrench thrown in, heavy-handedly: He was actually gay! She was in love with being in love with him, but not actually in love with him! Clunkity, clunk, clunk, clunk.

However, New York Times, if you’d like me to write one, I’d be more than happy.

More than happy, is what exactly?

Anyway, best line in the book is this one: looking for love, settling for crazy. It was about twenty-something women — like Lena Dunham’s Girls or Frances Ha — searching for another and others and themselves. But it applies to women at my age and any age, come to think of it.


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I love the title of this HBO special.