Oct 12 2014

The Equalizer: Equal violence and classic Denzel Washington


Roger lobbied for a couple of weeks to see The Equalizer, Denzel Washington’s new movie about a loner, former bad-ass, genius who makes the choice to break out of his mild-mannered Home Depot-type cover job to seek revenge against the Russian mafia.

If you are looking for anything but spectacular violence and Washington’s Costco-style sexiness–if I could unbotton his shirt, it would be to check for the Kirkland label–this is not your style of entertainment. The extreme violence and the stereotypical plot did not interest me, but the prospect of holding hands with my husband for two hours was appealing, so I agreed to go.

Throughout the film, Washington wears his typical unreadable expression,  broken occasionally by the brilliant smile that makes women’s (of a certain age) hearts melt.  There’s a weak backstory involving a promise to a dead wife, but it’s never fully revealed or analyzed, so the scene with the slo-mo raindrops falling from Washington’s beautiful eyelashes have to represent the hero’s complex emotional response. This lack of depth didn’t phase the largely male audience in the almost sold-out theatre. They reminded me of the attendees of a late-night viewing of Rocky Horror Picture Show, laughing and egging the hero on throughout–like they were participants in a video game with a points earned for the body count.

The violence is creative and thrillingly original, but I kept my eyes closed for most of it.  Roger squeezed my hand many times, indicating his own extreme revulsion (not at holding my hand, I hope).  Since the violent end of criminals is the objective of the film, I can’t criticize the gratuitous nature of it,  but I do wonder at a group of 20-somethings gathered in the parking lot later who were enthusiastically analyzing how the hero could set off a microwave explosive if the power in the warehouse was off.  Their level of excitement at watching people be killed with home improvement tools is pretty alarming.   The humorous moments, centered around Washington giving the evil-doers a last chance to do right before they die, is the better part of the film adobe creative suite.  At one point, as he issues an ultimatum to the chief-bad guy, Washington drops a pair of broken and bloody sunglasses (from the previous victim) in the bad-guy’s glass of wine. Gross but smooth.

Washington’s character, Robert McCall, lives a militarized live with extraordinary precision, timing every aspect of his daily routine, including, to the audience’s pleasure, the number of seconds it takes to kill his adversaries.  The minor characters are a stereotypical collection of the downtrodden and the errant–the prostitute that starts the chain of revenge is so forgettable, I forgot she escaped to freedom until she showed up at the end with the expected “thank you.”  The collection of Russian evil-doers wears designer suits over what can only be described as “beautiful” tattooed bodies–if you go for that kind of thing.   The thinking viewer has got to wonder about the long-term cultural effect of the negative images about Russians, North Korean, Chinese, and more, and how this imagery reinforces our xenophobic American point of view.  You might argue that Robert McCall’s mission to rid the world of the evil, represented only by those who are not like us, is no different than Jason Bourne’s or James Bond’s.  Bad guys have always been the “other.”  As a teacher, though, I’m on the front lines of dealing with intolerance, and the media brainwashed teens of today will be the collective Equalizer fans of the future.

The ending leaves a path of destruction through Boston and an opening wide enough for The Equalizer 2 (already in the works). Meanwhile, I’ll see if I can get Roger to watch episodes of the 80′s television show on which the movie is based–that’s good for 30 minutes of hand-holding.


Apr 1 2013

Baltimore Ignite #12: 17 unique speakers = thoughtful happiness


Last night, Roger and I watched Happy, the documentary by Roko Belic (a name with two four-letter potential crossword clues, for certain).  It inspired reflection about what makes me happy and how I want to move forward, with intention, through the remaining third to half  of my life. (It’s no surprise that these milestone birthdays get us in the thoughtful mood.)

The director analyzes happiness and identifies the component parts, one of which is the importance of gratitude, the attitude of being thankful for each day’s blessings, large and small.  The conscientious practice of gratitude can lead to more feelings of well-being and happiness.  Also, another important element of a joyful life is work and play that inspires “flow” (being fully involved in an activity).  I can’t describe happiness here as it is expressed in the movie–suffice it to say that you can see it on Netflix right now!

Ignite Baltimore, which held its 12th event last Thursday, is for me, the confluence of several ingredients of happiness.  Seventeen speakers, each armed with an idea, 20 timed Powerpoint slides and five minutes, speak about their own hopes, desires, discoveries, and ideas.  The only problem with being in the audience is that it’s like being at a tapas restaurant, a taste of many small dishes but a full meal of none.  It leaves me every time wanting to find these people and make them talk to me about their passions.

Held at MICA’s Brown Center, the tickets are an affordable $5 each, and the event has been a sell-out the last few times I attended.  In this session, we were excited to hear Roger’s colleague, Betty Walke, speak about her life-long interest in butterflies.  She described her childhood fascination with Lepidoptera and her recent journey to Mexico with her sweetheart and husband, Dan, to see the Monarch butterfly migration.  Walke, a master gardener, raced through a list of plants that will bring these creatures into our own yards and gardens.  I couldn’t write them down fast enough.

In addition, we heard Jason Briody, a digital forensic examiner, who spoke about how we do not realize the power of our phones, small computers that track our every word and move.  Unnerving?  Yes.  But Briody’s interest in his subject is as passionate as Walke’s is for butterflies.  Bobbi Macdonald, executive director of the City Neighbors Foundation, wrapped up the evening, speaking about teachers as change agents, a subject that hits very close to home for me.

How could I skip Garrett Bladow, a North Dakota native and cowboy, who, with humor and matter-of-fact facts enlightened us about the science of breeding cattle? Or Adam Ravestein, who envisions turning Baltimore blight into green space?

I urge you to visit the Ignite website and put yourself on the email list for notifications.  See you next fall.  I guarantee that when you hear these inspired speakers, you will be motivated to become an agent of change, too.  Did I mention that involvement in community and the world also leads to feelings of happiness?  Ignite Baltimore makes me crazy happy!



Oct 31 2009

Slumber Party!

Our first annual sleepover!

Our first annual sleepover!

While Roger was in the woods, I was having a sleep over with all of my sisters and mom.  Ed took care of all of us with plenty of food and special treats.  We watched The Proposal, which is an excellent chick flick.  Matching pajamas–even Adrienne agreed to wear them.  Need I say more? (P.S.  Barbara and I spent the night comparing our new iPhones.  This is my first photo with the camera.  A little blurry.  I’m going to have to work on that.)

Feb 24 2009

Gran Torino


Roger and I saw Gran Torino Saturday night. Some critics might say it is another Dirty Harry film or that Eastwood’s character changes too quickly, but we were so stunned by the story and dialogue that we were the last two in the theatre when the credits were finished rolling.

Roger pointed out the basil that Thao (the Hmong teenager) is mulching.  I wonder if our basil will grow shrub sized?

What I liked most about the film was the generosity of the Hmong neighbors despite Kowalski’s (Eastwood) obvious dislike.  They bring food and plants (chives in one case) to his doorstep to thank him.

In our not so distant past, it was customary to bring food and gifts to celebrate a new neighbor, a birth, a death and other events.  I think I had better bake some cookies for our manure angels. . .

We joked about whether to see the film at all.  I argued that perhaps it was Neflix worthy.  Roger thought the big screen was the way to go.  Now that we’ve seen the film, we’re taking the kids before it disappears from theaters.  It’s really that good.

Walter gives Thao the tools for a new job.

Walter gives Thao the tools for a new job.