Friday, December 9, 2016

You can't stop the beat

Hairspray is my favorite John Waters movie. I don't recall the first time I saw it but I remember loving every thing about it. It was my John Waters gateway movie; after Hairspray, I went back and watched all the earlier films and have been a fan ever since. Released in 1988, Hairspray told the story of Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) a "pleasantly plump" teen in 1962 Baltimore. She dreams of being on a local dance show, The Corny Collins Show, and going steady with the dreamy Link. Her mother, Edna (played by the divine Divine), is basically an agoraphobic who takes in laundry and scolds Tracy for having ratted hair. Running along side this plot is a focus on segregation in the 1960s; the Corny Collins Show show is segregated and Tracy makes it her mission to integrate it. All sorts of famous faces make appearances (Debbie Harry, Pia Zadora, Rik Ocasek, Sonny Bono, Jerry Stiller, and Ruth Brown) and Waters's regulars Mink Stole and Alan J. Wendl round out the cast. Fun fact: Vitamin C plays Amber, Tracy's rival (she's billed under her real name, Colleen Fitzpatrick).

The original film is campy and charming all at the same time. I'm pretty certain that Divine was the first drag performer I consciously recognized as a drag performer. There is something magical about her as Edna; I don't know if it's the Baltimore accent, her sort of soft gruffness, or the fact that she owned every scene she's in (both in and out of drag). There are certain lines that pop into my head in Divine's voice all the time: "Could you turn that racket down? I'm trying to iron in here." or "It's the times. They are a-changin'." Divine is my favorite part of the movie followed closely by Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry as the von Tussles. I believe I learned how to Madison by watching this movie; this is a skill I no longer have and it would never, ever have been useful since I was not alive in 1962.

I was cautiously optimistic when I heard that Hairspray was being made into a Broadway musical. John Waters had given his blessing so I knew it would be safe from what happens when musicals are made from other source materials. And let me tell you, it's a wonderful show. It's fun and joyful and touching and relatable. The music and songs are some of my favorite from more modern musicals; they fit into the show as well as the time period being portrayed. Every now and then, "You Can't Stop the Beat" pops into my head for no reason and refuses to a totally good way. The musical was nominated for 12 Tonys, winning 8 awards.

The musical was eventually turned into another film starring Nikki Blonksy as Tracy and John Travolta as Edna. It's not my favorite of the versions of Hairspray but it features some amazing performances by Blonsky, Queen Latifah as Motormouth Mabel, James Marsden as Corny Collins, and Elijah Kelley as Seaweed. James Marsden is probably my favorite part of the movie; he captures the wholesomeness and inappropriateness needed to play Corny Collins. I hoped at some point during this season of Westworld, Teddy would break into "Nicest Kids in Town" with the rest of the hosts. That would have made my life. My biggest complaint with the film was Travolta; I thought he was terrible. Harvey Fierstein, who played Edna on Broadway, should have been cast. Thankfully, the recent broadcast of Hairspray Live! rectified this situation; all of America (or at least the parts that watch live musicals on NBC) got to see Fierstein slay the role of Edna as Divine and God intended. I watched the broadcast earlier this week; Fierstein was one of the highlights along with an adorably awkward Ariana Grande as Penny, Martin Short, and Jennifer Hudson showing us all what it means to really live in a song.

Hairspray is about a lot of things but at its heart it's about diversity and acceptance. Tracy Turnblad was about body positivity before it was a thing. As Tracy exclaims in the original movie, "Now all of Baltimore will know... I'm big, blonde and beautiful!"(which is an amazing song in the musical). She didn't think being "pleasantly plump" as a problem; it made her unique and who she was. It didn't change the fact that she was a bad ass dancer or stood up for her friends and what was right (integrating the dance show). She got to dance with the cute boy. She wore dresses that made her feel special and pretty. She used her voice when others around her could not.

It's also about the message of inclusion and accepting diversity as part of the fabric of life. The 1960s were a tumultuous time in our history and Baltimore, like other cities, was front and center in the Civil Rights movement. When you first start to watch any of the versions of Hairspray, you think you're just getting a fluffy teen dance show movie/musical but it's really social commentary. Waters's movies always focus on outsiders and Hairspray captures that in a way that I don't think I thought much about when I was younger but now seems even more important. Listen to the song "I Know Where I've Been" - yes, Jennifer Hudson killed it on Wednesday but I love Queen Latifah in the movie so much that I'm using her version instead:

The lyrics resonate as much today as they would have in 1962. I couldn't help but think about recent protests as I watched the live broadcast on Wednesday. The signs might look different (maybe not entirely) but the sentiment is the same. As I wrote back in November, we have a lot of work to do in this country. We can sit by and let hate and fear take over or we can be like Tracy and her friends and stand up for what's right. Or maybe you prefer to dance for what's right; that's cool with me. I'll be over here pretending I remember how to Madison and singing along with "You Can't Stop the Beat."

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Where you lead...

We all have a friend who we go long periods of time without speaking to for no reason except that life is happening. There wasn't a fight or falling out; you just don't talk as much as you used to. Growing up often has a lot to do with it; people move far away and it's harder to keep up with one another when you're not living a few minutes away. Life circumstances change as one or both of you start families or don't and your lives shift accordingly. What's great about this friend, though, is that when you do get together, it's as if that time away never really happened. Yes, you spend some time updating each other on work and significant others and family but the awkward "high school reunion" update feeling isn't there. You fall back into the rhythm of your friendship; inside jokes that are truly only funny to the two of you are the most hilarious thing ever and the dramas (because all friends have a drama) are there or dissected once again. When you introduce this friend to a new friend, that new friend will later say to you, "I get it now. You make a little more sense now. Your friend completes you." And then they're gone again, back to wherever they live now and those occasional tweets and texts about silly movies or rock stars or anniversaries of significant life events keep the connection going until the next time.

I have that friend and as I sat down to watch Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life yesterday, I wondered if she was sitting down to watch it too. Did she order pizza like we used to when we all got together to watch the show at one of our houses? I did not; I had a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich because I'm certain Amy Sherman-Palladino and Netflix planned the day after Thanksgiving drop of the show so we'd all have comfort food to eat while watching. Was any wine involved in her viewing? Did she get annoyed at the parts I thought might annoy her? What did she think about the last four words?

The other thing that happened as I watched the last of the four episodes (mini-movies? expanded episodes?), I came to the realization that Gilmore Girls is also that friend, the one that's in my life for years and then goes away only to come back when she's really needed. I written about this before; I re-watch seasons of Gilmore Girls when my own life is less than stellar. Something about the characters and what they're going through helps put my own life into perspective. Yes, I'm aware that it's a television show and not a therapist but it still helps for whatever reason. Also, it's cheaper than a therapist so there's that.

What can I tell you about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life that won't spoil it for you? It's not perfect but it's exactly what I wanted it to be. Several story lines are wrapped up for us finally, Richard Gilmore is memorialized in the best way possible (first time I cried and I cried a few more times throughout the four episodes), and we see lots of familiar faces throughout the year. Both Lorelai and Rory are dealing with things as they always are and handling them in the ways that we have all come to expect from them: not well to okay to not well to avoidance to getting their shit together finally. They both look great; although I don't care for Rory's lucky red dress outfit (Lorelai was right; she looks washed out in it) their fashion is wonderfully modern and a little crazy like both of them. Rory in her 30s is still having a pretty easy life (my biggest complaint about her on the original series) so when it does stressful for her, I don't feel as bad for her as I should but I do feel for her because I know how it feels to be in your 30s and wonder "What am I doing with my life?"

What about everyone else? Emily Gilmore (Kelly Bishop) is even better in the revival than she was on the original series. Her grief and her decisions about how to move on with this new stage of her life is wonderfully done and captures everything we all love and hate about Emily. Luke is Luke but an older, slightly softer Luke except when it comes to giving out a wifi password (which is hilarious). Lane and Zack will always be my favorite Stars Hollow couple and I will fight anyone who wants to fight about it. I wish we had more of them. I don't believe this show is actually over so I'm hopeful there is more Lane and Zack to come. Paris is intense and Doyle likes to use adjectives. Kirk has a pet pig. Taylor wrote a musical (that sequence is a little long but it's during the second musical section that I might have cried very ugly tears for reasons). Michel is still rude and Miss Patty and Babette are still flirty and wonderful. While I enjoyed Sookie's appearance, I felt it was the least believable of all of the characters but I'm still glad she was there.

And what about the loves of Rory Gilmore? Nothing I can tell you without spoiling things so I'll just say this: I will always be #TeamLogan so no amount of any new developments will change my mind on that. However, Jess was my favorite of the three in the revival for no other reason except that he was still so completely Jess but without the angst-y teenager side of the character and he didn't let Rory participate in the pity party that she likes to go to when her life isn't perfect. I like that about him.

All in all, just like catching up with my actual friend when it happens, it was nice to spend some time with my favorite television show. There were some surreal moments including but not limited to the musical, the appearance of the Life and Death Brigade (which is not a spoiler since was talking about them back in March and apparently, is a real thing), and every sequence at the Stars Hollow pool. I laughed out loud a lot, cried a lot (more than I expected but I know I needed it), and loved every little inside joke and cameo. I particularly love the number of cast members from Bunheads who made appearances; another show taken away from us too soon.

I won't spoil the last four words for you since I promised not to so instead I will leave you with my own four words:
Amy, more episodes please.

I wore my Hep Alien shirt yesterday - I would have liked 50% more Hep Alien in the revival but I'll take what I can get.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Hockey puck, rattle snake, monkey, monkey, underpants

I re-watch the television show Gilmore Girls when my life is less than settled. I'm not sure why but it's typically my thing. Something stressful happens and I pop in season four and watch The Dragonfly Inn come to life while Rory is making questionable life choices by sleeping with a married man and Lorelai is hiding her boyfriend from her parents like she's the teenager and not the mom. Or maybe it's more of a season six kind of binge, all "I'm leaving Yale and living in the pool house and joining the DAR" and "June 3rd is the perfect day for a wedding until it's not" and "Luke hides a daughter for almost an entire season for no apparent reason." Better yet, what about season two where we meet Jess, the Puffs, and Sookie gets married?

I could literally spend all day talking about my favorite episodes (four Thanksgivings, the opening of the Dragonfly Inn, Rory graduating from high school, the Life & Death Brigade, Lane's baby shower, Michel's dog funeral), the best characters who are not the main characters (Miss Patty, Babette, Kirk, Lane, Zack, Tom, and Lane's little cousin who yells at Zack during a super formal Korean dinner), and who are the worst (Taylor but with affection, April, Dean, Francie, Sherry, and Jackson's weird cousin). I took an informal poll on Facebook (source of all great news and facts; just ask John Oliver) and no one could name just one favorite episode or even one favorite season. To me, that gets to the heart of what was truly magical about this show - everything. It wasn't one character, one event, one location that made it special. It was each detail, each character, each moment.

As we near the premiere of A Year in the Life on Netflix this coming Friday, I thought I'd spend less time reflecting on the seven seasons we've had and focus on what I hope we get in the revival. I haven't read much about the revival; fan theories and potential spoilers are not my thing. I want to go into the new episodes armed with nothing more than the love of this show and maybe some coffee and a pop tart. Here's what I hope we get in these four episodes:
  • Team Rory: I'm will forever be #TeamLogan (and I'm not going to spend any time here defending my choice) but I really don't care which guy she ends up with if she ends up with any of the original three boyfriends. Show creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino, doesn't care either. One of the great things about this show was Rory as an independent young woman. She can have a dude in her life but let's not care about it so much. 
  • Are Kirk and Lulu still together? They are one of my favorite couples from the show so I hope they are still together and being their weird selves.
  • We get to see older versions of all the kids that were babies or toddlers in the last few seasons. Sookie's kids, Steve and Kwan, Gigi - what will they all be like? Are they cool? I hope they're all cool.
  • Can we please meet Mr. Kim?
  • Is Emily really wearing jeans and concert t-shirt? I saw it in the preview but I don't believe it. I feel like this is actually the equivalent of seeing Emily Gilmore naked. It could supplant that episode where Emily is basically drunk the whole time as the greatest un-Emily episode of the entire series. Apparently, that's Kelly Bishop's favorite episode so there's that. 
  • An ugly cry tribute to Richard Gilmore. Let's face it, it's going to happen and we all need to prepare. 
  • Sookie's kitchen and her ability to break something or catch stoves on fire. Sookie is one of my favorite characters and I'm glad that Melissa McCarthy was able to be part of the revival. I hope we get to see her in her kitchen but maybe not injured or destroying expensive kitchen equipment.
  • Babette and Miss Patty singing. 
  • Town Hall meetings! I have missed Town Hall meetings so much. Is Taylor still being insufferable (yes)? How often does Babette interrupt things with an inappropriate story about her and Maury (frequently)? Is Gypsy going to be sassy (yes)? I can't wait!
  • Is there a new town troubadour? The regular troubadour came back but did he stay?
  • More Hep Alien. I hope that Hep Alien went on to be a famous-ish band. Zack has always been one of my favorite characters and Gil and Brian were awesome. Seriously, getting Sebastian Bach on this show was genius. They did get back together without Bach back in 2015 so it would be great to that the band was successful. Todd Lowe will always be my dream dude (after Chief Hopper from Stranger Things).
  • Paris and Doyle's wedding and/or the knowledge that they're engaged. Obviously they make sense together and will eventually take over the world. 
  • Quotable moments like this: Mrs. Kim: Boys don't like funny girls.
    Lorelai: I took a bite, and I thought nothing had ever tasted so good. I thought it tasted like freedom. It tasted like I was my own person. The pop-tart tasted like freedom and rebellion and independence.
  • Christopher messing up something. It's inevitable that Christopher will be here somewhere messing up something. I'm hoping it's his own life and not Lorelai's. It didn't work twice so let's move on.
  • Michel! I've missed Michel so much. His rudeness, his random acts of kindness, his dogs. Do you think he adopted another dog? Will his flawless mother make another appearance? 
  • A town festival. Stars Hollow is a town of festivals. It seemed like no matter how out there one festival was (living art for example), the town (and Taylor) would come up with another idea. The Firelight Festival has always been my favorite. 
  • More dialogue like this:
    Lorelai: Because my brain is a wild jungle full of scary gibberish…I’m writing a letter…I can’t write a letter…why can’t I write a letter?…I’m wearing a green dress…I wish I was wearing my blue dress…my blue dress is at the cleaners…the Germans wore grey…you wore blue…Casablanca, Casablanca…such a good movie…Casablanca…the White House…Bush…why don’t I drive a hybrid car? I should really drive a hybrid car…I should really take my bicycle to work…bicycle, unicycle, unitard…hockey puck, rattle snake, monkey, monkey, underpants.
    Rory: Hockey puck, rattle snake, monkey, monkey, underpants?
    Lorelai: Exactly! That’s what I’m saying. Its a big bag of weird in there.
No matter what happens, it'll be great to spend a few hours back in the magical world of Gilmore Girls. We all deserve a little something to look forward to these days. 

PS - Team Dean will never win. Dean is the worst. He needs to take his floppy hair and tallness and get the hell out of Rory's life. #sorrynotsorry


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

At least I didn't ugly cry when I voted

I don't know who is going to win this election. In my heart and my head, I believe/know that Hillary Rodham Clinton will win. There's always a little hesitation when I say it out loud because this has been a challenging election to say the least and I feel like I might jinx something. This is also the reason I don't always watch Saints football games because my mere presence might somehow make a difference. It's silly and mildly paranoid but there's nothing I can do about that.

I wasn't sure how I would feel when I voted today. I didn't know how I would react to the opportunity to cast my vote for the first major party female candidate and (probably) the next President of the United States. Would I cry? Would I jump for joy? Would I show my ballot to the other voters so they could see the awesomeness? I couldn't predict how I would feel. I've been preparing for this a long time; ever since I first learned about the voting process in school. I've been a fan of voting since elementary school when we got to mock vote in elections; I was a civics geek then and I'm a civics geek now. I worked on my first campaign in high school for Senator Mark Warner. I cast my first vote in the 2000 election for Al Gore. I canvassed and campaigned for the Landrieus (Mitch and Mary), John Kerry, Barack Obama, and scores of local and state representatives. I have gotten out the vote for years and will get out the vote for years to come.

And I love Hillary Rodham Clinton. I do. I've been a fan of hers since way back when she became First Lady. I read her Wellesley commencement speech back then and was captivated by her idealism and her beliefs. She was a strong female voice when my youthful feminism needed direction. She led me to other heroes like Gloria and to start taking notice of female politicians (there weren't a lot in the 1990s). I knew, even back then, that HRC put up with (and continues to put up with) a bunch of crap as First Lady, the least of which came from her husband. I personally believe she's always been too much for people to handle; she didn't sit quietly by even when she was defending her choice to stay with her husband. During her recent opening monologue, Samantha Bee summed up all of my feelings pretty perfectly. You can watch it here.

So how would I actually feel today? It's hard to sum up my feelings in a way that doesn't make me sound like a blubbering crazy person who watches Hallmark movies for fun and talks to her cat (oh wait). I got up this morning feeling better than I've felt since Friday (I'm getting over a cold), I made some tea, had a little breakfast, and started getting ready for my day. I put on my Hillary '16 shirt, my "love trumps hate" button, and my comfy shoes. I walked to my precinct, checked in with my precinct captain (my shift wasn't starting for another hour), and got in line to vote. The line was decent; not long but not short either. Hats off to the election workers who keep the Drew School polling place moving; y'all are the true heroes of the election. I waited about 25 minutes to get my ballot. And then I got to fill it in. There was her name, right at the top, waiting for me to place my mark in the box. I stared at it for a full minute. My heart tightened. I got a little teary. And then I filled in the box. I finished my ballot with hands shaking, shaking from being excited about this moment and angry that it took so long and that this election was so ridiculous. Shaking for all the women who came before me and made it so I could be here today and vote for this woman to lead our country. Shaking for all the women who will come after, who I hope will continue to fight for what is right and important. Then, still shaking a bit, I actually cast my ballot. I put my ballot on the machine and it took it and registered it and the wonderful election worker gave me my "I Voted in Arlington" sticker. And it was done. I voted for Hillary Clinton. I voted for a woman for President.

On a normal Election Day, I would be done at this point. I'd go home or back to work and go through the rest of my day until it was time to go home and watch the returns. However, today was not a normal Election Day. I didn't go home but instead went right back outside, grabbed some sample ballots and worked my shift as a poll place greeter for the Arlington Democrats. I spent several hours with other dedicated volunteers, met voters in my community, and even saw a few of my neighbors (I think they were surprised to see me). I answered questions about ID requirements and connected voters to the outside poll person to report problems or concerns about the process. I saw women in white and pantsuits and families coming to vote so their children could understand what this process is about. I met my State Senator (I'm even on his Twitter feed today) and watched him meet and greet voters (fascinating on so many levels). I finished my shift, told my precinct captain to consider me on call if someone didn't show up, and walked back home. I spent the afternoon enjoying everyone's posts on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. And now I'm watching the returns and waiting.

We won't have a President when I publish this post. It's possible that we won't know the results of this election for several days if certain states are close as some experts believe they will be. I'm not okay with that but I will be okay with it anyway. I'll be okay with it because today, when I cast my vote, it was a moment that I won't ever forget. It was a moment that said for an entire generation of women that we don't have to be pretty, funny, or smart. We can be all of them or none of them. We can be whatever we want. And our sons and daughters can be whatever they want.

Except maybe dinosaurs. They can dress like dinosaurs but I don't think they can actually be dinosaurs.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

It'll all be better on Wednesday

How's everyone doing? Is everyone still breathing and functioning at some human level? I know election seasons are challenging. It sounds like stress eating or drinking are good ideas but they're not. Try to stay healthy.

I've had a version of the "it'll all be better once this election is over" conversation about 40 times this past week with various friends and acquaintances. I'm not exactly sure what "better" actually is: do they mean by "better" that once the election is over we may or may not plunge into a dark abyss of hate and uncertainty? Then yes, things will get better. If they mean that the barrage of awful ads, terrible stories, and general dislike of the entire process will end then they don't understand things very well. I know that most people don't think either of these things. They believe "better" means things will calm down and we can get back to "normal." Or that they won't have to keep their children from watching the nightly news lest they hear the word "pussy" or something else equally inappropriate out of the mouth of a major party candidate.

There is very little I can do for any of these friends and acquaintances as we have these conversations. I know they want to be less anxious and stressed. I know they want to lose the fear of what is coming with the "end" of the election but unfortunately, that's not going to happen. I can pat them on the hand and offer a word of encouragement about having faith and being a good citizen. But that's about it. There is nothing else I can do to make them feel any better. I'm not psychic and I can't predict the future.

Depending on the friend, I usually ask two questions: What have you done? What are you willing to do next?

We don't have to be embedded with a campaign to make a difference. Voting is one way of making a difference; don't forget to vote on Tuesday EVEN if you believe you don't have to vote because your state always does this or that. It's not enough; get yourself to the polls on Tuesday and use your voice. But what else did you do? That's my question. We have become a nation of watchers and waiters. We watch what happens and we wait to see what will happen next. We think someone else will fix the thing or someone else will figure out how to combat institutional racism or sexism. Someone else will mend fences between religious groups or the police and the population. Someone else will figure out poverty and violence and all the other ills in the world. Someone else will do it.

You're right: someone else will. And then you'll be forced to decide where you stand when they do.

I know that I did not sit idly by during this election. I might not have been on the campaign trail and in the HRC headquarters every day but I was out there doing my part. I registered voters, I canvassed, and I phone banked whenever I could. Had I not been able to do that I would have continued to spend my time having conversations about these candidates with people so that they wouldn't just take the latest meme or crazy story and read it as truth. I asked questions and I had uncomfortable conversations with people even when they'd rather not listen. So I ask my friends who tell me they're scared and anxious, I ask them did they do that? Did they have those conversations? I know it's hard and you don't think anyone will listen but having those conversations, on all sides, is important. We can continue to disagree but we will have at least had these conversations and tried to understand one another. That is what being part of a civil society is about.

Don't forget to vote! I'll say it again, your vote matters. Maybe you don't believe that anymore but I do and it's important to keep this promise of democracy going. Maybe you can even wear white on Election Day to honor the women who came before you. On Tuesday, I'll be out casting my vote and making sure members of my community have a safe space to vote. Yes, I live in Arlington County, arguably the bluest part of Virginia, but I will be there so my neighbors can cast their vote however they choose to vote. I will be there to answer questions, provide a sample ballot should they want one, and make sure no one who can vote is prohibited from doing so. When I leave my shift at the end of Election Day, I know I will have done all that I can to make history.

And then the real work will begin. No matter who wins on Tuesday, the real work begins once we have a new President. I'll pose my second question again: What are you willing to do next?

If I have the joy of saying "Madam President" on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, that does not mean I stop. It becomes my responsibility to hold Madam President accountable for her actions as President and work to make the changes she campaigned on become realities. It is my responsibility to hold Congress accountable for their actions and to question them when they continue to get in the way of progress and what is good and right for our country. It is my responsibility to vote and to question and to pester and to not back down.

If instead I have to choke on the name of our next President every time I say it, it is my responsibility to make sure his campaign promises that support hate and divide do not come to fruition. It is my responsibility to fight for my rights as a woman who does not want lawmakers and politicians making decisions about my body or anyone else's. It is my responsibility to fight against speech and actions that divide because of race, religion, or who a person loves. It is my responsibility to not allow us to step back into a place that we don't need to be as a country.

I am ready to do all of these things. Are you?

Vote on Tuesday. Don't forget to use your voice and exercise one of your fundamental rights. Don't let that right walk away from you because you don't think it matters. It matters.

If you still feel anxious and scared, here's the most adorable picture of Pumpkin (as determined by social media activity). If you click on it, you can probably download it or print it to keep with you always. Look at it when you feel scared; I promise it will help.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Lazy Movie Weekend: Pumpkin's Guide to Halloween Movies

I love Halloween. Fall is my favorite season so fall holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving, are my favorite holidays. I love candy, scary movies, and creativity. It's such a fun holiday regardless of how you celebrate it. I haven't really dressed up in years but I used to take a lot of time to come up with a costume. My favorite costume I ever wore was when I went as Barbie's friend Midge in college.  Yes, I said the full name all evening long. Yes, that is my apartment in the background. Yes, we had poster for The Usual Suspects in our living room. Say Anything was in my room.

I was also a super cute witch in elementary school and/or a "questioning my life choices" witch; you can decide.
I even have a cat named Pumpkin. Contrary to popular belief (of maybe five people), Pumpkin's name was not chosen specifically for its connection to Halloween. Nope, my parents, brother, and I voted on her name and Pumpkin won in a best of three voting cycle. Cinnamon, Pōpoki (which is Hawaiian for cat), and Nutmeg were options. Naming cats should maybe not be any member of my family's day job. Since Pumpkin was so helpful during the blizzard in January and helped us all get ready for a great summer, I thought she would do a great job helping prepare a Halloween movie marathon for this weekend. There are only 10 (she sleeps 18 hours a day so we have to be picky when selecting movies). There's a mix of family friendly and not so family friendly movies; Pumpkin is allowed to watch R rated movies but only with an adult.

Grab you popcorn, mellowcreme pumpkins (far superior to candy corn), and raid the candy bowl and settle in for Pumpkin's Top 10 Halloween Movies.
  1.  Hocus Pocus (1993): Pumpkin firmly believes if you don't like this movie, you can't be friends with us. It means you don't like fun and silliness and the glory that is Bette Midler in every movie. It also means you miss out on the greatest cat sidekick ever, Binx. Pumpkin questions his cat nature since he doesn't sleep 18 hours a day but appreciates his determination and love of family. She's also totally supportive of my continued crush on both Thackery Binx (pre-cat conversion) and Omri Katz (who actually captured all of our hearts on the short-lived TV show Eeerie, Indiana). Best parts: toss up between "I Put a Spell on You" and Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy delivering most, if not all, of their dialogue. It is a joy to watch.  
  2. Carrie (1976): Periods freak people out. Don't pretend that's not true. Stephen King is a master of horror for lots of reasons but to use the start of menstruation and the meanness of teenage girls to make a young girl realize her telekinetic powers? Genius. Pumpkin has never read the book (I read it for the first time at age 13) but we've watched this movie plenty. There are lots of terrifying moments: the creepy crucifix Carrie's religious mother keeps in their in-home chapel (which is also weird and creepy for completely different reasons), Carrie walking through town after the prom, drenched in pig's blood and blowing everything up with her mind, everyone's feathered hair. But the kicker is the very end of the movie. Amy Irving, the final girl of this movie (basically), is visiting a grave and paying her respects. And then the worst thing ever happens. Pumpkin doesn't want to spoil it for you but every time we watch this, that part freaks her out so much (in addition to Creepy Jesus) that she has to watch It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown before even considering going to bed. 
  3. The Exorcist (1973): This is the horror movie to end all horror movies. There have been many remakes of The Exorcist and many sequels but none can even come close to the creepiness of the original. If the music doesn't get you, then the cinematography will. The shadows and the way scenes are framed make you dread whatever is coming next. As horror movies go, it's actually a "quiet" movie, meaning an axe-wielding psychopath isn't chasing co-eds the entire time. The fear is real not just because it was inspired by real events but because the very idea of demonic possession is so out there that our brains (and cat brains) can't really process it. If you're ever in Georgetown, make sure to go visit The Exorcist steps. Pumpkin recommends not watching this one alone or with the lights out because you'll never sleep again.
  4. Shaun of the Dead (2004): After watching The Exorcist, it's probably a good idea to balance out your movie marathon with something a little lighter and Shaun of the Dead is an excellent option. This is the movie that gave us Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright. It's a comedy at it's heart but as with any good zombie movie, there are some moments that will both gross you out and make you jump a little. Pegg plays our titular hero, Shaun, a lazy guy whose girlfriend is tired of having all their dates at the Winchester (a pub that will come in handy later) and who struggles to find his place in life. Then people start turning into zombies and Shaun needs to save the day. In addition to the zombie movie tropes we all know and love, Pumpkin particularly likes the fight sequence at the Winchester that is possibly the best use of a Queen song in a movie other than Wayne's World.
  5. Freaks (1932): The most amazing thing about this movie is that it was considered controversial in 1932 when it was released. The movie was banned in cities around the country and people were genuinely terrified by the "freaks" presented in the film. Tod Browning, the film's director, cast actual circus and freak show performers in the film which heightened the terror. People don't like to be confronted by difference especially in the ways we see here. The film centers around a traveling circus and the freak show performers. An aerialist and the strongman scheme to steal money from one of the freaks, a midget named Hans, and then kill him. The rest of the freaks are onto the pair and spend the majority of the film trying to talk Hans out of marrying the woman and then exacting revenge on her and her lover when the time is right. It's a great early horror movie and has gone onto influence a lot of other horror movies and shows, including American Horror Story: Freak Show (season five). Watch if you like subtle horror movies and tales of revenge (which Pumpkin loves).
  6. The Addams Family/Addams Family Values (1991 & 1993): Is there a more perfect movie pair than Raul Julia and Angelica Huston as Gomez and Morticia Addams? The original television series is wonderful but these two movies are perfect. Pumpkin prefers to watch both as a double feature because it's the only way to truly enjoy them. The mixture of camp, creep, and hilarity are what make these movies so delightful. I was in middle school when these movies came out so I know some of the jokes were lost on me then but aren't they wonderful now! All the wonderful characters are there; Cousin Itt steals a lot of the scenes he's in. Probably the most terrifying part of either of these movies is the fact that MC Hammer wrote a song for the first film. Enjoy the video here
  7. Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975): Where does one even begin with this movie? Tim Curry is flawless as Dr. Frank N. Furter; his delivery of both lines and songs are a master class in how to be campy, a little scary, and sexy in a gender-bending kind of way. Barry Bostwick (PS - originated the role of Danny Zuko on Broadway in Grease) is probably why a generation of women love nerdy, nerdy dudes. Susan Sarandon is singing "Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me" is definitely an underappreciated moment of feminist abandon. The entire supporting cast is zany and creepy and bizarre. "Don't Dream, Be It" is the anthem we all need all the time. It camp and science fiction references and abandon. Pumpkin has never gone to see it in the movie theater but I can assure you it's a great experience and you should go out and see it right now. As for the recent Fox remake starring Laverne Cox and a bunch of people I don't know (except a severely underutilized Ben Vereen and a post-stroke Tim Curry), Pumpkin slept through it. Laverne Cox channeled Tina Turner and was made to wear Frank N. Furter's heels but she was the only thing exciting about the entire movie. Stick with the original.
  8. The Worst Witch (1986): Way before Pumpkin entered my life, I used to wait with anticipation (do your best Frank N. Furter impression if you must) for Halloween because HBO would show The Worst Witch every day after school for the entire month of October. Now if I want to watch it, I can add DVDs to my Netflix account, pay $90 for a used copy on Amazon, or watch a pirated version on YouTube. Sigh. This is the greatest movie about a pre-teen witch that doesn't involve Hogwarts ever made. Fairuza Balk stars as Mildred Hubble, the worst witch at Miss Cackle's Academy for Witches. Her spells don't work, she turns a classmate into a pig, and at one point, makes herself invisible. She has no hope of ever meeting The Grand Wizard (Tim Curry again and the only male in the movie) or moving up in school. Despite Mildred's lack of witching skills she is able to thwart a plot involving Mrs. Garret's evil twin sister and becomes the hero of Halloween. And at some point Time Curry sings this song which as an adult seems like the weirdest song to throw into a movie set at an all girls' witch academy. Pumpkin loves this movie because during the cat ceremony at the beginning of the story, Mildred gets a tabby cat rather than a black cat like everyone else. She would have preferred to get an orange tabby but not everyone gets to bask in the wonder of a tiny, orange cat.
  9. Near Dark (1987): There are a lot of vampire movies out there; some are funny, some are creepy and weird, some are supposed to be scary and probably are in a 1940 horror movie kind of way. And then there's Near Dark, Kathryn Bigelow's biker/Western vampire movie that was part of a resurgence of vampire movies in the eighties (The Lost Boys would be another one). Adrian Pasdar was the farm boy who falls in with a group of nomadic vampires including Jenny (who turns him), Severen (a psycho vampire played by Bill Paxton), Homer, the creepy kid vampire (who would go on to play the brother in Teen Witch), and Jesse, the father of them all. What's cool about it is that it's actually more of a Western than a straight up vampire movie. It's gory in the right places and beautiful in the way it's filmed. Vampire movies often drift into the ridiculous and this one never does. Pumpkin respects that; she likes her vampire a little more dirty than sparkly. 
  10. Halloween (1978): The original final girl, Laurie Strode, makes her debut in John Carpenter's classic slasher film. Halloween is now a franchise but the original will always be the best one. Pumpkin always felt that the later films were too complicated by plot twists and unnecessary characters (although she did enjoy Halloween: H20). One of the creepiest elements of the movie is the score. There's not an actual score; Carpenter "composed" the music himself. It's a single piano melody played at 10/8 (or what I'm told is called complex 5/4 meter). It's chilling to listen to and helps establish the mood of the entire film. Halloween helped to establish many of the rules of slasher and horror films from the final girl to the creepy mask to the fact that teenagers should never have sex on Halloween if they want to live. It also inspired some of my own writing. Pumpkin always hides when the music plays but firmly believes all Michael Myers really needed was a kitten and he wouldn't have killed so many people. Kittens make everything better. 

Keep in mind there are lots of Halloween movies out there. Pumpkin's favorites are in no way the only ones to watch but they'll get you started. She also wants to remind you that dressing your cat up for Halloween, even if it is just a tiny witch hat, is stupid and will lead to your cat plotting new ways to torture you. Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Twenty-Two Questions

This is not my originally planned post. I sat down last Sunday and wrote a pretty aggressive post slamming the GOP, their candidate, and the people who still support him. There was a lot of the f-word and anger at their garbage person of a candidate. I expressed disappointment in the system, in humanity, in democracy. It was a lot. Then I had a moment of clarity about what I had written. I was having dinner with some of my friends earlier this week. I don't see these ladies all that often (even though I work with two of them). It was fun and we laughed a lot and shared ridiculous stories. During the course of the evening, what I wrote on Sunday popped into my head and I couldn't bring myself to post it. Not because it's not true (it all is true) but because the anger isn't going to change anything. It's not going to change a person's mind if they're already set on a certain candidate. If his own words haven't changed their mind, my anger isn't going to do it either. The amount of obscenities would only make my mother sad.

So instead of being angry today (although I'm still very angry), I'd like to pose a series of questions that have been stomping around in my head during the last few months of this election. Some will make us all laugh, some channel my anger pretty specifically, some are what they are. I don't expect anyone to have the answers to these questions but I welcome your attempts in the comments. And you know, lists always make me feel better.
  1. When did the GOP get so weak? I get that minorities and women aren't their people of choice but when did their rhetoric of hate become the only thing their party is about? Didn't they at least, at one point, talk about their platform and policy? I feel like that used to be a thing.
  2. Does Paul Ryan get up in the morning, look at his collection of blue ties (the ones that bring out his eyes in a way us Democratic ladies don't like to admit we enjoy), and say to himself, "Does this shade of blue make me look less like I'm lying when I say I support our nominee? Or was it the sky blue tie? I can never remember."
  3. When Hillary Clinton did the shoulder shimmy at the first debate, do you think she thought "Channel Beyonce but also give Kate McKinnon something good to do on SNL?"
  4. How many people think having 17 candidates in a primary is a good idea?
  5. Can anyone pinpoint the day it became acceptable to question the patriotism of a family who lost their son to war because of their religious beliefs?
  6. Exactly where are these locker rooms the Republican candidate hangs out in? I don't think he understands that most people don't stand around discussing how they can get away with sexual assault in locker rooms unless they swim for Stanford or play football for Steubenville. 
  7. When did we, as a nation, get so hung up on the word "pussy" being vulgar but don't condemn a candidate who doles out racist, homophobic, and xenophobic speech like he's giving out terrible candy on Halloween?
  8. Follow up question: What type of candy do you think each candidate gives out on Halloween?
  9. Who would watch a fourth debate if RuPaul was the debate moderator and made the nominees lip sync for their lives? 
  10. Does Kellyanne Conway take five showers a day to cleanse herself of the filth she has to go on television and defend?
  11. Did John McCain and every other GOP mouthpiece wake up after the bus video and realize "Holy shit, if I leave my mother/daughter/sister/wife in a room with him he might actually assault them? Now I have to go on television and talk about how much I love my wife/daughter/mother/sister because obviously I do all the time but particularly when it will make me look like I care about women generally. I mean, I do care about women generally but mostly when they sit quietly and don't talk about having freedom to make decisions about their bodies or contradict anything else I say."
  12. Who would have thought that the Bush who would actually impact this election would be Billy Bush?
  13. Does anyone know the appropriate gift to send to the debate moderators for their service to this country? Except Lester Holt - he gets nothing. 
  14. Now that Rhianna is endorsing HRC, do you think she and Katy Perry will make up? I want them to be friends. I don't know why but I really want it to happen.
  15. Is Melania okay?
  16. Do you think Chelsea Clinton texts her dad (after teaching him how to text) every day asking him to make smart life choices? I think I would if I was her.
  17. If Mike Pence and Tim Kaine lived in the same neighborhood somewhere in suburban American and one of the teenagers in the neighborhood threw a rager, which one would call the cops?
  18. Follow up question: How many times would he call the cops in one evening?
  19. Has anyone checked on Ben Carson lately? Is he okay? Does he know where he is and what planet he's on?
  20. Which pantsuit was your favorite? It's the white one right? You don't think a white pantsuit is going to be good with her hair color but it just is.
  21. Who was your favorite celebrity at the conventions? You pick the convention. 
  22. What happened to Rudy Guiliani? I thought being the un-fun Republican from the Northeast was Chris Christie's job.
In the next seventeen days, I'm sure I'll come up with a lot more questions we need to answer. Until then, I'll be over here waiting for my "Icky Trump" t-shirt to arrive and listening to Janet Jackson's Control on repeat.

Happy Democratic Process America!