Posted on Leave a comment

‘Dead to Me’: Cancer Risks and Human Psychology

If you haven’t binged “Dead to Me,” yet, it’s time to start. The short episodes featuring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini pack a punch. They are witty, dark and amazing. Bookmark this page and come back to it after you’ve seen the series. There are spoilers after the trailer.

Jen (Christina Applegate) found out she had the breast cancer gene and decided to undergo a double mastectomy to protect her family from the pain and suffering she went through when her mother died early due to breast cancer. She does this because she has seen the stress and sorrow that breast cancer can cause. Yet, Jen still smokes and drinks a lot, so while she has reduced the cancer risk due to her genetics, she has increased her overall cancer risk due to lifestyle choices. And it’s an unfortunately too realistic portrayal of decisions people make every day.

At first glance and with deeper thinking, it may seem like Jen’s decision to smoke and drink is in direct opposition to her decision to have a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of cancer. After all, smoking causes cancer, and recent studies have shown that alcohol is the cause of “several types of cancer.” It should be a no-brainer for Jen to give up these vices; instead, she dives headfirst into them.

In some ways, having a double mastectomy is the easier decision because it only has to be made once. There is a lot that goes into that decision, but once it’s made and the procedure is done, there’s no going back. Someone who should quit smoking or drinking needs to make the decision to not participate in those activities every day. Sometimes, the addiction is bad enough that an active decision needs to be made several times a day. It’s not just one decision and it’s over. Instead, it’s a continuous process of decision-making that doesn’t get easier.

Smoking and drinking are socially acceptable. Having a smoke or drink with someone is a way to bond with that person. Jen is in a position where she needs a support system. These activities are a socially acceptable way to make interactions easier.

Smoking and drinking provide solace and improve mood. Jen is facing the death of her husband and the problems that come with it. Alcohol is a depressant, which would make it easier for her to sleep at night. Smoking provides a comforting habit while producing a positive-emotion effect. Both these things are helping her deal with her sadness, her feelings and the tragedy she has experienced.

Regardless of her personal experience, Jen has fallen into the trap that many people succumb to. She doesn’t believe that smoking or alcohol will harm her in the long run. She experienced the death of her mother due to cancer, but that cancer was ostensibly caused by the BCRA gene not by other behavioral and environmental factors. While the cause of cancer is often more complicated than people want to believe, it’s easier to have a procedure done than it is to change behavior and overcome the addictiveness of nicotine and alcohol.

Advertisements
Posted on Leave a comment

‘Dead to Me’: No One Drops the F-Bomb like Christina Applegate

Most of the time when people curse, it’s not pleasant or natural. It’s like they’re trying too hard to make a point: I’m cool, I’m down to earth, I’m angry, I don’t give a rip what others think… (probably should have put a swear word in there.) The words spew forth like so much phonic vomit with no care for art or lyricism. Christina Applegate’s Jen in “Dead to Me” is the exception.

Jen swears a lot throughout the series. However, there is one scene where she shows how deftly Applegate, and theoretically, the writer on this show, can create poetry through vulgarity. Her delivery is only over the top because of the number of curse words she crams into two or three short lines. It’s a feat that would scare some actors and have others lose their, uh, this is a family blog, sort of.

Her use of the F-word is particularly beautiful. She wields the word like a tool to deliver a nasty cut or create laughter. Applegate delivers every line with clarity and emotion that matches the scene. Check out “Dead to Me” and learn how to swear from a master.

Posted on Leave a comment

‘Oblivion’: Come Face-to-Face-to-Face with the World’s Worst Nightmare

With a plot as predictable as “Oblivion’s,” telling you that this article contains spoilers is questionable. After all, if you know what’s going to happen, me telling you isn’t really a spoiler, is it? It seems as ridiculous as this movie and its ending. Still, there may be spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “Oblivion,” yet. I would suggest avoiding it altogether, and with a domestic gross total of just under $90 million for this 2013 release, it appears that’s what many people did.

That doesn’t mean that “Oblivion” is without merit. Sure, it may leave you wondering how Tom Cruise continues to get acting jobs and why Morgan Freeman decided to get mixed up in this 2-hour sleep pod. The film may even have the same effect on you as a sleep pod.

Still, it does give you cause to ponder and imagine thousands of Tom Cruises coming out of a spaceship on a mission to eradicate humanity from the planet, or at least, destroy enough people to make the planet harvestable. If the idea of thousands of Tom Cruises as an invading army doesn’t give you nightmares, I’m not sure what will.

The stunning visuals and effects were wasted on Cruise and his lack of acting ability. There wasn’t even a good running scene – he does run, but the angle that it’s filmed from doesn’t allow you to make too much fun of it. The movie’s end scene, which was supposed to be touching and beautiful, had me laughing out loud as “Oblivion” slipped into the absurd one final time.

Posted on Leave a comment

‘Dead to Me’: The Measure of Womanhood

If you haven’t binge-watched “Dead to Me,” what are you waiting for? With episodes coming in at under 30 minutes, you’re getting a series that can fit in with almost any schedule, and every episode packs a punch of drama, comedy, pathos and the exploration of psychology that comes with it. Bookmark this page, go watch the show and then come back here for the discussion. Spoilers are below the trailer.

Jen (Christina Appplegate) found out she had the gene related to breast cancer and got a double mastectomy (Applegate went through the procedure IRL in 2008) to save her family the trauma of what she went through when her mother died. (She still smokes heavily, but that’s for a different blog post.) After the surgery, her husband stops being intimate with her, and unbeknownst to her, he finds a younger woman with larger breasts to start a relationship with. He told this girl that he was a widower and his wife died from breast cancer.

While Judy’s (Linda Cardellini) case is a little more complicated, she says her fiancé left her after she had her fifth miscarriage. He couldn’t deal with the pain or the letdowns, and he wanted to have a family at some point.

These two experiences are parallel. As the two women have their womanhood and desirability called into question when they, for all intents and purposes, lose the body parts that make them female. Is Jen any less worthy of her husband’s love after she sacrifices for the sake of her family’s future? Is Judy less deserving of love because she hasn’t been able to bring a child to term?

Most people would say “No,” probably including these two women’s husbands before the procedure and the miscarriage had the hypothetical been asked of them. For all of American society’s supposed advances in rights and body image, the U.S. still values women for how they look and their ability to bear children. Nowhere is that point made better without it being preached than in “Dead to Me.”

Posted on Leave a comment

2 Episodes in: ‘Dead to Me’ and the M-word

To avoid any spoilers for “Dead to Me,” I have intentionally kept the subject of this post out of the title. That may mean fewer page views, but ultimately, it means better viewer service. If you’ve already seen “Dead to Me,” then feel free to scroll past the trailer. If you haven’t, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. Go watch it and then come back to this article. You can book mark it. It’ll be here when you come back.

According to the Mayo Clinic, between 10 and 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Miscarriages are rarely addressed in American culture. It’s almost as if superior medical practices and technology have made miscarriages a thing of the past. As an overlooked problem, and one that is often attributed to the woman and her lack of womanhood, it may be difficult for women to find a place that can help deal with the emotions a miscarriage may instill.

Judy (Linda Cardellini) has had five miscarriages, but this isn’t sufficient enough loss for some members of the grief support group to accept her after she has lied about her fiancé. It’s clear from a flashback that Judy’s grief comes from another place as well, but the group members don’t know about it. They just know she lied.

Not everyone handles their grief in the same way, and when something as personal as a fifth miscarriage is the cause, the woman may displace her feelings and choose to deceive to get the help she needs without exposing the reality of her situation. “Dead to Me” does a beautiful job of dealing with this emotional situation, touchy subject, and the psychology that comes with it.

Posted on Leave a comment

2 Episodes In: ‘Dead to Me’

When Jen (Christina Applegate) goes to a grief counseling circle, Judy (Linda Cardellini) tries too hard to become her friend. Jen holds onto her anger at her husband’s killer, a hit and run driver, and she is left alone with her two boys. Judy comes across as flaky, weird and possibly crazy. She says she lost her fiancé eight weeks ago.

“Dead to Me” deals with grief and other social issues. When the twist is revealed, it’s not because it’s obvious; it’s because of the acting skills of Cardellini and possibly the director’s skills.

There’s only one way this series can end, but much like watching a train wreck, you won’t be able to look away as the characters become more entwined and make choices that, while poor, make sense in what we as viewers know about the situation. The acting is great. Cardellini and Applegate make for an odd couple that fit just right. The situations are funny, and the dialogue is spot on. The characters are sympathetic and the script is well-written.

Don’t be put off by the stated subject matter of the series. “Dead to Me” is funny, smart and deserves to be in queue and binged at the first possible moment. Discover something you didn’t know you were missing.

Posted on Leave a comment

How ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is helping Netflix

Patch Penguin and the Avengers

“Avengers: Endgame” is smashing records like Hulk smashed everything in his many movie and TV appearances. Above all, it’s performing well in China where it’s close enough to all-time records to be mentioned in the same breath as homegrown favorites like “The Wandering Earth.”

The fact that “The Wandering Earth debuted in February and had the highest IMAX gross, which was then beaten by Avengers, creates an interest in seeing the movie. Endgame could gross more in China than “The Wandering Earth” and creating an even greater interest in seeing the Chinese film. If it was that good, it must be worth seeing, and for those who want to be able to say anything intelligent about the heavyweight duel overseas, they’ll have to find a way to see ‘The Wandering Earth” and find out what made it such a huge hit in China. In steps Netflix to fill the gap.

By promoting it as something people can see, Netflix is effectively able to use the free advertising generated by the comparison between “The Wandering Earth” and Endgame to get views of a Chinese film most wouldn’t ordinarily even find to watch much less consider. If Netflix or other streaming services begin to capitalize on the comparisons that go on with box office incomes, we could see a slew of international films gaining steam first through streaming. Once Americans get used to seeing foreign films with subtitles, there’ll be no stopping the influx of new and better films.

Even if those foreign film studios are as mired in sequel-itis as U.S. studios are, the stories and concepts will be new and more original to U.S. audiences. That’s good for storytelling and creativity because foreign films can introduce different ideas and viewpoints into American culture. For now, Netflix gains with having “The Wandering Earth” available to stream, and having one more way to create buzz through using another studios success.

Posted on Leave a comment

2 Episodes In: ‘Instant Hotel’

australia traveling travelling travel

When someone does something with passion and the do it well, it’s a joy to watch them be rewarded. In the second episode, Jannine and Mark have a ‘50s-inspired Instant Hotel that’s amazing. The other guests love it, too. When they tell the couple how they feel, Jannine and Mark tear up. It’s a beautiful moment that’ll touch your heart strings, too.

As a series, “Instant Hotel” is fun. Because the participants are Australian, I’m never sure what I’m going to get. Sure, they speak English, but the cultures are different enough to catch an American off guard. So far, they tend to stick with their stereotypes: The two gay guys, the spoiled little girl who can’t get out of bed and her enabling mother, and the young couple with the wife who is spoiled but “in a different way.” But most of them seem to be enjoying themselves. The competition is bound to ratchet up as the mother-daughter team look to bring down the gay-team, but for the moment, there are only seeds for this future conflict.

I don’t normally watch reality television shows, but “Instant Hotel” is a good time that has a different cultural element to it. If you want to diversify your viewing habits and watch something that you don’t normally watch, this show is a good choice. Improve your creativity by replenishing your well and learning about instant hotels in Australia.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

Posted on Leave a comment

Take a break with quirky ‘Aloha’

Aloha” (2015) brings broken Brian Gilchrist (Bradley Cooper) back to his Hawaiian military roots as a contractor designated to get the blessing of the king of Hawaii for a military base’s pedestrian gate, which would allow private contractors access to the launch area of the military base. Gilchrist is assigned Fighter Pilot Allison Ng (Emma Stone) as his military watchdog for his time in Hawaii. There is a love triangle involving quiet man Woody (John Krasinski) and his wife Tracy (Rachel McAdams), who also happens to be Gilchrist’s ex from 13 years ago.

The real problems arise when Ng discovers that billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray) has put a nuke in the payload of the rocket being sent into space. Weapons aren’t allowed in the sky, and this would violate treaties. However, because Welch is a private citizen, it falls in a gray area; he never signed a treaty. Gilchrist is faced with the choice of further disgrace and saving the sky or keeping his lucrative job and losing Ng.

Stone chews the scenery as the intense, socially awkward, quarter Hawaiian, who loves the sky and Hawaiian mythology. Krasinski provides an amazing performance as the man who doesn’t talk much. Cooper and McAdams are good in their roles as is the rest of the cast, which includes Murray, Alec Baldwin, and Danny McBride.

“Aloha” is a surprisingly good film. It’s low key nature and quirky characters provide an interesting family/friend drama. If you need to find your way back to yourself, there are worse places to do it than Hawaii. Welcome to a pleasant diversion, or as they say on the islands – Aloha!

Read more about the islands with these links on Hawaii.

Posted on Leave a comment

‘The Polka King’ Steals Hearts and Money in True Life Adventure

What if I told you there was a Polish immigrant in Pennsylvania, who fronted a Polka band, met Trump, George Burns and the Pope, and ran a Ponzi scheme that bilked people out of their life savings? “The Polka King” is based on the true story of Jan Lewan.

Jack Black’s portrayal of Jan Lewan is positive, upbeat, and American. Lewan does everything to make a dollar and to climb up the ladder of success, but it’s never enough. Then he hits on the idea to get investors for his career. Offering a 12% return on their investment, Lewan unknowingly embarks on a huge Ponzi scheme, and everyone is happy as long as they’re making money. He gets caught by the government and gets a warning, but the allure of easy money that can help him, his bandmates and his wife get ahead, is too much to resist. He continues with the scheme.

From the beginning of the film to the “Rappin’ Polka” ending, which might be the funniest moment of the film, “The Polka King” is baffling. It’s clear that what Jan is doing is wrong, but his heart seems to be in the right place. He’s just looking toward future success. How does something like this happen in real life? It can only happen in the movies, and sometimes in Pennsylvania – they have the pictures, newspaper articles and videos to prove it.

“The Polka King” provides plenty of fun and a little comedy. And if you don’t watch out for it, you might be hit with a dose or two of criticism of American Culture.