Saturday, September 29, 2018

What Movies I Saw This Week

Obviously not pleased with so many recent posts on women and relationships, an old-time reader wrote to me if I have stopped posting on music and movies entirely. A valid question actually. So this post is a quick fix to assuage any such doubts! 

The Girl with All the Gifts (Colm McCarthy, 2016) - Never since Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later (2002) has any post-apocalyptic zombie horror movie got me hooked like this one. I was so enamored by it, I went ahead and bought myself the novel of the same name by British writer M.R. Carey, which in turn is based on his 2013 Edgar Award-nominated sci-fi short story Iphigenia In Aulis. I won't spoil it more for you other than the fact that the British make good zombie movies that combine style and substance, unlike their Hollywood counterparts. Gemma Atherton and Paddy Considine act solid but its Glenn Close and the little heroine - Sennia Nanua as Melanie who steals the show. A beautiful score by Cristo, the Chilean-born Canadian composer famous adds to the flavor. 

Clan Of The Cave Bear (Michael Chapman, 1986) - Not since Raquel Welch stepped on her mammoth-fur bikini in One Million Years BC (1966) has there been a piece of pre-historic nookie more enticing than blonde goddess Daryl Hannah in this epic adventure about a young Cro-Magnon woman raised by Neanderthals. Luckily, she doesn't have to handle any dialogue here, just grunt and groan (with subtitles) and look smashing in this irresistibly silly cavewoman flick with many subtle overtones to feminism. The script, believe it or not, is by the great John Sayles and music by Alan Silvestri. If you can withstand people dressed in neanderthal costumes and Oscar-nominated makeup talking in sign language, this box office bomb based on the best selling book by Jean M. Auel is actually a good time pass. 

The Boy Who Could Fly (Nick Castle, 1986) - Charming, if a tad overlong fantasy drama about a teenage girl (Lucy Deakins), whose father has recently died, and her attempts to help an autistic boy (Jay Underwood) who seems to think he can fly. Deakins and Underwood's empathetic performances keep the story grounded in reality, even when it becomes fanciful towards the end. Director/writer Castle isn't quite Spielberg, but he does a good job at capturing a similar sense of wonder. Watch out for Wonder Years' Fred Savage, Jason Priestley, and John Carpenter. Good music by Bruce Broughton. For those who don't know, Nick Castle played Michael Myers in John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) and also co-wrote Escape From New York (1981). 

The April Fools (Stuart Rosenberg, 1969) - Jack Lemmon is caught in a comedy of romantic errors in this bright farce about a wall street broker who falls for a stunning woman (Catherine Deneuve) who turns out to be the wife of his boss, brilliantly acted by Peter Lawford. The two try and run off together, amid all kinds of complications. Wildly out of control at times, this romantic comedy directed ably by Cool Hand Luke's Stuart Rosenberg has enough of a lunatic edge to keep you interested and give a lesson or two about being caught up in a loveless marriage. The stellar supporting cast includes Sally Kellerman, Charles Boyer, Jack Weston, and Myrna Loy. 

Equalizer 2 (Antoine Fuqua, 2018) - In this fourth collaboration between Denzel Washington and Antoine Fuqua and much-awaited sequel to the 2014 hit, things go quickly downhill from a rather very impressive start that promises so much potential to a faltering weak film by the time it ends. Denzel Washington's acting is top notch as usual but a stupid "in your face" unsuspenseful script, unnecessary characters, and too much sugary sentimentality robs this vigilante thriller of any redeeming factors. A stormy weather setup that's outlined right from the beginning ends up like a joke in the climax with preposterous sequences. I had a nagging feeling if the first half and second half were directed by two different individuals. Its anybody's guess, which one was Antoine Fuqua but who cares anyway, when this movie has already crossed over $184 million since its release. Strictly for Denzel Washington fans. 

How It Ends (David M. Rosenthal, 2018) - This Netflix dystopian thriller got my attention because it had a nice trailer, it had Forest Whitaker and also because I have a perennial appetite for all "end of the world" movies. I should have trusted the negative reviews though, a terrible film and a sheer waste are what many warned. I won't say its as awful as the reviews make of it, its pedestrian in the pace of course but shot very well, the acting by Theo James, Whitaker and co are also not as bad but where its utterly fails is the pacing and final pay off. The mystery of what really happened or how the world has ended or is ending is never explained. Not explained at all actually. I guess they wanted to make a sequel where the mystery will be deciphered but the way "how it ends" and the kind of negative publicity it has already received, I think that noble idea must have already been shelved. As long as you are willing to see a dystopian road movie with a sense of perpetual dread and don't mind an inconclusive ending, How It Ends is an ok watch but insipidly boring nonetheless.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Make Love, Live and Let Live

What two consenting adults do with each other is none of the world's business

Sex is good! From the smallest insects to giant whales, every living thing has sex and copulates, well almost if you exclude the types that reproduce asexually. There is something elementary about sex, it’s a need, a want and a necessity but in spite of being on top of the evolutionary ladder, we still act as prudes when we decide to discuss our attitudes towards and sexual liberation. Moral correctness some would say, others would say its indecent. In my opinion, we are hypocrites actually, ambiguously obsesssed with victorian concepts of sex and reluctant to embrace the evolution of sex. 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not supporting debauchery nor do I support the hateful violent acts that are committed in the name of sex. I also respect the right everyone has to not be subjected to ideas and images that one finds objectionable. But at the same time, I hate attempts to stomp out so-called "deviant" behaviour, sometimes in the name of law and order, and other times as preservation of the species, or health education, or just because the holy books don’t advocate it. 

Time was, just the suspicion that a person engaged in same-sex activities could lead to being fired from a job, outcast from the community, and subject to harassment and persecution. It’s still happening. While many of the overt attempts to oppress (LGBTQ) sex that falls outside a strict definition of a conjugal man – woman bliss has ceased, we still feel the aftereffects of what once was. There is still a certain stigma attached to non-missionary sex between same-sex or even sex between unmarried people. While sometimes this stigma is expressed in untoward curiosity, and sometimes expressed as disdain, it is present and we feel its effects. 

We must remind ourselves that, no matter what we might hear, there are people who break through these boundaries and they must be accepted. Who decides what is really “Deviant”? Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t make it a wrong. Telling people that that certain sexual practices are unconditionally dirty, or depraved, or perverted, does not make it deviant or make those desires go away. But it can have devastating effects – can make people hide from their friends and family, can make them hate themselves, or hate others out of jealousy for others' relative freedom. It can stifle their self-expression and hinder their relationships. And most importantly, it can shut down the lines of communication and force people to relate to their sexuality in ignorance, insecurity and fear. I have gay friends who have suffered a lot and some who continue to suffer. 

If you are the types who think sex outside marriage or ‘same-sex’ sex is bad, at some point even the most self-loathing person in the world is going to have sex. Because all they have to do is cross that line. Strike up a conversation with someone attractive and before they know it, they could be having sex. As a society, we really cannot stop or control what happens between two willing humans. 

As a species, we are sadly stuck in a limbo. We must encourage these poor souls that all they have to do is cross that line and assure them that it's not a sin. A reminder that in spite of all the things that tell you not to have sex, you can still have the desire: and there is nothing wrong with exploring this desire with a consenting adult, as long as you keep your eyes open and your head clear. 

Sexual liberation or sexual license? Sex has always been meant to be enjoyable and diversionary and consensual, and to each, his or her own. Don’t let stupid bigots or right-wing religious zealots stop your carnal pursuits. Live and let live. Make love, lots of it! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

In Search of Great Sex

Romance is dead, sex is abundantly cheap but it's not Real

While critiquing a poorly crafted erotic novel today, I wanted to berate the author for often neglecting a simple but critical driver in his plot – that truly great sex is really great only when it’s free. When I say free, I mean free in the literal sense, meaning its really free of charge, and also free of baggage. And here was a wealthy protagonist, trying to get laid paying his way through a multitude of soulless women. If the author's intention was to amorously entice, it certainly wasn’t. Instead, it sounded more like a collection of misogynistic rape fantasies, a sad reflection of how mainstream erotica is now these days.

For me, when you pay for sex, it’s an actual business transaction. There’s no soul or drama to it, it's sadly all about the money, the time and what’s in it for you as the buyer as much as it’s for the seller. And I hate it. When you pay someone for their time, a cover charge or a per hour charge at a brothel or a per minute charge online, all you are really paying for is a time-bound limited access to an empty space -- physical or virtual - whose provider claims is a place where sex will be found or likely to be found. Its click and bait of the carnal kind for hollow sexual gratifications. 

And specifically, the Internet has provided a great opportunity for the commercialization of sex - cybersex sites, cam sites and other online businesses where one can interact in a sexual non-judgemental environment with other adults for a fee. However, when you pay for this kind of sex, there is still no guarantee that any sex will be found, and if you do find any there is no guarantee that it will be any good. And as any connoisseur of sex will tell you, sex for which one has to pay a cover charge is never as enjoyable as the sex one finds in the chance encounters experienced in the unlikeliest of places to the normal vagaries of life – with your significant other or significant others if that’s your thing. 

Despite this inexpensive availability of sex and the massive growth of the sex industry, sex is still free. It’s just that we don’t make an effort. True lustful sex, sex that is fulfilling and enjoyable and satisfying, is something that consenting adults give willingly to each other. It cannot be bought or sold. It’s a natural, passionate and impulsive response. Pity, we don’t do this anymore. 

But most men are to blame too. You are really a cheap asshole if you expect sex just because you bought her flowers or a meal for your girl. You may pay for dinner or a movie, and you might think you will be getting some when the meal is done and or when the credits roll. This, unfortunately, is not always the case and that’s uncertainty is what makes true spontaneous sex truly special. And when it’s with someone you have been thinking about or should I say, fantasizing about, this sex can be spectacular. And if the feeling is mutual, it can be outstandingly electric. Add real love and it will become fabulous. 

Romance is largely dead now. As a species, we have become lazy and self-absorbed. Too obsessed with our careers, our life problems, and insecurities that we have forgotten the art of dating and seduction. Sex is so cheap now, men want to simply pay for it. No love, no dates, no foreplay even, just pay and fuck. You can now order sex just like a meal and its delivered to your doorstep. It’s a shame and speaks how commoditized sex has become. 

It’s not much different for women too, the sheer abundance of desperate men ensures a wide never-ending choice for the woman who wants to get laid tonight. All she has to do is open any one of the countless dating apps on her phone and choose the guy she wants to be with. Unless she is searching for a soulmate, she doesn’t even have to compromise. There are always so many men in the line, eager to please that she can pick and choose. And for a momentary change, she is in control. 

Call me stupid or a purist, but sex with no soul is no sex at all. I can wait for true sex! Good sex, after all, is not just free, it's amazingly priceless.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Are you a 21st Century Woman?

Taking Calculated Risks and Returning to the Basics

I had this rather challenging assignment to finish today. How does a new women-centric publishing company define an ideal 21st-century woman in its vision statement and even if it can, is it correct to generalize it? But what is the 21st century woman? Or rather, how does one perceive 21st-century womanhood? 

If you are a woman, perhaps the biggest paradox on the horizon is the new resurgence in feminism - abortion rights, #metoo activism, corporate equality, women safety, and much, more. While many would say "we've come a long way baby", yet, women continue to be bombarded by society's continuing entourage of conflicting and mostly self-defeating messages - thin is in, fat is all that, be sexy, be modest, burn your bra, be Barbie, don’t be Barbie, get fake boobs, please your man, be your own, be perfect, be natural, be independent, make a career, stay at home, have babies, raise your kids, let someone else do it, be promiscuous, stand up, fight back, tolerate - the list is endless and ever-changing. 

This is where the risk-taking comes in - you must define who you are and who you want to be, not what society expects you to. Sometimes what you want is going to go against the grain, sometimes you'll find yourself going with it. No matter the path you choose - it is your choice and yours alone and it always must be yours. But that doesn't mean that you don't need or want a little help along the way, or maybe just some acknowledgment and understanding as you wrestle with life's choices. If you are lucky enough, a good boyfriend, a supporting husband, loving parents, helpful siblings, caring friends, all can make this journey a less complex. 

However, ultimately, life is what we make of it and when it all just seems a little too overwhelming, that's when it's time to remember that it doesn't have to be tough, that it doesn't have to be complicated, that really what it all boils down to is quite basic. 

The basics are this: Nothing much has changed - our societal values and beliefs may fluctuate over time, but the basic instincts, responses, drives and motivations of people - of men and women - remain the same - and no one can truly argue that. We all are creatures of needs, worldly wants, and vain desires - things sexual, instinctual, and even cerebral. But, whether you tout the moral majority or the bra-burning 60's, or pick your battles somewhere in between - when it comes to matters of the flesh - in the end our hearts and bodies rule our heads, it just may take some folks longer to realize or accept that than others. 

So, if you consider yourself a 21st century woman, it's all about taking risks worth taking and returning to basics, but pragmatically. So that's where you stand, for those of you who know what you want out of life, from men, from women, from relationships, from careers, from marriage, from your heart, your mind, your selves – you are your own forum, your sounding board, your recreation, your "push" when you feel you need pushing. And it is the push that is actually the pivot point here - taking calculated risks and returning to basics of being a woman. Ah yes, there's nothing more fitting for the ever-changing 21st century woman no better than a good paradox.

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