|young Joe, old Joe|
|young Joe, old Joe|
|The real Susan Orlean|
|Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean|
|Chris Cooper as The Orchid Thief, wading in the swamp.|
I’ve been thinking a lot about getting old lately.
Maybe it’s because I just had a birthday. Maybe it’s because I was just at my grandmother’s 90th birthday. Or maybe it’s because Dan and I went to see the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel last weekend.
My grandmother is quite a character and I wish you all could meet her. She’s a hardcore conservative, ravenous Fox News-watcher, and a god-fearing Catholic. (After my dad divorced my first wife, his parents purchased him a retreat weekend. My dad arrived, unpacked his bags, went to the first meeting, and realized that the topic of the weekend was ‘A life of celibacy.’ Cause, you know, divorce is a sin or whatever. Dad promptly packed his bags and left.) And while my political/social views could not be more opposite, Grandma Ernie is one of my heroes.
|My adorable family with Grandma Ernie|
Her greeting is positively the best: “Oh my Sky! My beeeaaautiful granddaughter.”
She’s had the same couch for probably 35 years.
She managed several apartment buildings single-handedly well into her eighties.
She issued a groan of joy upon receiving our gift–a simple calendar with all of the family birthdays written in. It was the kind of genuine over-the-moon disbelief-sound most people reserve for things like a new car.
Grandma’s tough, stubborn, frugal, she prays every morning and every night, and sincerely overflows with love. For her, it’s all about family.
And there we were–all her sons and their children and our spouses in one room for the first time in many many years. “This is the best birthday I’ve ever had,” she said.
|The Hornig Clan|
I guess when I think about getting old I can only hope that’s how it goes. I’m all filled up the brim on my 90th birthday thinking ‘it just doesn’t get any better than this.’
I know it sounds crazy (and probably a little bit stupid) but I don’t think I really realized I would get old until I turned 30. I mean I knew I would get old, but I didn’t really believe it. It kind of crashed down on me like a tidal wave.
It’s partially why I wanted to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel–a movie about seven Brits who make their way to India for retirement. The film is superbly acted (can’t go wrong with Judy Dench, Bill Nighy or Maggie Smith), heartwarming, a feast for the eyes, and funny. There are nuggets of wisdom throughout. My favorite perhaps is when a crotchety lady asks one of her comrades how he ‘can bear India.’ What does he see that she doesn’t.
“People here see life as a privilege, not a right. I think I can learn something from that.”
I’ve been having totally unreasonable panic attacks that my life is over. That whatever I haven’t already done I will never do. Yes, I know- crazy talk. But I guess I’m saying I appreciated the stories of these older folks and the little lessons…that our lives are constantly evolving, that adventures lie in hidden corners, that is never too late to do something, or to change your life or your self.
|How’d I land such a cute guy? I shall never know…|
Turning 31 was sweet. It was so far from my 30th birthday with oodles of friends camping out on the coast of California, and getting drunk enough to plant my ass on a styrofoam cooler around midnight, (true story). It was cake with my nieces and nephew. A long, fancy dinner with my husband. Shopping with Mom at Target. And toasting my grandmother on her 90th.
|My sweet nephew and niece! Georgia and Will|
So the world turns and on we go.
So. The Hunger Games blew my mind right out of the water.
Where to begin? The film was every bit as good as I hoped it would be and maybe better. No, it’s not as good as the book and some things are missing. But it’s as good and true to the book as film can possibly be.
Jennifer Lawrence is perfection as Katniss, and somehow conveys all the complexities of our heroine. I have such a girl crush on this actress right now. Her talent is raw and true, and not at all reliant on being beautiful—but she is beautiful, in a subtle yet startling way. Jennifer Lawrence is the real deal.
Woody Harrelson all but steals the show as the maddening and hilarious drunk with a big heart that is Haymitch.
Lenny Kravitz looks sexy in gold eyeliner.
I have to admit that Josh Hutcherson pleasantly surprised me. Perhaps because of all of the press photos lately taken of him that beg me to think of him as a brooding stud (a la the utterly talentless Robert Patterson). But Josh’s Peeta was just so loveable, I wanted snuggle right up to him.
The severe fashions, garish make-up and ridiculous hair-dos as well as every single impeccably styled set at the Capitol are a feast for the eyes. Peeta and Katniss are dumbstruck when they board the train and are greeted with crystal chandeliers, colorful sleek furniture and a buffet with riches of fruits and desserts. A stark contrast from the grays, browns, muted perpetually dirty color of their clothes and coal mining district where much of the population teeters on starvation. Effie Trinket, their escort from the Capitol, says (something along the lines of,) “I think its so wonderful that the tributes get to see and experience all this,” implying that seeing ‘all this’ and dying in the games is much better than living back in District 12 and never seeing it at all.
I read a review on the Village Voice that criticized: “Collins…through her very premise, astringently articulates her anger at a culture—ours—indifferent to inequity and war and besotted with its own stupidity. But the book’s rage and despair are diluted here, focusing too much on the high-tech gimmickry of the Gamemakers…” I completely disagree with this. Take the example above—how could you miss Effie’s stupidity—that to experience high fashion, style and luxurious food trumps the very right to life? Was this reviewer not filled with rage and despair when the gamemaker, Seneca Crane’s, produced a self-satisfied smile as he sent in lethal mutts to chase after and kill these teenagers in one of those “high-tech gimmickry” scenes?
Books aside, here’s the Panem I saw in the film:
A culture in which there are the very rich and the very poor.
The rich are obsessed with beauty, glamour, big lights and spectacle—oh, and violence and reality TV. The night before 24 teenagers are sent off to fight to the death, they crowd the streets delightedly chanting Hunger, hunger. They feel entitled to everything they have, and don’t give a second thought to at whose expense their wealth is won. And the poor? Well they don’t have much say or choice in much of anything at all. Hmmm…sound familiar?
I was on the verge of tears for the entire first half of the film. I kept thinking: Why is the story so affecting? Why can’t I stop thinking about it? Why do I want to read the books all over again and see the movie 10 more times? Maybe because it holds by the throat and shakes you awake. Because it rouses those deep human emotions–fear, hope, rage, despair…and love. The ones that make us feel alive.
And then there’s Katniss. My hero. My brave-but-afraid, strong-but-vulnerable, ordinary-but-extraordinary, tender-but-kick-ass hero.
Right back at you girl.
The Hunger Games movie comes out today and I will be one of the hundred millions of people who go to see it- I CANNOT WAIT!!! (I do not use all caps lightly, my friends.) My heart is a-pitter-pattering with excitement. I just watched the trailer for the hundredth time and got chills yet again.
Dan’s been teasing me to no avail about my excitement over this film (and repeated trailer-viewing). The teasing took a turn for the worse when I sprung $6.99 to buy the People Magazine Hunger Games collector’s issue. I’ll admit: this was a low point. I like to think of myself as above celebrity magazines. But I am not above the cheesy interviews where the actors all pat each other on the back or the behind-the-scenes shots of Elizabeth Banks getting that crazy-awesome make-up done. No: I am down on the same level with all the other collector’s buying the COLLECTOR’S SPECIAL and I’m proud to be there.
I disappeared into these books. They engulfed me. When I finished them, I stared at the ceiling and clutched the Mocking Jay to my chest, not knowing how to leave them behind. I wanted to talk to everyone who had read them, but then I tried and realized that what I really wanted was just to read them all over again and go back that place, back to Peeta and Gale and Katniss and even Haymitch.
I worship authors that can create a reading experience like this, who inspire millions and millions of people to read. Suzanne Collins- you go sister! This is a great essay by Carolyn Ross on The Millions about the pleasure of reading YA novels, and the important purpose they serve for adults and children alike.
Katniss is a complicated heroine and she is rendered so well. She is brave because she has to be brave, and she is also afraid because she lives in a society that breeds fear. She is vulnerable, often in a state of despair, and yet she gives hope to everyone around her. She tries to hold on to her humanity while being forced to kill people or be killed.
My sister told me that Suzanne Collins came up with the idea for these books while flipping between Survivor and a news story about the Taliban, (or something along those lines.) Given this, it’s not hard to see why these books are not only great book to read, but also scarily relevant.
I look at the world and I look at Katniss and I wonder: would I…could I be so brave? Things are going on at home that deeply disturb me, and I keep asking myself: what are you going to do about it? Reading these novels reminded me that you can’t win if you don’t fight—if you don’t take a risk.
Happy Friday everyone. I’ll report back on the movie. For now, I raise a glass to brilliant authors, good books, real life heroines and heroes, the risk takers, the fighters. May we all be as badass as this: