Word of the Night: Star-crossed

star-crossed \ STAHR-krawst, -krost \  , adjective;

  1. thwarted or opposed by the stars; ill-fated: star-crossed lovers .

romeo and julietThe phrase star-crossed was coined by Bill Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. But pre-dating the Bard’s dramatic offerings, romantic pairings have been star-crossed since boys began meeting girls and boys began losing girls. Samson and Delilah, Antony and Cleopatra, Lancelot and Guinevere are some of history and literature’s doomed couplings.

 

 

Recent additions to the pantheon of tragic lovers are Heathcliff and Cathy, Scarlett and Rhett and Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater.

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And let’s not forget all the boys meeting and losing boys and girls meeting and losing girls. Yeah, I’m thinking of you Ennis and Jack.

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And then there’s these two.  Alex-Piper-orange-is-the-new-black-35506832-1272-711

With the exception of the romantic comedy, a genre so close to extinction even SNL parodies seem hopelessly dated, I can’t think of a cinematic or small-screen couple that isn’t doomed from the start. maggie and glenThe jury is still out on Maggie and Glen from Walking Dead, but I think it’s safe to say with the zombie apocalypse closing in around them, this relationship isn’t going to end well.

 

 

 

 

 

Then we have Carrie and Brody on Homeland, or as I like to call the show, Who’s Going to Mess with Carrie’s Medication This Year? By the end of the third season we were all beseeching the stars, thwart them for God sake! Put them out of our misery. homeland

 

 

 

 

On Game of Thrones, the star-crossed lovers are easy to spot – anyone who’s on screen at any given moment: Ned and Catelyn; Cersei and Jamie; Tyrion and Shae; Jon and Ygritte; Rob and Talisa; Daenerys and Dragon… Daenerys-Targaryen-s-dragons-dragons-31250242-500-333

However, if you looked up star-crossed in the dictionary, and I did, by all rights there should be a picture of Mary and Matthew from Downton Abby. Stay tuned in February to see if Anna and Mr. Bates take their place.

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Word of the Night: Pusillanimous

I’m bringing back a little feature called “Word of the Night”. Bascially, I take Dictionary.com’s “Word of the Day” and discuss it’s relevance in my pop culture wheelhouse: sci-fi, action thrillers and suspense.   Think of it as Vocabulary 101 meets Thats’ Entertainment!

So without further ado, I give you:

pusillanimous   \ pyoo-suh-LAN-uh-muhs \ , adjective;

  1. lacking courage or resolution; cowardly; faint-hearted; timid.
  2. proceeding from or indicating a cowardly spirit.

The first image that comes to my mind, and I bet I’m not alone here, is the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz.

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This immediate association suggests that pusillanimous is not necessarily synonymous with villainous. In fact, a character overcoming a history of cowardice or a paralyzing primal fear is often celebrated as a climatic act of heroism. Standing up to a bully is a classic example of someone triumphing over their pusillanimous tendencies. How about Celie’s showdown with Mistah in The Color Purple? Or Ralphie letting loose his pent up rage in a cathartic pummeling in a Christmas Story.

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On the other hand, sci-fi and disaster movies love to pull the mask off their villains, revealing sniveling, self-serving weasels who reap their just rewards. Richard Chamberlain’s smarmy, corrupt architect in The Towing Inferno comes to mind, as well as Paul Riser’s twitchy, perspiring corporate hack from Aliens.rd0026

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It’s all the more satisfying from a structural perspective when the main character’s actions lead to the coward’s downfall. If you look up pusillanimous in the dictionary, and I did, by all rights there should be photograph of Martin Sheen’s Greg Stillson from The Dead Zone.

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Word of the Night: dowager

 noun: 1. An elderly woman of stately dignity, especially one of elevated social position.  2. A woman who holds some title or property from her deceased husband, especially the widow of a king, duke, etc.

 “Sometimes you have to be a high-riding bitch to survive. Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto.”

When I read the definition of dowager, the first image that popped into my head was Vera Donovan from Dolores Claiborne.  Both classical British actress Judy Parfitt, who played Vera, and the always stellar Kathy Bates, who played the title character, should have walked away with Oscars for their performances. Yet amazingly, neither was even nominated.

Next to Shawshank Redemption, this mystery/thriller from 1995 is my favorite Stephen King adaptation. The relationship between the two women is the heart of the movie, but don’t you dare call it a chick flick.  Married to an abusive drunk, Dolores goes to work as a maid for the privileged, demanding, at times cruel tyrant, Vera Donovan.  Upon hearing that Dolores’s husband has been molesting their teenage daughter Selena, Vera suggests to Dolores that, “Husbands die every day, Dolores. Why… one is probably dying right now while you’re sitting here weeping. They die… and leave their wives their money. I should know, shouldn’t I? Sometimes Delores, an accident can be an unhappy woman’s best friend.”

It seems that murder is being encouraged here in a very glib manner, but there’s nothing light about it.  Vera’s heartbreak and rage burn bright in Parfitt’s icy blue eyes.  And when Dolores finally does the deed, the film becomes even darker (literally).  The death is painful, messy, and nearly destroys the thing Dolores was so desperate to save – her relationship with her daughter.

And while Dolores and Vera’s relationship evolves from one of hatred and domination to one of love and friendship, by the time these women really care about each other, Vera is such a old wreck, marinating in her own fluids, as Dolores puts it, the greatest act of caring Vera can ask of her friend is to commit another homicide.  The fact that Dolores would oblige her makes this a wonderfully complex, gritty and totally absorbing movie.

 “And remember! Eclipse at five!”

Word of the Night: astringent

uh-STRIN-juhnt

adjective; 1.  Sharply incisive; pungent. 2.  Medicine/Medical. Contracting; constrictive; styptic. 3.  Harshly biting; caustic: his astringent criticism. 4.  Stern or severe; austere.

 noun: 1.  Medicine/Medical. A substance that contracts the tissues or canals of the body, thereby diminishing discharges, as of mucus or blood.  2. A cosmetic that cleans the skin and constricts the pores.

Who knew astringent was an adjective?  Here are some characters who could have used a strong astringent: 

Word of the Night: Volte-face

noun

 a turnabout, especially a reversal of opinion or policy.

I’ve long had a fascination with the idea of brain transplants.  I think anyone who has ever been physically attracted to an evil person, while at the same time unable to muster any enthusiasm for the sweetest person in town, has done the mental gymnastics. “If only I could put so-and-so’s beautiful mind in that asshole’s gorgeous body.”

This was played out to wonderfully comedic effect in Carl Reiner’s The Man with Two Brains, starring Steve Martin and Kathleen Turner.  Of course body switching via various modes has become a genre onto itself.  Face Off, Freaky Friday, Switch, 18 Again, and The Change Up all explore what it would be like to find yourself trapped, or liberated, in another person’s body.   Recently on Fringe we got to see what it would be like if Leonard Nimoy inhabited the body of Anna Torv.  While Torv’s performance fell just short of believability, it was probably more entertaining and easy on the eyes than if the reversal had gone the other way.

Usually around this time of year, I’m becoming more than a little frustrated with the local football teams.  Living in the tri-state area affords me the opportunity to root for either the Jets or the Giants, and I choose to torture myself by following the fortunes of both.

I know it’s not a substitution of body parts, but I wish I could either put Eli Manning and Ahmed Bradshaw in the back field of the Jets, or, transplant the entire Jet defense over to the Giants.  I don’t think this is such a far fetched idea.  Didn’t some Yankees and Mets players once swap wives? And they don’t even have to move their stuff to another stadium.

If I was going to do an actual body part transplant on a football player, it would have to be putting Brett Favre’s arm on Chad Pennington’s body.  Now I could probably find a younger player to donate the cannon to replace what has so sadly been referred to as Pennington’s noodle arm.  But I’m looking for a candidate who’s shown they don’t necessarily deserve the gifts nature has bestowed upon them.  I think Favre is a good match. Since both players are retired (at least they were the last time I checked), to get the most out of my fantasy I also need a time machine to take me back about ten years to when both players were in their prime.  That way Pennington would never have torn his shoulder 4 times, and Packers’ fans could have started cheering for Aaron Rogers that much sooner.

In the world of entertainment, there are several casting transplants I would love to facilitate.  Again going back in time, I’ve never been able to get past Shelly Duvall’s performance in The Shining.  I don’t want to root for the heroine to be clubbed with a bat, or not feel elated when she rescues her son and escapes death.  And while it’s conventional thinking to regard Jack Nicholson’s performance as celluloid genius, it has always bugged me that at the most suspenseful moment of the film, he breaks the tension by generating a big laugh with the line “Hello Johnny.”

 I’ve always maintained that if you took the cast of Kramer Vs Kramer and swapped it with the cast of The Shining, you would have the two greatest movies of all time.  Can you imagine Dustin Hoffman chasing Meryl Streep with an ax? And in the new version of Kramer, we would feel completely free to hate Shelly Duvall as much as we want.

How about a casting swap fantasy for a more current movie?  I am really looking forward to seeing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  After some early hatred of David Fincher over Alien 3 and Se7en, I’ve become a big fan of late.  And while I wasn’t crazy about the book Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I very much enjoyed the Swedish Millennium trilogy.  I’m going to try and keep an open mind about Rooney Mara, but to me, Noomi Rapace is Lisbeth Salander. 

 I wonder if after I see the American remake I will be ruminating over what it would have been like to see Ms. Rapace playing opposite Daniel Craig.  Hopefully, Ms. Mara will be wonderful taking over the role and 5 seconds into the movie I will have forgotten all about the earlier incarnation of the punk-rock hacker feminist heroine from hell.  Or, maybe I can use that time machine again, go back and insert Daniel Craig into the Swedish version.  Apologizes to Michael Nyqvist, but is he really the best looking actor Sweden can come up with?

Word of the Night: Methuselah

noun

 1. a patriarch who lived 969 years. Gen. 5:27.

2. an extremely old man.

3. a very large wine bottle holding 6 1   quarts (6 liters).

Yes, it’s my birthday.  And I am that old.  At least some mornings I feel like I am.  But I suppose that’s why they make Aleve.

How old will I get to be?  I used to think it if I had it my way, there would be no end.  I thought maybe by the time I got to my 80’s or 90’s they would have a cure for death.  Because when I stop to think about it, really think about it.  No longer existing.  No more thoughts.  No more experiences.  No sensation, awareness or relationship to others.  I become overwhelmed with feelings of dread and despair.  I get pissed off at the universe.  How could you do this to me?  As Bugs Bunny said so eloquently, “I’m too me to die.”

Someone once asked me, “What would you like to accomplish before you die?”

My answer: “Overcome my fear of death.”  

In trying to accomplish this goal and also avoid that troublesome feeling of dread and despair, whenever I contemplate the meaning of existence, I try looking at the big picture.   Okay, my little individual life will end sometime in the far off long away future, but maybe we’re all part of some ongoing process.  Maybe what I learn and experience is never really lost.  My life matters because  it contributes to the collective consciousness that lives on through endless cycles of expansion and contraction and…you know what?  It would be much easier for you to just go and watch 12 Monkeys.

Word of the Night: Gargantuan

 adjective

 gigantic; enormous; colossal: a gargantuan task.

And here I thought raccoons going through my trash was annoying.  Rumor has it one of these cuties ran off with the remains of Amelia Earhart. 

I never saw the Earhart biopic with Hillary Swank.  I always wondered if maybe Amelia crash landed on a remote island, fell in love with a local girl and took being rescued off her to do list.