This Valentine’s Day, TOMORROW, PEOPLE, February 14th, at 7:30pm, HBO 2 will premier Debra J. Solomon’s animated short film Getting Over Him in 8 Songs or Less. The film chronicles the period in Solomon’s life just after her husband of 17 years — 17 years! — leaves her. Nearly paralyzed with loss and loneliness, she found herself writing songs. That process became this film: directed, written, sung, narrated, and generally made wonderful by Debra J. Solomon, of whom I am now a huge fan.
While I’m not going currently going through a rough breakup, I’ve been through some so cataclysmic and life-altering I probably still need therapy, and that’s just what Debra’s film gave me. Her songs aren’t so much steps to recovery as earnest expressions of all the painful questions, doubts, and disappointments that one experiences when someone they’ve built their life around suddenly walks away. Solomon doesn’t dwell on her own details, but we certainly feel like we get to know her — and root for her. Her songs are personal and poignant, but their universal themes will speak to any aching heart.
Drawing from the diverse, but racially and socio-economically divided landscape of Washington, D.C., Toe to Toe opens with a very powerful female voice. We hear Tosha chanting the mantra “Black Bitch” as she prepares to face her opponents for a lacrosse tryout. In that moment, we get a very raw glimpse of Tosha — warrior, high achiever, focused, dedicated and hard at work; for her, not a lot comes easy. Tosha tries to score a goal, only to come up short. As we see Tosha ’s frustration, Jesse appears. Fun-loving, with a certain arrogance of grace and skill that, along with the comforts of privilege, come naturally, Jesse says: “Watch me!”– and deftly winds her way to the goal and scores. On the exterior, their competitiveness on the lacrosse field, as well as the obvious markers of race and class, would seem to divide them, but something surprising happens as Tosha accepts Jesse’s help with her lacrosse game. Curiosity wins out as each girl sneaks a peek into the other’s world.
Obviously, their friendship is not uncomplicated. Preceded by their reputations, they take up different roles in the high school hierarchy. With their personal struggles, pressure from other students, and an interest in the same boy, the two find themselves “toe to toe” on more than just the lacrosse field. By the time Tosha’s locker is tagged with her mantra “Black Bitch,” their friendship has unraveled. The school goes into an uproar; the administration takes action. I was struck by this moment because throughout the film, we see Jesse at her locker with the word “Slutster” written across it. While never acknowleged, the label is there. Somehow, in a school quick to take up arms over race, it is still acceptable by both male and female students to demean a young woman or girl by labeling her a slut.
While similar in theme to more comedic fare such as Mean Girls, Toe to Toe stands out because the struggle for Tosha and Jesse comes from working within, yet pushing the boundaries and limits of the roles they have been given. They are unapologetic about who they are and own their actions, both “good” and “bad.”
Additionally, Abt broaches very women-centric topics such as the “virgin/whore” dichotomy, the normality of sports in women’s lives, girls’ aggression, working mothers and absent fathers, displacement of care with mothers leaving their own children to care for children of more affluent households, negotiating multiple identities, lesbians, rainbow parties, cliques, appropriating language, issues of privacy and technology, the power of perception and — there’s more! — the power of female sexuality. The film as a whole is an unapologetic portrayal of girls on the verge of becoming women and the dynamics of their worlds.
The panel, likewise, spoke to these topics and asked some important questions. How do we get people, namely boys and men to watch films with complex female characters? Why is it important to have male viewers?
We already know women have some serious box office mojo. The second installation of Stephanie Meyers’ Twilight series broke into the number 3 spot for all time box office opening weekends. An Education and Precious are in contention for Best Picture. A year or two ago Juno walked away with an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Does anyone even need to mention the phenomenon of Sex and the City?
Women want images that represent their multiple identities. No, I’m not talking multiple identities in the crazy sense. Just like men, we aren ‘t all the same. Maybe we just want a little reciprocity. So, all you women AND men out there, support independent film-making. Support women. See Toe to Toe, even if you never quite saw the point of lacrosse. (You will now.) Then, come and tell us what you think.
Over the past few weeks, Milwaukee teens have seen and and heard promo after promo for the horror film 2028. There’s blood, screaming, creepy lighting, gravelly voice-over, the works. Over time, though, it became clear that these weren’t trailers for a movie, they were trailers for YOUR LIFE. Your life, that is, if you’re young and knocked up. While the first round of previews ended with “in theaters January,” subsequent edits closed on the following message: “Get pregnant as a teen and the next 18 years could be the hardest of your life.” Then, a Web address flashes on screen: BabyCanWait.com. Oh, snap!
According to Broadsheet, this is just one of at least 15 anti-teen pregnancy campaigns presented by the United Way’s Healthy Girls program in Milwaukee. “Past print ads included images of teen boys with pregnant bellies and a baby diaper with a brown “scratch-’n'-sniff” spot. The ads’ creator says the aim is to offer a contrast to high-profile young mothers like Jamie Lynn Spears and “deglamorize” teen pregnancy…and credits the decline in the state’s teen pregnancy rate in part to their “aggressive and provocative” approach.” Note: BabyCanWait.com provides information about contraception and STD’s. This is not an abstinence-only campaign.
But, as Broadsheet’s Tracy Clark-Flory asks, “Are these shock-and-awe tactics the best way to reach kids?” While I sympathize with the goal, and appreciate the clear and creative commitment to it, something about the trailer didn’t sit well with me.
For one thing, horror movies are “glamorous,” too. (Older) teens — and women — like Saw, say. Not saying it’s aspirational, but the genre itself is seen as a double-dog-dare lark, not a cautionary tale about (say) losing your virginity at summer ca — REE! REE! REE! You know? So there’s that.
There’s also something about it that contributes to an ugly stigma. Teen mothers as screaming bloody victims. The baby as some sort of evil spawn. Or something like that. Ick. Not helpful.
Finally, I don’t think kids are running around getting (people) pregnant because Bristol and Jamie Lynn made it look so, like, cute. Or even just because ADULTS ARE LYING TO THEM ABOUT BIRTH CONTROL, which they are. There are so many naive, misguided, melancholy, ironic reasons that teens want to get pregnant, be parents. They’ve seen their sisters and brothers and friends do it. And it’s hard hard hard. But — based on what’s become normal to them — it’s not a horrorshow. I’m not sure you can convince them it is in a one-minute trailer when the rest of their life says otherwise.
Where would writers be without the people who’ve done them wrong? Without dysfunctional lovers, bad bosses and explosive partings of the ways, we wouldn’t have “You’re So Vain,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” “I Married a Communist,” Dr. Evil or “The Starter Wife,” to name but a few of a million examples. Nothing quite takes the sting out of heartache and humiliation like turning your tormentor into a thinly veiled antagonist. So it wasn’t surprising when Scott Neustadter, co-writer of the twee anti-romance hit “(500) Days of Summer,” fessed up this weekend in the U.K.’s Daily Mail that the movie’s titular heartbreaker was based on a real woman. The movie does, after all, start with the warning that “any resemblance to people living or dead is purely coincidental. Especially you, Jenny Beckman. Bitch.” Not exactly the sort of thing people say when there are no hard feelings.
But Neustadter admits that when the real Summer read his script, she told him she related to the Tom character, making her either acutely unself-aware or supremely adept at pushing his buttons. And if it’s the latter, Neustadter may wish to further consider this. Six years ago Lauren Weisberger turned her stint as an assistant at Vogue into a bestselling roman à clef that became a hit movie, an act of payback right up there with Nora Ephron’s scathing divorce saga “Heartburn.”
This weekend, however, Weisberger’s Devil herself, Anna Wintour, emerged as the sharp, tough-as-nails, and eminently fascinating hero of a critically acclaimed movie of her own, “The September Issue.” It might not be revenge, but it’s got to feel a little like vindication. So while Neustadter may be enjoying the box office fruit of his disastrous love affair, somewhere, Jenny Beckman may be quietly banging away on a screenplay called “Some Like It Scott.”
[Note: We are powerless to remove the italics from this post. We believe that at this point only robots can help.] The Canadian Press’s Things That Go Pop! pop culture blog has listed the five best breakup movies of all time. I was with them on “Casablanca” (1942) and “Annie Hall” (1977), but then the blogger decided that the 00’s was a decade that ranked three spots on the list. Of the three, I’m willing to give him “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004), because who amongst us HASN’T wanted to have the memory of a very bad breakup erased? But there’s nothing better from the 50’s, 60’s, 80’s(!), or 90’s that outranks “All the Real Girls” (2003) and “The Break Up” (2006) — a movie that even Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn didn’t bother to see? (And that is misspelled. Breakup, noun, is one word, as in Breakup Girl, the superhero/grammar stickler. Break up, verb, no hyphen, is two.) Posters to the site seem to be favoring “High Fidelity,” which is also from the 00’s (2000, to be exact), as missing from the list. What’s your vote?
In a real life story that is mostly likely soon to be a major motion picture, a love letter that took 16 years to reach its recipient resulted in a happily-ever-after ending.
Steve Smith and Carmen Ruiz-Perez fell in love 17 years ago, got engaged, but then ended their relationship. Then a letter lost behind a chimney — but recently rediscovered — brought the two back together.
From the AFP article:
The missing missive was only found when builders removed the fireplace during renovation work.
“When I got the letter I didn’t phone Steve right away because I was so nervous,” Ruiz-Perez told the Herald Express local newspaper.
“I nearly didn’t phone him at all. I kept picking up the phone then putting it down again.
“But I knew I had to make the call.”
When they were reunited, it was as if time had stood still, said Smith, a factory supervisor.
“When we met again it was like a film. We ran across the airport into each other’s arms. We met up and fell in love all over again. Within 30 seconds of setting eyes on each other we were kissing.
Look for the film staring Penelope Cruz and Ryan Reynolds in a theater near you, just in time for the end of the year holiday season. That, and look for a letter behind your chimney.
“Queen Padme to be Jane Foster? Such is the case as Marvel Studios announced today that Natalie Portman will star opposite Chris Hemsworth in Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Thor. The Academy-award nominated actress will play the nurse, Jane Foster, who becomes Thor’s first love.”
“Last week, I got dumped on the Lower East Side,” [Nate Westheimer] told The Observer. Mr. Westheimer, the 26-year-old head organizer of the NY Tech Meetup, had just ended his term as an entrepreneur in residence at Rose Tech Ventures. He fiddled with his iPhone, and said he wanted to create a mobile application designed for wallowing—one that could queue up classic New York–based breakup scenes from movies like Annie Hall and Kramer vs. Kramer. “I was like, I really want to see all the scenes about heartbreak that happen on like the Lower East Side,” he said.
And yes, they just may have an app for that.
Mr. Westheimer was explaining to The Observer why he had decided to return to the start-up game as vice president of product at AnyClip, an Israeli-based tech company that is planning to battle YouTube and other piracy sites in the free-media market by creating a competitive, legal database of movie clips for application developers. Only this one might cost ’em: AnyClip is hoping they can become a kind of iTunes for film scenes.
OK! So, just to plan ahead, what clips would you look up — and play over and over and over and over again — to tell the story of your breakup (only with people who look fabulous even when they’re miserable)?