Posts Tagged ‘grief’


Sean Penn+Baby Voice= Milk Oscar Buzz?

December 6, 2008


Just give him the Oscar nom already.  I swear, no actor portrays a babyish innocence like Sean Penn.  As I sat through what was his whimsically passionate portrayal of  Harvey Milk in Milk I could not help but think that I’d seen this vulnerable, “goo-goo gaa-gaa” performance before in I Am Sam.  What a wuss!  I say this not at all in a demeaning sense but rather  in awe at how Penn effortlessly makes you believe that you aren’t watching him act for two hours- he just is.


Though I knew very little about the life of Harvey Milk (and even littler about George Moscone) I knew I was in store for a two-hour saga that would surely cause the tears to well up- and did they ever.  For the record I enjoyed Milk because of it’s political relevance. To be sure, it’s eerie at how the whole art- imitating-life-imitating-art phenomena rings true 30 years later in the era of Proposition 8.   Thus, I was quite intrigued at director Gus Van Sant’s chronicling of 1978’s Proposition 6- the initiative that sought to ban gays and lesbians from teaching in public school.  And then there was Anita Bryant.  You silly rabbit.


Not to be outdone the supporting cast too deserve their share of accolades.  James Franco’s acting chops have matured since his Spiderman days and he gives a sweet performance as Milk’s homie-lover-friend- to- the-end, Scott Smith.  Diego Luna also gives a powerful performance as Jack Lira, a lover with insecurities that are bone deep (almost painful to watch, really) and Emile Hirsch is solid as Cleve Jones, Milk’s friend and fellow defender of gay rights.  Josh Brolin rounds out the supporting cast as the troubled Dan White, San Franciso supervisor and assassin.


So why should you see this movie?  If not for Sean Penn then see it for the cinematography.  I still don’t know  which scenes were authentic news footage  and which were shot to look that way.  I don’t think I even want to know.  For 128 minutes I felt as if I were living in the Castro district rather than seeing the movie just a few short blocks away from it.  See the movie for it’s messages about tolerance, too.  Milk’s tagline reads “Never blend in”.  Who can argue with that?


Grieve This: The Funny Side of Loss

November 14, 2008

This won't hurt a bit


Just when I’m fed up with all of the crying, anger, and sadness associated with the stages of grief I’m reminded of a movie that continues to help me ease through the transition of loss and gives me more than a few chuckles along the way. 

Analyze That (2001), the sequel to Analyze This (1999), is director Harold Ramis’ take on the comedic side of the gritty underworld of organized crime.  In this flick Billy Crystal is Dr. Issac Sobel, a psychiatrist who is given custody of the imprisoned, former New York crime boss Paul Vitti (Robert DeNiro).  The FBI certifies Sobel as a temporary federal institution in hopes that Vitti will keep tabs on his former associates’ organizations and testify against them in exchange for an early parole.  Hilarity ensues when the newly-released Vitti brings his womanizing and foul-mouthed bravado into Sobel’s home, enters the legitimate work force for the first time, and struggles to suppress his urges to give a knuckle-sandwich to those who rub him the wrong way.

The funniest scenes in the movie take place when Sobel, grieving the recent loss of his father, becomes entangled in Vitti’s mob dealings and is forced to break from his straight-laced character and get scrappy with the bad guys.  Throughout the movie he frequently states, “I’m grieving. It’s a process” and breaks into sudden crying fits during moments when bullets are whizzing by his ear and even while pummeling a henchman in the face.  In these moments he is very present  with his grief, allowing himself the space to cry no matter how inappropriate the environment.  Likewise, Vitti who is also grieving the loss of his father, breaks from his tough guy persona to show emotion as well. 

The first time I saw Analyze This and Analyze That I instantly fell in love with both films and chalked them up as proof that Robert DeNiro could be as equally comedic as thuggish in his movies.  I’d always had a strange obsession with quoting movie lines and incorporating them into my everyday talk with my friends and family.  For a long time “Why do you say this to me when you know I will kill you for it?” (a la Superman 2) was a household favorite but that’s neither here nor there.  The first time I saw Analyze That I had no idea how therapeutic those four words, “I’m grieving.  It’s a process” would become in my life.  It is my mantra and my way of telling folks, “Look.  I’m going through something right now and you couldn’t possibly understand what it feels like on the inside.”  Sometimes I cry so unexpectedly that my friends and family simply give me a nod of acknowledgment and let me be.  Thanks.

Grief sucks.  When loss occurs there is no way to avoid the inevitable stages of denial, isolation, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance.  These stages are in no way linear and the emotional suffering and stress can at times feel like riding a roller coaster with inadequate seating restraints.  The only way that one can recover from the process in a balanced way is to feel the feeling, seek outside support from family, friends, and professionals, and practice excellent self-care techniques.  It’s that simple and yet that hard.  Be well.