We watch The Ellen DeGeneres Show almost every day, saving it to the DVR and then fast-forwarding through all the commercials and interviews with those we don’t care about (like those two nasty little girls from England, like Justin Beiber, like Lady Gaga). Just over a week ago she began her annual “12 Days of Giveaways,” each day giving everyone in the audience up to $3,000 worth of “stuff.” And the audience invariably screams and cheers when Ellen flips over a Christmas box to show them what they’ll be getting—gift cards to those companies sponsoring that day’s gifts, electronic devices from tv’s to Blu Ray disc players to Playstations to X-Boxes to laptops to Kindles to I-Phones, watches, headphones, cookware, necklaces worth $1,000, cameras, sunglasses, even a Fender guitar. And the greed just oozes from the folks in the audience. I wonder how long it will be before most of these devices wind up in a closet or on a shelf in the garage. Or how many of the recipients will be selling their “stuff” for whatever cash they can get. Ho, ho, ho, merry Christmas and a happy giveaway from Ellen. We’re in the middle of an economic meltdown and yet nearly everyone living in the U.S. has at least one cell phone or e-reader or laptop. It strikes me that most of us in the U.S. are better off than we would have the world know.
More on The Descendents. I just finished reading Wild Horses by Dick Francis, the main character of which is a young film director working on a movie about a real life mystery involving the death by hanging of a young woman. I assumed that directors were just people who yelled “Action! Cut! Print!” and told the cast where to stand and how to say their lines. But I learned that it involves much more than that. The director chooses specific ways to get his message across. In The Descendents we see the young daughter through a patio window throwing deck chairs into the pool to suggest her grief over her mother’s coma. We watch the older daughter in their backyard pool, right after her father tells her that the life-sustaining machines will be turned off and that her mother will soon die. She hides her grief by going under where the camera records her silent underwater scream, her face contorted with underwater tears. And the final scene shows the youngest daughter sitting on the sofa watching television, a blanket across her legs, the same blanket that covered her mother as she lay in the hospital. The father comes in with two bowls of ice cream, one strawberry for her and a chocolate chip for him. He sits beside her, then pulls the blanket across his legs. They eat spoonfuls of ice cream, silently watching the tv. The oldest daughter comes in and sits next to her father, who pulls the blanket over her legs. He gives his ice cream to her, then takes the other daughter’s bowl and begins to eat from it. The three of them sit together, sharing their ice cream, the blanket, silently content together, now a family who have come together after the death of their mother, his wife. It was a powerful statement that couldn’t have been made with dialogue. I’m sure the director, Alexander Payne, chose this silent but powerful concluding scene. I’ll probably see this movie again, and then maybe again, just as I have with all the other movies I’ve admired, to see how the actors and the director bring it all off.