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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, an archive list can be found at the bottom of this page.
My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Wednesday, February 18

Still Alice & Under the Skin

After seeing Julianne Moore in Still Alice slide down that tragic slope toward Alzheimer’s emptiness, I have to say she’s probably a lock to win the best actress Oscar. But then, I also thought Julie Christie would win it in 2008 for her role in Away from Her. Both performances were wrenchingly, painfully good. I thought Away from Her was the better movie simply because there was more story to it than that of Still Alice. Moore, as Dr. Alice Howland, is the victim of early-onset Alzheimer’s, and goes from the first indications of the disease when she’s fifty to the near final stage, a rapid transition of only a few years. When she first learns that she has the disease and what it will mean for her, she says to her husband (Alec Baldwin) that she wishes she had cancer. The tragic irony is that she was a noted scholar in linguistics, a respected professor at Columbia University, and we watch as she goes during a class lecture from losing a word that’s on the tip of her tongue, to a panicky moment when she’s jogging on the Columbia campus and can’t remember exactly where she’s at, to the time at her home when she had to urinate and couldn’t find the bathroom, to the final moment when her daughter Lydia (Kristen Stewart) is reading something from a play she’s doing and she asks her mother if she liked it, to which Alice nods hesitatingly, and Lydia asks her what it means, to which Alice, in a heartbreaking mumble, says, “Love.” And, yes, there were tears as the credits rolled by, but this wasn’t a movie intended to jerk our tears. It was a frightening look at a disease for which we simply must find if not a cure at least something that will slow its course. In an article about several families in Columbia, I saw that there were studies being made in Phoenix on drugs they hoped could either slow or stop the development of plaque that invades the brain, causing the loss of brain cells and memories, causing what’s called in Columbia “la bobera,” the foolishness. None of us wants to be looked at as foolish; none of us wants to descend to Alice’s wordless level. Thank you, Julianne Moore, for your portrayal of that descent. And congratulations on your winning the Oscar for that portrayal.

And while I’m at it, why not a few words about maybe the strangest movie I’ve ever seen: Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson as (I guess) an alien who steals a human identity (and why not steal the loveliness of Scarlet) and comes to Glasgow, Scotland, to entice men into her pool of black something where they sort of dissolve into just skin. Very little dialogue, in fact none for the first half of the movie, just alien sounds and garbled words of people on the street. And we have the unexplained helmeted motorcyclist who seems to be helping her or hunting her as she goes about her business driving around the city in her delivery van. Strange, strange flick. But I’m always more than happy to see Scarlet in anything she chooses to do, and the photography was gorgeous, with slow motion scenes of clouds and snowfall and forests and Scottish countryside with tiny humans moving about. I was so intrigued by what this movie was trying to tell me that I ordered a copy of the novel on which it was based. Maybe that will explain what the movie did not.
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