Excerpt from a short story I’m writing…

…called “Dirty Work.” Enjoy!

She was surprised to find, among the mess of leaking alcohol and fallen white pills, that death was a lot like life. Or at least it seemed to be, in that she awoke sitting in the exact same slumped position on the bathroom floor in which she last remembered finding herself. The difference was, there was a hunched elderly man in overalls standing over her that Eva distinctly remembered not being there before.

“Who are you?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Don’t matter none, girl. You’re comin’ with me. Got somethin’ to show you.”

It was odd—Eva, try as she might, could not pick up on the specifics of the man’s features. Every time she tried, his face seemed to blur right in front of her.

“I can’t,” she found herself saying, her voice unrecognizable to her own ears, “I’m dying. I’m supposed to be dead.”

The man snorted, holding out a rickety, tremoring hand. “Well. You ain’t dead yet. Obviously. So come on then. I ain’t got all day.”

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Review: Mr. Holmes (2015)

It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Victorian literature. This affinity, in tandem with being swept up in the phenomenon that was BBC Sherlock in 2010, led me to become quite the Sherlockian. I visited the “real” 221B Baker Street in London–twice–and have read and re-read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s old tales dozens of times. Naturally, I was very excited to watch Mr. Holmes as a nice entry back into Sherlock Holmes’ complicated mind. Overall, I was very impressed.

The bulk of the action takes place almost entirely along the shores of Sussex, England (an emotional component for me, as I studied abroad there) at Mr. Sherlock Holmes’ burrowed little cottage. The film opens following Holmes off the train after a visit to Japan for a plant known as prickly ash–which is meant to increase one’s cognitive abilities. Holmes is elderly, hidden away, and, of all things, minding bees in his yard. The film takes on a very personal, homey feel as opposed to a highly-charged speed race through London as Holmes rushes to solve the latest murder. Almost immediately, the viewer understands she is in for a completely different experience than that of any previous visual adaptations of Sherlockian lore.

If you are expecting to go into Mr. Holmes to find the quips and quirks of Benedict Cumberbatch’s stoic Sherlock, you won’t find them. Sir Ian McKellan’s Sherlock Holmes is quiet and contemplative; this film very well serves as Holmes’ “last bow” in a way many modern adaptations haven’t. The tone of the entire film is reflective and emotive, which might be hard for Sherlockians to grasp. We know Sherlock to be calculated, logical and sometimes quite cold for the sake of solving a mystery. In Mr. Holmes, however, the mystery to be solved is Sherlock himself. As a viewer and a fan of Sherlock Holmes as a character, I did not find this change in his demeanor disconcerting–rather, I found it necessary and effective in rounding out his character. As he approaches the end of his life, Holmes finds in order to feel truly complete and accomplished in all he has done, he must come to terms with feelings he’d locked away years ago.

I’m sure you are wondering where Dr. Watson might fit into this picture. On the contrary, Watson is almost entirely absent from the film. His absence is felt, however, and addressed; the moments he is referenced or shown are very subtle and poignant, reflecting the long, complicated history between him and Holmes. But the human component Watson brought to Holmes is certainly not cast aside. Instead, we have Holmes’ housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger (Milo Parker) who act as foils in different ways to Sherlock. Mrs. Munro is not an “educated” woman, but has the common sense and open tenderness Holmes lacks–or thinks he lacks–in himself. Roger is inquisitive and quick on his feet. The latter in particular functions as a Watson-esque someone off whom Holmes can bounce off his musings and ideas while also inspiring intellectual stimulation. Holmes and Roger’s friendship is portrayed brilliantly by McKellan and Parker respectively; indeed, Roger is a catalyst in Holmes coming to recognize his very human emotions. The very “homey” feeling of the film is emphasized by the fact that we mostly follow only these three characters in the whole course of the story.

Sherlock Holmes’ final “case,” then, is about humanity. It is about finding humanity within himself, appreciating it within others, and learning to let go of logic and calculations when necessary. We see a very vulnerable, human side of Sherlock Holmes in this movie that I would have never expected. In the same respect, though, particularly in flashbacks to Holmes’ final case before he quit the profession, we see a lot of his brilliance and uncanny knack for finding clues in the seemingly mundane. This is definitely the Holmes we know and love–but one who has loved and felt and lost, too; a fact with which in this film he is slowly coming to terms.

Mr. Holmes is very character-heavy, often using extreme close-ups and long bouts of conversational dialogue which can sometimes be tedious. But again, it is a personal film, about The Great Detective’s personal journey. Bill Condon does a wonderful job conveying all this, and the acting by all performers is superb especially in relating to the audience the key relationships in the film. Mr. Holmes takes viewers on an intimate journey and leaves you teary-eyed in the best (if most irrational) of ways.

Overall rating: 4/5

Always

I always come back
to your xoxo‘s
and your big crooked smile
and how your mind knows
what little deceits
my brain tricks me with.
You change the equation
to make logic fit.

I always return
to the big words you carve
into need you’s and miss you’s
until I am starved
of reality’s measure of
love and of friends.
Until I am clawing
at your threaded ends.

I always make truths
out of webs of half-lies,
of pictures you draw
that depict your demise
or the life you could make
if I’d disappear.
I wonder if you see
me, bare, standing here.

I always regret
what I should not have done,
or perhaps might have said
had you ever been one
to listen, to hear my
silence speak tones high.

With x’s and o’s,
I tell you–finally:
Goodbye.

You’re a wonder, Wonder Wo…MAN?

I’m cross-posting this from my personal Tumblr blog (with lots of edits including removal of angry exclamation points), because I feel as though it simply has to be said.

I love Chris Pine, mostly because I love him in Star Trek. And he was pretty damn amazing in Into the Woods, as well. So when I heard he’d be playing Major Steve Trevor opposite Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman in the new film set to come out in 2017, I was very excited. There’s no question Diana Prince’s boyfriend is kind of a hot mess, so seeing Chris Pine’s beautiful face onscreen being whisked off by Wonder Woman as she saves him from the bad guys is something I’m dying to see.

But here’s the thing. I’m kind of annoyed at how the media’s already looking at Chris Pine having a “bigger role” than just the damsel in distress in Wonder Woman. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but tons of articles announcing Chris playing the role say things like, “don’t assume this means his role as a love interest is minor!” I take issue with this.

Why in nearly all the articles, does it have to be made very clear that “OH, STEVE TREVOR WILL HAVE A PIECE OF THE ACTION TOO! DON’T YOU WORRY, FANBOYS! STEVE TREVOR KICKS BUTT TOO! THIS FILM IS INCLUSIVE! WE’RE SO INCLUSIVE”?

Wonder Woman was set in the 1940s, and was very progressive in writing a woman who kicked ass 24/7 and saved her boyfriend all the time. The argument against this is stated pretty well in a Vanity Fair online article, which says “it would be more progressive for the Wonder Woman movie to ditch that stereotype, to create Steve Trevor as a well-rounded, participatory character and prove to the other movies how easy it is to create a love interest who really matters.”

Very well-said. And it would make sense to allow Steve Trevor’s character to surpass the role of the damsel. However, men being perceived as flat love interests is not a stereotype. Women portrayed in those positions, is! Men in compromising situations where they could be seen as “weak” as women are not encouraged to be displayed by mainstream media. But women still aren’t created as well-rounded characters when the situation is reversed–or at the very least, aren’t developed very well. And if they are,  it’s a surprise to people. If, say, Superman’s Lois Lane or Natasha Romanoff of Marvel who has her own comic book series are given more depth and “bigger roles” than those assigned to them by the men who draw them up, it’s a surprise rather than a given.

Steve and Diana say,
Steve and Diana say, “Screw your gender stereotypes.”

I think this also does a disservice to Steve’s character, too–he’s a very capable guy and knows what he’s doing, in all Wonder Woman mediums. He’s just not as strong as his Amazon girlfriend. And that’s okay! He’s human. Portraying him as someone that needs help once in a while helps us relate to him as an audience.

I’m fine with the fact that Steve Trevor has a large role in the film. That’s great. But because he’s a man it’s a given that Chris Pine will have a bigger role alongside the heroine in a film of which she is the protagonist. Did we get such reassurance for any female “love interests” in the same film genre, where a man is the protagonist? I’m hoping that Steve is portrayed well and fairly in relation to the original comics, which set groundbreaking standards for women as presented in the comic-book medium.