supernova history movie stars.

Before you read: I apologize. I am sorry. I tried to find a way to break this into two posts so I wouldn't be jumping around all over the place. But I couldn't find a way to do it, after I wrote it, that wouldn't have involved a major re-write in some places and...I'm just happy to be able to find something to write about and the energy to still do it. So sorry but not sorry. Come jump around in my brain with me--it's fun! 


Y'all, I have the most ridiculous child. You may think yours is ridiculous, but I'm sorry no. Mine is way more ridiculous. She both amuses and confounds me. Do you know that this flippant thing walked right up to me on Monday afternoon and announced she was sick. Then she announced I would need to help make her better by fixing her some hot tea and buttered toast and that when I was finished, I could bring it up to her room ON A TRAY as soon as it was ready. On a tray. With a little dainty napkin for her little dainty mouth and also some grape jam on the side, please, and oh yes: a chocolate biscotti as well.

Whatever. She's little and I had time, so I went ahead and played nurse. She plays foot masseuse with me occasionally, so it's the least I could do I figured. But then I got up to her room with tea/toast/tray, and she had her little Polar Express bell necklace out. As I set the tray down, she let me know that, for the rest of the day, whenever she needed something she'd ring her little bell, and I was to come upstairs to ask what she needed.

Clearly, I am raising Cleopatra. (I have been Googling lots and lots of stories about what happens, in the end, to queens like Cleopatra and Marie Antoinette and the like and we've been having some mommy/daughter history lessons.)

Speaking of royalty, Twitter is abuzz with news from Sundance 2015. You guys! The Sundance Film Festival is on my bucket list, in a BIG way! I am insanely jealous by each and every tweet and twitted picture I am exposed to when something with #sundance or #sundance2015 lands in my twitter feed. Or, you know, I torture myself by actively searching for Twitter news of what's happening right now in Park City, Utah. I wish you could be inside of me so you could feel how bitter I am that I am here and not there. There are a butt load of people, right now, drinking wine over steaks and salads and talking about some fabulous film they just saw. They are sitting in front of large bay windows of restaurants and coffee shops, panoramic snow capped mountains as scenery, arguing plot points and debating endings while snowboarders and skiiers hop onto ski lifts in the background.

I'm sure they're also working very, very hard out there in Sundance Land. It must be exhausting to visit swag parties (party after party!) with people handing you expensive things (free of charge!). And then? To have to go watch a lot of movies (movie after movie!) on top of that? I seriously don't know how they manage. And then after all the interviews, they maybe do some skiing. Or sit in a hot tub surrounded by snowy icicles. Eat a steak. Have fans send complimentary drinks to your table. Hard stuff like that. The life of a movie star is very, very strenuous, I can tell.

Here's what I did today, just to compare/contrast: I taught Calendar Math. I made 6 people move their behavior clips down; one landed on Purple (the SUPER DUPER BAD color...I gave him a choice: lose indoor recess or I call your mom--he chose wisely and went for recess). I gave a Reading Comprehension quiz and a Word Study quiz. I had to say "NO" exactly 10,000 times. I taught a 40 minute lesson on stars and constellations. I had to do indoor (aka LOUD) recess because it was disgusting and rainy outside. I had to deal with two boys hitting each other in the boys' bathroom--both had confusing stories about who did what when where why. I deflected 25 tattle tales. I made one child cry because she had 2 yellow owls on her weekly conduct card and didn't get to go to the treasure box. I had to help dress a boy who dresses himself every morning...in the dark, obviously--his shirt was buttoned all crazy and it was inside out. He also had his shoes on the wrong feet, but they were two different shoes so there was nothing I could do to help him there. I had to have a long conversation with someone about telling the truth, no matter what. I had to have a long conversation with someone else about how it's okay not to know but NOT okay not to try. I had to have a long conversation with everybody about how reading every day is important or they'll never increase their reading level data. I had to re-direct constantly, and nobody (nobody!) felt like walking through the halls with a bubble in their mouth today.

The highlight of my WHOLE day? Showing them THIS VIDEO and having 3 out of 25 kids say (out loud), "Wow! That was AMAZING! So, that means that inside, we're...STARS!")

Yes you are, my darlings. Inside, you are all stars. But your teacher still wishes she were watching movies with the bigger, brighter ones instead of hanging out here with you.

....Did you know the bigger a star is, the older it is? Did you know that VY Canis Majoris, a red hyper giant star, is 1,800 times bigger than our sun? Did you know that one day, our closest star the sun will get bigger...and bigger...and bigger...and explode us all to smithereens? But don't worry--it'll be 2 million generations from now that have to deal with that. If we don't melt their polar ice caps first. 

The thing I like about the solar system is the fact that we are all connected by the sun and the moon--we all see the same sun, we all see the same moon. That's the same sun and moon the dinosaurs saw, that Father Abraham and Ghandi and Buddha and Jesus and my great-great-great-great-great-grandma and your great-great-great-great-great-grandma and George Washington and Napoleon and Ghengis Khan and John Lennon and Susan B. Anthony and Queen Victoria and Shakespeare and Joan of Arc and Sappho and Eleanor Roosevelt and Emily Dickinson and Charles Darwin and Socrates and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and their great-great-great-great grandmas all saw. When we look up in the sky, we are connected through the Universe. And when we look at stars, we are literally looking back in time. Starlight goes on through space and time, long after its life has ended. I can't think of anything more magical and amazing and connecting than Outer Space...and its stories.

Speaking of looking back in time: I watched one movie this week during a frustrating Insomnia Fest. It was called FIELD OF LOST SHOES. One of my favorite actors (hello, Jason Isaacs) was in it, but this is not why I watched it. Okay, fine. I knew about the movie because he's in it so Jason Isaacs was slightly why I watched it--I did have other movie options available to me. But ultimately I watched it for my dad. Like all war-themed movies I end up seeing: I watch them for my dad, because he no longer can. (I'm more into movies like LOVE ACTUALLY and FORREST GUMP...I'm the kumbayah commie pinko hippie wannabe peacenik, remember?)

When I watch war-themed movies, I also watch them from a soldier's daughter's perspective. I'm writing about FIELD OF LOST SHOES because this is a movie my dad would have loved. My father would have talked about this movie for days after. And then he would have talked about his time at Pennsylvania Military College (now Widener University) back in the day and how it related to the Virginia Military Institute in this movie. Not only did FIELD OF LOST SHOES involve guns and soldiers and war and military college kids, it was History (capital H). And my dad was all about History--he lived and breathed it. I mean, he died after falling asleep to the History Channel. 

What I'm saying is: I found myself at several points during this movie longing for my father. The opening scenes reminded me of photographs my family has of my father's PMC military rehearsals. (Which led me out of curiosity to do a YouTube search and--omg, you guys! Look what I FOUND! ...I don't think my dad is in it, though he'd have been at PMC then, because this is mostly of the band which he wasn't part of. But more nostalgia--my dad would have eaten up YouTube, too.) It brought back memories of my dad taking my little brother and me to visit his alma mater, and that, even at 13 years old, I could tell he was struggling to contain the emotional connection he still felt to a place he'd loved dearly. 

The exposition of the story, when the main characters are introduced, reminded me of stories my dad told of upper class men being fairly torturous toward their incoming, green freshmen. (One story: all the upper class men locked all the freshmen into their dorm rooms one afternoon; my father's roommate desperately had to go to the bathroom and they wouldn't let him out. But he had to go Number Two! This would have been horrific--he had to do it in his pants or their floor or both. Their room was on the ground floor, so my dad helped his friend stick his ass out the window and find relief in the bushes below. An upper class man happened to be walking by just as they were doing that, and they both had to, like, clean toilets with their toothbrushes for a week or something.) (The military does this to its incoming, and they do it on purpose--it bonds them, and teaches them not to be a hero...you're going to need to look out for each other later on, when you're trying to kill the real enemy.) 

This story was why, quite frankly, I was surprised the upper class men in FIELD OF LOST SHOES didn't go through with a threat they made to little, innocent Sir Rat. At PMC, I'm fairly sure they would've. Maybe they had to cut that scene due to test audiences' reactions. At PMC, they'd have shrugged and said, "Get over it, you fucking weak-kneed vermin! GET UP OFF THAT $%!@#*&#!!&^%#  FLOOR RIGHT NOW AND RUN YOUR $%!TH))# @%%#$ OFF BEFORE I KICK THE *&^$%^!)(*!&^#!!$$%#*@#!*&^$!  OUT OF YOU!!!! WHAT ARE YOU STANDING THERE LOOKING AT ME FOR GODDAMMIT?!?! I SAID: RUUUUUNNNN!!!!! RUN! RUN! RUN! RUN! RUUUUUNNNNNN YOU $^%@#%!&!*&!!!!!!!") 

Soldiers: they live hard, they die hard, they watch each others' backs. And they cuss a lot.

(True confession: when I originally wrote and published this blog entry, I had the original soldier-y swears in that ALL CAPS dialogue up there. But then I started feeling the disapproving ghost of my father watching me, shaking his head at me and saying something about being ladylike and ladies don't blah blah blah ladylike. So when I woke up this morning, I couldn't stop being nervous about that, and I edited it all out with cryptic symbology. One day I will stop seeking my father's approval; today will  not be that day. Sorry if you missed it; I was astounded, impressed, and amazed at how much filth I am able to access. It was really kind of breathtakingly lovely and disgusting, all at once. Let's meet for drinks and I'll recreate it for you in person. We can horrify the old ladies dining near us.)

At any rate, back on track:  This movie gets a high five from me. You will like it, I promise. However, as a (commie pinko, left-leaning liberal) Southerner, I'll be honest and say I had a bit of a problem with how they dealt with the slavery thing, and I usually do whenever I watch movies like this--this is not a negative commentary, is what I'm saying, because it wasn't a surprise. I think a lot of storytellers don't know how to deal with some of the touchier stuff, especially issues that society is still healing from. Which seems very human--we all instinctively want to gloss over embarrassing things our ancestors did, note that we're horrified by it, and then try to sort of desperately find some sort of nugget of human kindness to latch onto, to prove to ourselves there were good people even on the bad guys side. The fact of the matter is, it's still sort of being done. Isn't it? It is. You can see it, because we are very, very uncomfortable about talking about it and worried about putting it in our art if our ancestors were the antagonists. (Fighting really REALLY hard here not to tangent off into a rant about SELMA and the Oscars with an anecdotal side story about how I cried when Halle Berry won an Oscar.) 

Lots of people, especially in America, continue to deal with racism's after shocks to this day. Seriously--go talk to a black or a brown or any other color that's not white person; go have a chat with someone who's not Christian in America...bet they've got at least 100 personal stories of prejudiced or bigoted things someone's done or said to them and/or someone they love. This continues to be a problem, and we continue to pussyfoot around it, and if you don't think so it's probably because you're a WhiteAngloSaxonProtestant. And don't argue with me until you've had a heart to heart with someone who's not a WASP. And if you're arguing with me and you're NOT white, well goodness gracious...bless your heart. And if you're all mad at me because you're convinced there's a war on Christ, you have just GOT to stop watching FOX News. I'm not kidding. It's totally messing up your synaptic neurons, giving you a slow lobotomy of sorts. 

I've completely off-tracked me. Where was I? Right--FIELD OF LOST SHOES. I wish they'd have just dealt with it or not dealt with it at all. There really didn't seem to be a reason to add in scenes to prove the lead characters were just fighting because their daddies said to, that they abhorred slavery which they probably didn't really...so some white people feel better about pieces of their history. They did what they did then because they didn't know better. But now we know better, so we should try to do better. Embrace thyself and thy history, Humanity. Tell the story like it really would have happened so no one wants to live it again. 

The truth of the story was: once upon a time, America enslaved black people. There was a war over it. A general named Sherman was ruthless. This is a story about a group of boys who lived back then, and were products of their times. One of them was Jewish, ain't that some shit. People are complicated. Life is hard. We're going to tell you a story about a heartbreaking moment in our history when the shit hit the fan. We aren't here to fix what and why this happened, we aren't making ROOTS here. We're telling a small moment story about some babies being sent to fight grown ups. This is a story about friendship and honor and what happens in war sometimes. People should be allowed to truthfully tell their stories.

I think it would have been okay for these storytellers to basically say that. In the prologue and/or in interviews. (It's possible they did and I am unaware. But as someone just looking for a movie to watch at midnight one night, that's what I wondered about at the end.) I mean, I'm pretty ticked off still about women in Civil War times being held down, confined to narrow roles, and nothing was done to address that situation in this movie. Just let be what it was--this is how things just were back then. And in some houses to this day.

But I'm also a Southerner and get the nuance--this was filmed and premiered in the South, and believe me when I say we have a sordid history that continued well after slavery ended and people are very, very sensitive about to this day. Nobody wants to be professionally skewered in the press here. On the flip side: down here in the South? There are still people fighting this war in their hearts--and they are STILL holding grudges against Sherman and I'm not kidding or making that up. Sherman is still cursed here in some places--I think this movie did a good job expressing why through his character's brief onscreen bits. This was a nasty war, and it left scars, scars that we are still tending to in the 21st century. There was a LOT for the filmmakers to grapple with, psychologically, artistically, professionally, historically. So, not judging, just wish they hadn't done as much revising to the story's contents. Yet as a Southerner, I get them. We are a weird country.

The rest was fine and lovely and what mainly gripped me as I watched, what I kept thinking, once the plot really got under way was: these boys were just babies...they were only babies. And I think there are a lot of common threads we can identify with today: children are being scarred right now by grown ups who are killing each other and sometimes using them as shields and bargaining tools in the process; there are grown ups, right now, shoving AK-47s into the hands of babies and turning them into lethal killers.

Only a few of the boys sent into fight that day came out of the battle alive, and these scenes wrought tears from me. No child should ever die because adults can't manage their shit. The boys this movie is about were very, very brave. Far braver than the men in charge who were afraid of losing--men who feared losing enough to send in babies to fight their war, men who feared losing enough to pull their triggers and fire their cannons at children and young men barely out of childhood. This was a movie with a lot of complicated moral issues underlying it. (And I like those. I don't know if you can tell or not.)

I downloaded it on cable; I'm not sure if it's in theaters still. If you have time, and you like to watch war-themed movies (for yourself or for your dad because he can't now), you should watch this. It's an independent film, and those have notoriously low budgets, so going in knowing that I was so impressed with what they were able to do with what they had. And the people they had in the cast--wow. This was clearly a labor of love.

If you have a 6 year old, you'll have to watch it after 9 PM. If you do watch and disagree with anything I've written here, please let me know--we can meet for coffee or wine and argue about it. If you do watch and agree with lots of what I've written, still let me know--we can meet for coffee and wine and we can high five each other on how very brilliant and so much smarter than everyone else we are.

One day, I hope to be doing just that in Park City, Utah, with someone fabulous, after a Sundance premiere. Or just myself. Whatever. I'm fine either way as long as I have access to a hot tub and there are snow capped mountains behind me.

Well-done movie trailers are almost more thrilling than the actual film! (You will like this movie, I promise.)

And hey, you know what else? YOU'RE a star!

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