Strange? This Is The Very Best Of Love

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LOVE IS STRANGE — Ben (John Lithgow) and George’s (Alfred Molina) relationship, in Ira Sach’s virtuoso film, Love Is Strange, celebrates the best of love. Love can bring many things – happiness, joy and companionship, yes. But, also, conflict, mismatch, disappointment, hurt, and loss.  The specialness of Love Is Strange is how this film gives us an open window into just what adult grown-up healthy love is all about.  

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Feeling Stuff is the Point Of Life

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BOYHOOD FILM REVIEW — Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s beautiful new film, is so compellingly real it’s easy to forget we aren’t watching a 12-year documentary of an actual family. With deft cinematic strokes, Linklater melds one phase of this family’s life, and Mason’s (Ellar Coltrane) journey through adolescence from ages 6 - 18, seamlessly into the next. Yet, Linklater’s interest in realities underscores the fact that life is anything but seamless - a pretty harsh and at times discouraging truth. But, the director also gives us a not-insignificant take-away gift voiced by Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), to his son: “What’s the point? Point is – you’re feeling stuff.” Yes, Linklater – bravo! How more right can you be?

Feeling stuff isn’t easy – but it is the point of life.  We may not always think so, but feelings are at the heart of everything we do, decide, and want. Everything we think. Everything we plan. Feeling stuff is unavoidable. Yet, many people either try to avoid feeling or don’t know what they’re really feeling even though they have plenty of emotional reactions. 

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Hunting For The Whys of Depression and Suicide: What Self-Hate Has To Do With It

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Robin Williams’s heartbreaking suicide brings depression and suicide to the forefront of everyone’s mind, along with remembrances of his many film roles. Ironically, Williams won his only Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1998 for his emotional performance as Sean Maguire, a gifted, underachieving therapist who’s challenged to reach an intellectually brilliant, yet deeply troubled young man in Good Will Hunting.  In real life, Williams’s decision to end his life leaves many unanswered questions as to why he was unable to get the kind of help he needed to go on.

In the film, Sean treatment of Will Hunting (Matt Damon) confirms my years of psychoanalytic work with patients and sheds light on the considerable influence of self-hate and the various feelings that underlie depression. Williams played the role of therapist brilliantly and sensitively. As Sean delves into Will’s personal history, he slowly wins the frightened and abused orphan’s trust. Himself a once-chubby, bullied only child who spent much of his time playing alone in his family’s mansion in Bloomfield Hills, MI, Williams knew about scary fathers, shaky trust, and the terror of abandonment. He knew quite well, I might conjecture, struggles and fears very similar to those of Will Hunting.

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An Actor’s Personal History Matters

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BUYER AND CELLAR REVIEW — If you haven’t seen Jonathan Tolins’s hit off-Broadway play Buyer and Cellar at the Mark Taper Forum in Downtown Los Angeles run—don’t walk (or, should I say, Google the show?)—to get tickets as fast as you can before the comedy concludes its LA run on on Sunday, August 17th.  You absolutely don’t want to miss Michael Urie’s laugh-out-loud, one-man show or his impeccable comedic timing. This spoof on Barbra Streisand’s famed shopping mall in her cellar (that part is truth not fiction) with Urie as “salesman” (the salesman part is fiction, at least we think so!) could easily have been a predictable story about excess, but thankfully it’s not.  Michael Urie’s portrayal of Streisand is as sensitive as it is funny. How did he make that happen?

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Depression Is No Laughing Matter

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Photo: Peggy Sirota

AUGUST 11 — I was shocked and saddened to hear of Robin Williams’s untimely death and tragic suicide. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones in this time of excruciating loss. The rest of us, who loved him in our own ways, have lost a brilliant talent, a comedic master, and a deeply moving dramatic actor whose roles in Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Will Hunting, Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poet’s Society and one of my personal favorites for sentimental reasons – Flubber – will live on and never be forgotten. Right now, though, it’s hard to get farther than feeling terrible sadness that this man who made us laugh was suffering enough to take his life.

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MAD MEN: Behind Every Person Is A Story: What’s Jim Cutler’s?

Mad Men Season 7 Episode 7 Harry Hamlin Jim Cutler

MAD MEN REVIEW: Season 7 Episode 7 — Jim Cutler is a mad man full of envy. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be so bent on getting rid of Don Draper. And, he wouldn’t be making unilateral decisions to be sure no one gets in his way. Contrary to what the soon-to-be-deceased Bert Cooper suggests, Cutler’s not a leader, a team player, or anything like that.  Ultimately, he wants to be the very thing he accuses Roger of when he announces the McCann merger: King.  Anyone who gets in the way of a King? Well, it’s “off with their head”, so to speak. Like a ruthless dictator, Cutler will have Don’s head on a platter if it’s the last thing he does—unless, it seems, that platter is first used to offer a handsome ransom of dollar bills. 

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MAD MEN: I’ll Do it MY WAY….

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MAD MEN REVIEW: Season 7 Episode 6  — Doing it her way has never been easy for Peggy Olson. For subtle but understandable reasons to me as a psychoanalyst, Peggy needs Don and yet hates herself (and him) for it. She’s just not as self-assured as she thinks she should be. Then, again, neither is Don Draper. They share this. Especially, where love comes into the picture.

Episode 5 ended with Don triumphantly flagging down a cab … the line “everybody knows you’ve been stepping on my toes” from Waylon Jennings’s song, “Only Daddy That’ll Walk The Line,” playing in the background after his Phillip Morris coup. Is Don back? It looks like he is. As “The Strategy” begins, Peggy isn’t so sure she likes this.

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MAD MEN: Megan in Control….? Hmmmm…

MAD MEN REVIEW: SEASON 7 EPISODE 5 — Jealousy can do it. Megan’s taking matters into her own hands. It’s now tit for tat. She’s decided if she’s going to be with Don, she’ll be the one with the power. She’s done with being pushed aside and left out. In fact, she’ll make Don feel exactly the way she’s felt since she married him – a beautiful accessory but ultimately inconsequential. Yet, is she successful?

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No More Good Girl…?

MAD MEN REVIEW: Season 7 Episode 5 — Betty Draper Francis finally takes a stand in Episode 5 – and weren’t we all cheering? It’s 1969, after all, and the Women’s Movement is in full swing. Betty’s finally sick and tired of living under society’s expectations (not to mention her mother’s) of just what kind of woman and wife she’s supposed to be. She isn’t much happier about being Henry Francis’ surrogate Emily Post, either.

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What’s In A Nipple?

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MAD MEN REVIEW: Season 7 Episode 5 — Could there be a more gruesomely horrifying image than Ginsberg presenting his severed and bloodied nipple in a box as a gift to Peggy? As the paramedics are carting him off, he yells: “Get out while you can!” What’s gotten into Ginsberg? The new computer isn’t what’s really driving him crazy. But, his fantasies about it are certainly a place to start.

In Ginsberg’s mind, the computer is imbued with special humanoid qualities; anthropomorphized, we could say. The computer is making people do things. For example – trying to make men turn homosexual and away from women. What’s been cooking inside Ginsberg to push him over the edge into this kind of paranoid breakdown?

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MAD MEN: Season 7 Episode 5 — What is this pressure that’s driving Ginsberg crazy, the pressure that must be released? The problem is there’s been no nipple in Ginsberg’s life. He lost his mother shortly after birth. That’s a trauma a child never gets over.

Why ARE you here, Don Draper?

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MAD MEN REVIEW: Season 7 Episode 4 — The 60’s were the era of re-defining what tells us who we are. The country was at war in more ways than Vietnam. Women fought stereotypes at home and in the workplace. The Black Panther movement empowered marginalized citizens. This country’s cultural revolution was a sign of just how much oppressive status quos would be challenged.

People like Don Draper live under similar but internal oppressive beliefs originating from childhood trauma. Don’s is the dark specter of “the unwanted boy”, now being repeated at Sterling Cooper and Partners. Will Don survive being unwanted and pushed aside at SCP? 

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About those gumdrops….

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MAD MEN REVIEW: Season 7 Episode 3 — It could have been the perfect day. For the first time in his young life, Bobby has his mom along for a field trip and he couldn’t be more excited.  It’s all going so well, too. “Me and my mom are having a conversation,” Bobby tells his teacher on the bus. He’s a very happy little boy. He’s staking out a special spot for just the two of them (“No you can’t sit here. That’s my mom’s spot.”). All Bobby wants is a special place in Betty’s heart and today he thinks he just might finally have it. That is, until that fateful picnic lunch.

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