Showing 41 - 50 of 70 annotations contributed by Nixon, Lois LaCivita
This is a complex and, at times, very amusing story about modern life in an affluent Mexican family. Generational differences--and similarities--between a physician-grandfather (Xavier Masse) and his children and grandchildren, are important to the story, but the relationship between the wise grandfather and his most charismatic grandson, Rocco (Osvaldo Benavides), is central. Family issues concern money and greed, but also surprising expressions of love.
The story begins in a lovely Mexico City home where family members feud and fuss continuously. After the grandfather’s sudden death during a heated dinner table outburst with his selfish adult son, Rodrigo (Otto Sirgo), two grandsons kidnap the old man’s ashes and head to Acapulco in a "stolen" car so as to dispose of them according to their beloved grandfather’s request. Their journey is funny and full of adolescent shenanigans. In Acapulo, a secret is discovered about the grandfather that gives the story a wonderful twist.
Tolstoy’s short novel is more than a classic portrayal of dying and suffering. While those issues are central in most discussions of this work, an equally important and overlapping theme concerns choices made in life. Ivan, the protagonist, followed a well-traveled road, adhering to "comme il faut" (as is expected) or doing what one was supposed to do in career matters, selection of clothes, choosing a wife, raising children.
There is little to admire about this generally successful but thoughtless and selfish man. Ivan’s inability to invest meaningfully in family, social, or professional relationships leads to frightening consequences when he becomes gravely ill, probably with pancreatic cancer. Five different physicians with attitudes that range from arrogant to dishonest offer little assistance or compassion.
His family soon loses patience with his suffering and tends to blame him for the onset of illness. Only Gerasim, a peasant hired to assist him in his most basic needs, provides the kind of care and understanding required by the dying and increasingly isolated or deserted sufferer. The first chapter is masterful in its presentation of responses to death by friends and family members and prepares readers for the consequences of shallowness in an unlived life.
The film is an adaptation of an award-winning play by Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean writer forced into exile in 1973. Through revelatory events affecting the three characters, audiences learn about atrocities committed by the Fascist government that had, until recently, ruled the unnamed country where the story is set.
Paulina Escobar (Sigourney Weaver) had been a political prisoner during the oppressive period who was tortured by her captors. After gaining her trust by treating her kindly and playing a tape of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, Dr. Miranda, a physician (Ben Kingsley) cruelly participated in the abusive treatment of his powerless victim. Gerardo Escobar (Stuart Wilson), then her boyfriend, now her husband, had been editor of the underground newspaper and target of the absolutist regime. In spite of torture, she did not disclose his whereabouts and, in effect, saved his life.
Currently, Paulina lives with Gerardo in a desolate coastal setting. At the film’s onset, viewers note Paulina’s agitation concerning a news bulletin about the presidential appointment of a human rights commission charged with investigating abuses by the previous regime. According to the report, her lawyer husband has been appointed committee chair. The remainder of the film concerns victim, physician, and husband of that oppressive period who through strange circumstances are brought together during the night.
Reminiscent of a Lear-like heath, past terrors are howled out against a raging storm. On his way home Gerardo’s tire became flat and he was picked up and brought home by Miranda, a good Samaritan. When Paulina, who had been blindfolded during her captivity, recognizes his voice and pet phrases, she steals his car and pushes it over the cliff into the sea. Totally perplexed by the Paulina’s actions, the men pace about in the living room where the doctor delivers derisive diatribes about women in general and wives in particular. Gerardo, to a lesser extent, expresses condemnation and embarrassment for his wife’s inexplicable behavior.
When she returns, both men have had too much to drink; she finds a gun in their house, tapes the groggy physician to a chair, pistol whips him as he resists and shouts, stuffs her panties into his mouth, and begins a heated exchange with her incredulous and very angry husband. He wants evidence for her seemingly preposterous charge. She can "smell" him she screams; she found a tape of the Schubert String Quartet in D Minor in his car; and he quotes Nietzsche just as he did when she was strapped to a table. Under much strain, her husband agrees to a taped trial in which he will represent the accused and force a confession.
The story does concern an abortion, but, more so, the failure of the protagonist’s husband to participate in essential discussions relating to their marriage. Imani, a well-educated black woman, and her husband, Clarence, have a two-year old child and a seemingly good life. The marriage, however, is on uneasy ground because Clarence’s focus has shifted from family to job. Busy as a key advisor to the mayor, he has not thought about this, but Imani, now pregnant, has had time to reach this disturbing conclusion. She decides that unless Clarence will fight to save this child, she will abort the pregnancy. When he fulfills her expectations, quickly acquiescing to her termination plans, Imani recognizes that the partnership is over.
For Imani, abortion is no small matter nor is it new. While still in college, she had undergone a brutal experience with severe hemorrhaging. This time it is an "assembly line" event with no complications, but, again, she is alone. Clarence, oblivious to her smoldering rage about his complacency, subordinates her needs to those associated with his job.
The abortion concretizes the distance between them: "She had known the moment she left the marriage, the exact second. But apparently that moment had left no perceptable mark." Twice Imani had been scarred by abortion, and Clarence, oblivious to these marks, remained in uncomprehending disbelief as the marriage deteriorated and, then, dissolved.
Set in the 1950s Eisenhower era, this film creates an enlarged snapshot of a model suburban household in Connecticut as well as a companion negative of two suppressed social issues lurking beneath the painfully smooth surface. In his effort to portray dominant values, as well as the melodramatic look and feel of the period, Director Hayes appropriates visual effects and music associated with fifties films by Douglas Sirk such as "All That Heaven Allows" with Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. Colors are too vivid; music heavily underlines emotional elements; and stylistically designed sets reflect superficial ideals. Too perfect.
Moving from the margins and into the center two disruptive shadows gradually emerge, one dealing with race, the other with homosexuality. In the years preceding racial protests and riots and in a time when few could imagine public conversation about sexual orientations, use of condoms, or AIDS, the story reveals unspeakable abuses, intolerances, and injustices that have subsequently been addressed but not resolved.
Joan Didion has written a very personal, powerful, and clear-eyed account of her husband's sudden and unexpected death as it occurred during the time their unconscious, hospitalized daughter was suffering from septic shock and pneumonia.
Quintana, the couple's 24-year-old adopted child, has been the object of their mutual care and worry. That John Gregory Dunne, husband and father, writer and sometime collaborator, should collapse from a massive, fatal coronary on the night before New Year's Eve at the small dinner table in their New York City apartment just after their visit with Quintana can be regarded as an unspeakable event, beyond ordinary understanding and expression. "Life changes fast . . . in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends" (3).
As overwhelming as these two separate catastrophes are, the account provided by Didion evokes extraordinary descriptions of the emotional and physical disorientations experienced by this very lucid, but simultaneously stunned and confused wife, mother, writer dealing with the shock of change. Her writing conveys universal grief and loss; she spins a sticky filament around the reader who cannot separate him or herself from the yearlong story of difficult, ongoing adjustment.
Summary:Stone's 12 line elegy leaves the reader breathless as style and content merge to create the surprise of unexpected death. During autopsy a clot is discovered in an otherwise "nearly perfect" being.
The family in this story seems perfect: well-to-do, situated in a lovely home at the edge of Lake Tahoe, three children in the home, a retired military grandfather, and a caring, competent mother (Tilda Swinton). The absentee father, a military officer, is at sea. All appears as calm and still as the deep lake in their physical midst and at the story's center.
The story primarily concerns the mother and Beau, the oldest son (Jonathan Tucker), an extremely sensitive and gifted musician currently being considered for a scholarship at a major university. What viewers come to know is that the young man is exploring his sexuality with an inappropriate male opportunist in the nearby city.
When the mother suspects that her son is meeting someone, she confronts the amused man, asks him to back off, and returns home. The man finds their home that same night, meets with the son, and demands money. When the spurned man leaves, he slips on the dock and hits his head on a rock. The son had already returned to the house.
The surface world of lunches, carpools, and school activities is shattered by the mother's discovery of the familiar body in the lake at the edge of the family dock. Unbeknownst to the mother, the death of the man/her son's initial partner, is accidental. She assumes the worst and automatically moves to protect her son. While managing the ordinary routine for her family, she struggles to get the body into a skiff and sink it with weights in a different location.
Of course the body is discovered within a short time and unfortunately for the mother, associates of the deceased are able to figure out the scenario, or at least the connections with the son. She is approached by blackmailers with impossible financial demands.
The short story considers the final afternoon in the lives of Jeff and Jennie Patton, a frail elderly couple, who have spent their lives as poor sharecroppers, barely able to make ends meet for themselves and their children. While neither is seriously ill, the severities of farming and aging have guided them toward a mutual pact. Today they will put on their finest clothes and then, drive down the dirt road past their neighbors toward a cliff--and death.
The simple story is gripping as readers discover what this couple is about. While they have been defeated by their tight-fisted landlord and by age, their spirits are indomitable. With charm and pathos, the couple fulfills the pledge they made to one another when no other alternative seemed appropriate.
Zimmer's poem begins with policy guidelines for landlords whose elderly tenants may be calling the switchboard more than three times per month for health emergencies. According to the guidelines, such patterns suggest that the resident, no longer capable of independent living, can be moved to a health care center.
In response to the policy passage, an advisory poem is constructed by the narrator for his own father who, we can assume, values his independence. In essence the son advises silence about medical events such as a fall: "tell no one." If an ambulance should arrive, don't get in.
The strong warnings reflect contemporary health care systems in which the prevailing practices correspond to Dante's Inferno, particularly the tenth circle. At that level, everyone faces one direction and people are "piled like cordwood inside the cranium of Satan." Cries for help are unheard and unanswered.