“Logan” is a Bloody, Beautiful Film

The hubs and I went to the movies last night to see Logan. Obviously, I have something to say about the film since I’m writing a post about it. I actually have lots to say. I’ve been processing what I saw since stepping out of the theater. My analysis may contain spoilers. You’ve been warned.

First, speaking of warnings, I experienced a bit of shock at the door of our little town theater. Taped to the window of the box office was sheet of paper–a home computer printed sign that said,

“Logan is rated R for strong, brutal violence and language throughout, also brief nudity. For this reason, no one under age 6 will be admitted.”

Age 6!!! What??!! Clearly, a sign had to be posted because some ass hats were bringing their young children to see the film.

Let me be clear. This film is NOT appropriate for children under 17. This movie depicts violence reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, which I liked BTW. I’m not against violence in films per say. And the violence in Logan didn’t “bother” me. But in places, it did shock me. As it should. We should be shocked by violence. The whole point of violence in “good” movies is to depict how shocking violence is. It’s not a video game or a comic book. In real life, violence is destructive, awful and is only taken lightly by sociopaths.

Violence in films of this nature appropriately shocks me. It would traumatize a child. So get your shit together people.

Okay. I got that part off my chest. Now let me move on to the beautiful parts of this film. And it is beautiful, IMO.

First, it brims with nostalgia. It’s set in the future. But visions of family farms and prayers at the family dinner table, westerns on TV and antique furniture are some of the Americana on display­–harkening us back to “simpler” times contrasted with self-driving semis and factory farming.

The character of Charles Xavier is the elder in the film, at an advanced age when a deeper appreciation of these simple things in life can mean the most. Reminding us not to wait until our days are nearly over to count our blessings and be still in moments of goodness and grace.

But we delude ourselves if we believe the “good ‘ole days” are the best of days. In the movie, a fallen, rusted water tower becomes a tomb. A symbol (at least to me) of how we can become trapped into believing the past was a safer place. Safety is an illusion. Life is a bitch and mostly always has been.

Xavier’s old age and the advanced middle age of Logan himself are also powerful realities in the film. Getting old is painful. Both characters experience physical pain along with the agony of a lifetime of accumulated regrets. Logan also carries the heavy load of caring for Xavier–a common mid-life experience that many theater-goers with elderly parents can probably relate to. Xavier is both a burden and an occasional source of glorious wisdom. Aging brings humiliation. Logan must help Xavier to the toilet. But love brings humility. In love and honor, we lower ourselves to “wash the feet of others.” The relationship between these two in all its figurative father/son frustration, humor and anguish is really quite beautiful.

All along, a child is watching. If you don’t already know, the plot of the movie is about Logan (a “mutant” comic book superhero, or anti-hero if you prefer, known as Wolverine) being saddled with a young girl who happens to be a “mutant” like him. He is charged with spiriting her to “safety” as she’s being hunted by LOTS of corporate, militant, bounty hunter, evil scientist type bad guys.

This is where we see how the endurance of our hardships as we age is palliated with purpose–preparing children how to live, to be better than we were, with better opportunities, and hopefully, fewer hardships.

As I tell most young mothers, children are not born civilized. That’s our job as parents. To teach kids what kindness, restraint, good manners, respect and gratitude look like.

Laura, the child in the film, like most children, already understands love. She wants to be loved and be bound by love to a caring adult. This isn’t something that needs to be taught, but it does need to be nurtured.

The film also depicts the dark side of human nature. That children innately understand violence, revenge and anger. Without a loving adult (or too often with a broken, violent, angry adult in charge) children learn prejudice, hatred and rage. These things grow like a cancer to consume a person’s soul. The fictional adamantium injected into Logan that “makes” him into Wolverine seems symbolic for this kind of destruction: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

But caring for a child and for her future is why his character pushes on. It’s why we often push through. It’s why my mother did. It’s likely why your parents did and why many grown-ups are driven to be their better selves–so the young might be better off than we were. In this, we offer hope for the future.

This movie is more than an action film, although there is plenty of action. As most good movies are, Logan is a redemption story. Doing something meaningful with our life, even if life has been pretty shitty to us up to now, has a lasting effect beyond our lifetime and possibly for generations to come. To impart goodness, care and love unto others, even at great cost to us, has redeeming benefits that chips away at evil and shines in the darkness. Sound familiar?

My kids often roll their eyes after seeing a movie with me. (No. I didn’t take my kids to see Logan.) I typically leave a theater searching for scenes that I can link back to the bible for the sake of educational conversation. The redemption plot of Logan doesn’t require much linking. It’s clearly biblical.

Jesus’ sacrificial love for all, should we accept and internalize it, will transform our lives for the better and spread like a cure for the cancer that is hatred and spiritual death. That’s my take-away from this movie. I liked it. A lot.

*It doesn’t hurt that I’m also a big Hugh Jackman fan. Whatever.

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I Loved It Until I Hated It: Mad Men

When the hit television series, Mad Men first made its appearance on AMC, I was enthralled–as were most regular viewers of this iconic TV show set in 1960s New York City. The sets. The clothes. The corded telephones and Selectric typewriters. The smoking. The two martini lunches. It was all so nostalgic, glamorous and interesting.

I was also appalled. The smoking. The chauvinism. The corporate arrogance. The deceit of powerful men living indulged double lives while their wives and secretaries were supposed to relish the role of making men’s lives easier. It was ugly. And it shocked me to consider the not so long ago engrained cultural acceptance of women and minorities being treated so horribly in the workplace.

Curious, I followed the lives of the show’s flawed (Don Draper) inspiring (Peggy Olsen and Joan Harris) and damaged (Betty Francis) characters. I rooted for them and hoped they’d figure out how to navigate their world and emotions. And for the most part, the series delivered. But the finale made me want to throw my cocktail glass at the screen as does much baby boomer B.S.

Sure, I’m all for extending gratitude to a generation of dreamers who marched for equality and tried to break from oppressive cultural mores. But as a child of baby boomers, and one who doesn’t much appreciate that generation’s nauseating search for significance, the final episodes of Mad Men featuring Don Draper wandering the open road trying to, I don’t know, lose himself, find himself, gah! It made me want to throw up. At least the dastardly Don of previous seasons seemed self-assured in his ability to leverage his creative brilliance and earn a living. Desperate Don seems to believe his failings are irreparable. That he is worthless. And do any of us really want to believe we cannot be redeemed?

I prefer fiction that holds a mirror up to society and our inner lives, exposes our brokenness and then shows us how to endure, change, make our lives and the world a better place.

In some ways, the final season of Mad Men delivered on that score. But mostly, it fell flat.

PeggyPeggy’s storyline should have ended last week with her bitch stride down the hallway at Mccann-Erickson. Instead, she’s not “complete” until the writers give her a cuddly and supportive boyfriend. Puke. Sure, Stan is probably one of the most likable characters on the show, progressive and smart, deserving of a confident woman like Peggy. But for crap’s sake. Really? A cheddar cheese love story ending for one of the most impressive and generation defining female characters to grace my television set? Pah-lease.

JoanKudos to Joan for launching her own business. But I still wish she’d kicked her self-centered boyfriend to the curb instead of him walking out on her. “At least she didn’t cry about it,” someone tweeted me about my lament. True enough. I’ll give it a pass.

BettyBetty changes little over the course of the show. But then, Betty was one of the few characters who seemed to understand how real life works. It’s a bitch. And she stood strong through her hard knocks. She divorced her lothario husband. She did what she knew how to do to take care of her children and eventually sought self-improvement through the pursuit of a college education. She knew who she was and was unapologetically stoic until the end. Bravo.

DonFinally, Don and his hippie dippy cross-country road trip and retreat attendance. It bored me. “I’m rich. Women love me. My life is so hard.” Wah wah. Old Don would have rolled his dreamy eyes at weepy Don. If I let the suggested storyline slide by about Don Draper shedding his skin and coming to terms with his failures, then I want a payoff that includes redemption and a return to his responsibilities, mainly his children. Enlightenment is not obtained through obfuscation and avoidance of consequence. Period. The final scene made me want to scream and ceremoniously tear clothing, evicting meditation Don from my consciousness forever.

In retrospect, I hope the cynics are right about the finale’s ambiguous ending and that Don did create the iconic Coca-Cola commercial that the show signed off with. Because if that’s true, then maybe Don still remains a shill for corporate America, but at least in that scenario he returns home to New York, where his children live. That maybe he seeks forgiveness and resolves to change his selfish and reckless ways. Like Pete. Like Pete?? Ick. Yes. Like Pete.

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