Saturday, December 12, 2009


The connection between the ways in which our individual brains are wired and our ideas—and taste and beliefs—is becoming more apparent each day, from studies and neurological research and scientific breakthroughs in the world, as well as for me personally as a result of what I've been experiencing and learning in the four weeks (and one day in a few hours) since my brain surgery.

I've referred to this either directly or indirectly in recent posts (as have some comments on them, including links to one study addressing the differences between the brains of "conservatives" and "liberals").

One of the examples I gave for myself was how because of the limitations on my brain during these recent weeks, my taste in TV and movies had changed some. A week ago I was unable to enjoy THE DAILY SHOW because there were too many layers of irony and wordplay etc. It actually began to hurt my brain after only a few minutes. Too much complexity.

But I was able to enjoy 30 ROCK, despite its own layers of irony and wordplay etc. because the basic premises of the comedy were so broad and applied in an over the top style that made it possible for me to laugh out loud at the basic joke inherent in each scene even if I was missing the more subtle stuff (which I couldn't tell was even there, if it was). (Not that Jon Stewart isn't often very broad in his comedy or over-the-top, but the shifts in topics and approaches to the nuances of political hypocrisy etc. are way more complex to my mind.)

So, it was as if my taste had changed. A similar thing has happened with movies. For a while I couldn't watch them or if I did I couldn't get a lot of what was happening in most movies. But black-and-white old Hollywood ones, with simple and mostly confined sets and only a few main characters, were not only easier to get but so much more satisfying.

What I am able to understand and follow has been broadening every day since the surgery, but it is still limited compared to how I was before it, so it is impossible for me to tell how much of what I'm digging now is a result of my old standards coming back or of the limitations on how far they've come.

For instance, I got a movie in the mail recently for the Hollywood awards season and watched it last night and totally enjoyed it to the point of bursting out in spontaneous applause in response to certain scenes or even just individual actors' gestures or facial expressions. I laughed out loud a lot, and even fell for the leading lady, an actress I have often not liked in movies others loved, and never found attractive though I did dig some of the roles she's played.

The film is IT'S COMPLICATED and the actress is Meryl Streep. Her main co-star is Alec Baldwin, who for my taste—past and present—is always terrific and does great work in this as well (making some scenes he's in worth the price of admittance, if I'd been paying to see it) (and full disclosure, he's an old friend). And Steve Martin has a co-starring role as well and does his usual terrific job (though the friend I was watching it with thought his face looked less expressive than it used to leading to speculation about "face jobs").

But for me the main revelation was Streep. I thought she was way overrated in some of her earlier dramatic films (e.g. THE DEERHUNTER and IRONWEED) but liked her in later comedies (like POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE). But in IT'S COMPLICATED I love every scene she's in, every nuance of her interpretation of the character she plays, and everything about her physically. In many ways, the movie and the way she plays her role made made me fall in love with her. She's playing a 60-year-old woman, or is one, (I can't remember if the move makes her exact age clear) and to me she wasn't for one second not totally beautiful.

I realize that JULIE AND JULIA is the movie and the role that has endeared her to audiences recently (a film I missed but intend to see as soon as I'm able) and that IT'S COMPLICATED is pretty light fare in comparison to most of her Oscar-nominated roles, and that possibly the limitations I still feel on my brain may be influencing me, but I enjoyed IT'S COMPLICATED so much I'd probably nominate it for a bunch of awards, most particularly for her and Baldwin and Martin.

I cannot recommend this movie too highly, if you're in the mood for a lighthearted though thoroughly adult romantic comedy in the spirit of the Hollywood classics of that genre, though much more contemporary and explicit. (The only caveat I have is that Mary Kay Place has only a few lines in the movie and for my taste she has always been one of our best and most underrated actresses so I wish she had been used more.)

PS: As you can probably tell, the writing is improving every day, as is so much else. I still have to keep things pretty simple, which has always been my goal anyway so being sort of forced to do that is actually a blessing.


AlamedaTom said...

Thanks for pulling my coat, bro. Also, as an objective observer I can state that in this post I hear the old Lal', hitting on at least seven of his eight cylinders. Welcome back.

Love ya.

~ Willy

Anonymous said...

Susan Napack told me about you today at breakfast in SO. Orange NJ.
I just had a brain tumor removed(10-27-09) at Overlook Hospital.
I want to contact you just to share the recovery process. Thanks.
Tom Morris.

Anonymous said...

I think it would've been fun to watch this film with you. I'll be sure to catch it. We can all do with a good "light" film that brings joy... in that sense, it's not as lightweight as most would dismiss the genre.

Elisabeth said...

Last night I watched 'Elegy' and found it okay but a bit stretched, not in plausibility so much as in ... I can't really say, but to see a film post brain surgery, that's something else.