Sin-o-matic (Okay – cinematic is what I meant…) and middle-aged sex lives

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To accompany a stack of bureaucratic kind of stuff I needed to do this weekend but had been shuttling off to some dark corner for “another day”, I decided to watch a bunch of films (or half-watch, as was sometimes the case). Strangely when binge watching in that kind of succession, I don’t remember everything I watched. The other night I saw a decade-old Japanese film called Quill, about the life and training of a dog that went on to be a service dog (and its eventual death). I can only remark that the Japanese make fascinatingly weird movies and observations, and I am always astounded by how much Japanese I actually remember. (It is definitely a use-it-or-lose-it language, but its grammatical simplicity lends itself to quick recall – at least for me.)

As for today’s viewing, I cannot even remember what I watched. I remember In a World because it just finished now. I expected to hate it because Lake Bell normally grates on me hard – and a vehicle that is written and directed by and starred in by HER – could I expect something positive? Expect, no. But be pleasantly surprised – yes.

But what else? I was in and out of the house all day, doing these bureaucratic tasks and baking some muffins – meaning that the films weren’t really my priority. And there were some tv shows thrown into it just to mix things up (and mix up my memory). I saw a German film called Lore (since World War II stories so ably buoy one’s spirits…). And a French film called Sexual Chronicles of a French Family. And then… what? There was something earlier that completely slipped my mind until I was semi-immersed (when I was not in the middle of making a frittata, anyway) in the Sexual Chronicles film – the discussions on middle-aged (and older) sex lives made me feel a kind of strange melancholy, made me think a bit of a poem from Howard Nemerov (“Reading Pornography in Old Age”*) and then took me back a few hours to the film I had seen earlier in the day – Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini (one of his, if not the, last roles). They are two regular, divorced, middle-aged people navigating the dating world, which – by their portrayal – makes it look just as awkward and fraught with missteps as dating at every other stage in life (even if things start out auspiciously enough – as though they have both gotten past insecurities and issues that tripped them up in earlier life). Yes, middle-aged, divorced dating movies, despite the sweetness of this one and its charming, funny and self-deprecating dialogue, depress me.

Hmm. And that’s enough said.

I leave you in Nemerov’s capable hands.

*Reading Pornography in Old Age

Unbridled licentiousness with no holds barred,
Immediate and mutual lust, satisfiable
In the heat, upon demand, aroused again
And satisfied again, lechery unlimited.

Till space runs out at the bottom of the page
And another pair of lovers, forever young,
Prepotent, endlessly receptive, renews
The daylong, nightlong, interminable grind.

How decent it is, and how unlike our lives
Where “Fuck you” is a term of vengeful scorn
And the murmur of “sorry, partner” as often heard
As ever in mixed doubles or at bridge.

Though I suspect the stuff is written by
Elderly homosexuals manacled to their
Machines, it’s mildly touching all the same,
A reminiscence of the life that was in Eden

Before the Fall, when we were beautiful
And shameless, and untouched by memory:
Before we were driven out to the laboring world
Of the money and the garbage and the kids

In which we read this nonsense and are moved
At all that was always lost for good, in which
We think about sex obsessively except
During the act, when our minds tend to wander.

Why I Changed My Mind: Ben Affleck

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My ex-boyfriend and I were at the movies in Reykjavik once when a preview for the film Hollywoodland, which starred Ben Affleck, appeared. The text that flies across the screen in the beginning of films with an authoritative voiceover read: “Academy Award Winner Ben Affleck” and my then-beau, despite hating people who talk in movies, whispered, “What? Ben Affleck won an Oscar?” At the time it was for his co-writing of Good Will Hunting, but seeing this “news” disappointed the guy – how could Ben Affleck win an Oscar? (Long before Argo won for best picture – note the guy isn’t likely to win any acting awards.)

Ben Affleck has long been the butt of jokes – we are not the first to make them, but the joking days may be (at least close to) over. After a lot of poor role and film choices and very public relationships (most notably with Jennifer Lopez), Affleck put his head down, made some good choices, started directing, married Jennifer Garner and had a family. I also would argue that he is not someone who overreaches – I respect actors who choose roles that may challenge some perceptions about them and may challenge their own abilities, but not so far out there that they become totally unbelievable. Affleck never bites off much more than he can chew.

The reason I decided to write about him now, though, is that I read in Mother Jones about his upcoming Congressional testimony on Congo. I don’t really like the way the article defends Affleck’s so-called authority on the subject:

“It’s pretty easy to laugh at the idea of the one-time Gigli and Pearl Harbor star now lecturing senators on atrocities in Central Africa. But the Oscar-winning future Batman knows his stuff. He isn’t some celebrity who just happened to open his mouth about a humanitarian cause (think: Paris Hilton and Rwanda). The acclaimed Argo director has repeatedly traveled to Congo and has even met with warlords accused of atrocities.” (Italicized emphasis mine.)

This kind of statement makes it sound as though just showing up a few times and having a few meetings with warlords imparts expertise. How do we know that these warlords did not just meet with Affleck because they liked Gigli and Pearl Harbor – and they spent their meetings talking about that together? I also don’t want to discount his expertise – I don’t know whether he has any or what the depth of it is.

Compared to a lot of people being named as ambassadors to countries they have never visited (see The Daily Show’s hilarious take on the “diplomat buyers club”) and have no connection to or knowledge of, I’d say Affleck’s got a leg up. I would also venture to say that most of the Congressional members hearing testimony from Affleck or from the line-up of Central Africa/Congo experts know nothing about the subject, if anything, about Africa as a whole. Comparatively speaking, Affleck is bloody well an expert.

Considered, reconsidered – I used to think Ben Affleck was a joke – as an actor, entertainer and, had someone laughably suggested, as a “Congo expert”. As I stated, though, the guy does not overreach when it comes to his acting, seems to have a healthy sense of self and good sense of humor about who he is – and then “does the time” when it comes to serious issues in which he chooses to get involved – and bottom line – he really does not have to. I have a newfound respect for the guy and have come to appreciate some of what he’s done cinematically. Quite honestly, as well, any light we (or he) can shine on atrocities in DR Congo is also welcome.

Me, I am just happy to take a look at the DR Congo passport (again!)

Congo passport

Congo passport