The Lost Weekend

tossing the sandbags overboard: movies about drunks

The Lost Weekend

At three years’ sober today I’ve been to about a thousand meetings of recovered (or recovering, or trying-to-recover, or not-wanting-to-recover) alcoholics. If you average about fifteen people at each meeting sharing their stories that means I’ve heard roughly 15,000 personal accounts of the struggle with alcoholism.

That said I still don’t know much about alcoholism; however, I’ve had a lot of misconceptions dispelled and I’ve un-learned a bit of ignorance. And y’all know I’m a cinephile, right? So one thing I do know is the story of the recovered alcoholic isn’t often like the movies – parties, socially-embarrassing moments, increasingly crazy behavior, tears and fights and then one day – he finally pours the bottle down the sink as the family tearfully looks on and then all is Eden. Yeah, right! [ she laughs ].

Anyway here’s some stuff that’s on the Real. You ever want to talk to me about these movies or my history as a “functional” alcoholic you let me know.

And thanks for three wonderful years. May I receive many more!

***

Who can put a list like this together without The Lost Weekend (1945)? This critically-hailed film depicts an end-stage binge of writer Don Birnam (as played by the legendary and wonderful Ray Milland) and I enjoy it more and more upon each viewing. What I like best about this film is Milland’s performance itself (for which he won an Oscar and claims the shortest Oscar-acceptance speech on record), as he doesn’t play the typical caricature of a drunk. You want to know how a hopeless alcoholic looks and behaves? Cunning, charming, lovelorn and sweet – likable, intelligent, devious, hopeless. There ya go. The score (and theramin!), the costume design, everything about the film (except the oddly abrupt denouement) is wonderful.

Clean and Sober (1988) is simply perfection. It’s perfection. Stand-out performances by Michael Keaton, Kathy Bates, and M. Emmet Walsh. Whereas most films that deal in any way with alcoholism show the troubles leading up to the cessation of drinking (borrrring!), this film concerns itself roughly with the first thirty days of an individual’s sobriety. Particulars aside I can’t think of a film that better depicts that window of one’s life. I related personally to so many moments of the film – the man, for instance, who sits in his car drinking a beer so he can “trick” the treatment center into admitting him, and he can hide out for a while from legal and employment troubles. Someone very dear to me did the same. There’s also a scene where a sober alcoholic arrives on the porch of his friend and sponsor, busted down beyond measure, without the thought of a drink but without anything to offer anyone either. His sponsor says a few kind but harsh words to him. Now that moment – well I’ve lived that moment, and long after my last drink. Gives me chills. A great film.

Shame (2011) is a rough go, one of those tear-your-guts-out films you want to recommend to your friends – with a cautionary measure. The film depicts a few weeks in the life of a sex addict and drug addict named Brandon (Michael Fassbender) as his routines are interrupted by the sudden re-appearance of a family member. This film is quite explicit sexually, but it’s the explicitness of addiction behaviors that make it a stand-out. The film delivers breathtaking realism on two accounts: how incredibly sad active addiction is, and how those who are addicted often appear to be living a “normal” or even successful life (Brandon occupies a world of financial privilege that won’t last long if he keeps practicing his behaviors). The film depicts addiction in full-bloom in an incredibly well-rendered way and for that, I adore it.

Come Early Morning (2006), the directorial and writing debut of Joey Lauren Adams, is in my opinion a film with beautiful nuance, and I recommend it often – especially for any family touched by alcohol and drug use. We first meet central character Lucy (Ashley Judd) after a night of drinking, but I’m not sure if she’s an alcoholic; at any rate, she certainly isn’t the only one. Another character in the film most certainly is, and that other person and his relationship with Lucy – well it really tore at my heartstrings. Judd is on point in this film (when is she not?), but so is the supporting cast. The DVD cover of this movie looks like a softball romantic drama; it’s not. It’s a rock-solid story of the journey to Recovery and that means loss, and change – heartbreaking losses and scary changes.

Protagonist (2007). This documentary isn’t about alcoholism. This film is about… well as a Buddhist I’d say this film is about Illusion and where that Illusion leads you – and how that Illusion, given enough credence and investment, will kill you. As a Buddhist I’d say this film applies to every human being out there. As a drunk I’d say this film is about trying to manage your life (or your addiction) – and failing, utterly so. This film is about striving, and certainty, and knowing you’re right, and knowing you know what the problem is. But then… something happens. Ah hell, I can’t explain the movie. It is almost a heartsong for me and perhaps it represents my own experiences with alcoholism more than almost anything else. This film is about Waking Up, I suppose.

So there ya have it! Get to watching. And thank you, my dear friends, for helping me get along a little longer on this lovely little planet Earth.

some things never seem to fucking work

Just in case you aren’t following/friending me on Facebook, WHY YES I wrote a massive post on Roadhouse‘s twenty-fifth anniversary. I am kind of upset you thought I’d do anything else.

Life is – good. I am still recovering from illness. Mostly I’m tired – but I have a lot of my strength back. At a volunteer commitment on Sunday I had my Ego bumped down a notch when I made a mistake – and it still smarts. I’m trying to be kind to myself. A lifetime practice.

I am a little sad, too. Today I found out that on June 14th my maternal family will be scattering my grandfather’s ashes – my last grandparent. There is no way I can afford airfare and accommodations to be there. I am saddened by this. I’d like to be there. I’d like my children to meet their extended family on that side. It’s not going to happen and I can live with this. I just need to make a little space in my heart.

In other news:

Swimming

Evening Walks

Snuggles

Thug Life

1 year since I quit smoking. Yes. Go me! Because seriously!

Life goes on. For us.

i’m sorry i haven’t written much of late, but:

I am experiencing high call volume.

And by that I mean, a double-dose of kidney problems. That’s right. BOTH kidneys.

 

I laugh (and I post a clip from one of the best movies of all time, and before I die there is nothing I’d like more than to star in a stage adaptation), but the truth is this has been most discouraging. I don’t know how I got through Sunday night and Monday, but by Tuesday night I had capitulated and taken some prescribed, and narcotic, pain medicine. I take the medicine at night which means I feel pain, nausea, and awfulness during the day. But taking the medicine during the day would mean doing nothing during the day. I have at the very least to drive and pick up my daughter from school.

It isn’t like my kidneys to take this long to pass stones, and it isn’t like them to both be seizing at the same time. I can wait a while longer but then another CAT scan or xray, and possibly another procedure, may be in my future. Expense, radiation, needles, fear, vomiting, invasion – and my husband, doing more than his share while I recover.

I will write more soon; promise. Thank you for your patience.

on an uncharted atoll in the Pacific!

My daughter glides in the door and puts her arms around me. “How are you?” she asks, and she means it. Maybe no one is as kind, considerate, and loving as this child.

Sometimes I think she’s this way (in part) because of the effort I have put into being a good mother. Sometimes I think she’s this way (in part) because of all the mistakes I’ve made.

Sometimes I know I need to love her fierce while she’s here, and just be thankful.

My daughter shares her private life with me – so far, just me! – and this is truly incredible. I treasure her trust, and her disclosures, more than I can say.  I am humbled, honored, and glad. She’s going through Big Stuff right now and I know lots of her peers and classmates are going through The Shit, so. I am glad she thinks I’m safe.

So she asks me How Are You and the truth is, I am still tired and I’ve been tired a little while. I’ve had my ass handed to me by a fatigue that doesn’t make sense. Kidneys, maybe? I don’t know. I’m not anemic; today’s blood donation (re-)assured me on this. I can’t afford doctor care right now but if and when things settle down a bit I will make a move in that direction. For now: chin up. Drink water. Try: patience. Today I read a tweet online, an actress ran her first twelve miles and was ecstatic – I feel (a rare and) strangled kind of envy. I would love something different than what I have.

Actor Russell Johnson passed today; my fellow B-moviephile and author Scott wrote up a post and I had a nostalgic smile over last March’s Attack Of The Crab Monsters embroidery project. I haven’t sewn, not a lick, in about two weeks – which for me, is a Forever. If I had food in the pantry and gas in the car I could sew maybe, but even then I’d have to feel less tired.

Times like this I have to practice my patience. That kind of earth-shattering, centered bit of patience. Maybe things will get better; no matter what, I know they will Change.

cha-cha-cha like no one’s business

Today on a walk the three kids and I spied a family of otters out in the depths of the Hoquiam river. Fiesty, playful otters – three from what we could tell. As we walked on a quarter mile Phoenix gasped: there they are, on the piling! Sure enough, all three were just a few feet away, gazing up at us with curious, bead-black eyes. A mother and two juveniles. We watched for a while and when I glanced down at my phone, and back up, only a couple modest ripples remained on the river’s surface. We remained for a while longer to see if they’d re-emerge, but they eluded us.

I spent much of today on foot, on my bike, or in a pool, and it felt great. This afternoon I stayed too long at an appointment, and got home in time to furiously pedal-arse to the YMCA for

AQUATIC ZUMBA

which I thankfully made in time.

Some of you probably can figure out what that is, others are like, “What?” Basically: dorky-looking water aerobics (I am still looking for low-impact exercise options because ye olde knees are not healed up). I laughed the entire time, because it was so awesome and silly. I could feel my buttcheeks waving in the water as I furiously twisted my hips to Pearl Jam, nameless techno, MGMT, other pop music. Lots of breast-bobbling as well (involuntary), since mere mortal swimsuits cannot restrain my DDDs. I kept up pretty good though. But only because my body gives me one “freebie” at a new routine. My arms like, “Oh this is nice, boy we sure are staying up in the air a lot, kind of tough. Ho ho.” Next time I try the same exercise they will be screaming in agony: “Go take a long walk off a short pier you twisted-up harridan!”

Back on the bike; home to a warm house and kids, just my own two for a change. Ralph’s three-nights-a-week RHPS practice means a messier home and a wee bit less man-cooking as well. Currently: 11 PM and he’s making me sesame noodles, which is working out well for me. Late night cuddles and probably a really bad b-movie.

It’s kind of a routine. [ casual shrug ]

Tonight on #BondBFFs: Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall (2012)

Twenty-five weeks, more or less consecutively! Twenty-five Bond films! Tonight we watch the latest, which practically JUST came out.

Skyfall is great – just what we like in a Bond film. Stunning production design, exotic dangers/bad guys/ladies, beautiful people, a lush credit sequence and theme song, a lavish series of locations, yadda yadda. Sadly Bond films are getting more subtly lady-hating (that is, “subtle” if you’re the type of person that continues to pretend lady-hate isn’t real), and I gotta be honest, it’s icky to watch (great points made here – warning, plot spoilers). On a brief, somber note – sometimes it seems misogyny is here to stay, forever! I choose to believe differently, because I have to.

My kids asked me why I like Bond films. I admit, in one sense they are indefensible. In ANOTHER, I have been a cinephile my entire life and I’m not above or below watching anything. One thing I love, is delving into a genre. Even a genre that might not make sense to other people. Tonight as we draw the curtain over twenty-five weeks of viewing I can say it’s been super fun to revisit the Bonds, with all their camp, splendor, horribleness, silliness, gadgets, drama, misfires, and iconic suavity.

You can join @VFD_crow & I in our commentary at #BondBFFs on Twitter. Better yet, get your copy of Skyfall*, pause the film immediately after the MGM lion logo fades, and press play again at exactly 6 PM PST according to this site’s clock.

See you tonight!

* (My advice? Buy a legal version, and download/torrent it to put the file on the computer through VLC or some such, so streaming internet doesn’t make viewing stutter.)

Die Another Day (2002)

Die Another Day (2002)

Die Another Day (2002)

Tonight’s offering for #BondBFFs features stacks and stacks of ridiculously-good-looking people (Toby Stephens squee!), really awkward sexual pickup lines (because No – “ornithologist” is not an opportunity for a blowjob joke), and Madonna saying the word “cock” in a distinctly sadtrombone fail-moment. Opening credits went for originality as far as opening credits go, and have grown on me over a coupla viewings.

You can join @VFD_crow & I in our commentary at #BondBFFs on Twitter. Better yet, get your copy of Die Another Day*, pause the film immediately after the MGM lion logo fades, and press play again at exactly 6 PM PST according to this site’s clock.

See you tonight!

* (My advice? Buy a legal version, and download/torrent it to put the file on the computer through VLC or some such, so streaming internet doesn’t make viewing stutter.)

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

The World Is Not Enough (1999)

Getting serious for a moment on the eve of resuming our regularly scheduled Bond-fest, Bond actor Pierce Brosnan seems like a pretty standup guy (as far as I can tell). Tonight’s #BondBFFs is a bit overshadowed by the very recent loss of his daughter. Given these sad circumstances, today I’ll post only a poster shot for the film – and the theme song’s video by Garbage.

You can join @VFD_crow & I in our commentary at #BondBFFs on Twitter. Better yet, get your copy of The World Is Not Enough*, pause the film immediately after the MGM lion logo fades, and press play again at exactly 6 PM PST according to this site’s clock.

See you tonight!

* (My advice? Buy a legal version, and download/torrent it to put the file on the computer through VLC or some such, so streaming internet doesn’t make viewing stutter.)