November is the best month for us civil servants. Being a civil servant is not glamorous. We work for the government, so most of the time people hate us. But, in the month of November, we have three days off. Three paid holidays – Election Day, Veteran’s Day, and Thanksgiving Day. Three days off in one month. No other month is as generous with its holidays as November. I love November. So how am I spending my free time during this joyous month? By watching the most depressing TV and movies and by reading the most depressing books ever. Its not like I purposely decided to watch TV and read books about insanity and death, it just sort of happened by accident. Maybe it the universe’s way of balancing the joy and elation I felt earlier this month with Obama’s victory. So let’s review, shall we?
First up, I saw the movie Rachel Getting Married. It got the best reviews ever, but I’m sorry, I hated it. It was so pretentious, unrealistic, and unbelievable. It is about a dysfunctional family, with Anne Hathaway playing the troubled ex junkie/alcoholic who comes home from rehab for her perfect older sister’s wedding. I’m usually all for good family dramas, but the problem was the movie was filled with, as one reviewer on IMDB said, “a bunch of boring, self-centered, too good to be true people” that annoyed the crap out of me.
Then I saw Synecdoche, New York with the always amazing Phillip Seymour Hoffman, which gets the prize for most depressing movie I’ve ever seen. Hoffman is a theater director who is slowly loosing his sense of reality and increasingly blurring the lines between the autobiographical play he is directing and his own life. Manny says its supposed to be existential, but I say that it made me want to curl up in bed with hot chocolate and watch cartoons.
But instead, I went home and watched this terrifying Frontline episode on PBS called Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story. Lee Atwater was a Republican strategist, he was the Karl Rove of his time, actually, Karl Rove was Atwater’s protege. Atwater spent his career planting the seed of fear and distrust into the public mind about his political opponents and then sat back and watched it grow. What happened to him? Dude was killed by brain cancer when he was only 40 years old. Towards the end of his life, he freaked out because he was afraid he was going to hell for the things he did and spent his last days apologizing to everyone he knew and praying to every religion for forgiveness. If you don’t believe in karma, watch this documentary, and it will make a believer out of you.
On to books – I read the morbid and gross The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold about a woman who kills her elderly mentally ill mother, and the tragic and depressing Cost by Roxana Robinson about a mother and her disconnected family who try and rally together to save her son who is addicted to heroin. They were both good books that kept me awake on my morning train ride, they were suspenseful and well written, but l don’t have that much to say about them other than that.
This weekend I stayed home, watched Kung Fu Panda, cooked this strangely delicious black bean chili with butternut squash, and started reading a book about the first breeding pair of red-tailed hawks in Central Park. This pretty much makes up for all those sad movies and books. Plus I have one other holiday to look forward to – Thanksgiving.