This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

HESHER, the unexpected houseguest

There are certain movies that will never make the rounds in my Midwestern hometown-- Hesher, being one of them. Even in Los Angeles, the film is still in limited release. This is unfortunate, because Hesher is surprisingly good. It is one of those rare movies that I was able to experience without any preconceived notions. I hadn't seen the poster or the film's trailer; I knew little, if anything about it. That alone, was refreshing.

[If you did judge the film by its trailer, you might think that Hesher is a comedy about a bare-chested, pyromaniac, bad boy, a mop-topped kid, and the RDA-recommended supplement of Natalie Portman. If that's the case, you might be disappointed.]

People have various generalizations about what a "hesher" is. Several users of the urban dictionary, have defined a hesher as "a mulleted person in acid-washed jeans and a Judas Priest T-shirt... who still lives in his parent's basement" or more simply put: "someone who smokes and drinks and loves metal."

With this Hesher what you see is not what you get. It's so much more. A multi-layered film, Hesher deals with the larger issues of tragedy, loss, love, and family relationships. While the title might suggest otherwise, the film centers not on Hesher (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt,) but on 13-year-old T.J. (Devin Brochu) who carries most of the film on his young shoulders. Of course, Hesher and his impact on T.J.'s life, can't be ignored. He is the catalyst for everything that follows.

At the start, T.J. and his small family are unraveling from the tragedy of losing one of their own. T.J. tries to hold onto the pieces of what's left of his life, knowing it can never be the same. His father, like many adults in similar situations, becomes immobilized by grief. Neither of them can let go or move on--they've stagnated in the limbo that grief leaves to the living.

Hesher, all tattoos and cigarette smoke, shrouded in mystery and Metallica, bullies his way into their household. He's like the big brother T.J. never really wanted, the devil on his shoulder, and a manifestation of everything T.J. and his family are feeling, but are unable to express. They play by the societal norms of grief: Everything happens for a reason. You pray. You grieve. With time, you move on.

You're not supposed to act out or get angry or seek revenge. And you especially aren't supposed to trespass, trash shit, and set things on fire. Hesher takes the rules and slams them like thunderbolts into the ground. Everything is to the extreme. And you know what? As much havoc as Hesher brings, T.J. and his family somehow need this shake-up. They need to remember how to pick themselves up, how to fight against whatever life throws at them. They need Hesher to remind themselves that they are, in fact, alive.

I was not at all surprised to hear that the film's director faced his own family tragedy at 13 years old-- an older brother was killed by a drunk driver. Influenced by real life, no doubt, makes Hesher an especially personal film for a director and for an audience.

Everyone's lost someone, at some point, but traces of that person, those memories, those scars never leave you. They run through your veins and express themselves in unexpected ways throughout the rest of your life.

Tragedy and loss that strike during childhood can be especially poignant. When I was 11 years old, I lost a good friend to cancer. She was also a kid, like me. We were both one month away from our 12th birthdays. After I'd heard that she died, I remember climbing my favorite tree, high above our house, to isolate myself. There, I felt like I'd found the in-between of Earth and sky-- a place where I could stay for awhile-- in grief-stricken limbo. I cried my eyes out. Alone. It was a moment of innocence lost. A realization that life wasn't all frosted cupcakes and field trips. After the tears dried up, I sat there for a good, long time peering down upon Earth, unsure what to make of it. A car coasted down the hill below me, and in that moment, inexplicably, I threw a rock at it.

Slam(!!) went the rock onto the hood of the car and Slam (!!) went the guy's brakes. I had no idea what had come over me. I didn't act out, wasn't one to get in trouble. That was my inner Hesher-- making it known that yes, life can be shitty a lot of the time, but yes, you can pick yourself up and get through it to live again and live more fully.

Hesher has its comedic moments, but the reality is that life isn't always kind. It's the drama, the small gestures, the expressions and emotions portrayed on the actors' faces that really set the film apart. It's a sad, sad story and a heartfelt film-- full of beautiful performances by everyone involved. My guess is that it was also a labor of love for the entire cast & crew. Even grown men will have tears rolling down their cheeks and, I might add, they won't feel ashamed by it.

© 2011 Review by KLiedle

Now playing
(in limited release)
Director: Spencer Susser
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Devin Brochu, Rainn Wilson, Piper Laurie, Natalie Portman

Monday, May 23, 2011

It's Always Smoggy In L.A. - "the Web #2"

Pete Learns The Hard Truth:

"If you can't do both jobs-- If you can't act, you can't script supervise, maybe you shouldn't be doing both..." --Scott V.

It's Always Smoggy In L.A. - "the Web #2" - watch more funny videos

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©2011 by KLiedle
Smoggy content © 2011 by TSV Productions

Monday, May 2, 2011

Love And Hate: Mothers And Daughters Captured On Film

Over the years, my mother and I haven't always seen eye-to-eye. There are things we'll never understand about one another. There are things she does that drive me insane. Sometimes I recognize things that I do just like her and it scares the crap out of me. We've had our spats. There were times I wanted to run away. Growing up. Resentments. Expectations. Guilt. Celebrations. Graduations. Parting ways. Intersecting Again. Love. Family.

The egg timer, ticking like a metronome, didn't lie. My mother always set it for 30 minutes when I was supposed to be practicing the piano. I can still hear her voice emanating from the kitchen: "I don't hear you practicing!" Then, I'd play a little and try to cheat, make time go in fast-forward. Time doesn't go in fast-forward when you want it to. Fingers plunking piano keys... 30 minutes.

Decorating birthday cupcakes with M&Ms and homemade chocolate frosting. Mom with the video camera. Licking the bowl. Getting flour absolutely everywhere. No one stopping me.

My mother, standing there aghast, missing her front tooth. The porcelain veneer cap had popped off and slid down the sink. She was getting ready to go out. I was standing over her, laughing. It was wrong, I know. I couldn't control myself.

She, in turn, would chide me about not cleaning the sink in my dorm room. Toothpaste scum, make-up remnants. A week later, I'd receive an envelope containing a ziploc bag filled with Comet cleanser. A subtle hint. Mint-green powder sprinkled all the way through the U.S. Postal Service.
For mothers and daughters, all these little moments add up to create one of the most important (and yet potentially volatile) relationships we will ever have.

As another Mother's Day approaches, I was thinking about movies that have featured mother-daughter relationships in one way or another. Naturally, films about mothers and daughters highlight the explosive nature of this most important relationship. Conflict is drama. And mothers and daughters are very good at being dramatic. We have love and respect for each other, even during the times we hate each other. We're not best friends, nor should we be, but we're in this life together.

Movies That Contain Elements of Mother-Daughter Relationships

* Anywhere But Here (1999, Susan Sarandon/Natalie Portman)
Based on the novel by Mona Simpson.

*The Virgin Suicides (1999, Kathleen Turner/Kirsten Dunst)
Based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides.

*Terms Of Endearment (1983, Shirley Maclaine, Debra Winger)
Based on the novel by Larry McMurty.

*Welcome To The Rileys (2010, James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo, Kristen Stewart)
Technically, Allison isn't a biological daughter to the Riley's, but their discovery of her [and the subsequent relationship they have with her] mirrors many parental relationships which is why I'm including it here. Plus, it's an underrated film that deserves more attention.

*Steel Magnolias (1989, Shirley Maclaine, Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field, Julia Roberts)

*Mildred Pierce (1945, Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth)

*Mommie Dearest (1981, Faye Dunaway, Diana Scarwid)

*Mother And Child (2009, Naomi Watts, Annette Bening, Kerry Washington)

*One True Thing (1998, Meryl Streep, Renee Zellweger)

*Smooth Talk (1985, Laura Dern, Mary Kay Place)
Also known as "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been", based on the short story by Joyce Carol Oates.
*Thirteen (2003, Evan Rachel Wood, Holly Hunter)

*The Kids Are All Right (2010, Annette Bening, Julianne Moore)

If you enjoy any moment in your lifetime, even if it's only one moment, you have your mother to thank.

My mother is older now. We both are. Time doesn't go in fast-forward when you want it to. Time goes in fast-forward when you're not looking...

©2011 by KLiedle
Selected photos from