Dirty Dancing— commentary

Dirty DancingSome of y’all are going to laugh, but I watched this 80s heartthrob flick for the first time this week. A local theatre is featuring the touring version of Dirty Dancing next month, so I did a bit of research on the story and was intrigued enough to look for the original film (free with my Amazon Prime account, and if your friends and family don’t have an account, now is good time to Give the Gift of Amazon Prime.)

As for Dirty Dancing, the movie, it is a period piece anyway, as it is set in the early 60s, but the cast (and Jennifer Grey’s hair) made me think 80s, regardless. The Dirty Dancing soundtrack works great, regardless of the era, especially the Oscar winning finale, [This is the] Time of Your Life. Although the story is supposed to take place in the Catskills, the movie was actually filmed near Lake Lure, North Carolina and in Mountain Lake, Virginia. Having vacationed in North Carolina and Virginia, I enjoyed the visual feast, too, but the lack of high def photography reinforced the retro feel of the film. Another facet is the “please the crowd” ending, which is entirely unrealistic, but oh, so Hollywood, at least, as it was when their business was entertainment.

Patrick Swayze is very convincing as the working class dance instructor, and Jennifer Grey gives an amazing performance as “Baby,” alternating between the shy upper class school girl and a young woman with grit and enough determination to learn the complex dance routine. The dancing is, of course, quite good, as are some of the performances by the supporting cast. While I won’t be joining those who view this as a see it over and over again cult classic, I really did enjoy it.

I haven’t decided to buy tickets to the live action version (not yet, anyway) but I am glad I spent an evening seeing this now iconic film. And, gosh I love the music.

What’s it about? A non-review of La La Land.

La La LandThe other evening, I told hubby that I wanted to see La La Land on HBO Go. Like many men, he is a direct, compartmental thinker, and he wanted a succinct description, like a phrase. Complex sentences and paragraphs are too much after a hard day at the office, so I said, “It’s a musical.” And he said, “What kind?” Based on the tone as well as the question, I was getting the drift that he didn’t want to try this one, so I said something like, “We’ll talk about it later.”

Today, weary of grading essays, I turned our sorta smart TV to HBOGo and found La La Land. Before the end of the opening number, a sort of modern fantasy about singing and dancing in traffic, I was already glad that I decided to forgo explaining the film to my husband. He is just not gonna go for this sort of film.

That’s not to say it is bad, for it certainly isn’t. But, this clever film is not going to be pigeon holed into a category, although HBO places it under “romance.” The film pays homage to Hollywood in particular and the entertainment industry more generally, and the characters certainly are passionate about their craft, but they struggle to pave a path to personal success. Work gets in the way of their relationship, but there are some seriously romantic scenes in this film. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have both moved up a few notches in my estimation, based solely on the way they conveyed emotion through song and dance and just looking at the camera.

As I was searching for an answer to “What sort of movie (or musical) is it?” I read several reviews. The one at RogerEbert.com comes the closest to explaining it, and I don’t want to spoil it or plagiarize, so I will merely provide the link. However, should hubby ask again, which I rather doubt, I have my answer: “It’s a different sort of musical.” Yep, it isn’t peculiar, nor avant gardé, nor off-beat. It is just different.

How Hollywood Could Solve America’s Financial Crisis

The topic of America’s fiscal future as a topic is a departure for me, for sure, but this post is writing related. The power of Hollywood, especially series television, but also film, is the most important factor in American culture. No kidding! Generations of moms name their babies after popular characters, for instance.

In American television and film, doctors invariably are able to work miracles. Patients die and are brought back with CPR, and so everyone these days is urged to take CPR training. No one on television has broken ribs from the procedure, which is common in real life, and almost everyone coughs a couple of times and is good as new by the next commercial break. But, in real life, most such heroic efforts are in vain. Hollywood thrives on heros and heroism, so extreme measures are rewarded.

However, in real life (and death) most folks who are at death’s door are going to go through it. One out of one persons on this planet will die. Most doctors, who do know the truth, will not take cancer treatments for late-stage disease. They don’t, because they have seen “good” deaths and “bad” ones, and they want to avoid the latter. But family members, brainwashed by the success rate of heroic doctors on the screen, often insist on the latest treatments for family members, even when the pathetic success rate is clearly stated. These acts of love, which often cause patients to be miserable because of side effects of chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, cost millions of dollars. Few lives are saved, and if they are lengthened, it might be for months, at best. The most expensive years of life, for many Americans, are the last two.

My husband is a cancer survivor. His illness was treatable; that is, his doctor stated that with treatment, he had an 85-90% chance of living out his normal life. Thus, the treatments, which were grueling, were appropriate. I am not speaking of that scenario. Plenty of people are cured or helped by treatments, but side effects and outcomes need to be discussed frankly.

But, because Hollywood’s fictional doctors can cure even the most hopeless of patients, many Americans have totally unrealistic expectations. And, since our doctors, the real ones, are paid for performing services, the money flows from insurance companies, especially the ones funded by the U.S. Treasury, into their accounts. Doctors are trained to preserve life, and are paid for procedures, so they have incentives to continue aggressive treatments, and well-meaning family members can add more incentives. No one wants to say, “It is time to let go.”

Please, script writers and producers, lets have a new wave of handsome, dignified actors “go gently into that goodnight.” This dose of realism would greatly help families avert feelings of guilt for not doing enough for their loved ones, and it would also save patients from the miserable deaths associated with vigorous treatments. A serendipitous side effect of the Hollywood treatment would be a vast reduction in medicare and medicaid bills for those who are going to die, and die soon, anyway.

Be courageous, Hollywood, and write about death and dying in a manner that is more realistic and, ultimately, more kind.