If you haven't seen this film Win Win and you probably haven't because I don't think it made a big splash at the box office, you should. I saw it once on an airplane and tonight again with my parents. It is probably the perfect Thanksgiving movie, because it has zero sentimentality and instead shows real love, the consequences of lying when you've convinced yourself it's for a good reason even though it's selfish and why everyone deserves a second chance, even when they don't.
I must confess I am in love with Paul Giamatti as an actor. I have yet to see a film with him in it that doesn't rock. I just discovered now, looking him up on the internet to make sure I wasn't misspelling his name, that he went to my high school, which is weird and interesting. That means he studied theater with probably the best high school drama teacher on the planet, Terry Ortwein. Terry died recently of Parkinson's and as he is an unsung hero of theater, I want to point out that one good high-school teacher can change your life. Terry had confidence I could direct theater when I was 16 and let me go at it. He never once came to one of my rehearsals. When I asked him why, he said it's because he trusted me. He was spectacular...the kind of teacher that probably saw in Giamatti a brilliant actor and made sure he pursued his dream, which he did and thank the gods for that. He was also the kind of human being Giamatti plays in Win Win - a basically decent person. In the film that guy is challenged ethically, etc., but it's his core decency that is so compelling and moving. I am always amazed when this kind of thing is portrayed in film because it's not 'dramatic.' Which is why I love it, not being a big fan of drama real or imagined anymore...
The other films Giamatti has been in that are must sees are of course American Splendor - about a cartoonist on the outs...and also follows a real love story - messy, weird, idiosyncratic, kind of amazing. Barney's Version is also excellent. It's not as standout as American Splendor, but because Giamatti is in the film, it's worth watching. Flawed characters, living through stuff, who break your heart. Watching him, it always feels like the sidekick gets to be the star, and maybe that's the charm for the rest of us, the proverbial, real and fictional 99%. He's there standing in for us. Excellent.
There is something so moving about seeing real humanity on film, not airbrushed stupidity.
I am obviously not a film reviewer, and make no claims to be, but I am sharing this with you as people who read this blog - because I'm pretty sure anyone reading this blog would like these films and this actor.
And since I've decided to become amateur critic for the evening, I'll stay on a roll and say the other person you must read if you have not is Carson McCullers' Reflection in a Golden Eye. Her Heart is a Lonely Hunter is pure genius...and this new book is like a perfect haiku of fiction. She writes with such precision, grace, wisdom, compassion, love and eye for human frailty, all without ever sounding above it all or like she, the author, is somehow immune. A real feat of fiction writing genius.
I went to a bookstore today and bought a book that has been recommended to me about 1,000 times, Mary Karr's The Liar's Club. I love her observation in her preface to the 10th anniversary volume of the book, in which she describes meeting person after person who cries when meeting her and tells her she's written about their life too, that her definition now of a dysfunctional family "is any family with more than one person in it." Hilarious. This is my kinda woman, I can already tell.
Plus since I'm kind of stalky with David Foster Wallace and since for a period of time they were together, I'm sure I'll get some mileage out of that creepy nosiness about other people's lives that I am not immune to - like at all.
I have begun to find a bit of balance with my smart phone. I am entering contact info, resenting that I have to do this since others seem to have had stores do this for them, but can't complain too much. Also discovered the cool feature where you can enter what you're looking for and it finds it near you. That is also creepy though because it means It Knows Where You Are...so I'm both thrilled and anxious about this Thing's power at the same time.
Finally, feeling guilty as a cat owner who split town and keep wondering how angry Ugo is at me, and hoping it's not too bad.
Grateful for this day, and for the ability to feel grateful, notice beauty, see snow, see little red apples on a tree that has not dropped all of them, go to a good bookstore, eat good food, feel love from my parents and others, and know that for all the sadness of the losses, there is a new freedom and a new happiness that is coming into me...some of you will know I somewhat plagarized that last phrase, but hey whatever.
I am free, I am on my own adventure and I keep realizing this over and over again, and I am grateful I can feel that, too.
Be well everyone and be grateful for even the tiniest of things because they are a gift, too. In the film Win Win that is kind of the moral of the story. What appear like losses can be wins and holding on to what has or is walking away from you can kill you and trying to cling to your idea of what life should be will hurt not only you but others. And finally - being basically decent is the smart move. Even if it's not glamorous it's the real win win. Thanks to you who made that film and to all of you who have helped make this a lovely day for me (and to people like Terry Ortwein who made stars of some and dedicated experimental theater folk like me out of others)...You are all rock stars in the way that matters most.
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.