The film version of Fifty Shades of Grey has broken all sorts of February box office records. It has made $93 million, which means it now holds the title of President’s Day Weekend champion. (Washington and Lincoln must be so proud.) It also tops a list called “Widest Opening” which sounds so dirty and is, thus, perfectly appropriate. Funniest of all, it surpassed Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ for the biggest February opening ever. Jesus wept.
Or did he? My understanding of Jesus is that he was a pretty cool, feminist-y guy. He didn’t ignore ladies or mansplain to them; he hung out with prostitutes and adulterers and seemed as comfortable with them as with anyone. He wasn’t a sex-negative fundy. Maybe he’d be proud that a movie starring a woman, directed by a woman, written by a woman based on material by a woman and inspired by other material by and about a woman has caused such a stir.
Though I haven’t contributed to its gross, and I think the book is breathless, poorly written, and almost laughably bad on a sentence-to-sentence level, I am on record as a supporter of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon. Once upon a time, before I even tried to read the book, I defended its right to exist and the right of women to get off on it, if they liked. Because of that piece, I got interviewed by Geraldo, who asked me, on the radio, “What’s a butt plug?” Just like Ana Steele asks in the movie!
The man I will always think of as Beetlejuice won a Golden Globe last night for his performance in the heady, propulsive comedy Birdman. In his emotional acceptance speech, Michael Keaton revealed that his original name is Michael Douglas. (The other famous Michael Douglas with whom you might be familiar is the firstborn son of actor Kirk Douglas, who became Hollywood royalty but started from very modest circumstances: he was born Issur “Izzy” Danielovitch to Russian-Jewish immigrants in New York.) This Douglas also revealed that he grew up rough:
In the household in which I was raised, the themes were pretty simple: Work hard, don’t quit, be appreciative, be thankful, be grateful, be respectful, also to never whine ever, never complain, and, always, for crying out loud, keep a sense of humor.
My name’s Michael John Douglas, I’m from Forest Grove, Pennsylvania. I’m the son — seventh child — of George and Leona Douglas. And I don’t ever remember a time when my father didn’t work two jobs. When my mother wasn’t saying the rosary or going to mass or trying to take care of seven kids in a rundown farmhouse, she was volunteering at the Ohio Valley Hospital where I was born in the hallway.
It was a rousing speech, and it reminded me that we in America love stories of hardship, as long as they have happy endings.
+ Do you like shopping online? Lots of people do! As my mom put it to me this weekend, “Idle hands spend money.” The best one can do sometimes is spend wisely. In that vein, Racked was super excited to report — in what they called maybe the best Monday news of all time — that Reformation has just launched a new, more affordable collection called “Obvious.” Considering how hipster-y the clothes are, they seem to have missed a golden opportunity to call it “Obvious Child” but whatevs. If you like backless bodysuits and crop tops, insert money here.
+ Speaking of my mother, she told me a story about the time, back in the ’80s, when she and the other government lawyers who were also young moms went to hear the newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor speak. They were so eager to hear her explain how she managed it, how she managed to be a wife, a mother, and one of the most prominent judicial figures in the land.
O’Connor’s answer? Outsourcing.
Hire help, she advised the audience. Hire someone to do everything you don’t have time to do. The women nodded dumbly and left. “As if it had never occurred to us,” said my mom. “As if all we needed was to be more creative in our problem solving. We were government lawyers! O’Connor came from a wealthy family, but most of us didn’t have money to hire help. It was just so tone deaf.”
Over the weekend, I watched Obvious Child on DVD, and it was one of those rare movies that I wished someone had frog-marched me to the theater for. It got a lot of press at the time as the “abortion comedy” (the way Brokeback Mountain was the “gay cowboy movie“) and, though I supported that in theory, the film seemed like something I could wait to enjoy later. No. NO. I was wrong. The film was so funny, so poignant and interesting and smart, that I wish I could have shelled out the $13 to see it then so I could evangelize for it and maybe convince other people to shell out $13 each to see it too.
Usually I’m fine waiting for the red envelope. Gravity, which everyone swore you had to pony up to see on the big screen? The couch was fine. 12 Years a Slave? Even better, because I could press pause when my heart was beating too hard and I needed to calm down. The downside of waiting, of course, is an inability to participate in the cultural conversation; but sometimes listening to the conversation is sufficient. In the case of 12 Years a Slave, what would I have had to add? My four word film review would have been “Slavery bad. Performances good.” Definitely worth two cents, that.
But Obvious Child acted on me like a stimulant, like last year’s In A World …, another surprising breakthrough feminist indie comedy I regretted having waited to see on DVD. I wish I had gotten it together to buy full-price, as it were, because both films could have used that kind of word-of-mouth support. My money could have meant something, maybe. It coulda been a contender.
Now I have to wonder what else is coming out this fall that I will regret not seeing in theaters. If only $13 didn’t feel like a lot of money and/or if only I felt rich enough to spend $13 whenever I wanted.