Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ohioana Preserves and Promotes Ohio's Literary Legacy

Note: This is from my Literary Life column, originally published in the Dayton Daily News on August 10, 2014. 

David Weaver, Executive Director, Ohioana

“People are always amazed at the number of writers who come from Ohio,” says David Weaver, Executive Director of the The Ohioana Library Association, which is based in Columbus but which is dedicated to collecting, preserving and promoting the written work of Ohio’s writers, artists and musicians. “The list is amazing… Rita Dove, Toni Morrison, Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Thurber, Erma Bombeck… and that’s just getting started. Ohio writers not only contribute to our state’s legacy, but to our cultural legacy as a whole.”
The Ohioana Library Association has a unique legacy itself, David says. “It’s not the state library; it’s a separate nonprofit organization. I don’t know of any other library that is exactly like Ohioana with a geography-based mission of collecting and preserving works by authors from a particular state and works about that state. We also never get rid of anything we collect; ours is an archival, permanent collection, in essence documenting through that collection the contribution of Ohio authors to our greater culture.”
The Ohioana Library Association is in its 85th year; it was founded in 1929 by Ohio First Lady Martha Kinney Cooper.
David, himself an Ohio native, attended Ohio State University where he studied voice and opera. He spent much of his career in music but is also became an author himself after developing a fascination with Ohioan Ruby Elzy, an African American operatic soprano who was personally chosen by George Gershwin to create the role of Serena in the original production of “Porgy and Bess.” But she died at only 35 while undergoing a routine surgery. Fascinated by her story, David wrote her autobiography, “Black Diva of the Thirties: The Life of Ruby Elzy,” which was published in 2004 by University Press of Mississippi.
 “During a tea, which was the predecessor to our current annual book festival, I began chatting with then director Linda Hengst, who mentioned that the organization was interested in building its development and fundraising arm,” David says. “I had a lot of experience in that area, and I was immediately interested.”
David joined Ohioana ten years ago as Development Director; he innovated the now annual Book Fair held each May and open to the public. “Our first year, we had 10 authors and 500 attendees and have now grown to more than 100 authors and 3000 attendees.”
He became Executive Director last fall after Linda retired after 25 years in the role. “I’m only the sixth director in 85 years,” remarks David, “which I think says something about the passion of the people who work here.”
 This year also marks the 73rd anniversary of the Ohioana Book Awards. First presented in 1942, the annual Ohioana Book Awards recognize and honor outstanding books published the previous year by authors who were born in Ohio or who have lived in Ohio for at least five years, the exception being a book about Ohio or an Ohioan.
Authors originally and/or currently from the Dayton area who were nominated as finalists in 2014 are:
·         Ann Weigarber, for “The Promise,” in Fiction.
·         Mark Bernstein, “John J. Gilligan: The Politics of Principle,” in Nonfiction.
·         Geoff Williams, “Washed Away,” in Nonfiction.
·         Myrna Stone, “In the Present Tense: Portraits of My Father,” in Poetry.
Winners were just announced and will be honored on the evening of October 10 at the Ohio Statehouse and are:
·               Fiction: “Looking for Me,” by Beth Hoffman.

·         Nonfiction: “Super Boys,” by Brad Ricca

·         Juvenile Literature:  Etched in Clay,” by Andrea Cheng

·         Poetry:Sky Ward,” by Kazim Ali

·         About Ohio/Ohioan: “The Bully Pulpit,”  by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Tickets for the event, which includes a reception with the award winners, will go on sale in September.  For more event and ticket information, contact the Ohioana Library at (614) 466-3831 or at For more information about the Ohioana Library, visit:
Pin It!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Clarity blooms with flower planting

I have to admit, when the six flats of band flowers arrived two days ago, my heart fell.  That's the first time I've felt dread upon seeing flats of flowers arrive on my porch.

The high school's marching band kids come around mid-winter, with cheery brochures depicting pretty pink and red and yellow blooms. Now, I know I'm not much of a gardener. But every year, I buy flats of support-the-marching-band flowers. Flats and flats and flats.

This mid-winter was no different. In fact, I bought from not one... not two... but THREE marching band kids. (A clarinetist, a color guard member, and trumpeter, for the record.)

Why? Well, by mid-winter, who isn't a sucker for a cheery brochure filled with pictures of pretty flowers?

Plus, I'm a sucker for kids who come up to my door trying to look cool, even indifferent... yet still looking a bit hopeful, even eager... as they pedal Girl Scout cookies and Boy Scout popcorn and coupons-I'll-never-use-for-stuff-I-don't-want-at-merchants-I-never-visit for wrestling/cheerleading/track/football/cross country. And flowers for marching band. After all, our daughters (one now in college, the other a recent college graduate) were those kids, plying our neighbors and friends and relatives who were ever-so-kind and patient. So I figure it's my turn to do the buying, now.

And, yeah, I'm a little sentimental. Our kids are long past the stage of selling stuff for their activities. And as much of a pain as it was to help them coordinate it all, I miss those days. During our oldest daughter's junior year of high school, I was even in charge of the marching band's flower sale. (She played trombone.) Nothing says spring like a high school gym literally filled from bleacher to bleacher, basketball hoop to basketball hoop, with flats of begonias, petunias, impatiens and marigolds.

Nothing says oh-God-why-did-I-agree-to-this like contemplating those flats and knowing I was in charge of making sure we had enough of every single variety to match every single order... those orders, by the way, numbering in the thousands.

But I'm still just a wee bit sentimental about those days.

So, I bought flats of flowers. And more flats. And more or less forgot about them until... they showed up on my porch.

And my heart fell.

As I mentioned, I'm not much of a gardener. But this was the first time I felt a sense of dread pouring over me at the prospect of planting those flowers.

Let's just say that I've reached the stage in life where I realize I don't mind living in a house with a yard, but I really don't get much joy out of taking care of the yard. I like to look at a pretty yard. I just don't want to be responsible for making the yard look pretty. I'd rather hike. Or read. Or write. Or go to films or plays, or visit restaurants, galleries and museums.

Let's also just say that I've reached the stage where my fantasies don't center on Johnny Depp or winning the lottery or being famous. I just want a life-time membership to Angie's List, and the purchasing power for a decent yard service.

Still, I couldn't very well toss away 90 dollars worth of flats of flowers.

So today, I planted them.

I picked today because (a) the flowers were starting to wilt and (b) it's finally warm and nice and (c) I was feeling restless from several issues weighing on my mind.

And eventually, as I popped the flowers into their designated pots, I started feeling less resentful of the begonias and coleus and impatiens I'd purchased. In fact, the issues on my mind started seeming less weighty. I gained a sense of perspective about my concerns. I saw with clarity my next steps.

Which now include taking some Tylenol. Ack, my aching back!

No, I'm not a gardener today any more than I was yesterday. But I'm glad I bought and planted the flowers after all, both because of how some time spent outside putzing around helped me mentally and because of how pretty the flowers look, after all.

Plus my timing was excellent. If I remember correctly, any day now members of the local football team are going to come around to sell mulch...
Pin It!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

So I Walked Into A Plumbing Bar, And Then...

A few years ago, our bathroom—like our house, like me—was 51 years old. The bathroom needed to be updated.

So we were tearing out and replacing most everything, except the cast iron tub. After all, it's a cast iron tub, and I think with just re-glazing it will be as good as new, except the plumber and contractor—both men—tell me that the handles and faucet are corroded and need to be replaced.

I know that either man, fairly enough, will add the price of his time for getting the replacement parts for me, and the purchase will delay the work another day or so. I want to save time. I want to save money. So I ask for a list of the replacement parts, say I’ll get them at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

They laugh. Explain: these aren’t Lowe’s or Home Depot parts. These are plumbing contractor supply store parts.

OK, I say, where’s that store? These are nice men, gentlemen, who call me ma’am, and ask about my day, eat their sandwiches on the porch (though I tell them to bring their lunches inside; it’s chilly outside), and work efficiently and quietly. But suddenly, there’s a bit of a knowing look between them, a bit of a smirk… ladies can shop at Lowe’s or Home Depot, sure. But only real men can shop at a plumbing contractor’s supply store.

Now, I’m not a real man. In fact, I’m a real lady. Dressed in kitten heel ankle boots, cute with my tights and skirt, on the way out for real lady errands: lunch with other real ladies and picking up writers’ group white wine at the liquor store.

But in spite of being 51-years-old, I suddenly remember being told I couldn’t take woodshop in 6th grade, couldn’t learn the punch-card computer in 7th grade, and despite placing higher than every girl AND boy on the math placement test in 8th grade, being shooed away from taking higher math or science in 9th grade, and stopping with math or science all together after 10th grade.

Now, I’m sure not going to be held back from something so simple as buying parts at a plumbing contractor’s supply store because I am woman. Hear me roar.

So I demand the list, which the men give me, along with a bag of the old bathtub plumbing parts and directions to the plumbing contractor’s supply store, located in what remains of the warehouse and machine shop district of my industrial hometown.

After lunch and picking up the white wine, I find the plumbing contractor’s supply store. I walk in and am immediately confused, for indeed this is not a hardware store, a la Lowe’s or Home Depot or even a cozy Ace. 

This is a bar. 

A brightly lit room divided simply by a bar. Yes. An actual bar, behind which are men, and in front of which are men. There are no women in this bar and no drinks, white wine or otherwise. Then I realize that the men behind the bar (store employees) are taking orders from the men in front of the bar (plumbers.) These men are conversing across the plumbing bar in a foreign language. I hear words, which sound kind of like English words, and occasionally I make out words like “the” and “because.”

But most of the words are in a wholly different language. Plumbing language.

However, I've spent a lifetime working on feeling empowered, telling other women to fight for their rights, for God’s sake, demanding that my daughters take math and science throughout high school no matter what their counselors counseled, encouraging them in their pursuit of sports, including male dominated ones like Tae Kwon Do, and so I overcome the urge to turn on my cute kitten heel boots and run out and call my plumber on my cell phone and say, "Good God, man, just get the parts for me! I'll pay triple!"

Instead, I walk up to the bar trying to act like I know what the hell I'm doing. I sit down on a bar stool—it’s covered in slick red and silver plastic, sporting the logo of some plumbing parts brand or other--and tap my nails—they’re covered in a nail polish shade called Belligerent Burgundy--on the bar and wait for one of the men to stop looking at me as if they’re wolves and a lost lioness has just staggered in to demand white wine. Finally a man breaks from the stricken pack and comes over to wait on me. We’ll call the man Harry, since bartenders seem to so often be named Harry.

I appreciate that Harry doesn’t stare at me, just shrugs as if clearly middle class suburban women with shopping lists show up in his joint all the time. That he doesn’t call me Miss. Or Ma’am. Just grunts, whatcanIdoforyou, all one word, which thankfully, I do understand.

So I push the bag of old parts across the bar to Harry, lean forward and peer at my list, which my Belligerent Burgundy fingers have already plucked from my snazzy purse, and I read the list for the first time, and thus end up telling Harry—in a rather loud, shrill voice which seems to carry throughout the now silent Plumbing Bar—that I need a faucet. Two handles. And nipples.

You know, the PLUMBING nipples.

What? You didn't know there are actually plumbing parts called, honest to God, nipples?

Neither did I.

But there are. They are right there on the list. And it turns out that, of all the things on my list, nipples are the most problematic, and therefore require the most discussion.

So, there I sit astride a plumbing bar stool, conversing with Harry about how my nipples are 51-years-old. How they are a bit corroded. How they sorely need to be replaced.

Then we talk about nipple styles.

Oh, and also... nipple lengths. Harry dumps the bag of parts I’ve brought, and gets out a measuring tape, measures my old, corroded, out of date nipples.

"Your nipples," Harry says, without so much as batting an eyelash, "are 3/4 inches long."

Then he tells me that while the faucet is in stock, and the hot/cold handles can come in a few days, my nipples are rare, and must, therefore, be special ordered.

Next it's on to nipple brands. Oh, and the brand that will work with our 51-year-old cast iron tub?


Honest to God. Just like the baby food company. Which makes one think of formula, which leads to thinking of breast milk... and by this point—in spite of my liberated, I am woman, hear me roar, empowered self—I am quivering from the need to laugh so badly that I think I might pee my tights.

Harry completes the paperwork to order my new, shiny chrome nipples, which I pay for with a credit card designated for the bathroom project, and I leave with my faucet and my nipple paperwork.

I walk through the parking lot with my head held high, thinking how pleased I am that all the while I had this conversation, I looked Harry in the eyes, didn't turn bright red, didn’t laugh, didn’t pee.

But as soon as I hit the road, I start giggling. Then laughing. So loudly, that I almost don’t hear my cell ring, but I catch it at the last second.

It’s our older daughter, calling from college to tell me how her midterms—she’s majoring in math, minoring in chemistry—are going. I remember that she is only one of three women at her college majoring in math—not math education, but pure math. She has one female math professor. Yes, opportunities are—tentatively, fragilely—more abundant for women now than they were in my youth. But as my foray into the Plumbing Bar has just reminded me, there are plenty of places where women are, at the very least, unusual.

I am woman. Hear me roar. Yes, sometimes with laughter. 

But in all seriousness, I am empowered enough to order my own nipples.
Pin It!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Embracing The Power of Bare Arms

A few days ago, I went shopping for the just-right dress for an upcoming important occasion--our first-born's college graduation. I quickly found the just-right dress, nice but not too dressy for a crowded, sweaty sports arena on a late-spring afternoon.

Then I spotted another dress.

It was pale blue. Fitted bodice. Peplum waist. A-line skirt. Not the usual, loose-fitting style I go for, but so, so pretty.
Sharon Short in THE dress that inspired "Embracing The Power of Bare Arms."

It wasn't quite right for wearing to graduation. I didn't need a second dress.

On the other hand... both dresses were on sale. I even had a 50% off coupon. More importantly, I felt a sudden longing to try on something a little different, in both hue and style, from what I usually wear.

So I tried it on. The blue brought out the sparkle in my blue-green eyes. And it fit like a dream. I even thought, I look HOT in this dress. And I never think that about myself.

But then, as I stared in the mirror, a horrid feeling came over me. Not about budgets or the foolishness of buying a dress for an as-yet-to-be-determined event. But about the fact that the dress was also... sleeveless.

I have decent enough arms. I mean, they're attached, and they function, and my skin is smooth, but I'll admit it, I'm a bit chubby. Which means my arms are a bit chubby. Not particularly muscular.

I started to hang the dress back on the rack with its mates, but it was so pretty, that I just... couldn't. I toted it with me to the register. Maybe, I thought, if the coupon covers both dresses...

It did, but I was still wavering. "Sorry," I said to the check out clerk--a slender, beautiful sixty-something woman with a terrific smile. "I'm still trying to decide. I don't really have an occasion in mind for this dress."

"I do," she blurted. "I've been staring at this dress for days. It's so pretty! And I have a wedding to attend in a few weeks."

Now, most women hate the idea of showing up at an event only to discover another woman is there in the exact same dress. (Well, not the exactly exact same. That could be awkward. And crowded. But you know what I mean.)

I didn't know the clerk. There are no wedding invites on my social calendar. So the likelihood of us showing up at the same event at all, what's more wearing matching blue dresses, is pretty slim. Nevertheless, I was about to put the dress back after all--and trying to think of a non-awkward explanation--when she leaned forward and blurted again, "But I can't wear it. Because of my arms."

She looked so sad, so shamed.  So I did some blurting of my own. "What's wrong with your arms?"

Her eyes widened. "They're... they're flabby. They look... old."

Now, there was something about the notion of this beautiful woman, who'd lived long enough to no doubt experience and survive and grow from life, feeling so ashamed about her body--just as I had moments before with my worries about chubby arms--that incensed me. I wasn't angry at her. I was angry for her. I was angry at the cultural voices that whisper in the backs of the minds of middle-aged and older and chubby and not quite perfect women that only young and beautiful counts. Only the young and beautiful and--oh, God, please, the smooth and firm and slender, too!--need feel comfortable (so whisper those voices in slithery, demeaning tones) in lovely arm-baring dresses, no matter that women of all shapes and sizes and ages might be and even feel beautiful in such clothing, if only we could ignore those silly voices.

Well, I thought, screw that.

So I said, "My arms are chubby." I pushed the dress toward her, determined to buy it. "But I'm wearing it. Proudly. And you should too. Shouldn't we get to wear what we want sometimes, without worrying about what other people think, without hiding ourselves because, hey, we've lived awhile, and maybe it shows here and there?  You've probably survived a thing or two, just like I have. That merits an occasional reward, right?"

Her eyes softened she stared at the dress. She said, "I've survived cancer. Almost a year now."

I couldn't respond right away. Finally, though, I said quietly, "Congratulations. You will look beautiful in the dress. Your arms will look just fine. I hope you get the dress."

She nodded, smiled, and said, "I think I will."

I don't know if she did or not. But I hope so. What's more, I hope that I'll wear mine to some future occasion, and this woman will be there too, in her copy of the blue dress. I hope we recognize one another, and that we laugh, two women happy to see each other wearing matching sleeveless dresses. And I hope we hug one another with our bare, beautiful, powerful arms.

UPDATE 3-25-2014: This post has proven very powerful to women... more than a thousand have read it, it's been shared on the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop blog, and soon after its publication, women across Facebook began discussing the post and sharing photos of themselves in their own sleeveless dresses! To that end a new Facebook Group, Embracing the Power of Bare Arms, has formed as a rallying point for women to share their own 'bare arms' stories, photos and encouragement.

Pin It!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Day in the Life of the First eGumshoe... and a FREE ebook

Today on Dru's Book Musings: Patricia Delaney shares what she's been up to the past several years.  Along with the post is a drawing for a free print copy of the first Delaney novel or of my most recent novel, MY ONE SQUARE INCH OF ALASKA.
 The first book in the series (and my first published novel!), Angel's Bidding, is FREE as an eBook via Amazon, March 8-12, 2014.

The Patrica Delaney 'eGumshoe' mystery series marked my launch into publication in the mid 1990s. Patricia was a 'most unusual sleuth,' as several noted mystery writers noted at the time, in part because she used computer research (databases, listservs, chat rooms, and so on) to aid in her investigations. At the time, that most definitely made her high-tech and cutting edge. Now, her 1990s computer and technological skills--pre-dating the Internet as a standard resource, social networking, Facebook and Twitter, iPhones and apps--are positively historical. Yet, I like to think Patricia's stories, while now providing a glimpse into a period that launched our technological age, still ring true, revolving around timeless issues of the human heart central to story-telling in any era.
The first book in the series, Angel's Bidding, is FREE as an eBook via Amazon, March 8-12, 2014.
The next two books in the series, Past Pretense and The Death We Share, are available as eBooks on Amazon, and are $2.99 each.
If you get a chance to read Angel's Bidding, let me know what you think of Patricia. My writing style has grown and changed since my first published novel, but I'm still fond of the character who helped me launch my publishing career.
Pin It!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Calling all audiobook lovers to sign up for my email newsletter

Are you an audiobook lover? If you are... you'll want to sign up for my eNewsletter. The sign up form is to the left or visit my Facebook author page at 
I have some fun free offers for audiobook lovers! Aw heck, sign up even if you're not an audiobook lover. I have fun stuff for everyone! <smile> The next issue is going out Saturday, March 8, so you have until midnight March 7 to sign up!
Pin It!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Now that the Oscars are over... How THE WOLF OF WALL STREET Reaffirmed My Story-Telling Values

The Oscars for 2013 movies have wrapped up, and I'm pleased with the results. Though my two favorites of the nine films nominated--Nebraska and Philomena--did not receive any Oscar love, I was pleased with the overall results, particularly the Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress wins for 12 Years A Slave,  and the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor wins for Dallas Buyers Club. 

Of course, the movie I liked the least, The Wolf of Wall Street, didn't receive any Oscar love either.

Truthfully, "liked the least," is putting a bit mildly. I thoroughly, viscerally detested that film. I hated that film so much that I posted an uncharacteristically negative rant against the film on my Facebook page after watching it. I try to be fairly positive in my social networking commentaries, partly because I am a fairly positive person, and when I am feeling whiny/grumpy/sour, I don't think I'm improving the world by spewing negativity. There's plenty of snark-i-tude out there without me pointlessly adding to it. So I rarely go there.

But The Wolf of Wall Street most definitely inspired me to go there. I posted, for example, "if the goal was to create a 3-hour misogynistic grotesque orgy of decadence, in which the only point seemed to be to show... a "protagonist" who has no moral core and isn't even an interesting anti-hero, then that goal was met." 
I later commented on my own post that 'decadence' was too nice of a word for what the movie portrayed, and that I meant 'depravity.'

I shared that at some point, to alleviate my frustration with the film, I started popping a Whopper candy in my mouth for each eff-bomb, but within a matter of minutes ended up chipmunk-cheeked.

I even suggested that folks could watch this clip from another, very different movie, Clue, and substitute in the phrase "this movie" for "her" to get a sense of the intensity of my reaction to Wolf of Wall Street.

All of which is witty, maybe even funny... but, I've come to realize, not particularly useful analysis of why I had such a deeply negative reaction to Wolf of Wall Street.

I thought I'd gotten over it--hey, maybe I just didn't like the film (that's OK) and maybe I was just in the mood to rant a little on a public forum (also OK, in very limited amounts of course) but then we went to an Oscar watch party last night.

And even the brief clips of The Wolf of Wall Street inflamed the same, deeply negative, visceral reaction that I'd had in watching it the first time around.

Now, when something causes such a strong, visceral reaction--whether negative or positive--it's probably worth examining why, just to see what you can learn from it. It's not particularly useful, Mrs. White's funny scene notwithstanding, to go around simply saying "I hate that SO MUCH!"

1. Let's start with the simple explanations. Maybe it was simply that the damned movie went on and on and on for three hours. (Actually, in retrospect, I find the length a bit clever; I think that excess was an ironic wink-and-a-nod to the excesses portrayed in the film.) But... nah. I've watched all the Harry Potter films... three times. I don't even find the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings movies to be too long. I can handle long.

2. Could it be the Whopper-chipmunk-cheek-inducing eff bombs? Nah. Foul language doesn't bother me in films.

3. Moving on to explanations with a bit more depth. Was my reaction based on scenes of people acting like awful, cruel jerks? No, I don't think so. 12 Years a Slave had plenty of scenes of cruelty and I found that movie to be a moving, well-acted and well-told and important story. I can handle disturbing scenes.

4. Was my reaction based on the Wolf being an ignoble, outside-of-the-law, protagonist? No, I don't think so. Michael Corleone in The Godfather certainly operated outside-of-the-law, but he followed his own code, for reasons that he felt supported his family and community.

5. So, maybe my reaction was based on the Wolf operating outside-of-the-law AND doing so for selfish purposes? No, I don't think so. I loved, loved, loved the TV series Breaking Bad, even after it was clear that Walter White had moved beyond operating on his own code to support others, and only to attempt to satisfy his never-to-be-satiated need for control. 

6. But Walter White, ultimately, was portrayed as victim of his own moral blindness, of his constant rationalization of his choices. He redeems himself (somewhat) in the end by admitting this, by helping his partner Jesse, and he faces justice. The Wolf never sees anything wrong with his actions; he's incapable of doing so. He doesn't face justice--just a cushy bit of time at a 'prison' outfitted with country-club tennis courts, followed by a second 'career' in being a 'motivational speaker.' So maybe that's my source of outrage... but no. I could handle that portrayal IF it was meant as an expose of just how craven, how spiritually depraved (yes! there's that word again!) Wolf and his cohorts and the system were...

But the film didn't come off as an expose. None of the real life fall out in the lives of every day people from the grotesque, narcissistic choices of Wolf and his ilk was ever shown. And I think that's what outraged me... that in the end, the audience for the film becomes, by watching the film, the very same dupes who bought into the Wolf's schemes and penny stocks. We're the rubes who don't know any better, complicit in the very system that played on the craven version of the American dream--extreme wealth that's promised to come easily, through no effort other than falling for hollow promises and clever sleight-of-economic-hand--that plunged our economic system into calamitous decline in '08.

We, in fact, become part of the film, part of the story, all over again.

I don't like that. I don't like being a rube, and I don't like being complicit in letting myself play a role like that. I don't like feeling as though I was tricked into playing that role simply by going to a film.

All right, but what does the above analysis have to do with how watching a film I very much disliked (and still dislike) reaffirmed my story-telling values?

Well, story-telling, whether in film or on stage or in prose, should set out to achieve one or more of the following goals:
  • Entertain--depth is not required to meet this goal (although it's certainly welcome). Die Hard was entertaining, though not deep.
  • Educate--12 Years A Slave met this goal, showing us what being a slave was actually like, rather than the cleaned-up unrealistic versions portrayed in movies like Gone With The Wind.
  • Inspire or Motivate--For me, the Johnny Cash bio-pic, Walk The Line, is (in addition to being entertaining and educational), very inspirational. As a young twenty-something, I watched Chariots of Fire numerous times; I'm not a runner, but the story of being motivated from within to achieve goals gave me courage as I launched (and sometimes lurched) into the adult world.
  • Move (Achieve Catharsis)--to feel compassion or empathy for characters, and thus reconsider how we see others in a more grace-filled, kind way (Nebraska, 12 Years A Slave, Dallas Buyers Club all, for me, fulfill this goal). 
  • Moralize--I know, some people see "Hollywood" as itself depraved, morally corrupt or bankrupt. I disagree. I believe most films have a moral core and message, even the lightest films; even, for example, in movies such as The Hangover. Seriously. It's not explored deeply, but it's there--the value of friendship and watching out for one another. It's hard to find a film that doesn't have at least some moral core. It's a TV example, but I'll reference Breaking Bad again: that TV series is a morality play... a brilliantly done morality play.
Because The Wolf of Wall Street is narrated by a main character who never shows us the ill-effects of his choices, other than he gets in trouble briefly, who never learns compassion, who never feels regret, who never gets punished, who isn't particularly funny or interesting (I have a theory that all narcissists are boring) and thus doesn't really entertain us, who goes on-and-on for three whole hours, and who puts us, the audience, right back in the role of rubes... the movie fails. I suppose some viewers found it entertaining. But 'entertaining' by itself doesn't usually make a film worthy of an Oscar nod. That requires a film to also educate, inspire, motivate, move or moralize.  Obviously, the Academy saw something in The Wolf of Wall Street that I didn't. But for me, the movie failed in every measure of story-telling.

Oh, sure, it's clever. But it's clever in the sense of an artist spray-painting doggie doo-doo gold, watching as audience member eagerly picks it up, and then chuckling, "ha, ha, see? All that glitters isn't gold!"

And to me, that's not story-telling. Or art. That's just breaking the trust of the audience member, who rightfully had every expectation of being entertained, educated, inspired, motivated, moved, and turning the audience member into a rube.

Whew. Thinking through all of the above has worn me out a bit. It's time for a break. Maybe re-watching Clue...
Pin It!