Shade of “The Grey”

First, let me begin by saying I have a great deal of respect for Liam Neeson and enjoy his movies immensely. Anytime “Taken” or “Love Actually” is on television, I’m locked in for the duration.  Which is why I was looking forward to seeing his latest movie, “The Grey”.

The trailer promised an exciting man-vs.-wild story, complete with heart-stopping action scenes. Unfortunately, it felt more like I’d wandered into one of those man retreats where they learn how to be “real men”, coupled with survival instincts during an ill-fated orientation.

Granted, Neeson held up his end of the bargain by once again being the rugged yet sensitive character that keeps me watching his films, but if I want to spend a couple of hours watching a bunch of men cry, talk about their feelings and challenge each other’s manhood… I’d go to a sports bar. At least it’s slightly more entertaining when they’re drunk.

With that said, although the film fell short of my expectations, it was interesting to see a movie where the male leads all reveal a vulnerability and compassion towards each other — even while surviving fiery plane crashes, facing the threats of starvation, sickness, brutal cold and ultimately a vicious pack of wolves. Even the men with obvious personality flaws somehow became redeemed when it became evident they were on their way to becoming dog food.

The premise of “The Grey” may appeal to a male audience (and dialogue referring to “alpha” and “omega” and “dominance” seem to bolster that theory), but the fact that most of the characters expressed such a strong determination to return to their families — including Neeson’s character whose own longing for the woman he loves is repeatedly viewed in dream sequences — appeals more to a female audience.  Women also sympathize with Neeson’s personal story (he lost his wife, actress Natasha Richardson, after a tragic ski accident in 2009).

Overall, in an attempt to flesh out the characters and make the audience care about their fates, the filmmakers missed an opportunity to make a truly interesting movie. The action was scarce and almost predictable at points, which became a little unbearable when a movie starts to clock in at almost two hours. When the end finally does come, the audience is unsure of it being a payoff or a ripoff.

While the film, and especially Neeson’s performance, is engaging at times… audiences looking for the fast-paced action of “Taken” will likely think the latter.

I left thinking travel to the Alaskan wilderness is definitely not on my bucket list, and Sarah Palin can have it.

No Comparison

In my lifetime, I’ve managed to amass an absurd amount of girlfriends who are not only beautiful inside and out, but they tend to be ridiculously successful professionally and highly accomplished and world traveled.  If not for the tremendous amount of love and respect I have for them, I would systematically pick them off with an assault rifle.

Like most women, every now and then my insecurity gets the better of me, and I find myself envying my friends and their lives.  I’ve even been overcome with feelings of inadequacy when I would hear their latest news and see pictures of their latest adventures… thinking that my own life wasn’t nearly as exciting, and longing for the days when I could relate to their experiences.

Naturally, this is silly and unproductive thinking, but if none of us succumbed to the occasional complex, we wouldn’t have consumption, commerce, or politics.  When you think of it, the cosmetics, fashion, and even the automotive industry are amongst the many that thrive on our inner fears and desires to “keep up with the Jones'”, which has sadly now been amended to pop culture’s newest standard, the Kardashians. 

…But I digress.

The point is, sometimes I get so caught up in other people’s lives that I forget how great my own has been, and neglect to see the potential it has to be even greater.  The best part is, it’s still going, so that leaves for plenty of opportunities to see and do more with each passing day.  

Comparing oneself to others is a colossal waste of time for no other reason than the realization that you’re cheating yourself out of the joy you get in celebrating the differences that make you and the people around you so special.  And yet, somehow, you found a common ground.  You found enjoyment and comradery.  You found a support system.  You found each other.

Nothing can compare to that.

Apples and Oranges

Most days, I love being a New Yorker. What’s not to love about a city that offers so much in culture, experiences and various personalities?

Today, however, it blows… right through my closed window, which sits next to the Hudson River. On a perfect Spring day or a warm Summer night, the breeze is my friend and savior. Tonight, it has conspired with the schizophrenic radiator in my room to keep me addicted to Booster C vitamins for the rest of Winter. With temperatures in the teens, the big apple is now what clever newspaper caption writers (whose job I semi covet) call the “frozen apple”, and I’m not loving it. Give me the “orange state” of Florida, please.

Sitting here, fully clothed and huddled up in sweats and two layers of socks and sneakers… my mind wanders wistfully to places like Jamaica, Bermuda and Miami — where I not only had the time of my life, but I was significantly warmer (although not by much in Bermuda). Just thinking about South Beach and the ocean waves cooling off the hot sand that I wish was running through my toes instead of this shooting pain that feels like frost bite.

But as much as I’d prefer the warmth of the sun and sand, this brutally cold city has my heart. It’s where I can get pizza, Thai, Caribbean, and sushi within blocks of each other. It’s where I’ve checked out the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the upper east side, and a local homegrown artist exhibition at the awesome Apt 78 Lounge in the upper upper west side neighborhood of Inwood in the same day. It’s where I meet and connect with people who own multiple homes and use “Summer” as a verb, in addition to those who are just getting by in their rentals and looking forward to Summer the season so they can hit Coney Island. It’s where I can converse comfortably with hedge fund executives, marketing and media wizards and unemployed folks taking advantage of the free wi-fi in the coffee shops and libraries. It’s where I can watch the majestic dancers of Alvin Ailey and Ronald K. Brown’s Evidence troupes, and then see young kids with moves defying gravity on the subway ride home.

Physically, I feel the bitter chill, but the thought of New York always warms my heart.

When I think of Florida, I think of Alligators, and unless I’ve decided to become a cobbler for the pimp industry — there’s just no reason for me to be near them.

2012: And So It Begins…

Only one day in, and it’s already been an awesome year.

After a night that included champagne wishes and caviar dreams in the most literal sense, I woke up in the peaceful Connecticut countryside with a resigned calm about the year that was, and a determination burning just as brightly as the sun interrupting my sleep that this year is ripe with possibilities.

Last year at this exact time, my outlook on life was such a juxtaposition to the current one.  My 35th birthday had set the tone for what would come to be the worst holiday season on record (which is a fairly extreme statement when you’ve worked in retail for years).  Already disheartened by lack of employment or a home of my own, I’d experience additional struggles and uncertainty with family, finances, friendships and love which would continue in the months that followed.  Although life has yet to reach the level where I can finally exhale, today I am at least hopeful that the moment will arrive very soon.

Two and a half weeks ago, I celebrated my 36th birthday surrounded by an amazing group of people.  Some have been in my life for years, and others only a few weeks.  As we all ate, drank and laughed… it hit me.  For the first time in my lifetime, I entered a new year on this earth realizing that everything will be okay, and excited about what was to come and reveling in the fact that I got to share the moment with such an extraordinary mix of people who represent the many pieces of me — all coming together that night so beautifully and giving me a feeling of completion I’ve never known before.  If I’d needed further convincing of how blessed I was, all I had to do was consider that it was the middle of December, and not only was it an unseasonably warm night, the rain that was expected in various forecasts never happened.  That night was a game changer.

So here’s to a new year of new discoveries…  Of working harder… Of making better choices… Of pushing boundaries… Of refusing to settle for anything less than what is deserved…  Of opening my heart and mind to more people, places and experiences that challenge, enlighten, humor and maybe even spoil me a little… And most importantly… Of getting what I want.