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Archive for the ‘movie review’ Category

“Push Girls” Off To a Good Start

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by Treadmarkz

“Push Girls” debuted last night on Sundance Channel. I thought the show started off good. It’s not your typical study of people in wheelchairs trying to fit into society really. It covers a variety of issues from relationships, and employment that are often struggles for those in chairs. But the chairs become secondary when the series surveys other key issues, such as homosexuality, work stresses, etc. which really drive home the point that these ladies deal with everyday things. There lives are not just “wheelchair, wheelchair, wheelchair, 24/7.

One of the four ladies featured on the show describes how it is talking with clients of her business on the phone, setting up in-person appointments with them, and then the reaction when they see she is in a chair. This is a case-study in and of itself.

Another struggles in her long-term relationship with an able-bodied man who does not think he wants kids, but she knows that she does. I loved how this turned the tables on what one might expect. You know, an able bodied man wanting kids but in a relationship with a woman who may not be able to because of her disability. She is sure of it and wants that experience, and he eventually ends the relationship. But the woman showed herself to be strong in her convictions, ready to end the relationship herself if need be. A poignant moment was her saying (to the camera in a private tell-all moment) that she wasn’t going to be one of those disabled people who stayed in a relationship that wasn’t what she wanted just because she felt like she would never have another chance.

It would be sad for a disabled person to live like that. But I couldn’t help thinking it would also be sad if the perfect person for her happened to be another man in a wheelchair and she just didn’t recognize it.

Another enters a dance competition wherein she is the only contestant who is not standing. It is interesting to see her prepare for this, knowing that all eyes will be on her, knowing that she’s at a distinct disadvantage from the beginning, and knowing that some will see her participation as a novelty. She is not doing it to show off, or stand out. She is doing it because she has always been a dancer, and will always be a dancer, working legs or no working legs. She is not a novelty and she shows it in the competition.
The series speaks volumes about our place in society as disabled people. In every aspect of life, we throw ourselves into it, and participate. My wife and I cannot wait for next week’s episode.

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HBO Film To Shed Light On the Needs of Developmentally Handicapped Adults

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by Treadmarkz

It has come to my attention that on February 22, HBO will run a film called “Raising Renee”.

The documentary is an account of a woman who elects to care for her developmentally handicapped adult sister. My wife is a care giver for seniors. She can’t tell me everything she does during her day due to confidentiality promised to clients. And though this is not the same thing as caring for an adult with a developmental handicap of course, I do have an idea of how hard this job is.

I will be watching on February 22 and my hope is that it opens up a lot of eyes as to the task we face as a nation in getting some of our most overlooked citizens the care they need. I will try to provide a film review after the program airs.

Go and Watch “Avatar”

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by Treadmarkz

Like I said in the title of this posting, go and watch James Cameron’s new movie, Avatar if you haven’t already. It is not ALL hype. Not all. It is a great movie, with some mind bending scenes, colors, action, etc. Not the most groundbreaking screenplay or overall plot, and there is certainly a lot of non-very-well-veiled anti-war propaganda. But all things considered the movie is great. And it’s not racist, despite what some people are saying. I don’t know how some people jump to that conclusion whenever a movie involves civilizations of a different color (The Na’vi, who are blue). If anything the movie is taking a stand against one of its own characters who considers the Na’vi to be inferior because of their non-European-like culture.

I will try not to spoil anything, but you can see from the preview that a man in a wheelchair, Jake, walks again by becoming one of the Na’vi, right? Well, okay, seeing him become an avatar and walk on two legs for the first time since becoming disabled, and talking about it with my wife on the way home from the movie, it FORCED ME to admit that while I don’t pine away to be able to walk, if I did one day find myself able to, I ADMIT that I would react the same way this man did. By running. And like him, I’d probably keep running for a while.

When I first saw the preview, I thought the movie might have something to do with the Hindu avatars of God (Krishna, Vishnu, etc) because they are always portrayed with blue skin. But it has nothing to do with that, except that in Hinduism, avatars are said to come to help humanity when we need to be reminded why we are here, OR we are being overcome by evil forces, which is just what the character Jake ends up doing for the Na’vi. But they are all blue themselves, so the reference gets lost.

Anyway, go see the movie and let me know what you thought. Or if you’ve seen it, let me know what you thought.

“Tropic Thunder” and the War Over Words

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by Treadmarkz

I have not seen the new Ben Stiller/Jack Black comedy “Tropic Thunder” but friends have been urging me to comment on the whole hub-bub the movie is creating over the word “retard”. Though I haven’t seen it, and though I am not a “retard”, I am in fact a “cripple”, I feel that the same basic principle applies to my situation. I feel that the people behind most of the “protests” of this movie are “non-disabled” people who are just full of righteous indignation. It looks good to protest things like this.
Further, I think people take things like the use of the word “retard” in a movie way too seriously. It is not directed at a single person is it? Well it is, actually but a movie character, and from what I understand, what is being attacked in this movie is actors who try to play “mentally handicapped” characters as if they really understood what it is like to be “mentally handicapped.”

Sure, movies like this may affect the way people see “mentally disadvantaged” people, or whatever the “correct” term is these days. But if you are worried about it, then make it your goal to show people who you really are before they get the chance to make that judgment on you. That is everybody’s mission in life, so its not just disabled people or any other minority who have an extra burden. It is everybody’s goal, one way or another, to put their best face forward. Damn a movie. Let’s make sure we are remembering that we don’t live in “Movieland”. We are people with individual personalities that do not fit into the mold of a stereotype. So, unless you actually do fit these stereotypes they shouldn’t bother you.

And lastly, I’ve said it before, but if we can’t say “retard” and we can’t say “cripple” then we can’t say “four-eyes”. This is a slippery slope, this issue of words we can’t use. Near-sightedness and far-sightedness is, in fact a disability so if we can’t make jokes about the mentally and physically disabled then there are a whole long list of other people we can’t make fun of. Think about it so I don’t have to present the list.

“Music Within”: Not Your Typical Cinderella Story of “Overcoming Adversity with a Disability”

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by Treadmarkz

A while back I mentioned a movie I’d heard of, “Music Within” and I promised to write more about it once I’d actually seen it. Well here ya go!

I know I am wrong but sometimes when I read a movie review by someone who was not paid to do it, I feel like they are just doing it to show off their taste in “film” whatever the hell that is. Is that worse than people doing it because they are paid to? I don’t know. But I can never seem to get into writing a standard review of a movie, with full-blown analysis of characters and their motives and historical accuracy, narrative flow, etc. I just can’t do it.

So this isn’t going to be a “review” of “Music Within”. Sure it was a great lesson on how disabled people broke the doors wide open into the workforce. But you can read about that in a lot of other places, and frankly I am tired of mentioning the ADA. (So what do I go and do right away?)

Anyway, I have just a few observations on “Music Within.”

What stood out for me, in “Music Within” is that if you really search, or even if you just open your mind, you will find that you have a lot more in common with the people around you than you may think upon first glance. People without a disability may look at this film and see a character with cerebral palsy, played by Michael Sheen, and be startled by a few things:

– He has a crude sense of humor. I think people don’t realize that people with cerebral palsy have the mental capacity to have what is the common conception of a sense of humor. And if they do, they certainly couldn’t be crude and R-rated could they? Yes, they could. And I think this misconception gets applied to many different types of disabilities (let’s say, oh I don’t know, spina bifida). But it’s wrong. Ask my wife. She has to listen to me, for example, when we are watching a movie that I “object” to for any given reason that I make up on the spot.

– He has the capability to be rude, and abrasive. Well of course he’s rude and abrasive and angry and standoffish, he’s afflicted!!!…No…that’s not why. It’s because he’s human. And if you are rude to someone in a wheelchair or not in a wheelchair, they just may choose to be rude back to you. They may choose not to say anything about it, and that may be perceived as letting it happen, or it may be perceived as being above responding. It’s all relative, I suppose.

– He has a sex drive. I know, “duh!”, right? But some people just don’t understand that people with disabilities are sexual beings. The fact is that many people with disabilities, especially paralysis, depending on their level of paralysis, may experience repression to an extent that others simply can not understand, because they do not have the same level of freedom of expression of love, passion, lust, what have you. For some, this repression is expressed through the way they talk to the people they are attracted to, or how they “hit on” people. There are some great examples of this in the movie, where in Sheen’s character openly invites several women to partake in…certain activities with him.

But above all, to all three of these things, I say…Duh, he’s a guy. We’re like that. Crude, bi-polar, sex junkies. Can I get a witness?

Okay that’s a cheap stereotype. I got much more out of this movie than this, but I don’t want to write a book. And I don’t want to pontificate (too much). Take a look for yourself.

“Music Within” Film Portrays the Cerebral Palsy Experience, Tells the Tale of the Birth of the ADA

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by Treadmarkz

I saw a preview last weekend for a film that came out last year. I’d never heard about it until I saw this preview, but based on the preview I wanted to share some information about it. It is called “Music Within”. Based on a true story, the film is about a deaf man, played by Ron Livingston, and his friend who has cerebral palsy, played by Michael Sheen. The story is about how these two men and a group of friends set about to change people’s perceptions about people with disabilities, and along the way play an important role in the creation of the ADA, and the improvement in hiring practices involving those with disabilities.

Since the preview seemed to focus on the man with cerebral palsy, my first impression was the realization that I am in a wheelchair, with spina bifida, but I know very little about many other disabilities, especially cerebral palsy, and I really wish I did. I try to be empathetic toward those with disabilities which take more from them than mine takes from me. For that matter, I don’t understand what it is like to be deaf either. I suppose we think we can understand that just by covering our ears, but imagine covering your ears 24/7…My point is that I am certain that I don’t understand completely.

Then I found out that Michael Sheen is not disabled, so my second impression was that I wished that his character had been played by an actor who really had cerebral palsy. But then I realized, through some level-headed debate with my wife, that this is what makes Sheen an “actor”. He is acting as a person with cerebral palsy.

I just thought the story would be that much more moving had the character with cerebral palsy been played by someone who knew exactly what it was like to have it. But I trust that Sheen did a sufficient amount of research for the part, as serious actors often do.

I am going to try to get my hands on a copy of “Music Within” so I can understand, and learn more about the ADA. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

A Ghost From Oscars Past

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by Treadmarkz

Last night, I watched the Oscars with my wife. Though there were some good movies nominated, I saw Hillary Swank at one point during the show and it reminded me of 2004, when her film “Million-Dollar Baby” won best picture. I saw that one in the theatre with my wife, and though I don’t really remember my full reaction, I do remember hating the ending.

Let me give you a little background, or skip this paragraph if you’ve seen it. It is about a boxer (Swank) who takes the female ranks by storm, earning a title match. During that match, she is viciously attacked and sustains a broken neck, and is paralyzed from the neck down. The rest of the movie involves her struggle to come to terms with the fact that she is no longer a fully-functional physical being, even though she had made her living with physical activity. When her family comes to take control of her fortune, she realizes that this is the only reason they showed up, so she decides that she has nothing to live for and asks her trainer and close confident (Clint Eastwood) to “end her suffering.” He struggles with this but does fulfill her wish by administering a lethal overdose.
This is very long-story-short, but the film raised a lot of eyebrows in the disabled community in ’04. When we went to see it, I honestly had no idea that this character was going to become disabled. I don’t remember anything about that in the previews. Its often said the movie was marketed as a “Rocky in a sports bra” but with a political agenda.

I am disabled, but I always have been. And as I said in an earlier posting, I can’t begin to imagine what it would feel like to lose those capabilities while you are at your physical peak of youth. And I have heard people say “If I ever became disabled, I’d kill myself.” But I have always had a hard time believing that, if it actually happened, they would still feel the same and kill themselves. I am sure it would cross anyone’s mind, in the situation Swank’s character was in, but Swank’s character seemed optomistic and driven during her boxing days. And it seemed as though she was being shown ways she could make the very best out of the cards she’d been dealt, just before “the end.”

So, first, while admitting that I have not experienced what Swank’s character did, I don’t think this movie reflects reality. I have a friend who was an athlete and stage actress, and a very social person until she was paralyzed from the neck down when she was 16. Since then, she has always been very positive, and she took the “social” part of herself and used it to make the world a better, more hopeful place for people in her situation, by going on a speaking tour about her experience.
Second, does this movie, and the death wish of Swank’s character suggest a low value on life itself? Her limbs didn’t work, and I understand that this would deny a person the freedom they’d enjoyed all their life, but she could still dream, and share her dreams and work with people to make them a reality. She could teach people based on her experiences. And she could still love and be loved (her trainer loved her like a daughter).
In short, I hated this movie.
Just kidding, it presents an argument from one point of view. It’s not mine, but I can appreciate its merits. As a disabled person, though, I hate to see anyone thinking that the loss of limbs is the loss of life, and I don’t like the movie for depicting that attitude so bleakly.