Posted: March 25th, 2013 | Author: Max Romero | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: movie review | No Comments »
One thing you can say about Spring Breakers is it’s not a middle-of-the-road kind of movie, and its bound to inspire strong opinions on both ends of the scale. Another thing you can say about Spring Breakers is that it’s an artless kind of art film, an inch of a movie that dreams — desperately — of being deep.
The film by Harmony Korine (Kids, Gummo) is described by the studio as “a crime comedy-drama thriller,” which I can only assume means everybody wanted to make sure this adolescent fantasy of a music video had every base covered. More specifically, the movie is about four college students (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) who want to go to St. Petersburg, Florida for Spring Break, badly enough that they’re willing to break rules (and laws) to get there. The only one to hesitate at all is Faith (Gomez), and that’s only after they hook up with James Franco‘s drug dealing Alien.
Let’s point out something that’s probably already obvious: Spring Breakers wants to speak to its audience, but it chooses to do so with a bullhorn and a sledgehammer. Faith is a “good girl,” who calls her grandma to let her know she’s alright and attends cool-kid Bible study when she’s at school. When they meet Alien, it’s like meeting someone from another world. GET IT? (The names of the other women are unimportant because, really, the audience is never given a reason to care. Faith is the only one to get any kind of characterization, and even then it’s only enough to give her a second dimension. It’s not surprising that she gets on a bus about halfway through and literally leaves the movie, never to be seen again.)
From there, things quickly fall apart, fueled in equal parts by Alien’s hip-hop hillbilly influence and the girls’ own tendency toward self-destructive mayhem. Booze, drugs, money and guns take their toll on the group until it all ends in a sequence that is amazing in its unbelievability.
It doesn’t help that the 10 pages of dialogue on display is terrible, wooden and often veers directly, with no tap of the brakes, into the ridiculous. The acting is non-existent with the exception of Franco, who single-handedly keeps the movie afloat with his addictively hilarious, over-the-top performance. Franco brings a clownish menace to Alien, and I’d be willing to bet that much of his highly quotable dialogue was improvised. The film’s structure is ambitious and interesting, and while it could have worked, it just ends up being repetitive and repetitive. The way the film is edited winds up being a cinematic version of dubstep, and though it’s clear Korine is enamored with the idea of “atmosphere,” what’s left is ultimately just as substantial.
A friend of mine saw Spring Breakers with my wife and I, and he has a theory. The film, he says, might be a statement on everything it puts on display. And by extension it’s an indictment of the audiences who watch movies that really are that superficial, and who, reality-TV style, get a thrill out of watching the corruption of a couple of former Disney princesses. If that’s true, then Korine is a genius, a subversive filmmaker who has fed the viewers exactly the kind of artificial, unhealthy buffet of boobs and bullets we’ve learned to gorge ourselves on, served wrapped up in a package as bland and familiar as Styrofoam.
I’m willing to concede that this might be true; there is certainly enough in the way the movie is made to support that. But there is also plenty to lend weight to the idea that Spring Breakers is just a dumb, dumb movie.
Franco really does pull off a great Krispy Kreme, though.
Posted: March 6th, 2013 | Author: Max Romero | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: cancer, personal | 6 Comments »
I must have come up with a dozen different ways to say this.
I thought about being witty. I thought I could be funny. Or somber. Or brave. Strident. Shaken.
Finally, I decided it was best to just say it: Two weeks ago, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.
The only way I can keep everything straight is from the beginning, so I’ll start there. About three weeks ago I noticed a bump on my testicle. It didn’t seem to be very big — around the size of a small pea, maybe — and it wasn’t painful; I’d had a slight groin pull around the same time and thought that might have had something to do with it. But when it didn’t go away after a week I told Sandy and together we decided that I should go to the doctor. On Monday, Feb. 25, I went to see my GP.
The doctor didn’t like it, saying it felt like a solid mass. Our doctor, thankfully, has always been very proactive both in terms of treatment and prevention, and she sent us to get an ultrasound that same afternoon. She also told me to get an appointment with an urologist, who would take a closer look at it and make a more definitive diagnosis. In the meantime, an ultrasound is essentially giving real-time images, so my doctor’s initial assessment was confirmed immediately — the mass wasn’t a cyst.
When I called her Tuesday to let her know I had an appointment with the urologist for the following Monday, she said, “Mmm, no, you need to call back and get something sooner. Something no later than tomorrow or Thursday.” Luckily, there was a cancellation, and I managed to see him that same day.
I think that’s when things started getting scary. Things were quickly going from abstract to concrete, and it was a reality that frightened me more than I could have expected. My mom and both of my grandmothers had cancer, and in a way I always kind of thought, in the back of my mind, that I would get it someday. But that is a long way from actually getting it. Unfortunately, that’s what the urologist confirmed, and that’s when he diagnosed me with testicular cancer.
It’s an awful experience, in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Waiting for answers is one of the worst things; worrying about what it could mean for Sandy the absolute worst. For the next few days we alternated between being positive and crying in each other’s arms.
Things had already been moving fast, and it just got faster. That afternoon I had blood work done; two days later, on a Thursday, I got a CT scan to see if the cancer had spread. The CT tech, like every one else I had dealt with to that point, was nice — cheerful, positive, careful not to promise any results one way or the other. I had a follow-up with the urologist the following Monday, which meant a long weekend of being desperate for answers but dreading a phone call from the doctor. We figured if we didn’t hear from him, that was a good sign — otherwise it would mean things were worse than we’d hoped.
Friday, while we were out for dinner, we allowed ourselves to relax just a little because we had arbitrarily decided that if we made it to 6 p.m., it probably meant the doctor’s office wouldn’t be calling. A few minutes after 6 the phone rang; when I answered, it turned out to be a wrong number. I didn’t know whether to laugh or spend the next half hour cursing at the girl on the other end of the line.
The weekend slowly came and went without a phone call. On Monday we worked until it was time to go to the doctor’s, and then we waited some more in a tiny examination room. When he came in he said, “The CT scan was clean. The blood work didn’t show any of the proteins we talked about. It’s clean. This is very good.” I had to ask him again just to be sure – did he mean that the cancer hadn’t spread? Yes, he answered, the cancer was isolated to my right testicle. My liver, my kidneys, my pancreas were OK. We cried again, this time with relief.
My surgery was planned for Wednesday, just two days later. Usually it’s considered too risky to just remove the tumor, so standard procedure is to take out the testis completely. I was no exception and my testicle was removed in what was, amazingly, an out-patient procedure. Thanks to my urologist I’m resting comfortably at home now, sore from the 3-inch incision slashing diagonally across my pelvis but getting by with Tylenol, ice packs and plenty of TLC from Sandy, my mom, and my nephew Pato (who lives with us while he goes to college). My mom flew down for the surgery as soon as it was scheduled; when I told her about the diagnosis, I could hear her starting to hyperventilate over the phone with shock. No parent wants to hear their child has cancer, even if that child is 43. Later she told me that until we started getting test results, she felt as if an elephant was sitting on her chest. “I feel like I can breathe again,” she said.
Two days ago, a Friday, I saw my doctor for a post-op follow-up and to have a drainage tube removed. The doctor said the surgery went well, and he didn’t see anything that worried him. The pathology report showed that the tumor was a classic seminoma, which is the least aggressive form of testicular cancer and the easiest to treat. He is recommending a couple of radiation treatments at a very low intensity just to make sure it’s gone, and I’ll be scheduling appointments with the radiologist in three weeks. Just a precaution, he said, because he’s sure we caught it early and that the surgery removed whatever cancer was there.
That’s fine. Whatever it takes.
It still amazes me how fast everything happened. In a little less than two weeks I’ve gone from primary diagnosis to surgery to recovery. In two weeks I’ve gone from cancer patient to cancer survivor. And I’m so grateful. Grateful for the quick response of my doctors. Grateful for the strength and love of my wife. Grateful that when we first started freelancing she insisted one of the first things we budget for was health insurance. Grateful for the support, the fierce affection, and inappropriate jokes shared with family and friends. Grateful for whatever made us decide to get a simple bump checked out instead of ignoring it.
If you take anything from this, let it be that. Pay attention to what your body tells you. Nothing that seems odd, or different, or just uncomfortable enough that you “can live with it” is worth ignoring. Don’t be completely paranoid, but don’t be afraid to be a little paranoid. See your doctor, and ask every question you have when you do.
And then, when you’ve taken care of yourself and your health, take a breath. Take a loving look at this life you’ve been given. And be grateful.