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The Florida Project

Dear students and writers, if you are considering taking my advanced course at U of T, I ask you to sign up immediately, because a few more are needed for the course to run. The Ryerson course is filling fast and may soon be full, but the U of T class is only for writers who have taken my course before or who’ve received permission from me, and sometimes is small.

So if you’re interested, don’t wait.

I just returned from seeing a horror movie: The Florida Project. It’s about poor families who live in welfare, slum motels in Florida, and though it’s a brilliant film, I found it profoundly upsetting and depressing. The U.S. as a third world country – we know it’s so, and here it is, on view – lives so devoid of meaning, unsupervised children running amok, and yet people struggling to make a community and find kindness and decency. Thank God for Willem Dafoe, with his expressive craggy face, as a manager who cares for the hopelessly lost people who live there.

What’s exceptional are the children – utterly natural and unforced and real. How the director achieved what he did with these kids, I have no idea; it’s breathtaking. But the film made me sad; not a good film to see in January. I came home to my house – my roof, my walls, the unimaginable luxury of my stable, comfortable, functional life.

And this after watching much of the Golden Globes last night, which was the most politically aware awards show I’ve ever seen, women rising up, wearing black, Oprah fierce and fiery. An important moment, as women struggle to change the world, or at least, their bit of it. But feminist struggles aside, that motel in Florida is as far from the glitter and champagne of Los Angeles as anywhere on earth.

The night before’s excitement: watching “2001, a space odyssey” for the first time since it came out in 1968. A very odd movie – yes, a masterpiece, but also odd and very, very slow, long lyrical passages to Zarathustra or Strauss as spaceships float and dock, and then an utterly surreal ending I had to Google to understand. Interesting that Kubrick foresaw many things clearly about the future, but still had women as pretty stewardesses in pink suits and absurd little hats.

And yesterday, I was on the streetcar passing Allen Gardens on Carlton Street when I blinked and swivelled to look closer. It was a hawk, a big hawk on the ground, tearing at something in its talons, probably a pigeon. How often do you see that in the middle of the city? A magnificent raptor having lunch. Red in tooth and claw.



2 Responses to “The Florida Project”

  1. Melanie says:

    The Florida Project is on my list of movies to see this year. I haven't seen Oprah's Golden Globes speech yet but it seems like one of those things I really need to get on. I'm going to attempt to watch as many movies by women this year (have slowly been compiling a list) but I'm not a big movie watcher. I would rather read a book. Really enjoying your blog.

  2. beth says:

    Melanie, good to hear from you – thank you for dropping in. I have to say, the Florida Project might be something I'd wait to see until a really hot cheery day, because it's a heart-wrencher. Today I visited my daughter and her two kids; they live in a two bedroom apartment which looked like a palace, a nest of grace and stability, after the motels of Florida. There are a number of terrific, thoughtful, inspiring films out there right now. Did you read my review of "Coco"? It won the Golden Globe, not that the award says anything, but it's a great film to see with kids. And yes, Oprah was pretty terrific.

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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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