Let’s talk about House of Cards.

I’ve been seeing a ton of hate for s3 of House of Cards recently, mostly because I think people missed the goddamn point. This post contains spoilers for s3, so if you haven’t watched it, don’t complain about spoilers.

We blasted through s3 last weekend/most of this week, and while some things didn’t work overall for the season (like fucking Doug and his manpain bullshit), I’ve been thinking a lot about Claire Underwood, and her relationship with Frank and what it all means and how it all relates. All the reading I’ve been doing about this season has made a theme emerge; people keep labeling her as ‘incompetent’ and ‘the new Skyler White’ from the neckbeard contingency, and this shit is just incorrect. But then again I think the naysayers and the room-temperature intellect types watch the show because Frank Underwood is their ultimate dudebro fantasy on steroids and thus miss the goddamn point.. like the Walter White proponents from Breaking Bad.

I keep thinking about the uncomfortable/overall sad fights Claire and Frank had this season, and how they left me cold. s3 is a lot about their marriage, it’s a recurring theme they keep coming back to. I kept thinking of those questions Nick Dunne posits in Gone Girl;

I suppose these questions stormcloud over every marriage:

What are you thinking?

How are you feeling?

Who are you?

What have we done to each other?

What will we do?

And I think Claire knew exactly what was going to happen when she asked Frank to fuck her in no uncertain terms that night in Iowa; of course she knew that he wouldn’t be able to do it. She wanted to force him to admit that he was incapable of giving her what she wanted and needed.

Frank does not see, and never has seen his wife as a sexual being or someone to be desired.. he respects her too much. And Frank doesn’t get off on respecting his sexual partners, especially the lady partners. He doesn’t get off on love; remember, he reminds the audience via Oscar Wilde that sex is about power. When Frank bangs a woman, the absolute last thing on his mind is whether or not he loves her, and he loves Claire. As much as Frank Underwood seems incapable of loving anybody, he loves Claire. She’s his partner, his sister, his friend, his confidante. He has no family to speak of, save for Claire. She’s as much a part of him as his own two hands. And sure, he likes to be intimate with her (maybe? I think?), but it’s not really sexual to him.. it’s more like giving a friend a backrub or a hug or something along those lines. It’s all very comforting, affectionate, and uh, pleasant? Baseline shit. We see at the beginning of s3 that he wants to be in the same bed as her, but it’s purely from a comfort standpoint. He wants her body in the bed next to him and that’s about it; a comforting presence. And there’s a reason every single sex scene on House of Cards is entirely fucking uncomfortable, sterile, and unsettling.

Claire understands all of this, and for almost 3 decades she’s accepted Frank’s sexuality as part of who he is, and part of what their marriage is. In a way, it made them stronger as a partnership and as if their love transcended sex.. almost. Because Claire always harboured a lingering resentment, just bobbing there under her well-manicured, stoic surface. When she figures out Zoe, she feels exposed and raw. When Frank banged dudes, Claire could rationalise it, but not so much with Zoe. When Claire went to Zoe’s flop apartment and looked around at the stained carpet, the shitty bare mattress, the peeling paint, the bugs, she was forced to face reality. Hearts and minds and all that. She knew Frank had fucked this girl in every single way he could think of; Claire also knew it was a business transaction. Yet on a purely visceral level, Claire was jealous. She hated that she was jealous, but she couldn’t help it; she loved Frank. She desired Frank. She wanted it to be her, and Frank knows it, too. When Claire visited Zoe and then ran off to New York City to be with Hot Older Man(TM) Adam, the message was clear; he had crossed a line, and he had really hurt her. Frank took no pleasure in that whatsoever – he doesn’t like hurting Claire. But it’s like.. he can’t help it, he can’t help himself, though he tries not to; it’s just who he is as a man, we all know a man like Frank. Some of us have dated a man like Frank. Frank is the type of man who loves, but repeatedly hurts the type of woman Claire is, and she can’t help herself. She alludes to this push and pull to Yates when she’s in the blood draw haze on the verge of blacking out – that she hates how she needs Frank. And in Frank’s most unselfish moments (which obvi don’t come around too often), he is point blank ashamed of himself.

I feel like that’s why he does a lot of what he does; as Dr. Rosen dropped that truth bomb on Mad Men, people will do anything to alleviate their anxiety. Frank doesn’t dwell on it, but it’s always there; his nagging sense of inadequacy is just under the surface, the monkey on his back dating back to his childhood. Anyone notice how Frank doesn’t break the fourth wall as much this season? Or how his trademark ring double-tap was glaringly absent? As the President, he never quite feels in control like he has in the past. His confidence is shaken, which is a large reason he’s been uncharacteristically lashing out at times he shouldn’t. He cannot narrate a situation which he cannot control.

That uncomfortable bedroom scene in Iowa was about Claire confronting her own fears and demons. She was admitting Frank’s inadequacy to herself and then, in a fit of anger, throwing it right in his face. She taunted him with it, and she did it again in the Oval Office and received the horrifying response she knew was coming from him. “You couldn’t even give that to me” and “You’re not enough” were clearly meant to jab him in the spot that she knew he was most vulnerable. And obvi, Frank had it coming for a whole slew of reasons.. but it was still genuinely nasty of her. It was the meanest (and most truthful) thing she could have possibly said. She pushed him to snap, because she was already emotionally prepared for it to be over. And then she split. Claire is 120% done.

Let’s backtrack a bit with Claire’s character development up until this point. I feel like people are dismissing Claire’s s3 arc as ‘bad writing’ or that ‘she’s an imbecile’ or ‘her emotions control her lololol women’ because they’re unable to reconcile nuanced characters who are pretty close to real people on television, much less a female character who has agency and is written like.. gasp.. A REAL WOMAN. What the Fuck on God’s Green Earth. People don’t know what to fucking do with themselves when they’re given a character like Claire, or Skyler White, or Carmela Soprano, or Peggy Olson. To me, Claire Underwood is the lady TV character I always wanted and and didn’t know I needed. A woman who is unapologetic about having had an abortion, who was unbroken by that experience; a rape survivor at that. A woman who is unapologetic about her choice to not have children, her overall disinterest in that lifestyle choice, yet she is not judgmental of other women who choose to have families, and doesn’t make it A Thing(TM) that defines her personality. Seriously! Claire is my Lady Hero. She’s smart and calculating and puts careful thought into who she’s meant to be, what she’s meant to do. Career aspirations aside, I relate to Claire on an innate level.

In s1 we could see from Claire’s interactions (i.e. that uptight woman who told her not to run in the park, the bum outside her building who gives her a paper crane made from the $20 bill Claire gave her, her clear remorse for Russo’s kids) that she is capable of empathy and has some semblance of a conscience. A different tune to Frank’s overall nonchalance about standing on whomever’s shoulders he needs to to achieve what he wants at any expense.

In s2, one of the most powerful moments was when she broke down crying on the stairs in the season finale. Claire had been confronted with the fact that was hated by the public, labeled as Satan incarnate (I mean, God forbid a woman who has an abortion not be fundamentally broken..), had driven a depressed rape victim to attempt suicide, and destroyed the career/reputation and marriage of the only woman to consider her a friend (Mrs. Walker). Her breakdown was a crucial moment for her character, and people hating her on the internet seem to be forgetting that happened. These actions she was taking in Frank’s best interest really cost her a whole lot, and she doesn’t manipulate people with grace and ease like Frank. Frank killed Zoe, for fuck’s sake, and it doesn’t really faze him. Claire carries that, I think.

In s3 she started thinking that all of this might be worth it, and by seizing the opportunity to go for the UN Ambassador position, she could begin to directly benefit from all the awful shit they had done. I guess I could attribute most of the ‘incompetence’ that people keep yammering about to the fact that her unraveling had already begun a touch in s2, and as the days went on it was slowly tearing her apart. She was physically ill at the idea of confronting Frank about the Ambassador nomination, and her ensuing outburst at the hearing was that stress manifesting itself outward. She and Frank had done unforgivable things to get to that point, and she was more full of doubt than ever. On top of all that, she can’t even use running as an outlet since she’s too high profile.

When it comes to the whole Russia mess, the more I think about it I feel that she did the right thing by publicly condemning Petrov. It was very risky and overall not a good look (and literally WHO sleeps through someone hanging themselves, that shit is LOUD) but I think that they almost had an obligation to condemn such a horrific/jank-ass culture. It was a good move in that it got the public opinion back on her side (the USA saw her as a hero), and she managed to salvage the situation with her UN business until the attack in the Jordan Valley and the false flag accusation. Internet people complain that she was easily manipulated, but she was manipulated BECAUSE she was Frank’s wife. She was targeted because Petrov wanted to drive them apart the way they drove apart the Walkers. She was forced to resign because she was being used as a weapon against Frank.

Shortly after, she was very very close to having her personal secrets about her past abortions exposed to the entire world, as a weapon against Frank potentially wielded by Dunbar. Fucking Doug..

Claire knows that she’s more likeable and would probably make a better politician based on that alone, but her affiliation with Frank has led her to take part in unforgivable, dark things. On a grander scale, she has actively prevented herself from accomplishing her own goals in pursuit of Frank’s. She left her lofty position at the CWI, she dropped the sexual assault bill, she resigned from the ambassador position, and she did all of it for Frank’s best interest. Yikes.

Frank spent this season burning his final bridges and alienating any allies he had when he wasn’t in Absolute Power. Absolute Power stripped away all of his skills of manipulation and ‘whipping’ that he used to have, and brought out the monster that was underneath the whole time. Claire saw it first as horrific, slept on it, and then saw it as being of absolutely no benefit to her. So she’s splitting. I’m so curious about what they will function like as individuals.

So uh, I have a lot of feelings about the Underwoods.

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The Movies of 2014

Holy shit, remember when I had a blog? Me neither. Sorry for the radio silence – lots of Real Life(TM) nonsense went on on including moving, hustling, getting engaged, getting a full time job, Christmas in NJ, planning a goddamned wedding, the whole nine. I was reading on Facebook earlier about how disappointing the Oscar noms are and figured I could slap my thoughts about my faves of 2014 in here rather than blow up a Facebook status. Sound good? OK!

Those of you lucky souls who follow me on Instagram have probably noticed that between photos of booze and cats, I post a photo of every ticket stub for movies I see in the theatre. This is due to a couple of reasons – the constant deluge “of the now” realness that social media has enforced is slowly seeping into my brain, but it’s also utilitarian in a way; it allows me to keep track of the movies I see because I can’t remember anything that happened more than a week and a half ago. In short, I very much enjoyed in no particular order; Gone Girl, Top Five, Nightcrawler, The Gambler, Interstellar, The Judge, The Disappearance of Elanor Rigby Her/Him, The November Man, XMen Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I’ll elaborate a little more on some of these along with the flagrant disappointments of 2014 in a bit.

FAUX AWARDS;
Best Achievement in Throwing a Goddamned Horse: The Rock in Hercules.
Most Eraserhead Realness Served in terms of Uncomfortable/Cold Feeling Homes: The Double.
Most Lewd Fun had in a Theatre: Filth.
Best Fun Sci-Fi Flick with a Female Character who shockingly wasn’t Made of Fucking Cardboard: Edge of Tomorrow.
Most Realistic Horrifying Gritty Violence: Blue Ruin.
Best Non-Ironic Nicolas Cage Performance: Joe.

THE GOOD;

  • Nightcrawler. Probably my favourite flick of 2014. This movie is written absurdly well, with Gyllenhaal as this bizarre misanthrope antihero with no real character arc and it STILL works. He’s an absolute fucking lunatic with LA as the co-star, and I couldn’t stop thinking about this movie once I saw it. It’s just a solid movie, a type that I didn’t think was made anymore. Truly enjoyable and tight.
  • The Disappearance of Elanor Rigby. This movie was originally intended to be two separate back to back experiences, one strictly from His POV and the other from Her POV. Thanks to the fucking Weinstein Company, we got some mangled slapdash ‘Them’ cut first before the original Her/Him versions were released in theatres here.. needless to say, this movie should be enjoyed in its original form. There’s so much depth to these characters and their experiences that the edited/combined version just misses the mark. The performances are fantastic and the story is heartbreaking, but ultimately satisfying, gripping, and real. These movies have stayed with me for months. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain play really well off of one another, and I believe them existing as a couple.
  • Gone Girl. Jesus, this movie is fucking fantastic. I struggle to recall any movie that has ever improved upon the novel as source material; I enjoyed the hell out of Flynn’s book, and read it in about three days flat mostly on a flight back from Ireland in June. The casting of Ben Affleck opposite Rosamund Pike could not have been more perfect, and Fincher just makes this whole movie work. It’s sinister and upsetting, the dialogue and action are taut, and Reznor/Ross’ score is delightfully creepy. Plus.. it has an orange cat named Cheeto deftly playing the role of Nick and Amy’s cat. Aaaaand you see Affleck’s dick. Not bad!
  • Edge of Tomorrow. If you haven’t seen this movie, DO IT RIGHT NOW. It’s fantastic, it’s fun, it’s funny without being gimmicky, and the story is really great.
  • The November Man. Pierce Brosnan is always a delight, and I’m not just saying that because I grew up watching Remington Steele with my mom. It’s an action flick and is of course a little predictable, but still a totally fun experience that surprised me with how much I got into it. Brosnan’s still got it, and Cobra Commander from the fantastically awful GI Joe sequel plays opposite him so whatevs. Totally unexpected fun romp, complete with miscellaneously Eastern European villains.
  • Interstellar. Now, in case you haven’t noticed the inalienable truth, I’ll reiterate it here; the Nolans are not good writers. McConaughey does the heavy lifting and brings the relatable human touch to the Nolans’ otherwise typically sterile characters, and Hathaway manages to not be completely intolerable so there’s that. The robots steal the show, which says all you need to know about the Nolans. The movie is not flawfree, but the strange thing here is that I liked it more and more upon reading/thinking about it and a couple of additional viewings. This movie really grew on me. It’s also worth noting that the Hans Zimmer score is fucking MAGICAL.. I haven’t stopped listening to it.
  • Top Five. Chris Rock wrote and directed this movie, and it’s really, actually, funny with heart.
  • Joe. Every now and then, I am reminded that Nicolas Cage is an actor, and a great one at that. This movie is nuanced and stripped down, and he gives a hell of a performance. It was the first movie I wrote about on this blog, in fact!
  • Jersey Boys. Now, before you all think I have brain damage, this movie isn’t actually good; I know that. It’s camp and totally absurd, but it sure is fun. Sometimes I want a fun movie to take me out of reality for a couple of hours, and Jersey Boys is the movie for that. And I love the music! I feel the same way about the 2008’s Mamma Mia; it’s genuinely terrible, but still manages to be a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

 

THE BLAND;

  • God’s Pocket. I had some high hopes for this one, considering John Slattery directed it and Philip Seymour Hoffman headlined, but it was just another one of those forgettable “THIS IS MY NEIGHBOURHOOD AND YOU’LL NEVER BELONG BECAUSE YOU’RE DIFFERENT” steaming piles of nothing.
  • The Drop, another steaming pile of nothing, for a movie I hoped would be great. The late great James Gandolfini puts in a wonderful performance in this otherwise banal movie that I really cannot recall much about; it was just sort of.. there.
  • Birdman. Unpopular opinion, I know. Performances aside, this movie was a goddamned mess. I went into it with high expectations, had read so much positive critical acclaim, and it was just one of those blowhard Faux Arthaus shitpiles trying too hard to be edgy and artsy. Don’t even get me started on the fact that this movie’s “score” was nominated for a Golden Globe, a score that as far as I could tell had someone strap a drumstick and cymbal to a couple of dogs.
  • A Most Wanted Man. I couldn’t tell you a goddamned thing about this movie other than the fact that PSH had a German accent.
  • Snowpiercer. Eh. I enjoyed it while watching it, and then never thought about it again.

 

THE CONFUSINGLY AWFUL;

  • Inherent Vice. Holy shit what a letdown this was. Now, I am mostly hit or miss on Paul Thomas Anderson flicks because I think they’re lazily referred to as ‘character studies’ when they should really be categorised as ’roundabout messes’. I was genuinely hoping this would be another Boogie Nights (which is the only PTA movie I actually enjoy, come to think of it), but IV is inconsistent, rambling, and nonsensical. At least it wasn’t as horrendous as The Master, which gave me an actual migraine. The styling of everything in IV is great though, so at least there’s that. What an abject disappointment.
  • The Theory of Everything. This movie is not only awful, it is aggressively awful. It is infuriating. Hey, I’ve got a great idea! Let’s take Stephen Hawking’s story, strip it of any and all actual character, feeling, and science,  throw it into the Romantical Story(TM) garbage disposal with a love interest who manages to look constipated for the entire two hours she’s on the screen, and you get this fucking movie. Not really an actual spoiler, but that ending: where he’s next to his estranged wife and looks at their children frolicking around a fountain at fucking Buckingham Palace and has his computer say LOOK AT WHAT WE MADE I wanted to hurl my rocks glass at the wall.
  • Locke. What in the goddamned world was this movie? It just didn’t work for me. Everyone was shitting themselves over how wonderful and visionary it was, and all I could think was, did these people all have lobotomies? Dafuq?
  • Hercules. Aside from The Rock throwing the aforementioned horse, this movie was a mess AND it was boring. There’s nothing worse than an action movie that’s incredibly dull. How in the fresh hell does that even happen? It’s the worst combination.
  • Noah. Speaking of boring, THIS fucking movie. Granted, I would never have seen it had Nick not wanted to, but HOLY FUCKING HELL IT WAS BORING. Mind-numbingly awful. And one of the characters was named Ham, so I kept thinking about ham. That’s really all you need to know.

 

SO, that’s about all I have to say about 2014 movies. And hey, Mad Men is back on April 5th, so look forward to more content on here in the near future. Rock n’roll.