Tag Archives: Moira Cue

Executioner’s Song

Art and literature editor of Hollywood Sentinel, Moira Cue is reviewing, in no particular order, every Pulitzer Prize Winning Novel ever written. An award winning artist, Moira was an undergraduate and graduate student at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Carl Van Vechten [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, Portrait of Norman Mailer
The Executioner’s Song, by Norman Mailer, is one of the Pulitzer Prize winning novels (or works of fiction) that later became a movie, although, in this case, it was a television movie (with Tommy Lee Jones, who won an Emmy).

At a whopping 879 pages, it will take on average 23 hours to read (at 250 words per minute)—just slightly shorter than the 28.5 hours it would take the same reader to complete the 960 page Gone With The Wind. As super long novels usually go, it’s epic, and contains several periods of time that in and of themselves have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

What makes this story unusual is that the book is not just fiction. It’s docu-fiction, a hybrid of documentary and fiction. The style is like that of many novels, but it is based on a true story, and took months of research.

Fun Fact: The slogan “Just Do It,” which you may associate with Nike running shoes, was inspired by a vicious double murderer, named Gary Gilmore, executed by the State of Utah in 1977. Gary not only inspired an executive to create an ad slogan that was later trademarked by Nike, but he inspired Norman Mailer to write this book that won the Pulitzer, despite its macabre topic and criticism of glorifying violence and criminality. The character created by Mailer is sympathetic, while the victims of his murders, both LDS (Mormon) are treated contemptuously. Despite its moral flaws, the book is an addictive read, and, if you’re like me, you’ll ignore other obligations just to squeeze in a few more pages.

Gilmore was a politically relevant person because he was the first person executed for murder by the United States (in 1977) after the reinstatement of the death penalty (in 1966, after a period of approximately ten years). As such he became an unwitting celebrity. (On December 11, 1976, Saturday Night Live host Candice Bergen and the cast sang a Christmas-themed medley, entitled “Let’s Kill Gary Gilmore for Christmas.” After his death, he would also inspire punk banks and rock stars, playwrights, and avant-garde artists.

But Norman Mailer’s work is probably the most extensively based on interviews with friends and family before, during, and immediately after the circus leading up to the execution. The book sometimes reads like a newspaper expose. The language conveys a sense of motion, of an unstoppable something that led to Gilmore’s violent outbursts and became a surreal circus. It is a period piece, full of late seventies, early post-everything cynicism. The anti-hero becomes the hero.

Gilmore’s history included a childhood of delinquency and an early burglary. He spent so much of his life in institutions and jails that when he was released after serving 13 years for armed burglary, at the age of 35, he essentially needed to be cared for by sponsors (a cousin in Utah). He was emotionally younger than his age and had very little real-life experience with women. It was his relationship with Nicole Baker, a troubled 19 year old, that eventually pushed him over the edge. He killed a gas station clerk and motel clerk after their relationship fell apart. Back in prison, he was obsessive, poetic, and still wrapped up with Nicole. Almost as if the murders were to get her attention.

As a reader, you are manipulated by Mailer into caring about Gary the Celebrity, even as you see how the machinery of cultural distrust, anti-establishment ethos, and media hyperbole turned a sick, dysfunctional psychopath into a hero. You’re behind the curtain, which is less surreal and more ugly—but you find yourself caught up in the hype even though you know better, much like Mailer himself must’ve felt writing the story of a killer-turned unwitting Romantic nihilist icon.

This content is ©2018, Hollywood Sentinel, Moira Cue, all world rights reserved. Visit www.MoiraCue.com  

Moonlight: All That a Best Picture Should Be

Movie Review By Moira Cue

The minimalist beauty of the 89th Annual Academy Award for Best Picture, the film ‘Moonlight,’ is both elegiac and hopeful. In a world of poverty and violence, a richness of character, however flawed, shines transcendent.   This film is artful.  This film is all that a Best Picture should be.

Before ‘Moonlight’ received its Oscar nomination, the first person I know who saw it came back from the theater with her face aglow. “You have to go see it,” they stated.  “What’s it about?” I asked.  “You just have to go see it,” they replied.

Moonlight is a hero’s odyssey. The main character, Chiron, is the African-American son of a crack-addicted mother and target of bullying at his Miami school. The film is divided into the Greek three act structure, wherein Chiron is portrayed in glimpses as a young boy, teenager, and man. The name Chiron traces its origin to classic Greek mythology; Chiron was a civilized, intelligent centaur, who, in varying accounts, gave up his immortality.  (The character has been explored for millennia, in Greek and Roman mythology, in Dante’s Inferno, and Pulitzer Prize winning author John Updike’s novel The Centaur, which was set in the context of 20th-century small-town America.)

The cinematographer’s palette is exquisitely utilized. Pale sheets of color—Miami pastels—appear as washes that transform walls in Chiron’s mother’s low income housing into a vibratory entity similar to Rothko’s paintings.

The sound track includes contemporary classical music, rap, and an even an R&B song that echoes the sweet layered harmonies of the innocent 1950’s. The score’s disparate melodies all work together despite referencing different cultures and time periods.  There is so much beauty and so much pain.

This film is brutal, and timeless. While it is set in a world that most audience members would not voluntarily visit, it is universal in its depiction of a first, true love.

Everyone will remember the 89th Academy Awards because of the accidental announcement of ‘La La Land’ as Best Picture.  But ‘La La Land,’ with all the advantage of being a film by Hollywood about Hollywood, piled on the trappings of the Golden Era while having forgotten the old adage, all that glitters isn’t gold. While ‘La La Land’ tells us of love aborted for the cult of ambition; ‘Moonlight’ shows us a world where love is the only ambition.

Moira Cue is art and literature editor of Hollywood Sentinel, and an award winning multi-media artist working in art, music, film, and fiction among more. For more information on Moira visit the official website at www.MoiraCue.com

This content is copyright 2017, Moira Cue / Hollywood Sentinel, all world rights reserved.

 

Fear versus Faith: Florence Scovel Shinn

By Moira Cue

Florence Scovel Shinn, born in 1870, was a metaphysical author best-known for her 1925 book, The Game of Life and How to Play It. While some of the language and ideas no longer resonate, her work deserves attention for those interested in the Law of Attraction and in particular, those who are both spiritual and ambitious.

One of Ms. Shinn’s most interesting statements is “Fear is only inverted faith: it is faith in evil instead of good.” This is one of the most powerful statements I have ever heard about fear, or faith. We live in a world that shows us many ways in which evil is real and powerful. There are many unsavory things, and they won’t go away by me choosing to dwell on them or not.

But what do we believe about good and evil? I recently read a book about cognitive bias that contained the whopping  over-generalization that evil is more powerful than good. Hollywood movies used to have good guys and bad guys that could be clearly distinguished, but now a protagonist likely to be deeply morally ambiguous, pathologically neurotic, and/or in the process of transforming from a protagonist to antagonist. Perhaps it’s more realistic to think that even a hero has flaws, but if we cannot imagine people who both do good and are healthy, than what hope do we have of ever living healthy lives where we do good things? Who are our role models?

Florence Scovel Shinn teaches that there is only one power, rather than two, and that power is God. This is a difficult idea to grasp. She believes that each of us was once a part of the infinite intelligence (that some call God) but that our own “vain imaginings,” or separation from the Divine, are the root of evil. And that separation begins with fear. In the Christian tradition, God is the creator of heaven and earth, but the devil, Lucifer, is a fallen angel. He became the devil by separating himself from God.

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You don’t have to be Christian, or even a deist or disciple of any organization or teacher, to believe in good. Some people believe that religion is mostly metaphors, while others believe that various religious scriptures are the literal and singular Truth with a capital T. Most all religions talk about love, and how we are supposed to love each other. Some religions talk about how we are supposed to love not only humans, but to show compassion and gentleness for all living beings. But how many of us have had experience with religion or ideology that caused us to feel guilt, shame, and fear, instead of love? How many of us have used religion or ideology to judge others as less worthy than ourselves?

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Finally, how many of us believe that good is stronger than evil? On one hand, a person could say that a question as broad and general as “Which is stronger, good or evil?” is impossible to answer. And many of us haven’t given it much conscious thought. Some of us are sensitive to all the times that history has shown evil triumph over good. But I would argue that most of us either believe that good is stronger than evil or that evil is stronger than good, that we can consciously change that belief, and that just having a belief that good is stronger than evil will make the world a better place.

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When you are afraid, you are expressing a belief in evil. When you have faith, you open the door to the possibility that there is something or someone that is bigger and stronger than you and your separation from the source of infinite love and abundance. When you invite that something into your life, through faith, whatever that wonderful thing is, it can heal you and make you whole again.

This content is copyright, 2016, Moira Cue / The Hollywood Sentinel, all world rights reserved.
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