A writer of climate fantasy faces the future more fearlessly in her fiction

Rebecca Scherm began writing “A House Between Earth and the Moon” while pregnant in 2014 to ease her anxieties about the world her first child would inherit. Much like childbirth, the process was painful, but miraculous.

For many expecting mothers, the world today can strike the fear of God into the heart; for writers like Rebecca Scherm, that dread is an opportunity “not to calm myself, exactly, but to run my imagination all the way out, until it exhausts itself.” Contributing to Literary Hub, Scherm describes the creative process behind her science fiction novel, A House Between Earth and the Moon, which follows a family as they flee the dying planet for a space station in 2033. In forcing herself to research the realities of climate change she’d once upon a time avoided, Scherm writes, “This novel changed me from someone who writes about a need for change into someone desperate to bring those changes to life.”

As loath as I am to regurgitate pull quote after pull quote (especially in a blog post this brief), Scherm is the best writer I’d never heard of before today, and she deserves the same recognition as all the other women authors dominating the post-J.K. Rowling marketplace; Gillian Flynn springs most readily to mind as a worthy contemporary. Anyway, Scherm speaks for herself with more of a voice than anyone else could hope to capture, such as with the course-correction in lifestyle she outlines here: “I started down a path of climate activism through native plant gardening—for biodiversity, for carbon capture, for reacquainting people with the more-than-human world around them—and this path has felt like a kind of salvation.” Sometimes, meaningful action is as deceptively simple as the hope native plant gardening brings to a new mother, and Scherm has her own imaginative literature to thank for that “salvation.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning Anthony Doerr on his planning process

Doerr, who won the Pulitzer Prize for the modern classic “All the Light We Cannot See,” discusses with Julianne Gee of the Boise State University “Arbiter” how drawing engages him to write with greater complexity. Doerr briefly worked with their creative writing department.

After the publication of his latest book, Cloud Cuckoo Land, in September, Anthony Doerr sat down for an interview with The Arbiter in Idaho. Doerr is quoted as saying, “Growing up, you always think good novelists live in Brazil and Buenos Aires or Paris or they’re dead. Every day you have to give yourself permission and say, ‘You know, even though I live right here in Boise, it’s okay to try to make something that people might read in Brazil or in Paris.'”

We study Doerr extensively in the Master of Arts program for professional creative writing at the University of Denver; he is, without hyperbole, one of the most gifted authors working today, and you could do far worse than learn from his comedic timing in his sentences, or the grander storytelling structures he erects out of this acumen for the micro level. Like all masters of the written word, he knows how to make it appear as though he comes by this skillset naturally, but, during the prewriting phase for Cloud Cuckoo Land, he reveals he scaffolded the outline with a diagram. As for what inspired him to write with such wealth and depth, Doerr attributes it to his grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease – “I just thought I’m going to try the most complicated thing I can try right now, while I still can,” he says.

The rhizome concept is represented as a tangled web of roots in this sketch.
This drawing of a “rhizome,” or underground root system, mirrors the intricacy of Anthony Doerr’s own “map” for “Cloud Cuckoo Land.” (Image Courtesy: The Arbiter).

A Companion Piece to “A Personal Update”

The world changed during my hiatus from this blog site, and not for the better. With this fresh start, I ask myself: what can I do to improve life with the posts I publish here?

Content Warning: Sexual violence; intimate partner abuse; mental illness; childhood trauma; drug and alcohol misuse

Before Friday, April 4, 2022, I had no way of knowing how much lower my life could get from where it already was. I was naive enough to believe I’d put the worst behind me with the deaths of my parents when I was twelve, or breaking up with my abusive ex-boyfriend in 2017. Tragically for me, though, the trauma from their collective narcissism and psychopathy shattered me in ways that outlived my respective relationships with them all.

And only in returning to this blog site can I rebuild my identity as a writer.

Who I am now is not the same as I was in the hours leading up to midnight (and beyond) on February 4 and Saturday, February 5, though. How do I reconcile a survivor of street crime with a film journalist? As a (now) trained memoirist, isn’t it ethically incumbent upon me to share that process of rewriting my life story with everybody else in this community, and resolve it enough to bring hope into this dying world like only creative writing can do?

As a content creator, I may lose followers for this pivot in artistic focus, but if even one reader walks away from me a more inspired and enlightened person than they were before, then I will die a successful man. For everyone who stays with me, and everyone who joins us, I promise you: I will summon all my talents and enrich you no less than the finest works of literature.

You have my word.

I.

Other than excusing myself from work over a nail I found in my tire the night before (and then ignoring the call that it was ready to pick up from the dealership so I could raise another glass, or two, or three, to my coworker’s nineteenth birthday), nothing felt atypical about February 4 – or, at least, any more atypical than since I quit my… well… atypical antipsychotics near the end of 2021, or my antidepressants in January. Between an internship, a full-time overnight shift, and my Master of Arts program in professional creative nonfiction writing at the University of Denver, I simply didn’t have enough motivation left to split my Abilify tablets as prescribed.

As for the Prozac, I was so manic (without realizing I was manic, since my doctor failed to inform me about a bipolar I diagnosis from my therapist), I thought it meant I didn’t need an SSRI anymore. I attributed these high moods to my dialectical behavior therapy group for the treatment of borderline personality disorder and assumed, like Alexander DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), “I was cured, alright.”

Meanwhile, I texted my friends and family dozens of paragraphs at a time when I wasn’t staying up for twenty-four hours at a stretch to compose epic blank verse in Spanish.

Friday the 4th was no different – or, at least, not at first. I spent the day pacing the house and emailing leaders at my full-time employer about what I suspected to be a grand conspiracy to fire me for calling out or otherwise retaliate against me for speaking out.

Little did I know, I also lived with paranoia related to a disabling diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

My psychiatrist’s office, when they mailed me my bills, inputted a diagnosis code of generalized anxiety disorder. According to my licensed professional counselor, doctors normally diagnose new clients with broad strokes like GAD or major depression (which I have also been diagnosed with), then zero in on trauma pathologies like PTSD or BPD. But in this “new” normal, my prescriber was treating me for anxiety instead of bipolar, which is tantamount to taking Benadryl for a root canal.

To cope with the realities of these persecutory delusions, I treated myself to an otherwise “typical” Friday night in downtown Denver. Having blacked out more than once in my past (perhaps due to my bipolar hippocampus), I cut myself off after two strong drinks.

However, as fate would have it, moderation wasn’t to save me that evening.

I should have stayed home (and sober) outright.

Without rendering a painful lived experience for far too many of you, or titillating the wrong crowd with sensational details (more on that later)…

…I was date-raped, mugged, and left for dead in the gutter.

When I came to at sunrise following what I could have mistaken for a series of lucid nightmares, I found myself wandering a homeless encampment in subzero temperatures, which made it hurt to swallow or breathe. My feet were wet, my black shoes gone white from the salt they used to melt the slush, and my iPhone 11 Pro Max was missing. My jaw ached as though my teeth had smashed together, and I still don’t know where the scrape on my elbow came from, or why my assailants didn’t take my wallet or my car.

Maybe I fought them off.

Or maybe I negotiated with them – a thousand-dollar phone, freely given and easily traded for crack, Fentanyl, meth, and whatever else they smoked so openly in this part of town.

Either way, whatever they drugged me with suffocated an already sleep-deprived, hung-over, and traumatized mind. I drove back to the shelter in search of my phone, offering rides about town in exchange for leads, each prostitute and drug dealer ripping me off worse than the last.

By the time I gave up and returned home that afternoon, the sunglasses, gloves, and charger I kept in my console were all taken.

It is not with great vengeance and furious anger, but rather overwhelming sadness, that I report this tale of a Colorado man so desperate for a pair of winter gloves that he swindled me out of mine when I was at my most suggestible and uninhibited.

That was just fourteen or fifteen hours of my life.

For him, it is his life – if he’s even still alive this many weeks later.

That taste of his world is enough for me not to rest until I have saved all people I can from his same fate, before I meet my own. Growing up in Denver, I can remember walking down the street without coming across a single tent pitched on the side of the road.

Three years into the COVID-19 pandemic and not one of us is as far removed from those looming alleyways as we comfort ourselves to believe.

One may be forgiven for wondering how I, Jack Trades, Master of Arts, would effect this change, and the answer is that not even I know how, or even if I ever will. I am only a multimedia artist, after all, screaming into the void that is the information superhighway. My ACT percentiles ought to attest that this is all I know.

Even though I could have just as easily journaled privately about this event, I have instead decided to heal in front of you (whoever you are), for it is the world that is sick, not I, and you and I are shuffling off this same mortal coil together. I am but a symptom of a far larger illness that drove anonymous strangers to force their grim perspective onto me. By healing myself so publicly, my ambition is to do the same for everybody else here.

Through the structural aestheticization of the larger meanings these words represent, may we all come to know a more beautiful life than the one described above.

II.

Since my third-grade teacher, Mister Hardy, introduced our class to none other than The Hardy Boys, the written word has served as the currency for my borderline dissociations, and I do mean all manner of the narrative arts – even my favorite TV and video game characters accompanied me in my most maladaptive daydreams while my late parents screamed at each other for hours upon hours.

When you’re a child who hasn’t learned to fend for himself yet, sometimes the only escape is a fantasy.

After a fashion, it wasn’t enough merely to consume such media. From my earliest fan fiction to my latest homage, creating this media helped me to experience it, or come as close as I ever would. As with the futility of a lover’s embrace, writing would never truly make this superior world any more than pulling someone close will keep them with you forever, but isn’t fleeting pleasure better than none at all?

And isn’t the miracle of art that it reconstructs the truth of these moments for us to revisit over and over, even as time washes the rest away? Isn’t that why the greatest art offers up something new whenever you revisit it, as if for the first?

So with all the expansive limitations of a savant, I exorcised my dream world out of the my body and onto the page, where any sighted and English-literate eye could read and manifest it into their own imagination and memory, as if it were real – real to them in ways not real to me, yes, but no less honest for that.

And these aren’t just starstruck musings designed to frame a half-scriptural catharsis which may strike the skeptic as absurd in the face of mob violence – these claims have scientific backing. University College teaches us the best writing empowers itself to simulate visceral and verisimilitudinous reactions at times strong enough to effect social or even physiological change. (It bears emphasizing as well that Poets & Writers listed the doctorate degree in creative writing at my graduate school as the top of its kind in a 2012 ranking).

Indeed, one need look no further than near every reformist movement throughout history to study the political and cultural capital of everything from Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses to the tweets that catalyzed the Arab Spring. How would your quality of life measure up without the muckraking of Ida Tarbell to break up the Rockefeller energy monopoly, or Upton Sinclair to regulate your produce? What kind of a life expectancy could you hope to have?

More personally, writing has saved me from my own life-threatening borderline personality disorder. Dialectical behavior therapy groups encourage you to keep “diary cards” between sessions, documenting your mental wellness. For a creative nonfiction writer, these can serve as plot points in a memoir, helping you chart the path of your life’s work toward a more mindful nirvana.

Thanks to this therapeutic journaling, no new scars have arrived to join the ones already decorating my wrists since – I’ll admit – February 2022. Yes, I relapsed after my attack (who wouldn’t?), and I’m still not the same person I was before, nor will I ever be again. As I grow more sure of myself, though, I become that much louder a voice for my own mind, where the same words that trigger the involuntary flashbacks in my fight-or-flight-or-freeze response will drown out in my deafening advocacy for a brighter tomorrow.

Which then begs the question: how do I spell out the calculus behind that more prosperous and harmonious future for all, where people need not harm each other for survival, believably enough that you’ll fight by my side to build it?

III.

At Colorado State University Fort Collins, where I worked toward my bachelor’s degree in journalism from 2012 to 2015, I minored in critical film theory. This course load lay in keeping with high school student’s a Lady Gaga obsession which translated into a fascination with Warholian postmodernism.

It only made sense for such a school of thought to resonate with a closeted queer youth who idled away the hours pretending he was a hero in one of his favorite stories.

In any case, these classes taught me to approach popular culture with more creative remove. Who do certain images and narratives benefit, and who do they exploit in a white supremacistic capitalist patriarchy which supports the billionaire class on the backs of the global majority? What can I, as the author of my life with an upper-Middle Class safety net to fall back on, do to spread the wealth of my own white male American privilege?

I don’t presume to know, not with a lifetime of socioeconomic blindspots to unlearn, but what I can say is that revolution is possible when a borderline personality survives something worse than his childhood. If, for all my empathy deficits toward the ones I devalue, I can come out on the other side of this more compassionate and not less, then a kinder lifestyle is within grasp, too, even in this day and age. We might exist in the logical extreme of post-Cold War Americanism, with predatory property managers holding stolen land hostage and ransoming it out to the highest bidders, but even while a closet robber baron like Vladimir Putin makes a devastating land grab in Ukraine to restore a fallen empire, I shall meet war with grace.

This isn’t to excuse my victimizers. For them to atone, they must turn themselves in for what they did to me, take that time to reflect on it, then spend the rest of their days investing the work to make it right with the communities they targeted in me (“atonement” differing widely from “forgiveness” or “redemption,” mind you). To borrow a DBT term, however, I “radically accept” my memory of them, and all the larger contexts at play behind it.

No, what these people are guilty of – some of them BIPOC, some of them LGBTQIA+, some of them women, most of them mentally ill, and all of them poor – is past forgiving or redeeming. Regardless, they had their reasons for doing it, even if those reasons weren’t “justifications.” We hold an enemy in common, not with any individual, but with the institutions of oppression and abuse certain individuals prop up.

Before any of them can atone, they shall either live dismantling such legacies, or die defending them.

My BPD is a family heirloom passed down from as many generations back as the German great-grandfather who fought on the losing side of World War I, if not even farther. It is as systemic to me as Trumpism is to the same country of religious extremists founded upon a declaration of independence wherein Thomas Jefferson falsely accused King George III of racist conspiracy theories. It is true I have rejected my BPD in much the same way as the United States rejected Donald Trump himself, but it is still an ideology I am cursed to rebel against whenever I am reminded of the first twenty-six years of my life, before I ever enrolled in a DBT group.

Which brings me to why I declined to involve the police, because while I am aware violent criminals are at risk to re-offend, I, their victim, am not to blame if they choose that path. The police only would have made their situation that much more miserable, brutalizing and rounding up whomever they didn’t murder at the outset. What net positive would have been gained from ruining even more lives when the police did nothing for me at the time I needed them most, anyway?

Rather, I choose to be proactive and not reactionary, preventative and not regressive, and in so doing, I represent the antagonists of this drama humanely, painting them in the same shades of gray that color me. Of what worth would any other essay be in our already anti-homeless society? Not only is violent crime among strangers statistically rarer than it was ten years ago, but Colorado’s economy of alcohol consumption, rewarding microbreweries with the same gusto as fossil fuel industries, cultured my downfall more so than my unhoused neighbors.

No, I will find my justice somewhere this never would have taken place to begin with, and I will set that scene between these lines.

IV.

On New Year’s Eve 2015, my friends and I went out celebrating in Old Town Fort Collins. ‘Twas half a year before I would sample my first drink at twenty-two (a glass of liquid marijuana), so I was the designated driver, still too scared of becoming an alcoholic like my parents to so much as try a sip, but not so scared that my abuser wouldn’t talk me into it.

Fittingly, I first met him the next day.

Anyway, a couple brawled with each other at one of the bars, so the bouncers chased the rest of us outside, our breaths rising in front of our faces to the stars above.

My friends and I were alone on a side street, looking for the car, when we encountered the couple from the bar – a tall Black man and a blonde white woman. The man was slurring at somebody on his phone when I made eye contact with him. Then, he started yelling at me, but with the phone still pressed to his ear, disorienting me enough with his nonsensical gibberish and divided attention that my fight-or-flight-or-freeze response paralyzed me with intrusive thoughts about my upbringing. His partner kept her hand on his chest, holding him back whilst imploring us to “get the fuck out of here.” My drunken friends couldn’t move between us fast enough, and no sooner did he pocket his phone than he was throwing his arms up in my face.

This ain’t Boulder, son!” he screamed, the whites of his eyes crowning out of their sockets. “You in a different world now, son!”

For the record, I hadn’t been to Boulder but once, for a job interview.

The night flashed red and blue with siren lights from officers responding to the bar fight. I could have cried for help at any time. As soon as they saw him with blondie, they would have laid him flat on his ass.

Because I feared the pale white ghosts of my parents more than I did a Black man who had a few too many in a college town, I silently stood my ground until he backed down.

Again, I’m not the poster boy for anti-racism – I was simply too petrified to run, and that’s all there is to it. But if there’s anything to be learned from my inaction, it’s that the police would have stained that man’s record at best, whether I ultimately needed any protecting from him or not.

How many of you have been fortunate enough to overdo it on a holiday without it defining the rest of your life?

I know I wouldn’t be here spinning these yarns for you if not for the freedom afforded me to indulge in a “blank slate” (or is it a “blank page?”) after February 4. I can’t speak for anybody else, but for the world in my own head, it knows now a closure singular to the experience of closing the book on one chapter and opening it to the next, which is the magic of creative nonfiction – delivering literary transcendence to the facts of life.

What’s more, the cries for help in this essay, the pleas for my needs to be met, will reach all of you when nobody did anything to help me in Denver, having witnessed just as bad, if not worse, the night before, and the night after, too.

In the community we forge together, that weekend will go down as just another story.

Monday, April 11, 2022 – Sunday, April 17, 2022

A Russian writer calls on his contemporaries to resist Putin

With eight translations slated for his works in the Western world, Vladimir Sorokin, a Russian writer, encourages his fellow countrymen (and women) to combat Putin’s “fake news” with the truth.

Having left Russia for Germany three days before the invasion of Ukraine, Alexandra Alter of The New York Times writes that Vladimir Sorokin “seemed disoriented, but not surprised, to find himself facing what could be a long exile.” Beginning his career in letters as an underground Soviet author, English-language publishers are currently preparing eight new translations of his subversive works for Western audiences. An admirer of Dostoyevsky, Sorokin said in an interview last month, “A Russian writer has two options: Either you are afraid, or you write.”

With Putin’s right-wing ideology penetrating democracies around the globe (perhaps most alarmingly in the United States, where Trumpism almost sparked an apocalyptic war against China), Sorokin’s words ring true not just in Russia. Indeed, President Vladimir Putin, dictator of the Russian Federation, compared himself to transphobic English author J.K. Rowling in his own condemnation of “cancel culture.” As Putin’s propaganda spreads worldwide, all literary artists must meet misinformation with the truth, or else watch their respective cultures enter the future while returning to a regressive past, much like in one of Sorokin’s stories.

A Personal Update

“In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write.”

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

This blog saved my life.

It came to me during my quarter-life crisis, when I dreaded I would die working the job I had settled for. Since creating it, I have come closer than ever to making my dreams come true.

Without it, I would not have been inspired enough to pursue this next opportunity.

I’ve devoted much of my summer to applying for a graduate program in creative writing. You can only go so long without indulging your passions before you’re motivated to invest in changing your own life.

This month, I found out I was admitted into the University of Denver, where my Master of Arts will be in creative writing (with a concentration in nonfiction).

At first, I was hesitant to go back to school because I graduated Colorado State University debt-free in 2015, thanks to the life insurance policy I inherited from my parents.

Unfortunately, though, my bachelor’s in film journalism hasn’t done much for my career except help me create this website. As much as I wish it paid the bills right now, it doesn’t, nor will it for the foreseeable future.

Not that money is everything – like I said, this blog is the reason I even survived the past year. After I finished college, I found myself trapped in an abusive relationship that cost me time and money I’ll never get back.

In addition to the undiagnosed, untreated bipolar and borderline personality disorder I was suffering through at the time, my world had become a living death as I wasted away my life digging myself out of the hole where my ex left me for dead.

Half a decade came and passed, and I started to believe it was too late for me. Every day, I would wake up dreading what my future would bring (or wouldn’t bring), and every night, I would go to bed regretting what I did (or didn’t do) with my past.

Worst of all, I wasn’t writing, because my time with my ex changed my passions – how could I force myself to live for movies again when I didn’t even want to live?

So, I followed the most basic rule of writing: write what you know.

Like the hundred-to-three-hundred-word news blog posts I published for class and the five-hundred-word streaming reviews I wrote for student media, I set reachable daily and weekly goals for myself, whether I felt like it or not.

And it paid off – first, with the Eighty-Eighth Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, then, with MovieBabble, and, now, with DU.

All that being said, I will be taking a temporary hiatus from this project to focus on my studies. Not only that, but I also need to prepare submittable material for paying contests to raise money for my tuition.

It is simply no longer feasible for me to honor my scheduling commitments here – it hasn’t been since I set myself toward this latest ambition – and you deserve better than that for your support, so I’ll return here when it’s my only priority, and until the next time I see you again, thank you.

Netflix review: Bernard Rose’s “Candyman” (1992)

As the Black Lives Matter movement marches across the globe to protest the murder of Black Americans at the hands of the police, activists are taking systemic racism to task.

One of the targets of their revolution includes Hollywood, which, historically speaking, is infamous for its whitewashing. The horror genre in particular negatively represents Black characters (if they’re even represented at all).

With its “racism as horror” allegory, is Bernard Rose’s Candyman (1992) ahead of its time, or is it of its time?

If you don’t know what to watch next, Candyman is available to stream on Netflix. The supernatural slasher stars Virginia Madsen as well as Tony Todd.

It appears on Bravo’s “100 Scariest Movie Moments,” Bloody Disgusting and UGO’s top slasher lists, Filmsite’s “Greatest Scariest Moments and Scenes” and “Greatest Film Plot Twists, Film Spoilers, and Surprise Endings,” and Retrocrush’s “100 Greatest Horror Movie Performances.”

Set in Chicago, Helen Lyle (Madsen) is a semiotics graduate student researching urban myths who hears a local story from the Cabrini-Green housing project about Daniel Robitaille, “the Candyman” (Todd).

According to legend, the Candyman can be summoned by saying his name in a mirror five times, before killing you with his hook hand. After putting the vengeful spirit’s existence to the test, Helen finds herself fighting for her life.

Candyman predates Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017) by about twenty-five years, and Get Out is one of the greatest releases of its decade. Its racial commentary is as stirring as its scares are hair-raising.

Perhaps what’s so horrifying about it is the ways in which it relates to the contemporary American experience, and its realism to all who survive the horrors of racism.

And this is all due to the filmmaker’s script. In addition to intersecting Helen between misogynistic gaslighting and violence, Rose mythologizes his narrative with a story within the story about the Candyman’s origin.

White-on-black brutality has never truly stayed dead, and it is only a word away.

But, in many ways, you can still tell this was written by a white man. Candyman puts forward a number of toxic stereotypes about Black people, such as a superstitious lean and a hive-mind mentality which paints them as a sub-intelligent, quasi-barbaric horde.

Whether or not this was the director’s intention is irrelevant – what is relevant, is the outcome.

At least the reboot (produced by none other than Peele himself, and directed by Nia DaCosta) is sure to correct some of the picture’s more damning faults. Regardless, Candyman is still a classic for any fan of the genre (when viewed critically).

Indeed, where a lesser horror film would have patted itself on the back simply for making its monster Black (without lending a second thought to the larger implications), Candyman goes so far as to textualize those racial ramifications through a mainstream generic lens.

“The Los Angeles Times” ranks Ennio Morricone’s ten greatest film scores

Randall Roberts of The Los Angeles Times writes, “Serving as sort of whimsical, opinionated Greek chorus — one that could turn dark and sinister in a flash — his work played a co-starring role.” (Image Courtesy: The Los Angeles Times).

Ennio Morricone died yesterday in Rome at ninety-one years old, according to The Los Angeles Times. Staff writer Randall Roberts describes him as not only “the most important film composer of the twentieth century,” but “also the busiest.” Roberts lists his top ten scores as: Sergio Leone’s Trilogia del dollaro; Gillo Pontecorvo’s La battaglia di Algeri (1966); Sergio Sollima’s La resa dei conti (1968); Dario Argento’s Il gatto a nove code (1971); Bernardo Bertolucci’s Novecento (1976); Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978); John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982); Roland Joffé’s The Mission (1986); Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987); and Quentin Tarantino’s The H8teful Eight (2015).

Amazon Prime review: David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012)

Where were you the first time you saw David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (2012)?

It takes a special film for this critic to remember the answer to that question.

Indeed, how could one forget staring into Bradley Cooper’s star fire-blue eyes and falling in love with the character who marked his metamorphosis into the “serious” dramatist who would go on to give us his A Star Is Born (2018)?

As for Jennifer Lawrence, the audience surrogate reacting to this beauty and charisma she covets for herself even though the gulf between she and Cooper is as tantalizingly close but frustratingly wide as that between the viewer and the silver screen, her dramatic catharsis is communal.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Silver Linings Playbook is available on Amazon Prime. The romantic comedy-drama was adapted by the filmmaker himself from the 2008 novel of the same name by Matthew Quick.

It was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, with Lawrence winning Best Actress.

Set in Philadelphia, Patrizio “Pat” Solitano, Junior (Best Supporting Actor nominee Cooper), is released into the care of his parents, Patrizio Solitano, Senior (Best Supporting Actor nominee Robert De Niro), and Dolores Solitano (Best Supporting Actress nominee Jacki Weaver).

After spending eight months at a mental health facility for bipolar disorder, Pat attends a dinner party with his friend, Ronnie (John Ortiz), and Ronnie’s wife, Veronica (Julia Stiles), where Pat meets Veronica’s sister, Tiffany Maxwell (Lawrence), a mentally ill young widow.

Tiffany falls for Pat, but Pat is still in love with his ex-wife, Nikki Solitano (Brea Bee), who has taken out a restraining order against him after he beat her extramarital lover, and, so, Tiffany offers to give Nikki a letter from Pat if he agrees to enter a dance competition as her partner.

As one can plainly see from all the acting nods, Russell is an actor’s director. That Silver Linings Playbook is one of only a handful of films in Oscars history to be up for all four acting categories testifies to that.

But Silver Linings Playbook succeeds where, say, American Hustle (2013) fails because it is as narratively tight as it is dramatically fiery, while the overlong American Hustle is bloated with its cast’s improvisational excesses.

And Lawrence is every bit as bright as you would expect her to be. Between this, American Hustle, and Joy (2015), her creative partnership with Russell sings the song of a muse and her artist. Her alchemic transformation into Tiffany is a firework show.

Unfortunately, though, she continues the trend of women with mental illnesses being sensationalized on film. Another Lawrence collaborator, Darren Aronofsky, similarly exploited Natalie Portman in his Black Swan (2010), for which Portman also took home the trophy.

A person’s psycho-emotional suffering shouldn’t be a means to an end for actors looking to make spectacles of themselves.

However, Silver Linings Playbook humanizes Tiffany as a romantic lead, rather than villainizing her a la Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction (1986). She is no less magnetic than Cooper himself.

The film is miraculous in the romance it electrifies between two people for whom love is more painful than not, a spell only movie magic can cast.

Tens of thousands sign petition to block film starring Michael Jackson’s daughter as Jesus

The late pop superstar Michael Jackson’s daughter, model and actress Paris Jackson, was cast back in April alongside Bella Thorne and musician Gavin Rossdale in a film called Habit, according to The Guardian. Jackson is to play a lesbian Jesus, complete with “a nose ring, tousled waves and a traditional robe,” while Thorne will portray “a street smart girl with a Jesus fetish [who] gets mixed up in a violent drug deal and finds a possible way out by masquerading as a nun.” One Million Moms is circulating a petition against the production, which has attracted sixty-nine thousand signatures.

The cast of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” reunites

In the season finale of the YouTube series Reunited Apart with Josh Gad, the core cast of John Hughes’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) joined together for the first time in thirty-four years, according to NBC Chicago. Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Grey, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Cindy Pickett, Lyman Ward, as well as Ben Stein all hopped onto a Zoom call with Gad. Broderick, who hadn’t seen Ruck in at least fifteen years, told Gad about how he hurt his knee before shooting the parade scene, before the cast went on to act out iconic scenes from the cult classic.