Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Group Presentation: Portnoy's Complaint

The other day my English class and I had a group discussion about the novel that we had just finished reading: Portnoy’s Complaint. Each student in the class is assigned a group and will discuss (in front of the class) their close analysis of the novel and how it compares to Woody Allen movies and/or other works. Ever since the beginning of the semester I wanted to make sure that I was in the group that would talk about Portnoy’s Complaint because I knew it was a controversial book from the get go. Let me tell you, it’s a page turner! You seriously don’t know what the author is going to write next. I don’t know if I would call this tasteful literature, but is still interesting none of the less. Makes me question who Phillip Roth really is… do a lot of people think the way he does or is he weird for thinking and writing the things he does or is he just honest? Something to contemplate anyways.

Alright, back to the presentation. I think over all my group did really well!! We all planned everything we wanted to do then put it into an outline so that our presentation would run smoothly. We communicated a lot by email. There was really only one person in our group that did not participate at all or take part in any of the work, even asked to see my paper as to what I was presenting; but no idea stealing here! You don’t do the work you don’t get the slice of cake. But no crying over spilled milk, us girls stuck together!!  For my part of the presentation I decided to show clips from the movie Running With Scissors and how it related to the novel. First off I wanted to show the class the trailer of the movie so they could see the conflict between the mother, son and father relationship. In the trailer we see that the father does not understand his son and that they have nothing in common (it’s almost as if there is the same Oedipus Complex as there is in Portnoy’s Complaint. In Running with Scissors the mother gives up the son, he is still looking for the comfort of a woman and then searches for that in the doctor’s younger daughter. This is exactly like the main character was doing in Portnoy’s when he says in the first paragraph in the book “She was deeply imbedded in my consciousness that for the first year of school I seemed to have believed that each of my teachers was my mother in disguise.” (In other words, the mother abandons her son while he goes to school so he searches for another mother like substitution to replace her while she is not there.

Here's the tralier:

There is another youtube clip that I wanted to share from Running With Scissors and that was the masturbation scene. I think that this film would have made perfect Woody Allen film. It would not surprise me one bit if his name was in the credits (even though it’s not.) However, it looks like a movie that he would write and if he were younger he would have starred in it. It might have actually been even funnier if he starred in it. The doctor’s masturbation is a release for him, a way that he releases tension. That is the same reason why Alex of Portnoy does it too. Alex’s father on the other hand has problems with his bowels and is always blocked signifying the emotional disturbances in his life instead of “letting go.” This all sounds gross I know, but I was asked to analyze this stuff.

Here is the masturbation clip:

Overall, I was so happy to be in this group and the fact that we went first was even better. We could show the class how it’s done. Haha I’m just kidding. It’s nice to be in a group with hard working people. We were all team players. It was great!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Running with Scissors:A Non-Woody Allen Film

“You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to be a hundred” –Woody Allen

When trying to distinguish drama and sexual comedies there is only one Jewish man who does it the best, Woody Allen. Allen incorporates humorous matters with topics such as literature, sex, religion, psychology and other popular subjects in order to create notable pieces of work for his viewer’s pleasure. He is an icon of popular culture because of his works in films, directing, acting and writing. However prevalent Allen’s film philosophies are there are more people in Hollywood that take after his witty and sharp skills. Of those talents is Ryan Murphy who directed and adapted the screenplay to the movie Running with Scissors (2006) based off the memoir written by Augustan Burroughs himself. This film produces almost every element that Woody Allen would use in his works because of its funny yet dramatic nature.
Many of the jokes in a Woody Allen film are a bit off the wall and obscene, just like in Running with Scissors. To grasp a better understanding as to why their jokes are told the way they are Sigmund Freud writes in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, “With all obscene jokes we are subject to glaring errors of judgment about the goodness of jokes so far as it depends on formal determinants; the technique of such jokes is often quite wretched, but they have an immense success in provoking laughter (121).” It is natural for individuals to use jokes as an escape mechanism. Jokes are a way Augustan Burroughs is able to get through life because he feels sexually repressed, like Allen acts in most of his films. Freud also states “a desire to see one’s organs peculiar to each sex exposed is one of the original components of our libido. It may itself be a substitute for something earlier and go back to a hypothetical primary desire to touch the sexual parts (pg.116).” When there are feelings of sexual repression it drives one to act depressed, do crazy things out of the norm or use humor as a way of coping. Augustan’s comedic personality is in fact different than Allen’s because it is darker and more sinister, but nonetheless many still very similar.
Running with Scissors also relates to Philip Roth’s novel Portnoy’s Complaint. In the beginning of Roth’s novel he defines Portnoy’s Complaint as “a disorder in which in which strongly felt ethical and altruistic impulses are perpetually warring with extreme sexual longings, often of a perverse nature (introduction).” The sexual intricacies in the life of Augustan relate to Alex (main character in Roth’s novel) because they look at things in an egocentric light. They both are so self-centered in the fact that they use sexual acts in order to get through the pain in their lives caused by familial situations or controversies. They tend to be selfish at times and only to do things that are sexually self-satisfying to make it through each day.
It would take a 10-page paper to discuss the many ways sexual identities control the lives of all those mentioned. It would not surprise me if Woody Allen was indeed the director of this film. Which makes me wonder if Ryan Murphy tried to channel in Allen’s expertise and use it as his own. Guess you could say great minds think a like… or perverted ones you choose.

Augustan Burroughs

He even looks like a young Woody Allen from the glasses to the side smirk on his face!!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Portnoy's Complaint by Philp Roth

Some thoughts I have about Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

Even after reading the first few chapters to myself in Roth’s book, I immediately thought of Woody Allen. Roth’s crude sense of humor, yet ingenious storyline really intertwined with the comedic figure. I can only imagine what would happen if the two of these witty writers wrote a story together. Great minds may think alike, but so do vulgar ones (i.e. Roth and Allen).
Some may call Roth’s book “pornish” high literature. However, it is still in good taste and studied intently because of how it is presented. Really it is an example of people being honest and showing their vulnerable complexities. Many authors even put themselves in the story. So maybe Roth is really divulging the truth of who he is.

Woody Allen’s movie Play It Again Sam is a film that could be tied to Roth’s book as well. The movie is based on a play that was written by Woody Allen himself. Woody constructed a character that was clearly insecure. So much so that it seemed like he had some sort of a communication disorder when in fact he was just nervous around attractive women. In Portnoy’s Complaint we see Alex (the main character) as a boy suffering from the Oedipus complex and who has a mother that is domineering in most every aspect of his life. I believe that is the reason why Alex has so many problems with women later in life. This leads me to think maybe this is why Woody character in Play It Again Sam, Allan, might have so many problems with woman and is so socially awkward around them. Allan has to escape through his alter ego Bogart (from the movie Casablanca) in order to feel like he is really to find his future mate.

It is so interesting to me how a book and a film that are not at all related have so much in common but really that is the beauty of deconstructing literature and film.

Play it Again Sam:

Here is a short interview with Philp Roth from TheDailyBeast.com's Web Series. Roth tells reporter Tina Brown that the novel "was a big marker...I don't have any regrets about writing or publishing it."