112 Weddings

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4A07vLA-dI I first read about this relatively recent documentary on A Cup of Jo, and was immediately intrigued.

Filmmaker Doug Block spent the past 20 years shooting wedding videos as a side gig. He realized that even though the filming process was quite intimate -- he spent a lot of time with each couple getting married, as well as their family and friends, catching candid, emotional moments -- the experience was cut off as soon as his job was done. He typically never saw or talked to the diverse couples whose weddings he filmed ever again.

So he decided to change that, and tracked down several of the couples to see what had become of them. Were they still married, and if so, happily married? What had happened in their lives since the wedding day? Block shares footage from the weddings of 11 couples juxtaposed against present-day interviews. The answers he receives to his questions are varied, complex and compelling.

Rachel and Paul have remained fairly happily married for 13, though their focus is entirely on their two small children. Jenn and Augie, married for 8 years, look blissful in their wedding footage, and while there is still a sense of playfulness in their interview, you can see the tension arise as they discuss raising a child, living in a small city apartment and dealing with a lay-off. Yoonhee and Tom, who seem like complete opposites, manage to laugh tenderly toward one another and dole out words of wisdom regarding their ability to stay married.

Olivia and Dennis describe the realities of having a small child with leukemia, and how it has impacted their connection. At one point, Olivia said, "Some days I think he is the biggest jerk, and then he says something to make me laugh, and I think, 'That's it, that's why I married you." I also appreciated what Olivia said when asked if she believed in soulmates; she said, "Nah, I could have had multiple soulmates, each for a different soul." But she picked Dennis, and they seem committed to work out any differences primarily for the sake of caring for their daughter. Jodi and Michael were another favorite couple, whose chemistry was evident 13 years later. They laughed, touched, smiled at each other, but remained quick to acknowledge difficult years in their married life. For example, they have a special needs child which required Jodi to stay at home instead of continuing her career that she loved.

The stories of some couples, and their intense challenges or divorces, are downright heartbreaking. Janet and David, who parted ways after David experienced manic episodes. Sue and Steve, who were in the middle of a divorce after 19 years of marriage at the time of the current filming, and clearly felt very differently about that decision. Danielle and Adam, whose relationship struggles revolve around Danielle's extreme depression (she actually looked like a completely different person from the time of their wedding to the time of their interview).

My favorite couple in 112 weddings? Janice and Alexander. Creative free spirits, they originally discarded the concept of marriage and instead chose to have a partnership ceremony. Flash forward 13 years and two children, they decide it's finally time for practical reasons ("We realized if anything happened to our family, we would need that legal recognition" and so on). Their ceremony is small and intimate, and Block even asks their teenage daughter what she thinks of her parents getting married -- and she immediately smiles and expresses that she's really excited for them. I love that these two showed their commitment over the years in so many ways other than the traditional form of marriage, and their children were able to witness such a positive thing.

Block also intersperses footage with comments from Rabbi Jonathan Blake, whose best line steals the documentary:

"The wedding is day one, and it’s the easiest day to make happy. You’ve just thrown a ton of money at it, and liquor. A marriage is hard to make happy because when you throw a ton of money and liquor at it, it often makes things worse."

The biggest takeaway: Nobody can predict what will happen in a marriage and over the course of a lifetime. All sorts of things happen, and some are awful and unexpected; whatever does happen will threaten to pull your commitment apart within a relationship, and it's up to the individual couple to decide to work it out or cut their losses. I especially liked Block's tone throughout the documentary -- he never seems to suggest judgement on any of the couples (as he shouldn't); instead, he displays these very real, very true life stories with empathy, warmth and kindness.

Must See -- Orange Is The New Black

Ever since Netflix changed the online streaming game with its original, here-are-all-the-episodes strategy, I have become a total sucker for new television shows. I've always liked TV, don't get me wrong. I definitely have "my" shows: Mad Men (that Draper angst gets me every time), Game of Thrones (once I read the books, I had to see the visuals), Nashville (Connie Britton is my idol), Pretty Little Liars (gives me common ground with my 15-year-old sister), Royal Pains (Evan's snark is awesome), Modern Family (a crowd favorite), HIMYM (duh), The Newsroom (I feel smarter every episode), The Mindy Project (Mindy is the epitome of relatable), House of Cards (I want to be a cutthroat consultant), Friday Night Lights (CONNIE BRITTON FOLKS) . . . and so on. Obviously because my list of favorites is so long, it's hard for me to pick up a new show here and there.

However, Orange Is The New Black is my brand new favorite. Here are 5 reasons why you should watch it.

1. It's based on a true story.

Piper, our lead protagonist, is a preppy, upper middle class young blonde with a fiance, Larry, and the life of her dreams--that is, until she goes to prison for the time she smuggled drugs with her lesbian lover ten years ago.

Piper 1

Read about the real Piper here, here, here and here.

2. It's endlessly interesting to learn about Piper's fellow inmates.

We've got Alex, Piper's sharp-tongued former lover, and general badass with a soft side:

Alex 2

Miss Claudette, Piper's mysterious roommate who demands order and cleanliness:

Miss Claudette

Red, the Russian head cook and unofficial leader of the entire prison community:

Red

Nicky, the sarcastic former drug addict with a penchant for rolling her eyes:

Nicky 1

Crazy Eyes, who falls in love with Piper and claims her as her prison wife:

Crazy Eyes

Taystee, the sassy, smart black woman who comes full circle throughout the season:

Taystee 2

and my personal favorite, Pensatucky, who is the most white trash, homophobic religious zealot I have seen portrayed on television in a very long time. In the most ridiculous way possible.

tumblr_mqecpdYp0H1s7v2glo1_250

Each character serves as a certain stereotype at first, but then you see bits and pieces of their past. And slowly, just as Piper does, you feel empathy for them, and you start to wonder what's going to happen to them. Or at least I do.

3. It's unapologetic and blunt in its portrayal of the politics and realities of the federal prison system, particularly regarding female criminals.

I pretty much had zero understanding of what going to prison would be for somebody like Piper, aside from just assuming it would be far from fun. Um, wow. There are endless rules and regulations in prison from both the general community (aka, don't insult the chef or you won't eat, know that it will take weeks for outside money to arrive in your commissary account, sleep only on top of the bed) and the prison guards, who implement their own version of twisted justice and power to varying degrees.

4. It can shift from funny as hell to "Oh my God" in a heartbeat.

Small plot twists are strung throughout the first season, so that fact combined with the flashbacks means you have no idea what you will learn during each episode.

5. Season 2 was just renewed.

So start watching now.