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Cameron H.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Virginia Wool  

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  1. 1. Does Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’s inclusion on the AFI list make you wanna:

    • Not Puke
      7
    • Puke
      4

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  • Poll closed on 07/26/19 at 07:00 AM

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Amy and Paul drink in 1966's black relationship comedy Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? They learn about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's status as the Brangelina of their day, ask which member of the ensemble is the meanest, and wonder if George and Martha are truly in love after all. Plus: A new tasting segment, this time with a very rare spirit!

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I want to keep it on the list, but I have no idea where.
I found it to be a cruel movie filled with...not hateful characters, but characters I definitely did not want to be around.
And yet it was so compelling.  One of those films I'm very glad that I watched, but I think I might never want to go through that experience again.
Ouff, this movie.

I am more of a person who goes to film for a bit more escapism and I don't really prefer a lot of melodrama; but when so compellingly written and performed such as in this film, it's really difficult to resist.

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On 7/18/2019 at 6:59 AM, JeffreyMcDonald said:

I am more of a person who goes to film for a bit more escapism and I don't really prefer a lot of melodrama; but when so compellingly written and performed such as in this film, it's really difficult to resist.

I feel the same way about Glengarry Glen Ross (another stage adaption).

I haven't seen Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in 20 years or so, but I recall liking it, and I recall liking George and Martha. I'd rather spend an evening with them than Nick and Honey.

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Just some additional trivia regarding George and Martha Washington is that George Washington himself was infertile (hence there not being any Georgie Jrs). In fact, it was a major reason why he was a popular choice for the first president as it prevented any chance of the presidency becoming an hereditary title like there was in Britain. The irony, of course, is that the man known as the father of our country was incapable of having children of his own.

All in all, I enjoy the Washington/United States metaphor as it applies to Virginia Woolf. That something so promising was rooted in a dysfunction it can’t help but infect subsequent  generations. 

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Aside from just “it’s plot relevant so the characters need say something,” my head cannon explanation for why George tells Martha not to bring up their “son,” and why Martha spoils the beans to Honey so quickly, is that the next day, Sunday, really is their “son’s” birthday. Or rather, it’s the 16th anniversary of when they decided to invent him therefore making it his “birthday.” Because of that, I think it’s the day when the balance between illusion and reality is at its most tenuous. Their son is forefront in their minds so they are more likely to say something - especially after heavily drinking for 5 hours.

It’s the reason that it being Sunday, or rather Son-day, is so significant. And why, as George says, it will last “all day.”

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I voted no and will probably be alone in that.

It's a well-acted and well-made production, not going to deny that. I was bothered by a couple of things:

1. It REALLY feels like a play to me. Not that Nichols doesn't do stuff with the camera to add cinematic language, he does, but it seems like all of the dialogue is basically intact from the stage show and it feels obvious. People describe things rather than do them. The movie tells more than it shows. It's not badly done, exactly, but to me I wouldn't put this up as emblematic of "cinema." The Graduate, on the other hand, is communicating a whole helluva lot just with visuals and music.

We haven't gotten to it yet, but to my recollection A Streetcar Named Desire is a much better stage-to-film example.

2. Some of this is what Amy brought up: the assumptions about male/female roles are really rooted in the time. Not just that the failure to have kids will inevitably have a negative effect on women, but also the general social pressure to be married, that the younger couple felt an absolute need to marry because of a pregnancy that turned out to be false. Not sure you could put that in a movie today. I'm not really blaming the movie for that (those were the standards of the time), but as an all-time entry I found it a bit unfortunately dated.

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Yea... I voted yes, but I'm not so sure and mostly agree with @sycasey 2.0. I actually do like it a lot, and a ton more than The Graduate, but I'm still not sure about it being on the 'greatest of all time' list. That makes it one of the tougher votes for me.

Haven't finished the ep, though, maybe Paul and Amy will convince me one way or another.

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I'm abstaining from voting because I haven't seen this in years. Bir I didn't like it when I watched it for no real reason.

If we're being objective, I might say it's in the 100 greatest American films but I'll never watched this again. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. So, idk.

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2 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Some of this is what Amy brought up: the assumptions about male/female roles are really rooted in the time. Not just that the failure to have kids will inevitably have a negative effect on women, but also the general social pressure to be married, that the younger couple felt an absolute need to marry because of a pregnancy that turned out to be false. Not sure you could put that in a movie today. I'm not really blaming the movie for that (those were the standards of the time), but as an all-time entry I found it a bit unfortunately dated.

Does it help to think of them not as representative of all women and men, but merely as characters unto themselves? Or, at the very most, merely representatives of a certain population? 

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14 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

Does it help to think of them not as representative of all women and men, but merely as characters unto themselves? Or, at the very most, merely representatives of a certain population? 

Sure. I mean, they are, clearly. It's just that to me the movie feels like it's being presented as something immediate, very forward-looking, as opposed to something like, say, Gone with the Wind, which is already meant to be portraying an antiquated time even for when it was originally made. There's a dissonance there with Woolf that threw me off.

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2 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Sure. I mean, they are, clearly. It's just that to me the movie feels like it's being presented as something immediate, very forward-looking, as opposed to something like, say, Gone with the Wind, which is already meant to be portraying an antiquated time even for when it was originally made. There's a dissonance there with Woolf that threw me off.

I guess I just didn't get that Woolf was trying to be particularly "forward-thinking" so much it was an intimate character study. You said in your original post that the movie  showed the "negative effect" of what not being able to have a baby can have on a woman and that this contributed to it feeling "outdated." Maybe I'm misunderstanding yours and Amy's point, but I just don't feel like the idea of Martha wanting to have a baby, and her subsequent frustration at their inability to conceive, to be inherently "outdated."  No one in the film (surprisingly) ever tells her, "You are less of a woman because you haven't had a child." She's disappointed because she's being denied something that SHE wants by factors beyond her control. Societal pressure really doesn't come into play at all - at least not overtly. And I assume, much like the homosexual thing, had Albee or Nichols really wanted that to be part of the story they were telling, they could have easily written it into the plot. Ultimately, I interpreted Woolf to be a story about the damage unfulfilled dreams - particularly ones that never come to pass due to circumstances beyond your control - can wreak upon an individual, and by extension, their relationships. In this case, Albee choose for that dream to be represented as a baby. And while I suppose it could have been represented by just about anything, I don't feel like it necessarily had to be something else either.

Unless of course the complaint is: "She's a woman so of course the writer made the manifestation of all her hopes and desires a baby." But as long as Martha retains her agency, I really don't see a problem with that.  

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50 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

Maybe I'm misunderstanding yours and Amy's point, but I just don't feel like the idea of Martha wanting to have a baby, and her subsequent frustration at their inability to conceive, to be inherently "outdated."

Yes, but BOTH women in the movie have their issues tied back to infertility. It's not so much that the idea is invoked once here, it's that it's part of a long-standing and over-used trope.

53 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

Unless of course the complaint is: "She's a woman so of course the writer made the manifestation of all her hopes and desires a baby." 

Also that.

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3 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Yes, but BOTH women in the movie have their issues tied back to infertility. It's not so much that the idea is invoked once here, it's that it's part of a long-standing and over-used trope.

Yes, but this is more to draw parallels between the couples, is it not? In Nick and Honey, we’re seeing George and Martha  twenty something years ago - except instead of being unable to conceive, Honey had an abortion. It wouldn’t make sense theatrically for the only other couple in the movie to not relate. The question is whether or not they follow the same path or break the cycle.

To the other point, the reason I don’t like that particularly rationale is that it suggests that if a woman - or anyone really - makes the independent choice that what they want more than anything is to be a homemaker and that having children is the most important thing in the world to them, that that choice somehow makes them less-than. I’m not saying you specifically, but I’ve definitely encountered that thinking generally. For me, that’s just placing people in another box. In my mind, true equality means being able to chase your bliss however you see fit without limit or judgment. That’s why I don’t find the idea of her being torn up by infertility to be particularly “outdated.” There are people in 2019 that feel the exact same way Martha does. That’s why I said, as long as it’s what she actually wants, and not something being forced upon her by George or somebody else, then who cares? Would it have improved the movie if what Martha wanted was to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company? Even if the trope feels overused, it’s something almost universal. At some point during their life, most people will probably have to make a decision about starting a family. Whether they choose to start one or not is irrelevant. The fact that they can place themselves in her shoes is enough.

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I'm with Amy in preferring this to The Graduate. The latter is a lot of flashy direction in service of a much less interesting film. Virginia Woolf is hardly an easy watch or something I'm eager to re-watch, but the difficulty works for it. At the same time, it wasn't quite enough to make me want to vote for it. I haven't seen the stage version, but I imagine the most distinctive aspects of it are all in there. And a filmed version of a stage play can be good, but I don't think that's enough to deserve its place on the AFI 100. At the same time, I'm not going to vote against it, because I don't want to contribute to it having more downvotes than The Graduate.

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5 hours ago, Cameron H. said:

That’s why I don’t find the idea of her being torn up by infertility to be particularly “outdated.” There are people in 2019 that feel the exact same way Martha does.

For me it's more that I get the sense the filmmakers are also assuming that you'll just get it, that this was the thing causing so much pain in these couples' lives. That's highly subjective of course, but the way it's structured, with the idea of George and Martha's infertility being saved for the final "reveal," it feels to me like that's supposed to read as an "Ohhhhhh" moment, so as to explain the couple's mean and erratic behavior for the entire film. The underlying assumption seems to be, yes, women want to have babies and will have psychological problems if they can't.

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20 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

2. Some of this is what Amy brought up: the assumptions about male/female roles are really rooted in the time. Not just that the failure to have kids will inevitably have a negative effect on women, but also the general social pressure to be married, that the younger couple felt an absolute need to marry because of a pregnancy that turned out to be false. Not sure you could put that in a movie today. I'm not really blaming the movie for that (those were the standards of the time), but as an all-time entry I found it a bit unfortunately dated.

To chime in - as a single, child-free woman of a certain age, I can tell you the pressure to get married, to have kids, and to refrain from having kids outside of marriage, is alive and well. And infertility (while not necessarily reflecting poorly on the woman) still comes with the feeling that to be a woman is to be a mother, and by not being a mother, you are not a fully realized woman. 

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6 hours ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

To chime in - as a single, child-free woman of a certain age, I can tell you the pressure to get married, to have kids, and to refrain from having kids outside of marriage, is alive and well. And infertility (while not necessarily reflecting poorly on the woman) still comes with the feeling that to be a woman is to be a mother, and by not being a mother, you are not a fully realized woman. 

Sure, I don't mean to suggest this doesn't still exist. But I think the level of pressure was significantly different in the 1950s and 60s, and to me the film seemed to land its drama on that heightened assumption.

Someone else also pointed out on the Facebook group: it's interesting that the two wives don't get any scenes alone together, but the husbands certainly do. That kind of frames the conversation about the couples' infertility in a specifically male way.

Again, I get it, it's a 50 year old movie. These were just some things that kind of nagged at me while watching it.

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This was the first time I saw this and only had a vague sense of its plot (I did know the possibility that the child wasn't real, so the big reveal didn't feel so big because there felt like hints early on).

I do not have any deep analysis of the film nor much time to say much, but one thing I will say, I really enjoyed the hell out of this movie.

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I commented about the recap of the last episode on this episode and how Paul and Amy chose to pretend that they forums/facebookgroup/andtwitter accounts were talking about Ashley and not Amy's clearly problematic apologist review of "Gone with the Wind" that comes from her white privilege perspective and it was deleted. You know, I like this podcast, but I don't like cowardice. I guess if you just delete things and move on it's like they never happened huh? I could deal with Amy's problematic view of such a racist film, but not with the cowardice of Paul and Amy in pretending no one had a problem with it. Feel free to delete this comment to, but don't feel free to have self-respect afterward.  

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39 minutes ago, Jeffery Charles Nighswander said:

I commented about the recap of the last episode on this episode and how Paul and Amy chose to pretend that they forums/facebookgroup/andtwitter accounts were talking about Ashley and not Amy's clearly problematic apologist review of "Gone with the Wind" that comes from her white privilege perspective and it was deleted. You know, I like this podcast, but I don't like cowardice. I guess if you just delete things and move on it's like they never happened huh? I could deal with Amy's problematic view of such a racist film, but not with the cowardice of Paul and Amy in pretending no one had a problem with it. Feel free to delete this comment to, but don't feel free to have self-respect afterward.  

To be fair, you copy and pasted the same comment in the Gone With the Wind thread and it's still up in all its glory. Maybe it was deleted from here because it was redundant to have it in two locations (basically spamming the boards) and wasn't pertinent to Virginia Woolf? I'm sorry you were upset by the episode. You make some valid points. However, the way you're going about it is maybe not the best way. You can be angry and make your case without being confrontational.   

Anyway, if you don't like the hosts and don't like the fans, maybe you should just stop listening. It will make you feel better. There's no need to add extra stress to your life over a non-compulsory podcast about movies.

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1 hour ago, Jeffery Charles Nighswander said:

I commented about the recap of the last episode on this episode and how Paul and Amy chose to pretend that they forums/facebookgroup/andtwitter accounts were talking about Ashley and not Amy's clearly problematic apologist review of "Gone with the Wind" that comes from her white privilege perspective and it was deleted. You know, I like this podcast, but I don't like cowardice. I guess if you just delete things and move on it's like they never happened huh? I could deal with Amy's problematic view of such a racist film, but not with the cowardice of Paul and Amy in pretending no one had a problem with it. Feel free to delete this comment to, but don't feel free to have self-respect afterward.   

Amy and Paul have nothing to do with the moderation of this forum and they rarely pay attention to it. To the casual observer, your first few actions after creating an account were to:

  1. Attack the hosts for not "understanding" a movie
  2. Attack the hosts for not sharing your opinion of another movie
  3. Carry over conflict from an unaffiliated Facebook group
  4. Post the same comment to multiple threads to maximize said conflict
  5. Start taking swings at other forum members

I deleted your comment in this thread (while leaving it intact in the other) because it was an unnecessary derail of the ongoing discussion of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. If you wish to continue participating here, I politely ask that you lay off the invective.

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I finally got the time to finish the episode. As said earlier, I found this movie tough. I like it and enjoyed it, but have this feeling that most of what I respond to is present in the play -- and not particularly as a piece of cinema. I like having Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton on the list though, and I think for that I'll stick with my 'yes' vote (also I like having Nichols on there, and I don't like The Graduate).

Also I took this film fairly straightforwardly. Paul brought up a lot of ideas weaved throughout this story, but I found I just watched it simply -- it's two couples and some secrets on a drunken night. George and Martha as the parents of America? I dunno. I love reading into art but for this one, I kept it clear and didn't really consider it a 'comment' on anything at all. *shrug* Maybe I missed the point, but I felt pretty good about it this way.

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10 hours ago, Jeffery Charles Nighswander said:

I commented about the recap of the last episode on this episode and how Paul and Amy chose to pretend that they forums/facebookgroup/andtwitter accounts were talking about Ashley and not Amy's clearly problematic apologist review of "Gone with the Wind" that comes from her white privilege perspective and it was deleted. You know, I like this podcast, but I don't like cowardice. I guess if you just delete things and move on it's like they never happened huh? I could deal with Amy's problematic view of such a racist film, but not with the cowardice of Paul and Amy in pretending no one had a problem with it. Feel free to delete this comment to, but don't feel free to have self-respect afterward.  

You know the old saying: "The common denominator in all your bad relationships is you?"

Maybe if you're getting posts deleted in two different forums with different moderators there is something you can change about your own behavior.

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On 7/18/2019 at 7:39 PM, sycasey 2.0 said:

Yes, but BOTH women in the movie have their issues tied back to infertility. It's not so much that the idea is invoked once here, it's that it's part of a long-standing and over-used trope.

Sandy's issues seem like they come back more to the pressures of society that a woman should become pregnant.  She actually very much doesn't want to and is afraid of it.  I took her pregnancy to have been more likely a miscarriage or abortion.

Martha's state of sanity and George going along with it, that strikes me as something more deeply rooted in their personalities than her wanting to have a child and not being able to.  Granted, I do like movies/media about horrible being horrible to each other in darkly comic ways that can evoke equal degrees of loathing and pathos (maybe more loathing than pathos).

When I watched this movie, it made me think of the more bitter phase of Noah Baumbach's films (Greenberg and The Squid and the Whale came to mind), which are... not broadly enjoyed.  So I was kind of surprised a movie like this was on the list.  Maybe Bojack Horseman, season 4, mainly the story arc with his mother, would also fit into this general categorization.  I think I've gone off on a tangent.

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