The movie Cake is not about the food cake. Oh, sure, there is an edible dessert in this movie - it appears near the end in a suitably symbolic fashion - but that fudge-frosted baked good is not the star of the movie. No, Cake is mostly about a woman named Claire and her emotional struggles. You see, Claire was in a bad car accident last year, and now her body is wrecked and her young son is dead. Claire is struggling to process her grief but nothing works, not the physical therapy, not the pills, not even being passive-aggressive to her Hispanic caretaker.
You know what else isn't working? Her grief support group, which is reeling after one of its members named Nina jumped off a freeway overpass. Claire has become obsessed with Nina. She sees Nina's ghost in her dreams. She interviews a man who watched Nina die. She even decides to try to start a relationship with Nina's husband, even though he is too emotionally raw from his wife's recent death to be around anyone right now. Can these two traumatized people who can barely keep their own heads above water help each other heal?
In other words, Cake is one of those Oscar-bait-y type movies that actors undertake when they want to be very actor-y. In this case it is Jennifer Anniston who is trying to dig deep and express a wounded character's deep-rooted pain. She's fine at it. I totally believed that she was unhappy! I just didn't care, because this is the sort of film that just doesn't appeal to me. It is totally legitimate for artists to want to make a movie that is all about pain and suffering because those are important parts of the human condition. I also think its reasonable to decide that I already have enough pain and suffering in my life and that I don't need more from my entertainment.
As such, I don't see why I should spend my time digging deeper into this movie's depressing world when I could be exploring more pleasant pastures instead. And since the movie is called Cake, and since cakes tend to be very pleasant, doesn't it make sense to take a minute to talk about some cakes that I have known and loved?
Up first: Birthday cakes!
I have often struggled with what to do on my birthday. One problem is that I am very aware of how bad I am at throwing parties. Oh, sure, if I absolutely have to then I can do a passable job of hosting a small dinner party, but I'm just not enough of a social butterfly to organize a big shindig. As a result, a lot of the birthday parties I've hosted have ended up being a little underwhelming. (It doesn't help that I have a summer birthday, so a lot of people are often out of town.)
Another problem is that I've always been self conscious about my birthday, and that leaves me between a rock and a hard place. If I ignore it I feel like a stubborn stick in the mud, but the instant I start planning to do something I get stressed out because I don't want to admit that it's happening and that I'm in charge of it. It's an emotional lose-lose situation long before I start to get deep into the morbid thoughts about how aging means I'm getting closer to death.
But there have been a few years where everything did come together. For example, one year I gathered together a few friends at my apartment and made them help me recreate the following image from the Simpsons:
Now, you might be saying: why in the hell would you want to recreate that? Ok, I'll give it to you: it wasn't my most dignified plan ever. Honestly, trying to eat that much cake that quickly was just a bad idea. Still, that was a good birthday, since everyone involved saw the humor of what we were doing, and all of the resulting photos were really funny. We even remembered to vacuum up the spilled cake crumbs before the ants could get into them, so all told, everything worked out reasonably well.
That said: I'm never doing that again. Once was enough.
(Okay, I actually did it two birthdays in a row. But three times would DEFINITELY be too much.)
Now onto: the band Cake!
In 2010 Cake set an awkward record: they had the lowest selling #1 record in Soundscan history. Their album Showroom of Compassion sold 44,000 units, which was enough for them to top the charts for that week, but only because it was up against such weak competition. An album with that sort of sales would have been in the middle of Billboard's top 200 sales chart ten years prior.
Now, when I was in college I knew a woman named Lucy, and I like to think about Lucy when I needed to reduce really big numbers to a more human scale. You see, Lucy was basically five feet tall and a hundred pounds, which meant that if you had to get a sense of how big or how heavy something was you could easily take its weight or height and divide it by her measurements to get a more manageable number. So, for example, one time I went to a natural history museum and read that a triceratops head weighed two tons. At first I couldn't wrap my brain around how much that absurd figure.... But then I divided that 4,000 pound head into 40 Lucys, and all of a sudden it made a lot more sense to me. It is just a lot easier to imagine forty clones of a woman you know than a four thousand pound head, you know?
So let's try to put Cake's record into perspective using Lucys. So, if you sold 44,000 copies of a record... that's like if one Lucy bought it, but then times forty four thousand...
Okay, so the math didn't really work out that time. But still, that was more fun than talking about a sad woman's dead kid, right?
Okay, I don't have a ton to say about this Lloyd Banks song, but I did want to throw it out there because you're supposed to do things in three and I don't have any other stories about times I ate too much cake or about triceratops heads. This song is from his second album, which I liked more than most people did - it was the sort of grimy, introspective New York hip hop I've always liked. The verses aren't reinventing the wheel, but the production is nice, and I like the way they keep dropping the vocal sample.
That said, its been a long time since I've listened to Lloyd Banks on the regular. I mean, when was the last time you thought about anyone who was in G-Unit? So while hearing this song was a nice trip down memory lane today, I do think it might be time to stop thinking about various cakes and get on with my life.
By which I mean: it is 90 degrees outside and I'm about to treat myself to some frozen yogurt.
Cake the movie: Who needs ya? (aka the Cat Wins)
Cake the food: get in my face
Cake the Band: less massive than a triceratops head
Cake the song: Catchy!