I’ve been trying to catch up with the Academy Award-winning movies, but it hasn’t been easy this year. Not many of them played at the local multiplex, where “Hot Tub Time Machine 2” and “Fifty Shades of Grey” edged out “Wild” or “The Theory of Everything.” To see the latter, you had to either go to the mall in Middletown—and I hate the mall in Middletown—or wait for Netflix.
My friend Lisa and I did brave the mall to see “The Imitation Game” a couple of weeks ago—all hail Benedict Cumberbatch. And last weekend, we went back for “Still Alice.”
Julianne Moore certainly deserved her Oscar for best actress as a brilliant linguistics professor afflicted by early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. In an interview on “The Daily Show,” Moore told Jon Stewart that to research the role she met with many Alzheimer’s victims, who proved eager to share their experiences. She modeled Alice on what they told her.
Many of us have witnessed the progression of this horrible disease from the outside in. I watched my father-in-law struggle with it, for example, saw him lose his abilities little by little over time, like a death by a thousand cuts. “Still Alice” turns the equation around and shows you what it’s like from the inside out—how it feels to lose not just your memory, but your very sense of self.
Weirdly, we may be witnessing something along these lines in our home right now. It’s hard to explain just how, but we are pretty sure our oldest and most beautiful cat, Taz, who is 17, is becoming a little bit senile. He still knows where he is and recognizes the people and other cats with whom he shares a home. He still knows how to use the litter box, thankfully.
But he’s confused. He forgets to eat and after I coax him to do so, he forgets that he’s just eaten and goes looking for something else to nosh. He’s alternately fearful and aggressive with the other cats. And, most disturbing, he’s taken to yowling at strange times. For a while, he was waking us up at 2 or 3 every morning with what sounded like an existential cry—Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”
It seems to us that at these times, he suddenly doesn’t know where he is, much like Julianne Moore’s Alice, who in one heartbreaking scene goes running on the Columbia campus. This is the school where she teaches and she knows the neighborhood well. Nevertheless, at a certain point she stops dead in her tracks and looks around, befuddled. She’s lost; she doesn’t recognize the quad.
Feline senile dementia is an actual veterinary diagnosis. Who knew? I’ve never seen it in any cat before this one. The increased vocalization, confusion and behavioral changes are all symptoms.
We’ve had Taz since kittenhood and love him dearly. He’ll have a safe, stable home for the rest of his days. Whatever his cognitive deficits, as with Alice in the movie, he’s Still Taz to us.