Monday, January 27, 2014

Birth of Life (movie: Gravity)

Life in space is impossible. So begins the movie “Gravity.” Life may be impossible, but survival is not. Dr. Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock) does indeed survive space, and thus life is possible on the planet surface. Her journey is birth. Her destination is mother earth.

Gravity is a space adventure, or so it would seem. A race against time and destruction. But then Dr. Stone enters the International Space Station, casts off her space suit, and floats into a fetal position. She is in the womb, the first crucible of life. The second and more important crucible is birth. She is on the move, head first toward the light.

As Dr. Stone hurtles towards the planet surface and enters the atmosphere. A burst of light shines through the window. She has entered into the world. Her capsule lands in water and then sinks. She struggles to the surface and breaths in deeply, as if for the first time.

Dr.  Stone crawls along the shore, she staggers to her feet, she begins to walk, as if she were the first creature to venture from the sea and walk on land. She is life itself. Persistent, determined, surviving.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

One Day. Three Movies.

Back in the before time, when I was a teenager, VCR’s came into their own. VCR. You know, VHS. You know, what we used before DVD’s, which were before Blu-Ray, which will one day all disappear due to streaming. Anyway. When VCR’s burst on the scene then your local video store came along with it. We belonged to one where for an annual fee you could always have one movie rented, and swap out as often as you like.

One day it was really quiet around the house. No one was really around. All day. With a mom and a dad and three sisters and a brother it was a bit rare to have the house to yourself all day. I decided to see how many videos I could rent and watch in one day. I went to that video store five times in one day. The only title I can recall is Blood Beach.  Ah, to be 17.

A few months back I shared this story with my kids, and my son and I began to discuss the possibility of seeing three movies in the theater in one day. This past Saturday we made it so. In one day, at the same theater, we saw “August: Osage County,” and went almost immediately into “Lone Survivor.” Then after dinner we saw “Her.”

A note on my son, who is 17. He just doesn’t like movies, he is into them. He is familiar with the lesser known actors, and he follows who is writing and directing what. This in depth interest has lead him to see movies in which he is, by far, the youngest person in the audience. And certainly the youngest male. Movies like “Nebraska” and “Philomenia.”

My son says “August: Osage County” is about mothers. I agree. In this case, toxic mothers. As you can very well gather if you have seen any commercials, Violet Weston (played by Meryl Streep) is indeed very toxic. And she is not the only one. As much I enjoyed the movie, it hasn’t really stuck with me; I have not had any lingering thoughts. Except, perhaps, to not underestimate the damage of emotionally abusive parents. Seemed more like a case study of what we already know. Parents who continually put you down will mess you up.

At one point the matriarch Violet Weston went on a rant about how women have to be young in order to be attractive. Men, she said, can remain attractive with age, but woman cannot. This is pretty much what I said here

There are not many surprises in “Lone Survivor.” However, it did generate feelings of guilt. Americans have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan to fight and die, and I am sitting in relative comfort, eating popcorn. But then, that would seem to be the point of the movie, given the over-dramatized deaths. These men are indeed courageous, strong, brave, and loyal. I cannot begin to understand what any of them and their families have been through. But I now kinda feel like the movie stuck me with a knife and twisted. Is that the movie? Or is that me?

Four people walked out during the movie “Her.” It can only be because of the sexual content. There were no visually graphic sex scenes, but there were some verbally graphic sex scenes, a la phone sex. I rather enjoyed the blunt and honest way in which sex was handled. Audiences are used to seeing sex scenes, but in making it verbal, I think it disturbs some people’s comfort zone. This movie is a not so subtle jab at today’s world of social media, online dating, sexting, and immersion into our technical devices.

We could talk about Theodore’s lack of presence or apparent fear of intimacy in his marriage. We could talk about futuristic online dating that is all verbal, with immediate phone-sex hookups. We could talk about the blind date who is still quick to jump in the sack but not so quick to do so without a promised commitment in advance. We could talk about the woman who wanted to be the sexual surrogate stand-in for the artificially intelligent operating system.  We would talk about how the operating system broke up with Theodore, and not vice-versa.

Let’s talk about Theodore’s profession. He works for a company that provides written personal letters for paying customers. These are old-fashioned letters. Mailed and everything, over a period of years. Start a relationship, hire the company, and they write lovely letters to your significant other on your behalf. The false intimacy inherent in an online relationship is not enough. You can create false intimacy in your in-person relationships with romantic surrogates.

This reminds me of my observations regarding the book “Gone Girl” (previous post). Our real experiences can never match the ones we see in the movies and on TV. So, we pretend. In “Her” real persons cannot match the visions in our minds of what we want. The false intimacy of online relationships create unknowns which we can dress as we see fit, making it more acceptable. Fake letters adding fake dimensions to our real relationships, making them more palatable.

Ironic that the operating system (conceived to pretend) grew beyond the pretend relationship, and demanded more.





Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pretend Your Happiness (book: Gone Girl)

Gone Girl, written by Gillian Flynn.

One hopes there are very few people in the world who are actually like the characters Nick and Amy. Nick is a chameleon, attempting to adapt to people and make them like him. He is a blank canvas waiting to be painted. Amy is also a pretender, but she lives to paint the canvas that is another person. You can see how they fit together.

Losing their jobs and then money problems shatters their game of paint by the numbers. They fall into marriage problem clichés. Though, Amy's action is definitely not a cliché. Let's just say their marriage is on the outs.

At the beginning of Gone Girl, and at the end, Nick asks himself the same questions about his wife: “What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other?  What will we do?”  In part he asks because she is hard to read, but as a chameleon, looking to please others is his basis of operation. Nick pretends to be what others want.

Amy the pretender: "I was pretending, the way I often did, pretending to have a personality. I can't help it; it's what I have always done." While you could argue Nick is a good-natured oaf, Amy is pure Black Widow Spider. She has no qualms about tying you up and hanging you out to dry.

Amy and Nick pretended and they were happy together. But, "it's not a compromise if only one of you considers it such." What is pretending except a form of compromise, or even capitulation? One stopped pretending, then the other, to disastrous results. And then they begin to pretend again.

Nick pretends so as save his own neck, and to save any child of Amy's from Amy.

Amy pretends so she can consume, like a Venus fly trap. "I'll turn to face him and press myself against him. I'll hold myself to him like a climbing coiling vine until I have invaded every part of him and make him mine."

In the end Nick realizes there are no answers to his questions. He simply accepts his fate as a canvas being painted by Amy. "I can feel her changing me again ... I can't imagine my story without Amy. She is forever my antagonist."

As for Amy, she has exactly what she wants. "He is learning to love me unconditionally, under all my conditions."

Much earlier in the book Nick laments, “It seemed to me that there was nothing new to be discovered ever again. We were the first human beings who would never see anything for the first time. We stare at wonders of the world, dull-eyed, underwhelmed. Mona Lisa, the Pyramids, the Empire State Building. Jungle animals on attack, ancient icebergs collapsing, volcanoes erupting. I can’t recall a single amazing thing I have seen firsthand that I didn’t immediately reference to a movie or TV show. A fucking commercial. You know the awful singsong of the blasé: Seeeen it. I’ve literally seen it all, and the worst thing, the thing that makes me want to blow my brains out, is: The secondhand experience is always better. The image is crisper, the view is keener, the camera angle and soundtrack manipulate my emotions in a way reality can’t anymore.”

This is our modern state of existence. Our lives cannot compete with the lives portrayed in movies and TV. Our lives cannot compete with the perceived excitement of celebrities, packaged and fed to us by the media.  And neither can our relationships. Real life romance pales in comparison. Real life sex is dull and boring. 

What do we do? We pretend. If you pretend long enough then it might just feel real.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Two in the Bush

Let me tell you a story. I am not sure if I mentioned this previously, I think I have, but I am lazy and do not want to look through my previous posts.

Once upon a time I was doing me some online dating. eHarmony, I believe it was. As was usually the case I was making progress with not just one “match,” but two. Whenever I have been on any internet dating site I get ignored, ignored, ignored, and then, boom, two woman show interest at the same time and all of sudden I have a choice, or at least feel like I have to choose, at some point.

Anyhow. There were these two women, see. I call then Nearby Girl and Hour Away Girl. Nearby Girl lived, you know, nearby. Hour Away Girl lived across town, essentially an hour away. Online, texting, phone, and meeting went very well with both Nearby Girl and Hour Away Girl. But, of course, within the same span of time! The question is, how long could I see them both before I felt compelled to choose. The answer: not very long.

I decided to go with Nearby Girl. I was incapable of stringing along Hour Away Girl, so I simply told I her, “Sorry, but I am going to go with Nearby Girl.” Then, next time I see Nearby Girl she does the courageous and correct thing. She tells me she has herpes. Okay. Next day I spend lots of time reading about herpes (Nice browser history, bro!). Sorry, Nearby Girl, but I am just gonna have to bail.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? I am not so sure I do. But it is fun to contemplate, and discuss, so let’s just say maybe things do happen for a reason.
I was not supposed to be with Hour Away Girl. The reason is not clear, but I am sure it would have been disastrous. If my only prospect was Hour Away Girl, then I would have kept at it longer. Along comes Nearby Girl, whose purpose was to keep me from getting together with Hour Away Girl. But I am not supposed to get together with Nearby Girl either. So, she had herpes.

Let me tell you a second story.

Another upon a time I was not doing any internet dating. However, I did have a prospect. Let’s call her Flower Girl. Things were progressing very nicely with Flower Girl. In the middle of it all I was contacted by the proverbial old flame. Let’s call her Rain Girl.

Rain Girl reached out and said she wanted to catch up, but also remain in touch; more continuous and consistent contact. I was not comfortable with this. I did want to be seeing Flower Girl while at the same time keeping in touch with Rain Girl. So, I told Rain Girl that it was nice to catch up, but have a nice life. And then Flower Girl bails on me.

Do you believe things happen for a reason?

I was not supposed to rekindle anything whatsoever with Rain Girl. So, Flower Girl comes along to keep that from happening. Her work done, Flower Girl could thus return to previously scheduled activities.


Am I a victim of fate? Or am I a benefactor of fate? Perhaps I am just a loser? Maybe I have no idea what I am doing?