Melancholia

Wow. Melancholia was amazing. It was one of those films that puts you in a trance after its over. In fact, the opening sequence along will put you in a trance! Check it out! The artful cinematography is incredible -especially with the slow motion. It’s like I’m looking at paintings at an art gallery (which is intended as the protagonist is an art director). The opening is a prologue for the movie and it was satisfying going back and watching it after having seen the film.

I love watching Kristen Dunst. For the first half of the movie Kristen’s character is hauntingly neurotic and paradoxical. She is at her own wedding and she has moments of being immensely happy in love -touchingly so- and then within seconds she becomes completely chaotic, apathetic, and nihilistic. Both seem to exist simultaneously and it isn’t clear why; You don’t find out until the second part of the film. When you do find out why, it makes you think how you’d behave if you were in a similar situation as her. You would face something and behave in a way that no one on earth has ever experienced -and that is fascinating to contemplate.

Melancholia also does something that I love films to do: It leaves certain things open for interpretation. Is Kristen’s character simply suffering from severe depressed? or is something transpersonal happening? Should we take the film literally? Or could it be interpreted metaphorically? I love movies that allow me to consider a multitude of possibilities. I especially like it when I can go back and view the film a second time to see how there might be evidence for each theory.

During the film I found myself thinking about the writer and director, Lars Van Trier. Dark as they are, I love his movies; he directed Dancer in the Dark, and Dogville. You can’t help but notice the theme, archetype, and story preferences that he makes. Why do people have preferences like that? What compels us to have fixations on telling certain types of stories? How does one get in touch with their own story preference? Do we all have one? Are they informed by emotional need? Does that need come from how we are raised? Why is it that certain people seem to be more artful than others? Why can’t I make a film as beautiful as Van Trier’s? Could anybody do it given the resources? Why is art a skill? …anyway, questions like these come up when I see a great film; but I digress.

Melancholia felt like a combination of Tree of Life and Another Earth -like… shockingly so. All three movies are amazing and I recommend them all.

Movies and me

It’s Oscar time and I feel obliged to post this masterfully edited montage of many (if not all??!) of the films that came out in 2010.

I especially like from 3:20 into the video. There are times when it feels as though cinema is my only key to reaching divinity. Why do I feel that way? At the most difficult times during my life it feels as though art (specifically movies) is one of the few things that can lift me up. Is this because I find peace and validation that others in the world experience similar ups and downs (as seen in their art)? Do I like cinema so much because I am an empathic person that is able to tap into and understand the experiences of others? I don’t really understand why movies are so powerful to me -they just seem to make sense. I use them to explore or help me experience my own emotions (perhaps so that I can attain mastery over them?). They help me triangulate my own identity. Hmm. How can I explain that last one better. By “triangulate” I mean that different movies may help me access different parts of myself that I had not previously known about. The more I explore these different parts of myself the more I can “triangulate” (define) my identity. Gosh… Thinking about that feels a little depressing because it sounds like I limit myself without some sort of external source to show me other options. I’ve been really annoyed with myself about this lately. It’s like I put myself in a box and say “I’m here in this little box and that’s all that there is and that’s all that I can work with.” Being such an internalized person -this faulty way of thinking causes me pain and is unfortunate. Well… maybe it isn’t so bad that movies help me to see outside of the box that I put myself in. Maybe using movies is just my way of getting out of the box? That would explain why I spend SO MUCH of my time watching movies or tv, listening to audio books or music and don’t feel like I’ve wasted a single second. Honestly, I don’t know where I would be without movies. But maybe that there is me putting myself in a box… media can’t be the only means for me to untie the limits that I place on myself, right? Yeah -I guess friendships do that for me, as well… and school. Hmm. And I wonder what else. What helps you break free of the limits that you place on yourself?? Or, how do you avoid putting limits on yourself?

Somewhere Lost in Transtlation.

I am a huge fan of Sophia Coppola’s work. Lost in Translation, for example, is one of my all time favorite films. She doesn’t direct that many films, though, it seems -and when she does it seems as though she uses the same pattern: older burnt out actor is finding that his life is completely empty despite fame and it isn’t until a youthful and hypnotic girl/woman happens into his life that he finds the inspiration to identify and move forward with what’s really important. And what is Sofia Coppola’s idea of what is “really important?” Hmmm -from the looks of her film it seems like honest love, fondness, adventure, quirkiness, innocence, travel, and genuine connection are all important -the sorts of things that can easily be lost (in translation?? jk) lost to the limelight of Hollywood fame. No doubt, Coppola, coming from a very cinematic family, is no stranger to limelight.

What really grabs me about Coppola’s films is the duality she explores. I’m a sucker for that ish. I get the impression that both the burnt out old actor and the quirky beautiful girl are really both externalized differentiated representations of aspects of Sofia herself. I mean, isn’t that really what all characters in all stories are? -just representations of different parts or potential parts of ourselves? (Otherwise, why would we bother watching anything if we don’t find where it does or might match up with some aspect of ourselves?) Watching different people embody different (especially contrasting) personalities helps us to clear away the clutter and confusion that is the jumble of human psyche that exists within us all. The message that Coppola gives, as many movies and stories do, is that a balance between contrasting parts of ourselves is needed if you want to live a truly happy and satisfying life. I’m a sucker for yin-yangs -and, you know, there is a part of me that really feels like I have a burnt out old man and a young quirky girl living inside me. They come out in different ways from time to time -just ask my friends.

Unlike Lost in Translation, Coppola’s latest film, Somewhere, seems to be a film that takes more risks. For one thing, there isn’t the brilliant humor of Billy Murray to flall back on. For another thing, Somewhere is a much slower. … muuuuuch slower film than Lost in Translation. Somewhere is almost too slow, in fact. There were several times in the movie when I noticed myself say “…Okay! Alright! Enough watching this miserable guy drink himself into numbness, already!” But then, after the film, I decided that there is value in Coppola making us feel impatient. Coppola made us sit with the characters and feel the experience of being stuck in life. “-There you go, this guy’s life is crappy -and you’re gonna stick with it and watch!” Coppola’s script’s must be really small. Much of her films seem to be long shoots of people in moods sitting silently in various environments -and yet, a lot of dramatic tension is being held in those deceivingly empty moments. “Dare to be boring,” my improv teacher always used to say -and Sofia does exactly that. If you can sit past the fact that you’re watching one single long shoot of a car endlessly driving laps around a deserted desert race track for, oh, about FIVE MINUTES (which happens to be the opening scene of Somewhere) then you might notice that the annoyance you’re feeling about the film not going anywhere is intentional. As my girlfriend so keenly observed, it isn’t until the end of the film that the main character actually gets out of the car and starts walking somewhere. (Get it? The movie title is Somewhere.)

Somewhere may not be the right film for all the typical ADHD folk out there who like lots of fast paced plot, dialog, and action -but if you can allow yourself to step back and think about yourself and your relationship to how the film is making you feel, then you may find that there is a lot behind the slow silence in Somewhere. I like to think that the same is true for life: there is much happening -even when we may feel that there is not.

Accessing True Grit

Yesterday my girlfriend and I saw True Grit. We were jaw-drop amazed by the witty, well-read, and pugnacious demeanor of the 14 year old girl character, Mattie Ross. To our amazement, after the movie we found out that the actor playing Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) was not only younger than we expected, she was actually even younger than the character that she was portraying (Hailee was 13!) –and this was her first ever role in a major movie! I enjoyed Roger Ebert description of Steinfeld’s portrayal of Mattie: “She sidesteps the opportunity to make Mattie adorable. Mattie doesn’t live in an adorable world.” The term “True Grit,” it would seem, would just as aptly (if not more so) apply to Mattie Ross as it would to the leading male role Rooster Cogburn (played by Jeff Bridges). Watching Mattie Ross ruthlessly and cunningly negotiate with a much caught-off-guard tradesman, for example, was as hilarious as it was inspiring.

Part of what brings me so much joy from watching films is recognizing what, in the movie’s characters, are traits that I also see in myself –or, perhaps, more importantly- what are the traits that I could see in myself. In Mattie’s character I find myself thinking: “I wish there were times where I could be as clear headed, determined, and bold as this 14 year old girl.” She encounters a problem and she attacks it head on with a “steely resolve.” She has facts straight and she is clear on what she deserves –and she isn’t going to settle on anything less. She is able to make you believe that you must be crazy if you aren’t in agreement with her. At the same time that I am wanting of these qualities for myself, my therapeutic inclination is to ask “why couldn’t I have more of these qualities? In fact where do I already have these qualities, and how can I build from them?”

So cheers to you, Mattie Ross and Hailee Steinfeld! Thanks for helping me to define some attributes of myself that I would like to expand. If a 13 or 14 year old could do it –why couldn’t I?? In the coming days, let’s see how my life might be bettered by summoning up some of that True Grit.

Response to “My son is a gay” post.

Contrary to popular opinion, I didn’t really like the “My son is a gay” blog post about the Mom who let her 5 year old boy dress up like a girl character from Scooby-doo. It felt loaded to me and as a reader I felt manipulated. I’ll explain what I mean in a second but first let me present a few facts about myself before I make my point:

  • I consider myself to be very progressive and pro gay rights.
  • I believe that people who are pro progression and pro gay rights have the right to be angry about anti-progressive and anti-gay injustices.
  • Similar to the mother in the article, I would let my son dress up like a woman (Daphnie) if he wanted to.
  • I think that the “My son is a gay” blog post makes some good points -even if, as a whole, it may be loaded and/or ineffective (maybe even counterproductive).

With all of that being said, let me address the writer of the “My son is a gay” blog post as to why I did not like what she wrote:

Lady… Is it REALLY that much of a surprise to you that some church people would respond negatively to your son dressing up like a girl?? Really??? I don’t buy-in to your tone of incredulousness. I’m guessing that you were just embellishing your astonishment for dramatic effect? I mean… Look at the huge sparkling neon picture of your son wearing a wig and a dress that you plastered at the top of the post! You’re telling me that you didn’t think that would turn heads?

As you point out, your five year old had enough awareness to sense that others might respond to him negatively. Was it really that much of a shock to you that his fears were founded? Don’t be mistaken, I am not saying that your son shouldn’t have dressed up like a girl just because it might upset a few less-than-forward-thinking people. I agree with you that the world needs more accepting people who are willing to take risks and take action to stand up for allowing people to be who they are and/or who they want to be. I just think that the aim of your cause (which, I assume, is to support your son for whoever he wants to be -and encourage the world to do the same) could have been better served if you were a little more realistic.

Why not praise your son for his creative selection of a Halloween costume, let him know that even if other people don’t understand why he wants to dress like a girl -it is still okay, and then go out there prepared to reasonably respond to or ignore (if necessary) the adults who will, undoubtedly, have and share their judgments? Do you have the right to be shocked and angered by the audacity of ignorant people? Certainly! -but don’t pretend like they aren’t out there. Be ready and be prepared to take a firm, yet peaceful stance for your beliefs.

Next, I have an issue with how your blog seemed to jump to an assumption that the women who disapproved of your son’s costume did so because they thought that it was a “gay” (or would “turn him gay,” or whatever). I’m not saying that such an assumption would be impossible -but where is your evidence? Did a mother specifically say something to you that indicated some concern that your son would “turn gay” and that that would be bad? You didn’t mention any specific wording or incident which would support your contention that these judgmental women disapproved of your son’s costume for some reason relating to homosexuality. You didn’t even vaguely allude to something that a mother may have said that would link concerns about cross dressing with concerns about homosexuality. Without evidence I can’t help but consider that maybe you’re jumping to conclusions and making invalid assumptions -or perhaps you’re pandering to people who you know would be behind a cause that you feel strongly about (e.g., gay rights?)

Don’t get me wrong -I think that there were some positive things in your blog post: Your Batman line “If my daughter had dressed as Batman, no one would have thought twice about it” is great! I bet that even if anti-progressive people remain stuck in their prejudice, statements like your Batman line may plant seeds of thought for when our society grows into a time that is more tolerant (which I have faith is happening slowly but surely).

I noticed that multiple blog and facebook comments responded to the content of your “My Son is a Gay” post with high praise and acclaim. While I think that is great that so many people seem to support the idea of allowing boys to dress up like girls, I noticed that I felt concerned that no one seemed to voice any disapproval about, what felt to me to be, blatant fallacies and manipulations in the writing of your blog post. Perhaps I’m digging in too deep, but… I’d like to really challenge you and everyone else who might be reading this to stop and consider what it actually may take to effectively insight a more tolerant and accepting world. The writing style of the “My Son is a Gay” post worries me because I believe that the way it approaches some challenging issues may actually further a divide between pro and anti-progressives. If you really want to effectively bring forth the types of progressive changes that you seem to value, I would suggest a shift in focus towards doing your best to be honest, prepared, understanding, and patient rather than pandering, incredulous, and manipulative.

Please share your response to my thoughts.

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