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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Soddy Odds

  • I once read somewhere that writers shouldn't do their writing in bed. It keeps you up at night, or something, 'cause your brain thinks bedtime = worktime. I'm writing this post in my bed, btw.
  • Recently rewatched We Are Marshall and cried like a little girl about 50 times. My brain knows it's not a very good movie, but it just can't seem to pinpoint exactly why it's bad. Instead, just as The Brain is on the cusp of finding that elusive badness, the music swells, Matthew Fox cries, and pretty soon I'm unleashing my sinuses all over the couch and the carpet and sniffling, "This is such a good movie!" McG, you magnificent bastard!
  • Trying to read more books. So far I've finished America: The Last Best Hope, Vol II by William J. Bennett, Jesus of Nazareth by Joseph Ratzinger (aka Pope Benedict XVI), The Forgotten Man by Amity Schlaes, and I've got about 100 pages to go in Jane Austen's Emma. I'm also attempting to wade through A Theology of History by Hans Urs von Balthasar and yes, it's exactly what it sounds like: crazy hard philoso-theology that makes my brain hurt. Poor Brain has had quite a time lately, what with high-level theology books and sappy sports movies driving it into a tizzy. I'm also reading the Gospel according to St. John and a book about the Church Fathers. So, you know, light reading. (Seriously, do I sound like the stuffiest conservative pretentious twat ever with these books or what?! I mean, seriously, even my "light reading" novel -- Emma -- is by THE great conservative Women's writer, Jane Austen. I'm gonna have to go straight-up Jack Kerouac/Philip K Dick/Grant Morrison/Lester Bangs after this to strike the proper intellectual balance.)
  • I'm working on a horrible, horrible novella right now. It's really bad. It's warmed-over beat, stream-of-consciousness drivel, but for some reason I can't seem to quit it. It's like I have to finish it in order to finally say, yes, I can write long things that aren't movie scripts. For some reason it seems like when you give someone a hundred page "book" to read they're more impressed than when you give them 120 pages of screenplay. At least, that's how I think people will react when I give them the novella. Whenever I finish it, that is.
  • Watched Definitely, Maybe tonight. Read some mildly positive reviews so I thought I'd give it a chance. I'm susceptible to Romantic Comedies, though I always hate myself afterwards. Is that the same kind of self-loathing that follows bad sex? I wouldn't be surprised... Anyhoo, I have to say [SPOILERS ABOUND FROM NOW ON, including spoilers about The Umbrellas of Cherbourg], I always root for the married couple to stay (or get back) together. Being Catholic, what with that no-divorce thing, I've always considered divorce a tragedy. I just can't find a happy ending in stories where we're supposed to root for the hero/heroine to end up with someone other than his/her spouse. It's why, at the end of the day, I'm a Don/Betty 'shipper despite the fact that, yeah, Rachel Menken is just too cool with her cigarette holder and feathery pink hat. If Don and Betty don't end up together in a relatively happy marriage, then my heart will break a little, even if the show tries to make it seems like they're happier with other people. That's just how my brain works, and my heart too.
  • [SPOILER WARNING CONTINUES] So when Definitely, Maybe tries to be oh-so-modern and have Ryan Reynolds' character get a divorce from his wife and mother of his child only to have the girl he really loved the whole time just happen to be available and still totally into him it set both my "Yuck!" meter and my "Cop-out!" meter to red. It's obvious from their first scene together that Reynolds' and Isla Fisher's characters are in love with each other, but when it's (predictably) revealed that Reynolds has actually married his college sweetheart Elizabeth Banks (predictably, because his daughter makes a comment at the beginning that the college sweetheart simply can't be her mom, since the first girl in the story is never the girl the guy ends up with, which is such a total anvil that you just know Girl Number 1 is definitely, not maybe, coming back and she's going to be your mother, kiddo, what a tweest! -- and btw, if you want a for-reals synopsis, go here, I ain't got time for that blah blah --), the movie at this point has only two options: The modern-day, divorce is no-big-deal approach to "soul mates" and "happiness" and other such selfish garbage, or the Umbrellas of Cherbourg way. Of course, Definitely, Maybe takes the first option and why shouldn't it? Divorce is such a no-big in our culture nowadays, I'm the odd one out for wanting the married, though-maybe-not-as-happy-as-they-once-were couple to stay together.
  • [Side note: The other problem with D,M is that they never show why exactly Elizabeth Banks and Ryan Reynolds were ever together in the first place. They simply "were in love," but we never see them fall in love, so there's no emotional attachment to them as a couple for the audience member. The problem for a viewer like me is that I still think of marriage as a sacred bond, so if two people are married in a romantic comedy that means they must have once been in love and that that love is worth saving, even if the filmmakers couldn't be bothered with showing us how that love came about, and so the story is only a satisfying happy ending if the married couple stay or get back together. It's also a problem because we never see what drove them to divorce. So all the (old-fashioned) viewer like me gets is a married couple that (we presume) was once in love (yeah, it might not have been a big passion, but there was certainly tenderness and affection), who have a child, and who are now getting a divorce but are amicable enough to spend the day together with their daughter at the Central Park Zoo and share a few laughs and smiles and faces of longing and regret. Why are these two people getting divorced?! Their daughter wants them to get back together. I want them to get back together. And yet, at the end of the film we're supposed to gush and sigh when the man goes back to his "one true love" just so we can have a happy ending and make sure the two stars get their final romantic embrace?
  • [AGAIN, WITH THE SPOILING] The Umbrellas of Cherbourg way, instead, is the more realistic, and yet for my money, more emotionally satisfying way to end things in a movie like D,M. In Umbrellas, the young lovers try to make things work, but time and distance and circumstances all interfere and by the end of the film both have moved on with other lovers and other lives and even though they can still remember being in love with each other -- maybe they still harbor feelings of love, even after all these years -- they're both adults now, with children and spouses and adult responsibilities and the lives they have are actually pretty good and they're happy, as happy as people in this fallen, mixed-up world can be. It's a sad ending, to be sure, but it's also hopeful, because the movie is saying that we can still be happy even if we don't get the fairy tale ending.
  • D,M, on the other hand, wants to play like it's realistic (he's getting divorced! he's jaded and settled into a stifling career! he's got a lot of emotional problems and makes mistakes!), but it cops-out with the fairy tale ending just the same. Ryan Reynolds loves Isla Fisher and even though he has married someone else, he's gonna end up with Isla no matter what, and we're supposed to sigh and love it. A better movie would have made us see why Reynolds goes back to Banks's character and marries her (instead of stopping just on the brink of that moment). It would have shown us why they get divorced (obvious motive is on Reynolds' still carrying a torch for Fisher's character). And then finally it would have shown us that Fisher had moved on, that it was too late, and that Reynolds was throwing away a perfectly ordinary happiness to try to recapture something from his past. And then to satisfy me and my need for married people to stay together and be (pretty much) happy, he could have gone back to his ex-wife and realized that not all love stories have to be the grand passion, that sometimes we miss the ordinary realistic love while we're off searching for the Romantic Comedy-version of it.
  • I just rambled on incoherently about Definitely, Maybe for twelve paragraphs it seems, so take a much more succinct view from Victor Morton, who nails why this movie creeps me out in three awesome sentences: "But still, never have I seen in a conventional romantic-comedy, a child spend the movie’s last reel trying to get her father back together — not with her mother — but an old girlfriend whom the child had never met. And not because her mother is abusive or somehow “out of the picture.” Now, we consider divorce so routine (a reason for the one in this movie is never even hinted at, as if there’s no need) that we consider it an acceptable fantasy for a child of divorce to express, not the natural wish about her parents, but about a step-parent. If there’s been a conventional romantic-comedy with that rather self-rationalizing-for-adults premise (”it’s what the kids WANT”) — I’m unaware of it."
  • Finally, I'm sorry, but January Jones and Jon Hamm were robbed of Golden Globes the other night. The Globes are a joke award anyway, but still, it sucks to lose, no matter how stupid the award is. My sidebar has a quiz about the whole situation, since Sookie Stackhouse or whatever her name is is the worst character on True Blood and Betty Draper and January Jones's performance this past season of Mad Men was revelatory. And yeah, that word is overused when it comes to things like this, but it truly was a revelation to watch Jones in this role. I mean, she used to model for Abercrombie and Fitch for gosh sakes, and now she's rocking the socks off with her performance on TV's best drama!
  • Watched Beyond the Rocks on TCM (eh, wasn't too bad, but nothing special really; formerly lost films often seem to promise more than they deliver) and decided to read up on Gloria Swanson who I only really know from Sunset Blvd and that she used to be a big silent movie star. Turns out (according to imdb) that she made nearly $8 million between 1918 and 1929 and spent almost all of it. That's got to be at least, like, $80 million dollars in today's money, or something. Crazy.

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