Sammy the Seal

“He’s got that nervous talking thing”

In celluloid, words, words, words on Wednesday, 28 May, 2008 at 19:26

(Note: I’m so fucking pissed because I posted this at work hours ago, but my computer still had the old draft up, so when I turned on my computer tonight, wordpress auto-saved a draft of the unfinished post OVER the already published post. So, not only was the finished post not up, but it was deleted. So this one is not the same as before, and it took me another hour to finish. Grrrrrrrrr!!!!)

So recently, I re-watched an wonderful little trifle of a film I hadn’t seen in a while, Mumford, and went on imdb.com to look up Loren Dean, who plays the title character of that film. It was then that I was reminded that he plays the infamous Joe (“Joe lies/when he cries”) in Say Anything. As I own that film, I figured it a good opportunity to view it again. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t purchase films lightly. I have to have strong affection for a film to purchase it, because I’m choosy. For me, why buy anything if you’re going to buy everything? It either has to be very resonant, or incredibly entertaining.

So I did watch Say Anything again. And while I admit I’m not as passionate about it as I once was, it’s still special. Ah, a Cameron Crowe film. I’ve said this countless times, and though I only own two of his films, his films tend to be a rarity in this day and age in that his characters are well-drawn, he cares for them, and respects their intelligence, simple as that. I used to feel a little snobby in regards to my tastes, but I don’t anymore, because think about that seriously: does anybody give a crap about story or character, detail or nuance? In art AND in real life. Yes, this is the snobby wannabe artist/writer/bitter romantic talking, but I think every once in a while it’s nice, noble even, to care about something, anything. I had a friend say to me recently that she feels like an anachronism, like she belongs in an earlier time for various reasons, which I can understand, but won’t go into now. But one of the points of that conversation was that no one seems to care about anything anymore. “Reality” tv shows, celebrities, the films we pay to see, the “democratizing” (read: mediocritizing) effect of the internet that leads so many people to think they’re special and clever, the blockheads in political office– mediocrity is now a sign of success. Treading water is somehow a virtue. I know America is an incredibly lazy country, but this is sickening. I mean, there’s not even a standard to lower anymore. (Side note: makes me really appreciate director Brad “Ratatouille/The Incredibles” Bird, not just because of his storytelling, but because those films seem to say the opposite, that doing or striving for something extraordinary is still worth it. To paraphrase a character, not everyone can be great, but greatness can come from anywhere. You just have to give a shit.)

It’s not a coincidence that the characters in this film and in Jerry Maguire, the other Cameron Crowe film I own, are an anomaly in this world. On the commentary and elsewhere, there is the theme in his films of “optimism as a revolutionary act.” By nature, we are drawn to things that we can identify with, and John Cusack’s character is a perfect example of that. What better comparison, his character growing up on the Reagan 80s, any of us growing up in the Bush 00s? In both cases, we’ve earned the right to be disillusioned and cynical. But what makes his character great, revolutionary, as it were, is that Lloyd Dobler chooses to be himself and not get bogged down by any of it. For him, it’s as simple as:

Lloyd: How hard is it just to decide to be in a good mood and then be in a good mood?

Connie: Gee, it’s easy.

So his sister has a point, but still. There is always a choice, at every stage of the way, to be one way or be another way. You’re supposed to get cynical the older you get, but I feel I’m the opposite. I’m more relaxed, or at least accepting of things, than when I was younger. Also his character is incredibly awkward, which I can relate to. His brain moves faster than his mouth, which is also an issue for me. But it’s that disregard for “propriety” that makes him so hilarious. (I have to remind you, it’s a romance, but it’s also a great laugh.) I myself have given up on trying to coherent or “with it”– I don’t think I have it in me. The title of the post might as well be referring to me. Things just spill out. (See Lloyd’s “sold, bought, or processed” speech, or anything at the dinner scene, and look at how the “normal” people react.) But, in my opinion, there is something utterly endearing, and ultimately, appealing, about someone who can’t help but be themselves, regardless of how they look. (No surprise that his character is the stuff of romantic comedy legend, ask anybody.)

My other main praise of the film is, tying in to everything I’ve said so far, its honesty. The honest of character, dialogue, awkward moments, emotional confusion, facial expressions, the complications of life- all the little details are there. The expressions, the situations– I have an affinity for things that feel like great care was taken. I don’t watch typical romantic comedies, but only because I have seen a couple before. Seen one, seen ’em all. Everything here is sincerely romantic and genuinely funny. Nothing is simplistic. I don’t know why people watch romantic comedies, I get furious. It’s incredibly insulting to watch people I don’t give a shit about find happiness, when they don’t deserve it, or even have my sympathy. I know many people in real life who deserve that but haven’t found it yet. Here are characters who are patient with one another, that remind us that we can have levels, and differences, and *gasp* even be respected and loved for them. (One day, my friends, one day…..)

I’ll go ahead and address some common criticisms of the film now. The father subplot, I feel, is necessary, it gives the relationship more meaning. Without it, or with a different outcome, the story becomes too rosy. Without it, their little world becomes too insular. If all we had to worry about was spending time with our beloved, it’d be too easy. But, life doesn’t exactly allow for romance to exist in a vacuum, we have to deal with it and balance it with everything else. Besides, given the stresses of life that we or the characters go through, the fact that love can exist and thrive amidst it all is a miracle in itself, and all the more singular. I will, however, concede that Ione Skye, as Diane, leaves something to be desired in the acting department. Just about everyone else in the film, right down to the IRS agents, is on point, but she seems too uneven and inexperienced. Also, the music detracts from the film, or at least, it makes me cringe. It doesn’t help that the director enlisted his wife, Nancy Wilson of Heart, to write some of the music for the film. Very sappy and clichéd, disappointingly, as it’s music you’d expect to hear in an emotionally manipulative film. It’s not all her fault though, the other interludes and scores are just as cheesy– I had keep my eyes from rolling all the way back into my head.

Finally, I’d like to mention the boombox scene. Most people cite it as the best scene, the heart of the film. I’d like to politely disagree and say “are you crazy??” I’m sorry, but it’s the consummation scene (a.k.a. the scene in the backseat), hands down. Yeah, the boombox in the air is nice, “aww, what a romantic gesture!” (“gesture” being the key word) and all that, but it’s meaningless without the earlier scene. Not coincidentally, that Peter Gabriel song is first heard in the car, and that is what gives the boombox all of its emotional weight. But not just that, I think the backseat is a sweeter scene. If you know me at all, I’m not too keen on symbolism, and the boombox screams symbolism, now that I think about it. The backseat doesn’t symbolize, it embodies. What makes it so moving is how it catches these people completely unguarded. Personally, I find the most beauty in honesty and simplicity, and how much more honest a situation and simple a setting than that? (For those who have seen it, or been fortunate enough to experience it, you know what I mean.)

I’ve heard it said that the more you try to describe or talk about something beautiful or artistic, the more you strip it of its mystique and poetry. (See, writing isn’t all self-absorption, there’s a very real dilemma to worry about.) So, I feel I’ve done my job, heh heh. But hey, I didn’t spoil any of the details, you can find and cherish them on your own. I think I’ve spoiled very little, I merely talked a lot. But, if someone asked you to talk about a subject you’re passionate about, you’d sound as much the blathering nerd as I 😛

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