Sammy the Seal

Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

“When is this gonna stop?!”

In celluloid, words, words, words on Tuesday, 23 June, 2009 at 7:01

A piggyback to the last post. These last few are all in the same vein. Sorry, life has come into clear focus the last few weeks, when I first saw High Fidelity as an adult: that is, a non-20-year-old, ha ha. Just now, I remembered the harsh light it first shed on me those few weeks ago. I was vague and obfuscating a bit in the last post, as always, and these help explain it better, more poetically, and more succinctly. Fitting, since they were the catalyst for this short run of posts.

Clip #1: remember the setup for this scene, as it is his words at the very end this clip that are at the core of what I was getting at the other day

Clip #2: within a minute or so of the scene in the first clip comes the scene in second clip, which explains in more detail the last line of clip #1. I alluded to this scene before, here it is in its entirety. My favorite scene, and for me, the heart of the film.

Subtract the relationship angle and this is the overall point I was trying to make. (It’s not totally immaterial, I’d love to even have the opportunity to commit to someone.) See, this is what I should be doing! Even if I’m using music or movie clips, using art to articulate instead of blogs and words. (Ideally, it would be my own art doing the articulating, but someday.)


A nice glass of warm milk, a little nap, and a total frontal lobotomy

In words, words, words on Monday, 22 June, 2009 at 6:43

I’ve heard that combination never fails, maybe I should try it. That’s what came to mind to me the other day when I was bemoaning my tendency to overthink. “Hm, how else to shut my brain off…” I also like to hide behind the whole excuse of “I try to get other points of view before making a decision” which is stupid because I always end up doing what I want anyway. For some reason, I’m being loyal or courteous, even though no one’s asking me to. (I know one person I do go to advice to out of habit and loyalty, even though I really shouldn’t, due to our opposing personalities.) It’s not enough that I overthink, but I subconsciously enlist others to help. Not that they don’t care, but I think my friends would end up saying “it’s your decision” anyway.

So today I think I’ve come to a resolution. There is a certain big decision that I have to go through with soon. Any time I start to reason or wonder, I cut myself off, and so far it’s worked. Doubt stays for a second, then gets kicked out. It’s hard not to analyze or reason when it’s your nature, but it’s for my own good. Before I made my resolution, I talked with some former co-workers and brought up High Fidelity and John Cusack’s character’s non-strategy of keeping one’s options open by not committing to anything or anyone. Well, that’s worked wonders so far, hasn’t it? I’m afraid that if I try a different approach, I’ll change too much and lose who I am at the core, which is probably not an uncommon fear, and which is also silly, because if I were susceptible, I’d be a mess. I already know I won’t change at the core, my personality is too strong, and I’m proud of that. (Plus, if I were susceptible, I’d have at least had a more interesting life than I’ve had so far.)

See? I’m even too loyal and sentimental towards myself, for some dumb reason. Look at the results: it’s not like all this thinking ever got me anywhere. So, after just a day, the anti-overanalysis shield is holding. Fingers crossed.

And the answer is…

In celluloid, words, words, words on Monday, 8 June, 2009 at 6:52

High Fidelity! I haven’t in written in close to two months, and watching this film for the first time in years (probably since it was released in theaters– 2000, whoa) is the trigger. I think the main reason is not that I haven’t felt like talking, but that I didn’t feel like whining. I felt like if I had written, it would have been this semi-loathing-soul-searching-tormented catharsis. One thing that my ex and still friend taught me is that people don’t like to hear whining all the time. It sounds obvious, but I learned this before I left Seattle the first time (which I say because I may very well soon leave a second time, but that’s another blog entry, or not). She simply said that whenever she talked to me on the phone, I was always negative or depressing.  Which was true, lots of moaning. I mean, that’s what friends are for, but eventually you have to get over yourself. I don’t care what your fucking problems are, negativity is not fun to be around.  And I try to minimize that. Lots of people are aware that I don’t like small talk, nor am I good at it. But I’m trying to work on my small-talk skills because it allows the topic to be the other person, rather than me and my neurosis of the day. I guess that’s a function of age. Being a bit self-absorbed, mopey, or dramatic is part of being young. (You may argue that I’m only 30, but I certainly feel like an adult. This kind of rambling perspective is part of it, I thing.) I’m not saying I’m accomplished in life yet, but from the time my ex told me straight out “you’re a downer” I’ve realized that that kinda thing is just going to hold you back. One of the reasons I love being around people and conversing is because it allows me to forget myself for a bit, and just enjoy the other person and where I am. I mean, we all have to solve our own crap ourselves, so why wallow in it any more? If I’m in a good environment or situation, obviously I’m going to feel positive, which is a much better state of mind with which to deal with personal issues.

Anyway, I suppose I won’t talk about the nuts and bolts of the film too much, because I’d have to watch it again, take notes, and drop quotes, and I wouldn’t get to bed until the sun came up. As it is, it’s 230a, so I only have about 2.5 hours. But when I first saw it, I was 22 or 23. Eh, I thought. Of course now, two months from my 31st birthday, oh god. Anyone who has not graduated from their 20s probably can’t understand this, but this is clearly more than a film about a relationship.  First off, I have to say the conceit of the fourth-wall-shattering protagonist rubbed me the wrong way. A story that is aware of itself loses a little something. However, as the film goes on, and John Cusack’s character Rob pores over things, you see how his dialogue with the camera, his overanalytic confessions, are necessary to the story. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that this is my curse. I savor the details of things too much, I lose track of the simplicity of what the thing is. Too much think-y, not enough act-y. And the thing is, I started to get frustrated with the character’s selfish need to know what it all means and how to make everything nice and neat, when of course, guess who I’m really frustrated with. It’s like my friend saying “you’re a downer”— it’s all well and good hash things over and analyze them to death, but at the end of the day, chapter, or story, something has to be done. It’s kind of a heavy-handed, too-aware moment (despite that he’s been talking to us the whole time), but after Rob leaves the funeral, he comes to the following realization about Laura, and everything else, as I see it:

“…I always had one foot out the door, and that prevented me from doing a lot of things. Like thinking about my future and— I guess it made more sense to commit to nothing, keep my options open. It’s really just suicide. By tiny, tiny increments.”

I had a conversation with my friend Ruben the other night about age, the idea of Saturn returns, and the need to do something bold and assertive in re-assessing one’s life. He opined that it was bold for me to come back out to Seattle, but I disagreed that it wasn’t. For starters, I’ve lived here before, it’s familiar. Even moving to New York City sight unseen didn’t strike me as bold, because I know I am a very adaptable person, and that I would find work and settle in. I wasn’t worried about me, because I know I can count on me. Adaptation is one of my strengths. I disagreed because to me, boldness is risk, doing something when you absolutely don’t know everything will be okay, and doing it anyway. If I moved back to TX, it would be not so much to achieve something specific, but at the very least know that I am even capable of taking a risk or a leap of faith. This may not sound like the best reason to do something, and it’s not really a reason, anyway. (FYI, there are some personal details regarding this potential return that I am intentionally omitting. I normally am free with details, so vagueness is usually intentional with me.)

Anyway, a great thing about the film is that the ex-girlfriend, Laura (played by Danish actress Iben Hjejle), is more than just an object or the one that got away. You get to see where she’s coming from too. One of my favorite devices the film uses is just after she leaves his place to pick up the last of his stuff. Cut to Rob on the street, talking to the camera about the things he misses about Laura, and how the #1 on the top 5 list is her dry, but often warm and forgiving sense of humor, and the way she laughs. Then, near the end, after they’ve reunited, Rob indirectly proposes marriage, and the way she handles the situation is amazing. We know how ridiculous he is to propose in that moment, but she never rubs it in, and you see the cutting yet forgiving laughter he referred to. She laughs heartily and takes a couple of shots at Rob, but as he then awkwardly explains his clumsy proposal, she hunkers down and listens gently but intently.  These are the last lines of the scene:

Laura: I think I know what you mean. But were you really expecting me to say yes?
Rob: I don’t know. I didn’t think about it really. I thought asking was the important part.
Laura: Well, you’ve asked. Thank you.

Despite all Rob’s lines, and no offense to Mr. Cusack,  the scene is Laura’s. She gives him room to make his small step forward, then recognizes it and accepts it. Later, I rewound to that scene and it stood out even more. Neither actor goes for “aw shucks, love me, its okay I forgive you”, they play it true, and it’s possibly the sweetest, most resonant part of the film. There is no promise of a happily ever after, just two people being respectful and honest with one another in the moment. One person doing the nervous talking thing (yes, a callback to John Cusack in Say Anything, which I’ve re-viewed recently, and a phrase I’ve stolen to describe myself), and one person listening. (Refreshingly, the whole film bears this out. They may be the two principals, but the film treats every other character with respect as well.)

Of course, having this sort-of mini-epiphany, I am utterly compelled to write this. But, as with all things, it’s ephemeral. You can’t be constantly inspired, just like you can’t be head-over-heels in love every moment of every day. We’re not wired that way. We need downtime, if nothing else to figure out how to deal with it. So tomorrow morning, will I feel as excited to write and share as I am now? Most definitely no. Will I feel positive and not-so-fearful about the decisions I have to make in the next month or so? I’m cheating since I’m editing this and it’s tomorrow, so I can definitely say no. To paraphrase a writer/producer from a Simpsons commentary (NERD!), you have to remember what inspired you, and what was good, and to not lose track of it, re-evaluate it, or doubt it, because it was there, and it was real. There is a reason an idea or feeling was there in the first place. The spark that starts the fire, and it’s one’s own job to stoke the fire and figure out how to get it roaring, to make a trite and cheesy analogy.  Or at the very least to explore it, to try it. Creativity, love, life, all that crap. Those who do, versus those who would like to do. I’m not just talking about career or artistic aspirations, I’m always hoping to meet anyone like that.

Anyway, I’m cheating again since I’m editing this the next morning and saying wow, this was very idealistic vibe I was running with, almost “yuck” even. Though, even last night, I realized it’s a pretty small story, it ain’t gonna solve the world’s problems, or even mine. But if nothing else, I can utter a familiar refrain: I fucking love film.