Posts Tagged 'Love'

So Now Then

Ten years ago tonight, with the clock ticking toward midnight, there was an immense anxiety in me about what would happen. The world might forever be changed. It so filled my mind that I don’t really remember anything else I talked about that night, aside from this one thing – will I get to kiss my girlfriend? Y2K be damned, I didn’t care if the world ended or not; only about what it would be like to kiss her.

I didn’t. I chickened out. But it’s okay, we made up for it and then some for the next year or so.

Boy things were different back then. Looking back on the last ten years of my life, I am in the unique position of having come of age during this time, which is a strange thing and who knows, maybe ten years from now I’ll be saying the same thing about the next decade. But for now, I want to remember when.

This was the decade I graduated high school. And college. It’s the decade I got my first car. My first job. While things were in motion, this is the decade I fell in love with the movies and with acting and with writing. I directed my first movie. Isn’t it strange to think that 10 short years ago, I hadn’t seen my favorite movie of all time? Most of my favorite movies, in fact. I started reading books. Started reading The Bible. I hadn’t heard most of my favorite music yet. Think of it. All of these things that occupy my time and my mind and my heart and direct my life on a daily basis, and I didn’t have any idea they were out there. Things I can’t imagine being without; not the physical thing-ness of them, but the experience of them. The knowledge of them, the understanding of them. If you take enough of those things away, you take me away. I’m not me without them. I couldn’t be, I wouldn’t want to be, and I don’t know who I’d be. I’ve seen well over 1,000 movies in the last 10 years. Many of them good, some of them bad, and quite a few of them life-changing. Life-changing. A movie. A song. A television show. A fiction. A podcast. People doing things who I don’t know personally but somehow know deeply. Now how in the world does that happen?

And what about the people who do populate my life? Friendships that were only a few months or a couple years old are now lifelong bonds that have carried me through so much these years. People I didn’t know, or only knew peripherally. And now, what would life be without them? Where would I be? I had the immense fortune of having incredible friends around me at every turn these last 10 years. Where I would be without them is lost, completely stupidly lost. What kings and queens of goodness they are, what multitudes they hold.

There are small big things too. I voted for the first time, had my first beer, got my first tattoo, my first apartment, got my first corporate job, quit that job and moved to another state. I took my first trip out of the country, I went on vacation by myself and found I am a good traveling companion. I wrote and wrote and wrote thousands of pages of stories and journals and movies and essays and papers. Endless experiences and events and things done and things wished for and not received and regrets and elations and disappointments and poorly-timed, well-worded remarks that got me in mountains of trouble. 10 years ago I thought I was right all the time. Now I know the percentage is slightly lower, and things are often my own fault.

10 years is enough time, it turns out, to meet someone, love them, know them for 7 years, be hurt by them long enough and badly enough that you don’t know her anymore. 10 years of my life is still a pretty high percentage of it at this point (a little over 38% of it). And there is no bleed-over. It is a thing contained within one decade, a little parenthesis of a thing that, 20 years from now will matter, won’t matter, who knows? But there is before and there is after and it doesn’t reach either of them. It is cut off. That’s a little scary when you think about it.

10 years ago, I thought of my life in terms of my parents’ rhythms. Married by a certain age, children by a certain age, career by a certain age. It took time to realize that a different pattern was waiting for me. 10 years ago, I don’t think I could ever know I’d be sitting where I am today. If I talked to myself, I wouldn’t believe me. How much I had to learn. How much I have to learn. 10 years ago, I thought I would be a film actor. I don’t think I thought very highly of the theatre. 20+ plays later, I see I was a fool. The thrill of walking onto a stage in front of an audience and inhabiting another life is one of the most beautiful things in the world. The experience of being watched is similar to playing a sport, but it’s a different kind of thrill. I love them both. Still another is to write something you’re proud of and see it performed by someone else in front of a couple thousand people. And another to write and direct something, find the time and people and equipment to capture it on film, edit it, toil over it, and then see it projected onto a screen in a dark room with people you don’t know. To hear them react to it, find it is all out of your hands now. These things are magical. I wouldn’t trade these things for anything, and I wouldn’t ruin them by explaining them away to my younger self. If I never see them again, I’m glad for what I’ve got.

So now then. What have we learned? What conclusions can we draw? What do we do now? How can I do better? The best answer I know is to say that these aren’t questions reserved for the ends of decades, but for every day. Contentment in limbo. It sounds like an impossible thing, but I think that’s where the truth lives. If I find out, I’ll tell you in 10 years.


Looking UP

Tuesday's Business Meeting

Tuesday’s Business Meeting

Pixar’s eternal brilliance is already so widely accepted by now that there’s no point in rehashing it again. But I just have to rehash it again. World, you may keep your “Ice Age” sequels, your “Horton Hears a Who” lacklusters, your “Shrek 2,3…?” and “Madagascar” and the okay ones like “Over the Hedge” and “Monsters vs. Aliens.” These will not remain. These will not be remembered, and if they are they will surely not be regarded as anything other than a means of marking time. Leave me Pixar and leave me be.


The creators at Pixar understand this life. Names like Andrew Stanton, John Lasseter, Brad Bird (my personal favorite) and the writer/director of “UP,” Pete Doctor – all of these men are expert storytellers, but they all retain a sense of wonder that so many children have and so few adults can even recall. They remember (and love) what it felt like to think about the possibilities of life, they return to that place over and over and are blessed enough to call it their job. With the hours they put in and the care they demand, it is a miracle that Pixar continues to hold onto that sensibility picture after picture. Their films understand that the soul needs that childlike sense in order to grow, that we aren’t meant to move on from that wonder, we’re supposed to add to it; that without holding onto some part of the kid in us, we stagnate. We get old but not wise, we live but aren’t alive. Their movies make me feel that awe again, every time I sit down and watch them. They fill my heart, and they uncover feelings that I haven’t felt for a while or forgot existed. 


So it was with “UP,” a film I assumed I would enjoy, but how much I wasn’t sure. Would it be like “The Incredibles” or last year’s “Wall*E” ? Few can be. Would it be a solid effort like “Monsters, Inc.” ? I couldn’t tell. And they are very crafty, those folks who promoted this movie. In a time when movie trailers tend to give away every remotely interesting thing in the movie, the previews for “UP” seem to deliberately withhold the most crucial, powerful elements. They were right to do so. Trailers are seen so many times that it would have reduced the film’s power and impact to see too much too soon. Instead, they gave us the bare bones plot. Old man, young kid, a house that floats because of a ton of balloons. 


This movie gave me so much. With a main character over 60, you wouldn’t expect the word “Adventure” to be the primary description, but it is. The movie has great adventure set-pieces, like chases through forests and cliff sides and the sky. It has a perfect blend of physical and verbal comedy. The movie plays mostly fair and doesn’t allow its characters to be superheroes (even when they’re being superheroes) and the supporting cast of animals adds a very nice dimension to the world while also bringing in the families. 


But what I really want to talk about are a few things. First, the aerial shots of the house floating over vast expanses. These shots took my breath away. They are so pristine as to move one to tears. The sense of peace, of freedom, of life and this planet, this beautiful glorious planet of ours. Yet for all of these, my favorite moment of the film is its first act, which hovers over the rest of it and is embodied by the house itself. There are a few scenes with Carl as a child, meeting his wife Ellie, who is a darling, half-tomboy. The scenes where she talks about having adventures and he sits transfixed, having found that person who makes it all click. There is an entire sequence showing their lives together, from marriage to old age, and here is where Pixar shows its brilliance. It is reminiscent of a familial montage in another Pixar film, “The Incredibles,” but it is even more complete in some ways. Most films burn through backstory like this in a quick montage that hits some highlights, delivers the exposition and moves on. Inevitably, they lack an emotional core, because they feel purely functional. Perfunctory. Not this one. Wordless, though ever filled with life, it shows us two complete characters and their life together. It is an extended, patient sequence. It refuses to go through the motions. It observes it characters with tenderness and care, and I fell in love with it. It skewered my heart and I was terribly, completely taken away by it. 


How do they do this, Pixar and their films? How do they make us smile while we cry? How do they inspire both awe and affection at once? These are films that will remain, because they are films made by people who love these stories too much to see them marred by easy pop culture references and who respect their audience too much to deceive them with a cheap product for a fast dollar. Pixar could take it easy. Their record is so impressive, they could churn out 3 or 4 movies, and they’d make money just because of the name. But I don’t think that will happen though. I think the product is good because the investment is personal and true and good. “UP” is the latest film from the one of the best companies around, and it is so good as to revive the heart and soul.

It Has Come to This

March 2019
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