John Hughes Did Not Direct My Life Or, A Girl And Her Desire To Recapture The Maybe

I had this bad habit.

Heroin.

Kidding.

Two cups of Cuban coffee will send me to rehab….as it rightfully should because if you make it right, that shit is rocket fuel (I love you, Havana. Never change).

Anyway.

You know how some people wear their hearts on their sleeves? Well, I’m the girl who took it a step further. Sleeves are for rookies. I basically slapped a bow on mine and handed it off with nothing more than a, “Dude, seriously. Be careful…”

Needless to say, this doesn’t always work out as well as anticipated and as a result, I’ve done a little masonry and put up a bit of a wall.

Made of Supermax concrete with barbed wire lacing across the top.

Little girl
Little girl
Let me in?
Not by the hair on my chinny-chinny-chin (I’m ethnic. We’re hirsute. What do you want?)

I didn’t even realize just how high these walls were until a couple of months ago.

I was watching Sliding Doors – an innocuous bit of late 90s fluff starring Gwyneth Paltrow – and charmingly cheeky Scotsman James (John Hannah) gets into a misunderstanding with Helen (Paltrow with her sterling English accent).

So, he heads over to her place, bangs on the door and starts howling for her.

I managed to both roll and cut my eyes simultaneously (a fancy bit of ocular yoga if there ever was one) and huffed, “Please. That would never happen.”

Because it wouldn’t. No-one would show up at your door and bang away as if seeking any port in a storm.

People don’t do that.

They send text messages. They leave voicemails. They email.

No-one shows up at your door with a boombox or flowers or even an apology. It just isn’t done.

Seeing this on-screen irked me and I reacted to it in a way I never have before – weary disbelief.

I never used to be like this.

I was the girl who believed in silly little love songs and movie endings. If your life wasn’t cinematic, well – that just meant you weren’t trying hard enough and I tried really damn hard to bring that sense of magic into my life.

I was the proto-Taylor Swift…without that obnoxious “Ohmygod! Really?!” face she does every five minutes….and the millions of dollars…and the annoying penchant for writing contrived, shitty songs about her exes.

Then, adulthood smashed into me and totally disabused me of that belief.

I know movie endings don’t happen in real life. That’s why they’re the movies, right? They’re escapist. I mean, I’m a smart girl. I minored in cinema studies. I get it.

I know that my one true love will never lead me safely through the Fire Swamp or engage in a battle of wits with a Sicilian when death is on the line.
He will never race through the streets on New Year’s Eve to find me, kiss me and tell me that he loves that I get cold when it’s 62 72 degrees out or that he loves that after spending the day with me, he can smell my perfume on his clothes.
He will never get off the train in a completely different country just to keep talking to me.

This doesn’t happen. I know this, but in the back of my head – I always kinda sorta believed it might.

Then, I stopped believing in the might. The maybe. The hope and the promise and the sheer, dumb serendipity of it all.

It got lost and idiot that I am, I didn’t put a tracking chip in it so I have no idea how find it.

I don’t want to be like this.
I want to be the girl who understands that it probably won’t but maybe, just maybe…

So, how does one recapture hope?

Maybe I have approach it A Clockwork Orange style – forcing my eyelids open while marathon-watching Love Actually, The Notebook, Dirty Dancing and Sleepless in Seattle? But, I get the feeling that would just result in dry eyes and a desire to listen to the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack (Look, if Hungry Eyes doesn’t do it for you, your soul is dead).

Maybe I have to stop mocking those shitty romance novels and actually read one….but no. Yeah. No. That’s just not gonna happen. If I’m looking for love stories – I skew towards Bukowski writing about Jane or Bourdain writing about pork.

Maybe I have to ixnay the Jay and ‘Ye and incorporate a little more John Legend into my life. This might actually work because the new John Legend? Kinda legit.

Or maybe there is no answer. Maybe it’s just something I have to figure out by living, man. L-I-V-I-N’….which is a real sonofabitch because let’s face it, a rom-com movie marathon takes a weekend but that whole living thing? Takes pretty much your whole life.

Simultaneously Enchanted and Repelled by The Great Gatsby Or, I Wanna Change My Hair, My Clothes, My Face

I am the first girl to hold out her fork and say, “Dude! This is so good! You have to try this!”

If I love you and you need something, I’m going to damn well make sure you get it.
Or a very close approximation of it.
Or a sandwich because dude, even if I did have Ryan Gosling’s phone number – I wouldn’t give it to you first. I mean, we’re friends but I’m not running for Jesus here.

As demonstrated above, I’m very selfish in a very peculiar way.

If I have a particular affinity to something, I’m reluctant to share it with the unworthy. It doesn’t take much but you have to earn your way to my favorite menu item and my most beloved b-side.

And that’s why I’m really worried about the fallout of Baz Luhrmann’s take on The Great Gatsby.

gatsby

The movie comes out on Friday – all bombast and bling. Slick and shimmery as Beyonce’s thighs and calm like a bomb. And with this comes the inevitable gaggle of idiots who get taken in by the, ‘Oooh pretty shiny!’, idealize Jay and Daisy’s romance and basically, take something I love and like it wrong.

Can you ‘like’ something wrong?
Yes.
Yes, you can.

I’m fully aware of the fact that I sound like a crazy person right now. I mean, The Great Gatsby is a classic and it belongs less to be me and more to the collective conscience but I still think of it as mine.

I’ve written about it extensively, I own two copies (one of which lives in my purse) and when I miraculously have more body mass, I’m going to get that last paragraph inked on my flesh.

I love this story even though it’s been criticized as being nothing more than a glorified anecdote. A shivery wisp of a story we’ve all heard a million times – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy reconnects with girl, boy loses girl again – but there’s a whole other world that ebbs and flows within the confines of that cliche.

As much as I love the lushness of the language, my favorite thing about the novel is its duality. The notion that the very hope that sustains a man is the same that will eventually slay him knocks me out.

Only love will break your heart, right? Love will tear us apart. Love is a battlefield. Love is blindness. Love hurts, right? It wounds, it scars and it breaks your fucking heart…BUT hope? Hope will reduce a man to ashes.

Love pretends that it’s dangerous, but hope will drag you through hell before it kills you and whisper sweet nothings in your ear the entire time.

A couple of nights ago, I had a conversation about the novel and it got me thinking about reinvention, reinterpretation of self, how it’s never too late to start over and how The Great Gatsby really is the great American novel.

The blue-jean clad, hip-swiveling hero from Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark is James Gatz:

I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face
Man I ain’t getting nowhere
I’m just living in a dump like this
There’s something happening somewhere
Baby, I just know that there is

Both men springing from platonic conceptions of themselves. Both sons of God, but while Springsteen’s jukebox hero spent his time twistin’ the night away with a pre-Friends Courteney Cox, James Gatz ached for Daisy and casually dispensed starlight to moths in the tenuous hope that she would grace his doorway.

God, is there anything more redolent of the American spirit than this? After all, what are Americans but conceptions of themselves? Children of God who don’t mold themselves in His image but rather their own.

Unlike Gatsby, I don’t regard the silver salt and pepper of the stars looking to repeat the past. If anything, I want to extricate myself from its gnarled roots and I hope this marked difference will spare me the elegiac tragedy that befell Fitzgerald’s high bouncing, gold-hatted lover.

However, I am fascinated by the idea of reinvention and living out your personalized runaway American dream.

My life is kinda up in the air right now and I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I’m buoyed by the same sense of extraordinary hope as Gatsby.

I don’t really have a plan and I don’t really know what’s going to happen, but I do know that if you don’t like something – you can change it and start over.

That I can be the person I want to be and live the life I want to live.

All I have to do is run faster, stretch my arms out farther and one fine morning…

She’s Gone To Movies Now And She’s Not Coming Home Or, It’s Not the Years, Honey. It’s the Mileage.

When I was a kid, I hated having my hair combed.

I was perfectly happy living a life with a nest of snarled tangles atop my head.

Unfortunately, Mom didn’t agree with this philosophy and insisted on combing my hair every morning.

Lest this sound like some sort of idyllic childhood memory, let me set the record straight.

Picture a tiny little girl. Maybe she looks like this:

All big eyes, chubby little hands and Glen Campbell albums (sidebar: What kind of child listens to Glen Campbell? I’ll tell ya, chief. An awesome child)

Now, imagine this child standing in front of a mirror with her mom. The kid’s face is set in a stony grimace and the mother is brandishing a comb the same way Genghis Khan held aloft his scimitar.

Mom drags this medieval instrument of pain through my hair as if angrily raking the coals of hell itself and I stand in front of her screaming bloody murder.

In retrospect, I realize this cannot have been fun for Mom at all and I’m sure she’d much rather have been doing anything other than making her shrieking harpy of a child look remotely presentable.

(Sorry I was a jerk, Mom! Also, sorry for cursing way more than I should, denying the existence of a benevolent creator, for not eating more yogurt and essentially being your kid. I love you and you deserve so much better!)

The only time I would ever relent to this form of torture was when I was going to the movies.

Going to the movies was a big deal when I was a kid. Paps and I would drive 25 miles away to go to a better movie theater and I’d sit in the popcorn-scented darkness, utterly mesmerized by the big screen in front of me.

Somewhere along the line, I stopped getting dressed up to go to the movies and my rule of thumb became: “Am I wearing pants? Yup? OK, I’m good to go.”

Last week, I discovered that Raiders of the Lost Ark was being re-released in IMAX.

I love this movie and will never relinquish the belief that Indiana Jones is the coolest guy ever.

Yes. Ever.
Yes, he’s so much cooler than Han Solo.
Seriously, fanboys? You wanna go? Let’s go.

So last Friday, I put my make-up on, fixed my hair up pretty (well, as pretty as it gets), put on a dress and heels and took myself to see Raiders of the Lost Ark – a movie I never thought I’d get to see on the big screen, much less in IMAX.

And it was perfect.

Cossetted in the darkness of the theater, wrapped up in my cardigan and with enough Diet Coke to drown a small army, I sat silently, grinning like a total goon and utterly mesmerized by the giant screen.

My favorite part of the whole experience came courtesy of the kid sitting in front of me. He was there with his parents and this kid was great – quiet and well-behaved. His parents are obviously doing it right.

He’s watching the movie, completely engrossed and then, the date scene unfolds.

You know what I mean — “Bad dates.” A bowlful of poisoned dates and our unwitting, peckish hero.

Just as Indy’s about to take a bite, I hear a tiny gasp in front of me.

“Indy! No!”

I’ve seen this movie a million times and can rattle off dialogue in my sleep but this kid – the perfect little kid – has no idea. In his world, Indiana Jones can die from eating a bad date. He doesn’t know about Mola Ram (technically a prequel, but still) or that Indiana was the dog’s name. All he knows is that Indy is about two seconds away from the same fate as the dead monkey and it shakes him so much that he has to speak out. He has to warn Indiana Jones of impending doom.

And that’s the heart of it right there.

That’s the reason to go to the movies. To lose yourself. To forget about all the stuff in your life that drags you down. For hours, you can go a heart-pounding adventure. You can fall in love. You can experience nerve-aching terror. You can travel to a gorgeous new place or you can just live a life a little less ordinary.

People complain about the cost of going to the movies but when you think about all you get from a really good movie – hell, it’s worth every penny of admission.

 

 

 

Holy Shit! I Love You: The True Romance Edition

I’ve never been big on the romantic comedies.

They have their place in the pantheon and there is nothing wrong with watching The Notebook while folding laundry on a Sunday afternoon (he builds her a house! What more do you want, Rachel McAdams?! Baby Goose builds you a house!) but if I’m looking for a love story? Like a real love story? I’m going to with True Romance every time.

Directed by the late Tony Scott and written by Quentin Tarantino, True Romance is a 100% glurge-free love story. Violent and whip-smart, sexy and brutal, really well-written with a killer soundtrack and just so cool, so cool, so cool.

If you haven’t seen True Romance yet, this is what you’re going to do:

You are gonna grab someone you love. It doesn’t have to be your significant other. Grab your best friend, your sister, your dog or even your mom if she’s kind of a bad-ass and doesn’t mind a movie filled with profanity (225 instances of the word ‘fuck’ and its derivatives) and 21 deaths.

You’re gonna grab popcorn, pizza (the good stuff from the mom-and-pop joint) and beer (or a very large, very cold gin and tonic), turn down the lights, turn up the sound and watch the shit out of this movie.

You’re gonna marvel at how cool Christian Slater was and how you kinda sorta always wanted a boyfriend like Clarence Worley who would fanboy the fuck out about comic books and rock those bad-ass Elvis sunglasses and climb on a stack of phonebooks to kiss you.

You’re going to quote and re-quote the lines (“”I didn’t know it was white boy day” “Don’t condescend me, man…”), you’re going to fall in love with the prettiest soundtrack Hans Zimmer ever wrote and you’re going to gasp at just how many now-famous actors you recognize from this film.

And when the smoke clears and the end credits roll, you’re going to realize that no romantic comedy will ever be enough after this.

No matter what you watch, no-one will be as in love or as cool as Clarence and Alabama.

As always, Pajiba says it better than I ever could. Check out their review here.

Rest in Peace, Tony Scott. Thank you for True Romance and Beverly Hills Cop II. Both have factored into my life in a big way and I could not be more appreciative.

 

 

 

Random Babbling About The Dark Knight Rises Or, Keep Calm and Have Faith In Christopher Nolan

At 5:45 this morning, I was sitting in the lobby of a movie theater sipping a Diet Coke and waiting for the sold out 8:00am IMAX screening of The Dark Knight Rises.

I have been waiting for this movie to come out since July 19, 2008. Since the credits rolled and the houselights came up on The Dark Knight.

Have you ever waited for something for ages and then, finally gotten it? Right before you gingerly peel off the wrapping, there’s this moment of dread – what if? What if I’ve been waiting and waiting for this thing and it’s not as good as I hoped it would be? What if I should have kept my expectations in check and now, I’ve just set myself up for staggering disappointment?

I sat in my seat and steeled myself. Keep calm and have faith in Nolan.

And my faith was rewarded several hundred times over.

The Dark Knight Rises is a mille-feuille – intricate, complex and nuanced. Gorgeous, severe and so smart.

It is a film of perfect moments . I never thought I would tear up while watching a Batman movie and The Dark Knight Rises contained not one, not two but three separate occasions where tears stung at my eyes.

I winced and jolted in my seat on numerous occasions and twice, I let out uncontrollable gasps.

Several times throughout the film, I forgot that aspiration is necessary for human survival as I sat in my seat, captive and breathless by the action unfolding onscreen.

At heart, The Dark Knight Rises is a story about the weight of hope on the human soul. Hope defines humanity and it can either serve as kindling for dying embers or it can be leveraged to snuff out the flame.

It is the perfect end to a perfect trilogy and while part of me is utterly devastated that I don’t get to see more – Nolan’s take on The Riddler or The Mad Hatter or what his version of the Lazarus PIt would have looked like – I’m so glad that he’s walking away from the series like this.

Like a great man before him, Nolan knows when to hold ’em and knows when to fold ’em. Knows when to walk away and when to run.

And I don’t know where he’s running to, but I will follow.

For Nolan is my shepherd and I shall not want. He restoreth my soul and reinforces my long-held belief that people want to see smart, well-written movies.

Batman was the hero Gotham needed and Christopher Nolan is the writer/director we need – an auteur who throws you straight into the deep end and says, “Hope you can swim.”

A man who challenges you to think when watching a movie instead of turning your brain off for two hours.

A man who inspires conversation and passionate debate.

A man who understands that sometimes, people deserve to have their faith rewarded and does his level best to ensure this is the case.

A not-so-silent protector of good cinema.

A watchful guardian defending us against an onslaught of mediocrity.

A white knight with a light meter.

(If you’re going to see it – and you probably are – do yourself a favor and see it in IMAX, the way God, Nolan and Wally Pfister intended. Fifty minutes of this film were shot in the IMAX format and if you see it any other way, you’re doing yourself a real disservice. Seriously, forgo the overpriced popcorn and put that money towards the more expensive ticket. Trust me)

 

 

 

Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby Trailer Or, You Always Look So Cool…

I discovered the existence of this trailer about five minutes ago. In that time, I have done the following:

– Screamed so loudly I’m shocked the neighbors didn’t called the police.
– Gabbled, “This is a thing. This is a thing in this world. This is a thing,” about fifty times.
– Gasped upon seeing the shot of a rain-soaked DiCaprio and whispered entirely too reverentially, “Oh my God. It’s Jay Gatsby.”
– Finally understood why the film is in 3D.

Friends and family – y’all lucked out this year. This is the only thing I want for Christmas and I cannot wait to unwrap this gift.

Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby Or, Thoughts On Being Simultaneously Enchanted and Repelled

When I first heard there was a Gatsby film in the works, I was a little leery.

Every cinematic adaptation of this novel has fallen flat because the piece is essentially unfilmable. The story is pretty basic — boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy tries to get girl back, boy succeeds for a second and then, boy fails — and doesn’t really make for cinematic gold.

The Great Gatsby earns its modifier because of the lush and evocative language.

But his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor. Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an oblivious embrace. For a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.

The hell with a thousand words. I dare anyone to find a picture as gorgeous as the 111 words written above (without using a picture of Ron Livingston).

When I heard Baz Luhrmann and Leonardo DiCaprio were involved, my caution dissipated a little. And by that, I mean fifteen-year-old Jaime came leaping out and made this banshee-shrieking noise at a decibel level only registered by dogs and SPL meters.

A few days ago, I read that Luhrmann was blasting Jay Z on the set of his movie. Apparently, it won’t actually appear in the film (make for one hell of a deleted scene, though) but I’ve swung back around to the land of the leery again.

Hold up. Wait.

Do I love hip hop?
Does Eminem offend people?

I don’t consider myself a hip-hop head but I love the artform. I respect it, I’m an avid listener and I can rhyme the hell out of Jay’s Can I Get A…?

I get that the hustle and excesses of hip hop provide an apt and apropos parallel to Fitzgerald’s classic.

I understand that no-one on the corner has swagga’ like Jay — Z or Gatsby. Both Sean Carter and James Gatz sprang from platonic conceptions of themselves – vast, vulgar and meretriciously beautiful.

I realize that this is what Luhrmann does — he takes classic stories and jams a pop music adrenaline needle straight into their hearts, reanimating them with something wild and frenetic and beautiful.

But I really don’t want The Great Gatsby to turn into a high budget version of MTV’s dreadful “hip hopera” take on Carmen.

The Great Gatsby is my favorite piece of art in this world.

Of all things created – every blistering chord played by Stevie Ray, every lonely scene that Edward Hopper painted, every last one of Bukowski’s gin-soaked and salted wounds, every soliloquy breathed into creation by Sorkin and Shakespeare and every single J. Fox face Michael makes (you know what I’m talking about) — I love The Great Gatsby more than all of that.

And when you love something like that, you want to keep it trapped in its own little snowglobe. Perfect and safe from the smog and smudgy fingers of this world.

I’m trying to keep calm and have faith in Luhrmann, citing my love for his previous works as examples that his vision will turn out fine, but again – it’s not just any adaptation. It’s Gatsby.

So,I’m going to hold onto infinite hope and reserve judgment until Christmas Day when I might get the best gift a girl could get — a flawless cinematic representation of The Great Gatsby, complete with a sublime soundtrack…

…And if that doesn’t happen — dude, an espresso machine would be sweet.