Sunday, December 10, 2017

Absence

Now Playing: Violet Orlandi - The Dope Show (Marilyn Manson cover)

I wasn't feeling all that well yesterday; slept for two hours, was mad and heartbroken about a bunch of stuff, and ended up late to work because of an early Saturday morning crash somewhere on 826.

With so much hanging over my head, I figured it was the perfect mindset to be in to watch Martin Scorsese's Silence. Mostly because I knew from previews and general subject matter and even the director that it was going to be a stone cold bummer, so since it wasn't going to make me feel worse, it was as good a time as any to watch it.

Weirdly, I haven't seen that much of Scorsese's movies, even if I do know them by name. Took me forever to finally get around to watching Taxi Driver and I saw The Departed with my dad when I was little. I was obsessed over finally reading and seeing Shutter Island back when I had an interest in the subject of psychiatric facilities, but never got around to it. Not much since, though I know I should at least give Wolf of Wallstreet a try.

(Side note, this is why I'm always hesitant to call myself a film buff; I'm missing too many directors' bodies of work. Do you know I've only seen like four Stanley Kubrick movies? One of them is not Full Metal Jacket).

Anyways, it left me a little horrified. It's a gorgeous film to look at it, but it's also always strange to see things from the perspective of very religiously devout people when I've lived most of life without giving the concept of god much of a thought. I used to when I was younger, but (cheap shot) I also used to believe in Santa. It's not that hard to see how my mind has changed since. But it's hard to put myself in the shoes of who I was and what I thought--especially in regards to something as abstract as faith--back then.

When the climactic scene of Silence happened, I was expecting what the character would do, but not what would finally make him do so. It's not a punch in the gut, but it's not supposed to be. It stung, more than anything. Not because of the action that takes place (it'd been building to that point and I was leaning towards the assumption that it was going to happen) but because of an artistic decision the storytellers make. I interpreted it one way because I'm an atheist, but that interpretation will vary from person to person. 

It also reminded me of a scene in The Witch, which 100% is a punch to the gut (this time because it's meant to be.) It's almost an exact reversal to Silence given the characters involved, but also very similar in terms of what actually happens.

I'm trying to be vague because I'd hate to spoil, but it did eventually lead me to the conclusion that the two films would make for a great double feature. Uh. Provided you don't mind slower-paced movies where you suffer the whole way through and then leave thoroughly depressed afterwards (although I'd argue The Witch has a very happy ending for its poor heroine; again, that interpretation is purely colored by the fact that I'm an atheist).

Both films are ultimately about the abject silence of God in the face of tangible horror. It's such a foreign subject to me, but it's fascinating nonetheless. Although I can't decide if seeing it explored from the perspective of believers further alienates and confuses me, or if it actually allows me to sympathize with their crisis of faith. 

At the moment, I think further exploration is needed on my end. It's still difficult not to bring in my own perspective and have that, perhaps unfairly, paint a particular judgmental attitude about it. But I know it's worth thinking about, and if there are any atheists out there who find the subject interesting too, watching The Witch and Silence is a good way to start.

Although really--everyone should watch those movies. Just prepare to feel bummed out for several hours in a row. (Your mileage, as always, may vary.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

New Romantics

Now Playing: 
  • The Pretty Reckless - The Devil's Back
  • Meg Myers - Desire

Patty Jenkins, the amazing director of Wonder Woman, was doing an AMA (ask me anything) over at the subreddit /r/movies a while back. In response to one of the questions, she wrote this:
I think that all of the great epic classic films that I was basing the movie on had that as an integral part of them, and I wanted Diana's story to have EVERYTHING - no lesser than any other superhero. It's not about her needing anybody, it's about her deserving someone amazing.

I replied with this:
I just want to say that I loved almost everything about Wonder Woman but I was genuinely surprised at how touched I felt at Diana and Steve's romance. There's such an over saturation of romantic subplots and story lines in pretty much all mediums--film, TV, books, even video games at times--that it's started to leave me apathetic towards them. I guess also because they very rarely feel genuine. It's more, "here's an attractive man, here's an attractive woman, let's get them together!" So it just devolves to watching two people getting smashed together like Ken and Barbie. 
But it actually felt like Diana and Steve had established a real connection, however brief their time together. So much of it has to do with how charming the actors were and their level of chemistry, but overall, it was also on a writing level--how they learned and came to understand one another in terms of their morality and beliefs. 
So really--thank you for not neglecting that aspect of the story.

So I got to thinking--

I have become a bit of a cynic when it comes to romance in fiction.

It sure doesn't seem that way. I squee and flail and generally turn to my friends to whisper, "I ship it," whenever cute romantic interactions/scenarios unfold in whatever we're watching/reading. But it's hard for me to really pin point a couple that felt genuine to me or that I think back on a lot.

Part of the reason I was thinking about it was because shortly after watching Wonder Woman, I finished he Amber Spyglass. I was listening to the audiobook while working and when (spoilers?) Lyra and Will came to realize that the two had fallen in love with each other, I felt at odds.

So many of the passages that Pullman uses to describe their feelings for one another are gorgeous. Pullman's a great writer, so when he tells me:
"The word love set his nerves ablaze. All his body thrilled with it, and he answered her in the same words, kissing her hot face over and over again, drinking in with adoration the scent of her body and her warm, honey-fragrant hair and her sweet, moist mouth that tasted of the little red fruit. 
Around them there was nothing but silence, as if all the world were holding its breath."

and,
"She had never dreamed of what it would feel like to love someone so much; of all the things that had astonished her in her adventures, that was what astonished her the most. She thought the tenderness it left in her heart was like a bruise that would never go away, but she would cherish it forever."

I can't help but stop shelving and smile as the words repeat in my head.

Putting aside how beautiful that piece of writing is, I don't know if I was ever all that invested in the possibility of their romantic relationship. I believe in the foundation that is their friendship and I loved them both as characters.

But kissing and declaring their love for one another--it just doesn't quite hit me as much as maybe it was intended. I was still sad at the ending, but that mostly came from wanting them to be happy than because I truly and fully believed in their love.

Admittedly, (spoilers for WW) when Steve tells Diana that he loves her at the end of the movie, I don't know if I necessarily believed that what they'd built was love. It felt like they were heading in that direction, but their time together, as I mentioned, was too brief. Because of that, their interactions felt like the start of a great romance. Just the start. Maybe arguably that's what makes the ending all the more heartbreaking; it never got to be everything it could have been.

But I at least believed that Steve believed his words in that moment. If they'd had more time, maybe he would have slowed down enough to really be sure if he'd already fallen in love with her then or if he was still falling. Given the circumstances and the chaos around them, he had to say it while he still had the chance.

And okay--it might be mystifying to have a post go up about the biggest female superhero film ever made and talk about the fucking romance of all things, but I loved Wonder Woman for many reasons and I adore Gal Gadot's portrayal in everything she's been in so far. And there's not a lot to say there that hasn't been said by a million others.

So here's the real reason I sat down to reflect on it:

Last time I wrote a "romance", a genetically-engineered soldier/mercenary with cybernetic enhancements got involved with an android who thought he was a medieval-romance-style knight on a grand Arthurian quest in a distant, magical land. There was some implication that it wasn't the healthiest of set-ups. (Because, among other things, with those backgrounds, he couldn't help but immediately idolize this woman who'd been literally created to be a perfect being. And he had nothing to compare his feelings to except the concept of a grand epic romance).

Last time I wrote a "romance", my accidental allegory of an abusive relationship unfolded as follows: implications, innuendos, subtext, TEXT TEXT TEXT, and culminated in the lines:
He was still staring at her when he bent down and crushed her mouth with his. 
Neither of them moved, neither of them blinked. His lips were hard, his breath warm. 
It was a dead man’s kiss. It should have frightened her, but it didn’t. Because he was desperate, and he was lost. For too long he’d reveled in the fact that his touch triggered pure, primal fear out of her. He needed to see her break into a fit of screams, to throw a punch or two. But she didn’t react. She didn’t need to.

Last time I wrote an honest to goodness romance, it was already established. Two women loved each other, cared for each other, stuck by each other in the most terrifying nights and turbulent days. But they were also already a couple before the story began. Their romance was built in the past--one I imagined but never wrote. Their relationship is more or less stable by the time trouble barges through the front door of their tiny apartment, and even when there's conflict, they manage to stick together.

Last time I wrote an honest to goodness romance, the woman died, her husband mourned. I never wrote a scene of them together because he didn't come into the story until long after she'd passed. Then he too died at the end of the book because I had a hit list in the form of a pink sticky note by my computer.

Last time I planned a romance, I plotted the perfect break-up. She probably leaves him for a girl who's far more compatible. But I have no idea because I never made it far enough to the writing process. I don't count the first draft twelve/thirteen-year-old-me wrote. The unwritten one is the revised, mature, older draft that I dreamt up freshman year of college. If I ever do write it, those two are breaking up. It's set in stone. Will that hinder the writing, or aid it?

Last time I planned a romance, two people from completely different worlds and cultures, raised to hate what the other represents, end up being forced together through external circumstances. And because they're teenagers and their perspectives change due to proximity, they start a sexual relationship that's not supposed to mean anything. Then they both get confused. It also, probably, ends badly. But again, not really written it yet so I don't know. And that first draft where it's only cutesy and implied because I was eleven years old when I wrote it also doesn't count. This one has a witch and a prince.

Now that I'm writing a planned romance, it also has a witch, though the boy is just a boy. It started out as two messed up teenagers finding a way to exploit each other and only stick together because they can't find anyone else who's more fucked up than they are. But I don't know what'll change, or how my witch will handle the very real possibility that she's not the stone-cold femme fatale she desperately imagined herself to be.

Now that I'm writing an honest to goodness romance, it's two girls again who come to care for each other. They start as friends and one night of overindulgence and way too much substance abuse (possibly alcohol, possibly weed, most likely shrooms) has them fall into each other's arms, for comfort and fun and a general need for one another. But I fear it might also not end well either. Because nothing ends well for my witches.

But nothing ends well for most of my romances.

In college, I used to jokingly gag whenever Carla talked about a life together with her then-girlfriend, now-wife. Whenever she spoke about marriage, I'd do a full body cringe. Not because I wasn't happy for her, but because the whole concept seemed utterly foreign to where we were in life. I did it mostly as a joke, but there used to be a grain of truth. That grain was, "I'm happy for you. I guess I'm just involuntarily imagining myself in your place and that turns me into a fleeing lobster."

(Lobsters are the most awkward animals I can think of).

It's not the same anymore. The concept of a life-long commitment doesn't scare me. But it's harder to imagine the more real it becomes. (And it's surely it's not even allowed to be all that real yet.)

Throughout college and the year that followed, Carla used to joke that she couldn't wait to see the day I "had a boyfriend" or "fell in love." And fell in love hard enough to want marriage and kids and a romance that doesn't hurt and doesn't end badly because it doesn't end at all.

And I'd joke-gag again.

I told Ren once that disdain and confusion for overtly romantic concepts was our thing. (Or at least my thing). But it's not really applicable anymore.

I don't know where it came from, or where it went. And being in love doesn't seem to guarantee we'll know how to write it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I'm In Love With Being Queen

Now Playing: The Pretty Reckless - Take Me Down

Yesterday's post reminded me that whenever I listen to music, I really like lyrics that involve one or two people being king and/or queen.

It's such an obvious and simple metaphor, and its repetition tells me it's a pretty well established cliche. But I love it so much!

David Bowie - Heroes
I, I will be king.
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day.

Lorde - Royals
We're bigger than we ever dreamed
And I'm in love with being queen
Life is great, without a care
We aren't caught up in your love affair

Nine Inch Nails - We're In This Together
You and me
We're in this together now
none of them can stop us now
we will make it through somehow.
You and me
even after everything
you're the queen and I'm the king
nothing else means anything

The Pretty Reckless - Back to the River
There's blue skies all around me
And the world looks just the same
It's hard to be criminal
When you all know my name
Sometimes I wonder
Sometimes I wanna be free
Well, you can be king of me
And I'll be the queen
Taylor Swift - Blank Space
Cherry lips, crystal skies
I could show you incredible things.
Stolen kisses, pretty lies
You're the King, baby, I'm your Queen.
Find out what you want
Be that girl for a month
Wait, the worst is yet to come, oh no.

Marilyn Manson - Great Big White World
Because it's a great big white world
And we are drained of our colors
We used to love ourselves,
We used to love one another
All my stitches itch
My prescription's low,
I wish you were queen
Just for today
In a world so white what else could I say?

At the moment, that last one's my favorite.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Run Away With Me

This might be due to an over-saturation of pop songs by Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen, but I'm officially convinced "run away with me" is the most romantic sentiment in the universe.

I was going to try and analyze that, but it's fairly straightforward. No explanation required.
"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.