Sunday, February 27, 2011
Warning: If you are emotionally attached to the movie Inception, you may not like this review. Also, this is very spoiler heavy. You are forewarned.
InSucktion, or: There's Always Gravity In The Elevator Shaft. A movie review.
I know I'm late for this train. (Will it come bulldozing through my sub-consciousness? Oh noes!) There was so much buzz and hype surrouning Inception that I considered going to see it in the theaters, something Mr.V and I do only for Harry Potter movies. Thank god we did not. We finally got it on dvd and I was excited. I'd heard so much about this movie, and especially the ending! I love ambiguous endings and I'd heard this was one. I was totally down.
A few minutes into the movie, I knew things weren't going well. I was kinda bored. A guy washes up on a shore and I make a dumb joke about it being a metaphor for Leo's career. (I made a lot of dumb jokes during the watching of this film. I test my material out on Mr.V and you can bet that's a fun job. He just keeps drinking whiskey 'til I start sounding funny and we call it a day). There's a spinnning top and Ken Watanabe in a really bad makeup job.
Meh. But I was sticking with it because I'd heard! I'd heard!
So Leonardo is running around in a room with some other guys , trying to get some Classified Information, while a revolution is going on outside and all I can think is "Supernatural's done this" and "Supernatural did it better". The people are talking to each other about something we can't possibly understand and this represents the entire problem with the whole movie: Never once is the audience invited to Enter In. We are kept at arm's length the entire time, like the movie is a big brother pushing on our forehead and we keep making running motions with our arms and legs trying to get to the treat. And at the end, the big brother is going to pull back a curtain and be like, "Or wait--IS IT A TREAT????" and we are supposed to care about this stuff?
No. The movie did not invite me in to partake emotionally, and so I spent the first ten or fifteen minutes developing a Supernatural litmus test in my head. It's a perfect test to measure any film or tv show against Supernatural to see if it is as good as or surpasses my beloved show.
(Spoiler alert!--Insucktion did not pass.)
Guys running around in a dream within a dream. Would you could you on a plane, would you could you in a train? Enter Paris! I sit up a little bit. Michael Caine in a lecture room. Ok, this could be good. Enter Ellen Page--thank god! Ellen has energy and wit, she's sharp, maybe a little edgy--
Oh no wait. Within three minutes they have sucked the life out of Ellen Page. She and Leo are sitting at a Paris street cafe and--Oh Noes! Are you guys kidding me? It is actually a dream! Mind blowing! Ellen and Leo sit watching while they destroy the only thing I've enjoyed so far--the shots of Paris--blowing the buildings into smithereens around them. Debris in slow-mo, Ellen all like, what da fuh?!?! Leo putting on his best "I am the Weaver of Dreams" face.
But you're not, Leo.
It was at this point that the world "pretentious" entered my mind.
Husband and I were playing the game we always play wherein he can see any obscure actor and name every movie, big and small, that he or she has ever been in and I have no idea what they've done before but I always know the name. "What is that guy in?" I said about the architect.
"I don't know. I'm trying to figure it out. He was a kid. Really young."
"Oh yeah! Gosh I know him from somewhere. . . his name is Lucas Haas. I'm pretty sure."
I was right. This moment would be the highlight of my InSucktion viewing experience.
Ellen Page seems bored with her own performance, Leo is giving it his earnest all as always, and finally we have a hint of a plot. We know by now that Leo misses his kids and has a dead wife, but in a Massive Cinematic Failure, we don't give a shit. Character development has had such a major malfunction here that we cannot muster ourselves one bit of empathy or concern for a single character on the screen, and in a mind-bending movie to which we are not Invited In, this is an even huger problem than the already Universe-Sized problem it would be in any other movie.
(Character first, plot second, quoth Joss. To which I add: Or plot first, character second. The point is, somewhere there has to be a character).
But now, said plot: The Last Samurai (who Mr.V and I think is a great actor, but there was never any way he could have saved this mess) wants to pay Leo to plant an idea in the mind of some rich heir, so that he can tear down rich heir's daddy's business empire and make a killing, and Leo says to do this we must create--are you ready?? A Dream.
With in a dream.
WITHIN A DREAM!?!?!?!?!
Is your mind blown??? (Twisty jazz fingers at eye level, glittery cape, me dancing backwards from the screen). Are you blown away??
Oh yeah and if Leo succeeds he gets to see his kids again. We think.
At this point the movie feels to me like Phase One: Steal Underpants! Phase Two: ............ . Phase Three: Profit! Something should be at stake here, and absolutely nothing is. I perk up a little when they start to plan the Triple Dream, because here we have this movie's variation of the "Getting Strong Now" montage, the "this is how we're gonna do it!" moment, and we, the audience, are at least for this one scene, Invited In.
But it doesn't last. They make the big plan, get on an airplane, everyone goes to sleep perchance to dream and guess what? Weird stuff happens--what the hell, train??? What the hell, men with guns?? What the hell, dude who can change guises?? (Supernatural's done it). For us to care about the success of these people we need to:
A) Care about what is at stake (Rich man Wants More Richer! Leo Misses Stock, Stepford, Blond, Back-lit Children who we only see from behind!) and
B) Care about one of the characters
The Triple Dream quickly begins to unravel and I guess Leo is supposed to seem all Last Hope of A Desperate Man, but all he seems is kinda mean and like he had too much coffee this morning. Did I mention yet that he is haunted by his own subconscious-manifested images of his dead wife? (Or IS she??) She keeps showing up to kill people, build sandcastles, look pretty, and then she runs away and again: The shit, I am not giving it.
I want to turn the movie off but I've heard about the ending, I'm hoping for a payoff, so I keep watching.
The rich heir is with Leo and Ellen on a ski slope. Everyone is wearing white. At the bottom of the hill is a fortress. Leo and his wife got lost inside their dreams and couldn't get out. Leo may or may not have killed her, she may or may not actually be dead, either she is stuck in a dream or Leo is, I don't know and I don't care. Leo's wife, Mol, locked something far away inside. So deep, we only see it when she cries at night! Does the dream dream the dreamer? Can the dreamer leave the dream? What is the dream and what is reality? At this point I'm thinking: This movie is more pretentious than that time I started telling everyone how much I loved the Silver Jews and pre-war Vietnamese cinema while sitting in my hot tub woven by African children and orphaned dolphins donating 5 cents for every sip of Cristal I took to a charity that makes sure starving children have access to Eckhart Tolle books.
Watching Inception was like sitting in a room and being shown a rapid series of uninteresting, unrelated images. At once overstimulating and tear-inducingly boring. So the same people frequented some of the images, so what? If you saw a picture of a man on a ski slope with the words "Dead wife, misses his kids, maybe trapped in his own dream" slapped across his chest, would you particularly care? Probably not. We need more than that.
About here, Mr. V and I started slapping our cheeks to stay awake and making wild guesses, attempts at plot or interesting twists, out of boredom.
"I think it's been about Ariadne all along." (Ariadne was Ellen Page's character's name and also the most interesting thing about the film). "We're supposed to think it's about Cog, but really this is all Ariadne's dream," ventured Mr.V.
"I think that would make this better and I wish that was the case, but I don't think that's it. Maybe Ariadne is Mol. She's trying to wake him up."
We didn't really think these were the answers, we were just hoping for something--Anything!--of interest to occur.
So: We have reached the climaxy time of the movie where Leo and the Rich Heir and Ellenadne are on the ski slope, and in a second dream outside of this dream, they are sleeping inside a van that is crashing very slowly off of a bridge. Falling and falling and never landing. Now Joseph Gordon-Levitt is in some other part of a dream where all the characters--Leo, Ellen, Rich Heir, Watanabe,Shapeshifter Guy whose name I don't remember--are suspended weightless in a room. Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) looks at the floating bodies, and is like:
Oh crap! I's has to make them hit something simultaneously to kick them out of the dreaming! But wait--there is no gravity here that I can haz!!
He begins shifting them around. Sorting them. Again and again ad nauseum--image of people in white on white ski slope with intermittent explosions. Image of van falling slowly down by the river. Image of Arthur pushing people around in anti-gravity land.
"This is the most boring thing ever. I feel like I'm watching him sort his mail," said Mr. V.
"I feel like that van that won't crash is the perfect metaphor for this movie which won't end," said I.
We high-fived. We were that bored.
These three scenes go on for so long that all I can think is: Is Leonardo DiCaprio going to come out at the end and give a deep tissue massage to my lady bits? Because that is the only payoff that could possibly make this thing worth it.
After about six hours, Arthur sorts his mail--I mean, the people--into an elevator, where they're floating weightless, and then he floats weightlessly up to the shaft where he cuts the cable--and the elevator plummets.
Because there's always money in the banana stand and There's Always Gravity In The Elevator Shaft.
There was even more pretentious bullshit after that about the rich heir coming to terms with his dying father (who is actually already dead), a moment that I think was supposed to be kind of a big deal where he pulls a paper pinwheel out of a safe, and Leo's wife having "locked something away deep inside" again and we don't care, we do not care, and then finally everyone wakes up on the plane where it all began and they exchange satisfied 'mission accomplished' glances.
"And you were there, and you were there, and YOU were there," I said.
I laughed hysterically because my own stupid jokes were infinitely more entertaining to me than this movie ever was and also by now I'd had two Old Fashioneds guzzled quick out of sheer boredom.
"No," said Mr. V. "I'll give you credit where credit is due, but that was not funny."
"I don't care if you give it, I take it anyway, because no stupid joke of mine has ever been dumber than this suck fest."
We're still waiting for the Big Reveal and here it is: Leo thinks he's pulled it off and now he gets to see his kids (Piped in voices going 'daddy, daddy!') but he might still be in the dream. Or he might not. It's ambiguous and I. Don't. Care.
Apparently people have been asking Christopher Nolan if Leo ever really woke up or not. Seriously?? Why aren't these people asking him to use the proceeds from this movie to develop a time machine that will send everyone who had to watch this bullshit back in time two hours so we can have back that sliver of our precious wasted lives?? That's what I want to ask him. Mr. Nolan, how do you intend to rectify this? Don't say "The Dark Knight" because even that is not enough.
The lesson of the movie is this: Just because you can't understand something doesn't mean it's good. I don't like movies, or any form of media, that don't invite the audience in. I love twists. I love, more than anything, to be surprised. And yes, I love a good, ambiguous, open to interpretation ending. Those are the kinds of endings that worm into your skin, that haunt you, that you carry around for days. But for that to work, you have to care about the characters. You have to care about what is at stake. Something has to resonate. And you have to be able, emotionally and intellectually, to enter in to an exchange with the art. Any asshole can make a movie that doesn't make a lot of sense and resolves nothing at the ending. There's no art in that.
Two of my favorite movies are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Vanilla Sky. They both deal with loosely these same ideas: what is real, what is not, is reality just what we make it. But you care about those characters. You know what is at stake. You are Invited In instead of forced to remain at a distance until the end when some douche-bag director/two-bit magician pulls back the black cloth and expects you to be impressed because he managed not to show you what was behind it all along. Or didn't manage--it was clear the entire time that the whole thing might be a dream.
And, most importantly, both of those movies were fabulously entertaining.
I know a lot of people really liked this movie. Critics gave it many a glowing review. Which forces me to ask: If you saw this thing in the theater, DID Leo actually come out at the end and . . . you know?
Cause that's the only explanation I can imagine.
I am Vesuvius and this was a blog about a movie. OR WAS IT?!?!?!?!?
**Credit for the deep tissue/lady bits joke to Mr.V, who of course worded it differently but INCEPTED the idea in my head. Get it?
Friday, February 25, 2011
I Am A Douche
On a mild Tuesday in November I had a massive, overly dramatic, overly wrought, overly indulgent writerly--'writerly'--breakdown.
I came into the house and pulled the 'manuscript' (read: stack of semi-indulgent, overwrought, overly dramatic, six or seventh draft-edited pages of fiction) out of my Jack Pack (look, I resent that I have to call my lovely green messenger bag my Jack Pack,especially as I don't even watch the show wherein one of the Sutherland men pretends to face the dangers that I faced at work everyday), and I threw in into a drawer.
I can't do it anymore, I whined to Mr. V. I've been working on this thing for two and half years and it isn't working, it's not coming together and I can't look at it another second.
You should take a break, said Mr. V reasonably and I threw my shoe at him, going for 'tortured' and 'bohemian', but really all I got was a confused husband and the suggestion that I make my own damn dinner because now there would be blood in the peas.
I spent a good 6 weeks doing nothing but watching Supernatural. We've discussed it before. It was a bona fide funk. It was ugly. I hid in my room curled up on my bed with my lover laptop and my best friend wine (Please Laptop and Wine, please never leave! I love you! I'll be anything you want me to be and no I don't think we should go out and do stuff, we are so happy right heeeeere!)
Then, some time after Christmas, I began my stumbling ascent. I climbed out of the funk in fits and lurches, and started functioning again: again I was able to carry out conversations, brush my teeth, take interest in something other than the devil ruining the road trip for the brothers.
The beautiful, beautiful brothers. . . with the guns and the gravelly voices and the authority issues. . . hmm? Oh you're still here? Sorry.
I went to Bookstore Job to save the world, but I kept hearing: I want to quit my job to write full time.
It was more than my own little fancy. It was that quiet, deep down voice. I don't know what to call it. Can we call it Hermione? I think she embodies quiet, persistent wisdom. And if there's one thing we know about Hermione, it's that she won't be ignored.
Hermione kept whispering at me to quit my job to write full time, and can I just say that Hermione had never whispered that before? Since I started taking writing seriously, about six years ago, Hermione would sometimes chime in with an image or a bit of dialogue and an occasional--very, very occasional--nudge of encouragement. She would never be like, "You are going to be rich and famous and drinking dollars for breakfast!" but sometimes she would be like, "Writing is good!". You know the Brits, stiff upper lip and all that. I wrote on most Saturday mornings, and sometimes Sunday mornings, and that was enough. Hermione and I were fine. I enjoyed Black Ops, and we needed the income, and I wrote a few hours a week and that was dandy. Hermione wasn't saying crazy things like "Quit your job to make no money!" or "Put on that muumuu and offer to do the Single Ladies dance for your mailman, he will love it!", and it was good.
Now she wouldn't leave me alone. She kept bugging me when I was trying to shelve books and kill terrorists. She nagged me as I washed the dishes and, rather uncomfortably, was fond of appearing while I was in the shower. "Quit your job to write full time or I will tell Dumbledore," she would say. "Stop looking at my nuddy bits you fussy British prat!" I would yell back.
"What?" Mr. V would call from the kitchen. "Who are you talking to in there?"
It was a confusing time.
Look, I told her finally, because she wouldn't shut up. Of course I want to 'write full time'. But 'writing full time' was something I'd always imagined I'd do when I actually became, you know--a writer? A person who wrote and got paid for it. A person with permission from the outside world to take herself seriously. Hermione said pish posh to that, write full time now. And buy some new underpants, what if you had a car accident?
It was time to level with Hermione. So I looked her in the eye and I told her: I can't tell my husband I want to quit my job that pays real money to take up a job that pays no money. I don't make a lot, but my income was paying more than half our rent. We are living paycheck to paycheck here--and I wish Suze Orman would quit yelling at me about that, all accusatory-like, as if it's some sort of shortcoming. I have news for you, Suzy Orman: living paycheck to paycheck isn't easy. It's a friggin accomplishment. Every time I hear Suze excoriating someone for living paycheck to paycheck, as if they have a choice, I want to yell back at her: You spend more in a month on Lady Blazers than I do on groceries for four people. YOU are the one who is doing something wrong.
But I don't yell at her because I hope to one day have a rather handsome Lady Blazer Budget myself.
So what I said to Hermione is this: I cannot possibly tell my husband that I want to quit my job to 'write full time'. I need some help here. Because this just is not something I can ask for.
And that week, Mr. V came home and said these words: I am going to rearrange my schedule and take on a second job so that you can quit your job and have more time to work on your writing.
Obviously, I protested. I told him I couldn't let him do that. What a ridiculous thing to do, quit a real job for a fantasy one. But then Hermione was all like, What the fuh??!? Don't you remember our little conversation over the dirty dishes? Also, I know you're still wearing that underwear you got on clearance in 1997. I am the mouthpiece of the Divine, I am watching you, and I am concerned about your undergarments.
And I realized that I couldn't turn this down.
So that is how it came to pass that last week, I worked my last day at Operation: Bookstore. It was a difficult step to take because it involved doing this thing I was repeatedly instructed not to do as a child: It required me to Take Myself So Seriously. The worst part was, everyone had to SEE me Taking Myself So Seriously, bear witness to my pretentious airs. I had to confess to all my comrades, because I believe in truth, that I was quitting my job to "pursue my writing".
You know who takes themselves so seriously? You know who quits their jobs to "write full time"?
The Douche Kings of the Doucheatrons.
And so I am. A douche.
But comrades, I'm a happy one.
I am Vesuvius and Hermione was wrong about the mailman.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
And that is when it happened.
Hours before, Indy had looked like this:
And now she peeked her head out of her room looking like this:
Full on mullet. Business in the front, party in the back.
I did not keep my cool. I did not do anything at all related to keeping my cool. "Your hair!" I cried. Doing my best Amy March, I went on: "What have you done to your beautiful hair! Your one beauty!"
Ok, I didn't actually call it her 'one beauty'. But I did say the rest.
And then my poor Indy ran back into her room, threw herself across her bed, and began to wail:
"What have I done to my few-full haaaaaaaair? My haaaaaiir?!? I wuined it! It's all my fault!!!"
Which made me feel pretty wretched. So I pulled her out of her room. Ayla was behind me, drawn to the scene like a shark to blood.
"Listen Indy," I said. "This happens to every woman, sooner or later. Every woman has had a bad haircut. I've had one. Ayla's had one."
"Yep," Ayla nodded sagely.
"Now you've had one." And I told her she was beautiful, beautiful, no matter how badly her hair had made mommy alternately laugh and cry.
I texted Mr. V. "Indy gave herself a fricking mullet" I said, although I may or may not have actually used 'fricking'.
He offered to fix it when he got home.
I told him I didn't think she deserved to be punished that badly.
I drove her to Lollilocks and now I think she looks like Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. We are just so hip around here. The important thing is, she loves it. She was pleased to behold herself in the mirror. She jumped out of the polka-dot chair and moved about with a new confidence. She felt she belonged in this haircut, it was clear.
Maybe because it has completed her transformation into mini-Kara Thrace?
Friday, February 11, 2011
"Knock knock," said Ayla.
"Who's there?" said I.
Well that's just good comedy, I thought to myself. The best part was her delivery--clearly that was the punchline. Because if you were, say, shopping for Shake Weights and found yourself suddenly interrupted by diarrhea, would you take the time to say "interrupting diarrhea who?"
It had been a long day. I had walked into Michael's thinking it would be 'easy' and, I don't know, 'cute', to pick up supplies and have the girls make their own Valentine's. I have never been so wrong in my life. We took one step into the store that will eternally smell of fake flowers and wicker and I immediately started crying. Indy was all like "What's wrong?" and "don't cry, mommy", and I told her to stop being such a little brown-noser and give mommy a minute to recover from massive stamp and sticker over-stimulation. Panting, in a cold sweat, I called my sister. In reassuring tones she navigated me through the meelee like this was wartime Saigon and she was on her third tour. She knew the natives, she spoke the language. "Card stock and construction paper are basically the same things," she said, calmly enough to almost make me believe everything was going to be all right, despite all evidence to the contrary. "But it all has flowers on it," I sobbed. "And storks, and soccer balls. Oh god I am too young to die!"
"You are not in enemy territory," she said firmly. "That is just the scrapbooking section."
Well. You coulda fooled me.
After that I dragged my weary soldier to Target because apparently Michael's is too upscale for people like me who don't wish to make our own stickers out of German glitter glue and the blood of the Viet Cong. She is four, and she was tired, so naturally she went for the only option available to her: stamping her foot, screaming, and making the bloody purple monsters dance to their eerie funeral dirge five thousand times. Oh baby you . . . got what I neeeeeeed. I think she must have picked up something about torture methods during our time in the war zone.
We made it out of Target with, I swear to god, two cans of chopped clams, one box of stamps without an ink pad, two cute bags with owls on them that I have little to no use for, and absolutely none of the things for which we had come. We called it a wash. Went to get Ayla.
Went to King Soopers.
Almost made it alive through the store at rush hour. Got to the check out. Kindly gentlemen ringing up my goods. Me, magnanimously distributing quarters and pennies to my own little waifs to entertain them during the wait.
"Mom," Ayla whines. "I have to go potty."
"You're gonna have to wait just a minute. We're almost done."
"Mom," she starts to cry. "I have to go POTTY."
And then she grabs her bottom.
"We're going to have an accident!!" Poor, poor me screams to the kindly checker. I grab my daughter and friends, I ran like a bat out of hell--honestly, Louis Zamperini had nothing on me--my daughter in my arms, a mad dash for the bathroom on the opposite end of the store. "Will you watch my daughter!" I cry over my shoulder to the checker, pointing to my little cowgirl Indy--wearing her pink cowgirl boots, grinning like an idiot, obliviously enjoying her penny pony ride like no one has ever enjoyed that ride before. My wallet hit the floor, coins flew, people stared. I'm pretty sure at one point an old woman pushing a baby carriage pulled out of my way in the slickest nick of time. I elbowed and leapt and beat people back the way my teenage self once did trying to get front row seating at an O-Town concert. If you were there, I truly do apologize for those things that I shouted. Please interpret them in the kindest possible way.
The women's room is closed.
"Hello!" I yell, and dash into the men's.
Empty. Good things do happen.
Ayla is flustered. Teary. Probably a little embarrassed and a lot terrified. I situate her so she can see to her business. She's drawing in quick little breaths, chewing her bottom lip. I take a deep breath. She looks like she might cry.
"Ayla?" I say softly.
"Yeah?" her little voice wobbly.
". . . Knock knock."
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Then we drank some coffee and I read him and all my other co-workers their Chinese horoscopes. The bad guys called in sick due to the cold. So nobody needed saving.
Did you know that in Chinese astrology, I am a Metal Cock? Look, it had to be said.
Mid-morning at Mission: Bookstore, an 86-year-old almost-deaf woman from Baton Rogue, Louisianna cursed at me on the phone and made me frustrated enough to snap back at her 86-year-old self.
Tonight, I will eat pizza and drink beer with Mio Marito before we take in the brassy folk-rock stylings of The Decemberists.
But right now, I have to go wash some frosting out of my hair.
I am Vesuvius and it really did need to be said.
Monday, February 7, 2011
Winter of Love
My one true love had to work on Saturday. I was up at 4:30am and came down with a cold. The girls and I did something that I wanted to tell you about but now I can't remember what.
On Sunday we had a conversation in which Mr. V said he doesn't understand the urge to post anything on Facebook, ever. The mood, it never strikes him. I told him I turn to Facebook when I'm feeling lonely or bored--stay-at-home mom hours, they are endless and lonsome. Reaching out for interaction like I do with this blog. Then I told him I felt facebragging was uncouth and he told me I was a snob. I told him it was very uncouth to call people names and he said 'uncouth' is a word full of snobbery.
In other news, I have this theory that most couples deserve each other.
Take that as you will.
I always say the third day without sun makes me start to panic and fear it will never return. We are going on what, six days? I went to the Walgreen's with my hair in curlers and stocked up on rock salt and Tylenol pm. Look, it seemed pertinent at the time. I hear the sun's not back tomorrow and I fear to think what I might do. I have a feeling it involves sobbing and chocolates and matriarchal tyranny. Winter is that torture machine from the Princess Bride and I am Wesley. I am broken. Where is my Fezzig? Wherefore my Inigo? When will they come with their rhymes and elaborate turns of phrase to put me in a cart and haul me to Florida?
Listen: on day seven of snow, when the sun still won't shine, you will realize yourself in dire need of salt and sleep meds to survive this snowpocalypse. You will drive to my sad little shack up in Longmont because you'll remember what I told you about the screaming in the Walgreen's. The yard will be empty, the swing covered in snow. You will knock on my door and find it pushes open beneath your palm.
I will have packed up my loves and followed that sun. We will be sleeping in some place scented of coconut and rum, of citrus and sea. I'm not here.
Help yourself to the rock salt.
I am Vesuvius and I warned you going in to this.