Wednesday, April 27, 2016

one of those what-does-it-all-mean kind of things

The last recap was Day 942 - what we got here is a little game of show and tell. Today is Day 1000. So, how about a quick reminder of where we've been lately.

Day 943 - the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth took Murder in the First as its jumping off point, ended the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon month and was maybe the thematic end to this blog because that's where every movie was every other movie and the message was on repeat.

Day 944 - i'm going out to punxsutawney was a thing I wrote for class about my pilgrimage to Woodstock, Illinois and meeting Danny Rubin, and Danny Rubin later sent me a lovely message about it on Facebook.

Then I drifted.

  • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them 945 946 947
  • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him 948 949 950
  • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her 951 952 953
  • The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them 954 955

  • Antichrist 956

  • Everybody Wants Some 988

  • Punch-Drunk Love 989 990
  • Lars and the Real Girl 991

And, I've been stuck on High Fidelity (992 993 994 995 996 997 998 999) every since.

And, the daily thing has gotten... Not old exactly. But repetitive. And sure, that was the point. But, I want something new. I want the time loop to end.

I've done great things here. I was reading through my six entries (836 837 838 839 840 841) about Ex Machina this evening, for example, and those are some surprisingly complex and complicated pieces about that film, about gender, about society's programming. I'm toying with submitting one or two of those, reworked a little, as a paper for a conference about film. I would love, especially to do that breakdown of the dressing scenes as a presentation with slideshow... Like Roger Ebert's thing he used to do at the Conference on World Affairs, taking a single film and breaking it down with an audience, scene by scene, frame by frame if necessary.

(Wondering if I could do something like that on YouTube [I eventually did that with a different scene--

--]or if that would necessitate too much of the movie and thus violate copyright. [It did, but not so much that it got taken down.])

High Fidelity is playing one more time, by the way. Not Groundhog Day, though I had considered it; Day 1000 is a big deal, especially when it means the end of phase three, the end of the Groundhog Day Project. I thought it actually made more sense not to watch Groundhog Day today, to leave this month incomplete, to end on an almost aimless resumption of High Fidelity. Nine days of this movie, which means it becomes second in this blog next to Groundhog Day. Phase two was all about seven days with a given film. I liked the idea of ending on this weird note, taking this film too far...

Especially when I have very little to say about High Fidelity itself today. Just two things, in fact, something like punctum. Two moments I love. 1) When Rob gets off the phone with Laura and tells Barry that Laura's dad died, Barry has this amazingly heartless response--"Oh, drag." Then, not much later, Laura has just asked Rob to have sex with her, because she wants to feel something. The alternative is that he put cigarettes out on her, and Rob says no to that option because he doesn't have that many cigarettes left and he's saving them. Real moments in the lives of assholes and smartasses.

(That's a good title for... something. A reality TV show? A YouTube channel? A podcast? I don't know.)






Where was I?

The great things. I like my Best Picture/#OscarsSoWhite/Oscars Voting octalogy (900 901 902 903 904 905 906 907). I like my review of The Danish Girl. I thought I made some great posts last July (I won't link to all of them). My deconstruction of the Western last June (again, I won't link to all of them [ but this entry has all those links (including the July stuff].) was pretty fun. So much of this blog has been fun, offering up excuses to rant about whatever, to talk about movies, to use movies as reasons to rant about whatever, and sometimes just to vent because some days, this was the only outlet I had.

According to my master's thesis--draft submitted to my committee today--I have manipulated my presentation of self on this blog to create a public persona. That public persona was kind of a dick sometimes. I mean, look at how I picked apart Benesh (2011) back in phase one (I'll put Benesh as a label at the bottom of this post so you can click and see how I picked apart her dissertation, literally, page by page).

So, I am going to stop. This particular format has served its purpose. I may still livetweet movies. I will definitely review movies over at my other blog from time to time. And, with this out of my system, I intend to move forward on something else--I've got some ideas and now I will have to turn them into something. When something new begins, I will post here about it. [Actually, I didn't like the idea of a post 1001, so there is this edit to link to what I'm trying now: a YouTube thing called After the Film.] A bookend.

For now, I don't feel like offering up great quotes like I did on Day 365. If you want to read about identity, look through last May. If you want to read about musicals, look at last February. If you want to know about the Cold War and American hegemony, look at last January.

Slasher films? October 2014.

These entries are labeled so they can be found easily enough. Just google it. (Include "groundhog day project".) Or find me on Twitter or Facebook and ask.

In the meantime, there's this bit in Julie & Julia (the book, not the movie)--Julie's husband tells her she can "just decide to stop" cooking the recipes from Julia Child's book and blogging about it.

(Note for those who haven't been paying attention, my own year of Groundhog Day was partly inspired by Lawrence Dai's Lawrence/Julie & Julia which was partly inspired by Julie & Julia.)

Julie's response to her husband? "No! Don't you get it? This is all I've got. There are people out there, reading. I can't just fucking STOP!" Later she insists, " My readers need me!"

The thing is, you don't need me. But, if you miss me, I'm available. This is the internet, after all. I'll be around.

For now, though...






Once again, it is time to wrap this production. I wish you all well. I thank you for stopping by and reading the things I had to say. I am proud of what I have done here.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to not watch any movies, to not write any words, to just be.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

what's the name of your label?

"Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I've ever known." - Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

Today I mostly finished a draft of my thesis. Gotta add a couple things tomorrow, check some formatting, then hand it off to my committee for comments. Officially, I turn it in in two weeks. Defend it a couple weeks after that.

So, today, I was writing about how a blogger can deliberately manipulate their public identity, become the words. High Fidelity, which is really just a placeholder as I get to tomorrow--Day 1000 as well as the end of the main part of my thesis writing. It's a big day.

I imagine my world without this blog and me not being a blogger. I think about labels. Online, I can label myself whatever I would like to label myself. I can play the information game and control what you know about me. I can do my research to talk about a film thoroughly, make myself look like I know what I'm talking about even when I don't. And, when I'm going out on a limb with some strange interpretation, I don't seem so crazy because, damn it, I've written hundreds of blogs, averaging well over a thousand words each, about movies. Whether I knew something about movies when I began, it's hard to argue that I don't know something about them now, even if just from watching them again and again and again.

Seriously, watch any movie enough times and you will understand something about movies, about what they mean, about how they're made, about the choices actors make, the choices directors make, the choices cinematographers make, the choices screenwriters make, the choices makeup people, costumers, set designers, whoever make. It becomes a language for you even if you don't know the "proper" terminology that, say, film students use. For example, pick any of Roger Ebert's reviews and you're more likely to see a down home story about his childhood going to see movies than some technical terms about filmmaking. It's about what movies mean, how they feel. The technical stuff matters, but only inasmuch as it helps the meaning be conveyed.

Same thing in this blog. The formatting, my sentence structure, how many words I spend (and I spend too many)--that stuff is not that important as long as I can get across what I'm trying to get across. And, the big message of the Groundhog Day Project has become that line that's on the Facebook page banner right now: "Our lives can be measured in movies and moves can be measured in our lives, and profound and profane depths can be found in the intersection thereof." But, there's more. Pet topics like identity--a big part of my thesis, a big part of Groundhog Day, a big part of High Fidelity--and self-improvement--again, a big part of my thesis, a big part of Groundhog Day, a big part of High Fidelity. And how many other movies I've watched for this blog? Find yourself. Be yourself. And, that self better be someone better than the asshole you were before. All these movies have characters just trying to get by, trying to be better, to have better, to find themselves and find friends or lovers who will put up with them.

Skip past the obvious movies like Hedwig or Into the Wild, how about Home Alone? A coming-of-age story that ends on the note that a caring mother is still a damn good thing to have in your life, even if you can fend off a couple of thieves and not get caught... well, home alone.

Or The Legend of Billie Jean--all about growing up and finding your voice, and using the voice to improve the world.

Or Mad Max: Fury Road, and I mean Max's side of the story--he doesn't get involved because it's the right thing to do. He gets involved because in a mad world having a cause means you're alive. Cause individuates.

Be a Jet or a Shark or be above that. Go to Lacuna and get yourself a fresh start only to do the same stuff all over again because the same stuff all over again can be the most fun stuff in the world sometimes. Fend off wolves until the end of your world. Build a house to cap off your life. Hunt down your family roots. Find love. Rinse. Repeat.

Go back to February, my Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon month, and you'll see movies that have no reason to be near each other bumping up into this... thing, this idea that every movie is every other movie and they're all just about us. If nothing else, their existence tells us something about us because we are the audience.

Pet topics like gender roles or race or how you fucking get your shit together and figure out how to be. These all roll together and roll together and the blog becomes the same resumption as the time loop in Groundhog Day. Rob Gordon is forever obsessing about his top five breakups. Hedwig Robinson is always singing about the origin of love. Kevin McCallister is always being left alone. Joel Barish and Clementine Kruczynski are always erasing each other and starting again. Phil Connors is always learning to play the piano. It's all on this constant repeat in my head and here in the hyperlinks at the side of this blog.

999 days. 1 film, 999 films. It's all the same. And, you need to get out more, get in more, get off more.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: no reason but to give every damn imaginable thing a try. Twice.

Monday, April 25, 2016

top five songs about death

Rob Gordon lives in Apartment 2B. I don't know if that's from the book--I can't be bothered to check--or if it's even on purpose. But, I noticed it and noticeable things matter. Echoes of "to be or not to be" or maybe I'm reaching. But, in a story about a guy trying to figure out who he is, it makes sense. A corny, on-the-nose sort of sense.

And then there's the deus ex machina of Laura's dad dying, without even the setup of him being sick. (The script tries to cheat by mentioning that her dad never knew she and Rob broke up because he "wasn't up to it.") Kinda ruins the movie the more I watch it. I mean, it was a lame bit of plotting in the first place. But, it gets more offensive with each viewing. But, I keep viewing anyway, because...

(And, really, he just compared Charlie to 'Nam? That's gotta be offensive to someone.)

Seriously, what is Rob's problem? You don't own the every woman who's kissed you. Sex isn't some permanent body modification that means you're one indivisible beast with two bodies. But, we're stuck with him for the length of the film. He's the protagonist so we have to listen to him make excuses for being an asshole. And, he takes his damn time doing the Phil Connors thing, bettering himself. Hell, given the whole thing with the reporter and making her a tape, Rob is still just Rob a little too damn close to the end of the movie. But, then, he's got that big speech. He and Laura are already back together, and he tells her,

That other girl, or other women, whatever--

And, I've got to interrupt him already, because that distinction between girl and woman is important when you're a misogynist. But, let's let Rob keep talking.

I mean, I was thinking that they're just fantasies. You know? And they always seem really great because there's never any problems. And if there are, they're cute problems like, you know, we bought each other the same Christmas present--

Seriously, he's fantasizing about what Christmas presents he and this hypothetical other woman are buying each other, but this speech is supposed to make up for that? Rob continues:

--or she wants to go see a movie that I've already seen, you know?--

Unless it sucks, see it again, you daft fool. And, if it sucks, want her away or, given the thing about interests the other day, move the fuck on. Don't offer the situation up to your current girlfriend who only took you back because she was too exhausted by life to not. Rob continues:

And then I come home, and you and I have real problems... and you don't even want to see the movie I want to see, period.

On this one, I'm leaning toward Rob's side of things. Rob continues:

There's no lingerie--

And, Laura interrupts to insist she's got lingerie, because that's the detail that matters here. Not that Rob is fantasizing about Christmas gifts and movie outings with other women, no. Rob continues:

Yes, you do. You have great lingerie, but you also have the cotton underwear that's been washed a thousand times, and it's hanging on the thing and--

Gotta interrupt one more time before Rob starts digging himself out of his hole. And, to point out that in the flashback in which Rob and Laura are listening to Ian having sex with someone upstairs, Laura is reading Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maass. That would be a bit too on-the-nose if it weren't actually a book about war. Instead, it's just on-the-nose. Rob's complaining about underwear, as if his is so great. This is more of the same patriarchal bullshit that comprises so much of Rob's problems--he expects women to be these perfect objects wear the perfect clothes, especially the perfect underwear, and give up their bodies for sex anytime he wants it. Like women's bodies only matter when they're wrapped up in finery, presented like a gift to man. But, let's let Rob do some digging.

--and they have it too! It's just that I don't have to see it because it's not in the fantasy.

Pretty good. Almost as if he has realized that women might be humans beings even when he isn't making them mix tapes or talking them into bed (and I'm not sure those two actions are too far removed from one another for Rob). Rob continues:

Do you understand? I'm tired of the fantasy--

Cusack really sells that tired line. Of course, it's a short trip from the mopey, angry, whiny bastard he's been through most of the film to a guy exhausted by his own horribleness. He continues:

--because it doesn't really exist. And there are never really any surprises, and it never really...

Laura offers, "Delivers?" Rob responds:

Delivers. Right. And, I'm tired of it. And, I'm tired of everything else, for that matter.

To sleep, perchance to dream, anyone? Rob's piéce de résistance:

But, I don't ever seem to get tired of you.

That's good. That's the kind of line that will get Laura right back into your bed, again. Except, the movie (and presumably Hornby's novel, but who remembers?) is careful to have already reunited Ro and Laura by the power of dead dad ex machina.

Rob's undiscovered country may be women with lives and interests of their own, but I think he'd rather just talk about country matters if it weren't so damn exhausting.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

because i'm in a position to invent him

I was writing today about the choices we make as bloggers. Or, as people on the internet more generally. Papacharissi (2009) Calls it an "information game."

But for the moment I cannot talk about that. I've been stuck on High Fidelity because I find a bit too much of myself in Rob Gordon (John Cusack). Tonight, I'm checking out the deleted scenes before I get into the film proper, and I just watched one that surprised me because who else plays Rob's father but Harold Ramis.

And, I'm done.

I mean, to loop back around like that. Andie MacDowell's real first name is Rosalie (my mother's name) and now Harold Ramis is playing the father of a guy named Rob (my name, you inattentive passerby). Everything loops back to Groundhog Day, eventually. Every movie is every other movie. I intended to talk about white male privilege today, I want to talk about punctum, but here I am talking about links back to Groundhog Day because every blog entry is the same, every bit of writing the same. There's no presentation of self, just some deluded exercise in revelation, because I've got the time. Like Rob talking now about that afternoon of his first breakup--"All my romantic stories are a scrambled version of that first one." I would guess that's true for everyone. First time with anything becomes the yardstick by which we measure all future instances of anything similar. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. Like eternal recurrence or the Groundhog Day effect or just the simple fact that every day you have to wake up and be who you were yesterday. Because what else are you going to do?






I'm reminded of that "magic" scene in Chaplin--what a lovely concept, that one might come happen a new persona on the spot and just become. Like change could happen in a single moment... When you want it to, I mean. So many bad changes happen suddenly. Or at least we experience bad changes suddenly. A breakup, being fired... whatever. Catches us by surprise.

When we should have damn well expected it.

But, we get stuck on the good. Stuck in the... What's the opposite of a rut?

Coasting on a daydream
Limited only by our imagination
And our expectation
And nothing can yank us out of the clouds

Nothing but pain and heartbreak
Loneliness and disillusion
Because no silver lining is forever
Except for when it (still) is






What information do I have left?


Papcharissi, Z. (2002). The presentation of self in virtual life: characteristics of personal home pages. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 7(3), 643-660.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

books, records, films—these things matter

At one point in High Fidelity, Rob says "that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like." On the one hand, I think it's both. On the other hand, yeah, I regularly measure people based on what they like.

Do they like the same movies as me? (So many.) Do they watch the same TV shows as me? (Again, so many. The highbrow HBO or Netflix originals and the nerd-friendly CW shows. And, I totally understand if you don't like Banshee because a) you haven't even heard of it or, b) you can't handle the brutality of the violence.) Listen to the same music?

(Actually, music isn't such a big deal for me. I'm not a one-type-of-music person, though I do obsess about one type at any given time, for sure. I don't need someone else to like what I like, though if you've got a thing for musicals and the occasional heavy metal, the occasional folk rock, we might get along.)

Read the same books?

(Again, not the most important thing. I mean, I absolutely loved Mark Danielewski's House of Leaves, mostly for what Danielewski's did with the format than because it's the greatest story ever told. It's story is actually pretty basic. Thing is, I don't need someone else to love that book. Hell, since I've never been the fastest of readers, I wouldn't want to have to read a book for someone else so I shouldn't ask someone to read a book for me. For the record, a few of my favorites are The Poisonwood Bible, Replay, I Know This Much Is True, Speaker for the Dead, Lolita, Into the Great Wide Open, My Ishmael, Animal Farm and A Language Older then Words. (That last one isn't a novel, by the way.))

The same comic books? Hell, do they read comic books at all? I don't read a lot of them anymore, but I used to. Had a weekly pull list at my regular comic book store and everything. These days, I only read a few, and I read them on my phone.

(For the record, some of my favorites have been Sandman, Preacher, the MAX run of The Punisher, Strangers in Paradise, Stray Bullets, Concrete, Moonshadow, Daytripper, The Invisibles, Watchmen, From Hell, The Maxx... Actually, I've been rereading that one on my phone as it becomes available one issue at a time. I also read Saga, Ms. Marvel and Darth Vader, and I try out other stuff from time to time.)

Same with book books, actually. Novels, I mean. In recent going-to-college years, I haven't had much time for novels and a few of the ones I've read, like the A Song of Ice and Fire series, were ebooks.

(This week, I've not had time to get to an entire book written about High Fidelity, by the way way. I mean, I read the novel before the movie came out in 2000, but the book--Narcissism in High Fidelity--it's on google books and I've got it bookmarked but haven't had time to really look at it. Been working on my thesis every day, looking to have a draft done this week.)

Does she like to play games? Is he into politics and all the latest controversial bullshit debates that are blowing up on social media? Is he into communication stuff or grad school? How about forensics? Or whatever the hell else I'm interested in. Like I'm looking for an extension of myself in another person, a friend, a lover, whatever. But, it is supposed to be like that? Or is it about finding someone whose interests complement mine? Outside of movies, that would be cool, I suppose.

But, movies?

I think I need someone--a friend if not a romantic interest--who sees movies often, who is interested in the Oscars, interested in the good movies and the fun movies. Like today, I saw The Huntsman: Winter's War, mostly because it was the only movie at the local theater I hadn't seen (of the ones I might see) and I wanted to get away from the computer after finishing another chapter of my thesis. I didn't expect a great film, I knew it would look nice, like its predecessor, nice costumes, nice CGI and a nice fantasy adventure plot, generic but fun. And, that was exactly what I got. I need someone who would want to watch that, or a bad horror film (and maybe livetweet about it), and who would go to Arclight in Hollywood with me to see the limited release Oscar hopeful, or who would head across LA to catch the last few Oscar-nominated films. I imagine doing that stuff and not being alone and... It makes me sad, actually. That I don't have that. When we were together, my wife went for some of that but not all of it.

The third time I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens was with friends from school, and that was nice. But, they aren't really movies-every-weekend kind of people. I need some movies-every-weekend kind of people in my life.






This stuff matters.

I mean, if a person doesn't like my favorite movie, that's important. I mean, why not? What's wrong with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you unfeeling jerk? What's wrong with Zero Effect, or better yet why haven't you seen it, you heathen? What's wrong with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? Or Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Or The Grey, Drive, Fight Club, Ex Machina... Groundhog Day...

Friday, April 22, 2016

you shit on the people who know less than you

I've got a theory, one minor part of my master's thesis, that among other things I do in this blog, I reference my knowledge of and experience with other films in order to 1) yeah, increase my credibility when talking about film, 2) obviously, to make my points using basic comparison and contrast, but maybe most importantly, 3) to manipulate the reader into thinking I know what I'm talking about, whether or not I actually do. Admittedly, that's just another way of saying #1, but the thing is, there's a certain clout to just having this blog, maintaining it for hundreds of days, watching movies day in and day out, that suggests to the casual reader that I must know something. #3 is supposed to be a negative version of #1. Like, yeah, I've got plenty of film knowledge, I've seen thousands of films, gotta brag about that from time to time, but I'm still just some blogger, a bit too full of myself sometimes, desperate for attention yet often actively avoiding it.

I offer up specific theater experience (always having to check for the details because I could never organize my movies like Rob Gordon in High Fidelity can organize his albums autobiographically. Not all of them anyway. Coming back to an old reference to another Nick Hornby story--Fever Pitch--I could use movies to tell my life story. Hell I've done it in this blog more than once. You can check out my childhood with Rambo: First Blood Part II, for example. If I ever got around to watching Judge Dredd for this blog, I could share how that Cure song over the end credits really worked for my back in 1995 when I was working at the UA Marketplace theatre in Old Town Pasadena. Or, if I ever watched Valentine or The Mummy Returns, I could talk about how I only saw two movies (those two) in the theater in the three months that I lived in Arkansas and saw none in the two months I lived in Tennessee. Movies, I think, are one of the California things, the Southern California things, the LA things stuck in my blood from living here for the rest of my four decades.

(For the record, the weekend High Fidelity came out, it was #4 at the box office. I saw it that weekend. I had just read the book. And, I think I could relate even more to Rob Gordon back then than I can now because I was in a serious funk, activating my long-term depression, after my first romantic relationship had ended. Erin Brockovich was #1 in its third week, and I had seen that its opening weekend (at the underground). American Beauty was still in theatres, its 29th week, and it was #6. I'd seen that one a good 28 weeks earlier. The first Final Destination was #7 in its third week. I assume I saw both that and Erin Brockovich that weekend two weeks earlier. Movies still worked for me--that old escapism thing. The previous summer was recordsetting for me, mostly because I had a crush on a girl who worked at the diner next to the underground.)

And, what does that parenthetical really add to a discussion of movies? I mean, if you're just like me, you can relate, you can know you're not a total lunatic. But otherwise... What about the reader who gets here by chance, a google search for High Fidelity, maybe looking for a review, but I, of course, don't write reviews.

Which is just another bullshit line I use so that I can ramble about whatever I want. I write reviews sometimes. I write pretty damn good reviews. Like my review here in this blog of The Danish Girl, or my review in my other, less regular blog, of Whiplash or Inside Out. I mean, compare that last one to when I talked about Inside Out here in this blog. It's different. And, I could probably benefit from restricting my approach to reviews, give myself a leash, a straitjacket. Rein myself in so I don't just ramble about whatever the fuck I want to that day with the surface excuse that it is somehow related to the film I happen to have chosen to watch.

Oh, and this is me cheating:

(And, if I quote any of this entry in my master's thesis, the funny thing is that I will also quote that line just now about cheating. Autoethnography is fun.)

I've spent 995 days now (minus the few entries that rather sucked because I was sick or exhausted or busy or had nothing exciting to say) using this blog for therapy, for disguised exhibitionism, to be a braggart and a know-it-all, and as it went to maybe figure out a way to do something fun like this for a living. And, I never did that last one very well. It was just Rob Gordon wanting to be an architect. (Not that the dream has died, just that I've never been good at dreams.)

See, blogging in the age when everyone is online in some way, and you've got, as I call them in my thesis, "140-character bon mots" on Twitter, for example, to compete with, is a strange beast. On the one hand, you've got as many words as you want, plus images, videos, whatever, and the topic is anything and everything, and all of it is twisted up in you. On the other hand, the more words you write in your blog, the less readership you can expect, and that gets all twisted up inside you as well. Twisted up like Scrooge's "undigested bit of beef."

(An aside, because I just noticed it. I talked about when Dick meets Anaugh yesterday and I just noticed the specific visual that lines up next to this fresh new couple: Rob is serving a customer and that customer is a blonde in a leather jacket, just like Laura that night Rob first met her. The contrast seems deliberate but it's so brief as to go unnoticed.)

Blogging ends up being this strange combination of metanarrative (like a journal or diary) and public exhibition. A place to exorcise personal demons and re-create your self. For the casual reader, and even some of the regulars, I am just who I say I am. If I avoided entries like this one that get into real detail about the real me, then I could be whoever I want to be. At least online. And, nowadays, online can be everything.

And, I use this space to talk about movies because 1) movies deserve to be talked about, 2) life can be measured in movies and movies in life (the Groundhog Day Project motto), and 3) I like thinking of myself as someone who knows about that kind of thing. It's selfish even when I try to make it selfless.

See, I'd like to make you a blog. One in which I don't pick the movies, I don't pick the themes. I pick the movies that would make you happy. I pick the discussion topics that would make you happy.






But, there are so damn many of you.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

i don't want to take sides

Film School Rejects offers up five reasons High Fidelity is still culturally relevant.

(In 2014, mind you, but I find the implication that a movie from 2000 wouldn't still be relevant a little odd.)

Their #1 is what they call the--and I'm not sure this is a word--listiclization of everything. Two years past their piece, how many clickbait articles offer up top ten reasons for such and such or the top 18 excuses for whatever, you won't believe what #14 is.

(Meanwhile, teenage Rob is admittedly a jerk: "I wasn't interested in Penny's nice qualities. Just breasts.")

Their #2 is about vinyl, and yeah, hipsters totally want vinyl to stick around. Their #3--the rise of DIY creativity--which, yeah, YouTube and Vine and every other online platform for Joe Schmo to be famous. Their #5 (which doesn't get numbered in the piece--and yeah, I realize I skipped #4, bear with me) is your preferences are still bullshit. Political debates about Trump mixing up 9/11 and 7-11 or Hillary's hot sauce or whether or not Ted Cruz was a) the Zodiac Killer or b) on Maury; or racial like response to the recent announcement that Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill; or pop cultural like responses to Batman v Superman or #OscarsSoWhite. No topic is too big or too small for any random person on Facebook to chime in. Hell, I'm one of 'em. "Hoe can it be bullshit to state a preference?" Rob asks Barry. On the Internet, it just is.

And, of course, there's Film School Rejects' #4 - male entitlement and self-involvement lives on. And, I'll just give you the whole thing:

Given the wave of misogyny manifesting itself in the celebrity nude photo leaks, GamerGate, and Jian Ghomeshi scandal in Canada, and more, it's hard not to see High Fidelity's Rob--fair or not--in a different light. His bitter fourth-wall breakers about his exes recall the petulant anger of Zoe Quinn's blogging ex. His "What's wrong with me?" Whining sounds like it comes straight from the "Nice Guy" playbook.

Yes, Rob admits that he's an asshole (though he winds up mansplaining it away a bit), and yes, much of his behavior is played for comedy or mild (at best) condemnation, but it's still hard to not let his male entitlement rub you a little bit the wrong way in our current cultural climate.

Which, I will just say, is the fucking point. Nevermind the "current cultural climate" or the cultural climate in 2000 or the 90s or the 80s or the 70s or when the fuck ever, it's played for comedy because no one wants to watch a movie about an asshole being an asshole and not get some joy out of it. Rob Gordon is an asshole. Even when he's cognizant of it, he continues his assholery. Even when he gets back together with Laura after a movie's worth of obsessing about what's wrong with him or not wrong with him, he flirts with the reporter and offers to make her a tape. Rob is not supposed to be taken as an ideal, or even necessarily a good guy, but we're stuck with him for the course of Nick Hornby's novel and for the length of this movie, and we should spend time (as readers or movieviewers) with horrible people because it's good for us. You gotta spend time with bad people or around things you don't like. If nothing else, it offers some perspective.

Or maybe I just like bad characters.

Lauren Duca at Huffington Post, last year, wrote a whole piece about Rob. She called the character the "one part [of the film] that feels dated." She quotes that second paragraph from Film School Rejects' #4 then she sums up Rob as follows:

Rob spends the majority of the film moping around because women don't want to have sex with him.

Except, that one isn't true. Aside from Rob's obvious ability to get women to have sex with him--notably just in the present of the film, there's Marie de Salle (Lisa Bonet). The only girl in the film who he specifically laments won't have sex with him is Penny Hardwick (Joelle Carter), and that is specifically hormonal teenager Rob and is not supposed to be representative of present Rob...

To be fair, Rob is kind of an asshole in a whole other way after he meets with Penny in the present. She points out that he rejected her and he celebrates that fact because that means she doesn't belong on his top five break up list.

Duca continues:

He cites his No. 1 worst break-up as watching a girl in middle school kiss another guy after she had kissed him. At age 35, he sees all the other failed relationships as casually tied to that pubescent experience.

Not quite. Alison Ashmore is only listed as #1 because he goes in chronological order. And, who doesn't compare all of their relationships to the first one? But, more importantly, the film never suggests that Rob's (and Barry's and Dick's) list-making is a good thing. Boiling everything down to favorites or bests or worst song. Everything becomes an abstract. Including Alison, Penny, Jackie, Charlie, Sarah, and Laura.

Duca continues:

In recounting his top-five worst heartbreaks, Rob acts like he has been denied some inherent right to the bodies of all the women he has dated (and can apparently only relieve the resulting self-loathing by searching for the reasons they wouldn't sleep with him).

Here Duca references the Penny Hardwick thing, Rob celebrating after she compares her sex with her next boyfriend to rape. Nevermind that Rob's real assholeness is that he is so self-absorbed that he presumably doesn't even hear that part. I'm not denying that Rob is an asshole. In fact, that is my point. But, to suggest that Rob as a character is dated suggests to me 1) that men aren't assholes anymore, which is clearly not possible, 2) that we can't or shouldn't have asshole characters anymore, which would put such a limit on storytelling that it's ridiculous and 3) that the film didn't want to us to think him an asshole in the first place and his assholeness is neither caught up in the time and place of Chicago, 2000 (hell, the book is set in London). The problem is not that Rob thinks he has an "inherent right to the bodies of all the women he has dated" it is that Rob is not mature enough to separate out sex and love and so he obsesses about sex with Penny and with Laura and about whether or not Laura has had sex with Ian yet. Sex is where he sees love and love is where he sees sex. And, oddly enough, having sex with Marie helps him start to get past that.

(The order of events might have worked better if he had sex with Marie after the phone call in the rain, so Rob's progression from asshole to recovering asshole was a little more linear, but life isn't linear. We don't recover from our bad choices without lapses. Not always. Hell, for dramatic purposes, linear would be boring here.)

Duca talks about a conversation she has with director Stephen Frears. She asks him, "Did you include any of those plot elements as a means of satirizing male entitlement?" Frears responded, "We didn't have words like 'male entitlement' back then! ... Don't you know men like that? That's what life is like. There are a lot of awful men like that." Awful men. Whether you think it needs to be satire or explicit commentary on it or not, Frears thinks Rob is awful and so does the film or we wouldn't see Penny distraught as he leaves her on the steps of her house, we wouldn't see Sarah looking like she wants to call Rob back as he's walking away from her apartment. We wouldn't see Dick and Anaugh getting together... But I get ahead of myself.

Three things in the film matter in regards to this discussion. 1) As Rob leave's Sarah's (Lili Taylor) place, he tells us, "I could have wound up having sex back there. And what better way to exorcise rejection demons then to screw the person who rejected you, right?" I must admit Rob might only have been glad to leave Sarah behind because of how her life isn't going so great in the present, but he adds, "But, you wouldn't be sleeping with a person. You'd be sleeping with a whole, sad, single-person culture." The problem is not that Rob obsesses about the women he's been with, the women who have rejected him, it is that Rob's whole life is wound up so tightly in two things--music and his romantic relationships. And right from the opening dialogue, he has tied together those two things. That's the kind of guy he is--he overthinks his relationships, comes up with ways to move past his guilt at rejecting or his pain at being rejected and he gets on with his life. 2) Dick (Todd Louiso) and Anaugh (Sara Gilbert) offer up something more genuine, and while Barry jokes about it, Rob takes a moment to watch them together out on the street. This is the film making us compare, and letting us know that he is comparing, Rob's relationships to this budding one. This is a guy who mythologizes one of his exes--Charlie (Catherine Zeta-Jones)--as if she's not even human. And, here he gets to see genuine human interaction. And, we've already seen Dick and Anaugh's prior interactions talking about music. The movie knows that Rob's not good at relationships. That's the point. The key is, at the point that he spies on Dick and Anaugh, he's starting to learn, which brings us to 3) his final dialogue about making a compilation tape. He explains the basics then he says, "I've started to make a tape... in my head... for Laura." And, here's the key: "Full of stuff she likes. Full of stuff that makes her happy. For the first time I can sort of see how that is done."






Or maybe I'm the asshole, now. Mansplaining High Fidelity as if it isn't obvious that Rob is horrible and the point of the film is his obsessions bringing him around to that realization. Hell, maybe that's what I've been doing for 994 days now, offering up unsolicited opinions because I can.