Sunday, April 26, 2009

SIZING-DOWN MY NEED TO SIZE-UP THE WRESTLER


myles gave me a deadline for this review of THE WRESTLER. we agreed that i would have something posted, even if unpolished, for our three person audience by sunday evening. i watched THE WRESTLER on friday afternoon, and i've spent the whole weekend since trying to digest it, trying to make something simple enough of it to write about in sentences and, Lord willing, paragraphs. maybe it's the closet english teacher in me that wants to whittle down something grandiose, like a film or a novel or an entire genre (by the way, i hate the concept of genres), into tiny bite-size morsels, even though my own experience of each of these may exceed sensation or language or interpretive capacity. sometimes art utterly melts me.

with myles' deadline in sight, and still trying to whittle down THE WRESTLER into something manageable and neat, flannery o'connor put me in my place. sitting here reading her essay "The Nature and Aim of Fiction," from the book Mystery and Manners, i came across the following paragraph:

People have a habit of saying, "What is the theme of your story?" and they expect you to give them a statement: "The theme of my story is the economic pressure of the machine on the middle class" - or some such absurdity. And when they've got a statement like that, they go off happy and feel it is no longer necessary to read the story. 

the last thing i want is to give any reader or friend any possible reason not to watch THE WRESTLER. however, i realized upon reading the paragraph above that i've been flipping through a small stack of absurd themes from the film. here's a few that i found myself entertaining:

THE WRESTLER is about . . . . 
. . . . . one man's quest and struggle with identity.
. . . . . where we find true love and what we do with it.
. . . . . two people who depend on bodies that no longer work for them.
. . . . . making peace with our past in the present to ensure the future. (that really sounds absurd).
. . . . . the horrors of loneliness and where it takes us.
. . . . . staple guns and heart attacks are no match for a daughter's forgiveness.
. . . . . man's need for the Kingdom of God. (christians love to force this into everything, and i'm a christian, so i force it into everything)

obviously, the absurdities do not work. and i have no fast and easy word for THE WRESTLER. instead, i will just tell you this. 

my friend ryan came over friday afternoon to watch THE WRESTLER. we borrowed the dvd from ben and joy. we popped upon a couple of pabst blue ribbons. my dvd player pooped out on us at the only moment in the film that felt slightly climatic. we had to switch over to the laptop and crane our necks in to watch the widescreen picture on my small monitor. then, suddenly, without warning, the film just ends. action, action, action, dialogue, speech, action, action, action, black screen. ryan and i just sit there. we do not move or speak for a long time. we listen to bruce springsteen sing. then we look at each other and say, "well, that was weird." and then we joke about the awkwardness of the film and how neither of us know what to do with anything we have just seen. ryan leaves. i return the dvd back to ben. i feel a little lost, kinda up in the air, completely unsure what to make of this film or its messages or anything other than the brilliance of the performances.

later latonya and i sit down for desserts and coffee. i tell her that ryan and i watched the film. she asks what it's about. i try to give her a few whittled down morsels, but i just end up telling her the entire film from start to finish. and then right when i get to the last scene, as i'm telling her that he says this and then she says this but then he says this and there, at that moment i nearly broke down. the whole thing flooded over me, and i felt the immensity of the film's sadness and beauty. i have not stopped thinking about it since.

i cannot tell you what the film is about. if anything, it explores a wrestler. a man. a father. a needer of friends. and it also explores a stripper. a woman. a mother. a needer of friends. and again it explores a daughter. a young woman. an angry heart. a hurt heart. and it explores the collision of people in a brief, pivotal stage of their existence and identities.

and it's sad. and it's beautiful. as real life, which is never easily whittled down into themes or morsels, so often is in our brief, pivotal stages of deep, deep need.  

Friday, April 10, 2009

I WATCHED ALMOST FAMOUS LAST NIGHT, AND I WAS DEFINITELY WRONG:


it's all because of the kate hudson.

this scene above, especially when william watches penny on the edge of the bathtub, grinning at her feet sliding on the bath white tile, was my wife's most favorite scene in the film. she didn't say why. she just said, "that was SO good." and she laughed while kinda staring off across the room when she said it.

i got the lump in my throat when penny flutters her fingers in william's face, the whole band singing elton john, and she says to him, "you are home." i was not cool when i was 15, but i tried more than most of the schmoes at my high school. at that age, i desperately wanted penny lane for a best friend. she pronounced things over william that unleashed him. women have that unique power over men.

and my wife also, this morning, said that she was deeply humored and moved by the scene after the near plane crash, after all that was said in the shivering plane, when they all walk slowly down that blazing white corridor, william pausing to vomit in a trash can. so goes spiritual exposure at times.

and even after all the pursuing and dancing and yearning and crying in the hallway the morning after losing innocence to three that were not the one and hoping for morocco steeped in the perfume of curly golden hair and saying the things beneath trees that you would never want to say anywhere and reviving back to life someone with a real name, even after all that, for it to have all actually been about william and russell . . . . . yeah, that busted me up pretty good as well. 

overall, the film did not incapacitate me as it has in times past. i'm not sure if that says as much about the quality of the film or about the position of me. either way, the film still hit places in me that listen to neil young with a taste for long stretches of road, or that scream from the backbeat of an early pearl jam un-single for a total do-over. this is a good film: a viewer's window-gazed, ceiling-fan spun daydream of an autobiography nuzzled in a film-maker's cut-and-paste creatively-spasmed-autobiography. we wanted rock-n-roll to engulf more than our senses of sound, and we wanted friends to go beyond the reach of open roads in summertime. and, as john barber eloquently stated, we all wanted to believe that we were cool.

i give ALMOST FAMOUS five roof-peek pool dives out of five. this film almost made me feel like a golden god in my own skin.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

HOLD ME CLOSER, TINY DANCER: A RESPONSE TO JANNA YOUNG BARBER AND A REQUEST TO BE TOLD I'M WRONG



janna -

there is this weird connection that men have to the film ALMOST FAMOUS, especially men of my generation or a tad bit older, that i do not think women connect with quite as strongly. i could be wrong. maybe this is a gross generalization. i'm open to being wrong. what i know is that most women say, "yeah, that movie is really good", whereas most men do that tilting back of the head, slacking of the knees, rolling of the eyes, mumbling as if in whiskey-drenched pining, "awww, man, that movie. . . . pafoosh!" speechless. dudes become stupid speechless about that film, and it's not because of the kate hudson. (although, zooey deschenel may have something to do with it.) 

personally, i think it's because of something you mentioned in your last comment, and it's this: something about ALMOST FAMOUS reaches that melodramatic rock-n-roll addicted pubescent boy that knew - that JUST KNEW - there was a wild and wonderful, unpredictable and restless world out there beyond our scope, beyond our parents reach and our religion's hold, and the closest we could get to that place was in music. i remember listening to rock-n-roll as a teenager for the vicarious transcendence it afforded me. music, at that age of 15, did not just entertain me; rather, it took me elsewhere and promised me things that i probably didn't need to be promised. (maybe that's where kate hudson comes in). and the crazy bit is that i believed it. 

i haven't watched ALMOST FAMOUS in a few years. the last time i did, it wrecked me for days. i was nearly incapacitated for a week. i haven't met many women who had the same reaction. but i've met plenty of dudes who have.

oh, and also, besides all the transcendental stuff, we also really wanted to be cool, and to believe we were.

people are bullshitting when the say men and women are equal. thus, BEES. thus, FAMOUS. i would be interested to get your take.

oh yeah, i've never read DIVINE SECRETS, but i watched the movie. it was nice.