Sex, Science Fiction, and Arcade Fire

In all of my years of watching movies, I have come across few filmmakers as perplexing as avant-garde sensation Peter Greenaway. For those who don’t know, he was very famous in art-house circles in the 80s and 90s, making films with rich, elaborate visual schemes and lush scores by his then-friend and collaborator, Michael Nyman. His films were famously provocative, featuring explicit sex and violence that, rather than helping his characters find a solution to their problems, usually just degraded them further. Greenaway really doesn’t seem to like people very much, so when he made a film about Rembrandt starring Martin Freeman as the emotionally volatile painter that was almost a straight-up biopic, it was something of a marvel. Nightwatching is not a perfect film. It has too many side characters and in places is simply muddled. But it has something that Greenaway had never seemed to care about before: emotional weight. Rembrandt is temperamental and argumentative, yet somehow sympathetic, perhaps because he sometimes seems to wish he know how to be anything else. It’s not Greenaway’s best film (that might also be his most famous, the shocking The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, which is available on Netflix Instant), but it’s the only one I’ve ever wanted to rewatch. As one smartass said, Greenaway’s formula is, “First develop a tableau of exquisitely rendered and achingly beautiful design which suggests that the works and artifices of humanity are transcendent. Then smear shit all over it.” With Nightwatching, that’s not quite true.

I think I’ve figured out why spending time with my family can be so stressful: for the very simple reason that it’s hard to get “me time” (how I hate that phrase). Instead of boiling pasta for dinner, I have to eat steak and salad and make conversation for forty-five minutes. Sometimes, that’s a relief, as I eat alone most nights and occupy my mind by watching or reading stuff on the internet while I chew. But during the holidays, it comes in such a concentrated burst that it can be almost as difficult as spending all that time alone during the year. It doesn’t help that my friends are, by and large, still a bit difficult to get a hold of. I get it–they’re busy with jobs, school, family, and whatever else. Then again, what relieves that stress better than spending time with old friends? They may all have perfectly valid excuses as to why they can’t see me, but the result is still that I’m sitting at home alone watching old movies on Netflix.

I don’t think anything is more hurtful to another human being than refusing to acknowledge them. It’s essentially saying they don’t exist. You’re not allowing them to pass zero, to actually have their own mark on the world. My father said (although he isn’t the first), “90% of success is showing up.” I still don’t know what the other 10% is, but I am pretty good at showing up. I’m reliable. I return phone calls, emails, texts, and so on as quickly as I can. Truth be told, there’s only so much patience I can have with people who say, “Oh, sorry I didn’t respond to your invite. I was busy.” Fuck you. What’s more important, your job or me? If you answered “my job”, then fuck off. I’ll still be here after you quit/get fired or laid off. And amazingly, I’ve managed to hold down plenty of jobs myself while still finding time for friends. Granted, I have only, like, four of them (friends, not jobs), but still, I make time. And I’m not judgmental, except of people who try to pretend that the thing I’m making a big deal out of isn’t a big deal. I’m making a big deal out of it, therefore it’s a big deal. Did you get that? Good. Moving on…

I saw Les Miserables a couple days ago. I’m not the biggest musical theater person, but I think it’s kind of sad that so many people (guys, mostly) avoid them on the grounds that they aren’t, I don’t know, manly enough. Les Miserables, as anyone who has seen it will tell you, has a little of something for everyone: love, redemption, historical drama, shootouts, and dick jokes. The music is some of the most beautiful stuff ever written in any genre, and if you aren’t moved to tears by any of it, then frankly, I don’t think you have a heart. That said, I did feel a little uncomfortable during Marius’ scenes. Generally, I’m not given to swooning like a teenage girl, but Eddie Redmayne is just…so…pretty. As an added bonus, he brought out Marius’ revolutionary side as well, convincingly portraying a man who, when faced with the choice of following his political ideals or running off with the girl he loves, chooses the ideals. He’s actually kind of a badass.

From Savage Grace, which I haven't seen, but will shortly.

From Savage Grace, which I haven’t seen, but will shortly.

Most people think they value honesty, but react defensively when faced with the real thing. It’s been my experience that the truth, once you finally accept it, really isn’t that painful. So you think my cooking/singing/writing/whatever is lame, huh? Well, who gives a shit? I don’t ask other people for their opinions very often. I like to let other people decide whether what they have to say is worth hearing. I hate most things, don’t give a shit about others, and begrudgingly tolerate a few. But those few ultimately select themselves. I just keep trying new shit until something sticks.

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