The OMGWTFBBQ Case of Benjamin Button

I am rusty today. I have written nothing at you for weeks because the things that have frustrated me have been from real life. I try to keep things abstract here because the walls have ears. Ears that sign my paychecks, if you catch my drift. It tied my hands and left me frustrated with nowhere to go. Today, something has finally filled my fingers with letters. Thank God.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was a pretty darn good movie…for a movie written by a focus group. A group intentionally trying to tear my shit up. A group who cast Brad Pitt, knowing damn well that casting Brad Pitt is what you do when you need a character to be relatable and human. When you have a fantastical character but you still need people to empathize with his problems. (See also: Louis from Interview with the Vampire.)

Yes, yes. The plot was actually written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but that guy isn’t to be trusted either. Jazz age, alcoholism, crazy wife…you should never trust people like that. They were proto-goth. They even dressed well and wore elaborate underwear.

They were making every attempt to make me cry. By the end of the movie, I was joking about how I fully expected it to end with one-eyed kittens being led into a gas chamber while a Sarah McLachlan song played. Let’s recap.

Theme: Everyone you love is going to die.

Benjamin grows up in an old folks’ home, so he doesn’t think that death is anything particularly bad; he’s also too young to really think anything other than “oh, she went away.” This continues until he’s old enough to undertand death and one patient tells him, “people die so we realize how much we love them.”

We all know this, and most of us are secretly hoping that we go first. However, that’s not particularly realistic so most of us know what it’s like to lose someone close to us. Once, a friend look at me with tears in her eyes and said, “it never gets better does it?” All I could do was shake my head. I couldn’t watch her cry and still be able to speak.

It never completely heals. It’s never completely OK. The best you can do is try to look at all the good things that person taught you, all the good times you had, and be glad for those. Death is there to remind us to not waste time and not take people for granted. It’s necessary. It just also seriously sucks.

Theme: you are going to get old. Especially if you are a woman.

Once Daisy and Benjamin finally get together and are happy, Daisy slowly realizes that she’s going to get old and crusty and Benjamin’s just going to get younger.

If you are under the age of 30, you think I’m kind of stupid for mentioning this. Like, “oh, women are so shallow and they shouldn’t think about this stuff, and it’s about the person you are and blah blah blah.” I thought that too. I sat back and said, “psh, I don’t have to compete with girls of 23…I am wiser than them and I’m still bendy.”

I still think that most of the time. I wouldn’t want to be 23 again because I was stupid and crazy at 23. I lived in shitty apartments. I had shitty jobs. That what you do when you’re 23. But I am coming up on an age where I start to feel like I look like old, scary Madonna in certain pictures. Eventually, I’ll see myself naked and feel like I look all melty. There’s a span of years between “I actually AM young” and “I look my age and I’m totally OK with that” where one’s mind has to adjust. That length of time is different for everybody, and some people never get to the second part. I’m at the very beginning of that span of years and just starting to wonder who put that line in my face. I fully realize that this is stupid, but there it is. One day, you have to put down the red lipstick because it makes you look old.

Theme: it’s sucky to not have your dad around.

When Daisy and Benjamin have a kid, he makes a point to leave before his daughter is old enough to know him. He does, however send her birthday postcards she doesn’t receive until adulthood. She reads them sitting at her mother’s deathbed. “I wish I could be there to teach you how to play the piano.” “I wish I could have told you not to chase some boy.”

It’s been two years since my dad died, but that’s still a bit of a sore spot for me. It may always be. He will neer again be around to offer advice when something’s bad. To be proud of me or happy for me when something’s good. There’s just a hole there where I wonder what he would have said or done. He probably would have stared me down with those piercing hazel eyes and said something very sensible. Despite looking a lot like him, I’m not always particularly sensible.

Theme: nothing lasts.

Various characters say this to each other throughout the movie, usually when they see a time of happiness ending. Really? Are you SURE this isn’t going to end with one-eyed kittens and a gas chamber?

We all know that the only constant is change. I guess that’s a good thing to hear if you’re really unhappy, but if you’re in a happy situation, you’d probably rather not think about that. There are days when my life appears to be all frustration and stupid emails but if you take an average, it’s pretty good. When things are bad, you’re unhappy. When things are good, you sit around waiting for the unexpected piano to fall. You shouldn’t, but maybe you do. While you wait for that piano to fall, I offer you a mantra:

“I made this good situation. If it ends, I’ll just make a better one.”

By the time the credits rolled, I was kind of thankful partly because I was emotionally tired, and partly because I finally had words in my head.

No Rant for You (Today)

The best laid plans.

I was a good panda last night, writing today’s blog the night before so as to not have it accidentally cut into my work day. To confess, I write possible blog topics in my day planner so I can reliably have something to say every day at 9:00. Trying to maintain an aura of discipline and professionalism, you know. It’s the first step in writing my future bestseller, “I’m Only Writing This Book to Get Free Betsey Johnson Merch.”

Anyway, you’ll have to wait on my rant on the difficulties of returning a phone call from my doctor. Now that I think about part of it, it may be better in video form anyway. Why are you having to wait? Cause I have some props to return and thanks to give.

The good folks of The Moustachette have said that they like my design work and mentioned yours truly in a blog. Also, I saw something about The Moustachette being submitted to the Nashville Film Festival. As this movie involves music people satirizing young artists, I’m guessing this thing is a shoo in for the festival opener. The slot where NaFF always likes to put “a movie made by Johnny Cash’s brother in-law’s gardener or something,” according to one film-making friend. Besides, it looks funny so far, and God knows I love when people make fun of art kids. We’re ridiculous and we know it.

If nothing else, you should take a peek at the whimsical as fuck, particularly the fake cast bios. Have I badgered you enough? I believe so.

Goth at the Movies: Obligatory Twilight Post

Whenever a vampire movie comes out, I feel somehow almost contractually obligated to go see said movie. You know, just to stay up on all the crap I’m supposed to know because I have a lot of black clothes. Sooner or later, sombody’s going to ask you if you’ve seen ______. You might as well be able to give an informed opinion. Besides, I had some free passes.

Yes, Twilight was beautiful to look at, and not just because the film follows the vampire convention of making all of the vampires “really, really ridiculously good looking,” to quote Zoolander. OK, so the Cullen vampire family does seem to have an unsettling taste for blonde highlights that only Edward seems to have escaped. Whether this is meant to present him as “guy who doesn’t fit in with the family” or whether it’s just because Robert Pattinson is rather attached to his hair and rather unwilling to put color in it, I don’t know. What I do know is that Pattinson is right to be so into his hair, as it is an entity all its own and may have had its own separate contract.

I have to give Twilight props for color palette (washed out colors, saturated greens, and warmed colors toward the super-cuddly ending). I give props for wardrobe. Thank you, wardrobe people, for not dressing the vampires in the predictable pseudo-goth palette. Thank you for dressing Robert Pattinson in clothes that say “I’m trying to be James Dean, even though my character’s foster parents are loaded.” In other words, his character is a teenager with a taste for well-tailored, strategically-wrinkled, jackets and dress shirts. Thank you for there not being a single fang in sight. Hell, wardrobe, I’ll even forgive you for the lacy cravat that was worn by the quasi-Haitian dude and the special effects contacts. Nobody’s perfect.

If this post is such a love fest, why am I not out buying Twilight books? Because of the trouble that I have with the first thirty minutes of the movie, and the general convention of the guy on the white horse. Or, in this case, the vampire in the silver Volvo.

The first thirty minutes of the movie are questionably-acted and questionably-scripted. I don’t expect 100-year-old vampires to pull off realistic teenage dialog, but I doubt that any vampire who acted like Pattinson does during the first 30 minutes of the movie would escape the attention of vampire hunters for very long. Or, in this case, the local Native Americans. Why is it that there’s always a Native American around to give you the history of the area when you need it? Why is it, again, that vampires always seem to have a jones for falling in love with humans? You’d think that they would find us slow, stupid, judgemental, and generally frustrating. It would be like being 30 and dating a 15 year old with an 11:00 curfew. Better yet, it would be like a butcher falling in love with a cow. Like, hi. That’s your FOOD. Not your girlfriend. The “vampire loves human” convention is almost as predictable as a pregnant woman getting trapped in an elevator.

I can understand why teenage girls would eat this up: hot guy, story about a guy who swoops in and protects you, immortality, fantasy. But anybody who had trouble swallowing the love story of Titanic is going to have serious trouble not heckling this movie. It’s a bit of fun if you’re able to tune out the “yeah, right” factor. Teenage girls beware: the guy on the white horse is almost as fictitious as vampires. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

What does the goth in me think of this? That it, thankfully, doesn’t much apply to her. We have avoided the common vampire movie conventions of darkness, coffins, velvet frock coats, 50-cent words, and black hair dye for another movie. The only thing that is particularly goth about Twilight is the ever-present concept of eternal (and courtly) love. See also: Queen Victoria wearing black for the rest of her life after her man died. Sentimentality, chivalry, and all that other crap that will ultimately bite you on the ass. No pun intended.

Being from a different planet which we shall henceforth refer to as Planet Jen, Jen loved the movie. She still believes in the fairy tale, God love her. I don’t know how, and I’m not sure if she’s ultimately helping or hurting her, but it is what it is. She still believes, and nobody (not even me) can pee on her parade. Maybe this is how we’re such good friends. They say that misery loves company, but I venture to say that misery loves a mirror more…something that shows you your world in reverse, just so you can see what it would look like. Besides, we both really enjoy shiny things.

The Bathroom of Dr. Cheesigari

Last night, I did some (very, very) quick tests of various lighting techniques for the silent film-style video I’m making for work. I asked Tony for some advice on such things and he actually offered to help. I am totally stoked about this as Tony, having had for-real movies in film festivals and stuff, knows infinitely more about these sorts of things than I do. Hopefully, he’ll be willing to do this for free and this whole thing will become much more whole-assed.

Anyway, I set up the camera and lights, did some quick & dirty makeup, and did a few screen tests. Wait, let’s define those words…

  • set up the camera: sat camera on toilet seat lid and propped it into place with a bottle of Neutrogena face wash
  • set up lights: grabbed an old table lamp and some party bulbs
  • did makeup: spent 30 seconds applying clown blue to my greasy, post-work face
  • did screen tests: sat on bathroom floor and wanked around with a camera that I don’t know how to use

I logged everything into Final Cut today and put markers in spots that I thought looked more “silent film” than others. Here are some stills from said activity, including some amusing “surprise” pics that resulted from sitting next to an unshaded lamp containing a 100-watt bulb. If these aren’t a cry for Tony’s help, I don’t know what is.

Spiderwick Chronicles…maybe just rent it.

Last night, Katy and I went to see Spiderwick Chronicles at the Opry Mills IMAX. It wasn’t a waste of 2 hours of my life, but I can’t help but feel as though it had a certain…soullessness.

See, all of the fairies and goblins are CGI. Yeah, yeah, they look realistic and they can swing on ropes, but in a movie so rich in texture and dust-covered old stuff,  I would have liked to have seen Muppets instead of pixels. Muppets worked fine in Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, and I don’t recall hearing anyone say, “yeah, that was good, but it needed more rope-swinging.” Muppets probably would have been cheaper, and they have a realness that CGI just doesn’t have. Maybe I’m just old.

Another point of contention was some of the acting, particularly that of the girl playing the older sister. Unrealistic reactions, occasional overreactions…she messed up my suspension of disbelief a few times. Then there was this guy:

Is it Ben Kingsley? Is it Dustin Hoffman? Wrong! It’s David Strathairn, the unsettling, illegitimate spawn of the two!

Oh….and here’s this thing that arrived in my email…