Monday, June 9, 2014

to the vile dust

Day 52 - if you only had one day to live--that's an entry I've brought up several times since I wrote it. It's the one with the jelly beans. It's definitive proof I write stuff as cheesy as some of the stuff in The Fault in Our Stars--which I saw recently. Edge of Tomorrow--or Groundhog Day with guns--the other movie I saw recently, has no real sentiment to it except for one scene...

SPOILERS. Tom Cruise's Cage and Emily Blunt's Rita sit in a barn well past the frontlines. We (and she) think(s) this is the first time they have made it this far. But, Cage finds some coffee and knows that Rita takes it with three sugars. She (and we) figure(s) out he has already gone through this scene. He's stalling their getting into the helicopter they have just found because he knows that every time they have tried to take the helicopter Rita ends up dead. He doesn't want to see her die again. On the next resumption, he goes to meet Rita (for the first time), but then decides against it, leaving her out of the fight. The film doesn't deal much in the romantic relationship between Cage and Rita--even his offer of sex is perfunctory as it relates to the time loop power inside him--but in this one bit, it is evident that Cage has feelings for Rita.

The Fault in Our Stars, on the other hand, is all about sentiment. It's also full of pretentious and semi-pretentious dialogue justified only because the characters saying it are all dying (or belligerent assholes) and we (especially if we are teenage girls) can accept that people facing death might quote their favorite books in casual conversation and say pretentious (and/or corny) things as casually as one might say hello.

Groundhog Day lands somewhere in between... closer to Edge of Tomorrow, though the comedic angle lends itself to deep thought. Groundhog Day doesn't have the sentiment of The Fault in Our Stars or the sentimentlessness of Edge of Tomorrow. Really, there is just one sequence dealing in sentiment--the death of O'Reilly.

It--Groundhog Day--does not get bogged down in death and sadness. This is but a passing trifle amidst the humor...

Well, no. No more than the death of a loved one is a passing trifle amidst the regular days. There is a power in certain moments that makes them last forever. Kissing a girl on the forehead when you're not even sure if the two of you will share your first kiss today. That's one of mine. There is all of these feelings, good and bad, impulsive and conservative, wrapper up together in that moment in my mind. I remember my hand at her side, brushing skin when her shirt rode up higher than the opening in the side of her overalls. I remember wanting to kiss her just before I did, like time was frozen and that wanting was eternal. The "date night" sequence is underway right now on my TV, and I don't know how Phil does it. The patience it would take to run these conversations again and again with tiny adjustments... I think, realistically, conversation would diverge so much with each resumption that there would barely be these repeated lines. For example, the bit about people placing too much emphasis on their careers--just try to get back to that line again the next night. Recall, if you will, my entry about the obsessive charts in the Oscar-nominated short film, Time Freak... It was a while ago, so here's an example:

Try to recall a conversation word for word from yesterday. Hell, from earlier today. It makes for a nice visual sequence, Phil managing the same lines at the same moments, but it would be horribly impossible to do. Consider all the variables in one conversation, consider all the things that go through your mind when you talk to someone. Maybe she varies her tone on one phrase which makes you think of a specific memory, a different interaction with her and you have the urge to share a personal anecdote to add to the conversation. What you would have said in the previous resumption--that slips your mind because you want to tell her about, say, what you were going to major in, in college at first. You didn't get into journalism or meteorology--you're a weather reporter like Fritz Coleman and Willard Scott, not a meteorologist. You considered theater or communication, even English, but what you really wanted to do was study comedy, to go out and make people laugh because you equate laughter with approval, and approval means they like you and you don't have nearly enough experience with people liking you. And, now she's moved past her bit about majoring in French poetry and you forgot to quote that French song, lines you hope will come up again later or you memorized them for nothing. And, what is she saying now? You've never gotten to this part of the conversation. This is new. And, you're stuck in your head, lamenting your lost career as a stand up comedian...

So, the next day you try again. And, you bring up the thing about living in the mountains, at high altitudes, a little too early in the evening. She's just taken a bite her salad and she is polite enough to finish chewing and swallowing before she responds. She says she agrees, and you let out a sigh of relief. The timing is off but the dialogue seems right. Then, she says, "You know, I majored in 19th-century French poetry before getting into Journalism. You want to quote the French song, but her line is different. You hesitate just long enough for her to keep talking. She starts into a story about a journalism teacher she had. You haven't heard this story before, so you listen intently, but you lament the fact that you missed your French ruse again. You wonder if you will ever get this girl back to your room at the Cherry Street Inn. But, hearing this story she's telling you about her teacher and how she fell in love with journalism and longed to be able to produce great news stories--and here she is stuck with you in this Podunk town--and you forget for a moment that you are trying to get her into bed. The French lines echo in your head.

La fille que j'aimera 

Sera comme bon vin

Qui se bonifiera

Un peu chaque matin

The girl who I will love
Is like a good wine
Which gets better
A little each morning

It seems more true each day you don't get to it. Rita starts to seem less like the inaccessible girl who you can't get into your bed and more like someone you could love. But, what is that? Love? Ever since your father ran out on your mother, you've questioned if it even exists. When Ned Ryerson--and you do remember him, but remembering people from high school is the kind of sentiment you don't want to be a part of--went out with Mary Pat, it wasn't that you didn't want your little sister going out with such a loser, it was that you heard her talking about how much she loved the guy and it rang false to your ears, and you wondered what was wrong with her that she still believed in love when you still saw your mother looking lonely and sad sometimes. But, here you are... falling in love. But, that's too much for you, so you make a rude comment, make an excuse to end the night early, and on the next resumption, you get the timing right; you say the line about people placing too much emphasis on their careers just as that waitress with the German accent comes in with those beer mugs for the table next to yours and you know you've nailed it this time. And, Rita resorts to her old line about being a million miles from where she started off in college and you know this is going to work tonight. You'll get her out of the restaurant and over to Gobbler's Knob in time to build a snowman and fight those annoying kids--one of which you know has parents going through a divorce, so you try not to find him too annoying--and dance in the gazebo. Rita will go to your room, you'll get her into bed and forget all about this love business.

My point is, all of these details--there's a reason it's complicated, I guess you might say, if you like the idea that things happen for a reason (other than us being human beings with complex brains capable of multiple strands of thought at a time, with seemingly random synapses firing sometimes to distract us from the moment into something entirely unrelated or tangentially related, or directly related but we don't want to share it, except for this one time). There's a reason interacting with one another is complicated. I've been typing up some notes on communication theories the last couple days for a final exam later this week, stuff like uncertainty reduction or communication accommodation or social penetration. There are a lot of theories about how we choose to communicate with one another and why. But, really, we're just people who never quite know everything we need to know about other people, about the world, about ourselves, to get by without each other.

For billions of years mankind lived just like the animals
Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imaginations
We learned to talk

That's Stephen Hawking talking at the beginning of Pink Floyd's "Keep Talking." And, it's why we can sometimes get it entirely right on the first try and impress the guy in our first conversation, and sometimes we pause and we hesitate and we waste time rather than doing the very thing we most want to do--because we're overthinking things and talking to ourselves because we just don't know any better.

Romeo and Juliet makes for a great romance because it's young people involved, not in spite of them. Young people--like in The Fault in Our Stars--can believe in love and we in the audience can find it cute and quaint and secretly wish we believed it too. They can love so deeply that they travel half way around the world for one another, or kill someone or kill themselves, and we get it. We were young once. We believed in things so wholeheartedly that adults surely thought we were insane too. Then we went to college, wanting to find a career in French poetry or stand-up comedy, and we learned that more practical matters are necessary for adult life. Oblivion is waiting for us all, and we could do just what we want and barely survive day-to-day because we never make enough money for this modern world, or we can find something that pays the bills and lash out at the world for the rest of our days because it isn't fulfilling enough. We joke and we insult and we charm all the ladies at work so we can have something that seems meaningful, even if only for a few hours at night.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to feel an infinity in the numbered days.

No comments:

Post a Comment