Monday, March 2, 2015

it keeps the demons at bay

A good chunk of what I am about to write, I figure, goes out to near-future me, writing away on his master's thesis. Don't fret. Don't be discouraged. This writing thing, after all, is what you do.

My week with Across the Universe and my month with movie musicals comes to an end tonight. And, a part of me kinda wants to stay here, tucked away in the fantasy of it all. In the world of the musical, anything is possible and even heartbreak comes with a nice song and dance number. Well, maybe not dance.

Three of the four musicals this month were built on existing songs, existing thoughts and feelings, existing emotional experiences... well, really, all four were built on existing thoughts and feelings and emotional experiences. Every movie is, musical or not. We can live vicariously in a film best when more parts of it are just close enough to be relatable to our realities. And when it's a musical we get to relate ourselves into, to commit a sort of method participation, our lives become something different, something magical. Jo-Jo tells Jude at one point in this film that he's got 20 songs on paper and another 10 in his head. "Leave room for anything else," Jude asks.

"Music's the only thing that makes sense anymore, man," Jo-Jo replies. "Play it loud enough and..." Well, look at today's title. When there's music, there's magic, and when there's magic, there's no room for darkness. It's maybe a little trite, a little corny, a little too psych analysis, but yeah, when I'm in the theater watching a movie, when I'm sitting her in my living room watching one, even if I'm typing away at the same time, I'm not quite myself. Except, that is not true. Not even remotely. I am become someone new but that someone is very much me.

I wrote recently:

...a movie... should change you. Or it's not worth watching. A movie can teach you about who you are already, or it can show you things you didn't know you liked, didn't know you hated. It can fuel your fears, your hatreds, your desires, your beliefs and your actions. It can drive you to... well, anything. Some movies make me want to write, some make me want to act, some make me want to spend some time alone, away from the world, some make me want to be around friends, loved ones. When I watch a movie, any movie, I want to feel something. I want to cry, I want to laugh, I want to be moved. And, if it's a musical I'm watching, I want to sing and dance and live and love.

I want joy from a film. I want pain. I want heartache and excitement. I want to want to be inside that screen, inside that world, and then I want to both lament and celebrate the return to the "real" world.

I don't claim that I am the greatest writer, or the best blogger--though the field for the latter is, I recently read, dwindling quickly of late--but I would like to think that I have fits of genius from time to time when I am inspired by film, by life, by the people I am blessed to know. My genius for today is this: I used to think--but not necessarily follow--you don't do something you will regret. But, the opposite is quite true as well; do not not do something you will regret not doing. No matter the consequence. I'm reminded of Old Man Marley in Home Alone (which I watched for a week back in December for anyone new to this blog) and his fears about his son from which he is estranged. Kevin asks him, "If you miss [your son], why don't you call him?"

"I'm afraid that if I call that he won't talk to me."

"How do you know?"

"I don't know. I'm just afraid he won't."

The conversation continues briefly with an amusing anecdote from Kevin, and then he tells Old Man Marley, "you should call your son."

"What if he won't talk to me?"

And here's the point, the kicker, the fucking pivot on which a good life separates from a bad one, potentially. And, because we trust the trite and obvious truth from the mouth of a child, it comes from Kevin. "At least you'll know," he says. "Then you could stop worrying about it. Then you won't have to be afraid anymore."

And, as I typed that last line, that boy in Detroit sang, "Whisper words of wisdom," so thank you convergence and bugger off all you who don't care for this blog because, and this might not make much sense, this isn't about you. Having readers, hell, getting far more than I've got now, is and would be awesome. But, this is about me. This is about film. This is about my life twisted up in the thousands of movies I have seen in my nearly four decades on this planet. This is about me deciding who I am by putting into words my thoughts to make them real. My words, my reality.

I don't want any more regrets in my life. Maybe I won't get what I want, but I figure I've got to go for it, whatever it is. I deserve more than I've got. And, taking the side of the constitutive model of communication, I am who I say I am.

So, who am I?

I was talking with some people at the tournament this past weekend about this blog, about watching Groundhog Day every day for a year, about watching all these other movies a week at a time, and in that moment I was a blogger, a film critic, an aficionado of cinema and all of its various elements, and I am good at being these things. This morning I taught two public speaking classes (actually, today was a speech day, so it was less about teaching and more about sitting back and seeing what my students have learned), and in those hours I was a teacher, a professor, and instructor, a builder and molder of minds (inasmuch as my students will allow it), and I'm good at it. Last night, my son watched Across the Universe with me and the other day we had a long conversation about life and love and a bit of what we want from it all. As a father, I am proud of my kids and I love them dearly. As a forensic coach, I take pride in a different group of older "kids." On the internet, I'm an occasional troublemaker, a sometime eccentric, and I can be an opinionated bastard about anything and everything.

I'm overweight and I used be quite self conscious about it, would try to diet now and then and fail. Lately, sure, I wish I was in better shape, but I'm not as self conscious about it anymore. I figure, I am who I am right now. And, I will be tomorrow who I will be tomorrow. Who I was yesterday--he's but a shadow left behind, a memory that drives me onward. I want to keep writing, to keep teaching, keep parenting, keep coaching, keep living and loving and being as happy as I have been of late. I want what I want.

If Lucy and Jude can get over their shit and get together, if Christian and Satine can get over their shit and sing their secret song together one last time, if Maria can refrain from pulling the trigger of Chino's gun, if Don and Kathy can be happy together on the big screen, then anything is possible. Not just up there on the big screen, but everywhere.

I know it's not literally true, but that doesn't matter so much as long as I can feel like it is. Truth just doesn't matter sometimes. What matters is what you feel, what you see, what you want, what you chase after and what you catch. That is life. That is life with music playing over it and under it and through it, and magic permeating every moment if you just take the time to pay attention.

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