Saturday, March 21, 2015

make this one count

So, Invaders from Mars... cheesy mid-80s fun, not as funny or scary as it should have been. Weird thing was, it reminded me a whole lot of Spielberg's Super 8, the kid POV, the aliens in the tunnels, copper being important in the end even reminded me of the Super 8 aliens taking all the metal at the end of that film. It made me think of the conspiracy theory about Stanley Kubrick using The Shining to reveal that he faked the moon landing or how Harold Ramis used Groundhog Day to reveal that he actually made The Shining. Invaders from Mars reminded me so much of Super 8--well, minus that meta first act--that I had to doublecheck on whether or not a theory I've heard was that Spielberg actually directed Poltergeist and not Tobe Hooper or vice versa. For the record, Tobe Hooper has the director's credit, Spielberg the writer's credit on Poltergeist but then here's this "Tobe Hooper" film that is echoed quite thoroughly in Super 8 three decades later...

I am by the way, watching Ferris Bueller's Day Off again, today. I haven't abruptly switched films. But, I had to watch Invaders from Mars, as anyone who read yesterday's entry would know, because I discovered that I had never seen it. And, sometimes it comes down to that. Some movie with a particular actor in it or a particular filmmaker behind it that I bypassed for whatever reason shows up on my radar and I just must seek it out and watch it. And, right now I've got the benefit of the winter quarter having just ended and a bit of spring break on the horizon so I have time to catch up on some TV and some movies.

In the meantime, there is actually a link between Invaders from Mars and Ferris Bueller's Day Off; adults--they just don't get us... you... not that I suspect my readership of being teenagers, but my point is that in 1980s high school-centered movies, the adults are just not getting along with the teenagers. Usually they are irrelevant to the tale, sometimes they are the antagonists. In Invaders from Mars, young David is the only one who sees the aliens arrive, his parents who he actually gets along with in the opening scenes become the first body-snatcher-like victims of the aliens and he's left on his own until the school nurse believes him about what's going on.

Ebert tells us a key detail to this film, to most any John Hughes movie in the 80s, and all (high) school movies pretty much ever: "adults are strange, distant creatures who love their teenagers, but fail completely to understand them." Hell, in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, except for Mr. Hand, adults are all but absent. In Porky's, adults are the enemy or they join in the fun. Ferris Bueller's Day Off falls closer to the latter in how it deals with adult characters. They are all basically the enemy--boring teachers, paranoid principals, and parents.

There's one obvious reason for this setup and one not-so-obvious reason. First, the obvious, and I believe I argued this recently, probably more than once in the last couple weeks--teenagers think they know everything and they don't need adults around. Adults are just around to put rules upon them, to make demands, to yell and complain. Adults are useless appendages... unless they've got some cash and we want to go out.

(Pronouns are going to be a little weird--I am far from being a teenager, but "we" just fit that sentence. Just roll with it.)

Teenagers want to be able to do the kind of stuff Ferris and Cameron and Sloane are doing, skip out on school and just have a day of fun... Well, actually, real teenagers would probably just sleep in late like Spicoli, throw a snorkel at whoever comes to wake them, and waste away the day. Then, night's the time to go out, hang out at the mall like Damone, get up to no good like the Angel Beach boys, or just do, you know, whatever. But, watching this movie when I was 10, I certainly fantasized about "borrowing" someone's Ferrari for a day. Of course, I think I'd be driving it around town for hours like the parking attendants, rather than just using it to get into and out of Chicago... actually, since I live in Los Angeles, driving it to Chicago could be kinda fun, nice open highway with the top down. That is why Jesus invented the wheel.

Where was I?

Oh, the not-so-obvious reason--a theory of mine. I figure it works as a reverse of reality. In reality, adolescents are the confusing, overly-dramatic ones, with all their hormones out of whack. They may think they know what's going on in life, but damn it if they are not just making it up as they go and flailing about in the chaos of the universe with no sense of control. In the teen-centric movies, though, it is the adults who are clueless, with no real sense of control. Even Mr. Hand showing up at Spicoli's house is actually Mr. Hand's nicest moment. He may delay Spicoli's arrival at the dance, but it goes so nicely that it's hardly an example of Mr. Hand being the dictator he seems to try to be in the classroom.

My point is when the movie belongs to the teens, the roles are reversed; teenagers are the ones exercising agency, adults are oblivious, irrelevant...

...unless they happen to be the villains. And, that's reality jumping back in. Who is that wants to keep teenagers in line? Wants to keep them attending school every day, wants them to get a job at the mall rather than loiter there? Adults. Parents. Teachers. The enemy.

Of the Seurat painting which fixates Cameron at the end of the museum sequence, John Hughes once said--and I don't know the original source:

I always thought this painting was sort of like making a movie, a pointillist style, which at very very close to it, you don't have any idea what you've made until you step back from it...

That's the thing with teenagers... Hughes continues:

The closer [Cameron] looks at the child [in the painting], the less he sees... the more he looks at it, there's nothing there. I think he fears that the more you look at him the less you see. There isn't anything there. That's him.

First of all, I love that Hughes only "thinks" that is what Cameron fears. He wrote the damn thing, he created Cameron Fry, but he still doesn't know what Cameron fears, not precisely. As a writer of fiction--in the past; haven't had time for much fiction lately--I must say, the moments when characters grow beyond you, when they surprise you... those moments are awesome. Similarly, as a parent, the moments when my kids demonstrate that they have grown beyond me or their mother, the moments that they surprised me... those are some of the greatest moments of my life. Same works with my students, but to a far lesser degree.

But, second, I've got to say, looking closely at any image, any reflection we see of ourselves, we inevitably must get lost in the details. Details are supposed to be loved, cherished, celebrated.

"That's Alice. She came over from Ireland as a baby. She's lived in Erie most of her life."

Don't get bogged down, don't get lost, don't make yourself (literally) sick over shit you cannot control. Whether you are a teenager and you think you know everything or you are an adult and you think you know everything, a) get over yourself and b) enjoy the details, enjoy the big picture, and c) really, don't live life like you have enemies. Life is too short... and too long to bother with that sort of thing.

One final note: in watching this film, we might get bogged down in the details, in blogging about it, I run the risk for sure. But, then I just move on to other things when the screening and/or the blog entry is done. Life keeps going beyond the details.

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