Saturday, August 1, 2015

i stayed here two years ago

A weird thought occurs to me. First, a note: most of the following post was written early to make time for game night and a busy day that began with taking my daughter Saer to the airport to go visit her grandparents and aunt and uncle. My other daughter, Hayley, is away visiting relatives and old friends with her mother. My son is in his room watching a show on Netflix. I'm here watching Groundhog Day for (probably) somewhere over the 400th time in the 22 and a half years since it first was in the theater. And, as Larry parked the newsvan in front of the Pennsylvanian Hotel (really, the Woodstock Opera House), I found myself thinking about last year when I made my pilgrimage to Woodstock, and how it felt like home to be in this place I'd seen every day for, at that point in this blog, six months. It was entirely the opposite of how it was for Phil. He got to Woodstock, where he'd been three times before, and to him it was alien, abhorrent. For me, it was a fantastic place, on par with discovering that the USS Enterprise was real. (The starship, not the aircraft carrier.) Woodstock is like a fabled village nestled in the Broceliande Forest of legend, not western Pennsylvania. Being there was like the film was alive and real. I would be hard pressed to experience such a thing again.

But, there is business to which I must attend. See, Day 639 – what do you want me to do? was the last proper recap entry for the Groundhog Day Project. As Matilda might say, that’s not right.

(Skip on down past all the links, if you like, for my final thoughts on doing this for two years.)

The first part of the recap—and I will keep the formatting simpler so as not to drag this out—was a themed month, movies dealing in identity, because that is a subject that appeals to me. As a communication studies master. As a human being. I love the idea that, as Sam says in Life as a House, "I am what I say I am." Today, sitting in traffic, as we Angelenos are wont to do, I was imagining one of my many unpublished novels as a musical, and there was a song (and at least two reprises) dealing in just that notion. The idea that words and presentation make self. The identity month included this blog’s first animated film and its first documentary. The four movies were as follows:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: 640 641 642 643 644 645 646

Hedwig and the Angry Inch: 647 648 649 650 651 652 653

Toy Story: 654 655 656 657 658 659 660

Stories We Tell: 661 662 663 664 665 666 667

Day 668 – i thought we were going to a costume party was a sort of recap, listing off all the movies I’ve watched and critiquing the blog in a way. This is how it went:

Then began the long “month” of Westerns—42 Westerns in 32 days—which included a road trip to Arizona and New Mexico and cost my old car its life. Good times... Actually, that month was good in the sense of what this blog is capable of doing--really breaking down a genre and what it means, in this case, for America, and for cinema. As for the latter, I'm not sure I ever really got into how every superhero movies and many an action film is structurally a lot like the Western, which on the one hand means the structure is really a bit generic, but on the other hand means as America loves to do, we pulled together some universal storytelling tropes and wrapped them up in our own little package and decided that was our story, our genre, and the story became myth and the myth became our history and we believe way too much in how the West birthed us and a bunch of other bullshit all because dime novels grew up into an easily reproducible film genre.

Or something. I'm feeling a bit cynical as I put all this together.

This is how the month went:

669 – two versions of Stagecoach
670Duel in the Sun
671The Gunfighter and High Noon
672The Naked Spur and Shane
673The Searchers and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
674 – two versions of 3:10 to Yuma
675The Left Handed Gun
676Rio Bravo
677Warlock
678The Magnificent Seven
679The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
680How the West Was Won
681Fistfull of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
682The Shakiest Gun in the West
683Once Upon a Time in the West
684 – two versions of True Grit
685The Wild Bunch and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
686A Man Called Horse
687Little Big Man
688McCabe & Mrs. Miller
689Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid
690Blazing Saddles
691The Outlaw Josey Wales
692Silverado
693Young Guns and Young Guns II
694Unforgiven
695Tombstone
696Wyatt Earp
697The Quick and the Dead
698Open Range
699The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
700Rango

Groundhog Day was a Western for Day 701 – i told you, call me bronco. It wasn't much of a stretch (except for that whole no-villain thing). Then, leaning on the idea that this blog was coming to an end—earlier today I wanted to definitively say it's not, but right now I'd say we'll find out tomorrow—I had a big decision to make about the final month. If this thing was for sure continuing, I had a few options. But, if it was the end, there were basically two, and since I hadn't made up my mind yet, I had to go with one of these: four of my favorite movies (that had not come up yet) or four… thoughtful? philosophical? introspective? movies. (Either option would have been self-indulgent.)

I opted for the latter, as such:

Life as a House: 702 703 704 705 706 707 708

Into the Wild: 709 710 711 712 713 714 715

The Grey: 716 717 718 719 720 721 722

Everything Is Illuminated: 723 724 725 726 727 728 729

That last entry, especially, but also a few along the way during this past month, dealt in the why of this blog, what I get out of it, what anyone can get out of having a voice, having some… place to speak his or her mind. A place where you can feel like life makes sense, the world makes sense and this thing you are doing matters. One of the big “lessons” of this blog is that you need a place to be yourself. And, you need space to figure out what that self is. Phil Connors got that when he escaped the trap of Pittsburgh and found himself in a time loop in Punxsutawney. And, I think that is part of the appeal of this film. Not just that this arrogant, but charming, jerk figures out how to not be such an ass, but that maybe we all could do something similar if we had an infinite numbers of days in a finite world.

You needn’t worry much about mistakes. In a time loop, of course. But also in life. Mistakes can be fixed. At least once in this blog, I shared this quotation from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

I like the idea of that. Whatever happens today, whatever happened yesterday, or the day before--tomorrow it only matters inasmuch as you bring it with you. There is always time to make up for or repair the damage from your mistakes. To make amends as best you can.

More importantly, there is always time to be a better version of you.

Life is a series of days that are essentially the same. But, oh so different. Full of chances to keep doing the good things that make life worth living. Or keep doing the bad things that make you wonder what the fuck the point is.

I have a copy of Richard Schechner's Performance Studies: An Introduction for my Master's Thesis, and it's got the following poem (introduction?) by Augusto Boal at the front of the book:

Performance

Usually people say that a truly artistic show will always be unique,
impossible to be repeated; never will the same actors,
in the same play, produce the same show.
Theatre is Life.

People also say that, in life, we never really do anything
for the first time, always repeating
past experiences, habits, rituals, conventions.
Life is Theatre.

Richard Schechner, with his sensibility and intelligence,
leads us to explore the limits between Life and Theatre,
which he calls Performance. With his knowledge,
he allows us to discover other thinkers,
stimulating us to have our own thoughts.

Twice into the same river and whatnot. Each day is the same. Each day is different. (Though not necessarily the negative interpretation: SSDD.) You are always the same. You are always different. Barring death, change is always possible.

A new mystery, because there must always be one: what scene is this?

Only forty minutes into the movie, I think I want to cut this entry short (which it already is not). I want to just sit and enjoy the movie.

I ended yesterday's entry talking about pride. Expressing it is something I need to work on. Having this outlet for my thoughts, for my voice has changed me positively these past two years. (Though there are still moments where I wonder if I've achieved anything.) I am a better version of myself than I was two years ago. I may not be finished getting better, but I should be proud of what I have accomplished here, in this blog, and in my life. There may be farther to go, but I have come so far already. I am proud of that.

Now, to learn how to play the piano and how to ice sculpt.

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