Saturday, August 1, 2020

the stuff that dreams are made of

Ben wants a big answer. His story here begins with a dream that leads to the design of a new antenna the leads to the space bubble thing, which leads to the Thunder Road spaceship which leads to the alien vessel and Ben wants it all to mean something. Like, there's got to be a reason he and Wolfgang are bullied, when Trisha over at Charles M. Jones Junior High School is just as much a nerd... but maybe not as much of a geek. A reason why Steve Jackson and his friends are assholes. A reason why Darren's father is the way he is. Why Darren's mom died when he was young. Why movies like War of the Worlds and This Island Earth can lift Ben out of his mundane suburban life. Why he can't manage the confidence to talk to Lori Swenson.

Ben is still a child. He's got a crush on Lori but when he gets the opportunity to hover outside her bedroom window, he isn't looking for her to be undressing--as Darren points out, it's too early in the evening for that--but is excited just to see her
talking on the phone, and she's eating... Boston cream pie. She's got some stuffed animals on her bed, and it looks like Thompson Twins records.
At the junkyard he's excited just to look around.
And, he's a (sometimes inappropriately) big-picture guy. Woken while sleeping in class, he explains carbon dioxide a little strangely:
That's what you'd breathe on Mars. They have dust storms for months there, you know. And the temperature's 50 below. And that's what you'd breathe on Mars.
He doesn't think practically. Even the antenna design from his dream, he has no reason to think that it is anything. But, he thinks it anyway. For Ben, things are bigger, always bigger.

So, when he and his friends make a spaceship and something pulls it far away into space and it is swallowed by a larger ship, of course he'd expect something big. He expects "the greatest thing ever."
(Or he'd expect death. He does write out a will.)
Some meaningful revelation that explains everything.

But, the aliens Wak and Neek are also just children themselves, joyriding in their father's spaceship and making contact with faraway humans.

And, big answers might not be obvious. Like this blog. Watching Groundhog Day all those days in a row, and its big ideas stand out right away, but that doesn't even mean that they register as big ideas. Not immediately. Nor with Ben and Wolfgang and Darren on their space adventure. On the surface, the boys don't get much further than Roy Neary stepping onto that alien vessel at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. They find children, obsessed with Earth fiction. Not that far removed from themselves.

But, then again, that's kind of the point. Like watching all these movies, watching Groundhog Day, and so many other movies over four "years" of this blog.
(It's really been seven years, but there were a couple gaps, since this blog began. Seven years tomorrow.)
Coming back to all these movies--not just in this last section of childhood deconstruction, but all the movies I've watched for this blog... Except for a couple, I always chose movies that I had seen before to make it easier to write about them while they were on. For efficiency, first. But, also, for a nice stream of consciousness approach that removes a need for structure and just lets things happen, lets ideas in, lets ideas out, and it's like Ben when they first get pulled into the alien ship, excited, wide-eyed, and expecting all the answers.

I've written many times about when I began this blog, separated, living alone. Darmok on the ocean. And, my master's thesis was called "Blogging to Make Sense of the World". The process here,
watching,
writing,
elucidating
illuminating
philosophizing
ruminating
turning my own life inside out and doing something like the same to all these movies and I might as well be Wak, cycling through quotes from movies and tv like it's the greatest form of communication--it's the process that is the point. Kira at Bashi. I've written about the difference between a "masculine" quest and a "feminine" one. The former is going out there, heading to a destination in search of a goal. Think The Lord of the Rings. Think Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Think Explorers.

The latter quest is aimed inward. Think Groundhog Day.

But, also, think Explorers. Starts with a dream, ends with a dream, and everything in between is a childish fantasy played straight. Ben wants the masculine journey but gets the feminine one. He's looking for big, easy, obvious answers, but finds that far out in space are a couple alien kids just like him, too scared to come all the way to Earth because they've seen our movies in which we kill aliens.
Ben travels some unknown distance through space to find that he and Wak are a lot alike.

And there's disappointment.

And, he thinks in the moment that he didn’t find anything valuable.

But, finding out that other people have
interests like yours,
fears like yours,
hope and dreams like yours—
that’s a great thing to realize, especially when you’re young. Realistically, some people are too far gone to try to find common ground a lot of the time. Politics, religion, and so many other things divide us from one another. But, one-on-one, if you can discover that you and someone else—like Ben and Lori sharing their dreams—have something interesting in common, something that can draw you closer, latch onto it, and hope the differences aren’t bigger than the similarities.

Sokath, his eyes open.


And, regarding Explorers specifically, remember, they never even finished making this movie. The studio gave up on it, and that’s why, for example, the helicopter pilot Charlie’s subplot seems to rise up and then fizzle so quickly. But, that’s also why it ends on such an ambiguous note.
The three boys, and Lori, are flying through the clouds.

If this is a dream, then what happens when we wake up?

I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out.

Still, as Wak says,

I think it’s time for you guys to get going.

Do we have to?

And, we’re sorry you hav ego run along so soon.

But, tomorrow is the 2nd, and that means, everything happens all over again.

The answers might not be obvious. But, if Phil Connors can find them, so can Ben. So can you.