Distracted today. Aside from a game of a risk and a debate about the earth being flat tonight, I saw two new movies today. Watching The Post, I was reminded of other newspaper films, the recent Spotlight, All the President's Men (which, alas, I missed out on seeing on the big screen back when I was at USC because I was sick), and especially The Paper because that movie not only worked for me as a movie but made me want to be a journalist. This got me thinking about other movies that make me want...
Like Sideways made we want to drink a lot of wine. Also to like pay attention to it and be like a connoisseur or whatever. But, also to drink a lot of wine. Into the Wild made me want to fuck off from society. Dead Poets Society made we want to write poetry (as did Paterson), to speak up, speak out. And maybe subtly to be a teacher... Really, while I compare my teaching to Mr. Keating, I don't think he is the reason I became a teacher. Just too many years between the two--my seeing Dead Poets Society in the theater and me becoming a teacher. Similarly, Raiders of the Lost Ark made we want to be an adventuring archaeologist, Star Wars made me want to be a Jedi. Ed Wood, Chaplin--and to a far lesser extent The Disaster Artist--made my urge to make movies rear its head again. Movies like Stories We Tell or Trumbo wake my urge to write. Musicals make me want to sing. Action films... Actually, as I get older, I don't fantasize about being in the action so much anymore. Too fucking dangerous.
Whether or not the protagonist is a good guy or some antihero, or even a villain, a movie can still be good. Indiana Jones may be an asshole, but he's mildly charming, he gets to dress in leather and a fedora and go fight bad guys. It beats going to school. It beats an office job. It beats most of the boring shit most of us have to do day in and day out.
So, he had an affair with an underage girl and he's a selfish ass. As Dusan (Christopher Waltz) says in Downsizing, which I also saw today, "The world needs assholes." And, I've written before--Day 1001 - who needs a drink?--about how we like assholes in movies...
Rob Gordon is an asshole. Han Solo is an asshole. Peter Venkman is an asshole. Katniss Everdeen is an asshole. Phil Connors is an asshole. Pretty much every action hero ever, any cad from any romantic comedy... Anyone whose story is worth telling on film is probably an asshole in some way. They have to be. That is who gets things done.
We pay at the box office to watch assholes fight other assholes, or to fuck them. We vote for assholes to hold public office, then we get to be assholes on the Internet to complain about them. That is how the Internet is the great equalizer--we all get to be assholes. We all get to get things done. Or at least pretend that we're getting things done. Pretend that what we say matters. That our comments about a particular film, for example, have impact. That our tweets about politics matter. If nothing else, our tiny screams into the great darkness at least reminds us that we exist. And, that's something.
That is Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, too. I mean, sure, he's our protagonist, he's the guy out there with the whip and the gun, he's the guy jumping onto moving trucks, riding on U-Boats, threatening the Ark of the Covenant with a rocket launcher. Still, he does not affect the outcome (except for not blowing up the Ark in that moment, of course). And that's a great lesson for life. Especially for a kid like me seeing this all those long years ago. You can put a fuck ton of effort into something and you still might be powerless against the larger world, against governments, against soldiers. You can study archaeology for years, adventure for years, handing over antiquities to museums left and right, but when God himself slaps down some Nazis nearby, you are lucky he didn't hit you too, but I guess he forgave the statutory rape (or maybe there wasn't a law about that wherever that happened back in '26) because you failed to protect his Ark from the Nazis. You can study in your field for years and your competition (Belloq) and your friend (Sallah) will both get hired by the desperate dictator jealous of other people's power. You can study for years and still have that Ark, which, hey, at least you transported it back to Washington, right, confiscated and buried in a warehouse. Because, you don't fucking matter as much as you think you do...
Most of the time.
Can't end with the negativity. Not today. It was a pretty good day. Sometimes, you do fucking matter. Sometimes, you are the light that brightens someone else's dark day. Sometimes you inspire the people around you. Sometimes, you are all that stands between chaos and a good day. And, sometimes, you just get to watch a few movies, play a board game, and debate crap science. Whatever you're doing, enjoy it. Or don't do it.
I went to a free acting class thing last week and one remarkable thing there was how people there intending to take the ongoing class (it's too rich for my blood) are making the effort to do the thing they want to do, the thing they enjoy. And, they don't even have to step on other people to do it. (Lately, of course, we've seen plenty of news about actors and producers who do step on people to get things done. But, I'm talking beginning actors, or day players looking to make their way up.)
Do what is fun. Don't hurt people. And, if you think hurting people is fun, get some help because you are wrong. Do what you love. Or love what you do. And, be good to the people around you because, yeah, sometimes you absolutely matter.
Even if it is just because you don't pull the trigger on that rocket launcher.