to live with fear is a life half lived

I gotta watch Sing Street this week for a podcast, and Fran's outburst here in Strictly Ballroom that was yesterday's (and today's) title reminds me of Raphina's line there: "You can never do anything by half."

A basic enough message. You want something, you gotta go for it.

What you'd expect from a romantic comedy. Or drama...

I mean, movies inherently involve some protagonist going after some goal, some dream, some love, some whatever. Messages aren't going to run deep, and sometimes they're obvious, but that doesn't make them lesser. Like, I've written in this blog a few times about About Time and have a currently running podcast about that film and some of the negative reviews about it complain about its central message--to slow down and appreciate the things around you. And, yeah, that's a basic message, but if more of us followed that advice we wouldn't hear that message so much.

Like this movie: don't be afraid to express yourself or to go after what you want. Like, no shit. But, how many of express ourselves every time we think to? How many of us go after all our dreams?

When I wrote about that line from Sing Street--three years ago today--I began with a disclaimer:
Color me a hypocrite, but I don't follow much, if any, of the advice I'm about to give.
That isn't entirely true, though. I may not have always pushed as hard as I should have to get what I want, but I have managed plenty of things that I wanted in my life. Even now, I've been writing this blog again, I've got my various podcasts, got my life with cats, kids, and wife. I've got movies to watch, board games to play. The larger world has gotten dark of late, darker than usual, but my corner of it is nice. So, yeah, appreciate what you've got. Don't be afraid to express yourself. Don't be afraid to go after what you want...

I remember my sister Brooke said once--I think it was on Facebook--after an early blog entry here that leaned into the inspirational, that I had a self-help book in me. I don't know about that, but I'm certainly prone to pulling a film's messaging out and spreading it when I can. Life advice and whatnot. In a podcast episode out today, in fact, I was talking about how you should aim to give something to the world to make it a better place. Doesn't matter if it's big or if it's small, just matters that the change it makes is a positive one. Because, what else is there? Especially, in this 2020 that seems to be taking forever and only gets worse and worse.

It's strange, in fact, that recently it's gotten significantly better on a personal level when there is so much still going so badly out in the real world, outside this apartment, this family. A bright spot in a world increasingly troubled.

Meanwhile, after watching Strictly Ballroom last night, I also watched Palm Springs a nice new time loop film, another romantic comedy, but with a good measure of cynicism to it. And one film links to another links to another links to another. I go back and watch these films I've seen so many times but not many recently and some parts feel as fresh as if they were brand new, some feel old and familiar and comfortable, and it's a wonderful mix of old and new and young and old, and I feel like I'm twisting a little piece of my world in on itself and discovering that it's bigger and grander than it ever seemed before. And, Scott learns to dance the Paso Doble properly and Fran looks on lovingly and, in the most expensive shot of the film (purportedly), a train passes by Fran's home as they all dance outside, and it's a great moment, but one I might not have thought about much until I learned how it cost a lot to film because they had to specifically hire a train to pass by when they wanted it to, and then I'm thinking about trains, about these things that spend most of their time on the go, that exist in film just to go from place to place, and here a bright little late-night moment is happening in one place as a train passes by, and that's like every day, every life, the world passing by, and sometimes all you can do is hold onto what is yours, or what you want to be yours, and hope for the best because the world out there is just so much bigger than your problems and your dreams, and in this country especially, we take in that idea and turn selfish, and it's sad. Like we can't imagine that holding on to what is ours is not just for ourselves but for those who we love, those who we care about, those who need us or just need someone and we're there because we can be better than selfish.

Or something deep and thoughtful and feeling a little trite at the same time like that.
There's this pained center in the background of Strictly Ballroom that you don't see completely the first time. The mother constantly picking at the husband feels like--and we understand, or think we do, when President Fife tells Scott about his father's dancing history--she's holding something that he did against him. But, that isn't it at all. It's her own guilt at dancing with someone else instead that is eating at her, and sometimes lashing out at someone else is easier than turning on yourself, sometimes you've just got that negative energy and you need somewhere to put it. And Doug lets Shirley treat him like that because he still loves her, no matter what she did a quarter century ago. And, that's nice. When positive can outweigh the negative and you can just hold on, or someone else can keep holding on to you, whether you think you deserve it or not.

A cautionary tale for Scott. For me. For you.

We tell stories to express ideas. Most of our ideas are not complex. Some of them are just hard. So, we have to keep telling stories, keep expressing the same basic ideas because, whether we're too busy or think we are, or if we're struggling over money or work or school or disease, we choose what's easy, and then some smartasses make fun of movies for saying basic shit like go after your dreams. But, then another smartass will come along and ask, "Who hurt you?" And we can hope that one of those smartasses is driven by a little less cynicism and sarcasm than the other, and maybe it's contagious, and maybe we can all watch a movie and accept that however trite we might think it's message is, some people still need to hear it.

Slow down. Appreciate what's around you. Express yourself. Chase after your dreams. Do what you love. Make the world a better place.


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