Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ain't Nothin' Wrong

Let's talk about movies for a second, and in a broader sense, art in general.

I have noticed just over the past few months that we, the modern day movie-goer, have become incredibly jaded and cynical. This thought originally occurred to me when i was telling my brother and father what i thought about Shutter Island, which i saw last night (however, due to its recent debut, i'll use a different movie for my examples so as to avoid any unintentional spoilers). During the conversation, i couldn't help but admit that, while a fantastically well made and well acted film, the story was rather unoriginal.

I really liked Shutter Island. Now let's talk about Avatar.

Avatar is Pocahontas in space. I'll be the first to describe it that way and i stick by that succinct and catchy soundbite. The basic story elements are profoundly simple and have been used in a myriad of other movies to greater or lesser effect. Go google the term "Noble Savage" and you'll find more reading material than you'd ever want to actually sit down and peruse in your life time. Yes, there were a few tweaks to make it an edgy sci-fi action film, but let's face it: Avatar is about humanity finding the primal beauty of the life of the noble savage.

Oh no! The story is unoriginal! How could James Cameron ever subject us to such drivel!? Boo hoo, cynic. In the words of King F**king Solomon, "there is nothing new under the sun". If you look deep enough and far enough back, a vast majority of current storytelling is just a retelling of something older than your grandpappy's grandpappy. Especially if you're watching anything that has the word "Epic" on the cover.

Why on earth, then, would this lessen our enjoyment of a good piece of Hollywood storytelling? Was there anything WRONG with Avatar? Apart from a few kitschy plot devices, the entire film was glorious in scope and its ability to evoke an emotional response. Did "Pocahontas" do that for ya? Than congratulations to James Cameron. He's a better storyteller than Disney. And that's really what it comes down to, folks. Think of someone you know who just tells a really good story. Have you ever been involved in one of their stories and insisted that they tell it just because they do a better job?

Story-telling is a tradition older than history and used to be incredibly important. In fact, before the invention of the written word, it WAS the only means civilizations had of preserving their history. Today, it is not a necessary position anymore, but has instead transcended into various mediums of art: books, movies, comics, songs. Don't get so caught up in the lyrics that you can't appreciate the melody.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Reason

I am made up of equal parts Hopeless Romantic and Misanthropic Cynic. This causes me to often wonder on the nature of love and why it sucks so hard. I feel like the dyslexic agnostic insomniac who stays up all night wondering if there's a dog.

See, here's the problem i see with modern dating: romance is easy. Well, for me at least. Part of this is due to my inherent compassion and empathy and partly from my mother's rigorous training in consideration and listening skills. Women maybe illogically co mplex, but they generally have the decency to be consistently so. Tasteful displays of affection, little gifts, true emotive declarations; no girl doesn't like this stuff.

In high school, i was in a select Men's Ensemble. We would put on several concerts a year, participate in a couple different competitions, and generally spend a couple hours a week being really geeky. For fun, we once transposed and taught ourselves a moderately sappy love song to sing as a surprise for our friends and family at one of the year-end concerts. At the time, i was falling head over heels for a certain girl.

When the time for my part came, the rest of the guys softened to a background and i belted out the following lines:

"I don't care what consequence it brings

I have been a fool for lesser things

I want you so bad, I think you ought to know that

I intend to hold you for the longest time"

To this day, i have never sung anything more genuinely than those lines (although i admit, such a perfect opportunity rarely comes up). In true, corny romanticism, i didn't care about anyone else in the room; i sung only for her.

Such displays are beautiful, grandiose, and make great stories, but they mean approximately diddly-squat when it comes to maintaining a functional and healthy relationship.

My longest-lasting relationship spanned two and a half years. It took me exactly that long to realize that it wasn't going to work. The romance had died, and what was left were two people who thought they understood each other, trying desperately to hold onto a love for a person who no longer existed.

The butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling is delightful, but it never lasts. Disney movies are, sad to say, not real life. Years later, the grind of daily life and endless repetitions of once meaningful words render romance dead for all but a few sacred days of the year. It is the rest of the days that make up the actual relationship and it is the hours of those days that become Sisyphean in scope.

I believe in love. But i must acknowledge the horrible facts of life that so often make love seem like its not even worth the bother. I have determined, then, that the problem my Hopelessly Misanthropic personality has been forcing me to try to solve is a mystery, rather than a puzzle. You see, dear reader, all it takes to solve a puzzle is to find one piece to complete the picture. A mystery, on the other hand, requires a perfect understanding of all the factors, the influences, the intricacies, AND the missing pieces.

I hope to figure it all out before i die. Or get married. My wife deserves it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

To Every Artist I've Ever Known

Look for beauty wherever you go - in the mundane, the ugly, and the trivial.
Sing when the mood takes you, without regard for nearby critics.
Draw what you see, not what's there.
Listen to the rain, but don't ignore the sunshine.
Find the rhythm of the situation. Don't force yours' upon it.
Dance like you mean it.
Language is the tool: don't let it use you.
Create always.