Thursday, January 14, 2016


My daughter knocked out an entire tense chapter of Warrior Cats fan fic tonight (two murders, a lot of blood and chaos - and she’s never even seen a Tarantino flick), so I think the least I can do is try to finish what I started in the last post.
But first a word on raising cinephiles. Girl, 10, and Boy, 8. I tend to let them direct their own media consumption for the most part, though I’ve certainly steered them away from things that really irritate me (Dora the Explorer) and toward things that I love (Little Bear, Phineas and Ferb, Pingu). They are kids (no, really), and therefore tend to kinda dig most things they see. Literarily, they’re more discerning, eschewing books that talk down to them and heroes that are too perfect. Their cinematic tastes are growing more refined, however.
And they see a lot of movies. Their father runs a couple of movie theaters in the Bay Area and is generally intent on filmic indoctrination. They count Seven Samurai as one of their favorite films (Girl does a spot-on impersonation of Yohei) and are regulars at the Stanford Theater and the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum. They see more new releases than I do. And not just kid fare. They saw The Martian, Mission Impossible, Jurassic World and that war dog movie. So their vote for Inside Out is not just based on its superiority to, say, Pixels. I asked them to name their favorite movie tonight. Boy: “Just one? That’s a tall order.” Seriously, this guy talks like that. But he came out shortly with Inside Out and Wall-E, with Girl yelling out How to Train Your Dragon. We are huge Toothless fans ‘round these parts.
Anyway, when they are with me they get into TV series marathons. Avatar, which I adored, Digimon and Pokemon, which I appreciate but less so. Phineas and Ferb. Futurama. Most recently Gravity Falls, which is also pretty damned brilliant. But at Daddy’s house they watch serious cinema. Subtitles, man. Classics. And, as all fathers can attest, kids love to embrace the obsessions of their parents. I say fathers because fathers are just more wired that way. There are many of us fangirls out there, but our fanmommyhood tends to be a bit more kid-directed. The fanboys expect everyone to follow their lead. It’s the prime directive. I love X; you will love X. And kids are well-wired to do so. I love love love reading my cinedaddy friends talk about how much their kids love everything they love. As if it just happens organically. As if they aren’t trained from birth. It’s the modern-day version of following in the family business. Love what I love, kid. And hell, it’s easy. Especially when it’s media-related. You might not want to grow up to take over Daddy’s long-haul trucking business, but Star Wars? Hell yeah. Instant bonding.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. I love watching my kids grow into discerning adults. They’re already far more critical than I was well into my 20s. I believed art should be absorbed, wallowed in. Criticism was antithetical to my response to art. It’s only in the past dozen years that I’ve come to appreciate criticism for what it can be. Not simply tearing down, as the name implies. But devouring. Analyzing. Aestheticizing. I consumed art passively for much of my life. Letting it wash over me. Leaving me with only emotions. It’s why I love Malick so. I don’t have to think. I just feeeeeel.
But relatively recently I learned how effing much fun it is to talk about art. What it’s doing. What it intends. What it means. What effect it might have. I started a book club a couple of months ago, thus apotheosizing my suburban soccer mom identity. I lie. I didn’t start it. A mommy friend started it for me (I’m pretty sure) because she was worried (I’m pretty sure) about my isolation and depression (I’m pretty sure) and thought I needed some companionship and stimulation (I’m pretty sure). So far we’ve read some great effing books and had some…. uh…. well… halting and awkward conversations about them.
You guys. Normal people aren’t used to talking about art. They consume it. (At least in the form of TV, film and litchrachur.) But there it ends. Maybe, “That was a great episode! Can you believe they killed off Glenn?” Or, “You have to watch this viral video.” But we don’t know what to do beyond that. I’m gonna get in trouble for saying “normal” people, like I got blasted for saying “civilians.” Look, I’m sorry. I’m just trying to differentiate between uber-geeks-in-this-category and reasonable-humans.
Jesus, I’ve strayed very far from the topic of FILMS of 2015. So let me try again.
Creed: I loved the original Rocky. I’ve had many friends express their disbelief that such a movie won Oscars over Network, Taxi Driver and All the President’s Men. All of which are great movies. It was a good year for movies. Incredibly quotable movies. Movies you can watch over and over again. But I was five at the time and saw Rocky in the drive-in, and ran up every set of steps I could find, singing “Gonna Fly Now” and feeling like I could do anything. Creed took that spirit and retread it, much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Hit the same notes and chuckled when they were a little off. Rocky handing Adonis a piece of paper with a workout written; Adonis snapping a photo and telling him it’s in the cloud; Rocky looking up at the clouds. Shy, sweater-wearing Adrian became the winning Tessa Thompson, not sure exactly what she sees in this boxer, but going all in. Rocky became Mick, trying to be stern but falling into his own Rockyness.
Okay, apparently I fell asleep after that. And now it’s 24 hours later, I’ve spent a day in spreadsheets and reporting on venture capital financing transactions, and eating mostly crackers and, HI! Okay, first, I have to call self-bull-shit on the male/female nonsense I espoused previously about how fathers are wired one way and blah blah blah. It just so happens that I’m attracted to monomaniacal men. It’s perhaps a shortcut for passion. I want passion, but I’ll settle for an Aspergian degree of knowledge of a certain topic: music, film, literature, art, laissez-faire economics. Meanwhile my own monomaniacal passions and interests I keep to myself, goddamn it. And I take it back about laissez-faire economics. Communists only, thank you. Gosh, I love Tessa Thompson. I loved reading and soap operas and Democrats because my mom did. I wrote, choreographed and performed songs to (attempt to) impress my singer-songwriter-playwright father. My kids like reading and writing and Democrats for me, and spicy food and basketball for their dad. Films they love for both of us. Art and video games they love for themselves. We are a family of passions, from families of passions.
I am first and foremost an actress. Not necessarily a good actress, but an actress. It’s what I love. It’s where I feel most alive. Writers and filmmakers I’ve known tend to discount this. Like they think acting is a lesser art. They’ll go gaga over their favorite actors, sure. But in their hearts they believe actors are merely vessels for the words written and the directions given. Seriously. It’s a lesser art, non-intellectual, unintentional. And fuck yes, it is. That’s what makes it powerful. The ability to open up your soul, brains be damned, and throw it on the stage or on the screen is misunderstood and undervalued.
Okay, yes, we pay movie stars exorbitant amounts, but we kinda think it’s a scam. We’ll fall in love with actors, but we don’t take them seriously. After all, an actor without a script can be a terrifying thing. There are very few actors (mostly just the comedians who write) who can go off script and sound vaguely intelligent. Movie stars are lucky. They’re pretty. They’re at best savants of some sort. Our careful and closed intellectual brains can’t quite process what it is that makes them magic. So let me tell you what it is. Hell, I don’t know. Wait, yes, I do. It’s magic. It’s the soul. It’s the exquisite pain of existence poured out in little ice cube trays for your convenient consumption. You hear about a temperamental asshole actor lashing out with crazy petulance and fury at a grip who interrupted a scene, and you feel all superior because you would never lose your temper like that. Consider that the temperamental asshole actor’s job is to tear down every single fucking wall and coping skill and barrier she or he has in order to flay him or herself in front of an audience, the camera, the world, so that you can feel a little something as you watch in the theater, on your television, or on your pocket computing wonder. And when you question the bat-shit choices, addictions, love affairs, acts of public indecency of your cinematic heroes, remember that they’re feeling every second of every day the most vicious, tender, tragic, terrifying, exquisite feelings you’ve ever felt. Every second. All of the feels.
Again, I don’t know where I’m going with this, except perhaps to say it’s amazing to me that they’re not all constantly numbed out of their noggins with every possible drug, drink and sexual escapade they can muster.
Okay, I’ll try to tie this back in to something on topic. Which performances of 2015 were soul-shattering? You tell me. Inside Out managed it with animation. Creed’s Michael Jordan managed to move me while being fairly opaque. There’s been a lot of JLaw backlash of late (and I haven’t seen Joy yet), but she is a boffo soul-flayer. I think sometimes it’s easier with the youths. We get more careful with age. Some of the beautiful young actors of yesteryear lapse into self-parody as they age. Possibly they just can’t sustain the soul-flay and stay at all sane. Possibly they get lazy, or tired. Man, I know I’m tired. Christian Bale and Steve Carrell in The Big Short do it for me. Josh Lucas and Stephen Plunkett in The Mend pour it all out there. I worry about Josh Lucas. He has that dangerous quality I saw in Philip Seymour Hoffman and Brittany Murphy. Unsustainable vulnerability. Paul Dano in Love & Mercy epitomized what I’m on about. Oh, Dano boy. The pipes, the pipes are calling. Amy Schumer does it in Trainwreck, a very imperfect picture, but one with startling heart. Amy feels it all, then intellectualizes it and hands it back to us in a cutting and charming package. She gives me hope for the next generation(s) of womankind.
It’s late again and I’m sleepy. So quick: tell me what I should see tonight. The dark theater and bright lights are a’callin’. The Revenant? The Hateful Eight? Joy? Concussion? The Danish Girl? Ride Along 2? 13 Hours? The Road Chip? Ooooh one more thing. What’s the deal with The Good Dinosaur? I feel like the premise was totally wasted. Why go to the trouble of putting dinosaurs and humans together only to treat the human like a cute little pet? I mean, it was a very cute pet. But it felt like quite a squandered opportunity.
Okay, okay. Good night, sweet humans. Or, as this will be posted on the morrow, Móra na maidine daoibh!
Marya Murphy has been called "a less-effeminate Oscar Wilde," and "a Twitter personality," neither of which has yet to lead to a lucrative job offering, though she has scored a free computer and opera tickets. She has produced several critically-acclaimed films (CanaryAround the BayBabnik and Amity) and continues to act, write, edit and generally film-make when her selfish eight- and 10-year-old aren’t demanding to be fed, clothed and educated. Marya hails from Redwood City, CA.

No comments: