Here is a place I know. It is easy. I know where I am. I am here. I am afraid of it. I dream of living in this. It isn’t a thing that is anything else. It is the thing, all of itself. And I am here. Lucky me. There is a sound. It is quiet and not. Oh, an abstract thing. No. It is tiny and whole. It is physics. It is a big thing. It is the everything thing. But don’t say that. Too many steps back.
It is that thing in you, that thing you hold too tight, little too much of you that you don’t want to let out, that you might say no to, that you might think that is too much and is everything. And that is the thing, tiny as it might be that is everything. It wakes you and makes you remember.
It was a while back and I was different then. But I wasn’t. You weren’t. We were there. And we remember. And that is the curse. It is love. Or memory.
I hate the idea of deleting. I would rather rearrange, keep the letters that I have created, alive as it were. Why destroy something that I created? It’s mean. It’s lazy. Vindictive. I know it sounds like hubris. ‘Never touch anything created by McPhedran. Those words are precious and divine.’
As much as it might be something like that, I like these letters and words. I made them to be here, to be read. That’s something, isn’t it? Or should I just delete?
I remember the walk to the stadium, around the abandoned concession stands and then the old viewing tower. I used to run up the winding staircase as fast as I could and always cramped up before I was even halfway. But it was bordered up now. The exhibition grounds had the feel about it everywhere – old and forgotten, papers blowing, everyone walking away.
I still read comics in the paper. I didn’t like any of them that much. Andy Capp made no sense. Same with Blondie and Hagar. Rex MD was ridiculously dumb. The worst was Family Circle. So bad that it was good.
It was one of the first things that I learned to mock. I felt superior to it. Kid stuff. I listened to music by Angel, Blood Rock, Goddo, Moxy and The Who.
I stole my first cigarette from one of my mother’s oldest friends and smoked it behind the garage. It was raining and it got soggy. So I had a good excuse to throw it out early. I stole a pen for my mother’s birthday. I hated that pen and scratched it up, but it was always on her desk.
She didn’t know where I was because I was going to a concert. And I wasn’t allowed to do that until I was 18. But it was The Who, and I had to see The Who. Except the concert was lousy. People were drunk and fighting everywhere. A watermelon was smashed beside me. And the music was predictable and boring. I couldn’t believe it. I had a doughnut when I got home. Boston Cream. It was lousy too.
This air was no good. It was not what they wanted. They would not be coming down because of it. She knew it. The volcano sat low on the horizon. It was tired, done for now. The smoke still drifted out but was pulled across the water, sucked with the currents and winds, the birds turning away, knowing all of this, waiting for it to pass. And then it swirled up, as if on command, and Proxima Two was gone. It was just the one sun, the land in low profile.
Em remembered something about herself, sitting alone. There was the beach and the sound of the water and she was there. Wherever she had come from. She was in this place. She was here. She knew that. No one explained any of that. She was here. And there never would be more that. Except going forward. And she was doing that too.
Forget the earth or the sun as the center of the universe. The anthropic principle puts life at the center. The universe appears fine-tuned for life. If gravity were just slightly stronger, stars would compress tightly and burn out after a few million years rather than billions. Ergo, life would never have a chance to evolve.
Life might not have originated on Earth but rather was seeded with ancient microbes that bombarded the planet billions of years ago, an idea called Panspermia (Greek for seeds everywhere.) Therefore we are aliens.*
Excerpted from David Siegel Bernstein’s Blockbuster Science
Ari Aster’s Midsommer is that rarest of things – a film that refuses to let you be. It is more than a film, a story, a collection of images and sounds, but a place in which you are immersed, to find something real.
Yes, Midsommer is a film with the trappings of horror – ominous music, jump scare tactics, the standard group of unwitting fools and more than enough gruesome imagery – none of which are my thing. No. I don’t like horror.
These elements are rarely implemented in predicable fashion. Rather than focusing on the gruesome images, although there are moments, the atmosphere is the thing.
It boils down to the simplest of questions: What exactly am I watching here ? What the hell is this? What does any of this mean?
It’s not just the captivating imagery, the brooding pace, the sharply rendered dialogue, but the moments dappled into something else, an essential to which there seems no answer.
The thing is that you are here, simply and wildly so, what the beat guys said, that raw repetitive thing. You think you belong here and you do. You came to this place and were ready for it or not at all. On the edge of knowing. That is all there could possibly be. Almost there. Virile. All of that in you. One long impossible note.
And you think there should be more – because in all of that might be ahead and has been seen by you, by you!, the sheer cliffs, the little kids, everything tiny, remembering a mistake, lost, incredibly, delightfully so, and not in a memory, not a precise known thing, cherished, forgotten, that thing so exquisite as it must be known, there, waiting – and it isn’t.
And so there is that, the king of the universe in the hallway, flames coming out like they should, no understanding for the what or why of it, that nightmare you slip into and live in, there, acting like you are half sleep and probably are. And how did you get to that? Meandering, fine and easy. That is what you say and almost think at the end of it.
All the young kids who are starting out want to do crazy things with the camera. It’s useless. The simplest continuity is the most efficient: a shot and then a reverse shot. You must spend more time with the actors and the dialogue than with the camera. Anybody can think up a difficult camera move, but very few can manage to retain the same feeling between a long shot and a close-up, to keep up the quality of the emotion. (From Scott Eyman’s Print the Legend, 273)
The New York Times has certainly gone to town on the current state of cinema, with no less than three film heavyweights – Martin Scorsese, A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis, weighing in. As thoughtful as they might have tried to attend the issue, they missed the mark, focusing almost solely on the emptiness of the superhero genre and franchises of Star Wars, Disney et al., when great filmmaking goes far beyond that. Mr. Scorsese’s latest release, The Irishman, represents this problem as much as anything – films that sacrifice content for style.
There are four basics to a great film – visuals, sound, narrative and message. Exemplars include Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God (1973), The Coen’s No Country for Old Men (2005) and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless (2017), all of which deliver a poignant message through story, images and music and only grow in dimension with repeated viewing.
The celebrated films of 2019 – such as Todd Phillips’ Joker, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Bong Joo-ho’s Parasite – fall well short of greatness because the story is meandering and incomplete. They, like the Hollywood franchises and Scorsese’s The Irishman, go so heavily in on style that the viewer just wants everybody to die so the film will finally end.
The best films of 2019 include Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, The Safdis’ Uncut Gems and Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, none of which are actually memorable, but at least they try to tell a story.
Fear not, just one year ago, there were three superlative films – Hirokazu Koreeda’s Shoplifters, Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum and Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma – offering everything, including story and images and message. 2020 might get us back on track.
I’m not going to try so damn hard to make other people happy. That’s my resolution for 2020. How do you like that? I’m not going to make the effort for the people that don’t deserve it. The truth is that I don’t like any people that much. That’s what it comes down to. Give me a serval or a dog any day. Whatever the race, creed or gender, people are all the same, always needing, always wanting, more, more, more, a bunch of babies.
The more they have, they uglier they are, the more they think they know, the more they believe their little consciousness to be somehow superior, more aware, more real. The opposite is the more the truth – the less self-awareness, the better, the less conscious, the more real. The worst thing of all is their idiotic smiles. No, that’s not the worst thing. The worst thing of all is making resolutions that no one ever keeps. That’s the worst lie. I’m going to be a better person. This time I’m really going to try.