What Eternal Sunshine Taught 15 Year Old Me About Love

Movies and Books

A crestfallen, middle-aged man stumbles toward the exit of the bookstore at which his girlfriend works, crushing in one fist a necklace he’d bought her for Valentine’s. As he crosses the threshold, the lights fizzle out and the walls converge, morphing into the cramped living room of a grimy apartment in which his friends regretfully inform him that his now ex had erased him from her memory. It’s probably the most beautiful and heartbreaking scene transition I have ever seen—maybe ever will.

Out of all the poignant sequences Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind offers, this is the one that resonated with me most upon my first of four viewings. It stuck with me because it terrified me. At 15, I knew nothing about love and the control it has over the landscape of our thoughts. At 15, I had no desire to experience such a destructive and (in my naïve little head) overrated force, until I saw Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) stagger into that living room, shoulders hunched and eyes hollow, exuding shock waves of grief and vengeance. It was my first glimpse at just how suddenly and completely love can crumble, and how powerless we are to its crumbling. I was intrigued—no, addicted.

Oblivion terrifies me. To be eradicated from the consciousness of a planet to which I’ve literally devoted my entire existence is the saddest yet most inevitable thing I can imagine. To be eradicated from the consciousness of a person to whom you’ve devoted your heart—and invested an unwarranted belief in everything transcendent and beautifulis too cruel for words. Yet, there’s also a paradoxical sense of wonder to all this bleak bullshit, because the convergence of two souls is in fact the most transcendent and beautiful thing imaginable. Joel loved Clementine so much that he couldn’t remember a self without her; they were so connected that he had to eradicate her from his own consciousness to fill the void within it.

15 year old me was terrified of how much I craved that connection for myself. I still haven’t fallen for anyone the way Joel and Clementine fell for each other. I still want to as much as I did six years earlier because, really, how else do you defy oblivion other than by leaving an indelible imprint on somebody else’s mind? The perpetual nightmare of reality doesn’t grant you memory-erasing machines. If you get fucked, you carry those scars forever, but at least you know that someone, somewhere will always bear some remnant of your soul–no matter how small, no matter how bitter. And that’s pretty fucking neat.


Why I Adore Boyhood and Indie Movies in General

Movies and Books

I’ve been wanting to write about both Boyhood and indie flicks for a long time. Since I started blogging, to be quite honest. I kept putting it off because I’m scared of writing reviews on things I love and I’m petrified of failing to meet my own expectations. If I’m excited to blog about something, I expect it to be spectacular (to me, at least). And way too frequently, it’s just not. Anyhow, I’ve decided to just fuck it tonight because it’s so late and I so can’t sleep. I need NyQuil.

So many people hated Boyhood because “nothing happens” and the acting is poor. The first part is technically false but visually true; the second part is 96.9% false. You see, if you’re watching a completed three-hour film obviously something must have happened. A cat farting is something happening. Two people talking about the color of fart is something happening. A boy growing older is something happening. So people claiming “nothing happened” should really just look up the definitions of “things” and “happen” before they open their stupid mouths. Okay, that’s not really fair because the first time I watched it, I too thought, “Why am I so attached to a movie about a some boy going through puberty?” Visially, nothing much really happens at all. There’s no climax (lol), no plot twists, no drama. So yes, Boyhood isn’t your typical Hollywood blockbuster.

But drama does not consist exclusively of action and suspense and noise. It contains tension, emotion, and unexpected changes, none of which have to be coupled with violence or scandal. I think Hollywood blockbusters have trained us into believing that drama and subtlety are mutually exclusive. If your nails don’t dig into the seat rests and your jaws don’t land on the ground at least once, then that movie sucked because “nothing happened.” If you’re neither shocked nor confused nor euphoric nor devastated, then you’ve wasted 1/12 of a day of your life.

The magic of Boyhood is in its realism – its unfiltered, unflinching portrayal of a physical and emotional movement through time. Yes, “nothing happens,” but isn’t that the whole point? Nothing happens when we’re growing up. We just grow up. Literally. Our adolescent years aren’t defined by our first kiss, or the one time we got caught smoking weed, or even graduation. Those are the light posts that illuminate a plain, dark road. That road is our journey, and it’s defined by the mundane moments that we’ve taken granted – awkward silences during family meals, endless arguments about grades, PMSing, getting dressed for school, writing essays deep into the night, talking till dawn with your best friends. And all the laughter and all the tears – you can’t even remember what inspired them but you know they were everywhere during those unforgettable years.

Maybe you’re whipping your head left and right as you’re reading this. Maybe you’re thinking that the definition only covers the highlights, otherwise we’ll never be able to sum up anything succinctly. That’s probably true.

But listen to this: my adolescence is my first kiss, my first drink, my first run in with the cops, and my graduation.

Isn’t that ridiculous? Adolescence (I don’t know exactly when it starts or ends) covers a good decade of our lives. 1/8 of our entire lifespan if we’re lucky enough to die of old age. It should be a struggle to define such a significant period of our existence. Adolescence is a blurry mess of challenges, changes, resentment for parental control, anticipation for college and freedom, and longing for childhood innocence. It’s a plethora of paradoxes. And the only way you define a plethora of paradoxes is by making a three-hour epic over 12 short years. Good luck.

In the end, what I love most about Boyhood…and indie films in general, is that it makes you think twice about the mundane. Boring is a funny word because I don’t think it applies to anything. Calling something boring only confirms our own laziness. If something is complex, call it weird; if something is ordinary, call it dull. It’s so easy to do, and it masks our ignorance. This may be a horrible comparison, but I feel like indie films are the introverts of the film industry. Quirky, quiet, and overshadowed by its louder, more charismatic counterparts. We need indie films as well as introverts, because along with thinkers we need things to make us think.

Guilty Pleasures

Movies and Books

Not all movies become classics. Sure, I wanna watch visually astounding, intellectually stimulating, spiritually transporting masterpieces all the freaking time, but that just isn’t possible. The reality is that only a few movies move us in the way we want every movie to. And we’re never going to be interested in every single critically acclaimed movie anyway (I will literally pick up my dog’s shite with my bare hands than watch another minute of Lincoln). Rarity is what makes great movies that much more special.

Since we can’t be watching exceptional movies all the time, most of us probably spend way too much time on movies we know are huge a waste of our time.

My guilty pleasure is sappy romance movies.

Like, the same sometimes cute, always melodramatic, and never original love stories between a very attractive boy and an equally attractive girl. Say Anything, The Notebook, Titanic, 500 Days of Summer, The Vow, One Day, Her. Wait, no, no, no, not HerThat’s actually an incredibly original and insightful and beautiful film that deserves to be watched by everyone. I’d proudly admit I’m a romance flick junkie if all romance movies are half as fantastic as Her. 500 Days of Summer is pretty decent, too. I’m not saying any of those other ones are particularly bad; it’s just that they’re so predictable and shallow. Love stories are like overcooked cupcakes: the icing is heavenly sweet and always delicious, but the core is scorched by overused catchphrases and plot lines.

But that doesn’t matter, does it? Love is irrational (no pun intended). I don’t even know why I’m attracted to those pointless movies in the first place, and I certainly can’t explain why I keep going back for more.

No matter how many times I hear them, stupid ass lines like this still get me all giddy and euphoric:

And this:

And then there are the classics that I can probably (and probably have) recite in my sleep:

I knew I would regret writing this post as soon as I decided to do it. Goddamn this is embarrassing. My roomie called it, and I might as well admit the obvious: I’m a romantic freak. I mean, come on, I spent most of my high school years obsessing over Nicholas Sparks. NICHOLAS FUCKING SPARKS. Thank God that phase is over or nobody’s ever going to take me seriously as a writer.

As someone who’s pretty much allergic to clichés and melodramatic, lovey-dovey shit, I am honestly quite ashamed to bring to light this perennial guilty pleasure of mine. But dammit it’s so freaking addictive. We all love love. Some more than others, but we all love it. We love the exquisite, invincible feeling of knowing that somebody other than your family members (who are obliged to care about you) will be heartbroken if you were to walk into a knife and die right then and there. If we can’t personally experience that feeling all the time, we might as well vicariously live it through somebody else, even if they’re just acting.

So that’s a little Confession Sunday for you. Sometimes confession’s good for the soul; sometimes it’s just a painful reminder that you haven’t quite outgrown the person you foolishly thought you’ve become too good for. This is the latter case.

Time = Money?

Daily Prompts, Musings/Rants

Ready, Set, Done

Our free-write is back by popular demand: today, write about anything — but you must write for exactly ten minutes, no more, no less.

Free-writes always make me nervous, mostly because I’m allergic to disorganized thinking and clumsy writing. But I suppose that’s the whole point of unpremeditated writing, so fuck it. This one goes to my friend Julie. Thanks for the idea.

We’ve all seen shitty movies before. Horribly acted, scripted, directed bull-crap that cost us $12 (slightly lower or higher depending on where you live) and 120 precious minutes of our lives. After the movie, when we cuss at ourselves for making such a stupid fucking decision to watch such a dreadful movie, are we lamenting on the lost time or the lost money? Both, you probably think. You’d probably say, “Fuck, that was such a waste of time and money.” But is that completely true? We spend those 12 dollars to watch a movie. That is, to sit down in a chair inside the theater and absorb whatever the big screen shows us. The quality of the film is not guaranteed in those 12 dollars. Think about it this way: if money = quality, then why are Oscar nominated films the same price as sappy, shitty Rom-Coms? Money only buys us a chance to enjoy or hate whatever it is we watch. Time, on the other hand, buys us the experience. If a movie is bad, we waste 120 minutes hating the living hell of out it and thinking of all the other less shitty things we could be doing instead. If a movie is good, we feel satisfied, emotionally charged, intellectually stimulated. We maybe even walk out as changed people. In other words, 120 minutes well spent.

So if we put into perspective everything that I just said (which may or may not have made sense), the money we spent got us exactly what we asked for – a seat in the movie theater. Regardless of the quality of a movie, those 12 dollars were not wasted in the sense that it gave us what it was supposed to. But time is linked to our experience of a movie, which is often overwhelming and unpredictable. I think what’s most precious to us if what we get out of the time gone by; lost time hurts us much more than lost money. In the end, when we kick ourselves for choosing a bad movie, what we’re really lamenting is the two hours that passed in displeasure rather than enjoyment. Two hours that we would never get back.


Last Words

Movies and Books, Musings/Rants

I was actually planning to blog about something totally different today, but about five minutes ago I saw a picture of Neil Patrick Harris on Instagram, which reminded me of How I Met Your Mother…which pissed me off at first (because THE FINALE) but then brought me back to that episode in which Marshall’s dad died of a heart attack. Yep, out of all the hilarious and hilariously awful episodes, that’s the one that I remembered. I’m sorry, my mind just goes off on a thousand tangents at the smallest things. But anyway, in the episode following his father’s death, Marshall struggles to find and accept the final words his father said to him. He thought it was a spoken conversation at first, then it turned out to be a phone call, and then it ended up being a voice mail message. That’s not really the point, though. What’s important was that Marshall kept believing that his father’s last words must have been something particularly poignant. And in the end, it’s not. It’s just him saying something about a video game (or was it a pizza?). So Marshall goes through this sorta cathartic experience of learning that one’s last words don’t really define one’s legacy. It’s probably the only truly somber episode in all nine seasons of HIMYM.

So that got me thinking about death. How cheerful, I know. But really, I think it’s fascinating that we’re so preoccupied with the idea of last words and legacy and returning back to the dirt with a big fucking bang. On the one hand, death is so scary and final that we don’t really wanna think or talk about. But on the other hand, it’s hard not to wonder how we would leave this earth and who would actually remember or miss us. I think we’re less scared about dying than the idea of dying alone and unremembered, which basically indicates that our existence didn’t mean jack shit. John Green talks a lot about this whole dying/existence thing in The Fault in Our Stars, which I beg you to read if you haven’t already.

Anyway, I don’t think we’re being fair on ourselves my putting so much emphasis on the end. I always find it bizarre when people get moved to tears by those cheesy endings to melodramatic movies: when the abusive dad who mistreated his son his entire life lies on his death bed and says some bullshit like, “I should have treated you better,” and then cries a ton and dies. Somehow that makes everything okay and changes his child’s impression of him. Instead of a selfish, violent alcoholic, his dad is now a compassionate, misunderstood man who has always loved his poor kid. The fuck? I just think there’s something so fundamentally fucked up about that logic, about the idea that our last seconds can change an image we spent our entire lives building.

Maybe that’s pop culture’s way of giving us what we they think we deserve – a happy ending in which everyone wins. But I think we deserve better. I think we deserve to know that the lives we lead are meaningful enough that they can’t be undone by a sentence on the death bed. If you’ve been a shitty person your entire fucking life then one final regretful apology is far from enough. If you’ve been an awesome person your whole life then leaving anonymously shouldn’t be a shame at all. Of course it would be fucking legendary (or just fucking morbid) to say, “I want to be choked to death by a goat,” and then actually die like that an hour later. But how many of us actually get to predict our deaths? Movies and books glorify final moments so much that we’re made to believe that our ends are more important than our beginnings and our peaks. I’m not sure that’s the right way to live life.

The Curious Case of “Shippers”

Pop Culture, Relationships and Shit

Anyone familiar with Tumblr will probably be familiar with a whole bunch of terms related to “ships” that have absolutely nothing to do with shipsIn Tumblr-sphere, a “shipper” refers to someone who wants a pair of fictional characters or celebrities (most likely those who collaborated in a project like a MV or a film) to fall in love and get together. It may sound incredibly dumb, but the shipping culture has become more and more popular of late, especially among younger teens. And the fandom is not to be trifled with. Not only do you have to wholeheartedly support your dream couple, you also have to wholeheartedly oppose any other pairing, hence creating what is called a “ship war” in which fans who ship different couples fight and abuse each other on social networks.

That’s not to say shipping is not an intellectually-stimulating activity. Every year, the shipping culture produces a slew of impeccably-edited Youtube videos, clever gifs, and highly graphic fanfic dedicated to their OTP (One True Pair). Some of those fan-made works are so remarkably well-created that I often wonder if the sole reason those fans go to sleep every night is to dream about two actors sharing a fake kiss. And I wonder: why is it so important to these fans that two characters with absolutely no connection to their actual lives become a couple? Why do we care so fucking much?? I mean, it’s understandable if you get excited watching two of your close friends who look absolutely adorable together start to develop feelings for each other. But why do we feel like the whole fucking universe just collapsed when Kate went back to Jack, or when Elena dumped Stefan, or when Robin divorced Barney (THAT SELFISH BITCH)?

Though an ex-shipper of multiple OTPs myself, I don’t really have any solid answer other than the fact that it’s just so exciting to live vicariously through the characters once you get attached to them and their stories. Because, let’s be honest, our love lives will probably never be nearly as romantic or exhilarating or illicit as that between a super hot teacher and a student, two castaways on a deserted island, or a vampire and a werewolf. As cheesy as many of these storylines may seem, it’s just nice to know that sometimes love can work out even in the direst situations. Or maybe we just like rooting for something we can’t openly support in real life. Like pedophilia/necrophilia in Twilight, or statuary rape in Pretty Little Liars. Like seriously, who actually thinks it’s hot that their 16 year-old classmate is hooking up with the fucking English professor. And who the fuck would want their bestie to marry a man-whore who’s fucked over 250 girls? No, I do not feel ashamed of shipping Barney and Robin for six whole seasons (FUCK YOU CREATORS), but I wouldn’t think it’s cool if they were people I knew.

To be honest, I think the most compelling part about this whole shipping business is the lead-up. The whole “will they or won’t they” moment that sometimes last longer than the relationship itself. In some ways, the lead-up is probably the most realistic part of an onscreen love story. You know, that magical moment when his hand accidentally brushes yours, or that brief instant when you sneak a glance at him and catch him furtively staring at you too (it goes for both guys and girls, but I’m just too lazy to write “him/her”). It’s cheesy as hell, but we still dig it. And if we can’t experience first hand all the time, we might as well soak it all in on the screen. But it’s only so sweet and beautiful until that first kiss happens. Once the ship sails, the magic leaves as well.

So is this whole shipping thing a waste a time? Probably. But it was fun while it lasted.