Archive for June 24, 2021

Halfway home!

How fitting for the halfway post, a movie that makes me happy, because I’m definitely happy to be halfway to 30. I know it’s not hard to pick movies, but finding the time is the real pain.

But I’m not going to be mad today. Once again, I am going to a movie theater tonight to see a new movie (F9, if anyone was curious), so I was thinking of writing about that. It doesn’t even matter what the movie is, although I’m sure all the explosions and cars and John Cena’s wooden acting will bring me tons of joy. What really matters is that after almost a year and a half of not being able to go to a movie theater, or out at all for some of it, we are able to go out and enjoy movie theater popcorn, and ridiculously large sodas, and watch a movie in a large dark room with other people, who may or may not have their phone out.

That’s really the point, I suppose. As a childless adult who married someone who shares similar tastes in movies, I almost never get dragged to a movie that I don’t want to see. In fact, I can’t remember the last time it happened. So, most of the time, the movie that makes me happy is the one I am watching at that moment.

“But, Dursin, you always complain about movies. This whole blog is almost exclusively devoted to movies you don’t like.” Yeah, and it’s great. I do complain about a lot of movies, because I have high expectations for them, but that doesn’t mean I’m not happy on some level while I’m seeing them. Some of my favorite movie-going experiences were going to see really dumb movies. I remember seeing Charlie Sheen’s The Arrival with some friends, laughing my ass off while it was going on, and my friend John turning to me near the climax and whispering, “I think this movie deserves a standing ovation at the end.” This is a pet peeve of mine, because it’s not a play. The actors can’t hear you clapping. John knew my feelings and realized that if it is going to be done, it should be done ironically. So, as the credits rolled and the lights came up, John and I stood and clapped, and a stranger across the theater did it too! It was truly one of the highlights of the 90’s for me.

Ok, I’m kind of stretching the premise, because obviously not every movie makes me happy. In fact, a lot of them don’t. And the real point of today’s prompt is not to try and claim that I love movies. It is to present the opposite of yesterday’s downer one, a movie that makes me depressed. So, if I have to pick one, it should be an awesome one, and in this movie, literally everything is awesome.

The LEGO Movie

Of course, I love LEGOS. They’re fun and creative and cute and all that. But how do you make a whole movie of computer-animated ones? I had no idea when I saw it what to expect, and that’s maybe the first step towards making me happy: no expectations.

But the real reason this movie makes me happy is the way it slowly reveals what is actually happening here. When the characters do things like use the “Sword of exact-0,” and you see that it is an exacto knife, or when you finally see that “The Kragle,” which is the Maguffin of the movie, is actually an old tube of Krazy Glue where some of the letters have been rubbed off, you start to think, “wait a minute, this is a kid playing.” And when it was revealed that it is a kid playing with his Dad’s immense LEGO collection, and his Dad, who is played by Will Farrell, is actually the bad guy of his adventure, because his Dad didn’t think of LEGOS as toys and didn’t want him playing, well, my brain exploded in happiness.

Here’s a big reveal that no one was curious about: I loved playing with toys. I loved going to toy stores to get new ones. I loved playing with my old ones. I loved them probably long past the age when it was socially acceptable. G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Transformers, freakin’ Battle Beasts, it didn’t matter. And I rarely played what the toys were actually for. My G.I. Joe guys were usually a kind of A-Team-like band of heroes that were on the run from the law but still doing good deeds. I don’t know why. It just seemed cooler back then. And that’s basically what the kid in the LEGO movie is doing. He’s not using any of that stuff for what it was meant for. Sure, Batman hanging out with Metal Beard, the cyborg pirate makes no sense, but it’s pretty cool when you’re ten. There was a time in my life when I looked back and thought I was kind of a weird kid for not playing, y’know, G.I. Joe with my G.I. Joe toys. LEGO Movie kind of retroactively made me realize that other kinds were probably doing it, too, and even if I was a weird kid, who cares?

The LEGO Movie makes me happy because it made me remember those days when I would come home from school, go down into our basement, dump out my toy box, and just play with whatever came out. Or it made me remember waking up really early on a Saturday morning when no one else in my house could even fathom about being awake and playing with action figures while watching Saturday morning cartoons. My family took one trip to Disney when I was in kindergarten, and a pretty low-key vacation every summer to Cape Cod to sit on the beach, but I didn’t need anything else. I had a few toys and a lot of imagination. Oh, and you know I would bring my toys to the beach every year.

So, it’s not a movie I saw as a kid that makes me happy now because of the nostalgia factor (See my Transformers: The Movie post from a few days ago for that). This is a movie that I saw as an adult that somehow makes me feel the same thing, which makes it even cooler because, yes, they still make movies like that. When I asked my wife what movie she thought I should pick for today’s post, she suggested a movie I would watch when I feel grumpy and it would make me happy. I don’t know if The LEGO Movie applies there. I think it’s more that it makes me happy knowing that it exists.  

Thanks, LEGO Movie, ode to my childhood, and a lot of kids’ childhoods, for always being there. 

Just made it in today…

This one isn’t necessarily a challenge because there aren’t depressing movies to pick from. There’s tons of them. The problem is that I don’t really want to write a lot about them. Call me crazy, but I kind of like being entertained by movies, not saddened. I mean, I can appreciate a well-made depressing movie, like Schindler’s List or something, but I prefer something like JoJo Rabbit, a hilarious movie with some heavy themes (His mom… Oh, man.), but overall, it doesn’t make me want to jump off a bridge after seeing it.

I also HATE HATE HATE when movies really try to tug at your heartstrings. Something like Million Dollar Baby, which was basically Clint Eastwood and Hillary Swank making an incredibly boring, pointless movie just to try to win another Oscar. Other than “Women can box, too” why should I care about this story?

I was going to write about Requiem for a Dream, because when I think about depressing movies, that is the first one that pops into my head. But I saw it in theaters when it came out, and I was young and wanted to feel things, and I haven’t seen it since and have no desire to watch it or even think about it ever again. I’m annoyed that this challenge brought it back into my brain. Although, that refrigerator scene is pretty crazy.

I’m actually going with Into the Wild, which depressed me, but probably not for the same reasons it depressed a lot of other people. If you haven’t seen it, well, don’t bother, but here’s the skinny. Emile Hirsch plays Christopher McCandless, a really smart kid who does a really dumb thing: after graduating from college, he takes his $24,000 life savings and donates it to charity because he wants to hitchhike to Alaska and live off the land. I’m not sure if I’m remembering this correctly, but I think he also burned everything in his wallet.

The tagline says that, on the journey, he “encounters a series of characters that shape his life.” That’s a nice thought, but… SPOILER WARNING, don’t read on if you want to see the movie someday

Seriously, don’t read if you don’t want to know how it ends.

Screw it. It came out in 2007, and the book came out in 1997. Chris dies, possibly from eating some poison berries, possibly from eating potato seeds which can be poisonous. Or possibly from something else, but definitely from being an idiot. From analyzing his skeleton, they think he weighed about sixty pounds at the time of his death, so it could have been a lot of things. He did have some meat from an animal that he had killed, but he didn’t have any way to preserve it since he didn’t have a freezer because he gave $24,000 away and burned the rest of his money, so it went bad before he could finish it. So he definitely had an upset tummy. According to his journals, he had decided that this living off the land crap was no fun and wanted to make his way back to civilization after a couple months, but the summer melt-off had caused the river to rise so he couldn’t cross the way he came, so he was trapped. Of course, since he also didn’t have a decent map he didn’t know that there was a way across if he had gone a half-mile further. But he turned around to live in his van. Well, die in it, basically. 

So, yeah, depressing. And how can the people he met shape his life when he dies horribly mere months after reaching his goal? Was there some message about life after death that I missed?

This is where my reasons for it being depressing may differ from the norm. I’m not really depressed because the kid dies at the end. I actually recall thinking, “That dickhead deserved it!” I know that’s harsh, but I feel how I feel. I get that he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his heroes, Jack London and John Muir, but, Jesus, keep an emergency fund or something. As someone who never really had much money, the idea that this child literally burned what he had to go live in the woods is what depressed me. Also, working in a University for almost twenty years, I knew a lot of really smart young people who had ideas about the world that were a little different, and all I could think when I’d listen to them talk was, “You’ll figure it out.” Hopefully, none of them ended up like Christopher McCandless.

Maybe what really depresses me about this movie is that I wish I could look past the actual logic and say, “Wow, poor kid. He followed his dream, and it killed him, but at least he went for it.”  But I can’t. I just have a very low tolerance for pretension, and this kid was about as pretentious as you can get.  I kind of wish I could see it as a fun adventure that had an unfortunate consequence, but I can’t. It never should have gotten to that point (Well, ok, he shouldn’t have started the dumb journey in the first place), but if he had done a little more research, saved a little money in case of emergency, and, I don’t know, bought a map, he would maybe have survived long enough to make it back home and tell his parents that he was sorry for being an idiot.

I never read the book this movie is based on, but I have no doubt that it’s better, and probably makes the kid seem less annoying because they can delve deeper into his character. But watching this movie did depress me. It depressed me to know that there are dummies like this in the world. You want to live off the land, go for it. Are you tired of other people? I can totally respect that, so go live in the woods. But be smart about it. Do it the Captain Fantastic way.

Maybe that will be tomorrow’s movie…

Anyway, I’m tired. Go to my linktree. There’s a sale going on at Teepublic so everything is 35% off, if you want to check out the stuff in my storefront. Then come back tomorrow. Stay safe.