Friday, November 11, 2011

Let's Talk "The Secret": Film Review Corner

 Warning: May (definitely) contain spoilers.

I have seen a handful of French films over the years and cannot recall a single one that is not in its own particular way depressing. In each of these films there has always been a subtle (or not so subtle) message that seemed to say “people are bastards and life is a bitch, but that's just how it is”. The Secret for me was no exception to this pseudo-rule. Of course being that it strongly relates to the Holocaust the fact that it is depressing and sends a message like that is somewhat understandable.

    Although the film was well constructed and well acted for the most part it lacked much in the way of originality. The characters existed on an individual level and were clearly three dimensional, however the overlying plot was boring. It was, with just a few bare exceptions, another film in which a child discovers the sad secrets of his parents and the parents or other related authority figures are revealed to be flawed people who happen to have extra-marital relationships. A French film that depicts cheating as not really that bad? A real shocker there.

    Frankly many of the characters are frustratingly unsympathetic. While they do have moments or aspects that should make us feel for them there are so many things that ruin it. The father in particular is a huge bastard, and yet the way the movie ends it almost seems like we are supposed to accept that he is truly repentant and sad over the past because what? He is distraught when the memories rush back after his dog dies (this is what we are lead to believe is the case anyways) and his cheating and desires end up being okay because his wife and son (not that he knew at the time) were already dead when he cheated? The fact that he was distant from his second son because he wasn't 'physically strong' and the fact that he leaves his second wife (despite the situation in which they came together) because she is paralyzed...both of these aspects are glossed over with the latter only being of enough importance to casually mention at the very end.

    His first wife gets herself and her son captured and killed because she can't bear the thought of seeing her husband making moon eyes at her brother's wife? The entire family keeps a first wife, a dead uncle, a dead brother, and even the fact that they are Holocaust survivors and Jews from the second son...and this is okay? The movie is titled The Secret and yet we don't really get a chance to see or understand how the second son, our 'protagonist' if you will, has taken all of this information and adapted to it as an adult. In fact, the only interesting aspect of the protagonist's 'adult self' and the segments involving him (brief though they are) as that they are shown in black and white while the past is shown in color. This seems to say that the present is less real than the past, but regardless of this message the parts pertaining to the adult protagonist seem extraneous.

    Underlying all of what we are presented is the knowledge that the later parts of the 'secret' being told are occurring during the Holocaust, specifically the German occupation of France. Except for two relatively brief scenes the tension over the father's rejection of Judaism to save himself is largely ignored. It is almost a non-issue. For me personally the film might only qualify as a 'Jewish' film on the same level that Schindler's List is a Jewish film. It happens to be about Jews and the Holocaust. Beyond this it is just another tale of shallow love, shallow betrayal, the Holocaust, family secrets, and human beings generally being bastards to other human beings for little to no reason.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Legacy of Steve Jobs

Everyone is commenting on the death of Steve Jobs. Most people are commenting that he was a leading mind, a pioneer of the digital age, the man behind Apple and all of its weird gizmos. Me?

I thank Steve Jobs for Pixar. Without his financial support some of the best movies of the last decade would never have been made. New classics for adults and children to enjoy for years to come. The Mac, the iPod, iPad, iPhone, all of that is useful and will give way to new technology, but it is Pixar's legacy, helped along by Steve Jobs that will truly endure.

Except for Cars 2 apparently.

P.S.: Thanks to my lovely wife and blogger of Haley's Comic for correcting me on the appropriate way to de-capitalize the various iGizmos. Little eye. By the way, tag back Haley, tag back.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Process of Getting Published

Today, as practice for my future teaching job, I shall instruct the class. The topic shall be: getting published.

For those aspiring writers out there I shall attempt to explain, in great detail, the process of getting published. Well, I would attempt this, however we have limited class time so I'll have to trim a bit of the fat.

Getting published goes like this. The zealous would-be author spends painstaking hours and expends grueling stomach churning effort in order to assemble a big steaming pile of feces. The writer then proceeds to fling large chunks of feces at the publisher until he does one of the following:

A. Has his/her self-esteem bulldozed and surrenders to the shit out of crushing despair
B. After being thoroughly coated decides that shit, in fact, is a good thing.

One way or another the aspirant wins. The key to this method is knowing that as long as you can reach deep within your belly for more material and you have a mighty enough colon to take repeated rejection you can, inevitably, force the publisher into submission.

In fact the job of a writer could be described as a similar process. The writer seeks to reach an audience and elicit a strong reaction. This reaction may be depression, self-loathing, or some similarly negative emotion which falls under option A. It might be joy, love, laughter, internal glowing, or what-have-you in order to fall under option B. We want people to react and we want them to accept that what we have to offer, regardless of how malodorous it may be, is the best big piece of stool they've ever encountered.

Incidentally options A and B can be extended to other aspects of life. Trying to find the love or your life or even just the love of tonight? Fling your pathetic wads of feces, crappy pick-up lines in this case, and tales of your pathetic life until they find you so pitiable that they fall madly in love in an effort to shut you up or soothe their own despair (its contagious). This is, again, option A. You can also fire witty joke after witty joke, compounded by numerous yarns of your grand exploits, until they suddenly can't remember that you're fat, warty, and unemployed. Instead all they know is that this fat, warty, and unemployed person is vastly appealing and they should toss them down upon the bed and make sweet warty love to them. Option B.

Comedians use options A and B in order to get their audience to laugh. Ever notice that not all of a comedian's jokes are funny? Sometimes they just shoot so many at you that eventually you either laugh because they're pathetic (maybe deliberately? you don't know) or because one or two ended up being hilarious.

Action movies used these options as well, hurling scene after scene of gratuitous violence/sex at you until suddenly it is awesome or suddenly you feel despair that you are nowhere near as cool/sexy as the protagonist.

Most tellingly of all is that this method was first used by monkeys kept in cages. Long ago monkeys hurled their feces out of their cages at nearby tourists and/or scientists until these passersby decided out of wilting self-esteem that monkeys were awesome, or became so coated by the filth that they determined monkeys were inherently hilarious. This technique can also be known as the 'Flying Monkey Technique', as named by The Wizard of Oz which uses flying monkeys as a fantastical element in order to distract from nonthreatening villains and boring protagonists. On a side note the most realistic characters are the munchkins, who vote for the prettiest candidate and are willing to sacrifice innocent lives for their temporary convenience.

To bring things full circle (yes, there's still a circle) the class, you, has been subjected to the Flying Monkey Technique the whole length of this blog. Tell me class, (see, I hadn't forgotten the framing device) did you learn anything today?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

In Which the Blogger Teaches Himself to Write

Within three to five years (pending injury, illness, explosions, etc.) I am likely to be a college professor. I have been known to wax poetic (read: hammy) about such grand topics as life, philosophy, and the funny wiggly way that sperm moves. Most of my poetic (read: hammy) discussion involves gesticulating wildly and making off the wall metaphors. I have been known to say 'thingy' as a replacement for a word that genuinely exists. Surely I am the stuff of Ancient Greece! The sort of teacher that encourages their students to examine the minutia of life, the universe, and occasionally a good book.

On a more serious note (addendum: hardly) my key subject and area of expertise is creative fiction. My style has been described as postmodern (read: confusing) and high concept (read: weird) by former teachers and readers. I have a dry wit (vociferation: title plug) and occasionally cheesy (vociferation: title plug ii) sense of humor. I have a lovely fiance to whom I will soon be married and other than my personal convictions she's the only thing in life I'm serious about. She too is a writer, though of the non-fiction/poetic (read: poetic) genre. She also happens to be something of a Renaissance Woman of the Arts. Gal has started an at-home crafts business and has more artsy hobbies than anyone this side of Leonardo da Vinci (declaration: brotha be dead). You can follow her blog Retail Therapy and enjoy her unique brand of humor, though I warn you that she can be serious as well.

What will this blog be about you ask as you wonder how much this guy will meander about. There's a circle. I'll loop back around, I swear. Likely I will discuss my thoughts about the past, my future, and occasionally I will use personal life events as framing devices. There is a high probability (ejaculation: 100%) that I will discuss current and future literary projects. Especially of note I will think out loud (read: in text format) regarding my ongoing project that I plan to use for my grad school application. My first choice is the Iowa Writer's Workshop, though I will branch out and look at other places. By taking the GRE I will be able to increase my chances of getting a teaching assistant-ship to pay my way. Regardless of whether I get this position the MFA degree would qualify me to teach at a university level, something that I'm beginning to find more and more interesting as time goes on. I think I would be a fantastic (addendum: and fun) teacher for students who actually want to learn. I'd probably kill High School students. College students have more of a zeal for learning and there aren't as many restrictions on your behavior and teaching method as there are below the university level. It'll be a long road, three to five years even, but I think I can make it.

See. Told you I'd loop back around.

P.s. Like how I made a perverted joke while still using the word 'ejaculation' appropriately? Me too.