Monday, December 16, 2013

"I know these will all be stories someday...

...And our pictures will become old photographs. We'll all become somebody's mom or dad. But right now these moments are not stories. This is happening."

I don't really cry during movies. A good song can move me to tears, but movies? Not so much. There are moments when I might hyperbolically say something like "I burst into tears" or "I'm NOT crying, I have something in my eye!" But I'm really just referring to sad feelings, not actual tears.

But the first time I saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower, there were actual tears. A lot of them.

I had read the book a little over a decade ago, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. When I had first heard that there was going to be a movie based on it, I was actually a little weary. So much of my enjoyment of the book came from its well-crafted prose. But a lot of people were saying good things about the movie, so I knew I needed to see it. I had heard at least a few people say they cried, so I prepared myself for that. But no warnings could've prepared me enough for how hard it hit me.

Given the subject matter of the book, it's seems pretty obvious that there should be some sort of deep emotional response. Some of the topics covered include: suicide, abuse (both sexual and non), the loss of family members, homophobia, drug abuse, and mental illness. But interestingly enough, those things aren't what hit me the hardest. No, what hit me the hardest were the seemingly ordinary things. The way it feels when it's the first day of high school and you don't have any friends yet. Or when you're in love with someone who doesn't feel the same way about you. Or that feeling you get when you're sitting in car with your best friends and a great song comes on the radio and you feel infinite.

I've mentioned elsewhere that the book and movie compliment each other, and I really feel like that's the best way for me to describe it. While well-crafted prose is what made the book excel, the movie relies on strong, moving performances from its cast. But both achieve the same effect: they make the mundane seem extraordinary.

And while there are a lot of heavy issues and sad moments in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the tears flowed the hardest during the happy moments. Because that's what this story teaches us. That no matter what life might throw at us, we've got the little things to hold onto. And how there's nothing quite like sitting in the middle seat of a pickup with two nice people when it starts to rain.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fate Up Against Your Will

For a couple days last week I had been wanting to rewatch one of my favorite movies, Donnie Darko. So when I had a day off from work yesterday I finally did. And I told myself, "I'm not going to bother to blog about this one." Because anyone who's seen Donnie Darko knows, it's kind of (i.e., VERY) hard to wrap your head around. But when I woke up this morning I decided I was going to give it try anyway.

One of the best things about any work of art is the way it can impact the people who consume it. For some people watching a movie is just something to do to kill time. And that's perfectly fine if that's the way you like to watch movies. But I like to take everything in. Some might call me weird but I think it's entirely possible for a movie to have a profound impact on your life. And Donnie Darko was that movie for me. The universe made a little more sense to me after watching it.

After watching the movie yesterday, I was browsing through the special features and ended up watching the trailer.

Had the trailer been my first exposure to the movie, I don't think I would've felt any urge to see it. It wasn't bad, per se, but there was nothing engaging about it. I actually ended up watching it through sheer randomness. I was hanging out with a friend during the early days of the semester one year, and he mentioned that some of our other friends wanted to watch Donnie Darko. And I ended up sticking around while they watched (like I said, it was the early days of the semester, so I wasn't inundated with homework yet) and by the end I was completely enthralled. I remember going online and trying to find whatever I could to help me understand it more. (By the way, there is an archive of the official site here. It'll wrinkle your brain even more.) I wanted to watch it again so I could try and pick up on things that I missed. To me it was like one big mystery that you were still trying to solve even after all the pieces were laid out in front of you.

It's funny that my introduction to Donnie Darko was through sheer randomness, because that's kind of what the movie's about. How the little things that happen to us can actually impact our lives in a profound way. How getting out of bed at particular moment can actually save your life. How a busted water main can actually lead you to meet the love of your life (whatever that might mean at 16). How words written on a chalk board in school can lead to certain doom. And it also poses the question, if we knew what the future had in store for us, would we still make the same decisions, and take the same actions?

What I love about Donnie Darko aside from its brain wrinkling abilities, is the way it doesn't fall into any one particular genre. It's an existential science fiction movie about young love and troubled youth in upper middle class suburbia that takes place in the 1980s but it's not defined by any one of those things.

This quote, said to Donnie by his therapist, is my favorite bit of dialogue from the movie and is actually the thing that helped shape my perspective of the world.
If the sky were to suddenly open up, there would be no law, there would be no rule. There would only be you and your memories. The choices you've made and the people you've touched.
It just makes so much sense to me. And I feel like it's the kind of philosophy that can help everyone live a better life, regardless of what your faith or beliefs might be.

Or if that's too deep for you we can always close with this gem:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

I've Never Felt This Way Before

It's a movie from 1987 that took place in 1963, but there's something about Dirty Dancing that is simply timeless. It has all the elements of good storytelling: romance (complete with a musical montage), the right balance of drama and comedy, and a touch of social commentary. It also had a stellar cast, including Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, and Jerry Orbach. And as a bonus, a hula dance so awkward words don't really do it justice.

But if you're like me, what really sticks out about Dirty Dancing is that it's an excellent coming of age story. (And if you've read any of my previous blog posts, you know I do love a good coming of age story.) While watching a few days ago, I realized that I actually identify with Baby quite a bit. I'm not talking about falling for an older man while on vacation. (That was not a part of my teenage years. It did, however, happen to just about every member of the Baby-Sitters Club.) I'm not even talking about Baby, who was always considered to be the good girl, openly defying her father, although that is something that most teenagers, male or female, can relate to at some point. No, the coming of age story I identify with is one that's far less dramatic, but equally poignant.

We're first introduced to Baby as an idealistic youth. She plans on going to college to study the economics of underdeveloped countries, and when she graduates she wants to join the Peace Corps. During dinner, her parents joke that her leftovers be sent to feed starving children. Baby feels that it's up to her to save the world, and she truly believes it's a task she can accomplish. When Baby finds out that Penny is in trouble, she takes it upon herself to make things right. Despite the fact that she wasn't involved in the situation to begin with. Despite the fact that Penny wasn't particularly nice to her when they first met. Baby still wants to help. Because that's who she is. Altruistic and compassionate.

Baby thinks that all she needs to do to help Penny is talk to Robbie, the jerk that got her in trouble in the first place. It's as simple as that, right? The guy did something wrong, he should be culpable, no? But Robbie simply shrugs the situation off, telling Baby that "some people count, some people don't."

And that is the coming of age moment I was referring to.

As children and teenagers, so many of our heads and hearts are filled with dreams of saving the world. We want to fight global warming. We want to cure diseases. We want to end poverty and put a stop to racism. But when we grow up, something heartbreaking happens. We realize that the real world doesn't seem to mesh with the vision of the world that we painted in our minds. We realize that even if we recycle all our soda bottles it won't end deforestation and even though the civil rights movement has made significant leaps it still has miles to go. We realize that we can stand up for our friends, but that won't prevent other people from being jerks.

But even though Robbie refuses to help, Baby doesn't give up. She finds another way to help. Because that's who she is.

Later on in the movie when Johnny's in trouble, Baby has to take the very difficult step of defending him, even though it means forever changing the way her family sees her. And though she takes this step, she still doesn't save the day. But he assures her it was not for naught, because just the fact that she was willing to stand up for him means a lot to him.

Because even if there are too many problems in the world for us to face, it doesn't mean we shouldn't try to face them. We just need to be ready for an uphill battle. And even if we don't win, the fight is still worth something.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Souls cannot be fooled*

So I haven't written here in quite a while. Long story short, since the last time I blogged I had gotten pretty sick, and well, I'm still recovering. Nevertheless, I wanted to get back to blogging. I had seen The Way, Way Back yesterday and I figured that would make a good subject for my next post.

I was first introduced to Jim Rash as the Dean-lightful Dean Pelton on Community. (For those who've never seen the show, the pun is a reference to the show, not my attempt at humor.) I had heard that he had written a movie called The Descendants and while I thought it was pretty cool and that I'd see it some day, I didn't really give it much thought otherwise. Then the movie started getting a lot of buzz, a bunch of award nominations, and eventually won an Oscar. So when it finally came to the theater in my little town, I had to see if it was as good as everyone said it was. (Yes. It was.) Then some months later I started watching a new show, Ben and Kate (which was equal parts hilarious and heartfelt and was sadly cancelled before its time) and I became familiarized with Nat Faxon, Jim Rash's writing partner and co-writer of The Descendants. So when I found out that the two of them had written another movie, this time an original screenplay (The Descendants is based on a book) I knew it would be up my alley.

I had read reviews of The Way, Way Back (which is also a directorial debut for Faxon and Rash) that compared it to Little Miss Sunshine and the similarities are there. The most obvious one being the casting of Steve Carell and Toni Collette. Both are also sweet, indie movies about road trips, familial bonds, and the feeling of not fitting in.

And in regards to that last point, I think the film shares more in common with the likes of The Perks of Being a Wallflower or The Wonder Years. Stories that draw you in not so much for the plot but for the relatability. There are a lot of coming of age tales out there, and not all of them are good. The truly good ones are the ones that remind you what it's like. The awkwardness, the confusion. The frustration of feeling like you don't connect with anyone, and the sheer joy that comes with finding out there are in fact people out there who get you.

If those are feelings you can relate too, and think pretty much all of us can, I think you'll enjoy The Way, Way Back Here's the trailer:

*I picked lyrics from a song that plays in the trailer as the subject. I couldn't think of a witty quote.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Tell me your troubles and doubts, giving me everything inside and out

The other day my mom mentioned to me that I haven't blogged in a long time. Which is true. When I first started, I thought I'd try to write something on each day of the weekend at least, and maybe something during the week too, although that was pretty unlikely. But then stuff distracted me and here we are, a month later, and I only have 2 blog entries to my name.

But I digress. I wanted to get back into the habit of writing again, and since this week was a very John Hughes-y week for me, it seems like the perfect thing to write about. Monday I watched The Breakfast Club, simply because I was in the mood to watch. Then on Wednesday it was on TV and I thought "Who cares if I just watched it? I'm going to watch it again." (I have to point out that watching on TV after just having watched it on DVD is a funny experience. They really don't do a good job dubbing the curse words.) After The Breakfast Club they immediately aired Sixteen Candles and I couldn't not stick around for that, even though I eventually had to go to bed and therefore couldn't watch the whole thing. Yesterday I watched Pretty in Pink, just to complete my viewing of the John Hughes/Molly Ringwald trilogy of nostalgia. Though some may not agree with me, they are amongst my favorite movies ever and they just make me so happy whenever I watch.

During the week I also watched the pilot episode of Community, which is heavily influenced by The Breakfast Club. In fact, the episode is dedicated to John Hughes, who had passed away the summer before Community had premiered. After watching, I thought about how sad it was that he wouldn't be able to witness this legacy he had left behind, although I suppose the legacy existed long before Community (and will continue long after, no doubt.)

There was another episode of Community that aired just a few weeks ago that had used Don't You (Forget About Me) (AKA the Breakfast Club song.) Just hearing it in the background of a scene that lasted about a minute was enough to give me that warm happy feeling we call nostalgia, and was probably what subconsciously put me in the mood to watch all these movies again. But here's the funny thing. I was born in the 80s. When The Breakfast Club came out, I was not even 3 years old. I saw all the classic 80s teen movies on tv years later. So why do I get nostalgic for coming of age movies that were made a decade before I came of age myself? As a matter of fact, I don't get any sort of sentimental feelings for things like Dawson's Creek which probably was the show that defined my generation. (Although I personally think Daria captured high school life in the 90s better than any other show from that era.)

Sometimes when I'm at the mall, I see teenagers and I feel like I'm a universe away from them. Not even so much age-wise, because getting mistaken for being younger than I am is something that happens to me on a semi-regular basis. But something about their demeanor, the way they carry themselves, makes me feel like the world you live in between the ages of 12-19 is different than the world we inhabit when we're adults. Sometimes I remember my own youth and feel the same way. But whenever I turn on a good Brat Pack movie, those barriers vanish. Youth becomes relatable again.

It's the magic of Hollywood, I suppose.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I guess I just like liking things

When I was in second grade, my class was discussing which day of the week was their favorite. I mentioned that I liked Sunday because Garry Shandling was on then. And every kid in the class (or at least what felt like every kid in the class) responded with "ewww." I was actually kind of hurt by that. And while you can excuse small children for being tactless, sometimes adults exhibit this kind of behavior too. And I just don't get it. Why can't we just let people like the things they like? I'm not a fan of Taylor Swift. (Nothing personal her stuff just isn't my cup of tea) But if a friend mentions how much they love her, I'll just let them enjoy themselves. Who am I to rain on their parade?

I started reading Harry Potter a lot later than most people. The last book was the only one I got to read "live". And I wanted to make sure I enjoyed the experience. So I made myself a costume and went to a few release parties, and my mom and I even made a cake to celebrate the occasion. And there were some folks who thought it was weird. Not just the costumes or the cake, but they thought the mere fact that I read a book the weekend it came out was weird. And while the healthy attitude to have is to just say "who cares what they think?" there's a part of me that wondered "why can't they just let me enjoy myself?"

Sometimes it feels like a lot of people like to view the world through a lens of negativity. Now, I'm not talking about pessimism, since I know that having an optimistic attitude isn't the easiest thing in the world for every person to have. No, what I'm talking about is the attitude that genuinely liking things just isn't cool. To be honest, I did feel somewhat like a dork when I dressed up like a wizard. And then within a few seconds I realized that everyone around me was acting pretty much the same way, so I just let loose and have fun.  And I really wish that more people in the world could just let themselves let loose and have fun. Be a goof once in a while.

The name of my blog, I Like Liking Things, is inspired by an episode of Community:

I feel like this line sums up my opinions about things pretty nicely. You don't have to like everything. But if you don't like it, just live and let live. I would never want my dislike of something to infringe upon your liking it.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Building a soapbox

Ever since I was a kid, I enjoyed reading reviews. After the Sunday comics, my favorite section of the newspaper was the entertainment section, the one that reviewed all the new movies coming out that weekend. Every Friday I'd sit there and read every one, even for the movies I had no intention on seeing. It wasn't just the newspaper either; whenever an Entertainment Weekly or a TV Guide found its way into our house I'd spend a lot of time thumbing through the pages. I guess I always found the reaction that a piece of art can provoke to be as fascinating as the art itself.

There was always a part of me that envisioned that being a critic would be a fun job. I had written a few reviews of various things as extra credit projects, and while I don't mean to sound conceited, I think my writing was pretty good. (For those of you not born in the 1980s, "don't mean to sound conceited" is indeed a reference to the Baby-Sitters Club.)

But there were two main reasons that I never pursued journalism as a career. One is because I know that writing professionally is not nearly as glamorous as it seems. Heck, it's already taken me several attempts to write this introductory blog post. The other reason is because I knew that it wasn't the easiest field to get a job in. At least, not the kind of job I envisioned.

But things have changed over the years. Thanks to a little thing called the internet, you don't have to work for a newspaper or a magazine in order to have your voice heard. If you want a platform for your thoughts, all you have to do is build one yourself.

So here we go. Let's see if this lasts.